Tuesday 26 February 2013

'It's Nice to be Nice.'

 The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.
 Robert F Kennedy

    I don't normally 'do' the news. Of any case things can appear gloomy at times. Triple credit ratings. (Whatever that means); an horrific shooting in South Africa; lecherous politicians and warped men of the cloth; freezing cold weather and no real sign of spring. But just as you feel like giving up on the world you meet someone who as they say 'makes a difference'.
    Ursula, a friend is eighty five. She has had a hard life. She was a refugee from Eastern Europe in WW2, is now widowed, housebound and is in poor health. She finds modern television technology, (like myself) difficult, and has an on going problem of long standing. A problem at least in part centering around an incorrect remote control  and an outdated system.
    Enter Peter Napier, a Sky system salesman. I met Peter 'peddling his wares', so to speak in a nondescript shopping centre in Burton on Trent. I explained Ursula's problems to him. He was obliged to do nothing but the next fifteen minutes were remarkable. Peter made three or four successive phone calls. Eventually a colleague was located in possession of the correct remote for the job. Which was delivered to me an hour or so later by another equally obliging 'Skyman'. Which was delivered to Ursula by myself and wife a further hour later, (no charge made for the remote.) (And a further appointment fixed up for Wednesday, via phone by yet another obliging 'Skyman' via my equally obliging wife who understands these things!) We had, by the way, gone out initially in the van to locate some logs for our wood burner; we were unsuccessful! All this on a Saturday afternoon.
     Peter was brilliant. (and his various colleagues.) How marvellous that such people exist. I met his wife and child briefly. I remarked what a great guy he was. And her reply. 'That's why I love him.' Lucky wife, lucky child, lucky Sky. I personally do not have Sky TV. I do not know if Sky have an 'employee of the month' award system. If they don't, they should. No doubt who deserves it for February!
    An innocuous event. But it does not necessarily take great events to show us life can be meaningful and worth living. There is also a serious side to this little post. Look how many were touched by one man's generosity of spirit; how much more pleasant the world can be at times. Why are some people so good; others so indifferent. Are good people rewarded? Or is the 'feelgood' factor the reward in itself? Be nice to each other. Its not rocket science, Sometimes we need a wee reminder, yes we CAN make a difference if we try.
The older I get, the less I know. What I do know is we need a few more Peter Napiers in the world. 

Never underestimate the difference you can make in the lives of others. Step forward, reach out and help. This week reach to someone who might need a lift.
Pablo Valle

Tuesday 19 February 2013

The Joys of Getting Old.

I am feeling my age! 11.55am and I am just getting going. (At midnight I am usually quite lively.) Well as lively as a seventy three year old can be.Time is enevitably taking its toll. My wife has recently had explorative surgery for a heart condition and is suffering somewhat. She is waiting, apprehensively to have stents fitted. She has also been diagnosed with glaucoma. I am to find out next week if I am to have knee surgery. I am walking like an old man and I don't like it! This week alone the pair of us are at the doctors, the dentists, the hospital and the chiropodists! Mind you, many, many are worse off.
I am just going to buy some 'cheapo' reading glasses. from Costco. I have around six pairs but can find three pairs. One pair has an arm missing. One pair has part of an arm missing. One pair has screws missing. No pair stays on. I have just counted fourteen empty spectacle cases. I have no doubt there are further cases and glasses. No jokes about making a spectacle of myself please.

Charlie went to the doctor.
'Doctor' he said 'I keep seeing this spinning insect.'
'Don't worry' said the doctor, 'it's just a bug going round.'

My friend reckons the bloke next door has a glass eye. I asked him how he knew and he said it just came out when they were talking.

All this reminds me of a very early blog I did.(In April 2008 which would suggest I've been losing it for some time.) Considering I have just done a review for John Godber's play Losing the Plot at Derby Playhouse, all very apt don't you think!

An OAP let loose in the 20th Century

Like a weasel to a rabbit I am transfixed. Hours spent trying to master the technology, mainly unsucessfully yet the urge to continue is overpowering. What was it Albert Einstein said, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." My incomprehension is unsurprising when you consider I even find an Idiot's Guide impossible to understand. Please tell me I am not the only one, or am I uniquely stupid when it comes to modern technology. And how strange I find myself posing questions to a screen, a substitite for the real world. An unreal situation akin to making love to a blow up doll or our childhood habit of smoking rolled up walnut leaves in an oakcup pipe. Both unsatisfactory substitutes for the real thing but better than nothing. I hasten to add I am not speaking from experience on the former.
Now I reckon my problems in the main stem from three sources. One, at my age I'm a bit long in the tooth to learn new technologies but I can but try. Two, I have recently been informed I am functioning on half a brain, maybe a bit more to be honest but some missing all the same. More of this at a later date but imagine what I could do it it was all there, so to speak.
And three, I need my eyes testing.
My ninety nine pence glasses from Home Bargains are good value but hardly the result of considered professional examination. But at least you get to try them out. Which is more than can be said for the local Lidl. A fierce gentleman, Croatian I think he is patrols the isles, and can spot from over twenty yards a customer opening the goods. As their glasses are packaged you therefore buy pot luck, so to speak. Their car park is full of wrecked cars or at least it deserves to be. Any day now they'll be selling white sticks.
I've thought my eyes needed testing for some time but a family function in The Devonshire, a posh pub in Baslow, Derbyshire finally made the fact inescapable. After a pint or two, or three, or four the need for the toilet was dire. Not surprising but at least it would suggest the old prostate is still working, if nothing else. Panic over and a might bit relieved so to speak, and, educated by frequent notices exorting us to 'Now wash your hands' I did as ordered and visited the hot air hand blower. Only posh as the pub was, the machine was totally ineffective, pathetic in the extreme. No rush of air, hot or otherwise. As I pondered so useless an apparatus and contemplated my next move I noticed a young man quizzically eyeing me from the urinal. Fearing I was about to be propositioned, I hastily withdrew my still wet hands from the machines orifice. It was only then I made out the wording on the machine, blurred in my case but cringingly embarrassing. The immortal words read 'Contraceptives, all colours and shapes, two pounds for three'.

Tuesday 12 February 2013


    One, I always sign my e-mails as 'life', its easy and after all, 'That's what it's all about, Alfie'.' Two, I usually post roughly once a week and seldom know in advance what to write about. I have seen many fall by the wayside; to blog continuously over say, five years takes a lot of time and effort. So today's effort, for better or worse.
    My life is sometimes dull in the extreme. Up to yesterday nothing. The only thing that caught my eye were the ten most used words top of the English Speaking Media Internet, whatever that means. And the fact that five out of the ten I did not recognise.
            Kummerspect         Haboob        3Q       Trustafarians      The Other (99)
How very strange, what's that all about?
    Then I noticed perhaps my life is not as bad as I thought. I went to see 'A Murder is Announced (Agatha Christie) at the local theatre (I do reviews in exchange for free tickets for a local free paper) Very, long winded it was and dated (3 hours) but shouldn't moan, as they say, beggers can't be choosers. (The leading man, Dean Gaffney crashed his car on his way home, not wearing his seatbelt, naughty boy.)
    Saw a preview of Cloud Atlas another night, courtesy of The Times newspaper vouchers. ( Us old uns aren't totally daft you know.) Very clever, very long, another three hour session. At both sessions I had lost the plot, literally after no more than fifteen minutes. Quite worrying, is it me; on second thoughts, don't tell me! Also went to see Derby County perform, they won 3-0 so not a bad week, all in all. 
    Two more events caught the eye. Better they had not happened. Shocking, tragic, horrific but for once I choose not to ignore. A middle aged man was to stand trial accused of sexual offences against a horse (pony). He was this week found dead at home. By chance I know much detail concerning this particular case; I wish I didn't. In a way this man's life was all over the moment he was caught and sent for trial. I am not going to dwell on the case. Suffice to say this man had to be very, very disturbed. I expressed compassion for this man and his plight; note, compassion not sympathy. I found no-one who agreed with me. And I do not even claim to be a Christian. Is there no-one out there who felt for this man. Oh, and please spare me the Biblical quotations.
    You will here much concerning Derby in the next weeks. Mick Philpott and his wife are in court accused of the manslaughter of their six children. He lived in a semi detached house; with his wife; with his children; plus his mistress, her childen by him and one other. All six children perished in a fire allegedly started by Michael Philpott his wife and one other. Again the bare bones of the case. On occasions like this Derby is indeed a small town and everyone allegedly knows everything; sometimes it is very close to home in more ways than one.
Sometimes nothing seems to happen in our little lives and we almost crave excitement. Beware, life can deliver in ways we did not visualise. 21st century Derby, I wonder what my grandchildren will think when they too are old and grey.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

You Wouldn't Like My Style, Mr Gove.

    I have a daughter who teaches. And she is good; a fact acknowledged by all colleagues, not just a proud dad. Recently she was 'Ofsteded' and was 'marked down' or whatever its called because she deviated from a lesson plan. Now this is only the bare bones of the story . But it has since been explained to me by several 'associates' as to how teaching has changed since my day.
    I taught in secondary education for almost twenty years. For various reasons I was thought of as 'good with the bottom end'. Referred to thenadays politely as 'Remedials' and less politely all sorts of  names by some. (I did also teach some so-called top classes in case anyone wonders.)
    The following comes to mind when I think of the penchant for rigid set patterns and unbending formality; think on Mr Gove. Is it as bad as it sounds, dear teachers; please tell me. I suspect I would not last long in modern secondary education.
    Four lessons from my obviously misspent teaching career. It may have been called Lifeskills. There again it might have been deemed PSE. (Such 'subjects' were often taught under sufferance and changed their names regularly. I loved the job in the main but eventually decided I'd had enough one  Thursday afternoon, period five. But that's another story.)
    One. A morning spent in court. Great fun in some ways.Some of the group had far more experience of court than I had. Hopefully those who hadn't learnt something. To be recognised and waved to from someone in the dock (ex-pupil) strange, sobering, embarrassing, educational, take your pick. 
    Two. Listening, with rapt attention to ex-pupil Jane aged eighteen, a pupil three years previously. Two little children in tow, an expert so young on the perils of life as a single parent. Listening in the same class Barbara and Mavis. Who. at the end of the afternoon, Friday, will travel to Skegness with older boyfriends and stay in mothers static caravan, unsupervised. Travelling home on Sunday evening and on Monday morning sit in Mr Stevens English Literature class. Where we will all study the idealistic love on offer in Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice.
    Three. Mark, ex-pupil, professional session musician, aged twenty-five. In a steady relationship, one child, unmarried. Enthralls the class by playing his guitar with gusto. Less entralling tales of a professional musicians life. Of being restrained and arrested in a German concert hall toilet whilst 'injecting'. By the way, Mark was not injecting drugs; certainly not illegal drugs, he is a diabetic, obviously not immediately apparent to German security staff. Nevertheless Mark made good money, certainly compared to a teachers salary. What a pity it was all embezzled by a dishonest agent whilst Mark played with a group on his frequent soiries in Europe.
    Four. Craig, born with Achondroplasia (a form of short limbed dwarfism). Difficult for him, Craig was not the greatest scholar the school has ever known. But a school career survived with fortitude and humour. Shortly after Craig left school he ran away with a circus when it visited Derby. As was the case with the pupils already mentioned we kept in touch Several years later I sat in the staffroom eating sandwiches; routine sandwiches; routine for a routine event. When out of the blue, so to speak. down the school drive appeared a large circus lorry, complete with equally large trailer. Craig fullfilling my request to visit school and tell it 'how it is' on leaving school. Craig, you were the biggest and best in school that day! 
    Just four memories of many that spring to. mind. I have no regrets and make no apologies. But I suspect today's rigidity in teaching would not be for me; and it's more the pity.