Thursday, 27 October 2016

Things My Father Told Me

My Dad was born in Blackpool in 1914, the son of a small eccentric mother and a talented musician father.  He lived to be 83 and had a tale to tell about almost everything.  He was a story book with a long lifetime of experiences that he loved to share.  When I think about his tales, it reminds me of the television series 'Friends'.  I could tell you 'The one about Palm Toddy'; 'The one with the flying ants'; 'The one about beautiful Anglo-Indian women'; 'The one where he met and proposed to Dorothy Lamour'; 'The one where he sold a seagull to a holidaymaker on the promenade'; 'The one with the séance.'  There are so many stories and so little time.  I have recounted some of the best moments from my childhood in a series of short stories and hope to interest a publisher one day soon ...

My father was gregarious, good with his hands until late on in life when arthritis made dexterity difficult. He was a fixer: A fixer of things and people. Dad loved life and he wanted everyone to be happy. On Christmas day in 1973, the bar was open until 2pm and Mum was busy preparing lunch for our blossoming family, four of us, her and Dad, our new Sister in Law, my brother's girlfriend. As usual, she had cooked a very large bird. The table was set in the dining room of the 16th century pub, the tree was beautiful and the family were assembling for pre-dinner drinks.

Dad handed me a brown pay-packet and said, "I owe old Bert some money and I want you to take it round to his house before lunch." I ran round as fast I could. The man who I immediately recognised as 'old Bert' was not seasonally dressed when he opened the door. He was wearing his usual old, grey, long coat and dirty, old trousers. He left me standing at the open door and went inside, sat down at his table and drank soup from a bowl.  He was alone, there was no fire in the grate and no Christmas in the cold, damp house. I asked him where his wife Winnie was and he responded, "Back in Wesham." Wesham was the nearest psychiatric hospital.  I gave him the wage packet and went home. I cried all the way.

When I got back, Dad was still just seeing the last customers out before lunch. He asked me what was wrong and I blurted out what I had seen. Then he went into the kitchen and did something extraordinary.  He asked Mum not to serve lunch for half an hour, poured everyone a glass of wine and left. When he came back old Bert was with him, still in his dirty old clothes. He set a table for him and gave him a pint of beer.  That Christmas 'old Bert' shared our family meal and my father's love for me. 

My father told me many things but the most important things he taught me didn't need words.

You told me ...

You told me that leaves show their backs
when it is going to rain,
You told me that the Mackerel sky
brings high winds from the sea,
You told me in Australia,
water goes anti-clockwise down the drain,
You told me tales of India,
of maharajahs, Sikhs and Ghandi,
but you showed me everything I need to know.

You told me about Blackpool
and the value of fresh air,
You told me I should wash my feet
as often as my hands and face,
You told me there were times
when life would seem unfair,
You said some folk won't like me -
that's just the human race
but you showed me how to shrug it off and smile.

You told me that you loved my mother
from the moment that you met,
You told me that you loved her
until the day you died,
You told me that I must not live
a life filled with regret,
I loved that when you listened
to Debussy, that you cried,
I know that there were things you couldn't tell.

And I loved you for the things you didn't say as well.

Thanks for reading. Keep smiling. Adele

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Daddy's Girl - Things My Father Told Me

13:01:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , 1 comment

Play-mate, teacher, mentor, confidante and advisor, are just a few of the things my father was to me. I was ‘daddy’s girl’ and followed him everywhere. He was never cross or too busy. He was a pub manager and we lived on the premises so he was always around, somewhere between our living quarters and the cellar.

Pub cellars were fascinating places. White-washed caves smelling strongly of beer and rows of wooden barrels cradled on racks to stop them rolling. The stone-flagged floors usually had coils of rubber piping connecting the barrels to the pumps in the bars. They must have travelled upstairs somewhere, of course, but at this time in my childhood I was more concerned about keeping my balance on the edge of the racks, stepping between the pipes without standing on them and not getting sprayed with froth when I was watching Dad tap wooden pegs into the top of the barrels. There were puddles of beer to avoid as well and I always managed to get splashes on my socks. I would keep him company and look after the chalk he used to write on barrels until he said it was time for me to go and see what Mum was doing. During those early years of my childhood, he made cots for my dolls, took me to the park most days after school and told me made-up bedtime stories about a rabbit called Loppy Lugs. Sometimes he would let me have blackcurrant and lemonade with a cherry, in a champagne glass.

As I grew up, my father taught me many practical skills from looking after my decent fountain pen to changing a plug and basic car maintenance. He steered me away from the lads in the vaults.

       “You don’t want a boyfriend from this lot. They spend too much time in here drinking and playing snooker…”

Life was far from perfect. Looking back, I was a handful of a teenager after my mother died and I’ll always regret the times I let my dad down. None of it was intentional and probably not that bad by today’s standards but it’s enough to make me shudder with embarrassment and sadness. I won’t share the details.

       “Life is what you make it.” This was the philosophy my dad lived by. He said it a lot and I heard someone on television say it recently. It sent me right back to a crisis of confidence I was having in my mid-twenties. Dad was there to listen and help me through it. Everything turned out fine and yes, life is what you make it. He told me not to let things get to me, tomorrow is another day and it won’t be as bad in the morning. I’m still learning.

He encouraged me to write. He enjoyed reading my poetry and stories. I like to think he would have been pleased with my achievements, especially having a poem and short story included in an Illuminations feature a couple of years ago. He was proud of his Manchester roots and who he had become. He loved Blackpool promenade and was at his happiest running the pubs he had there, particularly during ‘The Lights’ and missed it a great deal when he had to give it up.

       Dad died when I was thirty. I’ve lived another thirty-plus years without him and I still feel his warmth, kindness and gentle influence that was the strength of our bond. I will always miss my father, my friend. He would have got on very well with my husband. Ironically, we met when he was playing snooker in the vault of what is now our local.


Father and daughter
                                                                   Giggles and laughter

Playing in the park
After tea ‘til dark

Catch me, Daddy!
    Watch me, Daddy!

Push my swing high
Up to the sky

Squeals on the slide
  Then run to hide

Behind the tree
     Daddy, find me!

Giggles and laughter
For ever after

Pamela Winning, 2014

 Thanks for reading, Pam xx






Sunday, 23 October 2016

Holidays and Other Disasters

Holidays. The word evokes in me a mixture of excitement and trepidation, in equal measure.  I have had so many disasters and near disasters that it’s a wonder I ever set foot outside the house, much less venture to foreign climes.  Add to the mix the unreliability of buses, taxis, trains and planes, not to mention other people, and it becomes clear that I really should be in my house knitting, making bread and sending out for supplies.

It all began with my honeymoon in Paris, where the new husband got food poisoning and I had to attempt to translate 'my husband has diarrhoea and is throwing up,' into passable French. Judging by the puzzled looks on the assistants' faces (yes, plural, several were called over to help/snigger) I failed miserably (managing only a rather self conscious, ‘mon mari’ to a suitable standard) and resorted to the one thing I hadn't wanted to do - a laughable charade of something being expelled from my bottom (fast), swiftly followed by holding my nose and wafting my other hand under it, before executing the well known mime for vomiting.  They gave me some huge, lozenge shaped 'horse' pills along with instructions I couldn't understand, and I scuttled back to our tiny, stinking box room in a back street pension.

At this point, I have to say, the smell wasn't just emanating from the new husband (or we might have been divorced now) but from a small cupboard in the corner of the room. Hidden in there, for reasons now incomprehensible to me, was a large, very ripe Camembert, wrapped loosely in a piece of brown paper.  To this day, we don't know whether the husband should have taken the medication by mouth or by 'other means' but, either way, he recovered and seems to have shown no ill effects over the past forty one years.

Then there was the year we set off for Turkey and ended up in a Travel Inn in Gatwick with daughter and hyper four year old grandson, asking where the pool was. There was a (fairly) simple explanation for this. At Manchester Airport we discovered we had missed the plane. By twenty four hours. As neither the husband nor I was sure whose fault this was we simply stared at each other for a few seconds before asking when the next flight was scheduled. We weren't expecting to be told it was four days hence. After a short, hissed discussion on our options we gritted our teeth, bought four more outbound tickets from Gatwick, scheduled for less than twelve hours later, and settled down to study the train timetable. It was at this point we realised the slow night train with numerous changes would pull in to Gatwick approximately four hours after we should have boarded the plane.

A taxi was eventually secured at great expense, and we set off for Gatwick, booking the Travel inn en route.  The following morning, after a particularly stressful conversation with the Turkish manager of our intended hotel (in which we hoped he'd understood we still wanted the rooms, and weren't cancelling the whole holiday) in yet another taxi, bound for yet another airport, we were slowed and finally stopped by a multi vehicle accident on the motorway.  As I alternately bit my nails and stared worriedly at my watch, the grandson sang 'The Wheels on the Bus' on a continuous loop and scanned the horizon for a swimming pool.  We eventually landed at our hotel, twenty four hours late, hot, sticky and tired, to be greeted by a bemused manager, trying to get his head around these strange English arrangements.

Lanzarote was the biggie. In fact, Lanzarote was so memorable for its catalogue of disasters that I subsequently documented the whole episode and distributed it to all participants. It was a treat for sixteen members of the family out of my dad's recently cashed retirement fund, and involved travelling to Lanzarote for a short Christmas break. What hadn't been on the agenda was a lost passport (involving a last minute 400 mile round dash); the realization that the sight of our Dominican son-in-law with a non-British passport would throw airport staff into a frenzy of searching and interrogation; a sudden attack of a mystery illness, a frantic rush though winding roads, accompanied by flashing blue lights, and an insurance scam resulting in the husband removing the drip from number two son's arm and making a break from the hospital whilst being chased by an irate band of doctors and nurses; a taxi dash (the taxi having been commandeered from the unfortunate couple who had booked it and were making their leisurely way towards it when the husband and son shot out of the hospital exit and jumped aboard, like something out of a James Bond film); and the consequent subterfuge and element of farce caused by three male members of the family possessing the same surname. The grand finale came as we left. Two serious looking hospital representatives were spotted at the reception desk, asking for a Mr Carrington (of which there were three).  We crept past and threw ourselves on the waiting bus, yelling at the stunned driver to, “GO GO GO!’ 

And finally, there were the holidays that never were….

Cuba, the expensive treat to ourselves in the year of our sixtieth birthdays.  The husband injured his back, skiing, two weeks before we were due to go.  We were planning to get insurance the day after the skiing holiday….. A lot of money to lose and a hard lesson learnt (although we did finally make it six months later); the cycling holiday with my two brothers and their wives (a present for one brother and wife), when, a few weeks before trip, the husband got something caught in the spokes of his wheel, went over the handlebars and broke his elbow so dramatically that it required two operations and a full year of rehabilitation.  We’ve rebooked for next year, when the husband will be confined to the house for a good month before we go; the weekend in Paris that was booked for the wrong dates, swearing done, losses cut and rebooked.  For the same wrong dates again.  We went to Windermere.

If I ever invite any you to accompany me on so much as a weekend away, I think you know the correct response?

                                    Turkey, when we finally got there…..

Not having time this week to write my own poem, I was searching around for something appropriate, when I came across the verses below.   The poem amused it as it reminded me of my childhood holidays, when my dad would take me, my mum and two brothers to stay with our cousins in Margate.  We kids were beyond ourselves with excitement and anticipation, and felt so sorry for my dad, having to drive us all that way and then drive back and go to work. Little did we realise that this was dad's holiday: a day at work, followed by a peaceful evening in front of the fire with pipe, slippers and total peace.

Holiday by Robert William Service
I love the cheery bustle
Of children round the house,
The tidy maids a-hustle,
The chatter of my spouse;
The laughter and the singing,
The joy on every face:
With frequent laughter ringing,
O, Home's a happy place!

Aye, Home's a bit of heaven;
I love it every day;
My line-up of eleven
Combine to make it gay;
Yet when in June they're leaving
For Sandport by the sea,
By rights I should be grieving,
But gosh! I just feel free.

I'm left with parting kisses,
The guardian of the house;
The romp, it's true, one misses,
I'm quiet as a mouse.
In carpet slippers stealing
From room to room alone
I get the strangest feeling
The place is all my own.

It seems to nestle near me,
It whispers in my ear;
My books and pictures cheer me,
Hearth never was so dear.
In peace profound I lap me,
I take no stock of time,
And from the dreams that hap me,
I make (like this) a rhyme.

Oh, I'm ashamed of saying
(And think it's mean of me),
That when the kids are staying
At Sandspot on the sea,
And I evoke them clearly
Disporting in the spray,
I love them still more dearly
Because . . . they're far away.

Thanks for reading    Jill

Saturday, 22 October 2016


Imagine the dilemma. You live (maybe alone, maybe with your perfect partner) on a tropical island paradise - for instance the one pictured below - where each day is perfect in every way that perfect can be. You enjoy the same unvarying sunny climate all year round, hot but never scorching during the day, always comfortably warm at night. There is the occasional refreshing rain shower but it never comes as a surprise. You listen to the music of the sea and the rustle of palm leaves. There are no pests or predators to spoil the idyll. You have a plentiful supply of food and drink and lots of time to think. There are no noisy neighbours, no deadlines to meet and there is absolutely no stress. You eat, swim, love, sleep and dream.... eat, swim, love, sleep and dream.... each day, every day...

So then - where do you go on holiday? You see the problem, gentle reader.

Without contraries, there is no progression, as William Blake recognised. A permanent state of perfect paradise might just begin to pall with no contrasts -  so you need a break every so often, if only to remind you just how lucky you are... and then, like I said - where do you go on holiday?

Worry not. Antithesis Travel has the solution to your dilemma.

As you have quiet and isolation and restfulness in your everyday life, Antithesis Travel will offer you noise and crowds and confusion - but still with a beach theme. They will dispatch you for two weeks in July to Blackpool. (Did I mention it's 1976?)

It'll be a riot of a holiday. Swap your hammock for a deckchair and your acres of empty white sand for approximately 9 square yards of beach (yep, not properly metric in 1976). Make hundreds of new friends (with kids, with mothers-in-law in tow) and swelter in the sun as you listen to the music of a thousand transistor radios and the laughter of spiralling seagulls. Eat hot dogs, candyfloss and ice-cream and drink warm Watneys Red Barrel. Bat away wasps. Paddle in the polluted waves (blue flag beach still 30 years in the future). Have a kiss-me-quick holiday romance. Get drunk. Sleep it off. Repeat.

It'll be mega, a fortnight of fun, the vivid memories of which will sustain you through those long perfect days back on your tropical island paradise.

Okay. And so to this week's poem. All my (currently limited) reserves of creativity have been exhausted in putting the above together, so I'm posting a favourite by W.B. Yeats.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, an noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
                                                                         W.B. Yeats (December 1890)

Thanks for reading. I wish you a week of stimulating contrasts, S ;-)

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Holidays - a change is as good...

I am definitely not a big holiday girl. It doesn't matter whether I get away once or twice a year to the same old, same old resort, just to drink sangria and bask in sun-shine.  Most of my childhood, my parents were too busy to take holidays for more than a few days.  We had a few, very pleasant short breaks but never more than a week. They had a pub to run, four of us to provide for and Summer was the busiest time of year, after Christmas, Easter and Spring Bank.

From being young, I had a list.  A list of places that I would like to see and things that I would like to do. It is over fifty years since I began the list and there are still things outstanding but for the most part, they have been seen, visited, attempted, mastered and ticked off.  I am very determined and hate to give up on anything, as anyone who knows me well, will confirm.

I have always achieved my goals, sometimes after a failed first attempt. Here are a few of the highlights so far.  I danced for my country in Switzerland at the age of ten and that same year danced in the Royal Albert Hall. I was the youngest Imperial Society Associate at 16 and began teaching dance the same year. I sang to a Steinway piano at the Glasgow School of Dramatic Art and Music aged 45 and won a photographic competition the same year. I swan with dolphins in Florida in 1997 and dropped 26 floors on the Terror Tower.  I have had close encounters with Red squirrels, badgers and have flown a Harris Hawk and a Barn owl.

I took my children to South Africa to see the big five and shook hands with a Zulu warrior, fulfilling a promise to my cousin made when I was 13. I took them to the Valley of The Kings, Karnack and Luxor - a promise I made to myself at eleven. I took them to Pompeii - another promise from my own school days.  I took them to see the Roman City of Ephesus - although this was really a lucky accident. I sailed round the Canaries in an ocean-going yacht, I flew over the Alps, I saw Courtney Pine perform live and I threw my own pottery. I gained a degree in English at 50, had a poem carved into a stone memorial in 2014. I performed in operetta on real theatre stage for the first time the same year.

Earlier this year I went to Crete for the first time and fulfilled one of the last biggies on the list.  The Palace at Knossos was everything that I had hoped it would be, from the description in Homer's Odyssey. The trip was the ultimate in wish-fulfilment and yet it had a depressive effect.  The list is almost completed.  There may be no more firsts to aim for.  I am not saying that there are no places left to go or things to accomplish. I have just done most of what I set out to do. The trouble is the highs are so great that the times in between seem a little low. 

Oh but then again, there is still India (a promise that I made to my father) and The Bolshoi to visit, La Scala in Milan, (not to sing - just to see) and I hope to learn to play an instrument some day, perhaps sing in a band. I might try to get a painting hung in the Royal Academy or fly a light aircraft.  I still haven't been to Cornwall or been up in helicopter - so watch this space. And like all writers there are still books I want to have published. Like I said at the beginning, I am not much of a holiday person but just, "to live would be a really big adventure". JM Barrie. Peter Pan.

I must say that though - I am sure the onset of this season is why holidays were invented...

Summer’s End  

Season of drips and sodden wetness, 
as sudden bursts cloud over
seeping down our trench coat necks
and torrents wash from
overflowing gutter pipes.

Wipers beat a frantic rhythm,
swishing to swipe clear
cascading curtains that blur
the blinded dashers,  
umbrellas turned to face the wind.

There is persistent drumming
on the hatchback roof  
but on the high street,
a beacon beckons,
selling sunshine and blue skies.

Windows offer Canarias,
or Caribbean cruises,
as super-moon high-tides
smash and swamp the promenade,
retreating with a foaming swill.

Next day the wind is gone,
the sky is clear, the soft sun shines
and switched off chlorophyl
displays deep red hues of jasmine
left clinging to the garden fence.

Ah, we are in England
now that Autumn’s here.
Conkers shine in leaf falls,
fire smokes over garden walls,
berries burst to ripe.

And before we go to sleep
we store away for Winter’s keep,
shake out the struggle rugs
and snuggle up to ear-mark
kinder shores in glossy brochures.

Happy Holiday Planning Season everyone.  Thanks for reading.  Adele

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Let's Take Off in a Motor Home

The summer holidays of my childhood seemed to last forever and it was always warm and sunny. Day after day playing on Blackpool sands wearing cool, cotton dresses or shorts and blouses, always with Woolworth’s plastic sandals that rubbed blisters on my bare feet. This was long before the comfortable ‘jelly shoes’ my children wore.

As a family, we didn’t go away on holiday very much. When we moved to live in Blackpool, everything was here literally on our doorstep. My father had taken a pub on South Promenade. My sister and I would be taken across four lanes of traffic and the tramlines, usually by Auntie Kathy who looked after us. It was the mid-1960s and Blackpool was packed with holiday makers. We would have to search for a space on the beach, away from the donkeys. I’m happy to have such fond memories to look back on.

These days, my holiday expectations are very different.

I’m not the only person of a certain age dreaming of taking off in a decent sized motor home for as long as a chosen trip takes. The first part of my journey would be to Wales, to revisit the glorious Pembrokeshire coast where my husband and I spent many wonderful holidays with our children.  Family members owned a static caravan on an exclusive cliff-top site and we were privileged to be offered to stay there every summer. We explored every sea-side, paddled in the clear, clean water, stuck paper flags in sand pies and had picnics and ice-creams in our beach tent. We trekked parts of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, visited castles and places of interest, but most of all, we relaxed in fresh air, slept well and came home refreshed and ready to start the new school year, complete with freckles and sun-kissed hair. Our children are parents themselves now and would love to make the same memories with their offspring. I hope they do.

The second part of my journey would be to sail from Fishguard to Rosslare and travel the coast to County Cork, kiss the Blarney Stone and visit Cork City. I would take time to see as much of Ireland as possible, the beauty of the west, and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the Cliffs of Moher. I’d taste the briny air on the coast and march my wellington boots through lush, green fields inland.  I’d travel to the north-west then come back to Galway and drive across the country to the bustling, lively Temple Bar area in Dublin where I would hope to hear the singing of Irish songs filling the streets from the busy pubs and have dinner at Gallagher’s Boxty House. From Dublin, I would travel into Northern Ireland. No tour would be complete without a trip to see Giant’s Causeway. I would visit Belfast and leave flowers at George Best’s resting place.

The third part of my journey would be to take the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer then a drive up the Ayrshire coast to see Ailsa Craig, the granite isle, majestic in the sunshine. From here, I would travel east into my favoured Dumfries & Galloway to enjoy some quiet time and watch the red kites flying over the forest as the sun sinks into the Solway Firth. I’d stay a long time here before heading home.

This is a fantasy holiday, but it is do-able, sometime in the future when I have retired, (well, that should have already happened but someone moved the goal posts), or if I win the lottery or other such wind-fall.  And I haven’t got a motor home yet, either.

We’ve recently returned home after a restful holiday in Dumfries & Galloway, where our much visited chosen location is quite hidden away, miles from anywhere with no wifi and a phone signal a ten minute walk up the lane. We’ll be there again in a few weeks, I can’t wait.

I was a young teenager in 1968. Twiggy was my idol. I wanted high heels in bright colours, crocheted mini dresses and some lipstick. I wanted to wear a cow-bell round my neck like the young people on the promenade. I still wanted to play out on the beach. My poem, written a few years ago, captures that summer. By the way, I wasn’t allowed a cow-bell.
This Was My Blackpool In ’68.
Taking a tram from North Pier to Starr Gate.
A summer of fun and staying up late.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.
Anne, Auntie Kath and me, all holding hands
Crossing the Prom to get on to the sands
Where the grumpy deck-chair man always stands.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.
We were young ladies with panache and style,
Playing the penny arcades for a while,
Frittering our spends on the Golden Mile.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.
Spinning the Waltzers three times in a row.
Make it go faster, we don’t like it slow,
And then the man said, “That’s it, off you go!”
This was my Blackpool in ’68.
Out to a summer show, straight after tea.
Engelbert tonight at the ABC,
A back-stage delight for my mum and me.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.
Got to get ready, there’s no time to lose!
My trendiest outfit is what I will choose…
A pink mini dress with bright orange shoes.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.
A time of peace, love and Flower Power,
Charlie Cairoli and Blackpool Tower,
Seaside and sunshine for hour after hour.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.
Pamela Winning,   2013
Thanks for reading, Pam 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Seagull - The Final Act Of Defiance

A couple of years ago I got up one morning to find a huge (and I mean, huge - it was the size of a football) baby seagull tottering about in our garden.  As I opened the back door it stopped, stared at me defiantly, then carried on making its precarious way across the decking.  I realised it must have slid down our roof, from the nest that we suspected had been covertly constructed by its mum and dad earlier that year.
The parents were conspicuous in their absence. Perhaps this big fat feathered ball had been a big disappointment to them. Maybe they'd been expecting a cute little bundle that would be the envy of their seagull neighbours. Instead, to their horror, they had spawned this monstrosity that never slept, took up half the nest every night and screeched loudly at any other wildlife that ventured near their rooftop abode.
Much as I dislike the seagull population in general (living as we do, just off Costa del Gull in Blackpool) I was slightly worried about this baby's ability to survive in a garden brimming with potential disaster: wandering cats, rough grandchildren, the notorious North West gales and a husband who had been conducting a vociferous campaign against these 'flying vermin' since we'd arrived in Blackpool in 1976, I didn't relish the thought of seeing Baby Cyril (as we Christened him) flying past my window, not through his own efforts but from a particularly harsh gust of wind, the actions of an over enthusiastic grandchild, or on the end of a size nine boot.
We were soon to discover that these particular worries were completely unfounded.  As my husband wandered into the garden to hang out the washing, one eye warily on Cyril, who, obviously sensing danger, was now cowering the other side of a low wall, there was a loud screech and a huge gull swooped down from the roof and dive bombed Dave's head. Ducking, Dave frantically waved his arms in the air and swore loudly. I stayed behind the window and tried to stifle my laughter. As he straightened up there was another almighty screech and a second gull swooped from the opposite direction, skilfully crossing the path of his mate and skimming the top of Dave's head. It seemed, at some cost to Dave's scalp, Cyril's parents had had a guilty change of heart.
Admitting defeat, the husband and the washing basket returned to the safety of the kitchen. Twice more that morning Dave attempted the same task. Each time he returned with the unhung washing, swearing and rubbing at his head. Eventually, after a rapid risk assessment, and clad in protective hat and gloves, I grabbed the washing basket, slowly opened the back door and crept across the patio. Cyril eyed me with disdain and flopped back casually on the grass.
Furtively glancing up at the roof I hung the first item of washing. Nothing. I hung the second. Not a screech, nor a flapping of wings. Triumphantly, I returned to the kitchen, mission completed.  We decided the swooping gulls had changed their minds. Cyril was to be abandoned after all, mum and dad would return to their pre-baby days and live happily ever after.
As dusk approached Dave ventured out to bring in the washing. Frantic screeching signalled a return of the earlier Battle of Britain, seagull style.  An executive decision is made. The washing will remain on the line until morning, by which time a whole new strategy will be have been hatched (no pun intended).
The next few days were a battle of wits: man versus bird. Cyril seemed to gain confidence with each attack by his doting and protective parents. They brought food and deposited it in that fat, greedy, ever open mouth, they swooped and screeched as Dave left the safety of the house, but pointedly ignored all other humans. Rio and I sat in the summerhouse concocting reasons to phone granddad and get to him to cross the garden. For entertainment, this was better than any episode of 'You've been Framed.'
Once, Dave appeared swinging a cricket bat above his head, which had I not been aware of my husband's dire cricketing record would have been confiscated in the name of cruelty to animals.  I could swear the seagulls were laughing that day as they flew within centimetres of the flailing bat before doing a swift U-turn and returning to their rooftop home . Cyril looked on from his adopted perch on the summerhouse decking and made a few desperate attempts to fly off it, flapping his wings furiously before plummeting to the ground and scrabbling his way back up the steps to try again, like a young swimmer learning to dive.  Dave had been expressively forbidden to touch Cyril. I feared I was becoming quite attached to the bird's blundering baby qualities.
One morning, about a week after his first sighting, I looked outside as I boiled the kettle. There was no sign of Cyril, no gaping beak, no pathetic flapping wings, no weak warblings. The washing was hanging on the line from the night before, where we'd left it. I tiptoed into the garden, casting my eyes around for the big fluffy ball I'd become quite fond of.
On the lawn, a few soft, tawny feathers. I wiped away a tear, and began to gather up the washing. Halfway down the front of Dave's best shirt was the large, unmistakeable deposit from a seagull that had obviously over indulged in chips and bread, with ice cream for dessert.  I couldn't help grinning.
The final act of defiance. Seagulls 1, Dave 0.

The Greedy Gull - Red Snapper Photography

Seagull by Brian McCabe

We are the dawn marauders.
We prey on pizza. We kill kebabs.
We mug thrushes for bread crusts
with a snap of our big bent beaks.
We drum the worms from the ground
with the stamp of our wide webbed feet.
We spread out, cover the area -
like cops looking for the body
of a murdered fish-supper.
Here we go with our hooligan yells
loud with gluttony, sharp with starvation.
Here we go bungee-jumping on the wind,
charging from the cold sea of our birth.
This is invasion. This is occupation.
Our flags are black, white and grey.
Our wing-stripes are our rank.
No sun can match the brazen
colour of our mad yellow eyes.
We are the seagulls.
We are the people.
Thanks for reading, Jill

Saturday, 15 October 2016


What would your Saturday Blogger like to see put into Room 101?

I could write you a list that would be longer than my Bucket List or my Christmas List, but one item that would definitely be on there is Inspirational Texts.

Does anyone own up to remembering Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, a novella of self-improvement from the early 1970s by Richard Bach? I've never read it, but apparently millions of seagullible people did (mostly Americans, as it happens). It stuck around in the New York Times best-seller list for years and was made into a movie with voice-over by Richard Harris and a soundtrack by Neil Diamond. It was a fable about a seagull who wanted to find more in life than just scrabbling for food and set out on a quest to achieve self-perfection i.e. trying to be the best seagull that he could be. Yeah, okay.

I wouldn't want to put seagulls into Room 101, however. They are beautiful and resourceful creatures. Blackpool abounds in them and this week's short poem is in celebration of their iconic place in the town's skies (and promenade, squares, car-parks, roof-tops, gardens, rubbish bins....). Every home should have one.

Prototype DeLorean (and ex-Velociraptor)
It's A Beautiful Day
Blackpool blue,
nuanced hue,
seaside sunlight pinballed in ozone
to sparkling azure,
and flecked with a dazzle
of white-bellied gulls;
filled with the laughter of these locals
as they wing it for crazy joy
on mid-morning thermals.
It's a beautiful day.

Thanks for reading. To have a good week, "Begin by knowing that you have already arrived." S ;-)

Friday, 14 October 2016


Well. there is no such bird as a 'seagull', but is a name that is given to all sorts of gulls and covers (for us in Europe),14 different varieties. Most commonly we are referring to Herring gulls in this part of the country. Other well known species include Great Black Backed gulls, Lesser Black Backed gulls, Black Headed gulls and Kittiwakes. All these we've heard of. However the coast of Britain welcomes more unusual varieties (as testified by the RSPB observers) such as the Common gull (not so common) the Mediterranean gull (I've seen one of these at Heysham), Iceland gull, Little gull, Glaucous name a few. These visitors are often difficult to spot as they mingle with our commoner gulls.

So not all gulls get a bad press. The accounts of gulls becoming predatory are true but really of man's making . Let me stand up for the gull for a moment.  British waters have become depleted of fish, either through over fishing in the past  or due to global warming. Fishing fleets no longer enter ports joyfully discarding fish offal behind them (search your memories and picture this scene). Remember the gulls diving into the sea behind the boats? Secondly, local rubbish tips are netted preventing gulls from scavenging in the refuse. Thirdly, gulls always followed manuring and ploughing of fields, but so may farmers have resorted to chemical fertilisers and perhaps this too has a detrimental affect on gull feeding habits. Lastly I know that traditional nesting places (are they called 'gulleries'?) on moorland of the fells have been raided, eggs destroyed, gulls chased off to prevent predation of young grouse. So the protected gull is starving.

Never in my young days did I see a gull 'dancing' on the grass to get worms to rise. No. This is a more recent attempt to feed. It is a common sight today and the young have learned the technique from their parents...along with other feeding raiding bins, begging for food, stealing food. For like the urban fox the gull has had to adapt in order to survive.

Summer 2015 I had a pair of herring gulls nested by my chimney and they successfully raised one chick (I found the other infertile egg on my lawn). It was a dreadfully wet summer and the very young chick would take shelter beneath my solar panels (good thinking) . The parents were very attentive and devoted. 'Henry ' (my name for the chick) screeched continually with that raucous sort of mewing sound that drives us crazy...let alone it's parents. Then he discovered that the glass roof of my conservatory made a great place to launch up into the air on practice flights , landing very heavily each time. Then of course it  was like a runway and he'd run full pelt and try to fly. Great to see his large webbed feet running like yellow flippers across the glass. Not so funny however when a parent bird regurgitated a meal for the said chick!

When I lived in Buckie we had a clifftop house and three years after we moved in we were woken at dawn (early that far north in the summer) by a most persistent tap, tap, tapping on the front upper window. This was a herring gull. Every morning we would be wakened . No reason . The windows didn't open in a way that he'd maybe been fed at one time. No reason. But he was determined. How to put him off. Well, I dressed a mannequin and put it in the bay luck. I tried to persuade the cat to sit on the luck. Eventually I went to the Esso garage and got some 'tiger's eyes posters and struck these up...that worked!

For you see , the fishermen believe that gulls are dead sailors returned. So maybe a long forgotten fisherman had returned home?

With that in mind I've quickly penned a piece relating to the house we lived in and some of the history of it that we learned.  Be patient as it was the first draft without alterations and may need some tweaking !

The Smiths Of Craigbo

Emigrated to New Zealand in 1921.
Moved away ..lock,stock and barrel
As the herring fishing was done
A slump. The fish they didn't run.
My wife had died within the house,
Falling off a ladder in the loft.
My life had fallen through,
What else was I to do ?

So I packed my life, my children
Into my trusty boat,
And I sailed to far away seas
In hope my pains might ease.
I, John "Latin" Smith, skipper.
With elder sons as crew.
Our lives had fallen through.
What else were we to do ?

I left behind my kinfolk,
All I'd ever known.
Childhood friends and family.
To venture to the unknown.
I left behind her spirit
To haunt the house we'd built.
My life had fallen through.
What else was I to do ?

Years passed in New Zealand.
I raised our family well.
Made a life in a new land
And kept my promise to you.
On my death I soared the oceans,
Signalled at the window that I knew.
Our life together had fallen through,
But I've come home for you.....

     Thanks for reading...Kath.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Seagulls - who are you calling stupid?

I have lived by the sea for almost the whole of my life.  I would like to say that I am immune to seagulls but I would be lying. They are so annoying.  They wake me up - shouting and bickering most mornings. I hate them when they sit on my chimney pot and screech.

Sea gulls come out of nowhere every time I put a few crumbs out for my garden birds. They can't be so hungry all the time.  They are greedy opportunists. I have seen them mob a heron who drifted into the wrong fly zone.  I have witnessed them stealing chips from an elderly man who was minding his own lunch on the prom.  I think I most hate them when stupid people throw food in packets onto the pavement and seagulls fly down to make even more mess. Why people don't respect our town and use a dustbin is beyond my comprehension.

I think the thing that really winds me up is that these flying shit-bombers always manage to use my lovely white bedding as target practice when it is hung on the line to dry.  I resent the double-whammy of losing a great days 'drying weather' and having to start again. I would like to think that is accidental and give seagulls a break. Unfortunately for me, their behaviour is not unplanned or in any way 'stupidly bird'.  Seagulls are among the most intelligent species on the planet. They learn, remember and even pass on behaviours, such as stamping their feet in a group to imitate rainfall and encourage earthworms to surface. A seagull's intelligence is clearly demonstrated by a range of different feeding behaviours, such as dropping hard-shelled molluscs onto rocks to break the shells open so that they can eat them.   They follow ploughs in fields where they know upturned grubs and other food sources will be plentiful.

Seagulls are attentive and caring parents. The male and female pair for life and they take turns incubating the eggs, and feeding and protecting the chicks. Young gulls form nursery flocks where they will play and learn vital skills for adulthood. Nursery flocks are watched over by a few adult males and these flocks will remain together until the birds are old enough to breed. And boy - do they breed. They attack too - especially if you go near their nest or chicks.

Gulls also have a complex and highly developed repertoire for communication which includes a range of vocalisations and body movements. Many seagulls have learned to conserve energy by hovering over bridges in order to absorb raising heat from paved roadways. What else would you expect from the descendants of the velociraptor?

Alfred Hitchcock's film, The Birds was probably my first 'horror genre movie' experience that didn't involve someone with sharp incisors biting the neck of a beautiful woman.  Seeing a seagull attack Tippi Hebron was shocking enough but the ' bird in the sky view' of the gulls amassing in preparation for an attack the seaside town was ground-breaking. My Grandmother had a caged budgerigar called Billy and I never looked at him in the same way after that movie. Being mobbed by a flock of seagulls would have to go down as my worst nightmare.  From what I know of seagulls, it is perhaps only a matter of time until they organise...

Seaside Rendezvous
Starlings have been meeting
for an Autumnal convention,
in the seaside town of Blackpool
for over twenty years.
Congregating in their thousands
in the evenings, as the sun sets,
their exquisite murmuration
never fails to draw a crowd.

Today’s events were different:
Dangerous and sinister.
The first attack seemed innocent.
It took us by surprise.
A child was eating candyfloss
while walking on the promenade.
Her parents were astonished:
they were walking either side.  

About an hour later, a copter 
heading for a gas rig,
flew into a flock of seagulls
and crashed into Morecambe Bay.
The lifeboat sent to rescue them
was mobbed by over fifty,   
the crew, both shocked and bloodied
say gulls were organised today.

People on the Blackpool Tower,
safe and undercover,
saw birds, converging
just above the golden sand.
Suddenly they launched themselves,
wave on wave at taxi cabs,
went crashing into windows
at passengers on trams.

Worst hit were those travelling
in open, horse-drawn carriages,
screaming as the seagulls,
scratched and bit their fending arms.
Then circling the structure,
they caused chaos on the piers,
striking at the drinkers in the
The Merry England Bar. 
Some swooped into MacDonald’s
and chased the kids with Happy Meals,
They didn’t steal their dinners,
they just pecked out all their eyes.
The Hounds Hill was a blood bath,
awash with screaming shoppers,
until someone in a clown suit,
jumped out and took them by surprise.

He was holding a Kalashnikov,
firing bullets everywhere.
Seagulls fell like ninepins
as the crazy gunman sprayed.
The air was filled with sirens
but the rat-tat-tat continued,
all day and in the moonlight  
until no living bird remained.
It is the last day of October:
We enjoy a little horror here
and crazy clowns are seasonal.
They entertain the kids.
I propose a little spin on this:
yes innocents have died today
but the seagulls were defeated
and by keeping Blackpool tidy
we can all do our bit.   

Please help to keep Blackpool tidy and perhaps the seagulls will go somewhere else!
Thanks for reading.   Adele