Cruel world

Last week in August we headed down to Italy for a week’s break to get some hard work done on the house before the winter. Regular readers will know there’s usually a bloody drama with our visits but this time there was no sense of looking back afterwards and smiling wistfully.

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Moved

Well we’ve just returned from a super family holiday with my lovely daughters and son-in-laws and great grandsons spent in a delightful old farmhouse down in the Lot valley. Everything went beautifully and we had loads of fun, great weather, and nice food and wine. Sadly all great holidays are over much too quickly and we spent the last couple of days driving back. Yesterday we were en route to Calais from our overnight stop in Compiègne and we had a little bit of time to spare. We’d pulled off from the autoroute and headed to Arras to get some shopping from a Leclerc supermarket. Having done that we headed on the A road up to Bethune before picking up the A1 again. En route we passed several of the war cemeteries which pepper this part of N France. I passed the turning for the one at Vimy ridge which I fancied seeing but the traffic was heavy behind me so reluctantly I continued on for short while and came across the British cemetery at Souchez called Cabaret Rouge, named after a former cafe on the site. It looked beautiful and I pulled over for a walk around.

Now I’ve been meaning to visit a First World War site for ages. It may sound a bit dark but the reason is my grandfather saw action in this area losing his leg and killing several of his unit colleagues when he triggered a German mine’s trip wire. He returned home from the war badly smashed up physically and emotionally at the age of just 17. It’s staggering when you think what these young men endured. I was talking to my son-in-law about it on holiday. He had a bit more time on the way back and he and my daughter and the boys were planning to visit Ypres to witness the last post which sounded cool. 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the terrible war after all so what better time to make a visit?

I wasn’t disappointed by Cabaret Rouge. It contains nearly 8,000 graves – it’s nowhere near the largest but the sight of all those pristine white headstones is just so moving. The British soldiers buried there were mostly from London regiments and there were many headstones for fallen Canadians. So many of the graves were for unknown soldiers. I couldn’t believe just how many there were. I have to say the Commonwealth War Graves Commission do a fantastic job keeping these cemeteries in stunning condition. We were the only visitors and spent some time just walking round taking things in. It is a poignant sight and I had a moment or two to think about my grandfather and all these men who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we and my family have the freedom today to visit France on holiday. Nobody spotted but I got a little, er, reflective.

I left some words in the visitor book. Many, many people had been there before us and obviously felt similarly. Back in the car I talked to C about making another less hurried visit at some point so we can check out more places and some of the preserved trench systems and the like. I’d like to take in the Somme where I believe my grandfather fought but for the moment I’ll have pleasant memories of an hour at Cabaret Rouge to round off our holiday…

Cabaret_Rouge_British_Cemetery,_Souchez,_France

pp

Italy, always a drama

Well we’re back from a short trip to our place in Italy and as ever it was eventful. First off bloody Stansted. What’s the matter with the people who work there? We rose early (3am!) and got there in good time, had checked-in in advance and only had hand luggage with us. All we had to do was go through the security check and catch a plane. Huh. Everything was going just fine until C handed them, as per security instructions, a clear plastic bag with her small cosmetics in. They had an issue with the bag because it was zippered; apparently it needed to be a plastic bag with a press strip closing. When C asked why, she was informed ‘because of cabin pressures’. Eh?

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catching up

Well it’s been weeks since the last posting – these blogging breaks seem to be becoming a feature of the site – so a quick catch up on recent stuff might be helpful. First off it’s been busy-ish on the work front, especially for C, but the main diversion has been a brilliant two week break over at our place in Italy. For once a holiday rather than a work camp!

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ola malaga

I’m over the World Cup now. It seemed only fitting for Iniesta, Xavi and co to win the thing as Spaniards seem to be winning everything on  the sporting front these days. So we figured if you can’t beat ’em then let’s join them, as last weekend we jetted off to sunny Malaga to attend the super wedding of our daughters’ very good friends Austen and Panni. The guys have been friends since they were all at school together and Austen and his brother Devin were always round our house as teenagers. Even so it was extremely generous of A and P to invite all our family to their wedding.

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the painful rescue

This posting is for G and J, two very good friends of ours. G is a regular commentator on the blog and reminded me recently of a trip we’d made to Portugal perhaps 10 years ago, where J and I helped a woman in trouble in the surf. The memory of it brings tears to my eyes, not because it was a notably joyous and life-affirming moment, but rather because the rescue technique was a little painful…. Continue reading

unlikeable lassies

I think most people who know me will appreciate that there aren’t many women I don’t like – as a sex I find them fascinating. Men are simple souls and it’s easy to know who’s good company and who isn’t; who I like and who I don’t. I’ve got around 20 good friends who are blokes and that’s pretty much as many as I need. Women though are different; they’re subtle, complex, vulnerable but strong, deep, generously-spirited, engaging and v different. Not sure I’ll ever fully understand women but I like them. Clothes shopping and watching major sporting occasions with them is trying (and being married with 3 grown-up daughters means I’ve done a lot of that) but I still wouldn’t want to not have women in my life for longer than an hour or so. So why is that that some women drive me nuts? Continue reading