Saturday 19 May 2012

Just a picture

I found this on a walk tracing the original route of the River Fleet.  It was the entrance to one of the back street garages that gave the motor trade such a bad name in the sixties and seventies.  And eighties and nineties.

Friday 18 May 2012

An act of kindness

Anyone who has owned a pet will tell you that there are times when the object of their love and affection is so ill that the only reasonable option is to put it out of its misery.  It leads to guilt and sorrow, but really it's for the best, and everyone knows and accepts that.  The Euro is the pet project of European politicians, and what is clear even to the most casual observer is that it is a creature that is so severely wounded that a lethal injection is the kindest thing to be done.  It's just a month to the next Greek elections with a racing certainty that they'll veer even more towards the politicians that won't impose austerity.  The almost inevitable consequence will be a bankrupt Greece ejected from the Euro with confidence in the currency collapsing across the globe.  Difficult as it may seem, the sensible choice is to give the Euro that injection now; the one that will put it and us out of our collective miseries.

Whilst I'm on a rant, let me just mention ratings agency Moody's again.  They downgraded a number of Spanish banks last night, including Santander in the UK.  But it takes only thirty seconds to discover that Santander in the UK is independent of the Spanish operation and actually a strong, well managed business (some customers may disagree with this).  So in my books this is yet more proof (if any was needed) that the ratings agencies are pig-ignorant and should be banned from rating anything more than a cup of coffee.

Amongst my list of pleasures, I rate sleep very highly indeed.  Unlike The Cat, who has turned it into an Olympic sport in which she wins gold every day, I find sleep quite a challenge.  I think I must have a switch on the side of my head. More often than not, the moment my head hits the pillow, my brain switches on and I can't stop it.  Grandma in Cyprus would tell you that even from a young age my mind was very active at me the most terrifying nightmares.  Even now The Cat's Mother will tell you know I will regularly have animated conversations in the middle of the night in between thrashing around, sitting up and waving limbs in one direction or another.  My dreams can be so vivid, that I'm affected by their mood for the entire following day.  But at least if I'm dreaming it means I'm asleep.  More often than not just getting to sleep can be an impossible task.  Sometimes I just lie there, and on others I get myself out of bed, and wander downstairs.  Once there  I can be found doing a variety of things.

Last night I checked how many tickets we have for the Temper Trap next week - four, not the two we thought, so we need to find a couple of people to come with us.  I then proceeded to sprinkle ant powder around the conservatory and kitchen to fend off the advancing ant army whose  advance party has been breaching our Maginot line for several weeks now.

I then headed to my laptop to catch up on some of the blogs I've missed over the last several days.  The thing is being a bit dopey, I managed to put my blog's web address into Google.  And what a surprise it was.

Poor old Langley Grammar School evidently uses it as source material for their AS Geography course!!! ????  So apologies to all those lads and lasses who will end up with an E as a result.

On the other hand, I discovered some kind soul (please step forwards and get your well deserved pat on the back and vigorous handshake) has nominated me for the MAD blog awards in the photography category.  I had no idea, I'm quite delighted, I didn't/won't win, but the nomination created a nice warm glow which enabled me to climb back up to bed, lay my head on the pillows and sleep soundly.

And it has inspired me a little.  So for the next year I am going to post a picture every morning.  Some will be old, some will be new, some will be technically good, some bad, but I'll do my best to make them interesting.

Here's the first

Surely only in Paris, on the bank of the Seine, could you find a saxophone being played in the middle of the day.  From our trip to France last year

Thursday 17 May 2012

Not Grandma in Cyprus' birthday*

I can't deny that travel was a problem.

As we were traveling on days not frequented by the package holiday set, we went out on Aegean Airlines and came back on the world's favourite airline.    Going out, the seats were six abreast with an aisle in the middle, meaning that I got the window seat, The Cat's Mother was beside me, and then there were three clear seats to the young woman staring out the port window.  At least that was the case until we'd been in the air for  40 minutes, by which time The Cat's Mother was asleep.  An older woman came and sat across the aisle, proceeded to take out the sick bag and begin vomiting, which she continued to do for the remainder of the five hour flight.  She used up all the sick bags around her.  The stewardesses did their level best to ignore her.  I would have been sympathetic....but why the feck did she think it was better for her to puke near us rather than her traveling companions?

On the way back, we arrived nearly four hours early, 'just in case' - there was a taxi drivers' blockade of the airport, and we thought we may have to walk a long way to get to the terminal.  As it happens, the police kept the entrance to the airport open...although they were less fussed about letting people out.  Behind us on the plane sat a man-mountain...he was literally that shape, and would put Ben Nevis in shade.  All was well until the captain announced twenty minutes before landing that we would be arriving at Terminal 3.  We had departed from Terminal 1.  We could have walked from Cyprus quicker than it takes to walk from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1.

We had pre-booked the parking to save costs.  But I hadn't realised that I'd turned into Car Park 1, not Car Park 1a...our designated parking area.  No wonder then that our ticket wouldn't work, and then when we got the machine to read it, it demanded £259.  On the upside, the help desk girl must get this happening several times a day and let us go without a fight.  On the downside I was more than a little agitated.

As there wasn't enough room at Grandma in Cyprus' house with my brother and his family there, we stayed at a hotel.  Our hotel was the five star Adams Beach Hotel.  And very nice it was too.  So thought all the Russians that were staying there.   There may have been two dozen Brits, not more, in a hotel of three or four hundred rooms. I don't know if you've ever come across the Russians en masse, and for a Brit they are an interesting bunch.  I'm told that unlike the Brits abroad, they don't spend money, so that doesn't make them popular.  It would explain why in the breakfast area ( was a pleasant 30 degrees) Russian mothers could be spotted great piles of food from the buffet into their babies' buggies to keep them going through the day.

It would be fair to say that there were plenty of attractive young Russian women staying at the hotel.  On the beach they wore dental floss to protect their modesty.  Initially attractive to any young male, it soon wore off and the phrase 'less is less' came to mind.  Off the beach they wore short, clingy dresses and high heels that last saw service in Debbie does Dallas.  I wandered into the hotel shop at 9 in the morning to be confronted by young filly dressed in matching scarlet lycra dress and scarlet high heels.  An hour later she was to be seen walking on the golden sandy beach in the same outfit...heels sinking six inches down before stripping off to her floss.  By contrast, even at a young age, it appears the Russian men take the shape of a T34 tank.  As enormous and unkempt as the young women are skimpy and 'beautifully' presented.

The other Russian highlight was the photograph taking.  For you or me, all that's needed is to turn and smile at the camera whilst the picture is taken in a jiffy.  For the Russian guests, it was a major operation.  Finding the right place to pose would take minutes...perhaps even hours.  And then there were the poses.  If you've got a copy of Playboy handy, it would make my life easier as I won't have to describe the contortions they got themselves into to get the perfect shot.  This was the case even when the person behind the camera was their father.  Or may they were their lover.  Either way it left us feeling queasy.

* warning: contains mild peril and racism

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Grandma in Cyprus' birthday

Just to clarify, we abandoned the teens at home, because they were just about to start their exams.  AS levels are important, very important, so we had been faced with a dilemma, but ultimately decided that at 17 they were old enough to look after themselves providing we stocked the fridge until it was fit to burst, and there were regular visitations from local relatives.  It would have been marvelous if they could have come with us, but the harsh realities of modern schooling meant that not a moment could be wasted in the quest for that best possible grade.

These four days were unusual: it was the first time my brother, I and our mum have been together for more time than any of us could remember.

80 is a big birthday so everyone had made a very special effort.  Even Grandma in Cyprus who even did a double count on the years, as was not convinced that the 80 years between 1932 and 2012 could possibly have gone so quickly.

When we had been thinking about what to do the first decision had been where the celebration should be held. We had decided Cyprus as that is where her friends are...the people who she enjoys spending her days and evenings with.  There are still plenty of family in the UK, but actually I think birthdays are for friends first and foremost.

The celebration meal took place in her favourite restaurant with 25 of her closest friends, her two sons and their families.  We ate and drank 'til late in the night, before retiring to her home for further celebrations and cake cutting.  Her dogs joined in too at that stage.

The next day we'd hired a boat.  Big enough for forty, it took just seven of us down the coast.  Very calm, very civilised, very relaxing.  Whilst the captain cooked, we went swimming in the very nearly warm Mediterranean sea.  Our sweetcorn worked best as fish food, driving the fish into a frenzy, that made you think they may just have been piranhas and we'd had a lucky escape.

The third day of celebrations involved just one thing.  Her Grandson's present which you can see below:

Life begins at eighty.