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Oliver Phillips

Oliver Phillips

The hottest Spanish holiday we have ever experienced

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 31st July 2015

There is much to be said for having an annual holiday at the same place, if you can also afford second holiday exploring other countries. We have been returning to the same village for 36 years and we are not alone.

Oliver Phillips

I do not listen to music yet I hear and still buy it. It is totally random.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 26th June 2015

Perhaps my music collection could be judged narrow by some, varied by others but it is the random nature of how I stumbled across my favourites, that intrigues me.

Oliver Phillips

My Folly seemed destined to become overgrown with weeds, briars and nettles but it transpires it is not about to be buried by nature

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 19th June 2015

I spent so many hours, weeks, months and over six years converting an orchard in Limousin into a lawned garden, it was quite a wrench to leave it. But I feel fine about it now.

Oliver Phillips

Why can't modern parents say no or my pool water become clear

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 12th June 2015

It is not original for a columnist to write a column about not knowing what to write about. Almost certainly that is because it has happened to others frequently over the years. The thought-processes involved are often quite bizarre, I suspect.

Oliver Phillips

Ellie rummages in the local dustbin and I stand in a metre of pond water discussing our banking with their visiting representative

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:20pm Friday 5th June 2015

I am up to my waist in pond water while Ellie is poking about in the local, communal dusting trying to retrieve an envelope for the bank, using an elongated claw. It is all part of the hectic life of retirees.

Oliver Phillips

The sign outside a Watford eatery advertised five 'traditional English lunches'. Must be a very modern tradition.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:20pm Friday 29th May 2015

I was stunned by a sign inviting us into an eatery offering the choice of five "traditional British lunches". It did not take rocket science to note that two were Italian and one an Indian dish.

Oliver Phillips

I had dug ponds before but someone 100 years or so ago, had seen me coming

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 22nd May 2015

There are various eras in one's life and I cam to the end of one last week as I approached my 74th birthday feeling distinctly exhausted. I love working outside but the time has come to ease back the throttle.

Oliver Phillips

I think selling at a car boot sale signifies a reluctance to accept you have collected absolute junk

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 15th May 2015

Car boot sales go by a different name in France, which means Empty Attic. This principle remains the same although even when you are asking half a euro for something, they still attempt to knock down the price.

Oliver Phillips

Could the direction of rock and pop have been changed by a collision at sea?

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 8th May 2015

Some old timers try Sudoku or crossroads to keep their minds active. John and I, at 75 and soon to be 74 respectively, keep our brains active by a form of memory-tennis.

Oliver Phillips

Ryanair wanted to charge me £139 for a flight they were offering for £24.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 8:23pm Monday 4th May 2015

I "wasted" £109 on a back-up flight back to the UK in case the air-traffic controllers walked out again. They didn't and so I tried to change the flight for a later date. That was a shock when I tackled the Ryanair website and found it far from helpful.

Oliver Phillips

A new hair-do can work wonders for women. It can also work for dogs as well.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 12:50pm Friday 24th April 2015

Anyone who has had a dog, particularly for a number of years, will know the hole it leaves when you have to part with him. But do dog feel a similar loss?

Oliver Phillips

For once I did not buy one of the first two puppies to come to us when we looked at the litter

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 12:50pm Friday 17th April 2015

Do dogs have a similar outlook on the essentials of life as do humans? What do they do when we are out? What do they dream about and what causes when to semi-bark and whine in their sleep? As a dog owner you have theories but they cannot be any more than that.

Oliver Phillips

I ate myself to a brief moment of fame in a corner of Valencia

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 10th April 2015

Why did we feel rested and relaxed after a two-week break in Spain? After all, we are retired, so where is the strain? However, our trip did not get off to the bets of starts.

Oliver Phillips

Please NatWest, can I spend my own money? After all I had told you twice before that I intended to do so.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 3rd April 2015

We know security is vital when dealing with banks but when, you inform them of your intentions to transfer a few thousand pounds in order to pay for a car, and tell two departments twice, you do not expect the transfer to be halted 24 hours later because of fears over fraud.

Oliver Phillips

A weekend reminder that away from the frantic, everyday life, you can escape and relax in the Cotswolds

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:50pm Friday 27th March 2015

We flew back to England for a friend's birthday celebration. She chose to enjoy a weekend in the Cotswolds, hired a seen-bedroom house and we chewed the cud, drank a lot of wine. We also walked across country for lunch and a few pints of real ale and sampled the leisurely life UK-style.

Oliver Phillips

Please monsieur will you insure our car? Peut-etre was about as good as we got: just a casual almost reluctant maybe.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 20th March 2015

French bureaucracy is unwieldy at best and if your put business their way, they love it if it straightforward. Any complication and really, they would rather not bother. It took 12 or more phone calls to insure a car and most of them involved chasing them up because they had not bothered to phone back.

Oliver Phillips

Look what they've done to The Pond, Ma: they've messed it up and it's turned out all wrong, Ma.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 12:00pm Friday 13th March 2015

The vista looking across The Pond towards Monmouth House was one of the few things to savour from yesteryear. However, Town Hall planners, having spoilt it back in the early 70s, have gone a step further and at what cost. Soon they will achieve what is presumably the ultimate ideal: make Watford look anonymous.

Oliver Phillips

I love old photographs, particularly of south west Herts in days gone by but last week we unearthed a couple of personal gems

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 11:30am Friday 6th March 2015

Our house was derelict for 40 years but a builder from Banbury bought it, stating he did not watch TV, read books or use a computer. Instead he just worked on another room, day and evening, converting the old shell into a modern house. Then we found photographs of the house in days gone by.

Are the kids of today still getting the same lift out of listening to 'The Devil's Music'?

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 27th February 2015

A local journalist left the West Herts Post and launched a concept that would catch on and become the bible of rock and pop. His name was Maurice Kinn; he purchased the new Musical Express and introduced this list called The Top Twenty.

Oliver Phillips

An epiphany listening to Elvis Presley during a record-playing evening at boarding school

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 20th February 2015

Do the kids of today get the same thrill when it is served on a plate, compared to back in those far-off days when you had to work hard to hear "The Devil's Music"

Oliver Phillips

Discussing the Nutella impasse with our Anglo-Polish friends over a glass of Malinowka

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 13th February 2015

I was unaware that the restriction in the choice of names is pretty well worldwide although when you look at some of the American choices, perhaps that is just as well.

Oliver Phillips

I wanna call my daughter Nutella! Non Monsieur: il n'est pas possible.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 6th February 2015

The Nanny State is nothing new. The French have been limited in the number of first names they can choose, for many, many years and there are still limitations as some couples found out.

Oliver Phillips

At 73, I have reached the stage where I can be penalised for being old

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 30th January 2015

Hiring a car is becoming more complicated. Many hire-car firms add extra fees when you pass 70 and, while I have found one that accepts me because I am under 75, they forgot to charge the extra when I presented myself to the desk at the airport.

Oliver Phillips

Back in the days when the White Men really did speak with forked tongues. Is it any different today?

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 23rd January 2015

After a month in the USA you become familiar with the differences but really those moments of pure Americana help to spice up the day. They are invariably trivial, but are worthwhile. And just to add to the ambience I asked my wife what was the connection between Lennox Lewis and Wyatt Earp, and perhaps even ultimately, Anthony Joshua?

Oliver Phillips

Worth visiting: Jerome, once the wickedest town in the West

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 16th January 2015

They say you should never go back but we have been thinking in terms of going back and visiting some old as well as new vistas in the USA. However, since having ruled out including Arizona as being a journey too far, we have been haunted by our happy memories of our previous visits there.

Oliver Phillips

"There's a situation here, mam. Keep your doors locked and your eyes peeled," said the officer in Apache Pass

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:50pm Friday 9th January 2015

Travelling to the famed Ap[ache Pass where so many travellers were ambushed, we found ourselves in a "situation". with a number of official police a border patrol vehicles taking a keen interest in us as we just sat there picnicking.

Oliver Phillips

Not very many seem to care either way and that includes the Apaches, we discovered visiting their Cultural Centre.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 12:50pm Friday 2nd January 2015

This was a real 'old-timer' with guitar and amplifier, folding up such as Poor Little Fool and ~teenager In Love. We congratulated him when we left the bar/restaurant and I discovered this old-timer was two years younger than I am. "Time to go, Old Timer," my wife reminded me.

Oliver Phillips

They inserted a red-hot poker, cut off his head, boiled it and mutilated the body.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 9:00am Friday 26th December 2014

While on the road, visiting relatives over Christmas, I will not have time to write columns so I have put together a three-article reflection of being on the road in Arizona, USA.

Oliver Phillips

After almost ten years in rural France, Watford's traffic comes as a shock

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:30pm Friday 19th December 2014

It is not just the amount of traffic, as often as not it is the speed of it that caught me by surprise back in England. Perhaps we have become conditioned by the relative calm of live in rural France, or perhaps I am just getting old.

Oliver Phillips

Book writing - I'm more inspired by the journey than arriving at the destination

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:30pm Friday 12th December 2014

The publication of the new local book, Cassiobury – the ancient seat of the Earls of Essex, prompted me to ponder over the three-book series of Watford in the 20th Century, which I wrote and revised over a number of years, covering the locality from 1900 to 1979.

Oliver Phillips

Still to be thanked - the man with red underpants over his jeans

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:30pm Friday 5th December 2014

Cars just sped by, failing to or choosing not to notice an overturned, smoking car in a field next to the road. My son-in-law, Marc, spotted the car, pulled up and effected a rescue.

Oliver Phillips

Cassiobury book launched and a reminder of traffic-free days in Watford

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:30pm Friday 28th November 2014

Do people at the Herts County Council actually think through their road changes and visit the site or do they just colour in the changes on maps without regard for the realities. The launch of the book on Cassiobury reminds us of traffic-free days in Watford,.

Oliver Phillips

Has Britain legislated the death of unbridled fun? Johnny Foreigner hasn't.

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:30pm Friday 21st November 2014

Fireworks in Spain and France do not seem to be subject to the same Elf and Safety restrictions as they are in the red-tape conscious UK.

Oliver Phillips

Taking yet another axe to Axa: French cover not as good as it says on the tin

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:20pm Friday 14th November 2014

The best laid plans are disrupted by a much-dreaded front wheel blow-out and yet another reminder than I am growing old.

Oliver Phillips

In Prague the exchange shops change the rate every day, but the sign outside means nothing

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:20pm Friday 7th November 2014

There are a few tourist pitfalls to watch out for in Prague, not least when it comes to changing your currency. On the other hand, when we returned to Paris and stayed for three nights, we found they have mastered the art of reducing the size of you your wallet at an alarming rate.

Oliver Phillips

We sampled the local dishes but found superb Indian restaurants in Vienna and Prague

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:40pm Friday 31st October 2014

After visiting Vienna, we understood why Prague attracts more visitors. It is redolent with Old Europe and of course was once in the centre of European commerce.

Oliver Phillips

We found Vienna like the waiters - lacking in a genuine smile

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 24th October 2014

Vienna was this week voted among the top cities in the world to visit but we found it disappointing. Elegant, majestic but somehow lacking a soul.

Oliver Phillips

Luckily we had to take a 30-minute walk to the recommended restaurant in Budapest

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:30pm Friday 17th October 2014

How many famous Hungarians spring to mind. We tested each other and came up short as we headed for our first-ever visit to Hungary and Budapest,

Oliver Phillips

Budapest's House of Horror brought home the hypocrisy and brutality of Stalin's communism

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:20pm Friday 10th October 2014

There is a building in Budapest that is called the House of Horror in which a museum documents the excesses of Nazi and Communist regimes. We both felt compelled to go and from the sombre, bass-noted music upon our arrival to our return to the sunlight, we wondered at the stupidity of political ideology.

Oliver Phillips

Are girls today, heavier and stockier than they were back in the 1960s? The evidence suggests they are...

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:30pm Friday 3rd October 2014

We were preparing for an autumn tour, taking in four capitals: Budapest, Vienna, Prague and back to Paris, but waiting to catch the train to Paris and the airport, we had cause to muse that todays young females are noticeably heavier than those in the 1960s.

Oliver Phillips

Chaos in the garden as the dogs and I chase a feathered interloper

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 12:20pm Friday 26th September 2014

A family gathering gave us a chance to show the house and garden off to the best advantage. However, things were not going well for the Koi carp and the pond. Added to which we had a noisy, unwelcome visitor..

Oliver Phillips

Apparently Franz Kafka summed me up along with my mates but what did we know

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 12:50pm Friday 19th September 2014

Several little milestones in my life seemed to point in one direction and after many years I have finally booked the flights, the hotel and the trip and Ellie and I will head for Prague, dropping in at Budapest and Vienna en route.

Oliver Phillips

Things do not go bump in the night but they most certainly move

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 1:00pm Friday 12th September 2014

Short-term memory is not at its peak as you get older but we have pooled our observations and now we can say that we have an extra, unseen resident in tour house in France. Did "something" move in when it was uninhabited for 40 years?

Oliver Phillips

Wrestling with South Oxhey and the Late Walter Benjamin

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 6:22am Friday 5th September 2014

A local author wrote a book combining realism and surrealism about Oxhey Estate.I stumbled across the book in my motor home and was puzzled as to how it got there.

Oliver Phillips

I was surprised by their misfortune but the smell of rats was overwhelming

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 3:11pm Friday 29th August 2014

Our friends were in trouble but why did they write to us?

Oliver Phillips

Just like sex: maybe I'll get the hang of it one day

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 11:47am Friday 22nd August 2014

We collect books on our travels and this summer we raided the "not read yet" bookcase with some gratifying results.

Oliver Phillips

We live in an age of mediocrity, she said and how right she was

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 10:36am Friday 15th August 2014

Kim Kardashian, Katie Price and all those botoxed, cosmetically enhanced "celebs" with limited talent grab the attention but this week a woman with real class, style, talent and acumen hit the headlines because she died.

Oliver Phillips

For a moment my life expectancy seemed to be hanging in the wind

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 6:14pm Friday 1st August 2014

Tumbling beach umbrellas cause numerous injuries every year, largely because their owners do not fix them deep in the sand. In Tamariu, on the Costa Brava, my life seemed in danger.

Oliver Phillips

It is London Bridge but not as we know it, captain

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 9:32am Friday 25th July 2014

London Bridge is tumbling down the glib headline writers claim. In fact it would probably have lasted another 150 years had the USA not got their hands on it and carted it to Arizona.

Oliver Phillips

Taking a well-deserved rest

Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author

Posted on 5:38pm Monday 7th July 2014

In the unlikely event of anyone being distressed or even mildly disconcerted by the lack of a fresh column, I thought it best, if belatedly, to point out that I am taking a three-week holiday with my wife Ellie and our two dogs and will return in late July.

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