Tuesday, 31 July 2012

31 July...

The 31st July, well into summer now, the garden at its best just before the frazzle of August and then that long swoop down through September into autumn.

Thank God for Joseph Priestly, where would we be without him? On the 31st July back in 1774 good old Joe discovered oxygen, just what were we breathing before then I have no idea. Didn’t stop us though, we were still breathing, smoking, and even advertising how wonderful cigarettes were on TV right up until July 31st 1965.

Three years later, in 1968, the Beatles closed their famous Apple Boutique giving away all of their fab outfits for free, and only the year previously, in 1967, Mick and Keith were jailed for a month for being a bit naughty and using some illegal substances. Poor Mick and Keith, life is never plain sailing for drug-taking pop stars. Talking of which in 1588 The Spanish Armada was spotted off the coast of England. A couple of years later the Pilgrim Fathers departed in the Mayflower for America, creating Thanksgiving Day as a by-product.

Yes, a lot has happened on the numerous 31st of Julys over the years of recorded history. I could go on and on - mention that in 1928 the first woman to win a track and field Olympic gold medal was Halina Konopacka of Poland, or that in 1893 Henry Perky patented Shredded Wheat (and no, I can’t eat 3, I can’t even eat 1 – they taste like cardboard), or that tragically in 1992 Thai Airways International Flight 311 crashed into a Nepalese mountain north of Kathmandu killing all 113 people on board; but I won’t – it would be too boring.

So why am I mentioning 31st July at all? Does it hold some significance for me, is it some sort of anniversary? Well the answer is yes. Today was one of those big life-changing days for me, a day not to forget, a day to cling onto for all those years that were to come, a special day, a good day, a lay-your head-back-on-the-pillow-and-smile day, a day long gone but never too far away.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Pretty flamingo…

The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo: she succeeded in getting its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck nicely straightened out, and was going to give the hedgehog a blow with its head, it would twist itself round and look up in her face.

It is so easy to be taken in by pretty. A pretty smile, a pretty girl, pretty in pink, yes, pretty… pretty pink, the colour so loved by… well, you don’t need a list. As pink as a flamingo, like the flock I photographed on our trip to the zoo.

Such a strange creature, the flamingo - they might be pink but something tells me there’s nothing fluffy about them. Just look at their beaks, they could take an eye out at a single peck and knock it through to the back of your brain before pulling it out again and eating it with a single throw of that long fine neck. And then there’s the smell. They stink worse that a fish-gutting factory, and no matter what the water clarity is like before they arrive, after they’ve gone it’s murky – very, very murky. The sort of murky you wouldn’t want to swim in, the sort of murky that really needs to be treated by a water treatment plant or a reed bed… but it’s the eyes that get me more than anything else.

A flamingo’s eye is the coldest thing on the planet; hardly an eye at all, just a black pit surrounded by sulphurous yellow. A trap to fall into, an all-seeing, all-evil, optical trap. I imagine one fixing some poor unsuspecting fish with its eye and freezing it in the water beneath it, hypnotising it with a yellow-cold stare, then slashing down and breaking the fishes back with its beak. The eye of a reptile, a lizard, the devil, no wonder that fossils of flamingos have been found; that is the eye of one of the oldest creatures on earth, a dinosaur… a pink dinosaur.

Pretty flamingo? Not on my life.

Croquet anyone?

Sunday, 29 July 2012

See the monkey...

See the monkey? No, it doesn’t belong to my little sister Della - it belongs to the man taking the photograph – well, when I say man I mean hyena. Let me describe him…

He was one of those men that paced the promenade, an imitation caged lion, looking out for us unsuspecting young families, and once he’d spotted us… he’d pounce. Sometimes he had a teddy bear, sometimes a monkey – once he even had a real monkey that chattered and gnashed his teeth and made my sister Caroline cry. That's her with the pudding basin hair cut and the dress made from kitchen curtains - no really.

Holiday time; Skegness I think. Plastic beach sandals, the best clothes that we could muster, another camping holiday - some time away for our whole extended family... as we did back then. We had no money at all really, but my Dad always managed to take us, and as many other members of the family as he could afford, away to the sea for a week - sometimes even two. We camped usually, all crushed in a trailer tent and a Bedford camper van, having a laugh, excited to be beside the sea.

A family holiday. Just look at us. 

“Photograph of your lovely family mister? Only five bob.”

Five bob, twenty-five pence, back then you could work for half a morning to earn that much money. You could buy a Sunday joint, two gallons of petrol, forty fags, do the pools for a month, five pints of beer…

I watched my Dad hesitate before saying; “Okay,” as he reached into his pocket and counted out his hard saved holiday shillings into the hand of the greasy haired, striped blazered, light-grey-flannel trousered scavenger.

“Say Cheese!” He slimed through his high hyena laugh.

And just look at how we did; my Mum, my Dad, my Gran, my sisters Della and Caroline, Auntie Muriel, my Uncle Charlie’s daughter Gina, me, and of course... that bloody monkey. Did you ever see such smiley smiles?

“I’ll post it to you.” He said over his shoulder - as he walked away from the kill, still hyena laughing and already looking out for his next feed of unsuspecting meat.

And surprisingly… he did.

So here we all are on a summer’s afternoon, having our photograph taken at a price that hurt us all for weeks afterwards; but look, look deeper, see us all so simple and happy and able to keep the memory. We were all so close back then - aunties, cousins, Gran - we just spent our lives together, a family, no expectations of each other. People.

And as for the five bob stolen by that hyena? Well, maybe we had the last laugh after all.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Blue skies, back yards and beer...

Enough! I want to talk about the sky. I’m sick of the dark, although I know that there’s no avoiding it and that it will be back.

But for now… blue skies, back yards and beer.

The clouds were amazing last evening, so high in the sky and reminding me of tiny white fish scales. Picking up my beer I threw my head back and just sat watching them, the low sun casting the shadow of a dissipating vapour trail on the cloud screen high above my head. Blue - such a cleansing colour and the buzzing of the bees, the clouds floating by letting me drift with them, and cold beer. And for once I think I may have beaten the slugs. The damp has made them voracious but my tub of blue magic pellets seem to have done their work and yes... the foliage is winning. 

Want more is required?

Friday, 27 July 2012

Heavy weather...

It’s heavy weather at the moment. It shouldn’t be, the sun shines and it’s warm, but the storm is never far away and the air lies heavy in me like a pillow sent by some angel of mercy to suffocate me into dreams. This weather makes it hard to sleep. But when I do I’ve gone back and on waking am reminded and allowed to take a sort of wondrous comfort it what was back then. I wonder could it ever be that way today? I toss and turn in my humid sheets, darkness falling, temperatures dropping just a little, a not-quite-cool breeze gasping in through the window; a breath of air to make me dream and take me back. Take me back.

The cricket field on a soft summer afternoon. Not playing, I never played, but watching from the green slope of bank that was the boundary of the upper and lower playing fields by the tennis courts, the squash court in the distance and the huge iron roller which they used to roll the grass thick tight standing by the scrumming machine. The smell of cut grass, green stains on the whites of the players, school caps on sweating heads, ties belted around waists. “Howzat!” Not out it seems, although it obviously was.

Summer dress, ties off, sleeves rolled, a rare concession in a school where jackets were to be worn at all times and running between lessons was insisted upon. Such strange and wonderful times my schooldays back then. No wonder I slip back here in dream - order, place, routine, the wonderful knowledge that it would never change - just like other boys who must have sat there at the same age watching cricket. It could never change - although of course it did, the names of the boys lost in the wars and carved into the refectory wall were witness to that.

Schooldays. Thinking back how could it be that I, a kid from a council estate with a factory worker father, could be sat next to a viscount who I called friend while out on the cricket field the sons of scientists and heart surgeons, film stars and politicians, even a Kashmiri Prince played cricket on that immaculate rectangle of green. One end of the field Patrick Procktor’s brother umpired the match, at the other end David Tomlinson, fresh from filming ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’, watched his son, Henry, get run out for a duck. Mr Procktor had one of his brother’s paintings on the wall in his room or so Sacha said - ‘Back of the Zoo.'

Back to the zoo.

Sacha, the viscount, was a real devil. He boarded at the school, but he wasn’t like most of the other boarders – elite and cliquey. Maybe it was his upbringing – he claimed Russian blood – or maybe the knowledge that no matter what he couldn’t really be touched. And he was mischief incarnate, always up to some scheme or other. We seemed to get on well. Looking back now I realise that Sacha was uncomfortable with himself and hated boarding in – he felt like an outcast.  Later that summer, with school over until September, he rang me on our old green phone from a castle in Spain and asked me over. I didn’t go of course – I hadn’t a passport or the air fare – he sounded bored, listless like he sometimes got. “Be seeing you then. Have a think about coming over.” I did and I didn’t.

So many doors were slightly ajar back then and I didn’t even know it. What might have happened if I’d grasped one of the handles and stepped through – hitchhiked to Spain, asked to see ‘Back of the Zoo’, made friends with the Tomlinson boys, Henry and James? Instead I knew my place, a kid from a council estate with a factory worker father, allowed to be there to watch but never to play. Order, place, routine, the wonderful knowledge that it would never change - it could never change.

David Tomlinson died in the summer of 2000, Patrick Procktor in the summer of 2003… and Sasha? Well, I knew that he’d been ill, and then I heard yesterday via the web that Sasha died a few weeks back. He never could be touched - the devil.

Heavy weather. I think I may open the windows.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Fifty Sheds of Grey - five...

This one had trouble written all over her. Nicely built, well proportioned; but by anybody’s standards easy – way easy. She’d let anyone that wanted leave their mark on her… and she’d liked it, loved it, begged for it. She wore their marks with pride like battle scars. No, like tattoos; the names of her passing lovers etched all over her lovely surface - Turtle, Rota, Lowkee.

I didn’t mind, I liked it that way - and anyway it was my turn now.

“Want my name too?” I asked.
“Anything you want.” She replied. “What’s your name?”
“Grey. Now shut up and let me get on with it.”

I reached into my pocket and took out the small tool I always carried with me. My turn - time to make my mark.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The lad himself…

There he is the lad himself; twenty-something not yet twenty-five, Ibiza, Tenerife or some such place, too much hair, a pack of Benson and Hedges, and a swift pint for breakfast – oh yes, the lad himself on holiday abroad in his favourite shirt and wishing he was somewhere else.

I’ve never been one for having my photograph taken and photos of me from teens to thirties are rarer than hen’s teeth, so when this turned up recently – well, I was more than a little surprised at what I had once been.

I’ve never been much of a smiler:
“Say cheese.”
“Go screw yourself.”

See that look? I recognise the look far easier than I recognise the face that’s looking it. That’s a look I’ve made all of my life, the look of how I feel inside. If you look closely you’ll see the question in it, the doubt and uncertainty, the scorn, the boredom, the wanting the next thing. Don’t worry it’s only there to mask what I’m really feeling and it’s mainly (mainly mind) aimed at myself not anyone around me – although they sometimes got caught in the ripple… and still do come to think of it. The look’s mainly dissatisfaction, but there’s a touch of disappointment, a smidgeon of disbelief because always somewhere in my mind has been: “What am I doing here, and why am I doing it, and why am I doing it with you?”

My head back then was a mess of worries. I’d taken on far too much before I’d really done anything you see, never tried for the things I knew that I wanted; instead settling for what was there simply because it was there and my misplaced sense of duty tied me to it. Not that I didn’t care, I cared plenty, but I knew even then what it was costing me, even though I pretended all was fine and just got on with things, sometimes I even had fun, sometimes I almost believed, but always that look to remind me.

You should have cut and run you stupid boy. What had you to lose? Just look where it ended up; you let me down you know and I hate you for it.

Oh, well, too late to change things now, it’s all so long ago. There he goes the lad himself and it was almost nice knowing him.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Postcards from the Puckmobile eight – Luna's dream...

I'm sleeping somewhere in a Cul-D-Sac in his campervan. I'm dreaming about teapots and sunrise and melting away. I can't wake up...I can't wake up...I can't wake up. I don't like this dream. I don't want to be here any more. Wake me up someone! WAKE ME UP!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Holly’s glass…

I’m still painting glass in glass world and it’s still a little slow, but at least it gave me time to paint this for Holly. It’s a kind of ‘This is Your Life’ glass. Of course Holly is only 18, but on her glass there’s the crab that chased her on Llanbedrog beach when she was 2, the three cats that she’s grown up with – Tia, Misty, and now Luna - Chester her horse, Benjie her dog, a couple of her blue-egg laying chickens, her favourite book when she was a baby gets a mention, a sheep (one of the many she has owned for a while), her guitar, an Ed Hardy tattoo, a few books as she reads avidly, a shrimp for all the happy hours we spent shrimping, and of course ‘catch a falling star’. She’s there too in her rose embroidered docs, her favourite band T shirt, shorts and tights, her piercings and wristbands, with her hair a rainbow of all the colours she’s dyed it.

I may start these as a line in my shop - aka: my expensive hobby. Wine, beer, champagne, etc. They won’t be cheap, but I think that they’d make a great present.

Views anyone? I'd be interested to know if you think these might sell and what you would pay for one.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


Well, that’s that, job done. Here she is all grown up at 18 – shame she looks like a lizard. Sorry, my mistake; she’s not the plastic motorised dinosaur we bumped into at Chester Zoo on Tuesday; she’s the purple haired cat.

So, Chester Zoo; we used to come go there every year as Holly’s birthday treat when she was little. Pushing her around in her buggy – which I shall ever call a pushchair – later on reins and riding on my shoulders as she wobbled here and tottered there, pointing at warthogs and laughing at the penguins as they dived and played in the murky viewing tank.

I remember that the weather was always kind to us – sunshine and shorts and a picnic on a bench in the shade of the dapple-shadowed trees, my hair still brown and me able to walk, even run, without losing breath despite the fact that I still smoked continually back then. I was seldom photographed without the telltale sign of tobacco smoke emerging from behind my back where my hand clutched my hidden gasper.

It was a surprise when Holly asked to go back to the zoo on her 18th, and a nice one too. No Frank this time of course and Joan in the buggy, well she is 82 and it’s a big zoo. I couldn’t help thinking about Frank as we walked around; he loved taking Holly to the zoo. Perhaps he was there, who knows? I didn’t catch a glimpse of him though; not even a flicker from the corner of my eye. This year it was Craig, Holly’s boyfriend, who made up our small party and, despite a very wet start which almost decided us not to go, the sun came out as soon as we arrived at the car park and stayed with us until the moment we left the zoo.

It was a day full of sights I’d almost forgotten – elephants, cheetahs, lions and tigers, brightly coloured birds, monkeys and orang-utans, deadly tree frogs, the biggest snake I ever did see, a picnic  lunch, hardly a cross word and even occasional smiles - and I could have murdered a cigarette.

Returning the wheelchair to the Zoomobility shack as we left for the day it struck me how things had changed, how we had all changed; and yet, for a few hours at least, it was almost as if nothing had changed at all. Next year? I doubt it. Much as it would be nice to think that we would, life moves on for us all and this time next year it all might have changed again.

But if I were asked then the answer would be ‘yes’.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Fifty Sheds of Grey - four...

I was in two minds about the twins. Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m the sort of guy that likes an adventure, but they were so mixed up – one was always the pussycat the other a raging vixen. It was interchangeable. They took it in turns.  Personality split? Well it sure wasn’t banana – even though they were… plural.

They were the sort of babes who liked to play games. Always switching position - one minute pussycat was on top, the next she was underneath and vixen was in the saddle. I could never quite predict what was going to happen next. Sometimes I’d just leave then to it and watch as they climbed all over each other. I like to watch sometimes; and those two really knew how to put on a show.

Of course it ended badly. Well, these things nearly always do. Either Pussycat or Vixen - I don’t know which, I could never tell them apart - got too possessive and they had a fight. There were broken panels everywhere. After that I called it a day and stopped seeing them. Oh, I’m sure I could have shored it up, got them back together, nailed it once and for all – but I was just board by then.

Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Fifty Sheds of Grey - three...

You could tell that she was one of those girls that were always on the edge. Neat and well proportioned, well-made in a nicely put-together kind of way; and if you looked at her carefully, and from just the right direction, you could just about see her bottom. There was a touch of mystery surrounding her. She was hard to read, her blank expression making it very difficult to see just what was going on inside. She was the kind of challenge I really enjoyed.

“Nice struts,” I casually remarked to her.
“You some kind of expert?” She replied.
“I’m expert at many things.” I smiled, “Maybe you’d like to find out just how expert and at what?”

She wobbled a little; I could see that she was interested in going further, then she began to rock backwards and forwards on her base.

“Come on,” I said, “let me tip you over the edge. All you need to do is let me inside.”
She smiled nervously: “I’m not that kind of shed.”
“That's what they all say. Let me be the judge.” I replied devilishly. 

She moved towards me - she was about to fall… and in a big, big, way.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Fifty Sheds of Grey - two...

I could tell immediately that she's seen better days. For her the good times had rolled and she'd rolled with them - rolled and rolled and rolled, coming to a stop eventually in what some might call the gutter - and I called opportunity. Mind you, somewhere along the way her gutter had fallen off and she'd let to many in through her front entrance.

Well, it isn't the falling by which we are measured, it's the rising up and flying again. All she needed was a bath, a makeover, and a couple of drinks; and I had all three back at my place. As we climbed the stairs to my hotel room I kind of liked her slightly staggered gait. 

It was going to be a long and interesting night.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Fifty Sheds of Grey - one...

I reached towards her, touching her gently on the tulips; she sighed as she hurriedly kicked her clogs off. It built slowly, but soon we were wind-milling our way to a point of no return... was there no satisfying her canal desires?

Postcards from the Puckmobile – eight...

Breakfast over, a cup of coffee and some toast for me, coffee and a waffle for Luna, we set back off along the lane away from the sea. We hadn’t found a boat so there was little choice of direction. In many ways Sandsend had been a dead end; surrounded by dunes with only a small parking area and a turning point, the only way beyond it was the sea or in the case of the girl – the wind.

Nothing felt right. I’d enjoyed the beach and the memories that it remembered for me, but it had left me sad. Where was this going... anywhere? Where was I going?

Luna lay beside me on the passenger seat pretending to be asleep. I knew that she was pretending because every now and again she’d half open her blue eye, and then her green eye, to check on me. I think she sees things differently dependent on which eye she looks through - I wonder what she really sees? 

It was a grey day, one of those days where everything in the world seemed at low ebb. Of course that couldn’t be true, there were birthdays and weddings and parties and all sorts of other joys taking place around the world that would have lifted my spirits if only I’d been there. But I wasn't. Today was yet another 'not-joining-in' day for me and I was here; and I didn’t even know where here was.

“Perhaps you should stop thinking about where you are travelling to and simply enjoy the travelling.” She’d said. Perhaps I should, but I really needed to have a think about did I really want to be travelling at all? It seemed like I’d got myself into one of my pickles.

My pickles aren’t good. They involve too many questions and too few answers, are always too heavy on the vinegar and too light on the sugar – and I always finish the jar, beating myself up in the process and wearing my veneer just a little bit thinner each time.

Yes, I needed to stop and think.

It was while I was considering what sort of pickle this one was – dill, cabbage, piccalilli, onion - that I passed the sign. It stood by a half concealed entrance to a track almost completely obscured by overhanging branches. ‘CUL D SAC’ – ‘10 M.P.H’ it declared on two separate signs. A third sign placed above the others on a stout wooden post seemed to say nothing. Perhaps there was nothing else to say.

Wasn’t a cul-de-sac the same thing as a dead end? Or was a cul-de-sac somewhere when a dead end was nowhere? Was there really any difference between the two? Either way, I needed somewhere to think and a cul-de-sac, seemed to me at that moment, to be just the place to do it.

Perhaps I should have checked with Luna first, but she was still pretending to be asleep, so I reversed a little and drove the Puckster through the screen of trees and onto the track that led to goodness knows where.

I couldn't help thinking, as I drove along yet another narrow and dingy track, that I might be about to get into a hot chilli and lime pickle and get myself trapped in a Mason Jar.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Postcards from the Puckmobile – seven...

I turned and there she was, string tied tight around her finger. Pale. Just an ordinary girl with short auburn hair, a sad looking thing, awkward almost, standing in the freshness of the early morning air flying her kite on this beach; the wind shifting her short hair just a little with each billowy gust.

“I like you.” Luna gushed. “I’ve never seen anything like you before.”

“And I’ve never seen anything quite like you.” She replied moving her mouth into a sort of smile.

Luna gave her a big ‘I’ve-got-the-cream smile’ back and skittered around her feet as we walked; the kite following us along the beach like a faithful old dog on a lead. As we walked I opened up to the girl that we were on a journey but that it wasn’t turning out quite as we’d planned. Just why I told her this I’ve no idea; I’ve always been too happy to tell people what is happening in my life.

“To be honest if I’d have known that it was going to be like this I’d probably never have bothered. All I wanted was a little time away, the open road, a few pubs and some interesting people to chat to. Instead I’ve got some sort of Pilgrim’s Progress crossed with Gulliver’s Travels all wrapped up in a campervan road trip. I know we’ve only been going a couple of days but it’s all a little weird, so weird I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t some kind of mushroom hiding in the Puckster that’s kicking out magic spores.  I mean, we’ve started finding roads that take us to places we can’t be close too, like this place and bumping into – I’ll hope you’ll excuse me for this – people that don’t seem quite… well, normal. Where exactly are we anyway?”

“Nowhere exactly, like the sign says… I call it Sandsend, but don’t worry it’s a good place to stop and think for a while, and when you are ready to go you can just leave. There’s nothing to keep you in nowhere. Anyway, who says that you are finding roads that you can’t be close too? How do you know that the roads aren’t finding you, and as for close or near or far, I expect it depends on how you measure distance.”

Sandsend; the name was familiar. Had I been here before? I remembered a sunny day, an inflatable boat and laughter, wading into the water to catch fish with a net, an ice cream shop just off the beach, a caravan. But the more I tried to remember the less I seemed to recall. No matter. Distance though… I remember well. Distance is a safe place to be.

“And how do you measure distance?” I enquired, thinking: ‘Yes, not quite normal.’

“I don’t. I have no need, I’m just here you see.”

And all the time we strolled along that early morning beach Luna walked besides her, glancing up in wonder every now and again, as if she saw something that I couldn’t see, as if she saw another girl, more of this girl than I could possibly see. Well, cats see things differently – it’s something to do with the way their eyes perceive light or the spectrum or something… just like them not being able to taste sweet - cats are such odd creatures.

“I love your eyes.” Luna whispered.

“I love yours too.” The girl whispered back.

Eventually we came to the edge of the sea, the red kite flying high and out above the gentle waves, and stopped there watching as it moved out across the water. I continued to explain how I felt that this wasn’t the journey I’d planned, that it didn’t seem to be going anywhere, how already I was beginning to think that I should turn back and go home. I’d expected a series of visits to well defined places with something at the end of my travels, instead I was getting confusing directions and a sense of being lost all of the time, aimless wandering, never knowing what to expect when I got to wherever it was I was going, not even knowing where ‘there’ was and would I ever get there anyway?

“Perhaps you should stop thinking about where you are travelling to and simply enjoy the travelling.” She said.

I watched the red kite far out at sea, suddenly realising that it wasn’t attached to the string any more but floating free. I turned to the girl to tell her that her kite had broken away – but she was gone. Looking back out to sea, I tried to find the kite once more but it had gone as well – vanished into the distance and away.

“Did you see her go?” I asked Luna who was sitting quietly on the sand. Luna nodded her head; “Where?”

“Nowhere,” Luna answered, “She just went. She sort of moved into the wind and flew away like her kite. I sort of saw it, out of the corner of my eye, but then I didn’t. Maybe she was never there at all; after all – we have no proof, no hard evidence, have we? ”

No hard proof? No hard evidence? Was this Luna speaking? But rather than dwell on her baristorial tone I hurriedly moved on.

“And I didn’t even ask her name.”

“I did.” Luna replied.

“What was it?” I asked as we walk back along the beach towards the Puckster; I could feel some breakfast was required.

“I forget, or maybe it got caught up in the wind and blew away.” She said.

But I didn’t believe that she had forgotten; and as for the wind? Well, it always blows cold when you least expect it.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Postcards from the Puckmobile – six...

Yes, it was unmistakably the smell of the sea - salt, seaweed, sand, sunny days and something else – magic maybe?

“It’s the smell of the sea Luna.”

“What’s the sea? Is it a Dead End?”

“Well it depends.” I said. “The sea is water”.

“Like the sink?”

“Kind of… but bigger.”

“Like when you have a bath?”


“As big as the pond?”

“Much, much, bigger. Imagine water for as far as you can see and then beyond. When you get to the sea the land ends, you can’t go any further; so it is a dead end but it’s also a way of going beyond the land to find new places.”

“Can we go in the campervan?”

“No, we’d need a boat.”

“What’s a boat?”

Let’s talk about it in the morning Luna. It’s late. I’m going to pull off the road, park up, and get some sleep. We’ll take a look at the sea and talk about boats in the morning.”

“Bigger than the pond… that’s big.”

“Goodnight Luna.”

But she didn’t reply, she was already asleep.

The sun woke me up at 5am, streaming through the windscreen. I’d spent the night puzzling just how we’d arrived at the sea. The drive down Dead End lane hadn’t been anywhere near long enough to take us to the coast, but here we were by the sea, the sound of waves crashing on shingle, a lone gull’s cry high in the air above. It felt peaceful, but despite that I was confused and full of questions; just how had we got to the sea so quickly, where exactly was this beach, why were we here, where was everybody and how did I get back on track?

And where was Luna? I looked around the van. It didn’t take long, it wasn’t that big, soon realising that Luna wasn’t in the van at all – she’d let herself out through the open window and was running around on the beach.

“Weeeeeeeeee, the sea, the sea, look at the sea.”

She was everywhere at once, running and jumping, skittering and sidestepping, impossibly pawing at a bright red kite that darted and buzzed, caught up in the wind, taught string singing high above her darting head. Sometimes, she’d stop to watch something flash across one of the shallow pools that were scattered amongst the sand.

I stepped out of the van and Luna came running towards me, flying into my legs in her eager excitement.

“Look at the sea. It’s so big and wet and there are moving things in the water and it looks blue but isn’t and it makes my nose tingle and… what’s that red thing up in the air?”

“A kite.”

“How does it fly?”

“The wind picks it up and carries it away.”

“So what stops it floating off?”

But before I could answer yet another of Luna’s questions, a woman’s voice answered from behind me: “Because it’s tied to my finger with a string.”

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Luna and I are parking up for a while. The journey will continue in a few days.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Postcards from the Puckmobile – five...

Well if Luna was looking for life experiences she was certainly developing them rapidly. I didn’t think it would be long before her life experience bucket was flowing over; not only did she see things differently and in a way that I couldn’t even imagine, she was becoming very bossy as well.

‘I’m very interested to find out just what a ‘Dead End’ is… turn please.’  Well, at least she’d said please

I really didn’t want to take that turning to nowhere and the idea of a dead end, with a possible long reverse back up the track, didn’t appeal to me at all. I didn’t like reversing, wasn’t much good at it, and I’d spent almost the last five years going backwards. Still, Luna wanted to broaden her horizons, so in the spirit of responsible cat ownership I did as she asked.

As soon as I turned off the track the weather changed; the rain, which had turned to a dank, dark drizzle as we’d been taking tea with the woodsman and his wife, immediately stopped and the evening sky began to lighten. This Dead End track wasn’t as overhung and enclosed as the Not A Short Cut track, and above me - if I leaned forward and peered out of the windscreen at the sky - I was sure I could see a tiny bit of blue... enough to make a sailor’s hat, but not enough for a jacket; I thought.

Well, the daylight wouldn’t last long and I didn’t fancy driving this lane on the Puckster’s headlights; they weren’t that strong.

“I hope we get to Nowhere before it becomes too dark.” I said to Luna, who was sitting on top of the blue vinyl dashboard ignoring every aspect of Health and Safety legislation and the Highway Code to boot.

“We’ll be fine.” Luna responded, “We’ll be at Dead End before we know it. Now I’m going to have a little nap, wake me up when you get me to Nowhere.”

An hour or so later she remained asleep as I peered out of the windscreen trying to make sure that I stayed in the centre of the track by the thin beams of the campervan headlights. I really should have tried replacing the bulbs before we set out, but as I mentioned my mechanical skills are so limited that they don’t amount to much more than filling up the windscreen washer bottle - not that I knew where it was on the Puckster… Hmm, I needed to look into that.

The sky grew darker and darker, above us I could see the first twinkle of stars. Once something large and white flashed just in front of the windscreen before disappearing in the trees; I hoped it was a big barn owl, or an old carrier bag picked up by the breeze and not something else.

We had to be there soon; if Nowhere was a there and not simply a Dead End as the sign predicted.

“We’re almost there.” Luna purred from her perch upon the dashboard.

I had no idea just when she’d woken up, but she seemed to be wide awake now.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I can smell it.”

“Smell what?”

“How should I know? I’ve told you before, I’m only a kitten; in olfactory life experience terms it’s all pretty much milk, food, deodorant, and litter trays at the moment. This smells different - like air, but more.”

Like air, but more - and then I could smell it too…


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Postcards from the Puckmobile – four.

Cats have such a different way of viewing things. They seem to romanticise everything, adding fishes here and butterflies there. Taking an old scarecrow and making it into somebody who might, and did, give them a dish of cream with a sunflower smile. They can even take an ordinary dwelling and remodel it into an almost teapot, replacing the grey slate for thatch and setting it in a magical garden.

For my part, I just saw an overgrown garden, an old damp cottage in need of some repair, not a single butterfly – and just where did those fish come from? Yes, I hardly saw the crescent; whilst Luna? Well I guess that you know the song.  Still, maybe Luna was closer to the truth than I had thought.

After we’d had tea and cake, scones with cream, and tomato sandwiches with the woodsman and his wife in their dingy cottage deep in the woods, I began to think how much like a dream those few hours were. According to my map we where somewhere, not far from the village of Rostherne, but somehow I felt that we’d travelled much further. It was very strange.

The woodsman wore gaiters and a waistcoat, a red neckerchief at his throat. He carried a broken shotgun on his arm – an old one, an antique worthy of any Antiques Roadshow. His wife dressed equally as eccentrically; a long gingham dress with petticoats and apron, hair in a tight bun tied up in a hairnet; but she had the most winning smile and the most wonderful scent of lavender water followed her wherever she went.

It was like stepping into a picture postcard of the past.

Back at the campervan the woodsman offered to help me get my ‘contraption’ free from the ditch, asking wherever I found such a thing and was it a ‘modern thingymacallit?’ I replied it was, humouring him – well he did have the shotgun lay over his arm and broken or not it was the work of a moment to unbreak and shoot. He went off to the barn and I - expecting him to return with a tractor - was surprised when I saw him leading a huge carthorse up the road.

“Old Nathaniel will sort you out; won’t you boy.”

And he did; making light work of pulling us out of the ditch by use of a thick rope slung around his mighty neck.

“There, he’s a strong horse is Nathaniel. Now, you can turn in the yard now that you’re out and be sure to go back the way you came, no turning off to left or right, just keep on the track and you’ll be fine. Like my sign says: there are no short cuts around these parts, regardless of what you might see. ”

“But it was a straight road in with no turnings,” I replied, “… surely it’s a straightt road out?”

“Maybes.” Said the woodsman, “But be sure you don’t get sidetracked. It wouldn’t do if you lost you way again, it wouldn’t do at all.”

“Okay, thank you Mr…” It was at that moment that I realised I’d never asked him is name.

“Barker.” He responded, “Francis Nelson Barker.”

“Well, thanks again Mr Barker and a good day to you.”

“Welcome.” He said; tipping his hat and breaching his gun as he slowly walked away.

A few minutes later we were on our way again. I was still somewhat puzzled by where we’d been but Luna seemed happy, a huge cat grin upon her face.

We must have passed a dozen side tracks leading off the main lane on the way back; I was sure that they weren’t there on the way in. Luna said nothing, just sat on the passenger seat smiling until we came to a lane on our left. A sign stood by the turning.

“That’ll be ours then.” Said Luna.

“But we were told not to leave the track. Besides, it says..."


“What you are told and what you do can be two very different things,” said Luna; “anyway, even nowhere has to be somewhere and I’m very interested to find out just what a ‘Dead End’ is. Take the turn please.’

So I did.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Postcards from the Puckmobile – three.


“That's enigmatic... a metaphor for life.” I thought.

Whatever it was though, it would definitely be too easy to see it as a sign. So easy that here I was driving down a ridiculously narrow road to God knows where or what; and all because Luna had reasoned, using her cat logic, that if someone had bothered to point out that there was NO short cut then there probably was.

“But a short cut to what?” I asked, wishing I had variable speeds on the wipers – the rain was coming down heavier than ever.

“How should I know?” Luna replied. “I’m only a kitten; it’s not as if I have buckets of life experience. In life experience terms it’s all pretty much eating, sleeping, chasing bees, and litter trays at the moment. Why do you think I came on this trip with you? I need to broaden my horizons.”

There was no answering that. So instead I concentrated on the road ahead which was getting narrower and narrower, more overgrown and muddy, with every thwump of the wiper blades.

“Where is this taking us?” I mumbled.

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzz” Luna replied. Well, there’s no bothering cats with detail.

The thing is I really don’t like short cuts. In my experience they don’t turn out to be short at all and usually lead you to somewhere that you don’t want to go. If I could have turned around I probably would have done; but the narrowness of the road (or track as it had become), the beating rain, the lack of any break in the wall of trees which surrounded us on both sides, and the fear that Luna would think me a ‘silly’ when she woke up made it impossible for me to take that course of action. So I simply drove on trusting that the short cut would take me somewhere despite that bloody enigmatic sign declaring that it wouldn’t.

What had the sign said? It seemed that underneath the uppermost legend another instruction was etched – ‘SPEED 20 LIMIT’ – so no short cut and keep your speed down… just where was this taking us?

It was at that point that I spied up ahead a break in the trees and a lightening of the gloom that we’d been travelling through since we turned off of the A556. Ah, the A556 - it almost seemed like a treasured dream now. Where had we been going? Oh yes, south - south to the sea and warmer climes; and where were we now? Travelling along some cat logic short cut that obviously wasn't, probably moving towards a locked gate that would lead to a muddy field and a mountain of cow pats. Still there was no turning back now.

As I drove out of the tunnel of trees and into the light I remember thinking that it looked like the rain might be stopping and my heart lifted just a few inches from the basement to where it had descended.  Yes, there was definitely sunshine up ahead - and could I smell the smoke of logs burning in an open fire?

It was then that the Puckmobile decided to get into trouble as he skidded in the mud and stuck himself in a ditch. Maybe this wasn’t going to be a short cut after all, maybe we were already fucked - and me only six or seven miles from home.

“Cat logic indeed.” I hissed at Luna through clenched teeth; thinking that I might just turn back and give up my dream as a really bad job, resell the Puckster on Autotrader at a loss (if necessary) and spend the rest of my days farting in my easy chair - Parp!

“Are we there yet?” She replied, stretching herself in the sunshine and yawning; displaying her sharp kitten teeth.

“I rather think that you are.” Said a voice from above..


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Postcards from the Puckmobile – two.

Travelling in the way I do is virtually more than I ever imagined. Okay, time to come clean for those of you who don’t already know - I don’t have a campervan and I’m not off on an actual wonderful adventure… but on the other side of the coin - I do virtually have a campervan and I imagine I’m off on a wonderful adventure. We all are (or can be), so why not come along with me?

“But why?” You ask.
”Why indeed?” I reply.

A friend of mine, a long term blogger, just recently gave up blogging out of the blue. He said that he couldn't take the responsibility of it any more or the pressure to keep on doing it. I understand what he means but he also reminded me of something else – it’s meant to be fun. I need to have more fun in my blog.

My dream is to make this trip in an old campervan in reality; truth is I know I may never make it - what with the price of petrol, my tricky back, and energy issues. Of course, I may one day - but I really can’t wait, so rather than do nothing I thought that I might live it in my mind and share it with you. I don't know how far I'll get - I’ve only just started out and sometimes the Puckster is in worse shape than others - but we'll see. I hope this is okay with you.

I like to write you see and my job is to suspend your disbelief; so a talking cat, the tales I plan to tell, the people and things who travel with me… just as real as I can make them, just as real as you chose to believe them to be. No tricks and no lie – and guess what? I want you to help me out by getting involved in any way that you want. So, tell me where to go, ask me to try anything you like, or just leave it to me. All I ask you to do is read. Crazy I know – but where does our reality stop and our dreams begin?

“We choose to go to the moon.” Want to come with me? 

Yes, anything can happen and probably will, so this morning in all that rain, the thrump, thrump, thrump of the wipers almost drowning out Luna’s snores, I had a hard time deciding whether to go north or south. You see, I don’t know what I’m searching for or where I’m going or if I’m searching for anything or going anywhere at all, but the open road was in front of me, like a blank sheet of paper, making me feel as free as that proverbial bird. Mind you, I’m not sure what sort of bird I am – a crow, a peacock, a mockingbird maybe?

Anyways, in the end I chose south. No reason, but Luna said that she’d like to go somewhere warmer. If Luna were a bird I think she’d be a parrot, I never realised until we were off in the Puckmobile just how often she repeats what she’s just heard. There she was singing not quite along to ‘Lovecats’ by the Cure with about a five second time delay. Me? Well I’m more of a Blow Monkeys fan – but enough of the musical sidetracks for now.

The A556, how well I know that road. I must have driven it five thousand times but somehow today it felt different. Perhaps it was because we were off on an adventure, not for the first time and hopefully not for the last. Yes – the A556, well all journeys have to start somewhere and one road is as good as any other. Just a minute – I’ve never seen that sign before, it must be new, although it really doesn't look it.

What's it say?


No short cut?

Monday, 2 July 2012

Postcards from the Puckmobile - one.

Off into the big wide world…

Not the best of days to set out on my adventure and not the best of starts. I used to be so good at early rises but a warm bed at 5am on a drizzly Monday morning is such a sweet sorrow to part from. Still, I manfully struggled out of my cosy nest, moving the sleeping kitten to the bottom of the bed. No need to wake her yet, they’d be time enough for her to pack her bag before we left for the big wide world.

The shower, for some reason, was lukewarm. I hoped it wasn’t a portent of things to come, but I could hear raindrops pattering a tune on the window and sadly it wasn’t a cheery song. It reminded me of some Country and Western ditty I must have heard one time. I can’t remember the name of it now, but it was one of those too sad and too sentimental heartbreakers; the sort of song that makes you change your mind and stay doing the same old things you’ve always done. “Oh, this ain't nothin' new, sweetheart, I'll wait for you.” I think that particular someone was dying in the deep Montana snow somewhere.

Anyway, this wasn’t Montana, and it was only raining outside, not snowing - so guilt trip or not, it was almost time to leave. After all, it’s only for a few months and I’ll send regular postcards back – that’s what this trip is all about really; a journey and postcards from the places I end up in. Even so, I’ll avoid Country and Western programmes on the radio as I wend my merry way to wherever – sorry Whispering Bob.

Thank goodness I packed the Puckmobile up the night before. I’d have been drenched in moments in all that rain. Still, at least I knew that the windscreen wipers worked; the PM had new blades, I replaced them myself. Quite an achievement believe me, as when it comes to things mechanical I’m not exactly a Quick-Fit fitter. I’m hoping that my trusty Puckster holds up. Like me, he’s been around the block a few times. Beep-beep (parp)!

Showered, dried and dressed; Luna Lu and I were eventually ready and on our way downstairs with just enough time for some coffee. I take mine black but she has milk and sugar in hers, well she’s still a kitten - she’ll learn as she gets older. As I sat sipping my coffee from the big ‘Au Revoir’ mug (the one that they gave me on my last day at the sawmill), I remembered my promise: “I’ll be home by Christmas, don’t worry. It’s just something that I feel I’ve got to do. I’ll keep in touch, I promise; and I’ll be back before you know it.”

Ah, promises kept and promises broken – which will this be and will I be home for Christmas? Maybe I’ll be home before, or after - or perhaps I’ll never come home at all. Anyway, thanks for the really small card, I’ve taken it with me.

Okay, it was time to get the show on the road. I washed my mug, placed it in the carrier bag alongside the card and my brand new box of tricks, picked up Luna (who was clutching her small pink valise between her teeth) and stepped outside into the big wide world. Now where were my keys? Ah, in my pocket where I always keep them. Time to set some wheels in motion.

Opening the Puckster’s driver’s door, I carefully placed Luna in the wicker basket on the passenger seat floor and sat get-setting myself ready to turn the key. The PM’s engine choked itself to life and behind me plates and bottles shook and clinked like some noisy rock-and-roll number to drown out the quiet goodbye. Ah well, at least the rain had stopped.

Let the adventure begin - Wagons roll!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Off on an adventure...

Time for a change. I can't imagine why I didn't do this before, but now I've decided to do it...

I spent the day polishing up this little beauty and then stocking her up with canned goods and bourbon and jumpers and socks and hand cream and crayons and wet weather gear and a surfboard... yes, ALL SORTS OF SHIT! As us D-udes say.

Yes, I'm off on an adventure and I hope that you'll join me. Just who knows where I'll end up but in my magical bus of imagination it could be anywhere.

Stay tuned my friends... are you up for the ride? It starts tomorrow.