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

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

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

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

Into the heat consuming…..

Was due to do some cricket scoring today but more rain scuppered that. As I alluded to yesterday, the UK weather is very fickle. Here’s some evidence of what it might feel like in my local area next week:-

(Picture courtesy of Netweather)

Now if this turned out to be correct (that’s a very big if), some the days next week in London could feel like between 100 and 110 Fahrenheit.

Uncomfortably hot, intensely humid, with sleepless nights and the electric fans working overtime. But there might be some fun and games if it gets that hot. More thunderstorms to add to the high rainfall totals across the eastern part of England. And I would venture, explosive storms with that amount of heat. The British weather is never dull. I enjoy the warm, sunny days but that might be a little too over the top for me, 110 Fahrenheit. Imagine being on a crowded bus, tube or train next week. Hmmmm.

In a way, I hope this comes off, as we may not see this again, but in another way, this intense heat may be too much for those not used to it. Mixed feelings about this. Obviously I’ll be wearing shorts for one of the few times this summer so far, but the sight of my legs might convince Mother Nature to think again!

Hope that the cricket survives and I can continue to enjoy it. But it looks as though we’ll be sizzling like sausages in a frying pan next week.

A.S.D Brooks

Experienced flyer but the nerves are still there….

I’ve made 22 plane journeys in 28 years. Here’s a breakdown of those:-

Malta – 6 times

Munich – 2

Jersey – 2

Edinburgh – 2

Dublin – 2

Manchester – 2

Fuerteventura – 2

Porto – 2

Majorca – 2

No problem at all, you might argue. But the nerves with me start days before a flight. A mixture of nervousness and apprehension pervade every fibre of my being before stepping on a plane.

Then all of a sudden, the reality takes over. Horrible, doom laden thoughts go through my head as to what might happen to the plane. The thought of being in a metal tube, flying at 500 mph and 6 miles above the ground, sends me into something approaching real fear. I’m not alone in this of course, millions of people around the world have this phobia. Phobia is a fear of something that is safe or harmless, generally speaking.

Flying is safe. So I try and comfort myself in the fact that billions of journeys are made a year and a tiny percentage of those end in disaster. On my recent trip to Malta, I was in more danger travelling on the roads with the daredevil driving than on a jet aircraft. After 22 journeys, so far so good.

I get onto the plane and find my seat. I strap in and watch the normal safety instruction from the cabin crew. My stomach is doing a passable impression of a washing machine. Churn, churn, churn.

Then the captain taxis the plane into position. The apprehension grows. Then we line up on the runway. It’s like going to the gallows. All of a sudden, whoooooosh! The engines power up, the force of the take off nudges you back in the seat and the plane roars off at 160 mph or so. Then before you know it, the plane lifts off. How it does this is still a source of wonderment to me. Engineering marvels.

I don’t look out of the window. If at all possible, I pull the window blind down or take an aisle seat. I try to shut my eyes as the craft steadily climbs. The power is increased. Then after about 15 minutes, the plane levels off and the cabin crew start their preparations for the inflight service.

Once the plane is cruising along, I do calm down a bit. But then there is the turbulence. The bumping and the jolting. Of course, turbulence has never brought down a jet to date. But that doesn’t stop me grabbing the arm rests or the seat in front of me. The plane goes faster to counteract the changes in air pressure. I’ve had a few bumpy journeys, but apart from an unnerving experience back from Porto last year, generally the flights have been smooth enough.

So nothing to worry about? Well, 30 minutes before the landing comes the descent. Again, some of these have been ok. The landing in Malta the other day was smooth and trouble free. But coming back saw the plane steaming in to the runway and after an inordinate time, it came to earth with a resounding thud. Of course, technically, this is not a cause for concern. It just feels like doing three rounds of the wall of death. I can be quite fearful.

But the comforting thing is that the pilots are well trained and are there for your safety. My senses are on full alert (part of my autism diagnosis) and danger is sensed constantly even though nothing has happened. My heart rate is high but when those wheels touch down, the heart rate slows and I feel relieved to have got through another flight.

The only frightening experience I’ve had (apart from the turbulence and the occasional hairy landing) was a go around in windy conditions at Gatwick 11 years ago. Ironically that was coming back from Malta too. I didn’t know what was happening and was very scared for some little time during and afterwards. Of course, this is a normal procedure and also happened on Saturday last when the air traffic was busy around Gatwick. Nothing to be alarmed about. All under control.

So there you have it. Despite 22 flights and several trips to Europe, I still like to have terra firma under my feet. I will make further trips by plane in future years. The nerves and fear will still be there. But flying is one of the safest forms of transportation on the planet, and is getting safer. Statistically very safe. But that won’t stop my senses being on the highest alert.

A.S.D Brooks

Arrived…..

View from the hotel room in St Julians, Malta.

Now I’m the first to admit I don’t like flying, but the flight coming over from England was superb. Clear weather all the way, nice and quick too, about 2 hours 45 minutes. The take off and landing are the parts that usually scare me witless, but not today. The Airbus 320 was so good in the take off, you hardly noticed it was going along.

Lots of great banter too, and one of the touring party was sitting next to me, so we had a good chat. That distracted the mind from the flight, and I also used the in flight map to focus on if I was starting to feel anxious. There was scarcely a bump of turbulence, the landing was text book and that completed flight number 21.

In the hotel now, relaxing, and probably a chance to have some dinner too with the lads. The view out of the window is wonderful, with the lovely aroma of the sea air filling the nostrils. This is going to be a good week.

See you soon.

A.S.D Brooks

Away we go…..

This will be my abode for the next eight days. The hotel pictured is the Plaza Regency in Sliema, Malta. I’m going to Malta for a well needed break from the hamster wheel here in England. It’s a cricket tour, with the group I went to Portugal with last October, give or take a few people.

I’m like a kid at Christmas today. Really excited to be in a different country, in a different climate and with some good people. It’s been a rancid year, in all truth. There were times over the last six months when I even doubted that I would make it onto the plane. My attendance was in doubt up until a few weeks ago. I’ve been encouraged to go by a few wise people close to me and when I finished my packing a while ago, the excitement is starting to build.

Hopefully it will be the catalyst for a change round in fortunes. I’ve been to Malta twice before and I enjoyed it both times. It’s only a 2 and a half to 3 hour journey and when those plane wheels touch down, I will breathe a sigh of relief that things could start to turn.

I will keep you updated and I love the adventure of a good holiday. This will be a good one.

A.S.D Brooks

Fit for nothing…..

Yes, 175 of these…..

This morning revealed to me that my fitness isn’t what it should be. That’s no one’s fault but my own, so I’m not searching for excuses.

In the morning rush hour, I had to travel up to London to attend a day long mental health workshop. I’ve been really looking forward to this. So off I went, and the journey was bitty and disjointed as there was, not unreasonably, a load of people on every train and the train was held at signals on several occasions.

This of course was making me late and I was starting to panic a little bit. I got off at Russell Square underground station in the heart of London. There are three lifts but all had a huge amount of people at each one. There was a staircase…….and boy was I in for a nasty surprise.

There are 175 steps. Yes, that’s right, 175. With the panic of lateness taking over, I tried to rush my way up the steps. It was like one of those staircases that would never end. At one point I shouted “How many more!” My legs were like jelly, I was blowing out of my arse and I saw no end in sight.

When I got onto level ground, I slumped in the corner of the concourse and a concerned passer by commented that I wasn’t looking too great. She wasn’t kidding! An underground staff worker came over with a glass of water and after five minutes, I managed to stumble to my feet and make my unsteady progress to the venue.

175 steps! Inhumane for those who are not fit. For those that are fit, still a severe trial. If I have to use Russell Square tube station again, I will look for alternatives in the rush hour. That this morning nearly saw me carted off to the local hospital. Pretty drastic for a man of 46.

It took me a good 90 minutes to focus, get my breath and participate in the event. I might not go to the gym again, I might run down the stairs at Russell Square and get the lift back up. Thankfully I’m not in hospital and am ok, eventually.

Not the sort of risk I’ll be taking any time soon.

A.S.D Brooks