Well, it's been a long time since I posted here, but still...
I read LJ very regularly, and someone (you know who you are) just described a claim as "arrant nonsense". ¿So, wisdom of LJ, what is the difference between "patent nonsense", which I speak, and "arrant nonsense", which my friend speaks?
One of my LJ friends recently posted that he/she/it/whatever would shortly be coming to Dublin. As I'm already working in that fine city, would said person like to meet up and have a drink or a meal, assuming dates and stuff fit together. Can't remember who it was, unfortunately, but I know it was one of the ones about whom I thought "yes, would like to meet".
There are four days remaining in my current contract. It's been pretty good most of the time, though like everything, it has had its moments! Trips to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Carlisle, Preston, Blackpool, St Helens, Southport, Liverpool, one to Warrington this week and quite possibly some others too. Birmingham, yes that's one. But next Monday will be an even earlier start as I set off on another new adventure, this time to Dublin, where nine months of work beckons. The early starts every morning will be something I will be happy to do without, though Monday will be even earlier than at present, balanced by all the other days.
The large sign that often says "Toke Alley" is all the explanation you need to understand the question. Although clean, green New Zealand is largely a reality, it denies the problems of gangs and drugs that are tearing apart large parts of the cities. The Hutt Valley, including Stokes Valley, is part of the worst affected part.
In 1999, we were looking to move to the Wellington area, as that was where my work had taken me. The economic downturn in Hastings meant that we had made a loss on our house there, so money was tight, so we were looking at less good areas of Greater Wellington. Stokes Valley is not the worst suburb.
I got in touch with an estate agent, who showed me four likely looking properties, then the next day Viv flew to Wellington to look with me and to choose schools. By the end of the day, we had chosen a school and put in an offer for a property. It was unusual, being four bedrooms on three floors on the side of a Hill, semi-detached (duplex?) and very flamboyantly decorated. On the other hand, we never saw any other four bedroom property for less than a hundred thousand dollars.
One of our boys, explaining the new place, said "it has four bedrooms, so we get a room each, but mummy and daddy still have to share". It's fun to share.
The first evening there, I went to buy some milk, and was startled when someone behind me said "Good evening, Mr Halliday." We didn't know anyone yet, so who could it be? It was the estate agent!
During our time there, we had an exciting existence. Our immediate neighbour was a recovering addict with an on-off relationship with an abusive boyfriend, who we thing may have been a dealer, a pimp, or both. Next house up was briefly a gang-house. The Armed Offenders Squad raided it just after they had scampered. But far more exciting was the methamphetamine manufacturer and wholesaler just five doors away. When they are raids, you get police, ambulance and fire services in attendance. But that's a story for another day.
First of all, I'm probably not the right person to ask. Although my father was a full-time Trade Union Official, and so theoretically needed know what made people tick and what their passions were, in facet hated the game and was indifferent to all sport. So I grew up with no such heritage, except that we had to know what the scores were so that we could talk at least a little bit intelligibly about the game. My mother enjoyed tennis and cricket, actually, now I think about it, Dad did show an interest in one sport: badminton. No, no idea why that one shwould buck the trend. So even though I grew up on Merseyside, where football is almost a religion, it passed us by, except that you had to support one of the teams, in my case Liverpool FC being the choice "because we're not Catholic" apparently. But we always watched the FA Cup Final on television.
It was against this backdrop that I worked in London and chose Wembley as a place to stay. Price was the indicator, not the dirty great stadium by the hotel. It was an inconvenience on event nights because it was much harder to get back, but usually the prices of the romoms went up so I was staying somewhere else those nights anyhow. One Monday match night, most of the crowds had gone - I took my time because I wasn't in a hurry, and git talking to a time let tout trying to offload his last ticket and get off home: I don't blame him - it was freezing. I wasn't dressed for a cold night in a stadium and ID been up since stupid o'clock in the morning, so I declined his offer.
But it set me thinking: what *does* go in in that stadium? I decided to find out and on the next night there was a game, set off to see what it was all about. I thought the game might be sold out, but was pleasantly surprised to see a sign as I approached the stadium: tickets for tonight's game £30 cash only at Gate H. So I paid my shekels and went in. What a marvellous spectacle it all is! I must say that I was hooked straight away by the spectacle rather than by the game. That's still the case, making me the despair of those who can name all the England squads since 1923 or know exactly how many caps and how many goals everyone has scored... I'm just there for the experience.
Now, why away games? Well, there's a sort of excuse for going there. Their stadium will be a different experience, sometimes good, sometimes somewhat less good. But there's a chance to see a novel city for a couple of days too, quite possibly in a country that isn't normally . Place you'd think of going. The other issue is: if you are following a team overseas just for fun, which one should you follow? It's actually very easy. Rugby - 80 minute games - good. Football - 90 minute games - good. Cricket - 5 Day games - very bad indeed.
Once I had a contract in London and was committed to commuting between Bromborough and London each week, the question arose of where I might stay during the week. I explored various possibilities, but a hotel during the week that I could just walk away from on Friday morning was the best fit for what I wanted to do. Paradoxically, one of the cheapest areas for hotels proved to be Kensington, one of London's heaviest suburbs, but even that was rather more than I wanted to pay. So began my long relationship with Wembley, first at the Wembley Plaza, briefly at the Ibis and then at the New Hilton London Wembley. Overall, I've probably spent more nights in Wembley than I spent in Port Vila, so I will certainly count it. Wembley is also the place that changed me from indifferent about international football to being an enthusiastic fan. I first ventured into the Stadium for the England v Egypt friendly, and was immediately enthralled. As I have said a number of times, it was when I was getting on the plane to Copenhagen that I thought to myself "this is getting out of hand." Still, I haven't done anything ridiculous (checks notes) - unless you count a weekend in Oslo...or Sofia...or Rio Dr Janeiro. Looking back, I might have been better off if I had chosen a hotel in London that was slightly dearer but not next to an alluring stadium.
Ask me anything else. More details on this stuff on request.
Just before Christmas 1997, the dreaded redundancy came, and I looked for work immediately. There was scarcely any on the East Coast, but I got a contra!ct with a bank in Auckland and commuted there week by week, living a twilight sort of existence, in a hotel Monday to Thursday nights, at home late Friday and Saturday, driving seven hours or flying on Friday and Sunday nights, giving me an odd existence in a week that had seven days but only five evenings.
We were looking to move to Auckland when the tolerance permanent, but before we had a chance, the bank was sold to one with headquarters in Wellington, so the move was again on hold until my role had more permanence. In the end, we moved to Stokes Valley in July 1999, to a not very good but four bedroom house in a not very good area. Drugs and gangs were the main issues in the area, and the excitement of being five doors from a major methamphetamine manufacturing and wholesale facility certainly enlivened up life there, especially when the place was finally raided.
The events of early 2005 are documented elsewhere so I will simply say that on our return to England we found our way to my late mother's house in Bromborough, just a few miles from where I had grown up, and where my parents had moved in 1985, not long after I had gone to Birmingham.
That house in Bromborough is still our home, but next week I will tell you about the place that is almost a second home to me. Possibly even two of them.
Remember, more details on request. Ask me anything.
I start this series wary of the fact that it may take more time than I thought, and may turn into some sort of autobiography too. Let's see...
I was difficult before I was even born. Even though my parents lived in Bebington on the Wirral peninsula, there were some issues with my mother's pregnancy such that I was actually born at a better equipped hospital in Liverpool. This makes me technically a Lancastrian and a Scouser, even though I have never lived in Liverpool. I do, however, see it as my "home city".
Bebington continued to be my home from 1961 till 1979 when I went to Oxford, though my tenure at Keble was shorter than I might have hoped. After a year, I went back home, from whence I studied for my degree at the University of Liverpool, graduating in 1983.
Early in 1984, I started as a Graduate Trainee Programmer at a company in Sheldon in Birmingham, not far from the airport, but for the first six months working there I stayed at a hostel in Eddington towards the north of the city. In August 1984, I bought a property in Sheldon, with a view of the main runway, and paid £19,500 for it. Imagine what that buys today! Anyway, in late 1987, Viv joined me there after we married and in July 1989, David was born. It was a two bedroom marionette, and while suitable for a bachelor or a couple, it was not a family home.
Both sets of parents were starting to put pressure on us to move, but we didn't want to do so or tell them why straight away. It was likely that we would be moving overseas, and the costs and inconvenience of such a move in Birmingham just before going overseas were not for us. In fact, we did tell them why we hadn't moved once the new role was confirmed, and in May 1990 we left Birmingham behind for the small South Pacific city of Port Vila in Vanuatu, previously the New Hebrides.
After a couple of weeks at a motel there, we moved to a great house in Tassiriki, one of the wealthier suburbs of Vila, next door to the manager of the largest bank in the country one side and the owner of the largest trust company in the country on the other side, with the British High Commissioner's residence just ups the hill, with Palm trees just down the hill and a lagoon at the bottom of the garden...
Three years on, Matthew has been born, the post-Thatcher recession is in full swing (so much as you can say a recession is ever in full swing) and the contract was coming to an end. Rather than going back to England, we chose to go to New Zealand, where the economy had turned a corner.
Getting residence in New Zealand is not a straightforward process, but we managed it, and in October 1993 moved to Hastings on the East Coast of the North Island, the fruitbowl of New Zealand, where we stayed for just over four years.
More another day. More details on any part available on request. Ask me anything, on this or any other subject.