Blogging On 2016
Dog Walking and Local Developments
My last scribe mentioned the sad loss of dear old friends, and for many of a certain age, this will have been a familiar tale, the older you get, the more funerals you find yourself attending. There is another all too familiar kind of bereavement, of which I was reminded quite starkly today, when I heard the news that one of my fellow dog walkers had lost one of his dogs, Toby, to cancer. Roy is a well known character among us dog walkers at the Adur Rec, many of us mimicking his calls of frustration to Daisy, his little Jack Russell. “Daisy!, Daisy!”, we’d hear from wherever we are in the park, in a high pitched squawk of irritation as Roy struggles to convince her to let go of the tennis ball. The ever patient Toby would look on, hoping someone would wrestle the ball away from Daisy so that he might have a chance of running after it, and I, among many others, would try to help him out on occasion. Toby was a ‘bitzer’, we never were too sure which breeds might be involved. He was brown and black coated, about the size of a small Labrador, and had a deep bass line bark, in direct contrast to Roy, and Daisy’s diminutive yap. The two dogs would run around Roy, with Daisy demanding he throw the ball constantly, but then teasing the life out of Roy and Toby by refusing to relinquish her hold of it after clamping her jaws around it. This will be ringing bells for a lot of dog walkers I’m sure.
Roy himself walks awkwardly, owing to a childhood disease which partially crippled him, leaving legs which didn’t form properly, or at least, make everything a constant struggle for him. He’s in his 80’s, and when you see him with his walking stick and his ball chucker, Daisy snapping at his heels, and Toby roaming, hopeful of an unlikely opportunity to chase that ball, it brought a smile to your face. This week Roy was a bit subdued, he told me Toby wasn’t well and that he was worried about him, he was off his food, losing weight, and he’d be taking him to the vet later that day. As I stroked Toby it was evident he’d lost a fair bit of weight, but as with all dogs, his spirit was good, and he was keen to get involved. I didn’t quite realise this would be goodbye to that patient old boy with the deep woof. You can’t help but hope against hope that they’ll make a recovery. Roy’s voice told me he wasn’t optimistic.
Today, (Sunday), as I was walking Fred, we met with another dog walker, she had Daisy with her as well as her own dogs, and she gave me the bad news. Fortunately Roy lives in a street where his fellow dog owners are a close knit community, and they all make an effort to help Roy out when they can, even just by taking the time to walk at his pace around the park, to keep him company, but also to give Toby a chance at getting to run for the ball, and giving Daisy a run about also. Two of them had taken Roy in to Brighton, while this lady had said she’d look after Daisy in the meantime. I got down to have a wee natter with the bereaved pooch, she was letting out occasional whimpers, betraying her wounded heart, but still keen get get her snappers on the ball they were rolling around with them. You can’t help but feel for Roy and Daisy, it’s the worst kind of feeling to lose a loved one, but it’s reassuring to know he has a lot of good people rallying around him.
Earlier in the week, me and Fred bumped in to another of his old friends, George, also a Bichon Frise. George is a bouncy, lively, portly ball of energy, he just runs and runs round in circles, jumping up, and hilariously tries humping peoples legs as often as he can get away with it. His owners are away on a cruise, so Caroline has been looking after him, but it’s not going as well as it has done in the past when she’s looked after him, she told me he was pining, and off his food. I said that as Fred and him got on so well, and George knows us from years of meeting up at the park, why not drop him over for a play date for an afternoon. Caroline thanked me, and also explained that her dog, Bertie, would be grateful of a rest from George’s amorous advances. So there we had it, Fred’s first play date. It went like a dream, and Fred seemed to enjoy having a playmate to run around with, but it soon became clear George is a bit adhesive, I had a new shadow. Once he had investigated the house and garden with Fred, he decided to stick to my side after that, and snuggled up to me on the sofa, until I realised he’d been chewing at my jeans, as I stood up there was a damp feeling, and I looked down to see the large wet patch where he’d slobbered all over me. After a few times with the same nuzzling slobberthon, I decided to sit at the table, and he settled by my feet. He also pants heavily virtually all the time, which makes you feel out of breath just listening to him, sitting at my feet, I was pleased to hear the panting stop, and hoped this meant he had settled.
By the time Caroline came to pick George up, he seemed quite content, so I hope that continued once she got him home, and we extended the offer to look after him again any time should she feel the need. Non dog owners may not understand why I’d take time to write about our canine social circle, but they become every bit as important as any humans in your life, if not a little more so because they are so dependent on you. I, and many others I’m sure, feel terrible for poor old Roy, his Christmas has been ruined before it even got going, that in itself is a sign of just how important those little critters are to us.
Facebook may have many faults, but it also has many good points, not least of which, maintaining contact with people you don’t get to see too often. An old buddy, Jim Powell, recently suggested a get together, and to that end, he started a Facebook group to make it happen, calling it, ‘Festive lemons’. Last night was the culminating result of his idea, and grand it was to sit around the fire at the Duke of Wellington pub in Shoreham, and catch up. Jim, or, ‘Speckled’ as he is affectionately known, was once a lodger at my old place in Crown road, many years ago now, when he was a spotty youth, and deaf as a post when asleep. He had his alarm wired to his stereo system, which would vibrate the entire house when it went off, waking everyone except him, many was the time I’d have to barge into his room, and roll him to one side so that I could reach behind the bed to unplug the damn thing, and he never woke up, complaining later that his alarm had failed him yet again. He’s come a long way since then, and is now a hard working husband, and father of two delightful children. His efforts mustered a good turn out, and being the elder statesman as it were, made me feel even older to see this young group showing all the signs of time marching on in the shape of sense, sensibility, bald spots, and greying hairs, and that was just the girls! No, no, not really, but you get the picture. I managed to hang around for four pints of Conquerer, a rather tasty alternative to Guinness, but made my apologies for being a pansy in the drinking stakes these days, and was first to depart (Fail), not before having enjoyed a most enjoyable couple of hours with old friends.
Shoreham got busy
It seems as if you can see a crane from just about anywhere in Shoreham at the moment, from the 7 storey concrete monstrosity being erected on the old Parcel Force site, the flood defence scheme cranes on both sides of the River Adur, and further up river by the Ropetackle North development, materials and labour are being poured into our once peaceful town. The Shoreham Adur Tidal Walls project is part of a government investment in flood defence schemes in West Sussex, allegedly at a cost of £25 million, which by the usual cost assessments standard, will doubtless end up as £75 million, but should benefit everyone in the long run. It could be argued that they can’t build properties at the rate they are when they’d likely be under water in 20 years, or less, so perhaps this tactic of smothering the area in ever more houses will help guarantee its safety from inundation by the sea. Inundation by people and cars however, I mean to say, I’ve noticed there have been gaps in the traffic jams recently, and we can’t have that, more should be done to make the traffic jams continuous, to keep track with the unreliability of the rail service. Also, to sustain the global warming which is coming along so nicely, we clearly need ever more humans, driving ever more cars, and using ever more fossil fuels, unless of course that wise old sage Donald Trump is right in his climate change denial, probably is, as he’s another super intelligent President elect, much in the same mould imtellectually as that former Pres, George W Bush, they both ‘know words and stuff’. Just tuck that soap box away for now.
And finally, with Greg Lake of ‘Emerson Lake and Palmer’, passing away this week, some lyrics from his fine addition to the Christmas song catalogue.
I wish you a hopeful christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The christmas we get we deserve
Goodbye 2016, Farewell old Friends, Bring on 2017
2016 is coming to a close, and the year has shot by in a blur despite being filled with events, happy, sad, and indifferent. I’ve managed a pitiful two blogs this year, not because there was nothing to write about, quite the opposite, just that events and, more importantly, life have kept me busy. Mainly, I have at last made the transition from carpenter, to, ‘Building and Planning Consultant’, which basically means I now draw the jobs rather than build them. This transition means that I can earn money from working at home, which in turn allows me to keep Ma n Pa leading a reasonably decent existence, especially considering their health issues over the last couple of years.
I can honestly say this is the first Christmas I’ve looked forward to in a long time, and that is down to a lot of things, but mainly because Ma n Pa are in good enough health to enjoy it this year, so I’ll be putting up the dec’s, which will doubtless amuse, delight, bewilder, and even horrify many of my friends. I’ve long been known as what the yanks would call a ‘Grinch’, referring to this time of year as ‘Shitmas’. All I can say is, people have the right to change, and I’m looking forward to being full of Christmas spirit. I would point out that we are a generally happy household all year round, but not insanely so, we’re not hopped up on happy pills.
There are things that have passed without me having commented on, such as the heartbreakingly sad passing away of friends. Two well-known Shoreham characters, Steve Williams, and Jack McKale, went last year, (2015), and at the time everyone was shell shocked. Jack went in May, loveliest of men, ardent Celtic fan, cracking company, oft seen around town either in his scaffolding truck, or at the bar of one of Shoreham’s many pubs. I can still see his face, hear his lovely Scottish accent welcoming me, “all right Andy boy” in his Glaswegian brogue, doubtless softened by years of living dahn saff with us southern softies. He always greeted you with a big smile and a welcoming arm outstretched. He had bought a small motor cruiser with the idea of fitting it out and living on it at Brighton Marina, sadly he died while asleep on it in Sussex Yacht Club boat park. It’s a nice way to go, peacefully in your sleep, but he was only 68 and those that knew and loved the man were robbed of his eternally buoyant spirit.
Later that year, one of Jack’s great buddies, Steve Williams, died aged just 64, finally defeated by the cancer he had been fighting for so long, or related at least to the damage that dreadful disease wreaks upon the human body. Like so many others, I’ve known Steve all my drinking life, but by no means limited to pub life. He was one of those larger than life characters, always dreaming of the next big adventure, whether it be making good in the latest solar technology, or converting an old barn in France. When I first met him, he was a smartly dressed Dapper Dan, dealing in stainless welding supplies, and the Lady Jane was the drinking focus of Shoreham Beach. He was part of a crowd of wildly amusing young people, yet still stood out. Steve loved a good joke told to him, and when mobile phones came on the scene, he, like many others, enjoyed this new medium for sharing jokes quickly. As I was one of the ‘many others’, we’d often be swapping whichever unrepeatable effort was doing the rounds, there really was nothing quite so rewarding as seeing him crack up at some diabolically filthy, or unbelievably stupid joke.
To use an old term, Jack and Steve have, ‘gone to their great reward’, which would be apt for them both, as they richly deserve rewarding for the amount of smiles they put on others faces. I hope if I get a reward, they’re there to welcome me, with a Guinness ready.
Squire bought a camper this year, in the hope we might make it along to see his half brother, Ian Ramus, in Taunton. When I first traced Ian, he had no idea that he even had a brother, or that his father had been married before. After confirming the family links for him, Ian and his lovely wife, Jill, made the trip down to see us in 2013, and it went like a dream. We were hoping to visit them a year later, not long after Squire had recovered from a bout of pneumonia. The trip was booked, but not long before we were due to go, Ma went down with Deep Vein Thrombosis, so hospital visits followed by home treatment, and a lifetime ahead of warfarin injections, put paid to that trip. Almost a year from the pneumonia, Squire went down with Cellulitis, the after effects of which left him with a left leg too painful to walk far. Despite all these debilitating ailments, they carry on in fine sprits, helped in no small amount by access to a local pool and spa a few days a week, courtesy of a lovely friend. We still hope to visit Ian and Jill, but it will have to be in 2017 now I guess, as this year just slipped away again. Next year Squire will be 90, so I’m determined to keep him and Ma healthy enough to enjoy it, and get them out and about in the camper as much as possible, including the trips along to Goring to walk Fred.
One of the highlights of 2016 was the trip along to Robertsbridge, for our cousin Nicola’s surprise 60th birthday party. The Courtney Bennett’s are Ma’s side of the family, and Nicola’s birthday bash was the perfect way to make our inaugural trip in the newly acquired camper, in fact, it was the party that motivated Squire to step up his efforts and buy this one. Like all of our cousins, we get on easily in each other’s company, and as this had the added bonus of also being a camping trip, we could bring the pup, Fred, too. It took us a while to find the place, it’s up near Battle, but once there, we could unwind. Cousin Hannah has a lovely place with a field for a back garden, complete with horse jumps, stable, and plenty of room to set up camp. While we (me actually) were almost comically inept at setting up the camper, admiring glances and complimentary comments were made towards ‘Daisy’, the previous owners name for it.
Fred loved the location from the off, although he was a bit apprehensive about the rough ground, but soon acclimatised to it. In no time he was with the pack of other dogs running free about the place. There were marquees, barbecue’s, tables, plenty of food and drink, and wonderful company, the theme being ‘Bright’, so a nice collection of vibrant shirts and dresses gave a colourful addition to the already brightly decorated everything.
Fred C B had earlier put me right regarding the winding mechanism for getting the awning cover out, which gave us cause for amusement at my expense. Later that night I was filling the air with expletives as I failed miserably to locate the lighting switch. David found it in about 30 seconds, much to my simultaneous relief and irritation. The event went perfectly, rounded off by speeches from Nicola, her husband, Alan, and her daughter, Lorne, who was the driving force behind the idea.
The next day was tidy up followed by barbecue breakfast, I got egg duty, which is no mean trick, frying eggs on a barby, but I think I got away with it. It’s impossible to relate quite what a good time it was, but it meant so much to be able to get Ma n Pa up there for the occasion, and the camper meant we could do it in comfort, plus, any excuse that brings the cousins together is a reason to celebrate.
It's funny how I spend most of my waking moments thinking like a book I’m reading, yet as I sit here it’s hard to recall enough of those thoughts to share them again with whoever is checking this blog out. Which is testimony I guess to why it needs to be regularly updated, write it down while it’s still fresh in my mind. I hope that this new found vocation of drawing building plans will allow me to do just that. 53 years old, and starting out afresh, it feels quite exciting, in a subdued quinquagenarian kind of way.
The Great Storm. 23rd March 1913
At a recent auction of old postcards and photo’s, held at Toovey’s auction rooms in Washington, West Sussex, the collection of the late Maurice Stevens was apparently sold for over £40,000. Among this vast collection of rare photographic memorabilia, covering most of the known world, lay moments in the history of Sussex captured on film, and a surprising coincidence, given this Easter Weekend storm just gone.
Thanks to the Toovey’s website, many of these images were available to view, and download. It was quite a trawl, there were some 30 pages, each of 50 lots, from just a single picture, to some lots of over 700 photo’s and postcards. I started downloading Shoreham images, then any surrounding towns, until I noticed I had been seeing many different images of storm damage during March, 1913. From Worthing to Hastings, and all coastal towns in between and beyond, there was devastation caused by the storm which hit the south coast on the Easter weekend, at midnight, Saturday 22nd March 1913. The events of that stormy night were reported all across Britain, and can be accessed through British Newspaper Archives online.
Reporting in the Sunderland Daily Echo on Monday 24th March, stated that,
‘Worthing was the town to suffer most. Huge seas repeatedly broke over the parade, flooding the adjacent streets. Shortly after midnight about 200 yards of the pier were swept bodily away, completely isolating the pavilion and the landing stages at the far end.’
The Echo continued:-
‘The scene of the front yesterday morning was one of indescribable confusion. Huge piles of shingle and wreckage made the parade east of the pier well nigh impassable to pedestrians, whilst a number of iron seats from the pier were found on the beach more than a mile distant.’
Havoc in Bungalow Town
Bungalow Town, as Shoreham Beach was known in the early 1900’s, was like an early version of Hollywood, with stars of the entertainment world choosing to live on this bohemian shingle bank. The elaborate wooden beach front bungalows which had sprung up from Shoreham to Lancing were extremely vulnerable to heavy storms, the Lichfield Mercury reported on Friday 28th March:-‘Bungalow Town for a distance of more than a mile between Lancing and Shoreham was devastated. Fifteen structures at least disappeared, and about the same number are irretrievably damaged. Thanks to warnings on Saturday evening the danger to life was reduced, but seven persons, mostly visitors, were temporarily isolated in a bungalow where they had a terrifying experience until the receding tide permitted of their release in the early hours of the morning. A man named Doick was blown into the Widewaters (a stretch of shallow water between the beach and the main road) during the height of the gale, and was rescued in the nick of time. Artificial respiration had to be resorted to before consciousness was restored’.
Describing the resulting damage, the Lichfield Mercury goes on:-
‘The damaged bungalows are twisted out of shape, and several appear on the point of collapsing. The shingle bank was strewn with heaps of bedding, furniture, and other household goods that had been hurriedly removed from the threatened residences. The sea defences also suffered extensive damage’,
further on it states:- ‘
‘At one point the shingle bank on which the bungalows stood has been moved inland a distance of nearly a hundred yards, completely altering the contour of the coast, and only the main Brighton to Worthing road, which rests on a bank of clay, now stands between the sea and 400 or 500 acres of low-lying land on either side of the railway. The main road between Lancing and Worthing was impassable owing to accumulations of shingle and wreckage’
The 'Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette', Monday 24th March 1913, wrote of Hove and Brighton:-
'Sea’s inroads at Hove'
'The eastern end of the Hove Esplanade was partly washed away. The ashphalte slope which marks off the long parade at West Hove from the beach disappeared, and the sea carried the shingle over the ashphalte and left it there to a depth of several inches. Yesterday large gangs of men were busy clearing a path two feet wide.'
'Brighton was saved to some extent by an abundance of beach accumulated by stone groynes, but a considerable amount of damage was done. The swimming stage at the head of the Palace Pier, on the east side, was practically destroyed, while the doors of several arches on the Lower Esplanade were forced in. Volk’s Electric Railway was torn up in parts. Portions of the wreckage from Worthing Pier were washed up on the shore at the point whence the old chain pier projected.'
While the Lichfield Mercury states:-
‘Brighton also can scarcely remember a gale so fierce. On Saturday afternoon it began with a sudden whirlwind, followed by torrential rains. As the night came on the wind increased, and for several hours blew with hurricane force. Houses seemed to be shaken to their foundations, and there was general alarm. Much damage was done to the front, which on Sunday morning presented an extraordinary appearance. The sea in places made great in-roads, and at the most easterly end the road-way was torn up. At this point so completely was the road covered with stones thrown up by the waves that it was closed to vehicular traffic. On the trim bowling greens at King’s Cliff fishing and other boats found a safe anchorage. Several boats were smashed to pieces. Some arches on the under parade were considerably battered, and the “sea-going electric railway” was in parts demolished.’
Flooding at Hastings
Of the Hastings storm damage, the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette writes, Monday 24th March 1913:-
‘On Saturday midnight the tide at Hastings was the highest for years. It was accompanied by heavy wind, and considerable damage was done along the seafront. The rough seas dashed past the Memorial Clock Tower some distance from the front, and numbers of basements were flooded.’
The Lichfield Mercury reported:-
'At several points along the front at Hastings the sea broke through and flooded the low lying parts of the town. There is a large rent in the sea-wall and many sections of the road have been torn up. On Sunday the cricket ground was a large lake. Shop fronts were blown in, and others on the sea front were broken by the waves. The bandstand was damaged, and the space on which the audience was to have listened to the music on Sunday was covered by hundreds of tons of shingle.'
Good morning world, I'm back!
Thank you N.H.S
A year and a half ago, life took a turn for the worse, albeit temporarily, when my dad caught pneumonia, at 87 years old that's no small thing. Thanks to the N.H.S he recovered, and bit by bit he has managed to get back to a comfortable existence again, with just a few changes to the daily routine. We even go swimming three times a week, and there is a hot tub and steam room there too, all courtesy of a friends hospitality. Life has been good, and especially good on those three days.
While this process has been going on I've put the blogging on the back burner so to speak. This is a tentative attempt to get back in the rhythm, so I hope the two of you will be patient, presuming you're both still out there!
Two weeks back, having kicked the week off in the usual manner, driving my dad to the office at 05.30 to turn on computers and empty bins each day, on the Wednesday the temperatures had dropped, there was a frost. When we got home, about 6.30, he was suddenly feeling very cold, unwell, and shaking uncontrollably, symptoms he'd had for the pneumonia, but he was adamant he didn't want a doctor called. I wrapped him up, got hot water bottles, heated bean bags in the microwave, and tried to keep him warm and comfortable as possible. Oh, and he had started hiccuping, as he did when he had pneumonia.
He seemed to improve, but as the evening came on, deteriorated again, so we called the surgery. A doctor told us we were too late for a visit, but that a temperature, plus the other symptoms, suggested it would be wise to get the old fella seen sooner rather than later, so we got on to the out of hours N.H.S doc.
After being taken through an assessment over the phone by the 111 operator, we were told a doctor would be here at some point during the evening. Within the hour he arrived, and gave the old man a thorough work up, listened to our summary of events, plus history of pneumonnia, and diagnosed a chest infection, prescribing Amoxicillin. He also explained to us that rather than wrap him up to keep him warm, the 'rigors' (shaking) he had been experiencing, were a sign of being over heated, so it turned out my instinct to wrap him up was making things worse, his body needed to regulate itself. Just having had the doctor visit seemed to allay our concerns, and put the old man at ease.
The following day, (Thursday), he came down stairs hobbling, he now had an inflamed leg, swollen, red, and painful, still hiccuping. As soon as the surgery opened at 8.o'clock we called again, and another visit was booked. This time the doc checked the old fella over, declared the chest ok, and diagnosed cellulitis instead. Stop taking the Amoxicillin, and now he was on Flucloxicillin. He smiled when the subject of hiccups was raised, but went no further with it, but advised us to keep an eye on the leg, and call again should it get worse.
On the Friday there seemed to be no real improvement, but presumed the antibiotics would need time to get to work in his system, the hiccups were what was wearing the old boy down most though, and we were going through all the suggested remedies we could find, eating a spoonful of brown sugar, a spoonful of Nutella, breathing into and out of a brown paper bag, holding his breath, counting to ten over and over, drinking water through a straw, (which made him sick), nothing worked. Later it occurred to me that coca cola might clear it with the bubbles, I googled it, and one suggestion was to gargle coke. This worked for the duration, and ten minutes after, then they came back, a second can did nothing.
Over the weekend, there was no improvement, and the hiccups were still there, which he found the most debilitating, despite the discomfort of the inflamed leg. We called the surgery Monday morning, and Dr Hammond came out, quickly assessing that progress was not being made, in fact it seemed to be travelling upwards, not a good sign, septicaemia was a possibility. He asked if I could get dear old Da to hospital, within half an hour, he needed intravenous antibiotics. The Dr explained that Worthing has an Emergency Floor Ambulatory Care Area, where he might be treated without the need to be admitted, and he gave us a letter to give to the reception there, explaining the situation. We packed an overnight bag just in case, and drove to Worthing, arriving around 13.30.
At the Emergency Floor A.C.A, (an impressive looking unit, and one of just five in the country apparently), we were first seen by a smiling, busy, young Philipino nurse, Joy, who took blood samples, and fitted a canula for the I.V antibiotics. The head nurse, James, talked us through the condition called Cellulitis, and explained the procedure which would likely follow. Later on a rather chic lady doctor came to see dad, and asked whether he would like to be admitted, he said he'd rather go home if allowable. As long as we could get him back and forth for his I.V doses that was fine, every twelve hours at first, and then every 24 hours after 4 doses. We were home by 5 that evening, in time for me to prepare the Trough for our Monday night family Sunday dinner.
For the next seven days, the procedure continued, with the doses going up from 400mg, to 600, and finally to 800 mg of teicoplanin, as the bacteria proved reluctant to desist. Blood tests, doctors reviews, waiting, crosswords, and the old boys favourite, hot chocolate at the League of Friends canteen area, until finally they were happy to release him in to the care of his G.P, and antibiotics in tablet form, Flucloxacillin again. The hiccups had also grown more shallow, and yesterday they were gone, and still are thankfully.
The treatment throughout by the N.H.S at every stage was brilliant, I can't sing their praises highly enough. Even on the day of the doctors strike, (which I fully support), they had cover, and everything went smoothly. I tooted my support for the pickets at the entrance, both on the way in, and out. To see them at work on a daily basis, you appreciate what an amazing job they do, and with a smile on their faces, despite on occasion, some really quite difficult patients.
Today I took our dearly beloved pops for a swim and luke warm tub, and life has resumed some form of relaxed normality. Thank you N.H.S, screw you Jeremy Hunt, you utter disgrace to humanity.