Friday, 31 October 2014

No such thing as ghosts…

Was that the last leaf falling, the first­­ yet to be carved pumpkin grinning its empty way to the grave­? Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween… Shhhhhh you might wake the dead.

“I saw a ghost once,” they said.

Well, I’ve seen one or two along the way. Poor things; shivering in corners, attempting to make amends, not able to remember who they were, not knowing what they are. Lost things just trying to make themselves heard.

Not that we listen. No such thing as ghosts, they don’t exist, they’re a figment of an overactive imagination, a piece of undigested beef. Shadows, that’s all.

So why is it that on Halloween, the night of All Hallows, I listen for them?

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

“Come in. I have a treat for you,” I say, and then, drawing close, I whisper in their overactively imagined ears, “You don’t exist by the way.”

And then they don’t. They leave with a smile, sometimes a wave, even a thumbs-up once. They vanish.

See, I told you. There’s no such thing as ghosts.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Moody Wales through the dirty windscreen..

The view as we came down the hill into Welsh Wales was a little daunting. I really must wash that windscreen.

Dali death...

Off and away for a few days to have a good think.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Charitable works...

I can’t remember the last time I saw a blind boy chained to a shop front. 

At one time it seemed that you couldn’t turn a corner without bumping into a girl or boy in callipers, three tiny kittens waiting to be drowned, a guide dog, a floppy eared spaniel, or a huge scary robin who had obviously been eating too many worms.

Yes, charity collection isn’t what it used to be. These days it’s all TV events, standing orders, free pens through the post, and enforced carrier bag filling at the supermarket - whether you want it or not.

The old ways seemed to work though. The blind boy and the children in callipers were pretty hard to pass without dropping a penny or two through the slots in their heads. The robin on the other hand was a little too scary for my liking, and as for those kittens and their damned milk bottles…

The high street used to be an assault course what with the big happy butcher and his cleaver, the paper boy in his thirties cap and the life size charity collection statues. Perhaps that’s why they seem to have disappeared, imagine the health and safety outcry if a small child got bitten by one of those fibre glass dogs or attacked by a ferocious robin.

It was the blind boy that I found the most upsetting though, eyes closed, angelic face, hands resting on a book he would never read. I used to think: ‘Well, at least he can’t see his bright yellow jumper. It makes him look a pansy.’ I was always a little worried that if I reached out and dropped a penny in his book that he might grab my hand and refuse to let me go.

I seem to remember a Humpty Dumpty collection box, but I really can’t remember what charity it was for. You still occasionally see a lifeboat collection box, usually at a lifeboat station, but most of the others are gone along with the names of some the charities. The Spastic Society is now Scope, the old name having too many negative connotations in this PC age and I’m sure the sight of a boy in callipers - even a plastic one - would be too much for today’s cotton wool kid wrapping parents.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Road rage...

This morning I watched helplessly as yet another front garden disappeared to make way for yet another car parking space. Just why people do this I have no idea. Our once beautiful, well appointed, road is being turned into an urban jungle by the very people who live there. The antique red sandstone walls that have stood for over 100 years are being pulled down, the front courtyards of tiny lawns, shrubbed borders, and flower beds ripped out so that a car can be parked where once birds sang and bees and butterflies fluttered.

This morning this was a garden with a front hedge, a side hedge, lavender beds, and somewhere to sit on a summer's evening. This evening it is an unfinished car park.

How stupid, how totally unnecessary, how completely brutal.

Of course, it’s all part of the modern disease of ownership and status, driven by the paranoia of ‘strangers’ potentially parking outside people’s houses and the perceived need for residents to be able to park their precious vehicles a few feet from their own front door.

How unnecessary, how totally stupid.

During the day parking in the road can be difficult. The policy of the council to make it hard for workers to park in Altrincham at low cost and to put parking meters on nearby residential streets, has led to this problem. Add to this the ludicrous demand for residents only parking and the issues are compounded, pushing ‘residents only’ people onto ‘non-residents only’ parking roads because they don’t want to have to pay for a second permit. Altogether it’s a recipe for the destruction of the road’s character; the very reason people moved into our road in the first place.

Until recently I could sit in my front garden and look out on trees and flowers and watch other residents doing the same. Increasingly I sit on my bench looking at cars and vans, hemmed in by lumps of metal squeezed into spaces far too tight for them.

Did I mention how stupid and unnecessary this is?

There is plenty of on-road parking outside working hours even with the less than thought-through actions of the council, or at least there would be if the people who have destroyed their gardens actually parked in the spaces they vandalised their frontages for.

But of course they don’t, instead they park on the road or across those bloody sanctimonious white lines in front of their paved open-fronted houses These same white lines further reduce on-road parking by being a car and a half lengths long, and are guarded with heated blood and threats. All a bit short sighted, selfish and bullying which is why I ignore them; after all they are only advisory, not legally binding and not prosecutable if infringed upon. Some residents even put cones out to protect these spaces while they are out for the day, which is illegal so I carefully move them to their empty drives.

It seems that the tiniest bit of inconvenience, sharing space they don’t actually own on the public highway, has driven some of my neighbours mad with ‘get off my land’ fever and they will do anything to protect their pitch. I’ve seen neighbours arguing with parked non-residents as if it really was their land and not the public highway. These are the same residents who’d rather destroy what little space and land they had then steal the road space in front of their house, marking it as their own.

I can’t understand why, given our houses are around 120 years old and each is part of a matching townhouse terrace, there isn’t a need for planning permission to change the frontage. This type of uncontrolled radical change is significant; unsightly at best, vandalism at worst and I would oppose it. But of course I don’t get the chance.

I generally like my neighbours. It’s a nice community. But when I see what has happened over the last 10 years, the negative changes these very same people have made to the look, feel, and harmony of the road, I am not at all sure that I like them as much as I used to or should.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Getting the wind up…

If there were cobwebs to be blown away, then yesterday was the day to do it.

It really was a blowing away day, a good drying day if only you could have stopped the sheets from being ripped from the line and cast into the atmosphere. A Dorothy day as I call them; I almost expected to see an old woman on a bicycle riding high above the houses in the air. Trees down, waterfalls running backwards, huge waves at the seaside, and suddenly the leaves – which have been clinging on valiantly – are dropped all over the ground.

It’s an occasional thing, this getting hit by the tail end of a hurricane; another example of the US bestowing us with their leftovers. I don’t mean that in an unkind way, but honestly I think people would be quite happy for them to keep it all to themselves. Of course, by the time it hits us it’s just a bad storm, the hurricane all hurricaned out, hardly any swish left in the tail, just a strong wind that’s all.

But I do so love a windy day.

Sometimes, when I’m on the beach on a windy day, I pick up carrier bags, hold them in the air to fill them with wind and when I let them go they fly away along the beach all of a tumbling scatter. Once I found a huge sheet of black polythene and spent a happy hour flying it like an untethered flag on two strings, one in each hand, a plastic magic carpet floating above the sand.

Walking home last evening I was treated to the sight of four carrier bags playing chase high in the air above the roofs of the three storey houses. Tesco, pound shop, Sainsbury; it almost seemed as if they were dancing as they ducked and dived, not quite falling to earth, to be scooped up by another gust to dance their merry dance once more. It’s amazing how beautiful carrier bags can seem when filled with wind and set free. They reminded me of strange birds in some weird mating ritual, or the urban kite flyers that I once watched from my hotel window in Hyderabad.

Willy wind - you can’t see him, you can’t touch him, but you can feel him, and when he's strong he can really put the wind up you.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Tales of the ivy….

You must be sick of seeing pictures of my backyard by now, tired of it. of course I never do, but then I have plans for my tiny pocket of sunshine. Look closely and you will see that this his picture is different. This one shows my yard after the bit of pottering about I decided on Sunday morning turned into a full blown clearing exercise.

I had already removed the miniature fir which had grown into a six foot tall four foot wide ball of dense needles and the extra light was impressive. So with that success under my gardening belt, I decided to tackle the ivy that creeps over from my neighbours and tumbles down my wall.

At first it was easyish going, my loppers, shears, and pruners soon cutting the ivy back so that I could see the coping stones on top of the wall for the first time in years. The corner was different though. The ivy in the corner had grown into a huge ball and on investigation the roots of the ivy had grown into the wall and lifted the coping stones. That ivy ball had to go, so taking my saw I attacked the six inch trunk that was firmly embedded into the brickwork. It wasn’t easy but eventually I got through, the ivy ball tumbling into the alley below.

It was at this point that I realised just how big it was – five feet wide and four feet high – a full seats-down, parcel shelf removed, car full - as we found to our cost. It took two trips to the tip to get rid of all the ivy that I’d removed and the green bin was jam-packed full.

As an afterthought I dug up the hideous rhododendron bush that had sat looking ugly in the corner for years. It won’t be missed, a single flower a year is hardly a show.

So now my yard has much more light, it's almost a blank canvas to start over again. I even had a visit from a robin as I toiled away, the first time a robin has visited my garden in over 25 years. A good omen I hope.

PS - Gotta love the gnomes.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Remembering Preston…

There’s no pattern to what I write about. You’ve probably guessed this by now. Ultimately everything is about me, things large and small that have, at some point, made an impact on me - so much so that I want to pass comment on them.

Linda Bellingham died today. I don’t know why I feel compelled to write this down but I do. I wasn’t a huge fan, didn’t follow her career, but she was always there somewhere in my mind and she definitely made me smile.

The first time she came to my notice was at the Odeon in Oxford one rainy Tuesday afternoon back in 1976. I was there to watch Confessions of a Driving Instructor, a soft porn carry-on-type romp of no great consequence. Linda was playing Mary Truscott apparently although I don’t remember much about her role, in fact I hardly remember anything about the film, but at some point she must have made an impression. I learnt afterwards that she used to live just up the road from me, Aylesbury way, so she was a local girl; I may even have passed her on the street – who knows?

Six very eventful years later I saw her again, but this time she was crumbling Oxo on the television - well not literally obviously. In 1983 I was 26 and Linda was 35, not much of an age difference at all, but she seemed to be made up to look older and her bald headed husband was positively ancient. I remember watching her unwrapping and crumbling that dark brown cube into her hotpot and thinking in a Robin Asquith type of way: ‘Cor, she’s a bit of alright.’ and then immediately regretting it. Back then the term MILF hadn’t been invented, but that’s what I saw as she juggled her Oxos.

Watching those ads through my soft focus eyes, Linda seemed to be everybody’s mum, all of my mates mums that I’d known at school only that little bit sexier and naughtier. She made me feel uncomfortable, this older woman with a young family, smiling knowingly as she savoured the aroma of the beef extract. She was the sort of woman you really fancied, but didn’t, and shouldn’t, but did, and should, and you didn’t even know why you did, or didn’t, or should, or shouldn’t, but you would.

I knew that feeling well. It was all very confusing and complicated.

If I’d been the nineteen year old youth I was back at the Odeon I could have understood it. But I wasn’t. I was a married man with children of my own and my wife at the time was around the same age as Linda. But there was something about Linda Bellingham, the way she looked, that made me feel like a fantasising teenager at a time when I was feeling very old - much, much older than my years.

Well I did warn you that it’s all about me - all very complicated and confusing, the parallels, but Linda played a part in all that in some strange way.  

Thanks Linda.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Bloody beards...

There seems to be a beard revolution going on. You can’t turn on the televisioning box these days without seeing men with hugely hirsute jaw lines when only a few months ago their faces would have been as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom. Worse still, it seems that a lot of these ‘men’ are mere babies themselves and there is something not quite the full shilling about an apparently twelve year old boy with a huge hunk of hairiness around his mouth.

The TV ads, boy bands, movies, reality shows are full of these whiskered boymen. Maybe I should grow a big fuck off beard so that I can advertise perfume and cars and breast milk and everything else that only seems to be bought by men with hairy chops or their women who are obviously saving money on the weekly shop by not buying razors and shaving foam.

Of course there are men that look great with the full treatment: Orson Welles, W.G. Grace, Ernest Hemmingway, Captain Birdseye, Haddock, and all pirate captains, explorer types, and Victorian firemen with solid brass hoses. But it’s really for the older person, not the ‘only started shaving a few years ago’ boy brigade. They should stick to goatees and chin bars.

Boys with beards! Oh well, it could be worse – they could have full beards and tats.

What do you mean they do?

* Thanks to Mr Kevin Parrott for the fantastically rendered image of me with a magnificent full beaver. I think it makes me look a little like Orson Welles... Oloroso.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Total recall…

I’m beginning to worry that I’m running out of memories and if that happens what will I write about? I can’t have used up them all can I? Surely there must be others waiting to be poked with a sharp stick, like wild animals, and awoken.

They say that every moment we have experienced is available to us stored away in those dusty filing cabinets at the back of our minds. I wonder how they are filed? Are they stored by date or activity or a mixture of the two, numerically or alphabetically, by event or by some far more random association driven system waiting to flicker up onscreen with just the right trigger?

There are some days from my past I think I remember from start to finish in detail. But when I try to recall that detail it seems I only remember a fraction of what must have happened. Did I put extra salt on the chicken served on my wedding day? What vegetables were served? Was the chicken in a sauce? What was the pudding? What colour was my underwear?

It seems I only remember the things that have stuck in my mind. Memorable days and events glued into my recollection. Sometimes I pick up a book and realise (after 100 pages or more) that I’ve read it before. Now I’ve read a lot of books, but surely I should remember reading them all shouldn’t I? The same goes for films and television. After twenty minutes of watching I remember the ending, so what is the point of continuing to watch?

I wonder what it would be like if we really did remember everything? Every moment of our lives, each second, every cup of coffee, all the words of every conversation we’ve ever had, each waking, each falling asleep, the name and face of every person we’ve ever met, every news report, each and every word we’ve ever read. Would it be so overwhelming that it would change us as a people, or would we simply shut down unable to absorb any more data like a computer whose memory is full?

It’s all there though, all that detail, way back in that backroom of my brain, hidden away within my subconscious. All I need to be able to do is access it. But do I really want to? Do I really want to remember every slight, every unkind word, every slap and punch, every argument, every embarrassment, every bad thought I’ve ever had, each person I’ve let down, every lie I’ve told, every dagger slipped into my heart? And do I really want to remember every terrible event – the rapes, plagues, wars, murders, disasters - that I’ve seen, heard and read about in the media over the last fifty-six years?

Yes, I think that total recall must be a frightening thing and I don’t think I want to find out where it could take me and what I might become if I went with it.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Things to do with a matchbox...

Where would a boy be without his matchbox? Now then, don’t titter, I’m serious. A boy without a matchbox is like a woman without a purse; well, it was when I was a boy anyway. Of course, back then everybody smoked, so pretty much everybody carried a box of matches. Only toffs used lighters and cheap disposable lighters were yet to come. Boxes of matches sold by their millions with hundreds of match companies manufacturing them.

Collecting matchboxes was quite the thing, and for a while I collected. I must have had over a hundred carefully stuck into an old maroon exercise book. They came from all over the world – Finland, China, Sweden, Russia, India, Japan and some of the designs were very intricate, the illustrations miniature masterpieces. The names were marvellous too – England’s Glory, Criterion, 99, Lucifer, Galloping Major, King Kong, ATM, White Wolf, names from the past of Empire.

Most of the boxes themselves were made of incredibly thin wood and stuck together with even more incredibly thin paper. The labels were proudly adhered to the top and you had to be really careful to peel them off without tearing them. Bryant and May had a tiny ark on theirs and the warning to ‘use matches sparingly’. Average contents were usually 40, so (what with fags, lighting fires and gas ovens) to use a box a day wasn’t unusual. It would be fair to say that matchboxes where everywhere and you couldn’t open a drawer without finding at least one hidden at the back or tucked into a corner.

As a boy I usually had one or two empty matchboxes in my pockets. They were really useful for collecting and transporting ‘finds’ home. Spiders, ladybirds, grasshoppers, bits of broken blackbird eggshells, the occasional tiny linnet egg, a dead dried lizard, small live frogs, mouse skulls, leaves, shiny stones, fossils, shells, pieces of clay pipe - all found their way into one of my matchbox carriers at one time or another. I even kept a collection of matchboxes holding all my treasures on my bedroom windowsill - miniature worlds of boyhood.

Matchboxes were one of the most useful things in the word to a seven year old boy. You could pop them open, inserting one into another to build a tower, add card and pin wheels and race a car, stick a paper flag in one and sail a boat along the gutter on a stormy day. When I collected live things (even worms and centipedes) I made holes in the top with a nail. I once even used a matchbox to bring some frogspawn home and it worked.

For years I kept my money in a matchbox in my pocket - pennies, thruppences, tanners, shillings, two bob pieces, even the occasional half crown (which only just fitted). There was something reassuring about a heavy matchbox filled with coins, something solid that a purse (which of course a real boy would never contemplate carrying in his pocket) could never have.

It’s been years since I’ve seen a wooden matchbox. At some point they were replaced with card boxes but I don’t remember it happening. I miss them in the way that I miss a lot of things these days and I can almost still hear the crack of the thin white wood splintering as I stamped on one with my shoe.

For something that cost tuppence (including contents) in old money (less than a penny these days) matchboxes have become pretty valuable. You’ll pay at least a fiver for a slightly battered example, much more for a rare or mint one. I must have had hundreds, even thousands, pass through my hands over the years - if only I still had all of them now.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Chocolate mice...

Chocolate mice, what’s that all about? Edibles don’t get much worse do they? A slightly deformed rodent made from greyish chocolate that actually tastes more of mouse than chocolate.

So, Chocolate Week is almost over, did you notice it or did it pass you by? It’s meant to be the nation’s favourite themed week and has been running for ten years. Well, who would have guessed it? Of course it’s mainly London focussed and really just an opportunity for chocolate companies to get together at Chocolate Show London to show off their latest chocolaty stuff. Chocolate Show London, what a grand name – mind you chocolate makers call themselves chocolatiers, so that’s hardly surprising.

Personally I don’t get the whole chocolate thing. I’m not a huge fan and my relationship with the dark brown substance is patchy. Of course, as a child I used to cram my face with a selection box or two at Christmas, but I never really enjoyed the chocolate experience. I think that it was the lack of chocolate for the rest of the year that made me do it, that and the fact that I was piggy greedy. The Christmas tree was always covered in cheap, hollow, chocolate baubles. Foil wrapped soldiers, shiny pine cones, even chocolate stockings which were tied to the branches with thin golden string. We weren’t allowed to eat them until after the Christmas tree needles had fallen all over the lino and by then they just tasted of Christmas tree and dust.

At Easter it was all about chocolate eggs, although again I never really got into the Easter chocolate thing. Easter was so boring – all crucifixion and hot cross bun - a non-event and a hollow Easter egg or two was never going to change that. This was before the big companies started filling their eggs with mini-sweets, so all you got inside your egg was air. Besides, I preferred Black Jacks, Fruit Salads, liquorice, and sherbet to Mars, Milky Ways, Bounties, and Chocolate Buttons.

Chocolate is a take it or leave it thing with me. I can go months without a piece, then crave a Turkish Delight or a square of Fruit and Nut. When I eat it I’m always disappointed with the taste; it never quite lives up to the smell and I don’t like the texture of chocolate unless it’s been in the fridge. I can’t stand hot drinking chocolate, chocolate spread, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, or even chocolate flavoured beer; and as for white chocolate (which isn’t chocolate at all) it’s like eating milky powdered dirt despite the Milky Bars being on me.

No, I’m not a chocolate lover as you probably realise by now. I know that I’m in a minority, particularly among the ladies who scream about chocolate being gorgeous, or heaven, or even to die for, but in all honesty I don’t want to die for a Cadbury’s Cream Egg. In fact I can’t think of anything worse; it’s a gooey, sugary, chocolate coated mess that tastes nothing like an egg at all.

Scientists have proven that women prefer chocolate to being in love (which I can understand, most things are preferable to that) and that the chemical in chocolate produce a similar effect to smoking cannabis which I never really liked anyway. Perhaps that’s why I can take it or leave it.

It doesn’t explain why I’m so fat though.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

How many Aldi staff does it take to sort a bulb out...

I’m one of those people that hate waste. It isn’t easy for me to explain why, but it makes me feel guilty if a lettuce isn’t used up completely, the leftover pizza eaten, that bottle of wine consumed to the last drop (that one’s easy). I wear my clothes until they fall to pieces and the ‘too small and forgotten’ clothes hanging in my wardrobe haunt me like revenants each time I open the door. Shoes are worn until holes are formed, broken things fixed and mended, and seasonal plants replanted whenever I get the opportunity – quite often on the wayside.

I’m not fanatical about it – but I border on compulsive and it makes me angry with myself if I don’t try.

Which brings me to Aldi.

Now, as I have mentioned before I am a great fan of Aldi. The way they have shaken up the complacency of our traditional British supermarkets is astounding. I have come to expect the very best from them – best prices, best quality, best service – strictly within their cost model you understand. They seldom disappoint me; seldom, but not always.

For years I have wondered why supermarkets don’t take better care of the seasonal outdoor plants they sell. I hate to see them wilting in racks, dead or dying through lack of water or being positioned in full sun or wind. All the supermarkets do it and the result is almost dead plants at knock down prices that only a fool would buy. Unfortunately I am that fool and I quite often buy them believing that I am Jesus and can make them rise again. Sometimes I manage it, but most of the time I don’t. Mind you, I have the same problem with walking on water and the water to wine thing only works in reverse for me.

So where does Aldi fit in?

Well, when it comes to lack of plant care I’m sorry to say that Aldi is as incompetent as all the rest.

I went to my local store yesterday to buy some of the excellent quality, excellent value, spring bulbs that I had seen last week. When I arrived I fount a soggy mess of cardboard boxes and an even soggier mess of bulb nets, some split, bulbs tumbling all over the floor. The bulb boxes were outside, it had rained all day, and they were soaked. But this didn’t explain the advanced squelchiness of the bulbs themselves – they must have been rained on for day after day.

I picked up a dampish bag of fifty daffs along with a sodden net of muscari and took them into the store. The bulbs weren’t great but nowhere near as bad as the rest. I explained that there were thousands of bulbs deteriorating rapidly outside. The poor guy on the till looked at me blankly as he picked up the muscari packet which immediately fell apart in his hands.

To cut a long story short, after a discussion or two, a ten minute wait, huddles between supervisors and supervisor’s supervisors, I was offered a fifty pence discount. I explained that I wasn’t bothered by the discount but thought they needed to sort their bulbs out. I was greeted with blank looks, so I paid for my bulbs (I told you I was a fool) and left not wishing to be labelled an even bigger busybody than I am.

As I was leaving I noticed the racks of drying and dying violas and pansies and was temped to go back in – but I didn’t.

Aldi you can do better than this if you try. All you need to do is make somebody responsible for looking after the plants and give them a little training. I’d happily do it, but I doubt that I fit your staff profile.

Latest Hot News – Just call me Wolfie, my conversation must have had an effect. Today the daffodils have been reduced by over two quid to 35p a pack (a £2.10 discount) and, yes, I have bought four packs (although I still can’t walk on water). Not the result I really wanted, but better than nothing I guess. What a waste though, particularly when it could have been easily avoided.

Up the revolution!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Dicing with death…

Death it’s a heavy subject and not one to be picked up lightly. Understandably, as you get older you seem to think a little about it more as you begin to feel your mortality. Well, it creeps up on you and as Woody Allen quipped; “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” There’s not much chance of that though.

They say that when your numbers up, it’s up, if that bullet has your name on it then you’re a goner, that death catches up with us all eventually, and that whole your life flashes before you eyes just before you die. Well, I’d rather watch a good movie, but yes, there’s no avoiding it I’m afraid. The Grim Reaper is just around the corner and we never know when we are going to turn it and bump into him.

Yes, when your numbers up, it’s up, but there’s no knowing when that will be. I read that in the 9/11 attacks, whilst so many died, a few cheated death or at least postponed it for another day. One person was late because it was his turn to buy donuts, another missed the bus because it left just a minute early, still another had to stop off to buy plasters for her blisters; she had put on new shoes that day. They would all have died if they’d followed their usual routine, but for one reason or another they didn’t. This time that bullet didn’t have their name on it.

I wonder how many times I have narrowly avoided death? I’ve often missed motorway accidents by passing the scene just before or after they’ve happened. Sometimes things hadn’t gone to plan and I’ve been running late, other times I’ve set out a little early. But what if I’d set out when I’d planned to? Would I have been involved, a goner even? Who knows?

There have been a couple of times in my life that I’ve narrowly missed the Dark Angel. Once in Whitby I was standing under a cliff and an RAF jet flew overhead causing a cliff fall. The ground shook as tons of rock slid away and fell only a few feet from where I was standing, a couple of small rocks even landed at my feet. Six feet closer to the cliff and I would have been buried under the rubble. Another time a car hit my wife and me head on, writing of our trusty XR3i in the process. All the windows smashed inwards, we span around and around, but we came out of it with only whiplash and bruises.

I think that both qualify as brushes with death. Just a little too close for comfort.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve been lucky and just missed bumping into the chap with that deadly virus at the airport, turned the corner only moments before the drunk with a knife in his pocket has been thrown out of the pub, gone in through the door an instant before that coping stone crashed to the pavement unnoticed.

It’s all chance. He’ll get me eventually though.

Cheery old soul, aren’t I?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Gardening OCD…

It’s a slow news day in my little world. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, in some ways it’s good as there’s nothing burning inside me that has to be ranted, but in other ways it’s bad – I quite like the smell of smoke.

Increasingly though, and for no other reason than it is change around time in the garden, I find myself thinking ahead to the spring. I know, I know, we haven’t even got to winter yet, but as I mentioned I am determined to keep on top of my little gardens this year. You would think that with the sizes of my front and backyards that it would be easy to keep them in order. Well it should be, but the scale is small and therefore it needs to be even more perfect – at least in my mind and that is the problem.

I think I may be developing gardening OCD; turning into a full-blown all-year-round gardener and not the fair-weather one I have always been. I spent the weekend removing the conifer that had got too big for its boots in the backyard. I planted it twenty-five years ago as a twiglet and felt a little sad as I sawed off its thickly needled branches and dug up the sturdy stump. It had grown too big though, it was taking up space and light when both are at a premium ‘out back’ as I call it. After that was done I planted dozens of narcissus and crocus and a few alliums in the borders. They should be a picture in the New Year.

Then I swept up the needles and picked up the dead wisteria leaves that had fallen into the border by hand, despite knowing full well that it would be almost as bad tomorrow. Still, it has to be done at least every couple of days, front and back without fail if it’s dry - another definite sign of gardening OCD.

Of course I planted the pots at the front last weekend but I still managed to squeeze in some pink bellis daisies and underplant just a few more bulbs. The bellis, pansies, cyclamen, and bulbs should carry some colour through to early spring with luck - just in time for the aquilegias to flower. Of course whilst I was planting I had to remove a few almost dead leaves and ensure that the variegated sage in the basket was positioned just so.

Then it was back to the sweeping. Snails and leaves, leaves and snails - I now keep a broom and a bamboo gravel rake by the front door just in case an attack of gardening OCD emerges, a blown leaf here, a dropped fuchsia flower there. Roll on the winter, at least the leaves will stop falling.

Oh well, time to sweep the path again…

Saturday, 11 October 2014

October back yard...

October’s turned up in my back yard and the pumpkin I grew in my borrowed garden (the one at my mother-in-laws) needs bringing in ready for Halloween. It’s a strange shape but I’m sure I’ll be able to do something with it – maybe a witch or a ghoul or something.

The plants have picked up a little now that it’s cooled down and the recent rain has helped. I’m determined to keep my pocket oasis tidy over the winter to avoid yet another big spring clean up next year. I may even plant some bulbs. Actually I will definitely plant some bulbs. It’ll be something to watch out for once we are through the winter. The first signs of life.

I drank a coffee out there this morning, not warm enough to sit but I can drink standing up. There was some sunshine and the air was cold, strangely damp, but crisp at the same time. I’m thinking that I’d better make the most of it as the weather is bound to take a big turn towards winter soon and that’ll be that.

Yes, I’m expecting rapid changes in my yard over the next few weeks. I wonder if I really will be bothered to keep on top of the dead plants and falling leaves. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Hector’s house…

Looking back it seems that I spent my childhood worrying about things in a time when there was far less to worry about than for hundreds of years previously or since. No wars, no plagues, no workhouse; just times tables, not being good at football, other boys, the vague threat of nuclear holocaust, and home.

I wasn’t alone. There was a lot of worrying in my house. It seems in retrospect that there was a grey miasma hanging over us, maybe that’s what caused the constant arguments. It couldn’t have been the booze because neither of my parents drank. The pressures must have been bad though. I grew up believing that all parents took prescribed Librium and Valium, and it wasn’t until I discovered Lou Reed and learnt what these drugs were for that I realised that there must be some parents that didn’t.

To help me through whatever it was I was trying to get through I didn’t take calming tablets. Instead I took comfort from television. It was always on and back then there was Children’s Hour at five o’clock sharpish which I never, ever missed.

It’s Friday. It’s Five o’clock. So it must be Crackerjack!

My Children’s Hour habit stuck with me for years - way into my twenties. It was almost as though I was reluctant to let go of this peaceful part of my childhood and who knows, perhaps I was. I think that in some ways the boy in me didn’t want to go give up in a Peter Pan kind of way, although God knows what it was I trying to hang on to.

Along with my not-so-inner-child, that undefined worry stuck with me for years as well. Ill-formed, nagging, constantly at the back of my mind, through university into work and on into an unexpected married life. Television remained with me too, and I continued to watch children’s TV, pretending to watch it for the three young girl children that surrounded me, but really watching it for myself and comfort.

My anxiety was at its height in the autumn; for some reason the dark damp evenings making me worry even more. Was I trapped? Did anyone really care? Where was I going? Was I wasting my life? What should I do?

It was only when the evening came with pre-news Magic Roundabout, or Crystal Tipps & Allister, Ivor the Engine, Nogin the Nog, and my favourite The Herbs, that I could lose myself in childish absorption, my worries dumbed-down by the silliness of the adventures of Sir Basil, Lady Rosemary, Constable Knapweed, Bayleaf the Gardener, Mr and Mrs Onion, The Chives (the Onions' children) and that clumsy Tarragon the Dragon. 

We’d sit there, the four of us, in the dim light of the flickering television as Hector the Dog, Madame Zsazsa the Cat, and Kiki the Frog acted out tales that had no real story, not having to think about anything but the glove puppets in their beautiful house and garden. It was all very comforting for ten minutes or so and then the six o’clock news would come on and my worry would start up once more.

It’s years ago, but still I have no real idea what I was worrying about, why I worried, where I was trying to run to, or why I wanted to run away but never did.

I’m older now, and most of the worries that seemed so sharp when I was a child and a young man have long since disappeared. Things aren’t so pressing, winning not so important – maybe I have nothing left to prove. But sometimes when the autumn evenings come I feel a twinge of that old underlying worry and wish Dougal, or Noggin, even Roobard and Custard were still around to distract me into safety.

Yes, sometimes I’m still a silly old Hector.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Penis pet names…

Percy, Dick, Willy - well, we all know what I’m talking about. But why not Bertie, Billy, Charlie, or Clive; and whatever happened to Peter Pizzel? Peter Pizzel, or PeePee (PP) as some call him, was one of Shakespeare’s favourite terms for a Todger - and thinking about it just how did Todger come about? Could it be cockney rhyming slang?

And just who was John Thomas?

Apparently there are 174 ways to call a Pecker something other than a penis includong (whoops, excuse the spelling error) Knob, Old Fellow, Tallywhacker, and Winkie – which is probably derived from the nursery rhyme Wee Willy Winkie who wandered upstairs and downstairs in his dressing gown and ended up in his ladies chamber (whatever that is).

Ned Ward, the original hack, first termed the name Roger for the One-Eyed Trouser Snake in a ribald piece of poetry in the early 1700’s. This was the first of a number of men’s names to be bestowed on that particular part of the male anatomy in recent times - Thomas followed in 1811, Dick in 1891, Peter (or rather the return of) in 1902, Willie in 1905, and Free Willie (to much hilarity) after the release of the film in 1993.

To an extent the use of these names came about simply because they were names that were considered typically male, the kind of name that Joe Blow, John Doe, or even any Tom, Dick or Harry might have. Peter, however, had been around for a long time; even longer that Willy Shakespeare’s Pizzel (get it?). Peter derives from the Greek petros, meaning stone, a material whose hardness probably gives you a clue as to why it was chosen. By the way the term Pecker gave rise to the term Woody. I had a great paragraph finish here, but try as I might I can’t work out how to spell the onomatopoeic noise that Woody Woodpecker makes.

John Thomas, as a penile pseudonym, became popular when D.H. Lawrence’s fictional gamekeeper, Mellors, referred to his Slippery Salmon as such in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The original version of the novel, an alternate, was actually called ‘John Thomas and Lady Jane’. Lady Chatterley’s lover caused a scandal at the time, making a fortune for Penguin Books when they published in the early sixties and giving rise to the term to Punish the Penguin.

In Spanish-speaking countries the Sultan’s Sausage is often called a Pedro, in Italy a Luigi, in Germany an Adolph, in Scotland a Jock (maybe after the strap) and in parts of Romania a Vlad (after Vlad the Impaler, the real life model for Dracula - so sink your teeth into that). In recent times the surname Johnson has become a very popular term in America and one can only assume that its popularity is due to President Linden B. who was a real Prick.

Of course many men (or their girlfriends) name their own appendages. I once knew a chap from Swansea who called his Dai because, as he was constantly telling the girls in the student’s union bar, his Man Spanner was to ‘die’ for. I’m pretty sure, following the Johnson theme, that the Prime Minister’s wife calls his Doormouse a Dave, his deputy’s wife calls her husband’s Polecat a Clegger, and numerous ladies call the other political Johnson’s Crumhorn a Boris.

And it’s not only the Filly Fudge Stick that comes in for the men’s name thing. In an associated context, we all need occasionally to go for a Jimmy Riddle in the John, and best (if you are single at least) not to go out without a Johnny. The term Donger is named after the clap inside a bell and unfortunately led to Clap becoming a slang term for venereal disease.

I have no idea where Kitty, Fanny, Tuppence, or Lady Jane comes into it though.

There, I’m done. At least I didn’t Cock it up.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Counting leaves...

An explanation as to why there is no blog post today…

I have lots of ideas for blog posts, but today I’ve decided not to write anything. I decided this as I walked along Oxford Road this morning counting the leaves as they fell to the ground. I’d counted about forty-seven when the idea popped into my head not to write today. Well, why should I? It’s not like I’m getting paid for it or anything.

Crossing the road as the fifty-sixth leaf hit the ground I wondered why I bother to write at all. It’s not as if anyone’s life depends on it. Fifty-nine hit the ground as I ticked off the subjects I could, but wouldn’t, be writing about today. Why would anyone want to know why I haven’t yet got a tattoo on my right arm, even if it does look a little empty and could benefit from decoration, anyway?

A dog, a little further along the street, chased a piece of paper as the sixty-first leaf hit the tarmac just as I decided that I wouldn’t be writing about why various male Christian names are used as words to describe quite another male thing. Nor would I be writing about how our first names aren’t always that Christian at all, nor should be.

Seventy-eight and Chocolate Week was put on hold until another more inspirational day.

Eighty-one hit as two crows in the big tree at the end of the road seemed to look down at me as if I were a tasty snack. Slowly they decided to take off, flapping their big black wings as they gently disappeared into the distance whilst I gazed at eighty-eight, two fat ladies, swirling down in an eddy of wind, slowly drifting to land on a black bin with its handles turned towards the wall. Leaf ninety-six was crushed under the wheels of the recycling lorry as it turned the corner to pick up the bin which, no doubt, was full of empty wine bottles. Ninety-seven, ninety-eight, and ninety-nine followed swiftly.

There was a slight gap in the leaf dropping as the breeze seemed to die for a moment. I stood still listening to the noise of wine bottles hitting metal as the bin was emptied by a tall, running man in green overalls and a beard that seemed to be trying to dodge the drops of rain that had just started to fall.

I gazed up into the rain-filled air and in the tree above saw the one-hundredth leaf detach itself from its holding twig and float towards the ground. I hardly had to move my outstretched hand as it dropped towards me. A little step to the right, a readjustment of my half-clutched fingers, and it was in my palm. Palm, it made me think that perhaps I might write a post about Twin Peaks - but not today.

I lifted the leaf to my nose, taking in the sweet, coppery, late season vegetation smell and then carefully folded it away, tucking it into my pocket. For a moment as I held it I considered writing about what I was going to do with the leaf. But as I’ve already mentioned I’m not going to write a blog post today.

And that is why there isn’t one.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Not doing my tax return…

I think I got in just before the real autumn arrived. You know the one. The one that brings scudding clouds, wet rain, chilly starts, damp mushy leaves, and condensation on the glass when you pull back the curtains in the morning. The real autumn, the one the poets don’t write about; the walking to school with a heavy heart autumn.

But enough of that, it’s been years since I walked to school.

I want to tell you about what I did on Sunday before the real autumn arrived. And what a sun day it was too. It’s hard to believe that since then it has hardly stopped raining. Still, it’s good for the garden and that is what I want to go on about today.

On Sunday I awoke knowing that I wanted to do something but not at all sure what it was. There were plenty of things I didn’t want to do – tax returns, tidying up my corner of the kitchen, putting the ironing away. But on such a lovely day it seemed wrong somehow to fritter it on things not at all frivolous, so I decided to spend Sunday avoiding doing the things I’d avoided doing the Sunday before and indulge myself a little.

Of course fun is in the eye of the beholder, and one man’s fun is another’s torment, but fun can quite often mean a spot of gardening; at least it can for me. So it was off to the nursery just off the M60 with a crumpled twenty-pound note in my hand.

In the spring I like to grow my plants from seed, but at this time of year with only a few pots to plant, I just buy some. Call me a purist but I try to avoid the Garden Centre experience with its restaurant, ornaments, furniture, and Christmas decorations, preferring a place that simply sells plants.

Three trays of yellow, purple, and cream pansies, a couple of trays of orange and mauve violas, four shades of pink cyclamen, a dwarf conifer, an ivy, and a couple of trailing variegated sages later my twenty quid had been well spent.

Back home I emptied the going-over summer bedding from my tired pots and basket and replaced the root compacted compost. I find it hard to throw plants away, so anything that might overwinter was planted in my back yard – just in case. My twenty quids worth of plants filled the basket, four good sized pots, and (because I had plants left over) four or so smaller planters. I even tucked some dwarf narcissus and crocus into the compost of each.

So that’s it. The autumn and winter planting done with even a touch of spring ready to come through in the New Year. I’m looking forward to watching them grow - all very satisfying.

I still need to do my tax return though.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Thor Heyerdahl and teachers...

Today is quite a day. For a start it’s Thor Heyerdahl’s 100th birthday. He died in 2002 and was a hero of mine when I was a boy. 

Heyerdahl believed that Polynesia had been colonised from South America and not Asia as academic orthodoxy at the time believed. To prove his theory he decided, as you do, to construct a 60 ft-long balsa raft with sails, its design based on ancient pictures of the South American Indian’s ocean-going vessels. He named his raft Kon-Tiki and in 1947 Thor set off from the Peruvian port of Callao. For 101 days he and five friends drifted across the Pacific, pushed by warm currents and the south-east trade wind. They lived on shark and caught rainwater in woven buckets and eventually, almost 4,500 nautical miles later, the raft ran aground on the Raroia reef, just off Tuamotu Island, the southernmost tip of Polynesia.

I only know this because of a Monday morning assembly I remember in infant’s school. The headmaster was a Heyerdahl fan and he managed to put across his enthusiasm to the children, well to the boys at least, and we spent many happy playtimes sailing across various oceans on our imaginary raft and eating imaginary shark. It all seemed so exciting and it was due to that single assembly that I decided to become an explorer when I grew up.

Of course I never did. But I’ve always been interested in archaeology since then and I have my old headmaster to thank for that. I mention this because today is also World Teacher’s Day and my old headmaster, whose name escapes me, but who had black hair and glasses and a daughter called Dolcie, must have been a pretty good teacher to inspire me in this way.

There have been a few teachers over the years that have moved me along a new path. Miss Johnson kindled my interest in painting and drawing, encouraging me to develop my skills, Hubby Clibbon told me that I could become anything I wanted and that I was a natural leader, Mr Ramsey (who I called just Ramsey much to his frustration) was interested in my ideas and talked to me like a person for the first time and not just a schoolboy. There are others – Mrs Barrett, Mademoiselle Reidyl, Helen Tacque, my old chemistry teacher (another name I can’t remember), Chunky Gould, Don Bessant.

A good teacher can make the difference between you grasping something or not. At school I couldn’t do maths and my teachers made me feel that there was no hope that I ever would. I never did pass my maths O level, but after school I realised that I am actually pretty good at maths. Now I’m not saying that it was all down to the teachers, but being made to stand on a chair because I couldn’t recite my eight times table, aged six, probably didn’t help. I also remember at senior school not being able to use a slide rule properly and having my maths teacher rap it over my knuckles until it broke into splinters.

No wonder I have always shied away from numbers.

I hear so many people say: I really liked English or Chemistry or German, but I didn’t like the teacher. How many of us have not taken a subject that interested us because the teacher was unapproachable, or happy to throw the board rubber at you if you weren’t giving him your full attention? I would have loved to learn the trampoline but our ex-army PE teacher took the piss out of me so much for being fat, that I never dared.

Fortunately, to balance that, there are also teachers who can make you believe that you can cross oceans on imaginary rafts - even if you can’t remember his name.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Blackberries and scrumped apples....

So, about those blackberries.

They seem to be nice and juicy this year, the result of the perfect summer I expect. Yes, I know that there are those of you that think this summer hasn’t been that great, but I shall remember it as one of my sunnier ones. Anyway, we gathered our blackberries on the lane down to the far right beach at Abersoch. There were plenty and the deep purple juice stained my fingers red.

As a child blackberry season was a treat and we’d collect loads, although I have no recollection of what my mother made with them. We just gathered just enough to make a couple of crumbles. In years gone by this time of year was so important. It was the jam making, preserving, pickling season and kitchens would be full of jellies, vinegar, and Kilner jars. Of course it still happens, but less so and those that do it are usually doing for pleasure rather than necessity.

We took our blackberries to the cottage and I scrumped some apples from a neighbours tree so that we could make blackberry and apple crumble. I remember the scrumping raids as a boy, climbing walls and rushing to the tree to snatch a pullover-full of apples. My hand-knitted jumpers we always baggy at the front, what with the carrying of apples, pears, or conkers in my makeshift woollen basket. I was always in trouble about it – along with everything else.

Anyway, we stewed our hedge blackberries and scrumped apples with sugar, put them into a couple of dishes, and froze them. Keeping our crumble fruit for the long winter nights when a taste of late summer will be like a ray of stolen sunshine.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

A bloody mess...

I was going to write about blackberry picking today but somehow, with the events of the last 24 hours, it isn’t uppermost in my mind. Yes, another beheading; this time it was a man who was just trying to help, an aid worker if you will. Undoubtedly a very brave man, a man who believed in what he was doing, a man who risked it all and lost. Do I admire him? Well, I do and I don’t. I do because he stood up to the bullies and tried to help the needy. I don’t because the risks and consequences were always far too dangerous. Perhaps he believed too much. Perhaps he thought that it wouldn’t happen to him. I can understand that.

Now, with his brutal killing, the world is yet again outraged and uproared as it should be. People call for our government to ‘stop being soft’, others try to whip up hatred of Muslims regardless of who they are or what they believe, there are calls to send in the troops again to stop ‘them’ taking over. It’s almost as if we have played no part at all in this terrible mess.

Let’s not forget that we have been fiddling with this area throughout history or that we went in and destabilised the region very recently based on political lies of ‘weapons of mass destruction’. I’m not saying that the actions of ISIS are justified and I’m certainly not saying that they are right. But let’s not pretend that our own actions have not contributed to this mess. There is blame on our part too.

War is always terrible, terrorism unforgivable. But young men are easily persuaded and evil men are good persuaders. Rebels without causes are just that, young blood will always find a cause to fight for socialism, freedom, even their country and gladly go into hell with god on their side. What do we do? I don’t know. It isn’t as simple as ‘walk away’; the problem is with us in our own country – albeit not to the extent that some might want us to believe.

That is the thing with this new, much smaller, world we have made. There is no isolation, we really are interdependent, almost too close to each other, and that – more than anything else – is the problem I fear. Each of our actions touches another; even a comment on Facebook can incite big emotions; as I know to my cost.

With this in mind I say this: it is for each of us to keep our own calm in the face of these atrocities. It is for each of us to remember that we are all involved and that our actions and words have an effect. There are seven and a half billion people in the world, all but a very, very few have never decapitated another person or ever would. They are of all races and religions and a proportion is Muslim, just as a proportion is Christian, Buddhist, or has no belief at all.

Most people in this world are good, but evil exists in pockets everywhere - it isn’t the province of a single group or religion. Most are disgusted with what is taking place, but it is easy to forget that and set the dogs running.

Please hang on to that thought and keep the hounds at bay.

Friday, 3 October 2014

A trip to the cottage - hedgehog delight…

When I first saw the hedgehog this summer I was delighted. There he was snuffling his way along the garden path towards the seed the birds had thrown out of the bird feeders. I love hedgehogs, despite the fleas, although I have no idea why. I think that it may be because it’s hard not to see them as Beatrix Potter characters, cute little bundles of needles wearing britches or aprons, or it could be because they always look like they’re smiling. They seem such jolly little things.

We've been feeding our hedgehog ever since with mealworms, raisins, apples, and cat food; which is how I managed to get this picture. Sometimes there are two of them. Often they are joined by a feral cat or two, which the hedgehogs don't seem to mind, and once a fox joined in the fun which was a bit of a surprise to all. Of course the appearance of the fox scattered the cats and turned the hedgehogs into spiny balls quick as a flash - until I shooed the fox away.

Inside the house Luna was going crazy in the windows, even climbing the doors to get a look at her wilder cousins. It was ages until the hedgehogs unfurled. I expect that they didn't fancy becoming fox's dinner.

It'll be hibernation time for the hedgehogs soon. Perhaps I'll build them a snug little house with some pegs to hang up their aprons on and a fireplace to keep them warm.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A trip to the cottage - Luna time...

When we decide to wend our weary way to Wales for the weekend Luna the cat comes with us. Well, she deserves the break and enjoys a couple of days away from it all. Not that her routine differs too much when we are there. She sleeps, eats, sleeps some more, and generally lazes around - it’s what cat do I suppose.

She travels pretty well once she is safely in her travel box, though getting her in it can be quite another matter. It’s almost that she seems to know when we are going and as soon as she gets a whiff of ‘going away’ activity she’s off to hide. We’ve taken to packing the night before and spending the hour or two before we leave whistling and looking casual so as not to drop her the hint. Even so she still seems to know. The funny thing is that she settles to the journey immediately and once we are there seems perfectly happy, so why all horse (or should that be cat) play?

At home Luna roams free outside as long as there is someone at home to look after her. She generally pops back every hour or so, mainly to get a treat stick I think. But the cottage is surrounded by countryside, so when we are there and to avoid her getting lost in the woods or attacked by wild beasts, we keep her on a harness. Again she doesn’t seem to mind and every morning jumps up on her chair and purrs until we strap her harness on. We secure her to the chair on a long leash and then she strolls outside to watch the birds all day.

The leash is long enough for her to have a stretch, but not quite long enough for her to reach the birds on the feeders. She never gives up trying though. The birds for their part seem to know that Luna can’t reach them so happily feed with Luna sitting only three feet away on the roof of the car. It's almost as if the birds are taking the piss. Sometimes she falls asleep there, stretched out to catch the sun, other times she sits on her chair and snoozes the day away dreaming of catching a sparrow or two.

It’s such a hard life for a cat on her hols.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A trip to the cottage - three sunsets…

The view from my gate at the cottage isn’t much until the sun goes down, just some fields, a hedge, and the mountain in the distance if you look to the left. That changes when the sun begins to set though. It’s a different show every night and, like a bottle of wine that’s lost its label, you never quite know what you are going to get. It could be something or nothing, but it’s usually something and sometimes quite something. When that happens, just for a few minutes, it’s as if everything in the world is fine even though it obviously isn’t.

Sometimes as I stand there listening to the birds, watching the light flicker away, drinking Merlot, feeling the peace, and smiling in a half-witted way I wonder what it would be like if this was the whole world. A world where there were no terrible people doing terrible things or at least a world where we can stand watching the sun set and not know that they are happening.

That’s what it must have been like a couple of hundred years ago. No television, radio, internet, not even easily accessible newspapers. It must have been like living in a bubble, not knowing that just a few thousand miles away people were dying in their tens of thousands and religious dictators were beheading innocent people. Back then your whole world would have been the view from your gate. Was that a good or bad thing? I don’t know. I’ve never lived in a world small enough to experience that kind of peace.

Oh well, at least for a few minutes there’s the light, the wine, the view, and peace.

Friday around seven… a Sauternes
Awash with yellow, blue, and buddleia - a mellow, fruity little sunset.

Saturday around seven… a Merlot

Deep blue sky, hot orange glow, with a hint of grasses – a rich, full bodied sunset.

Sunday around seven… a Cabernet Sauvignon

Hints of pink, yellow, and a crescent moon – a mature sunset with just a hint of darkness.