In Memorium: 100 Years On, At The Close.

Four years ago, for the 100 year anniversary of the start of the First World War, I wrote this post.  It seems like only yesterday that I wrote that and how fast those years have flown by!

Two years ago, to remember the Battle of the Somme, I composed the following short poem for my Great Uncle Joe, who did not get to return home to his family.

Thiepval 11/11/2016

One day I will visit you, Great Uncle Joe,
and I will say hello to your name.
I know the pillar it is engraved upon and
one day I will go, Great Uncle Joe, and say hello to your name.

When I discovered that Granddad had lost a brother through my genealogical research, I was surprised, because Dad had never mentioned anything about this, but his knowledge was not great.  And, of course, he wasn’t here for me to share my discovery with him. 

I also wished that Granddad hadn’t died when I was a young child; I would have liked to have talked about his experiences with him.  What did it feel like to lose a loved one in horrific circumstances and not have a body to bury?  I will never know, but I am always curious.

So, we come to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.  A period of time that has resonated with me for many years and along with elements of World War Two, like the Shoah (or Holocaust), form the cornerstone subject matter for my poetry.  I can’t explain why I am drawn to these periods of history and why I love the poems of WW1, but you know what, I am not going to try to explain it, it feels right and that is good enough for me.  I continue to jot down many lines and ideas for poems and often create complete poems in one go.  They may not get looked at again for a while and when I revisit them, I do change and edit them, but some I don’t.

To Our Brother

Sorry, mate.
We had to leave you behind.
Your body, you see, we couldn’t find.
But, we tried.

You were never forgotten.
Remembered you every day.
We wanted to bury you,
stand over your grave, and pray.

But we didn’t.

All that’s left is your name,
carved upon a wall.
Pier and face 2A.
That is all.


The Wharves of Wapping – a visit with Uncle Charlie*

I have a memory that I hold on to very tightly and it is as vivid now as the day I first recorded it.

Many moons ago, my Dad met a couple when he was on holiday on the Isle of Wight. They became firm friends and stayed that way until his death in 1986 (we made sure to keep in touch with them after Dad died). I knew them as Uncle Charlie and Aunty Georgie, a wonderful couple who both sadly, are no longer with us either. I miss them.

Even though we lived in Kent/East Sussex when I was growing up and they lived in Ilford, Essex, that did not stop us from driving up to their home to spend a day with them and we did this many times as I was growing up. I remember being so excited and I always looked forward to those days. Mum ensured that we were smartly dressed (don’t ask, it was the done thing in those days) and when I look at the pictures of us, I laugh – well, the 1970’s were never known for their fashion sense, were they!

I also had the good fortune of spending a week with them on a couple of occasions, if my parents were away and during school holidays of course. Great times, many fond memories, many stories!

One time when my sister and I were both staying with them, Uncle Charlie decided he would take us to see the old wharves of Wapping. I don’t know why but I guess that he wanted to show us a piece of London’s past before it ceased to exist.  I was excited just to go to London!

Our visit occurred before the massive regeneration of the docks started, so the whole area was derelict and you could walk around freely. I don’t think I had ever seen such massive buildings like these before, they fascinated me and I was awed by them.

I stared at those magnificent structures that were silent, empty and proud.  I walked amongst them and imagined them when they were wanted and useful.  They were beautiful to me, these industrial constructions. They were dirty, forlorn and now unwanted, but even at my tender age, I fell in love with them.

The atmosphere was silent, almost eerily so as you would expect, and apart from listening to Uncle Charlie talking, the only other sound that I remember was the litter being blown about in the breeze.  Oh, but I knew that if I tried hard enough, I was sure I would hear the wharves breathing out the imprinted whispers of a bygone age.  And I didn’t want to leave them.

I have told this story many times to various people over the years and the memory of that day is still clear to me, and may it always remain so.  However, when I do think about it my memory is in black and white, and I look at it in the same way as I look at a black and white photograph.  Not because if the weather that day was gloomy, but because for me, they stand out and are venerated in black and white.  In my emotional mind, that is how I honour their history and their place in it at that time all those years ago.  Especially when you consider the enormous changes that have happened to the East End.  My only regret is that I wish, just wish that we had had a camera that day.

*N.B. This is the first of several posts about these lovely people who I had the privilege of knowing and having in my life, and I have wanted to share some of the stories for some time.  I will post them as and when and they won’t be in any order of time.

Desert Island Dishes

A fellow foodie friend of mine emailed me a few weeks ago about what dishes he would take to a desert island.

The idea came about because of a newspaper article that he read in The Observer.  Written by a chef, it listed his 10 preferred dishes.  Unfortunately, this list did not excite my friend but it got him thinking about what he would take and he duly compiled a list of eight, that he kindly shared with me.

Of course, this prompted my friend to challenge me, and I must admit that it was not the easiest list to compile and I certainly don’t think that it can be called my final list of options.  I find, as always, that a list is a work in progress.

I have been on this earth for quite a few years now and eaten a lot of delicious food (my waistline is nodding in agreement) and coming up with eight options when I wanted to list 410 has been interesting, but for a first list, these are my choices in no order of preference:

  1. Mum’s potato pie (a fully encased shortcrust pie of sliced potatoes, cream and other lovely stuff. Mum found the recipe in a magazine and it was a hit from the start and became a regular menu item when I was growing up).  Yes, I know that it is not strictly Mum’s own recipe but I gloss over that (very minor) detail…
  2. French onion soup
  3. Cassoulet
  4. Steak and kidney pudding with false soufflé, (another old recipe from the 1970’s of mashed potatoes mixed with an egg, butter (or cream if you prefer, or both!), seasoning and cheese, then cooked in the oven so that it rises like a soufflé, utterly sublime). I can’t quite decide on what vegetables, but something sautéed in butter, probably
  5. Boudin blanc (the white version of French black pudding)
  6. A roast, probably sirloin, with all the trimmings
  7. A full English
  8. Proper chips, with salt and vinegar

There no desserts for my desert island trip; that is a list for another time.  There is no cheese listed either, difficult because I would want to take all the cheese!

Oh, and yes, I do realise that this list is very stodgy for a desert island.  Again, glossing over that (very minor) detail.

What would you choose?

Not so hot-desking.

I’m old fashioned and grumpy.

This, I accept.

Having said that, I don’t have a problem with change when it is logical, helpful to the company, if the alleged benefits make it worthwhile and if it has been fully explained to those caught up in the process.

What I don’t like is if change is introduced because it is trendy, the latest thing that every company should adopt because everyone else is doing it even if it isn’t necessarily the right thing and doesn’t consider the needs, wider or otherwise of those caught up in the process.

I am talking about hot-desking or “non-reservation-based hoteling” as I have seen it described.

The building I am in now has adopted this way of working, as they want to promote a flexible working environment which means you are free to sit anywhere within your team zone.  Fine, not a problem, but we are creatures of habit and every day, my colleagues will sit at the same desk if they are in the office in time to claim it (never a problem for me because I’m at work before God wakes up, so I always bag the best seat). 

Which brings me to the next issue I have with this.

I get that if you have the space, it makes sense to provide somewhere for visitors coming to London for a meeting or training session and who want to check their emails etc.  These points only have a power socket and a USB port, and as no one has a desk top computer anymore, you can go to any point, plug-in and play.

What I don’t agree with, is that if you can’t get a desk within your zone, or any other zone, (if you arrive after 9:30, you can sit anywhere if yours is full and there is space) you are then forced to sit at one of these free areas and trust me, the majority of us have to work with at least two different systems simultaneously and look at bloody large spreadsheets, not easy on a laptop and imagine how your eyes, neck and shoulders feel after being hunched over for a few hours!  Yes, I know one should get up, take a break, move around etc. etc. but we all know the opposite is true and you forget to do this.

And another thing…

It’s all very well for the company to bleat on about wanting a more flexible work attitude, move around the space, sit in a different chair every day and chat to someone you don’t really know, and please feel free to work from home, blah blah blah.

Uh, huh…

The vast majority of us are only based at HQ, our jobs are not mobile, and travel is not required.  We get to spend time at the start and end of every day walking to and from our lockers to set up and break down our desks (which includes the morning ritual of farting about with the chair height, tilt etc.) because we are not allowed to personalise them in any way.  And lets not get started at how some people are thoughtless and leave their crap from the day before for you to clear up and can you be sure they washed their hands after going to the toilet?  I don’t want to have to spend time each day disinfecting my keyboard and telephone from the previous occupant!

This also doesn’t take into consideration those who have health/mobility requirements and need to have a fixed desk.  I brought my chair over with me from my old office and I have a big sign on the back asking that you don’t change the height etc. as it is set it to suit my bad back.

As for working at home, pfft!  I’m not disciplined enough to bother, and I would rather dust!  When I am not in the office, feel free to sit where I sit and including your laptop, you’ll have three monitors to play around with.  You can even use my chair, just don’t adjust it.

Why can’t those of us who are based solely at HQ have dedicated desks?  I’ll tell you; because YOU, the company, choose to live in one of the most eye watering expensive parts of London when instead you could have taken one of the buildings we own outright and made that our HQ and you are too tight to pay for enough sodding floor space/desks for all the daily derrières.

But as I said at the beginning, I’m old fashioned and certainly grumpy.

Wherever I lay my computer…

Four years ago, when I joined this company, I never thought that I would have moved around five different buildings.

Could this be a record for such a short space of time (considering my job is not mobile and I am based at one site only)?

As today is a bit of a slow day, I began to raid the memory bank and mentally list all the places where I have been paid to turn up and vaguely look like I have a clue about what I am doing there.  Then I thought it would be better to write them down because my memory bank is never in credit.

Of course, I will not be stating company names, just the locations but it does seem however, that I am a bit of a nomad because this is in a similar vein as a previous post I wrote many moons ago about my past homes.  Is this a bit of a pattern in my life, I wonder?

Anyway, here goes and I am going to include my Saturday job as this was technically the first paid job I had and for a short time from when I left school to when I started college, I worked there, full time.

  1. Tunbridge Wells
  2. Lewisham – first job as a Beauty Therapist
  3. Bromley
  4. Regent Street
  5. Oxford Street
  6. Marble Arch – 2 buildings on the same road
  7. Pall Mall – 1st job after Beauty Therapy, 4 desks/roles/floors
  8. Regent Street – 4 desks, 2 roles, 3 floors
  9. King’s Cross – first temp job after being made redundant
  10. King’s Cross – back again!
  11. Euston area
  12. Elephant and Castle – 2 desks
  13. Waterloo
  14. Euston area – back as before, 3 desks
  15. Bank

Quite a lot of buildings, roles and moves in my working life.  I’m looking forward to retiring!


Opening my eyes again.

I rediscovered my love of reading earlier this year after a rather extended break during which I only read snippets from the odd magazine and the like, and links etc. on social media.

I don’t know why I had a break; there was no rhyme or reason to it, I just did and my journey to and from work was accompanied only by my music.

Then, one day I decided to pick up a book and start reading again.  I was tired of listening to music.  I was tired of missing important travel announcements and I didn’t want to ruin my hearing even more than I have done already.

And it was a joy.  A joy to physically hold a book in my hand, to make ready to turn the page when I had reached the end of the current one, to wonder how the story would end and to put my old bookmark to work again, looking after where I left off.

However, if you are like me, then I have a question.

How to you like to read a book?

Do you prefer to find (or even have) a peaceful, tranquil spot in your home where you can make yourself comfortable and lose yourself in your book?  Perhaps you just doss down on the sofa and take it from there, or do most of your reading on your daily commute as I do.  Perhaps you wait until you are in bed and read a few chapters before turning the light off.

Anyway, it’s subjective and we all have our own way of enjoying the pastime but I just cannot see how you can enjoy reading when you are walking.

How can you concentrate on the story, not to mention that you are in the bloody way of other people because you are not concentrating on where you are going and then tut at the people YOU have bumped into!  Oh, and I have lost count of how many times I have seen people almost get run over because they walked out into traffic or made friends with a lamppost.  Can you honestly say you are enjoying that book?  I am just wondering.

And, in case you are wondering, I chose to end my reading drought with The Spooks books by Joseph Delaney*.  Excellent choice for the young, and old Bints like myself.  I recommend them if you want to escape into a dark world of witches, boggarts and the use of salt and iron, and I care not a jot that some would consider me far to old to be reading that kind of thing.  I love horror stories so will go where I please!


*This is not an official endorsement, just a personal view and no financial reward has been received.


Ham and Rice

We have a saying in my family to describe memories from yesteryear.  Things we remember with fondness, anything, be it food, a smell, place, event, etc.  That saying is nostalgia bread.

Today was a nostalgia bread moment.

I am looking after Mum this weekend and as always, getting her to make a decision about what she wants to eat can be an uphill struggle!  Today was not such a day.  Today was easy, today was delicious and today took me back to when I was three or thereabouts.  Certainly before I started Primary School.

Today was a ham and rice day.

Ham and rice.  Never rice and ham.  Such a simple dish, a no brainer to cook and in my mind, always wonderful.

When we lived in Crowborough, in East Sussex, Thursday was ham and rice day because that’s when the meat van would drive around the estate where we lived and Mum bought fresh meat and slices of ham off the bone.  Proper ham, you know the kind.  Not the pink plastic reformed, sliced to within an inch of its life, ham.  Proper ham.

She would cut up a thick slice into little pieces and cook some white rice, which was always finished off with a knob of butter and salt and pepper.  Then she mixed the two together and served it to me for lunch.

What a treat!

And, it was always served in the same place.

My sister had a one-piece fold away metal desk and chair contraption with a blackboard desk that lived in the conservatory bit at the back of the house.  It was passed down to me once she had grown out of it and I was always sitting in it and drawing random nonsense with bits of chalk then rubbing it out to start again, probably using the sleeve of whatever I was wearing (much to Mum’s irritation no doubt).  The frame was blue and the desk had the letters of the alphabet around the edge and probably other things but I can’t remember.

Mum would place my plate on the desk and I would squeeze into the chair as fast as I could to devour the deliciousness.  Never a morsel left.  Practically licking the plate clean.

And today, I prepared my plate as it had always been done and will continue to be so, and I remembered those innocent days, carefree childhood days when it seemed that the sun was always shining and there was always ham and rice on Thursdays.