Monday, 31 May 2010

Last day of the holiday........

Poppies on the field wall N. Berwick

Hullo ma wee blog,

The Lovely G wanted to do some gift shopping for a forthcoming birthday in the family so we headed up the coast to North Berwick for a walk round and a look at some of the gift/craft shops. It's been a beautifully sunny day here and nice and warm to match, even if the forecast for tomorrow is rain - all the better for G returning to work as there's nothing worse than going back after a holiday with the sun splitting the sky - so we wanted to make the best of it with a wee trip out.

Over the wall to Bass Rock

I took the camera along but the sun was so bright the colours seem washed out.
N. Berwick beach

The town was busy with holiday makers and golfers all doing their thing in the sun and after a short hunt we managed to get something suitable as a birthday present so we had a light lunch and a walk before coming back home to relax in the garden as the grass has been duly cut this morning as promised.

Another shot of the poppies and the field wall.

The Bass Rock is gleaming white with breeding gannets and other sea birds. You could just see the gannets whirling round the cliffs but I never took a shot as I didn't have the telephoto lens with me. It's a beautiful contrast with the blue of the water today. Shame the photo doesn't do it proper justice. The rock is the home to the worlds largest single rock colony of Gannets and has a live webcam to allow you to watch the Gannets

                       Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle looked squat and forbidding across the fields. The car park was unusually busy for once. I took this without realising I had the phone lines in the shot.....sheeesh!!!

After this it was back to the house for a nice glass of chilled asti with lime - one of my favourite out-doorsy summer drinks - quietly reading in the sun on the patio. A nice way to while away some of the afternoon.

see you later

Listening to Jason Mraz 'I'm Yours'

Sunday, 30 May 2010

There's got to be a windmill or two........

Kinderdijk - windmills

Hullo ma wee blog,

Holiday over, it's back home to rainy Scotland. The weather last week in The Netherlands was good to us with mainly hot and sunny days and just one day of dull and cool. Now as we head into the bank holiday weekend - which to my mind always heralded the start of summer proper - it's a cool 8C and the rain is pattering against the window, albeit in a gentle and quietly relaxing way. With normal return-from-holiday grass cutting plans postponed I might have the chance to finish my holiday read. Strangely for me, who can devour up to a book a day when on holiday, I never completed any of the two books taken with me. As well as the days being filled with good company and interesting places, insomnia disappeared and I slept like a log which in turn gave me more energy and a better chance to enjoy each day.

Ghent - rooftop statues

We spent a few days with our friends at their farm near Eindhoven before joining my brother and his wife at their friends holiday house at Vlissingen and touring a part of Holland that we didn't know from previous visits.

Ghent - Cafe life

We had relaxing meals and long conversations during walks. We lazed in cafes and bars and soaked up the atmosphere. We watched healthy Dutch cycle energetically by as we savoured yet another coffee.

Middleburgh - Rathaus

We ate healthily and yet still gorged on Indonesian food and Dutch treats - matjes, poffertjes, kibbel and pannekoeken.

Spoordonks - street statue

We also took time to visit Belgium as Gordon and I wanted to retrace some of our Grandfathers steps in Ypres and Paschendaele during WWI.

Ypres - Cloth Hall

We soaked up history and trading connections with the East coast of Scotland - common red pantiled roofs look very familiar as the tiles were brought back as ballast on board ships visiting from home and used all over Fife and The Lothians

Lisette and Martiens Farmhouse

 Above all, we had fun and a great time with family and friends. No better kind of holiday.

See you later.

Listening to Thin Lizzie 'Cowboy Song'

Friday, 21 May 2010


Hullo ma wee blog,

You can have a few days rest while the Lovely G and I are away in Holland.

See you in a week.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Crivens, Jings..........Review of the Year

Hullo ma wee blog,

Incredibly, yesterday was a year to the day since I took my first bumbling steps into the World Of Blog and made my first post.  In 365 days much and little has changed, which is probably a bit confusing for you if you have strayed here for the first time and for those of you that know me a bit better, you are probably thinking that;

a} That's a pretty fair assessment
b} Anyone who has strayed here for the first time will probably - knowing the way I ramble - still be confused by the end of this.

In the last year I've made 216 posts which surprises the heck out of me. Before this I'd never even managed to keep a diary for longer than two weeks and to be absolutely honest, even then there were only half a dozen angst driven teenage entries.

It all started because I was in the midst of crisis. I'd been made redundant by my employer completely out of the blue and was in absolute turmoil, worried about the future for my family and myself. I'd worked for the same firm for 32 years {exactly to-the-day I was initially told I was being made redundant - which strangely, naively and with unconscious cruelty, the Personnel Manager supporting my Dept Head actually referred to at the first meeting.} and had really enjoyed my job. My father had died some two weeks before and my entire world had been doubly rocked. I was also determined to fight my employer as the reasons given for selection just did not add up. These factors combined to give me lots to occupy my mind resulting in insomnia, so as I had just entered the virtual world via my own lap top - I'd used one for work but pretty much ignored the internet for any kind of entertainment previously,  but had just started to get an interest in personal blogs. So, the stage was set. I had the opportunity through insomnia, I had the material through my turmoil and I had the equipment. Mind made up I had to think of a name for the prospective blog.

I settled on 'Crivens, Jings and Help Ma Blog' - a variation - actually misremembered - from a childhood favourite newspaper cartoon character's expression . The 'Sunday Post' newspaper's 'Oor Wullie' is an image and character instantly identifiable for anyone Scottish or familiar with Scotland, having been part of our printed heritage for God knows how long. I often use him as an avatar at the start of posts.

Over the last year my blog, my imaginary friend, has listened to me on a wide range of subjects, as have those who have dropped in to read, to comment and those who've followed to hear what would be the next thing to cross the brain cell. You've heard me rant and rave. I've indulged myself in politics, in history, in social observation, in melancholy, in sentimentality and yearning. I've been a grumpy git, a cantankerous curmudgeon and surprisingly, even an occasional romantic.

Looking back over some of the posts I'm astonished by much of what has come to me, and yet I feel that I've hardly scratched the surface. I've got more confident with the blog and a style of writing. I've signed up for a writing course to explore this confidence further and to investigate what kind of a writer I might be. Will anything come of it? Who knows and does it really matter. I hope like with the blog, I enjoy the experience. If that's all that comes I'll be happy.

I've posted a lot of video clips, reflecting my love of music and concert going - and probably my poor taste in music - over the last year, and I've documented snapshots of my life here. Looking over the posts today I've picked out a few examples of what has pleased me most from the last year. If you're an old hand please forgive me, if your just passing through then here's a taster of a year in the life of 'Crivens, Jings and Help Ma Blog'.

1} Here's a tale about soup and it's part in life.
2} A story about Scots history and irony
3} A recollection of a much loved old man
4} An example of the kind of thing that drives me craaazzzzyyyy!
5} Romantic old me
6} How insomnia messes with your head.
7} Thoughts on child welfare.
8} Of 153 Sqdn RAF in war in the air during WWII
9} Living with and loving cats
10} The Lovely G  and what she means to me.

See you later.

Listening to this again, one of my most favourite night time companions.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The week ahead.........

Hullo ma wee blog,

This week will end in a good way hopefully as the Lovely G and I fly off to Holland to spend some time with our Dutch pals Lisette and Martien before meeting up with my brother and his wife for a few days sightseeing and relaxing. Before then I will be crossing a couple of anniversary dates; the first anniversary of the blog's existence and the first anniversary of being made redundant. Hopefully you don't need to ask which of those will be the most enjoyable.

This morning I have been arranging with my ex-employer to take up a share option which I am entitled to. This needs to be fully concluded by Friday which should be no problem, but may unfortunately use up almost all of our remaining money from my dwindling redundancy payment. The upside is that by exchanging this for shares at a very preferential rate we will initially double our investment and hopefully be in a good position to benefit from growth which I feel is likely in the next however long. I have to maximise what I can take from my employers since their unfair redundancy selection process effectively killed my pension, which was key to our future plans. The downside is that it will lock the money up in shares and limit the amount we can access at any given time without taking a hit on tax liability, but I'm splitting ownership of shares with the Lovely G to use the tax advantages.

I also had yet another 'helpful interview' today with the Job Centre people. This one aimed at finding me opportunities for 'further training' to help me find work. It failed - they have nothing suitable for roles like mine, but "could have someone look at your CV" I am beginning to feel increasingly desperate/anxious even with the payment protection insurance and now, after a year out of work can see me ending up in a job at half my previous salary. There just no available jobs around and any that seem to be advertised are already ear-marked for people within the advertising organisations I suspect. I had to take with me all my evidence that I have been looking for work. I wondered if my recent sarcastic protest applications for judge and bank CEO etc would come back to bite me but despite asking for evidence to be provided they didn't look at it.

JC+ guy was in fine twitching form and looked anxious as he told me that I now had to be applying for any vacancy regardless of wage with the threat of the ultimate removal of job seekers allowance benefit if I am deemed to be not seriously looking for work. That's a laugh as I don't actually receive the £65 a week allowance any more as I was on contribution based benefit. Once again I asked him to look on the local newspapers to find anything that I could apply for. Amusingly/ depressingly he insisted on going on line to check out vacancies posted through other JC+ regional offices but embarrassingly had to admit that there was a bit of a hiatus at the moment when he couldn't offer 1 vacancy for me to chase. I refrained from explaining that the hiatus wasn't apparently matched by the application of their departmental or governmental policy. It seemed fruitless and to be honest I just wanted to get out of there. My activities, like others unemployed for a similar time, will now be monitored by monthly interviews to offer further 'support'

Deep Joy!

Jings - I need a week away.

see you later.

Listening to Leonard Cohen 'I'm your man'

Monday, 17 May 2010

Whiskers in the night............

Hullo ma wee blog,

I switched the lights off and crossed the hall to the stairs. It was late and The Lovely G had departed for bed hours before, followed conscientiously by Jess a few seconds later. Jess paused by the lounge door, yawned in a whisker stretching grimace and looked back as if considering whether to come back to her warm place beside me on the sofa, before turning and dutifully heading after her ladyship, her tail giving a dismissive flick as it disappeared silently from sight, leaving me to solitary TV.

By the time I was ready to follow it was later than late and I wearily went through some perfunctory ablutions in the bathroom before quietly creeping into the dark of the bedroom. As I entered, switching off the light on the upstairs landing as I did so, I could see Jess lying on the bed between The Lovely G and the edge of the bed nearest the door. She sleepily opened one critical eye to check that whoever was disturbing them had authority to do so and, permission granted, I left the door ajar so she could get to the kitchen and food or water or litter tray if needed during the night without disturbing us and padded silently across to the far side of the bed where I gratefully lifted the edge of the duvet to slip underneath.

I stretched comfortably out in the cold of my unoccupied side of the bed, revelling in what is, strange as it undoubtedly seems, to me one of life's little pleasures; cold, fresh sheets. I love to get into a cold bed and look forward to feeling warm within moments. I'm one of those people who seem to have a natural furnace which banishes cold rapidly - a trait that my wife also appreciates deeply and takes advantage of at every possible opportunity, being the complete opposite of me and hating even the thought of a cold bed. I have had to prise her from me, leech like, on countless cold nights to stop her putting me in meltdown mode before I manage to drop off. While I have to be relatively cool to have any chance of falling asleep, in bed she seems to prefer meltdown as a minimum temperature so I like to keep a little space between us when trying to sleep. Truthfully -  some nights I have prayed for a cattle prod to stop her homing in on me. It can be like trying to avoid a thermonuclear heat source sometimes, honestly!

As I lay there in the dark I thought again how lucky I was that she has never tried to persuade me to fit an electric blanket, even in the coldest of winters. To be honest, it's something I couldn't do anyway, and she probably realises that I would quite simply never be able to sleep in that artificially warm environment. {Not that I'd complain - much - of course} I relaxed, comfortable in the moment, enjoying the dark and the cold,  listened to the soft pattering of light raindrops on the velux windows of our bedroom, glad that I had put the garden to some semblance of order in the last couple of dry days. I felt Jess move on the other side of the bed, stretch in that impossibly supine feline way and give her characteristic little gurn of effort as she did so, before feeling her wade across the padded landscape of the duvet, heading in my direction. She stalked none too gently across my legs - it's strange how an animal can be by turns both incredibly delicate and a complete nightmare of a bruiser - and headed up towards my chest causing the duvet that was puddled loosely about me to tighten, marking each step of her progress towards me with an unwanted and restrictive pressure. Not wanting to wake G from her sleep I put out a hand towards Jess to stop her from coming all the way up to my face as was likely, she  firstly stopping suddenly with my movement, then coming forward to nuzzle my hand when she realised that it wasn't trying to swipe her off - what can I say - I'm petty when I'm tired. We exchanged greetings, human hand to furry face, and she sat down at the end of my reach to duck and twist her neck and shoulders to the massage that was on offer, switching on her powerful purr as she did so.

The grudging and somewhat lackadaisical massage continued for a while, encouraged by a gurn and a nuzzle when needed to keep the pace going, from an appreciative Jess who flopped comfortably down against me. It was clear that while I was beginning to fade, she had the benefit of a few hours sleep behind her to get her ready for a good old petting session. Soon my hand was being nuzzled more than it was massaging and Jess was clearly beginning to feel that one of us wasn't keeping their end up. She gave me a disgruntled "meh" and sat up, contemplating what should be the next move in invigorating the near comatose me, pulling the duvet tight across my hip as she did so, which caused me to wriggle sleepily to right the situation. Another gurn from Jess and she again walked in that duvet tensioning way to my face where she none-too-gently pushed a purry, furry head against a tired, uncomfortable and increasingly irritated me. I put my hand up and pushed her back down the bed and held her down with a solid shoulder rub and as she relaxed I too relented and she seemed to settle as I dozed off.

I woke some time later to find her sitting on my hip staring at me. God knows how long - or short - the time had between the last massage and this. Having got the reaction she obviously wanted she gave me a "Meh", stood up and walked heavily up my ribs, purring as she came until she was unceremoniously pushed off. Thwarted but not beaten, she purred louder and came duvet distortingly  back to my face to land a none-too-gentle head butt on me, resulting in a reciprocatingly none-too-gentle "Gerroff" and a shove towards my feet. This was repeated a few more times until a feminine but distinctly grumpy " for goodness sake, what ARE you doing?" came from the other side of the bed.

My whispered "Sorry!" caused The Lovely G to roll over in my direction and murmur a few gentle encouragements to sleep at me as she gave me a slow, gently delicious scratch up my spine from waist to shoulder, which in turn caused me to give a low groan and a shiver of approval. G slid up behind me and softly slipped her arm over my waist as she pressed into me. Jess at the same moment decided that perhaps another snooze was now in order too and also slid heavily down against my chest, pulling the duvet underneath her and took the purr volume button to 11. Behind me The Lovely G began to 'purr' too. Trapped with a cat in front and a burningly hot woman behind I couldn't move with the duvet pulled tight by Jess' weight.

I began to look forward to morning with some eagerness. This sleep malarky isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

Please.........let it be morning soon.

Listening to........The Dawn Chorus - for real!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

How to choke on your breakfast.........

Hullo ma wee blog,

How to choke on your breakfast..........

1}Take your wife to her morning train through a beautiful East Lothian early morning glow.

2}While in town buy bacon, rolls and a newspaper before returning home.

3}Make breakfast of coffee and a bacon roll before sitting down at table to enjoy breakfast.

4}Open newspaper.

5}Read that our new coalition government - who promised tax cuts which would benefit the average family by £700 a year - are forecast to increase tax to a level where the average family would pay £1200 more a year. {consider that your unclear if this includes the promised   -£700 in the calculation}

6}Outraged, turn page away from photograph of smiling git of a Prime Minister { who had to enter the Scottish Parliament by the back door yesterday because of protesters}

7}Read that the price of petrol has reached an all time average high of £1,21 per litre {£6 PER GALLON} despite the wholesale cost of fuel GOING DOWN.

8} Take huge gulp of coffee to prevent gag reflex.

9} Go for a lie down

10}Consider that you might need to do this for quite a long time.........

see you later.

Friday, 14 May 2010


Some very beautiful film of Lancasters in flight in HD.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Yesterday it was announced that there will be a £3.5 million memorial to the men of Bomber Command to be completed in London by 2012.  It brings to a conclusion the long fight for public recognition for the more than 55,500 Bomber Command aircrew killed in action during WWII. There has been a concerted campaign for public recognition since the end of the war, when the men felt that their sacrifice and effort was left ignored in the political aftermath of the war, due to the concerns over the area bombing campaign and the civilian losses resulting from it.

It was a fantastic announcement and one that obviously left me feeling a great degree of satisfaction.

From yesterdays Guardian newspaper.

"Just over 65 years after VE Day, Westminster council has finally given the go-ahead to a memorial dedicated to the memory of RAF Bomber Command and the bomber crews who flew over occupied Europe during the second world war and died in their thousands in what was one of the most dangerous missions for any wartime service personnel.

Among the UK's copious collection of war memorials are many famous and less well-known tributes: "the Few" of the Battle of Britain have two monuments, in Kent and in London; the Merchant Navy's memorial is at Tower Hill, London; the Desert Rats are commemorated at Thetford in Norfolk; Liverpool has a statue dedicated to those who crewed the ships of the Atlantic convoys, and there is another in Murmansk marking those lost in the Arctic convoys; and not forgetting the animals' war memorial next to Hyde Park in London. So why is it only now that the 55,573 bomber crew members killed – a casualty rate that meant a life expectancy of six weeks, only slightly longer than that of the estimated 540 fighter pilots killed in the Battle of Britain?

Winston Churchill said, in 1940: "The fighters are our salvation but the bombers alone provide the means of victory." Yet Bomber Command's celebrated leader, Sir Arthur Harris, was not granted a memorial until 1992, and this monument to the crew has waited more than 65 years. There is a perception that the commemoration of the bomber crews' sacrifice was postponed because of a widespread moral unease about this aspect of Britain's wartime conduct: that dropping bombs on one's enemy is intrinsically unheroic; that the bombing of Germany was not "our finest hour"; that the heavy civilian loss of life was cruel and, some have argued, even criminal.

Was this memorial overdue or is it right to have qualms? If both are true, how can the two considerations be reconciled?"

I feel conflicted, upset and annoyed for being so, at myself today, when it has been announced that a new £80 Million memorial to the fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain is being added to the two that are already in existence. I feel of course it's right to commemorate, but is this overkill or am I just to close, too biased, too emotional.

Whatever the answer to that is, I feel somewhat sad, not for me but for the remaining bomber command aircrew, that the announcement today seems to take the shine of yesterdays 65 year long awaited result and once again throw into a sharp perspective just where the recognition lies.

what a shame.

see you later.

listening to BBC news.

Monday, 10 May 2010

153 Squadron 1944/45 - The final entry

A few months ago, just before Christmas in fact, I decided to go on a journey in search of a bit of my Dad that I didn't know all that much about. Dad died last year aged 84. He'd had a good innings, been an ordinary working man all his days and, an intelligent, able and highly sociable man, he worked in low paid jobs -  postman, insurance agent, traffic warden, social work assistant for blind welfare - for all of his working life. He never hankered after money or status and enjoyed the simple things in life; family, children, nature, people. He was a great fisherman and a great reader, he enjoyed solving problems and making things with his hands in a nutty professor creative kind of way. He was a natural psychologist and understood what made people tick. He was self deprecating and a good conversationalist, a staunch and lifelong giver of friendship. He was inquisitive, questioning and interested to the last. He had one of the most embarrassing laughs I have ever heard from a grown man. He gave that laugh to me.

Dad and his crew. Dad front right.

When he was a young man there was a war on. Before it ended he joined the RAF and became a rear gunner in 153 Squadron of Bomber Command. They flew Lancasters from Scampton near Lincoln in England, the same base that the 'dambuster's raid had been launched from. He very rarely spoke about his armed service. When he did it was short stories of training flights, innocuous anecdotes about life around the base or, more often, stories about when he had been posted out of the Squadron after the end of the war to a small town in Northern Germany where he lived with a German family while working on various ground roles in the area, or about dropping food to starving civilians in Holland. As he would never speak of it much, as I got older I never asked. When I did he simply said that he had trained and then been in a crash and by the time he recovered it was nearly over and his life hadn't been that exciting or dramatic.

Don Freeborn and crew

After he died I suddenly realised I had a thousand, a million questions unasked  about hundreds of things and no chance to have them answered any more. I wanted to know more about his time during the war.  I wanted to know about what he did. I wanted to know about him and his experience. As usual with Dad, nothing was ever straight forward. I began to look. I began to read. I began to dig. As was so typical of him, he led me to a door, opened it and showed me something much bigger than I expected.  A much different story than I imagined began to be shown to me, one that wasn't about my Dad so much as included  him. 

Whizz Wheeler and crew

As I worked away at the information and began to post what I had found, attempting to keep in time with the campaign calendar of 1945, I found the story of a relatively small group of people, no doubt like hundreds of thousands of other small groups around the globe at that time, who were experiencing things that were way beyond my ken. As I posted the sometimes daily updates, they became known to me. They became real to me. Their joint experience put into context language and fears that I recognised from Dad even 60 years later, not from what he said, but from who he was. I began to feel a contact with, and empathy for them through my knowing of him. I began to appreciate much more clearly what they had  all  been through in those truly terrible times. I saw that this was only a small part of what was the same experience for thousands of other 'Bomber Boys' on a nightly basis over an extended period of time. The very reality of posting 'in real time' showed me how relentless their situation was, even over such a short period.  I'm sure that if you have read, or will read these posts as a result of what I am saying here, that you too like me,  may come to a clearer understanding of just what WWII in the air was like for so many.

Wing Co. Powley, Sqdn Ldr Gee.

But now, my little project is finished. I do know more about my Dad. I know more about all of them. How typical of him to show me that it's not about one person, no matter how important that one person may be to you. It seems now, right at the end, that it was in fact about all of them almost right from the beginning. Maybe I should have realised that it was going to be that way. That's another similarity between him and I, I suppose.

High Flight, 20,000ft

Before I leave the topic completely, I want to re-post this little poem from an earlier entry.

 Its for Dad and its for all of 153 Squadron. Those who lived and the 147 who died long ago.

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings,
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun split clouds - and done a hundred things you
Have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung,
High in the sunlit silence, hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air,
Up, up the long delirious blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark nor even eagle flew,
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod,
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

written in September 1941
by John Gillespie Magee Jr
Royal Canadian Air Force
died 11 December 1941.
Aged 19.

153 Sqdn Reunion May 2010

Thank you all. God Bless.

See you later.......

Sunday, 9 May 2010

153 Squadron 8th May 1945 - VE day to the end of 153 Squadron.

Lancasters over London. VE day Celebrations.

On 8th May, the day that marked the end of war in Europe, the squadron left Scampton once again to make the final food drops marking its involvement in 'Operation Manna'

Although the end of hostilities was marked by  festivities both in camp and outside and intense national celebrations took place with street parties and dances, war was not yet over, with Japan still holding out.  At base the celebrations, while enthusiastically embraced by some, were in contrast felt somehow inappropriate by others who had experienced family bereavement and those who found it hard to celebrate when so many squadron losses had been made in recent weeks. Although I can't find absolute evidence I think its likely that at Scampton as in other places guards were placed  on aircraft to ensure that any over euphoric and inebriated crews did not decide to go on a victory 'spin'. Some bases quietly ensured that aircraft had their magnetos removed thus rendering such unofficial flying impossible.

 Celebrations quickly over, the squadron were instructed to maintain high levels of operational readiness which led to rumours of them being part of the proposed 'Tiger Force' to move to the far East to support the effort being made against Japan. This involved intensive flying practice throughout June and July over extended periods and distances, day and night. Ultimately the squadron was not involved in Tiger Force and indeed the concept was shelved when the USA indicated its intention to pursue the war with Japan alone. In any effect the supposed duration of conflict was terminated with the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August.

Before that, the squadron took part in 'Operation Post-Mortem' which involved dummy raids on German cities to help evaluate captured German technology. In addition, one of the most urgent and overwhelming needs was to repatriate the many thousands of British and Commonwealth POW's scattered across continental Europe back to freedom as quickly as possible. To this end it was agreed that this should be done by airlift and 'Operation Exodus' was born and quickly put into full swing across May.

The Dakotas of Transport Command, which were ferrying supplies to the forward units, were used to bring POW`s back to Brussels. Lancasters of Bomber Command were then employed to bring the men back to British airfields. In all, 74,000 men returned this way.

Operation Exodus - 153 Sqdn

Many of the passengers had been taken POW before the advent of four-engined bombers, and they were suitably impressed with what they saw - and if the rudimentary conditions they had to endure, sitting bunched together on the bare metal floor of the aeroplane, fell short of that in any airliner, they generally rated it as the best flight they would ever make!

Welcome home - 'Operation Exodus'

153 Squadron flew on two of these missions - on 11th May (12 aircraft) which returned via Ford; and on the 26th May (15 aircraft) coming back via Dunsfold. Each aircraft carried 24 passengers plus a reduced crew of 6.

Amongst those partaking on 26th May was Bill Langford in LM550 (P4-C), which, prior to its transfer from No.166 Squadron, was known as "B-Beer" with a beer-barrel decorating its nose! Following its 100th operation, Bill arranged for a 100 small foaming tankards to be added alongside the barrel.

153 Sqdn - Lets Have Another {B for Beer}

Coincidentally, and unaware of each other`s presence, one of the waiting POW`s was his elder brother, Richard, who ,like his fellow "Pongoes", was walking around inspecting those enormous flying machines with four engines and two tails, when he chanced upon one with a beer barrel and pots of beer decorating its nose. He said to a companion "I wonder if that has anything to do with my kid brother?", not realising that it was so. At he same time Bill was wondering around the airfield, wondering if his POW big brother could possibly be there. Unfortunately there was no story-book ending. They didn't meet. On arrival back with the first 'loads' of POW's an unexpected surprise awaited the crews on depositing the grateful men.

"I saw our guests down the short ladder at the rear of the aircraft the look of joy on their faces, which more than compensated for our VE day celebrations being cut short. Approaching toward us were a number of medics carrying what appeared to me, flit guns. Each POW was squirted down the front and the back of the shirt and trousers, then they beckoned to us. We said "no" we are crew. They replied "Yes" you have been in their company. So we got the same treatment."

A 153 Sqdn Crew
F/O W. Clark (Pilot) , Sgt V.G. Francomb, F/O N. Sears, Sgt J. Kirkpatrick
Ft Sgt A. Bell, F/O C.C. Dorrity and Sgt T.S Ings  {Photo courtesy of Douglas Bell}


With the ending of the war in Europe, both the Australian and Canadian Government's ordered the repatriation of their aircrews, thereby severing abruptly the tremendous comradeship that had been mutually shared, both in dire moments of action and in many happy hours of relaxation on the ground. Given the mixed composition of many crews, this resulted in a major reshuffle, because many of the remaining RAF and RNZAF personnel had to be re-crewed to fill the vacancies. However, not all could be absorbed, because, to add further disruption, the Squadron`s effective strength was simultaneously reduced to 32 crews.

During 'A Cook's Tour'

Some or the June/July training flights were officially designated as 'Ruhr cross-country' flights, but were quickly dubbed 'Cook`s Tours' by aircrew as they presented an opportunity to fly reasonably low over the devastated areas of Germany to witness the damage caused by bombing. Up to four passengers were permitted; these often included ground crew personnel, both airmen and WAAF, as a means of expressing thanks for their contribution to the efficient daily running of the squadron. It also gave them an insight into flying over distance and the chance to see the effects of their war efforts. I have no information that is particularly Scampton based but there is ample evidence that many people were deeply affected by sight of the devastation wreaked upon Germany on these flights.

Disposal of unwanted 30lb incendiary bombs was carried out in late July, August and early September, by dropping them into the North Sea and Cardigan Bay. In all, 45 sorties were required to clear the stockpile.


To ensure an equitable method of demobilising 'hostilities only' servicemen, the Government introduced a system featuring a points scheme, based on age and length of active service, which was applied to all men, irrespective of rank, trade, or the uniform worn. However, in practice, each trade received individual treatment, so arranged that in general, aircrew were released much sooner than any other group (although allowance was made for skilled men to be claimed by their previous employers under special Class 'B' arrangements). The actual release documents, designed to facilitate a speedy passage through the demobilisation centre, comprised a multi-page booklet of considerable detail, together with a companion set required for local retention.

Each unit was required to nominate its own Release Officer, responsible for every aspect of the oppressive documentation involved. W/Co Rodney selected F/O Johns (mainly because of his Civil Service administrative background) and thereafter used him as an unofficial, hard-worked, assistant adjutant.
The first persons to be released were F/O J.M.Sharpe - Pilot (Class 'A') and F/Lt C.G.Alexander - Navigator (Class 'B'); both on 8th August.


British Service men trying to return from the Mediterranean found that damaged roads and railways created enormous bottlenecks, causing lengthy delays on any cross-continental journey. Shipping was mostly committed to supplying the Far East campaign. Many of the Servicemen had been abroad for years without home leave; an increasing number were due for demobilisation. Thus was born "Operation Dodge" (a sly and cruel reference to the unjustified label of "D-Day Dodgers" coined by those involved in the Normandy D-Day landings and one which should never have been allowed to pervade the upper echelons of the Air Ministry to the extent of naming the operation like this)

Three Italian airfields were deemed suitable for use (Pomigliano/Naples and Bari. 153 Squadron was allotted to the former. A pattern of operation was quickly established. The outward journey flew south over France, reaching the Mediterranean at Marseilles (between the Alps and the Pyrenees) then east to Corsica and Elba before heading for Pomigliano - which lies north of Naples. The following day was a rest day, which allowed for sight-seeing around Naples (including Pompeii) and souvenir hunting.

The third day required an early call (03.30am) and a hazardous ride in the back of a 3-ton lorry, narrowly avoiding horse-drawn, un-lit, market-bound, farm wagons, traversing very bad roads, all in pitch darkness. On reaching the airfield, and re-united with their aircraft, crews met their 'payload' of twenty soldiers (plus their kitbags, which were stowed in the bomb bay). To avoid the searing heat of Italy in August, an early take-off was essential. The return journey re-traced the outward path as far as Lyons, wen course was set for Dunkerque, Colchester and finally Glatton, where passengers were disembarked and , after undergoing Customs clearance, crews returned to their home stations.
Conditions for the 20 passengers, seated only on blankets on the floor of the Lancaster aft of the main spar, were pretty grim. Throughout a journey of six-and-a-half hours they were huddled together, with no view of the world outside their metalled surroundings, subjected to the unremitting noise of four Merlin engines. Some marginal relief was afforded by visits to the cockpit area during the flight, but not all chose to do so.
Over the period 2nd August to 14th September, 153 Squadron dispatched 43 'Dodge' flights, bringing back 860 passengers. With the exception of one aircraft (L) which was forced to stop-over a few days at Marseilles with engine trouble, all flights were uneventful. Crews soon became adept at changing from battle dress blues to tropical khaki outfits over the Med!



In the inscrutable way of all Headquarters, 'someone' decreed that of all the 79 Bomber squadrons existing on V/E Day, 153 Squadron was to be tasked to conduct service user trials of a brand-new, secret radar device known simply as "H2S Mark IV". This equipment was installed in five of 'B' flight`s aircraft. On 10th August, ten crews  were nominated to carry out the work (their initiation had actually begun on 1st August). Their selection was guided by their low release numbers rather than any other factor. 

Japan surrendered on the 14th August. Within three months of V/J Day, Bomber Command had disbanded ten of the fourteen squadrons in No.1 Group.

The first to go was No.153 Squadron.

On Friday, 21st September, all personnel stationed at Scampton took part in a 'Disbandment of Squadron' parade. Members of 153 Squadron were inspected by the Air Officer Commanding, No.1 Group, following which a precise record of the Squadron history was read out. The Squadron badge, (having been retrieved from the Wing Commander`s safe) was carried on parade by the Assistant Adjutant, prior to him formally handing it over to the custody of a Group Staff Officer for onward transmission to the Air Ministry. The parade included three 'Founder Members' - W/O W.C Harrison (W/Op - just one short of his second tour), F/Lt P.O. Baxter (Engr Leader) and F/Lt R.W.Stewart (Signals Leader).

During its 201 days existence it had dispatched 1,057 sorties (and prepared for many more), dropped 4,654 tons of bombs and sown 204 sea-mines. Sadly it had lost 147 young men; only 6 aircraft of those originally acquired survived. Two had flown more than 100 operational missions.

The Squadron was declared 'stood down' pending its official date of disbandment from R.A.F. Scampton.


The need to continue user trails on the H2S Mark IV was met by simply transferring all 10 crews involved- together with their 5 modified aircraft - to No.12 Squadron, stationed at RAF Binbrook. That this was only a temporary arrangement was conveyed in their revised title of  ''Y''Flight. Although the aircraft were re-lettered from P4 to PH - No 12 Sqdns code letters,  the Flight acted as a separate, independent unit, concentrating only on pressing ahead with the trial programme, much of which necessarily took place when the rest of the Squadron was stood down. The feeling of being independent, but united in effort, generated a real esprit de corps among the 70 men of 'Y' Flight - who were all from 153 Squadron.

On conclusion of the trials, 'Y' Flight was disbanded and any crew not absorbed into 12 Squadron proper was posted out. The five aircraft were all scrapped.

The last traces of No. 153 (Bomber) Squadron had quietly disappeared.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Jamie Cullum - All Hail 'The Piano Man'.............

Hullo ma wee blog,

The lovely G and travelled through to Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall last night to go to our first Jamie Cullem concert. G was the instigator, listening to bits of his regular slot on BBC Radio Two as she comes home from work sometimes. I was an interested companion, loving piano music in most of it's forms, even if I do struggle with the density of some jazz. I was, it has to be said, unsure of a full blown jazz piano concert by someone I had heard very little of, but willing to give it a go. It turned out to be one of the most fantastic nights for a couple of years and as we reflected back on the night on the way home, we both agreed that he can sign up another two fans.

We were ably set up for the show by a half hour set from supporting act Eliza Dolittle's quirky voice and engaging character. Each track she gave us was original, interesting and very musical, yearning back to phrasing, styles and form of previous years in a highly sympathetic but completely modern way. She too captivated us right from the start and can add also us to her list of fans. A creative and cracking little performer and a talent to watch out for in the future for sure.

By the time Jamie Cullem came on stage just shy of 9pm the audience was ripe for a great show. I was intrigued before the show with the range of ages of lots of beautiful women from teens to fifties, carefully and very stylishly dressed for the night out. It appeared that oor Jamie has a willing set of following 'groupies' {and pardon me ladies if that is less than flattering for you} with an age range as wide as his musical influences.

The show started with an excited squeal from the hard core following and from the start it was easy to see what could captivate about the personality of the diminutive JC. Instantly, he made you aware of a gentle and unassuming nature, lacking in ego, big on self deprecation, easy on the ear, not grating with any kind of 'I'm the center of attention'. He is a young man {30} secure in his skin and aware he has a gift, seemingly genuinely delighted at being able to share it with you. He led off by saying that we should strap ourselves in for the long haul as they intended to play for as long as energy and inspiration held out. There was, he advised, no set list. "We're going to play what we feel like playing."

For the next two and a quarter hours he proceeded to prove he is a prodigious talent. Songs came fast and loose, covering every genre from trad and modern jazz to rock, beatbox, electric looping and Latin American. His influences showed in the huge divergence of musical styles covered, consumed, tweaked, tugged and twisted in the inimitable style of someone who is a highly individual artist. Above all it was his artistry on show last night. Yes, he is a sex thimble, yes he is a star ,but his skill, his intelligence and his complete understanding of the text he uses to communicate is where he is truly special. He blew me and everyone else in the theatre last night completely and utterly away. He plays piano like Dudley Moore with twenty years of extra practice, he phrases like Frank Sinatra and sings like a cross between Coldplay's Chris Martin and an even cooler Michael Buble. It was hypnotic to watch, it was mesmerising to listen to.

A simple four piece band of extraordinary talent, like the bass players accompaniment to the almost 10 minute freestyle duet interpretation of  'I get a kick out of you' with Jamie, showed a togetherness of real musicianship, connected by the understanding they all had of the subject matter. They quite simply had a blast and let us in on it. The two hours ended with the band having moved down to the middle of one of the side aisles with Jamie out in the audience for a fifteen minute jam session. He encouraged the audience around to come out into the aisle and dance with them - an offer too good for some of the keenest middle aged matrons to resist,  resulting in some unseemly drooling on their part - and then to follow them back down to the front of the stage while the band climbed back on for the finale and a rapturous finish to the night. The band completed an encore and Jamie ended with a heart rending version of the slow theme from Grande Torino.

A simply staggering concert, and one I couldn't fault in any way. Utterly, utterly brilliant.

If you get the chance to see him - dont miss it.............

153 Sqn. 29th April 1945 - 'Operation Manna'

70 years ago today my fathers war came to an end with the final mission to deliver food to starving Holland. A few years ago I posted his squadrons campaign diary for 1945 in real time following them day by day as they fought to survive what was the last few months of WWII. This is the story of their last operational flights.
Continuing the story of my late dad's wartime experiences as tail gunner in Lancasters of 153 Sqn and following Squadron operations from Jan 1945 to the end of hostilities.

During the days in April when the squadron was 'stood down' due to lack of operational targets in enemy territory, the crews of 153 Sqn were detailed to carry out low level cross country flying and map reading exercises. No official explanation was given to the airmen. The reason eventually became apparent......

On the 29th April, 153 squadron began humanitarian food drops to civilian populations suffering from starvation in the parts of Holland still under the Nazi occupation. This tragic situation, known even today as 'the hunger winter' came about because although much of Holland was safely in allied hands, a large pocket in Western Holland (including Amsterdam,Rotterdam,The Hague and other major cities) was still occupied by the Germans. After the landing of the Allied Forces on D-Day, conditions grew worse in  Nazi-occupied Netherlands. The Allies were able to liberate the southern part of the country, but their liberation efforts came to a halt when Operation Market Garden, their attempt to gain control of the bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem, failed.

The Dutch national railways had complied with the exiled  government's appeal for a railway strike starting in September 1944 to further the Allied liberation efforts. In retaliation the German administration placed an embargo on all food transports to the western Netherlands. By the time the embargo was partially lifted in early November 1944 by allowing restricted food transports over water, an unusually early and harsh winter had already set in. The canals froze over and became impassable for barges. Food stocks in the cities in the western Netherlands rapidly ran out. The adult rations in cities such as Amsterdam had dropped to below 1000 kilocalories a day by the end of November 1944 and to 580 kilocalories in the West by the end of February 1945.  As the Netherlands became one of the main western battlefields, widespread dislocation and destruction of the war ruined much of its agricultural land and made production and transport of existing food stocks almost impossible. As usual it was the civilian population that suffered worst with many old, young and weak dying from starvation and cold.

By early 1945, the situation was desperate for the three million or more Dutch still under German control. Prince Bernhard appealed directly to the Allies for help to resolve the situation. In response, protracted negotiations began with the occupying German forces.

The plan to deliver this humanitarian aid was codenamed 'Operation Manna'
Allied contingency planners eventually devised a system whereby food could be air-dropped by bombers,using panniers (called 'blocks') four of which could be fitted to a standard Lancaster bomb bay. Each block held 71 sacks (giving a total weight of 1254 lbs per block) variously containing sugar, dried egg powder, margarine, salt, cheese, tinned meat, flour, dried milk, coffee, cereals, tea, high vitamin chocolate, potatoes, etc. - all supplied from the Ministry of Food's reserve stockpiles. Before the introduction of 'blocks', a variety of possible delivery systems had been devised by squadrons acting individually. As is customary, user trials were flown, one of which involved 153 Squadron. Fl/Lt Bill Langford recalled,

"On April21st, I flew 'V' Victor to Netheravon, carrying a mixture of goodies, in sacks, slung from ropes on a Heath Robinson {home-made} device in the bomb bay. We were to demonstrate to an assembly of RAF and Army brass, just how food would be dropped to the starving Dutch. Approaching the airfield at around 200 feet, wheels and flaps down for minimum flying speed, we lined up the white cross on the ground, and pressed the button….. when it all went wrong! Sacks of peas, tins of Spam, and all sorts of containers rained from the sky, scattering the assembled brass in all directions. Not what was intended."

A similar presentation also took place at Scampton after lunch April 21st when F/O 'Red' Penman, flying PA 264 (P4-3rd O), successfully carried out a demonstration drop on the airfield in front of the Marshall of the Royal Air Force, Lord Trenchard, who was visiting the station that day.

Negotiations with the German Occupying Authority for a limited truce to allow food drops to begin, assumed a critical state as the death toll rapidly mounted. At Scampton, as on other stations involved, crews practised low speed/low flying techniques and simulated drops. Eventually, on Sunday 29th April, the codeword "Operation Manna" was issued; this was an inspired choice, for not only does it stand for "bread from Heaven" but it means exactly the same in Dutch. 153 Squadron promptly dispatched 18 aircraft (each carrying 284 bags of food) to a dropping zone at The Hague - all following drops were on Dundigt Racecourse.

On 29 April the people of Holland heard  BBC radio announce:
"Bombers of the Royal Air Force have just taken off from their bases in England to drop food supplies to the Dutch population in enemy-occupied territory."

 Over the ten-day period ending 8th May, the Squadron mounted 111 sorties, shared between all 40 of the active crews, to successfully deliver 271 tons of life-saving provisions. In total, the RAF dropped 7,029.9  tons; the USAF who commenced drops two days later due to concerns about the truce, contributed 4,155.8 tons.

Many crews were initially apprehensive over the realisation that they would be flying, in broad daylight, at a very low level, in full view of the German A/A defences, whose gun barrels could be seen to be tracking their flight. However, the reception by the beleaguered Dutch people, who flocked on to the streets, the rooftops and all open spaces, to wave anything to hand, calmed all fears. Subsequent sorties were flown with panache, at very much lower levels, while crews (most of whom parcelled up their flying rations of chocolate and sweets and attached them to "parachutes" made from handkerchiefs, as personal gifts for the children) exchanged waves with those below. After dropping their loads, many pilots continued to fly at a very low altitudes, waggling their wings and 'buzzing' the crowds to give them a thrill, with their bomb-aimers flashing "V" for victory on the Aldis signalling lamp. It became a carefree, cheerful occasion for the aircrews, and many could not believe that Manna drops were to be allowed to count towards an operational tour.

Dad recalled being terrified at flying so low and so slowly - just above stalling speed. Crews could see the German anti-aircraft guns tracking them, including the fearsome 88mm guns accurate to 20,000ft, and said he felt like they could have reached up and slapped his backside. It was an eerie feeling for crews who were used to bombing from 15,000ft or more to be flying a slow pass over enemy guns at just a couple of hundred feet.  Several Lancasters, Dad's included took some rifle fire from below but luckily no one was injured. Dad's pilot retaliated by diving onto a tented German camp, gunning the engines and blowing the tents apart!  He also recalled one trip where the pilot took the Lancaster up a wide boulevard in a town at absolutely zero feet while the crew looked up at the cheering faces in the house windows on either side. For men used to dropping destruction it was an incredibly moving experience and one Dad was incredibly proud of.

Dutch girl Arie de Jong, a seventeen-year-old student at the time, wrote in her diary:

"There are no words to describe the emotions experienced on that Sunday afternoon. More than 300 four-engined Lancasters, flying exceptionally low, suddenly filled the western horizon. One could see the gunners waving in their turrets. A marvellous sight. One Lancaster roared over the town at 70 feet. I saw the aircraft tacking between church steeples and drop its bags in the South. Everywhere we looked, bombers could be seen. No one remained inside and everybody dared to wave cloths and flags. What a feast! Everyone is excited with joy. The war must be over soon now."

For the Dutch population, the food drops signalled something even more significant than an end to starvation. They saw the streams of bombers flying extremely low in broad daylight; they saw that the German forces did not open fire upon these vulnerable targets. They were quick to draw the obvious conclusion (oddly, not so apparent to aircrews) - that this historic event heralded the ending of the war! They hailed the fliers as their " liberators". The Dutch have never celebrated V/E day. For them, there is only the one, unforgettable celebration - the 7th May - a national holiday - which they very rightly call 'Liberation Day'.

On 8th May - V/E day - which marked the end of warfare in Europe, the Squadron made its final Manna drops. During the 10 days of Operation Manna, 3 Lancasters and crews were lost; two to collision and one to engine failure. None were from 153 Sqn.

As a postscript to this story, its interesting to recall the visit of my elder brothers Dutch friends family to our house around 1975 or so. Bart and Gordon had become great friends at university and Bart had spent quite a bit of time at our house on weekends and such. So, it was fitting that when his parents came across to visit, they also came to my parents house for a meal and to meet the family. At the end of the meal Bart's Dad and mine sat talking when the Hague came up - as Bart's family lived there. Dad mentioned that he had been to the Hague a couple of times at the end of the war to drop food and Bart's father became very emotional and gave Dad a big hug.

"I was there! I was hiding from the Germans but came out to see when the bombers came to drop the food. I was there! We were so hungry. We starved through the winter. I saw the green and red flares go down and then the food began to fall from the planes. I was there at the place in the Hague that day"

A small world indeed.

Next month G and I and Gordon and his wife are going to Holland for a short holiday. We will be staying at Barts house, not far from where 153 squadron made their drops during Operation Manna.

Watch this homemade Dutch film of RAF Lancasters dropping food during Operation Manna which I found much later after posting this item. Note how low the first Lancaster is.....

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Big Love - Lyndsey Buckingham

Hullo ma wee blog,

I'm not normally one for just posting video, so please excuse me for indulging myself with this great bit of acoustic guitar playing which was on my playlist last night too. Saw him perform this live last year and thought it was just tremendous.

Hope you enjoy it too.

Normal posting resumes from now I promise........

see you later {when we have a new government perhaps?}

Of Malt and Music.......

Hullo ma wee blog,

Kitchen. Computer. Cat at my feet. Whisky by my hand.


Will you sit a while perhaps?

see you later.......

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

sometimes things go right..........

Hullo ma wee blog,

It's great when you get something right. It's important sometimes to do that. Not necessarily the big important things, but the small, the minuscule, the insignificant even. Sometimes, these are the most important in reality. Now, I suppose I'm really talking to any fellas who happen to be reading this. I think you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that getting a small thing right can have benefits exponential to the significance of whatever it is that's gone right.  Just as getting insignificant things wrong can have consequences just as exponential, and usually painful in some way, in reverse.

I think all of us, and by that I mean every husband, partner, boyfriend or whatever - us guys - have experienced a situation where an argument, a tongue lashing or even a long huffy silence has come - as far as we are concerned - completely out of nowhere to leave us stunned into bewildered silence as we try and work out what the heck went wrong, or where the heck it had come from. Anger vented, frustration unleashed and any attempt at appeasement, conciliation, or -heaven forbid- reasoning a way out of it  thrown straight back in the face. Tears and tantrummy slamming of doors given as subtle hints that maybe not everything in the garden is rosy, from one perspective at least. As far as you know you have done nothing wrong, but you're left there wondering what the heck has been going on somewhere over your head or behind your back. And of course sometimes it's nothing that we have done, nothing we have been involved in, nothing we have omitted to do or forgotten to say. Instead it's just a projection of anger or frustration from somewhere else being directed at us, innocent poor wee souls as we normally are.

Right fellas? {I think I may just have been deafened}

Sometimes though, we  have got it wrong; missed the obvious point; done the wrong thing, said the wrong thing, forgotten the wrong thing - and usually at the wrong time. Usually it's not the big thing. Usually it's the little things. Usually it's not one but a chain of events, circumstances, or worst of all  coincidences, that all combine to make our day less than pleasant. I'm not saying here either that therefore we deserve any of the stuff that's thrown our way.   If I may speak for mankind here for just a second, you women do tend to over react a little. Just a teensy-weensy wee bit. Oh come on! You KNOW you do!   I know all that 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus'  nonsense blah-blah-bleugh, but I'm old enough to know too that you women, certainly my lovely G, are perfectly capable with being in touch with your inner Martian, just as we men are easily enough capable of getting in touch with our feminine side. That's why boys are so keen to study magazines on the female form. Erm, no, perhaps not. But take my point. We are generally and thankfully different it's true, with us men being more governed by fact, by reason if you want to call it that, while you women are more moved by feelings and emotions.  That makes it more likely - in my biased book anyway -  that you are the ones who are less certain to be on an even keel, being ruled by the heart, while we sail blithely on with our 'reasoning' eyes on the factual horizon - or TV/computer as it's more commonly known - not seeing the seething turmoil of the seas right below our feet. { Nice analogy don't you think. Completely unoriginal maybe, but it's my post/my perspective - so back off girls.... and any comment floating in your head right now about 'yeah - ship of fools' is really not very helpful.}

So, it's nice when things go right. That's what happened for me yesterday. Not that I planned any of it. No surprise there perhaps. Not even that I really was completely  aware of it either. { again no surprise} I just did what felt right for me and circumstances for once conspired to put me in a place where it  all ended up being the best I could have hoped for. Um...... If I had planned it in the first place of course that is.

How it came about.........

The lovely G had gone off to the station 8 miles away for her morning train to work and I had made coffee and toast and sat down at the computer as is my morning ritual -  to check who's posted, have there been any comments left on the blog, what's in the news and switching on the favoured morning radio station to accompany me through the start of the day. Nothing unusual at all. A sunny morning, an unusually good nights sleep behind me and I was awake, happy and looking forward to doing the few bits and pieces I had planned for the day ahead. { If you read yesterdays post you'll realise that things didn't stay that way for long as I got in touch with my feelings after the post arrived} I had just taken a sip of coffee when the phone rang and a disturbed and anxious G told me that she had left her work shoes behind { like many she has a walk to the office at the other end of the train journey and so wears trainers to work and home, carrying her shoes in her shoulder bag}. She asked if I could try and rush them down to her as she had an important meeting to attend and trainers weren't perhaps most suited for the occasion.

Now on many other mornings she could have met a different reaction. I could have said it was far too late, or I'll never make it before the train/just sat down to breakfast or been less sympathetic in my tone or complained at her 'stupidity' for the mistake or a dozen other feasible yet negative, unsupporting and generally unsympathetic reactions. Luckily though I just told her to wait at the station entrance and I would be there as soon as I possibly could. I then drove like a demon to Dunbar, illegally shot through a red at some road works near the station and dropped her shoes into her worried hands as the train staff whistled for the doors to close allowing the lovely G to get on in the nick of time.  I was exhilirated by the drive and the sense of achievement in getting them there for her as I knew she was worried about the meeting later on. But this was all just luck. I could have just as easily reacted very differently as described before.

Later, feeling annoyed and frustrated by the insurance problems I looked for a way to make me feel a bit better and decided to cook a more unusual meal for us. Mainly for me it has to be said. But, the result was that G loved it, {it was delish, lom} thought that it was a great gesture to make when she had had such a tough day and a panicky start, and set her and us both up for a great evening. Mega brownie points for me. Yet although I took them all eagerly, a wee bit of me felt guilty that I had done these things predominantly for me - the drive was a fun and exciting challenge, I was bright and up for it at the time and the meal was more about making me feel better than us. Feeling a bit guilty I made a bit more of an effort to pamper her across the evening, resulting in even more brownie points. I could do no wrong.

I felt a little fraudulent, truth be told.

Maybe I was just too in touch with my femimine side in recognising that.

But I'm not letting on. I'll be in trouble soon enough. Then I'll defend myself by reminding her of how great I was to her last night when she had come home from a bad day............

Men are from Mars, but we're sneaky sometimes too.

see you later......

listening to Kate Bush 'Wuthering Heights'

{I can't wait to see the response to this one!}

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Eat! Drink and be Mary?

Hullo ma wee blog,

No. Don't worry. The post name just reflects my love of puns.........

Today I'm feeling a bit frustrated and jaded at the same time.

 A letter dropped through the door from one of my insurance companies saying that they have not had any paperwork and do I still have a claim I want to make against my payment protection insurance. I had missed this company from the list of credit cards for which I had payment protection when made redundant last year but had eventually twigged that I had protection and raised a backdated claim. To do this I got the insurance company to send me a form which I completed, then sent to my old employers for them to complete and return - which they did - then I passed it to good old Job Center plus, our friendly Govt dept of unemployed persons, so they could do their bit. Once this is done, they send it off {they won't give it back to you for you to send 'recorded' delivery as they don't trust you not to tamper with the information they provide} except in this case, despite me checking with them and getting assurances it had all been dealt with - the insurance company have never received it. Now, of course, it's possible that JC+ have done their part correctly and the Royal Mail have fouled up, but my constant struggle to get claims filed suggests to me that my local office have proved their incompetence once again and not actually sent the form.


Ah...........that's better.

On top of that I feel a bit jaded today and my lovely G is going through a review at work today and has been keyed up through all day yesterday - which was May day holiday here - and will no doubt be coming home frazzled too.

So I'm going to make us a Thai Green Curry for tonight's dinner. We need something to perk us up and I'm kind of longing for something with the sour zing of lime and a kick of chili behind it, or maybe lemon and cracked black pepper depending on what looks best at the supermarket later. So I'll do my best to drive the blues away for us both tonight.

recipe Thai Green Chicken Curry

first stick a couple of beers in the cold part of the fridge. Most important. Don't proceed with the rest of the recipe if this step is missed - ok, at a push a really cold dry white wine.......

Thai Green Spice Paste

4 Green birds eye chillies - maybe try 2 without the seeds first time if you don't like it too hot
2 Stalks of lemon grass - do the usual, taking outer leaves off and slightly crush then roughly chop for the  blender to do the rest
6 lime leaves or lime zest and juice if I cant find them - lime leaves rolled then finely shredded
6 tablespoons minimum of coriander leaves
coriander stalks - as many as possible from a  bunch { rest of the leaves for garnish at serving}
3 garlic cloves
Fresh Ginger - a big fat thumbs worth peeled and chunked.

or buy a jar if short of time or are feeling lazy - but it's not the same

The rest.
2 chicken breasts cut into chunks
2 shallots or a small/med onion chopped however you feel like
2 tablespoons fresh green peppercorns
12 cherry toms
250ml coconut milk
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 3 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon Nam Pla - thai fish sauce
oil for frying
optional - handful of aubergine chunks or even better - a handful of those small Asian pea aubergines if I can ever find them.

Coriander leaves - however much you have to hand, with few mint and basil leaves torn up to go on at the end.
white rice/chapatis/naan bread/green salad - whatever I fancy, it's me that's eating it after all - you make your own!

Roughly chop everything for the paste - I leave the chili seeds in because I like it fairly hot. Whizz to a paste with a little - maybe 2 tablespoons - water to keep it loose.

Fry the onion for a couple of mins to soften, add the aubergine and cook for a few mins more - no more than 5 more mins maybe. Remove from pan and keep aside till later.
In same pan fry the spice paste until the water content evaporates - you might need  a touch more oil.
Halve the toms and throw them in for a few minutes. Add the onion/aubergine back in and warm through.  Add the chicken/stock and then the coconut milk and the fish sauce. Cook at med heat until chicken is how you like it. Taste and check the seasoning - add pepper or fish sauce or lime juice to taste - even some raw sliced fresh chili if your up to it.

Throw over the rest of the leaves and serve with what you fancy


Inspiration from a Nigel Slater recipe.

I feel better just writing that and thinking it through as I go.

Hungry now - HOW long before the lovely G is home?????

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...