Friday, 15 June 2018

The Change of Life

I was reading the online press this morning when I realised that many of the articles were about people and things that I neither know about or care about. 
What is a reality TV star? Should I care about Kim Kardashian? Who or what is Towie? When they write about pop I am hard pushed to distinguish between the name of the band and the song. Should I care that Wayne Rooney's car has been towed away?
I find it hard to distinguish between the female tennis players from Eastern European countries, they all seem to shriek and squeal with great aplomb which I am sure is designed to put off their opponent. Is that sporting or fair?
Many writers seem to care nothing for spelling, grammar or punctuation (so any mistakes in this post are my merely trying to keep abreast with the times). 
I then realised that at last I really have morphed into my dad. I am happy!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Letter from America Number 2

6472 Crystal Springs Drive
San Jose
California 95120
Phone: 408 323 9624
April 3rd 2000

Dear all,
Well we have survived our first three months here in San Jose, despite the inclement weather that we have been suffering from. When we arrived rainfall was below seasonal average, now its above it! We must have brought it over from England.
The area in which we are living, the Almaden Valley is very pleasant. It nestles under the Cinnabar Hills and in may respects is similar to English suburbia except that most of the houses are ranch style! The area is fairly historical (by American standards). As you will know from the name of the hills (Cinnabar is the name of the ore that quicksilver comes from) you will probably guess that it is named after the Almaden which is the famous Spanish Quicksilver Mine. Quicksilver is used in extracting gold and so the quicksilver mine which was developed in the 1850s became very profitable due to the high demand for quicksilver during the great Californian Gold Rush. You will probably gather that I have been reading about the area as I didn’t have a clue about any of this before we came over. About a mile from our house is Quicksilver County Park which contains the remains of the mines and township that grew up around it. We were going to visit last weekend for a ramble but once again the weather intervened - more of that later. 
We have been fairly active in getting out and about. We went to go whale watching and were all set, Helena and friend were in the car and I was locking the door with Julia when the phone went - it was the boat company - the trip was off due to high winds. As we were all set for the off we went instead to the John Muir Woods just north of San Francisco the on to Point Reyes which is a lighthouse on the National Seashore Park. It was very spectacular but windy, gusting up to 58 mph so we were glad not to be in a boat. We went out two weeks later to see the whales - we had a very nice boat trip but no whales, third time lucky we hope.
Helena had her 13th birthday on march 27th. We celebrated as a family by going out for a very nice brunch the day before. She has yet to have her party. This will probably be on the 16th April. This coming weekend we are going to Monterey to stay with friends which should be good fun. Pat is a friend I met through scouting and he and his wife Laura are a lovely couple. We will drive down to Big Sur which is very spectacular, its rather like the Cornish Coastline. I have been down there but this will be a first for Julia and Helena. Monterey also has a fascinating aquarium, its the best I have ever been to and you can easily spend a day in there. 
Over Easter we are planning to drive to the Lava National Monument which is in the north of California. There is also the National Redwood Park which should be beautiful walking country.
As I mentioned at the top we did plan to go walking in Quicksilver County Park but the weather beat us again. The temperature soared to the high eighties and even I thought that there were better things to do than go walking in that heat. So after Mass it was brunch on the decking by the pool  and the rest of the day was spent reading the paper with the odd swim to keep cool. It can be really  tough but someone has to do it. No doubt we will get used to the heat but it was about 15 degrees hotter than normal (and was lovely!). Even Julia put her swimming costume on and went for a paddle on an air bed (she didn’t go in and I’m not brave enough to push her).
On Saturday we learnt what a rain check really is and have one to prove it! We went to buy some sun loungers but they only had one that we liked. So we were given a slip labeled “Rain check” and when more come in, the shop will mail us and we present the rain check and will be able to buy the other loungers, still at the sale price!
Helena appears to be doing well at school, it isn't easy for her as she is so young but she is more than holding her own. Some of the work is easy, but some of the project work is very advanced, she has to do proper footnotes, bibliographies, indexes etc.
I took part in a 10 km race the other week, I ran a personal worst - 45mins 47 seconds but I am starting to lose a bit of weight and get faster. I am due to run another one in a couple of weeks so I can measure the improvement, if any!
As you can gather we are enjoying life here, we miss the boys and our families and friends but there are compensations and it should be a great couple of years.
We hope that everything is going well for you and yours.
Take care
Barry, Julia and Helena.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Letter from America - Number 1

I found on my computer in a folder named America the first letters that I wrote up when I started my assignment in San Jose.  They were in .lwp format (Lotus Word Pro) and I did not know how to read them on my machine as lwp is not compatible with the usual programmes such as Word.  Anyway a friend suggest that I try Google Docs and there is a program there called Cloud Convert. it works! So coming up next.............................!

6472 Crystal Springs Drive
San Jose
CA 95120
408 323 9624
27 Feb 2000

We have now been here for a couple of months and I thought that the time was right for a progress report on our American adventure. We are now settled in and the house feels like home. For the first few weeks it rather felt as if we were living in an hotel. I think that there were a few reasons for this; it was all so new to us; the house was only partly furnished and it felt so empty. Over the Christmas period there were nine of us sleeping at 19 Murray Ave, to find only the three of us here felt quite strange at first. For years you dream about the children leaving, well we left the boys and its a very odd feeling!

Helena has settled in at school, we were rather concerned about this as she is the youngest in the school by 18 months but she has coped (and the school has coped with her!). Her work is coming on fine and she is making lots of friends. A couple of weeks ago she went was asked to go to Lake Tahoe to the "place in the country" of one of her friends. This little place is on five levels with its own lift, by the shore of Lake Tahoe with its own jetty (the boat is in storage for the winter). For those who don't know Tahoe is in the Sierra Mountains and is a great ski resort - in the summer its water skiing and hill walking. Helena had a great time, making her parents very envious.

Last night was a special evening - I took Helena to a dance! It was the Father-Daughter Dance at her High School, I could not have imagined this happening in England. It was a great evening which we both thoroughly enjoyed.  We started out by meeting up with some friends of Helena's (with Dads) in a Chinese restaurant and then going to the dance. It was semiformal which meant party frocks and suits (for the men). It was the first time that I had worn a collar and tie since we have been over - business dress is rather less formal than in England. I haven't yet worn shorts to the office but no doubt I will when summer comes. What impressed me most was how friendly everybody was, they made us feel very welcome. When we got to the dance other friends of Helena introduced themselves to me and then to their dad's, even if we had gone by ourselves we would have ended up in a big group. The other impressive thing was how determined everybody was to enjoy themselves, we were dancing the whole time. Helena even managed to overcome her embarrassment at my dancing abilities.

Helena has joined the Track and Field team, and on Saturday she had her first race which was also her first run since she had been here. The school advised
us that she settle in before doing any sport - there are no regular PE lessons. We went along to the track to watch and meet up with the team and Helena was persuaded to run - I was proud of her as she was very nervous and is very unfit. On Monday she will start training and will soon be back to form as they train six days a week. School sport is taken very seriously here - I guess its because of the number of sporting scholarships that are available at university.
Work is going OK, I am running my first project, there are three residents; from Germany, Australia and the Czech republic. It all seems to be going well. We had a get together here on Friday night with a colleague and his project team. We thought it was great success  I just hope the others did. Mark (my work colleague from Australa) brought his wife and boys - the children spent most of the evening in the hot-tub with Helena and her friend from next door.

Julia has not yet ventured into the tub, she is waiting for the air temperature to rise, but I think its great. Last Monday was President's Day,(Washington's birthday) and I took the day off work and we all went on a drive through the mountains and ended up at Santa Cruz - lunch on the beach followed by a walk in a coastal nature reserve. When we got home Helena and I spent a hour in the tub - not a bad way to spend a day in February. We have booked a trip to go whale watching - the whales migrate twice a year and go along the Californian coastline, so next Sunday we will be leaving Santa Cruz harbour to see these great mammals. We are hoping that the weather will be nice. At this time of year its very changeable, one day pouring with rain and very windy, the next clear and sunny. We did have one spell of 60 hours continuous rain, so its not always sunny in California. The good part is that once summer starts it doesn't rain for about six months, well that is
what the locals say we will have to wait and see.

Last week we held our first dinner party, we entertained Peter and Mildred Woods and two friends of theirs. Peter married my cousin Sheila (they lived in Canada) who was tragically killed in a car accident 20 years ago. We had not seen Peter since the accident. Peter and his second wife Mildred were visiting friends in San Jose, hence the dinner party. It was a great evening, Mildred is a lovely person, I just hope that we meet again before another twenty years are up. We are now in touch with Peter's three children via e-mail - the web is certainly a way to keep in contact as its very easy to knock up a few lines and send them. Peter's son Fred is getting married on June 24th. I am Fred's Godfather - I must confess to not being very diligent in my duties. We would like to get up to Canada for the wedding, but I am not yet certain if I will be able to get time off from work as it’s only a couple of weeks after Andrew's wedding.

We have also had our first house guest, a friend from work who spent six days with us. We went to Alcatraz. Although it poured with rain we had a good time, it is a fascinating island and the guided tour (on tape) is very good. I had been before in the sun when it seemed quite a nice place to spend a few years. In the cold and damp it did not seem so inviting!

Julia has settled in and made some friends; when the weather clears they are going to explore the local countryside - there is a Country Park complete with quicksilver mines a mile from the house. She has been busy making marmalade, from oranges in the garden. They look lovely but have a rather sharp taste, not nice to eat but the marmalade is lovely. There is an olive tree in the front garden so we should be having home-grown olives in the dry martinis. She is also venturing onto the Californian roads, if you saw the way they drive it is a venture as indicating is an optional extra. 

I cycle to work, its five miles which is not too bad excepet that the in the last mile the road climbs 400ft! My waistline is slowly recovering shape although I have not yet lost any weight.
Helena is recovering from having had four teeth removed, this was as her mouth is too small (though to her here talk you would doubt this!). She starts the orthodontic treatment when her mouth is healed. We have also bought the bridesmaids dress for the wedding in June. A totally unbiased opinion from her parents is that she looks lovely. We now have to buy Julia's outfit.

The excitement of moving in and settling down is fading and we have to start the realities of everyday living, keeping to budget etc. The first few weeks were expensive buying all the staples etc. for the larder, gin, tequila etc. and the luxuries like herb's, flour, sugar etc. etc. In general things are cheaper over here although herbs, spices and things like that are dearer. Meat is cheap, well beef is,lamb is very expensive. I am not sure what they do with sheep or is it just that they don't have any? I must finish now as we have been invited out to Sunday tea to some Australian friends - its very cosmopolitan out here.

We hope that life is treating you all as you deserve (or perhaps somewhat better than you deserve)

Barry, Julia and Hélèna

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Drug Trials

Earlier in the year I volunteered to go forward to be on an Alzheimer's prevention drug trial. This involved going on a whole battery of medical tests, ECG, MRI and Pet scans. Plus cognitive impairment and memory tests. They are after people without cognitive impairment but whose brains have the bio-markers for the potential to develop Alzheimer's caused by the beta-amyloid protein.
Today was judgement day when I went with Julia to get the results. So off to Re:Cognition Health for the feedback on all my tests. They came back negative which means I am not likely to get Alzheimer’s caused by the beta-Amyloid protein which is the most common cause of dementia. To quote the doctor “I am normal” with no cognitive impairment. This means I will not be on the drug trial. She also looked at my ECG results and said that I had nothing to worry about there.
So if we meet and it becomes obvious that one of us is not quite "all there" I have medical proof the it is not me!!
Of course I can still suffer from one of the other causes of dementia such as Vascular dementia, Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia etc. But at least one has been ruled out.



Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Birthday Celebrations

Gaew, our lovely Thai daughter-law was forty in February and Andrew our middle-son and her husband turns 40 tomorrow. To celebrate this "coming of age" they took all the family out for lunch on Saturday at Sea Salt in Beckenham - an excellent lunch and a great time was had by all.
The Family in Sea Salt
 On the Sunday the family gathered at Mellish Mansions in Bromley for the first BBQ of the year. We were not brave or stupid enough to dine outside. But I did BBQ roast pork and beer can chicken - you drink half a can of beer then put the beer can inside the chicken and balance it upright. The chicken comes out beautifully moist - I also used a smoker with cherry wood inside - beautiful! I even managed to get praise from Sam, my son-in-law, who is a chef.

From the back reading left to right
Andrew and David
Lawrie, Helena, Emma, Sam cuddling Georgia
Julia, Henry, Gaew and GOM (Grumpy Old Man)

Friday, 23 February 2018

The biter bit

Looks like the Mr "Call me Dave" Cameron's cunning plan to unite the Tory party by calling a referendum on whether we should leave the EU or not has really come unravelled. The Tory party is in completer disarray, if the Labour Party had a leader worth his salt they would be trouncing the Tories in the polls. As it is "JC" is staring at the ball with an open goal in front of him wondering whether he should kick it or not.

Is money the way to success in sport?

Yes! Old-fashioned is perfect!” chuckles Tom Tvedt, the president of Norway’s Olympic Committee, when asked whether the philosophy behind his country’s staggering Winter Games success may be, well, a little old-fashioned.
The Norwegians refuse to plough millions into sports that ordinary folk simply do not play in exchange for a brief medal-winning serotonin hit. They stress the importance of the umbilical link between grassroots and elite sport. And, unusually to British ears, they say local sports clubs are a core part of their success.
“Our vision is sport for all,” Tvedt says. “Before you are 12 you should have fun with sport. So we don’t focus on who the winner is before then. Instead we are very focused on getting children into our 11,000 local sports clubs. And we have 93% of children and young people regularly playing sport in these organisations.”
As Tvedt explains, this benefits everyone, because the more that people enjoy sport as kids, the broader the talent pool their elite teams will have later. “All our medals have come from athletes who have started in local clubs. If an athlete is good, we will then bring them to the Olympiatoppen, our elite sports centre, where the top sport science comes into the picture.”
To say it is working is a thundering understatement. With three days remaining of these Olympics, Norway, a country of 5.2 million people, has won 35 medals. Germany is next on 25, with Canada one further behind in third.