An Alphabet Of My Life: R


When you reach the milestone of 70, you must surely have a few regrets? I know I do.

I would have liked to have been better prepared for my first marriage, that’s for sure.

It would have been nice if my second marriage had worked out better too. But it didn’t, so hey-ho.

As much as I enjoyed my long service as an EMT, I wish that I had gone into that job years earlier, when I was 21. I seem to have wasted a lot of time on pointless, unrewarding jobs before deciding to do something useful. But I did earn a great deal of money during that time, so perhaps any regrets are tempered by that fact.

There is no point regretting not visiting America, or many of the other countries I never got to see. I could have gone to those but chose different places instead, when I had the time and money to do that. So, no regrets where that is concerned.

For all of my life, I have tried to be kind, and to do the right thing. But I do regret times when I could have tried harder to do that, in certain situations.

There are many things I do not regret.

Not having any children
Marrying for the third time.
Moving from London to Beetley.
Getting Ollie.
Leaving my EMT job for a role in the police.
Never contacting my dad after he left the family home, and refusing to go to see him when he was dying.
Starting a blog.

On balance, I think the non-regrets outweigh the real regrets. So I am ticking that box as a win!

An Alphabet Of My Life: Q


One good piece of advice my dad gave me was, “Pay more for quality”. I took that to heart.

A handmade bespoke suit can last a lifetime.

Loake shoes may cost four times as much as a high-street brand, but will last you ten times longer.

A Sony Colour TV was three times more expensive than other leading brands in 1977. But the picture quality was outstanding, and it never went wrong.

A good cashmere overcoat, carefully-stored and regularly dry-cleaned, will be the only overcoat you ever need.

Don’t be tempted by cheap, badly-made cars. They will break down all the time, go rusty, and lose almost their entire value in under five years. Buy a more expensive car, and it will last you for a very long time.

Cheap clothes are a false economy. I have shirts that I paid £50 for in 1990, and I still wear them today. They are as good as new.

You get the idea…

An Alphabet Of My Life: P


From an early age, I became interested in left-wing politics. I was very aware of social injustices, and also inspired by studying the Spanish Civil War, and the International Brigade soldiers who volunteered to go and fight in what was a ‘just war’.

In my teens, I joined far-left political parties, and moved to other mainstream ones throughout my life. I also attended many public protest demonstrations, including one against the Vietnam War. Later on, I became heavily involved with the unions in the Ambulance Service, when I was an EMT. We supported the miners during the strike of 1984-1984, and showed solidarity during other strikes by different workers.

I became used to public speaking, addressing large numbers of people at meetings, urging them to join unions and to be a part of the process of seeking fairness in the workplace. When the country-wide Ambulance Strike began in 1989, I was at the forefront of the protest, turning up every day to help organise things in my area, along with like-minded colleagues.

But by the time I was 50, union power in the UK was decreasing; beaten down by changes in the laws, and worker apathy. And as far as politics was concerned, I no longer had a left-wing party to support. By the time I was nearing retirement at 60, my inner fire had gone out. I was not in a union, and was not a member of any political party.

Now all I have left are the memories of a very political past, and my political blog.

An Alphabet Of My Life: N


I have always been a nostalgic person, even when I was quite young. Once life started to become ‘modern’, in the late 1960s, I was only 16, and already looking back to when I was at primary school, spending a lot more time around my family, and living close to the docks in South London.

Once I was in my twenties, and married, I looked back on my teens as my ‘golden years’, before the onset of adulthood and responsibility made me into a different person. I backed this up by having a collection of records from long before I was even born, the dance bands and crooners of the 1920s. I preferred the fashions of those pre-war years too, and often felt I had been born in the wrong decade.

That applied to films too. I was never happier than when watching the musicals of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, or the ‘film-noir’ productions of the late 1930s and 1940s. My favourite architecture was Art Deco, and my favourite painter was Tamara De Lempicka. The singer I listened to more than any other was Al Bowlly, who was killed during the bombing of London in 1941.

By the time I turned 40, I had moved back to the area of London where I grew up, and revelled in the nostalgia that surrounded me, even though the Docklands Developments of the early 1980s had changed parts of it beyond recognition.

During my time as an EMT, I always felt that job was better during the first ten years I did it. Once it became more complex, and the staff more self-important, I would drone on about how much better it had been in the past. I couldn’t shake that feeling, despite being advised by everyone to ‘look forward, not back’.

Once I retired in 2012 and moved away from London, I wallowed in nostalgia on a daily basis. As any regular reader of this blog will know, I not only have a Category that covers nostalgia posts, I write them and publish them all the time. I hasten to add that I am not seeing the past through rose-tinted glasses. I am well-aware of how much harder life was for so many back then, and even more so when I was a child.

But I loved it, and I am not apologising for being nostalgic.

An Alphabet Of My Life: O


Ollie has only been in my life for just under 11 years, but has already become such a significant part of my whole life so far. Everyone knows how much I love my dog, my constant companion. He is the heart and soul of my blog, and has become a firm favourite of many readers around the world.

He features in this A-Z because he has given me so much, and asked for nothing in return. As I type this, he is three feet away from me, and sleeping soundly. He is happy to just be next to me, and to follow me wherever I go.

Without Ollie, I would never have really got to know Beetley. Never met the many dog-walkers who have become friends since I moved here from London. He has provided me with much-needed exercise, something I am sure extended my life expectancy in retirement. He has also given me his devotion, and his undying affection.

Having Ollie to care for made me whole, and a better person in so many ways.

An Alphabet Of My Life: L


It had to be London of course. Anyone born and raised in that city will know how it gets into your blood. It goes further than being British, or English. You are a Londoner, and that is what you portray to the rest of the country, and to the world.

There is history on every street corner, much of it dating back to the Romans and beyond. You can walk the same streets as Shakespeare did, and stroll past the house where Charles Dickens lived. You develop a London accent, one that marks you out wherever you go in the rest of the country. You have your own slang terms, even a kind of local language. Other Londoners get you. They shared the same experiences.

There is architecture dating back to the time of the Norman invasion in 1066, alongside medieval, Victorian Gothic, Edwardian, Art Noveau, Art Deco, and the very latest styles. Something to please everyone. You can look into the dark corners where Jack The Ripper committed his famous murders, and gaze at a river that started the great commercial expansion of the British Empire.

Drink in pubs steeped in history. The one where the Mayflower tied up, before leaving with the pilgrims to America. Others that featured in the writings of famous authors, and were the hangouts of artists, criminals, or penniless aristocrats.

The restaurants are so numerous, you can eat almost any dish available anywhere in the world, as well as traditional British food that has not changed in hundreds of years.

Culture is everywhere. Museums, galleries, theatres, opera houses, jazz clubs, dance halls, concert venues. You are spoilt for choice. It is also green, in the sense of open space. Huge parks, ornamental gardens, fountains, lakes, all beautifully maintained and lovingly tended.

Yes, it is noisy. Yes, it is crowded. It is a 24-hour non-stop city, with awful traffic problems. Londoners are not that popular with the rest of England either. Derided as ‘Soft Southerners’, or ‘Cockney Bastards’, that accent can sometimes get you into trouble if you venture too far North. A city of districts, boroughs, areas, all distinctly separated by the River Thames. It is not a city for everyone, but it was everything to me.

It is London.

An Alphabet Of My Life: K


When I was quite young, I don’t remember the exact age, my Mum gave me some advice.

“Be kind”.
“Be kind to animals”.
“Be kind to people”.
“Help people when you can”.
“Kindness costs nothing”.
“If you cannot say something kind, then say nothing at all”.

I took those words to heart, and have tried to live by them since. I went into a career as an EMT that required kindness as ‘stage one’ of any treatment. I was always kind to any animals or pets I encountered, and treated them with great respect.

When I felt I could say nothing kind to someone, I tried to be constructive or helpful instead.

Over 60 years later, I am still trying my very best to put kindness first.

Thanks, Mum.

An Alphabet Of My Life: H


Some of my earliest memories are of going on our annual summer holidays when I was a child. They were always in Britain, and usually by the coast, or an easy drive to the sea. I was constantly car sick as a child, and with no motoways then, the trips from London to Cornwall took so long, we stayed overnight on the way. Cornwall was favoured, as we could stay with one of my dad’s relatives in Penryn, a man I called ‘Uncle John’ who was in fact my dad’s oldest cousin.

It always seemed to be sunny and hot in those days, and our two week holiday consisted of sand castles, ice cream, and huge beaches like Praa Sands, and Newquay. Evening meals would often be fish and chips, or the famous Cornish Pasties.

Then when I was 11 years old, I went on a school trip to France. That gave me the bug for foreign travel, and I eagerly went back on more organised trips to places further south in France, like Biarritz and Royan. Those trips were always by sea ferry followed by train-travel, and I loved how everything seemed so different to England, and more exotic.

By the time I was 14, I considered myself far too old to go on holiday with my parents, and they travelled without me. But as my mum had no desire to leave the UK, they continued to holiday there. As a result, I spent a considerable time not going anywhere on holday, and just stayed at home.

When I met my first wife, she was incredibly well-travelled and had already been to every continent except Antarctica. She was eager to introduce me to places she knew, as well as those she had not yet visited. I went on an aeroplane for the first time at the age of 23, to travel to Tunisia. Once we were married two years later, we could afford to take two holidays every year, and my travels really began. We went to Greece, Crete, Turkey, the Soviet Union, (Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev) France, (three times) East Germany, West Germany, (Berlin) and Kenya.

After we split up, I lived with a much younger woman for a time. She was also interested in travel, and we took a long trip to Soviet Central Asia and a part of Mongolia, including Tashkent, Samarkand, Dushanbe, Ulan Bhator, and Alma-Ata. With the holiday starting and ending in Leningrad, I got to go back there too. We also visited the WW1 battlefields in Belgium and France, staying in Ypres and Arras.

Then I married again, and with my second wife I visited Egypt, taking a Nile cruise. We also had a long weekend in Amsterdam, and a week in Paris. Other holidays were closer, including the Cotswolds and Pembrokeshire. We also went back to Cornwall, but had a rain-soaked holiday in Looe. One highlight was a trip to Northumberland, taking in Seahouses, Alnwick, Holy Island, and Bamburgh. Whitby provided another holiday location, and we explored North Yorkshire from there.

Following a second break up, I travelled with a girlfriend to Bruges, Normandy, and Edinburgh. Then I went to China alone, to visit a friend who was living and working there. He lived in central Beijing, and that offered me a memorable stay in and around the capital of China, where I finally got to see The Great Wall.

Once I met Julie, we had to consider her children. We took two of them (the younger girls) on enjoyable holidays to Somerset, Bulgaria, and Turkey when they were still at school. But we were also able to get away alone later, going to France, (Carcassonne) Morrocco, Singapore, Malaysia, Barcelona, Ghent, Rome, and Prague.

That trip to Prague in 2011 was the last time I left England. I retired the following year, moved to Norfolk, and we got Ollie. Holidays were now something to also accommodate our beloved dog, and since then we have returned every year to the Lincolnshire coast, save for one year when we rented a cottage in Kent.

I had finally lost the urge to travel abroad, and allowed my passport to expire in 2016. We didn’t want the hassle of airports any longer, and the problems of car parking and dog-kennels. We had seen some great places, and were now content to stay in England.

My holidays had finally turned full circle.

An Alphabet Of My Life: G

G=Growing Up

This was my first choice for ‘G’. I started to write about growing up, and then I remembered I had already posted something almost identical, back in early 2021. So I deleted the part I had started to write as a draft, and I am adding a link to the 2021 post instead. Most of you will have seen it before, so this will mainly be for new followers.

Growing Up