It’s not what it looks like

ONE of a retired life’s mysteries is how our outdoor hot tub, which is currently unused, can fill with rainwater when it is protected by a heavy duty cover, resulting in the need to bail it out on a weekly basis.

This can be done in the main by leaning into the tub from the deck; to empty the central well, however, I have to climb into the tub itself. That means removing shoes and socks, and rolling up my trouser legs.

Job done, I was halfway through restoring appearances when the doorbell rang. Knowing that The Current Mrs Feeney was expecting an important parcel in the mail, I hurried to the door.

Thus it was that the postman was confronted by a man of mature years, with one foot socked and shod, and one foot naked; one trouser leg rolled above the knee; and wearing yellow Marigold gloves. It is a moot point which of us was the more alarmed.

I am not sure he was convinced by my assurances that he had not stumbled upon some Masonic ritual.

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I have finished reading Metropolis, the final novel in the Bernie Gunther series of thrillers by Philip Kerr, who died last year tragically young. I shall miss Bernie, who is one of the great anti-heroes of fiction, but I sincerely hope that he does not fall victim to the literary trend of resuscitation by another writer’s pen.

It’s been done with Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, James Bond and Bertie Wooster; none of them have lived up to their original incarnations. Leave deceased characters to rest in peace.

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When it comes to the challenge of carrying on another author’s work, it doesn’t come bigger than Shakespeare.

Netflix’s new film The King is based on Shakespeare’s ‘Henriad’ sequence of historical plays, just without Shakespeare’s dialogue. No pressure.

It was ok, with an interesting new take on the character of Falstaff, who is recreated as genuinely heroic. The film is stolen by Robert Pattinson’s performance as The Dauphin; sadly for the wrong reasons. His ludicrous French accent is pure ‘Allo ‘Allo. No wonder the French have been apoplectic about it.

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I’d have loved to know what Sir Jonathan Miller made of it. His death at the age of 85 has been marked by newspaper obituaries to the theatre director, broadcaster and satirist.

I met him once. I was an Eng.Lit. undergraduate, and he was the guest of honour at a summer school held in a country house set in the mid-Wales countryside.

I don’t remember anything Sir Jonathan said, but I have a vivid recollection of the late night conversation I had with a lorry driver who had broken into the house in search of booze. Failing to find any, I was requested to accompany him to the kitchens, where he showed me how to strain brass polish through a handkerchief in order to obtain a small amount of pure alcohol.

It’s not a skill I’ve made use of to date.

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Today’s emails include offers to remove skin tags, belly fat, and nail fungus. Is somebody trying to tell me something?

 

 

 

The trains and pies of my childhood

CONVERSATIONS among the Retired Blokes morning swimming group’s Shower Debating Society tend to follow familiar themes – Brexit, the fortunes of Swansea City football club, our assorted medical ailments – with the occasional exotic florescence.

Literary criticism and Irish social history, however, was a new one this week. I had overheard one of the early birders – obviously Irish from his accent – mention that he had known Brendan Behan. Now I took the opportunity to ask how.

“Everybody in Dublin knew him,” he said. “In any pub, the landlord was expecting him shortly.”

Behan is widely viewed as one of Ireland’s greatest writers. He was also a member of the Irish Republican Army who was given a full IRA funeral when the drink killed him off at the age of 41.

My shower companion was unimpressed: “a pain in the arse – I used to feel sorry for his wife. But he certainly could write.”

Inevitably the conversation moved on to a comparison of Behan with Swansea’s own roaring boy, Dylan Thomas; each viewed by many as an embarrassment during his lifetime, only to be revered for his literary legacy after his premature death.

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One car enters our lives, and another departs. The Daughter takes delivery of her new Honda Civic, relieving me of further Dad’s Taxi duties. Then The Current Mrs Feeney receives a text message from the mechanic who looks after her 14-year-old Peugeot – it has failed its annual MoT check.

The bill for repairing and replacing the failed parts will cost more than the car is worth. After a discussion, we come to a decision;  it’s time to let it go.

TCMrsF tells herself that it’s the sensible thing to do, and that it would be foolish to start spending good money after bad in a losing battle to keep the car roadworthy. But she still feels sad.

Telling her that “it’s only a car” does not appear to help.

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To a Christmas Fayre at a local National Trust property; the usual range of stalls – chutneys and jams, homemade fudge and chocolates, handprinted crockery and framed prints, alongside Welsh tartan teddy bears and inscribed love hearts made of Welsh slate.

Who buys all this stuff? The busiest stalls were the ones selling burgers and hot dogs, and cups of mulled wine. There must be an awful lot of what one of my former managing directors used to dismiss as “hobby businesses”.

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A call has been made to restore the “grand vision” of the HS2 high speed rail project from London to the north of England, including coming up with a name that offers something more romantic.

HS2 or whatever it’s called isn’t coming anywhere near Wales, but I endorse the sentiment. A good first step to getting romance back on the rails would be to bring back the named expresses (not to be confused with the names of particular engines) of my trainspotting childhood.

Where now is the White Rose (axed in 1967) or the Heart of Midlothian (axed in 1968)? No longer can passengers board the Devon Belle or The Elizabethan.

Researching this (this column does research?) I was bemused to discover that trains currently operating to Swansea include the St David and the Red Dragon. You search for them on any departure board in vain.

Waiting at Paddington station for your train is rarely fun; announcements for the imminent departure of the Armada (to Plymouth), the Cathedrals Express (Oxford and Hereford), the Golden Hind (Penzance), or the Merchant Venturer (Bristol) would surely make it more interesting.

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TCMrsF has been baking corned beef pies. The kitchen is filled with a smell that both whets the appetite now, and brings back memories of my mother making the same dish when I was young.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make us happy.

 

A little of what you fancy – is it all in the mind?

“IT’S funny,” says The Current Mrs Feeney, “how we all turn into our parents eventually.” I know what’s brought this on.

In the early years of our marriage, when we were juggling two demanding careers and a young family, we were very grateful for the help provided by her mother (domestic) and my father (gardening). Of late, we’ve been doing the same for our children.

If it’s true, I take great comfort from her observation. Throughout his long retirement, my father was the most contented person I knew. He spent many happy hours tending his garden. His routine was based on three steps: “I have a small whisky before I start, a small whisky when I’m halfway through whatever I’m doing, and a small whisky when I finish.”

It did the trick. He lived to be 101. Anyone fancy a tot?

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Parental domestic duties undertaken, our journey home along the M5 and M4 from Gloucestershire back to Swansea is interminable.

The delays at the Brynglas tunnels outside Newport are infernal, the stop-start past the Port Talbot junctions hellish, the endless crawl along Fabian Way into Swansea purgatory.

“Imagine having to do this commute every day” says TCMrsF. Fortunately, imagining it is all I have to do these days. My heartfelt sympathy to all those whose working days begin and end in traffic jams.

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Actually, I will be doing some commuting this week. The Daughter is between cars, so I will be on Dad’s Taxi duty, ferrying her between home, work and gym.

There is careless talk about a 5.30am start on Monday, so the sooner her new car arrives, the better I’ll like it.

Buying a car is a different experience these days. There was a time when the question “how much off for cash?” was greeted with a grateful smile from the dealer; now it prompts only a blank look.

Paying for anything with cash is, apparently, just an inconvenience now. Which probably helps explain why the banks are closing all their branches.

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I am a recent convert to the podcast universe. Like all converts, I am somewhat over-enthusiastic; hence I have subscribed to far too many for me to possibly listen to them all. This can easily induce a new form of stress – but fortunately, one that is easily remedied by pressing ‘delete’.

One that I did listen to this week featured Gene Kelly’s widow, talking about how, when his body was no longer capable of doing what it once did, he continued to choreograph lengthy and intricate dance routines on a sound stage he constructed in his head.

So take comfort; not many of us get to star in Singing In The Rain. But in our minds, we can all be on the Silver Screen.

It’s good to talk, and it’s even better to have a sense of belonging

THREE mornings a week the alarm goes off, rousing me and sending me on my way to the pool for my regular 1000 metres Australian freestyle. The Current Mrs Feeney adjusts the duvet and ponders why somebody retired needs to go swimming at a particular time when he has all day free.

The answer is that it is not (or at least, not just) about the swim. I’ll explain, via a diversion that involves a detective sergeant at the Avon & Somerset police, a conman, and a park bench.

The policeman was horrified when he met an 89-year-old widow who had given away more than £25,000 of her savings to a con artist because his daily phone calls were her only human interaction.

“I know I am giving this money away as part of a scam but I have got the money and this is the only person that I get to speak to on any sort of regular basis,” she told him.

The officer set up a scheme where public benches could be designated as “Happy to Chat” seats, with signs letting people know that anyone sitting there was happy to talk. It has spawned a global movement, with benches from the US to Australia.

My point is that something similar happens when we regulars gather in the changing room at the pool; the Retired Blokes Swimming Club’s Shower Debating Society (my title) is in session every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from about 8am until the last of us has towel-dried. Just this month, topics have ranged from the global challenges of climate change to the best way to blow a trumpet.

The conversation, like the swimming, isn’t the crucial thing. It’s the social connection.

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ONE of the regulars (female, so all conversation strictly poolside-only in this case) has been looking forward to starting a training course in psychotherapy and counselling. I was surprised when she told me she had not been able to get on her preferred course because it was full.

Are there so many people who want to retrain in this field? Are there that many people in need of counselling?

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SOME of the regulars have broadened their physical activity to cycling. I wish them good luck, but they’ll have to go some to match the achievements of 82-year-old Russ Mantle, who has just clocked up one million miles of pedalling. For more than 65 years he has recorded in minute detail every yard covered on a range of bikes.

The former civil servant retired at the age of 57 and never married, declaring cycling his “true love.” TCMrsF is not convinced that this makes him a good role model. I assure her that my natural aversion to anything with two wheels or four legs means I am immune to the supposed charms of cycling.

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FOOTBALL is another matter. My boyhood ambition was to be a football reporter. Somehow I ended up running newsrooms.

I’ve been reading When Footballers Were Skint. Sports journalist and author Jon Henderson went in search of the game’s soul by interviewing a dozen old men who were professional footballers in the days before the £20 a week maximum wage was lifted in 1961.

That was about the time I started my love affair with the sport. The book offers people like me a glimpse on what footballers’ lives were like when they were paid about the same as the men (and it was almost entirely men then) who paid to watch them play on a Saturday afternoon. A lost world, but one where the sense of community was strong.

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A COUPLE of dozen old faces from my last newsroom gather on Friday morning. We are at a crematorium to say goodbye to another ex-colleague.

Listening to the family tributes, I am surprised to hear how, after the death of his wife earlier this year, this old hand, toughened by many a battle with politicians (and editors), had sought the support of a counsellor to help him deal with the loss.

I recall the conversation at the pool last week. I need to think again about the need for this kind of support.

Sometimes it’s all Greek to me

ANTI-ageing medicines are a realistic prospect, says Britain’s top doctor, but in the meantime we should listen to the Ancient Greeks.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty told a House of Lords committee that “the great majority of things we can advise were advised by the Greek philosophers more than 2,000 years ago.”

These include taking exercise, having friends, and getting an education. Admittedly, Pythagoras and his mates did not have much to say about giving up smoking, which is still Dr Whitty’s top tip to slow ageing.

What getting older does to performance was under discussion in the swimming pool shower room this week. The Bandsman was telling me how he joined his first brass band as a young man; he blew a mean horn (well, euphonium) but eventually gave it up because the demands of work, family and band practise became too much.

Twenty years ago, he bumped into his old ‘second euphonium’ at a music festival, and was persuaded to “come and have a blow” with a new band he had recently formed. It took him five years to get back to his old level of playing.

Now that he is retired, he has plenty of time to practise, but the bellows are not what they were. “I get pains here,” he says, spreading his fingers across his chest. “It’s not my heart, it’s the effect of all that hard blowing.”

I sympathise, and suggest that having more time to do things less well could pretty much sum up retirement. “Ah well,” says The Bandsman, “you know what they say: now it takes me all night to do what I used to do all night.”

I think about this, and conclude that he isn’t talking about blowing his own trumpet.

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SPEAKING of old Greeks, every schoolboy used to know the story of Archimedes discovering how to measure the volume of an irregular object and leaping out of his bath shouting “Eureka!”

I had a similar moment this week but it was more a case of getting out of the pool muttering “You Idiot!”

I had been mildly disconcerted of late by a lump just above my right ear. Well, it was more like a raised ridge really. Could it be linked to recent headaches? And was it my imagination, or was something similar developing above my other ear?

I was removing my swimming goggles when my fingers traced the two ridges – precisely where the corrugated strap on my goggles had been tightly fastened around my head.

I’ll begin to feel relieved when I stop feeling stupid.

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AMUSED that the joint winner of this year’s Booker Prize thinks Eng. Lit. classics including Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, and James Joyce’s Ulysses, are unreadable.

Funnily enough, I came to the same conclusion some years ago about the sort of novels that win literary prizes like the Booker.

These days I happily confine my fiction reading to crime novels and spy thrillers. At the moment, I’m working my way through the Jackson Lamb series by Mick Herron; they’re about a bunch of screw-ups who’ve been banished to perform menial tasks in MI5’s outer limits, and they’re deeply darkly funny.

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THE Current Mrs Feeney and I are watching The Americas with Simon Reeve on the BBC. This week, Reeve was interviewing a man who rears cattle on a Montana ranch that is as big as Switzerland.

“His next-door neighbour must be about one hundred miles away,” I said.

“Sounds perfect,” replied TCMrsF. She likes her privacy.

 

 

 

 

Remember the 1960s? Were you there?

YOU know the quote: “If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there.” It’s famous – even if the world cannot agree who exactly said it.

Well, I remember it well. I was there. It wasn’t me that was missing so much as that version of the Sixties that has gone down in dope-smoking and free-loving mythology.

And I can tell you this; the Sixties didn’t swing much in my small Welsh village. I suspect that was true for nearly everybody else. Wherever the Scene was, it was somewhere else than here.

I’ve watched a few things on television this week that got me thinking on this track. “Marianne and Leonard: Words Of Love” is a film about the relationship between the Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, the Norwegian woman he lived with on the Greek island of Hydra, the inspiration for his song ‘So Long, Marianne”, and (as she is described in the film) his muse.

A woman being a man’s muse struck me as oddly out of tune with a decade that was supposedly all about female liberation, thanks largely to the invention of the birth control pill.

Then I caught-up with recorded episodes of a new series about that bible of the 60s scene, Rolling Stone magazine, and what did we find? Behind every male rock god, a group of women who were happy to cook their meals, clean their houses, and warm their beds, in the name of freedom.

Back to the film; Cohen came across to me as a narcissist who exploited women. But I still love his songs. Does his attitude to women matter (obviously yes in as much as it was the motivation for many of his greatest songs); but should we judge the art by the morality of the artist?

Or do we say the Sixties (and Seventies) was another age, a long time ago.

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Newly enrolled as a Silver Swimmer, and no longer restricted to designated sessions in the pool, this week I had my first pre-8am swim since I retired, seven years ago this month.

The early start meant I was back home early enough for The Current Mrs Feeney and I to go to an 11am screening of Joker in our local Odeon.

We were surprised at how many people also made it through the incessantly pouring rain to a morning show; and faintly nauseated by the way many of them were loading up on nachos and cheese, popcorn, and fizzy drinks. That’s a hell of a breakfast.

When did it become the norm to take a three-course meal into the cinema? I go to watch the film. Eating and drinking I can do later – with the extra benefit of being able to see exactly what I’m about to put in my mouth.

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I’ve started messaging the 198 ‘cousins’ identified by my Ancestry DNA test. A few have responded through the week; some to express surprise and scepticism about our relationship – on the basis that our respective family trees have neither names or locations that match on any branch; a couple, however, who confirm some common ancestry many generations ago.

I have begun an email conversation with two of them; descendants of immigrants to Saskatchewan and Pennsylvania. I look forward to exchanging views on which of us has the most dysfunctional government.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports concerns about Ancestry retaining subscribers’ DNA details. Should I be worried?

 

Who do I think I am?

THE spit analysts have completed their work. My DNA test results are in.

The main motivation to provide a saliva sample was confusion about the origin of my great grandfather William Henry Feeney. It was family belief that he came from somewhere called Trimley in Ireland. But as soon as I started researching the family history, that was called into question.

For a start, there was nowhere in Ireland of that name. But there are two villages – Trimley St Mary and Trimley St Martin – near Ipswich, in the east of England. And while I could not uncover any evidence of William Henry’s birth in Ireland, I was directed to a British Army record for a Private William Henry Feeney whose story appeared to dovetail with my ancestor’s. And this soldier had given his place of birth to the Army as Ipswich.

So, was there actually any Irish ancestry in my family? Or am I the descendant of an East Anglian soldier (whose mother may well have been a destitute spinster living in a workhouse)?

You judge from the evidence of my DNA, which reveals 57% England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe (most likely through ancestors linked to South East Wales, West Wales, East Suffolk, and East Anglia) and 43% Ireland and Scotland (nothing more specific).

From this, is it safe for me to conclude that William Henry was indeed born in Ipswich, but was of Irish descent? I need the help of an experienced genealogist to explore further.

Meanwhile, I appear to have discovered 198 cousins!

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I took delivery of my new car this week. The lady at the dealership kindly talked me through all the essentials – Bluetooth connection, mobile phone linkage, internet activation codes, etc.

When did a diploma in IT become a requisite for driving a car? I remember a time when a car salesman would point out where the spare wheel was stored, and send you on your way.

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I am now a Silver Swimmer. That’s the name the local pool has given to over 60s members, now that it no longer offers us free swimming sessions. It’s costing me £17 a month, for which I get unrestricted swim times.

And I haven’t been to the pool once this week.

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I swore I would never watch another music biopic after wincing my way through Bohemian Rhapsody. I am very glad that I made an exception with Judy. It retells the familiar tale about Judy Garland’s last concerts in London, but Renee Zellweger is extraordinarily good as the abused, exploited, addicted (to narcotics and public adoration), tortured, vulnerable, destructive genius.

I vaguely recall, as a teenager, watching Judy Garland on television. It may well have been one of those London concerts. I remember the audience booing and shouting abuse at her. Sad and shameful, when you know the torment her life had become by then.

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PS: we’ve stored away all the decking and patio furniture; that usually guarantees a spell of unseasonably fine weather.

 

 

 

It’s a generation thing

WE were sat around the kitchen table, eating the bacon sandwiches kindly provided by The Current Mrs Feeney, when the news from the Supreme Court arrived.

The 11 judges unanimously decided the Government had acted illegally when it suspended Parliament for five weeks. The suspension was void. Parliament, therefore, was not suspended and should resume sitting asap.

Cue another discussion about Brexit (i.e. Britain’s departure from the European Union). It has been more than three years since the country narrowly decided in a referendum to leave. The arguments about leaving with a deal, leaving with no deal, or calling the whole thing off and remaining, have only intensified in the interim.

In the referendum vote, there was a significant difference in the result among older voters (heavily Leave) and younger (heavily Remain).

I suppose if things are delayed much longer, The Grim Reaper will have done his work, and the UK will exit Europe with a population that by and large wants to stay. Interesting times.

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Speaking of generation gaps, TCMrsF and The Daughter have been having a divergence of opinion this week about the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg.

TCMrsF thinks she is a very angry girl; The Daughter is strongly and enthusiastically of the opinion that, given the state of the planet, Greta and her young followers have a lot to be angry about.

I’m attempting to be neutral. I’m acutely conscious of the fact that I’m collecting my new car tomorrow, not forgetting that TCMrsF and I have already flown to Italy and Spain this year. Petite probably does not cover our carbon footprint.

I do wonder, though, if the current generation of retirees like us will turn out to be among the last to enjoy the privileges of private car ownership and comparatively cheap flights.

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It’s that time of the year I call The Swansea Soak. A time when, in common with other cities along the west coast, it seems to pour with rain for weeks on end.

It coincides with the arrival of the new intake of students to Swansea’s two universities. The weather is the city’s special welcome to the Freshers, who very quickly discover that moving here without a raincoat is not the smartest decision they’ll have made.

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My spit has hit the lab. You may recall that my family history research raised some doubts whether my Irish great-grandfather William Henry Feeney was not, in fact, from the east of England.

At the suggestion of a local genealogist, I’ve done one of those ancestry DNA tests. My saliva sample is at the ‘being processed’ stage. Will something surprising be revealed?

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The new membership forms have arrived at our local pool. With the demise of free swimming for the over 60s, I’ll be paying £17 a month from Tuesday for the chance to do my regular 1,000 metres of Australian front crawl.

The free swimming was only available after 8am each day. As a paying member, I’ll be able to fling myself into the H20 any time from 6.30 in the morning. There was a time (it was called My Working Life) when my body clock was attuned to early starts.

It takes a strong cup of tea and a digestive biscuit to fire up the engine these days. Somehow, I doubt if my former early morning swim companions are going to be seeing me back before the chilly dawn.

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TCMrsF’s latest purchase put in an appearance in our kitchen this week. Any idea what it is?

As I was saying

Hello? Is there anybody still there?

I could hardly blame you if you’d wandered off to do something else. I thought I’d give this blog a short break. And two years later, here we are (or perhaps not, if I’m talking to myself).

Funny how time passes, isn’t it? I won’t bore you with the details of what The Current Mrs Feeney and I have been up to.

We’ve recently returned from a short break in Majorca. We had a perfectly acceptable number of hours of sunshine, but regularly interrupted by extraordinarily violent thunderstorms.

IMG_0169Even more unusual than the weather, however, was the hotel we stayed in. It was full of guests who had been returning to this hotel in September for the past twenty to thirty years. In many cases, to the very same rooms. It struck me as singularly lacking in imagination.

In fact, TCMrsF and I began to wonder if we hadn’t wandered into some sort of cult. I was half expecting to wake in the middle of the night to discover our bed surrounded by octogenarians in goats head masks, relishing the imminent prospect of feasting on newcomers’ blood.

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Since we returned home, the weather in Swansea has been as surprisingly fine as it was remarkably unsettled in the Mediterranean. I’ve taken advantage (if that’s the word I’m grasping for) of the weather and spent the week repainting the racks of spindles around the decking in our backyard.

For something that is so back-achingly tedious, the whole thing had become oddly therapeutic by the time I finished the last two racks yesterday.

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One of the advantages of being over 60 in Wales is that you can enjoy free swimming sessions in local authority-run pools. But not for much longer. It’s being scrapped from the end of this month.

What, I ask the woman on the reception desk, happens then? We can apply for special membership. Can we do it online? No, we need to fill out a form. Can we have a form please? No, she does not have any.

I could always take up rambling, I suppose.

 

 

 

 

 

There’s something dark in the woods

Goodbye Christopher Robin

***** Very Good

What’s it about? The story of the family behind the creation of the world’s most popular children’s fiction character, Winnie the Pooh.

Who directed it? Simon Curtis, who first came to attention with the excellent My Week With Marilyn (2011), and more recently directed Woman in Gold (2015).

Who is in it? Domhnall Gleeson plays author-playwright A.A.Milne, who created the character of Winnie out of bedtime stories he made up for his son, Christopher Robin. Gleeson was seen earlier this year as the cynical CIA controller in Tom Cruise vehicle American Made. Milne’s wife, Daphne, is played by the Australian actress Margot Robbie, in a big shift from her last role in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Will Tilston makes his cinema debut as the young Christopher, with Alex Lowther playing the young-adult Christopher, a role perhaps too similar to his performance as the young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014). In a role that could have been made for her, Kelly Macdonald, last seen in T2 Trainspotting, plays Christopher’s nanny, Olive.

My View: A film about Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh probably creates expectation/trepidation of honeyed sentimentality. There is sunshine and sweetness in evidence, but also plenty of dark shade and sour notes.

The whole is a bittersweet creation that covers ground a long way from the innocent pleasures of life in the Hundred Acre Wood.

The opening sequence takes us from sun-dappled countryside to Western Front trenches to 1920s posh society party, laying out the themes to be explored.

Milne is psychologically damaged by his experiences on The Somme during World War One. Daphne is a party-loving girl-about-LondonTown, for whom the ‘mechanics’ of giving birth to their only child come as a traumatic shock (how she thought it was going to happen, having presumably been conscious during the child’s conception, is a mystery the film wisely ignores).

Together, they make very selfish and neglectful parents. Their son finds affection and attention mainly from Olive.

Milne’s magical creation of Winnie and the other animals in the woods comes out of a rare period of time when father and son bond (Daphne has gone back to London for a season of parties). It could have been the start of a much closer and happier relationship.

Instead, as the Milnes rapaciously exploit the commercial opportunities arising from the Pooh books’ extraordinary popularity, their son is left more isolated and miserable than ever.

This is a child who is invited to the House of Lords, but yearns for some sign of love from his parents. He is left wanting for nothing, when all he really wants is them.

Instead, they steal his childhood and sell it in a raffle, the lucky winners having the chance to have tea with “the happiest boy in England”.

The final part of the film, with a reconciliation that did not happen to the real Milne family, is the one moment when the syrup is laid on too thick. But the dark, chewy stuff that comes before makes this forgivable.

Watch this film if: you suspect that, behind every apparently happy family, there’s a story of secret sorrows.