Out Now!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Everything Goes!

It's a salutary thought when you realize you know more people who are  dead than those living and breathing. (Though FB friends may skew the figures a little). But what also marks the passage of time are familiar buildings demolished almost as quick as you pass them. Time is totalitarian, erasing history in dust. 

Below is Father Hill Junior boys. (I'm the extra from Woodstock) I was there a year, and then Pow, it was gone!

 An earlier blog post marked the demolition of my next school, St. Josephs. No sooner had I left it, then pow it was gone. I like to think it was some superhuman quality on my part, but I fear not.

Now another landmark has gone. St.Bonaventure's Secondary Modern School. Fair enough, it had undergone a name change some years after I'd gone, but knocking it down…I'm sorry, but that was a step too far. The pictures below show some of my old school friends when I was there.
They are holding my project on Greece and Rome. My first book, you might say. I enjoyed drawing the bronzed and heroic figures - everything I wasn't. 
Above is the school uniform. Below is the reality

 Everything else, in melancholy colour, gives a blow by blow account of its demise. I shall raise a glass to St. Bonnies, tonight: the school that made me the man I am today….hmm, maybe first I'll assess the man I am today...and toast that too :)
Nothing if not thorough - the Demolition Plan.

The school awaiting its fate.

Munching away

Corridors we once ran along when teachers weren't watching.

If you look carefully below you can just see the remaining flight of stairs. A snack for the 'Muncher'

Almost Gone


Just goes to show, you should never take things too seriously

Friday, 19 June 2015

Sugar Butty

When we were very young we played in gangs, each seeking their place like young planets finding their orbit. Occasionally we'd find someone who didn't fit in. Looking back I think this was what William Golding had in mind when he wrote Lord of the Flies. 

In our case it was a young boy who earned the name of 'Sugar Butty' because he made the mistake of confiding that bread, butter and sugar was his favourite sandwich. His other mistake was to have been born a bit simple-minded and tragically trustful. 

It brings tears to my eyes now, along with a deep sense of shame, when I recall how we treated him. We'd circle the house, cat-calling 'Sugar Butty,' and renounced every overture from him or his mum. Only as a parent can you appreciate the full horror of what we were doing. 

You'd be right in saying that we were only eight or nine year olds, and though our acts were ugly, the damage hideous, we had a lifetime to mature and understand what we'd done.

Which is why I found interesting an article claiming that left-wing people are on the whole more intelligent than right-wing people. Though my politics are somewhere between Bakunin and Atilla the Hun, I'd argue the article misses the point. As a keen reader of both left and right wing blogs, the real contenders for the lower IQ stakes are to be found in the comments that follow an opinion piece of either wing.

Reading them, it becomes clear that being leftwing or rightwing is neither here or there. It's more a case of  'tribal' politics the 'mature' equivalent of eight year olds seeking security in gangs and damning outsiders. If I was to offer a leftwing opinion in a rightwing blog, or a rightwing opinion in a leftwing blog there'd be howls of 'Sugar Butty' or something equally mature. And that is how Twitter-mobs, and political blogs increasingly work, ie  self-selecting gangs for the insecure. At least we were eight year olds and knew no better.

Friday, 12 June 2015

By Royal Appointment


Last night I discovered that if you ate roasted vegetables with feta, followed by a lump of dark chocolate and hot milk you dream of the Royal Family, better, you become intimate friends with them. I'm chopping the vegetables now because the dream was so good and I want to go back there. Prince Phillip himself escorted me through brightly lit woods up a hill to a palace never shown on TV. 


Princess Margaret was a hoot, and the Queen enquired as to what books I enjoyed reading. We became such good friends. I felt almost part of the family, and best of all a royal equerry in a green tweed jacket enquired after Clay Cross. He dropped heavy hints. Did I have a spare copy of the book? I told him I did. He took it from me with a promise I couldn't refuse: 'Clay Cross by Royal Appointment.' He whispered it earnestly and I woke up with the determination to roast some more vegetables. The only problem is I have no Feta. Might Wenslydale do?

Saturday, 6 June 2015

I slept on the train

I still remember fondly past twenty-mile hikes, walking down and, more importantly, up the Grand Canyon, but age is catching up on me, I fear. We recently returned from a visit to my beautiful daughter in London, who has inherited my passion for walking. (Be very careful what you wish for) And the point of this rambling start is that we averaged a mere seven miles a day across the metropolis - and I was exhausted. 

The excuses tripped readily to mind, and yes, I'm a master of the self-exculpatory excuse, or so I'm told: I was breathing stale air and exhaust fumes, the overwhelming and ceaseless noise, the sheer pressure of people. Whatever. At the end of the day I was tired. And I hated it.

On that first day we walked from South Kensington to Fulham, across Putney Bridge, and almost as far as Wimbledeon Common. 
Below is the Gatehouse to Fulham Palace and Gardens. Past Bishops of London used to live in the far grander house beyond, but it hit me again how in such a vast city  little gems like this cling on. The gardens once extended to 136 acres. Now a mere 13 acres survive.

The 'Bishop's Tree' Peering from the top is Bishop Beilby Porteus. He was a man of strong moral principle,  concerned with what he saw as the moral decay of the nation during the 18th century. He campaigned against the wickedness, immorality and licentious behaviour at such venues as pleasure gardens and theatres.When the Thames froze over in 1789, the Bishop and his wife walked over the river to Putney. If we are to believe legends he also liked to climb trees, and is the supposed prototype of Mr Collins in Jane Eyre's Pride and Prejudice.

 Looks more like Friar Tuck

                                                               Into the knot garden

 Putney Bridge taking you from Fulham to Putney and Wimbledon Common. It's also the place where Lady Gwyneth Morgan in my novel 'The Gift' confronts her demons. My demons were minor - an overwhelming desire for a stiff drink and a couch

Another day we walked to Holland Park and then on to Kensington Palace,  down Millionaire's Row, collapsing at last on Kensington Roof Garden over a very large Tankeray Gimlet. There I considered how green are large swathes of London...and how many more I had to walk through.

The view from Kensington Roof Gardens. In the distance you can see the Shard, Albert Hall and various other landmarks

 Don't ask

It was a short respite before the final walk to Notting Hill. This involved walking through
the very weird 'Millionaire's Row'. As soon as you pass through the gates, and the warning that no photographs are allowed, you enter a different world. It's like Diagonal Alley for the very rich. You are aware of the silence, the large white mansions to either side. Many but not all are Embassies. I imagine in time these will be replaced by some of the richer Charities.  There is no life or joy here, instead a sense of oppressive wealth and all the silence money can buy.

 On the other side we walked as far as Notting Hill then retraced our steps to Moscow Street and the fabulous Santorini Restaurant, where we were served by a waiter who spoke seven languages but English less so.

Our final day saw us walking through Brompton Cemetery where we were caught up amongst thousands of celebratory Chelsea fans. We struggled through to Brompton Oratory, which was wonderful because I could sit down there, eyes closed, pretending to pray. A drink at the wonderful 'Wine Sampler' revived me. This is a very neat idea. You put x amount of money on a card, and then sample as much wine as the card allows. I sampled stuff I'd never be able to afford in normal circumstances - and realised what I was missing. Then it was the final tramp through Hyde Park, Paddington Station, and home. 

I slept on the train, dreaming of a man blowing fire from a tuba