Saturday 30th September

I grew up on sugar.  At least three spoonful’s in tea, (coffee was rare, a Saturday morning treat, Nescafe powder and warmed milk) We always had a tin of Golden Syrup in the pantry and I would often dip a spoon in, twist it round and watch as the pure glowing stream thinned and turned into a long globular drop – then straight into the mouth.  We had golden syrup on everything, that famous green tine with the lion and bees drawing on it.  Sometimes we had sugar sandwiches too.  Porridge was darkened and sweetened with rich brown, almost black, Muscavado sugar.  Monday morning and Mum was baking; rich fruit cake, sponges, scones and buns – and the secret ingredient in all of it was SUGAR.

But we were growing kids and were playing outside in all weathers, burning off all that energy.  I cannot remember that much chocolate. Chocolate was definitely a treat.  Our Easter eggs were eked out and lasted well into May.  But boiled sweets we had loads of.  Pear drops, rhubarb and custard, fruit drops and a great favourite of mine was a sherbet fountain.

In fact, looking back so much of our diet was sugar.  Maybe because in the early Fifties rationing ended and sugar had been strictly rationed in the War and was suddenly available.  Besides it was cheap and even more important it tasted great. I have always had a sweet tooth and don’t mind admitting it.  I have since cured myself of sugar in tea or coffee, but I never feel my day has really started until I have had a sweet pastry, usually a pain au raisin with lovely white sugar crystals sprinkled liberally on the top.

And now the Health Police are condemning sugar as bad for us.  Well, I don’t know about that.  I love sugar and sweet puddings and don’t seem so bad on it; still quite slim unlike many I see waddling along.  The danger, I think is when it is added to foods, especially processed foods; ketchup, chutney, pasta and curry sauce and of course soft drinks – many, like smoothies, pretending to be a healthy option.  And, of course, consuming sugar and not burning it off is a recipe for disaster.  The sedentary lifestyle is the real killer; kids stuck in front of screens all day long, daytime telly and the armchair life.

So, don’t feel guilty because you like sugar, just have as much fun burning it off as eating it.  Yum yummmmm


Friday 29th September

 Christmas 2013

“And this one’s for you Dad”

“Oh, you shouldn’t have.  What is it?”

“Open it and see, Dad.”

“Oh. It’s a computer, is it?  You know I know nothing about computer’s, I’m not sure I will ever get the hang of it.  Sorry to disappoint you Laura.”

“John and I have thought of that already.  It’s an i-pad and it’s really easy. John will set it up for you later.  We have also bought you a mobile router so you can use the internet – and we have paid the first year’s subscription too.  And if you need help we have spoken to young Andy in the village.  He says he will help you if you get stuck.  You only have to ask him.”

“That’s very good of you, but I don’t expect I will really use it that much.”

“Look Dad.  It’s been two years since Mum died, you barely go anywhere or do anything.  You’re becoming something of a hermit, you know.  I know we are busy in London and only see you every couple of months but you can facetime us now.”

“Facetime?  What’s that?”

“John will show you later.  It’s like a phone call, but you can see people.  And it doesn’t even cost anything. You’ll be able to chat with Charlotte and Jason too, even though Charlotte is in Hong Kong and Jason at Uni.  It really will open up a new world for you Dad.”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe I am just too old for all this malarkey”

“You are only 75, Dad.  That’s not even old these days.”

Christmas 2014

“So Dad, how are you getting on with the i-pad?  You still don’t really facetime us.  Only when we ring you first and remind you to switch it on.”

“Oh, not so bad.  I can check my bank account on it – not that there is much to check really.  And I have found a site for old friends of Stowmarket.  Quite a lot of people I went to school with are on it.  After all these years.  Some are dead of course, but a few were even in my class.  They look a bit different now though, I can tell you.”

“Well done Dad.  I knew you’d find something you liked.  You should get out and meet some of these people.  Ever since mum was wheelchair-bound you hardly went anywhere.”

“It was too difficult getting it in and out of the car.  Nearly ten years she was in that bloody thing too.  You know, I hated pushing it.  First thing I did when she died.  Took it down the dump and threw it in a skip.  Good riddance too.”

“Well, those days are long gone now.  I know how devoted you were to her.”

“Devoted?  I had no bloody choice.  I was married to her, wasn’t I.  I couldn’t turn my back on your mother when she was too poorly to walk anymore. You youngsters don’t understand what marriage means.  Look at you, getting divorced as soon as things got difficult.  If you want to know what difficult is, you should have been married to your mother. She was practically an invalid for the last fifteen years.  I was her nurse-maid really.  Devoted?  I wouldn’t have chosen the life we had I can tell you, but I had no choice.”

“Okay Dad, don’t get aireated.  And – you have no idea what my marriage was like.  So, don’t be giving me any sermons either.  Anyway, I’m happy now with John.  He’s a better father to your grandchildren than Geoff ever was.”

“Well, I suppose it’s all in the past really.  Sorry girl, I didn’t mean to lash out, but nobody knows how tough it was all those years pushing your mother everywhere, running up and down stairs for her all day long – and barely a thank-you either.  It was just expected.  Oh well, I suppose it is all in the past really.”

Christmas 2015

“I’ve got to tell you Laura, we have a guest for Christmas lunch today.”

“Oh?  Who is that then?”

“An old school friend actually.  You know I told you about that website for old schoolfriends.  Well, Sheila was in the year below me.  I hadn’t seen her in nearly Sixty years.  Turns out she only lives a few miles away.  Now, don’t get worried.  There’s nothing in it.  But we go out for a meal occasionally, she’s good company.”

“Well, that is a turn-up for the books I must say.  As long as you are happy Dad.”

Christmas 2016

“So, this Sheila and you are an item, are you Dad?”

“An item?  What is that supposed to mean?  We are going out and well… if that’s what you are getting at?  I don’t know if we’ll ever get round to marrying.  We probably won’t live that long anyway. All we want is to grab a bit of happiness while we still can.  And I can tell you, it’s been a bloody long time since I felt any sort of kindness in my life.”

“Well, that’s nice.  This is your only daughter you are talking to.  You know, the mother of your grandchildren.  Charlotte and Jason?  Didn’t we show you any kindness down the years?  And what about Mother?  I know she was ill for a long while, but there must have been a time – not that long ago either – when you loved each other.”

“Love?  Don’t talk to me about love.  I loved your mother alright.  Once.  But after you were born, and she blamed me for the hard time she had of it too….well, to tell the truth Laura, she shut the door on love.  Didn’t want to know any more – in that way, if you get my drift.  That was over forty years we had with not even a kiss or a cuddle.  No kind touch, not a suggestion of real love in forty years.   You didn’t know that did you?  And I didn’t mean to ever tell you either.  Wish I hadn’t really, it’s none of your bloody business.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry Dad.  I never knew.  I know she was a difficult woman.  I had my differences with her, heaven knows.  Well, if you are happy now what harm can it do.”

“Don’t worry.  You’ll still get the house, if that’s what you are worried about?  Sheila and I have talked about that. I won’t take what’s hers from her kids and she won’t have what yours either.”

“That’s not it at all Dad.  I just want you to be happy.”

Christmas 2017

“Come in and sit down Mrs Johnson. Can I call you Laura?  I’m glad you could manage to see me before the Holidays”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Mr. Williams will do.  Now, as you know I was your father’s solicitor.  I dealt with his few shares and I even managed the conveyancing when he bought his council house, oh back in 1988 I think that was.”

“Okay, I know all of that Mr Williams, I just want to know what was in my father’s will, now that he is dead.”

“Yes.  Well to tell you the truth Mrs Johnson, …er Laura, he never got round to changing his will after your mother died.  I met him once or twice in town and he said he would pop in and do it.  But he never did.  Besides it was really just a formality.”

“What do you mean a formality?”

“Well, since your mother died you were naturally the sole beneficiary, being the only child.  But as you know, your father re-married a couple of months ago.”

“How does that affect me though?”

“Well, it is rather complicated.  Legally his wife, his new wife that is – Mrs Sheila Jones, in the absence of any new, will has a valid claim on your father’s property.”

“But she’d dead too.  They both died in that car crash.  Driving home from seeing me in London, too.  That was when they told me they had got married.  It was awful.”

“Yes. Tragic, I must admit.  But you see – your father died immediately, he was at the wheel when the lorry…Sorry.  His wife actually passed away two weeks later in Hospital.”

“Oh my God.  So, where does that leave us?  Dad always meant the house for me.  He even said that Sheila and he had agreed that whatever happened the house would be mine.”

“Yes, but sadly neither are alive now to confirm that.  In the absence of any specific will, and the old one, superceded now by his later marriage, named your mother, and you of course – his current wife would normally inherit his estate.  But she too is now dead so her estate falls to her children.  Well, we will have to contest that, of course.  I assume that would be your intention, you do have a valid claim as you are mentioned in the only will we have.  Mrs Sheila Jones had two sons and they have already applied for probate.  I must warn you that this could cost quite a lot, and there is no guarantee of success. The most we might reasonably expect is 50%, we would be very fortunate to get everything.”

“Oh, my goodness.  What a Christmas present that is for me.  I’ve not only lost my Dad, but maybe my inheritance too.   And all because of that wretched i-pad.  That was a Christmas present too.”

I Always Seem To Get Ill In England

Thursday 28th September

 Maybe it is all the travelling, planes, trains and buses.  Or is it just the change in the climate?  But I do a lot of travelling, checking out and collecting and dealing with the post at Walton (and opening all those CDs I have ordered).  Then usually a visit to Mum and Dad or one of the children – more trains and buses.  And of course, into Central London for work, which while not so strenuous can be awkward.  And then to my wife’s house in London. Again a few chores usually waiting for me there, lawn to mow etc….And then up early to return to France.  More trains and planes.

I usually pick up a cold or a stomach bug, or simply have bad headaches.  And it takes a day or two to recover.  And why do I do it? Not really for the money, though money is always handy.  Partly because I can’t quite let go.  Most of my life has been working, and talking to lots of other people, I worked pretty hard (though compared to miners or farmhands or factory workers, maybe I had it easy).  It keeps my brain active, and in a funny way – your work defines you.  It gives you status, and simply being retired is no real status at all.  I like the staff and people I work with, they always seem happy to see me – if only to sort out a few problems.

And it gives me the excuse to see Mum and Dad and the children more often than in fact I would have seen them if I was still in England.  So, I will continue as long as I can continue…feeling ill or not.

The Labour Conference

Wednesday 27th September

 I, like so many others, was delighted at the General Election when Labour revealed their Manifesto.  Now, I do realise that Manifestos are really just shopping lists, many of the items on the list will not be bought, mostly because you may not have enough money – but they do show what you would like to do.  And it excited the population, many younger voters deciding that Labour were the party for them.  Yes, it would cost a lot of money.  But, I thought, how long can we go on like this; with Austerity paring away at our NHS, schools crumbling and real poverty rearing its ugly head – food banks and payday loans becoming the norm for millions.  I had lived through previous Labour Governments – and not only the Blair-Brown years, which somehow managed the trick of increasing Public Spending while cutting taxes.  Unnecessarily in my mind as I had lived through 33% income tax in the Seventies, and you know what, it wasn’t so bad.  Life went on.

And so I knew that despite Labour’s promises taxes would probably have to go up.  But at least it was a different approach, a fresh way of looking at the World.  No longer what can we afford to do, but what can we not afford to do.

We have been so conditioned by the Thatcher and Major years, and the Cameron Osborne Austerity, that it was hard to believe that we might ever see a real change of policy.

And it continues.  John McDonnell spoke on Monday of re-nationalising Electricity, Rail and Water, and State Intervention in new industries and some older ones too.  And yes, this was dragging us back to the Seventies.  But actually that was a time of rapid Social Growth and for many ordinary people they saw real increases in their standards of living. It was in fact mostly the result of the quadrupling of Oil Prices which knocked everything off-course.  Just as in 2008 it was greedy  bankers who crashed the economy, not Labour policies.  And maybe, if and when, Labour are re-elected another Financial crisis may come along it must still be worth a try.  We simply cannot carry on with no hope for so many – a bleak future of high rents and low pay and zero-hours contracts and a dying NHS and privatised schools.

Let us just wait and compare in a week’s time just what the Tories come up with.  They are already fighting openly in the Cabinet, like dogs over a spilled bin fighting for the few scraps left.  Surely Optimism must win in the long run.

Who’s Next to Who Are You

Tuesday 26th September

 In the space of just seven years the Who grew up.  It was just two years from the innocence, and some would say naivety, of Tommy.  And yet here was Pete Townshend confronting the band with a batch of songs very loosely based around the idea of yet another Concept Album.

Pete called it the Lifehouse; based on Music being some sort of redemptive force but their manger Kit Lambert felt the sessions were going nowhere.  Engineer Glynn Johns took over and re-recorded some of the songs along with a couple from John Entwistle.  But the two songs the album hung on were the opener ‘Baba O’ Riley’ and the closer ‘Won’t \Get Fooled Again’.  Powerful songs which were nothing like anything the Who had ever recorded before.  Both songs are heavy with Synthesisers, which Pete had recently discovered.  Almost symphonic the layers grow and grow to climaxes in both songs, with brilliant vocals from Roger Daltrey.  The whole album simply flows, as if the Lifehouse Pete was searching for had emerged organically.  The album became ‘Who’s Next’, probably their greatest album.  Even the cover was brilliant, a play on words indeed.

But Pete wasn’t finished yet.  Two years later he came up with ‘Quadrophenia’, another rock opera.  About a teenager called Jimmy growing up in the Sixties, and becoming a ‘Mod’.  I am not at all sure what it all means, and am still not a great fan.  But there is no denying some great songs, even if the new sound of ‘Who’s Next’ was lost as they resorted to a more conventional sound.

They followed this up with ‘Who By Numbers’, The album is almost a record of Pete’s losing confidence in his own abilities, with songs like ‘However Much I Booze’ and ‘Imagine A Man’.  But the single ‘Squeeze Box’ almost doesn’t fit on the record, it is far too upbeat.

Then three years later came ‘Who Are You’.  Apparently the band were falling apart during the long recording process, especially Keith Moon who was drinking so heavily he could barely hold his sticks some days.  And yet out of this came another Masterpiece.  The title track is simply brilliant and has taken on a life of it’s own.  But every track is brilliant and moved the band into new territory.  One of the ironies is that the cover photo of the band amidst a pile of amps and cables has Keith sitting on a directors chair with the stencil ‘Not to be taken away’ on it.  Sadly he was taken away a month after the album’s release.  Four brilliant albums, but The Who would never be the same again…

Who Are You (Remastered)


Monday 25th September

And now for the great rationalizing, the somehow ‘Ooh aren’t we clever grown-ups’ talk was about to begin. Their precious mother was now going to tell Jane and |Harriet what they, the wonderful adults, had decided.  Well, if she thought it would make a blind bit of difference to Harriet, she was mistaken.  She couldn’t give a shit what they decided.  As soon as all of this nonsense died down, she would be out of it all for good.  For Dad’s sake more than anything she would have to wait a few weeks before skipping University and moving to London.  Her father was always a bit on the nervous side, a bit vulnerable, and Harriet truly didn’t want to hurt him.  In a few weeks all of this would have died down and she could escape.  She would just have to be patient until then. Okay Mother dear, let’s hear what you’ve got to say.

*  * *

They sat around the wooden kitchen table, unusually clear of any papers or salt and peppers or the vase of flowers, which normally brightened up their large but dark old wood-lined kitchen.  The girls sat and waited for their mother to begin, to try somehow to explain away what she thought she had been doing with Uncle Ted all this time.

‘Well, I suppose you know the bare bones of what has happened by now.’ She said in a quiet and serious little voice Jane hadn’t heard her use before.

To which neither of them spoke.  For Jane’s part she had no idea what to think, and even less idea of what to say, and Harriet was almost looking away from both of them, she kept glancing sideways, as if someone else were in the room.

Their mother continued, ‘The first thing I have to say is that it has all been my own fault, your father hasn’t been in any way to blame in all of this.’

She looked from one of the girls to the other, as if seeking some sign, some confirmation, some acceptance from them. ‘It was me – I just couldn’t stop myself.  What you probably don’t realise is that this all started a long time ago, before your father and I were even married.’

That shocked Jane more than anything. ‘Why did she marry our Dad, then?’ she kept thinking.  ‘If she had been seeing Uncle Ted before she got married even, then why marry Daddy at all?’  But as usual Jane said nothing; she was always too scared to say what she was thinking in case people thought she was stupid.  Harriet was hiding behind her screen of hair again, holding a hank of it in her hand and determinedly sucking the ends.  So their mother carried on talking,  ‘And though I have told myself, oh so many times, to stop it, and I have tried; believe me, somehow….I never have.  That must sound pretty pathetic I know, and you are both too young to really understand how complicated things can get, if you let them.  And that is where I was to blame, I did love, no that’s wrong, I do love your father, and yet I couldn’t stop myself from seeing, and yes, from loving your uncle Ted too.’  She looked at Harriet and then at Jane, almost pleading with her eyes, but receiving no help from either of them.  ‘Anyway it has happened now, and in some ways I am so relieved, even though things will never be the same again, at least it isn’t my guilty little secret anymore.’

And then Harriet suddenly spun round in her chair and almost spat the words at her mother.  ‘Oh, so you do actually feel guilty, do you Mother?’

‘Of course I do Harriet? What sort of a monster do you imagine me to be?’  She had this incredulous look on her face, as if she was the one who was misunderstood, as if she had been the innocent party all along.

‘The standard sort of monster I would say; nothing unusual about you, Mother, is there?’ smiling despite her words of hatred; Harriet was the master of sarcasm.  ‘I mean to say what could be more normal, than while daddy-dear was earning all the money to keep you in nice dresses and a big house and all, you were out there, oh God knows where, and having an affair.  And not even with just anyone.  It was your sister’s bloody husband, wasn’t it?  Couldn’t you find anyone else?  Is that it, so poor old Ted had to do, is that it Mummy?  Or did you just get your kicks by taking something of your sister’s, something she didn’t even know was being taken; was that how you got your kicks?’

‘No Harriet, and stop being so melodramatic, you really are turning into a little drama queen.  It wasn’t about Aunt Julie. It’s never been anything to do with her.’ And she had a tiny hanky balled up in her fist and kept dabbing it to the corners of her eyes where little teardrops were forming.  ‘In fact I have always been terrified of her finding out.  I never wanted to hurt her.  I never wanted to hurt anyone.  I know none of you will ever begin to understand that, but really I never meant to hurt anyone, least of all Julie, or your father, or either of you two either.’  Just like yesterday she was crying again, it was amazing how easy it was for Harriet to make her mother cry, or Jane come to that.  Harriet could make Jane cry at the drop of a hat.

And real tears were running from her mummy’s eyes now, as she gazed from one of them to the other.  Little tears that formed and slowly ran down and past her nose; Jane almost felt sorry for her, she looked so helpless, but somehow her anger and disappointment got the better of any pity she might have felt for her.  After all she had gotten herself into this mess, it really wasn’t anyone else’s fault, except Uncle Ted’s of course, because how could he do that to his wife as well, sleeping with her own sister.   Jane was close to tears myself just thinking about it.

Harriet broke the mood in her usual charmless way by clasping her hands in mock excitement and asking sarcastically,

‘And what happens now Mummy, do we go to live with Uncle Ted now?  Will I have to share a bedroom with the boys, our great big hairy cousins?  Will Aunt Julie still be there, or will she move in with Daddy?  After all we should really keep all of this in the family, don’t you think?’

‘Stop it now Harriet, you’ve had your fun.  And believe me, this is no laughing matter for any of us.  We have talked things through, and for the time being we are going to try to carry on as normal.’  And she sounded almost sincere for once as she said, ‘I know that is a big thing to ask of you, and none of us knows if it will be at all possible to get over this, but we are going to try.’ Then she paused as if waiting for some inspiration, some prompt, some whisper from the wings where she had forgotten her words.  ‘Obviously we won’t be seeing my sister’s family for a while.  And I know she will never be able to forgive me, but I hope she can forgive Ted enough to save her marriage, that is all.  And I will not be seeing him anymore. That is the truth.  I really mean it, I am staying with your father, and we are going to try to rebuild some trust again.  That’s all I really have to say, except to ask you to try and help us too, to put this all behind us and become a family again.’  And as if she had just read all of this from a script which she had just laid down in front of her she looked up expectantly and hopefully at her two daughters.  Well, if it had been a script and she had thought for a moment she had passed the audition Harriet soon disillusioned her.  Harriet smiled almost complicitly but then brought her straight back to earth.

‘But we never were a family, don’t you see that Mummy?  You have never really been here for us at all. I mean you haven’t, have you?   And do you really expect this to work, this little arrangement?  Because that’s all it is – an arrangement.  Maybe your whole marriage has been an arrangement, a convenient little arrangement to allow you the time and space and money to slope off with your boyfriend.  Ha, now that is funny, Uncle Ted, good old farmer boy Ted – a boyfriend.  And what does Daddy think of all this?  Does he agree with this little arrangement? Will he play his part, will he still keep bringing in the money; will he still be Mr. Respectable Family Solicitor?’  She was utterly fearless, Harriet.  Jane was too frightened to say anything at all.

‘Yes Harriet, and it has never been a part he has played, he was always my husband, despite what you might think.’  And almost reverting back to the script she had prepared she continued,   ‘And I am going to ask you both to play your parts too.  I don’t want you to lie, but I really am begging you to keep this within these four walls.  Can you imagine how it would hurt your father’s reputation if this should get out?  Can you?’  She looked intently at Jane, almost ignoring Harriet, as if Jane were the one who was in the wrong.  ‘Well I hope you can.  Just think about it before you start to tell your friends, just think about the damage it will do.’

‘What, like you did?’ Harriet, completely her mother’s equal now, threw back at her.

‘Harriet, please show some respect, if not to me, then to your father.  I know I haven’t been a very good mother.  I apologise for that.  I may have been stupid, but I have never totally neglected you, and I have never insulted you or tried to rub your noses in any of this mess.  I wish to God it had never happened.’

‘Being caught you mean, don’t you? Because I don’t think you are sorry you did it, just me catching you; that was the terrible thing for you, wasn’t it?  I am actually sorry I ever came home yesterday. Actually at the moment I am sorry I ever came home at all, I should have stayed at University forever, away from you, away from all of this….mess.  I know I shouldn’t say this mother, but I am absolutely bloody ashamed of you.  I always thought you were a bit uncaring where we were concerned but now I am actually ashamed of you, and ashamed at myself for even being your daughter.’

And then Harriet suddenly pushed her chair back, scraping the legs across the quarry-tiles with an awful screech, and got up and left.  She turned at the door and said, ‘I’m going back to University today, I should never have come back, but I needed some money.  I’ve run out of money and came back to ask for some and then all this happened.  Do you have any, or do I have to ask Daddy for it?’

‘I have got about twenty pounds in my housekeeping drawer, will that do?’

‘Yes, that will keep me going for a while.  But I can’t say when I’ll be back.  At the moment I don’t ever want to come back.  Do you know that? That’s how I feel about things at the moment. I just don’t know when I will be back.’  Then after pocketing the money which her mother silently held out for her she turned to her sister and said, ‘Come on Jane, let’s go for a walk.’

And she got up and hardly looking back at her mother Jane followed Harriet, as she had always done.  She would have followed her to the ends of the earth, if she had wanted her to; trouble was they both knew she only wanted Jane because she didn’t have her new best friend, but even then, second best was better than not being wanted by Harriet at all.

Hard Times – by Dickens

Sunday 24th September

I really don’t know why but I really like Victorian Novels.  It is something about the pace, the description and the language.  Often for quite a few pages nothing really happens, there are few murders and even fewer mutilated female bodies – thank goodness.  Modern books are designed either for beach holidays or for reading between stops on the tube.  Victorian novels were for an evening’s read at a time.

Anyway…having read All of Austen and the Brontes many years ago, and all 54 of Anthony Trollopes books a few years ago, I started on Dickens.  I had read Oliver and David Copperfield and Great Expectations as a young man.  So I am currently working my way through this Literary Colossus…

Hard Times – I cannot remember any TV or film adaptation of the book.  Which is surprising as it is really a very ‘Modern Novel’.  There is no Hero, but two females who put all the despicable men to shame.  It is also the first Anti-Capitalist Novel.  The imaginary city of Coketown is full of noise and mills and bosses making millions while the workers toil long hours for next to nothing.  Dickens really takes us into the heart of the Capitalist Beast, full of Tories we would all recognise today.  And although in the end life goes on more or less the dame for ‘The Hands’, very few readers, then or now, could remain undisturbed by the suffering depicted here.  But surprisingly it is not a miserable book, there are many comic interludes and we find ourselves laughing at the ‘viallainous and pompous’ Bounderby and the boring Gradgrind.

The novel however was one of Dickens least successful.  His audience preferring the more sentimental books he usually wrote.  Well worth a read though.

Misty Morning

Saturday 23rd September

Returning to England this morning (Friday), we set off quite early.  In fact it was still dark when I walked the dogs just before seven.  As we drove out of town and into the countryside we were enveloped in a thick mist, almost a fog.  The sun was a pale orange in the sky, just rising above the hills but too weak to warm us, or to dissolve the silvery mist.  It was quite eerie, passing the rows of vines with their dark grapes hanging and the road ahead disappearing into the white mist.

And somehow my brain too was wrapped in a white mist.  Nothing seemed real at all, this monthly commute to England, the work I had waiting for me – was a million miles away from reality.  And you know how it is, your mind starts wandering.  And I was thinking, what a strange existence – my Grandparents wouldn’t believe it.  They had barely moved from the streets they were born into.  A visit to Ipswich, 12 miles away, was a big deal.  And here was I, just fifty years on, flying backwards and forwards, country hopping with as much nonchalance as getting on a bus.

We had dinner with friends last night, and they were talking about their visits to Australia.  Now, I have never been – but it isn’t even unusual nowadays.  People travel the globe as if it were just the few fields I used to wander round at the back of our little council house in Stowmarket.  And I can remember quite clearly taking our little dog for long walks through those fields, and watching as the mist swirled and settled over the hedgerows.  I was lost in thoughts, my mind a million miles away – just as I was this morning.

Plus ca change, plus ca meme.  The more things change, the more they are the same.

Misty Morning…part 2

Yes, it was misty alright, so bloody misty that our Ryanair plane couldn’t land.  It and we were diverted to Bordeaux.  A two-hour bus journey and then chaos at Bordeaux as the electronic ticket readers wouldn’t recognise our boarding passes and no Ryanair staff were there to help.  Eventually we got through Security and Passport Control for a second time (again they couldn’t enter our passport numbers in their computers as we had never returned after supposedly leaving from Bergerac) – eventually common-sense broke out and us bewildered and lost sheep were shepherded onto our plane.  Arrived very tired and five hours late….

And ironically the mist had cleared at Bergerac about twenty minutes after our plane had failed to land.


What In The World Is Happening ?

Friday 22nd September

It may just be co-incidence – but it might be something else.  We have had an awful lot of natural disasters this year.  Of course, these things; earthquakes, hurricanes, devastating monsoons, may even out over the years.  And we might be noticing them far more simply because they have all come at once, one on top of the other.  It may be partly because of the paucity of other news, or the actual amount of news there is.  We never used to have 24 hour news channels, so would only get a dose of disasters a couple of times a day, whereas now you can watch live hurricanes battering the Carribean every time you switch on the telly.  Or the computer, because of posts on facebook and tweets.  And maybe next year there will be far fewer hurricanes and no major quakes and we will all settle down and begin to forget about them.  After all, 2016 was a record year for deaths of popular musicians and TV personalities from Bowie to Leonard Cohen – it seemed at the time as if the grim reaper was having a whale of a time.  This year has been relatively quiet.

But I can’t help thinking that these natural disasters are happening more and more.  Certainly hurricanes seem more frequent and far more devastating than in the past, each one seeming to do more damage than the last.  And my thoughts veer towards Global Warming as a possible cause.  There are some Climate Scientists who think that the, what may seem to us, tiny increases in sea temperature of a degree or so, mean that tropical storms are literally able to suck up far greater quantities of water to be dumped on the nearest landfall.  Who exactly is responsible for these increases is debatable; many think it is to do with sunspot activity, or sea currents themselves.  But, unless the figures are being manipulated, it does seem that the planet is warming up.  Each year seems a record.  And maybe we are approaching or have even reached some sort of a tipping point, where things are beginning to accelerate.  We are so used to our wonderful planet being able to cope with anything, but maybe we are causing it to react in a way that is beginning to threaten even our very existence.

They say the dinosaurs became extinct because of a huge meteor which caused an ash cloud which blocked out the sun for a few years, and cold-blooded creatures that they were they simply died of the cold.  There is nothing special about humans, except that we have specialised in ways of destroying the very planet we live on.  But maybe that planet will also destroy us before then.  Many biologists say that we are in a mass extinction phase anyway, with literally hundreds of species dying out completely, many because of human activity.  It is quite possible that we too will be part of that mass extinction.  Let us hope not.  Let us hope that this seeming increase in hurricanes and earthquakes is simply a blip and everything will return to normal soon.  Just don’t hold your breath…

W – is for the Who – in the beginning

Thursday 21st September

In the beginning they were the Detours, then the Hi-numbers, just another struggling band in the early Sixties, playing blues mostly and sharing the bill with other hopefuls like The Stones and Spencer Davis.  Then, like many other bands they decided to write their own material and changed their name to The Who.  And in Pete Townshend their guitarist they had a genius. From their first single “I Can’t explain” they were instant hits.  And hit followed hit with barely breathing space.  “Anyhow, Anyway, Anywhere”, “My Generation”, “Substitute” “Happy Jack” and “Pictures of Lily” followed.

Almost every single was a hit.  And they connected with their increasingly ‘Mod’ fans.  We all felt a part of My Generation, and us council house kids knew all about being a Substitute.  And all boys knew exactly what Pete meant by Pictures of Lily.

The band were incredibly talented.  Roger Daltrey on vocals had such a powerful voice, interpreting Pete’s words so well.  Keith Moon was a brilliant if idiosyncratic drummer, and went wild behind the singer, but somehow this only added to the sense of something happening.  John Entwistle was the bass player, but he also wrote a few songs and was a brilliant arranger too.  Pete was a great guitarist too, who soon developed his famous jumping windmill style of playing.  They were,as they later named a compilation, “Maximum R’n’B”

Lost in history now, the Who started smashing up their guitars and drum kits at the end of their increasingly ferocious concert performances.  Some stories have it hat this was all pre-planned and Pete used already broken guitars taped up for the smashing.  Who knows, and furthermore who cares?  For me, it was always the music, and in the Sixties this was almost all singles.

But Pete always had issues which he (sometimes) disguised in his lyrics.  He decided to write a rock opera, probably the first, about a deaf, dumb and blind kid, Tommy, and how he found redemption through music.  This would become a repeating theme later.  People weren’t really sure how to take Tommy, some loved it and some hated it.  Re-listening now it sounds quite dated, but even so, many of the songs are classics.  The band toured it extensively and have returned to it many times, even making an outrageous film of it with Ken Russell.  In many ways Tommy was a turning point for the band, no longer so interested in Singles they became a serious band with Albums as the main focus.  They had grown up and the next phase was about to begin…

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