Well my last two postings have been a tad reflective and this one’s a bit nostalgic too, but in an upbeat way. I was explaining to Carol why I prefer mini-sized pork pies and to eat them warmed rather than cold. You can see I’m a man of sophisticated tastes. The reason is that when we were kids my mum or nan would take us shopping into town (Blackpool) and we’d queue up like dozens of others to buy some pork pies from the butcher’s called Priestley and Berry’s (later JH Berry & Sons). The pies were all made on site and the real knack was to time it to co-incide with a new batch coming straight from the ovens when they were still hot and at their freshest. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking about my old friend Steve, from Plympton, who shared a flat with me very briefly in Aberystwyth in our first bonkers few weeks at the Uni. I so hope he’s found happiness and success. I really liked him but his Uni life hinged on his relationship with a local Welsh Uni girl. But it didn’t last and after some turbulence, including a major subject course change on Steve’s part, they split. It hit him pretty hard and I spent many, many hours listening through the walls to Leonard Cohen’s So Long, Marianne on his record player before he left Uni for good and a life back in Devon.
I got to thinking about all this recently as the lady who Cohen sang about, his muse Marianne Ihlen, who died 3 years ago, shortly followed by the poet/singer, have been in the news again of late but I can’t remember why.They met nearly six decades ago on the Greek island of Hydra. She, a beautiful Norwegian blonde, alone with a young son. He, a dark, handsome, soulful Canadian poet struggling to write a novel. These were the hippy days of drugs and free love. His love song to her featured on his debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen in 1967. That song, already 5 years old when I reached Aber, seared into my mind though I haven’t heard it much since then….
Now for something completely different. I’ve been going through some website/domain reviews recently, relinquishing a number of sites and addresses that I no longer use or can justify maintaining, which has been a bit poignant. And a particularly sad farewell was for my website itswriteforyou.co.uk – a writing service I set up when I was dealing with my cancer treatment 6 years ago. It was for people who needed some words delivering – on things like CV’s, LinkedIn profiles, promo copy for business materials, website content, speeches etc. I’d let it fall fallow in recent years to be honest but was surprised to find out how many people were still intrigued by it and how many wordy/occasionally humorous blogs I’d written on the site. Loads of them. I cannot believe how much splodge I’ve written over the years. Don’t go and have a look because the site is really cack – I never really liked the design but somebody was advising me at the time and I followed his suggestions rather than my own instincts. Lesson learned. Anyway I’ll surely be re-cycling any decent blogs on pp. Ha!
But the thing is this site was my salvation when I thought my commercial life was finished because of my illness. I was right about that as it happens – so few of my many business contacts came through with work opportunities – but hey you get on with life and I ended up re-establishing myself as a content writer and marketing/social media specialist for loads of local businesses who don’t have the dedicated resources to do any decent marketing on their own. And I help people because I want to, not necessarily for the money. Plus I get to write more words – lots of them. Right now I’m writing about impactful designs for work spaces, the joys of bee-keeping and making naturally-based skin care products, sourcing fantastic furniture, the history and heritage of Brackley, gas appliance engineering, the delights of Turkey and, oddly and quite separately, Turkish cuisine, space planning as well as dozens of profiles on people in business. And I’m an expert in absolutely none of them. No knowledge but a bit of imagination, a browser and loads of opinion. Christ I sound like a speech writer for Donald Trump.
Anyway I’ve so much writing work in fact that I don’t really need the website anymore. No more requests from women of a certain age to transform their CV’s and turn them from seeming dullards into sassy, fascinating, achieving, highly-qualified, delivering, energetic, task-challenging, focused, driven, learned, uber-tasking, imaginative, super-intelligent, brain-sexy women which any company would be foolish to reject. Ah no pressure then. I’ll miss those conversations with women discussing their foibles, tiny flaws, insecurities and vulnerabilities. Men were always so dull by comparison. So I guess you could say with the end of the website it’s…
…so long flatterman.
It’s time that we stopped our chats
and for you to try and try and write your own CV again.
From one Leonard to another, here’s to you Mr Cohen
Well I’ve been doing a lot of writing for other people recently which is very rewarding but it leaves me with so little time to do my blogging. And to be honest after crashing away at a hot desktop all day, you kind of lose the creative impetus. But sometimes things happen that make you want to get some words down and express just how you’re feeling. And right now I’m feeling saddened.
You know there’s a lot of big stuff going on to be concerned about – we have a new PM being elected by an elite faction (Dumb or Dumber) and through someone being honest we’ve really antagonised the very competent US President (the Dumbest), whilst a solution to the Brexit debacle will be delivered when I see an elephant fly (Dumbo). See what I did there? Seriously folks there’s a lot to think about and yet I have been dumbfounded by some pretty bizarre occurrences these last few days and I’m searching for some answers…
You must have seen the news today that Harry and Meghan’s home, Frogmore Cottage, in Windsor has been renovated at a cost of £2.4m all funded by the taxpayer. Apparently the Duke and Duchess did pay for some fittings – the bath taps etc. The former ‘Suits’ star must be thinking that this Royal family gig is a right proper wheeze. The property, which is actually 5 separate cottages, has been converted into one substantial home. It was given to them by the Queen. Gratis. And now all the cost of the work to knock down and install new walls, replace rotten timbers, roof repairs, a total re-wire, and new electricity, water and gas supply, has been paid for by, well, you and me. And this is on top of the £4m cost it took to create an apartment for them out of offices at their last home in Kensington Palace, also provided her Maj. Clearly that wasn’t good enough for them but let’s hope this place will be, once it’s all finished (we still have to pay for all the external and internal paintwork, garden re-landscaping, new driveways etc of course!)…
Today would have been my youngest brother’s 60th birthday, sadly we lost him very suddenly and shockingly 3 years ago after he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. The same cancer as I had. My lovely sister, the baby of the family, is currently undergoing really difficult treatment for a nasty form of spinal cancer. She’s managing the situation with courage and lots of strength. My dad in his late 80’s had a procedure to remove a cancer spot only recently. My wife’s sister and brother have both overcome having the disease and her niece has similarly come through the experience successfully. Yesterday we spoke with a dear dear friend who is recovering from having a major operation to remove cancer and in a week or so’s time she’ll resume her chemo treatment. The operation went as well as could be hoped and we’re crossing everything that the prognosis remains entirely positive and her recovery continues totally. It’s a horrible horrible disease but I’m in awe of the work that the NHS does in helping people deal with it. I know they get lots of stuff wrong and I’m the first to complain when their admin is hopeless, they postpone procedures at the drop of a hat, and keep you waiting endlessly. But they saved my life at least 3 times and many people we know have cause to thank them too. I wanted to post something uplifting to celebrate people fighting and winning their battles with cancer but wanted to avoid something mushy like ‘You raise me up’. I thought this might be approriate especially since anyone who’s had to spend the night on a hospital ward knows, no-one sleeps…
Europe eh. What more can you say about it that doesn’t sound oddly unexpected? The newly-formed Brexit party, led by the delightful Nigel Farage, won 29 seats to the European Parliament in the recent elections. A massive victory. And this was for a party only 5 minutes old that doesn’t believe in the EU and wants us out asap. That’s its only policy. It’s likely that none of its elected members will ever sit in the parliamentary chambers in Brussels and Strasbourg. Unexplainably weird? Yep. You want more? We used to be pretty regular, and you’ve got to assume popular, winners of the Eurovision song contest. Then just over 20 years ago every country in Europe started seemingly hating us and we ended up just about last in every competition since then. It happened again a week or so ago; our chappie came last with a miserable total of 16 points whilst the winner received 492. That’s what it’s come to – the country that gave the world The Beatles, The Stones, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Elton John and countless other musical greats, got well and truly twatted in a popular music contest by dozens of countries that have contributed just about Jack Shit to such culture, including the musical giants of Belarus, Albania, San Marino and some place called North Macedonia. Sigh. OK it wasn’t a total surprise.
Then, not content, after a few days the event organisers made a statement admitting that they’d actually made an error in the calculation of the scores for the United Kingdom. So instead of 16 points we’d only scored 11 or something. Two thoughts; what kind of organisers get the arithmetic wrong adding up 16 points? And couldn’t the twats just have said to themselves ‘look it’s bad enough we have to admit this but let’s give those poor Brits a break and not inflict any more shame on them?’ Of course they couldn’t. They couldn’t wait to ladle on a bit more sardonic embarrassment. The nation that stood up to tyranny and evil, sacrificing over 1 million soldiers and civilians in the process, to save Europe in two World Wars in the last century and paved the way for a post-war federation of mutually supportive peaceful trading states, is now a European pariah.
How did it come to this? I really don’t know. Could you imagine them humiliating France or Germany in quite the same way? I doubt it. In fact any other country would have pulled their investment and left the whole overblown ridiculous Eurovision circus long ago. Except that we Brits take these things in our stride; millions of our people love the whole campfest and can’t wait to tune in to Graham Norton’s nice sardonic comments. We know we’re destined to be losers (currently) but we keep a sense of humour about the whole thing. Not because we’re losers – we’re actually a nation of unbelievable achievers – but because we are self-deprecating and enjoy irony. Unlike some nations I could mention here known for their national chauvinism and lack of humour. But I’ll resist naming names.
So undaunted by Europe’s seemingly hostile attitude towards us, we did the only thing that a retired British couple with broad shoulders and thick skins does and followed our irrational love of (almost) all things European, and headed out to Italy for a quick break. To our place in Marche in fact. No doubt it’ll be sequestrated by the Italian authorities under orders from Brussels as soon as we officially leave the EU on 31 October, should it come to that. But until then we’ll keep heading there, even though the last visit was a sodding nightmare. In fact every trip seems to involve a bloody drama but this one was remarkably crisis-free. We were joined by our super eldest (17 year old) grandson Sammy and his good friend Zak. Sammy last came with us when he was about 6 and we loved having some cool Italy time with him again. After a very wet start, we enjoyed truly fab weather. We spent days at the beach and the boys had time at the gym and two long walks and one hot hilly run to maintain their fitness during close season. We ate out and also shared much time with our super friends and neighbours John and Christine and their friend Mac and lovely Freddy. We’re all pensioners and I’m the young kid on the block, so you can tell how jurassic the company was. So how the young fellahs felt holidaying with grumpy (not really) old senior citizens I do not know. But I think they really enjoyed it. And we loved having them join us. They never experienced Italian sunrises nor indeed any sense of mornings but they loved the afternoons. Teenagers eh. But reassuringly Sammy told us that he thought there was so much about Italy to enjoy eg the weather, food, girls, friendliness, helpfulness, atmosphere and views like this, love him…
You see Europe, we don’t do grudges. We genuinely wanted him to experience Italy as a young man and make his own opinion about it. And despite being surrounded by aged, silver and in my case shaven-headed people, he found joy. That’s what matters. And he found fun, contentment and a sense of wanting to belong without any sense of resentment towards we Brits. I believe real ordinary people in Europe want us to continue be a part of the whole EU enterprise. It’s not a song contest folks, this is reality. I don’t want to get all political; I just wish that our children and grandchildren are lucky enough to continue to embrace being part of feeling truly European.