Birthdays make you reflect on life. At least that is the case for me. For most of my adult life, I never expected to live until I was 60, let alone 71. Now I have reached that age, I wonder if I will see 80. But I very much doubt that.


Well, I was a smoker for over 40 years. And a hardened smoker. Strong cigarettes, up to two packs a day. I gave up in 2012, but that was almost certainly too late to do much good.

I worked shifts in stressful jobs. Irregular hours, bad diet, difficult jobs that required putting yourself second.

Since I turned 30, I have liked to drink. Mostly red wine, but at one time, a lot of red wine. I might be down to one glass a day now, but the damage has undoubtedly been done, as it was with the cigarettes.

Two divorces, the loss of savings and equity, the emotional carnage that comes with broken marriages. Starting again from scratch. More stress.

So it is March 2023, and a time for reflection.

Would I have changed anything? If I went back in a time machine, would I do it all differently?


I enjoyed every cigarette I ever smoked. I knew they were bad for me, but I didn’t care.

I enjoyed every glass of wine that I ever drank. I knew it wasn’t that good for me, but I didn’t care.

I enjoyed those stressful jobs. They did some good for society, and made me think I was making a difference.

The divorces had to happen. The marriages could not have endured.

Whatever finally does for me, it will have been my decision.

And there will be no blame, no regrets.

London’s Smallest Pubs

If you ever find yourself in London in need of an alcoholic drink, it might be something different to have that beverage in one of the smallest pubs the city has to offer.

The Coach and Horses. Bruton Street, W1. Mayfair.

The Dove, Upper Mall, W4. Chiswick, next to the River Thames.

The Euston Tap, Euston Station, NW1.

The Rake, Borough Market, SE1. Just south of London Bridge.

The Cask and Glass, Palace Street, SW1. Victoria.


World Maps: A Different View

I always enjoy finding unusual maps online. Here are some I discovered this morning.
(Click on image to enlarge)

Our world around 250,000,000 years ago, before the continents formed. It is known as Pangea.

Which brands originated in which US state?

Ginger hair? Who has the most redheads in Europe?

What’s your surname? The most common surnames in European countries.

Alcohol consumption in Europe. Russia takes the prize, which is only to be expected. Britain is just behind Germany.
(I’m doing my bit to help us catch up!)

An Alphabet Of Things I like: A

I once did a series of A-Z posts about films, directors, and actors. There was also a musical A-Z, featuring songs, singers, or groups.
This time, it is just about things I like, and that could be anything that starts with the letter.


This powerful alcoholic drink was once thought to drive people insane, and was even banned in some countries. There is a special way to drink the aniseed flavoured cloudy drink. First, add a little water to the green-coloured liquid. Then you have to have an Absinthe spoon. Soak one cube of sugar in the drink, then rest it on the spoon. Set light to the sugar cube, and then stir the flaming cube into the drink.

Be warned, at 55% volume, it is very strong. Some brands are available as high as 89% volume, and they can actually be injurious to health. (Most Vodka is 40%)

I have an unopened bottle in the drinks cupboard. It remains unopened for a good reason.

I like it far too much.

The Great British Public

Yesterday, the pubs in Britain could open for the first time in three months. People were naturally advised to be careful. Keep social distancing, obey the restricted numbers inside bars, and take some responsibility for their actions.

In Central London, this was the result.

Such pig-ignorance, and utter disrespect for all those who have died, and the essential workers and medical staff who have sacrificed so much since January.

Entitlement. Selfishness.

Those two words should be added to the flag of the United Kingdom.

A sociable Sunday

You may have noticed that I wasn’t around yesterday.

Every year on the Sunday of the August Bank Holiday, our local Thai restaurant hosts a free barbecue for the regular customers. It is a very nice thing for them to do, and much appreciated by the people in the area. When you get the invitation, it does make you feel that you are a lot more than just another customer, that’s for sure. We have only missed one year, when we had to attend a wedding, and we always look forward to it.

We set off as usual yesterday, having arranged to meet a group of friends in the garden surrounding the restaurant. It was a very hot afternoon, and attendance was the highest we have seen. Luckily, it is close enough for us to walk there, so we didn’t have to worry about parking, or a designated driver. Our friends had brought a large picnic blanket, and a good supply of folding chairs too. We were sitting around enjoying the food and convivial atmosphere, soaking up the welcome sunshine on that very warm afternoon.

Over the course of time, quite a few of us had a bit too much to drink. I had finished a bottle of red wine at a fair speed, and some were mixing drinks too, switching from cider and beer to wine, then back again. Everyone asked why we had not brought Ollie, so I decided to walk back and get him. By the time I returned with the dog, much to the delight of all there, especially a young girl, it was apparent that most of the adults had been carrying on drinking, as the merriment was increasing. I should have bought a bottle of water, and moved the chair into the shade. But that would have been sensible, and people drinking alcohol are rarely sensible.

So, I went inside and bought more wine, returning to my chair in the full afternoon sun. Others had progressed to strong liqueurs, and sparking wine too. It was all very jolly, and one friend suggested that we should all go to her house and continue the party. Lifts could be arranged with a phone call, from people who were not there, and would be happy to help. As we started to pack away, it was immediately apparent that a few of us were far from capable of moving on anywhere. Moving at all was a challenge, as the combination of hot sun, and too much booze finally took effect.

At that stage of the proceedings, my mind stopped remembering anything. But it went something like this.

With some difficulty, I did manage to walk home, assisted by Julie, who was rather squiffy herself. She had to cope with me, and Ollie on his lead too. I was walking in the style familiar to anyone who has ever had too much to drink. One step to the side, one step back, then a lurch forward. It took me at least three tries to complete one forward step. At some point close to home, I fell into a neighbour’s front garden. Two houses later, I fell onto the lawn of the garden next door. Once inside the house, I collapsed across a rug on the living room floor, and fell into a very deep sleep.

Later on, Julie tells me it was around 8 pm, I decided to get up off of the floor, and go to bed. That wasn’t going to be easy, and resulted in me falling heavily onto the steel wood-burning stove, bashing the back of my head, and cutting it in two places. Of greater concern, was the fact that I managed to move the stove on its stand, gouging a chunk of plaster out of the living room wall. With Julie helping me get out of my clothes, I managed to crash into bed, where I stayed until almost 9 this morning.

As I woke up, some flashes of memory restored many of the worst parts of the previous afternoon, including the fall against the stove. I gingerly examined the damage. A left thumb that feels as if it was removed, and then reattached. Painful ribs all along the left side, from contact with the neighbour’s frontage, and those two small cuts on the back of my head, sitting proudly atop small bruised swellings. But as I only had the same thing to drink during that session, I was spared a hangover, at least.

That’s why I wasn’t answering comments yesterday. 🙂

Significant Songs (36)

Tears Dry On Their Own

I first saw Amy Winehouse at an open-air festival in Sussex. She was one of the support artists, and before the gig, she could be seen wandering around the venue eating an ice cream, chatting to anyone who approached her, responding with a shy smile. Her voice was a mixture of Jazz and Blues, and it seemed to me that she could sing almost any song I liked, and make it sound better. I thought that she was the best new talent to emerge in the UK in my lifetime, and I believed she would go on to be one of the greatest performers that this country had ever seen.

Less than eight years later, she was dead. A life marred by drug and alcohol abuse had taken its toll, and her tiny frame could take no more. She had only released two albums, and her performing career had been notable for excesses, rather than successes. She made a bad choice with the man in her life, and found it hard to cope with fame at a young age. Hounded by the press, vilified in the media, she never really had a chance. Towards the end, with an emaciated, heavily-tattooed body, unkempt hair and bad attitude, she was unrecognisable as the pleasant young woman I had first seen, with her bobbed hair, and retro 1960s look.

But what a voice, and how she could sing. Like Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday, Janis Joplin, and so many others who made unfortunate choices, every moment of heartbreak and despair came through in her vocals. As we lived near to her, in Camden, North London, we would see her often, wandering around Inverness Street with a huge minder looking out for her. She was often staggering, sometimes talking loudly, always obviously disturbed. As one of her biggest fans, I always found this terribly sad to see. Her legacy is painfully sparse. Nonetheless, every song is a gem, and her recordings will live on for much longer than she did, dying at the far too young age of 27.

I could pick any song she wrote really, as they are all significant to me. However, the track I have chosen has lyrics that are so personal to her, yet so poignant for anyone who has suffered rejection and heartbreak. It is also a very simple song, and is reminiscent of Motown and Soul songs of my youth. So, an obvious choice really. If you know nothing of her work, please explore further, and seek out more gems. If you decided you didn’t want to know about her, because of bad press, or her questionable attitude, please give her another chance. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I like her.