Now for 2017 …

And so that’s 2016 over and done. Not too soon many will say. It’s been a tough year around the world as conflicts continue to rage, people suffer, die or risk everything to escape to a new country in which they may well feel less welcome than the one they left behind. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the new American President have meant politics have taken an unexpected path in the free world as well, all of which has created a very unclear future.

But this is not meant to be a morbid, down beat, reflection on life.

2016 has been good to me! New apartment, new car, trips back to the UK and travel in Australia seeing new places and experiencing new things.

A large part of 2016 was spent back in the U.K. One month here and one months there for the first seven months of the year; it was tough. It certainly took its toll. But it did allow me to experience the highlight of my year.

lauren-graduationIn September I was in Canterbury Cathedral to see Lauren graduate from university. How very proud was I to see her collect her degree. It was an amazing experience.

David BowieAs everybody knows there seems to have been a disproportionate number of people passing this year. Prince and George Michael to name just two. But by far the biggest shock for me was David Bowie. I wrote about this at the time but it still seems untrue when  mentioned on the news with all the others.

December saw me tick off the first of my big Australian adventures with a two week road trip to Uluru. An absolutely awesome experience which I will write more about separately.

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There have been parties, drinking, laughing, good friends. Yes, 2016 was a good year.

koalaAnd so to 2017. I don’t know what to expect but another road trip is planned, destination as yet unknown, and I intend to continue with the personal transformation journey I started back in October. So far the results have been good but I have a way to go yet.

A Happy and Prosperous new year to you all, I hope 2017 brings everything you wish for and more.

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Sometimes.

He was walking down the street. Not really sure where he was going. No particular direction as there was no where to be. A bag in each hand and another on his back. His whole life being carried along with him. Head down, no need to see; nothing to see; nothing he wanted to see. Too much had been viewed through those cold dark eyes and captured, stored away within his brain. No more.

Right now his only thought was shelter. The clouds were building and like all those who shared his way of life he knew that rain was coming. Summer storms in this part of the world, and at this time of year, are always quick, heavy and would soak though to the skin in seconds. With nowhere to get dry the rain storm would be a killer. But it wouldn’t get him today.

As he expected all of the covered places were already taken. He wasn’t too quick on his feet so the youngsters got the space forcing him to move on. There were so many around this area these days. Many drifting in for the summer months making their money begging from the tourist. There were always tourists around the harbour and George Street. But that wasn’t the area for him. He wouldn’t be allowed around there today, Central Station would be better cover, better people and possibly some food.

Sometimes my thoughts take over my being. My paranoia controls everything about me. I move through time unable to focus but still somehow get enough done that those around me may not even be aware. Or perhaps they are but they say nothing.

He was never sure what started it, the trigger that caused his world to crumble. It was a different place, a different time.

Life had been good. He had been successful by the measures of the world in which he lived and the circles in which he moved. Nice house, nice car, wife, kids, friends. What else was there? What else did you need? Perhaps that was the problem – more!

They always wanted more from him. He always wanted better for himself and his family. He worked hard. And then he worked harder. Travelled, worked, hotels, bad food, work. The next project was simply added to the last. Pressure applied to deliver. The implicit threat that not to succeed was not an option. If you said “enough” that would be a sign of weakness; not acceptable, not tolerated.

He was never actually sure what was the reality of his situation, but he never said no and so more was added, then more and even more.

I over think. Over analyse. Work out all of the crazy things I would like to happen but never will; even worse how they will conspire to humiliate me.

Slowly things began to unravel. His wife upon whom he relied so much for stability wasn’t there when he got home. She had had enough. Didn’t she realise that he had been doing it all for her! He would show her what she had walked away from, he would show her just how successful he was, just how good he was at his job.

He never realised that things were going so very wrong. The work into which he had put so much effort, poured his whole life, wasn’t getting done. He was falling behind, sinking beneath the ever increasing pile.

The pressures were enormous. Pushing down on him constantly. No time for a break, no time for a rest, no time to sleep, eat, relax, live.

How can friends really be friends. Surely they are simply laughing behind my back. Why will nobody be honest with me? Why will nobody help me? Why?

Others could see what was happening. The unprovoked outbursts. The moods, the rants, the shouting and swearing. The unacceptable, unprofessional behaviour. But nobody said a word. There were no offers of support or attempts to help alleviate the burden. They simply watched the inevitable car crash. Looked on as the brick wall approached at a million miles an hour and then turned away. False sympathy. Kind words; completely hollow.

“He never was very good”. “The clients never liked him, so many complaints you know.”

Cost cutting was the excuse, but the result was the same. It was over. Done. He was out. After so many years and so much effort and pain, he was left to count the cost. While he had paid an enormous price, others had collected and were congratulating themselves on a job well done.

The next year or so were a blur. He got some work but never really enough. The car went first, sold to try and keep the house but inevitably that went as well. Somewhere between divorce and the banks everything he had worked so hard for was slowly sucked away. What little cash he had he drank. It didn’t really help but it was the only way he could face the world. It numbed his brain so stopped him thinking what could have been. Stopped him blaming himself for being a failure!

Sometimes I need to be with somebody. Most of the time I enjoy my own company. Me and my thoughts. Me and my anxieties. Me and my worries, my concerns, my ……….

Me and my paranoia.

Somehow he had found a couple of dollars, just enough to ride a train. City circle would provide warmth and shelter from the storm. While he had a valid ticket he could stay as long as he needed. Making his way down the stairs and through the many tunnels he was jostled by the early evening commuters heading away from the city to their comfortable suburban homes. Dinner, glass of wine, a little telly and bed.

He found the platform he needed and headed up the steps and back into the cold. It was very wet underfoot as the storm had bought the heavy rains he had expected. Slowly making his was up the platform, he preferred the front of the train, although never actually knowing why. There were people everywhere. The rain had brought them to the trains rather than walk home as perhaps they would normally. It wasn’t far but not in this weather.

Nobody was sure if he slipped, tripped or stumbled. Maybe he bumped into somebody as he walked a little too close to the edge.

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Brexit

My blog is not about politics. It is about recording events which occur within my world, which affect my daily life or which I believe need to be written down for me to reflect back on at some point in the future.

The referendum which took place in the United Kingdom on Thursday 23rd June 2016 is one such event.

I arrived back in England as the polls were closing and, like most people I know, went to bed thinking the result was a forgone conclusion. While it was likely to be close, the British people would vote to remain.

As we now know, they did not!!

This is without doubt the biggest political upheaval that I can recall. We have had recessions; several of them. Wars. Terrorist attacks. Various governments of differing, and occasionally extreme, views. But never have the British people made a decision which cannot be reversed or undone.

The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. In 1975 there was a referendum to decide if we were to remain which was won by a sizeable majority. The club we joined was all about trade, a “common market” which allowed the free movement of goods, services and people between member states. However, over the years it became more of a political movement adding additional member states and, most significantly, creating a single currency which came into existence on the 1st January 1999. At some point its name was changed to the European Community (EC) and then European Union (EU).

As the remit of the EU changed and the organisation grew, many people of all political views, and large sections of the popular press, became increasingly hostile to an organisation based on main land Europe which had such an apparent hold on the lives of the British people.

In an attempt to draw a line under the EU issue the current conservative government, lead by David Cameron, made the decision to “renegotiate” our membership with the EU and then give the people the opportunity to either Remain or Leave. We now know how that ended.

The United Kingdom now has to negotiate its exit from the EU and its new position in the world. It has to negotiate trade agreements with all other markets and it has to close the legislative gaps which will be exposed as Brexit becomes a reality. All while attempting to maintain a stable economy.

Brexit LogoHow will this play out, only time will tell.

I suggest you hold on tight as it is likely to be a very bumpy ride.

Welcome 2016

Sydney NYEHappy new year – if a little late!

I have always found that I write most when I’m not feeling at my best which, judging by the limited number of posts, would suggest 2015 was a good year. I think it probably was.

New job, new life in a new country, a whole new start.

Since moving to Sydney in May I have revisited many places I saw during my previous travels, but also many new ones. I have spent time reading up on the European history of New South Wales and started to prepare lists of the places I need to visit, research and explore in the future.

My NSW lighthouse challenge has taken a huge leap forward following a road trip to Brisbane with Lauren over Christmas – just one of a number of posts I need to complete in the near future.

As well as the good, 2015 saw a number of more difficult events. My divorce was completed in December. The sale of the house I had put so much time and effort into was sold. My Land Rovers were both also sold; the Series III was particularly difficult to let go. Some of these events were my decisions, some were outside my control, but as I sit here looking into 2016 I am sure they were all for the best and it is only because of these that I am here in Sydney now.

The hardest part of moving to Sydney was leaving Lauren behind. Since leaving the UK I have only spent about four weeks with her. But I did see her on her 21st birthday and she was here for Christmas and New Year. I am also hopeful that she will be spending more time here once she finishes university.

And so to 2016 and what the future holds. The main thing for me is to secure a new four wheel drive so that I can start to get out further and see all those places on my list and experience another part of the Australia lifestyle. There are so many places to see and experience that I don’t expect to spend too many weekends in my apartment!

Once again, Happy New Year! I hope 2016 fulfils all our dreams and, as always, thanks for reading.

Sydney NYE 1

2014 done. Bring on 2015 …

2015So that was 2014, and what a year it was!

Like many people who write blogs or diaries, I tend to do a post at this time of year as a retrospective and also to set out a few plans that I may have in place. As a starting point I like to read my blog from this time last year to see how I have done. Well it is safe to say that most, if not all, my plans for 2014 didn’t happen. I had hoped to go back to Norway – not done. I wanted to travel up through the high passes in the Alps – nope, not done. I wanted to continue with the personal challenges I had stated during 2013 – failed! There was the possibility of a trip to Australia – and what a trip it turned out to be!!

Back in February it was finally confirmed that the trip to Australia was going to happen. Within a week the trip was confirmed, visa approved, flights booked and I was on my way to Sydney. Initially for two weeks, but at the end of March I was on my way down under again and this time it was for seven weeks. The longer trip allowed me to really explore Sydney and the surrounding areas. The timing also meant that Lauren could join me for just under four weeks which was a real bonus.

Back in the UK there were a few trips out with Lauren and I also finally started to learn to fly a microlight. Something I had been thinking about for a long time. The year ended with another couple of months in Sydney. During these last two trips I also got the chance to visit both Canberra and Tasmania. From never having been to Australia I have now spent over four months there.

A significant disappointment during the year was the announcement that my team, London Wasps, were to move 80 miles north to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. The deal makes very sound business sense but as a supporter I felt, and continue to feel, that the way the existing fan base were treated was unforgivable. One or two statements from a particular player, who so it happens was born in Coventry, only compounded these feelings. I have been to the new ground once and will give it another go, but many of the promises appear simply to have been untrue – better parking, better access to and from on match day, better facilities. The atmosphere just was not the same as far as I was concerned, it didn’t feel like our home ground, and so my regular attendance at home matches may now be over.

2014 was certainly a very busy year and incredibly rewarding, but what will 2015 bring? At the moment I have no idea. If I am in the northern hemisphere then I intend to take some of the trips which I had to skip this year. Plus I will be doing some more flying. Paramotoring has caught my eye so I will be looking to give that a go. However if I am back down under then who knows? Watch this space ……

Finally I would like to thank all those who read my posts and especially the 74 people out there that follow my blog. I hope that you stick with me through the coming months and enjoy the ride.

Very Happy New Year, I hope 2015 is everything you want it to be.

Sydney Fireworks

The London Breed

BZThe following poem was written by Benjamin Zephaniah following a commission received from the Museum of London.

I read this during a recent visit to the Museum of London Docklands and thought it was brilliant; thus I am sharing it here …….


I love dis great polluted place

Where pop stars come to live their dreams
Here ravers come for drum and bass
And politicians plan their schemes,
The music of the world is here
Dis city can play any song
They come to here from everywhere
Tis they that made dis city strong.

A world of food displayed on streets
Where all the world can come and dine
On meals that end with bitter sweets
And cultures melt and intertwine,
Two hundred languages give voice
To fifteen thousand changing years
And all religions can rejoice
With exiled souls and pioneers.

I love dis overcrowded place
Where old buildings mark men and time
And new buildings all seem to race
Up to a cloudy dank skyline,
Too many cars mean dire air
Too many guns mean danger
Too many drugs means be aware
Of strange gifts from a stranger.

It’s so cool when the heat is on
And when it’s cool it’s so wicked
We just keep melting into one
Just like the tribes before us did,
I love dis concrete jungle still
With all its sirens and its speed
The people here united will
Create a kind of London breed.

Wapping

The Ford Cortina was parked just past the street light so that although it was lit, it was near impossible to see the two men who sat in the front seats. The car wasn’t that old, no more than a couple of years, but it was covered in dents and scratches. The red paintwork was faded in places and there were the first signs of rust appearing around the bottom of the doors. It may well have been older than the registration plates would suggest.

“What the fuck are we waiting for?”

“Will you keep your fucking noise down!” His companion retorted “Do you want the whole fucking street to hear you?”

“I’m just sick of waiting. We’ve been here nearly an hour already.”

“And we will be another hour if necessary, so shut your fucking mouth.”

WarehouseThis part of London wasn’t the best in which to wait for any length of time. Nobody was about, even the rats appeared to have abandoned the proverbial sinking ship. A couple of rather dull street lamps tried their best to push back the shadows, but they werent really succeeding. Everywhere the gloom seemed to be encroaching; drawing what was left of the life from the street and buildings on either side. There were so many places that somebody could stand and watch, and wait, completely out of view. Just wait for the right second when they could pounce on their prey.

It had been a bustling port until recently but now the cargo ships stopped at the new container docks in Tilbury. Some still came along the Thames but they didn’t travel any further than the Royal Docks which were bigger and more accessible. The London docks were dying and that was all too evident here in Wapping.

Either side of where they sat were the towering warehouse buildings, which would have been full of goods from all over the world. The roadway between was narrow, making the buildings seem taller than they actually were; the sky a very long way above.

Men would have been moving the cargo from the ships to the first line of warehouses along side the river itself. From there they were shifted across the high level walkways to the opposite side of the road and then into the lorries, to be delivered all over London. Men would have been everywhere, the whole area busy, noisy, dirty and above all alive.

Now they were all gone.

The two pubs on this stretch just about scraped a living. The  Prospect of Whitby had been open for ever with a formidable history in the trial and execution business. It was said that Judge Jefferies himself had held court there, meeting out his customary form of justice.

They waited. Silent now, neither of them having much to say. Just watching to see when he would arrive.

They had been told what to look out for; a silver Rolls Royce driven by a local “businessman” known as Billy Streater. Collect the package, complete the job and then get the hell out of there, were their very clear instructions. Don’t be seen, they had been told, but that was rather difficult considering how long they had waited.

“He’s here.”

The big car pulled up just a few yards away from them. The passenger got out of the Cortina and walked over. As he approach the drivers window silently slid down and a hand passed out a small package covered in brown paper,  little bigger that a tobacco tin…

The body was found the following day.

Behind the Prospect of Whitby is a “decorative” gallows which was there to remind people of the pubs past. Today it was no longer simply a decoration. He had been strung up and left to die. Part of his body almost certainly in the river water at some point. Hands tied behind his back. Cause of death would be confirmed later, but it was clear to all those present that morning that it had been slow and extremely unpleasant.

After the docks closed, much of Wapping was simply left to rot. The warehouses were home to tramps, drug users and others with no where better to go. That was until the developers moved in realising the potential for these buildings was enormous. Huge open plan apartments were built with magnificent views of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Panoramas up and down the mighty River Thames.

It had been the best part of 10 years since that unexplained murder. Nobody had been arrested or charged. There had been no real leads. It wasn’t even clear how he had come to be there. Billy Streater drove a Rolls Royce but it was nowhere to be found. Two suspects had been seen waiting in an old Ford Cortina, but although the car was discovered a few days later burnt out near the gas works at Beckton, the men themselves were never traced.

During one of the development projects part of the floor needed to be broken out for new foundations. An internal walls was to be constructed; it needed to carry the weight of some machinery above. The builders had been working nonstop for days slowly inching their way from one wall to the other. The floor slab was about 18 inches thick and full of steel reinforcing rods. Below this was just mud, but breaking out the floor was taking forever. The job being made worse by the constant grief the foreman was giving them becauseWapping they were taking so long. Then they hit a soft spot. There was no more steel and the concrete itself wasn’t of the same quality, much softer and easier to break through. The last six feet of concrete to the wall was out in no time. Just the mud and the job was done, all being well they would be finished tonight.

They saw the hands first ….

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