Who needs socks?

A few weeks ago,  it was Father’s Day.

Every possible tie that you never wanted

Ok, I am the first to agree that this is an event fabricated by the greetings card industry to sell more cards. It has none of the historic significance of Mother’s Day and according to many a vexed and frustrated mother, every day is Fathers day anyway!

I am however a father, so of course I am happy to have my recognition on that day. But cliche as it is, I genuinely don’t want my children’s hard earned money to be spent on me, and my desire from them is seeing them healthy, happy and fulfilled.

This has always been my mantra, but true to form, over the years I have been generously lavished with cards, chocolate, handkerchiefs and socks.  

The great thing about gift socks is you get ones that you just wouldn’t buy yourself – really brightly coloured ones,  one with  boastful statements of ‘Worlds best’ Dad/Uncle/Boss  etc. and occasionally ones made with strange materials such as  recycled car tyres,  Mongolian grass cuttings and so on  that all have amazing properties to make your feet look and feel 20 years younger….so don’t ever gift them to a 19 year old! 

This year, the newly returned but temporarily resident offspring observed my bountifulness in both the hankies and socks department and went a little ‘off piste’.    I had jokingly remarked  that I always felt somewhat guilty when they had to take a walk from our house, into the garden  and then beyond the end of the garden to our allotment*  just to locate  me  to inquire  if I wanted a cup of tea. Or indeed any other sustenance  to assist me in my  weeding,  strimming  or whatever…and then  a few minutes later have to  then make another journey to deliver it,  only for me to then say  I was coming back indoors anyway.    * I think allotments are a very British things, so for  the non UK residents what is an allotment? … in the strict sense of the word  its a small plot of land often maybe only  about 300 square feet (30 sq m) ,  rented at a nominal  rent from your local council enabling flat and apartment dwellers  to grow fruit and vegetables. 

The term  is also  more loosely expanded in my case as we live on the edge of country side and this plot is really just an extension of our garden  where I grow   strawberries and gooseberries, 99% of which get eaten by squirrels,  peas that seagulls seem to eat before we get to them,  and various other fruit and vegetables  for the local insect , animal  and bird residents to feast on.  We are allowed to keep a few lettuces for ourselves though as reward for all this work! 

Anyway…back to the  aforementioned situation ……..So ingenuity was applied to the problem  and for fathers day they presented me with  a pair of walkie talkies to enable communication from garden to home and on various outdoor activities. I have had some good presents in my lifetime…but this one really tops the list.  So why not call..yes we do have good mobile phone reception, but nobody would ever think to phone someone maybe just 100 metres away would they?

This was just such a great idea and practical and useful as well as fun!   

Just one downside…next week I have a birthday,  not just any birthday but a significant one.  It ends in a zero..but thankfully just one of these,  not two.  So the bar has been set very high  and my expectations  and imagination are running riot now with wild ideas of what may be next to delight me. 

Perhaps we are back on socks then……………..

 

Just livin’ the dream

I used to work for a well known European airline, and I was there in the boom times. It was good!

We were all busy people rushing from room to room, in meetings , conference calls and so on. Whenever we were asked by visiting suppliers, partners and so on about how life was , the phrase bounced back to them was, ‘yes, just great , just livin’ the dream”.

And in reality this was true – we were busy , well paid people in a burgeoning economy and things looked good. Having said that, I am never really sure what that phrase, ‘living the dream really means’.

Then fast forward some years, and aviation is a different place, but then so is the whole of transportation, leisure industry, car manufacturing and a whole host of others.

However lets not dwell on that…much is written already, by those far more eloquent and informed than me.

But back to ‘living the dream’. I must admit I am actually quite fascinated by dreams…and the many explanations of why we have them and what they mean. Mine are normally quite staid affairs and usually just involve me being late…I am actually a very punctual person by nature so its perhaps just a bit of daytime real life fears translated into night-time reality.

Until now that is……recently I have just had two very, very strange dreams . One of them in a way doesn’t make a good story to recount in detail as it featured only people that I know or knew…but actually a very strange and bizarre mixture of old friends, old locations , present day family and events none of which are in reality ever connected with each other geographically or chronologically or in any way but with the assistance of my brain had then been beautifully woven together into an elaborate story, a set of emotions, connections, strange timelines and distorted geographies that had this been featured in a film, would have had the critics complaining that the script writer had no sense of reality or worse still was making use of narcotics or had suffered a severe bump on the head.

Normally the dreams I have if remembered at all just evaporate a day or so later once I have shared (or bored!) my friends and family with…”you’ll never guess, I had the most weird dream last night”. But this one is still slightly haunting me some days later as I really puzzle over the most bizarre links of people and events. I am very tempted to share some of the detail but perhaps I’ll keep it in case I ever consider screenwriting of weird movies as an alternate career.

The other dream that followed just one night later was actually much simpler in content. In this dream, I decided to photograph a police vehice and was promptly arrested. I hasten to add that I live in a country where that does not happen, and in fact you would need to steal the police vehicle for such a reaction to follow! In the dream I had bizarrely decided to photograph it because it had some unusual decals on the side…a bit like you might see on a Plumbers van, it advertised the location on the side, and seeing British Transport Police, Kirkcaldy , and yet I seemed to be in London, not Fife , Scotland at the time. It then appeared I decided to photograph this for my friend who lived in Kirkcaldy and show him a visiting police vehicle of his locale, doing a visit to London. Yes, I know this is all so weird, but its a dream don’t forget!

The dream then took on a more bizarre twist, that once I was handcuffed, the very amiable policemen decided that I was just a pleasant but misguided photographer, deleted the photo from my phone, but took pity on me and decided it still would be nice for my friend to see this, so promptly ripped the decals off the van and presented to me as a parting gift after un locking me. None of this makes any sense..other than that I do have a friend who lives in Kirkcaldy!

If anybody can explain any or all of this…please do let me know.

Since then dreams have returned to non-memorable trivia…just a few more missed trains and meetings.

Maybe I eat too much cheese?

Enjoying this blog, or just confused by the content?

Don’t worry, normal content will return soon after a relaxed and good sleep.

Seattle, London or Glasgow?

We seem to live in a world of measurement and accolades and we all are constantly asked by friends, families, surveys and even in job interviews to list our top three’s.

Top three skills, top three achievements are likely questions from a poor quality job interviewer struggling for questions to ask.

Tell me your three favourite places is a sure fire way for well travelled friends to trump your Scarborough , Skegness and Southend with their Malibou, Mauritius and Miami.

As a child, I remember ‘occasional visitor Auntie’ s and Uncle’s’ who would on various visits to our home would repeatedly ask me to list my top three subjects at school. Perhaps in the hope that one day one I would stun them and the assembled family with my answers and reel off English, Mathematics Religious studies rather than the usual respone of ‘er, dunno…let me think, woodwork ‘.

I also once had a slightly scary girlfriend who asked me to rank the top three meals that she cooked me. As her repertoire was actually extremely limited, and in reality really only consisted of about three dishes, thus was a challenging question.

It was a test of my diplomatic skills (that could probably have secured me a peace keeping role at the United Nations had I wanted it) , as really none of the said items were really likely to be on anybody’s list! Her cooking skills evidently had yet to peak at that tender age of 21. She did however have encyclopedic knowledge of the Bay City rollers…the 1970’s answer to Take That or Boyzone!

Much more recently in life in a random conversation with a stranger on a train, I was asked for my top 3 films. We were obviously generationally divided as my top 3 drew a blank from my fellow traveller and the look he gave me suggested that he thought I had just made up at least some of the names. Likewise when it was his turn, I tried to nod knowingly but I think my face said it all and I too drew a blank on his.

However as I have a wide demographic reading this blog, I will take the risk and share it here.

In reverse order…number 3 is Sleepless in Seattle , in second place Gregory’s Girl and in first place Sliding Doors. In some ways all very different films with their locations of trendy Seattle, 1980’s Glasgow and a Notting Hill ‘esqe’ London backdrop for Sliding Doors. But in some ways they are all similar films in their ‘feel good, people are kind, and life can be good to you’ kind of sentiment.

I know everyone wants to get different things from films…to be excited, to be scared, to be amazed, to be inspired and so on…..so from these three, probably not a tick in these boxes then….but to watch the final credits and feel positive about people, these truly are winners.

Enjoying this blog…I hope so!

Please share………..

Dressed for radio?

When I was twenty something, a good friend of mine, a housemate at the time, encouraged me to be a bit more altruistic in life.

They were actually sounds words of advice, and even though she and I lost touch , (and as non stalker in the world of Facebook, I have no idea where she is or what she is doing …but hopefully not a ten year stretch in one of ‘her majesty’s hotels’ for fraud or embezzlement) . Actually, I very much doubt it, her generosity and love towards her fellow humans always put her in a good direction in life.

In the UK, we often refer to prisons as Her Majesty’s Hotels!

I am sure she has gone on to do great things and motivate many others. Thank you Julia.

My friend was a planet saver, volunteer, befriender and the all round good person that many of us hopefully aspire to be but trip up at early stages and often give up. From her, I actually got sound and simple advice….do things for others that you are good at as you will have a much greater chance of longevity and success than trying to be something that you are not.

My interest, and potential future career at the time was in radio/sound recording and although a ‘sliding doors ‘ moment took me in a different career direction, but that move was to come in later years.

As indeed will come later a blog post on my sliding doors moment!

So armed with my ‘expertise’ in sound recording I volunteered at the local Talking Newspaper for the blind. Every week, we would have some ‘professional’ readers come to our little studio, and they would grandly and eloquently read articles from the local paper. This would be recorded, edited and then using fast copy machines, we had to make a 100 or so copies onto tape cassettes, and put them in special mail packets addressed for each visually impaired recipient.

It wasn’t a highly skilled task, but I was happy to do it, I really enjoyed the company of my fellow ‘technical’ volunteers and the artistic panache of readers.

The readers were very much of a higher standing than us, the backroom people.

The location of this branch of the Talking Newspaper was in leafy and affluent Guildford in Surrey with its grand houses , and in that area, some were the size of small castles! So our professional readers were mainly made up of retired professionals in broadcast, stage or public speaking who were plentiful in this rather well heeled area.

I was particularly in awe of one of them..a retired BBC radio newsreader from the era of when they read the radio news wearing full dinner dress. He didn’t arrive quite so attired for our recording, but he still had that aura about him. One of his sons is now a well known UK TV and film actor and whenever I see him, I always think with fondness of his Dad.

Well life moves on , and I have done a few other voluntary things since then including a spell as a hospital radio presenter…but my dress style never quite matched that of my original mentor!

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And then there were three…

People seem to like things in threes. People expect a third bit of bad luck after two disasters befall them. I am really not sure if I subscribe to that way of living myself, and would actually be more than content with just two bits of misfortune!

Footballers always want another goal after their first two so they can get a hat-trick if they get a third. And for those who are not followers of football (soccer) or possibly, polo or handball…the term may not mean anything to you.

This really weird term originated in cricket when a cricketer, Mr Stephenson won 3 wickets in a row and the crowd were so pleased with him, they took a collection for him and he bought a hat with the proceeds. Quite why he bought a hat rather than just a large round of drinks, history does not seem to say.

Get involved in any wager, and for the losing participant, if things aren’t going well, then a plea of ‘best of three’ is often called for in the hope of grasping success from the jaws of failure.

And so on….

Anyway for me at the moment, I too have things happening in threes….

I have my own game of three parts going on at the moment just to indeed endorse that everything happens in three’s.

As I am reasonably tech savvy, by some co-incidence I have been requested by 3 completely independent individuals at this one time to help them migrate to a new internet solution.

What could possibly go wrong?

The first one went like clockwork, actually like Swiss clockwork!..router arrived on time, line enabled and all working like a dream.

The second has been the biggest fiasco ever and 10 days on still no connection, formal complaints raised and hours of my life gone…on hold to a contact centre!

The third one, well the jury is still out…maybe will be ok?

I know you can’t always expect all three to be perfect…ask Goldilocks that when she did porridge sampling at the three bears house, but even so, this just getting an internet connection, not putting a man on the moon, neurosurgery or writing a best selling novel.

Having said all of that, we do now take our telecoms in the home and all that it gives us totally for granted.

As a child in the 60’s I remember phone calls outside of my local area being treated as one off and expensive events. You had to ring the operator and tell them you wanted to make a trunk call to London for example (we lived in Glasgow). The operator in Glasgow would have to liaise with the London operator and join everything up and then call you back!

I can’t really recall the actual changeover some years later to what was then called STD calling (self dialled trunk calls) but thinking about it, it must have been a real revolution. And don’t forget this was still in the days of telegrams and businesses using telex…or even phoneboxes!

For anyone under the age of 50, you will probably now need to ask best friend google to explain these…..

A few of my favourite things…

Fans of ‘The Sound of Music’, prepare to be disappointed now.

This is not a blog about ‘brown paper packages tied up with string’, ‘raindrops on roses’, or ‘kittens with whiskers’ – for those who haven’t seen the movie or know the song, come on now, you know the routine  just Google    ‘Sound of Music, Favourite things’, rather than me write a lengthy explanation about 1965 films and how the lyrics just stick in your head.

You might also start a whole new pastime  of going to the cinema dressed as a nun.  I am told this is what the true aficionados do. 

And just for  clarity, this also  isn’t a blog about favourite places either…although Salzburg, where the film is set is really beautiful and worth visiting when the ‘situation’ we are in allows it.  Famous for Mozart but has a whole lot more to offer too.

What I am actually writing about is three favourite blogs. I read a lot of blogs for entertainment, information and education but a lot of these are one off visits. There are a few I read regularly and look forward to and  these are three of them that I look forward to and enjoy. .

In no particular order…..Kerry

Keeping up with Kerry.   I started reading this really as a Travel Blog. Kerry is Emirates Cabin Crew and somewhat unusually in my experience, she  really embraces the opportunities she has visiting an array of destinations across the Emirates  destination network. Her writing style is relaxed and informative and in fact probably hides the determined efforts she has made to research in advance where to go, what to see and do in a limited amount of time on a layover.  I can honestly say I have learnt a lot from this blog, even about places I have already visited  and thought I knew well. Understandably at the present time she has not been able to blog about recently visited places for a while but has done a few on working for Emirates, life in Dubai and some detailed ones on hair, make up and cabin crew personal grooming!  Ok, the latter aren’t for me, but never say no to any new knowledge. These days you just do not know what questions may come up in a Zoom on line quiz night. Also as  I also work in aviation  I of course enjoy the more generic ‘life with Emirates’ ones  and also those about Dubai…again a place I have travelled to many times and also pleased to learn more.

Next is Saturday Saunter .   Kev lives in Glasgow but writes as much about  Edinburgh as well as larger neighbour Glasgow. He also features his beloved football team and intersperses it with literary recommendations, some moral philosophy and his views on life in general. It’s a very much ‘say it is, how it is’  kind of blog..in a way written from the heart and like a diary.  I grew up in Glasgow and have a real affinity with many of the places mentioned, but equally there are so many mentions of places and things I either wasn’t aware of or didn’t know the full history that once again, I find more places being added to my must visit list.

Finally, Steven Liddel’s blog….  Steven  is a historian, but also a Tour Guide.  Not just any Tour Guide  but really fascinating walking Tours of London and other UK locations where you will  enjoy hidden secrets and be educated and informed at the same time.  Naturally Steven is unable to blog about current tours,  but he shares in his most eloquent style some  realistic and raw descriptions of his current life in these challenged circumstances  and also  what is now in his more constrained locality.  I think I first found this blog looking for an article about hidden and disused tube stations.  For someone who lived in London for over 10 years,  I am intrigued about what is hidden  and known from all but a few . 

Three very different blogs…I commend them all!

Voles, holes, bats and hedgehogs

Today, June 1st, is the first day of meteorological summer for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. I am assuming there are other measures of when summer starts, although don’t ask me what they are! I imagine it may be related to the retail world and start when the shops want to sell new school uniforms . So a little guidance towards parents reminding them that their little darling will soon be in need of yet another uniform for the new school year in September!

As I child I used to really enjoy my long summer holiday and hated seeing TV adverts by about week two of that break promoting back to school!

But school and school holidays are a long time ago for me now…

For now I just embrace the seasons! Here in the UK we are experiencing a bit of a heatwave and have just had our driest May on record.

This evening’s sunset over my local reservoir

Now as I mentioned a few weeks ago in this blog, I am avoiding writing specifically on the subject of Covid 19 and the personal impact of it. I do realise many people are impacted but much has already been said and I don’t feel I can add to this.

However one of the side effects of our different way of living is the change to our environment and our human perspective on it and each and everyday I see the impact of this.

Many more of us seem to be embracing nature and finding a new appreciation for what is around us. Some of this is just having our eyes open to what is already there. But there are also scientifically proven reductions in pollution, increased opportunities for wildlife to prosper and present themselves to us at closer quarters than normal.

The humble garden vole has now made a significant comeback in our area to the extent that part of our garden is now criss crossed with numerous moles tunnels closely resembling the Spaghetti Junction motorway interchange in Birmingham. Hedgehogs too are having a good season due to reduced road traffic, but are actually suffering now from water shortages. My last gardening job of the day this evening was to create a semi submerged hedgehog drinking vessel, suitable for hedgehog access but not one it can drown in!

And finally bats…maybe not everyone’s favourite animal…although really it’s just a flying mouse that helpfully eats lots of insects. The bats seem to be thriving too and not needing any human intervention.

Life at the moment is hard and very challenging for many, but for those who can embrace it, nature is giving us all a bit more love at the moment, we just need to open our eyes to what is out there.

My submarine is full of eels!

In the UK , this was a Bank Holiday weekend. We residents of course know exactly what that means, but to others in the world, whether native English speakers in North America, Australia, New Zealand etc. possibly not and to those who are speakers of English but for whom it is not their mother tongue, most definitely not. My european colleagues having just got over my use of the term annual leave when taking just a days holiday were perplexed when I started on about bank holidays!

So what is a bank holiday? Unlike just about any other country we in the uk don’t refer to national non working weekdays as public holidays, but as Bank Holidays. The term derived really from two sources…the holidays are of course days when banks and government offices are closed, but also back in 1871  John Lubbock first Baron of Avebury who was a scientific writer who studied ants and allegedly tried to teach his poodle to read. He however was also a banker and politician and he drafted the Bank Holiday Bill . This once it was law  created the original bank holidays.

We also very carefully schedule our bank holidays..a day off is much more useful if it can be on a Monday or a Friday and tagged on to make a long weekend. Hence the term Bank Holiday weekend..although ask a UK native about bank holiday weekends and they will usually mutter something about rain.

Uncannily many bank holidays seem to attract inclement weather and there is almost an expectation of it for our Late Summer Bank Holiday weekend, on the last Monday of August. Being a stoical nation, people will carry on as normal and still go to the beach and eat fish and chips or ice cream on the beach and then look miserable but resolute!

English is a congusing language, and we tend to use these idiosyncratic terms, desmite many of these never finding their way into a phrasebook. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Monty Python once did a sketch about a Hungarian Phrasebook that had ‘useful’ phrases for translation including “My submarine is full of eels”. Hmmm…and you thought Bank Holiday confusing!

Another late arrival

Just as I was a latecomer to the world of blogging, I really am late to the world of Instagram. If I was age 19 or even 29, I would be using Instagram as my means of social media connection with others, photographing every meal, and in short recording my life in images.

As is very evident, age 29 is a distant memory and my use of Instagram is only as a photograph album that I share with family and friends.

Ok, until I realised my privacy settings were, well not so private, I was also sharing my photographs with the world. Not a problem in its own right, but I did seem to encourage ‘connections’ offering me Russian brides (….If only they knew that I am not the route to a passport and a large bank account), Medical Enlargement Clinics offering surgery free treatment presumably to ‘improve my prospects’ with said Russian brides and of course Bitcoin Riches to ensure that myself and new wife Tatanya Yelga Anastasia can live in wealthy bliss back in Vladivostok.

In a way though, it’s more than a photograph album , but a means of me wearing my heart on my sleeve and declaring my love for clouds, sunsets and generally the countryside around us.

But I sense I am not alone…search on #sunsets, #clouds and so on and you will find I am in good company.

Well, maybe just me and three sparrows like these clouds but you know what I mean…

A bit like my blog, my Instagram account is there to be enjoyed by anyone who passes by and drops , but blissfully ignored by the remaining others…..or 99.99999999999999999% of the world’s population as I like to call them.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to comment, share and like.

For the opacarophiles (sunset lovers) just head straight to my Instagram page late.again

The Wheels on the bus go round and round

The wheels on the bus was a very popular song for my children and their generation.In fact it seems equally loved by the next generation , as our our prime minister during electioneering for his current post some 6 months ago decided to do a quick verse of it when visiting a primary school in a vote garnering exercise.

Three important lessons – one: only sing a song if you know the words; two: only sing if you can sing and three: (the relevant bit now) …be careful what you wish for. Boris, did you really want to become Prime Minister? To be fair, he probably thought the worst demons he would have to face would be Brexit (both the remainders and the leavers), angry Northern Ireland Unionists and even more angry Scottish Nationalists.

He most definitely didn’t get the memo saying there would be a pandemic.

Boris actually has quite a history with buses. Being a keen cyclist he got rid of bendy buses when he was mayor of London, and then had a new jump on, jump on bus designed to replace the old iconic routemasters that had the open platforms. Very convenient but not very high on health safety…or warmth.Anyway, back to the wheels on the bus……We live quite near a senior school and we see the school buses trundling by at the beginning and end of each day and it reminds me of my school days…or at least the travel to and from.I was fairly ambivalent about school, not really falling into either camp of ‘best days of my life’ or ‘worst days of my life’, but I did enjoy going on the school bus.The school bus was the place where you caught up with homework on the way there; caught up with the gossip, used it as a taxi service to get you to other places you wanted to be after school such as friends houses, shops or wherever.Homebound it was generally a journey where you let off steam and had fun, be that playing stupid games, flirting (actually, that perhaps also was in the stupid games category) , or even fell in love. I went to a catholic secondary so many of the pupils were from Glasgow’s large Italian community, and being an impressionable 13 year old boy with an eye for the girls, my heart was broken a few times by the blossoming beauties in my midst…but just for the record Francesca, I’ve got over you now!In the UK we don’ t generally have the specific purpose built school buses, normally yellow in colour, that are common place in the US, Canada and some other countries, but would just get any vehicle that a local bus opertor could provide.When I say any vehicle, I really mean that!Somewhat unusually, my secondary school was completely newly and opened with an intake year one and therefore only 1 years worth of pupils initially, we only needed one coach from my local area.The contract was awarded to a ‘one man and dog ‘ operation with an ancient coach, but a very personable driver Henry Crawford (aka the owner of the company).The bus didn’t even have radio, but after Henry learnt the hard way from a few noisy journeys that a radio would drown out the noise of the pupils, he found an old car radio and fitted it to the charabanc.Designed for a car , it needed amplification so he rigged up an old record player loudspeaker in the bus to assist in amplification.As the school added a new intake each year, so did demand for the buses and Henry grew his business to become a sizeable and respected Bus and Coach hire company .Many years later, I remember seeing a sleek, modern, very new , state of the art coach parked on London’s Park Lane opposite the Dorchester Hotel bearing his name….I am sure Henry is no longer with us, but it seems the next generation have really developed the business to a new level.Conversely, my own children have a habit of seeing their school buses in unexpected places. One of the more unusual locations was high up a mountain in the Austrian Alps when it pulled into the car park alongside our car!It is a small world!