Woolwich to Grove Park #capitalring #walking


The River Thames is a murky old torrent, you know. Dog and I took advantage of a dry cool day to complete the southern section of the Capital Ring, a circular walk of 78 miles around London which we have been doing in sections for a while.

Technically this is the start – the official route begins at the southern entrance to the Woolwich foot tunnel and finishes at the northern entrance.


To reach that point though you have to walk the half mile from Woolwich Arsenal station to the river which takes you through the old barracks, now a heritage site that is being developed for housing.


It’s lovely actually even if its history as a home of the munitions industry isn’t one to be exactly proud about.


There are some odd sculprures too


this one of Nike the goddess of expensive sportswear leaving me bemused


and this one of some rusty figurines equally bizarre – this is Assembly by Peter Burke but unlike the Gormley figures I wrote about last week this doesn’t seem to have a purpose.


Makes you stop and think though…


Hey, whatever, Woolwich is an improving spot and worth a visit. It’s an oddity too, as you can cross the river here by the last remaining car ferry or the foot tunnel by not bridge. Makes a bit of a change actually.


After the start and the ferry I took a  short detour to the Thames Barrier. These vast salt sellers are the first line of defence against a Thames flood which have been in place for a fair few years now. I’m always amazed at the way they use the force of the river to raise or lower the gates, some clever hydraulics. And in a way these sculptured gate posts are more attractive, more thought provoking that the iron men further along the river.


After my last glimpse of the river I headed south through Maryon Park which holds a petting zoo and the usual range of colourful trees and purposeful dog walkers.


The land rises, giving a glimpse of the Thames basin before plateauing around the land under Shooters Hill.


The open land here was used, in years gone by to muster the troops before they collected their arms from Woolwich Arsenal and travelling abroad on some Empirical business. Looking down as the common land slopes towards the river and imagining red coats dotted on the grassland makes me shudder rather.


Turning away I headed for Shooters Hill. This is charmingly wooded and leads through meandering paths towards Oxlease Common.


The hilltop is the highest point on the whole of the Capital Ring at 404 feet above sea level – not exactly mountainous.


However, on the way a folly – Sevendroog Castle – tops the hill. This strange affair was built by Commodore William James’ widow as a memorial. Now you can climb to the top and take in the views or, like me and Dog, sit at the bottom and share a piece of bread pudding.


The walk now avoids roads for quite some time as it heads south west towards Eltham, birth place of Bob Hope the comedian but with not much else to recommend it. There are lots of woods and parks, plenty of views and the occasional ancient terracing that represent Victorian gardens long since abandoned.


We crossed railways and main roads but mostly stayed on tracks and paths and felt, oddly, miles away from London.


It couldn’t last of course. Eltham, as you enter it doesn’t have a great deal to attract at first but the closer to Eltham Palace, a former royal palace, the greater the attraction of the houses.


The structures around the palace, including a Tudor water system are intriguing


– the moat lovely – but everything is rather hidden unless visiting (and I wasn’t)


so you will have to imagine the beauty of the buildings that, until Henry VIII decided he preferred Hampton Court was a major royal home.


Once again the walk climbs affording views back towards the river. There are a few stables hereabouts but Dog doesn’t like large mammals, especially horses and I can’t blame him (he made it clear he didnt want to hang around for me to photo them either).


Still they minded their own business and soon enough we were into Mottingham and the Quaggy river one of many streams filling the Thames. And like so many it is now culverted into a rather unattractive ditch – this was the best shot I could get.


Just towards the end of the walk my guidebook told me to take a 30 yards detour, appropriately about the length of a cricket pitch to view Fairmount.


Today it is a nursing home but 100 and something years ago one Doctor WG Grace resided here. The good doctor was the first sporting superstar – of cricket of course – drawing huge crowds to watch him perform for a London team. I’m not sure how good he was at medicine but he was a star on the grass. Stories about him are legion, mostly recounting his gamesmanship as if it was a good thing. I suspect he would have taken performance enhancing drugs if he could.

Ten miles and Dog and I were happy to be back on the train for London Bridge and then home.

Posted in miscellany, walking, London, capital ring | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Something a little bit different.

Generally I keep away from the great triple trip-ups on this blog: namely politics, religion and whether skinny jeans are fashion items or something to hold your varicose veins in place.

But one thing has been bugging me recently and I do want to get it off my (still somewhat lawyerly) chest. And yes it’s politics. And yes it’s Brexit.

See, there’s a lot of air, mostly hot, around British Politics at the present about the type of Brexit we should seek and whether and to what extent Parliament has a say in the terms on which we leave the EU. Parliament must have a say, runs the mantra.

There are 2 parts to this. Triggering the leave mechanism and the terms on which we leave. The mechanism is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty

Ok, point 1. The referendum does not mean we have to trigger it or already have. It was ‘advisory’ only. So, yes, Parliament could decide if we are to trigger it. That point is in front of the Courts right now. If the Courts say it doesn’t need Parliament (the Government say they already have the power) then the PM can do it when she wants by a letter and no one can stop her. If the Court holds a Parliament vote is needed, it would be ‘interesting’ to say the least if they failed to give the government authority. There would be an election for sure and the biggest constitutional crisis in decades if Parliament blocked the decision. And the pound would tank further than it has in decades as would the economy. So, no I don’t think Parliament will stop the trigger.

But where it gets interesting is around the terms of our departure. MPs, commentators, all sorts want a say on the terms. They want to know the Government’s ‘broad strategy’. Which the Government doesn’t want to say as it might compromise its negotiating position.

But you know what, none of this matters. Really, because it’s pretty meaningless.

Have you read Article 50? It isn’t difficult. This is what the first three sections of Article 50 says:

Article 50

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

I’ve highlighted 3 parts.

First as I said the PM gives notice. Second the State and the EU negotiate an agreement for the withdrawal. But three, and here’s the thing, even if we fail to negotiate an agreement the treaties that bind us to the EU cease to apply to us after two years unless everyone wants to drag it out and agree to an extension.

What this means is the EU get to say the terms they are happy with. If we don’t like it then Parliament, MPs, the SNP, uncle Tom Cobbly and all can say it’s not fair but either we take whatever it is or we go with no on-going relationship. And yep, the turmoil that follows uncertainty will be damaging all round.

And this weekend we’ve seen the future. A trade deal with Canada that’s been in negotiation for 8 years may well crater because it requires ratification by some small local Belgium parliament. 8 years. Imagine the parties agreeing to an extension? It would make the delays to decide on a second runway or to work out if Tony Blair was a war criminal simple. Frankly it’ll take all of that to unpick and restitch our relationship with  the EU which is well beyond the 2  year window.

What we can’t do is change our mind and say, erm, maybe we won’t go after all. Nope, we have to rejoin. And if we did that (assuming they’d have us) it would mean we’d join the Euro, we’d join Schengen (no border controls at all). A damn sight worse than now, anyway.

That is why the EU refuse to negotiate before we trigger. Why would they give away their control? Once we trigger we get their deal. Oh sure, they don’t want us to leave with no deal at all. There are things we have to offer. It would hurt them. The point is we have a lot more at risk than they do.

I fear I’ve gone on long enough and will resist the urge to try and explain the alternative which is to rejoin the the World Trade Organisation (this is critical – it’s the basis on which Canada trades right now and isn’t as favourable but is something).

So the current debate – that the Government must say how it will negotiate – misses the point. Let’s say the Government says ‘we will ensure our fish stocks are protected’. If the EU says, ‘we will give you this’ then we don’t have a choice but accept or we will have nothing beyond our 12 mile limits and a fight with the fishing fleets of all the EU nations plus the Russians.

After we have triggered, there can be no meaningful Parliamentary scrutiny of the terms of the exit agreement. It will be what it will be.

Will it be a hard Brexit, a clean break with little of the access we get now? My guess is yes.

Still it could be worse. At least we haven’t got Trump as President.

Ok that’s it. Back to flippancy.

Posted in miscellany, politics | Tagged , | 52 Comments

When a man loves a woman #microfiction

Jane Doughtery’s prompt this week is


Caleb Spume led a sheltered life, absorbing 19th century fiction and eschewing the internet. Dolores Pebble dreamt of finding a Regency man and dressed accordingly.

At a Jane Austen revival and mindfullness retreat, an immediate attraction drew them together and, over a spicy fruit cup, they coyly tested the other’s boundaries.

To their friends’ delight and their families’ relief, their courtship moved through carefully plotted stages and, after six months of stepping out, Caleb announced he and Dolores were to wed. Banns were read, the Church booked and festivities planned. But as the date approached, Caleb became distracted and then anxious. Up to this point his reading had given him all the guidance he needed to live the life he craved. What though was he meant to do on his wedding night to ‘satisfy’ his bride? It couldn’t be food, though that was the only time he had heard her express herself satisfied.

In despair he took himself to the art gallery. In his limited experience art was generally more helpful than novels when it came to matters physical. He absorbed his lessons well.

And so, the party over, Dolores found herself standing in her bridal suite, awaiting her groom who had disappeared into the bathroom. ‘Close your eyes my love’

She shivered, lips puckered as she heard the door creak open. Moments extended to millennia and cramp took hold of her jaw. She ventured a peek and was astonished to see the man she loved naked in front of her, a posey of flowers in his hands held high over her head. He didn’t seem inclined to move.

Gently Dolores stepped forward. ‘Caleb, darling.’

‘Yes my sweet.’

‘I think you should drop the flowers.’ She lowered her gaze. ‘And perhaps you should pop your willy back on.’

Posted in creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany, prompt | Tagged , | 27 Comments

Danse Macabre #microfiction

Molly felt as if she had left her body. The consultant’s lips moved but his voice came from the adjacent room. ‘There are treatments though as yet no cure. We can…’
Her ears simply echoed with ‘multiple sclerosis’, two words that leapt and spun like the opening sequence of her acclaimed Nutcracker, dazzling, gravity defying words that held her as she had that audience.
‘Miss Stephens?’ He was insistent.
She settled a smile, sinking gracefully to his stage, part of his chorus now. Two more words, hers now. ‘How long?’ He misunderstood, thinking she feared her body’s mortality. A shake, soft yielding eyes stopped his dissembling. ‘To dance.’
But she knew. The strength and control had already gone. Soon even myopic fans would see. And that was her real death.
She gave it six months as a guinea pig, let their chemicals do their thing on her nervous system. She allowed them to use her pliant body, just a different choreographer making aching demands on her whole being while her mind did what it had always done and channelled the pain back on itself.
She had spent years with her life scheduled in meticulous detail. So it would be her death. The 15th anniversary of her debut at Covent Garden, October. She dressed carefully, wrapped in the fur she loved and made her way to the Millennium Bridge. The audience was sparse: a sea-sharp wind deterred all but the hardy. No one noticed as the slight figure stepped onto the handrail. One couple gasped as 5000 had that first night, following the arc of her first jump.
Her dance, graceful, determined and focused mirrored the swirling currents of the roaring tumult. The river gave her one final rapturous acclaim and she was gone.


Posted in creative writing, flash fiction, short story | Tagged , | 24 Comments

Book Review – Life in a Grain of Sand

Graeme has reviewed my anthology Life, in a Grain of Sand. You can obtain your copy for £1.00 on Kindle, here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Grain-Sand-Geoff-Pard/dp/1533449384/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476993025&sr=8-1&keywords=Life+in+a+grain+of+sand


Before I say anything about this book, I need to get something out in the open.  My own name appears in the acknowledgements at the back.  I did wonder why when I first saw that, then remembered Geoff had put out a call to fellow bloggers for ideas, prompts and themes for a project. As someone who has read his books and followed his blogging for a while, I did respond to that, suggesting a title, and presumably that’s why I’ve been acknowledged – along with nineteen others.

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, Life in a Grain of Sandis the result of that project, which Geoff explains at the beginning of the book.

A lot of short story collections have a theme, but this one doesn’t. It does include a few episodes of a continuing story line; it also has some stories that inter-connect with others.  But there…

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Pretzel Logic #flashfiction


Morrison did a double take. The woman on the yoga mat was definitely calling him.
‘Sorry. Can you help? I’m stuck.’
Despite the glorious weather the park appeared empty. Holding Harlem’s lead firmly, he approached what looked like a human pretzel.
‘Something clicked.’ The woman sounded in real pain.
Morrison tried to focus on her face, mimicking her twist to meet her gaze. ‘What do I do?’
‘An ambulance. Please.’
‘I don’t have a phone.’
She groaned. ‘Can you use mine? It’s there.’ Her finger appeared between her knees and pointed at her bum.
The distinctive shape of an old Nokia, its lit keys and screen showed through the taught Lycra. ‘I think I can dial.’
While Morrison rang 999, Harlem licked the woman’s face. It didn’t help.
It took twenty minutes before the paramedics came. Given the woman’s discomfort as they moved her, Morrison slipped away quickly. He wondered, if he ever saw her again, would he recognise her? Maybe not but he’d remember her phone, of that he was sure.

Written as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story, in around 150 words based on the weekly photo prompt. For more information visit HERE.

Posted in flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Apprenticed to my mother: downsizing part 2


Mum organising some male relative circa 1926

It was two weeks before the designated move and mum and I began to pack her kitchen. Mum had this sign

No matter wherever I place my guests, they always like my kitchen best.

As a family we spent most time in the kitchen. And while there mum cooked, she prepped, she bottled and she preserved, she peeled and she pummelled. Over the years the combination of her catering love and her inability to get rid of anything meant every cupboard and every drawer was chock full. Add to that two dressers in the garage that were also full of equipment and you had enough stuff to set up a  catering college with the left-overs sufficient to back up the Great British Bake Off.

I began well. Two cracked and chipped casseroles were unceremoniously given the heave-ho. A teapot, once a favourite but now with a spout that poured side-saddle went the same way.


Mum, top right, and her mother bottom right; the rather gruesome duck’s heads should be ignored but maybe explain her granddaughter’s obsession with animals

But then I reached the heatproof glass bowls, some of which were pyrex (are you old enough to remember pyrex?). Often mum made pies and puddings which she froze in these vessels. That way they could go straight in the oven from the freezer.

I pulled them all out. There were four different sizes and thirteen bowls in total. I lined them up in size order on the work-surface.

‘Ok. How many?’

Mum glanced my way. ’13.’

”No I meant how many are you taking.’

‘I know you did.’

Sometimes mum was so many steps ahead of me I needed a moment to work back through our conversation to realise what she meant. ‘You can’t take all of them.’

Ok, yes, I sounded a little petulant. And miffed.

‘Why not?’

‘There isn’t space.’

‘How do you know that?’ She’s now meeting my gaze with a steady stare.

‘Mum, you’re kitchen is a third larger here and…’

‘Haven’t you heard of space saving?’

‘Of course, mum but…’

‘And that lovely kitchen designer (note the ‘lovely’ – if this particular form of endearment was added as an appellation it usually spelt disaster to argue with such a person’s opinions – the equivalent of telling Stephen Hawkins he couldn’t add or that David Attenborough was unkind to animals) said my new kitchen had the latest in space-saving (she was referring to a neat pull out cupboard-thingy that was one door wide, rose from floor to ceiling and had access on both sides to the five shelves).’

‘I know but…’

‘So, and please don’t interrupt my flow (as if my feeble attempts could ever interrupt the inexorable Ganges of logic swamping me), if the new kitchen is an improvement on the old it must be able to hold more per cubic meter (now I knew she was toying with me, the evil predator of hapless lawyers – when did she go metric, for pity’s sake: we were ruled by the rod, as in the rod, pole and perch as a system of measurement – (if you are unsure what I mean, these are different names for the same unit of length, which is five and a half yards)) than the old one.’

‘I get it. You think all this,’ I swept an arc around her kitchen, ‘ will fit into the new one.’

‘No darling.’

‘No? I don’t understand.’


Mum and her cousin, circa 1952; oddly she seems happy that dad is in charge of a moving vehicle

She hugged me. ‘I know you don’t.’ She looked up, smiling her goofy smile, chucking my cheek – is there a more annoying motherly gesture ever devised? ‘You are as impulsive as your father…’

Pausing here for a moment, the expression you are as [add characteristic] as your father has been adopted by the Textiliste in what might be described as a ‘braking’ expression. Describing something I have said, or worse, have done, or indeed, am in the process of saying or doing thus, renders me instantly immobilised. I adored my dad but comparisons with, say, his politics, his ranting at the radio, his ideas on best business practice, diy, house buying, his driving, his.. well you get the idea, does not cut it. I am different. As in DIFFERENT. I shaved off my moustache for heaven’s sake in 1998. Didn’t that show my intention to be my own man (ok, so I was 42 but I don’t like to rush)?


Yes, glamorous but rather scary…

So for mum to make such a comparison was, as she well knew, liable to (a) make me bristle (b) become defensive and (c) instantly do the opposite of what I was about to do. Namely argue with her.

‘I’ll put the kettle on. The thing is, darling, it may not all fit and if so we can decide then what we do with the extras but unlike your father (and implicitly, me) I prefer not to make assumptions based on a flawed thinking.’

‘Which is what?’

‘That just because I want to move means I want to get rid of anything.’

‘Anything? Haven’t we only been discussing glass bowls?’

‘I think they are what you lawyers call a test case.’

‘You mean you expect to apply the same logic to everything in the kitchen.’

Her smile grew, Cheshire-cat like. She didn’t respond, at least not verbally and just held my gaze. It was a caring, teacherly face. One I saw many times as a child when I couldn’t grasp a concept: like algebra or ironing a shirt. She knew I would grasp it eventually; I just needed time to absorb what she had said and my subconscious would do the rest.


She resorted to torture often to get her way…

‘You don’t mean you plan on taking everything,’ my waving arms described windmills of arcs encompassing the house, the garage and beyond, ‘with you and then sort it out.’

She had the grace to giggle. ‘That would be logical, Captain.’

I didn’t give in easily. I dutifully ate my cake (apple and cinnamon) and drank my tea while testing the edges of this theory. But she’d planned it out, even to the extent of agreeing the arrangements with the removal men. All the boxes that contained the absolute essentials (no, I didn’t dare ask how she’d identified these) would go to their chosen destinations in the bungalow. Ditto the furniture (mum had ten sofas and chairs and expected them all to come). The rest would be stored in the garage. And the summerhouse we were taking. Or, at a pinch on the sitting room which was the biggest room in the new place. Gradually, a box at a time would be emptied, its contents reconsidered and, if found essential, or likely to be, it would be kept. If it failed that test it didn’t go. Oh no. It was repacked. Once every item had been reconsidered, if there was space over, some of the unessentials would be kept (because you never knew, did you?). If however there wasn’t space then a clear out would be instigated.

Mum was 82; of course there were circumstances when she might need 13 glass mixing and cooking basins. I just couldn’t imagine them. No one I asked could. When regaled with this conversation, family members sighed and smiled; friends laughed and said things like ‘Isn’t your mother great’ and ‘doesn’t she have spirit?’ and ‘It’s marvellous she knows her own mind’.

Fuckwits, all of them. It was going to be a nightmare. And that was before the intervention of my sister-in-law.

And so to Dad’s poem. This was written from the heart after he was made redundant a second time in 1986, even if the ending sentiment was not one he worried about.

Why Me?

Joe was made redundant on a Friday afternoon,

His world came tumbling down just after three,

He went back to his office, sat down and shook his head,

And whispered to himself ‘Why me?’


He tried to recollect just what it was they said,

Some word or phrase, perhaps, would be the key,

He remembered words like ‘rationalise’ and ‘viable’ and ‘facts’

But they were not the answer to ‘Why me?’


‘It’s nothing personal, Joe,’ they’d said, ‘You’ve done a damn good job,’

‘It’s just a basic economic fact, you see,’

‘And if we had our way, we’d leave things as they are.’

And that left Joe still wondering ‘Why me?’


He’d worked here now for – how long? Why nearly thirty years,

And at least he’d climbed some distance up the tree.

The department he now managed – surely this was a success?

But all that did was emphasise ‘Why me?’


And driving home that evening his mind was in a whirl

At nearly fifty-five what would he do?

But the thing that most concerned him was what to tell his wife

Who was surely going to ask ‘Why you?’

Posted in family, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments