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Sunday, 29 April 2018

408: Learning to live with 'minor' upsets!

After an enjoyable week in UK I flew from Stansted to Barcelona yesterday with Ryanair. My journey from Ramsey to the airport went swimmingly: there is a 7:12 bus which goes to Cambridge railway station and from there it is a 30 minute train ride to the airport. Got to the business lounge in good time to knock back a couple of G&Ts before having to report to the departure gate and stand in line to be processed.
A pleasant enough flight as I had paid extra for an emergency exit seat so could stretch my long legs. But we were late taking off and late landing. My problems snowballed from there. They opened the front and rear doors and passengers began disembarking. Unfortunately there were only two buses to convey three bus-loads of people. Those of us who were sitting in the middle of the plane were held on the plane until a bus came back for us. That, of course, put us at the end of a very long queue to have passports checked and I think a couple of other flights had arrived just before us. I finally got through passport control and picked up my baggage. Walked over the bridge to the train station. I could see the train at the platform. I knew it would be a forlorn attempt to reach it in time but felt I should try anyway. If only the guy in front of me at the ticket office hadn't wanted to talk quite so much I might have managed but by the time I got my ticket and fed it into the machine at the barrier I heard the whistle and knew that I would have to watch the train pulling out. 


30 minutes wait for the next train. What to do but go for a beer. The next train, unfortunately, pulled out on time but was late into Barcelona Sants, causing me to miss my connection. 90 minutes to wait for the next train to Salou. When I finally arrived at Salou it was after 9 p.m. and to cap it all there was a fine drizzle during the 10 minute walk home from the railway station.

None of this really matters. Why? Let me put things into perspective. I heard yesterday that an army colleague, I had never met him but knew of him and he was a contemporary of mine, had keeled over and died suddenly of a massive heart attack. A fit guy, a sportsman all his life. RIP Paul Lenny Fairclough. Condolences to his family. It is such a tenuous thread holding us to this life that the thread can be severed at any time. (Especially when you get to my age!) What does it matter that I was 2 hours late getting home. At least I woke up this morning.  Enjoy life, everybody. While you still can.

Really strange weather today. Thunder rolling around the sky. One minute bright sunshine and the next rain and then hailstones. We are having power cuts and if I were sensible I would turn off this laptop before it gets fried with a power surge.  Hope it hasn't knocked out the router. Fingers crossed.

I was listening to Russian radio Retro FM this morning when what should I hear but the Goombay Dance band singing "Marrakesh". You can't get much more retro than that! The rain this afternoon reminded me that they also recorded "Rain, rain, rain". So here it is:

Sunday, 22 April 2018

407: Sensible drinking....

Almost every day, it seems, we are being exhorted to live more healthily. To that end I have joined a gym in Salou and try to go three times a week when I'm in the country. Living healthily also includes drinking sensibly and here is just such an example!

This fishbowl sized gin and tonic is available in a variety of flavours at Bronte, which can be found between Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square. I shared it with my sister. Don't ask about the price! As I said to Hazel at the time it is the kind of place where if you need to ask the price you shouldn't be there! We met yesterday for lunch and after a very nice curry wurst at Herman ze German on Villiers Street we went looking for a little something to drink before heading back to our respective corners of the South East of England.  While I was waiting for Hazel to arrive I had a very quick whizz (American English = whiz) around the National Gallery, stopping longer at some of the religiously themed paintings than perhaps I might have done previously. Here are two that quite took my fancy. 

The Dead Christ mourned - Annibale Carracci
The Adoration of the Shepherds - Guido Reni
Here is a link to a virtual tour of the gallery. Enjoy.
I was in London for a reunion of my old Army mates on Friday evening. They hold the reunion every April and it was the first time for a number of years that I had managed to attend. I'd like to say that none of them are looking any older - but I can't. It's only me that hasn't aged at all. Good food, good company and good craic.
I stayed at a nice hotel opposite the Imperial War museum and it was a short bus ride from there to the Union Jack club, where the reunion was held. I had bought a bottle of gin in the airport at Barcelona in the morning and went twice to a local shop near the hotel to buy tonic. The first time, early afternoon, the nice man behind the counter charged me £1.10 for a small bottle of tonic. The second time, late evening, a different man (much nicer) charged me 99p for a bottle exactly the same. That's the trouble with shops that don't have the prices of things shown - there is a tendency for the person at the cash till to charge as much as he/she thinks they can get away with. A sad reflection of Society.

I recently had occasion to renew my Senior Railcard. There was a choice of buying a 1-year version or a 3-year version. I decided that, at my age, it might be safer to buy one year at a time. A bit like not buying green bananas! :)

Today is the London marathon. By now most of them will have finished the course and many will be saying to themselves, as I once did, "never again". That feeling wears off within a few days and the diehards look forward to the next year.  To finish, of course, the theme from Chariots of Fire.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

406: Port out and starboard home

Stayed in London on Monday to celebrate my birthday. As a special treat I stayed in the RAF Club on Piccadilly. It's a bit 'posh' (elegant or stylishly luxurious.) Folk etymology suggests that 'posh' is formed from the initials of port out starboard home (referring to the more comfortable accommodation, out of the heat of the sun, on ships between England and India). That meaning appears to be apocryphal but it does remind me of a story in the book I am currently reading - Jeremy Paxman's Empire. I hope he won't mind me copying a paragraph here: "... the arrival of what later became known as the fishing fleet - young women from the home country out to net themselves a husband from the single men serving in India. 'In the hot weather you took out what was known as the 'B' class girl, usually Anglo-Indians, who were dears in every way and the greatest fun. But the moment the cold weather started they were taboo, because all the young girls from Roedean, Cheltenham and the great schools of Britain came out in the P&O liners'. The women who failed to find anyone suitable went back to England, nicknamed "returned empties" !" I know my dear old grandmother (mum's mum) was in India with her husband, my grandad, and thankfully didn't have to suffer the ignominy of being classed as a "returned empty". Here is the ship she returned from India on, with two of her children. 
I digress. A few pictures from my day in London.

Buckingham Palace.
The flag was flying, albeit limply, so Her Majesty was in residence.

The doorman at the Athenaeum, looking resplendent in top hat and tails.
London, all tastes catered for....

Parked overnight in the Hyde Park/Mayfair underground car park. £49.99! Even with a 25% discount it still made my eyes water! Remind me not to take the car next time!

Enjoy the video "London Girls", Chas and Dave - 1983.