Thursday, October 23, 2014

Second Retirement


Back in 1997 I had the chance to take "early retirement" from my job with a suitably enhanced local government pension. I was 58.

It turned out to be a traumatic year - retirement, selling two houses and moving into one with my widowed mother joining us and being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

However, time moved on, as it does if you wait long enough. A major operation in 1998 meant that I am still here in 2014. My mother eventually died in 2001 and I found part-time occupations in 1999 in charge of my local Neighbour Mediation Scheme and also used past qualifications to train novice bus drivers (an unusual combination of talents(?) ).

The Mediation Co-ordinator's job I left in 2002 but a minor stroke in 2013 did not interrupt for long my bus driver work - actual training and presentational lectures to groups - which I have continued busily and happily to date.

However, a recent infection of the middle ear occasionally leaves me with nausea and vomiting. The doc says it will clear up in time, could take a year, but to "be patient".

So I have finally decided to retire (again) at the end of this year when I shall be 76. I could say that I have been involved, as a Road Safety Officer, for over 50 years.

As for things to occupy me then, some of my enjoyments are a trifle curtailed at present. Motor cycling and cycling I need to be careful with since the ear problem can upset my balance. I no longer (at present) have a dog who needs walking and people tend to look askance at solitary males wandering the local woods and fields (a sad comment on these times).

However - time will move on yet again and some of the above will be better able to be enjoyed once more. My old friend, this blog, should come in for more use again, too. I have been most remiss about it recently.

So "hello" again and sorry to have been so long away.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

R.I.P. Rex


Those of you who were reading this blog back in 2009 will have seen that Rex joined us from a rescue centre after our previous German Shepherd had to be put down.

Now, I am afraid it has been his turn. In March he complained of a back problem, which was cured by anti inflammatory pills from the vet. However, this returned recently. Then, last week, his back legs gave way and he could no longer walk - just pulling himself along with the front legs.

The vet diagnosed degenerative myelopathy, akin to MS in humans. It is incurable, so I had his life ended there and then. He was only 8 years old.

We have had dogs in our lives since 1960, but I wonder if we shall ever get another. At my age (75) would it be fair on a dog to gain and then lose a master after a comparatively short time?

Answers on a postcard (as they say) please.




Sunday, May 11, 2014

ADLESTROP

Adlestrop Station before its destruction in the '60s Beeching cuts

Yes, I remember Adlestrop --
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop -- only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
 
This poem, by Edward Thomas, holds for me that moment during a busy, noisy journey when everything stops for a moment and one is a traveller in an unfamiliar place. Indeed, it has an essential sense of time and place which seems almost unequalled.
 
And yet it was one of Thomas's very first poems. By this date (1914) he had had an unsuccessful career as a journalist and literary critic and was in a profound depression. He had been befriended by a fellow depressive, the American poet Robert Frost and was in fact on the train journey to meet him at Frost's home near Ledbury, Gloucestershire. Because of that meeting Thomas's poetry blossomed.
 
It was a short blossoming. The first world war started a few months later. He was 37, married with 3 children but insisted on enlisting although he would have been exempt at the time. In 1917 he was killed on the first day of the Battle of Arras..
 
I wonder if he felt that the England he had so perfectly captured in "Adlestrop" was in danger and he had to do his bit in its defence? Perhaps a fitting meditation as the first World War is remembered now on its centenary.

 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TREBLE'S GOING........SHE'S GONE!

I was delving into a box of bits yesterday and came across a memory of my youth:

 
A small lapel "button-hole" badge from my days as an adolescent bell-ringer at Mereworth Church.
 
There was not too much to do  for a teen-ager in a small country village in the early '50s. No television or street lighting and definitely no digital stuff so we needed to find our own enjoyment and interests. As a developing youth, if these could also involve girls it was decidedly a bonus!
 
Sunday's main church services were then morning and evening (with the afternoon reserved for the little 'uns Sunday School) and the peal of 6 bells was always rung twice on this day, with a practice night on a Wednesday. The bell ringers were mainly the farm labourers of the parish.These, to us, were dignified men, usually in their 50's and 60's and the tower captain (of the ringers) was eager to draw in younger blood.
 
The result was an intake of 3 boys and three girls and since one of the girls was already the subject of my distant admiration I became one of those boys.
 
It was all good, clean fun with the added attraction of being able to walk home, hand in hand, with the girl and even a peck on the cheek as a "goodnight" (these were more innocent times).
 
With no heating in the church tower ( and only in the church proper on Sundays) it could be bitter cold up there on a winter's eve and you needed to be ringing to keep warm. As we stood to our "sallies" (the striped hand-hold of the bell rope) the ringer on the treble bell would utter the words in my heading and ringing would commence.
 
It all seemed incredibly complicated for a start, trying to hunt through the bells around you during the performance (compositions with names like "Grandsire Triples" and "Plain Bob Minor") and these would be written out for us to learn and understand by the tower captain in heavy pencil on the back of strips of old wallpaper. Here is a part of an example which runs for several pages:
 
 
 
For some, the farm labourers of this (and earlier) periods were portrayed as dull sons of the soil, but they were far from that, skilled in a multitude of now forgotten crafts and able to remember many such compositions, which could continue to ring over a long period, even hours at times. They also took a no-nonsense view of bell-ringing and you would never see them at the church service afterwards; their job was done and the pub down the street was now open!
 
A small badge brought back a host of memories.
 


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

HAPPY 450th BIRTHDAY, BILL!

  
Today is Shakespeare's 450th birthday (and also, oddly enough, the anniversary of his death).

We have a local link to him in that the very first amateur performance of one of his plays occurred at Surrenden Manor, Pluckley (burnt down in 1952).

In the Folger Library in Washington is the handwritten adaption of two of his plays which were performed at Surrenden in 1623.

Sir Edward Dering put together  the two parts of Henry IV for this private performance at his home. He paid the local rector to write out the play and laid out the princely sum of 17 shillings and eight pence "for heads of hair and beards", which were presumably wigs and false beards for Falstaff, et al.

So our local claim to literary fame is not just limited to H.E. Bates' "The Darling Buds of May" TV series, which was filmed nearby (and is also a quotation from a Shakespeare sonnet).



Sunday, April 20, 2014

EMERGING (SLOWLY) FROM THE DIGITAL FOREST


Well - I finally had to buy a new PC to overcome problems.

I have had a week of trauma trying to get to terms with my new PC, which runs on Windows 8.1. Trouble with "8" is that it is dual configured for this modern age so that you can "swipe or pinch" all the apps if you have that kind of machine face (I haven't, still stroking my mouse). Luckily (when you know how) you can also access the traditional "desktop" which we all know and are experienced in using. I went back to the PC store and bought a book on the 8.1 system which is helping me a lot and showing me how very simple something is, which has been causing me frustration, if only I had KNOWN how to do it. But I am getting there - slowly.

All my various devices like printers and scanner loaded on this new PC OK, as did all my various programmes on disk such as my photographic applications. Would you believe that the only one which would not load was my disk for Microsoft Office Professional (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). I tried to put it on but got the message that Microsoft Windows 8.1 will not support it, so please buy a new one from us for £300! (the b*****ds!). They are so cynical - continuous updates to perfectly good programmes, just to keep us buying their products. So I took advice and loaded instead a completely free programme called "Open Office", which does most of the stuff that Microsoft's "Office" does and enables me to load and use all my existing Office files.

So - we are getting there folks. I sometimes wonder if it is all worth it!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dog Walk in the Spring


A warm spring morning, with no rain for the last few days. Our local woods have been hard to access since most entrances are across drainage ditches. These have been serving their purpose recently and have consequently been full of water. However, one has at last dried into a muddy puddle and is possible to cross.

Dog Rex was delighted since recent walks have been on pavements - good for keeping claws in trim, but no squirrels to chase!

Everything is blooming about a month ahead of time because of the mild winter, so bluebells are apparent everywhere; their beauty all the more poignant because of their ephemerality.



 
Good, too, to see the black-thorn in frothy blossom. A reminder to return here in about November, after the first frosts have been on the resulting sloe berries. Sloe gin is a good restorative after a winter walk.