…is a phrase an old gent sat next to us a year or so ago in a crowded but warm Abergavenny cafe as we gazed outside at the chill air. “It’s to do with being surrounded by mountains” said the knowledgeable local dressed in tweed sagely!
So we took last night’s weather forecast with a pinch of salt but woke up to the following Christmassy scenes for real. 🙂
Molly was hesitant to go outside initially but Hamish came to the rescue having frolicked in the snow many times before. Here’s a short video of her first time in snow, but be warned, for those of you of a nervous disposition or eating breakfast please look away…
Sadly, the deep snow has led to the cancellation of today’s Christmas Fair as I just found out on receipt of the following email. 😦
Sadly the Shores family is not always imbued with the Christmas spirit which can be demonstrated by two recent examples…
As diligent followers of this blog will appreciate the upstairs landing next to the den and the guest bedroom on the second floor upstairs is now reserved for toys & games, including a permanently set up chess set that so far only Emma’s boyfriend Josh has beaten me at…
These games recently though, thanks to judicious use of eBay, have been multiplying as Debbie and I relive our childhood and well as those of Emma, James and Alex as can be seen in the photo below.
Once a week we try and have a games night where we usually play the usual suspects such as Monopoly, Cluedo or Trivial Pursuit but last night I decided to try out Mousetrap which had arrived in the parcel post the day before.
The first thing I noticed was that the old bath had been replaced by a flushing toilet (that’s progress for you) and that the new format game requires the “adult” to set it all up with now three traps in advance of play. The instructions and all the parts fortunately were all present so with loud mutterings of “haven’t you finished yet” from my family acting as encouragement I finally buckled under pressure and asked James to help…
The game is aimed at six years up but does state “requires adult assembly” which I translate to requiring a mechanical engineering degree however we got there and Debbie eventually won the cheese and duly renamed the game “Mousecrap”!
Smarting at the injustice of it all I packed the game away until next Christmas when I hope memories will have faded and decided to take a photo of our outside Christmas decorations of Father Christmas, one of his Elves as well as Mother Christmas – we’re politically correct here in Wales especially towards garden gnomes…
Sadly the scrooge like behaviour extends to our dogs Molly and Hamish, the former barking at the three intruders every time she goes outside, capped by our intrepid Scotsman who “christens” them with a “wee” as part of his traditional welcome to the family.
When we first moved to our new house in Llanfoist I knew I had a looming problem, basically as the alpha male of the family (although many would dispute this) I couldn’t admit in front of my family that I had no idea how the central heating controls worked. It wasn’t that David Wilson Homes hadn’t supplied training (twice) where I nodded sagely that I understood, nor that they failed to supply user manuals for the controls in our utility room and master bedroom, it’s just that I found them incomprehensible.
So “manfully” soldiering on through this most recent cold snap I couldn’t help notice that more of the immediate family had taken to wearing thick sweaters indoors, that even Molly and Hamish looked cold and that a number of sore throats and sniffles were emerging from myself and Debbie.
Now careful readers of this blog will be aware that practically every room in the house now has an Alexa device from Amazon and that we have at the last count 3 smart plugs and 3 smart bulbs from TP-Link that can be voice and app controlled, but it was the onset of Black Friday (a good name considering the damage caused to our joint bank account) and the 25% reduction in British Gas Hive solutions that decided me to take the plunge into further “Smart Home” territory!
Now you can buy the units for Hive hot water and multi zone from Amazon and British Gas for DIY connection yourself but I certainly don’t recommend it unless you are an accomplished electrician. Even our certified British Gas installer found the chez Shores wiring a tad confusing and so despite being told it would be 90 minutes to 2 hours to install it actually took the poor chap nearly 4 hours to get it all working, but to be honest it’s been worth it!
We now have a Hive hub plugged into the back of the Vodafone router, which connects to a master receiver in the utility room and one next to the hot water tank on the first floor, with an intelligent thermostat in our entrance hall and one in the master bedroom and two apps installed on my iPhone 6 and iPad mini where I’m currently drafting this post…
What’s my take on the system 2 days in? Well, it’s definitely not going to save me any money on my energy costs as I finally can control the heating in both zones not just by app but by voice using the two Hive “skills”, especially after realising that the simplest command is “Alexa, set downstairs to 21 degrees” (or “upstairs” for the first and second floor radiators.
As a result we are all now as warm as toast but the system is burning gas at an alarming rate now I know how to control it! Still definitely worth it to restore my “man credibility”and before the “Black Friday” discount window ends I’ve just ordered 2 door/window sensors and a motion sensor from Hive to further explore the tech possibilities of their smart home solution!
The day started well when I recorded into my Fitbit app my latest weight – which after at least a month of hovering just over 13 stone – finally dipped down to 12 stone 13 3/4 lbs!
Now I haven’t been in the 12’s so to speak since the late 1980’s and I stopped cooking for myself… All I can say is that a combination of healthy vegetarian eating, little or no alcohol and regular exercise is really paying dividends.
Of course with Christmas coming up this might prove challenging but we’ll see and in any event I won’t become a Grinch for sure and in that spirit Debbie, Emma and I went into town this evening to pay a quick visit to James in the Blue Cross and then head off to the town hall for the mayor to switch on the Abergavenny Christmas lights.
It was a very chilly evening but somehow that reinforced the festive spirit and the streets were packed with young kids and their parents jostling to get a good view of the dignitaries and what looked like a family of Father Christmases on bikes joining them!
Lights on was scheduled for 4.30pm which meant it was still quite light as dusk slowly took over and the countdown started. Now unlike Brecon’s switch on there was no celebrity present but it was still a great atmosphere and the lights were probably a lot more impressive if I’m honest.
As the crowd dispersed we headed back down the High Street towards a Welsh language” happy Christmas” sign which reminded me that one day I plan to learn a smidgeon out of respect for this beautiful country I’m lucky enough to call home.
Just to prove that the Christmas spirit extended to the thin blue line I took this rather amusing snap with the full cooperation of the local rozzers!
As we left town we decided to head up the A465 to Brynmawr Asda and complete the Xmas gnome family with the missing elf to complete the two of Mr and Mrs Christmas that will be unveiled on the 1st December when we put the tree(s) up!
With my ever present forgetfulness lurking in the background I’m always on the look out for things that will stimulate important memories and I find the internet an amazing catalyst.
In June 1994, I was fortunate to accompany my late father John Shores on a trip to Portsmouth for one of a series of reunions he loved attending with his old wartime shipmates from HMS Largs.
They were organised via a type-written bulletin distributed by post and I have quite a few in my possession that he handed down to me shortly before he passed away four short years ago…
In one communication from June 1993, just after a reunion in the namesake town of Largs in Scotland in May, a poem written by shipmate Phillip Edward de la Taste was published about his war-time memories of HMS Largs that is very poignant and is shared below.
Do you remember when first we met Hair cut short and innocent of fear Laughing and joking with apprehension Unaware of what was near?
And can you remember Desmond Wells? He came from Dorset way Now why did I think of him?
Wasn’t he the first to go, posted to a trawler – Sweeping – not long out then bang – farewell.
And what about “hands to bathe”? And diving off the side – the water cool, inviting – Shouting, plunging, being pulled by the tide.
Then Francis nearly drowned – we pulled him in Did he ever learn to swim? We were young, it was good to be alive.
After midnight a welcome cup of kye The chatter of the Morse – “A number of subs in the area” The warm night takes on a sudden chill.
The watch is ended – a quick lean against the rail, Gulp in the cool air, feel the breeze. The sea glistening in the midnight – so very beautiful But don’t look down.
Then to the hammock, slung ready – mustn’t disturb the others! A sudden movement – oh – not another rat!
Crossing the Equator The ceremony of “crossing the line” The Chief was dressed as Neptune That was a happy time.
The malaria caught in Freetown – that felt really rough! The kindness of our chief again – he wasn’t so very tough! I owed him more than to forget his name But his voice remains.
Now for the job for which we’d trained – others did so much more Saw landing craft full of men heading slowly through the waves to the shore. Then the noise – the guns – the shells – rockets beat a tattoo A plane comes whining down – the bomb drops in the sea close to the rail The ship shudders – an old converted merchant vessel, she wasn’t built for this.
The danger past, we wait to hear those words “Liberty men starboard watch” – we’re going to town. “Behave yourselves – be back on time” – again our Chief P.O. But he was old, so very old, so how was he to know? He had served for many years and now was back for more He knew the things that happened when the lads first went ashore! He was all of forty-two.
Now from the docks we hurry on – the pleasures there are waiting The bars, the girls, the sights – but not for us – We didn’t reach the gates.
And then… Conscious now, all silent – a nun looked down and smiled The tears came fast – they wouldn’t stop – then she spoke as to a child I was alone.
A Maltese couple came through the ward – searching He stopped and looked closely – mumbled something kindly and slowly turned away, I hope they found their son.
And then that night the terrible screaming – it came from the far end bed I stared up hard at the mosquito net Next morning he was dead. It was the young Italian – one of the foe Just one arm – no legs Why did his God desert him and what a way to go.
Who decided I should live but you would have to die Did you discover why? Or was I here on your behalf To taste life’s tears and joys – like the thrill of chasing tiddlers With a pair of laughing boys.
Or does it end in darkness – the way it all began And is our idea of eternal life just the vanity of man If so, sleep on my friends, sleep on.
The years so long, yet brief, have passed now And I’m filled with a deep regret For I remember so little of you and that day How and why could I forget?
Phillip Edward de la Taste – Telegraphist
In my father’s handwriting underneath it he wrote that sadly Phillip passed away in his sleep, just three weeks after the reunion which brought back at least some of his memories. His poem was read out at his funeral which was attended by five of his Largs shipmates who laid a wreath in the shape of an anchor in his memory.
In my collection of dad’s papers I also have another poem called “What A Mess” that actually mentions my father having a nickname of “Tich” Shores (he was 5′ 6″ tall) which has got to be a lot better than mine from the army of “Gloria” from the TV series “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” (as my marching was horrible)…
What A Mess
In Mess 26 there’s quite a good crew, Some faces are old, some faces are new, Of the good old crowd, sixteen remain, I shall try to mention them name, by name.
L/Tel Trousedale shouts “Gimme De Boat” Where the sparkers keep watch dressed in duffel coats, A heaving deck and a flaming gun, He says it’s his only kind of fun.
L/Tel Raven likes women and beers, He’s not very fat but the beer disappears, And though poor old Ray has lost some of his hair, He can still attract women and make them all care.
Of L/Tel Beach, quite a lot I could say, He’s dashing, debonair, smart and gay, Whilst he jokes and laughs and clowns, His favourite name for a friend is “Towns”.
L/Tel Gaughran is a real “Goode”bloke, Going through life making joke after joke, He’s fond of the sun is this jolly young man, And his body is brown with its glorious tan.
Now about the rest of the sparking branch, Starting with Chris who lived on a ranch, The horse he rode, bent his legs so I’ve heard, So to cover them up he grew a thick beard.
Bill Sykes is his “townie”, from Sheffield they come, A city of steel, all its men like their rum, Of the steel works in Sheffield, tall tales they relate, They think it’s the only place known for steel plate.
Reggie Rumbles is the pride of the home, From his writing pad does he seldom roam, When he lets himself go, then look out for sparks, For this Hamersmith lad plays all kind of larks.
“Pincher” Martins causes no undue alarm, Though “Pincher” was once in the Fleet Air Arm, Many tales he can tell of the men in the air, How they flirt with death, never giving a care.
“Jock” Reid comes “fra” Maybole in Scotland’s fair land, Says the scenery’s lovely, gorgeous and grand, He’s fond of his grub, whether plain food or sweets, And is the best man I know for scoffing “Big Eats”.
“Maggie” Smith comes “fra” Scotland too, so they say, Where he taught and he thrashed little children all day, Though when I was at school, and I could have wished, He would have taught me, and with his cane swished.
Sad Simmons wields an artist’s brush, And never does things with a rush, Except each day Syd’s watch ashore Then he’s off like a shot, for he’s friend galore.
“Blondie” Mathews has only the best tailor, In fact he is known as “The Gentleman Sailor”, From Hastings he comes, does this smart man, In his work or his play, he’ll be spick and span.
“Tug” Wilson draws in black and white, Ladies faces, nice and bright, Not long ago with his face a huge smile, He walked with his bride down the centre aisle.
Freddie Dun is a man who likes a good drop of beer, Though he hasn’t had very much chance this year, But once a day our Fred’s in heaven, For the rum comes up at half eleven.
“Tich” Shores was an architect’s man, And even now he likes to plan, Though he doesn’t plan to do much work, I shouldn’t like to say he’d shirk.
I’m “Wacker” Lacey from a very old city, Chester’s the place, antiquated and pretty, Dublin born, I’ve a real “Irish Paddy”, I get roused at times (but I’m not a bad laddie).
And now I’m afraid my story is ended, I hope no-one above will feel offended, We look forward to days of peaceful slumber, From the day they release our demob number.
So about a week ago I was trawling eBay with my usual search of “HMS Largs” hoping without too much hope to get a new photograph or some other memento when to my amazement up popped an advert for a used HMS Largs tie with a silhouette of the ship and the Combined Operations emblem above!
Now I don’t remember dad having one but I’m sure it could only have been produced by the Largs Association and in their September 1995 newsletter it is mentioned as being MOD approved, so I immediately ordered it and it duly arrived safely to be treasured alongside my own Intelligence Corps and Medmenham Association ties!
I have also decided to order a DVD of film from the Imperial war Museum of cine film onboard HMS Largs during D Day off Sword beach that I’d found through a Google search. Alas for Crown copyright reasons when it arrives I’m not able to share it online, but includes footage of events my father told me of the midget submarine coming alongside that spied out the coast prior to the landings.
Following on from this theme in my next post I’ll share an amazing recent catch up with relatives of the air crew that served with Dennis Wright of 149 Squadron RAF who wartime diaries I transcribed a few years ago in this blog, who were able to share photos of him, his chums and his Lancaster aircraft which really brings yet another set of heroes to life again.
Today James is 30 and I’ve reached the lofty peak of 58! To be honest I don’t feel that different to how I felt 40 years ago aged 18 as I’m still playing with toys, reading science fantasy and dreaming of being an astrophysicist…
Getting up rather early as Emma was excited to hand over her presents to the two of us we had to wait for James to waken from a deep slumber which to be totally honest and transparent is a pattern established over many birthdays and Christmases over the past 28 years!
I have to say that this year I was very pleased with my stash of presents which included a Bluray restored version of my favourite war movie “Dunkirk” from Alex and Emily. From Emma two books namely the Tom Hanks book “Uncommon Type” and Tim Peake‘s “Ask an Astronaut: My Guide to Life in Space“, both of which I’d wanted for quite some time, as well as a keyring made from an “Uncharted” ancient coin!
My dear wife got me Roger Moore‘s last book before he passed away called “À bientôt” which from the brief read I had this morning is full of his self-deprecating humour that really resonates with me (if not most of the senior management of my last employer)! I’m so glad we went to see him live a few years ago when he was on his UNICEF book tour full of amusing anecdotes.
Lastly, somehow the PS4 game “Call of Duty WWII” crept in last jointly funded by Deb and Emma which crowned off a wonderful haul of goodies for yours truly…
I won’t go into detail about James’ swag bag but needless to say he seemed very appreciative and so after an hour or so we decided to head into Merthyr and play a game of ten-pin bowling at Superbowl, a mere snip at £22 for the four of us. Sadly Emma forgot the noble tradition of letting the birthday boys win and came out top, with at least Debbie having the grace to come last to avoid further masculine humiliation. Still great fun and one to repeat methinks.
After my narrow loss at bowls we headed over the road to the local Harvester which has actually got good selections of veggie food for Emma and I as well as the salad starter. Even more promising to this aged Yorkshireman was the welcome admission by the waitress that if I had their “app” on my phone I would qualify for 50% off the main courses at which a huge smile appeared on my face as I tucked into my bean burger feast!
Back home via Asda Brynmawr I stopped off briefly to secure a Mrs Christmas companion resin gnome to the Mr Father Christmas purloined yesterday despite the £30 price tag each this caused a lot of mirth from fellow shoppers (both days) as i wheeled them out individually in a trolley to the Galaxy where Emma had volunteered to hold them safe on the back seat…
Now in the spirit of Christmas surprises I won’t unveil what these gnomic characters look like until December 1st, when I hope to also publish the first sighting of my rather grey coloured full-set beard for the unwary. Both the gnomes and my emergent beard are pretty horrific looking so you can’t say you haven’t been warned! 🙂
In recompense we are shortly to light our shared birthday cake and for the patient of you I shall shortly update this post with a picture of the illuminated gateaux…