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The Most Unfriendly Town in England

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Welcome to Chipping Campden, the most unfriendly town in England.

It’s no good: it’s been two years, and I still can’t let it go.

Our holiday in the Cotswolds was fantastic – and, I repeat, fantastic - but I can’t shake the memory of that fateful morning we spent in Chipping Campden: the only town I have ever walked out of in complete loathing and disgust. We were so looking forward to going there, as it’s a place renowned for the beauty of its traditional buildings and country atmosphere. Here’s how excited we were before we arrived:

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Here’s how excited we were WHEN we arrived:

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This lasted until we tried to ‘pop into a nice cafe/restaurant for lunch’. Unfriendly just doesn’t cover what the lovely owners of eateries in Chipping Campden have to offer holiday makers, especially if said holiday makers happen to be parents. The first greeting went something like ‘We’re FULL!’ (barked at us against a backdrop of several empty tables with no reservation signs on them. The second was equally pleasant, when a woman with an extremely pinched face failed to offer any welcome beyond pointing straight at our pushchair and saying ‘Are you going to fold THAT up or leave it outside?’. Seriously, no ‘hello’ no ‘sorry, we don’t allow pushchairs in here’ – nothing. I smiled, folded up the pushchair, considered being extremely rude back, managed to rise above that and calmly suggested to my wife that we eat somewhere else. Three further, and – shockingly – equally asinine snubs later – we ended up in a small, student-run cafe in a neighbouring town.

Chipping Campden is a beautiful place made ugly by the attitude of its residents to visitors. The local attitude, perfectly described by Eddie Izzard as the strokey-bearded, folks from round here aren’t from round here, mentality made me sick. Here is the face I pulled when I left Chipping Campden:

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…and here is the face I have for the people of Chipping Campden now:

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Easter Holidays

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It’s Easter, and we decided to take the children to Leeds Castle. Sure, it costs the same as taking out a small mortgage, but it’s still a very beautiful place and a former haunt of the lovely, singular and extremely late King Henry VIII (you must remember him: he’s the ginger bastard who murdered two wives, cut another two loose, lost the one he actually loved and ended up withering to dust at the feet of one who finally decided she could outlive the shrivelled carcass he’d mutated into).

Sebastian wanted to go because he knew a lot of Knightmare (series 4) had been shot against the backdrop of Leeds Castle, and he wanted to get a photograph next to the Dunnswater: Evie just wanted to be in every photograph, because she thinks the camera makes a new frozen Evie every time it clicks. Here they are:

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Evie took a long time deciding how she wanted to look for the trip. This particular look was swiftly rejected:

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….though, personally, I thought it was AWESOME. Anyway…..off we went. The Easter Egg trail at Leeds Castle is a tiny bit misleading, it has to be said. It costs £1 per child (on top of the £64 family pass) and you’re promised two Easter Eggs at the end of it. In truth, the two eggs you get are actually the size of a smurf’s testicles, but you’re basically so worn out by the 500 square mile trek that you’ll gratefully take what you’re given and then simply stagger back to the 18000 capacity car park where you will try (and fail) for several hours to find your car.

Before all that, Bastian made a firm effort to out-muscle a tree:

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The kids made unfortunate faces while mummy held out for a ‘lovely family photograph’:

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Chiara and I were in heaven when we discovered that Leeds Castle (integrity restored) now has a Costa:

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and Evie told us – through gurgles, burps and giggles – that her favourite part of the holiday was finding THIS weed on the drive:

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Awesome fun.

 

Bloke Called Dave: Celebrating 10,000 Views!

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As we just reached our 10,000th view for the year, I thought it might be an idea to list our most popular posts for those of you who might have missed them!

THE BLOKE CALLED DAVE TOP TEN (to date)

1. Fire! Arson! Shock!

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2. St. George’s School & The Estate Agent From HELL

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3. In Public…

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4. Holy Trinity School: The Forgotten Years

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5. The Reason I Don’t Do Pubs…

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6. Taking Your Small Children Out For Pizza…

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7. Smoking Frogs….

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8. He Thinks You’re Okay

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9. Wetting Yourself in Public: Your DIY Guide

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10. PAIN…

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Artist Bears

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I’m currently learning the difference between the ‘perceived definitions’ of the Gifted & Talented programs in the academic world. Apparently, a talent is something you can create, work at, nurture and grow….whereas a gift is an innate ability that ignites like a fresh wellspring when tapped! Examples of this were given in the discussion I attended: a talent is something like writing. You might have to be good with language to start with, but you can certainly get a lot better by studying the masters (and mistresses) of your trade. The gift example given was a boy who picks up a flute for the first time and could pretty much accompany an orchestra within a few days.

By these definitions, my mother-in-law has a talent for making teddy bears. She’s really very good at it: very good indeed. It wasn’t even a hobby to begin with: she used to collect dolls houses and equip them with that tiny, elegant furniture available in the few independent stores that still cater for such an interest.

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Everything changed when my wife started collecting ‘Artist Bears’. Now, you might not be familiar with the term: I wasn’t. You see, there are teddy bears…and there are Teddy Bears. I use the capital letters because I’m making a big statement: there are people all over the country who have turned making teddy bears into a complete and very accomplished art form. Each of the bears these folks produce are individual, and you can’t duplicate them. Entirely the opposite of the mass-produced bears you might pick up in toyshops or ‘bear factories’, these are bears crafted completely by hand to a specification decided upon by the artist.

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There are bear ‘fairs’ up and down the country to celebrate and sell these beautiful creations, including a notable yearly exhibition fair in Kensington. I’d invite you to delve into this amazing little world, as it contains some incredibly colourful characters…..some with fur and some without!

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My wife became a dedicated bear collector for about five years, both making her own little bears and buying them from other artists. These usually ranged in price from £50 or £60 up to £140 (I purchased the latter – an expensive beast with porcelain eyes – from a lady in Rochester). She talked her mother into going with her to a few of the fairs, and Olive became completely hooked on the hobby: first as a collector and then as a creator of her own unique little characters! Check out her wonderful creations at Lottie Lollipop Bears … and tell her I sent you.

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Fidget Goes FREE

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For five days only, Fidget is FREE on Amazon worldwide: download your copy today! See below the image for the links:

“There’s no such thing as a Bad Fairy, Oscar. That’s what my dad always says. It’s his motto, on the good days. On the bad days, he doesn’t really have one. On the bad nights, my whole world just swirls into the dark. Tonight is very bad….here.”

Fidget by Davey Stone (Amazon UK / USA)

Fidget by Davey Stone (Amazon UK / USA)

UK edition HERE
USA edition HERE

The Year of Loss Continues: RIP Sue Townsend

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Sue Townsend has died, and people are saying that her death signals the end of an era. For me, this is true….but it’s really a cumulative effect. If you look over the past year or so, a number of ‘field-leading’ authors have died. Just look at this group:

Sue Townsend, whether you’re a fan of the Adrian Mole series or not, was the leader in her field: even if you put aside the incredibly clever humour and very realistic angst of her early books, you still have to concede that she started the comedy diary format that has proved so popular with millions today – via a slightly different format – in the Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. RIP Sue.

Tom Sharpe. The absolute and undisputed master of British humour, perhaps second only to Terry Pratchett in the consistent quality of his output. From early bestsellers like Riotous Assembly, The Throwback and Wilt to modern chart-toppers like The Midden and The Gropes, Tom was an author you could always rely on to cheer you up. It could also be argued that his ‘Porterhouse Blue’ novel was a big inspiration for Discworld’s Unseen University faculty. RIP Tom.

James Herbert. Herbert regularly battled with Stephen King throughout the early eighties for the No.1 bestseller spot. From ‘The Rats’ (series) to heart-stopping page turners like Haunted, Creed and The Jonah, Jim was always the principal UK author of horror fiction. The eerie sense of time and place he managed to convey in his early books cannot be easily duplicated. RIP Jim.

Iain Banks. Iain was a great writer of contemporary fiction, but if – like me – you loved him better as Culture-creator Iain M. Banks, then you’ll probably agree that he was far and away the best author of SF and space-opera novels of his time. Books like ‘Consider Phlebas’, ‘Player of Games’ and ‘Use of Weapons’ will ensure that he is loved and remembered for generations to come, while his contemporary fiction (The Wasp Factory, The Crow Road, etc) has, in many cases, an entirely different army of fans. RIP Iain.

We can best thank all of them for their contributions by re-reading their works and spreading the word of their talent to our friends and family. 

 

InnerYou

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Just a quick notice for readers of the blog: InnerYou, one of my SF short stories, is FREE to download on Amazon Kindle for the next few days. The links for both the UK and US copies are below the cover.

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UK readers, click HERE
USA readers, click HERE

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