Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Living in hope...

I want to talk about hope. Well, I don’t really want to, but there is so much nonsense spoken about it that I’m going to anyway. There seems to be too many people on Facebook who are mad with hope. Hope for this, hope for that, Type ‘Amen” for this, like and share for that. They seem to believe that hope will change inevitable outcomes if they just hope that it will. I say, feel that damp on your cheek? It’s the wind blowing the piss back into your face.

Do I have hope? Well, for some things and sometimes, but generally I think hope is a charlatan, an imposter who, if you take off his hopeful mask, has a face that we should despair at. Too many people are mad with hope, fooling themselves that it’s always there and that it springs eternal, when in reality some situations are really simply hopeless. Just hoping doesn’t make it happen. Hope on its own is nothing, just a word, simply another way to dodge the truth. Hope is just a guttering candle waiting to go out.

Sometimes hope can galvanise us into action and we may just, as a result, get a better outcome. But hope alone isn’t going to stave off terminal disease, stop that bomb from exploding, or feed a starving child. “You have to have hope, live in hope, keep hoping” they say. But why? Hope is a fool and the friend of fools; too often hope turns out to be hopeless. And that’s the hard truth isn’t it?

Of course, in reasonable measure, hope sustains us. In great excess though, it distorts our perceptions making us believe that the unachievable is achievable. Nothing is impossible? Really? There’s always hope? Really? At its very worst hope dulls the mind, corrupts the heart and tricks the head into believing our own lies. Just like any drug - cocaine or heroin of whisky - hope is just another opiate to quiet and still the racing heart and mind, dull the senses and stop us thinking and doing.

No, I don’t really believe in hope. Let’s ditch it and get on with doing.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Taking risks…

Chop, chop, chop, chop it goes. ‘It’s in the trees!’

I like the sound of the police helicopter in the sky, it makes me feel nervous. Who’s out there? Is someone on the run looking for a one armed man? Has a shaven-headed murderer escaped from Dartmoor and hidden in the alley at the back of the house? Does someone know too much and the men in black are out to get them?

I like being made to feel a little scared, just a tiny bit worried as long as I’m in a safe place. I’m the bloke that goes back to the firework that hasn’t gone off, has to go look (from a distance) despite the crumbling rock at the top of the cliff, watches that scary film in an empty house at midnight. Maybe that’s why I can’t ever properly relax. I’m always looking for that teeny-weeny bit of an edge. Of course I’m a scaredy-cat really. I can just about cope with my own shadow, but a shadow behind me and I’m just wanting to run home and slam and lock the door.

When it comes to the danger stakes I’m not even on the radar. I would never walk the wire or even climb a tall ladder up to my very high roof. The other day I was trying to think about the most dangerous thing that I’ve ever done. It didn't amount to much really.

A long time ago I abseiled down the side of a cliff but I was obviously all roped up. Around the same time, I was doing a little free cliff-climbing, no ropes and no spikes, but I never went on the red routes or even very high. I was once up to my neck in water down a pothole and in the dark for a couple of hours but I had a rope to guide me back to the entrance. I’ve even been out on the North Sea sailing at night and been chased by a Russian trawler. But none of these things were really that dangerous and although I was a little scared I wasn’t terrified doing any of them.

If pushed I would probably say that the most dangerous (and stupid) thing I’ve ever done was swimming out to sea in a storm with waves of at least twelve feet high. It was easy swimming out, it took about ten minutes, but swimming back took me over an hour, and when I eventually did get back to the shore I was frozen and unable to stand. There were a couple of times when the waves started dragging me out again and it crossed my mind that I wasn’t going to make it. It would have served me right probably, but somehow I did get out of the water.

These days, my heart’s in my mouth if I get jammed between two lorries on the motorway and on the few occasions that I’ve been on the roller-coaster in the last twenty years I’ve got out of the car shaking like a leaf made of Jell-O. It’s been a very long time since I went out of my way to get the thrill of an adrenaline rush. I prefer my shadows at a safe distance. In books, on the TV, at the cinema. Shadows that I can switch on or off with the flick of a control button or the shut of a cover.

Yes, I’m no risk-taker. But I do like the sound of that helicopter. 

Sunday, 29 January 2017

My friend Jack...



My friend Jack

These days I take my poetry neat
or over ice, it depends on the beat
of my heart or the drum, the pulse in my thumb,
but as neat as I can take
despite my intake.
Honestly, there's nothing to beat honesty
but give me a stick
and I'll spew out enough sentimentality 
to make you feel sick.
It's not a trick you see.
I'm a rhymer.
An old fashioned old timer,
my hands not turning
like they really oughta.
And in my heart a hole as big as an opera
by Verdi or Wagner,
even Francis Ford Coppola.
I'm gonna make me an offer I can't refuse.
Friend, you should always underestimate my virtues.
And when it comes to friendship
I've paid all of my duty dues.
So, fuck it if I speak the trues
when I say I take my poetry neat,
see myself as I am,
not a shit coated treat,
not a damn scam of a sham, 
a sweet salty peanuty man.
And if you don't like it or get it, so what?
I jack-shit you not when I say
I really love Jack,
he’s the best friend I've got. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

The detail devil...

They say it’s all in the detail, they say it’s where the devil dwells. For me I’ve been both running away from and inextricably attracted to detail for as long as I can remember. Detail, detail, detail. A small curse on my life, one of the things that tears my head apart. I hate detail you see, I’m a slave to it, captured by each swirl and curl, layer upon layer, caught up in the capture of reality.

When I started to draw, which was before I could speak, there was no detail in what I scribbled. Detail was not important, it was all about the movement of the crayons on the paper, the colours, the act of doing it. I didn’t care what I was drawing or if it looked like anything, I was drawing and that was the important thing. Of course later, after years of being asked what I was drawing (‘What’s it meant to be?’) I realized that the act of drawing wasn’t enough – what I laid down on the paper had to LOOK like something. People expected it and imagination wasn’t enough. From thereon it was all downhill.

I became fixated on making the images I drew look like what I saw. I stopped drawing from my head and convinced myself that you should draw what you see as accurately as possible. Of course I wasn’t very good at it and with that came disillusionment with my attempts. There was always something wrong, the line of that hill not quite in the right place, that beak not quite the right shape, ten thousand leaves on that tree when I had only managed nine. I poured over the Old Masters, Breugel, Dali, the Hyperrealists and could only wonder at how they made their paintings reflect reality in their various ways. Of course it was about draughtsmanship, technique and execution and I wanted some of that, but I could never quite do it. Then one day I realised that I was chasing something I could never attain and with that the devil was almost gone.

I wish could still see with the purity of a three-year old, but even when I scribble it’s as if that detail devil is still guiding my hand. Anyway, here’s a scribble I did today. What is it? Look closely, I’m sure that you can decode it.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Balancing...



Balancing

Are tears in the rain simply wasted?
Does a sigh in the gale become lost?
Is one leaf in a forest negated?
And a pound gladly given a cost?
Does a single clap mean nothing?
A smile any less for not seen?
Is birdsong as sweet if nobody hears it?
And the grass in the dark not as green?

It’s not all show and self-interest.
We are not the centre of things.
We are all a small part of the process.
Just enjoy the balance it brings.


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Haggis Night...


Haggis Night

Neeps and tatties and Cullen skink,
Read me an ode and pour me a drink.
A whisky or two?
Don’t mind if I do.
A toast to the haggis?
Well, if I can catch it.
Here’s to the finest of Scottish bards,
Verse by the Scotland pound,
But not by the Yard.
Slainte and Hoots mon,
And lang may yer lum reek,
Numpty Donald, where’s your troosers?
On this braw, bricht, moonlight nicht.
A sporran, a dirk, a wee Tam o’Shanter.
May your porridge not cool nor kilt fail out of kilter.
I’ll fling, I’ll reel, Gay Gordon ensues.
I'll hang on to my sporran,
Get thistle tattoos.
Aye, tis Rabbie Burns night.
Shout, och aye the noooooo!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Head, heart, gut...

How I feel and think about things are often two very different places. I'm sure that this can give out mixed messages, but I am human like that.

My heart tells me one thing, my head tells me another and somewhere in between I usually reach a compromise neither satisfying my heart or my head in the process.

I pretend I like to look at the evidence; you know, that cold light of day stuff, the stuff that can be measured and proven as absolute fact empirically, statistically and mathematically with graphs and spreadsheets and percentages and a calculator, when really I’m looking for magic and stardust and a leap of faith.

The problem with following your head is that it is often so bloody dull. Of course I know that more than a couple of drinks is very bad for me but it’s much more fun getting drunk. Likewise, cake isn’t the healthiest food in the world but who wants to live on celery?

On the other side of the coin – the side opposite to the head which we should call tails but for this purpose we will call heart – following your heart can lead you into all sorts of a mess and often it’s only your head that can get you out of it. It’s like a ball of wool that you’ve tangled in a fit of heartfelt excitement only to find that you have to use your head to untangle it. Untangling is dull, boring, and takes time, but the alternative is to leave the mess and I really don’t like doing that.

I’ve followed my heart into a tangled mess so often that I’m surprised I’ve pretty much managed to come out of it with most of my wool still intact. Of course all that untangling has rubbed off some of the magic and in many ways I’m a lesser person for it. Listening to your head means you don’t take many risks and risks – I am led to believe – have to be taken sometimes. You have to follow your heart.

I know people who make decisions with their heads and others with their hearts. But my preferred way of determining things isn’t with either, it’s with my gut. In my case my gut is a heart/head moderator which follows some logic but also allows for the contingency of a little magic along the way. By following my gut and continually reassessing and readjusting the heart/head balance I have managed to survive without too many complete disasters. I don’t want my food to be nourishing but flavourless, I don’t want a house that is practical but uncomfortable, I don’t want a car that is economical but slow, I don’t want a partner who I love madly but can’t live with. I want a balance and my gut provides this.

As I get older I see the dangers of following both your head or your heart without reference to your gut. Sometimes even if the figures add up you know it isn’t going to work. Other times even though you desperately feel you are doing the right thing the opposite is true. These days I’ll take my gut every time – it’s rarely wrong.

Of course there is another way. It’s called the groin, but with that I’ll leave you alone for today.

Monday, 23 January 2017

The hole...












The hole

You know when somebody goes
really goes, never to be back.
Leaving that lonely space,
a hole they used to fill;
that chair, a corner, a half finished book.
How do you feel about that?
Is that space ever full again?
Does sound come rushing in?
And light and shadow mark the space
where they should and would have been.
I have stood in the spaces that you left.
Felt the shiver of you in the air.
You have left the building they say.
But I choose to see you there.
Are you really dead?
You come - sometimes - when I sleep.
Wandering back into life.
With that shake of your head.
You don’t stay long,
Not there, alive instead,
those times of feeling,
empty spaces, woods and chairs.
Then I find myself considering
that you might not ever have been there.
Except in my head all along,
a figment, imagination, a story not told.
But does any of it really matter 
now that you are gone?

Trump bump...

Trump bump...

Apologies for all the Trump
I think I need to dump
And a swill with a stomach pump
He's like oil from a rancid sump
What a nasty prejudice chump
Grabbing and leering at rump
He needs a fucking thump
The hateful full-of-shit lump.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Don't make me laugh...

According to the ‘memories’ that FaceBook serves me up each day my life seems to be one long joke. Maybe it’s because on most days I try to post a joke first thing in the morning to brighten people’s day. I like to think of my friends smiling, laughing out loud, or even groaning. It doesn’t matter how they react just as long as the joke gives them something good that they would not have had without it.

I’ve been doing this for about four years now and it gets harder and harder to find that goodish, short joke to post each day. I exhausted Tommy Cooper long ago and sometimes I’ve had to resort to making up my own. As yet I’ve not used the joke that sticks (excuse the pun) in the forefront of my mind – ‘What’s brown and sticky? A stick’ – but I’m sure that day will come. I also have a lot of jokes that I haven’t posted because not everybody can see that humour doesn’t recognise boundaries.

Life isn’t always funny. In fact, sometimes it really is a shitter and there seems nothing to laugh about. There’s humour in most things, although much of it can be uncomfortable to mention and of course increasingly a lot of subjects are taboo. I sometimes wonder if we will get to a point where you won’t be able to make a joke about anything without offending someone and if that happens our sitcoms are going to be pretty dull – ‘pass the salt please’.

I was listening to a radio sitcom about social workers the other day and, although it was really funny, I thought: ‘This must be really offensive to some social workers’, particularly the ones without a bloody sense of humour and an inflated view of their own self-worth. Of course I am a product of the seventies where everything was fair game in the fun-poking stakes and I sometimes wonder if that wasn’t a better state of affairs that the horribly guarded humour we are forced into these days.

I don’t think that telling an Irishman joke makes me anti-Irish or a blonde joke makes me a misogynist – I actually like blondes a lot (both women and men you understand. I don’t want to be sexist). But I know there are people who would unfriend me if I told a Pakistani joke, or a joke about cancer, or abortion, or wife-beating, I might even be threatened if I joked about any number of Gods, and if I told a fat bloke joke I’d have to unfriend myself. 

Some of those subjects make me feel uncomfortable even mentioning joking about them, but I know people who have been through those things that do. Maybe if it's about you then that makes it okay; I really don't know. It’s all so very complicated knowing just what you can make light of and what you can’t. Sometimes I know that I’ve got it wrong, but I also know that if I tell a joke it isn’t out of any sort of hatred or disdain. It’s because beyond the easily affected outrage that so many people proclaim there really is something funny; sometimes sad and bitter, but funny nevertheless and humour is cathartic - as the actress probably didn’t say to the Bishop because she wouldn’t have known what the word meant.

Me, I try to find the joke in everything. Because in awful circumstances what else is there to do but try to smile? Life isn’t all Tommy Cooper. Or maybe it is.

Keep smiling.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The lost post...

You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t post anything yesterday. Well, I intended too and wrote quite an eloquent piece about rowing and how, despite coming from Oxford, I’m not very good at it. Sadly, when I came to post it on my blog I found that it had vanished and try as I might I couldn’t find it anywhere or manage to get it back.

My post was well and truly lost.

So here I am again giving it another go, although just why I started writing about rowing now seems to escape me. There must have been a reason, but do you think that I can recall just what that reason was? I think I may have been thinking about the times I spent down by the river Thame when I was a boy, but if it was then this isn’t what I wrote about I’m pretty sure. My lost post was much more lyrical than this.

There was often an old rowing boat somewhere along the banks and once, in an inexplicable bout of courage, I decided to ‘borrow’ it and take it out. Now I’d never been in a boat on my own before, let alone rowed one, but I’d seen others do it and my books and comics were full of boys my age who not only rowed but took sailing dinghies out on the sea. What could be so hard about it?

I jumped in the boat and cast off the rope. I remember thinking that the oars were heavy but that didn’t deter me as I pushed the boat away from the bank with one of them. What a great adventure this was. I felt just like Ratty in ‘Tales of the Riverbank’ as I was swept downstream by the current. It was then that I noticed that the boat was leaking and that the current was carrying me towards a large patch of reeds. I expected to swish through the reeds to the opposite bank, but I hadn’t reckoned on the submerged tree trunk. So instead of a swish it was a thump and I was pitched into the reeds as the boat slowly sank. Of course I managed to wade out of the river eventually, black with mud, soaking wet and shaking like a leaf.

Since then, on the few occasions I’ve picked up the oars they invariably decide to try to escape the rowlocks and even when I manage to keep them in place I do little more than go around and around in circles. I’ve even at times, when I have been rowing particularly badly, relinquished the oars to MCW who seems to know just how to do it. The rowing knack I have not got; I’m probably more of a pedalo man. But at least I've never sunk again.

I wonder who that boat belonged to?

Monday, 16 January 2017

Can't wait...

I’m already kidding myself that I can feel spring just around the corner, looking out at my backyard and calculating how long it will take to get it tidied and ready. Of course the promises I made to myself to keep it clear before the winter set in are broken yet again and everything remains in the ruins of what I call the dying days of the autumn.

I can’t wait for the growing days to come around again. I can’t wait for the early morning coffee in the yard surrounded by the buzzing of bees. I can’t wait for that feeling of peace as a cloud chases the sun making me squint. I can’t wait for the swifts to chase their squeaks high above my head. I can’t wait for the ladybirds to return. I can’t wait for my flowers to bloom and the smell of their perfume.

Anyway, I reckon about a day - two tops - tidying and clearing should do it. It’s not too bad. A bit of cutting back, some pulling of past-their-best-plants, a sweep and a scrape, and then off we go again. I have no plans to do anything much different this time around, I was generally happy with last year, but who knows? Each year is different and full of surprises.

I can’t wait for the order. I can’t wait for splash of the fountain in the pond. I can’t wait for the first quiet glass of evening wine. I can’t wait for the soft breeze in leaves. I can’t wait to sit in my hidden corner on my broken chair and smile.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be sowing my sweet peas. I missed the October sowing and I don’t want to sow outside too early. After saying that it’s so warm I might get away with it. But I’ll start them off indoors as I usually do. From there who knows? I have a mind to sow some scabious and I really did like the impatiens last year, and then, and then, and then...

Here he comes, that gardening bug again. Get a bloody move on, I can’t wait. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The big picture...

MCW tells me that I have a lot to say about everything but that most of it is rubbish. She’s probably right. I do have a lot to say. But that’s because I spend a lot of my time thinking about the big things rather than those annoying day-to-day things like feeding the cat or what we need to buy from the shops.

In our house I’m in charge of world peace, philosophy, time travel, matters concerning the size and shape of the universe and other equally pressing and grand matters. MCW on the other hand focusses on the less difficult inconsequential things including the cooking, keeping on top of household affairs, my ironing and those little jobs that need doing around the house using the very nice tool kit I bought her for Christmas. It’s not that I’m not willing to change a plug or put a new bulb in the lamp but I have Trump to worry about and let’s face it Theresa isn’t going to sort out Brexit all by herself.

Yes, I’m a big picture, helicopter view, blue sky thinking kind of husband and she should count herself lucky to have me.

It’s so unfair of her to call me a ‘lazy -------’ - you can insert your own expletive here as she’s (very unfairly) used them all at one time or another to describe me. After all someone has to have their mind on weightier matters and at the same time keep tabs on what’s on the television later.

Of course I do take time out to relax; as they say ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ and I certainly don’t want to be dull or even called Jack, mainly because that is not my name and it would probably confuse me. Yes, I always try to make time to watch the soaps (well not Eastenders obviously) but some of the others and also the late afternoon quiz shows after a long and hard days thinking. As I say to MCW, it keeps my mind blade sharp and it’s good to be in touch with the concerns of ordinary people like her.

As I’ve frequently explained: it may look like I’m playing games on my phone whilst she’s cooking the breakfast, but in reality I’m keeping my mind alert so that when she has a concern about quantum physics or even the impact of externalism on twentieth century attitudes I’m always at the ready to help her. Sometimes - after I’ve backed away and persuaded her to put down the bread knife - she seems to understand this but even so I sometimes wonder is she sees the sacrifices I am making on her behalf or even the value of my important work.

You know, sometimes I think she doesn’t understand me at all.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

That's entertainment...

How much simpler it was to be titillated and entertained in the past, and not that too far in the past either. There was a time when a chap with not a very good singing voice, who wasn’t very funny, but wore a long dress and a feather headdress was seen as the height of entertainment. Norman Vaughn was so swinging that we could forgive him his dodgy and quite rubbish jokes. Girls high kicked their legs whilst revolving on a cheap stage probably turned by a couple of blokes in overalls, singers simply sang songs, division one footballers played football for twenty quid a week, a new British film was made in an afternoon every single day of the year, and soap operas never had a single murder or a wedding that didn’t take place.

Yes, that was entertainment.

It makes me wonder just how boring people’s lives must have been to be satisfied by such simple pleasures, never expecting to be shocked, not needing sensation and where the pinnacle of naughtiness was Brian Rix dropping his trousers in front of the vicar who was being served tea by a sexy French maid in a very short skirt.

At no time was there full frontal nudity, obscene language, or men kissing on screen. Car crashes we not depicted with frightful realism, bodies were not dissected on mortuary slabs like a beef joint on a Sunday, and the news did not show body parts blown to pieces in streets running with blood.

Of course this didn’t mean these things weren’t happening, they obviously were, but the reality of the world probably wasn’t as entertaining to a population who had lived through war, known hunger and hardship, died from tuberculosis in droves, and who had been taught to toe the line and be grateful for what little they had. I don’t know which is worse really – trying to lose yourself in a simple world where the slog of the day-to-day can be forgotten for a few minutes in a music hall or seeking the thrill of extremes to make your life more interesting and less comfortable.

Times change and with it what we find entertaining, there’s no constant. Not too many people today would really enjoy an entire classical Greek play, feel comfortable watching lions eat Christians or sitcoms about racist behaviour, watch a magic lantern show with real wonder, or even watch a soap that just depicted conversations about the price of flour in the corner shop.

These days most titillation comes without too much titter. Dramas are graphic, comedies cutting, the line between reality and entertainment almost impossible to draw, and men in dresses may or may not be drag acts. I’m not saying what is right or wrong because I simply don’t know. I guess it’s for each of us to decide what’s entertaining and what isn’t. But sometimes I wonder if the days of the Coliseum are really over.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Few words...

‘The wind howls with the first scowl of winter. A smattering of snow, too little for snowmen, not quite covers the ground. Today we go to mark the passing, another Mark, and the iciness of the cold is fitting.’

Putting on my one and only remaining suit, the one I’ve begun to think of as my funeral suit, those were the lines that came into my head this morning. As I thought them I knew that Mark would have called me a daft bugger and that if my brains were gunpowder I wouldn’t have enough to blow my hat off. He’d follow this with a suitable insult, a swearword, and a wicked grin.

Mark was my friend for thirty years or so. I won’t go into the sort of person he was. If you knew him then you already know, and if you didn’t then I hope you have a friend as reliable and true as Mark always was. Unsurprisingly the large church was full and that’s a measure of a person in many ways. The old crowd were there to celebrate this complex and honest man and it was good to see them again.

As I sat watching the rainbow of colours created by sunshine through stained glass and playing on soft cream walls, my memories danced. What a help he’d been to me, someone who happily sorted out my problems and made my life easier. He must have been making his life a little harder at times by doing so, but it didn’t stop him. For a moment those colours gave me belief; quite in what is hard to define, but certainly friendship and love, the value of being part of a community and the importance of remembrance.

The ritual of the service was strange to me, but as I tried to sing hymns I’d never heard before I found it quietly comforting. The words spoken about Mark by his priest were honest, funny and captured that strong, brave man perfectly. Yes, he was often quick to flick a remark, even jibe, but he was always as quick to help whenever it was needed for anyone at all.

A couple of glasses of red at the pub with old friends, some laughs, a little gossip and some lovely ladies then back home to change in to civilian clothing once more. So with the cold day done I said my au-revoir, hugged, shook hands and left. Please God I don’t need to air my suit again for a long time to come.

And I felt warmer on the way home.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The new Napoleon...

It’s a small world and it seems to be getting smaller every day. There was a time when a mad racist, politically incompetent, misogynist becoming the President of the United States of America probably wouldn’t have troubled us across the pond in the UK much at all. We would have met it with a wry, supercilious smile, secure in the fact that not much could hurt our supremely island nation and simply muttered ‘how vulgar’ as we oiled our cricket bats. Oh, it might have been inconvenient for the pound and not at all pleasant for the Americans, but here in the UK we would have carried on in our own inimitable way, probably no better than the US and at times probably a little worse, but unaffected by and large. After all, he's not Napoleon is he.

How things change though and these days what happens in the US is important to the wellbeing of all of us, just as what happens in China or Russia, Iraq, South Korea or even France is important and impactful on us all too. We are a much, much smaller planet and all nations have a bigger impact on each other than ever before. In the past you could enslave another nation without it even being heard of a thousand miles away. You could have a small war and, so long as your cannons were not too loud, nobody would even know that it was going on. It was like living in Antarctica or North Yorkshire and us Brits were really good at it.

The big change came with global war and the weapons that it spewed forth. The atomic bomb put us all under threat and of course the fact that some nations now have the power to destroy us all with the press of a nuclear button or the release of a deadly virus doesn’t help things much. America has quite a lot of these weapons and has used them in the past, in fact they are the only country to have used nuclear weapons to destroy whole cities in seconds, so when a potential madman gets the potential to destroy the planet one has to worry a little.

When the people of the US voted in Trump I wonder what they were thinking about. I doubt that they were thinking about the rest of the world and the issues that face it. I doubt that they were thinking about global warming or global famine of the world economy. My guess is that they were thinking about America and how to make it great again. My guess is that they were dazed by the celebrity of Trump and his plastic family. My guess is that the lies he speaks about immigration and the erosion of American values around gender, religion, and beer are the same lies that those voters tell themselves. The lies say America can be great again, the land of the free, a place where Mom always has an apple pie on the table and where the best cars in the world are built.

Well guess what America? The world has changed and all those tiny nations that were so backward and laughable just fifty or a hundred years ago have learned so much from you that they strive for the American dream too and some of them are doing it better than you ever did.

The American dream is long gone and America - like Great Britain - will never be at the top of the pile again, in fact the pile is fast becoming a plateau for you just like any other tribe living on it. So now you have forced this man upon the world and must accept the consequences as we all do. Look out world. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

I need a change...

I need a change

Here are some things I really don’t like:
That bloke on his bike who runs the red light.
The woman who packs before paying in queue.
Owners who ignore their own dog’s poo.
Kids who run out of control in shops.
People who for no reason call cops.
Drivers who drive up my arse too close.
Spitting on the pavement, it’s really gross.

How lucky I am that it isn’t hunger.
The smell of death all around hanging over.
Bombs and bullets and landmines and gas,
No worry my next breath might be my last.
How fortunate for me I can say what I think,
That I have a glass of clean water to drink,
That I sleep in a bed and not on the street,
Don’t have to worry about getting beat.

Maybe I should count my blessings, not wrongs,
Perhaps let things go and just get along.
Stop being annoyed just because I can,
Make an effort to be a more understanding man.
But it’s hard when you ‘have’ to think ‘have not’,
And familiarity makes you forget what you’ve got.
But I can try a bit harder of that I’m sure
Because none of us know what fate has in store.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Playing guitar...

The greyness continues.

I suppose I should spend the day playing guitar to lift my sprits but sadly I don’t play and I don’t even have a guitar. There are guitars in the house of course, electric and acoustic, but they belong to MLD. Not that she plays either, despite all those lessons. There’s also a full electronic keyboard that nobody plays and probably a harp hiding somewhere.

Ah, music - what would life be without it?

It would have been Bowie’s seventieth birthday today. As a teenager in the seventies Bowie had a huge influence on me. He taught me how to rebel, that it was okay to be different, that things aren’t always as you are told, and that words don’t necessarily need to make sense to make sense. He taught me that even a boy from a small market town in Oxfordshire could have ideas far too large to realise and that questioning everything didn’t mean that you were being difficult.

Of course there was a lot of music around at the time, glam rock was in its heyday, but Bowie was a lot more than music – he was a lifestyle choice. How impressionable and open I was back then - thank God. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, but I found out soon enough and Bowie was around whilst I did it.

Unlike Ziggy, I’ll probably never play guitar. But there’s a bit of him in me anyway.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Ice...

Ice.

Three minutes past three on a winter afternoon.
Grey light imposing, impressing a chilly touch.
The frost of silver on wilted nettles
Plates the canal with the miracle of ice.

Guilty pleasure...

With these wet and cold winter evenings I’ve become a big fan of The Chase as presented by that cheeky chappie Bradley Walsh - actor, comedian, singer, television presenter and former professional footballer. How he finds time to be so multi-talented I’ll never know, but you have to hand it to him - although I’ve no idea what ‘it’ is.

Of course when it comes to general knowledge quiz shows MCW is highly competitive despite her thinking that a herring is a wading bird and that Muffin the Mule once won The Derby. After saying this she usually beats me when we watch The Chase. The problem is that I definitely know all of the answers and am so sure that I seem to get a lot of them wrong. She on the other hand seems to be the best guesser in the world. Either that or she has absorbed pretty much all knowledge known to man through osmosis.

For someone who doesn’t watch documentaries, read books regularly, listen to Radio Four, or has any interest in current affairs or art, she seems to know an awful lot (apart from the bird and 1950's puppetry thing of course). Just where she gets her deep knowledge of sport (including cricket and rowing) is quite beyond me and sometimes I wonder if she doesn’t have direct contact to the internet through an implant in her brain.

Her favourite chaser is ‘The Sinnerman’ whilst mine is relative newcomer ‘The Vixen’. This seems to wind up MCW terribly. I don’t know why, unless it’s the way my eyes light up and the tendency for me to dribble when she walks out to sit in the Chaser’s chair. Once I even let out a subtle and very quiet ‘cor!’ and was so taken aback (scared) by the disgusted look MCW gave me that I had to disguise it as a coughing fit.

I don’t know why MCW dislikes her so much because whenever The Vixen is the Chaser my mind goes blank and I invariably lose the competition between us. It isn’t that I don’t know the answers - of course I know that the capital of Mauritius is Port Louis - but I’m so busy gawping at The Vixen's lusciousness – eyes, lips, hair and other attributes that I often forget to even try to answer and when I do it’s usually a meaningless gibber.

As I’ve explained to MCH it isn’t The Vixen's undoubted cuddliness that keeps me entranced (after all, I’m old enough to be her father - or preferably her non-blood related uncle), but there’s something about that gleam in her eye, the warmth of her smile, and the tinkle of her Northern lilt that totally enchants me and causes my brain to stop.

And with that I guess I should stop before I incriminate myself any more than I already have. Guilty pleasure? Well, as Bradley Walsh’s DS Ronnie Brooks might say: ‘It’s a fair cop.’ 

Friday, 6 January 2017

Rent rant...

I didn’t expect to dry so early in the New Year, but it’s hard to think of anything amusing to write about today. In fact it’s hard to think about anything to write about, so as always I’ve just decided to hit the keyboard trail and see what comes out.

The highlight of my day was that my car insurance renewal came through this morning. For the first time the company I went with last year quoted me lower than they charged me last tme AND lower than the quotes on the compare site that bloody bloke with the long curly moustache sings about. It was even lower that the quote THEY quoted me on the compare sight – just how that works I have no idea. I’m not complaining though.

As I looked at the renewal I realised for the first time that it is 2017. Yes, it seems that for almost a week I’ve still been living in 2016 and 2016 was a bloody horrible place to live, so just why I’ve been clinging on to it I have no idea.

Back in the day I found it really hard to remember to date my cheques with the New Year’s date. The cheques I wrote usually had my initials scribbled against the year until at least the end of February. But who writes cheques these days? I’m not even sure where my cheque book is, although I know that I still have one. I miss cheques. There was something about signing my name to guarantee payment that made me feel as important as the governor of the Bank of England. I doubt that the governor would like me very much though. In all my life I've never had a cheque bounce or even had to use my overdraft facility. I keep my account in credit to avoid charges, so there isn't much profit in me.

Just when did the banks become more interested in making money than looking after their customers? It was probably always so, but it never felt like and the bank manager was such a jolly nice chap. Now when you visit the bank (if you can find one) the tellers don't want to take your money directly, hate giving change and constantly ask if you want insurance, a new mortgage, another credit card, or fries with that. I put off online banking for years, but now - simply to avoid running the rail - I use it all the time.

I didn't even have a personal credit card until a couple of years ago and I really hate using it. I know that there are good reasons sometimes for having one, but it doesn't feel quite right to me somehow. I feel guilty using the plastic, almost like I'm stealing rather than buying, and I have no idea what my credit rating is. Given that I pay my credit card off each month, don’t buy things on long-term credit, and don’t publically appear on the electoral list, I doubt that it is very good. Of course if I paid off the minimum payment each month and had cars and furniture and clothes on what I still think of as ‘hire purchase’ my credit rating would be great. Strange world when you are rewarded for being reckless with other people’s money. I’d never make a banker.

I don’t understand how some things work today. People lease cars instead of buying them and the days of renting seem to be back big-style. You can rent TV’s, white goods, furniture, mobile phones and of course more and more people rent the house they live in because they have no option. I often wonder if we are returning to the fifties and sixties where pretty much everything was rented or bought on tick. Times have changed and nobody rents their radio any more, even though they would probably still replace the valves for free, but there are companies that will rent you a computer. I can see how not owning anything may make some people feel free (particularly if you are a Buddhist monk) but for me it would just raise my already high levels of insecurity Grasshopper.

I'm very fortunate I guess - and with that goodnight.
.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

January sunshine...

January sunshine

It’s January again.
It’s January again.
The cries of the magpies,
The hum of the trains,
The sight of the sunshine,
The smell of the drains,
The chirp of the sparrows,
The sound of the planes,
Still early I know,
But I can’t refrain
From thinking of spring.
It’s January again.

The trouble with turmeric tea...

Well the New Year has made me determined to try and eat a little more healthily. So I got up this morning and dutifully prepared a cup of turmeric tea, my latest fad after hearing all about the benefits of turmeric on Jeremy Vine. It consists of boiling water, a teaspoon of turmeric powder (which is a lot), lemon juice, honey and a very strong will to get it down your throat. It doesn’t taste too bad, but it isn’t a nice morning Merlot either and I really need to add black pepper to get the full benefit of the magic. Adding pepper increases the power of the turmeric a hundred-fold apparently, but black pepper with honey and lemon first thing in the morning - surely the turmeric is enough of a punishment for my previous excess of excessiveness?

Maybe next week.

I prepared a breakfast of fresh fruit (2 types of melon, fresh pineapple and grapes - in solid form for once), porridge, tea, and waited for MCW to put in an appearance. How pleased she would be to find breakfast on the table awaiting her, I could hardly wait. Well, the porridge was too thick and hot (so sorry that I boiled the milk), the fruit too cold (well, it did come out of the fridge) and the tea just a little too milky. I blame the bloody cows for that. How dare they make MCW’s milk so milky? Besides she didn’t ask for it anyway and toast would have been better as long as I didn't over-brown or over-butter it.

As I whispered small terms of secret endearment about her whilst washing up the breakfast things, a startling and radical thought occurred to me. Maybe I should leave her to get her own bloody breakfast. At least that way she would get something she could bloody well eat without bloody moaning.

Yes, MCW isn't really a morning person.

Perhaps I should make her a nice cup of turmeric tea instead.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

My happy jar...

Right, it’s no use. Time to get this New Year kick-started into action. Today the decorations have gone back in their boxes, the tree was taken down, a few much needed calls were made to ‘sort some things out’, and the beginning of a very sketchy plan continued to be very sketchy indeed. Of course both MCW and MLD felt that I didn’t do my fair share when it came to removing the decorations, but taking down that sprig of mistletoe wasn’t the easiest job in the world.

Yes, in the magnificently poetic words of the Scottish rock gods who were Pilot: ‘January, sick and tired of you hanging on me, you’re making me sad with your eyes and you’re telling me lies’. I don’t know about ‘don’t go, don’t go’, how about bugger off and leave me alone? God it’s all so bloody depressing, just like that bloody awful song which still manages to make a grey cloud appear, hanging over head whenever I hear it. Yes, bugger off, stop bloody smiling and take those bloody silly haircuts with you
.
Maybe I need a lie down.

As you may have guessed by now I’m already finding it hard to hang on to my happy Christmas thoughts. Perhaps it’s the time of year (does anyone like January apart from Pilot?) or maybe I need more drugs. I’m even thinking about starting one of those jars where you write down all the good things that happen to you over the year and then at the correct time open it up and read them in an attempt to keep your sanity just before Christmas. Of course because, as I am reliably informed by MCW, 'a miserable git’ and an ‘unfair, lazy do-nothing moaner’ I do have a few concerns with this:

- What if no good things happen and my jar remains empty?

- What if good things happen that then turn into bad things? Do I take them out of the jar and destroy them?

- Do I need a jar of bad things to balance the good things in case I become too happy-clappy and put in things like: ‘Gosh I love the lyrics of January by Pilot’?

- Do I need an empty jar as a control (as you would with a proper scientific study of the happenings of the year) or will that just happen naturally if my jar remains empty?

- If a good thing happens retrospectively can I retrospectively add it to the jar or do good things have a shelf-life and if they do will they go bad when they pass that shelf-life?

So many uncertainties…

Things, even good things, are never quite as simple as they should be are they? You’d think that writing good things down and putting them into a jar would be pretty straightforward, but life isn’t like that is it? Things are constantly changing, morphing before your very eyes and what started out as one thing can easily end up as something else altogether. I remember once being given a large bonus. ‘How great’ I thought. It was one of those things that would definitely go into the ‘good’ jar. Sadly a couple of months later it became apparent than rather than being a ‘thank you’ it was something of a ‘sorry’. Well, you can guess how that ended.

Another time I seemed to be getting on with my partner better than I had done it years. If I’d have had a happy jar back then I’d have reached for it and popped a happy note into it. As it turned out she was only being nice because she was seeing someone else and was covering her tracks. That note would have not only been transferred into the bad jar, but would have been smothered in petrol, burnt to ashes and then pissed on like she pissed on me.

Yes, sometimes things are not always as they immediately appear to be.

Of course, there are a lot of good things around me to hooray about, but I usually have to take the time to look and see them. Luckily for me I have plenty of time to see that warmth in the candle flames or the play of shadows on an evening lighted wall. I have time to savour the peat in the malt I like to have each evening before I go to bed – just half a finger with a single ice cube and sipped not glugged. I have time to revel in some wonderful words of poetry when the mood takes me. I even have time to listen to January by Pilot over and over again until I completely lose the remainder of my marbles.

MCW has been known to describe me as a ‘miserable bugger’ and as a word of caution - candle flames can cause a fire and burn things down, shadows build to become the deepest of darks, whisky is addictive and potential ruinous, poetry can lead you up a beautiful but sometimes weed-ridden and dangerous garden path and listening to Pilot will eventually make you blind.

Yes, my happy jar - oh, oh, oh, it’s magic…

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Campervan dreams...

Blinking heck, January 3rd already! So far this year all I’ve done is go on about what I’m going to do this year and at some point I’ll need to get a grip and do it rather than just talk or think about it. Mind you I have put my new calendar up and pushing that drawing pin into the solid pine back door was quite a struggle. This year’s calendar – a present for MCW – is a selection of VW campervans again. It has been for the last eight years or so and I think that with each flipping over of the passing months I become ever more desperate to own one.

I used to get a calendar of lighthouses every year (I always fancied being a lighthouse keeper and I even researched it as a boy, mainly through watching Blue Peter), but then, alas, one by one they were all automated and another dream was dashed. The campervan on the other hand remains a very real possibility – at least in my head.

I have this fantasy of owning one and then going on a year-long road trip around this magnificent isle of ours. MCW is more than welcome to come along, but the lack of an internal toilet and my ‘horrendous, stupid, bloody snoring’ - which apparently I do on purpose – makes this highly unlikely. Alas! How will I manage all those pubs without her? My aim would be to cover all of the UK (apart from Northern Ireland and those bitty bits in Scotland), visit one pub in a different town each night and get chatting to the local ‘character’. Of course when I say ‘character’ I actually mean ‘loony’. Well, loonies always seem to have the best grasp of reality and some great tales to tell. I once got chatting to a chap in a pub who insisted that he’d once seen a shark coming up through his toilet as he was sitting on it. He even offered to show me the injuries that the shark had caused. NaturaIly I declined his kind offer.

I would of course blog and vlog my experiences and at the end of my travels write a best-selling book that would be turned into a major movie starring Martin Shaw even though he’s not quite as macho as me. I once had a Bodie perm and very fetching it looked on me too, in fact it looked better on me than it did on him, so I think that it could work.

So there you have it. The 2017 calendar is up and I’m determined to buy a campervan this year and start my grand adventure – and if not this year then next, or the year after. All I need is permission from MCW.

Maybe I should apply to become a lighthouse keeper after all.