How Little Boy and Fat Boy Changed the World

Harry Truman took over as the US President on 8th May 1945 after Franklin D Roosevelt succumbed to a cerebral haemorrhage earlier that day. Truman was not close to the late president and one item of information passed to him must have been pretty shocking. The USA had just produced the world’s first atomic bomb.

These days we all know what nuclear weapons are, but I wonder if the truth about this deadly weapon sunk into Truman when he first heard it. At the time the US and its allies were faced with organising an invasion of Japan which had declined all offers to surrender and so Truman had to take a long hard look at the alternative.

The atom bomb had been created by the top-secret Manhattan project based in Los Alamos headed by Robert Oppenheimer. Two types of bomb had been devised, one code named Little Boy and another more complicated but also more powerful design, Fat Boy. Colonel Paul Tibbets of the US Air Force was tasked to put together a combat group able to deliver the bombs to their targets on the Japanese mainland. The 509th Composite Group was created in December 1944 and the group began training with specialist bombardiers to drop the bombs.

A committee was organised to choose the bombing targets and the result included five possible cities; Kokura (now Kitakyushu), Hiroshima, Yokohama, Niigata, and Kyoto.

Prior to the bombing of Japan, leaflets had been dropped on the population warning them of the attacks and to leave the cities. The leaflet dropping was suspended prior to the atom bombs for the same reason that the US did not attempt a demonstration bombing. They wanted to shock the population into surrendering and it was also possible that the bomb, being an entirely new device, might fail or just not explode.

Truman noted this in his diary: This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Secretary of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital [Kyoto] or the new [Tokyo]. He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one.

On the 6th August 1945 Colonel Paul Tibbets took off in an aircraft named after his mother, Enola Gay and began his mission. Ahead of him was another aircraft for weather reconnaissance and behind him was another to film the resulting explosion.

It was a bright sunny morning when Tibbets started his bomb run and then passed control to his bombardier, Major Thomas Ferebee. The bomb was released at 08:15 in the morning and according to Wikipedia, Little Boy took 44.4 seconds to fall from the aircraft flying at about 31,000 feet to a detonation height of about 1,900 feet above the city  Enola Gay travelled 11.5 miles before it felt the shock waves from the blast.

The bomb detonated directly over the Shima Surgical Clinic. The radius of total destruction was about 1 mile with resulting fires across 4.4 square miles

Enola Gay stayed over the target area for two minutes and was ten miles away when the bomb detonated. Only Tibbets, Parsons, and Ferebee knew of the nature of the weapon; the others on the bomber were only told to expect a blinding flash and had been issued with black goggles. They must all have been shocked by the nature of the blast and the resulting mushroom cloud.

I remember seeing an interview with Paul Tibbets on some old documentary many years ago. He seemed at ease with what he had done. He was an Air Force officer and had followed the orders of his Commander in Chief, the President and seemed content to leave the moral questions with Mr Truman. Truman was of course famous for having a sign on his desk which read the buck stops here!

Down on the ground at Hiroshima, 70,000 people were killed by the blast and the firestorm that followed. Another 70,000 were injured and of course many people died later from either their injures or from radiation. At 7.30 that morning the air raid siren had sounded the all clear so many people were emerging from bomb shelters, although what protection those shelters would have given is debateable. Having said that, some people survived close to the blast who were in reinforced concrete basement buildings.

The Japanese still declined to surrender and only did so after a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. General Curtis LeMay ordered Paul Tibbets to return to the USA to collect another Fat Man bomb although Truman had given strict instructions that only he himself could give orders for them to be used. In any event, the earliest that another bomb could be made ready was the 18th August.

Four years later the Soviet Union exploded their first atom bomb and the USA pressed ahead with the development of the hydrogen bomb, apparently a thousand times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Japan. Today, in 2022 nine nations have nuclear weapons although so far the only ones used in anger have been the two used on Japan in 1945.

Has the world come close to nuclear war? Well, the one time that comes to mind was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. President Kennedy stood firm when the Soviets decided to install nuclear missiles in Cuba and initiated a naval blockade. Soviet leader Mr Khrushchev backed down but even so, Kennedy was under constant pressure from people like Curtis LeMay to invade Cuba. It has since been revealed that the Soviets in Cuba had tactical nuclear weapons, which are another name for the class of weapons used on Hiroshima. So if the USA had invaded, things could have ended in tragedy.

I’m not quite sure what set me off on the subject of nuclear weapons. It’s not a cheerful subject so I think I might just lighten things up a little by going from fact to fiction.

A number of cinema films about atomic weapons come to mind.  Fail Safe is a film I haven’t seen for years until I caught it recently on TV. A computer error accidentally sends orders to a US bomber detailing them to attack Moscow. Various measures are taken to recall the bomber but all fail. The Soviets are advised and the President must deal with not only this but some of his generals who feel this is a good opportunity to attack the Soviets. Tension runs high throughout the film and Henry Fonda as the President averts a nuclear war but at a terrible price.

Doctor Strangelove is a film with a similar premise but plays as a black comedy. Peter Sellers plays multiple roles as the President, his scientific advisor Doctor Strangelove and a British air force officer.

The Fourth Protocol is a film from the novel by Frederick Forsyth. Both the book and the film build the tension nicely. It is about an attempt by the Soviets to destroy NATO by exploding an atom bomb in the UK and blaming the Americans. Michael Caine is an M15 officer at odds with his new boss when his report about a possible nuclear weapon being built in the UK are ignored. Fortunately, others higher up believe Caine and he is given the tools to track down the Soviet bomber.

I mentioned a few weeks ago about how computer technology can really date a film and another example has to be War Games. It’s another film with green text, floppy discs and dial up internet but actually it’s a pretty good film. A young lad played by Matthew Broderick routinely hacks into internet accounts in his quest for new computer games. He thinks he has found one but unfortunately, the computer at the other end of the phone isn’t playing a game and World War III could be about to start.

When I was a schoolkid, one of my favourite comics was The Incredible Hulk. Scientist Dr Bruce Banner is accidentally exposed to gamma rays during an atomic test. The resulting radiation mutates Bruce into an incredible green skinned giant who becomes known as the Hulk every time Bruce gets angry about something. The tag line for the 1970’s TV series was Bill Bixby as Bruce saying ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’ In recent years there have been a spate of films based on the comic heroes created by Marvel Comics and The Hulk was of course one of them. They all suffer in my opinion from being heavy on Computer Generated Images and light on everything else although the Hulk sequel, The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton as Bruce Banner had its moments until it too became top heavy with boring CGI action.


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The Old, the New, Covid and 2022

My first post of 2022 was just a review of 2021 so this one is really my first proper 2022 post. I was due to be working on New Year’s Eve but that scourge of our modern times, Covid 19, stepped in and I had to call in sick.

Covid.

Both Liz and I had been suffering with bad colds and hers was getting worse with a bad headache and a loss of taste and smell. We did Covid tests and Liz was positive. My test was negative which was a surprise but then I haven’t had the headache or the loss of taste. I’m not sure when Liz was exposed to Covid, after all we haven’t been out much lately apart from some last minute shopping and a visit to quiz night at a local pub, the Lord Derby. Anyway, we were of course condemned to a minimum seven day lockdown so that meant no work on New Year’s Eve and no going out either.

We lit the fire, got the red wine on the hearth and settled down while we waited for our curry takeaway to be delivered.

The New.

Just lately I’ve been watching a whole lot of TV. Some of it new and some of it old. I mentioned a few weeks ago about watching And Just Like That, a new series of Sex and the City. Happily, it wasn’t on some subscription TV channel but on normal TV so I was able to watch it. I gave it another try the other day but I wasn’t impressed. Carrie had some hip surgery and Miranda got involved with a lesbian comedian. All pretty routine stuff for modern New Yorkers I suppose but it really wasn’t for me. Another new series was the latest four part JFK documentary by director Oliver Stone. I’ve been interested in the JFK assassination since I was a child and although I didn’t quite expect any new revelations in this new documentary series, I was surprised to find there were.

The so called magic bullet was given a severe bashing by various experts and so was the actual provenance of the bullet. The chain of evidence regarding the bullet was shown to be completely compromised as various new records released by the JFK Assassinations Records Review Board were shown to be either false or incorrect by the hard work of various investigators. The ARRB came into effect after the outcry from Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK and the documentary was fascinating but a little disjointed as instead of covering each issue in full, the films returned to the same subjects again in later episodes. Apart from that it was very convincing despite the poor review I read in the Guardian recently.

The Old.

There were the usual films shown over the Christmas period. Many films like Ghost for instance look pretty modern but it was technology that betrayed how old they were.

In Ghost banker Patrick Swayze was using one of those old computers with green text while Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the film You’ve Got Mail were still using dial up to get online and pick up their email messages. You’ve Got Mail was released in 1998 and Ghost in1990 making it 32 years old this year, would you believe it! Another film I saw that was also dated by technology was The Net with Sandra Bullock. The Net was a thriller about a computer programmer who gets involved in a conspiracy by a computer security company to mine and manipulate information. Made in 1995, dial up internet and green text were evident and there must have been many young people watching and wondering what exactly a floppy disc was.

Making Bread.

One thing that I really love and could never give up is bread. Yes, some may say it’s fattening and full of calories but it’s a food that has nurtured mankind for many centuries and anyone who tries to keep me away from a ham salad on granary is risking their life. When a bread shortage began to rear its ugly head here in Liz’s kitchen a state of panic began to mount. We were self-isolating so I couldn’t go to the shops, what could be done?

The obvious answer was to bring down my bread maker from the dusty shelf where it had lain for the past god knows how many years and to wipe it down and crank it up. I suppose I’ve had that bread maker for about twenty years. Once I got pretty interested in bread making. I had a few recipe books, I bought flour and yeast and started baking. I had a number of disasters along the way but eventually I managed to make some reasonable bread. Then, some new gadget caught my interest and the bread maker was left on the shelf. Why on earth did I stop making bread when I love it so much?

A quick search in the cupboard produced some flour and some packets of yeast and it was time to start up my bread maker once again. The thing is, making bread takes time. First the machine has to mix the ingredients then the mixture has to prove and rise. Then it gets another mix and finally the gizmo starts to bake. I waited patiently looking forward to warm fresh bread and then, many hours later when a huge rock hard inedible blob emerged I finally remembered why the bread maker had been lying on the shelf for so long.

More Old.

The Net was by no means a great film but Ghost was. I remember seeing it at the cinema back in the 1990s and it was one of those word-of-mouth films where the word was, this is a pretty good film, make sure you watch it. Patrick Swayze plays Sam Wheat, a banker who gets murdered. When his spirit is about to be pulled upward into the next world he looks back towards his girlfriend Demi Moore who is shattered and cradling his dead body and Sam realises it is not time for him to go yet. The ghostly Swayze later finds that his killer is stalking Demi. Frustrated and not knowing what to do, Sam wanders New York and finds a medium played by Whoopi Goldberg with whom he can communicate. Whoopi tells Demi about the stalker and Sam’s best friend Carl goes to find out what is happening. Sam is shocked to see that the murderer and stalker is actually acting on the orders of Carl. Maybe Ghost is a little too sentimental in parts but what the heck, I’ve always enjoyed it.

More New.

One new film (well new to me anyway) I did watch was The Time of Their Lives. It was a 2017 film starring Joan Collins and Pauline Collins. It was on in the background while I was tapping away on my laptop. I didn’t catch much of the beginning but Joan Collins is a faded movie star living in a home who decides to go to the funeral of her film director ex-lover in the hope of somehow breaking back into the film business. The funeral is in France and she somehow persuades Pauline Collins to go with her on the trip so it becomes a sort of French road trip. Over in France they meet an Italian artist played by Franco Nero, the one time spaghetti western star. Joan Collins is wonderful in the part of the former film star and I ended up putting my laptop down and giving the film my full attention. Very enjoyable it was too.

2022.

Most years I make the same New Year resolutions. They usually go something like this; finish my new book. Finish my latest screenplay. Write more poetry. Make better videos. This year I decided not to make any resolutions. I thought why not make 2022 a pressure free year? After all, I never make good on any of those resolutions anyway.

Have a great 2022 and by the way, did you make any resolutions?


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2021 And All That

Well, that’s it for 2021. How was your year? Not very exciting I suppose, just like mine, and all because of the global pandemic. One day everything will be back to normal, although I’m not quite sure when that will be. Here’s a quick look back at 2021 with particular attention to some of last year’s blog posts. Click the links and they will open into a new page.

I started off in 2021 looking forward to a break from the cold UK weather in Lanzarote. Lanzarote has just the perfect temperature for me, a pleasant 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and although it can be a little cooler in the evening it’s still pretty nice. In the UK parts of the country were separated into various lockdown tiers. We in the northwest were in tier 4 which prevented foreign travel but then we realised that the restrictions were not mandatory, only advisable so it looked like we might still get away. Our flight was still showing the week before we were due to leave, then it was cancelled, then another lockdown began. Our holiday was off.

As I was stuck at home, I wrote quite a few posts about the lockdown. One was A Mostly Musical Slice of my Locked Down Life. I talked about the Beatles who incidentally are back in the news again as director Peter Jackson has taken all the unused footage from a 1970 documentary, released it as Get Back, and made it into three two hour films. I haven’t seen yet it because as usual it was all shown on some pay to view channel, actually Disney+, so until it gets released on DVD or shown on the BBC, I’ll just have to wait. Pity because it looks pretty interesting.

In the same post I mentioned that Joe Biden was sworn in as the President of the United States and Donald Trump, the outgoing President, was so upset he didn’t even attend the swearing in. Personally, I think it was a pity that Hillary Clinton didn’t run again but as an Englishman living in the UK, what do I know?

As I was part of locked down Britain, I didn’t get up to much earlier in the year so I thought I might impart some of my poetry writing wisdom to my readers in a post about The Secret of Writing Poetry. I even threw in a video of me rabbiting away to the camera and explaining my three different ways of writing poetry.

In March I was still writing about being a Locked Down Blogger but I had started to pine for my favourite sport F1 racing. The season was due to start in March and just to get myself in the mood I decided to watch some old F1 on an old VHS tape. Monaco, TV Ads and the Problem with VHS Tapes will explain what happened. While we’re on the subject of F1, Lewis Hamilton, like Donald Trump, didn’t show up for the new guy to be sworn in, well, given his World Championship trophy, but as the season ended up in a rather disappointing fashion with Max Verstappen winning because of a controversial safety car decision, I can’t really blame him. There are rumours in the media that Lewis might retire but I certainly hope not.

In April I was back writing about books again. I do love books and reading so I thought I’d set down Some Thoughts About Books and Reading.

I went for an eye test in April. For my previous test I’d been subjected to a new electronic gizmo which I didn’t like at all. This time I’d gone somewhere where they used the old fashioned method, a big set of specs into which the optometrist pops his little eyeglass variations until I had the perfect prescription lenses. That gave me an idea for a blog post. Most people take good eyesight for granted but as a lifelong spectacle wearer I can assure you I don’t. I’m used to having to change specs every time I want to read the small print on a CD in a shop or on a book or on food packaging. Now with my new varifocals I can see up close and far away without changing to another pair. Varifocals, I love them.

When I start writing a blog post, I tend to look back on my life and the things I’ve done which is how I came to write a post called A Series of What If Events I talked about how my life would have turned out if certain things hadn’t happened, like if my Dad had taken a job offer that entailed him moving away or if my Mum hadn’t broken off her engagement with another man before marrying my Dad.

In May I’d probably put together a new playlist on Spotify which prompted me to write A Brief History of the Disco Era. I’ve always liked disco music but what was the first disco record? What was the last one? How and why did the disco era end, if it really did end?

In June I was doing a lot of pottering about in the back garden which is how I came to write How Does Your Garden Grow? I’m not any sort of a gardener but Liz certainly is and so I got out my camera and took various shots of her vegetables and my lemon trees -not shop bought but grown from lemon pips, and threw it all into a blog post.

In July I was suffering with a trapped nerve in my neck which was hurting my neck and arm and that painful time prompted A Pain in the Neck as well as a later post, My Arm Hurts.

In August I had managed to get some space in a local newspaper talking about my poetry collection and that led to an interview on local radio. The recording was made available as a download so I duly downloaded it, cut out the boring bits and made it into a short video. The whole experience was one I wrote about in Diana, Meghan, Nixon and Me.

In September I was looking for inspiration not only for my blog posts but also for my videos. Sometimes I’ve made a video inspired by my blogs, sometimes it’s the other way round, I’ve made a post about making videos. From Blog Post to Video was a post about just that, how my blogs and videos sometimes overlap.

In October I hit the Big 65, yes 65 years old or to put it another way, 23,725 days old or 569,400 hours old. Wow, I didn’t realise I was so ancient!

In November I wanted to get a good moan off my chest, hence a post called A Kind of A Moany, Whingy Sort of Blog Post.

In December Liz and I were finally in Lanzarote and I was probably enjoying it all too much which is why Thoughts from A Sun Lounger part 13 was such a short one. Later as I lay on my sun lounger my thoughts drifted back to my childhood and I jotted down a few childhood memories in Make Me A Child Again, Just For Tonight. I even had a few reminiscences left over for The Post Holiday Blues and Other Ramblings.

So there it is, that was my year. Not particularly exciting but I pretty much enjoyed it anyway. To be honest, I may have been a little bored during the lockdown but mostly, I pretty much enjoyed that too. Yes, it was more time for reading, writing and blogging, all of which I hope to be doing in 2022 along with, pandemic permitting, some motorhome travels too.

Best wishes and a happy New Year.


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Christmas Day and Charles Dickens

Happy Christmas and I hope you are having a good one wherever you are. It’s not every year that my scheduled regular post ends up going out on Christmas day so should I make the most of it and deliver a sensational blog post or should I just recognise that today people have other things on their minds than reading a blog post?

Tough call.

Still, when people have finished opening their presents and have had their fill of Christmas dinner, pudding, drinks and nibbles, perhaps there might be a small opening for readers to open up their computers or tablets and have a read of my blog. Let’s give it a shot, anyway.

I caught the end of a documentary on TV the other day about Charles Dickens and how he apparently is the man who invented the modern Christmas just by publishing a short story about Christmas called A Christmas Carol. That sounded pretty interesting to me so as I had missed most of it, I thought I’d do a little internet research.

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 and in 1836 he published his first book, The Pickwick Papers. The Pickwick Papers became a publishing phenomenon by introducing serial publication; the book was published in serial form and it kept the readers wanting to find out what would happen next. In the TV show I watched they had someone on from Eastenders who claimed that if Dickens lived today, he would be working in TV, responsible for the cliff hangers that today’s soaps end with.

A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 and sold 6000 copies in just six days. It was not initially a great financial success for Dickens as he had decided to publish an edition with colour pictures. No colour printing was possible at the time and so the colour pictures were hand coloured by teams of people, all of which added to the expense of publication.

Dickens_by_Watkins_1858

Dickens himself was very fond of Christmas and the description in the book of the party at Scrooge’s nephew’s house was similar to the celebrations at Dickens’ own home. The piano was played, there was dancing, Christmas trees had become popular and Christmas carols were sung. The phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ became popular because of its use in ‘A Christmas Carol’.

The tradition of having a turkey dinner for Christmas began with Henry VIII but became popular in Victorian times. Prior to that a typical Christmas dinner involved goose. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge buys a huge turkey for Bob Cratchit and his family and again that only increased the popularity of a Christmas turkey.

Another company produced an unauthorised edition of the book and Dickens sued, only for the rogue publisher to declare themselves bankrupt, leaving the author to pay for his costs despite winning his case.

Dickens was in need of money and he began a series of readings of his works which were lucrative and incredibly popular. These readings occupied most of his time in the last ten years of his life. He divorced his wife which was highly unusual for the time. He had met a young actress called Ellen Ternan who was 27 years younger than him and he remained passionate about her for the rest of his life. In 1860 he started a huge bonfire at his house, Gads Hill Place in Kent, in which he burned all his correspondence. Ellen too destroyed all her letters from Dickens so the full details of their relationship has never been known. Were they lovers? Possibly, but we can never know for sure.

On June 8th 1870, Dickens had a stroke after working on his last book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He died the next day without regaining consciousness. Some have speculated that he died at Ellen Ternan’s house, and she had him taken back to Gads Hill to prevent a scandal.

He was laid to rest in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey and A Christmas Carol remains one of his best-known works and the name of his main character, Scrooge has entered into the English language as meaning a miserly person. To this day, the book has never been out of print and a first edition copy would set you back about 10 to 15 thousand pounds.

More film versions have been made of A Christmas Carol than any other of Dicken’s works but the one that is head and shoulders above the others is the Alastair Sim version made in 1951. It just so happens that if you live in the UK you can watch it today at 12:45 on Talking Pictures.

Have a great Christmas.


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The Post Holiday Blues and Other Ramblings

Returning home after a holiday is always a let down, even more so when you return to the cold and wet UK after the temperate climate of Lanzarote. One morning I woke to beautiful sunshine streaming in through the window and then went outside to sit in the sun by the pool while I waited for the kettle to boil. The next morning, I woke in a cold house with the wind battering at the window and made my way shivering into the kitchen to once again boil the kettle. In one of the James Bond books 007 calls tea ‘mud’ and claims it was the cause of the downfall of the British Empire. Nothing could be further from the truth because tea, at least for me, is one of the great wonders of British life and whether I am in the cold of a British winter or the warmth of the Canary Islands, I really cannot start my day without a cup of tea.

I had a pretty lazy holiday in Lanzarote. I spent it, like I spend most of my holidays, reading books on my sun lounger, swimming in the pool, having barbecues and enjoying drinks and meals down in the nearby marina.

I did mean, as usual, to work on my writing and as usual, I didn’t. I did manage to write my weekly blog while I was there though. In fact, despite my lacking in the work ethic department, I have managed to produce a post every Saturday for as long as I have been a blogger and this epic you now find before you is my 489th blog post.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my childhood. I had quite a few stories to add to that particular post but I always try to keep to about 2000 words or less and here’s one story that didn’t make the final draft.

I wrote about my bike in that childhood post. I loved my bike and I spent a lot of time on it exploring the Cheshire countryside as well as the country lanes that surrounded Manchester Airport where my friends and I would meet by an old WWII pillbox, slurp dandelion and burdock and watch the aircraft come and go.

Back in the 1970’s, the classic, iconic bike of the times was the chopper bike. It had a low slung frame with a seat and handlebars that rose up to the proper level. Back then I had no chance of getting a chopper bike but one thing I could do was get a chopper seat. I saved up and bought one and fitted it to my conventional bike. It looked a bit odd I suppose but I liked it, especially the tall hoop on the back of the seat.

By Raleigh-Chopper – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

One day my dad, who cycled to work every day come rain or come shine, had a problem with his bike. My uncle came round to help him fix it but nothing could be done. It was a Thursday I think and so all dad could do was ask mum to take the bike down to the cycle shop and to borrow my bike to get to work. I did think about telling him about the new seat but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. The next morning, he went out to the outhouse to get my bike and a few minutes later he was back. ‘What’s happened to your bike? Where’s the proper seat?’

The old seat was there in the outhouse but it wasn’t a quick fix. The chopper seat had two arms that came down and were screwed to the back wheel so poor old dad had to tootle off to work with the bike as it was. Mum and I watched him ride away. She turned to me and asked ‘why didn’t you tell him last night so he could have put the old seat on?’

‘I don’t know’ I said. Then again, it was my bike and I didn’t want the old seat back.

I loved that bike but one day I lost it forever. My brother and I were always swapping things; toys, models, books but mostly records. Our musical likes in those days were pretty fleeting. He’d play something that I realised I had to have and after paying his extortionate demands or swapping whatever possession of mine that he wanted, sometimes I’d find a week later that that record really wasn’t the all time classic I thought it was and so we’d either swap back or I’d wait until he wanted something of mine and then I’d insist he take back the record I’d never really wanted in the first place. Sometimes I’d swap my most treasured possession, my bike. The thing was, my brother Colin couldn’t ride a bike so it was a win win situation for me as sooner or later he’d want to get rid of the bike back to me. One day he really got one over on me.

We’d done a swap for something and he had taken my bike. I was going out for a ride but the bike wasn’t in the outhouse. Where was it? What had happened? Had it been stolen?

‘The bike?’ Colin answered blithely. He had sold it to his friend because he wanted money to buy a new LP.

My mother facilitated the removal of my hands from his throat with a firm whack to the back of my head and asked what was going on.

He sold my bike!’’ I yelled.

‘Your bike?’ she replied. ‘Didn’t you swap it with him? Isn’t it his bike?’

Yes but, yes but,’ was all I could say.

I had taken my video camera to Lanzarote with the vague idea of shooting something, a vlog or a tour of the resort, I wasn’t sure what. Perhaps I could have hired a bike and done a Lanzarote cycling video. I noticed there were electric scooters for hire but at 20 Euros for 2 hours, that wasn’t for me.

In the end I decided to take my camera and my trusty selfie stick and chat away to the camera while taking a walking tour of the marina.

On holiday I don’t watch much TV but back home on a cold December evening I tend to head straight for the TV remote. One show I wanted to watch this week was And Just Like That, a new version of Sex and The City. Now Sex and the City has always been one of my favourite shows. Season 4 was the absolute highlight of the series but the later ones were good too. The first feature film was good but the second one was poor. That’s it I thought, it’s finally finished and rightly so after all, all things must come to an end sooner or later.

The producers thought differently though and minus Samantha, as actress Kim Catrall declined to take part, Sex and the City has returned, thinly disguised as And Just Like That.

A long time ago one of my favourite TV shows was also rebooted for a TV movie special. It was called The Return of the Man From Uncle and despite having stars David McCallum and Robert Vaughn recreate their roles as super cool spies Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, the film was dreadful. The slightly tongue in cheek attitude was gone, the music was different, the super cool way they used to cut to the next scene with a whip pan effect, gone also. The producers cut out everything that made the original good.

In And Just Like That the original cast were all there, just a little older, actually, not just older but old, seriously old. Miranda mentioned she was 55 at one point although I had already got her down as being about 65. Charlotte played by Kristin Thomas was reeling from either far too much botox or a seriously bad facelift and only Carrie herself seemed to have aged gracefully. Nothing in episode one, and I do mean nothing, was anything I could relate to despite my undying love of the previous series. One of my favourite characters died at the end of episode 1 so I had to watch episode 2. This featured a non-religious funeral ceremony in some sterile and unwelcoming New York funeral home.

Will I be watching episode 3? Maybe . .

Another TV event this last week was the finale to the F1 world championship. Lewis Hamilton the 7 times world champ was hoping to extend his record breaking run to 8 championships although bad boy Max Verstappen was giving him a good run for his money. The two were tied on points going into this last race and it was pretty clear that the winner would be taking home the 2021 champ’s trophy. The race was pretty exciting but a late race crash brought out the safety car. Max dived into the pits for new tyres but Lewis stayed out, confident that the race would not have the time to restart.

Restart it did though as the race director decided that it might be best for this race to end on a proper racing lap rather than a safety car. So, in came the safety car a lap early and Lewis and Max commenced battle, Max with new tyres, Lewis with old ones and the result naturally was Max taking the win and the World Championship.

It was a poorly mismanaged end to the season, a season that had been one of the most exciting for a very long time. Max and Lewis had fought it out on the race circuits of the world. Max has shown himself to be a talented and very fast driver but one who doesn’t seem to care for any form of driver etiquette. He lunges into the inside of a corner and gives his opponent the choice of either giving way or crashing. Lewis has had the maturity to avoid a crash mostly although the two have had their moments together.

In some ways I’m glad Max has won. It’s been a bit boring when Lewis has won everything and a new World Champion should shake the sport up a little.

Back to the present and after having my Covid booster yesterday I don’t feel particularly well. I feel slightly sick and I’ve got a mild headache. What should I do today then, Christmas shopping? Wrap presents? Slide back under the covers?

Let me see . . .


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My Holiday Book Bag 2021

A long time ago I was reading a biography about Richard Burton, in fact it was ‘Rich,’ the biography by Melvyn Bragg. Bragg used Burton’s own diaries in his work and wrote, amongst other things, about Burton’s love of books and when Burton went on holiday he looked forward with delight to the contents of his ‘book bag.’ I know it’s a pretty tenuous link but one thing I have in common with Richard Burton is a love of books and when I go on holiday, one of the delights of lying under a warm sun on my sun bed is a good undisturbed read. I read a lot at home and on my lunch breaks at work but it’s a few minutes here and a few minutes there and whenever I get interrupted it kind of breaks the flow. Some books, as we all know, are just made for a really long, uninterrupted read.

It’s a long time since I’ve been able to produce a Holiday Book Bag post, simply because I haven’t had a holiday which has mostly been the fault of Covid 19 so here are the books I’ve brought on holiday with me to Lanzarote.

Peter Sellers by Alexander Walker

I’ve always been interested in the comedy actor Peter Sellers. It’s probably because of a documentary I saw years ago on BBC’s Arena programme, a film about Sellers which used Sellers’ home movies and what has been good about this particular book is that it has filled in the gaps that were missed in the film.

Sellers was an only child, born into a theatrical family in 1925, he was in fact the second child of Bill and Peg Sellers. Their first child, also called Peter died in infancy and because of that, the family, in particular mother Peg, lavished a great deal of love and affection on Peter. The result was that he was not a nice child, in fact he was spoilt rotten and got his own way in everything and developed many traits he would take into adulthood with him.

Peg, Sellers’ mother, had a stage act in which she used to dress in a white outfit and pose on stage while various slides were projected over her. Father Bill was a musician and Peter claimed that he had taught George Formby to play the ukulele. Sellers was called up in the second world war and Peg used her theatrical contacts to get Sellers into the entertainment unit ENSA. She even travelled about the country to be near him until he was posted overseas. After being demobbed Sellers tried to get work as a comedian and eventually got work on a radio show by impersonating the star of that show, Kenneth Horne over the phone to the producer and saying how good that new comedian Peter Sellers was. Sellers admitted the deception but the radio producer was impressed so Sellers was asked to join the cast of the show.

From there, Sellers met Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe and together the group started the Goon Show, the famous hit radio show for which Sellers provided numerous comedy voices.

The next step for Sellers was into films and his big break was getting a part in the film The Ladykillers in 1956. His film hero Alec Guinness was the star. He starred or co-starred in numerous British comedy films before appearing with Sophia Loren in The Millionairess in 1960. The Millionairess made him an international star.

The book tells of his various film roles including his most famous one, that of Inspector Clouseau, a part which he only got after Peter Ustinov turned it down. The author also recounts Peter Sellers’ odd behaviour, his numerous purchases of cars and gadgets, his wives and how his staff had to deal with his various tantrums. His final wife, Lynne Frederick even gets a good review from the author although in other books and documentaries she has not come out looking as good.

Sellers died of a heart attack in 1980, aged only 54.

I do love books about films and film making and this one was an excellent read.

Death of a Glutton by MC Beaton

This is a novel in the Hamish Macbeth series and part of my mission to read all the Macbeth books. The last few have not been great reads. Death of a Prankster wasn’t exactly riveting but this one is much better. It’s not a classic of literature by any means, it’s just a pleasant read. It follows what I have come to think of as the Agatha Christie style of a whodunnit. You know what I mean, a group of suspects gathered together by the detective, in this case Hamish Macbeth and we know one of them is the murderer. This eighth entry in the Macbeth series is about an overweight woman, a part owner in a dating agency who alienates all the potential lovebirds with her constant eating. The co-owner of the agency wants to get rid of her. Is she capable of murder or does Hamish have his eye on someone else?

A pleasant holiday read, nothing more.

Bill Clinton: An American Journey by Nigel Hamilton

I’m a great fan of biographies and I picked this book up ages ago in one of those remainder book shops. I keep starting it and then moving on to something else so I grabbed it for this holiday book bag, determined to finish it. Bill Clinton was born Bill Blythe and took the name Clinton when his mother married Roger Clinton. It wasn’t a good choice on his mother’s part as Roger was an alcoholic and Bill had to cope with the consequences of Roger’s drinking for many years. Bill was a bright youngster. He did very well at school, he seemed to remember everything he had read, he was very intelligent and a born networker. Perhaps as a consequence of his home life he was good at sorting out feuds and disputes and when he grew tall and strong, he was able to intervene in the often violent disputes between his mother Virginia and Roger.

Bill won a scholarship to Oxford in the UK where he widened his circle of friends. Back in Arkansas he had worked on Senator Fulbright’s election team and also discovered women. Like JFK his hero, Clinton had numerous liaisons which didn’t stop when he met Hilary Rodham. She was nothing like the usual girl he became involved with. She wasn’t good looking, wore huge goggle like spectacles, had greasy hair and apparently wasn’t keen on too much deodorant. After university she went on to be part of the Senate’s Watergate Investigation staff but later joined Bill in Arkansas where he decided to run for Attorney General and later, for the Governorship. The two married and formed a wonderful political partnership that would ultimately take them to the White House.

In his election campaign President Bush thought Clinton would be easy to defeat and began to focus on the third-party candidacy of millionaire Ross Perot. Perot withdrew from the race, and then re-entered. A key moment was in the last of the debates when Bush was unable to properly answer a question from a member of the public about the personal effects of the recession. Bush was confused but Clinton answered the woman directly and had seen many issues in his home state of Arkansas concerning loss of jobs, loss of homes by people unable to pay mortgages and so on.

Another moment was when on live TV the Clintons were asked about Gennifer Flowers. Hilary jumped to her husband’s defence and asked for privacy and then told the viewers that if they didn’t like Clinton then they shouldn’t vote for him. The public did vote for Clinton and in large numbers.

Author Nigel Hamilton has produced an interesting book that is conveniently put together in bite sized and subtitled short sections. I’m not sure whether he really gets close to who Bill Clinton really is but all the information is there to make your own deductions. One of the interviewees for the book comes right out and calls Clinton an inveterate liar. He lies about many things but particularly about his personal life, his many affairs while governor and in particular his twelve year relationship with Gennifer Flowers. There are many comparisons with Clinton’s hero JFK, partly because Hamilton wrote a book about him too. I remember reading that he declined to add a second volume because he didn’t like what he had learned about Kennedy in his research. This book, subtitled An American Journey is only volume one although nowhere on the book does it state that.

The book comes to an abrupt end when Clinton wins the election. There is no description of Clinton’s joy or reaction to his victory. I suppose I’ll have to buy volume II to read about that.

An Autobiography by Agatha Christie

A while ago I was thinking that it’s about time I read something from one of the best selling authors of all time. Searching through the internet I came across Agatha Christie’s autobiography so I thought that might be a good starting point. A lot of the media stuff I do for Floating in Space portrays it as a lost world, the world of 1977 when the book is set. Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and her book truly is a portrait of a lost world. She claims she didn’t come from a rich family yet her mother and father lived in a large house. They had cooks, nannies, nurses and other servants. Her father, who she says was a very agreeable man, had a private income. His father had made investments that paid him handsomely so he was never obliged to work. He left every day for his club, returned home for lunch and then returned to his club to play whist. During the season he spent his time at the cricket club where he was president. Agatha tells various stories of her childhood in Torquay. They are all well observed tales of life in a Victorian house. Later her father dies and the family is struggling for money so they rent out the house and decamp to various places in France, including Paris. Agatha’s lifelong love of travel must stem from these early visits to the continent.

Later she leaves home and marries an airman from the newly formed Royal Flying Corps and tells of her voluntary work as a nurse in WWI. For a while she works in a pharmacy and after being introduced to various poisons gets the idea of writing a murder story. She does so and takes it to various publishers. None seem very enthusiastic about it but eventually she gets to have the work published. She is quite pleased with herself although she only makes a little money. Her first book featured Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective. She chose a Belgian as there were then many Belgian refugees in England as Belgium had been invaded by the Germans. Later she writes more books and is buoyed when a newspaper asks to serialise one of them. She realises then how poor her publishing contract is and engages a literary agent who stays with her for many years.

To conclude then, this is a very enjoyable well observed book and has made me want to add some Agatha Christie novels to my reading list.


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Make me a Child Again, Just for Tonight

I’ve not been at my absolute best this last week. Liz brought the last dregs of a cold over with her from the UK here to Lanzarote and gradually gave it to me. While I’ve been coughing and sneezing I’ve been lacking in a little inspiration for my blog posts and so have just written about our holiday. Two things have given me some ideas. One was a new book I’ve started, the autobiography of Agatha Christie, one of the best-selling authors ever. Her book has so far been a delightful read. She describes scenes and events from her childhood, in the days before Queen Victoria passed away, (Agatha was born in 1890) with great charm.

Another was a blog I read recently on the website Medium.com and the author quotes a poem, Rock Me To Sleep by Elizabeth Akers Allen, which in part goes like this:

Backward, turn backward, O time, in your flight,

Make me a child again, just for tonight!

In my early teens we moved to a house in Cheshire which was on a new ‘overspill’ estate built by Manchester city council. It was only a two bedroomed house so my brother and I had to share a room, much to our mutual annoyance. Originally both beds were under the window, one on either side of the room with a chest of drawers in between. Later I moved my bed to the opposite end, just by the door and closing my eyes I can just see the sunlight coming through the thin curtains. My brother is not there, he has gone to school I suppose and I must either be off sick or it was one of those wonderful days when the school boiler broke down and everyone was sent home on a Thursday for an early weekend.

After a while Mum comes in with a cup of tea and announces that lying in bed all day will not be permitted. She opens the curtains and the light comes flooding in.

‘Your breakfast will be ready in ten minutes’ she says. ‘If you’re not there I’ll be giving it to the dog.’

That’s me told I think so I drink my tea and scan through whatever comic or book is down by the bedside. Later Mum shouts ‘It’s on the table!’ and I throw on some clothes and go down to the kitchen. There bacon, egg and tomatoes await me.

‘Have you had a wash?’ Mum asks.

‘Not yet,’ I answer.

‘Well make sure you have one.’

I start eating and Bob our dog walks over. He sits down on the floor beside me and I look at him, hold out my hand and say ‘Gimme your paw’ which he obediently does.

‘Don’t go feeding that dog,’ warns Mum.

After breakfast Mum makes more tea and sits down herself with some bread and jam before reminding me to have a wash. Then she shoos me away saying that this is her and Bob’s private time. She had probably been on the go all morning getting my dad ready for work, making his breakfast and his sandwiches as well as doing the same for my brother. She was always busy.

Some years later I had left home and came to visit on a Sunday. Mum was in tears because Bob had dropped dead on the previous evening. Dad was going to bury the dog where all the family animals were buried, in the garden but this house was a new build, and he found that when he dug down there was a layer of rubble there that he couldn’t get through so Mum resolved to take the dog to the vet on Monday where she knew they could dispose of the body.

She had intended to put poor old Bob in her shopping trolley but by Monday rigor mortis had set in and she couldn’t get Bob into the trolley. Happily, one of her neighbours came to the rescue and drove Mum and Bob to the vets.

Bob the Dog.

I have to add this one last story about Bob before moving on. A few years ago, Liz and I were motoring through France in our motorhome and we stopped in a pretty big town where they had a large municipal stopover for motorhomes. We found ourselves a spot in this busy place and the parking bays backed onto a grassy area with picnic tables. It was really quite a lovely spot. Liz began to sort out our food while I took plates and cutlery over to the table. As I approached, I had a sort of odd feeling that something was about to happen and there was a really friendly dog who greeted me like a long lost friend. He wasn’t jumping up or anything but he was pleased to see me. Anyway, we brought the food and wine over and sat down and the dog sat just by me.

I looked at the dog and held out my hand and said ‘Gimme your paw’ and the dog gave me a doggy smile and placed his paw in my hand. Now I know you’re not going to believe this but I’m certain that dog was my old dog, either reincarnated, or possessed of the spirit of old Bob in some way. Whether by accident or design, Bob had come back to see me. A few people passing by saw him and asked about him and what his name was and so on. I told them I didn’t know and assumed he came from one of the many vans parked nearby. All the while he was there he watched me intently with that same doggy smile on his face. Later when I took the plates and things back inside the van, Bob the dog was nowhere to be seen.

Mum had mentioned her private time but my private time back then was reading books and comics and there was little in the way of daytime TV in the late 1960’s and early 70’s although sometimes there were some pretty good school programmes. I always remember watching one about how newspapers and journalism had been used or portrayed in films. In one part they showed clips in which a comic strip artist set up various scenes and had a photographer take pictures. Later he rendered the scenes into a comic strip for a newspaper and the character, played by Jack Lemmon turned to his valet played by Terry-Thomas and started to talk about their next ‘caper’ as they called it. I wish we’d been able to watch it at our school. We had this huge TV in a cabinet. The teacher used to wheel it out and we’d watch some schools programme but we never saw one half as good as the comic strip one. It took me years to find out what the film was. It was called How to Murder Your Wife and if you ever catch it on TV, it’s well worth watching.

A bit later on I was tasked to take out the dog so we walked up to the old abandoned RAF camp that was just across from our estate. Entry was strictly forbidden but the locals had opened up gaps in the fence and it was easy to walk in. I loved that RAF camp. It covered a huge area and all the camp roads and buildings were still in place. The roads were in good condition but a lot of the buildings looked ready to collapse. There were about three or four huge towers going up about three storeys high. One had an iron ladder attached to the outside wall but it started about six feet up so to get to it you had to scale the crumbling brickwork just to get a handle on the ladder. One day I managed to do it and hauled myself up the ladder. I went right to the top and was just able to pull myself into a small space right at the very pinnacle. If I’d have fallen off or had the ladder fallen away, I’d have been killed but it was one of those daft things that kids do. There was a great view but the hard bit was slipping down from that top space onto the ladder to get down.

My brother Colin and mum at the Heysham Kart Racing Track

Sometimes on the camp a kart racing team appeared. It was just a man and his son and they prepared the kart; Dad did some engine tuning and his son took off for a few laps. I was always asking if I could have a drive but they wouldn’t let me although we chatted a lot about motor racing. They told me about a kart track in Heysham where they had raced and once, when we went on holiday to Morecambe we visited the track although sadly, there was no racing on.

I took Bob home and it was time for more tea and then I took my bike to the RAF camp for some laps round the camp roads. I had worked out a racetrack in my note book around the camp and timed myself racing round there on my bike and used to jot down my lap times including things like fastest lap on a weekday, fastest weekend lap, all time fastest lap and so on. One day the council decided to send in a tractor which deposited a load of rubble at each of the junctions so neither me nor my friendly father and son kart team could race around there anymore. Later the tower and all the buildings were reduced to rubble. Today all remains of the camp have gone and a new private housing estate occupies the site.

Later my Dad arrived home from work on his pushbike. In Agatha Christie’s autobiography she describes her own father as ‘a very agreeable man’ and even adds a quote from my favourite book David Copperfield:

‘Is your brother an agreeable man, Peggoty?’ I enquired anxiously.

‘Oh what an agreeable man he is!’ exclaimed Peggoty.

My Dad was an agreeable man just like Agatha’s and it was that comment which sparked off most of these memories. Anyway, after Dad arrived home it was usually time for tea. My Mum was a good cook but she had a limited repertoire of dishes. Curries, pizzas and pasta dishes were unheard of for her and even today when she is 92 years old, stricken with dementia and living in a home, if I can’t seem to get a reaction out of her, I’ll simply tell her curry is on the menu for tea and she will be almost jumping out of her chair ‘I’m not eating curry!’ and she won’t relax until I say I’m joking.

Back then my favourite meal must have been meat pie. Mum used to buy her meat from the butchers and she always minced the meat herself with an old metal mincer which she screwed to the table top. She cooked it slowly and always made her own pastry. She’d serve it with either mash and carrots or chips and peas, both with lashings of gravy and piles of bread and butter. It was lovely.

One of my favourite TV shows then was MASH with Alan Alda. I just loved it and still do, the way they could mix madcap humour with tragedy, and I used to record my favourite episodes. Alas, there were no VHS recorders back then and a hard driver recorder was just a twinkle in some pre-teen inventor’s eye. What I did was record the soundtrack on my cassette tape recorder. Our TV didn’t have a jack plug either so I had to use the microphone and ask people to be quiet which was an absolute impossibility for both my Dad and my brother.

Once during a recording, Mum called ‘dinner’s ready’ and we all trooped silently out to the kitchen. Afterwards Dad and my brother would try to be the first back to make some silly comment on the tape.

Bedtime was usually about 10pm. Sometimes I’d myther Mum so that I could stay up late to watch either Monty Python’s Flying Circus or something like The Invaders. I loved the opening titles to the Invaders and the way the narrator read out everything. ‘The Invaders: A Quinn Martin Production!’

David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed, deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow, he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun!

Eventually I would be sent off to bed. Back then I couldn’t sleep without reading something for a while. My brother would complain because I had the light on and I’d say to him ‘go under. Go under the covers just for five minutes!’ Eventually I put out the lights. Just outside was a street light that would light up our room with a reddish amber glow. I can see it now and I can look over and see my posters, one of Jackie Stewart in his F1 Championship winning Matra and another of the lovely Olivia Newton-John, my childhood crush.

I close my eyes for a moment and then open them again. I’m back in my room in Lanzarote, the overhead fan sending cooling air towards me. It is 7.30am. Should I get up or go back to sleep?


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Thoughts and Reflections from Lanzarote

As I write this we are on our 5th day in Lanzarote. I do love it here and it was nice to go to our favourite bar and see all our favourite bar staff there. The manager Juan was pleased to see us and greeted us in his usual fashion, calling out good morning as he does, no matter whether it is morning, afternoon or evening.

I’m not sure that Juan’s English is as good as he makes it out to be because sometimes I can see a little confusion on his face when we talk about something other than the usual greetings and ‘how are you?’. Still, he is the consummate professional waiter, always focussed on who is coming in, who needs attention and even as we chat I could see he had spotted a table that required attention and he was soon off to take their order.

I do love being in a warm climate. There are so many things that once here we take for granted. How easy is it to rinse out a pair of socks or under garments and hang them outside to quickly dry? So easy. Come to think of it, why I have brought three pairs of socks over from England I do not know. I only tend to wear socks when I go out in the evening. During the day I am either barefoot or wearing my sandals without socks. Come to think of it, I didn’t need all those undies either as most of the time I wander about in my swimming trunks.

The villa we have rented is not one that I’ve stayed in before. We came across it just out walking back in 2020 and decided to book it for this year. Actually, we booked it for January but Covid 19 put paid to our travel plans. I have brought my laptop and iPad over and brought an array of electrical plug converters in order to keep everything fully charged. The thing is, this place has built in USB ports, so we didn’t need all those adapters after all. Next year I must seriously review my packing.

Another problem I’ve encountered is this one. Earlier this year a routine check up showed that I was suffering with type 2 diabetes. The doc gave me three months to cut out sugary stuff and get my sugar levels down before recommending medication. So I’ve tried to cut down on my nightly nibbles of chocolate and biscuits. No more sugar in my tea and no more choccy bar in my lunch box and happily I found that on my last check up I was back to normal. Great news but I’ve noticed that a lot of my trousers don’t seem to be fitting me as well as they did and I’ve had to cut an extra notch in my belt to tighten it up.

Before flying out from the UK I duly ironed my favourite shorts that I’ve had for a couple of years but they were way too big so they were jettisoned in favour of an older pair. My favourite trousers are feeling a little big too so I may have to look at buying some new clothes soon, especially with all the swimming and walking I’m doing.

Talking of new clothes. I usually make my Holiday Book Bag posts into a video for my YouTube page. Looking at the video from 2017, I’m wearing my favourite T shirt as I talk to the camera, the same one I’m wearing today. Note to the video wardrobe department. Make sure I’m wearing something different for this year’s video!

The other night we went to one of Liz’s favourite restaurants, Casa Carlos. Carlos is a big guy and always remembers us. He always takes the orders in his restaurant and usually comes and fills us in with the delights of the numerous fishy dishes that are on offer. He generally gives me a pretty black look when I order the pizza but sorry Carlos, I don’t like fish! This year the restaurant has relocated to the centre of the Marina Rubicon. When we arrived, Carlos was not in evidence but the waiter began to talk us through various fishy specials. I tried to look interested but probably failed dismally. We haven’t had a menu yet I told him. It turned out that Casa Carlos has gone hi-tech – on each table is a card with a QR code. You scan the code with your phone and a pdf version of the menu is instantly downloaded. Sorry Carlos, but I prefer an old-fashioned physical menu.

Carlos soon appeared and as usual remembered us and was pleased to see us. Liz ordered some fisherman’s soup and I went for the tomato variety. For the main course I couldn’t seem to find the pizza section but it seemed they just don’t do pizza anymore. I’m not sure if Carlos thought that he’d got me and I would be compelled to order something fishy. He did seem to have a bit of a smile on his face which crumbled a little when I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese. Yes, I know, a rather uninspired choice but the menu just wasn’t my cup of tea. We only go there so Liz is able to eat some exotic fish.

I tasted some of her fish soup and believe it or not, it wasn’t vile. In fact, it was really nice. Of course, I’m full of a holiday cold at the moment so perhaps my taste buds weren’t functioning as they should be.

One of our holiday rules has always been no TV. We’ve stayed at plenty of places with impressive TV and satellite combos but we’ve never been tempted. This year as I’ve suddenly developed the cold and sore throat that Liz has recently got rid of and also because she is suffering greatly with a sore hip, we haven’t done much walking down to our usual restaurants. Well, at least not as much as usual. It’s November and it goes dark early here so we have relented and turned the TV on to watch I’m a Celebrity; Get Me out of Here!

Yes, I know it’s a load of old tosh with plenty of non-celebrity celebrities competing to be King or Queen of the jungle. I’m really not that interested but I think Liz likes it when I squirm at the bug eating antics of the show’s cast. This year the show is not in Australia it is in some castle in Wales. It looks pretty cold as the contestants are wearing numerous layers of coats and body warmers. They consist of a music producer I’ve never heard of, a TV presenter I’ve never heard of, a DJ I’ve never heard of and some others whose fame has just passed me by apart from Richard Madeley, once a presenter on some daytime TV magazine show. There is also a lady from BBC news and two late entrants, two stars of UK TV soaps, Eastenders and Coronation St, so to me that makes a total of four genuine selebrities.

The first episode was last Sunday and by chance the TV set was already tuned to Channel Four and the Qatar Grand Prix highlights were just starting. I’ve not written much about F1 this year but it has been a cracking season with some great battles between Max Verstappen and 7 times champ Lewis Hamilton. In recent years Hamilton has really rendered the sport rather boring by virtue of just winning almost everything but this year he has had to fight to keep up with Verstappen. Lewis won the Qatar Grand Prix so now has an outside chance of overtaking Max’s superior points score. I hope he does because it will be a long time before we see an 8 times champion again.

These last couple of days have been a little dull and much cooler. We mentioned this to our host Carlos the other night but he just dismissed our moan with a laugh. ‘What is it like back home in England?’ he asked. Infinitely worse than where we are now of course. ‘It will soon be warm and sunny again’ added Carlos, ‘don’t worry.’

I think that is really what I like about Lanzarote, the chilled-out outlook and the optimism of its people. If it isn’t sunny today, it will be tomorrow.


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Thoughts from a Sun Lounger Part 13

2021 has been an odd year for me and for most people too I expect. I’ve spent half of it in lockdown and the other half nursing a sore neck and shoulder. Finally, though, the lockdown has eased, things are getting back to normal and Liz and I have jetted off to Lanzarote, one of our favourite places.

Of course we should have been here back in January but Covid 19 and the lockdown put paid to that. Still, here we are, the sun is out and we are ready to enjoy.

In the film The VIPs, Margaret Rutherford observes that flying is a very strange form of locomotion. I tried to find the clip on YouTube but failed but here’s something that will give you a general flavour of her flight.

Flying today has hardly improved. To board a flight these days you must travel vast distances across Manchester Airport, be X rayed, checked and double checked. Asked numerous questions and because of Covid 19 be asked to prove you have been fully vaccinated and fill in passenger locator forms explaining where you will be and what you are doing. These forms cannot be done well in advance, they can only be filled in 48 hours before you travel adding to the stress of the departure. Will I manage to do them in time? Will I be able to print them off? Well, we are here in Lanzarote so we must have filled them in correctly as the Spanish airport staff looked at them and declared us fit to enter their country.

Then of course there is the stress of the flight itself. Flying by budget airlines it is easy to see that cramming that extra paying customer on board takes priority over comfort, so naturally we are squashed into our rather small seats, sold microwaved cheese and ham toastie snacks and tea in cardboard cups at ridiculous prices which, outside of the aircraft, one could normally buy an entire box of tea bags, a loaf of bread, and large portions of cheese and ham. After that the staff continually try to flog us perfumes and other duty free goods that we really don’t want.

One day I’d like to travel on a flight just like the ones I have seen on films, you know, with big comfy seats and lots of extras. In the film Die Hard II, while Bruce Willis is sorting out a bunch of terrorists down at the airport, his wife is travelling on an aircraft with lots of leg room and can even make phone calls from her seat. OK, terrorists have taken over the airport below and her plane is running out of fuel but at least she is comfy and I’ll bet she wasn’t charged £4.50 for a cheese and ham toastie.

The pool, a Lanzarote evening, an aircraft tea and the setting for evening food and wine.

After the stress of travelling, it was nice to settle down in our lovely rented villa and begin to enjoy the delightful weather. In Lanzarote, the weather is always perfect, or so it seems to me. It is not too hot and not too cold. As I write this the temperature is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. For those of you who prefer Celsius that equates to about 21 of their degrees but either way, it a very pleasant temperature indeed. Perfect for lying in the sun, (a favourite pastime of mine) reading, (another) and swimming (yet another one)!

The villa is lovely, fairly near to the marina with its bars and restaurants but still in a quiet area. Over the way a new hotel has sprung up, still in the early days of the building process but the builders are remarkably quiet given the huge size of the project. When we came here back in January 2020 I noticed that quite a few building projects seemed to be under way. I remarked last time that work had recommenced on a villa behind a huge advertising hoarding announcing ‘opening in 2017’. That was 2020 but the Spanish are not ones to rush things. They have a similar philosophy to my own, there is always mañana.

Today’s surprise event came after a naked swim in the pool. We were drying off in the sun when we heard the call of the lesser spotted pool cleaner. ‘Morning! Pool cleaner!’ They were gracious enough to make a hasty retreat while we made ourselves presentable.

I have brought a small collection of books with me so hopefully I will be able to create another Holiday Book Bag blog post, something I have not done for a very long time.

Well, that’s about it from me this week. What should I do now? Have another swim, read a little or just decant some vino tinto for later?


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https://youtu.be/JzJA9YIAGls

A Kind of Moany Whingey Sort of Blog Post

As this is my 484th blog post I hope I can be forgiven for tending to repeat myself now and again. I’ve probably said this before but what the heck, I’ll take a risk and say it again; I really don’t like this time of the year. I don’t care for Bonfire Night or Hallowe’en and on top of that I’ve experienced some unmitigated disasters this week involving video cameras and my mobile phone. Anyway, what shall I moan about first? Let’s get Hallowe’en out of the way!

What is Hallowe’en all about and how did it creep over the Atlantic from the USA to the UK? TV is probably the culprit but basically Hallowe’en is an excuse for kids to dress up and knock on other people’s doors and ask for sweets. Go away! This is a Hallowe’en free zone! I keep meaning to put that up on a sign outside the front door but of course I never do, although either way, the neighbours have probably got the message because these days they just don’t bother knocking, so if there are any sweets around I’ll just scoff them myself.

On October the 31st the new series of Doctor Who began on the BBC. The 13th Doctor is of course played by Jodie Whittaker and for some reason the last time the Doctor regenerated into a new body, he or she found himself/herself this time in a female one. In some ways I kind of like Jodie as Doctor Who. She’s kept all the Doctor’s quirky elements and odd humour but instead of being a man, she’s a woman. Personally, all respect to Jodie, I’m hoping that the new Doctor – this is Jodie’s last series in the role – will once again be a man. I mean basically, that’s what the Doctor has always been, male. Of course, in the media there are calls for another woman to play the role and even for the new James Bond to be a woman or even a black man. The thing is if we are going to swap genders and ethnicity randomly why not remake Sex and the City with men instead of women? Why not have a white man playing Shaft?

Here’s an idea. Why not leave things as they are and perhaps make new productions for new female time travellers and new female black, Asian or even oriental secret agents?

Anyway, getting back to Dr Who, this new episode was actually pretty good although there were so many plot elements, I just wondered how they were all going to fit together. The Doctor’s new companion was played by Liverpool comedian John Bishop and he was actually pretty good. In one sequence he opened the door to some kids on Hallowe’en and gave them some sweets but gave short shrift to someone else who was knocking on the door just hoping for a freebie and who had not even dressed up. ‘On your way’ said John to that guy which just about sums up my feelings about Hallowe’en.

The other nightmare that occurs at this time of year is bonfire night. A long time ago a fellow by the name of Robert Catesby decided he wasn’t very happy with the government so he decided to blow the lot of them up. Funnily enough I’m pretty sure that is something the people of 2021 would like to do to the current government. Anyway, I’m not sure what Catesby was planning to do next, take over or start a revolution or what but he and his fellow conspirators, the most famous of which was Guy Fawkes, were apprehended before they could light the blue touch paper on the gunpowder plot and were quickly dealt with.

These days a fellow like Guy Fawkes would be suing the government and claiming legal aid and all sorts of stuff. Back then we didn’t mess about, we just chopped off the guy’s head. Case closed. Actually, not quite case closed because every year on November the 5th, we light bonfires and let off fireworks to remember him. Perhaps this is a subtle message to the government, a reminder that the people can only take so much or perhaps it’s just an excuse to let off bangers and rockets at all times of the day and night for weeks on end either side of the 5th and annoy the hell out of everyone.

I arrived home on bonfire night and believe me, it felt a little like I had been transported to a war zone with great explosions going off around me and sudden unexpected rockets taking off from every corner. I’m glad that’s over anyway, well just as soon as everyone has finished off their firework supply.

At Liz’s house she still has an old fashioned coal fire and I have to admit that it’s nice sitting by the fire with a bottle of wine just on the hearth gradually coming up to serving temperature. The big pain is having to go out in the cold and rain to fill up the coal scuttle and to light everything on a cold morning instead of just clicking on the central heating button.

The other night having made a superb fire I realised I hadn’t filled up the coal scuttle so I had to go out in the rain and cold and fill it up. It was a little dark out there so I took my phone and lit up the torch so I could see where I was shovelling the coal. What a great idea to take my phone out. Wrong because like the twit that I am, I left it there in the rain and it got totally drenched.

When I remembered it and retrieved it, the phone was soaked through. At first it seemed in pretty good shape but then it kept switching itself off and on. Liz had heard it was a good idea to put the phone in a bag of rice which was apparently sure to soak up the moisture. So while that was drying out I thought I’d put the sim card in my old phone. It used to have a serious battery problem which is why I bought my latest phone. Anyway, after charging it up I thought I’d just slip my sim card in. Wrong. My old phone takes a mini sim and my new one takes a nano sim and I couldn’t find the adapter to fit my nano sim into the mini sim slot! Technology! If they are not changing from VHS video tapes to DVDs they are changing sim cards to infinitely smaller ones.

What made the situation worse was that I was expecting a telephone consultation with my physio so I really needed that phone. Of course, I could have called them up and explained the situation but the phone number was on my phone, you know the one in the bag of rice that wasn’t working. I was also expecting a couple of other calls too but once again the only contact details were, well not accessible. Amazing isn’t it just how much we rely on our mobile phones.

Here’s another disaster that happened this week. Disaster is probably too strong a word but it’s something else that goes with this week’s general theme. My latest video Return to Manchester over on YouTube was a walk around Manchester taking in some new hi rise buildings that are changing the shape of my home city and a quick look at the old Manchester, namely the canal that runs through the centre and dates back to the industrial revolution of the past. I made it pretty quickly and instead of writing and narrating a voice over I did it off the cuff, just working from some notes. For some reason it seems to have done pretty well as far as viewers are concerned and as usual, I can never understand why. Why does a blog or video that I have worked hard at do not so well, and something else that was a rush job seem to be popular? I get lots of feedback from both YouTube and WordPress in terms of statistics and analysis but I never really know what to do with it or learn any lessons from it.

Last week I thought I’d make a follow up video with a tram ride up to Manchester Airport and do some similar stuff, a walk round and chat to the camera. I also thought that I could combine some elements from a video I made in 1986 at the airport and compare how things have changed. Return to Manchester Airport sounded like a good title too.

Things didn’t start well when my GoPro camera wouldn’t charge up. I had my trusty Canon GX7 with me but I had wanted the GoPro to take some additional stuff. Luckily in my bag I had my cheapo action camera with me. It’s a cheap GoPro copy that takes reasonable video. Anyway, the tram arrived which I filmed on my Canon. I nipped aboard and went to a seat at the front where I clipped my handy suction mount to the window and pressed record. Well, I thought I had pressed record but in fact I’d pressed the wrong button and nothing happened, not that I realised it at the time. I left that to its own devices and shot some hand held stuff with my Canon. At the airport I had a wander around and filmed some chatty stuff to the camera then went down the walkway towards terminal 2 which incidentally, in a few short days I’ll be flying from!

Later, on the way back to the bus station my trusty Canon declined to record any more. The memory card was full but did I have my spare memory card? That would be a no. That was when I realised that when I was on the tram I’d been pressing the wrong button to start recording on my action cam so I hadn’t shot anything of the trip up towards the airport except for stuff I’d shot with the Canon. OK, keep calm, press the right button now!

Back home I found I had only a short burst of video on the tram and had nothing at all of the bus and tram station. However, I did have some in car video I had filmed during the summer of part of the route. It was actually a part that had changed substantially because of the new tram route and I also had some video from 1986 showing how things were many years ago. Yes, in a burst of creative editing kudos I was able to cut all that together and actually put a video of sorts together.

The good news is that I was using the wrong charger on my GoPro camera. I found the correct one and now it’s fully charged up. A bit late in the day for the airport video but ready for action on my next production. The really good news was that a few days later my phone, fully dried out was back in action again. Note to self: make sure you keep that coal scuttle filled up Steve!


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