Seymour and Monica

At the age of 61, not far off 62, I can say that I’ve met a lot of characters who grace our world. I have met lots of people. Some were fantastic, some where treacherous, some were pathetic and some were worthy of respect. Recently I met Monica. The first visit was awesome. Monica arrieved with two daughters and a grand daughter who proceeded to make a huge fuss of Seymour. He loved it. Monica herself came with a list of questions and an element of excitement. She left in total love with Seymour. Who wouldn’t? The boy’s a total tart. He’s been such a good pal to me. But things move on and I need to move to a catless community. It’s no problem for me. I have always loved my cats but I am pragmatic. Seymour neeed to go to a loving home where he could luxuriate in the best of flattery and adoration. So far I’ve had a few “where’s the bloody cat” moments but I’m happy to know he’s in a good place. But I’m so pleased to have met Monica. As I said, I’ve met a lot of people but the absolute pleasure of meeting her has left me both up-lifted and enlightened. She is the same age as my dad (88) and has raised a beautiful talented family. She is proud of them. She is also full of amusing little annecdotes. I love her honesty and sincerity. Monica will be a brilliant servant to the boy and I’m now looking forward to visiting in the near future just to tickle his chin and stroke his tummy. I’m already learning about his curiosity but I feel honoured to know Monica. I feel the same, if not more about my dad. It’s a hell of an age.

Thank you for reading.

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Lamb curry

Once more the intrepid kitchen adventurer sallies forth on his great quest for innovative creative culinary concoctions. Cue some appropriate music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jUttYxloHs

Can you believe that real musicians go into studios and record this. It must be a hoot; getting paid for drivel. But this post is not about politics or late night advertising channels. I’ve been trying to branch out from the more tradition socks blowing Friday night tradition of the drunken dunkin’ of naan breads into a fiery sea of grease filled madness. My favourite post Chelsea Reach destination was The Rani.

Oddly enough I’m using lamb. The enclosed photo does show little pools of cold fat. I don’t think it’s enough to worry about as it’s not a complete carapace of slimy grease. If you’re a purveyor of the fat means flavour mantra it’s fine but if you prefer, the delicate use of a small spoon could remove the more prominent layers of blatant guilt. It’ll disappear into the general unctuous mass when it heats up again anyway. Ever since the discovery of tamarind, the sour element has been a source of great fascination. It can come from a wide range of ingredients. There are some suggestions in the ingredients list. Whatever you use it will go well with the traditional heady spices. And then you can actually call the recipe your own. Please avoid the highly irritating phrase that starts with “this is my take on….” Now I’m trying not to think of Nigel Slater in one of his indignant “you don’t have to follow recipes” rants. To which I reply:

“Keep your hair on Mabel, Delia’s precision based sciences are a great starting point. Now get back to your market garden and stop referring to ‘your fishmonger’ I don’t have a bloody fishmonger. The nearest one is ten miles away on a street with double yellow lines. And as it’s by a bend in one of the town’s busiest roads it would be too dangerous to park there even with my blue badge.”

fishmongers-shop
….and it’s on a slope with a tiny pavement. It’s wheelie impossible.

I’ve kept the method as simple as possible.

Ingredients;

2 lamb neck fillets cut into rounds or 1lb of diced shoulder

1 onion roughly chopped

3 cloves of chopped garlic

A long thumbful of shredded ginger

Whatever chilli you feel like (I used mild because the actual flavour sings out without the robustious punch of a hottie.)

7 mangosteen berries-also called kokum (available from Asian grocers or online specialists. These can be substituted by a good teaspoonful of tamarind paste and lime juice. It’s the sour element so you can be creative here. Fresh mango is a possibility too.)

Teaspoons of ground coriander turmeric fenugreek powder cumin

Big squeeze of tomato puree

Tin of chopped tomatoes and a tinful of water. Seasoning.

Method. Fry the onions and meat for colour then put everything into a slow cooker or a heavy casserole dish and cook on low for at least six hours. When serving, fight off the advances of the ravenous family or friends with a large ladle. Make them sit down and wait.

Serve with rice or naan bread or chapatis. (Or any combination thereof.) I added some salt during cooking at a bit more at the end. If you like, sprinkle some garam masala over 20 minutes before the end. If you like it creamy, add 2 healthy tablespoons of thick Greek yogurt as well.

As a flourish before serving top with fresh coriander. Sit back and hear your diners gasp. article-2190173-1498C17D000005DC-406_634x335

Thank you for reading.

What are results?

Oh take me back to the old days. At around ten past five every Saturday I always made sure I was by a television set. It was usually outside a TV shop in Liscard with many other desperate souls watching the Grandstand tele-printer churn out the afternoon’s football results.

coldAnd that was it. Results were something you saw on a Saturday afternoon as the pale winter light was fading into the dark bleak evening on a wet day near the end of October. The weather had turned. The wind had developed a chill and you wouldlook forward to the warmth of the living room fire and the comfort of a weekend tea. By the time you were home, the characterless, toneless, Scottish drawl of a rotund Sam Leitch was summarising the day’s football.

Today we have the shouting men and woman (just the one) if you watch BT sport.

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Phil Thompson showing a new level of constipation

Yes there is a second woman but she talks about the fantasy football aspects of stuff. BBC’s Final Score tends to be a more sedate affair if you can get past the incredulous sight of the ballooning Garth Crooks.

nintchdbpict000235596672They’re all ex-players; still slavishly following fashion and showing few signs of intellectual development. My point? These were concrete statistics. Burnley scored more goals than Newcastle so they won. That’s one hard indisputable fact. The implications of such an outcome are another thing.

What about results in education-especially junior education? It would appear that it’s all about SATs, rates of progress, percentages and comparisons. Is that the point of school? One mild sunny day in late April, the anxiety of a colleague burst through:

6800560133a4f34f86a4edab2a81cec1“What’s the answer? What have we got to do with those four children who’ll miss their targets? I’ve tried booster classes, extra homework, extra consultations and sessions with the educational psychologist.”

I could have responded with some wise words about a rift between parental and teacher expectations. Who has the bigger sway on pupl motivation and how it impacts on the child’s attitude to education in general. And that if I was missing art to have the same old same old beaten into my poor frazzled brain in a variety of cunning ways, I’d not actually give a toss. But I steered away from that course because, despite my vast experience and knowledge (I had significantly more classroom hours than any other member of staff), that view was not seen as acceptable; certainly not since the chief inspector had been at pains to point out the “brilliant” way he’d turned rouns a “failing” school on some sprawling estate.

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Ah, the good old days

No he felt it his mission to bully anyone he interacted with into believing that he had the magic key. Did he? No! Education is not an institution with finite inputs and outcomes. The smallest of factors can have a huge impact on outcomes.

In education we can do general things. Imagine I’m the farmer and the teaching assistant is my raithful Border Collie. On some grey windswept hillside I would be working in tandem to corral those sheep into their pen. it would take its time. Hours of constant instructiion, cajolement and reward would be spent as the wind picked up and the rain began to lash our faces. Eventually they would all go in.

w1200_h678_fmaxThere would always be the last few stubborn buggers who needed that extra bit. And that’s it. Most of the herd played ball but there are always the rogues. We know sheep like to follow but what about the black sheep?

We cannot expect every child to hit their optimum in a silent hall, watched over by stern faced teachers on a particular day in May.

downloadThose small factors really count. Is the child worrying, rushing or freezing in their desperation to do their best? What was the last thing their parents said to them? Now this is what some, and it is only some, fail to understand. Parents are part of the team too. It’s not just one man and his dog. Parents need to be respected as a member. Like the children, parents are as diverse as the universe itself. I’ll avoid any reference to vacuums.

I remember the mother of three daughters. These girls were generous, polite down to earth young people. They had respect for everyone around the. The mum’s philosophy was simple but brilliant.

“Yeah, it’s a pain (sitting in that sterile hall) but don’t worry, you’ll be all right. The best thing I could follow that with was “unfortunately you’ll be examined a lot more in your next school. This is your first go. If you mess things up there’ll always be more chances.”

In fact I am a living breathing example of that second chance. I messed up my first degree; three years with nothing to show. I took my second chance with the Open University. It was long and difficult but I wasn’t going to blow it.

Now, back to my response to the rather anxious colleague:

“Well, I neither know nor care.” There was an outburst of muffled exasperation. “I go home knowing that I’ve done my best.” Oh dear, what a selfish I’m all right jack attitude to have. The thing is, if the well reasoned articulate answer I wanted to give was to be poo pooed because some crisp suited bully at OFSTED didn’t agree with it, I would take on the attitude of the poor child deprived of art because they found fractions confusing.

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Here is a crisp suited bully. I hope that’s libellous

I continued:

“Yes I know there are people with big stcks hovering above us but the sticks aren’t real and the worst thing that can happen to me is being taken away from the western front to teach in another year group.”

This brings me to a little aside: For the majority of my teaching years, I’ve taught year six. But I had one year with a combine three and four class. I learnt so much that year in terms of delivery and relating knowledge. And we had a great time.

Since retirement the key stage two curriculum has changed.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/614605/STA177733e_2017_key_stage_2_English_grammar__punctuation_and_spelling_paper_1_questions.pdf

If you follow the link, you will see how the qustions have the potential to be confusing. Do you think it’s a disgrace or are you in favour of such detail? I think it’s a disgrace.

Just imagine all the hours of tedium needed to even begin to understand the finer points of English grammar.

Schoolchildren bored in a classroom, during lesson.And I speak as a true lover of grammar and how tiny things can affect meaning and inference. But at key stage two? An understanding of basic sentence structure, pertinent use of punctuation and variety of form is enough to give children the tools to poduce work that is informative and engaging. I used to love taking my class on a magic carpet ride of words and the power of their meaning.

5ccc783375585b1895b5d6f98b1aceb2--personalized-books-magic-carpetOn reflection, I could have written an identical article covering maths. I probably will.

Signing out:

Stephen, teacher for 22 years; year 6 teacher for 18 of them.

Thank you for reading.

Hipsters

We may hear a lot about hipsters and the hipster lifestyle. The very word casts an endless array of nauseous irritating images of beardy weirdies eschewing mainstream trends for a much vaunted chic alternative to everything. They want to walk down the street imagining every passer-by admiring their cool original dress sense whilst puffing on their ostentatious Nepalese goat dung flavoured indigo vapour tubes.

I believe the term originates from the 1940s referring to young American jazz fans. The word jazz says it all for me. In the past I may well have been a hipster. I had unattended hair, old grey jackets, collarless shirts and those grand daddy type sleeveless sweaters. I drank in slightly off city-centre pubs, fogged by the constant smoking of rollies and battered old pipes rescued from the old drawer of a long forgotten relative. There was talk of workers’ rights and left-wing politics mixed with the free-flowing real ale of local or Burton based breweries. Yes it was the emergence of proper beer from the plastic gassy keg concoctions of my youth. It was the time of Marston’s Pedigree and the revival of Draft Bass.

I had a job that occupied the evenings, drifting around houses teaching the piano. I had holes in my jeans and designer stubble long before the gorgeous George Michael rocked it with his immaculately constructed eighties Buffon.

Parents would stifle yawns and feign interest in my esoteric ramblings about musical genres and obscure composers.

I had a group of musical hipster friends. We would gather in bars and flats to celebrate our love and knowledge of music and freedom. After all, none of us had a nine to five job. Financially I was always on the edge. Cars went untaxed and debts were either stalled or cleverly dodged. If we were to be pedantic we could argue that I was more of a Bohemian. Whatever; I was young.

Now, before I really start to eulogise about my past, thus spraying my spectacles various shades of pink, I have to remind myself that I was only ever a part-time hipster. All my life has been a double life. There was the musical life and the terraced working class football dedicated life. I was and stil am a huge Evertonian. How very un-hispter to follow the mainstream tribal rituals of the common football fan. I had friends who drank lager and talked of their day jobs. We got pissed on beer and terrorised lamp posts. We were loud and yobbish. Great times. To have experienced such contrasting lives gave me a unique learning curve. It was a real help when I eventually went mainstream.

What of the modern hipster? It’s something we all like to do; classify people types so we can rustle up some justified reason to sneer at them. In my view, compartmentalisation (I’ve waited years to get this word into one of my blogs) is fun. And that’s it! Dont take it seriously and don’t take me seriously. I believe the latter has always been an integral part of my image. Now this is where I use the following observations as an excuse for gentle fun. It’s not meant to be at anyone’s expense. People can be people.

The modern hipster is a social being. They may be social animals because they’re naturally friendly and convivial or they may just be after a cooing audience for their cutting edge alternative identity. Hence the Old Testament beard, the checked shirts, the old hats and the gourmet cookbook tucked under their arms. The women gather to discuss independent traders and the poor, unenlightened common housewife who can see no further than corporate retail. There are constant references to organic and “going vegan”. Himalayan knitted scarves and Patagonian bracelets are flicked and rattled as the conversation begins to deepen. There are big doses of sarcasm and any opportunity for irony will be hunted down like a dog.

Across the road to me is an electrical retailer (see recent blog Whitehill Waltz). But you won’t find hipsters in there. They sell modern convenient household goods, not coal-fired cooking ranges in ready blackened cast iron, tubs, washboards, dollies or those steam powered televisions. Besides, most of the staff nip outside in their breaks to have a quick fag.

“What?” shrieks the hipster in a flurry of quinoa and goji berry scented outraged breath. “Why are they not vaping?”

How does a hipster groom him or herself? Well blokes spend hours trimming beards to look elegantly shabby. There is frantic combing and back-combing from both genders. Neck chains, bangles, wooly hats and other things are placed just so for that crawled out of bed and went backwards through a hedge look. And this is before venturing out to face the head winds and cross winds on their electrified bicycles. Some may even have an old postman’s bike they found in their great uncle’s garage.

This is where I proclaim that we all know hipsters. Yes, they walk amongst us but we just accept their eccentricities, feigned or otherwise, as just the way they are.  These are genuine good eggs, going about their lives undaunted by the pressures of modern trends fuelled by modern in your face media. But be wary of the plastic ones good people. Be sure they are not turning you to their twisted over-priced ways. Ask youself:

“Does a vine tomato grown in the sterile environs of Thanet Earth have equal taste, or more importantly, status as that wrinkled weeping over ripe fruit purchased at a monstrous price from the funny little woman in the farmers’ market?”

And this brings me to the hipster kitchen. It’s a pot pouris of the old and the retro; sprialisers, stove top kettles, bone handled carving knives and hotch-potch of cutlery, all set off in the vintage tones of a kitchen they once imagined.

Do you really want to sample any of their foraged goods?

Do you trust their claims of “knowing fungi”?

That unglazed bowl next to the bottles of dandelion seed oil and chilli vinegar looks like a cross section of granny’s compost heap. So when they announce the creation of a wayside and foreshore salad, are you really keen to try it?

“No, don’t wash it Gloriana,” says Abs (short for Abraham; he was actually christened Andrew but that didn’t seem coolio to him) “it’ll take the flavour away. Use this soft mushroom brush to spend the next four hours gently brushing the rabbit droppings and crab poo from every leaf.”

Am I going too far? Perhaps. Are my judgements too ridiculous? Possibly. But hang on, I haven’t finished.

Where do hipsters go on holiday? What sort of hallowed places act as the backdrop to their ever-so casual looking selfies. According to The Guardian, hipsters can be spotted in the world’s coolest cities. Havanna, Adelaide, Jo’burg, Reykjavik Manilla, Mumbai (don’t ever call it Bombay) or Buenos Aries. They seek out centres of  rustic culture. Local markets are scoured for colourful yet tasteless artisan products honed from local yak milk cheese or the fur of the urine soaked sewer rat. There will always be a visit to a street corner bench where they can devour the genuine street food created by scrawny greasy aproned men standing over yellow pan of fiery muddy oil with a curved cylinder of precarious ash protruding from the endless cigarette planted in pale wrinkled lips. No outrage about vaping here. It just wouldn’t be authentic.

On return, suitcases would be crammed with all that is useless, to be paraded at their home-coming brunch celebration before being confined to the museum room; usually a box room overflowing with the spoils of previous adventures. The one exception is the new hat. Once chosen it remains glued like a cheap wig to the scruffy pate until the next holiday.

What if the hipster runs out of cool cities? Will it be two weeks in Cumbernauld, Milton Keynes, Motherwell or Boston (Lincolnshire; statistically the obese centre of England). Will deep fried mars bars be the new cauliflower cous cous? The mind boggles. Hopefully I’ve only offended those who deserve it. To whom I say “get a grip and look around you”.

Thank you for reading.

A less than authentic recipe

It’s so tempting to wax lyrical about the traditional Asian flavours, happily combining to make a real comfort dish to have anyone from the far east pining for their old grandma’s Sunday suppers. But I can’t do that because after recently discovering miso paste I’m hooked on its salty caramel like intensity. I thought of all the ingredients I would like to have together and just made it up. I’m not sure how it compares to ready made pastes or sauces but it’s probably cheaper in the long run if you intend to do it regularly. Is it more satisfying? You bet your sweet and sour bottom.

Eastern mish-mash:

Serves two.

Ingredients

12 oz or more rump steak sliced in strips across the grain

1tsp miso paste

big squirt of tomato puree

1 small onion sliced

1 thumb of ginger cut into long strips

2 cloves of chopped garlic

juice of 1 lime

1 tbs sesame oil

1 tbs white wine vinegar

1 chopped green chilli

1 green pepper sliced into thin strips

2 tbs sesame seeds

1 tbs honey

1 tbs soy sauce

Put everything in a bowl mix it all up and leave for at least one hour. Fry on a medium heat until the meat is tender. Serve in bowls over sticky rice with chopsticks whilst doing a smug head wiggle.

The beef can be substituted with chicken, pork or sliced field mushrooms for a vegetarian version. You can also use tubes of ginger and garlic puree; Tesco’s £1.10 under the fresh herbs and chilli powder to make it even easier.

Below is the chicken version.

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A lovely pile of glossy gorgeousness

 

Thank you for reading

Tenderfoot

A tenderfoot is a novice. At the age of sixty one, I cannot possibly be a novice. Can I? Over thirty eight years of full time work, failing and gaining a degree, getting musical qualifications and doing a fair bit of travelling has surely put me into the exclusive club of the worldly wise? I’ve known and respected thousands of people, I hate politicians, I support chatities and have a good knowledge of current affairs. I’ve dealt with elation, disappointment, tragedy and boredom. So why do some people think I know nothing?

They’ve tried to manipulate me, question my decisions, assume a higher moral stature and tell me what’s best for me. Naturally these people are far younger and less experienced. Is it arrogance? Exclusivity? Do I not know what it takes? Am I really a tenderfoot?

Yes I am. But my inexperience only stems from being a day short of 61 years, ten months and seven days old. Normally I’d relax and just laugh at the folly of youth but some of these people are in my face.

Am I still on a learning curve? Of course I am. Last night I made a list of the things I’d like my GP to consider. All my life I’ve prided myself in fighting through battles with illness. I’ve preferred freedom to hours in out-patient waiting rooms. But it’s no longer possible. I’m an inexperienced oldie. So when the doctor arrives tomorrow I’ll present my ailments in list form; high blood sugar reading (when the lovely ambulance ladies picked me up on Saturday morning), a painful hip, a sore lumpy thing on my chest, a bruised head and a very suspicious bout of pins and needles down my right arm.

Obviously I’m a novice worrier too. I’ve tried to ignore this but it hasn’t gone away. And don’t get me started on bowels and bladder. (Or anxiety). I have a t- shirt.

im-in-my-60s-I-do-what-I-like-t-shirt-royal-blueI’m doing my best but I do give a toss. Soon I’ll have to move flat and cope with all the drama when all I really want to do is see a bit more of our lovely country and maybe spend time with friends abroad learning how to enjoy life again. It’s there on the horizon like the end of the rainbow. Yet I can’t see the pot of gold.

Oh bugger, some songs from Finian’s Rainbow have just come into my head. Was Tommy Steele the leprechaun?

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Oh dear. I actually paid to go to the cinema to see a film with him in it. 

Now I’m not a novice with earworms. When confronted with an annoying repetition of corn, I go into default mode and start singing Billy Don’t be a Hero.

Now, what else do I need to learn? Tolerance of Liverpudlians?

DEELmhBWAAAhywzNo need but there are exceptions. Tolerance of politicians? Never but I have time for a few. Tolerance of Stricly? There’s the off button. Tolerance of idiots? Bollocks to that. I have another t shirt.

53ec6f44be51b4bbe70cd89d1e38ee52Tolerance of getting older and all the joys that come with it? Bollocks to that as well. I’ve been through enough turbulent water to cope with a few little ailments. And that’s all they are.

As for my chronic condition? I’m a seasoned campaigner.

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The whole business; the whole getting older and handling everything as well as the MS crap can be seen as a business. And it is the collective mass of seemingly unstoppable hysterical factors that needs careful handling. This is my learning curve. As well as all the money and illness nonsense, So naturally I’m still finding little snippets of inexperience popping up all over the place.

Dealing with people for instance. That’s nothing new but it’s dealing with them from my new chairmanship;should that be wheelchairmanship perhaps? I’m now looked at quite differently. It can range from the over helpful to the downright ignorant. I would expect that. But it all comes with a little but pungent side dish; it’s the staring side dish.

The trouble with buses is the position of the disabled space.

11378753_554222378052826_2053927493_nI sit and face my spectators. It’s just like being a teacher again. One day I’ll say “let’s start with some mental arithmetic shall we?” Train travel is better because I usually get on the train first.

Soon I’ll be going on an aeroplane and do you know what? I won’t be a tenderfoot because I get out and about and know how to do my research. I know people and I can talk to people. This is unlike some I have known from the past. I do not live in a bubble, cowering at the thought of going into the outside world and doing something new.

In 1979, I took a tent and a back pack on a train down to Cheltenham. I found access to the Cotswold Way and just started walking.

downloadA lot of it was National Trust land. “No camping allowed,” the rules stated. I camped. I walked, talked and pitched my tent all the way down to Taunton.

Then, in 1986, I packed my tent and flew to Gerona, all on my own. I had two great weeks as a free spirit on the Costa Dorada. I flew back on a Friday, jumped straight onto a train to London and went to the Charity Shield. (Everton 1 Liverpool 1). It was a lively weekend. At about seven on the Sunday morning, I fell asleep at Brixton tube for over an hour.

Since then, I’ve travelled solo into the great unknown many times. But some people say I should get out more! These are bubble people, living in a blinkered world; the real tenderfeet, quaking at the thought of big steps into unknown lands. To them, getting out is jumping in a car and going to a supermarket, garden centre or a national trust property. For there is always a teashop or a cafe where they can reaffirm their friendship with cake.

national-trust-tea-roomOne sultry August evening, a young lady called Bridget set up her tent next to mine on a sprawling dusty camp site in Taragonna.

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In broken English and French we put the world to rights with a bottle of vodka. The next day she was off. So much for tea and cake. It’s the sort of thing I’ve done with gays, strays and rampant Californian women ever since I’ve had the travel bug.

Get out more? Let’s return to a standard response: Bollocks. I’m not a tenderfoot in any sense. I’ve gone away and met people. The first person I spoke to on that camp site in Taragonna was a German man called Helgo. He was an eccentric millionaire. He was also the chairman of Eintracht Frakfurt football club. What a man, with his classic teutonic demeanour and his fluffy little moustache. It was then I learnt that Germans do have a sense of humour.german_humour_pa

Towards the end of that holiday, I was in a general store in the back streets of Barcelona. Two young Englishmen were negotiating to buy some peanuts. They were obviously down to their final pesetas. One turned and spoke to me about the idiot Spanish. I shrugged my shoulders feingning non comprendes before laughing with the shop assistant about the loco Ingleses.

I bought a nice bottle of red and a copy of the Times before settling on the old leather chair on the balcony of my hotel room off Las Ramblas. It was a shady area in a big colourful city.

a-backstreet-of-famous-gay-tourist-resort-sitges-near-barcelona-spain-bg7nb3I had already turned down the offers of the drug dealers and prostitutes who spoke sotto voce from the side of their mouths.

In truth I have a wealth of experience. I teem with memories and regrets. I’m a tiny person in a massive universe. I’ll keep exploring. Whether it’s the world or my soul, there will always be an interest for the new day and what it has to offer.

And to those who think they know more; those who try to manipulate me via modelling behaviour and cajolement, let me upgrade my standard response to something more cosmopolitan:

Bolleaux.

Thank you for reading.

I marvelled at the difference between then and now. I knew for a fact that this  empty land was to become part of a huge city, packed with all the signs of modern twenty first century living; towering skyscrapers, cars, taxis, underground stations and noise-endless noise. Yet now it looked more like a desert. It was no longer hypnotic-the news about my new school saw to that! Now the jagged irregular rhythms added to the sense of desolation. As a distraction I was trying to work out where we were, when the coarse voice of Mr Kenwood boomed out over the eerie silence.

His voice was loud and strangled. From my position I could not make out his exact words but whatever they were, they were angry words. His Lordship stiffened:

“Close the curtain,” he snapped. I did as he asked but left a tiny gap on my right hand side where I could just about see what was outside. Soon the coach was drifting slowly amongst a crowd of people. I knew immediately that it was a procession of the homeless, making their sorry way to the capital. Mr Kenwood continued his muffled screams as he weaved our coach in and out of the poor bedraggled souls. Their faces were pitted with hardship and tragedy. Each one spoke silently of dread and desperation. His Lordship could see me looking.

“Do not regard them Do not catch their gaze.” He hid his face in his hands as he continued:

“They are the lost ones. They have no home. The lords, the landowners, the gentry, the gentleman farmers-they have taken away their land and their livelihoods. Now every single one of them thinks that I, sitting here in this fine carriage, am one of those guilty of this foul deed. Their faces; their sad miserable eyes are going to haunt me for all eternity. I have seen enough of them. I cannot bear to see any more.” Again I found myself wanting to say something. While we could turn off the television, the eighteenth century lord could close the curtain. Either way it was blocking it out of your mind. The less you know, the less guilty you feel. At the tender age of twelve I was old enough to know the power of guilt. The carriage trundled on, slowly snaking through the sad crowd.

In amongst the sound of Kenwood and the shuffling of tired feet, I could make out the voice of a lone singer. His nasal crackling voice sang a slow laborious melody. As we moved nearer I could make out some of the words. He sang of hope and new life. He sang of sailing far away to a land of opportunity, leaving behind all the hell and hardship of old England.

My father used to make fun of folk singers:

“They put on their stinking woolly jumpers and stick their fingers in their ears. They spend their time in pubs drinking warm beer and picking the fleas out of their overgrown beards. No-one likes them.” He would then do one of his impersonations. It often made me laugh, if only just to see Dad making a fool of himself in front of our relatives.

Now I really wished I had a phone with me. I’d have filmed the performance of this lone singer and shown it to my father. This was far too profound to be made fun of. This was powerful and moving. This was not any sort of modern day middle class old fogey in a pub pretending he could sing. This was real. As he came to the end of another verse, I was completely taken in. Then as everyone around joined in his roaring jolly chorus, I thought His Lordship was going to scream. The chorus was loud. Its force shook the frame of the carriage. It punched my ribs. Now with his hands over his ears His Lordship began to shout directly at me:

“They sing of joy and gladness as though it is their right. They will get to the city and find nothing but misery.” The singing stopped. His Lordship placed his hands back down on his lap and continued in a quieter voice:

“The city teems with lost souls, displaced from their land and left to beg on the streets. There is plenty of work here but it is harsh work in dreadful stinking conditions. Families will be broken apart in their quest to find employment and lodging. Gangs of cruel men haunt the public places offering them work but it is little more than slavery. Men may speak their fine words about the rights and wrongs of sending slaves to the new world, but no-one bears witness to our own cruel practices. All generations work all day and night for nothing bar a roof over their heads and a morsel of bread.” He paused to wipe his foaming mouth. “Some will take the king’s shilling and sail with the navy. They are tricked or tempted into it. They may think that life at sea is exciting and full of adventure but they will find nothing but cruelty, starvation, disease and death.” He closed his eyes briefly and took a long swig from his flask. I caught the whiff of its contents as he put it back into his pocket. The hard serious stare returned:

“I come to London today to do exacting business. I will find men willing to share in my wheat and other cereals. I will be inspecting stock. I will be making arrangements with my premises and other affairs. You need not yet know about such affairs. But the most important task of the day is to secure purchase of appropriate machinery.” He stared at the floor before continuing slowly and deliberately. “For I too will need to turn the people off my land. I too will be destroying hundreds of years family traditions. They have endured war, plague and famine. What for? To be turned off the land they called their home. If I do not attend to this matter now, my house will go to ruin and nobody will have anything”