What goes around, comes around

The Invitation

263575_2219354405691_774685_nMore than two years ago now the idea came to me. I was watching a TV programme and a lollypop lady who had been working for 30 years was retiring and so people had put her name forward to attend the Queens Garden Party. It became apparent to me that it was now possible for ordinary people to receive such an invitation and that got me thinking. My mum, who’s services to society have never been recognised before could perhaps finally have her day.

When my mum was younger she had fostered many young children and finally having taken me at the age of two, temporarily, in the early sixties she had kept me. I stayed until I left home and I’ve been part of the family ever since. All this while looking after three of her own children.

Later in life she spent many years acting as a carer for my dad who developed a muscle wasting decease and became increasingly difficult to look after until the end ten years ago. Surely, I thought, fostering and caring, two of the least recognised services to society ought to be recognised in some way? Why not an invitation to the Queens Garden Party?

2015-08-02 13.51.40I began to wonder how you might go about getting such an invitation and if I succeeded what would be involved. I decided the best thing to do to get an invitation was to write to the Queen. I realised this probably wouldn’t work but hoped that it might provide some leads. Sure enough it did indeed pay dividends. The Queens Lady in Waiting sent me a posh letter to say that although the Queen was moved by my story she did not issue the invitations directly and that the best thing for me to do would be to contact a Lord Tollemache who would review the submissions for the Garden Party in my mums area. He, it seems, was the man with the plan.

At this point the plan stalled for a year. I forgot to write to Lord Tollemache for a while and when I got around to it I realised I was probably too late to get an invitation for that year. I decided to wait.

At the end of the year I suddenly remembered it all again and wondered if I might be still in time? I’d lost Lord Tollemaches address by now but, hey, that’s what the net is for right? I found the relevant council and got the number for his office. I decided to call and see if it was worth making a submission. A very nice lady called Valerie said that I was in fact only just in time for submissions and would need to write mine that very day and e-mail it to her for consideration with all the others the next day. I duly wrote my letter explaining about my mum and also mentioned that my sister is also now a fosterer having raised her own family and seen them fly the nest. I asked that she be the person to accompany my mother should the submission be successful. One thing was for sure, I wouldn’t be the best person to accompany her (I’m more than a little scruffy and not exactly a royalist). I got my submission in in time and now there was nothing else for it but to wait.

This is where the story becomes a bit of a farce I’m afraid so deep breathe..

I waited a few weeks wondering if my application had been successful. I was actually wondering if I would hear anything anyway, as, if I was successful, it might be that the invitation would just be sent to my mum. I get a phone call one day from Valerie, she explains that I was indeed successful and my mother would be invited to the Queens Garden Party. This was actually the reason for her call because an initial letter had been sent to my mum asking for details (security type questions) and she had had no reply. Did I know what had happened? It was getting close to the deadline and she needed to know if my mum wanted to go.

Until now I had not mentioned the plan to anyone as I was hoping to get away without anyone knowing I had done it. My cover was clearly blown! I figured my sister would know if anything had been received as I was sure my mum would show her any unusual letters. In fact I had been counting on this. I thought my mum would show the letter/invitation to my sister who would realise its importance and help her deal with it. I decided to ring her and ask about the letter. She said that she did think that there had been a letter but that they had decided it must be some kind of scam and that it would be best to throw it away. Aaargh! I called my mum and asked her about the letter, sure enough she had received it but had indeed thrown it away not realising its importance. I explained what it was about and asked if she would like to go. She would. Back to the drawing board.

I had to call Valerie the next day and explain that I hoped she wouldn’t take it personally but my mum had thrown her letter out by mistake. Could she resend it? Fortunately, she saw the funny side of it and said she could. I Called my mum again and impressed upon her that she needed to reply quickly with the relevant information. She did. Same day as the letter arrived it was sent back. Laughs all round.

Now the planning begins. Train tickets to book. Dresses and hats to buy. A second letter arrives with details of the day and timings. Apparently the actual invitation won’t arrive until nearer the day.

Family visit

I’ve just been visiting the family (I live in Brighton they live in Ipswich) and the importance of the day seems to have been grasped now and everyone is happy they are going. So here I am sitting on my train home having paid a visit to everyone, safe in the knowledge that the next time I see my mum and sister they will be all dolled up, hats and all, ready to attend The Queens Garden Party!

More farce coming up..

I get a call from my mum. Apparently my sister has now received her invitation to the Palace! That’s the good news, unfortunately its now two week later and my mum hasn’t received hers! Looks like there’s more drama to come. Next day I call my old friend Valerie (at least she feels like an old friend by now) and ask her if this seems normal or if I should be doing something about it. She confirms my fears, it’s not normal and I should do something about it.

Apparently the invitation comes from the Lord Chamberlains office which is part of Buckingham Palace so it looks like I’m gonna need to call her madge’s place. Valerie gives me a “name” and so I make the call. Reception asks for a name and thanks to Valerie I’ve got one, I’m transferred. A very posh lady comes onto the phone (I thought Valerie was posh up to this point) and confirms the invitation should indeed have arrived by now as it had been sent at the same time as my sisters. Hmm. This could be trouble. We discuss what to do and as we do we confirm the address it was sent to. Ah! Its gone to number 6 and not number 16! That explains why she hasn’t got it, what to do now? I suggest to the posh lady that I get my mum to call at number 6 and see if by some miracle they have kept it thinking it was important (the Buckingham Palace stamp should have given it away). I agree to call the Palace the next day either way.

I call my mum and ask her to go to number 6 and see if they have the invite, she calls back later to say that there was no one in. I suggest we wait until the evening, they’re probably at work and will be back by then. Mum calls around in the evening, proof of identity in hand (sweet touch I thought considering she’s in her seventies), she explains that it might sound crazy but they haven’t by any chance got an important looking letter hanging around? Indeed they have! Got it a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t decide what to do about it. Bingo, invitation in hand she calls me back, jobs a good’un. I call the Palace the next day (as you do, I’ve got the posh ladies direct number by now) and confirm we have the invite and all is well, MI5 will not be needed after all!

So three weeks away and I’ve got my train tickets, they’ve got their train tickets. My mum has a snazzy new outfit including shoes, dress, hat and handbag. My sister is on the job for herself too. I’ve begun writing an hour by hour schedule for the day just to be sure nothing goes wrong. Fingers crossed.

And so to the day

265152_2219352365640_4794234_n261739_2219352125634_5341970_nThe ball is in my court to start with. I’ve got to catch a train to London and make my way across London to Liverpool Street in time to meet my mum and sister as they come in from the other direction. I’m the pathfinder for the day and it’s my job to make sure all goes smoothly. I get to London and discover there is no tube station at Blackfriars despite what it says on my London A-Z (closed for works). No choice but to hot foot it to the next stop, I get there and the circle line is having points trouble, apparently I could be sitting in this circle line train for a long time. I get off, hot foot it north to find a Central line station, finally I’m on a tube to Liverpool Street. Success, I get to Liverpool Street and they aren’t due in for ten minutes so at this point all is well. Deep breathes.

271035_2219354685698_5520148_n261738_2219355285713_8386606_nTheir train arrives at the platform as scheduled and after a while they appear out of the crowd trying to exit the platform. Some photos and hugs etc and we are on our way. I’m going to take them to Westminster first so it’s a case of central line to Bond Street and then South. We have our faith in humanity restored on the trains as young gentlemen give up their seats for mum on both trains, most definitely appreciated. By the time we are on Westminster Bridge we’re nicely on time so we take in the view of Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, The Thames and the London Eye. As we leave I have to help a lady carry something heavy up the stairs from the tube as she is struggling and comment to my mum and sister that “What goes around, comes around” and that’s the theme for the day.

262211_2219352525644_2754376_nJust one stop back on ourselves to Embankment now and then we walk up to Trafalgar Square, time for photos. I nearly lose my mum’s hat at this point as the wind catches it and blows it away but luckily someone catches it for me, “What goes around, comes around”. Time for something to eat and drink and the National Gallery Cafe is perfect for the task. We’re actually early at this point (according to my minute by minute plan anyway) so I decide to show them some paintings in the National Gallery. Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Monet and a few others, not bad aye? My mum enjoys this because there are lots of school kids busily drawing the paintings. They’ve been given pieces of paper with blank frames on them and have to find the matching frames and then draw the painting in the blank space. Nice teaching guys well done.

262368_2219353365665_2033458_n264648_2219354965705_5478283_nWe leave The National Gallery, cross Trafalgar Square and walk down The Mall. At this point we start to fit in, as people with posh outfits begin to appear from all directions, all the ladies wearing hats. When we reach Buckingham Palace we duck into Green Park so that mum and Sue can change their shoes and put their hats on. We’re not the only ones doing this. All dolled up its time for them to join the queue alongside The Palace. It looks worse than it is at it begins to move straight away and slowly we edge our way to the gates. Passports checked they pass through and that’s all I can say about that. Job done. They’re in.

264634_2219354245687_3475210_n269494_2219353725674_1181001_nI’ve got some time to kill now so I walk up The Mall but get side tracked by St.James’s Park. The sun is shining and they have some comfortable looking deck chairs just waiting to be sat in. As I walk in and start to choose my deck chair someone comes up to me and asks me if I’m going to use them I comment that I am and he gives me a ticket. He and his wife had just paid for them but had decided to leave, “What goes around, comes around”. So I get to sit on my deck chair and relax in the knowledge it won’t even cost me anything. I hadn’t planned to but I spend the next couple of hours relaxing and exploring St.James’s Park, very nice, can recommend it.

Its soon time to go and see if they are coming out so back to Green Park and wait for a few minutes before the call comes to say they are indeed out. Cross the road and there they are. Seem to have had a good time although I gather the tea wasn’t up to my mums standards, shocking!

We walk across Green Park and up to Green Park Tube station. They get a glimpse of The Ritz although its not a good time to see it as there is building work going on. Into the tube station and before you know it we’ve been transported to Covent Garden, where the lifts suitably amuse my mum who hasn’t seen anything like them.

268030_2219354485693_6354997_nCovent Garden is its usual self and after a brief look around we settle on a nice looking place to have a meal and sit down. Its Italian and they have beef something or other while I set about a large pizza. Feels like we could be in any European capital, sunshine, lots of people and good food. With a beer as reward for my efforts I’m happy to see the day end so well. We have a further walk around Covent Garden after the meal and stop for a coffee to plan our next move. Simple enough, tube to Liverpool St. and goodbyes on the platform. Great day!

Bridget Riley at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

2015-07-04 11.03.47My first thoughts on Bridget Riley are that she must have the patience of a saint. Her work is effectively ‘technical painting’ and as such must be very time consuming to do and test her patience to the utmost. Because the work is so technical I struggled at first to see past the production process and found myself studying the paintings up close to observe her technique. At this point I should say that through some good curation there is a small room dedicated to explaining her methodology and this was enlightening as it shows just how rigid it is. I’d go so far as to say relentless in its pursuit of perfection. A lot of these paintings are visual representations of Math and strangely the elements I like are where it appears her painting technique has let her down but when you analyse the ‘mistake’ you come to realise the error is in the code not the artist.

My overall feeling from this exhibition is that this is an artist who is struggling to leave her past behind. She needs to free herself from the artistic jail she has put herself in. There is a large painting in this exhibition that was painted on a wall and the wall was brought over from Germany for this exhibition. This painting is more recent and actually shows Bridget ‘breaking out’ of her own constraints with elements leaving the traditional box she works in. This is an encouraging sign for the future. The women I spoke to about the exhibition seemed to feel her rhythm more and so I wonder if this isn’t something to think about. I have a friend who is into jazz and I’m going to ask him to go to the show to see if he can feel it. Personally I’ve never had any so its not a surprise I can’t see it here.

Whilst going around the exhibition I couldn’t help thinking Bridget should be a print maker and I discovered afterwards she does indeed do a lot of that, I suspect I would like this work more than her paintings.

I’ll be honest, even as someone who has worked in a similar ‘technical’ way Bridget Rileys paintings are not for me. Most of them I would find hard to have on my walls because of the optical illusions (I’m not a fan of magic and trickery and thats really all these are) so prevalent. I should say however that there is some beautiful painting going on here and one or two would sit nicely on my walls without issue. I would certainly encourage everyone to attend and make their own mind up.

2015-07-03 12.55.44Many thanks to my friend Millie for being my driver on this occasion and for a lovely day. We liked Bexhill and both prefered it to Hastings and Eastbourne. It seems a little more relaxed and family friendly. All the workers serving teas, fish and chips etc were nice and helpful so there’s some good customer service. Millie wasn’t impressed by the ladies loos in De La Warr, so maybe a little work to do there guys. The De La Warr is a great venue and quite frankly Brighton should be ashamed of itself that it has nothing to match it.

The bitter taste of Wembleys luminous green dildo

2015-05-23 16.55.55Dildo. There are some people in the world when faced with a question simply retrieve the last thought in their head and respond with that. ‘Chip butty’ is one such person. His assertion that Wembley looks like a dildo (luminous green at night) was at first hard to follow but after much discussion and beer everything became as clear as mud.

To begin with though we met in The Cyclist on Brighton Station, I was pleasantly surprised by this venue and will use it more in future. We then split up with one half buying bacon butties and the other beer. The train journey rather helpfully provided an appropriate time to consume these. After that I remember a fair amount of laughing, drinking beer and taking the piss out of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ who took it well I thought, as we crossed London hitting The shakespear – Victoria and Victoria and Albert – Marylebone along the way to Wembley.

2015-05-23 16.38.582015-05-23 14.59.08‘Chip butty’ took over the task of scout once we got to Wembley until we quickly realised he couldn’t scout for toffee and began to check his home work only to find we were walking in totally the wrong direction. Having turned him around we eventually found a suitable pub for more beer The Crock of Gold and after that another pub The Torch for more beer. At which point we found the Wycombe massive finally. Before we knew it, it was time to get to the ground and some needed feeding. So walked to the ground taking pictures as we went, ‘Zebra’ still happy and optimistic at this point. Burgers were purchased just outside the ground and there were sharp intakes of breathe at the price needless to say.

2015-05-23 17.24.452015-05-23 17.24.53Into the ground. Excellent seats provide a great view of the spectacle to come. ‘Zebra’ starting to get a little pensive but generally still positive at this point. Wembley layed out before us seemingly smaller than I had imagined. Actually, better than I had imagined, with the ground enclosing the pitch to create a great atmosphere when there’s a good crowd. A modern day amphitheatre well suited to the drama to follow.

Kick-off. Wycombe v Southend. An entertaining first half swung both ways with Wycombe edging things slightly by half time. More food for ‘Chip butty’ who seems to have a worm he needs to feed constantly. Second half was more even, no goals, although Wycombe could have finished it late on. ‘Zebra’ getting pretty fidgety by now.

2015-05-23 19.38.222015-05-23 19.50.48First half of extra time and there it is, Goal!, Wycombe take the lead excellent freekick and now just need to hang on. They immediately start rushing the ball to the corner and wasting time at every possible opportunity, ‘zebra’ not happy with this at all. Time burns down and the Wycombe fans start to believe but fatally they sing ‘You’re not singing anymore’ at which point I knew what was coming and in extra extra time time Southend equalise. ‘Zebra’ fights back the tears, ‘chip butty’ wakes up and ‘You never walk alone’ keeps his council out of respect. Its down to penalties now.

Penalties. Again first blow is struck by Wycombe with Southend missing one and Wycombe need to score three penalties in a row to win. They don’t. More penalties. Culminating in Southend players rushing across the pitch (although it seemed to me to be happening in slow motion) and silence around me. Defeat.

2015-05-23 21.30.34We exit the ground and decide to console ourselves with more food and beer. Wembley Tandoori is chosen and food, after match discussion and beer (or JD & coke) follows. It seems to go down well and spirits pick up a bit. Time to make our way home starting with getting to Victoria. At which point ‘Zebra’ and ‘Chip butty’ go one way and ‘6fish’ and ‘You never walk alone’ go another.

Many thanks to ‘Zebra’ for the experience, much appreciated despite the outcome. There’s always next season ‘Zebra’ as the dad will have told his crying son in front of us (the lasting memory of the day, a lifetime of football disaster and joy ahead of him). Thanks also to ‘Chip butty’ for amusing us all just by being ‘Chip butty’ and thanks to You’ll never walk alone also.

A lament for Ipswich my retired Dell Dimension 8300

2015-05-04 11.02.43I bought Ipswich approximately ten years ago and everyday I’ve spent in the flat since that time he’s booted up and done his job for me. In the beginning he was the bright, shiny, new thing. A replacement for my previous computer. Close to the top end of the range for the time he was fast, mean and tough! As the years passed, while he was busy working, technology was inexorably catching up with him until, at the end, his operating system was out of date. His battery on the motherboard could hardly power him up in the morning (he took two or three attempts to get going, but never failed). He has far too little RAM for modern tasks, the processor is now slow in comparison etc etc. Time caught up with him.

Ipswich is exceptional because all my other computers died before they were replaced. They inevitably die and I always replace them but Ipswich stood firm, like an old dog he struggled towards the end to get to his feet. But every day he managed it and metaphorically wagged his tail at me saying what’s for today Paul!

Ipswich, the best computer I ever owned has now been ‘retired’, he does still work, I booted him for the last time yesterday, but time has caught up with him and he had to be replaced. Farewell Ipswich, you’ll be much missed.

Marlene Dumas and the great heist

dumas03dumas01dumas02My friend Millie kindly treated me to tickets to the Marlene Dumas show currently at the Tate Modern and so my thanks to her for a great day. I have to confess I’m new to Marlene Dumas and so although I thought I would like her show based on the prep work I’d done I couldn’t be sure. No need for concern, this is a wonderful show and well worth a visit. Millie pointed out to me at the end of the show that its a bit dour but I’ll be honest and say that I hadn’t noticed that during the show though concede she has a point.

Marlene’s work is, at its best, very, very beautiful. She has a great touch and style and the work oozes quality. There’s a debt to Egon Schiele to be paid and Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon among others, but she’s found her own voice and it feels as though she’s managed to free herself from the history of art (never easy). She has a nice sense of humour and you will find kooky comedy moments throughout the exhibition. These are exagerated by the very poncy write ups for each painting (curators, less is more people). Almost all aspects of life are encountered from sex to death to current affairs, although strangely I saw no reference to birth but perhaps I missed it. Ah, no, I didn’t miss it, its in the catalogue but sadly missing from the exhibition, not sure why but very unfortunate. This makes the exhibition feel like an unfinished painting in retrospect.

All in all I highly recommend this show, wonderful paintings.

After the show we were forced to conduct a heist on the appalling rail system here in the UK. Forced to book train tickets in advance (a pet hate of mine) we were restricted to only travelling on one specific train home (another pet hate of mine). Theoretically meaning we should sit on a train platform and let perfectly good trains pass by half empty while we waited for ours (a further pet hate of mine). We didn’t, and got away with travelling on the wrong trains to get home a little earlier. Feeling like criminals all the way home despite having paid for our journey.

Marlene Dumas – Superb
Tate Modern – Good (would have been better if the show had been curated better)
Privatised railway system – Bollocks
Companion – Superb (many thanks)

Spy in the camp

Brighton 0 v 1 Brentford

I’m going to get to see a few Brighton games this season and this was the first. Very enjoyable day with beer either side of the game. Brighton had their chances in this game but their attack is pretty toothless and they payed the price for that when Brentford scored on the half hour. An unfortunate sending off in the second half brought Brightons fight back to a grinding halt and effectively ended the game, although Brighton had a great chance to equalise with minutes to go. There’s work to be done for the new manager here and my critique of the side can be seen below if he’s interested.

Thanks to Chris for taking me along, I’m hoping to see better results from Brighton (I’ve lived here for thirty years despite being an Ipswich fan) starting next Saturday 😉


Notes for Ipswich fans: Brentford shaded this game but nothing more. Brightons full backs are their weakness and if Tyrone is playing he should be given permission to attack hard, there’s plenty of joy to be had down that side of the field. The defence as a whole can go all keystone cops every once in a while and thats how the goal came about on this occasion. The midfield seems nervous and tends to compress into the defence too soon and too much when on defence so long shots from our midfield and Murphy will be possible. Rohan Ince in the midfield is the quality in the Brighton side and will take some handling from our midfield. Can’t wait to see Hyam bounce off him 🙂 Didn’t see much in attack which matches what I saw when we beat them earlier in the season at home. The ground is great and there should be plenty of support on both sides.

Egon Schiele, the embankment and poppies at the Tower of London

2014-11-16 11.45.07Treasure brought back from my day trip to London with Erica and Ric. We went to see the Egon Schiele exhibition currently on at The Courtauld Gallery. For me personally this is a must see exhibition, Schiele is VERY rarely seen in the UK and so I urge you all to visit it while you can. It is a small show so this is also a good opportunity to look at the impressionists found on show in the courtauld’s permanent collection.

We also visited the Tower of London to just catch the poppies in the moat before it disappears for ever. I took a lot of nice photos for you all to see but my camera decided to eat them all and so there’s nothing to see here. Hard to say its moving as its such an enormous tourist attraction but for a brief second I did manage to connect with it and I’m happy with that.

We walked 20,000 steps (and quite a few of those were actually steps!) in the day and I haven’t been able to walk properly for two days now, ouch!

Thanks to Erica and Ric, it was a great day.

69 gays in Brighton

There are only so many questions one person can answer in a day and I went waaaay past what is reasonable today. As soon as I saw beer I managed to stop caring, and the JD blanked my mind snip snap. Highlights were the northerner saying ‘The gay’, wonderfully innocent like in Brighton, and the she who must remain nameless who was disappointed at no bites when she raised the subject of ’69’ (every man at the bar remained silent, afraid of being eaten alive).

Stanley Spencer and Fishbourne Roman Palace

Chichester01Had an excellent day out yesterday ( a rare day off) and visited the superb Stanley Spencer show currently running at Pallant House Gallery Chichester. Followed by a visit to the Roman Palace at Fishbourne.

I strongly urge you to make the time and go to see the Stanley Spencer show. Although not a large show the work is exceptional and this is a unique opportunity to see it outside of its normal residence. Trust me, make the time and go see it. As a bonus there are some Pallant House old favourites also to see including Kitaj, Bacon and Blake and also two little extra exhibitions that are worth a look. All in all excellent value.

I had not visited the Roman Palace at Fishbourne (just never quite got around to it). Its an incredible site to see and must have been an unbelievable discovery to have made for the original finders. Superb mosaic floors showing the power and wealth of the roman army.

In Chichester we also visited the cathedral of course and saw the Graham Sutherland painting and the Marc Chagall window. Lunch/tea was taken at St Martin’s Tea Rooms as recommended by http://www.fancyacuppa.co.uk/reviews/2012/12/13/st-martins-tea-rooms-chichester/. My friend was very happy with it. I couldn’t help thinking the pretty girls waiting on tables with their old fashioned aprons resembled ghosts from the past as their appearance is surely no different to that of one hundred years ago.

To finish we embarked on a dangerous adventure through darkness and countryside to have drinks and food at Anchor Bleu pub on the quay side at Bosham.

Thanks to my friend Millie for this treat, a superb birthday present.

Computing at school

I remember the computer at school (there was only one). It had its own room (it needed one it was so big). I wasn’t allowed in there, only top maths geeks were and I’d dropped out of A’ Level maths. I walked by once and the door was open and I got a peek of what they were doing. Printing pictures made from strings of text (very cool for the time).

I went on to spend my entire life working with and using computers but for that day they were like the sun, something on the horizon that I could see but never touch.