Life’s Golden Rules

If you cannot find your reading glasses, they are usually on top of your head.

Just as you get into a nice warm bath, someone will ring the doorbell.

The keys you have been looking everywhere for are still hanging in the front door.

After waiting in for a parcel delivery, as soon as you have to go out, it will arrive. You come home to find a card that says “Sorry we missed you”.

If the sign on a multi-story car park says ‘Spaces Available’, you will drive around every level to discover that some people have parked across two spaces. So you have to drive out again, and find somewhere else to park.

If you are talking to someone on your landline telephone, somebody else will ring your mobile because your phone is engaged.

 

 

 

 

Three Score And Ten

When I was young, Religious Education was compulsory in school. I had a Bible at home, and read it more like a history book, than religious instruction. Parts of it were very dull, but others had action, adventure, even wars. I grew up not believing in any God or religion, but I did remember some of the quotes and catchphrases that I read. Two of them in particular stayed with me.

‘Mene, mene, Tekel Upharsin’.

Do you know what that is? It is the actual ‘Writing on the wall’ that gave us the phrase so often used today.

Then there was this one.

‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’

So I was around eight years old, and could work out that they were talking about living until the age of seventy. Eighty at a push, if you had that ‘strength’ mentioned.

I spent the next twenty years expecting to die at seventy. Then I became an EMT in the London Ambulance Service. It wasn’t long before I realised that so many people die long before they are seventy. Especially people like me at the time who smoked cigarettes, worked shifts in stressful jobs, didn’t eat properly, and liked a drink on their days off.

Very soon, I started to think that fifty might be a good age for me to live to. When you do that job, you do become something of a fatalist.

Surprise surprise! I made it to 2022, and I am 70 years old today.

Maybe the Bible got it right?

My First Musings Of 2022

I’m musing on the wrong day here, but at this time of year I have to look at my calendar to know what day it is. Apparently, it is Saturday. As it is a ‘sort-of’ public holiday here, and most people will not be out and about or back at work until the 4th, it feels like yet another Sunday.
(The 3rd is the official public holiday, because today fell on a weekend.)
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I managed to stay up and awake to see 2022 arrive. In fact I didn’t go to bed until 2am. My perkiness was assisted by only having one glass of wine with my dinner. The Tapas-style buffet we chose to prepare was delicious, and eaten over a decent amount of time as we sat around watching the poor choice of seasonal TV provided.
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I am going to try to be a little more positive about things this year. Here is one example.
It rains too much in Beetley, and that gets on my nerves. So here is a positive slant on that for New Year’s Day.
Too much rain = never having a water shortage.
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My driving licence expires in March. That is because I will be 70 years old. In Britain, that means I have to make a ‘Medical Declaration’ that I am fit to drive, and also supply proof of my identity all over again. It is such a faff to do this. They recommend you do it online, but I have no scanner to scan documents. The paper form requires that I send original documents as proof that I am who I say I am, and it comes with a warning that there is a very long backlog of applications already. I was hoping to win the lottery so that I could just abandon driving and employ a full-time chauffeur.
Sadly, that did not happen.
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Ollie is going to be 10 in February. For his breed, that is a considerable age, close to 80 in human years. His fur is still patchy, and refusing to grow back. Some other dog-walkers seem to be avoiding me recently, as they are convinced his skin condition must be contagious. Covid-19 has made people fear anything unusual.
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I intend to cook a Chinese meal tonight. Duck in hoisin sauce, stir-fried with suitable vegetables and noodles. After days of making do with leftovers or eating huge traditional roast dinners and High Tea, I am yearning for something Asian and spicy.
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The brakes on my car are making a nasty ‘squeaking noise’. When life gets back to normal on the 4th, I fear I am going to have to take it in for examination and repair. No doubt this will be my first financial downturn of 2022, as I can already hear the mechanic’s cash register ringing up a huge bill.
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On the plus side, I am looking forward to reading all your posts in the coming year, and I might even be having my usual moans about bloggers who follow with no link to their site, or others who think that a one-word comment like ‘Nice’ is acceptable. (It isn’t, and you get spammed for it by me)
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The sun is shining brightly. That’s two days in a row. I am taking that as a sign!

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Nice Times (2)

After my first post in what looks like becoming a short series, I felt really happy for a long time after posting it.

Nice Times

So I decided to do another one.

A holiday to the Soviet Union, in the late 1970s. I had always wanted to go there, and to see it how I imagined it, in the snow. We went in February, and I hadn’t realised that they did a good job of clearing away the snow as soon as it has accumulated. But I stood in front of the gates of The Winter Palace in Leningrad, and didn’t care at all that it was -25 degrees.

My first full day with Ollie as a pup. He was too young to go out yet, and his wrinkled skin looked like a baby wearing adult clothes. Julie was working full-time then, so I was up and about early, to play with our new pup. He followed me everywhere, and was ready to play any time I sat down on the floor with him. His little teeth were like needles, and he loved to chew my fingers and the sides of my hands. Then he would collapse, tired from play, and I watched him sleep until the next time.

Telling an old lady that nothing could be done for her husband, who she had found collapsed in the bathroom that morning. I said we would put him into some pyjamas and get him back into bed, so he looked peaceful when her son and daughter-in-law arrived to see him. After that, I made her a cup of tea, and waited until the police arrived to report it as a sudden death. She hugged me with her bony little arms, and said that I had made everything so much better for her. At times like that, I knew why I had joined the Ambulance Service.

Sitting on a bench by the river at Beetley Meadows. Ollie is standing in the water to cool down, and I am watching huge dragonflies flying around close to the water. I looked up at the blue sky, listened to the sound of the river flowing, and knew I had made the right decision to move away from London.

The first time someone other than a friend or relative commented on one of my blog posts, in 2012. I had to approve the comment, and was excited to reply. I sat back on my old stool, (later replaced by a proper office chair) and felt like a ‘real’ blogger.

Nice Times

As the rain lashes down outside today, and I put on a heavier top to keep out the autumnal chill, I am in a positive frame of mind, and thinking back to nice times in the past. Good memories are so much better than bad ones, and are to be treasured. They arrive in my brain in no time sequence, and in no particular order.

The first house I bought, after we sold our flat in Wandsworth. The thrill of moving into a 3-bed house with a small garden, close to Wimbledon Park in London. Having a separate dining room with a large table, and an Edwardian house with so many original features retained. Friends coming round for dinner, new carpets, a new car, and only being 27 years old. My life was stretching out ahead of me, and I was feeling ready to enjoy it.

My first shift as an EMT after completing training. A busy day in central London, feeling nervous and unsure. I coped with it, and as I travelled home, I thought ‘I can do this’.

The best live gig I ever went to. Swing Out Sister, at the Jazz cafe in Camden. I was living a very different life then, and almost 50 years old. But that was one of the best nights of my life, never to be forgotten. I can still recall the whole night, despite the amount of red wine I consumed during that gig.

My third wedding, in 2009. Perfect weather, everyone happy, and an ideal location at a lovely hotel in Kent. When it was all over, those of us staying at the hotel met in the bar. Exhausted, happy, and having a quiet drink before bedtime. One of those perfect evenings.

A wonderful Greek meal in Camden, with two great friends. We all had the Mezze, endless courses of food that lasted for a few happy hours. Even when we tried to leave, the owner called us back from the street to join him for free drinks. One of those friends has since died, and that evening we spent at the Greek restaurant is one of my enduring memories of him.

Leaving London, and my retirement party. Moving to Norfolk was the best decision I ever made. I had a big leaving party in a bar on The Embankment before I left. As well as colleagues from the ambulance service and the police, friends and family came too. I was feeling very emotional, not least as my mum had died a few days earlier. They bought me lovely gifts, and some spoke nice words about me. I knew I was leaving for a quiet life, with no stress of work. I also knew I would miss them all. A fabulous evening.

Writing this cheered me up. It may become a short series!

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Lockdown fallout.

As the lockdown begins to ease in England, it won’t be too long before we can think about eating inside a restaurant, or meeting up with family and friends in their houses. It has been a difficult year for everyone, some much more so than others. I have been lucky, and I am aware of that.

Next Wednesday, I am having the second dose of A-Z vaccine, so even if the ‘Vaccination Passports’ do come in, I will be ‘free to roam’, as it were. We have booked a holiday in England for September, a week away that now seems to be more desirable than at any time in my life.

But with all this progress comes some reflection on the fallout of over a year in lockdowns. The effects, both tangible and unseen, of fear, worry, concern, and being stuck in and around the same place whether from choice or complusion.

For me, the main effects are obvious.

I stopped reading books. I tried, but couldn’t concentrate.

I stopped using any of my cameras. I already had so many photos of the same things and places.

I stopped watching so many films. Again, lack of concentration was the reason.

I ate too many ‘bad’ things, and drunk more wine than before. ‘Treating’ myself was an easy excuse, but not a good reason.

I stopped watching so much television. With a few notable exceptions, it no longer seemed important or interesting.

I stopped ringing friends and family. What do you talk about? The fact that you haven’t been anywhere, or done anything?

My life, such as it was over the past year, moved almost completely online. Although I still went to the supermarket, I spent more time in front of the computer. I wrote more blog posts, kept in touch with people by email, and bought everything I didn’t actually eat or drink by using online sellers.

Now with life forecast to ‘open up’, albeit with sensible safety measures still in place, I feel the need to ‘claw back’ some of the me that was lost over this past year. I want to charge up my camera batteries, try again with some of those books on my Kindle, and wander aimlessly around reopened shops, not intending to buy anything. I don’t know if there will be a ‘new normal’, and there will definitely never be a return to that ‘old normal’.

But I will take whatever comes, and do my best to enjoy it.

Growing Up

When did you first feel ‘grown up’? Do you remember it as a specific time, or did it happen gradually?

When I was a child, it was a two-word phrase that was used to scold me. “Grow up!” I first remember my dad using it when I was probably seven or eight years of age. He was still saying it the last time I had a conversation with him when I was twenty-four. He never realised just how much time I had spent wanting to grow up.

For most of the twelfth year of my life, I wanted to be thirteen. A teenager was something to aspire to, especially with the expanding freedoms of the 1960s. By the time I was sixteen, I wanted desperately to be seventeen, so I could drive a car. Driving was going to make me into an immediate grown-up, I was convinced of that.

Although a change in the law allowed me to vote when I was eighteen, I couldn’t wait to be twenty-one. That was manhood! Key of the door time. A twenty-one year old was undeniably a man. A grown up. But my twenty-first was something of an anti-climax. It seemed I really had to be twenty-five before my car insurance company would consider me to be a responsible adult, and reduce my high premiums accordingly.

Then I was twenty-five, and got married that same year. I was a married man! Surely that was grown up? But the insurance company didn’t reduce my payments, citing increased costs as the reason to make me keep paying the same amount. Three years later, I was working as an EMT in Central London.

Now I felt really grown up. Driving an emergency ambulance with sirens and flashing lights, arriving at the scenes of terrible accidents and major disasters. It doesn’t get much more grown up than that, believe me. But to my older colleagues, with their additional ten or twenty years of experience, I wasn’t considered to be in the least bit grown up.

Much later, I read about not losing your ‘inner child’. Decades of emergency duties had made me a serious person, someone obsessed with being an adult. I had to try to find that inner child lurking within, or I would be sacrificing a large part of my personality.

It wasn’t easy, I can tell you. But finally, at the age of sixty-nine, I might have found that balance.

I discovered what it means to be grown up.

Life

Life. It can be a real pain sometimes.

Always something you don’t want to do, that needs to be done.

And some boring reason why you can’t do the thing you actually want to be doing.

Modern life is like a list of 80% things you don’t want to have to deal with.

10% of things that you can just about deal with without going out of your mind.

And 9% things that you actually enjoy doing, and want to keep doing. Whatever the consequences.

Oh, and that odd 1%?

That’s the mystery of life.

Lyrically Evocative (32)

I complain a lot, I know. The weather mostly, but other stuff too.

However, I wouldn’t want anyone to ever think that I am not thankful for what I have. A decent home, mortgage-free. A wife to share my life with, and a wonderful dog to be my companion. Enough money to get by, and even save a (little) bit. Relatively good health, even in the midst of a pandemic crisis.

I am better off than so many other people, and I am thankful for that fact.

With that in mind, I was thinking about this song today. I bought the record a long time ago now, (1974) but it often sneaks into my mind.

And never was it more relevant, than in 2021.

Here are the lyrics. I may know nothing about a ‘Gangsta lean’, but I get William’s intention.

Be Thankful for What You Got
William DeVaughn

Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got
Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin’ the scene
With a gangsta lean
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: William Devaughn
Be Thankful for What You Got lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management

And here he is, singing his own song. (Not live, the original 7-inch single)

Let’s all remember to be thankful what what we have.

When You Just Don’t Get It

You know how when you can do something, you just don’t understand why someone else can’t?

I once worked with a woman who failed her driving test no less than eight times. She had paid for over one hundred lessons, and finally gave up trying after her eighth fail. The rest of us could all drive, and were amazed at her inability to be able to do something that was second nature to us. I asked her why, and she said “I just don’t get it. It doesn’t sink in. They show me one week and I do it, but the next time I have forgotten what I have to do, or it feels different”.

I don’t know how to swim. People find that amazing. All my life, people have told me, “It’s so easy to swim. I could teach you in minutes”. My first wife was a champion swimmer, and she tried to teach me to swim on numerous occasions. But whether it was being uncomfortable in the water, or lack of coordination, I just didn’t get it. It never felt right, and I didn’t seem to move the same way in water as everyone else.

During my working life, I frequently met adults who could not read and write. I was surprised, to say the least. Did they not go to school? How were they allowed to progress into adulthood without some extra tuition? One evening, I asked an illiterate man in the back of my ambulance how that could happen. He shrugged. “The taught me, they showed me, but I just didn’t get it. It didn’t sink in”.

So I have learned a fact of life, over the past fifty-odd years. Just because someone thinks something is easy to learn, that doesn’t mean it is.

You all know what I am talking about, I’m sure.