The Pains and Pleasures of Foreign Travel

‘Thar she blows!’ Feeling a bit like Moby Dick, the great, white whale these days – much more comfortable well below the surface wrapped in the security blanket of ‘Home‘!


We’ve been back from our trip to the UK nearly a week, during which time I’ve sat and gazed blankly at this post page on numerous occasions. The pleasures of being unconnected (mostly), whilst away, seem to have solidified into a ‘memory-foam mattress’ of blogging-Facebook-Googleless lethargy cum disconnect. Re-reading The Road To Wigan Pier and starting Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan/Gormenghast trilogy has proved a far more interesting occupation.

Our UK visit was timed around SPGB Summer School weekend at the very attractive and user-friendly Fircroft College. This is an event that always lifts our spirits along with many a glass of fine ale! This year felt special reconnecting with a number of old friends and getting to know some new faces.

Summer School was followed by the seriously enjoyable pleasures of spending time with family and dear friends and the mixed pleasures and pains of getting reacquainted with the land of our birth. Here, in no particular order are some of them:

Fine, English bitter beer . .

fine bitter beer

 J getting stuck into one

No1 daughter

(full credit belongs to No1 Daughter who understands perfectly how to please we crusty ‘boffers’)

. . and learning that it’s only most and not all of the traditional pubs that have closed down . .



The Shipwright’s Arms, Hollow Shore, Faversham – once, the only way to get to it was across the fields or, our preferred method, using our boat – which we sold more than twenty years ago. Imagine our surprise and delight as we walked along the creek embankment to spot a familiar hull – and there she was . .


. . albeit with all of her brass bits, ports and varnish-work buried under a very unflattering paint job. Cosmic Wind, for that is indeed her name, was built around 1959-60 in Oxford to a Maurice Griffiths  Eventide design and proved to be the perfect East Coast cruising boat. Looking at her still plucks a few strings!

Moving on and giving some balance to the pleasures above was the delight of getting infected by *&+% (no names, no pack-drill) who should have been wearing one of these . .


. . as that cleared up it was followed by . .


. . further demonstrating the need to protect oneself against foreign pathogens whilst in foreign lands!

Back to the good stuff – in Tankerton, again, thanks to No1 Daughter, we were introduced to this gem, little changed from days of childhood of the 1950’s – then . .

seaview cafe1950

. . and now . .


. . with the best bacon sarnies in the world . .

Bacon sandwich

More ‘quintessentially English’ stuff . .

bearstead green cricket

Cricket on the village green – Bearstead CC founded in 1749

canal tow-path Birmingham

. . wandering along canal tow-paths around Birmingham . .

. . and reconnecting, after a very long time, with dear friends and two of the loveliest people on Planet Earth . .

dearest of friends

The ‘joy’ of taking four and half hours to drive 91 miles . .


the M6 northbound

. . to get to a concert at the very impressive Manchester Central Library . .

manchester central library

. . to meet up with John Surman, Chris Lawrence and the Trans4mation string quartet led by Rita Manning. We also met up with old friend composer/arranger John Warren. JS is family and J has known Chris and JW from long before she and I teamed up. We last saw this line-up about three or four years ago when they played at the Hagia Irene in Istanbul – it was yet another memorable experience. Here’s a sample to finish off with . .

Alan Fenn, still somewhere out in the Wide, Blue Yonder!