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The Wisdom of the Ages.

I seriously dislike the idea of the word “wisdom”. To me it suggests some old geezer trying to tell someone younger something that’s either so bleeding obvious that no-one would listen to it or so profound that no-one would believe it and would, consequently fail to act on it!

So you are very lucky that I try not to impart “life advice” to anyone – at least not directly.

What I DO, however, is ponder on things (often for a very long time) and then write something on here which you can act on or ignore as you see fit. At least, I reason, if it’s in print you can’t complain that I didn’t tell you!

And my current pondering has been on….

Friendship.

As readers of the 344 previous posts on this site may know I have moved around a bit in my career – Ipswich to Chelmsford to Norwich, back to Chelmsford, then Cambridge and finally, nearly 25 years ago, to Peterborough.

In that time, I have made many acquaintances, quite a few friends and a small number of good friends.

It has to be said that, for reasons not entirely clear to me, those “good friends” mostly come from the 2 ends of that geographical list, that is to say: the first 25 years of my life and the latest 25 – leaving the 15 in the middle as a bit of a desert!

And what do I mean by those “grades” of friendship?

Well, “acquaintances” are just that; I know your name, you know mine and that’s it really – no great interest on either side in getting any closer than that. This is probably most of the people that you or I know and it includes people that you or I actively dislike.

“Friends” are the ones who are one or more steps closer than the previous category and this group most emphatically does NOT include any dislikes. These are people with whom you enjoy spending time and for me that means those that I do archery with, go fishing with, compete in quizzes with – that sort of “social” thing.

There is no hard and fast dividing line between “Friends” and “Good Friends” and it is actually quite difficult to define the differences!

To me, a “Good Friend” is one who would rally round without hesitation if I needed help and for whom I would do the same. They are also people with whom I can meet up after a gap of up to a substantial number of years and pick up as if no time at all has passed.

I’m quite sure, actually, that there are many other levels of “mateyness” and affection in the latter category but those are the only ones that I seem able to articulate at present.

Having said all that I’m sure you are wondering just WHY I should have been pondering in this way.

Well, the story begins last April with the most recent of our School Year Group reunions in Ipswich. While there were a few attendees who had not been before to swell the numbers it was noticeable that the man who actually started the Facebook group that kicked it all off was absent.

It turned out that Peter (who I call that because it’s his real name and I’m rubbish at pseudonyms) was away having treatment for Prostate Cancer – now one of the big fears for guys in our age group!

I was saddened to hear this and a few days later one of his closer friends in our group went on Facebook to tell us that the Chemotherapy seemed to be working and suggesting that we as a group should do something in aid of the Prostate Cancer charity and to show support for Peter.

As these things take some time to sort out it was decided that that at some point in the summer the Copleston 69 group would do a fund raising walk along a large part of the very long seafront at Felixstowe.

Along with several others I signed up for this immediately.

And so it came about that early in the morning of Saturday 7th July 2018 Faith and I set out from Peterborough for the 110 mile trip to Felixstowe to meet up with a dozen or so others outside the Fludyers Hotel for the 3½ mile or so hike along the promenade to the Viewpoint cafe at Landguard Point overlooking the massive container ships in Felixstowe Docks and across the estuary to Harwich. After a pause for chat and refreshments we retraced our steps back to The Fludyers (and beer)! I am pleased to say that Peter who had inspired it all, was, though still a little wobbly, able to do it all with us! As at the date of posting we have raised a total of £600 (plus Gift Aid tax relief of another £120 or so).

And it was thinking of how my grades of friendship applied to my fellow walkers that got me writing about all this.

During our 5 year incarceration at Copleston Secondary Modern School for boys from 1964 to 1969 most of these people (depending on how much of that time we spent in the same classes) fell somewhere in the fuzzy area between Acquaintances and Friends. Now, however, thanks to our social interaction most of that Facebook group have moved solidly into the Friends category and those who made the effort to turn out in baking hot sunshine (and on a day when England had a World Cup Quarter Final match too!) to hike 7 or 8 miles have, I think, mostly drifted into the equally fuzzy area between Friends and Good Friends.

Those of you who have ventured forward through the posts on here from February 2009 when I started and got as far as July 2010 will know that I have lost 2 friends (Su – breast cancer and Roger – brain tumours) to these awful afflictions and my own mother has lived for about 7 years now with very slow growing stomach cancer so I have no hesitation in doing what I can for the charities looking for cures.

So, as I said at the start, I’m not dispensing wisdom but please, wherever and whenever you can make sure that you contact and enjoy all of your friends while you can.

By the way, if anyone would like to contribute to our walk to raise funds for research into Prostate Cancer after the event please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/copleston69 and follow the instructions for giving. There’s even a photo on that page featuring yours truly in his white England football shirt – how’s that for a bonus?

Thank you.

Alfie

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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

How many Alfies can you fit in a Mini?

A few weeks ago – actually one of the two Bank Holidays that the UK has in May – the Alfie household (that’s just Faith and I – we’d given the servants the long weekend off!) had a visit from our younger daughter, her husband and their little girl.

Our Granddaughter celebrated her first birthday recently and is already toddling about under her own steam and chattering endearingly, if unintelligibly, at Grandma and Grandad.

They live in darkest Essex and were utilising us as a “pit stop” on their way to a party in the Midlands. This party was in turn a stepping stone on the way to a short caravan holiday in the Lake District.

What really struck me at the time though was the amount of STUFF they had to have with them!

While their car is not a full on “people carrier” of the 7-seater variety, it seemed to me that it should have been perfectly adequate for two adults, one baby and their luggage for one short week but the more I considered what is nowadays considered the essential equipment for managing a small child the more understandable was the lack of space!

Let’s start with the gear required by the little one – most of which didn’t even come out of the car during the overnight stay with us.

A collapsible baby buggy and a folded down travel cot are still quite bulky items and you have then to factor in packs of disposable nappies (U.S. = diapers), the child’s clothes and various indispensable toys, feeding bottles etc.

If you then add in the parental luggage for about a week including a number of overnight bags (to ensure that the whole lot did not have to be unloaded at each and every overnight stop on the way), you will see that it does indeed come to quite a substantial car full!

As I said at the time it was just as well that they weren’t going camping as well – they’d have needed a roof rack AND a trailer!

And it was as I watched my son-in-law having luggage and food packed around him in that part of the back seat not already claimed by his daughter in her comfy, padded car seat that my thoughts, inevitably, turned to June 1978 and my first holiday with Faith.

At that time she was living with her parents on the outskirts of Chelmsford while I was commuting by rail each day to Chelmsford from my home in Ipswich, just over 40 miles away.

I do not remember the logistics involved with getting my limited collection of casual clothing from Ipswich to Chelmsford but assume that I went to work on the train with a larger than usual bag on one or possibly two days in the week preceding our holiday. Faith could then have picked me up from work with my baggage at the end of the Friday and I would have stayed at her parents’ house overnight.

I know that last sentence is probably right because I remember quite clearly sitting in the front passenger seat of Faith’s black Mini at around 5 a.m. on the Saturday morning having stuff packed around me. That was, of course the original TINY, British-made Mini rather than the small to medium sized BMW version currently bearing the name – look it up and see the difference!

And the reason I had to have items packed around me was that we were going camping in Somerset and Devon for two weeks and the small boot and rear seat were already completely filled with the large frame tent, sleeping bags, camping gas cooking equipment and personal luggage.

I had to have all of the food supplies and all of last minute afterthoughts that hadn’t been crammed into the other spaces the previous night wedged in around me because there was simply nowhere else for them to go!

I remained so wedged all the way down the A12 through the centre of London – there was no M25 but no central zone congestion charge either and I have to say there was also very little traffic along The Embankment at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning – and along the M4 and M5 motorways until we got to Easton-in-Gordano services near Bristol.

I recall that we stopped there just as the BBCs weekly children’s’ request programme “Junior Choice” started on the car radio at 8.30 and I have never been so glad to be let out of a confined space since!

After I was “unpacked”, had a much needed toilet break, a cooked breakfast, coffee and, most importantly, a good walk around to get my legs working again Faith “re-packed” me for the final hour of our journey along much smaller roads to the Bristol Channel coast.

After we reached the camp site at Warren Farm, on the cliffs between Watchet and Blue Anchor, and had driven across the field to our designated pitch I almost fell out of the car along with the tent and other immediately needed items that Faith was already heaving out onto the grass!

It must have looked from a distance like the conclusion of one of those “how many people can you get in a mini” contests, popular with students at the time, where everyone explodes out of the vehicle afterwards!

Of course, once the tent was up, it stayed up for the week (until we relocated to South Devon for the second part of the holiday) and it, and any other non-valuable items that could be left in it each day did not have to piled back in – so we had lots of room when we went out and about, exploring.

The “halfway” relocation from Watchet to Totnes near Torquay was a comparatively short north/south trip and as the “consumables” I had been hugging on the way were much reduced by that time I was much more comfortable on that trip and even more so on the journey home.

Incidentally, before anyone gets around to asking why I wasn’t taking a turn doing the “hard work” of driving, I should just remind readers that I did not at that time have a driving licence for a car and we wouldn’t have wanted to try and load that lot onto a motor bike! I was and remain extremely grateful to Faith for taking on that burden.

That fortnight in 1978 will always remain with me as one of my best holidays EVER and I think our “loadout” for a car of that size must have been just about the maximum possible without additional storage capability added.

Since typing most of the above it has, however, occurred to me that our family holiday of 1994 is also worthy of mention in this way!

We went from Peterborough to a “holiday cabin in the woods” at Weybourne on the North Norfolk coast and while we were not camping and were only going for one week we DID have Faith and I, an 11 year old girl, a 9 year old girl, Faith’s mother (then nearly 70) and a young Cocker Spaniel. Plus luggage for all, dog basket, food and fishing gear for the week!

And all of that was fitted, with no obvious discomfort and no roof rack, into a 1992 model Ford Escort.

I really don’t know HOW!

 

Alfie

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

The land of the free!

As some may know already, at some unstated point further on in 2018 my dear wife and I will be venturing across the pond to the British Colony currently known as “LOTIT” or “Land of the Infernal Trump”!

We will not be on a mission of re-conquest and I have already had to promise not to refer to George Washington and his pals as a “terrorist insurgency” while I’m there. Not in the hearing of any Americans anyway!

While Faith has visited the USA before (she visited an east coast city, apparently called “Barston” by its natives, in 2011 to accompany a friend who was visiting her daughter, then studying at Harvard). I, however, have never ventured that far west and it’s all a new experience for me!

Finding, booking and paying for the holiday was the easy part – it is the administrative stuff that you have to do to try to guarantee being able to actually enter  the country AFTER you’ve already paid out a significant sum to the Travel Agent that I am contending with now.

I understand that in the good old days before the unholy trinity of 9th September 2001, Computer Systems and the Department of Homeland Security, one would simply apply to the United States Embassy in London for a visa (possibly including an actual interview at the Embassy in Grosvenor Square). If successful your old, blue-covered British Passport would be annotated accordingly and you would move gracefully into the US of A with the dignity due to a citizen of a respected ally.

Now, under the auspices of the now infamous non-humourists of The Department of Homeland Security and the practical usage of modern technology we have the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (U.S. form; U.S. spelling!) or ESTA which involves an on-line application form.

And, as I suggested above, it is that form that I have been struggling with recently!

I have always believed that the UK government was the prime culprit when it came to on-line forms that no official had ever tested as if they were a “customer” to ensure that the questions weren’t a) ambiguous and b) utterly ludicrous – but Homeland Security give them a damn good run for their money!

I went into the completion of the ESTA form determined to tell no lies and say nothing that would give these famously very serious-minded people any reason either to turn me down outright or make my life more difficult on arrival at Los Angeles International Airport!

And then…

  1. Do you have a current or previous employer?  Y/N. If so give employer’s details.

Do you see why I have a problem here?

The question is asked in order to save you from hassle and extra questions on arrival  because if you say “no” it could be considered that you are intending to take a job illegally or deprive a native of employment – so “yes” was always going to be the good answer as well as (taking the question literally) the honest one.

I did, however, retire just over 2 years ago and have no intention of working for anyone ever again – except in dire financial need which isn’t a problem right now. Unfortunately, saying that is not an option in the context of this particular question and is not picked up by any subsequent ones.

Now, though, I have the next issue – “Which of my many employers do I mention?”

I actually put the details of the last one before I retired – which only covered a 6 month period – and now I’m worrying that they actually wanted the full list which would run to several pages! There is no way that I could fit them all in the small space available.

The thing is, if they look at my form at LAX and say something like “So, buddy, you work for <name of company I put on the form>?”, I respond truthfully with “Not for the last 2 years” and the hassle is worse than if I’d said “No” to the question! And all because I was strictly honest.

Hopefully I am worrying about nothing but I still think that, with no follow up remarks of any sort being requested, it is a stupid and confusing question.

I moved on through the form and then came to what I considered the REALLY ludicrous bit!

It was a bit like the “yes/no” tick boxes on the Blood Donor questionnaire that I filled in recently with the exception that these were not all of a medical nature of the “have you had unprotected sex with any species of wild animal in the last six months?” kind (although the first one was a bit like that!

This is the list:

  1. Do you have a physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict; or do you currently have any of the following diseases (communicable diseases are specified pursuant to section 361(b) of the Public Health Service Act): Cholera, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis infectious, Plague, Smallpox, Yellow Fever, Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers, including Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, Crimean-Congo, Severe acute respiratory illnesses capable of transmission to other persons and likely to cause mortality.
  2. Have you ever been arrested or convicted for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority?
  3. Have you ever violated any law related to possessing, using, or distributing illegal drugs?
  4. Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?
  5. Have you ever committed fraud or misrepresented yourself or others to obtain, or assist others to obtain, a visa or entry into the United States?
  6. Are you currently seeking employment in the United States or were you previously employed in the United States without prior permission from the U.S. government?
  7. Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa you applied for with your current or previous passport, or have you ever been refused admission to the United States or withdrawn your application for admission at a U.S. port of entry?
  8. Have you ever stayed in the United States longer than the admission period granted to you by the U.S. government?
  9. Have you travelled to, or been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011?

Any one of the list of illnesses in number 1. above would, by and large, have killed off the applicant long before they could reach an entry point for the USA and I love the catch-all term “Plague” listed there! It worries me slightly as I did recently see a large example of what one of my daughters refers to as “a Smooth-tailed Plague Squirrel” (“Rat” has such negative connotations, don’t you think?) in the nearby woods! I didn’t get near enough to let it bite me though!

As for the other questions, the fact that they have to ASK you those questions and give you a choice of “yes” or “no” seems to be suggesting that saying “yes” to them would not necessarily debar you from admission to the country but I wouldn’t bet on it! I am fairly certain that admitting to the activities in question 4 , for example, would see your holiday plans being revised to include a lengthy visit to an obscure corner of Cuba and the wearing of a stylish orange jumpsuit while in the “resort”!

In view of the current Presidential prejudices I am rather surprised at the rather obvious omission of question 10: Are you, or have you ever been Mexican?

I cannot imagine anyone for whom “yes” was the correct answer to ANY of those questions and who was applying using a genuine passport in their true name even bothering to start that bit of the form! There would surely be easier ways of slipping into the country for nefarious purposes!

I have now submitted my form, paid my $14 fee and have now heard that my application has been approved. All I have to do now is hope that between now and the Autumn/Fall no-one in the DHS makes the connection between my real name as shown on the application and the rather flippant remarks made here by “Little Alfie”! I wouldn’t look good in Orange and I’m betting that those jumpsuits are all for people much shorter and skinnier than me!

 

Alfie

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Changes afoot!

“Oh Alfie!” I hear you cry, “Why have you been away for 6 weeks? We’ve missed you!”

Or, to put it another way, no-one appears to have noticed my absence from this page!

Well, since you didn’t ask, I have been indulging in some intensive decorating! The hall, stairs and landing area at Alfie Towers has no less than TWELVE wooden doors requiring their Brilliant White Gloss to be renewed (it had gone a Brilliant Pale Yellow over the years) and that’s a LOT of woodwork plus associated frames, skirting boards and stair rails to strip, undercoat and gloss!

And that was before we even started considering the state of the emulsion paint on the walls which is also a vast area and which has become a sort of dirty beige with time!

So, it’s been “busy, busy, busy” as far as all that’s concerned and, quite frankly, my painting arm has been too achy at the end of the day for me to type anything.

Then, it has also been the last couple of weeks in February – the season known as “Alfie’s Birthday” and Faith and I have a tradition of taking off for a week or so in warmer climes to celebrate that.

We have, indeed, just returned from a lovely, warm, sunny week in the Canary Islands and I expect you are surprised, and possibly relieved, that you haven’t seen any posts about THAT – yet!

As you will know (if you’ve been following this stuff for a while) I was always fond of the “what I did on my holidays” type of school English project and have carried that forward into my retirement and my burblings on this site.

I also make sure that I have at least one notebook and a supply of pencils (pens are no good if you’re lying flat on your back on a sun bed while trying to write) and I have written quite a number of pool-side pieces in the last few days while getting a thoroughly un-British tan.

The problem is that the resumption of decorating on my return means that I haven’t yet had time to type up those notes. They will be coming though – you have been warned!

The articles mentioned may also be the last “holiday series” that appears on this page. I am considering copying all of the holiday and travel related posts (and future ones on that topic) to a new “spin-off” WordPress account to be named “Alfie at large” or something like that. If you have any suggestions for an appropriate name please let me know by making a comment in the appropriate box below this article.

N.B. “Where’s Wally” (U.S. = “Where’s Waldo”) or offensive variations thereof will not be considered!

Alfie

 

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Energise!

I don’t often return to subjects that I have written about before but today (1st November 2017) I was reminded of something that happened way back in 2012 when I had just started my all-time favourite I.T. contract – with Associated British Foods.

I was on my (and indeed the whole embryonic team’s) first assignment at the unwholesome sounding Speedibake Bakery in Wakefield and Bradford which I wrote about here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/ in my “On the road again” series.

I cannot recall with total certainly which of the two factories the incident I was reminded of took place at but I think it was Bradford. Before I tell you about it, though, I see on re-reading the article the above link leads to, that I have also never mentioned an amusing occurrence that definitely occurred at the Wakefield site.

Our workroom at the Wakefield site was a large conference room normally used by, and sharing a kitchen with, the New Products Department and it was while putting Windows 7 onto one of that department’s computers that I had a bright idea – Savoury Doughnuts!

I developed the thought a bit and mentioned it to the Departmental Manager while we were both making coffee in the shared kitchen. I postulated, instead of the usual jam or custard fillings, gravy, Bovril, Marmite or Peanut Butter and he seemed to be good-naturedly humouring me.

When, however, I made the suggestion that instead of powdered sugar, they should be coated in salt the good-natured smile vanished instantly and was replaced by white-lipped anger!

“Don’t ever say THAT!” he almost hissed at me in a furious voice.

Then, realising the shock that this response to a perfectly innocent (if somewhat odd) suggestion had caused on my own face, he forced himself back under control.

“I’m sorry”, he relented, “it’s just that…” he shuddered, “we did that by accident once – it lost a whole day’s doughnut production and a number of quality control inspectors got sacked for not noticing!”

I never ever mentioned Savoury Doughnuts at that site again. I still think it’s a good idea though!

Anyway, as I explained in the previous article we were under some time pressure at Speedibake on account of our Windows 7 migration activities blowing up the main server at Wakefield and having to move to Bradford (who were not ready for us) while they got it fixed. Once we did start rebuilding Bradford PCs we were several days behind and having to work longer hours to catch up. As by far the oldest on the team I was feeling really drained by the end of each day and asked some of my new friends staying at the same Bed & Breakfast establishment if they had any ideas as to how I could get over this.

They advised me that they coped by consuming energy drinks and recommended the one called “Relentless” a cheaper version (but with similar ingredients) of the stronger and more well Known “Red Bull”. I duly bought a couple of cans from the late-opening supermarket opposite the B&B for consumption the next day.

I worked perfectly normally the next morning, rebuilding or replacing 3 of my allotted 6 computers for the day then restoring all the user data to them exactly on schedule but after lunch felt that I was losing my edge a little. I remembered the Relentless and duly drank down a full half litre can!

Unfortunately, my friends Stuart and Paul had failed to mention to me that they took the occasional sip of the stuff, making one of those cans last for several hours and failed to consider what the effects of a whole can might be on a metabolism that hadn’t experienced it before!

My head was buzzing and my heart was racing like never before! Far from just keeping me going, whatever it was that stuff was made from turned me into a one man Windows 7 migrating machine! I located a bank of 6 desks in a block; 3 of which were earmarked for me that afternoon and the other 3 also to me the next morning. It turned out that the owners of those 6 computers were either on holiday or at a conference for 2 days so I started all 6 at once!

Four needed  rebuilds of the existing machine and the other two had to have the data extracted and then replaced in brand new machines – a much quicker job as we already had a stock of newly built machines with all the correct software on. The rebuild process (if you’re interested) involved, essentially, cocooning the user data, sliding the new operating system in over the old one, then “exploding” the compressed old data back to its proper place in the new set up. That took about 2 to 3 hours per machine but in my hyperactive state I was doing four of them concurrently after the fashion of a circus plate-spinner!

As we finished our tasks we would return to the workroom to tick them off on our big white board and I, as normal, wasn’t first back. When I did return (no-one left until we had all finished) there was no surprise when I filled in my afternoon allocation but shock when I then moved to the next day’s list and ticked off half of my ones on there!

I don’t know if it was concern at what drinking more “Relentless” would do to my health, or if the other guys thought I was making them look bad but I was asked not to have any more – at least not a whole can! I was happy to comply – it gave me a terrible headache later and I had a hard time getting to sleep that night. From then on I just did what was assigned to me but that high speed afternoon helped us to catch up and finish the site on schedule.

At the start of this piece I said “I was reminded…..” of the events above and you may have been wondering what it was that brought it all back.

Well, I was on the bus into Peterborough for my Library volunteer work last week when a couple got on in Orton Goldhay (not the best part of town). There was an abundance of tattoos and muscles (and HE looked quite hard too!) and they sat down very pointedly in the seats marked for use by elderly or disabled passengers. The woman seemed to be anticipating some murmur of complaint about this because she anticipated it by announcing to all and sundry that she has a heart condition and was on her way to hospital for an operation on a faulty valve!

There was no response and having satisfied herself that she had settled the issue she reached into her bag, pulled out a large can of Red Bull and proceeded to drink the whole thing straight down.

This of course is what got me thinking about my own experience with such energy drinks and I watched with interest to see if a faulty heart would behave any more spectacularly than my healthy one had. She may have exploded later but not until after I had left the bus!

And that my children is what journalism is about – you take a short and uninteresting anecdote and turn it into a 1230 word story!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

And then one day you find “x” years have got behind you!

Every time I try to write something that ISN’T looking back in time, someone or something comes along and reminds me of a significant anniversary that definitely requires some comment from me.

Previous such pieces have included my 30th Wedding Anniversary (in 2010); the 40th anniversary of Apollo 13 (also 2010); the 40 year mark since the first moon landing (in 2009) and the 497th (?) anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (in 2012).

As a child who grew up in the 1960s – known as a decade of momentous changes and events – I am fully expecting that a LOT of 50 year old happenings are going to require my personal “I was there” recollections in the coming months and years. Indeed there are already 2 more “historicals” in progress.

I have, in fact, already failed to comment on (to name but a few) the half century celebrations of:

  • Yuri Gagarin’s “first man in space” trip in the Soviet spacecraft Vostock 1 (1961).
  • John Glenn’s “first American orbital spaceflight” in the Project Mercury capsule “Friendship 7” (1962 – on my 9th birthday, actually).
  • My favourite TV Sci-fi series “Doctor Who” (1963 – although as it concerns time travel it could be older).
  • The England football team actually winning a World Cup competition (1966 – so we are now up to “51 years of hurt”!)

And now another significant one has just gone by – this time from the area that has had the most influence on me during those years – music!

But if you’ve read the “CD of My Life” series here, you already know that. If you haven’t, you should be able to pull the whole series up in one go by clicking on the appropriate “Category” in the side menu.

Yes, we have indeed passed the 50th birthday of THE iconic album of the 1960s (some would insist on saying ONE of the iconic albums of that decade but let’s not be pedantic)!

I speak, of course, of the short-lived (only 8 years) phenomenon that was The Beatles and their ground-breaking 1967 album “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”!

From its distinctive cover, via the innovative cut-outs on the inset card to the array of musical styles from “pop” to “eastern hippy” to “downright quirky” – there had been nothing remotely like it before and I remember the unfolding sense of wonder I experienced when one of the Pirate Radio stations played it in its entirety.

Mind you, that sense of wonder at new sounds came to me quite a lot in those days – I recall it happening the very first time I heard “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys.

And mentioning them reminds me of the transatlantic creative feedback that was, at least partially, responsible for “Sgt. Pepper…” – Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was apparently so impressed with the earlier Beatles effort “Rubber Soul” that it inspired him to produce “Pet Sounds” which, in turn so impressed Lennon, McCartney and Co. that they wrote “Sgt. Pepper… ” to try to surpass it!

Who knows, if Brian hadn’t then lost the plot a bit they might still be at it, trying eternally to outdo each other!

At around the same time (actually July 1967) and premiered on the first global TV communications satellite link-up, The Beatles also ushered in what became known as “the summer of love” with another mind-blower – “All You Need is Love”. So that’s another anniversary covered!

Incidentally, before we leave Beatlemania behind us, can I just point out that if you happen to think that “Sgt. Pepper…” was NOT the best thing that band ever did – you will get no argument from me! In my humble opinion many tracks on the previous “Revolver” album were much better but for a total musical experience they actually hit the jackpot on 26th September 1969 (commemorating the end of my first week at work) with the release of “Abbey Road”. I return to that one far more often than any other of their works.

I’m not at all sure that I’m totally happy with this “time passing” stuff!  It was first really bought home to me by a trip that Faith and I made last summer to The Shuttleworth Collection (a museum for still functional old aeroplanes) near Bedford. I had first visited it on a school trip and was, frankly, appalled to realise that a Sopwith Pup biplane of 1916 vintage was now TWICE as old as when I first saw it in 1966.

This means that 1966 is now further away from me than some bits of the First World War were in 1966 – and WWI was incredibly ancient history then while 1966 is just YESTERDAY now!

The problem, of course, is that external time moves on while my internal time stopped advancing when I was about 26 – and I suppose there’s nothing I can do about either of them!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The view from the tarmac!

Today Faith and I visited my old mum in Ipswich (the adjective “old” is just a factual description of her and is not meant to imply that I have another, newer, mother stashed away somewhere) and spotted a couple of things on the 100 mile trip there from Peterborough. I thought that I should share these with you along with my usual smart-arse comments!

In driving along the A14 one meets (often too closely for comfort) every possible variety of Heavy Goods Vehicle hauling all sizes of trailers or containers conveying the goods of just about every major retail company!

I noted with some concern that supermarket chain ASDA still has the “Saving you money every day!” slogan on the back of its trucks – you may recall that I gave you my reasons for objecting to this here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2014/09/

Obviously their legal department is not amongst my readership!

It was, however, another slogan on the back of a lorry that caught my eye to the extent that I had to whip out my ever-present notebook and write it down. I was doing this while Faith was moving out into the “Executive Lane” to go past it so I didn’t actually get to see what company it belonged to.

What’s that?  “What do I mean by the Executive Lane?”

I don’t understand – you didn’t seriously think that the overtaking lane of dual carriageway roads or motorways was for use by the likes of you or me, did you? Oh no! You just ask any driver of a company owned BMW, Audi, Lexus or other top of the range make and you’ll find that this lane is indeed for the use of Company Executives and top Managers.

This explains their reluctance to let you out into that lane and the aggressive way they will hammer up behind you if you aren’t going as fast as they think you should!

Given my oft-stated antipathy to people in authority who aren’t as bright as I am, it also explains why I don’t take any notice of this aggression and why, when I do have no reason to hold them up any further my move back to my “proper place” is done as slowly and in as insolent a fashion as I can possibly manage! I just hope that the poor benighted workers that these people are on their way to repress appreciate my efforts in keeping them out of the office for a few more seconds!

ANYWAY….. back at the truck on the A14 – the words that I wrote down (which had no punctuation that I could see and which were capitalised as shown here) were:

Eat Healthy British Chicken

From this I drew the conclusion that the vehicle belonged to some sort of Poultry farmer or supplier but that had nothing to do with the remark that I made to my long-suffering wife when I looked up from my notebook.

Displaying my usual talent for looking at things in entirely the wrong way I indignantly commented:

“Why do they need to specify ‘Healthy’? Surely no-one is out there foisting UNHEALTHY British Chicken on us! If they are, I want to know about it now!”

The second note that I made was somewhere around Bury St. Edmunds when we came upon an unannounced speed limit with no apparent purpose. We were suddenly reduced from the normal 70mph limit to one of 50mph and there was no sign of any work going on – not even the sometimes seen team of minor criminals doing Community Service litter picks! A little way in there was a small and easily missed explanatory notice at the side of the road – a sign simple in its message but asking more questions than it answered:

“SPEED LIMIT IN PLACE FOR SAFETY REASONS”!

Do you see what I mean? The list begins:

Whose safety?

What reasons?

Why 50mph – why not 40?

What is the normal purpose of speed limits then? There I was thinking that they were ALL there for “safety reasons” – if I’m wrong it must mean they’re only actually present because of some official’s personal whim and the revolutionary in me is starting to fire up!

I’ll let you debate that one amongst yourselves – for now I’ll just say that it is just as daft as the signs that were present along that same road a little nearer Ipswich a few years ago.

They had installed a whole series of those matrix message boards (I believe it was so that they could inform HGV drivers if bad weather at the East Coast ports necessitated parking up under an “Operation Stack” arrangement) but every single one of them had a yellow board at its base proclaiming “This notice board is not working”!

I always said that they could have saved an awful lot of yellow printed plastic if they’d have just lit up the boards and put the “…..not working” message on them!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Uncategorized