Wednesday, 26 April 2017

From 26 degrees to 8

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As I left the runway at Tenerife airport and hobbled up the stairs to the plane it was a very warm 26 degrees, four hours later when I went slowly down the steps at Norwich airport it was a very chilly 8 degrees. I was soon ruffling in my hand luggage for my light jacket to put on as we queued for the door to the terminal building.  

It's always been traditional since the wife and I first met that we leave behind our phones when we travel abroad, and as electronic devices are very quickly taking over our lives that now means other things like note pads etc. We go off-grid as they say.  So as we locked our suitcases ready to take to reception early on the morning of our return flight we had no idea what weather to expect when we returned to the U.K. No one normally wants their holiday to end so I returned home in a pair of deck shoes, shorts, and T-Shirt; not the sort of clothing that keeps you warm on dull grey windy cold day.

The wife was more pragmatic on her return so dressed appropriately to cover most weather options, and as I shivered outside the entrance to passport control the wife gave me a look that only women seem to be able to give. I desperately tried to act as if the cold had no effect on me, but it was not going to fool the wife. She kept giving me that look while staying completely silent, knowing full well that no words were needed. If only I had listened to her back in the hotel room then I would not now be shivering. I knew she was right and she knew it too.


There’s only one thing worse than your partner being right and yourself wrong, and that is when they are proved to be right as well, and this was one such occasion. The problem though was that this was not the first time she was right during our family 2017 holiday to the Canary islands during the Easter half-term. In fact on the third night into our eleven days on Tenerife, I had an accident that nearly ruined the whole event. A year and a half of saving and planning nearly ended in disaster, and I nearly ended in the hospital!

It was a simple thing. The family went out for a walk after our evening meal and we stopped off at the pharmacy to purchase some more aftersun cream. There were two sets of steps to walk down. The wife and children went one way where the path was better lit by the street lights and I decided to take the other path. The wife did say it would be better to take the path she suggested, but did I listen? No, I did not listen and I had to pay for it. As I stepped off the last step and went forward my right foot slipped off a black rubber pipe that had been placed across the path and I went crashing to the ground, badly twisting my ankle. I heard the crack first before I felt the pain and as I cried out in agony and rolled about the floor, I thought I had broken my foot. 

Some stranger came to my rescue, quickly followed by my concerned family who heard my cries of pain. I was helped to get up and sat on a low wall so I could check the damage. I decided that although it was not looking good I did not want to go to the hospital yet as I knew I would end up with my foot, ankle, and lower leg in plaster. I thought I would give it twenty-four hours to see how bad things got. The wife shot back into the pharmacy to get some Ibuprofen gel, and the strongest paracetamol she could purchase. I limped back as she and the children held me up, and once back in our room a towel full of ice was placed over my already swelling ankle.

I knocked back some pain relief with a large shot of locally produced Canarian Honey Rum with ice dripping over my ankle as I lay on my bed. The overhead fan was whirling away keeping the room cool and I wondered what I would wake up too in the morning. Just before the wife turned off the bedside lamp, she gave me that silent look. Yes, that look that said, "I told you so, I was right again!"

As the light went out I was left with my throbbing ankle and my regrets.

Regards

Mark  

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Out smarted by a child

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I have the saying, 'I will try anything once and if I like it I will try it again, and if I don't, then I won't.' I have always tried to install this little piece of philosophy into our children. They have always felt encouraged to try anything new that takes their fancy, and if they like it, and we can help, then we do our best in whatever way we can to support them.

Sometimes this is through just verbal support and quite often it is financial, and then there is the constant mummy and daddy taxi service. Occasionally it's just basic encouragement to carry on with something they have started, but then decide they want to stop because of their friend, or friends, have decided to stop doing the same activity.

With this support, our children have grown up able to play musical instruments, have a love of sport and enjoyed being active members of the Scout and Guilding Movements . It can be hectic at times and drain family resources. As they have grown some of these extra activities have been tried and then finally dropped, but they gave it a go and we're happy with that. We found ourselves in such a situation in January. Monday nights have always been hectic for the children's clubs, especially for our youngest and he was struggling. After school, there is an hour and a half of football training outside on the all-weather 3G pitch, then straight to Cubs afterwards for another hour and a half. He would have to eat his supper in the car on the way to the scout hut, and then get changed in the car park before finally getting home at 8.30pm and way past his bed time. In winter it was just too much for the lad. Training outside when it's below freezing then running about inside with the heating blazing away was leaving him exhausted, and occasionally feeling unwell.

He had been asking for some months to give up Cubs on Monday nights. His school friends had slowly given it up and the only one remaining used to annoy him. He was always hanging off him and was very loud, and when you're worn out anyone would find that annoying. We knew it was too much for a Monday after spending all day ay school so the dear wife made contact with another Cub group that met on a Wednesday evening, and which more of his school friends attended.

He was not too taken with the idea at first and as Wednesday is the only night of the week none of us is rushing about I would have liked to keep this one-night stress-free, but like I say there is always a but in life, and this but was that the wife was determined he gave this other group a try. I think the fact that the Mother-in-law had only just purchased his new cub uniform for Christmas might have had something to do with it.

So she made contact and they had just one space left in the pack, but it would soon fill up. They said he could go along for one night to try it out without commitment, we just had to get him to agree. For three days she tried to persuade him and for three days she failed. The poor lad like his dad just wanted a night off and her motherly ways were not swaying his judgment.

So I stepped in. I used my tried and tested technique for such situations, bribery. If he tried out the new cub troop then he would earn something back. I thought to myself it would be a good opportunity for the boy to learn two important lessons in life. The first being the art of negotiation and the second being to learn to keep to one's promise. So on the way home from school, I did a deal. If he tried it out for one night and he did not like it, he did not have to go again, and he could give up cubs but I would treat him anyway for giving it a go.

'What will I get then dad?' He asked

'I'll double this weeks pocket money.' Not much of an incentive as he does not get a great deal,  but it was the opening gambit.

So the negotiations began.

'I'll do it for double pocket this week and ten packets of Match Attacks.'

For my readers who are not sure what Match Attack cards are, they're football related cards that children collect and exchange with each other at school. They cost £1 a pack so I thought to myself £10 on cards plus double pocket money was so just a bit too far.

So for the next twenty-four hours, the horse trading went on, but we still had not shaken on a deal. Then I thought my boy was relenting a bit when he changed track and said he would give the new cubs group a go for some Pokemon Cards. The negotiations came to a speedy conclusion and we shook hands on a deal. Five packs of #Pokemon cards and that was it. Now I know absolutely nothing about these cards or the game itself, other than when a version of the game people was playing on their phones hit the news headlines recently.





But I thought for £5 I had struck a hard, but fair bargain. So that Wednesday my son kept to his side of the deal and attended the new Cubs. When he was picked up he was smiling from ear to ear, stuck his thumbs up in the air, and he mouthed silently that he loved it.

Now it was my turn to keep to my side of the handshake and that's the easy bit I thought. How wrong was I? Very wrong! I went to the local supermarket where we always get the boys Match Attacks and where they sell all these types of card games, but they did not have any. So I drove to another supermarket and again they did not sell them. After four hours of driving half way around Norwich, I had visited three different supermarkets, three corner shops and the Co-op, and had failed miserably to locate a single packet of Pokemon cards. In desperation, I sat in the car with my phone searching Google for somewhere to buy these damn things. I had an hour left before my son came home from school.

The only place that might sell them, other than having to order them over the Internet, was a small independent toy shop on the edge of the city. When I walked through the door of  Kerrison's Toy Shop on Aylsham Road I was pleased as punch to see behind the till counter a row of Pokemon cards for sale. I put my hand in my pocket ready to pull out a five-pound note.

'Can I have five packets of Pokemon cards please.' I said to the lady behind the counter.

'No problem sir,' she said, 'that will be twenty pounds in total.'

'Twenty pounds I spluttered.'

'Yes, twenty-pounds sir, they cost four pounds a pack.'

'Four pounds a pack, but I thought they would only cost one pound per pack like Match Attacks!'

'Match Attacks cost a pound a pack, but Pokemon have always cost four pounds, would you like five packs of them instead?'

As I handed over a twenty-pound note and left the shop with my five packets of Pokemon cards I was mumbling to myself, and I will leave it to your imagination the words cussing from my mouth. When the boy got home the cards were waiting for him on the kitchen table.

'Thank you dad, you're the best,' he said and then had dabbed me. Again if you're not sure what dabbing is, it's a hand gesture which I think basically means you've been done and something footballers do when they have just scored a goal. So there you have it. I had been totally outfoxed. There was I hoping to teach my boy a couple of valuable life lessons, but it was me that learnt a lesson that day.

Never try to be clever if you don't know all the facts.

Regards

Mark

P.s, my boy has now been invested into the new cub pack and is still going.











Monday, 6 February 2017

Sir John Hurt

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I have to start my posting today in acknowledging the death of actor I have admired over the years in Sir John Hurt. He was a fellow lover of my home county of Norfolk, and someone who would have been the perfect actor to play the part of a new character who is introduced in the third book in my Daniel Jones series. There are fleeting glimpses of him in both Daniel Jones Frenzy and Daniel Jones Doom if you know where to look, but it's not until my new manuscript he finally appears.







Sir john Hurt played the lead role in the film 1984 from one of my all time favorite books by the author George Orwell. The story line has always affected my outlook on life, especially when it comes to the elites that hold power over us. I've always thought another book of Geroge Orwell's, Animal Farm, is the perfect example of how elites come to power and that 1984 then shows how they manage to hold onto that power. Even in western democracies, the three tenants used by all autocratic powers to keep the masses in check of mass surveillance, the constant fear of an outside threat, and the knowledge that most people will spout whatever is the controlling dogma at the time, is used, but in a more subtle way.






It was such a shame  George Orwell died so young because humanity has missed out on some possible wonderful books by a great story teller. At least Sir John Hurt lived to what would be called a good old age and he did do well to reach it. He would have been the first to admit, I would think, that he had a bit of a reputation for being a hell-raiser during his life, and that just makes me like him even more. I never got the chance to meet him and would have loved to have spent the afternoon with Sir John in my local pub sinking a few drinks and listening no doubt to some great stories of events in is life and the people that had passed through it.

One day it is my dream to see my books translate to the big screen or television and if it happens during my lifetime I would love to be able to attend the set and watch the actors playing the different characters in my books. It would have been even better if Sir John Hurt was still alive to be one of them, but he has gone from this world but he has left behind will be enjoyed for generations to come. I do hope the same will be said about me when my time comes for the final kiss good-bye.

Regards

Mark          

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The seal pup

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There are few free pleasures in life so over the Christmas holidays we decided to go see the last of the seal pups that had been born on Horsey Beach. We prepared a picnic and off we went.  There is a small price to pay for the car park, but it's worth it. It was a typical gorgeous British winter's day. The sun was out and the sky blue, but there was a chill in the air which had the family wrapped up in their hats and gloves.







Because of the seal pups, the main beach was roped off so we walked the scenic route at the back of the sand dunes with views across the marshes. Along the way, there are information notice boards with question and answers for the children about facts on seals. There were throngs of people walking back from the various viewing points, and dogs on leads that loved to be fussed over by anyone that gave them the attention.  Then we reached our destination and climbed the wooden steps to the top of the dunes.

The views on both sides were stunning. Sea views to the left with adult seals and their pups hidden among the sand grass, and views to the right across the flat landscape to the far horizon.






A volunteer warden was on hand to give information about the seals and are very informative. We found out that all of the pups are abandoned by their mothers after they are weaned, and the adults will return to the sea. As for the pups, well they are still shedding their coat which is not waterproof so they can not go into the sea to catch food. Eventually, after a couple of weeks, the pups will have their new coat and sheer hunger will force them into the see. Until then some pups will try to latch onto other mothers who are still feeding to sneak a meal, but will be rebuffed and driven away.






Then a seal pup appeared from behind a dune and headed our way. It started to climb the sand bank and did not seem afraid of humans. The family thought it would stop when it knew we were there, but it seemed to be attracted to us.





Closer it came. It would stop, look at the children then start it wobble again up the sandbank.






And closer it came. Then I realised it seemed to be attracted to my daughter. She had her hood up and around the edging it has white fur and probably for the pup she looked liked a mother adult seal. And then finally it came onto the path that ran along the top of the sand dune. There it laid and did not seem that bothered about the crowd that was gathering. 

The wardens kept people from getting too close as everyone wanted to take pictures. We decided to leave the seal, and go for walk further along the dunes until we found a more secluded place to eat our picnic. We found the perfect spot looking inland and laid out the blanket. The food was basic fair and we had hot chocolate in the flask to warm us up. 

The winter sun was now on its early descent to the horizon when we got back to the car. It was three o clock and getting dusky. We had all enjoyed a long bracing walk in the clean fresh sea air, enjoyed the beauty of mother nature and learned some things along the way. 

It was a simple pleasure for the family which cost four pounds for parking and about six pounds to make the picnic, and for me that was ten pounds well spent.

Regards

Mark
  




Saturday, 31 December 2016

From 2016 towards 2017

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As 2016 comes to a close and we head into 2017 I'm not going to write a long commentary on what's what about 2016 as the media will be plastered with such information over the next three days. So instead I have posted some of my favorite sayings that I have used and some that I have not, and hope you can carry one or two with you into the New Year.













































I know it's easier said than done to be positive and always loving. You will have read throughout the year as you followed my blog that I have my moments. Times when things are not going right for me and I don't feel in the most positive, or forgiving of moods. It is a daily battle in some cases, but like the character Mary in my Daniel Jones series of books who likes to say there is always a but; I do try my best to be positive and as humane as possible, and when I do let myself down I try to make amends as quickly as possible.

So with this in mind, I wish to thank all my readers around the world and hope that 2017 is a prosperous and peaceful time for you and your family.  

Regards

Mark

Monday, 12 December 2016

Withernsea (The Final Chapter)

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The sun held out for a couple of days as our family holiday quickly came to its end. We had saved a couple of things to do in case it rained, and when the clouds duly arrived we tried out our old favorite of the indoor pool. We paid a visit to The Pavilion Leisure Centre in town. It has a giant slide which the kids just loved, and after some badgering, I went down the slide too before seeking sanctuary in the sauna.







The holiday park had a pool as well. It was small, always packed and very noisy, but you could pay for a private session for half an hour to go tubing. So we booked one the children. We took great delight in standing on the sidelines, laughing at the little one's endeavors to keep upright in the inflatable ring while moving around the pool. They kept slip-sliding about and falling over, and onto each other. 





Then before we knew it the holiday was over and we were packing up the car for the journey home. I took away the temporary draft excluder I had placed around our bedroom window, and as we gave the caravan one last final check after making the beds, we were satisfied we were handing back the keys to it in the same condition in which we found it. As we drove off the site and headed back to Norfolk the children were already asking when they could return! 

The journey home did not quite take as long as the trip up to Withernsea, but it still took longer than it would if we flew from Norwich to Tenerife, and that's where we will be going in 2017. I've already booked it and next week will have made the final payment. But, and for the readers of my Daniel Jones series of books, you will know Mary, one of the lead characters, likes to say, "there is always a but." Because most of the holiday parks allow dogs to be kept on site, and the rest of the family (and eventually myself) did have a good time; we are thinking of booking another week away in a caravan, but this time with the Mother-in-law and her dog Pippen.

Now that should be interesting!

Regards

Mark 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Withernsea ( part four)

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After the visit to #Scarborough, the weather began to improve and the family finally got to spend a sunny day on Withernsea  beach. It's a stony one until the tide goes out. Then there is a long stretch of sand. We took a picnic with us and it's only a five-minute walk from our holiday park. After a day on the relaxing on the beach, we booked at table at The Station Hotel in Patringham.




After we were all showered we drove to the nearby village and by the time we got there, we were all hungry. Inside to my delight, they were serving a good selection of real ales and ciders. I fancied a refreshing drink and they let me have a little taste of a couple, and I went for a pink cloudy cider. And what a good choice I made. It was one of the loveliest drinks I have enjoyed and was truly gutted when I went back for a second pint and was informed they were now at the bottom of the barrel, and had run out. I wish I had taken a note of the company that made it, but I was quickly called back to the table when our food arrived. The food was good value basic English fair which everyone enjoyed and I would recommend it if you are passing through, and fancy enjoying a traditional British pub with food.

That evening, like we had done every evening before, we went back to our caravan, then dressed into our jim-jams and settled down to watch the live events unfolding during the Rio Olympics. Team GB was in full stride and on the verge of being the first team ever to win more medals at an event after hosting the previous one. It was great family entertainment and a lovely way to unwind before bed.

Next day we woke up to bright sunshine and decided to head just up the coast to Hornsea Beach. We found a spot by the rocks and I settled down with a book to read why the children were soon off splashing about in the freezing cold North Sea as the wife and I took turns to keep a watchful eye on them.






Every now and then they would come running back pestering me to come into the sea until finally I gave in, and joined them. At first, I just went in up to my knees, and boy was it cold, but eventually I took the plunge after both my children took great delight in drenching me with water. It was just a fleeting swim before I returned shivering to the wife. I dried myself out like a lizard in the morning sun as I laid on my towel while voices called out to her to join them in the sea. Finally, she too decided to have a go and for a glorious hour, I had tranquility. No one was pestering me and I could feel my body drain of tension as my head slowly nodded to the side. My breathing deepened and I drifted off into a contented dream world where there were no worries, stress or headaches.

I was awoken by the approaching sound of the family returning, and when I lifted off the baseball cap that had been shielding my face I was presented with a gift. Icecream! A good old fashioned 99 Icecream that had me scrambling to my feet as quickly as it melted in the midday sun.  Once again we had brought a picnic with us and by mid-afternoon, after it had long gone, and the breeze began to gather strength we decided to pack up and walk back to the car. We had booked a table at an Indian restaurant in Withernsea and headed back to our caravan to shower and dress.

It had been a glorious day, but then a storm hit just as we were ready to go out that evening. I ordered a taxi. The restaurant was within walking distance, but it was one of those nasty rain showers that would soak you through to the skin, no matter what coat you're wearing, and no one fancied sitting down to a meal in wet clothes.





We arrived at The Bengal Lancer and ran inside from the taxi as the water poured from the strange mix of grey swirling clouds as the sunshine shot through them in a mega battle for supremacy. It was already busy and we must have booked the last table, which is always a good sign if the locals like it. The decor was modern and the staff friendly. But there was a problem! I don't know if it's because of their religious views, or because they just didn't have a drinks license, but the restaurant did not serve alcohol! They had non-alcohol drinks, but that was it. Then a couple sitting on the next table gently leaned over and said, "They do allow you to bring in your own drinks if you like." I saw someone walk in to join a large table of people while carrying a case of beers. I confirmed with the waiter that it was ok to do this and he seemed happy, so there I was again outside in the rain; running up the high street to the nearest off-licence. When I came outside the sun had won its tussle with the clouds and in the near distance, a rainbow shielded Withernsea from end to end. The first course arrived as the head waiter poured the Rose wine I had purchased into our glasses with perfect timing, and just like his timing the food was perfect. I'm not a great lover of spicy food so normally stick to the lighter stuff like Korma, and my son is the same, but the waiter had suggested some different dishes, and we all really enjoyed the lot.

The rain clouds had disappeared when we left the Bengal lancer so we decided to walk off our meal and when we got back to our caravan we settled into our holiday evening routine of Jim-jams and Rio Olympics. In the months leading up to our holiday, I had been running every day preparing myself for The Norwich 10k Run which I successfully completed. During that time I lost two stone in weight. As I collapsed onto my bed that night with my belly full of delicious Indian food it felt like I had put all the weight back on again, in just five days!

But who cared! I didn't, because I was and holiday, and that's what they're all about.

Regards

Mark