Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I'm in week two of no internet at home. An administrative error by my new provider that has caused me much angst. Let's hope the improved service delivers.

So how have I coped without being on line at home? I've survived, but it's been extremely irritating.

Computer says 'no'
However, I have not missed out on how my pal had to miss rowing after getting a little drunk, or whether a due baby has arrived or not. After all, for important updates, I could always lift up the phone (though that was out for two days too). No, what has been most frustrating for me is studying!

For the first time in years I am doing a qualification that requires lots of reading and lots of internet learning. So the consequence of no internet at home is that my studying is restricted to mornings and evenings at the office. Makes for a long day.

I thought I would be much more irritated by the inability to go on line, email my buddies, check out something I saw on TV via search engine... but it hasn't been that hard. The consequence is that I have done a lot less sitting around with my computer on my lap.

All this newly released time should mean that I have got lots of other things done but, in reality,  I have to confess to having watched a lot of rubbish TV. The difference being, I am not multi-tasking. Instead of doing two things (watching TV and checking my emails, for example), I have been restricted to one. To watching the TV. Goodness, what a way to waste a life.

Would losing computer access upset you? Would you find it seriously challenged your preferred life style?  I think I need to try complete abstinence at some point in the future - but not until my studies are over.

Illustration credit: unable to trace

Cheat source: I did have my mobile phone still

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

From racing cars to double agents

Once again my train travels bring me something new. Today, as I sat at the station waiting for my Kings Cross train, a man asked me where to get food (the coffee booth was closed). I directed him to the little shop and he returned, roll in hand, and asked if I minded if he sat down next (but one) to me. No problem.

He then talked. Quite a lot. He was from Thailand, visiting his country of origin to renew his passport, sort out his visa. We chatted generically about Thailand - about how he loved the people there and the temperate climate. Under 33 degrees and he'd be shivering. So, on a cold, wet, Decemberish May afternoon, he was a little out of sorts.

He told me he'd come to our town to meet an ex-Formula One driver, now a thriving (and determined) businessman. My fellow traveller's past had included mental training for racing drivers, amongst, it was hinted, many other things.

He talked about how life in Thailand was good, if you had money. I said not much call for my profession out there - a fundraiser. I talked a bit about my job and he told me about a friend he'd known who had died of Alzheimer's. A man called Eddie Chapman. Zigzag.

He told me a bit about Mr Chapman, and the sad state he eventually saw his friend in during his last days. Dementia is no respecter of the past, or of the person. My travelling companion (we got on the same train) described Eddie as a war hero. He mentioned an old film with Yul Brynner (and yes, you can find the film on the internet - 'Triple Cross'), and how Tom Hanks has bought the film rights.  What he didn't mention is that Eddie was originally a criminal - part of a gang that blew safes.

I didn't talk a lot about myself, for whatever reason this man wanted to talk, and didn't seem to want anything from me except that I listen. We talked a bit about mental capacity and the conversation ended up with him telling me about his son. His ten year old son had been kidnapped by his mother - taken to the other end of the island - and the first thing that my traveller friend had to do when he got home was to hire two policemen to help him retrieve his son. He has legal custody, he said.

It seemed a bit odd - what was he going to do with his son whilst he was in England? I didn't ask, but I wondered. A slight hole in the plot there. The wife had taken the son back to live with her and her two further children by an Australian partner, and had unregistered him from his home school and registered him with her school. So, not just a temporary care situation then.

But the man seemed quite chilled about it. He described a phone conversation with his son, and had a very relaxed attitude to what, one would think, is likely to be a tricky situation.  He said he'd always been self-employed. Somtimes he was rich, sometimes he was poor. Financially he was poor, but he was the richest man in the world in having his son.

It could, of course, have been a complete fantasy - from racing driver, via WWII double agent, to kidnapped son. But what would be the point? I don't know, but one thing he said was 'don't worry about the big things, sort out the little things and the big stuff will follow'. I hope it works for him.

Car photo credit: http://www.racebyrace.com/drivers2000/18blundell.htm

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

What do you do with the past?

Spring Term, 1971.

"Despite accidents, this has been a good term."

Wennington School
That's my brother's domestic science report from Wennington School in Yorkshire. I have about 9 of his school reports. I chose that one because he became a chef. What we knew as domestic science in those days actually gave him a real love of cooking. He was very creative and worked all over London including Leith's, Royal Court Hotel and National Theatre. If he invented a dish he would call it 'a la berger' - berger meaning 'shepherd'.

In this huge old black metal trunk I have been delving into, there is lot more than just my brother's school reports. There are all sorts of papers and note books. So far, on cursory glance, I have inspected my mother's English school book and her mother's diaries which seem to range from 1946-1971. If the diaries held something interesting like journal entries I could see the point in keeping them, but they just have notes like 'meet M, 2pm'. But my mother has obviously held on to these for a reason.

Norbiton Hall
My granny Maggie (mother's mother) lived in Norbiton Hall in Kingston with her third (or fourth, I can't remember) husband, Charles. They were, to us children, 'Granny and Charles'. An entity. We would visit them and play in the grounds of their residence (which sounds grand, but in fact they lived in a block of flats, but a very nice block). I have photographs of Granny and Charles with all sorts of people - I can ask my mother but she probably won't know who they are. And if I do find out who they are, what do I do with these photographs?

So what do I do with the past? Do I quietly bin it without telling my mother, or do I just keep it in that old black trunk until it will no longer be of consequence to her?

It's a puzzlement.