Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Amnesiac Old Men

I have to write about this. I'm surrounded by amnesiac old men. Very dear, wonderfully kind, very well meaning men to be sure, but still, that's what they are. Amnesiac Old(er) Men, and bless his dear heart, Koos is one of them. He knows I'm writing this and we've already had our laughs about it, so there's no malice intended, but the only reason I've still got hair on my head is because I promised myself I would write this post. So, here it is...

Three weeks ago, I went to the shipyard boss to ask about booking a week on the slips. "Bertus", say I "when can you fit me in?" "In February", says he. "Hmmm, are you sure? is there nothing earlier?", plead I, worrying about that tiny pinprick leak I have in my hull that has me squatting for hours over it, studying the rate of flow through the miscroscopic gap, and wondering whether I'll live to sink another week, or is that live without sinking another week? " Sorry", says Bertus, studying his charts, "that's the earliest I can slot you in". "OK", I sigh. I make the booking and potter off to buy a wet and dry hoover, so that I can suck out the little puddle that builds up every few days in the lowest point of my hull. Koos is with me during this exchange with Bertus, and we bemoan the fact that February will be cold. It may also be snowy and icy, but it will at least be cheap as I stand to get a 30% discount as compensation for the risk (almost a certainty) of hypothermia, not to mention guaranteed frostbite or at least chillblains.

Now, Bertus, the Yard boss, is somewhere in his late fifties, and is a honey. I am genuinely fond of him. Nevertheless, his short term memory is busily changing places with its long term counterpart, and while he will regale us for hours with anecdotes about the good old days, anything that has occurred within the last month or so goes into some kind of mental pending file where it lies conveniently dormant until it is old enough to be regurgitated as past history. As a result, when on Monday this week a ship that was due on the slipway didn't turn up, Bertus started looking round for a willing replacement. Right. Now you'd naturally think that given my rather recent plea, he might perhaps think of me. Wrong!

Bertus has forgotten my leaky bottom and cheerfully asks Koos if he would like to consider taking the spot. Now, remember that my dearest Koos is also of a similar age. So..picture this scenario.

We are waking up quietly on Tuesday morning, and Koos says musingly."I think I'll put my ship on the Slipway today." I freeze. All feelings of early morning languor have rushed off down the end of the bed to cuddle up with Sindy. "Umm, Why?" I ask in a voice that I hope is loaded with frost. I wait to find out what could possibly have prompted this bizarre statement. Koos explains about the ship that didn't turn up. With icicles forming on my vocal chords, I ask why Bertus didn't offer me the spot. Koos then, with awesome innocence, questions why I should want it. I remind him, through clenched teeth, about my recent request. He has forgotten. He has forgotten too that he was with me when I made the booking for February, but to cap it all, within the space of 24 hours, Bertus has also fogotten that he offered the spot to Koos at all, and later in the morning we find that he has made yet another arrangement for the slipway, meaning that neither of us can make use of the unexpected vacancy. Grrrrrrrrrr!!

Am I reeling? I am. But that's not all..Oh no!

One of the language schools for which I work is run by another dear amnesiac older man - a charming spaniel eyed Englishman called Roger, who I always have the greatest difficulty in refusing. Late last week he called me in desperation. "Val! I need you! What hours can you give me, and when?" "Hmmm", I consider, "I'm very busy, Roger, but if I shuffle a couple of things...well...I can give you Monday and Tuesday evenings". " Great!", he practically shouts at me "Val, you're a life saver. I'll let you know which classes you're teaching but it will definitely be Monday and Tuesday evening." Fine, I think, and dutifully re-shuffle other private lessons, and cancel another course that's in the pipeline but isn't yet definite. I then sit and wait. And wait. And still wait. On Monday afternoon, I have still not heard. I call on Roger. "Oh,um, Val! Didn't I tell you?" "Tell me what, Roger" "I'm so sorry Val, but I've got someone else to do those evenings. I thought I'd told you." I growl at him with all the menace I can muster, lay on the guilt, add on a few extra broken arrangements to further underscore the severity of his error...but then he deals his trump card. Looking at me with those big sad spaniel eyes, he says "I'm sorry Val, I thought you'd be relieved."

Of course, I know he'd thought no such thing. He'd just forgotten. Even more of course, he's just another of my inevitably dear, amnesiac older men. It seems I can't live my life without them. Bless them. Bless them all!

Friday, August 25, 2006

James Casey - Unsung songster

Over the last few days I've been downloading and listening to some beautiful songs. They are all written, performed and recorded by James our-very-own Casey. It's hard to categorise them. I guess they would fall into the same bracket as Rachel's music but then labels/lables ;-) are always difficult, so what do you call it? I don't know, but it's gentle, witty and melodic...

I'm impressed by his lyrics, his harmonies and melodies. I am also impressed by his musical skill and performing ability. One song that really stands out for me is "Blow Wind Blow".

James's music is all available on IAC and whether you just like some, one or all of his songs, they are worth listening to. In my view, James has a talent worth supporting. I'm afraid he's going to be terribly embarrassed by this post, but I can't help that. James's blog doesn't allow for comments, so I have to say it here if anyone else is going to see it...sorry James!

One of the great things about blogging is that we can say what we like (within reason) and support who we like. There are so many talented people within this blogging circle, I would love to see them all succeed in gaining some recognition for their work, so I guess what I'm trying to say is that when I find it, I want to say something about it.....so watch this space!

You can find the song Blow Wind Blow here

Monday, June 19, 2006

Gypsy: This is for YOU



You've come to mean so much to all of us,
so hoping you enjoy today and every other
day with us on blogland.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Father's Day Tribute to my Pa

Inspired by Anne Marie's heartwarming post about her father, I am shamelessly copying her for my own tribute to my beloved Pa, who as I write, lies infirm and totally disabled by all the strokes he has had in a north London nursing home.

I have photos of him as he is now, but they are too sad and reflect nothing of the kind, intelligent and gentle soul that he used to be - a caring Daddy to my sister and me, and a wonderful grandfather to my daughters. He stimulated any artistic inclinations any of us had, and encouraged us to be forever curious about our world. From him, I know I learnt what is is to keep a sense of wonder about nature and its ways.



These pictures were taken in London at the end of the 80's when I escaped a crumbling marriage to spend some time back in England. I feel you can see the kindness beaming from his face, and the picture below in Trafalgar Square is typical of the attention he paid my little daughters. When we were young, he was very busy with his work and so didn't have this kind of 'quality' time to spend with us, but I do remember it was my Pa who always made sure we had our 'brolleys' when it was raining and buttoned our coats up before we went to school....bless him..

Monday, June 12, 2006

25 Years and still Rocking!

This last weekend I was in the UK with my sister and her husband (a.k.a Toots and Chris) to help them celebrate their Silver Wedding anniversary. It was a terrific party because my brother-in-law plays drums for a rock and roll band of which he at fifty something is the youngest member! They put on a really great show and we danced until the blisters on our feet popped and were just too tired to rock any more. This pic is of my sister (left) with Laurance (centre), a French friend who came all the way from southern Champagne to be there and Rozzy (right)one of my sister's twin daughters.

In this photo, you can just see Chris behind his drum kit. I saw them play last year, and cannot believe the improvement this time round, especially with big bro-in-law who has gained so much confidence. We were really impressed...watch out Zak Starkey!

My sister and her babies, Sophy and Rozzy, the two sweetest girls (apart from mine and Dale's and Gypsy's) in the universe! There is an older sister, Sarah, who was also there, and is also lovely, but somehow she never came in shot.



Finally, it had to be done! The Family Photo! But, sadly, I still didn't get Sarah or Sophy, who also vanished at that point. Here, you can see from right to left: Brothers Chris and Nick, then sister Toots, Rozzy, Diana wife of Chris, Liz wife of Nick and lastly, the beautiful Eleanor, youngest of Nick's three daughters. I'm so sorry poor Diana is pulling such a face here and I didn't notice it until after the party when they had all gone and couldn't do a re-take..She was so much fun on the dance floor. Hard to believe she's just retired!


It was great to be with my brothers again, because I hardly ever see them - the last time was four years ago at Chris's son's wedding. We lead very different lives, and never really know what each other is doing, but it was good to spend those few hours remembering that we really are a family, and I can just be thankful for occasions like these that give us the reason and motivation we need to keep that bond alive.

Thank you Toots and Chris for a memorable evening. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and may you have another 25 wonderful years together.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tot ziens to my TENACITE

This weekend was tough for two reasons. The first, and most obvious is that it was very hard work hauling furniture and belongings out of my (now former) barge in Belgium. I have finally managed to sell it to a young Belgian man who has become quite a friend in the last few weeks, so I can say with honesty and from my heart that I wish him years of pleasure and happiness on the Ténacité. It is a friendly, homely boat and I'm sure it will embrace him kindly.
The other tough part was saying goodbye to my barge. This picture was taken the weekend I first saw it, and I fell in love with it despite the decrepitude. It's been a lot of work to scrape and paint the hull, strip and sand the wheelhouse and build in a bathroom, bedroom and kitchen, but the result was a boat that many say is beautiful, even though I know it isn't really. The Ténacité has given us three years of wonderful holidays and weekends; endless opportunities to explore the Belgian countyside and towns; countless days of enjoying just being elsewhere on a boat that you can also call home. I'll miss it both sadly and badly, but it was time to go.

Friday, February 10, 2006

What's behind the silver lining - A story for all ages

Once upon a time – and all good stories start this way, so you can really sit back comfortably, because you know it’s going to be good – anyway, as I was saying, once upon a time it was a bright sunny day and the world looked fresh and new, but in spite of this there were still lots of clouds in the sky.

This was because there was about to be a big cloud get-together. They do this now and again, clouds. They like to join up and form a great big heap with all the little clouds at the top and all the big clouds at the bottom.

Then all the clouds underneath clap their hands and bang and shout so that it sounds a bit like a huge thunderstorm – which of course, it is - and a good time is had by all. Sometimes, they get so excited, these clouds, that they get all hot, and then some of them melt a bit, which is why we think it’s raining when there’s a thunderstorm – which, of course, it is.

The reasons the clouds have these get-togethers are many, and one of their favourite excuses is when they have cloud christenings.

Now the traditional present to give a baby cloud is a gift wrapped silver hanky. Every cloud that was ever born is given one.

In the years and centuries before this story, these silver hankies were always kept in a safe place and never taken out except at the end of especially great big get-togethers, when all the clouds would sit in the sun and mop their heads with their silver hankies to cool down after all the fun.

On this day, it was going to be one of the biggest get-togethers of all, and the first that little Cleo Cloud had ever been to. She had her silver hanky tucked safely in her pocket, and was floating along to the get-together with her best friend Cassie.

Neither of them really knew what to expect but they did know that it was the most important party of the year, because it was the day when everyone knew that summer was over, and it was called the Autumn Stampede.

All the clouds had to be sure to make enough wind and noise at this party to remind the sleepy old leaves that it was time to fall off the trees, so they had to work quite hard as well as have lots of fun.

Anyway, Cleo and Cassie wanted to make sure they stayed together because their Mums and Dads would be busy with their jobs as chief thunder clappers, and they didn’t want to get lost in the heap.

Everyone was milling around when they arrived, trying to find their place, so there was already quite a bit of wind. Cleo and Cassie got blown around a bit as they climbed up the other clouds to their positions at the top.

Then, a terrible thing happened. Wicked Wilma, a big young cloud who was famous for stirring things up, decided to go into a spin just as everyone was about to start clapping.

Wilma whirled round and round, faster and faster until she was going so fast that she was dragging all the other clouds with her, rather like a small Tornado. Cleo and Cassie screamed and tried to hold on to each other, but in the end, they couldn’t manage it and Cleo was thrown out into the air as she let go of Cassie’s coat tail.

Suddenly, poor little Cleo found herself alone. There she was in the big blue sky without her friend or her Mummy and Daddy. She floated around sadly, looking for another friendly cloud, but the only ones she met were dark miserable things with grey faces and heavy crinkly frowns.

After a while, she began to feel grey and heavy herself, and a curious lump formed in her throat and a pricking started behind her eyes. She realised at last that she was going to cry! This was terrible! She’d never cried before and she knew it really wouldn’t be good for her. She’d get thin and pale if she cried, and might disappear altogether!

Then just before the first teardrops rolled off her eyelids, she remembered her silver hanky. If she took it out of her pocket and put it around her, she could catch the drips before they fell and push them back in again. What a wonderful idea!

As she shook out her hanky and held it around her back, she was already feeling happier and not like crying at all. Even the sun came out of hiding and smiled at her, and all of a sudden the world didn’t look so bad, and her silver hanky sparkled behind her, making her look very pretty indeed.

When her Mum and Dad and Cassie found her later in the day, they were very surprised to find a cheerful looking Cleo, still wearing her silver hanky like a big shiny shawl, and floating merrily around the sky..

What’s more, they saw that all the other clouds around her were doing the same thing.

“Well, well, well”, said Daddy cloud “It seems that Cleo and all these other clouds have grown silver linings.”

“Yes, dear” said Mummy Cloud “But if that’s what makes everyone so cheerful, then I think we’d better do the same”, and with that, she took out her own silver hanky and with a smile, draped it over herself before going to give little Cleo a big cloudy cuddle.

And from that day to this, people have remembered the story of little Cleo Cloud. So, when life looks rather sad, they might tell you that ’every cloud has a silver lining’, meaning that you can ALWAYS get something good out of a bad situation