Archive for May, 2013

3rd Law Part 33 – the age of steam

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

The age of steam. The romantic age of steam. We all wear the same rose tinted spectacles when we think of it. In fact the trains were slow and not necessarily comfortable. Today’s high speed trains are far more luxurious and get you there more quickly. The exception here being the toilets – the toilets don’t seem to have changed since Stevenson’s day. Notwithstanding this I prefer to put on those pink hippyish specs, probably heart shaped, and gaze wistfully back at the steam train. The one that went choo choo and chuff chuff chuff. More chuffs than choos is the correct format I assure you.

Various combination of kids and I have occasionally taken a trip on a steam train. Once we went to Scarborough on The Union of South Africa, the last commercial steam passenger train to leave Kings Cross Station. We weren’t on that trip. That was in the sixties I think, nineteen sixties. We were on a trip from Lincoln to Scarborough, except we weren’t. Turns out the line to Lincoln can’t handle the weight of the engine so we had to join the train at Doncaster, itself a station full of railway history. Apparently, I’m not sure what that history is but that isn’t part of the remit.

It’s a good job we weren’t on the train all the way from London because it does take ages. The trip to Scarborough stopping for water & fuel at York where we had to get off and walk around a little reminded me of the movie The Railway Children. One of my faves, together with Mary Poppins. As we were steaming chuffing and choo chooing through the countryside children would run to watch. Everyone would wave and we happily waved back, knowing that was our responsibility as the favoured ones.

I can’t remember what we did in Scarborough. A photo opportunity with the engine, fish and chips and an ice cream probably and then we turned around and headed back towards Doncaster.

Now what you need to know about this train is that it had only been given the go ahead to travel at 70 miles an hour. The Union of South Africa is a Nigel Gresley A4 Pacific. These were the ultimate in steam trains with a through tender that allowed a relief driver and fireman to pass through the tender to take over a shift at the front without having to stop the train. They were built for speed and The Mallard, which holds the world speed record for a steam train at 126mph is of exactly the same design as the Union of South Africa.

Considering this 70 mph seems a bit tame. However the Mallard had been towing far fewer coaches and was a new engine at the time, or at least only five months old. We were never going to make it close to the speed record so 70mph seemed fine.

During the trip it became noticeable how many hard core steam enthusiasts (ok nerds) there were on board. These were the people who had either brought periscopes or plastic face masks with them. These were needed because if you stuck your head out of the window you were showered in ashes and steam. You could therefore tell the nerd because he, they were almost exclusively male although they may well have had a female in tow, would have a blackened face with white bits where the face mask had covered the eyes.

As I was remarking, discretely, upon this to my lad one of the panda faces walked hurriedly through the train spreading the message, 75 miles an hour, 75 miles an hour! Clearly the driver had thrown caution to the wind and ignored the 70 mph imposed limit. We didn’t care. We felt great. We had been part of it and to hell with authority. Rebels all.

The train pulled into Doncaster as it was getting dark and the locomotive was unhitched to be replaced with a diesel. After all I’m sure the London bound passengers would be glad to make it home before midnight.

Shortly after that trip I bought a Hornby 00 Limited Edition Union of South Africa that to this days lies in its box in the attic waiting for some attention.

The carriages on the train really did remind me of the British Rail buffet serving curled up sandwiches. We settled for drinks and kit kats having, as you know, fuelled up in Scarborough.

I’m sure most of still very much think wistfully of the age of steam even though by now most of us will not have been around at the time. It’s a bit like when you hear the Lancaster Bomber or Spitfire fly overhead as we tend to do living in Lincoln. When you hear the magnificent roar of the engine you run outside and if you are luck catch a glimpse before the plane vanishes over the rooftops or trees.

The accursed trees, though I don’t really mean that. I quite like trees, especially oaks and other deciduous natives. I almost said decidedly native then but I didn’t so that’s ok. Innit? We have sycamore trees peering down into our garden which are a real nuisance come autumn as all their leaves seem to fall into our side of the hedge and not next door where they belong. Also in the spring we get little sycamore plants shooting up everywhere. Until that is they are cruelly killed off in their infancy by the indiscriminate scything blades of the lawn mower. I can hear it now, laughing cruelly as it cuts off the heads of the seedlings, nyahahahahahahahaaaaaaa.

Sycamore is not as good for burning on a log fire as is oak and doesn’t attract as much wildlife so frankly in my book the sycamore doesn’t have that much going for it.

3rd Law Part 32 here

3rd Law Part 34 here

The 5th of May

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

XOn the 5th of May I didn’t wake up,

My eyes stayed shut and my kidneys packed up;

My lungs didn’t breathe and my bowels didn’t grind,

My ears heard nothing, and nor did my mind!


The broken fence, the creaky gate,

General repairs would have to wait;

I wasn’t about to paint the shed,

I couldn’t buy paint – because I was dead!


I’d slipped away, and I never knew;

Nobody told me my time was due!

The things I had planned mattered no more,

And Daisy slept with the angels, cos I didn’t snore!

3rd Law Part 32 – posh hotels and coal mines

Monday, May 27th, 2013

I’ve stayed in a few nice hotels around the world in my time. There was one I stayed at in Taipei where every room was actually a suite and you could take two interconnecting suites if you needed more space for the family. I can’t remember what it was called now. It had a pool on the roof.

I got there late one night after my flight had been delayed and my luggage failed to make the onward connection from somewhere, Hong Kong maybe. No problem, I thought. It’ll have turned up by the morning. In the meantime I got to my room to find that all it had was a sitting room area and a dining area with a bowl of fruit on the table. Bit odd I thought, never having stayed in a suite before and not really even realising that this is what this room was.

Further exploration revealed that the bedroom was off a changing room that also led to a marble bathroom. I had a choice of one of those posh power showers in its own marble wet enclosure or a separate marble bath. I also had a complete set of toiletries including shaving kit and toothbrush, and a nice bathrobe. Perfect, I didn’t need anything else that night.

I had a bath and a shower and chilled out in the robe. It wasn’t until the next morning that I found the second toilet! Two toilets in a hotel room! It’s never happened since though I have stayed in a few nice gaffs. The great thing about nice hotels is that they usually have nice bars and you can often meet interesting people. Doing it on corporate expenses also allows you to look as if you are loaded on someone else’s dollar.

There was one year where we had the corporate managerial get together at Disneyland Paris. At the time we had three kids including a baby. I drove the family over from the UK and we all crammed into a room with two small double beds. The plan was for the baby to sleep in the pushchair. Whilst I worked the gang would go around the theme park and meet up later. I couldn’t spend all my time with them because after all I was there for the corporate team building. The first night I got in from the bar at about two o’clock in the morning only to find that the baby wasn’t sleeping in the pushchair after all. He was in my space in the bed! It wasn’t a particularly comfortable trip sleep wise but we weren’t complaining as we didn’t normally get to go abroad on our family holidays.

Having a business I own, or at least partly own puts a totally different perspective on things. Working for a corporate I used to stay at the best hotels I could get away with. There was usually a company travel policy but there were always exceptions that meant you could stay somewhere better – the conference hotel for example.

Working for a smaller business means I think a lot more about where to stay. I look for value for money rather than style and image. This doesn’t mean I always stay in poor quality hotels, though it sometimes does mean that. It just means I look for the best deal for the company.

All the travel I used to do did mean I got to accumulate lots of air miles and hotel points. We once used up 360,000 airmiles for four flights to California and spent three weeks travelling around staying at places loaned to us by friends I had made on my travels.

All the travel stopped when we set up business in the UK but I still had a wodge of hotel points that stayed active but never got used. Then last year we decided to go and see the Paul Merton Show in London and took the opportunity to use the points to book a night at the five star Intercontinental Park Lane. I also used Eastcoast train points to procure two first class return tickets to London.

The funny thing was that train was packed (that isn’t the funny bit). It was packed with members of the Unison trade union. They were all on their way to a huge rally in Hyde Park to demonstrate against government job cuts. It just felt odd to know that we were heading to the same place to stay in ostentatious style looking out onto the same park at which they were congregating to protest.

“Let them eat cake” I shouted, ducked and ran off. I didn’t really but it did feel strange.

We had a good time. Went out with friends Graham and Carole to a South Indian Restaurant before going on to the show and finished off at the Phoenix Artist Club. The Phoenix is a class joint in Soho where members of the theatrical profession (and me) go to let our hair down after a long day entertaining.

I had my Christmas bash there last year and we went through 53 bottles of champagne. Quality. I’m beginning to sound like a celebrity jet setter here aint I? I’m not really. Give me a quiet night in with beans and toast and a bit of bacon with a glass of milk any day.

I prefer my bacon fried. It tastes a lot better than when grilled. Trouble with frying is that these days they put so much rubbish into bacon that it often part steams as a result of all that rubbish eeking out into the pan. I refer you to this post on how to cook the perfect bacon sandwich for a guide on the subject.

When my dad was a kid they used to keep a pig in a sty at the bottom of the garden. The pig would eat up all the scraps and leftovers and then at some point it would get slaughtered by a visiting butcher. That all stopped when they introduced the law about all such slaughtering needing to be done in abatoirs.

The meat from the pig would largely be kept for my grandfather who as a miner needed a good supply of protein. My day said that my grandfather was in perfect physical condition from the waist up but that his legs and knees were shot hue to having to work underground on his knees in confined spaces.

My grandfather died “of the dust” when dad was still young. In his last days he would ask the family to open the windows of the cottage to let some air in but the windows would already be open. In those days you seldom saw an old miner. When they died the whole community would turn out to mourn. Dad says there were hundreds at his own dad’s funeral. It left a lasting impression.

It also left dad a lifelong socialist although he didn’t particularly mourn the pit closures and the passing of the coal trade in the UK. It wasn’t a nice job. Dad has a story about a disaster at the Blaenhirwaun pit where my grandfather worked. It was over the road from our house and its shaft was sunk by John Lewis, my great grandfather on my grandmother’s side.

Whilst the disaster was ongoing the whole community turned out to help and sandwiches were provided to all involved to keep them going. The rule was corned beef for everyone unless you had been working underground in which case you could have ham. Dad was dishing out the sandwiches. At one stage some “officials” from the coal board came along, went straight to the front of the queue and demanded ham sandwiches. Dad sent them to the back and told them they could only have corned beef. Hehe. I quite like ham sandwiches myself with nice crusty white bread and butter.

The cottage is still in the family. My anti Mair owns it though it doesn’t get used much nowadays. When we were kids it was our main holiday destination. I would go over the road for walks around the by then disused pit. Not really a very safe thing to do. I’d help Rachel Mary next door pick bits of coal off the tips or slag heaps. RM had to pay for her coal unlike my gran who as a miner’s widow had hers free of charge.

Summer holidays down there would always be pretty similar. Playing cricket in the back garden with dad. Days out on the bus in Llanelli or Swansea. Maybe a walk to the park in Cross Hands. Simple times. Uncomplicated. Not like the electronic fuelled lifestyle of today. We still need to work out how to get the balance right these days. Mind you I am quite possibly looking back through rose tinted spectacles. If I dig deep enough I can also recall the intense boredom of summer holidays or Sunday afternoons spent looking out at the rain with nothing on the box and another game of Monopoly in prospect.

3rd Law Part 31 here

3rd Law Part 33 here


Friday, May 24th, 2013

The pleasant land is again green and we are once more complaining about the weather. The weather of course is why everywhere is green. This is fairly short lived. The yellows and browns return earlier every year. It’s called progress.

The rain is falling. I can hear it. Also the wind is blowing, rustling. The ground is covered in green flowers, blown off the trees.

3rd Law Part 31 – the fully clothed awakening

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Just changed two light bulbs. One in the downstairs toilet and the other in the bathroom. Now another one has just gone in the TV room. Tripped the circuit breaker. It’ll have to wait. The light bulb that is not the circuit breaker. I switched that back on straight away. The family would have complained otherwise, having to sit there in the dark, guessing where the others were in the room.

It’s not that bad really. Spring est arrivee so it is still light out. In fact we were down the cricket nets until around 8.45 which ain’t bad. It got a bit cold and the sun was going down, like a fireball sinking into the Pacific Ocean except there was no water in sight and certainly not the Pacific. That would have placed us somewhere on the West Coast, of America that is. North or South – either would work in this context.

The words of the song, “sun goes down Santa Monica Boulevard” come to mind. Can’t quite remember who sang it.  I could Google it I suppose but won’t. I don’t want to use up my quota of Google searches. Only joking, in case you wondered there. I am not aware that Google imposes limits on the number of searches you can do (make?) in any given point in time. That would be self defeating and counter to the Google business model fwitw. The t in that acronym stands for totally. I just invented it. Hey…

Inventions are after all the mothers of necessities aren’t they? I read it somewhere I’m sure. I’ve been to Santa Monica you know. I quite like some of the place names around there. Sunset Boulevard. It’s exciting when you get to see it yourself. Ordinarily you would only see that stuff in movies or in American TV detective series where the private eye (Philip Marlowe of course) cruises up and down Sunset staking out some target, to coin a technical phrase used by those in the business, probably.

The problem with that part of the world is that whilst it sounds romantic on paper, celluloid, wireless etc the reality is that the whole area is like one big parking lot, to reuse a local Los Angelois phrase. I’m not completely sure about the Los Angelois bit but it sounds right and if it isn’t then it is from now on, if you get my drift. Los Angelinos? Let’s call the whole thing off.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the LA area over the years. Used to do a lot of business there though I do prefer Northern California. San Francisco. Must go back there. Do a book signing perhaps. When the sun is shining. I recall a wonderful evening in the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill. We were sat in the bar on the top floor looking out over San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge as it was getting dark. The lights came on around the bay and the mists really did roll in from the sea. Wonderfully atmospheric. Must go again. Last time we went with the kids. It is a great place to go without the kids. Great bars and nightlife. Lots of jazz, or at least there used to be. Can’t imagine it has changed.

The great ting about San Fran, if I may call it that is that it is a pretty European city in the US of A. It is one of only a few that can be categorized thus. The others that spring to mind are Boston and Portland, Oregon. Not sure whether there are any other Portlands in the US.  I could look it up of course but we’ve been there.

Boston is another place I’ve had a great time. Was there one Saturday, catching the day flight home on Sunday. To while away the time I went whale watching in the morning. Saw a few whales. V impressive. Apparently the sea used to teem with them until we, man did our worst. After the whale watching I met a pal in a bar at around 3pm and we went on a wonderful pub crawl around the best bars in Boston, stopping briefly to see the historic town hall.

I got in at 3 or 4am and miraculously woke up a couple of hours later fully clothed on top of the bed, coincidentally in the Fairmont Hotel. I say miraculously because I needed to get up to take a taxi to the airport. My body clock must have kicked in, looked after me. Phew.

Day flights are better than the red eye. For me at least but I think that’s the only day flight I ever caught back to the UK from the USA.  Normally on a trip out there I’d start in the east and work my way west and they don’t do day flights from the west coast, as far as I know.

One Thursday or Friday afternoon I remember flying back with American Airlines and was curious to see a woman moving around the cabin (business class of course) using all the phones, swiping her Amex card to set up the calls. Asked what she was doing she told me she was testing a new phone system that had just been installed. She was flying back and forth to London for a month making calls whenever she was over continental USA.

She offered me free use of the phone system. This was great except that there was no one I could ring. All my American contacts were at home and I only had their work numbers. Everyone in the UK was in bed! I left a few voicemails. When we got to Heathrow the woman got off the plane and hung around until it was time to get back on and go back again! Not much of a life tbh.

I was always glad to get back to Blighty, even though compared with the USA it was a dingy dirty place. The toilets always seemed to be in a state in Heathrow when we landed. The biggest thing I’d have missed was proper British food such as lamb tikka masala and warm beer. Also HP sauce and proper bacon. They don’t know how to do bacon in the USA.

But I don’t want to talk about food. I want to talk about something else. I’m not quite sure what though. Must be having a senior moment. Huh. Maybe it’s a side effect of the third law. The mind starts to work overtime here. What if there are other side effects I’ve not found yet. After all the third law is pretty ground breaking stuff. I defy you to show me anything about it anywhere else? There you go you can’t.

Fortitude is a requirement of the trail blazer. Fear nothing though it doesn’t make sense to drop your guard. Boldly go but please make sure that your intentions are peaceful and don’t interfere with the natives. Hmm. I wonder what natives might be associated with the third law. Might be a little research project. Maybe I could get a grant for it.

3rd Law Part 30 here

3rd Law Part 32 here

Daisies in the park

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013


This post has no title

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

I can hear the traffic passing by below. A scooter accelerates. A lorry runs over something and its load clanks a little. The room is hot and I have the window open to let some fresh air in although it can hardly be described as fresh being, as I am, in central London. I’m on the fifth floor. I can imagine living here but not being able to see out beyond the top of the building opposite. I am left wondering about the traffic. Who is in the cars? Where have they come from and where are they going? The TV on the wall is switched off.  I can now hear the beeping of a lorry reversing and the shout of a couple of workmen. One of them coughs. Otherwise it is just more traffic. It sounds as if someone is putting up scaffolding. Occasionally there is a metallic clank. I presume there are people below, walking to work. It is 7.43 am. Someone must start that early although I know a lot of Londoners are late starters so that they can avoid the worst of the rush hour crush. I never leave my room. It is my world, my prison. I can hear the traffic passing by below but I can’t see it.

3rd Law Part 30 – the hospital visit

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

There are lots of pictures on the wall in this room. Far more than we have in our house. There is an explanation for this. Pictures have a habit of being knocked off the wall by a robust and growing family. We still have a broken pane of glass in the window next to our front door. It’s covered in sellotape. It was an over enthusiastic chuck of a powerball that did it.

The problem is it is a small piece of glass in a window that is mostly stained glass. It’s been more hassle than either of us considered it worth to get it fixed. Also I’m not sure whether we would be able to find the same pattern so it would look a little different than the rest of the window though that isn’t really an excuse.

I had to smash the small pane of glass in the old downstairs loo once. Joe aged 2 had locked himself in and it was the only way we could get it open. It didn’t help that I had just come home from a funeral, or more specifically from the wake. The memory of the deceased had been toasted many times and I was expecting to get home and just crash out.

The minute I walked in the door Anne said “right I’m off out now” leaving me in charge of the young family. A 2 yo locking himself in the toilet was the last thing I needed. We went through a phase of “incidents” with the kids.

There was the time when the same 2yo shoved a currant up his nostril. It was at breakfast and I was sat opposite him and saw it go in. I can remember thinking to myself “that kid has just shoved a currant up his nose” in an incredulous manner. I couldn’t believe it. I took a look and thought I could just about see it but no way was I going to be able to get it out. Hmm. It was the last working day before Christmas and I had planned to nip in to the office to do my expenses (6 different currencies) then finish early.

Instead of going in to the office I ended up in A&E at Lincoln County Hospital. In all fairness to them because he was so young he was given priority. However none of the staff could see anything and questioned whether there was anything really there. This demanded some considerable self-belief on my part. I definitely saw the currant go in. I stuck with the story.

They referred us to the Ear Nose and Throat department. We started the queuing process again. After an hour in the ENT queue we finally for in to see the doc. She sounded Russian or similar. The same questions were asked. Is there really anything there? Eventually after some probing the doctor pulled out the currant that had swollen to its original grape size. Wow. That was quite some relief. Can you imagine walking around with a blockage the size of a grape up your nose?

I took the lad home and went in to the office to do my expenses. However by this time it was almost lunchtime. The expenses were going to take ages to do and in any event the finance department was shut and it would now not make any difference if I left it until after Christmas. So home I went.

The plan for the afternoon was to do the big Christmas shop. I had a long list and it took it and Joe to Tesco to begin the process. I had only put two items in the trolley when my mobile rang. It was head office in Canada. The company was in the middle of being sold and they had the lawyers on the phone wanting to discuss a specific aspect of the contract. My bit was the last bit before both sides could sign.

I spent the next hour discussing contracts whilst at the same time continuously moving around Tesco away from loudspeaker announcements  and trying to stop young Joe from snatching at things on shelves from his seated position in the trolley. After an hour the conversation turned to chit chat and I said I had to go and continue my shopping.

A few minutes and only four or five more grocery items in the trolley the phone rang again. It was Anne. Was I going to be much longer? The other kids were getting restless and my services were required to take them swimming.

I aborted the mission and began again at 6am the next day at which time Tesco was heaving with like-minded people. The timing of the Christmas shop is critical. It’s a combination of getting the veg as close to Christmas as possible whilst avoiding the crowds. I remember one year at Waitrose the queues extended the full length of the shop at each till. Wtf!? The whole point of Waitrose is that there are seldom any queues because it is more expensive to shop there than Tesco. Keeps the masses away. Tescos can be a nightmare.

However I move on. I am not here to discuss the relative merits of different supermarkets. As it happens I am going to continue with the kids in distress theme. One Saturday our youngest rocked back on his chair at the kitchen table. Note a lot of the kid action seems to have been in the kitchen. If you are a parent I’m sure you will on many occasions have had to tell your kids not to rock back on their chair. So rock back on his chair he did and over went the chair.

His chin caught the table with a crack and blood started to pour everywhere. Here we go again!

At that moment the front doorbell went. It was a pal who had brought a trailer load of wood for the fire. Unfortunately I couldn’t hang around. I had to drive the ambulance. So I set off and left my pal to unload the trailer himself.

The service at the hospital was rapid and we returned an hour later with a plaster on the chin to find the friend still there having only just finished unloading the wood! Result really – not wanting to sound ungrateful!

The hospital visits, once a regular occurrence, seemed to have tailed off as the kids got older.

3rd Law part 29 here

3rd Law part 31 here

3rd Law Part 29 @harbour_lights cafe – a good old fashioned product in a modern world

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Noises came from the kitchen. The dishwasher being unloaded. Ping of a glass and metallic clanking of cutlery. Mam whistling to herself. The occasional cough. Tap running. Footsteps up and down the wood floor. Kettle filling, lid on, click on. Zipadeedoodazipadeeday.

A cup of tea arrived. Slowly consumed. The brain still not really in gear though the day is not to be wasted. Outside it has stopped raining. After the tea a walk beckons. Down through the narrow streets to the promenade and then across the harbour footbridge to Fenella Beach, Peel Castle and the breakwater with its seagulls, seals and hopeful fishermen.

Looking out it looks as if it is still drizzling. I quite like drizzle although it can be a bit of a nuisance with the specs. Non spec wearers have no idea of the freedom that is walking in the rain without glasses on your face. Freeedommm.

Walking in the rain is all about attitude. You can treat the wet stuff as an uncomfortable nuisance or you can shrug it off and be its master.

There’s a nice little story that developed after the last few sentences. I wandered down into a drizzling Peel and made for The Harbour Lights Café. It’s one of my faves. A classic seaside café with a quality product and a very relaxing atmosphere. It’s the sort of place to go when it’s raining out and there isn’t that much else to do. You can almost picture the scene: the occasional umbrella walks past the window, the raindrops saunter down the glass, every now and then a car whooshes by, a pot of tea and a plate of crumpets arrives at your table.

On this occasion the Harbour Lights was closed. You can’t imagine my disappointment. A real wave of emotion came over me. I looked in through the windows and walked around the outside of the building. It took me a while to realise that I was early. It opened at 10am. The time was exactly 10am and it being, as you know, one of my fave caffs I was quite prepared to give it some leeway. As I crossed the road to the promenade a car pulled up and a girl got out and proceeded to unlock the front door.

I walked off and crossed to Fenella Beach and the breakwater. Not many people around. It was classic Manx weather. The day before had been beautifully sunny. Today we were back to mists and white topped seas. I was comfortable with this. At the beach there were some kids kitted out in safety gear clambering over the rocks with an instructor type. I wandered on to the breakwater and climbed the steps to look out over the water.

On other occasions I’ve been able to spot a basking shark from that position. Not today. Even the basking sharks were staying away. A couple of bikers, helmets in hand, walked around the castle and a bloke in an old Rover sat there smoking with the engine on. Turn it off man!

A fisherman was lowering scallop dredging kit onto his boat. I stopped for a chat. There is only two weeks of the season left. It starts again on November 1st. When you think about it the sea floor needs time to recover and for the creatures to bring on the next generation. A good haul is twenty bags on a trip but at this time of year you are lucky to come in with ten.

The rain spotted the lenses of my specs and I figured it was time to move on and back to the Harbour Lights. I got there at the same time as a young couple and sat at a table looking out onto the promenade. Tea and crumpets ordered I settled in to twitter availing myself of the caff’s free WiFi.

At this point I’ll let my tweets tell the story:

@tref: Live tweeting from @harbour_lights cafe on the prom in Peel using their free wifi. Crumpets & tea for brunch

@tref: @harbour_lights is one of my fave caffs.nice sitting here in the window watching the rain run down the glass

@tref: Listening to beegees muzak @harbour_lights – almost nodding off

@tref: Just seen the size of @harbour_lights special breakfast-huge. (I should be on commission here) J

That one was retweeted by @harbour_lights which was nice –  I felt that the café was reaching out and engaging with me its customer.

@tref: There is no rush

@tref: This reminds me of my student days – sitting around all day drinking tea

At this point the waitress came and asked me if everything was ok and did I want some more hot water in my tea pot. I declined and said she could bring the bill whenever she was ready. A short while later she came back and said that the bill had been taken care of. The boss had rung up and said it was all on the house having seen my tweets.

@tref: Thanks @harbour_lights for brightening up a dank day & thanks for the tea and crumpets :))

I left the café with a smile on may face. That was a great experience.  My suggestion of commission was a bit of fun – tongue in cheek. @harbour_lights is a good business. They understand how to build customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The smile stayed on my face all the way home through the rain.

It’s amazing the effect that a smile has you know. I passed one woman who smiled back at me. As I got towards the Whitehouse pub there was a bloke stood outside in his work gear having a cigarette. He smiled back at me. Not normally the sort of thing a grown bloke does to another bloke he doesn’t know.

I got into our close and took a photo of a violet that had self-seeded in a crack between some paving stones. I am reminded of the Tennyson poem “Flower in the crannied wall”:

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower – but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

3rd Law Part 28 here

3rd Law Part 30 here

A Pokemon in the wild…

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Back in July 2007 I went on holidays to Japan. Highly recommended by the way.

Walking around Tokyo I spotted this chap, stood patiently waiting for someone.

What got me about him was the fact that despite being quite obviously dressed as a Pokemon, no-one was really even fazed by it.

Nevertheless, It made for an interesting photograph.

3rd law Part 28 – Fenella Beach far away in time

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

My job is very boring I’m an office clerk. Not really.  I was just singing along. It’s one of my favourite songs. I sing it when I’m at my parents in the Isle of Man. They live in the western fishing village of Peel near a beach called Fenella Beach. I go there early in the mornings before the others have got up and just watch. When I’m there I sing to myself, Fenella Beach, far away in time.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about I’m not going to explain. I’m not that kind of guy, Not very helpful. Find out for yourself. Peel has a wonderful ruined castle that looks down on Fenella Beach. There is also a breakwater where I sometime go fishing. Don’t really want to catch a fish. I just like chucking the line in and then reeling it back in. V relaxing.

When I’m there I use tinternet only when I’m on the wifi at Mam and Dad’s. The mobile roaming charges are a rip off. It doesn’t do me any harm. Time suddenly begins to slooowww down. The effects of the 3rd Law are nullified. I walk places, stop off in cafes for cups of tea. There is one in particular, the Harbour Lights Café on the promenade, that has a twitter account. If I can remember it I’ll let you know what the handle is. I looked for it but there are loads of “Harbour Lights” cafes on twitter. Funny that innit?

It’s a good name and the one in Peel is a classic British seaside caff. Good nosh. Only prob is that me mam is a great cook and it seems a little daft to eat out when I’m over there. The one exception is when we go for a curry in the Indian Restaurant around the corner. It’s a quality gaff, rhymes with caff but different. Possibly the best naan bread I’ve ever had and that’s saying something.

There’s also a pub called the Whitehouse which must be one of the best on the Isle of Man. It’s owned by local Real Ale Brewery Busheys. Dad only goes there when I’m over. This bit of the 3rdLaw seems more like a travel programme than an innovative stream of internet consciousness. Think spending time on TripAdvisor.

Not that I condone that spelling, advisor. Adviser. Hmm got myself confused now. Seems to be getting to be a regular thing when it comes to spelling. I used to care but I’m not so sure these days. The language is changing, probably faster right now than ever before. It’s not totally true to say I don’t care because I do really but we do take risks with language these days.

I’m running out of steam heeeerrrrreeee. Sllooowwwiiingggg riiigghhtt doowwnn aggaaiinn. It’s as if I’m already back on the island. Gosh! What can I say? Maybe I have telepathic powers. Maybe I can just think about a place and suddenly it’s as if I’m there. I can hear the seagulls and smell the spray as the waves crash against the rocks.

Camera suddenly pans to dramatic oceanscape. As it zooms in we notice a three masted sailing ship of the Lord Nelson variety. There only seem to be three people on board. They are standing around the wheel and look in a bad way. One of them is looking through his telescope and suddenly notices the Island up ahead. There is a flurry of movement suggesting that the surviving crew think that salvation is at hand.

The ship gets nearer and nearer until it eventually runs aground on the beach at Peel. It is early and there is no one around other than Trefor Davies who has been down to Fenella Beach for his usual morning look around. Finding the crew starving Davies takes them along the prom to the Harbour Light Café and treats them to a full cooked breakfast whereupon they proceed to tell him their story…

3rd Law Part 27 here

3rd Law Part 28 here

The god of the sea is unquestionably Neptune

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The god of the sea is unquestionably Neptune. His court holds sway in the undredged depths beyond Atlantis, mid giant kelp forests where the stranger loses his mammalian way and sanity and coral reefs as beautiful as they are lethal.

Neptune has reigned unopposed for as long as rivers have emptied and before ambitious amphibian adventurers took their first brave steps out of the water onto the hostile rocks and beaches of the land beyond the foam.

He is usually pictured gripping a trident surrounded by his harem of mermaids. This is an accurate representation of life at the Neptunian court. Sea creatures of all sizes and descriptions swim thousands of miles to pay their respects and to enjoy the banquets and entertainments for which Neptune is rightly famous.

There are no bubbles of dissent. Within the confines of the palace giant octopii, killer whales and great white sharks mingle with the humblest shrimp and microplankton. Neptune is a strong and benevolent ruler. The peace of King Neptune is inviolable.

Only one thing troubles this vast undersea empire and that is man. The creatures of the deep first encountered man as an irritant. Man was weak and floundered in the watery environment but had an occasional nuisance value that was offset by the sweetness of stormy revenge. Man was more often the victim than the aggressor.

Man was also difficult to read. His wild mood swings made him at once an admiring friend and a killer. Man was on balance best avoided.

Man however spread as a weed on the surface of the water, extending its gangly tendrils to the sea bed with indiscriminate and industrialised killing. The court of Neptune is troubled. For the first time Neptune has no plan.

Neptune must rely on the actions of other gods who are unknown to him. In his blindness his court moves deeper and is yet safe but the clock counts down with every crash of wave on shore and the tension remains.

Above, the warning seagulls cry and the throb of the engine draws nearer…

3rd Law Part 27 – efficiency

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

It’s a funny old world innit. You have good times, bad times, calm days and days when the wind blows. I’ve noticed that the trees are noisy at this time of year when the wind blows. They have leaves that aren’t there during the winter and offer far more resistance. It’s a bit of a dual edged sword, leaves on trees. On the one hand they provide very welcome shade on hot sunny days. On the other hand they then proceed to deposit all the leaves on our lawn when they have done their job for the season.

It is a lot of clearing up for someone though not nearly as bad a job these days since we got the leaf blower. Anne loves to get the leaf  blower out. If she spots more than one leaf on the front drive she whips it out and gets blowing. If it’s only one leaf she does that job manually. I felt compelled to add that caveat just in case you thought she was some nutter who has a compulsive disorder re tidying up leaves. She isn’t/doesn’t (your choice of good or poor grammar there).

She is pretty fanatical about keeping the house tidy though which isn’t a bad thing. It has led to some amusing incidents such as the time I was getting ready to go out and play rugby. I had taken a clean pair of jeans out of the drawer and disappeared out of the room for something. When I got back the jeans had gone – they were going round and round in the washing machine. Oops. Clean out of the drawer! That’s efficiency for you.

It’s a good watchword: efficiency. Defined as “the quality or property of being efficient” efficiency is used in many scenarios in our daily lives. It applies to the home environment as well as in business. An efficient home is a happy home (I assume) and an efficient business is a profitable business which usually in turn leads to happiness for the staff.

The biggest problem with that definition is that it assumes you know what “efficient” means. I imagine that most of you do but it might be interesting to see what definitions everyone came up with. I knew a guy called Jos at University in Bangor who did a PhD in Welsh Language and then got a job at the University compiling the latest edition of the Welsh Dictionary. They set him going on the letter P. At some stage there was a break in at his office at the uni and someone nicked his computer, including the letter P!!! He had to redo P from scratch, if you see what I mean, together with a few other letters that he had worked his way through.

The technology around at the time was not like it is today. No tinternet, no offsite backup and storage. Life must have trundled along at a delightfully slow pace. “What are you doing today?” “I’m on Ss today”, yawn, snore, snooze, sleep, somnambulant. Spot the odd one out. It isn’t a trick question.

There are however lots of trick questions to watch out for in life. Probably. Having made that statement I can’t quite think of one right now but if I do later on I’ll come back to it. Gotta move on. Can’t dwell. It would, in my opinion not be time well spent if I took the next few minutes to think of a suitable trick question. I could be doing something far more useful, like making a cup of tea which will then give me the opportunity to lab test the 3rd law again.

This 3rd Law must be the most lab tested law of the internet in the game. In fact it’s been thoroughly field tested an all. The an all reveals my roots. Not the Queen’s English but how many people actually speak “corgi”. Not many I tell you. As far as I know the 3rd Law is still the only Law of Tinternet though I am constantly on the lookout for others. Sometimes when I think I’ve found one it disappears in front of my very eyes.

Yes I do have very eyes. Some have blue, some are bloodshot but mine are very. Hows about that for a game of soldiers. I find that having very eyes can be a bit of a nuisance. It means I always have to wear a hat when it’s very sunny. At least it isn’t sunny all that often in the UK which is obviously a mixed blessing and not a hugely popular statement. Most of us want a bit of sunshine in our lives. It uplifts. Elevates, raises up.

I’ll match your cloudy day and raise you sunshine. In this case I would be wearing one of those peaked caps you see on card dealers in old FBI movies. That and sleeve clips or whatever they are called. Those things that people used to use to keep their sleeves up. Bit odd really because I don’t usually have a problem with my sleeves. Why didn’t they just buy shirts with the right length sleeves. Maybe they didn’t have the same range of sizes available to them in the old days. I quite liked the old collarless “grandad” shirts. You don’t see em around any more, at least not where I get my shirts from. Tbh I don’t buy many proper work shirts. I usually wear branded freebies. Makes it easy to decide what to wear for work. I have a choice between black and turquoise which doesn’t make it as difficult a decision as you might imagine because I don‘t really care which one I wear. It’s whatever is available and at the top of the pile in the wardrobe.

I have three shelves in my wardrobe. One for socks and underpants, one for tshirts and similar and one for jumpers. The bottom of the wardrobe is reserved for shoes and other odds and sods. It needs a bit of a clear out. I’m sure there are one or two single shoes in there that have lost their partners – don’t ask me how. Discarded in some clear out or other. It’s the way of things. You have to remove emotion from these decisions. Emotion means a house full of clutter, of old things you no longer really need but are reluctant to chuck in case one day they will be useful again.

Our attic is like that. I’m amazed we can even get up there though it is quite a large space. We have a really cool train set layout that unfortunately doesn’t really get used. Choo choo. Had the shelf for it built specially. It runs around the outside of the loft and must be 7m x 3m square or thereabouts. That’s a good size track with three loops and a bunch of sidings. I used to keep the record player up there but that has been purloined by a kid for his own use in his bedroom. Vinyl is the new sliced bread or similar – you know what I mean.

Ciao baby…

3rd Law Part 28 here

Previous 3rd Law post here

3rd Law Part 25 – the emotional rollercoaster

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

It’s one of those gentle rain on the conservatory roof days. We need the rain and I am reasonably happy for it to fall especially as I did all the outside jobs earlier. The rain on the roof is one of those highly relaxing sounds. It probably comes with gentle vibrations that make the difference. I’ve been down the cricket nets with Johnnyboy. Rain stopped our play and we retired to the clubhouse to stare out the big plate glass windows at the covers. Rain stop play is also very relaxing. Frustrating for the players I’m sure but hey. I’m in a selfish self-centred mood. Not a bad one and it isn’t affecting anyone else. It’s just that sometimes you have to think of yourself and not worry about the fact that twenty two players, a couple of umpires and the travelling entourage are sat there wondering when the darn rain will stop and they can get on with the game.

I quite like a bit of time on my own, looking out at the rain maybe or just stood at the bar in the Morning Star having a quiet pint. I get quite lonely if I am left on my own for too long such as when Anne takes the kids off to her folks for a few days whilst I am still at work. I can’t cope with it for too long as my tendency is to go out with the boys whilst she is away and that is totally knackering. Two nights out on the trot and now I’m dead.

That makes tonight dangerous as it will be the fourth night out on the trot and we are having a boozy Sunday lunch with friends the following day so it will make it even worse. Ah well. Such is life. Such is the hectic gadabout way we get on with things. Did you like that word gadabout. Not sure when I last heard it. It certainly isn’t in common usage these days. Sounds almost Shakespearean. Probably isn’t. I suspect it is a child of the fifties, introduced to lighten up the post world war two grey austerity of British society. A kind of bright pink word where everything else is in black and white. It survived the swinging sixties but has gradually grown obsolete as its hard core fanbase begins to die off.

Bit morbid all of a sudden and total nonsense of course. I do own a copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Two magnificent volumes purchased from some book club or other when I was younger than today. I could look the word up there. However I am not really that bothered. I could also Google it which would be more in keeping with the nature of this work but again it doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to do it either. I want you to forever have the question in your head. “What is the origin of the word gadabout and is it still in common usage?”

I’m teasing you now. Playing with your emotions like a fisherman plays a salmon that dances out of the water and in a fit of furious pique at having been hooked, sets off on a direct line to the far bank. I don’t know how that particular story plays out because we leave the scene before it has finished. We never find out whether the fish was caught and if so how big it was. All we have is the memory of the ripple in the water heading away from us as we turn and walk on down the river bank to the bridge at the far end of the meadow and continue our journey.

It was definitely a meadow not a field. Meadow sounds much better. Field is too abrupt. The meadow may even have the odd cow quietly grazing, looking carelessly at the scene before her (note correct gender choice) before dropping her head to tear out another mouthful of the lush green grass. I can’t quite make out what sort of cow she is.

Definitely not a Friesian. I’d know a Friesian if I saw one. White with black patches, unless it’s black with white patches. It matters not. Also definitely not a doe eyed Jersey. That’s my description not the official name. A Jersey is just a Jersey. Not a pullover. It might have been a Hereford but we have now moved on and are now out of camera shot.

Over the rise we see a totally unexpected sight. It is a huge open cast mine. A real eyesore and not at all in keeping with the pleasant scene that we have just left. Large Toy trucks that from this distance look almost like ants carry vast quantities of ore to huge conveyor belts that disappear over the horizon. Your emotions are now confused, angry even. How can this have been allowed to happen. Well shit happens baby. Shit happens. Like I said I’m playing with you. There’s a lot going on in this scene. A brutal tattooed gangster holds a beautiful woman at knife point. What’s he going to do? A kid runs after his ball into the path of one of the giant trucks. The driver can’t see that low down…

Let’s look away. Don’t want any of this stuff. Give me nice. Give me laughter and the clink of glasses. Give me the sound and smell of a new born baby. Give me good news. I don’t want no crap.

I don’t know how this colloquial stuff crept in here. It’s not like me to say “I don’t want no crap”. I’m not from the Bronx or Yonkers or anywhere like that. I assume they say that sort of thing in the Bronx and Yonkers though you do have to ask yourself where on earth they got the name Yonkers. I’m not asking about Bronx. Bronx sounds plausible to me but Yonkers? Gimme a break will ya?

It’s getting a bit cold here. I might run a hot bath. We are off out tonight, as you know.

Part 24 ere

Part 25 ere

Lincoln A2Z L5 Ermine West

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

You can get lost in Ermine West without too much difficulty. Actually that is not true.  I once took a wrong turning there and ended up nowhere. It was a mistake easily rectified and nothing was really lost other than a minute of my time spent retracing my steps, or wheel rotations as it happened to be. The steps or wheel rotations rewound I took a different turn and meandered my way from Riseholme Road to the Road of Burton whereupon I continued to the shops and the execution my errand which was so trivial I now struggle to remember its nature. There is nothing further of note to report.