More haste….less speed

A good start to the day today. I’m off to watch cricket at Chelmsford, where Essex are hoping to win to cement their County Championship credentials. The only thing is, I’ve got on the wrong train.

Pulled into Liverpool Street, got my ticket and thought the Inter City service to Norwich was stopping at Chelmsford, which it sometimes does. It was only sitting in my seat when the train guard said that the first stop is Colchester, some 15 minutes further on….oops. So I’ve got to wait at Colchester for a return train to London, so I’m going to be late on parade at the cricket. That’s what happens when you rush, and don’t check the train stopping pattern. Anyway, it’s a nice day, so I’ll have to be late. What a berk.

A.S.D Brooks

Aaaaah, Bicester…..

Different day, different gravy. It’s a decent, warm Autumn day and so instead of being indoors cooped up, I’ve decided to pay a visit to a shopping outlet called Bicester Village, in Oxfordshire, England. It’s about 45 minutes away from London on the train.

Quaint place, if I’m being honest. Full of very expensive outlets, ranging from Gucci to Michael Kors to Versace. Little bit out of my price range, to say the least. I thought it was worth paying a visit as I have passed by once a few Christmasses ago.

I have never ever seen so many Chinese people in one place as I have here. Extraordinary, wherever you turn. The Chinese love a bargain but they’re few and far between here. But if the influx of the Chinese does wonders for the local economy, who are we to argue?

Weather is good, I feel quite relaxed and I’ve just had dinner at a decent restaurant on the entrance to the shopping village. I don’t think I’ll be paying a return visit, though. It’s quite crowded, for a weekday, and there are queue controls at some shops. I just fancied getting out of London for the afternoon, that’s all. And I also spotted a few people with fake tans and a few facelifts. I have a tan (real) but no facelift. Wimpey Builders would have trouble lifting my face, and I’m quite happy looking at my ugly mug every morning when I have a shave, thank you very much.

As I said, quaint. I appreciate things that are different and Bicester Village certainly is different, but expensive. If I win the Euromillions jackpot, I may return, so that means I won’t return!

Sorry, rambling away, so I’ll bid farewell for now.

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

Cambridge is top of the shop….

An historic day for weather here in the UK. We’ve had four days of intense heat and humidity culminating in records tumbling across the country today.

The all time July temperature record has gone, but the all time record of 38.5 Celsius set on 10th August 2003 has remained intact. Cambridge Airport came in at 38.1 Celsius which is a tad over 100 Fahrenheit. This late in the afternoon won’t see any improvement on that. Hot enough, I’ll think you’ll agree.

I’ve not shifted from the flat today, and I had no intention of doing so. And also this weather has played havoc with London’s rail network today, so any chance of getting around would have been zero. My local rail line has cancelled all trains, further adding credence to my theory that any extreme of weather, be it rain, snow, fog, wind or heat and the infrastructure crumbles like a biscuit. Today is no different, and I’m glad I haven’t gone outside. Tomorrow will bring a respite from this insane weather with rain and cooler temperatures, thank goodness.

So the big heatwave of summer 2019 has ended, not quite with a record, but pretty damn close. We can all return to normality after four pretty incredible days.

A.S.D Brooks

The idiot awards….

This is where I observe acts of sheer idiocy, especially those in positions of authority, who don’t show any common sense.

How hot is it in London today? About 35C 95F, and unpleasantly humid. At my local train station, the next train was being driven into the platform by a depot driver. When he got off, he thought it’d be a good idea not to open the train doors and leave people standing out in the boiling hot sun for 5 minutes. Eventually he opened the doors to let people on. Great customer service and blinding common sense there.

Later on, I left my volunteering stint at SANE, walked to the local station to get a train into the centre of London. The train was in the platform, going nowhere, the doors were stupidly locked by the driver. There was a fault with the train, which can happen. But then a few passengers got rightly very annoyed when the driver continued to sod about getting the train started and left the passengers wilting in the heat. The member of station staff wandered down the platform, being accosted verbally from the train by irate passengers, and he then proceeded to have a long and pointless conversation with the driver.

A train pulled in going in the opposite direction and finally, the driver and station staff had an outbreak of inspiration. Open the doors and let everyone off onto the other train, which was now packed. At least there was air con.

Getting to my intended destination took me 80 minutes instead of the intended 40, because the creaking rail system we have can’t cope with this extreme weather. Was glad to get off, dive into a pub and have a cold drink. But we have had two lots of complete idiocy today that wouldn’t have happened if the people concerned used their brains. Maybe they were fried in this heat as well, or am I being kind?

Glad that the cricket tomorrow isn’t happening. I’m not using public transport tomorrow. Indoors, thank goodness.

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

A regal day out….

Yes, indeed. Another day at the beach. And this particular English seaside resort has royal connections.

Bognor Regis in West Sussex. This was where King George V was advised by his doctors in 1929 to take in the sea air to aid his convalescence from lung surgery. The resort was originally just plain Bognor, until the King’s appearance turned it into Bognor Regis, Regis being a suffix pertaining to royalty.

No royalty on show today, just magnificent blue skies, a light breeze and a calm sea, and it was fairly hot, even in late afternoon. Bognor Regis is only 1 hour and 40 minutes from London by train and I didn’t fancy staying indoors today. Also it was a chance to test out my new glasses, and I have to say they are superb. Everything seems so much better with this prescription than the old pair. Crystal clear. So hopefully my umpiring decisions will continue to be up to standard, depending on who you speak to.

Summer in all its glory today, as you can see from the pictures. Continuing the royal theme, I don’t think a knighthood is in the post. King Allen doesn’t ring true, unfortunately. But it was nice to visit a place I haven’t been to before. I went to a local holiday camp four miles away from Bognor Regis back in 1984, but not the main seafront. England at it’s best today, no doubt.

A.S.D Brooks

Here comes the sun…..

I first visited the holiday resort pictured back in 1981. And that week too was warm and sunny. It’s Eastbourne on the South coast of England. The weather has improved from the drab, overcast skies to gloriously sunny this Wednesday afternoon.

Just to prove I was by the sea, there was a bracing easterly wind blowing to keep it pleasantly cool, despite the sun. Now that the good weather is here, I aim to take advantage of it. Just that fresh air and being away from London does it for me.

Then just to prove also that we are in England, the trains went wrong and I had to detour to Brighton by bus. The bus journey from Eastbourne to Brighton is among the most picturesque in the country, if not the world, as the bus makes it’s way up to Beachy Head and twists and turns around the many villages. The views are spectacular, chalk cliffs, the sea, oceans of greenery and that sums up the beauty of certain parts of England. That distracted me from the bottom achingly slow journey back to Brighton. But on a day like this, I’m not going to complain.

Sitting there on that seafront today is like being in that room in heaven. I hope that’s a long way off, but when I get there, endless blue skies, the sea and soft, mellow warmth will be the request from me at St. Peter’s Gate. Perfect.

A.S.D Brooks