Archive for the 'sun' Category

Nice places to bring the dog if it could ride a bicycle

We started about 2 years ago with occasional trips to scarva along the newry canal, quick stop in the pub  and back again trying not to cycle into the canal on the way back.

It has been about 10 month since the last one.

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So today we were back on – quick cycle to the chippy and dine on the steps of the boat club and then cycle to scarva, avoiding the dog poo and inhaling half your body weight in fies.

The photos below illustrate the danger of trying to take photos while cycling while trying to keep flies out of your eyes.

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The pub is one of those pubs where people go to watch Coronation Street. They also did a wonderful offer of buying six pints get one free. Note the “Drink Sensibly” logo in the bottom corner.

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Half way back wee Philly’s (Philly-O-Fish/Lord Phildemort/Milhaus) chain broke, Not just came off, just broke. Despite some valiant, greasy fingered attempts to fix it we had to abandon the idea.

We did manage to construct a towing device out of two bicycle chains and managed to tow him the rest of the way.

Good times.

Nice places to walk the dog – No. 6-9

Given 2 days off work and 15 episodes of Lost, I had to make the most of it.  I couldn’t quite face a full 12 hours solid watching Lost, so I split it with walking the dog and driving the Antrim Coast Road. Luckily seemed to have got the nicest day of the year so far for it too.

Having already been in Belfast in the morning I couldn’t quite face the whole coast road from Carrickfergus and all that. Instead I cut the corner and headed over the hills to Cushendun and let the dog out for a quick piddle and a paddle.

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From there round the usual, windy, Torr Head Rd, and finally to somewhere I’ve managed to never have a dander round before. At the tail end of the Torr Head Rd is a wee turn off up a single track road over a few cattle grids and past a lot of sheep, lies Murlough bay.

The road becomes a track and ends up at what looks like the nicest wee holiday home in the world. At least it did when I was there.

I had come prepared with flask of hot water and some coffee and perched myself on the rocks over looking the Irish sea and watched the sun go down the ridge behind. I didn’t see a soul (I’ll not start on whether the dog has one…) which kind of made the whole experience so good.

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I finished up with an old favorite – white park bay. Mainly cause it reminds me of one of my favorites from New Zealand.

It was also gloriously empty.

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After all this activity, I watched Lost till 2am while the dog slept. Such a day.

Nice places to walk the dog – No. 4

Tollymore is one of the childhood haunts. Second only to Castlewellan in the idyllic caravan filled weekends of my youth.

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More than ever Me and Simy would go back to being in our single figures and riding bikes and feeding ducks.

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After a feed of chicken and roast spuds we hit the road on the nicest day of the year. No doubt you were engaged in some sun-drenched activity yourself. When the sun shines in Northern Ireland I don’t want to be anywhere else. All the thoughts of emigrating slowly slip away. It happens about twice a year as you’ll see

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Everyone else in Northern Ireland appeared to be here too, mainly in the car parks with their portable BBQs and small children and canines. There were rows of people carriers with their boots open and 5 Live blazing the football while the grannies in the cars next them frowned severely.

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The dog noticed none of this. The dog notices nothing when the tennis ball is in view. It is hypnotic in effect Other dogs turn up and sniff her bits and she’s not the slightest bit distraced. It makes her appear well trained and disciplined.

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Postcards from far away part 5

Woke to the view of the harbour in Portree and a quality brekkie and a sit on the pier reading Volf.

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Drove to the north west of the island (yesterday was the north east) stopping for photos of the sweeping moors and old churches while listening to page cxvi.

Skye is a pretty big place, geographically anyhow, despite the fact that all the people seem to live in Broadford or Portree.

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The north west seems to be one of the more deserted areas and more than anywhere seems to remind me of NZ – and let’s face it all this is an attempt to get back there.

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We stopped at Dunvegan where the Mcleods had murdered the Macdonalds in huge numbers in 1550. They attacked by surprise while they were all in church. Not that one group were heathen and the other Christian. Both were Christian be they still murdered each other. Maybe there’s a common denominator that’s not religion running through all these. We seem to be able to do horrible things to each other no matter what our creed.

There are memorials to all this on the penninsula. A reminder that whole communities once inhabited this place before it became the dominion of the sheep.

People lived and died here on the western most parts of civilisation. They lived and brought up their kids overlooking the western isles knowing that the clan divisions may bring their downfall at any point.

What would they think of us?

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Me and sparky sat in the ruins of one of their houses and held our own communion service. Here at the end of the world we broke bread and wine (or biscuit and whisky) and had a few readings from the gospels and declared the joy and hope of the resurrection. CHRIST is risen, hallelujah.

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Here at the end of the world I recommit myself to the faith, the hope and the glory. To the great story that I find myself in but yet do no comprehend. I do not often know why I stick with it. I keep thinking of the quote from the disciples that “where else o lord would we go”.

Here at the end of the world I acknowledge my brokenness and struggles, the immense sense of loss that accompanies everything I do these days.

Here at the end of the world I find the tears and the laughter that will take me home.

Anyhow.

By this stage the sun was out and determined to make up for it’s absence over the past few days. The windows were wound down. The sun roof was open, the sunny tunes (unsurprisingly I only have about an hour or so of these on the iPod) were on. I was stopping every 5 mind or so for photos of the rapidly approaching mountains.

The Cuillins are truly spectacular. Huge, ridged, stony mountains that seen to explode from the earth.

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They fill me with me with awe and fear in equal measure.

At the base of the mountains beside a gravelly beach lies Glenbrittle camp-site. Which has jumped to number one in my all time favourite camp site list.

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Huge soaring mountains in the background, a sweeping sun lit bay in the foreground. Camp Volvo was established. We didn’t even need the awning I’d designed for the car. When I planned this trip this type of campsite was what I had in mind.

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I finally got to try the portable BBQ that Morsies had bought me for Christmas. Despite needing 4 firelighters to get it started (the consequence of leaving my charcoal sitting out the back of at john’s all winter) it cooked up a storm accompanied by some coffee, some red and the chorizo sausage I bought in Inverness.

By now it was only 7pm and I hadn’t even started the Sunday times.

The sun sets and leaves us campers surviving by the glow of propane and the shelter of the nylon. This may be British summer time but I am currently wearing a hat and 7 layers on top and 3 pair of trousers. I am exceptionally cosy it must be said. That in itself is kind of satisfying.

The Cuillins raise their intimidating profile in the background. Weather permitting we’ll have a go.

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Postcards from far away part 3

Sitting in a hotel on the isle of Skye with a working wi-fi connection. Catching up on the whole blogging thing.

Lots of driving today. From Perth to Inverness in one run through some of the most pleasant and unpleasant weather I’ve ever seen in one day. Good scenery. Good tunes. Good times.

In Inverness we were in t-shirts in the sun. 20 mins up the road alongside Loch Ness we were fully wrapped up. The joys of Scottish weather.

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The Loch Ness monster is an odd kind of myth. Though it seems to make a lot of money from the looks of things.

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One of the great joys of road trip is the actual driving. I have always loved driving for the sake of driving. Not the speed or anything just the bant and the tunes and the scenery.

The standard iPod rules are as follows. Everyone gets to choose 3 songs at a time. No same day repeats.

Humerous place names of note
– Wick
– and a B&B ran by a guy called William Dick. Just imagine the nicknames.

Ended up on Skye. Which was the whole point of the trip in the first place. Skye is just as fantastic as I thought it would be. This is somewhere I have always wanted to come.

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The weather on the way in was a bit dubious and scared us out of camping so we ended up in a lovely wee b&b overlooking the Scottish coastline. It’s kind of like Donegal on a good day.

Good feed. Good ale. A cornetto sitting on the pier watching the sun set. This is about as good as it gets. Apart from the cold. Having driven 500 slightly zig zagged miles across Scotland I think we’ll probably find ourselves ensconsed here for the rest of the trip. Bring it on.

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Nice places to walk the dog – No. 2

For today at least, Northern Ireland was the nicest place in the world. (even if work may not have been…)

Cycling back from work I detoured as shown below and ended up sitting on a bench in the sun wanting it never to end.

simple things in life and all that.

cycle-home

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Sunlight hits the snow

I like a nice play in the snow. I’d texted 25 or so to see who wanted to go. I got 4 in the end. Useless bunch of lay abouts the lot of you…

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Sparky apparently looks like the phone jacker with that hat. Which is still in my car dude

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Maysie looks like he was born in the hills

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Rachel was the only one not squinting with the sensible and cool looking sunnies

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That’s an unfortunate picture of Coils i know. Apologies. I made it very small if that helps…

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I always look this good.

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The hills on the other hand have rarely looked better.

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And I’ve no idea how that car managed to get there.

Don’t steal our sun

Ireland kicks ass. On a sunny day that is.

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Hicksville

There were cows nibbling at the wing mirrors when I woke. Cows are dumb.

Started the morning with a bush walk around (and over) one of the hills surrounding the bay. As usual it’s loosely marked, and involves a few wrong turns and getting lost in deep bush like Lothlorien or somewhere. All adds to the experience.

And after leaving Anaura bay it hits a bit of a down hill slide. Both in terms of weather and pretty sights. It’s here that the rural desolation of the east cape kicks in. The settlements I pass through are terribly run down, the last paint job being the late 70s. Now some would say this adds to the rustic chic but I’m not sure the locals would agree.

In Waiparo bay i stop at the beach and make myself some coffee (the other problem with being run down is lack of a decent espresso joint…) and wait for the sand flies to find me yet again. I sit on the bonnet reading ‘the poisonwood bible‘ with the sun on my back. Looking at the sky it looks like it might be the last I see of it for a bit.

There is, of course no surf.

State Highway 35 abandons the coast for the next 60 km or so and I stop only in Ruatoria for lunch. The most Maori of towns in a nearly totally Maori area I feel a bit out of place. Not cause I’m white (though I am always as obvious and unbearably white as they come), but because I’m not wearing wellies and don’t have 6 dogs in the back of my ute. This is sheep country.

A few minutes earlier SH35 was brought to a standstill as 150 sheep were being herded down the road. There didn’t seem any great urgency in herding them. The dogs were lazily sniffing each other’s butts and seemed happy enough for me to do all the herding as I drove into the crowd

I got the universally accepted symbol of acknowledgement for my efforts from the farmer, a nonchalant lift of the index finger and a nod.

Back in Ruatoria there’s a chap in wellies riding a horse down the main street. I can hear distant banjos…

North of Ruatoria there’s not much. Just 30km of road and then the ocean. You have a choice, 20km east there’s the cape itself with compulsory lighthouse. Or you can begin your slow trip west to civilisation

East every time. Tourists/travellers/tour buses are drawn somehow to the points of the compass. That there’s somehow something virtuous in seeing them. It’s a claim to fame for the brochures, and something to fill the time for the traveller like me – and what is travelling if not filling time between meals and coffee.

The dirt road is windy and hugs the base of sand stone cliffs, and separates the beach and the relentless pounding waves from eating away at the cliffs. The type of waves that are nice to stare at from under a hat and some gore tex before hastening back to the car on a cold winter’s afternoon. So no, I didn’t try surfing here.

The lighthouse (the most easterly in the world…) is a top a hill towering over a farm. You have to walk through their front yard to get there. It’s a pretty white lighthouse though surprisingly small. When I get to the top I can see a blooming big island about a mile further east. Right where – if you were a ship rounding the cape, being guided by the lighthouse – your course would lie.

This seems just silly, as if they were trying to make the ships crash by putting the lighthouse in the wrong place. This before I read the sign about how the original lighthouse was on east island (cook really needed someone with a bit of poetry on his boat…) before the keeper lost three kids, almost went mad and half the island slipped into the sea. I stand corrected. Best put the lighthouse on the main land then…

The one cool thing about being at the world’s most easterly lighthouse is that you can think yourself into all kind of geographical and temporal muddles. Just thinking that if I go a few hundred miles east then it’ll still be yesterday. I get easily confused. When I come home (via LA) in July I’ll be circumnavigating the globe for the second time in my life and by my (dubious) reckoning that gives me two extra days and so somehow gives me the edge on everyone.

I consider parking the car on the endless sweeping beach, facing the terrible, never ending waves, staring at the bleak, but achingly beautiful cliffs framing the dramatic picturesque bay, but I realise I’ll never have enough adjectives to make it through to morning.

As I resolve my dilemma it starts to rain. And I mean really rain. Decision made (sleeping in the car is alright when you can spend all evening lying on the bonnet for entertainment) I head back to civilisation to look for a room for the night.

Te Arora is another hicksville, wellies everywhere but no horses. I look at the map wondering where’s next and my eyes surely deceive me, could this actually be right, the next town on the map is – Hick’s Bay. I’m not making this up. Thinking that someone somewhere has a wonderful sense of irony (turns out it’s named after one of Cook’s crew – surprised he didn’t name it ‘one of my men’s town’ or something equally creative).

I end up in Hick’s Bay holiday camp, a collection of run down wooden huts with a shop, a lot of rusting caravans, a chip van and a cinema (the world’s most easterly cinema! Oh give it a break…) of all things.

I desperately want to go to the cinema but am too embarrassed to ask as I’m sure I’ll be the only one in a leaky tin hut watching sponge bob square pants or something.

Instead I wash (first for everything eh?), drink coffee (old habits die hard) and eat fish and chips from the van (possibly the most easterly in the world, though I see no sign, must remember to mention it to the woman…) and read.

There are few famous kiwi films (lord of the rings was of course made here but is hardly a kiwi film). One that is worth watching is ‘the whale rider‘ filmed in one of the bays I came up through. As east coast ngati poru (maori tribe) as it gets. And that’s what this place feels like. Even down to the young girl singing and dancing in the chip shop. In some ways it at least feels like something authentic.

Would prefer to be back at Anaura bay lying on the car on the beach, but I think it’s even raining there now too. Change in weather may lead to a change of plans. More driving and less lying on a beach in the sun. I know what I’d prefer.

Happy when you’re happy

My first memory this morning was that of a WW II spitfire crossing the bay in front of me. And in the dream I was having it made perfect sense. And then I woke and struggled to reconcile why a WWII spitfire would be strafing an unpopulated bay on the east coast of NZ. As the fog slowly cleared – the fog of sleep that is, it became clear that there were no WW II spitfires in the area, only milk trucks on the road behind me.

The sky was again all kinds of wonderful colours. I pinched myself again, not to wake from the dream but more to convince myself that I was actually blessed enough to be here. There’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote with a lot (but never quite right…) truth that the greatest thing in life is to realise you’re happy when you’re happy. Not like all those miserable twenty something’s bemoaning their lost school and uni days. Oh wait that’s me…

30 mins down the road I’m at Waihau bay. The type of place that’s so beautiful that really no one else should be allowed to see it and definitely shouldn’t be able to put such lovely bachs on.

The waves were good and the sea was empty. I obliged and threw myself all over the place on my board. Inhaling most of the surf. Great stuff.

Next stop was Tolaga bay – apparently the most populated bit of the east coast. Must be at least 500 people in one place. They even had a school, and a hobo fishing from the bridge. Indeed I doubt he was even a real hobo, just employed to look scruffy.

So I sat in the café, beside the supermarket, opposite the Tolaga information centre (which was empty and was bizarrely playing a tape of Jimi Hendrix live), and supped my latte (they always do good coffee wherever you are) and read my paper and eavesdropped on the conversations of the unemployed mums (sorry, being a mum in no way makes you unemployed, but these one’s were) beside me and silently judging everyone in sight – mostly in positive ways it must be said.

Outside the town was a 3-hour track to one of the places our dear friend captain Cook landed on one of his first visits here. It was a cool wee track, though full of sheep and cows, who I never quite trust, convinced that one of these days one will charge at me when I’m not looking and cause me all kinds of damage.

And I’ve ended up at a place called Anaura bay, recommended to me by a few people since my arrival. And justifiably so. A largely deserted, couple of mile long crescent of golden sand, surrounded by hills of native bush and a barren craggy island just off shore.

The sun is shining, it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t would it? The campsite at the end of the dirt track is a voluntary pay one and apparently closed out of season and is now full of sheep, but the gate is unlocked and anyway I just park on the beach anyhow and I see no one to complain.

There is another ‘less than nothing’ surf, so I just go swimming, sans wetsuit, so a tad chilly I realise. In the end I just sit on the bonnet of the car with the setting sun on my back and reading my Kerouac book and remembering that Vonnegut quote. As it gets dark, a quarter moon comes out, bright but not quite bright enough to read by so instead I just lie  back on the bonnet with a few extra layers on and stare at the stars thinking the world’s in a terrible state of chassis… but sure ain’t them stars pretty…

The Big Trip – Day 8

Mostly listening to: jonny cash (in the restaraunt this time)
Sleeping on/in: same place as last night, fancy that
Coffees: 1
KMs: same as yesterday – unmoved
Eating: surf and turf
Weather: up to near 30 degrees or so. Toasty

Si got up an hour or so before the rest of us this morning. Proceded to go on about it all day. Tried to collapse my tent around me just to wake me up cause he was bored.

Had brekkie in a cafe by the lake. Good eggs. Wanaka has this cool wee path along the lake front that has a series of tiles along the whole strip. Each dedicated to a certain year in history, starting at AD 0. Pretty cool idea. Recent years have tiles packed full of NZ history. And then comes the 19th century and it’s all a bit sparse before then. Gaps filled with world history lossely attached to a certian year. 249 BC – christians persecuted. Good to see it only happened for a year then.

Me and si rented a tandem kayak and popped across the lake for a few hours and left ruth with some (emphasis on the some) money and a few shops for the morning.

We made it out to a wee island near the far side with its own jetty. Spent half an hour jumping off the pier like we were 12. Simon trying to teach me how to dive. I never learnt how to dive. Always a belly flopper from an early age. The difficulty comes just as my head goes below my feet and my brain kicks in – ‘hang on there, what’s happening’ and sends a leg or two out in front of me and it becomes an uncontrolled flop into the water. Limited progress today i must say.

Managed not to get too burnt.

Ruth one hand bag the wiser. Spent the afternoon dandering and reading. Simon struggles with this. Not with the actual reading (though he is a bit dim, if it’s not HTML), just the sitting still bit. I struggle too, but can throw the reading thing and silence the manic ‘must do something’ thing. Saving grace was just that it was too hot to do anything except expend all energy in staying perfectly still in the shade.

Took a walk about tea time just for the solitude. Not used to having people around me 24/7. Went and sat on the shore of the lake and tried to bend my head round the sheer beauty of the place. Struggled. Sang though ‘before the throne’ in my head and tried to bend my head round the impossible scale of that. Struggled even further. Gave up and lay down and watched the clouds form in the sky. Managed that.

Travelling like this fills me with all kinds of possibilites. Like i could move here and live and climb every hill in sight and marry a pretty scandanavian traveller (sorry, all these fantasies seem to have pretty scandanavians in them somewhere. Though i’m sure i’d settle for anyone who could find norway on a map. And even that might go in the ‘desired qualifications’ pile. End of digression.)

And so i sit on the shore and try to figure out what myriad of directions that my heart is currently trying to lead me. Trying to slow the thought processes down. Like frame advance on a video. Then holding all of that nonsense before reason, like a polarising filter to see if any of it gets through. Panoramas seem to make that easier. Or at least large bodies of water.

I was definitely better off with the clouds mind you…

The Big Trip – Day 4

Mostly listening to: REM, lambchop

Sleeping on: carry mat

Coffees: 2

Eating: grilled snapper

KMs: 790

Shop name of the day: the undie drawer (launduret – i have no idea how to spell that, i figure that’s a good thing)

I slept well last night. The neill family struggled. Apparently there was jack johnston on continual repeat in the bar downstairs and some americans playing chess next door. I slept through it all.

Brekkie in one of the nicest cafes i’ve ever been in. One of those places with posters of old flims that i’ve never seen on the walls. Had eggs benedict. Whoever he was he’s a good lad in my book.

Glorious sunny day, the way NZ looks in the guidebooks. The skies bluer, the suns brighter.

Drove to abel tasman national park on thr north of south island. Tasman was a dutch explorer who was the first (european) to find the place on a trip to find australia (i mean it’s pretty big, surely couldn’t be difficult). He landed on an island off the coast and got attacked (though not eaten) bh some of the locals. He decided that no, it wasn’t the great southern continent that he was looking to discover and left. Cook turned up and got all the glory nearly a century later.

His national park rules. All tropical bush and coastline. Positvely carribean – at least it was today.

We took a water taxi (at high speed, way cool) up the coast and had a lovely 4 hr walk back with a stop for a swim on a golden beach along the way. Stop me if this sounds like an ad, i don’t mean it to.

Sat on the kayak (in the campsite) and read the paper in the setting sun. Quality moment. Tea in the restaraunt attached to the campsite. Further quality moment.
The stars are out tonight. Though if you gave me the north and southern hemispeheres i’d have trouble telling the difference. All very pretty.

Me and si have started a beard-off (morsies not wanting to play) today. The concept of the neill brothers having a beard off will make those who know us laugh. We have three weeks to grow as much facial hair as we can. We expect small furry mammals to move in and make their homes in the beard. Though i imagine most will move out complaining that it was too drafty…

Squinting my way through life

Some may take this blog as another sly attempt to sneak in comments about how sunny it is here all the time and how it’s just a wonderful place to be, and how it’s getting cold, wet and miserable back home. But you know me better.

There is an awful lot of sunshine mind you. And that brings me to sunnies, or shades, or sun glasses or artificial retina protectors as you may more commonly call them.

If you were painting a sketch of a typical kiwi you would have to include the sunnies as essentials. Now, to be fair they have more use for them than most but wearing sunnies indoors on a grey day is just plain weird. Following is a list of reasons why they fall onto my ‘things that I dislike’ list.

When people are wearing them you can’t see their eyes. Of course this is kind of the point but it’s impossible to have a heartfelt conversation with someone when you can’t see the whites of their eyes. It also allows you to sit in bars by yourself and check out all the ladies without fear of detection. I tried this without the sunnies and had to walk home with a limp and a bleeding nose…

They provide a shield to hide behind, to keep people at arms length, to avoid intimacy, honesty and the fear of social contact. Though that sounds like something I would love, it’s like a crutch I refuse to accept. The path of least resistance was never one I was keen to travel. Somewhere a paragraph or so back I was talking about sunnies…

They cost obscene amounts of money and then you set them in the glove box with a pile of twenty pence pieces and all of a sudden you’ve got a scratch down the lens and you can’t see through them. I buy a pair a year roughly. Of the BP filling station class of sunnies. A fiver with a twenty quid fill up. I tend to sit on a pair a year by mistake so this works out well.

They make your nose itchy and your ears hurt. Though once I was told they weren’t actually for nasal or otological insertion that cleared up somewhat. I’m lucky enough to have the eyesight of a… well some animal of good eyesight, can’t think of any right now, so I’ve never had to wear glasses. I’m not a big fan of anything on my person if you know what I mean – watches, jewellery, clean clothing, that kind of thing.

There is the one exception to this rule. Snow. Snow on a sunny day is a killer and you’d be lucky to last half an hour without the sunnies. In fact extend that to two exceptions (maybe I should start putting some actual thought into my writing…), in driving when the sun is setting into your vision and you’ve already clipped two cyclists.

There are few joys like squinting into the sun. Today’s paper before me, sitting in an outdoor café, with my eyes screwed up (usually my left one screwed up) staring at the sun. You end up with white crow’s feet round your eyes, a headache and a low-grade skin cancer in later life. Couldn’t beat it.

I have every intention of squinting my way through life. To hell with the sunnies-wearing beautiful people of the world. They never really liked me anyway…


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