Older people can remain active and thoughtful and have the potential to grow. There are many role models. Mistakes happen, often hilarious. Join me on an ageing trip to places and moments.


Sunday, 16 February 2020

Some more inspired old geezers trip off - this time to Northumberland

Now here is your more sophisticated punter, looking comfortable, surrounded as he is by artwork

Beaches. Sea and sand, sun and fun. Or, a terrace house on the main Alnmouth street. And in the front room, a Saturday-night-only restaurant. Scruffy top-knot Donald, front of house, and his wife cook Sue, hiding behind a screen and pinafore. A five course meal of petite portions. Six used tables next to the walls. An empty substantial diner in the middle, presumably reservable for large parties. Turn sideways and shuffle if you had to move. Talk in whispers if you didn't want your neighbour to overhear. Nets and other fishing paraphernalia cluttered the sidelines. One sitting, BYO. Kick-off around 7pm.
  Donald cuts down trees, but was a fisherman, hence soup, salmon pate, haddock and thick cheese sauce. Meat pie sourced by local son-in-law and chocolate completed the menu. Likes his whisky.
  The other beach came earlier in the day with the 6-nations and coffee in between. A bright and breezy walk to the Gallery. Converted school, full of paintings and sculpture and proper coffee. Top of the main street which was the straight of a capital 'D'. Shops, pubs and holiday cottage agents as well as Beaches.
  The curve swept down to the 9-hole golf course. Back at the bottom of the straight a picturesque row for hire overlooking sea and estuary. Turn left, follow the river, opposite the park the apartments where we first stayed (clic on link).
  A three hour drive up from Holmfirth, busy around Newcastle.
  Alnwick on Sunday was shut, apart from Barter Books which was excellent as usual (clic on link). Bought a book for coffee nerds. Seahouses on Monday.
  Great to see our friends from Edinburgh to celebrate both our wedding anniversaries.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

History of coffee (2)

So by the 1700s the dominant area for coffee cultivation and export was the Yemen and the port of Mocha. The Dutch E India company saw an opportunity in the expansion of demand for coffee. As the Ottoman authorities tried to restrict the trade, so Amsterdam developed plantations in Java, a Dutch colony. In 1711 Holland had a coffee exchange. By 1720, 90% coffee going through the exchange came from Java rather than Mocha.

Coffee houses were alternative places to trade and meet outside universities, taking over from the taverns which were for intoxication. Around the Royal Exchange, there was a coffee house on every corner, specialising in areas of trade - Virginia, Baltic - or people's occupations - lawyers, stockbrokers, marine insurance. Gossip and information conferred a group and commercial advantage. For example Lloyds started their 'List' of shipping movements and coffee drinkers could get this information in advance of others. In the 1760s Johnathan's coffee house morphed into the Stock Exchange and Lloyds restricted its membership, becoming exclusive, in the 1780s.

Reading and writing grew in coffee houses. Dryden, Steele and Addison introduced periodical literature. Essays in a journal. There was satire, a sharpening of the wits and the whole standard of debate was raised. People were better informed and civil. The Tatler in 1709 and the Spectator in 1711 published the link between coffee houses and the periodicals. These publications thus gathered their news from the houses. For the first time people got to know stuff. Charles II tried to shut them down - how dare non-courtiers enter political debate about the country's future.

So arts, literature, politics and banking/insurance. Heady stuff as these heavyweights suggest in Wiki:

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) founded The Spectator with Steele in 1711. Both already contributed to The Tatler. Addison wrote essays, librettos and plays. Became MP and held government posts.
Richard Steele (1672-1729) Born in Dublin, writer and politician.
John Dryden (1631-1700) secured a pension for Addison to study and write whilst travelling Europe. Poet, literary critic and playwright. First Poet Laureate in 1668.

Johnathan's opened 1680. Posted prices of stocks and commodities - first systematic exchange of securities. Destroyed by fire 1748. Club of 150 brokers formed to trade stocks 1761, moving to their own building 1773 - New Johnathan's became the Stock Exchange and then London School of Economics.

Lloyd's List. One of the oldest continuously-running journals (1734-2013) and now digital. Shipping news.

Phew - goodness knows who else was involved - aristos no doubt - making their fortunes. Not for the likes of us.
I do like my breakfast coffees. As you can see I use weighing scales - sad or what?

Bringing us more up to date. Coffee (3) soon.

Friday, 31 January 2020

This old man's recent moments pre-brexit

This nest was recovered from one of our boxes during the annual clean. Seemed a shame to take it out.

New Mill's Scarborough rehearsal weekend was a couple of weeks ago. JRR and myself fancied a bottle of white with Red Lea's Saturday evening meal. No card facility at the bar. Please pay at reception. I pulled out a card and stood waiting. 
  John said, "You'll not get far with that."
  My Kirklees senior's metro bus pass.

We are away in May to Magic Weekend - rugby league's superleague event at St James Park, Newcastle. We need tickets. Rugby League's website. No ground map. A separate search. Ah! CAT1 will do. I've booked two adults before I see the concessions. Cancel first choice. Didn't work. My checkout baskets contains four tickets. Start again. Several attempts. I gave up when I'd got eight tickets for £320.
  The following day I had been timed out. Start again. I have to register. They already have my email, but I still need to register and they already have my email. Use alternative. I'm registered and then timed out.
  Start again. Confirmation, thank you for your custom. It's about patience and fortitude and wanting to go to the match and having few beers in Newcastle. You have it to do.
 Toronto Wolfpack and Sonny Bill - we won't mention ... or I'll be done for religious intolerance.

Have you ever kissed your wife or partner, lip to lip, noses side by side, whilst you are both wearing specs? Okay, it's unusual for both to be in this alignment, but have you?
  A brief and close encounter.
  A clash of the glasses.

Private medicine is not for everyone. The childbride has recently spent some outpatient time at the Elland for much needed eyelid care. Sadly, the HRI ophthalmic department left her problem untended - frankly they ignored it. At the Elland she was given a plan of withdrawal, introduction and reintroduction of her glaucoma drops. It took a lot of visits, but now good. An excellent approach and outcome. Goodness knows what would have happened otherwise.
  The HRI outpatient ophthalmic appointments system is the worst in the world, Milky Way, universe, multiverse.
  The Elland provides coffee and newspapers, no charge. But, waiting times may prevent you from reading or drinking anything. Two downsides - at the entrance/reception, almost before they ask for your name, they ask you how you are going to pay. Second, if it's an evening clinic which prescribes, pharmacy shuts at 4pm and you have to return the following morning. A long way from Holmfirth.
  With the current state of the NHS, get yourselves insured.

I won't mention obsessive selfie-taking, perpetual victimhood and virtue-signalling. Or I'll get it in the neck like Lawrence Fox, brother of the delectable Amelia.

They always say the last drop goes down your leg - a reference to the older male stood at the urinal trying to finish a pee. I agree, but I would encourage all men of my age to be patient, wait and try. You might miss the last drop but you'll not get a full urethral drenching.

On our way home in the rain from the Elland, we waited in a traffic queue beneath Longwood's rail bridge. A slow drumming sound of water falling from masonry and ironwork onto the car roof.
  Viaduct drops.
  But where is the 'e'?
  e - viaduct drops.

Monday, 27 January 2020

The History of Coffee (1)


Still drinking my coffee Christmas presents

In Our Time, Melvin Bragg. Interesting and informative. Some highlights follow:

How was coffee discovered? Coffee started as a snack. 17th century legend has it that an Ethiopian goat-herder noticed his charges became frisky when they ate fresh berries from a certain bush. He noted the same effect. A monk came across the herder and tried them himself. He was amazed that he was able to stay awake all night and pray.

Mystic Suffi muslims took this on and made an infusion (including husks) as well as eating the berries. They were ordinary men who worked during the day. They used coffee as an aid to their devotions at night. Coffee made the dervishes whirl.

By the 16th century coffee was in the Ottoman empire (Turkey) and the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine). The port of Mocha (bottom of the Red Sea, Yemen) was vital. Coffee houses developed as places to talk and exchange ideas. As coffee was non-alcoholic (alcohol sends you to sleep) it became the drink also for work and making business deals.

Coffee subsequently slowly spread down the merchant and pilgrimage routes. Armenians (christians living in Turkey) introduced coffee into E Europe, Italy first, where oddly it was mostly drunk as a cure-all medicine. It was marketed as such in London and England.

In the 17th century, coffee became more widely available in N Europe as a result of trading with the Levant company - in the 1630s, Harvey of circulation fame had two brothers who were Levant merchants. In 1652, Pasqua Rosée, a servant of the Levant company, opened a shed for coffee so that his boss wouldn't have to entertain at home. He moved to a coffee house and within a decade there were over 80 such places. The Puritan government helped because coffee, whilst being addictive was non-alcoholic. Coffee houses grew to be places to meet and talk, for men, businesses, printers, merchants, lawyers - recognisable groups in specific parts of London. There was a long table to sit wherever a seat was available. Mingle and meet. Newspapers were provided along with printed material generally about what was going on. So sharing news and ideas in second half of 17th century. Charles II tried to shut some of them down as some of the new ideas were about him.

Friskiness, snake-oil, aid to religious devotion, a hub for men to develop business and new ideas, an alternative to alcohol. What's not to like?

I have two good cups (25gm + in half a litre) in a cafetière for breakfast. Maybe another around 11am but none after midday.

On Thursday morning I join 4-5 other men of a certain age in a coffee shop in Holmfirth. Some of us will have just completed an hour of pilates. Another two cups not quite as strong as breakfast. It's basically a sports catchup with Boris and Brexit for dessert. Telegraph crossword then over lunch. The real news is bad enough without reading all the press trivia, so I scan that quickly and move on.

Watch out for chapter 2.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The old geezers at it again in Ramsbottom

It may seem an odd place for New Year. It's only 50 minutes away, a rural location, lovely rooms, nice beer, close to Bury for the black pudding, and great youngsters to look after us. Wasn't as lively as some we've done, but okay. The railway was open - a southern pacific City of Wells - and a coffee at the nearby gallery in Rawtenstall.

Best days for Bury market (meat, fish and outside stalls) - Wed, Fri, Sat.

E Lancs railway is a thriving preservation society - see website. Several stops between Heywood and Rawtenstall, including Bury and Ramsbottom. Lots of events.

Robert Peel, politician of note, well-known for his association with the early police service was born in Bury. A memorial sits on the hill overlooking Ramsbottom.

The Whitaker Museum, Rawtenstall, which houses the art and other collections is a former textile industrialist's home. We have Whitakers in our family tree - no money came our way.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Generation gap generates a senior moment

I have been lethargic of late - not unusual for me at this time of year - but there are a few nuggets around.

What's this about? Ben Machell in the Times magazine 14.12.19.
  "... a means through which a selfie-obsessed generation, preoccupied with their appearance and health can explore the inevitability of death and physical decay while also processing fears about societal breakdown in a deeply uncertain world."
  I cannot possibly say this describes some members of the younger generation. The quote is actually about zombies, not Meghan and Harry.


What can you say about them? Some days it's "live and let live, it's none of my business." Other days it's "waste of space as are most of the royals."
  They are human beings with baggage that most of us cannot comprehend. No fault of his, having been born into royalty. Her choice of being a celeb - you must want it. I have no connection with any of it. They, like all celebs and royals, are as remote from the hills of Holmfirth as Denis Compton. He, archetype stylish English batsman, is ever my go-to example of remoteness. In the 1950s, as I watched the cricket on TV in our front room in Hillhouse, Mum said Denis was a playboy. He was also the advert for Brylcreem. My idol but goodness me, he might as well have been on the moon.
  I do wonder however if I pay for the royals' beer and petrol? Make a contribution certainly toward the bodyguard costs - so there is a connection. What do I get in return? Nebulous pride in being British? Do they deserve to be taken apart by the press? Sadly celebs get it in the neck and don't take umbrage often, in public. Is this any different? There is a choice to live with it and stop doing stuff that attracts so much attention - which I guess is what they are doing.
  Will I still be making a contribution to the Canadian bodyguard?


Bob Dylan has the answer (Rolling Stone 1969):
  'I'm just one person, doing what I do. Trying to get along ... staying out of people's hair, that's all'