23 July 2011

Amy Winehouse

It was a shock to hear about the death of Amy Winehouse tonight. She was so young and the facts surrounding her death are still to come out, but yet another chilling reminder that alcohol abuse can kill. Unlike drugs, alcohol is a legal commodity, readily available 24 hours round the clock in all-night supermarkets and petrol stations. There are no cast-iron restrictions on its purchase and , unlike cigarettes, children can get hold of it, if they have a mind to. (Some adults even readily give it to their childen as a taster of fine things to come.) Yet alcohol abuse can do just as much harm, if not more, than drugs or cigarettes. It will ultimately lead to addiction, dependency and all kinds of physical internal damage, not least internal hemorrhaging, in which the addict bleeds to death. When is someone in the alcohol industry or the government going to take responsibility for allowing this to happen and take measures to prevent it?

16 July 2011

Chickened out

I'm feeling a bit cross with myself at the moment. This afternoon I was supposed to go to an annual summer meeting at my old secondary school. As it suggests, it is held every year for old girls and teachers. There is usually included a reunion for girls who left ten, twenty, thirty years ago and so on. This year was supposed to be a special occasion for those of my year-group who have all gradually turned 60 in the last twelve months. We were encouraged by the organiser to turn up no matter what. I seriously considered going. Honestly I did, even though I have not been back to the school more than twice in the last forty years, since I left.

My school was originally a grammar school with great historic connections going back to the Middle Ages. Its founder was a big name in the Medieval City - a sort of Lord Sugar in tights and a curly wig! The school in its heyday was a very good one and very hard to get into. It was a state school but with pretentions of being a private one and we all left with very good qualifications and passes onto greater things. Over recent years,the school was forced to turn into a comprehensive, but it still churns out good results. One of their recent girls is now a newsreader on national TV and the school (as a shining example to more poorly-performing schools) now takes on partnerships with other schools to bring them up to standard.

As I said, I did intend to go, but rather thought I would see how I felt on the day. This morning it was raining quite heavily in London and I decided that, if I did go, I would turn up wet and bedraggled, having negotiated a minimum 45-minute drive across busy parts of London to get there. Parking the car would be a problem and I would inevitably end up walking for the last part of the journey and arrive with hair all over the place and mud halfway up my legs. Seeing as I had not seen some of the potential guests for forty years, I did feel I owed my grand entrance to be rather more impressionable than that of a drowned rat. Maybe it also had something to do with the fact that I am a bit harrassed (I am looking after my sick mother who I have transported up to London to live with me for the last week since my return from Venice, as she has had a persistent stomach bug) and probably more to do with the fact that  I just didn't know if I had the confidence to meet old schoolfriends, particularly in the wake of Greg's death.

I decided to stay at home instead. Of course, at the appointed hour of the meeting, the skies cleared, the sun came out and I have been kicking myself for being so stupid ever since. Maybe I'll go next year, but then it won't be a special occasion for my peers next year and they probably won't bother to turn up either. Ah well.

11 July 2011

The answer, my friend,..........

Well, did you guess correctly? Well done to Flowerpot, Doglover and Nota Bene for solving the clues. The clues were a bit obscure. The first three referred to Daphne du Maurier's book Don't Look Now from which a film was made in 1973 starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland about a little girl in a red mac who drowns in her garden pond. The father restores old churches and the plot is set in Venice for the most part, where the grief-stricken parents keep seeing little red macs all over the place. I won't spoil the plot for those who have never seen the film. The other clue was the Four Seasons written by Vivaldi who was born in Venice. So Venice was the anwer and that is where I have been!

I have always wanted to go there, but never managed it up until now. Other people all seemed to go, but it was never my turn. My parents went in the 1970s, calling in there on one of their cruises; my friends all went with respective spouses; even Kay went on a GCSE art trip there with her school about six years ago. (Boy, was I jealous!) Quite why I was so drawn to it, I'll never know. Some people told me it was dirty and smelly, but that seemed to attract me all the more. I don't want to see another version of my local high street all pristine and modern, when I go on holiday. I go to see something completely different. I'm also increasingly getting fed up with beach holidays - done that, got the T-shirt and the sunburn! Venice seemed to tick all the boxes.

And then, of course Greg died and I despaired of ever going on holiday ever again, let alone to Venice. However, for my 60th birthday, Kay gave me a small envelope with a very big twinkle in her eye and when I opened it, I nearly fainted with shock. Inside were British Airways tickets and a reservation for a week here in a fourteenth century hotel........ all paid for by money given to her by Greg. " It's from me AND Dad", she said. "He would have wanted you to go". It took quite a while for my vision to adjust with all the spent tears that evening, I can tell you!

Venice was not only great, it surpassed all I had expected. Kay and I made good use of our time there and explored every nook and cranny of the city, even going to the non-tourist parts, when we could. I'll write more later but meanwhile here are but a few of the 194 photos I took.... You can click on each picture to enlarge it.

Santa Maria della Salute Church on the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge

St Mark's Square, Basilica and Campanile

Florian Cafe on St Mark's Square where two coffees cost £30 (ouch!)

Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge

View from our hotel

05 July 2011

Guessed right?

Well, we are coming back home today, so I'll upload my photos in a while, so you can see whether you were right.................but meanwhile, the last clue to help you.......

03 July 2011

Yet another clue

OK. You must have some idea now. Does this tie in with your thinking?