Monday 31 December 2012

Keep Right on To The End of The Road.

    All over bar the shouting. Where did it go; Where are we now. I've never seen a back end of a year with so many health problems. The whole country seems to be either vomiting or have diarrhoea; my family included. My daughter was 'told off' for visiting the doctors whilst she and a child were ill. I can see the logic but a bit much from a doctor on £95,000ish minimum a year. Plus my wife on her visit was refused any treatment, antibiotics etc as, she was informed, it will go away in five or six weeks.(a different doctor.)
    My beloved football team (Derby County) is doing only 'so so' and the computers performing badly. (It must be around eight years old.) I'm trying to grasp HTML in order to transfer a book I wrote onto Kindle and failing miserably. What with the weather, the government and everything else it does make you wonder. But always remember, there are two sides to grass, topside and underside and I know which side I'd rather be. So may I leave you with two favourites. Harry Lauder singing the immortal 'Keep right on to the End of the Road' and Freddie Frinton's perennial 'Dinner for One'. (Still shown on television in many, many homes in Germany on this magical night.)
    2013 and off we go again. Happy New Year to all those who are still with me wherever you are, peace and good health to you all.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Christmas Quiz Answers

Nearly over bar the shouting. How did you do? I reckon over 20 is good! Answer sheet A Christmas Quiz by Ken Stevens 1 Norway Spruce (Pice abres) 2 Hellebore 3 Ash 4 A holly tree 5 Mistletoe 6 Nine drummers drummimg 7 Prince Albert 8 a ‘Joey’ 9 December 25th 10 Tom Smith (Victorian pastry cook) 11 Isiah 9 verse 6 and 7 12 Luke 2 verses 1 and 2 13 The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir 14 And fit us for Heaven, to live with thee there. 15 Indian Ocean 16 Discovered Christmas Day 17 Workhouse 18 Christmas pudding 19 Christmas pudding again! 20 Mrs Beeton 21 4 shillings (twenty new pence) 22 Probably after alms boxes(the day after Christmas) 23 Good King Wenceslas 24 January 6th 25 Holiday Inn 26 Jimmy Boyd 27 Dora Bryan 28 Greg Lake 29 Bruce Springsteen 30 Irving Berlin 31 John Lennon 32 The Little Match Girl 33 Hans Christian Anderson 34 Louisa May Alcott 35 Little Women 36 The Wind in the Willows 37 Kenneth Grahame 38 Adrian Mole 39 Sue Towsend 40 Saint Nicholas’ faithful servant (Dutch) 41 Peter Paul Rubens (also painted Giorgione) 42 Saint Boniface (Germany) 43 Turkey farm (Bernard Mathews) 44 Samuel Pepys 45 York Minster 46 to 50 Any five from: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen.

Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas

And we're there at last. Happy Christmas. If you get bored after Christmas Dinner, again, try Grumpy's quiz. I reckon over twenties a good score. Answers after Boxing Day.A Seasonal Quiz

Nature and Christmas

1 ‘A Christmas tree’ is traditionally what species?
2 What is another name for a ‘Christmas Rose’?
3 A traditional Yule log should be what sort of wood?
4 What traditionally sprang from the ground where Christ first stood?
5 What ‘plant is also known as ‘Heal-all’?

Five miscellaneous questions

6 What did my true love send to me on the 9th day of Christmas?
7 Who is credited with introducing the Christmas tree to England?
8 What was the nickname of the little silver three-penny bit often put inside Christmas puddings?
9 On which day was Charlemagne crowned Emperor?
10 Who is credited with introducing ‘Christmas crackers’ to England?

Christmas is after all a religious festival

11 Where from: ‘ For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given’?
12 Again: ‘And it came to pass, in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus’?
13 ‘The rising of the sun and the running of the deer’? Next line, please.
(last line of The Holly and the Ivy)
14 Similarly ‘Bless all the children in thy tender care’?
(Away in a manger)

Ten mixed questions

15 Which ocean is Christmas Isle in?
16 Why was it so called?
17 George R Sims used to recite a monologue about ‘Christmas Day in the ………?
18 Similarly Stanley Holloway used to sing about ‘Old Sam’s Christmas …….’?
19 1½lb raisins 1½lb currants. ¾lb breadcrumbs. ½lbmixed peel ¾lb suet. 8 eggs 1 wineglassful of brandy
Numbers 19, 20 and 21 . A ‘receipe for what? Whose receipe? What was its cost
22 What is Boxing Day probably named after?
23 Bohemian nobleman, 10th century, murdered , aged 26, by his mother and brother?
24 When does the Greek/Russian Orthodox Church celebrate the birth of Christ?
(the old date for Christmas)

For those musically inclined

25 ‘White Christmas’ was first sang in which 1942 movie?
26 Who, in1953, ‘saw mommy kissing Santa Claus’?
27 Who, in 1963, sang ‘All I want for Christmas is a Beatle’?
28 Who sang, ‘ I believe in Father Christmas’ in the 1970’s? (his only solo UK hit)
29 Who sang ‘Father Christmas is coming to town’ in 1985?
30 Who wrote ‘White Christmas’?
31 Who scored with ‘Happy Christmas, war is over’?

Christmas/seasonal literature

‘It was so dreadfully cold! It was snowing, and the evening was beginning to darken.’
32 Which famous story? 33 The author?
‘ Jo was the first to wake in the grey dawn of Christmas’
34 The authoress? 35 Which famous story?
‘I think it must be the field-mice’ replied the ….. with a touch of pride in his manner. ’They go
round carol singing regularly at this time of the year.’
36 The novel? 37 The author?
‘Sat 25th Dec. Got up at 7.30. Had a wash and shave, cleaned teeth, squeezed spots then went upstairs.’
38 The book? 39 The writer?

A Mixed Selection

40 Who is Black Peter? ( a clue-Holland)
41 Who painted ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ in 1624?
42 Who is the saint associated with the Christmas tree?
43 The worlds largest’ what’ is at great Witchington, Norfolk?
44 Who tells us he was late for Communion. 25th December, 1662?
45 Only one Christian Church (building) uses mistletoe in decorations. Which?
Finally, name five of Santa’s reindeer. There are eight possibilities.
Nos 46, 47, 48,49,50.

Friday 21 December 2012

Nearly There! Three More Blasts From The Past.

Have you finished it all? Shopping all done? Cards all sent? Booze all in? No, oh come on, it's been on the television since August. Have a sit down, again, treat yourself to a mince pie and watch three more funny men from the past. No apologies, it's been a funny year.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Feeling Nostalgic. Blasts from the Past.

No more serious posts until the New Year. Enough of attempts at erudition and pompous prognostications. Lets lighten the mood in this festive season. Three short blasts from the past. Put the kettle on, sit back and enjoy. Surely equal in their own way to today's sophisticated offerings!

Sunday 9 December 2012

Regarding Guilt or Shame, What's to Blame.

    I never know in advance what to blog about. Once a week or thereabouts, not easy. (I'm approaching 400 blog posts and sometimes find I'm repeating myself; I think its called senility!) I avoid the news where possible but occasionally it triggers my mind, often in a direction I would not have chosen to go.
    I read about a mother who shaved her son's head and forced him to go to school in a wheelchair so she could claim he had cancer. Over three years, when the boy was between six and eight she claimed £85,900 in benefit fraud. She has been jailed at Gloucestershire Crown Court.for forty five months.
    I could not imagine an act of more mind bending cruelty. In a way we don't wish to acknowledge that such people exist but she is part of the world we live in. Obviously such people are abhorrent to most of us, but the thing that has played on my mind is, how do such people live with their actions afterwards, day by day, month by month, year by year. I am struggling to comprehend.
    A fifty eight year old man in my area has been charged with sexual offences with a horse. I know of this case in some detail; sadly he has been convicted of similar offences previously. The man's photograph has appeared in a local newspaper; he has also had to move area. Life as he knew it for this sad individual is, irrespective of the eventual court verdict in this case, over. How does he live, day by day, month by month, year by year; again I fail to comprehend.
    (The subject of bestiality came up in a recent edition of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. The participants seemed to find the subject funny. I suspect their amusement was borne of unthinking ignorance, a wish to not think seriously of such actions.)
    Some footballers earn amazing amounts of money. They are often of 'working class stock', their fellow men, if they are lucky enough to be working, earn derisory amounts in comparison to these 'stars'. Yet these 'ordinary' mortals are the providers of the footballers wealth by paying out hard earnt cash to see their 'heroes perform.
    Liam Ridgewell is a West Bromwich Albion footballer who apparently earns over £20,000 weekly. Roughly the average West Midland average yearly earnings. He thinks it very clever to be photographed wiping his backside on a twenty pound note. (There are numerous other twenty pound notes scattered around the toilet floor.) What a crass, stupid, unintelligent, ignorant, thoughtless thing to do. How demeaning, what rude mockery of those who scrimp and scape to watch such spoil brats perform. Again how do the Liam Ridgewells of this world live, day by day, week by week, year by year after such appalling behaviour.
    Just three examples of individual actions that will I suspect never go away for the people concerned. My interest is in many ways more concerned with what happens next rather than the actions themselves. 
    Or do the memories fade; are the memories fleeting or consistently present. Are some people so insensitive, so limited that they do not realise their actions are out of 'sinc' with the majority. (Religious people I presume can ask for forgiveness and, again. I presume, all is well.)
    Guilt, shame, it never was my strong point. (my old 'what's it all about' syndrome.) Why, I wonder, can I remember instances when I did wrong, was 'naughty' over sixty years ago; little things, unimportant yet still remembered; (the result of a religious upbringing perhaps.) I am a nobody, just little unimportant me. So nothing I have ever done that I am not so proud of is important enough to be remotely memorable for ever and a day. I am happy for that; I suspect most of us are the same.
    This post coincides with the Australian hoax call concerning the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge. A hoax that is connected, however tenuous it may turn out with the death of a nurse taking the phone call. A terrible, sad event that will effect the lives of several people. It may have been a daft thing to do, but I don't think it was intentionally, deliberately vicious. The point is, sometimes our actions can affect our futures for ever more; quite a thought. Now that's off my chest I must look for a couple of posts that are more in tune with this happy, festive season!
 

 


Sunday 2 December 2012

Nowt so strange as Folk.

    Readers of long standing know of my fascination with the human condition. So around a dozen instances from the press in recent times that caught my jaundiced eye.
Money, power, always in the news. A couple, referred to only as Mr and Mrs Y, 'of an illustrious Oxfordshire family' were in the High Court contesting a divorce settlement. The husband suggested he could only afford £7 million, she maintained  she needed £11.2 million to keep up her lifestyle; she was awarded a lump sum of £8.7 million. We are not allowed to know their names! (The judge said her aspirations were not outlandish or avaricious' but 'borne of her lifestyle' and 'expectations from birth'.)
    A highly successful auctioneer from Dorset found a tree in his neighbour's garden spoilt his view over Poole Harbour. The answer, get a friend to cut it down whilst the neighbour is away. Result £125, 000 in fines.
     Its a strange thing, power. I suspect arrogance and power go together. Eric Joyce, MP has to wear a 'curfew tag' for being involved in a brawl in Parliament earlier in the year. No problem, he cuts it off in order to attend a function. Some in the world seem to think they are above laws and rules. A leader of the People of Freedom Party in Italy (Berlusconi's Party) regularly parks in a disabled parking bay. (He is not disabled). He is reported so he slashes the tyres of the man who reports him; who is incidentally disabled.) His defence 'It was a technical error due to a fit of rage.' That's all right then! 
    An accountant from Bristol way is obsessed with cars. He embezzles £562,000 from his employers and bought, over a period of time, over 100 cars; including Renaults, Vauxaulls, Morris Minors, a hearse and two caravans, not exactly your vintage motors. He had them stored all over Bristol, garage rents over £4,200 a month. All bought on eBay. His defence said he was 'a shopping addict'; He wasn't kidding!

    We all need a certain amount of money. Rosemary Smith from Derby, my home town auctioned a piece of toast allegedly left behind at breakfast by Prince Charles on the day of his wedding to Princess Diane; it fetched £230. Far more than the Henry Moore sculpture sundial, value between £250,00-500,00 stolen by two men in Hertfordshire and sold as scrap for £46. It was fortunately recovered intact.
    Its not just people searching for money, or people seeking power I find so entertaining. Some people are so naturally entertaining without meaning to be so. Southend Pier is the longest in Britain. John Smith from Raleigh just up the road is a trawlerman. So what does he do, he rams his boat into the pier. He is fined £3,000 for failing to keep a proper lookout; cost of pier repairs £130,000.
Perhaps its the sea air that makes people a bit light headed. A man from Weymouth washes his pants and socks then puts them in the microwave. He has to be lead to safety when his flat catches fire. There's no law that says you can't dry your underwear in the microwave. You can't lock people up for being daft. And if you did its not a bad life inside. Not for much longer, mind you. Around 3,000 prisoners in private run prisons have access to Skye TV and Chris Grayling the Justice Minister is not happy!
    If you break the law you must pay for it. Providing it IS a law you break. A Ms Moira Johnson has paraded round Manhattan trying to gain awareness that it is NOT against the law to appear topless in public in New York; for neither men nor women. Good for her I reckon, but, dear readers, why shouldn't females walk about so in the 21st century if they so wish. To deny them that right is surely sexual discrimination. It truly is a funny old world.


Saturday 24 November 2012

It's All Still in the Mind.

    Five of the family met up together recently. Its fairly unusual for us to be all in one place, sitting still and talking together. What sad lives we lead at times. Plus we are all getting older. The time will come when we will be saying simply 'I wish.....'
    I've always had strong views on aspects of life; being orphaned young and thereby being 'my own man' accounts for a lot. On religion 'I know nowt'. What I do believe is that the human brain is the cleverest 'computer' ever. I believe that the brain can and does store EVERYTHING we have ever experienced. It is always there in our brains and can be recalled, how I'm not sure, right up to our end. We have no control over this in the same way that we have no real control over our living and breathing. ( Obviously things like demensia affects the equation for some of us). But when that old ticker stops that's it; what happens then to our memories, you tell me.
    This musing, these 'What's it all about. Alfie' moments came to mind when I remembered, several hours later what had been mentioned/ discussed at a family get-together. No order, no pattern, things/events/happenings fleetingly recalled and then gone again. If you think you are in control of anything in this life, you must be joking.

 Uncontrolled recall, in no order at this gathering.
    Travelling eighty miles to Grimsby as a salesman to sell a kitchen and they were out. Introduction to Grimsby, two female police officers jump on a man for drinking in the street. Bridlington, a friend moves to Bridlington. Why would anyone WANT to live in Bridlington by choice. School lesson plans, first teaching wage, was it £27 a week. Why should school and teaching be recalled. I invite an ex pupil back to school; he returns driving a large circus lorry and trailer. I 'manage' an aging aunts lock up garages. A caravan turns up on the yard with occupant but NO vehicle. In one garage is no vehicle but around a dozen hens. I can remember the days when it wasn't unusual in the village to have hens behind wire netting under the kitchen table.One garage is used for prostitution. (A pimp watches from another garage, unobserved; I find a man's empty wallet, a slip of paper informs he is from from Burton. He has been robbed, an expensive transaction.)
    My wife and I take a mattress as a gift to an old couple. The man comes to the door minus trousers or pants. Under the kitchen table is a dead dog. Concerned I visit the council offices. I am told to mind my own business, it is their 'right' to live as they see fit. In the garages are gas meters that are fitted prior to the meter readers call and returned after his visit. I meet a man on Allenton Market. He specialises in machines that slow down a meter (to do with magnets). I like him but one Sunday afternoon he murders his brother in law after a drinking session. My brother in law working for the Post Office has to set up elaborate wire taps for the police but is not allowed to know why. I remember a family who ran a family business supplying fire lighting sticks for the public. Their electricity supply was courtesy of the local street light. I remember being shown how to feed a coin through a fruit machine continuously by using a coin on a length of wire. I remember living in a changing room of a youth club I ran. Eventually I got decent 'digs' then I married my landladies grand daughter. My grandmothers funeral was like a scene out of a Dickens story. Snow howled down; It seemed a shame for the oldest of the mourners to go home. 
    Enough is enough. It all reminds me of David Bowie and 'Ground Control to Major Tom'.None of this blog is in any order, neither is it 'doctored for effect. It is not meant to be and that is the point. All I am trying to show is a fraction of what is stored in a brain, a tiny fraction overall; in this case recalled in a two hour period.
    I can see how events trigger off memories. Some/most of these events long forgotten. I can see all the events were real, not made up. Beyond that I understand/know little. I will come back to this 'theme' again but not yet.I assume I am reasonably normal in all this, of any case, what is normal. Whoops, here we go again! Any comments gratefully received. Of any case I can't do too much about it all, so I'm off, in the pouring rain, to see Derby County. Now that ain't normal!


Thursday 15 November 2012

'It's Nice to be Nice'.

    Am I the only one fed up with Melvyn King constantly appearing on television telling us all how the 'bad times' are here to stay. (A man who 'didn't see it coming' and he's only the Governor of the Bank of England).
    I spend too much time discussing whether life is harder than it was in our youth, a long time ago indeed! Times are hard, but not for everyone. Plus I reckon we ordinary mortals are only sold half the story, we get only half the picture. some are doing very well, thank you very much in these hard recessional times.
    The greedy failed bankers still receive massive index linked pensions for life. The energy companies are caught out fiddling the figures so as to inflate their profits. Little or nothing will happen. The price of oil has dropped dramatically over many months, the price of fuel to you and me has hardly changed over the same period. Starbooks, Amazon, Google, all morally corrupt, contributing very little to our country in taxes, despite earning massive profits from their UK dealings.  I suspect we could wipe out much of our debts if we REALLY wished to nail those profiting at our expense. All the aforementioned, I feel, contributes overall to the 'mood/feeling' within the country. A 'feeling' that can be reflected in our day to day lives, both as 'buyers and sellers'. And how we ALL live our lives will affect the mood of the country.                            .
    T K MAX. An international retailer in the USA, Poland, the UK and Canada. Recently opened its 1000th store. Originally of the 'pile 'it high and sell it cheap' philosophy.
My wife bought a rucksack/bag from T K Max that unfortunately suffered a defect in a strap that made the bag unusable. (Have you seen what women carry in their bags!) She took it back and explained the bag had special sentimental value. A cheerful young chap went to the trouble of sorting the problem 'How about £30 to have the bag mended?' he suggested. A visit to a cheery shoe shop, Greens Footwear Ltd in Allenton       and two days and £4 later, job done. Well done all concerned. Happy smiling faces all round.
    CURRYS. Originated from the efforts of Henry Curry who first made bikes in 1884. also Currys Digital Stores. Owned by Dixons.(PC World) around 400 shops/stores.
My wife bought a microwave from Currys. It was fine but developed a fault in the plastic casing. We were horrified as the fault was identical to a previous microwave fault. Apprehensive I took it back. (It was on extended warranty.) Someone lifted it out of the car (helpful at my age) and we were invited to choose another. No interregation, no fuss, nothing. Fresh paperwork sorted for the new microwave. (It took my wife ages to choose another!) and away. Thanks Currys. Happy smiling faces all round.
COSTCO Wholesale 92,000 full time employees worldwide  Founded 1983 first company to go from zero to 3 billion dollars in six years.
 We shop regularly at Costco. Everyone seems happy to work there. We bought a television, the range was bewildering. Three young men (on successive days) took us over, sorted us out, guided our purchase even down to payment methods for best effect. Everybody seems happy to work there. We're waiting to see a long face. (Black mark, the baked potatoes can be iffy!) Nevertheless happy smiling faces win.

DEBENHAMS  240 stores across 28 countries. Multichannel 'Retailer of the Year' 2012. 'Of Proud British Heritage.'  and  stands for 'greater value, wider choice, excellent service'. (Debenhams own words in both cases.)
    My wife bought some boots from Debenhams, price £65. Less than a year old, the tops parted from the soles, making the boots unwearable in wet weather. My wife took them back. She found Debenhams response unhelpful. I did not go into the shop but on her return she was crestfallen to say the least. Not amused I rang head office. Not unhelpful I thought they were nevertheless far from enthusiastic regarding our problems but suggested another visit to their store. Not easy (I am classed disabled) We nevertheless complied.) Monday morning, a wearying experience. Seeing the manager, as suggested, not possible. A senior member of staff took charge. The boots, she suggested, were FASHION boots. (not bought as fashion boots). Of any case, Debenhams guarantee was for SIX months only I was informed.I took off my own shoes, over two years old and we compared. (My shoes are Hotters, British made. No comparison. Another senior member of staff was summoned and EVENTUALLY conceded my wife's boots (made in China) at £65 were poor value. We were eventually offered another pair of boots but declined and accepted a voucher instead. Hopefully they do sell items that will make us smile, not frown; any suggestions. Last words on Debenhams. We found Debenhams lukewarm, condescending, unsmiling and unhelpful in the main as if looking for a let out. On the morning we attended staff were 'thin on the ground' as some staff were on 'Staff Training!!! 

    I have, by the way, no connection with any of the firms concerned. What I do have is friends in a high tech business who, amongst other things, teach massive conglomerations how to teach their staff how to deal with people. A lot of 'how to's' methinks. I once knew an old man in a pub. Long gone, both. I remember nothing of him except for one thing. He used to say, simply, 'It's nice to be nice.' Trite maybe, but wise words. Many a big business would do well to have the old man's words 'WRIT LARGE' in bold lettering on their company walls.

    It occurs to me that a system is needed to give award to firms or individuals that do actually contribute to lifting our moral in these hard times. Any suggestions for Grumpy prizes, to be be known forthwith as The GOK awards!

Thursday 8 November 2012

26,665 days or therabouts.

It's my birthday tomorrow the 9th. It was a Thursday like today. I remember it well! So I've been about for around 26,665 days or thereabouts.
How many more depends on a heart that started on day one and will stop when it's ready; quite a thought. Its a lot of days in a way. Mind you, around 9000 of them have been accounted for by sleeping. I spent around 4000 AT school and over 6000 IN school. (Teaching). I spent around 1500 in a boring office job, 750ish working for Woolworths and around 1700 trying to be a full time youth leader. Add another 1700ish training to be the aforesaid teacher and youth leader and you no longer wonder where the years went. Plus over 15,000 days of married life aren't to be sneezed at: not easy but always happy.
There have been trauma galore. Losing your mother at thirteen is life changing: especially when no father was ever present. Plus reminders of our mortality are always educational, whether they be courtesy of motorbikes or boring old diabetes, skin cancer or TGA's. You spend more time at doctors and hospitals when you reach 'senior years' than is comfortable but we ought to remember many in the world do not have such privileges.
Wise William Shakespeare was spot on when he wrote of the Seven Ages of Man. Basically you start as a dribbling infant and you end as a dribbling 'infant elect'.
But good times outnumber the bad. The joys of a happy marriage, children, grandchildren. So ordinary an existence; so blessed am I. I am pleased to be alive. Who was it who said 'This ain't a practice'. As our American friends tend to say 'Have a nice day'. I'm sure I will!.


      .  

Monday 29 October 2012

As Kenny used to say, 'All in The Best Parssible Taste'

Been a funny week and not 'funny ha ha'. My wife was diagnosed with glaucoma for a start, unwelcome news and something of a shock. Any reader who can tell me anything positive about such news would cheer things up around here. Dark nights, getting old, feeling fragile, good fun this getting old milarky. Stomach bugs doing the rounds, Jimmy Savile in the news EVERY single day, energy prices going up and up, I need a smile: so this post is not the one I intended.
Do you remember an early post when I related the gaffe when I mistook the contraceptive machine in a gents toilet for a hand drier. The look on the face of the young chap in the men's room was well worth the visit. Probably the first time I realised I might be definitely losing it. And wandering round a toilet in a garden centre Blackpool way taking photographs was not exactly a sensible thing to do. But they were magnificent urinals, definitely worthy of a wider audience.
I visited a rather posh pub in the Peak District in the summer. It was not doing too well and bit by bit it dawned on my wife and I that we were almost certainly the only couple who were 'legit', 'married', 'official'. You can always tell; they were speaking for a start! 'canoodling'. They were definitely not with their own wives! The clincher was when I visited the 'gents'. On the wall of this obscure, up market village pub was a machine offering tablets that presumably enhanced ones 'performance' if you know what I mean. And if you lead a sheltered existence and don't, as the television programme used to say, 'phone a friend'.
Times are indeed hard, it must be difficult  for village pub landlords to make a living.
I was relating these 'tales' to a younger, more sophisticated friend. (Come to think of it, everyone's more sophisticated than ''Grumpy'. He directed me to a piece of YouTube that sums it all up. (For those of a sensitive nature please ignore this directive!) Frequently in life I'm back to my favourite saying' by my old friend Bob. 'Times they are a'changing.' Indeed they are.
All very lavatorial but it all amused me. I'm seventy three next week and somewhat past caring. I immediately felt more cheerful. Forgive my vulgarity but hope it amuses. I must admit I feel better already!                                                          .  


   

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Animals Galore, Can't Ask for More.

The last two blogs concerning men and women ignored in the main; Grumpy's going to the dogs ! Talking of dogs, perhaps a bit of animal magic might bring out the beast in us all.
    How about  the amazing dog who travelled 11 miles firmly stuck in the grill of a car on Rhode Island when a car failed to avoid him and the driver was unaware where the dog had gone. The dog, was, like Elvis 'all shook up' but okay otherwise. Or Frankie the  strange Jack Russell  who travelled from Gravesend to London, by train, unaccompanied, cost his owner £58 to travel up to London to fetch him back. The loyal little Lhasa Apso, Toby  ran to fetch help when his master, aged 81 got stuck in mud at Borth in Wales. He ran to security guards a quarter of a  mile away and led them to the rescue. Mind you, Bruno, the chaps other dog, a Staffie cross simply walked away from it all; Toby, you're class, Bruno, just crass!  
     Dogs are, well, just dogs when all's said and done. If dogs are sometimes strange its usually human beings who are the problem. Dogs at a Diva Dog Day at Stapleford Abbotts in Essex wore police uniforms, tutus, suits and superhero costumes. Could only happen in Essex. (Is The Only Way is Essex a true representation of the place??)  My home town of Derby is turning out Royal Crown Derby fine  china dog bowls at £1,500 each. Some pooches are indeed pampered; Nikka, the sniffer dog in Vaughan, New Mexico deserves to be. He became the only qualified member of the force when the police chief and the only other officer on the force were both forced to resign. Mind you Nikka cost £6,000 and has yet to sniff out a single drug. Doggedly difficult it would seem! It's not only dogs that make the news. 
    A pair of Galapagos Giant Toitoises in the Reptile Zoo in Klagenfurt, Austria called Bibi and Poldi have fell out, reason unknown, after 115 years together. It is thought to be the world's longest relationship. Oh well, nothing lasts for ever. Including parrots, Tarbu, an African Grey, thought to be one of the oldest parrots in captivity died recently in Exeter aged fifty five. Also mourned was Meow, a 39lb cat at an animal shelter in America. He was on a diet but I guess it was a little late. Talking of putting on weight, a hedgehog in a rescue centre in Somerset has been put on a diet. Its so fat it can't roll into a ball in order to defend itself!
    No lightweight either, Lucky Larry, a three foot long, 16lb lobster in  the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth is indeed a lucky boy. Two seamen saw him on a fishmonger's stall and took pity on him, bought him (£100) and presented him to the aquarium. (By the way, how do you 'sex' a lobster?)
Just a few examples as to how the animal kingdom makes our stressed lives more interesting. And two final stories that made me think. A chap in Bideford uses a bow-tied duck to help collect for charity. So what happens. A row has broken out between various charities about using ducks, such enterprise thought of as an unfair advantage. Trust human beings to find problems in such an innocuous activity. Whilst a boy in Innsbruck has bonded with a marmot, not an animal normally inclined to human friendship. 
    So much so that the eight year old boy visits the natural habitat of the marmot annually and is recognised and acknowledged by his furry friend. Mankind is a very clever animal, and he is after all only an animal but he could learn much at times from his less sophisticated cousins.  


Monday 15 October 2012

And What About the Men.

     As promised a post about the male of the species. Remember, I merely collect articles over a period of time, no order, no particular subject bias. Then I analyse them, tongue in cheek, Grumpy style.
I reckon the first thing that caught my eye was how 'macho' men are; perhaps more accurately, how 'macho' men try to be. The 'extreme anglers' for instance near Bempton in East Yorkshire. the cliffs are huge, but fishing from the top, far too tame for 'real' men. So they descend the cliffs using harnesses and ropes, and at the last section, seven aluminium ladders bolted to the cliff face. Certainly not for the faint hearted. And certainly not for German Alexander Donninger. When his seven year old twins wished to fish whilst on holiday in Austria he bought a filleted trout in Lidl and, by extreme slight of hand, reeled it in at a nearby lake. Only he was seen, reported and the authorities don't believe him. (the evidence has been eaten.) Who to believe; you tell me!
    I suspect that much of man's behaviour is designed to impress; its what they think is expected.
President Putin is always charging around, Rambo style on a horse. (Is the man, like me, below average height by any chance?) And when he's standing still he's showing us one of his collection of watches.
he's got at least six, value £435,000 plus. (income supposedly less than one fifth of this figure.)
    Talking of Rambo, there is a possibility that a new Rambo film might be made, Rambo versus the
Mexican drug dealers evidently. Mind you, they had better do it soon, Sylvester Stallone is sixty five years of age; good luck old fella!
    Most of us, male or female are just happy being 'me' if you know what I mean.
But some, for whatever reason try that little bit harder to be noticed, to be different. The chap in Wales for instance, father of six, divorced who lives as an Apache. He gets a mention from me; mind you, only one line. And the man in court in Cannock who, sent out for wearing shorts, returned wearing a woman's skirt amused me but affronts my idea of basic decorum.
    Some are plain sad, like the town crier in Skipton who, sacked for drinking on duty, insists on carrying on as an independent 'crier'. Talk about liking the sound of your own voice, that certainly takes the proverbial biscuit.
    I smiled at the case of the man in New Zealand who threw an egg at his wife (Ladies, I know I shouldn't) when her pet pig ran amok and damaged his power saw; what a pair. But it wasn't really funny, especially as the egg was an ostrich egg!
    Not funny was the driver, Dutch, who was filming out of his lorry window with his iphone on the M20 in Kent because he liked the 'nice countryside.'
    But certainly daft the burglars who raided a bar at Solway Holiday Village in Silloth. They took the cash machine, emptied it of £615 in pound coins, took them to a local Asda at 5.25 in the morning and tried to change them. 
    There's no 'best' I suppose concerning male and female, just different. though I profoundly disagree with the treatment often meted out to females in some countries in the name of religion. My posts are seldom serious but ignorance never makes anything right. Which in my opinion makes Cecil Chao as daft as they come. Mr Chao is a Hong Kong billionaire playboy with a lesbian daughter in a civil partnership. He claims to have slept with 10,000 women but is not happy concerning his daughter's relationship. 
So much so that he has offered £40 million for any man who will woo his openly gay daughter away from her partner. (Mr Chao has never married but has fathered three children by three different partners.) Not exactly a good advert for the male section of the human race I would have thought.
     I would have also thought Arthur Reid aged ninety of Warmley is more to my taste. He has visited the same pub for seventy two years since turning eighteen. He was a council worker who left school at fourteen and never married. He has drunk an estimated 30,000 pints and has been honoured with a plaque and his own chair. He sounds more contented than Mr Chao!
    So there you have it; just one final thought. According to a Norwegian study, 'Equality in the home' couples who SHARE housework equally have a divorce rate 50% higher than those where the women do most of the work. Perhaps, just perhaps we are put on the earth for different purposes. (Only joking!)






Monday 8 October 2012

One For The Ladies.

    I used to do a regular post concerning the month's alternative news.
I enjoyed doing them and they seemed to be popular but they were very time consuming and blogging is only part of a full geriatric life! But I've missed them and seem to have enough material to do something similar.
So here goes, Post One for the ladies, God Bless 'Em!
    We men have always known you ladies are stronger than us in so many ways. We're not renouned for being brave when we're ill, 'man flu' comes to mind. Plus you seem to be more resilient.
Joyce Pugh, aged 81 of Shrewsbury puts many of us to shame. She has been officially named the world's oldest papergirl. She has been delivering the Shropshire Star for 41 years and has never had a day off! And Dorothy Peel who lives in a care home in Hull celebrated her 110th birthday with a sherry and a whisky. Mind you, she gave up smoking when she was 104 and doesn't drink until 7pm.
    I was amazed to read the story of 86 year old Hilda Pearce who was found in a hedge in East Bridgford, Nottingham' reasonably well three days after going missing; what a constitution! Plus it wasn't funny for the lady in her eighties who failed to be dropped off at her sheltered accommodation in Luton after time at a day care centre. The bus was parked at up at 5.30pm; the lady, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease was discovered at 7am the next day. The council are investigating; it didn't say whether the driver was male or female.
    I've always suspected pregnancy and childbirth is not as bad as the ladies make out. (only joking, honest!) But I do wonder when I read of the soldier who, unaware she was pregnant, gave birth at thirty four weeks to a healthy bouncing baby whilst serving as a gunner with the Royal Artillery at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Plus her training included running with a pack of over thirty pounds on her back; mother and baby are doing well!
Just in case someone thinks I put ALL women on a pedestal. It's not funny that Katherine Kirstwell, head of Kent County Council left her job after eighteen months, pocketed £420,000 and immediately became director general in the Cabinet Office at £142,000. Greedy, probably but I suppose you could blame the system. 
     Sheron Mancini was greedy or just plain stupid.  She tried to come through customs from Belgium with two gold bars in her bra. (one bar weighs 1kg.) Was she walking with a stoop I wonder?)
    A woman from Stroud was greedy and stupid. she shaved her son's head and eyebrows and claimed he was having chemotherapy for cancer. She netted £50,000 fraudulently before she was caught.
    How would you catagorize Alison Whelan who stole the passenger ferry at Dartmouth. when high on drink and drugs whilst shouting 'I'm Jack Sparrow, I'm a pirate.' She's evidently an alcoholic; now there's a surprise!
    Talking of sailors, Leading Hand Claire Butler from Middlesborough is a proper sailor and has just become the first member of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Mind you, its not expected to be deployed until 2020. What exactly do the sailors do everyday until then?
    It would be interesting to ask which people think are the most generous, men or women. 
Sarah Finch, a McDonald's worker has just got the sack for putting too much topping on a colleague's 99p McFlurry ice cream dessert. Serious enough to go to tribunal; the mind boggles.
    Finally, do the ladies normally go in for DIY; more important, are they any good at it? (I loathe it, perhaps because I'm so naff at it.)
    The elderly lady in Borja, northeastern
Spain was only trying to help when she tried to restore a mural of 
Christ on the church wall. Only her efforts made Christ look somewhat monkeyish to everyone's embarrassment. But amazingly the ladies 'artwork' has become a tourist attraction. So much so that the church now charges visiters to view. (Four days brought in 2,000 euros.) So all's well that ends well. Except that the old lady has now demanded royalties for her work. Lawyers are sorting it out!
All very interesting; perhaps we'll  next look at the male contribution to the news in the recent past. Any help from my female readers welcome.  








Saturday 29 September 2012

Technology- Grumpy Style From the Beginning.

    I was born in 1939; so what was my technological education.. An early memory, fetching an 'accumulator' for the 'wireless' so that I could listen to Vick Oliver and the like. (The accumulator was a glass battery affair housed in a metal frame, exchanged weekly at the post office, price 6d; the 'wireless' had valves.)
Our cottage light was a gas mantle that hissed; we had no electricity; we had no car. No flush toilet, a pan down the garden emptied weekly. 
    We occasionally travelled by bus. Buses and lorries had wheels. The trollies we made as children had wheels, the sledges we made in winter did not. The junior school I think was heated by a coal fired boiler, not very efficiently. One house I lived in had a 'geyser containing water heated by gas. The gas sometimes blew out, lethal evidentally in the wrong circumstances. As I grew up I occasionally set the grass on fire with a magnifying glass. Very satisfying for a child who seldom 'did' technology.
    I eventually had a bike, complete with dynamo, complete with wheel that rubbed against a tyre thus providing a light. Hard work, very technical but not very efficient. Later, I purchased a second hand motor cycle. I learnt to change 'the points' to make it run better, no mean feat for someone with almost nil technical ability. (I also learn in later years how to change the bikes brake linings with the use of rivets; that was close on the end total of a lifetime's technical motoring prowess.)
    I married over forty years ago. My wife and I became the proud possessors of a small television; black and white; no HD, not 3D. (No ariel forthcoming so some kind soul wired it into the metal window frame. We could see the television mast across the fields; not a bad picture if I remember right.) Over the years I used the latest Betamax and VHS tape recorders. Borrowed in my days as a school teacher, I couldn't possibly afford one. I took photos of my children on our camping holidays and eagerly awaited the return of the Kodak film from the chemists.
    Just some of the 'technology' that springs to mind this unexceptional week in October 2012. I get the impression the pace is quickening, am I right? I do a theatre review (in exchange for free tickets in case the taxman reads this) and send it to the paper 'down the line'; I have not written anything using a pen in years. Years ago I wrote some short stories by hand and self-published. Recently I completed my e-book (A Childhood Revisited) and my good friend Russell converted my work to Kindle. (Never mind what Amazon say there is no way I could do this side of the work, not in a thousand years.) I have joined Twitter mainly for marketing reasons and boy am I struggling. I did a one hour session on LinkedIn. The man covered TEN points. One hour later I could remember NOT ONE single point and still can't. Plus, don't laugh, my daughter has fixed me up on Facebook. Don't understand ONE bit of it but watch this space!
    I 'talk' via this blog to people from all over the world. (My wife does the technical side). I am so bad I've just 'published' half of this post before its finished by mistake! (Notice my superior grasp of the subject in my use of the word 'post' Remember the silly **** who told me off because in my early blogging days because I didn't understand where the word 'blog' came from!)
    This post partly came about because of an e-mail I recently received. I put it below as of interest. I am not necessarily endorsing it but we are all capable of sorting out unsolicited mail. It seems to be OK. I was just interested that little old me from the village is of interest to anyone in the great, technological world out there.
Here's to the next few years, God willing. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I STILL do not own a mobile phone!

(Reading through this post I am reminded yet again of the great Arthur English and his 'Open the Cage. Never mind, we old 'uns are still here, just!) 

Dear Ken,
It was great to speak to you just now and thank you so much for assisting me. As discussed, here is some information about what we are doing. If you could possibly put this on your blog I’d be hugely grateful.
Many thanks,
Victoria
We are making a new series for Channel 4 and would like to speak to over 60’s interested in learning about young, up-and-coming businesses and being shown new ways of making their money work harder for them.
In the current economic climate traditional savings schemes and pensions are not making much money. We would love to hear from people who are interested in exploring new investment ideas so they can enjoy their retirement years and save for future generations.
At this stage we’d just like to find out why this might sound interesting to you, and there is no obligation to take part.
If anyone is interested in experiencing the exciting world of new businesses and would like to find out more, I’d be delighted to hear from them. You can contact me on 0207 5342027 or victoria.balfour@studiolambert.com
Victoria Balfour |
STUDIO LAMBERT LTD| 42 Beak Street | London | W1F 9RH
( O +44(0)20 7534 2027| victoria.balfour@studiolambert.com


Sunday 23 September 2012

And It's Fame Again.

    I have pondered this fame 'thingymagig' all week. Then a strange thing happened. I was at a Derby County football match recently. Now there's a famous club for you, one of the original twelve in the English Football League, dating back to 1888-1889. Suddenly a loud voice called out a man's name and around eighteen thousand people home supporters started clapping; they clapped for around a minute and the away supporters joined in. Who were they clapping for? Was it David Cameron, Nelson  Mandela or Prince William. None of these, the applause was for Mr Douglas Else who died last week, aged eighty six. 
Affectionately known as 'Badge Man', Douglas attended Derby County home and away matches for many, many years. In a wheelchair in later years, pushed by his son, Steven he was instantly recognisable. For he was adorned by Derby County badges, from head to foot, an estimated 800 in number. Perhaps a strange thing to do, but a harmless hobby that gave no doubt gave pleasure to all who met him, however fleetingly over the years.
    It set me thinking for many reasons. Douglas will be remembered for his devotion to Derby County and his extraordinary collection. I doubt that he sought fame but many of us would like to be remembered after we have gone.
     I spent many years writing my e-book concening my earlier life. I did not write it seeking fame but mainly to explain to my children what my life was like in the 1950's. I shall never be famous, nor would I particularly wish to be, but I must admit I like the idea that someone, somewhere MIGHT take a peek at my book in a hundred years time. I like the idea of leaving something behind; the idea that people in the future will know I existed appeals. (I wish I had a religious faith in an afterlife but am content to believe that my 'spirit' or whatever will continue in my children and my children's children. Perhaps part of me may even continue 'on the wind' so to speak; you never know!
    What are you going to leave behind. (I reckon there's a book in everyone waiting to get out; if I can do it, anyone can.) What will you be remembered for. It doesn't have to be massive or magical. Being a 'nice' human being would literally be nice. What would you like as your epitaph. Are you going to leave anything spiritual or perhaps material. Or don't you like to think about it.

Concerning fame, beware,  just two thoughts that caught my eye.
Men's fame is like their hair, which grows after they are dead, and with just as little use.
Fame always melts like ice cream in the dish.


Monday 17 September 2012

'Fame', here lies a Cautionary Tale.

    I have been 'blogging' since April 2008. I'm not sure exactly why I started, but as I said at the time, probably ego came into it. Who doesn't like to hear the sound of their own voice! Plus it was all new to me and I like challenges. Only there are few people in the Western world that are so technically inept as myself; its a genetic thing I reckon, plus an age thing, plus a condition known as TGA which did my mental capabilities, never exceptional any favours at all.
    Various people, including my son in law Jeff helped me out, I adopted the name grumpyoldken and off I went.
    On the 16th April I wrote a blog entitled In the Beginning. I blogged regularly, more than weekly, only vaguely knowing what I was doing. Various people helped me out and I discovered a whole new world and some lovely people. I remember the thrill of receiving my first comments. Both, like Lord Lucan vanished in mysterious circumstances. Lindsey and Kyozan, where are you now, my friends? I remember too the shock and indignation at receiving a sarcastic, uncalled for comment when I pointed out, totally innocently that I didn't even know the derivation of the word 'blog'. Welcome to the world of blogging! The same pompous, self important twerp later sent me another dismissive missive (at least he was consistent.) I wondered about this 'blogging lark' Fortunately such idiots are in the minority. As a matter of fact over four years later I have never had a further negative comment; an extraordinary testament to the warm brother and sisterhood out there who regularly blog.
    My blogs are heartfelt I hope, if unexceptional; I marvel at the blogs that are out there. Erudite individuals who put me to shame. Bloggers Bernard and Eddie Bluelights spring to mind, learned gentlemen whose computer skills put me to shame, technical experts who dwarf my puny efforts. Plus advancing years seem no barrier to some.                                    .
    Around December 2010 my blog somehow appeared on an American site, something to do with Blogger I believe. Over a seven day period I had over 12,000 'hits' if memory serves me right, attracted over 1,000 'followers' and at the peak of my 'success' once had over 100 comments per post. I suddenly had visitors   from all over the world; America, Korea, Japan, India, South America. Even Finland, how the heck did someone in Finland know of my existence!
    The whole situation was embarrassing, surreal, unmanageable. Part of the embarrassment lay in the fact that no way can you personally acknowledge so many visitors. In fact one of the downsides of blogging is that individual personal circumstances mean we often fail to acknowledge others. In doing so we appear 'rude and disrespectful', a fact that has always filled me with feelings of guilt. (We are 'what we are' and I was always taught to be respectful to others. Ah the joys of a chapel upbringing!)
    The 'fame' passed; imperceptibly over a period of time my followers drifted away; and away; and away; to an alarming degree. Perhaps it's the Andy Warhol 'fifteen minutes of fame' syndrome. I remember bloggers from the past who were highly successful but who have vanished, often without trace. Some have, in four years consciously 'withdrawn'; others have sadly passed away. I strongly suspect blogging is a somewhat ephemeral pursuit, am I right? Yet there are still bloggers who attract wide audiences and masses of comments.
    I try to blog weekly. no fixed agenda but after over four years I  find it difficult.
 I consciously avoid topical subjects in the main thereby adding to my problems. Pressures elsewhere also add to my difficulties. I published, with technical help an e-book entitled 'A Childhood Revisited'. The technical side is mind bending. Completion due only to the skills and patience of my mentor Russell.
    The buzz  word in the e-book world seems to be 'marketing'; I have even jointed Twitter! (Who said I was always a bit of a twit!) My feeble brain is overstretched but life goes on. I will probably carry on blogging, hopefully until I am down to my last 'follower.' Thanks to everyone reads my attempts to amuse, educate, inform. how does it go 'You've made an old man very happy'.   

 In the Beginning   My first ever blog

Hooray we're away. Watch this space. As the old man used to say, 'softly, softly, catchee monkey.' A saying incidentally that one of my daughters finds incredibly naff. After several attempts this blog is finally off the ground, courtesy of a good friend, Chris who has the most incredible knowledge of how computers work. Thanks Chris, I feel as if I've now fully entered the 21st century. So 'What's it all about, Alfie?'
I suppose firstly, in a way it's an ego trip, hopefully allowed at my age. Secondly having had various health problems, nothing new at my age, I need to keep what's left of the old brain going. Thirdly, I write regularly, make little out of it but need an audience (the old ego trip again). So off we go and let's see what develops. But firstly, after all the excitement I need a lie down!
                                .

Monday 10 September 2012

Blasts from the past.








We live in clever times and tend to think everything from the past was inferior. To redress the balance, some photos from a Lilliput collection of 1939; the year I was born. War was looming and sometimes shows in the 'humour', perhaps apprehension akin to fear of what lay ahead. Equal to anything offered today, I reckon there is an observational wit and insight in these photos that needs no words. From a time before the wonder of computers and digital cameras.What do you think.(Apologies for my lack of computer skills. You can't expect me to master the light switch AND the computer!)

Sunday 2 September 2012

Bit and Bobs, This and That; Geriatric Ramblings.

    Funny old week. Saw my beloved Derby County. They won 5-1. They were brilliant, superb, outstanding, excellent, terrific. (You get the impression they were good!) So why not every week? The frailty of the human condition. Then I saw a performance of the BBC 'Proms' from the Royal Albert Hall on television. Amazingly good, such skilful musicians, wonderful. breathtaking, unforgettable. How clever humans can be, how good life is at times. (As a family we are also in the middle of problems, some close. Serious illness, domestic problems of friends close to us, the effects of unemployment and recession, all are present.) My aging, sometimes less than adequate mind takes it all in, often in the dark, night hours. I have no doubt many of what is left of my readers have exactly the same or similar problems. (Regarding readers I am sure 'blogging' is an ephemeral pastime so I am somewhat philosophical.) But yet again I am left with the old 'What's it all about' syndrome.
    It's over a year since Francois, my wife's mother died. It hit the family badly, she was much loved. I came across Paulette's prayer book she was given at her communion. It is dated 23rd June 1961. The funeral service was the 23rd June 2012. Coincidence, presumably. We brought back to Derby the summer house much loved by Francois. It sits in our garden, a constant, comforting reminder. And the rainbow that appeared one day? you tell me! We all like the thought of 'something else' besides this life, strange and mystifying though it is at times. I confess I find it beyond my limited comprehension.
    Max Bygraves died this week. If there is 'something else', perhaps he's singing away somewhere, always the entertainer!

    Next week, the first day of the rest of my life. On Wednesday I am to appear on the local radio station (Radio Derby) to talk about my e-book. (A Childhood Revisited); presumably my Andy Warhol 'fifteen minutes of fame!

Friday 24 August 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story.

    I never cease to marvel at the photographic skills of my fellow bloggers. Many are of a professional standard, all are appreciated and much enjoyed; I cannot hope to compete. Nevertheless I always carry a camera, a Canon compact; I feel half dressed without it. If I used a SLR camera I would take far less pictures. The result is I have hundreds of photos haphazardly stored on my computer as my organisational skills are pathetic in the extreme. Many photos are duplicated, equally many are of no long time interest. But some are worthy of a second glance.
    Gardens are a popular photo opportunity. I am smugly proud of my Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise). Amazed that it grows in an English climate, despite my limited skills. It is so breathtaking a flower I confess my tendency to believe in nothing, 'religious-wise' is sorely tested. Surely such beauty can't be a fluke; is there nothing behind its beauty?
    The snail feeding off the flower caught my eye. And why shouldn't it, it has as much right to live and breath (do snails breath?) in my garden as I have. What gives me the right to destroy it, plus it might be one of my descendants, a long, long relation way down the line! 
   Two men, very different. When I was teaching, long, long ago, various pupils used to bring me pictures of the gentleman in the photo. (I have no idea who took the original.) He does, I admit bear a striking resemblance to myself in some respects. He evidently frequented Derby centre and some pupils were adament it was me and could not be persuaded otherwise; embarrassing, amusing, sad. As far as I know he was probably a local character who went by the name of 'Bocca' Wright. I would imagine he has long since departed this life; rest in peace if this is so.
    The red Bentley brought to an evening football match at Pride Park the vice-chairman and joint owner of West Ham Football Club, Derby County's opponents on that particular evening. (Either David Gold or David Sullivan, both own Bentleys, both are very rich men. One owns Ann Summers and Knickerbox; the other allegedly made his fortune by peddling what could only be described as pornography. After the match the car was driven to the foyer entrance; the walk to the car would be all of ten paces. Who was in the chauffeur driven Bentley that night is unimportant.) Life is strange. Did 'Bocca' Wright deserve his derelict situation I wonder. Did the Bentley owner deserve his apparent 'success' in life. And why did I feel the need to photograph such ostentation; so many questions, so few answers.
Two more photos from my collection.
    Long remembered, around sixty delightful ladies and gents, a 'Rock Choir' all shapes, sizes, ages, who entertained us one evening at Derby Theatre. (I do reviews for The Long Eaton Advertiser.) They were vibrant, mobile, upbeat, drawn from surrounding areas, amateurs but much rehearsed. Sometimes, you do not feel like turning out on a damp, dark night, a night by the fire, cocoa at hand beckons. But if you find a Rock Choir in your area, make the effort, you will be pleasantly surprised. And having done so, consider joining. They say life begins at forty; or is it fifty, sixty or even seventy!
    Finally one more picture, of all things a toilet. In a garden centre in the north west; very posh, very unusual, different! (Might have taken some explaining had I been caught with a camera in a toilet) Taken for no deep, serious psychological reason, It just amused me and made my day. (This geriatric is so easily amused nowadays; do you think the dementia's just around the corner!)

Just six photos from many. Any caught your eye. Have you a favourite photo that you are dying to show. A pity to have them hidden in the dark depths of a computer or album.


  





Saturday 18 August 2012

Smoking, who can resist it.

    I see smoking's in the news again. This time it's Australia, passing a law that will make all cigarettes sold only in plain packaging. I wonder if it will help. I smoked for many years, I remember it well. I must have been mad!
    An extract from 'A Childhood Revisited' amuses and horrifies me. How disgusting we were. And to pick up discarded 'nub ends' doesn't bear thinking about. How I ever got to seventy plus years I will never know.


In the years after the war the majority of adults smoked. Nor was the habit merely the prerogative of the workers at the bottom of the social order. It was not unknown for the local doctor to be puffing away at a Capstan Full Strength or similar whilst he attended to the coughing, wheezing unfortunates peering through the haze in his gloomy waiting room, which was of course provided with an ashtray. Will’s Woodbines, known universally as coffin nails, Players Weights, Park Drive Players Navy Cut, the choice was endless. Almost everyone seemed to smoke, and everywhere. Crowds at football matches, customers in shops, even teachers in schools, sometimes non-too secretly. No consideration was offered or given to the minority who were not addicted to the gruesome habit. This meant many children, some already fragile and often sickly were exposed to passive smoking, including in the home, though the term had not been invented until many years after the war. Smoking was the norm, smokers were role models for children, which in part explains our childish fascination in what we considered ‘a grown up’ pursuit. And so entrenched was the tobacco habit that many children, myself included received, in their Christmas stocking, white, sickly tasting sweet cigarettes, complete with red tip in imitation of the lighted real thing. Imitation cigarettes that we practiced inhaling and proudly held aloft, blowing imitation smoke rings for all to see. Is it surprising we yearned for adulthood and possession of the real thing? But adulthood was too far away and patience was a virtue beyond our experience. Thus our approach to such forbidden pursuits was ingenious beyond our years.
A disused stone cow trough provided privacy from prying adults. An iron bedstead on top, liberally covered with branches, leaves and all manner of debris meant a den that was indescribably cosy. A hole in one corner allowed entry to this most secret of places.
Here we enjoyed diverse delights, one of which was the art of smoking; smoking was adult, smoking was exciting. The dangers of smoking were naturally unknown to ignorant adolescents, not that it would have made any difference. Besides, death from suffocation and the risk of being burnt alive in so confined a space were at least as likely as the risk of contracting the dreaded ‘C’ word from inhaling tobacco. Not that tobacco was necessarily the only ingredient smoked.
First attempts involved an acorn, a straw and dried walnut leaves. The acorn was discarded and the acorn cup carefully drilled at the base. The straw, around four inches long, was inserted into the hole in the cup and hey presto, a pipe evolved. The next step was to carefully break up the collected dry walnut leaves, using thumb and first finger. The small, parchment like particles were inserted into the prepared pipe. Matches were produce; having been secreted one one’s person for days prior to the ‘happening’ and the smoking mixture was anxiously ignited. Long, experimental ‘draws’ on the straw produced clouds of smoke, much coughing and occasionally glowing leaves flying in all directions. A fearsome prospect in an area that measured no more than eight by four feet, containing at least two small boys and miscellaneous bedding of straw, grass or hay.
We nevertheless persevered, moving on to the delights of the elderberry bush, at first sight an unlikely smoking source. In spring the bush was much sought after as a provider of berries for wine making. As the seasons progressed, the bush died back, leaving dead, woody bark. We carried lengths to our hideaway. There we carefully stripped the external wood, exposing an internal pith surprisingly cigarette like in shape and appearance.
A piece of wire was pushed down the centre of the pith to make a hole and the operation was complete. We lit the makeshift cigarette, the results were almost indescribable. White or grey smoke abounded, flames sometimes singeing throat and tonsils. Whereon the offending incendiary would often be dropped, causing anguished cries in the semi darkness amongst the straw or hay carpet; wherein the smokers would search, panic stricken, eyes streaming, for the glowing butts, lest our secret camp became our tomb.
Because such tobacco substitutes were not even remotely in the Woodbine or Park Drive class, not surprisingly alternatives were sought. The alternatives usually took the form of nub ends procured by the dubious practice of walking along pavements and picking up any discarded cigarette ends. Several small boys could soon accumulate a small paper bagful. We would return triumphantly to our lair where the cigarette ends were stripped and the paper discarded, there being no filter tip in those days. Pipes would be produced, this time real pipes bought from local jumble sales or ‘borrowed’ from unsuspecting adults. The pipes were filled with the tobacco gleaned from the cigarette ends. Matches would be produced and a real ‘smoke’ would result. A ‘smoke’ fraught with both obvious and unimagined dangers, but enjoyed just the same, in part due to the illicit nature of the event itself. Eventually, as the years progressed, we moved on to the real thing, Woodbines, Park Drive and Turf, and, when funds allowed, the luxury of Passing Clouds. Happy days indeed! Though less than happy when on occasion a filter less cigarette unexpectedly welded to your top lip; careful detachment immediately became the order of the day, rushed removal of cigarette from mouth resulting at best in a portion of the lip itself being permanently attached to the cigarette. Even worse, burnt fingers and a red hot cigarette end flying through the air might suggest that the joys of cigarette smoking was a less than perfect pastime.
And, away from the prying eyes of adults, when the cigarettes were smoked, we secretly learned of the world of grown–ups. Illicit books and magazines spirited away from adults were produced and eagerly examined. The Adventures of Pompeii and the Woman of Rome were avidly devoured and mental notes taken. Naturalist magazines were ogled, naked breasts and pubic hair causing an uncomfortable yet exciting stirring in adolescent loins.