Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Yes, it’s that day that’s no day at all, the extra day that comes around once every four years for some sun or moon or stars correction reason or another. The day that those that work, work for no extra pay and the day where a woman who hasn’t been asked to marry by her partner can, without ridicule, scorn, or scold, ask her partner to marry her. I wonder what the success rate is like?

Leap day in this year of our Lord 2012, a leap year. February 29th, the first for this blog and maybe the last who knows?

I’ve never quite known where we are all meant to be leaping to on this day - the future, destruction, retribution, revelation? “Look before you leap” they say; it always reminds me of the poor chap who leapt over the barrier on the motorway when his car broke down in the fog, only to plunge eighty feet to his death below. He was on a bridge. They have nets there now.

Me I can hardly even leap out of bed and it’s only a few feet off the ground so no chance of death, cramp maybe though. I get a lot of cramp these days.

I sometimes think about all those lucky unlucky people who are born on leap day; only one birthday every four years (bummer) but on the flip a slow aging process - at least numerically.

Leap day the day before the hares go mad. From midnight the hares will be leaping madly in the way that only mad March hares do. Mad and leaping all the way to the bank of the river under the mad March moon.

And was that just eleven Lords that passed me?

And anyone for leapfrog? We were only playing it - right Mr. Beuys?

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

I'm rich!...

How nice to have unknown friends overseas looking out for the best interests of me and my recently deceased family…







Dear Mrs. Aminata Quedraogo (SGBB)

I was truly touched to get this mail from you my foreign benefactor in darkest Africa. It made me feel quite the Pip to your Miss. Haversham. I shall of course be doing exactly as you say because you are obviously:

A) Real
B) Of position
C) To be trusted

A few questions though Mrs Quedraogo:

Q. Is that a real name or did you just tip out the scrabble letters and randomly pick them up?

Q. Where exactly is BURKINA FASO, it must be my world atlas but I couldn't find it at first but then I checked on Wikipedia and IT IS A REAL PLACE!

Q. What is the parking like in OUAGADOUGOU, and why is your name so much like the name of your fine city?

Q. Should I send my bank account details or a holding fee of some description - shall we say $5,000 (five thousand US dollars)?

Q. Why is your caps lock on?

Even so...


Was it my uncle Artois and his wife Stella?

I await your response.


We'll see what she says...

Monday, 27 February 2012

Spanners and swearing...

It's my dad's birthday in a couple of days so I trundled down to Sainsbury's to buy him a card.

Flicking through the fishermen and gardeners and the beer cans and wine bottles I began to despair. My dad doesn't fish much and whilst he gardens the gardening cards were naff; and as for drinking "Just a glass of tap water please."

As I perused, despairing and wondering if I'd have to run the card shop challenge, out of the corner of my eye I spied just the very thing. There under 'Son' rather than 'Father' was a black and white card with a photo of a young boy holding a spanner. The tagline read something along the lines of "Most of what I learnt from my dad about DIY began with F's and B's!"

I was immediately transported back to the old green garage at the bottom of our garden in King's Close. Picture this - a cold autumnal evening, my dad just back from work and wanting his tea, no electric light in the garage, and a broken clutch to be changed.

"Keep that bloody torch still, will you boy, you’re about as much use as a bloody don’t-know-what?" I try to keep the torch still.

"Blast! (Clatter) I've dropped the bloody spanner. Shine that torch over here won’t you?" I shine the torch towards the unspecified, very dark, here.

"Not there! Here! Bloody Hell!" I move the torch aimlessly about trying to find somewhere approaching where the spanner may have fallen. My dad reaches out stretching his fingers towards the spanner and just as his fingers are about to grasp it... I drop the torch and it goes out.

“For Fu….” He pulls himself back just in the nick of time. Nobody back then used the ‘F’ word in the presence of children or women, well unless you were the vicar preaching that Sunday in his pulpit – but that’s another story.

"Damn and blast! What did you do that for? I'll swing for you my boy. Now get down here and find that bloody torch.” I found it eventually and after replacing the batteries ( “Damn and blast!”) and then the bulb (“Buggeration!”) and finally going inside to get another torch (“If I could only find the right bloody tools I could get the blasted job down in half the time!”)

Eventually we had light again, dim and dismal- a five-bob pocket torch isn’t the greatest form of illumination – but light nonetheless.

My Dad clanked and cursed, cursed and clanked, clanked and clanked and cursed and cursed and cursed and after three hours of achieving pretty much nothing… gave up.

I think he changed that clutch eventually, not that night though, and I don’t know what he had for tea - egg, chips and beans?

It all came back this evening in a flash. I could almost smell the oil of the engine and see the glow from my Dad’s lighted fag in the darkness of that old tin garage and as I remembered I began to laugh. Standing in front of the cards in Sainsbury’s, laughing out loud as they say, the other shoppers looking or averting their eyes as if I were a loon.

Well, bugger’em I say. Damn and blast’em. It was my memory and not theirs.

I bought the card, son or no son, I’ll post it off in the morming.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Keeping the kittens…

You know, these last few days of kittens and puppies and fluffy ducks have made me wonder why I ever bothered at all. Why all these words?
So, suddenly I’m back to 2009, almost at the start of this crazy roller-coaster journey, nearing the end as I refuse to be boxed by authority, madmen made clever, and plain simple charlatan, bullying boys.
Why all these words? Whoosh!
What is it that lets some creeping idea under the wire and into my mind, waking me sharp from dream, five in the morning, demanding that I embroider it into words? Why am I compelled to pull that slippery thing out from my head and make it solid, forcing it tumbled onto the page to be some few sentences? What makes me think that they, strung together with hesitant rearrangement, could ever make worth reading? Who’s interested in my thoughts, my experience, my point of view - my slant - and do I really have anything worthy of a say?
I hope so. I can’t stop you see.
The more I write, the more I seem to want to write. I don’t know why exactly. It isn’t painful; it isn’t a hunger that needs to be fed. It isn’t desperate; it’s just there, consistent and waiting for me to pick up the pen and set it free. When I’m doing it I’m happy and when I’m not doing it – well, I’m waiting to be happy. I smile as I write, I sometimes laugh out loud, occasionally my eyes moisten – but only when I write of things long lost.
I love the taste of taking a whim, tuning and honing, moulding and sharpening, until it stands tall on the page a fully-fledged read. I enjoy the craft, the journey, every twist and turn of the road, never quite sure of where it is going or when the journey has ended – a cliché, and an adventure, my adventure.

I want to be read - but at the end, if nobody reads me, I’ll write for myself – read it over and over, change after minor change, and then read it again and smile, or laugh, or cry.

Why do I write this stuff? Because I have to, and I can, and I do - less than a thousand words a day and I’m lost and lost and lost.
Maybe I’ll blog here less, but I’m smiling now – and it feels good.
I'm keeping the kittens though.

Saturday, 25 February 2012


Funny how these cutesy pictures get almost as many comments as my blog ramblings, more actually.

Something to think about I guess.

Anyway, as requested - ducks... and a cute iddle kitten.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Martini's Bar

I'm beginning to wonder if this is such a good idea. Sharing your thoughts publicly in a random way seems to invite criticism from those that don't get it and sometimes even from those who do. I suppose I could tailor my posts to be rational and sensible, acceptable to the unimaginative, warming to those in need of comfort, absolute and total drivel about kittens, and puppies, and sunny afternoons spent drinking lemonade. I might even theme it and give it a good solid purpose.

But this blog was always and always will be 'all about me'.

I need to think about that so this blog is closed for a while.

We can Talk here

Monday, 20 February 2012

Living in my past…

"Another Monday, another week" I said.

You know, somebody told me to stop living in the past today. Facebook is a strange place, a place where comment can be interpreted in any way the reader wishes and strings of a conversation can grow like a Chinese whisper and what starts off as a flower can easily end up as a cabbage or even a slug. Words are so easily open to interpretation (thank God and damn it).

I posted about how much I miss driving to Scarborough on a Monday morning, I haven’t done it for over a year and I do miss driving to Scarborough on a Monday morning to meet with people I liked seeing. I do miss driving my company car, watching the sunrise as I powered along the rise and fall of the A64. My Monday mornings are dull these days compared to that, my week isn’t quite as hectic or as much fun, but hey it has its highs. Yes, I miss ‘back then’ and yes, I do want to remember and certainly don’t want to forget. ‘Back then’ was a really good time most of the time and those memories are my help on grey days (not that I need to get any help). Those memories make me smile.

Stop living in the past? Just why would I want to stop living in my past, it’s a good place to visit. Anyway, how could I stop even if I wanted to, how can any of us? We are the sum total of all our past experience, we are our pasts, that is how it is meant to be. Without our past experiences we are nothing, ask anyone who knows an Alzheimer sufferer. That spider crawling across our childhood pillow has become the scream each time we see a spider in a bath, just as each time I see a picture of a palm tree I’m immediately taken back to the most wonderful morning of my life. I can’t divorce my memory from my now and why would I want to, why would anyone even expect me to?

Our minds are full of memories, some up front and others locked in grey cabinets behind the doors of double locked rooms. Our subconscious can make us forget experiences that are too painful for us to remember. We all do it, we have a few incidents that we can hardly remember at all, still there but not known about. It’s a protection thing, a mechanism that nature has given us to keep us safe, similar to a mechanism that damps down our repetitive and boring experiences; how dull to remember each and every time you’ve washed up, every dish, plate and spoon.

There are ways to get to these hidden memories, access those rooms deep inside your mind and confront the experience that it makes so hard to find, it’s called regression therapy and it’s a powerful thing. Of course, you can try to live entirely in the present, shut off what’s in those double locked rooms, but everything is influenced by your past and I for one think that a good thing, a survival thing. If our past didn’t tell us that putting your hand into the fire might hurt, then you’d constantly put your hand into the flames for fun.

Yes, if there is one thing that I’ve learnt recently, living in the past, or at least reflecting on it, is a good thing. Without that how are we going to make our futures better? Putting it all behind you and soldiering on regardless, living entirely in the present. How stupid. How dangerous. Didn’t someone once say “Lest we forget”?

I’ll live where I want and I’ll keep my memories, even if it does mean I spend some of my time living in the past.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

From up on my hill...

You know from up on my hill I should be able to see things clearly. From up on my hill I should be able to look down and see where I am going. From up on my hill I should be able to see how to get there. From up on my hill I should be able to see the obstacles and work out how to avoid them. From up up my hill I should be able take in the possibilities and see how to build them.

From up on my hill it's all possible.

All I have to do now is climb my hill.

Friday, 17 February 2012

We are all stars...

Slowly expanding the entire universe shares a common set of elements. At the start of the early universe, when the stars were rushing away from each other growing in numbers and growing in speed, the only elements were hydrogen and helium. It was the stars that made all of the other natural ones, the lighter elements within the stars fusing to create heavier elements right at the core of the stars where it’s hot and pressurised. Just imagine all those atoms colliding, faster and faster, collision after collision, at speeds high enough to stop the electromagnetic repulsion of nuclei in a frenzy of nuclear fusion.

Just imagine as you look up into the night sky, separated by vast distance and by vast time, all those stars creating more elements as they die and splutter, coming together and falling apart. So many of those stars you see out there aren’t there at all any more. They’re already dead, their element making finished, just an echo in the fifty billion stars of our galaxy within the fifty billion galaxies that are tumbling around out there wherever and whatever there is.

Just imagine the stars churning out new elements as they pass – copper and carbon, silicon and silver, lithium and lead, and who knows maybe even some that they haven’t presented yet.

Everything made by stars and everything made of stars. The screen you are looking at, the seat you are sitting on, the floor that seat rests on, the air in the room around you, the food digesting in your stomach, and you, and me. We are all made of stars.

Next time you look into the night sky think about that. All those stars burning away and out - birthing, living, dieing, becoming dust, reforming into something else, someone else.

Makes me feel very small and vast at the same time; I’m made of stars.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Who am I?...

Who shall I be today? I know who I want to be but I doubt that I’ll get the chance to be him again. I wonder if anyone else feels like I do – a little unsure of who they’ve become and not at all sure that they like who they’re becoming. Of course we all end up as our father or mother apparently so there’s not much too be done about it anyway.

Actors must have such a great time; pretending to be so many people, playing a variety of roles, a rich variety of characters - unless of course you are Michael Caine. I guess we all have several characters in us, roles we play, various and variant others who we pull out in different circumstances dependent on audience. All split personalities to lesser of greater extents. Two faced? Maybe. Multi-faceted? Who knows?

Then there are out Facebook friends, people that we might have worked with or sat next to for years in the real world, but you only really find out about once you’ve friended them on Facebook. I sometimes amazed to find out that somebody I thought I knew quite well plays the bongos or loves the smell of horse manure or has a twin or loves, maybe even hearts, Barry Manilow.

You can be anybody you want to be online, anonymous and mysterious, interesting and sexy, stunning, outrageous with a mystical username or even an alter-ego… Hypnoboy.

For a while there back in the day I even wandered Second-Life before my First-Life became so complicated and fantastical that I couldn’t really be sure which was which any longer. I think my name was Narstril Dunestrider and I had some really nice yellow boots which I bought from a virtual shop in a virtual city for virtual Linden dollars purchased with real world pounds... yes, I know.

Anyway, the question isn’t ‘who shall I be today’ it’s more ‘I y’am what I y’am’ as Popeye would say.

Yep, seems like I am what I am. Now if only I can work out who that is.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Post Valentine’s Day ramblings…

So that’s it for another year, been and gone, with hardly a kiss or a tender whisper.

Well, Saint Valentine is for younger muffs to enjoy, me I’m just a lawnmower you can tell me by the way I walk.

Of course, I don’t subscribe to the notion that St. V. was gay, although I believe there is some limited evidence to support this; mainly a 12th century graffiti on a Roman toilet wall where some wit has scratched ‘Saint V. is a gay bottom.’ Hardly, irrefutable proof though I think you might agree.

Of course this could be the last year that we celebrate the day without the new St. Valentine’s tax as proposed by David Cameron. Apparently love isn’t actually that good for you and costs the Health Service almost a billion pounds a year. Kissing can cause gum disease, cuddling can lead to internal bleeding, and of course the more intimate love stuff can lead to numerous nasty ailments including nasty rashes and blindness.

To combat this, a new Government bill proposes a number of tax reforms:

‘Kissing Tax’ will tax all kissing, although quick pecks on the cheek (single only) from bona-fide blood relatives will be exempt.

‘Pink Tax’ will tax the colour pink. Government opinion holds that Pink has become far too popular in recent years and the government is hoping that the taxation of pink will lead to blue becoming the new pink over time and with further legislation.

‘Red Tax’ will tax the colour red. Government opinion holds that Red has become far too bright in recent years and the government is hoping that the taxation of red will lead to black becoming the new red over time and with further legislation.

‘Heart shape Tax’. Heart shapes in any form are to be taxed at the higher rate and if red or pink a super-tax of up to but no more than sixty percent will be charged. Some breaks may be given to black hearts, but this is yet to be confirmed.

‘Lines of kisses Tax’. In a move to stop the overuse of kisses on cards and letters a ‘lines of kisses’ tax will be considered. A government working party is currently considering how to implement this in light of confusion around similar lines of the letter x, as in "Fxxx oxx Cameron."

‘Salt Tax’. This will apply to any salt cause by shedding tears of joy, particularly in situations where marriage and/or engagement are involved. It is rumoured that in some circumstances salt tax could be as high as ninety percent, although this mainly concerns other salty bodily fluids.

Other taxes under consideration: ship tax, light tax, food salt tax, water tax, death tax, spice tax, woollen-cap tax… makes you think.

Here’s to Saint Valentine and death to all politicians.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The all seeing eye...

Ah, the all-seeing eye. My thoughts, wide and windswept as they may be, are just a whisper in this universe of ours, my actions even less, almost silent. I enjoy this mediocrity, this lack of significance in that bigger picture. My own lack of significance. You know there really should be a mark to denote sarcasm. How about this :}

So why when I put ‘Dali Doodle’ into the Google image search and three of my doodles pop up at 3, 11, and 13 (beating even the Dali himself) do I bask in the warmth that these small pictures fill me to almost bursting with?.

Idiocy? Stupidity? Pride? Arrogance?

Well, I used to be a stupid, proud, arrogant, idiot until I lost my pride and had the arrogance kicked out of me by my superiors :} Did me good mind, like a dose of the liver salts or a dip in a bath full of ice cubes :} Yes, I’m a better person for it :}

The all seeing eye :}

Anyway my doodles are like my children, when finished I send them out into the world and forget them. Or at least I try to. After all they are just doodles, a few moments of my time and some ink, some blood, and my trusty felt tip pens and when God created felt tip pens he surpassed even sliced bread. Felt tips are truly the miracle of miracles.

But enough of my puerile pen perversions :}

If one of my children should turn up on your doorstep please take them in, have them nicely framed, and then hang them or beware the wrath of the all seeing eye.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Putting down roots…

You can spend your whole life trying to put roots into the ground, strong, deep, roots that will stop you tumbling over in the wind, crashing to the ground with that creak of the “Timberrrrrr!” that we all know from countless television shows where nobody or somebody is or isn’t under the tree as it falls.

Putting out root after root, tiny filament growing from tiny filament, thickening and filling, growing longer, going deeper, until one day you feel so firmly rooted that nothing, no wind or storm, can make you topple ever and you stand in your landscape tall, proud, and strong, and look around you. “Look at me, look at me. See what a strong tree I have become.”

And you are.

For years you are.

And then one day you feel a change. Not in yourself, but in the land around you, slight at first, a trembling in the soil but growing stronger all the time. The soil is becoming thin; it blows away as dust upon the wind and, trickling through your roots, falls away and is gone for ever leaving behind a vacuum where once there was rich earth. The ground, once firm, sags; and the rain that always drained away before stays, clogging your roots and making you shiver with its puddle touch.

It is this that makes you change.

Now, you bend in the wind almost to a keel. Now, the slightest breeze causes fear where once there was only courage. And now - you have begun to wither. You want to get up and move, go somewhere else and start again, put down new roots, try to grow afresh. But you are a tree; your roots have gone too deep. They’ve kept you upright all these years but now they hold you fast, have started to suck you down into the hole that has opened beneath you and in your wooden hearted centre you know that it is only a question of time before there’s nothing left, not a leaf, or a branch, or an intertwined root. Not even a stump to mark that singular spot where you once grew.

Just an empty space where once there was a tree.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Set adrift on memory bliss...

There’s a haven in my house that sometimes I forget about, not going there for years (yes, years) at a time. A place where so many of my thoughts, memories, and dreams reside and yet I turn my back on it and go about things almost as if they never were important.

It's a place that really hasn’t changed for almost twenty years when Gaynor and I decorated and furnished it in a light airy style which is comforting and comfortable - if a bit twee and chintzy and even shabby in that shabby chic way. No leather here, no bold colours or brilliant bright statements – just an overwhelming calm.

I love my special room - The upstairs lounge. In summer it gets the golden light of the evenings, in winter the snowflakes drift gently past its windows in fifty different ways.

I built the display cupboards and the window seat; I laid the white washed flooring and scumbled the cornice, I even re-tiled and renovated the original marble fireplace. It was a labour of love...

Inside are so many precious things. Our collection of a hundred or so china cats, Wedgwood, one-offs, Doulton, and Tai-Wan. The massive conch shells we brought back from the Windward Isles, a huge basket of collected here-and-there pine cones, a woollen Chinese rug, some rescued brought-back houseplants, my sketches of Barbados, glass, and wood, and light, white china elephant plant stands, and memories.

Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes the sound of my own voice, sometimes I just listen to the far away sounds and the close by sounds, the sounds inside my room and the sounds outside my room, setting myself adrift on memory bliss and thinking 'surely one day I will find myself' and watching a paper doll dancing in the air outside the window, the day full of birds, a sky of honey as a man in a bowler hat and suit floats horizontally away.

... Anyway that’s enough. Why write about when I can sit in? I’m off to light the fire and watch the swirling fog outside the windows, after all I used to be friends with reality. But not in this room.

In this room I dream.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

One of our washing machines is missing…

Well not exactly missing, one of my washing machines has broken.

Yes, one of them, I have two; one at home and the other is at my little cottage in Wales.

It’s my washing machine in Wales that has broken. Well, when I say my washing machine, I should probably say Gaynor’s - after all it can hardly be mine as I don’t know how to use it. Well, it has twenty programs and slots for washing powder AND that conditioner stuff that smells like freshly washed linen (!!!), and I always want to open the door too soon, and I’m not really sure how to empty it properly. Actually, I don’t know how to use either, or for that matter how many sugars I take in my tea! Just joking about the sugars – I’m pretty sure that it’s three. I’ll check with Gaynor to be sure though.

Anyway, back to the broken washing machine. It broke a few weeks ago and every time it’s turned on it fuses the electricity. It must be shorting or jumping or some such thing (well, I’m not Nikola Tesla am I!) In the normal run of things I might try to get it repaired, but then we are dealing with Wales and North Wales at that, darkest, deepest North Wales and the Llyn Peninsula no less. Tradesmen are hard to come by on the Llynnnnnn and when you do come by them they seem to be very busy walking away from you – fast. And even when you do, by some miracle, trick them into answering their phone you usually find that it’s their dad/son/uncle you need to be talking to and he’ll ring you back as he’s out on a call… or they pretend to talk to you in Welsh… or you have the right person but he doesn’t do washing machines despite his card saying “all makes of washing machines repaired… or you are out of the area: ME - “But you only live six miles away.” HIM - “Yes, outside the area, I don’t do the travel you see.” – or you ring him only to find that he’s dead… “Yes, I’m sorry, I’m dead you see. Died last Wednesday, funeral’s Tuesday, no flowers – it’s Chapel you see.”

North Wales… I ask you! I once asked a plumber I accosted in the High Street to come and fix the toilet in our caravan. I knew he was a plumber because it said so on his van, he was even a “caravan plumbing specialist” according to his business card. He said that he was going to come around in the afternoon… of course he didn’t say which afternoon - it’s a good job that we only use the caravan for storage. He’ll be around eventually I guess – unless he’s dead, he's his own dad/son/or uncle, or we’ve become outside the area by some change of plumbing area boundaries.

Of course there is always an upside, and the upside of the broken washing machine being in Wales is that Wales is in the countryside, well most of it is, certainly our part, and the countryside has streams. Now to my mind having a stream nearby should negate the need for a washing machine, a few rocks, a bar of soap, and some good old-fashioned elbow grease… but of course Gaynor doesn’t seem to agree. I don’t know… how these mod-cons do so seem to spoil a woman.

So a new washing machine it is then. Shouldn’t be too hard, there’s only one shop in the area; “Which one would you like madam, the one on the left or the one on your right? Yes, they are the same, but we like to give our customer’s choice.”

Oh well, the couple that won the lottery this week had just had their washing machine break, so who knows… maybe lightening will strike twice.

What do you think Mr Tesla?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Tin can men…

Tin-can men have started to appear in our road; pinned to fences and telegraph poles like ancient spacemen or mystical gee-gaws. I’ve no idea what they are meant to mean, their significance, but they stare down watching the world go by hardly noticed by the passing passers-by.

They are unobtrusive, almost invisible, quietly watching for who knows what? They don’t shout out, they’re carefully placed, sitting above the eye-line or close to the ground where nobody looks and not so bright as to draw attention.

Yes you have to look hard – or know they are there.

Where did they come from? How did they get there I wonder? Just who would be crazy enough to make these things for no good reason and then crucify them with pins and nails, quiet statements about goodness-knows-what?

After all – it’s not like a street is a beach is it? Just who would be mad enough to do it? I really have no idea.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sticky finger...

Some of you have commented that some of my blog posts have been a little morose recently, downright depressing even. Well, maybe that's so and maybe it's not, but never one to ignore an audience (such as it is) I've tried tonight to lift the mood a little and what better way than with a doodle of a stick man.

Now, I've been drawing stick men all my life, but recently I've drawn more stick men than - well, more stick men than you can shake a stick at. Such is the world of glass. Not all stick me need to be overly sticky though, some can be a little more free-form and flowing - a stickman with attitude.

So here he is a chip off the old block; my stick man with attitude all purple bedecked and crown-ed with a crown. Just look at those almighty fancy shoes and the way with him with his digit stick as he gives the world a sticky stick man finger.

Stick it to them Sticky.

And who knows, perhaps old sticky might stick around, even appear on Stickly Dancing.

And so to finish with a joke: What's brown and sticky?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Disneyed Dickens - a rant...

Charles Dickens was born 200 years ago today. It seems hardly credible. 200 years seems like such a long time ago, but then it is.

I can’t pretend to have read all of his work, or even that much of it really; but I have read some and what I've read I’ve enjoyed, and then of course there are the films and the TV and radio adaptations which, as I’m sure you’ll be aware by now, I find radio to be the most satisfying. As for the films and TV… well they vary to such a degree but one thing I’m sure of – Disney should not be allowed anywhere near Mr Dickens’ work.

Looking at Google’s header today I was dismayed, nay appalled, to find that they’d Disneyed-Dickensed-up the Google logo with some simpering, cutesy, characters that may or may not be from a Dickens novel. You can vaguely see who these characters might be, but all that sugar and fluffy snow tends to get in the way. All it needs is a few characterised cartoon mice and we’d have a full-blown Disney movie in the making, maybe ‘What the Dickens!’ – see the astounding story of Charlie Dickens’ life (or as they would put it Chuck Dickens’s) with all his original gorgeous characters brought to life and becoming part in the action in this real-life feature length animation…

Oh, noooo… I hope that the Disney people don’t see that, just look what they did to Grimm and Anderson, Pinocchio and Robin Hood, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and mice in general…

Just what gives Disney the right to think that they can retell and reinvent the classics, making them into colourful easy-watching fairy tales for children who will never read the books (unless of course it’s the Disney picture-book) and encouraged by adults who never read the books either.

There’s nothing cosy or twee about Dickens, nothing simpering or gooey. Dickens wrote gritty tales of life and death, hardship and squalor, deceit and retribution, murder and faithlessness. His stories were real, they make you laugh and cry, they make you consider who you are in the light of what he shows you…

And all of this without a cartoon cat in sight.

What if somebody did the same to Mark Twain I ask you?
Oh, they did.

Okay, I’ve made my point. I’ll leave it there. Happy birthday Mr Dickens, I vow to read more of your stuff this year.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Reading by candlelight...

At night we light candles in our living room, a long line of them on the mantelpiece, just tea lights encased in glowing glass globes, penny tea lights, a circle of wax inside a metal ring with a wick at its centre - a little light, a little warmth, big glow of comfort.

There’s something in that candlelight that’s like nothing else except maybe the glow of an open fire. We have that too on chilly evenings. Candlelight and fire – there’s nothing quite like it, there I’m repeating myself and there’s comfort in that as well. It knocks all the central heating and fluorescent lights into a cocked hat. Not that I know why anything should get knocked into a cocked hat or why it should be a cocked hat rather than a bowler or a topper. That's one in the picture, or at least how I imagine one to be.

Sometimes I also imagine what the world would be like if fire and candles were all we had for light and heat, like in the ‘olden days’ as we called them way back when. Just how could anybody read by candlelight? On the few occasions that I’ve been dropped into a power-cut candles have seemed so wholly inadequate as a lighting source to manage by. Cosy and comforting, but a little short on light for reading.

Still, for a long time that’s all there was until suddenly the world moved forwards and all of the candlestick makers set sail for other shores on a baked potato in a tiny bucket of water.

So here’s my point: the world moves forward and suddenly nobody wants your candles. It leaves you in the dark for a while, floating this way and that in your bucket inside a baked potato and then after a while you just get used to it – like reading by candlelight I guess.

Note to self: under no circumstance allow them to make the world move on from felt tip pens.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

In a pickle...

I like cooking. I like throwing open the cupboard and seeing what we have in, peering into the back of the fridge and looking in the crisper trays to check what is about to go over, and opening all the freezer draws to find that bargain that’s been forgotten all about - but with a little creativity and imagination could be made into a delicious meal.

I like cooking, I like thrift, and I hate waste.

Believe it or not when we last roasted a chicken we made it into four roast chicken dinners, four chicken and mushroom pot pies with flaky pastry lids, and six portions of chicken and vegetable soups. Yes, I even boiled the bones to make stock. Well, these days you have to don’t you? All that for £2.50! (a marked down organic bargain from Sainsbury’s; not that I care about that organic thing).

This morning, as I prepared dinner for this evening (just simple fare, no shopping required) I wondered why we have so many recipe books. At the last count is was a little over 100! After all, cooking is about using what you have in, not buying in to make something; and inevitably you never have half the things you need for the recipe - just who has crème fraiche in the fridge, ready and waiting, just in case? So, I hunted around and found all the ingredients I needed to make beef olive (marked-down sirloin found in the freezer) with red wine jus (pity, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices), stuffed courgettes (just mushrooms, scallions, mozzarella and black pepper), potatoes dauphinois (just saved the salad potatoes from going over, picking off the eyes and slicing with onions, stock and butter), and then I knocked up 2 litres of 9 veg minestrone (carrot, leek, onion, turnip, mushrooom, tomato, green bean, cabbage, all found in the fridge drawer with some peas from the freezer).

For lunch I made chopped cherry tomatoes drizzled with hot garlic butter and a courgette, scallion, mushroom, and mozzarella fritter (left over from the stuffed courgette for dinner) and served on buttered toast (it was delicious).

All that creating and cooking got me thinking about how important food is in our culture, particularly language. Phrases based around cooking are bounced around all the time, often used to describe a problem or difficulty: In a jam - In a pickle - In a stew. I wonder why? Why not: In a marmalade – In a mustard – In a casserole? And then there’s those terms that we use when we are feeling hot: I’m roasting - It’s boiling - I’m as warm as toast - It’s like an oven in here. And those other cooking related phrases: Dropped like a baked potato – Given a grilling – Salad days. I wonder if it was a cook who started them off?

I expect I’ll never know though; after all I’m treated just like a mushroom – kept in the dark and covered in shit, and besides as everyone knows, I’m one sandwich short of a picnic.

Break over - back to the hot stove and the washing up.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Last night's dream...

And the children played merrily in the street, rolling hoops and jousting with brooms, young boys straddling barrels rolled in the dirt, others leapt in the air or played leapfrog with their companions. Death had been defeated. The king smiled and watched with joy from behind the darkened window of his grand town house. No longer was there reason to despair, his people were happy and well once more.

Death and his minions had been driven from the Kingdom. The king was content.

Across the courtyard the sad faced clown gazed emptily down from the window of the stable. On the street below his followers moved slowly through the crowds, the dwarf leading the sickness, the cloth held reverently in his gnarled hands. A yellow napkin covered his misshapen head making him indistinguishable from the children around him. The plagues followed in their disguises of brown, blue, still more blue, they were ready for the game and they knew the game well, they had played it many times before. There was no beating them and they were bound to win.

Death smiled his white and sad faced smile and began to count; he had work ahead of him.

As the cock crowed the king looked down on a street made empty of games and a kingdom made empty of joy, he would play alone, play alone forever.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Say nothing...

Okay Friday night. Some might say TGIF, others TFIF. I just say nothing.

Empty headedness isn’t an insult it’s a blessing. Thoughts spin around and around in my mind, sparking off each other to create new and other thoughts, making my head so full that sometimes I want to scream – and I do. Other times I want to pull my hair out – and I do that too. It’s worse in the mornings. Mornings bring thought on thought, worry on worry, stack upon stack of concern and despair until it makes me spring out of bed, wobbly and dazed, just to stop the murmuring in my head.

Well, at least I recognise it and that they are there.

If I try hard I can control it. I can make the wall in my mind black and then start playing the movie, starting with my islands and moving on to wherever my freedom takes me. A bird, a fish, the wind, a leaf, a shooting star, a fox, a stone buried deep in the ground, or floating in my bed.

Relaxation; how I crave it. Peace; how I need it.

I don’t care if I never do a party again, but a quiet night, quiet of the night?

Okay Friday. Some might say TGIF, others TFIF. I just say nothing.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A twat of Traffic wardens...

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Well, I would if there were any but at the moment it’s freezing. Yes, we’re back to that, the staple of all English conversations – and a blog posting phenomenon; the weather. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve turned to the weather when all else has failed. It must be a few at least, a few dozen at least, dozens and dozens at least. Scores even.

Dozens, scores, baker’s thingies and other odd numerical collectives - now there has be a post in that. I could even manipulate it to go on to talk about animal collective nouns – an ambush (tigers), a ballet (swans), a bloat (hippos), a deceit (lapwings), a twat (traffic wardens). Not today though – by the way I was joking about the twat of traffic wardens. It was just a linking device.

Which brings me to the subject of the day; my poor mother-in-law again and the wrangles she seems to constantly get herself into.

So what’s she been up to this time?

Illegal parking.
Illegal parking?

Yes, illegal parking.

Here’s the whole, sad, silly, sorry tale.

My mother in law, driver of a black Ford, registration MD53 **X was issued with a parking ticket on 30/01/2012 by CEO TR341 (in other words a traffic twatter). She’s 82 and disabled with all sorts of ailments to do with feet, legs, eyes, ears – sometimes the list seems endless. At 2.35 precisely she very, very carefully parked in Regent Road car park, Altrincham, in a disabled parking space and, as she was rushing to get to an appointment with her optician, set the time on her disabled sticker to 3.35 instead of 2.35 in error. Now, it could have been the rushing around, her trembling hands, her eyes, or simply her failing memory and general loss of some sense of reality, but whatever it was it was a genuine mistake - unless it was time travel again.

At 14.44 she was issued with a ticket for reason 87 (yes, reason 87) which is: Parking in a designated disabled person’s parking place without a valid person’s badge in the prescribed manner. Now, my mother-in-law is a genuine disable person (not one of those other ones you see running from their cars doing handstands as they go) and therefore allowed to park in a designated disabled person’s space, she wasn’t without a valid person’s badge and she did display it clearly, the only error she made was a mistake over the time. I assume that this is the prescribed manner the ticket refers to.

On her return to her car at around 3.30 she was very upset to find she had a ticket but sent a cheque off within the hour as (and I quote). “I felt stupid and didn’t want to get into any more trouble and have to pay double as it’s £70. I feel really stupid’. Now in the trade we call that ‘Old ladies and authority syndrome’ and there seems to be no cure.

In my view the only stupid thing she did was to pay up so quickly. If I’d heard about it before she’d paid I would have appealed at the time for ‘reason’s stated above’ - particularly as she was back so quickly and her act was in no way an attempt to get an extended parking period for free as the fine seems to implicitly imply. It was simply an old lady in a rush who made a mistake and who’s now worried about using her disabled badge at all.

Anyway, I’ve written a letter asking for the money to be returned to her. I always write a letter and after all she is a pensioner.

Q. So, why the doodle of that chap in a pith helmet with a jungle on the brim?

A. I think that the car parking authority is taking the pith.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

End of...

I haven’t blogged for a couple of days but I can’t let today pass without putting out a few words.

Today is an anniversary; it was exactly a year ago today that I woke up jobless for the first time in my working life. A year - sometimes it seems like only yesterday and at other times a very, very, long time ago.

A year of change and remaining the same.
A year of learning and knowing nothing.
A year – and all in all a bad one.

Yes, I’ve learnt a few things about myself and others. I’ve learnt that when most people say they are going to do something they don’t, I’ve learnt that there’s a whole industry out there who really haven’t any manners or conscience at all, who don’t reply to e-mails or calls, who say they’ll call you back and don’t, who guarantee you all sorts of things and simply let you down. Frankly my dear, they don't give a shit.

It seems that trying to do your best, the right thing, being honest, trying to be helpful and looking on the bright side – well, it really isn’t worth it.

There, I said it would be a few words and already I’ve said too much. End of.