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.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Wedding in The Family

Punctuality is not optional at a wedding – it is crucial.  This thought played around my mind like a cricket hopping inside a can as we sat stationary on the A509 highway.  We had arrived at Bedford with hours to spare.  It made sense to go into Milton Keynes for a bit of shopping before the ceremony began.

We did not calculate for the vehicle collision that blocked two of three lanes.  And so as we crawled along the road we knew fate was not in our hands.  And the sister will not have been impressed if her brother didn’t find his way to the manor in time for the wedding.  But all was well.  We arrived at the Premier Inn hotel and the shuttle bus had waited on our arrival.  A mad scramble as we checked in.  Some last minute attire modifications and we were boarded and on our way.

Moreteyne Manor House was occupied by Thomas Snagge in 1562 and was handed down the generations until it was sold to Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough in 1715. It ownership passed through several hands until it was sold to the existing owner, Mr E.J Hillson in 1948 for a sum of £7500.  Between 1983 and 1985 building works transformed it into a fine restaurant and wedding reception venue.  

And because my sister and her partner and her son had been living in the area together for three years without dispute and with much love and grace – here we all were together in celebration of a wedding.

Apart from the bride, my partner and I must have been the last of the attendees to arrive.  To see the family of both sides all finely dressed and in form – such moments are not common and clearly we were all with great excitement.  But this was no trivial occasion.  Silence and solemnity as the gravity of the ritual took hold – a union of two people and a uniting of families.  This was a secular ceremony and as the lady of the register conducted the marriage binding my mind was cast back to a passage of the Corinthians.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

As I stood there taking in the ceremony and as the two adults and one child were united into a unit of family – I couldn’t help but feel proud of the sister that had traveled so far and achieved so much in her years.  A lady with an eye for style and a mind for concepts and numbers – those with ears to hear will do well to note her advice and follow her suggestions.

After the wedding the feast was consumed and the Champagne sipped and the speeches delivered.  A band played music and the families and friends danced and celebrated.  A happy wedding and a happy couple.  I wish my sister and her husband and my nephew much happiness in their new life together.

Peace To All 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Sutton - The Nocturnal Years

The mid to late twenties of my life was a period lived in the principal town of Sutton in the South of London.  These years were challenging, exciting, creative, sad, productive, frightening and inspiring.  In these years the core of who I am today was formed.  These were my nocturnal years and if I had almost been broken by hardship and sadness - these years would remain in my biography if the option to have changed it had ever existed.

I arrived from Australia when the world was in an economic recession and I quickly moved into a boarding room in Sutton, after a brief period living with my Auntie in Morden.  I had managed to find a job and was most grateful for it.  The work was in a cinema.  I should have known the job would have its challenges when Kathy the supervisor phoned through the offer - "The job is yours; if you really want it!!!!"

I started this job one afternoon and worked in the confectionery section from midday until 10 in the evening.  The customers would turn up before each film and order the popcorn or the nachos or the hotdogs.  Racing around and filling the orders.  There was little time to day dream - something I am rather prone to do.  It was hardly a mental challenge but I was just happy to be earning some money and to be engaging with the world in a practical manner.  Before this I had been studying philosophy for many years and it was as if my anchor had been detached - and I had been drifting between a sea of ideas and a sea of the material.

The pay was minimal and barely covered living expenses.  To compensate we would work overtime hours and it was not unusual to work between 70 and 80 hours a week.  Even doing these sort of hours I would earn less than I now earn in a day working as a computer engineer.

The turnover of staff was very high.  I quickly discovered that many new starters simply didn't have a work ethic capable of sustaining the long hours and physical requirements.  They would quit for the state benefits and the afternoon TV viewings.  There were those not suited to shift work and they would quit for a nine to five job somewhere else.  Others just needed temporary work in between college terms and they would often return a few times each year - year after year until graduation.

Those who would remain past the probation period all had something in common.  We were all outsiders.  The hours we worked were unsociable and so we would spend our free time together.  We were as a family - misfits mostly young and alienated and not yet sure of our destinations.  Some knew where they wanted to be but not how to get there.  A few actually wanted the job and progressed through the ranks of management.

I kept the job going.  I needed the money.  An opportunity from within was advertised.  Trainee part-time projectionist.  The Chief Projectionist showed me how to lace the film to the projector.  It was a complex looping of the film through various rollers and a shutter system.  The test was then to perform the lacing on my own without instruction.  Thankfully I achieved this and since I was the only one of the pool of applicants to do so - the position was offered.

I loved this job.  The whirling of the projectors.  The focus of the film.  Putting films together and taking them apart.  I applied for a full-time position and was successful.  Slowly but steadily the secrets of the craft were revealed.  How to calibrate the platters in order to deliver film at the correct speed -  through the projectors.  How to maintain the focal point and to maintain and replace the shutter system.  How to cut and splice film correctly.  The projector is the heart of the cinema experience.  In operating and maintaining the projector I was putting on a show for the customer - delivering the two hour dream.  It was worthwhile work.

A couple of years later the position of Chief Projectionist was a possibility.  I applied and succeeded.  I then learnt about the art of management and the demands of authority.  In the small world of cinema operations I was now a big player - second only to the directing manager.  I wore the suit and carried the badge.  I would turn up for work, open the cinema door and note the ushers, the box office staff and confectionery workers coming to attention.  Authority and responsibility. 

I would spend five years working in the cinema.  This short blog does not do any justice to the experience and a book could be written about the experiences.  The course of life changed.  Marriage and children.  Responsibility and a need to do something else with greater material rewards.  I always had a knack with computers.  I attended a part time hardware maintenance course in the centre of London.  I moved on.

Last Saturday I asked my dear lady if she wouldn't mind coming with me to revisit Sutton.  To see the cinema and to see this world of the past.  Travel need not be from place to place but also from the present to the past.  Some of the past is carried into the present - and indeed this visit proved this to be true.

Here is the Robin Hood pub.  Here I learnt that a British pub is more than just a boozer - it is the place to meet and to discuss the issues of the day.  Those of us on the 10 pm finish shift would meet up here for a pint.  It was a quite an investment given a price of a pint was almost an hour's work.

Here is the cinema.  In my day it belonged to the UCI chain but is now an Empire cinema.  I suspect they are the same company anyway.  On entering the cinema I could see that much had been changed.  The box office was now gone and replaced by the automatic digital machine.  The sweet shop had gone and the Baskins and Robins ice cream stand, in which I spent many months working - this was replaced by a Benny and Jerries stall.  The confectionary section remained and so too the main hallway leading to the auditoria – all six of them.  This cinema was a novelty when it was built – the multiplex era in Britain had just begun.

I was tempted to ask for a projection booth tour.  I am sure they would have obliged.  After all - I was a Chief Projectionist of the past and therefore part of the history of the theatre.  Today the projector has been replaced by a digital monster.  I have a happy image of the whirling projectors beaming the dreams into the auditoria.  I couldn't face what the booths will have become.  I didn't ask the question.

And here is another pub - the Moon on the Hill.  It was here that many first dates and romantic liaisons began.  It was here we young lads would meet before getting a cab into Croydon for a night on the tiles – followed by the inevitable early morning kebab or burger and the overpriced minicab trip back to home. Thankfully the pub had not changed at all.  Even this table I had sat in twenty years previous and ordered a meal and drink.

Peace To All

Monday, 6 July 2015

Norwich - Family Reunion

Scientists would level it down to a DNA sequence shared among folk.  Sociologists might level it at a shared socio-economic staging environment.  Whatever the cause it is indeed an interesting phenomenon. Launch a mortar or throw a grenade into a family unit and it may disintegrate into fragments for some time.  But it reforms and unites again - in time.

And I had lost contact with my extended family on my mother's side.  The Aunt and the cousins and the second cousins and the husbands and the partners.  All of us decided to meet in Norwich to unite and to discuss of what had passed and what was to become.  

It was an early start on Saturday morning.  An hour on the road to Brighton to pick up my youngest daughter.  A further four hours on the motorways up to Norwich which is where my one remaining Aunt and one of her daughters live.  Thankfully the trip was uneventful and we arrived at the Holiday Inn hotel without incident.  The sun soared above and the air simmered with heat.  I cast my mind back to those scorching summers of my childhood.  Could there be a comparison?  Not really but 28 degrees Celsius did feel hot.  It was flip flop and Tshirt weather.

We checked in at the Holiday Inn.  An efficient, comfortable and stylish hotel located adjacent to the Norwich Football Stadium.  Thankfully the room's air conditioner was working well, and we spent some time cooling in the room before my sister, her fiance and my nephew arrived.

It was good to meet and chat, and it was not long before we completed our unpacking and commenced a twenty minute walk into Norwich city central.  

Norwich is also the birthplace of my sister's fiance and the husband to be was buoyed by a homecoming. Yes indeed a man's spirit will rise when he returns home.  A joy it always is to be in a place familiar among a people who will be understood and respected - a shared world and a shared upbringing.

After cooling in the eatery of a large shopping mall, the sister and the fiance and the nephew headed for the shops.

My daughter and I strolled through the town until we arrived at the library.  We are both book worms and so the hours would be spent reading in this cool and quiet haven.  

I found a book about adoption that I had been looking to read for some time - my search had not been successful.  The book was titled "The Primal Wound: Understanding the adopted child" and was written by Nancy Verrier.  I read a chapter about formation of the self.  Verrier's argument was that the development of the adoptee's self becomes compromised when the baby is removed from the mother.  She argues that the baby's self is intertwined with the mother's self in the year after birth and such a separation can have lifelong repercussions.  An interesting concept.  I would have liked to have borrowed the book and to have finished it.

The heat left us feeling lazy and so we hired a taxi back to the hotel.  We showered and dressed and once more headed back to the city.  A parade was in progress and the streets were full of cheer and dance and joy and merriment.  We were headed for the Mambo Jambo Mexican restaurant but the parade through the streets prevented a crossing to the restaurant.  

We were late but only by twenty minutes.  We met and we chatted and we ate.  I was taken back.  A cousin's daughter who resembled an aunt that had died.  A cousin's son who played a guitar and dreamed of a motor bike.  A sister's son approaching manhood with a head of hair styled for attention.  An elegant Aunt with a mind bright and eyes alight.  And two cousins not seen for over twenty years.  All three generations - the elderly, the middle aged and the young.  All together and enjoying the moment.

After the meal we took to the streets and found a nice pub.  Some more drinking and some more reminiscing until it was time to depart.  Hugs and kisses and promises to meet again sometime soon.  My Aunt walked a little way with us and I inquired about a Grandad not remembered.  We were all surprised to hear about his war time exploits.  A Desert Rat who fought in the battle of El Alammeim.  And afterwards the personal driver of General Montgomery himself!  Amazing.

Back at the hotel  we sat down to another drink.  The man behind the bar was a friend of Australian humour.  He showed us his favorite Aussie youtube standup comedies on his tablet.

The next morning we arose and we packed.  A breakfast of bacon and eggs.  A goodbye to a sister and a nephew and a sister's fiance.  A long drive back to Brighton to drop my daughter off and then west to Hayling Island.  That was our weekend reunion.  A pleasant weekend among family and friends.  I hope there will be many more of these weekends.

Peace to All

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Back to Babylon

The last four years I have been living either in hotel rooms, a campervan or a caravan.  I quickly adapted to this semi nomadic way of life.  For the most part I found it enjoyable if not a little challenging at times.

It was difficult to explain to others why I had chosen this lifestyle.  It was difficult to explain to myself.

And now I have purchased an apartment.  There was a big doubt in my mind about it.  I never thought a bank would lend me such a great amount of money.  I gave them my bank statements and my pay slips.  They took these documents away and came to a positive decision.

As simple as that - within a couple of months I had became a home owner.

The keys were handed over and there I was in a 3 bedroom flat with a corridor view of the sea and a balcony and a courtyard.  I had no furniture, no cooker and no beds.  I would need to get some shopping in quickly.

Around this time a Zimbabwian princess of the past parked her car in front of the flat.  She took my hand and together we went shopping.  So many things to purchase - large and small.  A kettle and a microwave - some saucepans and some plates.

My sister came to visit and there would be more shopping - a television, a washing machine, a cooker and all those little things that make a home what it is.  The Zimbabwian lady gave me her big bed and so there was no need to sleep on a carpet.

And to reverse the process -  from nomad to house dweller has been a very interesting experience.  All this extra space.  I found myself wondering what to do with it all.  Pacing from room to room I would contemplate a design for each.  A repaint in this room and desk in that room.  I hired a man with talent with the hands, the brush and the hammer.  He painted some rooms and installed a hand rail or two - a bracket for a television and a door bell on a gate.  There is still much to do but it is beginning to look good indeed.

I can't quite get used to the amount of water I can use.  The caravan life is about making your water tank last as long as possible.  Now it is endless.  It seems too easy and rather wasteful - but it is nice to shower for more than a few minutes.

The nights are too warm.  I have to leave the windows open.  I will overheat otherwise.

And I seemed to have been full of static electricity for a few weeks.  I would get shocks when I touched an appliance.  I suspect this was due to a change in the humidity level.  The caravan, being of wood and surrounded by grass will have had a higher level of humidity.

So has this blog reached its end?  Is my nomadic life really over?  I doubt it.  I am looking forward to the next campervan purchase.  There will be more travel and adventure.  The blog shall continue.

Peace to All

Friday, 24 April 2015

A Home Without Wheels

The last time I lived in a place made of bricks, wire and glass it was one in which I paid a landlord for the privalege.  The landlord collected the rent with a precsion of punctuality - but when things went wrong he was not so quick to put them right.  I left that place and I lived on wheels for four years - and if I promised myself one thing it was that I would never again live in a home owned by someone else.
And when I found a property on the internet it seemed just too perfectly suitable.  So I arranged with the agency to visit the three bedroom flat that was for sale on Hayling Island.  And when I entered this property on a seafront I knew I had finally found my home.  And also my sister who came as a consultant on this sort of thing also saw that I had found my home.
Peace to All

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Llangammarch Wells - Lake Country House & Spa

After checking out of the Best Western Hotel in Heathrow we commenced the long drive to Wales.  The traffic was light and we were free from disruption.  Checking in time at the luxury hotel in Llangammarch Wells was from three onwards and we had already arrived at the town of Brecon by 1.30.  I love this town with its historic buildings and close knit, but welcoming folk.  To kill some time we parked the Suzuki and took a stroll. 

The air was icy and even with the hats and the gloves it wasn't long before our bodies demanded some warmth.  What better way to warm up than with a hot coffee and a hot tea?  So we found a busy Costa Coffee and ordered the drinks and some cakes.  We both felt great - to be free from the home environment and to be in a place unknown.  I have always found travel uplifting and will always be a traveller.  It was clear that O held a similar view.

The weather report had predicted snow in the hills and so I hadn't seen this to be an issue on our long drive.  However, after leaving Brecon and driving the last 15 miles to Llangammarch Wells - our happy disposition turned to concern.  The road taking us to the hotel was leading in and up over the hills and the snow was falling with deepening thickness.  The road was salted and so the car kept its grip.  But there were dangerous segments and the driving was harrowing to be sure.


The entrance to the hotel was hardly conspicuous and we missed it and continued past the chequered flag on the GPS unit.  After back tracking and finding the hotel we knew we were in for a bit of elegance.  The garden and frontage were spectacular.


The concierge took us to our room - and it was more like an apartment.  It really does pay to visit such places in the off season because the value is outstanding.  This could have been a room within Buckingham Palace.

We settled in and decided to spend the hours before dining in the pool and spa complex.  This was a short walk from the room.  After the long drive it was nice to submerge into the depths of the lightly heated pool.  This was followed by a session in the sauna.  I know that some really love the sauna experience, O being one of them - but I have never really understood how sweat, steam and heat amounts to enjoyment.  A few minutes was enough for me and I gladly re-entered the pool, thankful that my sizzling body was returning to a less lethal temperature.

The sauna and the pool was followed by bubbles in the spa above the building.  The spa was outside and it was odd to be in the warm bubbly spa while the air above the water was icy cold.  Again this is one of those relaxations foreign to my character but indeed I was enjoying it.  The work during the week had been extremely stressful and the spa seemed to be doing its trick.  It relaxed us both and we returned to the hotel and prepared for the dinner.

The reception and bar area was as stunning as the room.

  The dinner was a four course deal - starting with butternut squash soup.  For the starter O chose a salad and I had to try the pigeon.  This was a first for me and I won't be hunting down pigeon to replace my staple diet of chicken or beef.

We both selected the lamb as a main -  and I thought this was very good.

 Desert was a chocolate treat with ice cream.

So with all the driving, strolling, swimming, bubbling and eating we were both worn out and eagerly retired to the bed and slept soundly.

In the morning it was all about packing then breakfast and then the long drive back home.  First to London to drop O off and then another couple of hours for me back to Hampshire to my caravan on the field.  This was a great weekend and what just we needed to distress from the pressures of daily life. 

Peace to All

Monday, 2 February 2015

Hounslow Best Western Plus Grand Hotel

Thankfully the Friday was very busy at work - otherwise enduring the time to finishing hour would have been a torture indeed.  I was looking forward to a weekend adventure.  Firstly I would drive to London and meet the nice lady I had recently began to date.  We would dine and stay over in a Best Western hotel near Heathrow airport - The Park Grand Plus. 

I have stayed in many Best Western hotels and like to collect the points on my membership card - and every now and then I will get a free upgrade for my loyalty to the chain.  There was no upgrade on this night but neither of us complained.  The room was as good as any four start room I had stayed at in the past - and I should know having virtually lived in hotels for ten years when working as a consultant.

Comfortable and Stylish room

Sixth Floor View

Under the landing path for Heathrow
After sorting out luggage and settling into the room we descended in the lift to the restaurant. A buffet was on offer and at 13 pounds a head this was a bargain.  Eat as much as you like and we made sure to do just that.  The selection was Thai, Chinese, Malaysian and India. The food was very tasty and the hotel had that relaxed Friday feel to it.  Hotels such as these cater for the business client during the week - and being a Friday the suits were no where to be seen, having done their business and flown back home.
In only a few weeks O and I had grown close and it was nice to be with someone sincere and calm, peaceful but with also with an eye to adventure.  We discussed many things including tomorrow's long trip to Wales - before retiring to the comfortable bed and a peaceful slumber.
The morning had us eating a cooked breakfast before settling the bill and heading off on the long journey.  On checking out I was quite embarrassed to have my credit card declined.  The receptionist tried a couple of times, and then tried another of my cards which was also declined.  So it was obviously a technical problem with their computers and I settled in cash.  The desk staff were in for a colourful morning checking out customers whose cards would also be declined.
Happy in Lift
Peace To All


Coming Up For Air

noun: a person who lives a solitary life and tends to avoid other people.
synonyms:hermit, ascetic

For the last six months or so I had been living the life of the recluse.  Apart from work my contact with others had been limited to my children and some family members over the Christmas break.

I had to look within and try and answer some questions.

1) Why had I isolated myself to the caravan on the field?
2) Why did I gravitate to partners with highly sensitive personalities and seemingly a thirst for drama and chaos?
3) Why had I allowed the protection of a mild melancholia to engulf me as it had?
4) Where had I gone to?

It was a Sunday not many weeks past and I had woken and at last it all seemed different.  Enough of this.  I would begin again.
I booked to see a mortgage adviser and he said I was good to buy a house.  I messaged a lady and she said we were good to meet. I practiced a mindfulness meditation and I was calm.

Yes, I would begin again.  I began to surface.  I was coming up for air.