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An Edinburgh Adventure

7 Aug

It’s been a long time since I went to Edinburgh to see Davey. So I was very excited to get on a train this week to head over there. Fought to get my bike in the bike racks – this is not one of the best parts of the Azuma train design: we need more space for cycles that’s easy to use. And heaven help you if you have a mountain bike.. It was hard enough getting my 34c tyres through the loops, so completely impossible if you’re running fatties.

Photo 2021-08-04 13.31.46Caught up with Davey for lunch, with coffee overlooking Arthur’s Seat and the Crags. Holyrood Park is practically Davey and Hannah’s front garden., and it’s a fabulous sight. I did a bike ride round the city in the afternoon, through the Innocent Railway tunnel, down Burnside and even got to the seaside! One thing that Davey and I share is a love for cycling. You can get Photo 2021-08-04 15.07.48out of the city really quickly, so in the evening we headed off down by the canal, carefully avoiding everyone out walking their pupper, and over to Balermo, which apparently isn’t in Italy. Then we cycled back down the Water of Leith for one hell of an evening trip. I was very ready for my Hawai’ian poké bowl for supper though! Fantastic food.Photo 2021-08-04 18.58.24

The following day disaster struck. Fortunately, I didn’t strike anything. Suffered a totally calamitous brake failure, which, at the high road round Arthur’s Seat, is not a good thing, since the only way is down. Skidded and scooted my way back to more level ground and went in search of brake pads. ‘Sintered, unsintered, organic, resin: what sort of braking experience would sir like?’ Finally managed to find somewhere that had the right ones, a quick roadside repair and I am back on the road and able to stop again. There were some interestingly scary moments there…..

Evening ride out this time was up to Blackford Hill and the Hermitage… another lovely burn side trip without too many hills, but enough exercise to work up an appetite for a vegan haggis burrito! (Vegan haggis in a burrito is one of the most wonderful Scots/world cuisine mashups ever – and it really does work!)

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A quick pootle around town the next day (with time to get a cinnamon bun from 101 Bakery which was almost ridiculously excellent), a wander round bits of the Fringe festival, and back on the train. It’s been so good to be back in a city I love with a son that I just don’t see often enough.

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Father’s Day and a bit 2021

8 Jul

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What a simply brilliant Father’s Day I had this year! OK, so it was a bit spread out over the course of a week and a bit, but I had some very thoughtful presents. ‘What on earth are they?’ I hear you ask. Well, one is a complete s’mores* production kit (Jonny), and the other is a carbon seat tube for my bike (Davey). (It was going to be the start of my new bike build, but I plan on installing it into my existing bike first cos, why miss out on a more comfortable ride? )

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AND I got to see my eldest son, who I haven’t seen since September, AND I had an excuse to have my favourite people round for pizza and s’mores* round the firepit. That’d be Davey and Jonny and Leanne, and Ripley of course, although unfortunately Hannah had to stay in Edinburgh to run her tours. But we missed her loads.

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Ripley stole my pizza and then ate the box. Then went missing upstairs doing we don’t know what. Then demanded the chance to investigate the interesting sniffs out the back. But mostly she sat on the rug and ate sausages. We sat out under my new parasol to keep the rain off. I burnt the marshmallows every time. We finally got rid of the Christmas tree. We threw multicolour salts on the fire to turn it green and purple and blue. And we talked and laughed and poked the fire a lot. And it was definitely one of my happiest days ever.

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* ‘s’mores. Short for Some Mores (natch) a strange American invention of melted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers. Odd, but strangely satisfying.

Father to son

18 Jun

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

My father died over 30 years ago.. he simply fell off his bike and died from a heart attack on the way to work one day. So although he was at my wedding, he missed the divorce – and he never saw his grandchildren, or saw what a success they would be. But I know he would have loved them, fiercely and passionately.

He was a conflicted, loopy, crazy guy – we didn’t have phrases like PTSD to describe it, but he came back from serving with the Royal Engineers in the Tunisia campaign of WWII isolated and introverted. His first wife left him while he was away fighting for his country, which hurt him deeply. He was a great engineer, the son of a mining engineer also tragically killed in a mining accident in the coal mines of Merthyr Tydfil. And I suspect that’s why I became an engineer too. It’s in the blood, you see.

My brother and I will live with the image of a man with a tousled comb over (wildly out of control in the seaside breeze) dancing (we assume, it wasn’t obvious) in bright orange swimming trunks – or floating peacefully in the local swimming baths (which, it has to be said, is a bit of a shock if you’re not expecting it).

I remember clearing out the attic to discover he had been hoarding used beer cans in case they became valuable. And clearing out the shed, where I discovered a small stash of offcuts of copper that he’d been saving to take to the scrap merchants.

I remember the day that he went visibly pale when I came home and announced who I was dating… it’s always a high risk scenario when your son dates the boss’s daughter.

I remember the day we spent together rivetting a new floor pan onto the clunker of a car that I had just bought.. and the look of shock and horror that barely disguised his laughter when I drove the car through the front fence and into the front garden.

And I remember with fondness and thanks the day that I put my head on his shoulder and said ‘thankyou’ to him. It was the last time I saw him alive.

He failed, completely, to teach me any form of sports… those genes had to wait to be passed to my brother… but I was content to watch him play for his local cricket team, or to play a little bit of ‘whack the ball with the bat’ in the local park.

He cheerfully cycled 2 miles to work and 2 miles back every day.. and when, aged five, I decided I didn’t like school dinners, he cheerfully cycled the 4 mile round trip back home again every lunch time to make me lunch. I had no doubt that my father loved me.

He wasn’t keen on change – we suspect that he’d seen enough change in the war to see him through – and quickly discovered that ‘that was a nice meal for a change, dear’ meant ‘please never cook this for me ever again’. We would holiday in the same place every year until the hotel closed or changed hands, or something happened to cause him to fall out of love with the place.. and perhaps in his sense of keeping things the same was born my own desire to change things up – in his desire for uniformity was born my rebel cry to make things different, to yearn for adventure.

Only recently have we discovered the love letters he wrote back home to my mother excitedly looking forward to coming home and being together – letters full of tenderness and anticipation.

Like most men, my father had his faults, his inconsistencies, his weaknesses and his addictions. But he also had his strengths, his wisdom, his authority – and I knew I could rely on him to back me up, to be there when I needed him – and I knew I could rely on his love.

I hope I can bring my sons everything my father brought me – and then to surpass him – to build on the shoulders of a giant to be an even better example to my children as to what a real man is, and what a real father is. And already I see that they will be even better than I.

I wanted to post a song here. Cat Steven’s ‘Father and Son’ is for some reason too raw and painful for me to love. Its inclusion in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy II’ nearly leading me to walk out early, it’s that uncomfortable!

Peter Gabriel’s ‘Father Son’ is perhaps too gentle for the fierce love I feel towards my father – and towards my sons. Queen’s ‘Father to Son’ has more of the bite and energy that I feel – that sense that I will carry on where my father left off – and a rallying cry for my sons to become greater, better, more powerful, kinder, more loving, more successful and even better human beings than I am. Each of us carry the torch for a while, and we pass it on to the next generation for them to build a better, kinder future for themselves, and for those around them, and so for the world.

But I think I will leave you with one of my all time favourite moments in concert – worth listening to for Ged Lynch’s amazing ‘falling through the drumkit’ drumming – worth thinking about to consider what better world we might have if we would just talk to each other – but definitely worth the beautiful interaction between Peter Gabriel and his daughter Melanie in the song ‘Talk to Me’ – skip to 4:46 if you must.



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