Letters to my sons.

Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Favourite photo.

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Dear Son,

I was going through our photo collection last night and I found this image taken by your mother when we were in Chamonix over Easter. You look your usual handsome self and because most of my face is obscured, I don’t look too bad either.

This picture is now on my computer’s desktop at work.

Jez and William in Chamonix. Easter 2007.

Written by Administrator

October 24th, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Family

Death and misery or …

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Dear Son,

last week we heard the sad news that our next door neighbour Arthur had died while in hospital for a hip replacement. The funeral is this Friday and your mother and I are both planning to go. Arthur had not been mobile for awhile but we heard his fine singing voice through the walls on many occasions as well as his instructions to the family dog to “Shatt App!”.

I enjoyed my chats with Arthur when he used to stand by his front door looking out during summers past. He told stories of an East End that has now gone forever and about being bombed during the war. One story that I remember was of his brother, who was in the Army, and back home on leave during the war. Despite a full on air raid taking place his brother was sat outside smoking and watching the bombs fall. During a lull in the bombing Arthur had tried to coax him back inside, but he refused. “I’d rather die in the open air” his brother had told him, “than cooped up in an air raid shelter.”

It isn’t just Arthur’s death has had me thinking miserable thoughts. I was listening to the Layer Cake sound track today and it features the only good Duran Duran song, Ordinary World. For someone I once knew, it provided comfort as it reminded them of the good times they had spent with a friend who had died far too young and the strength to celebrate that life.

Not long after listening to that track I heard the news from a very old and dear friend that her father had passed away this morning. He had been unwell for a while and became very ill yesterday, she was able to get the train to Sunderland and spend the night at his bed side with other family members, spend a few precious hours with him and be there as he passed away.

With all this death around compounded by the all the misery in the world heaped on us by religious fascists; praying to the god of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, money or a pathetic ideology that relegates humans to skin colours; it is quite easy to become depressed.

But death is just the natural order of things and is as inevitable as night following day. I know from personal experience that it is very hard when someone you are very close to dies but the pain eases in time and reminders of the good times bring a smile to the face. Yes, with that smile comes a longing that they could be here to see what has changed but it is not a painful experience.

“Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle” the Chinese proverb goes. Instead of moping around I have been making a conscience effort to look for good and inspiring things. Instead of mourning for the dead I want to try and make a difference to those who are still living. My mothers favourite phrase summed it up this:

Life is for the living. The dead can look after themselves.

Written by Administrator

September 5th, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Family,Memories

An old home

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Dear Son,

Your Uncle Phil called me last night and told me that he had visited a house in Church Gresley that we (the Caudle family) used to live in. We lived in the house from 1971 until 1974 and only being a few days past my fourth birthday when we left, I don’t remember that much about the house or our time there but here are the things that stand out; I’m sure that as I am reminded of this time then more memories will flow.

Bath time
This memory popped in this evening when you were having your bath. I remember being bathed by my mother and someone else. The other person was female and was either Mrs Clamp or “Auntie” Gladys. Uncle Phil went to see Mrs Clamp the other night and she has been a familly firend for years but I have no idea what happened to “Auntie” Gladys. I have used quotes around her name because she wasn’t a real Auntie, my parents didn’t like us calling people who were not real Aunties or Uncles “Auntie” or “Uncle” and I agree with them. If I child is sticking the word Auntie or Uncle in front of everyones name then it becomes meaningless. My hazy recollection of “Auntie” Gladys is that she was a bit mad and talked a lot. I don’t suppose my mother could get a word in edge ways to explain her thinking on the use of the word “Auntie” before some ones name.

The one thing I remember about having this bath is having my hair washed. I, just like you did tonight, used to scream when my mother leant me back into the water to wet my hair. But this particular night I remember screaming and being conscience of the fact that I was screaming and wondering why I was screaming. Maybe this is my earliest memory or maybe it was just another example of me becoming conscience of myself.

I remember the bathroom being very white and steamy.

Bashing Uncle Phil on the Head.
I remember picking up a lump of tarmac and being surprised at how light it was for something so big. Uncle Phil was sitting down so I bashed him on the head with it. Your grandmother Audrey told me that Uncle Phil had to go to hospital and it was only when I explained to the nurses what I had done did they actually stop questioning her as if she had done it. I don’t remember the hospital visit or much else about that incident.

Locking a child in the play room
I remember that we had a play room that connected to the kitchen. I think I remember the kitchen as well but it is very hazy and not possible to describe. One day I was in the play room with a child who was younger than me and seemed to enjoy hitting and biting me. I was old enough and tall enough to open the door to the play room and escape into the kitchen and close the door behind me. The other child wasn’t able to open the door and was effectively locked in there. When my mother asked why I had done what I had done and I explained, I remember her looking at me with affection and telling me I had done the right thing.

The child next door.
I remember that there was a child that lived next to us. I think he was older then me but younger than Uncle Phil. He had a toy rifle that had a bullet on a hinge that flopped in and out of the breach. He would ask me “Are yah playing?” His voice would go up on the word “playing” and he would do an exaggerated Gallic shrug at the same time.

Going on an adventure.
I remember taking my mother by the hand and leading her down to the trees at the bottom of the garden. I learnt about Scot of the Antarctic and I claimed we were going on an adventure to the North Pole.

Need any help?
I remember that part of the garden was set aside for growing vegetables. Your grandfather John has always made room in the garden of the house where he lives to grow his own vegetables. I remember him having a bonfire and asking him if he needed any help – a ruse to get to play with the fire but my father was having none of it.

The water sprinkler and the bucket.
It was a hot summers day and the garden sprinkler was switched on. I remember being mostly naked and playing with Uncle Phil. We were trying to get the bucket over the sprinkler and getting very wet at the same time. I remember my mother laughing and watching happily while my dad took photos. This is the strongest and happiest memory of this time, if I look back on my life as a child I think this was the perfect day.

I hope I can give you at least one memory as happy as this within the first 4 years of your life.

Written by Administrator

August 22nd, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Family,Memories

2 Year olds.

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Dear Son,

A few things have happened since I last wrote. First of all the leader of the country has changed. Not much to write about here, just one corrupt person taking over from another.

More importantly you have moved into class 3 at nursery and this means that you are now downstairs. You moved down a couple of weeks ago and it has been quite traumatic for you. For the whole of your life that you can remember you have been upstairs so it has taken a while for you to get used to the idea of not doing that. Yesterday you happily went and sat down for your breakfast and didn’t cry when I left you – in fact you were too engrossed in your weetabix to notice me going.

I don’t know that many two year olds. I certainly don’t know any who eat Bombay Mix and also ask for it by name. Your taste for spicy foods is welcome and I image it comes from your mothers side of the family, you certainly had good portions in the womb. I don’t quite remember my first curry but I remember then becoming a feature of family meal times around the late 1970’s. Your grand father and mother where never in to fads of any kind, certainly not food fads, we never had a fondue set for example, so curries must have become pretty mainstream for it to appear on our dining table. I do remember eating them for Sunday lunch around 1985, Grand Ma Audrey had made a load of beef curries and frozen them. She had bought the curry spices at an Indian shop on the West Gate road and used the same amounts as she had used in the past with the stuff bought from the super market. Inadvertently she had created very hot curries but at the same time they were not harsh, just very hot. Within a few mouthfuls the top of my head would be sweating, part of an overall body glow that a fantastic curry creates from the inside out.

Grand Pa Ken in Trinidad grows his own hot chilli peppers and makes his own chilli sauce which is both very hot and also very smooth at the same time. It takes a lifetime of experience to make something like that and it is appreciated by everyone who tastes it. Because Ken gives us it in litre bottles we tend to give some of it away to a select few and they all say the same thing: it is the best pepper sauce they have tasted.

Your talking and reasoning is coming along, the other day I farted loudly and you came over and informed me “Daddy done a pooh.” It smelt like it but I hadn’t, this didn’t stop you getting the nappy sack and start unpacking. “Nappy change time Daddy!” you informed me. There may actually come a time when you are changing my nappies – it is only fair, I have been changing yours for over two years. In fact we have my first attempt at changing one of your nappies on video, you were only 14 hours old. So don’t annoy me when your older or I’ll show it to your friends!

Written by Administrator

July 13th, 2007 at 8:41 am

Posted in Family,Memories

Chicken Pox

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Dear Son,

you have chicken pox at the moment although you are now over the worst although you look horrible. It is quite frightening to see you covered in yellow spots and then seeing those spots fill with blood and then turn into scabs. The scabs are now starting to get smaller but you didn’t enjoy your bath tonight or being dried.

When Grand Pa John rang and I told him that you had chicken pox he informed me that I had never had it. Luckily I was old enough when I got chicken pox to remember getting it. If Grand Ma Audrey was alive she would have been able to tell me the exact dates because we were on holiday when I got it – she could have told me which parts of Scotland we were in.

I was 8 years old; Uncle Phil went on holiday with Chicken Pox and I came back with it. We lived in Grimsby at the time and on the way back from the Borders we stopped off in Skipton to see Uncle Denis and Aunty Kath. Aunty Kath decided to lotion me up because I was at the scratching stage. The lotion helped stop the itching and the attention she gave me made me feel better. She tied my hair up and made sure my face was plastered with white calamine as well as my arms and hands.

On the drive back to Grimsby we went through either Leeds or Bradford – a journey we had done many times before. The route took us through a black area and, having rarely seen anyone non-white, Uncle Phil and I though these people were funny and had nick named them “burnt sausages”. When Grand Ma and Grand Pa cottoned on to what we were going on about we received a stern rebuke. This didn’t stop us, for being children we acted in a childish manner. But this time as we drove through the black area, black men and women of all ages would wave and smile at me in the car. It took us all a while to work out what was going on but they saw this kid with his hair tired up out of the way of his forehead, red spots and scabs all over his face and a covering of milking white liquid. Instead of staring at me like a circus attraction when they saw that something was wrong with me, they attempted to lift my spirits with a big heart felt smile and wave. Being marginalised them selves they had no desire to make anyone else feel unwanted or less than human just for looking different. The few miles of that journey struck a cord with me at the time although the memory has stayed locked away in my sub conscience until this last week. It reminds me that to be human, to be different from the other animals that inhabit this earth, we have to show our humanity to others at every possible opportunity. Something I’m afraid son, I haven’t always been that good at.

Written by Administrator

March 30th, 2007 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Family,Memories

The most pointless video every?

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Dear Son,

I installed a Widget on my Mac that allows me to play ZX Spectrum games the other day and I’ve been playing Manic Miner for the last few days. The ZX Spectrum was the first computer I ever had. My parents bought it for me and Uncle Phil for Xmas 1982, we got the 16k version for £99 – quite a lot of money in those days. The machine broke down a few times and was sent back until Grand dad Caudle asked for a refund and got one. By this time the 48k Spectrum had been reduced in price to £99 so he simply bought a 48k version.

I learnt how to program on that ZX Spectrum and spent many hours as a teenager playing games and writing programs. Because I didn’t get much pocket money I couldn’t afford the games available in the shops so I would either try and copy them (which was illegal) or I would buy cheap magazines that had printed listings for games that me and Uncle Phil would then spend hours typing in. We used to wait a month until the next copy of the magazine came out because the print outs invariably contained mistakes – nothing worse than spending three nights typing something in only for it not to run. To raise a bit of cash we also used to sell the games we had typed in at school.

I was looking around the internet for Manic Miner cheats when I came across a video of Manic Miner loading. In those days games cassette tapes. Cassette tapes are, were errr I will show you one when your older. Anyway it took a full 5 minutes to load a game and you could hear the noises of different byte values. I used to be able to hear if a program loaded extra code after a screen download, I also knew when a game was close to finishing loading by learning the sounds and the patterns.

When I saw the video it brought back so many memories of spending time shut away on my own writing programs that I though would make me a millionaire. Uncle Phil would be out with his current girlfriend or his mates and this worried Grandma Audrey no end. She once told me she thought that she was blame for my lonely obsession and was never happier than when I brought people round who shared my enthusiasm – although this wasn’t often. We formed our own software company but we never created anything – we just played multi user games and talked the talk of how the girls would like us when we had money and how the popular kids would be jealous.

I think my lonely obsession has done we well over the years and Grandma Audrey lived long enough to see that and know that the guilt and worry she had was the product of a compassionate and caring bond. I still like being on my own, something that your mother doesn’t always understand. Hopefully son you will understand that sometimes I need to be alone with my thoughts; I’m not shunning you. I just need a place to reflect and think and get my thoughts and feelings in order.

Written by Administrator

March 30th, 2007 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Family,Memories

Being welcomed home.

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Dear Son,

when I came home last night you were playing in the kitchen on your Winnie the Pooh fire engine. When I opened the inside door you looked around, smiled at me and said: Hello Daddy!

You then came running at me screaming and laughing with delight. It filled my heart with joy. I just hope that we can always be friends.

Written by Administrator

March 22nd, 2007 at 11:51 am

Posted in Family

Trinidad Holiday

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Dear Son,

we have just returned from Trinidad after your first visit for carnival. You are too young for Carnival at the moment but you did have time for some noticeable firsts:

  • First trip to Tobago
  • Sang calypso
  • Took the skin off your knees
  • You felt the effects of an earthquake
  • You went into the sea
  • Ate shark
  • Stepped on a scorpion

This was your very first visit to Tobago. In the past we have always flown directly into Piarco International but this time we flew with BA into Tobago mainly because it was a lot cheaper. Your mother and I have made the hop from Trinidad to Tobago for a few days R & R in the past but this is the first time we have flown directly to Tobago.

We were all still on English time when we arrived in Tobago from London so had an “early night” – 7.30pm Tobago time, 11.30pm English time. You woke up at 4am Tobago time and we spent the next hour walking around the hotel grounds. We then got you in the shower and dressed. But it was only 6am so we had another run around the hotel grounds until around 7am when we got a lift to Crown Point and went to the Crown Point Hotel for breakfast. We arrived a good twenty minutes before breakfast started at 7.30am so we took in the view of Store Bay beach and the Caribbean Sea before a lovely breakfast.

The restaurant at Crown Point Airport has always served really nice food when we have been to Tobago in the past so we thought we would take our bags and go there for lunch before getting the shuttle to Piarco. When we tried to check in we were told that we were too early but they would try and get us on a much earlier flight – all we had to do was pop back in 40 minutes and if there was space we would be on. So we trooped off to the eatery opposite with our bags and ordered some food. You weren’t too hungry but you did drink your drink which seemed to consist entirely of sugar and colourings, it was only went you started to go mental that your mother tasted the “fruit” drink she ordered for you. But it was too late – you were all sugared up!

The food wasn’t up to much so I went to check to see if we could get on the next flight. I checked the three of us in while you and your mother were still eating – or in your case getting more and more hyper. When we went through security the guards made us take our laptops out of our bags, as we did this you ran off to cause havoc in the departure lounge – “bacchanal” is the word they use in Trinidad. When we managed to clear security you were running back and forth, still high on the effects of the sugar. We let you run around to get it out of your system before we got on the shuttle and this seemed to have worked.

When we got into Trinidad we picked up the hire car and decided to wait in Port of Spain to avoid the evening traffic. A quick recap of the times when I have shivered in Trinidad:

  1. J’Ouvert in Arouca 2002. 4am and it started to rain
  2. The Kapoc hotel in Port of Spain when I set the air conditioning was set to a very low temperature
  3. On Caroni swamp when we were moving very quickly on a mass of water after sunset

So we went to a restaurant in Movie Towne where the air conditioning was far too high. The three of us had to cuddle up to keep warm, I was close to setting fire to a menu to keep warm. The food was excellent but it was far too cold – I don’t travel to a hot country to shiver. So now I have shivered 4 times in a tropical country. You enjoyed being cuddled mind as me and your mother kept warm.

We left Movie Towne and managed to get stuck in traffic on the way to Arouca but arrived at Maraj Street in time for the Soca Monarch competition. Although you were in bed before the competition started, there was a party in the back garden as we watched the various artists performed on a big screen and consumed alcohol. The song I thought I would win was Crazy’s “Cold Sweat” and I have been singing the chorus for a while. You have recently been singing songs such as “Twinkle twinkle little star”, “Row, row, row your boat” and “Meunier, tu dors” so picking up on my rendition of “Cold Sweat” didn’t take you long. So now you are singing calypso much to the amusement of those in the know.

After settling in at Maraj Street you were able to run around in nothing more than a vest, with the cold weather in the UK you have always walked around in long trousers. So with you falling over every now and then, it was no surprise that you would take the skin off one if not both your knees. For some reason you managed to keep taking skin off your right knee. Just as it was starting to heal you would fall over again and take the scab off it. We eventually put a massive plaster over it and changed the plaster when you fell over.

The earthquake we felt was reported by The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Unit as:

February 23, 2007
At approximately 10:48am local time an earthquake occurred near Port of Spain, Trinidad at 10.61°N 61.48°W. The preliminary magnitude for this event is 4.7 and the depth was 41km. The event was felt in Arima, Cunupia, San Fernando, Point Lisas in Trinidad as well as Tobago and Upper Hopewell, St. Vincent. There has been at least one small aftershock since the earthquake occurred.

We certainly felt the shock on Maraj Street in Arouca. I had just changed your nappy and picked you up off the bed when I heard a loud bang and the whole room shook. I thought at first that I might be having a dizzy spell as the heat, lack of sleep and time difference were getting to me. The thing was, the whole room wobbled. The walls rippled and it was very odd. When we went downstairs the rest of the family confirmed that yes, there had been an earth quake and it wasn’t me.

You have been to Southend but you have never been into the sea proper. We went with Uncle Wayne and Aunty Helen to Maracas Bay for the afternoon on the same day as the earthquake where you experienced the sea, the Caribbean Sea, for the very first time. You were a little frightened of the waves coming in and out and weren’t happy when the water, although only a centimeter deep, washed over your feet. You cried out and made a run for land.

You did make a friend on the beach when you had got used to the sand and started wandering around. In a very romantic gesture you pointed up at the sky and said “moon”, and you were correct – the moon was out and overhead even though the sun was still beating down. The little girl you were talking too was not impressed – but you’ll find that in life.

There was a pelican flying over the beach and diving into the water to catch a fish or two. It had white markings on it’s head which made it look like it was wearing on old fashioned crash helmet to protect its head when it hit the water. It wasn’t the only bird I was watching on the beach but I was with your mother so I had to be discrete!

After we had finished Carnival we hopped back to Tobago for a few days R & R. The first full day we were there we went to Store Bay beach for the day. Your mother had shark for her lunch and you tried some, enjoyed it and ate some more.

On the last morning there you were playing near the bed when you moved some shoes and a scorpion came out and with bear feet, you stood on it. Luckily it didn’t bite or sting you or any one else. We vacated the room at speed and when we came back in it was no where to be found. We thought that it must have shuffled off somewhere. What worried me was that none of us had checked inside our shoes before putting them on each morning – scorpions like hiding in dark places and shoes and boots are a particular favourite. I checked my shoes and did a reccie of the room but no scorpion was wandering around. I did notice what looked like some fluff against the wall which them moved and morphed into a scorpion – I stuck a glass on it and it was then sprayed with insecticide before being removed. The hotel owner had never seen a scorpion in Tobago and hopefully we will never see one again.

I think we all had a good holiday although we are not sure when we will be going again.

P.S. We spent the night before we flew out in your God Fathers house as he lives a couple of minutes drive from Gatwick. During the night you said in your sleep “Toon Toon” and your mother, also talking in her sleep, replied “Black and White Army”. Priceless.

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March 8th, 2007 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Family,Memories

Tantie Winnie’s eulogy.

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Dear Son,

below is the eulogy that your mother wrote and read at Tanti Winnie’s funeral. It doesn’t look very long and it only took me a few moments to re-read it. Which is odd, because during the funeral service it seemed to last a lot longer. A lot of what appears here is not obvious and to those who didn’t know your great grandma, it won’t make much sense. When you are older I’m sure your mother will explain the whole story and it will all fit into place.

The Eulogy of Ms Winnifred Theodora Babel
11th January 1920 to 22nd January 2007

Today was the most rehearsed day in my mind ever since I went to live far away from home. I said to myself that one day Tantie Winnie would be gone… Now that that day is here, it is a struggle. I have lost the words because all the words in all the world’s languages would not be able to adequately describe her. Perhaps simplicity is the key and, simply, Tantie Winnie was love and loyalty personified.

The last female offspring of Joseph and Thomasine, Winnifred Theodora / Tantie Winnie / Sister Babel lived a full life. She was the consummate professional in her chosen careers of teaching and nursing. Her notable accomplishments include over 40 years of service to Health in Trinidad as a sister and midwife as well as immortal honour to all whom she knew and looked to her for love and friendship.

The connections you would have had to my grandmother would be to have known her as a sister, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother, great aunt, and friend. And I hope these words bear some resemblance to those connections. In fact I am confident that the qualities I talk about would resonate with the constancy and gravitas that my grandmother gave to all.

Tantie Winnie, we will miss you so. Especially the way you made us all feel like we were number one. Tantie Winnie left her print on everyone she met and knew. Her qualities of tenderness, dedication, loyalty, respect for other’s confidences, unconditional care and belief in what was right we would NEVER forget.

A major part of Tantie Winnie’s constitution was her attention to the long-term. She placed her loving family in the care of each other whilst she worked relentlessly and resolutely to make their lives fulfilling. Her attention to duty meant that, in spite of the difficulties, she was a strong mother, who did what needed to be done.

No doubt you were loved Tantie Winnie and your last days, in a way, exemplified your fierce independence and self-sacrifice.

I know we all will continue to hear that special laugh and see the little twinkle that was in your eyes when we think of you.

God rest your soul.

Heather Caudle nee Warner
26th January 2007

Written by Administrator

February 6th, 2007 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Family

Bored of London? Not yet!

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“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Samuel Johnson.

Dear Son,

I think that I have mentioned this before but it struck me again on the way to the airport last week – I love living in London. I have lived in many places over the years but London is the longest place I have lived any where and the house we live in now is the longest property I have ever lived in.

One of the things I like about London is the endless chatter regarding routes around town. To get to Heathrow I decided to go through the centre of town, the quickest way was down Carpenters Lane, through Hackney, down Essex Road, onto Upper Street and then left at Angel and keep following the road over the West Way until Northolt and then a left which brings you out on the M3 one junction before the Heathrow turn off. I spoke to my best man on the phone at Heathrow and we discussed the different routes and the problems each one has. Learning different routes though London and finding a short cut always gives me joy.

When we went to Trinidad for your Uncle Wendell’s wedding we got stuck when the traffic lights on the West Way became out of sync. Luckily we were able to turn off just after Angel and head for the North Circular. The time before that we were caught on the slip road into Heathrow which was jammed because a car had broken down in the tunnel to terminal 3. So it was nice this time to make really good time to Heathrow without any dramas.

The beauty of London is that almost everything is here. If I want to eat at an Afghan restaurant then go onto a Yemeni music evening before a few swift drinks in a Turkish bar – I can do. The thing is, I never choose to do this. I suppose having the choice is nice to have, something that I couldn’t do if we lived out in the sticks.

There is quite a lot of wild life in London if you know where to look – and you do! All the time you are telling me that you can see a bird, a doggie, a cat and sometimes even an elephant. You haven’t quite got the gist of squirrels yet although they are moving into the street and you don’t stay up late enough to see the urban foxes or hedgehogs that frequent our back garden.

In Trinidad we saw loads of animal that we don’t see here. Bats, parrots, hummingbirds and a great big lizard in Grandpa Warners garden. We also saw a heron in one of the drainage ditches and heard the frogs and crickets that call out all night only for the dawn chorus to kick in with first light. I watched a video shot in Trinidad and the big thing I noticed was the sound of the birds singing – something you don’t really hear in London.

I think I could live in Trinidad but I would miss the hustle and bustle of London, the finding of a cabbie route and the opportunity not to eat Mongolian curry. I am nor tired of life just yet.

Written by Administrator

February 6th, 2007 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Culture,Family