Port De Soller Mallorca

Port De Soller Mallorca

Friday, 28 February 2014

On the one hand I feel guilty, on the other, not so much.....

Thanks for your call on Tuesday in regard to both The County and District Council's initiative in engaging the local populace in regard to determining how best to approach the perceived problem of anti-social behavior in the area.  

As I pointed out during our conversation I was slightly perplexed by your apparent assertion that both the District Council and local Police had informed you that there is a major anti social behaviour problem in the area, giving me at least, the impression that this was concentrated in and around the Centre!

As I explained, I have been here since 1999, and I do have the scar to prove it, from where I was attacked by a large group of youths. At that time and up until the last couple of years it is true to say that there was indeed a large problem with local youths in the area and largely centred and concentrated around the Market and shops.  It would also be fair to say that we, as a company and the major landowner in the area have to vicariously shoulder some of the responsibility in that, with the configuration of the 'old market' giving the youths who had nowhere else to congregate, a ready 'playground' where they could climb and run about on the market stall roofs and then in adverse weather, take shelter to drink, smoke and do whatever else they got up to under cover of the stalls. This was intimidating to the general members of the public and our own tenants who passed through the centre at all hours.

In addition the Local School, was, in my opinion, badly managed by the then incumbent headmaster and we suffered greatly at the hands of those pupils who did not want to be there, could not go home and from the large number of excluded pupils who seemed not to be given any other option but to hang about on the streets, once excluded, as neither the Local or County authorities seemed to have any firm plan in place to deal with those excluded or to round up those who were truanting. And so, the anti social problems were exacerbated by this too. As far as graffiti in the Centre is concerned, this too was a major problem.  Again, we managed this by painting all of our low level walls white, giving the taggers a blank canvas to work on, but as soon as they tagged a wall we painted over it and within three months the taggers were avoiding us completely, so even that problem has been resolved.

All of that is not to say that there are still not the occasional problems within the Centre and with our tenants but these are largely directed at shops, the late night pizza shop has, I am informed, been the target of both anti social and racial abuse, people being refused in selling goods to the local pawn shop who become aggressive, these are clearly serious but criminal matters, well at least in relation to the racial abuse and not normal 'run of the mill' anti social issues.

Since, we took the decision to redevelop the Centre and demolish the market we are largely trouble free with only the odd incident of anti social behaviour to contend with and most of the local populace, including the youths of the area know that we have an extensive CCTV system covering the Centre  and we regularly provide the local PCSO's with images from the system, or not so regularly now. 

Of course while I accept some of the blame as mentioned earlier this cannot take away from the fact that a large number of parents have no control over their offspring, and society in general,  along with the complete lack of direction by central government and local authorities and the pulling back of any involvement in providing youth clubs or direction for children. This, of course includes the lack of direction and support for those parent less able to communicate at any level with their children by entering into meaningful dialogue and are not able even to offer guidance on right and wrong or fitting in and belonging to an inclusive society; all of this has been sadly lacking over the last forty years when it was the case that wherever you went there was at least some form of activity taking place in church and council run clubs in almost every district of the land from John O'groats to Lands End .....

So, while I applaud and recognise any initiative that will reverse the trend of non involvement I don't see that a mobile youth club parked up once a week on our new square is going to facilitate that initiative, particularly when you have the local authorities, 'The .......', only 200 metres away which, seems to me to be pre-eminently situated within the burgh, open every day and night for local community activities, and has the rooms and halls to house youth services located within it, on a full time basis,  encouraging both the advantaged and not so advantage youths in the area to participate in activities..... 

I may well pop along to the proposed event, could you remind me of date and times please, out of curiosity, but I fear I am not going to be in a position to offer you any positive help by way of facilities based on the comment in the preceding paragraph.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A relaxing day

Had a good day on Saturday after our first full week back at work, and that was tough.

Even before I got out of the car on the Monday back, I had a female tenant almost banging on my window to tell me what she thought of the contractors we have engaged for the £11 million pound redevelopment of the Centre I manage, which incidentally, mirrored my own thoughts on them, but we are half way through the project so I am stuck with them but that's another story.  The week didn't get much better.  I had left, having arranged for my plant contractor to discuss with 'god' from head office, the matter of a replacement boiler.  He had humphed and hawed over this, about a £12k outlay and decided he wanted to speak to the contractor himself.  They met, he told me that he accepted what I and the contractor had said but had decided he wanted to have a full M and E inspection carried out on the plant room.  I reminded him that I had been asking for this for years, so fine, get on with it.

I knew when he got it he was going to be even more of an unhappy bunny as the independent contractor HE engaged came back and told him what I already knew;  Your plant room is so old even Noah wouldn't have it installed in his Ark and it all needs to be replaced as does the heating system to all tenants offices and we can do this for between £350 to £400k .... I sent him an email and politely asked if I could have my £12k boiler.  I think he is still picking himself off the floor

So, the weekend couldn't come quickly enough and apparently Ishbel's week wasn't great either but the bright spot for her was getting back to work and finding that her boss had taken the week off which somewhat extended her holiday feeling, hurrahs all round ....

So, started off yesterday with me getting up after another fitful night but the thing is I think I am so used to them now it doesn't really bother me that much. Had me brekkie, muesli and fresh fruit and then took the goddess that is Ishbel her breakfast in bed, still with no fixed plans in mind. As I pottered about I found vouchers that we got from Ishbel's brother David and his partner Yvonne for Christmas - That holiday just keeps on going for us as we used other cinema vouchers we got from Marie, Peter, Holly and Charlie last weekend to go and see the Monuments Men and the day before that we had a Spa day courtesy of Xmas vouchers from Steve, Jen and the girls - for a meal in Carluccio's Italian restaurant.  Normally, we would just pop along to Canary Wharf a magnificent visual and beautiful collection of modern high rise buildings of offices, shopping and landscaped gardens in the heart of the old docklands area of London and eat at the restaurant there. 

Yesterday we decided to pop into the West End and Covent Garden, never understood why it is the West End as it is on the East side of London, but never mind. We drove in but it was so busy parking was difficult to find and we ended up in one of the private underground car parks who were shoe horning cars into it, but at least we got parked.

Ishbel, looking chilled in Carluccio's
After a short stroll around we dropped into Carluccio's on Garrick Street which, as usual for one of his restaurants was just buzzing and there was at least a twenty minute wait for a table. Not to worry though the food shop, there is one with every Carluccio's, had bar stools and a counter top and you can browse and buy or have a drink..... What do you think Ishbel opted for, clue, it was red and large ....... and while she sipped her wine we perused the menu

After that it was only a 15 minute wait before we were called to a table and settled down. As busy as it always is, service is always prompt and efficient, 2nd glass of wine ordered for Ishbel with a bowl of mixed olives and bread with oil and balsamic.  Ishbel ordered the goats cheese, roasted peppers and Parma Ham for starters and Sea Bass for mains I had mushroom and ham soup for starters and pasta with fruit de mere for mains. The food is always excellent.  All in all we were in there for about an hour and a half and then it was time for a wander round Covent Garden.

Apple Market Covent Garden
If you have never visited this area of London it is so worth it, it is is always thronged with folk visiting the many covered markets and restaurants within the 'Garden' area and there are always street performers littered throughout entertaining the crowds. 

Ishbel's Whittard Tea Caddy
Ishbel renewed her Whittard's Tea caddy from their shop in the Apple Market and there is always plenty of tea or coffee on the go to taste before you purchase too.  We then spent some more time watching the street performers and visiting the various halls but by then I was beginning to wane a little and my bod was beginning to ache.

(C)Royal Opera House)

So,we head off through the rear entrance to the Royal Opera House stopping long enough to purchase tickets for a March performance of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty by The Royal Ballet, can't wait, then it was back to the car and the short journey home for a relaxing evening. 

I should point out that it is probably safe to say that as well as my body deteriorating the deterioration of my mind seems to be speeding up faster..... We went to Carluccio's as we had those £50 vouchers, I forgot to use them. Then today, I popped in to the supermarket for which I had vouchers too .... 

You know the rest,  but at least I found my way back to the car and home, so at least that is something #idiot 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Book Review: One Foot In Heaven, Journey of a Hospice Nurse by Heidi Telpner

Look inside Amazon UK here
Look inside Amazon US here
Not sure that this was a good choice of book to read in my current condition, but hey, life is all about taking a risk, isn't it. In the end it didn't make me feel any worse. Indeed like most of those dying in the book, I accept my fate with equanimity and really have done so since the moment the surgeon told me, "I can operate but  the thoracic surgeon who needs to be working on you at the same time as me and the consulting anaesthetist also feel that your chances of surviving the eight and half hour surgery that it will take to cut that foot long tumour out, are slim to none."

I have to say it was a little disappointing to be told that, and I did shed a tear or two, but only because Ishbel was in the room with me and SHE burst into tears, which set me off.  But all in all at 57, while not quite ready to die, I have come close to it on any number of occasions in the past and so wasn't too surprised that it had finally caught up with me......

But this is a book review and not about me although I do feel/ hope that it highlights the positivity of what you would probably think of, by looking at the fly leaf of this relatively short volume and think, death equals doom and gloom equals depressive reading.

Not at all, Ms Telpner, (and I do have to confess at this juncture, to knowing the author and she hadn't told me she had produced this book, as an RN specialising in Hospice Care) I imagine, decided to write about her patients and the specialist care they need as a means to show that death, like life itself, should not frighten those who are coming to the end of theirs and nor should families and loved ones fear what is to come.

My understanding of hospice Care was people going into a 'home or unit' to live out their final days, weeks or months. I am not sure if that is the case now even here in the UK as even in my condition I haven't actually considered that far ahead and so have not looked into it at all. But here, the author informs us that this is not the norm in the US and that Hospice Care normally involves the patient being looked after at home with Hospice Carers visiting as often as required to tend to the patient and to support the family.   She describes a variety of cases frankly that go from the sublime to the ridiculous; some with loving caring family rallying round, supporting the dying from both poor and wealthy backgrounds to the downright crazy of visiting the dying relatives of 'caring' drug producer/dealers and occasionally to the dying with relatives who all find it such an inconvenience.

It is a little surreal in places, as Ms Telpner has both strong beliefs and views. Me on the other hand, while I wasn't particularly religious at any point in my life although have been known to read the scriptures from the lectern on more than one church attendance, I can't say I every fully believed in an all powerful god of any denomination. But, what I can say with some certainty is that when the author talks about and refers to 'out of body' experiences, I am a believer in those, having experienced one myself circa 1999/2000 when I had been engaged to run a car park operation at Scotland's premier outdoor event, T in The Park. I became so stressed out over the course of the week/ weekend that during a briefing to my senior operational staff I suddenly became aware of floating above myself and those present and watching from above as my deputy grasped me and sat me down while he continued the briefing.

Is it stress on becoming aware that you are close to death or just stressful situations that bring you closer to these experiences. Clearly from the authors patients point of view it is probably a combination of both and while my experience was borne from the stress of the operational requirements for the event I am not sure if this then leads on to a belief in an afterlife!

I found the book, in parts quite moving and in other places a little disturbing, only because of what might be my future, but through it all it was clear that the author is a person with deep feelings for those who were entrusted to her through Hospice Care and it seems a shame but entirely understandable that due to later incidents that she has taken a 'sabbatical' from a calling that she was clearly meant to be involved in. 

This book clearly isn't for everyone but I don't think I would hesitate to recommend it to a family member who has someone close to them who is dying.  It gives insights into what you can expect to cope with in terms of your loved ones body beginning to shut down and the problems that you will have to cope with and reminds you that while their body may be shutting down that in many cases their minds are still active and lucid and that WE know what is happening but can't always communicate that to you whom we love.  Give it a go, if becomes too much for you you can always put it down...

Editing for Kindle:  5 out 5 
Reading Enjoyment: 
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: 5
Page length: 148

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A wee break from the gloom of the UK

Having once used Easy Jet I end up with a couple or more emails every week. Normally I just delete them but three weeks ago when I opened up my browser and one was there, instead of hitting delete I opened it, clicked, clicked and clicked and ended up booking a weeks all inclusive in Fuerteventura in the Canary Isles.  I then called Ishbel at home and told her (I was in the office at the time).

To say she was happy was a bit of an understatement.  So off we went and had a great week.  It must be the sun and the heat but my usual bent over old man look who can hardly walk the length of his shadow was suddenly replaced by Mr 'lets go for another walk' and we came back feeling completely rejuvenated and refreshed on Wednesday last, flying back into Gatwick and staying the night again as we did on the outwards at Jen and Steve's in Woking returning to a freezing house on the Thursday.  

We then finished off the week with a relaxing day at Bannatyne's Spa in Thurrock getting full body, head and face massages and then to the cinema on Saturday to see The Monuments Men.  It really was a great week and a bit and we both feel much better for it.  I think this dying lark has been overstated by the doctors, sheesh ...............

A few pics from our holiday:

Monday, 17 February 2014

Film Review: The Monuments Men

(c) http://www.indie-eye.it/
Went and saw this Saturday with Ishbel. I'm sure I don't need to go into it in any great detail as it has been reviewed ad infinitum on the telly and newspapers before opening day on Friday 14th February as the latest offering from Gorgeous George Clooney.

It's the true but little known story of a group of art historians, curators and architects who were charged with going in to occupied Europe to try and retrieve looted art back from the nazis before they destroyed it.

I have to say both Ishbel and I loved the movie but it wasn't the greatest movie in terms of dialogue, which I found to be rather banal at times but the story needed to be given the wider audience recognition that it has; as from all accounts very few of us, including me, did not know about it before.

It was clearly a serious business and there were so very few of them but the film also relied on a good bit of humour, not laugh out loud humour but really chuckling at the screen humour.  I also found myself welling up a little when a couple of these middle aged to elderly guys got killed in the line of duty, dying in their quest to save bits of canvas or marble for us to admire today.  I can relate to that as Ishbel and I have traipsed round many a museum both here in the UK and in Europe and marvelled at many wonderful pieces of art that may well have been destroyed had it not been for The Monuments Men.

At just a smidgen under two hours I did think, mainly because of what I considered lack of meaningful dialogue, opening scene with Clooney and Mark Wallberg, sorry Matt Damon in the Met in New York and then at a bar as point in case, it was probably about 30 minutes too long, but never the less still enjoyed it immensely.


Ishbel gives it a 5 out of 5
Tom gives it a 4 out of 5

Sunday, 16 February 2014

What makes you feel worse than being told you're dying?

As you probably all know by now, the doctors told me I probably only had about a year to live. That was back in September last year. Like me, you probably can't imagine how you will feel in a situation like that and you go through a whole gamut of emotions as does your loved ones and in the end you feel all sorts of emotions particularly anger and frustration and so on but then you deal with it and get on with life.

Well today I learned that there is even something worse than being told you are going to die...... It's that moment when you realise that you have lost your frigging wallet which contains your whole life, practically. Bank debit and credit cards, cash, the lottery tickets you have just purchased and are probably winning ones at that, medical prescription cards, photos of the Grand Children, etc, driving licence paper and photo .....

Shit, shit and double shit your whole life starts to unravel especially as you suddenly realise also that for the first time in your life you actually have money in the bank and what happens if some 'clued up nefarious' person has gotten hold of it and manages to rob you of what you have before you get a chance to cancel all of the cards, shit, shit and double shit again.....

And of course the financial institutions while trying to be helpful, I suppose, add to your growing anger at yourself and frustration by being complete arseholes when trying to report it.

Both Barclays and Santander make you pay for the call MBNA you get a free call. You get through to the first two and it is an automated message put in your credit or debit card details, you ain't got them to hand, "say you don't have it". "I don't have it". "We'll put you through to an agent". And you are duly put through to a Barclays agent who is a foreigner, but only after we get a long automated message ....... I want to report my lost fucking card I don't want to hear you are regulated by the fucking financial services authority, and then when Mr non speaking first language English gets on, even when you spell your details phonetically, he still doesn't understand you ... As Penny would say (well maybe not a correct quote, but close enough) 'Holly Crap on a Fucking Cracker', what is wrong with you people, I want to report my lost bank card that I was stupid enough to be careless with, give me someone who can understand me and get rid of the automated crap WHEN REPORTING A LOST CARD, is it too much to ask for, I think not.

Santander was just as bad with the automated message, what is it with financial institutions, when you press the option to report a lost card SURELY this is an urgent call and you should be put through to a PERSON IMMEDIATELY and a person who speaks the same language as you, but maybe in my own anger directed at myself I am being too critical? MBNA, which I consider to be the worst of my credit cards at least give you a free number to phone and there is only a short message before being put through, no details no problem, a couple of security questions and you are done with a new card on the way, so that was better. Except the other three card providers say I can continue to use my pin number but MBNA issue a new one, ah well, can't have everything.

And then you phone the police in the vain hope that someone has found it and handed it in... You have to phone Essex Police cos your local station only works part time and Sunday is not a working day for the local South Ockendon station. Having said that, the young lady at Grays was most solicitous taking my details with the minimum of fuss and my number in case it was handed in, reminding me to call my bank and credit card companies to immediately cancel the cards, bless her.

Then, having done all that but still in panic mode: A loud knock on he door and standing on the door step is a smiling young Essex policeman with wallet in hand. Some lady has just handed it to home outside the local closed station..........

Can you check the contents: Credit and bank cards, check, in fact everything was there, including the new lottery tickets, except for the £40.00 in cash. To describe my relief as ecstatic, would be an understatement. Even with the missing cash and now having to wait a few days for replacement cards it was still a huge relief and I do not begrudge the finders fee being removed unilaterally, as I would gladly have paid anyway, maybe not £40 but certainly £20 but I am not going to quibble over that.

Needless to say it has thrown my routine out a bit for the day, but like death, which I am still avoiding like the plague, I live to fight another day, week, month or year or years, and although this is only the second time in my life where I have lost my wallet, the first time was on the Maid of The Loch on Loch Lomond, on a school outing when I was about 14, so there was really nothing in it back then and I certainly never gave it another thought, I shall be much more careful next time. And the thing is that it must only have been a few minutes between losing it and realising I had done so, when I rushed back into the shop in a panic, that someone has picked it up and walked out with it.

Life goes on and I suppose I should be grateful I lost it here and not in Spain last week.....

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Book Review: The Highway by CJ Box

Amazon UK here 
Amazon US here
Another departure for Mr Box from  Joe Pickett, but not totally unexpected as he has done so now on a few occasions.

The Highway is a pretty terrifying read describing in pretty explicit detail how to become a serial rapist, torturer and murderer..... And all you need is a very large  truck  and a tremendous amount of guiltless ruthless guile and cunning.

This is the story of one long haul truck driver who has turned the act of kidnap,rape, torture and murder into almost an art form as he travels about the U.S. This is a loners existence as you would expect but circumstances and his carefulness in avoiding the risks that have allowed him to do what he does without being caught  for years were circumvented by a domineering mother with a big mouth and a hoarding complex who said the wrong thing to the wrong person, and he was caught by a state trooper who pulled him over.  

Unfortunately for the victims though this particular Trooper, Rick Legerski, wasn't out to save anyone, he had his own agenda too and Ronald Pergram aka The Truck Lizard found himself with a partner in crime who wanted to share the victims without taking the risks! 

This is the story of Danielle and Gracie Sullivan on a road trip to visit their father when older sister and airhead Danielle decides to visit her long distance boyfriend instead, the son of Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Dept Investigator Cody Hoyt, and who end up in the glare of the Truck Lizards headlights. 

At the insistence of his son, even although the girls have only been missing for a few hours, Hoyt begins to investigate aided by his partner Cassandra Dewell.....

As is usual for a Mr Box novel, the pace of the novel is insistent but much much more visceral, invoking base emotions in the reader with his hard descriptive prose. It keeps you rooted turning page after page and surprises you when a sudden twist happens that was unexpected (Hoyt/Legerski) even although you forgive yourself afterwards as the signs were clearly there in the first place......

Editing for Kindle: 4 out 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: 42
Page length: 320