Friday 31 December 2010

Even Germany Finds It Funny. Happy New Year.

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

Monday 27 December 2010

I Am Glad I Never Cease To Be Amazed.

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

Tuesday 21 December 2010

The Shortest Day.

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

Answer sheet A Christmas Quiz by Ken Stevens

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

Thursday 16 December 2010

It's a Coming.

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

A Seasonal Quiz

Nature and Christmas

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

Five miscellaneous questions

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

Christmas is after all a religious festival

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

Ten mixed questions

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

For those musically inclined

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

Christmas/seasonal literature

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

A Mixed Selection

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

Saturday 11 December 2010

I'm Walking Backwards For Christmas.

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

Sunday 5 December 2010

Nutty November.Grumpy's Alternative News..

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

Monday 29 November 2010


I attended the Speed Awareness Course recently. (see post dated 23rd October.) Eighteen of us, eleven male, seven female.) Three failed to turn up so they have three points on their licences that could have been avoided. It was held in a large conference centre. We waited in the foyer before the start. Others in various meetings drifted amongst us. I assume some of them knew why we were there. I don't know whether we looked like 'criminals' but we certainly felt so!
Eighteen people, mainly middle aged though the youngest was twenty five. (I think I was the eldest.) All guilty of speeding, not massively so as 'boy racers' seem to attend a different course; but all guilty of breaking the law nevertheless. (Was the psychology of it all the possibility that we at least were 'saveable?) Some, particularly the ladies were quite overawed by it all, showing symptoms of embarrassment, even shame. A show of hands suggested our main reason for attending was to avoid penalty points, note, not necessarily to learn new skills. The course was run by one individual, an ex-policeman, ex-teacher. The course was very intensive, illustrated with visual aids, delivered not without humour and lasted a massive four hours; not an easy proposition for anyone, least of all those whose classroom experience has been non existent for many years.
I think it is fair to say most of us harboured feelings of being hard done by in various degrees. I have received three speeding tickets in ten or so years. The term serial offender springs to mind! I would have previously argued: once on a deserted road at midnight, plus thought it was a forty, not a thirty limit; once outside a deserted school on a Saturday; once on a remote road in the country, never saw a sign. All present, to a greater or lesser degree committed similar offences. In other words, NOBODY DELIBERATELY broke the speed limit.
The value or otherwise of this course can only be measured by two things. What we retain in our minds after the initial 'lectures' are long gone. Plus whether our future driving behaviour, attitude and experience changes. At my age particularly long term retention is not easy. So what is likely to be remembered longest?
One, no road is dangerous in itself, it depends on the behaviour of the people on it.
Two, the speed limit is 30mph unless stated otherwise. (Often the reason for a 30mph limit is a history of accidents etc.)
Three, where speed limits are signed, this is a MAXIMUM speed, not an obligatory speed.
Four, there is no such thing as a 'quiet' road or time, only a 'quieter' time or road.
Five, the main source of serious accidents, often resulting in death is not the motorways as you might have thought. (On motorways no-one might be turning right or overtaking as on urban roads.)
Much of the course concerning types of signs etc I have forgotten only days after the course. And several points are also worth mentioning. Our collective knowledge of the modern highway code was appalling. There is much to be said for everyone attending this course periodically, say every five years; no one could fail to benefit. A hand out of the points covered would have been useful and after all, we did pay seventy pounds each for our 'sins'. Enjoy is the wrong word for this type of experience. I still think authorities don't always get it right concerning limits. (See video of Swarkstone Bridge, a local landmark, limit, maximum 40mph, in my view ridiculously high. Co-incidentally this week there is an ongoing inquest concerning a death on this bridge earlier this year. But remember, and I reiterate, it is a MAXIMUM speed limit, not an obligatory speed we must maintain. ) But the thing that I personally will remember most from the course is this. The damage to a person or person at speeds over 35mph, rather than at 30mph to 35mph was horrifically memorable. I hope no policeman has to knock on a door to tell a mother her child is not coming home due to my driving. The main message from our afternoon together was 'Yes, speed does kill.'

Tuesday 23 November 2010

The Times They are A-Changing.

Bob Dylan, 1964. It seems like yesterday. I must confess, for a moment I had to think twice, mixing this song with Mary Hopkin's offering in 1968 (Those Were the Days, my Friend.) So what brought on this nostalgic post, this urge to reminisce. It was indirectly the result of our recent Blackpool extravaganza, the rush of blood and my subsequent dizziness as the wife spent my hard earned kudos. Now my wife is a fairly 'with it' modern lady, well versed in the main concerning today's fashions; the result of having daughters rather than sons. Daughters, expensive family attachments at times, but useful advisers as to what is and is not 'in', so to speak. Consequently my wife is usually more 'wag lady' than 'bag lady'. (Though Charity Shop coat bargains are seldom passed by, consequently she has more coats than Marks and Spencer's.) All of which brought to mind life in my younger days, and particularly what my grandmother and many people like her wore at roughly the same age as my wife is today.
I have fond memories of my grandmother. Born in the 1870's, widowed in the 1930's, a mere four feet ten inches tall, she nevertheless dominated our family with her very presence. Wise beyond words, God fearing, chapel going, she raised eight children, a hard working class existence typical of many. I remember her well in the late forties, fifties, sixties and seventies, a frugal, uncomplicated individual, dispensing home made sweets and kind words in equal measure. There is much I have written elsewhere concerning Granny Hudston. (See post dated 23rd April 2008 Anyone Out There.) Although the photograph in the picture shows Granny Hudston in her 'Sunday best' it is typical of an era not over impressed or influenced by the fashion industry. (For many reasons, including financial restraints, the unavailability of 'fashionable' clothes and no pressure from media advertising.) Fast forward to the photograph of my wife, November 2010. God bless her! Any comments concerning your own or families 'fashion statements' of your past youth welcome. And just to prove the point, 'My how time flies,' 'Those Were the Days, My friend' and 'The Time's they are A-Changing', my wedding photo and the dress worn by my grandmother on her wedding day. The whole thing is surreal. My grandmother is part of my almost recent past. At least in my eyes, not someone from times long, long gone. Except that to my children, and my children's children, I am probably reminiscent of a far distant era, perish the thought. So we all get old together. But, as Maurice Chevalier said, 'Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative.' And Red Skelton can have the last word. 'I don't let old age bother me. There are three signs of old age. Loss of memory...I forget the other two...'

Thursday 18 November 2010

Deja vu, Deja vu, Deja vu.

I hadn't reckoned on writing this post. I have, through other commitments, got in the habit of writing only every five or six days. Then granddaughter Angelina forgot to take her coat to school and who gets a phone call, granddad of course! She regularly forgets things, Angelina, mother calls it her Stevens gene. So off we, my wife and I drive, plus coat to the school three miles away. What, after all are granddads for!
We took the opportunity to call in the local Tesco in Mickleover. It was a bitterly cold morning, dark, gloomy and raining. At the roadside outside, near the entrance stood a 'Big Issue' seller; a middle aged lady, perhaps younger due to life's stresses. I approached her and explained, somewhat apologetically, I had bought one near Blackpool very recently from a Romanian gentleman. The ladies English was very limited, but she recognised the name Blackpool. 'Ah,' she said, quite excited, 'he my brother.' Evidently she had travelled from Birmingham to stand in Derby's rain.
I suggested she stand under cover. 'No, she replied, 'it private.'
We communicated as best we could, I shook her hand and went in the shop.
I sought out a staff member and asked was it necessary for the lady outside to stand in the rain. If not allowed in the shop, a covered area nearby would have been a drier, if not warmer alternative. The young staff member was sympathetic and directed me to Customer Services. I found the required counter and asked if it was possible to speak to a duty manager concerning the lady outside. And boy, did 'officialdom' kick in. No, I couldn't, and no the person outside shouldn't be there. Evidently Tesco issue some sort of permit, she hadn't got one and that was that.
I felt ashamed to be British. You missed the point completely. Rules, regulations, so what. People matter more, all people.That the store is full of Christmas merchandise, tough. That the person was cold and wet, 'hard cheese', presumably Romanian street sellers have neither rights nor feelings.
I was amazed at the response in someone comparatively young. The lack of concern for others who, though low in the pecking order of British life, are still human beings; what have we become.
Are such people so enveloped in the Tesco culture of profit and dominance that they have lost sight of basic decencies. Tesco, please don't shout from the rooftops all you do for communities. There's always an ultimate motive. If you want to be loved, instill in all, not just some of your staff GENUINE compassion, not a superficial 'Be polite to customers and that will do' syndrome.
I was angry, shocked, saddened, you name it. And whilst I was having my 'difference of opinion' with 'officialdom' an interesting thing happened. A well dressed lady customer heard my vehement protest and decided to add her 'halfpennyworth'.
'They shouldn't be here' she stated emphatically. 'You should fetch the police and move her on.'
Ignorance personified.
'There you are,' said Customers Services' triumphantly, not all OUR customers agree with you.'
Have they no idea as to how the Big Issue system works. Happy Christmas, ladies. Mind you, I reckon Mickleover, mainly affluent Mickleover always was a 'fur coat and no knickers' sort of place. I asked for Tesco's head office number and walked off, definitely not amused.
I left the place fifteen minutes later. The rain continued to howl down. Outside my Romanian friend was still there. And lo and behold, the Lord had partly answered my prayer. No, the place was still standing and no-one had been struck dead. But the Romanian lady now sported a brightly coloured umbrella. I smiled and pointed to the umbrella.
'From inside' she said, 'I have to take back.'
We talked again briefly, I gave her a pound coin, she gave me her blessing and I went on my way.
Someone had had second thoughts after my little 'discussion'. I trust it was for compassionate reasons and not to 'cover their back' in case I rang head office. I shan't do so, I cannot see it achieving anything, sadly. I am sorry for returning to the subject of this post in a way. But the incident caused me great anxiety during the night. All you people out there, what do you think?

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Diaries, of the Famous and a Nobody.

'Time flies'. Trite but true. I am struck as to how much we forget of the past, yet can recall even the tiniest of 'happenings' with a little help. I honestly believe it all still there, in the mind, awaiting recall. I am not clever enough to know what happens to our memories when we die. What I do know is that keeping a diary, on paper or whatever means it is there for all to see and read. If you are famous or important your words will be there almost for ever. And if you are a nobody, as most of us are, who knows.
15th November 1661
At home all the morning, and at noon with my wife to the Wardrobe to dinner, and there did shew herself to my Lady in the handkercher that she bought the lace for the other day, and indeed it is very handsome. Here I left my wife and went to my Lord Privy Seal to Whitehall, and there did give him a copy of the Fees of the office as I have received them, and he was well pleased with it.
So to the Opera, where I met my wife and Captain Ferrers and Madamoiselle Le Blanc, and there did see the second part of 'The Seige of Rhodes' very well done; and so by coach set her home, and the coach driving down the hill through Thames Street, which I think never any coach did before from that place to the bridge-foot, but going up Fish Street Hill his horses were so tired, that they could not be got to go up the hill, though all the street boys and men did whip and beat them. At last I was fain to send my boy for a link, and so 'light out of the coach till we got to another at the corner of Fenchurch Street, and so to home, and to bed.
November 16th 1661
At the office all the morning. Dined at home, and so about my business in the afternoon to the Temple, where I found my Chancery bill drawn against T. Trice, which I read and like it, and so home.
Ken Stevens
November 15th 1985
It is suddenly realised that a mouse is in residence at the back of the gas fire. Alison, Sarah and Angela spend much time setting elaborate traps of empty boxes and cheese which he skillfully avoids. He (or she) appears during the evening on at least half a dozen occasions, seemingly unconcerned by our presence. At one stage he licked a sweet paper within one foot of a handheld torch. He is obviously very young and has become 'tame' to a degree, presumably having yet to be aware of the dangers the world holds.
November 16th 1985
Garford visits with his new bride, Tahira. Buster insists on making his presence felt by sitting almost on top of her on the settee. Tahiri is Malawi born, very shy and far from at ease with dogs. (Buster was a large English bull terrier) She has also never seen any dog even similar to Buster previously. add to her apprehension and discomfort the fact that our mouse 'lodger' appears several times during her stay and I suspect she probably thinks she has entered the proverbial 'madhouse'.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Helping the North West's Economy and a bit of Deja Vu.

My wife and I (Now doesn't that sound regal!) have recently spent a delightful three nights on the streets of St Annes. (In our motorhome, not literally on the streets!) The weather was horrific; it rained, the wind blew and it wasn't exactly hot but who cares. We visited my daughter, son in law and grand-daughter, we shopped, people watched and a good time was had by all.
We, motorhomers are none too popular in this corner of the north west. Parking on the streets mean we have no hotel costs, which no doubt galls the hotel trade. Possibly the reason there is a profusion of signs in Blackpool in particular reading simply 'cars only'. And it's getting noticeably worse. A pity as my wife tried to boost the local economy on our visit, and I wasn't too far behind. So what did we spend.
For a start there were pubs meals in Wetherspoons: my two sausages, two bacon, four slices of toast, two eggs, a slice of black pudding and a tomato, £3.99; brilliant. Plus numerous cups of coffee and tea. Then there's the gluten free food (my wife's a Coeliac.) Biscuits, cakes, even gluten free liquorish sticks. A petticoat from Fleetwood Market (my wife's purchase, honest!) and posh leggings plus a bright red handbag bought in Blackpool. (My wife again, silly!) Chocolate bargains and other sweets from Freeport. A red coat (no other colour considered) from a charity shop and some serious spending in between; a seven piece bed set, not cheap but well worth the price. Oh, and a fur hat each, very fashionable for 'geriatrics' and worn at Derby County versus Portsmouth FC!
My wife's the main spender in our house, but I didn't do so bad either. An Elvis musical figurine purchased will take pride of place in my 'bar'. (Plays a non too musical version of Love Me Tender') and I couldn't resist the cruets imprinted with pictures of Cliff, Elvis and the Beatles. To complete the 'spending spree, books from my favourite charity shop, Barnado's in Lytham, price five for £1.99. (A Spread of Over 40's Jokes; A Handbook for All Word Puzzling; a book on Crime and Detection; The A-Z of Behaving Badly and Britain Land of Contrasts. Add fuel before returning home and I reckon there's £2oo plus gone into the north west economy; recession, what recession! Please think twice, north west councils, there's a lot of us and plenty of places that would welcome our 'dosh'.
And so to the deja vu. (See post dated 23rd April 2008). We spent the last hour of our short visit in St Annes. Hurrying back to our rather expensive motorhome we espied outside B and M a somewhat forlorn seller of 'The Big Issue'. I did the usual, avoided eye contact and hurried past. The wind was blowing, it was cold, my pockets were nearly empty and I needed the warmth of my 'motor'. And so to home, back to my comfort zone, a smashing break, but its home where we're happiest. Except that I retraced my steps before I left St Annes, had a chat with the young man outside B and M and bought a Big Issue. Evidently he was Romanian, selling the Big Issue with quiet dignity to keep body and soul together in a foreign, not always hospitable country. I am not interested in the arguments concerning immigration issues and the rights and wrongs of 'our country'. All I know he was a pleasant, dignified young man. I was glad, for whatever reasons I had returned and purchased one of his papers.

Thursday 4 November 2010

To Make the News, try Food or Rude!

Looking for items for my 'Grumpy's Alternative News', I was struck by how many stories were either 'rude' or all about food.
Bears all over the world are apparently foraging for food prior to their forthcoming hibernation. I know the feeling. And a Christmas flavoured Pot Noodle's gone on sale, having been tried out on British troops overseas. Called 'Pot Noeldle' its 'a festive fusion of turkey and stuffing with all the trimmings'. Looking even further ahead The Church of England has produced the first ever Christian Easter egg, priced £.3.99 in order to fight commercialism. Look out for it next year. I notice Greggs the bakers are going all posh, offering pain au chocolat and croissants. In the south-east, OK, I'm not so sure 'up north'. We don't mess about north of Watford. That's probably why two tram drivers in Blackpool have been suspended for being overweight. The council have given them a month to lose half a stone. Not sure about the food properties of gugas (young gannets) but they're serving them free at the Musa Restaurant in Aberdeen. Animal welfare groups aren't too amused. Wonder if they would go with Naga Hari, the worlds hottest chilli pepper, grown on a chilli farm in Devon. (If you want to impress at the next cocktail party you go to, mention the Scoville scale, evidently the way to measure a chilli's heat.) It certainly won't go with the seventy year old Mortlach whisky, (price for a full bottle £10,000) on exhibition at a trade fair in Stockholm. Somebody pinched it! Have a cigarette instead, preferably not made from tobacco, Almaty style. Its mildly narcotic and made from chicken droppings! And talking of smoking, though its not really food, did you notice Charlie the chimp has died at Bloemfontein Zoo in South Africa. Well known as 'a smoker', visitors thought it funny to give him cigarettes, Charle lived to fifty two years of age in spite of the publics stupidity. Good old Charlie.
'And now for something completely different', as they used to say in 'Monty Python'. Those of a sensitive nature, please go for a cup of tea!
I see Keith Richard's autobiography makes great reference to Mick Jaggers 'manhood'. Made even more interesting by Jerry Hall's comments that Keith was only jealous. She reckons that's just about the size of it! Whose telling the truth I suppose we'll never know. But don't these stories make you look small. Sorry!
Mind you, Martin Amis doesn't help. He suggests writing well about sex is impossible. He reckons sex lurked in the background of the works of Richardson, Fielding, Austen and Dickens. Then along came D. H. Lawrence and it was no longer in the background. Except that Amis suggests even Lawrence had no success 'describing the actual act'; strange man, Martin Amis.
If all this becomes too serious, Cliff's seventieth birthday 'bash' at the Albert Hall added an air of frivolity to the whole picture. A sex symbol at seventy indeed; The Daily Mirror suggested he was indeed a sexy boy fifty years ago. Well, the elderly lady who 'sashayed' up the isle to the rendering of 'Devil Woman' still thinks he fits the picture. Plus the hundreds of senior citizens who flocked to the front in his finale can't all be wrong.
I read the El Paradise, recently opened in Madrid, is Europe's first mega-brothel. Eighty bedrooms, an events centre for six hundred people and two other halls to host shows. I daren't make other comments. The mind boggles, and we'll leave it there!
It's difficult to decide what is merely funny and what is definitely in bad taste. I suppose it depends on many things. Frank Skinner wrote an article entitled 'Is this joke too rude.' He talked of regretting having no nude photographs of himself as a young man as 'It would be nice to have proof that my genitals didn't always look like 'Parky', (Michael Parkinson.') He actually said this on television. Funny or otherwise, there is a suggestion that some things are OK discussed privately but not publicly. I find that sort of thing almost hypercritical but I do concede our sensibilities vary. The first rule of blogging is never put into a post anything you do not wish to be read, an obvious point. Having said that, I would not wish to offend anyone. A young women teacher was recently sentenced for having sex with her pupils. The attitude to this varies, one small point, is the attitude the same where a male teacher is involved; I wonder.
Getting a mite serious, this post so lets lighten the mood. I notice staid, inoffensive, not really with it Marks and Spencer are moving with these less than delicate times. Have you seen their latest men's underwear. Called 'Bodymax Frontal Enhancement Pants' they have an in-built fuzzy codpiece protruding from the front of the boxer shorts. (You can also buy vests that enhance and padded socks.) What do the initials M and S now stand for, any suggestions.
The pants are definitely me, I can't wait to go to town. Mind you, it does seem a shame to wear trousers as well; might try them without, where I live it's fairy quiet! Mind you, sex and sexiness is a great attribute when you're young. But at my age, in my condition, what's the modern parlance, 'You're having a laugh!'

Friday 29 October 2010

Was it Really 'Orrible October? Grumpy's Alternative News.

Not a bad month for the ladies. For a start, eleven ladies in the Shadow Cabinet. Can't be bad; or can it! And Elaine Mormon has become the first female to be allowed the title of 'freeminer' in the Forest of Dean. This after a two year legal wrangle, the first lady since the title was first awarded in 1296. It is fair to say the men are not happy! Plus a speech by Katharine Birbalsingh, a school deputy head was the sensation of the Conservative Conference in Birmingham. Yet her suggestion that too liberal thinking in education is not wise was met with derision and ultimately suspension. However I don't think we have heard the end of Katherine. Mind you, Faye Pounder of Stokes Croft was a less than happy lady. Her helpful flatmate loaded all Fayes possessions into her car prior to a move. Unfortunately it was the wrong car and has not been seen since!
So how have the men fared in October? A benefits cheat in Warrington, claiming to be 'virtually an invalid was working as a gym instructor. The former Mayor of Belfast, Jim Rodgers tried to vault over Lorraine Rogers who was 'dressed' as a tomato at the time. (Don't ask why!) He failed, she received £24,000 for injuries sustained. A House of Commons official was jailed for submitting fake invoices in the name of MP's. (Why was he jailed and MP's themselves get off seemingly scott free?) And a financial director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra was jailed for fiddling £648,000. Not exactly pennies, and I notice his wife, an ex-Tory councillor has now left him. (Does that count as a plus or a minus for the ladies?) Plus Robert Johnson, a senior BBC executive deliberately tried to distort the numbers of staff earning over £100,000 a year. Who pays the licence fees, you horrible man! And poor old President Sarkozy, as if he hasn't got enough problems. Now he's got to pay 800 million Euros to the Dassault company for a jet fighter that failed to attract a single order. Makes the UK sound almost efficient. (Mind you, the figures coming out on government waste make interesting reading. Some examples of government spending, l equals lowest figure paid, h is highest. Box of paper, l £8, h £73. Printer cartridge, l £86, h £398. Laptop l £353, h £2,000. Daily car hire (Ford Mondeo) l £27, h £119.)
Never mind, chaps. Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club is to reopen in London! Hugh's now eighty four, so bunny girls never did him any harm. Anyway, I always did have a soft spot for Beatrix Potter!
Some more completely unrelated tit bits from October. Tickets for Glastonbury 2011 sold out in hours. Plus there will be no Glastonbury 2012. Do you know why, all available portaloos are needed for the 2012 Olympics; I kid you not. Surely they could have made it a requirement that everyone bring a spade! People in Syktvkar, north of Moscow are being plagued by bears. So much so that the authorities have issued the following advice. 'Speak to them in a firm voice and never turn your back.' That's OK then! Hastings pier is no more. Opened in 1872, it was completely destroyed by fire, another bit of British history gone.
I do of course realise I have been somewhat beastly to men in this post. So to redress the balance. An Indian gentleman living in Assam, Bholarum Das has enrolled for a PhD course. He is one hundred years old! A man walked into a Cancer Research UK Charity shop in Glasgow, handed in an envelope, smiled and walked out. The envelope contained £20,000. Two British cave divers were hailed for their courage in trying to rescue a man in caves beneath the gorges of the Ardeche. Well done, Rich Stanton and Jon Volanthen. And finally, credit due to two men. David Mach for his ten feet tall gorilla, made from three thousand coat hangers. And Ian Brennen, official sculptor to the Royal household. His model of HMS Victory is finally finished after seventeen years. Made from one piece of wood, taken from Nelson's flagship, it is a triumph of perseverance and skill. Well done, sirs, you have done us men proud!

Saturday 23 October 2010

Mad, Had, Bad, Sad, Glad.

Most of us lead unimportant little lives. We are inconsequential in the big world. There are fifty nine million plus of us in Great Britain alone, mind bending. Many with similar hopes, aspirations, fears. It's been a funny week, not necessarily funny 'ha ha', a week that's made me realise how easily our moods go up and down. Unimportant we may be, but we cannot hide from life and all it throws at us.
Tuesday morning and a nondescript envelope dropped through the letter box.
'Notice of Intended Prosecution' 47mph in a 40mph area near Chesterfield last week. News to me, not an area I know well, must have been done by the static vans they use. Bit sneaky, no danger, broad daylight, nice little earner, no excuse, I know, the laws the law but not happy. I'm MAD, SAD and feel I've been HAD.
I'm no longer a 'boy racer', hopefully normally a law abiding citizen. In over fifty years driving whats my record? A 'Without Due Care and Attention' in Croydon.' The policeman who booked me suggested ' We get lots of accidents at this spot.' Not 'Bad spot so the councils looking into it.' Speeding near Ilkeston. Camera near a school so did its job, except that the road was deserted, being a Saturday afternoon. When the camera flashed, my wife said, 'Look its lightening.' I knew better!
Again over the limit, this time in my home town, on a road I was convinced was a 40mph, not a 30mph limit. At ten thirty at night, the road again deserted. Plus an adjoining, similar road has a forty limit. I know from talking to other motorists the first road is a massive earner for government funds. Parking offence in Chesterfield many years ago ( I sent a letter with a quote by Martin Luther 'To do so no more is the truest repentance.' My fine was half the normal!) Plus a parking ticket in Wales issued by a pair of megalomaniacs I don't even wish to talk about! The whinges of an old man, perhaps. The overall effect is to make me less supportive of the law and its idiosyncrasies.
The same day a delightful lady, Veronica called from Barking Mad. We were interviewed as to our suitability as 'dog sitters'. Evidently we passed the 'tests' and await an introductory 'lodger'. I have never seen my wife so excited since . . . . On second thoughts we won't go into that! The mood lightened, speeding ticket or no speeding ticket for which I was GLAD. Until I went to Mansfield next day.
My motorhome has had a heater problem for some time. I have to take it to a specialist dealership in Mansfield. Pleasant day in the town, spoilt a little by being dropped off a mile from where we should have been due to terrible instructions from Mansfield public and bus fraternity. The pain in my knees compounded by a bill for nearly £350 to repair damage to the heater. The damage almost certainly caused either by a trip up the the rutted hard shoulder of the M25 or the pot holed roads around Derby, that's BAD. The mood at rock bottom again, MAD that we pay taxes for roads that are ill maintained, SAD at parting with hard earned cash.
Two phone calls changed the mood again. A phone call to a cousin brings good news, not BAD. A long awaited serious hospital examination has revealed her problem, although serious, is far less serious than at first thought. What we haven't got rather than what we have got is often the important factor where illness is involved. Whatever the brave face, worry and uncertainty is inevitable. And make no mistake, good health is first and foremost the most important factor in life. So I was so GLAD for her and hers, speeding tickets, motorhomes and cash shortages are so unimportant compared to health issues.
A second phone call brings further joy, For which my wife has reason to be GLAD. Barking Mad has a problem, someone is needed to 'house' a dog for the weekend. Who would be available for such an emergency; who else? So, as I write, the house is being 'valeted', even more thoroughly than for the visit of mother-in-law! The imminent arrival of Tilly awaits; Tilly is evidently a 'Cockapoo. (Don't ask!) I am GLAD we have a visitor for the weekend
All somewhat unimportant. But it does suggest that our lives and moods are subject to never ending, ever present circumstances and events until the day we die. I suggest we enjoy the moment, live for the day, for you never know what tomorrow, next week, next year may bring.

What's been the best and worst for you in the last seven days?

Sunday 17 October 2010

Times, Are They Really A'changing?

Like almost everyone else I bemoan the passing of time. Plus like many others I occasionally pontificate as to how life was often, if not better, certainly different in our distant past. Our memories often deceive us and nostalgia takes over. What's the saying,* 'Viewed through rose coloured spectacles.' (Seeing life only positively, in other words, seeing everything in a cheerful and optimistic way.) What's particularly interesting in my case is the fact that I kept a very comprehensive diary for one year, 1985; the year itself of no special significance, but its all there, in black and white. Remembering of course twenty five years is a fair while ago. Whilst you're reading my efforts, can you remember events from your past ten, twenty, thirty, forty or even fifty years.
Diary excerpt, October 1985.
'Paulette continues to attend her Keep-Fit class whilst I prefer to write, watch television and drink home brew.'
Nothing new there then, even allowing for the fact that my wife is eight years younger than me. The home brewing has gone (A necessity when we were young and poor, home brewing is no longer in vogue. Most of us are financially better off compared to the 1980's)
My TV watching is so-so and I am still involved in various aspects of writing. (No blogging then a days)
Twenty five years on, I've had various serious health scares, am diabetic and suffer from fairly serious mobility problems caused by arthritis. My wife was diagnosed a Coeliac in 1987 and also has serious arthritic problems (Despite the Keep Fit). The children are grown up, with children of their own, so life goes on, history in part repeating itself. Progress in a way, mustn't grumble.

Diary excerpt Nov 9th 1985
'My mother died, worn out at the premature age of forty six. I am forty six today.'
My mother died of pneumonia. No one should die of pneumonia, particularly so in the reasonably sophisticated, fairly developed western world. I am not in brilliant shape, with the diabetes and everything else, but they, the modern NHS keep me going. Nowadays my world seems full of geriatrics, in front of me in the queue at the supermarket, at the football, scoffing two for one meals in the pub. Those of mature age certainly 'rule' in 2010. Progress, yes or no?

We have a market at Allenton, adjacent to where I lived at the time. Opened in 1961, consisting of 90 stalls on Fridays and Saturdays it was lively if considered somewhat downmarket. And if Fridays and Saturdays were less than upmarket, the flea market on Tuesday evenings was even less salubrious. Stalls offering every conceivable second hand goods, junk of the highest order, to even less wholesome customers the norm. Shady goods, shadier deals, the shadiest of dealers; great fun, but not for the fainted hearted.
My daughter Sarah aged sixteen befriended a stall holder, helping on his stall on occasion. Her innocent looks and youthful well scrubbed complexion standing out like a beacon amongst the great unwashed. Nevertheless I was proud of her efforts and once took my camera from its case, ready to record her efforts for posterity. Ready to record, not ready for the mass exodus of stall holders within range, who had no desire to have their efforts within the black economy recorded on film; I was indeed naive. Few if any wished their efforts to be available for examination by anyone, and particularly anyone who might conceivably be a tax inspector or the like. Taxes, tax forms, who needs 'em! Benefit fraud was alive and well in 1985.
Fast forward to 2010, a coalition government eager to exert its authority. And what is the 'flavour of the month' at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. Clamping down on benefit fraud of course. Oh well, what's a mere twenty five years between friends! And by the way, Tesco have bought the pub, The Mitre that adjoins the market. Plus all the nearby houses. And guess what, they've bought the market site too. Ah well, that's progress, 2010 style. ( I looked up Allenton Market on the Internet to refresh my memory. A non too erudite web site referred to the market as a 'flee market'; a Freudian slip perhaps! Amazingly enough Allenton Market was also listed as a 'Gay Derby Cruising Area'. Even at seventy we live and learn.)

An old man's memories but backed up by the written word. Other memories may not be so accurate. But there is no doubt life changes and inevitably moves on. 'It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.' (Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities.) We smoked in public and went to places like Skegness and Yarmouth for holidays; cruises, not on the agenda. Firms like Cadburys were British and a job was for life. Cameras used films and computers, the Internet, solar panels and i-pods were unheard of. Global warming and the word stress were not in our vocabulary. Plus we knew of Al Green, but Al -Quaeda, never. Times past, but the memories linger on. In the words of Mary Hopkins, 'Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end'. Perhaps, only perhaps she had a point.

*Used figuratively in the 1850's and first used in print in 'Tom Brown at Oxford'. 'Oxford was a sort of Utopia to the Captain.....He continued to behold towers, and quadrangles, and chapels, through rose-coloured spectacles.' And at the risk of being utterly pedantic, the word is coloured, Yahoo, not colored! Just another example of life in 2010, American style.

Monday 11 October 2010

'Five Things That Did My Head In.'

Am I the only one that gets things in my head; silly, irrelevant things and they won't go away. Plus they implant themselves so firmly that I lie in bed with them going round and round and round. Take last month for instance. I collected items for my 'Alternative News' slot and some items refused to go away.
British Rail are introducing trains with no toilets on South Coast rail routes for journeys of less than ninety minutes. Not funny for the elderly in particular and official comments take the proverbial biscuit. You are advised if 'caught short' from December to get off at the next station, use the station toilet and catch the next train. (At the moment the train stops in the station and waits for you to use the lavatory. Which inevitably makes it late!) By the way, they are also disposing with the drinks trolley! Now I've been on a train once in the last twenty years, so why should this silliness stay in my mind?
Christine O'Donnell is running for the US Senate. Besides once dabbling in witchcraft she has a most impressive CV. Unfortunately a large proportion of it is lies. She claims to have studied at Claremont Graduate University, not true and that she also studied at Oxford University again a 'porky'. She is in good company. Jeffrey Archer talks of his time at Oxford University, but omits to say he only did a diploma course. Just another 'fibster' who claims to be a graduate when he or she isn't. What is it about famous or rich people that they need to fantasise about their lives or their importance. Presumably they are inadequates who need to booster their egos. Pathetic, but why should I care?
A man in a trailer park in Breathitt County, USA shot dead five people. And the reason for his insane behaviour? A relation of two victims said simply. 'He just got mad at his wife for not making his breakfast right, and he shot her.' Now, irrespective of the American attitude to guns and gun ownership, and irrespective as to how he liked his eggs cooked, what an amazing occurrence. I think the reason it stayed in my mind was that it is yet another example of a total lack of self control in some people. Is it something in the water, in the upbringing, the lifestyle, pressure of modern living in the so called civilised world that takes people 'over the top', causing totally unreasonable, unacceptable behaviour? Remember the 'Moat' saga that dominated British headlines not so long ago. But why should I worry. Such people are not part of my life. Or are they lurking round the corner?
The Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons recently met in London. They announced that the latest part of the body to benefit from their undoubted skills is the backside. Evidently the Miami Thong Lift is the in thing for those who have already benefited from liposuction, face lifts and breast implants. American surgeon Dr Constantino Mendieta suggests the buttock is the next big thing in cosmetic enhancement. (Note the Freudian slip.) 'It was always a dirty word, but in reality it's instinctively attractive to men' he pontificates. The 'bottom' line is, it no doubt pays very well. Now why should I be remotely interested? Is it that such skilled physicians could put their undoubted skills to better use, or are there deeper deeper psychological implications in my psyche?
Tesco are to sell viagra, and at a price cheaper than Boots! (there's a juvenile joke there somewhere.) What's their motto, 'Every little helps'. Is there no end to Tesco's endeavours. I get the impression they won't stop until they rule the world. (My local pub closed recently and is now a Tesco Express.) But it's not just their avaricious side that won't go away. Viagra for goodness sake. Evidently you have to have blood pressure and cholesterol tests plus a diabetic screening. And as a Tesco high flyer states, if men pass the tests OK, 'Then we will discuss their options.' Now the queues at the check-outs are bad enough. And don't the little check out girls have enough on, so to speak without extra tasks, or have I got it wrong as usual. Plus it's only available to those between forty and sixty five. Lots of room there for schoolboys, and indeed extreme geriatrics to provide forged documents. But why should I worry. (And of any case I don't shop at Tesco!)
Remember the comedian Arthur English. He used to end his act with the words, 'Play the music, open the cage'. I felt like that on occasions. That is, until I read a recent report. The work of Relate and Talk Talk, it states that the 35 to 44 age group are the loneliest, most dissatisfied with their marriage and unhappiest at work. Anxiety over money, mortgages, pensions, ageing parents, all give them grief. Everything from their sex lives to their work experiences seem to give many of them more problems than people of more mature years. In other words, 'mid life' crisis are not so 'mid life' any more. So what am I worrying about! I might be an argumentative, cantankerous old has been. An arthritic, forgetful dinosaur, yes. But still here, yes, just. So no more laying in bed with a head full of irrelevancies. I'll go back to counting sheep. Better still I'll lull myself to sleep with a bit of Dire Straits, for as they so succinctly put it, 'Why Worry'.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious September, Grumpy's Alternative News.

Another super month, where to start. How many people or events can we get into one post I wonder, here goes. Firstly some whom I consider nothing short of idiotic.
Did you read about the woman in Devon who claimed that a 'wheelie bin' outside her home devalued her property. And the graduate from Queen's University, Belfast who claimed he would have got a better degree with more supervision. (Nothing to do with lack of hard work, Andrew Croskery?) The magistrate in Lancaster who fell asleep whilst sitting on the bench, causing a trial to collapse. Plus the judge who refused to order a soldier who 'glassed' a man to undergo anger management. 'Soldiers need anger to do their jobs' said Judge William Hart at Gloucester Crown Court. Great compensation for the victim. Some 'idiots' are more serious than others. The callous individual who abandoned an eight year old dog near Weymouth (later identified by CCTV as from Bamber Bridge near Preston) deserves our contempt. And strangely enough it was in Weymouth where a paramedic refused take a woman for an emergency Cesarean because he was on his break, then blaming someone else for his lack of professionalism. Not everything in the news made me mad; astounded yes, but that's different. Woburn Safari Park accidentally fed food meant for their animals to customers in their restaurant. A fake barrister, complete with wig and gown ran from court in Plymouth when the judge asked him simple legal questions. A priest in Madrid was involved in a scuffle with a parishioner during Communion. A model received benefits as a carer whilst working for Babestation. (Its actually a porn channel!)
Talking of porn, what an idiot was the primary school teacher in Merthyr Tydfil who made porn films with her husband and stored them on her school laptop. (She has been told she is free to seek another job, it didn't say in what capacity!) Plus an employee of Newham Council supposedly struggled to get dressed after an injury. Pity it didn't stop him competing in national athletics events.
Two entrants for the title, twerp of the month. The German tourist in Tenerife who dug a three metre hole on the beach, which eventully collapsed on him, burying him up to his neck. It took fifteen firefighters in five vehicles two hours to free him. Lucky man. Mind you, a one-off, for regular stupidity try Glenn Crawley, so-called sailor aged fifty three, estimated to have cost the emergency services £30,000 plus in sea rescues. (On one occasion four times in the same day.) This time his catamaran was destroyed on Fistral Beach, Newquay. Next time, how about, 'No pay, no rescue.'
Animal stories always interest. Tanvir, a Bengal tiger was stuck on top of a climbing frame at Noah's Ark Farm in Somerset for forty eight hours because he's scared of heights. Biggles, a Springer Spaniel swallowered forty stones (weighing 1.5kg) on a family seaside trip to West Sussex. A man in my home town, Derby lost his claim as to who owns a pet water buffalo called Oink. And man from Crawley ( honest, Crawley for the second time) has just spent one hundred and twenty days in a tiny room with forty one snakes, including black mambas, cobras and puff adders. Why, well may you ask. I see Colonel Gaddafi had thirty Berber horses plus his Beduin tent when he stayed in Rome on an official visit. (Not to mention his female bodyguards dressed in camouflage.) You really couldn't make it up! And finally animalwise, ITV West Country news got a news item somewhat wrong. The polar bear washed up on the beach at Bude was actually a cow! Mind you, I don't suppose they see too many polar bears in Cornwell! I'm not sure about the proposed housing estate in Paddock Wood, Kent being rejected because dormice, (an endangered species living in nearby woods) might be at risk from pet cats owned by incoming residents.
And just to show my 'serious' reading, did you notice in the business world Cinven have bought out Spice for £250 million. Simon Rigby, owner of Spice has set up a new company. Farmgen is using anaeric technology to turn maize, silage, potatoes into methane gas. How, by mimicking the inner workings of a cows stomach. Simple when you know how!
Finally, finally, two items concerning the ladies. Four Australian women have set the world record for the fastest relay race in stillettos. Eighty metres in one minute, four seconds wearing three inch (7.5 cm) heels. Still concerning the ladies, or at least ladies apparel, a farmer in Purton, Wiltshire had a problen, his galia melons kept breaking their vines. The answer, ladies bras, brought in great numbers by helpful customers. Evidently double-D cups were particularly useful! I make no further comment; if anyone wants to suggest a suitable headline on any item, be my guest!

Thursday 30 September 2010

A Doggedly Difficult Decision.

My wife is hankering after another dog. I too miss not having a dog but have thought we are too old. Now I'm not sure. (As if I'm ever sure of anything!) Just to remind ourselves of the joy of 'dog ownership' I have just re-read my diary dated September 1985. (Buster the dog in question was an English Bull Terrier.)
'We bought Sax-Stonebroom, now christened Buster, three years ago today. He has proved a liability, a worry, destructive, almost neurotic and often unpredictable. He is unreliable, untrainable, unmanageable and undeniably lovable. He dominates our lives, costs us money and wears us out. Without him life would be far less complicated, frenzied, frantic. It would be far less fun. His exploits over three years are almost endless.
He has caught birds in the garden, bringing their flattened forms with wagging tail to the accompaniment of childish screams of horror. He has chewed pine tables, bunk beds, books, toys rocking chairs, fans, shoes, boots, balls and, to date at least eight gear knobs. He has chewed the car handbrake, allowing the car to roll down a drive and through the closed garage doors. He has brought football matches to a standstill, refusing to part with the ball whilst twenty three men stand around, inactive, fearful and nonplussed. He has returned home from an illegal foray in the district covered in blood and beer, the latter evidently delivered in an attempt to end his assault on his unfortunate and no doubt unwilling protagonist.
He treats tradesmen, fizzy pop salesmen and window cleaners as life long friends on the few occasions he is aware or awake to their presence. More often than not he is likely to be asleep on or in the nearest bed, blissfully unaware of their presence. his insatiable love of food, fun, life in general has to be seen to be believed. Life with Buster is often stressful, sometimes trying, always tiring but never dull.'
Fast forward twenty five years. Should a doddery geriatric and wife even remotely be considering owning another dog. And if so, any suggested breed or types?