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.

handel-hendrix

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….

DUNK TANK

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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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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