Always the bridesmaid, never the bride!

One of the great things about working in the aviation industry is that you do get to visit a lot of places. Over the years working for various airlines, ground handlers and an aviation technology company, I have put a lot of pins on the map.

Ok, at the moment it’s all a bit in abeyance and in the past six months where I might reasonably expected to have been in numerous European countries, the middle East and possibly USA…my travel has been limited to Aldi, Lidl and the Co Op in my local town..but hey ho, I am not alone in that respect of a changed life!

Travelling is great , I love it and I never forget to be grateful and aware of my privilege of having these opportunities even if they don’t return in the future.

However it isn’t always quite as wonderful as it sounds. I was asked by a friend recently had I ever visited Johannesburg? …I had to think a lot and answer realistically.

My trip there had been out on a flight for 9 hours, walk through the terminal to the airport hotel. I then attended a meeting (included refreshments: one cup of coffee!) After the meeting, straight to bed in same hotel, and up again six hours later for flight back to UK!

It gets better….a quick flight one morning to a European capital to attend a meeting with a Low Cost Airline. On arrival I was met at gate by pleasant but anxious young man tasked with getting me to the airline office by car across the ramp area. Lots of phone calls but still no (airside) transport arrived..he was very apologetic at this point. Then a phone call or two was then reassured that alternate transport would arrive. After some more minutes waiting – it surely did arrive…a toilet truck!

I do this job purely for the glamour!

Toasted Sandwich Naked

This isn’t my What Three Words location, although a good one to have as my actual one is not very memorable and certainly won’t spring to mind if I am shipwrecked, stuck up a mountain or just lost in Ikea’s one way customer flow.

It is also not a crossword clue for a Danish Open sandwich. It was actually an unfortunate message I sent to one of my sons and his fiance. I was at the top of ladder at home clearing our attic and found various items of possible use to the next generation and decided the best way of determining if it stayed there or was destined for a new home was a quick What’s App to ask the question as and when I found items. The message ‘Do you want a toasted sandwich maker?’ becoming ‘Do you want a toasted sandwich naked’ unfortunately was a result of auto-correct and my haste!

I do actually have to confess to an earlier mishap with predictive text. Some years ago a more junior colleague was seeking my approval to attend a meeting in Latvia as I had already made it clear it had to be a low cost airline trip. When asked about what they could book for the journey, my text message of ‘you can only travel there by Air Baltic …unfortunately got corrected to…You can only travel there by…. air balloon caused some stress, calls to HR and the company’s insurance department!

Anyway, back on the home front…I think the wedding is still on but some doubt as to whether any thoughts of a father of the groom speech being a good idea …..

We are family…….

Anyone reading this hoping for a blog about the 1970’s band Sister Sledge who had a hit of that same title…be prepared to be dissapointed now when you read on, to see that the post is about genealogy.

And for those aged 40 or younger, do take note, and look them up…you will probably one day find you have a serious gap in your musical knowledge as questions about Sister Sledge and their profusion of similar sounding hits will often feature on ‘pop music’ quizzes and you will be none the wiser.

Time now to dig out your parents compilation cassettes..and find a device to play them on…..

Anyway having recently had another birthday ending with a zero, it focussed my mind on not only where do I come from, but who were the people and what were there lives like? A recent gift to me of a DNA analysis test identified that I was 97.5% Irish…so no surprise there, but also 2.5% Akenazi….huge surprise there. But it’s not just the country or culture, I want to know more about the people.

My mother’s family tree is well documented and my origins are from mostly shop keepers but also an assortment of engineers, doctors and other professions.

In the scale of things, quite prosperous and financially comfortable people owning their own homes and businesses, employing people and in some cases having domestic staff!

On the contrsry, my father’s family had previously not been documented but now armed with some family tree software, some sketchy notes of 10 years ago collected from a now deceased relative, I have been tracing my paternal blood line.

Emigrants from Ireland to the UK but a very different story – many of my family including my paternal grand father and great grandfather lived and worked in Bermondsey, London as labourers in the docks. There are also a number of my female relatives working as chars (cleaners), washerwoman and domestic servants. So several generations of people working in tough and not well rewarded roles.

It was not until the last generation that life improved. My own father and one of his brothers were the first to go beyond this and study and train to go into professional roles.

As I unfold more detail it is very evident to me that life in my grandparents generation was really harsh and challenging…but considerably better than the Irish potato famine that they had fled that had killed over one million people literally wiping out half of the country.

So we are a family of two halves…different measures of good fortune…with one half being able to afford the domestic staff and the other providing it…but also united in a shared cultural history.

I have to admit to almost being obsessed now with this genealogical investigation and how uplifting it is in these strange times to understand and feel a connection with my descendants.

Let’s make this easy shall we?

As I write this, its the Late Summer Bank Holiday Weekend in most of the UK …..but not Scotland…they are holding out until September for theirs. And theirs is known as the September Weekend…no Marketing consultants or focus groups for naming things required here folks!

Unfortunately, so far it is actually the coldest August Bank Holiday weekend for 20 years according to the weather statisticians. Forget any ideas of picnics, walking in the moors, trips to the sea or al fresco dining of any kind. What the weather did invite however was a trip to our nearby independent bookshop.

Our local town Holmfirth (known to many 40+ year olds in the UK and perhaps beyond, for the Fictional TV Series ‘Last of the Summer Wine’) has a good mix of craft shops, eateries, cafes, independent stores and a recent addition of a small bookshop.

As covered in a previous blog, Bank Holidays are a somewhat curious quirk of the uk and yet another example of our use of the English language using a term that is blindingly obvious to us native speakers, but very confusing to others.

Yes for sure the bank staff get a holiday on these days but so do many other people in industry , commerce, education and government but of course not those in essential services or indeed shop workers who rely in some ways on the rest of us not being at work to give them some added footfall through their shop doors.

So on the subject of shops, back to this one. There is actually not a moments doubt as to what is sold in this shop….. it is books …its called Read. Holmfirth is a tourist destination so even for non native speakers you will know what the offering is here.

Its a great little bookshop with well selected fiction (and many of the books are signed) The only downside is, you may have to queue to get in…its not a huge shop, and with current social distancing rules, if one family enter the store that’s it…until they vacate to make a space for you

It did strike me that actually very few shops in the UK have such a simple and obvious name. We rely on tourism in many parts of this country so why not make things a bit easier for visitors?

Ok, for those of you who are UK residents or at least familiar with the UK High Street you are now reeling off a list of names and brands that provide ‘what it says on the tin’, so as to speak. Yes, I too can think of a few UK examples past and present : ‘eat’ is a chain of outlets that sell …yes, eat in and take away eats; Toys ‘r’ Us, (sadly departed) , ‘Patisserie Valerie‘ (ok, of course Patisserie is a French word, but you get the idea) , The Perfume Shop and so on.

However the ones that may confuse a non native speaker are far more commonplace: ‘Curry’s’ are not a restaurant selling Indian food, but are an electrical goods retailer; ‘Boots’ are a chemist with not a chance of any footwear being on sale other than perhaps a Dr Scholl sandal; ‘Lakeland’ – garden pond accessories? …sorry, its a cookware retailer; ‘Jigsaw’ – not a single children’s puzzle for sale here. You get the idea……

Anyway, this is just nothing compared to what we at least historically named our pubs (and our beer!) …but that’s another story for another blog for another day.

I’m off to the Bulls Head for a Pint of Old Peculiar now……….

A nice mini break, shame about the aliens

This last week we had planned to be in Holland and Germany visiting family. Quarantine rules however meant that trip has had to be postponed so we rather rapidly formulated an alternative of a few days away in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, England.

Like many things that are on your ‘doorstep’ one does just not appreciate them as they are so near and always accessible. We live in the neighbouring but rival county of Yorkshire and are just only an hour or so away. away.

The War of the Roses might have ended in 1485, but as far as many locals are concerned, it might as well still be going on today. Certainly in terms of Sport and pride about who has the finest countryside, notable persons and so on.

The Ribble Valley really has it all. Beautiful countryside, lots of walks and plentiful pubs and tea shops.

Any downsides? None other than we were convinced we were being followed home by Aliens one night as we drove back from dinner at the wonderful Inn at Whitwell.

Strange lights were illuminating the sky and appeared to be chasing us. You may be assuming this was just the effect of too much red wine, but our designated driver consuming only water also experienced the same. Having seen the Northern Lights, I knew it wasn’t that (although it was similar, but only white light, not the wonderful colours of the Aureora Borealis). So we were genuinely mystified.

Fortunately our Air bnb hostess was able to help us as we shared our bizarre experience with her on returning that evening. She too had observed the same one day earlier that week and likewise had the view that aliens were following her home. She did however have the answer once she had shared the experience with local friends. It seemed there was an outdoor music event nearby with a strange lighting system of an array of searchlights that were literally lighting up the clouds above us! So no close encounters of the Third kind!

Bath Time

I always enjoy my visit to the hairdresser and this is despite me being someone who in the past as an awkward teenager suffered from Tonsurephobia.

Tonsurephobia apart from being a 15 point word in Scrabble, is the fear of getting a haircut. The word Tonsurephobia is derived from Greek words ‘Tonsure’ meaning ‘ to cut’ and ‘Phobos’ meaning ‘deep dread or aversion’. To be fair for me it wasn’t the loss of hair that was the issue, but the need for conversation with a twenty something smart and worldwide girl when I was an awkward 15 year old. Anyway, that was then…I am no longer aged 15!

So these days I enjoy the conversation. Sophie my hairdresser is always interested in where my work travel has taken me over the last 5 or 6 weeks. So I often will list off places such as London, Milan, Berlin, Muscat, Dubai and so on.

So last week…same question and all I could come up with was home, Aldi and Morrisons . (For those not familiar with the UK..both of these are supermarkets!) Suddenly I felt my ‘reputation’ as one of her most well travelled clients erode into one of her most likely serial and obsessive supermarket shoppers.

I realise much later that evening that I had actually omitted to tell her about the one interesting journey I had made in the past weeks was to the City of Bath.

I have been to Bath many times and this most recent visit was a real flying one, to quickly help someone with a house move.

Bath is a beautiful city, just awash with beautiful buildings, an awesome park in the city centre and more Georgian Terraces of house than you can shake a stick at. Pubs, restaurants, wine bars and coffee shops abound and you would be hardpressed not to be able to find things to suit taste and budget. So what’s not to like? Really only the city’s narrow street and the impact on through traffic. A geographically short journey can take a long time!!!!!

Finally, I am recognised for my lack of talent

Last weekend in the UK nature brought us blue skies, a gentle breeze and warmth in the sunshine, so a perfect day to get on and get some work done in the garden.

Planning on being out there the best part of a whole day, I made sure my phone was in my pocket and turned on. I even diligently got my phone out from time to time to make sure I had not missed calls when using my somewhat loud strimmer and even noisier lawn mower.

However unbenown to me, when replacing said phone in my pocket, I actually touched the Facebook icon, opened the app, and then made a post consisting of a stream of random keyboard characters!

Oblivious to this, I carried on working and about an hour later stopped for a cold drink and checked my phone for messages.

An urgent What’s App from my daughter: “Dad, I think your phone has been hacked and someone has been using your Facebook to make some posts, I am sure they are not from you”

You can imagine my panic I quickly checked the posts expecting to find adverts for Russian Mail Order Brides, Investment Opportunities for Nigerian businessman with a surplus $1 million that they need my help with or recommendations for magic potions to improve parts of me to make me even more desirable to the above mentioned mail order bride!

Anyway I was very relieved to find out it was none of the above but just a random post of gibberish like someone’s left over scramble letters!

What did surprise me though was that this pointless post attracted much interest from my friends and got a number of ‘Like’s.

In fact more likes than I would normally get for a post.

It actually quite troubled me as it suggests this far exceeds the quality then of what I more regularly post!

Turned out nice again!

I am not sure if it was nature or nurture that gave me my interest (the unkind would say, my obsession!) with the weather. I suspect a bit of both.Having lived my early years in the West of Scotland you have to get used to it being wet and really any day when it is not wet is deemed ‘a nice day’ and a cause for comments of mild surprise.

Planning outdoor events was therefore always quite a lottery and required close attention to TV weather forecasts, how the sky actually looked and whether cows were lying down in a field or standing up.And the accuracy or efficacy of these might not be in that order ! Weather forecasting was not so good back then.

And just for the record, I think this may be the first time I have used the word efficacy in a blog…I used to work with an accountant who frequently used it…I trust I am doing the word justice!

On the nurture side of things, I have my late and beloved mother to thank as well. She was a GP by profession, but interested in a whole raft of subjects, one of these hobbies being plants and her garden and of course weather plays a big part in that. Way before the days of the internet and the ease of looking at historic weather patterns with a view to deciding when to plant seeds or risk delicate seedlings to the outside world, she was able to look at previous year planners where she had recorded daily weather events and extremes such as snow in May or Frost in June – actually not so extreme for residents of Glasgow in the 1970’s when Global Warming had not yet arrived!

So move on thirty years and my meteorological upbringing has helped define me.

It has also actually made birthday and Christmas presents ideas quite easy for my family.


Weather vanes, anemometers, garden clocks with thermometers, rain gauges etc. have all arrived and been very well received as gifts.Not to mention the books on clouds, forecasting, extremes of weather that are now adorning my bookshelf.

And of course renowned as I am (despaired with…., again might be the more accurate description from those around me) for starting random conversations with all and sundry in supermarkets, trains or country lanes ..what better opener than ‘turned out nice again’ !

Enjoying this blog?

Comments and feedback most welcome…….

Well that grabbed my attention!

I follow quite a few bloggers, and indeed there is no particular connection amongst these other than the posts they write amuse, entertain or educate me.

Occasionally they just confuse me! I am sure I too am guilty of the same on occasion of leading in one direction and sending to another.

I know have quite an esoteric following in the world of dentists, veterinary staff, cooks, travel writers and a whole raft of people whose skills or interests have not been disclosed. I just hope at least some of what I write fills a void in their blog reading life.

So, back to the blogs I read. One I read at the beginning of the week was titled..How to get more Instagram followers without posting photographs. I was slightly puzzled by this as I thought Instagram was about where to show your photographs. I haven’t used Instagram for long but evidently I have been doing the wrong thing by actually publishing photos rather than creating brand ‘me’ and promoting me. This oversight explains why I have about 20 Instagram followers rather than 20,000!

The next day however I read a blog post simply titled ‘Finally a sofa’.

That resonated far more with me, as like so many people, with more time on our hands we have been trying to put them to good use, but need the tools to do that.

Over the last weeks I could have done a blog called ‘Finally hedge clippers, deckchair covering, strimmer wire and printer toner’. All of these very First World requirements and never really the kind of items that would have pleased Robinson Crusoe too much if washed up on his desert island beach. But for me better than a lifeboat, outboard motor with fuel and a map that Robinson hoped for on each tide.

On the subject of ‘how to….?’, in the UK we had a childrens TV programme in the 1970’s (..and I think it returned again in the early 2000’s) called How? It never did anything on how to big up your social media presence….and even if such things had been in existence today, they would not have gone there, but it was great in that it explained how things work and in many cases how to replicate them.

One of my favourites was how toothpaste comes out with stripes!

For the non experts in toothpaste manufacturing, it has dyes positioned in the tube neck that colours the outer edge of the paste just as it exits. The TV programme actually then gave you a toothpaste recipe and then showed you how to unseal a used tube of toothpaste, fill up with your own that would then squirt out stripey toothpaste.

Happy Days

PS …told you this blog was liked by Dentists!!!!

As this is a blog, all comments welcome……..

Seven Brides and Forty winks

It’s July 15th as I write this and it is Saint Swithuns day, unless of course you live in Norway where he gets his big moment of fame on July 2nd instead. No, before you ask, I don’t know why …….

Anyway St Swithum was Bishop of Winchester (England) in about 861 AD and had various claims to fame mostly on restoring churches but somewhat bizarrely he is also reputed to have restored a basket of eggs back to their original form that had been broken when sat on by the builders on one of his restoration projects ! Omelettes evidently were not a big thing back then.

These historical events are however somewhat overshadowed for his posthumous miracle making. It is said that if it rains on Swithuns bridge in Winchester on July 15th , then it will rain for 40 days.

I don’t think there is any time limit on this so don’t plan a house move to Winchester if you want guaranteed summer barbecues every August.

Fortunately, looking at the weather forecast things at least for this year look ok at the moment.

The number Seven is often seen in mythology, story telling and so on as a number of plenty – Seven brides for Seven brothers…indeed that number of weddings throws any father into panic at the cost and mayhem; Seven Deadly Sins – hmmm, perhaps not lets go there; Seven Dwarfs stretches many a pub quiz contestant to name them all, Seven Wonders of the World seems to be an ever changing league table and just when you think you have seen most of them they change and so the task of ticking them off becomes almost unattainable.

It seems too that forty is also number of choice – Forty Winks is deemed a reasonable length of time for a sleep and good old Swithum has opted for forty as a reasonable number for days of rain. Well, thanks Saint S, I am all for replenishing reservoirs but that is just too much!

I really do have a vested interest in it not raining for 40 days. Tomorrow is my birthday (not my fortieth sadly…that ship has already sailed) and I plan for the next few days to have some time off work (that won’t be forty days either) and enjoy walking in the hills , spending time with extended family, drinking wine in the garden and generally having fun…most, but not all of these activities are greatly assisted by a little sunshine!

Happy 15th July to you all (Norwegian’ s respectfully excluded)