Just Going For A Walk

I had been planning to blog about our earliest form of transport for a while, then walking took on yet another aspect last week with the royal funeral, the various processions leading up to it and of course The Queue. But first back to basics.

Have you heard people comment, or perhaps you have said it yourself…

I don’t do hills. I don’t do walking. I don’t like walking.

I was once watching a comedy in which the teenager daughter greets her mother’s return home. ‘I didn’t know where you were, I thought you’d gone for a walk.‘ Mother replies ‘Walk! I’ve never been for a walk in my life.’

Someone describing how the heat was not a problem in Singapore with the air conditioned malls… I asked ‘What if you want to go for a walk?’ He replied looking puzzled ‘Why would you want to go for a walk?’

Why would you not want to walk, the most natural activity for humans, exercise that costs nothing and a handy way to get where you want to go. During Covid lockdown it was one of the few activities allowed and non dog owners discovered new delights. I love walking, but I have no desire to trek to either pole or up to Everest base camp; solo or with companions, who I would be intensely irritated with by the third day… But ordinary walking, enjoying the fresh air, scenery, perhaps photography and probably ending up at a nice cafe or pub is fun for everyone… What do non walkers do when they go for a day out or on holiday? You may think National Trust Houses have large grounds because the original owners owned all the local land; no, it’s so we can have a nice walk before having lunch in the restaurant and looking round the house. No holiday is complete without a walk along a cliff path or a steep ascent up a hill to enjoy the view.

Modern technology, from super electronic wheelchairs to state of the art artificial limbs allow many who are disabled to get out and about with their friends and family who are fit and able to walk. Walking is freedom and not to be taken for granted; those under repressive regimes or living in dangerous areas cannot just go out for a walk. If you are used to walking everywhere it’s a reminder of the privilege when you ‘do something’ to your back or knee and suddenly can’t walk. The leaflets we were given when having chemotherapy suggest that ‘going for a short walk will help combat fatigue’ – this turned out to be a joke as most of each three week cycle it was a struggle to get to the front gate or up the stairs. It was an insight into the chronic fatigue that people with Long Covid and other debilitating medical conditions have to cope with.

So back to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth 11. Whatever your views on royalty or television ( blanket ) coverage of the events, there was a fascination with both the formal traditions and the spontaneous acts of those who came to queue to watch a procession or for The Queen’s lying in. There is something dignified and humbling about the men of the family and others close to the royals walking slowly behind the coffin. Princess Anne joined them, as she did for her father’s funeral, a token man for the day? Presumably it is tradition that only the men walk. If any of the chaps didn’t like walking they were in for a tiring time. I like a brisk walk, walking slowly at a measured pace is much harder, I have tried it round the house. Nor did I go up to London to join The Queue, almost a pilgrimage. They had a long distance to cover at a very slow pace, I wondered if there were escape points for those who changed their minds and just wanted to go home.

There are environmental benefits if everyone walked on short journeys and for writers it is one of the best ways to see real life, but those are topics for another blog.

Are you a walker or non walker? If you enjoy walking what is your favourite sort of walk?

Tidal Thoughts of an Idle Scribe

Tidalscribe Palace

Whatever your thoughts on monarchy, wherever you live, if you are in a safe and comfortable spot and not dealing with war or natural disaster, you will be well aware of The Queen’s death and either following or avoiding the lead up to the funeral tomorrow. Though a sad time, it is also one of the greatest shows on earth, full of human interest from the folk in The Queue to the many royals, world leaders and assorted dignitaries arriving. If you get in a panic when you have a family gathering or visitors coming to stay, imagine the preparations for this get together. Of course plans are always in place for big events, but have to be tailored at the last moment down to the finest detail of diplomatically deciding who will sit next to whom.

I think most humans love some pageantry and colour in their lives; history, art, music, beautiful horses and dear little choir boys all come together and lift us above the seedy world of politics and the mundanity of everyday life. The monarch and the government have a responsibility to defend their country and their people. The monarch is the chief of the armed forces, hence the wearing of military uniform by so many royals; no, I don’t know how they manage to acquire quite so many medals! Alas we know that a peaceful world is still unattainable, we need our armed forces and they are proud to be marching.

However, the solemnity of the occasion does not stop me having irreverent thoughts. When will the Lego or Playmobil Royal Funeral sets be coming out? Think of all the colourful characters to collect.

Where do the royal family and all those other officials who dress up, keep all their uniforms?

Dipping in to the endless chat on the radio I heard a presenter talking to some important military person about the funeral procession. When he mentioned the Royal Canadian Mounted Police taking part she asked him if they were bringing their horses and he said he wasn’t sure! How would they bring them, but how could they not bring them? Would they have to borrow ponies from the local riding school?

It was feasible that I could have jumped on a train at Bournemouth, up to Waterloo Station and sauntered down to the South Bank to join The Queue, a long walk to the end of the queue, but not as long as the slow walk to finally cross the River Thames and approach Westminster. I am impressed by those who have gone and it seems most were making new friends and having quite a jolly time. When they interview those who come out after their few moments passing by the queen’s coffin they all seem to have found it an amazing, solemn experience that will stay with them forever. But I didn’t go, I never have gone to London for the big crowd events, I have enough trouble deciding what to wear or take for a normal day out.

If any of you have been to pay your respects in any part of the country during The Queen’s journey from Balmoral, tell us how it was. Or will you be watching the funeral tomorrow at home or perhaps on one of the big screens local authorities are putting up so people can watch together?

The Queen’s final resting place will be at Windsor Castle.

Friday Flash Fiction 434 – End of the Queue

You had to laugh, some of them looked worn out and they’d only been ‘out on the street’ for one night.

Nic was having the time of his life, all night company, places to eat and toilets open twenty four hours. Buildings open to all, light and life and most of all, everyone being nice to each other. Nobody cared who you were or where you came from, which was very different from nobody caring.

He had been given a wrist band, but had no intention of going to see the Queen. He wouldn’t have minded meeting her when she was still alive, some of her family were nearly as dysfunctional as his so she wouldn’t judge.

Nic had a fair idea what was going on at Westminster from chatting to others. Airport security, well he wasn’t carrying anything suspicious that would beep, but they would be on the lookout for suspicious looking people. Anyway, he was content to stay this side of the river. Others had come on their own, some people happy to share with new friends food they had brought or nipped from the queue to buy.

At regular intervals Nic would slip away for a ‘comfort break’ and discarding his wrist band, wend his way by a circuitous route to the back of the queue again and new friends. What a night, he saw the lights on the River Thames with new eyes, taking on the enthusiasm of those new to the city.

At Operation London Bridge Control Room human eyes looked at banks of screens while their colleagues, the digital detectives, scanned images with state of the art face recognition and other skills.

‘Screen six, near the end of the queue, got a loiterer… suspect coming back again, what’s his game… contact officers in that sector.’

Nic thought he was pretty anonymous, an observer, so he was startled to confront the smiling face of a man in a suit with a microphone.

‘We’re live on BBC television, can I ask what made you decide to come tonight?’

‘Oh um yes, I’m a local, so no trouble…’

‘It’s chilly tonight, but you were still happy to leave home comforts?’

Nic was just about to relate another made up life when he spotted them behind the reporter, two police officers and as he turned slightly, two more behind him. Now what on earth should he do…

‘No home comforts mate, I’m homeless, like lots of others and nobody has given us a mention… and if I get arrested nobody is going to care, except perhaps millions of viewers…’

A Strange Week.

This is where many of us feel we have been this past week.

For many the summer holidays are over and a new school year has started. After having all the family visiting, not quite at the same time and being away helping with tiny Tidalscribes last week, I am keen to start my autumn term in the blogging world.

Apple Harvest

Strange goings on at Chez Tidalscribe

Beach you can eat.
Children should be neither seen nor heard.

But as Prince Louis and my youngest grandson both started school and my eldest grandson became a teenager, there were far greater landmarks about to happen.

The death of Queen Elizabeth 11 on Thursday September 8th seemed to come suddenly. It was only on Tuesday that our new prime minister, Liz Truss, had been pictured meeting The Queen, who as tradition demands, asked her to form a new government. She looked frail and the meeting took place at Balmoral to spare Her Majesty the journey to Buckingham Palace, but it was only when we heard news later of her family rushing to Balmoral that her health was obviously worse than the public knew.

A drama and a moment in history that no script writer could have made up. The only monarch most of us have ever known had lived to see her platinum jubilee and just long enough to ‘see off’ Boris Johnson, as he put it.

King Charles 111 spoke movingly and seems so far to have people’s support. Whatever your own religious beliefs, the Queen took her oath sincerely to serve God and her country and Charles spoke of God Almighty and his faith. It is surely welcome that royals, unlike politicians, acknowledge a higher power. I always envy those people who brave the crowds, bring their flowers, chat to the press and make memories that will last. Many more of us have been following on television. It is a sad occasion, but also full of drama; from the many people of all sorts on the streets, to the interesting traditions, mostly involving colourful uniforms, coming into play as we lead up to the funeral.

I see no reason why Charles should not be a good king and perhaps at his weekly audiences with our new prime minister he can steer her down the green and humanitarian route we so badly need. My grandchildren will hopefully live to see three kings in their life time.

To round off a strange week this single rose had appeared in my garden when I got home on Friday.

Demolition and Development

In 1955 Queen Elizabeth officially opened new buildings in the centre of what was then London Airport; the Europa Terminal ( which later became Terminal 2 ) and The Queen’s Building with its offices and roof gardens. In 2009 they were demolished to make way for a new Terminal 2. The Queen has outlived her own historic buildings. In the meantime, in the nearby historic Harmondsworth Village mentioned in the Doomsday Book, The Great Barn built in 1426 still stands.

The Queen opens London Airport terminal, 1955 – BBC Archivehttps://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/queen-opens-london-airport-terminal/zdvd92p

‘Built by Winchester College as part of its manor farm at Harmondsworth, the oak-framed barn is an outstanding example of medieval carpentry and contains one of the most intact interiors of its era. At nearly 60 metres long, 12 metres wide and 11 metres tall, with 13 massive oak trusses holding up the roof, both its size and aisles evoke the space and shape of a cathedral.‘ It is now under the care of English Heritage; when we lived nearby it was on private land and only open to the public occasionally, but one visit was enough to stand inside and be awestruck. It was heart breaking to hear that Harmondsworth Village could be demolished to make way for a third runway. There was ridiculous talk of moving the barn and in 2015 our future Prime Minister famously said, as MP for the Uxbridge constituency near the airport, that he would “lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway”.

Harmondsworth Barn | English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk)https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/harmondsworth-barn/

The barn is still there and there is no third runway yet, but Heathrow Village must be the most changed and continually changing patch of grade A agricultural land in Britain; perhaps not in the whole world, Dubai and China might compete for that honour. There will still be people who remember a few tents being put up by the Bath Road in the 1940s; many years ago an old lady told me they looked across the road from their house and thought those few tents would not make much difference to them…

When our family emigrated to Australia in 1964 we left on a chartered migrant flight from London Airport on a Saturday afternoon. We walked across the tarmac to the steps of the plane and waved to our relatives standing on a balcony; just as well we could wave as we had arrived late at the airport ( that’s another story ) and had no time to chat to them. So there was no time for pictures, or perhaps Dad had no camera till he bought one in duty free during the trip.

Pictures from my father’s album.

In the late 70s, early 80s you could still go up on the Queen’s Building roof gardens; there was a playground for the children and it was a playground for plane enthusiasts who sat with their sandwiches and radios listening in to the control tower and incoming aircraft. But Heathrow has always been a continual building site, constantly adding bits on or demolishing. I occasionally worked in the old Terminal 2 and as you went through and down into the staff airside area, the ceilings seemed to get lower and lower, a security chap told me they felt like pit ponies… so perhaps this building was ready for demolition.

While I was working at Terminal Three it was being modernised, yet again. In Singapore business lounge our passengers went out on the last flight of the night and when we locked up and walked through the main departure lounge it was totally deserted, very different from what the passengers experienced. As we went out through the staff exit the builders would be coming in, nearly decapitating us as they wielded planks and all sorts of equipment.

One day going into work I got off the bus as usual, down to the subway and moving walkways, up into Terminal 3 Arrivals, turned left to step on to the up escalator that was there the day before and nearly fell over, it had disappeared. Another night our late flight was delayed and I was the only one heading for a particular staff exit… but when I got there it wasn’t there, it wasn’t just closed, there was no sign that it had ever been there in the first place. A story idea for sure, I was suddenly trapped in the no man’s land of Airside, would I ever see my home again? Luckily I saw a security bloke and said ‘I know you won’t believe this, but I can’t seem to find the staff exit.’ Luckily I wasn’t going mad, he directed me to the new exit.

One of my colleagues told me that he had a job in the ‘Irish Pub’ in the departures lounge. He went on holiday back to the Philippines for three months, returned, put on his uniform for work, went in and couldn’t find ‘the pub’ – restaurants and bars had five year leases and were always disappearing to be replaced by something completely different.

We moved away in 2004 and only a few years later we went to meet someone at Heathrow and parked in the Terminal 3 multi-storey car park. I had this feeling I could not get my bearings. Absolutely nothing looked how I remembered. It turned out the original car park had been demolished and a new one built further back, creating a pleasant plaza effect. If you ever want to know how to find your way round Heathrow, don’t ask me!

Have you had a Heathrow experience, good or bad?

My short story ‘Fog’ in my Dark and Milk collection was inspired by the third runway controversy and a few thoughts on what might have been…

My novel Quarter Acre Block is inspired by our family’s experience of being Ten Pound Pommies.