Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

The Quiet Life.

I woke up earlier to the distant sound of a lawn mower, which stopped soon after. Almost a hour later, and one car drove past the house. Since then, the only noise has been the sound of confused bees flying into the windows.
The soft tapping as they try a few times, before realising it is pointless.

The quiet life indeed.

Remembering the sayings of my youth today.
‘Live fast, and die young’. ‘Better to burn out, than just fade away’.

I genuinely never expected to get old. I worked in stressful jobs, smoked too many cigarettes, and liked a drink too. I lived fast, but didn’t die young. I used to say that I would be lucky to see sixty, and when I got to sixty, thought another five years might see me out. But that didn’t happen. I think about why that didn’t come to pass, and can only put it down to living a quiet life.
I stopped worrying about being able to go to shows and exhibitions, or the ability to eat out anytime I chose to. Stopped worrying about having to keep in touch with everyone, and to meet up on a constant rota of plans and engagements. And I moved away from the stress of life in the big city, the constant noise, and crowded streets.

I got a dog, and started to wander about. Living a quiet life.

I rarely go out in the evenings, and there is no circle of friends for me to socialise with. I sleep longer, think a lot more, take some photos occasionally, and read some books. The closest I get to excitement these days is enjoying a binge-watch of a TV series, or a good film that I have been looking forward to seeing.

When I lived in London, I used to hear people talking about wanting to live a quiet life, somewhere peaceful. I thought they lacked imagination, and would regret that choice. They would hanker after the bright lights and entertainment choices they had left behind, later realising that they had made the wrong decision. I didn’t tell them that of course, believing they had to find out the hard way.

Then I got to the age when I could imagine the same thing. I remembered those conversations with a wry smile, as I found myself having them with younger people keen to deter me from making the same decision. I concluded that you have to wait for the right time. That time when the quiet life beckons, and you are able to embrace it.

And I did.

Ollie’s Nose

Ollie is a dog driven by the need to sniff things and smell them carefully. His nose can seemingly detect almost anything long before he can see it with his eyes. And because he has never been neutered, his main obsession is to leave his own scent everywhere, to let every other dog and animal around know that he is in the ‘Hood’. The short walk to Beetley Meadows, with the entrance visible from our house, begins with Ollie sniffing our front hedge. He then marks a few leaves of that hedge, just in case any other dogs are in doubt that he lives here.

Next, every road sign, wheelie bin, front gate, and back fence has to be marked, in a walk of less than one hundred yards that can take a good few minutes. Then his lead is removed, and he is free to mark the sign telling everyone about Beetley Meadows, before dealing with the four corners of the fences surrounding the children’s playground, followed by the basketball court. The first big Oak tree always gets a cursory splash, prior to the serious work of marking the nettles and other plants fringing the pathways.

Once he is satisfied with that, he lifts his head, nose twitching. He is trying to get the smell of any other local dogs, or a squirrel or deer in the vicinity. I am usually well ahead of him by the time he catches me up, after he has been checking under the blackberry bushes for any evidence of much smaller dogs who might have peed up them. Once we get to the bend in the river, Ollie goes into overdrive. There is the rubbish bin to deal with, the dog-waste bin, and the assorted picnic tables and benches.

By now, his ‘marking tanks’ have almost run dry, so he is straight into the river to refill them with a very big drink. Cooled and replenished, he trots off to sort out half a dozen molehills, and the reeds at the side of the riverbank. All this, and we have only been out for ten minutes. Once we are under the trees, every tree and overhanging branch must be inspected. As those trees are home to lots of squirrels, this takes a considerable amount of time. So I carry on walking, and let him catch me up later.

If he arrives with his jowls covered in froth, looking like he has just downed an exceptionally milky cappuccino, then I can be sure he has detected some ‘lady-dog pee’. And if that dog was in season, he will have enough foam around his mouth to make any passerby think he had Rabies.

We have now arrived at the bridge, on the way across to Hoe Rough.

The bridge has to be inspected carefully by Ollie. So many dogs cross it in a day, that he has to mark at least three spots, sometimes five. And woe betide I try to pull him away using his lead. He will stand his ground, suddenly becoming dead weight, refusing to budge until the sniffing is complete. Getting through the gate at Hoe Rough is a mission in itself. Every wooden bar and post of the large gate has to be examined in minute detail, and ‘precision pees’ delivered onto the smallest areas. Any dog coming onto the small nature reserve must be left in no doubt that Ollie has entered before them.

Then I let him off again, for the majority of his daily walk. Off he goes, tracking overnight deer, dogs from earlier that day, and any other smell of any sort he can detect. Once the long walk is over, you can guarantee that he will repeat the process as we retrace our steps on the way home.

Just in case.

The Longest Day

Today is midsummer’s day, in this part of the world. The sun will not set until 9:30 this evening, giving today its title of the longest day.

From tomorrow, the sun will begin to set earlier, as the countdown to autumn begins.

But it has stopped raining, finally. Even a supposedly dry day yesterday saw some light showers here, and that made it a full three weeks with rain every day. However, the sun is shining this morning, and the forecast is good.
At least for a few days.

Ollie will enjoy a much longer walk, and I will cherish a dry day to walk him in. If they got the forecast right, I might even be able to tackle some jobs in the neglected garden tomorrow, and will be hoping that the last remaining water from the small flood in the shed dries out.

Weather can affect our mood, so they say. I know it certainly affects mine.

Happy midsummer’s day, everyone! 🙂

Counting my blessings

I have been writing (read moaning) a lot about the weather recently. The wettest June on record in the UK, and almost three weeks of non-stop rain. There is more forecast for later today, with the chance of thunderstorms and hailstorms tomorrow too. The weather forecaster warned of more ‘significant rainfall’ in the week to come. But despite being fed up to the point of depression with the dark skies, wet walks with Ollie, and a water intrusion into an outbuilding, I have to take some comfort that it is not as bad as this.

Less than a two-hour drive from here.

The Army needed, to try to fight the overflowing rivers.

People being evacuated from flooded houses.

Cherished homes full of water.

Impassable roads and flooded cars ruined.

Watching such images on the news makes me realise that I am lucky by comparison. And I can only sympathise with the poor people who are forced to live in temporary emergency accommodation, then have to return to water-damaged houses. And they are unable to drive anywhere, even if their car has managed to escape the water.

I’m still fed up of course, but I am counting my blessings that I don’t live in those places.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Volunteering.

(This post is mainly for the benefit of new readers and followers, as the theme and photos have been seen here before)

I woke up today thinking about the time I was a volunteer in the community. Hoping to stay active, and get to know more people, I decided to be an unpaid volunteer in three different jobs.

The first job I took on was cycle safety training, at the local junior school around the corner. As this was seasonal, I also applied to work for the Fire Service, as a community volunteer. The bulk of this job involved fitting smoke alarms in the houses of elderly or disadvantaged people living in a twenty-mile radius of Dereham. I was given a short training course, issued with a uniform and identity badge, and then took delivery of a small toolkit, as well as a few cases of smoke alarms. I also had to attend a course on how to safely use a step-ladder of just three rungs. 🙂

This service was provided free of charge by The Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, and restricted to people over the age of 65, or with a registered disability. I initially agreed to work for 2-3 days a week, from 8 am until 1 pm, so that I could always be back to take Ollie out. I would receive a list of names and addresses, and make appointments to call on them and fit the smoke alarms. I was issued with a mobile phone to make these calls, and paid a mileage rate to use my own car. Whilst at the houses, I would also carry out a general fire safety check, and give advice to the person living there.

This soon became busier than I expected, with me being asked to make more appointments than I could ever keep up with in the time I had allowed for it. Then I was asked to give talks to community groups too, speaking about fire safety in the home, and the importance of having smoke alarms fitted. If that wasn’t enough, I was also seconded to the school fire safety unit, where we did a dramatised presentation to busloads of local school-children, at specially organised venues. For most of those, I had to play the part of a fireman, in full kit and equipment.

Very soon, I was out of the house most days of the week, and struggling to get back in time for the dog-walking. Despite that, I was constantly asked to do more and more, by people who were being paid a good salary to organise us volunteers, then watching us do what they should have been doing for their salaries. So after more than a year, I gave it up. What had started as a feel-good community experience had rapidly turned into an unpaid, demanding job.

Meanwhile, I was still doing the cycle safety courses at Beetley School. I did get to meet a lot of local people, many of whom I still see around here, and they remember me teaching their kids to ride bikes safely. But this volunteering job also had an unpleasant side. This was in the form of a new regional supervisor, again someone getting well paid to supervise people doing this for free, instead of doing it themselves. She delighted in criticising me at every opportunity, as well as treating the kids as if we were doing them a favour by allowing them onto the course. And most of them were only ten years old, too young to be expected to respond like adults of course.

So not long after quitting the Fire Service job, I parted company with Norfolk Road Safety too.

I reflected on something my Dad had once told me, a hangover from his days as a regular soldier. “Never volunteer”.

But when I heard that Dereham Windmill was looking for volunteer guides, I weakened, and offered my services. I was strict this time though. I told them that I would work one day a week only, and finish at 2 pm. This seemed to suit them, so I received a short instructional course about the windmill, and started the next week. It had recently been refurbished, and opened to the public as an historical building and educational experience. I took some photos of it, when I worked there.


Unfortunately, some of the other volunteers frequently asked me to cover more days, including weekends and special Windmill Events. I stuck to my guns, and only ever worked on Fridays, something that didn’t make me feel very popular. Then they opened a new visitor’s cafe, and wanted everyone to go on a rota of working in there too. I declined, as I didn’t want to be a volunteer in a cafe, when I had joined to work inside the windmill. This made me something of an outsider, the ‘Friday Man’ who wouldn’t do anything else. Then after I had been there for some time, I developed vertigo, and that didn’t suit constant trips up and down stairs that are little more than vertical ladders.

I took some time off, trying to get the condition treated. But I eventually decided I had done enough, and resigned my job there too.

I have no inclination to volunteer again. Although I am glad that I did what I did, and gave a lot back to the local community, I learned that volunteers are often put upon, and always expected to do more than agreed. If you are thinking of volunteering, be careful what you choose to do.

Summer Moon

10 pm, last night. The rain had stopped for three hours, and we finally saw a full moon over Beetley. I went outside with my camera, but this was the best I could get, at 200 mm full zoom.
It is a poor photo of the Moon, but the point was that this was the first time it had been visible for over a week, due to the low black clouds finally disappearing. And it was still light, even at that late hour.

Next door’s cat spotted me, and came for a stroke. Alfie knows me well, as I feed him when they are away, and he likes to play with Ollie too. I call him ‘Alfredo Cat’, and he recognises his name. But he wasn’t exactly in the mood to pose for me, once he realised I had no food. So the photo is not in focus, as he kept moving.

After almost a week of rain, the simple pleasure of stepping outside with the camera is something to relish.

It Stopped Raining!

After four solid days and nights of torrential rain, I have to note that it has just stopped raining!

Registered at 19:43 hours, on the 13th of June. (Yes, Summer!)

When the cessation of rain is worth a blog post, you truly know what it is like to have been under water for so long.

I don’t think for a moment that this is the end of it, but not having to listen to rain hitting the windows is a joy beyond compare.

So, for all of you perhaps tired of days that are too warm and dry. Be careful what you wish for!

It was worth using ‘bold print’, I assure you!