An Alphabet Of My Life: F

F=Friends.

Being an only child with no siblings to play with, friends became important to me at an early age. Once I went to Primary School at the age of 6, I soon discovered that being good at sport, especially football, was a good way to make friends.

But I was below average at sport.

So I made friends with the other kids who lived near me, but didn’t necessarily go to the same school. Playing out, as we called it, was done on the streets in the London borough I lived in. If there was an older boy in the group, he was considered to be in charge of the rest of us. Girls rarely featured, unless as the younger sister of one of the boys who was having to look after her.

Looking back, I realise that few if any of those street playmates ever became friends for more than a few months, perhaps a year. It was when I went to the secondary school at the age of 11 that I soon made real friends. These were the friends who came to my house, and I went to theirs. I got to know their families as well as I knew my own. We ate at each other’s houses, and spent most of the school holidays together.

Once we were in our teens, we dated girls together, drove around in each other’s cars, and even went on holidays together, or in small groups. Only leaving school and going to work started to break those bonds, followed by marriages, and moving to different areas a long way from each other.

However, two of those friends are still among my closest friends. We have been that way for over 59 years.

Another ‘category’ of friends would include work colleagues. Some of those are still in touch, and I see one of them around once a year. Another one speaks to me on the phone every month. He is in his 80s now, but we chat as if we are both still at work together in 1981.

Other friends include the group I once shared a house with, when I was 19. I wrote about meeting up with some of them again recently, one of whom I had not seen for 50 years. But it was as if we had just ‘left the room’ for a moment.

Getting older also means losing friends to illness, and that sad list gets longer every year. That is only to be expected, but that realisation doesn’t make it any easier.

Unlike family, great friends rarely judge you, and almost never have expectations of you. You can forget to call them, cancel appointments to see them, and it is always okay. You catch up when you can, no hard feelings. Modern times have given us email and text to help communicate. Before those, we had real letters, and landline phone calls. You had to make the effort, but it was worth that effort.

Since 2012, I have also made Blogging Friends. Genuine close communication with people I have never met, and most likely never will meet. But those friendships are as real as if I had gone to school with them, shared a house with them, or worked alongside them.

True friends are worth their weight in gold.

An Emotional Weekend

When I was 17, I met two brothers at the office I was working in. Through those brothers, I met a large group of people, some of whom played together in a band. Two years later, I moved out of my parental home and shared a rented house with four of them. Since then we have kept in touch, and seen each other when we could. But people move around, circumstances change, and those meetings become fewer.

In 2020, one of those original house-mates and a lifelong friend, Brian, died of Covid-19, and I could not go to his funeral because of restricted numbers. It was decided that we would have a party to celebrate his life, but that couldn’t happen in 2021 either. It was finally arranged for last Friday.

The chosen venue was 125 miles south of Beetley. That meant we would need hotel accommodation, and someone to look after Ollie overnight. My cousin in Essex agreed to take him. She has two small dogs, and Ollie has visited her with us many times before. I booked a decent hotel three miles from the venue, and we travelled down to my cousin’s in Essex on the way. The weather was not great, starting the journey in fog, and ending it in rain.

After a light lunch and a catch-up, we left her house in plenty of time to get to the hotel. Once we arrived, taxis were booked. One to take us to a restaurant booked for 5:30pm, and a second to collect us from the venue at a golf club at 11:15pm. By the time we were leaving to go the restaurant, it was raining at a monsoon standard. We were the first to arrive, at a table booked for eight people.

The next couple to show up was Martin and his wife. Martin had lived in the house with us, but I had not seen him since, almost fifty years. I had never met his wife, as he moved to Cornwall when I was 21. They had just driven for over seven hours in awful weather to be there that evening. Despite a half-century apart, we recognised each other immediately. Next to arrive were two friends we had not seen since we moved away from London in 2012. Finally, Roland turned up, soaked to the skin having walked the twenty minutes from the golf club where he had been setting up with the other musicians. He brought one along, and though we had never met him before, he settled in easily.

There were a lot of laughs as we ate, teasing each other mercilessly. When it was time to leave for the party, we were lucky to get a lift in a friend’s car and not have to wait for a taxi to avoid the torrential rain.

On arrival, the venue was already packed to capacity. So many people wanted to be there to celebrate Brian’s life. Old friends, family members, his ex-wife, his daughter, as well as many of his golf club comrades. The band was already set up for an evening of Blues music. (Brian was a vocalist in many bands over the years) Musicians had come together from all over England to take part. So many that they took turns on instruments, and turns at the microphone.

There was a large TV screen showing a loop of photographs of Brian from his schooldays to his latter years. Most of us were in one or more of those photos with him. I found it too emotional to look at, and had to stand with my back to the screen.

The band played in various configurations until 11pm. With so many in the audience, there was no room for dancing, so we all stood or sat and just enjoyed the memories of songs we had seen Brian perform for over fifty years. After a tour of the room to say our farewells, it was back to the hotel to collapse exhausted.

By the time we got back to my cousin’s house the next day, Ollie was beyond excited to see us, and almost hysterical with happiness. He had not been left overnight for almost six years, and though he had settled well with my cousin, his delight at seeing us was a joy to behold. Not long after, another cousin arrived to see us, and we settled into an afternoon of lovely memories, more laughter, and that good feeling of being with family.

Despite more heavy rain and thunderstorms, we slept well that night and had breakfast with my cousin before leaving for the journey back to Beetley. It had felt like an incredibly busy and tiring weekend, but I was so glad we had made the effort to go.

Lap-Dog

There are times when you can enjoy a dog sitting on your lap.

And there are other times when…

We drove down to Attleborough to see one of my stepdaughters this afternoon. It was her husband’s birthday, and we wanted to drop off his card and present.

As you can see, they have a dog.

Loki is a 2 year-old Cane Corso, an Italian Mastiff.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cane_Corso

He hadn’t seen me for a while, and wanted to show his affection by sitting on my lap. Literally. As he weighs over 11 stones, (155 pounds) I knew he was there.

Despite his Shetland pony size, and the fact that his head is much bigger than mine, he is a gentle giant. He loves strokes and cuddles, and likes to sit as close to you as possible, preferably on you.

Whe we got home later Ollie was intrigued, and gave me a very detailed sniff for a considerably long time.

Sunny Sunday Musings

We finally got some of the Summer I was waiting for. On one day this week, I was actually uncomfortably hot! (Only becuase I was overdressed for the unexpected weather)
Not so great for Ollie of course, who spends most of his walk in and out of the river, cooling off. Also not wonderful for Hay Fever, which hit me hard on Friday. But I will take the tablets, and enjoy the sunshine.

—————————————————————————————

As most of you already know, I have the DVLA ‘Pass or fail’ eye test next Friday. If I fail, that’s it. No more driving, ever. Meanwhile, I have been driving at every opportunity, in case I have to try to remember the feeling of just driving down the road with the window open on a lovely day after next weekend.

—————————————————————————————-

We went to a family celebration in Suffolk last night. It was a delight for Julie to meet relatives she had not seen (for various reasons) for seven years. We enjoyed a delicious meal in beautiful surroundings, and there was much laughter and catching up. This is where it was held. https://www.worlingtonhall.com/

As a result, we got home quite late, and stayed up to amuse Ollie who had been left all evening. That meant I didn’t wake up until 9am this morning.

Here we are at the dinner table.

—————————————————————————————–

I have decided not to mention British politics or the war in Ukraine today. I am trying to keep a good mood going until next Friday.

——————————————————————————————

I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday, a relaxing and peaceful one.

——————————————————————————————-

A Nice Surprise

Yesterday afternoon, we had been asked to go to a family gathering. Julie has two sons, and identical twin daughters. One of her daughters wanted to celebrate being with her boyfriend for ten years, and had organised a meal in a restaurant in Thetford, 30 miles south of Beetley.

The couple had recently returned from a short holiday in Cyprus, having arranged the family meal before they left. So we set off to see everyone, and joined the large group seated around two extended tables in one section of the restaurant. We took some flowers and a card, as well as Easter gifts for Julie’s chidren and grandchildren. After everyone had ordered food, the couple stood up, and said they had something to tell us. Unveiling a large framed wedding photograph, they announced that they had got married in Cyprus on the 7th of April.

It was a surprise to everyone there, save for the twin sister and best friend who had flown out to Cyprus for two days to attend the wedding. They had also managed to keep everything secret for the five weeks of the planning before, and the period since the wedding too.

Naturally, we were delighted, and it also explained why we had all been asked to celebrate something as relatively ‘minor’ as them being together for ten years.

Later in the year, they are planning to have a more formal wedding reception, somewhere in Norfolk. But they had wanted to save everyone trying to arrange to take time off, and having to deal with the expense of a trip to Cyprus to attend.

Then a large cake was produced, and we all enjoyed a slice.

The biggest surprise for me was that all those involved managed to keep that secret!

HAPPY EASTER!

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.

World Travel: Different Perceptions

I was thinking about my mum today, and smiling as I remembered something she once said.

In 1978, my mum was 54 years old. She had never been outside of Britain, happy to spend all her holidays at seaside locations in England, or visiting friends in Scotland. She had never been to Wales or Ireland, and was content not to have done so. At the time, we still had a shop in south-west London, an off-licence. I had taken a full time job, got married the previous year, and she employed a full-time assistant to help her run the business. I helped out whenever I was free.

One weekend, I was looking though some newsletters, and found one offering a trip to Rome for anyone who held a licence to sell alcohol. It was a five-day tour, escorted by guides, and included all flights, meals, and accommodation. I suggested to my mum that she should go. There would be other single people taking the trip, and it was a small group who would all have something in common, of owning a pub or off-licence. She had never flown in a plane, or owned a passport, but she had seen the Audrey Hepburn film ‘Roman Holiday’, and had previously mentioned a desire to see Rome.

Once I assured her that I would take time off from my job and run the shop for her, and that my wife and I would move back into the upstairs accommodation for the duration of her holiday, she gave in and applied for a passport, sending off a cheque for the deposit on the holiday at the same time. So in June that year, she headed off with a small suitcase, taking a taxi to the airport to meet the tour organiser at the terminal. I was envious, as I had never been to Rome. (I eventually got there in 2002.)

On her return, she looked less than excited. I asked her if she had a lovely time, and she shrugged before replying.

“It rained twice.”
“The food tasted funny”.
“It was too hot, even at night”.
“Everyone hangs their washing out over the street”.
“All the buildings look shabby and run down”.

I reminded her that the buildings she was referring to dated from as long ago as 300 BC. But she shrugged again.

“Well they could do them up a bit. It’s a long way to go to look at someone’s washing and some ruined temples”.

At that point, I gave up.

Many years later, (2009) when I was working for the Police in London, one of my colleagues booked a holiday of a lifetime to Egypt. A full tour of the ancient sites, including Cairo and The Pyramids, and a luxury cruise down The Nile to Aswan. As I had visited Egypt in 1989, I told her what to look out for, and added that I was envious, as I had not seen Cairo or The Pyramids on my trip.

When she got back to work, looking very tanned, I asked her what she thought of her wonderful experience.

“Well, there are lots of stones, beige stones. And beige columns. Once you have seen one, all the others look the same. The food on the ship was good though”.

Sunday Stuff: On The First Sunday Of April

The weather remains sunny but cold. Beetley escaped the forecast snow, though there was some snowfall as close as two miles south.

—————————————————————————————

It might just be me, but this year seems to be going by very fast. Three months in, fourth month on the calendar, and it still seems to me that Christmas was only a couple of weeks ago.

—————————————————————————————-

Ollie has stopped moulting so badly, so I am hoping his new summer coat is fully grown now. He is still rather sluggish on his walks, becoming stiff-legged after less than 90 minutes.

—————————————————————————————–

We have our grandson here. He stayed overnight yesterday, and Julie took him to the cinema to see ‘Sonic 2’. He loved it, she dropped off to sleep in the warm dark auditorium. When they got back, we took him for dinner at a local pub, and later this afternoon Julie will drive him home.

——————————————————————————————

Panic buying of petrol and diesel has started again, following climate change protesters blocking some fuel depots. Now all three petrol stations in town are closed, as they have run out of everything. I believe it is high time the fuel retailers imposed a minimum/maximum purchase limit of £50, to stop people constantly topping up car tanks.

——————————————————————————————-

Still no news about my driving licence. I contacted my member of parliament by email, and his staff have assured me that he will investigate my case with the DVLA. The small irritations of me not being able to drive are beginning to bite. Julie was asked to work extra hours next Thursday, and would have welcomed the additional salary. However, Ollie has a long-term booking at the groomer for that day, and we are unable to change it. So she has to decline working overtime, as she will have to drive Ollie to Scarning. This also impacted with Ollie’s Vet trip to get his annual booster jabs. We cannot tie in a time when a Vet is available and Julie is around to drive. Now she has to try to change shifts next week so we can arrange to take Ollie to Swaffham.

———————————————————————————————

All of us are feeling the pinch of prices rising on everything. The biggest rises are yet to come, especially on bread and flour, as long as the war in Ukraine continues. Even if it stopped now, Ukraine has been unable to plant wheat, and it is one of the biggest exporters of that staple. I am expecting things to get much worse by late summer, and possibly far worse than that by October, when the utility companies add their second massive increase on gas and electricity prices just before we face the winter months.

———————————————————————————————-

I hope you can stay chirpy, and make the most of your Sunday.

———————————————————————————————-

The Fat Lady Has Sung

As the old saying goes, “It’s not all over until the fat lady sings”.

Well, it’s the 28th of December, and I can hear her. It is finally all over for another year, despite today being a public holiday in England.

Yesterday was a very long day. Up early to get everything ready, then five adults and three children arrived for a buffet meal that lasted from two in the afternoon until nine at night. Piles of presents handed out, and some fun games played. Noise levels that could drown out an F-15 jet fighter from nearby Lakenheath Air Base, and just enough places for everyone to take a turn in sitting down.

Ollie was so stressed out by all the comings and goings, he got grumpy and started growling at people. That was a first for him. He must be becoming a party-pooper in his old age, despite receiving a gift of a stuffed snowman almost as big as him.

At the end of it all, it looked as if the house had been burgled. We were too tired to do anything except flop on the sofa in the sudden quiet, and then have an early night. That means that we have to face a mountain of washing up this morning, followed by storing away folding chairs, closing up the extended dining table into a more manageable size, then have a good look under all the furniture to find what was dropped during the evening.

There is enough leftover food to provide dinners for today and tomorrow. On Thursday, we have our last Christmas present arriving. The delivery of a traditional English High Tea, ordered by one of my step-daughters. The uneaten snacks, crips, nuts, and chocolate should see us through until March.

At least I don’t have to go out today, except to walk Ollie later. It has been raining heavily for over twelve hours now, and everything is damp and dismal.

Next up is New Year’s Eve. Just the two of us, and hopefully still awake at midnight.