Wednesday 28 April 2010

' I Feel Proper Poorly.'

Ever sat in front of your computer and thought, 'What the hell do I write about this week?' Never, I don't believe you! This weeks been one of those weeks then Reg Dixon came to the rescue. Reg Dixon was a comedian, born in Coventry and popular on the 'wireless' in the 1950's
So what brought this doom and gloom scenario to mind.
I reckon it was last week's near miss that set me going. Fate, destiny, call it what you will there's no doubt life has an inevitability about it, whether we like it or not. We live and we die, a certainty common to us all. If, only if, we are at some stage in our lives in perfect health, sooner or later our mortality will be all too apparent. For if it were not so, obviously we would live for ever, for there would not be anything to 'kill us off', so to speak. 'Three score years and ten' is the Biblical suggestion of a life span. So I reckon I'm on borrowed time. Now we have many 'funny turns' in our lives. (Come to think of it, Reg Dixon was 'a funny turn'. Only just, mind!) We, at least some of us, break bones frequently, suffer from flu, hay fever, or become anxious or depressed. All nuisance value conditions designed to irritate but nothing more. I'm a very arthritic seventy year old but it won't kill me. (Unless I'm too slow crossing the road and a bus gets me.)
Amongst my friends and acquaintances there are many more serious conditions that suggest few of us are perfect specimens. Autism, Bio Polar, Aspergers Disease; Coeliacs, Nystagmus, Diabetes, Lupus. The list is endless but you get the message. I'm very ordinary, nothing special, yet have experienced over seventy years, pyloric stenosis when only days old, serious septicemia, a life threatening ulcer, two TGA's and skin cancer. And these are the one's that come to mind.
The point is, some start perfect, some not so, but we all develop imperfections that ultimately 'finish us off'. It's only fair when you think about it, otherwise our world would be awfully crowded by now. Morbid, I know, but I personally take comfort in the fact, rich or poor, kings or paupers we all go the same way.
A Reg Dixon joke. And I promise the next blog, nay the next two will be light hearted.
'I had to go to the doctors the other day and the doctor said "It's me clack." You know what your clack is, it's that little bit of skin at the back of your throat. He said mine was too long, two inches too long. The doctor said if I'd had a big meal I'd have flogged myself to death.'

Friday 23 April 2010

Thoughts on St George's Day.

They say 'Time waits for no man.' True, and it is interesting to see if we change in any way over the years. Two entries from my diary of 1985. (Then aged forty five, now aged seventy.)
1985, entry one.
My father was born on St George's Day. The man who I am told was my father was born on St George's Day. Almost contradictory, certainly ambiguous statements. Ernest Stevens, foundry labourer, died in 1942 when I was two years of age, my sister not yet one. A man of whom I know little. My mother married Ernest whilst on leave from his army regiment, the Pioneers early in the war. Time has obliterated any observations my mother ever made concerning Ernie.
Relations reluctance and evasions when the subject is broached indicates all is maybe not what it seems. I am amazed at myself that I have done so little to determine the true facts of my birth. But only someone in a similar position (and there were many of us in those war torn years) can fully understand the emotions involved. Presumably it is in part a fear of unearthing unpalatable truths that might forever haunt.
Twenty five years on, little has changed except that I get older but not necessarily wiser.
1985, entry two
How unassuming are the English. St George's Day and not a rose to be seen. The occasional flag flutters from a limited number of buildings. I hear no mention of the occasion from the television.
Noel-Baker School makes no recognition of the celebration, galling to many; especially so when one remembers the flag on our school informing the world that March the First was St David's Day. Mind you, a Welsh headmaster and deputy does make a difference.
Again not too much changes. St George's Day is still in the main a low key affair. True, the BNP and the like attempt to high jack the English 'identity' but in the main are repulsed.
We are indeed a somewhat staid race, but, 'we are what we are.'

Sunday 18 April 2010

Come in, Number Seven, Your Times Up.

I was born during the Second World War. My mother was not married and hid her pregnancy, so I had no pre-natal attention. I had an operation soon after birth, probably for the condition known as pyloric stenosis. The story goes that I spent some time by the fire wrapped up in a shoe box. I was fortunate to survive. I also spent some considerable time in Bretby Hospital with rickets, a not uncommon condition where good diets are not easily available.
I had a happy childhood in the main and, being small of stature competed with 'the big boys' enthusiastically. So much so that I had broken bones on five separate occasions. The usual 'boyish' fun, often foolish and occasionally dangerous was the 'norm'. It was not clever to put pennies on the railway line but it was the river that came nearest to ending it all. We 'swam' in the River Derwent at Spondon in Derbyshire, the water being warm caused by the discharge from a local power station. Correction, the 'big boys' swam. I was a non swimmer at the time and amused myself by climbing alone along branches of overhanging trees and fetching out, with the aid of a long stick, dead fish killed by the warm water. Until the inevitable happened, and, with my usual enthusiasm for any task, I overbalanced and fell into around ten feet of water. I had moved away from the swimming group and was, pardon the pun, in deep trouble. Fortunately my predicament was eventually spotted (I was certainly not struggling in silence) and I was unceremoniously hauled out. I spent the next half hour, naked, in full view of passing trains as I patiently waited for my clothes to dry. Not too long afterwards I learnt to swim in the local canal. A filthy experience in the year that polio was rife and canals were suspected of being one source of the infection.
As a nineteen year old I had a very serious motor cycle accident. I can remember to this day lying under a lorry and wanting only to get the hell out of there, my teenage pride being hurt by my inexpert riding. Mind you, it was not the only thing hurt and I was hospitalised for some considerable time.
In my life I have survived skin cancer, septacemia, two TGA's and my diabetes is a minor irritation. So, might you ask, what's brought all this retrospective thinking to the surface.
Early this week my wife and I travelled south to fetch a magnificent Ind Coope Brewery exterior light from an address in Surrey. A trip down the M1 and M25, the latter particularly horrendous. The traffic was diabolical, road surfaces horrendous, congestion out of this world. A two day 'thrash' taking in Esher, Windsor, Hampton Court, Kingston. Some nice places but ye gods, mankind was surely not put on this earth for such pressurised living.
I stayed with friends at Welwyn Garden City on the way home. A pleasant experience that meant a detour across country to join the M1. I had an uneasy feeling that all was not right. The road surfaces were improved yet the feeling prevailed that something was amiss. I needed fuel so I pulled into a petrol station. And out of curiosity I asked my wife to check the wheel nuts. (The van was recently serviced.) Problem solved, three wheel nuts were less than finger tight, others were far short of safely tightened. At any stage one or more wheels could have come off. Such a happening, particularly at speed on crowded motorways does not bear thinking about. I have no doubt we would not have made it home intact from the point where we so luckily became aware of our predicament. (Thanks to the young man in the small truck who tightened the nuts and saved the day.) Which begs the question, one of my favourites, 'What's it all about, Alfie.'
Do you remember the 1956 film, 'Someone Up There Likes Me' starring Paul Newman. My religious friends insist there is a god, presumably up in the sky who watches over all of us, all of the time. Amazing, so what happens when millions starve in times of famine. Killing poor little devils who don't deserve to die; don't get me started. Some believe in fate. Was it fate, then, that kept the nuts on. Will it be fate next time if the nuts come off. The older I get, the less I know. All I know is, boy, that was another near miss. I've stopped shaking and, thanks to whoever or whatever, I'm still here. Hopefully with a lot more living to experience.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

If Music be the Food of Love.

My musical education has been sadly limited. I can often be heard emitting a tuneless, repetitive truly indescribable dirge, some say humming sound of awesome unmusical proportions. (I do not usually know I am doing this. If I close my eyes I can still hear my mother, God rest her soul, sending forth the same, some say strange sound. Heredity is a wonderful thing.) But this does not mean I lack an appreciation of all things musical. With this in mind I would like to offer, for your delectation, two musical renderings that caught my eye and cannot fail to appeal. So sit back, close your eyes and, as they say in these modern times, 'enjoy'. For there's nothing like a fine tune or a well sung melody to gladden the heart. And, being tone deaf, my musical offerings are nothing like fine tunes or well sung melodies! (My music teacher at secondary school didn't have me standing in the back row for nothing)

Thursday 8 April 2010

Goodbye Mad March. Grumpy's Alternative News.

So what did March bring? Lets start with something to test the taste buds. I hope you enjoyed your Easter Eggs. Did you have one of Waitrose's Ostrich eggs? They are the equivalent of twenty four hen's eggs. Mind you, they cost £18.99 each and take up to an hour and a half to boil. Expensive but no worse than the carrot plugs sold by Gardening Direct . 'Which' reported that each carrot grown would cost £1.00.
I see that Yorkshire rhubarb was awarded Protected Designation of Origin status. (Joining Cornish sardines, Melton Mowbray pork pies and Swaledale cheese.) Now the move is on to get Yorkshire Pudding on the list. Still I suppose they are all healthy foods unlike the popcorn sold in cinemas. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) there are 1,800 calories in a 375g bucket of sweetcorn. A stick of rhubarb in the cinema might be a better alternative.
Plus fish and chips were in the news in March. Evidently the sales of cod are down. We are increasingly eating pollock or catfish (Pangasius) instead of cod. Which is OK, but what I want to know is, do we KNOW when we are served the alternatives?
Common sense still seems to be in short supply. The driver in Scotland who faced a fixed penalty fine for blowing his nose in traffic whilst stationery had his case dismissed. And the lady in Sandwell whose two gnomes, pot tortoise and 'welcome' plaque were removed due to 'fire safety rules' had them returned by the embarrassed council. But the bingo callers in Sudbury, as decreed by the council, still can't call out 'two fat ladies, 88' in case anyone is offended.
About on a par with Northampton Borough Council, who have decided, on 'health and safety' grounds police officers must have ten hours training before they are allowed to ride a bicycle on duty. You feel like laughing at such crass stupidity. Except that there can be serious consequences. An inquest in Scotland heard that a potholer died because a public volunteer was not allowed to use lifting equipment available at the scene of an accident. It took four hours for those allowed to use the equipment to arrive. How sad and pathetic is that. Will we ever learn.
The unluckiest man of the month. The bank robber in Tennessee shot dead by the police on St Patrick's Day. Dressed as, guess what, a leprechaun, and I thought leprechauns were lucky. Mind you, he had done a bank hold up successfully three days before Christmas dressed as Santa Claus.
The most philosophical man of the month. The banker in Wellington, New Zealand who stole $18 million from the ASB Bank. He spent $6.8 on prostitutes and wasted the rest! On wine and property. (Only joking, ladies!)
And the bravest man of the month. Sanal Edamaruku, who challenged a tantric guru to kill him live on Indian television. After several frustrating hours the holy man gave up. But gripping television, beats Coronation Street into the proverbial 'cocked hat.'
March, the month in which the poet laureate wrote a poem about David Beckham's Achilles tendon. Rome announced that Leonardo da Vinci predicted the world would end on November 1st, 4006 (Evidently you only have to look at the Last Supper mural.) And it was finally confirmed what every man already knew. 'Man flu' is real, an evolutionary 'happening', a trade off between high testosterone levels and a robust immune response. So lay off ladies, when he says he doesn't feel well, he doesn't feel well!
So there you have it. I leave you one more fact to ponder. Thomas Beatie and his wife Nancy live in Bend, Oregon. Thomas, a transgender male is seventeen weeks pregnant with his third child. Thomas, formally known as Tracey was a beauty queen before sex reassignment therapy. His wife Nancy is unable to conceive. It is indeed a strange world but good luck to them.

Saturday 3 April 2010

Doesn't Time Fly When Your'e Enjoying Yourself.

Once upon a time there were two handsome children. At least their parents thought so! Though not of royal blood, far from it, they were indeed blessed. And if times were sometimes hard, neither particularly noticed, for children are oblivious to such trivialities. Plus life is for living and as Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) suggested, 'You have but a few years to be young and handsome in the eyes of the world.'
Being different of age, both heeded George Bernard Shaw's (1856-1950) words, 'It is a woman's business to get married as soon as possible, and a man's to keep unmarried as long as he can.'

But eventually the inevitable happened. Poor but still handsome the couple decided to live their lives together; definitely a case of 'for richer, for poorer.' On the 4th of April 1970 'the deed was done', 'the knot was tied' at St John the Evangelist Church, Newbold, Chesterfield.
The honeymoon night was spent in Knutsford (No jokes please) and the honeymoon itself in the Lake District. The new wife crashed his beloved Mini Cooper three days into the honeymoon. (Not the last vehicle she ever crashed!) Forty years on they are still together; two children, four grandchildren, many an anxious moment but many, many more laughs.

I've no claim to be clever, but John Webster's (1580?- 1625?) words will do for me.
'And of all axioms this shall win the prize-
Tis better to be fortunate than wise.'
I was indeed fortunate the day I met Paulette. For in the words of John Ford (1586-1640) 'The joys of marriage are the heaven on earth.'