Sunday, 30 November 2014

Shine bright like a diamond...

It’s not everyone who has a day named after them. I don’t see any Tom, Dick, or Harry’s days around and Trevor is never going to get his own 24 hours of fame. Despite this, I hate my name. It’s so average, just why my procreating creators labelled me with such blandness leaves me shaking my head in despair; such a lack of imagination, such boring conformity. But I’ve said all of this before.

Anyway, it’s Saint Andrew’s Day today – Huzzah!

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of not only Scotland, but also Greece, Romania, Russia, Poland, Ukraine (for as long as it is Ukraine), the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (that’s a mouthful) and Saint Andrew parish, Barbados - one of the eleven parishes of that Caribbean paradise.

I’ve been to Saint Andrew; it’s situated at the northern end of the island, past Bathsheba. It’s one of the more unspoiled parts with green rolling hills, dense vegetation, and Atlantic Sea views; some might even call it remote, if it’s possible to be remote on such a tiny island.

It’s been a while, but I’ll never forget getting lost and the road that we were meandering along suddenly going up and up until we came to a village that seemed to be perched on the top of a mountain in the clouds. Visitors must have been rare, because the older locals waved and the children danced along besides our jeep all smiles and braided pigtails. Barking mangy dogs ran along behind us and women in floral dresses passed bananas to us as we drove past their houses. I guess that they must have known my name was Andrew.

Shine bright like a diamond.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Kerbside graffiti…

Here’s a small piece of last summer, a piece of pavement graffiti that I passed in one of my meanderings one sunny morning in June. I’ve tried to put it to the back of my mind since then, but somehow it keeps popping to the front.

Yes, here it is with all its mystery and symbolism, at least it’s mysterious to me and surely an image like that has to symbolise something. I don’t know what though, and therein sits both the problem and the reason it keeps preying on my mind; question after question tumble through my head and always without any answers.

Why would anyone want to spray an image of an aerosol can with the word ‘life’ beneath it on the kerbside? How did they do it and when? Was it a night time foray or a quick broad-daylight sneak attack? What does it mean? Is it a cry for help, a threat maybe, or is it just someone messing with my consciousness?

I don’t know, but I haven’t seen one before or since and it keeps bothering me. I need to know what it is before it drives me crazy. For a while I thought it might be a secret sign; a marker to some rave or party. Then I thought it might be Banksy working at another level and scale. Perhaps a clown painted it, a clown that lives in the drains a la Stephen King. I’ve even theorised that it’s a sign that vagrants sometimes use to point other vagrants in the right direction – this way to aerosol oblivion and life.

Ultimately though, I really have no idea what it’s about.

Let me know if you do.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Black Friday rant…

So Black Friday is upon us. Sounds ominous doesn’t it, a bit like Bloody Sunday, Blue Monday or that other Black Friday, the one with all the cars which really isn’t just a Friday but any bloody day where there are roadworks. 

Of course, this Black Friday is really the old New Year’s Day Sales brought forward - this is before they became the new Boxing Day Sales you understand – all in line with yet another imported American custom. Thanks Wallmart.

Yes, the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday in the US, the day when every shopping mall in every state turns into a small version of Hell and the National Guard are called out to control the crowds of would be paying looters. Having lived through the experience ‘stateside’ a couple of times, I was quite pleased that we didn’t have it. But alas! It seems we can’t escape the madness any longer and this year, for the first time that I remember, black Friday is all the thing in the UK.

Hoorah, we now have Black Friday! Whistles and bells and la-di-da-di…

There was I just getting used to Trick or Treat (that rather enjoyable Halloween impostor) and along comes: Baby Showers, Prom Nights, Tuxedo Weddings, Leader Debates and all that other American stuff. Not only that, but Waitrose (that most English of gentile supermarkets) are claiming that one in six of us Brits celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. Thanksgiving? Yesterday? Did I miss something, and just what was it that all those British people were giving thanks for anyway?

I see no Indians! Sorry, Native Americans.

Yes, the Atlantic really isn’t the barrier it once was and somehow, what with all those celebs and their Mid-Atlantic accents, our British identity is getting slowly washed away by the waves of that particular stars and stripes sodden ocean.

Our traditional festivals are disappearing to be replaced by stateside’s rough equivalents. Harvest Festival, Halloween, Shrove Tuesday, May Day, Swan Upping, and our glorious bank Holidays may soon be a thing of the past. If we are celebrating Thanksgiving, surely Labor Day, Martin Luthor King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day (yes, we really should celebrate our own defeat) are just around the corner. Just what will this do for Bonfire Night and will Boxing Day - a day that even I have never really understood in celebratory terms - be embraced across the pond as we have embraced Black Friday and so much other needless crap?

I doubt it.

Meantime we’ll continue to drift on our tiny raft towards what were once the American colonies until one day soon, instead of wishing each other Merry Christmas on December 25th, it’ll be Happy Holidays so as not to offend. I know, here's an idea -  how about Uncle Tom Cobley and All Day?

Well, we might as well whilst we are about it.

Mmmmmn? Maybe, Black Friday is blacker than I had at first thought.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Big rocks and small rocks...

There are many milestones over the course of a lifetime. Marriages, births, first loves, children, but not all milestones are big things, there are small milestones as well, the riding a bicycle, learning to whistle, the first day at school type of milestones. I guess you could call them big rocks and small rocks. But sometimes even the small rocks can seem pretty damned big to a child.

I think that the biggest milestone of my life to date has been learning to tie my own shoelaces. It was such a big rock at the time even though now it seems such a pebble now; like telling the time and knowing my left from my right. These days with Velcro, zips, and elastic tying your laces hardly seem to matter, but when I was a boy it was pretty much all laced shoes, except in summer when it was side-buckled sandals. Of course, before I went to school it was okay that I couldn’t tie a bow; my mum could always tie my laces for me. But once at school it became a nagging need, something, that if you couldn’t do, made you obviously and publicly stupid in the eyes of everyone who could.

Over and over, for hour after hour, I’d try to manipulate those laces into a bow only to manage knot after knot. I don’t know just how many times I almost got it, only to tangle and fail at the final crossing and pull of the lace. Driving me was the fear of my primary school teacher who had taught Victorian children and believed that if you could not tie your own laces then you should be stood in a corner and pointed at until you could.

All that pressure on a four year old made my fingers fumble, and of course the ‘help’ my father gave me didn’t help much.

I can’t remember exactly when it all slipped into place. But like most of these things I suddenly found myself, rather miraculously, with one perfectly tied lace and another which was passable even if it was only a half bow. After that, and with only a few minor setbacks, it was all plain sailing in the lace tying department. I must have been almost six.

These days I struggle to tie my shoelaces, but not because I can’t make a bow. These days it’s my back that has become the sticking point.

I’ll never forget the elation and relief I felt on the day I managed to tie my own laces for the fist time after music and movement in the school hall. It was one of those milestones that should mean very little, but at the time was the difference between shame and pride, stupidity and cleverness, ridicule and simply being left alone.

It didn’t end there though (well, it never does, does it?) Not far behind the tying of laces the challenge of the school tie was just a few short years away.

But that is another story.

Monday, 24 November 2014

No time Toulouse…

Being brought up in the sixties and seventies and having an interest in art means that I think I’ve always been aware of Toulouse Lautrec.

His Athena posters of Parisian dancers were everywhere back then and if that wasn’t enough there was Monty Python and the ‘no time Toulouse’ sketch.

Well, it's in perfectly common parlance.  No-time Toulouse. The story of the wild and lawless days of the post-Impressionists.

But I digress.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa or more simply Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a French painter,printmaker, draughtsman and illustrator who led a very colourful and theatrical life in Paris in the late 19th century. He made exciting, elegant, provocative images of the decadence of Paris in those times, often on cardboard, brown paper, or tablecloths.

He’s one of the legendary post impressionist painters alongside Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin – and what a dilettante bunch they were with their missing ears, syphilis, sultry teenage South Sea island mistresses, and of course funny top hats.

Lautrec was vertically challenged, a short-arse, the result of a combination of childhood ailments and rumoured in-breeding. But that didn’t stop him painting big. I love his circus painting most of all. He captures the movement and the light, the excitement, the mystery and the sex perfectly. I can almost smell the horses in the ring and hear the crowd applauding.

I learnt a lot from those paintings with their squiggles, blots, scribbles and flourishes.

Unfortunately though, not enough; I can’t paint like him and I never did run away to the circus.

Saturday, 22 November 2014


My blog tonight is a picture of an adorably cute Christmas kitty. Yes, when in doubt, just stick up a picture of a fluffy Luna kitten in a Santa hat.

That’ll do it every time.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Let sleeping cats lie...

Here’s a picture of my cat Luna asleep in her radiator hammock, so snug and warm and doing no mischief at all. It’s that time of year when I’m afraid the dark mornings and even darker nights keep her indoors more than she’d like and on some days, when there’s nobody around the house, she hardly gets out at all.

It’s her lazy time of the year and she sleeps away the days as well as the nights. But I’m sure she’d rather be out roaming her world, the one that runs from one end of the road to the other and across to the houses on the other side. A small world where generally she can find her way home and return in pretty much one piece most of the time (I pray it continues). Yes, there she is asleep in her hammock without a thought in her head apart from her next meal, her next poo, and the robin that teases her sometimes in the back yard.

Of course this wasn’t the blog I was intending to write tonight. There is something far more important than a sleeping cat on my mind. Something I need to get down but haven’t yet thought through well enough and haven’t so far been able to distance myself so that I can write it as honestly and unemotionally as possible.

So, for now let’s allow sleeping cats to lie, so to speak. I'll keep the cat in the bag just a little longer.

It’ll wait.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


The first of the wine I made last summer is bottled at last. Six bottles of clear, strong, honeysuckled sunshine. Of course, I’ll be waiting a few more weeks for it to mature maybe even a few more months. I might treat myself to a bottle at Christmas but it’s best to leave homemade country wines a year at least I’m told.

That’s what they say – I’m told…

I did allow myself the tiniest taste, saving a savour of the last of the precious liquid from the demijohn. In a single word the best way I can describe it is earthy, if I were to elaborate I'd say earthy and strong, strong and warm, almost whisky like. There was no 'just a hint' of anything, it’s a good honest wine full of the hedgerow, rich, pure and clear and mellowing up nicely.

Yes, best left for at least a year they say…

The colour is good, the bouquet heady, it's deep but not too heavy. I’m not sure if I should serve it chilled or at room temperature, I guess I need try it both ways and take it from there. 

I won't be drinking it for a while yet, but I suppose that I should label it up, date it, and put it in the cellar to stand. I really enjoyed the drop I borrowed, it was so interesting, but I can wait a few more weeks, a few more months. Those bottles look so tempting, but I can take it.

A whole year, and it’s only been eight months…

I can resist anything but temptation.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Candle jars...

With Christmas rushing upon us I though I'd better get on and make some products to sell.

These hand-painted and unique candle jars come in a variety of designs, with a metal heart, handle, scented tea light, and red gingham ribbon, they are all ready for me to personalise or write a message of your choice on the back.

At only £7.99, including personalisation, they're a great little gift which will be appreciated for years to come.

Mmmm... Not bad. Maybe I should be an advertising copywriter.

Oh, I was.

Sunday, 16 November 2014


I'm a big fan of pies. Steak and kidney, beef and ale, chicken and vegetable, minced beef and onion, meat and potato - you name it and I'll eat it.

Of course my wife Gaynor makes her own pies, blind baking the cases, filling them with a mix of wonderful fillings, then carefully lifting them from the pie dish.

These are Chicken, leek and mushroom with a rich chicken veloute sauce.

Pie Heaven every time.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Comets and Clangers...

With news of the Rosetta spacecraft’s recording of the Philae comet it looks like Oliver Postgate was right all along and small worlds really do whistle and sing. Of course the Philae comet lander looks as if it’s about to go into hibernation when the batteries fail - but controllers say the mission was 'total success' and that the craft sent back all of its scientific data from surface of the tiny piece of rock.

‘All’ of the scientific data? Well, maybe not. As soon as those batteries die the dustbin lid shutters will slide off and out will come the pink knitted Clangers to gather up their latest bit of space debris and get on with their tiny pink lives..

Yes, the probe missed the Clangers in their metal armour, didn’t have chance to sample the soup Dragon’s green soup from the soup wells inside the comet, couldn't hear the beat of the metallic wings of the Iron Chicken,or see the Froglets whoosh away inside their Top Hat spacecraft. Somehow the Rosetta’s probe managed to miss the music trees: the ones the Clangers harvest for their musical notes. It even missed the cotton-wool cloud that floats over the little world, releasing musical raindrops onto the dusty surface below.

So not all the data then, scientific or not. Mind you it did manage to record the Clangers as they waited under the surface for its batteries to die. 

There’s no mistaking them. Just LISTEN.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

No man's land…

I watched the new Sainsbury’s Christmas ad last night. It beautifully recounts a moment in history that really says something about the nature of war and all those involved in it. I’m pretty cynical about those cutesy Christmas ads, but this one really is something else. It’s a tiny docudrama that tells the tale of two young soldiers, an Englishman and a German, who forge a brief friendship at Christmas and how the gift of giving is what Christmas is all about.

Of course there’s a gloss to it, it’s a little over-sentimentalised, but all the horror is still there and there’s no product placement, no cynical attempt to sell, sell, sell, based on the story that unfolds.  

The First World War must have been so terrible for all those men in the trenches regardless of the side that they were fighting on. British, German, French, what difference did it make? They were all just men and boys caught up in something they had no control over and certainly didn’t have part in causing.

Men and boys away from home and loved ones, frightened and uncomfortable, lost in so many ways.

I guess most people were aware of the story of the Christmas no-man’s land truce before this new Sainsbury’s ad; a brief break in the fighting to play a game of football on Christmas Day. Most of these types of story are myths like the Mons Angel, but in this case it’s all true. All along those deep trenches of the Western Front back in 1914 men stopped firing at each other, sang carols together, met up, even played a game or two of football and became friends for a few brief hours.

Of course it was all unofficial, not sanctioned by the governments of any side involved and it wasn’t universal, some men kept shooting. It all depended on where on the front line you were. The following year the military forbade it, although some ignored the order and kept Christmas with each other still. But by the Christmas of 1917 the combination of orders from above and the sheer level of bloodiness and despair meant that the Christmas truce stopped happening and the killing went on despite the sanctity of the day. Such a shame, but then that whole war was a shame in the truest sense of the word.

Look, I could go on about how this advert is still selling Sainsbury’s brand. I could suggest that it’s just Sainsbury’s sticking it to John Lewis. I could argue that selling anything on the back of such a bloody conflict can’t possibly be right, even a pound bar of chocolate with all the profits going to the Royal British Legion. I could, but I won’t. The advert really got to me and I think most people will come away with the right message rather than the urge to dash to Sainsbury’s to buy overly expensive goods.

I hate to say it, but I admire Sainsbury’s a little for doing this.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Andrew the glass man...

So this will be my last Christmas in my little shop. Fate and fools have worked against us and Christmas Eve will be our last trading day. It's been a real experience and I have met some real characters, some great business people, and even a few nutters along the way.

One day I may write the book and tell the tale of how this shop and the glass painting I did there kept me sane when my head was very much wanting to shred itself and how I learnt more about human nature in just a couple of years than the rest of my cosseted life put together. I shall miss my tiny corner; I've spent a lot of hours hiding away in it, had a great time along the way, and made some real friends.

There are now a dozen of us left on the ground floor, but we all prepared for Christmas and we are sure that it will be a good one. The trees are up, the piped carols will soon be playing, we will even be laying on some mince pies and mulled wine.

The New Year will be a new start, and I'm going to relaunch with a new energy. My customers remain great and I'm planning to continue not too far from where I am now. It's a better position, more central, and I'm excited by the change and challenge; I've even bought an apron embroidered with 'Andrew The Glass Man' to start my new venture. That's me, Andrew The Glass Man these days, and I'm perfectly happy to remain so.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


There hasn't been much in my head over the last couple of days unless you count the refusal of Robert Plant to reform Led Zeppelin for five hundred million quid.

It would be wrong to compromise his artistic integrity but I can't help thinking that all that money could have done a lot of good for the less fortunate in this world.

His decision, and why should he care about Cancer or Ebola victims? Rock music, after all, has nothing to do with charity. It's all about sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Bob Geldof seems to manage both though Planty.

Maybe you just didn't think about it.

No, not much to write about other than a has been rock god I never really liked letting his old mates, his public and (as Sir Bob might agree) the world down. So instead here's a picture of some random kid dressed as a cute penguin. Doesn't that tug at your heartstrings people?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Lest they forget...

I don’t know why I sit here deep in the wine glass, far too late at night, on the eve of Armistice and wondering where my eighteenth birthday present ended up. It wasn’t much, but then I knew we had no money, and a gift of something I’d for so long admired and wanted was more than good enough for me.

It was a First World War shell lid, the piece they screwed down at the bottom of the shell. Some Tommy had made it into a soldiers cap adding a copper peak to the brass, two cap buttons, and an old French copper coin inside the cap on what I assumed was the detonator. It’s not the one in the picture, but it was close.

I often wondered if that poor soldier made the thing while he sat in the trenches up to his knees in mud and rats, or if it was something he brought back to Blighty. Maybe he fashioned it a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, perhaps he never made it back at all and it was brought home by a friend.

‘Off to college,’ his mouthpiece said. ‘While you are away we’ll keep it safe for you.’ She said.

Safety? A new concept then.

Anyway like my fossils, the bird’s eggs, my paintings, the National Geographic, the pier, the grandfather clock, my hope, it went the way of all things that were mine but really his. In sat on their mantelpiece for years after I was given it. I can’t understand why I simply didn’t ask for it back or just pick it up and take it.

Perhaps I just knew that it was never really mine.

These days they call this things Trench Art, collectible, quite valuable. Perhaps that was it. Of course it’s a long time ago now, but there are some things that – lest we forget – aren’t forgotten. I wonder where it is now?

Friday, 7 November 2014

John Lewis time again...

So the new John Lewis is here. I know, I know, it’s cute, it tugs at the heartstrings, that little boy is adorable, and everyone loves a penguin.

Yes it is all so cute, so adorable, so lovely, and all so completely bloody cynical.

The ad is basically a sales tool for Monty the penguin merchandise. Nothing wrong with that you might say, ads are meant to sell product, and you would be right. What I think is very wrong is making a not very well-made stuffed penguin into a ‘must have’ gift and then selling it for £95, a staggering £185 if you want Monty’s practically identical girlfriend Mabel (both typically John Lewis names) so that the two of them can remain a couple.

Let’s not be fooled, this ad isn’t about love, or sentiment, or nice deeds at Christmas. It’s about grabbing as much money as possible for as little as possible. If you look carefully at the ad you’ll see all the John Lewis penguin products you could wish for. You are being manipulated, brainwashed to need these things.

Are people really this gullible? Apparently yes they are. John Lewis sold out of Monty toys within hours of the advert launch. Just who is so naïve to allow John Lewis to tug at their overly sentimental heartstrings in order to sell them such tat? Who would pay almost 100 quid for a toy that you could pick up for less than a fiver in any discount toy store?

Many people are saying that this ad is the best ad yet. Well, I guess it depends on your perspective, your definition of best, and if you don’t mind being taken for a bloody fool by a major store who should know better.

I can imagine grandmothers all over the county tutting as they blow a couple of weeks pension on these cuddly toys, but doing it anyway as little Ben, Grace, Charlie and Fleur will simply adore their very own Monty and his sweetheart. Yes, the little darlings really must have one, so the old dears will part with their money and then wander home to a cold flat that they can’t afford to heat.

But it doesn’t end with cuddly cloth penguins. The soft toy is only part of the Monty range. John Lewis has produced 39 pieces of Monty merchandise including umbrellas, onesies and cufflinks, which also sold out within hours along with those shabby Monty toys.

It seems the world is Monty mad. Well, mad anyway.

As for Sam, the rather strange seven year old boy in the ad, it seems to me that the poor boy needs help. It’s fine to believe that his penguin is real - an active imagination is a good thing - but his concern with his toy penguin’s love life is, well to be frank, a little unsettling. Not only is that penguin in need of a bloody good wash, but is it really normal for a seven year old to fixate on a penguin’s sexual needs?

This is boy who may grow up to seek love with a little too much passion, a boy that might become addicted to romance, or a stalker, a serial philanderer, a sex addict, maybe even something worse. He’s well on the way to becoming a voyeur as he watches the penguins make whoopee with that strangely over-interested smile on his face - and all because his parents spoilt him by buying him an overpriced stuffed rag penguin one Christmas.

Yes, there’s a moral in this: don’t pay £95 for a cheap cuddly toy, make an ass of yourself, and send John Lewis laughing all the way to the bank. If you do your child may grow up to be one of those weird people who hang around farmyards watching the chickens mate.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A few fireworks…

What a week for fireworks, well actually what a couple of weeks. Just when did Bonfire Night start in October and go on until mid-November? Bonfire night with all its gunpowder, treason and plot is on the 5th of November, otherwise what is the point of having it?

Bonfire nights in my boyhood were such anticipated affairs. Everyone would build a bonfire in their back garden, stuff a motley selection of old clothes tied together with string to make a Guy, and save pocket money for weeks for a few fireworks.

Sometimes I’d plonk my guy in an old pushchair and go penny-for-the-Guying it. It never occurred to me just how wrong it was to burn an effigy of a Catholic, even a Catholic terrorist, despite Blue Peter telling the story with sketchy drawings every year.

Such an exciting event; if I were to rate special days back then Bonfire Night was only just behind Christmas, in front of my birthday, and Easter limped along miles behind like a damp squib. Even Halloween, which was nothing like the trick-or-treatfest children enjoy today, beat Easter by a crooked mile.

Bonfire night was so exciting - the flames, the smell of burning tyres and wood, volcanoes, Catherine wheels, baked potatoes, and of course the sparklers. How I loved sparklers.

This year, and for the first time in many, we set off some fireworks in my mum-in- law’s back garden. They were very good, not overly large, but sparkly and banging and whizzing and splattering. I didn’t feel the same thrill and excitement I did as a boy though – except when it came to the sparklers.

Last night holding my sparkler in hand, a big grin on my face, I was a boy again standing in a council house back garden, watching a burning heretic go up in smoke, and eating a baked potato.

Yes, I still love sparklers it seems.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Government bans farting...

As a boy I used to read The Beano.

Dennis The Menace, Billy Whizz, Minnie The Minx, Roger The Dodger, The Bash Street Kids. Hours and hours of reading fun in a comic that cost a tanner.

I don’t remember when I gave up reading it, probably when I switched to The Hornet, but I’ve dabbled over the years and read one or two; even bought a Summer Special when a moment of unfettered madness grabbed me by my grey little soul. Not for a while now though.

These days The Beano costs £2.20. So when my mum-in-law was given a free copy in her paper I decided that I might as well take a look. Now I’m not sure who The Beano is aimed at these days but it entirely appealed to me. The issue was one long story about farting, each character’s strip continuing from the previous one. The basic premise was that a new roller coaster would be built in town if only the Mayor would agree to it. Of course everyone was thrilled, everyone except Walter, the leader of the softies, that is. Now the Mayor hated farting so Walter decided that he would become the Phantom Farter and try to get the roller coaster stopped…


As I said, it entirely appealed to me – well farting jokes are absolutely the best aren’t they?

I was engrossed for a good ten minutes as I read from cover to cover. I smiled at the awful puns, was intrigued by the artwork, made nostalgic by the well-remembered characters, and I fell in love with The Beano all over again.


Of course The Beano is a little bit more edgy these days. Lame, awesome, pants, dude, epic, whatevers, and app are just some of the words I dont remember from my childhood comics.  Political references to the Prime Minister making everybody miserable is not something I remember from my childhood Beano either; although a good farting story is universal to small boys of all ages, so maybe I am actually part of the comic’s target audience.  Yes, although the characters looked and behaved pretty much the same as they always have there was definitely something else going on in that comic - I’m not quite sure what though.


If I were pushed and had to pick a single word to describe The Beano today that word would probably be ‘subversive’, although I’d probably attach a ‘mildly’ in front of it.


Anyway, short story even shorter; there was a voucher inside to get a pound off the next edition which means I can have my next copy for just £1.20. It seems ungrateful not to take DC Thomson up on the offer and besides, in the name of research, I need to check that The Beano isn’t actually inciting young boys into becoming subversive with its disruptive story-lines and ideas for pranks.


That would be too awful wouldn’t it? It could lead anywhere, even to anarchy, and I’m sure that the Prime Minister wouldn't like that at all. No he'd have to set the thought police on it and dumb it down, just like his government is doing with everything else from Twitter to speaking about your beliefs in public.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Fairies in the garden...

I wish it had been fairies, but it wasn’t. Mind you, if you look closely at the photograph you can see the odd fairy shape or two.

I’ve been noticing these tiny white mothy things in my garden for a few days now. Pure white swarms of minute insects every time I pick up a leaf or deadhead a plant. I suppose I should have known what they were - after all the clue is in the name - but in all my years of gardening in various places I have never, ever, come across a single whitefly; let alone a swarm of the little buggers. Greenfly I have had and blackfly are regular visitors to my nasturtiums, but until now the whitefly have stayed away.

I have to say that they weren’t what I expected. Both greenfly and blackfly look like the kind of crawlies that will damage your plants. Whitefly, on the other hand, look like benevolent creatures who might have flown down from the moon and would have Tinkerbell for a friend. Of course they aren’t benevolent at all and left unchecked can do all sorts of damage to your plants.

They go in through the leaf and stem, literally sucking the life out of plants, and live to a five day breeding cycle. Once you have them you have to be vigilant. I sprayed with a mixture of washing up liquid and bug killer which seems to have got them for now. Five days down the line though it might be a different story. I’m actually hoping for a sharp frost. That’ll get the little devils.

Oh well, it’s good to have a new foe to fight, as if the slugs weren’t enough. I’ll get them. Yes, my new quest it to eradicate the whitefly. Let’s hope that it doesn’t turn out to be mission impossible.

Now children, clap if you believe in fairies. It might help kill the whitefly.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Moving skies...

Sometimes it’s best not too look. Sometimes you don’t need to or don’t have the chance. The A55, speeding along in the passenger seat on a clear autumn afternoon, no time to look, everything whizzing past so quickly - apart from the sky.

The big blue sky and the clouds, wispy and drawn out like smeared emulsion across a light blue silk dress. Don’t look. Just react.


I never saw that tree or the pylon, and even if I’d tried I’d never have timed it so that the street lamp was right in the middle of shot. I didn’t even notice the contrail.

Sometimes it’s best not to look. Sometimes you just have to trust to chance.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

I love Halloween...

Oh Jesus (is that appropriate?), so that’s another Halloween come and gone and this year there were a record ninety-eight (yes 98! I put it in letters and numbers so that there is no mistake) Trick or Treaters a’visiting our house. I have to say I was impressed. The costumes were brilliant and the children so involved, little devils.

It was almost like I was taken back to my childhood – except I wasn’t. My Halloween childhood was the smell of burning turnips – no pumpkins for sale in supermarkets back then – and the threat of witches. These kids were dressed to the nines and their parents had spent big on their outfits. Witches, warlocks, ghouls, ghosts, Star Wars characters with light sabres, vampires, grim reapers, axemen, princesses of the night, cats, a robot, a moon and the cutest not quite three-year old girl pumpkin I have ever seen.

Of course I played my part, knife through my head and drooling blood. One group screamed and jumped back when I opened the door, the smaller kids just looked very nervous and quivery lipped. Apparently it’s healthy and part of the learning process for kids to be scared occasionally. So that’s alright then - conscience clean.

Most of the children were well behaved and very polite, but inevitably there were a couple of brats – well aren’t there always, cheeky little tykes. I only wish that my knife had been real so that I could have pulled it out and waved it at the little witch who repeated screamed that my knife was a fake, fake, fake, fake, fake, fake, FAKE!

Ninety-four children came to the door, running the gauntlet of pumpkins, their parents (many in fancy dress) standing at the gate watching on in various levels of wine induced oblivion. My wife had made up thirty bags of sweets and, with the frequency of our spooky callers, these were all gone by half-past six. She was pretty much on a sweet bagging production line, bagging sweets all night with no cupboard unrifled in the quest for confectionary.

The last trick or treater, a lone boy in a torn grey suit covered in dust, arrived at about nine. ‘Trick or treat,’ he mumbled. I’m not at all sure he was into the spirit of things. It was probably a last minute decision to come out and have a go; either that or he really was a risen spirit. I gave him his sweets anyway and he wandered off.

Then I blew out the pumpkins, closed the door, and drank myself to sleep. Well, you have to escape the evil spirits somehow.