The Day I Touched Heaven

“Hi, Jack!” said Bill the mechanic as he crawled out from under the car. Then, with a wave in my direction, “Is this your latest little grease monkey?”

I wasn’t sure about being called a monkey and hid behind my Grandad Jack’s trousers, watching Bill warily. When my mother called me a monkey, it didn’t bode well.

“He’ll do,” replied Grandad, patting my shoulder. “My best little helper. Thought I’d give him a taste of real garage life and show him where I used to spend my time. How’re you getting on without me?”

“Better than ever,” came the ironic reply. “Get things done quicker without you messing ‘em up!”

I was indignant on Grandad’s behalf, but he just laughed and punched Bill lightly in the chest.

“I have to see a man about a dog,” Bill said. “Can you keep an eye on things for a few minutes?”

When Bill had left, Grandad and I looked around the workshop, which had been his livelihood until his retirement. Suddenly, we heard the roar of a car engine outside and then it stopped. We stepped outside and I saw the most wonderful sight in the whole of my five years of existence: I discovered later it was called an “E-type” but in that moment it was like standing next to a dark green space rocket.

A young man climbed out, handed the keys to Grandad and said, “I’ll be back tomorrow. There’s a knocking I don’t like, hope you can fix it.” Then he turned and walked off.

Grandad looked at me, and I at Grandad.

“Well now,” said Grandad. “He gave me the job, didn’t he? Get in, lad! Let’s see what’s wrong with this little monster.”

I was a little doubtful. After all, Grandad had retired. But he was right, wasn’t he? The young man had asked him to fix it. So I did as I was told and scrambled into the passenger seat. I couldn’t see through the windscreen, but that didn’t matter. The car felt and smelt like heaven. Grandad got in next to me, turned the key in the ignition, and off we went. I thought the engine sounded like the greatest orchestra in the universe as we drove down the road and then – onto the motorway! Oh joy, oh bliss! Grandad put his foot down and invisible hands pushed me hard back in my seat as we whooshed along at the speed of light barely touching the tarmac. Then he braked hard, we left the northbound carriageway and turned back, southbound. The motor roared, the world zoomed past and I was in paradise.

Finally, Grandad drove us back to the garage and stopped the car outside the workshop. Bill was waiting for us.

“You should have a look at the carburettor,” Grandad said. Bill nodded.

“I might have known!” he grinned.

I looked around, a little less shy than before.

“Is the dog OK?” I asked. For a moment Bill looked puzzled, then he grinned again.

“Oh yes, sonny. The dog’s fine.”

“Come on,” said Grandad. “Let’s get some fish and chips on the way home.”

That was the best day of my life.

A Bibliophilic Dilemma

While crocheting and knitting, we are listening to audiobooks and podcasts, of which my daughter has an inexhaustible supply to match her yarn stash, but otherwise – I’m on the horns of a dilemma:

To buy or not to buy? That is the question facing me right now, as I peruse tantalising book reviews, knowing that I really do have time and leisure to read those books, as well as online accounts that would download them onto my iPad in seconds or deliver them to my door in days. On the other hand, there are also a number of bookcases scattered around this little house holding an eclectic accumulation of books that I haven’t read before, or else so long ago that I’ve forgotten what’s in them.

Dictionaries, reference books, historical tomes, travel guides, encyclopaedias, novels, humorous fiction, thrillers, sailing manuals and books relating to various hobbies and handicrafts, recipe books, all in a variety of languages … we could still open a library, in spite of a good clear-out a few years ago when we dropped off a whole load in the cage outside the village shop, which offers free reading matter to anyone interested: a case of one’s man trash being another man’s treasure.

Some of our collection came from my parents, books I have known since my early childhood, frequently missing a flyleaf because I would draw on any blank piece of paper I came across, undeterred by the smacked bottom this sometimes elicited, and occasionally still containing those early drawings. Old friends, including some strange bedtime reading: when I was about 8, snuggled up on my father’s lap in the big armchair, he would read to me – in instalments – Sir Walter Scott’s epic poems The Lady of the Lake and The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Much of it went over my head, but I retained the gist of the story and revelled in the atmosphere of Scottish romance, enjoying the poetic language with its rhymes and rhythms. I can’t imagine any modern child being so enthralled, so maybe I was a weird kid after all.

Of course, what really mattered was that this was my father’s way of showing me affection and my response in kind. He wasn’t a demonstrative man, and I don’t think he ever spoke the words “I love you” but I knew that he did love and cherish me without need of those words. That ancient, revered edition of the complete poetical works of Scott (such tiny print on flimsy pages) is here on the bookcase Dad made. I’ll need a magnifying glass to read those poems again.

Others are paperbacks, dispensable holiday reading, left behind by visitors or family members – we are now four generations, all sharing this holiday home, and most of us are keen readers.

I brought with me the new English version of Temptation by Janos Szekely, admirably translated by Mark Baczoni (see my blog post A Night That Began 700 Years Ago) and on finishing that remarkable page-turner, read one of my daughter’s latest acquisitions, This Golden Fleece by Esther Rutter, a fascinating tale of a woman’s travels around Britain discovering sources of wool for her knitting. Sounds peculiar but is actually very informative and interesting.

That was followed by a preposterous and hilarious tale by PG Wodehouse set in 1930’s Brittany called Hot Water that I was reading in bed, and that kept me up an hour later than intended each night till it was finished. In 1930’s terms, this was a hoot!

My daughter is currently deep in the first of a trilogy about early mediaeval Britain by Max Adams which will also be passed on to me in due course, but not yet – so I now have to make my selection for my next book at bedtime, hence my opening question: Do I pick out one at random from those available here, choose one already on my iPad that I haven’t yet read, or order something new online that has been recommended and appeals to me?

..

I turn to the bookcase next to me as I sit here on the sofa, and spot an ancient leather-bound volume with gilt edged pages that lost its spine a few decades ago. Inside, in my childish writing, I see that I claimed it as no 107 of my personal library. I vaguely remember starting to read this when I was about twelve, but know I never finished it.

Yes, this is my next easy read: John Halifax, Gentleman by Mrs Craik. I have more patience nowadays with 19th century sentimentality than I did in my youth, and now find quaint what irked me then, being better able to appreciate the quality of Dinah Mulock Craik’s writing. And having visited the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire a number of times in my youth (and had Abel Fletcher’s Mill pointed out to me) I can visualise the setting of this story. I know in advance that through all the vicissitudes of John Halifax’s career, moral virtue will triumph and there will be a happy ending: it is a Victorian classic, after all!   Just right for bedtime.

Tuesday 17th March — Sundry Times Too

“Isn’t it wonderful when brothers and sisters get along together in harmony. It’s like a great big chocolate fountain or a party with champagne for everyone!” Psalm 133. OK so that’s a paraphrase and I dare say that there are better ones out there. Yet listening to this Psalm this morning got me wondering. How […]

Tuesday 17th March — Sundry Times Too

I’m reblogging this from Kangerew2, whose insightful reflections have given me much comfort and inspiration over the last few months since I discovered his page.

Repair Your Inner Rainbow

My dreams are sometimes strange, often funny – I woke up roaring with laughter one morning after I had dreamed that Noddy Holder had been elected President of Venezuela. In my dream, I had inquired whether the Venezuelans understood his English (a justifiable question, since Noddy has a broad Black Country accent, not always comprehensible even to other British people) and was told that it didn’t matter, as he spoke fluent Spanish. Where did that come from?? Maybe it’s prophetic – Noddy, as we say in the Black Country, is a bostin bloke and could probably do as good a job as anyone else.

The night before last I dreamed that my Dear Daughter and Son-in-Law came to see me, and I wanted to give them something to take away (possibly my bag of stuff to be recycled – they have obliged me with that before now) but they weren’t able to take it because their car was full, with two very large boxes on the back seat. On reflection, I think these boxes were amplifiers. Anyway, my DD informed me in the dream that they needed these boxes because they were on their way “to repair their inner rainbows”.

The phrase was ringing in my head when I woke up. How do you repair your inner rainbow? Whatever, it sounds very beautiful and inspiring!

A few hours later, I had forgotten my dream. DD and SIL arrived as arranged to go for lunch, but before we left DD produced a large box and a couple of plastic bags.

“Ooh, what’s that?”

“A rainbow for you!”

She was referring to a post I wrote a few years ago, when my granddaughter sent me a box full of wool and yarn to help me with my crochet.

And here was another rainbow in a box – enough to keep me occupied for a few weeks, I imagine! Thank you, this should keep me out of mischief.

It was only after they had continued on their way that I remembered the phrase in my dream. I hope they are having a tranquil weekend, and are able to repair their inner rainbows.

P.S. For anyone who doesn’t know Noddy Holder, he’s the singer of the glam pop group Slade – and if you don’t know Slade, look them up!

Oh – and here’s a recent interview with Noddy. If you really want to know what the poems on my Black Country page should sound like, imagine Noddy reciting them! That’s the accent!

Trumpery

WEF is over, Davos and the surrounding villages can go back to “normal”. Tonnes of hot air spouted, millions of dollars spent – much of it on security and “necessary luxuries”. Climate change was a major topic and the invited speakers’ actions spoke much louder than their words. Especially in their choice of transport.

Greta Thunberg wanted to hike there, but was obliged to take the bus. Donald Trump flew to Zurich in Airforce One, then took a helicopter. His wider entourage presumably travelled by road, and as they were too numerous to fit into the accommodation available in Davos, stayed in various luxury hotels within a 50-km radius. This included our own Grand Resort of Bad Ragaz, where their stay was invoiced at just short of half a million US dollars. Who picks up these bills?

How Greta went home, I don’t know. Probably by public transport again. POTUS, however – or POTENTATE? – went back to Zurich airport by road, accompanied by around 50 vehicles including ambulances, police escorts from several Swiss cantons, anti-terror units, defences against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks, and, of course, the press. Naturally, the Autobahn in the direction of Zurich had to be closed for the duration of the convoy’s passage, and who cares what inconvenience that caused. All bridges had to be manned by armed police. Again, who picks up these bills?

Watch this video, and remember that Switzerland is the seventh safest country in the whole world.  

What justification is there for this massive demonstration of this man’s megalomaniac display and utter disregard for his carbon footprint? The epithet that comes to my mind is obscene.

Something is rotten …

… Not necessarily in the state of Denmark, but in the state of confusion on my laptop. My first impulse was to blame WordPress – always the scapegoat – but the White Screen of Death appears only on my Mac, when I try to write or edit. On my tablet and phone I can still get backstage and access all the other things. Just not on the Mac.

However, this isn’t as user-friendly as the laptop, so if anyone out there has any useful advice I’d be very grateful. Presumably, there’s some simple tweak.

The problem is, on my Mac I can load only my posts. Everything else – edit, write, My sites, reader, stats etc – opens a blank screen. I assume it’s a Mac problem because on my iPad and iPhone these are all accessible.

Any ideas, anyone?? Thank you!

Merry Christmas!

According to my stats, I now have over 200 followers, a figure I find hard to believe since it’s always the same faithful few who deign to pass comment. Be that as it may, I can’t let the season pass without wishing everyone who looks in here – whether 1, 2 or 200 of you – a Merry Christmas, frohe Weihnachten, joyeux Noël, buon Natale, legreivlas fiastas da Nadal, feliz Navidad, god Jul ….

May you know the joy, peace and love that are celebrated at this time, and so urgently needed in today’s world.

Georg Friedrich Händel and Isaac Watts expressed it very well:

The Domestic Political Threat

I’m not an American, don’t live there either – but this summarises much of what I have been observing and fearing over the last few years. O foolish Republicans, who has bewitched you?

Lew Bornmann's Blog

It seems to me….

People might not protest for overtly political or social causes, but when they can’t feed themselves and their family, they will take to the streets.” ~ Marcus Samuelsson[1].

The U.S. faces a number of critical challenges but perhaps the most threatening is the breakdown of political compromise resulting in the possibility of an elected political leader attempting to impose a totalitarian governance supposedly for the “good” of the nation. Though most people consider the possibility highly improbable, that also was widely believed in Chile, the German Weimar Republic, and other nations until after it had actually occurred.

The primary risk is in one political party gaining sufficient power to stack the courts with sympathetic judges, manipulate voter registration, using the courts to challenge election outcomes, and, finally, invoking “law-enforcement” to use the police, National Guard, army reserve, or army to suppress political…

View original post 1,332 more words

All Around The Wrekin …

 

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By Rhodian at English Wikipedia

Figuratively and literally, in the West Midlands and Shropshire if you take the long way around you are going all round the Wrekin. It had been a long time since I’d seen this peculiar hill rising out of the fairly flat landscape – legend claims it was originally a Welsh mountain picked up and dumped by a giant, a story which doesn’t seem too fanciful when you contemplate this mound.

Now here I was, back in the old country after a two-year absence, and there in the distance was the familiar hump of the Wrekin with its little sister the Ercall, visible from the ruined keep of Stafford Castle and from the wooded hillsides of Cannock Chase.

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The Wrekin, an old acquaintance from my childhood, our constant companion on fishing trips to the River Severn with my father, seemed to beckon me to come closer and say hello again.

One of the places I wanted to see on this visit to the UK was the village just over the border in Wales where Jeremiah and Sarah, my 5-times great-grandparents lived, and William, my 4-times great-grandfather, was born. To my childish delight this entailed driving past the Wrekin. It would have been nice to have taken the more scenic route and gone all round the Wrekin, but time was pressing so we returned the same way we had gone. Maybe next time!

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Once you reach the border, of course, there are hills galore. What has changed in the 200 years since my ancestors lived and worked in this rural setting?

If they came back now, could they find their way around? Actually, I think they probably could, Of course, they would be amazed at the business park, but they would only have to walk a few metres further and I’m sure they’d recognise the old bridge and wharf with its limestone kiln.

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Jeremiah and Sarah were married in Buttington parish church, the same building that stands at the entrance to the village opposite the coaching inn, which was surely also there in 1800. Inside the church, the font is most likely the one in which my 4x great-grandfather William was christened. There was nobody available to answer my questions, and not enough time to inspect all the ancient gravestones, but there was a list of names of some of the parishioners buried there. No Jeremiah Williams, but could John Williams (1830-1894) be his younger son?

In the 1841 census, Jeremiah is listed as an agricultural labourer and his son William as a male servant at the farm of Maurice Jones in the township of Hope. Nowadays, this seems to be just a country lane, with a few attractive houses in it – not what I would call a township, more a hamlet.

One of these houses is now the headquarters of a travel operating company, but it’s based in an original black and white half-timbered building so I marched in and enquired about its history. Yes, this had been Hope Farm, and it was there well before 1800. In fact, I was informed, it was probably the only one in Hope in 1841, as the next oldest was not built until 1850. I explained my interest and was allowed to take a photo of it.

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I felt connected to this place, and as the coaching inn opposite the church was open, we had lunch there – and I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending the Green Dragon to anyone with an appetite. Being in “traditional” mode, I ordered fish and chips and mushy peas, and wasn’t disappointed.

Did my 4th great-grandfather William start his journey to the coalfields of the Black Country on a coach from this inn? Why not? He wouldn’t recognise the modern road, of course, but I don’t think the scenery on either side would be totally unfamiliar. And he certainly must have gone past the Wrekin, if not all around it.

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