Tuesday 16 December 2014

Who said in a Country Existence Nothing Ever Happens?

    On the wall of my 'bar' (granddad's restroom, an old man's folly, the old man's retreat) call it what you will, there is a brass plate. It reads 'In 1765, on this spot, nothing happened'. Meant as a joke, at times it makes me wonder. As most of my readers know, I live, not for the first time in Derby, England, population around 250,000. I was born in the area, went to school roughly in the  area and likewise worked at various set ups over a number of years. An unimportant, anonymous sort of existence surrounded by many of similar 'working class ilk'. Surrounded by people, knee deep in people; except for one spell of four years.
    We, my wife and I lived for four years in Lincolnshire, in one of only four houses next to a farm and house. The house stood empty, we spotted it driving around prior to attending college. (The farm employed sixteen men before the war, now three only.)  No street lights and one bus a week.(Saturdays.) No gas main and no mains water (We did in fact have water from a tap but it failed miserably whenever a nearby golf course was watered.) Heat was from brick interior storage heaters (needed at least twelve hour notification of change in weather) plus paraffin delivered for paraffin heaters and coal fires if you could afford the coal. ( A Swedish girl stayed one weekend. I noticed she never took her coat off!)
  Television a godsend, no ariel needed, TV wired into metal window frame. Rats in the outhouse, mice heard chomping sweets indoors. Resulting in acquisition of cat, resulting in kittens. Dogs appeared spasmodically belonging to Irish itinerants. Collected when they moved on. True Romany gypsies plus horse drawn home stayed a distant apart from their travelling Irish compatriots. A generally unusual existence, but surely uneventful and thus boring? Nope!
    We had usually six neighbours, never more than eight. You fell out with anyone at your peril. One weekend Paulette arranged to go shopping in a nearby town with Bob and Alice. (Not their real names for reasons that will become clear.) Only at the last minute Paulette wasn't able to go; so the     foray went ahead, minus Paulette but plus Eric, recently returned from a spell incarcerated at Her Majesties Pleasure in a not too distant borstal. Quite influential was son Eric, so much so than a shopping trip became a distinctly organised shoplifting trip. A not very successful shoplifting trip, and all were 'nabbed' so to speak. Friend Alice was bailed fairly quickly, the menfolk were not so lucky. I seem to remember collecting Bob from prison at the end of a not too long prison sentence at a
non too distant prison. Ex- Sunday school teacher Paulette finding the whole episode distinctly mesmerising!
    Hare coursers on a Sunday Morning were another spectacle not available in our previous 'life', the participants (invariably travellers) intensely feared and hated in equal measure by most country folk.
    The blood thirsty antics of the shotgun brigade shooting pheasant, again on a Sunday morn. Birds so stupid, locally reared, that cleared the guns and landed not too far away, to await another salvo another day. The whole affair  reminiscent of the Alamo.
    One Christmas we were burgled whist we were away. As was our neighbour, 'Pop' an elderly farm labourer and Bob and Alice. Pop's mattress was destroyed in an apparent search for cash. Bob and
Alice's gas meter was raided but the 'burglar' was apparently a kind soul. He  fed coins through the meter so that Bob and Alice would have a fuel supply in what was after all the festive season! We seemed to have lost nothing in the raid; I was after all a very poor student at the time!
    On Boxing Day a visitor with two suitcases knocked at the farm requesting the use of a telephone to phone for a taxi. The kind farmhand, realising the difficulty the visitor was in, ran him to the station in the town. The burglaries had not been discovered at this stage! It turns out the 'burglar' had in fact been staying with Bob and Alice, having nowhere else to go. Country folk may not always be the brightest, but kindness is seldom lacking.
     One final bizarre memory stays in the mind from our stay in the country. One quiet, unexceptional  
weekend, (weren't they all) friend Alice knocked on our door to show us a perplexing letter she had received that Saturday morning. From a friend of some years standing, it stated that, by the time Alice would receive this letter, the writer would be deceased. Alice showed us the letter; it shared the dilemma without suggesting a response. In a way 'what to do' was there in front of us; we did nothing. The body of the young man, who incidentally was addicted to a type of cough mixture available at the time was found in the week ahead. Did Alice, Paulette and I do wrong by doing nothing; I've often wondered.
    We carry fond memories of our stay in the countryside. Both our children were born in this period of our lives. A special time in many ways; forever remembered.

Monday 1 December 2014

Grumpy, are You Surprised?

    They don't call me Grumpy for nothing, but, being a football fan, the last week or so has been enough to try a saint's patience. In particular the antics of Malky Mackay and Dave Whelan. Now Mr Mackay was for a period of time the manager of Cardiff City Football Club, whose owner happens to be Vincent Tan, a Malaysian businessman. Mr MacKay is highly rated as a football manager by many football followers. Having fallen out with his manager, Mr Tan, Mr Mackay made two mistakes. One, making derogatory remarks via tweets to an ex-colleague, comments of a racist, sexist and homophobic nature and two, inadvertently exposing his views to public scrutiny. Unsurprisingly Mr Tan took offence so Mr Mackay had to go.
    Fast forward to Mr Whelan, chairman, owner, main man at Wigan Football Club. Who has recently appointed Mr McKay as the new manager of his beloved Wigan FC. A brave decision or foolhardy, time will tell. Mr Whelan has created a situation of his own making that leaves him open to all sorts of emotive comments that does neither him nor Wigan favours. In defending Mr Mackay Mr Whelan adopted a curious, prehistoric style; Mr Whelan is after all seventy seven years of age. (I am seventy five; I hope I am not stuck in ages past, time moves on Mr Whelan.)
'Anyone who says he has never referred to a Chinese person as a Chink is a liar' says Mr Whelan. (You speak for yourself, Mr Whelan.) Just one example of Mr Whelan's archaic style. Perhaps he realises he has created a problem for himself and Wigan Football club by his antiquated way of thinking.
    I appreciate many of you will not be interested in the goings on at a football club. Fair enough, except this whole sordid affair highlights a problem within twenty first century Britain. We often cling to the past; we are apprehensive regarding the future. The trouble with nostalgia, its too often a case of viewing through rose tinted spectacles. I KNOW the Black and White Minstrels were highly regarded television viewing. But did it really do any favours to coloured people. Did it remotely suggest equality for black and white. I KNOW we had a shoe polish called 'nigger brown'; I KNOW some had a dog called 'Nigger. ( Guy Gibson's of Dambuster fame called his dog Nigger.) But did that make it right. Most of us have moved on. We used words, phrases that offended others and basically we did not care. The word PAKI for instance; we KNOW it offends so most of us don't use it. And here is the clue regarding the past. IF A WORD OR PHRASE OFFENDS, for whatever reason, DONT USE IT. It really is as simple as that. Whatever we thought, said or did in the past is irrelevant. And if Mr Whelan can't see that, what a sad old man to be in charge of anything; watch this space!
    Is it the time of year that is making so many of us miserable? Is it the weather? Is it the dark nights? Or is it the fact that so many, especially the rich amongst us are spoilt, 'not nice' individuals who get so much attention that detracts from all who are worthy of attention.
    Andrew Mitchell. a millionaire Tory Member of Parliament fails to get his own way as he leaves Parliament on his bicycle. So he subjects a policeman to a tirade of foul, abusive language. The Sun newspaper reports on the incident, Mitchell sues the newspaper and loses the case.
    David Mellor, broadcaster and Ex-Tory Cabinet Minister subjects a taxi driver to pompous, foul abuse. In both cases they had given similar abuse to people going about their job. Ordinary people whom Mitchell and Mellor consider are BELOW their 'station' in life.  And both shameful individuals found it necessary to point out HOW IMPORTANT THEY BOTH ARE! How enlightening! In both cases it shows how insecure, Mitchell and Mellor really are; how little self-worth they actually feel, truth be known.
    I'm not normally grumpy, honest! So I looked for something that is a little more uplifting than silly football folk, pompous politicians and bragging broadcasters. And I remember reading something along the lines that happy people, those with happy dispositions I presume they meant, live longer. (Can anyone enlighten me as to where I read it? Would I know if my memory lapse is the onset of Dementia. Do you know if its Dementia or will I be the last to know!)
My life is well below that of the rich, famous or important. But I am in the main happy; an example of the little things that make me happy.
   I have four delightful grandchildren. Ten year old Tommy seems to have theatrical leanings and recently attended an audition. We as a family are all ignorant of such matters. The majority of those attending seemed to be 'professionals', accompanied by proud, knowledgable parents or stage school 'types'; self assured, adults and 'would be performers'. You can only do your best and Tommy gave it his all; I was both proud and pleased. And, low and behold, Tommy passed the audition. Well done young man, I'm sure you will make a super Munchkin!

Monday 17 November 2014

Open Your Eyes, What Do You See?

     I had the honour of showing five delightful Irishmen around my home town recently. There are John and Shamus, Liam and Noel and brother-in-law Tom, Tom Jones that is. There are two firemen, a postman and two professional singers; no, Tom, Tom Jones that is, is not one of the singers. Some live in County Wicklow, one lives in London and one lives near Nottingham; and they all know Dublin. Confused, how do you think I felt! They would appear to have a profound intellectual interest in and appreciation of all things historical; plus less intellectually, they love eating. drinking and charity shops!
    My hometown is Derby (England). Hands up who's ever been there? Hands up, what Derby's famous for? Who's ever even heard of the place; or could find it on a map? I have often asked similar questions on my travels, seldom receiving very convincing answers. So, from the top of my head, here goes.
    Derby, home of Royal Crown Derby; Rolls Royce Aero Engines, anything to do with railways and, built in more recent times, Toyota motor factory. Home to Derby County Football Club (the ground now called IPro Stadium, the club previously housed at The Baseball Ground.) According to some the most haunted city in England, Florence Nightingale and that's all that comes to mind at the moment. No matter, it defeats the object if I use the internet to refresh my mind. With all this in mind I took my Irish friends on a somewhat impromptu 'tour' and this is how our day went! Plus it was an education for me too!
     We walked through what was, when I was a lad, Victoria Street, the town's main street. (I rode regally in a new, 'bog standard' wheelchair, an education in itself and bloody uncomfortable.) Only now the town is dominated by a huge shopping complex, the Intu Centre, around six hundred yards away.
Resulting in Victoria Street and surrounds being bereft of shoppers, looking forlorn and unattractive, discouraging in the extreme. Alongside which stands derelict Duckworth Square, abandoned at least ten years ago, welcome to the City of Derby!
    We visited the town's museum. We examined an exhibition by an Irishman, Denis O'Connor.       . We saw Derby's own Joseph Wright paintings; we saw also a 'mummy' three thousand years old, PLUS the mummified cat I so loved as a child all those years ago; some things never change!
    In the Silk Mill we observed 'a work in progress'. The oldest factory in the world, it is to house objects that show Derby's place in the industrial world. Aero engines or railway exhibits for instance.     The museum is also 'a work in progress'. Particularly noticeable are bright, eager, in the main young volunteers in all manner of occupation who are keenly ensuring at least some progress is made. It is blatantly obvious that money, or the lack of it is making life difficult if not impossible in any project remotely deemed 'cultural'. It looks like its 'Lottery/Heritage funding or nothing. I am pleased our visitors saw attempts at preserving our heritage for our children. Plus the army of unpaid, keen cheerful volunteers deserve our thanks, if not the government or the councils cash.
    With the pursuit of historical knowledge in mind we also visited three hostelries! The Bell, an ancient pub in Sadler Gate. A pub with a so chequered a recent history that it was shut by the police for some considerable time. Very, very old,  I viewed the state of the top floor out of the window and wondered if it would refrain from collapsing before we finished our drinks. Oh ye of little faith, Kenneth, my Irish friends thought it 'the bees knees' or whatever they say in Ireland!
Similarly The Dolphin public house, reputedly the oldest pub in Derby was received with due Irish reverence. And the third 'drinking experience' we encountered was The Standing Order. An ex-bank, a Wetherspoons establishment that is very impressive; its ceiling is particularly so. Coupled with excellent food it was a supurb choice. We also called briefly in Bennetts, probably the oldest departmental store in Derby. We were too late to comprehensively view the goods on display but the young female assistants were much admired! Thus ended a glorious day. My friends despatched me in a yellow cab and they returned to their base in Attenborough.
    An ordinary place, Derby, made special for the day by extraordinary people. Was it John Howard Payne who said 'Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home' Mind you, I've seen these words also attributed to Frank Baum's ' Wonderful Wizard of Oz' AND to  Bridget Carson amongst others so take your pick!
    Humorous, patient, lively in the extreme, you were all excellent ambassadors for Ireland. Thanks chaps, I hope you all enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

NHS (No Hope Surely)

    I've been behind with everything lately, including this blog. You know the feeling! A combination of things, I fear. Old age creeping on, as the bishop said to the actress. (Only I'm not sure if it was a bishop or someone else. Which really proves the point regarding failing sensibilities!) Or is it the pain caused by  trying to meet all the things life throws at us, retired people included. I hear much talk concerning pressure. the word stress is frequently mentioned today. Is life really more pressurised today I wonder; it certainly feels it! 
    The older I get, the less I know.  The world, certainly my world gathers momentum. It is taking off and there's not much I can do about it. Apart from running for the hills I've got to stay and cope as best I can. I strongly suspect much, not all, but a fair amount nevertheless of our problems stem from modern technology. Very clever, at times life changing but all too often a pain in the backside. May I explain the reasons for my negativity.    
    Now I don't own a mobile phone plus the blackberry?  in my car has never been connected. I can turn our 'smartarse' television on and off but have mastered nothing else on the thing. Just three examples of my life in the year 2014. Everyone else copes, understands this technological age and leaves this old codger out on a limb, so to speak. You must be joking. Examples from that most revered of institutions, the NHS give food for thought.
    One, my wife has serious health problems but copes with cheerful determination. She sat one day in the local, up to date, state of the art hospital. The examination was going well until the consultant mentioned her brother's recent operation; a non existing operation! My wife was quickly despatched to another room, another consultant. The second consultants remarks that my wife got two for the price of one was witty but in a way quite disturbing.
   Two, the hospital prescribing, thus duplicating the same drugs that I was already taking was potentially dangerous but it was some time ago. Plus the politicians assure us daily that things could not be better in October 2014.
    And three, I should have been in Birmingham last week, booking made to see another consultant, at a hospital unknown to me concerning neurology. Only it was nothing to do with me. Right insurance number, right name on the letter except that it was nothing to do with me, wrong person altogether. Took some sorting out, not for the first time. Quite scary really, almost certainly human error concerning computers and human operatives. How many times is your life interfered with because of computers, or is it just me? (Lest anyone think I don't rate the NHS, not true. If you are in any doubt as to that most noble of institutions, watch 24 Four Hours in A and E on the television at the moment. Amazing and very humbling.)
 Since I last posted time moves on, unstoppable. This week in the news is the Virgin rocket crashing. Cause unknown but you wonder if computer errors are at any stage involved. 
    It is my birthday this Sunday, God willing. Seventy five years young! I see the changes and I have seen. The end of the Second World War and the formation of The EU for good or bad. Colour television, half electric cars. Births, marriages and deaths, notably the death of President Kennedy. (I will do the passing years justice in a future post sometime. In the meantime, anyone like to tell us the most memorable five things from their lifetime.)
'Stop the world, I want to get off' sang Anthony Newley. I feel the same sometimes! But life goes on and I don't suppose computers will go away, they're here to stay. You imagine someone born on Sunday. I wonder what they will experience in the next seventy five years? 

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Eyeball 3D Tattoo - Most Tattooed Man

Only the Brave go There!

    Paul the plasterers name came up recently (see the previous post) in connection particularly with the subject of body piercing and tattoos. I confess I had no real comprehension as to the bile, the sheer depth of feeling the subject brings out, sometimes in even the mildest of people. An untattooed friend of mine becomes almost  apoplectic when the subject is mentioned.
    I personally have no strong opinions on the subject. But I realised I reacted when I noticed a young lady in a television studio had, there is no other way to put it 'A ring through her nose.' Was it the fact I did not expect facial adornment in a television studio? Is it a class thing; a gender issue perhaps. Do we view a tattooed ' native from the jungle' in a different way to, say, a person living living next door in the western world. There is obviously a difference in attitude and expectation. Friend Paul is not tattooed below his wrist or above his neck. Paul goes into other people's house in the course of his work. He realises to be a so-called 'affront' to people in their own homes is not inclined to suggest a competence in plastering. (No matter that Paul is a very fine plasterer indeed.) During our conversation Paul made an interesting comment. Asked what his tattoos and facial rings etc 'say' to other people, he suggested they are saying 'Leave me alone.' An interesting answer. I make no personal interpretation of his answer.  
    Next comes the reasons for our behaviour. Many of the young rebel against their elders. Paul's
upbringing was severe in the extreme, but he maintains his 'adornments are not an act of rebellion and I believe him. He is an intelligent, articulate, non aggressive individual ; (though not always so in his younger years), an ardent motor cycle man though this in itself is not a reason for leanings towards self adornment.
    I choose not to wear a wedding ring, but for no reason that I remember. In fact I wear no jewellery, again for no remembered reason. I've never really been into fashion, though I once owned a 'ratting cap' for a while! (When I was a window dresser in a 'Teddy Boy' shop we were broken into. The thief dropped his cap. Being young I decided he must have been a man of the world so his head-ware became my head-ware; how easily are the young influenced!) But I digress.
    Tattoos fall into two distinct groups. Those that are done by following a shape, design by way of a transfer and those that are created individually, each one unique according to the customer and the tattooist's skill and personal preference. The latter tattoos often show a skill that is awesomely beautiful, whether you do or don't like tattoos. Paul's leg is a work of art, don't you agree! (My blog is not X certificated; You can only guess at the tattoos covering the rest of his body! I have been writing this blog for all of six years. This is the first time I have written concerning a man's leg. Definitely a blog of the highest cultural value, don't you agree!)  
   IF, only IF we choose our path through life, with or without adornment, I suggest we have a better chance of making 'right' choices if we leave some decisions until we are of a mature age. Might I suggest the average male at least knows very little until he is at least forty!
    I expected , when I started this little piece to have come to some conclusions. The only thing I will say is the subject brings out strong comments for and against. I wonder how many people actually 'see' the person  'behind' the tattoo? I find that the more I study, the older I get, the less I know! Are you the same, friends? And that goes for all aspects of life, not just concerning tattoos and body piercing. It's no co-incidence that my favourite answer nowadays to every conceivable query is 'Ah well, that's life!' Too easy an answer; a sign of old age? Maybe.
Are you tattooed; have you the baggage from a misspelt youth? Do tell!

(See also blog post dated 27th May 2012)

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Image Says it All; Or Does It.

     I got a few raised eyebrows when I suggested there was a faint smell of formaldehyde emitted from a pensioners group I saw in Hawes on my travels. It was 'tongue in cheek' but looking back it made me think. Have I, like the majority of the population, got a pre-conceived idea as to what old people are like. By old I reckon I am thinking about 'grown ups'. This is the way our children, or grandchildren  for that matter think. They, teenagers live in a world of their own. If you don't believe me, ask a teenager what they think about 'snogging' in particular old people 'snogging', grandma and granddad for instance. 'Opinions will probably vary from 'embarrassing to disgusting'. And the idea of 'sex' and old people, 'ugh', don't go there! The point I am trying to make is that we have an image in our mind of what people should 'do' what they should 'be'; and this image, this picture is often closely related to  physical age. So what these images, these pictures without us realising it,  determine the way we live.
    A case in point is the question of transport. Most elderly individuals drive cars, not ride motorbikes for obvious reasons. (When did you last see a motorbike and sidecar.) Many years ago, in my youth men aspired to owning a Ford Popular or an Austin Seven. The man who had 'truly' arrived, usually late in life, if at all, proudly owned a Rover.
   Paul the plasterer is not of pensionable age. No teenager either admittedly, but old enough to make the mature, staid, unexciting choices prevalent of so many middle aged males. Not so Paul, his choice of transport is a  900cc Triumph Speeedmaster, an awesome machine full of sound and fury. Complete with a number plate suggesting a mischievous sense of humour cheerfully acceptable in the so often over serious western world. Paul is indeed an unusual individual; more of this in a later post.
John is of pensionable age, no doubt at all. But like Paul, John is young at heart. John is a retired Rolls Royce engineer, brilliant, knowledgeable, innovative. RR produce some of the best aero engines in the world. Most of the workers are proud to work there; reliable, sensible individuals who give the company their whole working lives. I reckon it takes a certain type of person to work for RR. (I was taken to RR concerning employment when I left school. It was immediately obviously to a non too self disciplined schoolboy this place was not for him. I often wondered, do RR set on certain type of person, or do they BECOME a certain type of person. I went instead to work for F W Woolworth!!)
    RR car park is full of Fords, Audis, Nissans; sensible if sometimes uninspiring choices. John's choice of transport is a Bettson. A trike, a three wheeled motorbike rebuilt by himself and using two Hillman Imp engines. An engineering feat beyond ordinary mortals.  And to see John and his delightful wife astride this monster of a machine is a joy to behold.
    A year or so ago our life became more difficult for several reasons. Being of definite pensionable age my wife and I decided to buy a car to lighten the gloom. ('My wife and I', sounds very royal, except that the Queen has never bought a car in her life!) What do the young look for in a car we pondered.
    Something sporty for a start; plus 'go faster stripes. Darkened windows (reminiscent of a drug dealers car),  a spoiler and a host of decals. Oh, and bucket seats, a definite requirement for the sporty young male. So we bought a sporty Seat Ibiza, an FR model. Plus go faster stripes, darkened windows, a spoiler, decals and bucket seats. All set off by my beloved registration reminding of Derby County, 0009 RAM. To see young sporty types faces as my wife and I overtake is in itself worth the purchase. (Complete with 'shade;, Grumpy Old Ken, of course, not the other whizz kids!)
On the rear of the car is the following; my wife is not so keen but I couldn't resist it.
'This car is owned and driven by geriatrics. Why should the young 'uns have all the fun!
    They say today's eighty year olds are yesterdays sixty year olds. Some also say men never grow up! What do you, dear readers think? Whatever your age or gender, tell me, do you have things you hang on to from the past. Have you got ways of reminding you of when you were younger. There's nothing wrong with that, I reckon. Why SHOULD we act our age if we don't want to!

(This post has taken me a long time. I 'lost' the content, how I've no idea! Perhaps it's a sign of getting old!)

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Beware, Geriatrics on The Loose.

    Too short a break, yet long enough to acquire fond memories. A monotonous but necessary two hour trek up the A1, a short run away from the fume filled horror of 21st century motorway style motoring and we are in the delights of The Dales.
    A visit 'on speck' As they say around here; always an element of risk involved. For the first time in many years a stay in a 'B and B', somewhat of a 'pot luck' experience. Our apprehension soon evaporated as we met a delightful young Czechoslovakian couple 'in charge ' of our arrival at Eastfield Lodge, Leyburn, suggested by the local information centre then meeting with our hosts, Vic and Thurza Campbell, again delightfully friendly, accommodating and helpful. You know how you 'tune in'' to some people, I immediately felt at ease with this couple. Plus their efforts to keep 'customers' happy were immediately apparent. Paulette, my wife is a coeliac. (Gluten is a no-no.) Gluten free sausages appeared on the breakfast menu; PLUS gluten free black pudding! Gluten free biscuits also appeared in the bedroom; a delightful, caring touch much appreciated. And the frequent cakes plus sweet jars full of goodies always freely on offer was a delightful touch. By the way, this is NOT a paid advertisement for Eastfield Lodge. It is probably not the cheapest  "B and B in Leyburn but I bet you it's the best!
    Three days, three trips out. three memories to take home. 
    Leyburn, small market town and home of The Wensleydale Railway. We parked in a yard outside the station as an engine and carriages slowed to a halt.  Somewhat taken aback, we enquired as to procedures for travelling on the train. '"Hop on,' said the man. Bemused I explained that we only enquiring  and of any case we hadn't locked the car.  'Go and do it' said the  man 'We'll wait for you.' So we duly did so and 'hopped' on his train! Now when did your British Rail train WAIT for you as you commuted up to London!
   Our train journey was, well, different. We travelled down the line to Leeming Bar, and up the line to Redmire; or was it up to Leeming Bar, and down to Redmire! (Passing through Leyburn, again, where we stopped for a dinner break!) The service is run by volunteers; middle aged men playing at trains. Evidently a diesel train does one mile to a gallon of fuel. In the sidings at one point were several VERY decrepit engines, plus numerous equally decrepit carriages in need of restoration. I don't know the strength of the volunteer workforce but it's not enough unless they all live to one hundred! Good luck chaps, keep smiling!
    Hawes is another charming little market town. My walking days are over, certainly for the present. so I sat in the car and 'people watched' whilst Paulette explored. It has dawned on me over the past year or two as to how many old codgers, aged persons, senior citizens, call them what you will there are; certainly in Britain. The children are back at school (who said hurray) the sun is shining so 'the not so young rule'. (They say the sun shines on the righteous, they also say The devil looks after his own!
    I watched a small coach unload its cargo of genial geriatrics. (some were  not so genial; I wonder if the elderly moan any more than other age groups?) Some with walking frames at the ready. Not exactly sartorial elegance; anoraks and mackintoshes at the ready; a boiling hot day and we haven't seen a drop of rain in over six days.
    The bus in fact stopped within fifteen yards of a public house. A faint whiff of formaldehyde filled the air as the passengers alighted. One couple walked the thirty or so paces to the pub, went inside, coming out two minutes later with their drinks. They then proceeded to sit on a bench until the bus returned approximately one hour later. Ah, the lure of Hawes; no matter, whatever turns you on. And not wishing to be unkind, perhaps, like me, their walking days are over! (Do tour buses have toilets nowadays? If not I hope the couples 'plumbing systems' are better than mine!)
    Reeth, a village rather than a town. Picturesque, quaint, calming, certainly on a sunny day. Though I don't think the cafe we visited was 'with it' compared to its Derby competition; certainly not in the gluten-free department. Nothing, though the man behind the counter did offer my wife some 'soap' which she declined, Paulette muttering 'What do I want soap for' as she came out of the shop. Only the poor man had offered 'soup' not 'soap', obvious when you think about it. I put this down to my wife's advancing age; my own grasp of reality is far superior I mused. Until reminded of my own 'fau pas' the previous evening. I had had great difficulty in driving at dusk, bemoaning the fact as to how fast the nights were 'drawing in'. I drove slower and slower, finding the oncoming darkness amidst the trees. ominously dangerous. That is, until my wife pointed out that driving in failing light wearing dark, dark sunglasses is not a wise thing to do!
    We enjoyed our trip to The Dales. Good company, good food, a change of scenery, what more could you want. 

Tuesday 2 September 2014

As William Nearly Once Said, 'Much Ado About Nothing in Particular''.

    Made a visit to Home Bargains. Always favourite when life's a bit fraught; guaranteed to lift your spirits!
    Saw an old gentleman being 'instructed' by his daughter concerning pushing the trolley. I commiserated with him, 'we' geriatrics are used to the instructions of the young! (I talk to all and sundry when I'm out and about. Folk can always tell you to 'bugger off' but seldom do so. Thus you meet many interesting people. (People are far more interesting than inanimate objects!)
It turns out 'Edward' is Polish and a surprisingly sprightly eighty seven years of age. Edward settled in this country in 1947 and had apparently served with the Polish Air Force in the latter part of the war. (and was injured on occasion) He would be very young to do do but I have no reason to doubt his words. After the war he was a tailor by trade for many years. His mind was lively, and he was small in stature like myself. We have also in common,  including evidently the necessity of taking around twenty tablets per day to keep us alive! Edward, old friend, I salute you. Two old codgers together; ignored by the scurrying young passing by Rather useless we are now, but to hell with it, we've both done our bit for the world!
    Fifteen minutes out of my life, an unimportant fifteen minutes but interesting nevertheless. 'Look, listen and learn.' Even in such an innocuous place as Home Bargains. The couple who passed by, for instance. The young man whose conversation revealed that 'He needs to be careful, otherwise he will be 'done' for receiving and be sent down again'. How intriguing is it listening to other people's conversations!' But how frustrating when you only get half the story.
    Neither is Home Bargains in the best part of town, Not long ago, in the car park a young foreign gentleman' was trying to sell me a rather modern mobile phone for twenty pounds. I haven't got a mobile but manage quite well without one, thank you very much. Plus I bet you someone in the pub round the corner is wondering where he mislaid his phone!
    Interesting, the Home Bargain set up. A discount chain, founded by Tom Morris from Liverpool approximately forty years ago. It now consist of over four hundred shops, employing over 10,000 people, turning over a billion pounds a year.
    I think back to my Woolworth days. I worked for them from 1957 to 1959. At that time they had close to  one thousand shops but it had taken them many years to get to that size. Then in later years, bang and Woolworth's were no more. Wouldn't have happened if I'd stayed with them. (Only kidding!)
    I have many, many memories of those years. Crazy, mad years. An innocent abroad; a seventeen year old boy amidst many older, wiser, experienced women. I wince at the memories yet wryly smile. Memory of ' He 'ad me over the kitchen table before he 'ad his tea' springs to mind.' Lewd, rude, often crude yet 'ladies' whose presence was far more valuable to my education than my often boring years as a Grammar School schoolboy.
    Ruminating, (what a lovely word) I have realised, often that my mind, and presumably the minds of others have stored within, millions and millions of memories covering life from our early days.      I'm not a technical type; but I can just about appreciate that a computer stores information on what's called a hard drive and my mind is similar to the hard drive of a computer. The following information is NOT from my memory bank. Consequently I only HALF understand it all!
 Its all measured in bits (bytes?) Evidently there are around a 1000 terabytes (?). Around 1,000,000 gigabytes storage capacity. Someone else, far cleverer than me reckons the brain is capable of holding over a trillion gigabytes of memory. BUT whatever, its not an endless figure. Thats why, presumably unimportant stuff gets lost/deleted sometimes. All a long, long way from a visit to Home Bargains!
    MOST, not all of my brain is still working. Whilst that is the case, I will continue to trawl for long lost memories. It amuses me, I hope for you likewise. And a happy Christmas to you all! Its only just around the corner. At least to QVC that is the case. They have periodic offerings of Christmas goods and have done so since JUNE! They also have a compete day of Christmas advertising on the 25th of each month. Life is often mad but always interesting.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Punch and Judy Show at London Covent Garden May Fayre

Is it me or is the Whole World Going Mad?

    Do you ever see the news on television, or read the papers and conclude that the whole world's going mad; or is it just me. And you're not supposed to say 'mad' any more, it's not politically correct. Can we say barmy instead, you tell me. It all reminds me of my old favourite,  Arthur English. 'Stop the world' he used to say, 'Open the cage.' Well something like that! I know exactly what he meant.
    Here in dear old Derby they had a Punch and Judy show in a big shopping complex. Great, Punch and Judy has been going for three hundred and fifty years. And a good time was had by all. Except that a lady representing  some society or other complained bitterly about the violence; particularly the domestic violence. Granted Punch was evil personified. He threw the baby around and abused his wife. But surely Punch and Judy shows don't glorify domestic violence; and he was after all arrested by the policeman.
    An audience, including children KNOW Punch is Evil. I would doubt children would be influenced negatively by this type of theatre. I'm not going to labour the point, but there were many letters in the local paper, The Derby Telegraph; very few supported the opinion that Punch and Judy shows should be banned. What do you think?
    Derby has been hit by the recession, times have been hard for many and financial cuts seem never ending. The local council is aware of how bad things are, so they tell us. They have decided to find out what the good people of Derby REALLY need. (Are there elections coming up I wonder.) So in their wisdom they have brought in consultants to find out what we REALLY need or want. And the cost, good people of Derby? £400,000! £400,000 that could have been spent on OAP clubs or homes;  on the young, on our decrepit roads or cutting the long grass at the side of our roads. We don't need highly paid consultants to search out what we REALLY need. Less spending on banal surveys for starters would help.
    Yet our problems are tiny when compared globally. The whole world seems to be at war. Syria, Iran, the Ukraine see violence daily; war brings horrors that are almost beyond belief. Starvation, the loss of home, mass killing, all are present, often in the name of religion. Yet I doubt that we think of the world beyond our little existences for long. Most of us are selfish by nature, mores the pity. So we live almost in a bubble, not necessarily all of our making. And its the little things in OUR lives that mainly catch the eye. Little things that reinforce the idea that the world's going mad. For instance I watch QVC on occasion. What a sad person I have become! On QVC they have make things out of cards. Mindbendingly dull but whatever turns you on and all that. And do you know they were making this week? Christmas cards, for goodness sake! and they've been doing them since June!
    All these 'happenings' in the world were starting to get me down and I didn't know what to do about them. Then I went with Paulette to shop at Lidyl, parked up and realised the answer was staring me in the face. The Lidl where we shop is situated in Normanton, reputedly the roughest part of Derby but we love it. I sit in the car whist Paulette shops, not through idleness, honest, but my mobility is not good. 
    I  tend to 'people watch', always entertaining, often educational. Ten paces from my car stood a young man, around thirty years of age; unexceptional, someone who you would not normally give a second glance. He appeared deep in thought; certainly in a world of his own, oblivious of others. He proceeded to extract a 'spliff' from his pocket, studied it, put it in his mouth and lit it. For the next five minutes he smoked contentedly if somewhat vacantly; he was oblivious to passers by, of my gaze, of the world beyond the pavement on which he stood. He produced a second 'spliff' from his pocket, lighting it with the tiny but still lit end of his first, very thin 'spliff'. Finally finishing his second 'smoke' he smiled to himself and he was gone, perhaps never to be seen again.
    Whist finishing off this post my juke box played loudly in the background. The unforgettable Harry Lauder i think accompanied my efforts. And the words of his immortal song rang out loud and clear; 'Keep Right On to the end of the Road'. Now there's a thought!


Thursday 7 August 2014

Driving or Driven have You ever been in charge

  The world news recently included the possibility, nay probability that some cars in the future would be driverless. The technology is already here. Vehicles have been tested for thousands of miles. No steering wheel, all done by sensors via satellites. The details are almost unimportant, like it or not, change waits for no man.
     This brings possibilities that are beyond our comprehension. (Try the idea out on friends or acquaintances and step back to avoid the vitriolic comments.) Many of us, especially males consider ourselves wonderful behind a wheel. The idea of 'competing' with a driverless car on the motorway, 'driven' by a blind man is not easily accepted! Fancy driving through my hometown Derby in a car with no steering wheel, avoiding inebriated jaywalkers, the idea is fascinating. Who gets the blame when you run over someone, you or the car;  or the satellite in charge? And does this technology mean you can sleep on long journeys and arrive at your destination refreshed?
    I can understand driverless trains, but they run on rails. Plus I find aeroplanes amazing; even more so when the pilot takes his hand off whatever keeps it flying in a straight line. Surely you wouldn't drive into a dark tunnel with your eyes shut. so why do you fly in a plane that has the pilot on his break in another 'room' ( I am a geriatric who has never flown in an aeroplane; no kidding! And I wouldn't transport a dog in some of the conditions you are expected to endure on some flights I have witnessed.) Regarding the driverless road vehicles the idea is to have some of the cars on our roads by 2015. Watch this space; on second thoughts, watch that car coming down the road with the owner sitting in the back reading his newspaper.
    All of this technological talk set me thinking. In life in general; are you the driver, or are you driven! I know of many who are adamant that they are 'in charge', their 'destiny' is in their hands. Now self assurance is commendable, but I reckon, and have always thought so that we are 'driven' not 'drivers' in life.; let me tell you why.
    Throughout our short lives we make decisions. We don't have a say on where we are born. We do, to a certain degree have a choice where we live out our lives. Our qualifications and wealth, or lack of either, will, to a degree, determine where we live out our lives. We have some choices as humans, but only up to a point; my position in life is fairly well decided for me give and take a little leeway. I can't be the next King of England for instance. I'm not even king of my own castle, so to speak; my wife and two daughters see to that! I reckon the only thing I'm in charge of is the television remote, but don't tell anyone. I have limited control of my health; of any case even the richest amongst us seldom  live beyond a hundred years of age. Death is the great leveller, whoever may we be. (Concerning our religious friends, a belief in an 'Afterlife' and all that is not relevant to this blog post.)
    Its a funny old life to be sure. Our ancestors hoped, guessed their might be 'something else' to life. That's why man has always worshipped statues, idols, craven images; be they intellectual modern men living in concrete jungles  or mere natives in some real green jungle in a far off land. Modern man thinks he's so clever at times. But driverless cars, I bet few of you saw that coming. On second thoughts, it doesn't really matter. Car accidents are caused by drivers, NOT the car! When a driverless car approaches, NO problem, NO FOOL OF A DRIVER TO CONTEND WITH! Driverless cars, bring them on!

I trust you will find these Youtube films both entertaining and educational.   

Mercedes's autonomous driving on highway

Self-Driving Car Test: Steve Mahan

Monday 28 July 2014

That's Life plus a Modern Miracle.

    Since my last post the world news has been dominated by conflict.With it has come inevitable destruction, horror, fear, terror Mankind has a great capacity to inflict pain and suffering. I am not clever enough to understand the reasons why. But I weep for those involved. All too often it is the innocent who suffer most.
A plane is shot down on the Russian border with Ukraine. Many die, none connected with the those responsible for the carnage caused. It is probable that the plane downed was not an intended target. No matter, missiles kill; boundaries, territory, possessions, how unimportant compared to the lives of innocents.
War continues to rage between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Who is in the right, in a way, again no matter. Those suffering most are so often women and children. No amount of protestations by either side can justify the sheer terror and desolation brought about by bullets and bombs; often in the name of religion.    
    Meanwhile life for others goes on. None of us chose to be born. Our little lives are lived out and then we die. So, as Mr Pepys did all those years ago, I put 'pen to paper', though not literally and record what has happened in Grumpys little life since my last blog post. ( have never been sure why I blog. They are a source of reflection as time passes. Plus at the back of my mind I like the idea that someone will keep these blogs; what did someone say, 'Chance is a fine thing'!)
   We are wandering through life at the moment minus a kitchen. Of mind bending importance to no-one but ourselves, Paulette and I. When it annoys us as it frequently does I think of the many people in  the world who have no roof over their heads, never mind the luxury of a kitchen.

    Our children and the well being of their families are important to us both. Daughter Sarah's dog ate the sofa very recently. Well not the complete sofa, but large enough chunks of it. A night in the vets, again, worry for all and hands in pocket time. This dog is literally mad, sadly and is incapable of learning from experience. Two days later it ate a soft toy on a key ring. Stolen from a work top, I might add; dogs, like many humans, never learn.   
    The love of daughter Alison's life is PCV 830Y, a battered but much loved Volkswagen  motorhome, circa 1982. Not the most reliable vehicle on the road but it tries. At least it tries our patience! Recently, very recently it occupied space, once again in a local garage. A probable cause of at least part of the problem was located. A nest of field mice had been living in the air filter; I kid you not! The nest was intact, the occupants had eaten some of the paper air filter but no sign of the mice themselves. They could in theory have been sucked through the carburettor but unlikely. How long had they been there no one knows. (Alison has had trouble with mice inside the motorhome for some time.) This may or may not have been the problem prior to this garage visit; the van is old and not new to garage visits. Only this time they couldn't fix it. Three days and much trying later it was low loaded back to its home here in Sunnyhill, Derby; at the moment a very sunny Sunnyhill.
    Now daughter Alison is a very popular young lady not least on account of her 'sunny' nature. ( goes with the territory methinks). Plus she knows an extraordinary number of people. (That is not to say daughter Sarah was ever without admirers. I can remember one such admirer fixing her car at the crack of dawn on the road in front of my house but that's another story. I was still in bed by the way!)
    Alison received several offers of help. James spent time at Alison's but the problem was beyond his comprehension and he is an expert. PCV 830Y was low loaded, again, to the garage premises of an 'old gentleman' the other side of town. (I wonder how old the gentleman is. I am seventy five next birthday, is he older than me I wonder. ) After many hours of examination with the aid of other 'experts' defeat was acknowledged. (Alison was due to go on a pre-booked short holiday this weekend but she was told 'no chance', somewhat inevitable I thought. Devastated by it all, not unconnected with the price of a reconditioned engine, she went out and bought a tent.

       Paulette's mother Francoise, referred to as Nana by Alison, Sarah and great grandchildren died in 2011 (see blog dated    ). Much loved by all her family, her presence is still felt at times by many, particularly so where Alison and her family are concerned. They 'talk' to her on occasion, very relevant, for Alison admits that the dilemma concerning PCV 830Y was the subject of 'discussion' with Francoise.  Now Francoise was everything to us in life, but never a mechanic!

    The old gentleman with the garage phoned to request the removal of PCV 830Y. Only to ring very soon afterwards. He was in a state of great excitement, ecstatic even. He had been disconsolate in the extreme that the problem had defeated him. Having had one last go prior to the vehicles removal he had turned over the engine and been amazed to hear the engine fire. A new battery was procured (this it was suggested was part, but only part of the problem), Alison was united with her pride and joy.         Gingerly driven home, loaded with the paraphernalia associated with the joys of camping with three children, new tent and a dog Alison left Saturday morning for a weeks 'camping' at or near Market Bosworth. (A place very important to the history of this country.)
    As I speak PCV 830Y is still running, albeit a somewhat stuttering, unconvincing 'running'. The grandchildren are enjoying it, plus Ted has had one near miss in the lake. I await their return with interest and not a little bated breath.

(We have had problems with Blogger for some time. I would expect to lose readers over time but hopefully not nearly all! We (my wife and I) have had to change email address etc. We are not sure we've done everything right. Would one or two kind souls 'visit' and to see that we have no further problems. One or two comments would also reassure us that we've done everything right as Blogger has requested/demanded.  Thanks!)

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Rambling, Preambling Bumbling and Mumbling! Using What's Left of the Brain Cel!s.

    Firstly please note, I've caught up and completed outstanding comments! Thanks for your patience. Is it me or is it becoming technically difficult to 'merely' comment on kind people's encouragement. Never mind, it indirectly gives me yet another chance to view modern technology in all its glory. But first an aside, an old man's senile prerogative. (Stand up, that boy who whispered 'Silly old ****!)
    My sister-in-law, forever young at heart has treated herself to a classy, very sporty 2009 BMW Z4. She looks very Princess Grace of Monacco like complete with headscarf and 'shades'. (Look how I know the modern terminology, aren't you impressed!) To complete the image I suggested she look for a 'HRH' private number plate. ( 'Her Royal Highness" to our overseas friends.) Ever helpful I found on the internet details of the sale of such aforesaid plates. HRH 1 was sold a year or two back. It fetched £90.000 plus in DVLA auctions, well over £100,000 in total. But HRH 4 is to be sold, presumably in the none too distant future; suggested price £250,000! (Being a Derby County supporter, my own vehicle number plate is 0009 RAM and no, it didn't QUITE cost £250, 000!)
    I noticed in the week the all new Formula One E racing car practices were open to the public for three days at Donington recently. Coupled with the teachers on strike (Grumpy being an ex-teacher I remember them well. Happy days!) so I thought I'd better further my grandchildren's extra curricular education. So off we went, not knowing what to expect; Ted, aged five, Tommy, eight, Angelina, twelve, grandma and granddad, both a 'mite' bit older!
    Situated not far from my home, Donington Racetrack was famous for its motor racing before the Second World War. Dominated by German cars, particularly Mercedes. Before my time, honest; I was brought up with tales of the mighty German racers 'as a lad'. Post war, after mixed fortunes, it is up and running again as a racetrack and home to Formula 1E. Make no mistake, you are going to hear a lot about these cars in the future. Remember, I'd never heard of electric racing cars until one week ago, so what does this 'old codger' make of it all that is, if I've got it right!
    Made at Donington, all the cars are the same specification, then 'tweaked' by individual team mechanics. Each team has two cars; round Donington a car will do approximately twelve laps before it runs out of 'umph' and is immediately replaced by the second team car. The batteries evidently get very hot, the teams are 'owned' by some famous names (example Alan Prost and Richard Branson, two of the drivers are ladies, the first 'real' race is in Bejing in September and thats about all I know.
    Right or not, we all enjoyed ourselves. We mixed with enthusiastic people who obviously 'live and die' motor sport. We watched in awe these twenty first century beasts of the motoring world. We marvelled at the strange phenomena offered for our delight and bemusement. These cars are not silent, but emit a strange sound as they hurtle round the track; whistle like, a whining, indescribable sound. Plus they are beautifully presented; shiny, metallic, all the colours of the rainbow; you could not help but be impressed.
    I think we all enjoyed our visit in our own way. My wife enjoyed being with the grandchildren, and with me I hope! the children too enjoyed it in their own way, including Ted's daisy collecting. I was particularly pleased to be involved at the very beginning of this new motor sport venture. None of us enjoyed the picnic; because there wasn't one! Paulette left all the food on the kitchen table! (In fairness nobody else remembered either.) So we, or should I say Paulette found crisps, malteses, and
jaffa cakes in a shop at the circuit. Fortunately we had bottles of water in the car so who cares if the 'picnic' was a little unusual!
    A hot summer's day; a trip in a modern motor to see history in the making. Enjoyable but so, so different to my boyhood trips up the fields with a bottle of water and some bread. Mind you, I don't EVER remember forgetting the food!