Thursday, 28 June 2007


Home is in a leafy town which is, in effect, a suburb of Birmingham. For two or three days each week, I am helping a church raise money for a building development project. To do this, I spend these days in Clapham, London which is a stark contrast to home. Clapham is a young people's town. It has dozens of bars and restaurants down the length of the High Street, and really comes alive at 9 p.m. when they are full to overflowing with young people. For the sake of clarity, young means under 30, as I'm a real oldie here. The poor and rich live side by side and go about their daily routine to make a living. There are hundreds of cyclists pouring along the main road into central London. Most of them ignore traffic lights, but very few seem to be involved in any accidents. Having a bike really is the easiest way to get around.

In SW4, the sound of sirens is almost ever present as the emergency services attempt to muscle their vehicles through the traffic. There are parking wardens everywhere, and owning a car looks to be a real luxury. I do like the buzz of the place, but I also appreciate the relative peace and quiet of home. I'm just lucky to be able to experience both, I guess.

Monday, 25 June 2007

One down, one to go.......

Number two son is home. I know this because we spent most of Saturday driving to Durham to collect him, because the house is full of laundry, and because one cannot move freely on the landing.

On the laundry front, the clean now seems to outnumber the dirty, but only after a long and gallant struggle by the combined forces and talents of Mother and the washing machine. The pile of ironing now grows like a spoil heap at a mine. Let us hope that the forces of Clean can overcome.

Number two son has destroyed his tidy bedroom, and it is now a wreck. He allegedly helped number three son tidy his bedroom yesterday, but other than the bookcase, there seems no great improvement. Pressure will be applied. It is time to get ruthless.

Number one son seems to have vanished from the face of the earth. No update to his blog, No texts or calls, nothing. Obviously having too good a time dirtying all his clothes in time for next weekend when he comes home and the whole process starts again.

As for me, I'm organising a walk tomorrow, and when I went for a look at the route yesterday, I discovered that a critical section is flooded. There is no detour for the flooded bit, so I'm now desperately trying to think of a way to salvage at least a short walk. Just to help this thinking process, today it is forecast to be the wettest day of the year. We shall just have to spend more time in the pub at lunch to compensate.

Friday, 22 June 2007

The Perils of Showing Off

There we were (Rob, myself and Rob's dog Ebony) walking across Clapham Common. Our attention was caught by a man flying a large kite. He seemed to be struggling to control it. We amble over and start talking to his friend. "He has only had this kite since yesterday" we are told. I offer to help. We sort out the kite's rigging, and up it goes. Four seconds later, I am being dragged across Clapham Common on my stomach.

At this point, I notice three things.
  1. The Kite is big, and I mean big.
  2. My shoulder and elbow hurt like hell.
  3. Rob (and the two guys whose kite this is) are doubled up with laughter, Rob so much so that I think he may do himself a mischief.
With my dignity completely shredded and some skin missing from my elbow, I take to flying this kite sitting on the grass. I'm still dragged around on my backside, but at least I can exert a modicum of control over the beast.

All in all, we spend an hour helping the two new kite owners, and I'm pleased that at the end they are managing to fly it most of the time. We shake hands as we leave, promise to meet again next week. and they both grin hugely at the memory of my antics.

The only one who fears for my well being is the dog who fusses round me for the remainder of the walk. Rob keeps smirking and breaking out in giggles as we walk home, and I determine to get my own back by taking a kite to Clapham next week and making him fly it.

It is a peculiar fact that despite growing older and supposedly wiser, some of us have these amazing blindspots when it comes to our own abilities. I know I do.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Don't meet the Funders

Together with a friend from the Methodist Church I am currently trying to help, I went to an event billed as "Meet the Funders". It was supposed to be a forum (rather like a parents evening) where fund raisers for organisations could meet representatives of charitable trusts who have money which can be applied for.

The problem was, several of the funders failed to turn up. So for that matter did about half of the people who had requested places. Not a spectacular success.

Other than this, the week has been one of driving. I'm very fed up with that activity, but one more trip is necessary to collect the ingrate who happens to be no. 2 son.

More soon.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Trains (and mobile phones)

As I spend some 2-3 days each week in London, I am bowling up and down on the Chiltern Railway between Solihull and London Marylebone a fair bit. The trains on this route are reasonably new and the journey is just what a train ride should be. It is comfortable (I can almost always get the seat I want), quick, and passably relaxing. The only variable is my fellow passengers. I usually sit in the "Quiet Coach" where passengers are requested not to use a mobile phone. It is amazing how many people are so wrapped up in their own little world that they don't see these. As a result I usually let them finish one conversation before inviting them to move to another carriage. Last week there was the most graceless man who shouted at people even before they had started to use their phone. Please don't let me become like that.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Cars and Trains

Drove mum to see my cousin Mark in his bungalow not far from Cirencester. His collection of vehicles makes our drive look quite tidy. A super quiet spot with the nearest neighbour some half a mile away. Hmmm would not suit me.

Having got home and had a cup of tea, set off for Clapham. Train from Solihull packed until Banbury where lots of people alighted. What is the attraction in Banbury? Perhaps I should devote a day to going to see....
Arrived in London at 7 p.m. to find that London underground seemed to have lost 70% of their trains. Usually there is an underground train every 3 minutes, last night we had to wait 8 minutes and 11 minutes, so by the time they arrived, there was a large group of people waiting to board an already crowded train. Hence, very hot and somewhat bothered by the time I got to Clapham.

Ebony (the dog) was very pleased to see me, but found Sam watching some spin off of Big Brother. The young man (who seems otherwise fairly sensible) will have to be taken in hand!

Sunday, 10 June 2007


A trip to Yorkshire and back today to collect mum. She obviously had a lovely time with her friends Gordon and Angela and was spoilt rotten. The drives there and back were pretty uneventful, some 332 miles at an average of 54.5 mph and 56.5 miles per gallon of unleaded, according to the computer in our Fiat Panda. This strikes me as a testament to a modern small car. I have to ask myself why one would want anything bigger and grander.

I was even impressed that we didn't encounter any people who were driving as if they'd left their brains at home. Still, tomorrow is Monday and all the usual nutters will be back behind the wheel (usually of white vans).

Chris's study leave is over, and he is aghast at the requirement to get up at 07:00 to get to school in time tomorrow. What is more, he can't be late, because tomorrow is Bencher (Prefect to most of us) Training day. I do hope they nag him about getting his hair cut.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Something of a mixture

Something of a mixture today.....

James (first born son) has been cooking - one can see the results of his efforts here and jolly good it looks too. I can't help thinking from his words before the picture of the finished article, that James thought it was pretty good, and I assume it tasted as good as it looks. I just hope he'll make us all one when he comes home at the end of the month.

On a much sadder note, a phone call told me that a good friend and ex-colleague had died on Tuesday. Bob Noden was a great guy to work and play with. We used to play terrible practical jokes on each other and on our long-suffering colleagues. I shall miss him, and my heart goes out to Mo and Paul.

As someone I called to pass on the news said, it puts my troubles into perspective. I feel almost guilty that I don't have any.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


Today has been a day of waiting. Waiting for the Church Architect to send some drawings (he hasn't), for the little Peugeot to come back, (It has, it's much nicer to drive now, but still clonks..), waiting for my beloved wife to return (another 45 minutes) and for Chris to return from his exam (sometime).

I'm naturally impatient, so waiting does not come easily. It is not the sort of thing you can learn, or at least I don't seem to be able to.

On another topic altogether, Recycling is a big target for local authorities, so I am dismayed to take a load of jars to our nearest bottle bank, only to find they are all full. Given that the powers that be want us to recycle this stuff, you'd think that the containers would be emptied often enough to make it possible.

Despite these tribulations, it is a lovely day, the sun is shining out of a cloudless blue sky. It is good to be alive.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

A view from the boundary

For the first time in many, many years I spent a couple of hours watching cricket. My son Chris was playing in a youth development team, and for most of the time I was watching he was batting. Well, to be honest, he was doing anything except batting it seemed to me. He assiduously avoided the strike . Whether this was to give his partners a chance was not clear. When he was forced to face some of the bowling, he spent what seemed like ages getting ready, swiping his hair to one side to get his helmet on, etc. I think this was all to put off the opposition. He started well with this aspect of the game - he took his initial guard as if a left hander, and then once the fielding team had moved to positions for a left handed batsman, he promptly took a right handed stance to receive the first ball and they all had to move round again. A nice touch, I thought.

Frankly it was like watching paint dry. I was slightly ashamed, but pleased when he got out, because it meant that we could go home.

It has been a lovely day, but somehow I did not manage a Sunday afternoon snooze. I wonder what the new week holds in store.

Two unchanging laws of life

As I now don't have to worry about working, a the laws of life become clearer to me. I've encountered two of these today.

First, freshly showered and dressed this morning, I got the bar-b-que out of the summerhouse and moved it to its summer location. In doing so, some small fugitive element of the last meat to be cooked on this device, leapt off and on to my clean T shirt. Thus condemned to spend the rest of the day looking mildly tramp-like, my reaction was "B*ll*cks, I've just put this on, so I'll look like a tramp, rather than go and change it"

Secondly, and I fear this may come with age, every time I start on a new job, one just gets going, only for one's bladder to indicate that capacity has been reached, requiring a stop in the work.

Tomorrow the Mothership departs for my daughters home. I've been left strict instructions regarding the watering of plants, as well as getting youngest son to some exams. A nerve racking time is predicted, if I fail in any particular, I'm likely to go the way of the plant involved and end up on the compost heap.

Watch this space.....

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Well, what are you doing...?

I'm sitting here wondering how to start this, that's what.

I've just read the blog of a man I've only met once, but I enjoy reading his thoughtful entries, and it occurs to me that writing things down in this medium might make me think a bit more. I need the practice (at the thinking, that is).

Having given up work some two months ago, I realise that I'm getting more and more grumpy. I'm helping a friend raise a lot of money for his church (he is a minister). It means I bowl up and down to London most weeks, and the people I come into contact with just seem so unaware of the world around them. Hence they are hopelessly inconsiderate, living as they are, in their own little world.
However, I do realise what a lucky chap I am - my offspring seem to be a lot nicer that most of their age.

So dear reader, let's see how this goes. I'll practice thinking and then writing down my thoughts, and if any of you want to let me know what you think, I'd welcome your comments.