Domestic stuff: Apologies

I am in the middle of the process of trying to get my kitchen brought into the 21st century.
This has involved a huge amount of cleaning, as well as discarding numerous things that I had kept, ‘just in case’.

As a result, I am absolutley exhausted tonight, and unable to keep up with all your posts.

I am sorry, but I assure you that ‘normal service’ will be resumed soon. Meanwhile, if I have not read your post, or liked and commented, now you know why.

Best wishes, Pete.

Blog Feature: Usual Muttwits

Some readers may recall a blog started by one of my oldest friends, Julian. It was full of amusing stories about the doggy residents of an imaginary town, and their feline arch-enemy. Well that blog has been revamped, and now has great new illustrations by Zozo alongside the amusing stories.

Each character now has their own feature too, with the drawings summing them up perfectly.

Whether lamenting about the lack of available food, or investigating new canine arrivals, the antics of the Muttwits gang reads like a wonderful soap opera of the activities of all the pets in the town of Westley Piddle. If you own a dog, have ever owned one, or just love them, I am sure you will find this blog a delight. There is also a book in the works.
Dogs tails from Westley Piddle

So check out this new blog, treat yourself to some great illustrations, and a good laugh at the stories. Perfect Lockdown relief!

Becky: Part Five

This is the fifth part of a fiction serial, in 750 words.

I was staying late at work one night, trying to make a few grand for the bank with some stragglers. Those dealers who waited until the last moment, the time just before the operation changed over to our night shift guys who worked on the floor above. The last-minute deals were sometimes lucrative, as they would haggle less, and often drop down to as low as half a cent on the dollar commission on any subsequent profit. And it didn’t hurt that I was still logged on to my terminal at nine at night, when everyone else had left the floor.

That wouldn’t go unnoticed.

As I stood up and closed down the screen, I turned to reach for my jacket, and saw her standing right by the back wall. She was wearing a green tabard over a simple dress, and carrying one of those plastic things that hold spray bottles and cloths. Encouraged by my screen going dark, she walked forward. “Okay to clean now, please?” The accent sounded Russian, maybe Polish. I apologised for making her wait. I had never noticed any cleaners waiting before, but I was normally gone by eight.

She just smiled, and started spraying something on the nearest desk.

When I got across to the row of lifts, I turned back before pressing the button. I watched as she cleaned rythmically, her natural black hair shining in the lights left on by the terminal. Older than me, maybe thirty-five. Neither skinny, nor overweight. I pressed the button, and carried on looking. When the ding sounded to announce the lift had arrived, she turned and looked at me. I smiled, and she smiled back.

The next night I joined the guys for a quick beer after work, then went back into the building. Checking my watch, I hoped I had guessed right. I almost missed her, as she was just walking into the service corridor entrance as I got to my floor. She stopped when she saw me. “You forget something? I get it for you?” I smiled and told her that I had come looking for her, and would she give me her number, so I could call her to arrange a date. It hadn’t occurred to me that she might be married, or have someone regular, and I was embarrassed as she hesitated. “Okay, I’m Justina. You can have my number sir”. I grinned like a kid, and told her my name was Francis, and she didn’t have to call me sir.

When I got my phone out, she called out the number loudly and slowly, as if to make sure I got it right. Then when I nodded, she took the phone out of my hand and checked it to make sure I had.

I rang her at five the next afternoon, and agreed to meet her on Saturday, though my heart sank when she told me she lived in Neasden. From Beckton to Neasden is a bad enough journey by public transport, but driving there would be a nightmare in shopping traffic. So I was very pleased when she suggested meeting in Trafalgar Square outside the National Gallery, by the steps. I wouldn’t have to drive, and with her suggested time of midday, we could make it into a long date. She was already there when I arrived, and suggested we go in to look at some paintings. As we went back up the steps, she held my arm, as if she had always been my girlfriend.

By the time we had walked across the bridge to see more paintings at the Hayward Gallery, then headed back to settle down for a drink in a pub on The Strand, I already knew that she was thity-seven, divorced, and from Lithuania. Despite her heavy accent, her English was fine. She had been to university in Vilnius, where she had studied English, got a degree, and then discovered there was no work. So she got married to the former boyfriend from her small town instead. She had been in London for over eight years, renting a room in a shared house, and doing crap jobs for minimum wage. I suggested a film in Leicester Square, then a Chinese meal in Soho after, and she nodded enthusiastically.

Between the film and the restaurant, I stopped in Newport Place and kissed her. She kissed me back.

As we waited for the crispy duck pancakes to arrive, I looked across at her, and she blushed.

That’s when I fell in love with her.

Guest Post. Megha Gupta

I am pleased to present a guest post from Indian writer and blogger, Megha Gupta.

Here is her own short bio.

Hello, I am Megha. I come from India and I’ve been living in the Netherlands since last four years. I am 31 – not too old, energetic and optimistic. Reading, writing and Travelling are my top three likes. So far, I’ve travelled across 23 countries and I aim to reach the 50 mark by the time I am 35 years old. By profession, I am risk Consultant but by heart I am a writer. I’ve been writing (old style) since last seven years but have only published a blog this year. My blog (link at the bottom) is my collection of experiences and opinions about life & things & places & people.
In this post, I share my experience of visiting Auschwitz. Even if you haven’t heard of Auschwitz, I’m sure you would see it (& know it), through my eyes as you read this.

And this is her unedited guest post.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO VISIT AUSCHWITZ?

If you haven’t heard of Auschwitz, Imagine a slaughter house (not for animals, but for humans). Imagine a place where millions of Jews were confined for years, tortured to death by hard labour, thirst, extreme hunger and suffocation. The reason for death being- neither Crime nor War but the belief in a superior race. Imagine how humans could be responsible for more than a million deaths in a place this small. (in the name of saving humanity from other humans – Jews). Auschwitz is not old history but very much a part of recent century. Nazi Germany master minded this extermination camp (and many others) during world war ii with the sole aim of systematically eradicating the race of Jews.
So last year, when I planned my visit to Auschwitz, it was not unusual for people to ask why I would choose to go there? Wouldn’t it be depressing? In my defence, not visiting this place, merely excuses us from reality, hoping we forget it someday. There is No history book that can convey the happenings of this place to a degree that it instils your memory.
Somewhere inside Auschwitz, I found this quote that sums up the reason why people need to see this place.

I cannot deny the fact that this place is downright melancholy. You would be standing in the site of holocaust witnessing Exhibits of the dead (millions) piled on top of one another. It has a room full of belongings that were stripped off from the inmates before they entered the camp. A room full of gas canisters that were used to suffocate them to death. A room full of human hair that were shaved off from their dead bodies before being burned by the Nazis.
A guide will take you around the camp and tell you how a typical day looked like for these prisoners. You will see the laboratory that was used to experiment on prisoners, inducing them with deadly diseases. You will see the kitchen that has some paintings that the prisoners drew to keep themselves hopeful. You will also see the punishment cells, gas chambers, the shooting wall and a room fitted with body sized ovens. If this does not melt your heart, a thousand photo frames mounted in a large corridor showing the victims, their age and survival span in the camp, definitely would.
By the end of this visit, you are loaded emotionally. Some cry, some hold back tears. Some ponder how humans could be capable of this act. How could some still hope to live in this situation. How strong were the people who survived the camp? Does the trauma impact their free lives later on?
This wasn’t over for me yet. I was feeling restless. A visit to Auschwitz raised some very fundamental questions about human nature, survival and our relative mental strengths. I slept on these questions for days following. Later, I learned about an Auschwitz survivor, a psychologist – Viktor Frankl. Viktor was one of the fortunate ones to have survived this place. He says, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any how “. For Viktor, the why was a hope to finish his book about logotherapy. He wrote this book after he was released from the camp. What was supposed to be psychology theory, turned out to be a truly personal account of his survival in Auschwitz detailing how the camp impacted the inmates psychologically, why some survived while others didn’t.

His book “Man’s search for meaning” was published in 1946 and became an instant bestseller. I read it a month after my visit and regard this as a closure to my quest for Auschwitz.
P.S – The photo at the top, shows the gate of Auschwitz inscripted as ARBEIT MACHT FREI” meaning work makes you free.
Paradoxically, It was death that made these inmates free.

Here is a link to Megha’s blog.
https://myhandwrites.com/

Please visit her blog to see what else she is writing about, and welcome this new blogger to our great community.

Sandwich: Finishing my crusts

The last of the four posts about the historic town of Sandwich, from 2015. The photos do benefit from enlarging them, as you can see fine detail. This reblog may be of interest to my more recent followers.

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After my last three posts about this town in Kent, I thought I had more or less played it out. However, I have now decided to add the final photos, those omitted from the previous posts, for reasons of space, or interest. These will be the last ones, I promise.

Three rooftops. This shows the metal cupola of St Peter’s Church. Taken from a distance, it also shows the distinctive styles of rooftops in the town. One tiled, one made from stones, and the metal church roof. Like all the other photos that day, it would have looked so much better, had the weather been a little nicer.

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This circular room above what is now a gift shop looked suitably nautical. I wondered what it might look like inside.

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Holy Ghost Alley looks very much like the sort of alley where you might well encounter a ghost.

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This house dates…

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Becky: Part Four

This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 751 words.

Before Becky, there were a couple of others. We flashed our money around back then, and could often take our pick of the Essex girls who were also hanging around after work, or sometimes the posh birds looking for a bit of rough. I got regular with a girl named Charly who it turned out lived quite close to me. I thought her name was short for Charlotte at first, but it turned out her parents had actually called her Charly.

She was big on fake tan and tattoos, and spent over half her salary on beauty treatments and clothes. Her parents treated her like an Essex princess, and she acted like one too. I had learned to drive in college, and finally had enough money to get a car. But it sat on the driveway of the house all week, as it was no good even thinking about driving into work. So I used it at weekends to take Charly around, and her destination of choice was usually Lakeside shopping centre, or the snazzy one called Bluewater, across the river in Kent.

It seemed perfectly normal for her to want to spend every date in a shopping mall, as we could also see a film, and have a meal there. But getting together for sex was tricky. No chance in her house, and awkard in mine, even though I knew they wouldn’t say anything if she stopped over. So it had to be a quickie in the car, mostly in the sports ground car park near where I lived. Then after six months, her dad had a word with me about where we were going to live when we got married. He was thinking about an extension over the garage, he told me, and said it was ours if we wanted it.

I ran a mile after that. Well not literally, I worked out a plan for her to chuck me. Started by saying I wasn’t well and missing two dates. Then forgetting to ring her when I said I would. I waited to deliver the killer blow one night when I left her at home waiting for me to pick her up. When I was half an hour late, she rang me, and I said I had to meet an old mate. Well, a princess like her isn’t going to be messed about, so she told me. And at least I gave her the satisfaction of being able to convince herself she broke up with me.

That did make me realise something though. I needed my own place. I earned enough to get a mortgage, and I had the ten percent deposit saved, as my mum never took anything off me for living at home. She said she wouldn’t, as long as I saved it up for something sensible. Well a one-bedroom starter home in Beckton was sensible enough, and that was what I bought. My own dedicated parking space, open-plan ground floor with a small patio garden, and a bedroom with en-suite upstairs. Then I could get the DLR into work, and have an extra twenty minutes in bed.

My parents helped with furniture and stuff, and my dad took a week off to paint all the walls and ceilings for me. My first night alone in my own house felt really weird. I sat out on the patio and ate a pizza from its box, washed down with two beers. Beckton was a soulless development, with little going for it. But it would do me for now.

I found out that fending for myself was bloody expensive. Electric bills, council tax, water rates, all on top of the mortgage. I stopped eating out after work, and started to be careful with money for the first time in my life. The guys in the office ribbed me about not going out for beers, but I knew that would end up with a meal, maybe a club, then a taxi home. I might be able to do that once a month, but not four nights a week, like those guys. Of course, they did most of it on credit cards, but if I used a card to buy anything, the debt started to play on my mind.

I settled for lonely nights in front of the telly, and Sunday dinners at my parents’ house. They praised me up for being sensible, but I felt like I had already given up, and got old before my time.

Then I met Justina.

A Relaxed Rules Saturday In Beetley

Here is another pandemic lockdown report from Beetley. This time, under the newly relaxed rules.

Things haven’t changed that much, though the hot weather brought out families with small children sunbathing around the river bend at The Meadows. Traffic was noticeable on the Holt Road leading north to the coast, despite most facilities there still being closed. I dread to think about all those people going to the toilet in the countryside and on beaches, and the disposable nappies being dumped carelessly.

But they don’t live there, so what do they care?

Locally, there has been an increase in walkers and bird watchers on Hoe Rough, with the small car park busy at all times. People are still carrying on with social distancing, I am happy to see, and nobody stands close, or walks by on a narrow path. It has the feeling of something that may well become the ‘new behaviour’.

Ollie had a much-needed bath this week, as the groomer had reopened. The closest I got to her was a long stretch to pass Ollie’s lead, and handing over the money into her gloved hand when I collected him. His fur feels much better, but the hot weather didn’t improve his ‘hot-dog’ smell, that’s for sure.

And it has been hot. 27C is very unusual for May, and it didn’t drop much below 25 C until yesterday. That means fans in the evening, watching TV, and fans in the bedroom to get a decent sleep. It also means mosquitoes, and I have three bites on my left arm, and two on my left leg. I should have guessed, and taken precautions. I will be from now on.

Strange gusty winds have appeared. They don’t cool things down that much, but give the sense of standing on the deck of a small boat, being buffeted.

They are quite nice, I have concluded.