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London…….not done……. NEVER!!

London…… an annual event for the Frantony family.  I know its ‘hustle and bustle’ but for us, well…. we find it a relaxing week or weekend, whichever we can fit in.  You can strangely feel quite alone amongst the busy streets and tube journeys.  Peaceful at times as you watch the many Londoners go about their daily business.  It maybe London, England, but you’ll hear a mixed bag of languages from around the world caressing the ear drums.  Russian seemed to be the flavour of our last visit.

Over the many years I’ve seen the change that technology has brought, it’s the companion to most commuters these days.  I thought it was my dodgy eyes at first, but as the people of London walk towards you.  You think they’re talking to you because they’re looking at you or where they’re going whilst disguising an earpiece that’s connected from their phone with a small microphone on the wire, talking to whomever is on the other end.  I’ve never seen so many people walk and talk.  Each person’s arms shaking in the air, all in sync with every conversation they have with every passer-by escaping the near-miss of a sudden death Karate chop. The people on the phones resemble battered old scarecrows in a whirlwind…… but I love it!

For me as a continual visitor to London, I don’t think I’ll ever have enough of the city’s architecture.  Every single building intrigues me.  I know most visitors go and see Buckingham Palace, which by the way is fantastic.  I’ve never been inside yet, I will do on the next visit when they open it up.  I have been to Osbourne house in the Isle of Wight though (enjoyed it very much).  But I do feel so sorry for Liz (the Queen to you) for living there.  The building must be a nightmare to keep clean, how she has time to do anything else baffles me.  I also hope she has something a little bigger than an electric lawnmower, her garden is a tad larger than normal.  I would suggest a goat or two but every time I stand outside, the gates are locked.  Plus there’s a few Welsh Guards standing like they’ve been covered in Viagra spray in their sentry box, also accompanied by the odd policeman carrying a sizeable gun.  Come to my place, I have a conifer tree in a plant pot hiding my waste and recycle bins.  That’s another thing that baffles me.  Not one recycle bin outside Buckingham Palace in all the times I’ve stood there. But I do have a theory.  I’m sure that the sentry boxes outside Buckingham Palace is the place where the recycle bins are kept, and the reason why the Welsh Guards are so still.  It’s because they are only stickers on the front of the bins…… just a theory by the way.   What is handy though, is that she never has any of her neighbours bothering her (like mine) “Dave can I have a cup of sugar” or “Alright if I borrow your ladders?” or “There’s no one in next door so you have to take a parcel for them.”  Hmmmmm….. maybe I’ll go to my local Police station and ask for a Policeman with a gun, I do pay my taxes after all.

So back to the London architecture.  As I walk, my head is constantly surveying above the shops to the rest of the buildings.  Something I always do in any town or city that I’m in.  One thing did stand out was how many of the buildings were in darkness from the 1st floor up at night.  So many grand buildings with so many rooms that seemed to have no life in them.

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Something else I do every time and I don’t know why, I always look up at the roof of 3 Savile Row where the Beatles played five songs ‘Live’ for the last time in 1969.  I’m 5’4”, I can look all day.  I am never going to see the roof top.  Not sure what the people of London had seen back on that very day in 1969.

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There are also so many amazing museums, I love them all even though we’ve not seen every single one yet.  The new buildings that take over the skyline are funky and different but for me it’s the old buildings that are intriguing.  Each one has so much history and so much detail.  Some with the round blue Commemorative plaques, giving the information of who once lived there which always ignites the mind to wonder of all that has happened before the very place where I now stand.  For instance, Brook Street W1. Two round blue Commemorative plaques side by side on two different buildings next to each other.  On the one building it says ‘Jimi Hendrix’ once lived here.  On the other, the composer ‘Handel’ lived and died.  Okay it was roughly 250 years apart.  But wouldn’t it have been interesting if they were both around at the same time.  No, not to ask one another for a cup of sugar or to borrow ladders or even take a parcel for your neighbour.  Although I can see it now

KNOCK KNOCK, the door opens…. “Hi Jimi, it’s Handel from next door….. you took in a parcel for me earlier.  “Oh yeah, Handel man……here it is.”  Funny how they both had similar hairstyle and the passion for making music.

London has so many pubs and so many restaurants, you will always be spoilt for choice.  From Covent Garden to China Town to the many hidden side streets.  Camden market, Borough market, someday I’ll eat my way through each food stall.  But even if I visited every weekend I’d still not eat in them all.  For the Frantony family, we wander as far and as long as we can, never in a rush.  In three days we’ll easily walk 45 miles.

It’s not as safe as it used to be though, far more electric cars due to the emission zones now.  Clearly in London it’s the way forward, won’t be long before all the taxis are electric or even better powered by the wasted words and promises that fall out of the mouths of most MPs.  All boxed up and taken from the Houses of Parliament and poured straight in to every London cab.  That is of course if you can’t afford a super car.  Yes it’s nice to have one, but to be honest it’s useless in London regarding speed.  But then again what I do like about them is that you can hear them coming a few streets away, even as far as the next postcode.  As a pedestrian this is good.  A Toyota Prius is not!  As green credentials go a Prius might be good for the planet but for pedestrians in a city?  It could mean constantly being knocked over or death by silent object.  I’m also a motorcyclist and believe that loud pipes saves lives.  If I have time in the future I might protest outside Parliament that every electric car in London has a speaker instead of an exhaust and must play loud music.  Preferably AC/DC ‘Thunderstuck’.

From every near miss (and we had a few) each time I hear some Gregorian chant in my head or a choir boy knocking out a solo as if the end is nigh.

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This I assume, is what a near death experience feels and sounds like which is slightly uncanny as the Toyota Prius moves on the road like ghosts in the Hollywood films I’ve seen.  So the super car, even though you can’t really use the full functions of a super car in London,  I think every car on the road in the city should be one.  This is not a plug so that Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar or Maserati have to give me a car for free if their sales go up now I’ve mentioned them in this blog, but I wouldn’t say no either (nod, nod, wink, wink).  Now the not hearing the car incident happened a few times whilst walking the streets of London.  To prove it, this is what my behind/rear end (bum or arse) whatever the term you use now looks like with no pants or trousers on……

Yes, these cars do give off low emissions, but I wonder if that is multiplied by the amount of gas given off by each pedestrian on the utter panic that a Toyota Prius has just sneaked up on them like Houdini on a really good day when he was at his most ‘magicest’ (if there is such a word). Or  like the butler in the film Mr Deeds (sneaky sneaky).  Although if you’re reading this and you work very high up in Toyota, I LOVE the brand and LOVE the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser (nod, nod, wink, wink).

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The maze of the London underground (tube station) however, I’ll never get to grips with.  I’ll never get to the point in my life where I’ll ever find my way around like it was the back of my hand.  But as each visit passes it becomes a little easier.  It’s hot, with the warm breeze fighting its way around you as the train comes in.  Even if you’re not on the platform you can feel the warm breeze whizzing through whatever tunnel you’re walking to or from.  I’m never in a rush, so I’ll always stay tight to the right on the escalators so the busy people on the way to a deadline have room to move on the left.  Sometimes the trains are busy sometimes not, just like any other City.  Always remember to hold on if you’re standing up as the train leaves the platform.  A woman on the Central line forgot to do such a thing and sprawled herself on the people sitting down as the train moved off.  Everyone laughed as she lay over four people, her feet completely up off the ground.  Again though, the architecture inside the underground is fantastic with the millions of tiles that cover the walls and ceilings, and they’re always clean, which must take some doing due to droves of people using it every day.  I’m still hoping that the CEO of the London Underground will randomly call me one day, wanting to give me a tour of the platforms and tunnels that are not used anymore (nod, nod, wink, wink).

But there is one man I’d like to meet, to say “Really??  What on earth were you thinking?  Of all the places it could have gone, you had to put it there…..!”

Marble Arch

Marble Arch, NO not Marble Arch, that’s in a good spot (not as good as the original spot).  I’m talking about the Ping Pong table right next to it.  You have to see it to believe it.  I can hear John Nash the British architect who designed Marble Arch back in 1827, saying “Now, wherever the Marble Arch goes, whatever you do, don’t go putting something stupid right next to it like a Ping Pong table!”

Then they all laughed because clearly nothing stupid like that would happen…..or would it?  So it takes some doing to take a picture of the Marble Arch without a Ping Pong table being in it.  Don’t get me wrong I like a bit of Ping Pong (please no one send me a ping pong table) but that close to an iconic structure in London, to me it’s a little odd.  They may as well go the whole hog and turn the Marble Arch into an activity centre with advertising screens, a climbing wall, abseiling and park, even somewhere to voice your opinion.

Buckingham Palace
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Who knows, next there might be a pool table outside Buckingham Palace right in front of the gates?  Or they’ll turn the Victoria Memorial in to a local Lido with a 25m high diving board duck-taped to the bronze wing.  There’s even enough room to put a tennis or netball court inside the gates of the Palace courtyard on the red gravel.  Or even a five-a-side pitch for the locals and ‘yes’ we call it five-a-side, but either 9 or 11 always showed up and the goalies were either lazy and would sometimes sit down for a sneaky rest, or they’d be the complete opposite and have arms like Mr Tickle from the Mr Men that make it impossible to score a goal.  And let’s not forget the one friend that always turns up with the gigantic Sports Direct bag (there’s always one), thinking that because they’re taking part in a sport and it says it on the bag, that it’s alright. At least playing at the front of Buckingham Palace there’ll be plenty of people running around to keep the sad lonely Lego figures that have fallen out of some poor child’s hand through the railings from the pavement.  Of course they daren’t stretch through to try and pick it up or the man with the gun won’t be happy.  Albeit the Lego figurines did get in without being seen.  So the man with the gun and the Welsh Guards are slacking a bit there.  The Royal family must have a sizeable Lego figurine collection from their front yard going on.  Using the front Courtyard, I think my idea is far more exciting for the Royal family to look at out of their many windows than the same old Victoria Memorial, traffic and lots of nosy people staring up at them.  I’m not saying this is true, but here’s a photo I took of a representative from Lego going inside Buckingham Palace the other day….

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I’m also convinced that the same person whose idea it was to put the ping pong tables so close to Marble Arch wants to put a fairground riffle range in front of the MI5 or MI6 building.  That would be okay as long as you can win the cuddly toy in the end….. especially for those men out on a first date.  Oh and by the way, if you do win the cuddly toy and hand it over to the lovely woman you’re dating, don’t start acting like you’ve just saved the planet and the macho-meter in your head has just hit dizzy heights.  Don’t think it’s a pass so that you can go all the way with her at the end of the night…. however big the toy.  But we would all love to see the fairground ‘Dunk Tank’ outside the Houses of Parliament (again such an amazing building).  Each MP could sit on a collapsing seat over a large tank of water.  The passing public have to throw the ball at a target above their heads and if it hits correctly, the seat opens up and the MPs fall in to the tank (beautiful!).  I feel this would be a good idea just before everyone goes to work.  Good for the MPs too.  That’ll make them all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the day, and if they make a really bad decision, back outside to the Dunk Tank they go (just an idea).

Well I love London.  It’s a city with so much to offer that just keeps giving.  So much to do and see.  Make it top of your ‘to do’ list every year!  Go and lose yourself.  Wander the streets.  Wander the museums, be in no rush.  Make it your time! 

So until the next visit which won’t be long, I’ll leave you with the usual Easyblend blog song but this time its two – The Beatles- Don’t let me down and AC/DC Thunderstruck

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Handshakes, Hugging or…. Personal Mugging?

Now before we start I’m not as cold as ice, I really do have warm blood running through my veins not Slush Puppie Ice.  I also don’t have a swinging brick instead of a heart.  But….. for some reason, I’m picky when it comes to handshakes and hugs.

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Let us start with handshakes…..not really a fan either.  Why?  I’ll explain how I see it.  Whether it’s a place of work, a function, shopping centres or service stations just off the motorways, on this beautiful round earth, I’ve seen plenty of men leaving the toilet cubical or urinal and walking straight out with not even a glance at the soap dispenser and sink.  Not having been in a woman’s toilet….. are some women the same?  I have seen countless people sneeze in to their hands; I’ve even seen people wipe the drip of a runny snob from their nose just as they’re about to shake your hand….hmmmmmmmm, no thanks!!

Even though some then dry the residue snob down their leg, thinking that ‘that’s going to give the hygienic clean that’ll do the trick……..’ No, it’s not!  But whatever state your hand is in, whether it’s after having a number 1, number 2 or wiping a runny snob, if you are going to shake someone’s hand, then make it a real one.

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Let it be a handshake with confidence and strength and most importantly with the best eye contact any good, sincere human being can give.

There’s nothing more irritating than a person with a urinated, snobby stained, soft, limp handshake, who then gives you no eye contact.  Especially if the person does all that, but looks to see who else they would rather talk to in the room.

But, I always have a plan for these false Muppets.  I don’t let go of their hand, and start asking questions that I am not even interested in, to see the split personality come out.  This is where they want to speak to another person in the room they believe is more important than yourself, but they’re in a dilemma because they also want to stay and talk about themselves.  But the key to my master plan is that if they stay, you either wind them up to boiling point where they wished they hadn’t stayed or leave them in full flow and talk to somebody else or just rescue another sandwich at the buffet table that you didn’t want in the first place.  So you see, a good clean handshake with meaning can make all the difference.

Then there’s the standard HUG.  Whether it’s men or women, I struggle either way.  Let’s start with hugging women.  When I do hug a woman there are a few things going through my mind.  Do I (like the handshake) give a good strong close hug?  But if I do, are they in the first place only hugging me for the sake of it and at the last minute turn sideways

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with usually the hand bag in between us.  Then both parties are being pierced in the side by the bag and it’s usually me that has the zip end.  Then there’s the hug where you both squeeze tight and all different kinds of body parts touch (not complaining by the way!) and wonder how long do you stay like this before it gets to a point that somebody shouts “GET A ROOM!”  Or one of you hugs for too long and the other person feels awkward, waits for the tumble weed to pass then shouts ”CALL THE POLICE!” and one of you get taken away in a straight jacket and put in the back of a rubber van.

Adding to the complication of hugging, there might be the odd kiss on the cheek or both cheeks thrown in.  Some kisses touch but some don’t, now I’m really lost….. what do you do for the best?  Some even make a sound like I can only describe as a deep “MEOW” sound.  So after the stress of working out how long to hug for and waiting to see if some of you kiss my actual cheeks or I listen to your lips kissing fresh air as just our cheeks touch, then (and this is not all women), I’m waiting for the patch of foundation to be left on each cheek which is usually left in a small round circle.  So the rest of the event I’m walking around like I’ve used a picture of Aunt Sally from Worzel Gummidge to mimic my makeup skills.  Also never use your shirt collar to wipe it off because the wife will only assume the worst and that one hug has cost you a night in the garden shed and divorce proceedings.  I am then in quandary as to where on your body to put my hands? And where on earth you’re going to put yours?

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You can’t go to low (Or can you?)  And you can’t go too high as feeling their bra just isn’t right!  You certainly can’t hold your hands in the air as other people looking will think the person that you’re hugging is unclean and smells.

Of course this also depends how tall or short you both are, and that’s not including the circumference of each person and how attractive or unattractive they are.  Some families love a hug, I know this as I’m involved in one.  I kid you not, they’ll hug when they come in and visit but if one of them left something in the car outside they’ll hug again as if they’re off to the other side of the world and never coming back.  The jury is still out on hugs from family and friends when a loved one dies.  They’re telling you what happened but holding the tears back, but the person listening thinks a hug is the answer, and from the other side of the room walks towards you looking like a zombie from a cheap “B” Movie with their arms out, eventually makes it to you, hugs you and makes you cry, so now you’re feeling Policemanworse and more upset than if they just sat and listened or better still went in to the kitchen and made you a cup of tea.  I am thinking that the only answer for me wear some white gloves and keep a whistle in my mouth, looking like some New York traffic Policeman when anyone comes near to me.

I was going to talk about a man hug……but I’ve decided not to go there!  It’s all rather stressful for me, hence the reason why when it comes to women and men for that matter it’s easier to just say “HELLO!”

As ever on the Easy Blend I’m listening to some great music, today it has to be The Police, Don’t stand so close to me…

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

 

Bye Bye juniors…….OH NO Big school!

Today things have changed a little, in that children in the juniors will have an opportunity to experience a few visits to the ‘big school’ a year or two before actually being there full time. Big school…. ‘Big’ as in ‘Comprehensive School’ or ‘High School’, it’s all the same thing just depends on what part of the world you live in.

Being able to visit ‘big school’ whilst still in the juniors is a great idea, calms the nerves.  It allows the children to have a gentle insight in to what is to come, but back in 1984 this wasn’t the case.  It all starts with the last day of the junior school; having mixed feelings knowing that something bigger and more serious is on the way, shortly overtaken by the excitement of the six weeks summer holidays.

The week before the new term in ‘Big school’ starts, Mother Frantony says “We’re off to town to buy your school uniform!”…..oh joy!  The colour was black with a white shirt, a choice of a blazer or jumper, purple tie with the odd diagonal stripe.  Even at eleven years old I wanted to be cool whether shopping for school clothes or normal clothes.  But that was never going to happen, not as long as Mother Frantony was going to dress me and pay for it.  Plus the added extra cost and embarrassment, of me having to wear a vest (to stop me from catching a chill apparently) and on the odd occasion, Mother Frantony shoving two fingers underneath the collar and pulling to see if in fact I was wearing a vest.  If I wasn’t, then it was back upstairs to my bedroom to put one on with her voice echoing in the background saying “You’ll catch a death of cold!”  Whatever that means?

The new school uniform was always far too big for me in the beginning.  The jumper and shirt way too long with the sleeves folded up too many times to count.  The trousers shortened, not cut but ironed up inside and lightly stitched so they could be taken down throughout the year as I grew.  The only problem with this was I had iron marks around my lower leg looking like tidal marks from each time I had a growth spurt.  But of course those classic parental lines that every child hears when clothes shopping as you’re spun around in the shop “Plenty of room for them to grow in to!”

Back in my day, when I had new school shoes, they were always black, never the ones I wanted and always felt like they were chiselled out of granite.  I can still picture Father Frantony hitting the top of the each heel with a hammer to soften up the leather, but even so, after the first day my feet would look like I had walked over hot coals whilst being whipped with the sharpest of brambles covered in miniature men holding a blow torch in one hand and a rasp in the other, all on commission to see who can bag the most skin off my feet.  School photo.pngAlso, the timing for a child to experience their parent’s clever thoughts of growing into their uniform always coincided with the schools clever thinking of the school photos (I assume while they still look smart and new).  This never did me any favours, as my school photos looked like I was in some big man’s clothes as I hadn’t had the chance to grow in to the new school uniform yet, and I was always guaranteed a huge coldsore would erupt on my lip.

 

The choice of coat back then by Mother Frantony was the traditional ‘Parka’.  The big, bulky, heavy Parka coat, which had zips and buttons everywhere you looked.  Of course you couldn’t just do up the zip because of the huge flap to the side where the button holes were.  So big, that if you didn’t button up the flap it was like leaving a door open in front of you all of the time.  Also if I was made to put the hood up on a cold day, well……. that experience was like looking through a long tunnel with a complete Alaskan forest of fake Mink fur stuck around the edge.  This made crossing any road a life or death situation.  ParkaThe Parka was always green and always had orange lining inside.  On leaving the house, Mother Frantony would place my school bag (a plastic carrier bag) on the tips of my fingers, this was for two reasons, one because I couldn’t see them, and two, because only the tips of my fingers ever came out of the sleeves.  This was the least of my problems, as me wanting to be cool never happened. Parkas have come a long way since then, I do like ‘The North Face’ Parka….. it’s very nice, I would like one to go with my coat collection but Mrs Frantony won’t allow me to part with £400 to buy one (She’s mean!).

Now being a parent, I haven’t forgotten that children for some reason don’t feel the cold as adults and say words like ”but I’m inside all day then I’m on the bus….I don’t need a coat!” I am now very wary what coat I buy my son; it must fit and must look stylish.

So the first day of big school, first time on the bus (a very posh bus which didn’t last long), it had a microphone.  The drivers name was Huw, he had a beard and would let me sometimes use the microphone. I would always do a talking commentary on the sights and the different buildings we passed.  Yes…… I thought I was funny.  Once at the school I had no idea where to go, but followed the rest like sheep to the assembly hall where we were put in to our form classes, A, B, C, D class…… and no, I wasn’t in the D class!  This was the first time that some of the local schools came together, so there were lots of new faces.

It was an old school, once a convent apparently.  Each large corridor was dark, cold and dingy, smelling of damp, the wooden floors creaked, even if they were empty.  Each time you’d pass certain older students they would say ‘At break time you’re going through the tunnel!’ Now the ‘tunnel’ wasn’t actually a tunnel, it was a large alleyway with a ceiling. But this was apparently some sort of old tradition, some sort of an initiation…. a welcome to the big Comprehensive school.  The name of the game was that the thickest students (bullies) would line up either side and kick you whilst you were trying to run through as fast as you could to the other side. The tunnelAs predicted there was always one child that thought he was the ‘Karate Kid’ and one child that hid at the end for the element of surprise to give you a bonus kick.  Every kid was bigger than me, but this was to my advantage as one of the 2nd year students put his hands on my shoulders and shouted “Dave’s too small, we’ll leave him go!”  I said thanks, but I wasn’t going through anyway.  I moved to the side and watched the dull initiation show commence……. with not one evil dinner lady in sight.  Paid off to look the other way I reckon (you know how I feel about dinner ladies from my last blog).

I made new friends quickly and was excited to see lots of new girls, not that I was a ‘stud’ or as cool as the ‘Fonz’ and YES…… I realised that I was now too old to play kiss chase (shame).  Wouldn’t that make a weird grown up game? (Let’s not go there!)  It wasn’t long before I had my first big school girl friend…. it didn’t last long she dumped me; she was far too advanced for me anyway.  Plus she was costing me a fortune in bus fare on the weekends; she even went nuts on me because I had cards off other girls on Valentine’s Day.  Bunny BoilerI tried explaining to her that I was not in control of any girl that gave me the cards as it was anonymous….. she still went mad, I now realise I had a lucky escape with her.  I was sure that if I was with her any longer she would have changed her hair to blond curls like Glenn Close in the film Fatal Attraction and boiled one of my imaginary bunnies that I didn’t have.

I’m also still scarred from the first time I experienced cross country running, freezing cold with frost on the ground on top of a mountain……ridiculous!!  Then there was the first experience of having French lessons, of course Welsh was also on the menu as I live in Wales.  Didn’t have a clue with either but would love to speak them today.  I did love the experience of the Bunsen burner in the science class, still going strong today as a favourite for children. It always amazed me that they allow gas to be piped straight up to a desk with a hand full of Bunsen burners fully attached and on the go, with each child resisting to create a slight curve in their pen from the heat.  Of course in the eighties it was far more dangerous for the girls to be around Bunsen burners due to them wearing lots and lots and lots and lots of hair lacquer, it was never a good combination.

Ahhhhh the eighties……… girls and their hair lacquer; you could never put your fingers through any girl’s hair without your finger being jammed and entwined (again may I remind you I am far from being a stud or anything like the Fonz).  Not only was hair lacquer a problem but so was chewing gum.  Bit of a task to be romantic back then for a boy.  To kiss a girl, you had to wait until she took her chewing gum out of her mouth.  In fact some girls who clearly had no hygienic issues would say ‘Give me some of your chewing gum’ and not the one in your pocket, the actual gum that you were chewing! Always a tricky situation if you placed the chewing gum in your mouth just after you’d eaten a packet of beef flavoured crisps.

Now as you know, even though I am Welsh, rugby and I don’t get along so in the end my P.E teacher would allow my friend and me not to play, so long as we were good.  He came to the conclusion we were all wasting our time if we did play, so as long as we didn’t Netballcause any trouble we could go for a walk or watch the girls play netball…… and very pleased about it we were too!  Half the boys nearest the windows would also be watching the girls play netball.  We’d sit on the bank and watch the girls hoping that one of them would be my girlfriend, so I thought maybe if I put a piece of grass sticking out of my mouth that would be cool.  I now understand that a piece of grass sticking out of my mouth isn’t cool….. more like you look a tool….. than cool!

After two years the school moved to a new building, thankfully!!  Light actually came through the windows, we had more space to walk around and there was no smell of damp anymore.  The dinner breaks consisted of going in to town with friends working out who you were going to pair up with to buy food with, the reason why?  On the menu was a fresh loaf of uncut bread where the shop keeper would cut it in half. Then we’d pull out the inside and eat it before going to the chippie, order bag of chips, share the chips and squeeze them in to the now hollowed out half loaf of bread with loads of salt and vinegar.  Some days would be extra special because the chippie would have lots of ‘Scrumps’ as we called them.  This I believe, was loads and loads of broken off batter from the fish at the bottom of the fryer ‘AMAZING!!’

So after a busy day in school it was home time, which meant back on the bus and as I said, the nice buses didn’t last long.  This depended on where you lived in the surrounding areas of the school.  I lived on a council estate and being honest, the bus reflected this.  Other children from other parts of the area had nice buses, the type of bus you would go in on a day trip.  But our bus looked like it had been used for target practice by the army.  The seats all worn and stained with no support and as I‘ve said, this was the eighties so you could guarantee that the ashtray on the rear of the seat in front of you was always stuck open and full of ash, cigarette butts and without fail, a used chewing gum rammed in there somewhere.

Then there was the classic tomfoolery that was every child’s nightmare which happened on our bus on many occasions.   Usually the same culprits that lined up in the so called ‘tunnel’ at the start of the year. There’s always one or two, but mostly three or four that go straight to the back seat of the bus.  A top tip, if any of them have a larger than normal grin on their face whilst walking up the aisle of the bus, then something you don’t want to happen is about to happen.  Once seated and the bus moved off away from the school, you could feel the tension building.  However hard you’d stare out of the window trying to mind your own business hoping that you’re not going to be part of the collateral damage……. you were always part of the collateral damage.  One of them would stand up whilst the rest of the gang who were in on the act would sit cackling.  Too scared to look, you could hear the rustling of a bag opening….. not just any bag but a bag of flour which had been stolen from the cookery department.  Bus flourThen with an almighty stretch back of the arm before catapulting forward, the bag of open flour would shoot forward.  Every single child would be showered in white flour.  Both sides of the bus had a bag each and as quickly as it happened, the thicky child would sit back down with the rest of the thickies as if nothing had happened.  Only………. and you didn’t need Jessica Fletcher, Colombo, Inspector Morse or even Poirot to work out who done it, as the culprits all sitting on the back seat were clean, still in black school uniform, whereas the rest of us all resembled Casper the Ghost.  One time even the bus driver had it, I didn’t know his name, most probably ‘Drive’.  The people in the street must have thought we were all going to a Casper the Ghost convention or a fancy dress party.  If that wasn’t enough the usual bullies would stop certain children from getting off the bus at their stop by holding them on until two or three stops later, you could guarantee this would happen on a rainy day.

At sixteen years old when it was time to leave, I did, but had always wished I stayed on until I was eighteen years old, too late now though…..must get my Time Machine fixed.

As ever on the Easy Blend I’m listening to some great music, today it’s Pink Floyd – Another brick in the wall

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Starting school…… what’s that then??

Before I start, let me just say my memory of my summer holidays…. it was always long, hot and sunny with fun and adventure.  September, the month when all the kids go back to school……not for me though, those days are long gone.  What does come back to me though are the memories, only now being sifted through my adult(ish) brain into seeing what really happened.

Let me take you back to my very first day of school.  It happened…. after five years of being at home watching Mother Frantony making Welsh cakes and pikelets in between watching all my favourite cartoons, albeit I now realise that some of them made no sense whatsoever, ‘The Clangers’ for instance.  I know The Clangers are from another planet but that’s no excuse, they knew that they were being watched on national T.V.  clangers-on-air.jpgFair enough they might not have been able to speak English, but subtitles wouldn’t have gone amiss, I might have been a better at reading in school……..who knows?!  Also, of all the billions NASA have spent on designing space suits, the Clangers were in knitwear, if only they had watched the Clangers they would have saved….. well….. billions!  Anyway, I still loved it though and as we’re friends here on my Easyblend blogs I feel comfortable to tell you that at one point I think I wanted to be a Clanger.

Now came my first experience of butterflies in my stomach.  I was made to go somewhere I didn’t want to go.  It was a short walk to the school at the bottom of the hill from the house, but the hardest journey of my life………. at that time anyway.  Mother Frantony on the odd too many occasions still likes to tell this story….. and I, now in my 40’s have to listen to it…… oh joy.

Left at school

I cried all the way to the school door where other children were in a similar state….. well, not as bad as me, my eyes were red and puffy as I clung on to her leg and weighed her down like an anchor from the biggest ocean liner you’ve ever seen.  I think that’s what Mother Frantony likes to tell everyone, as she laughs every time.   One thing I can remember which today I am surprised by, and was a sign for the rest of my life, I don’t like to be made to do anything I don’t want to do!  Hmmmmmm…..

As well as constantly crying as my mother abandoned me in the school (nah, not really), I then had the frightening experience of the tallest, skinniest teacher I ever encountered.  With the biggest meanest eyes and wearing the thickest blue eye liner that any woman could possibly paste around her eyes without blocking her vision, when I eventually stopped crying after my mother run home, I would start again because her eyes pierced my tiny soul… even the kid’s souls in the next classroom.  Apparently she lived on a farm; I suppose the horse-riding boots were a giveaway.  Nit NurseClearly she didn’t know the difference between animals and children.  I’m just glad she didn’t take any of us to the abattoir.  She brought in a live lamb once, though I bet she ate it on Sunday.  I’m still scarred from when she handed a crayon drawing back to me, I said “Ta”…. then her eyes widened like dinner plates “Ta?!  Tar is the road!!  Say ‘Thank you’!!”  I now think, I’d been on planet earth six years….. cut me a bit of slack.  Looking back now, she was always in the room when the nit nurse came who by the way, had the habit of spreading your hair until it parted so far apart, both sides of my head reached different postcodes.   I did enjoy the puff crisps, custard cream biscuits and a small bottle of milk in the morning playtime.

After trawling and crying through the infants for the first couple of years, it was now time for less puffy eyes  in to the junior years, still in the same grounds but a different building.  I was a slow learner in the school, nothing came easy; I wasn’t one of the clever kids, just a bit of a late developer when it came to academia.  I’m still scared with the vision of standing up in class reading out the times table but have fond memories of acting in the school plays with parts such as a fish in Thumbelina, an Oompa Loompa and not your average one either, this was a drunken Oompa Loompa in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I even played Long John Silver………aaarrr shiver me timbers!!  I had the part because of my rat’s tail hair style; yes they were in fashion in the early 80’s….. at least I think they were.  Anyway, it got me the part.  In fact they must be due back in fashion soon (won’t be having one though).  I’d love to see the plays again as one teacher would film them as his twin daughters were in the plays too.

Painting

I also loved drawing and painting.  I even had one of my paintings put up in the main corridor of the school until I left and went to comprehensive school (for you beautiful Americans ‘High school’)  I still have the painting today, in fact it’s now hanging up in my house above my stairs in a glass frame, commissioned in 1984 when I was eleven years old…. it still amazes me today that an eleven year old came up with it.

At play time most boys played football, but not me.  One of my favourite games was kiss chase…..I know, nothing wrong with that you say, but like everything this also had its down falls if not played properly.  For me, this was a chance to kiss lots of girls and get away with it (no chat up lines required).  My first conundrum was that I didn’t counter in the fact that ugly girls also wanted to play, but I thought not a problem (yes I know, I’m no oil painting myself).  I have a plan, I’ll pretend I didn’t see them, there’s loads of people in the school yard playing different games, they’ll be easily missed and they won’t know if I’ve seen them or not.  Things were going well, my plan was working, this was a fantastic game I wanted play every day.  That was until one of

Kiss Chase

the ugly girls jumped out in front of me pointing her finger “Dave, I know you keep seeing me and running past!!  Now kiss me!!”  I had no choice but to do what she said, so I kissed her.  To be fair, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be…… I just shut my eyes a little tighter than normal.  Once the deed was done she looked at me, gritted her teeth and with both hands she pushed me on to the grass, shouting “Next time we play, you can kiss me again!!”  That was my first lesson in life realising that woman are always the boss (in or out of a relationship!) but to be fair I’m happy with that.

Now, as I lived not far from the school I would go home for lunch so I still hadn’t experienced school dinners yet.  But going home caused a problem.  Even though I had an hour for lunch I wanted to quickly eat and go back and play with my friends.  But of course, in my experience (of my school days anyway), the dreaded dinner ladies, cleaners and caretakers all seemed to have been trained by the Third Reich and acted as if they had more power than the teachers, and one particular dinner lady was no exception.  She was the most evil of them all.  By day she had normal but small beady eyes, but by night, I honestly think they turned red with lasers shooting out of them that would burn you up in a flash.

Laser Eyes

Lunch time was 12 noon till 1pm, I’d be back at the school gate by 12:40pm but this particular dinner lady……hang on……. ‘dinner battle-axe’ was on guard.  She had tall ginger hair that looked like a traffic cone on the top of her head, which made her look even taller as she stared and towered over me.  Although I’m sure there was a team of little evil people inside her tower of hair working as air traffic controllers, co-ordinating children (not planes) to where they wanted them.  The Battle- axe would never let me back in to the yard to play with my friends.  She’d say “If you go home for dinner you shouldn’t come back until 1pm so you can stay at the gate until then!”  But she’d say it with a look of evil in her eyes, her hands clenched in a fist position in her pockets of her apron.

That’s another thing…. why an apron?  She’s in the school yard.  What on earth do they think an apron is going to protect them from?  Or is it that it’s a uniform of power?  Maybe they think they’re part of the Avengers team?

Well, for a while I listened to the battle- axe because we’re taught to listen to adults right (why?)  But then, after some thinking as I watched my friends play, I decided for the first time in my life to take matters into my own hands (always a good life skill to have).  I started

sneaking through a small hole in the fence at the back of the school yard, albeit she would catch me a few times and place me back outside by the main gates.  But I wasn’t going to give up.  Even at the tender age of 9 or 10, I sussed out she was just a horrible person taking whatever her problems were out on the young and the weak, and WOW, I’ve come across a load more since…… they’re everywhere.  The school yard had lots of big trees around so in the end I mastered the art of hiding from her.

I did cause a bit of drama for everyone when I was nine, I came out of class on the 1st floor and slid down the banister rail…. only I didn’t, I tipped over too far and fell 3 metres, hitting my head on a tiled floor.  I was in hospital for week with a suspected fractured skull (oops)!

Then there was the Friday afternoon collaboration of the two schools on the housing estate coming together for Rugby practice.  A game most Welsh men watch and play, apart from me that is.  So I had the idea to not bring my kit in to school that day and therefore not to be picked to play……. wrong!!  My plan was utterly useless.  My head was obviously as thick as the china wall at the time….. or was I pushing boundaries?

China Wall

My P.E Teacher knew what I was up to.  I was given some old, sweaty, oversized kit from the bottom of a black refuse bag that had never been washed….. ever…. never ever!!  Now from experience of wearing these abandoned rugby jerseys and shorts, I can tell you they smelled of every single child’s sweat since the school first opened twenty five years before my puny body was used to model them.

But that wasn’t the only problem, nothing fitted me!  I was the smallest in my school, in fact, the smallest until I actually left school.  So this was my procedure in wearing them.  It started by standing in my pants on the cold tiles in the changing rooms, surrounded by other boys in nice rugby outfits.  I would put on each item one at a time, first the rugby jersey; it must have been red when it was first made.  Once the top was over my head, it would fall like a set of expensive curtains in Buckingham Palace with the bottom stopping at my knees and the bottom of the V neck just covering my belly button.  Then it was time to step in to the what used to be white shorts that were built for an adult, plus the elasticised waist that had now stretched so far it was never coming back….it was like stepping in to a Hula Hoop.  So the only way to hold them up was to tuck the Rugby jersey inside (or the ‘dirty dress’ I called it).  But of course, the problem with this was that the jersey would fall out of the bottom of the shorts.  Then it came to the Rugby boots.  Again, they were boots that I’m sure only fitted Coco the Clown.  To make them fit, I had to use a handful of paper towels scrolled up in to ball and shoved them in to the toes of the boots, which was job on its own as it was like crushing up sheets of plyboard.

Rugby Shirt

After making everything fit, it was time to walk the sad walk on to the Rugby pitch where more problems came to light.  Every child loved Rugby so they played with passion and aggression which I didn’t have (for rugby).  My feet would lift up in a scrum, and every time I ran (with or without the ball) one hand was always scrunching up the front of my shorts to keep them up as I dragged the toes of the boots in the dirt like a farmers plough.  Honestly, any savvy farmer could have followed me and planted enough seed to feed a nation for a whole year.  But one Friday, the P.E Teacher did something that made me realise “Dave, bring in your own kit!”  He spun me around on the field in front of everyone, folded up the back of my shorts and placed the biggest bulldog clip I had ever seen on my back to stop my shorts from falling down, saying “There, now you’ll run faster!”……. and YES it did work.

In the next blog, I’ll tell you all about my big school years after leaving the juniors.

Today on the Easy Blend, I’m listening to Imagine Dragons, Rise Up.

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Pick a funeral… any funeral

Well, we’ve all been to a few….not a barrel of laughs you’ll agree!

Barrel

Having said that, I can recall two that were very good….. very hard, not funny but very good, but like anything in life, you have to look at the funny side of some situations that you may find yourself in, and in this blog…. well, that’s what I’m going to do.

One of my early funerals in life, first began in a house.  I stood in the kitchen full of people, waiting for the hearse to arrive, you see, people don’t just hang around kitchens for parties, it’s for any gathering.  It’s not seen so much these days, but you used to have a house service first before going to the crematorium.  Everyone dressed in black… suits of course and ladies in black dresses.  Me?  I was in black, but not a suit.  I was too young to own a suit, (this is the point where I sound old) “Not like the generation of today, where you can buy suits for any age off the shelf….and at a cheap price.”

Right, back to the story, I was too young to own a suit, but it just so happened, that my school uniform was black, so that’s what I stood in that day.  YES, I know what you’re thinking “Dave…. but didn’t you have a school badge stitched on the jumper?”  Why yes, yes I did, but in my mind I thought if I move around a lot, it’ll look like a handkerchief sticking out of my suit jacket top pocket that I didn’t have.  By the way, my first suit was in the late 80’s, it was what they called a ‘grey flecked’ suit, with white socks and gray slip on shoes.  I know…… let’s not talk about that anymore, that’s another story for another blog!

So, back in the kitchen, as I stood in amongst the people all talking very quietly with serious faces, there was a knock on the door.  It was the undertaker.  Now for legal reasons, let us call the deceased “Whisky.”  The owner of the house opened the front door then turned back to us, their eyes filling up.  The kitchen fell silent, one pair of eyes looking down the long hallway with about forty pairs of eyes staring back.  In a broken voice, they called out to us all “Whisky’s here!”

At this point, without any

control, I thought “What a strange thing to say??” as this was my first image that came in to my head the moment it was said…..

Coffin at door

The coffin was then carried by the undertakers in to the front room of the house, which by the way…. and I tell no lies here…… was a job in itself!  The coffin was not far off vertical with the sound of the odd thump and bang coming from inside…. if the deceased wasn’t a contortionist in this life, they certainly were in the next!  The undertakers were panting and groaning, straining from weight of the coffin with gallons of sweat running down their faces and they still managed to keep their hats on.  Albeit I’m sure their arms had stretched twice as long by the time they had finished, Health and Safety would have had a field day with that type of situation now.

stretched arms

Once the coffin was back in its horizontal position and placed on the trolley in the front room of the house, the undertakers panted and dragged their feet and long arms and lent up against the wall.  We, well… ‘I’ followed the adults in to the front room to gather around the coffin for a small service, it was a tight squeeze as some didn’t bother moving and stayed in the kitchen, drinking tea and talking…… do you remember those simple things in life before mobile phones?….you know talking?

Everyone bowed their head to pray, only to be disrupted by one of the family members losing the plot, (sorry lost control) they crashed through the small gathering of people and like a man

Lone Ranger

jumping off a bridge on to a fast moving train just like in the movies they jumped on top of the coffin.  Swaying everywhere on top of it just like the Lone Ranger would jump on his horse and steer the horses reins, at that moment I didn’t feel so silly anymore in my school uniform, even one of the undertakers done a double take.

Then there are other funerals, where you have the opportunity to ride in the limousine car behind the hearse.  Now this car has special powers….. stay with me on this.  So you’ve just pulled up at the place of rest (and in my experience on the few occasions, we were there a little early) so at this point you stay in the car and have nothing else to do but watch the people arrive.  Don’t forget there are some people you only see in weddings and funerals….. and there’s usually a good reason for this.  So this is your opportunity to have a good look at who’s turned up.  Now if you’re one of the ‘chosen ones’ to carry the coffin, all you’ll notice is a sea of black and don’t get to see any faces, so sitting in the car is your first opportunity to see who’s turned up and who hasn’t.  You see, over the years of going to funerals, sitting in the car following the hearse, I have been able to assess that there are four types of characters that people turn in too when going to a funeral….. I wonder which character type you might be?

Character Type 1 – Most people know you’re waiting in the car, so they will not look out of respect and go inside.

Character Type 2 – Stay outside oblivious why they are there in the first place as they can’t stop talking and laughing (loud) due to seeing a friend or family member that they haven’t seen in years, and try and fit as much information in as they can…. a little bit like speed-dating.

Character Type 3 – The person who wants to look at you in the car but doesn’t, but at the same time struggles controlling their eyes and half gives in.  At that moment it looks like they have wonky eyes, one eye looks at you in the car and other eye looks at where they are going.  Always easy to spot these types of people in a Chinese takeaway…. when asked do they want chips or rice with their chicken curry they’ll always answer half and half!

waving in carCharacter Type 4 – the crazy one, who  thinks it’s one big surprise that you’ve turned up at the same funeral, they act like it’s a Saturday night out on the town and you’ve just pulled up in a taxi at the club.  They come so close to the car window they’ve practically licked it clean whilst waving their hand at you so fast the wave looks blurry, whispering “Hiya”

Then there’s the experience of lowering the coffin in to the ground, nothing worse than if it is on a slope and it has been raining.  The grave diggers pile the earth up around the edge of the grave, sometimes covering it with planks.  You see the rough terrain, then with full concentration holding on as tight as you can on the straps, looped through the handles of the coffin, whilst trying not to slip or fall, you lower the coffin.  Well, clearly I didn’t concentrate enough, as it looked

graveside

like I was just about to show off with a full hour of non-stop break dance moves around the grave side that I didn’t know I had.  My foot slipped, over the edge and into the grave I headed, one side of the coffin dropped towards me nearly taking out my teeth.  It was close; I was nearly in the grave before the coffin.  The vicar was all shapes like he’d been made out of rubber following my every move, the grave digger threw his shovel like a harpoon to the floor and run towards me; it was all in slow motion.   The other pallbearers had to take the strain as I had to re-set my footing, I slowly looked around, so slow I even had time to pick out all of the Character Type 3 people with the wonky eyes and I’m sure there was a Character Type 4 in the 2nd row still waving whispering “Hiya!”  It could have been disastrous.

May I take my hat off to all grave diggers, a very tricky job and not very nice, although I think some may be on a ‘job and finish’ contract!  On the odd occasion they stand as if they’re on the front line but holding shovels at the ready, even the digger driver has started the machine up and filled the grave in before you’ve walked to the limousine car behind the now empty hearse.

Then there’s the funeral of the distant friend or colleague you once knew.  I’m not sure if I’m the only person who’s done this, not just once may I say, but a few times.  Now this can be an awkward moment, especially when the information given regarding where and when don’t seem to add up but you go anyway.

Now before we go any further, picture this, it’s been years since you’ve seen any of these people so you might not recognise many of them…. if any at all.  One time I turned up at the graveyard, two funerals to early…. I stayed for one (nobody asked who I was), although I did think of a line if they did, it would have been “I’m an old work colleague.”  No good of course if the deceased was 99 and I was only 22!  What could I do?  I was standing with everyone, everyone I didn’t know…. I didn’t want to be seen walking away, I couldn’t stay any longer and wait for the right funeral as I had to go back to work, and anyway, I then remembered it was a Catholic funeral that I was turning up for and they can go on for a very long time.  The family had the service first in the Catholic church, half a mile away, before going to the graveyard where I had been looking like ‘Mr Keen’ and ‘Mr Early Bird’.  I didn’t realise I had to go to the church first.  I had the right day, right time, wrong place.    No wonder I hadn’t seen any familiar faces!

The other time I went to the wrong funeral, I was told to be at the crematorium by 2:30pm on a certain Thursday.  I turned up amongst people I didn’t recognise……again.  This time I waited outside in disbelief, thinking to myself “I’ve done it again!!”  After listening to the people in the crowd compliment how tanned one woman was, then asking where they’ve been and how well they’re looking.  She wasn’t lying…. she was so tanned she looked orange.  Two people beside me decided after the coffin had been carried inside for the service, they were going to leave and drive back to the deceased’s house before everyone else arrived back so they could get a good car park space on the drive, because…….. they had a new car!  It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that they had a head start on that one because everyone else was inside attending the funeral.

I’ve even witnessed someone taking a selfie with the hearse in the background…….. I know!!  I have now though, mastered a manoeuvre that enables me to sneak off if I’m ever at the wrong funeral again.  You must pretend to answer the phone and go out of sight, as if to be respectful, but once you can’t be seen and once at a safe distance, you run away and go home….. quickly……. thank you mobile phones for that!

Nan flowers

I also understand why the people’s names are written in flowers by the sides of the coffins inside the hearse.   It’s for people like me, to stand at the gates away from the family and friends and check the name corresponds with the person whose funeral it is that you’re going to, or supposed to be at!  That way you know that you’re at the right funeral.  For legal reasons again let’s say the name of the persons funeral that I was going to attend was “BOB”.  Now if I see “NAN” then it’s a good indication that I’m at the wrong funeral, and then at that point I pretend I’ve had a phone call and sneak off immediately.

By the way, I did eventually go to the right funeral in the end…..it was a week later not a Thursday but on a Friday, not at 2:30pm but at 10am……and wait for it….. Not a cremation….it was a burial.  Here’s an idea though and it’s just an idea, crematoriums and grave sides should be either like bus stops with red light signs where the words flash across the screen or put up posters around the outside on the walls like on theatres.  Advertising who’s getting buried or cremated that day or week and who’s coming soon…… just a thought……

 

As always on the Easy Blend, I’m letting you know what I’m listening to….. today it’s  Colin Hay, Waiting for my real life to begin.

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Time marches on…..

TIME MARCHES ON Colour with watermark

I ran and ran……

I am running as fast as I can

but the time has passed me by

Now its me chasing the time

and my mind is ahead of me

My thoughts are done

and I have run the run….. the race is done

So that is it then….. the finish has come

and I have run the run

I look up now….. past the sky, the sun, the stars

All that my maker hath done

He is calling me saying

“What have you done with your life?”

“I was busy running the run….”

He calls again…. saying

“Ah….. that is where you are at fault…

Did you not hear me when I said Halt?

Stop, look, listen…… shhhh

Look around you….. look at who you are…

What you are…. how you are…..

How could it be?

Then and only then you would have seen me

But you ran and ran under the sun

Until you could run no more

Why is it only now you come knocking on my door?

When your life has gone……. and you are no more”


 

TIME MARCHES ON Colour with watermark

Listen to your heart.  Do what excites you, live with honesty, trust in your integrity and take courage in all that you do…… For time will march on.

 

As always on the Easy Blend, I’m letting you know what I’m listening to….. today it’s  Hosier, Better Love

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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