Saturday, 31 December 2011
Happy New Year once more and I sincerely hope that 2012 delivers all that we wish and hope for.
I hadn't been back from my trip to Timbuktu long before it was Sam's eighteenth birthday. A rather fun night was had by all but on the negative side someone, I'm looking at you Sam, ripped the bathroom door off it's hinges. It took a while to clean up afterwards but I think Sam enjoyed it. Sam passed his driving test in January also, well done lad do, but unfortunately the price of insurance was so prohibitively expensive that it was not possible to get Sam on the road with the Micra he had inherited. Dad was still staying with us so it was decided that we would sign the car over to him until such time as Sam could could afford to run it. Sad but true.
June was time to remember Mum who passed away on my Dad's 66th birthday, June 10th. A memorial gathering was held back up North in Wallsend at the Comrades club. Many of mum and dad's old friends who still vied in the area took time to pay their respects. There are so many to thank but I was especially please to see Pat, mums longest friend and her daughters, Michelle and Katrina. It's amazing how time passes so quickly but there are some people that you can meet after many years yet still chat as though it was only yesterday. We all had a fantastic time and special thanks must go to Susan and Jimmy who have been there throughout all of the difficult times and without who I doubt if some of us, myself included, could have coped during the dark days immediately after mum passed. Cheers guys, I'll never forget your kindness and support.
We did manage to get to the Van Gogh museum, which was OK but I have never liked spending any time in museums and this was no exception and as Sam felt the same we ended up spending more time in the bar at the hostel than anywhere else.
All in all 2011 has been busy. I am married once more, the children are all growing up very, very quickly and time is accelerating at an unpleasant pace. So much planned for 2012, so much so that the blog will continue, hopefully with more feedback from any readers I have picked up.
Happy New Year all, I hope it brings all that you wish.
Thursday, 29 December 2011
I realise that last year, on the drive across Europe and Western Africa, to Timbuktu, was a means to ignore my emotional state. I knew this, but yet kept myself so busy that I had no tie to consider my feelings or emotions after the death of my mum. This year has been somewhat different.
I have so much to do, so much to write, so much to research, but yet, so much to accept. Time will tell.
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
What is front page news is that the entirely awful 'Little Mix' have been put firmly in their place by the Military Wives choir, excellent. With any luck Simon Cowell will take this as an omen and desist from any future nonsensical, talentless production. As far as Christmas TV is concerned, well I don't even buy the Radio Times Christmas edition any more. It's far more entertaining watching the kids fight, squabble and break stuff through a comfortable alcohol induced haze. On that note, the note of alcohol that is, I was prompted to check out James May's man lab, the most recent one, a Christmas special no less. Oz Clark, I think, introduced the fop to a 'Whisky Cloud'. This marvellous discovery involves placing a small amount of whisky (or I assume any spirit) into a large plastic bottle. The bottle is then positively pressurised by way of a plastic bung and a pump , a foot pump was used in the show, then released. The rapid change in pressure vaporises the whisky, the subsequent 'cloud' is inhaled to give the imbiber a warm glow. I am definitely going to try this on Christmas Day.
Monday, 19 December 2011
Monday, 12 December 2011
Friday, 9 December 2011
Thursday, 8 December 2011
Sunday, 4 December 2011
Thursday, 1 December 2011
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Monday, 28 November 2011
Thursday, 24 November 2011
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Saturday, 12 November 2011
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Monday, 7 November 2011
I should be at home about now, 2045, but instead I am languishing in the Holiday Inn, Glasgow airport, deciding whether or not I should have some food before bed. I have had a coupe or three ciders and feel tired but not too hungry. To be honest, sitting here I have a descending shadowy feel of unreality, I am tired so I guess that is probably a very good reason why.
Decision made, having sausages. I am becoming increasingly aware that Emma's statement regarding my growing intolerance to practically everything is probably very true. I am becoming intolerant, but by the same token I will attempt to help anyone that I can so I will try to justify my intolerance with an increased drive to assist and be more (no, not careful) helpful.
Effort displacement syndrome. I'm not even sure that it exists but never the less I have it. I realise that I should be writing about my experiences in The Shetland's, but instead I am moaning and whinging about my current situation, which, when you think about it is very good; I am in a hotel which will be paid for by Flybe, drinking cider and eating sausages. I will be in late for work tomorrow and have had a chance to people watch and write bollocks. What is there to whinge about? I do, however, miss Ems and the kids. I should be at home drinking wine and eating sausages, not here.
I haven't appreciated in the past how difficult it is to maintain momentum as a writer. As I sit here awaiting my plane to Southampton via Edinburgh I am absolutely knakered.
For only two days I stuck to my self enforced schedule of arising at 6:30AM, showered, breakfasted and out the door by 8AM. On the road, phone, internet, whatever it took to line up people to talk to, research places to go and then carry it out. I was back on Saturday at 8PM, Sunday by 5PM but on both days it took me over three hours to arrange photos, write research notes, compile all to a sensible bank of information that would make sense when I came to write it all up and then blog. Following that I would catch up with emails and plan the next day. Don't get me wrong I realise that this is in no way physically demanding or taxing and I do realise that I am privileged in order to be in this position, but, and this is a big but, in order to get a travel book in a state anywhere near that required to submit in even a draft form is a very time consuming and mentally draining process.
KK, whinge over, proper blog, with photos, when I get home tonight. Oh, and Clive is back!
Sunday, 6 November 2011
Saturday, 5 November 2011
Friday, 4 November 2011
There's something highly disconcerting about the thought of an aircraft landing on water. During the safety briefing on any aircraft there is usually the statement, 'In the unlikely event that the plane lands on water...' there then follows a description of how to exit the aircraft and how to inflate a lifejacket, which, evidently can be found under every seat, I'm not convinced. I'm sure the unedited original sentence would have finished, ' In the unlikely event that the plane lands on water then death is certain.' Instead of claiming that there is a floatation device ensconced beneath each chair be honest and stash a bottle of gin there. I may have stated earlier today that the plane that I embarked for the Glasgow to Sumburgh trip was pretty small, as we approached the Southern tip of Shetland mainland and the brightly illuminated landing strip became clear I suddenly felt that the plane was enormous, far too big to land on the tiny patch of ground bordered with twinkling fairy lights which was very quickly getting closer and closer. I looked down at the choppy waters as the plane swiftly descended, just as I thought the wheels were about to set down on water and I wished that there would indeed be a bottle of gin beneath my seat, the tarmac flashed into view and we almost immediately touched down.
I was met at the airport by the car hire firm representative and was driven to my hire car. The rep was giving a lift to her elderly friend or relative and the talked quietly in the front of the MPV, I listened carefully, straining to understand their accents. It took me a few minutes to realise that the reason I could not make out what they were saying was because they were not speaking English. I hadn't expected this.
As I drove on the almost deserted road North towards Lerwick the mist thickened and darkness fell quite quickly. By the time I had visited Tesco and rejoined the road North it was fully dark. Driving on unfamiliar roads is difficult at the best of times but in treacherous weather conditions and in the dark made the 30 mile trip from Lerwick to Sandness drag on and on. Leaving the main North-South road the road climbed high above the coast and back into the mist. The suddenly, without warning, the two lane road became a single track. I slowed down until I became accustomed to the new layout, a narrow track with frequent wider sections sign-posted 'Passing Place'. This didn't present a problem as I met no oncoming traffic. Just as I began to doubt that I was still on the correct road a sign loomed out of the darkness bearing the legend, 'Sandness 6', pointing right. The new road was narrower with many sharp bends. I did meet three cars on my slow drive to my goal, and it was nearly half an hour before I completed the six miles and reached Sandness. I missed the turn for my B & B and ended up at the end of the road, literally. A car park, with public toilets right at the dark watery edge of the Western point of the mainland. Retracing my tracks I finally pulled up at 'Kalfordhame' my home for the next three nights.
The room was comfortable and the evening meal tasty and satisfying. Tired and worn down I retired to write some notes and rrelax.
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Monday, 31 October 2011
Saturday, 29 October 2011
It's here again, that vapid lull in a Saturday night that is the X-factor. I really fail to see the appeal, it seems that a large chunk of the viewing demographic cannot distinguish between talent and entertainment. Watching talentless half-wits fall flat on their arse for me is entertainment but when judges and acts start to take themselves a little bit too seriously it's time to combine the show format with a new one, celebrity strictly come sniping where celebrity snipers attempt to pick off the worse acts whilst singing improvised recipes in Klingon, a surefire winner I'm sure all will agree.
It's the day after we returned from our Center Parcs adventure, I can't help feeling that our escape was successful as we've heard nothing from the appropriate authorities. In all seriousness the experience was not for me but I can see how it does appeal to so many, there is so much to do on a single site it is possible to park up on the day of arrival and not sit behind the wheel until it's time to leave for home, it would be expensive but entirely possible.
We chose to spend the weekend at the caravan, from one holiday home with security fencing, armed guards and no real bar to speak of, to another with complete freedom, a bar and no goons. A few too many pints, some wins on the horse racing and a quick go on the karaoke and the spectre of Center Parcs was consigned to the cobwebs of my dusty mind. We won the quiz and I slept very, very well after a short walk back to my comfy bed.
Today I relented to Ed's demands and booked tickets to see 'Real Steel' at noon. The morning was a rush as I had to get back to Gosport to pick up Beth's friend and drop them in Fareham on our way to the cinema at Port Solent, all before twelve. It transpired that we had bags of time to spare and Eddy and I found ourselves facing the screen, alone ten minutes before the start time. A dozen or so others appeared just before the allotted hour and together we waited, and waited and waited until, an announcement.
'I'm afraid that we have a major technical problem, bear with us and I'll update you shortly.' The poor scapegoat smiled her thin apologetic smile and before swiftly scurrying back out. Eddy and I exchanged glances but thankfully the little guy kept his thoughts to himself. We sat quietly listening to the growing murmurs of discontent and alternate plans were audibly hatched. Ten minutes later our doomsayer re-emerged, her initial silence and apprehension spoke volumes.
'The technical problem is worse than we thought and a technician is en-route to sort it out. Unfortunately we don't know when he will get here so if anyone wants a refund or to see another film AND a refund we will completely understand.'
'Told you we should have gone to Vue.' Eddy declared looking up at me with a smirk. I nodded, knowing he was absolutely right.
Murmurs, and mutterings before a group of us opted to shuffle off to another screen to watch Tin-Tin, some to see Johnny English and some, more disgruntled punters, took the money and ran.
Tin-Tin was absolutely brilliant. I think it's always better to see something unplanned as it's less likely that the disappointment fairy will turn up. We both loved it and this film will definitely end up in my digital film library.
After picking up Beth and her friend and returning home to tidy up a few odds and ends we returned to Solent Breezes and the effort to obtain tickets for the Halloween party for Beth, no chance. She pestered me and Emma for over two hours to try a myriad of ridiculous ideas to get tickets, including phoning reception (closed at twelve on a Saturday), walking into the bar and attempting to convince the staff that we should have been assigned tickets (thanks dad). Nothing worked so as a final hurrah Beth just walked in, no problem.. What was all of the whinging for. Eddy has spent the evening dressed as Jack Sparrow, nothing to do with Halloween he just wanted to be a pirate.
Time for bed.
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Wednesday was always going to be the quiet day in the week, other than Will's quad biking we had not planned to do much. After five days in Stalag 14 I was more than ready to pack and prepare for our long drive back to the South coast. The golf driving range nestled temptingly close to the quad bike track so I accompanied Will to his session and for the first time in my life smacked a few hundred balls down the range. I spent most of the time on my own, which is probably why as I discovered I could actually not only hit the ball but send it where I wanted, my confidence grew. My cocky attitude took a nose dive when I moved from the iron I had selected to a more formidable wood. This took me nearly an hour before I could hit the ball with any degree of success let alone accuracy. Finally Will joined me and we spent some time marvelling at his inability to come near to a decent strike. In time he grew in competency and we agreed that golf was something we should have a go at when we got back home. It was almost as though the golf took the shine off the quad biking for Will so I hope we do get an opportunity to have a go at a later date.
We returned to Cafe Rouge for lunch, all of us this time, the Merguez Tartine was again my goal but I was served some mackerel, must be my crap French. Finally I was served the correct dish and we all enjoyed our meal immensely. Before the kids went swimming once more Will managed to sit quietly on the porch and almost managed to get Ian, the red squirrel, to eat from the palm of his hand. The lodge quiet once more I opened a bottle of wine and cooked up a cottage pie. We had a quiet evening, even after the kids got back, playing our new game, 'Making an Impression', this is where we all write down half a dozen characters from films or TV, fold them up and take in turns to select one. We then have to impersonate the character (without using catchphrases). It was very popular. Surprisingly, so was the cottage pie, everyone loved it. The night wore on and we all retired reasonably early. I think I may have been a little bit drunk.
I awoke a few times in the night and grew increasingly colder and colder until, at around 4AM I gave in and used the covers. Emma was somewhat worried that unless we left a reasonably early time we would not get to the venue for our ceremony, Langdale Chase Hotel on the shores of Lake Windermere. I dismissed this as nonsense as it was a mere thirty-five miles. How wrong I was. Tom-Tom has many route settings the one which I had selected was of course the wrong bloody one. The most direct route took me away from the main roads and over the Kirkstone Pass. This took us nearly two hours, we did however reach the hotel in good time and squared away the final arrangements with a slightly surly receptionist.
Eddy was complaining, as expected, about feeling sick so Emma remained in the car as I, Bill and Beth strayed into the impressive entrance hall, the kids melted away into the many rooms leading off the high ceilinged hall. I eventually found my way to the reception area and waited for some time for any service. I explained who I was and why I was there.
'Do you know where you're going?' She asked dismissively as another phone rang in
the background. I contemplated answering 'kin insane' but instead opted for:
'No.' Left it at that and was surprised at the sneer I received.
'Through there and straight on.' She waved vaguely as the phone stopped ringing. Her expression hardened as I failed to sprint off in the direction of her waving hand. 'I'll get Ben to come through and explain.' With that she turned her back and disappeared back into the office. For some reason I took this as a sign that our conversation was over and returned to thehall. The warm coal fire glowed welcomely opposite the main entrance within an imposing large carved wooden fireplace. The open space was dimly illuminated with an orange glow and modicum of natural sunlight filtering in through small square windows. A large maritime oil painting dominated one wall whilst smaller faded portraits filled the remaining spaces. I glanced around searching for a member of staff to ask where the small sitting room may be. There was no-one, not even those that had accompanied me as I entered. Pacing forward I was impressed at the layout, the room I sought lay beyond the first archway. A square wooden panelled room was bedecked with portraits and smaller photographs, a large fireplace dominated one wall and I wondered why a small room such as this would have a hearth many times larger than the main hall. The view of Lake Windermere was breathtaking, I believe that the hotel had won the prestigious yet obscure title of 'Britain View of the year 2011' and I believed it. I heard footsteps approaching and Emma and a slightly pale Eddy hoved into view. Almost immediately Michael and Keri, Emma's auntie and uncle, appeared. They had a room at the hotel and were our guests of honour. Our celebrant from Kendal registry office arrived almost immediately and following that point events moved rather quickly.
Emma and I sat with the registrar Paul Cowerd as he explained the ceremony. Our words and vows were agreed and we also opted to ask Will and/or Beth to read a poem, to which they agreed.
After that it all happened so quickly. The photos will speak for themselves.
We arrived at the site by a quicker route and booked dinner, eventually.