Monday, 17 November 2014

Open Your Eyes, What Do You See?

     I had the honour of showing five delightful Irishmen around my home town recently. There are John and Shamus, Liam and Noel and brother-in-law Tom, Tom Jones that is. There are two firemen, a postman and two professional singers; no, Tom, Tom Jones that is, is not one of the singers. Some live in County Wicklow, one lives in London and one lives near Nottingham; and they all know Dublin. Confused, how do you think I felt! They would appear to have a profound intellectual interest in and appreciation of all things historical; plus less intellectually, they love eating. drinking and charity shops!
    My hometown is Derby (England). Hands up who's ever been there? Hands up, what Derby's famous for? Who's ever even heard of the place; or could find it on a map? I have often asked similar questions on my travels, seldom receiving very convincing answers. So, from the top of my head, here goes.
    Derby, home of Royal Crown Derby; Rolls Royce Aero Engines, anything to do with railways and, built in more recent times, Toyota motor factory. Home to Derby County Football Club (the ground now called IPro Stadium, the club previously housed at The Baseball Ground.) According to some the most haunted city in England, Florence Nightingale and that's all that comes to mind at the moment. No matter, it defeats the object if I use the internet to refresh my mind. With all this in mind I took my Irish friends on a somewhat impromptu 'tour' and this is how our day went! Plus it was an education for me too!
     We walked through what was, when I was a lad, Victoria Street, the town's main street. (I rode regally in a new, 'bog standard' wheelchair, an education in itself and bloody uncomfortable.) Only now the town is dominated by a huge shopping complex, the Intu Centre, around six hundred yards away.
Resulting in Victoria Street and surrounds being bereft of shoppers, looking forlorn and unattractive, discouraging in the extreme. Alongside which stands derelict Duckworth Square, abandoned at least ten years ago, welcome to the City of Derby!
    We visited the town's museum. We examined an exhibition by an Irishman, Denis O'Connor.       . We saw Derby's own Joseph Wright paintings; we saw also a 'mummy' three thousand years old, PLUS the mummified cat I so loved as a child all those years ago; some things never change!
    In the Silk Mill we observed 'a work in progress'. The oldest factory in the world, it is to house objects that show Derby's place in the industrial world. Aero engines or railway exhibits for instance.     The museum is also 'a work in progress'. Particularly noticeable are bright, eager, in the main young volunteers in all manner of occupation who are keenly ensuring at least some progress is made. It is blatantly obvious that money, or the lack of it is making life difficult if not impossible in any project remotely deemed 'cultural'. It looks like its 'Lottery/Heritage funding or nothing. I am pleased our visitors saw attempts at preserving our heritage for our children. Plus the army of unpaid, keen cheerful volunteers deserve our thanks, if not the government or the councils cash.
    With the pursuit of historical knowledge in mind we also visited three hostelries! The Bell, an ancient pub in Sadler Gate. A pub with a so chequered a recent history that it was shut by the police for some considerable time. Very, very old,  I viewed the state of the top floor out of the window and wondered if it would refrain from collapsing before we finished our drinks. Oh ye of little faith, Kenneth, my Irish friends thought it 'the bees knees' or whatever they say in Ireland!
Similarly The Dolphin public house, reputedly the oldest pub in Derby was received with due Irish reverence. And the third 'drinking experience' we encountered was The Standing Order. An ex-bank, a Wetherspoons establishment that is very impressive; its ceiling is particularly so. Coupled with excellent food it was a supurb choice. We also called briefly in Bennetts, probably the oldest departmental store in Derby. We were too late to comprehensively view the goods on display but the young female assistants were much admired! Thus ended a glorious day. My friends despatched me in a yellow cab and they returned to their base in Attenborough.
    An ordinary place, Derby, made special for the day by extraordinary people. Was it John Howard Payne who said 'Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home' Mind you, I've seen these words also attributed to Frank Baum's ' Wonderful Wizard of Oz' AND to  Bridget Carson amongst others so take your pick!
    Humorous, patient, lively in the extreme, you were all excellent ambassadors for Ireland. Thanks chaps, I hope you all enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

NHS (No Hope Surely)

    I've been behind with everything lately, including this blog. You know the feeling! A combination of things, I fear. Old age creeping on, as the bishop said to the actress. (Only I'm not sure if it was a bishop or someone else. Which really proves the point regarding failing sensibilities!) Or is it the pain caused by  trying to meet all the things life throws at us, retired people included. I hear much talk concerning pressure. the word stress is frequently mentioned today. Is life really more pressurised today I wonder; it certainly feels it! 
    The older I get, the less I know.  The world, certainly my world gathers momentum. It is taking off and there's not much I can do about it. Apart from running for the hills I've got to stay and cope as best I can. I strongly suspect much, not all, but a fair amount nevertheless of our problems stem from modern technology. Very clever, at times life changing but all too often a pain in the backside. May I explain the reasons for my negativity.    
    Now I don't own a mobile phone plus the blackberry?  in my car has never been connected. I can turn our 'smartarse' television on and off but have mastered nothing else on the thing. Just three examples of my life in the year 2014. Everyone else copes, understands this technological age and leaves this old codger out on a limb, so to speak. You must be joking. Examples from that most revered of institutions, the NHS give food for thought.
    One, my wife has serious health problems but copes with cheerful determination. She sat one day in the local, up to date, state of the art hospital. The examination was going well until the consultant mentioned her brother's recent operation; a non existing operation! My wife was quickly despatched to another room, another consultant. The second consultants remarks that my wife got two for the price of one was witty but in a way quite disturbing.
   Two, the hospital prescribing, thus duplicating the same drugs that I was already taking was potentially dangerous but it was some time ago. Plus the politicians assure us daily that things could not be better in October 2014.
    And three, I should have been in Birmingham last week, booking made to see another consultant, at a hospital unknown to me concerning neurology. Only it was nothing to do with me. Right insurance number, right name on the letter except that it was nothing to do with me, wrong person altogether. Took some sorting out, not for the first time. Quite scary really, almost certainly human error concerning computers and human operatives. How many times is your life interfered with because of computers, or is it just me? (Lest anyone think I don't rate the NHS, not true. If you are in any doubt as to that most noble of institutions, watch 24 Four Hours in A and E on the television at the moment. Amazing and very humbling.)
 Since I last posted time moves on, unstoppable. This week in the news is the Virgin rocket crashing. Cause unknown but you wonder if computer errors are at any stage involved. 
    It is my birthday this Sunday, God willing. Seventy five years young! I see the changes and I have seen. The end of the Second World War and the formation of The EU for good or bad. Colour television, half electric cars. Births, marriages and deaths, notably the death of President Kennedy. (I will do the passing years justice in a future post sometime. In the meantime, anyone like to tell us the most memorable five things from their lifetime.)
'Stop the world, I want to get off' sang Anthony Newley. I feel the same sometimes! But life goes on and I don't suppose computers will go away, they're here to stay. You imagine someone born on Sunday. I wonder what they will experience in the next seventy five years? 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Eyeball 3D Tattoo - Most Tattooed Man

Only the Brave go There!

    Paul the plasterers name came up recently (see the previous post) in connection particularly with the subject of body piercing and tattoos. I confess I had no real comprehension as to the bile, the sheer depth of feeling the subject brings out, sometimes in even the mildest of people. An untattooed friend of mine becomes almost  apoplectic when the subject is mentioned.P
    I personally have no strong opinions on the subject. But I realised I reacted when I noticed a young lady in a television studio had, there is no other way to put it 'A ring through her nose.' Was it the fact I did not expect facial adornment in a television studio? Is it a class thing; a gender issue perhaps. Do we view a tattooed ' native from the jungle' in a different way to, say, a person living living next door in the western world. There is obviously a difference in attitude and expectation. Friend Paul is not tattooed below his wrist or above his neck. Paul goes into other people's house in the course of his work. He realises to be a so-called 'affront' to people in their own homes is not inclined to suggest a competence in plastering. (No matter that Paul is a very fine plasterer indeed.) During our conversation Paul made an interesting comment. Asked what his tattoos and facial rings etc 'say' to other people, he suggested they are saying 'Leave me alone.' An interesting answer. I make no personal interpretation of his answer.  
    Next comes the reasons for our behaviour. Many of the young rebel against their elders. Paul's
upbringing was severe in the extreme, but he maintains his 'adornments are not an act of rebellion and I believe him. He is an intelligent, articulate, non aggressive individual ; (though not always so in his younger years), an ardent motor cycle man though this in itself is not a reason for leanings towards self adornment.
    I choose not to wear a wedding ring, but for no reason that I remember. In fact I wear no jewellery, again for no remembered reason. I've never really been into fashion, though I once owned a 'ratting cap' for a while! (When I was a window dresser in a 'Teddy Boy' shop we were broken into. The thief dropped his cap. Being young I decided he must have been a man of the world so his head-ware became my head-ware; how easily are the young influenced!) But I digress.
    Tattoos fall into two distinct groups. Those that are done by following a shape, design by way of a transfer and those that are created individually, each one unique according to the customer and the tattooist's skill and personal preference. The latter tattoos often show a skill that is awesomely beautiful, whether you do or don't like tattoos. Paul's leg is a work of art, don't you agree! (My blog is not X certificated; You can only guess at the tattoos covering the rest of his body! I have been writing this blog for all of six years. This is the first time I have written concerning a man's leg. Definitely a blog of the highest cultural value, don't you agree!)  
   IF, only IF we choose our path through life, with or without adornment, I suggest we have a better chance of making 'right' choices if we leave some decisions until we are of a mature age. Might I suggest the average male at least knows very little until he is at least forty!
    I expected , when I started this little piece to have come to some conclusions. The only thing I will say is the subject brings out strong comments for and against. I wonder how many people actually 'see' the person  'behind' the tattoo? I find that the more I study, the older I get, the less I know! Are you the same, friends? And that goes for all aspects of life, not just concerning tattoos and body piercing. It's no co-incidence that my favourite answer nowadays to every conceivable query is 'Ah well, that's life!' Too easy an answer; a sign of old age? Maybe.
Are you tattooed; have you the baggage from a misspelt youth? Do tell!

(See also blog post dated 27th May 2012)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Image Says it All; Or Does It.

     I got a few raised eyebrows when I suggested there was a faint smell of formaldehyde emitted from a pensioners group I saw in Hawes on my travels. It was 'tongue in cheek' but looking back it made me think. Have I, like the majority of the population, got a pre-conceived idea as to what old people are like. By old I reckon I am thinking about 'grown ups'. This is the way our children, or grandchildren  for that matter think. They, teenagers live in a world of their own. If you don't believe me, ask a teenager what they think about 'snogging' in particular old people 'snogging', grandma and granddad for instance. 'Opinions will probably vary from 'embarrassing to disgusting'. And the idea of 'sex' and old people, 'ugh', don't go there! The point I am trying to make is that we have an image in our mind of what people should 'do' what they should 'be'; and this image, this picture is often closely related to  physical age. So what these images, these pictures without us realising it,  determine the way we live.
    A case in point is the question of transport. Most elderly individuals drive cars, not ride motorbikes for obvious reasons. (When did you last see a motorbike and sidecar.) Many years ago, in my youth men aspired to owning a Ford Popular or an Austin Seven. The man who had 'truly' arrived, usually late in life, if at all, proudly owned a Rover.
   Paul the plasterer is not of pensionable age. No teenager either admittedly, but old enough to make the mature, staid, unexciting choices prevalent of so many middle aged males. Not so Paul, his choice of transport is a  900cc Triumph Speeedmaster, an awesome machine full of sound and fury. Complete with a number plate suggesting a mischievous sense of humour cheerfully acceptable in the so often over serious western world. Paul is indeed an unusual individual; more of this in a later post.
John is of pensionable age, no doubt at all. But like Paul, John is young at heart. John is a retired Rolls Royce engineer, brilliant, knowledgeable, innovative. RR produce some of the best aero engines in the world. Most of the workers are proud to work there; reliable, sensible individuals who give the company their whole working lives. I reckon it takes a certain type of person to work for RR. (I was taken to RR concerning employment when I left school. It was immediately obviously to a non too self disciplined schoolboy this place was not for him. I often wondered, do RR set on certain type of person, or do they BECOME a certain type of person. I went instead to work for F W Woolworth!!)
    RR car park is full of Fords, Audis, Nissans; sensible if sometimes uninspiring choices. John's choice of transport is a Bettson. A trike, a three wheeled motorbike rebuilt by himself and using two Hillman Imp engines. An engineering feat beyond ordinary mortals.  And to see John and his delightful wife astride this monster of a machine is a joy to behold.
    A year or so ago our life became more difficult for several reasons. Being of definite pensionable age my wife and I decided to buy a car to lighten the gloom. ('My wife and I', sounds very royal, except that the Queen has never bought a car in her life!) What do the young look for in a car we pondered.
    Something sporty for a start; plus 'go faster stripes. Darkened windows (reminiscent of a drug dealers car),  a spoiler and a host of decals. Oh, and bucket seats, a definite requirement for the sporty young male. So we bought a sporty Seat Ibiza, an FR model. Plus go faster stripes, darkened windows, a spoiler, decals and bucket seats. All set off by my beloved registration reminding of Derby County, 0009 RAM. To see young sporty types faces as my wife and I overtake is in itself worth the purchase. (Complete with 'shade;, Grumpy Old Ken, of course, not the other whizz kids!)
On the rear of the car is the following; my wife is not so keen but I couldn't resist it.
'This car is owned and driven by geriatrics. Why should the young 'uns have all the fun!
    They say today's eighty year olds are yesterdays sixty year olds. Some also say men never grow up! What do you, dear readers think? Whatever your age or gender, tell me, do you have things you hang on to from the past. Have you got ways of reminding you of when you were younger. There's nothing wrong with that, I reckon. Why SHOULD we act our age if we don't want to!

(This post has taken me a long time. I 'lost' the content, how I've no idea! Perhaps it's a sign of getting old!)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Beware, Geriatrics on The Loose.

    Too short a break, yet long enough to acquire fond memories. A monotonous but necessary two hour trek up the A1, a short run away from the fume filled horror of 21st century motorway style motoring and we are in the delights of The Dales.
    A visit 'on speck' As they say around here; always an element of risk involved. For the first time in many years a stay in a 'B and B', somewhat of a 'pot luck' experience. Our apprehension soon evaporated as we met a delightful young Czechoslovakian couple 'in charge ' of our arrival at Eastfield Lodge, Leyburn, suggested by the local information centre then meeting with our hosts, Vic and Thurza Campbell, again delightfully friendly, accommodating and helpful. You know how you 'tune in'' to some people, I immediately felt at ease with this couple. Plus their efforts to keep 'customers' happy were immediately apparent. Paulette, my wife is a coeliac. (Gluten is a no-no.) Gluten free sausages appeared on the breakfast menu; PLUS gluten free black pudding! Gluten free biscuits also appeared in the bedroom; a delightful, caring touch much appreciated. And the frequent cakes plus sweet jars full of goodies always freely on offer was a delightful touch. By the way, this is NOT a paid advertisement for Eastfield Lodge. It is probably not the cheapest  "B and B in Leyburn but I bet you it's the best!
    Three days, three trips out. three memories to take home. 
    Leyburn, small market town and home of The Wensleydale Railway. We parked in a yard outside the station as an engine and carriages slowed to a halt.  Somewhat taken aback, we enquired as to procedures for travelling on the train. '"Hop on,' said the man. Bemused I explained that we only enquiring  and of any case we hadn't locked the car.  'Go and do it' said the  man 'We'll wait for you.' So we duly did so and 'hopped' on his train! Now when did your British Rail train WAIT for you as you commuted up to London!
   Our train journey was, well, different. We travelled down the line to Leeming Bar, and up the line to Redmire; or was it up to Leeming Bar, and down to Redmire! (Passing through Leyburn, again, where we stopped for a dinner break!) The service is run by volunteers; middle aged men playing at trains. Evidently a diesel train does one mile to a gallon of fuel. In the sidings at one point were several VERY decrepit engines, plus numerous equally decrepit carriages in need of restoration. I don't know the strength of the volunteer workforce but it's not enough unless they all live to one hundred! Good luck chaps, keep smiling!
    Hawes is another charming little market town. My walking days are over, certainly for the present. so I sat in the car and 'people watched' whilst Paulette explored. It has dawned on me over the past year or two as to how many old codgers, aged persons, senior citizens, call them what you will there are; certainly in Britain. The children are back at school (who said hurray) the sun is shining so 'the not so young rule'. (They say the sun shines on the righteous, they also say The devil looks after his own!
    I watched a small coach unload its cargo of genial geriatrics. (some were  not so genial; I wonder if the elderly moan any more than other age groups?) Some with walking frames at the ready. Not exactly sartorial elegance; anoraks and mackintoshes at the ready; a boiling hot day and we haven't seen a drop of rain in over six days.
    The bus in fact stopped within fifteen yards of a public house. A faint whiff of formaldehyde filled the air as the passengers alighted. One couple walked the thirty or so paces to the pub, went inside, coming out two minutes later with their drinks. They then proceeded to sit on a bench until the bus returned approximately one hour later. Ah, the lure of Hawes; no matter, whatever turns you on. And not wishing to be unkind, perhaps, like me, their walking days are over! (Do tour buses have toilets nowadays? If not I hope the couples 'plumbing systems' are better than mine!)
    Reeth, a village rather than a town. Picturesque, quaint, calming, certainly on a sunny day. Though I don't think the cafe we visited was 'with it' compared to its Derby competition; certainly not in the gluten-free department. Nothing, though the man behind the counter did offer my wife some 'soap' which she declined, Paulette muttering 'What do I want soap for' as she came out of the shop. Only the poor man had offered 'soup' not 'soap', obvious when you think about it. I put this down to my wife's advancing age; my own grasp of reality is far superior I mused. Until reminded of my own 'fau pas' the previous evening. I had had great difficulty in driving at dusk, bemoaning the fact as to how fast the nights were 'drawing in'. I drove slower and slower, finding the oncoming darkness amidst the trees. ominously dangerous. That is, until my wife pointed out that driving in failing light wearing dark, dark sunglasses is not a wise thing to do!
    We enjoyed our trip to The Dales. Good company, good food, a change of scenery, what more could you want. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

As William Nearly Once Said, 'Much Ado About Nothing in Particular''.

    Made a visit to Home Bargains. Always favourite when life's a bit fraught; guaranteed to lift your spirits!
    Saw an old gentleman being 'instructed' by his daughter concerning pushing the trolley. I commiserated with him, 'we' geriatrics are used to the instructions of the young! (I talk to all and sundry when I'm out and about. Folk can always tell you to 'bugger off' but seldom do so. Thus you meet many interesting people. (People are far more interesting than inanimate objects!)
It turns out 'Edward' is Polish and a surprisingly sprightly eighty seven years of age. Edward settled in this country in 1947 and had apparently served with the Polish Air Force in the latter part of the war. (and was injured on occasion) He would be very young to do do but I have no reason to doubt his words. After the war he was a tailor by trade for many years. His mind was lively, and he was small in stature like myself. We have also in common,  including evidently the necessity of taking around twenty tablets per day to keep us alive! Edward, old friend, I salute you. Two old codgers together; ignored by the scurrying young passing by Rather useless we are now, but to hell with it, we've both done our bit for the world!
    Fifteen minutes out of my life, an unimportant fifteen minutes but interesting nevertheless. 'Look, listen and learn.' Even in such an innocuous place as Home Bargains. The couple who passed by, for instance. The young man whose conversation revealed that 'He needs to be careful, otherwise he will be 'done' for receiving and be sent down again'. How intriguing is it listening to other people's conversations!' But how frustrating when you only get half the story.
    Neither is Home Bargains in the best part of town, Not long ago, in the car park a young foreign gentleman' was trying to sell me a rather modern mobile phone for twenty pounds. I haven't got a mobile but manage quite well without one, thank you very much. Plus I bet you someone in the pub round the corner is wondering where he mislaid his phone!
    Interesting, the Home Bargain set up. A discount chain, founded by Tom Morris from Liverpool approximately forty years ago. It now consist of over four hundred shops, employing over 10,000 people, turning over a billion pounds a year.
    I think back to my Woolworth days. I worked for them from 1957 to 1959. At that time they had close to  one thousand shops but it had taken them many years to get to that size. Then in later years, bang and Woolworth's were no more. Wouldn't have happened if I'd stayed with them. (Only kidding!)
    I have many, many memories of those years. Crazy, mad years. An innocent abroad; a seventeen year old boy amidst many older, wiser, experienced women. I wince at the memories yet wryly smile. Memory of ' He 'ad me over the kitchen table before he 'ad his tea' springs to mind.' Lewd, rude, often crude yet 'ladies' whose presence was far more valuable to my education than my often boring years as a Grammar School schoolboy.
    Ruminating, (what a lovely word) I have realised, often that my mind, and presumably the minds of others have stored within, millions and millions of memories covering life from our early days.      I'm not a technical type; but I can just about appreciate that a computer stores information on what's called a hard drive and my mind is similar to the hard drive of a computer. The following information is NOT from my memory bank. Consequently I only HALF understand it all!
 Its all measured in bits (bytes?) Evidently there are around a 1000 terabytes (?). Around 1,000,000 gigabytes storage capacity. Someone else, far cleverer than me reckons the brain is capable of holding over a trillion gigabytes of memory. BUT whatever, its not an endless figure. Thats why, presumably unimportant stuff gets lost/deleted sometimes. All a long, long way from a visit to Home Bargains!
    MOST, not all of my brain is still working. Whilst that is the case, I will continue to trawl for long lost memories. It amuses me, I hope for you likewise. And a happy Christmas to you all! Its only just around the corner. At least to QVC that is the case. They have periodic offerings of Christmas goods and have done so since JUNE! They also have a compete day of Christmas advertising on the 25th of each month. Life is often mad but always interesting.