Whilst my first wife was watching Strictly Come Dancing on the TV she glanced up at the living room ceiling, as you do. She saw a large wet patch. Consequently I was despatched to the room above it, a bathroom. There was no sign of any leak. A couple of days later a plumber appeared to ferret about in obvious areas to find this fissure. A lack of success gave rise to stroking of his chin and a considerable intake of air as it whistled between his front teeth: the floor had to come up or we had to access the pipes by going up through the ceiling below.
I have several cycling routes that I ride fairly regularly. One takes me out and back into the Yorkshire Wolds. It’s quite a lonely ride with few settlements: just sharp hills and lots of arable farming land. On my way home on such a four hour jaunt I ride through the peaceful village of Full Sutton. I say peaceful because on the outside it is anonymous albeit with a reasonable amount of residential housing and a large prison. I’ve reflected that as the prison is designated ‘high security’ it contains the worst of humanity. However I trundle past and look at the pigs running around in the field opposite reflecting on the free range nature of their existence before becoming sausages.
Despite this tranquility it is somewhat disturbed by being the location of a recent horrific stabbing that led to a prolific paedophile being murdered in his cell. This awful development even made it onto the CNN website. Incarceration can be a violent and hellish existence. I suppose being locked up with malevolent and mentally disturbed men for decades, with no hope of a better future, is a situation that spawns this terrible environment. My next cycle past will make me shudder at what goes on inside its high walls.
I was sat at my desk and a voucher from Lloyds Bank caught my eye. As a customer they gave us six cinema tickets. I’d had half a mind to go and see the above film from its release. So on a cold Friday afternoon with nothing better to do than various chores that seemed deeply unappealing, I wended my way to north York to the Vue cinema.
I grew up with musical films – South Pacific, Calamity Jane, My Fair Lady, High Society, The Sound Of Music. Most of these were from the 60s with no pretence at gritty realism or more ambition than seeing off a baddie and the guy getting the gal after a bit of a chase. The soundtracks were all sublime: how could you fail with Cole Porter, Rogers & Hammerstein or Frederick Loewe. Unfortunately there was no music involved in Downton Abbey but the harmless beautifully overdressed fun was similar.
An early morning text from an old friend alerted me to the latest edition of the local newspaper – The Yorkshire Post. There was a pull out section with images of the past. On the back was a photo of my father. He died in 1989 and 30 years later you don’t expect to see his photo in a newspaper. By the time of his photo I was living away from home but I vaguely recollect him coming across this post box/plate. He was a Councillor on Leeds City Council. I think this may have been something that was surplus to requirements after an old building was demolished and he he bagged it. He did have it refurbished and I expect it then languished in the garage or similar.
So after over three weeks away on my cycle to Vienna (see Posts elsewhere on the site) I was quickly into what my Favourite Eldest Daughter calls ‘life admin” or what I’d call outstanding paperwork. However before I started on this a trip to the supermarket was in order.
My bride had switched off the fridge and freezer before flying out to join me in Austria. This is something that I could have done. It’s worrying to know she has acquired my gift. The fragrance was not attractive on opening the front door. Despite the cleaning up and emptying the putrid freezer it does offer an opportunity to stock up on items that you want to eat. I expect you all experience the same swerve on various frozen foods that have lain dormant in your freezer for months when you check what there is to eat.
Chris left the bar leaving nearly half a pint sat looking lonely and abandoned at the table. Den and I had no interest in the drink but if he’d left for good then we could command the table and sit down. We did. Den and I were in The Bluebell with our wives. Needless to say we were apart from the ladies discussing gripping things such as plastering, taps and the mysteries of insurance claims.
Chris, however, returned but was happy to share his table. Like us he was enjoying a summer pint on Fossgate. Chris was around 70, thick set, a ridiculous shock of thick grey hair and a Van Dyke beard.
Katrina, Favourite Eldest Daughter, is leaving London and her old job to move to Manchester. London was fine but she cannot envisage ever getting onto the property ladder in t’Smoke and the North offers much better prospects. I’m not sure that the fact that her younger sibling is already established there is the draw! (Sophie is flourishing at adidas and now moving into her second flat with her partner). As a professional Human Resources professional Katrina’s job in London was very much a ‘coal face’ type of responsibility looking after the NSL employees servicing Westminster Council’s parking regime as a contractor.
Her previous job was at the plush offices of the National Broadcasting Company in central London. She went from here to hot desking above a shop somewhere in Westminster. Apart from a salary there were no cushy perks. She handled the recruitment and disciplinary issues of over 150 staff. It seemed to be a completely male dominated environment with a large churn in Parking Marshalls (wardens to you and me) of considerable ethnic mix. These people were not highly paid and trudging the streets in winter issuing tickets and on occasion receiving abuse cannot be the easiest way to earn a living.
Apparently it’s Summer. I usually take a foreign holiday in June and so suffering our chilly and rainy weather has been depressing. Clearly the Summer of 2018 may have been down to global warming but it was a memorable few months. A trip to London saw a visit to Stanfords in Covent Garden. Here I perused their vast selection of maps. Specifically I investigated the Australia section. I was looking for fairly detailed maps of the East coast. I was successful. With this I take a further cycling step toward ‘Australia 2020: The Grey Nomad Goes Forth”.
All news now seems to come with such a presentation that you’re obligated to agree or disagree with it. One development where I was at odds to the popular sentiment over the BBC’s decision to abandon the concession of free TV licences for viewers over 75 years of age. In line with the world today D-Day war veterans were hauled out, replete with medals, to emphasise it was a heartless decision. Gary Lineker’s salary was identified as one way the BBC could save money and populist Tweeters like Piers Morgan waded in. uncomfortably, I thought the decision was right.
Surely you’ve seen the episode of Fawlty Towers when Basil (John Cleese) is trying to catch a rat? The rodent belongs to his waiter, Manuel. A long term resident, the ‘Major’, sees said beast and takes Basil to task about his sighting. Basil denies everything….
So I’m sat outside my father-in-law’s quite plush and modern Care Home when in amazement he chirps up that he’s seen a scurrying rat! (Eric is 87 years old and we’re sat outside waiting for someone to appear from inside with a wheel chair to take him inside).
His observation is preposterous. However as we continue to sit outside biding our time I see the rats – eek! Yes two of them playing happily near the front door. More frustrating for Eric is that they appear to nest in a large bush outside his room near a door. We mention this to the staff and get a proverbial shrug of the shoulder. Seems the rodents are a feature of the accommodation and entertainment programme for the inmates.
Talking of senior people of a different generation I loved the media coverage of the Queen inspecting a mocked up supermarket check out. It was one of those check outs where you scan the items yourself. See the image:
After expecting my football team to implode and miss out on promotion, to the Premiership, they did. It was awful to behold the inconsistency of the team and ultimate distress of the fans. In fact the disappointment spread further. I think most fair minded football fans thought it was Leeds’ turn to ascend (along with the media who’d like another big team in the Big Time).
The season ending game, at home was particularly painful. I was in the dark at a Fairport Convention concert (with the venerable Charles Greenwood no less) keeping tabs on the score by phone. On entering the venue we were winning 1-0 (and 2-0 on aggregate). Then they let in four goals.
So did you enjoy the music Tony? Not really the band were fine musicians but sat down throughout reflecting their age (and acceptance thereof); their main passion arose through selling a festival they ran, selling a biography one of them had written and any other merchandise that you could procure near the foyer. More engaging was the folk club banter between songs. Some was amusing but the fiddle player went on one rant about Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. Left of centre political lecturing or comment is typical of many concerts but I still consider it to be inappropriate and an indulgent abuse of a captive audience. If you were paying the plumber to come and do some work and out of the blue he started unloading his views on climate change suggesting that those who disagreed were ‘misogynistic, racist clowns’ and the unattractive vision of a politician’s ‘bulging’ eyes you’d be thinking ‘what is going on?’
Other poor uses of my time occured during the week. As a management consultant I had to measure ‘waste’. That is measure and dissect processes that are wasteful and result in duplication, produce unused or obsolete outcomes, demonstrate poor advance planning, create unnecessary activity to correct mistakes, lead to waiting around etc. It made quite an impact on me and now when I talk to people wrestling with whether to retire, despite being financially secure, I can’t help but reflect on how they are really doing nothing very worthwhile other than collecting a salary.
And so two women from PwC were discussing the audit results on the Pension Scheme account at a Trustee meeting I attended in some posh offices in the centre of Leeds. They had come to explain ‘adverse’ comments they had put in the annual accounts. All agreed there was absolutely no problem in reality and that in fact the monies that they referred to were rather good news. However the large amounts of cash had not been broken down into some detail on the prescribed schedule and as such a few categories seemed unaccounted for. For 30 minutes these sweet ladies gibbered about the analysis of some bloke, back at the mothership, who pronounced on these ‘technical’ matters. We were frustrated and bemused at the woodenness. From here all sorts of cross referencing was discussed to enable a change in the ‘adverse’ comment. I had drifted off by this stage to remember what they agreed but at the end of the day the only reason to give a damn is that someone might, highly unlikely but possibly, check the accounts and challenge our mangement of monies. Later, I imagined both ladies describing their day to loved ones and hoped they might have the good grace to realise that life is short and that they need to get one (albeit one that paid them at least £60k pa with a car allowance).
I’m afraid this isn’t a blog with much upside. The Morgan sprung a leak from a fuel hose and has had to sit in the garage until I can drive it to the local garage for ministrations. Driving it was a 98 Octane experience as I nearly hallucinated on the fumes pouring into the car. A local neighbour and engineer helped me identify the problem. Again, the poor design of the car has lead to a chaffing hose and this problem.
Lastly, I have to mention the untimely passing of a dear lady – Wendy Looker. After fighting Stage 4 breast cancer for over a decade she succumbed at, I think, 50 years old. She was a cherished colleague at Moores. It was some fight where she understood the disease well and the joke was that she attended her consultant appointments with so many questions that the medics had to bring their ‘A Game’ to the meeting. More than that she helped a lot of other cancer sufferers on forums, email, WhatsApp, text, Facebook etc. Strong and selfless. I’ll put a piece, in due course, under ‘Moores’ (see the tool bar above) that arose from a cup of tea I had with her in 2014 where in little less than initial anxiety and then wonderment I describe her and our chat.