Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween sausages

It transpires that Halloween is also the start of British Sausage week. As I watched the gaggles of short monsters, devils and ghosts scurry from darkened street to street I realised that they were completely unaware of this fact. I mean, if I had the choice between a bag full of Quality-Street,mini Snickers, M & M's and of course toffee-crisps, OR locally produced pork sausages in a bap, there would be no competition. What is wrong with these kids? I blame the last ten years of Labour government, the change of Pope and my blocked drains. No matter what the reality of the situation sausage week started today. At some point this week a rather fancy sausage dish will be served.

More importantly Will has his selection day for a Health and Fitness apprenticeship tomorrow. A set of interviews and associated selection tasks will tell whether or not he is the right material for this position. I sincerely hope that he takes the initiative and tried his utmost to take this opportunity and grasp the world of self-empoyment, after all it is the future.

Only three days until I begin the sausage trail when I depart for the Shetland Islands on the first leg of the year long journey. I am in a few minds on how to take notes during the times I will be talking to the Islanders whose lives have been concerned with the manufacture of sausages. I have my phone, a dictaphone (use your finger like anyone else hahaha) pen and pad and my trusty Mac but I really don't want to put any obstacles between myself and the subject.

More thoughts tonight.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Back to reality

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

Wedding day of sorts

Is that what it is? I'm not sure to be completely honest, how do you classify a marriage vow renewal ceremony? More of that later.

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.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Two more days on bastard holiday

Monday and Tuesday

Monday, as mentioned earlier, started rather well as there were Cranston's sausages involved. After writing up to speed at the bar I left Ed and Beth mooching about at the bowling alley and arcade, after all we were due back there just after 1PM as we had an alley booked. Nothing that happens on this horrifically mercenary site is without design. New punters are allowed onto the site at 10:30AM on their chosen arrival day (Monday or Friday) but they are not permitted to access their accommodation until 3:30PM. This leaves thousands of the aspiring middle-class wandering around a massive complex replete with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops with no choice but to part with their hard earned cash to access these tantalising facilities.

Upon my return I was very swiftly hushed into submission by Will. He was crouched halfway across the lounge area facing the partially open french windows. Emma sat to one side brandishing her mobile phone aggressively. A small pile of nuts sat hopefully on the mat.
'What's going on?' I brashly enquired only to be admonished by Emma and Bill simultaneously. I shrugged, Bill pointed at the decking outside in explanation where I saw a flicker of movement, I edged forward and once again was hissed into inactive silence. As I watched, our friend from earlier, a red squirrel we had christened Ian, sniffed his way cautiously forward and onto the nut strewn mat just inside our back door. Of course we took any number of photos but this single incident seemed to awaken an obsession within Emma, she laid lines of nuts on window-sills, floors and tables until I could hardly take a step without crushing something. The highlight was when Ian ventured all the way into the lodge before realising that he could carry no more and fled. The spell was broken some time later when an arguing Ed and Beth clattered through the front door causing a flight of a plethora of wildlife of almost Snow White proportions. Following the curses and complaints we tidied up and left for the bowling alley. The seeds had, however, been sown for further nut related japery.

I am shit at bowling. Even though I used to bowl for a team during my time based in Gibraltar, I am awful. There is a certain macho bravado about getting the heaviest ball and smashing it down the alley (something sexual lurking as an analogy I have no doubt) but even that yields no success or satisfaction for me. I came last, the kids held up the middle order and Emma won. There we go. I had the same chances and opportunities as everyone else but I failed, miserably. There's no more to say really, apart from; on our cycle back to the lodge Emma got lost and ended up cycling twice the distance necessary and in the process her knee complaint worsened. Oh, and something occurred on the way back to the alley that rankled, another final straw to ensure that my decision to return to Center-Parcs (or as I now think of it; Haven Lite) is likely to return a negative response. I had to queue for a piss! Or at least I would have if I had remained at my chosen lavatorial facility, I left and sought solace in the bar. We decided to remain at the lodge for the remainder of the day. The kids soon grew weary of our company and disappeared back to the pool. In the meantime I rustled up a beef stew and we ate quietly, all the while the back doors remained open with a pile of nuts on the mat. Ian failed to make an appearance. Oh, an another little point; do not try to cook at Center Parcs. The smoke detectors are so sensitive that any cooking beyond the steam from a kettle illicit a combined response from a household host of detectors, resulting in a deafening assault. Last night, when I eventually managed to silence the bastards, I could hear dozens of others throughout the site.

The badger channel, now referred to as 'Snuffle-cam' by Emma, provided us with entertaining viewing for the evening. During a break in the badger viewing experience Emma caught up with Coronation Shite and I with some sausage trail research. Did you know that not only is John Snape a sly murdering bastard but that the Sumerians were the first to record a sausage recipe in writing. Can't remember which one was which but both are useful. The stew was insufficient to completely banish our gnawing hunger pangs so, as turn around days (again, Monday and Friday) offer free delivery for all take-way food, I ordered the pizza family feast. The kids returned just before a large Eastern European bloke dropped two large flat boxes on our dining room table and made good his escape. Bill and I opened the boxes and stared at disbelief at their contents. We theorised that as most of the staff here were Eastern European this food must have been cooked with a Polish or maybe Bulgarian clientele in mind consisting as it did of cabbage, onion and the contents of a balti house hoover bag. Still, the bins were full this morning and the wildlife will more than likely eat well, or maybe they have developed a more discerning palette than the standard squirrels, badgers and rabbits.

An early night of sorts; Emma with her knee elevated and me knackered. Beth, Ed and Bill were all in bed and asleep by 11PM.

Next day

As usual Emma was the first up. Miraculously her knee was completely fixed! I struggled awake after yet another world beating cup of tea from my missus to find Ed curled up watching Phineas and Ferb (can we not escape this inane noise?). The plan today? To leave this concentration camp and seek the bright lights of the big Cumbrian city, Carlisle!

A swift departure, when Beth and Ed are concerned is an optimistic dream and this morning was no exception. Our expected 9AM window slowly became 9:30 which quickly morphed into a 10AM target. I went on ahead to send emails etc. and was pleasantly surprised to find that we all arrived at the car at the same time. Something, as they say, was fishy. Well, smelt wrong at least. It was of course Eds latest bag of travel sickness that we had neglected to remove upon arrival.
'Dump it in a bush.' I hissed to Beth as she carried the bag from the car. She didn't hear me. 'Throw it away.' I whispered, loudly as I glanced around. She stared at me blankly. I motioned for her to throw the offending material to one side, she shrugged and held up the soggy carrier bag.
'Dad.' she yelled as I finally reached the car. 'What shall I do with Eddy's sick?' Several fellow inmates in the immediate proximity turned their heads (and probably stomachs) in disgust.
'We'll have to find an appropriate recycling node.' I responded, highly mindful of the aspirations of those also incarcerated here at Whinfell. I am sure I saw a few mute nods of approval.

I took a route new to me through Penrith and discovered that there was indeed a budget supermarket, a Morrisson's, and as such resolved to return to bolster our alcohol supplies on the return journey. Leaving the town it did not take me long to breath the heady fresh air of freedom and marvel at the raw majesty of the Cumbrian countryside. Away from the pines and bicycles of captive Whinfell the bruised dark skies of this crisp October morning seemed to breath a new optimism into my soul and I looked forward to re-visiting my old haunts in Brampton and Carlisle. En-route we would visit Armathwaite, a small town which holds a large place in our family's heart. Not only did Liza and George marry here, a rather interesting day where I first witnesses middle-class mentality, but Emma's father, our children's grandpa has his ashes interred. It had been seventeen years since Liza's wedding, the last time Emma had visited the small churchyard where the commemorative plaque marks the location of her father's remains so today really meant a lot to her.

As we drove through the small town of Armathwaite and passed the turn off to the parish church we opted to stop on the way back to spend some time at the cemetery. Instead we pushed on to find Ruckcroft, a tiny hamlet, not even that I suppose, where Emma, her father and mother had lived when John, that would have been Mister Gradon to the likes of me at the time, was promoted to British Rail area manager of Cumbria and chose his seat of residence. I had visited the impressive house only a handful of times when Emma and I had first started seeing each other but it was exactly as I remembered. After taking a few emotional photographs we pushed on, initially to Croglin, home of the Croglin vampire legend (obviously) but a wrong turn saw us emerging into the town square in Brampton sooner than I expected.

This, in contrast to Ruckcroft, had totally changed. Other than the pubs, The Nag's Head, Howard Arms and The Shoulder of Mutton, and a few others, I failed to recognise practically any of the shops. Cranston's is still there, but, following his major sell out years ago, is corporate and sanitised. I remember the Brampton butcher, the first in his chain, smelling of fat and sawdust with bickering locals standing in line for their order of offal and flesh. The locals are still there but the hallmarks of a local butcher are long gone. Disappointed we piled back into the car and set off for Carlisle Lodge, the ancient seat of the Gledsons 1985 – 1991. A traumatic time for my mum and a time for me and Emma to meet and get engaged, so it was an important place for us. Unfortunately the current owners have purchased a huge chunk of the lay-by and it was not possible to drive beyond the new gates to see our old house. Never mind, at this point I was, disappointingly, realising that I wasn't as emotionally attached to Cumbria as I had originally thought. We pushed on to Carlisle, blimey this sounds like Shackleton's heroic journey.

The Lane's, Carlisle's premium shopping concourse, hadn't changed much. The car park still sported the unmarked concrete posts I had hit a few times with Dad's old Ford Capri, and the lifts were still very, very slow. Predictably, we all separated and got lost. A few frantic calls later we regrouped and set off to look for our goals, rings and clothes. Wedding rings for Emma and I for our vow renewal ceremony and clothes for Eddy at the same. It took some time but we accomplished everything, thanks to Emma. Once more I felt a bit down as Carlisle returned very little in the way of retrospective emotional feelings. I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't nothing. Carlisle meant very little to me when I moved there in 1985 with my parents and brothers as I was to join the Navy a few days later. It was as though I had left a life behind and begun something new, worse. I had no feeling for my parents new choice of home so focussed on my new choice. Over the following six or seven years I returned to Carlisle very little. It failed to make an impression on me until I met Emma at the pub (I think the term at the time was PLUB) Annabelles a few days after the 1990 World Cup semi-final loss against Germany. After that I travelled from my base in Fareham, 6 miles from where I now live, back to Carlisle every weekend until Emma moved in with me when I was finally drafted to Portland.

A new paragraph as I could easily become bogged down and distracted. On the way back we did indeed visited the churchyard in Armathwaite and something peculiar happened. We disembarked at the entrance to the small graveyard and followed the narrow, well kempt path to the rear of the chapel where the steep grassy bank, well populated with ancient headstones, rose to a high dry stone wall against which three empty plant-pots lay forlorn and neglected. The inset plaque they framed remained proud and legible, although the lower lettering was obscured by encroaching turf. We all took a hand at enhancing the patch and I hope Emma felt that we respectfully took time to help her with the task of refurbishing her father's final resting place. Eddy, I think, understood more than he should the reality of the situation and it was with a certain relief that we returned to the lodge and he and his siblings quickly jumped on their bikes and rode off to the Canter Parcs inmate activities.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Day 2- Whatever that means

Busy day yesterday, which was really day 2. A great start today though, breakfast consisted of a pile of Cranston's Cumberland sausages, an all time favourite and a big hit with the family. Must stock up prior to returning home as dad swears by them,.

Anyway, yesterday. Starbucks was quiet at 9AM, a cheeky double espresso for me and a tea with a croque monsieur for Will allowed me to check mail and other such online. I am am slowly changing my rather judgemental opinion on Cente
r Parcs, for the worse unfortunately. I love the lodge and woodland setting but the communal areas are worse than Haven in August or even Malaga at any time. I digress. After breakfast Will and Beth couldn't wait to return to the swimming area, but now before getting hold of two more bikes so that we were at full complement of velocipedes. Ed, Emma and I set off to find the Lakeside Inn and Sports Plaza, which we did and thence on to find the Outdoor Activity centre where we had Eddy booked in for Junior Quad-biking. That found and the route understood we returned to the Sports Plaza for a coke and a sit down, cycling is tough on the old knees.

It was about then that I concluded, after seeing the various courts, pitches and tables that Center Parcs operates in a similar fashion to budget airlines (reading a book on that now actually) except that the initial outlay is as extortionate as the additions. I'll rant about that later.

Quad biking with Eddy was fun to watch and over too quickly for Ed, he thoroughly enjoyed himself despite looking like a mini-stig with a massive cartoon helmet.

The remainder of the afternoon was reasonably quiet, especially after the kids, supervised by Will, disappeared back to the pool for a few hours. Around 6PM Emma realised that Will had forgotten to take the front door key and as we were booked into the Indian Restaurant at 8PM he and the others would be unlikely to get back after us and would be locked out. Leaving slightly earlier than we had planned I tracked down the trio at the pool and dropped off the key. Having an hour to kill we repaired to the Lakeside Inn and we halted once inside the entrance by a large sign: 'Wait here to be seated'. I didn't want to be seated, let alone wait. I looked a round, this was a con, a ruse, a misnomer. This was not an 'Inn' at all, not a 'Pub' of any description; it was yet another sanitised, soulless building devoid of atmosphere designed to squeeze every last penny out of the poor cattle milling around the carvery service area and bar. Not to be beaten by this Emma and I perched on barstools at the end of the bar and waited to be served, and waited, and waited. Customers came and went and still we waited. Then left.

The sports plaza bar is an atypical sports bar with loud sports imagery blasting from a multitude of massive screens and American football is louder than most sports, what's wrong with curling or pigeon racing? No-one was watching. I had to queue at the bar.
'That does it!' I thought, I detest queuing at the best of times and even more so whilst supposedly on holiday. Looking around I scrutinised my fellow queuees, they all seemed content and resigned to this tedious activity, what was wrong with these people? Then it dawned on me, this place is nothing more than 'Haven-in-the-woods', with the premium prices justified at the perceived 'exclusivity' and 'exotic' nature of the setting and accommodation. I'm ranting again, sorry.

The curry? Oh, yet another large room bereft of atmosphere, the food was nice enough and the portions justified the price I feel. Other than that not much to say on the meal, Bay Leaves takeaway in Gosport leaves them standing though. Emma appears to have damaged her knee on our cycle back and we subsequently collapsed in bed to sleep off the heavy Indian cuisine.

Today, as mentioned, has started well so we'll see.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Holiday, Cumbria - Day 1 hehehe

I have to get this off my chest. I honestly thought, before I arrived at a Center Parcs, that if Middle-Class was a virus then you would surely catch it at Center Parcs. I have now changed my mind, it is a great place to visit if you have kids BUT I have seen and heard those who are very keen to let everyone know that they are at a Center Parcs (on their mobiles) and look somewhat out of place. I am probably wrong but, hey-ho it's my blog and such my opinion!

I don't think that I am the sort of person who doesn't like being told what to do, ten years in the Royal Navy and Twenty years of marriage are testament to that fact. Instead, I believe that I am the sort of person who hates being told what NOT to do. This was evident today when I left early to search for a supermarket and purchase our weekly needs, food, alcohol and what-not, as the shop on-site at Center Parcs is pretty steep. In fact it's not only the shop but everything. I realise that there is a premium involved with convenience stores but when all said and done the fact that the accommodation prices are high at these woodland havens should at least ensure that the prices paid whilst on-site are kept competitively low, but no. Back to my original point, when I returned to the site all of the entrances to the roads were closed and padlocked shut. I even tried the 'staff only' roads and the 'emergency only' roads to no avail (how does a fire engine get on site if the rocket salad overheats and causes a the balsamic vinegar dressing to ignite?). Annoyed I flagged down a rather odd looking security guard:

'Excuse me mate!' I gruffly began.

She glowered, whoops. 'Yes.' A rather strained pause followed by a further strained, 'sir.'

'Er.' Shit, I forgot what I wanted, the butch guard rested a hand on my open window. 'We arrived very late last night and didn't have the chance to unload properly and I think...' my lie petered to an embarrassing, stuttering silence. She grimaced and pointed into the woods.

'Through the barrier, keep left and be quick.' The response was short, curt and the security guard immediately lost interest and wandered back to the awaiting line of arriving punters.

The barrier opened as I approached and I quickly deposited the 'luggage' before returning the car to a parking spot probably closer to Gosport than to Penrith. Mission accomplished.

I was now quite a long way from our lodge and in no mood to walk, so I hired a bike. Initially I contemplated 'borrowing' one but with so many witnesses I thought better of it. Returning to the hungry family they were more concerned with the fact I had a bike than the fact I had delivered a weeks worth of tasty treats. It didn't take long before we had two more bikes and the three kids were mobile, Emma and I trailed behind, our knees clacking like castanets.

After a quick circuit of the village, which is quite impressive, we returned to the lodge for the kids to pick up their swimming kit. We quickly returned to the main complex and Bill, Beth and Ed disappeared into the 'Tropical Swimming Paradise', Emma and I found a ubiquitous Starbucks and logged on to check mail. We realised that we had booked an activity for Beth in the early afternoon. Emma mused that Beth would not really enjoy balancing on the multitude of high-wires suspended above the Cumbrian woodland. We decided to find the kids and ask Beth if she wanted to cancel.

The central pool complex had no viewing area as such. We had to remove our footwear, exposing my talons, and trot through to the expansive, domed swimming complex. I eventually found Beth and, predictably she wished to cancel her dare-devil booking. No problem. We, faded into the background and retreated to the bar next door. After spending just under ten pounds for two pints, twice, we gave up waiting for the off chance that the kids would appear (I had told them where we would be) we set off in the search for lunch.

The French restaurant was reasonably empty so we found a table and ordered. The meal last night at the American style diner was amazing, all things considered (captive audience, quick turnaround, thousands of miles from the U.S.), so I looked forward to our order. Sausages enter the frame here. I had sliced, sautéed, Merguez sausages on a slice of garlic bread with dijon mustard and caramelised onions. I am once again looking forward to the French leg of my sausage sojourn.

The kids remained in the pool for over six hours. I joined them for the final couple of hours and returned with Ed. Beth and Bill stayed for a while. We had a disaster attempting to hire another bike, the centre was closed so we settled down for a quiet evening. Bill and Beth disagreed and set off to the village centre to see what was occurring. Emma, Ed and I sat and idly flicked through the nonsense on TV.

Emma discovered a fantastic new channel. Ok, not a real one, but a local CCTV feed from a badger set, a very unique Badger Watch. So far we have watched for over an hour and seen only a single badger. The monochrome, night-vision view of a small patch of largely unchanging woodland is far more interesting and entertaining than Cowell and his cronies. Love it!!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A family affair

We're off on holiday next week, I can smell the irony as I write from the veranda of our holiday home (Alan Partridge-esque static caravan in Warsash). The plan was to take this, probably, final opportunity for all of the family to spend some quality time together and, as this year was our 20th wedding anniversary, for Emma and I to renew out wedding vows. It all seemed so simple, so straight forward and for once a Gledson plan appeared to be water tight and foolproof. HA! As usual I left the arrangements a bit late and there were those who doubted the possibility that I could organise a venue, registrar and trappings within a week. Nope, that was not the problem, I have spent most of my life leaving things until the last minute and generally getting there by the skin of my teeth (where does that phrase actually originate? Must find out...Wikipedia!!). Barbara, the lovely registrar in Kendal, was only to happy to help and the arrangements for her colleague to officiate at our ceremony took a few minutes. Likewise, the staff at Langdale Chase Hotel were splendid, an intimate setting was arranged and I smugly sat back and basked in the glow of self-satisfied smug, smugness. What could go wrong? Emma and I planned to travel up to Carlisle from Center Parcs near Penrith next Tuesday, the 25th, to buy replacement rings. The holiday was comfortably arranged and neatly put to bed.

New paragraph to emphasise shock and change of emotion!!

And another. Sam and Bill have diligently, I use the word relative to their normal approach of course, been seeking employment. Bill, so far, has scored more with two days in a terrible sales job that have mentioned in previous posts, and is still sending out applications when he remembers. Sam, on the other hand, has a more specific approach to job-hunting. If he had lived a few tens of thousand years ago and was relying on his method to catch and kill food, he would have spent a few weeks lying in his cave, on a pile of animal skins, awaiting the KFC monster to present its carcass and, in all honesty, slowly and sleepily starved to death. But then, to my admiration and surprise, the one very well thought out and presented application to the local ASDA yielded a result. He was invited to an open day and interview next week...(say slowly) when-we-were-on-holiday!!

I, more than anyone I guess, see that without his first sojourn into the real world Sam would spiral into apathy, lethargy and a whole host of words ending in 'y'. Emma was, as usual, pragmatic, suggesting that this was more important than his presence at our ceremony. I agreed, but, annoying though he is, I am going to miss him.Nearly as much as when I watched his tiny body, clad in a thick, white baby duvet-jacket, and held up by Emma on the esplanade (?) wall at Millbay as I sailed off to the West Indies weeks after his birth. Standing at-ease in full dress uniform I watched as the tiny speck that was my first child was lost to view and we drifted through the gap in the sea-wall that separated The Sound from the English Channel. I doubt that Sam will ever understand that feeling but it is something that will never leave me. the caravan tonight with dad. A few pints and a casserole, simple pleasures but pleasures none the less.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Holiday reading

I paid a visit to Waterstones to stock up on reading material for the upcoming holiday to Cumbria. I did intend to select some light reading, maybe some sci-fi fantasy that I read years ago but instead I was attracted to the travel section. I disregarded the numerous books following various brave individuals who had cycled across various continents, there were so very many of these. I also disregarded the books following the terminally class as they spent seasons in any number of French departments and recounted their not very funny experiences, far too many of these in my opinion. I also disregarded Bill Bryson (not keen) and Michael Palin (read them all). I also rejected any extreme accounts of ice adventures, it seems that there are very few people left who have not been to one or other of the polar extremities of the planet. Following my exclusions there were surprisingly few books left, I just hope that those I finally bought are any good.

Prior to this and following a re-read of a previous post I realised that if I am to begin the sausage trail in earnest on the 5th February I have a great deal I could write about, the chapter on sausages in particular could begin at any time. I needed research material, can you believe that there are a number of books exclusively written about sausages, recipes and history, I think that this book will form the real reading whilst on holiday.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The age of discovery

I'm finding it difficult to accept that credit for discovering an already populated landmass can be ascribed to anyone at all let alone that there are those willing to argue who got there first...first that is apart from the indigenous populace who annoyingly were already established.

We all know that Christopher Columbine 'discovered' America in 1942 and that Peter Cook 'found' Austria during the Boer war. I'm afraid I fail to accept that they did anything really of note. Surely Columbine must have noticed that in 1942 there was a World War taking place and that the already established government of America were preparing to send thousands of commando trained midgets in submarines and as such were very busy and did not need discovered.

Likewise when Peter Cook was touring on an Ocean liner with his first mate and comedy sidekick Fletcher Christian a bad storm caused by the untimely eruption of Krakatoa blew them off course and they discovered Austria. For months they lay becalmed in Botanical Bay and were repeatedly attacked by criminal aboriginals, wearing lederhosen and riding on heavily armoured combat wombats. Eventually they pacified the locals with Mars bars and mobile phones before making good their escape just in time for the battle of Mafeking. Again how can Peter Cook be attributed with the discovery of Austria when an already well established lager, drinking culture was present?

I have decided that I will lay claim to the discovery of The Isle of Wight and also Spain, ignoring the fact that both are already heavily populated I see no reason why I should not be attributed with their discovery.

I have no idea why I wrote all of that bollocks, it passed through my mind on the drive in to work this morning.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Terry Pratchett has another novel out tomorrow, on Bethany's birthday, and although I know that Beth is not that interested in Mr P's literary output my mum would have been. It's at times like this that I really miss being able to just call her and discuss little things like books and cooking and have her respond as though it was the most important thing to her at that time. She loved all of Terry's books. I hope 'Snuff' is as good as I anticipate and I will be thinking of mum as I read.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Booking an isolated, quiet retreat...with WiFi!

Sausages aside I am really looking forward to the trip to the Shetlands, I started the book last night and to be honest I am finding this style of writing so much harder than anything I have attempted so far. For fiction writing a good imagination is the basis and origin for all good stories, for non-fiction in general and travel writing in particular I am finding the recounting of thoughts, feelings and emotions in reaction to the whole concept quite difficult. I guess it can form some a therapy of some fashion as I chase the banger, (sounded better than sausage) and encounter those at the selected destinations.
I chose the Shetlands as a starting pint for the trail as I believe that for the British the humble sausage is very special, the quotes from celebrities on the LovePork website are testament to this. The Shetland Islands have always, for me, embodied the bleakest beauty and majesty that the British Isles have to offer. Occupying, as they do, the Northernmost extremities of our country I decided that if I can find a strong sausage tradition there then, somehow, the rest of my odyssey would be fine. It struck me today that my selection of accommodation was performed with a certain degree of hypocrisy. I searched for an isolated, quiet, working croft away from the relative bustle of Lerwick. The place I found was in the West of the mainland and seems very quiet indeed. But, and this is daft, I did insist that wherever I stay must have Wifi and broadband, what a complete nob!! At least I can keep in touch with Emma and the kids though, gotta love Skype.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Sausage motivation

As Alan Partridge would say; 'I love a sausage, but not in that way!'

What a genius.

With the Shetland trip on the horizon a certain degree of internet research has taken place. I love the internet, if there is no answer then a clue is supplied. I was initially disappointed at the response from my host at Kalfordhame B & B in Western Mainland. He was English and seemed a little bemused at my aim to chase sausages. Thinking about it I really hope I gave the right impression.

I get the idea that the Shetland Islands are a place to experience rather than judge by research. In my search for sausage experience I really anticipate the Shetland experience. Lorne sausage, a flat mixture of beef and pork, was my initial aim but I now understand that the Shetland sausage spectrum is far more widespread.

Reestit mutton is a long enduring tradition in the islands and, thankfully, after a decline is enjoying a well deserved resurgence. The main focus of my trip, however, will be the search for 'Saucermeat', a Scottish intitution. I honestly feel quite excited about this, Sad? I accept that, but in the environs and surroundings of the Shetland Islands I will feel so much better.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Busy weekend and the Kwikfit diet.

Friday night at Solent Breezes, nothing different there, a few pints and then to bed. Saturday saw dad arrive just after eight after a fairly uneventful drive and ferry crossing. Saturday night was a rare opportunity for Emma and I to spend some time together. A wonderful meal at Gunwharf Quays at the great Italian restaurant Strada, lamb and anchovy really worked, then on to Tigetr Tiger for the Jongleurs comedy club. Three comedians and a magician, the compere was quick witted and pretty good at engaging the crowd, he warmed us up well and introduced the first act, Andrew Murrell, easily forgotten, a few titters but little more. I had attracted the attention of the staff as I kept using the quiet 'staff only' area to call Bill. His moped had broken down, again, and he was pretty upset, I accepted my admonishment and focussed back on the show. Following the opening act Rhodri Rhys, the compere, struggled to get us worked back up to a point sufficient to introduce the second act, I can't remember the magicians name but he was pretty good and his banter worked and kept the crowd in fine spirits. After the break the final act, Rick Right was introduced and proved to be the best of the night, cheers Rick!

Quiet day today, back at the caravan site to get dad settled. Half a bottle of Woods' rum and a fantastic Sunday roast (thanks Emsy) later he was very settled. Starting to plan 'The sausage trail' book now I have the basic itinerary scoped out. Have decided on a basic chronological approach with the fixed dates of the selected sausage festivals as a guide, the only exception to this is a trip to Munich which will see Emma and I sample the wurst the city has to offer (did you see what I did there?). I have linked my calendar to the blog so anyone interested, and at the moment there is no evidence that there is such an individual or individuals, can witness as the adventure unfolds.

The kwikfit diet? Two tyres later and I'm 230 pounds lighter, funny? No, not really. Never mind I have some decent stuff prepared for my gigs in November.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Obsession has a bad press

I have always been impressed with those obsessed. I don't mean extreme OCD nor do I mean scary irrational obsession, I refer instead to those perfectionist individuals who slip from passionate interest to obsessive following. They are the masters of their field and nearly always excel. These are those that we see at the top of their field, whatever that may be, at the expense of all else; family, relationships, holidays, hobbies and anything else that is not connected with the object of their obsession. In my mind it's the only way to excel, to rise to a pinnacle of achievement and shine like a stellar primus (I may have made that phrase up). That said I am not obsessive, just passionate and selfish, not quite the same but almost there.

Thanks to Andy on his message regarding the acceptance of chaos. Emma also questioned me on my need for order and planning, there is a simple answer to this. Just as the first casualty of a battle is the plan so the first casualty of a trip is the schedule. A plan is only that; a vague idea of what we would like to happen, without such the mayhem that ensues would give me no chance to recover.

The plan is made. Well, I have an idea now of what I am doing. The sausage trail is now really happening, the calendar on this blog will quickly fill up with my potential itinerary and subsequent alternatives. I will comment on this tomorrow.

My first trip, after the family visit to the lake district, will be the Shetland Islands for their food festival. Great place to start!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The path to something or other...

At least one person read my blog yesterday and I am so very glad that she did, thank you Emma for listening and offering sound and very shrewd advice.

First off, Will thankfully, has quit his job. He was getting up at eight to arrive at work in Southampton for eleven then departing to wherever required. He would then work until 8PM at which time he would return to the office in Southampton to sign out and return home. Yesterday he was, ironically, working in Gosport. He trudged round Elson, Bridgemary and Gosport until 8PM at which time he returned to Southampton, finally getting home just before 11PM. Emma and I agreed that doing this six days a week for an amount which, after travel, would amount to less than £4/hour, pointless!
Secondly, Sam has all of the legal requirements to get himself on the road finally. Not in a car as the insurance is prohibitively extortionate, but rather on my Honda Cub 90. No, that's not correct anymore, Sam's Honda C90. As I write the boys are cruising around Gosport on their machines, nice one.

After yesterday I realised that I needed a plan, a way forward, a means to figure out how to bring together all of threads of my existing interests into something more coherent and manageable. I drew two lines on a piece of paper with the headings Writing, Travel and finally Other at the top of the resulting three columns to represent the areas of current interest. I realise that this was not very imaginative but it did reflect the three areas. Under 'Writing' I listed:

Sausage trail
Fighting spirit
Black Hound Publishing
Short stories

All of these are in various stages of completeness with some not having been paid much attention for some time. Then, under the 'Travel' heading I listed:

Murmansk - July 2012
Mongolia? - September 2013
Round the world - 2014
Shetland islands (s)
Pig festival, Trie Sur Baise, France - August 2012
Romania (s)
Bulgaria (s)
Hungary (s)

Those with a (s) are designated of particular interest for The Sausage Trail.

Under the 'Other' heading I listed:


One of the insightful statements made by Emma last night regarded the scope of my plans. Trips to Timbuktu, Mongolia, Murmansk, Casblanca et al. are all very well but they take money, planning and above all time. Perhaps once a year or even once every two years these journeys are acceptable but planning one after the other is too much. Also the means of travel, as I mentioned yesterday is worth considering. A lengthy journey such as those mentioned should be planned sufficiently so that the participants can enjoy the time spent on the road and not just strive to achieve the goal, arrive at the final destination and as such these trips are special, they require forethought and adequate preparation, I have decided to isolate these and treat them as bonuses. If they happen that's great but if for any reason they don't I won't, from now anyway, be upset. This derives from the realisation, to which I eluded yesterday, that I can only plan for myself as far as travelling is concerned. This fact leaves all other items on my list as separate isolated opportunities or are they? That was supposed to be a mysterious pause, in reality it just made me sound like a twat.

I wandered a bit from the point I was trying to make so I'll start again. Emma made a very good point during our discussion last night which was to stick to small, short term trips. She's so honest and realistic it sometimes makes my pancreas ache. Thanks for that suggestion Emma.

Where was I regarding the remaining items on my list? Oh yes, they do have something in common, well most do, and those that do not can be easily categorised and planned. Yes, we are back to sausages once more. The sausage trail is reborn and becomes the focus for the foreseeable future. Destinations and writing projects can all be encompassed within this single subject. Let me explain.

I will be putting together a 'Sausage calendar' of my potential visits along the sausage trail with events and festivals. The book will be written on the way with an intended finish next August at the Pig Festival, La Pourcailhade in Trie Sur Baise in France. I can stick to Europe and travel directly, unfortunately, by plane. The rally events will still allow me to enjoy the experience of the journey, which ones I do has yet to be decided but they will, as mentioned, remain isolated from the sausage trail.

Following the travelling done over the past two years I had accrued sufficient points through Flybe to qualify for a free UK economy flight. This will be my first sojourn for a weekend somewhere within the UK, undecided yet but we'll see tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

What the @£%& to do?

I hate pauses. That's not wholly correct, what I do hate is inaction, inactivity on my part. Yesterday Will returned to Southampton for a second interview, ending up on the streets of Fratton, knocking on doors in an attempt to convince the population of Portsmouth that they really need cavity wall insulation. He did well and has been offered a full time position, well done Will. At the same time Sam was pootling around Gosport and surrounding environs on a motorcycle to gain his CBT. As a result when I arrived home Sam was somewhat tired and Will was still awaiting yet another interview. All very exciting but my point is that as I intended to make myself available to pick up Will if he needed it I sat, quietly and waited. Beth and Ed disappeared to bed and Sam sat engrossed in the world of Norrath. Emma and I sat quietly in the front room, the only discernible sounds, the faint ticking of the cuckoo clock above the fire, the tinny whisper of Sam's magical ministrations within the world of Everquest 2 and the background honk of 'Tash from the pub vomiting into the bin. This idyllic scene seemed frozen in time for a brief second, my mind relaxed and it was though the constant rush of my life ceased and I was aware of my surroundings for the first time. It was a punctuated pause in a busy stream of non-stop activity, a comma within the usual melee of family and professional existence. Emma sat nervously, fidgeting and occasionally glancing at her watch. Although I was concerned about Will she was even more so. This was the pause, a point when I realised I had not stopped for a second for god knows how long.
Emma is content with quiet calm, in certain circumstances I am too, usually in her company and usually somewhere steeped in history and culture. Romania was a perfect example as was Kingswear castle. Both instances when we could both let go and relax, enjoy each others company in stunning surroundings. This pause was different, it was due, in the main part, to the fact that the boys and Beth were doing their own thing. Beth was in her room. Ed asleep, but the older boys were engaged in activities of their choice without any influence from either me or Emma. This was a taste of things to come. All of my plans for travel and writing projects will almost certainly have to figure without the boys, Will and Sam won't want to follow their Dad around the world to locations that don't interest them. I have always needed a number of projects ticking along to keep me sane, I am so grateful that Emma allows me this personal space, without her understanding I would have gone mental years ago.
I have been reading a lot of travel books, Underground London by Stephen Smith, And did those feet by Charlie Connally and now Dave Gorman vs The rest of the world by, surprisingly enough, Dave Gorman. This following Eat my Globe by Simon Majumdar has opened my eyes to themes and interests to explore when travelling. My original idea of 'The sausage trail' still appeals but I feel there needs to be more to any purpose for travel than just that.
The idea of travelling for the sake of travelling alone was initially appealing but following the Timbuktu trip I realised that without a purpose and continuing interest to proceed there exists little more than the ambition to reach the destination. The journey becomes secondary to the goal and to mind this will almost certainly ensure that the potential to meet and interact with people on the way is sorely reduced. The speed of the journey is important also. Flying into a destination has little appeal for me now, in fact driving a car over large distances in a short period of time, such as the Calais to Casablanca jaunt, also instills little excitement.