Monday, 30 June 2014

On yer bikes...

According to Katie Melua there are nine million bicycles in Beijing. Yes, nine bloody million of the damned things. What a nightmare.

Bikes, I just don’t like them. Well, not so much the bikes, it’s the bloody riders I can’t stand. Just where do they get off? I don’t like the way that they run red lights or the fact that they ride onto the pavement if there’s any obstacle in their way. It annoys me that so many of them refuse to use the cycle paths that have been specially constructed for them at the cost of tens of millions of European pounds, and just why do they feel the need to clog the country lanes by riding three abreast?

Suddenly, aging men all over the country seem to have decided that it’s time to slip into Lycra shorts and start wearing penis shaped hats on their heads. Is it fitness or desperation that drives - or rather pedals - them? Well, I suppose it’s a cheaper mid-life crisis alternative than a Harley, even if they do look like absolute plonkers.

If all of this wasn’t enough, when I set out for Wing Yip’s Chinese supermarket in the centre of Manchester yesterday I wasn’t expecting to find myself driving through bloody Beijing, but that is what it seemed like. There were sodding bicycles with their bloody riders everywhere; roads were closed, diversions abounded, traffic was gridlocked, tempers were frayed, and all so that some bloody cyclists could ride along major highways that were built for cars and where bicycles seldom venture.

It took me three hours to travel the ten miles from my home to Wing Yips. Ten miles of stop start, ten miles of crazy drivers trying to take short cuts up one way streets, ten miles of watching smug, back-packed, arseholes pretending to race their million-speed, ridiculously expensive, customised shit heaps, when they should been out for a leisurely drive with their families.

The things I’ll do to get a few jars of Wing Yips special curry sauce… and that’s a fact, it’s a thing we can’t deny, like the fact that I will love you till I die.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Eyes open...

Wales isn’t good for me. It makes me forget the rant of my ordinary life and focus on what immediately surrounds me rather than the media, or news, or the comings and goings of others. It’s a melting place for my mind, a sling for my body, a vapour rub for my soul and my senses seem to be heightened. Maybe it’s the quiet or the fresh air, perhaps it’s the lethargy of the pace, or maybe it’s simply the tweeting of the birds and the bleating of the sheep.

When I’m there I always think: ‘I don’t get here enough.’

And then I open my eyes.

It’s amazing what can happen when your back is turned. Just a few weeks away from Wales and the hedges have grown (groan) and flowers and plants seem to have sprung out of nowhere. The self-seeded aquilegias in the gravel at the front of the cottage are particularly glorious.

I had a passion for these a few years ago and, when I had more time there, tried all sorts of varieties. Of course, aquilegias are a gregarious plant and cross pollinate to create new varieties and colours all the time. The trick with the plant is to keep them pure so they don’t fall back into their natural state – which is beautiful in its own right but not spectacular. I’m not a grower any more, so I don’t mind and, in the words of the song: ‘whatever will be, will be.’

I had expected these aquilegias to be a bit dull when I noticed the plants before they flowered, purple bonnets or pink multi-heads at best, so imagine how pleased I was when I saw these beauties. It’s been years since I planted any aquilegia McKenna, but somehow the seed has survived and here they are in the subtlest of shades, the best show I’ve ever grown - even though I had little hand in growing them.

I sat on the front bench as they waved in the breeze of a sunshine filled evening, drinking a very nice Malbec and watching the light of the setting sun light up and illuminate the riot of colour.

How the mouse will play when the cats away and mother nature is allowed her head.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Following the sun…

Ah, the summer sunshine. It makes you feel so different doesn’t it? So much happier, more alive. If only you could capture it and seal it in a bottle, keep it close in a dim cupboard then open the doors when the winter evenings arrive and light up the room with stored sunshine.

Yes, the summer sunshine; have you ever followed the last few rays to find out where it’s going to end up? I have. 

This time it ended up dancing past my beer glass to a forgotten corner of the garden. The corner next to the shed, behind the caravan, where the empty pots and planters languish and the tumbled leaves are rarely swept away. The corner where, years ago, I spotted a small, brown, lizard soaking up the summer’s heat before I got too close, sending it scuttling into the hedge.

No lizard this time as I watched the golden light shiver, the soft breeze flicking at the leaves and making their shadows dance, the aluminium facing of the caravan rippling like waves on metallic water. Such a peaceful feeling, this last of the sun – or maybe it was the beer.

When the winter comes this corner will turn dark and damp and I doubt it’ll see much sunshine. The leaves will become sodden, turn to mulch, and the concrete will become blackened with winter mould waiting for the sunshine to return and bleach it clean away again. I won’t go down there to sit and catch the last of the watery winter sunshine; it’ll have no heat in that corner.

If only I could open that cupboard and let some sunshine come tumbling out. Oh well, I’ll have to fill my cupboard with beer instead for consolation. That should help the winter pass.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Unlikely gods…

There are days when I feel like giving thanks; a bit of a problem as I don’t really have anyone to give thanks too. All those gods, that others seem to value so much, might as well be cartoon characters for all I care, after all Yogi seems, to my mind at least, to be just as believable as Jesus, and Fred Flintstone seems about as real as Buddha to me.

A talking bear with a pork pie hat and a tie? Ha-Ha, you’ll be telling me next that his mother was a virgin and that he was born in a stable to save us all. A caveman who pedals a stone-age car with wheels made from boulders? Well why not? All praise the holy Fred and the baby Bam-Bam too – yaba-daba-dooooo!

Gods eh? You just can’t seem to find one when you need one… or is that buses… or policemen?

Seriously though, who do you praise when you don’t have any god up your sleeve? Who do you conjure up when you sunny-day-stumble into that disturbing feeling that you are blessed?

Of course opportunity has plenty to do with it; being in the right place at the right time. I might have been born into that two thirds of the world where there is no choice or chance; and choice has a lot of say in whether you end up ‘blessed’ or ‘blighted’. Obviously chance, kismet, luck, serendipity, or whatever else you want to call it, has a big hand in it all too.

But as for a higher being masterminding each of our journeys and working in mysterious ways for each of us?

Well, I think not.

On the other side of the planet a butterfly beats his wings, causes a breeze that starts the air spiraling and causes a storm. A peal of thunder startles a bee. the bee stings a parrot that takes flight and causes a coconut to fall, The coconut lands in the sand and… well, you can decide upon the rest. Let’s just say that a small change in one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state; a series of non related events becoming meaningfully related.

Synchronicity as Sting would sing.

I wonder what did happen after that coconut fell into the sand?

So lonely.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

On midsummer's day...

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The footie...

Let me start by saying that I’m not a football fan. I’ve never followed a team in my life and, apart from brief forays into the beautiful game when nationalistic pride demands it, I’m never going to. I do however watch a few big games, particularly when England are playing.

Some might say that I know nothing about football, and indeed some do and have. I think this is unfair. I fully understand the rules of football (yes, even the offside rule) and have watched enough footie in my lifetime to know a foul from a fair tackle, a good from a bad decision, and a great performance from a poor one. I think I have every right to comment on the ref, the player’s performance, and the goals they score without needing to know which teams they play for, the leagues they play in, their goal averages, or even their bloody names.

I’ll continue to watch England’s World Cup performance until the end. I think that they’ve played pretty well; Sturridge and Sterling have been impressive, Hart has been solid, Rooney has been flat despite setting up our goal in the Italy game and scoring last night, and our defence has at times been scrappy. I’d like to blame the referees, but in all honesty they’ve played it straight down the middle and most of their decisions have been good ones. On another day Rooney would have scored from the wild shots he’s taken and Suarez (damn him to hell) would have missed. We just haven’t had the luck.

But then I watch football for the wrong reasons. To me football is just another form of entertainment like a play or a movie, and, as with any form of entertainment, I don’t need to know every actor’s name or their entire acting CV to appreciate a television programme or movie that they’re appearing in. Yes, a football game for me is just that word I’ve been using rather a lot – a performance.

So, why are football devotees so dismissive of people like me? People, who don’t follow the sport, but watch the odd game here and there for fun. Listen, I know an awful lot more about art history than most people. When I look at a painting I can tell its influences, where it fits in the development of art, and more often than not who painted it and when it was painted, I can probably even tell you a little bit about the artist. Of course, I don’t stand around in the pub arguing about the finer points of Pre-Raphaelite painting or if Braque influenced Klee, neither would I tell anybody, that didn’t know much about art, that they were wrong to like a painting simply because they didn’t understand its pedigree and context.

They have as much right to comment on what they see and think as I have, and they don’t need the background knowledge I posses to know what they are seeing. Their opinion is as valid as mine and I believe they have the right to speak out about it.

Not so football fanatics I’m afraid. It seems that anyone who doesn’t live, eat, and breath the sport has no right to comment, and to be honest what’s to understand? It may be a cliché, but at the end of the day it’s just 22 obscenely overpaid men trying to kick a ball into the back of a net to a set of rules and standards. There really is nothing more to know.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Like a lot of people, I discovered Nick Drake late, too late really both for him and me. By the time I got around to listening to his music he was long dead, killed by his lack of success, depression, and an overdose of amitriptyline. Nick was born in Rangoon, Burma, 66 years ago and I can’t help wondering, today on his birthday, just how many wonderful songs death cheated us out of all those years ago. Just three albums, over four brief years, then the ultimate silence at only 26.

Talented, educated, privileged, insecure, camera shy, reclusive by nature, and ultimately one of those doomed young men that we do so well in Britain. You can read about him on Wikipedia, watch the documentary his sister Gabrielle made about him, even listen to his music, but ultimately I don’t think you’ll get close to knowing him. Perhaps that’s what draws me and so many others to him.

A waste? Definitely.
A loss? For certain.

Potentially he was one of the greatest folk rock songwriters of all time, maybe up there with Bob and Leonard. Unfortunately, we’ll never know, will we? If you’ve never heard of him, don’t worry, just listen to his music. It’s as close to him as any of us are going to get.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

1601, Yell, hibu, and video recorder death...

Today is one of those days when I’m at a complete loss to know what to write about. It’s not really surprising as this is my sixteen hundred and first post. Don’t worry; I’m not going to bore you with word counts again, but it is getting pretty difficult to find something new to relate.

I guess this is just another slow news day on What a Wonderful Life; no new 70’s celebrities have been accused of salaciousness or impropriety, the garden continues to grow at its own speed, the weather is unremarkable, and, whilst there is plenty of news going on in the world, the thing that keeps popping into my head is that hibu has changed its name back to Yell. No surprise there really, but not really enough to make much of a difference to this once great company. Oh to be a visualiser in those heady, early days once more. If only I could remember every moment and every prank.

Sometimes I think that my head is as full of holes as hibu’s business plan must be. There has to be more inside it than I’ve told you already, and all I can think is that much of its contents are slipping away into nothing. I wonder if, as I gasp my last breath, it’ll all come flooding back? Every moment of my life presented to me in an instant like my old 80’s video recorder (a VCR that cost a months wages and weighed a couple of stone) on an incredibly fast forward.

First gasp to last gasp in a second or two.

I wonder what I’ll think of it when I see it all lumped together in an Eamonn Andrews moment?

Not a lot Eric?

See, I told you I had no idea what to write about today and whenever that happens the oddest thoughts pop out of my pen… which is actually a keyboard, but you get my drift.

And with that I’ll drift off for another day.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Give a gnome a home...

I wonder what it must be like to be a garden gnome? Are they hurt by the disdain so many people have for them? Do they worry about the snide comments? Are they bothered that their day has passed and they are out of fashion? Do they really care what people think?

If I was a garden gnome I wouldn’t.

If I was a garden gnome I’d keep my head down and enjoy a spot of fishing, dig the garden, or simply sit on my toadstool in the sunshine and watch the world go by. After all, who really cares what other people think? If they don’t get you then that’s their problem, not yours. Just because you may wear a brightly coloured tunic, tights, and a big pointy hat, it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. It’s not like you’re a witch or anything. Besides, what’s wrong with having your own style?

I believe there’s a place in every garden for a gnome or two, no matter how designer the garden purports to be. Let’s face it; if you can cope with a bloody big Buddha, then you can deal with a tiny gnome. Besides, what’s not to like? Gnomes are fun; only there to make us smile. Good humoured chaps who don’t mind being tucked away in a corner. They are as happy peering from behind a bush or rock as perched upon a pedestal, or why not hang one on a swing from the branch like I do.

There’s a gnome for every occasion or interest. They don’t have to be twee; although they really do have to have the pointy hat. Hatless gnomes or gnomes in baseball caps don’t really work, a bit like Tory politicians with no ties and rolled up sleeves.

They have even allowed them into the Chelsea Flower show once, until banning them again this year. So go on, give a gnome a home, there’s no shame in it. It just goes to show how kitsch-cultured, ironic, and cool you really are.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Meow, meow moon…

Here it is; the full Moon of Friday 13th 2014 snapped through my bedroom window as it rose above the houses at the back. Not the clearest of photographs, but a moment in time, a moment I shall remember until the Alzheimer’s sets in.

Apart from the moon itself, another reason for this sticking in my mind was that I hadn’t realised I wasn’t the only one watching the moon from behind the bedroom curtain that night. As I zoomed in on the yellow, slightly fuzzy, glow something sprang at my arm almost making me drop my camera. A white blur of fur shot from behind the curtain and proceeded to charge around the room. Over and under the bed, leaping on top of the wardrobes, running along them, then diving onto the bed, turning cartwheels, then sitting and gazing out of the window, singing a cat song at the moon…

Meow, meow moon,
Meow, meow moon,
Meow, meow moon.

Meow, meow moon,
Meow, meow moon,
Meow, meow moon.

Meow, meow moon,
Meow, meow moon,
Meow, meow moon.

Well, her name is Luna… and it sounded like cheese to me.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Another wine...

So I spent Father’s Day racking my Elderflower wine and bottling my Elderflower fizz. They’ve both to clear yet, and the wine (in the large demijohn) will need racking again and won’t be ready until Christmas. The fizz, on the other hand, will be ready in a few weeks, although it won’t be more than 4% proof.

To be honest I'm not much of a fan of Father's Day. I find it hard to get excited about something that was dreamed up by a greetings card manufacture and I'm sick of seeing just how many 'world's best dads' there are on this tiny planet of ours. Yes, I know; if it was Christmas I'd be accused of saying 'Bah humbug', but Father's Day, despite it being nice to get cards and gifts, really gets on my pip.

Anyway as I've said, by Christmas my wine will be ready to drink. If I said I can’t wait I would be telling the truth, but I will. I've become quite good at waitng for a drink these last few days. Besides, no point drinking it all too early, I may even keep a couple of bottles for the following year.

I’m already thinking about my next batch of wine. I don’t know what it’ll be, but I fancy blackberry or elderberry, although carrot wine is meant to be pretty good. Yes, maybe carrot.

I won't be raising a toast to fathers though.

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Today I am mainly thinking Spangles.

Where did they go, those lovely gem-like squares of coloured sugar that we all loved so much? I could just go a packet now; the square cellophane covered blocks were such a sweet, fruity, joy. I loved to nestle the tip of my tongue in the round depression in the middle and just hold it there – don’t crunch, don’t crunch, just suck.

Of course I hardly ever could and the burst of fruit, as I bit down on the glasslike lump, would hit me like a tropical storm. Those sweets were so hard and shiny that they splintered when you chewed them; I never quite cut my tongue as I expected to though.

I grew up with Spangles. They were introduced in 1950, when sweets were still on ration. I don’t remember that, but I do remember the flavours. They were such an adaptable sweet. The regular Spangles tube contained a mixture of strawberry, blackcurrant, orange, pineapple, and (my favourite) lemon and lime. Over the years they introduced all sorts of other flavours Acid Drop, Barley Sugar, Blackcurrant, Liqourice, Peppermint, Tangerine, a white mint Spangle (complete with a square hole) to compete with Polo Mints, and those awful Old English Spangles - liqourice, mint humbug, pear drop, aniseed. treacle – yuk, yuk, yuk.

And who can forget Mystery Spangles? Just what was that mystery flavour anyway - grapefruit?

Spangles were dropped in 1984, briefly reintroduced in 1995, though only in orange or blackcurrant flavours, and today the only Spangle related sweets in existence are Tunes – the sweet that helps you breathe more easily.

Spangles, simple sweets for simpler times as the advertising shows – such a sweet way to go gay; naïve, unaffected, a post-war treat. Nobody worried that they were pure sugar or if they were full of E’s. E’s hadn’t even been invented back then and naughty children were just naughty children who, as a punishment, didn’t get bought any Spangles.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Masked men...

Who was that masked man?

Who indeed? Well when I was a boy it was the Lone Ranger. Now there was a real hero in his light blue, lace-up skin-tight shirt; all white hat, red scarf, and pearl-handled pistols with real silver bullets which were always ready to be whipped out at the merest sniff of a bad guy. Back then he didn’t seem at all camp, not even Red Indian camp, but these days? Well, let’s just say that I’m not at all sure why he was hanging around with Tonto. Perhaps it was the feathers?

Not that it matters; whatever he was, he was a real masked hero and the first masked man I remember seeing on TV, apart from maybe El Kabong, although he was a cartoon horse.

Of course I read The Man in the Iron Mask and The Mark of Zorro at around the same time. Masked heroes seemed to be the thing back then, and my childhood days were spent viewing the world from behind a strip of black cardboard which I kept in place with two elastic bands that were, rather painfully, tied around my ears.

A little later I discovered American comic books and suddenly a whole new world of masked men was available for me to become: Batman and Robin, The Arrow, Captain America, Daredevil, The Black Hood, Flash, Doctor Fate, Spider Man, several of the X-Men, The Spirit, Green Hornet, Green Lantern, The Shield, The Phantom, even that rather silly Plastic Man.

I never quite worked out how putting on a pair of glasses changed Superman into an unrecognisable Clark Kent. A mask would have been a far better disguise, he didn’t fool me once; so I hardly ever became Superman. Most superheroes had dual identities and were anonymous, choosing to duck in and out of their invincible personas rather than be ‘super’ permanently.

Of course, their masked identities excited me because I wanted out-of-the-ordinary heroes with virtues and powers that I could only dream of. I’d pretend, as I read those beautifully drawn comics that, since nobody is supposed to know who the man behind the mask is, I was the hero and for a moment or two I stopped being ordinary and became someone else - someone who could fly, become invisible, run at the speed of a passing train, even control people’s minds.

It’s a habit I’ve never been able to break and I still do it to this day; not the flying, invisibility, or the running, but I’ve worn so many masks over the years that sometimes even I wonder who I really am.

El Kabong?

Oh well.

Hi-yo, Silver! Away!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Early June backyard...

Well, it’s coming along. The rain and the warm weather have seen to that. Strange, the weather we are having though; one minute sunshine, the next torrential rain. Still as they say: it’s good for the garden. Of course the slugs and snails aren’t. But the rain and humidity seems to have made them come along too.

I had planned to make my yard/courtyard garden (take your pick) shades of pastel mauves, understated pinks, and cool creams this year. Of course I’d forgotten that it’s shady and that I’m not a pastel kind of guy. It would have looked cool, but really it needs to be hot. So, much as I wanted to create an oasis of peaceful calm in soothing colours, I soon found that it wasn’t really me, nor was it going to work. Soon, the oranges and yellows have begun to creep in; the sunflowers, daisies, gazanias, and of course, as predicted, the self- seeded nasturtiums.

Oh well, if you can’t beat them join them. It’ll all come out in the mix I expect.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Off the booze...

I have just entered an alcohol free zone and I may be here for some time, five days at least.

Yes, at long last I’ve got round to visiting the dentist about my tooth and, on inspection, she told me that I have all the makings of a pretty little abscess under one of my top molars and that the infection had spread to my gums which was why I was in pain.

Now this wasn’t exactly a revelation, I’ve had these things before – twice, but I managed to avoid retorting ‘no shit Sherlock.’ Well, she did have a stainless steel pointy prodder thing in her hand and my tooth was only millimetre or two, and a quick poke away, had she decided to take offence.

Apparently I had two choices: she could remove the tooth or treat it with antibiotics, although (and here’s the disclaimer, yes, always read the small print) there were no ‘guarantees’ that the tooth wouldn’t need to come out eventually.

Again I was tempted to mention Mr Holmes, but she still held the prodder in her hand, so once again I thought better of it, bit my tongue, and elected for antibiotics.

She broke the news as she was writing the prescription (by hand, no system print-out nonsense for her); I must avoid alcohol for at least five days.

I asked her to define what she meant by avoid and alcohol. Surely not wine?
Yes, she meant wine.
That too.
How about cider, one that was below 5%?
Yes, cider as well.
Weak shandy?
She just looked.
No alcohol at all then?
She nodded sagely.

For a moment I considered asking her to get out her pliers and pull the tooth instead. Five days without a drop of alcohol? It simply wasn’t possible. Five days? That was almost a whole week!

I lay there in the chair. What was I to do? Surely I could go five days without a drink. I can’t remember the last time that happened (actually I can’t remember the last time I went 24 hours), but five days wasn’t so long… was it?

Anyway, this is day 1.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Luna's bridge....

Being a cat isn’t always easy, particularly when that man plants the garden so that you can’t get to your favourite hidey hole.

Yes, I planted the garden so that Luna couldn’t get to her snug hiding place beneath the rhododendron. I didn’t mean to, I simply didn’t think, and Luna, being Luna, wasn’t going to walk on my plants to get there; so she was marooned poor thing. She looked quite distressed as she tried to find a pathway through the plants, but of course there wasn’t one.

I felt guilty. She really did like that spot. From there she could watch the bees and butterflies and, if she was really clever, catch one. Not nice I know, but cats will be cats and, unlike the birds, the butterflies and bees can’t hear her bell.

The more she wandered back and forth trying to find a way across, the guiltier I became. She shot me a look of reproach and meowed pitifully. It was no good, there was only one thing for it, I would have to build her a bridge, a walkway so that she could get to and from her lazy day sleeping area.

So that’s what I did using a piece of old limestone paving I had hanging around. Just the job for the nimble pawed.

Problem solved, amends made, and a happy cat.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The new improved me...

An optimist once said: endings are merely beginnings. Well, I said it actually. But maybe that still counts.

After a lifetime of swinging towards the pessimistic side, I now find the pendulum swinging across the line and towards the sunshine. Optimistic I am. Not with a big fat ‘O’ but with an ‘o’ nevertheless.

Yes, endings are merely beginnings; there, I said it again and actually I’m coming to believe it. At this rate, if I’m not careful, I’ll soon be believing that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (just leaves you with issues that you may need to work through) and that everything happens for a reason. From there it’s only a short happy skip to every cloud has a silver lining, don’t cry because it’s over - smile because it happened, and when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Yes my glass is half full for the first time that I can remember. No pressures, no stress, and choice. What more could I ask for? Listen, if you’re not going to kill me then you better watch out. I’m coming back stronger and you are sure as hell on my list. Anyway, I don’t want to say this, but I’m going to anyway… I feel blessed.

And with that I’ll leave it there, before I need a bucket.

Sunday, 8 June 2014


This weekend I have mainly been Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, what with tending to my vegetables, making a batch of Elderflower fizz, and growing my new mop of very curly brown hair.

All I needed to make the transformation complete was a sheep to take off to slaughter and a rabbit to gut - but we only do that when we are in Wales.

Yes, what a weekend.

I enjoyed dodging the rain as I planted my herb garden and stirred my Elderflower brew with the big plastic spoon I always have to hand. After all, what’s a bit of rain? Life can’t be all sunshine you know, so you might as well enjoy the rain too. We only have one life, despite what Nancy Sinatra may sing.

Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that I’m not making complete sense. Well, call me Rosie if you wish but all of the above is true inasmuch as it all took place, and I have, this weekend, been having my own little ciderfest; a celebration of the apples and pears – and no, not the cockney rhyming slang you bankers.

Have you noticed the variety of flavoured ciders there are on the market these days? I have, although I can’t quite remember when they came creeping up on me although that’s probably the alcohol. Anyway, this weekend to celebrate the fact that my life is a breezer (see what I did there) I started with straight pear, then went onto summer fruits, honey and blossom, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, even kiwi and lime.

I really like the kiwi and lime.

That's it, gotta go (literally). I have a Tequila and lemon cider to sup.

Be seeing you, probably two of you.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

all about planning...

Life is often better
When it just happens.
Most plans
Fall over anyway.
Just enjoy now.
And listen to
The windchimes.

Friday, 6 June 2014


D-day – hard to believe that it happened only 13 years before I was born and by the time I was in my teens it seemed to be almost forgotten. Perhaps we need reminders about these things. Perhaps today, seventy years on, is the time to remember.

The aerial photographs, taken by allied planes flying just 1,000ft above the battlefield, show the chaos of the landings. In some ways they look like pieces of abstract art, paintings of random objects splashed across a distressed canvas. They are so beautiful in many ways that it’d be easy to get lost in the patterns of the images and forget the destruction and sacrifice of the reality going on below.

I’ve sometimes wondered what the D stood for. Was it Destiny, Doom, Deliverance, Debarkation? Truth is, it was none of these things, just a term to show the importance of the date. Of course since then there have been many D-days, it’s still used to plan military operations. There were D-days in Korea, the Falklands, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other conflicts. Just ask anyone who has served in the Navy, Army or the RAF, and they will have their personal D-day memories. Although few will be as etched into the consciousness as 6 June 1944, they will be the days that will stay with those who lived through them forever; the days they were lucky to survive, the days when death was riding on their shoulder.

But what about the rest of us, those who have never lived through a conflict close at home or been involved in some other war further afield? What about our D-days? We all have them don’t we? Days we are dreading. Days when our futures hang in the balance - the results of medical  tests, the long awaited announcement that tells you if your job is to go or stay, the birth of a long awaited child.

D-days happen all the time, every day for someone, somewhere.

Of course, one of the reasons we are here to live through our own particular D-days is directly down to the men in the chaotic abstract painting that was that very first D-day, the one that happened just 13 years before I was born.

Unfortunately, the Battle for Normandy didn’t end on the 6th of June. The Germans counter-attacked and many more terrible battles were fought over the following 80 days. The cost of victory can still be seen today at the 27 war cemeteries which litter the Normandy coastline, they contain the remains of more than 110,000 dead from both sides - and, despite Google’s lack of interest, that is something worth remembering.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Jesus is everywhere...

They say that Jesus is everywhere, but if so I don’t know how I missed him on Coronation Street for so long.

I’ve been watching this gritty tale of Northern folk since Ken was a student and Martha Longhurst took off her hat and drew her last breath in the snug of the Rovers. I remember them all: Minnie Caldwell, Harry Hewitt, Lucille, Annie Walker, Elsie Tanner, Albert Tatlot, and all the rest. Although I don’t remember seeing Jesus on the Street until last night.

It seems that Jesus is alive and well and living at number 1 Coronation Street along with Deirdre and the rest of the Barlows (not Ken at the moment, but several others) and has been ‘in the house’, as they say, since Uncle Albert’s day hanging around on the wall, his hand resting on a Boy Scout’s shoulder.

Yes, a Boy Scout with his hand on his hip… hmmmmmm.

The painting is by Ernest Stafford Carlos and shows a Boy Scout in this slightly unfortunate pose, whilst a classic Jesus hangs around behind him.

Yes, he's behind you!

Carlos painted a lot of pictures of Boy Scouts and was a big hit with the Church, this particular painting being reproduced as a stained glass image in a number of Catholic churches. To be honest I’m not very surprised by that, any more than I’m surprised that Ken has hung onto the painting all these years; he's a sentimental fool is Ken.

Dib, dib, dib, Ken.

In fact I’m more surprised that it isn’t St. George in the picture, after all he’s actually the patron saint of Boy Scouts and it anyone should have a special relationship with a chap and his toggle, it’s him.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for further TV soap sightings. Jesus really does seem to be everywhere.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A little wine...

Ah, how I love a new project; particularly one that involves alcohol.

I’m at an age when, for some reason, making my own wine seems to be a good idea again. Of course I’ve tried oenology before, but using a kit doesn’t really count if you are a serious enologist. No, the true winemaker makes his wine from ingredients he has foraged from the countryside, although I have to say that I’ve made some passable wine-like liquid in the past - at least I managed to pass it.

I still have some of my old winemaking kit and have been toying with the idea of having a go at a country wine or two for a while now. I guess that it’s all part of the movement that seems to have grabbed so many of us as we grow our own veg, keep chickens for eggs, make jams and chutney, and generally spend fortunes on growing and making foods and drinks that would be far cheaper if bought in the supermarket.

Maybe the refound popularity of gardening and baking programmes on the telly might have something to do with it. Of course it could be that we are sick of the speed of our lives and the invasive technologies that many of us, me included, are addicted to.

Maybe we are all looking for the good life.

Felicity Kendal…

Anyway, about the wine.

When I was in Wales last week I collected a bag of elderflowers. They smelt heady and pungent and when I examined the flower head I saw each one was actually made up of hundreds individual tiny flowers. This was the stuff to make wine with and, instead of the cordial I’d been planning, I decided to make elderflower wine my first country wine experiment.

I found a recipe on the internet, got myself a lidded bucket, some yeast, and away I went. It’s been bubbling for a few days now, during which time I’ve ordered a couple of demijohns, bought a country winemaking book, and am planning what wines to have a go at next. Dandelion, elderberry, parsnip, blackberry, and carrot are all on the list. The elderflower will need racking into a demijohn next week and then it’s the long wait until Christmas.

Bottoms up… I hope,

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Two men in their underwear...

I was asked the other day how long I’d been blogging. In all honesty I couldn’t remember and had to check. As it turns out, I stumbled into Bedford Falls way back in December 2008, almost six years ago. Six years, where have they gone. Over 1500 posts, around the same number of illustrative graphics, often originals, over half a million words, 57 registered followers, and more readers through Facebook.

I still find myself asking why I do it. Of course I know all the answers to that question by now, and the truth is I doubt that I could stop even if I wanted to. I’m an addict and, as there seems to be no Bloggers Anonymous, I don’t think that I’ll ever stop being hooked.

It’s disturbing really, the thought that I’ve spent so much time on something so inconsequential when I could have written three novels with all those words. Of course to write a novel you need characters, a plot, a great ending, and an awful lot of perspiration. Even so, I keep telling myself that I will one day.

That’s it really, apart from the picture. It’s the Mael twins, Russell and Ron, Sparks by their other name. I came across it a while ago and found it doubly disturbing. Firstly because of it’s subject matter, and secondly because I can’t decide which of them is more creepy in their undies; Russell in his perfect black briefs or Ron in his dirty vest and pants combo.

They are two sides of the same coin really I guess. Maybe my blog is like that, another side of the same coin. I’m sure that hidden away inside it somewhere is a ripping good book. All the words are there, not necessarily in the right order (thanks Eric), but there nonetheless.

Two men in their underwear… maybe I could use that thought as the starting point for my next book.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Street Partyyyy...

Another day, another street party. This time a celebration of 40 glorious years since Trafford Borough was brought into existence. Oh deep joy, so much more to celebrate than just another royal wedding or a mere jubilee. Yes, forty glorious years of Trafford… Huzzah!

Mind you our road doesn’t really need much of a reason to break out the booze and vol-au-vents, and once the cars were cleared, the gutters emptied of the previous night’s chip papers, burger wrappings, dog ends, and flyers advertising everything from curry to stick on nails, the road scrubbed up pretty well.

The organisers (three cheers) had managed to order up a sunny day, a barrel of beer, a long line of tables, some fun activities, and a glorious karaoke which all helped the party to go with a swing. 

The menfolk of the street were as alpha male as ever, competing in the egg and spoon in shorts and frizzy wigs as if it were an Olympic sport that they’d each been training for all their lives. The women, pretty little butterflies in their gaudiest clothes, tried their best to remain sober and demure and as always failed abysmally, either falling into a haze of drunken oblivion or laughing very loudly at everything until night fell.

Not all was as it seemed though; there was a shadow over the proceedings. Although the day seemed to be going well, on closer inspection it managed to bring out some of the roads less than salubrious characters. Shady drug dealers, less than modest go-go dancer types, aging hippies rolling joints, fat old blokes in caps singing Elvis’ ‘In the Ghetto’, even drunken doctors, teachers, and young business executives, all rubbing shoulders as if they could possibly coexist on the same road. The words ‘hoi polloi’ sprang to my classically educated mind as I observed the tawdry shenanigans, then to top it all a number of these characters sat down in the road as if in protest and proceeded to (well, there’s no other way to put this) got oops outside their heads.

I sometimes wonder what the road is coming to, I really do. It gets harder everyday to keep order and decorum.

Oh well, it’s not over until the fat bloke sings and I’m a sucker for karaoke - three cheers for the king! Bring on the next one and God save Trafford and all who roll in her!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Can you tell what it is yet?

Can I tell what it is yet? Well actually I can’t. I’ve been trying to avoid this Rolf Harris case, and when I say avoid I mean that I’ve been trying not to follow it. But the media is pervasive, it’s everywhere, and it is impossible not to pick up the odd report or two about what Rolf has said about the allegations that have been made against him.

I don’t know why I don’t want to know about this case, my reasons for my wanting to stay away from it all confuse even me. I suppose it could be that Rolf was almost a hero to me when I was a boy, no William Tell or Lone Ranger, but up there with Top Cat, Fred Flintstone, and Yogi. In many ways Rolf seemed a little like a cartoon character rather than a real live person with his painting, and singing, and Jake’s third leg – diddle, diddle, dum.

My Uncle Charlie thought he was great, and somehow I can’t think of Rolf without thinking of Charlie. Charlie could paint and was musical. He spent small fortunes, which he couldn’t afford, on stylophones, passing one of his old ones to me. I don’t remember him having a didgeridoo, but I do seem to remember a wobble board which he wobbled in accompaniment to his rendition of Sun Arise.

Digeridoo, wobble board, stylophone, cartooning – but this isn’t about Charlie. It’s about Rolf. Apparently Rolf has admitted to finding a thirteen year old girl in a swimsuit sexually attractive. He also agrees that he went on to have an affair with her when she was 18 and ‘legal’. He wrote letters to the girl’s father apologising about it. His daughter destroyed some of Rolf’s paintings when she found out her best friend had accused her father.

Rolf is either a very honest man with little to hide or a desperate man trying to slightly alter the truth to make it as plausible as one of his television show paintings.

Can you tell what it is yet?

I can’t.