Sunday, 14 July 2013

Lovin' In My Baby's Eyes......

It's been ages since I was on here, partly due to BT internet problems and partly to lethargy.  We've now been here in Blighty, on the Herefordshire/Wales border for a few months. The animals have all adjusted to life on the banks of the river Wye and spend much of their time chasing, catching and crunchily eating rabbits - well the cats do. Jack naps and eats and drifts along the riverside meadows in my wake from time to time.

Sally has had a litter of four kittens, two of which have been homed and two of which returned to her only yesterday having spent the past three weeks at a friend's place in Abergavenny whilst we were off on holiday to the West Coast of USA. She has immediately resumed her role as mother and watchful mentor on their return home:

The USA was great, as usual, with the usual terminally boring flight -esp to the Pacific side. We went via Vancouver.  I had arranged to cover a bues festival in Portland, Oregon, for a couple of magazines, so had press passes etc. And as we have old friends in the town, it made for a pleasant stay.

The festival was enjoyable, set on the riverside of central Portland, with an old friend, Mary Flower, playing. It was good to catch up with her again:

Taj Mahal did a great set. The first time I've caught him live. I thought maybe he'd be a bit past his best by date. I was mistaken. A powerful presence, with a great voice:

This guy, Joe Louis Walker, was a revelation and gave a spirited set:

John Hiatt also performed well, with a new CD as his main focus, despite my dodgy photography!:

Robert Plant was also there, but far too precious to allow media/photographic access. His set was a mix of current Americana stuff and Led Zep favourites. Whether it was blues, is a moot point.

The now aging former girlfriend of Bob Dylan and last surviving family member of the Staples Family, Mavis Staples, also did a pretty good set, pausing to rest on a speaker under the relentless sun:

Old Animal, Eric Burden also gave a great performance, though my camera battery was down, so no piccies were possible. At 71, he can still belt it out and was clearly a great favourite with the crowds.

This guy should have been onstage but was just a member of the audience:

We also spent a few days in Idaho, where the temps were way too high for comfort and we stayed on a ranch belonging to our friend, Jerry's mother:

Fortunately, for my money anyway, we found a decentish curry-house in Boise. I can recommend it to any visitor in search of curry and now have a range of useful restaurants spread across the globe which I consider worth eating in.

On the return trip to Oregon, we stopped at a cowboy town, Pendleton, where everything from Winchester Rifles to lassoes and saddles could be had in the local stores, including these remarkable boots, but a few of the hundreds on offer:

J's old schoolfriend, Heather, has this valuable Beatles album, dedicated to her by John Lennon and signed by the rest of the band:

Her late mother was a Rank starlet in the late 1950s/early 1960s and met the band in their fairly early days, before she was killed in an aircrash.

We also visited another old friend of J's, who now lives near Seattle and the small town of `Port Townsend, where she has a house and cabin on the shores of `Puget Sound.

Port Townsend harbour and downtown:

Our mode of travel with 
Jerry and Heather was typically OTT American-sized. Here's a piccy with J alongside it for scale:

Portland itself is a pleasant town and known for its many downtown bridges:

Downtown Portland:

Later this week we're off to Pembrokeshire to visit LVP. Her case is now taking shape and looking promising. Indeed, if progress is made, as I expect, at the next hearing, it may well be time for us to return home to France, where an old friend, formerly living in Spain but now about 50 miles from us, is in hospital awaiting a heart bypass operation that's scheduled for tomorrow. Our thoughts are with him and his wife.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Shoulder to Shoulder......

Don't know about you but the weather here is still awful; rain, wind and more and more rain. Though they claim it's just about to change over the weekend with mid-twenties temps forecast for Sunday, sadly a day when I'll once more be travelling North to catch a ferry from Caen to Portsmouth. I only got back from Blighty, following my brother's funeral and wake, on Wednesday!  Still feeling pretty zapped, in fact.

The funeral went as well as these things do. The wake, however, was a nicely pitched, laid-back affair. Held at his old golf-club, Wentworth, it was a clear indication of how the other half live; opulent and posh to the Nth degree, in truth. Certainly not my normal stomping ground. He was a member there for over 30 years and his son, my nephew, trained as a golf pro there under Bernie Gallagher some years ago. So he was quite at home there.

Over100 people attended and most laughed and joked about their time with him, which was nice. Jimmy Greaves said his time working with him on ITV's Saint & Greavsie programme had been 'the summer' of his life. Jim Rosenthal, an ITV sports presenter was effusive in his tributes to Bob and Mick Channon was also extremely touching in his memories.  Another few TV - Sky, ITV, and Channels 4 & 5 people  - wittered for a bit, with Sir Alex Ferguson of Man United also remembering his times with my brother.  Wee Alex, as he always called him, came down specially from Manchester in a chauffeur-driven limo but was extremely down to earth, warm, friendly and chatty. I got his autograph - personalised - for an old mate in Kent who is a lifelong, rabid MU supporter. Even J chatted with him, and she's no footy fan, and our daughter, LVP, got his autograph.  He was extremely easy-going and more than happy to oblige on that front, despite the situation and circumstances.

I personally found him to be particularly friendly and chatty, not at all like his image or the way he appears on the box at times:

This is him sharing a joke with me, the scruff in crumpled linen jacket in the forefront with the coffee cup, and my sister-in-law.

At one point a guy breezed in. Obviously a Telly-type, bronzed, immaculate hair, suit, shirt etc, who I half recognised but couldn't place. Our daughter, LVP, immediately knew it to be Eamon Holmes, made a beeline for him and spent about thirty minutes chatting with him and her cousin, my niece. He, too, was apparently a nice guy.

I find it strange to think that I won't be seeing my brother ever again. I'm finding it all a bit upsetting though ironically I've no doubt he'd have loved his send-off!

There were loads of professional golfers also in attendance, some of whom made the error of assuming that I was a good player, as had been my father, brother and, now, nephew. I had to correct them on that one. 

His oldest friend from Glasgow also managed to get down and, as I remembered him well, we spent a lot of time reminiscing together, which was a delight. Some cousins from Scotland, one the recently retired Acting Chief Constable of Lothian & Borders Police, also made it to the funeral.  They, too, were impressed by Alex Ferguson's easy manner and the way that he turned to them and chatted away in a friendly way.

Now however it's back to Blighty for a while, where we've found a place near Goodrich, Ross-On Wye, and will be settled for six months or so. We'll try getting out here to France as often as possible in the interim, of course, to keep the place ticking over and to stock up on plonk at realistic and reasonable cost.  I only hope we can get internet etc sorted out over there asap! 

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Death Don't Have No Mercy.....

Not been here for a long time. No internet till a few days ago when Orange - formerly France Telecom - finally decided to reconnect us after a switch of providers from useless SFR.  It took me a tortured half hour on the end of a Froggo mobile with a geeky Froggo techy guy to sort it out. Not for the feint-hearted.

J is over in Blighty, in Gloucester, while I am back here with les animeaux - Jack, Rocky, Ginge and Sal. They have now all settled together and established what seems to be a working pecking order of sorts. Jack, as oldest and noisiest top-dog, appears to be at the bottom of the list. The cats, Ginge especially, pinch his basket regularly and ignore his whinnying attempts to uproot them.  Indeed, so pissed-off with them has he become that he will even tolerate Ginge sharing his space at times. Something Charlie, still sadly missing, constantly tried for but never achieved!

Not sure that Sal is particularly impressed with the sleeping arrangements here:

Or here:

Today we had a cold start, around zero, but now bright and sunny. Positively printemps!  Yesterday we had freezing rain and the day before I woke to snow covered landscape! Certainly not normal for here at this time of year!  Last week, however, we had two crackers with temps of 17 one day followed by 18 the next! More like it, I say.

I'm off back to Engerland on Wednesday by ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven.  Jack's off to a local kennel while the cats, with a catflapper and loads of food/water etc., left out for them should be able to fend for themselves for the few days I'll be over.  Though I have a horrible feeling Sal is coming into season, so maybe I'll take her to the cattery too. I don't have time to have her spayed before I go and, anyway, I won't be around to look after her recovery adequately. So it'll have to wait till I return on the ninth or thereabouts.

Sadly, I'm going over for a family funeral: my brother has just died - the usual Glasgow disease de la couer having done for him.  He was 70 though and had a fine life, enjoying his tucker:

He was a respected telly sports producer, responsible for the Saint & Greavsie etc.,  the Big Match etc, while at LWT in the seventies and eighties. Latterly he ran Chelsea FC's telly thingy on a part-time, semi-retired basis.  The wake is being held at Wentworth Golf Club, where he was a member for over thirty years.  I know there will be loads of telly punters and pundits there and many ex-footy people.  I was at school, same class, as Kenny Dalglish and I know my bro kept in touch with him, so I'm hoping he might show up as I haven't really seen or talked to him since his late Celtic days. If not, I'll send him my best through Ian St John who still lives up in the Wirral and obviously knows him well.

I've been asked to say a few words but think I'll pass on that opportunity. I'd be a bit upset and tongue-tied, I fear - despite having been a lawyer/advocate for many years. I'll leave it to the professionals, I think. An old chronie of his, Russell Galbraith,  from his days as Sports Editor with STV, is doing the main waffle anyway.

It's been a bit usettling, his passing, as my American friends are wont to call it;  we always got on well and it feels strange to think I'll never see him again, the only person I've truly and literally known for all of my life:

I'm in the kilt. They were once all the rage, I believe. Certainly back then, in the early 1950s, I surely cut a dash in St Andrews where this shot was taken, or should I suggest, composed!

I was watching the live footy, England v San Marino last week on ITV - seldom do I watch England play but I thought there'd be goals aplenty and 'tis always a pleasure (as a Scot) to see Rooney ballsing a penalty for his national side -  when at the interval they flashed up his piccy and the commentator began wittering about his death and career with ITVsport.  It was most touching and kind of them, I felt. I know it pleased his family, widow, son and daughter. So thanks, ITV sports punters and pundits. Never thought I'd say that!

Anyway, enough of that. I've got a few gigs to attend in the UK on my return, later in April. The plan is tat I'll 'do' the funeral then return here to France, for a week or so, then once more journey oer land and sea to England for, maybe, six months, bringing the animals with me, of course. We almost bought a narrowboat for accommodation but hesitated at the very last minute. Thanks go to Carol and George on NB Rock&Roll for their help on this interesting and enviable possibility: nbrocknroll.blogspot

I've arranged tickets to catch a mad Jock steel-guitarist called Dave Acari - someone I've been hoping to catch for a while now; Show of Hands; Steve Tilston; Paul Brady. Not a bad set of artistes. I might also squeeze in the coming tour of Feast of Fiddles, as I know one of the fiddlers, Ian Cutler. He appeared in the cult film, The Wickerman, playing his fiddle for the most part.

Hardly the most subtle of players but entertaining, I'm sure. And that's what it's really all about!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

La Grippe.....

J is now back in UK. She pent a few days in London before trekking over to friends in Abergavenny followed by a night in Ledbury, Herefordshire. The next morning she had an appointment in Gloucester which she was unable to keep as it had snowed heavily overnight. Roads had been closed, cars abandoned and general mayhem marked the routes all around. All very different from our recent considerable experience of life in northern Sweden.

Up there, things go on as normal, though trains did come unstuck at times, with delays etc. Even that, however, always came as something of a surprise.  Here in France, where I am languishing for another week or so before returning to join her in Herefordshire, we've also had some snow. Nothing talk about in reality, but enough for this region, I'd say:

The view this morning:

Ginge was less than impressed:

In Sweden, we were used to a somewhat greater fall of snow at this time of year, so are now rather blase about the levels of snow in UK and France:

In truth, I've been feeling a bit off-colour for about 10 days or so now. Fluey but without the runny noses and some other symptoms. God knows what it is but I'll have it checked out when I get back to England next week.

I travel over on Jan 28th via Dieppe. We have found a place in Herefordshire which will do us nicely as we're unsure how long we might be there. Our daughter, LVP, is till struggling with the contact/access issues to her son, Hamish. Her ex-partner snatched him many months ago, since when there's been no contact at all. The court orders made in Carmarthen county court before Xmas are now uselessly out of date and whereas she should have had at least 5 supervised contact meetings at the Carmarthen contact centre, Ty Ni, there has yet to a single meeting. Totally unacceptable. The centre is local authority managed, which just about says it all. No doubt there will be the usual bleating about funding etc., but we're going over to kick some ass and try to move things on adequately.

As a former lawyer, with some knowledge of the system, I'm furious. It is a total failure by the Welsh authorities in this case, and as far as I'm concerned, somebody will have to sort it out and pay the price for their gross incompetence. LVP is constantly being told that delays in her application etc are possibly fatal and yet nobody seems prepared to ensure there are little or no delays involved. Catch 22 with a vengeance.

Anyway, we will have to see what can be done, who is responsible for the delays and therefore needs there butts kicked hard, and see what we can do to help her along the way for a bit.  We'll hang onto our place here in France with a view to getting out as often as possible in the interim and moving back out whenever possible. Though I have to add that I'm half looking forward to being back in Blighty for a while. Access to live music and friends will be good after many years adrift. We're also off to visit friends in Oregon in late June/early July and we will be attending the Portland Waterfront Festival while there. I also hope to catch up with an old friend who lives in the city and who is one of my favourite players, a Handy winner last year and a very fine lady, Mary Flower:

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

I'm Drinking Whisky Tonight.....

Happy New Year to all.

Here, we have temps of about 10 to 12 degrees - all plus, a change after Sweden at this time of year, where it's about minus 20 or so!  Here it's bright, sunny and dry. Not a trace of snow!!  A big difference.

We survived the Brit expat Hogmanay experience and even managed to drive back - on small, muddy farm-tracks between fields - without mishap. Here's the view from an upstairs window this morning:

Whereas in Sweden it's probably more like this, Id think. This was the year before last (Jan 2010) around this time:

Last January, we were in Spain, where it was mild and relatively warmish. Nevertheless, it's hard not to miss the sheer beauty of Sweden, despite the numbing cold!

At last night's 'do' there were about twenty Brit guests and only one Froggo - a woman who came along with a Scots couple. Of interest was the fact that the Jocks, who now live locally, are originally from the Heelans!  He is a retired copper from Inverness who met his wife while stationed on Isle of Lewis: she is from Stornoway.  Given the Blogs I tend to follow - many being from Eilean Siar itself - I was surprised to say the least! One of those strange, serendipitous things that make the world a small place at times. In addition, my family is from the Black Isle in Inverness-shire, so as soon as I mentioned my name he had a handle on it and its origins!

Sadly, however, we toasted the Year end with Champagne, never a favourite of mine; there was not a trace of Malt to be had!:

Lord knows what the Teuchters  must have thought - a bit disappointed, I'd expect. After all it is traditional in the Highlands & Islands. He should, of course, have brought his own! We fortunately had some at home.

 I must say the Jools Hootenany was a bit iffy this time round. Unlike last year when this crew appeared.  A fine little outfit, we had the good fortune to meet with in London last year. Glad to see they've been booked to play my favourite US Americana festival in NC this year. I suggested this to the guy - Roy Book Binder - who books the Blues acts for the event when I saw him in London last year and he hinted it might be a runner!  Seems, he was right. He must have given them a plug, as he, too, is a fan and initially tipped me the wink about them. I know the band are keen to play there and the guitarist, Adam, confirmed they would love to play the Merlefest festival: