Out Now!

Friday, 27 September 2019

Spaced out on Cheese

It’s a fifty-minute flight to Amsterdam and half a lifetime checking through security. Then there’s the train from Schiphol airport to Amsterdam Central. And this is what you see on first leaving the station. 

We arrived at 9 am (don’t ask me what time we got up!) and we weren’t allowed into our hotel until 2 pm. So, we set out to explore the streets beyond the river. It was a noisy business, trundling our wheeled suitcases over old cobbled streets and sounding like the 7th Cavalry on manoeuvres. It was also highly dangerous.
One word.
Before we set out they looked, from a distance, elegant and romantic, whole conveys of them swooping across streets like Valkyries on wheels. When you’re on the streets with them, it’s something entirely different. They appear from nowhere. You turn to check. The road is clear. Then whoosh, hundreds of them beamed down from the ‘Enterprise’ and you barely escape with your lives as they speed by, razor-like indifferent.

If you’re lucky enough to be on a pavement, not congested with parked bikes, you can appreciate the health giving benefits of a culture addicted to bicycles. It’s a bit like bird-watching made more interesting by the fact that most of the bikes are of the old ‘sit up and beg’ variety. This enforces a straight-back posture, arms outstretched to the handlebars with unfortunate results. It makes the riders look snooty as they glide by in their trickles, torrents and floods. They all have the same expression, one of serene indifference to trams and pedestrians alike.

As we walked farther into the area bordering the red light district, the sweet and heavy stench of cannabis clogged our noses, as did the sex. Hmm, could be better phrased.

 We passed shops selling cannabis ice-cream,  shops selling dildos the size of cricket bats, and embedded into the cobbles, a tasteful bronze sculpture of a hand fondling a breast. There were also cheese-tasting shops. We didn't stop to check out whether the Gouda was laced with cannabis too. Outside of one though, our suitcases  narrowly missed a flattened rat or large mouse, perhaps spaced out on cheese.

After checking in and jettisoning our suitcases, we embarked on a six-mile circular tour of the canals, before pasta, beer and then mercifully bed.

Fine buildings and water. It's indicative that Leopold of Belgium buried the beautiful river running through Brussels with a road. Nothing good has come from Brussels since. 

The first few miles were very nice, stopping at bridges and looking around.

Above and below examples perhaps of subsidence giving the buildings a jaunty air.

Holland's favourite son Rembrandt surrounded by sculptures of his famous painting 'The Night Watch
And who wouldn't want to see a horror movie in this cinema?
 Or buy a cannabis laced ice cream in the foyer?

Tomorrow  Vincent van Gogh - more accurately next week)

Friday, 13 September 2019


This story is about:

But begins with this

It had to come, the conclusion to the damson carnage: the bonfire. But not content with a damson bonfire, we also set about an ivy encrusted shed storing things we’d long since forgotten—mercifully so. The roof had long since collapsed letting in ten or more years or rain and snow and whatever else had chosen to enter.

Pieces of shed in an elegant sprawl

After lamenting various ruined possessions that we’d forgotten we had, we took them to the tip and began demolishing the shed with the help of two very good friends. It was hugely cathartic, sledgehammers and jemmies, my wife, suitably masked, wielding the chainsaw.

More lolling fragments of shed

And then it was done. The bonfire looked big, too big for one gigantic blaze, so we spent the afternoon feeding a much smaller, more controlled fire on the concrete slab where the shed had stood. Yes, we let the immediate neighbours know first, and they were, mercifully, as sweet as pie about it—though there was one complaint from an unknown house some distance away. Luckily, she accosted my wife who looked suitably menacing with her chainsaw and helmet, and she wandered away having vented but not very happy. As they say in latin, Lentus, or is it Resisto?

Somewhere in there were ten baking potatoes - Tescos' finest - wrapped in foil. We never found them

But what an eye-opener when it is done! Bearing in mind the majestic, living things we’d cut down, the size of the bonfire . . . and this, this small, pathetic pile of ash!

Remind me, I never want to be cremated.

On a happier note, we plan some rambling roses on the fence, various potted perennials on what will be a clean and white slab, and a wrought iron bench that we’ll probably never use.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Nigel Beware


I’ve always had a soft spot for the name ‘Nigel’ ever since devouring Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sir Nigel’ and ‘The White Company’ as a child. (For those with time on the hands worth reading.) You can therefore imagine my shock and distress to find out that last year, no ‘Nigel’ was born and named as such in the UK. Nigel is going the way of the Dodo and the Great Auk.

Now, some great soul is doing something about it. The landlord of ‘The Fleece’ in the small village of Bretforton is organising a convention of Nigels. Nigellas, too, will be welcome. The question is whether it will be in the vein of a Viking funeral or a celebratory kindling of a great new fire giving birth to a phoenix called Nigel.
The Fleece
Which one looks the more ghostly?

Looking less haunted, though note the ice cream

If I was called Nigel, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d be there. But I’m not. I’m called Michael. So it’s a damn lucky thing I was there last weekend and enjoyed a pint of Wye Valley Ale and a large pork chop from the similarly endangered breed of ‘Old Spot’.

For anyone else, not blessed or cursed with the name of Nigel, Bretforton is well worth visiting, the Fleece even more so.

The earliest mention of Bretforton is recorded in 709 A D so it’s old enough to be haunted by a variety of ghosts. There’s Lola Taplin, a former landlady, who haunts the Fleece and throws glasses and food about. To my profound disappointment nothing happened as I tucked into my ‘Old Spot.’

Then there’s the C17th cattle driver, the non porcine Spot Loggins, who drowned and now haunts Spot Loggins Well in Bretforton House Farm.

It is said that anyone who runs around the Well three times blindfolded will lose everything they’re carrying. Try that in some parts of Liverpool and the result will be guaranteed.

I love lists like these. Who for example was Aluered? 

The village seen from the church graveyard, the dead centre of the village (sorry)

The Church, too, has its ghosts in the form of a phantom funeral procession. And tread its surrounding fields with respect. They are haunted by a woman holding her own decapitated head. She was murdered in 1707 and has never got over it.

So, just to end and to all those Nigels out there, enjoy the village, and enjoy your free pint of beer.

I love the roof ornamentation here.

 But beware—if you do all eventually  die out, Bretforton offers itself as ready-made postmortal home you may never escape from.