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Archive for the ‘Flashback’ Category

Golden times 

On an afternoon in early 0ctober 2016, I was having lunch with my friends, George and Adrian when we came up with the idea of travelling to see one of cycling’s spring classics. We usually enjoy a ride together to coincide with the classics, the gather in the pub to watch the race, but venturing to mainland Europe to see one in person was new territory for me. By the time we’d emptied our plates the idea was gathering steam, so I booked a table in Blackfriars for that evening where we could have a planning session.

Later, gathered around a table by the window, we checked our calendars and quickly decided upon travelling to Maastricht for the weekend of the Amstel Gold Race. As quickly as the beers flowed that night, Operation: Amstel took shape.

I took an unlikely organisational role, setting up the Trello board and filling it with to-do’s and ideas as they came to mind, George booked the appropriate flights, and Adrian found us quality bars to visit and a place to stay on Air B&B in the days that followed.

In fact, the whole thing came together so quickly and was so far ahead of us that, over the winter, it was easy to forget that we’d be kicking off the spring in style.

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Goodnight, Tommy

Around 25 years ago, when I was an apprentice electrician for the MoD, I would wait each summer morning for the bus to work at the submarine Base. An older guy, Tommy, whose name I had gleaned from the other bus stop folk who spoke to him, would usually be waiting there at that time in the morning, too.

I quietly observed that Tommy was pretty eccentric. Even then he had a bit of a stoop to him and a face full of character. He would wait seemingly indefinitely on the bin lorry picking him up on the way past and he’d chat away about this and that to everyone who shared the bus shelter. I didn’t know what he was on about half the time, but I would still humour him on his chosen subject of the day because I liked Tommy.

Even though I was a naive young man, somehow I was astute enough to appreciate that the world needed more people like him. He was a bin man, which, let’s be honest, is regarded as the lowest of working class jobs, but that didn’t stop Tommy talking to anyone and everyone as an equal. Apprentice electrician or bank manager – it didn’t matter to him and it’s a trait that I thought was admirable.

He was a kind man with it. One time he saw me running in the distance and asked the driver of the bus I was clearly going to miss to wait for me. That was a big deal to me – I didn’t have the best timekeeping record as an apprentice and Tommy probably saved my bacon that day.

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My Aunty Denny

On Friday the 13th of March 2015 I went for a meal at Annaya’s Indian restaurant in Helensburgh, with my brother Andrew. I’d gone for a couple of beers after work before heading back, so when we got to Annaya’s at around 8pm I was in good spirits and ready for a slap up feed.

When we entered the restaurant I was happy to see my Aunty Denny and Uncle James sitting down the back, so I asked the waiter if we could join them. He showed us to the table right beside them and the banter started before we’d even taken our seats.

“Och! Denny, they saw us!” James laughed. “Shush, you!” She said back to him.

Aunty Denny and Uncle James had always been a great double act. When I was younger I used to get quite stressed at the way they constantly tormented each other, but it became a source of great entertainment over time and I loved the comedy of it when I was in their company.  We spent the next hour or so laughing and talking as we ate our meals and I was so glad we’d happened upon them on the night.

They were finished before Andrew and I, and, after a bit of fuss over not being able to find her scarf, Aunty Denny came back from getting her coat to give us £30 towards our meal. I immediately protested, saying it wasn’t necessary, but she told us that she’d won big playing bingo earlier that week and wanted to treat us.

She’d always been a fan of bingo. I remember when we went on family holidays at caravan parks or Butlins, Aunty Denny would waste no time getting stuck into the bingo halls. I never knew she still played it, but her winnings were impressive.

It was such a kind gesture for her to share her windfall with us and I gave her a hug and a kiss as she left. James was already at the door, eager to get to the pub and going “C’mon you!” Denny scoffed and theatrically rolled her eyes as she went off to join him, waving us goodbye as she went out of the door.

That would be the last time I ever saw her.

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