Thursday, 28 February 2013

Old ambitions...

Many years ago (so long ago that it seems like one of those nostalgic film documentaries that are sometimes shown on BBC2 on a Wednesday evening) I was a teenager. Thirteen, fourteen at the oldest; I experimented with cider, youth club discos, girls, and of course a look. I went from boy, to Cromby, to loons, to baggy Oxfords, it seemed as if in an instant.

Back then, if you knew the right pub to swagger into, you’d get served. Back then, if you looked at someone just the wrong way you’d get beaten to a pulp, chased at the very least. Back then, although I thought about asking girls to dance, I rarely did. Back then, I wanted a pair of oxblood Docs and I’ve been wanting them ever since.

Now drinking, fighting, and girling have pretty much lost there attraction over the years, and I recently began to wonder just what was left. Then it struck me - those oxblood Docs that I’d allowed to elude me.

Just why I never got around to buying a pair or two escapes me now. It wasn’t the cost, although they don’t come cheap; maybe it was because I wanted my Docs to remain a dream.

Well, more than forty years on the dream has now been realised. I have my Docs but find that I have to persuade myself to wear them. Mad I know - but you see, although I’ve worn them out for an hour or two, I hold them in such awe that I’m scared of scuffing them.

I’m sure I’ll get over it. But for now they are for ‘best’.

‘For best’, what a quaint idea. Perhaps I really am living in a nostalgic film documentary on BBC2.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Pigs might fly…

If there are an infinite number of universes then not only might pigs fly, they actually do somewhere. Of course they’ll have to fight for space with all those monkeys pounding out Macbeth and that well known portrait artist Adolph Hitler. But they are out there somewhere along with my lottery win, my Nobel prize, my new highly paid and interesting job, my best-selling novel, my so young looks, a few happy thoughts, my Lamborghini, my hit album, my classic Jaguar, my beach house in Barbados, a good nights sleep, my classic chiselled chin, my private island in the Hebrides, some sweet dreams, my good friend Orson, a body that doesn’t ache any where/at all/ever, cigarettes that are good for me, my Turner prize, my tax rebate, my private jet, my castle, my working alien spacecraft, and my girlfriends Marilyn and Willoughby.

Yes, if the flying pigs are out there then everything else is out there too. I hope that all of me are enjoying them.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013


It was too cold to step in. So I just stood, watched and listened. As the water pulled back on itself, each wave falling into the next, I heard the tiny pebbles sing. For a moment I almost caught what their song was about. But then I lost the tune. That's the thing with the sea, just as you think you are beginning to understand it; off it goes in another direction. A lot like me really.

Monday, 25 February 2013

What's in a name Oscar?...

So they have given up and renamed The Oscars, The Oscars. Yes, The Academy Awards have been officially re-branded as The Oscars as of February 20, 2013. Ho Hum.

The shiny gold Oscar statuette used to be officially named an Academy Award of Merit. Now it’s known - as it’s always been known - as an Oscar. Why Oscar? Well, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the origin of the name is unclear.

One story goes that an Academy librarian and eventual executive director, Margaret Herrick, thought it resembled her Uncle Oscar, said so, and the Academy staff began referring to it as Oscar - librarian to executive director? Perhaps Oscar did the trick for her.

Another take on the tale is that Bette Davis named the award after her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson - why not the Harmons or even the Nelsons then?

Yet another version is that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Louis B. Mayer, who dreamt up the Academy to help improve the film industry’s image and to help mediate in labour disputes, named it after something he said to one of his directors. Now this particular director, who shall remain nameless, went massively over budget on a low budget movie. The director was sacked but not until Mayer had declared: “Oh Shit, Can Another Reel? You’re fired!”

Some say Oscar was named after a ginger cat that used to roam the back lot at the MGM studios.

Whatever the tale, the name stuck and now they have put up in lights in the hope that an edgier, more youthful name might prop up what has become a bit of a joke. Hollywood isn’t what it was in the thirties and forties, despite all the botox and how the execs might try to rebrand it. The young are more interested in games and streaming their movies for free. Why would they care about some outdated award ceremony?

And they are so horribly predictable.
And the acceptance speeches are dire.
And the presenters are so scripted and plastic.
And the ceremony is far too long.

My money’s on the cat by the way. Here kitty, kitty, kitty....

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Back in the early sixties they took the country by storm and suddenly every boy in the country was trying to make one. My first attempts involved (unsurprisingly) washing up bottles, bits of egg boxes, matchsticks, plasticine and paper cups. Somehow though the shape was never quite right, too round or two flat. Just how did you make a Dalek?

Of course it wasn’t long before you could buy them in the shops. I had a silver one on wheels and when you pushed it along sparks would appear behind the grill in the place that I always thought of as the head. Not that they had heads. Not that they had much of anything really. 

Just what was it that made them so menacing? Maybe it was the single eye on the end of a stick, or the sink plunger thing that didn’t really do a lot, or maybe the ray gun arm they exterminated you with. Or the fact that somewhere inside that metallic outer shell was a shrivelled and weak being of flesh and bone, like a newly hatched bird in a nest. Not that I knew that at the time. I think it was years after that first ground-breaking series that we saw our first inner Dalek.

‘Exterminate… Exterminate.’

Playtime was never the same after Doctor Who. Gone were the cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers became a thing of the past. We didn’t even bother being spacemen - no Bleep, no Booster, not even Robbie the Robot. Daleks were the thing.

'Let's play Daleks!'

What fun we had in the playground stiffly walking around with one hand with its first finger sticking out whilst the other was balled into a fist.

‘Exterminate… Exterminate.’

There was nothing else.

I remember an ad for blow up Daleks in the TV Times and my Nan had a pattern for a Dalek tea cosy, I think that she even knitted one. And at every fancy dress competition for years there were at least two cardboard box and tin foil Daleks, and they always seemed to win - even beating the cheeky chimney sweep and Bo Peep (with or without live sheep).

‘Exterminate… Exterminate.’

Ah, what fun those Dalek days were.

Today the man who created the Daleks died. BBC designer Raymond Cusick was responsible for the single eye, the rubber plunger, that killing stick thing, even the two lights (were they ears?) that stuck out of the Dalek's heads and seemed to be a different size each series. It was he who brought to life Doctor Who's arch enemies, and he who had every schoolboy in the country exterminating everything like there was no tomorrow.

Well done Raymond and what else can I say by way of a thank you but…



Saturday, 23 February 2013


As Number 6 said: ‘What do you want?’ And as Number 2 replied: ‘Information.’

Okay, so that has got the tenuous link out of the way. Seriously though, Information; there seems to be so much of it around these days and I’m not just talking about Google and all those social networking sites.

I was munching away at a packet of crisps last week and, having a few lost moments as I often do, found myself rather compulsively reading the blurb on the packet. I suppose you could call it a cereal moment, a bit like a senior moment but a little more surreal. That moment when you realise that you are finding the back of the cornflakes box really interesting and simultaneously also realise that, for you, all is lost.

Anyway, back to my crisp packet.

I was pleased to find that my crisps were made from 100% British potatoes and to be honest that would have been good enough for me. But reading on I found out that they were also naturally lower in saturates probably due to the sunseed oil (sunseed oil… Just what is that then?) that they were probably cooked in. I say probably because nowhere did it say for definite that they were cooked in this patented oil with a name that implies it’s made from the seeds of the sun, but I think it a reasonable assumption.

Reading on, I have to admit to being a teensy bit interested in the fact that my crisps had no artificial colours or preservatives, and the implication that the ‘Delicious Seasonings’ used gave them the same great delicious flavour. In this case the ‘delicious seasoning’ was salt. Of course, I had no idea what my crisps would have tasted like before, but I expect it was salt that gave them the old delicious flavour which was now the same albeit a new delicious flavour called salt.

I read the marketing bit written by a chap who must have been in the potato groove thang, or at the very least down with the potato kids in the hood, because he used words like ‘spud’ and ‘top taters’. Apparently if my crisps weren’t perfect then all I had to do was to return them (with the bag) to Walkers (other crisp manufacturers are available). To help me do this, should I wish to return them, there was a PO Box address, two free phone numbers, a web site, and even a facebook page. Not that it mattered, my crisps were fine.

The typical nutritional values were a bit dry for me, but I glanced at them anyway. As usual salt was kept to a minimum and saturated fat (we used to call it lard) almost non existent - all part of the government plot that demands that we are all healthy. In fact, rather disappointingly, the crisps contained nothing more that potatoes, sunflower oil and a tiny bit of salt – no preservatives, colouring, drugs; not even a bit of horse. Mind you it did warn me that the factory that made my crisps also handles: milk, wheat, gluten, barley, soya, celery and mustard. But as I don’t have any allergies, don’t know what MSG is, and am not vegetarian I didn’t really care.

I was advised to keep my crisps in a cool, dry place. Luckily my hand wasn’t hot and it wasn’t raining. So that was all right then and I didn’t plan on keeping them for long. My single pack of crisps contained 9% of my calories, 1% of my sugar, 11.1% of my fat, 8% of my salt and a measly 4% of my saturates; and there was I thinking crisps were bad for me. Bad for me? After reading that lot my crisps seemed to be more like a health food than a sin against the diet police.

My crisps were environmentally aware and working with the Carbon Trust to ‘further reduce’ their carbon footprint. Oddly though, my crisps produced 80g of carbon, almost three times the weight of the crisps in the packet. Mind you, they were packaged in a protective atmosphere; which made me wonder what they needed to be protected from.

Finally I noticed a picture of a hopping man dropping a shuttle cock into a plastic laundry bin whilst trying to avoid toppling into it. The image made me subliminally aware that I should dispose of my crisp packet thoughtfully. So rather than drop it on the floor I folded it and placed it in my pocket.

And of course none of this affected my statutory rights.

Yes, I'm not a number I'm a free man.

Cue the opening music...

Friday, 22 February 2013

A tale of Edward Gorey…

As Google proclaimeth… 

Today is Edward Gorey’s 88th birthday. Or at least it would have been if he hadn’t of up and died in the year 2000. For those of you who haven’t heard of him he is an American illustrator who, as his name might coincidentally reflect, was interested in the darker side of things. Yes, his work is interestingly surreal at times, but it isn’t just the imagery or the superb execution – it’s the unsettling terror of it all.

It’s all in there: Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, The Tiger Lillies, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Breugel, Eugène Ionesco, Vermeer, Balthus, an undefined sexuality, a craziness born of craziness, a man of mystery who shows us his all without showing us much at all.

Yes, it’s all bad. All rather good...

Imagine yourself a child so lost under the rug that you can’t find your way out - then imagine never finding your way out, ever, ever, ever, ev

And what if your dead father came and perched on your bed every night for seventeen years and rambled about your innermost fears? What would you do? Would you go crazy? Every night - over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and…

You glance in the driver’s mirror. Just how did that strange creature get onto the back seat of your car? It wasn’t there when you set off. What is it? Is it dangerous and where does it want you to take it? Wait… what if it’s taking you somewhere…

Ladies and gentlemen I give you Edward Gorey. He may be dead or he may not, who knows? Perhaps he lives on in the lines of his drawings and there are plenty more where these came from - take a look.

So without further ado…

Edward Gorey… God grant that he lies still.

Thursday, 21 February 2013


A Sunday afternoon in Wales and a walk on the beach.

Sunny, warm, coat off, shirtsleeves rolled up. Almost hot, almost but not quite. Probably a good time to think, probably a good time to find some balance. But why should I and what is there really to think about? So, instead I just walked. A walk is as good as a rest - or is that a change? Just look at that wave, it's about to break...

And then I found it, and soon after another. I just couldn't resist; so I balanced them.

Finding some balance.

It took me ages. They kept toppling. A simple balance I'd have done in minutes just a year or two ago now taking me ages. Just goes to show how quickly things change, how quickly you lose what you once had and found almost too easy.


In the end I had to balance one behind the other. Not quite what I was hoping to achieve. Balance - as I've said on other occasions, not always the easiest thing to find.

And breathe out.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Meteors, DA14, aliens, Mayan predictions, space rockets, dinosaurs, Asteroid nudging and DON’T PANIC… here we go…

I was surprised to hear about the meteor over Russia this morning. Checking YouTube my first thought was that it was a hoax, those videos looked too clean to be real, but after checking it with the BBC I was convinced – well, they can’t lie all the time can they?

‘So, Chickenski Lickenski the sky has fallen over Russia.’ I thought…

My next thoughts were of that asteroid winging its way through space towards us at five miles a second, eight times as fast as a speeding bullet. The catchily named 2012 DA14 is the size of an office block and will miss us by 17,000 miles or so they say, but are they really sure?

‘Odd… Is there a connection between the two?’ I thought.

By this time my mind was racing. What if the Russian meteorite was a chunk of DA14? What if it wasn’t going to miss us at all and ‘they’ sent up a missile to nudge it into a new trajectory as an experiment to see if it could be done? What if it the mission went wrong and instead of some gentle nudging it blew off a huge chunk which crashed into the Earth, falling (rather fortunately) into a Russian lake but injuring 400 people in the process? What if DA14 is at this very moment on a new course and heading straight for London, ready to flatten the city in one hell of an explosion that could set off a chain reaction and destroy us all in a cataclysmic event just like the one that wiped out the mighty dinosaurs?

Wait a minute! What if that meteorite wasn’t a meteorite at all but an alien scout ship launched from behind DA14 in order to check out the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia? What if the Russians tracked it on their radar and decided to blow it out of the sky before it could land? What if, at this very minute, the aliens are preparing to counter-attack by steering their asteroid Mother Ship towards us on a collision course?

Wait! What if the Mayans were right after all, just a tiny bit out with their calculations? What if this is the end of days and we are all doomed? Would ‘they’ tell us? I don’t think that they would, would they?

Calm down, calm down. Two big astronomical events in a single day is a bit of a coincidence but that has to be what it is.

Doesn’t it?

Oh well, not long to wait now. Drink anybody?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Affairs of the heart…

So let’s get straight to the heart of the matter; I’ve become cynical. Hard to believe I know, but yes, it’s Valentine’s Day again and speaking from the heart I’m getting a little tired of it all. You see, when it comes to matters of the heart, I really can’t put my heart into it at all these days and it comes straight from the heart when I say that Valentine’s Day isn’t for the faint-hearted like me. Mind you, I’ve never been one to wear my heart on my sleeve, some might even say that I’m a little hard-hearted and, in my heart-of-hearts, I might even agree with them.

I don’t think it was always this way. There were times when I could romance to my heart’s content with the best of them - flowers, jewellery, and of course grand pointless gestures.  Although I’ve never been what you would call a heartthrob, a real heart-breaker, but back in the day I had the odd sweetheart or two or three. Yes, when it comes to tugging at those old heartstrings, I’ve had my moments. I even seem to remember being heartbroken – or was that indigestion?

No, I haven’t become this jaded without knowing a little about heartache. So my heart goes out to all young lovers and the young at heart today. I wonder if they know what’s coming to them. Maybe I should give them the benefit of my experience - have a heart to heart, pour my heart out a little. I wonder if I’d mention my own heavy heart and how if I could swap places then I would there in a heartbeat. Sad to think that somehow my heart’s desire has slipped away over all the years, although I’m not eating my heart out over it I’m afraid. I’m too old to be broken-hearted, too close to real heart trouble - and far too stone-hearted to follow my heart even if I was listening to it – thump, thump, thump.

Don’t they say that you should listen to your heart? Well, it’s been quite a time since my heart has missed a beat over anything. These days I’m more interested in food than romance. But sometimes it’s nice to remember the old days, heart-warming in many ways. Not as nice as pan fried escallops of pork in a peppercorn and cream sauce though. There’s nothing like a hearty meal at the end of the day and I’m hoping with all my heart that pork is on the menu for tea – not heart though. Yes, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so as long as it’s not with a kitchen knife. Ah, a nice Valentine’s dinner, perhaps I’ll even light a couple of candles and stick a rose on the table next to the ketchup.

That’s heartening; perhaps I’m a little more romantic than I thought.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Kittens and pornography…

Apparently if you want to get your blog read then it’s best to write about kittens or pornography. Well nothing else seems to be working so here’s a post about Luna my cat. So sorry if came here expecting pornography, but today is kitten day – assuming that at almost a year Luna still qualifies as a kitten.

Yes, Luna is almost a year old and has finally convinced us to get her her very own chair by the fire. Oh, she still likes the bed that fits to the radiator and the shopping bag she sometimes crawls into completely - just to get away from things - but on cold winter nights what could be better than falling asleep in front of a roaring log fire?

Some might say that we spoil her. Spoil her? No she’s not spoilt at all - although we do allow her certain freedoms, the odd indulgence. Well, what does it matter if she walks across the keyboard of my laptop making my words into a nosensezbgsr5ioamyzajskqklsu. After all, she sits on a chair at the dining table, patiently waiting for us to finish eating and we always save her a morsel or two, and when the candles are lit in the evening she’ll creep up on a flame and try to catch it with her paw. She doesn’t seem to be bothered by the singe of her fur. Other times she’ll swipe you with her claws from the stairs just for fun or run up your leg piercing flesh with claws. All in fun you understand.

Cats are so catlike. I sometimes wish I were one; although I don’t like the idea of pooing in the neighbour’s garden or washing myself with my tongue. But, oh for the life of a cared for cat - food on demand, strokes when wanted, sleeps whenever, and curtains to run up when the mood takes hold. No worries, just dreams of mice and lots of purring (not snoring). Yes, the life of a cared for cat. Milk in the dish, treats for nothing, kisses whenever, and hallways to race along when the mood takes hold. No concerns, just dreams of butterflies and cream.

See, better than sex; pornography tomorrow maybe - promise.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Fungus face...

Having only recently succumbed to the fatal attraction of carefully trimmed facial hair I wonder now why I waited so long. Perhaps it was the fact that there was a time where my face had a little delineation without the need to emphasise parts of it with a topiary. But these days my face has become rather like a large lump of dough and without the addition of various clumps of beard, moustache and sideburn I look a little too much like a potato.

Of course it isn’t to everyone’s liking, but then what is? And it isn’t as if I’m doing any harm. I haven’t quite decided where my funny little beard is going, or if the sideburns should stay, but one thing is for sure - the moustache is staying at least for a while.

I’ve often dreamt of having an astounding moustache, the sort worn by strongmen and surrealist artists, but there’s always been something stopping me from doing it; actually a number of things. Firstly there was my wife. She doesn’t really approve of facial paraphernalia of the hairy kind. Secondly there was the convention of a corporate lifestyle where facial hair, at least in the UK, was rather frowned upon or at the very least thought of as a little too outré. And of course there was the time thing. It takes an inordinate amount of time to trim and wax one’s facial hair to perfection. Yes, I wax my moustache to a Poirotesqe curl and I’m hoping one day to have the full Dali.

At my age though, you have to go your own way and as I’m no longer under corporate bondage and have plenty of (too much) time on my hands, so facial hair seems to be the new thing. Besides, I was bought the most exquisite pair of moustache trimming scissors for Christmas. They are made to resemble a standing crane (bird not building equipment) and a tiny, ridiculously expensive tin of moustache wax. At some point I shall probably try making my own, but there is no finer feeling than waxing the ends of your moustache into pointy, peaky perfection.

Sometimes I wonder just what will my facial hair become? It could be a goat patch or a well trimmed goatee. It could be the full friendly muttonchops, or a handlebar, or a soulpatch, even a Van Dyke. Maybe I’ll go for the swashbuckling look, or maybe the Guy Fawkes thing. It’s so hard to decide when it just keeps on growing. Perhaps I can shape it into steam train.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sands of time...

I was in a shop at the weekend and noticed that they were selling egg-timers. Yes, egg timers, the glass and wooden ones with sand inside them. Not the electronic type with a buzzer that sounds when the egg is ready, but a genuine hour glass shaped, sands of time and all that, honest to goodness egg timer.

Now, I expect that there are a whole generation out there who have no idea what an egg-timer is or what it is used for. In fact I expect that there are a whole generation out there who don’t even know what an egg is. But as I watched the sand fall from one glass bulb to another I got to thinking…

Firstly I got to thinking about where they got the sand from? Do all egg timers have the same type of sand and is there an egg timer sand desert somewhere from where it is taken? Then I wondered just how accurate egg-timers are, after all if the grains of sand aren’t all exactly even in size and the aperture between the two glass bulbs the same width and length surely that would lead to inaccuracies.

There was only one thing for it. With ten egg timers in front of me I had to find out… time to do an experiment.

I lined up six of the egg timers and, with some dexterity, managed to position three in each hand between my thumb and palm. With a deft hand movement I flipped them over, set them upon the counter, and stood back to watch. Paul Daniels would have been proud of me.

Watching the sand trickle, I wondered if time passes in the same way, as quickly or slowly, for a wandering nomad in the desert as it sometimes seems to for me?

Time is a man-made thing. We might think that clocks and watches, calenders and diaries keep track of it for us but they don't really. Some days are an hour long, other days a week. Those precious three hours we have left to sleep often seem to be only ten minutes in length, those two days to go before Christmas are two months for an excited child.

I think Chronos plays a trick on each of us. At any moment time is passing at billions of different speeds as each of us leads our individual life in our own real time. We are moving at different speeds through time although we are occupying the same space.

As the first of the egg timers ran dry of sand I realised that each egg timer was running to its own time in just the same way that each of us runs to ours. None of those egg-timers finished at exactly the same time, the last was a good fifteen seconds after the first had come to an end.

Which is fine, unless you want to boil an egg.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Mr Shouty goes down under…

Yes, it's that loveable Mr Shouty again. Remember he bears no resemblance to any person living or dead and is just an imaginary arsehole dreamt up by me.


Mr Shouty and his wife have just arrived in Oz and are taking a taxi to their destination.

Did you know that Sidney was named after Sid James the comedian? AM I SURE? OF COURSE I’M SURE WOMAN. IT’S A WELL KNOW FACT!

The Australian taxi driver laughs and informs Mr Shouty that Sydney is spelt with a ‘y’ and not an ‘i’.

YES, I know. SYDNEY JAMES the great British comedian who appeared in all those Carry On films. LOOK, LOOK, A WALLABY!

Mr. Shouty points at a small, long-eared, fluffy creature nibbling on the grass.


The taxi driver laughs and informs Mr Shouty that it’s actually a rabbit mate.


The taxi driver politely asks Mr Shouty to calm down and corrects his English, telling him it’s ‘an’ Australia.


The taxi driver stops the car and asks Mr Shouty and his wife to get out.


As Mr Shouty and his wife get out of the taxi the driver informs them that it is. They are left somewhere in the dusty outback.


Mr Shouty strides off along the dusty, empty road leaving his wife to follow him carrying the bags like a beaten dingo - all she wanted was a sit down.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Lost treasures...

I wonder what it is like to find a lost treasure? 

I read today that an amateur art lover who paid £1,200 for a painting he found in a Paris junk shop actually bought the missing part of Gustave Courbet’s infamous masterpiece The Origin Of The World. Courbet's masterpiece is the first painting to depict a ladies sensitive places in a realistic way. It was banned at first, and then the head of the model in the painting was removed to stop her being shunned by society.

Anyway this head that's been found has been valued at 35 million quid. Nice. Yes, that's the stuff that dreams and afternoon Radio 4 plays are made of. 

Lost treasures, all you have to do is find them. Not that this sort of thing ever happens to me. Yes, I know that might be stating the obvious but why shouldn’t it? After all I’ve been into attics. Mind you, apart from a few boxes of discarded Christmas decorations and the odd Girl’s Own Annual or two I’ve never found anything very interesting. Somewhere though there will be an attic where somebody has, rather carelessly, forgotten that horrible old painting that gave them nightmares or that hideously garish abstract thing that their grandfather bought back from Paris.

Yes, there are a few Breugels and Picassos awaiting discovery somewhere no doubt.

When we opened up the cellars I did discover a couple of old lemonade bottles with marbles in their necks, but no there was no Ming vase hidden away in any of the dusty corners.

On a couple of occasions I’ve been metal detecting. The anticipation when you hear that beeping is beyond belief, but after a few dozen rusty nails and bottle tops you begin to wonder why you are wandering around in a muddy field on the off-chance that you find a Saxon crown.

Back in the early days of car booting there were reports of people buying Faberge brooches and first editions by Charles Dickens almost weekly. These days though everyone seems to be an expert. Even the charity shops know the value of the junk they are selling. I don’t ever expect to ever buy a Burberry raincoat for a pound again - as I did once back in the eighties.

It’s probably all down to e-bay. If you want to know the value of anything just check it out there. That old wind-up robot that you had when you were a kid is now worth ninety quid, that original Diamond Dogs cover you can’t seem to find at least a hundred.

Even so, these flashes of lucky good fortune do still seem to happen to other people pretty frequently so there’s always hope. Besides, somewhere there’s a little old lady only too happy to part with that horrible orange teapot for a tenner.

Lovejoy anyone?

Thursday, 7 February 2013


I found a red rubber ball in the gutter this morning. Picking it up I turned it over in my hands and immediately a film began to play in my head. An old film, not quite black and white, but rather drab and muted colours. A film from the sixties, one of those gritty social dramas - Poor Cow, The L Shaped Room, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Anyway here’s the film that played in my head as I stood holding that red rubber ball.

She stood, waiting against the garage wall arms folded across the tightness of her deep pink woollen sweater. Her skirt clung to her wide hipped curves, her pale face blank - slack almost. Her lips were lipstick red, echoed by a slight shadow of red in her dull, bleached blonde hair. It didn’t look quite clean.  She was waiting by the old houses at the end of the Close, past the garages. She lived in one of those old, damp houses; the roof dipped and the windows rotted. It looked grimy, on the edge of falling apart, a bit like her really.

Her name was Ruby. Some said that she wasn’t all there, others that she was a gypsy. She looked old to me, but I guess she wasn’t even in her twenties. Unmarried with a child she couldn’t care for and no better that she ought to be they said. A tart, she stood insolently looking up the road as if she was waiting for somebody.

He appeared almost out of nowhere, quickly crossing the road to where she stood waiting. He looked around. All clear. She smiled and touched his arm. Taking out a packet of cigarettes he lit one up with a match, then another from the first. Too tenderly he put one of the cigarettes between her lips. She drew in the smoke, looked him in the eye and laughed. He laughed too.

I knew who he was, just not what he was; at least I didn’t back then. Of course there was talk - there was always talk on the Close - and of course he denied that there was anything to it. He denied so much, too much really, his denials obvious lies to all but him. I watched, and life went on as I stood watching, hiding behind the car as my red ball rolled down the road and disappeared under a locked gate.

Then together, they walked into her house.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

February thoughts...

The Celts and Romans considered February to be the start of spring. All I can say is that either they were bonkers or that it must have been a lot warmer back then. What with the snow and wind it’s freezing today and to cap it all I’m four days late for Candlemas.

Candlemas, I ask you, just what is that about? Half way between the shortest day and the spring equinox, the end of the olden Christmas season and the midpoint of winter. Brrrrr. No wonder it’s so bloody cold. It was on this day that churches all over the country blessed all the candles they would use in the coming year. Yes, a mass for candles. Well, we are talking religion here and the Christian religion at that….Amen. Perhaps vicars do the same with low energy light bulbs these days.

I find it really hard to take February seriously as a month, for one thing it’s too short, not a proper month at all. It’s the runt of the litter as far as I can see. Just twenty-eight days, twenty-nine on a leap year – it’s hardly worth bothering with. The Saxons used to call it cake month, but then they also called it sprout-kale for some Saxony cabbagey reason.

The word February is actually a pretty new one, only about a hundred years old. Not even Victorian really. Shakespeare would have called the month Fererell, Isaac Newton Februeer. I just call it nothing, it’s a nothing time of year, not quite winter and not yet spring, something in-between, a confused month.

Even so, for such a short month it’s crammed with funny little days and weird rituals. Candlemas, Collop Monday (which is a day for eating large pieces of fried meat), Shrove Tuesday with its Pancakes, Kissing Friday for kissing (obviously), Ash (don’t forget to put the twigs in your shoes) Wednesday, Thinking Day for boy scouts (don’t rub two together though) and of course the enigmatic four-yearly Leap Year Day when any woman might ask you to marry should you take her fancy.

Yes, Fererell, Februeer, Sprout-Kale, February, Whatever. Roll on the madness of March.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Not a cludo...

I have to ask… just what is Midsomer Murders really about? It seems to me that most of the killings are a cosy kind of affair, not really much to do with murder at all. Tumbling piles of books and not at all accidental drownings, angst ridden lovechildren and messy thwarted mistresses. All jolly good fun set amidst the Oxfordshire villages where I grew up with murder leading to murder inside mellow stone cottages, country houses and large made-over farmhouses. Oddly I can’t remember a single real murder ever happening back in those far off days; so it must be a relatively recent thing, probably caused by all the incomer commuter types buying all the property.

Of course I suspect Midsomer Murders is no more meant to reflect reality any more than Johnathan Creek is. The murders don’t really seem murderous at all and I find myself watching shootings and stabbings, garrotting and fatal doses of poison with the same warm fuzzy sense of cosy as I do when sitting through an episode of Downton Abbey. Each Poirot or Miss Marple might just as well be a Mr Selfridge for all the blood and gore that isn’t shown. Well, perhaps there’s the odd trickle emerging from a nice clean entry point where that ornate Indian dagger pierces between the victim’s shoulder blades. All good clean fun really.

I wonder if murder is really like that, it can’t be can it? And is it okay to watch? People are dead here, made dead in various ways. Should I really be watching murder as an entertainment to lull me into nostalgic mood before watching the ten o’clock news? Ah, the news. So many real horrors laid out on our screens - but hardly a patch on the graphic detail of Silent Witness. There was a time when I couldn’t watch an injection being given, let alone a full autopsy with all that sawing and pulling back of fatty flesh. These days I can look at twenty real life shattered bodies, a hole full of dozens of beheaded corpses, rivers of blood on dusty streets with the same detachment from reality as I do a murdered Oxford don in Lewis.

All good clean fun really. No, I haven't a clue about murder despite all the whodunnits. Perhaps if I were to stand in the road and watch as the bullets rip through real flesh I might understand it all a little better.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Party fears two…

From the first time I heard and saw Billy Mackenzie perform that song he had me. Who knows exactly what it’s about? But here’s a fiction which I think might explain it – at least it does for me. If you know nothing of him or how he ended you can read about it if you click here. He would have been 56 this year, the same age as me. RIP Billy Mackenzie, I think that you deserved better.

I think I was born happy and became very disillusioned. I couldn't believe happiness could be taken away from me. Because sometimes I don't want to be on this planet. And other times I want to be one of those smiley, happy people.
Billy Mackenzie

Party Fears Two.

The shed was burning, the flames spluttering high into the cold air. He watched the black smoke rise. ‘Awake me,’ he thought. Time for a shower, he’d phone his brother up afterwards, tell him about the shed and what had happened in there. But first a drink, just a dram or two to wash the smoke from his throat, Dutch courage too, he’d need it when his brother found out what he’d done. There would be trouble, there was always trouble. How he wished he was a singleton, brothers just weren’t worth the bother, not him anyway

He’d always been scared of the other one, his other brother. Well, they were so different; he wasn’t like Billy at all. Gypsy blood, a Vegas wedding and Howard Hughes - his brother was crazy, capable of anything, capable of being anybody. And always smashing things up - cups, plates, faces, lives – it didn’t seem to matter to Billy. Always an excuse, a reason; worse thing was he always believed him. He’d better get that drink before Billy Whizz showed up. He couldn’t face him without a drink.

Going into the house he went directly to the bathroom cabinet. Odd? His pills were gone. The whisky bottle was still there though. Thank God for small mercies. Lifting the glass to his lips he glanced into the mirror and let the liquid heat slide down his throat. He closed his eyes and when he opened them there was Billy Whizz, staring back at him with that irresistible, slightly vacant smile upon his face and he was just about to say something. What would it be this time? Oh, not that again, he was like a broken record. ‘Do you think I'm attractive, Billy, am I beautiful, Billy, am I?’ He watched Billy’s lips soundlessly opening and closing. ‘Please don't start saying that or I'll start believing you and if I start believing you…’ He mouthed.

So, here I am standing still in the bathroom watching him so bloody sly in the mirror. His dark hair falls across his eye as he says that I dress too well; even that slight remark cuts into me like a shark bite. Brothers eh? Opposite sides of the same coin; look at him smiling - he so happy and me so blue. Romany, Vegas, Howard Hughes. Maybe I should never have called him, he always makes me blue. Maybe I should have left him alone where he was and not woken him up. Just look at him - from closer to near. Too close really.

He’s coming closer, nearer all the time. No! Don't turn around. If you do I won't have to look at you and I need to look at you to find what you want, to understand what I see in you. You say it’s wonderful… you say my manners are failing me… you say you’re left feeling ugly…you say – you say – you say. What if this party fears two? Yes, you and I Billy; two parties the same and one. Why don’t you swap with me Billy? Now my manners seem to be failing, apologies, but what's not found is all that I see in you. Why don’t you put yourself in my place Billy? It’s not wonderful, it’s too ugly to live with and I can’t - I never could and I never will. What is it? Are you too scared Billy? Too scared of you?

Awake me!

So I look away from the mirror and maybe I won’t bother with that shower after all. Instead I’ll just have a few more drinks and then take the dogs for a walk. Just a few drinks, such supreme remote control for a man of barely containable emotions… or maybe I’ll take the bottle to the shed and have a lie down.

Billy left the bathroom clutching his bottle. He loved a drink and the drink loved him back. He knew Billy was watching him as he left, still standing still, watching and smiling. Yes, he’d go out to the shed and perhaps have a cigarette. Yes, a fag, his first and last and always and ever.

As he closed his eyes he peered into the bottle and saw himself reflected in the amber liquid. He was turning even bluer… and was that the smell of smoke?

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A small collection...

A small collection of things found. Stumbled across on various outings.

An old collection now I'm afraid. A collection from when my mind wasn't so full of the grey and worrisome mundane of it all, and there was a new possibility in everything I saw.

Not that long ago, but long ago enough for me to need reminding. A couple of picked pink beach shells, a few stones - some from sea and some from field - a tiny piece of Caribbean coral, a smooth glass wish found in the road below the castle, and a tiny fragment of glass that glinted so much in the sunshine that it called me to pick it up in case it was a diamond.

It wasn't, but it was.

I need to get back to this. Unleash that magic again. But just how do I do it?