Monday, 31 August 2015


So we have been for the final swim. For a moment a turtle swam with us, a bobbing green head and then gone. I don't usually do beer at breakfast, but I am trying to hold on to this feeling for as long as I can, until the last possible minute. Sunshine and beer so early. Why not?

Soon I will be home, back to other people's problems and hardly a moment to be me. Even here that has encroached on us, a cloud on an otherwise blue sea.

It rained in the night and this morning the rainbird returned as if to say goodbye. The cat let me stroke her for a second and then ran off, and some creature took a sllimy dump on my flip flop.

I guess the big adventure really is over.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Final full day...

It started raining as we swam in the ocean this morning. A few drops at first then a downpour, cold on our shoulders after the warmth of the sea. We helped each other out of the water and up the beach, careful to move quickly under the Manchineel tree that hangs over the garden; it weeps acid from the leaves when it rains and badly burns you.

The house cat (I call her Lucy) was waiting for us, sheltering in the veranda and wanting her milk and tuna (which is cheaper than cat food here). She has become quite a friend and we will miss her when we leave tomorrow morning. We three sat watching the rain come in from off the sea; it drenched everything, then was gone and the sun came out.

By the time we arrived at The Fish Pot (check out this link) restaurant in Moontown, where I had booked a table for four, it was hot again and the sea was its usual crystal clear blue. The restaurant sits right on the sea and is open to the elements, the staff are gracious, the surroundings unreal and stunning, the restaurant stylish and the food amazing.

We shared a couple of starters - calamari and whitebait - and for mains Gaynor and I shared the fish platter for two - calamari, crab claws, blackened baracuda, marlin, butterfly prawns, scallops and lobster with garnish and fried potatoes. Holly and Karl had immense panninis with fries. A couple of beers, a rum punch, some soft drinks, and the whole thing cost 337 BBD, just over £25 a head.

The rain came back as we arrived home and now it is cooler and breezier than at any time over the last two weeks. It's only about 80 degrees and the rain has taken much of the humidity out of the air. It's all very pleasant watching the rain and listening to the thunder rumble. I only wish we were staying.

Oh well, I have beer, rum, vodka and gin to drink tonight. Well, it'd be rude not to besides it might help me sleep and dream that our holiday isn't nearly over.

We will be back. I'm sure of that, even if I don't know how soon.

Finalish thought...

Well that is almost that, the big adventure almost over. I have been trying to convince myself that I am bored with it all, looking forward to going home, but I'm not. This is a wonderful place.

I had an interesting conversation with Earl, the security guard who looks after the villa, last night. He is 65 but looks 25 years younger. He used to seriously pump iron and he remains in good shape. His wife died of cancer a few years back but he has a new lady, 15 years his junior, and is looking to marry her. He has two children from his marriage and another 5 from other relationships.

He told me he used to drive the school bus for 25 years and shook his head. I got the impression that there might be a connection between that and his other children.

He retires in two years and plans never to work again once he gets his pension. He already gets free travel, as do all children on the island. He also gets free medical care including prescriptions and dental, again as all Bajan citizens do.

Paradise? Well almost.

Homosexuality is still illegal, the age of consent is largely ignored, men are men and many women are abused, there is still a master and slave relationship going on between ex-colonialist white and emancipated slave black Bajans and the island is carelessly littered like no other place I have ever seen. Beach villas worth tens of millions sit next to tin roof shacks whilst chickens run in the roads around air conditioned Range Rovers.

I love it even so. But it is changing so quickly as the condos and villa developments eat away the beachfront. In a few years, maybe our next visit, they may not be an inch of undeveloped beachfront left in the south and west. I hope not, but it seems inevitable.

Men still play cricket in whites on Saturdays across the island, women still crochet and wear Sunday hats and everyone goes to the herbal doctor when they are unwell.

It is Britain in the fifties and sixties in so many ways, but America in the nineties is drawing in fast. Crime is rising, drugs and prostitution too, but still everyone goes to their church.

Yes, I can't wait to get back home to my real life. Wherever that is.

Saturday, 29 August 2015


We caught the tail end of hurricane Erica this morning. By the time it reached us it was a tropical storm and not much of one at that. Not enough to stop us swimming in the sea with a long eel at our feet, but enough to make warm rain and cool us down for a while.

Of course in Dominica thirty-eight people were killed. Not too far away, but far enough. Barbados is pretty much hurricane free. The last one that hit was in 1955, before even I was born.

Still, it is the rainy season and we did get some rain; but Wales really has a rainy season - it's called summer...and spring...and autumn...and winter. What luxury the Barbados people live in to be able to distinguish.

The rest of the day was wasted gift shopping. I hate gift shopping at the best of times, but Barbados has so little choice it really is a chore. If I had my way I wouldn't bother but, well 'er indoors...

Last full day tomorrow and the car goes back. But before it does we are driving up to Moontown again for lunch. Anyway, for now I am not going to think about it. Instead I am going to drink some more rum and watch the penultimate sun go down.

Holiday thoughts...

I waited so long for this holiday to happen that now that it is almost over it's already started to fade into a memory. Even as I sit watching the sun colour the Caribbean with early morning blue I feel a sense of ending.

So what has this holiday taught me and is it meant to teach me anything at all? Surely a holiday is pure enjoyment? Not for me I'm afraid. I'm always looking for the lesson learnt, how I can away with something tangible to remember and seize upon for the future.

When I tally up the financial cost of these two weeks I will worry. On a limited income to spend this much money on fourteen days seems so wrong. I can tell myself that it was 'spare' money, but in truth there is no money to spare. Not really.

For me this has been very real luxury, but for some this is just the norm, beach villas and private launches, just a part of their lifestyle. I'd like to say that I don't envy them. But sadly I do, which just shows how shallow I really am.

I have achieved nothing on this holiday, if anything I have done less than I ever have. No paintings, no great words or thoughts, not even a slight flash of inspiration. I have spent most of it isolated in my own thoughts through choice and habit. I am not the man I once was. Oh, there have been a few flashes of the old me; delight in a shared glimpse of flying fish and sunsets, shared brief smiles and memories, but basically I have been as alone as I am in my backwoods back home. Nobody's fault but my own and my self-prescribed apathy.

On the plus side, we have only shouted at each other about my terrible map reading, my navigation has been really appalling. I took up the license to drive, but have let Gaynor do it all. To be honest I was simply too scared of the automatic and the roads. Pathetic really.

I have seen some great sights, watched new creatures, swam in the sea. But basically I have drunk rum and tried to forgot that I have to go back. I was hoping that my early morning dips in the Caribbean would wash in a new me. But I don't think they have.

I have coped better with my knees, back and ankles than I expected and probably feel better physically than I have in years. I still feel more than my age though and it has stopped me doing some things that I wanted to do again. I should have swam with the turtles again, but the boat's ladder and struggling was too much in my mind. Now I know I should have tried, but didn't. What have I become? Sorry Holly, I let you down on a promise again.

And why am I writing this when I am lucky to have been here at all? Well, because I can and nobody will read it anyway, but mainly to remind myself how totally worthless I am. Worthless and pointless and too far gone to even try to change. A wasted chance in a sea of opportunity, a nothing who has not the courage to even try any more.

Hapless. Broken. Unsure. A drunk.

I guess he wins. But at least I've been on a holiday like he will never have. And there it is again. The nub of what I am and feel.

Even here and after so much.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Final Friday

So not long left now and we are still finding places we haven't been to before, despite this being our fourth visit to this tiny island. Today it was Moontown, just up from Speightstown, a place I think has the best beaches in the world. 

We wandered along looking at Salvador Dali sculptures on the beach, dead trees really. We saw the bar as we passed it but, as we were out for an explore, decided to pop in on our way back. 

The north west is less tame than further down the west coast, even fiercer in some ways than the east. There are tiny villages made from wooden chattel houses, roaming dogs, abandoned cars, and there seems to be a rum shack on every corner and crossroad.

It seems out of time. The Barbados of the fifties and before and more like the place we came to on that first trip almost thirty years ago.

We were trying to get to Harrison's lighthouse, but the track petered out into scrub before we could reach it, so we had to be content with a distant view. It was so tall and so concrete.

Back at the beach bar in Moontown we had a couple of drinks - beer and rum - and it struck me how aptly named the place was.

It really is another planet.

Thursday, 27 August 2015


Today was hot and humid with a little rain and a single thunderclap. It wasn't a day for doing much, so we hung out by the pool and later took a drive up to Speightstown where we bought provisions in a rickety supermarket and drank a long rum punch at a little wooden bar.

Now it is evening, still warm, and I'm just watching the last minutes of the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen.

I'm sat on the veranda looking down the garden towards the sea, the plants and trees framing the last of the light. For a moment I convinced myself I was watching a film on a cinema screen. Somehow it just didn't seem real.

It was though and I was lucky enough to witness it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Tuesday Two

 I spent some of today wandering around in a Stephen King novel. We drove up to the north so that Holly could go horse riding in the hills and on the beach. We were told that she would be riding on Bath Beach, a long stretch of sand on the East coast of the island, or at least it used to be.

Two years ago, for no apparent reason, huge amounts of Sargassum seaweed washed in and have stayed there ever since. The turtles are suffocated by it, the Maui Maui don't grow to full size, and consequently the beautiful small community is practically deserted as there is nowhere on the beach to sit or even swim. This once beautiful coastal paradise has been destroyed by the very same forces that once made it so welcoming.

On top of this, for the first time since we arrived here, the rains came. A tropical storm that lasted twenty minutes and soaked us to the skin. Of course Holly was up on her high horse. She still got wet, although she says she enjoyed it. For us, the warm rain was a welcome relief, even though it flooded the beach and turned the dry dust to mud; which stuck to our shoes and the tyres of the car.

I'd like to come back to Bath Beach one day and find it clear of the seaweed that is killing it. I would like to see the bustling place it must once have been. No shut down houses, a beach bar that's open, and without even a hint of vampires hiding behind the shutters.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Monday again...

So that is a week gone. God knows where though, it seems that we arrived yesterday and at the same time have been here forever. Perhaps it's the sound of the waves or the sunshine, or maybe it is simply the rum.

More turtles in the sea this morning, and even more fish leaping than usual. We know what to look for now and as soon as we see disturbances on the surface we wait for them to fly. A hummingbird hovered above the pool for half a minute this morning. I'd like to say I'm getting bored by it all, but I'm not.

After our morning chat with Harriet and Lucille, we were off back up to the Scotland district, this time to revisit Harrison's Caves. They have done it up, but it really isn't that different. The caves are still magnificent, they still turn the lights out for a while to show the total blackness that once would have been, and the train still struggles to climb the seven thousand feet to the surface. One thing that has changed, though, you no longer have to wear hardhats - perhaps that was always just for show. I know more about the geology of Barbados than I do of Cheshire. The reason for this is that they told me in the visitors exhibition, then in a film before the tour, and even on the train as we went round. I know all about the aquifer, the Atlantic plate slipping under the Caribbean plate causing the island to appear, and the four ages of coral that grew up around it, I even know that tites come down and mites go up.

Anyway, I was pleased to see that Harrison's Caves hadn't changed that much, but I really do wonder when the Barbadian government will get around the other two miles that are available. After all, they've been going to do it for twenty-five years.

Sunday, 23 August 2015


How easily I slip into routines. Up at six-thirty again to watch hundreds of fish fly through the sunlight as I swam in the Caribbean. Sunday is quiet here. It seems that all of Barbados has gone to one of the hundreds of churches that litter the island; because they have. Pentecostal, Adventist, Jehovah, Catholics, the Church of Jesus, they are all here on the island, along with many others, and each one knows it's right.

Of course I don't go to church, organised religion seems so wrong to me, so instead we went in search of Eden and found it at Hunte's Garden. After a journey of twists and turns, monkeys and mongooses, we arrived to find Anthony waiting for us. Strange, because he didn't know we were coming but had heard us approaching.

High in the hills in the centre of Barbados, Anthony Hunte has made a garden, as eccentric as my tiny backyard, but on a literally earth shattering scale. Back in the nineties he bought a big hole where a cave had collapsed for about £1,500. Over two years he put in plants, steps and seating that has transformed the place into a personal Eden.

Once in the garden he told us to wander at will and proceeded to water everything in sight, including us. It was so special walking through the tropical rain-forest full of plants that can only grow indoors at home, and many others that you could only find in a botanical garden hothouse in England.

The hummingbirds shot between the pineapple plants, and huge butterflies chased each other through the trees. Every now and then you would find a place of magical solitude to sit and listen to the classical music that Anthony insists on playing and stare at a Buddha or an incongruous gnome. This man is making a living - and a good one - from just doing the thing he loves. How very lucky he is. His family have lived on the island since the 1700s, he is old school colonial with the manners to match, and as I sat chatting to him over a glass of rum in the converted stables, overlooking his garden, where he lives you could see his pride. He even persuaded us to give a lift back to Holetown to a newly married Greek couple, to save them having to wait over an hour for the bus.

What an incredible few hours. If you ever get this way, be sure to visit. It's well worth the thirty dollar Barbados entrance fee.

Saturday, 22 August 2015


Another day of small wonders. The leaping fish were there again and then, as we stood watching them, a large green head emerged from the water followed by a green flipper and then a shell. A turtle swimming past us not six feet away.

Later as we sat in the garden I looked over to the bird of paradise flowers and was amazed to see a hummingbird collecting nectar. It was a bright green blue and darted around for a few minutes before disappearing over the wall.

There were goats loose on the road to Folkstone, or at least I thought that they were goats. As it turned out they were actually Barbados blackbelly sheep.

At Folkstone Holly and I went snorkling. I managed to see some large blue fish and plenty of brightly coloured smaller ones before losing my snorkel in the depths of the ocean. I tried to dive down to get it but was far too buoyant. Fortunately Holly, who is rake, managed to get it back for me.

Now I am sitting sipping rum in the last of the sunshine. It's cooler now after a hot blue day. The bats will be out soon and the tree frogs will start to sing. The moon is out already and soon it will be dark. This really is paradise.

Friday, 21 August 2015


Gaynor and I started the day with an early morning swim surrounded by scores of flying fish. They jumped out of the water, glided for thirty feet or so then went back to the sea like arrows. Such an exciting start to the day.

After breakfast all went in search of memories. They say that you never should and perhaps they are right, but we went in search of them anyway.

Driving through Bridgetown was a nightmare as always and even when we hit the coast road on the southern part of the island it was busy.

The Woodville apartments in Worthing are long, long gone. It was where Gaynor and I came on our first holiday together and then, two years later, to honeymoon. They were run by two sisters, ex-collonial types who greeted you with far too pale skin, rinse and sets, and rum punch by the pool. It was all very British in a Bajan way, trousers to be worn in the evenings, and we didn't even have aircon.

Across the road was a tin shed where you could buy bottles of rum and cases of beer for next to nothing. The beer bottles were returnable, at least some things don't change. The rum and beer are still cheap and the bottles are still returnable. Of the apartments and the tin shed though, we could find no trace at all.

We did manage to find The Magic Isle apartments where we took Holly when she was ten on her first trip abroad. It was a Caribbean Butlins without the entertainment, Holly loved the snorkelling and the pool and we had a great time. But our favourite palm tree was gone and we didn't find a single hairbraider.

Hastings beach hasn't changed much but the Magic Isle Apartments looked a little sad and deserted. I don't think that they will be here when we next come to Barbados.

On to Oistins for a fried flying fish lunch bought from a wooden shack by the side of the road and washed down with Banks' beer. The spiced batter was excellent and the fried potatoes as good as any I have ever tasted; although it seemed to cost me ten times what it did just eleven years ago.

Oh well, times change and, along with the tides, wait for no man. Perhaps they are right after all; you should never go chasing memories.

Thursday, 20 August 2015


My day started with an early morning swim in the Caribbean. Just how many days in my life have started with those words?

Afterwards a moon crab, a Caribbean land crab, decided to put in an appearance in the shower at the end of the garden. He was struggling to get out so I gently lifted him to safety. He didn't thank me though. Instead he backed fiercely away snapping his claws at me - snip, snap, snip. Talk about gratitude.

It was hot (88 degrees farenheight) and humid today. But it didn't stop us trekking up into the hills to the Barbados wildlife reserve. After a quick climb up one of the island signal towers, built to warn the plantation owners of slave uprisings before they got out of hand, it was into the reserve itself.

The place attracts green monkeys, and no they aren't really green, just a greenish brown. They aren't penned in and can come and go as they please, they are fed though and feeding time is a riot. It isn't just about monkeys, the Barbados red legged tortoises, deer, even the odd pigeon join in. It really is a feeding frenzy, the sort that must have taken place on Noah's Ark.

Talking of food we 're having goat curry with rice and beans tonight. Our cook made it for us and it smells delicious. Anyway, adios amigos, as they say around here (not really).

Home thoughts from abroad...

Early morning in Barbados. Up again to the sound of birds, the heat not hitting yet, the sea not blue but a soft shade of grey. Not the grey of a Welsh sea, after all this is Barbados where even the cool days are hot.

There's a gentle breeze blowing and the air is so comfortable that I could easily sit here for ever. Nothing much seems to matter, nothing is pressing on this wonderful day.

I didn't dream last night, or if I did I don't remember. No crumbling houses, no steep roads. But most of all no dreams of him. Of course, he's still here in my mind trying to spoil things from afar, but I'm not going to let him. He's spoiled too many holidays and special times over the years for all those fools who let him get away with it - including me.

Even if he were to start shouting at me I would not hear him here. The police won't come, his dog won't bark, I can almost feel him shaking with frustration, the way he does, because he has no power here.

Centre of attention? The centre of his own hateful world.

I feel a little peace and for once it isn't brought on by the alcohol. It seems to be easier to deal with the past when you are thousands of miles away from it on a tiny island where he has never been. This place is clean of him and only I bring a little of him here with me. The sins of the father's and all that, particularly my father.

Seven in the morning, up since six. I wonder what the day will bring? It doesn't really matter, he can't get me here, floating in the fluid of the Caribbean.

The sun is warming now, in an hour it will have burned off the grey to blue. If only it could burn away the clouds he put in me. I think I will go for a swim in the ocean and wash it all away for a while.

Day three...

The day started well, with frigate birds hovering over the sea, chasing the fisherman that were looking for tuna in their funny little boat. They swooped and dived, black on the bright blue sky.

We hadn't planned a monkey hunt - but as I got us all lost at the top of the island, we had one anyway. Two green monkeys ran across the road, and waved at us as we drove by.

We were lost for hours, but eventually found Bathsheba with it's fantastic rock forms, on the amazing Atlantic coast. We'd been there before, but it's always as breath taking as it ever was. Fortunately, Holly took over the navigation, and soon we were on the right road to civilisation after almost circumnavigating the entire island. Of course, Gaynor was doing the driving and I was just the poor - and not very good navigator.

We stopped at Holetown fish market to buy a barracuda, caught fresh that morning, the fish monger prepared it for us, and when we got home Gaynor cooked it. It tasted like no other fish has tasted before.

And so, as I drink rum again, listening to the whistle of tree frogs, I look forward to tomorrow and wonder what new experiences it will bring.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


So after a bit of a delay in immigration we eventually got to the house just as night was falling at about six -thirty.

After a lovely meal of chicken and rice, made by Harriet our cook, Gaynor and I sat up drinking vodka and coke on the terrace until gone three in the morning UK time. It was hot even with the airl con and at four in the morning Barbados time I decided to abandon sleep and get up to watch the Bajan day begin.

As the sky lightened and the last of the bats flew home to roost, the tree frogs, who had sung all night long, were silenced and replaced by birds. A weaver, pairs of brown doves with piercing bright red eyes and a green legged crane appeared in the garden. Some small brown finches flew and sat on the chairs on the veranda not two feet away from me.

As the early morning warmed the geckos began to dash up the coral stone walls of the house, a flash of petrol green and blues. I sat listening to the waves of the Caribbean lap the shore before going for a swim.

A walk on the beach, the wrong way for the beach bar it seems, and a light breakfast then we decided to take the two dollar blue bus into Holetown for essential supplies. Six quid a bottle rum, Banks' beer, goat meat for a curry and dried black eyed peas for the beans and rice that would go with it -one of Harriet's signature dishes. The ride was a heady mixture of speed, near misses, tooting horns and reggae music played at full volume. Such fun.

Now, I'm sitting waiting for it to cool as a light breeze blowing in from the sea. This is the rainy season and the half hour of cloud and five minutes of spotty rain this morning is the evidence.

So it is almost three in the afternoon, and as night falls so quickly here, almost rum and coke time. More tomorrow.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Barbados 2015...

So it's today!

Yes, we are off to Barbados and I am sat waiting, counting the minutes, for the taxi to arrive to take us to the airport. Me, Gaynor, Holly, and King of Karls.

Airport time is holiday time. I can smell the rum, hear the waves, taste the salt, feel the sunshine, almost touch the experience of a lifetime already.

Nothing can touch us now.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

For now...

Ah my father, what a crock he is.

Not content with bullying me and my family until I had to do something about it; he now, after getting his way and ostracising me, begins on someone else he has always disagreed with, my brother in law in Australia.

Of course he is far too clever to be honest about it so makes intimidating remarks that are only intimidating if you know the background. 'For now', really is a threat, that smiley face not a smiley face at all and just his pathetic way of saying 'I am out to get you'. Even the fact that has chosen a smiley face with glasses speaks volumes about him.

What a grey cloud of a person.

Of course he won't admit it and my mother will laugh it off, but bully boy tactics are the name of his game and they always have been. I should know he's been doing it all my life. He has threatened me with the police if I say bad things about him, well you know what? Bring it on, maybe it is time he was outed for what he actually is.

Of course one day he won't be around to dish out his abuse and threats, one day his bullying will stop. On that day not only will I dance a jig of joy I'll also blog the truth about him. The real truth with nothing held back.

So David William Height be happy 'for now' as you might say.

Friday, 14 August 2015

2 pm thoughts...

For Bob Cole, a man I didn’t know but for whom I have much respect.

2 pm thoughts.

I hope when my time is running out
I have some say in the matter.
Not kept alive with machines or drugs,
In agony, broken and shattered.

I hope when death approaches
I have dignity and choice.
Not a burden or an encumbrance,
But a man who still has a voice.

I hope that if I have to turn off the light
It is me that flicks that switch.
In charge of my own destiny,
My ending of life so rich.

I hope that when the end comes
I have the courage to say enough.
Not linger on as a shadow,
A man made of stronger stuff.

I hope if my body fails me
That everyone I hold dear
Lets me go on my way without regret.
The truth is I’m always here.

Rain, rain, rain...

It rained and rained and rained all night. Torrents of it.

In fact the rain in the last 24 hours has added so much weight to my magnificent hydrangea that it is drooping. Mind you these heads are 18 inches plus across so they can hold a lot of water.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Bang the drum...

I'm aware that I may be banging this drum a little too hard, but I'm parking this here as a record of what I'm thinking about the Labour Leadership election. 

Broadly, a drum needs to beat somewhere for 'the people', if only in my long dead political heart. Yes, my heart has been restarted in what I can only describe as an idealistic way after years of languishing in a political wilderness.

The registration has closed and tomorrow we get the ballot papers. Already Jeremy Corbyn's own dogs are out to get him; all of the other candidates, Blair, Campbell, Kinnoch (the list goes on and on) all warning us that he is the Antichrist. Mind you he wants to try Blair for war crimes and rightly so I say.

Whatever, as they say, it's too late now and it will take a miracle to hold Corbyn back, so bring the Antichrist on.

It will be tough for Jezza, but he strikes me as tough and he will make concessions and compromises and gather a good shadow cabinet around him and make a difference I hope. For deputy my vote will go with Tom Watson. He's called by many 'Blair's assassin', well good on him for that and it's just a shame it is only metaphorical. He's a good man who isn't scared of standing up and being counted, he'll also moderate Jeremy's left wing excesses a little I hope

As for the The Labour Party, they should wake up to the opportunity Corbyn presents them with and not keep going on about train crashes and listening to Blair and his failed Blairites. For the first time in years people are rallying to a cause, not simply going along the road of the safest option with 'what choice do I have?' He may be a brilliant Prime Minister or he may not, he could make people happy or even more miserable, he might unravel this bloody awful mess that Thatcher, Blair and now Cameron and his Eton boys have made of this great land of ours or he may sink it further into despair. One things for sure whatever he does he'll do it with belief and it'll be a refreshing change from the plastic politics of the last thirty years.

The game's afoot; Follow your spirit: and upon this charge, Cry — God for Jeremy! England and Saint George!

Or as Wolfy would say, 'Power to the people!'.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How to build a cartie…

I come from a time when health and safety didn’t really exist and parents really weren’t very worried about what happened to you while you were out playing. Of course I was told never to talk to strangers, but to be honest I can’t imagine most strangers would have done me much harm; well no more that at home.

Plasters were for babies unless your knees were cut to ribbons and required stitching by today’s standards and bleach, bottle upon bottle, sat under the kitchen sink without a childproof cap in sight. At five I could handle a boiling kettle, at six I carried a penknife, and by the time I was eight I was scouring the council tip in search of pram wheels to make a cartie.

I’m not sure who showed me how to make a cartie, but I think it was the Braham boys who not only excelled at that sort of thing but also had air pistols which could take your eye out. I think I watched them making a two-seater racer for the cartie races one day and from there decided to make my own. All I really needed was two sets of pram or pushchair wheels, a plank or two, some rope, and a bloody great nut and bolt.

As I mentioned I scoured the tip for the pram wheels, found them after a couple of days searching, and even came away with an old skipping rope that was just the job for the steering rope. The wood I ‘borrowed’ from a neighbour’s garden – a long wide plank and a short cross piece to rest my feet on. I wasn’t aiming for a fancy affair, nor to enter the cartie races that were held each evening in Summer, just something basic I could go up and down the hill at the bottom of the estate on.

All I needed was that nut and bolt and a few large fencing staples for the wheels..

I searched the shed but there was nothing anywhere near large enough. The bolt had to be at least three inches long to go through the plank and leave some play; and it needed to be strong, at least a quarter, better still half an inch thick. I searched everywhere for that nut and bolt, I even went back to the tip to see if I could pry one off something. Nor could I find any galvanised staples to hold the pram axles in place and allow them to turn.

Eventually I gave up, stored my wheels and wood in the lean-to behind the shed and decided that when a nut and bolt and some staples eventually appeared I would make my cartie. After all, there was no rush, I wasn’t even nine.

That nut, bolt and staples never did turn up, nine became ten, eleven, and then twelve, and my cartie never did get made. The pram wheels got thrown out, the wood rotted away to dust, and I discovered stamp collecting.

But even today I still know exactly how to make one whenever I am ready. And knowing's the thing.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Fridge thoughts...

What do you keep in your fridge? It all comes down to personal choice, but there are some things that are definite refrigerator items (meat, fish, champagne) and others that are debatable.

Should you really put tomatoes in the fridge? I say ‘no’ and my wife says ‘yes’ because ‘she’s always done it’. Tomatoes in the fridge lose their firmness and really don’t taste of much at all, but I think I’ve lost that discussion. I have however (and after much debate) finally got my wife not to put the garlic in the fridge.

It’s odd what some people think needs to go in the fridge. If it says keep refrigerated then fair enough, but cauliflower and carrots? My mother in law keeps mustard and tomato ketchup in the fridge, now just why would you keep mustard, which is unlikely to go off, in the fridge? Mind you she keeps bread in the freezer and why would anyone freeze bread in the first place?

Now I know that some people keep eggs in the fridge and I used to have one with those totally useless egg rack things on the door, but I prefer not to. Likewise butter. Butter in the fridge simply won’t spread, so why do it? My daughter keeps her honey in the fridge, which is also totally unnecessary. You can keep honey in the cupboard forever without it going off, and I do mean forever. Besides, it has a tendency to crystalise in the cold.

You should never keep basil in the fridge as it wilts, or sage, or onions, or avocados, although parsley is perfectly fine. I once opened the fridge door at a friend’s house and found a big bag of ground coffee. We argued for hours about it. I said: ‘Not in the fridge, keep it away from moisture in an airtight tin’. They said: ‘Yes in the fridge, it keeps it fresher’. This is the same friend who kept CD’s in the fridge as he believed it made them sound better.

If you think that’s weird, I once knew a girl who kept her lipstick and tights in the fridge, claiming that it made them last longer.

Apparently nuts last a lot longer if kept in the fridge, but have you ever eaten freezing cold nuts? No, don’t answer that.

I keep my vodka in the fridge and of course beer. In fact I think beer may be what fridges are really for.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Will Waccy Baccy…

Weary with toil I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind when body’s work’s expired.

Sonnet 27

So it seems that recent analysis of pipes discovered in the garden of William Shakespeare’s house reveal that they once held cannabis. Yes, it looks like the bard may have been high on weed when he wrote his plays.

Well, his works certainly don’t lack insight and as many writers - Baudelaire, Cocteau, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Robert Louis Stevenson and even Stephen King - know insight often comes with substance abuse.

Twenty-four pipe fragments were analysed and some contained traces of cannabis, two of the pipes contained traces of cocaine and other pipes were laced with tobacco, camphor, and hallucinogenic nutmeg extracts. It must have been wild and whacky back there in the late 1500’s with its ‘noted weed’ and ‘compounds strange’. Who knows if without a little herb, dope, ganga, grass in his system Will (Wacky Baccy) Shakespeare would have ever imagined ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ or ‘The Tempest’.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Do you wish to continue...

It's all about questions isn't it?
'What should I do with my life?'
'What is my life purpose?'
'What can I do with my time that's important?'
'Do I wish to continue just as I am?'

These are questions I ask daily, mainly though: “What can I do with my time?”

I spent most of my life working in an industry that consumed me. I really believed that what I was doing was important, so it came as a real shock when I realised it wasn’t and I had frittered away my time, my life if you want, on something that really didn’t matter.

How easily we fool ourselves. Most of the people on this planet could have told me that a big yellow phone book wasn’t going to make my life fulfilled, and now I feel foolish and empty some days.

Since then I’ve spent my time filling my life with whatever I can find to fill my time. The thing is that none of the things I do make me feel that they are important either. They are just distractions to get me through the day. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not simply waiting for bedtime to come around so that I don’t have to think about filling my time for a few hours to stop me feeling foolish and empty. It doesn’t work though. I usually just end up making myself look more foolish which makes me feel emptier.

I hate feeling like this and I almost don’t know why I do. I have no pressing need to do anything, perhaps that is the problem. I should count my blessings, enjoy my freedom, relax. But somehow that isn’t the way I’m made. Or am I? I don’t know? Do I care? The bottom line is I guess that I feel guilty about adding nothing to anything and anyway anything isn't enough to drive away the nothing.

I’m told that I think too much about these things and I probably do. But it’s a way of doing something whilst doing nothing.

So the real question is – what am I going to do when winter comes?

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The dreaded hiccups...

Just like hiccups this silly poem just popped into my head.

The dreaded hiccups

Hiccups can be embarrassing,
Especially if in church.
If you get them while getting married
You might get left in the lurch.

I once had a bout whilst on the train
And couldn’t get them to pass.
I hiccupped and hiccupped for miles and miles.
And when I hiccup, I farts.

Hic, hic, hic, hic, hic, hic, hic.
It really is a dilemma.
If you hic too much, it can make you sick.
So is there an easy answer?

All old wives have a remedy,
From thunderclaps to brews.
Here are some that I know of,
And I hope that they work for you.

Swallow a teaspoon of sugar,
Or glug a glass of iced water,
Eat some dry bread slowly,
A scare works, or at least it oughta.
Drink from the rim of the wrong side of the glass.
Hold breath and count in reverse,
Any of these could make your hiccups pass.
But not all at once; it'll probably make them worse.


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

What’s it all about…

I haven’t said a lot about Cilla Black’s death. The truth is that my views on her TV shows, 'Blind Date' and 'Surprise Surprise', probably won’t be very popular. Oh, she had a great voice back in the day and she fitted nicely into the Mersey Beat boom, but that was a long time ago. So long ago that it is a distant memory even to me.

Of course I never met her, but from what her friends say she was much loved in the spheres she mingled in. Us non-celebs only got to view the Cilla that she wanted us to see and there is no doubt that she came across as  a people person, very ordinary like everyone, even though I suspect that she wasn’t. I suspect that she knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it.

Back in the Eighties, Nineties, and even the early noughties I couldn’t watch Cilla on television without the feeling that I was seeing someone playing a part. She was so different from the singer who played with the Beatles. I’ve never heard anyone else say ‘lorra, lorra’, or ‘chuck’ in quite the same way that she did. Of course she wasn’t the only entertainer building her career and popularity on snappy catchphrases and hammed up accents. I’m certainly not saying that she wasn’t good at what she did. She was brilliant at what she did, even if I really didn’t like it personally.

For me ‘Surprise Surprise’ and ‘Blind Date’ were, if not the beginning, then a contributing factor towards the end of ‘proper’ television. Before that there were plenty of ‘real’ programmes – plays, documentaries, intelligent quiz shows, even the comedy half-hours had a harder edge and a point usually. It was a world where we watched television without any real expectation of ever appearing on it, certainly not becoming famous through it.

Cilla’s two Saturday night shows were, in my opinion, some of the earliest of the glammed-up reality shows that led to today's television circus. ‘Blind Date’ took ordinary people, gave them their two minutes of fame, gave them the opportunity to perform and some of them went on to become very famous - Jenni Falconer, Ed Byrne, and of course the queen of talent shows Amanda Holden.

‘Surprise Surprise’ was a very different kettle on fish, granting surprised members of the public their long-held wishes, setting up tricks to fool people, prank phone calls  and reuniting guests with long-lost loved ones. It had a blend going on, but it was the sentimental granny reunions that really captured the public attention and pulled at the public heartstrings.

Of course both were really popular with the television viewing public, and what the public wants the public gets.

Today the world of television is littered with these type of sentimental and tragedy focused programmes from rebuilding homes, to planting gardens, tracing ancestry; even the National Lottery is in on the act - and then we have all the people’s awards shows. Even a new 'Surprise Surprise' is back, albeit without the fun and coated in sugared tears. 'Blind Date' also gave rise to a host of dating programmes which, whilst seemingly good fun and almost irresistible, could be seen as just meat markets for aspiring WAGs.

I’m not blaming Cilla, she needed to reinvent herself after her singing career went cool and she presented clever, popular programmes very, very well. But sometimes I’d like to find something worth watching on a Saturday evening that doesn’t involve a sad story or young men and women making themselves look silly and cheap.

Anyway, Cilla will be missed, it's a tragedy and she was taken far too soon. There's no doubt that whatever she did she put her all into it and was wonderfully successful. For me though I will remember with fondness the young singer from Liverpool and not the colourful television presenter she became.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Do you wish to continue?...

‘Thanks for using the express checkout,’ she said after I eventually managed to get my five items through the self-service process with only three visits from the grumpy keeper of the magic plastic card.

Of course before I could even attempt to scan my five items – a bottle of red, reduced item Stilton, an apple, three bread rolls, and a packet of chewing gum – I had to declare that ‘No, I wasn’t using my own bags’ which always makes me feel really guilty as I have a huge carrier bag full of other carrier bags hanging on the back of my kitchen door. So many carrier bags that it makes it impossible to get the door completely open. I always mean to reuse them, but somehow I always forget.

Anyone know if Woolworth’s carrier bags are collector’s items yet?

Foolishly I started with the wine and immediately the red light started flashing to the declaration of ‘authorisation needed’. Now maybe I’m being oversensitive but having every man and his dog aware that I’ve just bought a cheap bottle of plonk at ten in the morning is just a little embarrassing, particularly as I might bump into some of them at the park later.

For some reason the attendant was, as always, busy doing something else and I, as usual, had to call her over which brought even more attention to my dilemma. The fact that she sneeringly checked her watch as she casually swiped her card, pressed a few buttons, and then walked away laughing, seemed to somehow further underline my shame.

Next up was the reduced item cheese. Not a very big piece, just enough for a ploughman’s lunch really. Now, I’m not a ploughman but I do like a bit of cheese and pickle of a lunch time. The cheese had a barcode, but of course as it was reduced the barcode had been printed with one of those hand held printers and it wouldn’t scan. After five minutes of trying to flatten out the barcode and making dozens of increasingly esoteric scanning swipes I was eventually asked; ‘Do you wish to continue?’ Well, yes I did, so giving up with my swiping I decided to enter the barcode manually and after three attempts actually managed to do it. Huzzah!

I then scanned the chewing gum and placed it in the carrier bag that had taken me three minutes to open and position on the metal prongs at the side of the till. ‘Please place your item in the bagging area,’ said the voice from the machine. ‘I have.’ I cried, then realised I was talking to a pre-recorded message and that I wouldn’t get much of an argument out of it.

I lifted the chewing gum out of the bag and thrust it in again hoping the force of impact would make it appear heavier and register on the scales. 'Unexpected item in the bagging area. Please remove item before continuing.’

Nooooo! How could it be unexpected? She’d just asked me to put it in (fnar fnar), but knowing that resistance was futile I removed the item as requested… The red light began flashing again.

‘Please wait for assistance,’ it said accusingly.

Now when this happens it makes me feel like I’m a thief trying to get away with not paying for my purchase. Reluctantly I had to signal the attendant again and, as she grudgingly pressed a button to bypass the ‘unexpected’ problem, I realised that she was probably ignoring me on purpose as I’ve been shouting at the bloody machine.

The single apple didn’t have a barcode, which was as expected. Unfortunately it didn’t have one of those stickers that tell you what sort of apple it was either, so I couldn’t navigate my way through the minefield of loose products to the right apple with ease. Eventually I gave up and hit the loose carrots button which seemed to do the trick. Well, they’re both organic and good for your teeth aren’t they?

Lastly it was the turn of the bread rolls, twenty-pence each or three for fifty-pence. I knew that I didn’t really need three, but a ten-pence roll was too good a bargain to miss. Sad aren’t I? Of course when the rolls came up on the display monitor they were all charged at twenty-pence, no discount at all! I called the attendant over again and explained that the machine was trying to rip me off. She shook her head and explained - very, very, very slowly - that the discount would be applied at the end of the transaction, then turned and scurried briskly away.

I pressed the button to pay. I was fast losing the will to live and wanted out of that hellhole of a supermarket.

‘Have you swiped your clubcard?’ The devil woman machine enquired. I don’t have a clubcard, but I wasn’t telling her that, she might make something of it. So, not bothering to respond I chose the cash icon from one of the many paying options available to me. My bill came to £6.97 and, as I didn’t want to break into the twenty in my wallet, began fumbling around in my pockets for change.

‘Do you wish to continue?’ The devil machine asked slyly implying that I was taking far too long. ‘Yes, I bloody do,’ I muttered back.

I have no idea why I always feel the need to feed the coins in one at a time, but I do. Perhaps I don’t trust the bloody machine and want to see each penny register before continuing. Anyway, it took me almost five minutes before I’d managed to insert all the various bits of shrapnel from my shaking hand into the machine.

‘Thank you for using the express checkout.’ She said loudly, and then spewed out various bits of paper which I stuffed into my pocket never to be seen again

Express? I don’t bloody think so. There was another fifteen minutes of my life gone that I wasn’t getting back. Next time I’m going to a real person even if there is a really long queue.


Sunday, 2 August 2015

Poetry poem...

Poetry poem

Who the hell reads poetry?
Who bothers to read bloody verse?
You wandered lonely as a cloud?
I think you should book a hearse.
Who gives a shit about stanzas?
Or haiku and limericks?
Tone and rhyme, just what’s that about?
Sod sonnets and metaphysics.

Aubade, acatalectic and acrostic,
Ballads, blank ‘V’ and bullshit,
Catalectic, canzones, choriambic meter,
Didactic, dirges, is there nothing better?
Eclogues, elegies, elegaic stanzas
Fourteeners, free verse, progressive fanzas,
Galliambic, gnomic, gobbledegook,
Georgics, ghazels, all very hard work.
Anyway, who really gives a fook?

Heptastich, idylls, jintishi, kinetic,
Laments, madrigals, rapping - well sick!
Occasional, palinodes, quatrains, and rhyme,
Sapphic, Tankas, who’s got the time?
Underground, verse, war, and xinshi,
And as for zeugma?
Well, it’s all Abecedarian to me.

Yes, who on earth reads this bloody stuff?
Who wastes their time writing ditties?
Just a minute. Oh, that’ll be me!
I hope I don’t get on your

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Blue mooning…

Last night was blue moon night. Of course it was cloudy again, but determined I stayed up late and eventually the clouds broke and there it was; the blue moon watching me as I stood alone without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own, remembering past times.

A blue moon is the type of moon that shines when Americans shouldn’t go up onto the moors at night, the type of moon that could stop the darts flying and silence the locals drinking ale in the Slaughtered Lamb. Ah, Jenny Agutter, Jenny Agutter, how I wish I had a pencil for that creamy cafeteria.

They say that the full moon brings madness and as I stood gazing up at her that is what I felt, a little madness. Moonstruck and facing up in true lunatic fashion, I lifted my head to the skies and howled a long whooping cry from a primeval soul I didn’t know that I possessed. If you hear me howling around your kitchen door, better not let me in. Little old lady got mutilated late last night, Werewolves of London again. Aaooooo! Werewolves of London. Aaooooo!

Of course, there are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. Maybe this was one of them because as I stood entranced by the cold light I understood that if this moon smiled, she would resemble someone I knew long ago. A one that leaves the same impression of something beautiful, but annihilating

The blue moon, such a dizzying spectacle even with the clouds coming and going across her hidden face. I stood in the sculptured moonlight and gazed up at her realising that the moon had been observing the earth close-up longer than anyone. She must have witnessed all of the phenomena occurring - and all of the acts carried out - on this earth. But the moon remains silent; it tells no stories. All it does is embrace the heavy past with a cool, measured detachment. On the moon there is neither air nor wind. Its vacuum is perfect for preserving memories unscathed. No one can unlock the heart of the moon.

And then I heard somebody whisper "Please adore me" And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold in the puddle where I was trying to catch it with a garden implement as I moonraked for cheese with all my soul, fooling myself more than the excise men.

Maybe it was the brandy, or maybe the spell of her face, perhaps it was even moon dust falling on me for grace. But I enjoyed my few minutes of blue moon, and as my memories raced, I smiled and blue the moon a kiss. And in that there’s no disgrace.

And these were the memories of over fifty years that flooded from the moonlight and then went in the beat of a heart. The next blue moon is in January 2018. I hope I'm around to see it.