Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Countdown 2 and 1...Yippee!!

At last! The car is bulging and waiting for us to come on board. We won't be coming home from work tomorrow but will head straight for Portsmouth. Excited or what!!??? I wasn't earlier but now I am. I really am!

Thanks for sticking with me over the last week or so as I shared thoughts on my first ten years of life.  It has really made me think seriously about getting my personal history sorted. It has been an unfulfilled goal for years now. Perhaps this will spur me on. Anyway, thanks for your comments. I've appreciated them and I'll miss you all over the next few weeks.

So here we are at the very beginning...22nd February 1952

As I could never recall a warm and sunny February in the North-East, I assume that my arrival coincided with a bleak, dreary and heartless day…the kind that forces you indoors to protect you from the lashing, cutting, wild and freezing rain.

Against such a harsh and hopeless backdrop, I like to think my arrival raised at least one smile.

Elizabeth was the last to be born two years previously and, discounting numerous miscarriages, I was number four of an eventual seven. All attention was on Elizabeth…not my sister, but the princess who was making preparations for her coronation. My arrival at 81 St Patrick’s Garth in the notorious east-end dockland area of Sunderland was in her slipstream and wasn’t subject to fanfare, jubilation or euphoria.

The real good news, other than the impending coronation, was that the war was over even if rationing wasn’t, and I was blissfully unaware that battles in the field would soon be replaced with battles in the home.

Had I known what was to come, I would surely have opted to cut my losses and return to wherever I came from.

From the moment I was able to think, I never felt my presence to be a blessing to anyone. My Mother however must have loved me dearly because she often took the lions share of pain to protect me from her drunken, out of control brute of a husband; intent on making his mark on my tender defenseless skin with his army issue leather belt which I found out some fifty years later was named ‘Suzie’.

I marvel that I could have such thoughts before coherent speech but my earliest wishes for him centered mainly on his swift exit from this world, although such wishes only ever followed a thrashing my Mother was unable to prevent.

What provoked such heartless, prolonged and brutal attacks on his apparent favorite son was a mystery to me. It would be another twenty years before I found out the truth and a further twenty before my earliest wishes regarding him were granted…his parting for my part being laced with guilt, regret and sadness rather than bitterness, and the last thing I wanted at the time.

Anyway, I digress. I had arrived, I was part of an unbroken expanding family with a roof over our heads and all my bits were intact. I was now in that awful state of knowing nothing but wanting everything. My journey had begun.

Looking back from 2010 it has been an incredible journey laced with opportunity, disappointment, pain and sheer joy. I've experience a full life and enjoyed the fruits of both wise and not so wise choices.

A prison warden once said of me that I would be back and that he would have the last laugh. Since then I have never looked back and have never been back. For the last 38 years I have been the master of my destiny in the  direction I needed to go and the type of person I needed to be. The other person is under control now and is doing okay. We are still friends and wouldn't be without each other. He's been through a lot and deserves a good friend. We shed a tear from time to time but we are both enjoying life now. We really are.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Countdown 4 and 3...the old Gaumont Cinema

Call me selfish, but being the recipient of a clean, dry nappy and long, warm bottles of milk was what it was all about. My earliest memories were of torturous long waits for those well-appreciated bottles which, once they arrived, were gulped with fervor in long, sweaty bursts, punctuated by short intervals essential for the intake of air.

I instantly recognized my provider as mum…never dad. I cried long and hard for attention and often woke the next day knowing I’d been unsuccessful.

I recall gazing at the maze pattern frill around the hood of my perambulatory prison and soon recognized the various smells as I lay defenseless and devoid of stimulation had it not been for the buzzing bluebottles orbiting the hanging, sticky fly-catching strips that twirled and twisted from the yellowing ceiling.

I progressed from my pram to the heavily covered bed that accommodated us like sardines in a tin. The air was often stale and breathing easily seemed to be a problem for me as I often found relief by pushing my tiny wet finger as far up my nostril as possible. It never occurred to me simply to open my mouth.

My bedroom was also my prison where I waited many long hours before being allowed into the friendlier, livelier and more stimulating living room. Sunday was a particularly long wait while the only real meal of the week was prepared. Our ‘mam’ could certainly cook when funds made it possible.

I don’t recall being outdoors in the pram, although I do remember it being bumped as it progressed down the 30 or so spiralling concrete steps enclosed within a tower at each end of the building, before entering the brightness of the inner Garth area.

I hated the smell of the concrete steps which, with pride born of duty, were kept scrupulously clean by shawl cladded, metal pail carrying women; twisting and wringing grey ‘floor clouts’ in their lobster coloured and weathered hands as they knelt or bent to the task at hand.

I remember with pride the first day I was able to climb these stairs more than one at a time and no longer having both feet on one step before moving onto the next; but still the combined smell of disinfectant and ashes bound for the ‘shute’ was a smell most unpleasant to me.

As I grew older, they became a source of embarrassment as the practice of cleaning them had long been abandoned and I contemplated bringing ‘outside’ friends home. I would invariably run up them as fast as I could and can remember the echo of my footsteps bouncing off the walls in the dank and dusty atmosphere before bursting into the fresh air of the main veranda that served about fifteen homes.

I later imagined what I could do to beautify them if money was no object...say £100, but never came to an idea that would improve their appeal. At least we were on the first veranda and not the top. There was always someone worse off than us.

Anyway, I’m moving on too quickly. No such thoughts accompanied me as I bumped down those concrete steps with my Mam and pram.

I remember well the layout of 81 St Patrick’s Garth.

The living room was situated immediately to the right as I left the bedroom. On entering there was a pantry to the left with the scullery next to it. Straight ahead was the open fire with an integral oven to the right which had a diamond two-tone green shaped tiled door with a swivel lock handle. The left hand side of the fire had a hot plate. The fire itself was the heart of the home. It was easily lit and once the shovel had been placed in position with a two-fold sheet of newspaper covering it, it was soon roaring. Two armchairs flanked the fire. I can’t recall what was in the alcove to the right other than a photograph of Elizabeth hanging from the picture rail, but the alcove to the left housed a beaureau which in turn housed ‘Suzie’. The dropdown of the beaureau served as a temporary bed for me when I had measles or scarlet fever or something of that nature. Adjacent to the alcove and opposite the pantry and scullery were the windows encased in metal along with the glass paneled doors leading to the independent veranda. I loved the sun streaming through these doors to fill the room with light.

To the right of the glass door was the redifusion box with its ½ dozen selections for radio. The wall adjacent and opposite the fireplace accomodated the plaster plaques of flying geese and the square dining table rested against it. We were one floor up and the view from that rarely used veranda was of Joshua Wilson’s factory with the Sweet factory to the right. To the left was the slaughter house, the Black Cat pub and the quayside…soon to become my preferred playground.

The slaughter house was a magical place to be…especially when a bull was being delivered for slaughter. The big lorries would have these gigantic wooden ramps that would unhinge from the back with long metal ring-pull rods. The bulls always sensed they were going to be slaughtered as they slid awkwardly and wide eyed down the ramp. We would cower behind the flimsy barrier and often ran for our lives down the narrow steep cobbled alleyway once we saw the nostrils flare, eye contact made and hooves clattering wildly and slip on the hard cobbles at the foot of the ramp.

Sheep weren’t that scary, but it was fascinating to watch from the open doorway as they were dragged onto the grid to have their throats slit. We were so frightened of the slaughter man. I later found out that he lived in the same block of flats as Celia Agnew and Iwas terrified passing his door in case he opened it and dragged me in for slaughter.

I once scaled the brick holding pen of the slaughter house and dropped inside the empty arena. I was stunned with fear having realized I couldn’t get out again. Fortunately I found some wood to give me something to use as a lift, but during this time the hair on the back of my neck was on end thinking a bull or the slaughter man would enter and kill me.

A bull did escape once. I pelted down that alleyway almost tripping and took refuge in ‘Snowballs’, a little grocers at the bottom to the right which I burst into with legs quivering. The shopkeeper had a hunch back and wore a brown overall, and he let me stay a while (the shop is still there). When I thought it was clear, I ventured out but was still terrified and unsure which direction to go. I eventually found my way to the Church yard and dropped down from the surrounding wall only to have the bull suddenly appear behind me. A man struck the head of the bull as it closed in on me and it changed direction, but it was unimaginably horrible to have the snort of the bull so close to me. We later learned that it found refuge under a cart or wagon and was shot with a dart to sedate it before eventually being destroyed.

There was a bombed out area near Celia Agnews place and when it filled with water we floated sheets of corrugated iron and timber and jumped on to paddle across while waiting for Dad.  We were never allowed to go in with him. We had to play outside rain or shine for a few hours. Draw your own conclusions.

A very fond and private memory was of sliding down two huge angled concrete slabs and through a slit into the part-demolished massive interior of the Gaumont Cinema. I stood alone facing the stage and screen area and looked around at the empty dusty seats. I felt like I'd discovered a magical place hidden for centuries. On the way home I found a sailor's hat.

The stone triangle area near the quay where we begged passing foreign sailors for money still stands.

I can't believe how I'm rambling on. The memories are just flooding out.

2010...the car is two-thirds packed and ready to go. Watching 'Flash Forward' now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spencer Lee Devine

Here he is at last...

With Great Grandma Needham

With Grandma Bev
And Mum...showing expectant Aunt Sarah in the background
Martin has taken some real good photos and will send them soon.

It was so good to have the family together. Life just can't get better than this. You would have loved being with us Juli. We are looking forward to seeing you in France next week.

I won't post anything about my childhood today, but will continue tomorrow.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Countdown 5...broken bones?

The year is 1957 and It's my first day at Hudson Road school. I recall my Mother leaving me with all these strangers and I was very upset. That's all I remember about the place other than we sang 'All things bright and beautiful' at assembly and had free milk in the classroom. Every day since and up to leaving abruptly is a complete blank. I do remember though being made to feel as poor as I actually was.

I walked to school with Tucker Ellis, often in sock-less wellies and no underpants. We would play marbles and walk with arms around shoulders and did the same on the way back. We were happy out of the house and school.

One memory was of being wrapped in a towel after a bath and dried in front of a roaring fire.  I was having a nit comb scrape across my scalp while watching 'The laughing policeman' on a TV which sat on the table directly opposite. As I don't recall ever having a bath other than this one, I've concluded that it must have been in preparation for my first day at school.

Soon after my first day, I remember coming home at lunch-time and watching the weather forecast on TV. I refused to go back after this.

Isn't it strange that those who can least afford a TV often have one. It's a good job too. I would have hated missing out on 'The Lone Ranger and Tonto', 'The Flying Doctor' and other favourites.

On Saturdays we walked to my older brother's school where they laid on free meals for the likes of our family. We had to show our ticket before being allowed in. I can still picture it as we queued for the herringbone wooden green doors to open.

After school, Tucker and me often played in derelict houses. On one occasion I was on the first floor fearlessly walking the floor joists as a dare when I stepped off balance into space. I actually remember seeing where I fell from as I was falling. I apparently landed on my back amongst the broken bricks that littered the place and Tucker dashed home to tell my mother. I don't know how I got to the hospital but my mother tells me that she was told to come in soon afterwards as I had taken a turn for the worse and wasn't expected to live. She told me that she sat with me through the night before things improved. I still can smell the hospital and the very long waits for the doctors to come round.

My favourite playground was down at the quay under the old timber supports pulling rocks in search of crabs. Quite often I was caught by the tide and struggled to make it back to safety and would have to wade through freezing water. The place echoed as gulls accidentally flew in and couldn't get out. Rats were plentiful and scurried over the bands of seaweed and along beams.

Other times I would jump from rowing boat to rowing boat and loved to board empty fishing vessels. In the same area I remember climbing latticed advertising boarding and peering through the window of an old building at men making coffins. I did this a lot. It was fascinating to watch.

I ran away from home a lot as anything was better than the threat of violence. Late one evening I made my way to the area where the pigeons nested high in the rocks and entered a rusty metal cabin. I felt that I could make this my home and was convinced that it would work out. After an hour I became very cold and hungry and made my way home to face the music.

Another time I walked over the bridge and all the way to Seaburn Beach to crawl under an overturned boat. This was going to be my bed for the night. In the early hours of the morning I started to make my way home and arrived in daylight.

I once ran away from home and got completely lost. An old man pointed me in the right direction and bought me a huge round flat multi-coloured lolly to suck on the way back.

A lot of the kids would jump on the back of the old milk lorry as it left the garth and one time I was bounced off and ended up under the back wheels. I was in hospital again and, like the last time, my mother was asked to come in as I had deteriorated and wasn't expected to survive the night. I was in hospital a long while and I had nightmares remembering the underside of that lorry.

It seems the incident caused quite a stir. The whole garth was in uproar and the driver was sacked. I felt sorry for him as it wasn't really his fault. He had no idea we were hitching a ride every time he drove off.
We never quite managed to fool the new driver and soon gave up trying.

It may be hard to believe but out of all my accidents I never suffered a broken bone.

Almost forgot...today was absolutely glorious. By 7:00am Bev was in her sun-splattered garden and I was getting more things together for France and painting in the studio. The FA cup final was a treat and we ended the evening with a fire in the garden...a perfect conclusion to the day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Countdown 6...games

I started writing these insights into my first 10 years of life in reverse because I was excited- just like a kid- at the prospect of a visit to France on Wednesday, and used them as a countdown from 10.

You may think that I would find it hard to recollect anything aged six. You'd be wrong.

St Patrick's Garth had a common concrete block of a play area surrounded by verandered flats where milk lorries, rag and bone men with their horse and carts, coal lorries and mobile grocery vans parked just long enough to do their business before moving on to leave us to play.

Our favourite was the wedding cars. It was tradition for the bride or groom to throw a handful (sometimes two) of 'coppers' out of the car as they drove off for us kids to scramble unashamedly for as many as possible. It was on one such occasion that I wondered if I would ever have £100. I thought a £100 would last me forever.

No one owned a car in the garth. Some had airs and graces and others kept a scrupulously clean house with lots of pictures and ornaments but we were essentially all poor together.

We played for hours in the garth and always had to be called in. Some mothers called their kids in really early and others called in at critical times when a game was in full swing. I was rarely called in early unless I had to do an errand.

I remember well the games with the girls. Moira Long had a mother who would have graced any screen. She oozed class and their house smelled lovely and was immaculate. We would play doctors and nurses but I was always the patient being operated on or bandaged up. Another game was shopkeeping. Moira had scales, jars of sweets and a till and we would take turns in being the customer or the shop owner. We had to be different types of customer and it was really good fun. Moira was always called early leaving us with nothing good or different to play with.

I vividly remember playing cops and robbers and running up and down those concrete steps trying to catch the bad guys and shouting "You're under arrest". Everybody wanted to be the American arresting officer. We didn't have guns but our pointed fingers worked well. There was always a sheriff's badge available.

Sometimes, everyone came out onto the veranda to watch a full scale football match where coats or jumpers defined the goal posts. Cricket was another popular game, especially if a ball ended up bouncing off somebody's window and better still if the window broke. More often than not the ball was caught by the women who stood guard to protect their property. If there weren't spectators, a broken window usually signified the end of the game as we'd all scatter.

The longest game was 'Kick the Tin'. The tin would be kicked and while it was being retrieved everyone would hide. The object was to get back to the tin without being noticed.

Hopscotch, skipping , chuck-stones, throwing balls, handstands, wooden spinning tops, playing with toy soldiers and marbles were other games played on the block.

Another very popular game but not with the parents was knocking on doors and running to hide as it was answered. Other times we'd walk along the high wall or climb the drainpipe of the top veranda onto the flat roof to play with the TV aerials.

Outside of the garth I had lots of playgrounds most of which were dangerous. I'll include these tomorrow along with the accidents I had.

Back to 2010...a good day of painting. Bev was really tired after work so was very glad to put her feet up while I made tea.

Just three working days to go! We'll be leaving straight after work on Wednesday. We can't stop thinking about it now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Countdown 7...time to follow suit

They say it was falling between two ships that brought on epilepsy, but his wife nonetheless stuck with him through thick and thin...or should that be thin and thinner?

He certainly lost his head on that fateful day and did his best to ensure his wife followed suit. His weapon of choice was a rusty hand-saw. My Mother quite literally just managed  to keep her head and was extremely lucky to survive.

I'm not sure if it was this episode (which I was virtually unaware of) or the fact that the police had singled me out as the culprit who had climbed the drainpipe of a 'Spangles' factory and relieved it of stock, that settled the question of whether I should be put into care; but into care I went at the tender age of 7. I was out of control and the 'Spangles' saga was just one of many cries for help.

I was indeed the guilty party. It was a high building and my legs were like jelly long before reaching the flat roof. Had the drainpipes been modern plastic ones, the crime would not have got off the ground. On leaving the factory I had written my name and address of sorts on the ink blotting paper with a pen I rather liked the look of. They probably followed the trail of wrappers just to make absolutely sure it was me.

Even at that early age I recognised the need to get away from an unpredictable and often violent Father. My brothers Tom and John had already gone into care. It was time to follow.

I still haven't really pieced together all that happened between the ages of five and seven but writing about what I can remember is helping me to confront and explore the things I was unaware of at the time.

It may seem strange to say this, but I believe my Mother loved me dearly and is every bit a victim as some of her children.

Things did improve considerably and my three sisters and remaining brother enjoyed a normal upbringing without our Father who had been hospitalised for an indeterminable period of time. My Mother wore a collar for a long time.

It would be another eleven years before I returned home.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Countdown 8...clean warm and happy

At last a baby boy weighing 8lb 6oz. No name yet but all is well. Well done Serene and we look forward to seeing you all very soon.

Speaking of arrivals...here I am 8 years of age in 1960 and arriving at number 8 Godfrey Road for my first stint of care. My brother John is already here and I'm following him upstairs and taking advice on not being too cheeky, using slang or swearing at the staff. He's basically telling me to keep my nose clean. We'd just washed the pots together for the first time in our lives and he was now showing me the bedroom we were to share. We had a bed each with clean sheets and pyjamas and the room was warm and clean. We just weren't used to this level of comfort.

On the bedside cabinet was a Bible. I can't remember how I learned to read, but I remember reading a few verses after washing and falling asleep happy, clean, safe and warm.

I woke up the next morning feeling truly happy that it wasn't all a dream. It was like waking up on Christmas morning with lots of presents. There was hot water and soap, clean towels and a breakfast waiting for us. Surely I must be in Heaven. Surely I couldn't be happier. Surely I didn't deserve this.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Countdown 9...a false and cruel mouth

Gordon Brown resigns and David Cameron in our newest P.M. A dignified exit for Gordon I think.  I feel quite positive about the future even though the devil may be in the detail.

Speaking of devils...aged nine I could possibly have been mistaken for him in some quarters. I'd been in care for over a year and had just been brought back into care after a spell with foster parents.

Mr & Mrs Bell were my only experience of what parents should or could be. Mrs Bell was a jovial woman who made fresh bread to perfection. Mr Bell seemed considerably older and is best remembered for winding the various clocks around the house...including a grandfather clock in the hall. Their only gift to me-other than seemingly genuine love-was my very first wrist watch...a timex. It was a treasure which often sent me to sleep pressed against my ear. Those tick-tocks were the most comforting consistent and reassuring sounds I'd ever experienced in life. They had a son who became my friend and I have many fond memories of their nuclear and extended family life.

A TV programme I remember and loved was 'Danger Man' starring Patrick Mcgoohan.

On the way to school one day, I walked along the top of a high wall on the pavement side but a short wall to the grass side. The sight of a large black box on the grass side stopped me in my tracks and I investigated . Inside was a concertina and a smaller squeeze box covered in moth-balls. I hid it and returned after school to take it home. They never believed my story and returned me the next day into care. I felt abandoned, alone and very hurt. I never saw them again but would have liked to thank them for at least trying to make a half decent start in life for me.

A short time passed and I vividly remember sitting at a dinner table of about a dozen. On the plate was swede. Had I been starving I could not have eaten the stuff. The 'Aunty' in charge of the home insisted I eat it but I refused. Long after everyone had left the table and the food was cold, she continued with her insistence before trying to force it into my mouth. I was heaving and continued to resist. I never ate it but received a violent slap across the face as retribution for her failure and possibly my stubbornness.  As I look back, I think it was a slap in the face of encouragement, love and understanding.

That very evening she kindly smiled at me as she broke the news that I would be given the opportunity to attend a very special school. It was to be-for me at least- the only truth uttered from that false and cruel mouth.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Countdown 10...magical youth

Here we are again on the verge of a French visit just ten days away and I'm positively buzzing with excitement. I feel like a little kid again so I've decided to rescue a thought or two of mine from age 10 down to zero. I might struggle by the time I leave for France, but that's nothing new.

Aged 10 in 1962 and Marilyn Monroe had just died, although I was more in love with climbing trees than 36 year old icons. I was at boarding school in Reigate thanks to Sunderland Social Services or something along those lines. It was a dream come true. I loved the lakes, woodlands and Capability Brown landscaping which had replaced concrete and a bombed out inner city area I called home.

Tony Coleman was still trying to get the better of me after I stopped him bullying me on the first day of school two years previous. He managed it six years later by rubbing pepper in my face as a prelude to punching me senseless...or so he thought.  If you are reading this Tony, the pepper gave me more grief than your punches. Full marks for perseverance though.

I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our history teacher was convinced it was war and I wondered if it meant the end of tad-poling as we knew it.

Lawrence of Arabia was the big film although I didn't get to see it straight away.

I think it was a James Bond book (which was banned from school) that I read selected passages from by torchlight under bed covers. A few years later would see me read full books like 'A Town Like Alice'.

My friend Wally Young used to send me the 'Football Echo' from Sunderland. My team was 3rd in Division Two...just behind Chelsea. Life was good and the sun seemed to shine warm on our backs forever.

Back to 2010...
I trained our new starter Claire today. She's picking it all up very quickly. She's a bright local girl aged 24 who has spent time out travelling the World.  She's not certain what she'll wants to do with life, but here and now is as good as anywhere while she thinks about it. She'll settle in well I think and will be around for a year or two at least...if she manages to make the temporary position permanent over the next thirteen weeks.

I'd love to have my 10yr old feelings of 1962 back. There was something magical about them although at the time I couldn't wait to be older.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Rising and retiring thoughts

My waking thoughts...
Do I think in pictures before words kick in? I was also trying to pinpoint the first words I spoke in life. The whole thing sent me back off to sleep and I woke up feeling groggy.

M&S and A&A joined us for dinner and beyond. We'll miss them coming round when we live in France.

Retiring thoughts...
My brain doesn't function when I leave it as late as this to write about the experiences of the day, so I retire with malfunctioning grey matter and leave the experiences untouched by clumsy words.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I fancy...?

Weather is very poor here in Newark but I feel fine. I'm pleased it wasn't like this last Saturday. Today is going to be full of music, creativity and ticking things off lists. The weather is not going to defeat me.

The early bird catches the worm and for me it was momentum... I feel like a lot has been done, even if it may not be the case.
  • Light fittings for the kitchen at Bel-Air
  • The loft...including stopping every two minutes to flick through my old LP's and photographs.
  • Getting everything together for packing...tools, mirrors, photographs, artwork, shelves, blinds, books.
  • Painting in the studio with the volume turned up. I even danced as I painted.
  • Preparing for a bonfire.
The only disappointment was not being able to find two statues that I know I have somewhere. I last saw them eight years ago...definitely not in the loft. Actually, they've got to be in the loft. Where else can they be? Can anyone help me? They are wrapped up in newspaper with my old bottle collection... I think!

In the mood for a treat now, if only we can figure out what it is that we fancy.

I would do a list of treats and fancies ready for the next time I get stuck, but I know I'll lose it.

Friday, May 07, 2010


A late night and up early to follow the election means I'm really tired right now.

Ray & Sue invited us over for tea so we had a nostalgic drive over to Keyworh. It was nice to see how the house was getting on and they were very good company. At the same time we dropped some slabs off for Ray to take to Wanda tomorrow. On the way home we drove through Cotgrave and visited the Eyres. Janet and Brad showed us their fox proof chicken setup which is something we have an interest in when we eventually get to live in France.

That's about it. Drained and ready for a good nights sleep. It might be more appropriate to say I'm poll-axed!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Predictions, politics and perspective

Ken Devine's very own 'Gallows' poll suggests no violent swings. With the prospect of a hung parliament our politicians are the closest to hanging we can hope for.  I might be stretching it but I think it'll be 'neck and neck!'

Poor Serene is now eight days overdue and is feeling blue. My independent conservative opinion is that she'll soon be galloping into labour with the need of liberal doses of pain killers. She'll get my vote anyway and we'll soon have our own party celebrations.  C'mon Serene fly the flag and do something different! Don't be camerooned at home for another second. If your'e feeling a bit cleggy, take a few deep breaths and go for it. We need to squeeze you-know-who, out!

For Sunday's final day of the football season (why not the traditional football Saturdays?) it's time to check my pre-season prediction for Sunderland...10th position and mid-table respectability (middle of the road to pinch a political analogy).

With one game to go we are 13th (not a good number), but I predict the teams ahead to lose (Fulham, Blackburn and Stoke) and Sunderland to finish victorious against Wolves to snatch 10th place. C'mon you reds, don't make me feel blue! Let's keep the wolves from our door!

Right (that's not a clue)...I'm off to place my cross in the hope of avoiding being it. I'll then spend time in the studio furiously mixing colour...liberal doses... in the vain hope of avoiding green. I will however avoid brown. I'll then canvas your opinion.

There you go! Guess who I'm voting for?

My final prediction...storm clouds over Europe if I forget to buy the sausages for tea.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Calm before the storm?

No new starter. No training to do. No worries.

It was a get your head down and get on with it type of day, and that's just what I did.

I phoned around tonight, played with excel, did a few sketches, considered who I'll vote for tomorrow and generally chilled.

Looking forward to tomorrow but can't help but wonder if what's happening in Greece is possible here in the near future. Let's face it, we have a massive debt and cuts are definitely on their way to us no matter who is elected.

Whatever lies before us I'll still smile, enjoy life, be positive and work hard.

(Rajeev...if you drop by can you direct me to some of your wise words. I can't find the link you gave me.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


I've revised my last post because I think sometimes I just blurt things out without giving thought. I often put my foot in it. I never seem to learn. Hockney can say and do what he likes, he doesn't need me to pontificate. Surely I can be disappointed without clashing cymbals.

I jokingly joined a 'Tongue' club over 35 years ago acknowledging that the strongest muscle in the body can build or destroy at will. Mine doesn't lash out often but it does tend to slip and has been sharp enough to easily cut. I'm not as bad as I used to be. Mine is well scarred through the biting of it over the years as evidence of  trying. Still I struggling to tame it.

If I haven't anything good to say, I should refrain. Perhaps listening to the current political cut and thrust is rubbing off  on me. I think I'll practice a little tongue in cheek instead.

Dani didn't turn up for work today and has lost the chance of permanent employment. What makes someone who really needed a break, shoot themselves in the foot like that? Our paths crossed for a very short spell and we'll likely never meet again. I think she may regret letting go of the opportunity she had to stabilise things.

Some unsuspecting person will meet me tomorrow for the first time in their life and try to make sense of what I teach them. Let's hope my tongue is well prepared and able to build, uplift and motivate.

Tonight we watched a film that French Fancy and her readers recommended...Julie & Julia. Meryl Streep is one heck of a good actress and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm tired now and it's not yet 10:00pm. An early night for me I think.

Oh, I almost forgot. Welcome to Khushi. I hope you enjoy visiting here from time to time. You are most welcome. I visited your blog only briefly and will return for sure tomorrow to learn more about you and life in Chile.

Monday, May 03, 2010


We had M&S as well as Peter & Sue for lunch yesterday. Their company was refreshing, entertaining and long overdue. A&A were coming en-route to Sunderland for a visit to Beamish with Juli and the gang today, but Ash was too tired from Saturday so gave us a miss.

Stayed up way too late last night to watch the prog on Hockney. I think I quite like the man. He seems down to earth although we differ as the stars do from the bright mid-day sun.

When he referred to non-smokers and a smoke-free world as dull, I thought 'what!' Why is he disappointing me so? I've now placed him among the ranks of likeable fully sighted visionary talented blinded people.

Q. Am I being too hard? Am I being too negative? Am I just jealous?
A. Yes to all three.

The sun shines today and I feel fresh, sharp and happy. I'll be in the studio the same as artists world-wide but face the prospect of work as usual at the office tomorrow. Mmm! would you believe that it just started raining?

Tonight we have our annual French property owners meeting with David and Eileen. We meet to review last year and go over plans for this year. Can't believe that we'll be there this very month. I'm trying to find a word to convey the excitement. Here's one and one free...'Oooohhhyes!'

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Startling success

Friends and family converged on Dub Cote Farm in Horton in Ribblesdale North Yorkshire on Friday night.This was our first sight of the first of the Three Peaks as we arrived...note the width of the lane which is barely wide enough for a single vehicle. The sight of the first peak was of more concern.
Ash and Martin didn't make it to their campsite last night. They couldn't get a signal on their phone for navigation and settled for throwing a tent up in a pay and display car park just the other side of midnight. They eventually arrived and joined us for a hearty breakfast. Here we are in convoy ready to move to the village and clock in.
We're off! Bev (far left with the walking stick) is attempting it with a bad foot.
The village is way in the distance and Scott is well in his stride
I forgot to charge my batteries but fortunately David had some new ones...which were dud. I have to be selective on how many shots I can take.
After some hard climbing there was still this to come...I don't think Bev will cope with it.
Jack (or is it Tom) near the top...
Not far to go now. We are climbing on hands and knees. Bev will never manage this.
It was hard going on the other side as the weather turned. I was isolated with children whose parents  had been detached and out of sight behind us. They knew they were safe with us but expected them to continue along the route back to the village. It meant I couldn't really leave them and carry on to the next peak. I didn't have a map anyway and had no idea which direction it was. One walker we met told us we'd missed the turning a mile or so back. I wasn't going back so we carried on and eventually came out at the village.

I was very surprised to see our car (the Toyota). I assumed that Bev would have soon given up and come back to collect the car in time to drive to the agreed pub for refreshments later. The injury incidentally is what happened when I slipped on the loose rocks on the way down.

I found out that Bev had in fact climbed it and was making her way down the other side with Eileen and Denise. I was so amazed that I walked back up to give her some support.  I'm glad I did. She had pulled a muscle and was hobbling at a painfully slow pace. We freed Eileen and Denise to walk at normal speed and hobbled the last few miles through rain and hailstones. Time...6 hours 15 minutes.

We were both cold and very, very wet.

I may have failed in the challenge, but Bev was a startling success.

Martin, who completed the three peaks with David and John said it was harder than the London Marathon of last year which made me feel very fortunate not to have carried on.

Was it worth it? Yes! 

Will I do it again? No, but I might be tempted just for the views.