Friday, 31 December 2010

Even Germany Finds It Funny. Happy New Year.

There is nobody less nationalistic than Grumpy Old Ken. I don't often believe in waving the flag, very low key is Grumpy. But I admit I get great satisfaction that virtually the whole of Germany watches Freddy Frinton on German television on New Years Eve. Very British humour, very funny though perhaps an acquired taste. And would someone, German or otherwise explain to me what exactly is the German interest in such an archaic British institution. And a Happy New Year to you all.

Monday, 27 December 2010

I Am Glad I Never Cease To Be Amazed.

I sometimes find life boring; my own fault. In the western world it seems nothing is new, and television presents me with millions of images; my minds reaches saturation point and it sometimes seems nothing will ever impress, ever again to any real degree. 3D films, E-books, I-Pods, all very clever no doubt. Technically clever stuff but way beyond my grasp. Yet it is ironically through the power of modern technology I am introduced to the art of a beautiful young lady and I am transfixed as never before. And I am glad that even at seventy plus years I still have the ability to be amazed by the ingenuity, the sheer talent of the human race. How on earth does anyone learn such skill; where on earth does such a unique talent come from. And have you been impressed this year by someone or something that little bit different. Seasonal greetings to you all.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Shortest Day.

December 21st at last, and from now on daylight gets longer. I even dreamt about it last week.
Not a short dream either, definitely not short and sweet.
A short story for the 21st.
I was on short time, working for Short Books and I needed a holiday. I reckon I was sold short when the travel agent suggested a short break in Shortacombe in Devon. He said it was either that, or Shorthampton, my first choices Shorton and Shortlees being booked up. Now I know I've got short arms and long pockets but I won't be short changed. I ask you, not even suitable for a short arse! Nothing else on offer, They thought they'd got me by the short and curlies, but they got short shift from me. To cut a long story short, I told them the short answer was no. So I left, took a short cut and was home in next to no time. Put on my Bermuda shorts and a short sleeved top (bought on and put the kettle on.
I made short work of three Starbuck style short size coffees and some shortbread, never run short and better than any short stay in Shortacombe. Only too much coffee at my age doesn't suit me. And the long and short of it was, woke up in the middle of the night and found my water bed had burst. Only I haven't got a water bed! How embarrassing to be took short at my age. Never mind, there's always a trip to town tomorrow. And I'll take a taxi, 'cos short men don't use buses, only minicabs!

Answer sheet A Christmas Quiz by Ken Stevens

1 Norway Spruce (Pice abres)
2 Hellebore
3 Ash
4 A holly tree
5 Mistletoe
6 Nine drummers drummimg
7 Prince Albert
8 a ‘Joey’
9 December 25th
10 Tom Smith (Victorian pastry cook)
11 Isiah 9 verse 6 and 7
12 Luke 2 verses 1 and 2
13 The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir
14 And fit us for Heaven, to live with thee there.
15 Indian Ocean
16 Discovered Christmas Day
17 Workhouse
18 Christmas pudding
19 Christmas pudding again!
20 Mrs Beeton
21 4 shillings (twenty new pence)
22 Probably after alms boxes(the day after Christmas)
23 Good King Wenceslas
24 January 6th
25 Holiday Inn
26 Jimmy Boyd
27 Dora Bryan
28 Greg Lake
29 Bruce Springsteen
30 Irving Berlin
31 John Lennon
32 The Little Match Girl
33 Hans Christian Anderson
34 Louisa May Alcott
35 Little Women
36 The Wind in the Willows
37 Kenneth Grahame
38 Adrian Mole
39 Sue Towsend
40 Saint Nicholas’ faithful servant (Dutch)
41 Peter Paul Rubens (also painted Giorgione)
42 Saint Boniface (Germany)
43 Turkey farm (Bernard Mathews)
44 Samuel Pepys
45 York Minster
46 to 50 Any five from: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid,
Donner, Blitzen.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

It's a Coming.

In case anyone of my friends has not seen it, the Christmas Quiz I set as a morale booster whilst still in teaching. (One thing I miss is that tremendous feeling as the school holidays approach.) Retirement is one long holiday but its not the same! Answers follow shortly. Fifty questions, I reckon fifteen on your own, twenty five in a group is a good score. I wouldn't get that and I set it! (Just an excuse not to do a 'proper' post. Very pushed for time, all the grandchildren's 'school do's' and all that.) Is it too early to start my Christmas shopping? It's a 'man' thing!

A Seasonal Quiz

Nature and Christmas

1 ‘A Christmas tree’ is traditionally what species?
2 What is another name for a ‘Christmas Rose’?
3 A traditional Yule log should be what sort of wood?
4 What traditionally sprang from the ground where Christ first stood?
5 What ‘plant is also known as ‘Heal-all’?

Five miscellaneous questions

6 What did my true love send to me on the 9th day of Christmas?
7 Who is credited with introducing the Christmas tree to England?
8 What was the nickname of the little silver three-penny bit often put inside Christmas puddings?
9 On which day was Charlemagne crowned Emperor?
10 Who is credited with introducing ‘Christmas crackers’ to England?

Christmas is after all a religious festival

11 Where from: ‘ For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given’?
12 Again: ‘And it came to pass, in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus’?
13 ‘The rising of the sun and the running of the deer’? Next line, please.
(last line of The Holly and the Ivy)
14 Similarly ‘Bless all the children in thy tender care’?
(Away in a manger)

Ten mixed questions

15 Which ocean is Christmas Isle in?
16 Why was it so called?
17 George R Sims used to recite a monologue about ‘Christmas Day in the ………?
18 Similarly Stanley Holloway used to sing about ‘Old Sam’s Christmas …….’?
19 1½lb raisins 1½lb currants. ¾lb breadcrumbs. ½lbmixed peel ¾lb suet. 8 eggs 1 wineglassful of brandy
Numbers 19, 20 and 21 . A ‘receipe for what? Whose receipe? What was its cost
22 What is Boxing Day probably named after?
23 Bohemian nobleman, 10th century, murdered , aged 26, by his mother and brother?
24 When does the Greek/Russian Orthodox Church celebrate the birth of Christ?
(the old date for Christmas)

For those musically inclined

25 ‘White Christmas’ was first sang in which 1942 movie?
26 Who, in1953, ‘saw mommy kissing Santa Claus’?
27 Who, in 1963, sang ‘All I want for Christmas is a Beatle’?
28 Who sang, ‘ I believe in Father Christmas’ in the 1970’s? (his only solo UK hit)
29 Who sang ‘Father Christmas is coming to town’ in 1985?
30 Who wrote ‘White Christmas’?
31 Who scored with ‘Happy Christmas, war is over’?

Christmas/seasonal literature

‘It was so dreadfully cold! It was snowing, and the evening was beginning to darken.’
32 Which famous story? 33 The author?
‘ Jo was the first to wake in the grey dawn of Christmas’
34 The authoress? 35 Which famous story?
‘I think it must be the field-mice’ replied the ….. with a touch of pride in his manner. ’They go
round carol singing regularly at this time of the year.’
36 The novel? 37 The author?
‘Sat 25th Dec. Got up at 7.30. Had a wash and shave, cleaned teeth, squeezed spots then went upstairs.’
38 The book? 39 The writer?

A Mixed Selection

40 Who is Black Peter? ( a clue-Holland)
41 Who painted ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ in 1624?
42 Who is the saint associated with the Christmas tree?
43 The worlds largest’ what’ is at great Witchington, Norfolk?
44 Who tells us he was late for Communion. 25th December, 1662?
45 Only one Christian Church (building) uses mistletoe in decorations. Which?
Finally, name five of Santa’s reindeer. There are eight possibilities.
Nos 46, 47, 48,49,50.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

I'm Walking Backwards For Christmas.

The visiting list ominously lessens. Presumably my posts have become increasingly boring. Plus I lay awake thinking 'Have I anything else to say.' An empty head, a blank page. Then, hey presto, the snow vanished overnight and the postman reappeared. Plus my new 'machine' arrived. All's well with the world.
Now I'm the world's most 'nontechnical' man. I have no Mobile phone (how on earth do they carry the miles of cable around) and I've only recently mastered the light switch. This technology thing creeps on us, surreptitious, like fog on moorland, and before you now it, you're surrounded, lost and ever crying out for help. Even silly old Grumpy cannot help but get involved.
I have a 'digital voice recorder'. An Olympus DS-50, or is it a 40 or a 30. Old tape recorders had reels and were so big you fell over them in the dark. This DS whatever is so small (fits in a shirt pocket) that I've only just re-found it after twelve months of searching and having bought a replacement. ( I'd put it in a wooden wine box for save keeping.) Senility, tell me about it!
In a rash moment I bought a 'USB Turntable' that will convert my vinyl records to my MP3 player and thence to my Juke box. Or at least it will when my wife (note my wife not me) gets the hang of the 'Audacity Software' 'USB Audio CODEC' and 'additional software lame_enc.dll0'. WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT!
My new cameras wonderful. A Canon S95, referred to in one revue as the best compact camera in the world. I'm determined to master it but oh boy, don't they assume that everyone in the world is a young wizz kid, IQ of 140 who 'did computers etc' at school as a matter of course. Me, reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic plus learning about the British Empire was my lot. So learning what C, M, AV, Tv, P and AUTO mean doesn't come easy. As for talking about, 'default settings' again WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT!
The list goes on, you get the message. Then it arrived. My eko-mania paper log maker. Simplicity itself, 'it does what it says on the box.' and it took even me only five minutes to work out how to operate it. Soak newspaper, junk mail etc for a day or two, put it in the 'machine, use some 'elbow grease'. Dry the 'bricks'out, (can take days so best stock up in summer) and 'Bobs your uncle', briquettes for my wood burner, very cheap and environmentally sound I'm assured. Messy, wet, but extremely satisfying; and practice will make perfect. I remember making briquettes from coal and cement in the past, not unlike the way my newest toy works. Hence the title of this post. Briquettes partly made out of cement don't burn too well by the way. But briquette making with Grannie looking on whilst she knitted socks, dish clothes and the odd balaclava (always using grey wool) was a way of life fondly remembered. (I still have the Bakelite ball in which you put wool in my 'museum'.) Does anyone knit nowadays.) I do not yearn for the past but it definitely had its moments.
Do you have memories of 'chores or pastimes' that have long since gone. Have any stayed or perhaps returned. And are there any parts of the past that would enjoy a revival.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Nutty November.Grumpy's Alternative News..

Where shall we start. Now there's supposed to be a recession, so let's talk money.
I notice pencils made from the Mary Rose timbers are for sale at £250 each; The Mary Rose Trust hopes to raise £50,000.
It was recently announced Buckingham Palace spent almost £100,000 cleaning chandeliers in one year and the first personal computer, Apple 1 was sold at Christies for £133,250. A casino owner in Macau bid £211,000 for two white truffles (weight 907 grams) and a rare 1872 stamp fetched £220,000 in an auction in Berlin. (Actually it was only half a stamp as they were in short supply at the time!) A collection of 450 London Transport posters from the 1920/30's fetched £233,000, again at Christies. Almost as much as a fireman fleeced from his workmates in a betting scam in Chelsea. (The actual amount was £250,000). The lyrics written by John Lennon on the back of a bill for £12 were expected to fetch £350,000 (the song was I'm Only Sleeping) and the Walther pistol used by James Bond in From Russia With Love fetched £277,250 at, where else, Christies.
Now for the real money.
A Canadian couple won £6.7 million in a national lottery and promptly gave 98% of it away, to churches and a hospital; nice, kind people, Canadians. And a 14.2 diamond called 'the perfect pink' fetched £15.000,000 in an auction in Christies, this time at their Hong Kong branch. But the sale of the month has to be the 18th century Qianlong-era ceramic vase found in an attic clearance in Ruislip, West London and sold in auction for £51,000,000. (Mind you, even that will be pocket money when the Blackburn Rovers Football Club's sale to Indian owner of 'Venky's Chickens' goes through.. £46,000,000 for starters, but much, much more to follow.) Recession, what recession!
Mind you, money is all right when you've got it. Not so funny for the man from Southend who left £80,000, his life savings in plastic bags on the roof of his car; he says he's 'gutted'. So is the German musician who left a £850,000 violin on a train. In this case he got it back, but he had to be treated by a doctor!
So what else was in the news. Four little animal stories.
Knut the polar bear in Berlin Zoo is suffering. He is being bullied by three females (polar bears, silly!) He now spends most of his time on a rock while the others snap at him and steal his food. Life must be 'unbearable'. Sorry! And again in Berlin Zoo, two male griffon vultures, Detlef and Guido have been forcibly separated and put with females (yes vultures) in the hope that they will mate. Which has upset some of the German community; the gay community to be precise. This has led to protests at the zoo gates. Nothing new in Germany. Five years ago a public petition prevented a pair of gay penguins at Bremerhaven Zoo from being split up.
Apple and Cider, turkeys, have been spared the Thanksgiving dinner table in the annual White House ceremony. Only this year they won't be going to Disneyland like their predecessors. Disneyland don't want any more Christmas turkeys. Shame on you, Disney, what's the world coming to! Not as lucky as three elephants rescued in Assam. Evidently Assam state has a serious elephant smuggling problem, they have lost over ninety in the last five years. I know they fetch over one million rupees, but how do you get a five and a half ton elephant through checkpoints set up to stop the smuggling of contraband?
Four idiots .
The official who decided a lady from Shaftsbury (Canadian passport) must take a citizen test. She has lived here for sixty four years. The surgeon who neglected the post-operative care of patients because he was too busy as chairman of the British Medical Association. Lewis Hamilton, fined for performing 'wheel spins' on a public road in Melbourne. What a role model, what an example to others! Nick Ginetta, car and truck salesman who thinks its clever to give away a free AK 47, the world's most notorious assault rifle with every sale. No wonder the USA has a gun problem.
And three who need closer supervision!
The council of the London Borough of Sutton has spent £3.2 million on its new street log benches. Unfortunately a faulty mechanism causes the benches to roll if anyone sits on them!
And talking of seats, an Indian co-pilot on an international jet flight accidentally knocked the control panel whilst adjusting his seat. He was so flustered he couldn't unlock the cabin door to let the captain, who had gone to the toilet, back in. The plane nosedived for 7000 feet before the captain regained entrance and control. (He had to wrestle the controls from the co-pilot.) At least the man in Berlin accidentally walling himself in his cellar was only in charge of a trowel. He was intending to seal up the cellar entrance but finished the job on the inside. It took him two days to get out.
And a couple of stories with a 'good feel' factor. A fourteen month old toddler fell out of a seventh floor window of a block of flats in Paris. he bounced off a cafe awning into the arms of a waiting doctor. He was unscathed and fell asleep within minutes. Normally the awning would have been retracted, the cafe being closed, but the mechanism wasn't working; a miracle indeed.
Britain's first dating agency for ugly people ( is celebrating its first engagement. Tom Clifford and Janice Walker met less than a month ago. Mr Clifford, described as 'Having a face that makes children cry' said, 'She's beautiful and I love her in every possible way.' Everyone say aah.!
Finally my 'Its all in the worst possible taste' section.
I see an Indian company, Gou Brands Private have developed an aftershave made with bovine urine. Plus Gauloka Peya is evidently a sugary soft drink laced with cow urine. They reckon its a threat to pepsi and coca-cola sales. Honest! Interesting place, India. I see they are increasing the pension of elderly eunuchs. Evidently they get a rough time of it when they are old. I see the Soil Association wants to overturn the ban on spreading human sewage on the land. (I remember it well in my youth.) Evidently we are short of phosphates and human sewerage is rich in the stuff. Why dispose of it, what a 'waste'. Sorry again!
Stephen Fry doesn't seem to like the ladies. he 'tweeted' that the only reason women slept with men was that 'sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship. Unlike Silvo Berlusconi who seemingly loves the ladies. The press reckons he has some lively parties at his private residences. He denies it of course but his case is not helped when he restores ancient statues in his office. Including one of Mars, now complete with a new penis. For some reason it has been announced the new parts are 'removable'.
The Erotica fair did well at Olympia in London. It seems some of the exhibitors could teach other businesses a thing or two in these austere times. A pair of lady blacksmiths from Wales switched careers making bondage equipment. Apparently a growing market, a 'spanking' good business to be in, one firm making bondage gear previously made bouncy castles!
Finally, finally.
A leading consultant plastic surgeon is being threatened with a libel action after suggesting 'Boob Job' cream, (for sale in John Lewis etc cost £125 for a 100ml pot) is likely to be ineffective. (The claim is for a 8.4% increase). The reason this caught my eye was the incident in a Jersey Co-operative supermarket where a customer was overcharged by £5. Evidently the assistant's seat was too low, causing her breasts to rest on the scales! The shop assistant was apparently mortified. The £5 excess intrigues me; I make no further comment. Feel free to suggest an 'inappropriate' headline!