Tag Archives: clare london

Day 67: Kingston to Ealing – with sunshine and Lycra

Standard

… or for me, a familiar part of the 65 bus route. But of course, the Olympic Torch bearers won’t be taking the bus today – they’ll be running in the sunshine as the Torch comes to my town 🙂

I’ve lived in Kingston since the early 1980s, but have known it all my life. My maternal grandparents lived here, and in fact my family now lives in the same house – proud owners of the house since it was built in 1935 for £750!

   
Kingston Market Place today and in 1906

Kingston has its fair share of attention, with one of the Royal Parks nearby, a coronation stone, and an architectural history to rival many cities (apart from the torturous one-way system, but we’ll draw a veil over that).

It was the market town where Anglo Saxon kings were crowned – see the coronation stone on the right c 1893 -, was built on the first crossing point of the Thames from London Bridge, and was the earliest royal borough. In the Domesday Book, its assets were: a church, five mills, three fisheries worth 10s, 27 ploughs, 40 acres (160,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth six hogs. It rendered £30. Maybe that’s what the policitian meant who scorned it as a rich, complacent, “leafy borough” :).

Nowadays it has some of the best secondary schools in the country, both state and private, a shopping centre that’s second-tier to the West End, riverside developments (where my family’s £750, even in current inflationary rates, wouldn’t buy you a garage door), and a new theatre – where Son#2 does voluntary ushering now and then!

Its famous “children” include John Galsworthy, Eadweard Muybridge and Jacqueline Wilson. Mr Knightley in Jane Austen’s Emma regularly visits Kingston (!) and Nipper – the dog in the HMV logo – lived with his owners in Kingston and is buried in town under Lloyds Bank. 

There’s much excitement in town this weekend due to the Olympic Bike Trials, which will run over Kingston Bridge, out past Hampton Court and on to Walton. Bradley Wiggins will be whizzing through my town! Son#2 and I are trying to work out the best place to stand to catch that glorious 6 seconds of Olympic glory :).

So, in celeration of Kingston’s involvement in the Olympics, here’s some free fiction!

~~~~~~

MAMIL by Clare London (2012 Olympics)

Frank looked at Vince and bit his lip. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Vince sounded belligerent. It was a difficult tone to carry off when clad neck to knee in yellow Lycra.

“I’m not sure.” Frank tilted his head and frowned. “You know I’ve always supported you and your hobbies.”

“But … what?”

“I didn’t say but.”

“Every damned mote of your being said but, Francis.”

Frank’s gaze ran over Vince’s form-fitting jersey, the sponsor slogan on his back from the local gay outreach scheme, the thigh-clinging leggings, the tight black fingerless gloves, then back up to his burly sideburns.

Vince pressed one of them against his cheek, a little defensively. “Is it straight? The sweat loosens the glue. All the fans are wearing them.”

“I know,” Frank said gently.

“The right gear makes all the difference.”

“I know,” Frank said again.

“I reckon twice around the park each morning and I’ll soon be fighting fit.”

“You’re pretty fit already.”

Vince scowled. “Finish it, Francis. Finish what you really want to say.”

“What?”

“Oh for God’s sake… you mean pretty fit for my age.”

Frank frowned. “Ever consider that’s what you think, Vince, not me? You seem to go on about it a lot. We’re the same age, remember. But I don’t feel the need to wear Lycra and cycle with my arse off the seat and my head so far down on the handlebars I can barely see what I’m doing…”

“Just once,” Vince said, quickly. “Just once, I hit that lamppost. The bike was new, remember?”

Frank moved across the room to stand in front of Vince. He ran a hand almost aimlessly across Vince’s hip. Vince sucked in a breath.

“You must realise that Lycra is never going to be flattering,” Frank said softly.

“You mean my bum does look big?” A smile was tweaking the edge of Vince’s mouth. He turned his head so his temple rested on Frank’s forehead.

“Big and yellow, like a ripe quince.”

“Ouch.”

“And just as delicious.”

Slowly, a flush rose up Vince’s neck, peeking over the yellow turtle neck of his jersey.  “Pervert.”

Frank chuckled. “Thank God.”

Vince sighed. His hand trailed over Frank’s as if considering whether to push it away or fold his fingers around it. “I should get going.”

“You should. If that’s your plan.”

Vince swallowed. “Is that bacon I can smell cooking?”

Frank nodded.

“And the new Italian coffee?”

Frank nodded again.

“I suppose I could delay this morning’s session–put in double work this afternoon.”

“Or not,” Frank said.

“Get thee behind me–”

“You want ketchup on your bacon bap?” Frank interrupted, apparently innocently.

Vince growled and started to peel off his gloves. Frank turned and walked slowly towards the kitchen. His hips sashayed very slightly, though both of them knew he didn’t have the flexibility he used to.

Vince gave a little yelp. “Help.”

Frank turned, surprised. “What?”

“I can’t do this, Frank.”

Frank’s face twisted into a momentary expression of guilt. “I’m sorry. If you really want to exercise…”

“No, not that!”

“Huh?”

Vince grimaced, and tugged at the Lycra crotch of his leggings.  “It took me 45 minutes to get this outfit on in the first place. Are you going to help me take it off again?”

~~~~~~

 *MAMIL = Middle-Aged Man in Lycra – a new phenomenon spawned by the desire for fitness, and obviously encouraged by Britain’s great success in bike events!

Advertisements

“Just You Carry On, Hen” – Glasgow, Day 21

Standard

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and the third most populous in the United Kingdom. It grew from a small rural settlement on the River Clyde to become one of the largest seaports in Britain, and was known as the “Second City of the British Empire” for much of the Victorian era and Edwardian period. Today it is one of Europe’s top ten financial centres and is home to many of Scotland’s leading businesses. Glasgow is also ranked as the 57th most liveable city in the world (allegedly – I haven’t personally checked the sources!).

In 1939, with a population of 1.1m, it was the fourth-largest city in Europe, after London, Paris and Berlin. However, large-scale relocation of people in the 1960s reduced the current population of the City of Glasgow council area to 592,000, with 1,199,629 people living in the Greater Glasgow urban area. The surrounding region covers approximately 2.3 million people, 41% of Scotland’s population.

And in a topic close to London’s heart (the city, not necessarily the author!), Glasgow will host the 2014 Commonwealth Games and is currently bidding to host the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics.

As they’d say in Glaswegian (and apologies to any natives, any mistakes are ma ain):
There’s nae place like hame!

I have fond but conflicting memories of Glasgow, because of two very different visits. On the one hand, I had a glorious weekend there, full of good food and great shopping, impressed by the splendid architecture and intrigued by the spirit of its inhabitants.

Then I had the weekend where I flew to Glasgow as part of the ongoing journey to the Mull of Kintyre, where we were staying at a hotel to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The journey was a nightmare – though I must rush to say, it wasn’t *Glasgow’s* fault! – and so the excess time in the airport was a trial, rather than a delight. All of which inspired my story “Between a Rock and a Hard Place“!

 
The reward for me was a weekend in Carradale at the Dunvalanree Hotel. I’ll have to build that into a sequel for my beleagured character Garry :).

~~~~~~~~

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Clare London

BLURB:  Garry’s definitely at the end of his tether. He’s waiting in an airport lounge to meet his friend Will, to go on holiday with mutual friends in a Scottish highlands hotel. Now there’s a ten-hour delay to incoming flights, the seat in the lounge is more like an instrument of torture, and he’s beyond tired of airport food.

What’s worse, he’s also dreading having to apologize for the pass he recently made at Will, under the influence of too many beers and a long-held crush. And the suddenly shocking realization that when Will accepts a new job offer on a continent thousands of miles away, it may be the end of their close friendship—let alone anything more.

To add to Garry’s stress, he’s treated to the company of Emily and Max, two young people who think he needs educating in the ways of the world—and his love life—whether he welcomes the interference or not. Struggling with their well-meaning help and the startling mess on his clothes from spilled ketchup and noxious-smelling sweets, he’s encouraged to re-examine how he feels about Will and to decide what kind of journey he’d really like them to take together…

Available at Amber Allure and AmazonUS and AmazonUK Kindle.

EXCERPT can be read HERE.

Clare London, Author
Writing… Man to Man 

Website * Facebook * Blog

Day 11: Take to the skies in Flintshire

Standard

I’m taking to the skies as part of the celebration of the torch relay route today. My husband has worked in the aircraft industry for many years, and when I said I was covering this part of the country today, I lost him to a happy hour surfing the nearby Broughton aircraft factory! It’s located at Hawarden airport, and named for the local village of Broughton, only four miles from Chester. Hubby’s been several times, and taken the Sons with him – I’ve been once and wasn’t quite as invested as he was in the visit! – but it’s both a fascinating and sobering testament to our heritage and mastery of the skies.

Yes, I think his enthusiasm is catching on, all over again, just in time for summer visits 🙂

The factory (called Hawarden) was established early in the second world war as a shadow factory for Vickers-Armstrongs Limited. It produced 5,540 Vickers Wellingtons (left) and 235 Avro Lancasters. Post-war the factory was used by Vickers to build 28,000 aluminium prefab bungalows.

The RAF’s No.48 Maintenance Unit was formed at Hawarden in September 1939 and until July 1957 stored, maintained and scrapped many thousands of military aircraft, including the Handley Page Halifax, Wellingtons, Horsa gliders and DH Mosquitos. No.3 Ferry Pilots Pool/Ferry Pool, Air Transport Auxiliary, was based at Hawarden between November 1940 and November 1945, when its veteran pilots ferried thousands of military aircraft from the maintenance facilities at Hawarden to and from RAF and Naval squadrons throughout the UK.

On 1 July 1948 The de Havilland Aircraft Company took over the Vickers factory and over the years built many famoous aircraft including the de Havilland Mosquito (right) and Hornet and Sea Hornet. The company became part of Hawker Siddeley Aviation in the 1960s and the production of the Hawker Siddeley HS125 business jet, designed by de Havilland as the DH.125, became the main aircraft type produced by the factory for nearly forty years. Since the early 1970s the Broughton factory has been part of British Aerospace operations. It is now owned and operated by Airbus, and has continued to be the centre of wing production for all models of Airbus aircraft.

Maybe more of a historical than a geographical visit today! But a poignant one for us, as Hubby worked at British Aerospace for many years. There’s less manufacture in our (London-way) part of the country nowadays, but we still live in a house by an estate known informally as “Hawker’s”, even though the old factory was knocked down for housing many years ago.

And while we’re in the area, let’s take a look at the awesome city of Chester. Founded by the Romans in AD79, Chester still bears signs of its past with its Roman Amphitheatre, historic City Walls and Chester Castle all remaining intact. The City Walls were built back in Roman days and give Chester one of its nicknames as The Walled City. They have a rich history having been altered and extended during both the Saxon and Medieval eras. They circle the city and it’s free to walk the 2 mile (3km) track – I’m proud to say I’ve done it!

The Roman Amphitheatre is also free to view, located near to the River Dee. Only the Northern half is exhumed, with the Southern covered by Dee House and the County Court. Historic walking tours of the city are available – and ghost tours at night – while the Grosvenor Museum provides an in-depth look-back in to the history of the area.

Some facts about Chester:

**Chester was the last city in England to fall to William the Conqueror’s army- a full three years after the Battle of Hastings. In around 1086, the city was visited by William’s commissioners for assessment as part of the great Domesday Survey.

**Researchers exploring the legend of Britain’s most famous Knight believe his stronghold of Camelot was built on the site of a recently discovered Roman amphitheatre in Chester. Legend has it that his Knights would gather before battle at a round table where they would receive instructions from their King. But rather than it being a piece of furniture, historians believe it would have been a vast wood and stone structure which would have allowed more than 1,000 of his followers to gather.
(*hmmmm* I rush to say there’s no strongly held evidence of that theory)

**Daniel Craig was born there ^_^

And, adds Clare quite shamelessly, there’s some great shopping! Though I doubt that’ll turn the heads of the torch procession…

I have no specific fiction to share with you today, apart from some poems – not mine!

This one is inscribed on the back of an old clock in Chester Cathedral:
When as a child I laughed and wept- time crept.
When as a youth I dremed and telked- time walked.
When I became a full grown man- time ran.
And later as I older grew- time flew.
Soon I shall find while travelling on- time gone.
Will Christ have saved my soul by then?- Amen.

And this is brief, terse and to the point:
The church and clergy here, no doubt, Are very near akin,
Both weather-beaten are without, And mould’ring are within.

By renowned author and Dean of Dublin Cathedral Jonathan Swift, after having been ‘stood up’ for a dinner date by Chester Cathedral clergy 🙂

It’s been a treat to revisit this part of the country, albeit virtually.