In breaking news police have released cctv footage of someone they wish to question.
Someone else in the news was Barbie who has decided to set her fans a good example of helping the environment by wearing upcycled outfits – clothes made by herself from charity shop bargains and fabric finds in the rag bin. Barbie is a talented seamstress despite her congenital rigid hand condition.
In a Heathrow hotel conference room the tables were scattered with a host of battery operated furry creatures; this apparently was to ‘break the ice’. British Airways was paying for our catering company to attend a course of several events on passenger service, quite amusing as British Airways needed to learn about passenger service, not us – in my opinion. It was we who had to soothe the troubled brows of passengers by the time they had made it to the business class or first class lounges.
We didn’t need the ice broken as we were already relaxed and chatting to friends and fellow staff we hadn’t met before; a good chance for a natter without being interrupted by passengers. Being paid to have a day off with coffee and lunch instead of being at work, what was there not to like?
My first job as a lounge hostess had ended when the Qantas Lounge ceased to exist and Qantas moved over to Terminal Four. The lounge was now British Airways, used for flights to the USA and unless you noticed the kangaroos on the glass screens you would never know. The first class lounge became the quiet area and first class passengers had their own little lounge downstairs – at least they didn’t have to cope with the awful lift. We now worked for a much larger catering company who were subcontracted to work for a variety of airlines. Our new uniform consisted of a comfortable blouse and elasticated skirt which adapted itself to any figure, the fabric design was a multi coloured jigsaw pattern which also hid a multitude of sins. The navy jacket made it look quite smart, but my younger son was horrified and said ‘You’re not going wear that on the bus are you!’ On the bus and anywhere on the airport, we could easily spot who else worked for the same company, though the chaps wore white shirt and grey trousers with just a tie in the zingy pattern.
A cleaning company was also contracted to work alongside us, ‘Airspeed,’ a contradiction in terms for some of their staff, such as the lugubrious Raymond who became a permanent fixture. On the front desk a variety of British Airways staff rotated, some very efficient and passenger orientated, others not quite so; they provided us with great amusement, but probably not the passengers. One was an alcoholic who had easy access to the two bars and liked ‘orange juice’. His announcements when he called the flight were most entertaining; his exhortations not to leave anything behind and have passport and ticket ready came with colourful warnings of what might happen if you did not. Another staff member was always on the phone and her easily heard telephone conversations were interesting, with the added frisson of worrying if the passengers were listening. One morning I heard her say within easy earshot of passengers ‘We’ve got a right load of trailer trash in here today.’
The passengers were lovely friendly, polite Americans who said ‘Thankyou Maam’ plus an assortment of Brits and others.
The first manager we met said he was ‘running eighty per cent Pilipino’ and without the hardworking Pilipinos I imagine the lounges wouldn’t have run at all. We didn’t see this manager often and he hardly spoke to me until he discovered it was my husband who was the licensing officer for Heathrow and he needed to be interviewed by him to get the licence for the lounge to serve alcohol.
Our immediate manager was an Indian bundle of energy who had his own unorthodox way of running things, which worked with our wonderfully mixed staff. He was never without his large diary and mobile phone; if anyone was off sick, or needed to change shifts he was on the phone and in seconds had a replacement. There were always people happy to do overtime or do him a favour because he would help them out in turn. Some of the Philipinos worked every day without a break and saved all their holidays and days off to go ‘back home’ for three months each year, often investing their savings in property in the Philippines. Some staff were supporting all sorts of family members and needed the extra money, while others obviously preferred being at work to being at home. Heathrow airside and no doubt any big airport, is a world of its own, cut off from the rest of the world.
I started off with no intention of doing overtime or being whisked off to other lounges and terminals, but gradually I found myself doing just that and discovering that each lounge and airline could be very different… but that’s for another blog.
And what of our passenger service course? We also enjoyed a dinner out at another hotel where we had to rate the service and one to one coffee, cake and chats. They were asking us for our opinions, taking down all our suggestions for improving life for us and the passengers. None of our suggestions were ever acted on , but at least we had had fun.
So you are allowed to venture to more places now, as long as you have booked in advance, taken six negative Covid tests, have a vaccination certificate and don’t mind queuing. To save stress why not visit places and attractions nobody else will want to visit?
As the ground shook violently tiny fungal filaments sent out warnings and pleas for help. Mighty roots that had lain undisturbed for centuries trembled. Then there was a silent scream as she felt herself cleaved in three from the highest twig down, down, down to her deepest roots.
‘Giles, I pleaded with you not to do this, how could you, that tree was planted by your ancestor.’
‘He planted loads of trees, that’s why we have woodland; one less tree on the edge won’t make any difference. What will make a difference is the fortune that rich idiot is paying us for digging up an old oak tree. Enough to keep the estate going for another year.’
‘What if it doesn’t work, how can it work, transplanting a huge ancient tree into his back garden in London.’
‘That’s his problem, we’ve got the money, no refund.’
The residents of Oak Avenue had thought they had seen everything in the past year. Despite their many objections the new neighbour had demolished the pleasant square of sheltered bungalows for the elderly and built his dream house. Noise, dust and the very real fear their own homes would collapse in a man made earthquake had created a nightmare. As peace settled they gazed upon the geometric glass edifice of jumbled storeys, rumoured to have a split level basement with a kitchen, cinema, offices, snooker room or swimming pool, depending on who you talked to. Some rather liked the building and imagined it would be elegant inside with the central atrium apparently bringing light to all the rooms and the basement. But they had not been invited in to look so it was not welcome in their avenue. Now at nine am on Tuesday morning local social media had alerted them to the closure of all surrounding roads, to facilitate an oversized delivery to the new house. Amid jokes about huge Amazon parcels everyone was out to watch, especially when a television filming unit was spotted round the corner.
Never had she been horizontal; survivor of many storms, now she was fallen, brutally felled. Once tall and stout, one being, now she was three. But as she found herselves raised up again she realised they were a sacred number, a holy trinity with a new power. Her roots trembled for a different reason now, she must gain a hold and use her strength.
Harry smiled at his scowling neighbours as the cameras focused on him and the reporter asked the questions everyone wanted answers to; why, how, where?
‘The only way to uproot and transport such a huge tree was to slice it in three vertically and put it on three over length loaders. Now London has a bit more greenery and I have improved the neighbourhood. ….yes we dug down so deep to accommodate the basement there is a good tree sized hole, just like buying a shrub from the garden centre, but on a bigger scale. It will work, the bark will join up again.’
Harry’s wife looked out at the designer garden. The ancient tree just off centre enough to look natural. Harry was clever, she hoped he hadn’t been too clever this time, but her new home was fantastic, just a pity the neighbours weren’t very friendly. As they enjoyed their morning swim and clambered out to sit in the jacuzzi she noticed the pool level seemed lower, Harry promised to check the pumps. Back in her office with the skylight view of the tree she thought she saw a crack in the wall. She went up to the kitchen to make coffee and wondered if that was a hairline crack in the window. In the garden she felt better as she nursed her coffee. Two weeks and the tree was showing tiny acorn buds and the leaves were green. She touched the healed bark and felt happy.
The next morning the pool was lower and she noticed something strange at the bottom of the pool. Harry said it was just twigs fallen off the poolside plants, but she insisted on diving down the six foot depth. She tugged and tugged, but had to come up for air.
‘Harry, I think that is a tree root pushing up through the tiles.’ ’Don’t be ridiculous, I’ll go down and look.’ When he didn’t come up again she wondered if he had had a heart attack and as she slipped into the water in panic she heard an almighty shattering.
Oak Avenue was a scene of devastation. The neighbours’ first thoughts as they heard the horrendous crash of glass was that the tree had fallen on the house, but it was still standing, surrounded by the debris of concrete and glass. The fire brigade and police assumed a gas explosion or bomb, but the building seemed to have imploded rather than exploded and it would not be easy to search for survivors.
Monday marked the penultimate stage on the English roadmap out of Covid and like the real paper road maps of old, there are lots of creases and you can’t read the parts where the folds are. Most of us are convinced the roadmap will be folded up again, but in the meantime…
I didn’t go anywhere exciting on Monday as I had a hospital appointment, but there was the hope of rounding it off with a treat. The hospital destination was the furthest away in our conurbation, but the easiest to get to. The journey encompasses almost the whole of the bus route and takes an hour, but stops right outside the hospital. Every seat has a phone charger so I could catch up with blogs and emails – if anyone reads any strange comments from me that is because it’s not easy tapping on a phone jolting along. I had a pocket full of coins as it was too early to use my bus pass – easily accessible coat pocket as I didn’t want to be fumbling around in my purse and exasperating the driver. I still exasperated him as he could not hear what I was saying with my mask on and behind his plexiglass screen. When he did grasp my destination I could not hear how much he said with his mask on.
The hospital is built halfway up a hill, a delight for hospital architects whose main aim is to make it impossible for anyone to find their way around. They now have different colour routes, plus instructions on your hospital letters. I had been this way before so no problem, upstairs, follow purple route, out the back door and down a long ramp then off to a totally separate building. When I was in the waiting room a lady came to the reception desk and said ‘I am completely lost, I can’t find the car park. ‘ She was advised to ‘go back upstairs to the Ladybird Suite and start all over again.’ After my appointment was finished the receptionist asked if I could find my way back. I smugly assured her I could as I had done it before, forgetting that last time I mysteriously ended up at the north entrance, which fortunately came back out onto the main road. This time I was aiming for Costa Coffee near the main entrance, but I did not pass any familiar landmarks such as shops, glass dome, information desk. Luckily a person pushing a trolley asked if I was lost and directed me to the nearest stairs. Of course, if you go upstairs on the outward route it helps to go down on the return route. At last I reached my destination.
I am not a Costa addict, preferring to visit independent places and I don’t like takeaway cups, but even though the coffee was lukewarm by the time I had checked in with my NHS app and realised you had to ask for sugar, it tasted wonderful. At last I was actually sitting inside on the first day coffee shops and cafes were open properly again. I nearly forgot to take my mask off, that felt strange and I exchanged remarks with the lady at the next table at how excited we were to be in a coffee shop.
Monday is England’s next step on the ‘roadmap’ to normality. Wherever you are you may be closing down or opening up or more likely your leaders are doing another u-turn. Normality is a long way off and though you might read messages on line from your favourite places – ‘Welcome Back’ – do they really mean it? Here are some nice places you probably won’t be able to go to…
Bridges open, but one way only, bad luck if you’re on the wrong side of the river.
Dreaming about eating out? Stick to dreamland, everywhere else is fully booked.
Must have beach app on phone to check if you are allowed to visit.
Lighthouses – good for social distancing, but only one visitor at a time.
Someone else got their first, closed until further notice.
Cruises currently limited to passengers who have been vaccinated and are good at rowing.
Wales, different rules to England, you may not be allowed to cross the border.
Cathedrals are always interesting to visit, but this may be as near as you can get. Enter only if you are fully masked and have had a negative Covid test.
Museums are popular outings, especially if it’s raining, but book in advance for your thirty minute slot, book separately in advance for a cafe fifteen minute slot.
Scottish holy island – ferry only goes once a day. Scotland has different rules to England and Wales so you may not be allowed across the border… what a shame, you would really have loved Iona…
National Trust houses always popular for an outing; they are opening up again – of course you have to book in advance and once inside will have to walk round in single file, one way only, no stopping or turning back…
Chances of getting inside here for a look round? Very unlikely…. unless you live there.
I had never heard of the charity Therapups, nor had Google, but one of my late aunt’s dog loving friends sent me the postal address. Aunty had requested no flowers for her funeral, just a donation to her favourite charity. I sent a small cheque and a brief letter with my address included, requesting the next copy of their newsletter, which was apparently going to feature a tribute to my aunt.
A week later I received a hefty envelope, almost a parcel, with a gushing letter thanking me for my generosity. The newsletter was to follow shortly, but in the meantime they were pleased to send me a Therapups key ring with dog whistle attached and one hundred biodegradable poop bags in a designer carry case; all in the distinctive charity colours puce pink and sunflower yellow. I don’t own a dog, but they weren’t to know that. Also included was a colourful booklet explaining the charity’s work; it seems they provided therapy and assistance dogs not covered by other better known charities.
Today I woke up excited as it is Saint George’s Day; Saint George is the patron Saint of England. Then I remembered nobody is quite sure why he is our saint, or what we are meant to do to celebrate. Fortunately it is also William Shakespeare’s birthday and we can all celebrate that. In honour of our great poet and playwright here is a not very good ballad I wrote years ago, still relevant…
From the molten depths of the Iceland peak
Many gathered to hear their lord speak.
‘Centuries under the mountain we’ve lain,
centuries passed since my brother was slain.
Now is the time to return to the isles;
my son must fly across the miles.
Now is the time to forgive and forget;
the wingless, cold creatures may need us yet.’
Now with the day longer than night,
the prince bade farewell to all at first light.
With heavy heart he heard them roar,
as up into the sky he soared;
sun glinting on scales, colours unreal;
emerald, indigo, turquoise and teal.
Below, icy peaks turned to ripples of green;
Many miles he flew before land was seen.
Crowds cheered to hear the outsider had won;
George Saint now the new mayor of London.
The whole of London he wanted to reach,
Embrace the millions in his speech.
‘Tomorrow we celebrate the greatest city on Earth,
Tomorrow we remember Shakespeare’s birth;
On the South Bank on St. Georges Day
We’ll celebrate London in a wonderful way.‘
George worked late that night in City Hall,
Plans for tomorrow, he reviewed them all;
At the Globe, a prize winning play
Written by young Annie Hathaway,
How the dragon rescued the beautiful maid
From forced marriage, kept her safe in his cave.
At Tate Modern, in the great turbine hall
Meeting the Dragon installation art for all.
From City Hall’s glass walls George looked out
As he left the building, descending round about.
Saw the shining city, Thames at low tide,
Alone by the river his heart filled with pride.
Beneath Tower Bridge saw a fiery glow,
Strange shape moving down below
On the river bank, heard a sighing,
Amazed, George saw a dragon lying.
No one in sight, down the narrow steps he trod,
Heart pounding, saw the giant head nod
In greeting, snorted flames and then it spoke
‘I have come to visit the wingless folk,
Whom do I have the honour to address?‘
His father had told him politeness will impress.
On hearing George’s name the dragon trembled,
But no fierce knight did this puny being resemble.
Misunderstandings soon swept away,
George and Dragon talked, soon it would be day.
Many thoughts tumbled inside George’s head,
The magnificent dragon must be sheltered and fed.
As dawn came at Tate Modern, the young artist paced,
His new creation could not fill this vast space.
Suddenly a long shadow fell upon the hall,
He heard the Mayor’s voice urgently call.
Turning he gazed up and up with awe,
Was the most wondrous creature he ever saw;
Though he trembled with fright he just had to gaze
As rainbow scales shone in the Sun’s first rays.
Together they planned how to care for their guest,
Vegetarian food was what he liked best;
That’s lucky quipped the artist, for my art installation
Is made entirely of fruit and vegetation.
As people swarmed to the South Bank that day,
From the Wheel to Tower Bridge, all the way;
Musicians, magicians, jugglers, living statues,
At the Festival Hall free concerts to choose.
On T.V. the Mayor promised finale at Tate Modern,
Broadcast to the nation, Londoners surged in.
Crowds made the Dragon nervous but he bravely stood his ground,
The Mayor stood beside him and spoke to all around.
‘Today London welcomes a visitor unique,
no city ever will enjoy such a week;
but first pray silence from everyone I ask
for I must perform a very solemn task.
On behalf of all England, new bonds let us forge,
Pray forgive us for your uncle’s slaying by the wicked knight Saint George.’
The Dragon’s voice enchanted all, with his speech urbane and witty,
The Mayor of London thanked him with the freedom of the city.
Each morning Londoners thrilled at the sight
Of the Dragon soaring gracefully in flight.
But not just for fun, he was on a mission
Reporting to George on the City’s condition.
Spotted Battersea power station derelict and sad
Had an idea to make George glad.
No fossil fuel needed at a dragon power station,
At Battersea restored, his flames could heat the nation.
At City Hall George held his press morning,
TV and papers full of dire warnings.
The Mayor refuted the wicked claims
That the Dragon’s father had issued the flames
That started the Great Fire of London.
‘I trust completely this fine dragon,
he wants to help us of his own free will
and his carbon footprint will be nill.’
Elections for Mayor of London take place on 6th May; as one of the candidates is Lord Binface, a self-proclaimed interplanetary space warrior, who has challenged both Boris Johnson and Theresa May in general elections, George Saint probably stands a good chance.
We never lived in Windsor, but the town, in the Royal County of Berkshire, was one of our favourite days out when we lived by Heathrow Airport. As the American tourist said ‘Why did they build a royal castle so close to the airport?’ – old joke. Along with many tourists and local families we enjoyed all it has to offer. ‘Long Walks in the Great Park’ – From the Castle gate to the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse) The Long Walk measures 2.64 miles in length. But the Windsor Great Park extends far beyond what you can see from the castle.
Windsor also has a theatre, a swimming pool, good shopping and the River Thames. A foot bridge takes you over the river to Eton where the famous school is spread out as part of the little town. You can also take a peaceful walk along the riverside very different from the bustle on the Windsor side.
You can go by train from Waterloo and arrive at Windsor and Eton Riverside station, or take the little line built for Queen Victoria, a one stop ride from Slough station ( direct line from Paddington ) which takes you into the heart of the designer shopping centre and exits opposite the castle.
Before the terrible castle fire in 1992 more of the castle grounds were free to the public to wander. We used to take our young children for a walk and show Australian visitors around. Under the archway, past the chapel, stroll up the hill. Our two year old once dashed into the guard room and was chased out by the guards. One side of the castle faces the town, but walk downhill to the river and the castle is high above you on a steep bank. When our daughter was a toddler she nearly gave a Japanese tourist a heart attack; he gasped in horror as she raced towards the turreted wall on the steep side of the grounds. She didn’t topple over, it was a safe height. Another time we peered through a gate and saw Princess Diana bring her two little boys out to watch the soldiers parading.
When we moved away from Heathrow we still visited Windsor on mini breaks to see our friends, usually staying at The Windsor Trooper, a great little old pub with bed and breakfast; bedrooms slightly crooked with sloping floors.
‘In 1917, the name of the royal house was changed from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor because of anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during World War I. There have been four British monarchs of the House of Windsor since then: George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II.’
Windsor Castle made the perfect setting for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, especially for the many of us who know Windsor well. The Duke apparently did not want a fuss and got his wish as the long miles of procession and crowd lined streets had to be scaled down to a ceremony within the castle precincts; a dignified walk down the hill with socially distanced military bands lined up with precision on the immaculate green.
The Band of the Grenadier Guards led the funeral procession and family members followed, Princess Anne in a long black coat and the men in morning suits. Following a coffin on foot seems dignified and respectful and it’s always good to see men smartly dressed. The Queen followed in her limousine.
I get nervous when I see The Queen walking unsteadily by herself, especially that day as she stepped out of her car and I wondered why she could not have formed a new bubble. Any other very elderly lady with strapping sons and grandsons would surely have been offered a strong arm to lean on. The Duke was her bubble, but she still has HMS Bubble, the loyal staff who have been on duty three weeks on three weeks off at the castle looking after the royal couple. Dog lovers will be glad to hear that The Queen, despite deciding a while ago not to breed or acquire any more dogs, has done what lots of people have in covid lockdown and acquired two puppies, a corgi and a dorgie, which she enjoys walking.
Inside the chapel were the regulation thirty guests and the emptiness perhaps enhanced the beautiful singing of the choir of four and the playing of the trumpeters. The royal family stuck by all the current funeral rules; we cannot compare their splendidly choregraphed event with bleak funerals at the local crem., livestreamed from one camera, but like other grieving widows The Queen sat by herself. After the service the family all strolled up the hill in the sunshine, ignoring the unnecessary fleet of cars lined up for them, though of course The Queen returned in her limousine. I like to think that once back in the royal apartments they all ripped off their masks and didn’t bother with social distancing!
Whether you watched the funeral avidly live on television and followed the highlights in the news later, or avoided all mention of it, there was more to the Duke of Edinburgh than most of us realised. The blanket comprehensive coverage of his life revealed a refugee from a broken home who saw real active service in the second world war. A life that did become privileged, but how many of us would want their whole life mapped out? Unlike lots of rich people he used his position to make a difference. He highlighted the plight of wildlife long before others were interested and created the Duke of Edinburgh Award to give ordinary teenagers the chance to take on all sorts of challenges. Those from a variety of countries who have spoken about meeting The Duke and how the award changed their lives will remember him and not the many politicians and world leaders who come and go.
Did you watch the funeral? Have you visited Windsor? Have you met any of the royal family?
As it is past noon in some places you know this story is true and not an April Fool
Her Majesty’s minister barely read the title of the document ‘Reursinement – Natural Culling’ before scanning the paragraphs…environmentally sustainable…ecological balance… and signing his name. His constituents and the Forestry Commission should be delighted, fewer complaints about car accidents, trampled gardens or ruined saplings.
Operation Goldilocks took place at night, the team quickly assessed their new environment; those experiencing freedom for the first time guided by the migrants from North Eastern Europe.
Nearby, a stag sniffed the night air and felt a primeval fear.
Days later the news headlines read ‘Walker Killed as Bears Introduced to Beauty Spot Without Public Consultation.