In the shadow of Heathrow

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Right on cue the air screams with the vibrations of a timely plane as it passes overhead, seemingly close enough to reach out and touch. This is Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world and arrivals and departures number in the seconds not in the minutes. Believe it or not you do tune it out to some degree but the sight of the giant metal Avians littering the sky is a familiar one and one you expect of a bustling city like London. Being somewhat of a country bumpkin myself i nevertheless feel very at home in my city second home and thrill in the vibrant diversity of it all. The hustle and bustle feels very compact and crammed in , with every available space untilised to the maximum and hardly a green space to be seen unless it be of the grass verge variety. Or so i thought.

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Following a maze of urban streets you step through the gates of a city park and are instantly transported to rural heaven. Along winding tree lined avenues, following the wild overgrowth of the River Crane, you would believe yourself to be in the heart of the British countryside and not infact in the depths of the largest city in England. Butterflies wheel and spin, vying for airspace as they dance their fluttering dance across the heat shimmering sky. The air of silence is oddly shattered by the alternating sounds of the overhead jet engines interspersed with the raucous cries of squabbling magpies. Crossing an elderly bridge to gaze down at rippling water and contemplate a game of ‘Pooh Sticks’ before turning a corner and stepping back in time.

St Dunstans church nestles serenely in a sunlit corner of the park showing visible signs of age yet none the less impressive for all that. Splitting wood and age worn gravestones announce proudly that this elderly house of god has been there for many more years than you and i could contemplate.

”Come inside” it smiles invitingly, like some beneign old grandfather welcoming you around for tea. Who are we to refuse and we walk carefully around the grounds interestedly peering at those gravestones visible enough to still be read. Yes old it is and the gravestones lay testament to its age. Who were you we wonder as we pause by first one and then many more of the higgley piggledy scattering of stones. Serene and welcoming and cause indeed to linger a while before continuing on our way.

Crane-Meadows
Much of a surprise then to round a corner and see undeveloped land as far as the eye can see. The alien bulk of a distant control tower the only blight on the otherwise rural looking landscape. Golden fields ripple in the gentle breeze leading to enticing looking tunnels of trees and yet more green and golden expanse. A flash to the right as a little grey body makes a dash for cover, white fluffy tail bouncing madly as it makes a bid for safety.

Bunnies!!

Yet another and then two more as they pause to consider our motives before either fleeing or dismissing us of no consequence and remaining as they were. We briefly halt our progress and tarry a moment to consider them as they in turn watch us a little warily but do not flee. Another is not so bold and dashes for the safety of a large patch of undergrowth yet perhaps it was not us who sent him there as a large magpie hops madly around upon the path infront of us. Just about to perform my usual superstitious salute i spot another and lower my arm in relief. The area is almost deserted compared to the overpopulated urban madness not a stones throw away, yet here it is peaceful and only the odd passing stranger indicates that we are not totally alone. Along the river we wander before out into the wide golden wilderness we step once more. Some thoughtful soul has cut a wonderful path of crossroads within the expanse and some time is spent wandering first one way and then another , randomly taking first one turning and then a  second. The bunnies give way to a lone kestrel soaring in the evening sky, clearly it is time for dinner and we are too far away to disturb his efforts and so he pays us no heed. Look another and yet another and still one more! Six we count in all and they swoop and soar in the warm evening air first gliding landwards before flapping madly to hold in some advantageous position. Glorious they are and so many is a sight to see but secretly i pray ‘dont catch a bunny, oh PLEASE don’t catch a bunny! ‘
kestrel
Again the raucous call of a bullying magpie as a tag team of the embullient avians lay chase to an unfortunate Kestrel. Clearly laying ownership to a small tree they are having none of the poor Kestrels attempts to gain perch there for some small moment of time. Two against one is no match and in defeat he wheels away to seemingly float upon the night sky with his bretheren. Pause for a ‘selfie’ for posterity and then it is time to let those jet engines intrude once more as the rural hideaway fades and urban life encroaches once more. How magical to find such a place so hidden from view in a most unexpected place and one i hope i shall visit again sometime in the future.

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Lo-commotion

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Being a regular train passenger means i definitely do get to meet my fair share of characters. Christmas eve therefore was defintely likely to be one of those events that i was likely to encounter those fellow travellers designed to stay in memory. The terrible storms of the previous few days did nothing to help the travelling conditions and as cancellation after cancellation flashed up on the deparature board even laid back little old me began to become a little worried. 

”I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when i’ll be back agaaaaaiin” i yowled tunelessly.

I know i cannot sing and although i was not infact actually going on a plane at all, nevertheless i was looking forward to my destination and happily crucified a much liked song. My singing has been likened in the past to a strangled cat, a fact i announce quite proudly for i happily admit i am tone deaf and could not carry a tune in a bucket. Stil since i am never likely to be dragged kicking and screaming onto X Factor and nobody but my cats have to hear, i quite happily launch into my very best rendition a la Armageddon style.

”Leaving on a jet plaaane” i screeched merrily, whilst keeping one eye on the train updates for further news. What can i say it was Christmas eve and i was excited! That is my excuse anyway and i shall be firmly sticking to it. 

Checking the train timetables yet again i squawked in horror as my planned train flashed up on screen saying ‘CANCELLED’ followed by a message from the train operators advising passengers to travel earlier than planned and by any route necessary. 

PANIC!!!

Okay, maybe not quite panic for i am far more practical than that and having travelled to London so often these last two years i know every route like the back of my hand. Several swift minutes of  searching left one available route flashing merrily on screen.

‘ON TIME. ON TIME’

The problem was this train left in 40 minutes instead of the two and a half hours i had originally planned on. Standing there in my oversized pyjamas with my hair stuck on end i really was not exactly travel worthy nor fit to be seen in decent society. Now when i say my pyjamas are oversized i MEAN oversized. So after a quick call to the local taxi firm i hurtled for the stairs with great swathes of fabric bunched in one hand, tripped drunkenly over the over long trouser legs and narrowly avoided using my staircase as a prayer mat. I trip over these trousers so often you would think i would throw them into the trash but i cannot bear to part with the tent like comfort of them. With a speed worthy of Wonder Woman i effected a rather miraculous transformation only stopping to lecture myself on the demerits of carrying luggage down a flight of stairs in high heels. 

”Put the shoes on DOWNSTAIRS next time  you dummy” I chided myself ruefully as i clung like a limpit to the bannister with my one free hand. 

Giving myself a mental shake i don an air of sophisticated composure that belies the hurried rush of the previous few minutes. Surverying the mountain of luggage as i slicked on red lipstick i had a momentary doubt as to how i was going to manage the less than small pile sitting waiting to accompany me. A load worthy of Scott of the Antarctic, the amusing thing was that this did not include clothing which was already at its destination. A tooting horn from outside left me frantically gathering up baggage, pausing momentarily to  swiftly swap from arm to arm until i had a balance i could safely totter along with. It all seems such a good idea at the time until you have to actually carry it although i consoled myself with the hoped for reception to the gifts inside. What can i say, i love to give and can easily be accused of going overboard when it comes to gifts but i do not care. Giving is fun. The taxi driver knows me and as we drive along buffeted by the storm force winds he enquires ”London again?”

I nod happily and once at the station gather up the giant luggage bags and stagger towards an elevator. THEN comes the spanner in the works….they cancelled my train!!! 

”Noooooooooooooo” i wail in horror, frantically wishing at this point that i had data left on my phone. A passing platform attendant hears me and enquires where i was trying to get to and helps a very relieved me onto a waiting coach outside for the first leg of my journey. I can already feel myself turning green for i do not travel well on buses at all and have a mental image of vomiting into the lap of the gentleman beside me which makes me stifle a hysterical giggle. Oh well it’s only for half an hour i console myself as a rather large gentleman and his equally large partner squeeze themselves along the narrow gangway, bumping everyone as they go. 

A frazzled looking woman dashes for the seat behind me tapping my shoulder as they sit down. 

”Are there toilets on here” She whispers loudly ” i’m dying for a wee and i didnt have time to go in the station”

I shake my head and tell her no and at her wail of dismay enquire where she is going. I feel a pang of sympathy as she tells me her destination is over two hours away and tactfully suggest she plead with the driver to tarry a minute at the next station to allow her to alight and find a bathroom. Thankfully the driver is in a most Christmas like obliging mood and allows the desperate woman to rush from the coach in search of relief. 

Once on the move the conversations of my fellow passengers swirl around my head and i am confessedly nosey enough to listen half interestedly to what they are saying. There is a man rushing to get the last flight to the channel islands behind me sitting next to the now relieved ‘i need a bathroom’ girl. I listen as his rather cultured tones describe his desperate need for the coach to arrive on time for he will be stranded with no way to his destination if it does not. To my right a twenty something lad telephones his obviously clucking mother to reassure her that he is on his way whilst my heart feels for the man and his daughter infront who are trying desperately to get to the nearby city hospital. So many people all in the same boat, almost all trying to get somewhere for christmas. As i listen i hear some complain, some are resigned and some like me do not care too much about delays just as long as we get to where we are headed. 

Alighting at my station i am relieved to find that one solitary train is due to head for my London destination and i clutch a much needed cup of coffee and wait with those straggling few who had dared to take a chance on getting a train. A smilingly apologetic platform attendant flits from person to person enquiring on destination and offering solace to those waiting to depart. As yet another train is cancelled and replaced by a bus, a man at a nearby table explodes in anger and thumps his fist onto the table infront of him. He does not want to get on a bus he shouts although i gently point out that i have just come from that way and the journey was fine. He is not to be mollified, he wants a train and not a bus though i cannot understand why since does it really matter HOW you get there just so long as you do?

Relieved i gather up my baggage as the train to London is announced, abandoning my much wanted coffee when i discover i do not infact have a free hand to carry it. Tottering along like a japanese geisha i am startled by a twenty something guy clutching a coffee who offers to carry one of my bags for me since it seems obvious i am rather overloaded. There is plenty of time to board and i am not too far from the train so i smile and thank him and assure him i can manage. Eyeing his coffee i cannot help but wish i could have managed to carry my own for i am very much in need of it and i have a long way yet to go. Thankfully the carriage is not infact the crush i had expected, instead being almost empty and as i reach for my tablet to read a book i am relieved at the thought of a nice peaceful journey. 

Did i say peaceful?

”I dont WANT to sit in the middle” Hollers a scowling little darling, blonde pigtails bouncing furiously as she mutinously shakes her head. She climbs determinedly into the seat across the aisle from me defiantly folding her arms infront of her. My heart sinks and i mentally wave goodby to my peaceful trip. A woman i can only assume is her mother rushes back from the middle of the train and pleads with the child to move offering colouring books as a proverbial carrot to persuade her. Miss pigtails is having none of the womans wheedling and announces even more loudly that she is NOT moving and intends to occupy her current seat for the entire journey. 

Oh great! 

”Please darling, come and sit with mummy and we can look at a book together” the woman desperately pleads.

As the child still resists she admits defeat and wanders back to the side of her male companion whilst Miss pigtails stands up in her seat and bellows to her father that she wishes them to move and sit where she has chosen. His refusal brings forth loud wailing which he ignores until catching the expressions of the other passengers upon which he leaps from his seat and barks at the child to move. Surprisingly she does and i heave a sigh of relief before an older woman throws herself into the seat opposite.  i smile politely and continue reading my book but it seems she clearly is something of a chatterbox and does not care if i wish to read in peace. 

Ten minutes pass as i politely answer her questions and engage reluctantly in the conversation she seems to seek before trying to get back to my much enjoyed book. She however has other ideas and continues to talk incessantly and i abandon all hope of my quiet trip and i had hoped. Flicking through a magazine reading my stars i am startled when the woman pulls my magazine down with one finger and announces ”oh im a virgo are you looking at your stars??”

My mouth drops open in surprise and i mumble that yes i am just having a quick glance although i only partly believe in them. Still she tries to peer at my magazine until i at last offer it to her hoping she will read it and leave me in peace. 

”Oh MY” She exclaims loudly, leaning across the table and waving the magazine at me. ”How could anyone actually DO that to someone?”

I mumble something non commital and return to my book but it seems she is not finished for she again exclaims loudly and wafts the pages in my direction. Inwardly i am muttering with a diatribe worthy of the cartooned Mutley although i refrain from grinding my teeth since this might be rather audible. 

SHUT UP!!!! PLEASE!!! 

I am not so rude as to say it though. Generally i am very sociable and will politely talk to anyone but right at this time i just wanted to quietly read and get the journey over. As time passed and the refreshments arrived she eventually subsided into her tea and magazine and i quickly produced another incase she should read faster than i hoped. 

Peace at last. 

I journey a lot and never fail to meet a character or two on my way and most make me smile although some i should like to never meet again. But as my train slowed for its final stop and a smile crept on to my face, a beaming elderly man wished me a merry christmas and gave me a wave. I grinned back at wished him the same then happily departed from my Lo-commotion journey. 

Austen-tatious

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I know myself to be far from alone this weekend being totally immersed in the screening of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, sighing wistfully as the knee weakening Mr Darcy bestows on the most beautiful Elizabeth Bennet ‘THE look’  A tale much loved by me in both literary form and the visual adaptations which duly followed, i find myself drawn once again into the romance and propriety of Austen’s world with all the ease of donning a favourite cosy cardigan. I am a most old fashioned girl in all things pertaining to matters of the heart but also find great appeal in such decorum and wealth of manners and believe i should have felt most at home in this earlier period of time. Oh how very wonderful to be wooed by some dashingly handsome man emanating respect and to be duly afforded such correct behaviour as was my right. So very far removed from most gentlemen of my acquaintance today, and i hesitate to call them gentlemen, who are more likely with great ribaldry to request that i display some area of my anatomy for the entertainment of all present. So appealing too, those so articulate and eloquent, an art which these days i find is very much on the decline and the talent of conversation and wit is severely lacking in all but a few. Perhaps i move in the wrong circles having neither connection nor fortune to move in a society above my own but this does not prevent me from longing for the stimulation of intelligence and decorum that seems doomed to be lost in a bygone age. Little wonder women the world around sigh disconsolately and  take solace in a world so very far removed from our own. And forgive me if, just for a short while, i  join the ranks and submit to the smoulderingly charismatic charms of the irrepressible Mr Darcy.

On the wrong track

The rhythmic rattling and jolting draws nearer as the train lurches steadily towards the station. A surge of people, already pushing and shoving, rush for the doors of the not yet stationary transportation. A groan echoes up and down the platform as the doors open revealing a crush of people in the doorway, grimy windows revealing the absence of seats in a visibly overfull carriage. Never mind, people will be getting off here and making way for those waiting to board and the waiting passengers shift restlessly looking for the chance to break for the slightest sign of a space. One or two alight but not enough to make a difference and the milling crowd jostle to find room.

Standing occupants from previous stops frown in irritation as yet more travellers squeeze into the already claustrophobic space and reluctantly we go with them hoping to find there may be seating after all. Alas it seems the grubby vision was no mirage. Barely even standing room and we are forced to shuffle along the corridor in an uncomfortable crush with other passengers. Sandwiched between a less than pleasantly odoured male and two hysterically giggling teenagers, my personal space was undeniably invaded. The unappealing smell of the nearby toilet mingled with a pervading stink of wet dog from a nearby unidentifiable person making me resort to shallow breathing and covering my mouth with my perfume scented sweater.

                        

You have to expect these conditions in a third world country of course, only this is not a third world country this is Great Britain. In conditions many would regard as only fit for animals we travelled with First Great Western having actually paid to travel this way. As usual only three carriages on a route that frequently leaves passengers standing, yet the train operators themselves refuse to provide adequate seating despite a recent hefty hike in ticket pricing. Perhaps the uncertainty of recent franchise developments have left those thrifty penny pinchers considering their own benefits rather than those of their customers. On this occasion it would defintely seem to be so.

The train pulls in to yet another station and an argument ensues between a current passenger and someone forcibly attempting to join the already overfull doorway. There is nowhere to go and we are almost nose to nose yet the guy on the ground is as determined to board as the other gentleman is not to let him. The new passenger wins and heaves his bulk through the doorway, stepping on a nearby female passengers toes before wedging himself in next to the not very pleasant smelling gentleman.The journey was an interminable torture and the sight of our destination could not have been more welcome. To say it was a relief to disembark was somewhat of an understatement and the rush of fresh air was definitely a pleasant change. I could not help thinking that all it had needed was the presence of a few chickens and a goat and we could truly have been experiencing third world railway travel.

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Expecting the return journey to be less busy i was in for a rude awakening as yet another heaving train drew into the station and not wishing to repeat the experience we chose to wait the half an hour for the next. When the next proved to be equally as overladen we quite angrily decided to pass and wait for yet another. Watching in disbelief a short time later as the departures screen announced that this next train was also full and standing we quickly realised that another porcine style journey was upon the cards. Then a saviour rolled into the station heading our way. A lovely shiny clean South West Trains service with adequate seating and a pleasant atmosphere and the relief was palpable all round. Travelling home in comfort with coffee and bottoms perched upon comfortable seats where they had paid to be was luxury indeed. In future i for one shall be a lot more particular when selecting the operator i travel with. 

From this passenger and, i imagine, a good many more i give a huge thumbs down to those out of touch personages at First Great Western. To their fellow operator South West Trains, after yet another pleasant journey with them, i give a huge thumbs up and my custom wherever possible. After all if i wanted to travel in third world country style i would buy a goat and travel on a third world country train wouldn’t i? Or maybe i’d just jump on one belonging to First Great Western …..

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who do you think you are

We spend our lives surrounded by people, everywhere all around us interacting yet solitary, dimly aware yet so absorbed in our own lives we take little notice of those around us. I like to people watch, i have a strange curiosity about the people around me and i often wonder who they are and where they are going as they rush along oblivious in their own daily lives. The old lady, face screwed up, bent almost double as she battles the wind and rain clutching a battered old shopping bag to her chest. You can see she doesn’t like the rain, her very haste and whole aura of distaste make it very plain as she forges on and tries to hurry just that little bit faster. Where is she going? does she have a doting husband waiting patiently for her return,missing his companion, glancing now and then at the clock to anticipate her return  or does she return to a home silent but for the cries of a ragged looking tabby pacing anxiously by the door. The workman, lunchbox under one arm walking rapidly and purposefully towards his destination, glancing neither left or right in his desire to get out of the cold. He’s less obvious in his distaste but nonetheless you can tell he wishes he was somewhere else. Is there a wife bustling around making dinner whilst children watch with noses pressed to window, waiting to hurl themselves at him as he crosses the threshold or does he return to a darkened house and a meal for one, to take early to his bed unable to bear the solitude for too long a time. The child, oblivious to anything but the pure glee of splashing with reckless abandon through puddles of muddy rain, pulled along by a mother desperate to get home and not inclined to linger like the child. Does he go home to be smothered in a warm towel before perching on a chair, heels swinging, to await the return of rain sodden family members complaining loudly in a clamorous throng about the weather and the journey home or maybe its is not his mother after all and he will not infact see a parent until long after he has retired for the night, greeted only by a perfunctory kiss on the sleeping childs forehead.

And then i wonder if someone else is watching in me and wondering who i am and where i’m going. I try to see myself from the outside and wonder what i would think of me if i were them. Do they see me? Do they know that i dont mind the rain and am in no hurry to get to my destination. Do they notice that i watch them and wonder at their daily likes or maybe notice the small skip around a puddle and think that some recent event has made me want to share a happiness with the world. Do they know that im the one that goes home to the meal for one but later greeted by the family members bewailing the english weather. I wonder what they see when they look at me, do they even see me at all??

Facebook, Jeremy Kyle and a whole lot of laundry

Rare for me, since Saturday mornings usually find me wearing myself out in my local gym, i spent today watching morning television whilst cruising the internet. Like many I have a Facebook account although unlike most I do not really bother with it overly. I find i much prefer the less personal realms of the Twitter world. I tend to be a pretty private person and I am not so awed at the thought of millions of people knowing all of the inner workings of my life. Yes clearly I blog, but blogging is less invasive and I am very careful about those things I choose to reveal to my readers. 

Whilst I am very happy in my relationship and love my boyfriend dearly, I  for one do not wish to publicise the inner workings of my life with him for the whole world to see. Although I am not above displaying for the Facebook world some uncontained burst of happiness for the most part I tend to keep my private life to myself. Not so my friends and acquaintances it seems for, as i scrolled my news feed with one eye on a heated debate on TV’s Jeremy Kyle show, I was a little surprised at some of the statuses.

One side of a couples argument. For everyone’s amusement the woman is visibly making vicious comments about her partner. Friend’s jumping onto the one sided bandwagon adding to the general nastiness with little or no idea of the facts or whether any of it was at all true. Another ‘friend’ publishing intimate medical information about herself regardless of the fact that the whole world can see and comment upon this yet they do not seem to care.

Scrolling further down i see more personal information, a phone number and yet another status spewing spite towards some faceless unnamed individual. Again this person has had the foresightedness not to reply and draw themselves further into the deluge of venom directed their way. Such things amaze me for I have always been taught and am a big believer in the saying

‘If you cannot say anything nice then do not say anything at all’

As the TV continues to drone in the background my attention shifts again to the now furiously arguing couple upon the screen and i cannot help but wonder..WHY?? Are we as a species so desperate for our five minutes of fame that we would resort to airing our dirty laundry in public and ultimately setting ourselves up for ridicule as a result of this? Do those people on screen or even on Facebook stop for one moment to consider just how they appear to other people? Perhaps they simply do not care and again i find this difficult to comprehend. 

It seems with the advent of more and more advanced technology, there are many of us content to be drawn into the fantasy of the online world. In our attempts to be modern and popular we are content to broadcast those facts about ourselves that would have seemed so scandalous when whispered behind twitching curtains decades before. Perhaps  things have changed and what was once so socially unacceptable is now simply considered the norm in today’s society. There is little doubt that, given the presence of many such shows as that of Jeremy Kyle, we are much more voyeuristic in nature than we once were. We watch avidly as the dysfunctional and the desperate bear all to a viewing public of millions and in many cases pass judgement where, in their place, we should not like to receive it. 

So sad a world when the misfortunes and distress of other people are considered a form of entertainment for others and for the most part i refuse to watch. I cannot feel anything but sadness and sympathy for those poor souls drawn to solve their problems in such a way. Me? I think I shall continue to keep my private life to myself, even my friends and family are not privy to events within my relationship with my boyfriend and perhaps as a woman I am unusual in this. It seems the norm to share with friends those occurrences, arguments and happy times within your intimate relationship but for myself I prefer to keep those things between he and 

Dirty laundry? Personally I think i shall forgo my five minutes of fame and keep mine firmly in my laundry basket!! 

VW525EFYWZWD

Duxford Autumn Airshow 2012

As an early morning mist clears from the skies above Duxford it looked likely to be a sunny clear day for all at the Autumn Air show 2012. If the event organisers were breathing a sigh of relief, there was certainly no sign of it but one cannot deny there was likely much holding of breath and watching of local weather reports. As a low sun glinted cheekily upon the colourful array of exhibitors it seemed that once again flocking visitors were in for a treat.

A rather quiet programme by some standards, the thinner crowds also lead one to question whether a current recession is beginning to feel its pinch in the world of aviation. Nevertheless it promised to be a most glorious display of speed and superiority as each fought to be the star of the show. Some more flamboyant like the highly colourful Hawk T-1 jet drew gasps of awe at her sheer dramatic speed and obvious skill from her pilot whilst others less aesthetic yet no less impressive relied on prowess alone. A sad day for aviation indeed since for this Hawk in particular this was to be her swansong, never again will she be seen to delight the public at an air-show. A final bow out of memorable proportions, this was one lady who did herself proud.

Joined by the no less colourful Tucano T1 ZF269 ‘ER’  , the public were in for a real treat as the RAF amply displayed its technical skill  and well deserved reputation as a forerunner in the world of aviation. Fearless daring from both pilots as the equally impressive Hawk and Tucano demonstrated exactly what they are capable of. To a backdrop of excellent commentary, the public kept its gaze firmly skyward drinking in the drama unfolding above. One could not fail to miss the gasps of appreciation resulting from a perfect accelerated stall. Regrettably also the last performance from the dashing Tucano pilot as he waved his farewells to an appreciative crowd, leaving to begin training as a Typhoon jet pilot, he clearly will be missed at Duxford.

Quietly serene amongst its more junior counterparts stood the matriarchal figure of the B-17 Flying Fortress ‘Sally B’ and perhaps one will forgive this writer for a certain amount of bias when it comes to the charms of this rather glorious old girl. A quieter, slower paced display from the lady herself but nonetheless impressive as her smoke plumed finale put the icing very firmly upon a steady but stunning performance. No less formidable was the imposing bulk of the Dakota FZ692 ‘Kwicherbichen’ ,  a commanding presence that needs none of the vivacity of the more colourful planes to draw the eye. Sheer air domination kept all eyes upon her as she paraded her arena with ease, giving awaiting photographers ample opportunity to capture her dramatic form.

Not to be outdone a most spectacular pairing from the distinctively throaty P-51D Mustang, aptly named ‘Ferocious Frankie’ and the aesthetic delights of  the Hawker Hunter F-58A ‘Miss Demeanour’ . An aerial dance of breathtaking proportions saw them sail the skies in a dramatic battle for supremacy set effectively against a rapidly darkening sky. Yet if the conditions were now not so much to the liking of waiting photographers this did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the awestruck public watching avidly below. Disappointed they were definitely not as the pair played a most lavish game of aerial cat and mouse that left onlookers wanting more.

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the Merlin engined Mustang, ‘Ferocious Frankie’ paired with effective ease with the legendary Spitfire IX from The Old Flying Machine Company. With a distinctive sound they proved why the Mustang engine was such an important development in aviation history. One could think of no better place to commemorate this momentous event than at Duxford itself, where it all began. A moment to remember and one not likely to be forgotten by those who had flocked from near and far to see them. If the clicks of nearby camera’s were anything to go by this is one event definitely captured for posterity. 

Certainly a treat for the eyes, Duxford Autumn Air show delivered on every front despite a day of slowly plunging temperatures and the advent of an angry looking sky. Onlookers by no means willing to tear themselves away, staying steadfast to the last to pay tribute to all who took to the air. Still they came, the Pitts Special pair, Hispano Buchon (Messerschmitt Bf 109),the bright blue and yellow Boeing Stearman and the dramatically feline Black Cats Lynx Pair. To the delight of their audience they held court over the skies of Duxford bringing to a close another year in the aviation calendar.Definitely in for the long haul the fans paid a well deserved homage, ensuring the success of yet another show.

As the day drew to a close reluctant to leave enthusiasts lingered for one last look as a re-emerging sun cast a late afternoon glow over the stars of the day.  A show it promised to be and a show it most certainly was.

All photographs reproduced with kind permission from Sanjay Rampal http://falkencommunications.wordpress.com/

There’s nothing like a dame

Across the horizon the clouds roll in obliterating the sun and turning an already frigid day distinctly chilly. She does not care about the cold, her low throaty purr never falters as she turns and makes ready her escape. All eyes are upon her yet she is in no hurry for this grand old dame knows that she commands the glance of every eye with little effort at all.

Against a moody sky she surges aloft, soaring ever higher in a smooth steady arc towards the clouds. Flying free and with an elegance belying her age she takes to the sky like a caged bird suddenly given its freedom and i have to shield my eyes as she disappears almost from sight. She will not leave for she loves an audience but the need to tantalise is not one she will give up easily and she revels in the anticipation of the crowd below. One timely tip of a well shaped wing and she banks steadily towards her waiting audience, swooping lower to display her charms to her awestruck fans below. 

Celebrity indeed as the cameras click frantically and she preens for them all taking her time passing them by before leaping coyly out of reach and heading for the heavens once more. A diva of the very best kind and how her public adores her, she knows it and tips a jaunty roll before banking steadily to journey her catwalk once more. One cannot deny her beauty, the last of her kind she is petted and adored as only the unique can be. From the far flung regions of the world they come to revere her and as usual she does not disappoint, posing happily for picture after picture without complaint.

Her name is Sally B, but if you are lucky you can call her Belle.

A beautiful old matriarch, not content to retire and end her days with a well earned rest, she continues to delight the crowds wherever she goes and they love her for it. Like her screen goddess contemporaries before her she ages with a glamour of a bygone era, timeless and unforgettable. Performing for the crowd her poise never wavers, turning again to display a sultry pose clad in elegant red, one well shaped ankle swinging jauntily beneath her. A girl of two faces indeed she will turn again and leave little to the imagination. 

A plane without equal she is indeed the darling of the aviation world and as she descends towards ground and her awaiting public she is happy to greet them, gliding to a slow meander at close proximity. A swift turn and she is done, her starring role over for another day and content to step out of the limelight for a time at least. 

Her name is Sally B but if you are lucky you can call her Belle.

Photos with kind permission courtesy of Sanjay Rampal   http://falkencommunications.wordpress.com/

Come fly with me

As morning creeps in on a chilly Sunday i poked my nose from beneath the duvet, pronounced it rather too cold to move  and dived back under the covers. Much in the manner of all bears i am rather loathe to move at this time on a supposed day of rest although gym kit hanging jauntily nearby suggests i should infact be stirring.

Instead i let my thoughts drift to where i shall be in one week from now and i cannot help but get rather excited for my vampiric partner in crime and i will be heading for my very first air-show at Duxford!! I guess dating an Aviation Writer i was undeniably going to come into contact with planes of every kind, what i didn’t expect was to find it all so interesting and exciting. Of course we differ slightly he and i. Whilst he is in raptures over some sleek modern design, be it commercial or military, i myself am much more drawn to the much older matriarchs of the aviation world.Those beautiful old girls long past their prime, yet so elegant and proud and i love them all.

Give me B-17 Flying fortress’s and Spitfires galore. Bring on the Lancaster’s and the B-25 Mitchell’s and the oh so beautiful Sopwith Camel. Yes i am such an old fashioned girl and these echoes of the past draw me in and have me daydreaming of all the things they have seen and all the lives they have lived. My whimsical nature creates a story for each and gives them a glorious life all of their own, though in truth i imagine their realities were far more awe inspiring than even my imaginings could make them. In my thoughts they soar and fly and i fly with them free as a bird.

As i sit and write a Lancaster banks its way to a glorious descent within my eye-line, or so i like to imagine it anyway. A private joke between my boyfriend and i, the small model sits proudly upon a chest of drawers flying elegantly to the echoes of my gleeful shrieks as  i saw a ‘Lancaster’ fly over in the not so distant past. Soon to join it in its merry flying display, my own personal favourite the Sopwith Camel, out of time but definitely not out of place and the two shall fly a magical tattoo in my imagination at least.

This ‘Camel’ will be special for i am to build it myself. Perhaps i exaggerate some when i say ‘myself’ for i have never built a model plane before and will no doubt require much assistance from a boyfriend far more talented at this than i. But build it i will and call me a geek if you choose but i shall not care for i find it all rather exciting and cannot wait to bring forth this creation of mine. Hopefully the first of many for they say practise makes perfect do they not?

Yes the bi-planes i love, my favourites above all and seeing them in person is a feeling i cannot describe. You cannot help but be impressed by such beauty and such daring from those who flew with them. In my minds eye they soar and fly, a hero at the controls and the heart of an eagle within as they dominate the sky with such elegance and grace. Yes whimsical i may be but most definitely impressed by all i see before me.

So to Duxford we shall go and i have no doubt i will be unable to contain my glee for my inner child is impatiently hopping up and down and camera is already mentally poised. Sporting the most beautiful of flying jackets courtesy of my partner i shall feel very much the part and imagination will run abound in every direction. Come fire up your imagination and fly with me for i shall blog the day in all its glory. But for now the old girl’s sit and wait and so do i. 

 

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When worlds collide

All of you who read my blog will no doubt have noticed my countdown clock with its gleeful announcement of an impending weekend with my little vampire. I have been excitedly counting down the days to a trip to London to see THE most special person in the world, my best friend Jay. Packing was done and undone,then done again. Clothes strewn across every single spare inch of space as i ummed and ahhed about what to take with me and changed my mind yet again.The result was probably far more than i needed but i am someone who likes to be prepared for every eventuality.

What can i say i’m a girl, this is the norm for someone like me!!

So Friday arrives and in true Amanda style i was at the station far too early, clutching my ritual coffee and determinedly forcing myself to sit in my seat in a composed and ladylike manner when all i really wanted to do was bounce up and down in my seat shrieking with glee. I behaved, i was most grown up and firmly squashed my inner child although the huge grin on my face would not be removed and a gentleman passenger rather startled beamed back at me, believing himself to be the recipient of it. 

Half an hour later i was cursing myself for not obeying my first instinct to get into the quiet zone as children ran screeching up and down the carriage, parents totally oblivious to the antics of their offspring. Increasing the volume on my ipod did little to drown out the noise and i willed the train to go faster and the parents to consider other passengers and curb the rowdiness. My eyes widened as i surreptitiously observed the family at the adjacent table, mother, father and three very young children, noting each time a child became overly noisy he would be handed food to quieten him which was very frequent. I was slightly alarmed at the copious amounts of food consumed by those small  boys and wondered perhaps if the parents could not have thought of a better way to occupy their children.

To say i was glad to leave the train was a little of an understatement and i thankfully hopped from it to the hustle and bustle of Clapham Junction. Here begins the culture shock for the town where i live is very sleepy and rural and the most uneventful of places, predominantly white and so totally removed from the multicultural rush, rush rush of the city. A dozen languages swirled around me as people rushed by totally aware of anyone else and all in such a hurry to be somewhere. A far cry from the slow pace in which i usually live i absorbed it all, watching in fascination as it all wove its way around me. 

I wonder if i was so very obvious, being such a fish out of water although i was far from lost. Trains are a part of my everyday life and to locate my connection was barely a second thought but i did wonder if my very ruralness stood me apart from those city dwellers around me. Were the second glances merely appreciative ones or did i really stand out as being an out of townie?? I shall never know although the woman in me would prefer the former. So as my connection rolled in and i scrambled with the rest to climb aboard i firmly crossed my legs and tried to ignore a pressing need for a bathroom. Of course i could have gone on the train but i was loathe to leave my luggage unattended and more importantly i was rather afraid of missing my stop.

Houses sailed by as fast as the miles and yes by now i was probably earning the label of tourist as my head turned in all directions taking it all in. So many high rise buildings!! Not a common sight where i live at all. Double decker buses and black cabs so alien a sight yet i felt such delight at seeing them and firmly decided that i was liking this lively place, a most welcome change from the slow moving day to day life i usually lead.

 As the train rolled into the station and i waited to alight i couldn’t help but think that we take our surroundings for granted and only really notice it when it is seen through the eyes of someone else. Do city folk see it as i did and feel such a child like excitement at such a carousel of activity.

I loved the whole time in the city, it really captured me, the whole vibrant rush of it and at the end, as i neared my home, i did wonder how city people would see the little town where i return to. Sleepy? Beautiful? I wonder what would you see??

Playing the Game

Like many this week i have been glued to the tv watching avidly as events at the Olympics unfold. The patriot in me roots for my team as much as anyone around the world for who does not want to lend their support for those trying so hard to bring pride to their country. 

Perhaps though i am unusual or perhaps a little naive but support is the one thing that bothers me within the whole affair. Yes we are the home nation and by geographical design and resulting sheer force of numbers alone we have the greater support for our team. Those far larger countries have their share of support, being more noticeable at some events than others but it befalls those much smaller or poorer countries to be unfortunate enough to not have the following present that they deserve. 

Most noticeably tonight whilst watching swimming i had to smile at the huge roar greeting the British Olympians but then this quickly turned to a frown when the emergence of some other competitors brought near silence. As i said call me naive but this did not sit well with me at all and i am seriously of the belief that all who take part should receive accolade from the crowd as a whole. Every single one of those emerging and being introduced to the crowd should have received applause and cheers regardless of where they were from. Of course upon race start each nation will wish to cheer on its own for we of course wish our own to win but surely the sheer presence and actual  competing from those at the highest of their sport is worthy of equal recognition. 

I personally felt rather a lack of sportsmanship and camaraderie and should i have been fortunate enough to be there i should have clapped and cheered every single one of them just for giving us such an event to watch. Perhaps at some events we are better at this, those with names more famous therefore deemed worthy of support but myself i should like to see the same support for all no matter how big or small and regardless of country of origin.

After all it is ultimately all about playing the game.

Conversations with an electronic system

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Today i had the misfortune to need to telephone the tax office, a task i admit i had been putting off due to the total rigmarole involved in past experiences. This type of call is no simple matter and after several attempts i was no closer to getting my call answered than if i had not bothered to dial at all. These phone lines are most cleverly sneaky i should add and far from dialling and ringing you are subjected to the press one for this, press 2 for that palaver, all the while racking up the costs on your telephone bill. To make matters worse each section has vast amounts of do’s dont’s, general rules and reams of information that only serve to draw the call out longer, most of which would be more appropriate on a separate helpline since most is totally irrelevant to you. 

6 minutes into the call i am trying to stifle a yawn when finally the section i want comes up and i press the number for my chosen option. The now annoying voice informs me my call will now be transferred and i roll my eyes and think ‘FINALLY’ .Ten seconds later the voice is back  informing me that my call cannot be taken since they are too busy! okay so at this point i am quite cross, why could they not have said this in the first place instead of charging me to listen to a load of rubbish i wasn’t interested in. But then they are incredibly savvy since they are fully aware we have no choice but to call and jump gleefully on the opportunity to make money from this by clever systems and high charge call rates. 

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5 attempts later and the result was much the same so i decided to be smart and press the option for a totally different section and then plead dumb once the call was answered. Oddly enough this call had far more success and i was placed in a queue with tasteless tinny music being filtered down the line. Huge sigh and i decided to float around the internet whilst waiting and jammed the phone between my shoulder and my ear thus leaving my hands free to type. Sometime later with definite crick developing in my neck and my right ear giving off heat worthy of a swedish sauna, i was getting rather bored with the distorted echoey music yet stubbornly resisting the urge to hang up and try again later.

”Hello Tax helpline can i help you”

YES!! finally a real human voice and thankfully a male one this time for i was rather tired of hearing the silly woman on the looped recordings and would have quite happily have listened to Mickey Mouse rather than that. Putting on my best voice i announced that i wasn’t sure if i was in the right place for i had gotten a little confused (cue silly little giggle to emphasise point) Now i am far from being this dumb but he wasn’t to know that. Since this achieved my object i wasn’t going to feel one bit guilty about it and i set about launching into my details. 10 minutes later and business concluded i heaved a sigh of relief that the dreaded deed was done and i could stay away from the diabolical helpline debacle until the following year. 

Whatever happened to the days of speaking to human beings?? In our electronically enlightened society are we really so advanced when this is the best lines of communication that we can manage? Personally i will take hearing a real voice minus all the press this and that anytime and i thank goodness my official call quota is minimal. 

Oh and to my little imp of a best friend, if you say press one for this and press two for that the next time i call you i shall throttle you 😛   yes i know you!! Love you 🙂

Only in England

Finally after weeks of uncharacteristic rain worthy of an Indian monsoon we finally get to see a little sun here, two whole days in a row and hopefully counting. Whilst temperatures in England may be far from the norm for this time of year it is nonetheless pleasantly warm and skies of a glorious blue. For many it is a relief to put away the umbrella, shrug off the coats and woolly sweaters and bask in the rays of a long forgotten sun. 

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But this is after all England and we would not be so very English were it not for our quirks and oddities that in any other country would raise an eyebrow or be distinctly frowned upon. 7am on a Sunday morning and child next door is outside in a paddling pool screeching and bellowing at the top of his voice waking those who, having worked hard all week, are enjoying a Sunday morning lie in. Not for much longer it seems. Yes the sun is out but it is far from pool weather especially at such a time of day but as is so typical of us the first sign of sun prompts us to behave as though we had suddenly become a country much more tropical than we are.                    

                                                      

Everywhere girls parade in outfits so tiny as to be almost non-existent, clothing more worthy of some Caribbean beach than a less temperate day in the far milder west. To their favour my last boyfriend adored these much younger scantily clad girls and had perfected the art of double take and 270 degree turns of the head in a most impressive way. Chance it to say that being so very typically English has its merits for some after all. 

Next comes the supermarket, now this has only brought me here in search of a pint of milk for my coffee but is already packed with shoppers fighting frantically over the last package of bread rolls for the requisite barbecue on an English day with some semblance of sun. Overweight men, shirtless and sweating parade the aisles shuffling along in the flip flops they are so unused to wearing but which are rapidly dusted off as the day looks set to be fine. This is not a sight i wish to see and should i go to any other country i expect i would not but here it is just another average sight. Oblivious and totally uncaring as to how they appear to others, red faced and already grumbling about the heat yet it is not yet the hottest part of the day.

So funny a race we British, we complain constantly about the rain or the snow and welcome the sun with all the abandon of welcoming a lover after a long absence yet so very rapidly we revert to type and grumble instead over the heat and the lack of breeze. After many weeks of rain and constant wishing for sun from the masses, ironically, should the weather hold, in a few days time the wishes will be the total reverse. You cannot help but laugh and wonder if it is just in the nature of we English to need something to grumble about and surmise that as a result we should never be happy no matter which situation should present itself. 

As i go about my daily business today i cannot deny i shall be tipping my face up to the sun and enjoying the warmth of it while it is here but as much as i enjoy a barbecue i shall not be battling the queues for a fight over supplies. Should it rain tomorrow i shall not mind that at all so perhaps i am not so typically English as all that. I wonder are we the only ones to have such typical behaviour or if it is a norm that occurs everywhere wherever we go. 

I wonder

Avoid getting wet

As anyone who lives anywhere near me will tell you, today it rained. I expect it was the same for much of the country but when i say it rained i mean it came down in sheets, really heavy torrents of rain. Having already got a soaking on the way home from the gym i pretty much hoped that was it for the day and since i had the dentists this afternoon i knew i had no choice but to go out. Dear daughter number one duly piped up and volunteered to accompany me and i was happy enough of the company. 

So 3pm and the sun has disappeared but the sky remains dry as we ventured off into town and the dreaded event awaiting me. Actually it wasn’t too bad but just as we emerged a very darkened sky burst showering us with big, fat, cold raindrops and no chance of shelter. My hooded coat was still drying out back at home so i was stuck with second hoodless one and pretty much fathomed i was going to get wet.Cue internal shrug and  an air of ‘oh well’.  As the rain continued to pour rivers began running down the streets matching the ones running down my hair and into my neck and puddles already remaining from earlier began to reach larger proportions causing us to hop over them.

I actually wasn’t that concerned but dear daughter who had sadly decided to wear ugg style boots was now squelching along complaining loudly. She doesn’t realise but she is actually very funny when getting cross which she does very easily and loves to complain. If dear daughter is not happy then you can be sure EVERYONE will know about it. So as we hurried along i was trying desperately to hide a smirk as dear daughters complaining turned into a rant. Now anyone who has seen the cartoon Dastardly and Mutley and seen Mutley when he gets cross will easily envisage what i mean. A non stop stream of loudly muttered complaints and curses, freely decorated with bouts of sarcasm and you could almost see the dark cloud glowering above her head.

Me?I laughed. I trudged along soaked to the skin with rain running down every free space and i laughed. The more she ranted the funnier i found it which didn’t go down too well and in mild temper she started to stamp her feet hard which given the way people walk in ugg style boots reminded me of a duck and made me laugh all the harder. Of course this only resulted in her stomping into a really deep puddle totally soaking any part of her that wasn’t already wet. So this how we got home, she and i, her glowering and ranting and me laughing so hard i could hardly walk. I have no doubt she did not intend to be funny but oh, she was. 

Of course i am nice and on reaching my home i did give her dry shoes and socks and placate her with coffee but something tells me that in future it might be a good idea to avoid getting dear daughter wet!!

On an English country hike

I live in a small town in the South West of England, pretty much like any other town i would say except we are famous for two reasons. The first a beautiful chalk horse carved into the hillside and the second we lay claim to the oldest swimming baths in Britain, opened in 1887 and still having much of its original Victorian architecture. Interestingly these swimming baths are reputed to be haunted by a ghost named George. Some say he was a swimmer who jumped to his death from the pool balcony while the more likely claim is that he is the ghost of an old stoker. Since most sightings of him have been seen by the poolside wearing overalls most people tend to believe the latter. 

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Living where i do i tend to walk a lot and my favourite walk is up into the hills to sit on the white horse so i am going to take you on a trip with me on an English country hike. Usually i start from my house and walk up into the market place, typically English although the days of there actually being a market there have long since gone. Still it remains with much of its original buildings being an original part of the town.Once upon a time the building on the left was the town hall, now it is merely used to house a solicitors.    

 

 

From here we turn left and head up the hill, i love this street for it has one of the loveliest houses along the way and if i were to dream of owning any house then this one would certainly be up there with the front runners. Not my usual type of house since i mostly prefer Victorian houses but this one is definitely of the rose covered variety.

 

 

Right next to this are houses i really do love, originally cloth mills until 1969 these are listed buildings and have been converted into houses. I’ve never had the chance to see inside but externally they have a most appealing character which i am drawn to. 

 

 

Getting to the top of the hill you see straight infront of you the White Horse Pottery, producing the most beautiful hand made pottery in a traditional old style. You can go along and watch the pottery being made and browse the collection of unique pieces for sale. The building itself was once an old school which i believe was the Church Of England Day School dating to around 1847 and is today still called The old School.

 

 

 

 

Now this is where the real hiking begins, as you leave the houses behind the path widens with a riding school on one side and beautiful views across the fields on the left, horse sitting proudly on the hill dominating the landscape. It looks closer than it is from here, like you could almost reach out and touch it and you would be forgiven for thinking you need only run through the field and you will be there.

 

 

 

Rounding a corner and turning left to head up across the hills you very often encounter horses in the fields, some of these guys are oh so beautiful and very friendly. I did feel rather guilty today as i did not have a single treat in my pocket yet despite the drizzle they were more than happy to come over and say hello.

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Onwards and upwards! There is of course a road that goes all the way to the top of the horse as many people choose to drive there but this is often covered by a canopy of trees which hides the view as you walk so i tend to hike halfway up and then cut along the fields. This takes you right along the front of the hill ridge and only a barbed wire fence between you and a very long steep slide down to terra firma. On the right days you can see Paragliders galore taking flight like a swam of exotic butterflies and swirling around the skyline infront of the hill face.

                                                  

 

The hike is definitely worth it as you cut across the hills the horse peers gleaming white from between the hills as you walk, far bigger than it appears in photographs and closer than you would imagine. High above the horse itself is an Iron Age Hill Fort named Bratton Camp, now here i had to borrow a photograph since this amazing site really doesnt show well from ground level and there is seriously no chance of me getting myself up into one of those paragliders, no matter how pretty they may appear from down here..

 

 

Then as you walk along the chalk path you are face to face with that gleaming horse you saw in the distance. You can actually sit on this if you are brave enough although i content myself with sitting on his ear and looking out across the landscape at my little town below.                                                                                                               

 



 

Above is the view sitting on the horses ear looking down into the valley. Was i tempted to slide down it?? oh no!! Actually it was very drizzly and windy and i had rather a time staying seated where i was without the wind whipping the camera from my hand. You can see why they love to glide from here cant you??

 

 

Welcome to my hike, feel free to come along and sit with me for i come here a lot. And as i sit here with the wind and rain howling around me i really do not mind at all. We are happy up here this horse and i watching the world go by and running madly through the hills just like all wild things should. 

conversations of an unusual nature

okay i confess i have gone entirely and utterly mad. perhaps working with dementia is affecting me for it has come to the stage that shopping in Tesco’s i am actually answering the talking checkout as if this were a perfectly normal everyday thing to do. Now i may have been a little rude but i did say this under my breath so as not to offend the little electronic beings sensibilities. 

okay first item scanned..

CHECKOUT…please place the item in the bagging area ( i comply)

CHECKOUT..unexpected item in bagging area

ME…no its not you just told me to put it in there!!! (shop assistant rectifies the problem) 

CHECKOUT…please scan your next item

ME…I am, i am calm down

CHECKOUT…please place the item in the bagging area……unexpected item in bagging area

ME...well stop telling me to put it in there then!! (shop assistant comes over again)

CHECKOUT…please scan your club card….please scan your club card…please scan your club card

ME( hunting through handbag)….hang on hang on im getting it!! lord have a little patience for once tut!!

CHECKOUT…please take your items…please take your items..please take your items

ME( chasing a rogue apple across the floorwell i’m hardly going to leave it here am i stupid *!$*

oh dear more time spent in intelligent conversation needed i think!! maybe its time to lie down 😛Image

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