Category Archives: Uncategorized

The end is nigh! Repaint! Repaint!

Some years ago (the wife will probably tell you it’s seven or eight years ago, but she tends to exaggerate for comedic effect, so I think she’s an unreliable witness in this case), I pulled off some wallpaper in the bathroom. Wood-chip, I believe – most of our walls seemed to be covered in wood-chip at the time, so I’ve little cause to think otherwise.

Several months later, I decided to remove some more of the wood-chip, enough so I could repaper the damaged area. Unfortunately a fair chunk of the old plaster came off with it – I should mention that my house is over 100 years old, so respect to the plaster for having stuck there for so long. Undaunted I continued – more paper, more plaster. When I say “plaster”, I’m sure it was plaster when it was put up, but in the intervening years it had reverted to its constituent parts of sand, cement and horsehair.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I thought, and continued stripping the brick walls of their sand and wood-chip coating. Eventually, three of the four walls were down to their not-very-neatly thrown together bare brick. The fourth wall – a partition wall between the bathroom and the corridor – seemed  rather pointless, so out came my friends Mr Clawhammer and Mr Crowbar. Oh what fun we had… until the ceiling came down on my head.

Having done away with the walls and ceiling, finally I turned my attention to the floor and took up the carpet – yes, we had carpet in the bathroom, is that unusual? Underneath the carpet I found fragments of older carpet. Underneath the carpet fragments I found old linoleum and under that, linoleum older still, until I finally reached the original wooden floorboards, which had clearly seen better days.

The fun part over, I was left with four uneven bare brick walls, a patchwork wooden floor, and a view of the roof tiles. On the plus side, it made for interesting viewing at bath time, and a talking point when friends visited the loo. On the minus side, the cold Autumnal winds blowing through the eaves meant the bathwater went cold rather quickly.

my old bathroom

A picture paints a thousands words.

Knock, knock…

Are you there? It’s your turn…

Sometimes the world is not big enough.

No picture today – this is an unusual post.

One day very recently I opened one of my social media pages to find a reply from someone I used to know in the UK; someone I last spoke to almost two years ago, and whom I had recently contacted to pick their brains about some details (names and places) of amusing events which took place approximately  eleven years ago and which I intend to write about. I was looking forward to their reply and eagerly opened the message.

What greeted me was a vicious, bitter response to my question which – evidently – had failed miserably to convey my actual meaning. I was shocked – extremely so, as I had never known this person to behave this way. They also happened to be online when I replied to the nastiness, asking what was going on. What followed was the most unpleasant, insulting interaction I have had with anybody for many years. In the course of the conversation which followed, I was not allowed to try to explain my original intentions as this person launched into attack after attack upon my character – in fact almost everything about me. Anything I had to say to correct the misunderstanding was dismissed and followed with more insults.

That individual will very likely never read this post but that isn’t important – the issue here is the perceived lack of consequence for unacceptable behaviour. As somebody in a position of significant  responsibility in their profession, this individual chose to deliberately and methodically ignore my attempts to rectify the misunderstanding which had apparently led to the stream of invective coming my way. Their response was to viciously insult me continuously, cynically twist the circumstances of our previously friendly relationship, and continuously attack me. This went on for perhaps half an hour while I tried to keep my head above water emotionally. In the end this person sent one final dismissive message and signed off, blocking me from responding.

I sat there mentally gasping, stunned at what had just happened. From my perspective I’d just been emotionally beaten up – and by someone whom, until that moment, I had considered a friend, and a gentle, reasonable human being. That made it worse. During the course of the ‘conversation’, historical posts that we had exchanged two years ago were pasted in by this other person with derisive comments attached; totally contrary to the response they had elicited at the time of the original conversation. It felt like who I was and who I had ever been, were both  under attack. The day had begun very strangely.

An hour later, my wife opened her own social media page to find messages from this person – whom she has never met – making unveiled accusations against me of a very personal nature. This individual, clearly not content with attacking me directly, had, subsequent to signing off from the conversation, seen fit to contact my wife in an obvious attempt to sabotage our relationship by seeking to create mistrust and doubt in my wife’s mind! I found that barely believable and very disturbing – such behaviour crosses a big, thick and obvious line.  I’m now left wondering to what lengths this person will go – I have grave doubts about their sanity and their integrity. This is all the more alarming since the whole thing was a total surprise, and the individual, as I mentioned, used to be someone I regarded as a friend – not close, but friendly on a day-to-day basis in a work environment. Now my regard for this individual is completely the opposite – that’s a shame, but there is no going back.

Since this happened, I’ve reviewed the message I sent  – and which apparently spurred this manic, aggressive and deeply disturbing response – and so has my wife. Neither of us can find anything overtly problematic with what I asked or the way that I asked it. Both of us believe that I was very clear and said nothing contentious. Nevertheless a totally different meaning has been assumed by this now enraged, aggressive individual. It seems that I was on the end of a frankly irrational response – and that’s scary because I have no idea how motivated this person may be to do something else – after all, if they have the gall to email my partner in an attempt to spoil our relationship with lies, where will this stop? It’s very worrying as well as being extremely hurtful.

I have two options; hope this dies a natural death (as it arose from nothing perhaps it will return to nothing) or take action by reporting the matter to the authorities (relevant to this person’s place of employment). I’m still undecided, but leaning towards not having this kind of energy disrupting my life any longer. However, when I awoke this morning, my thoughts instantly went to this issue and what a mentally unstable person is capable of doing if they are so inclined. The fact that I’m posting here tells me (and you) that it is still an issue that is disrupting my life.

Sometimes I hate the way people behave with little or no thought –  and the fact that the internet makes the world too small a place and enables them to spread their poison.

Ever wonder where we came from?

The picture above was taken in 1980, on my last holiday with my folks. At the age of 15 the novelty had worn off, and this was me putting on a less-than-disgusted face in a small street in St.Ives, Cornwall, just for the camera. Now, of course, I cherish this picture of me and my late father.

The photograph is remarkable for two reasons:

First, it was taken by my mum, who for the first time in living memory managed to NOT cut our heads, or any other part of our bodies, or indeed the relevant scenery, out of the picture. I can only assume that she pressed the button by accident before she was ready.

The second reason is NOT my haircut, which was at the time, modelling the final version of Wallace’s open face motorbike helmet (see “Wallace & Gromit; A close shave” for reference). Within a month or two I was sporting a far less goldfish bowl-like head, and boy, was it about time!

The second reason, dear fellow, is this: at that time of my life (and for a few years thereafter)  my nickname among some of my schoolmates was ‘Buster’. As in Buster Bloodvessel, the lead singer of ‘Bad Manners’ for those of you with short memories or lifespans. As far as I recall, I was kindly given this name by A.D. ‘Toskey’ Thompson and his trusty sycophantic sidekick  ‘Lol’ Pedley. Their reasoning was that I was fat. Since Buster Bloodvessel was very fat (and famously so), they felt that the name was appropriate.

Case for the defence: As the photograph clearly shows, I was not remotely overweight. As my memory (and, I’m sure any photographs of the period would confirm), Pedley was in fact rather chubby and in fact had the old pubescent boy boob thing going on. Case dismissed!!!!

What was going on? Was I merely a deflection from someone else’s insecurities? If so, why did so many people buy into the  nickname – or maybe that is a distorted memory of my own? Maybe karma for something I did to someone else?

Just as interesting is that it clearly bothered me at the time, and has remained a source of some puzzlement until this day. I wonder how much personal confidence this kind of crap eroded before we reached adulthood? My guess is that many of us bear scars inflicted at such an impressionable time of our lives…

I too have been somewhat remiss

Now what the f**k have I been doing for the past two months? Besides baking this lovely Victoria Sponge?

My last post here was on the sixteenth of August. Two months: just what the f**k have I been doing with my time (besides systematically working my way through Mrs Beaton’s cookbook)? I don’t have a full-time job:  I’m a part time house-husband, part-time shopkeeper and part-time musician (I think I spend a disproportionate amount of my time in the kitchen). Surely I could spare a few minutes to update this blog every now and then (inbetween beating them eggs)?

I’ve said this before, I really need some order and discipline in my life. No, not that type of discipline, Simmons (“it was Smith, Sir! Chastise him with the egg whisk!”). Though some might say that I wasn’t beaten (or indeed whisked, folded or battered) often enough as a child.

So I really should write something while I’m here. Let me see if I can recall anything significant and/or interesting I’ve done in the intervening two months…

Nope.

Okay, let’s see if I can recall anything…

Anything at all…

Oh yes: August, the summer holidays. Where did I go? We had a week in the South of France, in a town called Agde, on the Med. Nice enough, though a bit of a problem with doggy doo. Not me, the town. Don’t recall it being that bad in other French towns I’ve been to. The landlord of the holiday home we were staying in blamed it on the immigrants. I thought it was probably their dogs.

We went on from there to spend a couple of nights in the university town of Montpellier. Very nice, clean – very little doggy doo to report. I’d recommend it for a weekend city break (unless you live halfway round the world in, say, Mission BC – it’s a bit of a trek). We stayed in a part of the town called the Antigone District, which used to be the site of the army barracks but is now a very impressive neo-classical commercial/residential development the size of a small town. Here, have a look for yourself.

Montpellier’s Antigone District: it’s big.

Our hotel is the first substantial building you can see on the right hand side of the picture, coming up from the bottom right hand corner. Antigone was all very nicely laid out and constructed – I was honestly very impressed. Well done you French architects! And all the architecture looks like this:-

Typical neo-classical architecture found in Antigone. I think this is a hotel.

So that was one of several holidays I’ve had this year. I’ll try to post something a little more insightful next time. And I promise not to leave it too long. Though I’m not going to make any promises. Oh hang on…

Getting Lazy

I’ve just realized with a shock  that – to my eternal shame – the old blog is not being kept current. I don’t have time to submit something particularly topical so I am including an excerpt from something I am working on at the moment, in the hope that it cheerfully wastes thirty seconds of your day…

Never fart in a wet suit.

I recall quite vividly, one day as a child when I was sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car. Mum and dad were in the front seats, dad driving as always (mum never did learn to drive). Where we were going is lost in the mushy bits of my memory, and is anyway highly irrelevant – we’re talking about farts after all. Well, anyway, as I was saying, there the three of us were, toddling along the road, when I had the sudden and urgent need to let one go. And so, being a child of tender years, I duly allowed the silent event to take place. Within seconds a foul sulphurous cloud enveloped me – but I didn’t mind (after all, every man loves the smell of his own doesn’t he? – more on this later), in fact I felt unashamedly triumphant! This was a good one, a REALLY good one.

With a mixture of suppressed delight and trepidation I awaited the inevitable reaction from the front seats. perhaps that was what made it so funny; waiting for my little time bomb to take effect. By the time anything happened, I had slipped down to a horizontal position on the back seat (there were no rear seat belts in those days folks), stifling my laughter. And then, as if by magic, my mother was gripped by the invisible beast and uttered a startled “OH!”. Needless to say I barely had time to grab a breath before the convulsive laughing took hold of me. “Good GOD!” she said, emphatically. I was helpless, mouth wide open but making no sound…and then, as in all good crime stories, my dad fell victim too. Now it’s worth bearing in mind that my dad had lived a very varied life (Royal Navy at 15, Police officer for many years at that point), was not given to demonstrative behaviour, and had been known to crank out his own exotic malodourous creations from time to time. He was a hard man to impress.

However, impress him I did. As I said, he was not a man given to extremes of behaviour. This made his spontaneous reaction all the more funny to me. While my mum comically gasped to his left, he simply rapidly rolled down his window (no electric windows in those days either!) and muttered – just loud enough for me to hear, and with deep emphasis: “Bloody Hell…”. Well of course that just finished me off, and the memory can still make me chuckle out loud to this day, almost forty years later.

There I lay, spread across the back seat of that little old Austin 1100 saloon, unable to make any sound, tears streaming from my eyes and into my ears. Deprived of oxygen for a good minute, I had to gasp some air, but even after that first deep breath was only able to make strangled “Ah…ah…ah” noises in the back of my throat. You know the kind. After another thirty seconds or so of this unrestrained mirth I was finally able to wrestle my way outside of  another lungful of air. Opening my tear -filled eyes I could see my mum silently grinning out of the side window while my dad, despite himself, was unable to prevent his characteristic sideways smile from creeping across his face.

Sweet victory, I thought. Sweet victory.

I wrote a book.

It’s a kids’ book, it’s my first published one, and it’s just a start.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009DQSX5G

 

It’s not a small world, but even so…

 

Some friends are older than others…

Perhaps topically, given the subject of the more recent posts on here (although I’ve only just realised that my last post was a whole month ago today!), we recently had two visits from the UK. The first was from my now rather aged mother (she’s 82 y’ know!) who came out to see us all on her own and only a few months after losing my dear old dad. As a member of the extended family has remarked; a plucky lady!

That visit went extremely smoothly and lasted two weeks, although we could all have enjoyed more time together.

The second visit – well, more of a meeting really, was with a former colleague and friend whom, for the purposes of this blog we shall call…Paul. Because that’s his name. No, really; he’s called Paul.

Paul and his lovely wife (whom for the purposes of this blog we shall call…Brenda – because; etc., etc., you get the picture) were over in BC on another Canadian vacation, covering as much of the province as they reasonably could in two weeks without getting nose bleeds.  I first met Paul in 1999 when we were both forced into a classroom together as part of a police trainer’s training program. It sounds rather mild doesn’t it? Aha! Be not deceived good people! The police trainer’s course is (well, at least it certainly was at the time) perhaps the most feared course available to serving police officers. Back then, in order to take operational officers and turn them into (and I realise this sounds conceited but it applies to so many other hundreds of my former colleagues that I can’t dress it down) perhaps the finest group of adult educators in the country, the police service took people to places such as snowy Yorkshire where we were sealed off from the outside world and brainwashed.

Of course I exaggerate slightly – brainwashing it certainly wasn’t in the traditional sense, but washing of the brain perhaps.  It was a hugely intense six weeks followed by four weeks of even more intense practicum. Intense, difficult, enlightening, frightening but ultimately life changing, this course brought together a group of fourteen very different people and changed them all. One of the best outcomes of the course was my friendship with Paul. Forged despite (sleeping on opposite sides of and against a wafer-thin plywood wall) my truly thunderous rectal expellations on the theme of methane each morning – Paul didn’t need an alarm clock as a result –  our friendship was formed largely upon our shared sense of humour.

Paul and I worked together throughout the course and then, happily, throughout our practicum phase, which we have subsequently agreed was probably the most intense few weeks of our respective police careers. And so while our association was forged within a climate of hard work and to some degree, adversity, it was built upon a genuine regard for one another’s qualities. It is a friendship that is strong – I know this because after the lines of communication becoming stretched ever longer, our meeting last week was an unqualified joy.

For whatever reason (and there are only ever silly reasons for this), we lost touch with one another. Especially after emigtrating. I know how it can work; one person replies to an email too late or forgets entirely due to the day to day pressures of life and the link appears broken. One or both parties simply have too much else to think about and the communication imperative slips down the order of importance. It’s called life, and I understand it.

So, we had not had any communication for approximately five years until Tuesday last week, when an email from the man himself landed in my inbox! Shazzam!

“Oh nice!” I thought as I opened the message; “Paul’s back in touch again!”  What did I read? The bugger is on holiday and staying 45 minutes away from me – but only for one more full day! Needless to say, a meeting was hastily arranged for the next day, although prior commitments dictated that we couldn’t indulge in a full day and evening (with appropriate levels of alcohol consumption) kind of visit. Dammit.

The next day we got the story from them; following a technology fart, Paul had changed his computer and lost a shed-load of addresses and other details, including my own. Sigh. My recent Christmas card with our new address on let him know I was still out here somewhere, but old phone numbers and such like no longer applied. By sheer chance, having only the previous day arrived in the nearby resort village, they had decided on a whim to visit the information centre, and in doing so began to chat to the lady behind the counter. As the conversation progressed the delightful coincidence emerged that the infomation operative (to give her the full title) is an acquaintance of ours as well! And so – shazzam! Surprise! Contact!

What followed was a thoroughly enjoyable but all-too-brief visit with two lovely people. I introduced my new wife (not quite at our second anniversary yet) to them both and we all got on very well, and as if we’d only seen one another the week before. From that meeting I know that I will always be able to call Paul a friend. I don’t use that term lightly – I reserve it for a very small group of people. My friends are people with whom the laughter flows naturally, with whom I never have to try, they are people with whom I can resume a years – old conversation at a second’s notice.

They are few and far between, my friends. They are immensely valued and immensely valuable to me. These people are very special. I’m very lucky.

Go West, Old(er) man

A welcoming….are you mad sir? Don’t you remember me at all?

Continuing the newly coined tradition of digressing with the first sentence; I heard a track from ‘Go West’ on the radio for the first time in a decade today. It was not a pleasant experience. Despite my (increasingly frantic) pleas for mercy, the radio did not cease this attack until the aforementioned ‘song’ had been completed.

Where are my manners…Bad Manners…Buster Bloodvessel…aaargh!…welcome back to…um…Hoylake – and here of course! I am sitting here, late afternoon, cold beer in stomach (the temperature has been in the low 90s for some time – typical BC summer), paint all over me and my carefully chosen set of sacrificial clothes, after three days of determined painting of a few rooms in the house. We choose to paint rather than ‘paper – wallpaper is a strange and weird concept over here – everyone just paints their walls (praise the lord). Only another half of the house to do then!

In answer to your question, despite a reputation to the contrary (carefully fostered over 18 years as a rozzer) I am quite accommodating to visitors and charge only a small rent for a week’s stay, plus of course cleaning duties and making four out of seven evening meals. Oh and cutting the grass and pulling some weeds. And finishing the painting. The dogs need walking too. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

Putting my hilarious quips to one side for a moment (the audience breathes a huge sigh of relief) yes of course you would be very welcome to visit!

On the holiday topic, we are going away in a few days with friends to a stereotypical Canadian log cabin on the shores of a beautiful lake, where I shall play with my boat, do lots of fishing, reading, playing of cards and gazing at a light pollution-free sky, where I hope to see the milky way properly. My kids are coming with us, and so there will doubtless be plenty of dock – jumping, cannonball-ing and camp fire roasting of ‘smores’. The dogs will be with us too, swimmong and, once alongside a hapless human,  liberally shaking at regular intervals to ensure that we don’t stay too dry.

Smores – since you asked – consist of a biscuit/cracker type thing onto which one places a freshly camp-fire roasted (and therefore nuclear) and gooey marshmallow, followed by a wafer of chocolate and another cracker/biscuit. Once constructed, they are to be eaten immediately and with relish. Deadly for a diabetic like me, so I of course love ’em. I commend them to you, sir.

I’m looking forward to our break and then coming home to push all the rubbish under the bed because my mum is coming out to visit a week on Friday! It will be the first time I’ll have seen her since my dad’s funeral, and she hasn’t been out here since 2003 so it’s a big deal for her and us.

I do heartily recommend you get out here some time (I know the flights are not cheap) as the scope for travelling is vast – you can comfortably head East in a fairly straight line and not turn back for five days while staying in the same country. I totally understand the ‘staying rather than living in’ principle – although I’m not too sure that it applies out here…be careful!

 

 

All Quiet on the Western Front

I don’t get the French sense of humour; I’m sure they won’t get mime. Sorry, I mean “mine”. Or maybe I was right the first time.

Well, here I am, back in Ye Little Olde Electrificatory Shoppe in Hoylake, doing a 5 day stint so the manager – my old Friend Chris – can have a deserved week off with the wife and kids. Not sure how relaxing it’s gonna be going camping with 5 young kids with a weather forecast of rain interrupted by brief showers, but that’s summer holidays in the UK for you.

Me, I’ve just come back from 7 nights in the ancient town of Agde and 2 nights in the charming university town of Montpellier in the South of France, followed by 2 nights camping in the less exotic but prettier looking Llangollen in North Wales.

Earlier in this blog, I asked the question Sud de France – Oui ou Non? I now know that I wouldn’t want to live just anywhere in the South of France, as I might have previously thought/suggested. Montpellier is one of the nicest cities I’ve visited (and I’ve been to many) and I certainly wouldn’t mind going back there sometime for a long weekend. Agde, on the other hand, was just OK; if it hadn’t been for its close proximity to the Mediterranean, it might not have been a great place to go holidaying. But the sun was warm, the wine was cheap, and I was there alone with my beautiful wife, so a good time was had.

If I give the matter proper consideration, spending a week or two out there is one thing, but selling up and moving lock, stock and barrel would be another – I can admit that to myself now. The main issues, as most people have always mentioned when I tell them I want to live in the South of France, are the language and cultural “barriers”. I can understand (if they speak slowly) and can make myself understood (if I speak slowly), and no doubt given time I would become fairly fluent (I lived in France for a few months back in my late twenties, and could communicate fairly easily towards the end of my time there). But I guess I’ll always be English and they’ll always be French, and they won’t get any of my jokes. Few enough people understand me here in the UK without exacerbating the problem…

In my last post, I summarized by saying that the only things I’d miss about the UK are real beer and real sausages and Cheddar cheese, and the only outstanding things about the South of France were the weather, the space, and fresh baguettes. Not a convincing argument to up sticks and relocate, I guess. In response to my post, you gave a very convincing argument for the charms of British Columbia. As I may have said, my only experience of Canada has been a fortnight in Nova Scotia. It was jolly nice, and we think we could happily live there for a long spell. But BC sounds a bit more civilized and a bit less cold. I wonder if you have a guest room and a welcoming manner, on the off-chance that we’re in the area for a week…?