A re-post for remembrance sunday

Most people will not know this but the wife and I are on, what some would call, a weird kind of quest.  We are intending to visit every racecourse in England. Its not that we are big gamblers or even like horses particularly (we don’t) we just like the spectacle of it and the colour and noise.  Of course whilst we are at a racecourse we do have a bet on the races but its never usually much, £5 or £10 only.  If we win the bet we are overjoyed but if we lose we are not particularly bothered.  Having a bet on the race gives us an interest in the actual race and its outcome. But as I say, win or lose its still the same thrill watching ‘our’ horse.  photofinish

Going to a race meeting also means travelling away from home for a few days and that is as much a part of the fun as anything else.  We get to see other beautiful, interesting and different parts of the country. There are a surprisingly large number of official racetracks in England.  In total (including flat and jumps racing) there are 51 spread fairly evenly all over the country.  You can find a full list on Wikepedia. The furthest track South is at Newton Abbot in Devon and the furthest track North is in Newcastle, Tyne and Wear.  The track at Newton Abbot is the closest to where we live (Penzance) although it is almost the same distance from here to another track at Exeter.  So far on our ‘mission’ we have only managed 13 tracks in total so still another 38 to go!

Hopefully once we get to retirement age (not long now!)  we will have more time to spare and should be able to knock them all off eventually and pass the ‘winning post’.winning-post

On our latest trip, last weekend, we had booked a few days at a Pontins up near Weston-Super-Mare and a night in Bath in a B & B.  We had tickets for the race meeting at Wincanton.  We had a great few days and even managed to win a few quid at the track.  If you ever have the idea of having a few days in a chalet at Pontins DO NOT do it even if, like us, you can get get it a bit cheaper after collecting those bloody coupons in the Sun. Honestly the one we stayed at Brean was the worst place we have ever stayed.  We absolutely love Caravan parks as that type of holiday reminds me of the fantastic holidays we had as kids.  We have probably been to 10 or 15 caravan parks all over the Southwest all of which have been absolutely brilliant.  The parks we have been to before have been clean and tidy, well equipped and the staff have have been lovely and friendly.  Sadly at Pontins this is not the case.  The chalets are absolutely filthy (we asked to be moved from a disgusting one and we went to a slightly less disgusting one) , have very badly maintained appliances, furniture you only normally see in a skip and the TV’s they have in them stopped being made in 1990 (that is a fact). The whole park is in a terrible state and its sad to see as I always thought of Pontins as one of the major players.  They aren’t anymore.  Laughingly they had security controlling the entrance gates. As if any one would try to come in to that dump who wasn’t actually staying there.  I thought the security was more likely there to keep us in like in a concentration camp!  Don’t go to Pontins EVER.  The only highlight of our stay there was our day at the races at Wincanton.


After our adventures at Pontins we went up to Bath and stayed in a lovely B & B just out of town.  During the day we went on one of those open top buses that take you on a tour of the City.  It was interesting commentary and it was nice to see some of the architecture from the top of a bus but they charged us £15 EACH for a one hour ride.  I think that’s taking the piss a bit!  Maybe if you were a Japanese or American tourist it wouldn’t bother you but it does seem like a lot of money to me. Anyway the missus didn’t care because as soon as we got off the bus she found her way to the shoppers paradise that is Primark.  Of course I didn’t go in, I preferred to sit out in the rain on a bench for an hour with a takeaway cup of tea rather that be dragged round a massive clothes shop and being asked every five minutes “do you like this one?..”.  Bollocks to that. I’d rather sit outside and watch the tramps, beggars, winos and weirdos along with the Japanese tourists trying to shelter from the liquid sunshine coming from the sky.primarni


After leaving Bath in the morning we set off for home.  I had estimated the journey would take about three hours but I hadn’t accounted for a couple of road closures due to an accident on one route and some Sunday roadworks on another.  The journey was due to be be pretty straightforward but due to the problems already mentioned I had to rely on the sat nav to get us home.  Of course the sat-nav-lady is such a smart arse bitch that the route home, although  complicated, was just a case  of following her staccato  instructions.

Because our route home was quite ‘off piste’ we ended up going through towns and villages that I had never been to.  It was actually quite nice to see other places some of which were quite picturesque. On our journey we went through a village called Rodney Stoke.  As we went through I noticed that the sign welcoming people into the village actually said “Rodney Stoke, a Thankful village”. I had never seen anything like that on a village sign before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat was that about I thought and I was puzzling over it still half an hour later when we we went through a village called Shapwick.  Unbelievably the sign on entering the village said ” Welcome to Shapwick, a Thankful village”. There was also a sign pointing to a church and the Thankful Village Memorial.


Two villages half an hour apart and about 30 miles apart both with the same mysterious message on the village entrance sign. How weird and puzzling and interesting. The word memorial on the second sign was a clue and I vaguely remembered reading something ages ago about the first world war and Thankful villages.  I couldn’t wait to get home and solve the mystery.When we eventually got home I was straight on the computer and onto Wikipedia.


The term Thankful village does indeed refer to the First World War.  When the war was on all of the able bodied men of each village went off to fight in the war and there was terrible carnage and unprecedented massive loss of life.  Unbelievably there were 51 (out of about 15,000) villages in England & Wales where ALL of the men that went off to war came home again afterwards. There is a page on Wikipedia which lists them all and interestingly, of the 51 villages listed 8 of them are in Somerset (which we were driving through for quite a while), and I have now seen two off them.   There is only one in Cornwall, Herodsfoot.  Even more incredibly there are 14 villages where all the men came home from both the first and second world wars.  Herodsfoot is one of those.  The Thankful villages are fairly evenly spread throughout England & Wales (there are NONE in Ireland or Scotland).  For example there is one not  far from Milton Keynes where my Mum used to live.  It is called Stoke Hammond.stokehammond



Lest we forget.

Lest we forget.




The life and times of my wonderful mother, Sheila Cusick.

Sadly, on the 10th of May this year my wonderful mother, Sheila Cusick, passed away at home in Milton Keynes aged 77. The saddest day of my life.

coffin carry

Mum had battled with serious heart problems for a long time and her heart finally gave out for the last time whilst she was in her own bed at home.  Her final moments were spent where she would have wanted to have spent them i.e. at home and not in some lonely, cold and impersonal hospital. She had her things and her memories and family photographs all around her.  No more pain and suffering for her,only peace. cropped-youngmum.jpg

I used to write a blog regularly with silly stories and things that I had noticed around me. Mum used to read my postings when her health was better and they always made her laugh and we would chat about it during our regular Sunday telephone conversation.  After she passed away I was looking through old stuff including pictures and family tree stuff on my computer when I realised that I have not written anything for over a year.  I used to really enjoy writing my nonsense and I realised I had missed doing it.  So as a tribute to my mum I am going to start writing again. This first ‘revival’ post is going to be  different to the ones in the past and ones still to come. You don’t have to read this if you don’t want to but I felt that I had to write it out as I found it helped me to get through the grief a bit easier.  When I started to write this post I thought it was going to be reasonably short but as I have gone on it’s got longer and longer but it is hard for me to apologise for the length as Mum had a long and interesting life.  Read what you can. This posting is really for my benefit but others might find it interesting.

This post is intended to be a sort of “This is your life” about my Mum. For younger readers “This is your life” was a TV Show originally hosted by genial Irishman  Eamonn Andrews.  He would surprise a ‘celebrity’ and get all of their friends of family into a studio to talk about their lives. There are no ‘surprises’ as such in this posting it is a chronological laying out of her life. I try to use humour in my writings not because I don’t take things seriously but because its just the way I am.  My Mum taught me to laugh at problems and things that upset me and I continue to this day.This is yer life.

Most of what I know about mums early life has been pieced together over many years through conversations with her and by looking up documents and old family photographs.  Knowing where I came from has always been very important for me so I have for the last 20 years or so done quite a lot of family history research some of which is relevant here.  The hardest part about piecing things together has been the fact that as most of the relevant events were a long time ago the majority of the ‘participants’ are no longer with us.  Of those that are, some are not as forthcoming as I would like but they have their own reasons for this and it has never been my skeleton cupboardintention to upset any apple carts or bring any skeletons out of any cupboards, if indeed there are any. Skeletons I mean, not cupboards! There are always cupboards. Some FACTS are easy to verify as I have certificates evidencing births, deaths and marriages but the bare facts never tell the whole story. Anyway I have done my best with what follows . . . . . . .

Mum was born on 14th August 1938, a Sunday.  That made her a Leo for those that follow that sortLeo, the Lion of mumbo-jumbo. I don’t understand Astrology so I know nothing of the supposed traits of a Leo but I do know that the symbol for Leo is a lion.  That is definitely accurate.  Mum was brave and fearless her whole life. If you ARE interested in Astrology this is a link to an Astrology page with information about Leo’s. Napoleon Bonaparte was  a Leo as was Fidel Castro and The Queen mother (god bless her!).

Mums brother. Uncle George

Uncle George in RAF uniform

roseberry street, Keighley

Roseberry street, Keighley

Mum was the youngest of 4 children born to my Grandfather George Carter and my Grandmother Mary Emma Carter (Docksey). The eldest child of the family, my Uncle George (Jnr) was born on 16th April 1920 when the family lived in Roseberry Street, Keighley, Yorkshire.  At this time my Grandfather was described as working as a ‘Dock Labourer (ex army’). During the Second World War Uncle George was stationed at RAF Cardington in a unit responsible for the barrage balloons positioned around the country (but mainly in London) which were to designed to ward off German planes. You can see the massive sheds they used (near Bedford) as you drive up the M1 Motorway.  RAF Cardington was also famous for being the home of the R101, the massive airship. Uncle George died in Lincoln in 1982. Mums mother Mary was from the Keighley area and when they first married she (Mary, my Grandmother) and her husband George(Snr) my Grandfather, lived with Mary’s family, the Docksey’s. The actual name of the village they lived in was called Oakworth.  They lived at 5 Roseberry Terrace. Oakworth is famous as being the setting and filming location of the film The Railway Children, which is one of my all time favourites. I have never discovered exactly where George Carter Senior (my Grandfather) was from.  Both his first and surname are very, very common and there are literally thousands of George Carters born in the UK around that time.  He and my Grandmother married in Tynemouth in 1917 when he was stationed at an army camp nearby.  That is a LONG way (107 miles) from Keighley so that part of the story is definitely a mystery. We will never know for sure how Mary met George and why they were not married closer to her home in Keighley.  It is most likely that my Grandfather was from the local area (Keighley) and that is where they met but decided to get married near where he was stationed.

camden st grimsby

Camden St, Grimsby

Bricklayers labourer

Cheeky bricks!

The second child born to the family was my lovely Aunt Rosemary. I only met her a few times but the family resemblance was striking.  She and her husband Ernest were both very nice people. Rosemary was born on 28th May 1925 but by this time the Carter family were living at 81 Camden Street in Grimsby.
My grandfather was at the time said to be a bricklayers labourer.  I have no idea why the family had moved to Grimsby, but I assume it was for work reasons. That was a move of about 100 miles. Aunt Rosemary died in Leeds in December 1990.



The third child of the family was my Aunt Heather. Aunt Heather was born in Lincoln in late 1933.  The Carter family were by now living at 56 Arboretum Avenue, Lincoln.  A move of only 36 miles this time.  Again I guess that was for work reasons but I cannot be sure as I do not know what job my Grandfather was doing in 1933. Arboretum Avenue is now quite a smart part of Lincoln as it is fairly close to the cathedral. Heather and her family now live in Thamesmead, South East London, having moved there from Willesden (NW London) in 1973.

lincoln cathedral

Lincoln cathedral

The last child of the family was of course my dear Mother, Sheila. She was, like her sister Heather, born at home in Arboretum Avenue, Lincoln. This is, judging by the picture taken from Google Earth, a VERY steep road. That would have kept the young sisters fit going up and down that every day to and from school.

Arboretum Avenue, Lincoln

Aboretum Avenue….Looks a bit steep!

My mothers birthplace.

Mums birthplace. Green door.

When Mum was still quite young (its very hard to say exactly when) there seems to have been some sort of family dispute. Certainly a big falling out of some kind.  The reasons behind it will now never be known. I would guess that whatever happened would have been before 1940.  I say this because in 1940 George Junior was intending to get married.  At that time, to get married you had to be “of full age” (21) or have parental consent.  George was only 20 when he married but lied on his forms stating that he was 21.  This must have been because he couldn’t or wouldn’t get parental consent. There is no other explanation I can think of as to why he would have lied and risked getting in trouble with the authorities.  He had a difficult choice but as his wife (to be) was pregnant there was no other way. The families were living quite close to each (when George was not at Cardington). I have had a conversation with a cousin of mine, Barbara, one of Uncle George’s children who sort of knew something about that (her dad had sort of mentioned it in vague terms) and certainly knew that her father did not get on with his father.  Barbara had never met her Grandfather or her (my) Grandmother. The real truth is not even relevant now but is buried somewhere in the past.the past

Then at some unknown date the family moved again, this time back to Yorkshire. I asked my mum about this quite a few times because until the last couple of years she had not mentioned this at all.  I was quite shocked as I had always thought that she had moved to London direct from Lincoln. She said she really couldn’t remember when this was so I have to assume she was quite young. I cannot be certain when it was but it was after February 1946 as that is the when her sister Rosemary married Ernest Winters and moved to Durham Street, Leeds.  Mum remembered that when she, her sister Heather and her mum and dad moved to Newcastle Street, Leeds (the street next to and running parallel to Durham Street) Rosemary and Ernest were already living there. If it WAS 1946 mum would have been 8. In the picture of Durham street (where Rosemary lived) if you look closely to the right of the pub is the start of Newcastle Street, where mum lived.

Durham street

Durham Street, Leeds

Mum went to school close to the family home at Burley C E School close to Kirkstall Lane, which ran at 9o degrees across the bottom of her road.  She would have left that school at age 11                (I assume?) but I have no idea where she went after that or which school her older sister Heather went to.  She may have gone to a senior school but I don’t think she did, certainly she said she couldn’t remember doing so.  Just another unsolvable mystery. The next major event in her life was very dramatic…………………


The above is the earliest photograph I can find of mum.  There is no date on the back but I am guessing that mum was about 6 and Aunt Heather was about 10 or 11.  This would make it around 1944 when the family were living in Lincoln.  The writing on the picture is by my Grandmother.  Mums writing was almost identical.

In 1950 my Grandmother, Aunt Heather and Mum arrive in London.  No Grandfather with them! I have no idea what has caused this massive split in the family and it is unlikely that I will ever know. But as they say the truth is out there so never say never. In 1950 Mum was 12 and her sister Heather was 17.  My Grandmother would have been 58.  Whatever it was that happened must of been serious as I doubt a 58 year old woman would leave her home and up-sticks to London with two children one of whom was only 12 without very good reason.  It feels like some kind of escape but as I have already said I don’t know what actually made her decide to leave Yorkshire. Uncle George was in Lincoln and Aunt Margaret stayed in Leeds. Maybe they had just had enough of the frozen North, brrrrrrrr!

The frozen North?

The frozen North!

mackay house

Mackay House, White City Estate

When the three of them arrived in the big scary city of London I guess they were homeless and destitute.  For a while they had an address in North Wharf Road, Paddington.  Eventually they moved and settled on the White City estate in West London.  The block they lived in was called Mackay House which overlooked Loftus Road home of QPR Football Club.

The pictures above have all been scanned from Mum’s collection and all have the dates (helpfully!) on the back.  Some of the dates are in Mums’ writing others were dated by her Mum my Nanny.  I think the most interesting picture is the one in 1954 where she is sat on the edge of an outdoor swimming pool aged 16.  I have checked other old photographs from the era and it is definitely the swimming pool that was once on the White City estate.  The pool opened in 1923 and didn’t get closed down and demolished until 1979.  It was massively popular in the 50’s and 60’s.


Bloemfontein-lido, White City Estate 1955

After Mum left school at 14 she had a few short term part-time jobs but when she was 18 she started work in a leather goods shop in Acton.  I don’t know the name of the shop but she carried on working there until 1961 when she was 23.

The next major event in Mums life was meeting my father George WC Cusick.  They met in early 1961 at the then World famous Hammersmith Palais, the nightclub in the area of its era.  All the youngsters went there and all of the music stars of the time played there. The Palais finally closed in 2007 with Kasabian being amongst the last performers. My Dad was living in the Ladbroke Grove area at the time so it would probably have been a regular haunt for him and his friends.  I have no idea really how often either of them actually did go there but anyway they did meet, fell in love and got married at Kensington Registry Office 09 December 1961.  They both look very young in the wedding day photograph below (and happy!). Mum and Dad were both born in 1938 so they were both 23 when they married.  I have only included this photo because I think Mum looks absolutely terrific in it. Young, pretty and happy.

Mum & Dad wedding day

Mum & Dad wedding day

When they first married, Mum and dad lived at 6 Bosworth Road, London W10 which is not far from Ladbroke Grove and the World famous Portobello Road Market.  It was Dads family home with his mother, Jean (Clarke) my Paternal Grandmother.  My paternal Grandfather George Walter Cusick died of food poisoning in 1944 when Dad was 6. I don’t really remember Dad’s Mum as she died in 1969 when I was six and I understand she spent at least the last year of her life in Tooting Bec Mental hospital as she suffered from Alzheimers disease.  Mum never said it to me as such but reading between the lines of what she did say I don’t think Mum and her got on.  Mind you it was an old run down house which originally had no electricity (lighting by town gas) and only an outside toilet.  Typical of the area in that era. Also it was soon to become quite crowded in the house! . . . . . . . . .

On 5th of June 1962 my sister Anita was born at Queen Charlottes Hospital, Hammersmith.  I followed on June 30th 1963 and brother Steven arrived September 19th 1964.  By now Mum definitely has her hands (very) full!!! Steven and I were also born at Queen Charlottes.  It must have been very difficult for Mum living in that tiny, run down house with 3 babies.  When Steven was born Anita was only just two.  I don’t know how she did it.  She was amazing.  The family had to get out of there and after a brief stay at Princedale House on the 18th floor(!) which is in Westborne Park the family of 5 moved into Whitstable house, London W10 on the more manageable 4th floor.

whitstable house

Whitstable house

If this was a blog about MY life I would now be waxing lyrically about how great it was growing up there.  We all had great times there I and I really wish I could turn the clock back and do it all again.  This isn’t about me so I’ll carry on with Mum’s story.  The flat compared to Bosworth Road was massive.  Mum and Dad had a double room, Anita had a single room to herself and Steven and I shared a bedroom.  Mum  has told me about all sorts of adventures we all got up to including me climbing out of the balcony with some sheets and getting caught (luckily!) by the neighbour below (remember we were on the 4th floor), Anita climbed a quite high wall in the small play area at the front of the building then slid down it wearing her chin away and Steven had the front door slammed (by accident) on two of his fingers nearly chopping them off!  Good times, hahaha!

Things changed again on 20th March 1969 when my beautiful baby brother, Peter arrived on the scene.  I very clearly remember going with Dad to the hospital to pick him and Mum up. Marvin Gaye  I heard it through the grapevine was on the radio.  The flat had suddenly got a bit more crowded.  When Peter pops was old enough to not be in his cot he moved into the  bedroom with myself and Steven.  Three single beds in that room did not leave a lot of room for anything else and Mum wisely invested in bunk beds.  I was up top and Steven was down below.  Peter had his own bed but if he got lonely in the night would often share either mine of Stevens bed.  These years were the greatest times of my life. All six of us were very happy.  Sadly nothing stays the same for ever and life moves on.

Nannys grave

Nannys grave

Sadly in November 1972 my lovely Nanny passed away and I know Mum really missed her.  Of course at the time I was sad and I did miss her as well but I couldn’t understand the sadness completely.  I can now.  You can prepare for a sad event for years but when it actually arrives it is a 10 times worse than you could have imagined.  Mum must have felt something similar to what I am feeling now, a feeling of complete loss, grief  and still not believing that the thing you knew would happen has actually happened.  Nanny is buried in the cemetery at Kensal Rise.  Nanny’s passing precipitated Aunt Heathers move to Thamesmead mentioned earlier.201 Copley Close

In February 1976 all six of us moved out of London a bit to Copley Close in Hanwell, Ealing.  Copley Close was a brand new housing estate and we were in number 201 a lovely 4 bed-roomed house with a small garden at both front and back.  The house was in a square of identical houses with a large communal ‘green’ in the middle.  In April 1976 things changed MASSIVELY for Mum and us 4 kids.  My Dad decided he could not resist the charms of a blond Scandinavian 20 years his junior and decided that the grass was greener on the other side and left the family home.  This was, of course, for Mum a devastating event.  Even putting her feelings for my Dad to one side she was faced with bringing up 4 youngish children on her own. This must of been a terrible and scary time for her but I don’t remember her ever complaining about it or running around screaming or panicking or even really slagging my dad off.  She just got on with it because she had to.  She dedicated the whole of her life to her children and I and my siblings will never forget that.  Her courage and determination and hard work got us all through those hard years.  I have no idea how she did it but I don’t remember ever being hungry or having no clothes to wear.  Considering my idiot of a Dad had refused to pay any sort of maintenance this was quite a miracle. I know Aunt Heather helped out where she could and we were all grateful for that.  The only upside to 1976 was that it was the Summer that never ended.  Everyday was hot from about May until September.  Hosepipe bans and standpipes were the norm that year.

Phew what a scorcher!

Phew what a scorcher!


After most of the family grew up and moved out Mum moved not far and had some lovely years in her 1st floor maisonette in Homefarm Road, Hanwell.  She had good neighbours and still had our beautiful family dog, Prince with her.  The only issue I really remember her complaining about in Homefarm Road was the noise that the foxes, particularly the cubs, made in her garden.  She became a bit obsessed with them and tried all sorts to try and kill them off.  I remember bleach going down the hole she thought they lived in as well as concrete.  I don’t think it worked.

Mum loved the sea and always had a yearning to live near it and so in 2003 she moved to Hayle in the far West Of Cornwall.  This was quite near where I lived so I was very happy with that.  Christine and I took her all over Cornwall to different beaches and towns and she loved it.  Her favourite town was Porthleven near Helston.  It had a lovely little harbour and the bakers there sold the best pasties she said she’d ever had.  She also loved Lamorna Cove and Penberth Cove.  At Flambards, which is a tourist attraction, she was absolutely thrilled to see an exhibit they had entitled ‘Victorian Village’.  It was a very detailed recreation of a Victorian village including sweet shops, chemists, needle-workers rooms and a post office.  It was very interesting but I used to tease her that she liked the the Victorian village because it reminded her of her childhood!  Hahahahah! She was not amused! Still we did take her more than once so she cant have been that upset.

In 2005 when her health stated to fail she moved up to Milton Keynes to be near the majority of the family and more particularly my sister, Anita, who looked after her really well.  It helped me too as I didn’t have to worry about her, I knew she was in good hands.  Mum never lost her love of the sea though and her flat in Milton Keynes was adorned with several dramatic pictures of the sea.



Mum had various address in the Milton Keynes area but eventually ended up in a lovely bungalow at Corfe Crescent.  She has really happy times there despite her worsening health problems.  She joined various local groups and regularly went on organised coach trips all around the country including Blackpool, Scarborough (her favourite), Brighton, The lake District and various others. Everywhere she went she sent me a postcard (even if it was only a day trip).  I still have ALL of them, they are a treasured memory of her.  She always wrote something funny on the back.  She once sent me a postcard depicting a public swimming pool in Brighton that neither I or her had actually visited. The funniest coach trip day was when Mum and her friends had booked to go to Weymouth.  She was very excited about going there she told me because she had never been there before.  The coach sets off and the driver is noticed displaying some very odd bvehaviour.  He stops a couple of times for no apparent reason gets out leaving the engine running and disappears into bushes for 10 minutes with no explanation given.When the coach eventually arrives at the seaside the passengers get out and discover…..they are in Weston Super Mare and NOT Weymouth! Those two places are not even close to one another, they are 80 miles apart and on different coasts.  Mums postcard simply said “went to wrong place, still had a lovely time”, hahahah!

Not even close!

Not even close!


Amongst Mums lovely neighbours in Corfe Crescent was her wonderful friend Kathy Nolan.  Kathy and Mum had some right good laughs and some great times.  Mum spent quite a bit of time in and out of hospital and Kathy always looked after her flat, made sure she got some milk and food in for Mums return and just generally looked out for her.  I know Mum loved her and I will always be grateful to Kathy for making Mums’s last five years such good fun. Thank you Kath.

The wonderful Kath Nolan

The wonderful Kath Nolan


Call the doctor there’s a pickle about

Last Monday I was sitting in my Taxi on the rank having my lunch during some quiet time. It was about 1 o’clock so about right for some nosebag. The Mrs had made me two absolutely lovely rolls filled with some roast lamb that was left over from Sunday lunch at mother in laws the day before.  To my absolute delight she had covered (literally COVERED) the meat in Piccalilli.  The king of picklesIf you have never tried Piccalilli you are missing out and must have had a sheltered childhood. It is a relish of chopped pickled vegetables (mainly Cauliflower)  and spices (mainly Mustard and Turmeric).

It is the absolute KING Kings-Crown-5b of pickles and improves the taste of any cold meat 10 fold.  The Turmeric gives it a very bright yellow colour.  Turmeric is used in curry a lot, in particular, Chicken Korma, mainly to provide the colour.turmeric

There was so much Piccalilli on the rolls that I got myself in a bit of a mess.  It was all over my hands and more particularly all over my face.  Just as that happened my step daughter and her friend pulled up alongside me in a car.  I was quite embarrassed (which is unusual for me) for them to see me wearing Piccalilli as clowns make up!  It was on my lips, chin, both cheeks and my nose.  I dabbed a bit on my forehead for good measure.

Anyway, at about three thirty I needed a wee so I went down to the public toilets by the Scillonian quay.  I started to wee into the trough and nonchalantly looked down into the trough and saw the most yellow wee that I had ever seen, and it was coming out of ME!  It was as yellow as a waxed lemon (I don’t really know what a waxed lemon is but it sounded somehow more yellow than an ‘ordinary’ lemon). lemons I was immediately worried.  Discoloured wee, particularly yellow wee, is a sign that something is medically wrong.  Dehydration is a strong possibility as is a bacterial infection.  All sorts of disastrous consequences were going through my mind.  Strangely though I felt completely fine and hadn’t had any other symptoms.

I went back and sat in the taxi and contemplated calling the doctor for an appointment. I got busy after that so I never got around to making the call and went home at six. When I arrived  home I went to the toilet again.  Unbelievably and scarily my wee was STILL yellow.  I called the mrs in for her to inspect it.  She agreed it was MIGHTY yellow.  Definitely got to call the doctor now.  But wait . . . . . .it came to me all of a sudden, could it be that the Piccalilli that I ate for my lunch had somehow stained my wee?  It was the only explanation, I felt fine and everything else was normal. Naturally, given the amount of cups of tea that I drink, I needed another wee later ihappy daysn the evening.  I paid very close attention to my urinary discharge but all was fine, it was back to normal.  Phew!

I think the manufacturers of Piccalilli should be forced to put labels on their product warning consumers about this potential problem.  Something along the lines of………..

“This product is absolutely delicious and will enhance the flavour of any cold meat but please be aware that it will temporarily MAKE YOUR PISS YELLOW, please do not panic if this happens!”.

Still not smoking by the way, 3 weeks today!  Nice.


Smoking, up in smoke?

I have great and quite possibly very surprising and unbelievable news! I have not smoked a cigarette now for (as I write this) 177 hours, that’s just over seven days (one whole week and a little bit) for those not good at the maths stuff. I can scarcely believe it myself.  Out it out!

I have been smoking since I was about 15 which is over 35 years ago now.  That is a long time and a hell of a lot of fags.  As I have got older my addiction has got worse and until I stopped last week I was up to about 40 a day.  I haven’t always smoked that many but if you were to average out my smoking to say 30 a day for 35 years that comes to a massive number of cigarettes smoked.  I’ll work it out for you . . . . . .

35 x 365 x 30 = 383,250.  Over 380 thousand fags. Blimey! Is that enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool? I have no idea but you would definitely need a big room to store them all in if you purchased them in advance.  Surprisingly, if you laid the fags I have smoked end to end it would only be a chain of about a disappointing 25 miles, which is only about the distance from Penzance to Truro.fags, thousands of 'em!

I am not going to work out what that has cost me over the years because if i did I would probably start crying.  Quite a few years ago a stop smoking counsellor asked me what car I drove.  When I replied that I had a Ford Escort she said that if I had not smoked I could have bought a Ferrari.  I asked her if she had ever smoked and when she replied that she had not I asked her what car SHE drove.  I laughed out loud when she said that she drove a Ford Fiesta.  Me wanting to stop smoking has had NOTHING to do with money.Loads of dosh!

So why have I decided to try very hard to stop smoking?  One word, my health.  Ok that’s two words, but who’s counting.  The bleeding things are f**king killing me.  They have been ever since I started but its been a very slow process which I couldn’t notice on a day to day basis.  When I first started out on the smoking ‘road’ I never thought I would still be smoking at 50. I convinced myself that I could stop at anytime.  Well I didn’t and like all addictions it has got gradually worse over the years and now (before last week) I thought I would never stop.stop smoking

Recently I have been quite scared about how out of breath I have been getting doing even the smallest thing.  Walking from the bedroom to the bathroom would leave me feeling a little bit wheezy.  Walking up through town (with a fag on the go), which is slightly uphill, would exhaust me and I would have to stop every fifty yards or so and lean on the railings there getting my breath back and pretending that I wanted to stop just to admire the view (there isn’t one!). I felt like an old man.  I might be 51 but that is not considered by most people to be OLD!!

This is not me!

My mrs suffers from Asthma.  Most of the time it is under control because every night she has a go on her ‘puffer’ (ventolin) and carries a puffer around during the day to stave off any daytime attack.  Occasionally though, usually after she has has a bad cold or chest infection, she has a serious Asthma attack and she has to go up to the hospital to be plumbed into an ‘iron lung’ (or is it a nebuliser?) and receives a high dose of medicine to calm the attack. When she is having a bad attack she finds it very hard to breathe and starts to panic which no doubt makes things worse.  Well, I often have days where I have a great deal of trouble breathing and it is extremely worrying and scary. If I had even a partly blocked nose due to a cold or whatever very little oxygen was getting into my lungs. Pathetically when I was having problems breathing properly I would get scared and light up a fag.  It was laughable really.  Of course my breathing problems are self inflicted but that didn’t make it any less scary.




Anyway all that is hopefully behind me now.  I have a vape pen which has a liquid in it which contains nicotine so when I inhale the heated vapour from it I get a small hit of nicotine but without all the crap that gets inhaled when a cigarette is smoked, tar, various poisonous chemicals, carcinogens etc. Because of my years of smoking my lungs are very weak and will take a while to recover so I do not have much ‘lung power’ so I find the vape pen a little bit  difficult and can only use it occasionally.  As things go along I think I will come to rely on it much more.  vape-pen-2Because of this I have looked for other solutions to my nicotine addiction problem.  I have found the best thing for me is Nicotine chewing gum.  I use it a lot.  There are some problems with it though.  Firstly chewing all day is quite hard work!  My jaws do ache quite a bit at the end of the day.  I have checked on the internet and discovered that chewing gum uses about 11 calories per hour, which on a standard 16 hour day totals up to be 176 calories, which is about the calorific value of a pork pie (nice!), so at least I am getting some exercise and helping to control my weight, HAHAHAH!

delicious!The second problem with the gum is having to take it out of my mouth when drinking anything (mainly tea in my case).  I have to put it on the side of the desk or the dashboard of the car whilst doing the drinking.  When I then put it back in my gob its all cold and hard and it usually leaves a residue on whatever surface I placed it.  The last problem is just one of disposal.  Gum is quite disgusting stuff.  I cant just chuck it on the floor or even put it down the bog, I have to make sure I always have something to hand to wrap it up in before throwing it away. I have trouble being that organised.

Anyway hopefully I have finally broken free of the smoking problem and can look forward to my lungs and general health improving.  I’ll keep you posted.


National National day

Strange title you might think but there is a reason for it.  Let me explain.  Almost every day on the radio and the television I hear that (for example)  “today is National Pie day” or “today is National Autism day” or the dreaded “today is National no smoking day”.  Well the one truly National day that doesn’t get described that way is “National Grand National” day.  Love it or hate it it the Grand National is an event that grips the nation.  Blanket coverage on the television, radio and newspapers.  The Sun (and others) provide a ‘National sweepstakes kit’.  It seems everybody gets involved. Old ladies placing 25p each way on half a dozen horses. Massive queues at the bookies. Its been like this since I can remember.  Donkeys years in fact, and funnily enough it seems that some of the runners I have bet on over the years have run like donkeys.donkey


The down side to Grand National day is the day after when my Facebook feed is full of people going on about how its cruel to the horses as they are forced to run and jump, they are drugged and whipped and then when there racing career is over they are sent to the slaughterhouse to make dog food.  Most of the things said are inaccurate. Ranting and making false statements only weakens the overall case for those that are anti horse racing.   I don’t particularly like horses (although I do like to bet on them occasionally).   They are big scary things who are very willful and unpredictable.  I have ridden a horse only twice but both times I absolutely crapped myself.  I had no control.  There was no steering wheel, no brakes, no seatbelt and no radio(!).  The horse basically went wherever it wanted to at whatever speed it fancied.  Never again will I climb aboard.  It will probably upset horse owners if I say that horses are a bit mental, but to me it seems they are.mad-horse

Even though I don’t like horses I wouldn’t want a horse nor any other animal to be deliberately or unnecessarily harmed.  The horses that run in the Grand National are not ordinary horses.  They are not like the horses you might see standing around in fields or working at a local riding stable.  You wont see these pulling a carriage containing a bride or groom or pulling a dray full of beer or in the past delivering milk. These are horses that have been bred to run and jump for more than 150 years.  All these horses want to do is run and jump, its genetics.  Its what they do.  Good evidence for that is the fact that if the jockey falls off the horse during the race the horse will usually carry on running and will also jump the fences and not go round them which they easily could.  They do this not because they are pack animals as is often stated but instead they do it because they like it.

happy horse


There is an article in my newsfeed today written by PETA , a basically American organisation concerned with animal welfare. It is entitled “8 things they don’t tell you about horse racing”.  You can read the full article here, if you really want to.  Most of the points they make are just pathetic attempts at sensationalism.  For anti PETA material on the web try this or this.  I am making no comment about either of these two sites nor PETA‘s own site.  Make your own mind up.  All I will say is that if any organisation has a particular viewpoint it will look for anything that reinforces its own views and magnify them but I think people are not stupid and can discover the truth for themselves if they look beyond the sensational headlines.  People need to take a balanced view.balance

The thing that is often been brought up is that the horses are forced to jump the fences.  Well anybody that has ever had anything to do with horses will tell you that if the horse doesn’t want to do something no amount of cajoling will make it do it.  A fit and in-training steeplechase horse weighs 500kgs.  You will not be able to force it to do anything it doesn’t want to do.  My own limited experience with horses have proved that to me.no, no, no!

Horses do unfortunately get killed or injured when racing but despite what you might have heard its not a massive number. Modern steeplechase races have an average of just over 4 equine fatalities for every 1,000 horses taking part, according to the British Horseracing Authority.  By my maths that’s 0.4%.  A relatively small number.  The Grand National has received a lot of bad press over horse fatalities over the years because it is a massively high-profile event but changes have been made in recent years.  Some of the bigger fences have been reduced in height and at Beechers Brook one of the historically more dangerous fences the landing side ditch has been filled in and its overall height has been much reduced.

In the past virtually any horse could be entered for the race (like The Pie in National Velvet, haha!), but these days its much harder to get a horse in the race.  Each horse must be of high quality, it must have finished in the first 3 places in a good quality National Hunt race, must be rated at over 120 (a measure of ability compared to over horses, 120 is a very high rating) and be aged 7 years or more (racing horses are at their peak for national hunt between 6 and 10). If you had low quality horses in a race as tough as this there would definitely be more injuries and fatalities.

Red Rum

Red Rum

There can only be a maximum of 40 runners in the race, there has been as much as 66 in the race in the past although that was was many years ago.

Sometimes the jockeys ‘whip’ their horse.  If you were to look at a slow motion film of a horse race  you would see that the jockey is just swinging the whip and not actually hitting the horse. Thoroughbred horses mark very easily so it it is easy to see how many times that they have been hit.

The Jockey Club and other organisations stipulate that any more than three actual strikes and you are fined and eliminated from the race. If a horse is marked when he gets in, the jockey can face fines and elimination because the horse has been hit too hard.  The whip i s vital in helping the jockey ‘steer’ the horse. Some would say there is nothing wrong with a good whipping!ouch!

After all is said and done steeplechasing is a dangerous sport but the horses are bred for, they like to do it and thankfully they have a reasonably low risk of being killed. The top horses after looked after very well when not racing but if you drove around the countryside you would see horses all over the place who are badly treated and neglected having originally been bought as ‘pets’.

We humans  first domesticated horses over 4000 years ago and they have served us very well, including the estimated 8 million horses worldwide that were killed during the first world war.

war horse memorial

war horse memorial





The Chinese are coming.

It has been so quiet on the taxi front recently I haven’t really had much to write about for weeks now.  Fewer customers equals fewer opportunities for fun and frivolity and strange conversations!  Hopefully with Easter coming we should get much busier. Last year we were literally overrun with Chinese people.  They were probably not ALL Chinese but without meaning to sound racist I couldn’t tell if they were from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam or wherever. Lets just say that there were a LOT of people from Asia in Penzance last Easter. I have no idea why.  As far as I know we are not ‘twinned’ with anywhere in the Far East but you never know.

Great wall of China

Penzance prom?

The Asians I transported last year were not good tippers.  In fact they don’t tip at all. They like to agree a price with you for a journey in advance and will pay you exactly what was agreed.  You just need to be aware of that from the start so that you can adjust your ‘price’ accordingly.  They generally don’t want to go from Tesco to the high street they usually want to go to St Michaels Mount , Porthcurno , Lands End or St. Ives. or some other place which would be a good fare.  So I say to the good people of China (or wherever) 欢迎来到彭赞斯, which means “Welcome to Penzance” in Mandarin.

I noticed this week that the Government has announced that the National minimum wage has risen to £6.50 per hour.  Is this a good time to mention that this week I earned £5.11, yes that’s FIVE POUNDS ELEVEN PENCE per hour. Last week, perhaps unbelievably, it was even worse.  I dream about reaching the dizzy heights of the minimum wage.  This time next year Rodney we will NOT be millionaires.

Not me next tear!

Me next year?

The last thing for this posting is about a newspaper clipping I spotted on Facebook last week.  It is from the Star newspaper.  I laughed at lot at this.  Hope you enjoy it too.



In case you cant read it here is the text of the article:

“A taxi driver was tricked out of a £140 fare by a mannequin. The cabbie was hailed for a late night journey from Brighton train station to London by three men who agreed a fee.  He dropped the first man off 50 miles later.  At the next stop the second man gave the destination for the third man who was ‘asleep’.  But at the final address the driver tried to wake up the passenger only to find it was a fully clothed tailors dummy! . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Nice story.

I think maybe next time the driver in question might ask for the fare in advance.


I don’t know if any of the good people of Penzance have noticed that a new sign appeared a couple of weeks ago at the Eastern entrance to the town, just by the three tunnels.  This is a photograph of it.

Penzance twins!

Look at the sign at the entrance of almost any town or village and you’ll spot a phrase on a sign that goes something like this: “Twinned with <interesting-sounding place>, <country across the water>”. Maybe you’ve always been curious about that interesting-sounding place. Maybe you’ve visited, and met the people, possibly even had some fun.fun

Town twinning, as an official relationship-builder, started in Europe after the second world war. The idea was simple: repair damaged relationships between France, Germany and the UK. Find towns that suffered during the wars and pair them. Then encourage people from these areas to meet, mix and get along. That’s why town twinning – at its core – is a good and important thing.blitz

The first recorded modern twinning agreement was between Keighley (West Yorkshire) and Poix-du-Nord in Nord, France, in 1920 following the end of the First World War.This was initially referred to as an adoption of the French town.keighley

In case you cant read the sign above, at the entrance to a small town in the far West of England, the first town listed as being twinned with Penzance is Bendigo, Australia.  I kid you not. AUSTRALIA!! I have had a look on Wikipedia and Bendigo does look like a nice town with some historic Cornish mining links but come on, its 12000 miles away. Not going to be easy to visit, “meet, mix and get along”!  australia

The same could be said of the one at the bottom, Nevada City, California.  Yes, CALIFORNIA!  Again looking at that towns Wikipedia entry it looks a fine place with once again some links to Cornish mining going back to the gold and silver rushes of the mid 19th century. It is 5400 miles away!  Not exactly touching distance.gold rush

According to the sign the middle two towns twinned with Penzance are , Concarneau Brittany, France, and Cuxhaven in Germany.  Both of these are lovely little towns and are not very far away and are also twinned more in the spirit of the original post-war idea.GermanSurrender2

Now the point of my posting is not to knock the idea of twinning but I think if we are to be twinned with far flung places it is just pointless.  The chances of reasonable numbers of Penzance people meeting with their “twins”, exchanging ideas and having fun are remote.

If the people who come up with these ideas are not careful things could quite easily get out of hand.  In 2009, Swindon – the Wiltshire industrial town often used as a synonym for prosaic suburbia – agreed to twin with Walt Disney World in Florida. Seven years previously, Wincanton in Somerset went one stage further by twinning with Ankh-Morpork, an entirely fictional city that appears in the fantasy novels of Terry Pratchett.  In that spirit maybe Penzance could be twinned with the mythical city of Atlantis or the destroyed city of Troy?Troy, twinned with Penzance.