A Very Strange Dream

I had a disturbing dream last night. It woke me up when it was still dark, and I went back to sleep thinking about it. I was unsure whether or not to post about it today, but after walking round with Ollie for a couple of hours this afternoon, I decided to go ahead.

On the 18th of this month, I read a blog post on a blog I follow. Here’s a link to that.
The Seven Sisters

It was about a trip to the Seven Sisters in Sussex, seven famous chalk cliffs that overlook the coast. It is very common for people to commit suicide there, by jumping from the cliffs. I know that area well, and have been to the same spot many times in the past. I enjoyed reading the text and admiring the photos, left a comment, and thought no more about it.

Until last night.

I was driving along in a motor caravan, with Ollie on the seat next to me at the front. I have never owned a motor caravan, so that in itself is unusual. After parking the vehicle somewhere, I walked across the wide expanse of grass with Ollie running around in front of me, until I got close to the edge of one of the cliffs.The sky was grey, the weather cold, and the sea was turbulent, with waves crashing into the rocks at the base of the cliff.

Something made me inch nearer and nearer to the edge, until I was aware that small pieces of chalky rock were being loosened by my shoes, and falling into the sea below. With the wind in my face, and an uninterrupted view, I was really basking in the full force of nature. Ollie was still standing close, and just behind me.

Then for some reason, it entered my head to jump. Well not really jump, just step off into the void. The appeal of that idea continued to grow, and I started to move one foot forward until it was no longer touching the ground. As I did that, Ollie moved closer to the edge too. I turned and told him to ‘stay’, but it was clear to me that if I stepped off the edge, there was every chance that he would follow me. So I didn’t. I stepped back a few paces, and bent down to stroke Ollie. Concern for my dog had stopped me from doing something irreversible.

And then I woke up.

In the past, I have never really had any suicidal thoughts. I am sure the dream can be explained by having read the blog post, and those dangerous cliffs being on my mind.

But whatever the reason, it seems I can thank Ollie for saving me.

2020: Blogging Thoughts For A New Year

Four days into a new year, my mind turns to thinking about my blogs over the next twelve months.

Because I am still using the now outdated Windows 7 on this PC, I may have to consider changing to a new version during the year. This brings with it the prospect of having to use the dreaded ‘Gutenberg Block Editor’ on WordPress, something I have so far managed to avoid. I am thinking about paying someone to give me a comprehensive and easy to understand tutorial, so if that’s something you can do, feel free to contact me.

As I posted a lot less of my own photos during 2019, I still have almost 70% of my allowance remaining, on the paid-for ‘Personal Plan’ I use. Considering that, I will try to take a lot more photos for the blog in 2020. Especially of Ollie, who will be 8 years old next month.

LinkedIn has generated so few views of my blog over the past year, I think I will give up on that particular social media platform. If anyone only uses that to view my posts, please let me know in the comments.

Fiction will still feature here, with short stories and longer serials. But I will reduce the word length of serial episodes considerably, to make them more reader-friendly. I would like to say that I am going to write a lot less about weather in 2020, but I fear that will not be the case. If anyone has any other suggestions about what they would like to see more of on this blog, feel free to tell me.

I stopped reading again late last year, when a long bout of cold/flu/cough made it hard for me to read at night in bed. I will try to get back to that soon, and hopefully begin to review some of the many blogger’s books I have bought but still not read.

I am determined to stop stressing about the new followers who have no blog connected to their gravatar. So if you follow this blog, and never hear from me, it is because you have not connected your blog, and I have no way of commenting, following, or communicating with you.

For any of you new bloggers who have decided that 2020 is the year you are going to start blogging, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If I can ever be of help to you, my email address is on the ‘About’ page.

Here’s to another great year of blogging, in the year to come.

My two most popular photos

I have posted a lot of photos on this blog.

Those of Ollie are very popular of course. Then there is the one on my ‘About’ page. That gets a lot of comments.

Holiday snaps, old buildings, and photos sourced from the Internet to illustrate posts or stories.

Photo prompts, used as inspiration for fiction, with the photo in the post.
Unusual or historical buildings, even ancient ruins. I like to take photos, and I often like to feature images on this blog too.

However, recent research (clicks on media) has shown me which two are the most popular photos on this blog.

The most viewed. Every day, seven days a week, since I published this post in August.

After seven years plus of blogging, this is what it comes down to, image-wise.


Naturally, I am at complete loss as to why these two photos are the most popular. 🙂

Of A Certain Age

You might have to be of a certain age to appreciate this post.
You might also have to be British, though some of this crosses international borders.

For those of you born after 1980, think of it as a History lesson.

Like listening to music?
No i-tunes back then, not even a soon-to-be-outdated CD to play.
This is how we listened to our music.

Cinema Snacks?
No hot dogs, or buckets of popcorn.
No Tacos, or Wraps.
No two-pint cups of unlimited Coca-Cola.
This was what we had to choose from, displayed during the intermission.

Fancy a Latte or Cappucino?
We didn’t have those then.
We didn’t even have powder or granule instant coffee.
We had this. You poured some of the syrup into your cup, and topped up with boiling water.

Playstation, or X-Box? What’s your favourite game?
How about this? It didn’t need a wireless controller.

Fancy something sweet?
How about a liquorice pipe?
Smoking was cool back then, and there were sweet cigarettes too.

Apps on your smartphone?
Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook?
Maybe you enjoy just texting, with lots of emojis?
Try doing all that on one of these.

Enjoy Ice Cream?
Maybe you like Ben and Jerry’s?
What about flavours? Salted Caramel, or Cookie dough?
This was it, when I was 8 years old.

Foreign Food?
What’s your personal choice?
Pizza? Chinese, Indian, or Thai?
Mexican perhaps, or a nice Fusion.
This is what passed for exciting dining.
It was ‘boiled in the bag’.

Think about this, the next time you are enjoying a home-delivered pizza, watching your friend play Call of Duty as you listen to tunes on your phone.
Remember how lucky you are. 🙂

Cars: My Life On The Road

Strictly speaking, this is a ‘Thinking Aloud On a Sunday’ post, as I woke up imagining (or dreaming) that I was driving the first car I ever owned.
That prompted a search of my memory for the cars that have marked the stages of my life, and also made me realise I have very few (almost no) photos of me with them.

These photos are not of my own vehicles, and have been sourced online.
But I had the same models.

Six months before I was old enough to drive, my Dad came home with a car he had bought for me. He got a deal on it, and didn’t want to chance leaving it until I got my licence.
It was a 1963 Vauxhall Viva HA, and he bought it in 1968.
I thought it was the best thing ever, and on the day I passed my test, I drove it around Central London all afternoon.

(My one was light green)

Two years later, in 1971, I was working as a salesman for a record company. They replaced the vans we had been using with cars, hoping to improve their image.
I got a new Vauxhall Viva HB free of charge, as a company car. Of course, I didn’t own it, and had to give it back when I left.
But it always felt like ‘my car’.

I changed jobs, and was given another company car. This was what we call an ‘Estate Car’ here, known as a Station Wagon in America.
It was a Ford Cortina 1.6, and was really roomy.

(My one was a burgundy colour)

In December of 1973, I decided to add to my income by working part-time as a taxi driver. I couldn’t use the company car of course, so I bought a brand new car to use at weekends as a taxi. It was a Hillman Hunter 1725, and it took me over three years to pay it off. I enjoyed being a taxi driver, so I resigned from my job and did it full-time.

(Mine was dark green)

In 1976, I moved with my Mum to South-West London, where we bought a shop.
Although I didn’t make much money as a shopkeeper, I discovered that we could run a car through the business.
So in 1977, I traded in my old taxi for a 1974 Volvo.
It was a top-of the range model, the 164 TE, with a three-litre engine, an automatic gearbox, and a luxurious leather interior.
I loved that big white car.

As the Volvo got older, it started to cost a small fortune to run.
I had already joined the Ambulance Service by then, and didn’t have much disposable income.
I was using a motorcycle to commute to work, so in 1982, we bought one car to share between us.
It was a six-month old VW Golf. It was white, and dressed up to look like the GTi model in this photo.
Except our one was a cheaper ‘special edition’ that only had the 1300 cc engine.
In the autumn of 1984, the car was destroyed in a motorway accident that almost killed my first wife, and left me with broken fingers.
(She was driving at the time)

With the insurance money from the accident, I let my wife choose the replacement car, and I bought a better motorcycle.
She chose a two-tone Ford Capri 1.6, known as a ‘Cabaret Edition’. It was a pre-registered car that had never been owned, and we got a good deal as it was already one year old.
This was the exact colour of the one we had.

After a hard winter that year, I had decided that I had enough of motorcycles.
So I sold the one I had, and went out to buy a cheap used car for cash.
I came home with a Citroen GS Estate, in the same blue as this photo.
It was the most comfortable car I have ever owned.

When we split up in 1985, my wife kept the Ford. I was having numerous electrical problems with the Citroen by then and decided to change it.
I bought a recent Austin Metro, a very basic car that was cheap to run, with a small 1.0 litre engine. It was red, like the one in the photo.
But I hated that car with a vengeance. It had little power for motorway driving, and was very noisy too.

I still yearned for the ease of an automatic transmission, and a return to a quiet, comfortable car.
Then I found a good deal on a Fiat Regata 1.6 saloon. It was the top model, with an expensive radio/cassette player, a three-speed auto gearbox, and tinted windows.
I loved it.
But then I discovered why it was a good deal. It gave me nothing but trouble.
Electrical issues, bulbs blowing, and then a disastrous water leak. It had to go.

I swallowed my pride, and traded the Fiat in for another Citroen. The new Visa model. Low mileage, in red like the photo, and only the small 1,000cc engine.
But that turned out to be a good decision, as it was a great car.
I drove it across Belgium and France, and used it every day for work too.
I loved it, and it never once let me down.

But London traffic was driving me insane with so many gear changes, and I still hankered after an automatic.
I found a Ford Fiesta 1300 in black, with an early version of their CVT ‘Easydrive’ auto gearbox.
I had a lump in my throat as I waved goodbye to the Citroen.
I should have kept it.
The Fiesta gearbox was indeed smooth, and made life a lot easier for me.
Trouble was, the car still used the unreliable carburetor from the old model, and it constantly broke down.
I found myself taking the thing apart at the roadside on a rainy night in North London, and made the decision to get shot of it.

That went in part-exchange for a brand new Fiat Punto. That had a 1.4 engine, a 5-speed manual shift, and was very light and nippy in traffic.
Despite the issues with the earlier Fiat, this one proved to be really reliable, and I kept it for some time.

(Mine was green)

Then I moved away to the edge of North London, and had to start driving a longer distance into work.
I wanted a more powerful car, and one with an automatic gearbox too.
I discovered an American car that was being imported into the UK, the Chrysler Neon.
This had a powerful two-litre engine, a smooth auto gearbox, and very light power steering.
I found a dark green one for sale in a London dealership. It was out of my price range though.
So I arranged a deal where the Fiat went as the deposit, and I made low payments for 36 months.
At the end of the payment period, I had to pay a lump sum to own the car.
It was a very nice car indeed, though it used a frightening amount of petrol, with around 20 mpg at best.
I still had it when I moved back to Camden, and kept it until Julie moved in. With no need for two cars, and plans to move to Norfolk, it was sold to a friend for cash.

For three years, I used public transport to get to work, or walked. We had Julie’s car if we had to go further afield.
In March 2012, I moved up here, and we got Ollie. I wanted a car with plenty of room for the dog, and was determined to get one with an automatic gearbox too.
So I bought a low-mileage Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 turbo-diesel in silver, with a six-speed auto box. It was already five years old though.
It was the SRi Sport model, well-equipped, and with a huge area at the back for Ollie. It also had an option to use as a 7-seater.

I still have that car. It is now 12 years old, and starting to cost serious money to keep running.
But I do love it still, and have no plans to change it.

Let me know about some of your car memories, in the comments.

Jobs On The Street: Old Photos.

For as long as goods and services have been sold, they have been sold in public, on the street.

From Roman times, up to and including my own childhood, street vendors were an everyday sight on the streets of London.

A ‘Shoe Black’, plying his trade in the 1920s.

A milkman, during the early 1960s.
It was unusual by then to see a man still using a push-cart.
Though our own milkman was still using a horse at the time, that was soon replaced by an electric vehicle.

Hot Chestnuts.
Traditionally a cold-weather, seasonal occupation, these sellers could be seen all over London.

In the summer months, Ice Cream sellers were everywhere.
They rode around the streets until they sold out.
The largest company, Wall’s, had their iconic sign. ‘Stop Me and Buy One’.

Street musicians liked to work in busy shopping areas, passing around a hat after performing.
These two went so far as to transport a harp!

Peanut sellers favoured sporting events, exhibitions, and anywhere they could gurantee a large crowd.
Percy Dalton was the top selling brand of peanuts in shells.

Rag and Bone men originally collected unwanted rags and bones, as their name implies.
By the 1960s, they had branched out into the burgeoning antique market, as you can see from this man’s sign.
They also took away any potentially valuable scrap, including most metals and electrical wiring.

Changes in local laws, food sale regulations, and the growing reluctance of consumers to buy things from street vendors, have now all but consigned them to history.
Street entertainers still flourish though, in the most crowded and popular tourist spots in London. Also as buskers, all over the capital. These days, they have to apply for a licence to perform. Doorstep milk deliveries still exist too, but with most of us buying cheaper milk from supermarkets, their time is almost at an end. You can still buy ice cream from vendors selling it from a motorised vehicle. In places like here in Beetley, they drive around the streets in the summer months, playing tunes through a loudspeaker to announce their presence.

Most former Rag and Bone men graduated into becoming scrap metal merchants. With the public wise to the money to be made from scrap, they now usually have to pay to take away the scrap metal that was once left outside for them to collect for free. As for shoe-blacks, the popularity of trainers and casual shoes meant that few people needed to have their shoes polished anymore. They can still be seen in some business districts, where they have become something of an amusing oddity.

My New ‘Toy’

**This post will only be of interest to anyone who likes cameras and photography. And even they may not be interested**

I bought myself another camera last week, and it arrived this morning.

Many years ago, I saw that Minox of Germany were producing a replica of the Leica M III film camera. But it was a digital camera, in miniature.

(Photos can be enlarged, by clicking on them)

At first, it only boasted two megapixels, and had a small internal storage of 2 mb. Later versions extended the capacity to three, then four megapixels, and added a live rear screen, as well as the facility to use an SD card for storage. But it was ridiculously expensive, and little more than a collector’s item

The last manifestation of this tiny camera extended to 14 megapixels, and also allowed a 32 gb SD card. Now it was becoming more desirable, but also more expensive, at around £180. I thought about it, then forgot about it.

I looked on Ebay recently, and found an ‘open-box’, unused camera, for a fraction of the original selling price. It came with a still-wrapped charging cable, the original metal display box, and full instructions. It was for sale in Germany, from a ‘trusted seller’. So I bought it. The only downside so far is that I cannot work out how to change the menu language, so have to translate from the German shown, using Google to find the meanings of the words.

In this photo, it is next to my Sony RX 10 zoom compact. You can easily see just how tiny it is, palm-sized in fact.

The camera has metal parts alongside the plastic components, and is lovingly engineered as a replica. The film winder and self-timer levers both move, although they have no function. The lens focusing ring does work, changing focus from infinity to other settings. The metal viewfinder operates like one from the 1930s, as it is quite cloudy and distorted. However, the small screen at the rear serves as a back-up for composing photos. It also has a digital menu, allowing changes to white balance, and some other functions.

You won’t find a good review of this camera online. The tiny 1/2.3 sensor has its limitations, and most camera magazines and websites describe it as little more than a ‘toy’, with limited practical application in the modern world of photography. The lens is fixed at a full-frame equivalent of 46 mm, and the digital zoom feature is best avoided.

But I happen to think it is a thing of beauty. And it takes photos too.