Monday, June 5, 2017

MJ .Tall stories, gardening and 50 years married.

Its 3 years this week since Chris got a phone call from mum in Skegness. She was in tears and explained that dad had fallen asleep and wouldn’t wake up. He had died late on a Thursday afternoon whilst doing one of his favourite things. Looking through and editing photos on his laptop whilst mum took an afternoon nap in the bedroom. It was a complete blow. He had been ill on and off for years as had mum. Over the next few days as we took mum around Skegness organizing the funeral and telling their friends that he had died we discovered that earlier that morning, whilst he had been out shopping, he had seen and spoken to virtually every person he and mum knew in the town. Everyone we met spoke of how well he had looked, how happy and lively he seemed and how much he had to say. It was as if he knew he was going to die and wanted to make sure he saw everyone before he went, but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone it was his last day. I still get sad thinking that I'll never see mum or dad again, but luckily, we have lots of good memories to remember.

Our dad always had something to say – stories after stories, repeated over and over again, in the minutest detail, even when we told him we knew the story, he would continue and reach the end after far too long. But his stories were great. How, I wish I could hear some of them now. I think everyone should hear a few, so now, 3 years after that fucking horrible day, I thought I would write a few things about dad, about what he was like and even share a few of his photos.
Dad, bottom right as a young boy.

In the garden in Skegness, probably one Christmas, with Gareth and Chris

With Gareth as a baby I think and Nan looking on from the side. 

So, dad was born in Sheffield, and spent a load of his youth riding a bike from there to Manchester. Its not a short trip and I wouldn’t do it on today’s modern bikes, so he was already a little crazy to do it on the bikes in the 50’s ad 60’s. I’m not sure when he moved to Manchester, but at some time he met mum and they got married in March 1964 – we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a few months before they both died in 2014. It was a strange night, as ever, with my mum holding the cake knife to dad’s throat whilst telling the tale of stabbing him when they were much younger!

After college, dad started work with the Ordnance Survey, learning in Southampton at the head office before taking a posting to Skegness. This is where the three of us kids were born and where mum and dad eventually moved back to, to retire after we had all left home. They always loved Skegness and it always had a special place in their hearts. We visited often to see old friends and to spend many summer holidays.  During this time in Skegness came one of dads most repeated stories. There is a road called Roman Bank, which as the name suggests is a banked road built by Romans. It is raised about 3-4 metres above the footpaths and houses on either side. Dad used to work for an old friend Ken Scrimshaw – doing dodgy deals out of the back of a mini-van. They could have been the original Del and Rodney! Apparently, they invented the first ever penny falls machine but sold the original to a company and never made any money. But had they not sold it they would have been millionaires. As proof that they did build the first one ever, dad would sometimes take us to an old amusement arcade in Mablethorpe, where the original Penny Falls machine was still in use. He claimed that it was the original one he and Ken had built because the word ‘Penny’, was misspelled as ‘Penney’. That’s was it, no more proof, just that fact that it was misspelled.

Dad and Tiny the dog from Skegness

Training for the Ordnance Survey

 Anyway. Whilst driving along Roman Bank one evening in the late 60’s I think, dad missed the bend in the road and took off in the minivan- landing in a garden a few metres below the road level. Dad couldn’t get out of the car as it was up against the front door of a house. So, he wound down his window to press the door-bell of the house! Haahaa. I found a photo of what I think was the minivan, but I don’t think I was born now.
The minivan!

On holiday - probably somewhere near skegness - with Nan and Mum. Dad still had those striped beach chairs in the garage when he died!

With us kids in Norwich Road. Early 70's

Huge sideburns - About 1973 or 1974 in the front garden in Newort. Love the cardigans!

Later we moved to Newport in Essex when dad got a posting to Harlow. After completing some further training dad took a posting mapping the lake district. He would drive north every Sunday for what seemed like years and come back home the following Friday evening. Whilst there he stayed on a small farm near the town of Bullgill, with Robert and Dorothy Woods, who became lifelong friends to him and mum. Dad also loved his life when working up there, flying around in helicopters to reach the peak of the hills and mountains to take photos and measure the area for the maps. He told stories of buzzing cars as the pilot flew as low as possible along the winding lake district roads. Good times -  and it changed our lives as for the next 10 to 15 years we spent many lovely holidays at ‘The Farm’, where city kids like us could herd the cows, swim in the river and play hide and seek long into the summer evenings.

In the lake district working!

The helicopter they flew around in.
On the farm

After finishing work in the lake district, dad got a posting to an Ordnance Survey office near to Manchester and we moved up there in 1976. We all call Manchester our home, as mum and dads family lived there and as kids, so did we. We had a pretty good life, living on Moss Vale Road, in a house on the corner with a huge side garden that as kids we would turn into a mud pit, ruining dads nice grass and his vegetable garden. Dad loved his garden and spent most evenings out there growing stuff like carrots, beetroots, radishes and his infamous marrows, which he would cook with sausage meat stuffed inside. Never in my life have I ever seen marrow eaten anywhere except at our old house in Manchester.

Also, not long after moving to Manchester we bought a dog. The craziest most independent dog you could ever imagine – Rascal. A small but gritty Jack Russell terrier, born on Valentine’s day and with a heart shaped patch on his side. Dad loved the dog as we all did and thinking back now it’s disgusting to remember the dog licking dad’s smelly sweaty feet after he came in from the garden. Then the dog would lick the remains of sugary sweet tea from the bottom of a teacup, before mum would put the kettle back on and make another brew, using the unwashed cups, still with dad’s foot skin inside where it had been transferred by the dog’s tongue! Bleeeugh
Rascal eating ice cream - he was a fat greedy dog!

On the roof of Manchester airport. 


We were broken into a couple of times in Manchester and the thieves stole the video recorder – rented from radio rentals. Dad, as ever, made am unbreakable wooden shelf that the new VCR was sealed inside to stop it being robbed again. I remember coming downstairs for my paper-round one day to find the screws neatly removed and placed on the floor as a thief had taken their time to remove every one whilst robbing us again! When we went on holiday in the caravan – which we all loved – dad would pack the VCR up in mums wheeled shopping trolley and literally bury it under the floorboards in the larder – neatly placing the vacuum cleaner back on top of the carpet hiding the valuable items below the floorboards.
When he was young

Some more early photos - Including swimming in the canal!!

Holiday time when we were kids.

I think this was in the New Forest on holiday. Love this pic. He looks so proud.

It was early in our time in Manchester that dad got quite ill - he got Meningitis and spent months in bed, with constant visits from the doctor and us kids tiptoeing around the house trying not to disturb him. After recovery, he always had trouble with headaches and you could see his veins popping up when he got angry about things. It also meant that he very rarely drank anything so his life revolved around mum, us kids, rascal and the rest of the family in and around Manchester. We were lucky to have Gran and Brenda just around the corner, Cath and Andrew in Stretford and Nan in her old flat in Old Trafford. We visited everyone often. The family, whilst not overly soppy has always been close.
After us kids had grown up, mum and dad decided to retire back to Skegness – where they remained until they died in 2014. They both loved their little bungalow in Melbourne Drive and especially the back garden. It was dads pride and joy and without us kids about to ruin it, it became an oasis of beautiful plants and the odd wild animal. He built a pond with waterfall and filled it with goldfish. Frogs spawned there every year and in summer it was wonderful sitting in the peaceful, lovely garden with a beer and chatting with dad while he worked away. Mum would sit in the conservatory that they had built at the back of the house and bring dad tea and sandwiches whenever he needed it. I hope that whoever lives at the house now appreciates just how much effort and time dad spent out there and that they look after it for him.
Enjoying the garden with mum

and with me at the front!

Lunchtime with Buffy

Mum and dad had lots of friends in Skegness and as dad was always a bullshitter   talker, whenever we visited it would take hours to go shopping with them as they would stop and talk to everyone they passed. Dad would introduce us to everyone they knew and embarrass with stories that we didn’t want anyone to know, but it was cool that everyone genuinely liked mum and dad and didn’t seem to mind that dad sometimes just wouldn’t shut up. I’m sure, just like us, that they had heard the same stories over and over again and knew exactly what the ending was, but it was always fun to watch as they politely listened.  Dad also spent ages showing Buffy mum and dad Susan and Jon around his garden when they came to visit us in UK. I'm so glad that the two sets of parents got to meet as I enjoy talking with Jon and Susan about mum and dad now and they can relate having met them and been to skegness.
Parents and parents in law - in the chippy in Skeg.

Mum and dad were also overjoyed when Dad cousin Tony, with Joyce moved in at the end of the street. Tony and Joyce, with daughters Sharon and Tracey, have always been close to us all. We were roughly the same age as the girls and whenever we visited the southern branch of the family in London we would stay at Tony and Joyce’s house in Ramillies Road and mess about at the Local Golf club. So, when Tony and Joyce moved to Skegness mum and dad could see them so much more often and we could too when we visited. Tony and Joyce eventually moved away but would still meet up with mum and dad often to grab ab bite to eat and catch up. Dad and Tony were friends for pretty much friends most of their lives.
With Tony and Joyce.

Mum and dad also did a bit of travelling later in life. They visited me in Northern Ireland a couple of times and when I lived in Holland – taking the Eurostar over and visiting Brussels and Luxembourg on day trips.
When I got back after 16 months of travelling

On holiday - with mum

Young love!

Dad in Cleethorpes on a day out and visiting Manchester

On his kids bike!

They also went abroad to Malta and spent a nice holiday or two on The Isle of Man. Dad used to like taking photos of their travels and much like everything in his life he was meticulous about the photos being neat and tidy and sorted out properly. In the olden days, this meant we had a cupboard full of old photo albums whilst later in life, with the digital evolution, dad would upload the photos onto his laptop and sort through them, making sure dates and locations were correct as well as clipping and highlighting pictures to make them look nicer.
More cool cardigans and some cool sunglasses! With mum, Nan and Cath.

After dad died, we drove to Skegness to look after mum and found out that dad had died in his chair in the lounge, in front of his laptop. I sat down and pressed a button on the keyboard. The laptop came back to life in a way that dad never would again, but I wanted something to reach out to, to feel close to dad one last time. I saw that he had been looking through photos of the last holiday he and mum took to the Isle of Man. He had always been happy when doing that and I know he was happy to the end. Remembering a lovely time he had spent with mum – the love of his life. I am sure he was probably thinking about these good times as he closed his eyes for a final nap.
One of my favourite photos - me trying on dads glasses. 

What dad was doing when he went to sleep.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rod Stewart and a Vietnamese Hooker

Today is May 20 2017. It is a Saturday and as per every year here in Canada it is a long weekend for something called Victoria Day. It is officially stated that Victoria Day shall take place on the last Monday preceding May 25th. Which seems a long-winded way of saying the last but one Monday in May. It is to celebrate Queen Victoria for some reason.

Anyway, as it is a long weekend and is always in the month of May it is affectionately known as - May-long. Everyone loves Maylong as it is the first long weekend that takes place after winter. Every year people look forward to a lovely warm weekend, maybe heading to the lake, to spend time with friends or family and get some well-earned sunshine after the long drawn out winter. Then every year they get disappointed with the rain, clouds or like last year – snow. Maylong whilst not always a disappointment can very definitely bite you on the arse.

Also, Maylong puts me in mind of the name of a theoretical Thai Masseuse, or Vietnamese hooker or if you are being sensible and grown up (Unlike me) Maybe a quiet little Vietnamese village, with little kids playing in the streets, no shoes on, wearing fake European football shirts whilst following tourists around hoping for a taste of some foreign sweet or candy. The tourists would return to their homes months later and show the photos of this lovely out of the way village to their jealous friends and tell the stories of when they spent the afternoon in ‘Maylong’, the final Vietnamese oasis untouched by western influence.

Other slightly dirtier tourists may return home with completely different stories about ‘Maylong’, the slightly overweight Vietnamese hooker who has been touched too many times by western influence (and men). Either way, Maylong in Vietnam would never be forgotten and if these tourists were from Canada, there would be a certain long weekend in early summer that brought back memories of many different things.

It is with that introduction that I introduce you to the latest incarnation of ‘Ricks Extra Long Summer). It has been too long since I tippy tapped my dextrous finger sticks on the plastic buttons that translate movement into electronic 1’s and 0’s that when put into a certain order become magical symbols that allow the user to express opinion and ideas to other beings that have learned to understand these symbols. We call this ‘writing, language and reading’, it is a magical art form that allows communication across the world between hundreds, nay, THOUSANDS of people. We should take a second and think about the efforts over the millennia that have peaked today with the script that you are reading. The world is an amazing place and the wonder that brings us together today should not be under-estimated.
Anyway, much like the internet and its videos of goats screaming and auto-tune song remixes, I will take one of the wonders of human creation and use it for posting random bollocks that may or may not make you laugh, but will take you away from doing anything productive. It won’t take long…But read on young student, read on…..

Deer and Almond.
So, deer and almond is a Hipster artsy tasty overpriced (Thanks you Mrs Buffing McDaveyius for the quote) restaurant in the Exchange district of Winnipeg. We went there a few weeks ago with a gift certificate presented to us by The Morgan Family (Deb. Bill, Ariana and Eric) for a lovely wedding present. We enjoyed the delicious and originally presented food and spent a lovely evening out. Now, I’m not going to tell you any more, as this isn’t a sponsored blog, but I do think if you are in town you should visit this place – just to look at the clag they have in the bathrooms (For English people I will explain. Canadians don’t say toilet – they say bathroom. Apparently, it’s too impolite to use the word toilet as it infers using the toilet. (I have had this explained to me many times) So, I now say bathroom. Just don’t tell the Canadians that when using the bathroom, if there is indeed a bath there, I will use that said bath, because using the toilet is impolite. At least that’s how I think it works over here. Don’t, worry I always run the taps for a minute to get rid of any splashes.) So, here’s a photo of the weird stuff from the bathroom of Deer and Almond.

Remind you of anyone?

No, theres enough.

Barbecue – Broken and fixed.
Not very exciting this bit. Quite simply I went to clean our barbecue before the first burning episode of the year and the burners fell apart. You can see from the photos what they should look like and what the old ones looked like. The moral of the story is don’t ever clean your barbecue. Just leave it full of rust, burned on fat and bird droppings, then you won’t need to spend $120 on new burners.
Guess which one is new

Choir Concert Cantona.
Buffy had a choir concert. At this concert, you could drink and draw on the tables. I did both quite well. I have no photo of the drinking, but I have a photo of the drawing.
Its Eric Cantona, in famous goal celebration pose (When he scored against Newcastle United) He has rocket boots on his feet and carries an Amazonian spear.

So, I found this in a supermarket. Read the label carefully and see if you can spot the bullshit. Hmm, was there any other banana based snack before this one? 
Bullshit banana bollocks 

This photo was taken on 19th May. I ate the cereal and didn’t die. Don’t believe the best before dates.
Tasty old milk stuff from a Canadian Cows udders.
House sale – How not to advertise.
If you were going to sell or buy a house, do you think you would try a little harder than this? Perhaps a description of the house or maybe a location or even god forbid – an address? Weirdly there is another sign like this a couple of miles away with the house being in River Heights and not Wolseley. Something fishy going on here? This story may develop further if I ring the number…..

 House sale – Would you buy a house from these people?
Sir Roderick David ‘Rod’ Stewart CBE, born 1945. Hasn’t done much recently. That may be because he moved to Winnipeg and is so busy selling house he never sleeps. I would buy a house from him and so should you. Take a look at his website - It’s amazing!

I wouldn’t buy a house from Rachel though, she is carrying a sold sign like a weapon and has the shoes from Wizard of Oz as her advertisement on the side of a bin. I would call Rod.

 Incidentally, Rod Peeler is actually a really nice bloke and does actually do Rod Stewart Impressions. Honestly....he is ace!

Ok, thats it. Go have your dinner. Its done. Really. Ferris says its done. Go......shooooooo

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Disgusting and work...

Bless my old dad. He had some funny habits and weird sayings - One of his favourites was his overuse of the word disgusting. As you know the actual meaning is to cause revulsion or strong indignation. To my dad it meant anything he didn't agree with or just didn't like -
Long hair on teenage boys - DISGUSTING!!
Driving in the centre lane of the motorway - DISGUSTING!
Commentators on football matches - DISGUSTING!
All politicians - DISGUSTING!
Tuesdays - DISGUSTING!
Fat people - DISGUSTING!
The news (Good or bad) DISGUSTING!

Pretty much everything on this beautiful little planet was disgusting in one way or another, I agree with a lot of his claims, but some others just made us all laugh. However, Dad, if you are reading this in Facebook heaven, prepare to be disgusted once again, but this time its something that is actually disgusting. I mean in the version of the the word that mean off putting, revolting or just nasty.

So what do I mean? Its the little shoulder season between the end of winter and the actual warmth of Spring. It doesn't have a name, but if it did, then the seasons would read - Winter - Disgusting -Spring - Summer - Autumn/Fall  and start over again. We are currently in Disgusting....

So why, I hear you ask, do I want it named so?
Listen and I will tell you....

The snow falls here over a period of about 4 - 5 months, it falls, hardens and turns into ice, the roads are cleared and the snow piles up on the sidewalks. The roads and the sidewalks are then sanded and that sand eventually gets cleared in the next snowfall along with dirt, rubbish and all other dirty stuff.

Then in 'disgusting' - the weather warms up, the ice and remaining snow melts during the days it is above freezing and then freezes again at night. This creates uneven horrible icy sidewalks and roads that are more dangerous than shoving your tackle in the oven whilst cooking meatballs. The backlanes become haunted rails of ice with unknown forces pulling your car sideways without notice as you get stuck in the foot deep ruts of ice that build up. The wonderful dry, clean white snow is replaced with huge piles of brown, dirty shit stained ice that look otherworldly as the moisture is slowly melted away by the sunlight and warmth and what remains has hollow brown icicles hanging down. Your house and floors are ruined by the shit that sticks to your shoes and you many people wander down the road instead of sidewalks because its easier dodging cars than it is dodging foot deep puddles of brown murky freezing water - until a car drives through a foot deep puddle of brown murky freezing water and soaks you. It is disgusting - If you don't believe me here a few photos taken within 20 metres of our front door...

nearly clear path

Pile of shit used to be pile of snow

Just dirty and disgusting

effing disgusting

    So, there you go - In a few weeks it will all have melted and the city will clear the pathways. The grass will turn from grey to green and it will all be pretty again... I cant wait!!

Work has been good for me for the last few weeks. After completing my initial training I an now being let out on my own to install telephone systems - and I am loving it. I am busy, tired  and still learning everyday, but getting this job was fantastic and I actually look forward to work most days.

So what do I do? I am an Installer of business telephone systems - taking an initial agreement and meeting with customers to ascertain what they want their telephone system to do before spending a few hours programming the system and installing any cabling or equipment they need. I then install the new system and phones before arranging training and fine tuning what happens when someone calls. The whole process takes between 3 and 5 days usually spread over a 1-2 week period and with 2 or 3 jobs overlapping, its definitely busy but fun, Here's a taster of what I do....

Some of the shit cabling we have to deal with 

Bloody hell!

My nice neat cabling..

Before I did my stuff...

and after with UPS and Mitel 5000 mounted and working

I also cut holes in walls and run the odd bit of cat 5!

My latest job - fun fun fun!
So, at least you now know I ain't sitting on mt arse ALL day anymore. I think maybe its time to retire again soon though,.. haahaa.