The Final Frontier


We’re all in the same boat.

I think its been said by many well known quotation makers that there is nothing more sure than death and taxes. Well while some be able to get away with not paying the latter, the former is inevitable and unavoidable. A friend has just passed away unexpectedly, who was only in his early sixties. There was no known previous medical history and the medical people tried to save him for half an hour, to no avail. What this sort of sudden death always does is to bring into sharp focus your own mortality, it puts you firmly in your place that despite all the joking , all the bravado, eventually we’re going the same way. I like the old Facebook quote that often comes up: Don’t go to your grave quietly and in full health, slide in kicking and screaming ‘hell, what a ride’ in your knackered worn out shell. It probably has more impact on you if it’s a contemporary who you’ve known for some time, than say your parents or grandparents. But this is not meant to be a downbeat eulogy about death, just an essay on the effect others passing on you.

Yes we all know we’re going to go, some of course make it easy for the grim reaper to wield his sythe, by trying to do themselves in by indulging in dangerous pursuits. Others do by inhaling or ingesting stuff that is definitely not good for you and may hasten your demise. And then some follow all the rules, live healthily, eat sensibly. keep fit, don’t do mountain climbing or whatever and still peg out for no apparent reason. That’s the scary one; we could just drop down and never get up again. At least you wouldn’t know anything about it. I don’t know which I would prefer; as if I had a choice, but peacefully surrounded by your loved ones sounds the best. None of us can predict which way it will be though, and when someone you know passes away suddenly your mortality gene suddenly kicks in and you think about your own lifestyle and loved ones. The devastating part about it is the ones you leave behind in a ‘sudden’. One minute you’re there and the next your’re not with all the heartache and hassle that goes with it.

So this is a tribute to my friend Lez, RIP mate.

 

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The Men’s Shed


Some three months ago I was at my monthly Repair Cafe in Farnham ( see other posts) when a chap called Ed, who was there to repair furniture, needed a electrical heater repaired. It belonged to a friend who is a ‘hands on’ practitioner of some sort of alternative medicine and the heater was used in her surgery to keep patients warm. It was an easy fix, I just by-passed the useless timer mechanism and it worked great. He brought it to my house, and asked me to drop it at his place. Over coffee we got in to a conversion about my life, retirement and what I did all day etc.

Well, it turns out he was recruiting for a ‘Men’s Shed’. These have been springing up all over the country, and are places where mostly retired men, can meet and chat or fix things or mess around with wood or whatever. It’s better than going down the pub, which to my mind is totally boring unless you are meeting up with others, and there is a common bond of friendship and working together, all voluntarily. Let me explain about the one I go to every Tuesday; It’s inside a furniture warehouse called ‘Furniture Helpline’ which is a charity that collects furniture from wherever it can get it, house clearances, unwanted household items, and sells them on to people who are having a hard time financially. As their website says:

We collect good quality, donated furniture from local residents and offer it, free of charge or at low prices, to people in need.

We are a food recycling hub for the local area, providing good quality, surplus food to organisations such as lunch clubs, day centres, school breakfast clubs etc.

As an environmental body, our activities reduce the number of items going to landfill and through our workshop (that’s the Men’s Shed) we are able refurbish some furniture.

They also raise money transporting refuse to various places for local councils. So they have vans available to collect the household goods and they bring that back to the Furniture Helpline building, which is incidentally an ex-military police station, and if it doesn’t need any refurbishment, goes straight out onto the showroom floor for sale at very competitive prices, i.e. very cheap. Many other charities do the same sort of thing, the British Heart Foundation is one that springs to mind. The Furniture Helpline is based in Bordon, Hampshire and has quite a good turnover of furniture and domestic appliances in good condition. If its not, that’s where the Men’s Shed comes in.

We meet every Tuesday and Friday inside the Furniture Helpline building in a small workshop which is equipped with a wide range of hand tools and machinery.

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It can safely accommodate at least five people, although there are only two benches. Some of the work is carried on furniture on the floor.  We have a band-saw which has many uses, and a belt sander along with electric drills and hand held sanders .

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We are currently in the process of constructing new small display wheelbarrows for sale in the FH sale room and been well received; three having been sold. We also refurbish and repair a wide range of wooden furniture, usually cosmetically and sometimes replacements parts have to be manufactured. The men currently  taking part in the men’s shed are all retired and over a certain age, but that is no barrier, and experience or knowledge is not required either. There are plenty of able hands willing to instruct and assist. But it’s not all work, work, work. There is a lot of banter and jokes. Tea and coffee are available. We meet between 1.00pm and 4.00pm in Hampshire House, Hampshire Rd in Bordon (the old police station). Come along if you like to tinker with ‘stuff’ and have a hankering to make a difference to the community.

 

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40? Not possible!


My daughter passed a milestone age last week, she turned 40 years old. I’ll avoid the cliches of ‘where did that time go’, because those sorts of comments are boring.

I would like to discuss how the hell I could be the father of a 40 year old when I’m nowt but a kid myself, at the mere age of 66! When I was at school my maths teacher was ancient at about mid 40s and was in the war, and frankly looked and acted that age, possible because of the war, not despite it. Nowadays it’s not 40 that’s the new 30, 60 is the new 40; but with caveats: you may get to 60 but it doesn’t mean you can do everything you could do at 40. When I turned 40 I was at the half way point of my working life, now I should think it’s well short of half way what with later retirement ages and all. I still feel that I could pass for 40 in most aspects except for strength, energy, staying power; you name it. But at 66 I can still ‘get down with the kids’ except for anything requiring exertion! My daughter thinks I should be treating myself with kid gloves and I admit it’s difficult to pull back doing some things, but am equally grateful that there are things I still can’t do. Back in April there was a 90 year old man doing the marathon, there is nothing I would less like to do. Running is anathema to me; cavemen did it to catch prey, but in the modern age it’s only necessary to escape a deadly danger, if at all. Walking is s different matter; I love walking and could probably do it all day. But I equally love to sit down, whenever I can. 

So, the question is do I feel my age? Well, yes and no. Ailments and chronic illnesses are sometimes the proof of getting older, and I admit I have a few of those without dwelling on them. So, a few minutes ago I was 40, how long will it take to get to 80, or beyond. Does anyone think about that far into the future, I don’t unless I’m discussing it in this medium. I’m not actually afraid of death, mainly because thats for other people not me. I suppose when it comes to my time, I’ll accept it’s the end, but like most people I don’t want to think about that time. It’ll happen whatever I do.

Right, maudling bit over, back to the subject. When my daughter was born, in a military hospital, she was my first born and very special as all new borns are to all new parents. We have a great though sometimes sparky relationship because we are so close in personality. No influence from me and that’s what I find interesting; is it in the genes? I am, in deference to my surname, very handy with my hands, so is my daughter (I should say ‘eldest’ daughter because she has a younger sister), and so was my dad. I don’t  remember my dad specifically teaching me woodwork, electrics, mechanical repairs etc but I must have been taking notice when he was doing these things, and they must have rubbed off. Likewise my daughter has the same attributes and also picks things far quicker than I remember doing  the same. I’m proud that she is good at most practical things and having moved recently into her new house she has lots of work to do, all requiring the aforementioned skills. So the image of being 40 had changed over the years. We’re all living longer, so 40 is more likely to be middle age, where it was 35 years ago. 35 is hardly run-in!

But back to Charlotte, my 40 year old daughter, whose birth I remember so clearly and who has made her way so well in the world. I’m so proud of what she’s achieved on her own, and she has created a lovely life for herself. Rock on babe! X

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Like a bunch of kids…


I’m referring to the debacle of the ‘Leaders Debate’s on TV last night on BBC1. I switched off after the introductions and the the first ten minutes. They all talked at once, didn’t say anything of import, and generally acted unlike anyone who could potentially run this country.

Why anyone would want to enter the bear pit that is the political debating chamber is beyond me. The politicos who were on duty last night seemed to want to further their own cause by shouting louder than the previous, or in some cases, at the same time as another speaker. No wonder new and wavering voters don’t know who to vote for, they all seem as bad as one another. Whereas in the Blair/Brown era, who were Tories in red coats, there is at least more than a fag papers width between the two main parties today. Corbyn is a more left wing Labour leader than has been seen since the Wilson era, and May is moving the party more to the left as we watch the manifesto being unveiled. In my humble opinion I wish every ballot paper had ‘None of the above’ as a choice as well as the candidates from the political parties. I’m guessing ‘None’ could win the election. So then what? May’s vision of ‘strong, stable leadership, or Corbyn’s ‘For the many not the few’. Both have merit and downsides; May has only been in office 5 minutes and hasn’t won an election, hardly a long term experience level. Corbyn won the leadership almost by default because the other candidates were nonentities, or McDonald, and he’s never held a capital post in government, May has at least been home secretary. The others are also rans; the Lib Dems have had it, UKIP forget them and the Greens, well need one say more?

So what happens on 9th June? It’s going to be close, and will be a hung parliament in my opinion. There will be ‘talks’ between Labour and the SNP, but can anyone see that working? I thought not. So it will be the useless leading the under achieving and making a hash of it. If Corbyn does wrest power, his sincere demeanour will fool no-one, he has the potential to be dangerous and May will I think be found wanting in many areas, and despite the Strength mantra will not be as strong as we would like. The trouble is none of them actually listen to the electorate, they only hear what they want, and don’t take notice of ‘ordinary’ folk. So it will be interesting to see what horse trading and amalgamations take place over the weekend of 10/11th June, although they might not be needed. It always seems close in the run up to polling day, then things happen quickly changing what the outcome is; look at Blair’s landslide in 1997, predicted but not expected. Thatcher’s landslide in 1979 was expected because Callaghan’s reign collapsed amid three day weeks and power cuts. So who can tell? Personally I hope Corbyn and co don’t get in, but I’m not a true blue Tory flag waver either. They need to change their act to appeal across the board, so I think they are the least worse option. We could even go back to the days of 1974 when there were two elections in one year! Let’s see.

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The 6th May 2017


Saturday 6th May 2017 was a day of contrasts in two main ways: marriage and rugby.

Many months ago we were invited to the wedding of good friends John and Sue Wells’ daughter, Hannah. The wedding was to take place in a church in Repton Nottinghamshire, and we were invited to attend the evening reception at the Donington Park Farmhouse Hotel near the famous motor racing course. We accepted and booked to stay in the hotel where the reception was being held. So far so pleasurable.

For those who follow this blog, you will know I’m an avid supporter of Farnham Rugby Union Football club (FRUFC) based in Farnham Surrey; and have been for about 4 years. This season they have fond particularly well in the London South West 3 league and intact have only lost 1 game all season. They started their RFU national senior vase run earlier this year and battled through, after a thrilling semi final to secure a place in the final at headquarters, Twickenham to play against Droitwich in the Midlands somewhere apparently. I think you can guess where this is going, the final at Twickenham was to be played on 6th May. Groan, oh no why the same day.? There was no possibility of cancelling the wedding reception, that was booked first, so I wondered what I could to at least see a recording of the match, someone might video it from Farnham. After enquiring with the club, I was told that the match would be streamed by the RFU themselves in full. Result! It only now remained to work out if I could watch the match before we left home (it’s a three hour + journey to get the the reception), or wait until afterwards? I worked out that I could use my phone data to stream the match and send it to my tablet to watch it en  route. Double result! This would of course entail memsahib Fran to do all the driving while I watched the match on the way. This worked great for the first half hour, by which time Farnham were 7-10 down. Then the worse happened, the signal dropped out and I couldn’t get it back, missing the rest of the first half. Eventually I got the signal back and saw the rest of the match with Farnham comfortable winners. Of course I’d have preferred to be there but choices have to be made.

The rest of the long weekend went very well. We arrived at the Donington Park Farmhouse Hotel right next door to the eponymous motor racing circuit, and settled in waiting for the evening reception to meet the bride and her parents who we have known for a very long time. We managed to catch up a bit on the night but obviously they were very busy with the goings on. They told us hey had booked in for the Sunday night specifically to catch up with us, and we were flattered. The next day we had decided to go to Sudbury Hall and Children’s Museum near Derby, a National Trust property. On the way however I spotted the tail of a Vulcan bomber near to East Midlands Airport which was adjacent to the hotel. Following it I found Donington Airpark, a museum. Well this had to be done and Fran is used to me visiting aircraft museums so there was no protest from that quarter. There were many aircraft exhibited which I had been associated with during my RAF career and it was nice to see them in good condition, especially the Vulcan. There was also a Buccaneer, a cut down VC10, several Hunters and other ephemera.

The Buccaneer

Later we left and went to Sudbury Hall and Children’s Museum near Derby. It turned out to be a very hot and the Hall and Museum were a delight. The hall was given to National Trust by the family that had owned it for 400 years. It was left with a lot of the furniture and effects they owned. It is a magnificent building and well worth a visit.

 Sudbury Hall from the rear.

Then the children’s museum which is next door, if fact part of the Hall is used and contains a lot of artifacts which invoked many a memory. They have a cafe there and a large area of grass which on the day we visited was being well used.
The main gallery in the hall.

The whole day was rounded off by meeting John, Sue and Ashley back at the hotel for dinner and a catch up. A lovely day all round.

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Farnham’s Last stand.


I’m referring of course to Farnham Rugby Union Football Club (FRUFC) who currently occupy top spot in the London 3 South West league.

Despite only getting back from Australia the night before l was determined to get to the last match of the season against Battersea Ironsides, who reside in the middle of the table and who Farnham beat in the away match in December. Having arrived a bit late due to jet lag l missed the first fifteen minutes when three converted tries were scored, so it was no surprise to see Farnham had taken the foot off​ the gas a little allowing Ironsides to score an unconverted try to make it 21-5 at half time. 

The second showed what a spirited side Ironsides are; enthusiastic and did a lot of running. The stand off Felston and the inside centre Lyons being particularly effective. All that effort didn’t produce much but they did come back with late try, after Farnham added another two unconverted tries to make it 31-10 at the final whistle. The whole Farnham side played very well especially Pete Daly (natch) Mike Salmon, Toby Comley. Unfortunately Lenny Jennings and Jemi Akin-Olugbade received overlapping sin bin dismissals, the former for a supposed high tackle and the latter for a late tackle, about 5 seconds, oh well. So ends Farnham’s season which guarantees promotion to London 2, where they were two years ago before being relegated.

But that’s not the end of the story, Farnham have won through to the semi final of the National Senior Vase, and face Saltash of Cornwall at Monkton Lane Farnham on Saturday 15th April, kick off 2.30pm. If they win, they will be travelling to Twickenham to play the final against the other semi-finalists. If that happens, it will be a fantastic occasion to play at headquarters in the final on 6th May. I hope to be there and see Farnham win a major trophy. Keep it up Farnham

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This won’t be the last time.


So, our third trip to ‘down under’ is complete. Including our previous trips we have spent a total of 15 weeks in Australia.

Now don’t jump to the conclusion that we might up sticks and move out to that lovely country, l doubt that will happen despite the draw of my daughter living in Melbourne. We love to visit and have been three times in four years albeit with 18 months to two years between trips. This latest holiday started on 9th March and we had three of us going this time with my eldest daughter Charlotte joining Fran and myself. We had booked Singapore airlines mid last year when they had special deals on, we got there – return for £2000, which is actually a bit of a bargain. Previously we travelled with Etihad but on the 2nd trip in ’15 we got fed up with the staging through Abu Dhabi, and decided to try something different, and it cost nearly the same for two of us. Singapore stages through Changi with stops of 3 hours out and 6 hours back. It’s a quantum leap from Abu Dhabi and much better organised. So we started very early doors on the 9th, thanks to GP Cars of Bordon and Colin our driver. The flight was at 11:00 for the 13 hours duration to Singapore, and that was all succesful, very smooth in the Airbus A380, flying overnight and landing at silly o’clock on Friday 10th, coincidentally my birthday! I asked a flight attendant if there was any champagne on board, and they obliged by bringing three glasses of it, a birthday card and a present of a pack of playing cards for each of us. A lovely gesture which was typical of the great service you get with Singapore Airlines. Had a mooch around Changi for three hours waiting for our connecting flight and again all smooth arriving in Melbourne after an eight hour flight at nine pm or so. We were met by Teresa and Kev who had borrowed a bigger car from work (Ford) to move us and all our stuff to their flat where we staying for the first night.

The night we arrived was still my birthday  l opened cards and presents and after a bite crashed for the night. The next day we got an über (very successful in Melbourne) and got taken to our home for the next 7 days, Central YHA in Flinders Street. We unpacked and got ready to go to Langans, a high class all-you-can-eat restaurant above its eponymous hotel. We had the first sitting at 5pm and there was quite a crowd waiting to get in. The wait was worth it, the food was from every corner of the globe and as in the title, you could stuff yourself.

(This photo is from the top of the Garden Tea Room in Melbourne)

It was a lovely meal and we walked around for a bit afterwards to wear it off.

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