Mother and Fathers Improbable Meeting

 

“To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

Woody Allen

 

Once  again the actual fat chance of our hero existing once again comes into play with some incredibly, mind boggling odds.  The numbers are difficult to comprehend.  There are approximately 7 billion people in the world, give or take a few dozen.  It does tend to fluctuate. Now factor in that around 70%  are adults and that there’s essentially a 50/50 split between males and females. Which means there are about 2.45 billion potential special people out there for any one person. So in a nutshell a person has a 1 in 2.45 billion chance of meeting a life partner.

 

In this case the egg donor and the sperm supplier met as entirely by chance as is possible to conceive, quip fully intended. Mother was on a day out at, roll on the drums, Southend-on-Sea.  Again the sea and water! Mother and her younger sister were ambling around the beautiful playground that was the funfair at Southend in an affable manner, circa 1951. As they strolled around in their best attire they spotted a ride that they both agreed would be fun. However the ride was going to project them up to some crazy G-forces. Giggle force. They duly deemed the ride unsuitable for their handbags. Then the problem arose. Neither of them had had the forethought to bring alone a young man as company and chief bag handler. What were the young ladies to do in order to find a solution to this thorny problem? Trumpets please and sounds of horns blaring out in a Roman Empircal mode in the background. Enter stage left our hero, that handsome slim but well -built old devil, Brylcreemed and clad in jaunty grey flannels and a blue jacket, that caddish looking chap who would be known as Father. For some blindingly naïve reason, or such was the desire to go on this particular fairground ride that the ladies asked Father (to be) to hold their handbags. But move beyond the mere bag in its material form. For in the bag was their money. Money they had been saving for this day out, the keys to their home, ration cards and other forms of identification, apart from the mundane essential of cosmetics, and probably spare knickers for purely emergency reasons. Just what were legitimate emergency reasons was never alluded to in any great detail. Although there was enough material for an emergency parachute, or two! Maybe that was the answer. Covert parachute production.

 

And what a fascinating place Southend-on –Sea was for the funky hipsters of the time. Originally the ‘south-end of Prittlewell village, so much more appealing and lyrical to the ear. As a resort Southend- on-Sea grew in popularity from the Georgian era onwards. To celebrate this popularity a pier was built in 1830. Then after some time the very sensible idea of building it in iron instead of timber saw the new, stronger modern pier open in 1889. And what a pier! At 2,158 meters long, or 7,80 feet, or if you really want to get a concept of its length try 1.34 miles or 2.16 kilometers, the longest in the world. Southend-on Sea could really say come and have a look at this! This epic sized construction juts in a phallic like manner into that aquatic playground known as the Thames Estuary. The location of Southend -on-Sea geographically means that it has warm summers. However remember these are British summers we are talking about, with no dry season.  Exactly. Brolly, please.

 

Back to the amusement park. In fact they met at what they termed the Kursaal. This is a German word and means the ‘main public pump room in a spa.’ However it was used in the  English language to denote a Fairground or Amusement Park at that time. The Germans must have been outraged at this blatant and abusive misuse of their beautiful language. So much so that in May 1915 the German High Command sent a huge Zeppelin captained by a certain Hauptmann Erich Linnarz to visit England. Well to be honest they only did huge when it came to Zeppelins. Anyway, the gallant captain was tasked with attacking London. However he single handedly destroyed the myth of German thoroughness and efficiency  when he decided, on a whim, to drop a few bombs on Southend. As you do. Just to say hi! Maybe he spotted too many sunbeds without towels laid on them reserving them for after the war. Later when Captain Linnarz was deterred from attacking London he dumped the rest of his bombs on Southend again on his return trip. What a generous soul. Hundreds of  bombs exploded in the town and duly punished the English for using and twisting the linguistic usage of Kursaal so derisively. Take that Englander! Anyway this meant nothing to Mother and Father in 1951 outside of the offending Germanic word which was in common usage at that time.

 

The ride. Father, on being accosted and asked if  he would hold their bags, and being the gentleman that he was, duly agreed. And then he waited patiently while the ladies had their fun, hurtling around at unimaginable speeds and giggling. He did not rifle through the bags, for he had left his rifle back in barracks. Nor did he pilfer anything, not even the spare bloomers. Instead he  stood as if he were a sentry outside Buckingham Palace, solid and reliable. Hwe was definitely starting to feel solid. Or maybe he was thinking along the lines of a ride for a ride. Come on ladies, I was ever so helpful! Either way contact was established and events would unfold at such a rapid pace that Father would ask for her hand in marriage, and all the other attached bits too, in only three weeks from the day they met . Now that was a fast worker. Notably neither of them took heed from the inherent warning to be taken from the initials of where they met, Southend -on-Sea, or SOS. Three dits, three dahs and three dits. Which incidentally does not stand for ‘’Save our Souls’’ as apropo as that sentiment may have been for their fateful meeting.

 

Now back to creating him. So, 23 male and 23 female chromosomes fused in perfect harmony, and excuse his immodesty, devilishly handsome to boot, and the process of creating him from the nothing he had been, which is nothing and nowhere as there was nothing there,  to the something he would become. He had, if you will, surfaced turtle-like and had his neck lassoed with his very own life-saver slung around his neck.

‘’And as unplanned as the ensnaring of a turtle with a life saver’’,  said the counselor, who really was pushing home her bitch-like advantage behind a banal smile, pineapple tilting slightly to one side dangerously. He agreed with the counselor, not from deference for her profession, but for the fact that somewhere in the depths of his mind, his walled and partioned brain, a dim 40-watt fly shit encrusted bulb had illuminated. It was visible through the cracks in some of his walls.

 

Unplanned he had slipped in unbidden (more punning) into Mother’s nether regions. Well, that was not exactly completely accurate nor true. He had been pumped in at 28 mph, or 44 kph for those of the metric system. Just stop and think about the size of a sperm, which is as mentioned earlier only 50microns long. And then fire it off at 28 mph, that really is some forward motion. After such an explosive start the sperm, naturally, starts to slow down just a tad. Well you wouldn’t you. And then takes the slip road of the motorway and takes about 72 hours to reach the egg.

At first he wasn’t much to look at with just two layers, but he was replicating nicely and by 4-weeks he had built himself up to the size of a poppy seed, and could then officially be called an embryo.

’’ Hey you’’

‘’What’’

‘’You’re an embryo’’

‘’Thanks’’

His brain which developed from a neural tube, was coming along nicely, as was his spinal chord. Although others would later testify that our heroes brain development had been as stunted as Snow Whites dwarves. But still nobody knew he was there, not even Mother. However around the 12th week Mother grew exhausted on blaming everything on ‘the wind’ and sought a more definitive diagnosis for her discomfiture. If it were wind, then the future did not look rosy for her, or those in her company. Beseeching pleas were made by the family who felt the acute lack of ventilation in their home at that time. Mother was encouraged strongly to find a cure for  her windy problem, so a visit to a doctor was arranged. The very profession that had been so reliable in her life up until then.  But beggars can’t be choosers. The doctor concurred that it was not wind in a relieved tone. The he quietly closed the surgery window fretting over the lack of fenestrations in his small surgery. He then informed Mother that she was in fact pregnant. With child, bun in the oven and up the duff.

‘’So you were an accident,  an unwanted child and you threw a the family out of kilter ’’ said the counselor.

‘’Have you ever thought of how such thinking pervaded their thinking of you then, and later on?’’

No he hadn’t, he was being taken to places his mind had not dwelt on before. It was unsettling. Revolutionary.

The flensing was going quite nicely.

To Germany and the South of France

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Across from up near the Russian border to the border town of Słubice. A true border town, neither fish nor fowl. Then off again to Baden Baden. We stayed near the airpark, not an airport, what’s the difference? But the men stood and watched a few planes take off close up. Great stuff. Germans sometimes get a bad press. But let me tell you that they have excellent motorway driving etiquette. Precise, polite and fast. Standing at a petrol station outside Baden Baden I was met by the site of only black petrol pumps. Not wanting to make a silly mistake, I was checking them over thoroughly when a German offered to help and explain in very good English. Unbidden, helpful and polite in my mother tongue, and it is not my first experience of  such German helpfulness and hospitable behaviour. Danke.

Whilst in Baden Baden we took the children to Europark, or rather they dragged us to Europark! A family ticket cost 170 Euros, which seems pretty steep, but then some of the rides are steep, and fast too. The children loved it, but to be honest the park is rather hyped and we have been to better.

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By the way, I’m not a a screamer. More of  a just hold on tight, head down and pray kind of approach. And anyway, my wife had a plan which for me, as the driver would be much more fun than the rides at a plastic park. Off we went to our next destination, Annecy which lies on the other side of the Alps. We glided past Lake Geneva and as we came the motorway I spied a precarious little road clinging to the side of a mountain. ”Look at that” I said, ”Some crazy fool drives up that.” Wife remained silent. Five minutes later I’m the fool driving up this steep narrow road, seemingly to the heavens. Cars flew up behind us, motorbikes performing kamikaze overtaking, and on we went, switchback, curve, climb and sweaty hands all round.

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Finally we arrived at Chamonix for a well earned rest and a reassuringly expensive burger and fries, along with a long deep breath. Chamonix was full of people intent on climbing high, gliding off mountains and hanging from ropes off sheer cliffs. Good luck to them!! After that a leisurely drive took us into beautiful Annecy.

 

Headin’ North, Oars in the Rowlocks!

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Plans upon plans. This summer, after driving to Germany, The South of France for Arles, Aix-En Provence, The Camargue and the Mediterranean, then  burrowing underground in Polish gold mines, finders keepers, we are headin’ north. Up to Gdansk which is a great town and worth a visit in its own right,  or to be more accurate Gdynia, for a ferry to Karlsrona in Sweden.

The first idea was to place the ‘oars in the rollocks’ and chain me to a Viking Longship bench. However with the car, children and four bikes along with enough logistics to land a marine expeditionary force, we have decided on a ferry. I know, a lot less fun than a longship, but my wife says I can keep the loincloth!

The idea is to take in Karlsrona by bike and enjoys its beautiful cycle paths. Then back to Gdansk to cycle and camp around the Three Towns.  Can’t wait!

New Road Trip Ready

The accomodation, apart from the last week, is booked. The route is laid in  and a GPS bought for in the towns and Here Maps as a free back up on the mobile, or as I am continually corrected, an iphone;-). Both the amusement parks and water parks are built into the itinerary to keep small people happy and pumped with adrenaline. The extra summer clothes purchased and car serviced. It’s even been cleaned onside and out. Must be time to rain again! The countdown has commenced with about a minimum of 2,500km one way mapped out.Bring it on:-)IMG_3437

Road Trip Do’s and Dont’s

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In no particular order of priority.

Do -Do get off the motorways and take the quieter routes. They are toll free and give you the chance to pull over and stop in interesting place, off the beaten track.Independence is paramount.

Don’t – Don’t forget to take that spare key for the car, you know, the one you’re never going to need. So easy to lose when moving and constantly repacking from place to place. But so hard to replace when AWOL.

Do – Do take a fold up map. Useful for directions, even better as temporary sunshade on the beach.

Do – Do liberally sprinkle your tour with water parks and amusement parks for the children. Something for them to cling on to and continually ask about whilst sightseeing and travelling.

Don’t – Don’t leave earplugs or earphones in the boot, at the bottom under everything when on the move, especially when the children want to watch a particularly interesting kids film!

Do – Do down load all the maps and towns onto your mobile phone of the towns and countries on your itinerary, before leaving home. This way they can be used without connecting to the costly roaming services when abroad.

Don’t – Don’t eat heavy breakfasts when you’re going to sit in the car for hours, or later you may be sitting for hours! And make that a maximum 7-8 hour drive.

Don’t – Don’t rely on the GPS as if it is infallible. Crossing fields means the GPS may well be a little awry. Balance the GPS data with the best computer in the world, the brain between your ears!

Do – Do remember that many Southern European countries like a little snooze in the afternoon. So plan accordingly with fuel, shops and restaurants. There is nothing more desolate than a child’s face when you explain that the pizza restaurant, they are already sitting at the outside table,  is closed until later that day. Pizza DENIED!

Don’t – Don’t allow anyone, repeat anyone to remove socks in the car.

Do- Do pack a sense of humour and a smile.

Don’t – Don’t drink scalding hot coffee over your crotch as you drive.

Do- Do remind the navigator to have the map correctly orientated.

Do – Do go to the dentist before travelling for that niggly pain. Trying to sort out a dentist, and any other minor medical needs, is a nightmare, expensive and stressful.

Don’t – Don’t forget to remind the ladies to buy, pack, all of the hair clips, hair bands, hair pins and their favourite shampoos and conditioners.

Do- Do pack extra toilet roll, you have been warned!

Do – Do pack a torch, change and renew the batteries and take spare batteries as well.

Don’t – Don’t plan to travel to a country experiencing fuel strikes, rioting for assorted reasons and, oops, too late!

Do – Do learn the rudiments of polite etiquette and hello, thank you and goodbye in the language of your intended host countries.

Do – Do pack a smile as it is an international and friendly language:-)

 

 

 

Amusement Park Survival Guide

 

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Amusement is listed as meaning: mirth, merriment, hilarity, glee and delight, or from a slightly different angle: entertainment, pleasure and leisure. Whilst in Italy we traipsed into Garda Land, close by Bardolino on Lake Garda, and later Lego Land in Bavaria. Needless to say these were the  highlights of the road trip for the children. The park redefined these definitions.

For Garda Land we bought our tickets, which were expensive for four people, online before our departure. It saved very little, apart from a bit of queuing. The rides in Garda were pretty fast and high, at least for me, but of course the kids loved them! Take deep pockets for change, or better still hand over your small change to your wife who is sensibly staying on the ground. When climbing into the super spinning cup and saucer, don’t, repeat don’t think about the large pastry you untypically had for breakfast. Close eyes and focus on the fact that it won’t last long. If you feel the urge to projectile vomit as you climb off at the end, at least direct it from your group! If staggering due to a still spinning head, play act as if you are just pretending.

Remember before you join the long snaking queues that you really don’t have a head for heights. Then ensure you sit behind the children so they cannot see how strongly you are holding onto everything you can. Just get me down, oh nooooooooooooooo!

If the day is scorching hot, it hit 41.5 degrees in Bavaria, then ensure you go on as many of the log water rides as possible for a free soaking. Beware the cost of bottle water in these amusement parks. After selling one kidney and buying one bottle of water for each of us, we noticed the water drinking fountains where people were filling up empty bottles for free. Head gear is also useful and any cinema style inside attraction is a boon on such a  a hot day. Such cinema style attractions also have the advantage at not propelling me at muzzle velocity, perilously high in the sky! And finally, don’t forget to pack the headaches tablets, you know the super strength ones!

Road Trip to Castle Neuschwanstein

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On to a slice of 19th century romanticism on what can be only termed, the grand style, courtesy of Ludwig II in beautiful Bavaria. Our faithful car laboured up the twisting, narrow switchbacks roads (get the picture?) until we finally swept into Hohenschwangau.

After some nifty maneuvering the driver got us parked behind a small restaurant for a nominal fee. Well done driver.Safely leaving and forgetting our bottles of water in the car, so that they would be at boiling temperature on our return, we set off on foot in earnest.  Hold onto the hands of young children as motorbikes cars and tour buses  pound up the stretch of road to the shops, restaurants and ticket offices serving the castle’s visiting public.

The  town was packed and temperatures had risen to 40 degrees. Everything was rather expensive and remember to have plenty of small change for the toilets. Which in an un-German like manner were not very clean. Having decide to visit the castle we joined a long twisting queue for tickets. Being English, queuing is kind of in the genes. However no cover had been provided and it was hot and tiring on everybody, especially people with young children. The lady who sold us the tickets spoke English well and told us that our tickets were for 4.30pm so we had time to eat.

A comment about language. We had to stop a couple of times earlier in Bavaria. On both occassions I spoke to a man over 50 in his front garden, and a woman over 60 at a small provincial hotel. On both occassions they were not only helpful but spoke pretty good English, too. Much appreciated when lost with wife children in the car:-)

Back to food. We went through the town until we came to a restaurant opposite a lake and a small beach for the children to paddle and play in. For ardent sun worshippers there is a larger beach area a little further on.

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Restaurant.The menu was in German and everything had a fancy name, and an even fancier price. What turned up on the plate was basically a burger, for the price of a steak!  Having secured a second mortgage and settled the bill we left to take a bus to the castle. We had been told by our helpful ticket seller that it would take about 40 minutes to walk. In the stifling heat the bus was the sensible option. We got on in an orderly fashion thanks to barriers that formed a snake like queue. A word on the return. The bus drops you in a small clearing and you continue up to the castle. At the top there are no barriers and people pushed and shoved almost in desperation to get back on the bus for the downward trip. Why? It wasn’t the last bus! Your status as an older person, child, or babe in arms was ignored and the tourists behaviour was atrocious! We stood apart and waited for the next bus.Cattle prod, please. Barriers would be a good idea.

Then we walked up to the castle itself which was an imposing and wonderful view.

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We took a minor detour to go onto a bridge that hangs precipitously over a gorge nearby. Oh, how I laughed when a group of people decided to show how it could be made to move a bit. Great!

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And finally the castle itself. Good, solid, well made castle. It stands majestically and shone almost white-like in the sun drenched Bavarian vista. The visits were well controlled and we waited patiently for our group to gain admittance.

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Inside the castle itself it pays homage to one man’s Wagnerian obsession along with folklore inspired murals and decor. Strangely enough one of the most interesting places was the cookhouse and its ‘state of the art’ equipment. Wonderful to look at, but in the back of the mind was the nagging thought that it is really all a bit of one man’s folly. Great to visit, wonderful to see but not exactly an inexpensive day all in all. Take small change for the toilets, a friends credit card for the restaurants and don’t leave the water in the car on such a hot day, unless you want to make tea. Oh yes,  and mind peoples behaviour getting on a bus in a a semi-remote area!!!

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Next would be an amusement park for the children and a place for me to enjoy more heights.