The dawn chorus

Shielded behind the rich crimson of the curtains I can hear them. It’s not a memorable anthem they sing and play. But its flavourless repetition oozes the warmth of familiarity. Once again I am grateful for the chance to breathe and see again.

It’s still worth a listen. The pounding traffic rumbles its deep ostinato, punched by the intermittent roar of the brass as the occasional giant fanfares its way down the crowded hill.

lorry1The trebles make their random squeals as they bounce along the crumbling pavement for their day’s school.

The orchestra is standard; the size of a modest provincial philharmonic. For I live in a modest provincial town and such modesty bathes me in that warm familiarity. On some days the orchestra grows; the chorus extends to ranks of massed choirs.

When the winds visit, we cannot ignore it. The fences and trees dance with exuberant euphoria, refreshed with their new abundant energy. The awning of the electrical shop, shut behind its folded frame, frantically waves its fringes to the quickening pace of the emerging gale.

There is a constant muted aleatoric drumbeat sounding through the house as the rattling boiler flue brings a taste of the music to the inside.

Then the wind itself sings a wordless passionate anthem across and around the cowering window frames. The poor frames. They take everything.

Large orchestras bring new instruments. There is an unfamiliar percussion as the occasional bin lurches forward and crashes to the ground with the pizzicato flourish of its vile contents swarming over the damp pathway. rubbish-bins-620x200Then from all of this tidal frenzy we hear the lonely soloist. Scooting from wall to wall, hedgerow to hedgerow and car wheel to car wheel the inevitable but mercurial strain if the empty can cuts through the rambling tutti of our little storm. Coarse yet fluid, it’s mellifluous tones sing of times of loss. It was once loved but now is alone. Someone has left it empty to be pushed about the hard ground. It once sat as proud as a soldier. Someone picked it up with a promise of love. But like so many of its comrades, it was decanted and dispatched.

an-empty-beer-can-in-the-gutter-uk-b0bjfb Above, the racing clouds play hide and seek with the white winter sun. Oh what a sun it is. We crave his warmth and brightness yet when he finally emerges on days like today, he is low and devious. The light is dazzling.

And now, after hearing and witnessing the chaotic vibrancy of a windy winter’s morning, I will find my own comfort through a boiling kettle and a warm brew. Thank-you for reading.

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Sign of the times

It has taken over sixty years of being on the planet to realise that some things change and some things never change. During my time I’ve been both super fat and super fit; I’ve been sleepy and I’ve been nocturnal; I’ve been both lazy and industrious; I’ve been happy and sad; I’ve had periods of calm and anger; I’ve lost and I’ve gained. In amongst all this contrast, the experience of life has taught me to achieve the positive from the negative and recognise when I’m on a slippery slope. Most recently, it’s been a slippery chair.5213e6a7c856110424000020_736

The new riser/recliner has many good points. It gets my feet up and stops them swelling like balloons, it’s comfortable, it helps me up but sometimes it goes too high and I slip off. This brings me to something that never changes.

I like a drink. As a toddler, I lived in the Sun Inn in Prescot. There are stories of me draining bottles and pinching customer’s beer. I was never shy about going into a pub and asking for a pint. From the age of sixteen, I assumed it as a right. And so it continued.

If anyone mentioned “Whisky Challenge”, I would respond with “When?” “How much?” or “I’ll drink you under the table.”

rewThere have three occasions when I have consumed a whole bottle in one night. The first was Christmas night of 1980. I came out in a huge rash. The drinking rash was to haunt me for the next twenty years before disappearing as mysteriously as it had appeared. The second time was one of George’s wild curry nights in April 1985. I was driving to work the next day wondering why I was behaving like a prat. The third was a Friday night in the vagueness of the late nineties when the days of work merged with each other. It was a spring Friday night and the week’s teaching had been brutal. Since then, I could not possibly count the number of times when I and others have overdosed on this glorious tipple. It has been responsible for so many good times.

But is it time to change? Has my love of this fine drink been the cause of my chair slippage? And so we have the challenge. My friend and I are going whisky free. I’m not putting a total ban on it but it shall not be in the house for the foreseeable future.819_001

What do I hope to achieve? After the first night without it I woke up the next morning without the wall. I could actually do things. I made turkey burgers with home made baps. But I need to change my sleeping habits. I have to find some kind of civilised routine. I’ve never been a good night sleeper but it’s been better than it is now. It’s just as well I have an answer phone.

But some days are actually busy days. On Tuesday morning (9.15)  I have the absolute pleasure of the teaching the piano to a talented adult. It’s an intense but rewarding thirty minutes. Then the weekly shop arrives. Tuesday is also washing day. At three thirty the same person comes with her twins for another half hour

between them.

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For me, that is a busy day. It’s the most tiring day of the week. Now I know that those who know me will understand. But to those who may think I’m a total skiver, I will point out that the main symptom of MS is fatigue and I have spent over thirty years fighting it. It has destroyed me in many ways. Now it is destroying my love of whisky. Or the love of whisky is destroying me.

In the morning I listen to the residents of the flats fire up their vehicles and leave for work. at five thirty I hear the click of the main door before Mr pest control man gets into his van and goes to fight his vermin quest. The others follow in quick succession. Along the pathway I hear the clip clop of high heels.

My dawn chorus gives me some sense of comfort. I used to be part of it. I was a willing player. But now I have my own personal battles. If I want to get hold of myself I have to break the whisky habit. There will be major slips along the way but I am holding up my head focusing on my brave quest. Let’s stop falling over. I worked out that I can reduce my intake by 42 units a week at least. Here goes. Thank-you for reading.

Chilli chicken

Ingredients:

8 skinned boneless chicken thighs.

4 small onions halved.

1 red chilli.

3 cloves of garlic.

1 red pepper (bell pepper).

1 tin of plum tomatoes.

2 tablespoons of tomato puree.

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

A good handful of pinto beans; soaked overnight and boiled for around 60 minutes.

Salt.

Method:

Peel and halve the onions. Finely chop the garlic and chilli. Chop the pepper into small pieces. Fry gently in 2 tablespoons of olive oil to get them going. My slow cooker can also fry so I start them in that. (One less pan to wash). Once slightly softened, add the tomato puree and tinned tomato. It may need a little drop of water to cover most of the ingredients. Chop the chicken however you like and put it in with the rest of the stew. Throw in the pinto beans and cook on low for about seven hours.

If you want to save time on preparation, use some chipotle sauce instead of the chilli and smoked paprika. I like the half onions as over a long time they turn into these sweet little blades of pleasure. You can also use passata instead of the pureed and tinned tomatoes. Seven hours later the sauce will be silky smooth with a gorgeous warming smoky flavour. For extra depth you can add a couple of chunks of grated high cocoa plain chocolate near the end. I’m just about to scour the cupboards to see if I have any. Don’t forget to throw in the salt to taste when you know the pinto beans are all soft.

Serve with tortillas and a cooling tomato pine nut and basil salsa. Some grated cheese is always a tasty addition. Of course you could boil some rice and add whatever you like. I like the rice with some chopped cashews peppered with paprika or coriander.

 

Blogsworth

I could almost be that talking clock from Beauty and the Beast. As far as the cartoon version goes, it is possibly the worst theme tune ever. Gaston however, steals the show for me. He says to Belle something like “how can you read books without pictures?” It was always a great starting point for a year six literacy lesson. But what actually is a blogsworth? Is it:

A. Someone with a meticulous propensity for the practice of fine grammar?

B. A person who rates everyone else’s blogs above theirs? (It’s more than my blog’s worth.)

C. One of those irritating people who have to put everything down on screen to vaunt their literary skills?

I love the word vaunt. I discovered it in book one of Paradise Lost: “….and he lay vaunting, rolling in the fiery gulf.”

I think I can tick box A and C. It’s more of a love of writing as a creative outlet than a chance to flaunt and vaunt my modest art. Like the great Bard and Charlie; why use one word when you can use fifty?

The theme of todays blog is a mystery.

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Creative use of detritis

Whilst I can say that the themes of many blogs may be a mystery, this one is literally a mystery.

At some ridiculous time this morning I started to play Sherlock. I awoke on the floor next to the bed. My pillow was a random collection of plugs, chargers and a dust buster mini vacuum.

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Look at the muck in here!

I did not know where my lifeline pendant was. It usually goes of the bedside cabinet. It was missing. There was a pendant type shape in amongst the dust of my rarely cleaned pine drawers, packed with a sea of non-matching socks and men’s briefs. I have no idea who the men were but that’s not the mystery.

In the corner of my eye I could see Phoenix, my trusty wheeled steed. It looked strange. Then on closer inspection, squinting desperately through the half light of the semi-darkness (by the way that’s a typical example of using six words when two would suffice), I saw my laptop sitting serenely among the sock putter-onner and my extra wide Frankenstein shoes.

I knew that was strange because the brand-new Acer touch screen did not posses the rime of ancient dust the other under-bed objects had accumulated through years of static neglect. The next couple of hours were spent trying to achieve a sitting position in order to bottom shuffle my way around the flat to find the missing pendant.

It was hopeless. I quickly became exhausted. It takes such desperate times to make me realise that a little exercising of the little grey cells might be a good idea. For on closer inspection, I saw the computer was sitting at a slight angle. And at one of its corners the cause of its unnatural incline was the faint white glow of the pendant. It was on my left hand side so I had to wrench my poor bruised body around to grab it with my right.

Even before I pressed the button it had already started its cheering little song. It’s basically a rhythmic bleep but it offers such a crumb of comfort when I find myself in the careless testa di cazzo position. (Another example of blogsworth; Italian is much more expressive for such a casual vulgar idiom.)

The paramedics arrived about an hour later. Unlike Sunday’s testa di cazzos, these were fantastic. They were kind and patient. After inserting me into my pit, they spent a long time checking that all the necessary adult social care was in place and that I was as well as could be expected.

As a bonus, one of them made me a mug of jointer’s tea. That’s just like builder’s but it’s the BT version. But alas, the back of my loyal friend was broken.

img_4985The crew kindly laid the poor chap in a corner of safety and brought through Angel; my traveller’s chair.

When I finally reached the comfort of the living room, the plot thickened. There was some cable from the laptop charger wrapped around the offside rear wheel of my poor broken chair. Then I found more of it in the bedroom.

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A rather vague picture. Just like my brain.

Looking directly into the corner, I noticed the absence of my wonderful blue-tooth Sennheiser headphones.

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A suspiciously empty cradle

More little grey cells time.

Through my incredible powers of  deduction, I believe that unbeknown to me, I had caught the cable with said back wheel and dragged the laptop kicking and screaming into the bedroom. Seeing it hanging onto my shirt tails, I made an attempt to lean back and retrieve it. But I have no memory of this. Then again, my blood pressure has been unusually low recently and I must have blacked out and toppled into my snug little basket of modern day accessories.

And what is the cost of my folly? A few bruises. Pride. A new charger. The technical department of Lloyd’s Better Life are ringing me tomorrow about the chair and the feasibility of its repair. Oh and sometime this afternoon, I found the headphones sitting snugly in a fruit bowl. They look like they were made for each other. ch

And hopefully my friends, this mystery gives some form of definition for the  new term that is blogsworth. But I do not make light of my misfortune. Such events, whilst heightening my levels of anxiety, actually make me a stronger and more careful person. The beast of MS has presented me with many stern learning curves. They usually end up with me stranded on my stern in some obscure corner of my castle. I find that they give lead to the creative writing I have always enjoyed. And through this medium and others I can confront some form of double digit gesture to The blunt cruelty of my condition.harvey

Thank-you for reading.

Slip sliding away

Saturday was not the best. For starters, Everton could only draw. It was countered by a brilliant rugby match. The kitchen duties were a little testing. With the intention of creating a chilli bean stew, I put a variety of beans into a bowl to soak overnight. But my sleep was troubled. I had the idea that the chick peas would take longer to soften and I’d be left with nice chick peas and a cannellini barlotti pinto bean mush. It took some time to separate the chick peas but I did it. I was on borrowed time due to fatigue but I kept telling myself I could do it.

Reader, I did it. I had chilli bean stew with sirloin steak. Then I missed match of the day.

Around 12.30 am I decided to retire but on raising the seat, I slipped off the chair and became that familiar entity, the crumpled mess on the floor. The para medics took an hour and a half to arrive and what a pair of miserable buttocks they were.

When I explained what had happened I don’t think they believed me. They implied that I was wasting their time. Give me strength. The last thing I want to do is sit on a hard floor when I need a soft bed.

My blood pressure is down to 110 over 60. Does that explain the recent dizziness? Then one of them mentioned the nearby bottle of whisky. It was a loaded statement. No, I’m not a heavy drinker but it helped get through the eternity of waiting for them to arrive.

I have a chronic illness and if I want a drink, I’ll bloody well have one. Well they dragged me up and didn’t bother taking their grubby little rubber blue gloves with them. They left them on the spare chair.

Now today has been a struggle. I emerged from the pit at 3.30 pm annoyed with missing some of the football. But it’s yummy breakfast time because the conference pears are ripe for eating.

At 8.00 this evening I had some home made focaccia and a bit of olive oil. Then I remembered the sausages. Oh yes! Pork bangers and Dijon mustard. What a treat. I had intended to make a variety of hummus today but the chair was calling. I boiled yet more chick peas and left them in the fridge. And that my friends is the sum of my weekend’s activity. I’m on the edge.

Thank-you for reading.

The handyman

My dad came from the real age of do it yourself. Now, whilst DIY is still an adventure of great skill and endeavour, the whole dynamic has changed. Just imagine any bank holiday Monday at the local retail park. Hordes of fresh faced customers filled with determination and optimism, buzz between the aisles ticking off the widgets on their list. The trolleys groan with the weight of tools and bits in awkward shaped plastic packaging. There are gadgets for everything from screwing on your lovely new house name to replacing the downstairs toilet cistern.

My first memories of Dad the handyman involved going round individual shops. There was no packaging. Everything was wrapped in newspaper. We would be traipsing back with bundles of nails, sheets of hardboard and ten foot planks of wood held under the arm like a latter day Sir Lancelot, charging towards the joust.

“Be careful when you turn round, you’ll knock someone over.” We’d just moved into our first and only family home.

It was a modest little terrace in Seacombe. It was old and old-fashioned. The plugs had cylindrical pins and there was only one power point in each room. There were no points upstairs. Each of the two downstairs rooms had an open fire. Next to each fireplace was a gas point for a gas poker.

At first most of the major projects had relative assistance. There was dad and my two uncles, Pete and John. Uncle Pete was a genuine do it all yourself sort of person. He’d done a lot of similar jobs in his own house so he was useful to have around. Uncle John was more of a craftsman; the master of the model boat. And what was the first big job?

“Oh some of those old sash windows will have to go.” The window in the box room was furnished with a new home-made scenic window. It was all made from scratch. It took all day with the three of them up there creating our new showpiece window. In amongst the succession of parallel sash windows it was outstanding.

“We’re going to be living in a palace,” I thought. True enough, more new windows followed. All but the bay windows were replaced. They had sills you could sit on; very important to a young boy.

Can you imagine the thrill of coming downstairs on a Saturday morning to find all the living room floorboards up? I could actually see under the house. It wasn’t very interesting but it was good to know. I looked high and low (mostly low) for any treasure maps but there were none to find. Instead I made one of my own and hid it in the gas cupboard. But what were the three of them up to?

One of my uncles had the floor up by the electric cupboard. They were replacing the cable to the socket in the living room. I offered to crawl under the floorboards with the new one. There was no need however. They pulled the new one through with the old one.

To a nine year old boy it was ingenious. Then came the clever bit. Our living room ended up with two sockets. That’s two sockets with square plugs. Our house rocked.

Down the road there was a wood yard. It was packed with neat piles of timber. I can still smell the fresh wood odours. I wanted to climb to the top of these dormant towers and survey the kingdom of Egremont. Dad wasn’t keen. But I could always live out my brave knight fantasy on the way home.

One very important Saturday we were instructed to “use the toilet”. “Why?” came the response. “Because we’re fitting a new one.” And they did. By mid afternoon we had a shiny new low level toilet. There was no chain to swing. It had a handle. The outside toilet had also been knocked down somewhere along the line. I can’t actually remember that one.

That wasn’t all. On a solo quest my father lowered the ceiling in that toilet. Then he panelled the kitchen and fitted new units. But I think the most impressive achievement was the new fireplace in the front room. He built the whole thing from scratch. I watched the gas fitter put the new fire in. He asked me all about it. I could tell he was impressed.

I could go on; the shed built from scrap wood, the reinforcement of the joists, the new guttering, the new bannister and rails and the ever so posh quilted chimney breast with brick (plastic) surrounds.

I will finish with the roof. We had old slates and we had regular gales. We needed a roof ladder. So he made one. It had little wheels on the head of one end so it could roll up the roof and hook over the apex. How did he get the measurements right if he couldn’t yet get on the roof.

It’s just as well because the mother of all gales created the mother of all holes in the roof. At the weekend my dad was up there for hours; longer than expected.

“Oh I finished ages ago,” he explained. “I was just sitting on the roof watching the world go by. “Can I go up there?” It was a hopeful plea.

In 1975, we hade the first of two house renovations. We said goodbye to the floorboards. After twelve years of nursing and nurture they’d had their day. The concrete didn’t creak. The windows also had to go. The old slates were replaced by tiles and we had a brand new glass front door. My mate Andy, a joiner, said the windows were a disgrace. By the time of the second renovation they were falling off.

We also had the trendy louvre windows at the top. Dad replaced the living room one with a conventional one. It was a masterpiece of measurement and construction.

Now it’s all double glazed and centrally heated. It’s the oven of Kenilworth Road. I’m sure my father can remember many more of the jobs he carried out on our house  but there would genuinely be too many to mention. I’ve just given you the extended highlights.

As a footnote, I’ll leave you with my favourite extract from Three Men in a Boat. I would read it to my year six class and end up chuckling all the way through:

He always reminds me of my poor Uncle Podger. You never saw such a commotion up and down a house, in all your life, as when my Uncle Podger undertook to do a job. A picture would have come home from the frame-maker’s, and be standing in the dining-room, waiting to be put up; and Aunt Podger would ask what was to be done with it, and Uncle Podger would say:

“Oh, you leave that to ME. Don’t you, any of you, worry yourselves about that. I’LL do all that.”

And then he would take off his coat, and begin. He would send the girl out for sixpen’orth of nails, and then one of the boys after her to tell her what size to get; and, from that, he would gradually work down, and start the whole house.

“Now you go and get me my hammer, Will,” he would shout; “and you bring me the rule, Tom; and I shall want the step-ladder, and I had better have a kitchen-chair, too; and, Jim! you run round to Mr. Goggles, and tell him, `Pa’s kind regards, and hopes his leg’s better; and will he lend him his spirit-level?’ And don’t you go, Maria, because I shall want somebody to hold me the light; and when the girl comes back, she must go out again for a bit of picture-cord; and Tom! – where’s Tom? – Tom, you come here; I shall want you to hand me up the picture.”

And then he would lift up the picture, and drop it, and it would come out of the frame, and he would try to save the glass, and cut himself; and then he would spring round the room, looking for his handkerchief. He could not find his handkerchief, because it was in the pocket of the coat he had taken off, and he did not know where he had put the coat, and all the house had to leave off looking for his tools, and start looking for his coat; while he would dance round and hinder them.

“Doesn’t anybody in the whole house know where my coat is? I never came across such a set in all my life – upon my word I didn’t. Six of you! – and you can’t find a coat that I put down not five minutes ago! Well, of all the – “

Then he’d get up, and find that he had been sitting on it, and would call out:

“Oh, you can give it up! I’ve found it myself now. Might just as well ask the cat to find anything as expect you people to find it.”

And, when half an hour had been spent in tying up his finger, and a new glass had been got, and the tools, and the ladder, and the chair, and the candle had been brought, he would have another go, the whole family, including the girl and the charwoman, standing round in a semi-circle, ready to help. Two people would have to hold the chair, and a third would help him up on it, and hold him there, and a fourth would hand him a nail, and a fifth would pass him up the hammer, and he would take hold of the nail, and drop it.

“There!” he would say, in an injured tone, “now the nail’s gone.”

And we would all have to go down on our knees and grovel for it, while he would stand on the chair, and grunt, and want to know if he was to be kept there all the evening.

The nail would be found at last, but by that time he would have lost the hammer.

“Where’s the hammer? What did I do with the hammer? Great heavens! Seven of you, gaping round there, and you don’t know what I did with the hammer!”

We would find the hammer for him, and then he would have lost sight of the mark he had made on the wall, where the nail was to go in, and each of us had to get up on the chair, beside him, and see if we could find it; and we would each discover it in a different place, and he would call us all fools, one after another, and tell us to get down. And he would take the rule, and re-measure, and find that he wanted half thirty-one and three-eighths inches from the corner, and would try to do it in his head, and go mad.

And we would all try to do it in our heads, and all arrive at different results, and sneer at one another. And in the general row, the original number would be forgotten, and Uncle Podger would have to measure it again.

He would use a bit of string this time, and at the critical moment, when the old fool was leaning over the chair at an angle of forty-five, and trying to reach a point three inches beyond what was possible for him to reach, the string would slip, and down he would slide on to the piano, a really fine musical effect being produced by the suddenness with which his head and body struck all the notes at the same time.

And Aunt Maria would say that she would not allow the children to stand round and hear such language.

At last, Uncle Podger would get the spot fixed again, and put the point of the nail on it with his left hand, and take the hammer in his right hand. And, with the first blow, he would smash his thumb, and drop the hammer, with a yell, on somebody’s toes.

Aunt Maria would mildly observe that, next time Uncle Podger was going to hammer a nail into the wall, she hoped he’d let her know in time, so that she could make arrangements to go and spend a week with her mother while it was being done.

“Oh! you women, you make such a fuss over everything,” Uncle Podger would reply, picking himself up. “Why, I LIKE doing a little job of this sort.”

And then he would have another try, and, at the second blow, the nail would go clean through the plaster, and half the hammer after it, and Uncle Podger be precipitated against the wall with force nearly sufficient to flatten his nose.

Then we had to find the rule and the string again, and a new hole was made; and, about midnight, the picture would be up – very crooked and insecure, the wall for yards round looking as if it had been smoothed down with a rake, and everybody dead beat and wretched – except Uncle Podger.

“There you are,” he would say, stepping heavily off the chair on to the charwoman’s corns, and surveying the mess he had made with evident pride. “Why, some people would have had a man in to do a little thing like that!”

Thank-you for reading.

Northern bites

What is it about returning to the home of my childhood? I’ve just had four days of pie and chips plus a Sunday roast from my dad’s lovely neighbours.

I have crowed incessantly about the worthiness of my sacrifices of all things considered to be unhealthy for a so called balanced nutritious diet.

“Oh look at my modern healthy lifestyle. I’m such  a brave pioneer to eschew all processed pre-made food for a diet of natural home made goodness. Now where are those darling little clementines?” See the smug expression on my beardy weirdy close to nature little face?

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But hang on, there is bacon in my fridge and pancetta lardons in the freezer. I also have a large Tupperware container of white bread flour. Rest assured good people, they are purely for those feeling sorry for oneself desperate, for comfort food days. The bacon will soon be despatched to the freezer; you may breathe easily. Smugness returns in spades. “Now where are my sachets of quinoa, foxglove and sumo wrestler’s armpit tea?” Now back to reality. And it is a harsh reality.

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Short of ringing for a pizza, I cannot live on a leaf pusher’s diet. If I’ve taken the trouble to get off my rear end to go and see my dad I will happily accept the fruits of his freezer. My wheelchair won’t fit into the kitchen anyway. So I will fall on my sanctimonious sword and eat pie and chips with a side salad of tinned spaghetti hoops. The secret nutrition thought police reel in shock.

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I will end my argument there. On Thursday morning, I prepared my travelling outfit. I’m not a slave to any fashion but I do like a jacket. It was also another chance to wear a scarf and fingerless gloves.

cjThe journey to Liverpool is now becoming routine. Even the lack of ramps at Euston and the two nights in shining armour who helped me and my chair was nothing out of the ordinary. People are generally fantastic.  As is the “Steve was here” mark on my dad’s skirting boards and doors.

In the late sixties, he bought a beautiful piece of dark wood. He polished and varnished it before putting four legs onto it. It was our coffee table for decades. In the need for furniture more suited to his needs it was recently moved into the hall way underneath the coat hooks. I don’t know how it remained standing on three legs after one of my famous collisions. But on Sunday it was finally moved into the front room. A sorry end to a much treasured, well used latter day family heirloom. I say the journey was routine but I refer only to the actual travelling up to Lime Street.

On the train from Tunbridge Wells, I had a dreamy notion of sitting on the splendido pendelino looking cultured whilst completing the Times crossword. But the Crossword cost me £19.90. That’s £1.40 for the Times and £18.50 for the reading glasses at Boot’s in Euston. Soft-arse had forgotten his glasses!

In addition, the Liverpool underground was not in use due to major refurbishment. There was no-one available to pick me up so I had to think. Then, just when I was resigning myself to another white knuckle ride on the ramp of a hackney cab, I remembered the ferry ‘cross the Mersey. Damn, it’s just gone into my head. It’ll be there all afternoon; Gerry bloody Marsden’s squeaky little tuneless voice is echoing as I write. gerry-marsden-dp-300-84879384

Furthermore, after an intrepid young student boarded the train with a double bass at Sevenoaks, (it was taller than her)  elephants came into my head.

0c49751e4a94b21cddd7b218a699e50aThat’s the elephants from “Carnival of the Animals” (Saint-Saens) Now do you see what it’s done? I’ve gone off on a tangerine. Oh I’m in such a mess.

tangentThe weather was dry and mild but any notion of the pleasant was assassinated by the rather rude swirling wind tugging at the gap between the back of my shirt and trousers.

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It soon paled into the background.

For the first time this century I was rolling independently along the streets of Liverpool.

csThey bustled with the thrum of every day shoppers laden with bags, fags and phones, clucking away in that oh so familiar scouse twang. My guard was down. I felt my roots return. My “er” pronunciation was lengthening as my mouth widened. The “k” was becoming guttural.

twI’m sure I was adopting the local air of the street wise, hanging in groups on the corners and entrances.

Then, as I emerged before the open esplanade leading to the landing stage, I was awash with the joy of seeing old friends. The watery sun blazed across the open flagstones, watched over by the stark concrete and stone of buildings old and new.

lbHere the wind increased to a persistent affront to perfectly groomed hair. I glanced to the landing stage and there was the boat, bobbing playfully in the foaming swell of the royal blue Mersey.

I paid my £2.60.

“When I first started commuting it was five pence,” I commented.

“Yeah but how much was your house?” retorted the girl. You had to laugh.

On deck, I looked across to the eastern edge of The Wirral. It’s not the glamourous side; it’s the working side.

rmNow  in the modern world of services and call centres, you could easily find holes in my statement. But I remember the docks and the ship building. I remember the oil terminals and the train tracks. I was looking at history. I felt the thick air and heard the rude clanging of steel against steel.

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The river was lively. I was anticipating  a robust crossing. I wasn’t disappointed. The walk up to Dad’s was sad. Coming out of the terminal, I saw the outcome of urban deprivation. There were gaps where the pubs used to be. The rampant grass where the Seacombe Ferry Hotel used to be was littered with the accessories of human ignorance.

sfGive someone some waste ground and they will furnish it with all manner of litter and dog mess. Brassey’s has been gone a long time. It’s just an anonymous space. Yes the trees are nice but so was the bitter.

Further along, the old Leasowe Castle stood soulless and lonely.

15448361965_cedf5f1aba_bI could taste the cheese and onion sandwiches. The grated cheese would scatter over the plate waiting invitingly to be picked off and nibbled as a little pub grub bonus. Am I being selfish? Am I standing up as some rusty old Luddite raging against the inevitable progress of time?

Litter was the main feature of my short roll home. Along with the boarded up windows, the outlook is grim. When I think of the fuss and money spent on Hoylake in preparation for The Open and all the world famous players with their commercial retinue, I get angry.

At the bottom of our road there used to be a row of shops. Only a convenience shop remains. Once where we could buy fresh bread, sweets, stationery or even a bicycle we now have the one stop. Recently the owner was attacked for drugs money and cigarettes. I’m not clear about the details. Did they find the assailants? Probably not. Further along was another old pub; The Brighton closed its lovely old doors a few years ago.

seac_brighton_street8 In Kenilworth I saw some children playing football against a wall. I used to do that. These kids were using an open wheelie bin leaning at an angle against the wall. The smallest one insisted that he could “gerririn deeole” every time. He insisted on showing me. He missed. “Next time lad,” I said with my teacher’s tone of encouragement. (He only just missed.) Kenilworth Road is a little bit of heaven in amongst the darkness of the general area. We’ve been blessed with good neighbours.

Friday was baby and Weatherspoon’s day. I saw my lovely niece Laura and her gorgeous new sleepy little bundle called Nancy.

16386992_10211494565136702_8337107254969689088_nLaura made a possible slip by mentioning that her partner Craig was keen on cooking things from scratch. I went into motor mouth mode about the process of cooking a beef rending. Laura smiled nicely. She loves her food too.Tom and my other niece Steph turned up.

“It’s like Christmas day again,” said Dad.

The Clairville is in the old Safeway’s supermarket. I’ve never seen it not busy.

wsIt was a brilliant catch up with old friends. We just stayed. Outside the wind and rain were compounding the sullen nature of the darkness. It was a taxi home. Or so I thought.

The first hackney was displaying his hire light but insisted he had a job to go to. “Yeah right.” The second one said he couldn’t because he wasn’t insured. What in hell’s name is he doing driving a taxi? Maybe he’d borrowed it for the night. Imagine that? We used to have pirate videos, now we have pirate taxis. He said he’d ring through for one. LIAR!

The roll home took about twenty minutes. That’s ten minutes short of the time I waited for the ghost taxi. It wasn’t too wet but the wind howled around me as I buffeted my sturdy wheels over the cracked paving. I may as well have rolled over cobblestones.

imagesmlq1myzlIf you ever want the satisfaction of doing fifteen rounds with a heavyweight, get in a wheelchair and go from Liscard to Seacombe.

Sunday was another old friends day. I saw Julie and Colin with a screamed hello and wave from Joey and Kate next door plus a little chat on the phone to Pete the flautist.

 Just to stay in keeping with the pie and chips ethic, we had fish finger sandwiches. I’d forgotten all about them. If a cuppa soup is a hug in a mug (scary advert), then this is a hug in a butty.

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I opted for tartare sauce in order to elevate my fine fare about ketchup class. Have I been down south too long?

They kindly drove me to the station on Monday. Five and a half hours door to door. Not bad. My mate Steve offered to get some supplies in. He stayed for a while whilst I luxuriated in my return to the comforts of home.

Bliss.

Thank-you for reading.