Just to clear something up, everyone is welcome to visit my pub on the wonderful Isle of Wight. However if you are visiting to see the motorcycling then I am afraid you will be disappointed, we have a scooter rally but that’s it. We are also not particularly well known for whisky production, well not at all actually. If you enter the word “Isle” as your destination in the sat nav it will need more information because, and this will come as a surprise to some, there are multiple islands around the UK. I know, how crazy is that? More than one island, go figure!
Over the years we have developed an ingenious way of telling these islands apart. It’s a bit of a secret code but I think that I can share it here we are, after all, amongst friends. We name them differently, I know it’s crazy right? But bear with me it actually works! It’s a system we copied from other places and it is genuinely successful. It’s not perfect of course because unlike, for example, a county there are other words ahead of it like ‘isle’. You have to persevere and get past that to the word at the end but when you are there hey presto it’s unique. There is a tip that can help you here, mail delivery agents use it a lot, if you read or listen to the whole sentence then you get all of the information. I know it sounds odd but give it a go it really works and you will wonder how you ever got on before.
If the last two paragraphs made no sense then please visit at the end of May for bike racing, distillery tours are better in September and you can apply in the pub for an offshore bank account.
My estate agent visited today, the apartment is a rental, and after ten years of storing junk furniture that came with the property he told me that they have no inventory. Better than that in the health and safety crazed modern world they cannot let the place furnished as the furniture is too old and has no certificates. When did wardrobes start needing certificates? Is there a school at the back of the furniture store where they revise for exams on how to stay still?
This is the last week of full time day job and I think that should help take some of the load off. I was discussing this the other day and realised that moving home while working full time is stressful, moving jobs from a stable home is also tiresome. I am doing day job, moving home and starting a new business, in truth is it any wonder that I am tired?
I knew that the enforced curfew of Christmas had got too much this morning when I found myself idly checking that I wasn’t on the FBI’s most wanted list*. Backache meant a run was out of the question so I opted for a walk along the seafront on a chilly December morning. This is a stroll that I do quite regularly and I will rarely see more than half a dozen people, today was busier than an August bank holiday, well almost. There were people everywhere but these were no ordinary people they were festive ones, is one day not enough?
When I say that they were festive I don’t mean that they were wearing red hats and tinsel, oh no they were in disguise. They couldn’t hide from me though I spotted their strange groupings, like adults ever voluntarily go for walks with parents. And again the over formality, it was like somebody waved a wand that converted all the hoodies into formal coats! The strangest thing happened when passing these groups, they tried some form of communication! I know, in England and in a public place way to blend in losers. Luckily I had deployed my standard defence against such tactics, an MP3 player and a slightly psychotic expression** that few would try to engage with.
Having overcome my shock at the masses I happened upon one of those things that brilliantly captures the special breed that is coastal residents. Sitting in plastic chairs against the sea wall were a family indulging in the perfect seaside treat for a freezing December day, ice cream. This was no mere supermarket purchase though, at the coast we plan this stuff out way better than that. The family was eating Mr Whippy from the local kiosk which was not only open but had its obligatory 4 ft high plastic cone out to let people know. We breed em tough round here.
I can share an interesting development from the continues battle with Ms Nature. I seem to have some nerve conflict going on which is making my hands go ice-cold and numb from time to time. There seems to be no logic for this it just happens and then eventually goes away again, go figure. The entertaining thing about this latest assault is the futility of it, my wrists hurt so making them numb is a relief. That’s the great thing about Ms Nature, she’s determined but dumb and that is why I will win.
*Google is supposed to surround me with relevant advertisements and amongst all the plumbing supplies was a link to the FBI most wanted list, I figured Google may have known something that I didn’t…..
**The former is available from all good stores but the latter takes a special blend of parents I am afraid
As you all know I love living in a small coastal community and can find seemingly endless reasons why; today I have another to share with you. Out here our GPs haven’t been criticised by overly sensitive patients or sued by ambulance chasing no win no fee crooks they are as nature intended. Today I had to see the GP to see if we can work out why I seem to be finding ever more reasons to flush, I thought it good to check before I get mistaken for a 12-year-old in a lingerie aisle! We started out with a sociable hello and then moved to the reason for the visit. I explained that the flushing is becoming more common and that I have ruled out alcohol (thank god), food and laundry detergent so I can’t actually associate it with anything it seems random. My exercise level was discussed, my blood pressure was taken and then my GP summed up his thoughts.
“You’re probably changing into a girl” said with a straight face to a patient that he has seen once in 8 years. I laughed and said that would I would need some fashion help if that was the case and the response was “are your balls shrivelling up?” having assured the doc that this was not the case he conceded that this was a flawed diagnosis. He explained that it was probably nothing, reeled off a couple of things that were of no concern and then threw in that it could be some long sounding word ending in tumour. I suggested that the latter didn’t sound like something I wanted and he emphatically agreed. Symptomatic treatment would be achieved by beta blockers whilst he ordered up blood and urine tests. Doc went on to explain what beta blockers do and asked again if I did any sport because “I play table tennis and darts, I am OK but with a beta blocker I am a winner” I assured him that there were no drugs that he could prescribe that would result in me taking up a sport before he sounded a caution “if you were to get chased by a lion then you wouldn’t react quickly and the lion might get you” This last warning was offered with a sincere look of concern and I almost expected him to produce a lion before I assured him that I had no plans to visit the jungle.
I like to think I had the last laugh when he mentioned that a very common side effect of beta blockers is cold hands “so it will make raynauds worse then?” he checked the notes and asked how bad the raynauds was nowadays, I assured him that it was much better than when I was younger. Did I still get the colour changes he asked, oh yes and the spasms but not like when I was younger. The raynauds itself was not a concern because “if it makes it too much worse we can stop the beta blockers” but what foxed him, and hadn’t occurred to me, is that raynauds is the reverse of flushing. Raynauds is a vasoconstriction condition that results in loss of blood flow to the extremities where as flushing is caused by vasodilation. That both conditions exhibit at different times pointed to a control issue but unfortunately that particular circuit is located at pretty much the centre of the brain so kind of difficult to recalibrate.
I left him to his musing and returned to the reception, made blood appointment and collected the urine sample bottle to fill over the weekend, the last part was not what I expected. No small sample pot for me oh no they want a couple of litres. Apparently this is a 24 hour deal where you have to collect everything for said period, given it is the weekend I nominate Sunday so that I can deliver the sample on Monday. Luckily I live close enough to the pub to pop home so wont have to hide the bottle up somewhere!
This is a funny time of year for us that live in tourist areas. The tourists are mostly gone although the stalwarts will be here for a while longer. But what we see now are one visit tourists, the bargain bucket holidays. These people book out of season to save some money, they take a chance with the weather but hey don’t we always in the UK? These random tourists are actually so much more respectful of the area we live in, they seem genuinely grateful for the opportunity to visit. Watching this last wave of tourism before we settle into winter isolation always makes me smile.
This morning I was treated by the sight of a couple romantically ‘strolling’ hand in hand along the beach. The beach was deserted, the sand was flat and unmarked except for the trail of their footprints. The inverted commas are there because I am not entirely sure that one can stroll against an easterly wind. Does one have to be upright to stroll or is it acceptable to be bent over to fight the wind? The hands that were not entwined were holding a hat and trying to control hair respectively but they were in T Shirts, well they are tourists and it is a holiday after all.
The children walking past the flat yesterday smothered in ice cream as the wind sought to empty the cone before they could eat it were another example. The young dad telling his son that “you asked for a lolly so you eat it” seemed fair if you presumed the complainant was cold. Of course I had seen the sand whip around said lad and knew what he had in his hand was frozen sandpaper, bet it made his teeth shine. Having just walked back I saw a young girl riding one of those mechanical horses at the amusement arcade. With the howling wind and sand blowing past her the pictures will look like the Wild West.
Of course this is also the time of year when our long term caravan residents start their winter preparations. One of the local caravan sites has now officially extended its season to 52 weeks so the permanent residents are now legitimate. The discussion overheard in the pub yesterday over appropriate locations brought fond childhood memories flooding back. Apparently you don’t want to go near cedars or willows as they are full of “tourists” and get waterlogged in the winter. There is something so comforting about living somewhere that is adequately heated by a simple gas heater and that rocks gently in the winter, or perhaps that is just me.
I have to apologise to Max for not writing this earlier and, in so doing, disturbing her Sunday routine. I would say that this was due to a sudden and exciting turn in my life but I would be lying. It is in fact because I have downloaded Stephen King’s “Dream Doctor” the follow up to the shining, and I can honestly say he hasn’t lost his skill. For those that read, including Max, I cannot recommend it highly enough its a treat to meet up with little Danny all grown up and drunk! As with all of Mr King’s books I am unable to put it down so normal service will be resumed shortly.
Book quotes are coming thick and fast this week, the latest being ‘I would trust that man with my wife’ if that is a mark of trust then I am indeed honoured because there isn’t a person I wouldn’t trust with my wife! Alright that may have something to do with the fact that she is in fact now an ex-wife but hey I am going to use that the very next time the debate comes up ‘dude I would trust you with my wife’.
This morning saw the weather making a special effort to tease some tourists into visiting the coast, we started the morning with a threat of snow but that gave way to glorious sun just in time for the Mums to start thinking a trip would be a good idea and hopefully badger Dads into the drive. It’s scary to see just how reliant so many businesses are on the weather and how many are stretched at this time of year as we head into the ‘season’, good luck to all. The weather must have worked to some degree as the local grocery stores look like they have been under siege all day and I have been treated to the view of chip eaters in their natural environment. Directly opposite my flat is shelter arrangement with seats all of the way around it, the sort of thing that is commonly found at most UK coastal resorts, if you sit on any of three sides you can see the sea but the fourth looks at the road. It is the road side seems the most popular, now I would understand this if people were waiting for buses and the like but no they sit there eating their chips and, in so far as I can see, watching me. I haven’t let the fame go to my head though, I still wander around my flat in various stages of undress and I have even managed to overcome the natural urge to wince when I look down and spy somebody biting down on a sausage.
If the weather really is able to plot and twist to tease us then this supports my theory that time also is not inanimate, I know that I am encroaching on Mr Paynter’s territory here but stick with me. If time was a simple and linear measure then how would it be that on leaving work yesterday with a sensible allowance for making my train connection I ended up just missing the train? I didn’t miss my train of course but I missed the one before it, just missed it actually, by seconds and I believe this was time playing with me. For the first part of the journey time passed extraordinarily quickly, stations whizzed by and the miles were consumed voraciously, hence the early arrival at the interchange, but then just as we approached the momentum was lost and time started flowing like road tar. How many times does this happen to you? Your racing ahead, everything is looking good and then it just slows down and frame by frame you miss your target. Paul once tried to guide me through a book that was way beyond my intellect, we used to have mornings at work around a whiteboard so he could explain such seemingly obvious concepts as bending time but unfortunately they were lost on me, that is until now. I think that time can bend itself and I think it does it to spite us, I may even venture that I detect the workings of Ms Nature in this somewhere.
If you imagine that we are travelling down a road that we shall call ‘time’ and we can only ever see a fixed distance in front then when that path is bent we are mislead into thinking that we are travelling faster because we can see further ahead. So at this point I can see my connecting train, the grocery store still open or the cab waiting but because I am looking to the left or right (because of the bend) I am tricked into thinking it is within grasp when in fact I still have the long road to travel. Are you still with me? If it helps, imagine a very large roundabout and you are approaching from the 6 o’clock junction and heading off at 7 o’clock, although you can see 7 o’clock you actually have to travel around the whole roundabout to get to it.
In summary, time is against us it is trying to confuse us and it is making us late, I haven’t figured out why yet but I am working on it and will report in due course.
I have been reading the excellent David Baldacci Christmas Train which involves a journey across the US, the journey is set in modern time indeed the traveller uses the train as the result of a falling out with airport authorities over their over intrusive checks. Our traveller is going coast to coast on sleeper trains and there is something so wonderfully evocative in the names of the trains, the railroad companies and the whole travelling experience. I have worked on the old British Rail sleeper cars and the experience described in the book is something completely and wonderfully different, a world of meeting people whilst travelling over the course of a couple of days and of lounge bars and twin level coaches.
This subject comes up quite often in books and certainly it’s a feature of Baldacci’s, every time I read about the subject I am moved to think that I shall have to complete such a journey for no other reason than to experience the magnificence of the countryside from these rolling caravans. I am, of course, well aware that on my train there will be no film writers or superstars and that I will be sandwiched between an oversized family and a snoring old lady, condemned to spend the time with my head under the pillow cursing the name Baldacci. In fact with my luck Spiderman or Tigger will be there for the duration, like some LSD fuelled commuting nightmare.
The wondrous sounding American experience may be a step ahead of the more mundane UK railways but we still have iconic buildings and journeys that will forever evoke emotions embedded in childhood. My entire UK dwelling has resulted in London Liverpool Street as a terminus station and I remember well when this was effectively to stations split by platforms 9 and 10, the longer Intercity platforms. As a child on family outings we would cross the footbridge between the low numbered platforms with their North London destinations and the high numbered platforms departing to the bucket and spades destinations of Southend on Sea and Clacton on Sea. Walking over the footbridge gave an opportunity to stop and watch the locomotives running around to pull the long Intercity trains to Norwich and, of course, to the Hook of Holland via Harwich. To a young boy there was something marvellous about watching the theatre of locomotives being uncoupled from the rear and fresh ones brought onto the front from the small shunt siding hidden in the dark between the platforms, a process lost long ago to an efficiency drive.
The station has long since been rebuilt an much of the rolling stock has been replaced although the grand old dames of the Intercity service are still plying the line, looking tired and outdated they seem to hark back to a golden age and still remain the stock of choice wherever possible. When I worked for Eurostar I commuted from Harwich and managed to time my commute to the ‘boat trains’, Intercity services timed to align with sailing times for the ferries; these trains provided a wonderfully eclectic mix of travelling companions and rich diversity of language. Even then you could see in the old buffet cars glimpses of the rich past of these services, long galleys equipped and designed for serving full cooked meals reduced now to pre-packaged snacks and cups of tea. There was an advantage for me in the provision of a buffet car, especially when returning from a night shift, in that the steward would kindly provide tea when I boarded and when I awoke both of which were made from his personal provision and therefore cost nothing, on quiet occasions we would sometimes sneak an elicit bacon roll in the galley as well.
For all the history and romance of transportation though nothing will ever come close to working one Christmas at Doncaster railway works, I was met there by my senior traction Engineer who was so happy to have fallen upon the ‘perfect Christmas’ a Casey Jones* turkey burger and a Christmas Eve nightshift in a railway works. They say that it takes all sorts and in this industry you sure do meet them.
*British Rail’s ill-fated challenge to McDonalds and Burger King