Thursday 27 September 2012


 This time of year brings with it happy  memories of the past.
And like the fruitful reaping of the harvest, a time to reflect back and reap the rewards to days gone by with fondness. Times of summer haze and idle days. 
During my teens I had a Jack Russell called 'Pickles'. I spent  much of my time wandering, exploring all that was to see, and have adventures together. Sometimes I would get us up to mischief and sometimes Pickles could sniff out his own. Whether it was poaching, scrumping, trespassing or hunting we were inseparable.
One such fond memory surrounds golden fields of corn.
 I remember resting on a stile whilst Pickles flushed pheasants from a wood next to a vast field of golden corn. I had the idea of carefully making my way along the tramlines left by the farmers tractor to the very center of the field and hiding from the dog.
I reached the spot and lay down on my back out of sight. I remember the warmth, the clear blue sky framed in gold by the corn and I listened.
The whisper of the corn in the gentle breeze, a skylark twittering high in a thermal. I could pick out sounds for miles and pictured images in my minds eye. A distant shotgun emptying both barrels and a tractor carting trailers of corn on the distant downs. The occasional surprise and misplaced call of monkeys, peacocks or parrots at a wildlife park  a couple of miles from where I lay. The occasional rustle of corn further down the field, no doubt a familiar canine the cause whilst he scurried after scents. A hammering of nails coming from the village, somebody obviously fixing a fence or a roof whilst the sun shone. A medley of swallows chitting as they swooped low gathering insects on the wing. A blackbirds alarm alerting all of  a crouching cat in a garden. Rooks cawing their displeasure at being disturbed  high in the trees. The rhythm rocking of a distant train passing through the valley. Occasionally an passenger plane  would leave vapour trails on my otherwise plain azure canvass framed in gold.
 A whistle, followed by bristling of ears of corn as Pickles came brushing through the field in search of me, stopping momentarily for my further whistles to pinpoint my location. His over excitement and pleasure marked by slobbering all over my face and signalling his calling of time to my sound imaging and inertia.


Tuesday 25 September 2012


To quote the Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy... "Million to 1 chances happen 9 times out of 10".

The following story I witnessed first hand during the Paralympic Games and involves a close friend of mine.

Dave Taylor and I have been best friends for the best part of 25 years, we have history, we have shared laughter together and helped each other through difficult times. We had daughters within 5 months of each other who have grown together from babies to young women and are also best friends. We both work together driving buses.
Dave and I were selected to drive buses at the Paralympic Games and this is where the amazing story unfolds.

The highlight for the first week for us two was taking  the Brazilian athletes in from Heathrow to the Olympic Village. These included the football teams, track and field athletes and swimmers.

During the second week we drove athletes from a multitude of countries to and fro the village to various arenas and locations within the park. Dave worked different shifts but we met up for a meal most evenings and related our duties, stories and observations.
Dave was getting frustrated at only having to hang around spare and not pick any athletes up for 3 days when he was asked to attend the Aquacentre in case he was needed. He parked in the loading area outside and was dismayed to see 2 buses ahead of him fill up and empty the centre. He was then asked to pull up immediately outside as there was 1 remaining athlete to pick up.
From the pool entrance emerged a swimmer from Barbados and boarded Dave's bus.
He was a very warm and friendly chap who spoke excellent English and he exchanged pleasantries and greetings and on alighting the bus presented Dave with a Barbados pin badge as a momento.
At last Dave felt useful and was pleased to have played a part and not sat around twiddling his thumbs.

The following day, Dave had a day off and traveled home to his family, his own armchair and bed.
During the evening he enjoyed a Chinese meal and watched the opening ceremony of the Paralympics which he prerecorded on Sky+.
As he tucked into his chow mien the ceremony was at the part where the various countries athletes paraded the stadium waving their national flags etc. The commentator was adding various facts and trivia concerning each country. It was then he announced the introduction of the Barbados team which made Dave pay attention. The team consisted of just one such athlete, the only man representing his country, for swimming, ......Dave Taylor!
The very same sole athlete that had shook his hand, presented him with a pin badge and alighted Dave's bus the day previous. Neither had noticed  each others names on their accreditation passes whilst they exchanged pleasantries and Dave would not have noticed their shared names if he hadn't gone home and watched the ceremony.
The odds of them meeting was staggering. The more I think about the unfolding of a chain of events that led to that moment occurring beggars belief.
It really is a small world.

Friday 14 September 2012


During my recent secondment to the paralympics I was put up at student digs in the Mile End road between Whitechapel and Stepney Green. This being my first time in the 'big smoke' as my dad calls it, gave me an insight to the east end. Coupled with a need to feed, I wandered  around looking for a place for an meal most evenings and explored with and without a few mates on occasion.
 The majority of meals were taken at the Half Moon close to Stepney Green our nearest Wetherspoons catering for the majority of our needs. But once or twice the need for change tempted me to venture to other eateries.
The first thing I noticed is the amount of Fried Chicken outlets there are. I'm not kidding when I say out of a row of forty buildings at least fifteen would be selling fried poultry and the majority of these would be Halal to cater for the high population of our ethnic, supposedly minority groups.
One of the flame grill establishments advertised 'Cow Meat' on the window and was suitably steered clear of. Using the iphone to search for places to eat near us, unveiled the infamous 'Blind Beggar' at Whitechapel.
Of course I had heard of this pub and knew of the Kray twins macabre history surrounding it and thought it would be good to sample one or two if only for my ego, to say that I've been in there.
I was never expecting to see Buster Merryfield tinkling on the ol' joanna whilst pearly kings and queens sang 'knees up mother brown. Nor was I expecting a hush to descend upon entry whilst 'shifty looking geezers' with a right 'moody face' looked us up and down in case we were 'the filth', or some large 'andy looking thug with fists like cooked hams offered to rearrange our faces with a few sovereign rings threaded onto his sausage fingers just for asking for a shandy. I was shocked by what I saw tho. Let's just say it was more Crayfish than Kray twins, more Public school than Public house! The Toffs had taken over with their sweaters draped over their shoulders and half a salad in their drinks. On inquiring about the possibility of food, we were told that 'we are rather busy'  but 'we are doing a special on a bottle of wine and a cheese board for £18' if you'd care for it? I think not me ol' china!
After a swift pint we 'had it away on our toes' to a ethnic looking curry house over the road for a blindin' ruby which advertised 'All you can eat buffet £8'. Much more befitting to a bunch of tight fisted oiks like us, so in we strolled. All the familiar looking suspects to eat plus a vast selection of authentic cuisine that, on the assumption that if you can't tell what it is leave alone, offered more than enough for 4 lads to eat their fill. The lads groaned about the restaurant not serving alcohol but we could find a rub-a dub after, no worries.
I quite liked the look of the Lamb Rogan Josh, as my weak constitution would not act kindly to anything too hot. Besides, I like to taste what I'm eating. Another mistake. It wasn't Lamb. It wasn't even mutton. I'm pretty sure it wasn't goat either having had that before. We'll leave it there I think, lest I start hurling again!
On the other occasion we ventured forth into the unknown, we frequented a chinese restaurant in Holborn. A short bus trip found a very respectable place just full of Chinese people. A good sign and we were not disappointed. They couldn't do enough for us. Blindin' bit o' grub. But most of the time we ended up in the 'spoons with the old familiar good old english tucker. It was better than the alternative of what only can be described as prison food on paper plates, served by Russians and Polish chaps in our very own canteen.
I once pointed to a tray of slop and  asked what it was, the guy actually said, I kid you not, "It is nice fresh Italian chilli-con-carne!".  Really? Italian? Erm,.. No thanks Vladimir.

Tuesday 11 September 2012


THE WORLDS GREATEST - by Richard Cleaver

The world sent forth it's warriors,
Scarred from their own battle,
Here to please the Gods, the crowds,
Paraded out like cattle.

They give their all and battle hard,
To prove themselves once more,
Not to be judged by sight alone,
But by what's inside the core.

They took to fields in chariots,
To tracks with carbon limb,
The crowds were stunned when they revealed,
Their mettle from within.

They taught us not to give up hope,
Surge on without a care,
I marvelled at their bravery,
And proud that 'I was there'.

Monday 10 September 2012


I have just returned from my secondment at the Olympics/Paralympics transporting athletes on 
a coach to and fro venues in the Olympic park, North Greenwich Arena (02) and Excel. 

Spent a lot of time parked at the transport hub at Eaton Manor awaiting duties and a good deal of that time observing the Lea from the bridge that links Eaton Manor transport hub to Hackney Marsh.

I have heard and read reports prior to my secondment regarding the state of the Lea which included a comment that it was so polluted you could develop film in it.

I am aware that the powers that be (LOCOG) would do its utmost to whitewash such an eyesore prior to hosting the Olympics and no doubt spent a fortune clearing the area up. This was my first time in the area and was interested to see it myself.

During my time observing I have witnessed aquatic birds including Kingfishers, Coots, Herons, Cormorants and Mallard ducks as well as amphibious newts,frogs and a seemingly healthy stock of fish. As normal, when without a rod, I have seen large Carp, huge chub and vast shoals of smaller fry and minnows inhabiting the river leading me to the assumption that this seemingly miraculous transformation has come about a good deal longer than any clean up operation in preparation to the games.

I imagine that this is the result of continual work of many years by conservationists and the local angling club and wish to pass on my praise. The river here looks stunning and natural and was teasingly inviting and I hope that maintenance continues now the Olympics have finished.

As an aside, due to the ungodly hour which I started work I witnessed several dawn awakenings and spotted vast numbers of parakeets in the trees. Not just one or two but several dozen! Was I dreaming or had I unknowingly imbibed on hallucinogenic drugs administered by LOCOG via the bottled water supply to affect my observations? Perhaps someone living near or familiar with Hackney Marsh/Leyton area can shed some light on this tropical ornithological invasion!