London Calling

London Calling

The tail end of August saw us in old London Town to commemorate what would have been the 59th birthday of an old friend who died unexpectedly in January this year. It was our first trip to the Smoke since lockdown and we were understandably anxious. It’s only about 100 miles from here to there but it might as well be another country.

The shiny new train wasn’t busy. We almost had the carriage to ourselves and most passengers complied with the ‘new normal’ – face mask-wise. Booking into a hotel for a couple of nights gave us the chance to test the waters. We rode the Tube and drank in familiar Soho haunts. It was fine.

The early August heatwave gave us hope that we might have a picnic in St James’s Park – a fun and fabulous tradition developed over many years – but, alas, the weather turned blustery so we made do with a restaurant as ‘Storm Clive’ passed overhead. We came together under the shadow of Eros on Piccadilly Circus – except of course, it’s actually a statue of Eros’ less well-known sibling, Anteros, but everyone calls it Eros anyway.

I can’t share any images of the actual birthday bash. Some of the assembled are social media shy and don’t want their images online. And who can blame them? Suffice it to say it was a joyous occasion – old friends talking old times through a jolly, drunken haze. And Clive was there in spirit.

Clive Smith 1961-2020

Spamalot

I’ve been plagued with spam comments ever since I started this blogging malarkey – nearly 370,000 so far. Just like Domestos and germs, my spam filter kills off 99.9% of ’em so I don’t have to. I used to get an eclectic mix of spam – the collective weaknesses, desires, vices and foibles of humanity laid bare, blended with endless machine-generated auto-babble. These days the slut and smut stuff is mostly absent, and I generally just get pseudo-clinical gibberish, all targeted at a single post from way back in 2012. Here’s an example:

Decrease of a stage of hemoglobin at males up to 120g/l, at girls up to 110g/l is possible. This can imply dependence on male breadwinners, abandoned opportunities for paid work, and exhaustion that extracts a physical and psychological toll. The former is shown, for example, in exams for cutaneous sensitization, whereas the latter is proven in impairment of the power to resist infection erectile dysfunction for women Correlation of preoperative depression and somatic percepRecommendation #2: tion scales with postoperative incapacity and quality of life afer Collecting data concerning the preoperative characteristics and lumbar discectomy. In the course of therapy, the following duties are solved in every particular affected person: fi reduction of exacerbation; fi selection of adequate primary remedy; fi reduction of the danger of development of complications; fi decreasing the danger of side effects in the course of the course.

The post in question is Goodbye to the Turkish Living Forum. It caused quite a stir at the time, I’m pleased to say. Has the post been deliberately targeted? Who would do such as thing? Who knows. But anyone searching online for the forum will often find my ancient post on the first page of Google – the sweet spot for any website – just below the entry for the forum itself. Perhaps all these spam attacks are keeping it there? Happy days!

On Yer Bike

I’m all for people stepping out of their cars and getting on their bikes. It’s good for the body, good for the soul and even better for the environment. And pedal-power has gone into overdrive since the pandemic. With quieter roads and cleaner air, people are turning and returning to cycling in their droves. New bike sales are up and old bikes are getting a makeover after years of rusting away at the back of a shed.

The flatlands of Norfolk provide an easy ride for cyclists and there are few better places to pedal push than the highways and byways hereabouts. On sunny days, it can be the Tour de Loddon along the high street with riders top to toe in fancy kit dismounting for coffee and cake. It ain’t always pretty. Okay, we can’t all look like six-times Olympic champion Chris Hoy with his thunder thighs and buns you could butter. But if all your spare tyres are wrapped round your waist, it’s best to go easy on the lycra. It’s enough to turn the milk in my flat white.

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

My teeth were the first casualty of the pandemic. Both my routine check-up and appointment with the hygienist were cancelled as dental surgeries up and down the land shut up shop and the nation’s drills fell silent. But dentists are now back in business – just – and I went into town for my first scale and polish of 2020. Health and safety measures were in full swing with a new check-in app, a strict one way system, sanitisers everywhere and the poor hygienist dripping in enough PPE for a trip to Mars.

It was only our second trip into Norwich since lockdown so we made the most of it, picking up a few non-essential must-haves. Face masks must now be worn in all shops and indoor shopping centres. Most folk complied, with a rich array of styles from the unimaginative to the truly outlandish. Our little black numbers were at the dull end of the spectrum. And, unlike the man who was recently caught strolling down Oxford Street in London, the masks covered the right appendage.

But I couldn’t help thinking that they gave a false sense of security as shoppers weaved through the crowd pretty much ignoring signs and social distancing.

We also took full advantage of Chancellor ‘Risky’ Rishi’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ discount scheme to jump-start the hospitality sector after the leanest of months. We lunched late but before we were shown to our table, our temperature was checked by the maître d’. Very reassuring, I thought, and the only time I’ve been pleased not to have been called hot, hot, hot.

Wasp at the Picnic

Weather in these isles is notoriously unpredictable at the best of times but, all things considered, summer this year has been good. Just as well with all this lockdown business. June was warm and dry, July was wetter and August has been a scorcher so far. Whenever the mercury rises, out comes the BBQ, bangers and burgers. On the hottest day of the year, we popped to the shops for grill grub and, after getting home, threw open the stable door to our little porch. The heat rushed in and the fire alarm went off. We had to unscrew it from the ceiling to get it to stop.

Later that day, as I was flipping the burgers, I stepped on a wasp with my bare foot. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go down too well with the wasp and the angry little bugger stung me. It was my first time. Until that painful moment, this city boy had never been stung – bitten many times, yes, but stung, no. I didn’t know how I’d react, physically. Thankfully, I didn’t go into anaphylactic shock and have to be rushed to hospital. I did, though, hop around the lawn screaming ‘ouch, ouch, ouch.’

‘Don’t be such a drama queen,’

Liam said before pouring me a large glass of medicinal white.