Monday, 2 July 2018

Lazy evening on the beach

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The first bank holiday of the year was a surprise. Monday evening sitting on Eccles Beach with the sun beating down as it gently settled in the distance with the shore-line to ourselves except for the occasional dog walker, and it was just heavenly. We had a small barbecue firing away with a mixture of sausages and burgers sizzling on top while a small trail of smoke wafted into the air. My daughter’s friend had stayed the Sunday for a sleepover and as the two of them soaked up the sun my boy splashed into the water with his mini surfboard. I took control of the cooking like a caveman standing guard over the fire while keeping a watchful eye on any beast that might dare to snatch my hard fought for meal.






A beautiful looking dog with long brown shaggy hair that had sniffed the delights carried on the wind came closer and closer hoping to gain a treat. It immediately caught the attention of all the children who came over, and gave it plenty of fuss which it gladly enjoyed. Its owner joined us and we chatted. Once they had left the requests by the kids for us to get our own family dog got louder and louder. Since our cat Sunny passed away after fifteen happy years the children would now love to get a family dog as a replacement.









I soon distracted them with some delicious barbecued food. We sat on towels with our toes in the sand. We also enjoyed a good old fashioned 99 Ice-cream from a van parked on top of the cliff. It was a glorious bank holiday weekend weather wise and a real treat. Most years you can expect wind, rain, grey skies and generally a washout for the early May Day weekend, but not this year. If only our weather could be more predictable, but then again it’s such an influence on the British mentality It’s probably one of the reasons us Brits are so unpredictable, and something the politicians should have taken into account before calling the E.U Referendum, and expecting to automatically get the result they wanted!   

Regards

Mark

Monday, 4 June 2018

The Season Ends

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As one grows up you start to look for more of a consistency in life. The constant roller coaster of youth with its magnificent highs followed by the headlong surge to the lows become less appealing once you’ve battered the hell of out of life. Three days of non-stop parting over most weekends followed by the slog of work that takes you to Wednesday evening to fully recover from doesn’t seem so appealing after a decade or three; although for me as the author of the Daniel Jones series of books, thankfully my work/life balance is quite good now. Be it work, pleasure, your finances, family or friendships you generally like things to be more level, consistent, and even predictable as you mature.

But, and as Mary likes to say in my books, “there is always a but in life!” There is one big thing that you still want those highs even if they are followed by crashing lows, and were predictability is not always positive, and that is football! One of my great passions in life is my team Norwich City and for the first time in many seasons, they have neither been fighting for promotion or relegation. Since the first week in February they have been level mid-table in the Championship, consistent in their inconsistency with a predictable outcome of neither making the play-offs or being relegated. The only high moment achieved was the late equalising goal against our local rivals from Suffolk, Ipswich Town, at Carrow Road.


Football is the only thing now where I’m prepared to put up with the highs and lows, and where I’m prepared to have something in my life that I have no psychical control over that can still dictate the mood of my weekend, and where mid-table predictability is just not good enough. But there is always that hope that next season will be better, and in this world where human madness rains down on us with the daily news, I’m glad there is still something in life that inspires some hope. 

Regards

Mark

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Sunny the cat







It was quick, very quick and a painful eye-opener to how fragile life is, and how quickly a loved one can be taken from your life. It was just a normal Thursday evening as my wife went into our bedroom to change. She called out to me with a concerned voice. I shot up-stairs. I knew instantly when I entered the room and saw our distressed family cat Sunny sitting on her hind legs on the floor, with her tongue hanging out and, the fear in her eyes, that she was not long for this life. Only an hour earlier she had been curled peacefully on our bed as she normally does looking content, relaxed and gently purring with delight. Half an hour later we’re standing in the vets, but she had already passed away. We were heart broken, and the tears were flowing.









She was nearly sixteen years old and had been part of our loving family since we brought her to our first house as a kitten. In fact, she was the first member of our new family. She was there during our engagement, there for our wedding day, there for the birth and christening of both our children plus their first day at school, and always there on our return from the many holidays we enjoyed. She was there for every high and low we have experienced with never a word of complaint, just the occasional annoyed swish of the tail if her food bowl was empty.







“There was nothing that could be done,” said the vet as he explained that she had succumbed to a condition that was common in cats of her great age, “but at least it was quick.” Mary, one of the lead characters in my Daniel Jones series of books always likes to say, “There is always a but in life,” and this was a ruddy great big but for all of us with how quick it was.







Sunny now rests in our garden alongside the children’s two hamsters. Our home was definitely a one cat house as she would not put up with any other cat, or dog, being around. Now she has gone, the children’s pleas for a dog get louder by the day, and my resolve to say no weakens with every sunset!

Regards

Mark

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Parents Evening

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Parents evening had me sitting down on a small chair designed for a child as my knees ached while waiting anxiously outside the classroom like a naughty child ready to be called into the headmaster's office. Next to me was a diddy table which on top had laid out on it, neat rows of different coloured books representing a different subject, and each with the child’s name on it. I looked through my son’s textbooks and the wife and I both made compliments about various aspects of his work. Other parents from different classes, and year groups, passed us in the hallway after coming out from their encounter with their child’s teachers. Some parents came passed smiling, one or two had frowns on their faces while one lone parent came out cussing under their breath. The closer they got to the wife and I the louder their objections became. I put my head down pretending I was checking out my son’s maths work, which I had already done, as I got the distinct feeling this parent was heading towards me seeking some type of moral support.


“What a ruddy cheek!” I looked up, but said nothing. “How dare the teachers try to push the blame onto my child for being bottom of the class?” I tried to give a comforting smile, but really just wanted to keep out of their own personal argument. “The teachers said that maybe if my child spent less time playing the X-Box and spent more time trying to finish homework plus spent less time disrupting the class, and put a bit more effect in while here, they were confident better progress could be made!” I silently shrugged my shoulders, smiled again and then luckily we were called in for our turn, so leaving the disgruntled parent to themselves.



We consider our children’s school to be excellent, and both our children have done exceedingly well in it, which was borne out by the very good review our son’s teachers gave us of his progress. It's not just the academic side of the teaching, but the extra's those hard-working teachers within the school do in their spare time. Music is something the school tries it's best to excel at, and has a twenty strong ukulele group plus a thirty piece orchestra with a forty-strong choir. I doubt there are many primary schools in the U.K that can boast of that! My daughter has become an excellent flute player and my son is learning the trumpet. They have both achieved something I have always wished to be able to do, but have never done, and that is to have the ability to read music. I have always thought that although it's not one of life's essentials, just like you can go through life without being able to swim, or have a driving licence; but, and just like Mary always says in my Daniel Jones series of books, "there's always a but in life", but I believe being able to play a musical instrument adds to the quality of life, just like going for a swim, or having the freedom to drive where you like, does the same.

We never had to encourage the children to take up music, in fact we knew nothing about it until the school informed us on both occasions that they had shown an interest, after taking some taster sessions, and with the right support could take it further. So we took the teachers advise and as they say, the rest is history.    

Maybe if some parents, like their children, spent less time talking and a little bit more time listening, then maybe they would learn a thing or two as well? 

Regards

Mark       

Friday, 16 February 2018

Not much to do

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After all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, It can be refreshing to put away the Christmas decorations, although the home does feel a tad less colourful when it's back to the normal.

January is probably the most miserable month of the year in the U.K because the weather is a continuous stream of cold, grey, cloudy, wet and windy weather, and then that's followed by February which generally starts off by being hit with a blast of cold air and snow. I did get talking to a shop assistant at the till the other day who loved this type of weather because she is allergic to the sun. From early March she has to use sun cream or else she comes out all red and blotchy, plus the heat just makes her feel all prickly and uncomfortable. I have met others who do not like the sun and are happier with the darker months of the British winter. For me personally, I prefer the sun and the heat and as I sit here on a cold, and a very overcast grey day I find my thoughts drifting off to sunny places.

The garden is bare, although that can be a blessing in disguise because it means there is no weeding to be done, or grass to cut, or bushes to trim or leafs to sweep up, so like I said it can be a blessing. Then again it also means I can't sit outside with my shorts on, shirt off and a cold drink in my hand. I do like to sit at the garden table when I'm writing on my Daniel Jones series of books, under the shade of the giant umbrella with the sun blazing above, set against a backdrop of clear blue skies, maybe the odd slim white whisper of a cloud floats by and there is no, or just, a little light breeze. It's in these all too infrequent moments that we get in my home country that does make it feel like heaven on earth.

We all need moments like that, although I am very lucky to live in such a peaceful and law-abiding country (well most of the time) and I can see why less fortunate people who have grimy lives in desperate poverty, or war-torn or law-less places around the world make such desperate efforts to get here. They have long and dangerous journeys through the countries bordering on the Southern Mediterranean before crossing to either Southern France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey or the Balkan countries; then travel through Europe before getting to ports like Calais on the North Sea, their final destination before reaching the shores of Gt Britain.  I do find the illegal migrant camps outside the French ports with tens of thousands of people living in terrible conditions a bit puzzling though because as I sit here writing this blog with the miserable weather outside; I find my soul aching to go in the opposite direction and end up in one of these aforesaid places.  So much so I've just booked a two week family holiday in Bulgaria! And long-term I would love to be able to reside in ones of these sunnier countries on a more permanent base. I take it as a compliment that all these poor souls would rather live in the dark, dank, cold, wet, grey of the British winter ( and quite often the spring, summer, and autumn as well) rather than in Italy, France, Greece or Spain. The United States and Gt Britain seems to be one of the first choices for people seeking refuge, or a better life, and says a lot about the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy, and which I'm afraid a lot of local people take for granted.

I suppose it's one of those blindingly obvious madness's that no one notices, but which truly shows what a crazy world most of humanity inhabits. I would say deep down most people in the U.K dream of escaping for good to somewhere warm, dry and sunny even if that country has a dubious system of government, or their citizens lack basic freedoms, while just as many people in those countries dream of escaping to the U.K!

Regards

Mark


Sunday, 24 December 2017

Ebenezer Scrooge


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Charles Dickens is one of those great writers that deserve their spot on the plinth of historic fame, and an inspiration to fellow modern day authors like myself. I am now writing the manuscript to Revenge, the third book in my Daniel Jones series of stories and I will have much more to write before I can get anywhere near to him, but I do have one grumble! His wonderful story The Christmas Carol with its brilliant feature character Ebenezer Scrooge. Over Christmas, I watched the film of the 1970’s musical adaptation of Christmas Carol. It tugs at your heartstrings and does make you want to splash the cash over the festive period. And this is my one gripe with Mr. Dickens. The second Monday of January is supposed to be one of the most depressing days of the year as the bills starting arrival and for too many households the Christmas festivities will have cost thousands of pounds paid for with credit and debt, and this I blame on Scrooge.


Now people could say it was the three wise men bringing their gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh and yes this was the start of giving presents, but as I watched the final scenes of the film, after Scrooge had seen the light and was dancing down the street with a cast of hundreds, spending as if money had gone out of fashion, it’s very hard not to get caught up in all the hype, especially when you have children.


I try not to get caught up in any type of hype, or the latest craze, but what I do find myself getting caught up in is the holiday attitude. Yes, the attitude that lets you sit on the sofa at nine-thirty on a Monday night and you get the urge for some Dry Roasted Nuts. Normally this would pass, but you have that festive attitude that says, “bugger it, it’s Christmas, let’s have some nuts.” After a packet of them and then some salted nuts to follow I wish I had been a bit more Scrooge-like, and settled for a cup of herbal tea instead.


Never mind, I've always got the New Year to look forward too and my yearly resolution to lose weight and get fitter, but until then I will keep on enjoying the Christmas Spirit, and the nuts, and I hope you too will have an enjoyable time where ever you are in the world; whatever your faith, or lack off, and that you have a prosperous year in 2018.

Regards

Mark









        

Friday, 24 November 2017

Remembrance Sunday

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In November you can always guarantee this is the month when you can truly say it starts to get cold in the U.K. October can be a seductive month when it comes to the weather. There you are putting the clocks back an hour so it’s dark by 4pm while at the same you’re wearing a pair of shorts and T-shirt because it’s been eighteen degrees all day! As I child when my father took me to the war memorial for Remembrance Sunday the wind was always bitterly cold. I would stand there shivering thinking of those poor souls that had to fight in that muddy, wet, freezing hell that were called the trenches and also those brave men who stormed the beaches on D-Day. They all had to wade through chest high cold water with bombs and bullets flying all around them, and then spend the next few days still in their sodden wet cold uniform fighting for their lives. It did instill in me a sense of gratitude that I did not have to experience such horrible events in my own life.








Now my own children take part in our community Remembrance Sunday. All the local Scouts and Girl Guide group plus ex-service personnel, local dignitaries and the public parade down the middle of the road from the district council office following all the standard bearers to the war memorial by the river. Here various types of red poppies and crosses are laid and after some prays, everyone heads to the parish church for a very moving and emotional remembrance service. Stirring hymns and the National Anthem are sung, the last post sounded and we give thanks for the people who have given their lives for us so we can enjoy ours, and our own in liberty.
















 












For me Remembrance Sunday is always a time to reflect on two aspects of war. The first is to give thanks for the people whose lives were so cruelly taken from this earth so the rest of us can enjoy ours in peace with liberty and freedom. The second is that in most cases it was a needless waste of so much of humanities talent for nothing more than to soothe the egos of the people in power.  Take the First World War. It was nothing more basic than a family scrobble that got out of hand. The King, the Kaiser, and the Tzar were all closely related cousins and grandchildren of Queen Victoria who got into an argument about who was the biggest cock in Europe, and because of this hundreds' of millions of lives were lost or ruined to prove who was right. Some historians now think the Second World War was just a festering continuation of the First World War, so if the first war had not happened then neither would the second war have started. 

And it continues to this day. 9/11 was a terrible act of terror that was carried out by nationals of Saudi Arabia who trained in the mountains of Pakistan, and who were supported by the local military secret service there. So did President Bush Junior go after these two nations for what happened on 9/11? No!  He went after President Saddam Hussein of Iraq instead! Why him I've asked myself? Because when Bush Junior sat around the Thanksgiving table listening to his dad, Bush Senior, moaning about the fact that he may have won the battle against Saddam, but he felt he had lost the war because he was no longer in power, yet Saddam was still President of Iraq; Bush Junior took the opportunity of 9/11 to soothe his family pride and prove the Bush's were bigger cocks than the Hussein's by kicking Saddam out of power. And so it had been throughout history and so it will probably continue, and so will the pointless, needless slaughter of humanity while continuing to poison Mother Earth in the process.

Regards

Mark