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NORWAY 

 A NEW ADVENTURE

Part Two

 

 MONDAY 30 AUGUST

We woke up about 8.30, pulled the curtains back and found that we had docked at Bergen.  There is hardly a cloud in the sky.  We had breakfast in the cabin and a little after 10.00 joined the queue for the coaches and shuttle buses, one of the latter of which took us into the town centre, at Ole Bull Plass.

We found Bergen to be a very attractive city, with the centre almost entirely pedestrianised.  Where we had been dropped off was near a sculpture of blue stone, which seemed to act as a magnet for people to meet and sit, read, whatever.  Close by there was a slope that was made up of a central wide avenue of grass bordered by some magnificent flowerbeds.  In front of this was a statue known as the Lying Poet.  After taking some photos, we wandered up the main street, in which there was a water feature known as the Sailor’s Monument.  This comprises a large wide plinth, with a black surface along which water constantly flows.  On the plinth there was a monument to the maritime history of Bergen, from the Vikings to the modern day.  It was a very elegant piece of craftsmanship.  Maggie and I could not help thinking that such a water feature would incur the utmost displeasure of our own Health & Safety fascists.

Walking on we arrived at the Fish Market, which was by a sailing harbour.  This was really interesting.  There were all manner of sea creatures there – principally crab, of which there were countless varieties, but also lobster, various white fish and of course the wonderful wild salmon.  And it was all fresh that morning.  There were several areas where one could sit and enjoy a seafood salad, but we did not have one ourselves – it was too soon after breakfast.  Our main aim was to find the funicular that would take us up to the top of Mt Fløien.

The queue at the funicular (the Fløienbahnen) was quite long but was moving forward all the time, so it was not long before were on our way up.  We emerged to views that took our breath away.  I don’t think I had seen such beauty in twenty years and I hope the photographs have done it justice.  The sheer, stunning beauty of the Norwegian coastline was encapsulated in what we were looking at.  And, thanks to the sun, the waters were sparkling, the sea so blue, and because the air was so clean, fresh, so pure, everything was pin sharp.  I could easily have spent the entire day there.  As far as I was concerned, just this one morning high above Norway’s old capital city was worth the cost of the cruise.

Naturally we had lunch there.  It was an example of how expensive things are in Norway, and perhaps why it has a better standard of living and quality of life, far better than we have here in the UK, not in a small way because of our accursed membership of the bastard European Union.  Our lunch of two pretty large salmon and egg rolls, one coffee and one lemon green tea, cost 172 krone, which by my reckoning was about £18 sterling.

Eventually we had to leave and made our way back to the pick-up point in Ole Bull Plass, wandering again through the Fish Market.  Whilst waiting for the shuttle bus we had a look at the water feature that includes a small statue of Ole Bull, who was a violinist, and walked across to a lake where there was a very attractive spray fountain.  There was also a bandstand, which looked resplendent in its floral surrounds and also a sculpture – the Sculpture of Four Arcs – which was built in memory of a Harald Seaverud, who apparently was a Norwegian composer.

We did not have to wait long back at the Ole Bull Plass before the shuttle bus arrived to return us to the Ventura.  At the evening meal it became evident that we were not alone in being totally in awe of what we had seen at the top of Mt Fløien.  I believe scenes like that have a profound effect on many of us.

TUESDAY 31 AUGUST

Clouds had begun to gather as yesterday afternoon progressed and this morning when we arrived at our second port of call the tiny village of Flåm (pronounced Flom), it was very dismal.  Unfortunately, Flåm can only have one cruise ship berthed alongside the village and there was already one there, the Costa Deliziosa.   This meant that the Ventura had to drop anchor in the fjord (Sognefjord) and people were taken to the village by tender boat.  In turn this meant that disabled people could not visit the village or take part in any excursions.  This would have been a real pain if the weather had been nice, like yesterday morning but, with the rain and the general dankness, it was no bad thing.

Maggie had seen that Avatar was showing in the cinema so we went and watched it in the morning.  It is a very impressive film even in 2D, so goodness knows what it looks like in 3D.  The film seems to work on various levels and certainly it portrayed very well man’s inability to deal rationally with anything he does not understand.  I cannot remember the last time Maggie had seen a film in a proper cinema.  I know that the last one I went to see was Ray, and I still marvel at Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles; I remember the goose bumps I felt at the time wondering how someone can get right inside another person’s skin so brilliantly.

We also visited the onboard excursion desk to see if we could organise a private tour.  This was to take the place of an excursion that Maggie had pre-booked but which was subsequently cancelled because of a lack of numbers.

Other than that it was a quiet day.

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NORWAY 

 A new adventure 

Part One 

 

 SATURDAY 28 AUGUST

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So, So, a totally new adventure – our first ever cruise, and up to Norway, somewhere we had always dreamed of visiting.  Maggie had not had a holiday outside the UK since our last one in Italy in 2002.  With her disability, she does not want all the hassle that comes with flying.  This year she retired from the Civil Service and decided she wanted to treat herself to a cruise.  So she contacted a company that specialises in helping disabled people, and so here we were on the Ventura, P&O’s biggest ship.

Yesterday we had done most of the packing, which we finished this morning.  We were looking to leave for Southampton at midday and it was about 12.20 when we eventually got under way.  The journey was pretty good, although the Chichester by-pass was its usual grim self.  Once past that point it was straightforward.  One thing for sure, getting to Southampton Docks was a lot easier than getting to those in Portsmouth.

Once at the Ocean Terminal, we were met with an incredible efficiency!  Indeed we had to stop the man driving the car away as we still needed to offload one or two things.  Inside the terminal it was a sort of organised chaos, rather like on busy days at airports.  We both felt that there was not sufficient signage to direct people to where they needed to go, and an airy wave together with imprecise advice as to where we should go to check in really did not cut the mustard.  Eventually, however, we were able to board the Ventura.

We are on Riviera Deck, or Deck 14 – which is actually the thirteenth deck, but mariners worldwide never use unlucky thirteen.  It’s a very nice cabin, or, to use P&O parlance, stateroom, with good facilities, although neither of us are totally convinced it caters totally for Maggie’s needs, despite the company’s best efforts.  We spent some time on the balcony as we set sail, which was after we had attended a safety drill.  To be honest we both felt that was a total shambles.  There were too many people at that particular muster point, which would have made it difficult for many to observe the staff demonstrating the drill.  Then, it was everyone for him or herself, with the disabled left to fend for themselves.  I could not believe the number of able-bodied people who grabbed the lifts without any thought for the numerous people in wheelchairs that were there.  Why is there so much selfishness these days?

Anyway, shortly before 5.00 pm we were away, and we simply sat on the balcony, relaxing as the Ventura made its way down Southampton Water to the Solent and past Portsmouth, with the Spinnaker Tower standing so tall and proud.  The atmosphere was so quiet and tranquil.

After unpacking – a task that always makes us feel we packed too much! – it was time for dinner.  We had chosen Freedom Dining, which means that, although we can use just the one restaurant, the Cinnamon, we get to sit at different tables each evening and will have different people as company for the meal.  The meal itself was very nice, although my sirloin steak could have been a tad tenderer, and we washed it down with a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo (Sant’Orsola).  Then it was back to the cabin and to bed.  We were both pretty darn tired.

SUNDAY 29 AUGUST

Whereas yesterday was a lovely day, we awoke to leaden skies and rain, a choppy sea that made the ship shudder a bit, although it was so huge that shudder was all it did.  However, things had better improve a lot weather-wise.

We woke up a little before 8.00, but then remembered that the ship’s clock was set an hour later (to continental time).  I checked to see where we could still get breakfast – I wanted a cooked one – and we made our way to the Waterside Restaurant, on Deck 15.  After eating we got talking to a group of Lancastrians, who were really friendly, so we passed a good three-quarters of an hour with them.  Actually Maggie had suggested that I took a photo of them as one of the men had taken one that naturally did not include himself, so it was nice to take photo of the whole group.  We were to bump into them almost every day, and they were always full of laughs.

Tonight is one of the formal evenings.  This means that we have to dress up – me in a suit that I normally keep for weddings and funerals and Maggie dressed in a matching deep red skirt and top.  I hate formal occasions; I hate formal, full stop.  I just feel so bloody uncomfortable and hot.  Still, there’s the evening meal to look forward to.

As the day went by the weather seemed to be improving, and the Captain did say in his welcome speech that tomorrow was looking promising.  We will arrive at Bergen in the morning.

We enjoyed the evening meal with couples from Bournemouth and Bognor.  The guy from Bognor had a lovely dry sense of humour and we shared not a few laughs.  He had done the London Marathon five times and a number of local ones along the south coast.  Her also sailed, and spoke of a journey back from the Scilly Isles (west of Cornwall) on which all on board had been seasick, such was the temper the sea was in.  “And of course, the only known cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.”  I cracked up!  Oh, yes, the food.  Maggie had sea bass, of which nothing remained on the plate.  Being a little adventurous, I had lobster tail, never having had lobster before.  I found it very tasty.  We both had a very extravagant crème broulee for desserts.

To be continued

You can view a lot of the photographs that I took at www.flickr.com/photos/sussexshark.

Whose job?

WHOSE JOB?

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done!

A CHI TOCCA QUESTO LAVORO?

Questa è la storia di quattro persone chiamate Ognuno, Qualcuno, Chiunque e Nessuno.
C’era un lavoro importante da fare e Ognuno era sicuro che Qualcuno lo avrebbe fatto. Chiunque lo avrebbe potuto fare, ma invece Nessuno l’ha fatto.

Qualcuno si è incollerito, perché era il lavoro di Ognuno. Ognuno ha pensato che Chiunque lo avrebbe potuto fare, ma Nessuno ha capito che Ognuno lo farebbe. È andata a finire che Ognuno ha incolpato Qualcuno quando Nessuno fece ciò che Chiunque avrebbe potuto fare!

Dream

DREAM

I am on a tropical Island, on a sand dune.  It is a very beautiful day.  The sun is shining; the sky is so blue, with only a few small, white clouds.  On the horizon, the sea reflects the blue of the sky, although closer to the shore it is a beautiful aquamarine.  The sand is pure white.  There are some palm trees on the beach.  Everything is perfectly tranquil, calm; the only sound is the occasional melancholic cry of the seagulls.

To my left there are some steps that lead down to the beach, in total twelve steps.  I go to the steps and slowly descend, because there is no hurry.  I then cross the beach, my feet sinking in the soft sand.  I feel the heat of the sand, until I am right at the sea’s edge.  Here the sand is cooler and I can feel the waves as they swirl round my ankles.  I stand there for a long time, as I look out across the sea.  I can see the sails of some yachts against the horizon, only two or three.  It seems like I am the only person in the world.  The little waves swirl around my ankles again.  I have never felt such a peace.  It is like a Paradise.  I could remain here all my life; there is nothing that I would miss.  Or, at least that is how it seems.

The palm trees are only a short distance from me and I note that there is hammock that is hanging between two of them.  I walk to the hammock, and I stretch out on it.   It would be nice to sleep a little, here in this Paradise, with nothing else to disturb me.  No-one can contact me here, no-one knows I am here, no-one in all the world. I am only…….

“Peter, Peter, here is your tea.  Peter, come on, wake up.  Here’s your tea.”

“What?  What is it?  Hallo, dear.  Thanks for the tea.  Oh my goodness, what a dream.  It was all a dream?  I don’t believe it.  It seemed so real, so beautiful.  Only a dream….”

But, the question is, was it a dream or not?

Peter Head

August 2010

Sogno

SOGNO

Sono su un’isola tropicale, su una duna di sabbia.  È un bellissimo giorno.  Il sole splende, il cielo è così azzurro, con solo alcune piccole nuvole bianche.  Sull’orizzonte, il mare riflette il blu del cielo, sebbene più vicino della spiaggia sia un bell’acquamarino.  La sabbia è bianca pura.  Ci sono alcune palme sulla spiaggia.  Tutto è perfettamente tranquillo, calmo; il solo rumore è il suono malinconico dei gabbiani.

Alla mia sinistra ci sono alcuni scalini che si portano giù alla spiaggia, in totale dieci scalini.  Io vado agli scalini e scendo lentamente, perché non c’è nessuna fretta.  Poi io attraverso la spiaggia, i miei piedi sprofondano un po’ nella sabbia.  Mi sento il calore della sabbia finché non sono al margine del mare.  Qui la sabbia è più fredda e posso sentirmi le onde come turbinano attorno alle mie caviglie.  Sto in piedi un lungo momento, come guardo al mare.  Riesco a vedere le vele dei panfili contro l’orizzonte, solo due o tre.  Sembra come io sia la sola persona nel mondo.  Le piccole onde turbinano ancora attorno alle mie caviglie.  Non mi sono mai sentito una tale pace.  È come un paradiso.  Potrei rimanere qui tutta la vita, non c’è niente che mi mancarebbe.  Oppure, perlomeno, è come sembra!

Le palme sono solo a quattro passi da me e io noto che c’è un’amaca che appende in mezzo a due di loro.  Cammino all’amaca e mi stendo in essa.  Sarebbe bello dormire un po’, qui in questo paradiso, con nient’altro a disturbarmi.  Nessuno può prendermi contatto qui, nessuno sa che sono qui, nessuno in tutto il mondo.  Sono solo……….

«Pietro, Pietro, ecco il tuo tè.  Pietro, vieni, svegli.  Ecco il tuo tè.»

«Che?  Che cos’è?  Ciao, cara.  Grazie per il tè.  O, Dio mio, che sogno!  Tutto era solo un sogno?  Non ci credo, sembrava così vero, così bello.  Solo un sogno.»

La questione è, però, è stato un sogno o no?

Peter Head

Maggio 2003

Rev: Agosto 2010

PENSIERI VAGANTI SULLA VITA MOLTO COMUNE DI UN RAGAZZINO

E che vita!  È stata molto difficile negli anni recenti, con mia moglie che soffre di sclerosi multipla (una forma progressiva, per cui non c’è nessuna cura) e la scomparsa di mia madre che soffriva di demenza senile per un numero degli anni.  Ogni tanto è sembrato come se la mia vita si fosse capovolta.  Era così diversa, spensierata, la vita quando ero giovane … e ciò che sto scrivendo qui proprio della mia infanzia, all’età di dodici anni.

Sono nato nel marzo del 1947, della generazione che gli americani chiamano ‘boomers’.  Quando ero un po’ più grande, miamadre mi disse che dovettero portarmi all’ospedale, perché ero diventato cianotico, e l’ostetrica disse alla Mamma che sarebbe stata molto fortunata se mi avesse visto di nuovo.  Non posso pensare a niente di più crudele da dire allora.  Ma, non sono morto, a meno che non sia qualcun’ altro che sta scrivendo questo!  Chissà…



La mia è stata una casa che era sempre piena.  Non c’erano solo i miei, ma anche i nonni materni e mia cugina Marion, che è sempre stata più di una grande sorella. Perché Marion viveva con noi?  Be’, è un’altra storia.

Ciò che io so di quei primi anni era che ero molto contento. Certo, ho un fratello ma lui non è venuto al mondo fino a quando non avevo dodici anni, e quest’articolo è della vita prima di questo evento.  Mi piaceva molto leggere, e sapevo come farlo e anche scrivere prima di andare a scuola.  La scuola elementare era solo a circa duecento metri dalla casa, e ricordo bene che ascoltavo il cricket alla radio fino all’una e mezzo, quando le lezioni del pomeriggio cominciavano.  Poi correvo come un pazzo lungo la strada. Gli insegnanti erano molto comprensivi; sapevano la ragione!  Parlerò della  scuola più tardi.

Mi piaceva anche ascoltare il programma ‘The Goon Show’ (http://www.thegoonshow.net/).  Ovviamente ero troppo giovane per capire l’umorismo, che aveva un taglio molto anarchico.  Però, erano le voci che Peter Sellers e Spike Milligan usavano che mi hanno fatto ridere tantissimo (e lo fanno ancora quando ascolto ora il programma su BBC Radio7).  Sedevo con mio nonno, che anche lui trovava comico il programma, sebbene io non fossi sicuro che lui capiva l’umorismo .

Dal lato paterno, c’era un negozio di famiglia in città, un fruttivendolo ed una pescatoria che era stata aperta dal mio nonno paterno.  Quando ero giovane, papà non lavorava là.  Era ingegnere, prima per una società a Croydon, poi per una a Horsham.  Fu solo quando la compagnia a Horsham chiuse che papà tornò al negozio.  Fu sempre chiaro, però, che suo padre non era mai stato contento del fatto che papà non si era impegnato al negozio dopo aver lasciato scuola.  Nonno era un uomo enorme con un pessimo carattere, e avevo molta paura di lui – e dei suoi cani, due Chow, che nonno teneva in una gabbia.   Non ho mai incontrato tali cani da allora; erano molto sgradevoli, come il loro proprietario.

Come ho detto, papà era ingegnere, ed era molto bravo nei lavori manuali.  Mio nonno materno era un fabbro ferraio.  Nonno non era un grande uomo; in effetti, lui era un po’ piccolo, ma aveva una forza duttile.  Quindi, anche lui era molto bravo nei lavori manuali.  Ci sono volte persino ora che mi sembra di poter sentire l’odore della forgia dove nonno lavorava tutti quegli anni fa, fino all’età di ottant’anni – sì, è vero.  Però, era chiaro che a lui mancava mia nonna, e fu solo un anno dopo la sua morte che anche nonno morì.  Nonno amava il suo lavoro immensamente, ed era come un hobby per lui. Quindi, quando ha smesso di lavorare la sua vita non aveva  molto significato, nonostante che la sua famiglia fosse con lui.  Perdere sua moglie e smettere di lavorare fu troppo per lui.  L’ho amato moltissimo, non solo come nonno ma anche come ottimo amico.  Veramente, nonno era una persona totalmente fantastica.

In ogni modo, quando avevo tre anni, papà e nonno decisero di costruire una roulotte.  Li ho aiutati!  Ricordo bene che c’era una foto di me che stavo in piedi sul telaio, con il mio piccolo martello di plastica, e indossavo un cappello di paglia! Purtroppo, non sono mai riuscito a trovare la foto – centinaia delle altre ma non questa.

Alla fine, nel 1950, portammo la roulotte a Selsey, un paese a dieci miglia a sud di Chichester.  C’era un campeggio lì, e ci siamo andati ogni estate fino a quando avevo dodici anni.  Portavamo la roulotte a Selsey nella primavera, e la riportavamo a casa nell’autunno.  La prima volta, come Marion mi hadetto, la roulotte non era completata!  Penso di avere dormito sul tavolo, che era abbassato al livello delle sedie, e gli adulti hanno dormito su della paglia – non ci sono stati letti quell’anno!!  Marion ha dormito con la testa in un armadio!  Non chiedetemi perché!!  Che divertimento!!  Però, sembrava completamente naturale in quei giorni. I fascisti dell’Health & Safety avrebbero avuto un colpo apoplettico se avessimo tentato di farlo ora!  Riesco anche a ricordare chiaramente un giorno quando c’era una grande tempesta.  È piovuto a catinelle e c’era un vento fortissimo, ma ancora, nella roulotte, che scuoteva più di un po’, mi sentivo totalmente sicuro mentre guardavo la tempesta.

Selsey divenne una seconda casa, per la famiglia ma specialmente per me.  Potevo camminare da solo intorno al campeggio e al paese, senza nessuna paura.  Ogni tanto, la sorella della mia mamma, la mia cara zia Joan, veniva con suo marito, Eric, e la loro figlia, mia cugina Wendy, e abbiamo passato molte ore felicissime a giocare sulla spiaggia. Sembrava un mondo totalmente diverso da quello in cui viviamo ora, e credo fermamente che sia un grandissimo peccato, qualcosa che non riflette bene il modo nel quale viviamo la vita ora. Mi chiedo: abbiamo veramente fatto progresso?  Mi chiedo, inoltre, quanto sia grande l’impatto che sulle nostre vite ha avuto il potere di un fascismo politicamente corretto. Si potrebbe affermare che le due questioni sono interconnesse.

Io ricordo che la nostra famiglia aveva fatto amicizia con una signora di Horsham e qualche volta io e Mamma andavamo a Selsey e rimanevamo con la signora Scott nella sua roulotte.  Andavamo in spiaggia a giocare a cricket, o a costruire i castelli di sabbia.  Ricordo una volta quando ho saputo che il resto della famiglia stava venendo a Selsey e quindi ho deciso di andargli incontro.  Non sono sicuro quanti anni avevo al tempo, forse solo otto o nove forse più piccolo.

Questo ha voluto dire che dovevo camminare fuori del campeggio, lungo un tratto non asfaltato, prima di arrivare sulla strada che si porta al paese.  Dopo pochi minuti sono arrivato a un campo, dove c’era un sentiero che porta alla High Street.  Io ricordo che dovevo decidere di correre per il sentiero o di rimanere sulla strada.  Se fossi andato per il sentiero, c’era la possibilità che non avrei trovato la macchina, ma poi, se avessi corso rapidamente, forse sarei stato fortunato.  Quindi ho corso come il vento per il sentiero, poi ho continuato a camminare lungo la strada fuori del paese.  Quando sono arrivato ad un ponte, che attraversava un ruscello, mi sono fermato.  Forse ero un po’ stanco, ma ho aspettato lì la macchina che portava papà e i miei nonni.  Dopo qualche tempo, mamma mi ha trovato; avevo dimenticato di dirle ciò che avevo intenzione di fare!  Fortunatamente, mamma non era troppo arrabbiata, e abbiamo aspettato insieme la famiglia.  Dopo un po’ la macchina è arrivata, e tutti noi siamo andati al campeggio.

C’era un’altra volta che ricordo molto bene. A papà e nonno piaceva pescare, particolarmente quando il mare era un po’ brutto, quello che in inglese chiamiamo ‘a bass sea’.  Questo è perché le spigole possono essere numerose in tali mari.  In ogni modo, questa volta, papà scoprì un pesce sulla sabbia.  Era morto, ed era anche grande!  Quindi Papà la prese, la legò con lo spago e poi mi disse di portarlo alla roulotte. Ascoltate, lil pesce era quasi grande quanto me!  In ogni modo, feci come Papà mi aveva detto.  Questo ha voluto dire che dovevo arrampicarmi su un grande ammasso dei ciottoli, che c’è ancora oggi, e che serve da difesa contro il mare.

Dunque, ho portato il pesce sopra l’ammasso dei ciottoli e sono arrivato alla roulotte.  Mamma diede uno sguardo al pesce  e mi chiese:

– Dove l’hai trovato?

– Papà l’ha trovato sulla spiaggia.

– Be’, riportarglielo.

Quindi, riportai il pesce sopra l’ammasso dei ciottoli.  Posso dirvi che non ero mica contento!  Più tardi, Papà portò il pesce alla roulotte e spiegò a Mamma quello che era accaduto.  Tutto andò bene!  Se solo ci fosse una foto…

Questo periodo della mia vita finì quando avevo dodici anni. Il campeggio fu venduto e ora ci sono le roulotte ovunque.  La gente lo chiama il progresso.  Penso di no!!  Era una vergogna, ma ha voluto dire che potevamo trovare altri luoghi per le vacanze  future.

Non ho parlato di mia nonna materna.  Come quasi tutte le nonne inglesi, era chiamata Nan.  Per dire la veritànon mi sentivo lo stesso verso di lei come verso mio nonno.  Non era davvero colpa sua.  Lei non godeva di ottima salute, e aveva parecchi problemi.  Come conseguenza, non aveva molto pazienza, e spesso criticava ciò che facevo.  Era persino peggio con mio fratello, che non sembrava mai fare niente di giusto, il che non mi piaceva.  Sono sicuro che miei genitori si sentivano allo stesso modo.  Detto tutto questo, però, nonna aveva un umorismo malizioso.  Era in quelle occasioni che i suoi occhi luccicavano, occhi che erano neri come il carbone!   I miei nonni erano una coppia curiosa.  Nonno era un po’ piccolo, mentre nonna era un po’ più grande, ed a loro modo erano molto diversi.  Nonna morì quando avevo poco più di vent’anni, e sebbene non le avessi voluto bene tanto quanto a mio nonno, fui tristissimo quando lei morì, tanto da essere incapace di non andare al funerale.  È stata la mia prima esperienza di morte in famiglia, e ho trovato la situazione molto difficile, molto traumatica, come successe l’anno dopo quando anche nonno morì.

La sola nuvola nera durante la mia infanzia fu un incidente, che accadde quando avevo otto anni.  Ero amico di un altro ragazzo che abitava dall’altra parte della strada.  Suo padre avevo fatto alcune spade per noi e quel sabato quando mi vide Julian mi chiese se ne volessi una.  Certo!!  Iniziai ad attraversare la strada ma, nell’eccitazione dell’occasione, dimenticai la codice della strada. ‘BANG’!  L’ultima cosa che riesco a ricordare era che sedevo sul marciapiede.  Ricordo che c’erano tre persone, due adulti e una ragazza, che era nella stessa classe a scuola.  Si erano appena mossi, e tutto è accaduto così rapidamente.  Ero molto confuso.  Be’, miei genitori mi portarono all’ospedale, dove i dottori mi curarono.  Non andai a scuola per due settimane, ma non fu molto tempo dopo l’incidente che cominciai ad avere gli attacchi. I dottori hanno scoprirono che soffrivo di epilessia, e persino ora devo prendere della medicina.  Non è un problema, però, e continuo a vivere una vita molto normale.  O sì, dimenticavo di dirvi che un po’ di tempo dopo l’incidente camminavo all’indietro (non chiedetemi perché!!) e mi scontrai con un cancello!!  Il bernoccolo sulla testa si aprì completamente.  Che casino!!

Sono sempre stato un grande tifoso di cricket e lo giocavamo sulla spiaggia a Selsey – la sabbia era abbastanza solida.  Il mioamore per il cricket è cominciato quando avevo otto anni e sono stato un grandissimo tifoso di questo bellissimo sport fin da quel giorno.  Era uno sport che ho giocato tra i tredici ed i quarantanove anni e guardo ancora le partite internazionali in tv.  Come faccio a sapere che avevo otto anni?  Be’, mia madre ha sempre tenuto tutti i miei libri di scuola.  Qualcosa che noi ragazzini dovevamo fare, era scrivere una sorta di diario, normalmente di ciò che era accaduto nella settimana precedente.  In un libro per il 1955, avevo scritto di una partita tra l’Inghilterra e il Sudafrica, e avevo incluso tutti i nomi della squadra inglese.  Sfortunatamente (come alcuni direbbero) il cricket divenne un’ossessione e come conseguenza la mia istruzione alla scuola secondaria ne soffrì.   Però, come Edith Piaf cantava, io non mi pento di niente.  Be’, lei cantava ‘je ne regrette rien’, ma è la stessa cosa!  Presumibilmente!

Ricordo bene che ogni estate, quando non rimanevamo per il fine settimana a Selsey, andavamo spesso a guidare in campagna, fermandoci in qualche luogo per fare una scampagnata.  Poi, mentre tornavamo a casa, ci fermavamo a Wisborough Green o Broadbridge Heath (due paesi in West Sussex) dove guardavamo il cricket.  Dopo che le partite erano finite giocavamo la nostra partita.  Che gioia innocente!!

Prima, vi ho parlato di scuola.  Fui molto fortunato perché sapevo leggere e scrivere prima di andare ascuola.  Ha voluto dire che ero più avanti di molti altri ragazzini, sebbene ce ne fossero alcuni che erano bravi come me e altri che erano meglio (spero di non sembrare troppo arrogante).  Recentemente, ho letto un articolo nel Daily Telegraph che ha riportato che oggi quattro studenti su cinque (80%!) cominciano la scuola secondaria senza avere le basi accademiche.   Ovviamente, in quei giorni, i metodi di insegnamento erano totalmente diversi da come sono le cose oggi, ed è un fatto che imparavamo le cose a memoria.  Ma, erano metodi didattici che hanno funzionato bene nel tempo, mentre si deve chiedere se i metodi moderni raggiungano gli stessi risultati.  Quando è arrivato il momento di superare l’esame che avrebbe deciso a che scuola secondaria noi studenti saremmo andati, gli insegnanti erano sicuri che avrei fatto abbastanza bene da andare a Christ’s Hospital, la scuola privata vicino a Horsham.  Però, ciò non è accaduto – ho sempre avuto orrore degli esami – e dovetti andare a Collyers, il liceo di Horsham che fu fondato nel 1532.  Non parlerò del mio tempo lì, perché non solo non mi piaceva, ma anche perché è dopo i dodici anni, e così non riguarda questo racconto.

Io ricordo quegli anni con moltissimo affetto.  C’era un’innocenza che è sparita e che non esiste ora.  Credo che sia un grandissimo peccato.  La gente dice che il mondo sia un posto migliore ora che era nel passato.  Be’, in qualche modo io sono d’accordo, quando si considera il progresso tecnologico; cose come i computer, i cellulari, Ipod, Ipad, MP3, molti-canali tv, i CD e i DVD, e molte altre cose.  Però, la vita è più di tutto questo. Siamo più materialisti e sembriamo non apprezzare il piacere che le cose semplici nella vita possono portare.  Il comportamento di tanta gente, principalmente i tifosi di calcio, spesso mi fa vergognare di essere inglese e lo trovo molto triste perché è diventato un comportamento endemico, radicato, difficile da cambiare in poco tempo. Non capitemi male, però; sono ben contento della la vita, malgrado quello che abbia detto nella mia introduzione. In realtà ho molto di cui essere grato alla vita, fosse solo per il fatto di avere Maggie.

PETER HEAD

December 2006

Emendato: 7 agosto 2010

PS: Forse dovrei dare una spiegazione della frase “cianotico”, oppure ‘blue baby’, come era saputa in inglese.  Ecco una definizione da un dizionario medicale on-line:

Un bambino che è nato con la cianosi come conseguenza di un difetto congenitale cardiaco oppure polmonare che causa l’ossigenazione inadeguata del sangue.

Non sono sicuro se un tale problema sia molto prevalente ora, con i miglioramenti enormi che ci sono stati negli ultimi sessant’anni.  Certamente, soprattutto alla nascita i bambini rischiano di diventare cianotici, per freddo o mancanza di ossigeno.

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE VERY ORDINARY LIFE OF A LITTLE BOY

And what a life!  It has been very difficult in recent years, with my dear Maggie suffering from multiple sclerosis (the progressive form for which there is no treatment) and my late mother suffering from dementia.  Sometimes, it has felt like my life has imploded!  It was so different when I was young … and what I am writing about really is my childhood.

I was born in March 1947, of the generation that the Americans call ‘boomers’.  When I was older, my mother told me that I had to be taken to hospital, because I was a ‘blue’ baby, and the midwife told Mum that she would be very fortunate to see me again.  I cannot think of anything so cruel to say at such a time.  But I did not die, unless it is someone else that is writing this!  Who knows…

It was a home that was always full.  There were not only my parents, but also my maternalgrandparents and my cousin Marion, who really has always been more of a big sister.  Why was Marion living with us?  Well, that is another story.

What I do know of those early years was that I was very happy.  Sure, I have a brother but he did not enter the world until I was twelve years old, and this rambling is about my life before that.  I liked very much to read, and I was able to read and write before going to school.  The primary school was only about 200 yards from the house, and I well remember listening to the cricket on the radio until half-past-one, when the afternoon lessons began.  Therefore, I would run like a mad thing along the street.  The teachers were very understanding; they knew the reason!  I will speak of school later.

I also liked to listen to the programme ‘The Goon Show’  (http://www.thegoonshow.net/).   Obviously I was too young to understand the humour, which was very anarchic.  However it was the voices that Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan used that made me laugh so much.  I used to sit with my grandfather, who also found the programme funny, although one was not sure if he understood it either.

On the paternal side, there was a family shop in town, a greengrocer’s and fishmonger’s that was founded by my paternal grandfather.  When I was young, Dad did not work there.  He was an engineer, first for a company in Croydon, then for one in Horsham.  It was only when the Horsham company closed that Dad returned to the shop.  It was always clear, however, that his father had never been happy with the fact that Dad had not joined the shop after leaving school.  Granddad was a large man with a really bad temper and I was very afraid of him – and of his dogs, two Chows, that he kept in a cage.  I have never met such dogs since, thank God; they were extremely nasty, like their owner.

As I said, Dad was an engineer and he was very good with his hands.  My maternal grandfather was a blacksmith.  He was not aMy maternal grandfatherbig man; in fact he was really on the small side, but he was very strong with a tensile strength.  Therefore he was also very good with his hands.  There are times even now when I seem to be able to smell the forge where he worked all those years ago, until he was eighty years old.  However, it was clear that he was missing my Grandmother and it was only a year after her death that he too died.  He loved his work immensely and it was like a hobby for him.  Therefore, when he stopped working there was not much point to his life, even though his family was with him.  Losing his wife and having to stop working were too much for him.  I loved him very much, not only as a grandfather but also as a good friend.

Anyway, when I was three years old, Dad and Granddad decided to build a caravan.  I helped!  I remember well that there was a photo of me standing in the chassis, with my little plastic hammer and wearing a straw hat!!  Unfortunately, despite searching high and low, I was never able to find the photo – hundreds of others but not that one!

Eventually, we took the caravan down to Selsey, a village ten miles south of Chichester.  There was acampsite there and we went there every year until I was twelve years old.  We took the caravan to Selsey in the spring and brought it home in the autumn.  The first time, so I was told, the inside of the caravan had not been completed.  I think that I slept on the table, which was lowered to the level of the seats and the adults slept on some straw – there weren’t any beds!!  Marion slept with her head in the wardrobe.  Don’t ask!!  Such fun!!  But it seemed completely natural in those days.  I can clearly remember one day when there was a storm.  It rained very much and there was a strong wind, but still, in the caravan, which was rocking more than a little, I felt totally secure as I watched the storm.  The Elf and Safety fascists would have apoplexy if we had tried to do that now.

Selsey became a second home, for the family and especially for me.  I could walk around the campsite and the village alone,without any fear.  Every now and again, Mum’s sister, my dear Aunt Joan, would come with her husband, Eric, and their daughter, my cousin Wendy, and we spent many very happy hours playing on the beach. It really was a totally different world to the one in which we live now, something that I truly feel is an enormous shame, something that does not reflect well on the way we live our lives now.  It begs the question: have we really made any progress?  It also begs the question as to the power that the politically correct fascists have over our lives now.  It could be said that the two questions are inter-related.

I remember that our family made friends with a lady from Horsham and sometimes Mum and I went to Selsey and stayed with Mrs Scott in her caravan.  We would go to the beach, play cricket, build sandcastles.  I remember there was one time when I knew that the rest of the family were coming to Selsey and so I decided to go and meet them.  I am not sure how old I was at the time, perhaps only eight.

This meant I had to walk out of the campsite, along an unmade lane, before arriving at the road that takes one to the village.  After a few minutes I arrived at a field, where there was an alleyway that takes you to the High Street.  I remember that I had to decide if I should run through the alleyway or remain on the road.  If I went through the alleyway there was the possibility that I would miss the car, but then, if I ran quickly, perhaps I would be lucky.  Therefore, I ran like the wind along the alleyway and continued to walk along the road out of the village.  When I came to a bridge, which crossed a stream, I stopped.  Perhaps I was a little tired, but I waited there for the car that was bringing Dad and my grandparents.  After a while, Mum found me; I had forgotten to tell her what I was intending to do!  Fortunately, Mum was not too angry and we waited for the family together.  After a while the car arrived and we all went to the campsite.

There was another time I remember well.  Dad and Granddad liked to fish, particularly when the sea was a little rough, what we call in English ‘a bass sea’.  This is because the bass can be prevalent in such seas.  Anyway, this time, Dad discovered a fish on the sand.  It was dead, and it was also big!  So Dad took it, tied it with some string and told me to take it to the caravan.  Listen, the fish was almost as big as me!!  Anyway, I did what Dad told me.  This meant that I had to climb up a large bank of pebbles, that is still there today, and which serves as a defence against the sea.  Selsey has a reputation for tornadoes.

So, I arrive at the caravan.  Mum takes one look at the fish and asks me:

“Where did you get that?”

“Dad found it on the beach.”

“Well, take it back!”

So I took the fish back over the bank of pebbles.  I can tell you I was not at all happy!!  Later, Dad brought the fish to the caravan and explained to Mum what had happened.  All was fine!  If only there were a photo…

This period of my life came to an end when I was twelve years ago.  The campsite was sold and now there are caravans wall-to-wall.  People call it progress.  I don’t think so!  It was a shame but it meant we could find other places for the holidays in the future.

I have not spoken of my maternal grandmother.  Like nearly all English grannies she was called Nan. To tell you the truth I did not feel the same way towards her as I did towards my grandfather.  It was not really her fault.  She did not enjoy the best of health and had a number of problems.  As a result, she was not very patient and often would criticise what I did.  It was even worse with my brother, who never seemed to do anything right, and it was something that I did not like.  I know that my parents felt the same way.  Having said all this, however, Nan had a wicked sense of humour.  It was at such times that her eyes would sparkle, eyes that were black as coal!  My grandparents made an odd couple.  Just as my grandfather was a little on the small side, so Nan was more than a little big and in other ways they were very different.  Nan died when I was in my early twenties, and although I had never loved her in the way that I had loved my grandfather, I was devastated when she died, simply unable to go to the funeral.  It was my first experience of a death in the family and I found the situation very difficult, very traumatic, as I was also to find my grandfather’s the following year.

The only black cloud during my childhood was the accident.  This happened when I was eight or nine.  I was friends with another boy who lived across the road.  His father had made some swords for us and when Julian saw me he asked me if I would like one of them.  Sure thing!!  I started to cross the road but, in the excitement of the occasion, I forgot to observe the Highway Code.  BANG! The next thing that I could remember was that I was sitting on the pavement.  I remember that there were three people, two adults and a girl who was in the same class at school.  They had barely moved, it all happened so quickly.  I was extremely confused.  Well, my parents took me to hospital, where the doctors treated me.  I did not go to school for two weeks and it was not long after the accident that I started having fits.  The doctors discovered that I was suffering from epilepsy, and even now I have to take medication.  It’s no longer a problem, however, and I continue to live a very ordinary life.  Oh, yes, a postscript: a little while after the accident I was walking backwards (don’t ask me!!) and I collided with the gate.  The bump on the back of the head broke open.  What a complete ass!!  And methinks I still am…

I have always loved cricket and we used to play it on the beach at Selsey.  My love for cricket began when I was eight and I have been an enormous fan of this most beautiful game since that day.  It was a sport that I played between the ages of thirteen and 49 and I still watch the international matches.  How do I know that I was eight?  Well, my mother always kept all my schoolbooks.  Something that we kids had to do was to write some news, normally of what had happened in the last week.  In a book for 1955, I had written of a match between England and South Africa, and had included all the names of the England team.  Unfortunately (as some would say) cricket became an obsession and as a result my secondary education suffered.  However, as Edith Piaf sang, I do not regret anything.

I remember very well that every summer, when we were not staying the weekend at Selsey, we used to go for drives in the Sussex countryside, stopping somewhere to have a picnic.  Then, when we were returning home, we used to stop at Wisborough Green or Broadbridge Heath (two villages in West Sussex) where we used to watch the cricket.  After the matches finished, we used to play our own match.  Such innocent joy!!

Earlier I spoke of school.  I was very fortunate that I could read and write before starting school.  It meantthat I was more advanced than other kids, though there were some who were as good as me, and some who were a little better (I hope I don’t sound too arrogant).  Now, I read an article in the Daily Telegraph that reported on the fact that 4 out of 5 children (80%!!) are entering secondary education without any grasp of the basics.  Obviously, in those days the methods of teaching were completely different to how things are today, and it is a fact that we learnt things by rote.  But, they were methods that worked well at the time, while one has to question whether modern methods do so.  When the time came to take the exam that would decide to which secondary school we students would go, the teachers were confident that I would do well enough to go to Christ’s Hospital, the public school near Horsham.  However, that did not happen – I have always had a horror of exams – and I had to go to Collyer’s, the grammar school in Horsham that dates from 1532.  I will not speak of my time there, not only because I hated my time there, but also because it was after I was twelve, it is not relevant to this ramble.

I remember those years with enormous affection.  There was an innocence that has disappeared and does not exist now.  I feel that is a huge shame.  People say that the world is a better place now than it was back then.  Well, in some ways I agree, when one considers technological progress; such things as computers, mobile phones, Ipod, Ipad, MP3, multi-channel TV, CDs and DVDs, Bluray and many other things.  However, there is more to life than all this.  We are more materialistic and seem not to be able to appreciate the pleasure the simple things in life can bring.  The behaviour of so many people, mostly football fans, often makes me feel ashamed to call myself English and I find this very sad.  And the tragedy is that such behaviour is now endemic, ingrained, and so will take an awful long time to change.  But do not misunderstand me; I am well content with my life, despite what I said in my introduction, and I have much to be grateful for, not least having Maggie in my life.

PETER HEAD

Originally written: December 2006

Amended: July 2010

PS: Perhaps I should give an explanation of the phrase ‘blue baby’, as it is known in English.  Here is a definition from an on-line medical dictionary, although I am not sure that there was anything congenital in my case.

An infant born with cyanosis as a result of a congenital cardiac or pulmonary defect that causes inadequate oxygenation of the blood.

Also, I do not know if the condition is at all prevalent now, what with all the enormous improvements in healthcare that there have been in the last sixty-odd years.  Certainly, there is always a risk of new-born babies becoming ‘blue’, either through cold or lack of oxygen.