Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cold days remembered #2

There have been a great many cold days in my life and none of them pleasant!
It’s usually the case that anyone complaining about being too hot in the middle of summer gets a sympathetic understanding, but say that you are too cold, even when it’s freezing the tits off a witch, and you are automatically labelled with the old Yorkshire word, NESH! You are told that cold weather is healthy and good for you. Even my old granny didn’t have much time for being cold. She would say, “Run about a bit; you’ll soon be warm!”
I remember once, not so long ago that I spent one of the most miserable nights of my life. It was early March and I was going from Newark to York on my boat, Dixie via the rivers Trent and Ouse. It was a weekday and I didn’t have my usual crew to help me. They were going to meet me later but it wasn’t a difficult navigation as there were very few locks which were, at the time, fully manned.
I set off from Newark around 2pm and stayed overnight at Torksey, on the River Trent. There was a decent pub there; I knew it well and I spent an enjoyable evening with friends I had met.
The next morning was an idle time as I had to wait for the flood tide before leaving. There would be plenty of time to get to Trent Falls where the river joins the Ouse to form the Humber Estuary. There were safe anchorages there and I would spend the night snug in my bunk. I went to the local shop and stocked up with fresh milk and some tea-bags. I set off down the river as soon as the flood-tide arrived.
It was fine until I was about ten miles from Trent Falls when a strong wind got up. The temperature dropped to almost zero and I was making slow progress through the heavy swell. The river was ebbing sluggishly and the level was dropping.
As I lost quite a bit of time, I realised that the ebb was just about at the lowest and the river at this point, has huge shoals and sandbanks to negotiate. I decided to find a small channel out of the way of large ocean-going coasters and drop anchor for the night. It was no big deal; I’d done it several times before. I had food, a couple of books, a bottle of scotch and plenty of tea and coffee.
The darkness came and the boat was getting decidedly cold now. I had a small space heater that would warm the cabin up a bit so I switched it on and was glad of the warmth it gave out. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, it packed up and would not start again. I was stuck on a boat in the most inhospitable stretch of the river and it was now pitch-black. I lit the gas on the stove to get some warmth and made myself a hot drink; then more problems!
Like a bloody idiot, I had forgotten to get a new propane gas cylinder before I set off and the flame on the stove was getting lower and lower. The gas geyser went out; ergo no more hot drinks!
I couldn’t leave the cabin lights on as I didn’t want to run the batteries down. I had to leave some navigation lights on, naturally, as maritime law required. As the night wore on, I became colder and colder. The idea of undressing for bed was out of the question; I sat and shivered using the minimum of light just to read with.
Eventually, I must have dozed off because I was suddenly aware of a violent rocking motion. I opened the curtains and saw the loom of a coaster chugging up-river on the first of the flood. The tide had turned and it was 6am! It was not yet dawn but I now had enough water under my keel to move out.
I soon had the engines running and up-anchored. I got into the main channel of the river and was pushing the tide up to Trent Falls. Once round the headland I was in the Ouse and with the flood heading for Goole. I passed through Victoria Lock into Goole Docks and moored up. There was a sort of transport café adjacent to the docks that was used by truckers and ships’ crews. I went in and was greeted by a blast of warm air; I was still so very cold after the early morning run up the Ouse with no heating on board. I sat down to a goodly cholesterol-laden breakfast of bacon, egg, black pudding, tomatoes and fried bread together with a pint mug of steaming hot tea.
I felt decidedly better for it!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cold days remembered #1

I remember one January when Iris and I were returning from a club venue in Rotherham that the windscreen shattered. It was around midnight, freezing cold and we were about twenty miles away from home! There was nothing for it but to knock out the shattered glass in order that I could see to drive. I had the heater on full blast but it was fighting a losing battle with the inclement weather conditions. Halfway back home, it started to snow; that was all we needed! I had to keep stopping to clean my specs and Iris was turning into a snowman before my very eyes. She was wearing a fur coat and the snow was plastering itself on it. Eventually we reached home and we tumbled out of the car into the house.
I have explained before that the house was an old one with a coal fire in the living room. Fortunately, there were a few embers still glowing and a shovelful of coal soon had it burning up again. I don’t care what anybody says; even the sight of a cheerful blazing fire makes you feel a damned sight warmer than any amount of central heating!
Iris did what all women do in these circumstances; she put the kettle on and made a cup of tea. God! I think that it was the warmest, tastiest, most welcome cuppa I ever had in my life! Iris was quick to dash upstairs and switch on the electric blanket. We were both soaked to the skin and we huddled round the fire in dressing gowns to get warm again. Wet clothing was draped on a clothes-horse and the steam was soon rising from them. I wonder how many people use those things these days?
Although we were soon snug in bed for the night, the next morning found me clearing snow from my car seats and taking it to have a new windscreen fitted. I drove to work later that day sitting on a plastic cover and immediately left the car in a corner of a workshop to be dried out using an industrial heater/blower.
Funnily enough, in all the years I have been driving, I have only had a windscreen shatter three times. Once as I have just described, once when some lefty yobbo threw a brick through it and once after a road had been recently repaired.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cold days coming

Last November, I commented that there were two periods in the year that were, to me, most depressing. One of them is the run-up towards Yuletide and the other is just after the New Year.
Yule is now a distant memory and the sluggish progress towards Spring has just started. All we have to look forward to right now is snow, gales, frost, icy roads and a continuation of bloody cold weather!
I hate the cold weather more than anything else. I find it so very disagreeable to perform the simplest of tasks in the cold outdoors. Checking tyres on a windswept garage forecourt, going from store to store on a shopping expedition and coming out of the shower into a freezing-cold bathroom!
Another thing that bugs me is my having to wait for what seems like an interminable length of time before the car heater kicks in to dispel the mist on the windscreen and the shivers down my back!
I once saw a man in freezing weather washing his car down outside his house. Personally, I would firmly recommend that people like him should be certified!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


The other morning, I woke up to find that my car had been broken into. The passenger side window had been smashed and my radio/CD player removed.
On contacting the local police, I was told that there had been a number of thefts of radios of my model as they contained a chip that could be used to obtain free television programmes. They gave me a crime incident number for me to pass on to my insurance company. As far as they were concerned, that was the end of the matter!
The window was replaced within 24 hours and it was pointed out to me that the window surround had been severely damaged by a bar or large screwdriver. After fitting a new window, it was found that the electric mechanism was jammed! I also discovered that two pairs of specs had been taken from the glove compartment and deliberately smashed. This act of sheer vandalism is costing my insurers quite a lot. Not only does it concern the replacement of a radio and window but the bodywork repairs are also necessary. It also means that I may be without transport for a couple of days. Although my insurers were very helpful and reimbursed me for the cost of the specs and authorised a garage to replace the damaged parts, it was still a bloody inconvenience!
The new radio/CD player is brilliant. It can do everything but talk back to me. However, I’ll have to browse through an inch-thick manual even to understand half the functions. A better idea would to let my ten-year old grandson loose with it. He would sort it in two minutes flat!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My poetry

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have written a great many poems to Iris. I am still writing them even though I know that she will never read them. It’s a way of coming to terms with my loss. Every time I write a verse, she seems so very close to me.
It is said that true poetry is the mirror of the soul. It reflects one’s dreams; one’s wishes. It releases thoughts that would otherwise be hidden. It comforts and it sooths the mind.
Rarely, and I mean very rarely, I write poetry about someone else. This has happened only a couple of times since Iris died. On both these occasions, I was writing about someone I knew and liked. There was no affair; it was just a happy friendship. Recently, I have been given great comfort by someone who has become a very close friend. I mentioned her in a previous posting.
I dedicate this poem to her:

To The Fair Witch Of Wicca

She is the mistress of your mind
And takes you through forgotten years.
She weaves her spell and you will find
A refuge from your hidden fears.

She stares into the crystal ball
And sees into the shadows there.
Her prophecies are there for all
And spurn her warnings if you dare!

Who is she then, this wondrous one
Who probes into your secret ways?
A welcome witch, or charlatan
Who conjures up your yesterdays?

She is no hag nor devil’s bane,
A whiter witch one could not see
But she controls all things arcane,
This fairest beauty; Blesséd be!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Something has happened!

About three months ago, I was introduced to a very attractive lady who claimed to be a witch. Yes, a real live witch; although she is a white witch and a follower of the Wiccan faith. In order to preserve her privacy, I shall refer to her as ‘R’.
She began to explain to me the basics of Wicca and, after she gave me a Tarot reading, said that I was deeply troubled but would find an inner peace.
I had never been one for any religion before but she discovered my lasting grief over Iris and said that there was no need to mourn her as she was with me already and always had been.
This I found so very hard to swallow but she said she would prove it to me. She gave me a piece of quartz crystal a candle and a plaited ribbon. It was a spell.
‘R’ has been practising witchcraft since her early teens. She explained to me that the weaving of the silken ribbons was an age-old ritual, hence ‘weaving a spell’!
She told me to place the crystal and the ribbons beside the photograph of Iris and light the candle for one hour each day at the same time for seven days. She gave me further instructions what to do and these, I followed to the letter. She told me that ‘Things would start to happen.’ I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, if anything, but I gave it a whirl.
Astonishingly, things HAVE started to happen. I am beginning to shake off my morbid obsession of grief and I now feel a warmth I have never felt in a very long time. Iris is still in my thoughts but I don’t feel as sad as I did before when thinking about her. This was most noticeable on her birthday a couple of days ago. Normally, I would sit and brood over her death and live through the agony of losing her. This time, I was remembering not just the sadness but the good times and the pleasures we had shared.

At Yuletide, ‘R’ gave me a silver pentagram pendant that I have worn ever since she gave it to me. It’s very strange but it has become part of me. I don’t yet fully understand the Wiccan cult but I intend to learn a lot more about it. This is so very unlike me indeed; I have always eschewed any religious doctrine as anyone who knows me will confirm. However, Wicca predates many religions and has its roots in both Norse and Greek history. ‘R’ is one of the very few people I know who shows understanding as to how I feel about Iris. She has taught me that my grief is unnecessary as she is very close to me even now. I am, indeed, very grateful for her help and understanding.
Blesséd be!

Monday, January 15, 2007


IRIS January 15th

Remembering you on your birthday. You are still forever young!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Just a quickie...

Have you ever?
Recently, in the Daily Telegraph, readers have been writing in suggesting all sorts of exclusive societies. Examples are: “The Society For People Who Have Never Seen The Sound Of Music” or, “The Society For People Who Have Never Been To A Football Match” etc.
I have been reading several of these letters and I think I can qualify for membership of quite a few of these bizarre clubs.
I have never seen The Sound Of Music, The Jolson Story. Doctor Jivago, Gone With the Wind, Star Wars or Titanic!
As for television, I have never watched Eastenders, Big Brother, I’m A Celebrity, Home and Away, Neighbours, Crossroads, Only Fools And Horses or Top Of The Pops!

I have never owned a record, CD or DVD of any pop music nor have I ever been to a disco or a pop rave. I have never worn jeans, a CND badge, dyed my hair or had a tattoo.
How many of you out there would care to join my club?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2006... Thank God it's gone!

2006 was not the happiest year in my life. Several things occurred that really loused it up for me.
I was attacked and vilified in print and on the Internet for no other reason than jealousy and I had to resort to legal action to stop it.
I lost a very old friend through cancer. I had known him and his family for over 40 years. I miss him a lot. I lost another friend, much younger this time, due to her leaving the country for a new life abroad. Fortunately, in this case, we still keep in touch regularly and I’m pleased to know she is very happy and settled in her new environment.
I had a few family problems to deal with that were serious and which caused quite a lot of worry. Eventually, though, things worked out ok.
2006 did have its up-side, however. I shook off someone who had been a constant source of irritation to me for some time. I patched up a few differences with a friend with whom I was having a sort of love-hate association. I’m pleased about that because she has always been a little bit special to me. She too, is now much happier than she has been before.
Towards the end of the year, I was very upset to find that someone I trusted and respected appeared to have feet of clay. This is a very private matter and I shall not dwell on it.
Right now, I’m looking forward to a much different picture. I have discovered a new way of life that I intend to explore to the full and already, I am beginning to feel the effects of this.
I am trying to reconcile myself to someone with whom I had a recent disagreement and I hope that I can succeed in this venture. If the lady is as forgiving as she is beautiful, I should be halfway there!
For 2007, it’s a case of continuing the story of Iris. There is quite a fund of articles in the pipeline that I hope will interest and amuse you. At the moment, I’m working on a three-part article about a trip to Paris we enjoyed in the Spring of 1974.
Please keep your comments rolling in. I hope to be able to replace the tag-box in the near future if a certain young lady will be kind enough to sort it for me! (HINT!)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Looking back...

Thumbing through my 1973 diary, I found that thirty-odd years later, one or two things had eluded my memory.
Why did I go to
Doncaster on March 17th at 10am?
What was the attraction of visiting an
Avon cosmetics display in June?
Who or what was Popcorn? (August 15th) Possibly a group that was appearing at one of my club bookings, I dunno!
And who the hell was Ingrid? I found her name in the back of the diary on the phone nos page.
I rely heavily on old diaries to record events in my blog. Although I can recall the salient points of our life together, I find it very helpful to be able to add specific times and details to these events. I have kept a diary for most of my life and I still have many of them going back to the mid Fifties.
Most of the entries I can remember; especially the traumatic early days of 1973 when I realised I was in love with Iris and couldn’t do anything about it. Fortunately, that state of events didn’t last long.(Read my early blogs for January 2006.)

1974, however, was entirely different. By now, we were living as man and wife half the time; a far cry from the uncertainty of a year ago.
January 1974 saw happier times than January 1973 and February marked our first anniversary.
April 1974 saw us in
Paris for the Easter weekend. I shall be writing about that in due course.
May 1974 was when my mother discovered our secret. (See blog May 2006.)
July 1974 saw us ‘married’ at
Gretna. (See blog July 2006)

It was a year since we had first started our relationship and from that shaky beginning, grew a bond that lasted until her death. We thought that nothing could ever spoil our love for each other and indeed, nothing ever did.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy New Year 1974!

For the past few years, I’d had a standing engagement on New Year’s Eve to compère a cabaret at a private club in Chesterfield. It was a regular booking so it was not difficult for me to be away from home. I usually went on my own but this year, I would be taking Iris. The audience comprised mainly of professional people; doctors and lawyers mostly, and it was usually a very enjoyable affair.
The highlight of the New Year’s evening was the parading of the haggis! The haggis was brought in accompanied by a Scottish piper in full regimental dress and served immediately after
Iris loved the show and she looked so very dazzling in her new evening dress that I had bought her for the occasion. I think that every male eye was on her that night!
The party finished around
2am and we went home in a cab provided for us. We got back about half an hour or so later and although we were very tired, we toasted each other with a nightcap before going to bed. Thus ended our first wonderful year together.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year #2!

It was New Year’s Eve a year ago that I first started this blog. At first, I wasn’t sure I would continue it but, encouraged by a friend, I kept it going and I have never regretted it. The blog has become a refuge where I can lose myself in either sadness or happiness. I can shed a tear over the bad times and remember the good times. Some of the bad times were very bad but the good times far outweighed them once the dark early days of January 1973 had gone.
For the future, who knows? I shall continue with the blog and hope to entertain readers with our story. I suppose that the narrative of Iris and me is, to some, just another love story; something that can be found in the pages of a Mills & Boon novel. To us, however, it was our life, our dream!
This New Year, I shall be thinking of her and almost wishing I were religious. If I were, I could look forward to a wonderful reunion and another life together.
As it is, there is nothing left. Her ashes that I scattered on the Berwick sands are long gone. They have been pounded by incoming tides twice a day for over 26 years! Only her memory remains; only the heartache still lingers.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Happy New Year!!!

Tonight, on New Year's Eve, we held a New Year Party at our home. It was a very informal affair including family and friends. Two very special close friends, newly engaged, were first to arrive.Our daughter, Fran and granddaughter Emma followed, with our son, Sheldon, appearing a little later.
It was an extremely convivial get-together;; the wine was flowing and the buffet was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
Shortly before
midnight, our glasses were charged and on the first stroke of the New Year, we toasted each other.
Our glasses were also raised to ‘Absent friends’ John Tyndall, whose portrait gazed down on us and to Iris, of course, whose photograph was in its usual place on my desk.
For quite a few of us there this evening, 2006 wasn’t the best year we ever had and we look forward to a better year in 2007.

Anyway, to all of you who read my blog, I would wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!