Traditional British puddings

Seeing this office canteen in the swish new office block of an old employer of mine reminded me of the early years I worked there. The canteen provided proper meals, cooked on the premises, the highlight being the traditional puddings – bread & butter pudding, treacle sponge, spotted dick, jam sponge. All with custard, all in huge portions, all a danger to health, all delicious. Friday was a bakery day and the kitchen would make breads and cakes for the workers to buy and take home. The company was still owned by its founder and had a family-business feel about it.

Eventually the company was sold – more than once – and the canteen closed to be replaced by a snack bar, so it’s wonderful to see what appears to be the reappearance of a proper canteen in the new office block and in a company ten times the size of the company I knew.

www.Atkinsglobal.com

A weird session with the chiropractor

My chiropractor began the session by asking me about the book I brought in with me. I gave an outline and added it was a library book, to which she asked where the library was. I told her and said she couldn’t be local if she didn’t know where it was. She said she lived in a town 5 miles away and I said I worked there for many years. I mentioned the company I had worked for and she said her uncle had worked there. I asked after his name and I was taken aback and asked her where her uncle had lived in the town and she told me, confirming that I knew her uncle. He was a close friend of mine and had died from an illness and whom I’d been at his hospital bedside a few hours before he died. I was so concerned for his health that I rang his brother, my chiropractor’s father, to express my concerns and suggest he might want to visit his brother sooner rather than later. Well he did make the three hour journey and was able to see his brother, my friend, for his last few moments. All this was more than ten years ago. Now, today, my chiropractor and I were somewhat overcome by this shared experience as we chatted over some common memories whilst at the same time she continued pummelling my body. So weird.

When I was younger I read…

In my twenties I read a fair bit of Hermann Hesse. All the main ones, The Glass Bead Game, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund and several others. I think I re-read most of them in my thirties and, like the first time, I really only understood them as a story rather than anything deeper.

I read a few of E M Forster and George Orwell. I loved Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying – the cover evokes so many memories. There was a phase of Kingsley Amis – Take a Girl Like You, Lucky Jim, One Fat Englishman.

Continue reading “When I was younger I read…”

Being a writer

I’m currently reading ‘Confessions of a Ghostwriter’ by Andrew Crofts, one of a handful of recent books from Dorking’s Oxfam Books. It’s prompted me to recall the time I sat in an office opposite Colin, who was a freelancer and had the job title of technical writer.

At the time I never understood how someone could write a technical document on a subject they had no knowledge or experience of. My view of Colin was probably also conditioned by the fact that he seemed to spend most of the working day on the phone discussing this, that and the other about cricket. Colin was either a cricketer or involved in the running of a local cricket club or league. I don’t recall seeing any technical documents Colin produced, so I’m not able to judge whether he was good at his job.

As part of the process of developing computer software, I always loved writing the necessary user documentation. I wrote documentation much as I wrote software. I dived in and after many re-writes and revisions I would arrive at what I regarded a pleasing end-product. This is probably not recommended or efficient but it was the way that suited my way of thinking and working.

Interestingly, when it comes to writing a blog post, I can often write something in my head but when it comes to entering it into the computer I somehow lose the words. Hence most of my posts are mainly images!

Saturday’s newspaper

When did Saturday’s paper stop being interesting? We’ve always bought a Saturday paper. A couple of years or so ago we switched from a lifetime reading The Guardian to The Times. But today I switched back, partly because we were getting tired of The Times. But today’s Guardian is no improvement and costs a monstrous £3.20 (The Times costs £2!).

Is it that we’re already saturated with news? We listen daily to Radio 4’s Today programme and to TV news bulletins, as well as checking out many of the newspaper sites on the Web.

Our daughter has suggested switching to a Sunday paper so maybe that’s worth a try.

I think that at my age I’ve become worn out by politics, endless tragedy, conflict and disaster. I need a rest. I need to block it all out.

The 10:12 from Clapham Junction

Many times I’ve travelled on the 10:12 from Clapham Junction towards Southampton.

In the last year of my mum’s life, when I had become fed up with the drive, I would catch this train to visit her in her care home. I’ve also used it to carry on beyond Southampton to Brockenhurst and eventually Lymington, one of my very favourite places. From Lymington you can walk or catch the little ferry to Hurst Castle, you can walk around the coastal path, and you can catch the larger ferry to the Isle of Wight. I love ferries, large and small.

Over the past 12 months I’ve also caught the 10:12 in order to reach the starting points of the four sections of the Itchen Way walk – Southampton, Eastleigh, Winchester (twice).

On most of these train trips, I’ve bought a coffee and KitKat from the on-board trolley service (I’m a creature of habit), and on most of these times I’ve been served by the same East-European lady with the lovely smile. And though I remember her, she probably doesn’t remember me.

On Tuesday I set off to start the last leg of the Itchen Way walk. I was standing on the Clapham Junction platform, waiting for the 10:12, when an express, non-stopping train shot past, but with its hooter blaring. The next thing I know is that station staff are active, moving waiting passengers away from the platforms. Someone had jumped under the express train. Chaos followed as trains were suspended in order to deal with the emergency. I abandoned any thoughts of doing my walk. Two days later I tried again, this time without incident.

I guess that forever, when standing waiting for the 10:12, I’ll spare a thought as the express train shoots through, for the person who had had enough.

The changing map of St Denys

I was brought up in St Denys, an area of Southampton. After the Second World War prefabs were constructed that would become my home for over a decade. Sometime after 1976 the prefabs were demolished, as was the adjacent paint factory, and modern houses were built. The following 4 maps show how the area has changed.
All maps are screen-shots taken from http://www.old-maps.co.uk

Continue reading “The changing map of St Denys”

Terrible news

We were on our way for a walk along the Thames when a phone call brought the terrible news of an ex-colleague’s death. She had taken over my role when I retired. She wasn’t sure whether she was up to it and I also had my doubts – it was a sometimes technical role. But she accepted the position, and despite requiring my help every once in a while for the first couple of years – I don’t think she ever really mastered database queries – she was a success in the post. She was always bubbly and cheerful, which makes her taking her life all the more shocking and hard to comprehend. Things change, but I wish I could turn back the clock.

In the centre of this picture, taken today, is a branch of Strada where two or three times we met in a reunion of the team. A colourless image seems appropriate on this very sad day.

Earning pocket money (1)

I guess I was about 13 when I started delivering newspapers to make some pocket money. The Sunday papers weighed a ton, as they still do, so there were only about thirty or so papers I could manage before having to return to the shop for a second lot. Of course, this was in the days when kids delivered papers. Nowadays you can’t get a newsagent to deliver – kids don’t want to do it and fewer people buy papers. Sometimes you see papers being delivered by someone in a car! Continue reading “Earning pocket money (1)”

Not everyone can whistle

Not everyone can whistle, but I have always been able to! I can even whistle and hum at the same time, as well as whistle by sucking in rather than blowing out. I like to think I whistle in tune.

When I was a kid, probably around 13 or 14, I thought I could compose tunes and so I whistled away with my little compositions. Of course nothing was memorable enough to survive, and so sadly I was no budding Lennon–McCartney.

Nightmares

When I was a kid I used to have two recurring nightmares. There was the falling one and the chewing tobacco one. I don’t know over what period they lasted but they eventually came to an end. They were both extremely unpleasant nightmares.

Last night I had a nightmare in which I became extremely distressed (in the nightmare) and which I brought to an end in order to end my distress. Even so, I was still very shaken despite being awake. Fortunately I don’t get many dreams or nightmares like that.

I seem to be able to bring a dream to an end simply by recognising it’s a dream and deciding to end it. Well that’s what I think is happening. I don’t know whether that’s the same for everyone.