June 16, 2019 by Mike Madden

Kiev To Tobago And Fifty Shades Of Zac

Kids! Zac and Ole have decided to get boxing pads to keep them fit during the summer. Not sure how this one will go! Mum paid for them, and they cost £20, so Ole said he would paint some fences to cover this, on the proviso that Zac also helped. Mum agreed, and said they could do a couple of hours. Zac was not impressed. “That’s £10 and hour, that’s only just above minimum wage.” His outrage got worse when it was pointed out that the £10 per hour was between two of them. “I’ll give you half an hour,” he said.

Ole has now finished for the summer, except for a few TV Workshop performances, and Zac has certainly missed his brother, though he might not admit it. Last week Zac decided to try to take a day off sick, but mum was having none of it. He got into position with his head over the toilet, but mum came in, put her hand on his forehead and said, “no fever.” Meanwhile, Ole videoed the whole episode on his phone, until Zac collapsed into fits of laughter, thereby ensuring he had to go to school, and he had an X-Box ban when he returned. But that was not all. Once the ban was lifted, Zac wanted to get straight back at it. “Where’s my controller?” he demanded, and mum was not sure. “I gave it to Ole to hide, and I don’t know where he put it.” “Right, that’s a forfeit,” said Zac.

I have a role at DLA Piper in Leeds that has led to two trips to Kiev in the Ukraine, with more to follow. Its an interesting place. Vodka retails at anything from 98p per bottle, and they sell this little beauty!

Of course, being an ex part of Russia, they love their beetroot and potatoes, and their traditional Borscht, a hearty beetroot soup, is generally accompanied by a very large horseradish vodka that is downed in one.

A five course meal at a very nice Japanese restaurant came in at £61, but other places could be hit and miss. This was supposed to be a lager but tasted more like Robinson’s mild!

It certainly wasn’t good for washing down this burger that was a cross between pork, chicken and beef, with enough bread to feed a family of four for a week.

The underground is very efficient, if a little confusing!

However, the most surreal experience so far has been the family orientated dancing in national dress to a backing track of Michael Jackson with lyrics in Ukrainian. On our final night we had a beer at a Turkish Karaoke bar. We did not venture inside – maybe next time!

Had a bit of an accident with an almond that led to a broken tooth. As ever, I went to the dentist with some trepidation and he offered to numb the area before having a go at it. Despite my aversion to needles I told him to go ahead, and he proceeded to give me a completely pain free injection, followed by a pain free procedure to rebuild the tooth. It was amazing, and such a far cry from the medieval dentistry of my youth. In fact, the only pain came when I got the bill!

Zac’s participation in the Duke Of Edinburgh award scheme has raised some eyebrows, not least when his group completely failed to erect a tent in a practice session.

Undeterred they ploughed on, with Zac confident in his group’s ability. “I bring comedic value,” he said, “and they bring smarts”. He was also optimistic when he put together his food list for the practice expedition. Not wanting to feel left out he included a sausage casserole flavoured pot noodle. Needless to say, that remained untouched. Unfortunately the weekend was ruined by the weather, and it was a rather sodden Zac that returned on the Saturday morning.

It looks like being a long summer with Ole being home – he likes to let his mum know that he is in charge! These two text exchanges kind of sum that up!

I seem to have been making a lot of chocolate cakes recently – and they are very popular. Gooey, sticky, and a balance of dark and milk. There’s also a bit of Nutella in the ganache!

That one will definitely be appearing in Mmm…No2…Cookbook if I ever get around to finishing it. Meanwhile, They Will Not Play Again is a finalist in the Poetry Matters competition, and my sci fi short story The Hole is now at the editing stage.

Ole has been doing some readings, including A Day Of Nothing from the short story collection Watching Horsepats Feed The Roses by bestselling author Caroline England.


Love a Caribbean holiday, and Tobago was perfect. It rivals Antigua for one of the most laid back and relaxed places on earth. Of course, its not an easy journey, and it began with a car ride to Gatwick the day before our flight. Sally had already been on the upgrade trail without success, but Premium Economy on Virgin is not too bad! We dropped the car at the Holiday Inn and dined at their rather expensive restaurant, then the following morning we took a short bus ride to the terminal. Gatwick is not a great airport, seemed too busy to be able to relax, but we didn’t have too long to wait before we boarded the plane. Several hours later we landed in St Lucia, then an hour or so after that we were in Tobago. It was a quick transfer to our hotel, and the rum punch was a very welcoming welcome drink.

There was one very stressful moment, which I wont go into in too much detail here, but when you are several thousands of miles away and your neighbour decides to break into your garage, open it up and cook a hog roast in there for his party its going to get under your skin. I suspected something like this would happen, he’d already asked if some of his guests could camp in the garden which we had refused, and he had already been turned away by his other neighbour who came home to find someone already pitching a tent in their garden.

Back to more pleasant matters. The hotel was quiet, but in a great position to see the native turtles come ashore to nest. We were fortunate that one decided to lay its eggs on the first night we were there, but we were even more fortunate later in the week when another did the same in broad daylight.

Very privileged to witness this – it normally happens at night. This brave lady swam thousands of miles to return to the place of her birth to lay her own eggs. She climbed the steep beach before spending over an hour in baking heat digging her own nest where her eggs, and eventually her hatchlings, would be safest. The egg laying process takes another hour, after which she spends around 90 minutes covering over those precious eggs. Finally, exhausted and disorientated, she makes her way back to the sea. So next time your woman complains about a bit of pain during childbirth…. 😂😂😂😱😱😱

Posted by Mike Madden on Monday, 3 June 2019

Another highlight was a trip to Corbins’ wildlife park. This very enthusiastic local has dedicated his life to the conservation of Tobago’s wildlife. The animals are fascinating, but Roy Corbin himself is the real star of the show, engaging his visitors and giving a very personal account of his wildlife centre.


Ole didn’t see this one coming

After our visit Roy took us on a rollercoaster ride in the back of his open truck along some scary roads, eventually dropping us at a local pub.

Another adventure came as our local guide, Frankie, took us to Pigeon Point, supposedly the best beach in Tobago. It was a little disappointing as a beach, but we had a few beers at Traditions bar and boarded a boat. Our first stop was a reef out in the open ocean. The sea was choppy and my snorkel mask was faulty, letting in a lot of water, so I had to call for help to get pulled back to the boat which had drifted some fifty yards away. I’m quite a strong swimmer, but it is easy to see how you can get into difficulties amongst the waves. We left the snorkelling place and dropped anchor at the Nylon Pool. This remarkable place is a shallow pool in the middle of the ocean. Very warm and relaxing, even when one of the other people flew a drone over everyone that crashed into the sea.

Back on land we were soon back in Traditions where the owner was very friendly, and he was only too happy to provide Zac with a full lobster. He tucked in with great gusto, something that he only normally does with sausages or chocolate cake, whilst I stuck to the goat curry.

He has had lobster before, but just some frozen stuff from Tesco. Now we will have to make this a part of his regular diet!

Back at the hotel Ole and Zac managed to improvise a game of cricket in the lush grounds, and they had a lot of fun in the sometimes scary waves that threw warm spray on to our beach.

The return was a little tiring, especially the drive back from Gatwick after an overnight flight, I wonder if Virgin will ever have a proper Caribbean offering from Manchester?

Following our return we did indeed purchase lobster. This was pre-cooked – just needed warming through. The prospect of boiling a live one was never going to be considered. Anyway, it was cooked, and then we discovered that a knife and fork does not really work with lobsters. A hammer was the most effective implement, and that help to extract most of the claw meat. The tail meat was equally as problematic, but when it finally emerged Zac once again tucked in, without ketchup! Looks like we have some lobster crackers to order from Amazon!

Do you ever get the impression that your partner is trying to bump you off? Here is a message I was very tempted to send to the local police force!

Well Officer, she said she’s not very good at changing smoke detector batteries, even though she does plumbing, electrical, joinery, etc. So then she went out and left me to it. Yes I would need a chair, and of the 4 kitchen chairs it just so happened that the nearest one to the smoke detector had a dodgy leg. Yes the detector is close to a lot of glass and other sharp objects. So then the leg fell off the chair. Fortunately I have a dodgy back which went in to spasm so I fell straight down rather than in to the glassware. The doctors said I will probably walk again before the end of the year but with a permanent limp. Yes I agree officer, a clear and premeditated case of attempted murder. The ironic thing was – it was the carbon monoxide detector that was beeping! The smoke detector was, you might say, a smokescreen.

Ofsted rocked up at Chapel School, and they may regret selecting Zac for one of their interviews, as might the school itself! “What do you know about knife crime?” was their first question! They looked at his schoolbooks, and it turns out that the last time he could be bothered to add a date to any pieces of work was at least five months ago.

Now, I know that Zac is perfectly capable of producing good work, he just does not see why he should. Everyone knows he is smart, so why should he be a “try hard”? Well, I challenged him to improve his English. During one of my Kiev trips I asked him to read fifty pages (remember that number) of a book and then write a summary of those fifty pages which I would assess on my return. The book was The Secret Of Terror Castle, one of the Alfred Hitchcock mysteries that I remember from my youth. Not written by Mr Hitchcock, but clearly displaying his name. So, Zac reluctantly agreed, and eventually produced his summary. It started well, but then his laziness kicked in. Capitalisation, repeated words, and an everlasting sentence that should have been divided into at least four or five parts. However, the most telling part came towards the end. After writing that the Three Investigators were visiting haunted houses (including Terror Castle), he wrote “by page 50 the boys had entered Terror Castle”. I thought that this was a bit too specific, and the reason was obvious. He had to admit that he had skipped several pages and picked up the narrative at page fifty to meet the requirements of the challenge. I suspect he will be a little more devious during his next challenge.

Well, my trainers arrived! I had to pay an extra £17.18 in customs charges, but they were still cheaper than they would have been in the UK, if they had been available over here. I think they look magnificent – and with their tiger theme I will be wearing them when we watch the Bengals face the Rams at Wembley in October.

Finally, I had a car crash. Not a serious one, someone reversed into me, and they were travelling very slowly. However, the convoluted involvement of insurance companies and solicitors make me think that this is just a money making exercise. My car was in for repair for about 10 days. It was the sort of damage that could be fixed in a couple of hours at a local garage. During this time I had a very uncomfortable hire car, but I didn’t expect to have it for that length of time. When I got the car back I had to pay my excess of £350. This would be reimbursed by the other party’s insurance. Except, because I had legal cover, the legal firm would recover that for me. No doubt at great expense to the other party. As it stands, over a period of about four weeks, I have had two phone calls and two letters from the solicitor, but no excess!