Another Kindness of Strangers

18 May 2013
On a train from Paris to Marne le Vallee

I am sat here wondering how, aside from using it in the title of this piece, I can work in the line from the Tenesse Williams play:

“I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

I guess I just did.

I am in Paris, home to the maligned Parisians, who some would have you believe are the most arrogant citizens in Europe. Some of those who hold that belief are British so the hypocrisy is thoroughly on display as I think we English hold records in the stuff.

I don’t hold that belief about Parisians or the French in general. Aside from knowing many nice French people I have also stayed in Paris more than once and find them easily as polite, if not more so, than Londoners.

So I guess I shouldn’t visit London for a while.

Today was a typical example. We have two small children and are hopping buses in Paris. We have had people help us onto the buses with the pram. Hold open doors. And the one moment than strikes the best, sat waiting at a bus stop and a gentleman gave Ben and Elliott a banana to share.

I don’t rely on the kindness of strangers. I usually plan ahead. But I do so like it when I experience it.

This specific post was created using WordPress for Android on a mobile phone. This explains but not excuses any incorrect or unusual typography, brevity or formatting.

Happily in Happy Mount

We got back from a fortnight of traveling yesterday in which several countries were passed through[1] and several theme parks also[2]. We had a great time but now we are safely back home and in our home environment.

Today is turning out to be a bit of a scorcher, sun is out, sky is mostly blue and the kids need airing and entertaining, so we have come to Morecambe and Happy Mount Park.

A little of the Park’s recent history
A few years ago Lancaster and Morecambe Council in their infinite wisdom decided to run a deal with the bouncy-blond-basta… Television personality Noel Edmonds and build a theme park in Morecambe. So they cut a beautiful park in half and built Blobbyland. It was a total, expensive, failure.

The people of the district were not happy. They never wanted such a silly thing and it had destroyed a once magnificent public space. The fiasco meant there was less funds for parks available.

But the council and the people of Morecambe were not to be beaten.

Thanks to the efforts of volunteers and some local representatives who would listen, time (quite a considerable amount of it and it is still on going) and some money was put back into the park. The result is the space we now have.

Happy Mount Park is once again a treasure for the local area and people. A large space with several free park areas for children of varying ages and some low cost areas as well.

Free:

  • The grounds and gardens
  • The Adventure play area
  • The fields and forest walks
  • The Splash Park (which is awesome)
  • The small park
  • Tennis Courts

Low cost (prices where known):

  • Pitch and Putt
  • Deckchair hire
  • Bowling
  • Racket Hire
  • Large Swings (2 pounds)
  • Under 7s park (1 pound per child) – filled with cars and tractors and bicycles and enclosed within a gated area
  • Train – three loops for one pound per rider

Happy Mount also has a cafe which has a children’s soft play area where parties and events can be held in a comfortable space.

As I previously mentioned a large amount of the maintenance of the park and its evolution has been a partnership between the local authorities and the volunteers of the region. This has led to a wonderful park, it is a fantastic place to bring children of all ages. It is a testament to the fact of a need to have a wroking relationship between the community and the authorities where there is not just ‘having a say’ but being able to ‘make a change’. This feedback loop creates areas that are desired by both and appropriate for the greater enjoyment of everyone.

I should also say that the small cafe outside of the park, in front of the golfclub and next to the car park on the prom[3], does a mean line in low cost snacks and a great breakfast/brunch bun. Make sure you order the tea and not the coffee!

[1] We went from England to Paris, to Germany to Romania and back by various routes, some of us driving and some of us flying.

[2] Disneyland, Paris and Chessington World of Adventure were both visited.

[3] Turn left as you exit the park.

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Travel Times

I am traveling a lot during August and it is taking an inevitable toll on my life, and probably a little on my sanity. My issues are that if I travel without my wife and kids I miss them and often have very disturbed sleep because of that. I have got very used to sleeping next to someone, as aside from a period of a few months six years ago I have slept in the same bed as someone for more than two decades.

There is a lot that I gain when I travel alone, or with my usual companion Matt, to conferences and events and that is the freedom to write as I can spend periods of time with my own head. Of course I usually discover that I am still a bit of a whinging adolescent, but that’s not too bad.

Timezones can be a bit awkward, you wouldn’t think they would affect much, but if you travel at odd hours and switch an hour or two back and forth either gaining in the day or losing in a very short period the body feels jolted and cannot often function in the way you would like. I see no real cure for this, you can fake it with sleep or strong lights but for me I just take the weariness hit and once more add to my whine.

My schedule this year is a little more mental than usual:

Friday 28th July – Travel
29th July – 3rd August – Brighton and mostly caring for the kids* while wife at Summer School.
3rd August – 5th August – Drive to Paris
5th August – 7th August – Disneyland, work in the mornings for me
8th August – travel to Cluj, early flight so awake overnight so as not to disturb kids by leaving and having alarm clocks
9th August – work at Evozon and then present in the evenings, two keynotes and a lightning talk
10th August – travel home
17th August – travel to Luxembourg – leave at 3 a.m.
19th August – travel to Frankfurt
23rd August – travel home again

So I am/have been away for 3 out of 4 weeks and during those times will only get bits of work done so will incur a massive backlog.

The plus is still that I love to travel and to meet people and go to new places. I love having the time to write and I am still enough of a kid/geek that trains, planes and car journeys are exciting and wondrous to me.

Still, a bit mental…

* With grandparents assistance

Things I Learned Last Night

So I learned a couple of things last night (yesterday) that I am going to share with you:

* I am considered a bit more ‘famous’ than I thought and now a name to draw a small crowd in the community – blushes profusely.

* Cluj is a lovely place, really very pretty and the people are very relaxed for the most part, nice drinking beer in the square.

* Cluj Perl Developers (the guys at Evozon from last night) are good drinkers and nice chaps – will meet even more of them tonight.

* Romania is cheap, average beer cost is about one pound twenty for draught to two pounds for good bottled beer, kebabs are about one pund forty and the nightclub entry 2 pounds.

* Romanians seem to like having fun and seem very warm and friendly to each other.

That wraps it for now.

Ciao

Out [from] the wild and windy moor(1)

We speed along the rich tarmac and I sit facing backwards watching the vehicles slide through my view against the backdrop of wilderness with occasional man-made conformity(2).

I have spent most of the week away from the rigours of the internet. I say “most” as I did take a brief sojourn in the middle of my holiday to travel to Edinburgh and co-organise a conference day on (Dynamic Languages with Marco. That was a great day, we learned a lot that we can take to next year’s event and it was very interesting meeting Richard Stallman, it was a pity I had to rush back to my holiday as it would have been nice to be a part of the rest of the festival.

Being away from the internet was interesting. Although I was concerned about all the people I had to speak to and catch up with, it was also nice to be apart from them, to enjoy the silence away from electronic noise that clutters my life. After a few hours away I missed it less and started to enjoy the solitude it afforded.

I wasn’t alone of course, I was with family, my wife, my son, Grandmas Steph and Linda and the extended Scottish Clan were all part of the time away. But the solitude was being remote from the instant world. I was able to sit on the shore (being eaten alive by the midges) and watch the waves gently lapping in the Kyle of Lochalsh. I was able to watch the sun set and the sky change through dramatic hues. I was also able to forget about the many tiny concerns that flit about my head in the normal days of connectivity.

But now we head back and as we go forever south and the signal becomes stronger on my phone and other electronic devices I start to appreciate what I had missed. I am, I realise a dichotomy, happy to be away from technology and modern society and also willing to immerse myself within it and suckle from its many benefits.

C’est la Vie.

-mdk

(1) Apologies to Kate Bush.

(2) I am sitting in a mobile home hence the direction of my view.