Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Reminder if I needed it

That Bladder Cancer can be fatal.  Andy Williams, aged 84 died today from it.  Read about it here.  At the same time, the same web site reported this "Cancer death rates set for a 'dramatic fall'" which they predict by 2030.  However, despite Bladder Cancer being the number 4 cancer, it doesn't appear on here.

It's a reminder, should I need it, that what I had could have killed me and may still do so.   I can't seem to get those close to me to understand what that feels like and what it means and how it alters your view and judgement.  I suppose they went through the possibility of what might happen to me but perhaps it doesn't impact as much as it isn't happening to you.  It is a bit like that moment in Lord of the Rings were Frodo is told that the burden to bear the Ring is his alone.  

There's something to be said for having experienced the life changing event that cancer presents you but only you "get it" fully and realise what it means.  

Andy Williams, dare I say I bought one of his records when I first started buying such things as a teenager although I'm blowed if I can remember what it was - perhaps the theme from the Godfather?  It's a good reminder to me to take this stuff seriously. 

Getting Ready to go

I have to admit to being a little excited about going away for a short while and I've just spent the morning sorting out the tyres with this puncture proof stuff.  It was actually pretty quick and I had all 4 tyres done in about an hour.  I've just taken the car for a run and it feels OK so far.  I have an air compressor which makes pumping up tyres OK but I normally rely on a proper tyre pressure gauge.  And where is the tyre pressure gauge?  You've guessed it - or rather like me you haven't, it is in Mrs. F's handbag and she is at work!  You can't make it up!

I'm going to phone the owner of the place later today to arrange getting the keys etc and I also need to clean the car (if possible) as it is raining on and off.  Perhaps I'll just make sure the internal windows are clean!

Not sure if I'll be doing any blogging until I get back so it could get lonesome here for a while.  I've started to get some good feelings about what I could do work-wise but got one hell of a shock when I looked at recommencing my University studies as they are now charging a hell of a lot more than when I was doing it before.  I'd have to be raking in the money to consider that.  Hopefully I can set my head straight this coming week and set out some initial plans of where to go next.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Out, Again

A visitor at yet another Lodge meeting.  As Master of my Lodge I get to go to lots of meetings as an honoured guest.  It's nice but I have at least 28 engagements to fill between now and June next year!  Plus I have a number of events that I'm invited to out of courtesy and some of those I should go to.

Luckily Mrs. F. can drive me to meet up with Flocky who is also going along and I can get a lift off of him there and back.

Tomorrow I'm going to clean the car, use this sticky non puncture stuff inside the Tyres, pack and get ready to go away on Thursday and take my mum away for a bit of a break.  She deserves a little break and to get away from things.  It will be nice to see the family up north and then go for a week by the seaside and just potter around.  I've found out how to tether my phone to my PC and also can now use this phone in the car via my Sat Nav so I'm pretty much set up.

Feeling a bit more "upbeat" about things today in terms of being able to think straight.  Had some more thoughts about my possible business and just need to expand on these a bit.  It would be nice to "make a living" from a business as opposed to making a business and not living.  I think I could make a good case for work life balance but would need to do some sums on that and make sure it makes sense and that I can make ends meet.

A good day, at last, feeling a bit more positive and a bit better about things which is nice.  Getting towards relaxing ready for Thursday onwards and time isn't important.  Quality and enjoyment, relaxing and taking it easy are.

Monday, September 24, 2012

So where do I start?

Let's start with a sad story - I heard today that someone I am acquainted with through a long convoluted process is dying of cancer.  He's 80 days over what they gave him and counting and continuing blogging about the experience.  I suppose the good thing is that people are talking about it. It's another one of those stories where you feel utterly helpless because you survived and it's no good me telling him what may or may not have worked for me.  I have no idea what he's been through, how he's lived his life etc.

What was distressing is that he was made bankrupt some time ago and now that he is dying, they are taking away a great chunk of his insurance payout instead of it being for his wife, it is going to pay creditors.  That seems wrong somehow and he wasn't informed that this was going to happen way back when but way back when he wasn't going to die from cancer!  Life can deal a series of low blows.  When you think you are looking after your kith and kin, the Government and the Tax guys can come and get you.  You certainly can't cheat on HM Customs no matter what the excuse.  It just adds to the burden that he is going through as he knows it's only time and that is borrowed he is on now.

So that's not where I was going to start at all but one of the things that I've understood by this episode is that it probably isn't going to make a big difference what I do for the next ten years or so.  I might need to consider myself already partially retired and to start to look at strategies for keeping active and with it as well as making a living.  I looked for jobs today and whilst some of them looked OK I realise that I can't come from senior management and multi million pound responsibility into a job kneading dough, sweeping floors and tidying tables any more than I can enter Government as the next PM.  I looked at Christmas jobs and they look interesting but here's a problem, I actually have social things I'm booked for and taking a day off here and there isn't going to cut it.  

This means that I've sort of answered one of the main questions and it's a fundamental part of the decision process.  I need to have a job that's flexible and works around what I want to do in the future (whatever that may be).  It very much scuppers a 9 to 5 existence and so that means that I need to be creative with whatever job I do so that it allows me this loose existence and to spend time on my own personal pursuits.  It also means that there is a level of income that I need to meet.  That's the challenge I need to look at next.  At the moment I'm bringing nothing in so anything will be a bonus!  What do I need is the next question?  As a friend of mine buys a car for more than I can hope to earn in 2 years what is important to me?  That's the other bit of the puzzle.  It's surely better to have a healthy and good life than loads of material things but it would always help to have a bit more money.  It's a balancing act that is very difficult to gauge.

Up and down, up and down

It really is getting worse with age I'm sure of it.  I shouldn't be surprised about this.  My father suffered from these depressed moments for much of his life and I shouldn't be surprised that I do to.  Additionally, I forget that I've been through a bit of a trauma with Bladder Cancer and it takes away huge amounts of your self confidence and strips you of your inner self belief and the bullet proof, indestructible, brush off and start again resilient you is laid bare and exposed for all the see and you're as vulnerable and exposed as a new born.  

It's far more than being seriously ill, there's the edge of the seat stuff, there's the six monthly check ups which despite so far all being good, might just one day realise your fears and there you are with a recurrence.  You see other people around you not as fortunate who are diagnosed and fall by the wayside and that reminds you, whether you need it or not, just how fortunate you are.  Then there's the experience of seeing someone going through the throes of terminal cancer, someone close to you, and then it hits home.

I find myself berating my current ineptitude, my procrastination, my inability to work out what to do next and I give myself a hard time and for what?  Currently I'm lacking direction and I'm putting off facing the future.  So presently I have up and down days and whilst I'm pushing myself to get going (Monza, Southampton and Scotland trips) it still isn't building the head of steam I want in terms of deciding what to do next.  Kipling's six honest serving men:

"I keep six honest serving-men
 (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When 
 And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
 I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
 I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
 For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
 For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views; 
I know a person small—
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends'em abroad on her own affairs,
 From the second she opens her eyes—
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!"

The Elephant's Child - Rudyard Kipling

So What, Why, When, How, Where and Who are rattling around in my head and not getting answered or only partly answered.  I can find one answer but not every question gets an affirmative.  It's like a life game of Rubik's Cube just when you think you've got the answer and it will all work out, you get to a position as bad as when you started :-) 

For someone who was massively confident (and needed to project that) Cancer tore that down and left a fa├žade remaining, someone who could still present themselves as such when needed but it's a veneer, tissue thin and easy to rip and tear down.  I suppose I can't really compare it with what used to be any more, it is in the past after all.  This is what I've got now but it is hard to deal with as you go out of your way to protect yourself from things that might puncture and deflate what little confidence you have left.  By that I mean that where I could easily get a job would actually be the worst place for me.  The cut and thrust of what I used to do would leave me drained emotionally and physically and I have no doubt that living that lifestyle invariably had a direct impact on my health.  Indeed, having escaped once, why would I go back into the Lion's den and try for a second go?  It doesn't make sense.

Of course, I've talked about "my" feelings and the problem is that I'm concious of what other people think about me too.  I know that it doesn't have much to do with them but there is some unseen pressure here I feel to get back to "normal" whatever that may be.  If you've not had cancer or a serious illness - a life threatening one - that could kill you - perhaps it doesn't make sense that there would be some "brain damage" some rewiring of the synapses that makes you think in a totally different way to the way you used to think years ago.

Today is a down day, tomorrow will be up as I'm going out, winter's coming and the dark mornings and evenings don't help.  A year ago we were working flat out to get the business investor ready and come November it will be a year since that milestone.  It's been just 4 months since we closed the business down and in those 4 months I've not really got that far although I've "done things" I haven't made much progress in terms of decisions but I've got lots of research and I've ruled a number of avenues out altogether.  The break coming up later this week might just help me get somewhere.  A week by the sea might help me calm down and rationalise things.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ever get one of "those" moments

Tonight I thought "let's just kick it all in to touch."

Walk away from all my commitments and just drop everything.  Suddenly it felt like all the things I do for fun were actually holding me back somehow, were making demands on my time, weren't important and strangely I just thought what if they weren't there?  What if I didn't have to go out every Monday between now and next May and go to all these meetings.  Strange but the moment passed almost as quickly as it had arrived and went back into the subconscious.

Being (generally) a measured sort of person who very occasionally goes off the rails, of course I wouldn't do rash things but I've been thinking that maybe I ought to.  Maybe I ought to just cut loose on what I'm thinking at a particular moment or do something that for me might appear irrational.  

I doubt I would, it really isn't in my nature to do that.  It felt for a short time to be liberating and yet the danger being that it would be a moment of non logical, ill thought through action and that's not me either, well not most of the time.

The spark was seeing a Lock Keeper on a TV programme and I thought that looks nice, I'd like that, in the open air, in the country lots to do and see.  Yet, the Lock Keeper's wife didn't like it, had spent 30 years not really liking it.  It was "boring" and she "sat around doing jigsaw puzzles" and yet there was so much that you could do, the local fruit and harvest from all around, the beautiful countryside, you could learn to paint or take up photography or something.  I remember this sort of thing when I went to the Highlands of Scotland and mentioned to a local the wonderful vista looking out of the Loch and the Mountains and they said that they didn't really notice them.  There, out of our rented cottage window was the most wonderful landscape and only we appreciated it.

I feel that my mind is a bit fanciful at the moment.  I think I know what I'd like to do but it seems self indulgent and I cannot tell whether it will make me sufficient money to actually do it.  I need to work on it but my attention is peculiarly drawn to getting the hell out of where I am right now.  I yearn for the country (yes I know I live pretty close to it) and a simpler way of life, less demanding, more rewarding, more friendly, more fulfilling and I don't think I can get all of that here.  I think I can carve out a life for myself and perhaps make my way but I'm really not that certain about that and I'd need to be pretty certain that what I decide now will take me in the direction I want to go in - I just don't know what that direction is yet.

As I wrote earlier, you can't change your life in one big bang way, it isn't going to happen, or it isn't going to happen easily.  

Batten down the hatches

Lots of rain and wind on the way apparently.  It's been raining here all day long and it is set to get worse so they say.  

I've done a bit more to the bathroom and filled the door.  That now needs sanding down once again to allow me to gloss paint it.  I need to order some tyre sealant for my car.  Two tyres were down on pressure once again and I'm fed up with going and getting them resealed. I am therefore going to do it myself this time using tyre sealant (non puncture).  I'm going to ring the suppliers in the morning to see if I can get the stuff next day so I can actually do this on Wednesday when, hopefully, the weather will have passed over.  

I'm off on Thursday to pick up my mum and take her off to see her sister-in-law and nephew and niece for a couple of days and then we can head off for a weeks holiday which I'm looking forward to as I want to see if I can start to set out my future.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Surprising what a mess I can make

I needed to prepare the bathroom door for painting but it was in a pretty bad state with 80 odd years of paint built up on it and I've taken away the hardboard cover to expose the real panelling.  Of course that has left pock marks all over the door.  So I decided to sand it down ready for filling.  The dust is absolutely everywhere!  Not a lot I could do though as it has to be done.  My hands are somewhat springy as with 3 or 4 hours of electric sanding I have a sort of RSI in my arms.  anyway, it is done now and I've cleared up the dust as far as possible.

There you go.  I'm now booked to go to Scotland which has pleased my mate and the lads in Scotland.  It sounds great.  I'm hoping that I can sort out a suitable way to get myself organised for that.

Cannot Change Your Life in One Go

Mmmm, that's sound advice indeed.  It appears that I have forgotten that particular maxim in my deliberations. 

There's a good argument to take some sort of job now whilst I sort myself out.  For the next week or so I'll be able to take time out to think as I take mum off to see her sister-in-law and nephew and niece then take her away for a week up to the Northumberland Coast..

I've definitely not been thinking straight - unusual for me but there are more than just facts to handle here, there's emotions and things that just aren't quantifiable around family, friends, pastimes and so on.  So where it's normally a case of applied logic and almost mathematical analysis, it needs to be a lot more intuitive this time around. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Booked! Yay!

Not sure Mrs. F. is totally pleased that I am going to Scotland but there you go, I've booked the flight and got a further discount.  That's really useful so I can go to Southampton, stay overnight and get to the airport (a mere 4 miles away) and fly up to Glasgow.  Sweet.

I enjoyed my time at Strathaven  a few years ago and they missed me last year.  My friend and I did a little "turn" or skit brilliantly found by Flocky Bicep.  We performed this in front of about 120 people and it brought the house down.  We are now struggling to find something equally amusing for two players to do.

Here is the skit itself:

If Nelson was alive today

Nelson: “Order the signal, Hardy.”
Hardy: “Aye, aye sir.”
Nelson: “Hold on, that’s not what I dictated to Flags. What’s the meaning of this?”
Hardy: “Sorry sir?”
Nelson (reading aloud): “‘England expects every person to do his or her duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability.’ – What gobbledegook is this?” 
Hardy: “Admiralty policy, I’m afraid, sir. We’re an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil’s own job getting ‘England’ past the censors, lest it be considered racist.”
Nelson: “Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco.” 
Hardy: “Sorry sir. All naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free working environments.”
Nelson: “In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle.” 
Hardy: “The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. Its part of the Government’s policy on binge drinking.”
Nelson: “Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we’d better get on with it ……….. full speed ahead.” 
Hardy: “I think you’ll find that there’s a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water.”
Nelson: “Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow’s nest please.”
Hardy: “That won’t be possible, sir.”
Nelson: “What?” 
Hardy: “Health and Safety have closed the crow’s nest, sir. No harness, and they said that rope ladders don’t meet regulations. They won’t let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected.” 
Nelson: “Then get me the ship’s carpenter without delay, Hardy.” 
Hardy: “He’s busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foredeck Admiral.”
Nelson: “Wheelchair access? I’ve never heard anything so absurd.” 
Hardy: “Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled.”
Nelson: “Differently abled? I’ve only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card.”
Hardy: “Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency.”
Nelson: “Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons.” 
Hardy: “A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won’t let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. And they don’t want anyone breathing in too much salt – haven’t you seen the adverts?”
Nelson: “I’ve never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.” 
Hardy: “The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.”
Nelson: “What? This is mutiny!” 
Hardy: “It’s not that, sir. It’s just that they’re afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There’s a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.”
Nelson: “Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?” 
Hardy: “Actually, sir, we’re not.”
Nelson: “We’re not?”
Hardy: “No, sir. The French and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn’t even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation.”
Nelson: “But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.” 
Hardy: “I wouldn’t let the ship’s diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir. You’ll be up on disciplinary report.”
Nelson: “You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King.” 
Hardy: “Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it’s the rules. It could save your life”
Nelson: “Don’t tell me – health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?” 
Hardy: As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu! And there’s a ban on corporal punishment.”
Nelson: “What about sodomy?” 
Hardy: “I believe that is now legal, sir.”
Nelson: “In that case………………………….kiss me, Hardy.”

My mate is a great straight man and I camped up the Hardy role and after a few beers it made for a great evening.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quiz Night

Wow - we just won the first three rounds of the Quiz Night.  After all these years of doing it, we had an extra person on board, my business partner, and the numbers just came up right for us.  So between the 5 of us we won £30 which was sweet.

We didn't win the jackpot being one number short - but that could have been £100 on top of the £30.

Lots of trouble of course in the village for that - I mean to win one round is Ok but 3 of 4 is unheard of.  Well, as I've always said, it's more about the fun of taking part and we are quite a funny little group and keep the others amused with our biffer answers and impersonations - I managed to get at least three good Monty Python quotes in to the mix to confuse the other teams :-)

Feeling quite good and also looks as if I can make the trip to Scotland after all.  I am due in Southampton on the day that the guys go to Scotland.  However, I can fly from Southampton to Glasgow and so that will allow me to get to the meeting once again where before it seemed impossible.  Thanks goodness for cheap flights and for lateral thinking!

My Eulogy for my Dad

I think that after 11 or 12 weeks I can get around to publishing the edited version of the tribute I gave for my dad.  I've changed names to initials where needed.

Good morning and thank you for coming to support us today.  We hope that you will also be able to join us afterwards at the C Hotel 

Before I talk about Dad, both Mum and I wish to take this opportunity to thank T and S for their invaluable support.  They’ve been available at a moments notice around the clock when dad has needed attention at home.  They have provided mum with transport to and from the Hospital, which is a long way from the house, over many weeks, and on more times than we would have liked.  They’ve shared some of the most traumatic moments of this past year and have been by mum’s side supporting her during each and every one of them.  

T and S - Thank you for being there for mum and for dad.  We hope that you can now take a well earned break and not be on edge all the time waiting and wondering what the next phone call will bring.

I know that It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that mum, throughout dad’s illness, has been with him every step of this roller coaster journey and she has been at his side throughout and I know that dad appreciated that you were there being a loving and familiar face in scary, unfamiliar and sometimes unpleasant or bewildering surroundings.  Thank you for caring for dad the way you have and for being there for him.  I know that you would have had it no other way but we thank you nonetheless for that.

So what can we say about Dad?  You can’t sum a life up in 5 minutes and I don’t intend to do so but perhaps I can just give you a flavour of what he was like and just a few reflections on what life could be like in the F household.  

Dad was a very private and in some ways enigmatic man, I doubt many of us TRULY knew him fully.  He worked hard, he had an encyclopaedic mind and was quick witted.  He was a very practical man a shrewd and intelligent business man.  He travelled extensively throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world and was lucky to escape from the Lebanon when the crisis kicked off there back in the late 70s and early 80s.  

Dad loved gardening as T and I can testify having been “encouraged” to help turn over and then double dig the clay sodden ground of the appropriately named Claywood Close, in Orpington when we moved there from London in 1967.  It was there that T and I hit, with a resounding and echoing thud, what we thought - with our over active young minds - must and could only have been a second world war bomb buried in the mud and it was dad who carefully checked and found it to be the submerged trunk of a large tree ploughed into the ground by the builders.  

We also spent many days creosoting the enormous fence around the garden for pocket money something that would have Health and Safety people going bonkers today. There was no minimum wage in 1967 but knowing mum and dad we probably got paid over the odds and it supplemented our pocket money very nicely indeed.

Once finished, Claywood Close was an amazing riot of colour and had a huge vegetable plot and mum and dad produced one of many amazing gardens there and in fact all their subsequent houses.  It was one of dad’s great joys and the floral arrangement on his coffin reflects his great love of flowers and of their wonderful colours.  He knew all the Latin names of the flowers, shrubs and trees and where they’d thrive best and his vegetables were amazing, it was like having your own Geoff Hamilton or Alan Titchmarsh in the house.  

T and I probably didn’t get the health benefits of all those home grown vegetables.  Back then T and I thought a packet of Rowntrees fruit pastilles would deliver your 5 a day and we probably still think that today.

Dad was a great lover of music and we have tried to reflect some of that today but with such varied artists as Queen (one of his favourites), the Rolling Stones, Status Quo, Country and Western and Traditional Jazz in dad’s collection to choose from it proved difficult.  We hope you enjoy the choices and that he would to.  I was going to explain, but you can ask us later, why we had the Acker Bilk songs.

The house was a happy musical place, although I’m not sure that all of T’s and my music choices were always fully appreciated.  If the music got too loud and we didn’t turn it down when asked, dad would pull the fuse out and all the power would go off to our bedrooms rendering our record players useless.

Together with my Trumpet, dad’s and my electric guitars, Tony’s drum kit and dad’s keyboard we must have been great neighbours to live next door to when we got together to make music (well we called it music).  

It’s not a widely known fact but my dad was the greatest cricketer in the world, he was also the best footballer, the fastest runner and the best table tennis player or at least he was in our back garden.  To us he was Freddie Truman, Brian Close, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Gordon Banks all rolled into one and as every child knows, their dad is a superhero, indestructible and totally brilliant at absolutely everything.  

We learnt how to trap and strike a football, how to bowl an off break, why you polished the cricket ball on one side, how to play a forward defensive stroke, bowl a googly or thrash a loose ball to the boundary.  He was a demon at Table Tennis too and had a table tennis trophy to prove it.  He even built us a table tennis table which saw plenty of action. 

He played a mean game of cards and a shrewd hand of dominos too and like his dad, my granddad, he wasn’t averse to dropping a biffer in every now and then, you have to watch out for those Fs I can tell you!

Not only in the field of sports was he proficient he also taught us woodwork, how to saw straight “let the tool do the work” he would say, how to hang wallpaper, paint, lay bricks, plaster, and he taught us electrics and plumbing too. 

Dad loved doing crosswords; he enjoyed Science Fiction books and got great pleasure from modern technology and what science could now do.  Often he would reflect on how things he had read about as a young man had come true especially Rockets and landing men on the moon, computers, mobile phones, medical advances and the like.  Dad was always well read and could talk to you on almost any subject you wanted to bring up.

Dad had a keen and shall we say “well developed” sense of humour.  We call it the F sense of humour, it can be pretty dark, it can be downright stupid and it can be witheringly funny too.  Even just a few weeks ago, when a nurse asked if she could take his blood pressure he said, "as long as you bring it back again afterwards!"  His sense of humour and stoicism and dare I say bravery saw him through these past difficult months.  He battled on and whilst there were some pretty bad days he kept courteous and polite and he tried to bring his humour to bear throughout. 

Always the joker, on one occasion he kept other patients amused by holding up two urinal bottles to either side of his head looking like an over sized Shrek character.  His final admission to hospital was due to a fall and even that became known as Dad’s “Del boy moment” as he crashed through the door of the bathroom.  He managed a wry smile when we told him that one.  

Dad adored the humour and sometimes silliness of films and shows like Airplane, Only Fools and Horses and Dad’s Army as well as comedians like Tommy Cooper, Eric Sykes, the Two Ronnies, and of course Morecambe and Wise.  We’d be watching these with him rolling around with laughter and it was even funnier if mum didn’t get the joke or see the funny side as that would make us laugh even harder.  It’s fair to say that we had lots of fun growing up with mum and dad.

It could only be him who on one occasion sent his sons off to the playing fields looking for Sheep’s feathers.  It kept us happy for hours and hours until we finally twigged what was going on.

As I said earlier, Dad enjoyed Cross words and puzzles of all kinds – he could normally complete the Telegraph crossword in around 10 minutes – it would take me that long to get just one answer – in fact it still does.  He was brilliant at doing things on Countdown and programmes like University Challenge.

He used to ‘wind up’ some of our fellow commuters on the train.  Sometimes, when the crossword was particularly difficult, he would make a large gesture of folding his newspaper early on in the journey and looking at the city gents struggling to fill in theirs, he would sit back and say “that was an easy one this morning” and smile.  

He was a bit of a rascal too as he would get us to arrive early at the station and he would sit in someone’s regular seat.  They’d spend the journey up to London rattling their newspapers at him or mumbling things like “I say Gerald, isn’t that chap in your seat?”  T and I had difficulty keeping a straight face on these occasions and would set each other off trying not to laugh.  

On other occasions he would throw his voice and make cat meowing noises whilst people would be looking around searching for the poor non existent creature.

Dad used to drive mum to distraction sometimes with his japes getting an “Ern, get away with you!” or something like that.  Life was never dull in the F household.  He’d drive the car on the white line of the road when there were no other cars around to get mum to tell him to “Ern, get off the cats eyes”.  He’d carry on doing it to see just how far he’d get before getting a bash on his arm.  T and I would be scorned not to encourage him but that was part of the fun of going out on an expedition in the car and dad was always up for a laugh.

Dad was a man of promptness and celerity he would hate to be late and by now he’d be looking at his watch, shuffling his feet, lifting his eyebrows and rolling his eyes at me for making a long speech and he’d be horrified that I was saying nice things about him so I’ll end with this.

We remember Ernie, our dad, with a great deal of affection and with enormous pride.  We are very fortunate that he and mum were together for 56 years and we are grateful for their love and the solid family home and foundation they built for us.  He was a great dad, a fabulous granddad, a funny and a generous man and above all he was a really nice bloke and we will miss him dearly.

“So Long Dad” 
Be good 
Oh yes - And if you can’t be good, be careful.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed (I think that is the right word) composing and delivering it.  He was indeed a very special man after all.  He'd just hat for me to say it that's all :-)

Cheapskate Manufacturers

Mmm.  The new towel rail cost a lot of money for what it is so why when you have an expensive piece of equipment do they provide cheap inferior screws?  I don't know either but having one sheer off as I was screwing it home - thereby losing the thread in the wall and not being able to retrieve it is a colossal fail and a further waste of my time.  On top of that the shower tidy looks great but comes with 2 screws where patently it needs 4 to secure it properly!

This lack of attention to detail and obvious design flaws are so common that I am certain that in everything I have done in the bathroom I have had to compromise, adjust and make good mainly because no one has actually installed these things in real life.  Pah!

I totally forgot that this time next week I will be away with my mum starting a week's vacation, taking her away for a break.  It has been 12 years since she has been away and also, I hadn't quite realised that she probably hasn't been on her own in 20 or more years.  Dad needed a lot of attention (I think that is the right way to put it).  She went out today up to the village and got in a bit of a mini panic attack.  Sad isn't it?  Understandable but I hope that a week will be a good investment and that mum will enjoy some time away from the house and we can get to see some nice attractions and the coastline is meant to be amazing.

We will have to make sure we don't tire her out :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reflections on a way of life

I was taken by the way life is led in Italy.  Not perhaps in Rome but in Bologna which I found to be a most charming city.  It is a trap that one can often fall into when on holiday and you think about the idyllic life, a "lifestyle" business venture.  The restaurant was a case in point.  

The chef, as we left, was sat at the table, drinking a beer and possibly a Grappa, smoking, playing cards with some locals.  We customers were left to finish off our drinks, shake hands with him and the waiters and wander away after a memorable experience that cost far less than a meal, a night at the theatre etc :-)  For a reasonable amount of money we had spent a gastronomic and entertaining evening in the company of people who not only enjoyed what they did, but shared that joy with you.  It was infectious as they were passionate about food and if you asked a question they delighted in telling you where the food came from, how it was prepared and so on.  When you said that you enjoyed some particular part they beamed from ear to ear with pleasure and gratitude.  Their work was done, it was the thrill a performer gets from applause, the comedian gets from laughter.  It had nothing to do with Michelin Stars or anything like that.  There is no huge tourist industry in Bologna and so many people were Italian and so this was no show for the tourist either.

What impressed me was the genuine joy of this one restaurant in the world, in a tiny back street, in a place that not many tourists go - there was no rip off pricing or difference between one and another, we paid what the locals paid and we enjoyed and joined in with the experience as much as they did.  Frankly this attitude is rare in the UK.  I think you do find it in small out of the way places and quaint villages.  I've seen something approaching this in the deep in the country pubs where enthusiasm and home fare make a pleasant change from the city and townscape pervaded by chain shops.  All High Streets look the same with their Costa, Starbucks, Dominos, Tesco, Sainsburys, McDonalds and so on.  You can go to any town or city in the UK and they all look like each other.  That cannot be said for Italy or France for example.

There's no identity in the UK, no personality no passion for service although where you do find the odd pocket of it, they tend to thrive.  Small restaurants with a reputation tend to be where it is at.

There's also a line between living and running a business to balance things too I think.  I imagine that the restaurant we went to was successful and that he made a reasonable living as did the waiters and staff.  It wasn't being made into a chain or franchise, it was what it was, had been always stuck away down a back street and there was no need to make so much money as people were satisfied with what they had.

It's an interesting set of variables to be added to my review of what I want to do next.  Without doubt this chap was really good at what he did and his staff were as passionate about food,drink, service etc as he was and that made a huge difference.  I doubt anyone was paid mega money either but being at work, enjoying their jobs and enjoying a laid back life just seemed to do it for me.  Something that allowed you to express yourself like that and to have the environment (and that's also important) to not be expected to be constantly climbing the greasy pole also play a part.

Wow Spammed

In my inbox loads of comments for this blog but none appear here.  Good old Blogger software managed to pick out the spammy nature of the comments and not one of them got through.  Yipee.

Back from Southampton before midnight which is pretty good I have to say.  We were expecting a 1 am return but the roads were clear both ways and we had a good journey.  Have to say that it was a good meeting and the food was nice, if anything there was a bit too much time between meeting and food but they needed to set that up so I had a few more Gin and Tonics than normal - in fact, it has become my latest tipple.  Normally I'd have a scotch but I find a nice long Gin really hits the spot!  

Had a brief chat with Flocky Bicep this evening on the way home, at least I got some of the frustration of my present doldrums experience off my chest.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Southampton Later Today

Looking forward to a trip out with Flocky Bicep to Southampton.  It should be a great afternoon and evening and the menu looks good.  Let's hope it lives up to its billing.

The bathroom is beginning to look pretty good now, just some minor painting to go to achieve a finished off showroom look.  My brother-in-law needs to come back and do some fixing of blanking pieces and once that's done we should be there or thereabouts.

Trying to work my way through the dilemma of what to do next and that was spurred on by conversations yesterday.  I certainly wouldn't mind getting a grip on what I want to do and started on my big mind map adding a new section that looks at just giving up my life today and doing something completely different (a la Monty Python!).  It will either get it out of my system or trigger other ideas.  Indeed, the main thing is that it will allow me to explore these ideas and analyse them and bring them into the mix as some sort of balance against the other areas I have explored, or started to.

It's perhaps one of the strangest things ever, not knowing quite what to do next.  It's never really happened in the past - I've had my moments for sure but this is really a strange place to be.  It's almost a blank sheet of paper moment.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Dilemma

Is taking so long to resolve itself.  It's all connected I think to me getting Cancer because whilst I was careering along with my career it all seemed so fluid and connected and integral and part of a plan that I had when I was younger.  I'd worked my way up and got to a point of confidence to go my own way and had for a number of years managed to make a decent living (thank you very much) out of what I did.  Then two things happened.  One was a change in the way that businesses were being treated and viewed by the Tax man and the other was, as I now recognise, the beginning of me being ill.

The Tax man was easy enough to deal with, I had to change the way that the company worked and whilst it was awkward it meant that my work load slowed and the stress went down but also I started to slow down and I started to get short tempered and not particularly likeable and then reined that in and took an employed job.  Not long after that the cancer presented itself and lo and behold my life was turned upside down - as the common parlance goes.  

Since then, it has been a journey that has shown me the best and worst in people.  It has taken me from people who thought they were running a multi million dollar business but only had £16 in the bank!  It took me to a charity where there were seriously worse off people than me and that gave me an opportunity to heal from the first disastrous venture and then of course came two years (or more) of Doddle.  That's been a real eye opener, it's proved many things to me but it has left me with more questions than answers.   Of the answers - I know that I've got the right stuff to build an effective business and pull all the components together.  the work that was conducted is to a very high standard and as many people have commented, they are very surprised that we didn't get funding but then again, many of these people haven't ever gone through a funding round.

There's miles of IP we developed but whether I'd be prepared to go through all of that again without getting paid for it is questionable.  Indeed, that's the interesting thing about it.  I've got all that experience that could be delivered but of course the majority of people who need that level of expertise are not in a position to pay for it!

So what's on the table?  Well I can pretty much do anything I want to do as long as it brings in some cash.  Somehow, now, it has to suit me.  By that I mean it needs to revolve around what I want to do.  I'm still in a different place to those around me and Monza, for example, just proved that you should get out there and enjoy yourself - I'd procrastinated long enough and just went for it.  I'm sort of held back, not free, I have "obligations" and that's also difficult in determining what to do.  Surely there comes a time, somewhere along the line, where you are no longer needed and instead of being the dutiful provider bit you just get the hell out and do your own thing.  The line between domesticity and freedom are being tested and barriers are being pushed as this is part of the exercise of what to do next.  In an ideal, blank paper situation, I'd be looking for something that I can do for the next 10 years or so heading towards retirement.  I'm working on the theory that having had cancer once, I'm pretty much likely to be more susceptible in the future (even though that may not be so) but it is likely that I'm not going to make it into my 80s and so I need to get plenty of things in within the next 10 to 20 years.

So, I'm limiting myself in my expectations to domesticity and not to freedom and perhaps I need to inject that freedom argument into my mind map sheet which is growing day by day analysing the various ideas and putting them into context.  Everything should be in and I've not been doing that "blue sky thinking" or "out of the box" thinking we used to do in workshops?

It's another "argument" to be tabled and that's the whole point of setting stuff out even the illogical and the downright absurd - there should be no idea is a bad idea philosophy applied to all ideas.  Once all these are in, then you can start to argue the pros and cons.  Because I haven't wanted to explore the secondary aspect, I haven't been giving myself a chance to review it and so have been feeling a little lost at sea with the process.  I should know better than this but of course, no one wants to consider things which may be unsavoury or may not be nice things to do.  Now I realise I should explore all these avenues as I can close them down or follow them as needed.

Well that took ages

My mate dropped me a line as I was struggling with getting the side panel on the bath - it was about 1 or maybe 2 mm too large caused by one of my tiles slightly rising at the edge of the wall, just a fraction.  I tried to drill the tile but it almost caused my drill bit to burn out such is the nature of them.  So the next thing to do was to decide whether to shave a bit off of the bath or off of the side panel.  Well the side panel has a return on it that I reckoned could be sanded a bit but not taken away - so I took a little off of that - as much as I dare but it wasn't enough so had to work on the under sill of the bath return.   So far so good but it is in the corner and a plane wont reach neither would a rasp and my small sander could just about reach.  So I had to sand this thing down bit by bit and use my modelling knives to shave off small bits at a time.

It was then my colleague suggested that I " focus on the finish line."

I responded in kind with this:

Which was exactly like it felt after I worked for close to 4 hours to fit the damned thing.  It looks absolutely brilliant now though :-) The worst bit after the rubbing down and endless fittings was to lie on my back and fix the holding brackets to the bath.  Somehow the instructions were wrong once again and there wasn't 4 anchor points, just three so I had to "adapt" the 4th to make things work.  It looks a treat now and the bathroom is starting to look really good.  I managed my first shower this morning and was suitably impressed with it, the shower screen working well from the inside and keeping out the water yet it doesn't look terribly convincing from the outside.

Had a long chat with my business partner today and we discussed this - I had written to an old friend that " Doddle has changed the career landscape for me in many ways and so deciding what to do next is taking a little time."  We both agreed that things are not quite what we expected them to be at the moment but neither of us had any answers as of yet.  It was good, as always, to chat it through.  Both of us had cancer at the same time and we have an interesting set of similar experiences.  Onwards and upwards.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bringing it all back together

It's difficult to determine where I am right at the moment.  It's a strange place and I'm stuck in some doldrums (perhaps of my own making).  The bathroom and going to Monza have been a distraction and in a way a pleasant distraction.  At least I've decided not to head back into my earlier life in Electrical / Plumbing for a living, it's just such hard work and I no longer have the appetite for it.  It was nice to go back and do a bit of it I suppose but in reality, it would have been better to have had someone in to do more of it than we did.

I have been trying to work out quite what to do with myself from now onwards and I can't get to an answer.  Much of this is to do with levels of commitment and in addition not wanting to get involved in corporate life again knowing full well that I would probably end up giving someone a slap.  I'm disenchanted with lots of things these days and these include my hobbies, my own life and just about everything.  Monza cheered me up no end, it was after all a holiday and it was amazing and interesting and crazy so that's fine but it's not real life.  

I've started to look at whether the genealogy business could bear fruit.  I suppose it could, I'm good at it, I've been doing it for years and perhaps it would interest me as I enjoy research.  And yet again, something is nagging at me not to do this.  I'd like to work abroad again but doing what?  I just can't get to a conclusion and whilst I think I know why that might be I'm a little worried about picking at the scab and exposing what could be lurking underneath all of this.  I'm a little frightened about what I'm going to find and what answers I may have to arrive at.

That said, I suppose there is a need to confront these thoughts and inner demons somehow.  I'm out a couple of days this week and I might get some think time in.  At the moment, I really could do with getting past this barrier and moving on and making some decisions.  If not for me then for everyone around me.

Almost there, almost there

I finished off the grouting and filling, the radiator is on without any major upset, one tiny leak and that was the lot, even the toilet roll holder is on but not the towel rail which is too small!  Mrs. F. is painting and I have switched on the hot water to run the shower but perhaps will wait until the morning to actually do that.  The blind is also in place so no one can see in, not that they can, but we have a front facing bathroom - unusually.

After a few showers have happened I can check to make sure that my handiwork from yesterday, refitting the overflow has stopped any leaking and then I can put on the side panel of the bath.  Mrs. F. has ordered the vanity unit mirrored cupboard and the shower tidy all of which I can fit later this week.

Just a few little bits to go and we have out bathroom back.  It will be time then for me to start on the downstairs WC which needs a lot of work to sort it out.  Will it never end.

I'm now retiring hurt for the day :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Instructions and the art of reading them

I'm a great believer that you should read the instructions.  However, having done so and installed my concealed cistern and now the shower screen I may reconsider.  You see the screen doesn't look right - it would do if I were to site it where I though it should be on the edge of the bath but they suggest 15mm in and that's what I did and it looks damn awkward there.  The Cistern gave a height that when installed at means that the handle is a little lower than I expected and it looks out of balance.

Anyway, I managed to find out why the overflow was leaking and spent about 1 1/2 hours carefully filing open the overflow to fit the chrome insert.  I found that it had a small raised edge that wasn't seating properly.  After filing it out, I finally made it all fit and no leaks!  Yipee.  The screen is in, the new window sill is in, the tiling is all done and I managed to do the silicone beading which looks great.  The threshold into the room is installed and we are just about ready to do the final touches tomorrow to make it finally usable.  A new blind, the radiator, towel rail and other furniture etc will all make a big difference.  If there are no more leaks after some more rigorous tests I can put on the side panel and the room will be all but finished apart from painting the door.

Off to bed now as I'm absolutely knackered :-)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Easy but messy

Shower kit is installed and ready to go, it looks quite good but can only be used properly when the screen is installed.  At least it is beginning to look like a bathroom now and the potential is there but every time I do some work I throw up dust and debris and so the floor and surrounds are covered in a thin film of dust once again :-)

Let's hope I can make sufficient inroads this weekend to finish off the dirty work so we can get on and paint and finish it.

Now to try and start to clean up my office which has been used as a workshop for the past 4 or 5 weeks!

Have a lot of things to get through and little time to do them.

Off out this afternoon

So I am planning, in an hour or so, to fix the shower riser pole and have that done ready for tomorrow when I'll fit the bath/shower screen.  It will then make the bathroom functional but not complete.  It needs 24 hours to set the silicone around it and then it will be done.  Perhaps I can get the majority of the bathroom complete by then and I just need my brother in law to return to so some minor finishing off.

I have to do some more checking, or rather final checking, to make sure that the bath isn't leaking especially around the overflow which is my greatest worry.  If it is clear - and it has been all this week - I will then put the side panel on, which gives a finished look and also adds some integrity to the bath side.  I have the radiator to go on and some of the bathroom furniture too.

So a full on weekend.  This afternoon I'm off to Surrey with Flocky Bicep for a meeting.  We are guests and the nice thing about that is that we will be treated to  a nice meal and some drinks :-)  Hopefully we wont get back home too late.

I'm working on what to do next.  It is extremely difficult to work out what to do.  I have some ideas and some thoughts about what I'd like to do and yet none of it makes much sense to me at the moment.  The basic logical thinking it through approach is helping get the questions and some of the options out and I'm using mind mapping techniques to do this but I'm not exactly getting anywhere fast on this.  I think the "disappointment" of the last two encounters has re-enforced what I feel about the majority of jobs and employers these days and it makes me sad that people you feel you should respect show me none.  I've got to a position in life where I don't take, or have to take, any sh1t from anyone any more :-).  By that I mean that anyone who treats me like dirt or hasn't got even the commonest sense of manners will find it difficult to work with me.  There you go, high horse time :-) I think I've just got to that point where what matters (and I'm not sure I still understand that even now) is to have an enjoyable life, little stress and certainly not to have to work with idiots ever again.

Perhaps I set my sights too high?  I'm sure I'll get to the answer and, if the truth be known, I probably intuitively know what that answer will be.  Maybe I'm just not prepared to accept that truth.  Something keeps saying to kick it all in to touch, drop all the things I do now and have a fresh start.  That's liberating and frightening all at the same time and probably a bit fanciful.  Oh well, once the bathroom is done I can concentrate on these thoughts and actually get on and do something.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bathroom Blues

Well black, white and reds actually.  Reality day today and got back into the finishing touches.  It was grouting day today and filling in all the little dinks and dents ready for painting.  My hands ache like hell as it is slightly different doing wall tiles to floor tiles and I had to work a fair amount in really difficult conditions stretching over the bath.  All done now but spent most of the day at it and no lunch either.  

Am now finished and cleared up and awaiting it all drying out and I should be able to get the shower in on Saturday ready for use on Sunday - well that's the plan!

It is strange being back home again after such an eventful weekend.  I have managed to book a holiday with Mrs. F. and my mum is coming along too.  We are going to go to the Northumberland coast, near Berwick-upon-Tweed.  It is an area we have always wanted to visit.  My mum hasn't been to the sea since A and I took her and dad to Hunstanton some years back.  Looking back, dad wasn't great on his feet then and perhaps was already ill?

I have booked a place that is yards from the sea so we can wander out at any time onto the beach.  It is unfortunate that we will be bringing mum home the day before dad's birthday and we wont be there for that.  I had hoped that we would be away at that time and do something like have a meal but will have to think of something else.

Interestingly mum had a bad day yesterday and yet I don't tend to have had any bad days.  I have a picture of my dad nearby but it cheers me up more than makes me sad.  He'd have been most impressed that I went to Monza and would have wanted to know all about it I'm sure.  

Oh well, better make sure that everything is returned to the bathroom so people can use it I suppose :-)

Verona? No wait what's that over there

We somewhat amusingly had to return to Bologna to pick up one of the lad's mobile phone - yes don't ask!  We had also decided that Verona would be a good way to end the trip and we would go via there then come back to Bologna and on to the airport.  Of course, with the lads being out until sunrise, the plan never quite got there.  We had a late start but headed off that way.  Interestingly enough, we spotted Lake Garda off to our left and we ended up heading to the Lake at a place called Desenzano and there was a nice restaurant right by the waters edge where we stopped and had a really excellent lunch.  The Desenzanino Restorante made a lovely last meal for us in Italy, it was as hot as ever and we just spent a little time chilling out, watching the people and eating the most delicious seafood.  I wished I'd gone for the more ambitious menu which had a bit of everything in it but next time.  Mrs. F. has often wanted to go to the Italian Lakes and as we have seen some of them I think that might be on the cards for the future.

This is the side of the restaurant and where the couple are walking is where our table was - what a great location - serendipity works its magic again!

After lunch we headed back to our original Hotel in Bologna, picked up the mobile phone, stalled the car in front of a bus (that was funny and frightening all at the same time) filled the car with fuel and then managed to get back, checked in and into the first class lounge for a few well deserved beers and snacks.  The flight back was uneventful and I made my way home from the airport and Mrs. F. picked me up.  I would have been home earlier but as chance would have it the train got held up for about 5 minutes and as I arrived at London Bridge Station my fast train was pulling out on the next platform - damn!  However, all was not lost as I bumped into a good friend and bored him stupid with my tales of daring do in Italy.  He had just had a nice incident too bumping into the Long Jump Olympic Champion Greg Rutherford and chatting to him in a Coffee Shop.  It was the day of the Athletes parade in London where all the Athletes (Olympic and Paralympic) took part.

Some summer of sport because later in the evening and into the next morning, Andy Murray won the US Open Tennis and became the first Briton to have won a Slam for 76 years (I think).  What a summer of sport we have had.

I told my mate that Monza was mental - I meant that in a nice way - it was a really good experience and I'm quite impressed with the way the young guys I was with take it all so matter of fact that they can just check out something on the Internet, buy some tickets, reserve a car and Hotel and just go and do it.  Good for them, the opportunities are there you just have to take them.

Flocky wondered if I felt better now that I've been away and yes I do I feel quite charged up.  The trouble is that it has kicked off a whole new set of thoughts about what to do next.  There were some people making a great deal of money out of the fans at Monza, there were opportunities to see things and do things I hadn't done before and there was an ease about the people.  They seemed to be really easy with their lives and their enjoyment and they were being "Italian" which is great.  That makes me wonder whether it is possible to achieve that happiness about your self, your situation and what your lot is?  I'm not satisfied with my lot and that's going to be a problem that I need to resolve and resolve quite fast.  Of course being on "holiday" is a different feeling but everyone (apart from one waitress in Milan) seemed to be genuinely helpful and happy - OK they were in a service business (the ones we met mainly) but even so, it just seemed that things got done, when they were going to get done and in many cases it just worked.

Road Trip

Saturday and we agreed to meet early.  Well I was up early and they reckoned they'd be a little while later - we needed to get the car away before 8 and be on our way to Milan.  We were on the motorway when my Nephew said there was a police car coming up really fast.  It turned out to be a  Lamborghini Gallardo - painted blue and with aerodynamic blue flashing lights.  Amazing - only in Italy eh.  We then found out it was driven around the circuit at Monza before Qualifying and the Grand Prix itself much to the amusement and cat calling of the Tifosi....

Here are some images from You Tube of the car.  

We got to our Hotel in Milan and dropped off our luggage.  They suggested it would be easier for us to drive to Monza than take the train.  We managed this with a few traffic jams, mainly caused by the locals arguing with the Police about where to park.  It was quite well organised and we got bussed into the circuit but still had long walks either side.  However, we were there to see the Porsche Super Cup qualifying followed by the GP qualifying and then there were a series of races.  Lots of people left the circuit after quali and so we had a good run of the place and got to see about 3/4s of the circuit trying to work out the best place to view the race.  

We managed to get really close and saw some stunning driving.  We got back quite late and then went out into Milan for the evening we started by tram and got some of the way but invested in a Taxi to take us further in to Moscova area of Milan which was amazingly lively.  We managed to sit down at a Pizzeria at 10:15 so we again got back at about 2am.  We needed to leave early the next day and check out.  We kind of managed to do that and had breakfast (which was included) and again left our luggage there.  We arrived some 25 minutes later nearer the circuit and were able to park close to the bus and so by about 9:45 we were arriving inside the circuit, this time having bought our water supplies outside of the circuit saving 2 Euro a bottle!

Well, the whole experience was I can safely say awesome and a little emotional.  I got quite choked up when we invaded the track at the end of the race - the only race in the calendar where this is allowed - it was something quite strange a feeling quite unlike anything I've had before.  Perhaps it was the bit I'd dreamed about doing for a long time.  I've promised myself to go to a GP for years and years and this time finally made the decision to do it where I've procrastinated before. 

The ear splitting noises of the races and the passion of the fans, the whole experience and the warmth of an early autumn Grand Prix race where you are so close to the action all wove their magic.  We stayed behind after the ceremony for the winners and then looked at the old banked track.  Many people had made their way home already and we stopped off and had some more water and also had some beers sat watching the people stream away home.  The car was almost on its own when we returned and we drove back to the Hotel, collected our stuff and were then a little surprised to find that our Hotel that we felt was a lot nearer the centre of Milan turned out to be a few minutes from the Hotel we were in :-)  The nice thing was it was a Raddison and so we had great rooms and showered and changed and went into Milan after a few beers in the bar.  We went to a great Restaurant which I have no idea where it was but we asked the waiter to recommend the dishes for us.  It was great sitting outside, trams going past and lots of people drinking in a large square nearby.  Guess what?  The meal for the three of us came to 150 Euros yet again (coincidence??).  We gave a good tip to the waiter as the choices were inspired and very nice.  

We wandered across the road and had a beer and got home about 1am this time.  Interestingly on the way back to the Hotel there was a massive party going on.  It was the Red Bull party and unbeknown to me, the boys about turned and went back to see what was going on.  Apparently it was a 3000 Euro entrance but they managed to blag their way in via a side door and one of the bouncers for a lot less than that.  Apparently it was very expensive but the ticket they got gave them a free drink.  We were due to meet at 10 the next morning so we could get on to Verona before heading home.  At 10:10 I phoned them and they finally got out around 10:30...

Some Sunday and considering that we had been going for 4 days with perhaps 6 hours sleep a day we weren't doing too bad.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 2 Bologna and Mugello

Day 2 kicked off with a good breakfast - as would become customary, we would set a time for us to meet.  I would be there on time and the lads would arrive when they felt like some time later :-)  It's at times like this I realise quite how organised I can be.

My Hotel room was up in the roof which was quaint and nice but a little warm - so I requested that the A/C be turned down a bit for me, which it was the next day - the trouble with rooms these days is that the A/C doesn't kick in until you put your card key in the receptacle.  So as I was in the roof under the terracotta roof tiles the room was like a little oven.  

So they sorted that out for me nicely and it was much better that night. 

We decided to have a good walk about Bolgona, it is a lovely University town, lots of young people and few tourists.  It had to be around about 35 C and we stopped a number of times to pick up water, stop for coffee etc.  We decided that we would try and find a restaurant that G the photographer had been to many years ago and he called his friend and we found the place and booked for the evening.  It was only a few hundred yards from where we had been the night before.  He only did evenings and actually recommended the restaurant we were at the previous night for lunch - which we missed out on as we could hardly walk after all the food of the night before.  We instead booked a table for 9 pm and went to another nice local restaurant for some real Italian beer and we chose three different pasta dishes and shared them out - bread, Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar and an air conditioned restaurant full of Italians - perfecto.

We decided that we would drive out of the area up into the hills to see the sun come down over the mountains and to cool down a bit.  It was a nice enough drive and we got to a high pass and then decided that it would be cool to just go to Mugello as it was quite near.  

 So we headed off around the mountain passes and along the autostrada and got to just outside Mugello where my Nephew detoured to a huge reservoir that he had discovered last time when he took a wrong turn!  Serendipity indeed.  we stopped for a beer and hung out in this shady terrace.   The abundance of scantily clad bronzed young model like ladies had nothing to do with us staying here for quite a while :-)

With the sun beginning to disappear we headed for Mugello and found that we could drive right into the place.  There had been some sort of track day and there were Porche and touring cars dotted around making loud noises.  However, the lads had spotted a Go-Kart track at the far end and headed there.

 For the princely sum of 15 Euro they got to go out on the Go-Karts.  Unlike Politicly Correct, Health and Safety Concious UK where it would have cost you £50 and you would have been in a series of breifings, fire proofed clothes, gloves etc.  The lads walked out with crash helmets, no briefing, into the Karts, in their shorts and T-Shirts and off they went.  Only in Italy :-)

The lads in hot pursuit in some extremely fast Go-Karts.

We then headed back to Bologna and managed - after a while - to park up.  Friday night in Bologna - what can I say, by the time we got there - about 8:30 it was heaving with students getting somewhat plastered.  We got to the Hotel and rang the restaurant to say that we would be late.  The da Fabio is without doubt one of the nicest eating experiences I have ever had.  The food was brilliant they just gave us whatever was fresh from the market to start, great pasta, beer, wine, proseco and the main courses were amazing, T-Bone steak and I had Fillet Steak
in Onion and Balsamic sauce - oh my - it was just incredible...

However, the best was yet to come - for those of you who are pudding / desert fans:

This my friends is what was set before us.  In the foreground and most importantly is freshly made Gelato (Ice Cream) still stuck to the blades of the machine, in a chilled bowl.  There is Creme Caramel, Chocolate Cake and a Merringue Cake.  In the blue bowl are Black Cherries steeped in Cherry Juice.  There was some other stuff too :-)  This was served with a desert wine in chilled glasses.

After this we had coffee and Limoncello.  this time a tray of deep frozen glasses was presented to us and the bottle must have come straight from the freezer.  Oh my - we thought we had eaten well the night before but this time we surpassed ourselves and we had a good slow walk back to the Hotel.  Now call it strange or suspicious or whatever but once again the meal for 3 of us came to 150 Euro.  Perhaps they have an upper limit?  Whatever, it was a great evening once again and we got back to the Hotel at - goodness me 2 am once again!!!  this was getting to be a habit.

The city was still going strong and the discos and clubs were still happily serving drinks - the place just rocks.  I feel the need to go back there again :-)

If I thought day 1 and 2 were good then the next 3 days were even better......  More later