Calmness amongst the turbulence…

Turbulent day weather wise here in London. Lashing rain showers, angry dark skies and a cold, strong wind. Autumn is here folks! While standing at the bus stop watching the leaves being blown about in various directions, I thought it was time to reflect.

Reflect on the turbulence that has tried to throw me completely off course in 2019. But here I still am, despite that. In the last month, I have felt much better and calmer, more relaxed and enjoying life again. I’ve had a great and revitalising holiday. I’ve enjoyed my volunteering stints and being involved once again with spreading the word on mental health. I’ve enjoyed the end of the cricket season, especially watching Essex, my home county, winning the County Championship and the T20 competitions in the space of a week.

It was good to see my CBT counsellor today and explained why I feel so different. Then I went out and about, in the not so glorious weather, bought a book and a warm jumper for winter and then had a bite of lunch.

I feel so good that I am really looking forward to umpiring indoor cricket tomorrow morning. I haven’t umpired indoors for a few years now but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think back to that day on Praia Da Oura beach in Portugal when all the upset and stress ebbed away and into the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Amazing difference in that space of time.

Yep, looking forward to having a good and productive winter where I can get back to doing the things I enjoy, and that I can ignore the darkness and the cold of the season. It won’t be easy, but I’m ready for the challenge.

A.S.D Brooks

That’s it, you’ve had your fun….back to reality

Friday 30th August. 6 am. Rise and shine. Time to pack the stuff, say goodbye to Portugal and set off for home.

It doesn’t get light until 7, so we wait in the foyer for the minibus. Dead on time, he arrives and collects one or two others from some other local hotels and then we hit the road. The sun is making it’s first glimpses and the roads are quiet as we scoot along the main road between Albufeira and the airport.

The check in hall is full of mainly British holidaymakers going back on the various flights. It takes us a fair few minutes to get through all the processes, and without any breakfast in the hotel (too early), we decide to grab some grub before the flight. Unfortunately a customer decides to buy every item on the menu and with hunger and impatience taking over, we decant to another and far better eaterie.

Flight dead on time. Stomach turning over. Nervous as always. The takeoff was not as powerful as normal but it was smooth. The flight was pretty good in the main, with scarcely a bump. The first officer had a reassuring Essex accent(!) that kept us all at our ease.

Then I lift the window blind as we start our descent. The coast of northern France is in view as we move up the Channel. My propensity for getting irritated (I must be near home) came to the fore again. There was a young family in the row in front of us, and with the cabin crew forbidding people to use the toilets as we approached Southend, the child decided to play up and wanted the loo. Of course, she didn’t, but irritated the mother to the point of totally losing it. Welcome back to England!

The approach was slightly windy, and quick, but ultimately smooth. It was a nice, warm afternoon as we touched down in Southend. The mother/child Mexican standoff continued as we waited to get off and all the way into the immigration hall. It was a relief when they disappeared into the distance.

Some immigration officials have a sense of humour bypass, but the lady in Southend we encountered was full of fun and good banter. She requested I take my hat and glasses off, to which I replied “I’m much better looking with them on!”. She laughed but of course I had to comply with the polite request. As I went through I said to her “Don’t let my mate through!” His reply was “I think he’s a bit grumpy from not having enough sleep”. All in fun.

The smooth process from leaving the plane, through immigration, baggage pickup and out was 25 minutes. Better than most of the bigger airports I’ve been to. Straight out of the airport onto the adjoining railway platform for the journey back to London. Some wistful memories came and went with the gentle summer breeze as the train approached.

A fabulous five days. Great company, great weather, great hotel, great place, great food. Now hoping that good feeling will continue as I settle back into London life……hmm, get back to you on that one.

I thoroughly recommend Albufeira as a holiday destination. Love Portugal as a country with it’s relaxed and friendly way of life, and it’s relatively cheap too. I shall return, for longer next time. Now on with the Autumn and Winter….joy.

A.S.D Brooks

Albufeira – something for most tastes….

Just to comment on what is on offer in Albufeira. If you’re between 18-30 (sadly not the case for me), there is a street of bars, nightclubs and thronging with people. It’s called The Strip.

Me and my mate had a walk down to this rather loud and colourful piece of Albufeira. It’s not for me, being of a more advanced age, I found it a bit claustrophobic and with loud and thudding dance music blaring out of most of the establishments, we decided to head back to the quieter part of town. I know, I’m a boring old fart. But having just turned 47, I don’t really care.

What we found rather odd about The Strip was a hotel right in the middle. How do the inhabitants sleep with that racket going on? A rhetorical question that had me thinking.

There is the main street in Albufeira, full of restaurants, (quieter) bars, ATM machines, pharmacists and supermarkets. As I said, something for everyone! If you’re short of a loaf of bread, cash or need some tablets for that holiday hazard, tummy ache, it’s all here.

And there is Albufeira old town, which would have catered for the older person like me. Full of cobbled streets, and with more bars and restaurants, that was on the hit list for the Thursday of the holiday, but we were a bit tired and fancied sitting round the pool. It’s a good hike away by taxi so we ditched that idea and decided on more suntan and a dip in the pool.

We have reached Thursday night. The flight back to Southend is at 10 am on Friday so we have to be up at 6 to get packed and ready for the minibus to pick us up. My stomach is already turning cartwheels as the flight back approaches. The five days is over. Great experience and a much needed deep balm to the mental wounds of 2019.

Flight day follows….

Abrigado

A.S.D Brooks

So near and yet so Faro (A Holiday Chronicle – Day 3)

This is where we spent Day 3 of our holiday. Praia Da Oura beach is 5 minutes walk from the hotel, down some back streets and a wooden staircase down a hill.

Just wonderful. The sand, the sea, people enjoying themselves, endless yet comfortable heat, the sellers displaying their wares but showing great politeness on being refused attention.

Laying there, on a sunbed, drinking an ice cold Coca Cola, reading a book, I felt very different to the previous nine months. The strains, the stresses and the anguish seemed to ebb out of my being, down the golden sands into the wide expanses of the Atlantic a few yards from me. I felt so relaxed, so calm that I didn’t believe it at first. It was like letting air out of a balloon or the steam out of a pressure cooker. Calmness and serenity, and 1,091 miles away from the mad place of home.

I thought “This cannot be real!”. An unforgettable day really. We were at the beach from 10 am to 5 pm, with a suntan developing quite rapidly now. The seaside is my sanctuary, whether at home or abroad. Images to store in the memory bank, ready for the onset of the short days and the darkness of winter. I shall reference the photos I took to remind me that good times do happen…..

Abrigado

A.S.D Brooks

So near and yet so Faro….(A Holiday Chronicle – Day 2)

After a long sleep on the Sunday night, it was time for breakfast. Just some cold stuff, cheeses and hams were the order of the day for me as my stomach was recovering from being full from Sunday.

Then it was time to sit round the pool:-

Blue sky, barely a puff of wind, hot but comfortably so. Time for the sun tan lotion, some reading matter and some liquid refreshment. The time certainly moved fast. A good, friendly and convivial atmosphere at the poolside and the pair of us could just relax.

I even had a dip in the pool, but being a non swimmer, I just took to paddling about. A good cooling feeling as the tepid temperature took the edge off the rather warm conditions.

Nice…….just calming and relaxing. If only life could be like this all the time. Sadly not, in my case. But a respite from all the stresses of 2019 was welcoming and much needed. A good day here on the Monday.

A pleasant evening meal followed by a few long, cold beers was the order of the day come 8.00 or so. Plenty of chat from the pair of us, mainly about cricket, with the events of the excitement of Headingley still uppermost in our minds. Of course, being umpires, we saw the closing stages through our adjudicating rose tinted spectacles.

Abrigado. Day 3 on the beach methinks tomorrow, where this stress free existence continues. Time to hit the hay.

A.S.D Brooks

So near and yet so Faro….. (A Holiday Chronicle)

Good evening. The last dregs of summer here in Britain are ebbing away, and darkness falls early now, as autumn and it’s mellow nature makes it’s presence felt.

As the blog title implies, I’ve been on holiday to Portugal with a very good cricketing buddy of mine. We stayed in Albufeira, about 40 minutes west along the Algarve coast in the southern part of the country. After having been to Portugal last Autumn, I really love the way of life and the gorgeous weather, of which more later.

We start with Day One, and an early start….

Day One – Sunday 25th August

It’s Bank Holiday here in the UK. It’s a warm and humid night, and I wake up at 3.00 am to go round to my mate’s house to catch the taxi to the airport. My stomach is churning with anticipation and excitement, but with that trepidation of getting on the plane.

We arrive at Southend Airport at 4.40 am. Our flight is at 6.30. Through all the processes, and then we have a decent breakfast in the airport pub. The only slight downer was a child screaming her head off at the security checkpoint and then her bellowing screams could be heard at the other end of the airport.

I’ve never flown from Southend before. It’s a smaller, provincial airport but I’m most impressed at the economical layout, and lack of stress getting through the processes.

Then it’s time. The EasyJet staff member calls the passengers to the gate and then we walk through the alleyway onto the tarmac. It’s a warm, humid, misty morning and the Airbus A319 is there in all it’s pristine glory. I watch a Ryanair flight roar off to a far away place, and then up the steps we go, get our seats and settle in.

The nerves then really kick in. My stomach is churning. I don’t like flying particularly but it has to be done I suppose. The safety briefing finishes and the Airbus taxis into position, down the end of the runway ready to get us away.

I can still never understand how a thin metal tube with seats, cargo, passengers and fuel takes off and stays in the air for long periods. It’s a feat of incredible engineering that we all take for granted.

Then, the captain applies the power and the craft whizzes along at a fair lick to get us airborne. I’m nervous throughout the flight but the takeoff and landing are not two of my favourite things ever. The flight took 2 hours and 45 minutes and we had two reassuring guys flying the plane. They kept us informed of any turbulence, any thunderstorms (which there were), and did so in that calming way that pilots have.

Uneventful flight to be honest. A few slight bumps, not even disturbing my mate who was asleep for most of the journey. Then we banked our over the Atlantic for the final approach into Faro. What wonderful views. Green space, golf courses, sandy beaches, sun drenched water. Perfect.

We landed and then getting through Portuguese immigration was chaotic. With several flights from the UK landing virtually within 20 minutes of each other, the arrivals hall was crawling with holidaymakers. This was a welcome sight:-

And it was really hot too, up in the high twenties Celsius. We got a connecting bus to the resort and what a resort it was. Fantastic four star luxury, five minutes from Albufeira beach.

We had a spot of lunch first after settling in, and we had a short walk to the local main road which contained some fine eateries and bars for later.

Lunch done, then time to settle around the fabulous pool with the sun beating down. The 3rd Ashes cricket test was reaching an incredible climax, and we both watched the amazing England win on my phone. I couldn’t help but let out a whoop of delight when England’s Ben Stokes hit the winning runs.

Off to the local restaurant where you could have a three course meal with a drink for 14 Euros. Pretty good eh? I had a fantastic tuna steak and followed that up with a lime cheesecake. My waistline was about to suffer but who cares. This was just what both of us needed, a relaxing environment where there was no fuss, no stress, no bother. And I do like the way of life in Portugal.

After a long day, it was time to head back. Sleep was long and very relaxing, for a change. Day 2 tomorrow!

Abrigado!

A.S.D Brooks

How are we all coping?

Morning. Well that was a great disappointment last night. Laid awake expecting lots of thunderstorms and rain, and we got precious little where I’m located. But that soda water and ice sent me to bed happy.

I’m in the SANE office today. Everybody is drained and complaining of the oppressive nature of this weather. But there is a silver lining around the cloud. Tomorrow I was due to be scoring in a cricket match, but because of the high possibility of the record temperature in the UK going tomorrow, the cricket has been cancelled, and in my opinion, very sensibly. I’ve not heard of cricket being cancelled because of extremely high temperatures before, but this is a common sense decision which I applaud.

As for me tomorrow, I’ll be having all windows open in the flat, electric fans on full blast and a store of soft drink in the fridge with copious amounts of ice. I’m very reluctant to step out of doors tomorrow into temperatures of over 100F. While everyone is pleased to see good summer weather, this is bordering on dangerously extreme. So I’m glad the cricket is off!

The above is my method of coping in the heat. What’s yours?

A.S.D Brooks

Paparazzi time…..

No I’ve not become famous all of a sudden. Not much chance of that. What I’m referring to is the flashes of lightning to the west of London that are like paparazzi taking photos of a well known celebrity.

I’ve been out for the evening at a friend’s barbecue. Very nice too. Good food and good company. Boy it is incredibly hot again, even hotter than yesterday. Had a long journey home and was dying to have a cold drink to cool down when I got in. A glass of soda water with ice was just the job. Now to watch the lightning flashes and hear the thunder. The storms over the west of London are about 25 miles away, but the lightning is spectacular. This could be a fun few hours.

Now where’s that soda water…..

A.S.D Brooks

Sampling the delights of the Far East today…..

Yep, feeling slightly better today after a pretty low feeling day on Sunday. The weather is hot, hot, hot, and so I decided to escape the delights of London and venture to the Far East….

Not Singapore, Tokyo or Beijing, but

The Far East of Essex! This is a place I’ve never been to before, and so, as the name implies, it’s on the River Crouch. Out of the station and a longish walk to the water’s edge.

And what a pretty place. Bungalows, cottages, riverside homes and a couple of moored boats with letterboxes. All in all, a very nautical place, though I’m not of that inclination after an experience travelling between Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

The day just got hotter and hotter. The sun beat down though there was a gentle breeze off the river to temper the searing heat. Plenty of pubs and restaurants, though it was difficult at 4 pm in the afternoon to find one serving food. After much searching, I found one.

Dining alfresco, though I’ve never worked out who Al Fresco is? Sitting on a nice street, drinking an ice cold cider to wash down a decent bit of grub. And this did wonders for my state of mind after a few quite difficult days. It’s funny what fresh air and escaping from the humdrum way of life can do for someone.

Though I was brought back down to earth when waiting for my train back. A local teenage lad plonked himself two seats from me on the platform, couldn’t keep himself still for longer than 30 seconds and proceeded to jabber in a language that I don’t think resembled English at all. I was relieved when the Southminster train arrived so he could impress everyone on it with his tenuous grasp of the national lingo.

The journey back was pleasant enough and I feel fairly tired, a combination of the heat and a bit of exercise to blame I think. But I needed that today. I couldn’t face sitting indoors on a lovely day like this. I went and discovered a decent part of the world and got away from London for the afternoon/evening. Hopefully it has pressed the reset button in my brain and I can move on from a low spell over the last few days.

This heat is only getting more severe so be careful!

A.S.D Brooks

Blowtorch heat….

Looking out of the window this morning, you could be forgiven for thinking that the weather this week will be average, nothing out of the ordinary. Wrong. Here in the southeast of the UK, we are in for some extreme heat and humidity, and I’m more confident this time that this weather event will happen.

The European continent is already hot and humid and that is spreading northwards this week so that by Thursday, it’s a possibility that the all time UK temperature record could go. The highest ever recorded was in August 2003, in Kent, at 38.5C, which is 101F. That could happen on Thursday, with predicted temperatures close to 40C, which is 104F!!!!! Yikes.

(If you look closely, 39C is indicated for London!)

Uncomfortable nights for sleeping, stifling humidity and roasting daytime temperatures. Yep, the world is heating up year upon year and these weather events might start to happen more regularly. Not good for those who have long standing health issues and don’t like this tropical type weather. And of course, there’s the London commuters who use the Underground……unpleasant heat doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So, some extreme weather is on the way with a strong possibility of records being broken. Stay safe and stay hydrated.

A.S.D Brooks