The bee’s knees

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste / Gled tae meet ye A’m gled tae meet ye,

It’s been dunky’s since a last saw ye…

Loch Awe Dalmally (159)Sometimes, some places really surprise you. Some people are wonderful, and staying in Dalmally Railway Station’s The Posting Room was one such experience. The hosts, as listed on AirBnB were Liz and Graham (Angus too). They’re ace. Graham welcomed us immediately from our train which arrived on the opposite platform. A proffering of tea and coffee, followed by some delicious courgette and tomato soup. The welcoming really was the bee’s knees.

Loch Awe Dalmally (19)Throughout the weekend Liz and Graham offered great destinations and advice about the locality. Following a ramble up to the Duncan Ban Mcintyre monument, the path swooped down to the A819 road caressing the Loch Awe’s bankside. Here a walk to view the beautiful Kilchurn Castle and Loch Awe scenery was essential. Heavy rain and a lift back by a friendly truck driver capped off a good wander. By evening hunger had arrived. Two miles up the road later: One pub meal in Ben Cruachin Inn resulted in rhubarb crumble. I was over the moon. The mains selected on visiting were something similar to the following:

SMOKED HADDOCK KEDGEREE RISOTTO Arborio rice, turmeric, saffron, garlic & boiled egg. £12.95
FILLET OF LOCH FYNE SALMON Saffron beurre blanc, asparagus & new potatoes. £16.95

The food at the Ben Cruachin Inn is hearty and filling. The local Fyne Ales equally tasty and refreshing. After dinner, the feeding of the legendary Scottish midges commenced at Loch Awe railway station, before a short ten minute journey into Dalmally for cups of tea and bed.

Loch Awe Dalmally (164)In the morning Graham delivered us more brews with porridge and some cake. If Mrs Doyle from Father Ted fame has a male Scottish counterpart, then Graham is he. That’s meant with no disrespect whatsoever. I haven’t experienced this nature of hospitality ever. A host who really cares about his guests. His partner Liz was busy with her felt studio, Heartfelt by Liz (located on the platform). Graham could be seen zipping between guest throughout the day and delivering warm pots of tea and coffee at almost every hour. It seemed everyone was invited for a brew, “On your way back, call by and come and have a brew.”

Loch Awe Dalmally (72)They go out of their way for you. Hospitality at its absolute best. I really want to revisit the station. Maybe next time I can try the Ben Cruachin room or the Rambler’s Rest – or ideally The Writer’s Retreat. The Shepherd’s Hut doesn’t look too bad too. All have great West Highland picturesque views, a stone’s throw from lochs, mountains and wildlife like the tawny owls or screeches of buzzards in the daytime. The idyllic village is a little far out from many places but a wonderful location for hiking, cycling and exploring the region. The venison burgers up the road in the Kilchurn Castle car park aren’t too bad an option. Add haggis.

Loch Awe Dalmally (144)Staying in The Posting Room was idyllic. With a great variety of biscuits, porridge, jams and brew options. A rucksack of food provisions was barely needed! The final day of two involved a stroll to St.Conan’s Kirk, a church containing a bone fragment from Robert The Bruce. The architecture is splendid, diverse and varied. The architect Walter Douglas Campbell mixed in Norman, Roman, Celtic and other styles. There are famous ship timbers and it is easy to see why it was added to the Top 10 buildings in Scotland of the last 100 years list. The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland made that list in 2016. The building was built around 1881 and renovated in 1906. Beyond the church there is a great tea room outside and the author Mary Stewart once resided at the nearby House of Letterawe.

Loch Awe Dalmally (49)


Stonehaven and Dunnotar Castle (35)Before visiting Dalmally, the whistlestop tour of Scotland began much further east in Stonehaven. The castle of Dunnotar has featured in Victor Frankenstein (starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe), Hamlet (with Mel Gibson) and other productions. For me, it was a castle I had seen in a book. Its clifftop location, on a kind of island of rock has long stuck with me. A walk from the charming Stonehaven Harbour, passing the dramatic (and deliberately unfinished) war memorial, leads to Dunnotar Castle. The memorial on Black Hill is imposing and powerful. A line of poem can be found inside the octagonal towers.

Stonehaven and Dunnotar Castle (21)

“One by one death challenged them, they smiled in his grim visage and refused to be dismayed” – Sankey’s Student in Arms

Stonehaven and Dunnotar Castle (66)Staying with another Graham – and Sam, in Aberdeenshire, an introduction to their master Percy and enjoyed wonderful hosts. Their house at the top of a hill gave the legs some good stretching but the location was peaceful and the room more than luxurious. The monk fish and chips from the sustainability champions at The Bay Fish and Chips was the best I have had in years. They were so good, a shitehawk (a gull) dropped a bomb across the back of my navy-blue shirt with precision. It didn’t get a single chip. Back off shitehawks!


Doune Castle (37)

Following a night in Stonehaven, a night in Stirling was next on the agenda. The famous National Wallace Monument was visible from the room at yet another AirBnB place with Iona and her family. After the quickest breakfast ever we headed to Doune Castle – as seen as Winterfell, Castle Anthrax, and series such as Outlander.

Your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries” – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Stirling Castle (11)Later in the day the National Wallace Monument witnessed a 120kg man struggling up the stairs and then being thankful he had no hair to blow away, once at the summit platform of the tower. Taking in each gallery along the way on the steps down, seemed the backwards way to do it, but damned if I was going to take a break on the 246 steep steps upwards. The Guardian of Scotland and influence of legendary stories since (including Mel Gibson’s Braveheart) featured alongside exhibitions on Robbie Burns (the famous poet) and Robert the Bruce. The monument is dramatic and almost like something from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

From Dalmally the road (well railway) led ot Edinburgh… via Glasgow… and a route of other rained upon soggy places.

See ye efter

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā / Bye for noo

2019 – 1 day

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae,

28th December:

Firstly, there are too many distractions. I know this is true because I started writing the first sentence about a week ago. The second sentence followed a few days later. This sentence was written today. Yesterday, I met with Gerry, Cian, Lee, Mrs Lee, Toby (good luck in Thailand), Percy, and Maria. Some Premier League football was watched involving City’s deserved defeat at Leicester City. This is football. Far from ‘Typical City’ and much closer to ‘it’s a game of two teams’. Liverpool were on in the background and Man Utd. The less said the better. Turkey thigh and vegetables followed steak and the trimmings. It wasn’t bad. I felt very much fed up yesterday. The time difference plus a faulty VPN has made dialling the U.K. and family a tad difficult. Maybe, I’ll finally add a VPN to my phone now. Lesson learnt.

 

This weekend we worked on Saturday due to the nationally recognised New Year holidays of Sunday to Tuesday. I doubt that I’ll go anywhere. Probably take it very easy. Save all the travelling for Nepal beginning in late January.

31st December:

Yep, I was distracted.


Had a lazy day yesterday, and today… probably tomorrow too. So, here it goes… simply:

恭贺新禧 (gōng hè xīn xǐ)

Respectful congratulations on the New Year.

 

新年快乐 Xīnnián kuàilè

HAPPY NEW YEAR

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr

The spirit of football.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

“We’ll go on getting bad results.” (Jimmy Hill)

13/5/2012

The daylight emerged between the window frame. The curtains had been positioned in a way ill-prepared to create darkness. I had slept surprisingly well despite sticking to the sofa in a slight sweat. I went to the bathroom, had a shower, cleaned my teeth and generally prepared myself for that Sunday’s sunny day. With a spring in my step, I dressed and sat on the sofa. Bhagira the cat and Fuzzy kept me company. The red laser pointer pen activated and entertained my feline friends. Eventually Dan emerged, a little worse for wear. It may have been a cal by our friend Jack Daniels the previous night, or his seemingly strenuous job delivering home deliveries for Asda Walmart, either way his eyes weren’t awake. A coffee fixed that. It was Nescafe but I didn’t care. I enjoyed the warmth and milky taste. With a new sense of alertness, my buddy gave me a lift to Kirkham and Wesham railway station.

Waiting on the platform, pigeons fluttered and the cold polished bricks of over 100 years felt very familiar. I couldn’t recall if I had been there before or if it was just the Lancashire style of old stations. The two-platform station surrounded by sealed off arches and historic sidings had an air of calm, despite the Northern rail service rattling in quite loudly. The train departed, bound for Manchester Airport. I’d exit on platform 13 of Manchester Piccadilly. There, I’d change for Levenshulme, then drop my things at my mum’s house before heading back into Manchester city centre.

That day, May 13th 2012, was a far cry from several 1990’s conclusions to the season. The Castle and Falcon Club, Manchester city centre, was a backstreet dive.  The Dantzic Street location, just off Shudehill hid it from what is now The Printworks and far more modern uprisings. The bar has long closed and the Burtonwood Ales signage has long gone. It was here following a game at Stoke City, I sat with my Dad and his partner Bernadette. Manchester City F.C. had been relegated despite a wonderful 5-2 win at Stoke City. We’d been relegated before in my lifetime, the Premier League in 1995-96

Uwe Rösler as top scorer with just 9 league goals hadn’t helped at all. City were beyond woeful and the moniker as a club that could win cups for cock-ups was born. City had looked happy with a 2-2 draw against Liverpool. They never chased the win. Rösler’s penalty and Kit Symons’s goal that day gave no pleasure later in the evening. But, for me, I did not understand relegation back then. After changing from the very familiar sky blue to Kappa’s laser blue at the beginning of 1997-98, City’s crest also changed and an air of positivity crept in. The results did not have many highs, a 6-0 battering of Swindon and a friendly 2-2 draw in a Manchester Derby as part of Paul Lake’s Testimonial

During 1997-98, Murtaz Shelia, from well-known team Alania Vladkavkaz (sounds like a fashion model?) arrived. Nothing changed. City faced Stockport County and lost 3-1. They hadn’t played their local rivals for 87 years before that day! Another Georgian player entered the fold by January in Kakhaber Tskhadadze. City slipped into the relegation zone. Frank Clark was fired. Joe Royle came in to steady the ship and try to climb up the table. Combative midfield-enforcer Michael Brown won Player of The Year, as City lamented relegation to the third tier with a bizarre friendly game against Jamaica’s national team.

The 1998/99 season was an incongruous one. It had a great climax that remains fresh in club folk-lore but few discuss the oddities of that season. The club had changed from a team of stars and names to a team of relative unknowns. 16 friendlies accommodated a huge squad and before long City’s stuttering season began to build. One player, Ray Kelly, left to play part-time for Bohemians and study in Ireland. Little old City were struggling for off the field stability. As 1999 arrived, City looked far off the promotion race. City stuttered towards the finishing line looking like they’d sneak it before being whipped 2-1 to Wycombe Wanderers at Maine Road. The play-off semi finals arrived and City visited Springfield Park. Paul Dickov’s late crucial equaliser kept City in the tie. The return leg at Maine Road saw a Goater goal, which Wigan fans argued as being hand ball. Graeme Jones had struck the woodwork but City would return to Wembley for the first time in 14 years. The 1999 play-off final is, as they say, history.

Back to June, and Xiamen Gulangyu International Football Tournament 2018 saw Murray’s F.C. finish 7th overall. Not bad from 16 teams. Our first quarter-final game was hellishly muddy and concussion didn’t help my appearances from the bench so well. Every team battled and worked tirelessly in dire muddy conditions and the eventual winners Quanzhou Spartans deservedly took their second title in as many years. It was good to play Chilean Alex, now at Kunming Turtlebar, and also teams we’re familiar with in Hong Kong Krauts and Shenzhen Lions. The organisers of the tournament certainly know the spirit of football.

Returning back to 2012, I’d opted for a hospitality package at City. The QPR game had something about it. The possibility of a title win and being there in style didn’t take much to clutch onto. I’d dreamt of trying the City hospitality for many seasons but never wanted to leave the South Stand. Now, Nat Fatorechi who I shared my seasoncard with, gave a situation where we both wanted a ticket. It wasn’t a tough investment. But now, there is another unfamiliar moment of football, England at the World Cup and in the semi-final since the 1990 edition. I wasn’t in double digits of age then and can safely say I don’t recall any of that tournament.

Fair play to Gareth Southgate. So much more than the butt of a dozen crappy jokes about an under-par golden generation. He has his head firmly screwed on in football. He looked average as a manager at Middlesbrough and dropped into the ranks of England. Unlike many who do that, he didn’t drift off or head to Spain, or punditry too often. His spell as temporary gaffer wasn’t groundbreaking (the games weren’t huge tests, except Spain where a 2-0 lead was chucked away). But, the FA appointed him and for once they gambled on fresh blood with all the qualities of a modest manager and someone who keeps the game simple. He has benefitted from the role of FA’s head of elite development. He seems to know the future youth players well and his squad selection seemed geared to building for Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup. Best thing out of Watford since DCI Hunt/Philip Glenister (or Ginger Spice?).

“We’re not creative enough; we’re not positive enough.” (Trevor Brooking)

Remember a game when City faced Boro? We played in our away kit at home. Southgate had his bonce wrapped up and played a blinder. We drew. They went to Europe. That’s the kind of spirit England need, and not that of Rooney or Beckham with their egos and sponsorship deals following them. Look at Messi, he has more minutes advertising per year and it never paid off. Same for tRanaldo. Graft and the kind of grinding football that Leicester City did, with flare, that’s the future in cups. And, City can learn from this England spirit.

“I think it’s bad news for the English game.” (Alan Hansen)

Good to see City links all over the World Cup. Guidetti for Sweden, Boyata with Belgium, Corluka of Croatia, and the list goes on and on. I claim any City link I can. One that stands out is Bury-born Keirin Trippier. During his time at City, Micah Richards was linked with Chelsea and Ar$enil, as Zabaleta was talked about heading to Barca. Coupled with the fact Trippier still was developing physically, he was quite far down. We had a clutch of first teamers that could play RB as an unnatural position. He had little chance. Fair play to him in his evolution at Spurs. His football formation years also featured clubs like Burnley and Barnsley. He knows the game well enough to play for many years. He has appeared for England U18s, England U19s, England U20s, England U21s, and now the senior England squad. He is capable of joining the Masters team one day and could well reach national legendary status with the chance before him now. I wonder what the away friendly game for City, against Barcelona did for his vision. Did it inspire? That came a season after lifting the FA Youth Cup with City. Good luck to him with England and in his future of football.

The Lightning Seeds wrote and released Three Lions in ’96, it had a re-write in 1998 and now 22 years later it is being played in epidemic proportions. David Baddiel and Frank Skinner must be dusting off their karaoke microphones, surely? Will 2020 or 2022 feature new pessimistic quotes to amend Three Lions as a song once again? Tout est Possible. I do get the impression that this song will not go away, regardless of any results! The Lightning Seeds, despite being Scouse are a cracking band, so I won’t complain.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

The Trials of Life

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Have you ever found your mind to be scattered almost everywhere simultaneously at the same time? Have you ever doubted the ground you stand upon as being this very Earth? Have you ever wondered why some things happen to you and not other people? Did you ever start to believe karma is real because once you threw a crisp packet into a litter bin, but it hit the side and blew away in the wind? Do bad days last forever? Has a music number from the genre of the blues been written just for you? Just exactly, how rainy is the day that never stops raining? If pain is temporary and class is permanent, then why did it hurt for so long? If good luck and bad luck are in a bar, then why does good luck choose to stay there and not visit you? How many instances of terrible fortune does it take to defy a fortune cookie? Did Coldplay write your life story? Anyway, it could be worse. I could support the Red Devils!


 

Today, a Thursday, and the fourth working day of a six-day week. Today and tomorrow are exams across the school. The midterm indicator exams. Nothing too special or worrying but amongst our foreign teacher team we have eradicated the need for oral exams at this time. Continual assessment and encouragement is of much more value. Besides it shows that you have more familiarity to the students and parents. For me, it has much more value. On Monday, Operation Greenblue commenced in class 1F. We have now five small rectangles of mint, lavender, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes and lemongrass in the process of growing. Even after two days, excited students peered upon the first sprouts of life. Marcus, the tallest boy, requested that we grow watermelons soon. We shall do our best. Victorie, the tallest girl, has given us all a huge rosemary plant. I encourage their enthusiasm and in turn their new plants will discourage mosquitoes. Meanwhile. my own small crop in my apartment is emerging well. Bye, bye mosquitoes?

 

In around 3 weeks we must stage a school drama and I am working on a script. I’ll add it after the final signature. I want something original and challenging for my 6-7 year-old tribe of talent. That’s why I am here, right? To be the CHAMPION equivalent of Pep Guardiola in the classroom. Surely, I cannot stop evolving simply because I have taught the words long, short, same, and different, this is not enough. Aim high. Later the job will be more rewarding.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Act 1: The dawn chorus [Music: Bring Me Sunshine, Ashleigh Wood]

Location: by a tree.

Lewson (narrator): A new day is dawning and all around the tree, sleepy nights are ending with waking yawns.

Sabrina Sunshine: Wow. Today will be a beautiful and bright day. I will make sure of that.

Aaron (bird): Yes, what a delightful day it will be.

CK/Tik (bird): I can’t wait for some yummy worms today.

Hardy (bird): I’m going to sing in my beautiful voice and wake everybody.

Doris (bird): I am a bird – and that means there is no homework!

Angela (Miss Rabbit): I love hopping, shopping and beat box popping.

Kristy Kangaroo: I like hopping too. I hope you get to see me hop all day!

 
Act 2: The Storm steals the sun [Music: Blue Moon]

Location: by another darker tree.

Allen (narrator): A naughty team is being led by Naughty Natalie. She really is very naughty!

Naughty Natalie: I don’t like the sun. It is all shiny and bright, shining in the sky so happily.

Monster Marcus: Yes, I like a dark night with the glow of the moon.

Typhoon Tyler: I like wind. Lots and lots of wind. I don’t mind of it is sunny or dark.

Marline the moon: I shine best at night. I need the sun for my light, but I can reflect with a smaller light if needed.

Tony the Tiger: Naughty Natalie, I have an idea! Let’s steal the sun and give the moon a new home.

Leon the Lion: Oh, you are naughty but I like you!

 
Act 3: The hunt for the sun [Music: Benny Hill theme tune]

Location: a tree by a small bridge.

Alice (narrator): In the U.K. people are always looking for the sun. Today, all around the world, many more animals and people are looking for the sun. Will they find the sun? Will they save the day?

Happy Henry (goat): I’m big Happy Henry, they all know me. I eat grass, whilst you sit on your…

Billy the kid (goat): Stop, I’m Billy the kid, a goat that did, not do homework, for I was chewing some grass, sat upon my…

Jimmy Jams (goat): Stop! I’m Jimmy Jams, a goat who slams, words for fun, out in the sun.

Candy the Caterpillar:  I have too many legs. It takes me an hour to tie my shoe laces. We’ve been walking for hours looking for the sun. It is too dark to find our lovely sun.

Kitty Cat: Don’t worry, I’m a cool cat and we look for food at night. That’s right. We can find anything at night. [Kitty Cat trips over in the dark]

Jumping Jessie Cat: Meeeeeoowwww, sunny, sunny sun, where are you? The sun is far too big to hide!

 
Act 4: Saving the sun [Music: Run Boy Run]

Location: A different tree, that looks like the other trees.

Allen (narrator): Many hours passed. A team of superheroes was called into action. Let’s get ready for action. Action!

Rocket Roselle: We have been flying around schools, parks, hospitals and even Manchester but we cannot find the sun!

Super Soffy: We can look around like the Old McDonald song. We can look here, there, everywhere…

Daring Dongyee: [sings] Old McDonald had a farm… [laughs] We can save the world, one step at a time. Where shall we look now?

Doctor Evan: I have been thinking and the sun is too big to hide. It must be on the other side of the world.

Kind Kelly: Okay, let’s go. Super Soffy and Rocket Roselle, you can fly there. Doctor Evan, Special Sharon and I can take a taxi.

Special Sharon: I might walk there. I don’t like taxis.

Altogether: Off we go, to save the day! We are stronger together!

 
Act 5: Altogether now [Music: Fight for the right to party]

Location: by two trees.

Allen (narrator): Our bold heroes find the other side of the world. After waiting for the taxi to arrive and making a very large payment, our heroes find the sun. The sun is trapped by Naughty Natalie.

Super Soffy: Give us back the sun!

Monster Marcus: You will not stop us. Ha ha ha. You are no Super Baby!

Doctor Evan: A baby can’t be super. I’ve never even seen a baby cook for themselves!

Typhoon Tyler: We will fight to the end!

Sunshine Sabrina: I just want to shine in the day and make everyone happy.

Daring Dongyee: Okay

Naughty Natalie: I will win this fight. Ha ha ha.

Marline the moon: I want to be alone – all by myself. No sun. Just me, the moon!

Tony the Tiger: Grrrrrreat

Leon the Lion: Let’s eat the sun. I bet it tastes lovely and hot.

Kind Kelly: You will do no such thing.

Special Sharon: I don’t want to fight!

 

[breakdancing battle]

 

[rock, paper, scissors fight]

 

[arm-wrestling fight]

 

Justin Time: Wait! Wait! Wait! Stop! Stop! Stop! We all need the sun. We all need the moon. We all need day to play and we all need night to sleep.

Doctor Evan: Yes, Justin Time, you are right. We need to be friends. We must enjoy both the day and the night.

Jumping Jessie Cat: All we need is love.

Altogether: {sings} du du du duhhh

Victoire Violin:

[sings] I love you. You love me. We love each other and we’re family.

Altogether: [sings] I love you. You love me. We love each other and we’re family. [and dancing]

 
Students bow to audience and say, “Thank you kindly for watching our performance. Have a happy day today, tomorrow and keep smiling!”

[Music: Hello Sunshine, Super Furry Animals]

 

 

 

If I could only find the words, then I would write it all down…

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

‘If I could only find the words, then I would write it all down…’ (Read ’em and Weep lyrics by Jim Steinman/sang by Meat Loaf)

Where are the great writers? They are everywhere. Songwriters, scriptwriters, playwrights, newspaper correspondents, comedians, bloggers, and authors. Great writers are everywhere. I am nowhere near them. I just enjoy writing and have ambitions. The popular writers spill off shelves in major bookstores, on eBook devices, and fill newspaper reviews about their works. The modern classics and classics get published in varied and often colourful editions. Some copies get graphic novel versions or huge distorted modifications to lure in new and old readers alike. Books are wonderful and shouldn’t need a World Reading Day to attract a soul. Impressive braille, audiobooks and many other delightful formats, such as large print, keep penned words open to the widest possible audiences. And, then there are translations! Some of the Harry Potter novel serials have reached 80 or so languages, including Scots, Hindi, and Chinese.

‘muckle, beefy-boukit man wi a stumpie wee craigie’ (Mr Dursley in Scots, from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

The novelists aren’t a bad place to start. I find Sir Arthur Conan Doye and H.G. Wells have caught my eye more and most from the considered classical writers. The Valley of Fear and The Sign of the Four are two of the former writer’s most gripping examples.

superfudgeLooking across the metaphysical divide at female writers, there are some wonderful writers in Mary Shelley (Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus; Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842 and 1843), Elzabeth Gaskell (Cranford), Val McDermid (Trick of the Dark), the Poet Laureate for Great Britain Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Enid Blyton (The Island of Adventure), Edith Nesbit (Think Five Children and It, and not Stephen King’s It), Agatha Christie (By the Pricking of My Thumbs), Betrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Rabbit and 22 other similar tales), and Judy Blume (Fudge-a-mania and books that hist topics such as masturbation, racism, bullying, menstruation, divorce and other such family topics). But, most importantly, when I pick up a book, it isn’t based on the author’s gender.


now that daysIn my childhood, my varied reading included Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book; Jack London’s White Fang, The Sea Wolf; Colin Dann’s The Animals of Farthing Wood; Felix Salten’s Bambi; Aileen Fisher’s Now That Days Are Colder; Herman Melville’s Moby Dick; and a set of World Encyclopedias given to me by Mr Andrew Jones, in my final days in class 5AJ.

‘Now that days are colder, now that leaves are down, where are all the chipmunks at the edge of town?’ (Aileen Fisher’s Now That Days Are Colder)

roald dahlAs I grew from size 9 shoes to size 12 shoes, I picked up such reads as Eoin Colfer’s Benny and Omar, and soon discovered Michael Crichton. J.R.R. Tolkien was read with vigour. The college years involved Roald Dahl’s complete works getting a read. Douglas Adams and George Orwell added to the vibrant multihued reading material. I even had a crack at the works of Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickins. Amongst the known names, I recall reading two pieces that really caught my attention. The first was about CJD and prionic diseases. The title was rather welcoming, Deadly Feasts: The “Prion” Controversy and the Public’s Health by Richard Rhodes. There is a real detective feel to this book. It zips from cannibals in New Guinea, cattle globally, young people in America, Britain and France – and beyond. It really makes you think and carries a powerful warning about beef, and eating meat. That being said, I carried on eating meat after a year’s experiment as a vegetarian.

‘Don’t gobblefunk around with words.’ (Roald Dahl’s The B.F.G.)

wewishThe second covered a dark period of recent history and journalist Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (the link directs to chapter one). The theme chronicles the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, in which an estimated 1,000,000 Tutsis and Hutus were killed. What shocked me, was how neighbours turned on themselves and the psychological effects followd. It skirts on the political challenges of survival. It is gripping and full of pain. I even had a crack at the complete works of one William Shakespeare. The dramas make for tough reading but nevertheless their importance and influence is beyond comparison.

‘At least fifty mostly decomposed cadavers covered the floor, wadded in clothing, their belongings strewn about and smashed. Macheted skulls had rolled here and there.’ (Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda)

aberAt university I switched into daydreaming mode and the movie popularity of The Lord of the Rings led to a re-read of everything J.R.R. Tolkien. Between daydreaming, textbooks and general procrastination of university work, I found little time for reading. There was always something shiny or distracting. However, I did read through the entire available works of Michael Crichton and the brilliant noir writer Malcolm Pryce – his Aberystwyth Mon Amour series being topical to my location.

‘That’s the trouble with people like you, Knight, you only know how to mock. How to break things. You don’t know how to create anything. You never did.’ (Malcolm Pryce, Aberystwyth Mon Amour)

JurassicparkJurassic Park had been on and off my bookshelf since my mother bought me an omnibus edition, with the novel Congo included. The distinctive movie red, yellow and black logo made for great artwork but within the text was something more appealing. Scientific facts mixed with imagination and fiction. Like every book I have read by the late Michael Crichton, there are technical descriptions crossing the genres of action (Prey), science fiction (Micro), thrillers (Disclosure), and medical fiction (Five Patients). One of my favourite pieces has been Eaters of the Dead [a tale of Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s own interpretation of his genuine voyage north and his understandings with and reflections of Vikings], however the posthumous release of the 1974 penned piece Dragon Teeth [fossil hunters in the historical fiction form] comes close. But then, Pirate Latitudes, as action goes is damn exhilarating. Whilst the movies and series versions of some of his works never live up to the style of his writing, I hope that those who watch them gain enough curiosity to pick up the books. 200 million book sales is too few for such a great writer.

‘All major changes are like death. You can’t see to the other side until you are there.’ (Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park)

ducksFollowing university, I dipped in and out of books like rain lashing the rooftops of Manchester. Ian Fleming’s great travel novellas sporting a certain James Bond gripped me for a while. Every shadow writer of that spy-battering ram has been read since. From BBC’s The Fast Show, comedy writer Charlie Higson has delivered great slices of young Bond novels for teenagers and a series called The Enemy. Well worth of a read. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert should be reviewed by the #MeToo movement. Forget 50 Shades of Gray! George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four actual reads as a documentary and doesn’t seem like fiction in one way! The entire works of Christoher Brookmyre was far more than an Attack Of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks – more like All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye. Every book of his will grip you tight – don’t be fooled by his colourful covers.

“People are islands,’ she said. ‘They don’t really touch. However close they are, they’re really quite separate. Even if they’ve been married for fifty years.” (Ian Fleming, Casino Royale)

psychoIn China, I have been limited to the works of Andy McNab (notably the Nick Stone and Tom Buckingham series) alongside other odds and ends found on bar book exchange shelves or tucked away collecting dust in book shops. I have found time to re-read Peter Pan, by playwright J.M. Barrie. Johnny Marr’s autobiography Set the Boy Free, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (which wasn’t to my enjoyment, and the riveting Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. The complete works of Jon Ronson (I thoroughly recommend The Psychopath Test) have been perused. The Welsh neo-journalist loves a good debunk or conspiracy to grip and twist until all the juices ooze out into the pages. Hunter S. Thompson (Hell’s Angels) would be proud of his works! I wonder if Jon Ronson has booked a firework-clad funeral for his future passing.


touchMy obsession with Mount Everest has drawn me to a related selection of books. I read most of these in the shadow of the mountain during January 2017. The following works were all written following the 1996 disaster in which many climbers and sherpas lost their lives.

“Ultimately, the Buddhist teachings say, misfortune happens less often to those whose motives are pure.”  (Jamling Tenzing Norgay, Touching My Father’s Soul: A Sherpa’s Sacred Jouney to the Top of Everest)
  • Into Thin Air: Death on Everest – a well-known climbing disaster book by Jon Krakauer;
  • The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev;
  • Left For Dead: My Journey Home from Everest, penned by Beck Weathers;
  • Touching my father’s soul: a Sherpa’s journey to the top of Everest, by Jamling Tenzing Norgay;
  • Climbing High – a lesser known read by Danish Psychological Counselor and climber Lene Gammelgaard;
  • The Other Side of Everest by Matt Dickinson.

If you piece together the events on the mountain based on the accounts and reports received soon after and long after, you will be no clearer as to what happened – other than it being a monumental mess of tragic proportions. The best of the bunch for me, was Jamling Tenzing Norgay’s account, as it touched on the spirituality and complexity of Sherpa and beliefs within the shadows of the highest mountain peak on our Earth. It also explored his relations and the effects of living in the following of his father Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.


“Colonel Vivian had convinced himself that Ivor Montagu’s enthusiasm for Ping-Pong was a cover for something more sinister.” (Ben Macintyre, Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory)

mincemeatSince that rambling holiday to Nepal, I have picked up Ben Macintyre’s Operation Mincemeat at Murray’s Irish Pub in Dongcheng. Since then Double Cross, Agent Zig-Zag and just this week Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War have followed. For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond, was a book I read in 2008 and didn’t enjoy quite as much as his other well-researched and fine-tuned storytelling. Facts and simple description, even criticism and questioning of reported myths bore at you like an angry wolf. They are real page turners, not bogged down by over-complicated technical terminology and wordings unnecessary. The Times columinist cuts a good read up and builds a remarkably fascinating picture of moments in history. I guess with an extra day of freedom each year, he has extra time to write. His birthday being on Christmas Day. Some other writers lose their focus and clutter text or fill pages for fun. Every page of Macintyre’s work is blessed by an assiduous and attentive hand. His mind has carved questions in reported stories and embellishments that others may have accepted. When it comes to knowns, he wants the reader not just to read, but use the full force of their frontal lobes.  Next up, I will re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. To pick that particulatr gem up will be like revisiting an old friend. Another good friend could even be Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Not a single movie version has touched on the depth of that epic adventure!

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Definitely Maybe Almighty

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Chinese New Year had reached Manchester and the great city delivered a colourful display of culture. It has done so for many a year and shall forever more do so. This year a giant dragon filled St Ann’s Square and activities spread over the city. The Almighty Sometimes provided an afternoon’s entertainment. The Royal Exchange Theatre have always been a bold and open-minded kind of theatre. They are open to all and test waters that others wouldn’t even think about it.


The Almighty Sometimes, as penned by Kendall Feaver, had been converted from though to words to a stageplay excellently. Katy Rudd, as director, and her team dropped a monster of a show into the arms of the watching. Tackling both language and the use of medication to chemically castrate those who battle their imaginations and thoughts, this production had sharp-edged teeth. Norah Lopez Holden is a beautiful actress, and her character Anna has a mind more wide and dreamy than most. The actress sucks you into her head and the character is someone you attach to, instantly. A Mancunian spin and by local actress Julie Hesmondhalgh (who you soon forget as playing Hayley from Coronation Street) and Mike Noble’s nasal tones as Oliver support a cast with actress Sharon Duncan-Brewster portraying Vivienne – the child psychiatrist.

Lucy Carter’s lighting, the simple set design by Rosanna Vise and striking sounds by Giles Thomas enhance Vicki Manderson’s movement directions. The dialogue, much as the original script, is gripping. It plucks strings on the heart if the banjo and jabs away drumbeats using smashing drumstick movements. Every ounce of sweat was bled dry from the cloth of the ensemble and towards the interval I felt tears run. They ran again, at least twice. The labelled main character Anna draws you in and tortures you in a way as bipolar as beauty and the beast could only be. It hurts. It makes you love. It kicks out. It embraces you. Such torture and cuh pleasure. I f**king hate this show. I love it equally. Ever imagined being someone desperate for independence? And I mean painfully desperate. The spot by wit’s end identified as critical and inconsolable. That bursting recklessly easger point of extreme anxiety? Anna will take you there. Not only that but the complexities of mother, friends and lovers – even the so-called experts of mental health will all be sliced apart and left to questions. There is a spectrum that is so diverse – so broad – it will leave you without words, and just raw emotions. It will not leave you cold. Julie Hesmondhalgh has leapt from Accrington to the electronic screens, but on stage she is hypnotizingly charismatic and soon has you forgetting the New Order t-shirt. Her young daughter on stage, Norah Lopez Holden, is eloquent, powerful and engaging. She radiates passion in every line and action. Her Hispanic looks, with a Mancunian twang fade away as each line jabs out like a boxer’s right hook. She is exactly the reason I never attempted drama at secondary school, because I could never do what she does. Living overseas, in a reasonably western-free area, means I may not see another theatre production, of that calibre, in a while but I am more than inspired to hunt them down on that showing. Thank you for such a distressing yet astonishing experience. It was part-ballet, part walking on broken glass. It was close to home. Very.


The train from Manchester Airport to Barrow-on-Furness was cancelled. Instead it would head off from Manchester Piccadilly. This being an annoyance, an alternative route with delays was found, via Carlisle, instead of via Barrow-on-Furness. After a long while of scenery out of the window, the fourth train of the day rolled into Parton, a village north of Whitehaven. Here I’d catch up with Dan, Vanessa, Alex and Damian.

Catching up Dan, Vanessa, Damian and Alex proved to be a great experience. Between walking the four-year old twins to school, talking, playing and polishing off some rum, exploration of the local area was also called for. The Lake District Coast Aquarium in Maryport offers crazy golf, engaging talks, a variety of British marine tanks, a working conservation lobster hatchery and staff that know their marine biology. The layout is good for a few hours sandwiched around a walk alongside the historic Marport marina, harbour and promenade. This was certainly a place for families to visit! The centre has a café and there are numerous pub grub options in a short walking distance. A walk around Ennerdale Water, far off from Bassenthwaite Lake (the only actual lake in the Lake District) and wanderings around Whitehaven town centre also allowed for relaxation – although climbing mountains in high heels isn’t normally fun.


Abbot’s Hall Hotel is a Christian Guild property. The décor is dated yet classic and relaxing. The furniture and fittings follow a similar mould. The grounds are pleasant and it hosts a wonderful indoor heated pool. The café and restaurant are ample with nearby restaurants in Grange-over-Sands. Kents Bank train station is outside the gate, less than two minutes stride away. Beyond the treelines and up a windy road Kents Tower can be reached, offering wonderful views of Morecambe Bay and the Lake District’s southern mountain range. One night here was not enough. However, it proved a pleasant contrast from a trip to London the next day.


That London was the next stop on the tour of England. A quicker than expected passage across the famous London Underground gave an arrival at Broughton. Crossing just three streets and walking a few hundred yards allowed for safe arrival at Zoly Apartment (23 Tabard Street), as found on Booking.com. London awaited. The simple apartment needed an electronic code for the front door and a different one for the room. The facilities were modern and included an electronic tablet notepad filled with lots of useful bits and bobs. A kitchen and a good bathroom made for probably my favourite place that I have stayed in London, ever, apart from Paul Thomas’ place after an ill-fated journey from Norwich to Manchester, via That London.

Dinner at Nando’s on the banks of the River Thames, gave wonderful archway views from Southwark looking northwards. Underneath Blackfriars Road bridge, tucking into spicy chicken wings, wedges and a host of sides made for a comforting dinner, two nights out of three spent in That London. The Clink Street location is close to the historic Golden Hinde, London Dungeons and many other attractions. The location really is something.

Royal Observatory Greenwich followed by dinner at Nando’s and a speedy passage to Piccadilly Circus to enjoy The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. Firstly, the Criterion Theatre is a gem, sank beneath the streets of the City of Westminster. On entering from Piccadilly Circus, you grab your tickets at a quaint ticket booth before tip-toeing downstairs beyond the top tiers of the theatre seating, and then into the lower circle. Beneath are the stalls and the stage. The horseshoe-shaped theatre seats a little shy of 500 spectators. It opened in March 1874 as a concert hall and soon was converted to a theatre. Long gone are the dangerous gaslights and in their place is a modern interior with occasional hints at the venue’s first usages. Names of composers line the walls on the staircasing. Henry J. Byron, W.S. Gilbert, and other such playwrights who commanded the use of an initial letter have perfomed at this charming venue. In World War II, it was even a BBC safe and recording studio! Secondly, the production of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is an absolute delight. Packed full of wit, charm, comedy – and a rich dialogue with fine vocals and production of the highest calibre. The Mischief Theatre have won awards – and toured the world for good reason. They are.

The final day or so in Manchester involved shopping, a birthday lunch for Dad and packing a stupendous amount of luggage (mostly gifts).


WRITE HERE, WRITE NOW.

More than 250,000 blogged words later… [208 Wix Posts + 77 WordPress posts = 285 posts]


 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

 

Under the fragrant bait you will find a hooked fish. Gǔlái fāng ěr xià, shéi néng bù tūn gōu?

Dance beneath the stars

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

A month or so ago, it was a case of one more sleep. One last head on the pillow and then it was up, up and away. Not like Superman, sadly. More a case of Turkish Airlines doing their remit. The delightful cultural exchange began in Changping, taking a taxi service to Hong Kong International Airport, then checking in before the mandatory waiting time of too long. At impatience o’clock, my flight began to taxy onto a slab of concrete far longer than my tolerance of a Star Trek DVD collection. Whatever the piloting term of putting your foot down is, thankfully the pilot knew of this. There was no room for winging it. Wings were needed for certain. I didn’t want Captain Miracle’s qualifications to have been the winner of Turkey’s Got Talent/Airplane Idol. I’d rather have taken a bus back to the U.K. All my bags were packed, and I was ready to go. I was leaving on a jetplane afterall. Carrying things in your pocket or giant cardboard boxes isn’t such a grand idea. Anyway, the flights back via Istanbul were most pleasant.

 

Anyway, here I am back in Dongguan, a whole 4 years after arriving here for the first time. And jet lag is making the whole return feel just as dizzy as day one of landing in Guangzhou. After departing a snow delay-hit Manchester International Airport, with several hours sat on a plane that wasn’t moving, the pilots lifted the Airbus A321 (32B) Transcon off the U.K.’s frozen terra firma. Around 4 hours later it touched down in Istanbul, before a sprint was needed to make the Hong Kong flight. I’m fairly certain that I left rubbery streaks from my shoes in Ataturk Airport. An uncomfortable 9 hours or so followed, not because of the airline or the seats, or the flight. Just me and my inability to sleep inflight. Alone in Berlin, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Renegades and On Wings of Eagles [终极胜利] (about runner turned Christian Minister Eric Liddell – the “Flying Scotsman”).

 

Eric Liddell [埃里克·利德尔] was born in Tiānjīn天津市 but raced for Great Britain and Scotland – as well as playing rugby union on the international team. He died at Wéixiàn Internment Camp [潍县集中营]. The movie is a tad flat, however, the story is fascinating and the history portayed is riveting. It is certainly one to look out for, and now I must seek John W. Keddie’s book, Running the Race – Eric Liddell, Olympic Champion and Missionary. Sadly, the movie was my final piece of time spent on holiday as the wheels lowered from the Boeing 777-300ER jet. I’d enjoyed the 28th of January to the 28th of February on British soil.


It all started with the British Track Cycling Championships final round on my arrival day. I caught up with my sister Christina and her nephew, then watched City beat Cardiff City in the FA Cup from the comfort of a sofa. Sleep followed not long after.

 

To start February off, I met up with my best friend Dan, on a train bound for Glasgow. After smooth talking the staff at the £30 a night EasyHotel, we had ourselves two single beds and not the accidentally booked double bed. A few ales, some scran and a wander around Glasgow followed before we arrived at the Old Fruitmarket. Here the band, Levellers did an acoustic gig. The Levellers setlist featured old, new and new versions of old songs:

The Levellers are a band I like very much. They are not Coldplay. They are properly political. They are as Mark Thomas (Comedian) is to Lee Evans. The marmite of their industry. The next morning Dan had to pop back for work early. I took in a self-guided walking tour of Glasgow’s Cathedral, Necropolis and the city centre before heading back to Manchester.


Meeting Astrid, Mum, and Paul, we all tottled off to see an exhibition called Robots at the Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester. It was a fantastic display but quite limited in size. Seeing Maria from the 1927 movie Metropolis amongst other movie stars and scientific advancements. The Great Western Warehouse first floor space features animatronic babies and useful limbs for those who have lost them or never had them. There is a real insight into the possible and plausible future of society.


Having missed the 0933 train from Manchester to down south by 2 minutes, I had to re-purchase new tickets and board the 1033 down that way. The train operators having zero sympathy for a connecting tram service delay. I guess in future, I must allow extra time for such trivial problems.

After pizza, on meeting Asa and Steph, we wandered around Gloucester Cathedral taking in the filming locations of three Harry Potter films and a memorial to World War One and Severn river poet Ivor Gurney. Edward II and other royal kings are buried there, but Albert Mansbridge is more important I feel. He pioneered adult eduction in Britain. Amongst the carvings and glassworks is an image of a game likened to be football, dated 1350.

Woodchester Park surrounds an unfinished mansion house, dating from 1845. After pulling up in an icy car park, a walk down a trail to the incomplete manor followed. Passing great trees and sweeping fields the view opened-up to a magnificent gargoyle-topped two Victorian Gothic house. A gentle stroll and a cute puppy whilst admiring the bat boxes and conservation efforts surrounding the house, made for a good wander. Next up and kind of just down the road was Newark Park, managed by the National Trust. It holds Newark House. The 750-acre estate has stunning views of the nearby Mendips and Cotswolds. Here you can hold a piece of mammoth tusk, view the WWI exhibition and history of the house. A good coffee outside and beautiful gardens are more than capable of captivating your attention.


Clifton Suspension Bridge has always been somewhere I have dreamed of seeing up close and personal. It didn’t disappoint. Clifton Observatory, on Clifton Down once was a windmill for corn, then snuff. Now it hosts a great camera onscure, one of a handful open to the public around the U.K. I’ve already seen the Aberystwyth Camera Obscura. The staff there that day advised the light level was low and the camera obscura would be obscure, at best. Payment was advised just for the cave, so we saved a few pennies and slipped on down through very tight passages to a concealed cave looking out onto the Avon Gorge, with the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Later crossing the bridge was pleasing and touring the small, yet well-thought out museum added to the joys of seeing somewhere new and all the history that surrounds it. The link to Egypt and the delayed and redesigned projects, before it opened in 1864 and a lengthy history featuring the last flight of BAE Systems’ Concorde. Nando’s the first of four U.K. visits followed. The spice is right?

SUSPENSA VIX VIA FIT

(The road becomes barely suspended)

On the 14th of February, from Cam and Dursley train station, the train hurtled north and east a little, towards Nottingham. Outside driving sleety showers filled the grey skies. Happy Valentine’s Day indeed. On arrival Aunty Carolyn and Phil were waiting. Next was a relaxed evening with enough Cottage Pie to sink a ship and a catch up. Also, seeing my cousin Gary wasn’t a bad surprise. The following day involved a short bus trip to Wollaton Hall (it doubled as Wayne Manor in the The Dark Knight Rises). Gotham village is around five miles south of the park and hall. Soon after touring the wintery deer park and café, a jaunt to Nottingham Castle (some of which has stood since 1067AD, under William the Conqueror) and Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claiming to have opened in 1189AD. City of Caves added to the itenary but was quite disappointing. The sandstone conurbation of cellars features an Anderson shelter, a few tales and the odd pub cellar. The medieval tannery amongst the pillar cave and Drury Hill slums and a few brief points and Luddite connections, with the questionable origin of the phrase, ‘the penny dropped’. The outbound journey from Nottingham to Manchester on the 16th, involved no changes, only a flowing land of hills, greenery and eventually the arrival of the city of Manchester on the edge of the Cheshire Plain.

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

J7: 2007-2011 Diary notes.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

I joined Facebook on the 15th of December 2006. That was much later than everyone else. I had enjoyed a reasonably sheltered life in Aberystwyth before that. There was little real need for the internet. I’d never had a MySpace, Twitter or such account prior to this. I’d established www.atfc.org.uk in 2004. That was my internet exposure. It kept me busy!


In the year of 2007 things became somewhat more confusing.  I decided to sacrifice life in Manchester to follow Nikki to university in Plymouth. I dropped off the Army Intelligence recruitment list (be it very late on) in favour of maintaining our relationship. I had no qualms with that decision, I would make it again in the flash of a synapse. However, I moved from a place with good friends and a relaxed homely feel to a place unfamiliar. My Granddad George Acton had arrived in Plymouth during the 1940s before setting sail for a global conflict. My conflict was closer to home. My nomadic life had seen me return to Manchester in 2006 for a brief stint at home. Work was proving hell to find. I had left Aberystwyth for similar reasons. Opportunity wasn’t knocking on my door and I was turning over every stone to find it! E-mails and text messaging made me feel close to friends but sadly these texts trimmed down.

 

A January saunter to Berlin helped things nicely. Oh yes, back to Berlin in January.  I arrived at Berlin Tegel on the 3rd of January 2007 (the day after Nikki had arrived at Schönenfeld Airport).  I clambered off the lime green DBA aircraft (despite flying with Air Berlin) and within minutes of arriving at the baggage carousel my ruck-sack was to hand.  I walked out of the arrivals doorway and to my surprise little Miss Brown was waiting for me.  After exchanging Great British Pounds for the Euro, Nikki introduced me to the public transport ticket machine.  The machine-printed ticket was very good value for money (even if the money resembled Monopoly currency).  So off we go onto a bus into the centre of Berlin to S-Bahn und U-Bahn Zoological Gardens.  We get an over-ground train and arrive at Waschauer Straße.  A short walk later and we were in the Sunflower Hostel.

 

On the 7th Nikki flew away from Schönenfeld airport and as she took off my eyes filled with tears.  This wasn’t right, I shouldn’t have been here alone.  I wanted to be with someone.  I couldn’t.  A city full of millions surrounded me, but I was alone.  I trundled, dawdled, plodded, feet dragging towards the S-Bahn station for my journey back into a more central Berlin.  My head torn about by thoughts of loneliness, when would I be back, and why I had booked those extra days.  The strength of mind I usually had, had deserted me, left me feeling vulnerable.  I opened the train door and stepped on board, taking a seat.  An irate German couple shouted something abusive about not closing the door on my way in.  It was icy cold.  I did not notice.  I could not see a button to close the door.  I ignored them.  My peril was worse than theirs.  My heart was lacking companionship.  It needed to feel camaraderie to gain warmth.  I sat in a seat far from any other.  The slow trickles of tears seeped down my cheeks.  I held my head down and dreamed of being somewhere else.  I could imagine Nikki sat on her flight home, listening to music, smiling, and comfortable. Here I was though, cold and lonely and far from home. Still, worse things had happened in this city.  Eventually, I relaxed as the journey took my North back towards the East of Berlin.

 

That next day, I visited Sachsenhausen.  It was a place that made me feel no hunger for food that night. Alone with my reflective thoughts I plodded the streets of Berlin and walked through the monumental Treptower Park (visiting a Russian Memorial). How could a human do those things to other humans? It was truly eye-opening and scarily funereal. The next day, I lightened the mood. I spent time sitting alone in a big park with red squirrels etc, following a visit to the Topography of Terror museum. Talk about bleak. As morbid and disturbing as the days had been, I believe to appreciate how lucky you are, and the losses of yesteryear, or for lessons to be learnt, all should learn about atrocities. We can’t go on this way.

 

My cold mood returned to Manchester in a mood of winter. I had spent the night sleeping in an airport because my budget was short by one day and I didn’t ask for help. My employers in Aberystwyth had failed to pay me – and they had conned me previously. Still, the paperback at the time made a whole night pass quickly. In that night, I had decided life in Aberystwyth must come to an end. Life in Manchester was not for me. I needed something new. Nikki was in Plymouth, and had been there since September. It made sense.

 

So, Plymouth it was. Being a Northern Man don’t mind the South that much. It was pricier, the water is shit but it ain’t all that bad. After all you could get Warburton’s bread in some of the supermarkets and there was the odd branch of Morrison’s down here.  The Northern invasion had begun. Beware! Life would never be the same again.  The monster was loose, and he was just starting to settle in. Making good friends in John Petrie, Andy, and Paul helped. They were originally Nikki’s friends but a few ales in James Street Vaults swayed them my way. Not that I was looking to usurp her friend group, even if Nikki would tell me so! Working with another Paul, Darren and Steve at Royal Mail in Plympton. Meeting friendly colleagues and playing football for Royal Mail F.C. helped. That and walks into Plymptom and the surrounding parks. Here was a good place to cycle but not a place I wanted to call home.

 

2008 – oddly, in this year, I kept a diary. On Friday the 12th of January 2008, I left Plymouth at 1435. I arrived at 0235 on Saturday. Long journeys between Manchester and Plymouth were the norm. It was only on the 17th of January, that I discovered blue cheese, and slapped a load of it with garlic on a homemade pizza. It was delicious. On the 11th of February, at Old Trafford, City ended a cursed run of defeats and draws stretching over several decades. “There’s only one Benjani, only one Benjani, he got lost on the way, so we don’t have to pay, walking in a Benji wonderland.” He only signed for City a little earlier that year. On March the 7th Astrid, (who had been struggling from late-2007 with mental health problems) ran away. She fled to London from the family home in Manchester. It was only the beginning of Astrid’s problems. One day, I will dig in, and try to write how much mental health problems affect us all. One day. By the 12th of March, my shooting boots found the net twice in a 4-2 win for Royal Mail F.C. since I had moved from striker to defender. On April the 9th, I caught a mouse whilst I was washing the dishes. I packed it in a Tupperware box and released it far away from the house christened the House of Wang, named after its strange-looking cacti. On the 19th of April I headed to The North once again enjoying a wander on Middleton Sands with Dad, Shaun and Christina. Two days later, and Astrid and I walked Bailey the dog on Highfield Country Park, Levenshulme. On June the 27th I watched Meat Loaf rock at Home Park, Plymouth with Mark from Royal Mail. The soggy weather didn’t dampen the Casa de Carne tour night. I would also see the same gig on the 23rd of July in Hamburg’s beautiful Stadtpark. The trip to Hamburg also featured City’s game at HSV, as well as a tour of the city taking in Miniatureworld, a submarine, museums, funfairs and great fish and chips. What a great city!

 

Whilst I’d been in Plymouth Nikki had left for around 6 months, to South Africa. Once again, I was left waiting. On the 5th of July she had returned. The day after, we caught a ferry and ate at The Bridge by Mount Batten, Plymouth. Two days later we visited Bedruthland Steps and Holywell Bay – enjoying great jam scones at the former, and crazy golf at the latter. Back to the North, I headed for my first ever running challenge, the Urbanathlon, a 10K assault course sponsored by Original Source shower gel. I completed it in a sluggish 1 hour and 7 minutes. I was never cut out or interested in such running challenges. By August Nikki and I had moved in together, in a house, in Heaton Chapel. On August the 2nd, I watched City at Stockport County and four days later I had completed my TEFL in Plymouth, before heading back to Manchester on the 19th to watch City versus Portsmouth. On the 29th of September I went to Wigan Athletic versus Manchester City with Sean and Tom, neighbours of my Mum. On October the 7th, someone stole my bicycle. I was in tears and shreds because bicycles have always been part of my life. On the 18th of October, I watched Jason Manford, a comedian before two days later three bands (Cure the Disaster, These Eyes Are Cameras and Wheatus) at Manchester’s Roadhouse. On the 1st day of November I walked around Lyme Park, eventually reaching the Lantern, witnessing many deer in the vast wilderness. On the 16th of November, I watched Irish comedian Ed Byrne at The Lowry in Salford. The weekend of the 22nd saw City face Arsenal and then the next day a comedy night with Paddy McGuinness. On Saturday December the 6th, I headed to London’s Craven Cottage to watch City at Fulham. My love for 6am bus journeys not present, as always. The following weekend involved winter bulb planting at Highfield Country Park and watching City, as always. Somehow, I managed to get to work on the 19th December 2008, having departed a bar the previous evening, and arriving back very, very late. I was full of blisters and had dehydration.

 

That New Year’s Eve, Paul, Eastham, John Petie and Abbie Matthews visited Manchester, having headed from Plymouth to The North. We all enjoyed New Year’s Eve together. By the 7th day of 2009, I had to wade to work in snow. On the 10th of January I watched Daniel Draig and Liev Schreiber in Defiance in the cinema. That was a good reward for a day’s winter hike around Lyme Park. On the 17th January, The Wrestler, at the cinema followed City’s 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic.

Following a great Christmas party at RAC Inspection Services, I went to watch Seasick Steve with my colleague Claire on January 23rd. Dessert was a lovely jammy Swiss Roll. The next day featured Valkyrie at the cinema. On the 27th, I watched City Reserves beat Newcastle Utd 3-0, before watching City beat Newcastle Utd 2-1 the next day. A walk and a daydream of a ride on the metal playground train in Phillips Park followed. The final day of the month saw a trip to watch City lose at Stke 1-0. A spell at the cinema watching Slumdog Millionnaire helped cure the pain of defeat. On the weekend of the 6th to 8th of February, I headed to Aberystwyth – and the game in Caersws was called off, due to snow, so a weekend staying at The Glengower and wanderings was had.

Like Claire, and my colleagues we all were told that we would have to relocate offices or take redundancy on Friday the 13th of February. Nightmare. I had only officially been working for RAC Inspection Services for a few months, following a temping job with them. I spent the following Sunday walking around Reddish Vale, worried that I would have no job and doubting the future. On the 17th of that month there was a question and answer session, the 20th a visit to Aviva’s Albert Square office, and on the 27th I had an interview with Jeremy Rouch for a job at Aviva. The last day of February saw Al Murray, Pub Landlord and comedian visit the Manchester Apollo. I watched his show and enjoyed it very much. On the 10th of March, Dave Armitage and Chris from Aviva further interviewed me. I moved offices on March the 23rd. On the 22nd of March, I watch comedian Andy Pasrons at The Lowry. Comedy like music and football was my escape.

On March the 7th, I stood watching lapwings on derlict carparks by the City of Manchester Stadium, before City Youth beat Norwich City 1-0. I was soon transferred to work for Norwich Union (Aviva) at Albert Square. In this month, on the 10th, high school mate Leigh Kenyon and I went to a players’ evening meeting then-City manager Mark Hughes, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany.


Other notes from my spacious and almost bare diary.

April 2009

13/4/09 – Easter event, Highfield Country Park

16/4/09 – City 2-1 Hamburg

23/4/09 – Mark Radcliffe book signing

10/4/09: is watching City v Fulham on Sunday, then has an Easter event at Highfield on Monday before the big one: City v Hamburg on Thursday. We will play much better. We can do it.

16/4/09: City v Hamburg

Greenfields to Standedge tunnel to Manchester along the Huddersfield Canal & Ashton Canal, 18/4/09.

25/4/09: Everton v City

30/4/09:  £369 for my 2009/10 seasoncard!

May 2009

Walked with Dad, Christina and Shaun around Hest Bank, 10/5/09

16/5/09: Spurs v City

June 2009

7/6/09:  Heaton Park.  Free Peace, Twisted Wheel, Kasabian, The Enemy and Oasis. I went to the urinals and a girl whipped her knickers down to have a pee next to me. Classy girl.

12/6/09:  The Doves tomorrow, then running the Pants in The Park 5K (28mins) run tomorrow on Sunday followed by Bill Bailey at The Lowry.

July 2009

5/7/09:  CITY OF MANCHESTER 10K (1hr9mins)

13/7/09: is off to Hyde U****d v City Res on Wednesday, training Thursday evening, at Live For City gig featuring Doves/Kid British/Twisted Wheel on Friday then off to Aberystwyth v Leev-urrrr-poooohl on Saturday.

23/7/09: cannot run the Moonraker 10K this Sunday, cannot train for a week more and is generally pissed off with this fecking reaction to one fecking bite!!!!

24/7/09: is recruiting a shovel/spade to did a hole and bury himself. This fecking bite has detroyed my fitness, moral, and left leg. New leg needed.

July 2009: Live from City.

August 2009

Morecambe, sunset. Saturday, 15/08/09. The night before I ran the Cross Bay Challenge half marathon. (2hr 31mins and 54 secs.)

30/8/09: went off to Portsmouth (v City) at 5am-ish. Bit far to travel for a pie, pint and some sea air…

September 2009

4-6/9/09: Bingley Live Festival/Ponden Guest House camp site [4/9/09:  the Undertones; 5/9/09: Doves; 6/9/09: Calvin Harris, Rev And The Makers, Futureheads, VV Brown, The Editors]

Stopgap Dance Company 19/09/09, Stopgap in Piccalilli gardens

24/9/09: has just opened his wardrobe door, grabbed a shirt and realised the wardrobe is purring. That pesky cat!

October 2009

7/10/09: first trip to Clacton-on-sea

19/10/09: has 2 days of work, then a muddle of running, music, cycling, British Track cycling championships and football. Perfect.

25/10/09: is off t’ footy t’ see t’ City v t’ Fulham, c’mon t’ Blues!

28/10/09: lonely birthday meal in Asda, City 5-1 Scunny in League Cup

30/10/09: wonders how Horseflies track him down. 3, That’s three bites this year! At cycling World cup which is awesome’

November 2009

1/11/09: HELLRUNNER. Delamere Forest. OFFICIAL FINISH TIME OF 3HRS, 5MINS AND 12 SECONDS!!!! RESULT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WAS 1428TH OVERALL OF 1521. – a stress fractured foot, a bruised knee, torn calf muscles, blisters but it was worth the ride

6/11/09: Paracycling, Manchester Velodrome.

December 2009

11/12/09-12/12/09:  work do/haggered bar tour with Anthony and his brother Steve. Great night!

12/12/09: Bolton v City

18/12/09: Tapas (Deansgate), Doves, Manchester Central.

What happened in 2010?

Sunday, 5/9/10: Rider number 45. Manchester 100 cycle ride, left 0730hrs, halfway check in 1230hrs.  Departed 1310hours, arrived 1530hrs finish line. Route: Wythenshawe Park, Knutsford, Northwich, Norley, Tattenhall, Nantwich, Middlewich, Wilmslow, Styal, Wythenshawe Park

January 2011

1/1/11 – City 1-0 Blackpool, went with Dan / Cinema: Gulliver’s Travels

2/1/11 – Day in DVDs

5/1/11 – City v Arsenal

7/1/11-9/1/11 – A trip to Plymouth

15/1/11- Revo Cycling after City v Wolves

February – April 2011

23/2/11-27/2/11 – Nikki up North

24/2/11 – City v Aris, with Dad and Uncle George

15/3/11-18/3/11- Nikki up North

16/3/11 – Manchester Cathedral, Cherry Ghost

9/4/11-10/4/11 – Colchester

14/4/11-18/4/11 – Colchester

23/4/11 – Newtown v Aber

28/4/11 – Court date regarding rent at place in Manchester

May-June 2011

5/5/11 – Reserves v Chelsea

14/5/11 – FAC Final: City v Stoke City

21/5/11 – Blue Square Final, CoMStad

22/5/11 – Bolton v City

4/6/11 – Avenue Q

July-August 2011

1/7/11 – Leaving do, Manchester

2/7/12 – Left for Norwich, departed 0742, arrived 1233, moved in same day

4/7/11 – Willow House, Norwich city centre – interview

7/7/11-16/7/11 – Cornwall

29/7/11 – 1/8/11 – Dublin

5/8/11-7/8/11 – London, Community Shield

15/8/11 – City v Swansea

16/8/11 – NCFC v Blackburn Reserves

27/8/11 – Spurs v City

31/8/11 – MEN, Arcade Fire

September-December 2011

16/9/11 – Holiday

5/11/11 – QPR v City

6/11/11 – Mark Watson, Colchester Arts Centre

8/11/11 – Andy Parsons, UEA Playhouse

8/12/11 – Shapi Khorsandi, UEA Playhouse

11/12/11 – Ross Noble, Colchester Arts Centre

16/12/11-19/12/11 – Dusseldorf

J6: 2005 – Granddad Ernie

On the 10th of April 2005, following a lengthy period in Fairclough Hospital, in Bury, Ernie died.  A few weeks before his death he had married my Granny.  The wedding was held within the hospital owing to his ill health.  The hospital provided a ring and the cake.  Mum found out on the phone later that night.  I had visited Ernie only a week before his death.  He looked very ill, very underweight and was incoherent.  He still knew who I was and gave welcome to me by his bedside.  Granny and I walked him to the toilet, but this seemed to strain him of any strengths he had left.  Granny and Ernie had looked after me when my sister was taken to hospital after she was knocked down.  On the day we went to the local station and watched as the trains passed by.  That night I stayed my Granny’s house.  There were many of the times during the difficult week that followed that merited a waterfall of tears.

 

 

On a Tuesday, some days later, myself, Paul, Paul junior, and Astrid set off to Granny’s house.  Granny had lived in north Manchester, in Moston for over 16 years.  In 1989 Granny had met Ernie.  They became very close friends and eventually moved in together.  Ernie would always look after my Granny.  Granny and Ernie would always visit us in south Manchester.  We would sometimes visit markets together.  Ernie would look out for many collectable goods, e.g. steam memorabilia.  We would sometimes visit museums and places where we could see working steam engines and many other engineering pieces.  Ernie was a steam enthusiast.  One Christmas when I was young and still at primary school Ernie and Granny treated me to a working steam engine model.  I was very proud to be given such a gift.  The gift had clearly cost my Granny and Ernie a large amount of money, but it would always be of sentimental value. I plan to power it up this February.

We arrived at Granny’s house for noon.  Paul junior and Astrid went to the shop to buy some fizzy drinks.  Myself and Paul had a cup of tea with Granny.  Aunty Carolyn and her husband Phil arrived with my cousin Kelly soon after, as well as my Great Uncle Eric and Great Aunty Mary.   A few friends of the family also attended.  Many well wishers passed by and offered my Granny their deepest sympathies.

The procession set out and arrived later on at the cemetery.  A procession passed through Blakeley and most of Moston.  We passed some kids and in my mind, I had judged them to be no good kids but one of them removed his cap to reveal that he was paying huge respect to the passing procession.  This was a touching moment.  We arrived at the cemetery close to half two in the afternoon.  The coffin was carried into a large room, within this large room stood the priest of the front.  The priest recited some sermons and read aloud some psalms.  He then paid tribute to Ernie Freeman.  The final piece of music before we left the room was that of a steam engine puffing up and sounding its horn.  Outside the priest thanked us and offered us his blessing.  Flowers were lay on the ground outside as a tribute to the man we were paying respect to that day.

I sat in the funeral car, and the door blew in the breeze.  The door creaked.  Ernie would have oiled the car door, or taken it apart just to fix the problem.  This thought made me cry.  I will always miss him and will always wish that I’d got to know him better.  He was a very interesting man who I admired greatly.  He was honest, caring and considerate.  He was witty and a true gentleman.  Even though he was not my real biological grandfather I will always call him my granddad.

Our procession then went to a public house in Fallowfield, of the name of The Willow.  Here we ate sandwiches and had a few drinks in the final way of paying tribute to Ernie.

My Granddad George was admitted to hospital once again in March 2005, and the next month did not look so bright for family matters. Dad’s friend Bert died on the day his wife was buried in early April 2005. It seemed to be a cursed year. It made me feel helpless.

My Granddad, George Acton passed away. I won’t write about this now. I want to write far more about each grandparent soon.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

J5: University Challenged

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

The Marine Biology field course arrived, and with my tooth being so painful I really struggled with the work.  I submitted an incomplete report, managed to attend all the trips, but really struggled to motivate myself for the work.  It was not all doom and gloom, as I met Nicola Brown, well kind of.  I was feeling something completely different.  Her vibrant smile met my eye. I barely spoke to her but could not stop thinking about her throughout the field-course.  I felt I had to get talking to her somehow, someway, someewhere but chance never came my way, my injured tooth ruling out possibilities, and my lack of confidence to talk with her.  I did find her name via a friend, Rob Palmer, who was also in her Marine Biology field course group.  Nikki, Lisa Bates, and Rob soon hung around together very often.

 

My own football would go well for me, post tooth-extraction.  Having only managed three university Dig’s league games, a 4-2 win where I hit the woodwork twice! A 2-1 win, here I bagged my first university strike in ages!  And, a 2-1 win where I had to come off as my head was killing me!  On the 18th of November me and Rob, went to see Scouse comedian, Jeff Green (From A-Z) live at the Art’s Centre.  As comedians go he was the bee’s knees!  Rob later gave me the live at the West End DVD for Christmas, equally wonderful!.  On Saturday the 20th of November, I was working behind the bar, my first full night of being in charge.  The place only bloody had a fire (in the lounge bar, not the function room we were working in).  Anyway, Jonathan (Buzza), me and the two bouncers evacuated the Club house even though we extinguished the first fire.  Sadly, the fire must have reignited whilst we had been clearing the building.  Before long the lounge bar was devastated!  A sad day for the football club, and its interior decorated in historical memorabilia. I remember the sad eyes of Rhun Owens, then-long serving and devoted club secretary when he arrived to the smouldering remains.

 

On the 27th of November my-then brief ex-girlfriend Lisa Bates held a video night at her house in Borth.  She had provided enough of a buffet spread to serve a Glastonbury crowd twice-over, alongside enough spirits and wine to provide Borth with a new pub.  There was at one tsage twelve people watching movies in her lounge.  By sleeping time, Claire and Paul had gone to use Lisa’s bed, Lisa had gone to her spare room, Nikki, Rob, Rich and I were camped in the lounge.  I fell asleep the soonest; shattered by incessant tooth pain.

 

The funfair used to arrive in Aberystwyth on the last two Mondays of November, and the first Monday of December.  Never-the-less, Nikki, Rob, Lisa, Louise, Laura and Wyn joined me for the final two Mondays.  The Crazy Mouse rollercoaster (it claimed to be the largest mobile rollercoaster in Europe) and the extremely high G-Force were brilliant but I enjoyed going on other smaller rides, usually with Nikki, who was the most daring of the group! Our group being who they are we went on some fairground stalls and won some raffles.  I won three Caterpillars (of which I asked Nikki to mind one) and Rob, Lisa, Louise, and Nikki all won cuddly toys ranging from unicorns to monkeys. I never had luck with these stalls, usually.

 

The 7th of December arrived.  The day the tooth was to be removed.  I was so nervous I couldn’t eat breakfast.  At 12pm, the dental surgeon/devil was deep into the process of making me feel as uncomfortable as possible.  I have to say, that day was one of the scariest days of my life.  Did it hurt?  IT BLOODY WELL DID!  Half hour of X-rays, 15 minutes of assessment, 10 minutes of numbing my jaw off, and the final quick extraction, followed by a click as a crack in the jaw slammed shut, alongside me fainting on the way downstairs, did not make for an entertaining day.  The headache I had upon to then, for at least 4 months vanished immediately, and I will admit I was a tad dazed, confused, and physically tired.  Mentally I was shattered, but that didn’t take much.  That day I was driven back to Aber, via Bangor City versus Aberystwyth Town’s games (shhhh!), after all I just wanted my own bed, and to get back to normal.  On arrival back into Aber, I went round to Nikki’s and chilled with her and Rob.  I didn’t want to be alone.  I wanted to see Nikki, and get a good hug!  The next day I missed the 1-2pm lecture, favouring sleep.  I was going to for a gentle stroll in the evening, but decided on going to training with Penparcau FC.  You know how it is.  That was the best three-hour evening session I’ve ever done.  In reality, I was back, back and ready to go.  After that session, Nikki came around and gave me the best hug I had ever had, lasting a good few hours.  For some unknown reason we watched Santa Clause 2, The Aristocats, and GCSE Bytesize until 4am.  I let Nikki use Nige’s room (whilst he was away) for some sleep, as I collapsed in bed.  On Thursday night, Nikki came around again, which was wonderful, as she is great company and really friendly lass.  Yet again we watched DVDs into the early hours, but this time the hug was more warmly, and the urge to kiss her became overpowering.  However, all the signs were there for a kiss, but I didn’t want to risk our friendship.  I mean I’d fancied her since I set eyes on her in September’s Marine Biology field course.  Hands were close, arms wrapped around each other, heads leaning by each other, cheeks rubbing, and eventually the courage came to share a kiss.

On Saturday, I played for Penparcau out in Llanrhystud, scoring a crucial extra-time goal, we won 5-2.  That evening Nikki invited me to her friend Krissey’s roast dinner.  We went all the way to Trawsgoed.  The journey was a pleasant drive through the backs and beyond of Welsh countryside.  An excellent meal cooked by Krissey and her boyfriend later, a long chat with Nikki’s mates Harvey and Deanna before setting off back to Aber under the cloudless black sky. On the Sunday I missed playing football for the UWA Greens in the Dig’s League.  I took Nikki for Sunday lunch at Harley’s.  Things felt amazing.  I mean I’ve had strong feelings before for particular ladies, but at that time it was off the Richter scale.  On Tuesday night, Nikki made me stir-fry at mine.  It certainly beat the pasta I made for her on Wednesday night!  Ah, Wednesday night, a night of torture in training.  A 20-minute beach shuttle-run session, and long jog just to punish players for not turning up to training, proved to tire me out.  I could feel the aches and strains long into the evening!  I always give my excuses in well before not turning up!  But still teams get punished not individuals, but it does make you feel a damn bit fitter!

On Friday we went out for Nikki’s birthday, dressed as angels and devils.  Naturally I’m an angel, so I fancied a change and was as a devil (even though I hate red!).  We started at Nikki’s flat drinking Taboo etc.  In the Academy we met Gav Allen and a few other footy lads.  Not many drinks later we arrived at a heaving Varsity, where I lost my white-chocolate-vodka-virginity.  Interesting drink, looks like Rhino semen, tastes like rubber-chocolate.  In the Cambrian we had a few cocktails, as Laura and Debbie chatted up the bar stewards.  One taxi journey uphill later, and into the Union we went.  Good old Move night, and a great night.  Eventually 12am came And Nikki turned 22.  An amazing night and the Union managed an extra half hour of Christmas songs post-bar-closing.  On Nikki’s birthday we went for a cooked-breakfast, and then we strolled up the seafront and generally enjoyed the day.  I cooked a pizza (cheating with pre-made bases this time!) and we watched a film, and then Match of the Day. A leopard can’t change spots for stripes.  On Sunday, we separated for awhile.  Nikki had to tidy her house, and I had to tidy mine.  On Monday morning Nikki went home (Cornwall!) and so did I – for Christmas!   Over the Christmas holidays, I was mostly working on my University project work, and ringing the land of pasties to see how Nikki was. The easy thing about being with Nikki was we both allowed time to get to know each other and never rushed into anything.  The hugs and kisses we shared made me tingle and feel wanted; something I cannot claim to have felt before sharing these special moments with Nikki.

I haven’t really described Nikki, but even if I did, so I might as well try to remember her bac k then.  Nikki was kind, caring, interesting, articulate, cheeky as a monkey, lovely, warm, gentle, and everything a dream about a great partner would contain.  Nikki spent a year away from University working in New Zealand and seemed an expert on there!  Nikki and I got on so well because our interests were alike, she loves comedy as much as I do (but she quoted Little Britain more than I cared for!).  She was sporty (plays netball, watches rugby etc), and I’m football crazy, football mad!  There were lots of things for us to do, see and learn, and at the time I believed Nikki would be the one! At one time I was a city boy, lost in its vastness and devoid of any feelings for someone, but in the town of Aberystwyth I fell for Nikki.  That secluded spot revealed that I was no longer concealed behind a window, peering out at the views below and across. For then, I was free from that prison, free to dream once more, free to feel hope and push aside fear.  I didn’t feel like the luckiest guy in Aberystwyth, more like the luckiest person on Earth, or maybe the Universe, because somebody believed in me and cared for me, in ways that I hadn’t experienced.

Regular phone talk of when we would see each other again, and desires for the day to arrive carried us through the Christmas period.  We had arranged to spend the New Year in Aber.  The last hours of 2004, and the first few of 2005 were to be spent in the Glengower.  New Year’s celebrations at The Glengower’s Western Night were quieter than we all anticipated, however with me and Nikki, Rob and Lisa, Laura and Wyn, and Susan it was a fun night.  I was content with spending those moments in Aber. Back home, my one-time secondary school friend Emma looked at a picture of Nikki.  Em accused Nikki of being just a pretty face, which wasn’t fair as Nikki had a great arse and lovely legs too!  Nikki departed Aber on the Bank Holiday Monday of the 3rd; the day Penrhyncoch Reserves beat Penparcau 2-1 (They did field four Cymru Alliance players and a Welsh Premier player! It was a hellish hard game.).  Nikki had to finish her family holiday away. At least at home in Cornwall, she could concentrate on revision without having Mr Procrastinator 2001-4 distracting her. My personal revision was chugging along slowly.  One exam was so mentally hard, because I had tunnel-vision and desired to read up on other subjects too. I’d even spent hours writing a season of ideas for Aberystwyth Town’s football programme. I was not cut out for studying… or focused…

TO BE CONTINUED