Archive for the 'Life' Category

Sticking it to The Man

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

I’m now, around 2 months after surgery, finally starting to feel a bit recovered- but still having to take things very, very carefully. At point of coming out of hospital, I could just about hobble a few yards on 2 sticks, or rather elbow crutches. I’ve built that up, very gradually, to the dizzy heights of half a mile with one, wandering around the house with none, and managing a trip around the supermarket with the trolley to lean on, and I can drive short distances. Soon, I’ll hopefully be better (but fatter, see below) than beforehand.

Being temporarily disabled opened my eyes to a few things.

1) People, overall, are very kind and helpful, from pub and restaurant customers to bus drivers and passengers, and taxi drivers- but people *stare*. It’s good-natured- they want to be sure you’re OK- but still uncomfortable.

2) Having to use taxis a lot gets expensive quickly. Getting to my GP surgery if someone couldn’t drive me in a car was a ridiculous journey: it is all of 2 or 3 miles, and can be done on one bus *if* you can walk about half a mile to a bus stop, which I couldn’t at that point- so taxi it was. Anyone on a low income would struggle, and even for a simpler trip to Walsall, that walk to the bus stop (only a few hundred yards) can seem a long way, and getting to a walk-in NHS centre to get staples removed would have been next to impossible except by car or taxi.

3) Room to move becomes important, and people parking on pavements, self-closing doors, and narrow doorways in buildings become really difficult.

4) Sitting on one’s increasingly capacious arse (a result of boredom eating, and going from cycling 4-5 evenings a week and walking to local shops to doing almost *nothing*) sounds like fun, but rapidly isn’t. The garden is overgrown, the cars are unwashed, and I have the time to do them, but can’t do so. Friends have helped, but I cannot rely on that all the time, and don’t want to either. By the time I *can* do it, I’ll have to go back to work :-(

5) I spent a few weeks being almost totally dependent on others- I could get to the toilet, I could get showered, and dressed (even if it took 15 minutes and a dazzling amount of expletives to put a sock on…), and it wasn’t a good experience, despite my better half being very supportive. I could get to the kitchen, but could only carry stuff I could get in a pocket. What would I do if I lived alone?

6) While Internet shopping handily solves some difficulties, being unable to lift/carry items within the house makes getting the shopping from the front door hard. I’m not suggesting they should come and put it away for me; merely that on the face of it, it seems like a fix, but I still needed assistance.

7) One’s drinking social life becomes impaired. Pubblog has had few updates, and #100pubs is looking very, very sick.

Basically, it’s stunning how many everyday things get harder, more expensive, or both, and at the risk of repeating myself, people would do well to remember this.

PS: when you start watching On The Buses repeats, and being genuinely aggrieved if you miss it, you’ve probably been at home too long ;-).

Shout

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

The 80s Tears for Fears song Shout contains the line

These are the things I can do without

and that came true last Friday. Warning: middle-aged whinge content approaching.

I’d already arranged to meet a friend in a local pub, when my neighbours suggested a meal out. I’d got plenty of time, so we trotted (well, walked) off to a local pub. The food and beer was fine, but one thing *really* grated: the volume.

The music wasn’t the problem. What was the problem was a group of people, clustered around the bar (Grrr!) seemingly unable to conduct a conversation at normal volume: even the act of moving out of my way so I could get to the PDQ machine was accompanied by a needless cacophony of shouts (to which I muttered “for fucks sake” under my breath (hopefully)), and something about the acoustics of the room made it impossible to hold a conversation ourselves (though, as we’re all distinctly middle-aged, it could be the start of our hearing deteriorating in a noisy environment).

This was repeated later when I met my friend in another pub, but also with a band playing. Loud.

I really don’t mind music in pubs; or indeed bands in pubs. In fact, I love music in pubs, if it’s decent, but why always so loud? The loud music, of course, then creates the shouting if it wasn’t there already.

This thing really feeds into my perfect pub post: and it’s worth noting that the pubs I really like often have no music, like this one, this one or this one, or music you can converse over, like this one and this one and, again referring to my critera, the old model of multi-room pubs (before they all got knocked into one space) really helps here: it may have been an answer to the smoking issue too (as many pubs had a smoke room back in the day).

This is starting to sound like a grumpy old man’s desire for quiet pubs with no life to them (last Sunday, I visibly winced when one heavily refreshed customer suggested my local needed loud music on the jukebox to “liven it up” (on a Sunday evening, FFS)), but I’ll address that in two ways. First of all, I know I’m not alone, and secondly, having been in this place at work-chucking-out on a Friday, with it rammed to the point of standing room only, and felt the buzz in the place, which, frankly, was infectious, but still been able to talk to my companion, because people were talking, I can honestly say that at times I crave a bit of life to a pub.

So then: am I just getting old (though, in truth, I’ve hated over-loud pubs since my teens), or getting (even more) boring? I know Andy will agree here, but he’s older than me (and possibly, if the two of us are present, this post may become hypocritical…), and others may not, and I suppose here there’s a point to be made that pubs are, well, public spaces, so have to accommodate different tastes.

Amongst Piers

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

I’ve been away on business in Cardiff; network monkeying and packet pushing. Cardiff is an interesting city- I’ve never been before, and impressioms?

Friendly people, great restaurants, “vibrant” nightlife, good pubs (though the earlyish starts, a couple of late finishes, and alcohol combine to make a tiring experience…). There’s a lot in common with other cities, of course, both good and bad, but overall a nice place, though the traffic was a nightmare, with endless traffic lights- and the roads don’t work well for motorised traffic, cycles, or pedestrians- but more of that in another post.

In between proving that “one code per device” and “you won’t be able to create your own networks” can be defeated with NAT and randomly gaffertaping cables, I managed to get a bit of time out for a visit to nearby Penarth, so a couple of drinks and a pier trip: I picked a good day: it was warm, sometimes sunny, and a Penarth had a happy, relaxed air to it.

Penarth pier is beautiful. A proper pier that actually reaches the sea, with a lovely, recently restored pavillion, it’s owned by the council, and is a public space and cinema. There’s a nice tearoom too, and everything is in good order outside too: all the planking is complete and in good order and the pier was busy with happy crowds on Easter Sunday- this considering the pier is a short way from town. Colwyn Bay take note. I took some cameraphone snaps:

Penarth Pier

Penarth Pier


Penarth Pier's Art Deco Pavillion: that clock....

Penarth Pier’s Art Deco Pavillion: that clock….


but if you want decent pics, Google has loads that are better.

A short walk into town, and Penarth has some great architecture too: it’s fairly affluent now, and has been in the past too, by the looks of it, with some grand Victorian buildings and a couple of Deco gems too- yet not up itself, though the locals in one pub proffered the opinon “try living here”. There’s no pleasing some.

Connection Reset by Pier

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

We decided to have a few days away, and to continue our pier-bothering, we went east again, to within easy distance of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, so it was a high six to Norfolk, via that old favourite, the A14.

The Cambridgeshire speed nazis have at least now replaced the Gatsos with average speed cameras, with the result that the speeds are now even, rather that 85-brake-to-60-back-to-85. I’ve often said that if you find dual carriageways or motorways boring, then either you’re going too slow, not paying enough attention, or both, but miles of straight, flat, surprisingly quiet DC at 70 mph on cruise control tests that maxim. Mind, if the truck at the end of the M6, just before the infamous Catthorpe Interchange, had been paying better attention, we’d have had an even quicker journey. Fortunately, no one seemed to be seriously injured, but it won’t buff out.
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Pier Review

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

We continued our pier-bothering this weekend: another short break saw us down the M40, M25, A23 and A27 to Worthing. We’d done all the closest piers, and it being February, south seemed like a good choice- and so it was, on Friday: glorious sunshine saw us without coats outside a seafront bar in brilliant sunshine. Sadly, Saturday saw rain, mist, and wind, and I’d forgotten to take the camera out on Friday, so the Pier’s art-deco amusement arcade only got a hurried pic in the rain:

Worthing Pier's amusement hall

Worthing Pier’s amusement hall

In addition to the amusement hall, the Southern Pavillion has been refurbished- nicely so- and houses a tearoom/music/wedding venue: they’ve done a great job of that, but their website’s a bit lacking- unlike the array of (mostly blues) acts they have on.

Generally, the pier is in quite good shape: while we were there, decking was being replaced, which is nice to see, after the horrors of Colwyn Bay. Nice to see a council-owned pier being maintained, and busy, and making money.

On to the town itself: walk from our hotel in the east towards town along the seafront and it’s looking affluent and a bit la-di-dah, but elsewhere, like most places, it varies; we had an excellent Turkish meal in an area that, in politician-speak, would be described as “vibrant” (to be fair, the dark, wet evening didn’t do it any favours, but the meal was fantastic).

As you’d expect in the south, prices were a bit high in some places: north of 11 quid for a pint and a large wine give me a bit of a shock, but this was a seafront bistro/bar- back in the “vibrant” end of town it was just over six quid at the architecturally wonderful, but slightly rough Grand Victorian Hotel. Generally, I liked the town a lot.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Just a short note to say merry Christmas to all. As is customary, I won’t mention all the people in the online community of Walsall (and nearby), but just point you the way of the YamYam, still aggregating the local blogs. I do, however, have to mention both BrownhillsBob and The Plastic Hippo, both of whom shame me both with quantity and quality, and also to those of you I’ve actually met and imbibed beer with: you know who you are.

There’s a few Christmas errands left, but shopping is done, and the turkey is chillin’, and I even think I fixed my bike…

Pier Pressure

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

We’ve been off to North Wales- precisely LLandudno, for a few days. This was mostly a weekend away just to get away, but there was an ulterior motive; more piers.

The first, a visit on the way, was Colwyn Bay Victoria. It’s been totally shut since 2008, with a chequered history, and is now , frankly, in an awful state. There’s been the traditional fires in 1922 and 1933, with rebuilding, some highly dubious modifications while owned by THF, and a 1976 threat of demolition that was thwarted with a petition, followed by a further one in 1987. The full history can be found here at the NPS site, and also here at the site victoriapier.com, a site owned by Steve Hunt, with whom the story gets odd, rather than just the normal sad decline and abuse.
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Flat

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

We’ve been away on holiday: Sutton-on-Sea, Lincolnshire- another part of the country we’d not been to together and not since childhood: I’m unable to remember when, and my better half visited sometime in the early 80s. I didn’t fancy the long drive to Scotland, as we’d been there once this year, so it was time to go east again, but a bit further north this time.

The drive is short in miles- around 130- but even in good conditions, it’s 3 hours, as a good proportion is single carriageway, you have to skirt several towns, and, at the far end, Lincolnshire’s minor roads become narrow and twisty, with plenty of hazards (horses, cyclists, pedestrians, big fuck-off tractors and caravans- of these, the last two seemingly regarding both sides of the road as usable), so pushing on is not an option.

Sutton itself is a small town, and fairly sleepy, but with a nice beach, wide prom that’s also a cycleway:

Sutton Beachfront

Sutton Beachfront

Just north lies Mabelthorpe, a bit larger, and further south the bright lights and caravan parks of Skegness, with it’s (sadly truncated, but still pleasant) pier.

While Skeggy’s pier is short at 118m:

Skegness Pier: previously around 4 times as long

Skegness Pier: previously around 4 times as long

Cleethorpes’ pier is even more so at 102m.

Cleethorpes Pier- also a quarter of original length.

Cleethorpes Pier- also a quarter of original length.

Both were once much longer, but WW2 and storms saw to that. While they look a bit sad as they were once very long (to accommodate the large tidal range), it was nice to get a couple more piers seen, particularly ones still open and in good nick.

We also managed a visit to Gumby Hall, and met Craig the Norwegian Forest Cat:

Craig

Craig

as well as some good food and drink.

Take the High Road

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

You take the low road, and I’ll take the high road, and I’ll use more fuel..

We’ve been away to Scotland; more precisely Mallaig, the end of the Road to the Isles.

A common theme of our trips up north seems to be killer road allegations– though I suspect the 30mph advisories on some of the bends may be the attempted fix for this (for the record, with the exception of a couple of sharp bends under narrow bridges, there’s not a bend on the road that you couldn’t get round safely at well above that unless you have 4 bald crossplies and knackered dampers).

Anyway, our journey was uneventful.

Friday afternoon’s trip took us to Moffat and an overnight stop. Next morning, a fuel stop, and off up the A82 (another “killer road” that can provide some real entertainment if you like the twisties. It’s noticeable that a lot of improvement work is happening now: The section at Pulpit Rock that had traffic lights for years will soon be wider- a deck is being built out into the loch- and Crianlarich’s bypass looks imminent. A turn to the west just after Fort William, a trip past Glenfinnan and Our Lady of the Braes and Inverailort House (give me a pile of cash and that’ll be my highland home) and we’re soon in Mallaig: the A830 was quiet, and I didn’t have 4 bald crossplies ;-).
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Pier to Pier

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

We decided to pop away for a weekend, but other appointments kept us at home on Saturday, and needed us back on Tuesday, so just one night away. This meant somewhere reasonably close by, so Weston-super-Mare it was. The resort’s been a popular visit for West Midlanders for years, to the level that the local rag gets published in the town.

My last visit was sometime around 1996, when we drove in looking for lunch, didn’t like the look of it much, and drove out again. The one before that was a day trip sometime in the 1970s, on a coach, when I were but a lad.

Since then the prom has been done up, and the pier has had a disastrous fire and amazing rebirth.

It now looks great, and despite the Tripadvisor whingers, well worth the £1 entry fee:

The Grand Pier

The Grand Pier

As a fan of English seaside, it’s nice to see a pier in such good conditiion, unlike the Birnbeck Pier, a short morning walk just up the coast, undergoing emergency repairs by the looks of it, with the lifeboat station in temporary accomodation on the seafront. The pier is in a shocking condition, pictures here, and 2 Urbex reports here (2011) and here (2007), showing the rapid deterioration.

Birnback Pier: just look at the corroded support bracing.

Birnback Pier: just look at the corroded support bracing.

I like piers: love them, which makes this list sad reading, and a good proportion of this list distrubing too- just look at this site, for example.

That made our diversion on the way home the next day all the better: Clevedon Pier also has a chequered past, having suffered partial collapse, but has been restored and is now both in great shape and grade 1 listed:

Clevedon Pier in all its beauty.

Clevedon Pier in all its beauty.

with lovely cast-iron fittings. It’s small, and there’s no amusements (just a tea room), and it costs more that Weston’s Grand, but it’s a structure of beauty, and an example of what can be done. Which seaside pier next?


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