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?

Friday 24 September 2010

For Intellectuals and the lntelligentsia only.

I have just acquired three new books. All of the highest academic value. Plus I realise my readers follow this blog for its high intellectual content. So I would like to share my newest knowledge with you in the hope that you too will become fountains of knowledge, able to confound and astound at the next cocktail party you attend.
Did you know, for instance that the Chinese CD 'Fifty Favourite Chinese Children's Songs' includes: 'How Wonderful the School Campus Is', 'Whenever I Walk Past the Teacher's Window' and 'We Want to be Good Children of Lei Feng Type'. Impressed? I thought so! And did you know that 'Ear Pull' is one of the events in the Eskimo-Indian Olympics held annually in Fairbanks, Alaska. (A tug-of-war between two people joined with string looped round their ears. People occasionally lose an ear, but indeed a rarity, all right.)
At important events your medical knowledge is always worthy of an airing.
'Oh, I realised he was suffering from 'Alice in Wonderland Syndrome' will be received with incredulity. (A psychological condition where the patient feels that their body is much smaller or bigger than it is.) Not that you need to over impress with medical science. There is room for small talk, ever helpful in putting at ease those suffering anxiety at such gatherings.
'Do you realise minuscule is the most commonly misspelled word in English' never fails to show your grasp of the language, at the same time raising you to the position of English language supremo.
'Closely followed by millennium, embarrassment and occurrence' you can add for final effect.
If this in any way is seen as 'showing up' the recipient choose small talk that is interesting if not particularly challenging.
'Oh how I enjoyed Enid Blyton's Secret Seven as a child,' reeling off the names of all seven with reckless abandon always impresses. (Barbara, Jack, Colin, Pam, George, Janet, Peter). Or how about 'Did you know Staten Island was included in a list of the world's worst smells.' (Also included was skunk spray, baby sick, boiled urine, well-used trainers, brussel sprouts, egg sandwiches, dog farts and bad breath.) By the way, my American friends, is Staten Island really that bad?
So there you are. And just a little something to clinch that number one spot on the cocktail circuit. Did you know that 'Like a sausage or snake, but with cracks on the surface' is number four on the Bristol Stool Form Scale. (Number one is 'separate hard lumps like nuts'.) Take a tip, if you want to be number one, its all to do with perseverance. (Also on the list of misspelt words.) Me, I'm just going to see my friend whose recently been diagnosed as suffering from Jerusalem Syndrome. Oh well, it could be worse, Diogenes Syndrome is worse, much worse,
Vitamin by Roddy Lumsden
Short List Top Tens published by Collins
Top 10 of Britain published by Hamlyn

Sunday 19 September 2010

'I've Been to the 'Pictures'. A Geriatric Wander Round the Cinema.

I've just been to to 'the pictures'. In 1995 when I last went I liked it, so I've just been again. But let me tell you about it properly.
'After the war, when I were little going to the pictures were rait popular. In 1946 there were 4709 cinemas in Britain, they reckon more people went t 'cinema than went t' church. Mind you, television were not much, Muffin the Mule weren't exactly exciting. The licence were only £2 so what did you expect. (Derby County, my home football team won 'Cup Final at Wembley in 1946. Tickets ranged from 3/6d to £2.10s). What a time to go t' pictures, 1/9d int' stalls, 1/6d in t' middle and 1/3 at' front. And for your money you had a newsreel, (Movietone) a cartoon, a travelogue, a second feature and a main film. Life definitely were definitely rait exciting, or so it seemed.'
In the fifties as I progressed from being a mere child I went to 'the pictures' at The Sitwell in Spondon, a nearby village. We walked across the fields in the pitch black, often a muddy but always an exciting experience. I didn't go a lot, there was little money to spare for such frivolity, thus such occasions are stamped on my brain.
Scaramouche (1952) no memory of the story but lots of sword fighting. Mandy (also a 1952 film, starring Jack Hawkins and Mandy Miller) memorable, a story of a deaf child's triumph over adversity. We often referred to such children as 'deaf and dumb', how none PC is that.
Mighty Joe Young starring Terry Moore and Ben Johnson. A 1949 film, surely I didn't see this at the age of ten. (Often the films at the Sitwell were way past their release date.) The Dam Busters. 1955, starring Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave. Very British. The 'bouncing bomb' was tested on Derwent Reservoir in my home county and I lived for a spell near Richard Todd's home at Little Ponton in Lincolnshire. Its a small world. Bit trivial, I know but it amuses me and it is my blog!
I remember queuing round the block to see Giant (1956) starring James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor. Queueing to go to 'the pictures'! Then I don't remember picture going again until 1967. I took my wife (girlfriend at the time) to see Grand Prix (1966) starring James Garner and Yves Montand. The picture house was in Staveley, North Derbyshire, very romantic stuff. I never went again until I attended a free viewing of The American President, starring Michael Douglas and Martin Sheen in 1995.
I've never been since until this week so I can hardly be classed as a regular. Welshman Gwilym Hughes who's just died is in the Guinness Book of Records as having viewed over 28,000 films in his lifetime (including TV). He said before he died (Well it wouldn't be afterwards, would it!) 'I'm not obsesses with movies'. Evidently a real cinema addict is called a cinephile.
I've just taken my wife to see a preview of Made in Dagenham, released in the UK on October 1st. Free tickets courtesy of The Times. And no, I'm not a cheapskate, free tickets or no free tickets. Go on then, just a little bit! We sat on the back row, for old times sake; and behaved ourselves perfectly! Smashing film, again very British with an excellent feelgood factor. Very good, even more so for being free! And if the film was at times somewhat PC ( Predictable, Contrived) who cares, it made for a lovely evening. Definitely PC in the best possible sense. (Perfect Cinema.) We must do it more often.
Are you, or were you a cinephile, any favourites and what are your earliest movie memories?

Monday 13 September 2010

Back to School. Conclusion.

If you thought the 'stories' I referred to in the last post were bad, think again. You ain't heard nothing yet. So I write this post, cup of coffee and biscuit to hand and the distant sound of a school bell signalling the end of break, (I remember it well). More memories of long gone days. Strangely enough I am reminded of 'Blue Remembered Hills' by Dennis Potter a 1979 play, a great favourite of mine and enjoyed with many a class in the 1980's.
Diary September 1985, continued.
'The second story concerns another little, out of work man. He walks round the town, knocking on doors, calling at factories, all to no avail. Desperate, he arrives at the local zoo. 'Have you got any work' he asks. ' Cleaning, painting, feeding, mucking out the elephants, I'll do anything.'
The zoo owner is impressed, but times are hard.
'Sorry' he says, 'we can't afford to pay any more wages, we're struggling with the animals as it is.'
The little man looks very dejected and the zoo owner takes pity on him.
'Look' he says, 'we've just lost a gorilla and we can't afford another. You're about the same size . Three pounds a week and all the bananas you can eat.'
The little man is delighted. He goes round the back of some cages and is fixed up with a gorilla skin. A bit warm but an excellent fit.
'Make the right noises, grunts and similar, climb around a little but don't overdo it,' says the zoo owner.
The little man was delighted with his job, and very enthusiastic. He trotted back and forth in his cage, grunting and swinging his arms. He climbed the bars of the cage, terrifying the gathered crowd. Increasing in confidence and enjoyment, he practiced swinging from a tree inside the cage. Back and forth he swung, higher and higher. Suddenly his hands slipped. Up, up he went, up and over the fence separating him from the next cage. Horrified he viewed a lion gazing curiously at him. He ran to the back of the cage, screaming but the lion followed. The lion put his face close to his and the little man shut his eyes. Then he heard the lion whisper out of the corner of its mouth.
'Shut up, you fool, you'll get us all the sack.'
And the moral of the story, never judge a person by his exterior, it's what's inside that counts.)
Over two or three years the 'sermons' were provided or extracted from strange sources. ''The Finger of Suspicion' , a fifties or sixties song (who sang it we were never certain) was interwoven into a story. (There is a saying that, if you point a finger at someone, you point three at yourself, a physically accurate point when you think about it.) Harold Larwood and Dolly Parton, for different reasons were also the centre points of assemblies.
Johny Owen, the young Welsh boxer who died of boxing injuries had a profound influence on me and also became the subject of a talk. Monologues, that old fashioned medium were even resurrected on occasion. Not 'Albert and the Lion' but in particular a lesser known offering concerning the boy who asks for a doll at Christmas, not for himself, but for a less fortunate sister. Always searching for material that might amuse, educate, stimulate. An interesting aspect of school teaching, nevertheless. Happy days!'
(If anyone can pinpoint the doll monologue, I'd be grateful, I'd like to do a future blog that includes this story.)

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Back to School. Nostalgia Aint What it Used to Be.

So its back to school. I remember it well though its a long time ago for me. Fear, apprehension, enthusiasm, all manner of emotions in equal measure. Teaching in a large comprehensive one of my tasks, so to speak, was to deliver a weekly spiel, sermon, talk, call it what you will to around four hundred pupils, (one fifth of the total pupils) male and female, aged eleven to eighteen. Six of us involved, supposedly equal but some more 'dedicated' than others. Not an easy task at the best of times, particularly excruciating if you had to 'perform' without notice.

Diary September 5th, 1985.

'A new term, new children, a new challenge. Gone are the days when, as a housemaster, I was required to 'entertain' regular assemblies designed, hopefully to stimulate pupils into actions often contrary to their natural instincts. Strangely enough, though one seldom enjoys standing in front of several hundred people and pontificating, I enjoyed searching for topics, material suitable for so 'moral' an occupation. Over a three year period I must have dispatched dozens of 'semi-sermons'. How many are remembered by myself, now that time has passed, never mind by those unfortunates who had to endure my attempts at wit and wisdom week after week?
I once used ancient Rusty, our faithful old dog as the subject of a talk on loyalty. I jokingly suggested I took Rusty for walks on dry evenings but my wife had the job when it rained. Years afterwards pupils now grown up would remind me of this 'fact' though non remembered the purpose of the talk!
Few pupils believed that I worked with a man who wore glasses, a deaf aid and had an artificial leg, or that another colleague in the factory had an artificial hand, both true facts. Is it too much to hope they remembered the saying 'I had no shoes and I complained. Then I met a man with no feet' that accompanied this particular 'lecture'. A noble sentiment but unlikely to be permanently instilled in the minds of my past, usually half-attentive audiences. More likely to be remembered is the story of the one armed man who goes up to the bar in the pub and asks for a drink. His empty sleeve goes in another man's beer.
'What do you think you're doing' the man angrily exclaims.
'So what, there's no arm in it' the man angrily exclaims.
Many are the children who laughed out loud long after this story was told, for many of our pupils were not the quickest of individuals. (This story was used in the assembly dealing with disabilities.) Gone are the days when assemblies were religious diatribes. Probably the best one aims for is to keep the audience interested (and quiet) by delivering an offering containing some moral overtones, veiled or otherwise. A story comes to mind that amused some if not all.
An orchestra plays to an audience deep in the jungle. (Perhaps to soldiers in the war.) During the interval a little violinist, whilst visiting the toilet takes a wrong turn and finds himself lost. On and on on he walks, deeper and deeper into the jungle. He realises there are eyes peering at him from the dark bushes. The eyes leave the bushes, soon there are animals following him, monkeys, lions, giraffes, even an elephant. The little man stumbles into a clearing, the animals shuffling, skipping and hopping behind. He backs up against a tree, terrified. Suddenly he has an idea. He opens his violin case and brings out his instrument. He begins to play and beautiful music drifts through the jungle. The animals are entranced. They sit in a circle around the violinist. Tears roll down the cheeks of the elephant, whilst the lion purrs with pleasure. Suddenly a tiger leaps from the undergrowth, runs up to the violinist and gobbles him up. The other animals are horrified.
'What did you do that for?' they all tearfully shout.
'Ey, yer what, what did you say' asks the tiger.
( A disability story that some explained to their friends in lesson one after the assembly)
to be continued.

Friday 3 September 2010

Was August Aweful or Awesome. Grumpy's Alternative News.

Lets start with the idiots, they never seem to go away. Our so called 'rulers' get no better. I am less than impressed that Cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan has got back the £4.47 pence that she claimed for dog food during the expenses scandal. Equally pathetic, new MP Yasmin Qureshi, banned for using a mobile phone whilst driving. Not a first offence I might add. Plus she had no insurance. Add Rory Stewart's (MP for Penrith) pathetic comments that his constituents are pretty primitive people who walk around with trousers held up by baling twine and you realise, regarding parliament, nothing changes. Gruesome, greedy people out of touch with the real world.
Councils didn't let us down when it came to waste and stupidity. Brighton purchased a machine to count bicycles, cost £25,000. Only it can't tell the difference between a bike and a car. Brighton and Hove council paid consultants £300,000 to teach it 'value for money'. Binmen in Gloucester have had to have police protection from angry householders. The binmen have been ordered to leave bins where the lid won't close; it is alleged in one case the lid was only a centimetre from being fully closed. And a seventy four year old in Plymouth was banned from taking his two pet owls on the streets as 'they might attack someone'. A decision later rescinded.
I think the country of the month was undoubtedly France. Taxi drivers in Paris were voted worst in the world in an internet poll. Frederique Messmer, a Paris taxi driver's response said it all. 'I'm unpleasant and so what' was his answer as he enjoyed his cigarette in his taxi. (London's black cabs came out top.) Plus the French police had a busy month. They had to warn the public concerning holiday makers being being attacked by cows near Font- Romeu in the Pyrenees. They also had to deal with a woman in Lyons who put the body of her partner, still dressed in his pyjamas amongst the frozen peas in the deep freeze. And they are still looking for two nuns in their eighties who are on the run after refusing to move to a nursing home two hundred and fifty miles from the school where they worked. They sound hard pressed, the French police. No wonder they have abolished the height restriction of 5ft 3in (1.6m). Damn, I could have joined (I'm 5.4in). Any age restrictions chaps, I'm seventy? It's not that old, honest, even if British judges have suggested no-one should be allowed to sit on a jury after becoming seventy. Come on, we're not done for yet, Rod Stewart's wife is expecting and he's sixty six! (It will be his seventh.)
I notice animals were used by drug traffickers as guards thousands of miles apart; bears in the mountains of British Columbia and an albino python in Rome. I noticed also they are trying to get the two-toed sloth in London Zoo to breed. Mind you, its last partner they chose was also male. There's been no sloth born at the zoo for more than one hundred years, so don't hold your breath. But the animal story of the month was undoubtedly the women who put the cat in the bin in Coventry. Forty five years of age, a church going spinster who works in a bank, how ordinary is that. So she puts a cat in a wheelie bin in full view of a surveillance camera. How extraordinary is that. Something she will never forget, or be allowed to forget. A life changing experience in a split second. I wonder why.
Two mind bending morbid incidents from the month. A groom in Turkey lost control of a AK-57 as he fired it in celebration at the wedding, killing three and wounding eight others. And one of the only two competitors left in the World Sauna Championships in Helsinki died after suffering severe burns. Contestants had to sit in 110c (230F). Surprise, surprise, they are not going to hold the competition any more.
That's about it. But not wishing to end on a sombre note, two items that probably shouldn't, but made me smile. A woman is suing Walt Disney World, claiming that she was 'groped' by 'Donald Duck' at the Epcot theme park. Now I know its not funny if it did in fact happen. But surely there's a problem here. How on earth is she going to positively identify her assailant!

Finally, did you see the 'one liners', jokes submitted for the prize of 'best joke award' at the Fringe, Edinburgh Festival.
Entries include
As a kid I was made to walk the plank. We couldn't afford a dog.
Dave drowned. So at the funeral we got him a wreath in the shape of a lifebelt. Well it's what he would have wanted. Both Gary Delaney.
I bought one of those anti-bullying wristbands when they first came out. I say 'bought'- I actually stole it off a short, fat ginger kid. Jack Whitehall.
I picked up a hitchhiker. You gotta when you hit them. Emo Philips

And finally, the winner.
I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again. Tim Vine