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)

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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……..

signature

 

 

Ride like an angel….

It takes a shed full of certain magnetic twists and turns within the world’s atmosphere, that’s unbeknown to man and woman to ignite a supersonic glow inside us as we open the curtains on a given morning and think ‘BIKE’.  You rub your eyes and open the window, the smell of a beautiful day soothing

Hello Dave 2.png

your nostrils and caressing the face and mind.  The sun glistens across the tarmac and then…… as if in another biker’s dimensional world, the road speaks in a way as if it knows you are listening….. and in a sexy alluring way it simply says “HELLO….. ride all over me!”

Immediately after one more sniff of the fresh air, the head tilts towards where the Motorcycle sits, for me it’s the garage.  The urge now uncontrollable, it’s as if a magic finger has pressed the fast forward button that

Kitchen

controls you.  The shower is on and you’re underneath it, using the smallest amount of shampoo as time is of the essence.  Within a split second there’s breakfast in front of you, less milk, less cereal than usual, eating standing up of course, there’s no time to sit.  Me…. I’ll be standing in my pants, so I properly dry off as there’s nothing worse than struggling to put the leathers on with slightly damp skin.

Then whilst still chewing the last spoon full of breakfast I pull the cover off, the bike is revealed, the leathers and boots are on……. eventually, the helmet is on so the last thing to fit in to are the gloves.  For me, I want to feel like Batman so I sit on the bike then press the key fob and the garage doors come up (you know, the part where Batman and Robin drive out of the Bat cave in the Bat mobile).  I slowly manoeuvre up the drive that takes me on to the road of freedom.

No matter who you are or where you are in the world, no matter what type of bike you have, when the weather is right, the mood is unstoppable. There’s nothing like it, smooth long winding roads with beautiful scenery.  The sound of the engine, especially the cheeky rev at the traffic lights, the feel of freedom with only the elements against your body and the hint of anonymity as the helmet covers your face or in my case now, a buff (open face helmet).  I don’t know what it is…… I didn’t ask for it, it’s just built in my DNA, but I always smile when I hear a loud bike, I have to look, for me it’s a low rider with their arms and legs stretched out in front of them………COOL…… I always say ‘May the ride be with you!’

For me living in south Wales, my usual ride is Brecon or beyond, the scenery is lovely, I don’t travel much further at the moment due to the bikes I own…… keep reading…. the pictures will follow.  So once I’ve reached my destination, either Brecon or Tal-y-Bont on Usk, I like to have a cup of tea and a hotdog whilst enjoying the view, whether it’s the mountains, the river or the Brecon Canal and if I’m lucky the RAF Jets fly past very low……. I love that! I jump every time….. I wave but they never beep their horn (for you beautiful American readers

Frantonys of Porthcawl

‘Honk’ their Horns!)  Of course, I always want another hotdog but I don’t.  Made that mistake when riding home from the beach in Porthcawl, the time when I used to own a Kawasaki Ninja 636….. you know, the sports bike where you have to lay all over the tank to ride it.  Not good in tight leathers looking like a mini Power Ranger after eating a big bag of Fish and Chips…… that was a long ride home….. and by the way, the fish and chips were this big!

It’s not that I haven’t got friends, although as I get older the less I have, but I prefer to ride alone, it gives me more freedom to go where I want and even change my mind half way through and ride somewhere else.  Also it helps me not to ride naughty, YES some of you reading this are saying ‘but sometimes Dave, naughty is nice!’ and sometimes I agree with you.  But let’s consider, if there’s 3 of you out for a ride and you’re over-taking, the

Nun, Vicar and Cardinal

1st rider does it easy, the 2nd rider squeezes in but the 3rd who always wants to make sure they keep up and stay with the pack will either make it without leaving enough room for a fly with his wings in his pockets beside you or…. well, the unthinkable.  I know, I know, I‘ve been there and YES, some days even if you put a Nun, a Vicar or the Pope on a motorcycle, at some point it will bring the bad out in them and the naughtiness goes straight to the wrist and they’ll want to twist and go faster.

Also it’s not always the biker’s fault, as the saying goes “Think Bike, Think Twice!”  If I was running for Prime

Big ben

Minister or President (don’t get too excited, I’m not…… not this week anyway) I’d make everyone take their bike test just so they’d understand how vulnerable you can be on a motorcycle.  There would also be other things I’d do but I’m not telling you……you might never vote for me.

Lots of things left to do in my biking world life, I was supposed to travel through America with a friend for our 40th but we both forgot to save for it……. we were stupid, I think we thought 40 was a long time away.  Top tip for anyone else, it takes 40 years!  Same time for everyone and it comes around quick.  I’ve not yet ridden a bike with Ape bars (I really want to!)  Still hoping to travel across America or maybe ride around the Italian lakes or Lake Michigan, I’d love to ride the Californian coast with the ocean to one side of me as my arms and legs stretch out as far as possible enjoying the views and the sun on my face….. maybe my 50th (not started to save yet though) or I’ll find a very generous American new friend with far too many bikes who says to me “Dave, have a month off, come ride with me…..” and his name would be Harley Davidson.  I’d even be happy having a few hours riding the Hollywood Hills, with a cup of tea and a hotdog in the middle of it all (am I asking to much?)

When the time is right I’ll know I’ll be there, but until then I’m happy where I am, The Kawasaki Ninja 636 was sold a few years ago (saving for a new bike).  I have 2 bikes which I’m keeping, both restored by myself.  I have a year 2000 Vespa et4, 125cc, it’s lots of fun, twist and go.  I also have a 1978 CB400T Superdream Cafe racer, gets lots of looks, it’s very nice…. and sounds like a thunder storm.

Bikes

For the new bike yet to come….?  Well, I’m in two minds, I’m torn, 50-50, half and half, chips and rice….. you know what I mean.  For me, it’s a choice of only 2, and they are the Harley 48 Sportster or the Triumph Bobber.

harley-48 & Bobber

I’m not the tallest of people and I know I fit on either one, both lovely though…..  Well, when either one arrives I’ll let you know, but until then, please ride safe you have a family waiting for you at home.  Enjoy your motorcycle, life is always better in the wind with a bike between your legs.  Let the riding clear your mind and soak up the scenery and the hotdog and a cup of tea or coffee.  But above all else, make sure if it’s a sunny day and the road is calling you, you always come back in one piece and it’s your bed you sleep in….. MAY THE RIDE BE WITH YOU!!

Brecon

As ever on the Easy Blend, I’ll let you know what I’m listening to.  Today it’s Bruce Springsteen, Rocky Ground.

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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The VW Transporter changed my life!!

The one and only rule of owning a VW van…. don’t ask “What can I do for the VW Transporter?” but “What can the VW Transporter do for me?”

2008 was my first experience of buying a van, and of course for me there was only one van that’s stood the test of time…… only one van that ages the best of them all, only one van that most people desire over other vans and that’s the VW Transporter.

BABY

We were having a baby and it was on the way….. not by post…… my wife was pregnant.  I wanted a vehicle that was friendly, good quality and looked cool.  Even though the T5 had been out for a few years, my budget at the time could only get me a T4…..and may I say, ‘there’s nothing wrong with that!’  I had found a nice one, a white panel van, it was a 2003 T4 Caravelle 888 special (oooooooohhh look at me!)  The 888 special had cruise control, captain seats and it had a longer nose on the front end, which was my preference.  I drove 150 miles to see it and knew ‘this was the one’, but still I struggled parting with the money….. why?  Because, I couldn’t quite get my head around buying a van as my main family vehicle.  My mind was still thinking vans were for builders, airport taxis and parcel deliveries (Silly me! Oooooooohhhhh silly silly me! )

T4

Once the VW Van was back in the Frantony house and grounds, my first job was to take the old ply out of the rear of the van and steam clean it.  Whilst that was drying, I cut out the panels for two side sliding windows and a rear window.  After fixing all the windows it was time to insulate the van with foil back bubble wrap, stuck on with spray adhesive.  The ply boards were carpeted, the floor had black and white chequered rubber tiles and a rear double seat was bolted in.  The outside had a re-spray and the old steel wheels were changed for a nice set of alloys (paid for by my acting job on the film, IronClad!)

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Having my son in the pram at the time was easy peesy lemon squeezy, as when it rained, we’d go in from the tailgate at the rear of the van….. it’s the size of a bus shelter.  We could lift the pram into the back, take him out of the pram and in to his travel child seat.  Close the tailgate from inside by the handle, hang my coat up on the hook, bungy strap the pram down and walk in between the captain seats…… and Voila! I’m in the driver seat…..and by the way, in all the time we had the pram, not once did I ever have to put it down.  I know, all parents with saloon cars and people carriers are saying ‘Can this be true?’  Why YES my friends….. would I lie to you??  Never!

There’s NO getting wet as you stand outside your car whilst trying to strap your child in the travel seat, as you frustratingly fold down the pram and ram it in to the boot over all the shopping and new clothes you’ve just purchased (Grrrrrrr!!…… I hear you say)

Then there’s the VW Transporter day out experience….. it was a day at the coast overlooking the beach with the sea glistening in the distance. The tailgate open, the kettle on the boil and……..wait for it…….in the frying pan next to the fresh warm bread and pack of real butter…….. was BACON, mmmmmmmm….. and lots of it!  This……. my friends, is a van of options and style!   But wait….. what made it all the more desirable…… parked next to us was a BMW 5 series.

BEACH

Lovely you might say but it didn’t look that good as we grinned, watching the couple face out the windscreen (for you beautiful American readers windshield) looking over their plastic Tupperware boxes on the dash, sipping tea from a flask in-between taking bites from a cold, drab ham sandwich.  Don’t get me wrong….. I love a ham sandwich……but not next to a hot bacon sandwich with real butter melting through the fresh warm bread and a freshly made cup of tea (no flask tangy taste on my watch!)  With a full belly from nice hot bacon sandwiches and hot tea, Mrs Frantony relaxed on the beach whilst my son played in the sand, and of course….there’s never a problem with space when changing back in to her clothes.  And as for sleeping in the van…. well, it’s lovely and comfortable, warm and never damp.

Now we’ve all experienced a bit of IKEA from time to time, and I’ve seen how people are so focused on what they want to buy and then FORGET how they’re going to get it home? I’ve seen this first hand whilst eating one of their hotdogs as I watched through the window down on to the car park.  They have one foot by the trolley wheel, stopping it from rolling away and stretching in and on top of the car making sure everything fits…… no matter how big the newly bought items are.

IKEA

Well, not me….. why?  Because I’ve got a VW Transporter van, the only problem that I have going to IKEA is that I’m happy to follow the arrows on the floor, write down what I need, find what I need in the store part of the shop, take it to my van and take it home to then build it up myself…..and I still go back……it’s like a big vending machine…..wait a minute this isn’t an IKEA blog….. Note to self  ‘Dave, write about that another time!’

Anyhoo…. back to the VW van, all was well until one winters night, a tree decided that after 140 years, it was time to lie down….. on my van! Whilst I laid naked sleeping like a starfish in my super king size bed.

STARFISH

And that Ladies and Gentlemen………was the end of my VW Transporter T4….. my lovely, lovely van that I was going to keep forever; it now was only good for posting through a letter box.  For five years after that, I travelled in the wilderness of having no van (you may feel for me at this point…….well go on then, I’m in tears as I write this).  My mind, my body ached for another VW Van, I was lost driving anything and everything due to my insurance doubling over night, even though it wasn’t anyone’s fault.  I was waking up in cold sweats knowing my body…. my soul needed another VW van…. I was getting close to wearing a straight jacket.  Then a day like no other, as I walked a lonely path with the sun on my back, I felt a strange tingle through my spine.  I looked up to the sky, I knew the VW Transporter Gods found favour with me, they took time out spoiling other people in the world with nice new VW vans and pulled out the Dave Frantony life file.

VW GODS

I was in the privileged position to buy a new VW T6 Transporter Combi van…..with extras!… and this didn’t mean garlic bread or onion rings, and for this I am grateful, very grateful!  Swivel seats, twin electric sliding doors and leisure battery.  It’s given us freedom like no other vehicle can.  A weekend camping trip is nice and easy, and my son who’s now eight years old loves it.  He’s more excited sleeping in the van than he has been in any Hotel we’ve stayed in.  Cooking the bacon sandwiches is still a joy, and being able to easily fit 3 mountain bikes in the back, driving to the coast or to different trails or to canals venturing along the tow paths is a privilege.  The captain seats are awesome…….I really do feel like Captain Kirk or Jean Luc Picard of the Starship enterprise driving along sitting in them.  I’ll be honest with you…..sometimes I even say to myself “Make it so, number one.”

It’s comfortable, you sit high up on the road, there’s hardly any difference in length to that of a family saloon car, yes it’s higher but that only makes it easier to see the road.  The VW Transporter gives you options and a life style that I am grateful for.  Even though it’s not as aero dynamic as a fighter jet, the MPG is very good……. it’s averaging 42mpg…… and I’ll prove it. Here are my calculations over many nights in front of the black board.

VW PUZZLE 2

And may I say……and this really happened, but only once when the conditions were right, as in the VW Gods were all happy and laughing, the Transporter was at its cleanest, the wind was dead centre behind the tailgate and the roads were quiet with not a pot hole to be seen and no insect flying in the sky and inadvertently unbeknown to them as they go about their daily deeds waiting to be squashed and weigh the windscreen down. Not to sound like a VW Transporter SUPER HERO, but on a long run we once had 52.5 mpg.

VW SUPERHERO

So that my friends, is my love of the VW Transporter van and my love goes deep…..so deep, I cannot see the bottom. So to all you VW Transporter owners out there……. take it easy…. don’t worry and live life to the full, venturing to places where no man or woman has gone before!!  Always remember, as the famous speech goes of Sir Winston Churchill in a parallel universe….

“We shall defend our VW van, whatever the cost may be; we shall drive them to the beaches, we shall drive them to the camping grounds, we shall drive them to any suitable, idyllic field and park them in the streets, we shall drive them to the hills (because the view is nice); we shall never surrender……. to any other van!”

T6.png

As ever on the Easy Blend, I’ll let you know what I’m listening to.  Today it’s Madcon feat. Ray Dalton, Don’t worry.

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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Dare I camp again…..??

My first camping disaster on a campsite. I actually have three, but for this blog I shall only tell you one though I do believe that, the Gods of this world were telling me “Dave…… Camping, my friend, is not for you!”

It was a beautiful hot summer’s day, 2 weeks off from work, still living with my parents (the year 1991) so had not a care in the world. My 3 friends and I decided to take a trip to Cornwall. We packed some clothes in any old bag and squeezed a rather large tent that none of us had ever seen before, into the back of my friends Fiesta XR2i. Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Cars’ tape was turned up full volume, the windows were down and the wind was fiercely blowing in my ‘then’ hair……..life was good…… and easy!

Severn Bridge

Travelling along the M4 Motorway, to our left in the distance was Chepstow, as we approached the old Severn Bridge taking us over the Severn Estuary. The question that always comes to mind is always……”will the tide be in or out?” I’ve heard the currents are very dangerous…. not sure about the sultanas though. Of course if the tide is out then there’s miles of mud, even now I think “Don’t want to be stuck in that when the tide comes in!” But why would I? I’ve never been down to the mud bank, Punch in the mouthso unless I fell out of the car window it wouldn’t happen. Anyway, we had just paid £1.00 to drive over the old Severn Bridge. Yep, remember the good old days when it was £1.00 each way, not like it is today, £6.80 for a car!! This price always leaves you feeling like you’ve just been stripped naked and beaten!

After leaving the M4 Motorway, we were all feeling good as we drove around the large sweeping bend on to the M5 Motorway. It was always a good feeling as a child, because the M5 was confirmation….. you knew we were really on the way to Cornwall. As I said, the sun was out so it was very hot, but we had already made our first mistake…. well, in fact we had made a few but the first one (that we found, which clearly none of us owned up to), was when we had stopped off at the services for a toilet break. My friends Mum had gone in to the sweet drawer in the kitchen before we left for the holidays and gave us a brand spanking new bag of fun size Mars bars that we placed on the parcel shelf up against the rear window (a rookie mistake, I know). Before we set off on our journey again I reached in grabbing the bag…….. the bag of squidgy, liquid, melted fun size Mars Bars (not so “fun” anymore!) I will take credit for the idea that followed, and that was to tie the bag of fun size Mars Bars on to the rear wiper of the tailgate outside of the car, in the hope that by the time we made it to Cornwall, they would have gone hard from the cold air of travelling at 70mph….. alright 80mph…….. alright maybe 85ish mph. Did they go hard you ask yourselves? I’ll tell you at the end of this blog.   With no traffic to be seen, we were feeling cool taking in the miles and miles ofBlack bales fields either side of the M5 being flummoxed and asking each other “Why it is that no matter what long journey you take, there is always a single dead tree in the middle of a field?” Anyway, as we came to the end of the M5 we made our way on to the A and B roads. The scenery was stunning, field after field with rolling hills in between, laughing at the same joke as we gazed at the many sheep in the fields in amongst the large black plastic balls of wrapped up hay saying “WOW…..The rabbits in that field must be HUGE!!” (I’ll give you some time to think about that one).

At this point Tracy Chapman was still playing (and by the way, I still can’t get enough of the Fast Cars album), when suddenly my friend stretched out his hand to the knob on the cassette player, turning the music down. He looked at us with a smile on his face, “Boys…… the tent doesn’t have a ground sheet, but don’t worry, my Dad gave me a plastic sheet that we can put down over the grass”. I was about to turn the music back up when he spoke again “But it’s the plastic sheet that he uses when mixing up cement on the drive.” We all looked at one another and thanked him for telling us…… when we were past the point of no return!

Eventually we came to the first camp site, so in we drove and made our way to reception. The lady took one look at us “NO!” Yes, we were eighteen years old but we were a nice bunch! I hadn’t even blinked and we were back in the car to the next camp site and the next and the next and the next and… ….Ground sheet floor planwell we lost count of the camp sites that rejected us.   Eventually, the last camp site we came to, the time now 9.30pm, we were given permission to camp but only for 1 night at the cost of…… wait for it (because it still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it) £30…… £30!! It was 1991 not the year 2191. However, he had us by the short and curlies and there was nothing we could do, but put up our tent for the first time ever. By 10.45pm the tent was up (in some shape) with a 12 inch gap all around the bottom of the tent and an even bigger gap around the edge as the sheet of plastic looked like the map of Italy covered in lumps on cement which wasn’t exactly ideal considering the tent was square.

The next mistake we all made was that the 4 of us forgot to bring pillows, so we improvised by rolling up our jeans, you’ll be surprised how comfortable Levi 501’s can be. As we laid in our sleeping bags, the owner of the camp site turned up to see us, he was wearing an Australian bush hat, waist coat and jeans (we figured he thought he was HarleyCrocodile Dundee) on a Harley Davidson! Of course, there was no need to unzip the tent door due to the large gap around the bottom of the tent, so we stuck our heads out through the gap. “Lads, keep it quiet tonight and be gone in the morning!” he then straddled his beautiful Harley Davidson and rode off………it would have made no difference if we had a rave that night and bought the loudest stereo in the world with the biggest speakers….it was never going to be as loud as his Motorcycle.

The next day we packed up to make our way home thinking we were never going to be accepted on any camp site being a group of 4 boys, when another friend mentioned a camp site in Devon, in the little seaside town of Woolacombe. We reached the town mid afternoon and by the power of the camping Gods they let us in straight away and for a week. As it was daylight, we took our time putting up the tent, but it made no difference, the tent and the poles didn’t match. Either the tent was too small or the poles were too long and the ground sheet….. well, we did spend time picking off as many of the lumps of cement but could do nothing about the size or shape. We did have a master plan….and that was to use our bags along the bottom of the tent to save us from the wind but in reality it made no difference. Outside TentThen one of my friends (I can’t give you a name as he now has a very important job now, but he did like to wear big buckles on his belt, and yes his ‘jeans pillow’ wasn’t as comfy as ours) one night decided to sleep half in the tent and half out because he felt sick, which in fact he was, this was the scene we all woke up to in the morning

So the easiest option was to cover the sick with grass (I know…..lovely, Dave) than move the tent, whilst using one of the many gaps at the bottom of the tent as our new doorway.

Now, not having a correctly fitting tent and ground sheet can cause problems…..they don’t stop bugs and insects from joining you, this I know from firsthand experience. As the 4 of us lay on our backs in our sleeping bags chatting and laughing before going to sleep, something landed in my mouth at the precise moment I laughed.

“Alright then boys……Who threw something?”

All together it was a resounding “Nope, not me!”

Luckily I was on torch duty that night, so I sat up and spat on to the grass and there it was……Was it a bit of rolled paper? Was it a bottle top? Was it a blueberry muffin? Was it an Earwig……………..? Sleeping bagsWhy YES! YES it was! So for the rest of the week before going to bed it was “Hit off the Earwigs from inside the tent duty” and once that task was done we would all place pieces of toilet roll in our ears because…. well……. isn’t it obvious they’re Earwigs ‘DUUUHH!’ The last thing we needed was for the Earwigs to take a stroll in to our ears and eat our brains…… just how stupid do you think we were?

Halfway through the holiday I even woke up with the 3 of them staring at me with a look of horror of their faces. I first thought I was covered in earwigs with my brain sticking out of my ears…..but NO! Up until this point in my life only my Mum and Dad knew my sleeping habits, and the one thing I feared happened. Sometimes….and by the way, I’ve not done it for years, but I used to make a droning noise. This woke them all up as they were amazed by how long I could drone for without taking a breath. The only way I can describe it is…… picture yourselves on a sunny warm sunny afternoon having a cup of tea when everything near you is quiet, but far away in the distance you can hear a droning sound of a motorcycle in the distance……well that’s what I sound like…… apparently….

Oh, and just to give you some serious information on the fun size Mars Bars that melted in the back of the car……once melted it doesn’t matter how long your journey is or how fast your travelling if it’s HOT…. they will forever stay melted.

As usual on the Easy Blend I’m listening to some great music, today it has to be Tracy Chapman, Fast Cars

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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On a rally….? Really?

1988 and a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go and see a ‘night rally’ through the different stages in Brecon and Llandovery.

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Of course the answer was YES, who doesn’t want to see a Rally?  Lots of fast cars with experienced drivers doing a 120mph through forestry, and let’s face it, the trees in the forestry normally only see a man walking his dog with a stick in its mouth on the weekend.

The rally started at 11pm, so we left around 9pm with a flask of tea, a

IMG_0100

packet of plain crisps and four cheese and Branston sandwiches tightly wrapped (tight enough that the crown jewels would have been safe).  It was dark, cold and no street lights were to be seen, it was the middle of Wales after all.  I looked the part as my mum and dad hadn’t long bought me a RS Rallye Sport jacket, all the rage back then, and by the way I still have it and it still fits…..!  If anyone else has one, they’re considered ‘vintage’ now and are worth a few bob!

Anyway, the car we were in ….now don’t forget

Fiesta

its 1988, it was the car that most people desired….a MK3 Ford Escort XR3i, in white with a black spoiler.  Yep I know….some of you who are old enough are nodding (YES Dave you are right….a nice car, my friend!)

Now one thing my friend didn’t tell me was that it was an AMATEUR Rally not a world class Rally with all the famous drivers and really, really, really fast cars……

Two worlds

Nope, these were Ford Escort MK2’s, Opel Manta’s, Vauxhall Chevette’s and Mini Metro’s and Talbot Sunbeams.  But please don’t get me wrong, they were fast, but a price of a professional Rally car can be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, these cars were worlds apart.

When we arrived, a marshal gave us a small map with a time table of when and where each stage started and finished.  We drove on ahead of each stage, ready to find a spot to park and a spot to stand with a good view to watch the excitement.  The only worry I was supposed to have had for the night was when do I eat my cheese and Branston sandwiches?

BAD album cover

And not to spill my tea in the car (grey seats…..would have stained easy!)  On the stereo continuously playing from side ‘A’ to ‘B’ was the Michael Jackson album “BAD” (on tape of course), it had only been out a few months and still today when I hear any song from that album it reminds me of this Rally.

So, all was going well until my friend bumped into someone he sort of knew, whose friend was one of the drivers in the Rally, and this is what he said “Why don’t you follow me, I know these lanes like the back of my hand, I can take you to the best spots where nobody else will know.”

Hand

Well….. we did just that and we followed him, and before I go any further this man was driving a brand new MK3 Escort Estate 1.3L, in BEIGE of all colours.   I don’t care who you are or what year it is or was, even what car is on the planet at the time….. no-one sits in their house flicking through a brochure and saying to themselves, “Hmmmmmm……I think I’ll buy a new car and Ohhhhh YES….and I want it in Beige.”  And it had a brown interior.

Estate car.png

The ford Escort XR3i that we were in was a 1.6i and at the time it was a fast car so you’d think keeping up with this guy would be easy, well for a while it wasn’t.  He drove his own car like he had stolen it, like a raving lunatic!  He clearly, in his own demented head, thought he was on the actual Rally as a competitor.  Anyway, I had soon lost my appetite for the last

Hands over face

of my 2 cheese and Branston sandwiches and I daren’t even look at my flask of tea.

I knew things were now getting serious, because the stereo was turned off for full concentration and all of a sudden we could see 2 lights in the rear view mirror…..

Rear view

YEP, hurtling towards us from behind, at warp speed (and NO it wasn’t the Starship Enterprise) it was a Rally car in the middle of the stage which we are were also in the middle of!

In the nick of time the both cars pulled over to allow the Rally car pass, and then we moved on again knowing full well another Rally car would soon be behind us.  We were lost, the ‘FOOL’ in front of us had no idea where he was going and neither did we. I looked at my cheese and Branston sandwich

kitchen

thinking “Mother Frantony will shout at me if I waste them and she’ll shout at me if she finds out that I’m in a Rally in a normal car with normal seat belts no roll cage and no fire extinguisher and let’s not forget the helmet.   So the FOOL in front was speeding off around every bend in the lanes, then all of a sudden he was gone.  Then we saw him way ahead of us, only his car looked taller and thinner…… well, it was going

Car on side

to happen, he was in a ditch with his car on its side.

Standing on the seats with half his body out of the window we stopped, I thought brilliant “I’m going to be in the back and he’s going to want one of my cheese and Branston sandwiches.”  Luckily, he told us that he’d be okay and for us to drive on, so that’s exactly what we did.  5 miles later we drove in to Llandovery town and through the finish line with every one about to cheer but they just stared at us in disbelief instead.

Finish line

We didn’t hang around, so we headed straight home finishing off my cheese and Branston sandwiches along the way and by 7:30am I was tucked up in bed, I didn’t even clean my teeth but I was glad to be home.  I’ve never been on a Rally since; I find it far easier and safer to watch it on TV!  I have no idea who the FOOL was that we were following or even if he’s still in the ditch 28 years on!  Probably not, and of course he clearly had no idea what the back of his hand looked like!

As this is the Easy Blend, I‘d thought I’d let you know what I’m listening to.  Today it’s Michael Jackson – Man in the Mirror

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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