Tuesday 29 December 2009

The Season for Awards Another Good Year.

December tends to be the month for awards. So before I do my last alternative news for the year I thought it might be nice to review the years events according to 'Grumpy's Alternative News.' How many do you remember I wonder. (First Alternative News was published February 2009)

The Stupidest People of My year.
Remember the young lady trying to inject heroin whilst driving down the M4 at 90mph. Or the young man who did the armed robbery using his car with a personalised number plate. He got twelve years, by the way.
The forgers whose £20 notes had Boy George on the watermark weren't too sharp, neither was the Oldham Athletic mascot who fell off his bike doing wheelies in front of the crowd and had to be taken to hospital. The latter silly yes, but not dangerous, (except to himself) unlike the aircrew scuffling on an Air India flight as the plane flew unaided. And you wonder why I have never flown and have no immediate plans to do so. And lastly the benefits Officer convicted of claimed disability allowances whilst entering breakdancing competitiond showed the cheek of the devil.

Organisations who made us Wonder
At times it seemed the larger the organisation, the stupider their actions. remember McDonalds taking on a Malayan restaurant because it called itself McCurry's. I ask you! And Marks and Spencer putting an extra £2 on bras larger than a DD. They too lost, as did Marks and I'm still not sure what a DD is!
The Welsh authority who decided Spotted Dick was henceforth to be called Spotted Richard (they too backed down) and the pompous Polish polititian (how about that for alliteration!) who complained because his local zoo had bought a 'gay' elephant.
The Scout Associations ruling that scouts could not take their knives to camp stank of political correctness whilst the noise abatement order on a cockerel in Hertfordshire is sadly a sign of the times. Plus I'm not too impressed by Southport Councils conviction of a pensioner for roller skating in the town. Lighten up, Southport for goodness sake. Talking of pensioners, the geriatric milkman selling cannibis with his pints made me smile. I know it shouldn't but it did so there! Plus I'd have loved to have seen the policeman's face when the old lady put a hand grenade she had found on the counter.
A good year. Each month I expect to find nothing and up they turn, as rare as greedy politicians.
Finally three more saucy reminders of an excellent year. Sorry ladies, it's a man thing, but I bet they made some of you smile too.
The electric cables in Lincolnshire put out of action by a balloon carrying, of all things, a black thong. The young lady in the USA, the partner of a twin who suddenly realised on this particlar evening her partner in bed had no tattoo on his buttocks. And finally the story of the Berlin authorities who decreed that prostitutes, licenced in Germany should give a discount for customers who arrive by bicycle. Well done, Berlin, there is a recession after all!
December's Alternative News to follow shortly. A happy and peaceful new year to everyone.

Thursday 24 December 2009

One Grumpy Old Santa

I know where you live. So make sure you're asleep! Happy Christmas.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Oh Dear, Marks Lower than Expected!

I think the answers to this little beauty suggest we should never take anything at face value! Hope you enjoyed participating. Back to normal in the New Year.

Answers to a Simple Quiz

1 116 years, from 1397 to 1453.
2 November (on the 7th). Russia’s calender was 13 days behind.
3 Ecuador.
4 El Salvador. It’s a medicinal herb grown by the Balsam Indians.
5 The Manx shearwater. Puffins are genus Fratercula or Lunda.
6 The sheep.
7 A hard-wearing cotton fabric called moleskin.
8 They’re fruits grown in New Zealand.
9 Sixteen. The one known as Louis XVII died in prison during the Revolution, and thus never reached
the throne.
10 A breed of large dogs. The Latin name was canariae insulae- “Islands of Dogs”.
11 Albert. When he came to the throne, he respected the wish of Queen Victoria that no future king
should be called Albert.
12 The distinctively coloured parts are crimson.
13 It takes place in the spring, from April 29 to May I.
14 It is usually made of squirrel’s hair.
15 30 years, of course- 1618 to 1648.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Nearly There.

Still hectic, running about like the proverbial fly with the blue bits. (I wonder where that rather rude saying came from.) Just time for a sit down, a cuppa and the quiz I found in a fantastic bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland. (Again apogies to my regular readers.)

A Very Simple Quiz for Very Clever People

1 How long did the Hundred Years’ War Last?
2 In which month do the Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
3 In which country are Panama hats made?
4 From which country do we get Peruvian Balsam?
5 Which seabird has the zoological name Puffinus puffinus?
6 From which animal do we get catgut?
7 From which material are moleskin trousers made?
8 Where do Chinese gooseberries come from?
9 Louis the XVIII was the last one, but how many previous kings of France were called Louis?
10 What kind of creatures were the Canary Islands named after?
11 What was King George VI’s first name?
12 What colour is a purple finch?
13 In what season of the year does William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream take place?
14 What is a camel’s hair brush made of?
15 How long did the Thirty Year’s War last?

Answers tomorrow.

Monday 21 December 2009

Easy When You've seen the Answers!

Answers to the Christmas Quiz as promised. Very pushed for time so will do one more quiz before Christmas. Please forgive my choosing the easy way out! It is the season of goodwill after all!

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.

Friday 18 December 2009

'Something for the Weekend, Sir?' Happy Christmas.

Who was it who sang the lines 'Almost there, we're almost there'. And another artist who sang ''You're almost here'. The latter evidently a popular choice of ringtone. To get my readers in the festive mood I offer (again) the quiz I created for a teaching group some considerable time ago. It might amuse some when the food has been devoured and movement is out of the question. I suggest half marks would be an excellent score for someone working on their own. Let's make it Britain versus over the pond. ( In fairness our friends overseas are at a disadvantage with some questions.) No cheating! Answers on Monday.

A Seasonal Quiz by Ken Stevens

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, in 1953, ‘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.

Monday 14 December 2009

I Cannot Tell a Lie.

Bruce Burgess carries out the lie detector tests on The Jeremy Kyle Show. He recently received a suspended jail sentence for lying regarding the driving of his car when involved in a speeding offence. Which got me thinking about lying in general. (And the title of Kyle's new book? 'I'm Only Being Honest'. Honest!)
Lie. A false statement or piece of information deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
And there seems to be a lot of it about.
Many Members of Parliament have been found guilty of lying, there's no other word for it, to gain extra cash to add to their not inconsiderable salaries, perks and pensions. Some Irish Catholic priests have been found to be living sordid perverted lives, a lying existence that must be horrific to live with. Footballers cheat in all sorts of ways and indignantly deny their lies when presented with the evidence. Cheats, and cheating involves lying and goes on at all levels. Perhaps it has always been so. A common response by some, though not all schoolchildren when accused of misdemeanours is 'Prove it.' Note, not 'I didn't do it' but simply 'prove it.'
I once gave evidence in court. I could not believe the lies told by one particular witness under oath. Boy, was I naive. There is no doubt many perjure themselves in British Courts on a daily basis, seldom found out. Perhaps they are thinking in terms of 'white lies'.
White lie. Minor lies which could be considered to be harmless or even beneficial in the long term. Maybe there is such a thing. I try not to lie. (see blog dated 29th June 2008 Tell a Lie and Find the Truth. Spanish Proverb.) But maybe, just maybe white lies are acceptable.
Our American friends have the heart lifting story of George to put them on the straight and narrow should they wish to stray from the truth. Boy George, not the English Boy George, silly, became the proud owner of a brand new hatchet. He used it to cut down father's favourite cherry tree. Father was not best pleased. 'Did you do that, son?' asked father. George thought of lying, but he was a well brought up child. Plus the chopper was sticking out from under his vest. His answer is well documented. 'I cannot tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.'
'Well done, George' said father. George, George Washington that is, went on to become the American President.
Less well known is the story of Tony, a mischievous boy brought up in the wilds of northern England. Left to his own devices one day, he thought it great fun to push the family privy into the nearby river. (All northern families have privies to this day, a fact seldom mentioned in polite circles.) The family were not amused, there were cross words and crossed legs. 'Did you do that, our Tony?' asked dad sternly but kindly. Tony did think of saying 'prove it,' but it were a long time ago. Plus he thought of George Washington, telling the truth hadn't done him any harm, and he finished up in politics.
'Yes dad, it were me' said Tony proudly. And his dad gave him a right good hiding. Poor Tony howled and enquired, with tears running down his ruddy red cheeks, 'What did you do that for? George didn't get a good hiding.'
'Very true,' said dad, 'but there again George's dad wasn't up the cherry tree!'
But the incident taught young Tony one thing. Sometimes it pays to be economical with the truth. I wonder whatever happened to him.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Its All in the Mind; Why I've no Idea.

So I do this post, Sunday Roast at the invitation of Eddie Bluelights. (A confession. When Eddie first arrived on the blogging scene, not very long ago, I thought he was something of an upstart. Full of enthusiasm; so keen, so new, so early. I was so jealous; and oh so wrong.) Excellent blogger and prolific with it. Well done my friend. And from this 'invitation blog' came a 'tagging' request from LiZZie' in the form of eight personal facts (of no importance whatsoever.) Which solved the problem of this weeks blog. (Not long ago I thought a 'tag' was something mother stitched into the back of your coat when you were at school.)
Now at the risk of repeating myself, I honestly believe that everything we have experienced in life is stored somewhere in the brain. its all a matter of retrieval. And nobody has yet answered satisfactorily as to where it all goes when the lights finally go out. So before this gets too deep, eight little observations.

1 I have always been absent minded, dilatory, hopeless, even as a child. Why else would I go to town on my bike and come home on the bus. (The bike was still there next day.)

2 But if my memory is so bad how come I can still remember two questions from my 11+ exam of fifty nine years ago.

Question. Yesterday, today was tomorrow. True or false.

Question. George Washington was born, married and died in the house he built himself. Which one is obviously incorrect.

3 On my first day at Woolworth's, seventeen years of age I had no dinner. No-one told me when my dinner hour was. It never happened again.

4 When I was about twelve the chapel I attended (Moravian) presented a Tibetan Buddhist monk convert to Christianity with a typewriter that typed in Tibetan (Made in Derby). I remember thinking, blimey, I bet they don't sell many of those in Derby.

5 I have often been mistaken for Lord Bath. (See blog dated 22nd September 2009.) Funnily enough my parentage is obscure and it was once suggested that my father was 'someone who visited the big house' where my mother was a 'skivvy'.

6 When teaching in the large comprehensive I once told a young man loitering on the stairs to 'clear off' back to his classroom,' and be quick about it Sad really, as he was a 'youngish' workman painting the stairs for the council and was just having a rest.

7 The Berlin Wall came down on my birthday. (November 9th.)

8 The first record on my jukebox is Old Rivers by Walter Brennan. The last is 'Cavatina' from The Deer Hunter, guitar played by John Williams. (And if you take nothing else away from this blog, treat yourself and play Old Rivers.)

I know, I know, what a lot of old cobblers. But perhaps blogging should not be tense, serious and deeply philosophic all of the time. And why should I be the only one to suffer. LiZZie suggests I 'tag' other bloggers. So would any of the following like to have a go. Its not compulsory of course and I shan't be offended if its not your scene. You have been chosen simply because you are new to my blog. And more than likely much more interesting than this foolish geriatric. Anyone else wishing to join in, be my guest.

Gramme's Blog. Mr London Street. Gaston Studio. Molly Potter. A Heron's View.

Friday 4 December 2009

Good Old November. Grumpy's Alternative News.

We're nearly there, Christmas, seems to have been coming for ever. Not that Santa at a family event in Evesham noticed. 'He was inept, sullen and uncommunicative' said the Evesham Market Town Partnership manager who had set him on. Sounds about right. At least they got their money back. A raffle was held in Kirkham Prison, Lancashire, the main prize being a day out. Great, except that nobody realised most of the prisoners were not eligible. (It is a prison after all.) I hope they also got their money back. Perhaps we're too hard on prisoners nowadays. A trial of a man in Dresden for murder was held up because he was annoyed by newspaper reports and this made him too upset to attend. All say aaah. (He was eventually convicted.) Neither were employees at the Home Office too happy when their 'Winter Games' were moved to a weekend. So no claiming paid leave for this five hour event. What a hard life these Civil Servants lead. Welcome to the real world. I often laugh at the world because the alternative is to cry. I notice the President of the Queen's English Society says he is not a natural speller. Fair enough, neither am I and I taught English for many years. In which case you make a determined effort to get it right. You don't blunder on, oblivious, it's not difficult to get help if you need it. But try telling that to Knowsley council, evidently road sign errors are not their mistakes, but contractors who erected them.
Plus the clock on the bank on the High street in Manningtree, Essex is a brilliant example of slipping standards. (Sent back after repair with numbers in the wrong order, it has been left to serve as a tourist attraction. I wonder if the clock repairer was dyslexic.)
I do wonder at times if the populace is becoming 'thicker'. Too much junk food, perhaps. A robber in Birmingham is now serving thirty months for attacking a security guard and running off with £25,000. The trouble was he only lived five doors from the bank and witnesses saw him run into his house!
Two bank robbers robbed The Halifax of £100,000 in a meticulously planned robbery in Cardiff. The judge sentencing them described it as 'a professional, sophisticated, planned robbery on commercial premises.' Very professional indeed, except for one thing. The car used by the robbers had a personalised number plate, once seen, never forgotten. More important, easily traced. One robber is now serving twelve years, the other eight.One final news item that made me smile. The police in Bolivia issued a photofit of the suspect when a taxi driver was murdered in Santa Cruz. No laughing, please, it's not a laughing matter. But they had the last laugh, they made an arrest. perhaps the suspect, perish the thought, actually looks like his photofit!

Sunday 29 November 2009

One Man's Meat. What makes You Laugh?

Having done a couple of rather heavy blogs I decided to lighten the mood. And I got to thinking, what makes me laugh.
I looked up the word laughter in the dictionary. 'The experience or appearance of joy, merriment, amusement, or the like.' (Something amusing, improbable or ridiculous; a joke or absurdity.) Plenty of scope there, then.
In a way its a personal thing, also an age thing. I was brought up in the heyday of the radio. (wireless to us geriatrics.) Loved to hear Arthur English, Vic Oliver, Rob Wilton, yet seldom personally found ITMA funny, very highly rated by a humour starved population after the war.
The word ridiculous figures in the definitions. What could be more ridiculous than a ventriloquist on the wireless. (Educating Archie) But the fifties and to a lesser extent the sixties tended to be unsophisticated times and boy, did it show. I suspect Mr Pastry (Richard Hearn) would not be highly rated today, Harry Worth I could take or leave, Benny Hill is now decidedly non PC.
Life has become far more complex, sophisticated and modern humour reflects these trends. The Ben Eltons of this world are clever but not to everyones taste. I recently attended a live performance of Al Murray, the Pub Landlord.' Brilliant but I can well appreciate not everyone would find him funny. But he's not compulsory either. Whatever turns you on, so to speak, enjoy, but enjoy being different without necessarily being critical of the choice of others. For no one loves a clever clogs, we all have different tastes in all things.
Times inevitably change, new trends appear, old ideas are discarded. But not everything that we laughed at all those years ago has been confined to the scrap heap. How many remember Freddie Frinton, who amused mainly in the forties and fifties but never really reached the heights. And how many realise that his masterpiece, 'Dinner for One' (recorded in 1963 with May Warden) is still played on television all over Germany on New Years Eve, on some channels five separate times. (Norddeutscher Rundfuuk NDR) Plus the habit of 'Freddie at New Years Eve' has evidently now spread to Estonia, and has been popular in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Faroes and Austria for many years. (The New Year connection is misleading, it was never intended as a New Year offering.) Go on, treat yourself, make a cup of tea and watch a master at work. And if Freddie doesn't make you smile, I'd love to know who does.
Freddie Frinton, born Frederick Bittiner Coo, illegitimate son of a seamstress, born in Grimsby in 1909. Worked in a fish processing plant but sacked for telling jokes and performing paradies instead of working. Worked as a comedian on the Music Hall stage in England for many years with only moderate success. His 'Dinner for One' (recorded in 1963 but first performed by Freddie in 1945) is the most frequently recorded TV programme ever. Freddie died in 1968.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

On Being Easily Moved

I happened to catch the end of 'Goodbye Mr Chips' recently. (The 1969 version starring Peter O'Toole.) I found the closing speech where the socially inept Mr Chips puts into words his feelings for the boys surprisingly moving. Maybe it struck a cord, me being a schoolmaster for a considerable number of years. If nothing else it made me examine aspects of my being that seldom surface in the busy, brusque, often insensitive world we live in.
I was brought up in a time after the war where the term 'cry baby' often figured. A 'cry baby' was dismissed as inferior, weak and certainly unmanly. Which is probably why on at least two occasions I limped home, metaphorically and literally with broken bones. My efforts at competing with the 'bigger boys' might well often end in failure but, good heavens, you didn't let it show, broken bones or no broken bones. And I remember arriving home at the age of thirteen to be told my mother had died. Then, amazingly, I went out and did my paper round. I report this merely as fact, not a matter of pride. No tears, nothing but unbridled sorrow and bewilderment.
Experiences in life teach us, mould us, change us, for better or worse and make the finished article, however flawed. Girls cry, boys have a stiff upper lip, or so we were taught. (The British Empire and all that.) Fortunately times change, thank goodness.
I once saw an elderly male teacher cry with the frustrations of the job. I was embarrassed to see a man crying; I was wrong. But bit by bit the joys of marriage, children softened me and the steely male front has slipped away. Not totally, but at least to a degree. I know this must be so. I would never at one time been moved by Mr Chips, never mind a celluloid version of life's sensibilities.
I cry nowadays, not too often but enough. I howled as I watched both the Liverpool Heysel (1985) and Hillsborough (1989) tragedies unfold on the television. In frustration, sympathy. (I am an ardent football fan) Similarly the Bradford City fire (1985) brought my to tears as I watched the tragedy unfold, again on the television. Indeed, you would have to be a strangely unemotional individual not to be moved by such tragic events. I am not a 'touchy feely' sort of person and that is not particularly good. My daughters are into 'hugs' (many of the younger generation tend to be so and I am mightily impressed.) But I can be moved nowadays and I am pleased. The feeling experienced at Wembley Stadium when Derby County won an important match had to be experienced to be believed. (play off versus WBA 2007.) That something as unimportant as a football match could move me so much is amazing in a way. But only a football fan could experience the elation involved.
Emotional development is important. What is a person without emotional development. You tell me. A psychopath, perhaps? And I believe at least in part it is taught by example.
I have read John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' many, many times. It was a regular choice of mine when teaching English literature to adolescents. We would read it out loud together, no looking at a film and pretending we had read the book. (How old fashioned it all sounds now.)
You would have to be bereft of any feeling whatsoever not to be moved by the end of the tragic giant Lennie at the hand of his friend George. But to see teenagers, sometimes hardened teenagers with tears in their eyes shows the power of the written word. It also suggests there is perhaps hope for all. (Two teenagers were sentenced this week for the shotgun murder of another teenager in a park less than a mile from my home. The victims offence, he 'dissed' the mother of one of the assailants. Perhaps I am totally wrong and there is no hope. My lovely grandchildren suggest otherwise.)
I had not intended this piece of writing to go in the direction it has. But the murder on my doorstep makes me wonder at the emotional development or otherwise of some of today's more deprived youngsters. Where is it all going wrong, a world where a teenager will dispatch a fellow being to eternity with little thought or compulsion. Surely a person without feelings is a person without hope.
A non too serious test of my readers emotional development. My favourite recording is 'Old Shep' by Walter Brennan. Trite, sentimental it still moves me on a good day. What do you reckon. And what brings a lump to your throat in this hard, often unsentimental world? Plus a promise, my next blog will be cheerful in the extreme. Now there's a thought!

Thursday 19 November 2009

Now What Year was That

I have been consistently writing on the period 1945-59 for some considerable time. I have also lived for over 25,000 days. I can recall in some detail events from as far back as 1945. Not bad, except that it has dawned on me that my memories are mainly concerned with events rather than specific years. There are huge gaps concerning years, inevitable I suppose but alarming.
I remember in some detail VE Day (8th May 1945), and a teacher in class announcing that a good man called Gandhi had been murdered. (Jan 30th 1948) Coronation Day made an impression (June 2nd 1953). The day I arrived from school to be told that my mother had died will inevitably stay forever in my mind. (Tuesday September 8th 1953) On a damp February day in 1958 the sensational news came in that the plane carrying Manchester United footballers had crashed. I was working for Woolworths at the time. And how could I ever forget finishing under a lorry on Tuesday March 10th 1959.
I started teaching in 1974 and officially retired in 1990. Dare I admit I have been known to forget the exact date of my Wedding Day (April 4th 1970) and on occasion the exact year the children were born. ( July 30th 1971 and June 8th 1973) The days, weeks, months, years roll by, of no consequence outside our immediate friends and family. Unsurprising so but in a way sad. Probably the reason why so many strive to leave something behind for which they will be remembered. (Not the main gist of this particular blog but what are YOU going to leave behind, besides memories of course.)
Whilst I have recall of many events over the years I seem to be unable to place many other such occurrences in the exact year they were experienced. And as more years pass the more difficult recall becomes. For instance, I cannot recall a single event that belongs specifically to 1952, 1954, 1955 or 1957. More surprising, virtually the whole of the 1980's is shrouded in the mist and the 1990's are no better.
The only exception to my inability to recall years is 1985. For the only time in my life I kept a comprehensive diary. Two brief entries go a long way to showing why we can recall so little of our lives.
Wednesday 20th November 1985
Another of those frequent days where nothing happens but life is by no means unpleasant, an observation that many in this troubled world would love to make.
Thursday 21st November 1985
Paulette goes out for the evening with Kay. Alison retires to bed. Sarah, who has no lessons first thing in the morning, watches television with me. We watch a programme concerned with the topless young ladies who adorn page three of some of our national newspapers. We watch without embarrassment. I am quietly pleased at Sarah's maturity. Going fast is the child, appearing as the young adult. Of the programme itself, I am saddened by a mere fifteen year old seeking stardom, adulthood and heaven knows what else. How foolish to seek adulthood when it comes all too soon without our searching.
Two entries which confirm life for many of us, though enjoyable, has little of real substance. Understandable, but again the question, how can a year, never mind a day have no lasting impact.
Have you blank years, or even blank decades. A little test. Pick a decade, ideally way back in time. Recall as many as ten events, that you specifically relate to. Anniversaries are out and no looking up information. Or am I alone in losing it, god forbid!

Saturday 14 November 2009

Heartiest Congratulations.

Monday was my birthday although we celebrated with a party on Saturday (7th Nov) Quiet day, Monday, after hectic Saturday, including a visit to the chiropodist. (What, on your birthday!)
Which is probably why I found myself wide awake, at three in the morning thinking about toes, or one toe in particular. My big toe, the left one if you're interested. No, oh please yourself! Evidently the joint is showing signs of wear. Now this is a nuisance but hardly terminal. And after all, it's rather an old toe when all is said and done.
Now I've reached seventy, that means my toe, my original and only left toe is around 25,567 days old. If my maths are right, that would come to well over half a million hours. And where else in my life am I going to achieve a figure of half a million plus of anything. (Answers on a postcard please.) So the old toe has not worn too badly by my reckoning. So I lay there and metaphorically contemplated my naval.
By now going back to sleep was out of the question. Then it got real deep and interesting. My knees are in a right state but they've done some work over the years. Plus they've had bits and pieces done to them to keep them going. My left hip joint has long since gone, replaced by modern ceramics. Gone too, my tonsils, no ceramic replacement necessary. (With it has gone some, go on then, most of my hair.) One eye never did work properly, the other is backed up by modern technology, £3oo spectacles for long distance from the opticians, reading glasses, £0.99 from Home Bargains. My joints in general are passable if arthritic, my lungs work within reason and my brain is almost completely intact in spite of the old TGA. Plus one or two other items have dwindling powers but we won't go into that! All this relying from day one, minute one on that wonder of science, the old ticker called the heart.
We seldom think of hearts until they go wrong; its bumping along as I write this. Unnoticed, no attention since that day in 1939 when first required to power this other wonder of science christened Kenneth Allan. Think about it. If we had been given a battery instead of a heart, what number battery would we be on by now?
A few 'heartfelt' observations. Your system of blood vessels concerned with the heart (arteries, veins and capillaries) is over 60,000 miles long. Long enough to go round the world more than twice. An adult heart pumps more than five quarts of blood each minute. That's around 2,000 gallons of blood each day. Plus it beats around 100,000 times each day. For a seventy year old that means it's done around 2.5 billion beats so far. And it weighs around ten ounces. A female adult heart only weighs around eight ounces but there again it doesn't have so much work to do. (Only kidding, ladies, honest, only kidding!) Every minute, every second, thump, thump, thump, amazing! Asleep, awake, its all the same to 'old faithful' 'cos if it doesn't, that's it, end, of story, end of Kenneth, 'Goodnight Vienna'.
So from now on, when you wake in the morning, and last thing at night, say 'thank you, heart, you unsung hero, you.' (But not too loud, eh, you don't want the neighbours talking.) I never did get back to sleep, instead I just got up and had a cup of tea. I'm sure old ticker approved.

Monday 9 November 2009

One Heck of a Journey

On the 9th of November 1939 a child was born to Mary Elizabeth Hudston. Mary, unmarried, had concealed the fact that she was pregnant, the doctor was called to deal with suspected gallstones when she was in fact in labour. The birth was a surprise to most, probably not to Mary. She took the secret of the father of the child to her grave. The child, underweight partially due to lack of prenatal attention and wartime austerity was named Kenneth Allan. Kenneth was quickly christened as his future, already dubious was further complicated due to a life threatening condition, almost certainly pyloric stenosis. Operated on immediately the child, it is said, spent some of its early days snugly wrapped in a shoebox by the fire.
Kenneth survived, just, a spell of eighteen months in Bretby Hospital due to rickets unusual but not unknown in wartime Britain. Mary married Ernest Stevens, had a daughter Jean and time passed by. Ernest died in tragic circumstances in 1942 and life was never easy for Mary, Jean and Kenneth.
Kenneth, small of stature, continued to thrive despite frequent broken limbs, often through competing with 'the bigger boys'. Mary died in 1953, aged forty six. Jean was adopted by an aunt and Kenneth allowed his name to be changed by deed poll to Kenneth Allan Stevens. (to mask the stigma of illegitimacy) It was probably the last time in his life Kenneth allowed someone else to make a decision on his behalf.
Life never stands still. A serious motorcycle accident almost cost Kenneth his life. But broken bones and almost a year off work, though painful are seldom terminal. Near misses in canals and rivers are just that, merely near misses. And life is full of near misses. An internal hemorrhage, serious at the time but survivable. Skin cancer, worrying but surely sent to remind that we are mortal. TGA, eerie but again survivable and one hell of a talking point when the conversation flags at cocktail parties.
Tablets for this, tablets for that, no wonder our ancestors had a shorter life span, it's only the tablets that keep us going. But its been fun and its not over yet. And boy, does it seem strange to be seventy years of age!

Saturday 7 November 2009

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

One of my public speaking 'spiels' is tongue in cheek entitled' Is the Whole World going Mad or is it Me.' And you don't have to go far for material. The worry is it may be getting worse. October for instance was brilliant, not counting my alternative news material. (2nd November)
A prisoner from a New York jail, in court, therefore dressed in a suit asked the way out; and a security guard showed him the exit.
Paul Bint, a confidence trickster was convicted at Southwark Crown Court for the 155th time.He has pretended to be, over a long career, A hotelier, aristocrat, banker, doctor, playboy and property magnate. He has also impersonated the Director of Public Prosecutions.
What wonderful imaginations people have. Like the woman who walked into the Ohio shop and said she would pay for customers purchases as she had won the lottery. Fifteen hundred people took advantage of her generosity. Which was unfortunate for the shop as she had done no such thing. Ah well, you can't win them all. Perhaps she was just trying to make new friends. Talking of friends, choose them carefully. A group of men from a martial arts club in Coventry were carrying a wheel-chair bound friend up Snowdon in a charity event. A pity they abandoned him halfway up. He was later rescued by a mountain rescue team.
Yes, I'm sure the world is going mad. In America a six year old is suspended from school for forty five days and ordered to attend an establishment for wayward children. His offence, taking to school his camping utensils, a folding knife, fork and spoon. Classed evidently as a Level 3 violation concerning the possession, concealment or sale of dangerous instruments. I know it was later rescinded but that's not the point. How could anyone in the first place go down this route. The same mentality I suppose who decided that Humpty Dumpty is, contrary to common rumour, capable of being put back together. (A BBC programme for children decided that Humpty 'should be made happy again'.) Who needs the king's men when we have the BBC!
I feel my life ebbing away as I contemplate such things. I peer out of the window looking for the men in the white coats. A surreal feeling reinforced by reading that calling cows by individual names, Buttercup, Daisybell or Norma increases their milk yields. That is, according to the scientists at Newcastle University who are apparently experts in bovine motivational psychology. Who pays for such research I wonder. Recession, what recession? There is a recession of course, McDonald's have closed both their restaurants in Iceland due to the country's economic collapse. All say aahh on behalf of those who had money in Icelandic Banks. Talking of fast food, a man charged with criminal damage to two beefburgers in Swansea was found not guilty. (He rejected them when they were delivered late.)
And this is the real world. Are you sure? a flock of sheep burst into flames when methane escaping from a waste plant caught fire in northern Jordan. The locals thought it was the start of a volcanic eruption. That's the real world. A supermarket cancels an order and 1,090,000 puff pastry pies filled with mixed fruit finish up on e-bay.That too is the real world, 2009 style. We are also perhaps in danger of becoming fools led by fools. Officials (how I hate that word) on an Olympic Committee in Dorset could not differentiate between Lawrence of Arabia and Laurence Olivier when compiling facts about Dorset. And I'll bet they don't earn the minimum wage!
I soldier on regardless. Evidently Britain is ranked 12th in a list of the world's most prosperous countries (measured by wealth and happiness.) (Finland is listed as the happiest place to live.) Me, I know nought. Though a 100 year old Somalian in Mogadishu seems to have the right idea. He's married a seventeen year old girl. He said he had wanted to marry her for years but waited until she was older! She is incidentally his sixth wife. It's all a change from that idiot Home Secretary Alan Johnson trying to tell scientists he's the expert on cannabis, not them. Come to think of it, who the hell needs cannabis in the mad world we live in!

Monday 2 November 2009

Bye Bye October. Grumpy's Alternative News.

October, politicians still whingeing, banks still raking it in, and times are still hard; but who cares. There was enough to distract from the humdrum if you looked closely.
People never cease to amaze. Plenty of idiots for a start. The young woman driving on the M4 at ninety miles an hour and trying to inject heroin at the same time. Evidently she is studying four A levels to gain entrance to university. I wonder what subjects!
The comedian Jimmy Carr, cleared of driving whilst using his phone as he was only using it to record a joke. A pathetic response, Mr Carr.
Harriet Harman, alleged to have been involved in a car accident, witnessed, whilst on her mobile. Plus not stopping to exchange insurance details . (She was banned in 2003 for driving at 99mph on the M4.)
Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man has capped his wages this year 'to set a personal example'. He 's only drawing £2.3 million instead of £6 million. That's all right then.
Plus Andrew Robathan, Tory MP who bleats 'I could lose my second home' if the rules on MP's allowances are changed. (He has a £2,000,000 townhouse plus a farmhouse in the country.) Are these people real? Do the people at the top ever think before speaking. In fact do they ever think.
David Blunkett is donating his brain to medical research. I have a better idea. Compulsory purchase the brains of the five people mentioned. You will then be guaranteed brains that have never been used.
Who else made the news. I see a man was jailed after claiming £75,000 in Manchester for severe back and leg pain. (He was seen break-dancing at a work event.) And his job? Benefits Officer!
Likewise the pensioner claiming disability who was spotted break-dancing on 'Britain's Got Talent'.
Misguided, the teacher who was turned in by his own pupils when he rewrote their essays in a school in Tamworth. The pupils objected to the changes even though they got higher marks.
Unlucky, the pensioner in Berlin whose £16,000 blew from his car. The police helped him recover it. Including the receipt that indicated it was smuggled money. Unlucky also the family locked in the Nat West Bank in Fulwood when the staff locked up and went home. One way to keep customers I suppose. The same goes for the man in Plymouth whose wife ordered him to sell his collection of 7,500 Happy Meal Toys. Only he was doubly unlucky in that they did not attract a single bid and he had to take them all back home again!
Anyone who follows my blog will know of my doubts concerning flying. One day I must get round to trying it. But is it any wonder I have grave misgivings.
There was a brawl on an Air India Airbus at 30,000 feet. Passengers you might expect but it was in fact the aircrew. Evidently they came to blows over a claim of sexual harassment. It is alleged that at one stage the plane was left unmanned during the scuffle. This sort of thing does not exactly impress. And it has been denied that the reason a Northwest Airlines flight overshot its destination by 150 miles was because the pilots had been taking a nap at the controls. The pilots claimed they were not asleep, 'merely having a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness'.
I also noticed an 86, yes 86 year old man from Ohio who crashed a plane killing himself and his five passengers had been warned by his doctor not to even drive a car! (He had been treated for macular degeneration.) And you wonder why I'm not a fan. If I ever do get round to flying I know exactly where I'm going to sit. I'm going to sit on the black box, at least that's always recovered.
Having got a bit morbid, lets finish on a more amusing note. (Though not everyone shares my dubious sense of humour!) A young man on a train mooning at railway staff got his trousers caught in a door and was dragged half naked off the platform. Fortunately only his pride was hurt. And finally a woman gave her husband a potion and dragged him off to the woods, thence to attack him with a knife before running off to a prearranged lover. Very serious, I admit, but I bet it's the last time he takes horny goat weed, even for a bet!

Wednesday 28 October 2009

It's All in There Somewhere

Probably the main joy of blogging is the contact with others. Ideas and experiences are exchanged which means you never stop learning. I happened to be reading the blogs of Violet Sky, a Canadian lady who never ceases to interest. The particular blog in question talked of writing on five unconnected words chosen by the good lady herself. An idea that grew on me so here goes. The five words chosen for myself were:
Railroads Smoke Pillars Phobias Fish
As children many of us were avid trainspotters. Plus Derby was very much a railway town. Its all a long time ago but some of it is still there in the mind. The engine classifications, Jubilee and Patriot classes; the wheel formations, 4-6-0 and was it 4-4-2 and the names, Leander and Bahamas.
But more memorable was cycling to a lonely spot away from adult examination. Then placing pennies on the track and hiding behind bushes as an express train roared past. And retrieving the now much larger pennies, hot to the touch, trophies to be secretly admired at home, but unseen by prying grown ups eyes. Stupidly dangerous, unforgivable but never to be forgotten.
The joys of learning to smoke, walnut leaves in home made pipes and nub ends collected in the streets. A dirty, dangerous secretive past time. How did we ever reach adulthood when we could earn money to smoke Woodbines, Park Drives and, when we wished to show off, Passing Clouds.
Plus memories of granny trailing a plastic bucket, bottomless through the house, leaving behind a line of smouldering 'peg rugs' set alight by the hot ashes she had deposited in the bucket to take to the dustbin.
'This modern stuff, rubbish' was her dismissive appraisal of the problem.
A baffling choice, well done Sanna. I seem to remember a dream, or was it just a story from childhood. This chap (was it my dream?) has this enormous Turkish Delight which he devoured with great difficulty but which was tremendously enjoyable. Then he woke up and the pillar was missing.
Intrigued I looked up pillar jokes on the Internet.
What pillar can't hold up a building.
Answer, a caterpillar!
And who spotted the 'deliberate' mistake! The word is of course pillars, totally different. Yet another sign of my declining powers! On a serious note such an error could have major consequences, for instance if the mistake was made whilst dispensing medicines. But what the hell, no need for seriousness today. Remember the girl who wrote 'a pessimist was something her mother bought from the chemist'. And the boy who thought an enigma was 'something you put up your bottom'.
(Both from pupils in my English teaching days) And I had the nerve to be critical of such efforts. Oh how is the biter bit!
PhobiasI don't personally have any phobias that I know of. But I remember as a child a man putting his arm down a rat hole. No way would I do that, but that's pure common sense! My youngest daughter is sensible, mature, level headed and has the most awful phobia imaginable concerning mice. I wonder where such severe phobias come from. Any experts out there?
Again stories of childhood danger. Being orphaned at thirteen I had an upbringing often lacking adult supervision . In my early teens I had a very near miss in the River Derwent, falling into ten feet of water whilst trying to retrieve dead fish from a tree stump with the aid of a stick. (I was a non swimmer at the time, the spot was a favourite for swimmers due to the close proximity of the power station. The water was warm, hence the dead fish.)
I also remember as a young child shopping on dark autumn nights with my mother and taking home her favourite, yellow fish. Never my favourite but I am reminded every time I see it.
I remember too of fishing in the local brook with home made nets, catching Sticklebacks and Bullyheads, otherwise known as Millers Thumb. I wonder if the children of today still do the same.
And there you have it. I believe everything we ever experience is still in the brain, waiting to be retrieved. The real clever amongst you might suggest where all these thoughts and experiences go after we are no longer 'earthlings'. Nowhere I suppose. But what was it we were taught at school 'Energy can be neither created nor destroyed.'. What the hell was that all about! Deep thoughts, and all from five random words. (Which amazingly reminds me of Arthur English's stage act as a spiv. He sometimes ended 'raving' and uttering the words 'open the cage.') Thank you Sanna. If any of my readers out there are interested, the following five words of my choice might stimulate those grey cells.

punctures embarrassing coincidence feet poems

Friday 23 October 2009

Thinking Out Loud

I had no idea two years ago how frustrating a computer could be. Boy oh boy, has the darn thing given me grief this week. And seemingly the cause is Html. Which stands for Horrific Terrorising Mystifying Language. I had problems setting out my last blog; no big deal, right. But being unable to solve my problems has had an amazing effect. At times this week I have questioned my very existence, began to look at some aspects of life differently and have even dreamt about Html. (In my dream basically Html took the form of an oblong card, not unlike a credit card. It followed me around but refused to go home to any slot offered.Plus it was not tiny but large and very intimidating.) In hospital five years ago I had a strange reaction to morphine. I hallucinated and at one stage it was so vivid I saw things that I was convinced, absolutely convinced were real. My Html dream was on a par with this experience.I began to think Html has a mind of its own. Me versus the computer, both capable of independent life but the latter cleverest and in better nick. Now I know this is rubbish but it really got me going. When you do something over and over again, come what may, unsuccessfully, you begin to think you are going mad. Question, if someone is, for use of a better word, mad, do they know it themselves. (I fully realise the term is politically incorrect and rightly so but I'm intrigued as to how they see themselves in relation to others when they are mentally ill.) I have one or two friends who are manic depressives (bio-polar). But I can only guess as to their conception of life.
All illnesses are difficult but I suspect physical illnesses are easier to interpret.
The idea of 'losing' it inevitably figures in our lives, the more so as we get older. Dementia is a much feared part of life today. Terry Pratchett has bravely done much to improve the profile and understanding of dementia. I liked the answer of a reader of my blog who suggested that if you think you have dementia, then you haven't. At times the last few days, baffled by Html, I suspected I was going mad. Presumably I'm not! I was never over technical and one's ability to improve does not improve with age. Add a TGA not too long ago and it's a wonder at times I function at all. (Some say I don't!) I do try, honest. I have a copy of Blogging for Dummies. I also recently purchased Which's 'Computing Made Easy for the Over 50's.' I own 'The Computer Book (Vista Edition)' and '1001 Computer hints and tips.'
Yet I sit with a glazed expression, incomprehension at its finest. My cards read 'blogger extraordinaire'. Perhaps they should read 'blogger extraordinarily stupid'.
Apologies to all you out there with real problems in life. My problems are tiny in comparison. All this just because I couldn't get a computer to do as I wished! And I'm much happier now I've got it off my chest. Wiser, no, but happier. Any thoughts, support, encouragement welcome. Or is everyone out there expert in the technology stakes. And I promise I won't do another 'heavy' blog for a while!

Monday 19 October 2009

Nostalgia Ain't (is) What it Used to Be.

I sat here on Saturday morning, blank, wondering what on earth to write. It reminded me of my short 'career' as a Barber's boy. What was it I was taught to whisper as I collected the customer's money at the till. (Five bob for a gent's hair cut.) 'And something for the weekend, sir?'
A year or two ago I wrote a book of short stories entitled 'There's Nowt so Strange as Folk'. It was to have been called 'There's Nowt so Queer as Folk' but that was deemed to be politically incorrect in these modern times! Its in a few libraries and I'm informed I'm entitled to 4p in royalties every time it go goes out! Only no one seems to know how the 4p is paid. Which is a pity as I reckon they (the government?) owe me around 88p by now.
Now I mention this to show that I reckon 'people' are the most interesting aspect of a fascinating life. Places, your Chatsworths, and your churches, Coventry Cathedral for instance, marvellous. But the idiosyncrasies, the sheer variation of the human race is a joy to behold. (The cover of my book depicts a sign on an estate in Shropshire. How odd, delightfully individual, a credit to English eccentricity.) And this blog is written partly with eccentrics in mind.
Last weekend was spent in 0008 PAU at a jukebox show in Kempton Park. (Jukebox Madness, the premier event of its kind. In its twenty first year and featuring jukeboxes, classic American cars, pinball machines, records, dancing and much more.) Not normally our scene (the jukebox bought recently is to blame for the interest) but an event to cherish for months to come. I have seldom been in more awe or enjoyed an event so much. So many enthusiastic, delightful individuals with a love of the past, particularly the fifties. I wouldn't necessarily view the period with rose coloured spectacles (what do you think) but 'whatever turns you on'. The point is, it was a supremely happy event in rather hard, frugal times. (Though not as frugal and hard as the fifties if my memory serves me right.) Plus many were seventy plus years of age, but with the wide eyed enthusiasm and glowing interest that would have shamed many a youth. (George Bernard Shaw said 'Youth is wasted on the young'.) I will not labour the point. (Did I hear someone say hurray!) Just a little taster of my geriatric enjoyment of people and an event that will stay long in the memory. I may well be seventy next month but so what!

I am rereminded of the joys of a non computerised existance as I study this blog. I started it Friday. Several hours later I give up trying to place photographs in the place and order I wish them to go. Plus the gap at the bottom of the page my son in law will hopefully correct later. (Not just a matter of press delete, honest.) What am I doing wrong. Perhaps I have lived too long, or am I interlectually incapable of grasping the details of modern computer technology. I can turn a light switch on and off. I can nearly master a remote for the TV but mobile phones, no chance plus the on/off dishwasher switch, no fear. I have sold cars with buttons that I never did find out their purpose. My granny was right when she went next door and asked, "Does it say 'Normal Service will be resumed as soon as possible' on your television." Sometimes I think, why do I bother.


Tuesday 13 October 2009

Who are we to Judge.

I watched a recording of the Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling wittering on at the Tory Conference as to how he would solve Britain's problems if he were in government. I was particularly interested in his attitude to alcohol. Evidently he thinks the answer is to put extra tax on super strength alcohol. The price of a four pack of extra strength lager, he suggests, should rise by £1.33, alcopops under the Conservatives would cost £1.33 more. And where was I
when he was making these pronouncements?
I park my motorhome on a car park in a far from salubrious part of town when my wife goes to the opticians. I did so this week, my wife went about her business so to speak and I sat in the van reading. Two men approached, cans to hand.
'Nice van' said one.
'What's the picture on the back' said the other.
(It's actually Mam Tor in North Derbyshire.)
They were pleasant, curious about me and the van so I got out of the van and we chatted. I gave one a motorhome magazine which was studied profusely. These men were unemployed, perhaps unemployable, the motors on display in the magazine cost thousands of pounds yet there was no envy displayed.
I was offered a drink and declined but was curious concerning their choice of drink. Yes, Mr Grayling, it was exactly 9%, cost £1.36 from a shop across the road. We chatted amicably, others joined or merely passed through our little group. Suddenly the lager was secreted under my van, coinciding with the arrival of two policemen only yards away. We were 'eyed', of interest but not approached. It was some time later that I realised the pole alongside my van had a sign attached that simply read 'Alcohol Free Zone'. I have no doubt that my presence prevented the police from investigating further. I am also sure my number plate is now either in a little black book or on the computer at headquarters.
All concerned were alcoholics, but were not proud of it. Two had serious mental health issues. One has recently paid an £80 fine for drinking at the same spot. He seemed the only one with money and fetched a further supply for all. Even more interesting was the fact that he continued to drink in the same spot, though the tin and contents were secreted in a plain paper bag. They were civil and in the main far from unintelligent. All had worked at some stage in their lives; all were of working age. Alcohol was doing none of them any favours but they don't need you and me to tell them the obvious. No Mr Grayling, preach to the converted at conferences and retire home with a 'haven't I done well' feeling. By the way, Mr Grayling, a bottle of wine costing around £3 is likely to be 11% and would have the same effect. No mention, surely not because wine is a middle class drink in your eyes! You blinkered ignoramus, don't you realise my new friends will switch quite easily if you meddle with their supplies. And if still alive, will continue to drink under the sign or nearby. (One has already lost his wife due to alcoholism, one looks after an alcoholic mother.) The latter without the caring allowances to which he is undoubtedly entitled. My wife was shocked that I was still with the group when she returned. I have no answers. But the day I totally ignore my fellow man I will be ready to meet my maker, so to speak. For 'there but for the grace of God go I.'
Our little meeting was far from gloomy. One, suffering from depression and recently out of prison had tried selling dusters and similar. That is, until he had wandered, large bag at the ready, up the drive of a posh house in Breaston, near Long Eaton. Where he was quickly surrounded by fearsome, large men with guns. He dropped the bag and put up his hands, expecting the worst. He had had the misfortune to wander up the drive of Geoff Hoon, MP and Secretary of State for Defence at the time. No wonder my friend now prefers the comparative peace and quiet of a car park. The average British Bobby is far less threatening than MI5.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Stop Moaning and Count Your Blessings.

I travelled up to Chesterfield yesterday morning. What an awful journey. I've not been into the town for years and didn't know the place I was going to so it was a sat nav job. Only the bloody thing decided to play up from the word go. The picture went first though the sound seemed ok. The traffic was dreadful and every single traffic light was against me. There were constant roadworks and three separate hedge cutting machines on different narrow sections of road. I dropped my wife off half way to go to her sisters and promptly got myself blocked in. I got later and later and more and more agitated. I eventually arrived in Chesterfield and recognised very little of a new road system. The sat nav sent me round and round the town and deposited me at the football ground, announcing 'You have reached your destination.' Only it wasn't. I disconnected the thing in disgust, asked directions and with difficulty travelled to the area on the edge of town where I was supposed to be. I then showed a total of six different people the address I was seeking. No one had a clear idea as to where it was. Aliens from another planet would have had more idea. I even went in a pub and asked (as it happened around six hundred yards from my destination.) Most were clueless though one young girl fortunately pointed me in the right direction. I passed the building I sought twice before I finally realised I was 'home and dry'. (I had brought my wife's mobile phone but couldn't remember how to 'scroll down' as instructed!) I was fed up and decided it was indeed a hard life.

We are easily upset with what life throws at us. We are often obsessed with ourselves and oblivious of the problems of others. My destination yesterday morning was a community centre just off the Loundsley Green Estate. My purpose was to give a talk (There's Nowt so Strange as Folk) to the North Derbyshire Stroke Support Group. All shapes and sizes, of differing backgrounds, young and old, male and female. Twenty or so people with a common denominator, they have all suffered strokes. (Also present carers and two partners.) I spent a delightful couple of hours there (Not a two hour talk, no one could stand that!) And do you know, I never heard a single moan uttered. Though I did hear one young man suggest he was lucky as to the type of stroke he had suffered. He suggests he was lucky and I'm moaning about the traffic. The whole group was positive, cheerful, optimistic and were a pleasure to visit. I got totally lost on my way to pick up my wife at her sisters in Ashover and do you know, it didn't matter in the slightest.

A couple of years ago I had a 'funny turn'. My visit to the stroke group brought it all back. Never take anything in life for granted.

Blast from the Past no 7.

Hooray for the NHS
The health thing being the main reason for moving I suppose I'd better get it out of the way.On my 50th birthday in 1989 a strange thing happened. I literally could not remember who I was for an hour or two, a strange experience both puzzling and disturbing to say the least. Birthday presents on the table but I could not see the connection with myself in any way whatsoever. I felt like an alien from another planet, a strange sensation to say the least. I recovered after a while and celebrated my birthday with my wife and friends though I felt less than one hundred per cent. I had another attack weeks later and visited a doctor as a matter of course. His request for me to 'Talk him through it' would be funny in other circumstances. I was completely, utterly blank during the attacks and am reliant on others to tell me what happened. I received no examination or treatment, had no further attacks and got on with my life.
Fast forward eighteen years and I had a similar though short lived experience earlier this year.I refused an ambulance at the time, as is my wont but a GP examination followed, hospital appointment were made and then the fun started.
Initially a stroke was suggested, except that I had no paralysis or obvious damage; a TIA was suspected. I remember the TIA bit because I'd liked the drink Tia Maria in my youth. ( A coffee liqueur type drink over 20% proof.) In this case TIA standing for Transient Ischmetic Attack. Hospital appointments followed and the inevitable hospital visits. I'm not sure who was the most spaced out, me or the appointments.
I had an Electroencephalogram, EEG for short which is a brain scan involving twenty three electrodes. No jokes please as to whether they found one, I've heard them all a hundred times. I assume there are twenty three bits to your brain and not that our hospital has lost at least one electrode. Plus a Computerised tomography (CT) scan. Then followed, an anxious wait and eventually a diagnosis by a rather serious poker faced but presumably knowledgeable consultant.
The consultants informed me it was probably not TIA but TGA, which evidently stands for Transient Global Amnesia. 'Very rare, and by the way, both brain scans showed abnormalities and you have frontal lobe damage. But there are no signs of epilepsy.' Nice to have something rare and no epilepsy but the rest is a bit scary. And that basically was that. No treatment except that more pills were suggested. (Prescribed by the GP later but with such disgusting side effects that I took them for three days only. very naughty I know but I will go back to my GP eventually, honest)
I looked up TGA on the internet as you do, doesn't everyone with a medical problem do this. Evidently the exact causes of TGA attacks are unknown, but can include sudden immersion in cold water, strenuous physical activity, sexual intercourse, over excitement and acute emotional distress. Not all together of course.
By my reckoning anyone falling in the river in my condition is going to suffer a heart attack at least. I have no mistress and, having been married for all of thirty eight years so strenuous physical activity and over excitement during sexual intercourse can be ruled out. Which leaves acute emotional distress and there you have it. It's obviously all down to house prices. I knew it, I knew it, it's all the governments fault, result, yet another disgruntled voter.Long term prognosis is decidedly unsure. But if the gap between attacks is another eighteen years that will probably do me. Nevertheless one more reason to put your house in order, so to speak, the house in our case being a more manageable bungalow.
In a way it may seem a strange thing to say but I personally am glad than for the past eighteen years I've been oblivious to the the problem. I feel okay and am getting on with my life. But I can't help thinking what a genius I would be with a complete brain.

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Creepy Creatures and Sleepy Teachers

We experience thousands, nay millions of events over a lifetime. We can only recall a fraction. though I am convinced all our 'happenings' in life are ever present in the brain. The keeping of a diary therefore becomes useful. Unimportant to the world, but evidence that we once existed. An event from October 1985, completely forgotten, might amuse.
October 7th 1985
We have, for several days been mystified by the appearance on the front windowsill and surrounding areas only, of small 'animal' droppings. Even Richard, more expert than the Stevens family is puzzled. A mouse, or mice is the obvious suspect, though Richard is unsure. A cockroach is possible, though unlikely. Richard suggests the presence of a bat is possible but again unlikely. Sarah in particular warms to this possibility.
For a second and third night the droppings have appeared. The strange thing is that the 'creature' ignores the kitchen area where the likelihood of food would be most forthcoming. I tentatively search behind curtains, amongst books. Skirting boards are minutely examined. Close to the window is a radiator. A view behind the radiator is difficult. What view is afforded suggests murk and mystery. Sarah, after tentative, furtive forays with a short stick behind the radiator is adamant there is a moving, living being resident there! The search becomes amusingly hysterical, with Sarah shrieking, Paulette dancing agitatedly on a chair whilst I poke apprehensively behind the radiator with a long stick. My stick encounters a soft dark 'body'. Sarah becomes even more hysterical. I ease the stick beneath the offending object and carefully, even more apprehensively ease it upwards. It suddenly appears dark and foreboding. 'It' is apparently a pair of child's knickers, left to air at some unknown date and slipping unseen behind the radiator, waiting for discovery. We, Sarah, Paulette and myself collapse, Sarah in particular borders on the insane. Our animal, beast, alien, is, for the time being, still a mystery.
Are the Stevens clan alone in apparently being mystified by all that life throws at us. Surely not!
And in view of recent blogs on losing it, the entry for the day after I find interesting.
Oct 8th 1985
I rush into Derby town centre during my dinner hour to renew my car insurance, but with a different company. Unfortunately I have omitted to fill in the relevant form, fail to take one relevant document and cannot relate either my car registration number or Paulettes age or date of birth! I make no comment!
'So what's new, pussy cat.'