A mars bar, a glass of rose and usually a hug!

With all due respect to Accor Hotels, owners of the Ibis brand, not many people would be heard to ask the question ” is there surely just no better place than the Ibis Hotel at Luton Airport” . Well yes and no is the obvious answer to that!

Certainly it’s not a destination on most bucket lists, but most people do need a day job to fund the fun!

When I was offered a job at one of the airlines head quartered at London’s Luton Airport I had the option of not relocating to the area but just being there for 2 or 3 days of my working week; the rest of the time I was mostly travelling or worked from home.

So the Hotel Ibis became my ‘home from home’ for 2 nights most weeks for 5 years! When you stay in a hotel for 5 years two things happen…you either hate it and feel frustrated that on those days you are not in your own home and socialising with family and friends. Or you embrace the unique position you are in that you get to know the hotel staff and they get to know you very, very well and you develop a relationship that other customers just cannot have.

I very much went for the latter – on arrival always big smiles and often a hug…much to the bemusement of other customers; some chocolate in my room and some fresh milk ready for me to take to my room as they knew I liked “A proper cup of tea”.

Quite often, in the later part of the evening, a phone call to me suggesting to come down now for a chat, particularly if it had been busy at reception on arriving earlier. A glass of wine would be already poured for me…

If I was going out meeting work friends in the area or going into London for the evening, I didn’t come and go anonymously- there would be discussion on where to go , what to do and even on what I should wear!

The hotel had a very international staff from Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Germany and many other countries as well as the UK and over their shift patterns I got to know them all. One thing that never ceased to amuse me that one of the employees Jesus was often rostered with his colleague Christ doing the next shift…I am serious!

I also had a few birthdays there over the years and something special was always done for me at breakfast on these days…much to the surprise of other customers.

But now life has moved on and I no longer work for that airline and don’t need to stay there…but the friendships with many of the people remain.

In fact on my last night there, I was presented with gifts, farewell cards and a had a leaving drinks party…A better send off than I have had from some of my own workplaces!

If ever I learnt something from this, is that friendships can develop in any part of your life and it’s the unexpected ones that can be the best!

Happy days! ….With love to Kristina, George, Valentina, Christ, Nikki, Jesus, Alex and many others who I have may have omitted …….

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.

Travel the world
A world of choice

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!

Tins of beans
Full of beans

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!

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…..

Teenagers…just ask your parents

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.

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!

Enjoying this blog? I do hope so. Please share, comment, and subscribe using the links on this page.

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.

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!

A house, a car, a holiday and a very large bar of chocolate

Ask many people and it appears that quite surprisingly, well surprisingly to me anyway, is they have a ready prepared list of what they would buy if they had a substantial lottery or premium bond win.

For readers outside of the UK, I probably need to explain Premium bonds. Quite simply it’s state sponsored gambling where you might be a winner (and that’s a very, big extremely unlikely kind of might) or you will at least not be a loser. Why? You always get your money back when you exit. Even years later. Great Auntie Flo would buy you a one pound (and that’s money, not weight) Premium bond for your Christening and each month it goes in a draw for prizes ranging from 1 million pounds down to 50 pounds. Thirty years later, having not won a million pounds , or even more than 50 pounds very occasionally , you can then “cash in your chips” and get your original pound back. What’s not to like about that?

Unlike poker, you always keep your ‘stake’ with premium bonds

Anyway, people have these lists and often they start with something practical and fiscally prudent such as a house, then an item that is somewhat frivolous and is often a totally impractical car.

And then final item is usually disproportionately small, such as a bar of Cadburys Milk Chocolate or a multi pack of Tunnocks caramel wafers but hey, why not!!

I don’t have such a list, but if I did, my number one item would be a Beach Hut. It sort of gets itself in all three categories of being sort of practical, a bit frivolous and also rather small.

Beach huts are not completely unique to the UK, but they are a very British institution and often found in the more genteel seaside resorts of Aldeburgh, Southwold and Frinton-on-Sea. Beach Huts are in some ways very impractical.

You can’t sleep in them, they have no electricity, no toilet or washing facilities are very hard to insure and stand a high chance of being wasted out to sea, and turned into matchwood to be washed up at Blankenberg, Belgium one stormy January day. Oh , and did I mention they are hard to buy with long waiting lists and are very expensive, a bit like any true love!

And then having finally bought one, you then need a clever name for it. Sea view or Ocean gaze just don’t meet the standard. Creativity with names such as the Dog House, Cat Nap or Vitamin Sea is how you get yourself noticed!

I haven’t quite thought of a name yet for mine , but Late Again does appeal for obvious reasons. 😁

Ah…so it is Monday then?

I have deliberately not posted about Corona virus over these past weeks.  Not that I  don’t recognise the huge  impact it is having on people’s  lives  – from not only the obvious health related aspects on family, friends and loved ones,  but the economic and social aspects as well….but there are many posts  on many sites  and I don’t think I can really add to what is being said, other than that  I have the greatest sympathy and concern for anyone suffering from this at the moment.

However one of the impacts of the different lives we are living at the moment is that the days of the week really   blur  and we lose the structure of our normal weeks.   I have also been taking some annual leave from work as well  and this too has helped merge the days.

Anyway, net result is that today is Monday…and I seem to have lost Sunday,  somewhere in the days after Friday and Saturday so the planned Sunday post now is being published on a Monday. 

 So how have I spent today?

Well, mostly tending to a fire!

Despite living in a highly technological world, there seems to be something hardwired into us males  that draws us to making and tending to fires (it also manifests itself  for most men with barbecues,  but that’s a tale for another day!)


I have quite a large garden, and have spent much of my free time over the last two to three weeks trimming trees, shrubs and generally tidying up. Net result… a huge pile of  branches, twigs and general garden waste  that would fill a room!  I have been determined to burn this pile for many days now but each day so far has not been right… too windy, too wet, too wet and windy, too nice (neighbours in garden and windows all open), and so on…..

But today all conditions were perfect,  so a bonfire was called for, and a huge and satisfying blaze ensued. 

Now I really like bonfires…but its really not so much the blazing inferno at the beginning  as  in some ways they just are a sad reminder of the various forest fires we have seen this year. 

But actually its more than just the hunter, gatherer, fire maker urges in me being satisfied. What I really enjoy is  the residual smouldering pile that remains and will burn quietly for hours or sometimes days, occasionally flaring up, but always sending little wisps of smoke.

Now these really do remind me of my childhood and gardening with my parents.

Nothing more evocative than the smell of wood smoke on a spring evening.

Happy days!