100 years ago…

My Grandfathers

The 4th August 1914.

The start of the First World War.  The Great War.  The War to end all Wars.

Two men: one living in London, one living in a suburban town of Paris.  One became a tommy, one un poilu.

They were my grandfathers, Alfred K (granddad) and Louis Leon D (grand-père).  Two men born into the Victorian age who were drawn into the bloodiest war the world had ever seen.

“The lamps are going out all over Europe…” Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, 1914

I was only five when granddad died and growing up, Dad told stories about the family which interested me and I wanted to know more but Dad’s knowledge was limited.  I began to read the poetry of that time and those poems were and remain to me now, some of the most powerful collection of words I have ever read.  So much so that many of the poems I wrote from the age of 13 onwards were about that subject.  I did not want to list times and places, I wanted to talk about the emotions and feelings, that was more important to me.

“The sunken road… (was) … filled with pieces of uniform, weapons and dead bodies.”Lieutenant Ernst Junger, German soldier, The Somme, 1916

Granddad did not see action until October 1915 when he left for France and in July 1916 along with his brothers, experienced the hell that was the Battle of the Somme.  And later that month he lost one of his older brothers.

“What a bloodbath, what horrid images, what a slaughter.  I just cannot find the words to express my feelings. Hell cannot be this dreadful.”  Albert Joubaire, French soldier, Verdun, 1916.

I never knew grand-père as he died many years before I was born and even though Mum remembers things, not enough to fill in all the blanks.  He fought at Verdun in 1916/17 and was wounded which resulted in the loss of his left eye.

I think that it is important to remember this anniversary.  It is important to me to remember my grandfathers and to try to imagine what they experienced and how that shaped their futures once they returned home to the their families and the women who waited for them and who would become their wives.

Did they ever think for one moment that it would happen all over again in such a short time and did they shake their heads in disbelief when it did?  I think they must have done.

So, I will remember them and be lucky and privileged that I knew one of them, if only for a few short years.  And for the multitude who never made it home, I hope there is a family somewhere that remembers them still.

Nearly done…!

And so, here we are at the end of another year and another busy one for me as you will no doubt have read previously.  I am not going to rehash what I have said but if you are interested in refreshing your memory, here is what I wrote a while ago.

Suffice to say that I still have my ups and downs in the old confidence department and I guess that is part of my character so I accept that and try and wade through the fog when I feel it descending on me.

However, I know that I am in a good place now.  I have a good job, I work with a great bunch of people and we got on extremely well.  In fact I think our section of the department have the most laughs and fun and I would like to think that I am a major contributor to that!

After all that, it only remains for me to wish you all a wonderful, wonderful New Year and I hope that 2014 is a great one for you.

Raise your glasses at midnight and enjoy!

Love Bintylicious xx

An unrequited situation…

I don’t tend listen to other people’s conversations when I am travelling to and from work as I am normally plugged in to my music.  However, recently as I was sitting trying to unravel my ear phones, (why do they always do that?  Honestly, I could lay them in a straight line and they would still end up in a knot at the end of the day!) I happened to notice two girls, both in their early 20’s it seemed, talking about some guy that one of them fancied at her office and my interest was piqued!

This young lass sounded like she was head over heels about this person and was doing all she could to make it known that she had a massive crush on him without actually saying anything to him.

She said that she would make sure she was dressed nicely and show a bit of cleavage, laugh at his jokes, flirt with him, always be on hand to help with a problem, make definite eye contact with him and often touch him lightly on the shoulder.

As I carried on listening she went on to say that she always accidently on purpose let him catch her looking at him and she would catch him doing the same.  Whenever he came over to her desk for something, she said that he would bend close to her and put his hand on her chair, that he talked closely to her in her ear and that he flirted with her as well.

Then she talked about a colleague’s birthday party that they went to recently and had to dress up for as it was in a club.  She had to get ready in the office as they were going straight from work and when she came back, she went to get something out of the cupboard near his desk and he turned round to look at her and complimented her on how she looked.  She had been to the club before so as she chatted about the place, he listened and looked directly at her then she said that he put his hands over his crotch, as if to hide whatever might be stirring in that area!  Something she said he had never done before when talking to her!

(I have to say that her friend was continuously interjecting with “he definitely fancies you!” and “he totally has the hots for you!” and other such comments…)

At this point, the train pulled into my station so sadly I had to get up and leave but to me, it sounded like that there was a definite chemistry there but also a fear in case she had completely got the wrong end of the stick and would ruin everything if she told him the truth only to have him say that he was just being friendly and didn’t see her like that.

On my way home I wondered: what are the signs about this sort of thing, how do you know for sure if you are reading things right?  How do you know the difference between someone being a friend as opposed to liking you as potential boyfriend/girlfriend material?  How do you be rational about this, especially when you are in the throws of a secret passion?

Questions, so many questions, but now I want your opinion about this and what you felt if you have experienced this.  Did it ever turn out to your advantage or fizzle out into nothingness?  Did it end as a one-night stand, even?  Did you just continue dancing around each other in a daze of mixed emotions or did you do something about it?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts!

Poppy

Today is Remembrance Sunday.

In the run up to today I have read quite a few bits and pieces and letters about this and it is the same thing every year: people not wanting to wear a red poppy because it promotes or glorifies war, people being made to feel guilty and therefore obliged to donate and wear a poppy, people moaning that they are happy to donate but don’t see why they should wear a poppy etc., etc.  The list of reasons/excuses for and against is endless.

Listen, the choice to donate, wear a poppy, remember this day is yours and yours alone, and I am certainly in no position to judge what you do, but here is my two-penneth worth.

I choose to donate to the Royal British Legion and wear a poppy and I am happy to do so.  To me, wearing a poppy is not a smug “look at me, I’m better than you because you aren’t wearing one!”, for me it is a way that I can remember both of my grandfathers who fought in WW1.  To me it is a way of remembering those who did not return home as well as those who did and who were and are scarred by their experiences.  To me, it is a way to do a little bit to support them and their families.

I certainly don’t like war, and my wearing the poppy does not glorify war, in my mind.  But I would say this, whether or not you agree with the whole thing, in the time it has taken me to write this and for you to bicker your way through the argument and put your point of view across, someone else has died.

As I said; just my two-penneth worth…

It’s been a long time coming…

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This week has been a good one, and I say ABOUT BLOODY TIME!

Firstly, you will know what a journey I have had since being made redundant last year and how my confidence had taken a real beating.  That has been the hardest hurdle to get over and there were times when I thought that I would never feel good about myself again from a work perspective and that I would never have anything of worth to give to another company.  I have done so much work to reverse that attitude and thought process and it has paid off to a greater degree.

So, it doesn’t matter that I have only worked at two companies since leaving, because those places valued me.  They have really appreciated my hard work and what I contributed, and the first place wanted me to apply for the permanent post when it was being advertised, but that job was not for me.  I know that they really miss me, well, if I say so myself, I brought a lot of fun and laughter to that place, even if my language was a touch colourful at times/quite a bit/well, most of the time/on an hourly basis and that the volume could be as loud as a heavy metal concert!

I have been temping where I am now for nearly three months and again, was approached by my managers and asked to apply for one of the permanent positions within my department.  They needn’t have asked as I had already made the decision to do so.  Interviews always give me the heeby jeebies but I was not overly nervous this time and thought I did well, but I never am that optimistic and think that I will I get the job; I am not that cured!

Anyway, I must have done something good as they offered me one of the jobs and I was so relieved, you have no idea.  In fact when they told me I nearly burst into tears (wuss…).  Nothing has been finalised, obviously, as I only found out yesterday but it is going to be a challenge and I look forward to that and I’m already rolling up my invisible sleeves at the prospect.

So, once again, to the old place thanks for all the good experience that I gained that helped develop an excellent CV, but see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!

And as L.P. Hartley said in his 1953 novel The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”.

 

Couriers: the inconvenient, convenient way to deliver your goods.

I wonder if this cartoon courier is delivering at a convenient time…?

Courier services are advertised as being the easiest way to get your goods.  Practically every website I visit screams that they use a courier service and that it is the best way to get your stuff, as they will deliver at a time to suit you!!

Really?  How do you know that it will be at a time to suit me?  It never is because you can’t be bothered to find out!

Well, this is where the supermarkets have you courier companies beaten hands down when it comes to delivery options.

Every time.

When you book a food delivery, you also book your time slot and that way you can make sure you are home to receive your grub ‘n’ stuff.

When a company uses a courier service, you order your items in the usual way and you get an email confirming this.  Then, if you are lucky, you will get another email or text saying that (whoop, whoop!), your goods have been despatched and are winging their merry little way to your merry little home as we speak!

Yes, but when?

When will I get them?  I work so will you deliver after 5pm when I am home, or will I open the door and be ecstatic to find a crumpled sorry you missed me, card on my doormat?  And that is if I am lucky to get a card as some couriers can’t even be arsed to do that!

It is at this point that I get a little ranty and after I have gnashed my teeth and banged my head against a brick wall, I think that these couriers are really missing a trick, because despite being told that I can track my parcel (which is pretty useless as that will only tell me that my parcel is sitting on the passenger seat enjoying the ride and that the driver has made sure it is wearing its seatbelt for the journey down that dusty road), but that is all!  Great!  By the way, I do know that it is not strapped in next to the driver, it has been hurled into the back of the car/van along with all the other poor battered, whimpering boxes…

So, my question is this: when I get confirmation that my parcel is ready to be delivered, why can’t I log a delivery date and time like I do if I order food from a supermarket?  Why is that concept so hard for these numbskulls to get their head around, pull their finger out and put that option in place?

Now I know that I am a bear with a little brain, but I can’t see the difficulty with that, so, courier peeps, get on with it and sort it out!

A modern Pilgrim’s tale

The Old Kent Road.

Grubby, run down and ignored.

The route for people from south east London and south east England to get into central London but one that has history and is important in its own way because of that.  Now, I am in no way a pilgrim in the religious sense, but I liked that link in the road’s history and my own as it was the road Dad would use when driving into London when I was a child and I always wanted to live in the Ole Smoke, so you could say that I was a pilgrim of sorts and I just liked the title.  So I wanted to place another tale of observation here from my daily bus commute to the Elephant and Castle where I work and those characters I see have a story to tell, or I might add an indulgent little twist to their lives…

The toothless, scarfed old ladies, leaning on their industrial shopping trolleys waiting for the shop to open.  Their coats are missing vital buttons and the trolleys are held together with string and the crossed fingers of hope.  They don’t talk to each other and would sooner poke you in the eye with a sharp stick than let you push in front of them.

A new café opening, optimistic that people will come in and become regulars, but at the moment, there is only one gent wearing smeary glasses who is sitting outside nursing a coffee as his wobbly fingers roll a cigarette.  He has combed the few strands of hair he possess neatly down one side and the production of hair pomade is safe in his hands.

The rows of Victorian cottages, some that are three-storey high.  They have seen the years go by and have themselves changed little but are now being dwarfed by so called, luxury flats with thin walls and little storage.  I know which I prefer.  Some of those cottages however, have suffered such subsidence that at first glance you wonder how they are still standing with their door frames at such extreme angles!

People legging it across the car park to get the bus, trying to hold onto everything as they frantically wave at the driver hoping that he is in a good mood and feels sympathetic towards them.  And the curses when the driver isn’t.

Then passing Asylum Road, which has a fascinating set of buildings you can see from the Old Kent Road.  I have often wondered about them and they have a story which I have never known about in all my years of living in London.

The middle aged lady wearing a grubby jumper and skirt who marches up and down her patch of the road.  I would not be so fascinated by her were it not for the chain and padlock that is tight around her waist.  Perhaps she is looking for an errant bicycle that needs chaining up.  Oh, but I would love to know the history behind that accessory!

The Drovers Arms, an old haunt of mine from the 1980’s when it was still called that.  The faded and chipped tiled mural around the top of the building depicting drovers from a bygone age and I will forever call it that.  Practically every Friday, I would go there with a friend from work and dance to the hits of the day and lust after the blokes with their mullet New Romantic quiffs and shiny silver grey trousers and life was good and we were carefree and we didn’t give a toss that we walked down the Old Kent Road at two in the morning, swaying and giggling our heads off and holding our shoes because our feet hurt.

Passing the car park where small groups of men wait patiently.  They mill about chatting and sharing fags.  They seek a days work and hope that the breakfast they had from the Golden Arches emporium next door will sustain them.

The bus stop by the little park where the street cleaner sits on a bench.  He is taking a break to roll and smoke a cigarette and contemplate life through whatever he hears in his ear phones before getting up to carry on clearing up after us.  And behind him, a dog owner lets his dog run about and get some exercise before doing what dogs do and what the majority of their humans ignore and fail to do afterwards and this human falls into that category, sad to say.  Meanwhile, under a large tree, a rotund tabby and white cat sits with its front paws curled underneath its body and watches the dog, wary of it getting to close and annoyed with it being there and possibly preventing it from catching a bird unawares or a mouse.

Then there’s the man in the pub doorway.  He stands there everyday with his two dogs in their studded harnesses.  He is sometimes alone and sometimes with another man and they chat and put the world to rights and gesticulate wildly in the process, such is their intent to get their point of view across.  The dogs look in better condition than their owner and I suspect he is much younger than he appears, but he is there everyday and not giving up.

And the ever present artery of buses, crawling along and suffering the curses of the cyclists as they duck and dive between them and the other traffic.  The cyclists wearing varying degrees of tightness and padded bottoms in their attire.

East Street: The Egg Incident.

And the ever present Shard…

For sale, to let, under offer, sold, let by, subject to contract.  All that in addition to what is happening to the enormous graffiti covered Heygate Estate on New Kent Road, waiting to be demolished as part of the regeneration scheme.

Onto that building that some say is the biggest bar code in the world, yet somehow reminds me of a lipstick container!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Strata.

Oh, last but not least, on this occasion as I get ready to get off the bus I spy a fellow passenger calmly plucking her eyebrows as the driver plays pothole roulette…