Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A wet bank holiday

The Muffins have some friends who have a whisky collection.  They inherited on the death of the father of one of them.  There's enough that they like to hold dinner parties combined with whisky tasting evenings.  As I enjoy my whisky (not so much whiskey), I was delighted to head along on Saturday evening.  The meal consisted of salmon with cream cheese on blinis, followed by smoked duck on a bed of watercress, followed by tagliatelle and finally mackerel fish cakes...that's if you don't include the chocolate and ginger drops.  With each course we sampled a different whisky or two.  Delicious.  I learnt a few things.  Firstly, a mouthful of food can radically change the flavour of a whisky (some that we liked we liked less after a bite of mackerel, etc) and that the cost of a whisky can often reflect its rarity rather than its quality.  It was a really lovely evening...with tales of disastrous weddings at Camden Registry office and wedding rings made from three generations of mothers' wedding rings...and some gold fillings.

Naturally Sunday morning was a little fuggy.

The Cat and The Boy headed off to a party near Canterbury...old school friends recounting tales of their past year since leaving school.  I don't think it got too wild, I do think it went on quite late.  And so it should.

We reconvened as a family group in Deal where we were meeting some friends who live there.  They have returned to Blighty after years of living and working abroad, most recently in Germany.  This gave The Boy a chance to practice his Austrian-accented German.  I believe he passed muster.  We all had a game or two of pool in the 'man cave'...and I was quite pleased to have won both games...it was only fun, but actually as I hadn't picked up a cue for a couple of decades there was a small joy to winning!

It also gave me the opportunity to freshen up.I hadn't realised the extent to which the #icebucketchallenge had swept the country, so had been surprised to find that I had been challenged.  I think there's a bit of a backlash as happens with these things, but I guess I feel that it's a bit of fun, and encourages people to donate money they would otherwise not, so why not.  As it happens another of the guests there had been challenged too, so we took up the challenge together.  You're probably bored with seeing these, but then what's another...

The Boy is very single-minded in all things.  That's both a blessing and a curse.  It means he has an iron determination to achieve what he wants to, and there is no doubting that is a good thing.  On the other hand he does speak incessantly about a subject when a bit of variety might be a good idea.  Still I would rather have it this way round, than him having no interests or no passion about the things he gets involved in.

The Boy and I are all set for our trip up to Edinburgh.  He's off to study German and English Literature starting early September.  It's an eight hour journey, and car rental is out of the question...he's not yet 23, so I'll be driving there and back in a weekend.  Groan.  Muffin Dad suggested renting a car one way and flying back which  is a  great idea, but the cost is horrendous, so I've had to rule that out.  Am hoping that Auntie Gwen will supply her son's  contact details so my Boy will be able to hook up with hers.

Oh what a tangled web we weave.  The Middle East is going from bad to worse it seems, and from where I sit, the west is largely responsible for stirring up this hornet's nest.  Not just in the last ten, twenty or thirty years, but going way way back.  There's even talk of us having to support the Assad Government in Syria against ISIS.  Really?  How mad is that?  Perhaps in future, the West will learn to keep its collective noses out of the region.  But I doubt it.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Viva Espana

I have a couple of projects going on at the moment...neither quite have the momentum they ought.

So firstly, I started another blog.  It's just photographs of launderettes.  Why would I do that?  Well, I suspect that they will all disappear, and that will be a shame.  They are great meeting places, and part of the traditional high street...well at least a side street off it.  But fewer and fewer homes are without laundry facilities now, so they are in decline.  It's a shame, as there's something quite romantic about being in a launderette on a dark and wintry evening.  I'd like to do this project seriously...a photo outside, a picture inside and a few lines from someone using it...but a lack of bravado on my part, some uncomfortableness from owners and not being focused has got this one stalling in the starting blocks.  Anyway, if you happen to be passing a launderette and want to send me a picture I'd be delighted...ask your friends and relatives too.  I'll credit you.  Please make sure you say where it is.  Here's the link

My other project is putting all my CDs onto a hard drive.  This particular one has wifi built in so I can then play it through pretty much whatever I want wherever I want.  It's a labour of love, and not quite completed...probably about 85% there.  That's a lot of CDs...several thousand.  It's sort of worked...some CDs are beyond their sell by date, some CDs don't have album artwork on line, and it appears that in the course of history some of my favourites have become the disappeared. The Cat's Mother has put up with me sitting watching TV with her whilst at the same time I slip yet another CD in the computer.  It's been going on for weeks.  Her patience might be wearing thin which is a shame because I wasn't quite sure how big the files were going to be so I recorded them in 320kps MP3 format.  That's not quite as good as it should be, but good enough for general listening.  Now I'm nearly at the end I can see I probably could have used a 'Lossless' format so want to start all over again.  Our relationship may not survive that, so I may have to sneak off for long weekends by myself...

Talking of which, The Cat's Mother has gone to Spain with The Muffins and UP for a short week.  I headed down to Brighton for a couple of days of RnR...I've had a lovely time, but as it's Monday I've been working which is a shame really.  It does help me be distracted from the return of The Prodigal Son tomorrow...that is a very exciting prospect!

Thursday, 14 August 2014


We were due to be going to see a film - The Great Beauty - on the outdoor screen at Somerset House this evening.  It's pouring with rain.  The Cat's Mother definitely won't go.  I might, but it doesn't feel that appealing.

When I used to be an 'international business man', I used to try and organise my meetings for a Monday or a Friday.  That way I could fly in and enjoy the weekend in a beautiful city.  One of those cities was Madrid...it's a glorious place, and I loved exploring it.  I came across an art exhibition, and for the first time I was 'moved' by the art I saw.  It was a remarkable exhibition by Anish Kapoor.  I'd never heard of him before, but instantly became a devotee, and have been to see many more of his exhibitions since.  In fact one of the first outings that The Cat's Mother, The Cat, The Boy and I went to was one of his; it was may be a little unfortunate that the first exhibit had more than a passing resemblance to a vagina.   He has risen to international prominence, and is considered one of Britain's greatest living sculptors...his works are far out of my reach, but I was very, very delighted by a 50th birthday present from The Cat's Mother - a pair of Anish Kapoor designed cufflinks.  Anyway, the point of this is not so much about Anish Kapoor, but how unexpected discoveries can bring a lifetime of joy.

So to clarify this waffle.  For years I used to get to Bermondsey (where my office is) early, buy a newspaper and read it whilst I drank a cappuccino in a pub that opened for breakfast.  Across from where I sat, the directors of Kurt Geiger would have their daily management meeting, which I would occasionally listen in to (well I am nosy).  Alas, they never thought to offer me a shoe discount.  One day the background music caught my attention, and I asked what it was.   A group called Easystar All Stars.  It was a reggae version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  I couldn't buy it quickly enough, and since then it is always near the top of my pile of music to listen to...in fact I've heard it many more times than the original.  They've also done dub versions of Radiohead, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson...all great albums.  Last night we got the chance to see them at he Jazz Club in Camden.  They were sublime....I grinned from start to finish I enjoyed it so much.  The icing on the cake was that the exit was right past out table on the balcony above the stage, so I could thank them for their music.  They're on tour, and even if you're not a reggae fan, I'd still recommend you get to see them for a great night of music that will invigorate you.

Monday, 11 August 2014


You've probably seen in the newspapers the Poppy installation at the Tower of London to commemorate the 100th 'anniversary' of the start of The Great War.  It's called Bloodswept lands and Seas of Red and will consist of 886,246 ceramic poppies created by the artist Paul Cummins.  Whilst the installation was officially announced a couple of weeks ago teams of volunteers have been planting poppies at a daily rate of about 10,000 so that the total can be reached by 11th November.  In fact they are doing more than just planting them, they've been creating them.  The petals are made in a workshop in Derby and then shipped in batches of 4000 to the site.  Volunteers then work in the Tower moat with steel stalks either 45cm, 75cm, or 100cm. The process is a production line:  struggle to put a small rubber washer on the stalk, then struggle to put a big rubber washer on, then struggle to put a small rubber spacer on before finally struggling to put on a big rubber bung.  Make several before carrying them over to their designated position, remove the large rubber bung, put on a ceramic poppy and plant.  Re-attach the large rubber bung, and repeat.  The work is being done in four-hour shifts come rain or shine. When it's dry you need to hammer in the stalk.  When its wet you get cold and wet but the stalks go in a lot easier.  You will have guessed that I have done one shift and have volunteered for more (it's so 'popular' that I'm not sure I will be needed again).  I had a lovely Sunday morning doing this.  The other volunteers were an absolute joy to work with.  It does make you think and reflect on why you are there...and when we thought we might start moaning about being so wet this weekend, we all realised that the soldiers we are commemorating had to live and die in the most appalling conditions for four long years.

So I would very, very strongly recommend you go and see this.  There is a beauty to it, but somehow it manages to capture the tragedy of a war that was supposed to end all wars in a very emotional way.  I'm sure it will move you.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Nothing doing

Some people ( I won't name names, but you know who you are) have suggested on more than one occasion that The Cat's Mother and I don't sit still for more than a moment.  It's not true.  Really.  We absolutely love sitting down on the sofa with a mug of coffee and watching TV.  Naturally, we rarely, if ever, watch a 'live broadcast'.  We are utterly dependent on iplayer and other catch up services.

At the moment we are thoroughly enjoying the twists and turns of The Honourable Woman which is a classic piece of drama that has arrived at an uncanny moment in history. Deal upon deal upon deal has been made by the protagonists, and we're only on episode 5.  Of course, we're thoroughly confused.  suspect that some of the baddies might be goodies and vice versa, or in the interest of political correctness, they'll all turn out to be baddies.  There are some truly outstanding performances.  If you haven't seen it so far, do have a look...a drama set about Middle Eastern politics, Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and trying to do the right thing.  Or not.

Utopia over on Channel 4 is another kettle of fish.  A quite mad sci-fi story (actually we're on series 2, and we missed series 1) that is shot in super-saturated colours.  The story is about an organisation that would like to reduce the human population to manageable levels and the mad scientist that created it.  It's nonsense but very enjoyable nonsense and has us hooked.  It's quite (very) violent.

The secret History of our streets, which is a little gem of a social history to be found on BBC 4 I think.  the first series focused on London, this second series looks at Scottish cities...Edinburgh and Glasgow so far with Aberdeen to follow next week.  The concept is a simple one...look at the history of a street and the people that live or have lived in it.  Brilliant.  Fascinating.  


Friday, 1 August 2014

Oh what a lovely war!

Brighton has a long history of losing piers...some of them really quite beautiful constructions.  Take the Chain Pier for example.  very beautiful.  Very washed away.

More recently, The West Pier, which is possibly most famous as the location for the splendid musical satire 'Oh what a lovely war!' was first left to rot and then destroyed by fire in 2003.  There is a mystery to the fire that revolves around it being in the middle of the sea with no electrical or other connections to the beach that would have allowed a spark or flame to reach it.  Funds had just be raised to revive it, thank you National Lottery, and become an upmarket rival to the day trippers' favourite Palace Pier just down the beach.  Some scurrilous wags had suggested there was a connection.  I couldn't possible comment

This is a clip from the film, and we were lucky enough to have seen the stage production in the original theatre in Stratford earlier this year; it's coming back to the West End if you want to see it

Anyway, this week there was a ceremony on the seafront to mark the construction of what you might describe as a vertical pier...the i360.  This is a tower that will rise high over Brighton on the landside of the site of the West Pier giving spectacular views over the seas, the city and the Sussex countryside beyond.  It would have arrived earlier, but the financial crash caused by those bastard bankers meant the money was lost, just proving how greed impacts in all sorts of unexpected ways.  It will be up by 2016, and we are very much looking forward to it.

Ironically, in the same week, this happened in Eastbourne, and we can only hope that it will be rebuilt as soon as possible

So sadly there are lots of 'lovely' wars going on around us at the moment.  Civil war in the Ukraine fueled by Mr Putin and his cronies.  The root cause of this is probably the failure to establish 'proper' government after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it is a tragedy that Moscow is exploiting it for its own ends.  There is an argument that this is because of the way the West has outmaneuvered Moscow in international affairs over the last decade or so, but equally you cannot deny Putin's desire to create a Greater Russia.  Among the victims are the families of the crew and passengers of the Malaysian aircraft shot out of the sky...it must be bad enough losing your a loved one like that, let alone having the knowledge that only two-thirds of the bodies have been recovered, with possibly some bodies removed to hide evidence of who actually shot them out of the sky.  That's an unimaginable horror of its own.

And then there's Gaza.  I am clear in my views, and have been for a long time.  Hamas is a bit stupid to be sending ineffectual rockets into Israeli territory, but when you've been subject to a blockade for the last eight years that has kept the population in abject and worsening misery and poverty, you're bound to do stupid things.  The US bares much responsibility for continuing to supply arms to Israel and unflinchingly supporting a country that is guilty of one war crime after another.  I can't help but feel that this blind support is because of a continuing guilt over the holocaust, and that is in itself creating a new one.  I can't help also thinking that if it hadn't been for Americans' money, the conflict in Northern Ireland would have ended decades before it did with many lives saved.  I'm donating significant amounts to Medical Aid for Palestinians, and invite you too here.  Its only humane.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

This was a challenge

Now, you may not have noticed it, but Sunday night was the second anniversary of the OPening Ceremony of the London Olympics.  You'll almost certainly know that this was one of the most memorable nights of my life.  We watched the Blu-Ray to re-enjoy the moment.  If you'd like to know what was going through our heads that night, do listen to THIS.  It's the In Ear Monitors with the calling instructions to us...it does more than anything else to bring back the magic.

I said it wasn't that interesting, but I've mentioned it a couple of times...the Night Ride to Brighton.  I've done night rides before, and I've done rides to Brighton before, but I've never combined them.  I once did the ride on a tandem, having hired one from Snaresbrook, and rode it through London in the rush hour, including round Hyde Park to the start pint by myself.  I then picked up my passenger...erm I mean co-rider to complete the journey.  It was a blast.  When he was 13, The Boy and I rode from Brighton to Buckhurst Hill..that was an awesome achievement for him...we were both on mountain bikes, so heavy and unwieldy. We managed it...and I remain very proud of him for doing that.

So my ride was in support of the British Heart Foundation and I raised a couple of hundred quids for them...I don't have a particular affinity, but they organised it, so they got the money.  My first challenge was that because we were going to see Robbie Williams before hand, I couldn't ride the bike to the start point, and I no longer had the office to leave it in.  So I managed to find a store cupboard in the building and shoved it in during the morning.  After Robbie, I swiftly changed into my riding gear in the middle of the Gents, and hobbled off with The Cat's Mother (have you ever tried to walk in cycling shoes?!).  We kissed and went our separate ways...I managed to get the bike out of the cupboard and cycled to the start point down the street for my midnight start time.  It was then that I discovered, even before I started, that I had a puncture!  Fortunately, there were mechanics in the start area to sort me out...along with another 3000 fellow cyclists.  Off we went, our progress only hampered by traffic lights seemingly bent on stopping progress altogether.  Eventually we cleared the main city...a continuous stream of lycra-clad cyclists all quite relaxed and enjoying each other's company.  My ride was spent in the company of a girl who was also not in a team or with friends.  She was lovely, but a chatterbox.  I was grateful for the company...but she literally didn't stop talking for the whole 100km...I don't know how she managed it!

One bleak bit was coming down a hill to see a collection of half a dozen blue flashing lights on ambulances, a bike in one direction, a sprawled cyclist in the other...they'd lost control on the way down.  I heard later that they'd survived, but with serious injuries.  Hills were a major challenge (yes Surrey and Sussex is not quite as flat as I remembered), and even more of a challenge were the people who pushed their bikes up the hills...spreading themselves across and blocking the road.  I asked politely, but sometimes it was hard...

At the second refreshment stop, I started off again to hear a clank, clank, clank...a spoke had detached itself and wrapped itself round the rear gears.  Fortunately no damage done, and fortunately someone with some wire cutters could cut it off...

The final hill was the most difficult...up Devil's Dyke.  I've never failed to climb a hill before, but as I went up I realised I wasn't going to make it.  I was devastated.  I stopped, determined to start again when I had my breath back.  I did and made it.  I was pleased, but not half as pleased as when I looked down and realised it had been so difficult because I'd been in completely the wrong gear.  Not slightly, but totally. Actually my defeat had become a total triumph.  Elated?  You bet!

From there it was all down hill, and then along the seafront.  Sadly no free bacon butties on offer, but I got my medal and then found a cafe.  Relaxed, and feeling very, very happy with my exertions.  It had take five and a half hours.  Not bad, not bad at all.

Monday, 28 July 2014

This may prove a challenge (3)

This is like making mortgage payments...once you slip behind, it's hard to catch up....

...anyway, I'm really disappointed with all of you...no one mentioned that in the pictures from Ascot, there were two where the horses were running in opposite directions....

So, before the bicycle ride, what else has been happening?

I'm sharing an office with a bunch of journalists, which is a bit like inviting a fox into your chicken shed, but hey ho.  Now, this is truly and totally exciting for me.  Firstly it's pretty much a garret and very ramshackle, which help creates a terrific atmosphere.  Secondly, there's somewhere for me to put my bike, so I can still cycle.  And thirdly, these are not just any old journalists, but include people who do stuff for the Beeb, The Times, the FT and any number of top line outlets.  Their interests pretty much cover mine, so theres' a danger that I'll spend all day, everyday chattering away. Anyway, it should be good for work, and the day I signed up, it felt like Christmas had come early.

We had the local picnic last weekend, and the guests included Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Abbing and The Rolling Stones.  Ok, they may not have been the real thing, but they sounded pretty damned good to us as we danced the night away in the pouring rain (well it is England anyway).

Earlier that day, my good friend Graeme (the one who took me bobsleighing earlier this year) and I did the 8km Anniversary run round the Olympic Park.  It would probably have been sensible for me to train, but I didn't.  I still managed it with Graeme's encouragement faster than last year and with no blisters, so very happy about that. Next year, it will finish in the stadium again...so we'll both be running again, if anyone wants to join us.

We slipped out for one night only last week (The Cat's Mother is still suffering badly with her back) to see a very, very fine performance by The Temper Trap.  I'd missed out when the tickets originally  went on sale (the venue - Oslo in Hackney - hold only a couple of hundred people), so finally took the plunge and bought them on the second hand market.  Of course, we paid a premium, but the tickets were cheap to start with so it wasn't too bad.  The gig was truly amazing, helped by me being completely non-critical.  They're a group that I really enjoy, so I am very much looking forward to their next album...

This weekend was spent in sunny Brighton.  For everyone who thinks we never sit still for a moment, let me confound you by saying, yes we do.  We sat on the hot pebbly beach all Saturday evening eating remarkable cheese and charcuterie from cave de Fromage in Hove whilst drinking a lovely chilled bottle of wine.  We loved the people watching, we loved each other's company and we loved seeing the sun slowly set.  It was a close to paradise as you can get.  The sound of the sea is completely relaxing and enchanting.  The Cat's Mother had remarkably never done it before; I had forgotten just what a beautiful experience it is.  We shall do it again.  Soon.

And today, I gave a donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians.  There was no question I was going to do it, but it was difficult to decide how much....I guess that's why charities tell you what different amounts will do for the people/things they support.  In the end I decided on £1/Palestinian who has been killed in the fighting. It's not that I value each life at £1, but I just had to find a way of quantifying what I could give.  There is a link here if you would like to do the same.

And about that bike ride....next time

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

This may prove a challenge...(2)

...so still trying to catch up, and even when I do I still won't have got round to Gaza and the Ukraine...and I'm still not managing to read half the blogs I like very much...

...anyway what else have we been up to?  That's rhetorical, obviously, but helps remind me that I need to get these things so that I can look back in years to come and remember the good times...

...away from the music we have been to see:

Titus Andronicus at The Globe.  One of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and one of the goriest.  Evidently there are 'feinters' in every performance...yes it's grim, but surely it shouldn't make you keel over? It was fabulous.  I know that many people don't really take to Shakespeare, having been scarred at school, but I genuinely believe that if people gave it a second chance they'd be surprised at how enjoyable it really is; it would help if schools took kids to see performances too rather than make them cram for GCSEs with dry texts in the classroom.

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich.  Yes, the fine old tea clipper that Prince Phillip tried to incinerate by tossing one of his fags into the partially-restored hull some years back (allegedly).  I have memories from my childhood of visiting the Cutty Sark and finding it a 'bit boring'.  But the techniques they have these days for making the whole exhibition fun and interactive mean that we spent a very pleasant couple of hours there on my birthday.

The Mad Hatters Tea Party at the Sanderson Hotel....a special treat for The Cat's Mother.  I was counting how many days old she is and realised that in day terms she had a very special one in June, so I treated her. It's a lovely twist with far far too many sandwiches and cakes....

An evening of Jacobean Music at the Wannamaker (that's the indoor theatre at The Globe).  Which was OK, but not really my cup of tea, but you can't help but admire the skill of the musicians...

A day at the races...I'd not been to Ascot before, so delighted to get an invitation (The Cat's Mother was away in New York for a few days).  I travelled down and back on the most crowded trains I've ever been on...and I was in first class ( a small extravagance allowed because it cost just £19).  We had a terrific day drinking Pimms and betting on the horses.  I won £126 on the first race which set me up for the rEst of the day! Nobody had mentioned all the communal singing that goes on at the end after the Queen has escaped...every fine British song you can imagine... lovely, lovely day.  And I took some pictures

I had my annual trip to Parliament.  There is a reception held by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign for supporters, and I turn up every year feeling a bit of a fraud.  I give my money, I lend my support on social media, but do little else.  Given what's happening in Gaza at the moment, that's not really enough.

And then there was the Tour de France.  I'd volunteered, had been to a familiarisation session and a training session and then the day itself.  Essentially I stood in the road telling spectators to stand behind the white line, apart from when it was safe to let them cross.  I spent all day waiting to say, "It's more than my jobsworth to let you cross now, luv"  But it didn't happen.  It was a marvelous party atmosphere all day long, large crowds and the cyclists whizzed past in a matter of moments.  They were close enough that I thought I was going to lose my nose.  I looked lovely in my green uniform.  Very special.

Last week we went to see Monty Python.  We hadn't planned to, but the Muffins bought us tickets.  They were very good...in fact everything you would want...all the old favourites plus a few more with a contemporary twist.  What's not to like?  Can't believe they told us to Piss Off at the end

And finally (apart from the things I've forgotten) we went to see Medea at The National.  Yes a fine old Greek tragedy by Euripides.  I'm not sure that these things translate to a modern stage, and with modern expectations, but it was well produced and directed and some terrific performances on the stage.  But I'm still not sure that killing your children is the best way to get back at your ex-husband who has run off with a new woman.....

....oh yes and the night bike ride to Brighton...more of which soon (it's not that exciting...)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

This may prove a challenge...

A lot has happened over the last few weeks, and it was an unfortunate coincidence that it was just after I'd been given hell for one of my posts..so I've not been much inclined to visit the blogosphere...although if you're a Facebook friend (and if you read RTFM it would be great to get to know you on Facebook if I don't already), you will know some of the recent highlights already.

So the big change that's happened has been that I decided some months ago to rent my office out and work from a mixture of home, clients' offices and also from a desk in an office shared with some journalist friends. Now really and truly, this is a very good thing - the office was an expensive luxury, and it is now a 'profit centre', and I had always planned to do it at precisely this age.  On paper I'm happy about it.  But there is a lingering feeling that this marks a new path that I'm not so happy about.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but I can't help saying "I've given the office up".  I shouldn't be thinking of it like that because it is good news, but I can't help it.  It may have been the particular circumstances including the final 'tenants' in the office turning particularly nasty before they gave their (six month) notice and then having to live with that.  The final straw came when they refused to return the office keys, potentially meaning all the locks in the building would need to be changed.  I solved that one by suggesting that it was theft and I was just on my way to the police station.  The keys were back within an hour.  Yes, they were the awkward squad big time.  The whole process of reletting became fraught too as my solicitors and the new tenants solicitors were beyond useless. A draft lease that took three months to create (even though one existed already because my company sublet it to me) then had substantial amendments on every single of its 45 pages.  The tenants themselves were fine, and we managed to resolve every issue in a 3 hour face to face meeting...only to find it still took the solicitors another two months to put it to bed.  My solicitor failed to incorporate one of the important clauses, and even on the day of completion, there was an enormous fight about whether the bank account number for their deposit should/should not be included as part of the lease.  I had to tell my solicitor and their solicitor to stop being complete arses.  Literally.  Solicitors are the most ridiculous people in the world, they think in the most bizarre, unhelpful ways and really I can't help but feel we'd all be better off without them.  Enough said, as I type this in my 'home office' which has a view across Essex in one direction and down to Canary Wharf in the other.  On the up side, I find myself getting up at my normal time, doing some work before breakfast...which is making me more productive than I was before.  Hurrah.  Change can be difficult even if it is change for the best.

So for the record what have we been doing - musically?

Music wise we've seen:

The Eagles - absolutely fabulous...a perfect performance with all their best songs sounding great.  One black mark was he stupid 'corporate' announcements telling us not to take pictures and videos.  Really?  What century do they live in?  I don't have any pictures to show you.

Mari Wilson - do you remember Mari Wilson?  Fabulous songstress with a great beehive hairdo.  This was at a very small, intimate venue just of Regents Street.  We went with a couple of friends and managed to embarrass ourselves by ordering enough food to feed the multitudes.  Apart from that, she was absolutely brilliant.  Really cool, laid back and friendly and absolutely still a fantastic voice.  She signed copies of her latest CD and even agreed to a picture with me

It was exactly ten years ago that I took The Boy (he who is still at the top of an Austrian mountain!) to his first gig - Turin Brakes at Somerset House.  The evening was fabulous, and I was so delighted when some years later Auntie Gwen invited us up to the frozen north to see them, and her beautiful daughter's wonderful boyfriend went behind stage to get us their autographs.  On the anniversary, The Cat's Mother and I went to see Bastille, a popular contemporary beat combo....they were very good, and inspite of The Cats Mother being as nearly crippled as crippled can be by her back, we bopped along.  Better still was the support band Kyla La Grange who sang wonderfully, and danced in a see through plastic mac.  We bought the album

Some years ago I bought Robbie Williams tickets, and then gave them away because the concert was on the same night as Parents Evening.  I got a bottle of whisky in return.  This time I bought Robbie tickets so far in advance and then forgot about them and signed up for a night cycle ride.  A sponsored night cycle ride.  When I realised my mistake, I was all ready to give the tickets away, but then realised the concert finished at 10.30, the ride started at midnight.  I could do both.  So Robbie did a bit of swinging both ways in his 'saucy seaside postcard' sort of way, entertained us immensely for a couple hours, leaving us feeling we'd had a great evening, and both thinking it was money more than well spent.  We then parted company, with The Cat's Mother heading back to Epping Forest and me heading to Tower Bridge.  From there, me and three thousand of my closest friends cycled the 110km to Brighton, leaving at half-past midnight and arriving at 6.00am.  But that's a whole other story I'll write another time....

Saturday, 5 July 2014

River deep, mountain high

Grandma in Cyprus is well again.  Hurrah.  The right drugs prescribed privately have done the trick.  A bit of rest will do her the power of good and all will be well with the world again.

Last week The Boy, who returned to Austria for his summer (did I mention that?) climbed with two friends Austria's highest mountain.  Given that there are a fair few mountains in Austria, I assume this is quite an achievement.  I am of course the very proud and delighted father.  That's the father who is even more pleased that he made it down in one piece as well.  As with all things The Boy gets involved in, he does nothing by half measure, so he's taken to his new hobby of mountaineering with an absolute passion, bordering on an obsession...it's a fine balance.  Anyway, I'm pleased that he gets excited and interested in the things he does...he will get more out of them and indeed more out of life.

The next morning he and his two climbing companions were just about to sit down for breakfast when one of them said that his head felt a bit strange.  The next thing anyone knew, he came crashing to the ground, smashing his head on the table and having a fit, thrashing around the kitchen floor.  The Boy and his friend protected him from any further hard surfaces, and called the emergency services.  An ambulance arrived, and the lad was taken to the air ambulance where he was whisked off to hospital.  Within two or three days, he was largely recovered...probably an epileptic fit.

So a number of thoughts.

We're all relieved he is OK
The lad wanted to be a mountain guide..I don't know, but the chances of that must be severely diminished
How quickly your life can change..fit as a fiddle one moment...and then...
By all accounts The Boy snapped into 'leadership mode' and did everything he should...how much he and indeed I value all that training his done
It must have been horrific for The Boy...this is one of those things that he'll never forget and I'm sure that mentally it aged him
How fortune it didn't happen up the mountain...the outcome could have been quite different
...and a million more

Monday, 16 June 2014

Get Over It

One of these Nights (tonight in fact) we’re going to Take It To The Limit, in fact by 6 o'clock we’ll be Already Gone. I’m traveling by boat, so I won’t be living Life In The Fast Lane but the River should give me a Peaceful Easy Feeling. I’ll be there with my Witchy Woman who says she’ll be on time…I suspect her Lying Eyes. There’ll be lots of people there, but I’ll feel like a New Kid In Town, but then I am a bit of a Desperado. Expect it’ll be One of Those Nights and not Wasted Time, as that’ll cause me Heartache Tonight, but I guess in the Long Run I’d Get Over It. Hopefully it won’t be too late when it finishes but if it does we’ll have to check in at the Hotel California, In The City and in the morning see the Tequila Sunrise.

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Up and down our road the last couple of years has seen competitive house building such that medium size houses have become big, big houses have become enormous and enormous houses have become vast.  You can't help but feel that when empty nesters start building basement swimming pools - with the garden carved out so that a panoramic window can be incorporated - and orangeries, it's a case of too much money and people not knowing what to spend it on.  My guess is that these are houses, not homes.

Like two ships not quite passing in the night, The Cat arrived home on Thursday, and The Boy departed on Wednesday.  She texted me "On M5, ETA 15.10. HOMEWARD BOUND".  The Boy put a message on Facebook when he got back to Kitzbuhel, "Good to be home".  Both caused a bit of a ripple.  The Cat has absolutely loved her first year at Exeter.  So much so that I had assumed it had become a second home to her.  But perhaps not..what I had forgotten is that The Cat is a girl who loves her home and family more than anything...so I shouldn't be surprised she was very happy to be returning.  Perhaps Exeter is somewhere that she enjoys, but sees no lasting bond...let's see over the next couple of years.

The Boy has had an amazing few months...he took himself off without the certainty of a job, or somewhere to live, but very quickly found his feet...a job he loves, a settled place to live and some great comrades...people with a similar outlook on life.  Kitzbuhel itself is beautiful...the town, the scenery and the people themselves are lovely.  No wonder he feels at home there.  It's his place...he has found a degree of peace there...after all it can't be doubted that his childhood was quite a disjointed one..his parents divorcing, then his mother dying, and his father not in a steady relationship until he met The Cat's Mother...even his home life was divided between Brighton and London.  More than that, I understand how he feels...I enjoyed some time between school and uni up the mountains, albeit just working in a hotel, rather than gaining a qualification...but I too found a peace and serenity that meant that when I returned, with The Boy in tow, a few years ago, I was moved to tears.  Hopefully, he will also find that when he travels up to Scotland he will discover that Edinburgh can be a true home for him.

For myself, I always think of having two homes...I cannot deny that Brighton is for me the place where I feel I belong...I've had the same flat for the last 25 years, and everytime I visit, I feel I'm coming home...I love the smell of the sea, the sound of the waves crashing and the seagulls calling...I like the slower pace of life and the sense that beyond the horizon when I look out to see is a world of possibilities and adventure.  My other home is not so much Epping Forest...its OK, but I don't much care for Loughton, or the people there (friends excepted of course!), or the tawdry high street full of chain restaurants...but it is where The Cat's Mother is, and that is most important to me...proving that home is not always a house...it's where your heart is.

Monday, 9 June 2014

"Don't forget to find out where the gay cruising car park is"

Last week was a quiet week, and this one is too...it may be that because The Boy is home, we feel the need to be there too.  Although whether he feels the same way I don't know...after all what teenager wants scabby parents hanging around when he could be putting his feet up on the sofa, taking his socks off and hiding them underneath?  He has spent the time mostly going bouldering...its climbing over large rocks to you and me. Like all his interests, he's taken it up with a passion...and has bought the kit to go with it.  I'm glad he's enjoying it, but of course mountaineering is a (nother) dangerous sport, so my life will be spent worrying about any mishaps.  Who on earth would have children????

Anyway, here's a nice picture of The Boy and The Cat's Mother

He's sorted his Uni accomodation.  Tick.  He's applied for his loan. Tick.  I've sent the supporting information. Tick.  He's all ready for freshers week at the beginning of September.  Tick.  All we will have to do is work out how to get him and all his stuff up there.  It's a long drive, and love the Jeep as I do, I don't really fancy several hundred miles on motorway in it.    He is back for another week, which will be precious moments, before returning to Kitzbuhel, where I think he's lined up work in a hotel, in a bar, in a shop and in a cinema.  That strikes me as very resourceful...but then I guess he's needed to be over the winter season, so why should it stop now?  I'm glad he loves it and am happy he's enjoying himself.

I read that Google is developing driverless cars.  From a safety perspective, I can see that these make perfect sense.  I like that idea.  But driving is not now, and nor has it ever been just about getting from point A to point B safely and securely.  Driving is an experience, and in the right circumstances exciting.  I like to drive, because even in the cosseted environment of a modern car (actually mine's a Jeep so it's hardly modern) it's quite fun.  Even when you're stuck in traffic on the M25, there's something about sitting in the driving seat that's rewarding.  It's an experience, and generally an enjoyable one.  If it wasn't we'd all be on buses and trains...an extended version of the driverless car, just without the privacy and door-to-doorness that we like.  What I would hate to see is the roads taken over by driverless vehicles, and anyone who wants a thrill from motoring to be forced to go on track weekends...somehow I feel our lives will be less rewarding if that joy is taken out of our day to day journeys.  I was pondering the other day about how humankind has a remarkable ability to force itself to do things in a 'specilaised' way...take exercise for example...once we used to walk everywhere, giving us a bit of exercise and improving our health at the same time.  Now though we are driving to the local corner shop, and then in order to keep fit we pay £50/month to go down the gym. Madness.  Utter madness.

Yep, those were my parting words to The Cat's Mother this morning.  Not quite the usual "Have a nice day dear".  It's not so much that I want to go cruising you understand...I'm quite happy with my home comforts. But last week we were told where we are meeting on the morning of The Tour de France.  It gave an address and a location.  If you just put the postcode into Google, it came up with somewhere that was about 5 miles away from the route....it seemed wrong.  So I put in the address - yes it is a car park - but when you Google it, the first web site that comes up is one that helps people find erm, er a bit if short-term romance and somewhere you can practice dogging (I think this has nothing to do with canines).  A friend mentioned she knew where it was...we haven't yet questioned her why...so The Cat's Mother is going to double check. On the day, I shall try to arrive not too early....