Acting a caricature

Years ago I read a Pinter play called The Dumb Waiter. I wanted to take it to festivals but never did anything beyond the reading. I can’t remember why. Even so, it’s a one act play I’ve always liked. Until tonight I’d never seen it performed.

Mirinda is having a week’s study leave so, rather than meeting in town, we travelled up and back together. A rare treat which saw us eating our main meal for lunch. Mirinda called hers Linner but reckoned mine was Blinner because I didn’t have breakfast.

The play was part of a Pinter at the Pinter run of plays. Harold Pinter directed a lot of his works at the old Comedy Theatre in Haymarket and, in honour of the great man, it was renamed The Harold Pinter Theatre in 2011. This run combines two one act plays, A Slight Ache, originally a radio play on the BBC and The Dumb Waiter. It is the seventh season of Pinter and is therefore called Pinter at the Pinter 7.

While I really wanted to see The Dumb Waiter, the main reason we were going was to see Martin Freeman as Gus. We saw him a while ago in the play about the Labour Party which ran backwards and he was excellent (along with Tamsin Greg) so we were really looking forward to it.

In my seat

The first play was A Slight Ache. Originally performed as a radio play it features two real actors and a third character who is never seen or heard. I thought it was excellent though Mirinda wasn’t too sure about it given it was a bit odd.

It wasn’t until I reached the train going home that I was able to read the programme (writing too small, theatre too dark, colours not helpful) and discovered that the woman playing Flora was Gemma Whelan. She plays Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones as well as many other things. She’s also in Upstart Crow. And she was excellent in A Slight Ache.

Her accent was extraordinary for a start but her whole character was so well constructed and performed it was perfect. I couldn’t fault her at all. John Heffernan as her husband Edward was also very good. His comic timing was lovely as were his changes in mood.

The only thing I could fault would be the dialogue he delivered while lying on the floor. I have to hope it wasn’t important because I couldn’t hear most of it. I also couldn’t see him very well but that was more to do with the rude man in the fez sitting in front of me. And while he was annoying he wasn’t as bad as the woman with a beehive hairstyle sitting near him.

So we then had the interval and then The Dumb Waiter began. From the off it was obvious that Martin Freeman was going to be superb (he was) but the same could not be said of his partner, Ben played by Danny Dyer. Danny Dyer is known for his soap opera work (Eastenders, Hollyoaks, Casualty, etc) and maybe he’s very good at it. I wouldn’t know as I’ve never seen him in anything other than Have I Got News for You last year. Whatever his talent for performing on the telly, he is not very good on stage.

Everything he did was a caricature. Nothing felt real except for the work that Martin Freeman had to put in. It was almost like watching a live action version of that classic book The Art of Coarse Acting by Martin Green. It was a real shame given there were only two of them in the play.

Still, it was good seeing the play and it was even better seeing Martin Freeman again. He really is one of our best actors at the moment.

Of course the trains were a bit messy getting home but, eventually we made it back to the girls. A lovely night at the theatre though I would have preferred a better actor playing Ben.

And a more respectful audience would have been nice. Apart from the fez wearing chap, the guy sitting next to me taking photos was a real annoyance. Maybe that’s what happens when you put soap actors in real plays.

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Regular chop

Gardener Dave came today and immediately noticed the new fence. I didn’t see him but Mirinda reckoned he looked a bit miffed that he’d not been asked to do it. Either that or he wanted to wire up the jasmine.

Instead of fence building the gardeners made short work of turning the compost and moving the pots back. The pots had been moved to one end of the terrace on Saturday when the tree guys turned up to trim the beech and the hazel. We thought it was all one tree but it turns out there’s two.

This is not like Mirinda at all. I depend on her for the horticultural advice. Still, they just amended the quote upwards and set about trimming everything and opening up the whole terrace. Of course it now looks incredibly dirty. I’ll have to get the cleaner out.

Looking a bit bare

I don’t think Dave was too upset about us not asking him to cut the trees back. And he did a splendid job with the re-positioning of the pots in their new spring configuration.

In the meanwhilst I was at the gym then in town shopping. Sadly, having had some glorious weather over the last few days (particularly in Yorkshire) the day was drizzly and damp. That awful type of rain that soaks you with stealth. It’s like thick mist with deceptively big drops.

Even so, the Lion and Lamb looked quite lovely as I walked down it on the way to buy Mirinda the wrong kind of shower cap from Boots then the correct kind of bulldog clips from Smith’s.

This photo marks the first time I’ve noticed the Bob window

Back at home I set about my normal housekeeping while the boys slaved away in the rain. They didn’t stop for a coffee this morning because, Dave said, it would mean stripping off all their wet weather gear and, worse still, put it all back on again. It didn’t seem to occur to Mirinda that she could have made it and given it to them outside.

We won’t be seeing Dave next fortnight because he’ll be painting and decorating his house. Andy will be coming instead. We’ll have to watch him around the ivy and wisteria.

After they’d gone, the garden had it’s usual post-gardener glow and the terrace was back to looking better potted.

As well as the general pot distribution, they also placed a few pots in the rat run – the small alley between the terrace and the fence where the tree grows and the rats run – sitting them on brick platforms. Apart from anything else, this will make it a lot easier to clean the terrace. And give the rats an obstacle course to use.

Today marks the beginning of half term. While it will be awful at the Dockyard (and the Science Museum) it was bliss in Farnham. Possibly my favourite week so far this year.

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To Farnham (via Reading)

Up early after a pretty good sleep (second night, new bed, yadda, yadda, yadda) though I could have done without the 400 pillows. Mind you, once I’d rid the bed of most of them, the two I retained were lovely and firm though they may be responsible for the crick in my shoulder I woke up with.

All thoughts of crick pain were dispelled once I was sat before my second smoked salmon and scrambled egg breakfast. Truly delicious and necessary given I assumed that Nicktor wouldn’t be stopping for anything as mundane as a leg stretch, toilet break, coffee or food.

And I was correct. We climbed into the car and didn’t get out for the next four or five hours.

That being the case, there isn’t a lot to write about (I’m ignoring the cars we discussed and plans we were eagerly making for further adventures to far off lands) so, without further ado, here’s the story of black pudding and Cointreau related to us by Ian yesterday.

I should start off by saying his telling was quite fractured given the constant interruptions which caused the flow to be diverted and stopped quite a few times. For that reason I may have embellished the story a bit but, essentially it’s true as told.

Many years ago, Ian and his biker mates headed up to the Island of Skye for a music festival. This was before the bridge was built so it was a whole load of motor bikes and leather reeking riders stuffed onto a ferry.

On their bikes they carried everything they would need for a weekend of music and…well, that was it really. They did have tents but it didn’t sound like they were very effective.

They turned up and claimed a bit of land then went off to listen to the music. Of course, Ian claimed, it was raining. Because, Ian said, it always rains on the Island of Skye. (I have to make a disclaimer that I have no idea what the Island of Skye is like weatherwise and all my meteorological information comes from Ian.)

When it was time to return to their tents (3am) they discovered that the ground was muddier than mud has any right to be. There was also no alcohol left. Apparently, in those days anyway, people left their doors open because Islanders trusted each other. So, when one of Ian’s biker mates said he’d sort the alcohol situation out, they doubted him not.

This mate was once a chef on an oil rig. He was also somewhat violent of nature and had served time at Her Majesty’s pleasure for reasons best not gone into. He seems the unlikeliest of chefs but, according to Ian, he was pretty handy in a kitchen. And not because of the proximity of knives. Let’s call him Lenny because I can’t remember his actual name.

Anyway, shortly after making the announcement Lenny returned carrying a crate of Newcastle Brown Ale and a bottle of Cointreau. The ale was obvious but when quizzed about the Cointreau Lenny said the bottles of whisky were behind a cage and out of reach while the neglected bottle of Cointreau was easy pickings.

A short distance from the bikers’ tents was a party of nurses from Aberdeen. The two groups looked at each other and, while the bikers were quite keen, the nurses wrinkled their noses in utter distaste. Well, until Lenny asked if they’d like some breakfast.

Having reduced a tent to a rough and largely ineffective shelter, Lenny proceeded to create something special in a fry pan. I don’t remember Ian elaborating on what food stuffs they had with them but he did say there was black pudding. When asked how he was going to make good on the breakfast front, Lenny claimed could work with black pudding.

He sliced it and diced it and popped it into the fry pan. He then poured half the bottle of Cointreau over the top of it. Naturally the Cointreau set everything alight and their inadequate shelter was reduced to no shelter at all in no time. Of course, by this stage it wasn’t important. Besides the nurses thought it was all great fun.

Ian said the resultant mess was actually delicious and served as a more than successful aphrodisiac. All the bikers and all the nurses enjoyed their breakfast that day.

After a brief rest, the local policeman came along and, noticing the Newcastle Brown Ale crate, asked where it had come from. Lenny held his hand up and admitted he’d taken it from the local pub, gaining access through the conveniently open door. The local policeman (rather bravely I thought) took Lenny away and locked him up.

At the end of the concert, Ian and his mates clubbed together their cash and, making enough to cover the cost of the crate of Newcastle Brown Ale and the bottle of Cointreau, paid the pub landlord and, with his help, convinced the local policeman to release Lenny into their custody. I’m assuming they assured the local policeman that they were going to leave the Island of Skye on the next ferry to the mainland.

I am now quite keen to try the black pudding and Cointreau breakfast but not sure how to introduce the correct amount of burnt tent. I’m also not sure what I’d do with the rest of the black pudding. Obviously I wouldn’t give any to Nicktor who didn’t even nibble his piece this morning.

So, we drove home. We stopped briefly in Reading to pick up a just woke up James but otherwise we just went with the constant southward flow. The drive was pretty smooth and in good time, I was thrown out of the car outside the house.

I surprised Mirinda (she was expecting me to arrive much later) with her lunch on her face. She had the door on the latch so I had to knock. And knock and knock. Eventually she decided I wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness and let me in.

It was the end of a lovely weekend away. Good company, good stories and great breakfasts. What more could one ask? Okay, good football would have been preferable but, you can’t have everything.

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To Halifax

After not a lot of sleep (first night, new bed, beer, yadda, yadda, yadda) we headed down for breakfast. While I don’t normally have breakfast I figured there was going to be a lot of doubt over whether we’d be eating or not so thought something in my tummy before beer was a wise decision.

Apart from it being a wise decision with regards to my beer consumption, it provided it for my tastebuds as well. I was fortunate enough to have possibly the best scrambled eggs and smoked salmon I’ve had outside Chez Gaz. (The eggs merely lacked a little cream.)

Of course, Nicktor had his usual full English, leaving about a third of it on the plate. I’m so used to this I didn’t even bother commenting. I’m not sure why I’m doing it now, to be honest. Though I was surprised that he tried a bit of his black pudding. Just a bit, mind. I guess it lacked something with a hint of orange. Maybe. I do wonder what Steve From Number 11 would have had. I guess we’ll never know.

Anyway following this delightful repast, we went for a little wander in order for Nicktor to find some Fenwick’s sarsparilla. Or, rather, not find any. The main reason he wanted to buy some is because somewhere back in the dim dark days of the Victorian North, some long dead ancestor of his had a hand in creating it. I don’t think it was a literal hand though sarsarilla tastes so bad I could be wrong. Obviously this relative wasn’t the Fenwick. Also Nicktor likes sarsparilla. Go figure.

On our wander around the always lovely Holmfirth (which we only generally see at night) we came across a rather large gorilla, having a bit of a rest outside a shop called the Lion’s Den.

I think he was busking

Eventually there was a loud “Oi!” from across the road and there was Colin, knee deep in Saturday morning traffic, squeezed in behind the Summer Wine Country Tour Bus and waiving like a demented emperor. We managed to dodge around the traffic and hopped into his tank of a car.

There we met Ian. He is Colin’s brother-in-law, being the husband of his sister Jude. (All day I was wondering how he could be the brother of Francis (Colin’s wife) because she is not in the least bit Scottish and Ian is nothing but. Eventually Colin set me straight. It made much more sense really.)

Francis was also there (in the back for some reason) as she was taking the car back to the house while we all caught the train from Honley, a station I’d not yet visited. Not that there’s a lot of Honley station to visit. It’s only long enough for a two carriage train. Fortunately the train we caught only had two carriages so it was ample.

(I should mention here that Colin will be called Napoleon from here on in. This relates to Nicktor’s book and is essential from the viewpoint of his military prowess and organising skills. His rhetorical motto is “Pourquoi ne laisser personne derrière quand on peut laisser tout le monde?” and he practices this with great skill and delight.)

At the station slightly ahead of us we met Steve From the Squash Court and Northern Pete and there were plenty of ecstatic salutations and greetings of great exuberance. I hadn’t seen them for almost two years but we all just carried on like I’d seen them last week. Two lovely guys.

Something that featured quite a bit during the day was Nicktor’s book. This is mostly because quite a few of the people there are mentioned in it. Nicktor had brought up a copy of it for Napoleon, hoping that he could push a few sales from other people who might like to read about themselves in a less than complimentary way.

The first taste of possible repercussions came on the platform of Honley Station when Napoleon, with great delight, read out the section on Steve From the Squash Court’s breakfast cooking prowess. Nicktor’s complaint about his less than crispy bottomed eggs did not go unpunished. I suggested to Nicktor that he might not want to partake of the next breakfast. He said he’d make sure he was in the kitchen helping. And he’d bring his own parsley.

Regardless of any sort of technological problems trying to get bits of cardboard out of a big machine, we managed to get aboard the correct train and settled in for the not very long trip to Huddersfield. We managed to by pass the delights of the Head of Steam (at this early stage) and changed to platform 6 where Napoleon had placed himself in front of a locked train carriage, defiant and certain.

Nicktor figured our leader was wrong but it was Nicktor who was wrong because it was indeed our connecting train and, in good time, it deposited us at Halifax.

The walk from the station to the Three Pigeons and then the continuing trip to the football ground were both a bit like most areas beside railway lines so I’ll spare any details. Later on I was to taste the real delights that Halifax had to offer and I have to say I rather liked the place though it is a bit hilly.

From the station, where we picked up Mike, we ended up in the loveliest pub. The Three Pigeons is a delight with little nook like rooms with long benches and uncomfortable stools, a wonderful bar full of very promising ales (I can recommend the Brunette) and just the perfect atmosphere to tempt us all into staying there for the rest of our lives. It’s a bit of a pity we didn’t stay.

The pub gradually filled up and, sadly before Yorkshire Pete joined us, it was time for a group photo. Nicktor tried his non-existent selfie skills (his arms are too short) so Ian went over to a group of chaps sitting in the corner and asked “Would you take a photo for us please?

The closest chap said of course and took a selfie of him and his mates.

Halifax chaps

This had us all in stitches. And not because we were by any stretch of the imagination drunk. No, it was actually really, really funny. Anyway, the fellow turned the lens thing around and took this for us.

Napoleon, Northern Pete, Ian, me, Steve from the Squash Court, Nicktor and Mike. The guy in the opening behind us is photo-bombing perfectly

You can see how funny we thought the previous joke was because we’re all still laughing.

Then Yorkshire Pete turned up and we had a few more beers before heading off for the ground with enough time to allow for my usual reduced mobility.

We took our seats which had Nicktor complaining about not standing up (as usual) though I was more than a little bit grateful for the chance to get off my legs. Though, to be fair to Nicktor, I do agree in principle. What I can’t agree with him on is the quality of football on display today.

Behind us our 200+ travelling fans sang bravely throughout the entire match but it made very little difference. Our play was lacklustre (except for rare bursts), shots on target were few and far between and…I’m not going to go on. It was not a good advertisement for the Mighty Shots by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.

Steve From the Squash Court was particularly unimpressed with the football. Or maybe he was still seething about Nicktor’s TripAdvisor type critique of his breakfast skills.

And so the final whistle went and we could all go somewhere more exciting.

Napoleon strode off, determined for us all to see the Piece Hall. Ignoring some navigational advice from a local who didn’t actually know his left from his right, we managed to find the hall. By the time we arrived, Napoleon had gone somewhere else and a frantic attempt at discovering his whereabouts ensued. He was in a pub. He didn’t know where.

The Piece Hall, so named because a cloth in the 18th century in Halifax was measured in ‘pieces’ measuring 30 yards in length and made on a handloom, is magnificent. I remember seeing something about it on the BBC ages ago because it had recently been beautifully restored.

Back in 1972 the council wanted to demolish the whole thing but a speech given by Councillor Keith Ambler saved it. And so its restoration began until we have the wonderful arts type building we have today.

It is truly magnificent. No photo could really do it justice. But I’ll try with a panno.

Piece Hall

That’s Nicktor in the Aldershot shirt with Mike and Yorkshire Pete. They are discussing whether to join Napoleon in the unknown pub or (Mike’s suggestion) go to the Victorian pub up the hill.

The Victorian pub isn’t Victorian. It opened in 2014 and is named after the theatre opposite. The theatre just about qualifies as being Victorian given it opened in 1901 after the queen died. Mind you, the foundation stone was laid in 1899 and the original plans were formed in 1897 so I guess we can let that slide.

The pub is not big but it was full. It also had a menu board with about 30 different ales of varying taste and alcohol content. Mike decided, against all advice, that he wanted to try something that bubbled away with 8.2%. The barman suggested he should have a half pint but Mike insisted. He needed a pint, he could handle a pint, he wanted a pint! He was given a pint even though it cost £10.

Mike really should have listened to the advice. I have never seen someone get so drunk so fast. It was like he’d gone into some sort of time slip where he’d had time to drink 20 pints to our one then suddenly returned still grasping his glass.

Speaking of grasping his glass…possibly the funniest thing to happen all weekend was when he, casually, put his hand out to lean against a conveniently placed door next to him. What he didn’t know was that the door wasn’t closed. Standing between Nicktor and me, he just slid out of sight as the door swung open to reveal the, fortunately empty, ladies’ toilet. It was exactly like the Del Boy scene in Only Fools and Horses only delightfully real.

Possibly the most amazing thing apart from the fact that he didn’t fall down, was that he didn’t spill any of his evil brew.

Eventually we recovered and were joined by the missing great leader and two of his troops (Steve From the Squash Court had gone off to a party or, possibly, was so disgusted with the verdict of his cooking skills had gone off in a huff) and settled in for another pint. We even managed to get seats at one stage.

It was soon time to move on however, rather than the train station, we headed down to the Three Pigeons because we loved it so much. It was very, very crowded. It was also full of Halifax fans who decided I’d like to discuss the ins and outs of the game with them. One chap in a suit (his company sponsored the match) seems to now be my new best friend in Halifax.

We only stayed for the one beer before heading off for the station and an exceedingly slow train to Huddersfield. It was so slow that the guard had to tell us, over the tannoy, that it was part of the schedule and there was nothing wrong. I’ve never heard that one before.

Not that we minded the length of the trip. Ian was in a reflective mood and decided to tell me all about his uncle (I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the name so I’ll call him) Frank. Uncle Frank taught Ian everything fun about life. He started by teaching him about going to live football.

At the age of nine, Uncle Frank came round to Ian’s house one Saturday and asked him if he’d like to come to the game. Ian was overjoyed and piled into the car. Because there was no bridge back then, the trip to the ground where Ross County played their home games was about three hours drive (it’s now about half an hour).

They arrived at the ground and Uncle Frank showed Ian a small enclosed section where he was told to stand and watch the game. Uncle Frank then disappeared. Ian watched and loved the game and has ever since. He became that day a lifelong County fan. So much so that the mere hint of Inverness Caledonian Thistle can send him into a fit of rage and bad language. To be honest it doesn’t take that much to send him into a fit of bad language.

Anyway, the game ended (he didn’t remember the score or the opposition) and Uncle Frank was nowhere to be found. Ian figured he’d be in the pub and Ian was right. In the back room there was Uncle Frank, pissed and snoozing while his best mates sat and stood around him talking the sort of nonsense only drunk Scots can talk.

Ian smiled as he fondly remembered his Uncle Frank though, he told me, he was rather pleased when he reached 15 and was allowed to drive the car back home rather than wait for Frank to sober up enough to do it himself.

As the train crawled between points, Ian regaled me with some very endearing and funny stories about his uncle. Far too many to include here. It was a lovely slow train ride we had.

All good things must come to an end though and we were eventually at Huddersfield which, of course, means a visit to the Head of Steam pub. Though, I have to say, it was very disappointing to find we couldn’t enter the pub from the platform. It meant a long walk around the front of the station which was very annoying. According to Northern Pete it was because of some fare evaders, ducking through the pub rather than pay a fare. Typical that we should suffer because of some minor misdemeanour.

Ian at the Head of Steam

Still, we had a lovely pint while sitting chatting and generally waiting for the train back to Honely and dinner at Balooshai where Nicktor and Ian made friends with Tatiana and Donna who were just about to go. I was at the other end of the table so I have no idea what was going on but there were quite a few delighted squeals and jolly chuckles. And that was just from Nicktor.

Dinner was delicious though, as usual, having consumed far too much beer, Nicktor proceeded to order far too much food. Still, what we ate was great. (I need to shout out about the peshwari naan which was easily the best I’ve ever had.)

Nicktor and I had dinner at Balooshai with Yorkshire Pete many moons ago when it was in Huddersfield and remember it being exceptional. Apparently it’s the same restaurant that’s just moved rather than another branch.

Napoleon, Nicktor, Ian and Northern Pete

There’s so much more I could write about today but I have to stop somewhere so I’ll just finish with the fact that we caught a taxi back to the Old Bridge Inn and went straight to our rooms and sleep. There was no need for a nightcap given we’d already had a few of those.

As for the football, here’s Nicktor’s opinion followed by a query from Mike.

I just feel I should add a little something about black pudding and Cointreau…actually, tomorrow will do.

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To Holmfirth

Following the wonderful fence job by Matt yesterday, I reattached the jasmine this morning and have to say, it looks much better and a good deal happier.

Then, just before lunch, Nicktor arrived to pick me up and we headed north.

It had been planned for a long time but there was a good deal of cancellation threats for various reasons (mostly to do with Basil’s advanced age) but, eventually, all was settled and we arrived at the date for our Boys Away Day Football in the North Tour (or BADFINT as I’ve just decided to call it). Originally we were three for the initial leg, but then, for reasons more to do with laziness than true football support, Steve From Number 11 decided against joining us in this great adventure.

While it was a truly epic drive, the fact that Nicktor and I haven’t seen each other for quite a while meant we had lots of bollocks important stuff to chat about, making the miles just fly by. So we didn’t miss Steve From Number 11 one bit!

Finally, the two of us arrived in Holmfirth and we tried to find the entrance to the hotel car park. The traffic was horrendous. Nicktor had deliberately planned to miss the peak hour because the single road into Holmfirth is pretty skinny. We missed the peak hour but managed to be part of the school pick up time.

Nicktor decided that we could somehow cross the river somewhere up (or down) stream and headed away from the hotel. He was right and we were soon going around, approaching the hotel from the opposite direction. I did point out that this was actually a good thing because it mean turning left into the car park rather than across the traffic but I don ‘t think Nicktor heard me.

Happily parked up and out of the car which had been our home for the last 3,000 miles, we checked into the Bridge Inn and had a brief relax before heading for the bar and some delightful Black Sheep Pale Ale.

Neil Ward, who comes to the cricket with us each year and used to work at the same place as Nicktor, and who lives in Holmfirth but can’t come to the football tomorrow, joined us for a few beers. It’s always lovely to see Neil.

Of course, now he’s retired and plays golf four times a week, his conversation isn’t full of the problems in South American Transport Hubs and other dull things to do with worldwide logistics. I almost managed to get him onto containerisation but Nicktor told us both to shut up.

Neil also volunteers at the Methodist Church. I was sorely tempted to quiz him on this but he’s such a lovely chap and I vaguely heard him mention food for the hard of paying that I let it hang in the air.

Having had a few ales we figured we should have some food. I had only had a packet of pork crackling before leaving home and Nicktor had stopped after breakfast so we were in great need of sustenance, mostly to soak up the beer. I said I quite fancied Japanese, a suggestion that was met with derisive laughter.

We settled on tapas (there are two tapas restaurants in Holmfirth). We went to the newest, an excellent tapas place called Mezze. I asked for a glass of rioja but was informed with a delightful smile that you could only buy rioja by the bottle. I looked at Neil and he nodded vigorously. The rioja was very good, the tapas was delicious and the conversation lovely. All round, a jolly good night of food and friendship.

There was one odd moment when a mixed table near us asked Neil (he was closest) if we could stop swearing which, obviously we all agreed to, shamefacedly lowering our voices for a bit. Later, Nicktor and I couldn’t work out when we’d been swearing. Neil doesn’t swear so we knew it wasn’t him. We decided that the table had misheard something we said when we were discussing duck hunting…or something.

Following our perfect feast, we headed over to the Nook for a nightcap before the very short stagger to the Bridge Inn and bed.

Selfie before Neil arrived
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Talking Nonsense

Dick Churchill died today. He was the last survivor of the real Great Escape. He went into a tunnel, emerged to freedom then, eventually, was recaptured along with a lot of other escapees.

Hitler ordered the execution of most of the Great Escapers but held Dick back. Dick reckoned the Nazis didn’t kill him because Hitler thought he might have been related to Winston and could come in handy as a bargaining chip. He wasn’t related to Churchill and maybe one of the few people saved from certain death by his surname.

My surname did nothing for me today as I headed off to the Talking Newspaper first thing.

I left the fence between us and the Crazies, ready for Matt the Fencing Guy who was due to replace it with one that works and headed out, into the fog.

All my readers turned up early this morning so we were stuck, waiting for Jane the Engineer to arrive. Not that it was a problem. My readers included Peter who used to be a presenter and only recently decided it was all a bit much.

I’ve been looking forward to having Peter on my team. He’s a funny chap who I’m very fond of. I also had Rosemary and Margaret, two lovely ladies. And we all had a glorious time. Jane the Engineer is also great fun and we spent a lot of time laughing.

Afterwards, Rosemary said “How on earth does Gary make such dull news sound interesting?

Peter summed it up by saying “Because he never takes it very seriously.

Six hours later, having shopped on the way home, I was soon trudging through the park on my way home. The fog had gone, replaced by a gorgeous sky.

Even more gorgeous was the end result of Matt the Fencing Guy’s labours. I expected he’d still be there slaving away but, no, he’d finished. And it looked fantastic.

It’s a beautiful fence. Thanks Matt.

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Watching the Fleet

I very often come across some amazing things at the library. Today, for instance, I was cataloguing lots of books about How to be a Naval Officer and Fleet Reviews. The two categories follow each other on the shelves but wedged between them was an incredible piece of naval history.

It was the 1806 Order of Service for the funeral of Lord Nelson.

Apart from the front board being missing and the back board coming loose, a few tatty pages and dampness, it was pretty amazing for something so old. Mind you, it is now in an acid free plastic sleeve in order for it to last a bit longer.

Also of interest were the numerous special volumes for Fleet Reviews. My favourite was easily the one from 1909. Along with the usual lists of ships, details and explanations of their use as well as a pretty map showing what to view from where, this small book also contained instructions for people attending the review.

The first section was the King’s schedule, followed by some very detailed instructions for everyone else. These include the platforms at Waterloo where their trains would leave from (with the time on their tickets) and what to do at Southampton in order to board the Adriatic where lunch would be served. Then…


The Adriatic will leave Southampton at 1 p.m. and arrive at the fleet about 1:40 p.m. and will reach Spithead to join the Royal Procession about 2:15 p.m. The Adriatic will then follow the Royal Yachts through the lines of the fleet, coming to an anchor at the same time as the Victoria and Albert abreast of the Dreadnought. Directly after his Majesty the King has reviewed the flotillas the Adriatic will proceed to Southampton and tea will be served en route.

Review of the Fleet by His Majesty The King July 31, 1906

It could have been either the White Star Line liner, RMS Adriatic which was less than three years old with a capacity for 2,825 people or the SS Adriatic which was a collier that was in the Admiralty charter. Whichever it was, it would have been quite the ride between cruisers of the battle fleet. I guess there were also lots of people watching from the shore and in small boats. It would have been a marvellous spectacle.

Mind you, it seems an odd thing for a king to stand on the deck of a yacht and sail between the ranks of navy vessels just to look at them. What happens if he doesn’t like one?

Anyway, it made my day at the library that little bit more interesting.

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TV habits

I recently finished the South Korean TV series Memories of the Alhambra. While I enjoyed it very much, it did leave me feeling a bit unsatisfied. It has led me to believe that South Korean drama needs to end with a bit of ambiguity and/or tragedy.

By tragedy I mean the lightest touch. The sadness at the end is merely the result of the overall journey, the main romantic characters already having discovered each other a few episodes from the end and their bliss and joy, though short lived, is complete.

I hesitate to use the word ‘formulaic’ because that’s one of the reasons I’ve gone off American TV but it would appear, from my very small sample of four South Korean programmes, it is so. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that. At least you know where you are and feel you can trust the show to take you somewhere safe.

In order to watch something completely different, I’ve switched to Germany for a police drama called Dogs of Berlin. OMG, what a difference. And I have no idea where it’s going.

The thing I really love about Netflix is the possibility of watching different cultural norms. From the lightness of Japan to the black comedy of France, from the thrilling yet laugh packed series of Spain to the gritty realism of Nordic noir. It’s a glimpse into the everyday of so many different nationalities. I feel sad for people who have only one culture to feed off.

Dogs of Berlin is violent, evil, graphic and full of unlikeable characters (though, weirdly, Grimmer, the main character, while not particularly nice, is very much likeable). It is also compelling and beautifully made. Mind you, it could easily put people off ever thinking of going to Berlin.

The one thing that all of the TV shows I watch share is the ability to distract me from the endless kilometres I pedal at the gym. And what more could anyone truly ask?

Except maybe for some snowdrops in the park.

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A different kind of wind

Following the almost complete destruction of the fence between us and the Crazies, I finally met up with the fencing guy (Matt) to get it replaced. The poor guy has been inundated with bad luck over the last week.

First his phone was drowned then his son was ill and he had to look after him while his partner was busy. Still, all is now well (including his son) and we met up this afternoon.

He measured and checked it out then said he’d send a quote through tomorrow at the latest. He drove off then, ten minutes later, I had a quote on my phone from him. I then accepted the quote and we organised for him to come and do the actual work this Thursday. All done and dusted. I do like it when things run really smoothly.

Possibly not as smoothly as Freya and her farts.

We have decided she’ll not be having lamb again. Ever. Since last night the house has been reeking of her butt end emissions. And they are decidedly not nice. Mirinda has even been forced to burn incense in the library to try and diffuse the nasal invasion. (‘Forced’ might be pushing it given she burns incense in the library all the time, regardless of Freya’s little bombs.)

The rest of the day was spent in various domestic things though I did ring mum then Denise rang me, which was a very pleasant surprise and rounded off a pleasant day.

Here’s something equally pleasant. The heads of the daffs are starting to appear.

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Parallel lives

Sometime before 1927, my paternal grandmother, Ada, had a child out of wedlock. The child was handed over to a family member to bring up, a family member who was safely married. The child, a girl, was brought up believing the family member was her parent.

Ada married my grandfather Ernest in 1927 and they proceeded to have some legitimate children including, eventually, my dad. Ada died shortly afterwards in 1933. In fact, dad never knew his mother. And, as far as he knew, he only had a couple of brothers for siblings

Fast forward to the 1980’s when mum and dad came over to the UK for a visit home. A party was organised by dad’s family where he met the sister he’d never known. While a lovely surprise, it was also very upsetting. How could a family deliberately take away a child from its mother and keep the child a dirty secret for so long?

Well, on Friday, I researched a very similar case.

Sydney Eade was born in 1889 to the unmarried Minnie Nash who was just 16. I have no idea who the father was. There is no birth certificate because these children were not recorded given the shame the families felt.

There is some indication (family history perhaps) that Sydney’s biological father was a Canadian soldier but what he was doing in Wrecclesham, Surrey in 1889 is anyone’s guess. Maybe he was a travelling snake oil salesman or a circus performer. It’s not relevant.

Minnie Nash had a married older sister called Fanny. She had married Alfred James Eade in 1877 and suddenly found herself with a son called Sydney. Naturally he was given the surname Eade. The Eade’s already had two children, Sydney’s cousins John and Anne and they had two more after Sydney’s appearance.

Meanwhile, Minnie was packed off to work as a servant in a big house in Aldershot. In 1892, she returned briefly to Wrecclesham where she married Earnest Alfred Wilkinson but they quickly moved to Nunhead where they spent the rest of their lives. They had five children. On her marriage entry in the parish record, Minnie’s father’s name is not recorded – the box has a line through it. He was still alive but, I reckon, he’d disowned her.

That’s not to say that Sydney didn’t know who his mother was. He joined the army in 1907, aged 18 and, as far as his army application form is concerned, he states that his mother was Minnie and his father was her husband, Ernest. He also lists their various children, some as his siblings, some as step siblings. It’s all very confusing. More confusing is he lists Fanny as his grandmother.

While in the army, Sydney saw a lot of travel. He spent time in Gibralta, Somalia, South Africa, to name but a few. He spent some time in hospitals for an abscess and then, more seriously, a hernia before heading for the front at the outbreak of war.

Reading his service record he seems like a nice enough chap. He had a few isolated charges for overstaying passes and being a bit drunk in the barracks but nothing out of the ordinary. Apparently he was considered quite a good gardener.

He eventually died in action at Gheluvelt in Belgium.

I’d like to think that perhaps Sydney’s siblings (and half siblings) knew who he really was before he died because I know how dad felt about not knowing he had a sister for most of her life. It’s rather sad and so very unnecessary.

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