Saturday 31 December 2011

Here we are Again Hope Springs Eternal

The time of year we look both back and forward. Memories, both happy and sad. The big picture a somewhat sombre year, both here in Britain and worldwide. On a personal note, sadness in particular at the loss of a loved one, in our case Francoise, mother, grandmother, friend. Happiness in watching children and grandchildren fulfilling their potential in life. I am personally increasingly aware of our mortality. Inevitable, I suppose when one creeps past the Biblical three scores years and ten. Plus I seem to visit the doctors waiting room almost as often as the pub. But 'away, morbid thoughts'. I have unfinished business to perform. I have been writing an autobiographical piece, 1945-1959 for several years; 75,000 plus words and counting. Surely to be finished in 2012! My new year resolution, what's yours? Besides keeping healthy and regular. (posting that is!) Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments. May all your dreams come true.
No apologies for repeating the two little films. The youg lady for her inspirational talent, a wonderful gift indeed. Plus our old friend from Grimsby, Freddy Frinton. Happy New Year to you all.

Saturday 24 December 2011

An Old Man's Folly.

Its been a funny year. A stressful year for many, I get the impression modern living in some ways is getting worse. Two pointers I will come back to at a later date.
    I have several friends and acquaintances who have 'problems' with their children. And I mean children  thirty years plus years of age. 'Children' who, not always their fault, who are still at home. Way beyond the age when they would have 'flown the nest' in my youth. Divorced or separated children who fly home, to that ever present refuge in times of strife. Life was never easy, is it getting worse, I wonder, or is that the perception of life through aging eyes.
    Then there are polititians, too often grubby, greedy little men (and sadly women). Who I can, normally almost avoid in unexceptional, downtown Derby. Except that, in their wisdom, the government gives a contract worth billions to Seimans, a German company with a reputation for dodgy dealing. Result, 1400 jobs in Derby Bombardier Railway Works, including that of my hard working son-in-law, plus thousands of other jobs reliant on the industry will probably vanish. A mistake, compounded by a self important, incompetent twerp. Dr Vince Cable (Whats your Doctorate in, Vince, pomposity?) Government Business Minister who announces, on a visit to Derby that he didn't realise Derby was a railway town. You disinterested, blinkered idiot, it's your job to know!
    One last word on our 'rulers'. If you ever watch Question Time live from The House of Commons, watch out for Danny Alexander. This man cannot EVER complete a session without juvenile, adolescent whispers to whoever is seated alongside him when others have centre stage. ( Usually to that cringing little ferret cum hamster Michael Gove.) By god, as a Scotsman the former would do well to remember the immortal words of Robert Burns.     
'Oh would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us.'
I cringe at the infantility of such people.I taught children for twenty years and their manners and good sense were far superior to many politicians.
    You will gather I find modern living often stressful plus I am obviously non too enamoured with many politicians. I promise that's my last gripe of 2011!
    But when times are particularly hard, I escape to 'Granddad's Room, an old man's folly if ever their was one!    

Folly. The condition or quality of being foolish; a lack of good sense, understanding or foresight. A costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.
   
    Three years or so ago ago, we, my wife and I bought my daughter and son-in-laws bungalow. With it came an outbuilding used as a photographic studio. It was immaculate, ordered, clinical, businesslike; but I already knew what I had in mind for this building. (Unknown of course to my wife!) It is now a disordered assemblage, an accumulation of all things 'Granddad'. 'Granddad's Room', my bolthole, escape from the world; I hope you like it. (Not to be confused with 'Granddads Museum' through the adjoining door. I will show you round this 'Masterpiece' another time!) Incidentally, I could tell you where virtually every item in my 'bar' was obtained. Many instant reminders of days long gone. A place that keeps me at least half sane in a hard world and hard times.

(You have no idea how long shuffling these pictures around has taken.) But there you are, the joys of getting old in a technological age! Very higgledy pigeldy but they will have to do. I must get a better grip in the new year. Some hope, pass the mince pies and the wine please. Or as Arthur English used to say, 'Play the music, open the cage.') And once again, irrespective of your creed or religion, seasonal greetings and a  Happy Christmas to you all.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Counting down to Christmas, Three Days to Go.

A somewhat naughty post as my older followers will notice. This post is from December 2008. And I'm still here, still posting, three years on.  Thursday, Friday and  and, hey presto, Christmas Eve! Mind you, its been Christmas in the shops since October. Nice though, 'init' really! There's little I want for Christmas, except to be around to enjoy it. How about you? It's a magical time for sure, but it's soon over. And on Saturday, I'll show you 'Granddads Room', an old man's 'folly' if you like. Look forward to showing you around. (And by the way, the beards ready once again!)   

Will the Real Santa Please Stand Up
When you're at your next cocktail party and the conversation flags I'll tell you exactly what to work into the conversation. "I say, Montmorency, do you know how fast facial hair grows." (Facial hair, please, lets keep it clean.) Then you can hold your finger and thumb around half an inch apart (metric equivalent I've no idea) and say "This much in three months." As Michael Caine would say, "Not a lot of people know that."
Now how do I know such things. I know many useless things but nothing remotely useful. For instance, how many bones are there in a giraffes neck. Seven, the same as humans. Cows get up on their front legs first; horses their back legs. Or is it the other way round! Knowledge gleaned from years of laborious book studying. Fine, but not as pleasing as knowledge gained from first hand, personal experience, hard toil suffered over months in the pursuit of excellence. (I've got the feeling my school motto talked of 'the pursuit of excellence', but I digress.)
Two years ago I dressed up as Father Christmas, right down to artificial full-length beard. Elaborate preparations included changing in my motorhome round the corner from my grandchildren and my daughter scattering ‘Reindeer Dust’ on her house front. I walked up the street complete with sack. “Who’s this coming up the road?” Angelina aged five is asked by mother.
“Father Christmas” she replies on cue, eyes wide with amazement. “Who is it?” is enquired of brother Tommy, not yet three. “Santa Granddad” is the instant dismissive reply. Out of the mouth of babes and all that! (In the house later when asked where Santa went he again pointed to me, out of uniform, so to speak. "He's there" he again uttered with unchildlike authority.)
This Christmas, as a favour I am to dress up again as Santa, a favour for some small children I know. And yes, the parents do approve, a consideration that cannot be ignored in this PC inclined, often sinister world. Mind you, for some even Santa himself is considered non PC but what the hell. Plus this year there is to be no artificial beard but the real thing, thus the no trimming agenda since September. And though I am normally a hirsuted individual, its a number four clippered cut rather than Santa's more flowing locks. So the trick is to time the 'no beard trim' period long enough to be a reasonably authentic Father Christmas; but not long enough to give the appearance of Rip Van Winkle or be arrested in the town centre and charged with vagrancy.
I must confess I have had some funny looks from small children recently. And I must also confess I have glared at one or two misbehaving reprobates in the supermarket. Plus the rebuke, "Now stop being naughty, I'm Santa's brother and you'll get 'b' all if you don't be good" has had some amazing effects. (Don't worry or underestimate children, they soon bounce back, honest!)
So the Day of Judgement has arrived. It is twelve weeks since the last trim. Will I convince today's doubting, often streetwise at four infants. Or will I be exposed as just another fraud in a cynical, commercial world. What do you think.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE. MAY ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful.

    It's been a funny four or five weeks, though not 'funny ha ha.' A short enough time in itself, but if nothing else it has driven home how insecure some of us really are, how fragile is our very existence. We, my wife and I (sounds very regal!) opted to have fitted solar panels, not an easy decision, and certainly not helped by various people, for a variety of reasons telling us we had made a wrong decision. Plus I had a long term arrangement for 'Bill the Builder' to build me a lean-to to 'winter' the 'exotics' (banana plants, gingers etc) I grow. Plus, plus the toilet's been playing up for weeks, backing up most disgustedly, no amount of efforts with mops down the bowl making any difference, a trip to the toilet becoming a dreaded occasion. Plus, plus, plus I've had not one but three recalls in ten days on my Fiat motorhome. To say the least time consuming in a season dedicated to attending the grand children's carol concerts and nativity events. (Fiat, Fix It Again Tomorrow!)
    The solar panel fitting was dependent on deadlines. (The government's decision to move a deadline from next April to this December put pressure on everyone.) Suffice to say our life has revolved around this for some time. Many, many phone calls, many moments of doubt, The stress has been enormous for all. Frosts have meant my plants have suffered. A lifting of the manhole revealed a massively blocked sewage system. Life in retirement is supposed to be peaceful. Have you ever had the feeling you are going under!
    Then all of a sudden, perhaps it was a full a full moon, life changed. A phone call to Seven Trent, a delightful, sympathetic, knowledgeable young man at the other end, a visit arranged. Two young men, resplendent in red overalls arrived at ten o'clock at night, rods at the ready. Ten minutes later, one foul looking, foul smelling blockage was no more. Job done, by two efficient, courteous, smiling young men, brilliant in the extreme.
    'Bill the Builder' turns up and, a lot of hard work and numerous cups of tea later, my new 'lean to' is complete, a work of art comparable to anything achieved by Christopher Wren or Robert Adam. And, as if by magic,  a van arrived containing three young men from Leeds. Six hours later We had an up and running solar system, courtesy of three pleasant, hard working, uncomplaining young men.
    I suppose there are two main point to this post. One, how quickly our lives are turned upside down by anything remotely out of the ordinary. Uncertainty, a feeling of helplessness, even loneliness, (the idea that you are alone with your problems) all experienced. None of the problems life threatening but none the less important to us at the time. Please tell me, is it an age thing? Anything even remotely similarly ever got you down, so to speak? I well know most if not all problems go away with time. (Health problems excepted.) But how feeble we really are, how insecure when it really comes to the crunch.
    The second point is this. How wonderful was the Seven Trent man who answered the phone and the two sewerage men who literally got me out of the s***. How brilliant were the three cheerful solar men who toiled so efficiently in less than ideal weather. And 'Bill the Builder', not exactly in the flush of youth, again uncomplaining and always efficient. Do any of them realise, I wonder, what a massive contribution they are making in these uncompromising times. Times are indeed hard, but the country is in good hands. Thanks, lads, you made this 'Darby and Joan' very happy. Smiling, happy people have far more effect in life than they could ever imagine. I am going to make a deliberate effort to make people happy this week. How about you smiling at a stranger this week. (You won't get in trouble, honest.) You may even make a difference to someone's day!

There weren't too many laughs lately, Charlie Chaplin once said, 'A day without laughter is a day wasted.' So a short piece via a British comedian who made me smile.( This post was completed at 7.30pm. Around 9 00pm appeared on the Royal Command performance this comedian, Mick Miller doing the same act, again, with one word change. Did you spot it I wonder.) Plus did you notice someone on stage was reading a newspaper with a Charlie Chaplin headline. How strange is that!) 

   

Thursday 8 December 2011

In Praise of Wool.

    I am here today to give you information that will change your life. In these modern, sophisticated, technical times, here's a four letter word that for once you will like.    
    I tend to have some real old books on my shelves. It must be my age! I sat reading one yesterday. One that I found no mention of on the the internet whatsoever and that's quite unusual.
'Health Culture' by G Jaeger M.D, Professor of Zoology and Physiology, published in 1894. Evidently, according to a label on the inside of the cover, presented with the compliments of Dr Jaeger's Sanitary Woollen System Co., Ltd., 23, Commercial Street, Leeds.
    Fascinating, in its own way, it is a book extolling the virtues/benefits of WOOL, both as clothing and bedding. Evidently at one stage in his life Dr Jaeger was a poor speciman but was restored to good health by the wearing of wool. (He had at one time. varicose veins, he was 'fat and scant of breath', had 'disturbed digestion,' hemorrhoids and a 'tendency to chill diseases'. (He tells us wool wearers become 'fever proof'.) All cured by his love of wool. (Fetish might be too strong a word.) He calls wool 'the survival of the fittest material'.
    He advocates that all clothes, pants, socks, coats, shirts, even ladies corsets, the lot should be made exclusively from wool whilst shoes should be wool lined. (Even hats, his call for pure wool indoor hats for bald people is terrific.)
How about woollen hankerchiefs! 'Woollen hankerchiefs are far superior to linen ones' he emphatically tells us.
    He uses the word 'sanitary' frequently and makes the point that linen and cotton dresses are 'washing dresses' whereas wool dresses are 'brushing dresses'. He is adament that wool is best, whatever the climate, hot or cold, winter or summer; no change of style necessary.
'Amongst hairy animals, otters, beavers and others which are amphibious, make no such change, neither do the genuine inhabitants of the desert.'
    And wool is an excellent choice for military uniforms. 'Cool blood and hot bullets' is one of many quaint phrases he uses. (I loved his use of the phrase 'girded loins' when talking of the 'Sanitary Woollen Corset'.)
    Dr Jaeger mentions on occasion materials other than pure wool, such as  linen or material mixtures; none impress him.
Its wool, wool, wool for Doctor Jaeger. The only other material he rates highly is camel hair, though not for underwear as it's apparently difficult to weave. But particularly good for bedding, coverlets and rugs. He is adament that 'all covering other than wool should be discarded.' (The good doctor talks of the 'hardening' effect on the body, evidently 'hardening' is important to good health.)
Testimonials in the book include two famous people of the time. Henry M Stanley, 19th century explorer and utterer of those immortal words 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?' Less immortal, his opinion that 'I have pleasure in testifying to the excellence of the Jaeger Clothing which, during my late journey, I found very good.'
Plus Kate Marsden, traveller who, on behalf of the Empress of Russia,  investigated the condition of lepers in Siberia.
'I wish to thank you for having persuaded me to wear Jaeger Clothing. Humanly speaking I owe my life to that and not taking stimulants.'
     So there you have it. No more talk of feeling poorly. Out with the synthetics (not invented surely in the good doctors day), the vegetable fibres and in with the wool. If you don't and the winter gets to you, you have only yourself to blame. (I can only in part do justice to Dr Jaeger's philosophy concerning good health. his book in fact is almost two hundred pages long.) Any comments very welcome. I wonder what happened to the learned doctor and his company. I am sure there are some equally learned people amongst my readers, that is, of course, presuming there are people still out there! To finish, a story that must have been in my brain for many years and recalled as I wrote this piece. (I honestly believe EVERYTHING you ever experience is still in there somewhere, waiting to be recalled.)

Two old men, Fred and Albert are on the way to a Derby County football match one wintery day. It starts to rain. Fred takes his cap off and puts it in his pocket.
'What have you done that for? says Albert?
'Don't be daft,' says Fred, 'You don't think I'm going to sit in the house all night with a wet cap on!'                                                                                  

Thursday 1 December 2011

November, You Didn't Let Us Down. Grumpy's Alternative News.

    Let's talk money for starters. Anyone got any spare cash? So what's going, cheap or otherwise. A Supermarine Swift jet aircraft on eBay, cheap at £250,000. Or some bed items, maybe? Hitler's single sheet and pillow, embroidered with his initials, estimated auction price, £3,000 (Bristol). The sign, reading 'BED PEACE' that hung above John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 'bed in' in 1969. (on sale at Christies, London, estimated price £100,000). No, how about the blackboard from the room where Michael Jackson died. Reads 'I (heart) Daddy SMILE, it's for free.' Written in chalk by his children, estimated price, £250. We may be broke, but there's still plenty of money about. The world's most expensive train ticket fetched £3,872  at auction in Cirencester. (Journey from Banagher and Maryborough, original price 9s 4d.) A doll, originally bought in 1747 fetched £58,850 at Bonhams in London. Not over surprised, London after all is, well, London. (There's an unmodernised flat, two bedrooms, for sale in Belgravia. Only £600,000 and its got a long lease. Not really, how would ten years suit you!
    Mind you, for the 'real' money its back to the good old US of A. Liz Taylor's 'La Peregrina' necklace is to be auctioned in New York in December, estimate, $3 million. This after all is the country that has built a robotic rover (called Curiosity) to investigate whether Mars is capable of supporting life. The cost of this 'robot', £1.6 billion! We can't compete with that. Why bother! We are in recession. We are careful with the money, we have to be. So the 99p stores contribution to it all is to be applauded. A bra for less than £1. (Choice of three colours plus a bow at the front.) Well done (ladies?), now how about something for the chaps!
    Petty criminals, now they're always good for a smile. Like the thief on the the church roof in Lincoln who took the lead and left behind a can of Polish lager covered in his finger prints. And the A-level student from Wolverhampton who stole two left-footed trainers from a shop during the August riots. (Doesn't say much for modern A levels.) Or the burglar tip toeing round a bedroom in Swansea when his mobile phone went off. Not so petty the hopelessly inadequate postman in Torquay who finished up with over 30,000 undelivered, unopened  items dating back to 2008. (A third of it junk mail) Stored in his shed, his car and a local garage. Interestingly enough, he's been replaced by two postmen and a van!
Now ten unrelated titbits that I found interesting.
1 Danica May Camacho born to a 'jeepney' driver in the Philippines one Sunday night in November was the seventh billion human being.
2 Two Russian families, whose children aged 12 were accidentally switched at birth have bought houses next to each other with compensation from a court.
3 A researcher at Oxford University has been honoured for devising a fence that scares away elephants in Africa by buzzing like a bee.
4 A couple in Ratley, Warwickshire have had to halt their house extension work after four skeletons, part of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground were found under their patio.
5 5000 portions of curry were served in Trafalgar Square from malformed vegetables to highlight the fact that 30% of all fruit and vegetables is rejected by supermarkets for not meeting cosmetic standards.
6 270 tons of miniature Eiffel Towers were sized in police raids on illicit street vendors in Paris.
7 A teenager preparing for a skiing trip to the South Pole prepared by spending the night in a supermarket freezer. In Iceland of course.
8 Tonga won a competitive football match for the first time in their history. Their Man of the Match was Johny 'Jayieh' Saelua, the first transgender footballer to play in the World Cup.
9 Surgeons removed a piece of bone from Matthew Willey, took it from one Birmingham hospital to another  for radiotherapy, returned it and reattached it, all in a ten hour operation.  
10 Johny Rotton, of Sex Pistols fame drew some rather crude drawings on the wall of his flat in London, in 1977. It has been suggested they be preserved, being, like the cave paintings in France, 'of archaeological interest'.
    Finally a few 'rude' bits I couldn't help noticing. The Office For National Statistics has published figures for a 'baby boom', suggesting it was down to last years long and harsh winter. Really! San Francisco is changing the law and making it an offence to enter a restaurant naked. Evidently it has been putting people off eating! (Surely a Freudian slip that reported it was making the city the butt of many a joke?)
    A man accused of secretly filming himself making love to his girlfriend in South Wales claimed it was 'research not voyeurism', he being a 'Time and Motion Consultant'. You couldn't make it up! (He was found not guilty. One person who saw the 35 minute video said, and I quote, 'There was very little action in it.')
    The mind boggles but not in the same league as the Russian historian and expert on local cemeteries. He had 29 mummified female corpses, some posed, in his home, all dressed up as life-size dolls. Some with music boxes, toy hearts and soap inserted into the rib cages. He was described by a local newspaper editor as a loner with 'certain quirks'. Rather an understatement I fear. I think Louis hit it in one 'What a Wonderful World'.   

Thursday 24 November 2011

Ouch.

    It's been a bloody awful, painful week. I've had my fair share of pain in my life. Internal hemorrhages, TGA's, broken bones by the score but this took some beating. For pain, try a dose of  ****. So debilitating that a butterfly landing on your toe would induce excruciating pain to the point of not being too keen on living. I had to fech a doctor to the house, an almost unheard of occurence. And I missed a Derby County home match for the first time since March 1975. (Versus Luton Town, Derby won 5-0.)
    The annoying thing is, most people find **** funny. Say you have the dreaded Big C and everybody is profoundly sympathetic. (Having had a brush with skin cancer I know these things.) 'I'm bio polar' you announce and everyone is fascinated. (I'm not really.) 'How interesting' they say, 'Just like Stephen Fry, Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan.' Its seemingly always been with us from our earliest times. Only thenadays sufferers were called manic depressives. How bloody terrific! What I've got, **** doesn't seem to have another name. ****, short and simple but terribly amusing, ha ha ha.
    Presumably anyone with syphilis or gonorrhea may not always get the sympathy they deserve and need, some miserable sods suggesting it's in a way self inflicted. But my **** is not self inflicted unless you suggest its cause might be the beer, of which I drink too much, or the various foods I scoff. Mind you, cutting out things that cause **** is not easy. How many of the following do you eat. If any of the following, watch yourself! (Not necessarily equal in 'contributes to **** factor', but all 'dodgy' concerning **** in their own way.)

consume beans       kidney           ham                   salmon
mushrooms             brain              beef                  cod
spinach                   hot dogs - in fact all processed meats
cauliflower              pheasant        pork                   trout
                              liver               lamb                  scallops
anchovies               turkey            liver                   sardine
peas                       chicken          haddock            herring
lentils                      rabbit            mussels
legumes                  grouse           shrimp
asparagus               squirrel !        crab

    The only redeeming feature of **** is that its not for everyone. Not for the common people. Hippocrates  didn't call **** 'The disease of kings' for nothing. Its only for the rich and famous, you see. I suppose Henry VIII was the best known sufferer. George IV was also afflicted, alternating with his madness, poor chap. Plus King James I and Queen Anne, right pillars of the aristocracy. Not just royals either, both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were similarly plagued by the dreaded ****. Which would suggest that my dubious parentage, and the suggestion of coming from 'higher stock' is perhaps true after all. (See post dated 22nd September 2009 Will the Real You Please Stand Up.) And by the way, **** was featured in a health programme I watched this week so I must indeed have a topical complaint if nothing else. I learnt also that tofu is highly rated in dealing with ****. Had not heard of it, anyone know anything about tofu; any help greatfully received; just off to seek it out in my local Chinese supermarket. 
    Sorry for the bad mood and the bad language but that's Gout for you! (Just in case anyone had not realised it was the dreaded Gout that is causing me problems. in the ankle as well as the toe I might add.) Going for a lie down, as Reg Dixon used to say, 'I feel proper poorly'.
                                             
                                           
'A chronic condition caused by an uncontrolled metabolic disorder, hyperuricemia, which leads to the deposit of mono sodium urate (uric acid) crystals in tissues around the joint.'       .                  
                              

Thursday 17 November 2011

What Goes Round Comes Round.

    I do articles on occasion for a motorhome magazine called Motorhome Monthly. Circulation around 40,000, all free, given away monthly in garages, some supermarkets, caravan sales places etc. Can't be bad, who gives you something for nothing nowadays. I recently did an article on the fact that my younger daughter and her family own an ancient VW motorhome. Following in the footsteps of her dad who also is a motorhome fan. All in the 'deja vu', 'here we are again', a 'whats new pussycat', 'what goes round comes round,' way of thinking. By the way, have you read the words of Justin Timberlakes song 'What goes Around Comes Around'.
There are several verses of the following.

That's okay baby 'cause in time you will find

What goes around, goes around, goes around
Comes all the way back around
What goes around, goes around, goes around
Comes all the way back around
What goes around, goes around, goes around
Comes all the way back around
What goes around, goes around, goes around
Comes all the way back around.

I bet that took some writing!
    But I digress.(Nothing new there, then.) So often children throughout the world grow up trying so hard to appear 'with it'. Their parents and indeed their parent's values are considered old fashioned. Surely you, dear readers tried hard to shock your parents when you were young; can you remember how. I can remember my 'motorhoming' daughter going through a phase where the wearing of socks was 'not the done thing'. I've no idea why but the 'battle went on for years. But the desire to be different, to come up with something new is surely inherent in all civilised youth. Particularly difficult for parents of strict religious faiths I would suspect. All this came to mind as I followed the Michael Jackson 'doctor' trial. And the connection, you ask.
I watched video footage footage of an incredibly talented young man. I might be seventy plus years of age but my interest in life is far from over. And as I watched his amazing 'moonwalking' I had the feeling I had seen this before. In my distant youth. And then I realised where. Watch the videos and wonder. I wonder what Michael Jackson watched in his youth.

Thursday 10 November 2011

October, Often Over the Top. Grumpy's Alternative News.


    Where to start. And surely its people, with all their odd little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make the world go round. Like the benefit claimant in Bolton who claimed he could not walk but was filmed talking part in motocross. (He was a junior champion.) And the man in the wheelchair holding the television on his lap, his mate pushing him as they left the London riots. Charged in October, alongside the man who sold the left handed guitar he stole for £20. He was right handed, true value of the guitar, £1,900. The man who drove round   Denver on a pub crawl with his dead friend in the back. He ran up a bill on his friend's bar tab, said he thought his friend was drunk, not dead! The 76 year old lady in Colchester who was 'chased' by police for seventeen miles at 10mph after she went the wrong way round an island. She says she's going to drive again when her one year ban is served! The 'belligerent' clamper who clamped two unrked police cars on duty at the Queen's visit to Portsmouth.
    People never cease to amaze; sometimes it's serious, sometimes less so. The Paris chief of police has his smart phone stolen on a railway station. (France is in the middle of a campaign warning of the risk of mobile phone thefts.) A man tries to swim home from the pub across the River Arun and gets stuck in the mudflats, to be rescued by the Littlehampton lifeboat. Both men what you might call 'dozy' but not in the same league as the idiot Welsh farmer who left his tractor and farm trailer parked on the railway crossing in South Wales whilst he fed his horses in a neighbouring field. A 75mph collision resulted; fortunately no one was seriously injured. Though I reckon a nine month suspended sentence plus community service was less than he deserved. Plus some people are dangerously malicious. Mandy Fleming of Sheerness drilled three holes in her husband's yacht and turned the gas taps on. Not a happy bunny. But at least her husband survived. Leonora Sinclair wanted to watch Harry Hill's TV Burp on the television, her husband of ten months wanted to watch football. Her answer was to knife him to death with a kitchen knife. Found guilty of manslaughter, she will be sentenced in December. Dangerous people to know. As is Viktor Bout, a former Russian army officer charged with attempting to sell surface-to-air missiles to Columbian Fare guerrillas. Beats small handguns and revolvers any day. Funny if it weren't so frightening.
    Some strange or daft quickies. The Isle of Wight recorded 22mm rainfall in the first half of autumn. (As dry as Marrakesh and four times as dry as Algiers.) The Gemasolar plant is the first solar energy facility to supply power at night. (Don't ask, look it up!) Over fifty Indians have received recycled pacemakers from deceased Americans. The scheme, manged in Mumbai is a world first and has a 98% success rate. (Recycling pacemakers is not permissible in the USA.) Two competitors in a 'world's hottest chilli eating competion' in Scotland went to hospital after eating chilli made from Bhut Jolokia chilli. As one competitor stated 'I have never endured such pain in my life.' Finally for this section. A man from Ilford, who has feet size 13 and 14 and a half ordered slippers from Hong Kong. Someone read 14.5 as 1.450, the result, a slipper that is roughly 7 feet long. You couldn't make it up! (The owner is going to try to sell it on line.)
    Animal news invariably lightened the month. The elephant born at Whipsnade was quite an elephant. For a start he was two months overdue. That made it a 700 day pregnancy. Yet he was a mere 16 stone. Plus he couldn't reach to suckle. No problem, he quickly learnt to stand on his toes. Sophie the 17 year old giraffe at Blair Drummond Safari Park in Stirling had a pedicure problem which made walking difficult. Sedated and hooves clipped with giant metal clippers and Sophie now has a spring in her step. The meltdown at Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan affected animals as well as humans. But note the new look dogs in their raincoats, made to prevent nuclear contamination. A canine fashion statement, I  hope they work.
    But the picture that most caught my eye were the rare whooping cranes, the largest and rarest bird in North America. Birds are reared from incubators in Wisconsin. The birds at the chosen time are trained to follow a microlight (their surrogate mother) on a 1,285 mile journey across seven states and involving 23 stops; ten birds, destination, Florida. Winter in Florida and, as if by magic, they return to Wisconsin unaided. A nature programme in its eleventh year, an American success story. 
Nothing a wee bit risque this month. Oh, go on then!
    Round the world sailor Florence Arthaud was 'Having a tinkle over the rail without attaching myself as usual' she told rescuers off Corsica after she fell overboard.  In the water for ninety minutes, she was saved by her phone call on her waterproof mobile phone to her mother who alerted the coast guards. A beauty queen  from Horfield fled the Miss Asia Pacific World contest in South Korea after being groped and offered votes in exchange for sex. And a women teacher admitted groping a Virgin Atlantic steward at 33,000 feet. The teacher, by the way was drunk and the steward was male!
    A topless portrait of Nell Gwyn painted around 1680  has gone on show at the National Portait Gallery. Topless, having had clothes removed that were added by a restorer in the 19th century. A lot less offensive than the so called 'lady' who partially bit off her partners scrotum in Newcastle. The injury required 19 stitches, she appears in court for sentence on Friday (11th November).
    The Bhutan archery-loving herdsmen are forsaking their traditional pastime in order to concentrate on collecting a parasitic fungus found only in the high Himalayas. Cordyceps sinensis fungus is highly prized and can fetch as much as £50,000 a kilogram in Hong Kong. Evidently its not called the Himalayan Viagra for nothing. Mind you, sounds a bit expensive, hooray for the NHS!
Finally the saying 'Don't try to teach your grandmother to suck eggs' springs to mind. The Portsmouth 60+ Festival advertised a session to help participants 'get the most out of their sex life.' I could really go to town on this one but I would be banned from the Internet. Suffice to say only four turned up and the sessions were cancelled. I reckon if we 'old uns' don't know what we are doing by now, we might as well give up. I feel 'right funny' even thinking about it. I'm off for a lie down!     

Thursday 3 November 2011

You Learn Something New Everyday.

     I noticed The Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in the world has put on the internet all its scientific papers. All 60,000, dating from its origination in 1665. I wonder how much room they take up! Housed at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace overlooking St Jame's Park since 1967, The Society consists of 1314 Fellows and 44 new ones are added each year.
    The Plague, the Great Fire of London, Benjamin Franklin flying kites in a storm, the pontifications of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton, its all there if you care to look. A French astronomer (Adrien Auzout) suggested building a giant telescope (1,000 feet long) to watch the animals on the moon. One scientist related how a thirteen year old girl had pockets full of salt to eat instead of sugar. She died young! A Doctor Nathan Fairfax relates how a women was persuaded to swallow two bullets to cure bowel problems. The good doctor provided 'Lady Holland's Powder' from his 'apothecary'. (What a lovely word, apothecary.) She used her chamber pot and 'twang' (his words, not mine) a bullet in the pot. (Note, no mention of a second bullet.) His conclusions, 'It should be said, that Nature, when put to shifts, finds out strange conveyances to rid the body of what is extraneous and offensive to it.'
    I've seldom been to London. (Probably less than a dozen times in my entire life.) I don't know what Carlton House Terrace looks like. But I'd love to go inside and look through that pile of papers. Nearly 350 years of history. The mind boggles. There's always been clever people about, that's for sure. An example of what the Royal Society is all about. Enjoy!   
1666
In 1666, Robert Boyle gave a somewhat gruesome account of one of the first instances of blood transfusion between animals, in this case two dogs. The following year, Richard Lower also performed the first transfusion of blood from a sheep into a human. He was one of the foremost surgeons of his day and was involved in pioneering discoveries in blood circulation and breathing. Although Lower understood the usefulness of blood transfusions following injury or other blood loss, in humans it often caused severe and sometimes fatal reactions, and 10 years later it was banned by Parliament. It was over 200 years later that an understanding of blood groups made routine transfusions possible. Lower’s work has been brought to life in An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears.

Daniel Glaser, Wellcome Trust.
Related scientific article
TitleTryals Proposed by Mr. Boyle to Dr. Lower, to be Made by Him, for the Improvement of Transfusing Blood out of One Live Animal into Another
AuthorR Boyle
JournalPhilosophical Transactions
URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstl.1665.0147

An early blood transfusion from lamb to man, ca 1705.
© Wellcome Library, London
Portrait of Robert Boyle, by Johann Kerseboom, oil on canvas, 17th century.
© The Royal Society

Thursday 27 October 2011

For the Love of Chocolate.

    Regular readers of this blog know I fall back on re-reading my 1985 diary for inspiration when all else fails. Two entries from October 1985 I find interesting.
   'Tudgie' was a much loved uncle who influenced me greatly in my fatherless formative years. He had many health issues in his life, including cataract operations when such operations were far more traumatic than today. You had to suffer a blindfolded existence for several days after an operation, with no certainty that an operation was to be successful. 'Tudgie' was a patient in what I believe was called The Birmingham Eye Hospital, the date would be not all that long after the war. (1945-50?)

     'On one occasion the frequent  theft of sweets and chocolates was traced to a nine year old patient. Tudgie's answer was simple but effective. Laxative chocolate was attractively wrapped in silver foil and placed in full view on a locker top. As expected it soon vanished. The young suspect was located and encouraged to participate in strenuous games within the hospital grounds. With grim satisfaction Tudgie and friends waited for nature, with help, to take its course, relenting only as far as to inform matron of the possibilities. It came to pass, literally and one little boy spent one busy morning more or less permanently upon a toilet seat, ruminating on the fact that, whilst crime might seem to pay, one also has to pay for one's crime.'

I make no comment as to the rights and wrongs of such actions. Suffice to say it was probably indicative of a bygone era and certainly not 'PC' by today's standards. I would love to hear what you think.

'I pay one of my infrequent visits to town. Ten amusing minutes are spent answering the banal questions of a pleasant South Wales lady involved in market research. I watch a brief video and am expected to answer, intelligently, questions concerning the product, Terry's Moonlight chocolates. My feeble efforts are rewarded with a twenty pence bar of chocolate!'

What a simple, unexciting life I lead in1985, that I recorded such matters! Out of interest, can you still buy Terry's Moonlight chocolate?

Finally, a 'choclaty' story', as Kenny Everett would say, 'In the worst possible taste'.
A chocoholic old man lay dying, drifting in and out of conscientious, dreaming of chocolates to the bitter end. So vivid the picture of luscious, creamy, chocolate, Thorntons Continental Limited Edition, Burdick's Handmade and Harrods Marc De Triumph Truffles  that he mustered the last of his strength, arose from his bed and staggered downstairs in search of chocolate. His breathing was painful to behold, but, driven on by the dream of chocolate, he approached the lounge and opened the door. And there, a spread to rival all spreads. Plates of chocolates: After Eights, Ferrero Rocher and the full Kshocolat Collection. Surely, he thought, I must at last be in heaven. Summoning the last of his strength, he staggered towards the table. He reached out for the plate with the best selection. His eyes fell on a dark chocolate orange thin and his hand, clawlike, lovingly reached out for it. And as he did so, a crazed smile lit up his ancient face, just as his wife's voice boomed out of the kitchen, 'Leave them alone, they're for the funeral.'

   

Thursday 20 October 2011

A Ramble Round the Body; Fingers, Toes, Even a Nose.

    For no particular reason fingers made the news recently; medical research brought into the spotlight some interesting suggestions. Most men have ring fingers that are longer than their index fingers. Most women have longer index fingers or fingers of approximately the same size.
    Now the fun starts. Some research findings, I suspect to be taken with a pinch of salt!
Lesbian women tend to have longer ring fingers than straight women; longer ring fingers are also linked to success amongst female athletes. In men evidently longer ring fingers are associated with more aggressive behaviour and also with greater susceptibility to prostate cancer and autism. It's all to do with prenatal exposure to testosterone. Clever stuff, in a way, and how many of you have just looked at their fingers! But do reseachers use some facts and figures and discard others to back up their studies? Research, for instance, suggests homosexual men have an 82% greater chance of being left handed or ambidextrous. (I'm left handed, by the way, as far as I know I'm not homosexual!)
    Scientists might be clever, but nature and all that implies is in a different league. Don't they say nature's magic number is 1:1.618 and much in our natural world revolves round this ratio. Leonado DaVinci was no mug and he had no computer or internet to help him out. Didn't his Vitruvian Man with outstretched arms fit exactly into a square. Measure from fingertip to fingertip, your arms outstretched and it will be very, very close to your height, if you're relatively normal. Plus three times round your head will be, surprising, also your height. (The art world of course, is allowed poetic licence, depicting people differently to 'normal' beings for effect.)
    I'm not clever enough to be a scientist. I'm just someone fascinated by life and the idiosyncracies of people. Millions watched Strictly Come Dancing on television last week. The intricate dances, the skill, the glamour, the razmataz. And do you know which bit fascinated me most. The fact that Audley Harrison has size 17 feet! I remember a pair of boots in a shop window in Derby made for a man in Melbourne; they were size 22! Now why would I remember that from probably fifty plus years ago!   
But lose that curiousity and you might as well give up on living.
    I have some small toes that are longer than my big toes, if you know what I mean. Somewhere back in history an ancestor must have had that trait and it is being repeated, presumably for ever and a day; isn't nature clever. (Or perhaps someone picked me up out of the pram by my toes.) My eldest daughter has a party trick. She can touch the end of her nose with her tongue. Try it, is there anyone out there who can do this? Or anyone out there with a party trick they wish to share! Come to think of it, looking at my faltering visitors of late, is there anyone out there full stop!
    Talking of noses, a clip that might well amuse. A blast from the past, Chick Murray and his 'long nose' story. Some of you may well be amused; who nose!! 

Thursday 13 October 2011

Cheerio September, Mad, Bad and Sad as Usual. Grumpy's Alternative News.

    So much to reflect on, where to begin. A couple of bankruptcies, definitely not a subject mentioned before. The Solicitors from Hell website has been declared bankrupt. (You could put complaints on their website for a fee.) Result, sixteen libel actions against them, result £150,000 in outstanding judgements. And a breeder of micro pigs in King's Lynn has been made bankrupt because many of her pigs grew too big and wrecked gardens so so she refunded the £650 they cost.
    Let's talk some more money. A road safety camera in Cardiff, cost to install,  £20,00 went off once last year, realising £60. (89 fixed cameras on the M4 in South Wales brought in £706,020.) And a £1,000,000 note, one of the only two ever printed sold for £67,000 at auction in London. (Issued by the treasury in 1948 in connection with the US Marshall Aid programme.) By the way, a survey has recently shown over 90% of Britons do not know what a BANK SPREAD is. Include me in the 90%! Talking of surveys, a recent survey by Debenhams suggested 85% of British women were wearing the wrong bra size. Grumpy's full of useful information! 
    Anything else you wish to know. Scotland, England, Wales, take your pick. A woman from Inverness has become the mother of Britain's biggest baby girl, weighing in at 12lb 9ozs (5.7kg). A rare ladybird, the 13 spot ladybird, thought to be extinct for over 60 years has been found in Devon. A school in South Wales, the Glyn Primary is to stay open for the rest of this academic year. It has two pupils and a head, a deputy head, a part time teacher, a teaching assistant, a dinner lady, a cleaner and a caretaker!
     The wife of MP John Hemming, MP Lib Dem for Yardley, breaks into his mistresses house and steals her kitten. (caught on CCTV). Evidently he leads a life style that has no regard for what is thought of as 'normal'. He thinks of himself as well above the little people, ie voters, who have put him in a position of power.
    Keith Zakheim, chief executive of Beckerman PR in New York announces he will fire anyone of its 60 staff not replacing the milk in its New York office. Evidently he means it! Tough if a job is important to you, Mr Zakheim's milk is far more important than your welfare. (Reminds me of Scrooge in 'Christmas Carol'.)
    Leaked US diplomatic cables throw an interesting light on Mayawati, the most senior politician from the Indian 'Untouchable' caste. One cable relates her sending her empty private jet to retrieve new sandals from Mumbai. Described as 'a first rate meglomaniac', she made a state minister do sit-ups as punishment for minor errors of protocol.  
Three examples of the saying, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    Just one or two other items that caught my eye. Deborah Hunt, an unemployed financial advisor, drove, not one mile, not five miles but twenty three miles the wrong way up the M5. She said her recollection of the event was 'hazy'! James Ellis, 18, stabbed his girfriend to death in Liverpool. It must have been something of great importance to cause such a terrible crime. Oh yes, it was an augument over garlic bread! What an horrific example of total loss of self control. 
    Finally I see we 'oldies' are more than holding our own. Charles Aznavour has set out on a three month tour. Not bad at eighty seven. Plus Johny Hallyday, a mere sixty eight, opened in Paris in Tennessee Williams play, Kingdom of Earth. Many more 'oldies', seventy plus, come to mind: Sir Michael Parkinson, Michael Winner, Sheila Hancock, Sir Terry Wogan, Dame Vera Lynn, all have very active lives. Evidently Kirk Douglas still blogs regularly on his MySpace account at ninety four. Mind you, it ends one day for us all, rich or poor. And I hope we all go with dignity. Joy Tomkins, aged eighty one from Downham Market has no desire to stay when her time's up. She has had the message 'Do Not Rescusitate' tattooed across her chest, and in case medics miss the message, 'PTO' across her back!
    Death will certainly curtail most of your activities but fear not, travel need not be one of them. William and Alice Green always wanted to travel. So when they died their daughter advertised via Craiglist, the classified ad site for people to transport and scatter small portions of their parent's ashes to wherever they wish in the world. Never one's to travel when alive, the have now posthumously visited Paris, Amsterdam and Las Vegas. And when visitors to Hawaii, England and Australia are found, the Green's world tour will recommence. Happy travelling, folks.
Don't forget you read it here first! 

Thursday 6 October 2011

That's Life.

    This is not actually the post I intended. But in researching material for Grumpy's Alternative News for October I became sidetracked. (The October News item will be my next post.) I noticed several news items that made me think about luck, fate, call it what you will. Now I know that there are people out there who believe our lives our being, our ending is pre-destined; when your times up, your times up.(Presumably all worked out in advance by an all powerful being some refer to as 'God'.) And who am I to interfere with personal beliefs. (See post dated 4th August, And After Creation For My Next Trick.) The suggestion is that FATE is a course of events that will inevitably happen in the future. LUCK seems to be what will happen, good or bad, due to chance, FATE or fortune. The subtle difference is that FATE cannot be changed, it is your destiny. I could no doubt find examples of 'FATE' to prove a point or otherwise from anywhere or any time. But these are instances from September's news that brought on this deep, deep philosophical debate. (Somewhat tongue in cheek examples, it's not Einstein writing this blog, it's Grumpy Old Ken for goodness sake!)
    Bristol. A man stabbed his wife with a 14 inch kitchen knife. Her life is saved because the blade caught the wiring of her bra, enabling her to fend him off and escape. A good job she wore a bra!
    High Wycombe. Four British tourists holiday in Peru. They book a flight in a Cessna 185 from a remote site. A last minute arrangement, the pilot is flustered, and is over the alcohol limits for pilots. He forgets to switch on the fuel, the plane almost immediately crashes, all are killed. Couldn't happen to me, I only go to Skegness. Wait a minute, Skegness does flights round the town and back!
Bradford. A man falls backwards into a clothes-dryer; the dryer collapses. His head lodges between the rails. He struggles to free himself, makes matters worse and he suffocates. A coroner said the incident was 'probably rarer than being struck by lightning or struck by a meteorite'.
    Connah's Quay. A Mr Michael Dunn from Connah's Quay, Wales goes all the way to Australia for a military exercise in Brisbane. He goes to use a portable toilet. The toilet explodes whilst Sergeant Dunn is inside. Cause unknown but probably a fuel spill. No matter, Sergeant Dunn is killed and is awarded a full military funeral.
    Cardiff. Mohammed Ali Ege has problems with a man who owes him money. He is a bad man, is Mohammed Ali, and pays two men to kill the debtor. The two 'hitmen' are not over bright, plus high on drugs. They go to the wrong house, in the wrong street and kill the wrong man. Sadly very much a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    Galway Michael Fahery, aged 76, was found totally burnt in his home. The only damage to the property was above and below him. The coroner's verdict, he died of 'spontaneous human combustion'. Now some say such a thing is impossible, but a coroner is a learned man; you cannot take his verdict lightly.
    There you have it. All examples of FATE? You tell me. And just for a complete tease. Niall Pawsey, a law student from Cheltenham had a bet with friends that he could go for a month without drinking alcohol. He won his bet and they all celebrated. A further bet was that Neil could swim across the Thames at Kingston in Surrey. Unfortunately Niall lost this bet, his luck??? was out and he paid with his life. Jeni Anderson, a 23 year old student fell overboard, in the dark from a ferry 20 miles off Scarborough. A lifeboat from the ferry picked her up thirty minutes later, cold and frightened, but very much alive. You could truthfully say her time was NOT up. What do you reckon? 
    


Thursday 29 September 2011

Jacket, If You're Real, Where's Yer Bin?

The heading's a throwback so to speak to my last post. (They talk like that in the village I come from. At least they used to. Now they're all posh and talk 'proper! All fur coat and no knickers as they used to say!) But I digress. 'Where's yer bin' refers to an article of clothing that hangs on the door of the 'bar' in my 'outhouse' to which I frequently retire when I wish to let the world go by. This particular item is a jacket I bought at a a jukebox fair in Kempton Park a couple of years ago. I like this jacket, I am intrigued by it and I would love to know more about it. It is undoubtedly from the USA. It has the label 'BUTWIN, 'The Champion of Jackets, Minneapolis, MN. Made in the USA. (There is a label inside, not very clear that seems to say union made in USA, ACTWU plus other numbers also not very clear that may be batch numbers.) I presume it is college student apparel. I also presume it was owned by a male rather than a female; the fact that it carries the 'monika' Ken is surely proof. One reason I bought it being a 'Ken' myself! And I presume its original owner liked his jacket or else why would he add adornments. Is it the type/style of jacket still worn or can the 'more with it' out there date it particularly to an 'era'. I can picture young 'fella my lad' Ken proudly showing off to the girls in his fabulous jacket. Oh to be young again! What is the significance of the 90 and the 'sergeants' stripes? (Not really sergeants stripes?)And presumably the letter H is important. The badges too are interesting. Do the 'young uns' buy them or are they awarded? One suggests the badge holder is special. (Badge indicates 'Outstanding High School Students of America. OHSA.) Of the four other 'medalions/badges', three are marked Solo, one Ensemble. By browsing the internet I am aware of Minnisota High School, but have no real awareness as to the scale of American secondary education and Minnisota High School in particular. I assume 'my' jacket perhaps once graced the back of a diligent, hard working pupil of this establishment. Who knows, and where are you now, my boy. What did those far off days do for you? The whole thing reminds me of the films Grease and Saturday Night Fever. Please remember, what might be obvious to you is not necessarily so to myself. But the power of the internet being what it is, who knows. And the last post did talk of the world being a global village. Any information gratefully received.There again it could of course be a copy mass produced to sell to gullible old English geriatrics. The world is full of copies. I have amongst my 'treasures' tickets to both Elvis and Rolling Stones concerts. I even have greeting cards sent by Hitler at Christmas, 1943. Not to me I hasten to add! Genuine, I would have thought no chance. But in a way it doesn't matter. I can still shut my eyes and dream of Ken 'walking the walk' presumbly years and years ago. (You might find the post I did on the 17th February interesting. 'All Is Often Not What It Seems.' 17th February 201o. This concerned the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. I was taken in by this poem, origination, the grand old US of A.) Does lightning ever strike twice.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Hard Times, You Need to Laugh.

Don't you get fed up of the news; doom and gloom ad infinitum. At times you have to laugh or you'd cry. And I got to thinking, who/what makes me laugh. We went to the theatre in the week. (I do reviews in exchange for tickets. Better than money, who needs money at my age.) The performer was Bernard Wrigley, a folk singer/actor comedian from Bolton. A bit old fashioned but none the worse for that. I can only remember one joke he told.

A teacher rang in sick in termtime, took the day off and went to Wimbledon to watch the tennis.

When he got back a dustbinman tapped on his window.

'Where's yow bin.

'I haven't bin anywhere, I've bin poorly.'

'No, where's yer wheely bin.'

'Oh, all right then, I've bin to Wimbledon.'

Now this story, one is old, two very 'localised/northern' and three very British. My young or overseas readers probably won't know what we're talking about but I think its funny. But I would, wouldn't I, at my age! I was brought up after the war. (The Second World War not the first!) I was very influenced by the radio (wireless we called it.) in the days before television became the norm. I remember some of the comediens over the years. Rob Wilton, Vic Oliver, Arthur Askey, Arthur English, Ted Ray. I started to realise what a small place Britain and England in particular was in those days. Comedy and comediens in particular didn't travel well. The talk now is of the world as a global village. It certainly wasn't thenadays. Some comediens, particularly northern comics achieved almost godlike status in their own 'backyards' yet were virtually unknown in places like London. Have a listen to Bobby Thompson The Little Waster. I still find him incredible even after all these years. But do you agree. Do my overseas readers follow any of this. What/who did you find funny. And who do yo find funny today. I've no doubt I will return to this subject in the not too distant future.






Wednesday 14 September 2011

Time Goes By; What To Do With It.

How many times do you hear people say 'Doesn't time fly'. We look in the mirror, what do we see. We look at our relations, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and, in the blink of an eye, we have become our own ancestors, so to speak. If that's not scary, I don't know what is.
Three photos
1 Not my granddad, my great granddad! Taken probably over a 100 years ago at least.
2 Grumpy as a child. Over 65 years ago. Not bad looking for a 'war baby' although I say it myself!
3 Grumpy as of now. No comment!
Time is going, going, gone. And one way to prove it to yourself is, keep a diary; in itself a very mixed blessing! I kept one once, once only, in great detail and, twenty five years on, it makes for very sober, nay sombre reading. It poses so many questions. (This diary, written for the whole of 1985 was in fact a journal that looked back also to life before that year. Thus much of the content refers to life before and up to the age of forty six. Self indulgent, maybe but certainly food for thought.)
How many of us, you, dear reader included, for example, lead/led the life we choose/chose. How many of us do the jobs we do/did by choice. How many remember how we felt, what we felt twenty five or more years ago. Were you bored, excited, exhilarated years ago. Were you hopeful then; are you hopeless now. Have you changed; has life changed; has life changed you. So many questions, are there just as many answers. You tell me, please.
Diary September 1985.
'School life is often exasperating, almost always hard but seldom boring. Which is more than can be said for the life of an office clerk. I spent four years as a clerk employed by the British Celanese at Spondon, a textile and plastics factory owned by Courtaulds. One of eight thousand employees, I felt unimportant and uninvolved in the firms affairs.
Consequently my years in their service were frustrating and unenjoyable, punctuated by bouts of periodic 'daftness' designed to disguise the boredom of the place and the futility of the occupation. I held four posts in four years, which suggested one year was sufferable, two not so. The jobs themselves were mundane. Bought-ledger clerk, paying thousands of pounds out each month on a salary of less than ten pounds a week. Cost clerking, adding up lines of meaningless figures concerning tricel, dicel and other uninteresting products. Stores clerk, issuing chits enabling less bored employees to go about their equally uninspiring tasks. Four years of frustration, remembered chiefly for moments that broke the monotony. 'Games' of musical chairs, where we ran round the large office, changing chairs to imaginary music, to the chagrin of the older, staid, harder working clerks. Adding, forever adding meaningless figures provided on multicoloured sheets from all parts of the factory. Figures I never understood and on more than one occasion made up. Their unimportance could be gauged from the fact that nobody noticed or complained.
Talk of books, of sport, of the weather daily rituals to relieve the monotony. It all sounds so uninspired, repetitive and so it was. Sometimes I got in trouble, for instance, like the time I swore at the old gent who used to go to sleep, beer induced, on our shared desk in the stores most afternoons. And the day I caused a huge lorry to be loaded with the wrong yarn because I read 'dicel' for 'tricel'. Four years of frustration. How many people are similarly frustrated in their daily tasks; but for fourteen years, or even forty four?'
And suddenly you are nearer the end of life than the beginning. (I did consider calling this post 'In the Blink of an Eye.')
Not meant to be maudlin but so be it. Just four pieces on time that caught my eye.
'The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you're the pilot.' Michael Althsuler
What a load of American, motivational speaker crap! A somewhat limited pilot with no real power or influence you dummy!
'Time only seems to matter when it's running out.' Peter Strup
A bit obvious, a bit better but still suspect. And who the heck's Peter Strup?
'I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.' William Shakespeare. Richard 11 Act five.
It takes the Master to spell it out.
And finally, to show I do appreciate at least some of the wisdom of our American cousins.
'Lost time is never found again.' Benjamin Franklin

Thursday 8 September 2011

Aweful August, Not Really. Grumpy's Alternative News.

Where to start. Let's get rid of the dodgy people for a start. I see a builder from Epsom claimed over £100,00 in disability benefits while running a building company. What made me laugh (cry?) he arrived in court in a wheelchair and neck brace with his arm in a sling! Plus an asylum seeker in Blackfriars received £211,ooo in benefits, (covering many years) claiming for a bogus son and receiving housing benefits and heaven knows what. By the way, she was caught stealing shampoo from Boots! I do wonder about our super country. From top to bottom we are shown bad examples. For instance those pillars of the establishment, paragons of virtue, Sainsbury's. Fined for colluding to drive up the price of milk and cheese. Along with Asda, Safeway and Tesco. Mind you, all but Tesco had the decency to plead guilty. We get poorer, the rich get richer. Doesn't it make you sick. And Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, appealing against his sentence for swinging from a flag at the Cenotaph. Says he didn't realise the significance of the Cenotaph. So much for a private education. Get real, you spoilt, privileged prat. And one more fool of the highest order, Two phone twit David Secker, phoning with one hand and texting with the other whilst driving on the A47 in Norfolk. A twelve month driving ban and eight points, pathetic. Surely a fool like this should not be on our roads, ever again!
I must stop letting the idiots take me over. So what made me smile? Rowan Atkinson crashing his £2 million, 240 mph, 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds F1 McLaren supercar into a tree with no other vehicle in sight. Makes my geriatric driving look positively A1. Mind you, sorry you were hurt, Rowan.

Chris Petrie, from Queensland, caught driving a scooter made from a motorised beer cooler. No licence plus he'd had one, or two, or three, or four, or more. 55cc engine and the cooler holds 48 bottles of beer. I reckon Rowen would be better off with this machine!

Any more smiles? Well what about the expenses row embroiling the police's top training college Bramshill House. In two years the bill included, £1.3 on travel, £673,000 on hotels, £26,779 on leisure and entertainment and £27,917 on restaurants and bars. All money well spent I'm sure, but was the 'designer lingerie', the 'beehive' and the 'cultivator' necessary spending; recession, what recession.

Plus I see Winnie the Pooh's in trouble in Turkey for drinking root beer on television. Turkey has strong media laws concerning alcohol. Television station Kanal D have been fined up to £170,000. Which is a pity as root beer is non-alcoholic. And our German friends could also do with 'lightning up' a wee bit. The Knigge Society, a manners watchdog has called for a ban on works colleagues kissing in the office (sometimes even twice as the French do). Shaking hands, yes, kissing, no. Evidently it's a form of 'terror'. Handshakes, yes, approximately 60cms apart. Any closer is apparently crossing over a 'socially defined distance zone'. I'm making no comment on Germans and a sense of humour, I leave it to you! Mind you, it was suggested the runaway cow, Yvonne be shot. She wandered the countryside near Muhldorf for weeks and weeks. She learnt to become nocturnal, ran with deer and enjoyed herself. But eventually any support for capture and converting into Sunday joints became a no no. Instead, finally captured, she was transported to Aiderbichi Animal Sanctuary, to live the rest of her days in peace. Miserable Germans, never, I take it all back, you lovely people.

Finally, an American story, with no mention of guns!

Long Island veteran lifeguard Roy Lester reckoned his refusal to wear Speedos cost him his job. Now I didn't even know what Speedos were. I had to look them up. When I saw them I could see what he meant. They're not called 'banana hammocks, lolly bags and budgie smugglers' for nothing! Sixty one year old Mr Lester thought the Speedos did him no favours and I too reckon he's right.His offer to wear cycling shorts was rejected so now he goes to court. I for one hope he wins and strikes a blow for all us oldies. Go for it, Roy!

Wednesday 31 August 2011

'I Wanna Tell You a Story.'


All those years ago, when I was a secondary school teacher, part of the job entailed taking regular year assemblies. (400-500 children, 11-18 years old in front of you for 15-20 minutes. ) Giving a 'speel' of a roughly moral/religious nature to a half awake, captive, not over interested audience at the beginning of a school day believe me is not for the faint hearted. (Very occasionally you had no warning it was your turn. Now they were really interesting!) If you can do that I reckon you can do almost anything.
You used all sorts of sources; you could read from a book but that never went down too well. I tended to 'specialise' in animal stories! I always was a bit daft, nay eccentric. I once told a story about my dog. I told my audience I took it for a walk every day, except when it rained. On those occasions my wife took it! It was a joke, honest. But I had pupils talk to me many, many years later who remembered this story! It taught me the power we had as teachers and how we need to be careful at times what we say to others.
I came across a story the other day that would have been a gift in my teaching days. Hope you like it. (from the delightful website of Will and Guy. Well worth a visit.)

Two Men in a Hospital Ward
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all of his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.
Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.
The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.
One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the band - he could see it, in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.
Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.
As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.