Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nearly there

I'm a free man with time to spare on this lovely sunny day.

Bev and I were up early to pack the car with bits and bobs for France before driving over to Clifton to help Martin. The coving didn't take as long as I thought (perhaps I'm just too fast for my own good). Perhaps I'm simply just good and fast. Anyway, we were done and dusted in a few hours and on our way to 124 Davies Road...the place I'll be sleeping tonight before David and I set off for France (4:00am).

Bev and I said our goodbyes and she screeched off smiling, knowing she'll be in the garden in no time at all. Actually, she'll have shed a tear. She always does. In fact, I bet she wouldn't have gone a mile before reaching for a tissue.

David was making me laugh at the spelling mistakes in his list of things to take, and Eileen reminded me that I wasn't perfect myself. She produced a list of about a dozen mistakes in my posts. Sure enough, on checking them I have to hold my hand up to it.

Some were typing errors but some were genuine long-term errors like 'withhold' (it looks fine spelt right but how odd to have two 'H's together... and 'raspberries'. I mean, how was I to know you should have a 'P' in raspberries? I would never dream of it! (Sorry about that! I've just realised how it sounds).

I'm back and have just spelt 'unfortunately' right on yesterdays post. I'm getting paranoid now!

Spoke to Bev on the phone and now I'm ready for bed. It's been a long day. Just a few hours to go. Nearly there!

No, I haven't forgotten about blowing a raspberry from the back of the boat. I might even be wearing the football shirt so they know where I'm coming from.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Last day today

Oh yes!!
A two week break from the norm and an opportunity to work on our retirement home.

I've got all my lists, my plans, hopes and dreams. My health, energy and drive. I've got a positive attitude to what I need to achieve and everything is ready...only a few bits to sort out now.

I'll be taking it easy today at work as I don't want to feel stressed by the end of it. I've got meetings tonight in West Bridgford and tomorrow I'm helping Martin to put some coving up in their house. A parents work is never done!

I like this poem and wish I could have 'tipped the lid in Martins direction.
To be honest though, I'm really glad I'm able to help out.

This poem by Robert Brault is entitled...A Poem Missing the Word Woulda

A nod,
a bow,
and a tip of the lid
to the person who coulda
and shoulda
and did.

I'll miss doing the blog (and looking at others) as I won't have the facility in France. It's back to writing in my journal unfortunately.

I wish it had been around 40 years ago when I started keeping a journal.

Monday the 8th June will be my next entry unless I manage the time for one tomorrow. It'll depend how hard Martin works me and if I get time off for good behaviour.

TBC (possibly)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's time!

If yesterday was Wednesday, this must be Thursday!

I'm feeling groggy and had difficulty getting up this morning. I was trying to work out how many times I'd expect to say 'Many happy returns' this year. I had this persistent thought that suggested it should only be said once a year...which is only true for the recipient of course, but I just had to start counting. I counted 30 before cutting myself short with the words 'Enough, It's time to get up'.

Actually you know, I never say 'Many happy returns...always 'Happy Birthday'.

Anyway, I was glad I didn't have bad dreams during the night because the night of the rainbow...when I was all alone, was a night to forget.

I hate nightmares. Why do I always get them when I'm in the dark and in this case all alone?

Last night's dreams, although not frightening, were vivid and as real as my typing this sentence.

I walked in a building with the intention of watching a boxing match with my friend David. On entering, he immediately started to cut the grass and fix a sawbench. I took my jumper off with the intention of helping but started to wander as the fight hadn't started yet. As I was doing so, first my son Martin passed me with hardly a word of acknowledgment. He was swiftly followed by other family and friends. Even Bev, who had all of our children as toddlers with her, passed me before standing at a counter to buy tickets for a day out...without me. I felt as if they were all pretending and were really there to surprise me at some point later.

It never happened. The dream ended with three little boys ramming a car into the side of a stationary bus inside a large garage. They walked out of the wreckage smiling but with blood oozing out of various wounds. The Father looked on with obvious concern but with pride that they were able to drive at such a young age.

Weird or what!

I think it's time to have breakfast and get off to work.

Text from Bev. She's ready to come home and the doctor has given her the all clear.

One last journey to Kings Mill and back saw Bev in familiar territory and she's already doing too much. I'm powerless to stop her even though I wear the trousers here...I think!

I'm spending time getting things together for the weekend now. The week has absolutely flown by and there are still little things to do.

Spoke to Juli who has walked the streets of Sunderland today...or should I say she's taken advantage of the nice weather and the fact that the car is being fixed.

She's very tired now and so am I. I think it's time!

Oh, I noticed a little earlier that I have a comment on a posting. I must pay more attention.
I'll read it, visit a few blogs and then it really will be time... for bed, blissful slumber and hopefully very, very, very nice dreams for a change.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Is it really Wednesday already? I'm feeling under pressure now! I still need to get things for France and I don't quite know where to get them from yet.

You think you have all the time in the world, don't you, but then all of a sudden it's gone.

They say that a problem shared is a problem halved, so I think I'll do a bit of sharing.
They also say that a friend in need is a pest, so I'd best tread carefully.

I woke up this morning thinking of Bev and the pain she was in yesterday. I'm glad the pain has gone, but it made me think of how fortunate we are that when we think of pain, it never returns with the same intensity as when it was originally experienced.

I was laying in bed trying to re-create a painful moment from the past...didn't feel a thing! Can you imagine if it was possible? It doesn't bear thinking about, does it? We'd be terrified in case we had a stray thought. We'd see people doubling up in agony all over the place.

It's also a good job we can't experience all the pain we'll have in life in one go...all over and done with in a ten year block so we can really enjoy the good stuff.

It's best that it's spread out over the years and intermingled with pain free experiences. I don't think we can fully appreciate the good without having first experienced the bad. We wouldn't survive more than a week anyway. We need rain before we appreciate sunshine. I think he got it right!

Anyway, that was my thought of the day which is flawed in the extreme now that I'm starting to think of it. There wouldn't be any time after all the illness if the illness happened to be terminal cancer, or some debilitating condition. Then there are the murders, deaths through war and car crashes etc! Oh well, it was only a fanciful thought.

It's time to face the real world and real challenges now.

Bring 'em on!

The day was devoid of challenge as it happens. It just dissolved in an instant and I was soon on my way to the hospital again.

I found Bev in a private room with ensuite facilities. The view was stunning and she was talking with a cheery nurse. There was optimism that she could come home with me as the kidney stone had found a new home in a glass jar, but it wasn't to be.

She must have watched from her lofty glass nest as I drove into the hills two hours later.

Tomorrow will come soon enough.

No rainbows tonight although the castle looked very striking in floodlight as I crossed the river.

The only challenge of the day is finding a vase for the flowers I wan't allowed to regulations to go with a new hospital.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One day at a time

Well, they gave 110%. There was passion, real blood, bucket loads of sweat and tears...but the tears were mine!

We played exceptionally well. We hit the post, scored one of their goals...the ref scored the other. We outplayed them and were the better team by far...but lost! Where is the justice?

What does Shakespeare know of tragedy? Who's ever heard of Stratford on Avon in the football world? He never hung his heart on a football team. What does he know?

Anyway, the tragedy is yet to come.

During the nail-biting, nerve jangling final game of the season (against one of the best teams in the world), when only one of four teams will occupy the final relegation space, I'll be stuck in a car in rural France with an intermittent radio signal. I'm likely to miss it all...the twists and turns and everything that goes with the final game. Oh, the pain!

'Tell you what, Portsmouth are going to get my finest 'rasberry'!

It's 9:00pm and I've just spent the entire day in hospitals (nothing to do with last night's result).
Bev developed kidney stones again and woke to a surprise package of excruciating pain and wretching. She's sufficiently drugged up to have a peaceful pain-free night, thank goodness.

I left her quietly sleeping and in excellent hands at Kings Mill Hospital (40 mins drive).

On the way home I had the most amazing drive. The sky was mostly paynes grey but to the right there were splashes of cerulean blue. The fields were vivid greens and yellows and I was the only car driving on a new dual carriageway coming from Mansfield to Newark stretching like a dark ribbon through all this colour.

What made it spectacular was the perfect rainbow right before my eyes. I felt that I was driving right through it but in fact never reached it. It was with me all the way home and at one point it doubled up.

This was my own private view in the gallery of life. I was the solitary driver who experienced this never to be repeated scene . I've seen a full rainbow before but not quite like this. This was unique and had I had a camera, I would have been able to stop and capture it.

I notice Rob has a post about art. As an artist I won't be able to resist having a read, then I'll call it a night.

Bev's last words to me tie in nicely with the post title...'let's take it one day at a time'.

I hope they let her out soon. Already missing her. The house feels different when she's not here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

To be or not to be...

Well, that really is the question.
When Shakespeare penned these words in 1603 it was entitled 'The tragedie of Hamlet' a play which weighed up the pain of life against the uncertainty of death and the possible damnation of suicide.

Little did he know that over 400 years later Ken Devine would wake up with this, the most quoted phrase is literature, on his mind as it relates to the Portsmouth v Sunderland game tonight at 8:00pm (Setanta Sports 1).

I should be ashamed when you consider what tragedies are unfolding this morning throughout the world, but I just can't stop thinking about it. Should we lose, it won't really be a tragedy and I won't be considering suicide, but I'll certainly stick my tongue out to Portsmouth as the ferry leaves for France on Sunday...I might even blow a rasberry so they won't be able to misunderstand my depth of feeling!

Anyway, it won't come to that. It's inconceivable that the Sunderland Woman Football Team who clinched promotion yesterday to the Premiership, should see their male counterparts leaving it.

The Tamil Tigers may have accepted defeat but I don't expect the 'Black Cats' to. (Sunderland are called 'The Black Cats' incidentally).

I expect to be throwing kisses and dancing a jig at the bemused onlookers as we leave the port.

To get back to the subject of 'To be or not to be', Did you know that 'The Bard' and I have something in common?

We visited Oxford a few weeks ago and stood at the font that he stood at to witness the baptism of his best friend's baby (it's rumoured that it was in fact his baby, but let's not go there).

I gazed at one particular part of the stone carving and imagined he did the same (which he probably did) and I touched it (which he probably didn't) so that the centuries could unite and we could connect by something more than just the visual.

We are both English and have looked at (and possibly touched) the same object, but I guess that's where we go our separate ways.

He was certainly talented but have you noticed that I'm the one who can spell tragedy right? It was always 'tragedie' for him. Never mind Will, you can't be good at everything.

Anyway, to change the subject. We've now got everything together for France into one area ready to pack, so I feel justified in moving on to that little football game, the significance of which is massive. I mean 'MASSIVE'!

If theytake the pitch as 'Pussy Cats' rather than 'Hungry Black Cats', they'll need more than just nine lives by the time we've finished with them. They'll be swung round by their tails and flung into obscurity, shame, embarrassment and certain wage cuts.

If they don't give 110% with raw passion right up to the very last second of injury time...
If every limb doesn't ache come the final whistle and their entire bodies aren't covered in sweat, blood and have broken bones to boot at the conclusion of 90 minutes, then we'll just be a 'teeny-weeny' bit disappointed.

No pressure boys!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


The basic family unit is considered essential in a stable society yet you will be hard-pressed to find many intact. The basic Christian family unit is even more of a rarity.

We are officially in the minority as we attend Church and embrace Christian family values, as England is no longer a Christian Nation.

The traditional family unit is under attack from every conceivable angle and is taking a battering.

How are the Devine's coping? Okay! Thriving! Vibrant!

Is Christianity dead? Not a chance, nor will it ever be and certainly not amongst the Christians who attend Church every week and who live their religion every day.

Would we like it to change? Of course, but people must have freedom to choose what they will. Exercising free agency is a fundamental part of true Christianity.

Why have I posted this on my blog? Why not? It's on my mind. It's about me. In fact, how can I possibly be seen as a well rounded member of society if it excludes my Christian belief and experience? I'd expect to be afforded the same degree of respect for what I believe in as I'm expected to give others and their respective beliefs. Let everyone believe in who or what they will so long as they afford me the same freedom.

Is this blog going to be a platform to preach? No, It's primarily a personal journal, but anyone visiting needs to know what my colours are, which direction I face and in whom I trust.
I think my Sunday post is likely to include a reflection of the day's experience and subsequent thoughts.

I have many friends and acquaintances who trust other sources, have a different hue to mine and who face a different direction to me, but I still consider them friends as such and worthy of interaction. Friendship is that strange thing which throws all kinds of people together. It's great!

Anyway, I'm going on a bit.

MIL has given us some books with the DVD's attached to take to France. Sense and Sensibility, Little Women, Vanity Fair and Jude. Not sure if we'll have much time to view or read this year, but next year we'll have much more time as everything will be finished.

Made a few phone calls and expanded my list of things to go.

Walked round to see Robin, Niki and little Adam.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Emm's big day

Now that I've figured out that the reason I've had difficulty posting is because I was on the Pacific Time Zone, we're sorted now and very happy!

Yesterday was overcast with medium to heavy rain...typical English weather but very welcome to the gardeners of this little 'ol island. Today started bright but is threatening more rain.

Bev has just come in from the garden (7:30am)...goodness knows what time she sneaked out!

I've been searching for ages trying to find the battery charger in preparation for taking a photo of Emmaleigh but I can't find it anywhere (I bet Ashley has it). He has this strange notion that because he bought it, it belongs to him.

Anyway, Emm has reached the age of accountability and it's her big day today. She wasn't baptised as a baby because it's our belief that babies have no need of the ordinance as they are not capable of committing sin and, as such, have no need to repent.

Sometimes I wonder and smile about the age of accountability...especially when I saw her take a swipe at her younger sister a few weeks ago while she was only seven. I guess a repeat of it will now be swiftly followed with a supposed heartfelt apology. We live in hope.

Actually, they are little angels and get on extremely well. I'm just having a little friendly swing at them and I should know better. A grandad isn't always the best example and you wouldn't believe how many times they've told me off.

In truth. I'm proud of her because it's been her decision to be baptised and she's been actively involved in who she wants to be involved. It's another big family gathering and the last for a few months so we'll make the most of it (as usual).

Bev has just come back from a delicate encounter and has plonked the charger on the table in front of me. It seems we are still a happy family. Nothing is going to spoil the day. Yes, I've already decided to buy one myself...when the sales come round.

We're off! Sunderland here we come. Me, Bev, her Mum, Bob Dylan, Annie Lennox, Bruce Cockburn, Lightfoot and Dire Straits are in one car and Martin, Sarah, Ash and Amber(plus unborn child) along with the rubbish they play are in the other. Jon, Serene and Austin will be travelling from Leeds.

Let the good times roll!

Well, we all arrived with time to spare. I even had time to walk to Ashbrooke Towers, a place I lived in as an eight year old or thereabouts whilst in care. I used to escape to the orchard at the bottom of the garden and watch the church my grand-daughter is being baptised in today being built.

I have very mixed feelings about Ashbrooke Towers but it is no longer the fearful place it once was.

We had to call the man in charge 'Uncle Percy', a hard, bitter and cruel man who carried a cane and walked with a club foot. Almost fifty years have passed and he still haunts me, but the house was magical and I look upon it with fondness now.

Anyway, the baptism was good. It was really nice to have little Danny and Aimee, as well as Great Grandma, Grandma, Aunties and Uncles participate in some way. Sarah sang beautifully I must say (no white lies).

The family gathering afterwards at Juli & Chris' home was a miracle unfolding (thanks to the food assignments organised through 'Facebook'. (I notice RB blog has a nice quote about Facebook).

We ate, laughed, talked and generally enjoyed the occasion.

On stopping at Morrisons before setting off back home and as Bev filled up with petrol (only 93p per litre), I dashed across the road and through a short-cut to see my sister and was caught in a downpour. Bev picked me up a short while later as I was talking with my two nephews ( my sister wasn't home). Although we are close, my sister wasn't at the baptism for some reason. I'll ring her tomorrow.

The journey home was shortened by singing along with Annie Lennox etc! The etc! was Ashley teasing me in the cramped condition on the back seat. Although they travelled with M&S they came back with us.

A good day now consigned to history as a landmark and fond memory in the life of Emm & Co.

Ashbrooke towers...
With Mum and Dad...
What's so funny?

Bev with all the grandkids...and Jon


And Emmaleigh...

All the group photos with the whole gang will be uploaded to the Devine family pictures website soon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just one...

I enjoyed last night.
There was Ed, Jon, Anne, Bob, Kath, DavidB, Helen, Amina, David, Eileen, KenG, Pat, Elardeo, Dot, Graham, Julie, Steven, Hong, Mark, Kayt, Daniel, Ray, Bev and me, and as I battled through the rain over the short distance to the car this morning, I squeezed a thought in of how glad I was of the experience of meeting up and sharing an hour or so with them.

Over the years we've shared some memorable times and as a group achieved a great deal.

I'd like to focus on the less synergistic (if there is such a word) aspect of individual input, the sum total of which has been monumental. The importance of just one.

I received an email from Graham Buckell (one of the people named above) way back in August 2004 @ 8:15pm which highlighted the importance of one vote and the impact our individual effort can make.

Here it is...

In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell the control of England. Just 4 years later, the execution of Charles I took place because of a single vote.

Across the Atlantic in 1776, one vote gave America English instead of German as their language and later, in 1868 one vote saved Andrew Jackson from impeachment.

But perhaps the most telling example was that in 1923, one vote made Adolf Hitler the leader of the Nazi Party.

I am only one. You are only one. But don't ever imagine that we don't count.

The doors of history turn on small hinges.

On reading this again, and bearing in mind we have our local elections in two weeks I thought to myself, right, here we go... It's my time to make a difference. I've spurted enough about our politicians. I'll show 'em!

Then I realised I'll be in France.

I guess that's just one more thing to add to my list before tootling off.

Just been to Nottingham and back and am listening to 'Fifth Dimension' in the background when I should really be in bed. It's a big day tomorrow beginning with a two and a half hour car journey.

Just one week to go before I go to France. Just one! (I'm even counting the bed-times).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Make it happen

Yesterday I was determined to say something positive sufficient to render a 'thank you' from the recipient. It worked.
I received at least a dozen and for one of them I even lied. I said someone looked really good and in truth they didn't. (Little white lies will make a fascinating subject for another post).
No Karen, I really did mean it when I said you looked nice. I lied about the other person...the one who doesn't read my blog!
Oh my goodness, since when do you read my blog Kirsty? (only kidding!)

I tried to post this four times and finally I was rewarded with success. I just needed to make it happen.

The lights above our bank of desks aren't working and I logged a call two days ago to have them fixed. I was promised a swift response from Carol in Portsmouth. Yes, Portsmouth and not Newark. Isn't it crazy that someone has to come several hundred miles just to put a light bulb in?
Thinking about it though, perhaps it isn't so crazy when you consider we often have to talk to someone in India to make things happen right here where we stand.

I enjoyed the conversation with Carol nonetheless as Sunderland play Portsmouth on Monday and I asked if she could fix that too. I'm afraid I couldn't make it happen. She didn't fix either of my requests and I had to kidnap one of their engineers who I found wandering in a dazed state whilst taking care of unrelated business just across the floor.

After a heated exchange (not from me I might add, but from Karen who has been suffering from light deprivation this past two days), I eventually made it happen and he changed the light fitting and scurried off in an even more dazed state than I found him as far away from Karen as possible. I bet he's already back in Portsmouth.

I'm left to consider who is the most fortunate as I remain here not two feet from Karen. To be fair, the lights are so bright that Karen is swiftly returning to 'normal' mode and is currently safe to talk to.

Making it happen is not without it's consequences, is it?

Roll on 4:00pm home time! (and the dozens of things I've yet to make happen, not least one or two things for our visit to France.

I'd love to be able to find that email which looks at what difference just one individual made to change the course of history.

I'll find it somehow (make it happen) and post it soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First time

I woke up this morning unable to get a song from the '60's out of my head. I was trying to remember all the words.

'Woke up this morning half asleep with all my blankets in a heap, and yellow roses scattered all around me'. Electric Light Orchestra

Actually, I think it was the '70's.

That's the only verse I could remember but it was a happy start to the day.

At breakfast I opened the fridge and was surprised at a truly random thought I'd never had before...

'Everything I'm looking at now will go through one of us soon'.

Well, what a thing to think about on a happy sunny morning. It made me think of a few other 'first time' things.

First time when I ate swede (it was also the last time), climbed a tree, watched a bonfire, ate a banana, had pair of new shoes, first kiss, rode a bike, first time I met Bev, Killed something other than earwigs and bugs, first friend, first midnight skinny-dip, dentist's appointment, blush, award, dead body, first hard back book, milk drink and the first time I watched television.

Staying on the theme of 'first time', someone once said there is no more original thought but I think there is.

'Vitamin C, cod liver oil, listening to the washing and the kettle on the boil' is a little verse I thought of as I experienced it this morning. I thought it before I wrote it. If it isn't original, what is it?

Here's another...'plip, plop, drip, drop, plip, plop, plip...plop! (I like the last anticipated plop!)

I think that the second time you do something is the first time too (it's the first time you've done it twice etc!) . As such, everything we do is for the first time and is original as it relates to us.

This bizarre train of thought reminds me of a book I read about 40 years ago entitled 'Journey to Ixtlan' by Carlos Casteneda in which he took us on a journey (one that we make regularly) and asks us to view it as if it was for the very first time, totally fresh and without recognition.

Anyway, perhaps I'd better get back to simpler things and try and convince anyone visiting my blog that I'm not off my rocker ...I'm just having a weird day with weird thoughts.

I discovered this morning (for the first time) that when the morning sun shines, it floods through no less than six areas of our house. No wonder I like the place.

Photo showing the direction of the early morning sun...

I've now posted photo's of the bluebells on the 'War and Peace' post...along with the correct spelling for 'embarrassed'. So embarrassed! (not for the first time)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Perhaps not

'Perhaps not', is a follow on from yesterday's post about 'It'll be alright'...trying to be optimistic about my team playing top flight football next year.

What's important is HOW we handle disappointment in life.

Should we not consider our blessings when storm clouds gather? Of course we should. Football isn't everything. Besides which, it isn't over 'till the fat lady sings so they say. Sunderland are still the favourites to stay up.
There is much to look forward to over the final two games. So Newcastle won, so what?

Spoke to Juli who is fresh back from Canada. D'ya know what? I think she'll live there at the drop of a hat. Given the chance, she'd turn round and go straight back.

I managed to complete my lists for France. Yes, lists (plural) for things to take, and one for things to do. I've even colour coordinated them.

I'll be working a lot more than resting again this year. When you renovate, expect a 12 hour+ working day.
This is the last visit for long working days as we've about completed all the hard work now. It'll soon be a case of windsurfing, sailing, visiting and mingling more.

We do mingle while over there, especially on Sunday. Not a single bit of work is carried out on Sundays and boy do we need the rest. A typical Sunday would be to go to church in Vannes then totally chill out by visiting some beauty spot and then a quiet place to doze in the afternoon sun if it's around.

During the working week the locals just walk in uninvited to have a look around. They certainly aren't reserved the way we are and it's nice that they do it. It's so funny how we try and make each other understood...I'm certain they think we're touched.

One such visit was from someone who lived in the place as a boy. He marvelled at the transformation and thoroughly enjoyed the grand tour he was given.

Back to the here and now, Bev picked me up from work and we drove over to check the sale at Allied Carpets (goodness knows why as there is a continual sale lasting most of the year anyway).

Yippee! We found a rug for France that would go very nicely in front of the living room fire. We've been looking for ages. Dead chuffed! It might be a little dark but we think it'll be lovely with a nice chunky old wood coffee table plonked in the middle. Can't wait to put it down.

Singing happy birthday to Emmaleigh and speaking with Jon just about rounds the day off nicely. It's still light but turning chilly and we're feeling quite tired now.

Another hour or so will see us watching the programme on BBC about imsomnia. Perhaps not!

Monday, May 11, 2009

It'll be alright

We had the family over yesterday after church and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening. Life just can't get better when it's like this.

We also had a very good nights sleep and enjoyed the walk to work this morning. The tractor was cutting the grass again and chose to cross our path when it had all the field to play with. Bev thought he did it deliberately.

I'm wondering if it's going to be as good a day as it should be...especially when I pulled out the front door key to our house and offered it up to the card activated doors at work.
I felt a right idiot.

It wasn't a good day at work even though Karen was back. It was just one of those days full of time consuming problems that were totally preventable.

Would you believe it, that tractor is still on the field!

Posted Emmaleigh's 8th birthday card.

I'm hoping Newcastle and Middlesborough draw tonight in the footy. It'll mean Sunderland stay up.
I've tried for years not to allow Sunderland's results affect my general well being but I always feel better when they win.

I once tried to clap and cheer and force myself to be happy when they lost. I did this because they lost more than they won and I didn't want to feel down too often. I coudn't fool myself though. It never worked...not even once.

I must concentrate tonight on making sure everything is okay for the French visit in two weeks, so I won't feel totally bereft of satisfaction if Newcastle manage a win.

I should have a little faith. They'll stay up. It'll be alright!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Between 1961 and 1968 I attended the Royal Alexandra & Albert School in the luxurious grounds of Gatton Park in Reigate Surrey.
Today is founders day and I'm unable to attend but I thought I'd say a few words about the place in recognition of it's influence on me.

I know it sounds as if my family were rich, but the truth was that I was in care. My parents were not only poor but unable to sustain their marriage and as a consequence of this, my Mother on her own was unable to cope with my being at home with an already demanding family.
She did her best but you need to understand just how much of a handful I was. If I wasn't laying at death's door as a result of injuries sustained through suicidal pranks and adventures, I was a continual magnet for all things leading to trouble and police involvement. Even in care with foster parents I was too much to handle.

The turning point came when I painted a picture of a ship that was recognised by the local authorities. It was the only thing I'd done which showed I had potential and before I knew it I was sitting in front of the board of governors in the former home of the Coleman family (the mustard people) Gatton Hall, set in grounds landscaped by Capability Brown. The place had lakes and woods and was paradise for someone who had never seen grass.

I was asked a number of questions before being excused so they could consider what to do with me. On my return I was told of my acceptance as a boarding student to commence within weeks. I was truly happy that day. It was the perfect place for a young lad and I didn't really care that Sunderland (my home town) must have breathed a sigh of relief at having successfully passed me on as someone else's problem.

I was here when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was here when the Stones and Beatles created the music still with us today. I was introduced to the music of Dylan here and it was here that I watched England win the world cup and saw Ali rule the world.

These years were the happiest of my life. I still got into trouble, but only through the exuberance of youth.

I've been back many times since leaving and most of it is exactly as it was when I was a child.

Gatton Hall (where the senior girls slept)

The Chapel...
Kent House where I stayed as a senior. We built a boat in that ground floor corner room and I never did find out how it got out because it filled the room as I recall.

In front of the big lake with my old school friends. To the left of me is the cricket pavillion still standing after all these years and the back of Gatton Hall at the top of the hill. To the right, racing horses use to run in the fenced off fields. All the grass was kept short and immaculate and used for sports, including my archery classes (yes, I was trusted with a bow and arrows).

And this is me at the end of the last visit (unfortunately the car isn't mine).

Saturday, May 09, 2009

War and Peace

A spattering of Eastern Europe invade England by ghosting past our immigration controls in search of the goodies we provide.

Others have tried the conventional warfare method...some did okay and others just embarrassed themselves.

Now most of us can lay claim to a bloody and shameful past, but what I see in my front garden takes the biscuit. I'm really worried.

Not content with using the direct up front approach which can be seen as an obvious assault which, I can assure you, can be repelled, but they are preparing the way slowly, silently and sneakily to invade without mercy at grass roots level.

I speak of the Spanish bluebell.

In our back garden we have the paler delicate English variety, trembling at the prospect of the ruthless, sturdy, strong pretender in the front garden flexing its muscles and ready to pounce.

The battle lines are well defined, there is a military strategy in place. Today the 9th of May is the day war has been declared and hostilities will commence after breakfast and shopping (I'm off to get the chainsaw).

Three hours later...

Actually, the real battle was in the hallway...I gave it a right pasting, but once I'd made up good ground with the decorating I visited the front line to see what we were up against. To my horror I saw the two varieties slogging it out side by side and Bev either a prisoner or fraternizing with the enemy

You know, I think I actually prefer the towering, stronger coloured and broader leafed Spanish bluebell. Ours look quite pathetic in comparison. I do believe I'm captivated. Perhaps we'll encamp the pathetic Brits out of sight in the back and allow the true blues to shine and smile up front.

Bev's done a good job making them look good as well as digging out the docks and trimming the lawn.

I think she'll always be a prisoner to the garden and, although it's a life of hard labour it's also quite liberating.

All is well in the garden of life and peace reigns supreme.

The English...
The Spanish...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Flip-Flops and shades

I woke up early (5:30) feeling nostalgic in the extreme. My dreams were dominated by my early school days at Gatton. It must have been the mention yesterday of the Founders Day this Sunday and the realisation that I can't make it. I think I'll share a few thoughts and photo's about the place tomorrow.

Thank goodness my dreams weren't dominated by the chainsaw which was also mentioned yesterday.

I wasn't going to do it, but it's such a sunny, bright and breezy day and I'm feeling so optimistic and happy that I've decided to go for it.

I'm going to work at my desk today in shorts, flip-flops and shades. I've just got to get into holiday mode (just two weeks away). I can't go yet of course but there's nothing to stop me from bringing it with me to enjoy the here and now.

It means I'll have to walk to work looking like a right Charlie but 'hey, what the heck!

If you think it's cool to walk to work for 15 minutes in isn't! My legs are killing me. I've used muscles that shoes don't ask to use. I walked through grass laden with dew and thankful it had been cut as it's often frequented by dogs taking their owners for their daily exercise. But now that I'm here at work it's nice to sit down.

Already the clouds are gathering with the prospect of my walking home in like manner but with the addition of rain. Why do I get carried away so? Why can't I just dream without action? Oh well, best make the most of it! Now they've turned the air conditioning on. It's freezing!

Eileen has sent me a brilliant photo of them coming down from Dove Cragg (2598 feet) yesterday. It's a view to die for but I bet they didn't climb it in flip-flops.

Today isn't so bad. There's a good atmosphere at work.

It's now 10:40pm and I'm back home after a welfare meeting in Nottingham (considering those who stand in need of social, emotional and spiritual help). Ashley and Amber gave me a lift there as Bev was still out doing the weekly shop with her Mum.

I DID have to walk home from work in the blustery cold and rainy weather (albeit for a short time only) which was totally at odds with my beach wear. I tried not to notice the looks I deserved as I slowly forged my way home.

Made the mistake of watching the news before retiring. It was all about our greedy, dishonest and immoral politicians. We have just about had enough of them and really need to weed them out and replace them with men and women of honesty and integrity. Too angry and tired to put into words how I feel just now.

Tomorrow's another day. Bon Nuit!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

qu'est-ce qui se passe?

It's another bright and beautiful 'feelgood' morning. I had to drag Bev from gazing lovingly into the back garden into the the real world of getting to work on time. Had to take the car again...tsk! tsk! She's promised herself that tonight the garden takes priority over everything.

For me, priority has to be catching up on reports, emails, reading and lists...H/T, lessons, and things to do and prepare for.

Alors, qu'est-ce qui se passe maintenant? (So, what's happening now?)

I'm doing some French. Yes, French! One has to make the effort you know.

J'ai presque oublier (I almost forgot)... that I'm supposed to learn the language.
J'ai presque oublier... that the Gatton Founders Day is this Sunday.
J'ai presque oublier... that I haven't picked up the chain saw blade yet.
J'ai presque oublier... that I start work in 15 minutes and I've other things to do before starting.

Just checked my emails and was pleased to see a reply from Tracy in Mohon. She's kindly offered to meet up and give valuable advice on living in Brittany. Yes, I've agreed to meet another woman in a foreign country but don't's not as bad as it reads and have you forgotten I'm bald headed and short sighted.

Tracy moved to France in 2006 with her husband and currently runs a mobile hairdressing business. It looks like she meets with her friends at La Taverne in Josselin now and again, which is just 15 minutes from where Bel-Air is. Actually it must be a bit more than now and again because the owners have named a coffee and pizza after her.

La Taverne...I hope they are showing the European Cup Final on 27th May. If they are, it's where I'll be for sure (It might be the Hotel de France that shows the live football).

Add Image Next door...

Josselin...That's David and Eileen with the family on the boat.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Running out of time

I'm not making good progress with my French.

Have you ever tried to do things with your left hand if you are right handed? Things like brushing your teeth, navigating with a mouse, combing your hair or writing a letter. Well, my French is far worse than trying to write a letter clearly and neatly with my left hand. I know it's just a matter of practice but I have no resolve it seems. Am I a lost cause? Am I just too old and pathetic? Well, I guess time will tell.

Time is the theme of today's blog post.

We drove to work today to save time even though it's one of those beautiful bright mornings. There are people handing things out at the entrance to the car park. I bet it's to do with 'Swine Flu'. I came in a separate entrance so I'll have to go and check it out in a little while (I'm nosey!)

I'm back home already. Yes, it was so busy that I ran out of time to find out who they were at the entrance.

I had a thought earlier today. If time was available to buy, would I buy even though I'm struggling with what I've got?

The garden, as pleasant as it is, grows too quickly without a lot of involvement. For every email I do at work, another five are there to replace it. The house is in need of constant care and there are millions of things to do. Do we ever get on top of things? Buying time would solve the problem wouldn't it?

Well, I concluded that if it WAS available to buy and I could afford it, I'd wait for the BOGOF or the special offers like buy five days and get the week-end thrown in.

Thinking about it more seriously (all this was during a half hour lunch break), I decided that all I'd really want was a pause button (it's cheaper than buying)...not an apathy button or a disinterested in life button or couldn't care less button. I wouldn't mind a chocolate button (so long as it wasn't galaxy).

I don't really want to be racing through life like a Jenson Button. I want the slow lane on the motorway of life. I want time to learn French, sleep nine hours like the French, have a siesta like the French and spend time smelling the roses. I want to savour every second and stretch it out as long as possible.

I'm 57 years old (I had to take time to work it out) and I guess today I was feeling I shouldn't be wasting time sitting behind a desk.

I enjoyed time tonight with Bev watching 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' and all of a sudden I've snapped out of it. I'm lucky I have a job to go to. I'm content again. Life is good!

I tell you what, I'm having some strange thoughts of late.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Monday morning 'blues' on Tuesday

Came in early to do some French only to find I'm supposed to start early anyway to make up for that non-existent dental appointment from last week. Brilliant! Karen's on holiday so there's only Kirsty and myself to cover all the work. What a great start! I'm not amused!

Well, things got worse before getting better, but that usually is the case.

I had a bizarre thought this afternoon. I wrote on my banana (I love how smooth it writes) before skinning it alive and eating it. The remains were thrown into a bin. The bizarre thought was that I imagined that it had feelings and that I was being barbaric. I put it down to sleep deprivation.

I wanted to achieve three things before I catch up on that much needed sleep. The first is to tot up last month's expenses which was only partially done. Secondly, update the blog and Man U v Arsenal.

As it happens, I've spent an hour playing the guitar and another hour trying to find my diary.

I eventually found it in a mysterious THIRD compartment of the bag I took to Sunderland at the week-end.

Bev's in the garden (where else), re-seeding the areas previously covered with moss and I'm on course to achieve my evenings goals.

For the French element of the blog, I understand that within the last week, French women are voted Europe's slimmest and the French in general have been found to sleep the longest. I'm afraid it's done nothing for my French language aspirations but there you go.

MIL has just told me I've missed 10 minutes of the match. The 'tot up' will have to be during half time.

All done although I really wanted Arsenal to win.

Finished the day reading in bed... a few pages of 'Larkrise'.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Making a difference

Enjoyed the lie-in. Enjoyed the breakfast. Enjoyed the day.

My companions for the day were Bev, MIL, Arsenal and Sunderland Women's football teams, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Damien Rice and Mark Knopfler. We were cocooned in our own little world as we worked on the hall stairs and landing.

It was to be a day visiting the tip and working in the garden but I'm secretly pleased the weather forced us indoors because finishing the jobs inside will give us the greatest satisfaction.

Hope the weather was okay in the North-East for my grandkids who visited Beamish for the first time. They rang me last night to see if I'd recovered.

I was thinking also about how good a person Manny Pacquiao is as I worked away sanding the stair rails. Apparently, the crime rate plummets and war is put on hold in his home country when he fights.

It's incredible how one man can have such an impact in the lives of so many others.

Churchill once said that solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong and it's a wonder Pacquiao grew at all when you consider the poverty he was accustomed to in his youth, and the strength he now enjoys.

Keep going my friend...I'm your newest fan and reckon you'll eventually realise your dream to become the leader of your country and making an even greater difference than you are now.

'Bin a long day and I'm fading fast. My bath was too hot again and I feel weak. Time for bed.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The day of rest

After having spent the whole of last night out, I crawled into bed at 5:30 and prematurely woke at 12:20 in a state of total confusion. Philip picked me up half an hour later and we enjoyed a quick journey home. Poor Philip has to carry on to Grantham and then Surrey.

It's a shame I wasn't able to hang on till Chris and the girls came home but I left a note of thanks for my grandkids who kindly left me a little breakfast (thankfully, they forgot it was fast day).

We'll be back in a couple of weeks so I'm looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Back home in Newark, Hannah and her friend dropped by and family called.

Caught up on one or two things and reflected on a memorable Saturday.

Here endeth a most extraordinary Sunday which, out of necessity, ended up entirely a day of rest. Off to bed now, again out of necessity.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Family, farewell and 'Big Fight' night

Bev's already scarified the lawn and is in town on her way back home. I think she's determined to get the most out of today. She's just called in a panic thinking she's lost her's here on top of the shoe rack.

We'll be leaving in an hour or so, destination Leeds for the family BBQ, then Sunderland for the big fight night at the Crowtree Centre. Juli is off to Canada after the family gathering so it promises to be quite a day. Feeling a bit weak at the moment though...I think the bath was a tad too hot and it's zapped my energy.

No jobs today...purely relaxation and family fun...possibly a contradiction in terms there, but we'll see!

The BBQ was really very relaxing...once Jon and Ash put the thing together from the box as I cust the grass (didn't think I'd be cutting grass today but I quite enjoyed it).

Left with Chris for Sunderland around 6:30 and was dropped off at the Crowtree Centre.

Atmosphere fantastic. About a dozen fights in all, some title fights at different weights and some eliminators. Tony Jeffries was awesome and his opponent wasn't able to continue after the second round. It was good to see my two sisters, neice and nephew there as well as Nigel, Robert, Philip and Tom

After the fights we went to the 'Porterfield' for the after fight party (We had exclusive gold VIP's 'who' you know!) which also allowed us to view the 'ricky Hatton fight.

Left the party into the cold rain searching for a taxi. Ran to the 'Glass Spider' after unsuccessful attempts to flag down anything and joined a long queue for a taxi (still raining).

Home (Juli's) by 5:30am absolutely drenched. Chris was awake...I felt like a teenager needing to explain where I'd been all night.

Don't know why parties are held in such high regard. In the words of my neice Sarah...'they can be quite pretentious'. A good night's sleep is more meaningful, but it was nice to chat to family and congratulate others.

The family gathering... waiting for Martin and Sarah to arrive.
Boxing... just one pic for the blog.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Thank goodness it's Friday

Well, the bubble's burst on the 'feeling happy' didn't last long did it? I feel a bit grotty and Bev isn't pleased with me. I've also got the dentist this afternoon and Kirsty is off work later today, which means more work for Karen and I'm grumpy!

It just got worse. Kirsty is off the full day and I've been in a meeting for an hour. We are not only short-staffed but also behind.

An email has just come through from the VF bosses...the have issued a 'Swine flu' warning that if the WHO places the current risk from 5 to a 6 (apparently 6 is pandemic) they will be ready with advice. Well, bully for them.

Oh well, at least it's Friday! I've only got to hang in there a few more hours.
I've just made a mad dash to pick the car up and raced over for my dental appointment only to find they've lost my data while transferring to another computer system and my appointment was lost. I've had my fill of computers this week. Next available appointment is 18th June.

Picked up an M&S treat for Bev tonight on the way back to drop the car off. Amber took the keys in the office and will pass them to Bev.

Back at work...AAAAGH!!! All these last minute problems designed to spoil my weekend.

MADE IT! Let the good times roll!

Walked home and made Bev Aberdeen Angus steaklets topped with all kinds of goodies, wedges, petit pois and asparagus. For dessert, fresh exotic fruits with lemon ricotta and cream custard topping. For drink...chilled apple presse.
It was all M&S so I can't really take the credit...I just cooked the stuff and layed the table while Bev was in the garden doing her thing.

Took photo's of the nicely marked tulips in the front garden.

Charged my batteries ready for tomorrow's photographs and now we are going to do April's expenditure.
The expenditure is one of this year's goals to see how much we spend on various things over the year. It'll give us an indication of how much we'll need to live on when we move to France.

We'd like to go to the social tonight but it's late and Bev is exhausted after the shopping. She took Mum in her wheelchair so it was extra hard going. Tried ringing the Flinns to let them know but they must have already gone.

Our tulips...