Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Graduation | A Perfect Day

Suddenly the day had arrived. The morning of Daughter "P's" graduation ceremony, a BA honours in Education, what a magnificent achievement. She had achieved a 2:1 while working full time in a demanding job role where she supported young children with special communication needs. At the same time she was also bringing up her own family, with I must say, a lot of support from her very loving husband.

Today was her special day, a day I am sure she always remember, as too will her mum and I. We were so proud as her name was called out and she walked across the stage in the traditional cap and gown, to accept the award bestowed on her by the University.

We set off early to allow plenty of time to drive into Manchester, the route on the Google map had seemed very simple and straight forward and indeed it turned out to be so. The last time Mrs Pecker and I had driven into Manchester turned into a nightmare. Not the actual driving in but attempting to drive back out. By the time we were ready to leave on this occasion, it being winter it had turned dark and begun to rain heavily. What had previously been a relatively easy route was subject to much disruption due to extensive road works. The heavy congestion and poor visibility soon found us heading further into the city centre with no idea of where we were going. One and a half hours later and we were headed for Bolton, that is the opposite direction to where we should have been going. eventually we were able to follow signs leading to the M6 which we did eventually reach. From that day up until Monday and the graduation we had not ventured into Manchester again.

This time as I said earlier, the road was easy and we were able to access a car park relatively close to our destination, "The Bridgewater Hall". We had plenty of time to spare, but now we could relax knowing that we had indeed arrived safely.

After checking out the hall and getting clear in our minds how and where everything was laid out, we set off towards the town for lunch. A matter of yards from the Bridgewater hall we came to the "Table to Table" restaurant set beneath the Premier Inn. It looked quite appealing and the menu seemed to offer plenty of choice that would satisfy our gastronomic needs. Indeed it did, good food and good service, and at a very reasonable price, perfect.

With our bellies filled we returned to the hall so that daughter "P" could be fitted with her robes, then made our way across to the town hall where the official photographers were located. The photos are a bit pricey, but it only happens once and although we would be taking pictures with our own cameras it is reassuring to know that at least one photograph should be perfect.

The afternoon we spent waiting for the preliminaries to the event to get under way and finally it was time for the ceremony to begin. A very grand affair, steeped in ritual and tradition and most of all a celebration for the achievements of all the students receiving awards today.

Finally it was over and we made our way back to the car park. The weather had been kind to us all day and although at times the sky had appeared to be filled with rain, each time we walked in the open, the rain never materialised. An easy drive back out of town heading towards Wilmslow and then we were home safe and sound at the end of the perfect day.

I still remember the occasion though now some thirty years ago when I had volunteered to drive my dear Mother-in-Law to Birmingham where she had been chosen to audition for the Nicholas Parsons TV show, "The Sale of The Century". She insisted that we started out in plenty of time to get there. I thought that beginning the journey at 08.00 for an audition at 14.00 was a bit over the top but I went along with it.

To shorten a long story I will simply say that we were stuck on the motorway for most of the day. We discovered later that a lorry carrying vegetable oil had overturned on the carriageway and in addition to clearing away the vehicle they also had to remove all traces of the oil from the road surface. When a motorway grinds to a halt and you are between two junctions, there is no where to go, and nothing you can do about it. We arrived at the hotel where the auditions were taking place at 17.00. All the TV people had packed up and gone home, the auditions were over.
Poor Mother-in-Law, poor me, I had spent a whole day enclosed inside a car with her, no escape, no where to go. It is said that trauma often causes one's mind to block out certain events that were particularly disturbing and erase them from one's memory. I believe this to be true because of that day I remember the beginning and the end but nothing of the bit in between. A perfect day - Not.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter | Dementors | and me

It is a fact that Harry Potter has been very much in my mind recently. Not surprising considering all the hype and publicity surrounding the much awaited latest film, plus of course the screenings of the previous HP movies on the TV. And I must admit to being a Harry Potter fan, but does this in any way explain the visitant, akin to the dark creatures of that wizarding world "The Dementors", that invaded my home. Anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films from the Prisoner of Azkaban onwards will of course know that the Dementors are creatures of pure evil.

The day was warm, admittedly not as hot as it had been, but warm enough that I opened windows to allow a refreshing flow of air through the house. Mrs Pecker was out today, everything was tidy, the breakfast dishes washed and I had wheeled out the grey bin to the edge of the pavement. Perhaps I should explain that our local council have introduced a new recycling scheme.

We now have three full sized wheelie bins, a plastic box, plus a plastic bag for clothing and paired shoes. All waste must be separated and categorised by us and disposed of only in the appropriate receptacle. Our bin men (can I call them bin men) will collect once per week with these collections alternating between recyclable waste one week and other non-recyclable waste the other week. So as I said, I had put out the grey bin which is for anything that can not be recycled and having stood in the hot weather for the last two weeks, I must admit that it did pong a bit.

Having completed all the usual Monday morning tasks, I continued my normal routine by starting to prepare lunch while watching Bargain Hunt. "What !!! No Bargain hunt?" Indeed, Bargain Hunt had been replaced with Cash in the Attic. I hate cash in the Attic, it is so contrived, so false, and as usual, a repeat. I ate my lunch in silence then went to my small office up the stairs and turned on my p.c. "Lets have a look what is happening on Twitter," I thought.

Harry Potter had reached the number one spot on Twitters list of "Trending Topics", so I began to take a look at what everyone had to say on the subject of HP, most of it of course relating to the new film.

It seems from initial critique, that the film Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince, is being very well received and is said to be the best movie of the series so far. I can't wait to see it, which is of course incorrect because wait to see it is exactly what I must do. Until next week probably. But I am looking forward to watching it, and with great anticipation of being thrilled once more by this truly magical fantasy.

Being lost in my immediate little world of fantasy and escapism, I failed to notice the first signs of the malevolent presence, extending horrible invisible tendrils of evil and decay. The Dementors had arrived.

I am certain now looking back, that the first point of entry must have been the opened window of the front bedroom. The shapeless form had gained an easy unhindered access and began to spread out, reaching in all directions, invading the very fabric of the building. The house became filled by the acrid stench of decay. An essence of putrefaction, an odour of evil, rotting, stinking filth crept up on me threatening to tear out my very soul. I gasped for breath, feeling that the oxygen had been starved from the air that I tried to breathe, all that was good had been taken away, I would soon be no more than a shivering, whimpering wreck.

I staggered to my feet in a vane attempt to beat off this evil visitation, only to discover that the filthy, rotten, evil, stinking, nauseous stench, had pervaded the entire house. But Dementors it was not. It was not those evil creatures from the wizarding world of Harry Potter who had assailed my senses, for I could now hear that the bin men were in our street. The filthy, rotten, evil, stinking, nauseous stench of decay emanated from our local refuse collection vehicle.

I have never before known the "dust cart" or whatever else it should be called to smell so bad and I now have the deepest sympathy for the people who have to follow it all day emptying our bins.

This I presume is the sweet smell of recycling success.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time for a Story

I thought it was time we had another little story. This one I did not write myself but came across it in the personal columns of a free on-line advertisement site. Gumtree to be precise. Is it genuine? I will leave it up to you to make up your minds.

"You were in the arrivals bar in Dublin airport. You have long dark hair and were wearing a grey short sleeved dress. You were waiting on your friend and I was waiting to see if my luggage would ever materialise. We shared a drink and spent about a half hour in each others company. I was drinking a pint of Heineken and you were drinking vodka and lime. I will never forget your eyes they were piercing in their intensity and I just regret not telling you. I went to the toilet and you kept an eye on my laptop.
I have been thinking about you ever since and can't seem to shake your image from my head. I really think that we made a connection.
If this is you is there any chance that I could get my laptop back?"

Monday, July 6, 2009

A few days in the country

I wondered initially if I was responsible with that last post, for bringing about a change in our fortunes regarding the weather?

Early on Tuesday afternoon we arrived with the caravan in tow at the site in Churnet Valley just outside Leek in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Simon and Sue were already there, waiting to greet us and help with the setting up of our caravan, I can no longer manage this alone. The rain started to fall from the sky almost as the wheels had stopped turning . A break in the clouds and we decided to erect the awning, Simon being a big guy is a great asset with this task which we never bother to do when there is just the two of us, myself and Mrs Pecker that is.

Finally we were all done, awning up, electricity and water connected etc. etc. and soaked to the skin. I removed my clothes and literally wrung them out. Fortunately the site has very good facilities with an excellent shower block which I took full advantage of. A lovely cup of freshly brewed tea and I was calm and relaxed, sitting outside with the gang in the sunshine. Yes I did say sunshine. It peered cheekily from behind the clouds as soon as we had completed getting everything set up.

The sun may have been laughing but I did not really care, I do not mind getting wet anyway. This is what we had been waiting for, relaxing in the midst of the countryside enjoying the peace and quiet and the screaming and the smell. .... What was that, the screaming and the smell, yes that's right, on the hillside opposite where once there were horses, there were now pigs. Loads of them, free range of course, doing what pigs do, squabbling, screaming, wallowing in the mud, screaming, grubbing in the dirt, screaming, you get the picture.

In the evening, it being Simon and Sue's anniversary we went along to the local pub for a celebratory meal, none of us had pork by the way, and it rounded off the day nicely.

Wednesday was fabulous, we lazed about all day basking in the glorious sunshine, we did not even notice the pigs. That is not strictly true. The farmer seems to feed them in a shed at the top of the field, at the same time each night. Have you ever heard the noise that around 100 pigs make when being fed. No neither had I, it sounds more as though they were being skewered alive rather than being fed, incredible, blood curdling, eerie almost. If you had failed to notice that the pigs were there and then heard the noise, you would think that aliens had finally landed, you would probably flee for your lives.

Thursday gave us some heavy rain and thunder in the morning but then cleared up nicely. I even went fishing in the small on site lake and caught a few nice fish to round off another perfect day.

I felt that things went downhill from then. Many more people began to arrive on the Friday with loads of kids and somehow it was not quite the same it got really really busy. Before you hang me out to dry with the remark about kids, all I mean is we are surrounded by children at home, on all sides (that's what sounded familiar about the pigs) The peace and quiet that we had enjoyed had gone and I now longed to return home, back to familiar things.

I even missed Twitter, is that sad?