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!