Tuesday 31 December 2013

Dinner for One - Freddie Frinton. Happy New Year To You All.


Hope Springs Eternal.

    Almost the end of another year. To me, a not inconsiderable amount of time. But only a tiny, tiny part of the millions of years the place we call earth has been in existence. Of any case we humans are only really concerned with our own tiny, if unimportant lives, when all's said and done. Understandable enough when you think about it. We might be interested in the world around us, but only on condition that we, and that means ME, ME, ME is a living, breathing part of it! I like the idea that some of the stuff I write, my book, A Childhood Revisited for instance, might still be around when I'm not, but make no mistake, I prefer to still be around as well! ( I can see the attraction of religion and the belief in an afterlife, another go at it if you like, but its not for me.)  But I've no wish for this post to become a rant at the fact that for some reason we are not immortal. I might be a creaky old so and so but I'm not thinking of leaving my fellow men yet. (Is this old unbeliever allowed to say God willing!) My heart (I nearly said soul) is full of optimism rather than pessimism and here are some of the reasons.
     I see three of my grandchildren most days. Ordinary, happy, caring, carefree children who love life; loving and loved, like many other children, though obviously not all throughout the world. Their circumstances so different as to when I was a child. My own family was very poor by todays standards.
    I grew up in the years after the war. There was no father present, food was rationed, my mother worked frantically at three jobs to give my sister and I the basics in life for there were seldom extras. Yet I remember few unhappy moments. We never starved, though we were often hungry. Our clothes might at times have seen better days but they were always clean. We were poor but carefree. And like my grandchildren, we were loved.
    A memory that is etched on my brain. In the seventies, during my teaching days, I happened to park in a less than salubrious area of Derby. It was 'term time', but I was not bunking off school. honest! I was driving a minibus so could easily see over the less than neatly trimmed hedges surrounding the council houses. I noticed an electricity box attached to the nearest house had been forced open at some stage. Vandalism that did not bode well in my mind, though in fairness the householders themselves might well have been innocent parties. If that caused me concern, the sudden appearance of two young boys changed concern to alarm. Roughly dressed, neither had outer coats though the weather was far from warm. Of school age, around five and seven, they had with them largish screwdrivers; plus a teddy bear. What happened next has stayed with me ever since. Both  children proceeded to 'assault' the teddy bear, each making stabbing motions towards 'teddy' with such violence that he was soon 'mortally' wounded, to the obvious satisfaction of both assailants; who then vanished round the corner, job done.
     Questions have remained from that innocuous winter's morning. Am I overreacting. It was only a teddy bear; an inanimate, object of no real consequence. Where had the children of such tender ages
learnt such behaviour; I knew, and still know of youngsters of a young age who were allowed to watch films of a very violent and often pornographic nature from a very early age. Not all adults are either wise nor responsible when it comes to bringing up children.
    A confession, I too at times exhibited a cruel disregard towards animals prior to puberty; plus I owned a gun until my mid teens. Obvious similarities to the behaviour of the two boys whose behaviour shocked me so much. I have thought long and hard concerning this incident. Times have changed but human nature has not. I am absolutely certain ALL human behaviour is learnt by imitation, deliberate adult teaching and the like (instinctive behaviour excepted). I do not wish to make excuses for my own behaviour when young. Suffice to say I had little 'training' when young due to my own circumstances and 'role models' were hard to come by. We as adults have great responsibility in life.                     The young may have inherited the earth, but how they deal with it is partly down to us.
    So why am I optimistic concerning the future of mankind. Because there are so many good parents around; like the parents of my grandchildren for instance. I have no doubt children are born innocent. 
Adults, including far too many of my compatriots are often cynical, bitter, miserable old codgers who, though presumably once young, have become right miseries in their old age. Don't forget what it was like to be young, happy, optimistic. Enjoy the expression of my grandson Tommy as he sees his Christmas present for the first time; a picture of sheer unadulterated wonderment. Nurture the natural innocence in the young. And the western world at least  might, just might be a better place than we ourselves inherited. 

Monday 23 December 2013

Who Loves Ya Baby

     Nearly the end of another year and I was feeling a 'mite' bit sorry for myself. It was all to do with 'self worth'. I got to thinking, 'What am I worth' and 'What use am I.' Its all to do with getting old I reckon; retired, no job, obviously and thereby producing nothing. Hobbling about on sticks, a burden on state and family; good for nothing, ready for the knackers yard. The feeling of being past one's sell by date lasted for ages; well, an hour  at least. So I opened a bottle of beer and I pondered; and I pondered; and I pondered.
    Now someone, somewhere had brewed the beer to put in that bottle. Probably a little chap in a big brewery. Without people like me, the little chap wouldn't have a job, would he! Neither would the man growing the hops, and the wheat to make the beer; or making the bottle, not including the top. Or for that matter  the man delivering the bottles to the supermarket via the lorry made on the conveyer belt in the factory, filled with diesel made by another little chap and his workmates at the oil refinery. To be placed on the shelves by young men and served at the tills by young and some not so young women.  I am beginning to realise that, unemployed and infirm I may be, but my responsibilities to others are enormous. Without me and people like me the brewery would go out of business. The farmer, the oil refinery and the supermarket workers all need me I reckon; quite a thought. So I opened another bottle of beer.
    It is my duty, I have decided, in these austere times to provide employment for others.  The hospital I have visited so frequently in the past year. The doctors and the dentists, the district nurses, the makers of the pills I consume in large quantities, where would you all be without me! 
    I bought a new car this year. How many workers has this purchase made happy; including our friends from across the sea. For I bought a Seat, made in Spain, courtesy of Germany's Volkwagen. And a television made in Japan, plus cooking aides for my wife, courtesy of China. My bank balance is much depleted, of concern to both myself and the bank clerks who manage my finances. But my awareness that my existence has some value lifted my spirits. So I opened another bottle of beer!
    My musings took place whilst I sat in front of my wood burner, lovingly lit by my doting wife Paulette. The cat contentedly snoozed on my lap. (Yes, she or he is still here!) Grand daughter number  two (Angelina, aged twelve, coming on fifteen) fleetingly called to see if we'd a spare toilet roll. (A not infrequent occurrence. I wonder if there's something 'doing the rounds!) I enquire concerning Tommy aged nine, (number three) and Ted (number four, aged four). Evidently they are at home, happily 'computer gaming'. Normal for year 2013, but what would they have been doing in 1946 when I was seven years old, I wonder. Mother (Alison) is evidently also 'computing', searching for bargains on the internet while dad (Simon) lovingly checks his collection of guitars. (Simon is a more than merely competent musician, albeit a player of very noisy rock music.) The family completed by Willow, a Cockerpoo. (A mixture of King Charles Spaniel and Poodle, fashionable if mystifying.)      , 
    On Tuesday Paulette and I travel to St Annes to spend Christmas with daughter Sarah, husband Jeff and grand daughter (number one) Helena, aged fifteen. Quite an artistic family, plus Ramsie, perhaps the most amazing English Bull Terrier, certainly in this part of Lancashire. Ramsie is renowned, unfortunately, for his obsessional behaviour, he swallows, given the opportunity, any unguarded object he finds. The range is enormous and has included his bed, phone chargers, socks, in fact anything that stops moving; a very expensive collection to retrieve!
    I opened another bottle, and through by now an alcoholic haze I perceived a truth that I had not seen before in my searching. My 'worth', my real 'worth' was before my eyes, and I couldn't see it. My 'worth' lay in the love I have for my family and my friends; and they for me. For little else matters. To love and be loved, whatever one's age is worth more than any material consideration. Ah, happy days. Then, and I'm not sure why, I fell asleep!

Happy Christmas to all who have visited my blog. I hope you get all you wish for. Peace and best wishes to you all.



Sunday 15 December 2013


    The year draws to a close. An unforgettable year, too often for the wrong reasons. Two spells in hospital, plus a new knee. Non too successful at the moment but we live in hope. Plus I'm booked in for further investigation in the Royal at Derby. When a specialist says to you, 'That's interesting, you have a hole in your brain' you become somewhat apprehensive. To further remind us of our mortality and so as not to feel left out  Paulette had a stent fitted this year. Just as the year was destined to end on a less than high note 'cat' has appeared 'on the scene' to brighten our lives.
    My wife and daughter were chatting on the street, as ladies do one evening about ten days ago when 'cat' appeared. When I say 'cat' appeared; I mean 'cat' literally leapt into my daughter's arms. He (she?) is a small, tabby cat, in good condition, young, I imagine around a year old. (I have no real way of knowing.) It proceeded to follow my wife up the street, into the house; my wife fed it and there it stayed! For the past few days it has slept on the bed, had breakfast and off it goes, we know not where. Only to reappear at the back door at dusk or thereabouts as if it has lived here all its life! We have advertised its presence widely including on local radio with no positive success.We have taken it to a local vets on the off chance it is microchipped, which it is not. A strange addition to our family, temporary or otherwise.
    Before someone tells us we have approached 'cats' arrival on the scene all wrong, we know, we know! We shouldn't have had it in and shouldn't have fed it. We certainly should not, after a week, have spent good money on a litter tray, cat litter and food. (This cat has on a collar and is housetrained, suggesting it has/had a home. It has occurred to us this cat is going 'home' in the daytime and returning to us, as a holiday home in the evening.)

    We  might well be totally wrong as to the cats age and sex. I think I'm right regarding its sex but as to whether its a 'doctored' female I would have no idea. Its a problem and if it turns up in kitten, so to speak will only add to the puzzle. Any of my readers know of such things! And do we give it a name, its not our cat when alls said and done. But we can't really refer to it as 'cat', surely not!     
    My wife has taken to 'cat'. Not surprising, 'it' has been a welcome distraction. I too, grudgingly admit its presence is amusing  yet surprisingly therapeutic. (Are men allowed to be a bit soft in the head when it comes to cats?) But it is not our cat. somewhere someone might well be looking for it. The way it lays on you when you are lying down suggests it has nothing but love in its heart for humans. But where has it come from, how far and why. Strange things, cats. 
    One thing occurs to me, however fleetingly. (My wife has had the same thought.) You don't think 'cat' is a reincarnation, spirit if you like of a person who has passed away. Paulette's mother, or my mother for instance? I don't profess to believe in such things! But I swear its giving me some funny looks at times!

Thursday 28 November 2013

Christmas is a Coming.

    I know it might come as a surprise, being as no mention has yet been made but but Christmas is apparently just around the corner. (Only joking, QVC first mentioned Christmas in June!) Being as it's been a particularly harrowing year I've decided to treat myself to a special present in this festive season. Rather different and mind bendingly more expensive than presents received in my far distant childhood in the years after the war. (No, not The Great War, honest!)
    Much prized as a little boy was a small cannon, three or four inches long that fired matchsticks, much to the alarm of the family cat. Similarly prized was a John Bull printing outfit (excellent for printing rude words out of sight of inquisitive adults) and a Subbuteo football set (the figures were made from pressed out 'cardboard. (Such were the limitations regarding the availability of suitable materials years after a costly war.) Dinky toys were always much prized (I remember especially a 'dustbin' lorry.) 'Rupert' annuals were always eagerly awaited prior to Christmas and any child lucky enough to receive a Hornby train set was indeed favoured. The 'rich' kids in the village proudly peddled their bikes in full view on Christmas morning. My family was not so wealthy, my first ever bike, from a  richer relation, was by virtue of passing the Eleven Plus; even that was in fact second-hand! The good old days? What do you remember of childhood presents, my friends. What in particular will stay in the mind forever?
    A joke I remember from childhood concerned a poor boy from the village. "And what would you like for Christmas?" asked the father.
"Something to wear and something to play with" replied the young boy.
And on opening his only Christmas parcel the boy was bemused, but not over surprised to find a pair of trousers with the pockets cut out! (My apologies for my lack of taste but our village humour often lacked the 'niceties' of our more sophisticated, urban cousins.)
    I suppose the most obvious changes in life since my childhood has been in the amazing advances in technology, affecting virtually all aspects of our lives. This blog post is delivered via a computer. Yet I remember writing in school with a pen, replenished with ink from an inkwell set in the school desk. Which might suggest I know about computers, which I emphatically do not. I can use one, just about. So my latest purchase, delivered next week, will really test the old grey brain cells; I've ordered an iPad. A 32 gigabyte, iPad Air with retina display. Not that I understand any of this. I'm now entering the world of the computer geeks, and I don't even know what an app is! I've never been one for technology. Unless you count the Meccano sets we boys (Very sexist were our childhoods after the war) had for Christmas. Very limited sets, unless you were 'a rich kid' in which case your set would build astronomic engineering projects, cranes for instance not much smaller than the real thing.
    But I'm looking forward to the iPads arrival. Not that I'm completely clear as to what an iPad can do! Any advice or encouragement welcome! Time will tell, you're never too old to learn or so they say. Famous last words? I hope not! 

Monday 18 November 2013

Back in the Land of the Living.

    At home again, painful but relieved. Knee 'redone', not very mobile, more physio imminent. A short post, a view from a NHS bedside, so to speak. Forgive the disorganised approach, have not really got over what was a traumatic but interesting experience.

    Epidurals, particularly interesting, noise, hammering etc still reminiscent of a building site. Queues of patients on trollies waiting for surgery on a Tuesday morning mind boggling. Where would we be without the NHS. Will it survive I wonder. I moved wards rapidly, not sure why. (I was in the Derby Royal Hospital eight days.)  I was the youngest patient in one ward at 74 years of age!) Food, ok but not really to my taste. (Pun unintended.) Not the hospital's fault. Lost ten pounds this time! It is an existence where meals are proffered at frequent intervals, seemingly the most important events of a hospital day. Plus medication, injections, and very, very frequent health checks day and night. What is it they say, no peace for the wicked. Long, long days, sleep difficult; some dark days indeed. But made easier by NHS staff of whom I have great regard and admiration. From the people serving the tea to the surgeon knocking hell out of my knee, I salute you all. 

All is not perfect. I consider a twelve and a half hour shift as the norm for nurses ridiculous and, I suspect in some cases, dangerous. Did I correctly detect a problem of low morale in some staff. Plus from a patients point of view at times there is an overwhelming feeling that you have lost control of your very existence. The discharge system is very, very complicated and a cause of some stress. (I suggested to one 'senior' nurse that a hug would not be out of place particularly where elderly patients were concerned. Evidently  'hugs' do not feature in the modern hospital world; a pity.) Nevertheless the overwhelming impression was of  individuals who 'care'.
    In the wards where I stayed there was neither television or radio available; how strange. Thank goodness for my good friend morphine. I spent many happy moments hallucinating; much better than television. The puppet show provided by the man in the opposite bed was a welcome distraction. ( Do you see what I see) Am I the only one who sees such surreal images? The power of modern drugs is truly remarkable. Ah, happy days!

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Thought I would drop a note to all my husbands friends, Ken is still in hospital having had corrective surgery on his knee on Nov 5th, he is hoping to come home on Wednesday.Rather fed up at the moment and high on morphine ! He keeps thinking he is in a nursing home.He seems to be keeping the ward entertained and the nurses keep saying" he is a character "and asking how I cope !! I must  admit it is quiet here,but I  do get to watch my dvd films on the tv, Ken is not a big film fan especially if it is a complicated plot or over long,.so I am working my way through my collection. Not an over confident driver  I have took to visiting in the evening when the hospital car parks are not so crazy, but it seems to suit us both . I am sure he will be back to regaling you all with his thoughts soon :  Paulette

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Thinking, just Thinking.

    I sat in a wheelchair, alone in the middle of a shop this week whilst my wife shopped. Operation imminent, wheelchair borrowed. A strange, lonely experience until a middle aged man deliberately came over and talked to me. A sociable thing to do from an aware, affable individual. If he did nothing else that day , no matter, his action towards me was positive, meaningful, deliberate. I must have spent too long this summer just sitting, brooding, because, by heck, it didn't half set me thinking.
    Some more 'What are we here for; what's it all about moments.' ( Those of a religious 'bent', please forgive me, but it's not for me. Lovely idea, this afterlife thing, but too many aspects that don't make sense to me. For instance, Saturday you die, Sunday you're sitting alongside God. (Who?) And, is my mum, died in 1953, still my mum? Is she still forty seven. And will I be able to ask Roman soldiers questions. (I was always interested in Roman soldiers at school.) And so on and so on and so on. Please, no more deep questions concerning 'The Meaning of Life'. Instead, lets just 'muse' for a while on life. (What a lovely word is 'muse.)
    What a strange life it must be for Stephen Hawkin. One of the cleverest men in the world, totally paralysed, able to communicate only by using a speech generating device. Presumably in his mind he has physical movement. Having said that, who am I to ''presume' for anyone!
    This week 'they' reckon there will be 7 billion people on earth. 'They' reckon also from the beginning of time there has been 108 billion humans over the past 50 millenium. All beyond me but I was never any good at maths!
    Saw some programme or other on Monaco, noticed some very, very rich people sitting on boats. Some of them will never work in their lives and will never have to. What is the purpose of their lives. Indeed, does life, any life have to have a purpose? A man I know does a mundane job and hates every minute; he has only twenty or so years to go. Another man I know has an equally boring job but doesn't mind doing it. Is that ok; are both men wasting their lives on earth?
    Who is the very cleverest man (or Woman) in the world. Do they sit and ponder (another nice word, ponder) I wonder.
    All brought on by my imminent operation. Time marches on, we are all born, we live and we die. Role on Christmas, and, as Arthur English  used to say, 'Play the music, open the cage.'

Monday 21 October 2013

Reasons to be Grumpy.

    People sometimes remark on my choice of blog name. 'You don't seem grumpy to me' they say and in the main they're right. I reckon I tend to look on the bright side. Of any case, you don't really want to leave my posts feeling depressed, do you. So when I do feel like a moan (we all do sometimes) I like to have a real go so here goes, three for the price of one!
    Does Vince Cable, MP get on your nerves; he does me! I There's something about the man that irritates me. I find him pompous, self important, arrogant, self congratulatory. The sale of the Post Office was over subscribed; seven times over; the potential financial loss to the country was terrific. As Business Secretary he seems to be the only person in the country who seemed surprised. He's being hauled before a committee to explain his actions; good!
    When the Thames Link contract was put out to tender it was awarded to Seimans, a German company with a history of dubious deals. Result, sixteen hundred people lost their jobs with Bombardier in Derby, my home town. He, Cable, our not so beloved Business Secretary was called to Derby to explain his thinking. His reply, 'I didn't know Derby was a railway city.' What a plonker! Don't you have Civil Servants to inform you on such things! For your information the railways first came to Derby in 1840. (Swindon, York, Darlington, Doncaster and Crewe are five more well known railway towns and cities.)
    How long do we have to wait for your next 'bodge' I wonder, not that I expect you to apologise for your crass incompetence.
    Members of Parliament are not renowned for their humility, or their honesty for that matter. MP David Laws appears on television as Lib Dem Educational spokesman far too often for my liking. Mind you, once is too much for me. This is the man who fiddled, there is no other word for it something in the region of £40,000 in expenses so that he could house his boyfriend in a house that he owned; if you or me did likewise we could well end up in prison, where I think he ought to be.
    And one more makes three! A year or two ago my local pub went the way of many others, it became a Tesco Express. I had no strong opinions on the matter. Plus my wife was pleased, so I was pleased and it has its uses. My wife is a coeliac so life for her is never easy. (A Coeliac must have a gluten free diet, never easy, often very difficult. Imaging buying cakes for your family but not being able to eat them yourself. Paulette, my wife found somewhere selling gluten free fish and chips recently, the first time she has had fish and chips since 1985!) The Tesco Express shop has/had a small gluten free section, a source of great excitement to my wife. I use the past tense because the gluten free facility was withdrawn in all Tesco Expresses recently. The young manager says it was obviously not because of' space reasons. (The staff are pleasant and helpful, a fact I mentioned in a recent 'local' survey in the place.)
    I e-mailed Tesco and pointed out that their apparent interest in customers is mere lip service. In fairness they did reply but the young lady who rang was seemingly following a script. There is, I believe, no REAL interest in customer needs, interests etc. In view of the poster at the front of the building, hypocrisy of the highest order. I would have loved a REAL reason for gluten free food withdrawal. Too much hassle, Tesco? So life goes on, big business rules and profit is king. 'Tesco cares', whose kidding who, Tesco!
    We seem to be ruled and surrounded by moronic, greedy, hypocritical 'fat cats' who don't really care for anything in life but their profits, their image, their selves. Another of the big six energy companies put up their prices today, well above inflation. It's caviar for some, another trip to a food bank for others. But why should fools, incompetents and downright liars take up my time. Instead a short tale concerning real people in this often corrupt and greedy world.
    My wife and I had a meal recently in a local garden centre. (Those gluten free fish and chips were the lure!) A young lady was present and caught the eye. Slightly built, leather jacketed, jeans, complete with facial adornments; many, particularly of my age group would probably not approve. She was accompanied by a frail, elderly lady. And the young lady's  care and devotion was extraordinary, eye catching in the extreme. I have never ever seen such obvious care and concern from one person towards another. There are some good people out there if we care to look. Thank you, young lady, for restoring my faith in human nature. (Apparently the couple were part of a family gathering. The young lady was a physiotherapist and the family group was from Newcastle way. 'Good on yer, lass.')

Sunday 13 October 2013

Art Mimics Life, or is it Life mimics Art.

    I sat on the bedroom floor at 7am this Saturday morning; I didn't mean to! I had sat on the duvet, a shiny 'posh' affair chosen by my wife,  preparing to go to the toilet (me not the wife) when I suddenly slid gracefully to the floor. A bit of a surprise, but no problem, I sat upright, unhurt except for my dignity and smiled at the absurdity of it all. Only when I prepared to get up, I realised I had a problem.            Not exactly fit at the best of times, 'at this moment in time' (what at irritating saying so reminiscent of politicians and equally dim footballers ) I am awaiting further knee surgery in November to correct my 'duff' new knee.) Thus no way could I return myself to the vertical from sitting on my backside on any floor, be it bar or bedroom. (I would have considered the former the most likely 'happening' had you asked me prior to my unfortunate accident) I contemplated my predicament, (and my navel as I sleep 'unclothed' as they say). I bet you didn't wish to know that; too much information as they say nowadays. Not necessarily a pretty sight, admittedly at twenty five, even less so at seventy plus! Having said that, is there anything dafter in life than a seventy three year old sitting on the floor with no clothes on!
    Alfie, our 'holiday' dog for the week, who misses nothing, joined me, grinning profusely; please don't tell me dogs don't grin, this one does. A Rotweiller crossed with a Labrador, Alfie is around 100lbs in weight I reckon; big enough to pick me up, surely? Drag me to a phone? No, well at least he kept me company! Mind you, we've had dogs stay in the past that would have done better. Harry, scruff Harry would have fetched me the phone. Charlie the Bull Terrier would have gone in the fridge , which he frequently did when we were out and brought me some food. Kai the Collie is so bright he would have not needed to bring the phone, he would probably have made a phone call himself! All of which counted for nothing.
    I was becoming a little despondent when in the doorway salvation appeared in the shape of Paulette my long suffering wife. I feel I must explain why my wife appeared from elsewhere. We are not merely
'good friends'. We are more than that! But my wife insists that my snoring 'allegedly' is of astronomic proportions. So much so that she starts the night in our 'marital bed', retreats to another room when I go to sleep and returns in the early hours. A goodly arrangement. Remind me to tape record my wife when asleep. I am not the only one who snores, my dear!
    A little surprised at my predicament, though not exceptionally so (she reckons I do some daft things at times) she attempted to lift me to an upright position. Alas, to no avail. The saying 'Not as strong as a good onion' springs to mind. In fairness my wife is not in the best of health plus forty three years of caring for me has taken its toll!
    Somewhat flummoxed we surveyed the situation. Who is responsible for 'retrieving' geriatrics from bedroom floors; The Police, Fire or Ambulance Service? Try sons-in-laws, especially if they live in the same street! A phone call was all that was needed. Simon my son-in-law is a good lad. Plus he'd only been backward and forward to London all week problem solving for his employers Bombardier. He didn't really want a lie in on this Saturday morning, surely? If I hadn't rang him, his children, Ted, Tommy and Angelina would have ensured he'd have only been lazing in bed until some ungodly hour! (Chance would have been a fine thing!)
    Ten minutes, that's all it took for Simon to dress, stroll up the street to our house and oh, so easily restore me to an upright position. Thanks Simon! Ah, the joys of getting old! Does it ring a bell, anyone?
     Some time ago I wrote a book of short stories, entitled 'There's Nowt So Strange As Folk and other stories'. Something I always wanted to do, some of the stories are loosely taken from personal experiences, but others are completely made up. The first story is called 'The Fall Guy' and concerns an eighty four year old called James who falls in the house whilst preparing his breakfast! The main difference to my own experience was the fact that James had no son-in-law to hand. Plus James's predicament lasted several days rather than mere minutes. Hence the title of this post. Isn't life strange at times!

Saturday 5 October 2013

Harry and Sam, What do You Think?

    Harry is on holiday at our house. He's around four years old, a grand little dog; scruffy, bright, lively of dubious parentage and I would have said fearless. Except for a curious incident and strange behaviour for some considerable time around seven o'clock on Friday morning.
    He bounded into our bedroom as dogs do; at least in our house they do. My wife rejoined me, correction us, and we settled hopefully for another thirty minutes. Except that Harry suddenly became very agitated, growling, physically shaking and standing, on the bedcovers (and our prone bodies at times) as if he could see, smell and or hear something we could not. This behaviour continued, in various degrees for a long time (thirty minutes?) and he was impossible to pacify.
My readers by now are probably aware my favourite saying is 'What's it all about, Alfie? '
     The curtains were shut; the light was gloomy but not dark. The street, never particularly noisy was virtually silent. Not a sound, save for a dog, in the distance that did bark twice but Harry did not react to these faint barks. He faced the street all the time. He jumped on and off the bed probably in the region of twenty times;  (he jumped back on the bed almost immediately.) I know that this is not normal behaviour for Harry and he was perfectly OK afterwards so can the animal behaviourists out there explain it all  to me, please.
    The house is a 1930's bungalow. Is it 'haunted'. Two previous owners; one an old lady (who smoked somewhat heavily) and my daughter Sarah and husband Jeff. (A fairly normal couple; well I did say fairly!) My wife and I are also, in the main fairly normal I reckon! But I've no doubt Harry did see, hear or smell something we could not. There is no doubt animal senses are superior to ours in so many ways.  And now a little  'Grumpy' story just to confuse things even more!
    Some years ago my family and I, plus white bull terrier Sam, a beloved family pet visited Holy Island in Northumberland, a haunting, daunting sort of place. Its a magical sort of place nevertheless and I particularly wanted to visit the churchyard, having a particularly macabre interest in such places.  Is it that I am becoming increasingly aware of my own mortality, I wonder! Only young Sam was having non of it and refused point blank to pass under the archway formed by the lynchgate at the graveyard entrance. So I visited the churchyard whilst Sam didn't. (Sam was passed to the children; they didn't like churchyards anyway!)
    Three months later, at Christmas I bought my son-in-law Simon a book about Ghosts in Britain. And there, low and behold was the story of the white dog that allegedly haunts the ruins of the abbey adjoining the churchyard on Holy Island. Clever old Sam, but it makes you think. What do you reckon!

Thursday 26 September 2013

Was Life Ever Simple?

    My apologies to any reader/follower who has commented on my blog but received no reply. I do not mean to be rude. But I am finding it more and more difficult to do so. You used to merely click and reply. Now I cannot always follow the instructions as to what is required. Is it me or is life getting harder for us 'old uns'?
    What was my introduction to technology? Listening to the 'wireless' after the war I reckon. Vick Oliver, Ted Ray, Al Read and the like. All for sixpence, the price of exchange for a recharged accumulator at the post office. Television in the 1950's, black and white picture 9-12 inches. (Next door, there was noway my mother could have afforded a 'tele'.) Listening to vinyl records (78.s 33's, 45's on a record player. (Again I never owned one of my own.) Then cassettes crept in but I'm not sure when. Mind you juke boxes seem to have been around forever.
    There were no computers around when I was at school. Nor too many computers when I was teaching. Many teachers only half knew what they were doing when they crept in, how long ago was it? Now the technology is everywhere; unavoidable, dominating, frightening. I understand only a tiny fraction of it all. (My four year old grandson is a wonder on these games thingymesgigs they all seem to have.) I find modern life tantalisingly difficult. Again, is it just me, everyone else seems so clever!
    I do not own a mobile phone. I thought for years they were a 'walking aid' without which movement was difficult, nay impossible. I have recently bought a car fitted with a 'Bluetooth system'. What the hell am I supposed to do with it? I see my grandchildren with iPods or is it iPads. I am typing this post on my recently acquired Apple Mac computer. Very very difficult which is why we are going for lessons!
I wrote an ebook concerning my life (A Childhood Revisited available on Kindle/Amazon.) Some people think that proves I am computer literate. Not true at all, I have good friends who help me out. (M
y wife will finish off this post by putting in the 'Labels' etc.)
    My son in law Jeff is a world rated photographer. If you have a moment look him up, his wedding photographs in particular are wonderful. (Jeff Ascough.com) My daughter Sarah is a major part of the business. What shocked me was what a seriously important, time consuming  part of the business Facebook plays. The time involved is phenomenal. I know virtually nothing concerning Facebook but I do realise it is a force to be reckoned with. ( Since I have been incapacitated I have seen much of 'Jeremy Kyle' on the television. What a sad human being I have become!) It is a programme concerning people with problems. It is sinisterly amazing how many times Facebook is mentioned. Facebook has much to answer for.
I have a Twitter account, which someone set me up but I can't really get the hang of it. They tell me blogging is in decline. Evidently Twittering is increasing at blogging's expense. (I reckon Twittering is for people who can write one sentence, often badly but no more!) There are some amazing blogs around. My puny efforts are basic in the extreme. I feel I am hanging on by my fingernails. But then I look back and marvel as to how many 'names', famous in their day are no longer with us. So its onward ever onward whilst ever someone wishes to read my geriatric ramblings. Now I'm going for a lie down!

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Weddings Always Cheer You Up.

    Quite an exciting week, at least for geriatrics, the week of Paul, son of friends Richard and Lynn's wedding near Plymouth in Devon. Visited cousin John and wife Mary at Yeovil on the way. We talked of childhood, it all seems so long ago. ((our childhoods together were all of sixty/seventy years ago.) Life is short and this 'ain't a practice. Thanks for your hospitalityJohn and Mary.
     The wedding was held near Plymouth so we stayed in a hotel. (The Smithaleigh Hotel). Can you believe that my wife and I have never stayed in a hotel since our wedding night all those forty three years ago! Aren't we sad people, my wife and I! My 'sophisticated' daughter had to educate us beforehand concerning room service, en suite baths and 'tipping!
    The night before the wedding a group of Paul's guests, including my wife and myself sat together in the hotel. I was very taken as to our roles in life. We were all, or had been people in professional positions, with the exception of my wife. She was what is now referred to as a 'home maker'. She was also a 'dinner lady' for many years, and a good one at that!  Times change, my own family fifty or so years ago consisted of labourers, servants, plumbers, butchers, painters and decorators, factory workers and the like. I don't remember anyone being out of work, though I 'drew dole' once for all of one month; I never forgot it!
    The wedding service  was held at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in the village of Ermington. The church was uniquely attractive, famous for it's crooked spire; the service modern yet relevant; the bride beautiful, the groom handsome. I did my usual geriatric trick of 'mishearing'. (Do you remember in church last week I thought the minister said the address was to  be on all things 'risque'. Only it turned out he said 'risky'.) Well, a young man at this wedding announced that he was to read Geoffrey Winthrop Young's 'Comfort in High Hills'. Now I thought this sounded terribly interesting, except I was a little disappointed as I thought he had said it was to be 'Comfort in High Heels'. I promise if there's to be a third time I'll get a hearing aid!
    The setting of the church and the bride Kathryn's (seemingly referred to universally as Kath) home where the reception was held are rural in the extreme. Outside the quaint church for instance slopes are the norm. I am still struggling to walk (my knee 'op' had not gone well) so the offer of help down the slope from a young lady guest  was gratefully received. We chatted as I made painful progress. "And what do you do as a living" I enquired. "I'm a doctor in A and E" she modestly replied! She was one step ahead as to what might happen next I reckon! Plus an elder lady, called Pat I think took my arm and helped me up, not down the hill to my car. Don't let anyone tell you there are no pleasant, helpful individuals left in the world!
    We are all different in the world and we all live in different places. But for real rural isolation you want to see where bride Kath was brought up! On a farm, at Burraton, near Ivybridge miles, and I mean miles down one track country lanes. We seldom, in our busy, busy lives think as to where others in Great Britain, never mind elsewhere live out their lives. Gordon and Francis, you certainly found a special place to bring up daughter Kath.
    The wedding reception was special; the choice of curry as the main meal was 'different'! There were many young people present (I consider anyone under forty is young!) The band (are musicians still called bands?) were infectious (in the nicest possible way.) The dancing, uninhibited in the extreme was a joy to behold. Seemingly anything goes and non the worse for that; frivolous, fascinating and fun.
    Both the bride and the bridegroom are mountaineering instructors. How about that,then! Or as Max Miller would have said, 'Now there's a funny thing.' Several guests had the same or similar occupations. Paul and Kath are a popular pair very reminiscent of all that is good in the young of today. Many guests were similarly endowed, the whole atmosphere was terrific. Well done, Gordon and Frances, Good luck in the future to Paul and Kath.
    The drive home in the dark was amazing. well done the sat nav, but most of all well done to my wife! A memorable few days; just what was needed as autumn is suddenly upon us!

Tuesday 10 September 2013

I Went to Church on Sunday.

    I went to church on Sunday. Nothing much there, except that weddings and funerals excepted, it must be at least thirty years since I last went.; and no, the building did not fall down! It was sixty years on Sunday since my mother died. She was forty seven, I was thirteen. I placed a small posy of flowers on the grave and said a private prayer of my own. I will speak more concerning the last sixty years but at a later date
    I was brought up in a Moravian household. I suppose to many that in itself is unusual. The Moravian Church is, I believe, the oldest Protestant church in Europe. I will again speak of this church at a later date. When you are young you don't tend to query too much who you are and all that goes with it, so to speak. Moravians tend to have small, originally self sufficient communities all over Europe and obviously including England. My childhood and upbringing was in the main happy, given my personal circumstances. After the war there was often an air of uncertainty and foreboding present, particularly concerning a Third World War. (nuclear bombs were often talked about.) I distinctly remember, somewhat smugly that I, being a Christian and a Moravian, would go to heaven of any case; others would not be so lucky.
    I attended church\chapel twice on Sundays until my very late teens and thought nothing of it. Girls from the local girls boarding school attended the morning service and were an obvious attraction. Liaisons were sought but seldom materialised; teenage boys can but dream! Two hours lost on Sundays and the sermons seemed to go on forever; but undoubtedly a way of life that installed in me moral values that I adhere to to this day. And so to Sunday, 9th September, 2013.
    The chapel was bright and cheerful just as I remembered it. At the front, at the back of the altar a huge, frowning face still surveys its 'audience' But a face not obvious to all. (I checked) Now why have I, forever and a day been drawn to an 'apparition' that most are not aware. You tell me! The boarders from the school still attend; I suspect they have no choice, unlike the rest of the congregation. Attractive girls, but very noticeable the fact that many were of foreign extraction. As Bob Dylan used to tell us, 'Times they are a'changing.'
    The congregation otherwise was sparse and in the main ominously elderly. I have a vision of a splendid chapel, built in the 1750's in the not too distant future sporting a great big sign, not Ockbrook Moravian Church but a more modern message stating simply 'Tesco Express'.
    The minister, by Moravian standards a comparatively young man, delivered the service with enthusiasm and vigour; what a task he has inherited. A too modern approach will meet with disapproval from those entrenched in the traditional ways of the past. Yet one of his aims will be to offer something that will encourage the young to attend and become lifelong Moravians. (Tasks such as keeping a graveyard tidy is, I've no doubt almost beyond the aged, an awesome practicality easily overlooked!)
    The sermon was topical, ernest and no doubt from the heart. Syria and its problems were mentioned several times. I do hope people living in safe, middle class, cosy Ockbrook do try, if only occasionally
 to think of the lives of others in the world not so fortunate as themselves.
On a not so serious note. The minister's 'speel' was delivered under the banner of 'Things that in life are 'risky'. A thoughtful enough sermon except that I misheard him. I thought he said 'Things that in life are 'risque'. Now that would have been worth hearing! Oh well, the joys of getting old! Mind you, I thought it would have been a bit too modern for rather staid old people. Mind you, I bet the schoolgirls would have paid greater attention!
    The church provided a cup of tea afterwards and several spoke to myself and my wife; pleasant  people, are Moravians. If it was an echo of the past, it was a nice echo. The religious side of life for me has changed. But the community side of Ockbrook Moravian life is important. It is very much a part of life for many, all the more so as they get older. I enjoyed my visit, irrespective of the sad event my visit       recorded. Perhaps my next visit will be a little less than thirty years!

Monday 2 September 2013

Thinking Out Loud

    I'm usually at a loss as to what my next post will be about. I remember the time, being a total novice I asked of fellow bloggers 'What's it all about, Alfie'. Several helped me out and my 'Grumpy Old Ken' blog flourished in my own haphazard way. And one thing I learnt (how ignorant I was in those days a mere four years ago) is that a blog is whatever you want it to be. A 'diary' if you like, YOUR thoughts etc, but on the internet, not paper. So no attempt this week at creating a masterpiece of wit and wisdom.  No doubt all the better for it! Just a mere musing of what the weeks been for me!
     I'm still struggling along, the knee refuses to show any real progress, the rigures of physiotherapy continues to dominate, life is not easy; but there are so many worse off and every situation in life teaches us something if we allow it to do so. For instance, I had no idea as to the trials and tribulations associated with disability. Steps are everywhere, there are few concessions offered. Lifts in the public arena are few and far between and frequently out of order. The world out there is a survival of the fittest. Welcome to the real world, Grumpy.
    My wife and I visited Wollaton Hall, a magnificent structure built between 1580 and1588.       . Except that the lift, you've guessed, was out of order and the steps at the front of the building were almost impossible for someone in my condition. Plus disabled parking was available, yet very poorly advertised Mind you, an attendant had the sense to find me a wheelchair to make my visit enjoyable. Well done that man! (I got the impression that 'cuts' had made staffing a joke, but not a 'funny ha ha' joke.)
    Everyone ought to have a session in a wheelchair, be they fit or otherwise to get some insight into the world out there offered to the disabled. But lets not get too negative, life is still good in the main. Two individuals I met in a week in which Jamie Oliver suggested the British young are feckless, work shy and lazy.
    Seeking advice on kitchens we visited B and Q (they found me a wheelchair, rather battered but usable). A young employee, mid twenties, gave us time and advice in our quest for the kitchen of our dreams. He was civil, dedicated to kitchens, knowledgeable, ambitious. I wouldn't mind selling kitchens, but only for a morning. My shortest 'career move', selling Betterware lasted four hours! He had been employed by B and Q for ten years. Again, well done that man.
    At Wollaton Hall we found a cafe. I have seldom seen a cafe so busy; particularly with young mothers and their offspring. To put a not too delicate slant on it, Nottingham and district certainly knows how to breed! A young man around nineteen years of age (he reminded me of a young Elvis Presley) appeared to be in charge. He fetched tray after tray after tray of used cups, empty bottles etc from the tables in the courtyard. He also swept up and delivered black bags of rubbish to bins provided. He even responded at one stage to a message that a child was locked in a toilet and couldn't get out! When he eventually paused for a moment I commented on his frenzied work rate. His answer was interesting.
He basically suggested that he was paid to work and that is what he did. Eat your heart out, Jamie Oliver!
     Concerning disability provision we attended the Derby County v Burnley football match on Saturday afternoon. The parking is good, an electric buggy picks us up at my car door and deposits us at the entrance to the main foyer. A lift ride, a few steps, stewards to hand and hey presto, in my front row seat. Big business can be disability aware  when it tries. (Now all we need is a winning team!)
    Limping around, 'big time' is not to be recommended. But one thing it does, is slow you down and give you time to think. I sat in front of the magnificent old building and do you know what was going through my mind. I've no doubt a little chap with five or six children, possibly called Percy or Montmorency worked on the building of Wollaton Hall all those years ago. Where are his mortal remains now, I wonder. Life is short with an inevitability that catches up with us all.
     Enough of my geriatric ramblings. One final thought. How many of you, not from this area, recognise Wollaton Hall. It does of course feature in the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, Wollaton Hall was of course Wayne Manor. Grumpy's blog may well be boring but it's often educational!

Tuesday 20 August 2013

The Question of Image, Still on my Mind.

The opinion or concept of something that is held by the public.
To be an example or epitome of.

     It's only gradually dawned on me that we cultivate an IMAGE, deliberately or otherwise. We 'see' ourselves in a certain way whether we like it or not. Whether this is the same 'image' others see is interesting in itself. What was it Robert Burns said.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us.
'Two 'instances' have recently brought these thoughts to the fore.
    As recorded in my post July 19th my wife and I (sounds very regal) recently bought a new car. Now what are old couples supposed to drive. Years ago proof of arrival would have been owning a Rover. Nowadays geriatrics who have arrived probably own a Volvo or a Lexus; staid, safe, uninspiring, you get the picture. (Expect howls of protest from owners of either, Grumpy!) Part of this train of thought has come about by the young Seat salesman asking us to put in order our rating of six considerations: Performance, Safety, Reliability, Image, Comfort, Economy; we chose IMAGE!
Plus geriatrics are not supposed to be into: bucket seats, tinted windows, spoiler, stripes, sports gearing and suspension; turbo chargers and superchargers. So what did we specify our purchase must have? You've got it: bucket seats, tinted windows, spoiler, stripes, sports gearing and suspension; turbo charger and supercharger.
    Now what does this tell you?  Grumpy is not very keen to accept the limitations of growing old He certainly has no desire to grow old gracefully. He's not too keen on conformity (He never was) and he'll go out of his way to 'buck the system' so to speak. In general, he loves to be different, he has a 'tongue in cheek' somewhat irreverent  view of life and it shows! All very harmless, bordering on daft for daft's sake. In a way it's playing at or up to an IMAGE. Except that this image thing, however subtle, however unconscious is more important than you think.
    I went to a wedding recently. The groom is a military man, a serving soldier; also present were several of his military colleagues. It would be unprofessional to identify them further. They were uniformed, superbly turned out, immaculate men, young yet hardened, seasoned campaigners, men who would be proud to defend you in times of strife. They were lively, noisy at times but no matter, they epitomised the joy of living particularly associated with youth.  And then it all went a little 'haywire' to say the least. The soldiers and friends became involved in a 'drinking contest' that went too far, too long. The competitive drinking of 'shots' (Someone please explain to one old man, what exactly do 'shots' consist of) resulted in one ill, and I mean very ill groom; dangerous in the extreme. Yet no-one in the group itself saw the dangers and attempted to curtail the contest. As a geriatric observer I reckon I know why.
   Its an IMAGE thing. All involved saw themselves as 'macho', individuals, male of course, answerable to no-one. Part and parcel of an elite group within society, invincible and so on.  (the regiment's motto suggesting invincibility was uttered whenever a participant struggled to complete the 'downing' of yet another 'shot'.) All totally insane yet understandable to this old bystander.  In other words, the participants of such a sad pastime were merely conforming to the IMAGE they believed was expected of them.
    I am lucky enough to have followers from all over the world. And I bet you they all are have image 'problems' to a greater or lesser degree. A member of the WI or Mothers Union? Do you see yourself as an upstanding member of your community; useful, hardworking, caring and compassionate? Or maybe you are a councillor, or even a county councillor. Someone everyone looks up to, someone who is important and has definitely 'arrived'. You might be a member of the professions,  in which case you probably don't even have to try, you already are sure of your personal superiority. Pity the poor devil who digs holes in the road for a living. He's probably one of the best blokes in the world and nobody notices.

    People are strange in the extreme and not always funny ha ha with it. I have a cousin who I seldom see. For years whenever I met him, usually at family functions, his first question to me was 'How much do you earn.' How strange is that! I  knew of a young man from a poor part of Derby who moved to a nicer area a few miles out of town. One of his first actions on moving was to step outside his new house and offer to fight anyone in his new neighbourhood. I have a friend from the 'south' who, of an evening,  changes clothes before sitting down for an evening meal. (I realise that commenting on such things makes 'us up north' seem working class in the extreme but I suspect remnants of the class system and all that means are still firmly with us.) 
    We all adhere to an IMAGE whether we like it or not. So how do you see yourself? And do you like what you see? But more important, how do others see you? 

Friday 9 August 2013


    Anyone who knows me well is aware any email I send always carry the 'monica' Life. Thats what its all about, this 'existence, time on earth, this earthly adventure', call it what you will. We live and we die, simple. Some believe in more, but I tell you, if there's a God up there, he's taking the micky, having a laugh. You will grasp I guess from the tone of this post it been yet another 'funny old week'.
    My leg surgery is not going too well. Slow, painful with little progress in spite of the physiotherapy, I'm bloody fed up. I put on a brave face in the main, but even septuagenerians need reassurance at times. I try not to be mardy (do you use the word mardy down your way) but I confess I've been fed up  recently. But then I noticed the date.
    This week would have been my mothers birthday;  she died in 1953 aged forty seven. I've lived for seventy three very eventful years and I'm moaning. My mother died at forty seven, worn out through no fault of her own. I bet she was fed up at times but I never heard her moaning. She deserved so much more from life. My only regret in life is that she did not live longer so that I, being older, could have done more for her. It was 'payback time' that never materialised.
    On occasion I try to remember 'life with mother', but always with great difficulty. I certainly revolved around myself at the time of my mothers death. Are boys particularly prone to living in a world of their own I wonder? At times I cringe as to how preoccupied I was at the age of thirteen. Everyone of us has different experiences as we grow up.  These have some say, however subconscious in way we turn out, so to speak. I remember my mother in part for Little Miss Muffet Junkets. Also for the fact that she constantly emitted a 'humming noise' when she worked. An unconscious habit which I inherited; I am amused, many are mildly irritated.

'There was no greater love in my life than my mother. But it was a love not based on kisses and cuddles. Mary, my mother was far too busy, and often far too exhausted to show maternal affection in an everyday family sense. That she loved my sister and me was never in doubt. But a constant round of cleaning for various well to do families in the village, plus hours in between as a school cook was all consuming. Add ironing, home cooking, clothes mending and shopping and it was obvious that the burden was awesome in the extreme. On my mother’s death certificate, at the age of forty-seven it read, ‘cause of death, pneumonia’. It would have been more honest had it read ‘death due to overwork’.
There appeared in the Derby Evening Telegraph, on the 10th of September the stark notice informing of my mother’s death.
Stevens. Sept 8th 1953 at 24 The Ridings Ockbrook. Mary Elizabeth aged 47 years, widow of the late Ernest Stevens. Funeral at the Moravian Church on Friday at 3pm.
Neither my sister nor I attended our mother’s funeral; a statement that could be taken by the uninformed to suggest indifference, or lack of respect. The truth is we were not invited. Someone in their wisdom decided that a mother’s funeral was no place for children of eleven and thirteen. We were not asked our opinion, nor were the subjects of death, funerals or life thenceforth ever discussed. If they were, they were lost in the dreamlike haze that hung over me for many, many days, if not months that followed. I have no recollection of what I did that afternoon, but in a way that was the day I grew up.'
(From A Childhood Revisited"