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Someday My Prints Will Come

I don't know about you (well, obviously I don't, I'm not even sure who you are) but Amazon and their associates have the happy ...

Friday, 23 December 2016

Doing The Christmas 'Do'

This month's Derby Telegraph article is all about a Christmas Social in the early 1970s.  Here's the Derby Telegraph link, but here's the article in the meantime:

I'm focusing this month's article on the accompanying photo as this is a prime example of the 'Christmas Do' at its best (or possibly worst).  The year must be 1973 or 1974 and we are at The Newton Park Hotel for Harold Wesley's Christmas Dinner and Dance.  This is a surprisingly 'posh' venue for a company that was not known for its generosity when it came to its employees.  For the avoidance of doubt (as all good solicitors say) the person on the far left, who looks rather like a Cocker Spaniel sniffing a woolly caterpillar, is me.

Having seen the photo, you may wonder how I managed to inveigle myself onto a table where the ratio of attractive women to men is 2:1?  In all honesty, it had nothing to do with my dazzling good looks and everything to do with being friends with Colin, at the other end of the table. 

I'm actually squirming with embarrassment, in the photo, on two counts.  Firstly, I have been encouraged to put my arm around the lady sitting next to me, which is fine but we're not actually together in any sense.  In fact, she is heavily pregnant (a condition which has been cunningly disguised by judicious arrangement of the tablecloth) so I'm feeling more than a little bit awkward.  She is, in fact, the elder sister of Colin's girlfriend, sitting on his right.  Secondly, you may note the half-bottle of spirits on the right hand side of the table, near to a voluminous handbag.  The size of the handbag is important because this was used to smuggle it in. The girls had all taken this precaution, as they clearly had a good idea of the likely cost of drinks at a hotel in the run-up to Christmas ,and had ordered an orange juice each at the start of the evening and then proceeded to dilute same with vodka thereafter.  As a fully paid up 'goody two shoes' I found this excruciatingly embarrassing and was constantly waiting for the Management's hand to fall on our shoulders and escort us from the building.

You may also notice the three-piece suit I'm wearing.   The suit was one of my first investments as a wage-earner and I rather think that this was its first official outing.  I had never owned a suit until I went to Burton's Menswear one Saturday and allowed myself to be talked into this made-to-measure, flared trousered, creation, for a small deposit and regular weekly payments.  I was even sold the accompanying shirt and tie on the same easy terms.  Unfortunately, it didn't have the most auspicious of beginnings.

Having taken pre-Christmas delivery, I was keen to christen it.  It was Saturday night, which was traditionally a night for getting dressed up and going out on the town, but the suit might have been seen as a little OTT, as I was only going down to The Coopers' Arms with my mate, Kevin.  For reasons that escape me, Kevin was getting ready at our house and was having a shave using our kitchen sink (bathrooms being an unimaginable luxury at that point).  I had already changed into the ensemble you see in the photo and was standing chatting to Kev, with me leaning against the draining board.  What I didn't realise was that Kev had the curious habit of lighting a cigarette and leaving it burning, whilst shaving, propped up in the corner of the draining board with the lit end uppermost.  The first I knew about this was when my arm became uncomfortably hot and I realised that smoke was billowing from my sleeve.  Kev's cigarette had burned a neat semi-circle into the sleeve of my brand new suit and shirt!  To say that I was a bit miffed would be understating it somewhat.  That we're still friends some 40+ years on, says something about the healing spirit of Christmas.

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my witterings throughout the year.  May I take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and pleasant Christmas and a wonderful 2017.

Fancy treating yourself to a last-minute stocking filler? Philip's collection of Christmas stories can be yours for just 99p on Amazon Kindle:

Monday, 19 December 2016

Another Brilliant Review for the Christmas Compendium!

I'm really pleased that people seem to like the new collection of seasonal stories 'A Christmas Cracker'.  This latest 5 star review, for example:

"I'm ITCS now, due to the author's comedic touch and nice line in self-deprecating humour. A mixture of Christmas comment, short stories and true tales, I recommend it for winding down after the deccies are up, the cards are done and no more forays into large towns are needed. Goes really well with a nice cup of tea and a warm mince pie."

Link to the review on Amazon

Why not find out just what is getting people ITCS (In The Christmas Spirit)?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Cracking Reviews!

Really pleased that my new collection of seasonal stories has already received two excellent reviews. Firstly, this one on

Witty Holiday Fun!

"Ah, the musings of Christmas Past. The best way to spark up one's own memories is to hear another tell his, and Whiteland's whimsical exploits can do just that for the more mature among us who can easily relate to the nostalgic draw. I got such a kick out of the Smith's Christmas Letter it nearly makes me want to write one of my own! And my dark sense of humor left me delighted by the antics of Archibald.

A pleasant kick off to the holiday season!"  Link to review

and this one on

A Christmas Cracker can't fail to entertain!

"What a brilliant read, especially during the 'run up' to Christmas - although there's much to be said for reading this at any time of year to get that lovely warm nostalgic Christmassy feeling!
If you are one of the 'baby-boomers' this book will especially have appeal. So much reminded me of my own childhood, that I laughed out loud with recognition.
A mix of whimsical, amusing stories, along with true events and tales from the author's childhood, A Christmas Cracker can't fail to entertain. Philip has great way with words, and I love his sense of humour.
Beware though: it's difficult to put down!
Recommended reading for curling up on the sofa with a nice glass of something warming..."

Thanks to both of you for taking the time to comment and I'm really pleased that you have enjoyed the book.

Why don't you see what all the fuss is about?  A Christmas Cracker

Monday, 28 November 2016

On the second day of Christmas...

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.

Whereupon, I said to my true love:

"Shouldn't this have been yesterday?"  and she said,

"That's unexpectedly philosophical!  Should I reply with something equally gnomic like, 'Should now be tomorrow?' ?"

I summoned all of my wit and ready repartee and said:

"What?"  Whereupon, she said,

"Stop moaning, I gave you that nice book yesterday, you know, that 'A Christmas Cracker' containing 21 hilarious seasonal stories for just 99p?"

"Yes, I remember, and you're sounding like a bad T.V. advert.  What's with the feathered friend and the nascent arboretum?"

"Oh, it's traditional and I thought you might like it.  If all else fails, you can always E..A..T it"

"Eat it?"  I queried, whereupon the bird flew straight out through the open window.

"Now look!  It took me hours to catch it and tie it to that bloody tree.  You've know wossname, you!"


"Sense of gratitude is what I was trying to say.  I go to all of this trouble to make things nice and traditional and all you do is moan about the price of things and frighten the wildfowl"

"Well, 99p is a bit cheapskate and what am I supposed to do with a partridge?"

"You can stuff it, as far as I'm concerned"

"I'd have to be pretty fast off the mark.  It's over in next door's garden now."

"Oh, just read your book!"

"Well, it is guaranteed to get you Into The Christmas Spirit"

"Now who's sounding like a bad T.V. advert?"

Friday, 25 November 2016

Creeping in for a Crepe!

This month's Derby Telegraph article features an excellent photo of Harold Wesley Ltd,. in its heyday (and at about the time when I was working there) and we get the chance to take a virtual tour of this 'dark, satanic mill' (well, not really!)

Derby Telegraph Bygones Article

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Having a crack at Christmas!

Every year, at around this time of year, I promise myself that I will finally get around to compiling a collection of my Christmas stories and, every year without fail, procrastination overtakes me and my window of opportunity gets frozen solid by the Jack Frost of bone idleness.  The barmy part about all of this is that I often find myself (which can be a shock if you weren't looking for yourself in the first place) writing more things in the run-up to Christmas than at any other time of the year.  Therefore, as a consequence, I have quite a 'back catalogue' of Christmas-themed stuff, but I never do anything with it!

This year is different.  So far, it's been different in so many ways that I'll be glad to see the back of it (except that I'm more than a bit perturbed about what next year might bring, and the one after that, and the...oh well, you get the idea).  I decided that if I didn't compile this collection this year, then I might never do it, which I agree might come as a relief to all concerned.  Somehow, I've managed to raise the enthusiasm to do it and I must admit I've been pleasantly surprised at how many Christmas-themed stories I've written over the years.  In this collection you'll find a selection of tales about growing up in my childhood home of Burton upon Trent in the 1950s and 1960s along with an alternative version of the Nativity, which I call my AlterNativity, a take on one of those annoying 'round robin' letters that drop out of your Christmas Cards and, finally, a brand new Undertakers' story featuring my characters Archibald Thurble and Josiah Oakshott.

The overall aim of the collection is to try and help you to become In The Christmas Spirit, which is a state of mind that I find increasingly difficult to attain with each passing year.  However, as I was wandering around the shops today, I noticed that we have once more entered the Noddy Holder and Roy Wood pension scheme and so I suppose we should all try to get onboard, or risk being driven mad in the process.

If you want to take a look at the book, you can find it here:  A Christmas Cracker or check out the Instant Preview in the tool bar on the right of this page.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A Christmas Cracker - the big bang!

Well, after a couple of days of fiddly editing and wrangling with the ever-changing requirements of Amazon KDP publishing, we finally have lift-off.  John Steele has, as always, done a cracking job of shoe-horning my half-baked ideas for a cover, into something that looks the business and the whole kit and kaboodle is now available for pre-order on Kindle.  What is it about?  Well, to quote the blurb:

"Are you ITCS yet? For those who don't know, we're talking about being In The Christmas Spirit here. Before you throw anything at your e-reader, just remember that this is a state of mind that advertisers and manufacturers try very hard to induce in you, and yet the answer is right here, in this little book. Being ‘In The Christmas Spirit’ is impossible to define. It’s a bit like love, you know it when you’re in it. Philip has gathered together a whole bunch of stories he's written about Christmases past and present, some factual, some fictional, over the years. Some of these, if you’re a regular reader of his ramblings (and we know there are some of you out there...we can hear you breathing) you may recognise from previous collections, although updates have been made where it was sensible to do so. Interspersed with these familiar stories are others that have never previously seen the light of day, including a story featuring Josiah and Archibald, the two fictitious undertakers, written specifically for this collection. We really hope that you get as much enjoyment from reading these stories as we've had gathering them, and that you're ITCS before you can say "Ho, ho, ho!""

Publication date is 12th November, but you can pop over and take a look right now.  For just 99p (99c in the U.S.A. and the equivalent elsewhere) this could be just the thing to make your Christmas go with a swing!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Oh, Samantha!

This month's Derby Telegraph article rounds off my 1970s holiday in Majorca in typically chaotic style.

I'll post the link to the Derby Telegraph as and when (and if) the article appears there, but for the time being (and to stop you having to squint at the photo) here's the content:

Ten days is a weird duration for a holiday, it’s neither one thing, nor the other!  Before this return to Majorca in the early 1970s, I don’t think I had been on a holiday that lasted more than a week, and I’ve avoided ten days ever since, for reasons which will become obvious.

I suppose that the end of our holiday must have been in our minds because we had begun to think about what we might take back with us.  In my case, I had bought a pair of Clackers for my sister.  Do you remember Clackers?  They were a one summer craze back in the 1970s and were very much in evidence on this holiday.  Clackers were two ceramic coloured balls on a piece of rope.  You held them by the centre of the rope and the idea was to cause the two spheres to bounce against each other repeatedly, with such force that kinetic energy eventually caused them to fly upward and clash again at the top of the stroke and so on.  Sounds fun, eh? 

They made a horrific noise.  You could hear them all over the resort.  The problem was, if you messed up the rhythm, you stood a good chance of striking your wrist a painful blow with one or both balls, which resulted in a good many broken wrists and probably explains the short-lived nature of the craze.  On the whole, it was probably an ill-advised present, but it seemed a good idea at the time.
Another clue to the duration of our holiday should have been when our next door neighbours went home.  We had been somewhat wary of these lads in the next room.  They seemed to keep pretty irregular hours and when they did appear on their balcony, they invariably bellowed “Oh, Samantha!  Let me kiss your…” well, we won’t go into what they wanted to kiss but this phrase echoed around the holiday complex countless times. 

On their last day, we happened to be on our balcony and got chatting.  Apparently they had met the hapless Samantha and her mother on their first day, had discovered that they were staying in a hotel opposite ours, and embarked on their campaign thereafter.  I should imagine it was a holiday to forget for Samantha’s mother.

Our last day was like any other.  In fact, too much like any other.  We were sitting outside a little bar near our hotel.  Kev and Den were sipping cokes, I was on my first Bacardi and Coke of the day (it had been that sort of holiday).  We were musing about how long we had been away and started to work it out, when panic set in.  Today was our last day and we should have checked out of our room by 10.00!  It was now well past that hour.  We ran back to the hotel, only to find a clutch of very annoyed Spanish cleaners gathered outside our room.  After a good deal of begging and pleading, we were allowed 20 minutes to pack and clear out. 

Our flight home was not until late that night, so we stored our luggage and whiled away the day.  Kev and Den sunbathed, I propped up a table at El Leon Dorado.  Before our coach came to take us back to Palma, Kev and Den decided they would like to shower and change and somehow managed to persuade a couple of lads from the BBC to let them have the use of their room.  Being a scruffy urchin, I declined but was left as a sort of surety with these blokes.  As time ticked by and Kev and Den failed to appear, my persistent bleats of “I’m sure they’ll be here soon” came to seem increasingly desperate and they began to get more than somewhat anxious and angry.  Eventually I had to go up and tell Kev and Den that we stood a good chance of the police turning up if they didn’t come down soon.

So our holiday ended, and I headed back to my solitary office at Harold Wesley Ltd.  But things were about to change, as I'll tell you next time.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Christmas Cracker (continued)

I've been quite productive!  Well, for me anyway.  I've selected the 22 stories that will feature in the new collection and now I'm going through these, placing them in a reasonably logical order and ironing out any editing issues.  That just leaves me to write an Introduction, a brand new Undertakers' story and get the cover sorted out.  Nothing to it really (famous last words).

As they said to the Hubble Telescope - watch this space :-)

Monday, 17 October 2016

A Christmas Cracker

Every year, without fail, I tell myself that I'm going to release a Christmas collection of stories and every year, without fail, time drifts by and the opportunity vanishes. Therefore, this year I've decided that the only way to ensure I actually extract my digit and do something is to announce the impending publication and force myself to adhere to a deadline. Hence this post.
'A Christmas Cracker' a collection of Christmas-themed stories designed to get you into the Christmas spirit (whatever that is) will feature some old, some new and some previously unpublished tales and will be available on Kindle from 12th November (solely because I don't think Christmas advertising should start prior to Remembrance Day).
Drat, now I've got to do something!

Monday, 10 October 2016

A Bull Market?

I'm not quite sure why, but the fourth and most recent book in the 'nostalgedy' series has not exactly taken the world by storm!  Why this should be the case is beyond my comprehension.  After all, it is just a continuation of the other three in the series, all of which have sold well and been fairly popular. It's also had some good reviews, like these:

"This is the fourth book by this author that I have read and I think it is the best. It was enjoyable to hear all the stories about the different cruises he went on and the funny situations Philip and his wife found themselves in. It was also very nice to see all the photographs included in the book.
There was also funny stories about rail travel, and coach travel, one horrifying story that I could not believe people would do, is crossing a motorway on foot to get to their coach the on the other side (one of the party was in a wheelchair) they crossed safely. Unlikely that this could be done in today's traffic.
The title of the book "Giving A Bull Strawberries" I know that saying as "Giving A Donkey Strawberries" an interesting twist in different parts of the country. This is a lovely book."


"This is the first of the nostalgedy collection I have read - and it was good. Probably not the kind of book that you would sit down and devour feverishly in one sitting, but one that you would pick up and fall into, comfortably, chapter by chapter, having a wee quiet chuckle as you did so. Charming."

"Giving a Bull Strawberries, a collection of stories from yesterday and today by Philip Whiteland is another comical adventure that had me giggling from the start. The author has no problem making fun of himself and loves to go for the laugh. This an entertaining escape that I had to pick this book up on release day. I have read the others in the series and couldn't help cracking up out loud with people looking on.

As always, I love the old photographs. I would call them 'vintage' but I don't wish to upset the photographer. They really bring the stories to life. Takes you back in time. Precious!

This book is a real treat and something I found comical and endearing. I am all for 'nostlagedy' and no better writer could do it so well. This is an adventurous ride I enjoyed taking."

In addition to which, how many books do you know that have a 30 foot high stainless steel shovel on the cover?  Come on, be honest ;-)

Giving a Bull Strawberries - read it and gain instant cult status!

Friday, 30 September 2016

High Spirits!

This is this month's Derby Telegraph article, further relating my shameful carryings-on in 1970s Spain.  Here's the link to the article on the DT website High Spirits and this is what it looks like in the print edition:

and, in case you can't read the article from this image, here's the content:

Last month I was shamefacedly admitting my teenage drinking excesses during a holiday in Majorca in the early 1970s.  I would love to say that this month marks my embrace of a healthy lifestyle with good regular exercise, but I would be fibbing.

Three highlights (or possibly, lowlights) of that holiday spring to mind. 

The first was the Medieval Banquet.  This was a pretty ubiquitous feature of Spanish holidays at that time, which involved being carted out to some mountainous retreat where you were treated to chicken in a basket, plied with unlimited amounts of wine on the table, had a waiter pouring more of the same down your throat (cue raucous laughter if you messed this up and finished with it pouring all over you) and finally consumed some dubious spirit to round the night off.  Partially fed and enormously drunk, you then staggered out to watch a jousting match with various locals dressed in allegedly medieval costume. 

The one we attended was made all the more dramatic by a thunderstorm playing out in the surrounding mountains, ultimately leading to a power-cut (not unusual in Spain at that time, there were power cuts most days) and the whole place being plunged into darkness.  The jousting was also more dramatic than intended, as one of the players was knocked off his horse with considerable ferocity and, presumably, hurt himself as he was still on the floor surrounded by a crowd when we had all ambled off to the bar.

The second lowlight was when we discovered a nearby ten pin bowling alley.  I've always enjoyed ten pin bowling, largely because it's the only 'sport' for which I've ever shown any aptitude, so I was particularly pleased about this.  The first unusual element was that the whole thing was outdoors, set in a garden of sorts.  From the front, it appeared to be a standard bowling alley, with multiple lanes and all of the usual paraphernalia.  It was only when we began to bowl that the awful truth emerged.  Although it was a regular bowling alley in all other senses, the aspect that was different was that it had no mechanism behind it at all.  The whole thing was entirely operated by very young children!  Pins were reset and balls returned by kids no more than 5 or 6, who then tucked themselves in behind the pins (where the mechanism should have been) whilst the balls were hurtling down.  That this was clearly an unsafe pastime was evident from the number who were sporting plaster casts.  Such were the joys of Franco's Spain.

The third and final lowlight was when the three of us decided to go for a night on the town.  Dressed to the nines, we made a start at 'El Leon Dorado', our local pub across the road.  The idea was that we would then head off to the nightclubs.  We ordered a pint and then a round of shorts.  I decided to show off by demonstrating how to swallow a whole shot of brandy in one smooth movement.  The barman, obviously aware that this was an idiot worth cultivating, kept refilling my glass and I kept 'Bogarting' them down.  I even fell for being served a shot of Tabasco (of which I'd never heard) with which I did the same, and then had to pretend that my throat wasn't on fire and my eyes watering fit to burst.  All of these brandies had a predictable effect and I dread to think what the Hotel Receptionist thought when, forty five minutes after us leaving, all dressed up for a night out, Kev and Den returned dragging a near-comatose me to be returned to the room.

Apparently, they had a brilliant night out in the nightclubs, whereas all I remember was wakening some time toward noon the following day, still fully dressed and with a mouth like something small, furry and foul-smelling, had hibernated there.  Certainly not my finest hour.

Next time I'll tell you about our next door neighbours and their unfortunate proclamations, how we met some BBC types and how we managed to upset the hotel cleaning staff.

Friday, 26 August 2016

In The Drink!

This is the second instalment in my 'Back to the Balearics' mini-series of  articles which are currently appearing in the Derby Telegraph.  This is this month's article which was published today (26.08.16). This is the link to the Derby Telegraph Bygones website, Bygones.  In the meantime...

In case you can't read it from the photo above, here's the text of the article:

The accompanying picture should give you a fair idea of the theme of this month's article.  I'm willing to bet that anyone who had a holiday in Spain in the 1970s has one of these buried, and thankfully forgotten, amongst their holiday snaps.  Before you ask, it is not a photograph of someone trying to put out a fire in a horse-hair mattress, but we'll come to the explanation later.

You may recall, from last month, that I had embarked on a holiday in Majorca with my friends Kev and Den in the early 1970s?  Hotel Pollensa Park in Puerto de Pollensa, in the north of the island, was our destination for 10 days of sun, sea, sangria and anything else we could find that began with 's'.
We arrived at our hotel late in the evening and discovered, to our chagrin, that we had a room with one double bed and one single camp-type bed.   Kev was first through the door and was quick to claim the camp bed as his own, which left Den and me with the double.  Common sense should have told us to ring Reception and ask for the bed to be converted to twin singles, but we were young and unsophisticated and, as this was only the second time I had been in a hotel in my life, we just decided we would have to make the best of it.

Kev decided that he had had enough for one day and decided to turn in for the night, but Den and I were excited about arriving in Majorca and set off for the pub across the road, El Leon Dorado.  Whether this was a good idea, or not, can be judged by the fact that we burst in on Kev an hour or so later, in search of more money for alcohol and declaring that the beer was "just like Pedigree" (our usual tipple at home) It wasn't!

I have always said that the English are really only happy when they are confined by rules and regulations, particularly when it comes to the partaking of alcohol and, by the English, I really mean me.  After years of sneaking into pubs whilst under the legal age (I know, I know, I should be ashamed of myself) and dutifully heading for home each evening at 10.30 when the pubs shut, I had rather decided to take full advantage of the more liberal, continental approach to the consumption of alcohol on this holiday, starting from Day 1.

Our first night pretty much set the tone of the rest of the holiday for me.  Den was a keen cyclist, so he wasted no time in hiring a bike and setting off each day to discover more of the island.  Kev joined him on a few occasions.  I made one trip out to the nearest village with them and decided it was too much like hard work. 

Kev and Den were also keen to get a decent tan and, therefore, headed down the lane to the nearby beach quite frequently.  I, on the other hand, usually didn't surface until midday and then only to drag myself across the road to El Leon Dorado.  Any tan I got was purely accidental, usually as a result of the sun having moved so that the parasol at my bar table was no longer protecting me. 

On one occasion, I did get up enough enthusiasm to stagger down to the beach and join them.  I dimly recall deciding to have a dip in the Med. and set about demonstrating an enthusiastic front crawl (to the dismay of all in the vicinity) which later turned out to have been in roughly six inches of water, this went some way to explain the extensive cuts to my arms and legs when I tottered back up the beach.

All in all, I was single-handedly confirming the worst perceptions of the British teenager abroad, way before this became fashionable!  And the holiday was yet young, we still had two drinking highlights to go, a night at a medieval banquet (hence the photo) and another night out clubbing, all of which I'll tell you all about next time.

You can find Part 1 of this mini-series here -  Back to the Balearics

Thursday, 18 August 2016

It's me, not you!

There is absolutely no reason why anyone in their right mind would want to know more about me, and yet, in defiance of all rational thought, someone has interviewed me!  I'm afraid I can't promise any tantalising insights into my sordid existence.  In fact, it would seem to be the case that I'm just as boring as I always thought I was.  However, if you're remotely interested, then here it is:

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Back to the Balearics!

Last month's Derby Telegraph article rather slipped under the radar! Not only did it appear on the wrong day (even I missed it) but it never made the DT website either.  For those who missed this particular journalistic jaunt, it's reproduced below with the text in full.  Next instalment will be (abw) in the Bygones section of the Derby Telegraph on Friday, 26th August.

Last month you left me in the not-so-splendid isolation of my 'office' at Harold Wesley Ltd., in Victoria Crescent, Burton.  I think it says something about my career choice, back in 1972, that the highlight of my week was calculating lengthy long-division sums by hand.  As I said, last time, spending at least two days per week with nothing to do, whilst trapped in an office on your own, with no excuse to go out of it, nor any need for anyone to come and see you, is enough to drive anyone to the edges of their sanity, and I probably didn't have as far to go as most.

Fortunately, there was one small light on the horizon.  Something to look forward to even when I was sure I was losing the plot.  For this, we need to take a quick trip back to my former job at the DIY Plastics warehouse. 

Regular readers, and there must be at least one of you, may remember the week's holiday I spent in Arenal, Majorca with my mate Kev during the summer holidays when we were both at Burton Technical College?  In conversation with the gang at the warehouse, I waxed lyrical about this holiday, the sun, sea and sangria, and how ridiculously cheap it all was.  One of the gang, who had been a good friend to me as I was learning the job and, for the sake of protecting the innocent, I'll call Den, was particularly interested.

The end result was that Kev, Den and I decided that it would be fun to repeat the experience.  The difference this time was that, because we had more funds to splash about (previously it had been just what we could earn in the few weeks of holiday) we could afford to have ten days instead of just a week, and we elected to go to a more exclusive (well, it was in 1972) part of Majorca.  Accordingly, we booked ourselves in to the Pollensa Park Hotel in Puerto de Pollensa.  This was largely because it looked as if it was right on to the beach from the picture in the brochure (it wasn't) and because it was within our budget.

Three is a difficult number for any group.  The potential for two to align themselves against the other one, is always quite high.  Our group was inevitably going to be a tricky one because we had very little in common.  I only knew Den as a work colleague, and I now no longer worked there, whereas I had known Kev for a couple of years by now and quite a bit of water (and beer) had flown under the bridge.  Kev, of course, only knew Den through me and so they had no common ground at all.  To try to overcome this, we met up on a relatively regular basis in the months preceding our holiday.  Thankfully, we all liked a drink and a game of darts, which was a good starting point, and we seemed to get on.  As it turned out, the main irritant in the group, once we were on holiday, was me!

My memories of this holiday are a bit fragmented, for reasons that will become obvious later.  I'm not even certain which airport we flew from.  At that time, I was panic-stricken by the thought of flying and took my then usual precaution of trying to anaesthetise myself to the whole experience by consuming quite a large quantity of alcohol before the flight.  It must have worked, because I don't remember anything about it. 

What I do recall is that we nearly missed our transfer bus from Palma airport because we were held up at Customs (I think there was some sort of strike in progress).  This could have been potentially very serious as we had no concept of just how far away our hotel was from the airport (56 kms apparently).  Finally, jammed on to a coach full of people, mostly of our own age, we set off, as night fell, for the long trip across the island of Majorca.

You can find the full shameful story of Philip's first holiday to Majorca in 'Crutches for Ducks' available from Amazon.

Passport Photo - don't have nightmares!

Saturday, 9 July 2016

How Sweet To Be An Idiom

I used a phrase in a story the other day, which I thought was fairly commonplace, but someone commented that they were now going to add it to their lexicon (see comment).  It made me realise just how much I rely on the use of idioms in my everyday speech, and in my writing.  Frankly, I blame Readers Digest.  Whenever I was waiting, either at the Doctor's surgery or the Dentist's (and waiting used to be the main feature of the NHS) as a child I always used to make a bee-line (there's an idiom already) for the Readers Digest magazines, of which there were always a plentiful supply.  I never used to read the articles very much, on the grounds that they might prove too long and I might have to depart for my appointment before completion (although, from experience, you would usually have ample scope for 'War and Peace' and still have time to kill).  I usually read those little sections that contained jokes that readers had contributed or that section called something like 'Toward More Colourful Speech' which encouraged the use of idioms as a means of brightening the otherwise dull conversation of the typical Readers Digest subscriber (presumably).

I like idioms.  I do think they add colour to any story.  The trouble is that I pepper my speech (another one!) with them and this infiltrates my writing.  All of my books have idioms as titles (see examples on the right), largely because they are based on things my mum and dad used to say, which struck me as amusing as a child.  I like saying "I'll go the foot of our stairs" to express surprise, even though it means nothing at all.  I think the description of someone looking as if they had "lost a bob and found a tanner" perfectly sums up a hangdog expression, as well as being delightfully anachronistic.  An old friend of our family used to say, of someone who was a little confused, that he didn't "know whether his a*se was bored or punched", which I thought was terrific.  I'm sure every family has their own collection of such phrases, they sort of act as the family jargon - a mode of speech that everyone in the family instantly understands but which can confound (but also, hopefully, amuse) the stranger.

Where you really encounter potential difficulty, if you're as wedded to idioms as I am, is when you are trying to convey your meaning to someone for whom English is not their first language.  Idioms are rarely a feature of formal language classes and, anyway, it would be impossible to learn all of the possibilities for every region of the country you are visiting.  I found that, when I was teaching a class of students which comprised mainly non-U.K. citizens, I had to police my language carefully to remove any trace of the vernacular.  Even so, I was always aware of a widening gulf of incomprehension.  I remember one particular class, which consisted primarily of Chinese students, in which I became increasingly convinced that I was only getting through to a handful of the class.  At the end of the session, I half-heartedly indicated the notes I had written up on the white board, summarising the key points of the lesson, and asked, without much hope, "Does that all sort of make sense to you?"  This was the sort of vapid question I often asked the U.K. students and they, being no strangers to the English concept of saying one thing and meaning another, would nod and smile brightly and, in all probability, leave the class none the wiser.  In this instance, one particular student had been sitting on the front row and frowning at me throughout the lesson.  When I asked my question, she answered firmly "No", which quite threw me as I'd never had that response before.  At least it was honest and we spent the next 20 minutes or so trying to summarise the content of the three hour session in a manner that she could understand.  I'm not sure that we succeeded.

Another time when idioms rather let me down was with my Subject Administrator at the time.  Subject Administrators are the fine rain that falls upon the groves of academe which keeps knowledge burgeoning.  Without them, the whole system would fall apart. 

On this occasion, my invaluable assistant originated from Portugal and there were many times when I could see that we were not necessarily singing from the same hymn sheet (sorry!)  On this particular day I had a number of interviews arranged with prospective students followed by an interview with a rather recalcitrant current student.  Amazingly, all of the people booked for appointments actually turned up (quite a feat) which only left the recalcitrant student to be seen at the end of the day.  As the Subject Administrator and I were walking up to the interview room, I remarked on how well the day had gone so far and then said, "We only need Sunshine [meaning the recalcitrant student] now to turn up and it will have been a good day"  I knew immediately that we had wandered into the thickets of mutual incomprehension by the deepening frown on her face.  She looked at me, and then stared out toward the darkening Nottingham skyline and said, very earnestly, "Yes, we do need sunshine."  Which, I decided, was a statement you couldn't (and shouldn't) argue with.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

The P.S. to my P.S.

You know I said the last post would be my final one on this topic?  Well, I lied!

How about this for a scenario:

Assume that Article 50 hasn't been invoked yet and the Conservative Party hold their leadership election, whereby someone relatively uncontroversial such as Theresa May is elected.  She then announces that she believes she cannot govern the country in such tumultuous times without a clear mandate from the people and calls a snap election.  However, item 1 on her manifesto is that her party believes that the act of leaving the EU is so potentially damaging to British interests that her first action, on being elected, will be to ask Parliament to vote to ignore the result of the recent referendum (albeit with sops about pressing for further reform of the EU etc.).  Cue apoplexy from the Brexit camp with a swathe of votes transferring to Nigel Farage's UKIP mob, but this would probably not result in many more actual seats.  If we also assume that Labour's performance would be dire (as they seem to) then this would result in a Conservative majority with a new P.M. with a clear mandate to carry on as before.

What do you think?

To EU or not EU - postscript

Just one more thing and then I'll stop banging on about this and return to normal service (whatever that is!)

I honestly don't think that the Leave group really needed to campaign at all. Remain showed such a profound misunderstanding of the British psyche that they did the job for them. There is nothing more likely to awake the old WW2 cussedness of the British than continually telling them of the bad things that are going to happen if they don't listen to their elders and betters. It brings out the old "very well then, alone!" spirit. What was desperately needed was a positive vision of the U.K. within a reformed and progressive EU, but that was never likely to be the picture based purely on the miserly reforms offered at the start of this process. Hopefully, this should be a wake-up call to the EU and politicians everywhere.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

To EU, or not to EU?

I don't normally go in for politics on this blog because it really isn't what it's supposed to be about, and also because why would anyone be remotely interested in my opinion?  However, it did come as a shock to me today to realise that The Vote will take place a week tomorrow.  The reason it came as a shock is because I started this campaign as a 'don't know' and I rather hoped that, by now, one or other of the sides would have persuaded me, but they haven't.

I realise how difficult it must be for the 'Remain' camp.  "Let's leave things as they are" is never going to be a stirring battle cry.  However, I don't think their stern warnings of the dangers of Brexit (as it has unfortunately been christened) as true as they might well be, really chime with the British psyche. We Brits have a certain innate cussedness and tend to react mulishly when threatened with what will happen if we don't do as we're told.  I rather fear that these tales of woe may well backfire.

Moreover, it would have been heartening if the Remain lot could have spelt out a positive vision of Britain in Europe.  Some bright vista to look forward to, rather than stern warnings of what might happen if we don't hold on to nurse.  George Osbourne's intervention today is just part of this rather dismal spectacle.  In addition, the sight of Jeremy Corbyn campaigning, apparently with his fingers crossed behind his back and refusing to share a platform with any Conservatives, is hardly likely to stir the blood.

For the Exit camp, there is rather too much of a whiff of 'It'll Be Alright On The Night' - not the television show, just the sentiment.  We are asked to place a good deal of trust in their reassurances that the other lot have got it all wrong and we'll be just fine, don't you know.

The only telling argument I've heard lately came from a friend of mine, who made the point that the young were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU, that it will be their world and not ours and therefore we should respect their wishes.  This is a good point, but assumes that 'the young' have got it right, which is a concession we rarely give them in any other walk of life!  Another friend said that his heart said leave but his mind said remain, which, I think, is possibly where I am at the moment, but I'm really not sure.

I have a strong feeling that my mind probably won't be made up until I'm actually standing in the polling booth, which is not really how democracy should work but I guess it is better than the alternative.

Friday, 13 May 2016

In Search Of The Flying Fox

If you recall, we've been on holiday and, in the time-honoured tradition of holiday-makers everywhere, I thought I would bore you all witless with it!

We were going on a cruise around New Zealand but we had a brief stopover in Sydney, Australia before we departed and I was determined to get as much out of that short time as possible.  We had visited Darling Harbour (after a marathon walk from the CBD) and had discovered the brilliant ferries that potter out from Circular Quay to all points.  We had given the Royal Agricultural Show a miss, despite the earnest entreaties of one of our Australian acquaintances, and had enjoyed some time around Manly Beach instead.

On the last full day of our sojourn, I really wanted to tick a few more things off from my 'To Do' list for Australia.  High on this list was getting a chance to see the Fruit Bats in the Royal Botanical Gardens.  I had seen these on a number of British television shows and I really wanted the chance to see them in real life.  Therefore, clutching my, by now rather tattered, street map of Sydney, we set off from Circular Quay railway station with the aim of finding the Royal Botanical Gardens.

I'm not really much of a gardener.  By and large, I cut lawns and hack off branches as and when necessary, and that's about it.  Therefore, the only element of real interest to me, in the Royal Botanical Gardens, was the Fruit Bats.  That is not to detract from the wonder that is the RBG, it is a wonderful oasis of peace, tranquillity and greenery in the heart of a busy, modern city, but I wanted to see the Fruit Bats.  I'm nothing if not focused ;-)

Therefore, I was more than a bit put out when I spotted a sign which said that the entire colony had been moved in 2012 because they were ruining the trees!  From my point of view, I wouldn't have cared less if they had taken a chain saw to them (the trees that is, not the Fruit Bats).  Apparently, they have been split between various other colonies widely spread across the country, none of which were anywhere near us.

I, of course, did what any reasonable person would do, under the circumstances.  I sulked.

Eventually,  and after a good deal of "I don't believe it"ing and huffing and puffing, I decided to console myself with a cup of tea at the cafeteria.  We managed to secure a table outside, even though it was very busy, and I trotted off to buy the teas.  A young couple, complete with very tiny baby, and their friend visiting from England, were on the next table and came in at the same time to order an appetising range of food.  I was quite envious, but we had had a pretty decent breakfast and we knew that the cruise would hardly be a weight-watchers' paradise, so we decided to do the sensible thing and wait until lunchtime.

Sitting outside, enjoying our tea and the sunshine, I was surprised to see some rather large birds plodding around the tables.  This was one:

Apparently, it goes by the name of the Australian White Ibis.  If you want to know more about it, I strongly urge you to read this article (Australian White Ibis), I wish I had beforehand!  I was rather surprised to see something so apparently tropical in such a mundane setting.

The group on our next-door table were busily cooing over the new arrival.  Mother seemed to have decided that she had more than fulfilled her duty by bringing the little tyke into the world, so Father seemed to be marked down for the bulk of the childcare duties.  Accordingly, as it was apparent that the youngster needed a nappy change, Father was despatched to the facilities to put that in motion (as it were).  At the same time, the friend from England was sent off to the serving area to find out where the food was.  It was somewhat unfortunate, therefore, that only the Mother was left at the table when the food arrived.  I have to say, it looked really something.  There were fries and salads and falafel burgers, and all in very generous portions.  Unfortunately, two of the Ibis decided to take this opportunity to, basically, mug her.  They launched themselves at the table and what they didn't carry off wholesale, they stood in.  Father's falafel burger was an early casualty of the raid and I could imagine how chuffed he would be on his return.  The friend was aghast when she came back.  No amount of frenzied flapping of arms disturbed the Ibis in their work and no-one seemed to want to get too close to them (they're rather big birds).  The last we heard, as we made our excuses and left, was the Mother urging her friend to go back and claim a refund on the grounds that the birds had eaten their food.  I didn't hold out a lot of hope for that.

In a way, I guess I did see my Flying Foxes.  The Ibis are certainly as adept as any fox at pilfering food, and they can certainly fly.  I would have loved to have seen the Father's face when he came back from a lengthy bout of mucky nappy changing.  I'll bet the Paternity Leave doesn't last much longer :-)

If you enjoyed this account, you might want to read the others in the series:

Wizard in Oz
Time Flies (But Not In Economy)
Giving The Rahlag A Miss

Monday, 2 May 2016

Say It Loud, I'm A NIMBY And I'm Proud!

They've let me have a go at the Editor's column again this month in the Derby Telegraph! (I could have put that better, but you know what I mean)

It doesn't look as if this will ever be posted on the DT website, so here's the content for those who can't read it on the photo above:

I'm a NIMBY!

There, I've said it.  For those who don't know this particular acronym, it stands for Not In My Back Yard and refers to those who object to any development in their neighbourhood. 

Governments, both national and local, tend to refer to NIMBYs rather sneeringly, on the grounds that, if we had our way, there would be no development at all and, therefore, no new housing stock and industry in which our young people can live and work.  I entirely accept this argument but it doesn't change my position one iota.

You see, in my opinion, to be a NIMBY is a perfectly economically rational position to hold.  Why should we be expected to welcome any development which brings considerable short and medium term negative consequences, such as; loss of landscape or natural amenities, increased traffic, the noise and atmospheric pollution of building work, when the development typically confers little or no positive outcomes for those who already live in the area?

 'Ah yes,' our political leaders would no doubt say, 'but that it is a selfish attitude.  We need to think of the greater good of society.'  Well, I would quite like to see what the reaction of Messrs. Cameron, Corbyn or Farron would be if you proposed to knock up a few starter homes on their respective back lawns.  I doubt they would be quite so sanguine about it.

I'm particularly exercised about this at the moment for two reasons.  Firstly, because our village is currently under siege by property developers.  Apparently, our lack of a local plan (because of some bureaucratic nonsense) means that we are virtually powerless to stop any available land in the vicinity being concreted over in the near future.  Currently, it looks like the population of our small village may well double. 

Secondly, a Bygones article I wrote recently (April article) featured a picture of the offices of a company I worked for back in the 1970s.  These had previously been the home of the Crescent Brewery in Burton upon Trent and were a fine example of brewery architecture.  Yet the picture had been taken just before this building was demolished to make way for an anonymous and featureless warehouse.  I had forgotten just how striking the original building was, until I saw the photograph, and I wondered how any planning authority worthy of the name could have allowed this piece of architectural vandalism to have taken place?

You might say that we should put our trust in the planning authorities, and I would say that you should consider taking more water with it.  If you stop for a moment, in any reasonably sized town or city, and look at the range of buildings surrounding you, I think it's instructive to reflect that the mess before you hasn't grown organically, or happened by accident.  It was actually planned to look like this.  Highly qualified and well-trained people brought all of their expertise to bear to create this environment in which you are to live and work. 

Equally, if your town centre is currently a wasteland of charity shops and pawnbrokers (and most are), remember that this is the result of a long term policy to encourage out of town development and discourage parking in town centres (or to earn as much money from it as possible).  It isn't the result of forces beyond our elected leaders' control; it is the direct outcome of their policies down the years.
Tourists don't flock to admire the modern and clinical planning of places like Milton Keynes, they head to those places like York, Oxford and Cambridge which have retained their architectural heritage and the nooks and crannies of haphazard development over the centuries.  Perhaps they know something our planners don't?

So, I'm a NIMBY.  I don't want anything else in my immediate vicinity concreted over, thank you, and, even if I did, I would have no faith in the result being any improvement whatsoever on what has been lost in the process.

I think I'll go and lie down in a darkened room now.  Can you shut the door and not make any noise please?  I may be some time.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Give Me Just A Little Of Your Time

To paraphrase the old Chairmen of the Board hit.  I'm taking a brief sojourn from my antipodean adventures to seek your help.

Today, my book 'Steady Past Your Granny's' received a review.  It was short and to the point.  It said 'GREAT' and gave the book 5 stars.  This brightened my day considerably.  Now, you may not really care whether my day has been brightened considerably or otherwise, and I wouldn't blame you, but it did make me think about this whole business of promoting our books.

I'm sure I speak for most independent authors when I say that very few of us have an advertising budget of any sort.  If we did have one, it would doubtless dwarf the meagre remittances from our book sales and make the whole affair pointless.  We are therefore forced to rely on the few, free outlets available to us (Facebook, Twitter etc.) as a means of attempting to bring our wares to the attention of the general public.  This can make us a bit of a nuisance at times.

However, if the readers would give us a bit of a hand, we could minimise our 'BUY OUR BOOKS' efforts and concentrate on producing more things that you want to read.  Can I suggest the following?

1.  Leave a review - there is no such thing as a book having too many reviews.  I can't speak for all authors but I read every one and I'm grateful for them all.  Even the 1 stars at least show that someone was sufficiently moved to make a comment.  I know when I'm looking for a new book, I always make a practice of browsing the reviews to get a feeling as to whether it will be my sort of thing, or not, and they're usually pretty accurate.

2.  Tell your friends - there's nothing more valuable than 'word of mouth' recommendation.  If you've enjoyed a book, let others know so that they can enjoy it too (or, alternatively, question your sanity and ask whether you should get out more) ;-)

3.  Tweet and Share - again, if you've enjoyed a book and you see something about it in the social media, please pass it on.  It's our only way of getting a wider readership.

We value every single read, comment, share and review, so please let us know what you think.

This is today's review, for which I'm very grateful:

'GREAT' review

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Giving The 'Rahlag' A Miss

Manly Beach

They're a sociable bunch, the Australians.

I know that this is another in my ongoing series of sweeping generalisations, and I'm sure that Australia has its own share of misanthropes.  It's just that I've never met any of them.

Take the other night in our hotel bar.  My wife and I were sitting, minding our own business, gazing at the rugby on the television but really watching the comings and goings in the bar and trying to get a feel of the Australian social culture.  Another couple of about our age came in and sat not too far away from us.  They were nursing a couple of green and brown concoctions which looked distinctly unappetising and I later learned rejoiced under the name of 'Tobleroonies'.

Now, in England, it would be entirely possible to spend an entire night within feet of someone else without ever acknowledging their existence but I had a feeling this wouldn't be the case in Sydney.  Sure enough, after a short while they found a reason to say something to us and a conversation rapidly blossomed as they moved over to join us.  I'm rubbish at being sociable, so I decided to do something useful and go and get some drinks.  As I made my way back from the bar, a couple of blokes sitting at one of those high tables you sort of perch at stopped me and said, with a grin, "you wanna watch it mate, our mate's moving in on your missus" Indeed, a tall strapping bloke, who I recognised as being part of their group from the previous night, was sitting talking animatedly to my wife and the other two.

It turned out that Gary, as he was called, had been out on the town with his two mates and had clearly had a very convivial evening.  I don't know if he was really trying to chat up my wife, although it would have been a nice vote of confidence if he was, but he was clearly in the mood for a natter and was greatly interested when we explained that we were here as tourists and only had a limited amount of time in which to enjoy the delights of Sydney.  We said that we had been for a walk down to Darling Harbour and were pretty exhausted after that.

"Ah, you want to go to the rahlag" Gary announced, in a manner that brooked no argument.  I did what the English do best, I tried to look as if I knew exactly what he meant whilst searching desperately in my memory for anything that would give me a clue.  "I always used to go to the rahlag with my old man when I was a nipper, used to love it.  All the animals and the stacks of fruit and veg." He continued with enthusiasm.

It was at this point that the penny dropped.  I had been reading the local paper, largely because it was free, but also because I think you can learn a lot about a country from its local press.  I remembered now that there was a feature about the ongoing Royal Agricultural Show currently taking place in Sydney, although I hadn't taken a great deal of notice of it.

"Nah, you don't want to go there" the woman of the couple chipped in, "it's boring.  You want to go to Manly, it's got a great beach"

This prompted a spirited discussion about the relative merits of both attractions.  Gary, it transpired, was on a three day 'jolly', along with his two mates (who were watching the conversation with interest from their perch on the table opposite) sponsored by their trade union.  Ostensibly it was to attend a union conference, but I think the eating and, particularly, drinking side of it was principally what it was about.

We, politely, said that we would keep our options open re our plans for the next day and Gary staggered off to bed, apparently satisfied with a job well done.  The other couple, who were in Sydney to visit their daughter who was about ten months pregnant and due any moment, laughed at the idea of anyone wishing to spend their precious holiday time at the 'rahlag' and extolled the delights of Manly.

The next day, we decided to take their advice and took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly and had a brilliant time on a scorchingly hot autumn day.  Back at the bar that evening, Gary came in looking a little sheepish and considerably more sober than the previous night. 

"What did you do today?"  He asked.  We shamefacedly admitted that we had gone to Manly.

"I don't blame you.  It's a nice place."  He agreed, "You wouldn't want to go to the rahlag, it's just animals and veg."

f you've enjoyed this, you might well enjoy Philip's 'nostalgedy' series of books which contain numerous pieces in much the same vein.  Links can be found on the right of this page.

See also 'Wizard In Oz' and 'Time Flies (But Not In Economy)'

Friday, 15 April 2016

Time Flies (But Not In Economy)

This is a story which begins at Manchester Airport and ends in a cat litter tray.

When I was recently in Sydney (see Wizard In Oz) I saw a souvenir that I really should have bought, as it is a perfect example of Australian humour.  It was a snow globe containing something vaguely Australian within, but what amused me was the slogan underneath, which read "SYDNEY - IT'S A BLOODY LONG WAY'

It is a 'bloody long way'.  10,555 miles, as the crow flies, from Manchester to Sydney, although I would imagine most crows would have more sense.  Unless you happen to be independently wealthy, this vast distance is likely to be travelled in the Economy section of your chosen airline.  I live in the hope that more enlightened generations to follow will consign Economy class travel to the ranks of 'cruel and unusual punishment', but I doubt it.  I once worked with a rather grand lady who travelled by air frequently on business and she told me "I never turn left when I board a 'plane".  I pointed out to her that, if I did that on most of the 'planes I've flown on, I would be sitting on the pilot's lap, but I don't think she grasped my point.
I suppose that 21 hours in an aircraft would be just about bearable if you could sleep through it, but I just can't.  I'm acutely aware that there is 34,000 feet of absolutely nothing between me and terra firma and I don't find that a comforting though before I drop off (which is an unfortunate term, under the circumstances).  On the two occasions when exhaustion overtook me and I did nod off for a few blissful minutes, I was rudely awoken by being bashed over the head as someone walked down the aisle.  Cat-swinging is not an option in Economy.

The other problem, in Economy, is dining.  Not, necessarily, the quality of the food, although that can be variable, but the need to eat as if you are a praying mantis, elbows tucked in to avoid encroaching on your neighbour's personal space, wrists bent as if performing delicate surgery.  Of course, as soon as the meal has been served, clear air turbulence will set in with a vengeance and you'll be lucky if you don't arrive at your destination wearing most of your dinner.  Also, just as a matter of interest, if you're not allowed to bring sharp objects on to the aircraft (understandably) why are you then issued with metal knives, forks and spoons for your meal?

 Leaving to one side the cramped conditions, the duration of the flight and the difficulties in doing anything other than sitting in one place for hours on end, the thing that really messes with your head is the time difference.  We left Manchester at about 08.00 for a 7 hour (ish) flight to Doha and arrived there at 18.00, because of the difference between UK and Qatar time.  Boarding a 'plane to Sydney at 20.10 for a 14 hour (ish) flight, we arrived at Sydney at 18.05 the following day.  By now, if you're like me, you're hopelessly confused, but travelling to New Zealand makes it worse.  I had always thought of New Zealand as being to Australia what the Isle of Wight is to England.  It isn't.  It is, in fact, over 1300 miles away and you cross two time zones to get to it.  So, by the time you get to NZ, you are two hours further adrift from U.K. time and figuring out when would be an appropriate time to ring home would require the insight of Stephen Hawking.  To complicate matters further, whilst we were in NZ, they put the clocks forward one hour, as did the U.K. (but not, of course, on the same date).  Coming back to the U.K., you inevitably gain back all of the hours you lost on the way out, so we left Sydney at 21.30 and arrived back at Manchester at 13.15 the following day, despite travelling for 23 hours.  As a consequence, although I've had jet-lag before, I've never experienced anything like this.

On the day we returned, we decided to try to go to bed at roughly our normal time to attempt to get our body clocks back in some sort of order.  We made a decent attempt but it became more and more difficult.  You found that, if you allowed your eyes to close for more than a fraction of a second, you were instantly asleep.  I knew that I had to give it up as a bad job when I heard a loud bang as I was cleaning out the cat litter tray (you don't get this sort of detail with Bill Bryson, do you?).  The loud bang in question had been caused by my knee hitting the washing machine, as my leg gave way underneath me because I had fallen fast asleep in mid-shovel.

Now that's what I call jet-lag!

If you've enjoyed this, you might well enjoy Philip's 'nostalgedy' series of books which contain numerous pieces in much the same vein.  Links can be found to the right of this page.