I told you so!

You’ve probably heard of the many stories about elderly folk sealing windows and their carpets with sellotape or masking tape to stop the *intruders* entering the house?!  A film featuring Thora Hird and Pete Postlewhaite called “Lost for Words” hit upon this subject as “Thora” started her journey into dementia.

Have you ever caught sight of something out the corner of your eye, or certain that you saw something briefly?
Of course, it happens to me quite often, I’ve always had this sixth sense, first being a reflection in my bedroom mirror of my mothers mother as she *crossed* the landing.  Mabel had lived with us for sometime, my grandad Jack was in an old peoples home, as they used to be called many years ago, assisted living and care homes are the new title these days, sadly, I still have terrible memories of Jack sharing a four bedded dormitory, it stank and the other occupants scared the living day lights out of me, I realise now just how poorly those people actually were.

My mother had promised her mother she would not be subjected to that terrible ordeal, so, our home became her place of transition to the other side.

These tiny glimpses of black cobwebs appear often, and not just at home, I see them trying to hide behind things like dustbins, in doorways, and peeking out of windows, you know the kind, twitching curtains, and please don’t think I’m going crazy, I am not, it’s been proved!

I call these apparitions “whispees”, even my dogs see them, they get excited, and desperately try to chase them, Spike cornered one in our old flat in London, *it* disappeared through the wall, he would sit for hours staring at this particular space often.
I’m not sure who the whispees are, or where they are from, they may even be lost souls who haven’t passed over yet, or, they might be future visions of myself, playing games, to keep me up on my guard.

Objects appear to have been moved from their original places and often it takes me many days to find them.

Sometimes I talk to these visions as they get a little too cheeky, occasionally *they* bring the atmosphere in the house down, I shout at them to either show themselves or go away, then all goes quiet for a while.

Now I can all hear you now saying “he’s definitely going *cuckoo*”.  And no, it is not paranoia!

Perhaps you ought to look at this from a different angle, say my perspective!

I am aware and know I am not alone, this is my way of telling you that I can see things that others can’t, and while we are on this subject, please try not to scoff too much whilst reading the in-scription upon my “stone” after I have passed away …… “Now! Do you believe me?” As a cool whispee breeze circles you and slips quietly away, that is, at least, for a while !

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It’s a kind of Magic.

If ever there was a hat, that a rabbit as large as “Paignton Harbour Festival Day” was pulled out of, then it surely had to be that of the
Magician Simon Pinder, Harbour master and his committee. Paignton Harbour has to be one of the most magical places in Devon, community is everything, and today certainly proved that. 
 Regatta week always attracts a heavy contingence from the rowing scene, many clubs supporting from various locations.

I’ve had a connection here since the 80’s, with The Rowing Club, Harbour Sports and Birchell Marine, from sideboard surfer to powered jet skis to super ribs, always a smile from strangers, many a comment from a heckling tourist and continued trusting comfort from fellow Mariners, all sounds rather soppy doesn’t it?
Well, I can tell you now, many a soppy mariner makers an unsloppy sailor, much advise is passed on, fellowship is made and trust is earned, laughter always comes free, but, fools are easily noticed and not taken on too lightly.

A new venture outlet opened in the mid Eighties on South Quay by Frank Sobey and his partner, Offering ranges of clothing & sailing activities and windsurfing courses, this place located next to Paignton Rowing Club was the social hub of the area, many waterborne courses being run on Saturday mornings, using floating devices the size of your grandmothers sideboard, here *we* we’re all tethered together off of the beach, Frank from his dingy barking out orders to us newbies balancing precariously on these balks that were at least twelve feet long, masts as tall as telegraph poles and sails the size of builders tarpaulins, this man has always had the patience of a saint, as he still has today, a true gentleman, always with a smile.

They were happy days, and this day, proving that too.

The beach now at its lowest ebb, numerous teams and their gigs awaiting the start of the races, perfect weather that had been ordered ahead, had been delivered right on time.

  
I can’t remember the last time I’ve ever seen so many people, approaching from the promenade towards the Harbour Lights restaurant was an amazing experience, North Pier was almost taken over by sliding frame experiences, so many families, the queues for boat rides that were selling for free moved steadily as the tide that was gaining upon them.

Children segregated on the harbour beach were constructing mystical castles and fortresses with such imagination that might blow all the carbuncles off of Prince Charles’ architectural hit lists if given a chance, a bossy girl in pleated skirt and spectacles gave orders to others as fast as those who accepted the instructions were obeying.

South Quay was writhing with people looking at, and into, the many pop-up gazebos, which were occupied by artists of many genres, safety first at sea guidance, food stalls offering sangria and tapas, ‘champagne’ & oyster bar, so very chic and popular,  

local missionary work for seamen, this certainly being a charity worthy of popping a few quid or fifty pences into its coffers. These being selfless people giving their all for others’ safety.

Twelve foot diameter diving experiences at £8 a go were proving popular, although, what can you do at that short depth apart from going around and around the bendz! ( no pun intended) I have no idea!

The trusty Boat shop displaying *toy* jet skis, great now if you fancy being a digital character out of Tron the movie, with engines the size of lawn mowers.

What’s changed? Is there still the comardary within this sport? 

What happened to the days of craft with motors with more horse power than a land Beemer, the untamed super chargers and that crazy breed of white water knuckle head riders?

They certainly didn’t have to think twice about making up a convoy heading around the berry head in a force 8, mad, Mad MAD! (Weather permitting of course)

Fish filleting workshops and crab picking lessons graced against the walls of the yacht club and factory, no hanging about here, a stall selling crab meat, so much of it, infact it was way past your eyes!!

The main exhibition tent was partially occupied with wondrous creations and their talented creators, in the other half, industry professionals and chefs displayed their culinary expertise with master classes of gutting fish, making Sushi, creating fine dining masterpieces and giving advise, some we knew, some we did not.

Local performers sang shanties, strummed guitars and cajoled with the crowd. 

Of course, the beer tent, always a crowd puller, was busy, local brewery, Bays, providing three of their famous cask ales,  

an array of ciders for seafarers and landlubbers alike, impossible queues of salivating customers waiting to share choices of scallop & chorizo rolls, fresh mackerel, ling salsa tacos and of course, the ever popular mussel dish, aka moulles. 

 The atmosphere here today was amazing, something for everyone, here it is, all in one very special place, infact, as Paignton Harbour Festival Day stands, ‘it’ certainly proved today, that this was Devon, at its finest.

And what better way to give this event such character, certainly larger than life, it’s only Captain Jack Sparrow, arriving on a boat ….. Crazy crazy crazy! 

Yoohoo Typhoo!

Our family of three was now four, and Dad made five, Chris’ niece had just given birth to a beautiful daughter, this particular week had now become hell, Paddingtons arrival and my dear Mothers death were badly timed, my Dad was on autopilot, funnily enough the days prior to Mums funeral were manic, thankfully it helped, Chris and Spike went off to his family, the newborn was very poorly, so as the per in these instances family rally together.

Mums passing was not as we had planned, it’s all very well wishing a cinema screen demise with candles, chosen music and at home with family around, it was never going to be like that, this was different, ours was a busy take in a hospital ward, life continued to operate behind our small curtained off bed area, family, what few we were all sat waiting for the final curtain call, people went, others came, knowing stares and hushed conversation was exchanged amongst us who waited.

Late on Thursday afternoon, my Mothers death was to be peaceful with the aid of strong pain relief, it was administered, briefly she opened her eyes, smiled and resumed her sleep, never to awaken, I saw her chest move slightly, and a small breath escaped her, I was holding her hand, caressing gently, suddenly, I realised what had happened, we tried hard not to sob out loud, everyone on the other side of the floral curtains now knew the situation, all went quiet for what seemed like an eternity, in fact it was probably just a nanosecond, the ward resumed its business, and we, as a family, had to resume with our lives.

Within an hour, another patient, occupied the same bay in the ward, oblivious to the fact that they were actually laying on what was previously a death bed, and we, that is my father and i were setting out on a new adventure without the firm navigator who had steered us on an even course for over fourty years.

My father had a habit of driving everywhere in second gear, so irritating beyond belief, however, he made full use of the gearbox heading back at warp speed to an empty house, no longer a home.

We made no conversation on that journey, however our silence turned into shock and then immediate laughter realising that our newbie, Paddington, which to be honest, we’d forgotten  all about him, he was stood on my fathers chair, tail wagging and not an ounce of destruction to be seen anywhere,

I do believe my mother must have had a quiet word with him.

You might think that a strange statement to make, but, the following week proved to be all rather spooky.

So, the *three musketeers* were now aboard this motherless ship, Paddington at the helm steering haplessly and barking out the orders.

In a few days the two missing crew members would return and insanity would pursue, we were now unstoppable, it was to be our mechanism, as were copious amounts of hot tea.

Call me David!

Fortunately my lack of being able to put our  Queens English correctly onto paper and to do long multiplication put me at the bottom of theory, however, placed me top of practical abilities, an aptitude to turn my hand to most things constructive.
Talking my way into securing an apprenticeship at the age of 16, I became a minion, I worked hard for a taskmaster, originally wanting to climb ladders and fix multiple array aerial systems on top of chimneys and tune in televisions, sadly, I ended up being pushed into roof spaces and lowered into small trap doors in floorboards, pulling and threading mile upon mile of electrical cables from markers A to B and points beyond, being of small build and vertically challenged, my new owner, saw me as the ideal addition to a perfect business, he himself was a tiny stocky man, with a pencil moustache, a cross between the inimitable Hercule Poirot and the Joker in the BatMan stories, he was a pillar of the community, involved in almost every charitable organisation in the town, even wearing the prestigious Mayoral chain twice, having to succumb to his nemesis between two terms of office. 

I wasn’t able to drive a car at that point, but, another of his employees had to chauffeur *nugget* (as he was known behind his back) about, Edward was rewarded well, I’m not sure wether it was the allure of driving the brand new Rover or the desire to wear the double breasted uniform, complete with shining boots and cap, however that was the price he had to pay for being such a handsome young man. EJC did nothing by halves, this was theatre, not quite the West end, but local politics, he did that perfectly.

I was taken under his and his wife’s wing, given extra tuition and guidance, I could do no wrong, simply because I was steered with a rod of iron, I became their golden boy, they had no children, which was sad, in fact we, the employees, were their family.

Every day I travelled to work, either in the back of the van driven by the company foreman who also lived in my home town, or if I was very lucky, sat in the front seat, another passenger normally occupied that seat, he was tall, awfully posh and very well spoken, everyday he carried The Telegraph newspaper, it always being folded tightly to reveal the crossword, a stubby pencil filled the empty white boxes amongst a field of random black squares with speed, by the time we had docked on the other side of the river, it was complete. Always wearing the same trench coat, a long belt tied to one side, he was flamboyant, an accountant, rumour had it that he had a secret.

1972, the IRA were causing mayhem across the United Kingdom, this high profile town, Dartmouth, home of the Britannia Royal Navel college was now on high alert, Charles had been studying there, Royal visitors came and went without notice.

This was different, HM The Queen was visiting, arriving on the Royal Yacht, the pomp, the ceremonies, the Royal Marines band, the shiny boots! so many events were being organised, preparation on a scale so huge it was hard to take in.

I was given security clearance, our contracts included working in this establishment, a very large “vessel” built on land, I was a landlubber aboard a brick ship, suddenly I had responsibilities.

All our hard work was rewarded with the day off, we were allowed to enjoy this spectacle, this family had front row seats, the Mayor with his Mayoress, his secretaries sat next to the accountant, Edward sat next to him proudly wearing his uniform & shiny boots …. I had now sussed out the secret once rumoured!

The Royal Marine band started up … 

I started to grow, many a time I have to admit being the butt of a joke, as many an apprentice will be shamed to admit, having queued at the builders workshop for a long weight only happened once, as did the request for a sky hook and ladder adhesive, returning proudly with a wall tie bent at ninety degrees and an old milk bottle with a liquid in it, slightly off yellow, asking why it was warm, I was given an answer, “it’s freshly mixed”, even the obligatory christening down a flushing toilet didn’t break my spirit, all part of my character building, sense of humour and respect to others furthered.

I gained a privilidge, only by chance, of addressing the Second Sea Lord, the Admiral Sir Williams by his christian name, an event I’m not likely to forget, in a clumsy attempt to get his respected title correct and admiring the view, my introduction, became an epic fail, tripping down steps, aerosol over breakfast time into the entrance of his cliff top residence which over looked the beautiful Start Bay, my clumsiness had this gentleman in stitches, as later, also had my knee, he became a great friend, the following years gradually turned a quiet naive boy into a man.

At twenty one, my birthday, I was summoned to see *nugget* immediately, another privelidge was to call him Mr Eric, this day was different, entering into the office you couldn’t but notice almost every inch of the walls were covered in certificates, personal achievements and photographs of dignitaries and Royals, the partners desk dominated the room, ledgers and piles of documentation covered almost every available surface, I had never been invited to sit down, today was the exception, with hardly enough space to walk to get to the chair, I found myself sat uncomfortably, he looked nervous, his stutter, all part of his charm was more pronounced, his words were brief and few, “as is right and proper I have to let you go” there I was, being sent out into the wide world to gain more experience, suddenly at twenty one I was flying back and forwards to Jersey, working on major commercial contracts.

Mr Eric knew many peoples, one such person was a resident of the Channel Islands.

Acquaintance!

Now what exactly is an acquaintance? it’s not exactly a family member, neither is it a best buddy, possibly a friend of a friends friends friend? Is that person something to do with either a work colleague, a business deal or an illicit exchange of something rather suspicious? Whoever they may be, getting to know what they may have or know, be it either material or information, more often than not, one can make use of that commodity.

How do you get to know one without either making a fool of yourself or breaking someone’s else’s confidentiality?

Even obtaining that info, how do they stay that elusive, remain anonymous? Simple, solely reliant on the word schtumm and tight lips.

James had been introduced to a friend of a friends friend once, he was the acquaintance, although he was sure he had been given a birth name, he wasn’t allowed that privelidge, a nasty slim drainpipe of a bloke, scruffy shoes and basically rough as a bag of nails. Having had instruction never to speak to him if he saw him out in public, never to engage in unnecessary conversation when he needed to contact him, only information he needed was, how much and where? The return exchange was the time and same routine instructions every time!

Indications of discounts on huge amounts of merchandise were mentioned, especially if submitting big orders by impossible set dates, of course, back handers often prioritise the process along, which always helps. Certainly, many people are not aware of how this trade off happens, it’s common in commerce, industry, construction and just about any establishment or walk of life, thinking about it, it’s happening wether you know about it or ever even thought about it, but now, James was now a part of it, in deep, well deep!

Here, he had this magic contact, eleven numerics entered in his box of many tricks, under the name A C Quaintance, why not? it’s a plausible surname after all! Talking to himself he refers to him as AC, it’s easier. This contact stood idle for sometime, he kept mulling the idea over of scoring, eventually, he thought to himself, *well, I’m sure i can just give it a try once, just to see how it goes*.

Many of the larger underground tube stations are scary places, and ascending to street level even when visiting on above board business, everyone is clocking everyone else, checking out your clothes, your shoes, your bags, anything & everything! Watching ones own back is terrifying enough, but having a secret agenda makes it even worse. Body language to a professional would have indicated a sign above his head read “bad man”

James headed nervously towards the agreed meeting area, some small side streets allowing traffic through, albeit tight for both vehicle and pedestrians, he spots AC, he’s stood tight against a wall, his right foot is rolling back n forth over a coca cola tin, dented and obviously once consumed. He acknowledges … dropping his similar vessel to the floor, they both hastily head for each other’s trade off gift.

At this point it’s either a make or break situation why not just do a runner he thought to himself, but that would upset the whole process, and not knowing an outcome like that, he’d rather drive past the hospital than actually take a chance of riding in an ambulance, or even worse! Clumsily he picks this battered can up, recognising he is now a lowlife, people don’t pick cans up out of the gutter, unless ….! James walks quickly down to the nearest bus stop, everyone is staring at this bad man, never the less he’s aware his and others’ weekend scores are in this aluminium drinks can, He was on fire, burning inside, well aware that this “something” was already bringing great feelings of euphoria, way before the experience of short sharp trips administered by the smack fairy were actually due to happen. The journey home was a nightmare, public transport brings home how awful being cramped into tight spaces could be, however looking around the bus, especially as it’s early Friday evening, he notices almost everyone seems to have a certain sparkle in their eyes and a slight grin, all busy on mobiles phones desperately trying to get their dance cards marked & securing another kind of acquaintance for the night.

London skylines

This is a whole new ball game for me attempting to write a blog, my rather clouded brain can remember what happened thirty years ago with colour perfect detail, yet, if I was asked what I did yesterday Id certainly have to think a little harder, I lie, a lot harder.

Eleven years ago I had two strokes, the first one I’m sure was just checking to see if I actually had any senses to give me a good beating, strangely, the warning signs I experienced of not grasping the kettle handle and weakness on my left side were pushed aside, all part I guess of a work hard, play hard lifestyle, looking back now, what a mess I was in.

I had moved to London from my home town where I had met my now dear dear friend Chris, once life partner, (but, that’s another story) we lived just off the SouthBank near the Globe Theatre, London Bridge Tube station and Borough Market, which incidentally is now featured in almost every cookery programme on TV and a sure fired place to pay nearly £5 for an organic cucumber.
Our little flat was marked as *C* of ten, on the second floor of a Victorian building, originally built for the poor in 1864, a concept by a woman with an agenda named Octavia Hall, who later gave her legacy to the birth of The National Trust.

Red painted cast iron railings adorned the exterior, the East facing vista comprised of the mainline railways from Charing Cross, Cannon street and junctions to either London Bridge or Waterloo East, uneven & dilapidated roofs of printing houses, warehouses and the Hop Exchange, pigeons, lots of them, oh and a vacant space on the skyline which is now occupied by The Shard, now a building of beauty, once but a dream, a vision of a rag trade merchant who operated from Carnaby Street, a business man named Irvin Sellar aiming high into the future.

I can still hear the continuos screaming of worn train wheels braking on the rail tracks, and of course the smell, black greasy carbon like, the grime permeating it’s way into the interior of the flat where such happy memories were made & laughter abound.

A brewery originally owned by Barclays Brewers, later to be monopolised by Courage once stood adjacent, the yard where the horse & dreys operated from is now a complex of assisted living units for the aged and disabled whose inhabitants stare out onto a courtyard and a fountain, lonely souls awaiting company from family members who sometimes remember them.

….. Now, what was I saying?!

*nods head & enters room*

“Good morning to you all” I say in a forced cheerful voice, knowing too well it’s only 04:50hrs, many of you are fast asleep, recharging ones own internal batteries, whilst the rest of us are sat here in the largest cafe in the world, deleting the last vestiges of any amperic values,  correct .. You’ve guessed it, …. Insomnia Cafe!

 it’s taken me two hours to finally pluck up courage and create my own blog account.

Having had encouragement from a complete stranger whom I met on Twitter almost two years ago and after reading her daily blogs it has given me the crazy mad cap idea of divulging a few of my experiences in life and my former working career, I may even throw in the odd curve ball and surprise you with a few “what happened in Vegas ” type scenarios, but that will only happen once I get to know a few of you out there a little better, or wether I’m feeling brave enough to risk facing a lawsuit.

Athough I haven’t met this lovely lady, I now consider her as a dear *friend* and in my mind wears a badge of “prized place core tweeter”,  thank you Rosie for giving me the kick in the butt.