Archive for November, 2009

A corner will be turned

November 22, 2009

It has been a couple of weeks since my last blog. The mood has been a tad sombre. Following medical advice I have been making a serious effort to become a marginally healthier lump of flesh and bones. Apart from that, and there has been a bereavement in the family.  The death of a 90+ year old grandparent still has to be coped with as best one can even if it is not an unexpected event. I don’t want to dwell upon the emotional aspect of bereavement; it would be strange if one didn’t feel sad on these occasions, and I guess we all have our own ways of grieving. Quite apart from all that, it occurs to me that such a death causes seismic tremors within the social structure of the family. Death forces change, whether you want it or not, especially when it is the death of a grandparent. Grandchildren find themselves nudged a step further into or towards adulthood; parents become the older generation overnight. Nobody stays the same.

Lately I have been experiencing dark moods and I think this is not unrelated to the things I have just been talking about. I have not been in a bad mood, as in grumpy; it has simply been a case of the blues. Yesterday I met with my good friend Tom for what used to be our date with the full English breakfast. I ordered a couple of poached eggs on dry toast and drank my coffee black. One of the eggs was poorly cooked but I didn’t want to make a fuss and have to wait for another one to be done. This time, the plate of eggs on toast amounted to no more than food – victuals that I merely ate – whereas previously the full English had always been a feast that I looked forward to devouring with considerable relish. That is the stark difference.

Be that as it may, I enjoyed talking with my friend over breakfast. I was telling him about what had been going on in my world and he said that his sister had a good way of looking at these kinds of situation. He said that she would say that a corner would soon be turned. I find that way of looking at things to be very attractive. Change is accepted, even if forced upon you, and eventually embraced enthusiastically.

No way forward

It is perhaps coincidence, but this principle was illustrated to me this morning in a very concrete and almost literal fashion. I had decided to go for a walk along the beach at Seaham. I checked the tides before I left my house. High tide had occured a couple of hours previously and so the tide was going out. I parked on the cliff top, walked down some steep steps to the beach, and headed North. It is not safe to walk north on an incoming tide since you can get cut off by the cliffs. I felt confident that things would work out just fine. However, after several minutes of trudging I noticed that the waves were rolling in right up to one of the headlands. I walked as far as I could without getting my feet wet. Although I could probably have run around it by carefully timing the dash to dodge the rollers, I decided against doing this because I could not see whether there was any exposed beach on the other side of the cliff that was effectively barring my way. I felt rather fed up about this. I had only been walking for about 10 minutes and had been looking forward to going much further along the coast. It was too cold to stand around waiting for the tide to go out another 20 or 20 metres, so with heavy heart I retraced my steps.

Clambering about the rocks

I was about to climb the steps back to the cliff top when I noticed a concrete path running in the opposite direction from which I had come, along the sea defences at the foot of the cliffs (I would hesitate to call it a promenade but the presence of dog-walkers and fishermen indicated that this was its function). I found my way onto it and walked for 10 or 15 minutes until I came to another headland around which I assumed lay  Seaham harbour. I left the path and clambered up over the rocks. I have to say that I found this positively exhilarating. Had the way ahead not been blocked by the sea earlier, I would not have explored this part of the beach. The sun was glinting, the breeze was light, and my body glowed from the exertion of leaping from rock to rock. I was happy. I did not climb out to the tip of the headland. The reason for this was that I did not have my mobile. I was wearing good boots that gripped the rocks just fine and I did not think that I would fall, but if I had done so, it would have been difficult to summon help. I shall return again one fine morning with a fully charged mobile phone in my pocket.

I had the wind on my back as I returned to my starting point; I strode out at an easy pace and let my mind wander. I looked at some of the dogs that were being walked on the beach. Many of them looked nice, but some appeared to be related to vicious breeds, at least to my untutored eye. I have occasionally had dogs bark angrily at me at the beach. Usually, the owners have sorted them out and called them away. I started to think about what you could do to protect yourself from a vicious dog when you go for a walk on the beach. The obvious solution would be to wear a full suit of medieval armour. Of course, this might make walking a tad cumbersome but if the purpose was to get some exercise this could be a point in its favour. In terms of energy expelled, a walk of 1 kilometre in full armour might be equivalent to one of 5 or 10 kilometres wearing jeans and a sweater, for example. I guess that armour entrepreneurs would not be slow to push into this growing market. A system of bite marks could be devised with three bite marks embossed on the shins of the suit indicating that the steel is guaranteed to protect against Rottweilers and Alsatians. Some folks might prefer an altogether lighter suit with the two bite-mark protection against the labrador/retriever class. The single bite mark would be reserved for cheap plastic suits that were effective only against poodles. Life guards patrolling the beaches would have to be trained in armour plate recovery techniques to deal with the poor sods who slip on a bit of seaweed and can’t get up again. The authorities would design beach buggy cranes so the guards could cruise the sand and shingle, winching up the fallen for $100 a pop.

I have to go eat some lunch. I’ll speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Robin redbreast

November 7, 2009

Robin for company

It is a bright November morning and I am going to do some tidying up in the garden. I shrug into an old sweater and a pair of jeans. I briefly pause to shovel in a bowl of meusli and then put on my gardening trainers; I keep them handily by the conservatory door. I walk around to my shed and workshop. I inspect a border running the length of a pathway which is frequently trodden by the postman. It is not too bad, since I attacked the worst weeds back in August. I get out my seccateurs, lopers, tine-rake and brushes. I embark on an exercise in cutting back. Sometimes I snip delicately; sometimes I hack savagely when an intrusive fir branch darkens my mood. I am not engaged in measured or skilful pruning; I come to conquer. The debris starts to pile up on the pathway. I collect it into an old dustbin and then make several trips to empty the dustbin into my recycling wheely-bin. I look with satisfaction upon the fruits of my labour and take my tools and implements back to the shed.

I return to the kitchen and make myself a salad for lunch: lettuce, bean shoots, cucumber, red pepper and celery all piled high over a lean slice of ham. I place the plate, together with a bottle of spring water, onto a metal tray and take it back out to the garden. I put up a sunlounger and sit munching contentedly. With my gillet and wooly hat I am warm enough to relax. A curious robin watches me eat, perched upon the twigs of a bush only a couple of metres away. I take its picture with my compact digital camera. Although a telephoto lens on a bigger camera would have been better for the job, it would have had the unfortunate effect of shifting the meaning of the episode too far in the direction of ornithological photography; I was eating lunch and I didn’t want that. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.


Tweaking the life style

November 5, 2009

I explained in a previous blog that I am easing off with my typing at present, owing to tingly fingers. I don’t want to let things grind to a halt, so I am writing a short one now. Following a routine check up at my health centre, I am attempting to tweak my lifestyle in a small but positive fashion. Today I go to Seaham to walk along the sea shore.

Seaham Beach 01

Cliff top view

…Vroom vroom… Leaving the city behind, I bring my car to a halt on the cliff top car park. Grunt… grunt… I’m out of the seat and hear the door close with a satisfying clunk. A couple of key presses and it is locked. I stride over the grass to the edge of the cliff and pause to take a pic, looking north. This is where I intend to walk.



I take my time getting down the steep cement steps leading to the beach. It feels good at the bottom, as if I have entered another world. Civilisation is up there, behind the cliff face somewhere. Here, there is just me and the sea. Of course, there are the inevitable dogwalkers too. The tide is out and I walk onto some rocks near the water’s edge. They are like stepping stones, fringed with a green lace seaweed. Getting out on these rocks and hopping across dry patches of sand takes me closer and closer to the foaming surf and removes me from the beach and even from the frollicking dogs. The boundaries of my personal space bubble dissolve and blend into the cloudy sky and the frothing foam of the breakers. I am supposed to be walking for exercise, yet I am drawn to squatting upon a rock in silent contemplation. I sniff the salt air and head back to the sandy beach.


Waves rolling in at Seaham

I am walking into the wind and the going underfoot is as squaggy as it is squelchy. My boots are definitely up to it, but I make a mental note to purchase a fine pair of wellies; after all, a lifestyle tweak deserves the proper equipment and clothing. I shift up the beach slightly to avoid wet pools of sand and get on to the pebbles. There is no other sound like that of trudging on a loose pebble beach; my thoughts are immediately swept back to my childhood and Felixtowe beach. I reach the rocks that lie at the foot of the next headland and decide to turn back. I have the wind behind me now and this makes the going much easier.


Stones at low tide Seaham

I pause to look at the pattern made by a series of large stones half-buried in the wet sand. I take a pic. I might use it for wallpaper on my laptop. I reach the steep steps and start to climb back up the cliff. By the time I reach the top I am panting hard. If I do this on a fairly regular basis, I shall be able to take these steps in my stride, literally, in future. I take off my old leather bomber jacket and get into the car. I am still breathing hard from the climb. I open both windows and savour the breeze. Then I put the key in the ignition, fire up the engine, and pootle off home. The adventure took an hour. I am glad I did it. When I get home, I put on some potatoes to boil. I prepare a plate of lean meat and quarter a tomato. I listen to the radio while the potatoes finish cooking, then dish them up. Today, there will be no butter melting in droplets down their cut cliff faces. I treat myself to a boiled beetroot; if one can’t have salt, one might as well have a bit of colour. I enjoy my lunch. I feel as though I am off to a good start. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Hair returns rampantly

November 1, 2009
J wig

Cup of coffee regenerates hair growth

I was having a cup of coffee and suddenly I experienced massive hair regeneration. Sadly, the effect appears to be short-lived. I did have a curly perm back in the 1970s when my hair was long. This was done by Pino of Sunderland, if I remember correctly. As for the colour, I seem to remember Henna being very popular among the social science postgrads I hung out with at Sheffield university around that time.