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Archive for September, 2011

Cherry Blossom

When I was 10 or thereabouts – in all probability younger – I was initiated into the secret, male (at least in our household) art of shoe cleaning, as taught by an ex Army Sergeant – my dad!

The modern approach to the task where one takes an applicator with a foam end and applies polish to the shoe which then miraculously turns shiny hadn’t been invented. This was the old fashioned method where a tin of Cherry Blossom with the little twist opener on the side of the tin was required. Two brushes and a soft cloth (usually an old cut up jumper) were also needed. The polish would be applied using one brush to the shoe being cleaned, after mud had been removed of course, and allowed to soak in. Then the second brush would be used in an attempt to work up a shine.

This could take quite a long time especially if there was something interesting on TV which I wouldn’t normally be allowed to watch. Then, when a sufficient shine had been attained, a final buff was made using the soft cloth at which time the program had ended and the shoes were declared fit to be worn.

My son is 10 and I think it’s high time he was initiated into the secret,  male (at least in our household) art of shoe cleaning, as taught by an ex Army Sergeant – his granddad.

And who knows if he’s any good at it – he can have a go at mine as well!

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Time Travel

When I was younger, so much younger than today, I used to believe in time travel, fuelled no doubt by many episodes of Dr. Who viewed carefully from behind the sofa. Then I got older, and while not losing my hair, I left the things of childhood behind, or so I thought.

Break through the space / time continuum? Impossible! Well, no, it’s not. 

On Sunday afternoon I managed to travel over 40 years back in time without the aid of a wacky Doc or a DeLorean, but by the simple expedient of watching my 10 year old son play in his first ever competitive football match.

Lawford United Football Club, hereinafter known as LUFC, (I just love those initials) under 11’s took to the pitch after training hard all summer and suffering the indignity of massive defeats in friendly matches, albeit to teams from higher leagues.

The teams kicked off a little later than the scheduled 2.00pm start (the original referee didn’t turn up and a replacement had to be found) and I was instantly transported back to the age of 10.

I don’t know about the other parents, but it was like I was on the pitch myself, the adrenaline was surging as I kicked every ball and made every run. I tackled, blocked, and headed every ball. I marshalled the defence, I took the corners and free kicks, and made every save. All from the touchline where I shouted myself hoarse.

The LUFC under 11’s did very well in their first match scoring twice very quickly and turned the home touchline into a frenzy of cheering. Alas it didn’t last and they eventually lost 2-3. That was something else I remembered very clearly; the utter dejection of defeat. Still, age brings perspective and I was able to focus on the positives on the homeward debrief. 

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It’s funny how the mind works sometimes. How one thought triggers a memory seemingly unconnected. On a recent cycle ride with my ten year old son we passed a stall in the countryside selling free range eggs. This resulted in a conversation about the difference between free range and battery hens during which I told him about the time I had to fit CCTV cameras at an egg farm in Wales.


On my first visit there weren’t  any hens present and I got the cameras fitted and working without any problems or hindrance. A few weeks later I had to return as a problem had developed but this time the hens had arrived. This was predominately a free range facility and the hens could wander at will in the big shed and outside as well.


Until you’ve been in the presence of a large number of hens, 10,000 in this case, you don’t realise how intimidating an experience it can be. I’ve got nothing against hens; I love eggs and never say no to a roast chicken dinner. This though was something else. The smell from the faeces was so powerful that a face mask similar to a World War Two gas mask had to be worn at all times. The heat was intense and the sweat was soon pouring off me.


I was obviously the novelty attraction as within five minutes of entering the shed I was surrounded by hundreds of hens. As I walked forwards they parted and then closed the gap behind me. It was like wading though a sea of hens. As soon as I stopped they would start pecking at my boots. The worst thing about the whole experience though was the noise. I had always thought that hens clucked – and maybe some do – but these didn’t. They made what I can only describe as a soft burbling noise that after a while took on sinister undertones. I couldn’t help but feel that if these hens wanted to (crazy thought) attack me I wouldn’t stand a chance.


Of course they didn’t and I escaped unscathed vowing never to return. I never had to, as I was made redundant shortly afterwards. But, I was reminded of these hens shortly after the cycle ride when I took my son to his Saturday morning athletics training. There were about a 100 ladies present for a meeting of a local jogging club. These ladies were all gathered between the gates of the athletics club and the area where my son’s training took place. We made our way through the throng and the ladies stepped aside and then reformed once we had passed. 


It was only later, once I’d made my way back through them again, that I realised what the sound of 100 ladies in conversation reminded me of. It is best described as a soft burbling noise. 

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