Monday, 29 February 2016

Look before you leap...

It’s Leap Day, that strange day made up of all the left behind bits of days, left out fragments of the four years leading up to the great day itself. Just once every four years, 1,460 days of minutes already passed all packed together to form an extra day. It’s a day for hares, frogs, Christmas Lords, marriage hungry women and those wicked faerie folk.

Legend has it that if a pregnant woman steps on a frog on leap day and kills it and then has her baby, the baby will be stolen away by fairies and replaced with a changeling with the body of a man but the heart of a frog. Now I don’t know if that is the case, but I can almost believe it. The day has a very strange feel. That out of time feeling where nothing you do really matters - a dead day, a cousin to Twixtmas.

I’m not a big fan of this pretender of a day. I can’t help feeling that it’s an illusion, which of course it is. All time is an illusion and it’s only our silly need to measure it that brought about Leap Day in the first place.

Watch out for frogs.

Sunday, 28 February 2016


Blogging isn’t easy. Sometimes you have no idea what to write about, other times you do but it comes out as something else altogether. 

Today is another one of those days when I have nothing in my mind other than empty space and the knowledge that I have so many things that I should be doing that I really can’t spare the time to write about nothing. But today is a Sunday blank, so here I am writing about nothing again.

I sometimes think that an empty page is like a newborn child. At first it has nothing upon it – pristine, clean, white and pure – and then someone comes along, begins to make marks on it and in the process makes it into something else. Its personality changes with each stroke of the pen, scribble of the pencil, or stamp of the key. Some pieces of paper become letters (love, hate, blackmail, complaints), others become lists (shopping, to do, household budgets, favourite foods), and others become short stories, poems, essays, music notation. A piece of paper can go anywhere, turn into any number of things; and so can people.

I guess that what I’m saying is that I wonder if we are the sum of what others write upon us (how we are treated, the music we listen to, the interests we take up, our friends, our enemies, where we are born). It makes me wonder if there is any self at all. Maybe we are simply a mixture of learned behaviour, experiences, and influences. Perhaps we are just random marks upon pieces of paper inside our minds.

I wonder if that makes each of us a book?

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Happy Sausages…

There’s nothing happier than a pig in shit. But us British love our animals so that won’t that really do will it? We adore and respect our cuddly animal friends so much that we have some of the most rigorous animal welfare legislation in the world.

We cuddle them as we rear them, move then in luxury coaches, build houses for them that an estate agent would kill for and later, when it is time for them to go into the oven or frying pan, kill them as gently and quietly as possible.

We have zillions of rules and regulations concerning how cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, goats, ducks, rabbits, deer and even ostriches are kept and reared. We like our animals to be happy and well rounded before we eat them, and why not? If we have to put animals in our sandwiches then the least we can do is look after them while they live their brief, but comfortable lives.

Of course a first class lifestyle doesn’t come cheap. Quality care pushes the price of production up because you can’t produce a happy sausage or contented burger without spending money in the process. But who wants to chomp on a miserable sausage or a sad sack burger? Our rules are far more stringent than the rest of Europe and therefore our animal products are generally more expensive.

We’ve self-regulated ourselves into being one of the most expensive producers of meat in the world. But so what? Who needs Europe or cares about cost when we have happy pigs for a bacon sandwich

Of course, there’s always the vegetarian option.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Going all philosophical…

Sometimes people question my homespun philosophy, even criticise me for it. That’s fine, I can live with that. But I don’t know why they question, after all philosophy by its internally generated nature has to come from an individual and, as I am an individual who thinks far too much, I don’t really have much choice other than to philosophise; homespun or not.

Besides, homespun is such a misused word. It assumes shoddy, made without care, second rate, not as good as the mass produced product you can buy off the shelf. Well homespun may be full of holes, but what is life without an escape route? Let’s not forget the care, the necessity, the practicality, the love that homespun actually is. Homespun means made for individual purpose in so many ways and what’s the point of any philosophy that doesn’t meet its purpose?

It seems that an awful lot of people feel that philosophy has to be a grand affair, only thought about by great minds, immortalised in Greek, swathed in religious or political cloth of one colour or another or taken with a French brandy and a Gauloise on the banks of the Seine. Well, I’ve drunk brandy and smoked a Gauloise on the banks of the Seine, although I have to admit that Greek is a foreign language to me. But I think that gives me some right to label myself a philosopher. As the Dalai lama once said: ' There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples.'

Besides, why buy an ‘off the shelf’ philosophy when you can spin your own? What’s wrong with going through life working out what you think and believe rather than picking up somebody else’s or some cultural organisation’s doctrine? I know that it isn’t very popular in these times of Facebook groupthink and governmental media mind control. But I’d rather think for myself that have my thoughts spun for me.

I like my homespun approach. I like homespun generally. In a simpler world I’d have no problem making do and getting by homespinning what I needed where I could and, as long as I had the basics, I think I could be happy. I like the idea of the Spartan approach but unfortunately, or fortunately dependent on your view, the world I live in isn’t set up like that, so my spinning goes on in my mind. At least my mind is my own and unfettered by religion, football, or political motivation. It’s a place where I can be free and do just what I want and it’s the one thing in my life that I have truly built myself.

Thinking for yourself should be celebrated, not mocked and poo-pooed by minds considered far greater than mine. Of course I’m no Plato or Proust, I’m not as inscrutable as Confucius or as devious as Machiavelli, but I’ve pretty much worked out what I think over the years and, homespun or not, it seems to work for me.

Or that’s my philosophy at least.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The great smell of...

Is it me or have pubs pretty much lost their smell? I can remember when you could walk into a pub blindfolded and know exactly where you were by simply using your nose. Not that I spent too much time blindfolded in pubs, I was sometimes blind drunk but that was what I was there for. Yes, in bygone years pubs had an aroma all of their own. The same is true of libraries, but for different reasons.

That pub odour was great. Apart from the sweet fragrance of beer and tobacco, there were those underlying hints of wood, straw, even the occasional pickled egg. It was rather like nosing a fine wine and some pubs, just like wines, had a different aroma to others dependent on their vintage. Of course the brewery beer each pub stocked helped the variety, as did pipe or cigar smoke. The smell of pipe smoke usually meant a farmer’s inn, cigars a bar far too posh for a spittoon. I can just about remember sawdust on a few pub floors which added an extra depth to the beautiful tang of the public house, especially when it was damp.

The type of fire would often have a say in the matter too. It seemed that all pubs had open fires to huddle around; some coal, others wood, and occasionally peat. There was one pub I remember in the back of the Oxfordshire beyonds that had paraffin heating and lamps, it smelled beautiful.

The only food served back then was crisps and nuts and the aforementioned pickled egg. Pork pie was a rarity reserved for darts matches and if you wanted real and non-hazardous, healthy, food then it was a trip to the chippy. Pub fare didn’t mask the pub aroma as pub foods do now, and of course no self respecting ale house would dream of having extractor fans. Who needed them when the door would open or close every hour or so to the shuffle of a regular? Is it really just me or do pubs smell of almost nothing but steak and chips, curry, and scented candles these days? Sometimes in those more pongy days there would be the smell of damp clothes and the whiff of sheep or pigs. Some would call it a reek, but I would call it character and there were plenty of characters – both washed and less so - to provide it.

I miss the old pubs, dim smelly places that they were. You didn’t go there to drink wine or eat a pizza. You went for the smell of your pint, the aroma of chalk from the dart board and, if you were lucky, a sniff of the barmaid’s perfume. Sometimes the smell of the pub would live up to their names. The Railway would quite often smell of trains, The Water’s Edge of canals, and The Cock… Well, let’s just say all of the toilets smelled pretty much the same. Bloody awful!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


What is it that song says: But we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy?

Well I think that Seal is probably right on that one. There are times when the craziness can keep you going, then again there are times when it can stop you in your tracks and other times when you really shouldn’t be thinking crazy at all.

Crazy, just what does that mean? There is so much craziness in the world today.

I remember when OCD was called being tidy, depression was being fed up, alcoholism was liking a drink, and being clinically obese was just enjoying your food rather than an eating disorder that would kill you in any number of horrific ways. Of course this was a world where medical professionals treated the illness rather than focussing on the cause and nobody talked about the child abuse going on next door or  Mrs Jones’ black eye, the one she got when she walked into that door.

It was a different world back then, although ‘then’ was only a few decades ago. We used to laugh at the imported sitcoms where our American cousins were all in therapy, giggle at the bus conductor as he pinched the bum of that teenage girl on his route, badly behaved children were just naughty, sex addicts were simply randy, a good daily clout from you father wasn’t abuse, and it was expected that there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place - in its place, in its place, in its place.

Meanwhile unmarried mothers were locked away for life in asylums, homosexuality was treated as an illegal disease that could be ‘cured’, and you just didn’t talk about ‘it, no matter what ‘it’ was. Not a great situation and I’m sure that many more problems were caused as a result, but where did all this mental illness that surrounds us these days come from?

It seems that everyone just has to have something – ADHD, OCD, BPD, depression, bi-polar, various eating disorders and addictions. It appears that most of us are suffering from one neurosis or another and undergoing counselling, taking medication, or just quietly going mad. Of course life today is very stressful, or so we are continually told, but we’re not living through a World War expecting a bomb to fall on our house or waiting to get a telegram from the War Office at any moment. We can laugh about ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and ‘stiff upper lip’ but ‘getting on with it’ was just something people did because they had no choice and I’m sure that things generally, health and social care included, were much worse back then.

I know. They must have been crazy.

It would be easy to say that we have become self-obsessed, soft, molly-coddled, and even easier to say that we are all under terrific pressure, and all of that is true. There’s no doubt that we are more aware of our individual mental health these days and rightly concerned for our well being and there are many members of our society who are really suffering; suicides are up and metal health issues are at the top of our government’s health agenda if we are to believe what we are told. But why this mental health plague? Could it be that all the media focus, government interest, and the medical profession’s obsession with prevention rather than cure is making our mental health worse? Is that what is driving us crazy?

Look I’ve had my fair share of being down, panic attacks, anxiety, historical incidents that have taken me years to work through and others that I’m still dealing with, my alcohol addiction, my angry outbursts, but sometimes we all have to accept it’s our responsibility , recognise ourselves, stiffen our upper lips and just get on with it. Pondering these things can often make things worse. Our minds and mental state can be a problem, but we shouldn’t just pass it on to somebody else to deal with, because they won’t. It may drive us crazy but only we can do that.

And with that my therapy for today is over.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Headfull of hometown...

As I get older I become more addicted to the past, my past that is. Perhaps it’s because I have more days behind me than in front of me so there’s more to consider or maybe it’s just the ‘Good Old Days’ effect.

I’ve recently joined a closed group on Facebook, nothing dodgy or even swinging. It’s just a group that mumbles on about the town that they once lived or still live in, a nostalgia group sharing memories about the town where I was born, Thame in Oxfordshire.

It’s wonderful to see the pictures of the place that I lived in until I was eighteen and then moved out of to seek my fortune; wonderful and at times a little saddening. I am a man full of retrospective regrets. Of course, at the time I didn’t regret leaving, but then I didn’t really understand that Thame was a very special place in a special time and that the rest of the world wasn’t as special as the little market town I left. Of course the Thame I lived in is long gone now. The shops I wander around in my mind are shut, the open spaces of my early years are now housing estates, many of the people I know so well in my head are changed or unfortunately no more.

It must be that way for everyone that moves away from their hometowns never to return. Those in their nineties are living in a childhood memory town where there are very few cars, horse drawn milk carts, no McDonalds, man-made fibres don’t exist, and spaghetti hoops aren’t even a food. My 'in my mind' hometown has more pubs than you can shake a stick at, almost no restaurants or takeaways, a sweet shop on every street, and enough eccentrics to fill an asylum. Sometimes I wonder what and who I would be if I’d stuck around and lived my whole life there. Of course I’ll never know, but I find myself drawn back to it in my mind more and more.

They say that the past is a dangerous place to live, but I’m really enjoying wandering around my childhood home even if I am surprised sometimes by what has gone and what I didn’t even notice in the first place. For years I walked down Moorhen Lane to walk in the countryside only to find out a few weeks ago that it was called Moorend Lane not Moor Hen at all. Much of that that countryside is now houses. I know because sometimes I go for Google Earth walks in Thame and, whilst much of what I remember is still there, I can hardly recognise some of it, even the house where I was born on Wellington Street.

I guess that I can count myself lucky to have been brought up in such a lovely place and my Thame is even lovelier because I can leave out the people and places I really don’t want to remember. They have no place in my Thame or my good old days.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The genuine article...

Sometimes, if you are lucky, you meet someone who improves your life a little. You don’t always know how or why, you don’t have to know them very well or for very long, you don’t even need to see them that often. But somehow you just feel better for knowing them. They make you a slightly better person in some inexplicable way. It’s like a bond. A touchstone or touch paper or something – stand back and watch the sparkle.

What am I talking about? I don’t know really. I’m not one to sentimentalise or gush and my cynicism can be a hurdle, but that sparkle can happen. It did for me for a while.

Last night a friend that I’ve only known for only a couple of years passed away suddenly and without warning; an unexpected and terrible shock to everyone. I heard about it through Facebook and it came like a blow to my stomach, I think that they call it a gut punch. It was immediately saddening although in total I only spent a few hours with this guy over the two or three years I knew him. We just chatted, nothing special, we never even went for a pint together. Not much of a friendship you might think, but there was a connection when we met even though we thought very differently about many things. He was the nicest of people so he probably had that effect on everyone, but he made me feel good.

His ridiculously unwarranted unfair death reminded me how impermanent things actually are. There’s been a spate of celebrity deaths this year, unexpected to those not in the know at least, but this death was different. It was unexpected by everybody, even his closest family. It may sound trite, but he was here one minute and gone the next and then forever and ever and always. It makes me feel cold. It makes me feel hopelessly sad at the desperate uncertainty we all live with in every moment.

To say that he was a good man, a kind man, a man to completely trust doesn’t capture anything of the person he was, and I didn’t even know a drop of who he was really. Even so, I often found myself wishing I could be more like him in his approach to things and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have by my side in a fight or at a party. I never asked him for anything, but I know that if I had asked he’d have given it to me as I would him. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I don’t think so. I’m no fool and I know the genuine article when I see it, as I can just as easily spot a fraud. He was the genuine article and I’m proud that he liked me enough to give me the time of day.

So to me as always. The doctor keeps sending me letters. He wants me to see him and get some checks. Frankly I’m not interested in the lectures that will come as a result or the round of hospital appointments that will inevitably follow. Frankly I don’t give a toss that if I don’t stop doing this or start doing that I might not live forever. His job is to keep me alive, rather than let me live my life. My job is to live my life as well as I am able and try to enjoy the time, however long or short, that I have left. Being kept alive simply to be alive isn’t really of much interest to me. So, sorry Doc but I don’t sign up for a long, long life, if I can’t do as I please along the way. There is no point to that.

I knew by the twinkle in Graham’s eyes and the warm chuckle in his voice that Graham’s life was lived well and he revelled in the joy of it. My path is different I think, but it’s my path and I don’t need directing along the way, I can sort that out for myself because ultimately, despite my doctor’s advice and threats, we are all going to the same destination.

See you later mate, I’ll miss you.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The pancake tax…

It’s Pancake Day again and all other the country women don their aprons, go out into the streets, and participate in the traditional Pancake Day race.

Well I guess in some places they still do, but I really can’t remember having ever seen a pancake race. We may have had one at school - there was definitely egg and spoon racing and that falling over in a sack race thing, but pancake racing? Well, it beats me.

The most famous pancake race takes place at Olney in Buckinghamshire where legend has it that in 1445 an Olney woman heard the shriving bell (a bell that shrives) while she was making pancakes and ran, still clutching her pan, to the local church in her apron. Well - as anybody from Oxfordshire will tell you - they are all mad buggers in Bucks.

Of course Shrove Tuesday is also celebrated in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro with Carnival (arriba, arriba!) . But no amount of almost naked ladies and partying in the streets could possibly compare to the excitement of running through the streets in an apron and an obligatory hat or scarf (it’s in the rules) with a frying pan in your hand on the way to church while a bloody bell is tolling morosely.

Yes, we Brits certainly know how throw (toss even) a pancake party

Mind you, just how long we’ll be allowed to continue to celebrate Shrove Tuesday with pancakes could be in question. Apart from the very clear Health and Safety issues associated with the actual racing, there's also the small matter of the pancakes themselves. Let’s face it the ingredients aren’t that healthy at all; so we can expect a government ban, or at least a tax, on all pancake products (including crepes, pikelets, blinis, and Chinese crispy duck) in the not so distant future. To be honest given the serious health risks associated with pancakes I’m surprised they haven’t already implemented the pancake tax.

Pancakes contain eggs (salmonella and high cholesterol), white flour (bowel and digestive problems), salt (heart disease and strokes), milk (cancer even if your aren’t dairy allergic) and lets not forget all that sugar (diabetes) and lemon (which makes you pull a funny face). So given that a pancake is a health time bomb waiting to go off I might just give them a miss and stick to celebrating Shrove Tuesday the Carnival way and get some wine down my neck instead.

Not that I give a toss!

Monday, 8 February 2016

The bike with no tyres...

Is it possible to be born sad? Maybe that first slap and the subsequent cry sets a pattern for some of our lives. I was born in the late fifties and was a child in the sixties. It was a grey time for a boy like me. The buildings were grey with soot, the roads were grey with oil, television was a series of greys despite being called black and white, people wore grey clothes and even greyer expressions, cars were grey or black, and the skies seemed to be more often grey than blue.

It was a strange time. Whenever the fire siren sounded I wondered if it was a nuclear attack. It never was of course, but talk of nuclear bombs and banning them was everywhere from the playground to the grocers and the Home Service was always going on about it. The Second World War wasn’t even twenty years gone, so everyone at the corner shop saw wars coming at the drop of a hat and there was the cold war to contend with as well - whatever that was.

Back in 1962 I was five. I remember the gloom that surrounded me, a mixture of knowing too much and not having enough. That October I was sure that the world was going to come to an end; the Russians were sailing to Cuba and the Americans really didn’t like it. It hung over me like a cloud despite not yet being six. Even Casey Jones, Route 66, 77 Sunset Strip (click click) and Rawhide couldn’t pull me out of my worry. Of course Coronation Street didn’t help and the tale of that grimy Northern Street (so different from the Oxfordshire market town where I lived) did nothing to lift my spirits.

School didn’t help either. I couldn’t do my tables, and mental arithmetic was the be all and end all back then. Not being able to do sums in my head to order made me so panicky that even learning my alphabet became a chore – I think it must have been the orderly progression of the letters because I could read perfectly well. Instead of trying harder, I gave up and dreamed my time away in school, spending more and more time trying to avoid anything to do with numbers. At night I would read in bed until I fell asleep dreading the stand-up times tables test the next day.

When Kennedy was assassinated the year after the missile crisis it looked like the Russians were going to come and get us after all. The Russians had launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, the year I was born in 1957 and then two years later Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. The space race was exciting, but with Kennedy’s death the fear was that the Russians would win, after all they were controlling the weather and they had thousands of subs surrounding us.

By then of course my character and personality was ninety percent in place, my attitudes set, and the rest of my life would just be not very fine tuning.

The sixties is remembered (or not if you believe the hype) as a time of freedom and love. For me it was the start of my long career in gloomdom and I still have to push back against it today. Of course there were good things too – like the snow of 63 – but generally I remember a sad, lonely, boy who was happiest on his own walking in the countryside or hidden away reading a book. In the few pictures I have of myself as a child I’m rarely smiling. There’s usually a frown, a far away distracted ‘can’t quite remember’ look. Sometimes there’s even panic and fear.

I’m still working on why. But what do you expect from a boy on a bike without tyres.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Being it...

I can’t remember the last time I saw a line of boys with their fists clenched stiffly out in front of them, waiting to see if they would be ‘It’. Being ‘It’ varied from game to game, but basically if you were ‘It’ you were the chaser or finder and the others were runners or hiders. Choosing who would be ‘It’ was a game in itself and some of the rhymes we used were very strange.

Take ‘Olica Bolica’ for instance. One boy, usually the one who suggested the game or at least the one with the loudest voice, would become the ‘Olica’. All the other boys would form a straight line in front of him and hold out their two clenched fists. Then the Olica would move down the line striking their outstretched fists with his own and chanting:

‘Olica, Bolica, Ruby, Solika, Olika, Bolica, Knob!

Whoever’s fist was struck on the ‘Knob’ word would then hide that hand behind their back and the Olica would continue down the line repeating the chant until only one fist was left outstretched on a single boy. Sometimes it took ages, longer than the game occasionally, but the boy with the last outstretched fist was ‘It’. I think that the boys who had both fists behind their back shouted ‘Out’ as soon as they were fully ‘Knobbed’ or it may have been the ‘Olica’ who said this. Another rhyme used to decide who was ‘It’ was equally as nonsensical:

‘Eerie, orie, ickery, am. Pick ma nick, and slick ma slam. Oram, scoram. pick ma noram, Shee, show, sham, shutter. You – are - out!’

This one was always said in what we thought was a Scottish accent (I have no idea why) and the ‘You – are - out!’ was screamed at the top of our tinny voices. There were lots of alternative rhymes and of course this was the sixties so political correctness was a long way off. It was commonplace to hear boys and girls deciding who was ‘It’ by chanting:

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. Catch a nigger by the toe. When he hollers, let him go.
Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.’

Today anyone saying that repeatedly would probably end up being cautioned by the police. But back then even the teachers in the playground didn’t bat an eyelid. I think that at some point in the late eighties it was a tiger being caught by the toe, but in the early sixties the playground was a dangerous place. Long lines of shoulder linked boys whirled around shouting, ‘All in who wants to play British Bulldog,’ or some other such game. Then there were the dangers of conkers (that could take your eye out), the perilous marble tournaments (you’ll break your leg if you slip on those), the stress of flick cards which would often lead to a fight if someone won your ‘bestie’, and yes, we were only playing leapfrog
The girls were almost as dangerous, whirling ropes and jumping in and out, hula-ing hoops at speed, skipping over and under stretched elastic which entwined their ankles, chucking multiple balls at the classroom walls repeatedly, and throwing sharp stones onto chalked hopscotch courts.

Nobody lost an eye, and there weren’t many broken legs and we all survived without helmets, knee and elbow pads, goggles and stab vests, but then we didn’t have phones either.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

And all because...

What a day for mystery men yesterday was. Lord Lucan was officially declared dead after over forty years and the Milk Tray Man was brought back to life, black roll-neck sweater and all. I guess that Lucky Lucan wasn’t delivering chocolates to his wife all those years ago and the latest Milk Tray Man may have to rethink his purpose as well.

Tastes have changed and I wonder if Milk Tray chocolates are really relevant to most women’s lifestyles these days? Firstly, choc box noshing is dropping off generally and secondly most right-thinking - i.e. taken in by the product marketers - women are more dark chocolate than milk. Of course a bit of sea salt, caramelised onion, and nice hot chilli goes a long, long way towards the new chocolate experience as well. It’s more Green and Black organic and Hotel Chocolat for these switched on, right on kinda girls. Heaven forbid even a sniff of a strawberry cream or a soft orange centre should pass their lips. Chocolate sex is what the ladies want and milk chocolate is so yesterday.

Then there’s the macho image dressed all in black thing, more Lord Lucan on a home visit than a twenty-first century man. Men are expected to do a bit more than jump out of helicopters to deliver a box of chocolates these days. Men need to cook, understand Pilates, do their share of the housework, pick up the kids from school, grow a big bugger-off beard, wear their jeans too low, and of course have opinions on eyebrow tinting. Being able to drive a speedboat, dangle from a rope ladder, or dive off a hundred foot cliff really isn’t going to impress the ladies too much any more.

And what about those ladies? Surely in these liberated times straight guys, gay guys and guyettes, transgender errrrr people, and maybe even some animals potentially should have chocolates delivered to them as well. After all, we are an inclusive society. Not that the Milk Tray man turning up at an upstairs window is going to go down very well for anyone who doesn’t have a S&M fantasy. Dressing like a terrorist and sneaking into a private residence is likely to get him shot by the police or at least ten hours community service.

Yes, the Milk Tray man might well prove be past his sell by date, a bit like Lucky Lucan I guess. I wonder what sort of chocolate he would be in the Milk Tray box? Maybe he’d be ‘The Lucky - a smooth taste of mystery that will disappear in a moment.” Who knows? 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Memory soup...

I don’t quite understand how so many blog posts flood into my mind until it becomes time to write them down. I’ve had at least two today, one had something to do with car insurance I’m sure, but I’m blowed if I can remember what the other one was about at all. The insurance one is right there on the edge of my mind, but every time I go to claw it back it teeters on the edge and I lose it again.

It’s a shame because the insurance one was pretty good, although it may only have been car related and could just as easily be about car tax, the price of petrol, or even car rugs. I really don’t know any more.

I’m hoping that this fickle memory of mine is caused by the fact that my head is so bombarded with information and ideas that I couldn’t possibly keep them all in. The alternative to that is troublesome and something I’d rather forget.

I’ve taken to regularly playing memory games on my tablet in order to keep a track on myself. Somehow I feel that if I can match pairs across a random hundred boxes in less that three minutes there can’t be much wrong with my mind. Similarly if I can find twenty hidden objects, including the feather, in a dimly lit castle I must be compos mentis surely?

There is so much in the media about all this stuff that it’s hard not to become concerned. It’s not just the dementia thing either. It seems that everything has conspired together to make the world we live in a very dangerous place indeed. A place so dangerous that drinking a glass of wine could kill you, salt is a silent assassin waiting to finish you off, fatty foods are so dangerous that they need to be taxed, and you are taking your life into your own hands if you so much as look at a can of coke. At the same time a senior doctor on the radio yesterday informed me that low fat spreads are more harmful to me than butter. It’s all very confusing; no wonder I am becoming so muddled.

And maybe that is it. Life it seems, particularly these days, is a befuddling affair. There was a time when smoking eased your cough, Guinness was good for you, and you could yet your cocaine through popping a can of coke. These days everything seems bad for you. Tonight I am making miso soup which is said to stop you aging, help your memory, reduce blood pressure, help you to lose weight, and make you irresistible to women (I made that last one up by the way). Unfortunately there is a lot of evidence to support that the seaweed in miso is full of radioactivity, the fermented beans could lead to bowel problems, and of course it’s full of that silent assassin known as salt.

Oh well, I probably won’t remember eating it anyway.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Sense and sensibility...

I’m not big on cars, the petrol head thing seemed to pass me by and for most of my driving life I drove a series of company cars with sensible petrol consumption and not much fun in them either. In fact I didn’t even pass my test until my latish twenties and it took me six attempts. Yes, six - mind you four of them were taken before I was eighteen in Aylesbury with the same tester who obviously hated me. I don’t mind now, it’s probably best that I wasn’t on the road in my teens as I do (or rather did, I don’t drive much these days) have a tendency to put my foot down.

I passed my test on my birthday in 1989. My wife on the other hand passed at seventeen after half a dozen lessons and likes her wheels much more than I.

I bought this Puma for her about nine years ago. It was immaculate and had just twenty thousand miles on the clock. It still has less than sixty thousand, but last week it failed its MOT for the first time. It wasn’t going to cost much to put it right, but it got us thinking and you know how difficult that can be. In the last five years I’ve gone from driving fifty thousand plus miles a year to almost nothing and my wife’s car has sat outside the house for months hardly going anywhere because she has been using mine.

It posed the question, why did we need two cars? And after a great deal of soul searching we realised that the truth is we don’t. So with much deliberation, repetition and hesitation we have decided to face up to that horrible truth. Sadly (despite it being a nice looking vehicle much loved by the Top Gear team when they test drove one) it has gone. In cash terms it was only worth a hundred quid even with the low mileage. But in sentimental terms – well at least it didn’t have a name. The world of motor sales is a very cruel place indeed.

It still goes like that proverbial shit off a shovel and its fun, but fun really isn’t the name of the game these days. Thanks to a little man we know we’ve found someone who will pass it on to someone who will use it. He even paid us a little more than We Buy Any Car Robbing Bastards Dot Com. But that isn’t really much consolation.

Why do you have to become sensible as you get older? It’s not as if we can’t afford a little fun. Bye-bye and thanks to the Puma. I hope that you have many happy and productive years of driving left in you and that you are loved. By the way, although I never told you your name is Penelope.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Thoughts on immortality...

So it's John Lydon's sixtieth. Don't say it too loud, death may be listening.

Lemmy, Bowie, Snape, Wogan, Frank Finlay, that guy from Black, a drummer or two… when will it ever end? The answer to that is that it never will. Death respects no one regardless of status or how much the world loves them. Death is death, the ultimate certainty.

So if death is the answer then what is the question?

There is a big part of me (at least eleven twelfths) that believes that when you die you are gone; although I hope against hope that there really is something else. You may live on in the memories of friends and family for a while, but a few years down the line they will be gone too and with that the knowledge of who you once were goes with them. I know a little about my great grandfather, but nothing of his father really. My daughter knows nothing of her great grandfather having never met him and, other than he was a blacksmith who kept a cow, there really isn’t much more to say on the matter.

In reality there must have been more to him than that though. There had to be. He lived into his seventies, had three wives, lived through two world wars, saw winters and summers, raised children, watched as the world change from horse to car and balloon to plane, got ill, recovered, drank down the pub - all told he had a life of tens of thousands of days. But there is precious little of him remembered now.

Of course there are those fortunates who have achieved world recognition in one field or another and they could live on for ever. I say could, because this world is a fickle place and popularity does not guarantee immortality (just ask Edgar Wallace, and who will remember Peter Andre – and dare I say Sir Terry -  three hundred years from now?) But some will be remembered for as long as man is clinging on to this planet; Van Gogh, Chopin, Hitler, Charlie Chaplin, Rembrandt, Elvis perhaps – a few ones in a million. The rest of us will come and go though and leave little behind.

As I’ve already said, we all know where this ends for each of us and what that ultimate answer is.

And so dear friends why do I burden you with these somewhat bleak thoughts on this grey Monday morning? Two reasons really. One is simply to say, live your life any way you want and don’t worry about what others may think. Ultimately their views and opinions won’t keep you out of the grave.

Secondly to implore you to let people know you whilst you are alive in any way you can. Don’t hide away, speak up, speak out and engage. The more people that know you the better chance you have of living longer - at least figuratively speaking.

These days, more than ever, we all have some chance of a slight immortality; the internet has given us that. It may be a cheap immortality, but it’s better than the alternative - at least it is to my mind. What we say is out there on social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and the rest, some say forever. That’s why I blog this rubbish. When I am gone this may still be here.

So if anyone were to stumble over me in the dark of an internet winter’s night they could get to know me if they wanted to. Of course they may not like me, but do I care? At least it gives me a chance.