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.

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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!

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!

Things just got a whole lot better…

This might seem a strange title when at the time of going to press, here in the UK and indeed the wider world things are not too rosy.

Coronavirus, although not yet at pandemic level is causing much mayhem and indeed economic distress by scaring the pants off the financial markets.

Weeks of rain has caused considerable flooding in many parts of the UK, and I could go on and on.

But in the words of Monty Python, Always look on the bright side of life.

We currently have some house guests and conversation turned to where was an optimal place to live in London when young and single. For the avoidance of doubt, that ship has sailed for me many years ago but anyway, we had the conversation just in case I became young and single again!

Many years ago I lived in the London/Essex borders and my lengthy and boring commute took me through Stratford in London’s East End. Stratford was a miserable place…poor quality housing, industrial grime of railway yards and general decay as the jobs diminished and nothing came to replace them. Standing on the station platform to change trains was fairly depressing and in reality gave me a guilt complex as I realised this was home for many people, not just a transit point, as it was for me.

But then came the Olympics in 2012. And then more importantly the Olympic legacy.

This area is now one of the best connected in London with new tube stations, a station on the International network with trains to Paris, Brussels and even Disneyland; a world class home for their local football team and a fantastic area of Parkland housing the newly orientated Olympic acquadrome and stadii.

And a very large shopping mall with not just shops but also numerous restaurants, bars and entertainment options.
Given the opportunity now, a great place to live at that stage in life.

So what makes me write this, quite simply the fact that not all change is bad , and that generally speaking we overcome the difficulties and move on.

In the same way that we embraces the seasons, we have to embrace the changing world we live in, learn, improve and move on.

One of the interesting “fall outs” from the Coronavirus situation is that Chinese pollution levels have dropped for the first time in years…little comfort for someone impacted financially by not being able to work, but a telling fact all the same.


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Saint Pancras

For those not of a religious nature and in fact those without a specific knowledge of 14th century saints, the name St Pancras means nothing, other than it being a somewhat magnificent London Railway Terminus.For those who may want to know more, St Pancras became a saint due to his martyrdom and rebellion against the Romans in defence of the Christian faith. He is not really a top ten rated saint compared to Animal loving St Francis, travel insurance expert St Christopher, snake repelling St Patrick and many others who get regular top billing both in the church and popular literature and films. Anyway if a St Pancras question comes up at quiz night, you will be the hero of your team now. St Pancras station however really is out there making a name for itself. This magnificent building which has a gothic cathedral like appearance from the outside was constructed in the 1860’s and was in good use for the first 100 years of its life but fell into gradual decline from the 1960’s and was nearly derelict by the 1970’s with only a small number of departures to the Midlands of England with most other services having been moved for various reasons to other stations nearby such as next door neighbour modernist Kings Cross,and near neighbours St Marylebone and Euston.Then a stroke of luck…the newly created international services of Eurostar to Paris and Brussels needed a larger terminus; the newly created high speed domestic trains to the Kent coast likewise, and also some other commuter services needed a station that could accomdate increased train lengths introduced due to traffic growth.That’s just the background and the ‘raison d’etre’ for the stations rebirth.And what a transformation….light, sculptures, classy shops, restaurants and champagne bars truly have brought the romance back to train travel.The full story of this transformation is worth a read…well documented on Wikipedia. For those not looking for the detail….just try to visit it if ever you are in London. You really won’t be disappointed.

Seizing the moment…..

Travelling back to Yorkshire from a family event in Essex last Sunday was not a rushed journey, so we took the opportunity to stop off at Cambridge. Cambridge is probably just over 2 and 1/2 hours drive from our home when the traffic is being kind, but we never really go there, so making an en-route stop was a sensible and long overdue idea.

I lived in London for 10 years and although I saw and did a lot when I lived there, as a (regular) visitor now, I probably make many more purposeful visits to see things now far more than I ever did when I lived there.

And actually, Scotland is an even more valid case… I lived there for 18 years but really saw none of it other than Glasgow

where I lived and its very near neighbour Edinburgh.

Now Glasgow and Edinburgh are great places and I commend them both to everyone , but there is of course so much more to the country.

I really have a lot of catching up to do there in Scotland……..

Meanwhile back in Cambridge…. it was a relatively short visit this time but with already reaffirmed intentions to visit more.

We parked just by Kings College on the other side of the Cam, and walked in to the city and with unseasonably sunny and mild weather, Cambridge looked good on that Sunday afternoon.

Whether it the buildings, the punts on the Cam

or fantastic open air market, or just the historic bookshops, there is plenty to please the eye.

Later in the week I was chatting to my hair dresser and as you will have read in a previous blog Do you want conditioner these are not conversations as you would expect that include the three standard hairdresser questions * , but we talk about everything and in fact I had been asked ….where is the most amazing place I have visited….now to be fair, that conversation was really more linked to exotic places that my current and previous employers have dispatched me to, to go and drink coffee, or attend a meeting! …and the answer by the way was I think Mauritius…. but I think if I had been asked for a UK town, Cambridge would certainly have got in my top ten!

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  • The three questions are : Have you been to work today?, Are you going out tonight?, Got any holidays booked?

The only way is….

TV viewers of a certain generation in the UK will be familiar with TOWIE. For those not in that demographic, its a reality TV programme, ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ following lives of 20 somethings living and nightclubbing around Romford, a London suburb but actually in the neighbouring county of Essex and holidaying in Magaluf and Benidorm.

Full of stereotypes and predictable storylines of who has cheated on who, and who has had what cosmetic surgery!

Why mention this…well I informed a German colleague that I was going to a family celebration in the county and he said ah yes, I have seen it on satellite TV.

I felt an explanation was required!

TOWIE… So is this a representation of Essex life?To a degree yes but it’s a large county and go to the other end…i.e. the bit not bordering London and you find picturesque villages more akin to John Constable country than dodgy nightclubs!

I am a bit biased..having lived at the London end, but having family connections in some of the more rural parts, that’s where I would always want to be. Even the district names remind you of the deep history of the place .

The Essex seaside towns of Clacton, Frinton and Walton in are in a district called the Tendering Hundred. Why? Hundred was unit of English local government and taxation,an intermediate between a village and shire, which survived into the 19th century. Originally, the term probably referred to a group of 100 hides (units of land required to support one peasant family)

I could write so much more about the good side of the county…but that will take time….

And on the subject of hundreds…my last subscriber was number 100…I was amazed when I had one so to have 100 of you I feel flattered and humbled.

I appreciate that not every post, is for everyone but I sincerely hope that in my 100 plus posts to date, there has been someting that at some point has amused or informed you….or perhaps just made you glad you don’ t live in the UK!

With my heartfelt thanks for hopefully enjoying what I write…….

Just bee cause!

This might sound like a cryptic crossword clue but it’s not.

Waiting at London’s Kings Cross Station station for a homebound train to Yorkshire earlier in week I decided to buy some lunch for the train journey.

By chance I picked up a fruit drink sweetened with honey from a start up ethical company who are focussed on saving bees.

In fact so much so that for every bottle sold they plant bee friendly wildflowers and will also send you some seeds to plant them yourself.

How cool an idea is that!