Unpredictability - Good for your health

Our modern life is based on organising an environment free from the unexpected. The house needs to be as stable and reliable as possible. The job as safe as possible. Nothing should break down. Nothing but what we predict, should occur.
This is the life of the zoo animal. Let's explore the life of the Nomad. Let's live the life of the Nomad.

Monday, 29 July 2013

An update from Scotland

My normal weeks of motorways and a campsite have been replaced by air corridors and a hotel room.  Most Fridays I will fly back to Southampton and most Sundays complete the return journey to Glasgow.  And it is mostly this way because if entertaining the kids is not on my schedule for a weekend I will have some further options.  One of those options is to work the weekend.  This assignment had a long list of milestones with a limited time to achieve them - and so I accepted the offer to work through the weekend whenever it was offered.  If spending day after day in an office environment without a break did little to inspire me to write - I suspect it has pleased the managers of my bank account.
In the sky every week

A busy man's time does seem short - and I can hardly believe I have been living a working life in Scotland for almost four months.  My ear has adapted to the rhythm of a Glaswegian dialect and although I am not saying aye instead of yes or looking after my weens instead of my kids - I can say that conversing with a Scot now is no bother and rarely do I need to request a repeat of what just came out of a hen's vocal chords. 
I had been getting on well with a Zimbabwean lady I had met on the internet dating site.  We would meet up for a meal and a chat and take a drive whenever I had some free time on the weekend.  Like myself the Zimbabwean lady was one for being busy - she had her work and her studies and her children and her church and her politics.  And there was one weekend when I had no work and nor did I have the children - and so I suggested she take a break and enjoy a weekend in Glasgow.

In Glasgow exists a square that attracts those who would enjoy sitting down with a newspaper to read or a picnic to eat.  A retreat within a manic city.  A place to reflect and relax perhaps for a few minutes before rushing back to finish a busy shift in a city office.  And there is some irony here since it is named after King George the Third, whose reign covered the great Battle of Trafalgar in which Nelson decided to attack a line of ships at a right angle rather than at a parallel - the result being a victory that firmly established Britain as the world's leading naval power.  George Square presents a pleasant site and the room I booked in the Millenium hotel had a grand view over the entirety of the square.
The Millenium hotel from across George Square

Compared to the budget room in the loft that I regularly use, this hotel was a bit of luxury.  The room was large and nicely aired and the bed had one of those memory mattresses that nicely relaxes a body's aching muscles.  And there must have been plenty of aching leg muscles in Glasgow on this weekend.  I heard the helicopter hovering above and a crowd that cheered on the athletes whizzing by at a speed to awaken a speed camera's optical flash.  Glasgow was host to the British National Road racing championship and here we were with a commanding view on the second floor of a hotel.

British National Cycle Championship

I have always enjoyed the cycling sport and could have spent the day cheering on the velo masters - but I had a lady to entertain.  It is a rare thing for a lady not to enjoy a day shopping - and the Zimbabwean was not disappointed by Glasgow's rich retail offerings.  There is no point to earning the money if there is no will to be spending it and thus a good few hours was given to the shopping aisles and the markets. After many hours we returned to the hotel to relieve our arms from the weight of all those shopping bags.  There would be no rest for this nomad however.  It is a splendid thing to have fallen for an African princess and I always enjoy being in her company.  So much grace and so much style.  The princess does however need the respect of royalty and I was quickly dispatched to hunt down something nice for lunch.  Thankfully there was a superb take out store a few blocks away from the hotel, and thankfully the princess approved the presented meal.

Next on the agenda was a bus tour.  Our route was somewhat altered from the standard due to the bike race and the roads it blocked.  It was however an enjoyable tour of Glasgow and well worth the ten pounds handed over for the ticket.  Glasgow has many museums and they are all free to enter.  The bus tour will stop at these museums and you can hop off, visit the museum and wait for the next bus for your return.  Great value and the bus commentator discussed the history and significance of many of the buildings and attractions.  The bus was the open top variety - and our commentator determined the definition of optimism to be, indeed, an open topped bus in Glasgow.

I had made some friends at the place where I worked.  Two of them invited me to a day of hiking.  Ben Lomond would be my second Munro.  A Munro is any Scottish mountain over 3000 feet and Ben Lomond was to be my second one climbed.  A few years past I had climbed Ben Nevis - the highest mountain in the UK and that was a particularly hard march.  Unfortunately the only view I was rewarded with was that of a cloud's innards.  Ben Lomond was a different experience.  The sky was blue and the air was hot.  Ben Lomond is 3,196 feet high and is the most southerly Munro, lying within the Ben Lomond National Memorial Park.  

My friend Gary picked Marcia and myself up at 8.00 am on a Saturday morning and we drove to the mountain to commence the hike. We parked the car at the entrance to the tourist path in Rowardennan.  The mountain is only an hour's drive from Glasgow and is one of the most climbed of the Munros in Scotland.  It took us a good six hours to complete the ascent.  We had been trekking a good three hours or so and were sure we were close to the summit.  We stopped for some fluid and a bite.  Gary had recently purchased a new GPS and I asked him to tell me what our altitude was.  He said it read 400 so it must be wrong.  I said nothing as I had guessed he had the settings to metric and we were at 400 meters high, only half way up the mountain.   One thing I have learnt from mountain hiking is never to ask anyone passing on the descent how far there is to go - but Marcia did just that and I did feel some sympathy for my hiking friends when the descending hiker informed them we were only half way there indeed.
So it was a hot day and the climbing a good test for the legs but certainly the views at the top were spectacular.  The skies were so clear that even the summit of Ben Nevis was visible on the horizon.

And this ends my update and I hope you enjoyed reading this little opening into this nomad's life in Scotland.  This assignment is coming to a close and next week I am taking a well earned vacation.  The children will be with me and a week will be spent in Devon at a Haven resort.  More to follow on this one.

Peace to All.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Brighton Pier

This weekend my eldest daughter wanted to attend her best friend’s birthday party and so it made sense to book a hotel room in Brighton rather than travel the fourty miles back to my caravan on the field.  On a warm day in June the population of Brighton will multiply many times on any weekend.   There will be an influx of Londoners looking for a beach and a chance to bake under the sun or chill in the sea.  There will be hen parties and stag parties and just turned 21 and just turned 40 parties.  Brighton is fun.  For all the faiths and all the nationalities and all the ages – Brighton is there to be enjoyed and Brighton rarely disappoints.

It was so busy this weekend I was unable to park the hire car anywhere near the hotel.  I parked it in one of those multi-storey car cages in a joining town known as Hove, and the taxi driver was happy to take us to the Thistle hotel.  This hotel catered for the wealthier visitors.  If you were happy to pay three pounds for a glass of lemonade then you could sit down in the huge meeting and greeting area and enjoy that exalted feeling of importance that sometimes comes when surrounded by an interior designed for royalty.  I would never book a hotel simply to feel a bit of royalty – but there were few hotels with any vacancies and so the Thistle it had to be.

By mid-afternoon my eldest daughter had made her way to the friend’s party.  I had my little daughter to entertain for the rest of the day – and her little mind desired nothing more than a walk along Brighton’s pier also knows as the Palace Pier.  

This pier was opened in 1899 and had taken eight years to build at a cost of 27,000 pounds.  It once had a concert hall but now consists of arcade galleries, restaurants, a pub, a fair ground area and many small stalls selling anything from souvenirs to hot dogs, doughnuts and henna tattoos.  There is even a Gypsy carriage and inside you will find a clairvoyant who will gladly vivisect your future – for a little fee of course.

We started at the doughnut stall and purchased four freshly made sugar coated rings of fried dough.  My mind was cast back many years ago when I would get up early every weekend and cycle to the bakery in my home town and spend several hours cooking the doughnuts.  The machine that made the doughnuts hasn’t changed at all.  A metal bucket with a rotating plunger that forms the rings of dough and a bath of hot liquefied fat with a track that pulls the frying doughnuts along the length of the bath.  I know exactly how much lard will be mixed with the doughnut mixture which is then fried – and I can advise the dieters out there to stay well away from them.

Next on the activity list was a ride.  It was like an octopus and we sat in a seat at the end of one of its arms.  The mechanical octopus would spin and the arms would rise and fall and the punters screamed with fear and delight.  After the ride finished both my daughter and I agreed it was great to be terrified in a controlled sort of way.

And so we took a roller coaster ride called the crazy mouse.  We sat in a carriage that rotated clockwise and anti-clockwise as it made its way around a track with all the bends and the descents that are typical of this sort of ride.  I tried not to notice the rust on the rails and assured my daughter that these things were examined daily for faults and it was all perfectly safe.  Although I didn’t scream like my daughter I cannot be sure I wasn’t the more terrified one in the carriage.

We then spent some time in the arcade area.  I gave my daughter some change and she tried her luck.  All those clever machines with so many prizes to offer.  The colours and the sounds and the excitement of the win that is rarely forthcoming.  A fun way to be sure, to lose all your spare coins.

Across the road from the pier entrance is a famous aquarium called a Sea Life centre.  It was built in 1872 and I have no doubt that most of my relatives whose early life was spent growing up in London would have visited this aquarium on one of their Brighton visits.  I have visited the attraction many times and I have always found the ocean life fascinating and so too the architecture of this old aquarium.  This Sea Life Centre has recently had a face-lift and the main gallery really is quite colourful.

And so that was my day with my youngest daughter.  A day spent amongst those that would tour and those that would party.   A day for fun and a break between those long days of work – a chance to stabilise the energy levels and reflect on the privilege of our life as it is.  To enjoy these attractions built over one hundred years in the past and enjoyed by many generations and also those to come.  And as I stood there observing the daughter running from machine to machine full of the spirit of youth – I wondered if she too would one day be doing exactly the same with her children.

 Peace to All