Chasing Leaves In The Wind

Hard to believe now, but there was a time when I was attractive to women. Especially older women, but younger ones on occasion too. Unlike the good-looking boys, the sporty types, the football players, and the accomplished swimmers, all confident in their desirability, that came as a great surprise to me. A greater surprise was that they not only liked me, but lusted after me too, eager to do much more than chatting, or cuddling. Although their affections and desires confused me, I knew enough not to question their reasons. I accepted their favours, and their affections, with a sense of gratitude combined with wonder.

My mirror now confirms that this is no longer the case. I harbour no illusions these days. I am an old man, and perceived to be one. I live a life of relative contentment, and do not concern myself too much about things like passion and desire. But I still have many treasured memories of course. Snapshots of the past; fleeting moments that appear, sometimes when I least expect them to. Mostly, they are good memories of course. The excitement of a new partner, the hurried fumbling followed by mutual satisfaction. Sometimes, whole scenes play out in my head, as if they happened just yesterday, not almost fifty years ago.

As I get older with each passing year, the same memories appear to change, and for the better. Perhaps I am only searching my mind for complete positives, and that’s why. They have also decided to mainly appear when I am in bed, just about to fall asleep. As I lay with my eyes closed, they flood into my mind, and the feeling is a good one. Faces and names from the briefest of encounters, longer relationships, and previous marriages. They are happy faces, and I am happy too. But as sleep takes hold, those memories begin to fragment; they merge, and start to flutter away.

I want them to remain, so I feel as if I am chasing them, trying to hold onto the last second of time with them, as I unwillingly slip away into the arms of Morpheus. But they swirl around, elusive, one over the other, off back to wherever they came from. Until the next time.

It is like chasing leaves in the wind.

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Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

This morning, I woke up thinking about catalogues, specifically those used for shopping, before the age of the Internet. When I was young, there were mail-order catalogue companies that were household names, like ‘Freeman’s’, and ‘Littlewoods’. Those things were huge, much larger that telephone directories, and very heavy for a child to lift. They used to arrive a few times a year, with the seasonal Christmas catalogue being the most anticipated, as it was packed with more toys than usual.

My Mum always had at least one of the two mentioned above, sometimes both. They literally sold anything you might want for the home, from a new bed, to a set of spoons. Clothing and shoes were featured heavily, from a wide range of suits and dresses, to underwear and hosiery. They didn’t sell foodstuffs, but the Christmas special would feature hampers stocked with luxury items, shortbread in tins, and a huge variety of sweets, sold in ‘selection boxes’.

The prices were always shown as small weekly payments, as these companies serviced the market of customers who could rarely afford to pay for something up front. They would employ collection agents, who would call at the house with a payment card, collecting the small amounts for anything from twenty-six weeks to sixty weeks, depending on the total owed. Those collectors became familiar figures around the neighbourhood, as almost everyone in our street used a catalogue for everything except food shopping.

As a child, it never occurred to me that the total cost of these goods from the catalogue companies was exorbitant. They simply operated as credit agencies, charging huge amounts for everyday items far in excess of what they would cost if bought from a shop with immediate payment. But for working class people on tight budgets, before the time of credit cards and other methods of payment, they offered the chance to own something that others took for granted, paid for in relatively tiny amounts, affordable from a weekly pay-packet. They accepted the criminal interest rates as part of life, and didn’t think too much about it.

As I said, I was unaware of this. To me, those wonderful catalogues with their appealing photos were like a Bible of consumerism. In those days, there were no supermarkets, and no dedicated superstores selling toys. To see all the items visible in that huge catalogue would involve visiting dozens of shops, all over London. But here it all was, in a huge book, which I could flick through at leisure. And flick through I did. Whenever a new one arrived, I would quickly check to see if anything new had been added, sometimes comparing it with the previous issue. The toys were generally at the back, so I would open it that way round, working my way through from the last page.

For at least a week, I would revisit my favourite pages. As my birthday approached, or Christmas was on the horizon, I would tear strips of paper, and write the item number or letter of what I liked most, slipping the paper into the relevant page. In this way, I hoped to give my parents a guide to what to buy me, without the awkwardness of actually having to ask them outright. It didn’t always work in my favour of course, but I used to greatly enjoy the process. What was sheer joy for me represented months or even years of debt for my parents, but I was oblivious.

Catalogues still exist of course. These days, many are much smaller, and only give some indication of what might be available on a website. Others arrive unsolicited in the post, and end up in the bin, unread. People still pay excessive interest rates to buy gifts for their children, though usually from shops that exist to offer the same weekly payment system, and they are few and far between. Modern day children can browse online, using laptops, phones, even Tablet computers.

But there is no longer the simple wonder of anticipating the arrival of a massive catalogue, filled with ideas and pictures that could delight you for months on end.

Time to start watching…

Christmas is coming, and our habit is to give out a list of presents we might like to receive, so we don’t end up with unwanted gifts like soap sets, or decorative items we have no room to display. My short list this year contained one non-fiction book, and fifteen DVD films that I would like to own. I already knew that I would be getting a new pair of my favourite sheepskin bootee slippers, so didn’t bother to include them on the list.

Thinking about the DVD films to add to my list, I generally only consider the cheaper ones, not the expensive brand new releases, or Blu-Ray editions. It seems presumptuous to request an expensive version of something that can be bought for half the price, or reduced significantly once the festive season has passed. As small parcels began to arrive, it soon became obvious that Julie has bought more than a few of the films on my list. And if she has passed on the others from the list to relatives, I might be lucky to get lots of new films to watch.

This morning, I had to get something from a shelf in my small office. I noticed the top shelf, which contains DVD films that I have yet to watch. Some of these are still wrapped in cellophane, and some are used copies, bought for next-to-nothing on Amazon Marketplace. The films are stacked two deep, with others on top of them, sideways on. I had a look through them, and was quite frankly startled to discover that there are over forty films I have yet to watch. Many were presents from last Christmas, and my birthday in March. Some date back to Christmas 2016.

I watch a fair bit of TV. I also watch films on TV. Since acquiring a streaming device, I have watched a lot of foreign serials on that, generally one episode after the other, until I have seen them all. But I obviously don’t watch nearly enough films on DVD.
I will have to set aside some time in 2019, and get watching.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Births, Marriages, and Deaths.

With a recent birth in the family, followed almost immediately by a death, it is understandable that I woke up thinking about family this morning. I have written before on this blog about how families are spread out further these days, and how that close contact of my youth has come down to emails, text messages, and rare phone calls, in most cases.
So please forgive the familiarity of the theme.

By most standards, England is a small country. Many of my American blogging friends live almost a continent away from close relatives, and are used to travelling great distances to see them, and having to deal with time-zone differences too. But in this country, one hundred miles is considered to be a very long way indeed. Traffic, unreliable public transport, weather difficulties, and the high cost of tickets or fuel can make physical contact a real issue. Decide to move a long way from your family base, as I did, and you have to accept that there will be less contact, few visits, and only occasional meetings. Add to this the fact that most people are still dealing with having to work, or raising young families, and that tight family unit of the past becomes a fond memory, no longer practical to achieve.

But three things still bring that family together. A new baby, a wedding, or a funeral. Meeting children who now look like adults, having to explain who you are, and what your position in the extended family is. Re-telling family stories, recounting memories of old parties, humorous events, trying to keep such recollections alive in the minds of the younger relatives. Sometimes, old photos appear. Faces unknown to some, familiar to others. We are stiff and uncomfortable in our rarely-worn formal suits, and perhaps a little upset that so many there don’t actually know who we are. Introductions complete, identities established, we proceed into whichever of the three ceremonies awaits us, once more a family.

If only for one day.

Winter has arrived

It has been a while since my last Beetley weather report. Well at least it seems so, to me. 🙂

After the hot summer, and an unusually mild early autumn, we are getting payback, as I might have guessed. Almost gale force winds, and torrential rain that lasted for over twenty hours. The leaves are still falling, and are now sodden clumps all over the place. Driven into piles by swirling winds, then rained on, they will have to be left where they are, as I cannot even contemplate trying to clear them up in this weather.

And the mud is back, let’s never forget the mud. In the space of a few days, pleasant dog walks have returned to battling high winds, and slipping around in the rapidly forming mud pools.

Checking the weather forecast, the earnest young man predicted ‘showers’ for Norfolk. You have to laugh at those forecasters, they should really be on stage at a comedy club, getting riotous applause.

So winter is here on time, and set to stay for its usual few months.
It could be worse of course.

At least it isn’t snowing.

Ollie: A dog’s weekend away

As I was getting ready to leave on Saturday morning, Ollie was showing signs of interest in my preparations. He noticed that I was dressed and ready earlier than usual, and that I was packing things into bags. By the time I got around to picking up his food and water bowls, he was beside himself. Could he be going out somewhere? Was I going to leave him behind? He ran around panting, and sniffing everything I touched. And his expressive face portrayed the full range of his emotions; from excitement, to worry, and eventual desperation.

Then I picked up his large bed, and folded it to carry to the car. That was it for him. If his bed was going, then he was sure he was going too. He scampered around like a pup, displaying every possible sign of canine enthusiasm. For all he knew, he might just be going a few miles down the road, to walk in a different place. Perhaps an unwanted trip to the Vet, or somewhere completely new. But he was up for anything, as long as he was going with me.

He is very good in the car. He jumps onto his bed in the back, and doesn’t bother to look around, sit up, or show any interest in what’s going on. He lay down contentedly for a journey of over a hundred miles, looking surprised when the car stopped, and I opened the back. He has met my cousin and her family before, also her two dogs, the Cavalier Spaniels Jess and Dennis. But now there is a cat in the house, and within seconds of his lead coming off, he was chasing that up the stairs. He loves stairs. Brought up in a house on ground level, he sees stairs as a path to something new to explore, and will run up and down them like a child on a playground slide.

A walk later on introduced him to some new smells of the local Essex dogs, and he was frantically scent-marking accordingly. More people around than he is used to saw him attract attention from admiring humans, and lots of enthusiastic sniffing from new dogs he encountered too. Then he was back to trying to find the elusive cat, and wondering if he was going to be left behind in this strange house with stairs. In case I was about to do just that, he kept checking I was still in the armchair, and that the bags I had brought were still where I had left them. As we got ready to go and visit baby Violet that evening, he was unsettled for the second time in one day. But once I picked up his lead, he was his old self once again.

A short drive to the unfamiliar house provided him with the opportunity to meet new dogs, and to find another set of stairs to climb. A feisty Pug, and an excitable Cocker Spaniel pup, only six months old. The Pug was having none of this curly-tailed intruder, and barked and growled constantly at Ollie, who ignored him. He checked out the tiny baby, just a quick sniff to see what we were making a fuss about. Then he was off up the stairs, in case a different cat was lurking up there, waiting to be chased.

By midnight, when I went to bed, he had been on the go since 8 am. Riding in the car, rushing around strange houses, up and down stairs, and chasing cats. I put his bed into the kitchen, and he needed no urging to climb onto it, and sleep soundly all night.

It takes a lot out of a dog, a weekend away.

Ollie: Back on Hoe Rough


***All photos can be enlarged, by clicking on them***

For a long time now, there has been a sizable herd of cows and their calves grazing on Hoe Rough. This has meant that I have been unable to go there with Ollie, and have had to find other places to go, to extend his walks. Earlier this week, the herd was removed, so I took the camera over there this afternoon on our walk.

On the way, Beetley Meadows was finally showing some Autumn colours in the surrounding trees.

This tree has fallen into the river, and been left there by the local Nature Trust. Last week, I spotted some squirrels using it as a bridge across the river. So today, I waded into the middle, to get a photo of it. Sadly, no squirrels crossed it when I was there.

Some of the trees have already lost most or all of their leaves, like this one on the riverbank.

And these tall ones nearby.

We crossed the main road, and went over to Hoe Common. I got as far as the private lane that leads to a large farm.

For November, it was excellent weather, even though it was almost dark when I got back at 3:45 pm.