Sunday, 16 June 2019

Father's Day

Double Rainbow over Bury
With Edwin away for the night, it has been a peaceful Father's Day. So yesterday Ann arranged a meal in Bury St Edmunds, and a film, "Sometimes Always Never", a poignant film about an older man (Bill Nighy, though really a "younger" man as he's only in his 60's) whose wife has died, following which one of his sons runs away, and for whom he spends the rest of his life searching, to the neglect of the remaining son. There is an element of The Prodigal Son here, but it certainly drives home the deep sense of loss of a child and how it affects everyone else.

On the way home was a wonderful double rainbow, which Ann insisted on chasing and photographing. I must admit the picture turned out quite good though. It put me in mind of the film we had seen, where the missing son was portrayed as a pale reflection of the strong father, now fading now strengthening, but always in the far distance no matter how hard one ran to catch it.

Today, Ann and I went to the Globe in Clare, one of my favourite watering holes. They generally have a group playing on Sunday afternoon, and today was heavy metal/rock with a lively beat from a good singer. A perfect Father's Day present.

Sunday afternoon in The Globe

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Gatecrashing Shaw's House

Stayed the night in London at Stratford Moxy following meetings. Next morning, as Ann was sipping her first coffee, the fire alarm sounded. Ann insisted she would not go down in her night attire, so I told her we would leave or die together and waited while she got dressed and found her handbag. Finally, as we were ready to join the fleeing throng, the bell stopped ringing. Later, a maid told me it was someone burning the ironing had set it off!

Outside Shaw's writing hut
On the way home today, we stopped off at Shaw's Corner, always a favourite spot. We arrived at 11:00, and noticed the sign saying "Open from 1pm-4pm", but a woman was already opening the doors and told us she was nearly ready to let us in.

"Why does the sign say "1-4pm?" I asked.

"That's when we're open to the public, but we open early for groups," she explained. We showed our cards and waited in the shop area, and three more people joined us. "Right, we'll just wait for the last one," the guide said, but looked surprised when another three people came. "Oh," she said, "they must have made a mistake with the booking. Never mind, we can manage eight as well as six," and she led us off to view the house. We said nothing, and followed as though we were part of the group. This had the big advantage that all the rooms had the safety ropes drawn back and we were allowed to tread the hallowed carpets (albeit in overshoes) and get up close to the original artefacts, in addition to a personalized running commentary.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The death of a woodpecker

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker
Cars were parked all along the road into Clare this afternoon, and twitchers were out in the fields with binoculars and telescopic cameras boasting huge lenses, trying to spot some rarity. Back home, I heard an almighty bang as a bird flew into my window. On the patio, I picked up a colourful bird, but it seemed already dead. I am not knowledgeable about ornithology, but the RSPB site seems to identify it as a juvenile great spotted woodpecker, due to its prominent red cap.

Birds often seem to fly into our windows. I believe the reflection must appear to them similar to the sky, but sometimes they revive after a period of recuperation in a straw-lined box. We've had pigeons galore, a thrush, a blackbird, a coal tit, and even a kingfisher which we ferried to the river at Clare once it had revived, where it shot off as a speck of iridescent blue. Woodpeckers are reputed to have tough skulls to withstand the pounding from their drumming. Alas, this one's skull was not tough enough when it crashed into my window this morning. I just hope it wasn't the bird the twitchers were waiting for, but the RSPB site says these are common birds so I guess they can continue looking in hope.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Back in the Netherlands

Here in Leiden, two hotels have a similar name: "The Golden Tulip" and "The Tulip Inn". Both share the same access, reception and bar, and booking site. Usually we book the superior Golden Tulip, but this time ended up in the lesser Inn, with only single beds and no fridge or mini-bar.

I was awoken at 6 a.m. by a great thump and the bedside light going on. Ann was lying on the floor, he legs kicking in the air and the mattress at 45 degrees under her, the other side waving high off the bed. Somehow it had slipped sideways in the night with Ann on it, until it finally tipped her out and the sliding mattress had flicked on the light switch.

Back into Astellas yesterday for a 'short' contract, collecting the computer and seeing old faces again. Not much has changed since I was here a year ago. I signed in at the desk, and was presented with the same photographed pass I had used when I worked here before, so I could pass through the security barrier without being met, unlike another man sitting with a large "Visitor" badge hanging from his suit. However, walking down the corridor to the lift, I was greeted by a woman I'd never seen before, who said she'd take me up. I asked how long she'd been here. "Oh, since 2007," she said. "I work with Regulatory". We entered the lift and she pressed the button for the 2nd floor. I said I needed the 3rd floor for Safety. "Oh!" she said, "aren't you Dr. Suzzi? I must have met the wrong person!"  and hurried back down.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

An obvious interference

Scruff keeps the chair blocked off
His illness has left Edwin to sleep a lot, for which he prefers my chair, as it is more comfortable than his own, and has an electrically operated footrest to turn it into a semi-bed. Whilst he was very ill, I had no problem with this. But now he is showing some signs of improving, he sometimes leaves the chair to do other things. Last week I came down to find his Scruff sitting in my chair, like the proverbial German blocking the sunbed with his towel. This Scruff is a well-travelled animal that has seen the world with Edwin. In his luggage coming back from Asia once, Edwin found he'd been slit open and searched for drugs!

Listening to the news from the Netherlands today, it was interesting to hear that President Trump is supporting Johnson for PM, that Britain should get on with a clean break Brexit, and proposes that Farage should be in charge of the negotiations. Ann says, never mind about Russian interference in our politics - we have enough to put up with from American interference. But at least it is overt interference - Trump does not do subtle.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

A Happy Day

Ann and Grandad-John at The Mill
Yesterday we should have been in France. We had booked the hotel in Dover for Thursday and Friday nights, and the ferry for a day trip, but our plans were sent cock-eyed by the unexpected illness of Edwin. On Tuesday, he had high fever, swollen tonsils and tender glands the size of marbles, and couldn't swallow. He was started on antibiotics, but on Thursday was worse, with soaring temperature and his glands the size of golf balls. We had to take him back to the doctor, this time with a diagnosis of severe glandular fever. He will be highly infectious for some time and has had to cancel his appointments at university - though he is so ill, he has been confined to bed anyway.

So yesterday, with his temperature down a little and able to sip milk, we went to the Mill at Sudbury. It turned out to be a perfect day, although unexpectedly in England. The sun was warm, we had cream tea with G-and-T on the balcony (though just Coke in my case, as I cannot take spirits now), and walked leisurely in the meadow by the river.

A new otter at Clare
In the morning, I took the dogs for their regular walk in Clare Country Park, where they have installed a number of new visitor notices, including a huge carved wooden sculpture of an otter, much admired by the curious dogs.

Relaxing in the garden today over a bowl of soup and a refreshing Crabbies after cutting the lawn, I was reminded of a story my mother used to tell when we were little. The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle relates how she wished fervently for a slightly better place to live, but on being granted her wish, kept wishing for someplace even better. Finally she wished for a whole palace, but the granter of the wish was so fed up by this time, that they put her back in the vinegar bottle! I think my mother used the story to discourage over-ambition, but lying in the sun listening to the birds I am reminded of how I sometimes wish for elsewhere, and forget how much I already have.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Team work

My son Ben and his family stayed yesterday, and we subjected them to an entertaining evening of Eurovision. We went to the Flying Shuttle for lunch, to leave them conveniently on the road back to Shropshire, but in the carpark Ben noticed he had a completely flat tyre, in a car with no spare. It was already past two o'clock, and to the surprise of all of us, there is no mobile tyre service in the UK! He phoned the AA, and they too are unable to repair tyres, though they offered to send a breakdown truck to provide a lift back to Telford. Edwin found which tyre services were open on Sunday; grandson Luke confirmed the Newmarket Quickfit was closest, just 11 miles away; Matthew phoned to check they had a tyre of that size and offered to bring one down from Kings Lynne; and Ben  pumped up the tyre with a hand-pump and some goo to try to block the hole, while his partner Kaz phoned the AA back to cancel the breakdown truck. We then went to eat while he drove to Newmarket, stopping every so often to re-inflate the tyre. Finally he phoned to say he was on his way back, and we ordered his meal to be ready for him.


I am tired of morbidity
and endless pessimism,
Life was meant to be lived
not in some dark vacuum,
but in the hope and optimism
that there are better days ahead,
and, should that seem a false dream,
well, there is an easy way - DEATH,
an ending, a finality
succumb then with final breath—
or smile at strange life,
welcome it with open door,
see it through to acid end.

All too often in life we panic at any set-back, or make rash, unsensible decisions, or argue about the way out of a problem, with friction, bitterness, and lack of accomplishment the only outcome. It was wonderful to see how well a clear objective can be achieved with a great team working in harmony. So in life, if we can set a goal and work together to achieve it, we can achieve a good outcome, without rancour or recrimination.