First day back in the pool for a while. Hardly anyone there. The only person in my lane was the old biddy who keeps stopping to talk to people and is erratic in her choice of lanes. Has been known to switch lanes and get in just in front of you. Today she was chatting at one end and waited until I just got there and was turning round when she set off again getting in my way. Ah well. Did 30 mins until the bell went.
Waitrose on the way home to get a few bits for tonight including restocking up on Harissa paste which I only recently discovered and has proved to be a hit. Brioche buns for John’s burger. We are having a bbq seeing as it is going to be another scorcher.
Tuesday ended up being a scorcher. Real Californian weather. Anne and I put in some time clearing the bottom of the garden until it was time for me to go and pick up John from school and take him to Tesco to get some passport photos for his upcoming History A Level Russia trip. He will be the third Davies to make the trip. Whilst at Tesco had the Peugeot cleaned. It’s been sat under the conifers collecting sap or whatever these trees ooze over the summer.
Couple of lagers in the Morning Star before cooking solo on the BBQ. The others had eaten early as Anne had to go ot Craft Group and John to hockey training.
Woken up at midnight by Joe who decided he was coming home after all – Pylons session out at Bridge Farm.
The other news of the day is that The Great British Bake Off is moving from the BBC to C4. Everyone is predicting the demise of the programme. The two presenters have already resigned and Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry are also predicted to go.
Featured image is apples from one of our trees. Quite small this year.
Another great night’s kip. This is what a quiet night in does for you. Today is Tuesday. It’s just another day. It will be marked, unremarkably, by a trip or two to the tip, a visit to Coops to pay for Betty’s MoT test last week and other as yet unknown and unremarkable activities.
Most days are thus. They can’t always be whiz bang headliners really can they? It is important to cram as much in to your life as you can but it is difficult to sustain the pace. You need a rest every now and again.
Or do you? Let’s consider this. My life philosophy is to enjoy it while I can. I don’t know why I am here and on that basis might as well make the best of it. This is a personal philosophy. Others find it convenient to delegate their life direction to deity(ies). At least their after life direction. Others give it little thought. None of it really matters.
What does matter is whether you are happy. Many people in this world are unhappy. There is a lot of bad stuff going on. Many people probably can’t define their state. They are neither happy nor unhappy. These people probably have bouts of contentment. A surprise birthday party maybe or a holiday in Spain (or Greece etc).
I once put my name down for a yoga taster session. There was a notice in the men’s changing room at the gym. Figured this was part of me taking control. Eventually got a call saying I was the only person to have put their name down so instead accepted a Tai Chi taster class instead, with a load of retired housewives. Only did the one class.
It is difficult to take control over your own life. We all have commitments. We have to pay the rent or mortgage. We have to eat, socialize, wear clothes in which to socialize and so on. We get trapped into situations that are difficult to escape from. People who live in places like London pay a high cost of living. It would be cheaper to get a job outside of London and live somewhere more pleasant but they don’t like the idea of stepping off the London housing ladder and worry about job options. They find it difficult to escape. It’s also hard once a family becomes established in an area.
I’m not here to help them. I only observe. You have to do stuff yourselves.
Last night I dug out an old passport. I may have needed to tell the Chinese visa people when I last got a visa for China. It was 2001. Turns out I only need to let them know if it had been in the last 12 months but it did make me look at the passport.
The passport expired in 2005. It almost looks as if I replaced it because I had run out of pages but my current passport expires in 2025 so that mustn’t have been the case. The old one has lots of interesting stamps. 05 Oct 1999 Singapore. July 13 1996 Los Angeles USA. March 24 2000 Vancouver. March 20 1998 Taipei. 8th October 1999 Indonesia. 29 Nov 2000 Japan. 20 July 2000 Ben Gurion. To name but a few. I once lost passport in amsterdam that had New York, Moscow and Tel Aviv all on the same page, fwiw.
Whilst it was exciting to do all this travel, and there are only a few places left that I haven’t been to that might be on the bucket list, with hindsight the trips were characterised by waiting at airports and sitting on long flights in uncomfortable seats. Very little of it was done at the front of the plane. When I stopped the international travel in 2004 to work at Timico I didn’t miss it at all. The airport waits and the jet lag, which gets me quite badly, were what I remember most about the lifestyle. Sure I got to see a lot of the world but was happy to stop doing it.
Now I seem to be travelling again. Not nearly as much and in far more comfort as the trips are mostly short haul. This year I will have flown to Venice, Dublin, Luxembourg, Brussels, Barcelona twice, Copenhagen, Isle of Man, Madrid, Krakow and Shanghai. The Shanghai trip is the outlier but I figured I’d not been for many years so I’d go and it won’t be too onerous. In fact I’m really looking forward to it. Staying at the Shangri-La Hotel. Stay tuned for that one.
UK life has also been action packed. Wimbledon, Coast to Coast walk, Latitude in the campervan, Llanberis walking holiday all spring to mind. It all adds up to a certain state of existence. Good karma, if that is a phrase.
It’s time to go and make Anne a cup of tea. In a bit…
The pool was quite full this morning with lots of people I’d not seen before. They don’t normally stay the pace. Most of them will not return. When I returned to the house the tree surgeon truck was waiting outside the house. We had been expecting them tomorrow. No matter. Better to get it done.
We are having the tree that overhangs the decking trimmed and the front hedge. It’s only after it has been done that you realise how badly it needed doing. The guy climbed to the top of the tree to sling his rope over. Missed that bit and the Kindle Fire camera isn’t really up to capturing the moment anyway.
As I write I can hear a second chainsaw in operation down the road. The tree surgeons just said to each other “that’s Eric”. “No it’s not Eric. Don’t know who it is” 🙂
My brain isn’t empty yet. It needs totally clearing before I can start writing again. I don’t mean writing trefor.net blog posts. I mean the creative stuff.
Not sure it’ll happen in Bucharest. Too much going on. My plan is to finish early for Christmas and clear the decks. Get a lot of the jobs around the house out of the way. It’ll be a shock to Anne’s system. She’s got used to me pushing back on the jobs. I can’t mix concentrating on work and getting things done around the house.
I had a kickoff session with the developers for annesvans.com before coming to Bucharest so got the ball rolling on that. Need that finished before Christmas in time for the rush of bookings in the New Year. Hopefully.
Part of emptying the brain is cutting down on consumption. I find that alcohol dulls the senses, even the following day. I can write handle turning stuff such as appears in trefor.net but innovation requires clarity of thought. Once clarity is achieved words pour out as if a bucket is being emptied. A deep bucket.
I quite like the feeling of a totally clear head. You feel as if you can do anything. There is an engine in there geared to making things happen. Actually the process of just sitting in front of a blank piece of paper has the effect of clearing the brain to a certain extent. You just need to stare at something long enough for it to kick in. Once you get started you are fine.
There is a mirror in front of me at the desk in my room where this is being written. It’s a little odd looking up and seeing myself looking back. It should dual up as a monitor. Should be easy enough to invent. Not that I mind looking at myself in the mirror. I don’t think it’s a vanity thing. It’s the same as me liking having my photo taken. I can’t understand why some people don’t want their photo taken:)
All is quiet around me, except for the calm persistence of the air conditioning. One wonders what the good citizens of Bucharest do on a Sunday. Same as everywhere else I suppose, whatever that is. Last Sunday I happened to be in Tesco on Wragby Road and it was packed. Took me a little by surprise. I think I’d only popped in for a couple of basics for tea for me and John. It’s quite nice only having John at home now, the other three now all being away for much of the time.
The hotel I am staying at is the JW Marriott Grand Bucharest, or some similar combination of those words. It’s a posh 5 star along the classic American lines. Comfortable enough, fair play. I did consider paying for an upgrade. However at £40 or so a night I couldn’t see what value I’d get, especially having arrived in the room to find it already pretty well appointed. Would have got me access to the club lounge but I find most of those lounges not worth using anyway. In my experience these exec rooms are the same as the ordinary ones but with a bathrobe and some free mineral water but I already seem to have those so hey… Mind you the mineral water isn’t very nice. I’ve tried it. Tap water is better!
It’s 1.45 local time. I quite fancy a simple cheese and onion sandwich for lunch. Thing is this is a 5 star hotel. They don’t do simple cheese sandwiches. They want to make something elaborate to justify the large amounts of cash they want to remove from your wallet in exchange for the sandwich. I’ll pop down and take a look in a minute. Everything so far seems to be buffetish, if that is a word. If it wasn’t before it is now.
“buffetish” – a bit like a buffet.
Actually it either is a buffet or it isn’t, I suppose. Probably all you can eat. afaik. Buffetish could also major around the word fetish but that wasn’t the interpretation intended by the author. Trust me, I’m a doctor. Well no actually I’m not. That was a phrase that just entered into my head. For some reason. Being a doctor is something that never attracted me. I don’t like gore. Too squeamish.
You can use whatever interpretation you like for buffetish. That’s the beauty of free speech and self determination. Innit. Bye.
There’s something about international train stations. Perhaps it’s because by and large we don’t have them in the UK, the Eurostar out of St Pancras being the exception. Seeing the names of what are to me exotic destinations up on the departures board is exciting. It also somehow feels appropriate that I am bleary eyed from a poor night’s sleep thanks to the usual waking up every half an hour to see if it is time for the alarm to go off yet. Or whether the alarm has not gone off when it should have more like. This morning I packed my stuff up in my room, fumbled my way around the living room to hug Hannah on the bed settee and set off. Rue Faubourg St Denis at 8am was just waking up. Shutters were being rolled up on shop fronts. Early commuters were starting to permeate through from Gare Du Nord and Gare De L’Est. Kids were being towed by parents, schoolward bound. I over heard one father say something to two kids decked out in identical coats. It ended in “uh?”. The verbal shrug of Gallic shoulders being instilled at a young age. Hannah has a lie in. She is meeting someone to hand over the keys to the AirBnB apartment at midday. Our instructions in the welcome pack were to leave the key on the table in the living room. However whoever comes in to clean up has lost their key and so needs ours to get a new one cut. That piled the pressure on us. Every time left the flat I had to treble check that I had the key with me. Accidentally locking it in would have been a bit a disaster considering that the backup had been lost. It feels strange leaving Hannah behind but she is a grown up now. We still have a lingering responsibility as she is still a student. Paris is the second half of her year abroad. She is studying French and Spanish with Catalan and has just finished six months in Toledo. Both her French as Spanish are now pretty impressive, at least from the perspective of someone whose Spanish extends to ordering two beers and whose French is frozen in time in 1978, the year of my Grade B French O’Level. I get by. Han is by now used to being left alone in strange cities, having made it to Toledo under her own steam. I figured it would make sense to go with her to Paris. Turning up alone in a big city is not a nice thing. I stayed 4 nights and achieved the main objective of finding her some accommodation. She has a student apartment in the 5eme Arrondissement with a Dutch girl and an Italian lad. A good place to be, near the Quartier Latin and the cafes of the left bank. Unfortunately the apartment doesn’t become available until the 20th so we’ve booked her into a cheap hotel just around the corner from the Gare Du Nord where she can catch the RER B to work. 15 nights in a hotel! The flat hunt was a bit of an eye opener. The first one we visited was cheap and would have been a great place to be had it not been for the guy whose flat it was. There was something about him that perhaps hinted at why he had been unable to let the room. The second was a nightmare. She was expected to share a room with a somewhat smelly girl and where the landlady kipped in the living room. A non starter. The third had real prospects compared with the first two. It was just around the corner from the Luxembourg RER B station, on the top floor of a nice old building. The problem with this one was that it was owned by a nice old lady. You got the feeling that it would have been somewhat stifling for a 20 year old girl after a bit of experience of life, and life in Paris at that. So now she’s behind me in Paris and I’m hurtling towards the English Channel and breakfast in London with her brother Tom. As I write we have passed a row of wind turbines. It must be a still day as the blades are pretty motionless. The train is half way between Paris and Arras. Big fields. Occasional villages. Lots of wind turbines. Looks cold out there. Paris was cold. This was a bit of a nuisance because every time we entered a cafe we had to peel off the layers or cook. Greenery is just starting to come though in some of the fields we pass. Growth from early planting at the end of last season, one assumes though I’m far from knowledgeable on the subject. Half the people around me on the train are asleep. The others are engrossed in gadgets as am I. A girl sat across from me is learning English. She has a dictionary and doing stuff with her iPad. We have just passed Bapaume, a place of significant historical significance from WW1 unless I am mistaken. Her name is Mlle Zena Saheli btw. The girl learning English. She has a letter of application open in front of her. Looks like she is a dancer. Not my business but it’s hard to not see what’s there in front of you. I have a coffee now. A medium latte, E3.20. I don’t drink much coffee but figured it was necessary on this trip. Either I spend the journey catching up on my zeds or I write stuff. So I’m writing stuff. When you look out at the frozen fields you really can imagine hte hardship of life in the trenches, especially at this time of year. It’s 10.14 Paris time. Hannah will be just starting to get up. No rush. Once she is checked into the hotel she has a few things she can be getting on with. Signing up for a Navigo and chasing up the bank to see why they haven’t been in touch with her to get her bank account sorted. Bloke next to me is asleep with his green sweater over his head. I took a picture although with the sun behind him it didn’t come out brilliantly. It’s going to be nice to get home and back into a routine for a week or so. I’m listiening to ELO on my earphones. I don’t have a huge choice of music on my phone so tend to listen to the same stuff time and time again. Normally I hop artists/tracks but I can’t be botherered to get that involved on the train. I’m not sure I’ve listened to the whole of ELO’s greatest hits (or whatever the album is called – I bought a load for my 50th Birthday bash 3 years ago). Before I forget I though the passport control set up in Gare Du Nord was a bit odd. You went through a French Passport Control and then separately through a British one. Why bother with two? Just a UK one should have sufficed I’d a thought. Anyway who am i to say? Eh? The fields are a bit snowier the further North we get. Hey we’re in a tunnel. I don’t think it can be the tunnel, the chunnel. I could be wrong. Hadn’t realised we were that near the coast. Must be it. No mobile data reception though. I got 4G on my way out. Probably because I’m still roaming and have data roaming switched off cos it’s a rip off. On the way out I got LTE but was still registered with O2 in the UK. Zena has packed her stuff away now and the green jumper is off his head. There’s something a little strange about being in a very long tunnel under the sea. It ain’t natural is it? We butcher our planet. Handy though if you want to get to central Paris quickly. I’m in seat 46 Car 14 btw. It’s handy for the cafe bar. There’s also a UK electrical socket but I’m in the aisle seat and I can’t be bothered to ask green jumper man to plug in my Chromebook. I’ve got enough juice to get me to London anyway. Only half an hiur until we’re due in London so must me bearly out of the tunnel now. Zena is having a bit of a kip. Feet up on the next seat in the foetus position. Her black trousers are torn at the knees. V trendy I suppose. Green jumper has opened a bag of mixed fruit and nut. Still lots of sleeping folk. Cmon guys. You can’t sleep your lives away. Do something. Oriental looking guy has woken up and is now checking his phone. I can hear the rustling of crisp packets or simlar despite having 10cc in my earphones. Also just had a bit of a shock. Lost this file I’ve been editing for two hours. Coming out of the tunnel and back in the land of connectivity I eventually found it on Google Drive. This is even though I was working on it offline. Wow. Cool. Back underground now. Maybe we are running through a site of Special Scientific Interest and they built dug the tunnel to avoid disturbing a butterfly, or a lizard. Or maybe someone put a hill in the way. I dunno. We interrupt this ad hoc dialogue to tell you that we are shortly arriving at Ebbsfleet. I suppose someone might want to get off there. In fact a woman has stirred and picked up her suitcase. As long as she doesn’t touch my bag we are all happy. Ebbsfleet is clearly convenient if you don’t want to haul yourself into Central London to catch the train. They didn’t have a similar stop in France though. Oo a few people getting off here now. It’s an uninviting looking station. Overweight member of staff speaks into his walkie talkie on the platform. Whistles blow. Presumably in code. Largish bloke not given the go ahead to depart yet. must be someone still getting off train.He keeps looking up and down the platform. The driver has taken things into his own hands and we are off anyway. I’m going to upload this now as I don’t know how much more editing time I’ll have before the final subterranean segment of our journey. Ciao amigos. It’s good to be back.
Aspiring world traveller would like berth in boat headed for exotic shores. Adventure welcome. Prefers to avoid pirates.
A few clarifications will be useful here. Skegness does not count as an exotic shore. Neither does Clacton on Sea or other UK coastal resorts. We are after excitement and romance. Palm trees, marlin, golden white beaches. A schooner gradually edges over the horizon.
As land approaches music comes from the brightly lit bars lining the harbour. The smell of barbecued fish carries on the warm evening breeze. The boat ties up outside Joe’s Bar and Barbecue Grill. The sign is painted on a piece of driftwood plank nailed to the outside of the bar. It is still early so we manage to get a table looking out on the water. A candle in a glass jar flicks light across our faces. Inside, saxophone and piano snare.
Joe’s is a regular stop off for seaborne journeymen. Where wandering people meet. Every island has one.
His daughter Maisie welcomes us back with her wide smile and without asking brings us four cold ones. The beer revives. A week at sea builds up a thirst.
We eat chicken and crab with our fingers. Our bellies extend. Lean back, eyes closed, sounding satisfaction. I can feel it.
With a bang, Joe slaps four glasses of rum on the table. “C’mon boys, you can’t go to sleep yet. It’s early and we have a party.” We move to the bar and empty the rum. Plenty of ice. The evening is still warm. The ice is needed. Our faces glow and eventually, as the evening dies down, we fall back onto the boat and our bunks. Sleep of the just.
You have to dream. Have ambition. There is no other point.
Normally on the boat we wake up with the light. Not this day. After the exertions of the week at sea, last night finished us off. We wake around lunchtime. It’s getting hot again. Jump over the side of the boat into the harbour and climb back up the iron ladder onto the quay.
Dripping faces lifted to the sun. Smile. Maisie shouts. “Breakfast boys?” Maisie knows her customers. We settle in to our usual table. Hot strong coffee and bacon rolls. Revive. Talk about nothing. Nothing goes on here. The best way. Healthy tanned bodies. Sun bleach hair. Ropes groan in the swell. Barefeet.
At the local market we buy an old treasure map. There is an X. The journey continues. White sails take us back out to sea and the compass is set for Half Moon Island. Anchored outside the reef our tender takes us towards the beach. Angelfish fill the lagoon. Deserted white sands. We drag the boat up to the treeline.
From the hill you can see for ever. Once through the vegetation. There is no treasure but it is all about the adventure. The tender is still there and we are not chased by natives. Outside the reef we catch a tuna. Big fish. We shall not go hungry on this trip. There is no rush. No compelling reason to be anywhere. Slow pulse.
I was going to do a section of writing using just speech to text. I once did this on twitter and it came up with a wonderfully creative random set of words that bore scant relation to the original spoken version. This would be a nice imaginative bit of pseudo creative writing I thought. Unfortunately Android’s voice recognition is getting so good that everything I just spoke as a test sentence came out perfectly.
So now you, the reader, have no idea whether I’ve dictated these words or merely typed them in in the old fashioned way. I am happy to come clean and admit to having used both hands and several fingers. None of this one finger prod stuff. Lightning across the keyboard, I’ll have you know although I am prone to spelling the as hte and their as hteir. Means I keep having to go back and correct it. You won’t be able to see all this backroom spelling correction because it happens before publication. I’m a pro.
The absence of a voice to text engine in Microsoft Word does mean however that anything you read that might make you think to yourself, “wow that was an imaginative bit of prose” or “gosh how did he manage to think of that” is all 100% genuine Tref. Aw shucks. Course your response might be more along the lines of “how does he come up with this drivel” which I can completely understand. I don’t know where I get it from meself.
When I was a kid I used to read all the Enid Blyton books. Famous Five, Secret Seven etc. I foolishly gave them all away and so when I had kids of my own I began to buy them second hand. Unfortunately what was an exciting read in the late 1960s for a nine year old with a thirst for books and adventure proved to be a load of dated twaddle for a thirty something parent looking to relive his childhood through his own kids. So drivel written in pursuit of the proof of the 3rd Law of the Internet may well have originated in children’s novels of the 1950s and 60s.
For the uninitiated the heroes of Enid Blyton’s novels all went to boarding school and came home for terrific adventures during the holidays. Cook used to make picnics of jam tarts and ginger beer which were jolly yummy. This was far removed from my own experiences growing up in wales but my imagination was fired by secret passages, smugglers and spies.
Kids these days need the constant high tech stimulation of MMORPG. If you don’t know what it means Google it. To kill or be killed. Far more realistic than the prospect of One Eyed Jake tying up the pesky kids with rope before making a getaway with the loot. Fortunately Timmy the dog knows how to untie knots using his teeth. Good old Timmy. Get him a bowl of Pedigree Chum.
Whilst I like the idea of having a dog I am not attracted by the thought of actually having to look after the thing or the fact that your house will be constantly covered in dog hairs. Good for scaring off the burglars though unless you happened to have taken him out on a picnic. You have a burglar alarm don’t you? Then why not use it and let the dog have a bit of a run out. It’ll do him good after being cooped up all day whilst you do extra cramming with your tutor. Bummer when it’s the holidays I know but hey. You should have or more effort in during term time or not gone down with the measles and had to be sent home to quarantine or some similar plot. You will have to read the books to find out more. I wouldn’t though if I were you. As I said, drivel.
The funny thing is that whilst I no longer view an Enid Blyton novel as realistic I totally buy into Harry Potter as credible. Of course Harry Potter must be real. It’s obvious isn’t it. Doh. I wonder where I can get hold of a wand? Does Olivander have a branch around here?
You may have noticed on a number of occasions during your saunter through the third law that it is assumed that you are a supremely knowledgeable individual. No attempt is made to explain obscure references. I assume, for example that you are totally au fait with all things Harry Potter. In the quite likely event that the third law is translated into multiple foreign languages one will also have to assume that this is will be similarly true of HP. Culturally specific references may cause problems but no doubt there will be fan clubs, fora and Facebook pages dedicated to the exploration of the third law. Esoteric passages will be discussed to the Nth degree.
Don’t ask me why they chose N. Could just have well have been H or Q. Mind you Hth degree doesn’t sound quite right and Qth makes you sound as if you have a speech defect. Maybe someone went through all the letters and decided that Nth sounded best. Try it for yourselves: Ath Bth Cth Dth Eth Fth Gth Hth Ith Jth Kth Lth Mth Nth Oth Pth Qth Rth Sth Tth Uth Vth Wth Xth Yth Zth. See what I mean?
I would have been different had they chose the alphabet of a different language. Welsh for example has 32 letters in it including some double ones: LL, CH, DD, FF, NG, PH, RH and TH. Imagine using LLth or FFth. Would be quite funny mind you.
We all like a good laugh don’t we? Let off a bit of steam every now and again. Choo choo.
There are four walls and a forward facing window. It’s a premium cabin on board the Ben My Chree. Out of Douglas for Heysham. Sounds like a racehorse but it isn’t. It’s a boat. Not a ship, a boat. It’s the passenger ferry from the Isle of Man. We are on it. In fact we are ensconced in our luxury cabin relaxing. All is quiet. The World Athletic Championships are on the TV and each family member is either quietly watching, reading the paper or buried in their laptops. Or both buried in laptop and watching the athletics. It’s easy enough to do. There are lots of gaps between races and lots of repeats of races, analysis, interviews and a look forward to the next round, heat or episode.
It isn’t particularly accurate to use the word episode. It isn’t as if track and field is like a soap opera or documentary, although the material may be there. “Shock off field antics of top runner”. “Athlete in for the high jump” etc. Athletes should not have the time to mess about off field. They need to stay focussed. Keep off the booze. And the fags. Live a healthy lifestyle.
That isn’t to say they shouldn’t enjoy themselves. A bit of relaxation does you a bit of good. Helps the performance on the track. The occasional trip to the cinema on a Wednesday night. Visits to the seaside and a nice walk along the promenade. No ice creams though. Yueuch. No good. Think of the calories. Bad calories. Have fruit instead.
My personal preference is for peaches, when in season, and bananas. I also like strawberries and cream though I am not an athlete and therefore don’t need to stay clear of the cream. Unless you talk to my wife. Mrs Davies.
This boat is comfy enough. The sea is calm. The sky is cloudy. We are just passing some sort of oil rig. Gas maybe. I don’t know. This luxury cabin is in marked contrast to a day trip to Liverpool many years ago. “The lads” were off on a day out. On the way there everyone spent the time in the bar, except me. I was seasick. When we arrived in Liverpool the outgoing boat had a bomb scare and had to return to the quay. In consequence there was no room for our boat and we had to stay mid river for two hours whilst they checked out the other one for bombs.
That was the last thing I needed having spent the whole crossing being ill. We got to Liverpool and set off for the shops. The we hit the fair at New Brighton where everyone except me indulged in more beer and ice cream. Finally before getting back on board the boat we had a meal at a restaurant near Pier Head. Steak.
Most of the afternoon I had spent recovering from the outward journey. I was now just starting to feel good again as we boarded for the return trip. I spent the trip home in the bar whilst the boys were ill over the side! It was an experience!
When we travelled on the boat as a family we always booked a cabin. It’s a lot easier to survive bad weather if you are lying down. When I left home and used to travel across to University at the beginning and end of each term a cabin wasn’t an economic prospect. Instead all the students used to get on early and head for the bowels of the boat where there were benches you could stretch out on. The first few trips were extensions of the parties we used to have after the school exams. Term for most people started and finished at the same time so there was always a quorum of people you knew on the boat. We would head for the bar and while away the trip with a few beers.
Gradually as people became established at their places of higher education the number of familiar faces on the boat gradually dwindled to zero and the focus grew on surviving the often rough Irish Sea weather.
I recall one end of term when I turned up at Pier Head on a Friday night for the midnight boat. The midnight boat was a good one to catch. It went a lot more slowly and you could kip overnight. I had my usual sausage and chips in the caff at the bus station at the Pier and then wandered down to the boat.
Problem. There was no midnight boat. The boat was there but it wasn’t sailing until the next morning. These were the days before the internet. You couldn’t simply go online and check the schedule. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that Pier Head in those days was pretty rough place to be of an evening. I could hear sounds of violence.
I chatted with the bloke at the top of the gangplank who, recognising my dilemma, took an executive decision and let me on board. This was “highly against regulations” but needs must. I spent the night in my sleeping bag in one of the passenger lounges. The cleaning ladies who turned up the next morning had a bit of a shock when I lifted my head above the seat to see what the noise was. Hey. A student’s gotta do what a student’s gotta do.
Travelling in those days was far more adventurous than it is now. I often used to hitch hike places, including to see my grandmother who lived about 200 miles away in South Wales. My longest hitch was from Greece to London but that’s story in itself.
Considering that the internet wasn’t around for much of my adult life and therefore the Third Law cannot have applied it has all gone quickly enough.
You have to walk the path. Keep off the grass. If requested. There will be a sign. Usually a small metal rectangle embedded in the grass itself. Green. Both sign and grass, though the lettering on the sign will be in a different colour to allow it to be read. White is practical.
Keeping to the path may often be counter intuitive. It would probably be easier to take the short cut across the grass using the hypotenuse as opposed to the other two sides of the triangle. Often when there is no sign requesting you to keep off the grass one will see a muddy brown train across the green to the exit point at the other side of the lawn. A door into the clubhouse perhaps. Or the entrance to a museum.
The grass is more likely to be pristine at the museum. Visitors to museums are the more respectable type. Conformists. They understand the value that rules bring to society. They will queue up in an orderly manner to buy their entrance tickets exhibiting signs of great patience at busy times when the single ticket sales person is over worked and constantly flustered. They should have put more staff on if they knew it was going to be busy. It happens every year.
The TV is on in the other room. I have moved. I am getting used to it in moderation but there is very definitely a limit and my boredom threshold is low. Ya gotta do stuff. I’ve noticed that my language has been evolving. I can write good grammar perfectly well, ish but nowadays I tend to write as I talk. I’m not sure there is anything wrong with that. Some media will demand appropriate application of the language but I think as long as you are getting your message across, how you do it is up to you.
If everyone understands what you are saying then surely that is fine. Of course if I am writing in English and you can only understand Swahili then that is a different issue. Chances are you are not reading this if you only understand Swahili.
I’ve just googled “Swahili” and the first page comes up with “useful Swahili words”. No mention of a website in Swahili. Then I changed the search term to “Swahili language websites”. The only one on the front page was Voice of America http://www.voaswahili.com/ which presumably is the good ole US of A’s contribution to world knowledge. The other sites are all offshoots of the BBC and miscellaneous educational institutes.
There seems to me to be a fair chance that if Swahili is indeed your language you are not using the wild wild web at all. You are probably more concerned with real life wild creatures such ones to be found in the African bush. For example an enraged hippopotamus is a very dangerous animal and is to be avoided at all costs. Other dangerous animals are available but I particularly like the concept of enraged hippopotami. Note the slick change from singular to plural. Both are good words and deserved to be used.
A hippo is often portrayed as a fun creature, in children’s cartoons for example. However this really annoys wild hippos who consider themselves to be hard as nails. You wouldn’t want a hippo to roll over and sit on top of you I’m telling you. Might be interesting to try sticking a saddle on top of one and seeing if there were any takers for a rodeo ride. Ride em hippopotamus boy. Unlikely. Interesting how the imagination wanders though innit?
When you think of hippos you usually, in your mind’s eye, also have the vision of the intrepid African explorer heading up river in a canoe powered by some hefty natives wearing only loincloths, thank goodness. Either that or a small steamboat captained by Humphrey Bogart who is constantly mopping his sweaty brow with a red handkerchief whilst the missionary he is taking up river gazes out at the wildlife wondering whether he has made a mistake in accepting the job. The missionary’s daughter is of course gorgeous. Her mother died of some ague the moment they set foot on this vast continent and the father had to bring her up on his own. He was very strict but well meaning. You know the plot.
I think I should be a film script writer. I’d spend much of my time in villas surrounded by palm beaches with the noise of the waves constantly in the background. Waking up early every day I’d rattle off a scene or two before running down to the beach and plunging into the sea for an invigorating swim. Lunch would be followed by a snooze in the hammock. In the shade of course. The heat of the day can be unbearable. Later I’d mosey into the village to chat to the local store owners and maybe catch a cold drink on the veranda of Joe’s Bar looking out over the bay. As the lights came on it would be time to wander home and change for dinner. There are plenty of dinner options. I quite like the fish restaurant in the harbour. Only uses stuff caught that morning. Good that.
It’s the same story day in day out with the occasional visit from the producer anxious to see how the script is coming along. It’s ok. I’m a pro. The script is always finished on time. Every now and again I fill in with a book. There is never a time when I am not being productive. It’s easy when all you need to do is fit in two or three hours in the day to capture what goes on in your brain.
Of course all of this is going on in my brain because it isn’t going on in real life. That’s ok. We all have our dreams. Some scripts would be written from a cottage overlooking some craggy Atlantic coastline. The pattern of life would adjust to the locale but largely be the same. It’s a wonderful life innit?
The kids are all home for a visit. They gradually come downstairs in the morning and the writing comes to an end. It takes until around 10.30 for them all to be up and compos mentis. No point planning anything before then. The TV is switched on again and I immediately switch it off. There is no need.
We assemble between 10.30 and 11 before setting off to a beach somewhere. The ultimate objective is the café at the end of the prom. It’s under the white painted lighthouse and near to where all the boats are pulled up. The seagulls are always a problem but we keep going there because we like the place. Days are filled with gentle strolls, stops for ice creams and teas and followed by cold beers sat at the tables outside the pub looking out onto the harbour. We get fat.
This is not perceived to be a problem because of the austerity of our lives once we return to normality. Early morning exercise routine, healthy breakfast etc.
I am usually happy for the summer to fade into autumn. That particular change in the seasons is gentle. Also I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that was hot all the time. Us Brits aren’t built for it. Well I’m not anyway. I do like being able to swan around in shorts all day though. Innit?
The sea is calm. Occasional waves run feebly up the beach. A fishing boat ambles across my field of view and I can see the mountains of Mourne, shadowy forms in the far distance. The herring gulls congregate loudly and there is a slight chill on the early morning breeze. Peel Castle remains a solid defence against the neerdowell.
6.30 am and the world is at peace. I wish I could paint. The rocks change colour as they rise out of the sea. Seaweed studded pastel brown crowned with a darker blacker band that fades upwards with streaks of mineral white that is gradually obscured by a topping of greenery. The real crown is the castle that sits around the top of the island.
The sun bursts through behind me as I look out to the west. The boat has moved out of my field of view though I can still see its wake and I now notice the buoys that mark the lobster pots on the sea bed.
Yesterday I saw a boat offload a big haul of crabs. Five half ton bags and fifteen crates. Good money at the market though the fisherman declined to enlighten me as to how much. He must have known.
I come here year after year. The early morning is the best time. The family still sleeps. The place isn’t totally deserted. Dog walkers and resolute joggers move on by. How many sailors are asleep in the yachts that fill the marina?
This year the “Dreamcatcher of Menai” is nowhere to be seen. Maybe it’s gone off on a cruise. That’s what you do with yachts. There is no point keeping them in the harbour all year round. Their whole purpose is world travel. How big the world is up to you. If I had such a boat I think I’d want at least to make some medium sized journeys. I don’t feel driven to brave the transatlantic run but certainly a jaunt to the Mediterranean calling in at suitably picturesque fishing ports en route.
Harbourside restaurants are a must. Maybe even the occasional industrial dock with a characterful bar known only to the locals and the visitors that arrive from the sea.
A shiver of relaxation runs down my back. This is a very peaceful scene. A dog barks but at first I can’t see it. Now it appears with its owner on the broken shell beach and trots up the slipway. An engine fires up out of sight behind me and fades away.
Behind the beach and beyond the castle is the breakwater with its white lighthouse. Nearer, on the right, the harbourmaster’s office guards the entrance to the harbour. There is no movement there now as the tide is out. A fisherman casts his line at the very end of the breakwater. That must be his yellow van. The scene on the breakwater is very different to the beach. There is evidence of humanity. The side door of the kiosk is open and the shutter slightly raised. It is about to open up for business.
A pickup truck joins me. In the bay four boats are tied up to buys. Waiting for the tide so that they can enter the harbour. I’ve noticed the environment here is different to the mainland. Outboard motors are left affixed to boats and fishing rods are in full view. Nobody is going to steal them.
The bay is full of ducks accompanied by the snouts of the two or three seals that live here. I don’t know what it is about this summer that brings so many ducks. This is not normal. Usually it’s herring gulls.
From the top of the breakwater I look for basking sharks. There are none. In all my years of coming I’ve only ever seen one but I look every time. Ever the optimist. They are out there somewhere. The volume of the gulls has increased. Maybe it’s time to get up and get looking for food. Maybe a threat has appeared. I can’t see but they are moving this way. The breakwater can be a risky place to be with so many gulls in the air. There is a fair percentage chance of being hit by droppings.
A small red car with a sit on top canoe turns up. Bloke clad in a short wetsuit gets out. Disappears around the back of the kiosk and then leaves again.
The gulls settle on the roof of the lifeboat station, a sturdy red stone building in the lee of the castle. It’s great fun to watch the lifeboat being launched. Adds to the mix of the summer holiday. I’ve never seen one being launched in anger, as it were.
The whole scene is getting lighter. I’ve been here for fifty minutes now. Nearly time to get back and make the tea. I think I’ve sussed the increased gull presence. A fishing boat arrived ten minutes or so ago. They think there may be pickings. I don’t think so. I think it’s just getting ready to go out. The RLNI flag flutters in the breeze. There is more activity now.
Life on board the yachts must be fairly calm. They are bound by the tides. At the moment there is nothing for them to do but just wait. Stick the kettle on and brew up.