Easter Sunday Musings From Beetley

My Easter greetings to everyone who is celebrating today as a religious holiday, whatever your religion. It is one of the few days left when shops still close all day.


We are spending the day quietly, treated just like any other Sunday. This year, we are not even having a traditional roast dinner. Turkey at Easter is still popular here.


Most of you will know that we had a lovely surprise on Friday, the announcement of the ‘secret wedding’ of one of Julie’s daughters on the island of Cyprus.
Congratulations from me to the happy couple.


On the way back from the celebratory family meal, I had warning lights coming on in my car. Investigating in daylight yesterday, it would appear that the ‘sealed coolant system’ is leaking, or the electric fan is not working properly. I had to add water to the overflow tank of the radiator for the first time in 10 years. I am hoping that will cure the issue for now, but I suspect a wallet-emptying visit to a car repairer is on the near horizon. And just when I had finally got permission to drive again too!
(In case you were wondering, my new driving licence has still not arrived after 11 weeks.)


Ollie was supposed to have a much needed bath and claw trim on Thursday. I took him to the groomer that afternoon, only to be told that the lady that looks after him was off sick with Covid-19, and we would have to rebook for another time. There are so many dog-owners in this area that getting an appointment is on a par with obtaining an audience with Queen Elizabeth.


Next weekend, the tree surgeons are returning to finish the rest of the Oak tree in our back garden. (Wind speed permitting.) It seems that finding qualified abseilers who can cut branches is also in the dog-grooming category.


Have a happy day, whatever you are doing.



I would like to wish all my blogging friends a very Happy Easter. I hope you all have a peaceful time.

Although I am not religious, I respect those who are, and appreciate the spiritual comfort they get from their faith.

However you are celebrating the season, be safe and well.

Easter Greetings

I am not a religious person. Easter to me has always meant two extra days off, or double pay for a shift worked on a Bank Holiday.

Hot cross buns, perhaps a turkey dinner, and chocolate eggs as a child.

Over the decades, I have often associated Easter with bad weather too. Miserable weekends away, listening to the rain on the roof, then stuck in terrible traffic driving home.

Since I retired from work, I usually have to be reminded it is Easter, as I rarely know when it is approaching.

However, I know many people do celebrate it, whether for religious reasons, or to spend the extended weekend with family or friends. And I have just remembered that tomorrow is Good Friday.

So with that in mind, I wish everyone a very Happy Easter, whatever you will be doing.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Chocolate, and hot cross buns

It’s Easter. I had to be reminded of the fact, as I am not (and have never been) remotely religious. All over the world, committed Christians are celebrating perhaps their most important religious festival, and I am more or less oblivious to their devotions.

I get mixed up. I thought last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, but that was wrong. But some things I am sure of. At Easter, we get chocolate eggs, as gifts. (Well most children do, anyway) And we can also buy hot cross buns. (They are not hot, unless you heat them up, which few people do now. But they have a pastry cross on them, for religious significance.) Trouble is, when I was young, you could only get those buns on one or two days of the year, obviously around Easter time. But now, you can get them all year round, so almost everyone has forgotten what they mean.

Same thing with those chocolate eggs. They used to be in the shops from the middle of March, but now they appear just after Christmas, being sidelined briefly for Valentine’s Day. Then there are Easter Cards (who sends them?) and small fluffy chick toys. They also pop up in early January, so by the time Easter arrives, they have usually been bought, put away, and forgotten. And Easter moves around. It is never on the same day, so it seems to an unbeliever like me. That makes it harder to keep track of, let’s face it.

Then there is the weather. In the UK, Easter is a long weeked. People are off from Thursday night, until Tuesday morning. But it’s at a time of year when the weather is notoriously unreliable in the British Isles. The redoubtable people of this sceptred isle still tend to go away somewhere anyway, if only to visit relatives, or to sit in a caravan by the coast. Then they can look at the grey skies, listening to the children complaining, as the rain beats down on the roof. Add to that the schools get a two-week holiday during some of the worst weather of the year, and you can guarantee a lot of very unhappy under-18s will be bemoaning their fate.

In some places, including many parts of the UK, religious people will be joyously celebrating whatever it is they celebrate at this time of year. Good luck to them, and I wish them well.

For the rest of us, it is too much chocolate, buns that are not hot, and too much time off, in abysmal weather. And no shops open on Easter Sunday, not even the greedy supermarkets. But that’s a good thing.

Happy Easter, to one and all.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Seasonal excuses

I woke up thinking about Christmas this morning. So much still to do, and running out of days to do it. I sort-of resent all that effort, for what amounts to three days of feeling under pressure, hours spent cooking and eating, and then it’s all over until this time next year. That made me think about how we approach our year, divided into ‘before and after’ so many occasions.

We find ourselves saying things like, ‘I will do that after Christmas’, or ‘OK, I will get that done before Christmas’. Speaking personally, I have often used Christmas as an excuse to put off things I know I should be doing. It has become a convenient barrier in my mind, and an excuse accepted by most people too. For me, ‘I will do that after Christmas’ has become an annual standby to accommodate a list of chores or tasks that I could probably do just as well tomorrow. Following straight on from the 27th of December, the New Year celebration offers a short break to add to my list too. ‘I will do that after the 2nd of January’ is perhaps my least effective excuse, but that doesn’t stop me from using it, I assure you.

As well as Christmas, we have other seasonal breaks to add to that arsenal of potential excuses. Easter is a good one, as it moves around, with no fixed point. ‘I will do that after Easter’ is very useful, especially when it comes to those Spring jobs needing attention in the garden. The summer holiday is another classic. The annual two-week break is planned so far in advance that there really is no excuse to use it to put things off. But I always try. ‘I will do that when we come back from holiday’ has been a solid excuse in my repertoire, for as long as I can remember.

Of course, my birthday is the best. Despite knowing when it is every year, and the fact that it is just one day out of 365, (or 366) I can deploy this as a genuine excuse at will, with no hint of conscience or guilt. ‘After my birthday’ has long been my favourite, and my most stubborn excuse for not doing anything I know I should be getting on with.

If I was American, I would no doubt be able to deploy Thanksgiving too. And it is just as well I am not a devout Catholic, as there are at least 14 official religious days I am sure I would have to observe.

A Beetley Easter

It was very quiet here over the Easter weekend. The weather didn’t help of course. Other than a few sunny periods yesterday afternoon, it was cold and grey. As we are not remotely religious, we didn’t have to attend any church services, and there was no local Easter Fair, or similar community activity that appealed. This left us with a fairly normal weekend, especially as Julie had to work on Saturday anyway, breaking up the days off that might have made a trip somewhere worthwhile. We did have an Easter Sunday meal of roast duck, something we don’t have that often. There was also the consumption of some hot cross buns; but like most things in the UK, that tradition is spoiled by them being available more or less all-year round these days.

Walking Ollie as usual, I noticed the absence of our regular companions. Some had travelled abroad for an Easter break, others were visiting family, or entertaining guests themselves. There were new people to discover, and more importantly for Ollie, some new dogs to meet. They were visitors, coming to the area to see family or friends, and directed to the Meadows, or Hoe Rough, as a good place to take their dogs. Some were caught out by the stubborn mud, not dressed for the occasion, stepping awkwardly around the deep ruts, and avoiding the standing water. Their dogs rushed up excitedly to Ollie, then scampered off again, too overwhelmed by their new surroundings to bother to play. I exchanged pleasantries, and carried on trudging. Yesterday, I was hit in the eye by a flying insect, one of the first of the season. In all of the countless square miles of Norfolk available to it, the thing managed to impact my eye at speed, and felt like a tiny bullet. It has been watering constantly ever since, and feels bruised to the touch. If only I could have such ‘luck’ with lottery tickets.

Returning home like a wounded Nelson, I resolved to do something useful with the rest of the day, and foolishly decided to clean the oven. Or should I say ovens, as it is an electric double-oven affair. It works very well, with a fan assisting the cooking, ensuring an even spread of heat. Unfortunately, this also means that it bakes on any unwanted splashes or deposits, and the job of cleaning the thing has to be tackled like a military operation. The removable racks are first soaked in biological washing powder. I bought a special plastic tray for this purpose, itself the size of a small paddling pool. As the trays and racks are soaking for up to four hours in near-boiling water, a spray oven cleaning foam is applied inside. This stuff is so caustic, gloves are essential, and woe betide that you inhale during spraying, unless you are wearing a suitable gas-mask. After covering the kitchen tiles with newspaper to catch any spills or leaks, you retire and wait. Sounds easy? Believe me, the hard bit is yet to come.

When enough time had elapsed, I walked with heavy step into the kitchen, to face my oven demons. I arranged a selection of abrasive and non-abrasive pads on the worktop, alongside a fresh roll of kitchen towel, and some extra paper. Working from the top down, I cleaned the extractor fan unit with a spray cleaner, and the glass shield with something suitable too. Despite the fact the the whole thing looked quite clean and tidy, and there are normally only two of us to cook for, it never ceases to amaze me how much sticky grime can be removed. The flat hob is the easiest of course. A dedicated cleaning paste is applied, then buffed off. Job done. If only the rest was as simple. Before tackling the inside of the ovens, I removed to the sink, and began to get the racks and grill-pan out of soak. Even with the action of the washing powder softening the weeks of carbon deposits, they still need a hearty scrub. I used a wire ball, the sort usually used on metal pans, and after almost an hour, they were all rinsed and gleaming on the side. I was putting off the inevitable though.

Are you still there? Still awake?

Kneeling on stone tiles is not something I like to do at my age, to be honest. The drop-down oven doors add eighteen inches to the reach required to get right inside these ovens, so you are at a stretch before you even begin. The first task is to scoop out the now greasy and stained foam cleaner residue. This means a lot of paper, and being very careful of spills and splashes. Then the cleaning pads have to come into play, applied with enough force to get the stuff off, but not so much that you will scratch the inside. Additional bursts of spray cleaner have to be applied to the most stubborn spots as you go, and constant rinsing of the pads is essential. The small top oven completed, I take a break before facing the lower one, as it is twice the size. This is also the fan-assisted oven, and it seems to mock me with the intensity of its burned-on grime. I change to a new pad, and attack it like someone who hates it. (As in a way, I do) Just this one space takes almost an hour, and two more pads, before it is eventually acceptable.

The glass doors have to be tacked with more dexterity, and a careful rotation system, so as not to lean too heavily on the hinges, or displace the glass in the frame. By now, I am sitting on the cold floor, changing arms to combat fatigue, and sincerely wishing that I had never started. Some people get the joy of satisfaction from a job well-done. Personally, I get my satisfaction from others doing that job instead of me. By 7PM it was finally over. The racks were replaced, the ovens gleaming, and I could take a well-earned rest.

A belated Happy Easter from Beetley.

A very quiet Easter

When I was young, Easter was eagerly anticipated. Not that we were a religious family, you understand. Easter was a time of school holidays, visiting relatives, and eating chocolate eggs, and hot cross buns. The long weekend, with two public holidays, meant that everyone tried to get away from London. Whether for a day trip, or longer break, the prospect of bad weather (seemingly compulsory at this time) didn’t put anybody off. After a long winter in the city, this was the first chance to get out, and breathe some fresh air, hopefully close to the sea.

Unfortunately, the road network was not well developed in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. This meant that all the thousands of cars and caravans had to crawl through tiny villages and larger market towns, to get to their destinations. It seems forgotten today, but traffic was terrible back then. Cars were unreliable too, prone to overheating, and getting punctures. The Easter trip was something to endure and tolerate, as long as the couple of days at your getaway of choice could reward you with some relaxation. Traffic jams were so long and convoluted that families could often be seen outside their cars, pulled up on a verge, making tea with a camping stove. The small rest areas, called lay-bys here, were full of overheated cars, steam billowing from tired radiators; the occupants seeking to relieve themselves unseen in clumps of handy bushes, or sat glumly next to their expired vehicles.

For much of my youth, our Easter trip would be to my Grandparents’ caravan. This was situated on a static site in Essex, on the northern side of the Thames Estuary, adjacent to the River Blackwater. This site had the enticing name of ‘Happy Days’, and the caravans could be used from Easter to October. The facilities were primitive by today’s standards. There was a communal washing and toilet block, a small park with swings and play equipment, and a site shop and club house. This contained the highly-regarded bar, which saved the adults having to leave the site in the evenings. Water for the caravan had to be drawn from a tap, and carried over in large containers. There was a coal fire inside for cooler evenings, and some basic furniture. Despite the fact that the caravan was built to sleep only four, we would often have double that, as well as beds on the floor, for the smaller children. Nobody minded the proximity, we were all family after all. There was a tiny patch of grass alongside, which was ours to use when it was warm enough to sit outside. A short drive away, the large town of Maldon provided sufficient shops, as well as a large public park with a funfair and boating lake.

Despite the fact that it usually rained for at least some of the stay, those trips to the caravan were a delight, to both youngsters and adults alike. It was the closest we would ever get to outdoor living, a real change from our lives in South London, and it was only 52 miles away. We would eat our Easter eggs and delicious buns, and our parents and older relatives would have too much to drink in the club house. We also met some new friends; local kids who did things like going out in boats, swimming in the river, and helping out on farms. It was a simple life, with no TV, electronic games, or fashionable trainers. But we had a great time. Times do change though. These days, many people still go for an Easter break. They go to places like Center Parcs, where they can try archery, ride mountain bikes, or buzz around on Segways. If they are lucky, they might go to EuroDisney near Paris, or enjoy a trip to a theme park in the UK, riding on terrifying roller-coasters and similar machines. Some travel further afield, to gites or villas, enjoying croissants or pains au chocolat instead of hot cross buns. I don’t envy them though.

When you get older, such short holidays lose much of their appeal. Working shifts for most of my life, the chances were that I would be working anyway; perhaps both of the days, or at least one of them. At least there was financial compensation for missing out, in the form of double pay or time off in lieu, sometimes both. Easter eggs started to appear in the shops not long after Christmas, and hot cross buns became available all year round. The unstoppable march of retail reduced national holidays to little more than seasonal marketing opportunities, until they just became a day like any other. Saying that, Easter Sunday must still have some significance, because other than Christmas Day, it is the only day that Tesco is closed.

This last Easter, for us in Beetley at least, was very peaceful. On Friday, we took Ollie (and ourselves) to a place called Mousehold Heath, in the centre of Norwich. We had never been there before, so it was an opportunity to get out together for a change, and to see somewhere new. Norwich is not a large city. Despite being the largest city in Norfolk, a population of around 133,000 places it around 30th in the UK. It does benefit from some nice public areas though, and Mousehold Heath, almost in the city centre, provides a welcome escape from the busy roads that surround it. Once parked, and inside the woodland, only some distant views of the buildings and the sounds of traffic remind you how close you still are. There are many paths to choose, and also attractive open areas and a pitch and putt golf course. The new surroundings were much to Ollie’s approval. Numerous other dog-walkers and some dog-admiring families, meant that our dog got his fair share of attention. We stopped halfway at the American-style burger bar, that has outside tables. Thankfully, this is tastefully presented, using a lovingly restored Edwardian pavilion. Other than a sign near the car park you would be pushed to realise that it was even there. After enjoying coffee, and sharing a delicious burger, we crossed the road towards the bandstand, and explored the rest of the heath. The journey home was less than thirty minutes, so it made for a stress-free afternoon out.

Julie had to work until 2pm on Saturday, so we went out that evening. We don’t have a pub anymore in Beetley. But we do have the building that used to be the pub, and it has kept the same name, The New Inn. It is now a welcoming Thai restaurant. Lovely people run it, and the food is delicious too. The bar at the front still serves as a sort-of pub for those not wishing to dine, and it remains popular with many local people. On Sunday, we stayed home, and cooked a turkey for our evening meal, a nod to another Easter tradition from the past. Ollie enjoyed eating some of the bird, and there was plenty left over, which we used for a tasty turkey curry the next day. With the skies grey, and a threat of rain, we also stayed home on Monday. I went and did the regular shopping trip to Tesco, which was closing earlier than usual, though still open until 6pm. The shop was extremely busy, more so than normal for a Monday. As the TV news had promised no rain, and possible sunshine, many shoppers were stocking up on items for a barbecue that evening, and the aisles were packed.

This morning, Julie had to return to work, and I stayed home, nursing my still-aching back. It didn’t stop me taking Ollie for his walk of course, he has to go out. Easter was over for another year, though I am sure that I will be able to buy hot cross buns next week, if I want to.


Easter Greetings

During the last week, I have completed, and published, a series of blog posts about the three marriages, and the other two serious relationships, that I have had during my life. The series was named ‘Third time lucky’, after a comment from my late mother. This has been an exacting process, emotionally, as well as physically and mentally, with the actual work of re-writing drafts, adding new sections and corrections, and typing it all up.

It has been both nostalgic, and uncomfortable. Reflecting on bad decisions, unpleasant personality traits, and constant failure, is never an easy thing, even in small doses. To cover a period of almost forty years, from my twenties to retirement, has left me lost in reverie, yet cleansed of so much also. Typing up five articles, amounting to well over 12,000 words, has been something of a marathon too.

If any reader gets anything from it; if they find out more about me, or better still themselves, by reading it all, then that will be rewarding. Should none of this happen, I will have achieved something for myself, a re-evaluation of relationships, behaviour, aspirations, and the hopes and fears of an entire life. I am very glad that I did it.

It is also somehow appropriate that this should be at Easter, a traditional time of celebration of resurrection. I have no religious beliefs whatsoever, but I cannot fail to feel a connection, that I was unaware of, when I began these articles last week.

For all of you out there in the blogging world, my own literary ‘friends’, followers, ‘likers’, and anyone else that happens across this by chance, I send you my Easter Greetings. Whatever your beliefs, and however you plan to celebrate, I wish you a happy and peaceful time.

Halloween- Scmalloween

What is all this fuss about Halloween? Does anybody remember when it all started here? Shops full of pumpkins, devil-suits, and tridents; parties with fancy-dress themes, gangs of kids wandering about, begging for sweets. I certainly have no memory of it, in London at least, until about 1990. It is yet another unwanted American import, alongside baseball caps, (Who knows the rules? Come on, tell me.) rap music, and McDonald’s. Driven by the Marketing Men, Supermarkets, and Television, desperate to fill the gap between Summer holidays, and Christmas.

Why do we always fall for this rubbish so easily?  Is there no tradition that cannot be sold on, re-packaged for British taste, and successfully marketed, until nobody remembers a time before it existed? What’s next, Thanksgiving? That would fit nicely into the space before Yuletide, and would increase turkey sales even more. We could all wear stove-pipe hats, and big Puritan collars, trying to pretend it was OK to swindle the Red Indians out of their lands for a few beads and trinkets. It wouldn’t matter that there were no Red Indians here, we could just make that bit up. Or maybe we could call them ‘Native Americans’, to make us feel even less guilty.

Nothing has value anymore. There is no special time left. Hot Cross Buns are available all year, pancakes can be bought anytime, then microwaved, to save the effort in making them. Tangerines are no longer a Christmas treat, any Tesco will have them in, anytime you want. We have slowly removed everything that we ever had occasion to anticipate excitedly, and to look forward to, as the seasons changed. Once we had lost all that, we had to search elsewhere for something to plan for, and along came Halloween. We can now arrange parties, or the appalling ‘Trick or Treat’ parades (Ask them for a trick is my tip!), and have everything from themed burgers, to pumpkin socks. How did we ever cope before?

I would love to take you back in a Time Machine. You would relish the prospect of Buns at Easter, delight at trying to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, and be unable to sleep on the night before Christmas. You would never have heard of ‘Grand-Parents’ Day’, and Halloween would be something that was ‘done’ in America.  Brazil nuts and tangerines would appear in December, be enjoyed briefly, and would not be seen again, until that time the following year. Baseball caps would be worn by baseball players, and some other people in The Americas, but not in England. If you wanted a snack, you would be happy with fish and chips, or pie and mash.

There is nothing wrong with American cultural celebrations. They even keep some of ours, like Christmas. But the newer ones should stay on that side of the Atlantic, along with their terrible fast food. That way, those that seek it, can travel there to enjoy it, and celebrate the differences in our societies and customs. We might even tell them that we used to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve as part of the Harvest Festival, and that Halloween is a Scottish corruption of that phrase. That would make it ours then, not American at all. Like most things, including many we have since discarded, they were taken to America by settlers. America does not have a culture as such, just an amalgamation of many of the cultures of its numerous settlers, and more recent immigrant populations. However, it is doing a fantastic job of re-exporting those traditions, whether we need them back, or not.

Surely it is enough to celebrate the difference in the various traditions and cultures of the many countries and societies in The World, without having to assimilate everything? As the French say- ‘Vive la difference’.