Back Home

Returning home after a holiday is always an anticlimax. It’s nice to be home, but we’d still prefer to be doing something different, somewhere else. The journey home was uneventful, but bitty.

After breakfast and a chat with our host, Noreen, then

  • We walked to the tram stop and caught a tram into Dublin city centre, then
  • We walked around the corner and caught a bus to the airport, then
  • We walked to the gate, via the shops, then caught an airport bus, then
  • We walked to the aeroplane and up the stairs and flew to Gatwick, then
  • We walked off the plane and caught a bus to the terminal, then
  • We walked to the station and caught a train to Clapham Junction, then
  • We walked to a different platform and caught a train to Tolworth, then
  • We walked across the road and caught a bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • We walked around the corner, home, sweet home.

Interestingly, we walked straight out of Gatwick airport, nobody and no machine checked our passports. It was a bit of a shock to be out on the concourse with hundreds of members of the actual public.

Liesel declined my invitation to come for a walk the following day, despite it being sunny rather than the predicted wet. And walking around the streets of Chessington, I was reminded why I usually take out my phone and play music or radio programmes. The sound of traffic is inescapable, even away from what might be described as main roads. The birds around here have to squawk really loudly to compete with the traffic. Walking in the forest last week was so peaceful, heating the birds singing without having to shout. And the silence in between was only disturbed by the susurration of the wind in the leaves.

Today was the day we caught up on all of our admin, not very interesting really, having to pay bills and check bank accounts and process all the mail, throwing a good 75% of the paperwork straight into the recycling bin.

As far as the house-move is concerned, some progress has been made. We responded to our vendor’s enquiries and our seller’s solicitor has answered some of ours. One thing that is a little disconcerting, that we hadn’t previously even contemplated, is the question: Is our new flat likely to be affected by the impact of the High Speed Railway (HS2) from Birmingham to Manchester?

While away, we tried to follow the Giro d’Italia but now we’re home, we can watch it on TV, or at least, the highlights. Sean Yates has been leading for most of the race but today, he cracked on the final climb, so, excitingly, it’s all to play for! (As they say.)

Today is the final day of the service provided by Which.net, the site of my first websites and our first email addresses. Over the years, I’ve said farewell to a number of different email addresses but I still have a soft spot for some of them:

  • delphinus
  • more-chocolate
  • dark_horse
  • mickeydoodah
  • mick_the_wonder_horse
  • mickey_moose
  • mickeydoooodah
  • mickeydoodledoo
  • mick.freed (yes, one of those had to go because it clashed with an American who shares my name)
  • cc_s435 (my very first one, at Kingston University)

Downpatrick Head

Maybe it was too much fresh air yesterday, maybe it was the beer I drank in the evening (not Guinness), but whatever it was, I am very grateful. For I won a radio competition to help Pink Floyd finish off their latest album, Dark Side of the Moon.

I went to the studio and was told to go into the recording booth with Roger Waters and Roger Dean. The three of us were to sing “That was the news”, one after the other, and this would become the refrain for one of the songs, Our Beauty. In fact, so that I knew what to do, Roger Waters played me the track from the CD.

Meanwhile, in the corner, sat a young girl reading the news. In the opposite corner sat (Jimmy S)a vile man blowing vile cigar smoke into the room.

As the news finished, I heard my own voice singing “That was the news”. Then everyone started laughing! The joke was on me: the radio station just wanted a post-news jingle and I’d unwittingly provided it.

Even within the drean, I then realised that (1) CDs weren’t around when Dark Side of the Moon was recorded (2) There is no such track as Our Beauty on it (3) Roger Dean wasn’t a member of Pink Floyd and (4) The Roger Waters I’d met was an imposter.

Dreams are strange phenomena: you make them up in your own mind and yet you can still be surprised by the things that happen or by what people say. They might come up with a perfectly reasonable answer to a question that you hadn’t thought about.

For example, there was the time I met Victoria Beckham.

“Oh, hello, Vicky”, I said.

“I hate being called Vicky”.

“Oh, sorry. What about Victoria?”

“Oh no, you don’t know me and I don’t know you.”

“Well, what should I call you, then?”

“What’s wrong with Mrs Beckham?”

That was me put in my place.

Today was our last full day in the west of Ireland and I think it’s fair to say: we’ll be back. We’ve enjoyed it immensely, but there is so much more to see. Even apart from that, we just enjoy being here, appreciate all that nature offers and love the friendliness of the people.

We went with Catherine to her favourite place, Downpatrick Head, on the north coast. In fact, this was the furthest north we’d visit on this trip.

It’s a cliff-top, windy place for a walk, and on a stormy day, the sea has been known to wash over the cliffs. Lots of birds, such as guillemots, are nesting on the cliffs and if I were a rock-climber, I’m sure I would want to climb the sea-stack.

Downpatrick Head Sea-stack
Downpatrick Head Sea-stack

The geology of the place is fascinating, some of the rock has cracked into squares, different from the hexagons at Giant’s Causeway. Who knows, maybe one day I will go back and do the Open University Geology course, which I once considered, but I chose another Maths course instead.

There are a couple of blowholes too which I’m sure are exciting to see on a good day, but for now, we were just happy to admire the views.

Liesel and Catherine
Liesel and Catherine adding to the natural beauty of Downpatrick Head

Back in Ballycastle, we enjoyed coffee and scones at Mary’s Kitchen, a really cute little place. According to the menu, Mary has turned grey over the ten years since she arrived, but her husband hasn’t, yet!

We had a quick look in the local gallery, Ballinglen, which had a display downstairs and a library upstairs where I could have spent a long time browsing through the books.

Catherine had to return to work, so Liesel and I set off towards Sligo but in the end, Easky was as far as we went. Knowing we have a long drive, back to Dublin, tomorrow, I think we were both happy to stop here, coffee, millionaire shortbread for me and a sandwich for Liesel, and a walk to the beach where we explored a 811-year old castle and watched a surfer fail to really get going.

Easky Castle
Easky Castle, built in 1207, now incomplete

Belleek Forest Park

Melinda was mine ’til the time
That I found her
Holding Jim
And loving him

So begins Neil Diamond’s song, Solitary Man, which shuffled into play in the car a few days ago. This song went through my mind today when I was in the depths of the forest. Not that I’m a solitary man, and I don’t think I’ve ever known a Melinda, but I was making the most of my solitude.

Today is the seventeenth anniversary of Sarah’s departure from us. Another Thursday 17th May. In some ways, it’s a lifetime ago but in other ways, it’s such a recent event.

I took advantage of the opportunity to go for a long walk my myself, while Liesel went shopping, did some cooking and otherwise had a relaxing day.

Within walking disance of Catherine’s house in Ballina is Belleek Forest Park. It was quiet, peaceful and I saw very few other people. The paths are well maintained, well sign-posted and there is a lot to look at.

I followed the river Moy for a while too, thinking I might get as far as where it enters the Atlantic, but looking at a map afterwards, that was far too ambitious.

The Crete Boom is a ship made of concrete that was used by the Royal Navy but now sits gathering moss and seaweed in the Moy.

Crete Boom
Crete Boom

I was surprised to see warning signs of Japanese knotweed in a couple of places: not the vegetation I would have sought out. The forest was of course full of trees, some of which I could identify and some of which I identified from the flyer I’d picked up. Sycamore, lime, beech, oak, willow, elm, hornbeam and Monterey pine trees are all there, standing tall and proud. And putting all the world’s problems into perspective: I didn’t want to think about Brexit, Trump, Iran, North Korea, Israel, Palestine, plastics in the oceans. I wanted to spend time with Sarah, who has missed out on all our adventures over the last seventeen years, missed out on meeting her grandchildren, and I tried not to go through the cycle of thinking how unfair it all was, and what if, and if only.

Instead, I recalled the happy times we’d had together, with regret that those times didn’t last longer, but equally pleased that we’ve all moved on. I am so proud of Helen and Jenny and I’m sure their Mum would be very proud too.

There are red squirrels in the forest, but I didn’t see any. I didn’t see any rabbits either, nor any other animals bigger than birds. But it was a beautiful day to commune with nature while my thoughts meandered backwards and forwards through time.

Hmm, yes, I was enjoying communing with nature. Meanwhile, some other folks had been closely communing in nature.

Ring Fort with a used condom packet, some folks have all the fun
Ring Fort

When I left the forest, I walked along the road for a while, having seen a sign for Moyne Abbey. I thought that would be a good place to stop, but after every brow of a hill, I could see no sign of an abbey. So as a last resort, I looked at the map on my phone and realised I was still an hour’s walk away. I went back to the forest, again saying hello to the cows and the bulls and the donkey and standing well to the side of the road when a tractor appeared.

In the forest, I followed different paths until I found Belleek Castle. Yesterday, Catherine had said there was a coffee shop here, so that became an urgent destination. Coffee and a scone. I recalled the holidays Sarah and I had had BC, before children, often in the Cotswolds, often in the rain. Tea shops rather than coffee shops usually supplied the scones for afternoon tea, but it’s funny to note how things have changed over the years, but not much, really.

Belleek Castle
Belleek Castle

Yes, I’m sure we will always miss Sarah, she and Liesel would have a lot of laughs at my expense, I’m sure, if they’d ever met.

Back at home, we enjoyed the pasta salad and the banoffee pie that Liesel had made, along with a bottle of beer from Catherine that Lochlainn has chosen for me!

Solitary Man? Not me, I’m a very lucky bloke, I’ve met and fallen in love with two wonderful women, I have two beautiful daughters and two fantastic grandchildren. This is what’s important, not the stupid stuff that I tend to whinge about a bit too often.

So, a million thanks and lots of love to all of you who have made and who continue to make my life as fantastic as it is.

Disastrous Broadcasting Career

Liesel will tell you that what I wear most days is determined by what’s on top of the pile in the cupboard or in the drawer. But yesterday, I deliberately sought out a t-shirt that I’ve had for nearly twenty years, but have probably only worn a couple of times.

RIP BBC GLR, 1988-2000. A radio station that many people look back on with great affection. (Ed: Liesel rolls her eyes when I go on too much about GLR, so I won’t, on this occasion.)

We went to The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell last night to support a friend who’s going to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe in August for 27 nights. He’ll be talking about his Disastrous Career in Broadcasting. 27 years broadcasting, in fact, so plenty of disasters to choose from.

Let me introduce Jeremy Nicholas, writer, broadcaster, MC, after-dinner speaker and all-round good guy. We saw him at The Cav as he previewed the Edinburgh show for the first time. The material will be honed over the next few shows: some of the stories, all true, just work better than others.

And by coincidence, some of the stories came from his time at GLR where he presented the Breakfast Show in two stints and the afternoon show for a few years.

180506 me and jeremy nicholas

There were also stories from BBC World Service, BBC 5 Live, local Radio Nottingham, Channel 5, 2012 Paralympics and on the way, just like Don Black on Radio 2, there was plenty of name-dropping.

We’d like to see the show in Edinburgh but if all goes to plan, we’ll be in Alaska by then.

But we would definitely recommend going along: just don’t get drunk and heckle like someone did last night (not Liesel). The stories are true, you’ll have a good laugh at someone else’s minor disasters and we all like a bit of schadenfreude, don’t we!

Here’s another blogging experiment. If it works, you’ll be able to see the remaining dates in a box below…

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FJeremyNicholasSpeaker%2Fposts%2F168088033910637&width=500

How’s that?

 

Lead, Foam and Ice Cream

On Saturday, before returning home, we had breakfast with our family in Chorlton. The drive from our Airbnb took a long time as we’d been advised to avoid the M60 motorway.

But slowly, slowly, all these little places, towns, villages, suburbs around Manchester and Stockport are coming together in our mental map. I think today for the first time, I learnt for sure that Chorlton is the same place as Chorlton-cum-Hardy. And we realised that we weren’t all that far from Northenden where we will soon be living.

We’d planned to meet up at The Lead Station for a late breakfast, or brunch, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the food. We’ll definitely be back! It was a warm day and I regretted listening to my wife and not bringing my shorts: she’d said it was supposed to be cold all weekend. On the contrary, we might be having the warmest May Bank Holiday weekend, ever!

Liesel and I parked the car and as we were a bit early, we stopped off for a coffee just down the road at the Foam Coffee House. The coffee was lovely and I’m sure we’ll go back for cake or toast or something one day. We might even go along and play the board games. They had one that I’d never seen before: Subbuteo Table Rugby. I’m intrigued, how does that handle throwing the ball, drop-kicks, scrummages?

There’s a nice little park just down the road too. Very small, is Beech Road Park. Bijou.

Beech Road Park, Chorlton
Beech Road Park, Chorlton

The previous day, we’d taken the children to The Ice Cream Farm, a bit further afield, towards Chester. Martha had a whale of a time in the indoor water play area, Europe’s biggest, apparently.

And I had a whale of a time too, playing with my new Samsung phone, learning how to use the super slow-mo feature, which requires some dexterity with the aged fingers. It was a gorgeous day, and I wish I’d been wearing my shorts… have I said that already?

Here’s the first go:

It’s been edited for duration but the picture is too big for this page. Things can only get better.

That’s Impossible, Mummy

I went for a walk in Chessington a couple of days ago. During that time, I chatted with four former colleagues at Royal Mail.

Our own Postie, Michael, is very helpful and we’re happy to return the favour, to make his day-to-day duty a little bit easier.

Duncan, the Delivery Office Manager, had a hip replacement last year and says he hasn’t felt this good for a long time. Royal Mail senior management don’t get any better. Duncan has just been copied in to a long thread of emails discussing the sale of Chessington Delivery Office and moving the staff into the spare space the Epsom office. All the plans have been made, values estimated, timetables agreed. But there’s just one problem. Royal Mail sold this office ten years ago and have been paying rent ever since.

Paul usually works indoors, serving customers who come to collect items that couldn’t be delivered. He also prepares the up to seven, yes, seven, door-to-door leaflets (unaddressed junk mail, pizza menus mostly) that have to be delivered to each house. 99% of which go straight into the recycling box.

Steve had two knees replaced last year and is recovering well. In fact, he chose to retire a few weeks ago too and syas he’s loving it. Not having to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. Not knowing what day of he week it is. He thinks he might get bored one day, in which case he’ll look for a very part-time job.

But he has grand-children too and I have a sneaky feeling he will be spending more time with them.

It’s a funny feeling spending time with our Martha and William, knowing it’s never going to be enough time, but also planning to leave them for a year while we go travelling.

William has just turned 5 months of age. He has a gorgeous, cheeky little smile and if he doesn’t become the number one joker in his class at school, I’ll be very surprised. He will be able to pick us out in an ID parade, no problem, given the amount of time he scrutinises our faces, while trying not to laugh.

And here we are now, boasting about Martha, just over 2 years old. She is incredibly bright. Not only can she count from 1 to 10, she knows when he has 2, 3, 4 or 5 balls in front of her. Proper counting.

Playing in the garden today, she slipped on the slide, and when her Mum asked if she was alright, she said, “I’m fine.” She usually refers to herself in the third person, as Moo-moo. So, pronouns too.

And when her Mum asked if she wanted to climb up the slide, for the second time in two days, and we just looked at each other the first time, she said, “That’s impossible, Mummy.” What a concept for a 2-year old.

Salisbury and Ireland

Salisbury has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. A Russian migrant, his daughter and a police officer were affected by Novochok, a nerve agent that can only be made in Russsia. They’re still cleaning up the town, but not everyone wears a biological protection suit. So when Liesel and I went to meet a friend there, we chose to wear ordinary clothes.

A lot of ordinary clothes, as it happens, because it was one of the coldest days of the month. None of us walked as far as we would have liked, from the car park to a coffee bar to the Boston Tea Party for lunch, a quick visit to the bookshop and then back to the car park.

The car park was free of charge for up to three hours, in an effort to attract visitors to the town again.

Today, we drove to Reddish to see Jenny, Liam, Martha and William. We’re staying in an Airbnb place because their house is in a state of flux right now, and probably will be until they can move to their new house.

In a first for Liesel, she asked our Airbnb host to sign her book. Our host happens to be Fionn Davenport, a travel writer who wrote the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland that Liesel was reading on the drive today, as we’re off to Ireland next week.

Small world, innit?