Travel south to the northern lands of England.

The roses of England, white for Yorkshire and red for Lancashire. Running down the spine of England is a moreland range of raised land called the Pennines. To the west of this spine we find the county of Lancashire and to its right the county of Yorkshire. Life is never simple, especially when it comes to history and this part of England with its odd names and variation in language grammar gives us clues as to how it got to be the way it is. The industrial heartland of an empire was born here. Our very way of life was forged in its mills and our world is today the flower of that seed. Is this, this blog to be a potted history of England? No, of course not. But, I do need to set the context in which this journey, adventure if you will takes place.

I love the north of England, always have and always will. I find a kindred friendship here that can only find compare with my Icelandic homeland, for the share a similarity in both outlook and honesty. So, it should comes as no surprise that during the long dark winters of northern Iceland that we, my family and I laid plans for our winter migration south to this northern land of England. We have undertaken several much shorter trips here in the past, but this was going to be a thorough expedition and needed detailed planning. And is this not the fun part of such holidays? I think so and this prove to be the case. My partner the expert in finding places of interest and the  accommodation to go with it is supreme. The costing for this enterprise tested my spreadsheets skills during the dark nights as income struggled to balance out expenditure. Did we succeed?  You will have to wait and see. The stage is set the car is fueled and loaded down with suitcases and we are ready to set forth.

From Akureyri to Keflavik:

We are now driving away from our home a day earlier than we need to, as my wife and two daughters have eye tests scheduled for the afternoon. The drive will be a long one and it will take the better part of four hours, crossing three mountain ranges as we do so.  This is as is normally the case an uneventful one and soon we are in the capital of Reykjavik. My daughters eyes are fine and as expected my wife needs new glasses.  The cost of living here in Iceland can be for some things very expensive and glasses are a prime example of that. This was factor in getting these tests done prior to our visit to England, where we shall have the glasses made up from the prescription. Our flight means that we need to be at the airport in Keflavik by around six in the morning. Therefore we shall spend the night with my wife’s aunt in Reykjavik. After a delightful meal we head off to bed as we shall need to be at around five the following morning for the drive to the airport. At this time of year is does not get dark during the night, but it was a dank and overcast early morning and I longed to be over the clouds.

Keflavik to York:

Airport departures are great places to watch humanity in all its greeds become as one as they share the common malaise of having to balance luggage and reading direction signs. I stand in line and listen to the voices of the world and understand not a word but, I do understand the meaning. Travels of late have brought to my ears a sound that in the past was strange and now these days common place, Chinese. However, a smile is a smile and we all shuffle along towards check-in desk. The rest of the journey passes without incident and soon we are descending towards Manchester international airport. We soon clear the formalities and board the train to York. The countryside is alive with nature drawn on a bright green canvas that is and always will be England. I spot a rabbit, magpies, another rabbit and then a deer. Towns from history flash by as we cross the industrial heartland of history. The train slows and we have arrived in York. We leave the train and a few minutes later we have found our apartment for the week. I have to say it all looks rather posh for me. An inner courtyard complete with a water feature shows the hand of design here. I think I could soon get used to this.

York:

I could so easily see myself living here. History is of course evident here and the town is very much a microcosm of England itself. However they have managed to find that difficult balance between living in the present and looking to the future, without forgetting the past. The visitor is welcomed and not fleeced at all, something that I am sad to say is not so in many of the places to be found in England with Cornwall and Devon very much coming to mind. I recommend without hesitation the Jorvik centre. The Vikings settlement is brought to life as one rides carriage that weaves its way through a reconstructed Viking settlement of Jorvik. The animatronics are excellent and they have used Icelandic to give voice to these characters.  The ride ends as of course you knew it would in a gift shop. I just wish they could have dispense with the horned hats and for the record Vikings have never used this sort of hat. I found the river trip somewhat of a waste of time with the narration dull. The York museum is a delight and records the history of the town from the time of William the conqueror to modern times. Walking along the Victorian street you might be lucky and meet a character from the past who will tell you the story of their life. The place I so looked forward to seeing was the National Railway Museum and it did not let me down. It is free to enter although they do rather try to get you to pay three pounds as a donation. Good luck chaps trying to prise out the coins from my hand. The range of trains is of course impressive with old steam trains sharing space with the Japanese bullet train. I loved the south shed and the attention to detail. Here you will find several trains waiting in the station for Kings and Queens. I wonder what it must be like to have a bath on a train? You will also find here objects waiting to be loaded onto the train and even an old post office sorting train. I actually remember these from my childhood. The staff are all very knowledgeable and very keen to spend time with you. We left York with if not a tear then certainly a little bit of sadness. All of us agreed that we must return and explore more of those narrow streets that act like time machines.

From York to Blackpool by train:

I should say that I love train travel and this journey confirmed it. The train in effect traverses the country moving from the eastern shores to the bracing Irish sea.  Each train stop is akin to a page from the history books devoted to the study of the industrial revolution. It is perhaps the silly things that capture ones attention and for me the greenest of the landscape and the towering trees that I gaze upon. For you see I grew up in a landscape like this and for all of its charms, and there are many, it is here that I find a hint of homesickness.  The rocking of the train and the side of effects of my medication lull me off to sleep. I am awaken to find our train pulling in to Blackpool’s north station. Phew it is hot and humid today and as we depart we noticed the smell of cigarettes as many of the passengers draw upon that vile drug that thankfully legislation has prevented them from using on the train. A family conference is called and we agree to take a taxi to our apartment for the week. At the moment we are pretty much in central Blackpool but we need to go a few miles north. I am so thankful that my wife has chosen this as our base. Blackpool can, indeed does get very lively in the evenings, fueled no doubt with copious amounts of booze. That said it is still a great place for families to stay and have fun but, you must be mindful that this town is a construct to the tourist industry. Its history is both rich and vibrant and should hold as much importance as any other artifact that created the industrial revolution. Blackpool can be divided into three areas with each area having its own pier.  Most of the towns and cities of the UK have given up their trams in favour of other systems, usually cars but, not Blackpool. The tram runs the full length of the town and in fact its northern terminus is the fishing town of fleetwood which is famous for its candy “Fishermens friends”.  We took a trip to this village and sad to say left disappointed to find it rather run down and in need of  investment. The central pier is very close to the tower for which Blackpool is known for. It is a copy of the top part of the eiffel tower.  Should you feel the need to test your courage then you may take the sky walk. This is a see through floor and you get to see all the way down to the street far below as you feel like you are suspended in thin air. In this building you will also find the famous ballroom, a room known to most ballroom dancers as being its very home.  For thrill seeks which does not include me I might add, then there is the “Pleasure beach”. A area devoted to roller coasters and other things to scare the bejeebers out of one. I should like to recommend the more sedate and top of my list is the Blackpool zoo. They really do know how to entertain and educate at the same time and we all had a ball.  Close by you will find two other jewels, Stanley park and the model village. We rented a boat and the girls all had a great time playing on the lake. The model village is wow, yes wow with each and every turn you see village life, I would recommend this place just for its plants.  But, here is the caveat and effect only those of us that do not have a car. The bus service is not good really with the closet stop being the hospital which is a good ten minute walk way.

From Blackpool to Manchester:

The week has passed oh so quickly and once again we find ourselves at the train station in Blackpool waiting to board the train to Manchester. Ah, this was the journey from if not hell then not a fun place. Fortunately, we got to the station in time to ensure that we had seats for the trip, something that could not be said for oh so many of our fellow travellers. Then another taxi and we arrive at our hotel in the trafford area of Manchester.  We had planned these last thee days of our trip to do some shopping but, as it turned out we had in fact done most of the shopping.  We still found time though to do some shopping in the Trafford centre. A note though, the hotel Premier Inn. This is a budget chain and yet the service was first class. I recommend this hotel without hesitation. I manage to spend a wonderful hour or so with my sister. The years flyby and body may weaken yet memories of time spent as kids is never far away.

Manchester and home:

Soon we are home and trophies are unpacked.

Conclusion:

THAT WAS FUN!

The end of a dream and the start of a wake.

Oh woe is me that should place so much faith in those that are so fragile. We left upon our journey knowing that the task exceeded our ability to achieve. However, it is the nature of our defeat that brings one so low. We neither trusted fully in the young or the wisdom of experience.  On the positive side we should now be spared the opinions of these so called experts, the pundits of which we have many.  I am thinking in particular those pundits from the celtic lands of Scotland and Wales. I so wish the anchor person if they would asked these pundits just one question on my behalf, “Excuse me, did your country even qualify? Oh, yes, that’s right, you did not. So please be silent”. To the others from our homeland then they should ask themselves if they were any better, because I don’t think so. They have short, selective memories.

Roy, bless his heart did his best as did so many of the team. The ones that failed did so because they were simply found out to be not that good, and we need not named names. I do not think for one moment that they lack desire and passion and indeed in the first game they played very well. The shortcomings of a defence that lacked communication and cohesion can and will be address in time for the next campaign. The lack of a John Terry type character is painful and he more than anyone is the person we really did need. They have time to work on building a good defence and the forwards  were wonderful.

The future is bright, it really is and I am thankful that we have had the good sense to keep Roy as manager. This though is football and we shall pick ourselves up and get ready for the next dream.  I thought this blog would be more a rant and yet it is not.  I have so final words to say on Wayne Rooney. I rather think his problem is that he tries to hard and there are plenty of good players who never settle into the international game.

Raise your glasses to Europe!

England lose to Italy

Oh woe is me that hath see our brave boys fail once again. Pain Doony played very well and even managed on a few occasions to kick the ball. Our young lions were outstanding. But, it has to be understood that they have yet to sucumb to the malaise that is England. They will though, have no fear on that score and then once we have removed their confidence and natural skills then they will be able to hoff it up the field in the general direction of the opposing terrace. The number of times they actually had the ball on target was astonishing.  But, once the old guard had, had a word with them they will soon be hoofing it over the cross bar like our lads of old. Our goalie pretty boy Harty was so good that I saw that he was able to take time off during the break to advertise hair shampoo and still get back on the pitch in time. Roy, poor Roy he is starting to worry me with all of these late nights, for it is not good for him to be up this late. The number of times the poor old chap had his head in his hands and swearing in one of the many languages that he knows is a worry. However, we must be of good heart chaps. There is still time and we have two more games left in which to give a good account of ourselves. Rumors that Roy has been see trying to get on a plane out of the country are not true.  He said that he was just checking to see if the plane was ok for carrying the team and the cup itself.  Roy told our mole that during the next game we are to look out for some new tactics. Our back four (Apparently they are called defenders) are to be replaced with Royal Marines. The mid field will be bolstered by a detachment from the parachute regiment.  And this has to be kept secret, I mean really secret……. Our strike force is going to be  two RAF typhoons with a  Harrier  fighter jet sitting in the hole.

Education, is it wasted on the young?

What is education if it not something that allows the child to be what it can be. I rather conclude that the purpose of our failed education system is to provide workers to fuel the bank balances of the unworthy. I hear it said that we are all equal. What utter rubbish. We are all unique and just like the pieces of a global jigsaw puzzle we come together to create Eden.

Aspirations are not sought but rather implanted in young minds. You must have a nice house, car, clothes and all the trappings of what passes for the fashion of the day. Those few that rile against this are declare weird and must be reeducated.  Is it not wonderful to see someone not being so much different as just being themselves. There is room for them, is there not?  When I see the daily ebb and flow of traffic carrying the work force to their destination then I do wonder how many failed dreams are there to be found. The factory worker who was born with the gift of art and once whose eyes understood the beauty around him or her, and yet those eyes are now dimmed with the knowledge that, that time has come and gone.

However, it is not all gloom and doom, truly it is not. I recall here in Iceland seeing a elderly gentleman learning to play a musical instrument, and doing so along in the company of much younger classmates. You see here in Iceland is not at all unusual to see more senior people still within the education system.  Even in the United Kingdom the success of the Open University proves beyond a shadow of doubt that there is a passion to learn. A desire to kindle that little spark deep inside and to be what they wanted to be, but life just got in the way. Education along with medicine has to be free. The more people who have and continue to drink from the well of knowledge will repay society many times over.

I started this blog with the question about whether education is wasted on the young. Actually it is not, at least for the most part it is not. However, we do need to ensure that  schools are allowed to develop the child and not to fail the child because their heart beats to a different drum.

The Summer

For those that dwell in lands that endure long winters and short summers then the time of summer is very special. Those few months each year when we have to do so much and yet we still find time to play. We are in accord with nature, we always are, we have to be and we are Nordic. It has been many weeks now under the constant Sun and it will be many more yet before the darkness that has retreated to the southern part of the globe will return, but we know it will for it is the cycle of life and that is how is should be.

The land of Iceland divides into those that take long and well earned vacations and for others that work with nature then it is a very busy time. Farmers are now cutting grass that will see them through the long dark winter. Fishermen, are far out to sea seeking their catch that will help fuel the nation.

This is also a time of visitors, strange and exotic languages can be heard now. Pictures are taken and memories laid down to be shared perhaps on the other side of the world. I wonder what they will say of their visit? I wonder if they give a thought for how the landscapes must now look under the blanket of winter, perhaps not. Iceland that strange country far to the north, sitting as it does in  mid way between the old and new worlds. Its people so old and its land so very young. Should you ever find yourself here in my Iceland then understand that this land is rather like a book and not a movie. You have to take time to turn the pages and read her wisdom, for she has no time for those seeking instant gratification.

Water, water everywhere and where is the bloody ball?

Our mole and the boys from dear old blighty have left Florida for Brasil. They leave with the heads held high, due to the rising water on the pitch. Pain Doony played very well, once he had adjusted to playing in wellington boots and not his normal hobnail jobs. Roy, told our mole that Oxo is going to be fit for the games ahead. It seems the Turkey fat plus the ministrations of our witch doctor did the trick. Roy tells our reporter that he has yet to make his mind up over using wellies rather than the standard hobnail boot. Only saying that wellingtons are wonderful and swell because they keep out the water and keep in the smell. Harty our handsome keeper has been working really hard on stopping the ball and we yet to hear if FIFA will allow him the use of a shotgun to deflect the ball.  This comes after reports that some of our defenders have complained about getting gun pellets in their butts. Well, all is well that ends well and now as we cruise south through the evening sky. The glow of the setting sun illuminates the cabin and gives a rather pretty hue to our team sitting in economy.  Some are sleeping and others are munching away on snacks while watching movies. However, it is time now for our mole in first class to have his entree of sea bass and chips, washed down with a rather nice Sauvignon blanc from the Faroe isles. I believe the boys back in cattle class are having boiled chicken and cola. It is true the life of a modern day footy player is one of luxury.

Our mole on the plane to Brasil?

Despite several attempts to have our mole removed from the England camp I can confirm that he is still there, But he has had to take steps to disguise himself. Our plucky mole endured a right old kicking when he made the mistake of pretending to be a ball.  Fortunately, whilst taking penalty kicks Geraldo kicked him so hard that he ended up onto of the stadium roof. Always looking on the bright side he did say that he did not want anymore kids anyway.

Roy, continues to fine tune our lads into the peak of perfection. Our mole tells us that he is most concerned about a player called Oxo, who he reports to be our secret weapon. They have sent for some turkey fat and the services of a witch doctor from Croydon. Apparently this Croydon place is the centre of physic energy for Britain.  I can also confirm that Roy did have a moody on with the British press over the continued questions regarding Pain Doony. Now that he has got that off of is chest he is looking forward to winning the tournament.