So far July has been scorching hot. Yes okay it is only the second day of the month but it is staying that way for the next couple of days at least. July is the month schools let out for summer, usually around the middle of the month. That means lots of screaming kids letting off steam. Don’t get me wrong I was one too, honest! Traditionally families will go on vacation or as we say here on holiday for say two weeks in the sun, if they are lucky. If a domestic break is taken there is always the likelihood that it could rain for how long nobody ever really knows. Weather forecasts have improved over the years so if a holiday is planned around having a lot of sunshine it is safe to say guaranteed sunshine can be planned for with reasonable accuracy. You have to remember here in the UK the weather is often very changeable. To really guarantee sunshine days it is best to travel to a country that has a better defined period of sunshine for any particular part of the year. E and I used to go abroad often and to places where we could guarantee it being hot and sunny. We narrowly missed a tropical storm when we visited The Dominican Republic many years ago. It passed over the country a week before we were due to arrive. The problem here is that a pre-booked holiday can often lead to it not being that sunny at all. Who can forecast the weather months in advance? A safer bet would be Spain if a hot sunny holiday is wanted. Anyway E and I haven’t spent a holiday abroad for many years now and have remained at home in the UK. We never take a break here either, what’s the point? We are retired and every day is a holiday really. It is nice to take a short break once in a while and we did that more recently on a long weekend in Vienna. The previous long-stay break was in 2009 in Canada and six weeks before in the US. We have been to many places in the world but for me at least I don’t feel the need to travel anymore. E has her disability which makes travel awkward to say the least but given the opportunity would go. I would go with her too of course. For the time being it is a hot day in July and we are in the comfort of our own home.
In conversations with people I am asked why it is I do not go out of my way to fly off somewhere warm and sunny sometimes. Why is it that I actually like the climate where I live? Well it is alright flying off to exotic places and getting burned by the sun, bitten by the local insects or being uncomfortable with my clothes sticking to my body due to excessive perspiration but I have to return to a cooler climate later. It isn’t that I don’t like flying off somewhere or that I don’t wish to visit somewhere new, it is more that I just cannot be bothered with it all. I have done my share of flying to be sure but the novelty has worn off somewhat these last few years. Am I bothered, do I really care? The short answer is no. For some people their annual two weeks in the sunshine is a must and they spend thousands of pounds doing it. It is their prerogative, their money, their time but for me it matters not that I go or don’t go. I don’t feel I am missing out if I choose to stay at home. There are many folk who cannot afford the luxury of flying off to foreign parts but I am sure many would like to. Similarly many would not. Life isn’t about jetting off to sunny climes and in fact whenever I do go places these days, which is not often, I am usually going to meet people rather than to admire the scenery. In my mind one place is no different from another and the more important reason for travel is to meet people. I like scenery but it is soon forgotten. Some of it is pretty but inhospitable, nice to look at but not to live in. What is the point in admiring mountain ranges that are merely backdrops to civilization. No-one wants to live up a mountain and be uncomfortable doing so. Mountains and lakes, rivers and streams can only be seen when we take the time to do it. We live our lives among people and our daily lives and activities are centred around what we are doing, not the scenery surrounding us. How many times do we look at something before we hardly notice it is there and does it really matter what our surroundings to enjoy life? I prefer to surround myself with people rather than scenery which is but transitory.
On Friday morning around 10 o’clock I asked E if she would like to take a trip into Manchester for a few hours, not for any particular reason but simply to get out of the house and away from things for a while. It would have been nice to go to Liverpool to see the marionettes but we knew it would be too crowded. The marionettes I am talking about are giant-sized puppets about 8 metres high visiting the city once again over the last few days. They were last there in 2012 but this weekend past a much higher number of visitors were expected. We didn’t wish to go there for that reason and for the disruption to transport schedules and routes. We decided to go to Manchester instead. The journey to Manchester from Southport is normally straightforward as most journeys between them are direct by train which only stops at a handful of stations along the way. Of course we took a cab to the station which is only a mile and a half from our house, cheaper than leaving the car there all day. E had telephoned ahead and had arranged the free hire of a motability scooter for herself as she is partly disabled. That meant that once we were in Manchester she wouldn’t have to walk anywhere though travel in the city is free on the bus routes. I however had to walk everywhere! We had no plans for the day but E wanted to return the scooter before 5.30 when the hire office would be closed. It still gave us a few hours to wander about. First stop was to get a bite to eat then we set off to explore. At first we were not sure where to go and we found that we had to move some distance away from the station in order to see more of the city. I have to say that a couple of hours isn’t long enough by far to visit any city and do it justice so we didn’t even try, all we wanted to do was go in the direction of our noses and see what we might come across. As it was another hot and sunny day the streets and parks were full of people enjoying themselves in one way or another. Eventually I took E to see the city’s gay village (quarter) and showed her the places I used to go every week on a Wednesday evening. No, I am not gay but it was just somewhere to go and mix with a few of my friends at the time. I don’t go there now and haven’t been there for twelve years. E had not been before but had heard of the place. We didn’t stop there but went for a coffee a short distance away before setting off back toward the train station and to return her scooter. We had purchased a lower-priced ticket which accordingly wouldn’t allow us to travel homeward between 4 and 6 o’clock (peak hours) but that didn’t matter as the next train was due not long after six. As it happened the earlier train had been delayed and therefore didn’t set off until two minutes before six and I am certain we would have been allowed to travel on it had we tried. However because E wasn’t so sure we delayed trying and when we did we found we had just missed the chance to board it before it left the station. That would mean a wait of twenty minutes, or so we thought, but we were informed that the next train would be leaving in a couple of minutes. We had to get to the correct platform which meant using the elevators for E’s sake as she cannot easily cope with all the steps they seem to have at railway stations. We made it just in time. We knew we had to alight a couple of stations down the line to board another train which was going directly to Southport but that was no hardship. Had we caught the previous train we wouldn’t have needed to change to another train as we had to with the later one. All was going smoothly and we hoped to be back in Southport around 8 o’clock at the latest but the train stopped a third of the way into the journey and we were told that it wasn’t going any further because they didn’t have a driver to take it the rest of the way! We were then informed that a bus would be provided to take us the rest of the way. It didn’t arrive for another half hour and now it was after 8 o’clock. The driver had to make stops at the train stations along the way to allow people off but he kept on making the wrong turns, having to reverse back up narrow country lanes that he shouldn’t have taken in the first place! It was 9.15 before we got into Southport and another fifteen minutes for the cab to get us home! At least we had the company of a woman with her two teenaged daughters for the duration and we made jokes and laughed about our common demise. We might do things differently next time or maybe not!
I think I have reached that point in my life where I realise that I do not have to go anywhere to find contentment. Well I know I don’t. My days of gallivanting around the world or around this country are long since gone though I still travel about on occasion. I do this only rarely now for I have lost interest in going places just for the fun of it. I find I am just as contented being at home, sometimes more so but as I say I do like a break from it all once in a while. Some people’s lives are lived jumping from one place to another for whatever reason pleases them and no sooner they have returned home they are again looking toward their next excursion away. I sometimes wonder why they have a permanent home to go to at all as they are seldom there. There is a house a couple of hundred metres from my own that is almost never occupied. The curtains (drapes) are never open but there are lights that come on during the evening. I have never seen anyone there other than people doing some maintenance like painters or gardeners. I assume the owners are living out of the country perhaps on a kind of perpetual holiday and only keep the house as somewhere to live whenever they have business here in England. Who knows? I could sell up my house, with E’s permission of course for she owns it with me. We could downsize and live a life of luxury if we wished to do so but we both like living here and have no desire to move. I don’t think we would be any happier spending our lives on a beach in the hot sunshine all day in some foreign country, we would simply get bored with it all. It may be nice to do those things once in a while and we have done so on many occasions but we’ve always hankered to return home after a couple of weeks. So travelling no longer holds a fascination for me and although I do it sometimes I think I prefer to remain at home for the most part. I get told by people who travel a lot for pleasure that they do so because they like so see new scenery and places and to meet people. Well there is nothing wrong in that of course but my attitude now is that one place is just the same as another, they are only places, they serve only to satisfy the eyes. People are much the same wherever you go and there are just as many people to meet locally as elsewhere. True, there are many different cultures but basically we humans are all the same. No, I don’t have to travel all over the place just for the scenery or to meet people when I have these things close-by. I am no longer inclined to wander all over the world even though I could.
Winter dragged on and on, well into the months of Spring but last weekend and especially on Tuesday the weather improved enormously. Hot, dry and sunny was the order of the day but even so I remained home throughout as it was the May bank holiday. On Tuesday I worked at home installing some new floodlights. Now I am in Brighton for this weekend and the weather has turned cooler and wetter. I don’t mind that so much but it would have been nicer had it been as nice as it was last week. I like the idea of a short break as I don’t get the chance to be bored, anything too long and I am biting at the bit eager to get back home. I suppose it depends very much on where I go. When I visited America and Canada four years ago I found I had moments of boredom even though there was plenty to see and do. I have been to many places in the world, all of them interesting in their own way but I feel being there for any length of time leads to boredom with me. Cities and towns are pretty much the same wherever one goes, they just have characters of their own. I remember staying over the weekend in Jillian’s house situated alongside one the very numerous lakes they have over in Quebec. The scenery was beautiful I have to admit but once I’d seen it, it became familiar, nothing special at all, just the same as any other house sitting by a lake. I was asked why I didn’t take a dip in the water so that I could claim to have swum in a Canadian lake. Apart from the fact that I hadn’t packed a swimsuit the inclination wasn’t there and I iterated that one lake is just the same as any other anywhere in the world, once you’ve swum in one you’ve swum in them all. I don’t think my remark was taken in the spirit in which it was given. That’s the way it is with me, I visit places to meet people, the scenery is of no real importance as it might be for others. I have come to Brighton specifically to meet with people, with a friend, not to admire the sights of the area, nice as they may be. In any case my mobility is rather restricted when I go places with E these days. It isn’t her fault but she cannot get about as quickly as she used to because of her disability. That aside, I wouldn’t wish to leave her just to go gallivanting by myself. Sunshine makes any place feel nice but to me it makes no difference. At least I am not here during the winter for I believe it gets rather cold and covered in snow and is probably not as inviting but that’s the same anywhere one goes! I wonder if I’ll feel the same about San Fransisco if I ever get there as I plan to do?
In a few weeks from today E and I shall be taking a couple of long journeys by train. Since my early childhood I have loved riding in a train even for relatively short journeys. In those long far off days many of the mainline routes used steam-driven engines to pull the carriages, now it is either diesel but more often electricity which is the prime mover. Whichever way is used the journey is the same though much of the romanticism will have been lost. The beauty of travelling by rail is the relief of stress it brings, not having to concentrate for hours sitting behind the wheel of a car in endless queues of traffic or being stopped at regular intervals by junctions and traffic controls. I can sit and read a book, play on a computer, use the phone without the need of a hands-free unit, eat a meal, chat with fellow travellers, admire the scenery, sit in comfort, have the convenience of toilet facilities and be seated in comfort whilst still being able to stand and walk about to stretch my legs. I cannot do most of those things whilst driving a car. I like driving, I always have but it can be tiring over long distances. I also like travelling by boat for all the same reasons and to a lesser extent I like air travel too but if I could choose rail travel for all my journeys on land I wouldn’t hesitate. The only down side to rail travel is it isn’t a door-to-door convenience but for long journeys that is a very small price to pay. The only snag E and I will have is that the journey will be broken several times as we board one train after another to reach our destination but I am still looking forward to the experience nonetheless especially as I haven’t been on a long train journey for so long.
I was at home on Monday afternoon and had a little chat with E. Neither of us has had a real holiday since we went to New York for two weeks followed six weeks later by another two weeks in Montreal back in 2009. Prior to then I had a week in Rome in 2004. The days of flitting around the world have more or less gone from my wish list now. When once I liked going to different countries every year I find I am not that bothered whether I do or not any more. That’s not to say I am a closed book to the suggestion of a holiday but I’ve reached that point in life were I can take them or leave them. However, I was talking with E and I suggested we might pay a visit to see Jane, whom I’ve known since 1999 but who now lives down in Brighton. Whilst Jane and I were chatting on the phone, E began to sort out the travel arrangements and accommodation for a long weekend stay in Brighton. E has been very good at getting the right deal for any trips we have taken in the past so I tend to leave her to do those things whenever we go away together but nevertheless she was having some difficulty at first in finding a reasonably priced hotel in what is a very popular place for a break at any time of year. She persevered though and found something suitable. We could drive the distance but that is so tiring and not that comfortable for E as she has a back condition. Travelling by train is the obvious choice. Now any trip to Brighton from where we live in Southport (north of Liverpool) is an awkward journey for it involves changing trains four times, once in Liverpool, once at Crewe, once at Euston and once at Victoria. Normally the journey from Liverpool to Euston is a direct one with no changes along the way but for this trip we have to change at Crewe, the other parts of the journey are by direct local, or underground lines. There is no direct connection between Southport and Brighton but that’s the way it is for most places we journey between isn’t it? So for one weekend in the not too distant future E and I will be having a long weekend away for a change and it will be nice to see Jane and her friend and spend some time with them.
In the past I rather enjoyed travel going to different places around the world and at home. The usual reason was for holidays but sometimes for business. Life now though is vastly different, I don’t feel the urge or need to go gallivanting all over the place. It’s not so much the expense for I have money enough to make a few trips but it’s more that I don’t have the inclination. Why travel I ask myself, what is the point? What do I need so desperately to see to drag me away from home? I could spend a lot of time lying around on a tropical beach but I would still have to return home eventually. Not that I fancy lying about on a beach somewhere anyway. Some people travel for adventure or to seek out a better life, though why they can’t do that at home I am not sure. I was watching, for the second time, a television program called ‘The history of Mr. Polly‘ written by none other than H.G.Wells with the comedian Lee Evans in the title role. The story centred around a shopkeeper in the early 1900’s who became disillusioned and discontented with his lot. Seemingly frustrated by his nagging wife he set about setting fire to his haberdashery store but it got out of control and the fire threatened the adjacent ironmongery business run by a man he didn’t get along with much. The man’s mother was asleep upstairs so Mr Polly set about rescuing her., after which he became the local hero. The money he received from the insurance company was enough to start over but he decided to leave it to his wife whilst he made off with no particular place to go. He was off on an adventure and was never going to return, though he did so later in the story to see if his estranged wife was coping. Having found that she was he left never again to return. He had found himself a new home with a new partner and seemingly was happy again. Many people today do much the same thing but many do not find the happiness the sought and might have been better off not going in the first place but without trying, without taking that first step they would never know. There comes a time though when journeying to far-off places become a chore especially if we have to return. Going off in one direction is what younger people do. I guess I was never one for wild adventures, I was always and still am a homely person in many respects, I am not searching for anything to fill my life, nothing to fill the empty spaces, I am content to stay where I am. That’s not to say that I won’t travel again, go on a holiday and see new places but the novelty has worn off somewhat. I remember back in 2009 when I took my last trip abroad and was staying at a friends house in the wilds of Quebec. Situated alongside a lake I was asked if I was going for a swim there but I declined as I hadn’t taken a costume with me. My friend wondered why I didn’t wish to go for a swim saying, ‘You can then say that you’ve swum in a Canadian lake’. I replied, ‘One lake is pretty much the same as another’. The only things that distinguish one place from another is the scenery. Unless you wish to see all the scenery there is available, and you never will, it is pretty much pointless.
Well it has been a week since I did anything, work that is, at home. I promised myself a breather and hard as it was for me to refrain from working at home I managed to do just that. I have had work away from home in my capacity as an electrician, yesterday was a busy day for example. I thought that I would get bored but somehow I managed to find things to do, playing my guitar a lot more than usual almost wore out my fingers! There are things I want to get on with and I am waiting for my two sons to be available to help get the roller door in place but I need to organise some staging first. Once I get the door in place I can fit the guides and the control gear. The next job I want to tackle is rebuilding the concrete steps leading to the garage back door and tidying up the wall around that door. After that there is an internal block wall to build and existing walls to tidy up by applying a concrete render. A host of small jobs really but they will take some time to do. Fortunately I have plenty of time on my hands these days. I just hope I can remain fit and healthy enough to complete them!
Yesterday I received an email from Lotte, a friend of mine, who has been spending the last three months travelling around the world. She flew east to places like Thailand and Australia and now she tells me she is in San Francisco! Working her way back home. Well not actually working of course, lucky girl! It will be great to see her again when she finally gets back home and tells me about her adventures. If you are reading this Lotte, Hi…..take care, see you soon!
In olden times many main routes in this country, (I say routes rather than roads for there weren’t many roads as such other than those the Romans had built during their occupation of this land) were dotted along their length at various places with large stones by the wayside indicating the distance ahead to the next main town. Later, wooden signposts literally pointed in the direction of the next village or town. The stones and signposts were engraved with the mileage so that one could tell how much further one had to go and how long it might take to get there. These days of course distance is no object and almost everywhere in this land can be reached within twenty-four hours. In long times past most folk simply didn’t travel far from their homes and villages, it was too dangerous to do so. There was no real need to leave their community. Nowadays the whole world is a community. We can travel to almost anywhere that is heavily populated within that same twenty-four hours and within a couple of more days, travel anywhere on this planet! We need not leave our places of residence today much as they did long ago because today we have the Internet and can communicate with people around the globe. This blog can be read anywhere in the world with the right equipment. When I first began to write here I struggled to find something to write about but now I am able to write much more having gained the confidence and experience. Today I have reached a milestone in my adventure, writing my blog posts. Today marks the 1,000th post on this site! Indeed a milestone. Well it is for me. I hope I can continue to write and that those who read my ramblings will find some interest in my content.