The Ninth of January.

Today, in my humble opinion, is the worst day of the year.

The ninth of January signifies the end of anything worth waiting for until Easter, which isn’t quite the big occasion it used to be either.
Christmas, the highlight of winter, is now yesterday’s wrapping paper. New Year has passed in a bleary-eyed haze of forgotten resolutions and hangover cures, (in fact it didn’t this year as I wasn’t drinking!) And my birthday, that last bastion of winter time happiness is now, but for the Amazon orders, all but over.

Officially a year older and thus closer to the grave, I now stand on the verge of the most depressing quarter of the year, January, February, March.
And oh, how I despise it.

The weather, which is almost always unforgiving around this time, is magnified in its misery by the post-Yuletide downer.

Work, the necessary evil that perniciously bores into your soul and thus takes over 90% of your thought processes, is made so much harder by the weather. Any chance of good will is crushed as miserable co-workers sullenly growl their greetings, polluting the atmosphere with their despondency; and who can blame them? One can’t help but be down when the start of the day involves a journey that could mirror a movie scene about Scott of the Antarctic or Noah’s Ark?

Then the ruinous January bills from the year before arrive to plunder your bank account, and in among this melancholy and wretchedness is you, struggling to master the usual day to day runnings of life.
Depressing isn’t it?

Well, this year I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and lose my midwinter blues in a frenzy of writing. Three unfinished manuscripts sit before me, panting to be petted by my keyboard dancing fingers, and I’m not going to disappoint them. The goal for 2015 is to finish all three and hopefully have them out in 2016.

So, I can categorically state that there’ll be no fresh novels from myself this year, but 2016 will see three being put out, either with a publisher or on my own.
There, I’ve said it and I can’t take it back!
Bring 2015 on!!

Is it summer yet…?

All the best for 2015.
As you were.


The Power of a Picture

I was on my favourite Facebook page the other day, and stumbled on an image I haven’t seen in a while. It was nothing remarkable, not an important occasion you might print out to remember; a marriage or a birth, say. No, it was simply an old picture of Tanylan, the council estate I grew up on.
I’d had that same image on my hard drive for years now, and I still like to look at it now and then, when the mood takes me. I first downloaded it in 2004 and, even though I’ve had it for such a long time, it still special. It’s a picture that stopped me in my tracks, and I think I actually said, “Wow!” to myself when I first saw it, even though it is so boringly unexceptional.
So why’s that then?
Well, in 2004, my contact with home consisted of a weekly telephone call, a couple of joke emails, and a visit once every two years. Not much, I know, but the internet wasn’t what it now is and the paucity of visits was down purely to financial constraints.
Though I was really taken with the internet, before Facebook it wasn’t the bridge to the world it has now become. This was way before even MySpace caught on in Europe, and all we had were Blogs and emails to reach out to people. Even Skype was in its infancy if it even existed at all? I remember doing an AOL videochat with a mate in the next town, and it was a complete disaster as the internet speed was laughable.
Consequently, my forays into the cyber world were a lot less intense. Whereas now I can easily lose whole days in front of the computer if left to my own devices, then I was finished with the internet inside of an hour. My daily computer ritual fell in this order, emails, blog-posts, news, sport, writing forums and it often took less time to complete than my old, second hand computer took to fire up!
One of the MANY Blogs and amateur websites I followed dealt with Colwyn Bay and the surrounding area. It was on one of those that a very nice lady posted the picture that grabbed my imagination and rattled the (up to that point) inert Hiraeth in me awake.
Hiraeth is such a great word. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition; “Hiraeth /hɪəraɪ̯θ/ is a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. The University of Wales, Lampeter attempts to define it as homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire[1] for the Wales of the past.”
In my case, it’s not so much the grief described by the University of Lampeter, as the, “longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past” that fits.
Hiraeth only ever dropped its mask of patriotic homesickness later on in life, when events took a turn for the worst. When I first left home, the ache I felt for my home town was pure homesickness, nothing more, nothing less. Ripped out of the entanglement of my mother’s apron, and thrust into an alien and comparatively Draconian environment, I was ripe pickings for the intense melancholy that shadows every move whilst yearning for home. Juniors was a mistake, I realise that now, but the experience did instil in me an independence that has carried me through life.
When I first made a life for myself in Germany, away from the military, the hankering for home was more a feeling of being lost and out of my depths in a foreign land. Suddenly I was an immigrant in a country that had once seemed so welcoming, and was in a heartbeat now so culturally and linguistically demanding. As a soldier I was immersed in the British way of life, but obviously that changed radically when I left the safe confines of the barracks to face the wide world on my own two feet. In the space of a couple of weeks I was pining for my home town with an intensity I hadn’t felt since those first confused days as a junior soldier.
However, those examples were not Hiraeth. Hiraeth goes deeper than that. It dwells far back in the mind, swelling in potency as life complicates itself with responsibility, worries and cares. Slowly devouring the thought process, it takes over the consciousness like ivy on an old wall, until one day you realise the depths of your unhappiness and you don’t understand why? You have everything you need, a family, friends, a secure job, (sort of), a roof and money to spend, and yet the satisfaction of your situation is not there. Something is missing in your soul and you can’t pinpoint what it is? That’s exactly where I was in 2004.
You see, 2004 was the first full year in our house. We’d moved into it in November the year before, and hadn’t stopped working on it since. Christmas of 2003 passed me by in a sleepless whirl of overtime at the steelworks or work in and around the house. By about May of 2004, I was beginning to wonder what exactly had we been thinking when we decided to build a house, and was looking at my finances and personal well being with a growing sense of despondency. Any money we had disappeared into the black hole that was eating up my bank account, and I was so tired, so very tired all the time. Increasingly, as I nearly always do when I’m under stress, I started to think of home.
Nowadays, when homesickness hits, I simply switch on Google Earth and cyber-walk down the streets I grew up on. Or I go to Facebook and trawl through the myriad of pictures in the photo section of, “Residents of Old Colwyn past and present”. In 2004 though, it was a different kettle of fish.
There were a few websites with old postcards, and one could glean a certain amount of contentment by recognising certain streets or views from bygone eras. However, there were no pictures of the Colwyn Bay and surrounding area of my youth. There were plenty from the last two centuries, and a whole rook of images to be found with the “new” dual carriageway, (which was still being built when I left home in September ’83), but none to be found from the sixties and seventies; MY era as it were.
As the year went on, I grew gradually more and more disheartened. I seemed to go to work, come home, then either work in the house or in a garden that resembled the second day of the Somme. I couldn’t see an end in sight, and though I was lucky in that I had some good friends who pitched in when it was needed, (my mate Bob even “borrowed” an earth mover from the firm he used to work for a couple of times!) it still seemed like I was going it alone.
Then it happened. I was flicking through the gallery in one of the Blogs I followed and I stumbled on this.

Tanylan in the 70's

There, in all its retro glory, was the Tanylan council estate of my youth. No dual carriageway scarring its perfect lines, and the buildings and playing areas as I remembered them from my carefree youth. Tanylan road, the artery running from above our estate, down to the bus stop at the bottom and off into town. The Tip, the large grassy area where we used to play football. Nolan’s bank, the wasteland between the railway and the sea; out of bounds to the young Reggie, and full of old cars, broken glass and the odd, muddy “nudey mag” that provided more sex education than biology lessons ever did.
I’ll never forget that feeling as my eyes fell on it, the present dropped away like an Aspirined headache as my delight at the find soared. I’ve only ever been moved or shocked by a few photos in my time, shocked as in rocked personally at the sight of something once remembered, or moved to stop and contemplate that time or personality. One was while looking through a load of Polaroid’s my father in law took, and in them was my recently deceased Granddad. The picture was taken on the last trip to Wales while he was alive and the shock of seeing him again, smiling up at us from his hospital bed, knocked me for six. Believe me, being so far removed from the dramas of kith and kin magnifies events dramatically when suddenly confronted with them.
Another time was a picture of my intake in Junior Leaders. I looked so young, (I still do actually… sort of. Never mind,) and seeing us all, sixteen years of age, lined up, not knowing what the future will hold for us, or the next 24 hours in fact, brought back memories of a different, more character building kind.
However, sitting there as I was, tired from shift with a mountain of work in our new house still to do, and seeing this picture of my home in Wales as I remember it being as a child, I was rejuvenated. You could say it was at that point I realised what was ailing me, what was missing in my life. I recognised the Hiraeth in me and could now deal with it.
Communication with home improved with time (and money) and now I’m in daily contact with my family and friends of old. My home town isn’t on the other side of the world anymore and I do miss Wales, but not with the force that once assailed me all those years ago.
I still look at that picture, especially after a visit from family, and think back to quieter, simpler times. It restores me, reminds me of who I am and that the shift work, the stress of supporting and maintaining the balance between family, bills and home will have an end someday, as it has had for my parents and their parents before them.
That benevolent realisation, to me, is the true power of that picture.

Alzheimer’s Disease

As a young trooper in the British Army, I was taken under the wing of one of the funniest, most impulsive, big hearted Corporals in the Regiment.
Ginge Ev, a six foot plus, red headed Iron Maiden fan from Cardiff, knew his job backwards, but despised unnecessary discipline and all the bull that goes with it. A great bloke, he could make two months on exercize in the back of an armoured personnel carrier feel like a laugh-a-day holiday outing. Anyone who knew him, knows what I’m talking about.
Ginge used to regale us with stories about the days before I joined, when the regiment was stationed in Hohne. It seemed that every hair brained rogue who had ever worn the fine uniform of the 1st the Queen’s Dragoon Guards had once run with him and his clique, and the tales were as numerous as they were outlandish and funny.
Sadly he now suffers from Alzheimer’s, a cruel disease that has changed Ginge’s life for ever. I haven’t seen him, my visits to Britain are taken up by my family, but those who have spoken with him say he has good days and bad days. Sometimes he remembers people, places and incidents, other times he simply doesn’t.
It’s hard to reconcile the man who kept us laughing through mock gas attacks, weekend OP’s and all the other miseries we packed into field life with the reports of the guy he has now become.
There’ll be no more, “How you goes, spar?”, said in a faux-Cardiff accent. No more references to Buffalo hunting, Dukes nightclub, “Bit of Business” and all the other “catch phrases” that peppered his, and thus by acquisition, our conversation. I don’t think it’s being over dramatic to say that it’s pretty tragic for anyone to lose that much of their identity, especially when the personality of that identity was so big.
Anita, his lovely wife has taken upon herself to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society, which is the reason for this post.
You probably don’t know Ginge, but any disease that can hollow out a character like him must be stopped, or funded to make it stop.
Please follow the link and give generously.
Thanks in advance.

So, what happened?

So, what happened?

Recently I spent some time in hospital.

My life has now taken a radical change, and though most people would say it’s perhaps for the best, I’m still gutted.

Let me first explain what happened. On the night of Saturday 12th July, I drove to a party to pick my daughter up. On the way home I felt a mild pain at the top of my stomach. By the time we were home, around 0130-ish, it was unbearable and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night.

I stayed up watching television until about five, when the pain died down a little.I woke up a few hours later, in agony. The pain wouldn’t go away, I thought I must have eaten something bad and decided I’d go to the village sawbones the next day.

Around dinnertime I was sick, pale and felt paralyzed by the pain. My wife, fearing I was having a heart attack, phoned an ambulance. The journey to the hospital was hell, as the driver seemed determined to hit every bump and stone on the road. We eventually arrived, they took some blood and carried out the relevant tests to determine what was wrong with me.

 Acute pancreatitis was the diagnosis, intensive care, peeing in a bottle and no food, (not that I had any appetite what so ever). I was distraught to say the least. My plans for that Sunday were at the fire brigade. €10 to quaff all the beer and eat all the bratties I could push down my ever hungry gullet, whilst watching Germany march through Argentina.

 This was not to be. The evening ended up with me on my own, strapped to a monitor that looked like something out of Space 1999, with a ten inch television and three different drips being pumped into me. True misery is something that we in the “civilized world” don’t really know much about, but on that evening, I came close to it. I mean REALLY close to it.

 The next day I had a roommate. Wolfgang, (name changed) was 56 years of age, and had drunk two bottles of schnapps and eaten a handful of pills to try and end it all. Due to the fact that he constantly ripped out his wires and tubes to “have a fag”, they were forced to tie Wolfgang down. He fought with those bindings until 3am. The man had the stamina of a draught horse, he didn’t stop! It was lucky I was pumped full of chemicals as otherwise I wouldn’t have had a wink of sleep that night.

He was actually a very charismatic person, who in between bouts of wrestling with his restraints, kept on asking me to phone his mate, who’d bring us round a couple of joints so we could party. When I pointed out the nurses would be a tad disgruntled to find us both wacked out on grass in their ward, he confidently waved my fears away with a , “Leave the nurses to me, I’ll sort it.”

He smiled a lot, asked me my name about fifty times and was funnier than I can possibly make out on here. The reason he wanted to end it all was tragic, and yet i think he knew he’d made a mistake and had learnt from it.

Around 3am I woke up to hear a male nurse talking to him.

Nurse: Okay, forget about what happened earlier, no problem.

Wolfgang: Yeah, it was stupid, I know I can’t smoke here, I don’t know what I was thinking.

Nurse: Right, I’ll take these bindings off, but no getting out of bed for a smoke, okay?

Wolfgang: Of course, it won’t happen again, I was stupid, I’m really sorry.

The nurse took the restraints off and left the room. Not three seconds after he was gone, Wolfgang’s light flicked on, and as the alarms for the heart and breathing monitors exploded like a tripped video game as he ripped the sensors off, all I heard from Wolfgang was, “Right, time for a fag at last…”

 Tuesday I spent sleeping, I also had an endoscopy, which involved pushing a tube down my throat and seeing what was what. I had another on the Wednesday, but this one was important as they also cut a small hole in my bile duct. What had happened was that a gallstone, under 2mm apparently, had lodged itself in the bile duct, restricting drastically the flow of bile into my stomach. My liver was also blocked and the poisons and what-not caused my pancreas to become inflamed. With the blockage now clear, the uric acid and bile that were trapped could now flow out, which was the key to my recovery.

However, such was the flow of poisons or uric acid, or whatever it was, into my stomach that my body couldn’t handle it. So it stored it in my knee, as the body always stores uric acid in the joints, and by Wednesday evening I had a knee that resembles a pink, hairy basketball, and enough pain to cripple a Brontosaurus.

Tuesday evening I was moved out of intensive care and into a normal ward. My knee was hurting, I was dressed in an open backed frock that I felt was an affront to my masculinity, but at least I had no monitors strapped to me and I could finally pee in the toilet.

 Wednesday I ate solid food. I wasn’t hungry but I was told to give it a go. After the first mouthful I realized I was ravenous, and yet I still only managed half the plate. Before that, I had the second endoscopy, as my stomach was still a little uncomfortable. They found nothing, which wasn’t exactly true but more on that later.

Thursday the doc saw my knee and had a fit. He was genuinely puzzled, which does not incite much confidence, believe me. He knew why it had happened, but it meant that his original diagnosis, (that I was a screaming alky, which wasn’t too far off the mark I’ll give him that) was wrong and that it was a trapped gallstone that had caused it.

 Friday they drained my knee, which was very interesting indeed. The doctor, on reading my names said, “Jones? Englander?”

Me: No, Welsh actually.

Doctor: Welsh! That’s even more interesting!

And he promptly went on to quiz me about the castles of Wales and Edward 1st.

 Saturday and Sunday I spent in hospital doing nothing but eating pills, reading, and chatting to the odd visitor. I wanted to go home, after they’d drained my knee I felt fine and it seemed daft me sitting there for no reason.

Monday I was released. I went to my GP and she told me what had happened, how the hospital had missed that I also had a stomach complaint and various other things. The results for the second endoscopy had shown that I had a long standing complaint in my stomach, but somehow the doc in the hospital missed it. Anyway, she gave me some drugs for it, they drew some blood, and I’ll know the results on Monday.

So, after that minor drama, where does it leave me?

Pancreatitis is a very serious condition. For one on five cases in can lead to death. I was lucky; I seem to have escaped the sharper end of the deal. However, a radical change in lifestyle is now called for. Gone are my days of quaffing into the wee hours with my mates, in fact drinking alcohol is now completely out of the game plan for the next couple of months, perhaps longer. After that, I can drink a couple now and then, but nowhere near the “parched elephant seal” levels of imbibing I used to partake in. For me, the landscape has changed drastically, and though I hate the fact that I’m not indestructible, I’ll have to face it and deal with it like the adult I’m not… bah.

I told a friend of mine about it yesterday, and he said there are some things more important than drinking with your friends, like life.

And he’s right. I know I never want to put my family through that again, so I’m taking it seriously.

Many thanks to the people who have written or phoned me, I do appreciate your kind words, (be they judgmental or not, I know you mean well).

I’d also like to thank the nurses of Salzgitter Krankenhaus. The doctors didn’t really inspire me, but the sisters and their tireless, good natured endeavours made my stay there a lot more bearable. Nurses of the world, YOU ROCK !!

Take care and thanks for reading this to the end.


Christmas 2013

I spent the evening of Christmas day at my brother’s house with the family. We had a great time and, as is more often than not the case, I was the last to leave. It was about 5 am, and with no taxis about I decided to walk to Tanylan.

On a cloud of alcohol-fuelled melancholy I sauntered up through Old Colwyn, passing The Plough, where I bought my first beer in OC, (after a sixth form Christmas panto I visited while on leave from Junior Leaders) to the crossing where my mam used to wait for me as a child after school. I paused at where Radio Rentals once stood, and remembered how we used to visit once a week to pay the rent on our TV. I always dodged inside to the pet shop next door to speak to the nice old man who used to run it, and ogle the fishes. Always friendly, we’d buy budgie seed from him, and he regularly gave a playful wink as he tipped an extra scoop into the bag for us. Little things seem to be so much more with a personal touch.

The Red and The Sun came next, places I occasionally visited during my youth but have played a more prominent role in my trips home over the last couple of years. Up from the tight little road leading from Llawr Pentre, I stopped to look at where The Ship once ruled the waves, sad at its demise. Next to it, Oldham’s, where we used to spend a couple of pence for chips after Cubs, before carrying on to Banksies where I once had a paper round.

My round ran from Endsleigh road through to Tanylan, and I’ll never forget the shocked elation at the amount of tips I received on my first Christmas.

“They must be happy with you then.” Allan Banks said when I told him, which made me feel ludicrously proud at the time.

I walked past the park towards the Lyndale, where my in-laws always stay when they visit from Germany, to what was once the Queen’s Hotel. The old front entrance is now bricked in but the semblance of a main door is clear to see, and with the lights on, I was suddenly whisked back to a Christmas party that either the British Legion or the Vic Club held there when I was eight or nine. The Queen’s was the first pub I went to with my Tad for a pint. Strained and alien as it was to sit with the man who ruled our house, it’s an event that still sits in my head as being one of the barriers crossed from boy to man. Now we talk about everything, but then we were two very different people, trying to find common ground and realising it was too hidden to see.

After passing the Vic, one of the places that symbolised my infrequent visits home as a young soldier, I turned in to the hole in the wall and ambled down St. David’s road. The morning was windy, with a light drizzle, yet clear, and I could see the curve of the bay pegged out in lights. As I always do when I return home, I pondered on what I’d lost when I left for the army on that consequential day in September 1983.

Someone a lot wiser than I once said that home is where we were happy as children, and that’s what I’d left behind. My home.

The slow death of Colwyn Bay pier.

As a child growing up in Old Colwyn, the village next to Colwyn Bay, the imaginary borders of my home town were an imposing white hotel perched on the cliff overlooking it, and a pier that stabbed out into the sea. Everything after the pier was Rhos on sea to me then, the next village along the coast, and that reasoning has stuck in my head ever since. To me, these two objects were boundary markers set in stone, never to be moved or demolished, and I couldn’t imagine Colwyn Bay without either of them.

The, “Hotel 70 Degrees”, (or, “The 70’s” as we called it, even when it changed its name to the Colwyn Bay Hotel), was built in 1972 and became a noted piece of the local scenery fairly quickly. Eye catching and smart, it was visible for miles due to its position on top of Penmaen head, the rock overlooking the bay, and its dazzling white walls.

Alas, the only constant in life is change, and buildings are never as safe as we believe them to be. After facing the harsh northern winds of the Irish Sea for over thirty years, the 70’s finally fell to an even harsher economic climate, and was killed off by a pen and a planning permission form.

The hotel was replaced by some very pricey blocks of flats that peer down their noses at the sprawl of the council estate I grew up on. To me, now a tourist to my home town, but once as native a Welshman as Owain Glyndŵr, Penmaen head will never be the same without that iconic palace of a building holding court over those below it.

However, a building built in the early seventies can hardly be called a piece of local heritage. Fetching and swish as it was in its heyday, it’s fair to say the 70’s was only so well known because of its exceptional positioning.

Okay then, what about my other imaginary town limit, a Grade 2 listed building, built in 1900 and as much a part of Colwyn Bay’s identity as the sea?

The pier has been a part of the Colwyn Bay scenery since the turn of the last century. Having survived fire and the worse Poseiden can throw at it; it too has now fallen to a callous fiscal environment and the apathy, and some may say malice of the county council.

I spent my youth on its salted boards, be it fishing with my tad and brother, playing the machines with my friends, or at the disco on my infrequent visits home as a young soldier. The pier wasn’t just one of my imagined boundaries; it was a statement of intent for the whole of the Bay area. The land Colwyn Bay sits on was bought by a group of Manchester businessmen in 1865 with the sole idea of making it into a seaside resort, and every seaside resort of note has a pier.

On the 12th December, 2013, the Conwy County Borough Council voted to tear it down. Citing a lack of funds for the project, a project that has been under their wing since March 2012, they’ve opted to demolish it and have done with the problem.  No money they said, despite the fact they’ve recently spent millions on a white elephant on the seafront, (Porth Eirias stands on Colwyn Bay promenade, and has been nominated for The Carbuncle Cup, an award for the worst modern architecture built in the last 12 months) and paid for sand for a new beach to be pumped in from the sea.

As sad as that may be, for me, the real disgrace is that the pier’s death has been so horribly protracted and ugly. Riddled with egos and broken promises, the handling of the whole situation reads like a corruption scandal you normally expect to see in an Eastern European country. If the website run by the businessman who bought the pier in 2003 is to be believed, then I despair for my home town and its running.

Mr. Steve Hunt moved into the area with the best intentions in the world, namely to revive the Victoria Pier to be a functioning part of the town. He bought the pier as a private owner and set about refurbishing it. After a hotly disputed wrangle in the courts over unpaid taxes, Mr. Hunt was declared bankrupt in 2008 and the management of the pier was vested in trustees, Royce Peeling Green (RPG). Mr. Hunt maintains that records and money have been hidden so he couldn’t use them as evidence, of personal vendettas against him colouring the councils dealings and insanely careless book keeping.

His website routinely labels the Conwy County Borough Council as corrupt and has a list of crimes and misdeeds made by councillors that beggars belief. Obviously, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that Mr. Hunt is paranoid, maybe a liar and definitely suffering from a case of sour grapes. However, a visit to his website and the page titled, “Named and shamed. Council officers exposed”, sets his grievances down publicly in black and white, with this declaration at the foot of the page,

“Again I challenge any of the above individually, or CCBC as a whole, to sue me for Libel if they wish to allege any of the above FACTS are not TRUE.

Come on CCBC…
I dare you…
Your continued acquiescence proves your guilt.”

To the uninitiated, like myself, it’s a shocking state of affairs, and one I find hard to reconcile with my image of a benevolent county council seeking what’s best for its constituents. I was, at first, ambivalent about Mr. Hunt and his venture. The pier was a part of my childhood and youth, as it has been for countless other people, and for sentimental reasons I wanted it saved. Conversely, at such great cost to the taxpayers when money is so tight, I wondered at the practicalities of such a venture, and the running costs after its refurbishment?

However, after reading through Mr. Hunt’s website and the list of mismanagement, shamefully bad decisions and law breaking, I’ve found myself driven into the “save the pier” corner by my anger. The challenge at the bottom of the page says everything to me; Mr. Hunt can’t be telling lies if he so publicly throws the gauntlet down like that, can he?

Before the pier can be demolished it must be de-listed. The first foray into the battle will be to fight this in the courts. If you are from the North Wales area, or you have an interest in this subject for whatever reason, I urge you to visit Mr. Hunt’s website and have a read. You will be shocked, I promise you.

Hopefully there’ll be a petition soon, because the public voice is only ever heard when we stand together, and I’ll be asking you to please put your name to it if you have an interest in the subject.

Saving the pier is not impossible, I read in the Daily Post that a Heritage Lottery Fund application for £4.37m is currently in the second stage, and the council could still claim close to £4m from EU funding and £4m from community grant funds for renovation. However, when the pier’s gone, it’s gone, and there’ll be no going back. So surely it’s best to try and find the money rather than give up?

Thanks for reading.


Update 16/12/13
Here’s the petition, please sign it. Many thanks in advance.

Bluenote and their part in my downfall.

Bluenote e.v.


I used to have a very good mate called Dave Kelly.

Dave was English, but being the clever lad he was he opened up an Irish bar and called it, “Kellys”, which went on to be a winner.


Kellys was, for me at that time, just what I needed. A mate with his own pub is something guys like myself appreciate in a big way. Ladies, if you could imagine having a BFF with her own shoe shop, well it was like that with Dave and his pub; though not quite as gossipy and touchy-feely.

Dave was a real mate. He’d phone on a slow day, usually in the week, and innocently ask if I was up for a bit of a drink? I worked shifts then; I still do actually, and consequently my weekends would often fall in the working week. So Dave’s offer of a little drink, a quiet chat, maybe a jam, (my drums were set up there permanently, as I wasn’t in a band at the time), was just the jobby for a guy who regularly worked Saturday nights while the world was partying.

We’d sit at the bar and drink till the cleaning ladies kicked us out, playing along to songs, singing our heads off… like I say, a mate with a pub… well, it’s just PERFECT!


Anyway, it was in Kellys that I first met Horst and Norbert Krups. Horst helped Dave out behind the bar occasionally, (actually, we ALL helped Dave behind the bar occasionally, but that’s another thing entirely) and was as mad about good music, Guinness and whiskey as Dave was; so obviously they got on like a house on fire.


Dave wanted Kellys to be a music pub, as he loved the Blues and Irish music scene. So he set about finding Blues, Folk and Celtic bands to play live. It’s a given that Horst and Norbert helped, and slowly but surely the foundations of what would be Bluenote were set.


The problem was that Kellys, though successful, wasn’t taking in the money needed to finance the bands they wanted. Dave had some good names coming in, but good bands demand their tribute, so the Krups brothers had a brainwave. Why not start a club dedicated to promoting and presenting live music? Then the people who join could help finance the acts, work the door, maybe help set up instruments etc etc etc. In return, they’d have the chance to see the great Blues/Folk/Celtic bands they all enjoyed but were proving too costly for Dave to book.



I think it’s clear to anyone reading this now that the Bluenote guys and gals were, and still are true music lovers. The club’s entire income, after outgoings, went into sorting more bands out to play at the pub, which grew in stature with every gig. It was a symbiosis tailor-made for Dave, with Horst and Norbert sorting the music out, and Kellys providing the venue and beer. Gradually the name Bluenote became synonymous with the pub as bands turned up to play from all over Europe. It was a great time, and I can’t count how many drunken nights I had there, singing my head off and quaffing pints of Guinness, (when I wasn’t working shift, of course).


Alas, the match made in heaven was cut short. Dave asked the landlord if, as they’d agreed, he’d cut the rent to a reasonable price. At the time he was paying an exorbitant amount of money for the pub, but he’d been assured that after two years it would be reduced. However, now the landlord decided it was too good a cow not to milk, and he mentioned to Dave he was thinking about upping the lease.


So, after a mild tantrum and a lot of thought, he dropped my drums off, (and gave me his old set), and left for Britain never to return.

Suddenly the good people of Bluenote were set adrift with nowhere to go.


Well, that’s not exactly true, as Wolfenbüttel is full of great venues, you just have to find them, and Bluenote weren’t going to let a minor problem like lack of location stop their march. They used the castle in Wolfenbüttel for a while, and an old Italian restaurant for a couple of gigs as well, (which had excellent acoustics as there’s a lot of wood in the building to soak up the echo). They carried on booking acts, and sold the “refreshments” themselves, making a lot of friends in the process.


Like a phoenix from the ashes of Kellys, Bluenote rose out of the shadow of the Irish bar it had spent its formative years in, and was suddenly a power in its own right.


After surviving Dave’s departure so well, the next black mark was just over the horizon to test them. A very influential Blues guitarist, by the name of Chris Jones, passed away in 2005. Chris had made a big impression on the Blues scene in Germany before then. With his easy going nature and excellent musical ability, the man was naturally charismatic, and his time with Bluenote made its mark on the club.

To mark his passing, they decided to honour his name with a music festival. Every year, since 2005, Bluenote have invited artists from all over the globe to perform on their stage and endorse the charity Chris Jones supported when he was alive. The celebration itself has moved from strength to strength, with no sign of stopping, and is now a regular “sold out” institution on the Wolfenbüttel calendar. I can say from personal experience, if ever a party managed to capture those old days in Kellys, it’s this one, despite the poignant history behind the occasion.


Another annual highlight is the “Celtic Christmas”. Guinness and whiskey, a liberal splattering of Celtic music and dance, and a whole wad of Christmas cheer go to make this one of THE events of the year in Wolfenbüttel. I was able to find the time off work to go to one, and the atmosphere was electric.

I’m a Welshman, and have nothing really Irish or Scottish within me, but even I couldn’t fail to be moved by the stirring Scottish songs and mournful Irish ballads, especially as the Guinness and whiskey seemed to go down so well…


Anyway, that’s my condensed version of Bluenote’s history. I’m happy and proud to say I was there when my friends called the press to Kellys and told the local rag their plans all those years ago, (in November 2001 actually! I went to the pub to pick my jacket up after a hard night and there they were). I’m also glad to be able to say that the club is now a major mover in the music scene in and around the Wolfenbüttel area.

So here’s to you, my friends in Bluenote!

May your success march on, yet your heart stay where it is!


Iechyd da.