Monday 28 July 2014

That's Life plus a Modern Miracle.

    Since my last post the world news has been dominated by conflict.With it has come inevitable destruction, horror, fear, terror Mankind has a great capacity to inflict pain and suffering. I am not clever enough to understand the reasons why. But I weep for those involved. All too often it is the innocent who suffer most.
A plane is shot down on the Russian border with Ukraine. Many die, none connected with the those responsible for the carnage caused. It is probable that the plane downed was not an intended target. No matter, missiles kill; boundaries, territory, possessions, how unimportant compared to the lives of innocents.
War continues to rage between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Who is in the right, in a way, again no matter. Those suffering most are so often women and children. No amount of protestations by either side can justify the sheer terror and desolation brought about by bullets and bombs; often in the name of religion.    
    Meanwhile life for others goes on. None of us chose to be born. Our little lives are lived out and then we die. So, as Mr Pepys did all those years ago, I put 'pen to paper', though not literally and record what has happened in Grumpys little life since my last blog post. ( have never been sure why I blog. They are a source of reflection as time passes. Plus at the back of my mind I like the idea that someone will keep these blogs; what did someone say, 'Chance is a fine thing'!)
   We are wandering through life at the moment minus a kitchen. Of mind bending importance to no-one but ourselves, Paulette and I. When it annoys us as it frequently does I think of the many people in  the world who have no roof over their heads, never mind the luxury of a kitchen.

    Our children and the well being of their families are important to us both. Daughter Sarah's dog ate the sofa very recently. Well not the complete sofa, but large enough chunks of it. A night in the vets, again, worry for all and hands in pocket time. This dog is literally mad, sadly and is incapable of learning from experience. Two days later it ate a soft toy on a key ring. Stolen from a work top, I might add; dogs, like many humans, never learn.   
    The love of daughter Alison's life is PCV 830Y, a battered but much loved Volkswagen  motorhome, circa 1982. Not the most reliable vehicle on the road but it tries. At least it tries our patience! Recently, very recently it occupied space, once again in a local garage. A probable cause of at least part of the problem was located. A nest of field mice had been living in the air filter; I kid you not! The nest was intact, the occupants had eaten some of the paper air filter but no sign of the mice themselves. They could in theory have been sucked through the carburettor but unlikely. How long had they been there no one knows. (Alison has had trouble with mice inside the motorhome for some time.) This may or may not have been the problem prior to this garage visit; the van is old and not new to garage visits. Only this time they couldn't fix it. Three days and much trying later it was low loaded back to its home here in Sunnyhill, Derby; at the moment a very sunny Sunnyhill.
    Now daughter Alison is a very popular young lady not least on account of her 'sunny' nature. ( goes with the territory methinks). Plus she knows an extraordinary number of people. (That is not to say daughter Sarah was ever without admirers. I can remember one such admirer fixing her car at the crack of dawn on the road in front of my house but that's another story. I was still in bed by the way!)
    Alison received several offers of help. James spent time at Alison's but the problem was beyond his comprehension and he is an expert. PCV 830Y was low loaded, again, to the garage premises of an 'old gentleman' the other side of town. (I wonder how old the gentleman is. I am seventy five next birthday, is he older than me I wonder. ) After many hours of examination with the aid of other 'experts' defeat was acknowledged. (Alison was due to go on a pre-booked short holiday this weekend but she was told 'no chance', somewhat inevitable I thought. Devastated by it all, not unconnected with the price of a reconditioned engine, she went out and bought a tent.

       Paulette's mother Francoise, referred to as Nana by Alison, Sarah and great grandchildren died in 2011 (see blog dated    ). Much loved by all her family, her presence is still felt at times by many, particularly so where Alison and her family are concerned. They 'talk' to her on occasion, very relevant, for Alison admits that the dilemma concerning PCV 830Y was the subject of 'discussion' with Francoise.  Now Francoise was everything to us in life, but never a mechanic!

    The old gentleman with the garage phoned to request the removal of PCV 830Y. Only to ring very soon afterwards. He was in a state of great excitement, ecstatic even. He had been disconsolate in the extreme that the problem had defeated him. Having had one last go prior to the vehicles removal he had turned over the engine and been amazed to hear the engine fire. A new battery was procured (this it was suggested was part, but only part of the problem), Alison was united with her pride and joy.         Gingerly driven home, loaded with the paraphernalia associated with the joys of camping with three children, new tent and a dog Alison left Saturday morning for a weeks 'camping' at or near Market Bosworth. (A place very important to the history of this country.)
    As I speak PCV 830Y is still running, albeit a somewhat stuttering, unconvincing 'running'. The grandchildren are enjoying it, plus Ted has had one near miss in the lake. I await their return with interest and not a little bated breath.

(We have had problems with Blogger for some time. I would expect to lose readers over time but hopefully not nearly all! We (my wife and I) have had to change email address etc. We are not sure we've done everything right. Would one or two kind souls 'visit' and to see that we have no further problems. One or two comments would also reassure us that we've done everything right as Blogger has requested/demanded.  Thanks!)

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Rambling, Preambling Bumbling and Mumbling! Using What's Left of the Brain Cel!s.

    Firstly please note, I've caught up and completed outstanding comments! Thanks for your patience. Is it me or is it becoming technically difficult to 'merely' comment on kind people's encouragement. Never mind, it indirectly gives me yet another chance to view modern technology in all its glory. But first an aside, an old man's senile prerogative. (Stand up, that boy who whispered 'Silly old ****!)
    My sister-in-law, forever young at heart has treated herself to a classy, very sporty 2009 BMW Z4. She looks very Princess Grace of Monacco like complete with headscarf and 'shades'. (Look how I know the modern terminology, aren't you impressed!) To complete the image I suggested she look for a 'HRH' private number plate. ( 'Her Royal Highness" to our overseas friends.) Ever helpful I found on the internet details of the sale of such aforesaid plates. HRH 1 was sold a year or two back. It fetched £90.000 plus in DVLA auctions, well over £100,000 in total. But HRH 4 is to be sold, presumably in the none too distant future; suggested price £250,000! (Being a Derby County supporter, my own vehicle number plate is 0009 RAM and no, it didn't QUITE cost £250, 000!)
    I noticed in the week the all new Formula One E racing car practices were open to the public for three days at Donington recently. Coupled with the teachers on strike (Grumpy being an ex-teacher I remember them well. Happy days!) so I thought I'd better further my grandchildren's extra curricular education. So off we went, not knowing what to expect; Ted, aged five, Tommy, eight, Angelina, twelve, grandma and granddad, both a 'mite' bit older!
    Situated not far from my home, Donington Racetrack was famous for its motor racing before the Second World War. Dominated by German cars, particularly Mercedes. Before my time, honest; I was brought up with tales of the mighty German racers 'as a lad'. Post war, after mixed fortunes, it is up and running again as a racetrack and home to Formula 1E. Make no mistake, you are going to hear a lot about these cars in the future. Remember, I'd never heard of electric racing cars until one week ago, so what does this 'old codger' make of it all that is, if I've got it right!
    Made at Donington, all the cars are the same specification, then 'tweaked' by individual team mechanics. Each team has two cars; round Donington a car will do approximately twelve laps before it runs out of 'umph' and is immediately replaced by the second team car. The batteries evidently get very hot, the teams are 'owned' by some famous names (example Alan Prost and Richard Branson, two of the drivers are ladies, the first 'real' race is in Bejing in September and thats about all I know.
    Right or not, we all enjoyed ourselves. We mixed with enthusiastic people who obviously 'live and die' motor sport. We watched in awe these twenty first century beasts of the motoring world. We marvelled at the strange phenomena offered for our delight and bemusement. These cars are not silent, but emit a strange sound as they hurtle round the track; whistle like, a whining, indescribable sound. Plus they are beautifully presented; shiny, metallic, all the colours of the rainbow; you could not help but be impressed.
    I think we all enjoyed our visit in our own way. My wife enjoyed being with the grandchildren, and with me I hope! the children too enjoyed it in their own way, including Ted's daisy collecting. I was particularly pleased to be involved at the very beginning of this new motor sport venture. None of us enjoyed the picnic; because there wasn't one! Paulette left all the food on the kitchen table! (In fairness nobody else remembered either.) So we, or should I say Paulette found crisps, malteses, and
jaffa cakes in a shop at the circuit. Fortunately we had bottles of water in the car so who cares if the 'picnic' was a little unusual!
    A hot summer's day; a trip in a modern motor to see history in the making. Enjoyable but so, so different to my boyhood trips up the fields with a bottle of water and some bread. Mind you, I don't EVER remember forgetting the food!

Thursday 3 July 2014

We All Have Our Idols.

    A face has appeared in the news for the past week. Fame is non existent for most of us, and often fleeting at best for others. Noteriety, infamy, now there's something very different. As Max  Bygraves would say,' Let me tell you a story'.
    "When I were a lad', as we used to say, I stood out in all weathers after a football match at the Baseball Ground, collecting autographs of the players. Our heroes, my heroes, heroically defying the Baseball Ground mud to thrill us with their footballing prowess. Only the prowess of the Derby players was not always present. At one stage we descended to the Third Division of the Football League, only to rise again like the Phoenix in later years. Ah happy, cash strapped austere days. And my little autograph albums contains the names of many, some famous, others less so. I, little Kenneth, did not fully appreciate what I was seeing; three names, for instance Tommy Lawton, Len Shackleton and Wilf Mannion.
    Some say Tommy Lawton was the best centre forward in Britain in the 20th century. Finished his career at Notts County in the lower divisions, and suffered financial difficulties, footballers wages being unexceptional in the Forties and Fifties. Tommy died 6th November, 1996.
    Len Shackleton, rebel extraordinary but a genius where football was concerned. Played for Sunderland amongst others and later wrote a book entitled 'Clown Prince of Soccer'. One chapter is entitled 'The Average Directors Knowledge of Football' and consists of a blank page! Len died 27th November, 2000.
    Wilf Mannion, played mainly for Middlesborough. At one stage regarded as 'The Golden Boy' of British soccer. Played twenty five times for England yet after his football career ended he worked as a labourer and lived in a council house.
    In later years I had the honour of meeting Mr Mannion in a smokey working man's club in Staithes, East Yorkshire if memory served me right. An unassuming, frail gentleman, he eagerly asked me how the likes of Jack Stamps and Chick Musson were fairing. (ex Derby County footballers). Also, they, and others of whom he enquired had long since died. Not long afterwards Wilf died, 14th April 2000.
    Many years later, in the 1990's, having retired from teaching, I tested whether I had any brain cells still working. After months of extreme meticulous effort, though not as hard as teaching I devised a 'Birthday Certificate' which gave very detailed information as to any individuals date of birth. I sent these certificates to many famous people over the years and received many letters in return. Some did not reply, their prerogative of course but I was intrigued by those who did. There are still some lovely people in the world. Don't let people tell you otherwise. (Sadly the details concerning certificate production have since been lost.)
Roger Lloyd Pack, forever remembered as Trigger in 'Only Fools and Horses' sent me a delightful note on Garrick Club notepaper. Can you imagine, Trigger sipping posh drinks in the Garrick Club! Bill Owen, Compo of 'Last of The Summer Wine' fame, real name William John Owen Rowbotham,  also approved of his certificate whilst Stanley Matthews 'Much appreciated' his, sending me a delightful note on Stoke City notepaper. It may be of course that 'professionals' worth their salt see it as their duty to keep their fans happy. Fair enough, but some go over the simple limits of their 'professional duty'. Let me tell you 'A story within a story.'
    James Galway, the famous flutist suffers from nystagmus, a serious eye condition, as does my granddaughter, the delightful Helena. I happened to mention this fact when I sent Mr Galway a certificate. A short while later my wife the industrious, nay illustrious Paulette came into the room with the news that there was 'a Mr James Galway on the phone, ringing from Switzerland'! It was indeed flutist extrordinaire Mr Galway and he gave me valuable information concerning nystagmus. What a generous, thoughtful gesture, a gentleman indeed!
    So many famous persons gave of their time, though their place in posterity was not necessarily assured in a way they had probably expected, for as as I suggested at the beginning of this post  'Fame is a funny thing.
    Andy Gray, footballer turned Sky Sports commentator was a popular figure on our televisions. He wished me good luck on receiving a certificate. I wished him likewise, that is until his unacceptable views on the 'weaker sex' met with widespread disapproval and banishment to the nether regions, at least where television viewing is concerned.
    I have a letter starting 'Hi Ken, signed by a man whose fall from grace is complete; a man of whom  I can find no-one who now says 'I always liked him'; strange but true. I had completely forgotten I had ever made contact with the unfortunate, sad individual until I found the letter I had written all those years ago. A face that has adorned many a newspaper recently, be they 'eyebrow or gutter press.' (The equally sad Rolf Harris has dominated press and media alike most recently. an unfortunate figure I never made contact with, though I was amused by him, like so many others in his early days on the all consuming 'goggle box'.) I refer of course to Jimmy Savile, whose exploits were horrific beyond comprehension. He was, honestly, no hero of mine, though I had never an inkling of the sheer depravity of the man.
    We are all influenced by others as we grow us. It is a part of life, an important part of life I suggest. Who were your heroes my friends. Any of them affected your life for good or bad, for better or worse?

(To all who have so kindly commented on my posts in the past weeks. Apologies, I read every comment. I have not got round to replying. I will EVENTUALLY,  honest! Thanks for your interest, comments are valuable to me.)