Friday, 31 January 2020

Happy Times



That’s me, living the life of Riley in Mexico. They were Happy Times. When the photo was taken, nine years ago next month, the happy times were about to end. Within two days, I was on a Heathrow bound British Airways flight to resume life in Blighty. Mrs P and I still have happy times. But when we refer to the Mexicans variant, I like to capitalise the words to denote that the were the Happy Times and not just your run of the mill happy times. Also, because Donald Trump has made this sort of appalling use of grammar fashionable.

We’ve only once returned to Mexico since then. But we still have our plan to retire in Mexico. When exactly will this be? I’d like to say when I’m 60, if things go well. A bit later if they don’t. When I say ‘things’, I do, of course, refer to our finances. We want to have a minimum level of financial security before retiring. So that we don’t get caught short if our health should take a turn for the worse, for example.

Where in Mexico will we settle? We’d both prefer Queretaro. But circumstance is likely to place us in Mérida. I know. It’s hot in summer. Don’t worry for me. Worry for my Mexican family. They will struggle. I will hang out with the mad dogs and be just fine.

I have my own personal retirement plan. It’s pretty simple, and it goes like this. I’m going to wake up each morning, stretch, make myself a freshly brewed coffee and take it out onto the roof terrace. I’ll sit in my comfy hammock chair and read the morning edition of The Times. The original version from London, not the New York newcomer. I’ll do the puzzles. And I’ll take my time, because I’ll have time. All the time in the world.

I’m going to go for my daily walk. I like walking. I’ll take long walks, and I’ll take my camera. Some days I’ll take a bus to get somewhere for a new walk. Some days I may be gone all day. Some days I might just stroll around the block. I’ll still take my camera, just in case. Not least because I’ll need material for my blog. I’ll write a new post in my blog most evenings I reckon. And yes, I’ll still no doubt be bitching about Brexit. But probably not Trump. He’ll be dead by then. And buried in a prison cemetery if there’s any justice to be had.

On weekends I’ll go and see Merida’s football team play. I’ll no doubt sit in the stands wearing the latest replica club top. And cap, to keep the sun at bay. I’ll also watch Mexican wrestling on the TV and joyfully curse at the screen with everyone else. And in the evenings, we’ll eat out. Usually somewhere selling tacos. On Sundays I’ll spend extra time reading the Times. Because there’s about a half dozen sections to it. And because I’ll have time. All the time in the world.

We’ll go on holidays. To Mexico City every year, guaranteed, but not by bus. No sirree. We’ll fly. We’ go to Cuba and other Caribbean islands. We’ll go to Guatamala and Belize. And if ‘things’ have worked out really well, we’ll occasionally Congo back to Blighty, for a week or three.

Those are my plans. Mrs P, I suspect, hasn’t thought this far ahead yet. But she’ll no doubt come up with some plans of her own in good time. What will they be? I have no idea, but I know this. They’ll almost certainly ruin my plans.

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Monday, 27 January 2020

The Launderette


Mrs P and I share the household chores. That is how she would describe it. I feel that it would be more accurate to say that I am allocated chores, which must be completed in a specified manner within a specified timeframe. It is also safe to say that there are substantially more chores to do than there would be if I were in charge. But I’m not, so it’s best to just crack on and get them done.

One of my chores is to take the washing out of the machine at home and take it all up to the launderette for drying. I do not personally involve myself in the washing process. I would not divide the clothes into lights and coloureds correctly. And I wouldn’t use the correct amount of detergent, conditioner and bleach. Mrs P is Mexican, so of course there is bleach. Cleaning isn’t cleaning unless there’s bleach.

Our washing machine at home can also, in theory, dry the clothes too. But like any washer/dryer that I’ve ever come across, it’s next to useless at drying. It’d be quicker and more effective to dry each item by hand with a hairdryer. But that would still be too time consuming. So we don’t bother. I run the clothes and linen up to the laundrette to use their massive, purpose built dryers.

The laundrette is just a hundred metres up the road from us. So I often walk, unless we’ve been doing extra loads and it’s all a bit heavier to carry than I can be bothered with. The laundrette is very literally up the road. I wish it were down the road. It’s a lot easier to carry wet washing down and dry washing up than it is the other way round. But it is what it is.

Still, I don’t mind doing the drying. Once I’m there, it’s just a matter of filling up a couple of machines, sticking £1.60 in each one and then relaxing while they do their thing. Sometimes I’ll read the news on my iPad, or play a game of backgammon. Or maybe I’ll take a photo. There’s something very photogenic about launderettes. Other times, if she’s about, I’ll chat to the lady who runs the launderette. We’ve been chatting for about five years now, so we’re on friendly terms. But I have no idea what her name is, and she doesn’t know mine. She’s a great source for local news and gossip though. 

Through her, I know that the guy who owns the pokiest shop on the small line of shops across the road actually owns most of the properties on the street. I know the Indian restaurant closed down in part because of a shocking hygiene problem. I learned about the new micro brewery next door long before it ever opened for business. And in return I’ll let her know the state of play on the railways. I don’t think she ever actually takes the train anywhere though.

The machines have my clothes dried in about half an hour. It can take that long again to fold them on the folding counter. Then I take them all home. Mrs P will chide me for taking so long. Then she will allocate me further chores. There are always more chores to do. Always.
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Sunday, 5 January 2020

Disconnected Railways


There's a lot wrong with the railways in Britain. I hear about it everyday from passengers. The prices are too high. The service too unreliable. The solution, I'm told, is to re-nationalise the whole system. As with politics, there's a disconnect in the publics mind as to what the cause of their complaints are. And thus the solutions they find will not likely work out for them.

Most of the reliability problems sit at the door of Network Rail, who are responsible for the infrastructure. Network Rail is already a state owned enterprise. And the high prices? Tickets are already subsidised by the taxpayer. Passengers don't pay for what they get as it is. But prices can be raised or lowered as a matter of government policy through the subsidies they pay into the system. Re-nationalisation is not a necessity.

Every now and then I'll engage with a passenger and offer my thoughts, if they seem genuinely interested and civil. But I know a confused look when I see one. My comments go in one ear, echo for a moment, then seep out of the other ear. It is just like politics, in more ways than one.

So most of the time, I just nod and smile. I do a lot of that these days. Nodding and smiling. In fact it's become my number one response when dealing with people. Sometimes I find myself nodding and smiling at people just a fraction too early, before they've even begun to speak. Without fail, they will justify my nodding and smiling. So I will nod and smile with more vigour and enthusiasm.

But the working day will come to an end. It always does. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this fact to help get through it. I will be paid handsomely for selling tickets, providing information. And for nodding and smiling. Then I will go for a walk. My favourite walk takes me past Bournemouth Pier. Perhaps I'll sit for a while and gaze out to sea. And nod and smile. Just for a moment.
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Saturday, 4 January 2020

Good Intentions


I'm not overly fixated on resolutions. Experience has taught me that they simply set you up for a fall. But still, I do start each year with good intentions and grand plans. Giving up smoking is normally one begun at midnight and bust before the first day is done. Not this year. My app tells me that it's been 1 month 18 days and 9 hours since I last had so much as a single puff. If it hadn't been for a slight hiccup, my app would boast longer still. There will be no more hiccups. I promise. And I shall report back in a years time with a screenshot from my app that I can be proud of.

There are travel plans. There are always travel plans. This year I have, in alphabetical order, China, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan in mind. You might assume that my list of visited countries is missing ones beginning with C and U, and that I've decided 2020 is the year to knock them off. But it's just coincidence. Generally, though, my goals as I've grown older have become more mundane. If I can get through the year happy, healthy and financially solvent, then all is good with the world. 

And then there are those little things that you keep meaning to do but have just never gotten round to. Like having a ride on the ferris wheel on Bournemouth's sea front. It's been there for years. I've walked past it dozens, maybe hundreds of time. Always thinking, I must stop and ride it one day. I can confirm that that day came on January 1st. There's no better day to start getting things ticked off lists.
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Wednesday, 1 January 2020

A New Decade


I was born not long after the 70s started. So I have only vague memories of that decade. I went to school through the 80s. I could refer to it as the decade of learning, but that’s a process that’s never stopped. The 90s were a decade of partying. And, if I’m to be honest, excess. I was tee-total in the 00s, spending my money on travel. And, of course, I spent half the decade living in Mexico. The photo above is from early 2010, just about ten years ago. I look a little weary, but I had just run 6kms.

How have the 10s treated me. It’s been a good decade really. But I have aged. I feel it. I see it when I look in the mirror. It’s the first decade where I’ve ended it feeling a bit slower and a bit weaker that when the decade started. It struck home in September when I became stricken with glandular fever. It’s a nasty illness regardless of age. But I’m quite certain I’d have coped better a decade earlier. It’s all downhill from here I guess. Still, one hopes it will be a slow decline, dragged out over several more decades. 

I’ve given up smoking. That should help hugely. I should probably try quitting political discussion. I can’t imagine being angry is a healthy state of affairs, and politics is full of anger these days. I should try and get back to running too. Or cycling. Or at least walking. I have an Apple Watch with an activity tracker. I’ll try and close my rings each day. But whatever I do, it’s likely that I’ve now passed the half way point in life. Extremely likely. There’s less to come than has already been and gone. That focuses the mind.

Happy New Year to you. I wish you good health and happiness for the year, and the decade, to come.

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