Saturday, 31 December 2011

Here we are Again Hope Springs Eternal

The time of year we look both back and forward. Memories, both happy and sad. The big picture a somewhat sombre year, both here in Britain and worldwide. On a personal note, sadness in particular at the loss of a loved one, in our case Francoise, mother, grandmother, friend. Happiness in watching children and grandchildren fulfilling their potential in life. I am personally increasingly aware of our mortality. Inevitable, I suppose when one creeps past the Biblical three scores years and ten. Plus I seem to visit the doctors waiting room almost as often as the pub. But 'away, morbid thoughts'. I have unfinished business to perform. I have been writing an autobiographical piece, 1945-1959 for several years; 75,000 plus words and counting. Surely to be finished in 2012! My new year resolution, what's yours? Besides keeping healthy and regular. (posting that is!) Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments. May all your dreams come true.
No apologies for repeating the two little films. The youg lady for her inspirational talent, a wonderful gift indeed. Plus our old friend from Grimsby, Freddy Frinton. Happy New Year to you all.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

An Old Man's Folly.

Its been a funny year. A stressful year for many, I get the impression modern living in some ways is getting worse. Two pointers I will come back to at a later date.
    I have several friends and acquaintances who have 'problems' with their children. And I mean children  thirty years plus years of age. 'Children' who, not always their fault, who are still at home. Way beyond the age when they would have 'flown the nest' in my youth. Divorced or separated children who fly home, to that ever present refuge in times of strife. Life was never easy, is it getting worse, I wonder, or is that the perception of life through aging eyes.
    Then there are polititians, too often grubby, greedy little men (and sadly women). Who I can, normally almost avoid in unexceptional, downtown Derby. Except that, in their wisdom, the government gives a contract worth billions to Seimans, a German company with a reputation for dodgy dealing. Result, 1400 jobs in Derby Bombardier Railway Works, including that of my hard working son-in-law, plus thousands of other jobs reliant on the industry will probably vanish. A mistake, compounded by a self important, incompetent twerp. Dr Vince Cable (Whats your Doctorate in, Vince, pomposity?) Government Business Minister who announces, on a visit to Derby that he didn't realise Derby was a railway town. You disinterested, blinkered idiot, it's your job to know!
    One last word on our 'rulers'. If you ever watch Question Time live from The House of Commons, watch out for Danny Alexander. This man cannot EVER complete a session without juvenile, adolescent whispers to whoever is seated alongside him when others have centre stage. ( Usually to that cringing little ferret cum hamster Michael Gove.) By god, as a Scotsman the former would do well to remember the immortal words of Robert Burns.     
'Oh would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us.'
I cringe at the infantility of such people.I taught children for twenty years and their manners and good sense were far superior to many politicians.
    You will gather I find modern living often stressful plus I am obviously non too enamoured with many politicians. I promise that's my last gripe of 2011!
    But when times are particularly hard, I escape to 'Granddad's Room, an old man's folly if ever their was one!    

Folly. The condition or quality of being foolish; a lack of good sense, understanding or foresight. A costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.
    Three years or so ago ago, we, my wife and I bought my daughter and son-in-laws bungalow. With it came an outbuilding used as a photographic studio. It was immaculate, ordered, clinical, businesslike; but I already knew what I had in mind for this building. (Unknown of course to my wife!) It is now a disordered assemblage, an accumulation of all things 'Granddad'. 'Granddad's Room', my bolthole, escape from the world; I hope you like it. (Not to be confused with 'Granddads Museum' through the adjoining door. I will show you round this 'Masterpiece' another time!) Incidentally, I could tell you where virtually every item in my 'bar' was obtained. Many instant reminders of days long gone. A place that keeps me at least half sane in a hard world and hard times.

(You have no idea how long shuffling these pictures around has taken.) But there you are, the joys of getting old in a technological age! Very higgledy pigeldy but they will have to do. I must get a better grip in the new year. Some hope, pass the mince pies and the wine please. Or as Arthur English used to say, 'Play the music, open the cage.') And once again, irrespective of your creed or religion, seasonal greetings and a  Happy Christmas to you all.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Counting down to Christmas, Three Days to Go.

A somewhat naughty post as my older followers will notice. This post is from December 2008. And I'm still here, still posting, three years on.  Thursday, Friday and  and, hey presto, Christmas Eve! Mind you, its been Christmas in the shops since October. Nice though, 'init' really! There's little I want for Christmas, except to be around to enjoy it. How about you? It's a magical time for sure, but it's soon over. And on Saturday, I'll show you 'Granddads Room', an old man's 'folly' if you like. Look forward to showing you around. (And by the way, the beards ready once again!)   

Will the Real Santa Please Stand Up
When you're at your next cocktail party and the conversation flags I'll tell you exactly what to work into the conversation. "I say, Montmorency, do you know how fast facial hair grows." (Facial hair, please, lets keep it clean.) Then you can hold your finger and thumb around half an inch apart (metric equivalent I've no idea) and say "This much in three months." As Michael Caine would say, "Not a lot of people know that."
Now how do I know such things. I know many useless things but nothing remotely useful. For instance, how many bones are there in a giraffes neck. Seven, the same as humans. Cows get up on their front legs first; horses their back legs. Or is it the other way round! Knowledge gleaned from years of laborious book studying. Fine, but not as pleasing as knowledge gained from first hand, personal experience, hard toil suffered over months in the pursuit of excellence. (I've got the feeling my school motto talked of 'the pursuit of excellence', but I digress.)
Two years ago I dressed up as Father Christmas, right down to artificial full-length beard. Elaborate preparations included changing in my motorhome round the corner from my grandchildren and my daughter scattering ‘Reindeer Dust’ on her house front. I walked up the street complete with sack. “Who’s this coming up the road?” Angelina aged five is asked by mother.
“Father Christmas” she replies on cue, eyes wide with amazement. “Who is it?” is enquired of brother Tommy, not yet three. “Santa Granddad” is the instant dismissive reply. Out of the mouth of babes and all that! (In the house later when asked where Santa went he again pointed to me, out of uniform, so to speak. "He's there" he again uttered with unchildlike authority.)
This Christmas, as a favour I am to dress up again as Santa, a favour for some small children I know. And yes, the parents do approve, a consideration that cannot be ignored in this PC inclined, often sinister world. Mind you, for some even Santa himself is considered non PC but what the hell. Plus this year there is to be no artificial beard but the real thing, thus the no trimming agenda since September. And though I am normally a hirsuted individual, its a number four clippered cut rather than Santa's more flowing locks. So the trick is to time the 'no beard trim' period long enough to be a reasonably authentic Father Christmas; but not long enough to give the appearance of Rip Van Winkle or be arrested in the town centre and charged with vagrancy.
I must confess I have had some funny looks from small children recently. And I must also confess I have glared at one or two misbehaving reprobates in the supermarket. Plus the rebuke, "Now stop being naughty, I'm Santa's brother and you'll get 'b' all if you don't be good" has had some amazing effects. (Don't worry or underestimate children, they soon bounce back, honest!)
So the Day of Judgement has arrived. It is twelve weeks since the last trim. Will I convince today's doubting, often streetwise at four infants. Or will I be exposed as just another fraud in a cynical, commercial world. What do you think.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful.

    It's been a funny four or five weeks, though not 'funny ha ha.' A short enough time in itself, but if nothing else it has driven home how insecure some of us really are, how fragile is our very existence. We, my wife and I (sounds very regal!) opted to have fitted solar panels, not an easy decision, and certainly not helped by various people, for a variety of reasons telling us we had made a wrong decision. Plus I had a long term arrangement for 'Bill the Builder' to build me a lean-to to 'winter' the 'exotics' (banana plants, gingers etc) I grow. Plus, plus the toilet's been playing up for weeks, backing up most disgustedly, no amount of efforts with mops down the bowl making any difference, a trip to the toilet becoming a dreaded occasion. Plus, plus, plus I've had not one but three recalls in ten days on my Fiat motorhome. To say the least time consuming in a season dedicated to attending the grand children's carol concerts and nativity events. (Fiat, Fix It Again Tomorrow!)
    The solar panel fitting was dependent on deadlines. (The government's decision to move a deadline from next April to this December put pressure on everyone.) Suffice to say our life has revolved around this for some time. Many, many phone calls, many moments of doubt, The stress has been enormous for all. Frosts have meant my plants have suffered. A lifting of the manhole revealed a massively blocked sewage system. Life in retirement is supposed to be peaceful. Have you ever had the feeling you are going under!
    Then all of a sudden, perhaps it was a full a full moon, life changed. A phone call to Seven Trent, a delightful, sympathetic, knowledgeable young man at the other end, a visit arranged. Two young men, resplendent in red overalls arrived at ten o'clock at night, rods at the ready. Ten minutes later, one foul looking, foul smelling blockage was no more. Job done, by two efficient, courteous, smiling young men, brilliant in the extreme.
    'Bill the Builder' turns up and, a lot of hard work and numerous cups of tea later, my new 'lean to' is complete, a work of art comparable to anything achieved by Christopher Wren or Robert Adam. And, as if by magic,  a van arrived containing three young men from Leeds. Six hours later We had an up and running solar system, courtesy of three pleasant, hard working, uncomplaining young men.
    I suppose there are two main point to this post. One, how quickly our lives are turned upside down by anything remotely out of the ordinary. Uncertainty, a feeling of helplessness, even loneliness, (the idea that you are alone with your problems) all experienced. None of the problems life threatening but none the less important to us at the time. Please tell me, is it an age thing? Anything even remotely similarly ever got you down, so to speak? I well know most if not all problems go away with time. (Health problems excepted.) But how feeble we really are, how insecure when it really comes to the crunch.
    The second point is this. How wonderful was the Seven Trent man who answered the phone and the two sewerage men who literally got me out of the s***. How brilliant were the three cheerful solar men who toiled so efficiently in less than ideal weather. And 'Bill the Builder', not exactly in the flush of youth, again uncomplaining and always efficient. Do any of them realise, I wonder, what a massive contribution they are making in these uncompromising times. Times are indeed hard, but the country is in good hands. Thanks, lads, you made this 'Darby and Joan' very happy. Smiling, happy people have far more effect in life than they could ever imagine. I am going to make a deliberate effort to make people happy this week. How about you smiling at a stranger this week. (You won't get in trouble, honest.) You may even make a difference to someone's day!

There weren't too many laughs lately, Charlie Chaplin once said, 'A day without laughter is a day wasted.' So a short piece via a British comedian who made me smile.( This post was completed at 7.30pm. Around 9 00pm appeared on the Royal Command performance this comedian, Mick Miller doing the same act, again, with one word change. Did you spot it I wonder.) Plus did you notice someone on stage was reading a newspaper with a Charlie Chaplin headline. How strange is that!) 


Thursday, 8 December 2011

In Praise of Wool.

    I am here today to give you information that will change your life. In these modern, sophisticated, technical times, here's a four letter word that for once you will like.    
    I tend to have some real old books on my shelves. It must be my age! I sat reading one yesterday. One that I found no mention of on the the internet whatsoever and that's quite unusual.
'Health Culture' by G Jaeger M.D, Professor of Zoology and Physiology, published in 1894. Evidently, according to a label on the inside of the cover, presented with the compliments of Dr Jaeger's Sanitary Woollen System Co., Ltd., 23, Commercial Street, Leeds.
    Fascinating, in its own way, it is a book extolling the virtues/benefits of WOOL, both as clothing and bedding. Evidently at one stage in his life Dr Jaeger was a poor speciman but was restored to good health by the wearing of wool. (He had at one time. varicose veins, he was 'fat and scant of breath', had 'disturbed digestion,' hemorrhoids and a 'tendency to chill diseases'. (He tells us wool wearers become 'fever proof'.) All cured by his love of wool. (Fetish might be too strong a word.) He calls wool 'the survival of the fittest material'.
    He advocates that all clothes, pants, socks, coats, shirts, even ladies corsets, the lot should be made exclusively from wool whilst shoes should be wool lined. (Even hats, his call for pure wool indoor hats for bald people is terrific.)
How about woollen hankerchiefs! 'Woollen hankerchiefs are far superior to linen ones' he emphatically tells us.
    He uses the word 'sanitary' frequently and makes the point that linen and cotton dresses are 'washing dresses' whereas wool dresses are 'brushing dresses'. He is adament that wool is best, whatever the climate, hot or cold, winter or summer; no change of style necessary.
'Amongst hairy animals, otters, beavers and others which are amphibious, make no such change, neither do the genuine inhabitants of the desert.'
    And wool is an excellent choice for military uniforms. 'Cool blood and hot bullets' is one of many quaint phrases he uses. (I loved his use of the phrase 'girded loins' when talking of the 'Sanitary Woollen Corset'.)
    Dr Jaeger mentions on occasion materials other than pure wool, such as  linen or material mixtures; none impress him.
Its wool, wool, wool for Doctor Jaeger. The only other material he rates highly is camel hair, though not for underwear as it's apparently difficult to weave. But particularly good for bedding, coverlets and rugs. He is adament that 'all covering other than wool should be discarded.' (The good doctor talks of the 'hardening' effect on the body, evidently 'hardening' is important to good health.)
Testimonials in the book include two famous people of the time. Henry M Stanley, 19th century explorer and utterer of those immortal words 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?' Less immortal, his opinion that 'I have pleasure in testifying to the excellence of the Jaeger Clothing which, during my late journey, I found very good.'
Plus Kate Marsden, traveller who, on behalf of the Empress of Russia,  investigated the condition of lepers in Siberia.
'I wish to thank you for having persuaded me to wear Jaeger Clothing. Humanly speaking I owe my life to that and not taking stimulants.'
     So there you have it. No more talk of feeling poorly. Out with the synthetics (not invented surely in the good doctors day), the vegetable fibres and in with the wool. If you don't and the winter gets to you, you have only yourself to blame. (I can only in part do justice to Dr Jaeger's philosophy concerning good health. his book in fact is almost two hundred pages long.) Any comments very welcome. I wonder what happened to the learned doctor and his company. I am sure there are some equally learned people amongst my readers, that is, of course, presuming there are people still out there! To finish, a story that must have been in my brain for many years and recalled as I wrote this piece. (I honestly believe EVERYTHING you ever experience is still in there somewhere, waiting to be recalled.)

Two old men, Fred and Albert are on the way to a Derby County football match one wintery day. It starts to rain. Fred takes his cap off and puts it in his pocket.
'What have you done that for? says Albert?
'Don't be daft,' says Fred, 'You don't think I'm going to sit in the house all night with a wet cap on!'                                                                                  

Thursday, 1 December 2011

November, You Didn't Let Us Down. Grumpy's Alternative News.

    Let's talk money for starters. Anyone got any spare cash? So what's going, cheap or otherwise. A Supermarine Swift jet aircraft on eBay, cheap at £250,000. Or some bed items, maybe? Hitler's single sheet and pillow, embroidered with his initials, estimated auction price, £3,000 (Bristol). The sign, reading 'BED PEACE' that hung above John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 'bed in' in 1969. (on sale at Christies, London, estimated price £100,000). No, how about the blackboard from the room where Michael Jackson died. Reads 'I (heart) Daddy SMILE, it's for free.' Written in chalk by his children, estimated price, £250. We may be broke, but there's still plenty of money about. The world's most expensive train ticket fetched £3,872  at auction in Cirencester. (Journey from Banagher and Maryborough, original price 9s 4d.) A doll, originally bought in 1747 fetched £58,850 at Bonhams in London. Not over surprised, London after all is, well, London. (There's an unmodernised flat, two bedrooms, for sale in Belgravia. Only £600,000 and its got a long lease. Not really, how would ten years suit you!
    Mind you, for the 'real' money its back to the good old US of A. Liz Taylor's 'La Peregrina' necklace is to be auctioned in New York in December, estimate, $3 million. This after all is the country that has built a robotic rover (called Curiosity) to investigate whether Mars is capable of supporting life. The cost of this 'robot', £1.6 billion! We can't compete with that. Why bother! We are in recession. We are careful with the money, we have to be. So the 99p stores contribution to it all is to be applauded. A bra for less than £1. (Choice of three colours plus a bow at the front.) Well done (ladies?), now how about something for the chaps!
    Petty criminals, now they're always good for a smile. Like the thief on the the church roof in Lincoln who took the lead and left behind a can of Polish lager covered in his finger prints. And the A-level student from Wolverhampton who stole two left-footed trainers from a shop during the August riots. (Doesn't say much for modern A levels.) Or the burglar tip toeing round a bedroom in Swansea when his mobile phone went off. Not so petty the hopelessly inadequate postman in Torquay who finished up with over 30,000 undelivered, unopened  items dating back to 2008. (A third of it junk mail) Stored in his shed, his car and a local garage. Interestingly enough, he's been replaced by two postmen and a van!
Now ten unrelated titbits that I found interesting.
1 Danica May Camacho born to a 'jeepney' driver in the Philippines one Sunday night in November was the seventh billion human being.
2 Two Russian families, whose children aged 12 were accidentally switched at birth have bought houses next to each other with compensation from a court.
3 A researcher at Oxford University has been honoured for devising a fence that scares away elephants in Africa by buzzing like a bee.
4 A couple in Ratley, Warwickshire have had to halt their house extension work after four skeletons, part of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground were found under their patio.
5 5000 portions of curry were served in Trafalgar Square from malformed vegetables to highlight the fact that 30% of all fruit and vegetables is rejected by supermarkets for not meeting cosmetic standards.
6 270 tons of miniature Eiffel Towers were sized in police raids on illicit street vendors in Paris.
7 A teenager preparing for a skiing trip to the South Pole prepared by spending the night in a supermarket freezer. In Iceland of course.
8 Tonga won a competitive football match for the first time in their history. Their Man of the Match was Johny 'Jayieh' Saelua, the first transgender footballer to play in the World Cup.
9 Surgeons removed a piece of bone from Matthew Willey, took it from one Birmingham hospital to another  for radiotherapy, returned it and reattached it, all in a ten hour operation.  
10 Johny Rotton, of Sex Pistols fame drew some rather crude drawings on the wall of his flat in London, in 1977. It has been suggested they be preserved, being, like the cave paintings in France, 'of archaeological interest'.
    Finally a few 'rude' bits I couldn't help noticing. The Office For National Statistics has published figures for a 'baby boom', suggesting it was down to last years long and harsh winter. Really! San Francisco is changing the law and making it an offence to enter a restaurant naked. Evidently it has been putting people off eating! (Surely a Freudian slip that reported it was making the city the butt of many a joke?)
    A man accused of secretly filming himself making love to his girlfriend in South Wales claimed it was 'research not voyeurism', he being a 'Time and Motion Consultant'. You couldn't make it up! (He was found not guilty. One person who saw the 35 minute video said, and I quote, 'There was very little action in it.')
    The mind boggles but not in the same league as the Russian historian and expert on local cemeteries. He had 29 mummified female corpses, some posed, in his home, all dressed up as life-size dolls. Some with music boxes, toy hearts and soap inserted into the rib cages. He was described by a local newspaper editor as a loner with 'certain quirks'. Rather an understatement I fear. I think Louis hit it in one 'What a Wonderful World'.