Saturday 29 May 2010

On Counselling.

I sat reading the Style magazine recently, this being a section of The Sunday Times concerning fashion and aimed at the ladies. How sad is that. Me reading this 'mag', not the magazine itself. It's my feminine side coming out I presume.
An article by a journalist under the pseudonym Sally entitled 'A Problem Shared' caught my eye, if ever so slightly. It wittered on about the problems experienced by someone whose adult life was being affected by a mother whose temper tantrums were continuing to affect her daughter long into adulthood. A 'non article' really, unexceptional, not very interesting but its a living I suppose. And the part that most caught my eye was the suggestion that, if all else fails, counselling could have a part to play. Counselling to the rescue, yet again for goodness sake. The modern panacea for all life's problems.
I looked up 'counselling' on Google. The were 15,600,00 references to the subject! (There are over a million more references to counselling than to Elvis Presley!) Aids, drug and alcohol abuse; school problems, housing, all no problem, fetch in a counsellor. And when I read a piece from a fourteen year old in Scotland asking how one becomes a counsellor I start to really worry.
Who is he going to counsel and on what I wonder.
At precisely the age of fourteen I was travelling to school on the bus. An army lorry (there were far more of them about in those days) ploughed through two men pushing a handcart of sand as if it and they never existed. And when it came to a stop very little of men, bloodied sand and handcart did in fact exist. We continued to school, did our lessons and went home. What would happen now I wonder. The school, Long Eaton Grammar School was alongside a canal. I remember at breaktime on one occasion a bloated body being fetched out of the water by a man with a long pole. Then the whistle blew and we reluctantly trooped inside for the next lesson.
My mother in law is French. On occasion, though reluctantly, she will tell of travelling to school on occasion and viewing dead soldiers by the roadside. My mother in law is a sensitive, caring, well balanced adult.
In 1953 I arrived home to be told than my mother had died. (There was no father in the household.) I do not remember being told that my mother was in fact ill. I then did what I suppose was a remarkable thing. I went out and did my paper round. To be honest I must have been operating on 'automatic pilot'. In fairness the family did their best to deal with the situation but there were no professional support in those days, counselling, non existent.
I do not wish to take refuge in the past, 'the good old days' are in the main a myth.
I also realise the impression given might suggest an uncaring individual. Not true I hope. I care as much as the next man. Though I concede my life and what I have become, for better or worse has been influenced and affected by an austere, post war upbringing. But I suggest the massive, emphasis on counselling, with a pseudo career for so many is not always healthy. Couple this to a tendancy to offer counselling on every conceivable subject and the subject is devalued in the extreme. What do you think?

Sunday 23 May 2010

'If You Feel Hard Done By'

I'm sure, like me, you sometimes wonder where the next post is coming from. I find it particularly difficult as, in the main, I shy away from the topical. Of any case, other people do it better. Then, out of the blue came an article in a Sunday paper (The Times as it happens) that stood out from the rest in every conceivable way. The story of Andy Ripley, an awesome rugby player in his prime, now fighting terrible afflictions with dignity, courage and humour. I am not a fan of rugby but you don't need to be so to appreciate Andy's story. Instead of my weekly drivel, please read the following article and wonder. The capacity of mankind to rise above adversity never ceases to amaze. Like Justo Gallego (Don Justo), see post dated May 3rd, Andy Ripley will stay in my mind for a very long time. I have put the articles in the next blog double click to make them big enough to read ,.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Life Sucks

We've been a bit full of ourselves lately. Bordering on the decrepit, and neither of us in the best of health we decided to 'slab' all the rear garden, bringing maintenance to a minimum. (More on this later.) It's no small job, neither is it cheap but its about half done and my wife in particular is highly excited. (Perhaps it doesn't take much to excite my wife and I should know!)
From a materialistic point of view I reckon we have nearly everything. Nice house, motorhome, some money in the bank (rapidly diminishing.) New gates, new sun canopy on the decking; a choice of food, warmth and the freedom to do our own thing. It's easy to get carried away.
I read my diary for May 1985 and the following made me think. (Ida was my aunt and owned a terrace house in an extremely poor area of the town.)
'Spent time with Ida unsuccessfully trying to locate 'Old McGowan', Ida's tenant. He has seemingly moved all his worldly goods around two to three miles over several trips, via a purloined shopping trolley. The items include wardrobes and a divan. The journeys have continued in pouring rain. A truly remarkable feat. We need to find him to ascertain the position regarding gas meters (full and now unattended in his absence, an act of great folly in this semi derelict area.) We fail to find him (or he simply does not wish to talk to us at either his old or new residence.)'
And the following, ironically the next day's entry.
'Bumped, literally into Fred, a colleague of some years ago. How personal circumstances change with the passage of time. Five years ago Fred was an ordinary, domesticated, rather humdrum but seemingly contented individual living the life typical to many teachers, semi detached living, unexciting but uncomplicated.
Five years later Fred lives in a caravan with a woman seventeen years his junior. He has just survived a serious nervous breakdown, suffered depression and psychiatric problems, come close to suicide, changed jobs and inevitably life style. His physical appearance has so changed that I recognise him only with difficulty. How great is the cross some have to bear, however self-inflicted that cross may be.'
I wonder where 'Old McGowen and Fred are now? Makes patios and garden makeovers seem very unimportant in life's overall scheme. Mind you its just as well, one of the builders (that's fifty per cent of the work force) has just gone home with with a badly damaged back!

Friday 14 May 2010

How to do Everything.

We went to Skegness at the weekend. Wet, windy, freezing; what's new! So bad that I bought two books to pass the time in the motorhome out of the cold. And what is my choice of reading material. Were they bought because they're cultural, uplifting, enlightening; or did they merely look cheap bargains in more ways than one. Book review one, the second to follow.
'How to do Everything' by Rosemarie Jarski. How modest are our American friends. Purporting to teach you 'the skills mom and dad should have taught you but never did.' (Note the use of the word mom, an Americanism if I ever saw one.) The book is trite, mundane, mind bendingly banal but at times immensely amusing. So what did I learn?
The choice of subject is at times amazing. Didn't know how to open a supermarket plastic bag. I do now! Did you know spiders hate the smell of soap and a swatted bee can bring in reinforcements. Do you know how to tie a Windsor knot, make a cat's cradle or slice a pineapple, its all there! I would have never thought of dyeing the water in a vase with food dye to match the colour of the flowers. And how many pairs of shoes do American women own. It is suggested you photograph your shoes and put the picture on the box to tell you which shoes are which! ( I have three pairs, or is it four.)
The book is mainly aimed at the ladies amongst us. Inevitably assuming the female of the species is the 'home maker' and presumably the male is the 'provider.' Not surprising therefore the bulk of the book concerns the home. How to throw the perfect dinner party, make the perfect bed, the best order in which to clean the home, all explained for 'wifeys' benefit. But amongst the advice are some real 'crackers'.
On vacuum cleaners. 'I got the wife implants for Christmas. She didn't want 'em. She wanted a Dyson.' (Roger Kavanagh, The Royle Family.)
On bed making. Did you know a man is twice as likely to fall out of a hospital bed as a woman.
On washing up. Did you know a national survey found that, given the choice, a woman would rather see a man washing dishes than dancing nude.
And one more. If noise is a problem, move to Switzerland. It is an offence to flush the toilet in an apartment after 10pm. It is also illegal to use your lawn mower on a Sunday.
So much to take in, so many new things to learn. Using the toilet, I've been doing it all wrong. 'Pull your underwear right down around your ankles. Half-mast is not good enough'. As Michael Caine would say, 'Not a lot of people know that.'
How to make the perfect cup of tea AND how to drink tea like Prince Charles AND how to read the tea leaves. (Tasseography) Try it, sure to amuse. Did you also know there are, on average each year in Britain 37 injuries involving tea cozies.
And the thing that will stay with me longest?
From the section concerning posture whilst sitting at your computer. With your right foot make clockwise circles. At the same time, draw the number 6 in the air using your right hand. Your foot will change direction. Not the most useful of all the things taught in the book, but what the hell. Well done, Rosemarie, you amused me no end.
What have you read lately, any recommendations?

Saturday 8 May 2010

Where's Silly Old Granddad, Not Gone to the Pub Again!

You need a good pub, now the football seasons over. And if you need cheering up, who's better than Cyril the landlord. Lionel Richie and Bruce Forsyth were in front of me when I went to the bar. 'Hello lads,' sez Cyril, 'Why the long faces?' He has a way with words, has Cyril.
'Not seen them in before' I offered. Worst thing I could have said. It doesn't need much to get Cyril going.
'Been one of them days' he sez, 'you wouldn't believe what a morning I've had, nothing but trouble. Had a pair of jump leads in earlier, too much to drink. I settled 'em. Don't start anything I sez. They could see I meant business.
Mind you, not as bad as the battery acid and fireworks that came in yesterday. The police carted them off in the end.'
I knew I shouldn't but I never learn.
'What happened to them' I enquired.
'Charged one and let the other off' sez Cyril triumphantly.
I were glad to sit down. Old Harry, Davey and one armed Wally, they were all there. Plus Wally's lad, Montmerency. Not the sharpest, is Monty, but then, neither is his dad.
Old Davey looked right posh. He had on his new cardigan, jumper, pullover thingy his missus had knitted him.
'Very nice,' I said. Davey took a deep breath.
'She said it's from the Angora rabbit bred for its long hair, as distinct from mohair, which comes from the Angora goat. The rabbits originate in Ankara, Turkey and were popular with French Royalty in the mid 1700's. There are four breeds, English, French, Giant and Satin. Known for its softness, Angora fibres are hollow.'
'It's a beautiful yarn' I said 'and you tell it so well.'
Monty fetched a round of drinks, second week running. I'm glad he came but I knew he'd have trouble with Cyril. Sure enough he were moaning like hell when he came back.
'Dog Almighty,' said Monty (did I mention Monty were dyslexic), 'Dog Almighty, I'm sure that man's crackers. Told me he'd had a cowboy in last night. Dressed completely in brown paper. Brown paper trousers, brown paper waistcoat and a brown paper hat. Said he'd just come out of prison.
Now I'm easily taken in, but not twice in one night so I said nowt.
Wally were not so sharp. 'Did he say what for, our Monty.'
'Rustlin' said Monty. The funny thing is, I reckon he believed 'im.
Old Harry were quiet.
'What's the matter Harry,' says I.
'Been to the doctors' said Harry. 'I told 'im, doctor, I keep seeing this spinning insect.'
'And what did he say, Harry?'
'He said, not to worry, it's just a bug that's going round.'
Poor old Harry. He never seems to be very lucky. He went to the market to buy a camourflage jacket but he couldn't find one. An' while he were out a bloke went to his door an' said he were looking for organ donors. Poor old Harry, his wife gave him his prized piano.
I did think of having something to eat but last weeks little episode put me off. I had a ploughman's lunch. He weren't half mad. I fancied the chicken salad but it looked a bit ropey.
'How do you prepare the chicken?' I asked Cyril.
'I just sez to it, come here, I'm going to kill you' sez Cyril.
Talking about things ropey, bumped into Rough Rita and her new baby in the passageway on my way out.
'Nice baby' I said to be polite, 'just like his father.'
'Very true' said Rita, 'pity he's not more like my husband.' They don't call her Rough Rita for nothing.
Made me feel almost lucky to have my missus waiting for me at home. So much so I thought I'd take her something home to surprise her.
I hobbled over to the ice cream van in the square.
'Two choc ices please.' I said.
'Crushed nuts?' said the ice cream man.
'No, it's my darned arthritis playing up' said I.
The wife enjoyed her choc ice. The way she smiled reminded me of long ago. In our younger days she said I had the body of a god, and I thought she was over sexed. Now she's over sex but I've still got the body of a god. What a pity its Budda. Oh well, silly old granddad can but dream!

Monday 3 May 2010

April Showers. Grumpy's Alternative News.

Let's start with the animal kingdom. They seldom let us down. Did you read about the lovelorn snowy owl that has returned to the Outer Hebrides for the eighth consecutive year. Sadly it has never found a mate and was last seen sidling up to a polythene bag, the only white object on a brown moor.
The Open University reported that toads can sense impending earthquakes whilst the Monkton Conservation Commission awarded a £99,000 grant to build a tunnel to help salamanders cross the road. I thought £250 a month to insure a rabbit in Worcester was a bit steep, but it is the world's largest, 4ft 3in long and weighing 3st 7lbs. Evidently ducks and geese move more efficiently than humans. The former move in V-formations, humans walk abreast or in a U-formation. (Evidently an average of 1.2 metres per second. 2.7mph.) The average speed of a group of four shoppers is only 0.9 metres per second. As Michael Caine would no doubt say, 'Not a lot of people know that!)
The medical profession was in the news for all the wrong reasons. The doctor who removed a man's testicle when he was only supposed to remove a cyst made my eyes water. ( Don't go to Jordon, he's still practising there. I often wondered about the word 'practising, now I know.)
I had to smile at the doctor in Pakistan who used an ambulance to take home a cow he bought at market. I know it's not funny, but I can't get the picture out of my mind. Plus the man impersonating an American cosmetic surgeon who used a cooking pot to dispose of fat taken during liposuction. No wonder his customers were attracted by his low prices! The pensioner who left a fake bomb at his dentists after a dispute over overcharging has been banned from the surgery for life. Very naughty thing to do but how many of you would like to do the same?
The world still has it's share of idiots. Police checking commercial vehicles on the motorways have filmed drivers watching DVD's, playing video games and even cooking. Nothing seems to get through to people that such behaviour is unacceptable in the extreme. The female motorcycle instructor who fell off her machine and had to be helped back on was actually instructing a pupil whilst four times over the legal alcohol limit. The mind boggles. A man who put up a home made sign warning of potholes in Shadoxhurst in Kent was ordered to remove it, the police suggested it was 'a distraction'! Yet council workers in Birmingham renewing white lines continued their line through a three foot pothole. Again the mind boggles!
Another great month, but three stories in particular caught my eye. Number one, the family who tried to smuggle a dead relative in a wheelchair aboard an easyJet flight from Liverpool to Berlin. The relatives insisted he was merely sleeping, tests showed the man was in fact 'deceased'. Very reminiscent of the Monty Python 'Dead Parrot' sketch. I once wrote a short story concerning the problems associated with someone dying on you whilst 'out for the day'. How strange that fiction merely mirrors real life. (See post dated 29th April 2008 'Walter Mitty is Alive and Well.' Early days, only elicited one comment!)
Number two, the amazing former monk, Justo Gallego (Don Justo) aged eighty five. He has been building, by hand, single handed a cathedral on a plot of land outside Madrid. My words cannot do credit to this amazing man. Please, just type 'Justo Gallego' into Google etc. Irrespective of your religious convictions or otherwise, if you are not amazed by this man's efforts, you have no soul! (There are 650,000 references to this truly remarkable man.)
Finally April marked the death of Martin Elliot. Probably few will recognise the name. But how many will recognise his iconic photograph taken in 1976. How many walls of swooning young males did this photograph adorn I wonder. Thank you, Mr Elliot, and thank you Fiona Butler, aged eighteen at the time, now a married lady with children living in Stourport, Worcestershire.