Life

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…

 

 

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Isn’t it ironic?

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.

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Forgetfulness and falconry

Well in the last posting about our mixed bag of a trip to Italy, I talked about how we failed to remember to take our house keys with us. It wasn’t the only thing we forgot as it happened.  We intended to take a new rug with us and several other things but somehow in our busy pre-trip schedule, they all got sadly forgotten. And upon returning we intended to bring several items back to the UK and in our haste, you’ve guessed it, we overlooked them too.  It’s clearly an age thing as C and I hurtle towards our bloody dotage. They’ll be feeding us baby food soon.

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A road trip to Italy to crown it all

Well this is my first posting in a little while and it’s about a very recent visit C and I made to our place in Italy. We decided to drive there to make a bit of an adventure of the trip especially as we intended to spend a bit of time there for a change and maybe oversee some work done on the place as well as having a nice relaxing break. The weather when we left was terrific – at least 35º and the forecast for our little village of MdF was even better. Hot stuff. Sadly we found out before leaving that our great friends and neighbours J&C wouldn’t be there but hopefully we’d catch up with neighbour and pal Freddy who’s a permanent resident. So the weather was balmy, our car felt in tip top condition and we had a nice 3 day drive to look forward to. What could possibly go wrong?

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Let’s not waste time

 

I suppose it’s one of the things about getting old that makes you appreciate that time is precious and you just do not want to treat it wastefully. Well today was one of those slightly frustrating days when I was using it unproductively, sigh…

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Delicious irony

Well yesterday was a great day really. I headed in to London to see my old friend J who runs a very funky graphics design agency. We had a great meeting on how I might be able to help build awareness for him and his creative work now that I’ve sharpened up his online presence.  All very exciting. En route to meeting up with him near Waterloo, I drove in to north London and parked up my car very close to where we used to live on Muswell Hill Rd. It was lovely to walk through Highgate Woods again on the way to Highgate underground station. Now you may not know it but because of the hilly terrain, the station was built in a deep cutting excavated beneath Highgate Hill. During the war, the deep-level platforms at Highgate were used by many as a shelter from the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe, and, later, V-1 and V-2 missiles. The entrance is a long way down. You can in fact get an up escalator to the surface from the booking hall but there’s only one way down via a steepish path. I’m not sure these pictures do it justice….

 

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You know you’re getting old when….

Poignant day yesterday. First up we went up to Akeley Wood to collect my super grandson Sam from his school. He’d just finished his 21st and final GCSE exam (physics urgh) which had been spread over 5 long weeks. 5 weeks!! I know we’ve all been through it but that’s too long in my opionion. The lad is shattered but happy and relieved at getting over the finishing line. And there he was in his shirt all signed by his school mates – when did that become a thing? Anyway the point is that yesterday was effectively his last day at school. That’s it no more school uniforms, lazy long holidays etc. It’s all behind him as in August he’ll start his 2 year contract with Borehamwood Academy studying BTEC level 3 Sports Sciences while doing all his football stuff of course. Then yesterday afternoon it was fab grandson Georgie’s last sports day at junior school. It was a fun afternoon. But you know you’re getting old not just when you’re kids leave school but when your grandchildren do! Thank christ they didn’t invite the grandads up for a race at the end. Couple of pics from the day…

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