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The Cheshire Riviera

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This time, the pleasures of a staycation…


We have just returned from our hols. An exotic Summer holiday, in Cheshire. At Knutsford, just inside the city limits.

We went for a week, stayed in a cottage which has a hot tub in the garden, so we were able to recreate Footballers’ Wives, without the naff haircuts or the whining. The cottage had everything that we needed, and three bonus alpacas, called Tom, Dick and Harry, who provided serene audience for our antics. Not that there were many antics.

Tom, Dick and Harry

A special place in my heart for Harry’s mullet, a sneaky homage to the Beatles?

Harry

There were also three chickens, mysteriously un-named: they were the Chickens With No Name. We called them Nugget, Dansak and Run. They were shaped like ambient tea cosies. We don’t have pictures of them, for data privacy reasons. They periodically and loudly trumpeted their displeasure to the alpacas about periodically being treated like the balls for alpaca polo. Those chickens were pretty chukka. The introduction of a grey cat called Mitzi made it like a strange petting zoo where none of the creatures were available for or in the cat’s case amenable to petting.

Our Offspring did their usual trick of surfacing at a brisk 1 or 2 pm, ready for a nourishing breakfast of sausage rolls and cider. In the meantime, we loafed on the outdoor furniture and vied with the alpacas for the glory of the Loafing Award. They still won as a group entry, which was a surprise since we had fielded the Offspring. Their teamwork was immaculate, like the England back three but with more positional awareness and better footwork. They followed up by proving to be very adept at Statues, too, so something to bear in mind when Creature Statues takes over from Breakdancing in the 2028 Olympics.

We patronised an ice cream shop, a honey emporium and Tatton Park (very flowery, which is as far as my knowledge of botany takes me).

  • Red flowers
  • Gunnera?
  • Tatton Park gardens

We visited friends just outside Liverpool and had a pub lunch with draft beer. And then went to a family get-together in Liverpool and drank more beer. I was not the designated driver, so all good.

This was all in the sunshine and over 20 degrees, all in a very pleasant episode of Being Somewhere Else Away From Our House.

Based on this, I’ve formed the view that staycations have a lot going for them. No jet lag, no exhausting twenty hour journeys for long haul, no PPE gear. A contrast to our previous hols to all sorts of places in foreign climes, but with much to commend it. I think we may have uncovered something…

I suspect that Ryanair will not be re-tweeting this.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Shadow puppetry for beginners
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Lily

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This time, a trip down memory back roads in a work of art…


Lily is beautiful. She has a special place in my heart.

She has a swooping, V-shaped front, and gleaming green-and-white bodywork. And a pop-up roof. Marvelous.

Lily of the Valleys

We met many years ago when our Family trekked over to Pembrokeshire for an Escape to Nature in our version of the Mystery Machine. Camping. Board games. Rain. British holidays at their most alluring.

We collected Lily and got down to the serious business of grappling with a steering wheel the size of a dustbin lid and brakes which had a stopping distance of around two miles. Cornering required forward planning, The bed in the back looked comfortable., not that I was ever going to see it up close. The Boy and I were turfed out under canvas at the camp site, under the stick on awning that turned Lily into a caravan in the more exotic sense of the word. We forgot the Turkish delight and made do with Welsh cakes.

6:30 the next morning, the thrill of a night out under the stars was tempered by (a) the lack of stars all night because of the cloud cover; and (b) the detached edge of the awning wetly slapping me across the face as if flapped in the wind.

No matter.

We had conquered the challenges of sleeping in and next to a vehicle on a cliff-top. First-hand evidence demonstrated that the handbrake was well-made and functioning. After braving the hose-shower and the peculiarly unstable toilet tent provided by the site, we were done and ready for the next adventure.

In search of snacks

Managed chaos and discomfort, the joy of the outdoors. Freedom.

And we will do it again, these days subject to there being three bars of Wi-Fi and a buffet, but Hell it’s the thought that counts while starting to emerge from our cocoons. For us, Lily was, unknowingly, good practice for Lockdown.

Let’s hope we can all make our way back to the open road soon…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Open house

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Time travel for beginners

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It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, several steps back in time. Not sure what the main subjects of this post would have made of it…


I came across some family photos yesterday. The ones that really caught my attention were those of a couple of my uncles. Uncle Dave and Uncle Alf. Memories of their war exploits.

I was impressed by their quiet confidence, the feeling of duty being done that shone from the pages of the photo albums. The clear pictures, the whiff of invulnerability as they got ready to do their bit. Not in the Falklands, not at Dunkirk.

In the trenches of France, where Uncle Alf died on 8th October 1918.

Uncle Alf

Uncle Dave survived the First World War, he was way too old to serve in the Second World War, and died at a ripe and comfortable old age in the late 1970s in a two-up, two-down in North West London, Ford Cortinas and Rovers clanking past on the street splashing water over pedestrians’ flares.

Weird how that sort of thing can hit you when idling through family stuff, but it occurs to me that there aren’t many people around whose uncles fought in the First World War.

My dad was getting on a bit to serve in the Second World War; I arrived in the world when he was 52.

Alf was a rifleman in the London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), number 555636, his death – a tantalingly short time before the end of the war – is commemorated at the Terlincthun British Cemetery (Wimille), in the Pas de Calais, France, these pictures are all that I have found.

I believe that Dave was a batman to an officer. So much better if he’d been Uncle Bruce, but never mind.

He has the bandoleer and what looks like a tam o’shanter at the bottom left in the picture below.

I believe this is him again, in a formal photo pose, polished and gleaming in front of a no doubt painted backdrop of an idyllic garden scene:

Uncle Dave

It is at times like that that I wish I had sat my parents down with their old albums and marched them through the pictures to capture their fleeting memories and stories of past lives before they were no longer around and the stories retreated further away.

My reproduction of these pictures is my homage to all that, and a window back in time to a very different place.

I hope these pictures and these reflections stir some memories for you.

Best wishes,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Christmas movies to sleigh you – Update

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, we are feeding our Christmas spirit with Christmas movies…


In the first Lockdown, we watched through all the Marvel MCU movies in order (we weren’t nerdy enough to slot the TV episodes in order too). For the festive season, we have decided to work through a – fairly random – pile of Christmas films, and I thought I’d take you with me on that sleigh ride.

So far, and ranked in order (upwards) – I will update as we go along – latest updates in bold below:

#9 – The Christmas Chronicles

A jolly tale with Kurt Russell. Bad but jolly. Having seen the trailer for Christmas Chronicles 2 it could have been worse, we might have seen that. To be fair, there are some excellent moments, including Santa Kurt banged up in a jail cell with musical prisoners and a cool sax. May just edge into the watchable with that…

Better movies to come, methinks…

#8 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

A product of its time – Chevy Chase is a combination of winning and really annoying. It’s the first time that I have seen the movie the whole way through, I’ve tried three or four times before and not made it past 22 minutes. Not hilarious, but a few genuinely funny scenes, and the nagging question as to why everything’s alright for Christmas once the compensation arrangements have been finalised…

A child of its time.

#7 – Gremlins

A very Mogwai Christmas to you!

Accompanied by hot dogs, nothing made in a blender with all due respect to one of the Bad Gremlins. A sharp, nasty and cute Spielberg presentation masterpiece with annoyingly catchy music and a brilliant view of how much fun Snow White can be. Some nice digs at consumerist Christmas, and Gizmo is so much cuter than Baby Yoda. Fab!

It reminded me of a couple of things: craving food after Midnight, shunning water, avoiding the light. Turning into Sources of Evil. But I wrote in my previous post about the kids coming home for the holidays, so no need to repeat myself.

#6 – Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Let it snow on the soundtrack, lots of snow and heavily armed terrorists – a sure-fire Christmas hit. Notwithstanding those credentials, it still feels it has sneaked onto this list, much more of a Summer popcorn-busting movie. A sneaky twist that’s not that surprising and a lot of very well choreographed action scenes. The Family scoffs at anything beyond the original, but there is fun to be had here and hasn’t aged too badly

Yippee-ki-yay…!

#5 – Nativity!

Shameless manipulation and Martin Freeman doing his Everyman schtick. Love it! Had the Offspring cringing nicely, and we knew we’d struck gold when one demanded never to have that sort of movie inflicted on him ever gain. Yesssssssss! Hollywood is shown to have a golden heart, so this movie needs to be put at the far, far away fantasy end of the spectrum…

#4 – Frozen

A true classic. Not totally Christmas-themed, but enough snow and reindeer action to squeeze in. Beautiful animation, a kick-ass soundtrack, including That Song, what more can you ask for in a holiday film. A neat subversion of the usual fairy tale tropes to boot. Not too much saccharine, and any that sets off a Mush Alert, just Let It Go…

#3 – Arthur Christmas

Saw this last night eating hot dogs on hot dog platters, and some ace Christmas bark (melted and re-formed white and milk chocolate with random stuff stuck in it).

Christmas bark, anyone?

First time I’ve seen it and it’s a hoot. Stellar cast, great animation – Aardman, without a naughty penguin or cheese in sight. A cartoon with a warm mix of Mission: Impossible and Santa Claus: the Movie.

#2 – Love Actually

Perfect casting, sharp writing, believable characters. Class act.

#1 – Elf

In my top three fave Christmas movies – along with Die Hard and White Christmas. Buddy Elf is the role that Will Ferrell was born to play. Very funny, not sickly but perfectly judged, and James Caan and Mary Steenburgen add extra class to the proceedings. Well, class.

Gets me every time, as my gleeful Offspring pointed out to me at the end…Big Softies of the World unite.

Take Elf for a spin…

Make sure you don’t sit on a Throne of Lies this Christmas!

Have as happy a festive season as possible…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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The Game’s Afoot, Santa…

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, we are trying to find a game to play for one to three households…


This is a more or less COVID-free blogpost in the hope that we will have a predominantly COVID-free 2021. My thoughts are with anyone affected and thanks to all key workers of all types.

Christmas is nearly here, the stupid jumpers, the funny (in your dreams) hats, all that stuff. And the games.

One of the great pleasures is sitting around a table, on the floor, wherever, and breaking out a game for all the family. Assuming of course that agreement can be reached as to what to play. Winner chooses. Of what?

The Household, brimming with Christmas spirit, has a number to choose from, they appear to multiply in the cupboard. What sort will hit the spot, preferably none with a running total to avoid anyone asking for a recount, that never seems to work so well.

Highly cerebral and scary – Funny Bunny – pic below – invented by those twisted fiends at Ravensburger who are probably poachers with fluffy red-brown tails. It involves a tense and lethal journey around a treacherous meadow. A meadow that eats bunnies. It culminates in a break-neck lollop to the top of the hill to crown King Thumper. Not for the faint-hearted. Mind you, it pairs well with strong alcoholic drinks.

Unleash your inner evil rabbit

Cerebral – Scrabble. This is the variant requiring a minimum of six-letter words to be put down, no swapping, and absolutely nothing in Swahili or Klingon.

Sheer luck – Anyone for Chess? That does look fun based on our Queen’s Gambit experience where it appears to be a drinking game. We have never got on with the four player version with the extra colours, or is that Ludo?

Queen takes paw

Villain bent on world domination – One of those hidden traitor games where someone – assuming they can keep their cheating, lying face straight. Often that baby-faced Grandmama lurking in the corner like a viper…No offence…

Monopoly – In a class of its own for internecine skulduggery (see Scrabble – above). My mother-in-law used to demand all of the pink ones before the game started as a pre-conditon for playing. A bit like a Wonka Golden Ticket. Brutal. Suffice to say we never everplay this game with Offspring Number One, he has inherited her ways of evil that overwhelm our feeble resistance.

Other family games – Mother’s general aversion to games apart from Funny Bunny limits the debate somewhat. We shall work on her this Christmas, she will crack and victory shall be ours, MWAHAHAHAHAHA. That is, opening the box.

Reducing the world to a coloured game board where the rules are clear and outcomes – within bounds – predictable sounds like the best game in town this Festive Season…

Cheers!

And a Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Trekking: The knees canna’ take it Cap’n…!

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, Nepal, Trekking, Leeches and a Soviet-era attack helicopter: what could possibly go wrong?


Wow

I took Jasper Retriever for a walk in the dark and lashing rain on Saturday. It made me think about walking generally and in particular my trek in the Himalayas in the mid-90s.

I have been lucky enough to visit Nepal a couple of times, but my first time was amazing, it stays with me as a time of freedom, an important feeling in our current trying times.

We flew into Kathmandu, bustling, crowded, long before Doctor Strange went there. It was different rather than strange, people scrambling to make a living in packed streets. Like this:

B&Q, Kathmandu

Then walk around a corner and experience an oasis of peace and quiet:

Peace

Then back to the mayhem, which included the unexpected transport arrangements.

A helicopter ride out to Pokhara in the Annapurna basin. Taking a helicopter may sound glamorous, using the word ‘ride’ may make it sound like fun. It was neither of those things. The antique Soviet-era beast had benches on which we were invited to hunker down, or as it’s known grip tightly. Seat belts? I don’t think so. Reading for the journey amounted to trying to decipher the Cyrillic to figure out where the machine-guns had been mounted, and no need to worry our heads with escape-path lighting, and luckily neither of us needed hot towels or a movie – mind you, Rambo III would have put us right in the mood.

The unusual in-flight service amounted to a couple of handfuls of candy floss. Not candy floss, though. I was invited to stuff the cotton wool into my ears while the screaming rotor blades cleaved our ears.

We landed and got ready for the trek around the Annapurna range, not as far as the Everest Base Camp, but far enough up to feel that I was walking on the tops of the world. Far enough to gain a fantastic view of Machhapuchhare .

The mountain dominates the area when Everest is out of the picture, its other name is much easier to pronounce: the Fish-Tail. Our goal was to make it around the horseshoe shaped trek and bank as much cold, clean air as we could gather – quite a lot of it was needed though for the up and down assault course of the trek.

Not that we did it the hard way, I must confess. A team of ex-Gurkhas- twelve of them – looked after the two of us, including the lovely man in charge of transporting the toilet tent and his colleague who had live – temporarily live – chickens in a wooden cage for dinner one evening. They forced us to carry a water bottle, so we didn’t shirk.

The toilet tent – watch out for those pesky leeches…

The Gurkhas were something else. I have probably never been fitter than the build-up to the trek and the actual trek, and I found it tough. Very tough. But they, with 40 or 50 pound packs romped up those hills as if they were on a stroll across the village green to the local pub.

One thing they warned us about were the leeches, I have a vivid recollection even now of one getting through the tent’s deflector shields and determinedly inching across a metal dinner plate on the hunt for blood. It was leech season when we went, so we knew the Leech Apocalypse was coming. Continuous kit checking was not something to take shortcuts on, otherwise it was party time and the drinks were on us.

Yum, yum

The feeling of escape and freedom, no mobiles, no tech, nothing, was one that I will never forget. Pushing myself around the next bend, up the next hill, skittering down a steep path, is something that I treasure. And in particular the encouraging words of our guide, ‘It is just around the next bend up that small hilly bit,’ then 40 minutes later, ‘It is just around the next bend up that small hilly bit.’ Got me every time.

Now it’s time to haul on my coat and shoes and take the boy out for another walk, maybe across Epsom Downs today to strive for that fleeting sense of freedom that I had in Nepal, something to draw on now.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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The sauce of all happiness

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a joyful look at when Father’s home cooking collides with Italian artistry. It should stir your soul, if not the ingredients…


I will make a tomato sauce when I get back from my few days away.

Not quite the way the Italians do it, I don’t have racks of great-grandparents lying around glaring at vats of bubbling liquid and drinking Chianti. I’m in Surrey, resisting the temptation to put Waitrose Essential Tomato Sauce into my next order. There needs to be some middle ground here, Dammi una pausa

This will be a step up from my legendary Spaghetti Bolognese, the one that I made for the kids’ tea about three or so years ago, for which they have never forgotten, never forgiven. The one which had no spaghetti in it (so would please the Mayor of Bologna, if nothing else – arguably it made my attempt more authentic). I had left it too long to cook the pasta – sadly neither made by my fair hand or fresh from the supermarket – I improvised and served my epic sauce over a sea of Trump-coloured cheese puffs shaped suspiciously like scorpions. It was like an Indian Jones romp on a plate.

The Offspring spotted the bits of celery in the sauce, planted in a vain attempt to add some goodness to counterbalance the scorpions. Carnage. Mother was told, I was shopped, humiliated forever. Thank God that they put lashings of tomato ketchup over it – I’m surprised they noticed anything untoward, although the scorpion tails did rise up quite high out of the steaming sauce. It reminded me of something…

That was probably the low point in my cooking career – adventure – odyssey. A close run thing with, when I was a student, the tinned macaroni cheese served at room temperature using the tin as a one-container serving solution.

I remain a fan of the ancient culinary art of Splodge, though. I’m unrepentant. My skills have been honed a little by Lockdown, the fine art of the tray bake. That’s the posh name for Splodge.

I have learned to keep sauces simple. My latest was venison chunks slow-cooked in red wine and dark chocolate, covering all essential nutritional areas. Awesome. Served with a bold red wine, then the consistency, artistry, taste becomes less of a big deal…

Home-made tomato sauce will go further and elevate that to a Zen state which I will inflict on the Household, aka my victims.

Random tomatoes, salt and a little sugar, all boiled up in the tomatoes’ own juice. What could go wrong?

I’ll let you know. Splodge culinary magic – if all else fails, we can spray tomato ketchup over it and shut our eyes.

Voila! Oops.

Click here for the link to the Italian sauce video that sparked my interest. I hope you will find it as therapeutic as I did…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

The perfect combination
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Om truths

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, sometimes the answer is right in front of your muzzle…


Since Lockdown began, we have been trying to alight upon a satisfactory form of exercise and stress reduction measures to cope with what is currently a barking mad world.

Gin has naturally been a key part of our core strategy, making sure that the bottle screw top is firmly fastened to provide the need for maximum torque from your core to open it; and full enough that lifting the bottle counts as a curl. Not too much tonic although it has the advantage of warding off malaria, if that helps. Lemon slices as part of your five-a-day. Overall, the perfect health package.

We have tried and rejected several other activities. They have included the awkward – sitting with a large cup of coffee and a biscuit watching the introduction to Brienne of Tarth’s “Ultimate Slaying” Yoga video on YouTube. Thirty days of increasingly heroic and stupid poses and then Winter Comes. We wouldn’t have got on with the chain mail. Too scratchy.

Spar therapy

Even conventional yoga videos – the equivalent of 3-D Twister – are fine if you can keep pace with them. Brutal if you don’t, but they do provide a memory test of what you should have been doing three minutes ago before getting stuck. Finding the Pause button from underneath a Destroyer of the Universe pose can break the spell. Perhaps Finding the Pause Button should be a new pose in itself using your sofa as a yoga mat.

Miranda Hart’s Maracattack was a – fleeting – possibility. A DVD that provides the thrill of an epic quest around the house to find a machine that still takes discs, a video that advocates maniacal waving of maracas broadly in tune with flailing screen prompts. Surprisingly therapeutic if your windows are not overlooked by next door, but I’ll stick to cocktail shakers, I think.

Massage – a splendid way to relax but the social distancing rules make it tricky.

How about meditation? For example, concentrating hard to figure out how the new handball rule makes any sort of sense. Not a path that leads to peace or clear thinking.

FIFA 19 for toned thumbs? Extreme Mah Jong using real bricks?

No. While helpful, none of these quite fits the bill.

After a long period of exhaustive research and testing, we have appreciated that the answer is right in front of us:

In case you’re wondering, it’s just a toy hedgehog that he’s gripping.

Jasper, making it easier for us not to be barking mad at all.

Sofa to K-9 walks every day.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard
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Putting the band back together

We drove down to the South Coast at the weekend for a concert. The last time was for Mark Knopfler, this time it was for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Glyndebourne, not the Brighton Centre. A stretch for the coast, I’ll grant you. An afternoon of sitting in the gardens, eating a picnic, drinking mocktails and listening to classical music in a COVID-secure way. Not far off normal life (I’m not referring to the mocktails as the aberrration), but with the new-normal tweaks of a one-way system around the premises, two metres between each pod of audience members and far enough away from the end of the woodwind instruments to settle the nerves. No need for black tie since it was an afternoon concert; awkward for the token wearer but he seemed fine with it.

And to the orchestra. A palpable feeling that the band was back together, that they had been let out to play and would have lashings of ginger beer later and party games. Sheer relief at being able to sit in front of a crowd of people again albeit some the size of a Twitter thumbnail in their line of sight.

Sweet Home, East Sussex

A tight eight-piece band with periodic light aircraft accompaniment. It was like the Buena Vista Social Club with a bassoon. Their black suits, a couple of them in black hats, white shirts for the men, it was like an audition in the grounds for the next Blues Brothers film:

“It’s 49 miles to Glyndebourne, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes and some clarinets. It’s dark and we’re wearing sun glasses. Hit it!”

Elwood (and Jake) Blues,
musicians

For me, the music proved to be a mixed bag, Beethoven’s go at an opera – Fidelio – plus some crowd-pleasing Mozart, and some Jonathan Dove (the mixed bag). Short pieces, like flash fiction: a conversation, a Countess interrupting an argument, dancing in the dark (not Springsteen). Seven pieces inspired by the Glyndebourne gardens, with – I very much liked the image – the inspiration of Mozart rippling through the trees into the music. A faintly jazz-like feel to some of the pieces, a sketchy slightly repetitive feel to the rest. Overall, a brilliant way to spend some time, COVID or not.

Why in particular? The relief in the orchestra was mirrored by the joy in the audience. My feeling is that they could have played Mahna, Mahna by the Muppets and we would all have felt great and applauded loudly; sadly, Animal wasn’t there on his crazy drum kit. We were determined that it would be great, and happily it was. The rustling of the trees in the breeze and the twittering of nearby birds beautifully complemented the music and the feeling of being OUT. Something that was not a compromise, something that we wanted to do, something that looks like we’d wandered into another drive-in by mistake. Not that last bit.

What time does the movie start?

A festival without the mud and with a selection of cheeses. We all need to find those moments of escape, however they come packaged.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

The Blues Brothers' 40th anniversary — read all Sun-Times coverage of 'the  best movie ever made in Chicago' - Chicago Sun-Times

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Leaving the nest – again

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the Offspring are about to return to university with their magic self-cleaning bedding and renewed thirst for knowledge vodka…


The Offspring completed their first year at uni in the chaos of this summer, the 2019/20 academic year ending in a morass of will they / won’t they have exams, hand sanitiser and no 2020 Euros.

A few months on and there is a feeling of them starting all over again but they will have some herd memory of big nights at the Students Union Bar from a strangely familiar yet brand new place. I suspect that is fuelled by both of them moving out of hall and into their respective Student Houses: the place where vodka flows like water and Wet Wipes fear to tread. The place that is disturbingly like real life but with seminars. Life with stabilisers.

They are not only required to tackle the uncertainties that lie ahead at their Ivory Towers but in a place where they need to do dangerous things like cooking and cleaning without parental back-up…Happily, Offspring 1 has some brand new kitchen paraphernalia to play with, brand new because none of the items came out of the shrink-wrap packaging the first time around. You know the sort of ting, obscure artifacts like saucepans and chopping boards, ones that will one day be described as “Mint” on Ebay. So, no need to stock up for him; we did need to re-kit Offspring 2 because we abandonned most of her things at uni during the retreat in disarray in the summer, courtesy of That Bloody Virus.

Either way, our hall is now stuffed to the brim with boxes and bags full of, well, stuff ready to be transported to the next staging post of their journeys…It looks like the store at a frontier post in the Old West, but with more charging cables. A combination of essentials like asparagus dishes, snow shoes and supplies of gin (infused, of course, with craft botanicals).

total chaos packing for university
Packing for uni

They are the lucky ones in terms of the relentless workings of the academic life calendar.

They missed the horrors of the GCSE / A-levels debacle, the students for whom we should all spare a thought. The same with uni students last year either set up to go on life-changing years out in industry or just in other institutions, all swept away by the virus. The same for final year students robbed of what in a non-crazy world would for most have been the formal recognition of their path to graduation.

In an albeit small way, I’m in the same boat. I was awarded my MA for Creative Writing from Surrey this summer, which seems to me epochs ago. That moment has passed now. At least there’s no need for me to wear a funny hat and trip up the stairs to a rickety stage to receive my presumably blank certificate (I already have the certificate somewhere or other at home). Now it feels like a dream, all those workshops and seminars, wondering whether that all really happened or were a sneaky part of my creative writing process.

There are many much worse things that have come out of COVID than academic inconvenience, but just sticking with that for now the combination of awkward drifting and confusion/frustration among many students has been palpable. Hopefully most have, like ours, at least been able to tap back into their school network friends to sustain them, with gatherings and shots games as Lockdown has eased; while in the best of all worlds for our Offspring they have ideally retained a grip on budding friendships made in their first year at uni…That has been made easier by social media, of course; the world in COVID 1970 would have been a much darker and more lonely place.

Nine days to go before launch for Offspring 2, for Offspring 1 we’re not so sure given the quarantine situation for some of his housemates. But it will happen and they will make the best of it, hopefully not resorting to cold macaroni cheese out of the tin with the remaining dessert spoon as I remember doing my first time around.

No conferring , except at a safe distance…

Welcome to Universities Challenge, this is your restarter for 10

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard
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