Hello once again, you lovely people and welcome as always to my miscellany of multifarious madness which will follow it’s usual totally random course until I either drop from exhaustion or am satisfied I have wrung every piece of trivia out of my travels and the internet and every nugget of strange thinking out of my admittedly odd brain. If you feel you have the patience to put up with such an excursion then please press the “read more” button.
This post should have gone to press about 17/06/2020 so that is where i am putting it. Apologies for the tardiness but you may be either delighted or appalled that Lockdown Diaries #6 is already in production and I promise you that it is a beauty.
Thanks so much for joining me and I suppose I should start with a short explanation of the break since the last episode. I have mentioned in other pieces on this site about what I jokingly refer to as the “sleep fairy” and I have yet to work out whether she is friend or foe or maybe a bit of both.
I mentioned in the previous piece that sleep is either a feast or a famine with me and, although I have not counted exactly, I reckon I have slept about 80% of the last few days, or more properly nights of being completely nocturnal. I suppose this could be seen as a good thing in that it is another day and a half towards being released from house arrest eventually, although I think that is still a very long way off.
Alternatively, it could be seen as that period of wasted time and, again as I discussed before and without being in any way maudlin about it, time is one thing we are all running out of, some of us more than others. When I had recovered reasonably well from last years health escapade I had planned on either a trip to Sri Lanka to see my friend Treshi in her new home or else an overland trip in Europe which I love doing. If you have not heard about my little interaction with the medical profession, have a look here. I even had a very vague plan worked out which is unusual for me but of course all that is completely out of the window now. Thanks for nothing, Covid.
Here’s a little selection of what I missed.
I suppose that how you perceive the sleep situation is very much a case of whether you are a glass half empty or glass half full type of person. I consider myself to be more of a “where the Hell’s the bottle, this glass needs refilling” type myself.
A couple of days ago, I received another blow to my potential travel plans in the form of a letter from the Royal London Hospital. I don’t know if I told you that my eyesight was failing somewhat alarmingly, just to add to all my other medical woes, and I went to an optician to see about it (pun intended as always). It was 13th February, I still have the now redundant appointment card.
I won’t go into the whole story but, even with all their hi-tech machines, they could not see through my eyeball to get to the root of the problem and referred me there and them to the Royal London Hospital which is just across the road. I hadn’t expected that when setting out to get a pair of prescription specs as opposed to the £1 readers I have used for years.
The A&E registrar looked at my eyes, ‘phoned the on-call eye Doc at home and made an appointment for me for the next morning, which is unusually quick in that hospital. I can only guess that he couldn’t diagnose the problem which I did not really expect, and so I returned to the Eye Clinic at the appointed hour.
After a lot more tests whereby they determined that the cataract in my right eye was so severe that even their hugely expensive kit could not handle it, they told me it would require surgery and said they’d be in touch to arrange another consultation in about six – eight weeks to discuss the matter.
Needless to say, CoVid took a hand and I didn’t hear from them again until a few days ago when they have tentatively scheduled an appointment for October 2020 and that is just to discuss possible surgery. Add another few months on to of that to get it done and recover and that is effectively all of this year written off and possibly well into next which will rule out my winter Southerly migration to Asia even if I am allowed to travel long-haul by then which I doubt.
You may have worked out that my hospital appointment was the 14th February i.e. St. Valentine’s Day so, on the principle that love is blind, if I am half-blind does that mean that I am half in love? If so, it is news to me.
I was desperately trying to find some images to add a little visual interest to this opening section and not doing very well. I managed an image of the new Royal London Hospital where I didn’t quite get my eyesight sorted and a few random images of my trips to Sri Lanka over the years on the tenuous link that I would probably have been there if not for medical difficulties.
Just to add another little piece of regret to add to the many others, my dear friend Sarah, who I have mentioned before and who is a fantastic travel writer and photographer herself, was kind enough to send me a comment on the first of these idiocies that masquerade as “diaries”. She reminded me that this weekend should have been the “Virtual Tourist” Euromeet in Newcastle in the North East of England last weekend. At least this paragraph gives me an excluse (not that I need one)to publish a picture of the iconic bridge here.
I am not going to go into the whole story of VT again, it is well-documented on other pages here and the meeting is actually simply called “the Euromeet” now, if I understand correctly. The name is actually pretty irrelevant as the ethos remains the same whereby a group of people who love travelling and writing about it meet in a particular European city to learn about it by way of walks, visits to historic sites etc. and also to socialise at evening meals / drinks.
Put like that it sounds like a ludicrously simple concept, and it is, although I have long believed that most of the best ideas are the simplest. It really isn’t rocket science. I do feel so sorry for Sarah who I know had put a huge amount of work into the project. Sarah is a bit of a rarity in that she is a Londoner who was actually born there (unlike a mere “blow-in” like me) but her charming husband is from Newcastle and I know she regards it very much as a second home. I also know it would have been a brilliant weekend but sadly it is just another thing that has gone by the board in the face of the unprecedented horror that the world now faces.
I do hope the Newcastle “meet” will be able to take place next year although I doubt we will be back to anything like normality next May, which is when the Euromeet is traditionally held. I hope I am not seen as overly pessimistic here but I cannot see normality as we knew it ever returning. Yes, science will find a vaccine for this, there is too much money being thrown at too many brilliant minds for there not to be but when CoVid-19 is battered into submission it is just a matter of waiting for another one to appear. Then it starts all over again.
You are possibly wondering why there has been such a hiatus on publishing since the last diary entry or perhaps, like Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, “Frankly, my dear, I (you) don’t give a damn”. That’s fine but I am going to explain anyway. That troublesome sleep fairy of mine that I mentioned above seems to have got her hands on some steroids somewhere and decided she is going to a have a bit of a workout using yours truly as a punchbag. The upshot of this rather tortured analogy is that I have barely been awake for the last five or six days. Hey ho and I suppose that I should now move swiftly on to the daily (when I am awake) diversion I call………….
On This Day.
On this day in 1940, the last British and Allied troops were evacuated from Dunkirk. I have actually been to Dunkirk about 30 years ago on a cycling trip but if I ever had any images of that trip I have no idea where they are now, nor do I have the technical ability to upload them even if I did.
What I do have are a few images of the other end of the operation in the UK. Some years ago a friend and I took a trip over to Dover Castle on a free afternoon whilst I was playing Broadstairs Folk Week and one of the highlights of that generally excellent site was a series of tunnels dug deep into the famous white cliffs and from where much of the evacuation of the BEF and their Allies was planned.
Of course, regular readers of my pages will know that I spend a lot of time in Thanet and I visit Ramsgate regularly. The harbour here, which I have something of a fixation with and never seem to have enough images of, was one of the main landing points for the exhausted and often injured troops. There are numerous memorials around the harbour and the town to this period of history and I have dealt with them in other pages here.
The “Sundowner” is a very interesting craft, one of the “little ships” who evacuated the beaches at Dunkirk and the information board gives a brief resume of the story but I’d like to give you a bit more detail here as the story of Capt. Lightoller is a fascinating one.
Born in 1874 he wished to avoid working in the factories of his native Chorley in Lancashire and so went to sea at the age of 13. He did well and rose up the ranks with a very remarkable early career which included groundings, shipboard fires, a smallpox epidemic and his nearly dying of malaria. Perhaps it was a combination of these perils that prompted him to join the Yukon goldrush of 1898 and then become a cowboy in Alberta, Canada for a while before riding the rails as a hobo in order to get back to the UK where he arrived penniless and went straight back to sea.
It was at this point that fate took a hand as Lightoller was working for the White Star Line and was posted to the RMS Titanic for the sea trials. He remained on board for the fateful maiden voyage. Despite acting honourably in the loading of lifeboats with “women and children first” he was seen to have been disgraced for not going down with the ship as was the somewhat odd maritime code of honour at the time.
During the First World War he somewhat redeemed this reputation when he was mobilised as a member of the Royal Naval Reserve in various roles, earning himself the DSC in the process. Despite this meritorious service, the post-War world found him virtually unemployable as there was a great stain attached to anyone associated with the ill-fated Titanic and he retired to take on various land based jobs but his love of the sea remained.
In 1929 he purchased the Sundowner, the wonderful craft you see in the image which he used for pleasure trips until war came again. When the Allied troops were literally fighting for their lives on the beaches of Dunkirk, Lightoller did not even wait for his vessel to be requisitioned by the Admiralty but set sail with his son Roger and a young Sea Scout called Gerald Ashcroft. Somehow or another they managed to cram 127 soldiers on here and bring them back safely to UK. The vessel was licensed for 21 passengers! What a great story.
As always I hadn’t checked ahead and was just trawling through birthdays for today and simply cannot let this one slide. On this day in 1939 (yes, 81 years ago) the rock legend that is Ian Hunter was born in Oswestry in Shropshire.
I saw him playing with the original Mott lineup in 2009 and 2013 and the guy, well into his 70’s at the time of the second gig, was still eating huge venues, I’ve never seen anyone like him.
Purely coincidentally, and I really am not making this up, I have been listening to a lot of Mott lately, I just never get tired of their music. Anyway, here are the necessary images and some great memories for me. Sadly, Ian is suffering tinnitus at present and had to cancel an American tour last year which is a shame although frankly I am not surprised as he has been playing loud rock music for about 60 years now, it must take it’s toll.
I was looking about for something topical to finish this piece with by way of my daily limerick which I am sure you are all missing (or more probably not missing at all) but I really am struggling. With my recent narcolepsy, I had fallen a bit behind with the news and, quite honestly, I would have been better off remaining like that.
The main stories today were of a mass illegal and totally irresponsible rally in central London protesting about the death of an American and a similarly illegal and equally irresponsible street party involving approximately 500 young idiots in a notoriously lawless area of Northwest London. Not much light relief there and it makes me wonder why I bother adhering to the rules, as do the vast majority of others.
I might as well return to one of my pet peeves for this one, namely closed pubs, it this case hopefully temporarily although I fail to see how smaller outlets will ever survive the present situation. They were existing on dangerously small margins before the Chinese virus and I am terrified about the aftermath. So, let’s have a hopefully slighthy light-hearted……
Limerick of the Day.
“My local’s been closed for too long,
The concept is totally wrong.
I hope they cleaned well
When they rang the last bell.
Or there’s going to be such a bad pong”.
OK, not my best but there isn’t much to laugh about these days. I do promise I shall try to stay awake for more than three hours a day from now on but I have no idea what that evil little sleep fairy has up her diaphanous sleeve. No doubt all will become clear in the fullness of time so stay tuned and spread the word.