Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Faff and feathers...

Some days are full of faff and feathers, days of stress and too many mathers. When eggs just stick and fish won't batter and chocolate pudding ends up smatter. When jay birds flash and cuckoos laugh, the soap gets lost within the bath, the weeds grow tall upon the path and he who shouldn't laugh, laughs last. On days like these I shed a tear, then blow my nose and drink my beer, remembering when it's ends and tethers that some days are all faff and feathers.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Phone box...

I still find myself looking for phone boxes, a habit I picked up long ago when it was still best to know where the nearest one was just in case of fire, illness, accident (including childbirth), or a win on the football pools.

How much simpler things were back then: our world much smaller, communication a face-to-face or posted and delivered thing. Yes, back then a trip to the phone box was a rare and exciting event, a wonder even. I have happy memories of making late night calls from rain splattered phone boxes; calls to friends, conversations with lovers, arguments with home - apologies, happy birthdays, goodbyes, Childline. Only joking, it didn’t exist back then and even if it had I don’t think I’d have been brave enough to go to a phone box on my own.

It’s hard to find a phone box these days. With mobile phones in every pocket and bag it seems the need to ring people from a draughty, smelly booth has almost vanished and with it the boxes themselves. Such a shame, a loss to communities all over the country.

I remember a filthy night in Wolverhampton, my face as wet with salty water as the small glass panes that reflected my not quite twenty smooth-faced self. Years later, another phone box in the furthest reaches of North Wales, a place to watch the sun set and make Nan calls with a small, just-talking daughter. Years before, and ‘Push button B’ on a cold winters night outside a pub I was too young to drink in, calling a taxi I couldn’t afford to pay for. It never came, and I staggered a long and fuzzy walk home. Other nights, warm, at the crossroads late, yellow light coming on when I opened the door, attracted moths fluttering around me. “Can you come and get me?” I stuck out my thumb and walked.

There was a time when homes with land lines were few and far between, the home telephone as big a luxury as ice cubes. The phone box was the only way for most to make a call on those few very few occasions that a call was needed. It’s hard to believe these days that there was a time when you could go months without needing to use the phone, but when you did there was always a queue. There was a real sense of community in the queue as people exchanged the reason for their particular call, and having to use the telephone seemed to make them feel special.

That was it probably. You only made telephone calls when you had to and usually for the ‘nasty’ and not the ‘nice’. After all, the ‘nice’ lived just around the corner and they didn’t have telephones either. My Gran in Lincolnshire did, but she was evil (it must have been genetic) and she was rung only when it was expected or there was a favour to beg.

When did it all change I wonder? Why do we all need to be on the phone continually when in the past we never seemed to? I find myself using my phone because I have minutes to use and it would be ‘wrong’ to not use them. I end up making calls I don’t really need to make from a phone I don’t really need at all. Does anyone really care that I’ll be home in ten minutes? After all I’ll be home in ten minutes and I can talk then, not that I have much to say.

Phone boxes, they were great places to shelter from the rain and how I miss their comforting presence. In my mind they are still painted red and the glass isn’t smashed. The telephone book is never torn or missing, the receiver is attached to its cable, the floor is vomit free and the tiny silver metal ashtray is never completely full. No wonder I can’t find one when I need to make a call; I’m not looking inside my head.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Early morning inside my head...

I’m not very good at taking lie-ins; I have to force myself to stay in bed. This morning was no exception, but I was helped by the fact that we had a brief and total power cut last night which played havoc with my alarm clock. So this morning when I awoke, probably at around half five, I had no idea of the time as I can’t read my watch without my glasses and I couldn’t be bothered to put them on.

Now usually waking at this time means a couple of hours not going to sleep before I get out of bed sometime after seven but before half past. It’s not that I don’t want to go back to sleep, it’s that I can’t as everything on my outstanding list parades across my mind – and it really is quite a list including things to settle that go back years and jobs that, if I were to fix them, wouldn’t be needed now anyway.

Apart from the day to day ‘must do does’ and ‘have to do’ items are a long list of ‘unfinished businesses’. Yes my unfinished business list is as long as a flexible arm and if I ever manage to get through it not only will I be surprised but I’ll probably be in jail.

But back to this morning. The alarm clock not working and my watch being no more than an almost invisible decoration upon my arm enabled me to convince myself that it was much earlier than it actually was. I slept for a while, fitfully and full of strange dreams, waking every now and then as one of my lists tried to force itself on my brain. Each time a ‘to do’ or ‘must do’ or ‘unfinished’ popped into my thoughts I managed to fight it back by convincing myself it wasn’t time to get up yet.

I convinced myself until nearly 9.30, practically unheard of for me. But that last hour or so was something of a struggle and eventually I had to put on my glasses and steal a look at my watch. Suffice it to say I was disgusted by my own laziness when I saw the time and leapt out of bed already aware that I had lost half of the day and my ‘to do’ and ‘must do’ weren’t going anywhere and needed to be attended to.

So here I am, the day almost gone with only a few of the things I ‘needed to do’ done, and none of the things ‘I must do’ done at all. What a waste of a day, I never caught up and now I’ll wake up all the earlier tomorrow as a result.

I don’t think I’ll bother with a lie in again.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Death to all slugs!

Almost May and the seeds I scattered in my back yard a week or so ago are… (wait for it…drum roll… big taddah)…. ARE THROUGH!

Yes, despite what is described by the weatherman (who these days seem to be mainly women) as being unseasonably cold each tiny seed has struggled on, popping its head above the surface to greet the world with a smile and a song. Mind you, it doesn’t seemed to have stopped the slugs and I was rather hoping that the reported unseasonable cold would have wiped the scourge of slugs and snails from the face of the planet.

No such good fortune I’m afraid.

So once again the big value tub of slug pellets, that I seem to have been using for about the last five years, has been taken out of the shed and into battle. I’m not really keen on the brilliant blue hue that speckles the soil of my garden, but it’s preferable to forming a ‘slug patrol’ like the more organic gardeners. I once sunk plastic bottles containing beer into the soil which – for a while – provide the slugs with an alcoholic paradise swimming pool. They must have really enjoyed the end of their sluggy lives, but it was a horribly messy business when cleaning-out time came around.

I’ve often wondered what slugs are for. Oh, forget the ecological balance and food for thrushes and frogs. Just what are slugs really for? What use are they? At least with snails you get the satisfaction of the crunch of the shell when you step on one and some misguided across-the-channel peoples even treat them as a foodstuff.

Not slugs though. Slugs seem to have no purpose at all; they are basically snails without shells. If they had any purpose it would be as an extremely effective slime making machine. If you like slimy things, slugs are probably right at the top of your favourites list; along with past-their-best mushrooms and pond weed. If you're not a fan of slimy though, you’ll understand exactly what I’m on about. I hate the slime-covered bodies that the slug pellets leave behind, deathly piles of coalescing goo.

There’s no doubt that slugs are good at eating things; they eat all kinds of stuff and some can eat more than their body weight every day. I once left a verdant garden tucked up for the night and in the morning came down to a devastated desert of stripped and vanished plants. Yes, the slugs had planned and then set in motion a slug offensive like no other before or since.

They may look all mushy and soft, leaving a nice shiny skid mark on the path when you squish them with your foot, but slugs have some pretty impressive weapons to help them eat. These weapons include a sharp jaw and mouth, and a ribbon-like radula with thousands of teeth inside the sluggy mouth. It’s not just plants that they chomp through either. Slugs enjoy a varied diet including animal droppings, carrion, centipedes, fungi, algae, insects, worms, lichen, and even other slugs… nasty little critters.

Anyway they’re back and I declare war. Death to all slugs!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Plumbers block…

Sometimes I wonder if the more you write, the emptier you get. Well, it kind of makes sense doesn’t it? Like a reservoir emptying because a pipe has burst in somebody's bathroom.

Surely, if you pour out all those words then there has to come a time when you’ve pretty much used them up and the reservoir is empty. Isn’t that what writer’s block is about?

I overheard some advice this week. Actually, when I said overheard it really was addressed to me, but only incidentally. I was a willing bystander you see, a participant in someone else’s dream - an outsider looking in. The advice was on writing and it was good. The gist of it was this: Don’t expect to wait for writing to come to you; you have to make it happen.

Ah yes, I see.

The speaker went on to state that writing is a craft and has to be practiced if you want to get any better at it. As she said: plumbers don’t get up in the morning and say “I don’t feel inspired to do any plumbing today. I have to wait until that plumbing moment grabs me before I can plumb.”

For my part, some days I truly have nothing to write about. Some days I struggle to find a subject that interests me. On these days I simply sit in front of my laptop and start to put words on paper so to speak. Sometimes it starts with a single word, sometimes a sentence, but the minute I start putting words into the ether I begin to write. It doesn’t matter what I write and I’m not trying to make any great point usually; I’m not even ever sure that anyone will read the words I make. But for ten or twenty minutes almost every day I put down some words and usually find at the end that there is something to read. I like doing it, and it makes me feel good waiting for the words to come as they invariably do

See. There’s no such thing as Plumber’s Block.

Right then, I'd better go and attend to that leaking tap.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

My day at Manchester Met (well, not my day really)...

Excuse my enthusiasm, I'm not used to it either, but Manchester Metropolitan University is such a great place.

I’m sure that this type of thing didn’t exist when I was of the age. In fact I know it didn’t. Back then educational establishments weren’t as focussed as they seem to be today. They were more homespun, a little more like the next stage of education. What you would expect them to be really. Oh I’m not saying I didn’t have fun, but I could almost feel the excitement and electricity as it hummed around campus today. Even I believed anything was possible in a place like that and I’ve been dealing normality and humdrum for most of my life.

What was I doing there? Well, unfortunately for me nothing that involved me ‘hands on’ as they say. But I was there as a ‘tagger on’ as my daughter had a look around. She’s decided to do English and creative writing (HurraH! Double ‘H’ intended) and Manchester Met seemed to be one of the places to do it. Now I’m easily pleased but it didn’t take much to convince me that MM was a really great place to study and it seems that my daughter did too. I think that a decision has been reached.

How I envy her that challenge. No, not envy, I’m jealous as hell and at one point seriously found myself considering impersonating her and turning up in September in her (much disguised) place. Of course, it wouldn’t have worked. After all, it’s not like I could really lock her up in the cellar for three years.

Could I?
No, of course I couldn’t.
Yes. You know she’d escape.

So I sat through the very interesting lecture and then joined in with the writing workshop. I won’t tell you too much about the workshop but suffice it to say I found myself enthralled. But more of that and why I’ve posted this painting to illustrate my ramblings another day. Today was not about me. Well almost not. What was it Frank Sinatra sang: ‘Regrets I’ve had a few’? Well, I’ve had a few and a few more and a few more after that, and today only rubbed salt in the wound, twisted the knife, kicked a man when he was down.

Yes… I could have been a contender! If only I’d have:-

a) known
b) tried
c) been encouraged
d) got off my arse and made it happen.

Is it too late I wonder? And as that same old voice, the one that has always crushed my hopes and stolen my dreams, answers ‘yes’ I’ll sign off.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

South Stack lighthouse and other matters...

When we set out we had no idea it would be so far down. So when we arrived, meandering our way from the car park across the cliffs, and saw all those steps winding their way down the cliff face like a snake, I knew that my knee wasn't up to it.

My knee is the current bain of my life. It used to be my back, but it seems that the pain imp has now taken up residence in my knee. Some days it isn't too bad and then others...

Still, no use crying over spilled milk and I've no one to blame but myself. Or so my wife tells me; and yes I really should lose some weight. Sometimes I wonder why I need the internet. After all, if I need any questions answered, even unasked and unprompted ones, she's always there and more than happy to give me the benefit of her infinite wisdom.

It rarely works for me though. Just this morning as she whizzed around the kitchen, thumping down cups and being generally dervish and all out of sorts. I asked what was wrong (mistake number one) and she responded by telling me that she was running late and 'as I already knew' hated feeling rushed.

Of course, wishing to help I suggested that she could overcome the rushing which 'as I already knew' made her grumpy in the mornings by getting up a few minutes earlier, twenty minutes even.

Yes, I think you may have spotted mistake number two. I really should have known better; the skies darkened, the waves whipped into a boil and all at once that long walk down those steps didn't seem a bad alternative at all.

The pain of my knee was as nothing when compared to the ringing in my ears and the pain in my head that followed my silly suggestion. By the time she had left, slamming the door behind her, I would have happily hobbled my way down and then back up if only as penance for my own stupid erring.

Just look at that sky and the colour of the sea. I really enjoyed the peace of that view, even if I didn't manage to get across to the lighthouse.

Monday, 22 April 2013

I’m comely and I knowest it...

It never fails to amaze me how many days there are. Yes, I know that there a 365 in a year but it seems like there simply aren’t enough to go around.

Today is Earth Day but it’s also Oklahoma Day, Girl Scout Leader Day, National Jelly Bean Day, World Book and Copyright Day, Lover’s Day, National Zucchini Bread Day, Take a Chance Day, World Laboratory Day, National Cherry Cheesecake Day, Movie Theatre Day and best of all Talk Like Shakespeare Day – well, it is his birthday and of course it's an American thing.

I wonder if Shakespeare would have been a playwright if he had been alive today. Maybe he'd have been a pop star instead, after all he was always chasing the money. 

Yea, a star of pop, a balladeer... here goest it, thee may knowest the ditty…

I’m comely and I knowest it.
by Will I Am Shakespeare

Yea when I walk on by a maiden fair,
I feel her blushing gaze doth follow me,
And rest upon my ample derriere,
Which clad in an’mal print much tempteth she.
I’m in a Speedo tryin’ t’ tan my cheeks
And every passing lass is on me soon.
I know it is my codpiece that they seek,
For I have passion in my pantaloons.
O wench I bid thee look upon that body -
The normal rules of sexy it doth flout.
Aye, thou wilt quite agree it be not shoddy;
I’ll have thee know ’tis ’cause I oft work out.
I’m proud of my great rump and would fain show it.
I tell thee, maid, I’m comely and I knowest it.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

This time last year...

My back yard this time to the day last year and look... plants and colour.

No colour yet this year and very little signs of growth. I'm really hoping that it warms up quickly; I have plans.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Seeing stars...

Have you ever done that thing where you close your eyes, raise your hands to them and gently push against your eyelids?

No? Well, go on give it a try now. But don’t press too hard, you don’t want to damage your eyes. If you try you’ll probably see the initial blackness start to change. At first there might be pale dancing spots of lights, but keep holding your hands there, pushing a little harder, and soon you might be seeing geometric shapes, then rainbows of colour shooting across you inner horizon.

It hurts a little; a little more the longer you do it. But the longer you stay the more likely you are to see the swirling kaleidoscope of the aurora borealis inside you head, maybe even surreal landscapes.

Closed eye hallucination.

If you practice you might be able to manage it without pressing your eyes, maybe even control the images you see.

Lucid dreaming. Your very own picture show and you have the only seat.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Singing bird...

Every evening the bird at the back of the house sits in the tree and sings until the sun goes down.

It is such a calming song. I open the window and listen and wonder why he is singing. Is he singing to say goodbye to the end of the day, or to attract attention to himself in order to find a mate? He sits in the tree and sings almost until the stars come out and then he stops.

In the morning I am sometimes awoken by his singing. I lie in bed and listen for a while wondering why he is singing. Is he singing to say hello to the beginning of the day, or to declare to the other birds that he is up and about? 

Perhaps he just likes singing.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Thatcher balancing...

I had no idea what to write today, but I knew that I couldn’t let it pass without comment.

I was a teenager when Thatcher came to power and I bless her for stealing the school milk I was forced to drink saving countless numbers of children from lactaphobia. As a unit we had lived our lives in a variety of council houses (and I am the better for that) but all at once my ‘family’ were home owners. Of course nothing changed. The endless rows went on. The slaps and slights of a labour - conservative - independent councilor father, too full of himself to notice anyone else, still went on. His restlessness even came through in his politics, they changed with the climate although he drew the line at liberal (I think). Anyway, thanks to Thatcher his house was at last his own - and didn’t I know it.

I remember watching the miners and the police clash on the TV in the living room of that house. But a boy in rural Oxfordshire was just that and the mines were, for me, another country. They say ignorance is bliss and it might as well have been happening in Siberia for all the effect it had on me. I was more interested in watching ‘Call my Bluff’ than the news. Meanwhile Margaret called the unions bluff, and that was that. 

Good or bad? I don’t know. But I do know that the unions had become as corrupt as any government so if it wasn’t Thatcher it would have been somebody else.

In retrospect she was probably right in many ways about Europe, wrong about privatisation and she should have never pretended to be the Queen by using the royal ‘we’. The Queen she was not, despite her terribly affected accent, not a hint of Lincolnshire remaining.

The Falklands? Well, let’s just say that, although I was of the right age, I wasn’t called up, much to my relief, although for a while there was a question mark around it. I can’t help thinking even now that the Falklands was a war about very little but principle and penguins, But at least it was our war and not someone else’s.

As for the Poll Tax; well, for once the people of this country stood up and got something done and as a result today we live without unfair and unlimited taxation (insert sarcasm symbol here).

Margaret Thatcher you could love her, or hate her, or be indifferent – just another politician in a long line of politicians who believed or believe that they know what the country needs. She wasn’t Hitler, or Churchill (who in my mind is not much better than the former), she was herself in all her gaudy and sometimes tarnished glory.

So that is my Margaret Thatcher. Here’s another by Damian Thompson who is a journalist I much admire. I can’t completely disagree with a single word.

“Let it be said, immediately and unequivocally: Margaret Thatcher was the finest prime minister of the post-war era, the only British politician in modern times to change Britain – and so much for the better. As her aide Ferdinand Mount once said of her – and he was by no means blind to her faults – she made Britons believe that things were possible: that we could revive ourselves through a sheer act of will and by blocking our ears to the enemies of progress. The intensity of the hatred she inspired was, paradoxically, a tribute to her. No one who changes the way a country works, to put it bluntly, can do so without implementing policies that hurt people. She knew that, and regretted it, for she was a kind lady. But Britain is enormously in her debt. This is an immensely sad day.”

Well, I did say that I couldn't disagree completely.

One last thing. I found myself ranting at some bloke kicking off about Thatcher and the funeral cost this morning. Now I'm no Thatcherite but she did work hard for this country even if she got lots wrong. I think it was right to give her a decent send off and move on. I shan't watch it though, not even on the news.

Goodbye Margaret Thatcher – God grant that you lie still.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Kittens and cupcakes...

I saw the terrible pictures of the end of the Boston marathon and, as always, I was surprised by not being surprised at all. It's terrible when we expect these things - we don't know where or when they are coming but we aren't surprised when they happen. I guess the best we can do is support whoever it affects as best we can and thank whatever that it wasn't us and ours.

It’s not the answer though.

Later on Facebook I watched the responses of my friends – outrage, empathy, anger, confusion - all of these and more, and rightly so.

Facebook, a place where we can share our thoughts, update our status, but best of all sometimes get away from the world and lose ourselves in a picture of a grinning baby, a smiling cat or an overly pink cup cake. 

Not the real world at all.

I know it can be annoying but life is far too long to live without insignificant rubbish. I hope people keep posting pictures of kittens and their dinners... the bad stuff will happen anyway.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Tie-dye sky…

Sometimes the sky looks like that tie-dyed granddad shirt I made when I was a teenager. I loved that shirt, it was very groovy and I had such fun making it. It was a two bucket job; half in the purple bucket, half in the orange bucket and then a quick suspension with string and a stick in the purple bucket again to get a bright orange band in the middle. I looked so cool wearing it – no I really did. But then it’s easy to look cool at seventeen even if you do have purple and orange dyed hands.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Dead shrew in situ…

Here’s the shrew that I found in the garden at Wales. I didn’t tame it, not even Petruchio could really do that, but there it was one morning on the raised bed - sleeping I thought.

As it turned out it wasn't sleeping at all.

Turns out that it wasn’t alive in the slightest. It was as dead as dead can be. ‘E wasn’t pinin'! ‘E’d passed on! That shrew was no more! He had ceased to be! ‘E’d expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E was a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e was resting in peace! If he hadn't ‘ave been sat on that stone ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes were now ‘istory! ‘E was off the twig! ‘E’d kicked the bucket, ‘e’d shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! HE WAS AN EX-SHREW!!

An ex-shrew, not a Norwegian blue in sight and not a mark upon him. How strange. 

I didn’t bother to chalk an outline. I put him in an old coffee tin and shrew him in the bin.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The book is dead…

I’ll never read off an electronic tablet, I love the smell of the paper the rustle and turn of the page…

Originally books were held in people's heads. They were called stories. It was a grossly inefficient way to store things (people died and some of the stories died with them); it was impossible to reach a mass audience; and the bloody story changed at each telling so you could never listen to your favourite twice. Eventually somebody hit on the idea of putting marks on stone and clay and wax and animal skin and wood and to cries of ‘it’s not the same having to do this story thing for yourself with your eyes and finger’ and a whole industry was born – scribing.

After a while though people’s arms began to ache carrying around the heavy stone tablets, the clay crumbled to dust in pockets and would have clogged washing machines if there had been any to clog, the wax melted in the sun, the animal skins rotted and the wood got burnt on the fire one very cold winter. Fortunately for the avid reader though, along came Mr Paper (Paper was the man who invented paper) a very, very, very long time ago.

Not everyone liked the new invention; they missed the smell of the wax, the feel of the stone, the way the wood kept them warm and cosy in the winter… but there was no turning back. Paper was here to stay for ever and ever after and amen.

And so it was for ages and ages until a spaceship crashed into the Earth and the Kindle (obviously the result of pilfered alien technology) came into being. Of course many declared that the Kindle (other reading devices are available including books) was the instrument of the devil and couldn’t compare to the feel of a good old fashioned book in your hands. They said that they missed the smell of the paper, the rustle of the page as it turned. But of course they had said the same kind of thing about papyrus, parchment and stretched animal gut. It was all sentimental nonsense and besides: the only way to get a generation of humans who could only entertain themselves with a hand-hand electronic device to read was by giving them an electronic book.

Paper didn’t save the letter, the photograph, the newspaper, the magazine, and eventually the reading book (as opposed to those beautiful books that are really art objects that people stroke and flick through but never read).

And so it came to pass that little by little the electronic book took over and paper books became a thing of the past. People still hung on to a few for old-times sake, making them into wine racks and table lamps and sometimes flicking a page or two to hear the comforting rustle and smell the bookish dust trapped inside the pages. But, to all intents and purposes the paper book was dead. Publishers everywhere attended the funeral and the tree elves rejoiced in their now completely safe and sound forests.

Soon electronic books could hold entire libraries on a single device and the voice-technology within them became so good that nobody bothered to read any more, they listened to the stories instead. They could even set their book to radomise the plot and give alternate endings so that the next time that they listened it was different.

People sat around the fire, as books burnt in the hearth, listening to the stories the electronic book told them and wondering how the story would finish this time - and they all lived happily ever after.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Going viral...

One of the things I’ve been doing recently in my growing portfolio of what I  like to laughingly call ‘life activities’ is writing Facebook posts for a US based company who make designer bags for men to keep nappy changing paraphernalia in.

Now that is a long sentence (the above words and not the activity) and yes... I know, I know, a lot of people hate those posts - and as for men who keep their nappies in designer bags…well. 

But the world is changing, and so rapidly that nothing really surprises me any more, so I just try to go with the flow despite my natural reaction to push against the tide. So social network advertising it is, even advertising for nappy (or diapers as the US call them) bags. After all there is no dishonour to be found in nappies, other stuff yes, but not dishonour. 

Anyway, Facebook promo posts (or proomoos as they are known) seem to be a bit hit and miss from a 'liking' perspective. There’s no telling what people will like, and it’s the ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ that are the objective of the game. Get one to go viral and a lot of low cost publicity and product and brand recognition is created.

My own self-penned favourite to date has been a reference to nappies, a Roy Lichenstein painting, and how the nappy filler might be a budding genius. I thought it was quirky and clever – well done me - but it didn’t get a single ‘like’ or a ‘share’. How very disappointing.

I did a little better with quiz type posts, but soon realised that if you want to score big on the internet it really does come down to cute kittens, ducklings and iddie biddie babies.

Anyway the one that you see in this post has gone viral. To date it has 4,700 likes, 94,784 shares and had been viewed by 6.5 million people just 24 hours after being posted. Oddly I feel quite a sense of achievement having come up with a viral post. If only I had a penny for each time it’s been viewed. I don’t even know how I arrived at it really. I suppose my thought process was something like ‘who is that baby phoning and why?’

If I were to analyse why I thought it has caught fire in the way it has I’d have to say that the baby (who isn’t that cute) is a big part of it and probably the fact that he’s seen performing an adult action – using a mobile – also has something to do with it. But I had a sleeping baby being cuddled by a sleeping cat posted last week that didn’t do anywhere near as well, so it can’t be quite as simple as babies and animals.

I think that it has to be that the caption I wrote has triggered some shared response in a lot of people. Maybe it’s the reference to Grandma – the fact that you can get anything you want out of Grandparents if you ask. Or maybe it’s the implied threat to ‘tell on you mum and dad’, or maybe it's just the Grandma's who are sharing and liking. Whatever it is, it’s there; shared amusement and sentiment caused by something that wouldn’t really happen but if it did could lead to some interesting outcomes.

I think it begins to tell a story that each of us finishes in our own heads. What do you think?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Making faces...

I have been known to be standing next to my daughter at the checkout and not recognise her until she punches me on the arm.

I once sat opposite my a good friend in a pub and didn't see him until he addressed me with my nickname.

My wife flashed me (lights not boobs) in her car and I gave her the V's thinking that some bitch was having a go because I'd cut her up... need I go on?

Not seeing people is something I do very well. I know that somebody is there; it’s just that my mind doesn’t see the need to recognise who they are even when I know them. It’s very strange when it happens. I’m looking at somebody, they call me by name, and suddenly it’s as if a face has appeared where previously there was just a blank.

It happened to me again yesterday. A stranger came into my shop, she spoke my name and, putting my coffee cup down upon the newspaper I was doodling on, suddenly I saw who she was. We talked about shared acquaintances and times gone by for a while and then she left.

I wonder if the people I don't see aren’t there until I see them? Maybe they come in as blanks and leave with a face I've imprinted on them from my memory as I recognise them for who or what they are.

Who knows? Perhaps I'm making faces.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Red sky at night...

Across the field in Wales again.

Maybe I spend too much time here, even if it is only in my mind. Sometimes though, you see the most wonderful things.

Look at the sun, so red that it looks like the sky is a pool of blood. See the way it glints on the glass insulators, the electricity buzzing down the wires. It's all cables in our bit of Wales, no underground flow of current. Sometimes the gusting wind snaps them in two and men in rubber suits come to mend them. And look at the clouds, an iridescent line reflecting on the cottage below.

Maybe I don't spend enough time here.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

That mountain again…

Positive thoughts... It’s perfectly okay to not be okay or so I hear.

Even so, on the days when the over-complication that I allow my life to be surrounds like a swarm of angry bees. Those days when even the simplest nonconformity becomes a mountain to be climbed by feet so heavy and overtired that they simply will not lift, will not plod on, only want to waiver and weep. Those days when I hang the sign ‘Abandon hope all ye who are about to enter here’ from around my neck and walk the streets head bowed. On those days I close my eyes, transport, until I am staring out of my tiny cottage bedroom window at the mountain across the fields.

It’s quieter there with the bleating of the sheep and the singing of the birds; even if it is inside my head.

It’s also okay to be okay I hear.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

After the clocks went forward…

If I were a writer, a real one, I might go to Wales to write. In Wales the strangest whims pop into my mind and for a second or two seem grand and important, instead of the nonsense they must surely be.

Perhaps it’s the landscape or the light. I don’t know, but I can feel that the stories are out there surrounding me. Sometimes I feel one pass me by, brushing me with its tale like an invisible black cat missing me in the dark. I can almost taste them; in the bend of a tree, the tumble of an old ruined cottage, the sound of a passing car late in the night. I start up the story and then I let it drift away to nothing. Of course everything I write is a bit of a story; it’s just that I’m not very good at the plot. Besides, some might say that I lost that long ago and they may be right.

With that extra hour of light it seems tardy not to simply stand and stare. So standing outside in my field watching the sun go down – later today than yesterday by an hour or more – and listening to the cold breeze in the electricity wires, another story darts past me in the body of a hare thumping its way across the field to God knows where. What will be there at the end of that run towards the deep red sky? Family, fox, a shotgun? Or maybe some strangely shimmered change from hare to hunter, feather jaunty in his black-brimmed hat, eyes shadowed, a flick of his ebony whip, then off on the chase once more.

There’s always a tale to tell even when there is no teller to tell it. Stories do not unfurl simply because there is nobody to see them unfurling, they just get on with it. Maybe one day I’ll catch one before it slips through my fingers. Who knows?

Friday, 5 April 2013

The blue parrot...

For a while there I was Humphrey Bogart, these days I’m Sydney Greenstreet.

Not that was anything wrong with Mr Greenstreet, he was a perfectly fine actor and elegant in his own rotund sartorial way. In truth though, for a while back in my late teens I was almost Humphrey Bogart. Of course I wasn’t an actor, nor was I a middle-aged philandering American; but I had the hat and a trench coat and eventually I learned to like smoking cigarettes.

Yes, it was Humprey Bogart that persuaded me to start smoking – that and the sudden departure of the (then) love of my life.

“Play it once Sam, for old times’ sake, play ‘As Time Goes By’.”

I could take it, and with that I lit my fist cigarette and didn’t look back for over twenty-five years.

For a while I played at being the hard-drinking, smoking, cynical Rick Blaine type; and then slowly, as life poured oil on my already troubled waters, I became one. It’s funny how things creep up on us.

I’m not quite sure when my metamorphosis into Signor Ferrari began though although I do remember one murder party in my twenties where I went dressed in fez and white dinner jacket, calling myself El Grosso Fez and speaking with a quite ridiculous Eyygyyptian accent.

Even so, I’m sure that I had the Bogart in me into my early forties - almost another song there, not quite, but almost.

Anyway I’d settle for being Sydney Greenstreet, swatting at flies, spending the rest of my days in that other bar in Casablanca, The Blue Parrot… and wait… and wait… and wait.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

A bird's eye view...

‘Why are you taking a picture of the wall?’ She said.

How could I explain that something about the way the wooden birds on the mantelpiece and the flatness of the light coming in through the window had resonated with another something inside me – a memory perhaps?

A Dodo inside a glass case on a sunny day in a dusty house with egg and cress sandwiches on a coach trip to Tring. Was I wearing shorts? I think that I was. The Dodo, all glass eye and beak, looked real enough to me. Stuffed? Well, certainly not alive. A model, fabricated from wax and chicken feathers? It may have been, it probably was, but for me it was a wonder.

A wonder to be wondered at and remembered.

My carved wooden birds aren’t Dodos, as dead as one maybe in their simple carved stillness and rough painted semblance, but not the funny looking creature in a glass case I stood marvelling at all those years ago. Where had that connection come from?

I sipped my wine. Yes, why was I taking a picture of the wall?

‘I’m just checking the lens setting.’ I replied.

Of course I wasn’t.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


I just sat for a while in the car by the boats, looking across the water out to the mountains beyond. 

Snow on the mountains; I could see white in the distance. The sun had been and gone, tempting me here again. Its weakling warmth upon my skin but under the clouds it was freezing. I had promised myself to get out and take a stroll but it was so cold and the stiff wind, cutting to the bone, made it even colder - shivering, chattering, cold.

Even the gulls were silent as they swooped in the cold air above me. Too cold to dive for fish.

I sat in the car listening to the wind, watching the gulls swoop and not dive and wishing I had a cigarette. 

Boats; that's what they'll do to you if you let them.