Bolton Abbey.

Following of from a great night of drinks and steak and laughs, which rekindled something, we drove out to Bolton Abbey today. We’d expected it to be just some ruins and maybe a tea-house. What it was though deserves a revisit, more time, a better planning. 


When we arrived L checked our guidebook and mentioned the ‘Valley of Desolation’ she’d heard about. So off we set in our jeans and trainers (“we won’t need walking boots”). The going got tougher and we climbed up hills and followed narrow winding pathways through trees and bushes down into the valley; following the sound of the falling water. The Valley of Desolation was well worth a visit. 


We followed the path again up the left side of the river and the path narrowed, steepened and increased in difficulty. Eventually we managed to rediscover civilisation and thought better to get a cup of tea then continue the ascent into the distant hills. That’ll wait for another time. 

After a tea break we visited the Abbey proper with its surrounding grounds. A family was crossing the stepping stones when a young girl lost her nerve and couldn’t continue. Not all heroes wear capes; and Granddad walked across from the opposite side and assisted her. Whilst the two older ladies stuck on the steps howled with laughter.  

We explored the Abbey – which was only a partial ruin – the central section still in use and occupied at the time by a choir. The acoustics drew us in and we stood listening to voices raised together. I’m not a spiritual man, but it seemed a peace existed there. 

Bolton Abbey deserves a return visit – and soon. 

Holiday day seven.

Home tomorrow and I’m going to do one of them one second videos of my day. Predominantly it’ll be flying home. It’s been a seriously fucking brilliant week. I mean, a seriously fucking brilliant week. We’ve shared laughs, food, drink. We’ve talked about family, friends, ideas, concepts, careers, sport, politics. We’ve cycled to the beach and sat in the sun. We’ve been to the pub and drank bottles of Sagres and Super Bock until fit to piss. We’ve caught the train (and ferry) to Spain and spoken in three different languages. 

The boys have watched Masters golf. I’ve taken too many photos. I’ve mourned a lover and celebrated friendships. I’ve laughed my fucking arse off. I’ve met people I never would have ever had the chance to meet. 

I’ve tanned. Got a little more fat and committed to get a little less fat. I’m leaving here positive, content, happy, upbeat, humbled, focused. 

Today we dropped the boys off at Vilamoura (with its 91 golf courses) and visited the resort of Albufeira. I read some, sunbathed some, and maybe snored and dribbled a little bit on the beach. This evening we’ve participated in a pub quiz where, it seemed, the older you were the more likely you’d be to get the answers right. Then we sat and talked and laughed with Julie, Robin, Glen, Paul, Barbara, Peter, Manuel, Derek, and many others. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. 


It’s almost midnight now and we’re sat on the decking with a beer each. My bed is calling me. It’s time for sleep soon. Life is good. Family is good. Home tomorrow and I’m leaving here happy with life and content with my lot. 

Holiday day five. 

Easily the best day so far. Woke up too early this morning but managed to get back to sleep and stay there until seven thirty. Then after breakfast Bys & I got down into town for a few little bits. When we got back Mam & Ellis were at the pool so we joined them. Us boys took it in turns to swim the length of the pool underwater; or rather I swam it (three times) they failed (twice each). It was good spending time with Bys by myself in the morning and then as a family unit later. ​

​And it was around that time that I had my epiphany. You see, this is actually what life is about; spending time with family. I once posted something on Instagram or Twitter; 

“Collect memories not things.”

And as much as I bought into those words I didn’t entirely grasp their simple and beautiful meaning. I need to collect memories. Memories of mum, of Byron, of Eton and Ellis. Of Mike and Alex and Harrison. And of Tom. Mostly of Tom. And I need to give Tom memories of me and of us. Because one day I’ll be dead. And I don’t say that with bitterness, fear or regret. But more with the vigour of someone who’s finally understood what we are here for. I want Tom to grow up and be able to think back to all the good times we had. I want my family to come together, be together, live together and live together. That is what life is about. Not money or things. Fuck your money and your things!


This afternoon we got first the train and then a ferry across the Guadiana River from Vila Real de Santo Antonio to Ayamonte in Spain. 

And then we relaxed and ate and drank and chatted and told jokes. We looked in shops and I photographed us and the town. It was a perfect day. A perfect day. No squabbles. No differences. We saw eye to eye and we laughed together and with each other not at each other. 

We were only in Spain for a few short hours but I found such contentment in the company of my family. Finally life was exactly how it should be. 


We got the ferry back and the train back further. Then climbed – a little drunk – onto our bikes and headed for home, stopping once for more beer on the way. The sun was setting as we started our final ascent. 

We reached home, had tea, then me and mum went up to the bar for more beers. She introduced me to her neighbours; a Dutch couple who’s names escape me. We talked and drank and laughed some more. 

And now I’m in bed. A little tired and more than a little drunk. It’s been a truly magical day. Only two days left now, but I’ll be making the most of them.  

Good night. God bless. Time for bed.  

Holiday day four. 

I was up before dawn and took a short walk over to the eastern side of the camp to watch the sun rise over the hills. It’s so peaceful here on a morning. All I could hear was birds singing, a faraway dog barking and the wind through the trees. No traffic. It’s amazing when you think about it how much of modern life is soundtracked by the rumble of engines. 

Right on the edge of the site there’s a house standing in ruins. I’d like to, before I leave, take some photos inside. I only snapped the outside that morning. I love old stuff like that. There’s a number of derelict buildings between here and the beach. Maybe I’ll get the chance to photograph them one day. 

After my morning adventures and breakfast I took delivery of an apparently ancient Toyota Carolla with 220k / km on the clock. Last time I was here I hired a car and never felt entirely comfortable driving on the right (wrong!) side of the road. But this was something else. An automatic

I’ve never driven an auto before, not even in England where we drive on the left (right!) side. But my trepidation was misjudged and short-lived. Foot down. Go. It’s like a go cart. Brilliant! 

I took the parents down to the local Aldi for essential supplies of beer then back and more sunworshipping by the pool. It’s good to sit and chat. It important. We got talking about Mike. It’s a sad subject for all involved. I can tell my mum is thoroughly miserable about the entire situation. I cannot rectify his decision to marry a wicked woman, nor can I force his hand in seeing his child, but I can at least attempt to repair my part in the current awful state of affairs. 

I saw Mike at a funeral last month. We didn’t speak. Perhaps wasn’t the occasion. I’ve asked Ellis, who is going to see Mike when we get back, to hand-deliver a letter for me. He’s agreed. 

That late afternoon was spent sipping beers looking out over the countryside listening to music. Quality times. Perhaps one day those quality times may involve all mums children. 

An appropriate end to the day; watching the sun disappear over the horizon as I had watched it rise that morning: 

Holiday day three. 

I’m sat on the decking, the temperature a balmy 22 degrees at half past seven in the evening. I’ve got beer, fresh bread, and the olds are busy dishing up crisp salads and barbecuing steaks, chicken, belly pork, sausages. I can feel the heat of the sunburn on my back. There’s a slight sting to it but it feels strangely good.

Despite being awake to see the dawn this morning and waiting around six hours for Ellis to climb out of his stinking pit, it’s been a good day. I can see why people fall in love with this place. Even waiting around is no drama; even for a fussy prick like me. Sitting, relaxing, reading (I forgot the joy of having Stephen King slip down the back of my consciousness), chatting. It’s no drama. Everything happens at its own pace. This entire area is unhurried. It’s sedate, calm, peaceful, old. 

A little after midday we cycled down to Manta Rota beach. Through an arid landscape of dried grass, hardy shrubs and gnarled old trees. As we came upon the railway the tiny half barriers were dropping. A train approached. It amazes me that here, in this so-called developed part of the world, there is just a single track for trains. They cannot pass each other except at the train stations in the little towns and villages. It’s so olde worlde. It harks back to the Old West. It’s actually 2017. But that doesn’t seem all that important in the land that time forgot. 


The beach is beautiful. Devoid of the trappings of modern tourism. There’s nothing loud or garish going on, just unspoiled sands and the blue ocean stretching as far as the eye can see. The odd couple walk past. Two young girls dance in the surf practicing twirls and kicks. A local walks along the beach selling malasadas filled with custard and Nutella. 

After a couple of hours laid on the hot sand reading we set out on the return leg, stopping at small bars on the way back for cold bottles of sagres beer. Seeing the locals going about their daily business you realise the easy atmosphere of this place is not restricted to visitors. Everyone is unhurried, amiable, friendly. This is a small community where everyone knows everyone else and we’re welcome outsiders. The more time I spend watching the Portuguese in this part of the country the more I think they’ve got it right. There’s no ‘rat race’. There’s nobody trying to screw over the little man in order to increase market share or profits. Everyone does what they need to do to get by and, it seems, very little other than that. 

It’s a good life. A life worth living. 

Holiday day two. 

Holiday day two (written on the morning of day three). Slightly fuzzy head this morning. Last night we dined at a cheap and cheerful restaurant and I met some of the ‘neighbours’. Paul from Oldham with a self-inflicted OAFC tattoo on his arm was sat to my right; opposite, ex-RSM and Spurs fanatic Carole. Interesting people. I stuffed myself on chicken and chips and vast quantities of beer. 

In the morning I accompanied Bys into the town, cycling on a steed from the land that time forgot. It’s an easy downhill mile to the sleepy settlement and a not-so-easy return journey back up the hill. The town, or village is perhaps more accurate, is sleepy. Quiet. There are no young people. There’s very little money around here, the youth perhaps attracted either to the larger resorts like Albufeira or to Lisbon or Porto. But I quite like that about this part of the world. The pace is sedate. Nothing happens quickly. Everything is laid back, lazy, languid. 

And that was my day, after the run to town. Lazing by the pool. Chatting amiably with family. Something which it seems we don’t often get the chance to do in the ‘real world’. Sipping a bottle of beer, watching the world slowly go by. 

Life is good. 

Your favourite things about blogging.

I’ve said thing before. Writing, to me, is therapy. When I have something on my mind that I need to rationalise or understand, writing it down helps me do this. It helps me break down complex situations and get to grips with why things happened or are happening.

I suppose this harks back to the origins of blogging; keeping a diary. But the other reason I keep a blog is to record what I have done, where I have been, what I have seen, and what I have felt. We have many mediums with which to record our history; Facebook statuses, Twitter tweets, Instagram posts. We share our lives with others on social media on a daily basis. But it isn’t an archive. It’s not a recording like keeping a diary is a recording. This blog allows me to look back at key chapters in my life, and experience them again:

The death of my father
How I felt when Clare passed away
Talking about Thomas

There are few ways to experience emotions you once felt. Reading your own words is one such way.

It’s also allowed me to be creative and to explore writing as art. This entry about a night at work is a real favourite: The policeman wouldn’t let him. The policeman couldn’t let him. The policeman had a job to do…

And these two fictional entries were an early (cringeworthy) dalliance with creative writing: Crimson and Kozar.

But it’s not just about me(!) Blogging in the general sense has given me an insight into people. People I care about and some people I do not care at all for. Interesting people and self-absorbed narcissists. Reading about what other people are doing and feeling and thinking is perhaps a little bit voyeuristic, yet are we not, by posting our lives online exhibitionists? I’d say so.

Maybe that is another story for another time.

Your top guilty pleasures.

I was going to write about something else because I don’t like exposing this sort of information to the great masses of the planet, but I’m sleep deprived and willing to tell you just about anything so here goes:

Taylor Swift

Specifically the album Red featuring 22, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, I Knew You Were Trouble. I do love a little bit of Taylor. I like to listen to it in the car (when I’m alone).

Mamma Mia

The movie with Meryl Streep chased by three old men all to the familiar sound of Abba. It’s a love story for the ages. Proper feel good awesomeness.

Bubble Baths

Divine. A long, long soak in a hot, hot bath with bubbles for days. And a good book to read (or as happen more recently, Twitter).

X Factor

It’s one of the very few ‘real time’ TV shows that I watch. And I know it’s trashy, shite and fixed. But I get so wrapped up in it it’s almost funny.
Honourable mentions: Take Me Out, The Jeremy Kyle Show.

Sneeze Tourettes

When you sneeze and unleash a stream of expletives by way of expelling the bad energy.

Bogeys

Either getting hold of a stubborn hard one, or that time when you get hold of what feels like a tiny bit but it pulls a massive stringy slug from way down deep in your sinuses.

A Warm Toilet Seat

Because happiness is a comfortable poo.

Watching The Rocky Horror Show, getting really drunk, and singing along at the top of my voice; alone.

Somethings other people do not need to experience. My rendition of Sweet Transvestite is one of those things.

 

Favourite Quotes.

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil

“It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.”
Bill Nicholson

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas