Nice Times (5)

Ollie was born in the bungalow next door, and since lives with us in a bungalow on one level. When he was less than one year old, we asked our next door neighbours the other side to look after him overnight, so we could go to a wedding in Hertfordshire. We took him into their two-storey house to make sure he would settle there, and he spotted the stairs. Although he had no idea what they were, he ran straight up them immediately, then stood on the landing looking down at us. Then he rushed back down, repeating the process numerous times until he was out of breath. He thought they were a game, like a child on a slide in the park. It was so delightful to see him discovering stairs.

A long weekend in Rome, a present for my 50th birthday and my first time in Italy. On the first morning, we walked from the hotel to see The Colosseum. It was so much better than I had expected, and just took my breath away with its grandeur and history. Standing inside, I pictured the gladiators fighting on the sand of the large arena, and the crowds watching. Some things are more wonderful than you can ever imagine they might be, and that was one of them.

After the break up of my first marriage, I had to basically learn from scratch how to fend for myself. Determined not to fall into bad eating habits like microwave meals and shop-bought pizzas, I bought a copy of Delia Smith’s book, ‘How To Cook’. Following her instructions to the letter, I cooked myself a small joint of pork with roast potatoes, accompanied by red cabbage cooked with apples and spices. I sat and ate it on my own, in the small house I had bought in London’s Docklands development. It was delicious!

In 2000, I had moved from Hertfordshire into my flat near Regent’s Park, in Camden. My (second) ex-wife contacted me and said she was going to be shopping in the west end that Saturday with a friend I knew well, and asked if I would like to meet up. I met them in Soho, at a coffee bar in Old Compton Street that was known for selling delicious cakes. (Amato, sadly since closed down) The late Spring weather was lovely, and I was feeling good. We had a nice chat over coffee and cakes, and when they left, I wandered over to Charing Cross Road to look in some of the second-hand bookshops that the area is famous for. I bought three hardback books, and strolled home to the flat, stopping at a pub in Tottenham Court Road. I sat outside drinking a glass of wine, and flicking through the books I had bought. Happy to be back in the heart of the city.

A year later, in 2001, I made the unexpected decision at the age of 49 to leave the Ambulance Service and go to work for the Metropolitan Police. I had to attend the Police Training Centre in Hendon, and complete an intensive 14-week course. It was a pass or fail course, and I knew that if I didn’t get through I would be out of a job for the first time since my youth. I found it hard, as I was the oldest one in the class, and had very little experience of using computers. But when we had the final crucial examination, I passed in the top half of the group. As I drove home that evening, I felt I had really achieved something.

41 thoughts on “Nice Times (5)

  1. A man never will forget the first meal he has to cook himself, and eat as his only guest. 😉 It seems you had got knowledge of living in all relevant areas of London. Great experiences, for sure. Love this series, Pete! Thank you for sharing. xx Michael

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  2. (1) Pete’s journal entry: Ollie stares at me from the top of the stares. I read in his eyes, “You comin’ up or what? Not sure? Let me show you how it’s done!”
    (2) The Colosseum took your breath away. Many a gladiator had the same experience before his body was taken away.
    (2b) “..gladiators fighting on the sand of the large arena…” Linguistically redundant, since “arena” is the Spanish word for “sand”—but the Colosseum is in Italy, so you get a pass.
    (2c) Back in 1970, when I was a teenager, I went on my first trip to Europe (with my parents and two sisters). In one week’s time, we made stops in Frankfurt, Athens, Rome, and Paris. Highlights of the trip included the Autobahn, the Acropolis, the Colosseum (plus the Vatican, etc.), and the Eiffel Tower (plus the Louvre, etc.).
    (3) I ordered Delia Smith’s book, “How To Cook,” but the order got mixed up! The vendor sent me “How to Cook” by Hannibal Lecter, plus a coupon for a bag of fava beans…
    (4a) Do you know why there are second-hand book shops in Papua New Guinea? It’s because cannibals need to make money. Hands are particularly delectable, and are therefore quite valuable. So the cannibals eat the first hand, and set the second hand aside as a leftover. Anyone who wants to eat a second hand can book a reservation at the tribal table by going to a second-hand book shop. (Prices vary. Order while supplies last.)
    (4b) Cannibals are known to enjoy an intensive 14-course meal.
    (5) So far, “Nice Times” has not included a visit to Big Ben in the clock tower.

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    1. 4a) and 4b) is a work in itself. Extensive punning of the highest order. And I award you that highest order for you skills of invention!
      5) I got the pun, but have to confess I have never been inside The Elizabeth Tower (renamed to that in 2012) to see the bell named Big Ben. A memory, and a nice time, that I shall sadly never have. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. You sound a little surprised to have passed in the top half Pete. I think when we don’t know something (computers) at our age we soak up the training more without the bad habits some people who think they know computers do. I’m not surprised you did well. Such an interesting life you’ve led.
    Hugs

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    1. Thanks, David. I was lucky to be sat next to a young man who helped me a lot. He used to finish the (non-exam) excercises in half the alloted time, then he would help me work my way through the Police dedicated computer systems. I was already experienced in radio procedure and other emergency-services stuff from my time in the ambulance service, so once I got my head around the other new things, I became more confident.
      (For example, on a Police Computer, the keyboard is nothing remotely like a conventional one, so I had to reeducate myself with typing too.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you are an industrious and interesting man Pete. I like that you had the courage to make such a big change later in life. I’ve made some sudden moves that shocked people too, but nothing as brave as you! I seem to recall that BA had training facilities in Hendon. Maybe I remember the name incorrectly. I went there a number of times myself and stayed in their rotten accomodation. Like being in prison! It was near Heathrow. Keep them coming Pete! And yes, I love the image of Ollie!

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    1. Hendon is nowhere near Heathrow. It is in North London, off the A1 on the way to Hertfordshire. I looked up the distance, and it is almost 18 miles. Perhaps you are thinking of Hanworth? That is on the edge of the airport perimiter, less than 3 miles away.
      Thanks for your kind words about me, Carolyn. I am not so industrious since retiring, but like to think I can still be interesting. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. Great memories Pete.

    I’m been on holiday in the gloriously beautiful state of Idaho for about ten days now with six more to go so I have not touched my phone much.

    I and am planning on catching up on Gill’s exploits when I return to Arizona.

    Cheers!
    CT

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  6. These are all wonderful memories, Pete. Obtaining education/training later in life and doing well is such a great feeling. I took a 2 year distance learning university diploma course while working full time and graduated with honours at the age of 50. It was such a good feeling and led me to another path in my career which changed my life. Well worth the effort.

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  7. I was lucky enough to be placed in a hotel literally ‘just up the road’ from the Colosseum when I was working on an acting job back in 2005: it was Ghostboat, starring David Jason. It was a great experience, although I didn’t have as much time to explore the city as I would have liked, but working at the Cinecittà studios [where The Gangs of New York was filmed], and acting in the articulated submarine rig there, was “awesome” 😉 I only had one line in that, but apparently David Jason was sufficiently impressed to give me an opportunity in an episode of A Touch of Frost with a few more lines. Happy days! Cheers, Jon.

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    1. Nice memories for you too, Jon. I did watch ‘Ghostboat’ when it was shown, and I used to watch ‘A Touch of Frost’ too. Next time they are repeated, I will have to look out for you!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  8. I love reading this series, Pete. I like thinking of you happy, achieved, and smiling. The note about your trip to Rome and The Colosseum made me think you could write a fiction piece based on what you imagine transpired there. Not sure why, but I felt a Pete story there.

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