Monday, June 28, 2010

Icing on the cake

I bid for a desk which was just 8' from a big screen for an England game, and lost to a higher bid at the last minute. Ryanair changed all my flights to France this year which has caused me grief. We had to cancel our trip to London because of MIL's fall and England were humiliated in the World Cup. So, did I have a good week? I did, yes!

To balance things up, I've had the opportunity to help out again with Wanda's garden and gave Martin a hand with his bathroom. We've had great fun knocking walls down just to build them up in a different location and shape. We also had family come round for Father's day. It was brilliant.

I've painted, studied, walked, dined in the garden and yesterday we drove three hours to attend church in Basingstoke, had a family lunch, watched England capitulate and drove back.

I changed an e-mail I had today to read the following...
A new film based on a true story entitled 'Out of Africa', starring...well, it doesn't star anyone really but it's full of drama, comedy, horror and farce. The director was Fabio and he misdirected it perfectly. That's all I'm going to say on football.

I've been up, down, stretched, bruised, cut, optimistic, pessimistic frustrated and elated. Life is the same as it ever was it seems. The rough and smooth are seldom far apart.

I reckon another few weeks will see an opening for total relaxation though. I see clear, still, calm and silent waters on the horizon and I'm ready for a dip.

This Friday is our re-arranged London trip, followed by tiling in Martins bathroom on Saturday. Saturday evening is a surprise party for Dot and Sunday, which promised to be the hottest day of the year, will see me stretched out after church in a garden that has exploded with colour, charm and fragrance. There will be jobs to do but Sunday has never yet seen me desert it in favour of work.

For Ash, today was the last day at the same workplace as his Dad. He was the only one of our children who has worked for a wage in the same company and I think I'll miss him.

He finished by getting his photograph in the local newspaper dressed as an England football fanatic pretending to be working. There's always a Devine willing to make a fool of himself and he does it almost as well as me.

While he is enjoying a meal with his team, I'm painting a banner for Dot and Bev is in the garden.

A little chat with Juli provides the icing on the cake.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Four years preparation for such an amateur and passionless performance is difficult to take. Why are they doing this to us?

For all those who laugh at us for getting so passionate about a bunch of men kicking a ball around for 90 minutes, this is your day. Go on, have a good laugh!


After not writing a journal for several days I feel a little vulnerable. I can't explain it, but somehow I'm at a loss. Mundane daily drivel was my way of making sense of my existence and I felt comfortable with recording it.

I'll continue with cold turkey for a while and see what benefits rise to the surface.

David Bourne joined me to work on Wanda's garden last night. She's in the States for another few weeks and a few of us have been looking after it to prevent it becoming unmanageable for her when she returns. Doing something for others always makes me feel good...I'm selfish like that.

Earlier in the day MIL fell down the steps of Newark Town Hall and damaged her foot, shoulder and cheek. She's been ordered to rest. Fortunately nothing is broken and she's currently catching up on sleep lost from last night.

She left yesterdays Daily Mirror lying around and I inexplicably succumbed to reading it. She obviously buys it for the football as you can't seriously consider its content as anything other than gossip and hearsay.

I was shocked to read about Ronnie Lee Gardner and wonder if his execution tonight in SLC is based on fact. He is the last man to face a firing squad in the USA for a crime he committed in 1985.

As I wake up tomorrow with thoughts of England's victory over Algeria, Ronnie Lee Gardner will no longer exist.

My shock is partly due to the method of execution. It's so violent and at odds with my perception of SLC. If the firing squad was banned in 2004, why is this one going ahead?

I hope he had no regrets and was unrepentant about the two lives he took, otherwise my views on the death sentence will waver. I feel uncomfortable about this but perhaps I should have faith that every opportunity has been given for Ronnie to turn his life around and one day take his place as a contributing and safe member of society and that such opportunity was rejected, spurned and wasted.

I still feel does MIL for different reasons.

Oh dear! Bev has left a box of Maltesers open and it seemed the most natural thing in the world to help myself.

I feel comfortable with the consequences but I'm sure Bev won't when she drops by at lunch-time.

I thought it was tonight at midnight but Ronnie Lee Gardner has already been executed.

 At his commutation hearing, Gardner shed a tear after telling the board his attempts to apologise to the Otterstroms and Kirks had been unsuccessful. He said he hoped for forgiveness. "If someone hates me for 20 years, it's going to affect them," Gardner said. "I know killing me is going to hurt them just as bad. It's something you have to live with every day. You can't get away from it. I've been on the other side of the gun. I know."

I know I'm not in possession of all the facts but I really do feel uncomfortable about this execution now. These aren't the words of a hardened unrepentant killer.
Gardner's lawyers argued that the jury which sentenced him to death in 1985 heard no mitigating evidence that might have led them to instead impose a life sentence. Gardner's life was marked by early drug addiction, physical and sexual abuse and possible brain damage, court records show.
The Father of one of Gardner's victims said he believed his son's killing was not premeditated, but a "knee-jerk reaction" by a desperate Gardner attempting to escape.
While I was painting in my studio without a care in the world Gardner spent his last day sleeping, reading the novel Divine Justice, watching the Lord Of The Rings film trilogy and meeting his lawyers and a bishop from the Mormon church. A prison spokesman said officers described his mood as relaxed. He had eaten his last requested meal - steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7Up soft drink - two days earlier.

It's ironic that the book Gardner was reading was written by Baldacci...a former lawyer.

My cosy little world has been invaded by harsh reality.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Clutching at straws

As I walked towards our drive after work, a female cyclist approached me sporting a full-on yawn. It was huge! As she passed we smiled in recognition of one of those moments never intended to have been witnessed.

I love it when two total strangers share a very fleeting but warm moment.

Its been an eventful day...first a pay rise...not much, but still a rise. I also had a bonus payment confirmed...not much, especially once the tax man gets his share, but a bonus payment nonetheless.

I also thought heavily about my efforts in French and have decided to dedicate my free evenings to serious study. For the near future therefore (see how it goes) I will post weekly instead of my normal daily journal. I'm clutching at straws a little but I'm sure it will make a difference.

I hope it will make a difference.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Bev preparing the back garden yesterday. I think it's Bev!

For me this afternoon...

Lost my touch...

And my memory...happy birthday Jo!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sat OUR day

Ryanair upset me with their flight changes in August. It wasn't a good start to the day.

I chose the one job I didn't want to do on a hot sunny day, knowing that I'd feel good for doing it. It worked! I'm inching towards one of my main goals for the year by putting a floor in the loft.

After lunch I joined Bev in the garden. She has the garden looking really good and we managed to get rid of everything she's dragged out of it over the last few weeks with another tip run...a job that always makes us feel good.

On the way back we treated ourselves to a lounger for half-price. We wanted two, but it was the last one. TKMax had a few bargains too.

After a haircut, bath and take-away I found myself sitting down with my England shirt on to watch the game...Bev joined me.  Pity about the result. Who taught the Americans how to play?

On balance it was a good day and marks the last Saturday at home for a while. It was Sat OUR day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dancing leeks

Painted in the studio and finished early to watch the opening ceremony and first game. The deal is that Bev goes straight into the garden and I watch the match and prepare tea five minutes after full-time.

The ingredients...
Dice and boil the leeks...the ones Bev pulled yesterday
Grill the bacon and dice
boil the eggs, shell and 1/4
Grate two lots of cheese
Make the cheese sauce...milk, butter, flour and cheese
Leeks, bacon, eggs, sauce, layer of grated cheese and topped with crushed crisps
Oven for 1/2 hour 120 fan assisted

Unfortunately I took my eye off the ball and the leeks proved to be not boiled enough.

Can't win 'em all. Lets hope I have a better result for the 1/4 finals.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Capturing the magic

"Sometimes, I believe, we are allowed to get lost that we may find the right person to ask directions of." -Robert Brault. 

This quote reminds me of our new friends Martin and Colette in France. Had we not plucked up the courage to ask them for help, we would not have met such genuinely nice people. It makes me wonder about all the really good friends we just haven't met yet. May we ever be lost and in need of direction. Where would we be without friends?

Thanks to my blog friends for all your kind words and advice over the year. You are real people the world over who are making a difference.

I feel a lot better today and can't believe how lop-sided my thinking was yesterday. It's history!

I forgot to mention that Bev went to Sheffield to see the BYU Ballroom Dance Team on Tuesday. They are undefeated US champions since 1982 who swept the board at the Blackpool Dance Festival here in the UK recently with their 'Capture the Magic' routine...just as they do every time they come. It's no wonder they opened and closed the Winter Olympics in SLC in 2008 and travel the world with their routines. They are phenomenal! 

Although I didn't go this time round, Bev took her mum and met up with the family. She also bumped into lots of people she knew. I've seen them before and was absolutely won over.

Anyway, Bev's feet haven't touched the ground since and she's currently dancing with a bunch of leeks in the garden. I suppose anything is better than my pathetic sense of rhythm. I tried some of the movements in the kitchen on Wednesday morning so I'm not surprised she's trying her luck with the leeks today.

She asked me what I'd like for tea and I said Salsa followed by a Tango (the drink). I got neither thankfully.

Tonight she may have been expecting something exotic with flare and romance but she got a jacket with tuna-mayo and sweetcorn...lovingly prepared as I waltzed around the sink, cooker and cupboards in an effort to capture the magic. She loved it!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


The farm next to us in France has just been sold and we have no idea who or what type of people they are. They could be very friendly or they could be the opposite. All we do know is that they are unwilling to sell any of the outbuildings to us. I received an email this evening from the immobiliere which made that clear to us. If it was in English I would have been able to detect the tone, but in French I have no idea. It just seems to be a cold, flat statement of fact...JE SUIS DESOLE LA MAISON EST VENDU ET LES FUTURS ACQUEREURS NE VENDRONT RIEN

The uncertainty is playing on my mind. We've always had super neighbours wherever we've lived; what if it's all about to change with the very last property and the place we retire to?  Surely we can't be that unlucky?

Just five weeks to go before our next visit and still not able to effectively communicate in French. I'd better start making an effort for the sake of our new neighbours who I assume are French.

Tonight I take a very deep breath and try and think of the positives. Perhaps I'm just being irrational. Perhaps I'm just tired. Perhaps tomorrow I'll see things differently.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Senseless life?

At a push I could do without legs, a couple of fingers or an arm. I could possibly get used to a world of silence so long as everything else was working okay... I'm almost halfway there anyway; but I can't imagine a life without sight. Worst of all a silent and sightless existence.

Not seeing the shimmering sun or a trembling leaf or hearing children's laughter and reassuring loving words would be unimaginable. Then there's the likes of Dylan and other great artists as well as the great creative world that's within touching distance.

To continue on a personal note, loss of speech could be seen as a blessing to others and in some cases a reciprocal arrangement would be most beneficial. Loss of sense of smell, touch or big deal (I think!)

Truth be told, I wouldn't want to do without any of them. I'd much rather just do without the things that come and go without leaving me lop-sided or wanting, like sweets, cakes, too much exercise, accountants, solicitors, politicians and people telling me what to do.  Other come and go things that I would like to stick around and stay a while are the likes of drive, passion, purpose and enthusiasm.

Aren't we an intricate lot? I feel quite blessed whenever I come to my senses and realise just what a lot I've got.

If I had to cut any of the permanent essential bits loose it would have to be...?

Actually, on the subject of cutting, would you sacrifice a finger for a fortune? Would you exchange a toe for a talent, an eye to save a life or an arm to prevent misfortune? You may be surprised to learn that I'd sacrifice all of these and long as the doctor certified me dead along with an obligatory second opinion...can't be too careful!

I'm warming to the idea of my body being good for something and someone after I've vacated it. Anything is better than the maggots and worms fighting for the best bits.

I'm confident the resurrection will bring me all back together again somehow. What a party that will be! It'll be like another war in Heaven where everyone will be fighting for their bits back from each other. "Hey, that was my kidney". "No, no, no...the heart was on loan".

I might be flippant, but I do believe in the resurrection as perhaps the greatest miracle of all...second to life itself.

Monday, June 07, 2010

It's a rip-off!

I sat in Newark Hospital waiting for my appointment after dashing like a madman to get there. I'd been blocked in by lorries, frustrated by every red light imaginable and ended up pulling my hair out trying to find a parking space and the right department.

My feathers were ruffled as I eventually sat and picked up a magazine to read an article that had caught my eye on the cover. I had two minutes to spare. Page 56 didn't exist; someone had torn the article out...along with every other article I had an interest in. I ended up reading a true story which had its concluding few paragraphs on the back of yet another article that had been torn out.

I'm a person who tears things out of waiting-room periodicals so I couldn't really complain. It was the worst case I've ever come across though.

Twenty-five minutes later I was called to sit in a smaller waiting room. Ten minutes later I was expected to smile and be civil with the specialist who happened to be a stand-in for the man I was expecting to see. He'd supped his coffee while I sat outside and it wasn't even 11:00am. I was quite proud of myself for the obvious self control mustered from somewhere.

The evening was supposed to have been spent digging the garden ready to plant some veg but the rain forced us indoors. The rest of the time was spent trying to communicate with an estate agent in France.

Thanks Martin & Colette for all your help.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Saturday, June 05, 2010

England to reach Semi-Final and lose against Brazil

A full scorching day in the garden and a trip to the tip always makes me feel good. The garden is full of colour now and things are growing that we don't remember planting.

We had a meal at Lord Ted then walked along the river to catch the last of the evening sun before heading back through town to pick the car up. Newark looks so beautiful tonight.

Today has been a super long day. I love really long days when not at work. It's like I get a special offer on life.

This Saturday marks the end of life as we know it. With the World Cup and Martin wanting a hand with his bathroom as well as lending a helping hand for my brother and a trip to London, there will be no more opportunities for home centred activity before setting off to France again.

Am I complaining? Depends on how far we get in the competition. I suspect we'll meet and beat France in the quarter finals before losing to Brazil in the Semi. Anything less will be very, very disappointing.

Oops...we hear thunder so I guess lightning isn't far behind. Time to switch the computer off and unplug.

Friday, June 04, 2010


I was so busy painting yesterday as well as attending our monthly welfare meeting in Nottingham, that I ran out of time to post. I'm still very tired from France so by the end of the day I feel zombified.

I was shortlisted but not selected for the RA Summer Exhibition. The letter came yesterday. My goal was to go through the selection process which I did. I enjoyed the experience and will get a few days in London so I'm quite happy. I think they were looking for something more cutting edge than what I had to offer. We're planning to go to the exhibition and will no doubt enjoy it. Maybe I'll  try again next year...maybe not.

Today is a beautiful day and I'm in the studio again. Juli will arrive about tea-time. They are dropping by en-route to Sunderland from Bel-Air and Paris.

My only instruction is to clear the dining room table, water the plants, make tea and arrange to pick up the stained glass that we've had repaired. I also expect to make a few calls and reply to some emails...maybe even visit a few blogs.

I thought I'd post now as I don't expect anything else to happen today and know things will be hectic later when the family arrive.

Q. How do I feel on this the 4th June?
A.  Fortunate, happy and optimistic.

Q. What music blasts in the studio today?
A. Rod Stewart, Rodney Crowell, Mark Knopfler (sailing to philadelphia, Daniel Bedingfield, Imogen Heap, Ron Sexsmith, Dylan, Show of Hands.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


A woman pushing catalogues through letterboxes and a man cutting his hedge on a beautiful sunny day in Cumbria could never have imagined the possibility of their lives -along with twelve others and possibly more-ending so violently and senselessly. I can hardly believe what happened today. This sort of thing just doesn't happen here...or so we like to think. We've had some massacres  in the past carried out by lunatics but this was carried out by a friendly and affable ordinary and well-balanced 52yr old. What's going on?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Back home for six weeks

I had already enjoyed a few hours sleep in the cabin but now preferred being stretched out on the blue painted hot deck of the MV Bretagne using Bev's handbag as a pillow whilst trying to read my book. The sun was high, the sky blue and I felt like a cat stretching in front of a roaring fire. I was totally relaxed and contented. Today I feel more tired than at any time in my life. Perhaps its the past week or so catching up with me but I'm totally zonked and wasn't much use at work.

One of our last acts in Brittany was a walk in Yvon's woods. We bumped into him and he thanked us for the photographs and chocolate. He personally planted over 50,000 trees here and is one of the most incredible people we know on the planet. As a pathetic comparison we planted a single silver birch in our own garden which we brought from England. At the moment its only a foot tall but hopefully will grow tall and strong between the hedge and dove.

Its been an eventful and happy two weeks even though a day didn't pass without a thought for Joel. We were saddened as the facts became apparent of his last days as he struggled to come to terms with loneliness and disappointment. We'll miss him.

Thanks for your comments on the posts of my first ten years of life. It has given me encouragement to get more thoughts and incidents-as well as accidents- onto paper before it all becomes too fuzzy.

I've been hanging dates around memories and have realised that a particular vivid thought I have about an actual hanging means that I wasn't in care as early as I thought, so I'll have to re-visit my posts at some point and slip in the correct dates.

I feel quite proud to have been born in the very month a King died and a Princess became Queen, even though it would be 16 months before the formal coronation.

I feel proud to have experienced gas lights before electricity, the birth of transatlantic flights, black&white to colour TV, steam trains, horse-drawn carriages to cars, a world without plastic or computers and remembering what it was like to hear the likes of the Beatles and Stones as they were unveiled to the world.

It has been a very good life and, in the words of Annie Lennox, it ain't over! What an incredible age we live in.

This tired old man is off to bed.

The silver life.