Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Who said in a Country Existence Nothing Ever Happens?

    On the wall of my 'bar' (granddad's restroom, an old man's folly, the old man's retreat) call it what you will, there is a brass plate. It reads 'In 1765, on this spot, nothing happened'. Meant as a joke, at times it makes me wonder. As most of my readers know, I live, not for the first time in Derby, England, population around 250,000. I was born in the area, went to school roughly in the  area and likewise worked at various set ups over a number of years. An unimportant, anonymous sort of existence surrounded by many of similar 'working class ilk'. Surrounded by people, knee deep in people; except for one spell of four years.
    We, my wife and I lived for four years in Lincolnshire, in one of only four houses next to a farm and house. The house stood empty, we spotted it driving around prior to attending college. (The farm employed sixteen men before the war, now three only.)  No street lights and one bus a week.(Saturdays.) No gas main and no mains water (We did in fact have water from a tap but it failed miserably whenever a nearby golf course was watered.) Heat was from brick interior storage heaters (needed at least twelve hour notification of change in weather) plus paraffin delivered for paraffin heaters and coal fires if you could afford the coal. ( A Swedish girl stayed one weekend. I noticed she never took her coat off!)
  Television a godsend, no ariel needed, TV wired into metal window frame. Rats in the outhouse, mice heard chomping sweets indoors. Resulting in acquisition of cat, resulting in kittens. Dogs appeared spasmodically belonging to Irish itinerants. Collected when they moved on. True Romany gypsies plus horse drawn home stayed a distant apart from their travelling Irish compatriots. A generally unusual existence, but surely uneventful and thus boring? Nope!
    We had usually six neighbours, never more than eight. You fell out with anyone at your peril. One weekend Paulette arranged to go shopping in a nearby town with Bob and Alice. (Not their real names for reasons that will become clear.) Only at the last minute Paulette wasn't able to go; so the     foray went ahead, minus Paulette but plus Eric, recently returned from a spell incarcerated at Her Majesties Pleasure in a not too distant borstal. Quite influential was son Eric, so much so than a shopping trip became a distinctly organised shoplifting trip. A not very successful shoplifting trip, and all were 'nabbed' so to speak. Friend Alice was bailed fairly quickly, the menfolk were not so lucky. I seem to remember collecting Bob from prison at the end of a not too long prison sentence at a
non too distant prison. Ex- Sunday school teacher Paulette finding the whole episode distinctly mesmerising!
    Hare coursers on a Sunday Morning were another spectacle not available in our previous 'life', the participants (invariably travellers) intensely feared and hated in equal measure by most country folk.
    The blood thirsty antics of the shotgun brigade shooting pheasant, again on a Sunday morn. Birds so stupid, locally reared, that cleared the guns and landed not too far away, to await another salvo another day. The whole affair  reminiscent of the Alamo.
    One Christmas we were burgled whist we were away. As was our neighbour, 'Pop' an elderly farm labourer and Bob and Alice. Pop's mattress was destroyed in an apparent search for cash. Bob and
Alice's gas meter was raided but the 'burglar' was apparently a kind soul. He  fed coins through the meter so that Bob and Alice would have a fuel supply in what was after all the festive season! We seemed to have lost nothing in the raid; I was after all a very poor student at the time!
    On Boxing Day a visitor with two suitcases knocked at the farm requesting the use of a telephone to phone for a taxi. The kind farmhand, realising the difficulty the visitor was in, ran him to the station in the town. The burglaries had not been discovered at this stage! It turns out the 'burglar' had in fact been staying with Bob and Alice, having nowhere else to go. Country folk may not always be the brightest, but kindness is seldom lacking.
     One final bizarre memory stays in the mind from our stay in the country. One quiet, unexceptional  
weekend, (weren't they all) friend Alice knocked on our door to show us a perplexing letter she had received that Saturday morning. From a friend of some years standing, it stated that, by the time Alice would receive this letter, the writer would be deceased. Alice showed us the letter; it shared the dilemma without suggesting a response. In a way 'what to do' was there in front of us; we did nothing. The body of the young man, who incidentally was addicted to a type of cough mixture available at the time was found in the week ahead. Did Alice, Paulette and I do wrong by doing nothing; I've often wondered.
    We carry fond memories of our stay in the countryside. Both our children were born in this period of our lives. A special time in many ways; forever remembered.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Grumpy, are You Surprised?

    They don't call me Grumpy for nothing, but, being a football fan, the last week or so has been enough to try a saint's patience. In particular the antics of Malky Mackay and Dave Whelan. Now Mr Mackay was for a period of time the manager of Cardiff City Football Club, whose owner happens to be Vincent Tan, a Malaysian businessman. Mr MacKay is highly rated as a football manager by many football followers. Having fallen out with his manager, Mr Tan, Mr Mackay made two mistakes. One, making derogatory remarks via tweets to an ex-colleague, comments of a racist, sexist and homophobic nature and two, inadvertently exposing his views to public scrutiny. Unsurprisingly Mr Tan took offence so Mr Mackay had to go.
    Fast forward to Mr Whelan, chairman, owner, main man at Wigan Football Club. Who has recently appointed Mr McKay as the new manager of his beloved Wigan FC. A brave decision or foolhardy, time will tell. Mr Whelan has created a situation of his own making that leaves him open to all sorts of emotive comments that does neither him nor Wigan favours. In defending Mr Mackay Mr Whelan adopted a curious, prehistoric style; Mr Whelan is after all seventy seven years of age. (I am seventy five; I hope I am not stuck in ages past, time moves on Mr Whelan.)
'Anyone who says he has never referred to a Chinese person as a Chink is a liar' says Mr Whelan. (You speak for yourself, Mr Whelan.) Just one example of Mr Whelan's archaic style. Perhaps he realises he has created a problem for himself and Wigan Football club by his antiquated way of thinking.
    I appreciate many of you will not be interested in the goings on at a football club. Fair enough, except this whole sordid affair highlights a problem within twenty first century Britain. We often cling to the past; we are apprehensive regarding the future. The trouble with nostalgia, its too often a case of viewing through rose tinted spectacles. I KNOW the Black and White Minstrels were highly regarded television viewing. But did it really do any favours to coloured people. Did it remotely suggest equality for black and white. I KNOW we had a shoe polish called 'nigger brown'; I KNOW some had a dog called 'Nigger. ( Guy Gibson's of Dambuster fame called his dog Nigger.) But did that make it right. Most of us have moved on. We used words, phrases that offended others and basically we did not care. The word PAKI for instance; we KNOW it offends so most of us don't use it. And here is the clue regarding the past. IF A WORD OR PHRASE OFFENDS, for whatever reason, DONT USE IT. It really is as simple as that. Whatever we thought, said or did in the past is irrelevant. And if Mr Whelan can't see that, what a sad old man to be in charge of anything; watch this space!
    Is it the time of year that is making so many of us miserable? Is it the weather? Is it the dark nights? Or is it the fact that so many, especially the rich amongst us are spoilt, 'not nice' individuals who get so much attention that detracts from all who are worthy of attention.
    Andrew Mitchell. a millionaire Tory Member of Parliament fails to get his own way as he leaves Parliament on his bicycle. So he subjects a policeman to a tirade of foul, abusive language. The Sun newspaper reports on the incident, Mitchell sues the newspaper and loses the case.
    David Mellor, broadcaster and Ex-Tory Cabinet Minister subjects a taxi driver to pompous, foul abuse. In both cases they had given similar abuse to people going about their job. Ordinary people whom Mitchell and Mellor consider are BELOW their 'station' in life.  And both shameful individuals found it necessary to point out HOW IMPORTANT THEY BOTH ARE! How enlightening! In both cases it shows how insecure, Mitchell and Mellor really are; how little self-worth they actually feel, truth be known.
    I'm not normally grumpy, honest! So I looked for something that is a little more uplifting than silly football folk, pompous politicians and bragging broadcasters. And I remember reading something along the lines that happy people, those with happy dispositions I presume they meant, live longer. (Can anyone enlighten me as to where I read it? Would I know if my memory lapse is the onset of Dementia. Do you know if its Dementia or will I be the last to know!)
My life is well below that of the rich, famous or important. But I am in the main happy; an example of the little things that make me happy.
   I have four delightful grandchildren. Ten year old Tommy seems to have theatrical leanings and recently attended an audition. We as a family are all ignorant of such matters. The majority of those attending seemed to be 'professionals', accompanied by proud, knowledgable parents or stage school 'types'; self assured, adults and 'would be performers'. You can only do your best and Tommy gave it his all; I was both proud and pleased. And, low and behold, Tommy passed the audition. Well done young man, I'm sure you will make a super Munchkin!

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.
    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!)