bookmark_borderShared a moment

A doctor came to see me the other day here at work in south London, he needed some tech support and noticing my accent he asked me where I was from. I told him a little fishing port in Northern Ireland, a long long time ago.

I looked at him and immediately knew he was ex-army. When you grow up through ‘The Troubles’ you know instinctively who’s army/police and who’s not, it’s a survival instinct.

He said to me “I lost a few mates over there in 85, all at the same time”. And he looked at me and I looked at him and we both know what he’s talking about, I’ve heard this before and there’s very little you can say apart from “I’m so so sorry, it was a terrible terrible time..” and we shared the moment..

And he says to me, in a very sombre tone “aye, they were in an army truck…” and I know what’s coming next, a fucking massive roadside bomb, ..

“and a tree fell on them..”

“apparently the IRA planted it”

I burst out laughing, more out of relief, thinking thank Christ it’s that old joke!

He had me going there for a minute, SUCH an old joke! I just didn’t expect to hear it in a hospital in south London of all places, he well and truly caught me out. I wonder just how long he’d been waiting for that moment, 35 years?? I bet he punched the air when he left the office, bastard!

bookmark_borderMay contain nuts (part deux)

The first time I walked onto Intensive Care (ICU) as a new staff nurse I thought “Holy Crap! This is like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise!” All those bleeping machines, monitoring equipment I didn’t recognise and so many lines and tubes attached to each patient.  I thought I had made a huge mistake and would never manage all this chaos. It reminded me of when I started on A&E, again I thought Holy Crap, this is like a friggin warzone, blood everywhere, I’d never be able to understand the organised chaos that is A&E!

Happily it didn’t that that long to get up to speed on ICU because there were many similarities with A&E. In ICU the priority was always the heart, lungs and kidneys, as long as we looked after those systems then the odds were good that the patient would survive. We had the same philosophy in ICU, look after the heart, lungs and kidneys and the rest will all follow in good time. That may seem like a very medical anatomy and physiological model but overriding this was absolutely everybody’s focus on the patient and their family, we worked as hard as possible to get absolutely everyone out of ICU in the best condition possible.

That was one similarity ICU had with A&E, the other similarity was nurses reaction to the fire alarm. The theory goes that nurses should prepare their patients, decided which ones can be evacuated from the unit and which ones are OK to stay, the nurse should be getting ready to move the patient into the next safe zone, usually theatres. However, what invariably happened was that every single female nurse (and some of the male ones too), would make a beeline for the changing room and put on their lippy and brush their hair for the expected firemen.  Nurses and firemen… and policemen, a potent mixture.. Sometimes when the fire alarm went off I would look around and realise I was the only nurse on this side of the unit! Nurses in A&E and ICU wore scrubs, what surgeons wear in theatre, it helps minimise infection control, you get a fresh set each shift and dump them in the laundry at the end of the shift. However, even Pamela Anderson with her enhanced silicon valley wouldn’t get a second look if she was wearing scrubs, so the priority was to rush into the changing room and pretty oneself up. Sadly we never had any female firemen – ermm firewoman so I never got to dash off to the changing room to make myself (even) prettier.

Another similarity between A&E nurses and ICU nurses is nothing grosses us out – plus our sense of humour would always stray to the really sick kind, graveyard humour. I think it was a protective reflex, nothing grosses out nurses or doctors. I’ve been out with a bunch of medical staff and their respective partners and will happily discuss wee, pooh, blood and guts and some intricate procedure I assisted the ICU staff with and then notice that the non-meds are turning green and off their food..  oh dear!

But there are a few differences between A&E and ICU, in A&E there’s a special phone and when that rings everyone stops what they’re doing and listens. It’s a direct line from Ambulance Control and it’s nearly always AC telling us of a Blue Light on the way in, the ETA and any details they have from the paramedics.

Another difference is that the A&E staff generally only ‘patch & dispatch’ as we say, patch patients up and dispatch them on to ICU/Surgery/Wards. So the time they have with patients is very limited and they don’t get to know patients in the same way we did on Intensive Care. As an aside, in the Medical School they have a department that incorporates Obstetrics, Genetics and Elderly and it’s referred to as the Hatch’em, Match’em’ Dispatch’em department! I think that would be an excellent title for a murder mystery book.

But by far the best difference between A&E and ICU is that occasionally A&E staff get to go on the Ambulance so they have insight into what the paramedics do. In reality it’s just an excuse for the paramedics to chat up and impress the nurses, they were always disappointed to see a male nurse join them… I have been out in a ‘blue light’ a few times. It’s fantastic! It’s like being in a snow plough, all the traffic in front of you parts like Moses and the Red Sea. I’m sure there’s a scene in Bruce Almighty like that, it’s the fastest time I’ve ever got from work to the other side of London.

During my time in A&E I learnt a few things that I thought I might share, these are not all mine but the medics out there amongst you will be able to relate to them.

  • Don’t tell the nurse you have a bad back and then have sex with your partner on the trolley behind the curtains.  Yup, coitus interruptus was interrupted by moi.
  • The phrases “I know what I’m doing” and “Hey, watch this!” is almost always followed by a trip to A&E
  • Never get into a road rage incident and go head to head with someone who has a spanner in his hand.
  • Never try to get away from a police dog, they are quicker and from what I have seen, have VERY sharp teeth.
  • Never allow your sex partner to push a screwdriver/wine bottle/apple/cork/banana/etc up your jacksie, and then tell the nursing staff you don’t know how that got in there. Remember, your rectum is an exit point really, and bowel perfs are NOT fun.
  • Never walk in front of your brother when he is practising his golf swing.
  • Don’t jump off a bridge into the river without first checking it’s more than one foot deep.
  • Never…NEVER…hide your weed in a toothbrush holder and stick it up your butt and think it’s a safe hiding place from the officers in a prison. It could get stuck! 
  • Never assume you are sterile just because you didn’t get your last 3 lovers pregnant.
  • If you are having an MRI done, we REALLY need to know about those “personal” piercings, because they will get ripped out by the magnetic pull.
  • Always wear safety goggles while playing paint ball/or checking out the paintball gun
  • Spermicidal foam tastes like hair shampoo (apparently).
  • Vaporub definitely won’t prolong your erection (and you’ll taste very bad!).
  • Do not assume you are “going thru the change” when you suddenly stop having a period when you are 43. Consider the fact that you might actually be pregnant!
  • Do not try to sandpaper off tattoos by yourself. Also do not use a sandblaster or scraper to do it with.
  • Insulin needles should not be shared by family members, especially for weeks at a time.
  • And finally, no matter how bowel obsessed you are, do not strip down naked in your back garden and have your husband (whom you met at a psych unit) give you an enema with a garden hose. Your neighbours will call the police and you will get a bowel perf and peritonitis, and you will be sent back to the psych ward where you met your husband in the first place.

bookmark_borderBelfast 1976. Troubles..what Troubles?

I recently found the above video of Belfast from 1976. Goodness, that brought back memories! My friends and I were regular visitors to the city centre, mostly because the shops at home were crap, These days we are all used to Amazon shopping but to my 15 year old self everything of importance was in the mecca of Belfast, a range of comics, toys, gadgets and games that was impossible to source anywhere else.

To get into the city centre we had to go through security barriers, these barriers surrounded a two mile wide section of the centre so it was stop and get searched, everyone, old, young, babies as well. The security people would wave an electronic magic wand over your body that apparently detected explosives! Then it was into one of the large department stores but again checked at the entrance, the ladies would have their handbags checked again. After a while this just became instinctive, it became a matter of life, a habit, you could only enter a store via one door and you’d automatically raise your arms to be searched at the door.

My first trip overseas (well, to us the Isle of Man was overseas, we had to get a boat there!) was a revelation, I walked into Marks & Spencer and stopped by the door waiting to get searched, the customers behind me walked past me, it was very strange NOT to get frisked when entering a large store. Old habits..

Even when I moved to London it took me quite some time to get out of the reflex of looking for the security guy to frisk me, it’s interesting what becomes ‘normal’. Walking around in Belfast you’d become oblivious to the bombed/firebombed shells of stores, life went on. Every five years or so the IRA would place car bombs in our local town and blow up the Co-op, Woolworths and Wellworths, there was a rhythm to it and we all just got used to it.

I know this may seem frankly bizarre to non-war torn cities but here’s two points to remember.

  1. On the telly there may have been a mob of rioters throwing stones and petrol bombs(!) at the police and army, BUT at the same time there were 1.5 million people NOT throwing stones and petrol bombs at the police.
  2. My friends and I were surrounded by armed police and army in ‘meat wagons’, loyalist and paramilitary groups marching around (when the coast was clear), frequently I watched controlled explosions of suspect devices, I was there when bombs went off in my home town and in Belfast, all this was happening; kneecapping, rioting, murders – but to a 15 year old living through all this, my greatest stress BY FAR was making sure I got my Maths homework in on time to Mr Macaulay, our dreaded Maths teacher! Life is strange, isn’t it?

bookmark_borderTo shave or not to shave. Now THAT is the question!

It’s the start of April 2020 and I’ve been avoiding my fellow (in)human beings since early March. Walking the streets of London these last few weeks feels like accidentally straying onto a Zombie movie set, where is everyone? The first time I really noticed it was when I was walking up the road and a woman nearly threw herself into the hedge trying to avoid me (the story of my life sweetheart, the story of my life!)  

My feeling is this is going to go on right through summer and I’ve been thinking my usual left of field thoughts. I wish I was a Hamster and could hibernate for the next few months, or go into suspended animation until a working vaccine is available. And then I was wondering, how come in SciFi movies everyone comes out of suspended animation clean shaven and not looking like furballs? I’ve stopped shaving as frequently, sporting the Werewolf look, what’s the point, and now I’m wondering why we actually shave?

Historically, shaving was simply more hygienic. Lice were rampant but washing in freezing cold water wasn’t something to look forward to. Alexander the Great told his soldiers to shave because it was easier to fight and avoid beard grabbing. Men who did not shave were considered barbarians.

But why do woman shave the parts of their bodies that aren’t pubicly – sorry publicly – visible? Social convention? Hugh Hefner and Playboy didn’t help, it seems to me that the big push came around that period (ouch!) but I’d love to know what the Victorians attitude was. Most of us have access to clean water for washing, so the lice argument is null and void and yet we’ve become accustomed to shaving frequently. On average men spend about 125 days per lifetime shaving and research by Emma Leslie of shows these surprising figures for ladies;

Shaving legs- 72 days a lifetime
Styling hair- 294 days a lifetime
Plucking eyebrows – 30 days a lifetime
Taking off your make-up- 52 days a lifetime
Applying fake tan- 12 days a lifetime
Dying your hair- 23 days a lifetime
Body moisturising- 44 days a lifetime
Painting nails- 20 days a lifetime
Exfoliation- 20 days a lifetime
Pedicures-11 days a lifetime

Of course this is from the very selective audience of a beauty products website so the figures are going to be VERY slanted, I don’t know anyone who spends 12 days, or even 12 minutes applying fake tan which reminds me of this little story. A long time ago I was sharing a flat with a female friend. She was going through a dry run re: boyfriends but one morning I was having a shower and the shower pan started to fill up with water. I was puzzled and mentioned this to my housemate. She looked suitably embarrassed and said “Oh, I’ve got a date tonight – so thought I’d better get the razor blade out..!” Gross!

ANYWAY…. the interesting aspect of all this social isolation is it gives one time to really think and ruminate, to take stock and figure out what kind of person you really are. We never really get much chance to think and ruminate, do we? We start school and then it’s full on until retirement, study study study work work work boom dead! But now we’ve got time to think and ruminate, to really focus on the bigger life questions; where are you going, how is your life, what do you really want, what is the meaning of life, you know, just the small stuff..

George Sands wrote “There is only one happiness in this life; to love and be loved.” I agree with this sentiment to some degree but George Sands has obviously never tried a White Chocolate Magnum ice lolly on a hot summers day! I think there are many many happiness spread all through our lives, just walking around the (now packed!) park yesterday listening to the children laughing/playing and the birds singing brings me and I’m sure everyone a sense of happiness. As Philip Gould approached his final days he wrote movingly in the Guardian “I live by the day. Just sitting in the park, looking at the flowers thinking how beautiful they are. It’s almost … not hallucinogenic but it’s a much stronger feeling than previously. For me, at the moment, going for a walk in the park with Gail is heaven.” We, who can see this, understand this, it brings deep joy.

In my bathroom I have the illustrated words, and every time I’m in there (which trust me, in my gathering years is more and more frequently!)  it makes me think. I put it in there not just for the boys but for me too. I imagine the boys think it’s directed at them and to a very large extent it is but it’s also directed at each of us, each and every one of us.

We are all loved, each and every one of us, and not just by family and friends but by God, the Creator, the Universe, the Source, call it whatever you like, but that feeling you have towards your children, that pure pure pure love, s/he feels the exact same way about all of us, every single soul on this planet, no matter how hairy we are!

bookmark_borderThe joy (and burden) of the sisterhood.

Ladies who do lunch

I was wandering around Sainsburys this morning when along came a little girl chat-chat-chat-chat-chat-chatting away with her dad. I watched them slowly go down the aisle with this constant chat between them. Everyone was smiling. It was super sweet to see, and yet just another reminder just how verbally stunted we men as a species are.

The longer I walk this planet the more time I have to observe life, and more importantly, re-form my opinions!

This has been happening quite a lot these last few years. I’m becoming increasingly aware of the differences betwix the two sexes and increasingly envious, yes, envious, of almost every women’s ability to communicate, to network, to be part of such a big collective, a sisterhood, in ways we men can only imagine.

Despite constant and pervasive historic neurosexism, modern neuroscientists have identified no decisive, category-defining differences between the brains of men and women. In women’s brains, language-processing is not spread any more evenly across the hemispheres than it is in men’s, as a small 1995 Nature study proclaimed but a large 2008 meta-analysis disproved.

So it’s a mystery to me (and the subscribers of Nature) as to why women are so expert in communication (and the subtle nuances) and men seem to be real dullards. The current thinking is that the brain is no more gendered than the liver or kidneys or heart but women’s brains are thought to be wired for empathy and intuition, whereas male brains are supposed to be optimized for reason and action. Most of us remain strapped in the “biosocial straitjackets” that divert a basically unisex brain down one culturally gendered pathway or another

I watch family, friends and work colleagues chatting away ten to a dozen, and how important it is, how natural, how fulfilling, it’s that networking, the social oil between each other that makes me so envious. We don’t get that, we have to go to football matches in tribes to even get a glimpse of that comradeship that comes naturally to almost every woman I know. We men are walking this planet tongued tied and handicapped.

When does this difference start? A colleague thinks it starts at school, that great big melting pot of primary school is torn asunder with our tendency to split high school into boys/girls only. But I think it starts off even earlier than that, my own anecdotal evidence suggests right from learning the first few words of a language. Observing very young children it’s obvious that it’s the girls that do much more of the chatting, just like the little girl in Sainsburys this morning. Boys tend to be much quieter and when the dreaded puberty and high school hits we shut down even more, resorting to grunts. If you’ve ever had the (mis)fortune to sit on a bus that’s just picked up a load of high school girls going home the clatter is almost deafening. That wasn’t how it was on our school buses, there was very little chat – apart from the sixth formers at the back, hurling the usual abuse at everyone, which wasn’t conducive to friendly chat!

As I get older, my overriding impression is that a women’s world is so much richer than a man’s, we walk this planet almost completely switched off. Of course, this is a generalisation, guilty as charged. There are blokes who can talk the hind leg off a donkey, I met up with two of them a while back and I just couldn’t get a word in edgewise, it’s like a competition between them. And the local drunks who stand outside the off licence seem to be engaged in constant seemingly pointless conversation between themselves – even if standing alone!

And I’m aware this can be a two-edged sword; woman seem to be more adept at the complexities of large group interpersonal relationships; who’s in, who’s out, and nuances that pass me by. We men only have the cello to play with but woman have the entire orchestra at their disposal. I know our lives are poorer for it.

bookmark_borderHappily Ever After


Dear children..

Once upon a time in a very strange land called Singledom, there lived an ever so slightly green (and occasionally windy) ogre called Grog. He wasn’t rich, famous or even particularly clever but he was kind, decent, had a good heart, and really, that’s all that mattered to him.

Before making the long trek to the land called Singledom he lived in a very popular land called Marriagedom where he had many great adventures, escapades, near misses and the occasional pratfall because, if truth be told, he really was quite an adventurous ogre! By some mysterious magic which he didn’t fully understand, he had somehow managed to grow two baby ogres (it was a mystery wrapped in an enigma), they turned out to be greener and much smellier than him! (Yes, I know, hard to believe!)

However, now he lived in Singledom and Golly Gosh!, wasn’t it a spooky place, full of other ogres, old dragons and some really quite scary monsters, occasionally even he had quite a fright! He’d lived there for well more than ten years and yet even after all that time, he still hadn’t figured out the very odd ways there.. (Yes, he really was quite intellect rivalled only by garden tools)

For starters, he checked out some of the inmates – oops sorry, I mean inhabitants passport photos and he was surprised at how different the photos were from the actual inhabitant. “I’ve put some weight on since that photo was taken” seemed to be a common refrain or “did I not mention my co-joined twin?”. In all fairness, it seems the male inhabitants of that land were very partial to the same behaviour too, one of his ogre friends went to meet her 6ft ‘athletic build’ ogre date, it turns out he was 4ft and circular! Cor Blimey Mate! I guess he worked in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory..

And then there were the natives who didn’t actually live there, they were illegal immigrants! How naughty! Big chief ogres Donald Trump and Nigel Farage nearly choked on their cornflakes! They earnestly told him that they had full residential status but when he checked they actually lived in his old neighbourhood country Marriagedom and had sneaked into Singledom just to play with the toys! Hiss! Boo! Scoundrels!

The other thing the green-ish one found a bit difficult was the language barrier. He spoke English (well, OK, maybe with quite a strong Irish brogue but still recognisably English!) but over there it was a very curious version. For example, he didn’t understand LOL, AFAIK, CU, FWIW or SFLR, he wondered – was it Welsh?

Plus the really odd names like BigButts and Glitterfarts, he would never name his little ogres that, no matter how smelly they got! He found grammar rules seemed very loose, a few of the natives didn’t seem to know the difference between there, they’re and their or your and you’re or to, too and two, and hadn’t a clue what a serial comma was (hint – you just passed one, now wash your hands).

And then there was the idea of an actual date. In the swamp where he was hatched, dating meant meeting up and spending time with the same lovely lady ogre, at least until they both decided they were flogging a dead horse (or a dead donkey!) (oh poor donkey!) but in Singledom they used an expression he had never come across before. Apparently one would date lots of ogres all at the same time and then eventually settle on one by saying “Shall we date exclusively?”

Well, he thought, that was very… ummm.. modern..

Singledom was awash with strange customs, some inhabitants appeared happy to write endless messages but when it came to actually meeting up they seemed extremely reluctant. This threw the green one somewhat, in his hatchling days this was known as ‘having a Pen Pal’!

And some inhabitants seemed to have extremely poor social skills, they seemed incapable of saying anything more than “Hi”, “Hello” or “HiYa?”. The big green one suspected they just repeated the same message to everyone in Singledom parrot fashion no matter what but that would just be really annoying. Silly ogre, surely they wouldn’t do that, would they??

Then one day the green-ish one was contacted by a dusky maiden in a land far away called Nigeria. She told him that God had spoken to her in a dream and informed her that she and the green one were going to get married, have lots of little ogres and relocate to a magical castle in a land far far far far far away called Scotland. All he needed to do was send her 400 gold coins to buy a magic carpet and she’d be there in a jiffy.

He thought this sounded wonderful and readily agreed but did ask her as to why God just didn’t make the 400 gold coins appear on her pillow? Very confusingly, this angered her greatly, she swore at him and she cursed him, she cursed his little ogres and she cursed his pet hamster.

Snowy hasn’t been the same since!

Another time he was contacted by a Princess from the land called Arabia telling him that he was her dream ogre! Wow! She was very very much younger than him but a lovely shade of green and suitably round absolutely everywhere. He couldn’t understand why she hadn’t been betrothed to some gallant knight before him but he was really pleased and enormously complimented, this was more like it, she seemed completely genuine!

Then she told him a great secret, she had secreted away a huge treasure chest full of gold and silver coins! Wow! He couldn’t believe his luck! She wanted him to look after it for her and she would share it with him, she just needed his bank account details plus PIN number and she guaranteed he would get a large tax free share of it!!

Oh my goodness gracious me! What luck!

He wrote back immediately asking what a bank account and Pin number was, (he’d never had one of those) but then tragedy must have struck because she immediately disappeared right after that. How peculiar..

One day another inmate contacted him from Singledom, she seemed just as genuine as all the other but he feared she had a broken pencil because her message was full of errors;

Hello, Nice meeting you,how are you? Hope you are alright. my name is sally! i have interest in you that makes me leave a massage for you and also I wants you as a friend also want you to write me. i like green skin. tell me were you leave and also send me your pictures; Is my plesure to meet you here in this site. Yours sincerly Miss sally!

Well, at least Miss Sally seemed completely legit.

One day he was contacted by another inmate, she seemed VERY friendly! Her name was Pussy Galore. She was having a party at her swamp with lots of other ogres and wondered if Grog would like to join them. She mentioned she had lots of swings installed and they would be having a swingers party! What fun. He couldn’t wait.

Then he thought he might try visiting the market town called Waitrose. He’d heard it was a very big market with lots of very high class tasty morsels. There was food too! He went there one afternoon with his wooden shopping cart hoping to fill it up with some beauties but all to no avail. He placed himself by the freezer cabinet and struck his best pose; chest out, bottom in but not one single damsel came along to help him. Oh Bother! He couldn’t stay there too long, it was very chilly on his willy!

Then he heard about Cinderella meeting her Prince Charming at the ball, so off he went to the local Tavern called Stringfellows. He put on his best suit and hit the dance floor, who could resist? He was sure he could impress the local maidens with his Monster Mash, his Gangnam Style Funky Chicken, his Mashed Potato and then his Hokey Cokey (cos that’s what it’s all about!). Sadly the maidens in Stringfellows were immune to his charms (and his Harlem Hustle) and he was asked to leave after being too enthusiastic with The Bump. Oh his poor Achy Breaky Heart.

Poor ogre, he was getting a bit bored with all the shenanigans of Singledom and wondered if a life as a trappist monk awaited him, or a life tending his swamp with his over-talkative donkey, he wasn’t sure which fate was worse. . He had travelled the length and breadth of Singledom, from the icy north beyond the Great Wall of Hadrian (protecting the island from the fearsome white walkers) to the very southern lands of ancient Cornish (who made the most delicious ice cream!) but all to no avail..

BUT THEN.. when he had pretty much given up..something happened. Completely randomly, after many many false starts he finally met a fair maiden called Mog, another long suffering inhabitant of Singledom. She had just as many tales to share with him, all of them sounding strangely familiar..

She had smarts, was strong, was feisty, could hold a tune and could out-stink even him! They spent a lot of time chatting, laughing, arm wrestling, mud bathing and cutting the cheese. It seemed too good to be true!

And then one evening he treated Mog with kindness, love, respect, tenderness, burned weevils and a lovely bunch of weeds when something absolutely magical happened, she rolled onto her back and was transformed into a purring pussycat!

Holy Smoke! This was cat-astrophic!

He was completely and utterly allergic to moggies!

He swore never ever to do that again!

(This explained why she was very mewsical!)

Grog had fallen for her deeply, so he eventually purrsuaded her to come with him to consult with the witch of Superdrug. She told them she couldn’t break the spell; treat Mog lovely and she would be transformed into a purring moggy….however, the witch could adjust the spell for a small fee, so instead of transforming into a cat – she would be transformed into a DOG! And not one of those silly yappie poodle dogs but a proper ogre sized dog, one that came up to his knees!

This was the best of both worlds; feisty, fighty, funny, flirty, frisky, farty and furry all rolled up into one, she was the ideal companion! His friends said she was literally a bit of a dog and a bit ruff but Grog didn’t give a hoot, he thought she was a real hot dog!, he loved her very very much and soon afterwards they moved to the land called Happily Ever After

The End??

bookmark_borderThe Meaning of Life?


On the very first day, God created the Ox. He said to the Ox, “As an Ox, you must go to the field with the farmer all day long. You will work all day under the sun! You will work hard to provide for your calves, they must always come first, and you will do this for 60 years.”
The Ox replied, “What? That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for 60 years? Let me have 20 years, that’s more than enough and the 40 years I’ll give back to you.”
So God said OK.

On the second day, God created the monkey. He said to the monkey, “You will entertain people. You’ll make them laugh, do monkey tricks, be mischievous and do this for 20 years”
The monkey protested. “What? Make them laugh? Do monkey faces and tricks? Ten years will do, and the other 10 years I’ll give you back.”
So God was getting annoyed but agreed.

On the third day, God created the dog. God said to the dog, “You are to sit all day by the door of your house. Any people that come past, you will bark at them and pass comment of them and do this for 20 years.”
The dog objected, “What? All day long to sit by the door? No way! I’ll give you back 10 years of life!”
So God was pissed but agreed.

On the fourth day, God created man and said to him, “Your job is to sleep, eat, and play. You will enjoy life very very much. All you need to do is to enjoy and do nothing. For this kind of life, I’ll give you a 20 year life span.” The man objected. “What? Such a good life! Eat, play, sleep, do nothing? Enjoy the best and you expect me to live only for 20 years? No way, man… why don’t we make a deal? Since the cow gave you back 40 years, the dog gave you back 10 years, the monkey gave you back 10 years, I will take them from you!” So God, really pissed now, agreed.

In our first 20 years, we eat, sleep, play, get taken care of, have no bills to pay, no responsibilities, enjoy the best and get to sleep in as long as we like..
THEN for the next 40 years, we work our arses off all day long, do overtime, sweat in our chosen field, worry and stress and do what it takes to support our family.
THEN for the next 10 years, we entertain our grandchildren by making monkey faces and monkey tricks and make them laugh and giggle. They absolutely love us.
AND for the last 10 years, we stay at home, sit by the front door and bark at everyone coming past and pass comment on them.
That is the meaning of life.

Woof! Woof!

bookmark_borderHumans. MkIII

Screw British Airways!

I’ve been thinking (yeah, I know, it’s a habit I’m trying to get out of) about evolution and Darwin again. It occurs to me that humankind really are the model T Fords of the animal kingdom. Pigeons, tortoises, dogs, cats, cheetahs and a whole host of animals plainly and very obviously appeared after us.

Take pigeons for example. When I go to the bathroom there’s two exit points built into my body; one for liquid waste and one for solid waste. Pigeons just coo coo chuckle at that, they only have one exit point, both solid and liquid get excreted at the same exit, this vastly decreases the chance of constipation, haemorrhoids and a hole (oops! whole!) host of lower bowel conditions. What’s more, they get to fly everywhere. No walking for them, no traffic jams and no two hour check-in before boarding a flight to Spain.

And then tortoises and turtles. Hey, no having to work your ass off for 40 years to pay off your mortgage. Why bother when you carry your home around with you on your back. Provide your kids with a home, what..but they already have one! Want to go live in a nicer greener part of the town. Just take a walk and job done!

Dogs? They get to run a lot faster and longer than us mere humans. No tube or bus for them, they’re already at work! Clothing? What’s that for? They’ve got built in clothing. Sense of smell? A gazillion times better than humans. Yup, that lasagne is 100% off (but I’m still going to eat it!) and then I’m going to lick your face..

Cats? Stools, ladders, scaffolding…in cat world these don’t exist, just climb up the bleeding tree. Fall off from great height, don’t worry, they always land on their feet. Worst case scenario, hey, we’ve got nine lives. And you wonder why they sit at home judging us, thinking what bleeding dim humans..

Cheetahs? Bye-bye public transport. No excuses to be late for work ever again.

I can’t understand why I haven’t got a Nobel Prize for all this work!

bookmark_borderHumans. MkII

dogs life

It occurs to me that when The Committee upstairs made humans they made one small but rather short-sighted mistake. They got rid of the tail. Now, I can see the logic in this, it gets caught in doors, it gets in the way of sitting down and clumsy clods can step on it, but I still think it was a mistake and here’s why.

I looked after a friend’s dog a while back and I never once had wonder if he was happy or sad, it was always obvious from his tail, was it wagging (thankfully usually always) or was it down betwixt his legs. And the thing about dogs and tails is, there’s no hiding emotions, there’s complete honestly all the time, you know if he’s pleased to see you or not, but with humans, well, we’ve become very adept at hiding our true feelings and I’m not sure this is always a good thing. I can see occasions when it is (particularly when dealing with children) but most of the time it’s not. A lot of people hide their true feeling, be it love, hate, irritation, fear, happy or sad and I wonder what kind of world we’d have if we could always tell the emotional state of those around us, if there was always truth in communication, like it was the most natural thing in the world (as it should be), dogs, cats, in fact most animals seem to get along fine with tails..

So I’d like to propose to the The Powers That Be that when we all blow ourselves to bits or a giant meteorite wipes out humans like the dinosaurs, that the next version has a tail and keeps it. Then there will be that honesty in communication; lovers, family, friends, politicians, we’ll be able to see instantly if they’re happy or sad, there won’t be any hiding of feelings. I realise that this will put everyone involved in the duster trade out of business because we’ll all have our own built-in duster but I think that’s a small price to pay for enhanced communication.


Actually, I’ve been thinking about this a bit more and have decided upon a few more improvements. I really don’t understand why we only have two arms and hands, I’d be much more productive with six or even eight arms …chat on the phone, use two keyboards at same time and scratch my bits all at the same time…and when it comes to rumpy-pumpy..well……….

Plus I’ve decided it would be really useful to have a USB port built in, this would make life simpler for a variety of ways, for starters I’d never lose my tunes, I’d just upload them into my noggin…and then files, documents, photos..all uploaded into my massive brain…but the really important function would be to connect to another person and have that complete connection, being able to communicate feeling and emotions completely without inaccurate words getting in the way…. and the icing on the cake, when I’m knackered I could just plug myself into a wall socket and recharge myself… win-win! You heard it here first God!

bookmark_border37 Rules For Life.


1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
2. Don’t worry about what people think, they don’t do it very often.
3. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car.
4. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
5. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you’ve never tried before.
6. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.
7. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
8. A person, who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention! It never fails.)
9. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
10. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
11. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
12. A conscience is what hurts when all of your other parts feel so good.
13. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
14. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
15. No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
16. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
17. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.
18. Opportunities always look bigger going than coming.
19. Junk is something you’ve kept for years and throw away three weeks before you need it.
20. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
21. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
22. By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.
23. Thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator.
24. Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world.
25. It ain’t the jeans that make your butt look fat.
26. If you had to identify, in 1 word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, & never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.”
27. There is a very fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness.”
28. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
29. You should not confuse your career with your life.
30. Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.
31. Never lick a steak knife.
32. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.
33. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.
34. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she’s pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.
35. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.
36. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.
37. Your friends love you anyway.

bookmark_borderDarwinism Disproven


I think it’s time for me to collect yet another Nobel Prize as I have come up with final proof that Darwinism – whilst a lovely logical notion – is complete bollocks. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I’ve come to realise that natural selection has a very obvious fatal flaw – or maybe that should be paw..

You see, according to natural selection the male of the species should get more colourful with each passing generation to attract the female of the species and pass on his genetic code. If one looks at the peacock then this would seem the obvious answer, the hen is plain but the male has developed this amazing fan tail of feathers and this is repeated across the bird kingdom, the only exception is the eclectus parrot where the female is multi-coloured but the male is plain green.

So, that seems simple and straight forward enough. But there’s a problem with that theory. You see, if that was the case then most human males would look remarkably more like little furry puppies with each passing generation.

Perhaps I should explain. I’ve doggie-sat occasional for friends and taken dogs for nice long walks in the park and without exception the female of our species will always come over and talk to the doggie and even stroke it’s tum if given half a chance. They pretty much ignore me but the mutt get’s them coo-ing endlessly. Ironically, puppies are like female cat-nip.

So, according to natural selection men should be by now at least a little bit furry, have big shiny eyes, floppy ears, a wet nose and pant a lot. Now I know that some men are heading that way, I pant a lot when I see an attractive woman and the urge to hump her leg doggie style is almost overwhelming but I resist the urge. One of my friends is indeed very hairy – his wife says it’s like sleeping with a Werewolf, but generally looking around at the male of the species I think it’s never going to happen, I seriously doubt that a million generations down the line that we’re all going to look like Scooby Do.

I wonder when I can collect my Nobel Prize?

bookmark_borderIt’s more than just a car..


An unlucky lady drove into my parked car last week, mine and the car behind it. She was distracted, lost control and bashed into my car and then the car behind me at some speed. Fortunately she was totally unharmed, just shocked but all three cars were totally wrecks.The insurance man came, took one look at my wreck and said it was uneconomical to repair, it would be scrapped.

Now, here’s the thing. I’ve had that car for a few years now and it’s never let me down, it always started first time, everything works as it should (or did!) and I’ve travelled all over the country in it. It’s the most reliable car I’ve ever had. And now it’s going to be scrapped.

We men shouldn’t get attached to lumps of metal but here’s what it feels like. It feels like I’ve had a faithful dog, one that I’ve had for many a year, it’s been totally faithful, it’s never bit me, it’s never even peed on the carpet. It’s never refused to go for a walk and has been 100% obedient and loyal.

And then last Saturday morning it was sitting outside, completely minding it’s own business and a stranger came along and carelessly stepped on it’s paw and broke it. Completely at random, wrong place, wrong time. And then the vet has come along and said “Nope, I’m afraid I have to put him to sleep..”. And I protest but the vet says “it’s OK, you can get another one exactly like that..” but that just feels wrong, this dog never bite me, was innocently minding it’s own business and completely faultless but still it has to be put down. I looked at the car and it looked back with it’s big doleful eyes that said “what happened, I don’t understand???”

I feel bad for him. I’m not sure if cars have souls but if mine does then I hope he’s racing around some race track in heaven enjoying himself and having a ball. He was my best car ever.

bookmark_borderUSA v UK


I found this on the interweb the other day;

I was in England again a few weeks ago, mostly in small towns, but here’s some of what I noticed:
* Almost everyone is very polite
* The food is generally outstanding
* There are no guns
* There are too many narrow stairs
* Everything is just a little bit different
* The pubs close too early
* The reason they drive on the left is because all their cars are built backwards
* Pubs are not bars, they are community living rooms.
* You’d better like peas, potatoes and sausage
* Refrigerators and washing machines are very small
* Everything is generally older, smaller and shorter
* People don’t seem to be afraid of their neighbors or the government
* Their paper money makes sense, the coins don’t
* Everyone has a washing machine but driers are rare
* Hot and cold water faucets. Remember them?
* Pants are called “trousers”, underwear are “pants” and sweaters are “jumpers”
* The bathroom light is a string hanging from the ceiling
* “Fanny” is a naughty word, as is “shag”
* All the signs are well designed with beautiful typography and written in full sentences with proper grammar.
* There’s no dress code
* Doors close by themselves, but they don’t always open
* They eat with their forks upside down
* The English are as crazy about their gardens as Americans are about cars
* They don’t seem to use facecloths or napkins or maybe they’re just less messy than we are
* The wall outlets all have switches, some don’t do anything
* There are hardly any cops or police cars
* 5,000 year ago, someone arranged a lot of rocks all over, but no one is sure why
* When you do see police they seem to be in male & female pairs and often smiling
* Black people are just people: they didn’t quite do slavery here
* Everything comes with chips, which are French Fries. You put vinegar on them
* Cookies are “biscuits” and potato chips are “crisps”
* HP sauce is better then catsup
* Obama is considered a hero, Bush is considered an idiot.
* After fish and chips, curry is the most popular food
* The water controls in showers need detailed instructions
* They will boil anything
* Folks don’t always lock their bikes
* It’s not unusual to see people dressed different and speaking different languages
* Your electronic devices will work fine with just a plug adapter
* Nearly everyone is better educated then we are
* If someone buys you a drink you must do the same
* There are no guns
* Look right, walk left. Again; look right, walk left. You’re welcome.
* Avoid British wine and French beer
* It’s not that hard to eat with the fork in your left hand with a little practice. If you don’t, everyone knows you’re an American
* Many of the roads are the size of our sidewalks
* There’s no AC
* Instead of turning the heat up, you put on a jumper
* Gas is “petrol”, it costs about $6 a gallon and is sold by the liter
* If you speed on a motorway, you get a ticket. Period. Always
* You don’t have to tip, really!
* Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall really are different countries
* Only 14% of Americans have a passport, almost everyone in the UK does
* You pay the price marked on products because the taxes (VAT) are built in
* Walking is the national pastime
* Their TV looks and sounds much better then ours
* They took the street signs down during WWII, but haven’t put them all back up yet
* Everyone enjoys a good joke
* There are no guns
* Dogs are very well behaved and welcome everywhere
* There are no window screens
* You can get on a bus and end up in Paris
* Everyone knows more about our history then we do
* Radio is still a big deal. The BBC is quite good
* The newspapers can be awful
* Everything costs the same but our money is worth less so you have to add 50% to the price to figure what you’re paying
* Beer comes in large, completely filled, actual pint glasses and the closer the brewery the better the beer
* Butter and eggs aren’t refrigerated
* The beer isn’t warm, each style is served at the proper temperature
* Cider (alcoholic) is quite good.
* Excess cider consumption can be very painful.
* The universal greeting is “Cheers” (pronounced “cheeahz” unless you are from Cornwall, in which case it’s “chairz”)
* The money is easy to understand: 1-2-5-10-20-50 pence, £1-£2 coins and £5-£10, etc bills. There are no quarters.
* Their cash makes ours look like Monopoly money
* Cars don’t have bumper stickers
* Many doorknobs, buildings and tools are older than America
* By law, there are no crappy, old cars
* When the sign says something was built in 456, they didn’t lose the “1”
* Cake is is pudding, ice cream is pudding, anything served for desert is pudding, even pudding
* BBC 4 is NPR
* Everything closes by 1800 (6pm)
* Very few people smoke, those who do often roll their own
* You’re defined by your accent
* No one in Cornwall knows what the hell a Cornish Game Hen is
* Football is a religion, religion is a sport
* Europeans dress better then the British, we dress worse
* The trains work: a three minute delay is regrettable
* Drinks don’t come with ice
* There are far fewer fat English people
* There are a lot of healthy old folks around participating in life instead of hiding at home watching tv
* If you’re over 60, you get free tv and bus and rail passes.
* They don’t use Bose anything anywhere
* Displaying your political or religious affiliation is considered very bad taste
* Every pub seems to have a pet drunk
* Their healthcare works, but they still bitch about it
* Cake is one of the major food groups
* Their coffee is mediocre but the tea is wonderful
* There are still no guns
* Towel warmers!
* Cheers

And then I found the response;


Scott Waters, an American, has caused a stir with a Facebook post sharing his observations from a recent trip to smalltown England. “People don’t seem to be afraid of their neighbours or the government” and “There are no guns” were two of his comments that seemed to help the post go viral. And pretty astute, I thought, was: “Pubs are not bars, they are community living rooms.”

I moved from the UK to the US six months ago, and it’s true what they say: the portions are enormous; there really are 300-400 TV channels; everyone has beautifully white teeth; and nobody can pronounce “water”.

But, at the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, here are a few other things I’ve noticed about the United States. Because, as John Travolta once said, they’ve got everything we’ve got … it’s just the little differences.

1. Customer service is either so warm it’s like you’ve made a new friend for life or so brusque you feel as though you’ve just been ordered back into your cell after your five-minute phone call with your lawyer. There’s no middle ground.

2. You need to tip for everything. If you think maybe you should tip, you should tip. You should be tipping me for this article.

3. If you don’t tip in a restaurant, the waiter or waitress will make a smart remark and your evening will be ruined. I’ve seen it happen.

4. People tip because the waiting staff are paid low hourly rates.

5. The waiting staff are paid low hourly rates because employers have successfully tricked their customers into taking on a significant portion of their staffing costs. If you don’t like the sound of that, all is not quite lost – there is a socialist running for president this time.

6. You can have anything you want, as long as you can pay for it.

7. And as long as you tip.

8. You can fill up your car at a petrol station using a couple of nickels and an old button.

9. Something as tiny and insignificant as a bicycle could never be considered remotely comparable to a car, and to expect it to abide by the same rules of the road is considered utterly absurd by cyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike.

10. Coins have become so worthless that restaurants sometimes refuse to take them – even thieves have been known to turn their noses up at some of them.

11. They’re only really used for the laundromat. Because strangely enough in this land of modern conveniences, it’s apparently too much to ask to want a washing machine in your apartment.

12. Nobody is worried about burglars even though they have fire escape stairs stuck to the outside of their building and the living-room window has been propped open for six months because an air-conditioning unit is sticking out of it. And, no, a flyscreen won’t keep them out.

13. Although I admit it: a flyscreen is a good idea. I haven’t had to kill a wasp or a moth for months.

14. Apartments usually come unfurnished, and Americans think the idea of sitting on someone else’s sofa or sleeping in someone else’s bed is disgusting. Come on – they’re not in there with you. “They might as well be!”

15. Far more Americans than the often-quoted 14% have a passport. But even if the number is low, relative to other countries, the fact is that they can quite happily cover 3.8m sq miles of vastly varied terrain without one. That’s more than double the 1.7m sq miles of the EU , which many British holidaymakers will be visiting.

16. It’s best to think of the police as a sort of occupying army and avoid them accordingly – particularly if you are not white.

17. TV news is rabidly partisan, while the broadsheet press pretends to be objective and neutral. Whereas in Britain …

18. Remember when British leftwingers thought Boris Johnson was too much of a joke to become mayor of London and then he went and did it anyway? That’s what’s happening with Donald Trump and the presidency.

19. That story about the pig was probably the first time anyone here had heard of David Cameron.

20. Celebrities walk around major cities as bold as brass. The other day I sat next to Dominic West, Damian Lewis and John Slattery in a restaurant.

21. Yeah, that’s right. And bragging is considered perfectly OK.

22. And so is telling someone sincerely that you think they, or something they have done, is amazing and fantastic.

23. I mean it.

24. No, really.

25. I’m not being sarcastic.

26. Honestly. That’s just my normal voice.

27. A lot of the trains and subway carriages look like whoever built them said, “OK, well, it works – what more do you want?” And left it at that.

28. But basically, you’re lucky in most parts of the country if you have any trains or subway systems at all.

29. If you get out of your car and walk from A to B in Los Angeles or Miami, people will think you are a surprisingly well-dressed and purposeful-looking homeless person.

30. If you’ve got good health insurance, the doctor will give you everything you need … and more.

31. If you haven’t … Oh, God. Good luck to you.

32. A lot of people consider “Oh, God” swearing.

33. Medical companies believe you will respond positively to a TV advert for, say, a sleeping pill that includes 10 minutes of warnings about side-effects that include danger of death, erections lasting more than 24 hours, and the fact that you may find yourself driving a car while asleep and not remember it the next day.

34. If you do need a sleeping pill the slow, ponderous and worthy tones of NPR (National Public Radio) may fit the bill. Do not listen while driving or operating heavy machinery. Or if you have an erection that has lasted more than 24 hours.

35. Americans love telling stories, and they’re really good at it.

36. And they’re really creative with language, especially slang.

37. If you watch European football (soccer) here, it’s a morning sport, after which you can do other things with the rest of your day. As long as you haven’t kept to your old British football-and-drinking regime.

38. It’s perfectly respectable to drink Coca-Cola or other similar drinks with a meal.

39. Order a cup of tea in a cafe or restaurant and you will be confronted with a glass or mug of lukewarm water with a teabag of some alarming flavour, like pomegranate or boysenberry, floating sadly on the top like a punctured dinghy, and some “milk” that is probably 50% cream, delivered on request. I’m just going to say it once: the water needs to be at boiling point for the tea to infuse!!!

40. Just order a cup of coffee. They know what they’re doing with coffee.

41. If you eat pizza with a knife and fork they look at you like you just ate a sandwich with a spoon. New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, caused major controversy by eating his the European way – the weakling.

42. A plate of Doritos and some guacamole is considered a full meal.

43. Bars don’t usually serve food. Just keep on drinking.

44. But drinking on the street is illegal – except in New Orleans, where it’s compulsory.

45. People still love smoking, and the glowing retro-futurist coloured lights of e-cigarettes haven’t really caught on yet.

46. They have no universally agreed upon way of saying goodbye (a kiss on the cheek would be unforgivably inappropriate and borderline actionable). Most common is just to pause for a moment, perhaps give a barely perceptible nod or slightly awkward wave … and then simply walk away.

47. The weather really means business.

48. Americans are acutely conscious of race, in the way British people are acutely conscious of class.

49. Lots of people you don’t expect to own guns or support the right to bear arms do .

50. No massacre, no matter how awful, will prompt Congress to tighten America’s gun laws. There will have to be a wider cultural shift. Lots of people do care about this. But they’re not sure exactly what to do.

bookmark_borderIs There Life After Birth?


A tale of two babies has made the rounds on the Internet. It made me smile, and I wanted to share it here.

The story is about twin babies who are having a philosophical discussion in the womb. Their dialog goes as follows:

Do you believe in life after birth?

Of course. Everybody knows there is a life after birth. We’re here now because we have to grow and get ready for what’s to come.

That’s ridiculous! There’s no life after birth. What could such a life be like?

I don’t know exactly, but there must be more light than in here. Maybe we’ll walk on our legs and eat with our mouth.

Nonsense! It’s impossible for us to walk. And eating with our mouth? That’s crazy. We get our food through the umbilical cord. And obviously there can be no life after birth because the umbilical cord is too short.

Well, I think it’s possible. It’ll just be different from what we’re used to in here.

But nobody has ever come back after birth. Birth is the end of life. And frankly, life is just meaningless existence in the darkness. There’s no point to it, and we’re going nowhere.

No! I don’t know exactly what it will be like after birth, but I’m sure that we’ll see our Mother and she’ll take care of us.

Mother? You believe in Mother? And just where is she then?

Where? She’s all around us! And we’re inside her. We’re her children. In her we live and move and have our being. Without her we wouldn’t exist.

That’s absurd. I’ve never seen this “Mother,” so there’s no such thing.

I don’t agree with you. In fact, sometimes when it’s quiet, you can hear her sing and feel her caress our world. You know, I believe that we’re here to prepare for the life to come, and our true life starts after birth.


bookmark_borderNobel Prize #3

Extra body anyone?
Extra body anyone?

It looks like I’m up for my third Nobel Prize for Science; I don’t know WHY I didn’t figure this out sooner!

Ladies, do you use shampoo in the shower? Well when I wash my hair, the shampoo runs down my whole body, and printed very clearly on the shampoo label is this warning,


…No wonder I’ve been gaining weight!


Well! I have gotten rid of that shampoo and I am going to start showering with Jif scouring cream instead, its label reads,


There, problem solved. You can thank me now. I wonder when I will get my Nobel Prize?

bookmark_borderTick Tock


My mother Doris passed away suddenly last week so I thought I’d pen a few thoughts. The over-riding thing I remember about Doris is her determination to do things her own way and sod the rules. The Doris I knew was completely unflappable, she played by her own rules whilst on this earth, she never worried much about what others thought of her.

The rules are that when you’re in your 80’s you should be settling down for a quieter life but not Doris (and Bob!), off they went to Australia to a wedding and of course there was a freak heatwave there and even the natives were falling to the ground with the heat but not Doris and Bob.

She spent a few weeks travelling around in the sweltering heat and then came back to a bitterly cold Ballymoney winter with frozen pipes burst in the home and the place a mess. I talked to her at the time and asked her if she was all right and she said ‘oh aye, sure, I’ve got Bob, that’s all that matters’ and it’s true, she had Bob by her side and that was the most important thing in her life.

She started having ‘issues’ a few weeks ago and needed an urgent operation. Having a medical background I flew over here last week to make sure that she got through her operation and past the danger-zone of the weekend. However, instead of finding Doris comatose in Intensive Care I found her sitting out of bed watching X Factor on Saturday evening telly. This was 24 hrs after a major op.

She was bright and sparkly and completely on the ball.

The rules are that when you’re on ICU you’re meant to be really sick but as usual Doris played by her own rules. The rules also state that when you’re 88 and just past a major operation you’re meant to be a bit fuzzy – but not Doris, she was able to tell me my mobile number quick as a flash on Saturday evening – something even I have difficulty remembering..

On Thursday evening, the night before her op I had a quick chat in private with her, I told her that she wasn’t allowed to die, that it didn’t fit in with my timetable, that it wouldn’t be very convenient – I told her that perhaps…. PERHAPS when I’m 65 and retired and she’s 100 then PERHAPS it would be OK then…

She roared with laughter and said that she’ll go when the man upstairs says it time and that’s the end of it!

Our last chat was an interesting one, we were talking about church and religion and she was trying to get me to go to church (as usual), lots of talk about Jesus, God and heaven and I remember holding her hand and telling her that I tried to be good, not because I wanted to get into heaven and not because I didn’t want to go to hell but because it’s the right thing to do, our motivation shouldn’t be the next world but trying to do our best for this world.. She looked at me and I knew she was OK with that and the subject wouldn’t come up again.

For 32,120 days Doris walked, strode, ran, swam, leaped, crawled and sometimes stumbled on this Earth. Not all of them days were good, some very hard, some were bad, some were a real struggle but in all the time I knew Doris I never saw her without a smile on her face.

And she told me that the last 2,258 days were the best because those where the days that she had been married to Bob.


When we were kids my gang and I used to play superheroes…like we were the only ones who could (and always did) save the world. This was way before the emergence of that strange new fangled interwebby thang, we had to use that other older system…now what was it called…oh yes – imagination…

We all wanted to be the hero, no-one wanted to be the villains so most of our villains were imaginary and if the worse came to worse we’d get shot/stabbed/arrowed/ray gunned/blasted/poisoned/disembowelled/nuked/pushed off a cliff  (always our choice) but have an heroic death – and our heroic deaths tended to last even longer than Hollywood heroic deaths which is saying something..

Advertisements at the time always showed rugged good looking heroic men rushing off to save someone life…Gillette Razors were masters at the genre and we would try to emulate them – even if we were too young to shave!

However, as I’ve got older I come to realise that Gillette and our gang didn’t have the hero market cornered, I’ve come across many examples of heroic people, the unknown heroes, the quiet heroes, the forgotten heroes who work away, slave away without thanks or recognition, simply getting on with the job as there was no-one else to do it and because of love.

I know a few mothers, struggling away to make ends meet, doing their best to keep a roof over the head of the children and just trying to do the right thing, trying to provide and be there when lesser souls would have given up the struggle..these are the real heroes in the world today, not me with my bedsheet for a cape and a stick for a raygun..although I have saved the planet from Vogons more times than I care to mention…pesky Vogns…getting grabbed by the Vogons always brought a tear to my eye…

People always think of doctors and nurses as being heroes too and to a degree it’s true but it doesn’t end there, I’ve cared for many patients were the wife (always the wife) cared for her long suffering husband through the many stages of cancer right up to the very end. And when I come across souls like that I always think wow, you’ve struggled all these years, many more hours than a full time job and no complaints, no cutting corners, no bitterness because it’s all done out of love.. real heroes..

But a lot of times the even bigger hero is missed, it’s the person with the cancer. By the time one gets past fifty one tends to know at least a few people that have passed over due to cancer and it’s these people that are the real superheroes. The souls I’ve known that have succumbed to cancer, they’ve always been very stoic, no raging against the unfairness of it all, no shouting at fate and God, no destructive benders, usually it’s quiet acceptance with lots of dignity, very quickly an acceptance of how things are going to be followed by trying to get as much living done in the so so so short time remaining. For me these are the biggest heroes, not the one’s on the cinema screen in 2D but the real life heroes, the souls that manage to open their eyes one more morning, even if it’s just for one more day.

To misquote Mr Bowie, we can all be heroes..even if it’s just for one more day…

bookmark_borderThe Perfect Husband?


Here’s a little but wise story from Nasruddin about this dance I’m doing;

Once there were two friends who would meet every New Year’s Eve and discuss their future plans.
The first one asked the second, “What are you going to do this year?”
“I’m going to find myself the perfect wife,” the first friend replied,
“Someone beautiful, cultured and kind.”
A year passed. The two friends met.
“Tell me, how did you get on?” asked the second friend.
“Not too well. I found a woman who was beautiful but had never read a book or played an instrument and we had nothing in common. Next year I’ll search further afield.”
Another year passed.
“How did you get on with finding your wife this year?”
“I searched even further and found a woman who was beautiful and well-read and I loved her for that but she was selfish – only ever thinking of herself.
Next year I’ll search even further afield.”
A third year passed.
“And how did you get on this year?” asked the second friend. “Did you find the perfect wife?”
“I did,” replied his friend. “I found someone beautiful, cultured and kind but there was a small problem. She was looking for the perfect husband.”

That made me smile and there’s a lot of truth in it, Rumi, another Persian thinker once said “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” and I’ve come to discover over the past few years that we nearly always are our own worse enemies, and knowing that, acknowledging that fact is half the battle.

bookmark_borderDog Logic


1. If I like it, it’s mine
2. If it’s in my mouth, it’s mine
3. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine
4. If I can take it from you, it’s mine
5. If it’s mine, it must never be yours
6. If it just looks like mine, it’s mine
7. If I saw it first, it’s mine
8. If you are playing with something else and put it down, it’s mine
9. If I am chewing something up, all of the pieces are mine
10. If it used to be yours, get over it.
11. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

This applies equally to Toddler Logic

bookmark_borderIs there a such thing as a wrong turn?


You’re curious and smart and bored
All you see is a choice between working hard and slacking off
There are so many adventures that you miss because you are waiting for a fully formed plan

To find them, look for tiny interesting choices
Take wrong turns
Talk to strangers
Open unmarked doors
And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they are doing

Do things without always knowing how they will turn out

And always remember, you are making up your future as you go along

bookmark_borderThe Fault in Our Stars


Been reading The Fault in our Stars by John Green recently, the main characters in the book are sixteen year old Hazel and seventeen year old Gus, both of whom have cancer. It’s a lovely novel and John Green has obviously had some experience with cancer in teenagers or done his research thoroughly. And it’s a funny book too, gallows humour as we ex nurses call it, the story and characters resonated quite a lot with me because of my time working in hospitals.

However, there’s another character in the book, one of Gus and Hazels friends from the support group called Isaac, he has a rare form of cancer that’s cost him the sight in one eye and early on in the book he goes into hospital to have the remaining eye removed to stop the spread of cancer. Our sight is our most valuable sense, without it we really are severely limited, we lose a lot of our independence, losing our sense of taste is hugely inconvenient but it’s not on the same scale as losing our sight.

Strangely, John doesn’t explore this at all, Isaac goes into hospital and comes out again completely blind but it set me thinking, if I knew I was going into hospital to lose my sight in a few days time, what would be the last things I’d choose to look at?

I think there’s the obvious, my boys would be at the top of the list, I would ‘drink them in’. Knowing that I’d never see their faces again would be hard to take; in the years to come they would always have that youthful (and admittedly somewhat spotty) face, even when they’re bearded family men with teenage children of their own. And there’s so much in the future with my boys that I’m looking forward to, not being able to see their children’s faces, well, I can’t imagine how that would feel.

However, what else, at the end of the week you are losing your sight forever. Well, I’ve particularly enjoyed the colour of the trees this fall so I’d be out there drinking that in too but there are other pleasures that I’d miss terribly. Right now I can pick up my latest book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and read it, unless you get the unabridged edition audio books tend to skip bits, I suppose I could cajole/coerced/blackmail someone very patient/gullible into reading the actual book to me but it’s not the same, we all read at our own speed and even in these Kindle days there’s still a certain pleasure from holding the dead tree version in our grubby mitts; the smell, the feel and reading at my own speed.

And then there’s driving a car and the freedom that gives me. I know Al Pacino drove one as his blind character in Scent of a Woman but I’m not quite sure I’d get away with that in Londons green parks – plus I don’t know my left from my right so I’m bound to crash into a tree! And I think I’d miss the simple pleasures in life, being able to see a fresh orange as well as taste it and smell it, and flowers, and not bashing my head on the kitchen cupboard every time I walk in there. And art, I’ve haven’t got around yet to see Gustav Klimts The Kiss (above) and I can’t imagine not ever being able to see that one day, I have a few other favourite painting, imagine never being able to go to a gallery and see them, I’m sure the staff of the National Gallery wouldn’t be too happy if I started groping their paintings, wouldn’t they..?

However, there’s a restaurant in London that does something that seems completely illogical, it’s called Dinner in the Dark and the general idea is that you eat in complete darkness. It’s pitch black in the dining area and you’re taken through double sets of doors to your table by blind staff (as they are skilled at negotiating obstacles in the dark) and have a choice of four ‘surprise’ menus. The owners know that ‘the first taste is with your eyes’, sight is the dominant sense but they want diners to enjoy the smells, textures and flavours of the meal so it’s lights out time. I suspect a lot of the meal is ‘hands on’, trying to balance garden peas on a fork in pitch black is never going to work and I dare say most diners come out with at least some food down their front. I know I would, even when the restaurant’s fully lit!

Oh, one last thing, if you ever go to this restaurant then you will be pleased to know that the toilets are well lit, you aren’t taken there by a blind guy and have him pull your trousers down and assist you with your aim!

bookmark_borderSecrets of the OLDERhood?


I read this a while back and thought it was worth sharing;

The secret to getting my wife to be less inhibited had more to do with me than her. It wasn’t until I started listening to what she wanted from me outside the bedroom that changes happened inside the bedroom. I needed to show that I loved her by talking to her and treating her as my equal in all aspects of life. Once she became secure and felt deeply loved by me, all her inhibitions disappeared. Damn, I wish I had figured that out sooner.
Danny G, age 58, husband for 24 years

Danny’s a lucky bloke to have figured that out, most go through life in a daze, never really joining the dots, at least Danny figured this out eventually..

At this ripe old age of 52 I’ve figured out a few things too, you know, the usual stuff;

  • consistently be kind even when others are treating you like shit
  • figure out who you really are and be true to that person
  • never let your bare bottom touch a public toilet seat

you know, the normal standard things we’ve all figured out.. but I wonder if you’ve figured this out as well;

OK here’s something that’s going to throw you, it’s something that you will remember and come back to again and again and if you strongly disagree with it now then trust me, eventually you will agree totally with it. The secret of love, true love, the love that lasts, the love that makes it all worthwhile, is constant forgiveness.

I’ve seen it in partner relationships, one messes up and the other forgives, because that’s what true love is all about, and with most couples there’s this swing, it’s almost like they take it in turns, one goes through a stage of messing up and the other forgives and then later on the other one messes up all the time and the important thing is that eventually this should balance out, the messing up and the forgiveness..

And I’m not just referring to partner relationships. It’s something I have borne witness to all my life. I see it in parents with their children, especially during the teenage and early adult years when they should know better. I have seen young adults come home to mum with some terrible event they’ve done wrong and after all the shouting and tears, there’s always the forgiveness, because that’s what it is to love somebody with all your heart, you constantly forgive them, in fact you can’t help but forgive them and hold them in your heart, it’s what we do..

bookmark_borderSecrets of the sisterhood?


Apparently….. (always be wary of any sentence that starts with the word ‘apparently’, it’s usually a fib…or even worse, gossip!), apparently  the 2007 Meryl Streep movie The Devil Wears Prada is one of the all time greats. I know this for a fact as I met up with a potential date when it was released and she spent the entire (extremely long and tedious) date telling me so.  Knowing how fantastic an actress Meryl Streep is I was indeed tempted but having viewed the trailer I put it firmly in the chick flick bin (along with Twilight et al) having decided that even the mega talents of Meryl Streep couldn’t rescue it. This may  have been the wrong thing to say to my date.

One lives and learns but the completely  wrong thing to say was “I’m sure there were no straight men in the audience or if there were then they were definitely getting some that night”  Needless to say I never saw Ms Coffee Date ever again so my chances of getting some disappeared as fast as she did, actually I think she may have stormed off at that point.

Fast-forward six years and I’m starting to think I may have been mistaken, perhaps too hasty in my writing off The Devil Wears Prada. You see, being a typical (non-thinking) bloke I tossed The Devil Wears Prada straight into the chick flick bin along with any Twilight movie (in fact to be honest any movie with Kristen Stewart in it) but along with this I also tossed in Sex in the City and Bridget Jones. I’m sorry, I’m an ignorant bloke, I’ll blame the Mars/Venus thang.

However.. and I should pause here for effect..however, I read this quote from Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason on Friday evening and had an epiphany;

“Keep thinking back about what Mum said about being real and the Velveteen Rabbit book (though frankly have had enough trouble with rabbits in this particular house). My favourite book, she claims of which I have no memory was about how little kids get one toy that they love more than all the others, and even when its fur has been rubbed off, and it’s gone saggy with bits missing, the little child still thinks it’s the most beautiful toy in the world, and can’t bear to be parted from it.

That’s how it works, when people really love each other, Mum whispered on the way out in the Debenhams lift, as if she was confessing some hideous and embarrassing secret. But, the thing is, darling, it doesn’t happen to ones who have sharp edges, or break if they get dropped, or ones made of silly synthetic stuff that doesn’t last. You have to be brave and let the other person know who you are and what you feel.”

― Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason

OK, it’s not Shakespeare, not even Milton but still… it’s very good! What a fool I’ve been,  it suddenly struck me that these books weren’t written to entertain woman, they weren’t written so woman can relate to all the angst about weight, bum size’s and does he love me or does he not, no, these books are written solely as instruction manuals for men! The fact that woman find them funny and can relate to them is a spooky co-incidence!

Helen Fielding has bravely spilled the beans about what makes woman tick and for that she’s bound to get excommunicated from the Sisterhood!

So there it is, in black and white, how woman’s minds work, how these strange creatures view things and I can’t believe I’ve been ignoring such a valuable resource, one can read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus as many times as one likes but you won’t get as much insight into the woman’s minds (or be entertained so much) if you just stop and read The Edge of Reason.

(And yes, I do get the rabbit reference!)




A gang of workmen pitched at an electricity junction next to the Embankment in central London on Thursday night, put on safety jackets, hard hats and as the law requires, surrounded the area with ‘Danger Men Working’ signs. They then (rather cooly) broke into the substation and ripped out all the thick copper cables. It would have been hard sweaty work. They loaded all the cables into the truck, retrieved all their ‘Danger Men Working’ signs and drove off into the night.

I know all this because at around 10pm I stopped receiving the usual spam emails…in fact I stopped receiving any work emails and when I looked at our website it was down; so were the seventy other sites we manage. Oh dear.

At that same time the managers of about 25 other London Universities were having exactly the same experience. There’s a special site we check to make sure everyone’s connected to the internet on the Joint Academic Network and for the first time ever it was listing everything as ‘Down’ in bright red writing. Oops!

It was the end of the world. Armageddon.  I looked out the window and checked the news on the telly to see if World War Three had been declared. It was like someone had pulled the plug on the Internet. Thousands upon thousands of students across London suddenly not able to study or even more importantly, not access Facebook and Youtube’s funny cat videos. Looking around the University library it was like a scene from The Night of the Living Dead, students lost… trying desperately to use their phones to send emails and access non-existent teaching resources.

It was like (shock horror!) when I was at University when The. Internet. Didn’t. Exist.  I had to (OMG!) do actual research and learning from “books” and “journals”, I had to “write” things down on “paper” using a “pen” and try to “remember” it.  I know, it was a new experience for a lot of them, imagine not having Google and Wikipedia to answer any question you had…Imagine not having access to Youtube, imagine have to watch terrestrial TV, no search function, no fast forwarding, imagine being cut off from all the funny cat videos…shudders!

So, like any sensible and mature University we called in the counselling team and set them up in the library and they were inundated with students in acute withdrawal. However, on Friday morning we had to pass the word around that we wouldn’t have proper access until Monday at the earliest. This sent shock waves through the community. We managed to get some limited access by routing our connections through Wales of all places so if the internet connection smelled of sheep and went baaaaaa occasionally then this was the reason. Additionally, google would only accept sheep related queries. This would be no hardship for one for my friends as he only ever googles about good looking sheep.

I’ve no idea what the black market price for copper is these days (though I have a friend who does!) but it’s must have been worth it for the gang to take such a risk in central London. At a really busy area right beside a Tube station, on a Thursday night, kudos to them!  However, I’d like to make a suggestion to any gang of thieves thinking of swiping our copper cabling again. There are easier things to steal and there’s no having to get messy doing it, just ramraid your local supermarket for some of these items;

Christmas cards  – £4.50 for one card, for heaven’s sake, it’s a bit of card and an envelope, pound for pound they are more expensive than beluga caviar

Razor blades – Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor £15.49/unit. Yup, for one! At that price I expect it to make breakfast and do the laundry as well.

Roses – a fabulous investment opportunity, currently £30 for a dozen this week but in two months time, around Valentines Day the price skyrockets to £100 for a dozen. More than triple your money.

ANY Apple product. Massively overpriced. Apple made $8.8billion profit in the last quarter, that’s roughly $30billion in a year. To any thieves out there, if you wanna get rich then stop stealing our cables and just raid your local Apple store, it’s easier, there’s MUCH more profit plus you get an iPhone/iPad into the bargain. Win Win!

bookmark_borderChristmas Rapping?


I’ve decided I’m probably not human.

Possibly not even Leprechauniun.

The more observant of you will have noticed that the tag line for this blog is I’m not entirely sure this is my home planet, and it’s not without some justification. You see, every one of us are unique but some of us really are from another planet, or so it seems, especially when it comes to the London Leprechaun and Christmas prezzies.  This week I’ve been doing a survey at work and asking everyone at what stage they’re at with buying Christmas presents and the vast majority haven’t even started. However, I bought my first Christmas present in April and the last one on the 31st October. Told ya. Definitely not human. Probably the pointy ears gave it away.

I know this seems weird but I’m trying to pay attention here, we men get accused quite a lot (justifiably so) of not paying attention so this is my attempt to make ammends. Previously I have joined the last minute panic and bought my presents during the last two weeks before Christmas day and I’ve hated the madness of it all – and the freaking long queues, life’s too short to queue but I’ve done it for my family and friends. And in my twenties I’ve even bought flowers and chocolates from the petrol station on Christmas Eve, after all, what woman wouldn’t be delighted to receive a lovely bouquet of poinsettias with the heady scent of 4 Star or a box of no-name chocolates well past their sell-by date and with a taste slightly reminiscent of Turtle Wax car polish?  But I’ve been there and done that and have the scars (from thrown boxes of chocolates) to prove it, so when I turned forty I decided I would do what no man has ever done in the entire history of the planet and get organised for Christmas.

Consequently I’m now always on alert for presents for family and friends, it’s like my default mode, thus in April when I was wandering around Camden Market I saw something perfect for a friend and bought it, it’s been sitting in a box under the bed for eight months but that’s one item ticked off the check-list. And over the rest of the intervening months I’ve been gathering up presents, mostly in September but I bought the last one on 31st October. I know that sounds extremely smug (I can only apologise!) but the thing is, it’s important I learn from previous mistakes and I really really really REALLY don’t want to join the madness of the Christmas rush.

And if you needed further evidence that I’m non-human then it’s this. I know that all men are shit at wrapping presents, myself included, at the end of a wrapping session I usually have more sellotape on me than the presents and I’ve had to ask my sons to cut me free, one year I got so bound up with tape that I really did look like an extra from some kinky bondage movie.



Anyway, I digress, I’ve given presents that look like they’ve been wrapped by a puppy high on drugs, I’ve given presents that have been wrapped in brown packing tape, I’ve given presents that are nuclear bomb proof by having more tape than wrapping paper and required an acetylene torch and crowbar to get to the actual present. So I’ve learned that lesson and I spent last Tuesday evening wrapping everything up nice and neat and even putting string and bows on a few boxes.  Most of them look reasonably presentable, (from a man’s perspective they look bloody fantastic!) but even then I know that no woman would hand over a present looking so shoddy, really quite shoddy, so I’ve got to keep on practising my wrapping skills.  And I reckon that’s why websites like Amazon are so popular, because (1) they save us men having to queue and fight for presents but more importantly (2) they have fantastic gift wrapping service thus saving us men so much grief, and to misappropriate the Mastercard slogan, Amazon Gift Wrapping – priceless!


And to put you in the mood, Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses

bookmark_borderIf I was God, Part Deux


I like to think that my natural ‘default state’ is being nice, kind, generous, supportive and loving, it’s my default mode but isn’t it fascinating the way the Universe conspires to teach me lessons, lessons I have no desire to learn, lessons I didn’t even know I needed to learn?

I read this on the interweb a while back;

Isn’t it ironic?
We ignore the ones who adore us,
adore the ones who ignore us,
love the ones who hurt us….
and hurt the ones that love us.

It’s not a one-way street, sure it isn’t, I’ve been on both sides of the equation and I dare say most of us perhaps unwittingly have, though in my defence I stupidly didn’t know I was being hurtful. It’s said that ignorance is no excuse, which lead me to thinking this.. I don’t think God did that bad job when designing these fragile human bodies of ours but I think I’d like to suggest a small 21st century upgrade if that’s at all possible, I’d like to tactfully suggest God, if you don’t mind, that we evolve USB ports in the back of our heads. Then we can connect a simple lead to each other and really know what the other person is thinking, and more importantly, what the other person is feeling. Sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss, we humans are masters at hiding things from each other and we’re experts in not seeing what’s plainly in front of our eyes but just occasionally it would be nice, refreshing (and probably extremely sobering), to connect with someone we’re close to and know when we’ve hurt them unwittingly.

Oh, another thought has occurred to me, perhaps evolving an USB port on the side of the head is too geeky a way of looking at things, how about instead of a USB port, that whenever we make love we connect our minds as well as our bodies…there, wouldn’t that be more fun..You’re in a bad mood hon, I’m just going to plug myself in here and find out what’s wrong…..hmmmm perhaps not such a good idea..

I think it’s of the upmost importance to treat others well, even if they’re knocking you down it’s still important to provide an example of how to live rather than kicking back, it’s something you will never regret doing when the years have past and you look back. I read somewhere that you should watch how a man treats waiting staff because how he treats them is how he will eventually treat you and I think there’s a lot of truth in that, I tell the beasties that there’s three golden rules to life and rule number one is always be nice to people, consistently, because yes there are people out there at will take advantage of your kindness but generally, like attracts like, being horrible attracts equally mean souls but being nice attracts equally lovely souls.

I kind’a have this weird idea, this intuition, that we create our own little universes, and are constantly creating it with every action, with every act of kindness, seven billion souls on this planet and seven billion unique universes. In the movie Cloud Atlas,  Somni 451 says “The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds, that go on and are pushing themselves throughout all time. Our lives are not our own, from womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” In the book she’s talking about future lives but I think it goes further than that, I think by every kindness we birth not just our own future lives but our future years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and even the next second..

bookmark_borderI might just get a dog..


So… been trying out internet dating again for a while and it’s been an interesting experience. Almost immediately I met up with a local inmate who described herself as ‘athletic’ but it turns out emailing is fattening, extremely fattening and she had put on a huge amount of weight in three emails. Next please… next was ..well actually just best to list them

  • Lady who didn’t mention she was about to bugger off to Australia for a month..tomorrow! but wanted to keep chatting! (But why are you on a dating site when you are away off for a month?)
  • Lady who said about three words and then told me off for filling in the conversational gaps (again…why are you on a dating website?)
  • Lady who berated me for holding the car door open for her, apparently she’s QUITE capable of doing her own door..
  • Lady who was very obviously closer to 60 than 50
  • Lady who was ‘technically’ separated but still living with her husband..and sleeping in same bed
  • Lady who was really living in St Petersberg, not London

There’s been a few more, some of them even nice and sane but no one who was that the right term…no-one I wanted to stick around with…  It’s been interesting…did you ever watch Ray Mears doing his survival program…he goes into the bush, picks up a few twigs and some dry grass, rubs them together and ever so gently, sooo gently blows softly on the smoldering grass..until it bursts into flames.   That’s what it’s like with dating, you have to find someone with that small spark and you have to gently try to look after that spark and try your best to fan it into a proper fire..

OR…you can cheat.

A friend of mine was in work the other day visiting, she’s on maternity leave and she brought in her two month old son. It was really interesting, as I held him there were about six or seven woman in the office and they all came over and coo-ed over him..and I realised two things…

1. A babies world is just full of smiling people…everywhere he looks people are just smiling at him

2. Babies have this smell that women can’t resist..the baby smell..I could smell it quite clearly and as the other girls got close I realised this was what they were smelling too…it’s a unique smell and if someone could bottle it into aftershave they would make a fortune as woman can’t resist it..somewhat ironically I’ve realised that babies are real babe magnets..

bookmark_borderA Word to the Wise

Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the monarch of a neighbouring kingdom. The monarch could have killed him but was moved by Arthur’s youth and ideals. So, the monarch offered him his freedom, as long as he could answer a very difficult question. Arthur would have a year to figure out the answer and, if, after a year, he still had no answer, he would be put to death.

The question?…What do women really want? Such a question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. But, since it was better than death, he accepted the monarch’s proposition to have an answer by year’s end.He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everyone: the princess, the priests, the wise men and even the court jester. He spoke with everyone, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer.

Many people advised him to consult the old ugly woman, for only she would have the answer.

But the price would be high; as the woman was famous throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she charged.

The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no choice but to talk to the old woman. She agreed to answer the question, but he would have to agree to her price first.

The old ugly woman wanted to marry Sir Lancelot, the most noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur’s closest friend!

Young Arthur was horrified. She was hunchbacked and hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage, made obscene noises, etc. He had never encountered such a repugnant creature in all his life.

He refused to force his friend to marry her and endure such a terrible burden; but Lancelot, learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur.

He said nothing was too big of a sacrifice compared to Arthur’s life and the preservation of the Round Table.

Hence, a wedding was proclaimed and the woman answered Arthur’s question thus:

What a woman really wants, she answered….is to be in charge of her own life.

Everyone in the kingdom instantly knew that the woman had uttered a great truth and that Arthur’s life would be spared.

And so it was, the neighbouring monarch granted Arthur his freedom and Lancelot and the ugly woman had a wonderful wedding.

The honeymoon hour approached and Lancelot, steeling himself for an horrific experience, entered the bedroom. But, what a sight awaited him. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen lay before him on the bed. The astounded Lancelot asked what had happened.

The young beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her when she appeared ugly, she would henceforth be her horrible deformed self only half the time and the beautiful maiden the other half.

Which would he prefer? Beautiful during the day….or night?

Lancelot pondered the predicament. During the day, a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his castle, an old ugly woman? Or, would he prefer having a hideous woman during the day, but by night, a beautiful woman for him to enjoy wondrous intimate moments?

What would YOU do?

What Lancelot chose is below.

BUT….make YOUR choice before you scroll down below. OKAY?


Noble Lancelot said that he would allow HER to make the choice herself.

Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time because he had respected her enough to let her be in charge of her own life.

Now….what is the moral to this story?

The moral is…..

If you don’t let a woman have her own way………….. things are going to get ugly!

bookmark_borderChildish Confusion?

parenting-emo-baby-sad-cry-cubby-demotivational-posters-1298853903When I was growing up a lot of things confused me (and still do), here’s just some of the more obvious ones.

Cranes – no, not the feathered variety but the one’s used for heavy lifting on building sites. Where do they come from, in half a century living on this rock I’ve as yet to see a big lorry carry a crane. They just suddenly appear as if by magic, it’s like some builder plants special beans during the night, waters them and next morning a huge crane has sprouted up. We have the country’s tallest crane at work at the moment helping build a helipad on the top of the sixth floor but it appeared by magic. I didn’t see any trucks carrying it and if it came in pieces then how does it get built as it’s the tallest crane already..  all very mysterious.

Seasons – when I became first aware of seasons I had it all quickly figured out. The earth moved closer to the sun during the summer and we got warmer, 91,402,640 miles from the sun, three million miles closer than in winters 94,509,460 miles. Someone at this time told me that the earth tilts on it’s axis and that’s why we have seasons but the effect of tilting didn’t appear to my tiny mind to be as significant as coming three million miles closer to the sun so I discounted that. That was all very well and good and I held onto this theory until my teens when I discovered that Australia had summer while we had winter. This flew in the face of all logic, why would Australia be warmer in the middle of winter?

Spain – When I was very young one of my neighbours told me she was going to Spain for her holidays. She was very excited, told me it was another country and she had to travel to it in a plane. In my imagination I envisioned Spain as being a city in the clouds like in Buck Rogers Cloud City. I had this concept in my head for many years until my teacher showed me a proper globe with Spain firmly on terra firma. Imagine my disappointment, no cities in the clouds 🙁

Elephants and giraffes – I know David Attenborough will argue differently but when I was young I assumed God had slipped up when it came to designing elephants and giraffes, I thought God especially slipped when drawing the trunk and neck, or he wasn’t really paying attention. Evolution? Yeah right, pull the other leg, do you think I came up The Lagen in a soapy bubble?

Spelling – this confused me (and some of my friends as a child), why are the words pubic and public so similar, and prix and pricks… this lead to much amusement by my elder brothers as I assumed both words were pronounced similarly. I can still hear them laughing now..

bookmark_borderLife. Chapter One. Page Two


There’s a Greek expression which I’m sure you’re all familiar with, it goes like this – na ise kaliteros anthropos apo ton patera sou– and what it simply means is ‘be a better man than your father’. I quite like that expression – can’t pronounce it as well as Peter from Fringe but being a better man than my father wouldn’t be difficult as he was a complete shit. My boys on the other hand have a slightly more difficult task because I give them a lot more input than my father did to me – which was 50% of my DNA and ummm that’s it.

I’ve realised quite a while back that we live our lives as examples to other; to people who come into contact with us no matter how fleetingly, to our long time friends and most importantly to our children, no matter what we do – we can’t help but provide examples to everyone on how to live, how to behave, how to be.

And it’s very easy to forget this (and try not to get too paranoid here) but everyone is watching you for cues on how to live, they don’t realise this but it’s true, we are constantly providing examples of how to live to those around us. So even if someone has treated you badly, treated you unjustly, treated you like a shit, it’s still no excuse to lower your standards, rather it’s best to see the bigger picture and do something to be proud of, something you hope will bring them up to your level rather than you come down to their level. Remember, everyone’s watching.  But sod off boys if you think you’re getting the car keys!

bookmark_borderThe Cat’s Version of The Rules

cute cat funny

BATHROOMS: Always accompany guests to the bathroom. It is not necessary to do anything. Just sit and stare.

DOORS: Do not allow any closed doors in any room. To get the door open, stand on hind legs and hammer with forepaws. Once door is opened, it is not necessary to use it. After you have ordered an “outside” door opened, stand halfway in and out and think about several things. This is particularly important during very cold weather, rain, snow, or mosquito season.

CHAIRS AND RUGS: If you have to throw up, get to a chair quickly. If you cannot manage in time, get to an Oriental rug. If there is no Oriental rug, shag is good. When throwing up on the carpet, make sure you back up so it is as long as a human’s bare foot.

HAMPERING: If one of your humans is engaged in some activity, and the other is idle, stay with the busy one. This is called “helping,” otherwise known as “hampering.” Following are the rules for hampering:

  1. When supervising cooking, sit just behind the left heel of the cook. You cannot be seen and thereby stand a better chance of being stepped on and then picked up and comforted.
  2. For book readers, get in close under the chin, between eyes and book — unless you can lie across the book itself.
  3. When human is working at computer, jump up on desk, walk across keyboard, bat at mouse pointer on screen, and then lay in human’s lap across arms, hampering typing in progress.

WALKING: As often as possible, dart quickly and as close as possible in front of the human, especially: on stairs, when they have something in their arms, in the dark, and when they first get up in the morning. This will help their coordination skills.

BEDTIME: Always sleep on the human at night so he/she cannot move around.

LITTER BOX: When using the litter box, be sure to kick as much litter out of the box as possible. Humans love the feel of kitty litter between their toes.

HIDING: Every now and then, hide in a place where the humans cannot find you. Do not come out for three to four hours under any circumstances. This will cause the humans to panic (which they love) thinking that you have run away or are lost. Once you do come out, the humans will cover you with love and kisses, and you probably will get a treat.

ONE LAST THOUGHT: Whenever possible, get close to a human, especially their face, turn around, and present your butt to them. Humans love this, so do it often. And don’t forget the guests.

bookmark_borderStrange things most Americans aren’t aware of..

Robert LincolnStrange Thing #1

Nearly all Americans will (or at least should!) know that John Wilkes Booth was an infamous American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. However, I wonder how many know about his brother, Edwin Booth and the following spooky co-incidence. In late 1864 or early 1865, shortly before Edwin’s brother assassinated President Lincoln, Edwin saved Lincoln’s son, Robert, from certain death.

Robert was standing on a train platform in Jersey City trying to purchase a place on a sleeping car, it was very crowded and he was pushed against a stationary train carriage by the size of the crowd. Suddenly the train started moving forward and Robert lost his footing and fell into the gap between two carriages.  He would have been pulled under the train wheels very quickly but incredibly luckily he was grabbed by his coat collar and pulled to safety by a quick-witted stranger and therefore saved from a terrible death.

The stranger who pulled him out from under the wheels was none other than Edwin Booth. Edwin didn’t know who Robert was and it was only a few months afterwards that he learnt it was Robert Lincoln. The fact that he had saved the life of Abraham Lincoln’s son was said to have been of some comfort to Edwin Booth following his brother’s assassination of the president.


Strange Thing #2

The other thing most Americans aren’t aware of is that our London Mayor, Boris Johnston, was born in New York City in 1964. So technically I suppose, instead of running for Prime Minister he could run for President of the USA.  In fact I would encourage him to run, we’ve managed to palm Piers Morgan off onto America (what a relief!) and this would be a great way to inflict another upper class twit onto them. Perhaps I should start a campaign..

bookmark_borderOn Death and Dying. Chapter 1. Lesson 01.

holding handsIt’s the ultimate irony that an atheist will never know if they are right, (that there’s nought after death)  but those that believe in celestial spheres will never know if they are wrong (that’s there’s nought after death), I think this is why some folk hedge their bets and believe in something after death, after all, what have they got to lose?

It’s a generalisation but once a person gets past 50 then the usual turn of events is that people around us start falling ill and dying. Generally, and I stress generally, most of us make it to our 50’s without having to attend too many funerals (I know some young folk who break this rule). But then it seems body systems wear out (helped along with crap diet, smoking, drinking, lack of exercise and living too close to a friggen nuclear power station) and suddenly the damn bursts and one hears about colleagues falling ill and passing away suddenly. One of my colleagues, an Irish friend passed away suddenly last week, totally unexpected and quite a shock to us all and a part of me is wondering about the atheist/believer scenario. I wonder where she is now – apart from six foot under of course.

Death seems to be a taboo subject in this society and I think it’s because it’s so unknown, no-one seems to have definite proof of what happens (unless you’re an atheist of course) but after working for a long time on a major London ICU I think I have slightly more insight than the average bear. Having held the hands of the dying on so many occasions and watched them slip away, I’ve learnt two important lessons.

1. Nature is not cruel. As the time of death approaches I’d say none of my patients felt any discomfort. Yes, we would be failing in our job to let anyone feel pain but there’s another physiological reason why people tend to pass away peacefully. Towards the end your systems tend to break down; your liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, nervous system etc start to fail and so does the oxygen exchange in your lungs. What this means is that your brain also starts to fail, it’s not getting an adequate supply of oxygen plus all the toxins (natural by-products of metabolism) and CO2 build up and the brains ability to function efficiently is severely impaired, and this goes for the ability to feel pain signals via the nervous system, the nerves don’t work effectively and the brains ability to process those signals is hampered as well. It’s like trying to drive a car with polluted fuel and blocked air-intake/exhaust, the engine is not going to run effectively, it’s going to eventually stall. It was obvious to me that as death approached the person progressively withdrew from this world and became unable to feel any sensations at all.

2. My mother believes emphatically in a Heaven and Hell so the following is going to annoy her greatly. She thinks everyone who hasn’t accepted Jesus into their heart is doomed to eternal fire and brimstone for eternity. I think even the modern day church has moved away from such views. Personally, I have absolutely no doubt that we come from a place of complete and total love and we all return to that place, all of us, no matter who we are, because quite simply, there is no where else to go. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote in 1955 ‘we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience’. This is a fundamental truth and each and every soul returns home to a place of love love love, where there is no blame, no fear, only the unconditional love that a parent gives to a child.

Having said all that, I hope when I die that somebody holds my hand.

bookmark_borderTo dunk or not to dunk, that is the question..


There was a FASCINATING thread on mumsnet last week that one of my friends alerted me to, I have copied parts of the thread below for your enjoyment, the full thread is here;


Do you dunk your penis?
(1001 Posts)
SaraCrewe Tue 08-Oct-13 09:16:47

I considered name changing for this, but, fuck it.

We have a dedicated post-sex cleanup area on the bedside table. A box of tissues, a small bin, and a beaker of clean water for temporary cleaning/dunking while the bathroom is occupied by me.

Apparently our penis beaker is strange and not the done thing.

Does everyone else just lay there in a sticky post coital glow until morning? Really?


This was rapidly followed by the following 1001 responses, yes, seriously, 1001, the default limit the system can handle and it went viral, made the newpapers websites all over the world here and here and here and here and even twitter got in on the act


No. We have a normal bedside table. With books and a lamp.
Not a sex clean up bit!


Have never heard of this. And used to be quite the harlot, so really think I would have seen in, if it were a common thing. But maybe my tastes just run to the unwashed…?

Has there ever been a midnight mixup with a glass of drinking water?

Am waiting in fascination to see rest of responses.


SaraCrewe Tue 08-Oct-13 09:24:07

No I’m not a troll. I have only ever slept with my H and we’ve always done this! Might have started when we were teens and couldn’t make a dash to the bathroom in our parents houses.

Luckily my drinking water is in a sports bottle!! grin


You’ve just had sex so I assume you are on fairly intimate terms. Even if you have an acid fanjo and his sperm is nine tenths itching powder, surely you can use the bathroom at the same time? You can wash your fanjo in the bath and he can scrub his cock in the sink.


grin!! No! I bidet and he showers in the same room together at the same time!! if we can be bothered

I’d hate to get the spermy beaker mixed up with the squash beaker in the middle of the night grin


SaraCrewe Tue 08-Oct-13 09:29:34

I don’t think he wants to spring off the bed but doesn’t want to sit there sticky, so I dash off to pee while he does his temporary clean. I am sure at least one other person will come along and say they do something like this, I am sure.


OP your penis dunking bedside beaker is odd.

You see another day and I’m blessed with another sentence I never thought I’d say.

I love MN.


SaraCrewe Tue 08-Oct-13 09:37:33

I really thought if I was going to find anyone who agreed with me it would be on mumsnet. Sigh.

I refuse to believe not one other person cleans up while still in bed. Maybe not a beaker but a bowl? Baby wipes?

No dunking beaker in our house, we must be scummers. I’m fascinated to know how you discivered this wasn’t the done thing? Have you been discussing this in real life Sara?

SaraCrewe Tue 08-Oct-13 09:47:33

It was him warning his mate not to make squash in said sex beaker that outed us IRL. So if he gets stick it’s his own fault. I used it as my pee beaker while TTC too, poor, abused beaker.


No never heard of this and how often do you wash the beaker? Do you put it in the dishwasher?


Do you have it all on a tray covered with a small cloth and uncover it in a manner of a priest uncovering the communion wine & wafers?

bookmark_borderFirst world problems


Was surfing the net last week and came across #firstworldproblems.

“First World Problems, also known as “White Whine,” are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences.”

Thought I would list some of them here;

  • “I have caviar stuck in my braces.”
  • “Every time I download a language learning app in order to be able to order food ‘authentically’ at my favorite ethnic restaurants, the waiter asks me to confirm my order in English.”
  • “I have to turn down the bass in my car to look in the rear view mirror.”
  • “I need to go to the supermarket but the Viagra hasn’t worn off yet.”
  • “I know more about how my meat was raised than the meat did.”
  • “I’m not sure which side I’m supposed to be rooting for on Downton Abbey.”
  • “The increased legroom they have in First Class means I have to stand up to get my inflight magazine from the seat pocket in front of me.”
  • “Just spent 20 minutes tucking in my shirt and making it all perfect. Now I have to take a dump.”
  • “I tried to unlock the wrong Prius today. Twice.”
  • “It’s nap time and my housekeeper is not done cleaning. How will I sleep?”
  • “My Porsche is too old to be new, and not old enough to be classic.”
  • “I accidentally gave a homeless man a Euro coin. I was going to use that on my trip to Vienna next week.”
  • I have no idea how to reheat my leftover omelette, so I guess I’ll just have to drive to the restaurant and order another one.”
  • “The jazz music playing in this cafe is drowning out the sound of me typing on my laptop. Now how are people supposed to know I’m working on my novel?”
  • “I live rent free in a three-bedroom house with a garden in North London with easy access to Central London, but I hate the wallpaper in my bedroom.”
  • “My internet-capable fridge only connects to Twitter, and not Facebook.”
  • “My gardener’s suggestion that my cilantro peach salsa is not “authentic” has me wondering if he really is from Mexico.”
  • “Our nation’s parks and wildlife preserves are woefully under-equipped when it comes to Wi-Fi signals.”

1stWorldWater3rdwrldWe won the lottery being born in the West, didn’t we?

bookmark_borderSuch is life when lived


Occasionally surfing the web you stumble across something that succinctly expresses feelings that you’ve never managed to put into actual words, fermenting, condensing, distilling those feeling hovering in the back of your mind for ages until at last they make some sort of sense, it’s like the Universe giving us a helping hand.

It’s hard to avoid the feeling that an awful lot of people in this world have a padlocked gate around their heart, it’s there because they have been hurt in the past and had their heart broken more than once, it’s a matter of self-preservation, they’re unwilling, even unable to go through all that heartache again.

Sometimes, just sometimes, someone can reach in through the gate and touch the heart with the tips of his fingers but it’s not easy, he has to stand on his tippy-toes and really stretch himself to barely touch it. That’s not how it’s meant to be, how to really live.

A ship is safely protected in harbour but ships aren’t designed to remain in harbour, they’re built to travel the seven seas and ride out storms. If one wants to be happy then the only way to live, to be truly happy, is to throw open the gates to our heart and let everyone in, not just the select few; not just our children, not just our closest friends but everyone, we have to have a ‘gates wide open’ approach, living via your heart.

Very few souls are willing to risk this, they prefer the safety of the harbour, but I stumbled across this recently and thought this sums it up perfectly, B D Gulledge hit the nail on the head with this;

“I used to sit on the banks with a raft and watch the water roll lazily by. One day I pushed my raft into the shallows of the water and found the water moved swifter than I thought, but my raft was actually a little rowboat. Then, after some time I rowed my little boat into deeper water. There were great storms, mighty winds, tremendous waves, and sometimes I felt so alone. But I have noticed my little rowboat is now a mighty ship manned by my friends and loved ones, and beautiful calm seas, warm sunny days, and nights filled with comfortable dreams always double after a storm. Now, I could never go back and sit on the bank, in fact, I search for deeper water. Such is life when lived.

bookmark_borderWe find comfort in familiar things

meerkatsA few years ago I watched a wildlife programme on the BBC about Meerkats. Off they would go hunting and foraging early in the morning and return late afternoon to the great delight of the remaining group. There was much rubbing together and re-establishing bonds as the clan was reunited. I was reminded of this the other day when I came back home from my trains planes and automobiles (and hiking boots) holiday as I re-established bonds with my family and friends.

Although it’s lovely (and a privilege) to go away on holiday it’s good to be back home. It’s said that familiarity breeds contempt but I find great comfort in familiar things, for me familiarity breeds contentment, for example;

The embrace of our family and friends
My own bed and pillow
My favourite chair
My favourite cuppa tea done just right
The usual talking heads on the radio
Reaching out through habit for something in the kitchen and knowing it’s there
The purr of the cat as it settles beside you
Walking the dog in familiar woods
The sounds of my home
Seeing familiar faces on the way to work
Even the neighbours arguing as usual

It’s lovely to go away on adventures but it’s good to be back home on terra firma.

bookmark_borderIf I was God or Mark Zuckerberg..


I was at a funeral of a close friend yesterday, it seems kind’a ironic that the word funeral starts with the letters f-u-n.  The mid 50’s isn’t the right time to die, it seems like it’s the prime of your life – although my mother Doris says 85 is the prime of your life – co-incidentally the age she is at now.

I’ve never quite got my head around this whole life and death thing. If I was God then I think I’d make a few changes to the system, an upgrade so to speak.  Instead of letting people die and having to replace them with new ones, wouldn’t it be much better to keep the one’s we have? It seems a terrible waste of resources (and souls) to have to keep replacing them with new ones, this whole built-in obsolescence that we have with modern cars and gadgets seems to have extended into souls as well.

I think I’m going to have to update the Wikipedia entry for Obsolescence;

Obsolescence is the state of being which occurs when an object, service or practice is no longer wanted even though it may still be in good working order. Obsolescence frequently occurs because a replacement has become available that has, in sum, more advantages than the inconvenience related to repurchasing the replacement. Obsolete refers to something that is already disused or discarded, or antiquated. Typically, obsolescence is preceded by a gradual decline in popularity.

The thing is, my recently departed friend didn’t experience a gradual decline in popularity, much the opposite really, and it wasn’t like she was less productive or useful, in fact like most souls she got better and better at this whole ‘life’ thing and it seems to me to be very inefficient and bad management to replace her with someone brand new and completely incapable.

Of course I’m not saying that we shouldn’t replace anyone, there are certain souls that deserve to be sent back to the manufacturer and reset back to blank factory settings; Hilter, Stalin, Mao Ze-Dong , John Wilkes Booth amongst others but my friend didn’t do any harm to anyone, quite the opposite, she brightened up everybody’s lives and really, isn’t that the sort of soul we should be holding onto rather than letting go?

Chris Rock once said that instead of trying to outlaw guns wouldn’t it be a much better idea to increase the price of bullets so that each bullet costs a million dollars, that way when someone was shot then everyone would think “well, he must have deserved it, at $1m a bullet then he must have REALLY deserved to be shot” and the same goes for Hilter etc, if someone dies under this upgraded system them we’d all think ‘wow, he really must have deserved to die!’ and we won’t be so sad.

Of course the consequence of not letting people die and having to replace them is that the few new souls that get born to replace the tyrants of this world will be extremely precious and that can only be a good thing. I see babies born in the third world and suffering and many dying because of lack of care and attention but if the birth of a baby was such a rare event then it would pretty much wipe out child poverty… every single child would be cherished beyond belief, the way it should be now.

If I couldn’t get this new system past the celestial committee then I’d like to make an alternative suggestion. I’d like a Facebook update. I’d like Facebook to be extended to Heaven. I think it would be nice to get status updates from my friends who are there and let them know I’m thinking about them. You’d think that with all the money Mark Zuckerberg has got since Facebook was floated on the stockmarket then this wouldn’t be so hard to do. It’s a win-win situation for Facebook because it means once they reach 100% saturation point here on earth and all seven billion of us are signed up, well, I suspect there’s an even bigger number of souls waiting in heaven, all clamouring to sign up and let their friends and family down here on earth know what they are up to. I’m sure my dearly departed friend will be first in line.

bookmark_borderBorne Witness

When I was 12 I went to a friend’s house, Albert Vine, we were mates and hung out a lot together and I was always surprised at how nice his parents were, they were so nice that initially I thought they were just acting and it was all for show. It took quite a while for the penny to drop and for me to realise that actually it was my map of the world that was distorted. He was normal and happy and well adjusted – not like I knew those terms at the time but his parents were ever so sweet to him and his brother and that threw me initially.

However, I was playing with him one summer at his house when his mum asked us if we would like a drink of squash as it was very hot. We said yes and came into the kitchen and while I stood there drinking the orange I looked at Albert and looked at his mum and there was …..almost this ….. erm.. ‘energy’ being transmitted between the two of them, Albert was looking at his mum in complete trust and love and that was being reciprocated back to him and I could almost taste the love between them. There was almost a light between them and even as a very uneducated amazingly rough kid I knew exactly what that was and I realised what was missing in my life, how it was actually meant to be..

I was just blown away by the obvious love between them, it was unspoken, un-acknowledged, it just ‘was’, a completely pure feeling of love and his mum was looking at him. Of course they had no inkling of what was going on, they just lived it as if it was the most natural thing in the world (as it is) and got on with their chatter but I stood there almost blown away by the sheer pure love between them.

Anyway, I resumed normal duties but it was the universe saying “THIS is how it’s meant to be”

And then the dream;

I forgot about Albert and his mum and got on with life as I was going through a particularly rough time, ‘mum’ was beating me up with particular passion and this was going on for months, I don’t know why but one Saturday there was a particular nasty punishment with a leather belt and I bleed quite a lot and then was punished again for bleeding on the sheets.

So this Saturday I was sent to bed as further punishment and I hid under the blankets and cried and cried my heart out, I was at the lowest point of my short life, 12 and all I wanted to do was die, I couldn’t understand why anyone could be so cruel and I prayed desperately to God to end it all now and take me back home ..and then I fell asleep ..and had the most wonderful dream..

I dreamt that I was fully grown and I was lying on a sun lounger feeling the warm rays of the sun shining down on my body, I could hear birds singing in the trees, I could smell the flowers in the garden around me and I knew I was in ‘my’ garden, behind me was my house, a happy home full of love and past the garden walls I could see trees and hills in the distance, on the grass two dogs were romping around and playing with a rubber toy, There was a swimming pool and children/grandchildren were in there splashing around and having fun, 

I felt totally and utter at peace and as I looked to my left there was someone lying on another sun lounger looking over smiling at me and I knew she was someone special, I felt a deep connection with her, utter trust and love and I knew she was the most sweetest wonderfully loving woman in the whole world and that we didn’t need to speak those words – we just ‘knew’, I loved her with all my heart and she loved me with all her heart and nothing else mattered..

I woke up and it was still daylight and I cried and cried again but this time out of happiness, I knew that wasn’t a dream, I knew it is how I’m going to be one day and I knew I could rise above all the punishments that I was getting and carry on because one day I will be in love and that’s something to look forward to.

Don’t ask me how a 12yr old kid with completely and utterly no experience of love can be so sensitive to love or even have any knowledge of it but that’s how I’ve always been all my life, I am what I am and I don’t try to explain it or question it, I just ‘am’.

I have had a life less ordinary, most of the stuff I blog about and talk about is just humourous chit chat but occasionally, just occasionally I will pull out all the stops and surprise people, at my wedding everyone thought I was just some bog Irishman who wouldn’t amount to much but my wedding speech brought tears to everyone’s eyes, I can write when the occasion requires it and I always surprise everyone. Earlier this year I unexpectedly went to a funeral with a friend, everyone else gave speeches about the mother and was usual touching stuff but I pushed the boat out..

We have a saying –  God will always place you where you are needed the most, place you where you can do the most good  – and give most comfort and support, and it’s been my honour to perform that duty here since l arrived here last Friday.

I really didn’t have the opportunity to get to know Kay, ironically I came into her life at the time when she was planning to leave, but here’s what I’ve borne witness to during the last seven days;

I have borne witness to the loving husband,
I have borne witness to the loving father,
I have borne witness to the loving sons,
I have borne witness to the loving daughters,
I have borne witness to the loving grandchildren,
I have borne witness to the entire extended family,

And since last Friday I have borne witness to your outrage,
I have borne witness to your strength,
I have borne witness to your pride,
And it must be said that at times I have borne witness to your single minded determination – some braver souls might even say stubbornness!

but I have also borne witness to your kindness,
I have borne witness to your humility,
I have borne witness to your compassion,
and most of all I have borne witness to your love;

And all these qualities that I have borne witness to over the last few days, I am absolutely certain that these are all a reflection of your mums qualities, and I think to myself, she must have been quite a remarkable woman.

And I have no doubt that, looking at all these qualities witnessed, that she will live on,
inside each and every one of you,
for the rest of time..

And I need to thank you all, for letting me be part of this; it has been a joy and a honour.

Thank you very much.

bookmark_borderConfession Time?

job-interview-irish-joke-job-interview-pzy-demotivational-poster-1283819019So I have a terrible confession to make, a dark secret that I’ve been hiding for the last 25+ years, one that I’ve been in denial about and tried to ignore. I’ve been fooling myself and trying to fool everyone else about it but I think it’s time I came clean and owned up.

The sad fact is that I am an Irishman. Yes, I know, the shame, the shame. I have tried to hide it since I moved from Ireland to London twenty five years ago but as Shakespeare said, the truth shall out ya and there’s no use pretending any more.

At the start it was difficult, when I first moved here I struggled with the lingo and it took me literally years to learn how to pronounce words the way Londoners do, at home we’d naturally say fur instead of fair, hur instead of hair, tar instead of tower. I practised and practised and after many years have finally learnt to say fair and hair but even now it doesn’t come naturally. And I have tried my best to stop using Irish expressions like ‘do you think I came up the Lagan in a soapy bubble?’ or ‘sure a blind man rushing past on a horse would’na notice’ or’ have you been up all night raking the streets’, perfectly legit expressions everyone uses at home but double-dutch in London.. And I have failed again and again the one big test for all Irish, we find it totally, congenitally and physically impossible to say film without sticking an extra ‘u’ in it so it becomes filum, it is our reverse shibboleth, everyone else can tell we are Irish because we can’t pronounce that word correctly.

I’ve tried to slow down my machine gun delivery, (no, I don’t get regular deliveries of machine guns – at least not these days) but we Irish naturally talk very fast and in a constant stream and at home it’s just normal but here in London no-one’s ears are attuned to it, to us Irish it sounds like everyone in London is talking really s l o w l y, like chatting with a child…very weird.

I’ve had to hide and deal with this affliction, I even signed up for Recovering Irish Anonymous but that didn’t really work out because it wasn’t really that anonymous, if your name wasn’t Shaun then it was bound to be Patrick. I would attend meeting and stand up and say ‘My names Patrick and I’m an Irishman’ and everyone would clap and offer support, we’d watch episodes of Brideshead Revisted and Downton Abbey and practise the pronunciation over and over again… like Julie Walters in Educating Rita until the chairman would say “by Jove, I think he’s got it, I think he’s got it!”

Being an Irishman does have one advantage; whenever I address a stranger I can say practically anything I like in my first sentence and I’ve done this frequently, I’ve said to folk on first meeting them “did you know your shoes are on fire?” and I know they are too busy trying to figure out where my broad accent is from to even think about what I actually said. In London by the second or third sentence they usually figure it out and then tune their ears in and I have to stop talking nonsense but when I go to America I can spend the entire holiday talking bollocks and no-one notices…they don’t think I’m speaking English at all, they think I’m speaking Gaelic constantly..

Sadly all this work on my accent (and my attitude) has been mostly in vain, yes most Londoners can now just about understand me but I only have to go downstairs at work and talk to the Irish girl who works there and instantly twenty five years of elocution lessons are undone and we ‘spake’ to each other like we never left home.

Perhaps I should just keep my gob shut and learn sign language..

bookmark_borderMy Favourite Things

OK, you can try singing this to some Gilbert and Sullivan tune… deep breath.. this is the shortest list I could possibly think of;

My Favourite Things;
Sitting between my two boys
Saying WOW!
Laughing out loud
Someone’s name on my mobile display making me smile
Shared body warmth
Traffic lights staying green as I speed towards them
Laughing inappropriately (oops!)
Red sky at night
Not wearing black like everyone else
My black cooking apron
Cats…actually anything with more fur than me – barring dates.
The smell of cut grass
My cooking
Anyone else’s cooking
Holding hands
Giving flowers
Douches chaudes avec deux
Pretending I can speak French
Pretending I can speak intelligently
Snowball fights
Real Christmas tree’s
Giving presents
Receiving presents
Questioning everything
Accepting everything else
Getting on a plane
Getting off same plane unscathed
Arriving home
My impenetrable accent
Ploughing my own furrow
Fireworks inside me
Clean sheets (is that sad?)
Ironing done (ditto?)
Bruce Willis (you won’t understand, it’s a bloke thing)
Father Ted (ditto, it’s an Irish thing)
Being brave
Finding rules and stomping all over them
Live music
Dead Can Dance
Riceboy Sleeps
Icelandic music
RHS Wisley
Antoni Gaudi
Butterflies in tummy
Real icecream
Anything quirky
Hot strong sweet tea
Ditto woman
Folk saying Thank you
Connection and engaging
Surprising folk
Getting spruced up
Life, and the stupid stupid wonderful way it all plays out!
Absolutely everyone else
Did I mention HUGS?

Obviously not an exhaustive list, except perhaps to read.

Things I don’t understand
Israel/Arab conflict
Bling – obviously not on the same scale as above
Country and Western music
Dust – where does it come from?
Why are there no baby pigeons?
How much deeper would the ocean be if sponges didn’t live there?
Why we don’t ever read in newspapers ‘Psychic wins a lottery’?
Where do Forest Rangers go to get away from it all?
How is it possible to have a ‘civil’ war?
Why does the word ‘lisp’ have an ‘s’ in it, is someone being cruel?
Why is abbreviated such a long word?
If a poison expires, is it still poisonous?
If you choke a Smurf, what colour does it turn?
Would the world be a happier place if the law was that everyone had to skip instead of walk?

Stupid things I have done;
Ran into a lamp post at full speed
Was de-briefed in front of 1,000’s
Never learnt to cook proper
Never learnt to spell propery
Never learnt the meaning of the term ‘brevity’
I also…actually this could be an endless list

Books near my bedside table;
Illusions, Richard Bach
101 Things to Do Before You Are Five (!) (live?)
Bad Science
:59 seconds (not a reference to my sexual stamina; that would be called :13 Seconds)
The Deeper Meaning of Liff (sic)
The Cosmic Ordering Service (Would you like fries with that sir?)
Why is God Laughing? (was it something I said?)
Plan Bee (there’s always a plan B)
13 Things That Don’t Make Sense (14 if you count me)
The Bridge Across Forever
Notes From A Small Island
Northern Lights
Notes From A Big Country
Dead Men Do Tell Tales
Essays In Love
50 Psychology Classics
How To Live Dangerously (my other bible)
Conversations With God (trust me, it’s never ending)
Life’s Missing Instruction Manual
Is it just me or is everything shit? (turns out it’s just me after all)
The Little Book Of Silly Questions
The Tipping Point
This Book Will Save Your Life (no, it won’t, two evening of my life I want back)
NLP For (shop) Dummies
Thirty Days Has September
Red Herrings and White Elephants
In Exile From The Land Of Snows
The REALLY Good Orgasm Guide
Everything I’ve Ever Learned About Love
The Queen’s English
The Way Of The Superior Man

(I fully intend to read them someday!)

All Stieg Larssons ‘The Girl..’ movies
The original Swedish ‘Let The Right One In’
Young Frankenstein
Oh Brother Where Art Thou
The Piano
The Hours (blew me away)
Blade Runner
Shawshank Redemption
The Princess Bride
Green Mile
Love Actually
5th Element
Stranger Then Fiction
50 first Dates
Stardust (sorry)
Enchanted (so sorry!)
The new Star Trek (so soooo sorry!)
The Truman Show
Dead Poets Society
The Matrix
Pan’s Labyrinth
Shrek 1 & 2 but definitely not 3
and I hate to admit it but Robert Downey Jr. in Iron man was surprisingly excellent
(Have to admit to loving watching The Big Bang Theory with my two beasties..)

bookmark_borderA Pregnant Pause?

Pull my finger..
Pull my finger..

I’m in my 50’s now and suddenly there’s a whole rash of friends whom are becoming grandparents. Fifty’s a bit too early to become a grandparent, I don’t think one should become a grandparent until you’re 80 and look the part; the round glasses, cardigan and rocking chair.. and maybe a pipe.  I’m keen to have a few years between the time my two beasties move out to University or fulltime work and eventually produce kids.  (I hope you are paying attention boys!). I want to enjoy empty-nest syndrome, I want to travel the world, meet interesting people and blow them up (sorry, old joke!) but if grandchildren pop out before I’ve had a chance to do all that then I’m going to have mixed emotions, happy and sad at the same time.

So I was thinking the other day, if I was God, (or Morgan Freeman – some folk claim they are one and the same), then there’s another change I’d like to make to the current system. I know the previous suggestion was a bit radical but this one’s not so radical. If I was God then I’d give womankind a large ‘pregnant pause’ button, a pregnancy hibernation mode.

I think it would be good to be able to fall pregnant but crucially be able to pause it and carry on with it when circumstances change.

With all my friends whom are grandparents or about to become grandparents, only one of them was planned, all the others have come about because of carelessness and some of them are out of work or not in a position to give a child the best start in life. So wouldn’t it be good to be able to press a pause button and carry on with your life until your circumstances improve and when you feel it’s right then carry on with the pregnancy..

You see, there’s another angle to this, the only sure-fire way a woman can know she can have kids is to actually have one, it’s kind’a a major thing “oh yes, hurrah hurrah I’m pregnant, I can definitely have children..oh crap..I’m pregnant and I’m way too young!”   A relative of mine spent about ten years trying not to get pregnant, and each month there was this tension, pregnant or not pregnant…  For ten years she and her partner took precautions but when it became time to have kids they tried and tried for a few years and then were told that they couldn’t actually have kids and were too old for fertility treatment. So if they had tried getting pregnant at the start, safe in the knowledge that they could go into pregnancy hibernation mode then they would have known there was an issue and could have started fertility treatment earlier and maybe be a happy family by now.

So, upgrade time, a ‘diapause’ if you please Morgan and yes, you can google that..

And other thoughts occur to me, if I was God then I’d mess around with men’s hair loss. I am blessed with full head of hair but I think it’s interesting that men lose hair from the crown outwards, so they have a growing bald spot on the top. Wouldn’t it be more fun if it worked the other way, men lost hair from the sides and it receded upwards towards the crown. Then they could grow it longer and not have to bother about comb-overs. Of course it means that the Beatles MopTop hairstyle will come back in fashion and for some it’s going to look like the genie out of Disney’s Aladdin..but at least the top of their head would always be warm and they wouldn’t have to wear hats all the time…and we’d see the end of comb-overs..

bookmark_borderModel Parent?


A few of my colleagues here at work are expecting babies in the next few months, so being the man (father) of experience I have been passing on my fatherly wisdom. When I took my first born to the crèche he wouldn’t stay there, he clung to my leg like a limpet mine and I’d have to shake him off and run like hell before the crying started. There was this game the staff and I played – distract First Born and whilst he’s distracted slip away…  Of course it’s nice (I think!) to be suddenly wanted + + + but I had to go to work and at the time children and Intensive Care Units did not mix.

So I resolved, after lots of tearful mornings and guilt trips about being abandoned in crèche from First Born, that I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. When Second Born appeared and was ready for crèche I built it up, I told him how exciting it was going to be, he’d get to play with all the toys, make a mess and have great friends, I made a big big deal of it and when the first day came for crèche he was so excited and looking forward to it. I dropped him off and he ran away to play…

Problem solved and I patted myself on the head.

Or so I thought.

About two weeks into his time at the crèche the manager pulled me aside one evening and said the following “You know, I’ve worked in this crèche for 15 years and your child is the first one, in fact the only one, that’s ever cried when his parents come to take him home…usually it’s the other way around, they cry in the morning but your child runs into this place and doesn’t want to go back home……………” she said this rather suspiciously….

Damn. It looks like I had overdone it. She looked at me like she ought to be reporting me to Social Services… I explained what I had been doing but still… I think she never stopped being suspicious of me… So the lesson here, dear friends who are soon to be parents, you can’t win.


But you can get even….

Leaving your kids off at school is always interesting, during the first few years they always cling to your legs and make you feel bad but then at around year five it suddenly becomes uncool to walk to school with your dad and suddenly they start to run ahead before you actually reach the school. At first it’s just at the school gates, a quick snatched ‘bye dad’ and off they run but then as time passes they run ahead at increasing distances from the school gate, anything to avoid being seen with dad..

And then they start secondary school. Here something remarkable happens. On day one you take your ‘relatively’ sweet and innocent child to school, all presented neat and tidy, school uniform worn correctly, shirt tucked in and top button done up, tie worn correctly, hair nice and neat …and somehow there’s is a remarkable transformation over the first day. You met them at the school gates and you don’t recognise them, they look a mess, like they been in a car crash but the big big transformation is in the voice – suddenly that sweet innocent childish tone has gone and now it’s all deep manly grunting.

In the previous June they were kings of the castle in junior school, everyone was smaller than them and childish but suddenly in secondary school they are surrounded by some really big bruisers and they desperately want to fit in. So out goes talk of collecting Dr Who cards and in comes talk about rap music on Youtube and the most unsavourly computer games. From now on you know the shirt will always hang out of the trousers and the tie will never ever be done up properly, you know that ‘street creed’ is now hugely important and talking about Telly Tubbies or even Action Man is verboten because they are in a rush to be men.

Of course, being somewhat mischievous of nature, I look upon this as an opportunity to reek revenge on all those years of clinging to my leg like a limpet mine and all those guilt trips from First Born. Now when I drop the boys off at school or pick them up I make a point of calling them ‘darling’ in a very loud voice, especially when they are with their friends. It’s great, it’s even more fun if you try hugging them in front of their friends and telling them how lovely it is to see them..  This ‘probably’ is quite evil of me but I’ve been doing it for a few years now and when it’s pouring out of the heavens I make an effort to drive there and pick them up, their joy at seeing me is tempered by the knowledge that I will indeed called them darling very loudly and they will cringe..

However, their school mates have started to cotton on to my little game and they all realise that really I’m just doing it to embarrass them, they look upon my boys with some sympathy and tell them “your dads a lunatic, isn’t he?”

So now I’m starting to think what else can I do to play with them at school, they are nearly always the last ones out through the school gates – too busy chin-wagging with their mates and leaving me standing there…  So I was in Sainsburys the other day getting some shopping and I saw some really nice ‘daddy’ slippers, you know, those checked ones… and it suddenly occurred to me – what if I was standing outside the school gates in my slippers… I wonder just how quickly they would appear..I reckon they would be first ones out in the entire school…I’m VERY tempted…

You see, why get mad, when you can get even… 🙂

bookmark_borderGaining Perspective

When I was about eleven, Mary Whitehead, our art teacher, asked the class to draw a typical street scene. We had two hours to complete our works of art and then she would tell us what she thought. I dutifully drew the High Street, the shops, people out shopping and a few cars, typical Saturday afternoon scene. I have to admit that the cars were very square-ish…boxy.. and the people…even the dogs…square-ish but I was reasonably pleased with my effort and thought Mary wouldn’t have much to quibble about over it.

So she sat down beside me, hummed and ha-ed a bit and then said, “look, it’s a very good attempt but can you see what’s wrong with the cars?” I said they were very boxy and even the wheels weren’t very round… and she said “no, that’s not the problem I have with this, it’s the size of the cars in relation to the background that’s a bit off, your cars are too small for the foreground, the people in the background are much bigger, your perspective is all wrong, the cars need to be much bigger or the background much smaller, you need to get some perspective..”

God, you were so right, weren’t you Mary? It takes more than a few years to gain perspective and once you have it then you view the world and all those around you differently, you tend not to sweat the petty stuff (or is it not pet the sweaty stuff?) . Spending twelve years of your life working as an ICU nurse certainly gives you perspective and I’m 51 now and I can look back over the last five decades at what I’ve learnt and some things come to mind;

  • Our children help us grow just as much as we help them grow. I’ve spend a lot of time teaching my two boys lessons and trying to give them perspective early but it hasn’t been a one way street, as much as I’ve tried teaching them life lessons I’ve also learnt just as much, if not more, from them, we learn just as much from our kids as we teach them.
  • And the older I get, the wiser I get. Duh! I gain more wisdom but crucially it seems that as I get older and wiser that I know nearly everything – about less and less. And I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time I shed this mortal coil I shall know absolutely everything there is to know – about absolutely nothing.
  • You don’t realise it but we live our lives as examples to others, examples of how to be, how to live, how to love. Some souls are quite content to treat others shitty, that’s the example they are setting, but it’s not an example you have to follow. And just to make you a little paranoid, everyone is watching you, they are watching you for cues, give them good examples.
  • It doesn’t have to be this way. Happiness is a choice. Life may have dealt you a pretty dire hand of cards and you may see no future but the remainder of your life – the life your previous years have programmed you for – doesn’t have to happen, nothing’s wrote in stone. You are allowed to break your programming, you are allowed to go beyond your programming, no matter how badly some souls have treated you in the past you can forgive them, you can break the cycle and become something or someone much much more.
  • There are very few things in life that don’t change, given enough time nearly all things come to an end, one of the only few constants is change, if you want to grow then embrace change, it’s not a challenge, it’s an opportunity. The key word there is ‘if’, not everyone wants to grow.
  • Regrets, we all have them but the purpose of life is to have as few as possible, no-one’s perfect, I certainly am not, I have lots of regrets, but I’m willing to bet I have slighter fewer than you.
  • “The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, person and family history, belief systems, and often also political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.” –Eckhart Tolle.
    Very true Mr Tolle, though it’s still a good idea to pay our bills, feed our children and pay taxes so social security can pay benefit to unemployed blissed out 29yr old Germans sitting in Russel Square, ..but true Mr Tolle…very very earned your money with that one sentence.

bookmark_borderThe Caretaker

Someone once said that we don’t own possessions, possessions own us. To some degree I can agree with that, we arrive in the world empty handed and seem to spend the rest of our lives gaining possession but looking back over the years I’ve come to realise that I don’t actually own very muh at all, I travel light. I’m constantly de-cluttering my life, in fact I like to think I’m more of a caretaker than an owner, I have this habit of giving my stuff away.

1. Many years ago I was traipsing around second hand bookshops and I found a first edition Winnie The Pooh, it cost seventy quid and somewhere deep inside me I knew I had to buy it. So it sat in the loft for years wrapped in black plastic to protect it and then one day I met someone who was an illustrator. Her passion was to illustrate children’s books and it was her birthday soon so I thought why not, this is why the Universe wanted me to buy this book, to pass it on to it’s rightful owner. She was thrilled to bits by it but I, the caretaker, was thrilled even more to give it to her, it’s rightful owner.

2. A friend was having a 100th birthday party, he was coming 55 and his wife was turning 45 so that equals 100 and they decided to have a 100th birthday party. I hate buying bog standard presents so I searched and searched for something appropriate. He was really into bee keeping and lo and behold, one day I was wandering the streets when I came across yet another second hand bookshop. I went in and had a wee nosey around and what did I find but a book on bee keeping, from 98 years ago. Almost perfect. I held on to it for the month and then gave it to them at their ‘100th’ birthday party. They were both gobsmacked and told me it was the best present they had got that day. I told them I was just the conduit, the caretaker, holding onto it until it found its way to its proper home – with them.

3. And then there was Honey, the Sheltie dog that the Universe wanted me to rescue from a crap unloved unwanted situation and moved to a loving home elsewhere

But you see, this caretaking business, it’s not just possessions and animals that I look after for a short while and then pass on, it works even in relationships too, sometimes I feel like I’m just holding onto someone for a while, keeping them safe, until they find the person they are meant to be with.. and when I see them happy and content then I’m pleased, thrilled actually. But then I’m weird, aren’t I?

And between thou and I – I wonder, how many folk have passed me on too, I suspect there are a few woman out there who are breathing a sigh of relief and thinking dodged a bullet there!  🙂

bookmark_borderGroundhog Day?


Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni  (yes, trying saying that when tipsy) said the following; “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I didn’t realise it at the time but my teacher appeared 20 years ago when Groundhog Day was released.  I remember watching it at the flicks and enjoying it at the time;

“Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant and egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again.”

However, I was 30-ish and pretty wet behind the ears when it came to this ‘life’ thing and as usual wasn’t really paying attention, probably a tad arrogant and egocentric like Bill at the start of the movie. So, last night I watched Groundhog Day again and had an epiphany, the sudden realisation that really it’s the story of our lives and relationships, isn’t it, I’m stuck in my own Groundhog Day, repeating my mistakes in what seems like an endless loop. Like in the movie, slowly and very patiently, the Universe is doing it’s best to teach me and guide me – despite my best efforts to bugger things up and refuse to learn the obvious lessons.

This is particularly true in relationships, we can go through many relationships making a lot of mistakes and keep on repeating those mistakes until the message finally begins to sink in, only then do we wise up and start to use what we’ve learnt and make some progress. We have to attend the Groundhog festivals in the genuinely right spirit, we have to catch the falling kid from the tree, we have to fix the old ladies tyre, we have to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre to save the guys life in the restaurant and we have to learn French poetry and play the piano like a pro, not in an effort to impress Andie but because we genuinely want to. And learning to speak French and play the piano like a pro takes a hell of a lot of effort and that’s the kind of commitment relationships demand.

These (or their equivalent)  are the things that changes us into better human beings and as a by-product, charms Andie and makes her want to bid $339.89 for you in the charity auction and want to spend the night with you. It’s because you do these things not as part of some scheme to eventually play ‘hide the sausage’ with her but you do them genuinely through your heart and it all pays off, you wake up on February 3rd and the cycle is broken and you have the woman of your dreams in bed beside you.

It’s just such a pity both of us have to keep repeating the cycle of heartache over and over again until the penny finally drops. Sigh.

I read the following a few years ago;

“The secret to getting my wife to be less inhibited had more to do with me than her. It wasn’t until I started listening to what she wanted from me outside the bedroom that changes happened inside the bedroom. I needed to show that I loved her by talking to her and treating her as my equal in all aspects of life. Once she became secure and felt deeply loved by me, all her inhibitions disappeared. Damn, I wish I had figured that out sooner. “ Danny G, age 58, husband for 24 years

I know how you feel Danny, I know how you feel, I wish I had been paying attention 20 years ago when I first watched Groundhog Day.

bookmark_borderPatience, a virtue?

In 2009 about five million people watched the ‘My Finale’ episode of Scrubs when John Dorian left Scared Heart Teaching Hospital. It was a hour long special and the last few minutes of the episode was taken up playing the above song. You can view the actual scene here.

This song has haunted me ever since then, I’ve heard it a few times, just snatches of it but missing the whole song, the radio never mentioned whom it was by and I wasn’t quick enough with SoundHound. It turns out it was a cover of ‘The Book of Love’, originally by Magnetic Fields but this version by Peter Gabriel. It’s strange how, if you have enough patience, everything comes to you eventually. I feel strangely sad and yet happy when I listen to it, it’s somehow very poignant, like it’s triggering something deep down inside me and I finally figured out what it is this evening.

Over the past few years I’ve been following various blogs, nearly all of them are about dating and misadventures but there’s been about ten blogs I’ve regularly dipped into and smiled and recognised the same mistakes, the same fuck-ups, the same embarrassing failures.

But here’s the thing. Over the years, one by one, each of these blogs have slowly disappeared. Last year one of my favourites disappeared but before she went off the air she told all her readers that at long last she had found someone special, someone she wanted to start a life with and she needed space to work on that relationship without everyone else knowing the daily ups and downs of her day, so she thanked the readers for all their support and a few weeks later it was lights out.

Part of me was sad, (some of the postings were hilarious!) but a larger part of me was happy, happy that eventually after all the mis-steps, all the weirdos, all the dishonesty, all the trying, all the let downs, all the longing and missed chances, that she was happy and in love.

And so that only left one blog remaining, Middle Aged Dating, I’ve enjoy reading Charmaine’s blog, a lot of it resonated with me but it seems there is news on that front too, she’s just got married and I’m enormously pleased for a couple of reasons. Firstly I’m pleased because she’s had a rough time and it’s nice to know she’s finally met a (Italian) man and found true love but secondly and more personal, it means it must be getting near my turn. I’ve watched all the dating blogs slowly disappear and now the last straggler is finally gone, so it gives me hope, hope that if one is patient enough, kind enough, open enough, true to oneself, generous of the heart and willing to keep at it, then eventually you will find the one soul you are meant to be with. My mother Doris agrees with me, everything comes to the man (or woman) with patience.

(but secretly, between thou and I, I can’t wait!)

bookmark_borderIf I’d known my life was going to be a comedy, I would have dressed differently.

Jeez..I can't wait!
Jeez..I can’t wait!

When I was growing up in Ireland we had our own version of the National Rifle Association, it was called the Sunday Observance Committee. With a title like that one would think they sat around and spied on everybody (but only on Sundays).. However, they do something much more stupid, they made sure everywhere was shut on Sundays. This was before the Sunday Trading Laws were passed, so if you ran a store you weren’t allowed to open on a Sunday, Sunday was a day for family and attending church according to the powerful SOC. If you tried opening up on a Sunday then they would lobby the council very noisily and protest outside the shop in large numbers until the shop closed. Council members knew they would be chucked out of office if they crossed the rich and powerful SCO.

Generally this meant all the large chain stores were closed on a Sunday but the local shop around the corner was open. So, rather stupidly, this meant that one could buy Playboy magazine on a Sunday (apparently!) but couldn’t actually buy a bible because the local corner shop didn’t normally stock them, only the chain stores would have them. It also meant that the pubs were closed but hotels couldn’t be, so one could go to the local hotel and buy a drink there. Going to the local hotel (which also happened to be quite plush) was no hardship, in fact it was a good excuse to drop in there and it kind’a made a mockery of the law and the SCO.

And whilst I’m on the subject of religion and silliness – breaking news – Jesus gets tossed out of a darts match!

Nathan Grindal, a darts fan was forced to leave a live televised final because he looked like Jesus. He was ejected for distracting players when the crowd started chanting “Jesus” at him during a match earlier this month.

Personally, if I was him I’d never have to work another day in my life, I’d simply hire myself out to the church! Can you imagine how popular I’d be at the Popes Christmas message, there would be a riot…especially if I denounced the Pope. Even better, pitch up at someone’s deathbed, we’re talking about 100% conversion rate here, get some billionaire atheist and ‘repent and leave all your cash to the church and you will get into heaven’, I can’t understand why the Church of England isn’t beating a path to Nathans door! The opportunities for mischief are endless! Imagine sneaking into Richard Dawkins bedroom when he’s sleeping and he’s woken up by Jesus shouting ‘UNBELIEVER” at him, his next book would be ‘The God Conclusion’. And speeding tickets, who would give Jesus a ticket…”you will burn in the fires of Hell” has extra impact when it comes from Jesus… and parking tickets…forget them… And then there’s sex…would the missionary position have extra frisson when it was Jesus doing it?

Yes, I know, I’m going to hell…

bookmark_borderWhat is love?

Errmmm on second thought…please don’t!

Love is more easily experienced than defined. As a theological virtue, by which we love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves for his sake, it seems remote until we encounter it enfleshed, so to say, in the life of another – in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice. Love’s the one thing that can never hurt anyone, although it may cost dearly. The paradox of love is that it is supremely free yet attaches us with bonds stronger than death. It cannot be bought or sold; there is nothing it cannot face; love is life’s greatest blessing.

Catherine Wybourne is a Benedictine nun

Sometimes I feel I have to invent a language to talk to you in, though my heart is very full of definite things to say. You stir some very deep part of my soul. Be patient with me and don’t be angry with my peculiarities. I love you very much.

Iris Murdoch

To be loved is to feel the sun on both sides of your face.

Live simply, love deeply.

London Leprechaun.


bookmark_borderSimple Pleasures

The List

Good bread
Buying yourself flowers
Someone else buying you flowers
Clean sheets
Looking for shells
Doing something you’ve been putting off
Fixing something
A valentine surprise
Clean windows at last
Warm towels
Being met at the airport
Coins in a wishing well
Foot rubs after a long day
Tasks you did with your parents
Letting someone into traffic
Hotel toiletries
Your favourite mug
Wearing shorts & sandals
Hand written letters
Giving good advice
A crisp apple
Eating outside
A wedding invite
Eating peas out of the pod
Escaping a parking ticket
Finding forgotten money
Good quality curtains
Baking something nice
Finding the perfect present
Hot water bottles
Four poster beds
Watching for shooting stars
Wrapping Xmas presents
Ripe fruit
Lighting candles
Making a fire
Roasted vegetables
Sharpening pencils
Linen napkins
Good quality dark chocolate
Giving blood
Decorating a Christmas tree
Air conditioning during hot summers
Heated car seats during winter
The snooze button
Giving to charity shops
Buying from charity shops
Getting that job
Walking in snow
Sunday mornings
Watching your kids sleep
Birds using your bird feeder
Walking barefoot on the edge of the sea
Home deliveries

bookmark_borderThicker Than H2O

Doctors rarely marry nurses; it’s a generalisation but a valid one. As a rule doctor’s date nurses but marry other doctors. Nurses on the other hand tend to marry policemen and fireman, it’s like we have a similar respect for each other’s vocation, we all know that we are there, at the front line serving the community; we recognise kindred souls, folk like us who work shifts, get lots of platitudes from whichever government is in power but still receive shit pay.

So, nurses, policemen and firemen, kindred souls and we look after each other and when I was doing my nurse training this relationship was never more apparent when there was a blood shortage. Modern day nurses will be aghast at this but during the eighties when I was training we used to run out of blood quite frequently – so who do you call, no, not Ghostbusters but the local police station and fire station.

All Policemen and Firemen know their blood group and when supplies are low are willing to provide a convenient supply of blood.  This happened more frequently than realised during my training and it must seem barbaric to today’s nurses but it wasn’t just a one way street. You see, when the Matron put the call out for more blood two things happened at the same time.

First of all just about every unmarried policeman came rushing to the hospital because ..well.. nurses and policemen make for a potent mix so there literally was a rush of policemen to the ward with sirens on full blast “Well, it’s an emergency in’it..!”  it wasn’t really but any excuse to chat up the nursing staff.

The other thing that happened when the call went out was that every nurse made a beeline for the changing road and brushed their hair and put on fresh lippy…. Sometimes I’d look around the ward and I’d be the only member of Staff on there because everyone was doing their faces. Even today it’s the same story, the firemen came to my current place of work and a large proportion of the female staff headed to the bathroom…something about firemens uniforms..

Sadly for me I was male and not once, not once did a firewoman or policewoman pitch up to one of the wards to donate blood.. but I’m not bitter.. no…not bitter at all.. much 😉  (and everyone asks why I left nursing!)


I was chin-wagging with a friend a work today.. I know, surprising, isn’t it, that I actually still have friends, especially after being so mischievous. However, she’s around the same vintage as me, recently out of her marriage and was chatting away about the 25 years she was married to Mr Useless-Waste-Of-Space. Whilst she’s giving out about the problems and issues she had during her marriage it suddenly occurred to me that she spent the entire 25 years trying to fold herself to fit the life and partner she had chosen.

Obviously not everyone but I suspect a lot of us are guilty of that, we spend our lives trying to fold ourselves around and in between the lives of our partners and our families. And when we look back with the benefit of hindsight we realise just how much we have folded ourselves, how we have twisted and pulled ourselves, contorted ourselves into tiny spaces just to keep everything together in one piece. No wonder it’s so uncomfortable towards the end. And it’s not a healthy situation to be in. Obviously.

Folding ourselves didn’t work. Folding ourselves doesn’t work. What we should be looking for, at this ripe old age when we have gained a modicum of sense (please!) is for someone with whom we might unfold instead, within and beyond attraction, with whom we feel the compromises work both ways, the sharing is mutual, trust reciprocal, enjoyment palpable, the connection strong, deep and sure.

It sucks that I had to wait until 51 years of age before I figured that out. And sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, number 17

Recent photo.

When I was growing up in Conlig, Ireland, money was tight and as 12 year kids we were always on the lookout for ways of earning a few extra pennies. One of my friends heard that the local scrap-man would give you money for old lead so we struggled down the country lane with this huge (to us) car battery and he gave us 10p (big money those days) for it. We were well chuffed and headed off to the sweet shop to spend our ill-gotten gains.

However, there was a definite shortage of old car batteries lying spare around the streets of Conlig and although the local church roof had lots of lead lining neither of us wanted to risk eternal damnation for a few pennies, a couple of quid and we might have been tempted though!

Next evening I’m sitting with mum, six brothers and two sisters at dinner table when I thought I’d ask them as they are all older and might know where there’s a stash of lead and so I says “does anyone know where I can get lead?”

Sudden silence descended upon the table and everyone stared at me in disbelief and then burst out laughing.

It took me an awfully awfully long time to understand their reaction.. DOH!

(for those of you that don’t get it, lead and laid sound exactly the same in our mother it again 🙂

bookmark_border31 Ways To Know You’re In The Right Relationship

To help you answer that question, you lucky thing, here’s a completely unscientific list of 31 ways to know you’re in the right relationship:

You don’t…
1.    Fear it.
If you’re afraid of commitment, best to work that out before you put yourself in a situation where it’s hoped you’ll eventually commit.

2.    Hide anything more significant than a surprise party from each other.

That includes exes, cheating, debt, STDs, chronic illness, felonies, whether you want a marriage and/or children, genetic abnormalities (if you both want kids), a strong desire to live somewhere else, professional failures and successes, doubts about your sexual orientation, a strong preference for un-vanilla sex.
The truth will come out, and if you’re with someone you feel the need to conceal any of this from, he or she probably isn’t right.

3.    Snoop.
If no one’s hiding anything, why are you looking? Going through your significant other’s email, phone, Facebook account, or journal strongly indicates that you don’t trust the person you’re with. You’re also violating his or her trust in you.

4.    Hide the relationship from other people in your life.
If you’re unwilling to introduce the person you’re dating at appropriate junctures to the most important people in your life, that’s usually a bright, flapping red flag.
In general, if you have a good thing going, you can’t wait for him or her to meet your friends, siblings, parents, the guy at the deli, and you wouldn’t have any qualms about presenting this person to professional acquaintances, people you knew in college, family friends, even your ex.

5.    Think you’re superior.
If you feel that your significant other is your inferior in any way you know matters to you in a mate — morally, intellectually, socially, financially or professionally — you’re never going to respect him or her as much as you hope to be respected.
The best relationships make you feel that you’ve convinced a person more exceptional than you to love you.

6.    Resent the other person’s success.
Professional jealousy can be as poisonous to a relationship as constantly thinking he or she is flirting with your best friend. It also suggests that you’re spending a lot of time comparing yourself to a person you supposedly adore, rather than sitting back and marveling at how amazing he or she is. In a good relationship, you quit (or refuse to ever engage in) the one-upmanship.

7.    Let any substance or behavior come before the relationship.
Any addict or over-user of a substance or behavior is cheating on you with his or her drug of choice. You deserve more.

8.    Stew.
When something the other person does annoys you or turns you off, you don’t push it to the back of your mind and hope it will go away, because it won’t. You bring it up in the moment or sometime in the next 24 hours.

9.    Damage property, animals, children or each other during an argument.
You think this goes without saying until you read something like this New York Times “Modern Love” and realize that human beings can rationalize staying with someone who leaves holes in their walls.
On the other hand, if you damage a vase or two in the heat of a different kind of passion, totally fine.

10.    Challenge each other on personal issues in front of other people.
You know which conversations you shouldn’t be having at brunch with friends.

11.    Depend on each other for things no one can or should supply.
If you’re looking to your significant other to resolve your emotional issues, make you more responsible/successful/adult, support you financially, improve your social standing, expand your group of friends, provide you with the family you never had, or make your parents finally accept you, it’s possible you shouldn’t be in a relationship at all, or at least not yet.

12.    Begrudge each other time with your respective friends.
You can’t be everything to your significant other, and why would you want to be? Sounds exhausting. Friends enrich your life, will accompany you to do things that your significant other may not enjoy, and keep you from getting tired of the person you’re seeing.
Besides, if the relationship doesn’t work out, those friends going to be the ones coming over to your house, dragging you out of bed and helping you rejoin humanity. Be good to them.

13.    Lose Yourself
This is easier said than done, especially when the relationship is going really well. As tempting as it is to never leave the house (maybe never leave the bed), you keep doing the work, exercise, volunteering, socializing, networking, and daughtering you were doing before. Remember, these things made you the person Your Person fell in love with. They’re part of you. Don’t give them up for anyone. You can’t afford it.

14.     Have a secret plan B.
If you’re where you need to be, the following thoughts don’t cross your mind: “Maybe he’ll dump me,” or “If my ex moves back from Mongolia, everything could change.”

15.    Have much drama.
You know the cliche: The person worth your tears won’t make you cry. Usually.

You do…
16.    Put it all on the line.
If you’re not risking having your heart broken, you’re not doing it right.

17.    Respect the people he or she is closest to.
You don’t have to love them, but you should think they are honest and moral and have integrity. Want to know you’re with a good person? Look to the people he or she thinks are good people.

18.    Inspire each other to be better.
A good relationship is galvanizing, not in the oh-my-god-I-met-this-amazing-person-I’d-better-hurry-up-and-fix-myself sense (thought there’s probably a little of that when you first start seeing anyone amazing) but in the way that knowing someone else believes in you makes you believe in yourself that much more. You want to prove yourself worthy of his or her confidence.

19.    Humble yourselves.
You know you can’t hide your flaws for long, so you don’t try. You recognize that this person is going to have to take you as you are, as foolish or charitable (or both) as that may seem to make him or her. You know you’re both going to mess up endless times and have to apologize and be forgiven and forgive. You’ll wonder if one of the bigger mistakes is the one that will end it, and you’ll have to prove to one another that the relationship transcends that. You recognize that you signed up for all of this.

20.    Talk about sex.
Most couples don’t instinctively know all of the ways to please each other. You have to talk about — or at least show — what you want. If you don’t know what you want, you need to figure that out, STAT (step 1? Get thee to Babeland). And after you have talked about it, you do it. Better.

21.    Talk about the rest.
The same things you’re not supposed to talk about on a blind date — religion, money, politics, kids — are things you should discuss with someone you’re serious about. What? You just remembered that thing you need to do? Get back here. No one said this was going to be painless. They said it was going to be hard and awesome.

22.    Fight.
If you agree on everything, someone’s not telling the truth. See #2 and #8.

23.    Have times when you don’t talk.
Not because you’re angry with each other but because you can be quiet together. When you find yourself with silences you don’t need to fill, when you find you can just walk along or lie about or work side by side and feel together without needing to verbally affirm that, you’ve got a good thing going.

24.    Have object permanence.
Child psychologist Jean Piaget theorized that when babies get to be 8 or 9 months old, they begin to develop “object permanence,” the idea that an object doesn’t vanish when they can no longer see it.
In a good adult relationship, you know that you can go out into the world and do your thing, and the bond you’ve formed with the person you care about will be there when you get back.
This is also known as trust.

25.    Take care of your body.
You know that you won’t enjoy sharing it with someone else if you don’t like, respect, and nurture it. Your partner feels the same way.

26.    Divide and conquer.
You’re not identical, thank god, which probably means you have certain strengths and he or she has others. Someone is more organized, someone is more outgoing, someone is a born listener. Someone is better with money, someone is more creative. Someone is more adventurous in bed.
If you each play to your strengths, you in all likelihood remember a gift (possibly an inspired one), your home(s) look(s) great, the bills get paid on time, sex is endlessly fun, and you leave everyone at the party thoroughly charmed.

27.    Remember to look at each other across the room.
There’s nothing more reassuring (or sexier) than glancing up from the interminable conversation with your eighth cousin or the head of operations or the report you can’t seem to finish and locking eyes with Your Person and remembering that by some quantity of luck neither of you may deserve, you found each other.

28.    Observe.
You notice when the other person is about to lose it, needs to leave even if you’ve been there only 20 minutes, is talking to someone he or she can’t stand, did something he or she feels guilty about, is silently berating himself or herself, is ruminating over the thing his or her boss said, is about to spend an insane amount of money, and best of all, about to crack up in a situation where he or she shouldn’t. You pay attention because you care, and because that’s the good stuff.

29.    Make time.
You realize that if this is it, one of you is going to be around some distant day in the future to lose the other. In that moment, you will not regret not checking your email in this one.

30.    Occasionally get over yourself and your cynicism and fear of cliche and do something deeply, unapologetically romantic.
You send the flowers, have the book signed by the author, request the song, write the note, have the damned thing (tastefully) engraved. You call the other person and tell him or her that a specific thing he or she did this morning that made you fall that much more in love. When you’re not expecting it, he or she dares to say, even though we all know there are no guarantees ever, “When we’re X age, want to Y?”

31.     Just know.
Reader, marry that.

OK OK number 32
You are both certain that you have convinced someone amazing to love you.

bookmark_borderLondon 2012: an etiquette guide for Olympics visitors

It’s Olympic time and therefore I think most of our pending visitors need a simple guide to UK etiquette, you may think this is tongue in cheek but it’s deadly serious – as every Londoner will sadly testify..

Welcome, and before we begin – please accept our apologies. Your four-hour nightmare wait at passport control should not be taken as a symptom of Britain’s contempt for foreigners or even revenge for the TSA.. It is merely a symptom of a woeful lack of spending on a key aspect of travel infrastructure in the run-up to a hugely important event. In other words, it’s not us Londoners who hate you, it’s the government that hates you. Don’t worry, they hate us too.

Please also accept our apologies for Boris Johnston, the London Mayor. We know he gives good interviews on US chat shows but he really is a upper class bumbling twit who shouldn’t be left in charge of an icecream van let alone a city of over seven million. We are also very sorry about Tony Blair. We aren’t sure what happened there. Think it was something about hanging chads – or was that his mate George – we have difficulty telling them apart. Oh and we apologise about inflicting Piers Morgan on all of America but we REALLY don’t want him back.

Canadians: I’m afraid that while you are here you will be repeatedly mistaken for Americans and blamed for all sorts of stuff you had nothing to do with. Unless you can think of a quick and simple way to distinguish yourselves at a glance –  I’m a Canadian, HUG me t-shirt? Maple leaf eyepatch? – then you are just going to have to suck it up.

Americans: While you’re here, why not pretend to be Canadian? Very few Britons can tell the difference, and it will allow you to rescue yourself from awkward conversations about the death penalty and the National Rifle Ass. (The capital of Canada is Ottawa and there are ten provinces in Canada incase you get tested!) (PS if you can pronounce Saskatchewan correctly then you are not Canadian.)

• Under no circumstances should you ask your taxi driver how excited he is about having the Olympics in London this summer. It’s not that he will be reluctant or embarrassed to offer a personal opinion on the matter. That is not the problem at all. Your ears will be bleeding by the end of the conversation. Actually, just don’t ask your taxi driver anything other than “Can you take me to my hotel” and “How much is that?”. PS Cabbies don’t accept American Express, no matter what the commercials tell ya..

• You will repeatedly hear that the East End of London, where the bulk of the Olympic events are being held, is an “up and coming” area. You may wonder what this odd English expression means when applied to your immediate surroundings. You are quite right to. The slum demolishing program started pre-war is running slightly behind schedule.

• Nobody here can answer any questions you have about fencing. Google it.

• Pay no attention to those bow-tied etiquette experts you sometimes see on CNN International, telling you how to behave while in Britain. These people are generally of dubious provenance, normally live in California and tend to peddle advice that is either irrelevant or out of date. For example, they will often say that Britons love queuing and are so fond of apologising that they will often say “sorry” even when something isn’t their fault. In reality, Britons are just as likely to jump to the front of a queue and then punch the person behind them for coughing. It all depends on how muggy it is.

• British people may seem to apologise a lot, but it doesn’t quite mean the same thing here. In the UK, “I’m sorry” actually means either a) I didn’t hear you; b) I didn’t understand you; or c) I both heard and understood you, and I think you’re an idiot.

• You might expect locals to be, in the circumstances, a bit defensive about the weather. But it’s true: it really doesn’t rain like this every summer. This is exceptional, which is why it’s so cold in your hotel room. There aren’t normally this many soldiers in the streets either. No, honestly.

• Britons love bleak humour: that’s why all the hire bikes are branded with the name of a bank currently being investigated for fixing interest rates. It’s supposed to be funny. London’s bike hire scheme couldn’t be simpler, by the way: just go up to the terminal at any docking station, pay by card and take away one of our so-called “Boris bikes”. When you’re done with it, simply throw it into the nearest canal. They’re disposable!

• If you have arrived early, you might just be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the final leg of the Olympic torch relay. Or you might be at a riot. Ask yourself the following questions: are there lots of people holding flames, or just one? Is everybody running in the right direction? Does the nearest branch of Foot Locker appear to be having the craziest sale ever?

• None of us is officially allowed to speak to members of the foreign press. We have all been instructed to avoid eye contact while referring your queries to a team of dedicated information managers who don’t really exist. The same policy applies to ministers from totalitarian states and anyone who turns up at the airport with a camel.

• Do not ask a policeman the best way to get to the West End or how to use an Oyster card. He wants to help, but he’s been drafted in from the West Midlands and is even more lost than you.

Please aid the Olympic authorities and organisers by demonstrating at all times that you are not a terrorist. Do not perspire, take off your shoes, smile in a weird way while texting someone, or point and shout: “Hey! Look at all those missiles on that roof over there!” In fact, if you’re not using your hands for anything, it’s probably best if you keep them in the air where everybody can see them.

bookmark_borderLiquid Sunshine – Part Deux

After a ‘dry’ cold miserable winter, nearly all English water authorities put hose pipe bans in place. Ironically, they put them in place on the first of April, otherwise known as April Fool’s Day. Since April Fool’s day it’s rained. A lot! And there’s been flooding. Lots of flooding actually whilst hosepipe bans have been in force. Who says the English haven’t got a sense of humour.

I like the rain. I have no choice, if I want to remain sane..

Still, look on the plus side. England doesn’t have deserts, we have a mild climate and no deadly snakes, spiders, crocodiles, man-eating sharks, piranhas, Rabies, Dengue Fever, Sleeping Sickness, Bilharzia, Ebola, West Nile fever, Malaria, Guinea Worm and that fish that swims up the stream of urine into your bits.

Also, no major earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Most of the rest of this deceptively beautiful planet wants to kill you, in as nasty a way as possible. Yes, Australia, I’m looking at you in particular. Our own little patch of the ecosystem, by comparison, merely wants to annoy you and depress your spirits. How fortunate we are.

Before I moved to this green and soggy land, I did a bit of research. I was surprised to find that both Central Park and Boston had twice the annual precipitation as where I live now in London. Yet to this day, no one on either side of the pond seems to believe this fact. We get it in a steady drizzle, they get it in great downpours but then have long periods of that strange phenomenon called ‘sunshine’.

However, just to be obstinate, people here wear summer clothes throughout June, first in hope, then in defiance, and finally out of spite. Over the course of the month they get progressively wetter, colder and more downhearted. Yesterday was Summer Solstice. I rained all day. On Sunday it’s officially Midsummers Day. The weather forecast is for rain all day. The bloke who thought of calling 24th June ‘midsummer’ must have the English ironic sense of humour. Midsummer really needs to be moved to about the 1st September.

Whole regions are receiving a month’s worth of liquid sunshine in an afternoon; a rain gauge comes to resemble the speedometer on a Ferrari because it fills up so quickly. You can even make your own out of a straight-sided glass or jar – just draw horizontal lines at intervals on the outside using a permanent marker. Label each line with a suitable unit of measurement;

1. Whoa!
2. Unbelievable!
3. Holy shit!
4. Get in the car, this holiday is OVER!
5. We’d better start building an ark!

Leave it outside and wait with anticipation.

It’s Royal Ascot this week and thousands of ladies will be swapping their big hats for sou’westers. The Isle Of Wight Music Festival is on right now, from Friday 22 June to Sunday 24 June. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are on headlining duty. I hope they brought umbrellas, from the pictures on the BBC it seems to be a mud bath. Then we have Wimbledon Tennis starting on Monday, this is a cue to the weather to really start chucking it down solidly for two weeks. The London ‘Summer’ Olympics are starting on the 27th July and finish on the 12th August. That’s when our summer will start, the 13th of August. I can’t wait!

The water authorities reluctantly lifted their hose pipe bans at the start of this week. Excellent, now the hosepipe ban is off I can clean my car – but it’s raining . . . .

bookmark_borderHome Sweet Home

During my childhood in the sixties, getting up in the middle of the night to have a pee was fraught with danger. I had the run the gauntlet of the monsters in the wardrobe and bogeymen behind the door waiting patiently to pounce on me, like most ten year olds I hadn’t figured out that they never pounced on me during my previous ten years because they didn’t exist..  probably..

However, it wasn’t so much my fear of monsters and the occasional bogeyman jumping out on me (well, not just that) that made me reluctant to go pee but because I had to creep out to the bathroom in total darkness and silence. In my bedroom Colin, Terry and Gerald also slept, apparently comatose but never-the-less wide awake in an instant if the floorboard so much as creaked, for it was considered just cause for a beating if you ever woke one of them up. I got to know that floorboard very well and was well versed in avoiding the creaking ones.

So, after waiting for so long that you felt your bladder was going to burst and your fellow siblings would drown in a sea of pee, you HAD to get up but you snook out of bed very quietly. You didn’t dare switch on a light and awaken any sleeping giant, in your bare feet you had to feel your way around all the obstacles on the floor and grope your way out of the room in pitch darkness.

As an aside, did you know that the most perfect instruments for finding Lego bricks on the floor are bare feet? And that stepping on an upturned plug is possible even more painful than childbirth? I was painfully aware of these things at age ten.

Then when you got to the landing you had to do the same manoeuvre, feeling your way with your bare feet and holding tightly onto the banister hoping all those obstacles on the stairs didn’t trip you up or even worse fall and wake up the house. Occasionally I’d be half way down the stairs when I’d hear “WHO’S UP!?” shouted from my parents bedroom and I’d say it was me going to the bathroom only to hear them cursing at me for waking them up – they thought it was a burglar – not like there was anything at all to steal as we were so poor but burglars didn’t know that.

It was only when you got downstairs and fumbled your way to the bathroom and shut the door quietly did you dare switch on the light – hoping of course there wasn’t someone else from the tribe already sitting there warming up the seat. One year I got the fright of my life as I crept down the stairs only to feel someone’s cold hand touch mine as they groped their way back up the stairs. I don’t think my heart has ever jumped so much, so all those stories my mother told me were true – there are bogeymen..  It was my older brother Colin returning to bed and I think we both filled our pants that night – Colin for the second time.

I was reminded about all this fumbling about in the dark recently; I was in the maze at Hever Castle taking false turns and going down dead ends, trying to get to a place of safety, of security, of where I was meant to be. I think we spend a lot of our lives groping our way blindly, not having a clear path and not knowing exactly where we are going to end up – in the bathroom – or on our butt at the bottom of the stairs.

I’m sure it’s like that for a lot of people. I went to school with some very bright sparks and they seemed from birth to have their lives carved out for them, you knew they would get married to someone great and that they would end up running a large corporation before too long, but for me and the vast majority it was more about trying to find a path to some kind of half decent life. And we’d grope our way around, trying to find a path and come to a dead end and have to go back and start again.

And even these days, forty years later I still have that sense, probably always have had, of gingerly stepping out with my bare feet, feeling my way blindly, stubbing my toes along the way, trying to find my way, to somewhere I’m meant to be, to somewhere I’m loved, to home sweet home..

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, number 16

The Irish have a reputation for being big drinkers. This is not helped by the fact that in 1914 Guinness was producing 2,652,000 barrels of beer a year, barrels that is, not pints and by 1930 it was the seventh largest company in the world. When I was growing up it just a natural step to start drinking and in my youth I drank a fair few pints but as I got into my twenties I stopped drinking almost completely. There are a couple of reasons for this, I was always designated driver as I was the only one with wheels but also my drinking previously had been as under-age and had a certain rebelliousness about it but once I was legally allowed to drink and the fear of being caught disappeared so did the thrill of drinking. In Ireland the police came into the bars frequently and would ask your age and chuck you out if they thought you were too young – and then proceed to sit down and spend the rest of the evening getting well-oiled with free drinks at the bar.

However, the main reason I stopped drinking was because I made an idiot of myself on more than a few occasions and realised that I can’t hold my drink. Friends of mine could drink copious amounts of beer and walk home but after one or two pints my higher brain centres shut down and I became a embarrassing slobbering idiot.

Someone once told me that when you start a new job then it’s important that you don’t show your true personality for the first six months and it’s good advice, keep your cards close to your chest. In 1984 I started a new job in a large factory and as it was near Christmas time I was invited to the Christmas party. I had been there a few weeks and was friendly with a few folk and we all headed to the hotel were the party was being held. I had a few drinks and chatted with a very nice woman whom I didn’t know worked in the factory with me and found out she lived roughly in the same area as I did. I suggested we share a taxi back and then I went off and mingled but towards the end of the evening realised I was wilting and needed to go home.

I went out to the reception and there was my friendly woman and she said “do you want a lift back with me?”. I said “yes, love to” and we both jumped into a mini-cab that had just arrived. I sat in the front and I tried to fumble with the radio because it was playing some dreadful turge, the taxi driver told me to leave it alone and gave me the worlds dirtiest look..Oops.. so instead I went into flirt mode with the woman and thought I was being funny but was most likely being obnoxious. I didn’t like the look of the taxi driver one bit and as I was getting out first I said to her “make sure you call me when you get home, I want to make sure you get home OK… “ and then added in “of course if you want to get out with me and stay for breakfast…” The taxi driver glared at me and we stopped at my place, I staggered out of the taxi and fumbled in my pockets for all this loose change to pay for the taxi but she waved it away and told me to get inside the house, she would be fine. I looked at the taxi driver and told him in no uncertain terms to make sure she gets home and no harm comes to her..and returned the dirty look back at him, “I’ve got your number mate” I said to him..

I collapsed in bed and as it was the weekend had two days off but went into work on the Monday morning and hunted out my woman friend to make sure she was OK (and flirt some more). She was with a group of other woman, all chatting and laughing away but as I approached they tried to suppress their laughter but were giggling away. I thought they were giggling away because I had tried my best to chat her up and I said to her trying to sound concerned “Did you manage to get home ok, I didn’t hear the phone ringing..?” and she said “yes, I got home fine” and I said “I really didn’t like the look of that taxi driver, I was worried he was going to try something on, he was very shifty looking..” and she said to me “Oh..didn’t you realise, that wasn’t a mini-cab…it was my husband come to pick me up” to howls of laughter from all the woman…

The story spread around the factory like wildfire.. I was mortified and hide myself away in my office for weeks and then left as soon as possible.

That’s why I rarely drink. The shame…

bookmark_border50 ways to leave your lover.


You Just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free.
(Paul Simon)

We broke up because you thought I was perfect and I had a pain in my stomach from never farting in front of you.

We broke up because you’re incapable of being a mature, supportive partner – not in a malicious way, just in the same way that my cat can’t do the crossword.

We broke up because you didn’t love me as much as you loved yourself

We broke up, because you paraded around aisles of a rural Tesco, with pointless stilettos you couldn’t walk in, fat rippling skinny jeans and sunglasses ( indoors), that could have given Bono’s ones a run for his money in a circumference competition- shouting out “Oh baybee, baybee where art thou” as I crawled into a shelf of some Kettle crisps ( for camouflage), dying with embarrassment!

The time that you, on our second date, laid down a stringent law for the bathroom door to be left open, whilst having a bath in close proximity of the kitchen, hall and front door. Or was it when you presented me with a gift first time out of the aforementioned bath. The gift was of the most hideous paisley crimpelene kimono, that not only wafted of the charity shop where it evolved, but was still tainted with the smell of insignia and of the old gentleman ……..that probably died in it!

You were wearing my lipstick. We figured it out from there.

We got along so well, we still do. But I just couldn’t be with a boy who insisted upon me being the big spoon.

You told me not to kiss you in public.

No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I did, it was never good enough for you. I can’t believe I stood it for 40 years.

You had a man purse.

One morning you woke up and said, very seriously, “I feel really weird.” I was so relieved.
“Me, too!” I said. “This really isn’t working, is it?”
There was a very long silence. “I meant about that ham I had yesterday night.”
If it helps, I’m really sorry.

We broke up because no one was paying me to be your therapist.

We broke up because you weren’t ready for a committed relationship, only to find out you were ready for one a month later with someone else.

We broke up because you just saw us as “friends with benefits”, and I just didn’t see the benefits.

You didn’t consider reading together as spending time together.

You would have done anything for me and I was scared by that.

We broke up because I just didn’t feel the same way that I did at the beginning of summer. But it also didn’t help that my friend found your gay porn.

I needed something you didn’t want to give me – respect.

We broke up because when I asked for a new handbag I didn’t expect it to have the same colour patterns as our missing tabby cat.

We broke up because I like Nina Simone and you like Lady GaGa.

We broke up because of an invitation. I invited you to my mother’s 50th birthday party. We broke up because two days before the party you freaked out about the party meaning “something”. We broke up because you picked me up late and never apologised. Mostly, though, we broke up because you fell asleep. Not at the wheel – you waited until we had arrived at my parent’s house, then left to curl up on a couch somewhere. We broke up because I had to explain to my relatives that my boyfriend was so tired from our drive that he had to take a nap immediately, rather than meeting everyone first. My family still mocks me about this. Mostly I am annoyed that you are in all my pictures from my mother’s party… at least you look well rested.

We broke up because you are crazy, psychotic, obsessive and delusional,
and no, this isn’t a coded message to say ‘I still love you’.

She had no ankles.
She wasn’t fat.
She just had no ankles.
Or sense of humour.
But it was mostly the lack of ankles
that did it for me.

We broke up because you were a deranged individual who made a scene at my cousin’s wedding because I wouldn’t stay glued to your side all evening.
We broke up because you tried to jump out of the car I was driving down the M42 on Christmas day and I wouldn’t pull over whilst you had another one of your hissy fits.
However, the final nail (of many) in the coffin was when you called me a fat bitch…I only weighed eight stone due to the stress of being with you!!
I clearly lost my marbles for three years but at least I finally came to my senses!
We broke up because when I was with you I felt worthless.


We broke up because when you said sorry, what you meant was that you were sorry I was making a fuss.
We broke up because after five years, you were still looking for someone special.
We broke up just when you realised she was me.
We broke up when you came to tell me this – without realising that six months had passed since you last bothered to come to see me and I was living with someone else.
Boy were you surprised. I finally understood schadenfreude on that day.


It wasn’t the food poisoning or embarrassment about throwing up in your living room in front of your family. It was when your dog licked your face, you stuck out your tongue.
Because she farted on my dick
Because she sleeps with one eye open
Because I always had to manoeuvre out of the bed in the morning to avoid the poisonous fog of last night’s gassified meal


1. We broke up because months after I had bought you a new £22K car, the best Christmas present you could give me was from the Book People; a book of sheet music. I don’t read music and I can’t play an instrument. We’d been together for nearly 10 years at this point.

2. We broke up because after 5 years together, you didn’t trust me to drive your car for a mile to the supermarket, whilst my car was being repaired. I had never had an accident in any vehicle.

3. We broke up because I wasn’t prepared to be your Daddy.

4. We broke up because you were an alcoholic with borderline personality disorder.

5. We broke up because you started seeing someone else.

6. We broke up because you were happy to live off me for over a year, and your non-financial contributions to the well-being of the relationship also dried up. God I’ve been unlucky in love. Cats are possibly the way forward.

It wasn’t the flatulence in restaurants; it was the simultaneous leg-raising. Quite unladylike.

We broke up because in a desperate attempt to be the man you thought I wanted, you ended up lying about everything

We broke up because you’d burst into a rage whenever you were wrong instead of accepting it and that scared me

We broke up because you thought you could mould me into a nice, complacent girl like your mother, you know, the one your father still beats up from time to time

We broke up because I never really loved you but I liked the friendship and the sex and it was a convenient way of living


We broke up because, on our first date you removed the tomatoes from your meal.
The next time we went out you ordered food, minus the vegetables.
You also lied to me.
And gave me vicious Thrush.
It was mostly the tomatoes though.


We broke up because once on a night out I was feelin great until you (a beautiful woman) saw all the young things with legs up to their armpits and accused me of lusting after them and I felt insulted by such trivia, knowing that if I tried to explain that girls younger than my daughter don’t pull me that way (beyond aesthetic appreciation) and that I’m not a one-dimensional pathetic male stereotype, and that you who bangs on about feminism ad nauseam would refuse to understand if I ever tried to tell you any of this (made that mistake already).

We broke up because at every opportunity when the issue came up in company you, a supposedly ex-Catholic, would have to declare, unprompted, that you were an atheist, as if this was a revolutionary thing to be and say.

We broke up because you had a go at me for forgetting and saying ‘mankind’ and not ‘humankind’, just one too many times…

We broke up because in bed the routine was that at the start you would say ‘No, no’, then when I realised this was a tease and went ahead, you romped all over me, coming and coming and saying it was soooo great, and then saying ‘Don’t ever do this with anyone else’. And altho the sex was wonderful for me too, I just got tired of the tedium of your script.

We broke up because I never really recovered from the sudden outbreak of rage when I was 7 minutes late on our 3rd or 4th date.

We broke up when in IKEA shopping for stuff for you, and I came along cause I wanted to keep company, you flew into a rage in front of everybody when I answered my mobile when a female work colleague who you knew rang me and I spoke for 30 seconds to tell her I was busy.

We broke up because on a Saturday afternoon I’d forgotten to book a popular restaurant and before I phoned you to arrange things I suffered a panic attack of fear and flight response and realised this was not right.

I now realise that on the online test for BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) 6 of 9 symptoms describe you. Everything falls into place. And although I still care for you, miss you and even love you, I was right to finally find the guts to extricate myself after 3 years.

No more ‘Walking on Eggshells‘ (a book I highly recommend).


bookmark_borderIrishmen vs The Rest of the World

I got this in an email a few years ago, thought it was amusing (but still had a large element of truth) and added my own slant to it.

The Rest of the World

1) You spy a woman you’d like to sleep with and think of something witty to say.

2) You go up to her. You say something witty and unique (so you think). In her mind, it just sounds really corny but if you’re cute you’ve got a chance.

3) You buy her a drink and she thinks you’re cute (or she’s just desperate) and you exchange witty banter.

4) You exchange phone numbers and say you’ll give her a call sometime.

5) That sometime must be three days. Call too early you’re too desperate. Call too late she thinks you’re not interested.

6) Three days pass and you give her a call and ask her out to coffee. Coffee first because you don’t want to spend loads on her for dinner if she turns out to be a dudd.

7) You pick her up at her place. She checks out your car and the way you dress and sees if you brought her a token present, and if you open her car door. If she only gets 2 out of 4, then she’ll end the date at coffee.

8) Coffee becomes like a job interview. So what do you do? Where you originally from? What kind of movies do you like? What do you usually do on the weekends? What kind of food do you like? If guy likes girl then he’ll use the “What kind of food do you like?” to transition into the dinner date.

9) Dinner date. More of the date interview. At this juncture, she sizes you up by checking out how much you make by the type of restaurant you take her and how you treat wait staff.

10) Dinner is over and the bill comes. Girl does the wallet reach to test out if he’s a cheapskate. If he says don’t even think about footing for the bill, then he’s good to go. If he say, ok let’s go dutch, he’s toast.

11) You drop her home and say you had a nice time and wish her goodnight. What you do at this point will make or break a second date. Do you kiss her on the lips, forehead, cheek? Do you give her a big hug or a hug and a pat on the back? Or what? If the guy really likes her and wants her on the second date then he either kisses her on the cheek or gives her a great big hug. He wants to really get laid so he kisses her on the cheeks AND gives her a great big hug.

12) At this point she becomes smitten and anxiously awaits his call.

13) You call in a week. Guy wants to make like he has a life and has no time for her but despite his busy schedule has made time for her. She becomes even more smitten so he takes her to a movie.

15) After the movie, he tries the hand reach and tries to hold her hand. He does and she blushes.

16) He invites her for a drink at his house. She says it’s getting late and she is expecting him to kiss her on the lips. He kisses her on the lips.

17) Guy has a real good chance at getting laid. He sends her a text message and reminds her that he had a really great time last night. She’s smitten and showing the text message to her co-workers and friends.

18) You can’t wait so you call her the next day and set up another date ASAP.

19) You invite her over to your house for dinner. You cook her an elaborate meal.

20) Pop a bottle of wine and make-out in the living room and then you sleep with her. You bid her goodnight and tell her you will call.

21) She never hears from you again.


1) Get yourself drunk enough to get the balls to walk up to a woman and talk to her.

2) Buy her drinks and get her drunk and make her laugh a lot.

3) You both stumble drunk to her place and end up in bed.

4) Once you finally become sober, you both realise you’re married.

5) To each other.

bookmark_borderFit for nothing?

Do your worse..

I was wandering back from getting some tea this morning in the Neuro wing when I spotted an elderly gentleman looking a bit lost. I asked him where he was looking for and he said the M&S restaurant so he could get some proper food. It’s quite a long walk around the University to the restaurant and not easy to find so I said follow me and I’ll take him to it. He was dressed in that cycling outfit that seems popular now, sleek and skin tight and he was wearing the expensive shoes and carrying a helmet so I started chatting away with him. He was 76 and been cycling all his life, this morning he had cycled down from Rose Hill, about five miles away and I joked that that was easy as it’s basically all downhill, the problem would be going back up. He laughed and said that won’t be a problem on his bike with twenty gears. So I asked him why was he in the Neuro Wing and mentioned that his gait was not fluid, he was limping. He said he’d been hit recently by a car when on his bike and damaged some nerves and thus in the Neuro wing. I asked him just how many times he had been hit and it took him about five minutes to list all the injuries he had suffered, arms broken, shoulders smashed, jaw, head, teeth and now this leg neuro injury.

So, I said to him that when I first came to London 25 years ago I cycled a lot (couldn’t afford a car!) but I kept getting hit and had actually been chased by one driver after I berated him for almost crushing me under his wheels. After that I gave up cycling and took up swimming, it seemed safer and less chance of ending up like jam on the side of the road. He smiled and said he understood, especially if you have children but he was addicted to cycling and despite all the injuries wouldn’t give it up for something less hazardous. However, I find it ironic that he does this cycling to keep fit but because of it he’s got a long long list of injuries and hobbles everywhere.. I have another friend who has a metal plate in her forearm because of being knocked off her bike.. It sets off alarms when she goes through metal detectors.. And a colleague at work plays football twice a week and is constantly hobbling, in pain and complaining of some injury and he’s young and does footie to keep fit.

I don’t play a sport regularly, I will watch it occasionally, especially rugby and the world cup every four years and my regular exercise involves going for long walks but I stand up straight, I don’t hobble or limp, and unlike most (ex)nurses I don’t have back problems and I don’t set off alarms when I go through airport security detectors.

However, as I left my friend off at the restaurant I said to him that all that gear must be expensive and he said yes, very, but over the years he had received over £100,000 in compensation for all his accidents. He thanked me and went limping off and I thought about it, £100,000 isn’t nearly enough compensation for limping for the rest of your life, no amount of money is, I’m going to stick to long walks…or invest in lots of bubblewrap.

bookmark_borderPerfect Singles Ad

SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I’m a very good girl who LOVES to play and I respond very well to stroking and petting. Throw anything away and I will fetch it back and at the end of a long hard day I will fetch your slippers. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pick-up truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I’ll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me. Call (404) 875-6420 and ask for Daisy, I’ll be waiting.

bookmark_borderSquirrel Porn?

I’ve been having ‘issues’ with my internet connection since the start of the year and had various blokes from British Telecom come and suck their cheeks in and try to fix my line. It seems my line goes over the roof of the building and the local squirrels have been interfering with my internet connection. I find this somewhat bemusing, I have an image in my head of some grey squirrel sitting on the top of my roof with a laptop downloading squirrel porn and getting right narked off because I have put paid to his nocturnal activities. In much the same way one can buy squirrel proof bird feeders I’m in the market for squirrel proof internet connection as I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the little bleeders hack into my system again and starting syphoning off my internet feed.

I don’t have much luck with wildlife – which is surprising as I have two teenage boys and therefore should be well versed in raising wildlife. In fact I don’t really do well with any animals, a long long time ago I worked at Battersea Dogs Home. I lasted four hours….yes, a whole morning at Battersea Dogs home. I pitched up and they gave me two pairs of wellies and three teeshirts with Battersea Dogs Home logo on them and set me to work. it all seemed to be going OK until they asked me to clean out the cage with the crazy German Shepard, I looked at it and it glared at me and I thought no effing way am I going in THAT cage but the bastards pushed me in and shut the cage door immediately afterward.

I was absolutely fine for oohhhhhhh two point five seconds where-upon the crazy dog leapt at me and sank his teeth straight into my left wellie! So I obviously tried pulling him off and at the same time hobble out of the cage but this brute wasn’t having any of it, he sank his teeth into me even further and I was in agony so I grabbed my brush and started hitting the crazy bugger over the head trying to get it to release me – and the other staff got incredibly annoyed with me as I hit him over the head with my broom trying to make it let go of my leg, quote “don’t hit him, you’re hurting him!” as he sank his fangs further and further into my leg…funny that…eventually I managed to get the broom handle inside his jaws and sort of prise his jaw open and then in a deft move shove it down his throat whilst I reversed at great speed out’a the cage..

The staff were pissed with me – as if I forced my leg into the bloody dogs mouth… I went and got some bandages, a tetanus shot, went home and never came back but at least I got three teeshirts and two pairs of wellies out of them, pity one wellie had teeth marks..and blood..

However, after that little exercise in meeting my nemesis I thought I deserved a quieter life and got a position in the local library. Then one day a couple of chickens walked in and went;

“Buk Buk BUK”

I thought about this for a few seconds and decided the chickens wanted three books, and promptly gives them some. Without further ado, the chickens walk out. Around midday, the two chickens are back and looking quite annoyed. One leans over to me and says…

“Buk Buk BuuuuUUK!”

I decide that the chickens want another three books and promptly give them some more. The chickens leave as before. About an hour later the two chickens march back in, looking very angry now and nearly shouting…

“Buk Buk Buk Buk BuUUUUKKKK!”

I’m starting to get worried now about where all the stock is going so I give them three more books but also follow them and find out what’s happening.. I followed them out of the library, out of town, and into to the park. At this point, I hide behind a tree, not wanting to be seen. And then I see the two chickens throwing the books at a frog in a pond, to which the frog just kept repeating, “Rrredit Rrredit Rrredit…”

bookmark_borderChildhood Lessons

Was chatting to a new woman at work the other day, she’s from Ireland too and I asked her how many brothers and sisters she has, she told me eight including herself, I beat her by one as there were nine of us not counting parents when I was growing up but then I asked the non-Irish around the table and the most was five, and for everyone else it was one or two.

Having so many brothers and sisters wasn’t all that bad, for starters the toilet seat was always warm because invariably someone had just got off it, this was particularly advantageous during the bitterly cold winters and doubly so when we only had an outside loo, doing ‘the back door trot’ during those days was a test of endurance . There was a game we played at birthday parties called musical chairs and I always won because it was just like being at home – as soon as one of your brothers or sisters got up to go somewhere you immediately sat in that nice warm space they had vacated  – and this was especially true when it came to the toilet. Between six brothers, two sisters, mum, dad, assorted friends, dogs and cats, assorted friends dogs and cats..well, there really wasn’t enough space to ermmm swing a cat (as the cat can testify).

Just to make matters worse, the house was divided into the ‘sitting’ room and the ‘good’ room, we spent our evenings crammed into the sitting room watching the telly (or attempting to peer over older siblings shoulders) and arguing which of the three channels to watch (Scooby-doo on BBC1 or Wacky Races on ITV) but ‘The Good Room’ as it was referred to was strictly out of bounds, that space was sacrosanct, you only went in there when summoned, it was like being summoned into the Headmasters office at school, you knew that it meant you were in trouble and you never went there intentionally. It was exactly the same size as the sitting room but because it didn’t contain sprawling bodies, dogs, cats, piles of ironing, clothes drying in front of a smoky fire, comics, every newspaper printed since the dawn of time and assorted broken toys it seemed to be the size if the school assembly hall, I’m sure my voice echoed when in there. It was the room my parents kept good for visitors and contained a nice suite of furniture and a coffee table. My parents would have visitors in there – ok well my mother would have visitors and chinwag away in there as my dad would invariably have his visitors in the garden shed where he would smoke a pipe, whittle a bit of wood with a penknife and ‘chew the cud’ with his one or two friends.

Life at home was a bit cramped at times, as we all got older we gather up more and more friends and at times the houses did seem like it was under attack by a plague of locusts, privacy was non-existent and I have no idea how my two sisters survived with any dignity at all in that swarm of bodies. I had to share a bedroom with Colin, Terry and Gerald and it wasn’t just a bedroom; clothes, underwear, socks and just about everything else was fought over, I think the first time I wore a pair of matching socks was when I was seventeen – which was about the first time I wore ‘brand new underwear’ as I had bought them myself. You won’t understand what a treat it was to wear socks that only had the required amount of holes (one!) and underwear that hadn’t been passed down from your great grandfather and didn’t have the texture of sandpaper.

Growing up in the Northern Irish version of the Waltons did have it’s advantages, it was always easy to blame someone else (younger and more gullible) for any crimes and misdemeanour’s (of which there were many) and one did learn to fend for me’self at an early age and not to be afraid to stand my ground and fight someone much bigger than myself. This has become pattern throughout the rest of my life – as practically every boss, supervisor, manager and bully that’s ever come across me will testify much to their own chagrin. 😉


bookmark_borderFrance. 1:01

I went to Paris last autumn, got the Eurostar train there, two hours twenty minutes, not bad going and delivered into the heart of Paris. It was one of those rare days when neither the trains, ferries nor airports were on strike. (I think in fact the farmers were on strike but as nobody could tell the difference it made little odds.)

In general, France is a safe destination, though I should warn you that, from time to time, it is invaded by Germany. Traditionally, the French surrender more or less at once and apart from a temporary shortage of Scotch whisky life for the visitor generally goes on much as before. Fortunately the channel tunnel has made it much easier for the French government to flee to London.

Chief amongst its contributions to western culture are champagne, Camembert cheese, escargot, the guillotine, Sacha Distel, oh and croissants which is interesting for two reasons, this is a previously unknown use of the term ‘culture’ and secondly, croissant is one of two words that Americans can never pronounce correctly – the other of course being aluminium (sic).

What I do like about France is it’s complete disregard for any EU rules – or even any rules at all, the EU passes all these laws and the British implement them immediately but the French tend to ignore them, it’s a bit like Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean “And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules”. Consequently, driving around Paris is like taking part in the Monaco Grand Prix and even just trying to cross a road is fraught with danger as traffic lights are ‘advisory’. The French know this because they see their President and even minor ministers blatantly flaunting the rules and think well, if they can do it…

The French of course can’t bear anyone who isn’t French and will give anyone who doesn’t speak perfect French a hard time. I have a friend who went to Paris a few years ago, Murphy, a furniture dealer decided to go to Paris to see what he could find. After arriving in Paris, he visited with some manufacturers and selected a line that he thought would sell well back home. To celebrate the new acquisition, he decided to visit a small bistro and have a glass of wine. As he sat enjoying his wine, he noticed that the small place was quite crowded, and that the other chair at his table was the only vacant seat in the house.

Before long, a very beautiful young Parisian girl came to his table; asked him something in French (which Murphy couldn’t understand); so he motioned to the vacant chair and invited her to sit down. He tried to speak to her in English, but she did not speak his language. After a couple of minutes of trying to communicate with her, he took a napkin and drew a picture of a wine glass and showed it to her. She nodded, so he ordered a glass of wine for her.

After sitting together at the table for a while, he took another napkin and drew a picture of a plate with food on it, and she nodded.. They left the bistro and found a quiet cafe that featured a small group playing romantic music. They ordered dinner, after which he took another napkin and drew a picture of a couple dancing. She nodded, and they got up to dance. They danced until the cafe closed and the band was packing up.

Back at their table, the young lady took a napkin and drew a picture of a four-poster bed.

To this day, Murphy has no idea how she figured out he was in the furniture business.

bookmark_borderSickly Dancing


except me..

The late seventies and eighties were full of great dancing movies; Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Footloose, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing and during that time my friends and I spent many an evening standing on the edge of a crowded dance floor awkwardly shuffling our feet. I once won a dance competition; really, I was simply trying to wriggle my way through a packed dance floor (rather unsuccessfully) to get to the bar to order some drinks. The DJ stopped me as I wormed my way past and told me that I had won third prize and gave me a small bottle of scotch – which was handy as I was going to ask for a scotch when I got to the bar – result! (Obviously the competition on the floor must have been particularly dire!)

There aren’t many things I’m not a total expert at;  dry walling, electrics, plumbing (both male and female), auto repairs, working jack hammers, mowing lawns, computers, knitting dollies, forking, Rubiks Cube, introspection, walking on water, making marmalade and rustling up a four course meal from a near empty fridge but there’s one area where I fall down – and when I say fall down I mean that literally because it’s dancing. I really can’t get the hang of it but it’s not like I haven’t tried. We Irish are meant to have a natural rhythm but when I try dancing it’s like some mischievous little leprechaun has tied my shoelaces together and I keep falling over. I’m like a grizzly bear that’s been shot with a tranquilliser gun, I lurch all over the place crashing into everything and everyone. I’m the Irish version of Patrick Swayze – Paddy Sways (a lot!). Agnes de Mille said that the truest expression of a people is in its dance and music, if that’s the case then we Irish are in big trouble..

When I was a teenager in the late seventies I would try to strut my funky stuff to Michael Jacksons ‘Blame It On The Boogie’ in BJ’s disco – which is funny for a number of reasons; not just because I looked like Steven Hawkings trying to escape the confines of his wheelchair but  ‘boogie’ is something you only find in your handkerchief  in Northern Ireland, not on the dance floor and BJ’s (seriously) was the name of the place we practised our lurching. We were so naive them days.

Readers of a certain vintage will remember Boris Yeltsin dancing in a similar style in the 90’s, it seems somewhat appropriate that it’s the bear that represents Russia because his dancing was just as bad as mine..

Actually, on second thoughts he looks like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever compared to my groovy moves.

You may think I’m exaggerating and wonder about Irish dancing (and Riverdance) but what you don’t know is that Irish dancing is a direct result of the Irish inability to dance with any style or grace at all. Irish dancing has only been around since Riverdance, I can’t find anyone who’s heard of Irish dancing before it burst on the scene. It’s not well known that Irish dancing only started only a few years before Riverdance and it’s even less well known that it was me who started it. You see, I started going to dancing lessons in the early eighties in the hope of emulating John Travolta – this time in his Grease incarnation – but after a few lessons the instructor got so fed up with me that he gave me the following instructions; I was to stop flailing my arms around like a windmill on speed (and he literally strapped my arms to my sides!) and then he told me to imagine I was standing on red hot coals.. three seconds later I had invented Irish dancing. You can thank me later Michael Flatley.

A few years ago I bravely went to do Cerok dancing with a friend in Putney and the evening started off okay, about a dozen of us newbies and the instructor trying to teach us a few basic moves; turn, swivel, twist, pull and repeat ad nauseam, ad nauseam being the correct term here because I was sick of it within minutes. However, I persevered trying to get the swing of it (groan) and foolishly imagined even with my kack-handed attempts I was starting to get the hang of it but at 8pm the hall started to fill up with the regulars and everything speeded up big time. There weren’t that many blokes there and apparently it was bad manners to refuse a dance so I spent the rest of the night being passed around from (expert) dancer to (expert) dancer. It was like being thrown to the wolves, I barely got out alive and never went back.. It was like that time I went ski-ing, three mates and I walked into a hotel disco and there were no blokes there, just a room full of woman and a Mexican wave of ‘BOYS!’ spreading across the dance floor.

So in a last ditch desperate effort to improve my dancing technique I started going to ballet lessons here in London. I really threw my heart and soul into it, even forsaking my drinking buddies to practice my technique, it was a tough job but I suppose someone had to do it. One of my friends took his video camera along to show just how much my technique has improved over the years, I hope you agree that it was worth it.

Next month I’m starting Pole Dancing lessons. How hard can it be?

bookmark_borderCupid Stunts

I can barely believe it either.

Today is the 29th of February and the one day every 1,460 days (aka four years) when I am a bit wary of unexpected surprises and watch my back. In this country at least it’s the one day when woman are meant to propose to their man, not like there’s anything stopping woman from proposing any other day of the year but it’s a tradition here in the UK and the media will be so full of it tonight and tomorrow.

Marriage proposals are a minefield, many many years ago, I was at  watching my local rugby team play on a cold wet Saturday afternoon. At half time, the stadium announcer advised us that some idiot wished to propose to his beloved on the very muddy pitch. On they came and headed for the centre circle; meanwhile the stadium as one rose and serenaded the bride to be thus;

“Get your tits out
Get your tits out
Get your tits out ..for the lads…”

The romance of it all still brings a tear to my eye…

A friend proposed to his girlfriend at around 20,000 feet. They were going skydiving for her birthday and he asked her in the plane before they jumped. She said yes and he was overjoyed. It was short-lived as her chute never opened and she plummeted to her death. It’s fine though coz he has a new wife.


I don’t know of anyone who’s actually been proposed to on the 29th February and I can’t tell their story so here’s how not to do it everyone.. Now, if one of you ladies were mad enough to propose to me then I think a food court is not the right place, jetting me off to some tropical paradise would probably be OK but a food court… hmmm

If you are going to do it then you obviously need to do it in style, say fly over to Portugal and surprise her, I know this is fictional but this is my idea of how to do it ladies. I’ll even move to Portugal with enough hints.

Colin Firth proposal to Aurélia

And since this is a once in four years day then how about a little romance, this is a sweet video from one of my favourite movies and a smashing song too. Who says romance is of all days..

bookmark_border008. Licensed To Date

These days if you want to drive a car you have to do a theory test and then if you pass that then you do a practical test, this can take quite a few months or even years, I have a friend who took six attempts to pass her practical driving test, in Ireland we just need to plough a field in a reasonably straight line.

So I was talking to a friend the other day and she was moaning about ex’s in general and it occurs to me that perhaps men should have to do a theory test and then a practical test before they are allowed to date, they could even get a license at the end of the process and any potential dates could ask to see it before even arranging a date, Licensed To Thrill, so to speak.

I’m thinking, like the British Driving Test that there has to be a minimum age before you are even allowed to do the theory test, it’s seventeen in this country and I think that’s not a bad age to start studying and hitting the books every evening and going to classes, at least you’d be motivated.

I think some of the books you’d have to study would be;

Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners

That would sort out traditional manners; holding doors open, saying please and thank you but there are so many more things a modern young gentleman needs to master such as toilet lid etiquette, when is it appropriate to trim toe nails and whom gets to sleep on the wet patch and for this they need to study a much more modern tombe such as;

Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners

Now that’s manners covered, next is practical skills, gaining an understanding that it’s actually the blokes job to cut the grass, hack down that tree (yes, even in sexual equality 2012) and take out the trash and how doing this can enhance your future dating prospects. On top of this other skills required include painting, plumbing and a wiliness to put up shelves without drilling holes into pipes and for this I’d recommend the following;

Reader’s Digest Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual

Ok this is from 1973 but if it was good enough for your father (and me as there is one on the ‘extremely well put up’ shelf) then it’s good enough for you, indeed it’s important to learn to do repairs the proper old fashioned way before learning there are modern contraptions like spray paint and self-adhesive wallpaper..look upon it as an apprenticeship in all things practical. When you have mastered the correct way to paint without managing to get more paint on your hands than the wall then you may progress to something a tad more modern;

The Reader’s Digest Do-It-Yourself Guide to Preventing Costly HomeRepairs: Over 19,000 Easy Hints & Tips

Then we need to have at least a basic understanding of gardens, they are not solely there for barbecues, sun lounging  and football, they are there to enjoy in their own right, consequently the book I’ve had for many years is the following;

Royal Horticulture Society Gardening Through the Year

This small tome of 352 pages (nearly one for each day of the year) will educate you in the where of’s & whens of the garden, never again will you mix up your wisteria from your buddleia, your ceanothus from your fritillaria and you won’t snigger when someone enquires how big is your periwinkle is this year.

Next we have cooking, a subject this blog has touched upon on previously here but I can recommend these books too;

Men’s Cooking: A No-Nonsense Guide to Buying, Cooking and Eating Great Food (Owner’s Kitchen Manual)

How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food

It’s said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach but I know this works equally well for woman’s hearts, you will be forgiven a lot of crimes and misdemeanours if your partner comes home after a hard day to find dinner cooked and a glass of wine waiting for her. Spent all day shacked up on settee watching football?, cook a meal and all is forgiven, you see, historically woman expect so little from us men, we have conditioned woman over the centuries not to expect anything from us so small gestures like cooking supper and Body Shop Mint Foot Lotion massages will flush away a multitude of sins.

Next, Parenting skills

Get a cute dog, impress your potential date at your nurturing skills, if you can look after a dog without losing it (or trading it for a first edition Batman comic in mint condition) then maybe you can be trusted with a baby. Maybe.

PS I know you won’t understand this but dogs are babe magnets, the smaller the dog the more potent this effect, no scientist has ever been able to explain this but the closer your dog looks to a little white scotty the more the opposite sex will be unable to resist you, the owner. Go figure.

And then finally we come to Rumpy-Pumpy.

For heaven sake (and your own sanity) go out immediately and purchase a copy of Greys anatomy, study it fully to find out where the clitoris actually is, it’s not really that difficult you know, it’s not like trying to find a needle in a haystack and even in the dark there are various cues as to where it is, you can take how tightly your partner is pulling your hair as a big hint, however if you are a complete  nincompoop then you will need to study the following closely;

The Good Orgasm Guide: All a Girl Needs for a Great Time

I know this book back to front, inside out and upside down – which is a spooky co-incidence as these are just some of the positions it teaches you. And of course this manual as it cover both manners and sex;

She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman

You see, I can tell you all these things because I’ve been there, bought the teeshirt and have the scars to prove it. By the time I got to 45 I finally had gathered enough experience to be allowed in the deep end of the dating pool but you will stay in the shallow end until you learn these lessons and pass your tests.

And if you require proof that this works then look no further than my ex flatmate Eduardo. He came to me directly from his momma’s house in Peroga, Italy and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t get a date in this country, after all, he was Italian and a doctor and at home he had his pick of beautiful woman. But what he didn’t understand was that Italian woman were resigned to never ever house training their men, they had given up the struggle but in this country woman are made of more determined stock and won’t accept low standards. Therefore I spent six months teaching him how to do laundry, cook a meal, iron his clothes, make his bed and stop treating woman like objects.

Eventually I let him loose in the dating world and he was a hit with the woman, an Italian doctor that could cook (sort’of), clean, make beds and knew where the G Spot was… yes, you can thank me later ladies.

So, in summary, it’s very simple guys, like attracts like, nice woman are only attracted to nice guys, if you don’t have the looks of George Clooney then these few manuals, studied diligently and kept in your home for the rest of your life will greatly enhance the odds of you will waking up with someone nice every morning.

bookmark_borderMoving House

It seems House is on its final season. I’ve only ever watched twenty minutes of one early episode and then had to switch it off. Anyone reading this from the other side of the pond will wonder about this but everyone this side of the pond will understand why we can’t watch it. You see, we all know Hugh Laurie from the eighties as one half of the duo A Little Bit of Fry and Laurie and as the dopey Prince of Wales in Blackadder;


and then there was ‘Jeeves and Wooster’;


So for almost thirty years Hugh Laurie has been doing comedy and the odd Merchant Ivy film but then suddenly he’s been transmogrified into some grumpy American Chief of Diagnostic Medicine and has an American accent and getting awards left right and centre. And it’s weird, like I’ve suddenly been transported to a different Universe where Hugh Laurie is a straight American actor. It’s hard to put this into context for my American friends but it’s like Jay Leno suddenly popping up on the BBC playing the part of Prince Charles for eight years and then trying to sell this back to America, you’d be sitting there the entire time unable to concentrate on the actual show/plot because you’d be thinking three things;

(a) but that’s Jay Leno !
(b) when’s he going to say something funny?
(c) how the hell does he do that Brit accent so well?

So anyway, hats off to Hugh Laurie for pulling that one off, but I’ve never watched House because it does not compute in my head – it just freaks me out, however, I’ve been thinking what are Fox going to do for a follow up? And I’d like to put forward the following suggestion.

Detached.   The daily goings on of ex-priest with a brilliant mind but Tourette’s syndrome, a mischievous fellow who was thrown out of the seminary after completing his training for scientifically and logically disproving the existence of God, who then moved to California to become a part time Bay Watch Life Guard, part time Paramedic and full time vampire hunter that incidentally does a side line in ballroom dancing.. There, I think that covers most bases, I can’t see why it won’t be a massive hit and my acceptance speech at the Emmy’s should be interesting – what with the Tourette’s syndrome..

bookmark_borderThe Correct Protocol?

What wig?

There’s a guy I come across occasionally at work, he’s about 55 and been going grey and thin on top for quite a while. Last year I met him in the corridor and his hair was no longer grey but very dark – a very blocky black actually and he obviously dyed it himself with a home kit. At the time I wasn’t sure what the correct and appropriate protocol was, does one say ‘hey, I like what you’ve done with your hair..”  even though it was a complete and utter mess or should I ignore it completely.? I manfully struggled to maintain eye contact with him and not stare at his hair (don’t look up…DON’T look up!) and I am particularly proud to say that I managed not to even smirk or snigger but it was a close run thing.

That was last year. I still only see him occasionally but the last time I saw him he suddenly had a suspiciously well groomed full head of hair. In cockney rhyming slang he had a ‘syrup’  (a syrup of figs = wig). And again I’m not sure of the protocol, can I mention it, can I say “nice wig…”   and hey, can I try it on…or place it on a small passing dog to keep the mooch warm in the snow…  This is how my mind works and I’ve now decided to avoid that office at all costs because I’m just going to blurt out something inappropriate sooner or later. The last time I took the piss out of someone’s wig he sentenced me to three years hard labour.

However, someone from his office told me something interesting the other day and I found this fascinating, it seems he has not one but a selection of wigs, and he swaps them around and said to one of the girls (telling me this in all seriousness) that he was nipping off early to go get his hair cut.. and next day he came in with a short wig on…

My mind boggles at this, surely to God he knows that everyone is aware he is wearing a wig, he does work a lot by himself and I think he’s got a lot of balls to even wear a wig but to try fooling everybody… that’s just weird..

And I’m curious, very curious; I met a girl last year and she was wearing a wig, I (bravely) asked her why she was wearing a wig and she said she had alopecia and took off her wig and was practically bald underneath – and instantly…INSTANTLY my mind is in the gutter and wants to know… are you hairless everywhere..and does it save you (a) a lot of discomfort at the beauty parlour and (b) a lot of money too…  but did I dare ask her that when we were both sober?? I never did find out..

I had another friend, a woman who presented me with another ‘correct protocol’ moment, she went off to get a boob job and on the Monday when she returned to work after a few weeks off she was very noticeably larger in the chest. We knew she was off having enhancements but what is the correct thing to say “hey, nice boobs..ummm..can I cop a feel..?” and is this the one and only time when a man can justifiably stare at a woman’s chest and admire her boobs without getting slapped? The thing is, I know every single female friend of hers had a feel…  and I’m curious… I mean I’d like to research what they feel like too…ahem..from a purely scientific perspective of course… honest yer Honour..

Things were a lot less complicated during the Stone Age..

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, part 15. Oh Baby..

During my previous career training as a nurse I had to work a few weeks on the Labour Ward, I absolutely loved it, probably because it was so intense and (excuse the pun) so hands on – or in this case hands in.

The Midwives were great and very down to earth and most of the mothers were great too, it’s a time of great excitement and beaming smiles – once baby had popped out of course! Most mothers were on their first or second births but occasionally the midwives would come across someone who’d been there more than a few times. One Sunday afternoon I was working with Margaret (name changed to protect the guilty!) and a mother came in straight from A&E (ER for our American friends), she was about to pop and we got all the equipment ready and asked the mum to remove her pants (obviously!). Mum asked Margaret did she recognise her and Margaret said no, not really – she wasn’t really paying attention trying to get everything ready but then when the mum had undressed and Margaret started to check how many centimetres she was dilated and had her fingers half way up her jacksie she suddenly said “Oh! NOW I know who you are!!”

My mouth fell open and I gave her that look, you know the one, the one that says “YOU recognise people, not by their faces, not by their voices but by looking at their jacksies?!?! …”   She realised what she had implied and tried backpedalling but it was too late – I was going to tell absolutely everyone in the coffee room that evening!

(But between thou and I, I wonder, if Margaret was ever called up to one of those police line ups and had to identify some crook, would she be asking for everyone to drop their pants or else she wouldn’t recognise them… ?)

I told that tale to one of my friends, he said he knows how she feels, he says there are some folk he only recognises by looking at their jacksie too – and he’s not a doctor..just a bad bad lad!

One weekend I had a mum with a big ornate gothic script “EDDIE” tattoo on the inside of her thigh and Eddie was there, holding her hand and doing all the right things. For almost 12 hours, we soothed, cajoled, encouraged and cheered on this lady. I brought Eddie into it: “Look at Eddie, he loves you and the baby so much, breathe with Eddie, keep going, Eddie, you hold her hand” blah, blah, blah.. 12 hours of sweat and tears, near exhaustion and trying my best to involve Eddie and make it a brilliant caring sharing experience for both of them..

Close to the end and I start to realise that something’s up, Eddie’s got more and more stony-faced and silent throughout the day..

He’s actually glaring at me now.

A thought strikes me, “Ummmm, is your name Eddie?”

With the most hateful glance, he grunts, “No!”


PS I probably should explain that at that point I had been in England for only two years and my accent was as thick as treacle, so when I asked him at the start ‘are you Eddie?’ he thought I asked ‘are you ready..?’ and said yes ..Doh.


bookmark_borderMay contain nuts – part three


It’s not common knowledge that most nurses tend to spend a lot of their working day in a slightly distorted reality field but it’s true, we see and get involved in things that probably looks quite odd from outside but is just another day for a nurse.

One day in A&E (ER to our American friends) I had this huge guy come in and he was writhing in pain, bright red face, creased over into a ball… the Sister in charge sighed and said “not you again Alec!” and asked me to take him to a cubicle. I helped him get on a trolley and he was pleading with me for some painkillers. I was young(ish!) and very naïve so I asked the oncall to come see him ASAP, the doc came in, took one look at him, swore and told him to sling his hook and get out and stop wasting our time, he wasn’t getting any drugs from us.. I was new there and didn’t know the score but this guy looked like he was in real agony and I was convinced there was indeed something wrong with him. He got really angry under all the pain, told me he wanted to die, left the department and walked out to the main road waiting for a car to come. A taxi came along and Alec threw himself in front of the car, the car pulled up easily as the road had speed humps. So Alec stood up and started shouting at the driver “come on you B*******…run me over!!” The driver was pissed and started beeping his horn at Alec but Alec just walked closer to the front of the car and kept on shouting “come on you B******do it! Are you chicken!!”.  More cars came along and Alec wouldn’t get off the road so I thought I’d better call the police as I knew there was trouble coming.

Alec was calling the driver all the names of the day and the driver was getting very pissed off and more and more cars were building up behind him honking their horns and cursing away at him. A small crowd was gathering when Alec started kicking the first car and then he grabbed the metal antenna and snapped it in half. At this point the driver got out and they engaged in fisticuffs and wrestled each other to the ground.

Fortunately the police arrived at this point and separated Alec from the driver but he was a big guy and it took six…yes SIX policemen to throw him into the back of their van, he went ballistic in the meat wagon and managed to smash his head against one of the seats, (at least that’s what the policeman told me!). He was bleeding furiously and thus the police had to carry him out, take him across the road and bring him, yup, you guess it, into our A&E.. Sister just groaned again, the policeman threw him onto a trolley and literally sat on him whilst they handcuffed him to the frame and the sister tried to attend to his wound. He was like a bucking broncho at this point, even with six policemen he was still giving them trouble but Sister eventually got him stitched up and the police carted him off to the cells.

Two weeks later he was back in – looking as right as rain – and asking for more painkillers.. this time it was my turn to groan..

I learnt many lessons in that A&E, such as;

If you’re a patient then don’t waste your time asking the A&E staff if anyone has any weed…trust me, we don’t.

Never take your goldfish out of the bowl and play with it on your tummy because it may “occidentally” swim up your vagina.

Make sure your husband and boyfriend don’t turn up at the labour ward at the same time.

If a patient arrives at A&E with a suitcase send them away, it’s not a friggin hotel you know..

Don’t stick your penis in a vacuum cleaner hose because your friends at school told you it was next best thing if you couldn’t get a girl;

(a) it will buy you a trip to A&E and (b) it will hurt like hell.

And finally, “the little white one” and “the one for my heart” are the worlds two most common medications.

bookmark_borderValentines Day 2012

Always have a Plan B..

I was walking back home this evening at about 7pm and my path was blocked by a gang of blokes all gathered outside a shop.. I was slightly irritated because there’s never anyone around these streets at night and suddenly they were blocking my way…grrrrr.  But then the penny dropped and I realised why they were all crowding around one particular shop – it was a florist…and it’s Valentines Day..

It was interesting watching them, by 7pm you can guarantee that, even in Tooting, every single red rose would have been sold out long ago and I could see the look of concern on their faces…what bunch of flowers would substitute for a dozen red roses, I could see them, weighing up the options and making a grab for a bouquet before one of the other guys did – been there, done that, have the scars to prove it.

I think this is a rite of passage, you see, all the blokes standing there making last minute grabs, they were all under 40, by the time every man’s got to 40 we have learnt (sometimes painfully) to get ourselves organised at least a few days before, we’ve put the orders in, we organised the dinner, the wine, the entertainment and we can sit back and indulge in some schadenfreude.. (or we should!)

I work with a lot of woman and I went around this afternoon asking everyone what their plans were, nearly all of them were staying in and cooking a meal for themselves and their boyfriends, one said that the deal was that they were going to watch his favourite DVD and then her favourite DVD, hmm how romantic…and I suppose I’ve been there myself as well, I have been out in Clapham on Valentines Night crammed into a restaurant and eating under par food cooked and served by harassed staff..

The thing is, I know Valentine’s Day is yet another opportunity for retailers to empty my wallet but the older I get the more soppy I become, (or is it sloppy)… I don’t know but romance is becoming more important to me, I don’t want to wine/dine/wham/bam/thankyou/ma’am, I want to romance someone, I want to do the flowers and silly poetry and love letters and silly texts and goofy jokes and sing songs and cook her favourite meal and public displays of affection and give unexpected presents and hold doors open and put on the inside of the pavement and share umbrellas and chat until dawn and lay on the grass counting stars and running around like a love struck puppy and stay in a four poster bed at the Red Lion in Salisbury or even better, spend a weekend at Ashford Castle..and I want someone to do the same for me too..romance me too..

..who says romance is dead…?

bookmark_border50 Rules for Dads of Daughters

Found this at From Dates To Diapers and thought I’d share it with everyone, I’ve got two beastie boys and someday I’m going to have to write the boys version but in the meanwhile this has given me some insight into what it’s like to have a daughter (or two) so THANK YOU Michael Mitchell

(Excuse the American spelling thou..I mean though, I do know how to spell mum, honour, savour, diapers aka nappies, doughnuts and pyjamas 😉


1. Love her mom. Treat her mother with respect, honor, and a big heaping spoonful of public displays of affection. When she grows up, the odds are good she’ll fall in love with and marry someone who treats her much like you treated her mother. Good or bad, that’s just the way it is. I’d prefer good.

2. Always be there. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Hang out together for no other reason than just to be in each other’s presence. Be genuinely interested in the things that interest her. She needs her dad to be involved in her life at every stage. Don’t just sit idly by while she add years to her… add life to her years.

3. Save the day. She’ll grow up looking for a hero. It might as well be you. She’ll need you to come through for her over and over again throughout her life. Rise to the occasion. Red cape and blue tights optional.

4. Savor every moment you have together. Today she’s crawling around the house in diapers, tomorrow you’re handing her the keys to the car, and before you know it, you’re walking her down the aisle. Some day soon, hanging out with her old man won’t be the bees knees anymore. Life happens pretty fast. You better cherish it while you can.

5. Pray for her. Regularly. Passionately. Continually.

6. Buy her a glove and teach her to throw a baseball. Make her proud to throw like a girl… a girl with a wicked slider.

7. She will fight with her mother. Choose sides wisely.

8. Go ahead. Buy her those pearls.

9. Of course you look silly playing peek-a-boo. You should play anyway.

10. Enjoy the wonder of bath time.

11. There will come a day when she asks for a puppy. Don’t over think it. At least one time in her life, just say, “Yes.”

12. It’s never too early to start teaching her about money. She will still probably suck you dry as a teenager… and on her wedding day.

13. Make pancakes in the shape of her age for breakfast on her birthday. In a pinch, donuts with pink sprinkles and a candle will suffice.

14. Buy her a pair of Chucks as soon as she starts walking. She won’t always want to wear matching shoes with her old man.

Photo Credit :: Danielle Rocke Toews

15. Dance with her. Start when she’s a little girl or even when she’s a baby. Don’t wait ‘til her wedding day.

16. Take her fishing. She will probably squirm more than the worm on your hook. That’s OK.

17. Learn to say no. She may pitch a fit today, but someday you’ll both be glad you stuck to your guns.

18. Tell her she’s beautiful. Say it over and over again. Someday an animated movie or “beauty” magazine will try to convince her otherwise.

19. Teach her to change a flat. A tire without air need not be a major panic inducing event in her life. She’ll still call you crying the first time it happens.

20. Take her camping. Immerse her in the great outdoors. Watch her eyes fill with wonder the first time she sees the beauty of wide open spaces. Leave the iPod at home.

21. Let her hold the wheel. She will always remember when daddy let her drive.

22. She’s as smart as any boy. Make sure she knows that.

23. When she learns to give kisses, she will want to plant them all over your face. Encourage this practice.

24. Knowing how to eat sunflower seeds correctly will not help her get into a good college. Teach her anyway.

25. Letting her ride on your shoulders is pure magic. Do it now while you have a strong back and she’s still tiny.

26. It is in her nature to make music. It’s up to you to introduce her to the joy of socks on a wooden floor.

27. If there’s a splash park near your home, take her there often. She will be drawn to the water like a duck to a puddle.

28. She will eagerly await your return home from work in the evenings. Don’t be late.

29. If her mom enrolls her in swim lessons, make sure you get in the pool too. Don’t be intimidated if there are no other dads there. It’s their loss.

30. Never miss her birthday. In ten years she won’t remember the present you gave her. She will remember if you weren’t there.

31. Teach her to roller skate. Watch her confidence soar.

32. Let her roll around in the grass. It’s good for her soul. It’s not bad for yours either.

33. Take her swimsuit shopping. Don’t be afraid to veto some of her choices, but resist the urge to buy her full-body beach pajamas.

34. Somewhere between the time she turns three and her sixth birthday, the odds are good that she will ask you to marry her. Let her down gently.

35. She’ll probably want to crawl in bed with you after a nightmare. This is a good thing.

36. Few things in life are more comforting to a crying little girl than her father’s hand. Never forget this.

37. Introduce her to the swings at your local park. She’ll squeal for you to push her higher and faster. Her definition of “higher and faster” is probably not the same as yours. Keep that in mind.

38. When she’s a bit older, your definition of higher and faster will be a lot closer to hers. When that day comes, go ahead… give it all you’ve got.

39. Holding her upside down by the legs while she giggles and screams uncontrollably is great for your biceps. WARNING: She has no concept of muscle fatigue.

40. She might ask you to buy her a pony on her birthday. Unless you live on a farm, do not buy her a pony on her birthday. It’s OK to rent one though.

41. Take it easy on the presents for her birthday and Christmas. Instead, give her the gift of experiences you can share together.

42. Let her know she can always come home. No matter what.

43. Remember, just like a butterfly, she too will spread her wings and fly some day. Enjoy her caterpillar years.

44. Write her a handwritten letter every year on her birthday. Give them to her when she goes off to college, becomes a mother herself, or when you think she needs them most.

45. Learn to trust her. Gradually give her more freedom as she gets older. She will rise to the expectations you set for her.

46. When in doubt, trust your heart. She already does.

47. When your teenage daughter is upset, learning when to engage and when to back off will add years to YOUR life. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

48. Ice cream covers over a multitude of sins. Know her favorite flavor.

49. This day is coming soon. There’s nothing you can do to be ready for it. The sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be.

50. Today she’s walking down the driveway to get on the school bus. Tomorrow she’s going off to college. Don’t blink.

bookmark_borderSoftware Upgrade Time

Self-Portrait. I'm the one on the left incase you were wondering.

I updated my inbuilt system software today from version 5.0 to version 5.1. My creator says it’s just a maintenance release as he’s noticed a few bugs that need to be stomped out and I need more memory as I’m running out of space. Personally I’m not convinced, I think this upgrade that I’m contractually obliged to accept every 365 days (366 on leap years) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and it introduces more problems than it fixes..

I’ve been thinking about this and am of the opinion that the 3.6 version of software was probably the best and the most efficient. This version seems to be introducing more bugs than it claims to fix and the hardware is not as efficient as it was before. My mother Doris, who is currently running version 8.5 system software agrees, she says that the software is becoming flakier with each minor point increase and at major release 8.0 she had to merge systems with B.O.B., a younger model who was running system 7.5 just to cope with day to day commands.

I’m seriously thinking of following my mother’s route and finding myself another model to merge software, and more importantly, hardware with. Not like the previous one wasn’t without it’s own problems, it would go down on me sometimes without any warning and that was okay at home where I could quickly attend to it but was a bit of a bugger if she went down on me whilst I was doing 90mph up the motorway. It was okay for her if she crashed big time – she came with two important accessories already built in, large airbags but I had no such protection. And then there was the problem with her memory, every mistake was stored in her long term memory and was never deleted, she was able to recall each and every single mistake flawlessly (and did!) and then her internal logic, well, I’m not sure even her manufacturer understood it at all. And I seemed to spend increasing amounts of money keeping her mainframe in good working order.

However, there were certain tasks that she seemed to be better programmed to handle than myself, for example, making micro-computers, she was much more efficient at that task than me and it seemed the only actual input she required from me was at the very start of the process, a tiny deposit and after that it seemed a completely automated system.

Mind you, she used to complain about me, she would point out that finding the right switch to turn me on was damn near impossible as I kept moving it and that I needed to exchange my floppy disk for one of those much more effective hard disks. Additionally although I appeared to have accumulated a huge amount of data over the years I still appeared completely clueless, plus she purchased me to solve problems but it soon became apparent that I created more problems than I solved and finally she regretted purchasing me as the moment she did then a newer faster better model appeared on the market.

And talking about computers, I found this ‘Ode To A Computer’ on the net

A computer was something on TV
From a science fiction show of note
A window was something you hated to clean
And ram was the cousin of a goat.

Meg was the name of my girlfriend
And gig was a job for the nights
Now they all mean different things
And that really mega bytes.

An application was for employment
A program was a TV show
A cursor used profanity
A keyboard was a piano.

Memory was something that you lost with age
A CD was a bank account
And if you had a 3-inch Floppy
You hoped nobody found out.

Compress was something you did to the garbage
Not something you did to a file
And if you unzipped anything in public
You’d be in jail for a while.

Log on was adding wood to the fire
Hard drive was a long trip on the road
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived
And a backup happened to your commode.

Cut you did with a pocket knife
Paste you did with glue
A web was a spider’s home
And a virus was the flu.

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, part 14

Works for me.


This blog entry is crimes and misdemeanour’s by proxy; I want to share this with you to give you some insight into the way the Northern Irish mindset works.  It may outrage a few readers but what the hell, it’s how we view life.

I have a good friend from Northern Ireland, I’m going to call her Mary for the sake of this blog and she’s a bit of a wild girl. She’s been doing the whole on-line dating thang and been telling me about it. She arranged to meet one bloke at a bar a while back and when he came in and introduced himself she simply looked at him and left, didn’t even  say hello to him. She told me what a fucker, he looked nothing like his photos, he was shorter – MUCH shorter than he said, older, fatter and just slimy so she couldn’t even be bothered wasting her breath telling him was a fuck-wit he was, she just left in a huge strop. She went into a bar near Leicester Square and proceeded to get totally plastered with a bunch of young guys there and next thing she knew she was waking up Sunday morning in some strange bed with a complete stranger beside her.

He was about half her age and as she stumbled blindly into her clothes – actually as she searched around the apartment for her clothes he woke up and said to her can he see her again. She said back to him “that’s EXACTLY the right thing to say to a woman after last night, well done!” and then as she was walking out the door she said “of course you need to get yourself a girlfriend of about half my age but thank you for last night and good luck, have a nice life” and she walked out of his life.

So the night wasn’t a waste after all and she had a good time.

Then a few weeks later she went out to meet some other date in central London, this time she managed to stay there for a whole 10 minutes before walking away, I asked why and she said “the fuck-wit spent the first 10 minutes telling me about why he and his missus had split up, instead of talking about me or even himself, I met his wife by proxy, I wasn’t having any of that and I walked, little fucking bastard wasting my time..!”

So she hit another bar, and got plastered but there was no talent around so she got on the tube back home. However, on the tube back there was this bloke checking her out. Thirty minutes later she’s in his flat in Streatham and he’s playing hide the sausage with her.  Next morning he’s comatosed and she walks..staggers out and calls me on the mobile. “I don’t know where I am..” I ask her to give me a street name..she does and I google-map it, she’s in Streatham and I tell her which way to the train station and I go back asleep.

Four nights later she’s at my place having dinner with my erstwhile part-time flatmate and myself and drinking + + wine. She’s having a good time chatting away and by 11 we are both bushed so I tell her I’ll walk her to the bus stop as that’s how she usually goes home from my place when we’ve had a few skinfuls. So we are waiting for the bus but in the fresh air she’s suddenly come alive again and raring to go. “Hey! Let’s go to a bar and pick up some talent and par-tay…!!”   I says nope, I can hardly keep my eyes open, I’m zombie-fied and need to zzzZZZ but she’s raring to go and says “I know what, I’ll go see that bloke from Saturday night in Streatham..” and gets her mobile out.

She calls him and says “Where are you?”
He says it’s 11:30pm, he’s in bed..
She says “Stay there..I’m on my way around…”

And hangs up

And then calls him back.
“btw, what’s your address…?”
“and name..?”

And off she goes towards the taxi rank.

I wait for the taxi with her and says to her so what does this bloke look like and she says, to be honest I don’t know, I can’t actually remember, all I can vaguely remember is that he had funny eyes, I think he was Chinese…maybe .. and I’m curious to find out when I’m (relatively) sober..

The taxi arrives and off she goes.. I shake my head and go back to the flat.

A few days later she pitches up…so how did it go I ask..?

She sits there and tells me it was awful and I ask why.

“Well, I got there and we got down to the dirty deed right away, was good and we fell asleep afterwards, then at about 3am I woke him up and we did it again and fell asleep again. Then at 7am I woke up and had to go home to get clean knickers before going to work but before I went I poked him in the back, woke him up because he was snoring and asked him if he would like to do it again, ..and do you know what he said…he said no, he was too tired!!! Well, that was it, I exploded, I called him all the names under the sun and give him an ear-full! THAT was NOT the right thing to say, HOW DARE HE!! If a woman offers herself then he HAS to oblige and do the dirty deed, how DARE he refuse” and she cursed and swore at him and called him every dirty name she could think of as she got dressed and he cowered under the duvet not knowing what a screaming dervish he had let into his apartment. Eventually when she had insulted his manhood enough she went storming out of his flat into the street in a huge strop but five minutes down the road she realised that she had left her mobile on his bedside table! So what does she do? Well, she does the one thing all Northern Irish woman would do, she stomps right back, rings the doorbell, bold as brass! He opens the door and almost shits a brick at seeing her again, she stomps BACK into the apartment berating him again but even worse and grabs her mobile, heads for the door again and practically screams in his face as she leaves again, cursing and swearing at him as she storms off down the block hall.

I laugh.

I suspect he’s going to need a LOT of expensive therapy after that and when you think about it I reckon Mary has done a lot of woman a service because I doubt he’ll ever pick up a strange woman on the tube ever again.

Now you see, I’m tell you all this for two reasons, the first reason is that by Northern Irish standards I am actually very ummm ..subdued, I try telling my work colleagues this and they all snort and say that’s just bollocks and shake their heads as I am easily the most crazy one in the University and the only one who’s got the balls to take on …well everyone.

But the other reason is deeper and it’s a cultural thing, you see, if I had some depth then I’d think that life was all about learning lessons, growing through mistakes and probably knowing God or the Creator or some other bollocks, however, whilst this is true for folk with some depth, for folk with real depth ie the Northern Irish, we know that the purpose of life is not just that but the real purpose of life is to be happy and have a HUGE amount of fun doing it. So, this is how we Northern Irish view life, we don’t keep it at arm’s length, nope, we grab it, we hold it tightly and squeeze as much life out of it as possible. So don’t shout at us or roll your eyes when we go off and do crazy things, we’re simply doing what comes naturally.

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, part 13

Closer to the truth than most realise

So, think this is crimes and misdemeanours number 13 and it would seem I have a lot to confess to..  I’ve had a job ever since I was 11yrs old; from delivering milk before school to a paper round after school and since the age of 16 and a half when I started working full time I’ve done just about every job except barman which I kind’a regret because it’s a handy skill to have when you’re trying to establish yourself somewhere new.

Anyway, things I really need to fess up to…

When I was sixteen I spent one Christmas holiday working on the production line of the Cantrell & Cochrane factory, we made bottles and cans of lemonade and it was the second most boring job I ever did. However…  the nightshift used to be fun for a couple of reasons, first of all most of the staff came into work to sleep, as a general rule if you didn’t sleep the first night then you slept the second night, it was the unofficially rule and a lot of the staff had part-time day jobs like Firemen and so when they got called out to a fire during the day then they would come in and sleep. And there was a lot of trading to and fro, if you were feeling really rough then you’d swap sleeps with someone and s/he would sleep the next night. Management didn’t know about this because the foremen did the exact same thing and management always knocked off at 5pm.

So, that was a nice little earner, on the nights when I was watching the production line I was busy and kept awake because I was doing the work of two but the next night I slept but got paid for it. Excellent. It was a nice little introduction to shift work and when I worked as a nurse there did seem to be a lot of nurses sleeping in the cupboards during the dead of the night, not for the full shift but some staff would take extended breaks and when the matron in charge came around you told her that the missing nurse ‘had only just’ went for break a few minutes ago.

The other thing that was good working for Cantrell & Cochrane was that we produced cans of own brand Coke and there was an interesting trick we could do (and did) on the line. What would happen was that the cans got filled with coke and then went into a huge machine that rammed on the aluminium tops to the cans, but the operator could slow the line down and this meant someone could make additions to the coke.. So, the party trick for most of the staff there was to top up a couple of dozen cans of coke with vodka and then once the lids went on collect them on the other side and take them home. Then next time they went to a house party they already had pre-mixed drinks. This proved particularly popular at events like concerts because the bouncers would quite happily let you in with cans of coke but would confiscate any alcohol… little did they know..

Cantrell & Cochrane was the second most boring job, the most boring job was working for Canadian Tapes in Bangor. I did that for about three months before I had to leave or slit my wrists, it was that mind numbing boring. I spend almost three months working in a lab doing mind numbingly boring repetitive work a trained monkey could do (better).

However, even here there was the opportunity to mess around. We made sellotape, day and night, the production lines never stopping – except for two weeks in the summer when all factories in Norn Iron shut down and Bangor emptied due to the mass exodus of everyone to Benidorm or Tenerife, the ‘July Fortnight’.

I, on the other hand, was too poor to go to Spain with all the other plebs so I would carry on working and that meant spending two weeks cleaning the factory.

Now, the thing to remember is that sellotape is tape covered in glue and Canadian Tapes had LOTS of glue…effing huge vats the size of houses for mixing up the glue and gradually over the months these vats would get a thick layer of glue slowly building up inside them. Eventually someone had to go into the vats with big scrappers and scrap the glue off the walls and floor of the now empty vats and that job fell to summer students and yours truly.

So, myself and half a dozen other kids would spend a few hours in these vats breathing in glue fumes. I don’t know if anyone else has tried nitrous oxide aka laughing gas but spending even a few minutes in one of these vats basically gets you high for free, in fact we actually got paid for it. This was in the days before Health & Safety became such a major concern, so for two weeks we scrapped and hacked the hardening glue off those walls and we spent practically the entire two weeks splitting our sides laughing. Seriously, it’s what I imagine it’s like to smoke really good weed, we just got the giggles from the moment we walked into the vats until we got home, someone would just burst out laughing for no reason at all and that was it, we were all practically ROFL in hysterics, I honestly haven’t laughed so much in my whole life and I think I would have done that cleaning job for no pay. I couldn’t understand why all the other factory workers didn’t want to do it, it was excellent. What I couldn’t also understand was, why didn’t the management give us gas masks, we could have cleaned those vats out in two days rather than two weeks if we could stop laughing and saved them a lot of cash..

I was told that the effects of the fumes wouldn’t have any long term effects. I’m not so sure, twenty five years later and I still burst out laughing with minimal prompting,  I suspect because of my two weeks working in those vats that my brain is now just hard-coded to find humour in just about everything, my long suffering work mates despair with me 🙂

bookmark_borderHonesty is the best (privacy) policy

Some folk just can't take a hint.

We firmly believe that privacy is unimportant and meaningless to you. If it were not, you probably would not have a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account: and you certainly wouldn’t ever use a search engine like Google. If you’re one of those tin-foil-hat crazies that actually cares about privacy: stop using our services and get a life.

We agree with Mark Zuckerberg when he pithily opined “The age of Privacy is Over.”

Our privacy policy is a reflection of this conviction. Therefore, to satisfy the absurd privacy requirements of various legal entities (and so you understand exactly where you stand with us) we are pleased to present our privacy policy:

1. We are the company that cares about your privacy. Specifically, while most other companies are concerned with protecting your privacy, we care about profiteering and violating it when expedient or useful.

2. You may think of using any of our programs or services as the privacy equivalent of living in a webcam fitted glass house under the unblinking eye of Big Brother: you have no privacy with us. If we can use any of your details to legally make a profit, we probably will.

3. We will track and log everything we can about all the dirty (and clean) things you do and like with cookies, GPS, secure connections and or whatever technology exists today or becomes available at any time in the future.

4. By using any of our services, you grant us permission to surgically implant a tracking microchip of our choosing in your body and sell all collected information to the highest bidder . . . and to all other bidders. You also agree to regular updates and reinstalls of said device entirely at our discretion for up to 50 years after the end of your natural life.

5. If the opportunity arises to sell or otherwise use this or any information, data or meta data about you or your world, we will jump at that opportunity like a pitbull on a fresh steak

6. Please email us to tell us some of your secrets. We may, at our sole discretion (or lack thereof), broadcast, reveal, sell, manipulate, or otherwise use these secrets, or any information we collect to our benefit whenever, wherever, and however we choose.

7. We are right now looking at you through your webcam. Do you always move your lips like that when you read? We also recorded what you were doing last week and are sending the video to (you know who). If the prior statements are not true, it’s because in addition to everything else, we reserve the right to lie to you, and you agree to believe us and hold us harmless for any and all such lies. Furthermore, if we are not recording everything you’re doing through your webcam, it’s either because we haven’t figured out how, you’re just not that interesting, or both.

8. We are serious about all of the above. So don’t go trying to sue us later with some nonsense like “I thought that was all satire.” All your privacy are belong to us. We mean it.

9. Cookies: We like chocolate chip cookies. You agree to furnish any employee or associate of our company with fresh chocolate chip cookies upon request. That’s the price of using our programs and or services (in addition to any other price we come up with).

10. Spam. You agree that nothing we do with the access and information you grant to us shall be called Spam: even if it is. We prefer the term “bacon”, because . .. mmmmmmmm bacon.

bookmark_borderLeft vs Right Brain

LEFT BRAIN- I am the left brain
I am a scientist. A mathematician.
I love the familiar, I categorize. I am accurate. Linear.
Analytical. Strategic. I am practical.
Always in control. A master of words and language.
Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers.
I am order. I am logic.
I know exactly who I am.

RIGHT BRAIN- I am the right brain.
I am creativity, a free spirit. I am passion.
Yearning . Sensuality. I am the sound of the roaring laughter .
I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feet.
I am movement. Vivid colours,
I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas,
I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel.
I am everything I wanted to be.

I think I am a lot of each of these, and unless your name is Sheldon Cooper then I suspect you are too, although one side may be much stronger..


bookmark_borderDried Water Anyone?

Non Fattening.

I think I’m going to have to make a new category called ‘Rain’ on this blog because I write about it so much. I was awoken at 5am this morning by the sound of rain pelting against my bedroom window. It’s kind’a ironic because one of the reasons …ok ok the main reason I left Northern Ireland was because of the awful weather and yet it seems to be following me, perhaps I have my own personal rain cloud like Jim Carry in The Truman Show or there’s a thunderstorm up there in the sky with my name on it. I’m starting to think I’m going to have to move a lot further than London to get away from my nebula horribilis.

I have a friend in Perth, Australia (Happy Australia Day BTW!) who occasionally mentions the searing heat there so I’ve been thinking what I can do to rebalance the equation, so I get six months of her sunshine and she can have six months of our rain. And then I was thinking about all those other countries that don’t get enough water but deserve it because they sit and gloat all the time about their nice weather; basically most of California really.

So I’ve decided that the solution (groan) to this imbalance is to export our rain to California and Perth. This isn’t really that difficult to do, you see, I could send a few sachets of dried water in the mail and this would redress the imbalance. When the sachets of dried water arrive then the users simply have to add water, what could be easier? For example, if I send a one litre sachet of dried water then the instructions on the side of the pack would read;

“To make one litre of water, carefully cut off the top of the sachet and mix the contents with one litre of water. It is advisable to wear waterproof clothing when undertaking this hazardous procedure.”

I’m really not sure why no one has thought of this before. But you see, I can also make much larger quantities of water, for example, I could send a sachet for 1,000,000 litres of dried water and by a miracle of modern science the packets of dried water would actually weigh exactly the same, one simply mixes the contents with 1,000,000 litres of water. Of course this miracle of science can be extended to the kitchen when making beverages but it’s important to remember that one must boil the water before making a cup of tea or coffee.

I await my Nobel prize.


bookmark_borderModern Dilemmas; Singlehood

1,607,904,000 seconds
26,798,400 minutes
446,640 hours
2658 weeks
50 years and counting.

That’s how long I have been stomping my size 11’s all over this planet. ALL that time and I’ve never heard of the word ‘singlehood’ before. It seems I am missing out on my education; I really need to start watching daytime tv more often.

So, ‘singlehood’ defined not as the favoured attire of hoodies, not as an unsubtle reference to the non-circumcised but according to the free online dictionary it’s ‘The state of being unmarried.’

I’m not sure who thought up that definition, there is so much more to singlehood, to me it means I can quite happily go to the flicks by myself and not have to take a friend (yup, done that), it means I can quite happily go off travelling the world by myself (yup, done that in spades) but most importantly it means an acceptance of being single and being happy with that state. Yes, of course if I come across someone that I fall in love with then sure by all means I can leave singlehood but I think singlehood is all about acceptance, contentment and being happy with your lot and even enjoying it..

…at the present time.

There seems to be some social stigma about being single and from my experience it seems to increase the older one gets, like it’s socially awkward, people are always trying to pair me up with someone, I go to dinner parties and social events and I’m constantly being introduced to other single woman – with a knowing smile from the introducee. I’ve chatted to married couples at parties asking why they do this and part of it is the genuine desire to match-make and have a ‘happy ending’, I think that’s just human nature but a few friends have said they do it because they think I must be unhappy being single and they want to help. And I’m a bit throw by that, why would you think I was unhappy because I’m single and they quote dubious research and tell you that if you are married then you live longer (which was old extremely flawed research that doesn’t hold water by today’s standards) and are healthier (and this was said to me by a bloke who’s belly was resting comfortable on his knees like a large blancmange).

The thing is, happiness isn’t really about being single or married, it’s a cliché but happiness is a state of mind, a choice. The Lifelines of Happiness Study, directed by Prof. Richard E. Lucas first reported findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Looking at the quantified results, you can see how happy the participants were in the years before getting married, how happy they were in the early years of marriage, and how happy they were later on,” she said. “There was a little blip around the wedding and honeymoon, but overall it showed that people who were happy before getting married were happy afterwards and the people who weren’t happy before getting married aren’t happy now. Being happy has more to do with their individual personalities than whether or not they’re married.”

So being happy is compatible with being single (and ironically being married!), I keep telling my friends this. However – and just to throw a spanner in the works – this is the modern dilemma;  I am of the opinion that whilst being single is fine, I think our natural instinct, our natural state, our natural condition, flow, our natural urge, is to be in a long term relationship. In a partnership there are benefits, some that are obvious and some that aren’t so obvious. The obvious ones are the financial ones, for example; nearly all insurance is cheaper if you are buying it with a partner, single hotel rooms are few and far between and you end up paying for doubles (my pet gripe when I go off on my wanders), living together as a couple is much cheaper than living as two separate houses and the word ‘discount’ seems to only apply to partners. But there are other benefits; tossing the coin to see who goes down the stairs to investigate that strange noise during the middle of the night (!), sharing jobs that need done around the house and looking after the brood is a lot easier if there are two adults in the house, and then of course there’s the company, the rumpy-pumpy and most of all, the love you have for each other and the anticipation, the expectation of building a life together and being together into old age.

So, I’m 50 and enjoying my singlehood and I think that’s just the type of person I am. However, I would like to leave singlehood one day, it’s fine and I’m comfortable with it and in full acceptance but I’m naturally gregarious, I like company, you see, I was born a twin and spent the first nine months of my life in the closest possible relationship with someone and that should tell you lots about me. I think that’s when I’m at my best, it’s when I do the most good, am most creative and fulfil my most potential and I want to do that, I want to ‘be used fully’ if that makes sense, I don’t want to waste my energy and resources just pussyfooting around pissing off the senior management at work, I want to do something I’m proud of and not just raise two brilliant kids but also be in a relationship and think to myself ‘yup, I did all right there, I made a few mistakes and owned up to them, I tried my best and really worked at it but overall I’m kind’a proud of what we achieved together..’ and I think this is where I’m meant to be, not in singlehood but in parenthood, familyhood, lovinghood.

But here’s the issue and it’s why I’m still resident in singlehood land, there is no magic marker on everybody, you can’t trawl the internet, the bars, the clubs, the dinner parties and find someone with a large neon light hovering above their head saying ‘THIS IS THE ONE’ so I have to play the game, play the field, nearly all residents of singlehood do this and I’ve watched friends over the years pair off and leave singlehood and I’m enormously pleased with them..

But they always say to me “why didn’t you go out with XYZ, she was nice.?” And the problem is yes, she was nice but she wasn’t the one and I get ‘but what was wrong with her?’ and it’s something that’s hard to quantify, I see my friends match up and I’m pleased and I’ve met some very very nice woman over the years and I could have settled down with a few of them but I would be settling for something less than I want. It seems to be a game, a balancing act everyone does, do we cut our losses and go for ‘reasonable OK with potential’ or do we continue to wait and hope that someone who just knocks your socks off comes along eventually. It’s like buying a house, when I was trying to buy a house in the 90’s I was being constantly gazumped, I kept losing out to higher bidders and eventually I got a house (in desperation) but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, it ‘was nice, had potential’ but I bought it out of fear of never ever having a house, out of fear, and I don’t want to pick the woman I am going to settle down with out of fear, I want the reason for settling down with her to be solely out of love. I made a mistake before, in the choice of houses and partner and I think it’s important that I learn that lesson and this is what I say to my friends who are becoming increasingly exasperated with my reluctance to just settle for someone ‘nice looking with potential’.

My mother Doris waited until she was 81 before she left singlehood, I’m hoping…no, I’m confident that I won’t have to wait another 30 years before I hand in my keys to singlehood.

bookmark_borderSam’s Story

Yup, a shotgun is involved in this tale..
Yup, a shotgun is involved in this tale..

The one and only time I met my biological father was when I was 19. Well.. I say ‘met’ but that would give a false impression, he shoved me out of the way as he ran past me and out of my life, this time forever.

When you’re growing up with adoptive or long term foster parents there’s a missing bit of a jigsaw in your head, it’s there constantly and it’s like an itch and until you scratch it it’s always going to be there, popping into your consciousness at unexpected moments, like when you are having a medical and they ask about your fathers medical history. The missing jigsaw piece is; what does your biological mother and father look like, what are they like as people, what health issues have you inherited from them…what are you going to look like when their age… Not all adoptive/fostered children think like this, some are more than happy to accept the loving parents they have now but for some kids there is this need, this desire to find that last missing piece of the jigsaw and put it in it’s place.

So, when around 18 or so my twin sis and I met our biological mother Doris, we had found Doris and that was frankly shocking, not what either of us had expected but our biological father was another kettle of fish. Doris told us very very little, just that her and Sam had met in church, dated, she fell pregnant and she was sent to Belfast to stay with his cousins during all her term, she had us, we were put up for fostering and she returned back to Kilkeel and nothing more was said of her time away.

I asked her about this on her last trip over here and she said that she saw us for a few minutes but Sam stayed down in his farm in Kilkeel and didn’t want anything to do with us so never saw us. I’ve actually no idea how anyone can give away a child, let alone twins and I wouldn’t like to ever have to be in that position, I know what it’s like from the childs perspective and I’m sure it’s even harder for the mother.

So, 19yrs old and still living in Ireland. We asked the Social Services where our birth father lived and they didn’t know, on our birth certificate the fathers name is blank so one Monday sis, with John (her then boyfriend doing the driving) and I drove the 50 miles down to Kilkeel.

We knew he was called Sam Keown and gradually we had weedled out of Doris that he lived in Leitrim Hill Farm, so on the OS map it was easy to see that Leitrim Hill was just outside Kilkeel so we drove there trying to find Leitrim Farm. The hill turned out to be a bit of a mountain and there were quite a few farms on it and the start of a housing estate..

So anyway, we asked around and we found this old guy tending cattle on the hillside, we asked if he knew where Leitrim Hill Farm was and he asked why; we said we were doing some family tree research and wanted to find the Keowns. He looked at us, in that suspicious way farmers do to out-of-towners and said it was three miles up the road and first farm on the left but you don’t want to be going there, they were all ‘a bit mad’ and they might chase you off their farm…

So we thanked him and drove on and found the farm, it was very ramshackle and run down but obviously a working farm, cattle in the shed and someone out cutting silage in the fields.

John parked the car in the farmyard and said “OK.. so now what?”

Sis and I looked at each other and I said “well, I’d better go and knock the door” you do.. many thoughts spun through my head, what do you say to your father whom you’ve never met.. .“surprise surprise!”  “guess who?”  ..”hello, you may not remember me but do you remember this broken condom?”  .. Neither of us had given much thought (or even any thought) as to what to do if we met Sam and now the moment had arrived my mind was blank and my heart pounding.. so many ‘what if’s…’

So off I wandered and went to the door, there were glass panels on the door and I could vaguely see inside, looking closely I could see obvious movement inside, lights were on and a few old rusty cars in the driveway, so, completely unprepared, I took a deep breath and knocked on the door….

There was no answer……

I knocked again….

There was still no answer but I could hear people moving around……

So I opened the door, and peered in…despite it being 11am it was dark and gloomy and as my eyes adjusted to the gloom I could see two women and two men down the hall in a kitchen. they were sitting at a table looking like they were having soup, they all looked really rough and unkempt, the two men were unshaven and had really tattered clothes on and the two woman looked like they were dressed in rags, they looked very pale and thin and had a maniac look in their eyes, it looked like a scene from Oliver Twist, not at all inviting.

And they all just carried on eating, ignoring me completely.

I wasn’t really prepared for this – in fact I wasn’t really prepared for anything and hadn’t really a clue what to do, the last thing I thought would happen would be that I was ignored, so I shouted down the hall “excuse me, I’m looking for Sam Keown, he here” at which point they stared at one of the men, stared.. more like glowered at him….

So I said “excuse me, are you Sam Keown?” at which point he suddenly stood up, threw his bread down, pushed the other bloke out of the way and came running at me!

I thought FUCK! He’s going to attack me or stab me! and I stood back, he came running at me and sort of shoulder charged me, pushed me against the doorframe and went running past. I was a bit surprised (to say the least!) but he just carried on running out the door, he ran across the yard and jumped into a red beat up Datsun, started it up and drove off at speed, just narrowly missing Johns car….

I tried to regain some composure and asked the others if that was Sam Keown but they ignored my questions and shouted at me to go away, to get off their property. The remaining bloke reached up and grabbed a shotgun that was on a high shelf. I watched him snap it open to insert cartridges in it – at which point I thought it would be prudent to leave…quickly…so I went out to the car again and sis was standing there… I told her quickly what had happened and we need to leave NOW just as the other three appeared at their doorway, one with a shotgun. We left in a hurry.

So that was the only time I ever saw my biological father Sam, when he was running past, trying to knock me over…but I have that image fixed in my mind like it happened only yesterday.

So we thought “’what now?” and we left the property and drove around a bit, then I decided that I wanted to find out more so we drove to the neighbouring farm. It was a modern house and it seemed pretty normal – by Kilkeel standards anyway..

I went to the door and introduced myself and said I was looking for some information about the people next door. The old couple there were very sweet and invited us in and told us the story..

Apparently the farm had been in the Keown family for generations, they were cattle farmers but they were a bit eccentric to say the least, they didn’t have electric or running water, they never had bank accounts and paid for everything in cash, they were marched off to church every Sunday in the same suit they had all their lives, they rarely spoke to anyone and hadn’t moved on from the Victorian age, the person who knew the most about them was the local minister. Their parents – our grandparents I suppose, started off that way of life and when they died the four kids just carried on with it

There were two sisters and two brothers but the sisters ruled the roost with an iron fist, if one of the “boys” didn’t do exactly what they asked they basically got whipped with this cane, they totally dominated the boys and wouldn’t let them go out with other girls, the only time they were allowed out to socialise was to go to church (where Sam meet Doris). They lived on bread, jam and tea for every meal and they never ever bought anything new. Sam was a bit of a rebel (doh!) and when he managed (somehow!) to get Doris pregnant it was them that arranged for Doris to go live in Belfast. Apparently Sam wanted to marry Doris at the time but they were having none of it, they just beat the shit out of him.

The family were well known throughout Kilkeel as a bit (very!) eccentric, none of them ever passed a driving test but Sam used to take the cattle to the market in this beat up old lorry and it was so slow and wobbly there was no danger of him killing anyone. This was the back sticks of Ireland during the 60’s, the police never interfered in the farming community them days.

About 6 months after that little adventure, Doris sent me a letter and said – in passing mind you, that Sam had died about a month ago,  I asked her when did she know, she said “Oh, the day it happened but didn’t think you would be interested..”

Then within 18 months the rest of the family died, the two sisters first and the brother – I think he was called Tom couldn’t look after himself and he was found dead after the police broke into his house. The neighbours helped the local council to clean out the house which was declared uninhabitable by the local council. In some drawers he found curtains and clothes from the 1940’s still wrapped up in paper and string, he found old gramophones and china and furniture from the previous century.

A long time later after we had discovered that they had all died it seemed they left the house and land to some distant relative and that was that, apparently the land was sold off and the book was closed but I will always remember the that day when Sam ran past me, I have it ingrained in my head and at least I know generally what I’ll look like when I am old(er) – the wild man of Borneo.. Actually, I think I look like that now. As Sam ran past me I made a mental note of certain things, his height, his weight and was he bald, I don’t have his height or weight, I’m taller and slimmer but I definitely have his hair, absolutely.

I tackled Doris about Sam years later and she would never talk about him, she just wanted that episode in her life to disappear but her neighbours, the McGregor’s were a bit more forthcoming.  When she fell pregnant with us and went to Belfast it was common knowledge what was going on and when she came back it just wasn’t talked about – to her face but as it is in country towns everybody knew. It seems that about when we were 10 years old, Doris’s dad died and she thought she might get back together with Sam, get married and “bring us together in one big happy family”. Of course by this time Sam was long off the scene and  basically told her to get lost but I do have a memory of her coming to visit us at that time so maybe that was a very close call for sis and me, life with the Johnston’s was awful but infinity infinitely better than living with Doris, out in the sticks with no electricity, running water, rat infested cottage, no radio even and constant reading of the bible every day. It’s interesting just how everything is a matter of perspective, we were desperately unhappy with the Johnstons but it was heaven compared to the alternative.

I’ve talked to Doris more these last few years about Sam and slowly she has told me more, it’s important to know these things because Doris won’t be around forever and the opportunities to find out about my past is limited. However, some things you don’t really want to hear, one thing in particular was that Sam was a bit of a shit, he wasn’t really that nice a person and the real reason why Doris didn’t marry him was because she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life with a shit, so it was her decision not to marry Sam but to have us put up for long term fostering.

In life we have examples of how to be but we also have examples of how not to be, the astute can take on-board the negative examples and know that they have no excuses now; they can’t misbehave because they have excellent examples of how not to be. There’s a Greek expression, “Na einai kalitero anthropo apo ton patera tou” which roughly translates as “Be a better man than your father”.  I fully intend to be.


bookmark_borderHatch’em, Match’em, Dispatch’em

An Irish FUNeral

Many years ago I watched a documentary on the telly about meerkats in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. They would go off in little groups foraging for food and at the end of the day they would come back to the main nest and the groups would be all over each other, sniffing, greeting and getting reacquainted again and the social structure would be re-established.

I was reminded of the meerkats yesterday; I was at a funeral and once we left the graveside and came back to the convent where the reception was being held I witnessed much the same behaviour that the meerkats did. There was a great coming together of the extended family and close friends and everyone seemed to know absolutely everyone else, there was much sniffing, touching and even the pecking of cheeks and I could see the bonds between each member being renewed and strengthened.. And then I noticed something else, the matriarch of the clan was gone and I could see the younger females all subtly moving up the ladder one step, taking over roles and jostling/manoeuvring into different positions of authority within the extended social circle. There were an equal number of men there but they all seemed oblivious to this, perhaps it’s because I’m an outsider and I can step back and observe, I have no vested interest who becomes the next  matriarch.

There’s many similarities between weddings and funerals, for example, it’s really only on hatch’em, match’em, depatch’em occasions that I get to wear a suit these days. Funerals are aberrations as far as I can tell, funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living, the dead are past caring. We have this idea of the funeral being focused solely on the one who’s passed away, with moving tribute’s but that’s not what I witnessed yesterday, yes, the church service was solemn (actually it was dreadfully boring and full of religious clichés that I doubt even the priest believed) but as soon as everyone got into the reception then it was like “ok, that’s that out’a the way, now to chinwag with Arthur, I haven’t seen him for years..”. Just like a wedding really. It reminds me of the old joke about Irish weddings and funerals; what’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral? There’s one less drunk at the Irish funeral…and there’s many a truth told in jest, I’ve been to funerals before where fights have started, of course this was in Ireland and that’s pretty bog stand behaviour.  And it’s no wonder, even the word ‘funeral’ starts with those other three favourite letters of mine ‘fun’ and we Irish take this attitude of fun to our hearts and raise our glasses to the dearly departed, it’s a celebration of life, not a mournful death but I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy at a funeral and I realise I’m actually listening to it.

And there’s something else that both funerals and wedding have in common, we all get dressed up and put on our best clothes and some of us even get invites but it’s important to read the dress code instructions carefully, ‘somber’ while only 2 letters apart from ‘sombrero’ is a world apart in tone. Apparently.

And one more similarity, when I was much much younger I used to go the wedding and the old dolls would poke me in the chest like witches and cackle “You’re next!” but now I’m 50 I go to funerals and poke them in the chest and cackle “You’re next!” Is that evil of me? Am I going to Hell? Too effing right I’m going to Hell, care to join me?

bookmark_borderThe Pizza Dilemma

TombStone? A not so subtle hint.

When I worked as a nurse on ICU part of the job included patient education with regards towards a healthier life, so we’d try educating patients about giving up alcohol and smoking, explaining the statistics about quality and length of life. A common response back from the patients was “it’s not that you actually live longer – it just seems it, you suck all the joy out of life, no fags, no drink…of course your life is going to seem longer.. a LOT bleeding longer!”

I have some sympathy with my ex-patients, you see, I’ve been trying to eat healthy recently, trying to cut down on sugars and fats; no more cakes, biscuits, pizza, chips, pies etc and now I know just how my patients felt, it’s not like I’m going to live longer…it just seems like it…a long dreary existence… kill me now.

You see, culturally, I come from the land that considers eating five different coloured M&M’s as part of your ‘five a day’, a land that has taken Nutella to it’s heart (literally), a land than considers dipping Mars bars in batter and deep frying them in lard a healthy snack, a land that considers anything with the word ‘die’ in it to be avoided…like diet and dieticians.

So, I’ve decided to do a bit of research and have come up with a scientifically valid diet, it’s the ice-cream diet, also known as the Gelato diet. You see, ask any scientist about calories and heat and they will tell you quite seriously that it takes 1 calorie to heat 1 gram of water 1 degree centigrade. Therefore, if you eat ice-cream or Gelato then your body will warm it up to body temperature and the only source of calories is in your fat stores so your will use up calories.

Let’s explore this a bit further,  if you consume 100g of ice-cream then for your body to bring that from 0.0C  to body temperature of 37C then that’s 100g times 32C which equals 3,200 calories used to raise your ice-cream to body temperature. Now, the average portion of ice-cream is probably closer to 200g rather than 100g so that’s 6,400 calories used up but of course there are sugars etc in ice-cream and on average you are talking about 1,200 calories but we’ll say that on balance, with every average portion of ice-cream you will use up roughly 5,000 calories.

This works equally as well with cold beer, if you go out drinking every evening then you will lose weight. There’s roughly 16 fluid ounces to a pint and if you do the maths then you lose roughly 1,000 calories with each ounce as long as it’s chilled and served from a frosted glass, so in a pint of beer you actually lose 15,000 calories allowing for the calories already in the beer.

Sadly this diet only works with foods and liquids colder than your body, it doesn’t work for pizza which is usually served above body temperature – except obviously during the next morning when you find some left over pizza in the carton and then it’s healthy as it’s cooler than body temperature.  But there is a solution to the pizza dilemma, you see, we all like to go out and eat pizza but don’t want to wait until the morning to eat vast quantities of cold pizza so the obvious solution is to either drink lots of beer with your (hot) pizza and eat lots of ice-cream afterwards. Dilemma solved. My diet starts tomorrow. I wonder if I’ll get the Nobel Prize for this?

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, Part 12

The next time I’m wandering around the United States of America and a starling poops on me, I won’t blame the poor starling, no, I’ll blame Shakespeare. I know you’ll probably scoff at this but every time a starling dumps on you in America it’s Will Shakespeare’s fault. You see, in 1890 an American drug manufacturer called Eugene Schieffelin suggested that every species of bird named in Shakespeare’s works should be represented in America. Schieffelin belonged to the American Acclimatization Society, a group that aimed to help exchange plants and animals from one part of the world to another. In the 19th century, such acclimatization societies were fashionable and supported by the scientific knowledge and beliefs of that era, as the effect that non-native species could have on the local ecosystem was not yet known. The only bird species that wasn’t already there was the starling, so in 1890/91 he released 60 and then another 60 into Central Park, and in consequence there are now 200 million in North America and have since become a major pest in the country.

Starlings aren’t the only thing that there are (or were) a shortage of in the United States, there’s also a shortage of Rowan trees, at least outside of the northern latitudes. It’s also known as Thor’s helper, Whispering tree, Whitty, Wicken-tree, Wiggin, Wiggy, Wiky, Witch wood, Witchbane, Witchen, Witchen Wittern tree. Many of these can be easily linked to the folklore surrounding the tree and it’s handy to know all this if you wish to piss off the TSA.

You see, I know this because a friend in North Carolina asked me to bring her the berries from a Rowan tree (very common in UK) the next time I came over on my wanderings.  She was into Wiccan and said that it would protect her from harmful spells, I rolled my eyes at that but I duly obliged, went to Wimbledon Common, filled a plastic bag with berries from a Rowan tree and put it in my hand luggage. I got to Rayleigh and the nice TSA man spotted the berries and immediately hauled me to the side. You could see his eyes light up, convinced I was smuggling some kind of drug.

He called over his supervisor and assorted attendants (it was a quiet day!) and I felt a bit of an idiot trying to explain to them all that the berries were for a witch in Rayleigh who needed protecting from bad magic spells.. I felt I had stumbled into a Harry Potter movie set..I’m trying to explain to these Muggles that witches actually do exist and are alive and well in Rayleigh, North Carolina.. You could see them looking at me and thinking, “REALLY? and I’m the Queen of Sheba!” I put on my most sincere angelic face and tried my best to convince them I wasn’t an international drug smuggler but they weren’t having any of it. I thought, “great, I’m going to spend the next two weeks in the clink keeping my butt very close to the cell wall”.

Eventually they actually rang up my friend and chatted to her.. She persuaded them to let me through simply because (a) she threatened religious discrimination (b) Rowan Berries weren’t actually on a proscribed list anywhere but more importantly (c) she threatened to cast a bad luck spell on all of them…  I’m going to remember that the next time I’m smuggling in some weed.. I mean Herbal Tea!

bookmark_borderAnimal Farm

It's your turn to walk him!

When you work as a nurse as I did in my previous career you notice odd little things that mere Muggles don’t, there are certain rules that most of society adheres to but you won’t find this in a nursing manual or a social work book, I call it the ‘inverse pet wealth’ rule. This is a blatant generalisation but ask any community nurse who’s got more than one days experience and they will nod their head sagely. Broadly speaking, the lower the socio-economic group you belong to, the more pets you will own. When I did my community nursing I spent a few weeks in Purley, South of London, a very well-heeled area, large driveways, big houses, well-manicured lawn and well-manicured ladies and no pets, definitely no cats, but perhaps the occasional small expensive pedigree dog, a show dog, never a huge brute of a monster with snarling teeth, never some rescue dog from Battersea Dogs Home, always a dog that was easy to carry in delicate arms, one that didn’t clash with your expensive clothes, one that wiped it’s own butt after a dump.

However, I spent the following few weeks in Thornton Heath, grotty housing and council high-rise tower blocks, the sort of place that required a police escort when you were with the mid-wife and you needed to go check someone’s stitches.. You didn’t choose to live there, you were sentenced there, forget Guantanamo Bay, this place makes Guantanamo Bay look like Butlins Holiday Camp. I was sentenced to live in student nurse accommodation there for a number of years, it makes my current dive seem like a mecca in comparison – and that’s saying something. But, the  interesting thing was, at every single house the mid-wife and I visited, there were numerous children and even more pets, none of them pedigree, (including the kids), all of them of mixed origin, (again, including the kids), all of them running wild and most gnawing at my trouser legs for good measure (again, including the kids). It was the sort of place that even if you could find a space to sit down on the settee you didn’t want to because you would stick to it and get up dirtier than when you sat down. And no matter what, no matter how hungry you were, you always politely turned down any offered food or tea incase you got botulism. Or worse.

And the other rule community nurses and midwives will be aware of; the higher up in the tower-block a family lives, the more pets they will have. The bottom floors are always elderly, long suffering couples, they will not have any pets as pet food is too expensive on a pension but they will have nice curtains and window boxes bursting with flowers, they will know their neighbours and be up at dawn making a cuppa tea and reading the morning newspaper. But go up higher than the first floor and it’s like a bloody farm, I’ve been to the 13th floor in Kuala Gardens (odd name for a block of flats!) and it’s like a friggin petting zoo; dogs, cats, gecko’s, birds in cages, birds not in cages, cats chasing birds not in cages, dogs chasing cats, toddlers chasing dogs, father sitting in armchair reading the Racing Post, wouldn’t surprise me if a pony came out of the bathroom.. “I hope ya flushed that bog!”, actually ponies in tower blocks are not completely unheard of if you live in some parts of Dublin and occasionally you’ll get a donkey in a hotel room too, this story is hilarious and true.

I can pen all this with some confidence because I have insider knowledge, I was brought up in one of the roughest, toughest council estates in Northern Ireland and consequently lived with my own menagerie of four legged furry friends, not all of them my six brothers and two sisters. Growing up in what seemed like the cast-offs from a Doctor Dolittle film set, we had a large range of pets, mostly cats and dogs and once the younger brothers reached school age they started trading mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits with their school chums. One friend had a pet snake, thank god it wasn’t a breeding pair, my youngest brother suggested we cut it in half and take one half home because when you slice worms in half they continue to live.. I just about stopped him from doing that.

Cat TV

We had a cat that was partial to sitting on top of the gerbils’ cage and tormenting them, we called it ‘Cat TV’, it could never get in but I think it was just praying to some great cat god in the sky that one or two would manage to escape one day. Personally I wondered who should actually be in the cage, the gerbils or my younger brothers. Then Terry, my younger brother came back from school one afternoon and the cage was empty, there was no sign of the gerbils – or the cat. The cat’s prayers had obviously been answered. After five nanoseconds of tears, Terry went out and got two hamsters from his school friend. There’s an episode of Star Trek called The Trouble With Tribbles and it’s really a homage to hamsters everywhere because as far as I can see, all hamsters do is eat, shit, masturbate and try to shag your leg when you’re watching the telly. I’ve no idea where hamsters come from, man must have invented them because there is no way they could survive out in the wild, they have absolutely no brain cells and no survival instinct, I think the whole ‘shag anything that doesn’t move’ and ‘shag anything that does move – just to be sure’ strategy is the only way hamsters have survived for so long, they breed ferociously and it’s safety in numbers me’thinks. And then there was the rabbits, they followed a similar ‘safety in numbers’ strategy too, every time I looked in the rabbit hutch they were at it like…well, were at it like rabbits, I think Mr Duracell got the idea for his advertisements from our rabbits. A rabbit’s life may be short but believe me, it’s sweet. Between thou and I – I’m deeply jealous!

bookmark_borderSuperpower Swapshop


I have a superpower, no, not the ability to produce copious amounts of bellybutton fluff, enough to fill four pillows (so far), no, it’s that I can eat myself stupid and actually lose weight. You, dear reader merely have to glance at a cake and gain 10lbs, I look at a cake and lose 10lbs, you can blame Mother Nature for that little superpower. However,  I might be tempted to swap this ability with someone else’s super ability, perhaps the ability to understand the opposite sex, that would be a useful ability to have (my friends say that’s just impossible, no man will ever be able to understand woman!) but wouldn’t it be terrific to go into a shop and trade superpowers or even do it online?

I have a few other talents I’d consider trading too but those are for me to know and you to find out, sadly the ability to fart quietly and blame it on the dog is not considered a ‘superpower’ (except amongst my male friends) but some of the abilities I’d consider trading for are as follows;

The ability to sleep through any noise, especially during rutting season, I have two moose living upstairs. This is an ability both my boys have – especially when I am trying to get them up in the morning – enjoy it whilst it last boys, you will lose that power eventually when you hand it down to your own kids!

The ability to fast forward through meeting like you can fast forward on Youtube, go to a meeting, press the fast forward and the next words you hear are ‘so that’s it sorted, we’ll see you all next month’  ..sweet.

The ability to reach down the telephone and throttle the dim-wit on the other end who’s just rang me up at 2am to ask if I’d be interested in changing my mobile phone/electricity/gas contract.

Teleportation (for everyone) would be good – sorry if you work for the airlines and oil companies… would have to have safe guards, the last thing I want is someone to teleport into my bathroom when I’m having a good Eartha Kitt

The ability to instantly grow a beard like Zee-Zee-Top.. come on, that could be very useful, spill something then ‘ping’ magic beard to wipe it up with…  find little injured bird in park.. ‘ping’ instant nest for him.. runny nose…uncomfortable pillow…

The ability to have my theme music played every time I walked into a room and for everyone in the room to cheer and start clapping ..oh come on, it would take quite some time before I got fed up with that power! OK OK, people already cheer and clap when I walk into a room but I’m missing the theme music!

The ability to twitch my nose like Samantha in Bewitched and play little mischievous tricks on folk that deserve to have their lunch spilt over them or trip them up on their ass…I’m thinking catwalk models here, when Naomi Campbell fell on her ass a few years ago I think everyone indulged in some schadenfreude..

To actually be able to ‘use the force, Luke’…  no, really, I’m a lazy bugger and if I dropped my knife at the dinner table I could just ‘use the fork, Luke’..

The ability to delete anyone from history, they could have a big delete button over their head like in The Sims… Hitler..delete, Stalin..delete, Mao…delete..that’s roughly 96 million lives saved.. thank you, now, I wonder, does that bully from Primary School have a button over his head…

bookmark_borderYou can thank me now ;)

A stereotype but not completely untrue


It’s a truism that women have many faults, but men only two; everything they say and everything they do. Sadly, this is very true and at this time of the year I look to the future and plan. At some stage, far into the future, two unfortunate women are going to do something that completely defies logic – they are going to date my two beasties and eventually marry them. Whoever you are, I salute you. And pity you. Ha!

However, it’s 2012 today, New Year’s Day, the beasties are almost 15 and 13 and marriage for them is perhaps far away in the distant future but in preparation for those completely illogical decisions I would like to point out to the future Mrs and Mrs Beastie that I have been doing the ground work now. Yes, really. You can thank me now. Since the beasties were able to understand English I have been house training them – albeit not with 100% success but it’s a work in progress. So, things I have been trying to teach the beasties;

Put dirty clothes in laundry basket.
Make your bed in the morning.
Shower every day.
Change underwear every morning.
Change socks in the morning.
Wear deodorant.
Brush teeth, morning and night.
Dishes do not wash themselves.
Clothes do not wash/iron themselves.
Eat vegetables!
Don’t talk with mouth full.
Use knives, forks and spoons properly,
but not for DIY and car maintenance.
Cooking can involve more than a microwave.
There are other beverages apart from beer.
Have legible handwriting.
Visit bookshops,
exit bookshops with something that doesn’t contain pictures.
Lift the toilet seat,
have good aim,
put toilet seat down,
AND THEN the lid.
Wear sunscreen.
Have manners,
say yes please and thank you.
Belching is perfectly acceptable with the guys,
but it will never get you laid,
ditto laziness, rudeness, arrogance and being a complete jerkoff,
and farting,
in bed,
but especially not in shared baths.
Pretend to be pleased with presents that don’t plug in or run by battery,
or contain a USB socket.
Unless you are a Native American, the Mohawk will never get you laid,
never in the history of all mankind.
Always put the lady on the inside when walking,
that WILL get you laid,
and being kind to anything covered in fur,
ditto holding doors open,
talking of which..
ladies first, especially when it comes to orgasms!
Here endth the first lesson.

Okay, like I said, a work in progress and it’s an evolving lesson as they get older, the later lessons I have as yet to tackle but it’s only a matter of time. You see, these are the things I have learnt over the years and I have made all the mistakes, thought I was being cool and funny when I was just being stupid and gross, I know the beasties will be able to add a lot more to this list by the time they get married but at least it’s a start and the hard work is being done now, habits are being formed now so in twenty years’ time they will both automatically clear up the dishes after supper and your darling daughters will never sit down on a wet toilet seat. You can thank me now.

However, this is not all a one-way street. If you are the mother of said unfortunate girls whom are going to put up with my beasties then you have to do your bit too, you are going to have to give your daughters an insight of all things bloke-ish, this includes;

Understanding that the Xbox will always be superior to the Playstation and any views held to the contrary will be scoffed at.
It would probably be good if they could almost whip his ass at Halo.
Ditto, it would be good if they could almost drink him under the table.
Understanding that in the same way they can never be too thin, too rich or too beautiful, for men they can never go too fast or too high or too deep, it’s just the way men are built.
Understanding that, during the Goth years they are wasting their time delicately flavouring foods with four different herbs as men’s taste buds are only capable of distinguishing between sugar and very hot curry.
Sorry, but it’s true.
Understand that presents that don’t have sockets, run by batteries, have USB ports or go very very very very very very VERY fast will remain in the back of the wardrobe until they can be sneaked off to the charity shop.
Understanding that, from a blokes perspective, holes in underwear and socks are considered an added benefit as they provide increased ventilation with the bonus that they get to flash even more of their gorgeous flesh to all and sundry. Spouses will have to incinerate said Holy Underwear when beasties are comatosed. Having one of those Biohazard Germ Warfare suits in the garage might come in handy – and not just for role-playing games in the bedroom.

I know there are lots more to add to this list but this is just a broad start to amuse some of you and wind everyone else up. It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta to do it. The winding up.

bookmark_borderThe Walk of Shame vs First Footing

It’s New Years Eve and I’m celebrating like a lot of 50 year olds that I know by staying at home watching movies with my kids. I went up to pick them up at 7pm and the streets were heaving with blokes carrying copious amounts of alcohol and practically every woman was wearing a party dress and stilettos…ahh I remember those days, the partying, not the stiletto wearing and then doing the walk of shame next morning – if I was lucky!

I’ve been trying to explain to the beasties that New Year’s Eve parties are all ahead of them, getting ‘quite’ tipsy, dancing like crazy, making an ass of yourself and kissing strangers and then trying to sing a Robbie Burns song from 1711 called Old Long Syne. Interesting enough, you can get away with practically any words to this song and I think most folk do because almost no-one knows the correct words apart from the first verse

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind,
Should old acquaintance be forgot and old lang syne.

You can thank me later if you don’t even know those few lines, if you were Scots then it would sound like this;

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot, an nivir brocht ti mynd,
Shid ald akwentans bee firgot, an ald lang syn
Fir ald lang syn, ma dear, fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet, fir ald lang syn.

Which is quite handy because you can just mumble your way through it and pretend you are singing it the traditional Scottish way, the few times I’ve actually had to sing it I was well oiled – just like everyone else in the room – and none of us knew what the hell we were singing.So no change there then!

In Scotland of course they shall be doing First Footing. The first-foot(er) is the first person to cross the threshold of a home on New Year’s Day and a bringer of good fortune for the coming year. Although it is acceptable in many places for the first-footer to be a resident of the house, they must not be in the house at the stroke of midnight in order to first-foot (thus going out of the house after midnight and then coming back in to the same house is not considered to be first-footing). The first-foot is traditionally a tall, dark-haired male; a female or fair-haired male are in some places regarded as unlucky. The first-foot usually brings several gifts, including perhaps a coin, bread, salt, coal, or a drink (usually whisky), which respectively represent financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth, and good cheer.

I have been out to parties on New Years Eve and been the First-footer, not on purpose but just because I did the walk of shame and came home during the dawn chorus…ahhh those were the days, something to look forward to boys 🙂

Happy New Year!

bookmark_borderTickle Cock Bridge

Warning, this blog entry contains a completely legitimate use of the ‘c’ word, yes, there are one or two legitimate uses and not just in the town named Scunthorpe believe it or not, if you are easily offended then you probably don’t want to read the last paragraph.

Been looking up the history of the area I now live in and we have streets called Franciscan Road, Rectory Lane and Church Street and the history of the area says there was a monastery here during the Dark Ages. Tooting High Road is actually built over a road the Romans built from London (Londonium) to Chichester (Noviomagus Regnorum) so the history goes back 2,000 years but the area was farmland as Londonium was (and spookily still is) a massive five miles away. Tooting appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Totinges. Lower Tooting was held from Chertsey Abbey by Haimo, the Sheriff of Kent and his sidekick Deputy Dawg. Its Domesday assets were 1 church, 2½ ploughs and 5 acres of meadow which is surprising as I have to travel for about 30 minutes by car now to actually reach countryside. Mind you, if there was no traffic or traffic lights I could probably do it in 15 minutes. I still can’t think what use ½ a plough is though.

Around me is Blackshaw road, Colliers Wood, Smallwood Road and Burntwood Lane and during the Victorian ages this area was known as the furnace of London, there was lots of Industry around here because of the easy access to all the forests of Surrey in the next county. Further down the road is Fair Green were the Irish would bring their horses from Ireland and trade them. If you look closely at some of the older houses near Fair Green you will see that the brickwork is quite rough and this is because the Irish would take the cast-offs from the brickworks in Tooting, the ones that weren’t good enough to sell and they built houses to stay in whilst trading on the green.

However, I was chatting to someone the other day about the history of the area and she mentioned that she had been to Great Neck in New York and I thought that’s a great name and I wonder how it got that name and was there an area called Great Legs or even Great Ass. But it seems that the English can outdo America when it comes to naming streets or areas, you see, up in Castleford there is a pedestrian underpass called Tickle Cock Bridge. Now I’m curious as to how Tickle Cock Bridge got it’s name, it’s a dark dank area and one must assume it was where the ladies of the night plied their trade. It was recently rebuilt, widened and lightened, had a facelift but the designers decided to line the walls of the underpass with a tactile red flock material, as an allusion to its colourful history.

Castleford council renamed it to Tittle Cott but the local residents were up in arms and rather surprisingly, the Castleford Area Voice for the Elderly, an over-50s group, successfully organised a campaign to have the name Tickle Cock restored.

We have other interesting names, for example, in medieval times Sherborne Lane in London was known as Shitteborwelane, later Shite-burn lane and Shite-buruelane (possibly due to nearby cess pits) and more recently it seems in South Yorkshire that the road signs for Butt Hole Road, in Conisbrough keep disappearing – apparently by American tourists.

However, we probably beat the world in the most eye-popping name and that’s – wait for it – Gropecunt Lane. Who says the English don’t have a sense of humour? Between the 13th century and the 16th century it was a common name for an area where prostitutes plied their trade, not only in London but across the cuntry. It was normal practice for medieval street names to reflect their function, or the economic activity taking place within them, hence the frequency of names such as The Shambles, Silver Street, Fish Street, and Swinegate (pork butchers) in cities with a medieval history. Sadly, modern sensibilities has caused all of the Gropecunt Lanes to gradually be renamed into something less offensive, like Beaverstroke Pass. Apparently.

There’s more silliness here

bookmark_borderCat ‘Tails’

It’s sometimes difficult to figure out who’s the pet and who’s the owner when you have a cat. I’ve been looking after the beasties cat for the last week or so and she’s under  no illusion as to who’s the pet here and it certainly isn’t her. Consequently I’ve had to adjust my routine to suit her, this involves being awake all bleeding night as she goes absolutely crazy chasing pretend mice around the flat. On the first night I thought I had burglars – albeit very amateurish burglars – as I could hear most of my kitchen being re-arranged as she investigated everything. I normally go to bed sometime after 11pm and that’s just the time she decides her day is about to start. I’ve been lying in bed comatosed only to have her suddenly jump on and off me and attack a shadow on the wall. The sound of claws slowly scraping down my bedroom wall at 4 in the morning could be termed under The Geneva Convention as a cruel and unusual torture. And as for actually reading a book, well, that’s totally out of the question as she places herself between me and my novel.

Someone once wrote that cats are put here on earth to remind us humans that there are higher forms of life than humanity but I think cats are put here on the earth to scare the be’jesus out of me. I have woken up most mornings from my slumber with her staring deep into my eyes from two inches away; who needs coffee, that certainly jump-starts your heart first thing in the morning! The other morning I woke up and was relieved to discover that she wasn’t staring at me from the required two inches maximum. I sat up to start thinking about my day and I nearly shat myself as a furry paw tapped me on the shoulder, she had been balanced precariously on my bed headboard obviously just waiting all night for me to wake up and pull that trick on me. I’m sure she tells her cat friends and they all have a good laugh before scheming more ways to scare the be’jesus out of me. Not only that but I think she’s in some secret cat competition to see if she can stand on the most difficult surface, the other morning I found her balanced on top of the radiator, this isn’t a flat topped surface but a hard sharp edge with only two inches between it and the wall, she was standing on it looking at me and I couldn’t decide if the look on her face said “Ha! You thought I couldn’t get up here!…foolish human!” or “Yelp!”

I also think she is in a competition to see just how far she can kick the cat litter out of the tray, it’s said that feet are the most perfect instruments for finding bits of Lego on the floor during the middle of the night, I think one can add cat litter to that, crunching on your way to the bathroom is not fun, it’s like doing one of those fire walks in the dark. I fed her this morning as she hovered around her bowls pointing at her mouth and rubbing her tummy in the universally recognised motion to feed me and feed me now before I collapse in hunger, so I put some food in her dishes and she immediately turned her nose up at it, walked over to the trash and started licking the black plastic sack hanging over the edge. What was she trying to tell me, that she will only eat ?Sheba. Or is it just to torment me? In some of the early James Bond movies the evil mastermind was always seen stroking a cat whilst laughing at 007 caught in his clutches, personally I think it’s the cat who’s the evil mastermind directing his fiendish plot, I feel like I’ve become a bit actor from Cats & Dogs.

However, what’s really interesting is how quickly I have become invisible. I collected the beasties last night and after nearly a week of constant (albeit nocturnal) attention I have now become persona non grata, I don’t exist any more, it’s like there’s a pecking order and when I am here by myself then I have to provide her entertainment but once the beasties appeared then I was dropped like a hot potato.

Give me teenagers any time, they are much easier to manage.

bookmark_borderNature vs Nurture

Its very hard to predict how your kids are going to turn out, you think they are born with a blank mind but I suspect all kids are born with their own very strong personalities already built in and it make me wonder about the nature vs nurture argument

I worked with a counsellor years ago who told me that if she had a kid for a number of years she would be able to mould that little bugger into whatever she desired but the older I get and the more I observe my two beasties the less I am inclined to agree, I’m believing more and more that nature aka genetics plays a bigger role and that nature won’t be denied..

When I was 11 or 12 I discovered classical music and whilst all the rest of my friends were listening to Radio One Top 40 I was listening to Strauss and Ravel and then Tchaikovsky, it was all what purist would call ‘commercial’ tunes, the sort of thing you find on the ‘The Very Last Classical CD You’ll Ever Need To Buy’ but I was 12 and didn’t know any better, I just liked the tunes.

I’m telling you this because at this very minute in time my second rug-rat is listening to this on youtube

There is a much shorter version here, the British Airways ad that popularised it;

and the interesting thing is that it’s playing in the background whilst he’s battling some Klingon Battle-cruiser in some far off star system.. I wonder if the guys he’s playing with online are playing the same tune or are they playing some heavy metal dirge that makes my ears bleed..

Physically he looks nothing like me (and between thou and I, I consider that a relief!), but I wonder if he has mentally inherited some of my traits, and If he has somehow inherited his fondness of classical music from me then I wonder what other traits he’s acquired too, perhaps my sense of adventure and my mischievousness….

It’s going to be interesting, watching both beasties grow up and mature into their own selves and recognise some traits as my own.. or are they my traits, perhaps I inherited them too..

My mother Doris and I ‘had words’ the other day, about once every seven years we ‘have words’ and I have to put her straight on a few things in my life, usually it’s when she tries telling this 50yr old what to do and usually it’s the exact opposite to what she’s done all her life but she doesn’t realise that, we got into a heated argument and I put the phone down because there seemed no point in continuing to let things spiral out of control. I rang her up on Christmas day to wish her a happy Christmas and after all the social pleasantries she said “I see you have a temper like your father..” and I asked her to explain and she said that Sam would rarely argue, he would go years without raising his voice and then once every blue moon he would fight back and fight back hard and she thought I had inherited that trait from him. I scoffed at her, I like to think I’m much more argumentative – ask the senior management at my work. Ha!

bookmark_borderThe Hobbit

It’s the end of December 2011 and Peter Jackson has released the trailer for The Hobbit just in a nick of time because we won’t be able to go see it for a whole year, until December 2012. According to Hollywood the world is going to end on December 21st, 2012 so getting to watch The Hobbit is going to be a close run thing. Not.

I have a friend who’s from the West Country and he auditioned for a part in the first Lord of the Rings movie but didn’t get the part. This was understandable, he’s a crap actor but he went to watch the movie and was surprised to see that absolutely everyone in the movie spoke with a West County accent! Pissed would be an understatement. I told him he should have applied to be a voice coach.

When I started Secondary school we had to read a choice of books, there was J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Jack London’s Call of the Wild and D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover*. I got stuck into The Hobbit and read it in a few evenings but then discovered we were expected to write a critique of it in 600 words or more… bugger. This was a bit of a drag because The Hobbit barely has 600 words in the entire short novel and my critique would exceed that (okay okay, I exaggerate – a bit), however, it’s nothing compared to the ginormous task Peter Jackson faces because somehow he has to make three two hour movies out of The Hobbit and I’m not sure how he’s going to do that without turning it into a musical – which, by the look of the trailer is exactly what he plans to do. If they all started doing a Cornish version of Riverdance or Last of the Mohicans then I’m asking for my money back.

I must admit it’s interesting watching that trailer, it’s like being reacquainted with an old friend, and not just the LOTR movies but with the book from about 40 years ago and I think The Hobbit is stalking me, The Hobbit was the first text based adventure game I played on the ZX Spectrum and I kept getting killed by the giant spider dropping down from the tree. I better not tell you too much or I’ll spoil the musical ermm I mean movie for you.

It’s really hard not to write The Bobbit here, you know that, don’t you?

(* ok, it wasn’t Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I was just seeing if you’re paying attention, it was some awful book titled Last Tango In Paris, no-one choose it..)

bookmark_borderThe French Mistress

Perpétuent les stéréotypes .. moi?

After three years of learning how to survive in the sprawling jungle called Bangor Boys High School I was expected to buckle down for the last two years and actually start studying for our ‘O’ Levels in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English, Technical Drawing and Wood/Metal Work. You will note there’s no foreign languages there and there’s a reason for that, you see, in Fourth Form Miss Wylie started at the school to teach French and her classes were immediately over-subscribed. It’s not an understatement to say she was the French version of Marilyn Monroe, she had big hair, the most perfect nichons imaginable and butt cheeks that adhered to her skirt like two water melons covered in cling-film. When she reached down to pick something up 32 pubescent boys swooned in unison.  She would come over to us and breathing heavily in zee French axe-scent would talk us through our pronunciation.. at this point the recipient of her attention would just melt into a puddle onto the floor. We had pupils, obviously sick and on their death beds happily drag themselves in for just French and then plead illness and crawl home.

One day she caught two of the guys cheating in a test and for punishment she kept them in for detention after class for an hour to practice French with her. Jammy buggers. They came to school next day with huge grins on their faces, a one-to-one with Miss Wylie wasn’t punishment, it was the stuff of dreams. Next day everyone cheated.

We had Miss Wylie for a whole month of heaven until suddenly and unexplained she left and we got Mr Murrey instead. You can’t imagine our disappointment. He was as different from Miss Wylie as chalk is from cheese, not only that but he had a moustache, a cane, a leather strap and a nasty habit of throwing zee wooden blackboard cleaner at you if your attention wandered for more than a millisecond.

He spent the first lesson talking to us in complete gibberish, a language one would think the London Leprechaun would be fluent in but sadly not when he was fourteen. He was actually talking to us in French at the level he expected us to be at but it turned out that during the past month we had absorbed not one iota of French from Miss Wylie apart from useful phrases like ‘tas de merde’, ‘c’est un vrai con’ and ‘bite, couilles’ and obviously ‘nichons’. Mr Murrey wasn’t impressed at all at how little French we had actually absorbed, ‘you pile of shit’ and ‘he’s a real arsehole’ wasn’t ever going to feature in an ‘O’ Level exam paper, though to be honest if it did then the entire class would have achieved 100% pass rate. Perhaps the examination board should review the syllabus and include a few more dubious phrases, that way we’d enjoy it and the pass rate would soar.

I went to Paris in the autumn and missed the last train back home so I found a hotel for the evening and wanted to use their computers to book another train home in the morning. Their computers were absolutely merde so I complained to the sneary concierge who simply shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Je n’aime pas, monsieur’, it’s a shame that neither Miss Wylie nor Mr Murrey taught us proper French sign language because I know just from his shrug that this  translated into “I don’t care, life is indeed a pile of shit but tonight it’s not my pile of shit, it’s your pile of shit..” and with that he went back to inspecting his fingernails, you see, it’s all in the shrug.. I, of course, replied with ‘Tá tú chomh tiubh is leath aoileach ach amháin mar atá úsáideach’ which roughly translates from Irish as ‘you are as thick as manure but only half as useful’ and shrugged my shoulders too.. who says entente cordiale is dead?

bookmark_borderMerry Christmas

Bah Humbug on Christmas day is not an option

In the twenty five years I’ve lived in London, or should I say London’s reluctantly put up with me, I’ve never had a white Christmas but in Northern Ireland it’s a much more frequent occurrence. From the ages of eleven to sixteen I helped my older brother deliver milk and usually that involved trudging through the rainy streets of Bangor, cold and wet and looking forward to 1 Old Belfast Road, our last delivery and then it was off to school for me. As a general rule, apart from the postmen and the odd person doing The Walk Of Shame, we’d be the only ones awake and up, the vast majority of house lights would be off with the good folk of Bangor safely tucked up in bed, lovely and cosy, dreaming away whilst Raymond and I trudged around the streets and up their drives delivering milk. It could be a bit lonesome, him, me and the odd ferocious dog chasing us down the streets but around 6:30am we would start to see bedroom lights coming on as folk dragged their fat asses out’a bed and got ready for work.

However, on Christmas morning it was a completely different kettle of fish. We would see lots of houses with the lights on much earlier, sometimes even at 4:30 in the morning, and not just one bedroom light but all the lights and we knew there was a house with kids in it, we could even hear them talking excitedly and occasionally at 6am we’d see some child out on a new bicycle that Santa had brought, too excited and impatient to wait to try it out and riding it up and down the street. Invariably the parents would be standing at the bottom of the garden path watching them, nearly always dressed in their dressing gowns half smiling but knowing they had a snowballs chance in hell of getting back to bed.

One Christmas morning it had snowed quite heavily, a downer for kids with new bicycles – not like that didn’t stop them trying – but wonderful for me. There’s something special about snow, especially at Christmas, I have very clear  memories of doing my milk round through virgin snow, the air is always incredibly still when it’s snowed, the world quieten and the only sound is of your boots crushing the snow with each step.. magical. As a milkman – or should I say milkboy – one tried to be invisible, you want to deliver the milk quietly and not wake up the street and this is why we used electric milkfloats and by and large we were invisible – except to large dogs – and Jehovah Witnesses.  The whole world is transformed when it snows, snow makes everything clean and white but more than that it makes everything look like we are living in a fairy tale. Occasionally we would see tracks in the snow, tracks of foxes as they went about their nightly business but mostly Raymond and I would have the virgin snow all to ourselves and it was like a blank canvas, waiting for us to start filling it in with the tyres of the milk float and our clodhopper boots. We were always a bit quieter on these snowy morning, like we knew this was a special morning, something to be savoured – though of course Raymond would occasionally lob a snowball at the back of my head when I least expected it to wake me up!

In Australia it’s the height of summer and one of my friends will be on a beach watching Santa arrive on a surf board whilst she cooks Christmas lunch on a barbeque, it’s  strange to think of her catching a few rays whilst unwrapping Christmas presents but to steal a line from a 1954 movie White Christmas, which I’m sure will be shown many times around the world,  ‘May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white’ – even in Australia! Merry Christmas everyone.

bookmark_borderThe Sixth Sense

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore, or even Tooting

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in ‘Blink’ that sometimes we make decisions just based on a hunch, on instinct and we can’t figure out why, we just have an intuitive sense of something being right or wrong. He goes on to propose that it’s our subconscious talking to us, picking up little clues that our conscious mind doesn’t notice and he starts off his book with the story of ‘The statue that didn’t look right’. The Paul Getty museum was offered a statue from the sixth century BC, it was an almost perfect specimen and the price was just short of $10,000,000. The museum got in experts from all over the world and even took a sample of marble from behind the knee and tested it under every sort of scope one could think of. It passed all tests and did indeed appear to be bona fide, they paid up and had a big four page spread in the New York Times about this new find.

However, when a member of the Trustee Board first looked at it she immediately thought it was a forgery, she couldn’t say exactly why but it just didn’t look right, and more and more experts felt the same way, one thought it looked ‘fresh’, not the first thought one should have upon looking upon a 2,500 yr old statue. The statue is now in the Getty catalogue as “Greek, about 530 B.C., or modern forgery.”

These experts were following their hunches, their instincts in calling the Kouros a fake, and we all develop our own set of hunches, instincts or ‘spiddy-sense’ if you are a fan of Spiderman. In Northern Ireland one could instinctively tell if the person taking to you was Catholic or Protestant, if the area you were walking though was Catholic or Protestant area and even the commentators on the radio/tv what religious tradition that had been brought up in, in a country where being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be a matter of life or death literally then one develops these survival instincts and tailors ones conversation to one’s audience.

But it’s not only in Northern Ireland that one develops these instincts, Bill Bryson wrote in ‘Neither Here Nor There’ that when he was in Belgium that really the country was divided in two, the northern Dutch speaking Flanders and the southern French speaking Wallonia. The Flemmings can’t stand the Walloons and vise versa and one day he was being shown around the city by a guide who would glance sideways at a couple sitting sipping coffee in an outdoor café and hiss ‘Dutch!’ to Bill. Bill said how can he tell and the guide was amazed that Bill couldn’t tell they were northern but of course to Bill they just looked like everyone else in Belgium. The guide had obviously become sensitive to the little tell-tale signs that makes one group different from another and when Bill asked him to explain how he knew they were northern Dutch the guide couldn’t say, he just knew because ‘it was so obvious’!

I know how the guide feels, I spent a large part of yesterday and today looking at cars for sale  in Croydon, a satellite town south of London where I lived in for the first seven years of London life and my spidy-sense was on full alert. It’s not that hard to describe Croydon, when I lived there it was cheap, messy and quite rough but now it’s just a huge ginormous sprawling monster, like when I was there it was a troublesome teenager that one hoped would come good in the end but instead it’s metamorphosed in Jabba The Hutt.

Unlike the Belgium guide and Michael Gladwell, I know full well why my spider-sense was on full alert, there are certain characteristics that one judges an area with and whether it’s safe to walk the streets or if one’s going to be a target, you may use some of these without knowing it. If I see people sitting outside in a café sipping coffee and chatting away, generally that area is OK. I saw none of this in Croydon but I have a broad set of criteria before I damn a place, another thing I look out for is a bookshop, specifically a full bookshop, vandals and larger-louts tend not to frequent bookshops and I did indeed find one in Croydon but it was almost empty… strike two.  The other thing connected with this is did I see anyone reading a book on the bus/tram down to Croydon, apart from myself there was no-one else reading on the bus, not even a Kindle…not a good sign. However, the most telling sign and one most Londoners aren’t aware of is – are there people on bicycles. You can tell an area is OK simply by the presence of people going about their business on bikes and the abundance of cycle lanes. Even Tooting’s got well used cycle lanes but in Croydon I saw not one person on a bike, I saw two adults on scooters blasting through the Christmas shoppers but no one on bikes and that’s very telling. There are bike lanes leaving Tooting and heading in the general direction of Croydon but they peter out the closer one gets to Croydon, it’s like the council knows there is no point in painting them on the road, they will never get used. The dystopian Los Angeles so brilliantly created by Ridley Scott in Blade Runner already exists just south of London. I’m glad I managed to escape alive.

However, there’s one more bit to this story that I need to mention and it’s got to do with relationships. I do the same thing with relationships, I judge them on factors I can’t really explain, it’s nothing to do with looks, height, weight, age, personality or even distance, I can’t explain it but I know instinctively if a relationship is going to be long term or short term and it greatly colours how I treat that person, and I don’t know what it is, some folk say it’s ‘chemistry’ and maybe our bodies detect the pheromones given off by each other but I’m not so sure, I think it’s even subtler than that but I can’t explain it, all I know is that if my guts tell me it isn’t going to be the love of my life then I pull back because ..well..because it doesn’t feel right to go against your guts, does it.. and it’s a bit of a bugger because I’ve missed out on a lot of kissing because of it but when I look back at least I’ve got a slightly cleaner conscience and that’s kind’a important, at least for the London Leprechaun

bookmark_borderEvery Girl Should Get To Live Her Fairytale


A friend of mine got married recently, on the quiet and not telling anyone. She’s extremely unwell and just wanted a quiet wedding with almost no-one there. I’ve been searching around for a while now trying to find the right image to put here and found it tonight. This isn’t her obviously but I still think it’s poignant and makes me think of her and her new husband.

Life can be pretty cruel sometimes, of at least that’s how it seems to me, it’s hard to second guess what is going to happen next but it does seem to be some truth in ‘the good ones always go first’, and that’s something I observed again and again when working on Intensive Care.  I remember one summer trying my best to keep Michael alive, he was sixteen and had cancer and we struggled desperately with him, it was one step forward and two steps back all summer and we made heroic efforts to save him and tried things when we knew there was practically no hope. He slipped away suddenly just as school autumn term started and his younger brother was called in from school, still wearing his school uniform. My first born is about the same age now as Michaels younger brother was and sometimes when I see him in his school uniform I am taken back to that summer more than ten years ago and it’s like it happened only yesterday. It’s strange what you remember, in more than ten years of working on various Intensive Cares in London and dealing literally with hundreds of tragedies and deaths, there are still a few that stick out and shine, Michael was one of them. He knew he was going to die, we all knew he was going to die, and yet he never complained about how unfair or how cruel it was, and neither did his mother, his father, or his younger brother, and yet I knew it was tearing them all apart, it was wrote all over their faces, just like every single member of Staff around them. I think some souls come down onto this earth solely to teach everyone else lessons.

I had another friend whose mother passed away after a long illness and she asked me about pain, do folk die in pain but here’s the thing, nature pulls a clever trick, when someone is close to death and their body is failing then so too is the body’s ability to register discomfort and pain, the pain transmission along the nerve pathways is impaired too and the failing brain, starved of oxygen isn’t able to interpret the signals, in all my time on Intensive Care I never saw anyone pass away in discomfort, it was always peaceful.

You try try try your best to comfort people when they lose someone, it’s hard because really, the only thing that really eases the pain, the sense of loss, is time, and even then the void is always there, a gap that can never to be filled again. All these thoughts have been hovering in the back of my mind recently because of my friend and it’s hard to make sense of it at all but every day The Universe writes me a little note and this was this mornings note pasted below. The atheists amongst you will scoff, some will just groan but I don’t really mind as it’s my note and it reminds me that we never truly lose anyone.

The top things dead people want to tell living people and they are:

They’re not dead.
They’re sorry for any pain they caused.
They were ready to go when they went.
You’re not ready.
They finally understand what they were missing.
Nothing can prepare you for the beauty of the moment you arrive.
Don’t try to understand this now, but life is exceedingly fair.
Your pets are as crazy, brilliant and loving, here, as they were there.

Life really is all about love, but not just loving those who love you…

In their own words,

The Universe

PS It’s almost Christmas and on the radio they are playing Whams ‘Last Christmas’, if this was your last Christmas, where would you spend it? I think, after church I might go to Lapland… the land of reindeer’s and snow

bookmark_borderThe Urban Jungle

There’s not much demand for moose experts in Tooting, SW London. It’s a shame really as I’m getting to be quite an expert on them, I can tell you they are very dumb animals, they don’t really sleep for long periods at night, they are kack handed or should I say kack pawed, clumsy, ungainly, uncoordinated and very noisy, basically they’re cows with antlers and they make baying noises when mating. I know all this because I have one living in the apartment above me. Well, at least that’s the only explanation I can think of for the weird noises that emanate from above at all times of the day and night. I hear Mr Moose crashing into furniture and knocking things over at some very late times and then he’s at it again at six in the morning. Occasionally I will hear grunting and baying as it’s obviously rutting season and I’m seriously considering renting out my flat to some BBC Nature Unit with David Attenborough in tow.

I checked that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and it seems there are anywhere between 500,000 and 1, 000,000 moose in Canada, and 115,000 in Finland but I’ve had to adjust the entry for the UK from zero to one mating pair. Rather interestingly, I note that the triangular warning signs common in Sweden, Norway, and Finland have become coveted souvenirs among tourists travelling in these countries, causing the road authorities so much expense that the moose signs have been replaced with image-less generic warning signs in some regions. I suspect that’s what’s happening here in Tooting too, I’m sure there were warning signs up everywhere at one stage but they are nowhere to be found these days and I blame the tourists.

And then there’s the walrus that’s taken up residence in the flat downstairs. He snores a lot!

Moose (and the occasional walrus) aren’t the only wildlife we have here in Tooting, we have a menagerie of other wild animals though thankfully most of them are locked up in school classrooms from 8:15 to 3:30 each day. However, we do have some very cute city foxes, and these are often visible from my flat window. Most folk in London get irritated by the city foxes that do much the same job as raccoons in the States but I don’t mind the foxes that much, except when they are fauxing in my back garden where-upon they make the most god awful racket, like two Bobcats fighting. I have actually spotted foxes in Leicester Square early in the morning which is kind’a like spotting a moose in Times Square in NYC. I can’t think where they stay during the day, there’s no derelict buildings anywhere nearby and the parks are too far away, I can only assume they do what all other Londoners do and catch the tube in during the evening before returning to the suburbs in the morning.

It’s interesting to think that a city the size of London could be so full of wildlife but one does see some strange sights. Last week a lemur was found nearly frozen to death on Tooting Common. Yes, you read that right.

Tooting's newest resident

I DO hope you can see these links above. I’m telling you, this place is like Noah’s Ark and it’s the perfect spot to film Madagascar 3, the director wouldn’t actually have to import any animals, he could just point a camera in any random direction and Bob’s yer uncle, movie made.

bookmark_borderThe Gucci Coochie

One is not pleased.

So, I’ve mentioned before that I’m glad I’m not a woman, after spending an evening feeling really bloated after a dodgy risotto I now know I can never get pregnant…yes, pathetic man I know, however, it’s come to my attention that there are other reasons to be grateful that I’m a man and one of them is that I’ve never actually had to have my bits waxed. I watched The 40 year Old Virgin and he had his chest waxed and stripped and I saw the look on his face and believe me, it wasn’t one of pleasure. Actually, I tell a lie, when I was 14 I had to go into Newtownards hospital to have my appendix removed and as I was still considered a child I was put in the children’s surgical ward. Before the op the Sister came along, inspected my abdomen and told me I would need to be shaved from ‘nipple to knee’, a common procedure in 1970’s Irish hospitals. She asked if I wanted a male or female nurse to shave me bits and as puberty was in full flood through my veins I thought it prudent to choose a male nurse as I didn’t want to disgrace myself in the sweet tender hands of some lovely female nurse.

I remember it being really itchy when it grew back.

My sister bought me my first electric razor when I was 15 and at that age I think I could rub my bum-fluff off my chin with a damp towel, however I went on a ski-ing holiday when 16 and Kurt Savage, one of my class mates mentioned to me half way through the holiday that he had borrowed the shaver the night before to shave the hair off his butt. I was grossed out because he choose to tell me as I was having a shave at the time, and yes, he was very hairy but you think he’d have his own shaver by then. This is what 16 yr old boys get up to, we try to grow up as soon as possible.

Now as a reasonably hairy 50 year old male I find the idea of getting all my short and curlies ripped out as somewhat unappetising, what modern woman go through is enough to bring tears to my eyes. I’ve had to go to the GP and have my prostate stroked, not as pleasurable as they say in the some less salubrious websites that umm a friend of mine visits but exposing my most intimate parts is kind’a ok in the doctors surgery because I know it’s to avoid prostate cancer. However, going to some salon and exposing your most intimate parts to a complete stranger, not for health reasons but for social/aesthetic reasons is something I’m keen going to avoid.

I was discussing this recently with a friend and she used an expression that not only made me snigger but also went some way to explaining the reasons for enduring this torture, she mentioned she didn’t want to look like a clown when wearing a bathing suit and it took me a few seconds to figure that one out. Pubic shaving actually originated in ancient Egypt and Greece when prostitutes had to shave for both hygienic reasons and as a clear sign of their profession. Although female body shaving was established as the norm between 1915 and 1945, pubic hair removal did not gain a strong foothold until the 1980s, part of the reason was because of the porn industry (umm.. so a friend informs me) but also because swimsuits tended to get more and more revealing and if you were very hairy then the danger of looking like Krusty the Clown down there increased greatly.

But it’s very very strange, female friends of mine go to salons, strip off, assume some very unlady like positions, have a total stranger discuss and inspect their private parts in detail, then paste molten wax on said parts and apply paper and rip it off… AND they get paid to do this torture??  I wonder about this, I’m going to assume it is always a woman who carries out this torture – ummm I mean treatment but are there any men doing this to woman, and is the salon called Helga’s House Of Pain..and is there an age limit, will woman continue to have their bits waxed when they are in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s? I try to go to the same hairdresser each time because whenever I go to another one I’m never happy with the haircut and I wonder if it’s the same with woman, do you try to go to the same ‘stripper’ each time..

And I recently learnt of another new term recently, ‘landing strip’, and I had to think about this too, I assume it’s called a landing strip because in some instances that’s where your man’s chin lands before feasting on the delights below. However, there seems to be a little cottage industry in landing strips and one can get them eventually in shapes that please, little hearts for the romantic, lighting bolts or you can even get it shaped into logos, the Gucci coochie as it’s referred to. Personally I think shaping your landing strip into the shape of an Irish three leaf clover would be fun, not for me of course but can you imagine telling your females friend’s you’ve done that in honour of your Irish boyfriend, I suspect they would roar with laughter…

And then if you dyed it green…

One of my friends tells me that it’s becoming more and more common for men to shave their bodies too and in fact go through much the same procedure, especially in the States, personally this is one trend I’m kind’a keen not to follow, I think I’m ok because wearing Speedos has gone out of fashion in the swimming pool these days and it’s too friggin cold in this country and one needs all the insulation nature kindly provides. One of my brother-in-laws is like a silver backed gorilla, he’s of Greek extraction and his wife says it’s like sleeping with a hairy dog, she refers to him occasionally as Scooby Doo,  every time she curls up with him he tickles her just by being so hairy and she complains about the amount of hair left in the bed when it’s molting season, yes, apparently he molts in the Spring but like I said to her; surely you knew all this before you married him, surely like a new car you took him out for a trail run and sweetheart, you make your hairy bed and you lie in it. She says he’s got hairier as he’s got older and by the time he’s 60 in 15 years time he really will resemble a silver back gorilla. She’s asked him about waxing his back at least but being another pathetic man he says he’ll need a general anaesthetic each and every time.

I think I’m kind’a lucky being born when I did, my generation tend not to get shaved anywhere other than the chin but I think peer pressure (or female pressure) will make sure that the coming generation will find themselves visiting Helga’s House Of Pain just as frequently as their girlfriends.

Oh, found this little gem on a bone fide medical site “It is interesting to note that the lack of hair around the anus will make it impossible to pass gas silently.”  Well, that does it for me, I’m definitely not getting me butt waxed.

bookmark_borderThe Accidental Girlfriend

Works for me!

I had to go pick beasties up last night from Tooting Bec and on the way there I passed Tooting Broadway tube station and saw a sight I haven’t seen for a while, it was blokes standing outside the tube awaiting their dates, each obviously made some effort and each looking up at the station entrance as someone emerged. It’s a scene I am somewhat familiar with as when I lived in Northern Ireland and didn’t drive it was always at the local bus station where you met your date, it was the same scene, one I’m sure is repeated the world all over, guys just hanging around, best shoes, coolest clothes (despite the cold rain) and freshly groomed..

..and the sense of anticipation..

A long time ago I was working as a manager of a large grocery store in Bangor, Northern Ireland and Caroline, a new girl started working in the canteen. She was nice and friendly and over the ensuing weeks myself and my bunch of reprobates got more and more friendly with her. One Saturday lunchtime I happened to mention that we were all going to catch the latest blockbuster movie at the local flea pit and perhaps she’d like to join us, it would be chaotic but fun. She said sure, why not and I arrived to meet her at the Bangor bus station along with a few others from the gang. So come seven pm and there’s about a dozen of us waiting at the bus station, a few of the gang get off various buses and we wait for everyone else – this is before mobiles – and then the Newtownards bus arrives and Caroline gets off. She spots us, waves, smiles and comes over and, astonishingly, gives me a little peck on the cheek and takes my hand as we start making our way to the picture house.

I was somewhat surprised, I should add pleasantly surprised for many reasons, I didn’t actually ask her there on a date, it was just as a part of our big group, I was as ugly as sin and there is no way she’d be interested in me but I managed to cover my surprise and act like I had asked her there for a date after all.

We went to the flicks and our gang messed around as usual rolling mint imperials all the way from the back row to the front of the cinema and chatting up members of the opposite sex sitting in front of us. At one point Caroline went to the loo and everyone in the gang took the opportunity to tell me what a dark horse I was, keeping a cracker like Caroline on the quiet! I of course played along and made out yes yes, I had been planning this all along but the reality was I was just as surprised as they were. My best friend Trevor later told me he was gutted as he had been planning to ask Caroline out the next week and I hadn’t mentioned my interest, I confessed to him that I was just as surprised as he was and he was even more gutted!

If only it was always so easy..

bookmark_borderSchool Daze

When I first came to London I had to learn table manners, or at least better table manners, at home it wasn’t thought of as bad manners to lick your knife during meals or lets be honest, use your fingers, but I remember getting the ‘looks could kill’ glare from then girlfriend as I sat there licking my knife during dinner with her parents, her eyes screamed bad words at me and I knew not why, what I didn’t know was that everyone else at the dinner table was glaring at me too over this faux pas but in my ignorance I was too busy chasing petit pois around my plate to notice.

Licking bits of cold metal isn’t something I make a habit of these days, well, not unless I want to starve but in Canada it’s said that if you lick a metal lamp post in the depth of winter then your tongue will stick to it. I’ve never tried that or felt the urge to lick anything metal outside the dining room but it appears to be a national pastime in Canada, at least according to Mr Google. I do wonder who discovered this and why would anyone be licking a lamp post in the middle of winter anyway and of course I’m curious now…hmmm I feel a trip coming on.. I have this image in my head of large swathes of Canadians attached to lamp posts and fighting for space with passing dogs, waiting for the spring when they can free themselves with cries of “free at last” just like MLK ..assuming their tongue isn’t still numbbbb.

So, lamp post licking isn’t my forte but I kind’a know how it feels because in my first primary school the toilet block was separate from the main building and one had to really need to go to the toilet during the winter. The toilet block was across the playground and the wind howled through it, it kept the air fresh (to say the least) but during the winter it was freezing cold in there, chilly on the willy and one didn’t hang around. The toilets themselves were actually metal – this was Northern Ireland in 1965 – and after trudging your way through the snow you’d be faced with the world’s coldest bog as we referred to them. You’d have to check all the cubicles and hope there was one with toilet paper as you jumped up and down impatiently, your bowels already gearing themselves up for a massive expulsion after a school dinner of prunes and custard, the most effective purgative known to man and beast. There was none of those new-fangled automatic toilets that wipe your arse with nice warm water and air like they have in Japan these days, in Trinity primary school you risked hypothermia exposing your lower cheeks to the elements and took your life in your hands every time you visited the bog in winter. As kids we learnt not to place our butt cheeks on the frozen metal surface out of fear of getting frozen to it and spending all of January and February attached to it. We knew that if we did then we would indeed get stuck, it was guaranteed because the older inmates – I mean pupils – had told us the story of how one of their lot had been stuck there all winter and had to eat his dinner on the toilet and have private lessons there too until Spring arrived – and the older pupils wouldn’t have lied…would they..? Consequently, Trinity Primary School produced a class of kids each year that knew very little about Canada but we all had excellent bladder and bowel control for you only used the school toilets in a dire emergency.

I spent my first three years at Trinity primary school and then we moved to Conlig, a little village in the arse end of nowhere that made the bright light (yeah, light, not lights!) of Bangor seem like Las Vegas in comparison and it was here that I endured years four and five. Conlig primary school was a four room building;  year’s 1,2 & 3 were taught in one room, year four and five in another room, year six and seven in the last classroom and the only other room was Assembly Hall/Dinner Hall/Sports Hall/Stage for Naivety Plays at Christmas.  It was a small village and even smaller school and I spent many a long hour staring out the window in a daze watching the assorted wildlife of Conlig use the school playground as a toilet. This was usually the local dogs who in those days roamed wild but one would see cats and squirrels and sometimes even foxes sniffing around the playground, especially after lunch hour when the opportunity for dropped food was highest.

There’s a scene in Monty Pythons ‘Meaning Of Life’ where John Cleese is teaching his class all about sex, it’s a sex education class and he hits the blackboard on the wall and a bed falls out in front of the pupils, then in walks his wife and lies down on the bed and he says to the class “OK, we’ll take foreplay as read’ and proceeds to make love to his wife in front of the class discussing his technique loudly. And of course the pupils are bored senseless and one of them is staring out the window daydreaming. And it’s the juxtaposition of all this, him making love to his wife in front of the pupils and they are so bored like in an English Literature class studying Henry The Fourth Part One or studying quadratic equations in mathematics.. and one day I had a similar experience at Conlig. Slightly. I was staring out the window one summer, bored to tears whilst the teacher was droning on about some dirge when I noticed a couple of dogs sniffing around the playground. Then two of the dogs started humping each other right in the middle of the playground – have these dogs no shame?  And so of course I woke up and said ‘HEY! look at those two dogs!’ and the whole class looked out the window, probably the entire school was looking out the window. These days the idea of having sex ‘al fresco’ is somewhat (ie VERY) appealing but I think I would choose my place carefully and definitely not in the middle of a primary school playground. Perhaps the dogs should have sold tickets. However, at this point one of the other kids said in all innocence (I think) “Miss, what are they doing?” and like the true pro she was, without missing  a beat she answered back “Oh, that dogs got a puncture and the other dog’s trying to pump her back up…” and with that we went back to our lessons..  For years after that I was sure that if two dogs got into a fight and bit one another then they would deflate and might even go flying into the air like an untied balloon. God, I was naïve… still am..

At my next Primary school, Bangor Central, I spent my final two years, years six and seven with Mr Iverson. He struck fear into all of us, he was ‘well hard’ as we would say, he had a cane and knew how to use it. We knew he was ‘well hard’ before even coming to Central because it was said that Iverson polished Hitler’s boots. We were told this by the outgoing pupils and we were suitably impressed – we had no idea who the hell Hitler was of course but the other pupils were very impressed and so were we.. and they wouldn’t lie to us ..would they?

Central Primary School had some good points and some bad points, by far the best point was indoor toilets, I considered this a real luxury – especially as I was living in a house with an outside privy so conversely I saved everything up for school in my last years rather than undertake the ‘back door trot’ at home. However the downside of Central was that there were a few bullies in the class I joined.  One guy in particular used to beat me up all the time, it was a pretty rough school, I was beat up all the time by the group of bullies in the class, they would take my lunch money and once  I actually was hospitalised and this was in year six. This set in a pattern that would later be repeated during my 20’s, the class bully would still take my lunch money when I was 25 – the only difference being that I would say “No, I don’t want fries with that..” as I handed over my lunch money.. ahhh, I tried not to gloat too much..  ha!

bookmark_borderIdiots Guide To Astrology

I have a friend who checks out all potential dates astrologically and asks them their time/DOB/place before she will meet up with them. I tend to take astrology with a large pinch of salt and make a point of trying to find the most astrologically incompatible match I can find, principally because ..well, who wants a quiet life? I like a challenge because I think that’s when we learn and grow the most, and I don’t like the thought of someone else telling me who’s compatible with me and who is not, I’d rather find out myself. One of my best friends, a Scorpio, should rub me up the wrong way entirely but her and I are best friends. Conversely, I know someone who was born on the same day as myself and I struggle to get along with her, (no, not you twin sis!)

So I was curious to see how two of my friends would fare together astrologically and entered their data and got the following happy report;


This is a very difficult aspect between charts. There may be jealousy, or a dampening of self-confidence and enthusiasm. This comparative combination does not favour romantic relationships because of the heavy authoritarian implications. However, when aspects do form in spite of this aspect, the staying power of Saturn usually helps keep you together permanently.

This is an adverse aspect for romantic relationship because it denotes great difficulty in understanding each other’s moods and feelings. In some cases, the attraction may be emotional or sexual, without real understanding or overall mental and spiritual compatibility. There is an attraction here, but marriages may be contracted for reasons of financial or domestic security, or as a result of family pressure, rather than because of real affinity.

With this combination natural tendencies toward excesses, expressed by either individual, are likely to be extended and inflated. Extravagance, overconfidence, and overextending will be a bi-product of the relationship. You tend to encourage each other’s tendencies toward self-indulgence and impracticality. This is not a good relationship for raising a family because there is a tendency to ignore responsibility and too much is taken for granted. In romantic relationships difficulties arise over differences in philosophic, religious, or moral viewpoints.

Usually this combination produces emotional conflict. The Uranus person is viewed as aggressive, domineering and insensitive, while this person is likely to look upon the Moon person as too moody and overly emotional. This comparative aspect is not favourable of compatibility in marriage and romance, although it can produce sexual attraction. In marital or romantic relationships, one partner may feel that he or she is being exploited for sexual or financial reasons. The aspect can cause angry scenes and emotional conflict. Arguments of joint finances. You must work consciously at exercising patience, gentleness, and consideration for each other.

This aspect is not very harmonious and shows a departure in attitudes on the weightier issues in life. There may be a serious departure in views regarding religion, education, or merely habits and taste. In this relationship the Jupiter individual is apt to think the other too self-indulgent. Venus may view Jupiter as too serious, and overly concerned with religion, philosophy, or culture.

This is the most competitive, argumentative, and pugnacious of all Sun-Mars combinations. It indicates particularly that the two of you have very different energy levels, which can cause all kinds of conflict. The negative and disruptive effects of this aspect can be mitigated if you both are very secure in yourselves. In that case, instead of regarding this competitive energy as a threat, you will take it as a challenge. This energy would be most difficult to harness creatively in a love relationship. In a business relationship or a friendship it would be easier to deal with.

Sun conjunct Saturn is a very powerful aspect in a composite chart. It indicates that you have come together to have an important learning experience. The experience of this relationship may expose you to truths about yourselves that you would rather not face. The point is not to judge yourselves or each other, but to see clearly and with detachment and then try to make changes where necessary. In many respects you may find this relationship confining and limiting. It may well be that you do need this discipline and that you are not facing your responsibilities. If you need this experience, the relationship may last a lifetime. But if it is really too confining, it will probably not last very long.


It goes on and on but I think you probably get the message. Now, here’s the thing, this is Doris and Bob’s chart, my 84yr old mother and my 81 yr old stepfather and I know that after spending the weekend with them that they are totally into each other and deeply in love.

I probably better not tell them about this chart… eh?

bookmark_borderMeet The Parents (part deux)

Can Goth's ever have 'bad hair days?'


The fun started even before I got her home. On the train from Gatwick to Clapham Junction there was only one seat and Doris, my 84 year old mother took it. Unfortunately sitting beside her was a Goth in full regalia on route to hit the town, dressed in black with lots of metalwork piercings, painted face and heavy eye make-up. Quite attractive really- if ghouls are your thing.

Standard Operating Procedure in situations like this is to completely ignore scary people and avoid eye contact but this is Doris, so of course she decides to strike up a conversation with this ‘person?’ sitting beside her. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go but rather surprisingly  the Goth smiled back and chatted away happily. The juxtaposition was startling, this little old lady from the ancient lands of Brigadoon contrasting sharply with some extra from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.. if his arm had dropped off it would have been perfect..

I looked at Doris ‘s face and knew exactly what she was thinking. She was thinking “is this a man or a woman…?” . I knew it was a man but she wasn’t so sure so her conversational tact was a probing one “have you any (Goth) children?” “do you have a partner..?” “what’s your favourite colour, pink or black…?” , I was waiting for some sentence with the words  “what’s a Prince Albert?” in it..

We got off at Clapham Junction and I knew she would ask me before we left the station platform – I put her out of her misery and told her he was a ‘he’, she looked shocked, why would a man wear make-up….. at that moment I thought I probably ought to take that poster of Boy George down from the guest bedroom wall before she gets home..

Ironically, it seems somewhat appropriate that Doris met a Goth on the train even before she got here because the entire evenings conversation last night was about who’s kicked the bucket at home. Consequently she seems to spend a lot of time at funerals  and graveyards and I think that’s also the favoured place to hang out when you’re a Goth.. might as well go the whole hog Doris and put on the heavy black make-up – now THAT would put the fun back into fun-eral..

So, Doris (and Bob) settled in during the night but we had burglars, at least that’s what I first thought when I heard stumbling footsteps at 4am, then I realised it was either Bob or Doris looking for the loo in the dark – is it this door? “No!, Doris, this is my bedroom, the loo is in the next room..!”  and then at 6:30 I listened to both of them fumbling around the kitchen looking for light-switches and the cornflakes. You will recognise the sound as cupboards are opened and closed almost immediately because it’s actually the fridge and doesn’t contain breakfast bowls. I had to look after two dogs one weekend and like all dogs they spent the entire first night exploring the flat and checking everything out, this is exactly what it felt like last night, Doris and Bob exploring, sniffing around, unfamiliar territory, trying to find simple things… like the loo..

I took them both out for walkies this morning, sorry, I mean a walk, it’s like having two large children, watching out for them and there’s this London phenomena call ‘traffic’, they don’t seem to realise that they aren’t actually meant to stop half way across the road because there’s a shiny penny on the ground and then take half an hour to pick it up whilst a red double-decker bus bears down on you. I try my best not to curse within earshot of them, don’t want to offend them but when I saw the bus coming at them full pelt I did let slip two words, the second one which was HELL!

I left them outside Tecos, the grocery chain with clear instructions not to go anywhere whilst I went across Tooting High street to use a hole in the wall machine. VERY clear instructions. I was only gone two minutes but when I came back they had both disappeared – at which point I thought do I just go home and hope, like homing pigeons or dogs they pitch up at the flat tired and hungry during the middle of the night with a big smile on their faces or do I contact PC Plod and get him to send out an APB… fortunately I noticed them in the charity shop next door haggling over the price of a second hand book with some bemused shop assistant. I retrieved them with “we don’t actually haggle in this country Doris, and especially not in charity shops…”  sigh..

I noticed something strange yesterday, if you’re a bloke and walk down Tooting High Street with your baby/toddler son or daughter almost every woman will glance at you and involuntary smile because it’s so sweet, the same effect happens when you’re 50 and walk down the street with your 80+ mother, you get the same smile from woman, (you get the look of pity and ‘thank Christ that’s not me’ from men), just woman, maybe they think ‘now there’s a good catch, he’s capable of looking after a small dog, toddler, elderly mum (delete as appropriate). When I looked after that small Scottie dog for a weekend it was like a babe magnet, all these woman smiled at me and came over to stroke my Scottie (no, that’s not an euphemism!). If there was a Victoria Secrets shop in Tooting I would have taken Doris in there in the hope that some woman there would come over and stroke her and chat me up.. ok ok, I know taking 84yr olds into Victoria Secrets shop is probably going to raise a few eyebrows from the clientèle there but on the other hand wouldn’t you like to date the son of an 84 yr old who still visits Victoria Secrets??

Or perhaps not.

This evening I was surprised to see Doris about to eat some M&M’s, at least I thought they were M&M’s, turns out they were multi-vitamins, calcium tablets, cod liver oil tablets and about a zillion other tablets she thinks are necessary for an even longer life.  I did wonder why she rattled like a tambourine when walking down the stairs this evening, now I know. I have to wonder about the logic of this though, why bother, like, come on, if you get to 84 you have pretty much beaten the Grim Reaper at his own game so why not live it up a little?

If (when!) I get to 84 then I’m going to live it up a little – or a lot, I’m going to take up smoking because, come on, it’s hardly going to fucking kill you, is it?, it takes years and years of smoking to do that and I’m going to take up serious drinking, no no, really serious drinking, I’ve been drunk twice in my life but I’m going to be drunk every friggin day because even if I start drinking heavily at 84 then the chances of me dying of liver failure is still going to be slim. And the other thing I’m going to do is partake in extreme sports because, fuck’it, if I die from a hang gliding accident or from sky-diving accident, well at least everyone will say he’s had a fair innings, it was his time. In the 90’s in LA there was this craze for thrill seeking kids to run out across the road and dodge the speeding traffic, for the kids doing it it was a real adrenaline buzz – and I dare say provoked a few heart attacks for the drivers as well, I think if I can get to 84 then I’m going to do the same thing, I’m going to dash out across Tooting High Street during the rush hour, I think I should get a real adrenaline buzz and feel really alive – and I should be OK – as long as I don’t spot a shiny penny in the middle of the road…

bookmark_borderLets Talk About Sex (Part Ten)

Am tempted to say ‘been there, done that’ but the RSPCA might arrest me.

I’ve been thinking about dating again recently and in preparation for the ordeal I’ve been checking out the competition by looking at all the 50 yr old males within reasonable distance, yes, I know that’s a bit weird but my mind doesn’t think like normal folk, it likes to take the less well trodden path. It’s been quite a sobering experience, to say the least. Now, undoubtedly some of the blokes are a tad scary and some of them are definitely lying about their age, weight and height, some are frankly laughably and you wonder if ‘Care in the Community’ has gone too far BUT some of them are simply stunning too, I can say that even as a man and it’s very very sobering. When I went on my speed dating night years ago the place was full of chairmen of the board and financial directors with houses in various country and then there was little me from the back streets of Belfast and I’m reminded of that feeling when I troll for 50 year old males in the London area, there are some very good looking men with their head screwed on and with some very well written profiles. Perhaps a life as a Trappist Monk beckons after all.

Sadly there does seems to be an awful lot of photos of men sailing yachts looking very manly and in control, sailing the seven seas and a surprising number of men seem to have caught the same huge effing fish in the same river, I’m starting to think is there some photographers shop in London with a river backdrop and a huge stuffed fish. Anyway, the other thing I noticed the rug count – I’ve just counted and out of the first 50 men only five have a good set of hair without the need for a comb-over – and one of those 50 was me, well, at least that’s some consolation!

I really should check out the local monastery but I often wonder about monks and nuns that hide themselves away, what sort of life must they have, I’m sure it can seem hard trying to be deeply spiritual, what with having to get up at the crack of dawn to pray/mediate/study/fast/scrub floors etc but here’s the thing, I think the real challenge would be to live as a monk or nun out in the community, not sheltered away from modern life  behind big stone walls, trying to be deeply spiritual whilst interacting with modern life and engaging with folk would I think, be much more difficult, seeing the suffering some folk go through and trying to qualify that within your spiritual beliefs would, I think, be a much more challenging task but ultimately turn you into a much better person, the iron ore may complain about being put into the raging furnace but when the finest steel comes out it knows better..

I’ve been thinking about this recently and in much the same way I think monks should get out into the community more then rather than stand by the sidelines and observe the world around me, I’ve dipped my toes back into the dating pool and it’s been a sobering experience. Perhaps it’s because I turned 50 in February but I’m starting to see things differently now and my attitude has changed.

Now I know I am going to get roasted for this and I hesitate to write it but hey, it’s my blog and like the telly, there is an off switch, you can simply switch me off but I’m hoping you don’t, I’m hoping the last paragraph balances thing out and changes your perspective about men, if only slightly. And you will have to excuse the glaring generalisations here, I know not everyone is the same but there is a point and hopefully some truth.

You see, it’s interesting watching dates get together, we men behave somewhat similar to dogs but perhaps in a more civilised way and then again perhaps in a less truthful way, perhaps dogs can teach us something about being true and real, like dogs we approach each other cautiously incase we’re both the same sex, wary of getting bit in the ass and then we do the doggy equivalent of sniffing each other’s butt and when we discover the other person is of the opposite sex we try our very best to mount them doggie style..  (well, I do anyway but ssshhhh don’t tell anyone!). And this is really how it’s been for most of my life and practically every other guy I know. Granted some guys meet someone and take their time before engaging in rumpy-pumpy but ever since puberty that tends to be the pattern most men follow and certainly one most folk will recognise.

And so I’ve been thinking about sex and about when we sleep with someone else, the act of sleeping with someone else is never really just about sex, is it – or I think it’s rarely about ‘just’ sex, you see, when you sleep with someone there is a whole lot more that comes into play, you bring a whole lot more with you, sleeping with someone also says that you like that person, hopefully it says you have some emotional investment in that woman, hopefully you think there is some kind of future in it and it says to her that you like her, you have feelings towards her and its more than just mere sex. It is said that each time a man sleeps with a woman, that she gives a part of herself to him, and it’s not just sex full stop, it’s not just emotions, she gives him part of her heart, part of her soul.. And when he sleeps with her and walks away then, well, then she’s lost a tiny little part of herself – and it’s not just her pride (or only her pride) but something finer, more ethereal that she’s lost, it’s almost a part of who she is..

But here’s the kicker, here’s the thing, you see, we men actually know this, underneath all the lust and animal and the passion there is a part of us that knows this, that senses this – and the older we get the more clearly we come to know this and when we get to this ripe old age of 50 then it screams in our ears, because you see ladies and this is going to surprise you – it is exactly the same for us, the act of sleeping with someone has the same effect on us, we also get emotionally involved in it, we also give a part of ourselves to you and when it is over for whatever reason then we also feel like we have lost a part of ourselves, and it’s why some of us hesitate, why it suits us to take it slowly sometimes  – and I know our behaviour over the centuries makes that seem like complete hogwash but it’s true, when young yes, certainly, wham bam thank you ma’am but the older and wiser we men get, the more sex means to us too , and the act of sleeping with someone is not something some of us take lightly..

(Although, between you, me and the four walls,  we ARE very grateful!)

bookmark_borderOpen mouth – insert foot.. again..

Saying it to a pregnant woman with raging hormones might be a mistake

Damn, just done something REALLY stupid (yet again). Standing in the queue for coffee and there’s an anaesthetist in front of me in scrubs, heavily pregnant and obviously about to drop. She orders a double espresso and glances at me beside her, I smile back and without thinking say “you sure you want to be ordering a double espresso,  you might have that baby here on the spot if you drink it…” and smile sweetly… she gives me a stony look and says ‘I’m NOT pregnant!” and storms off..

Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn!

How was I to know it was pie retention? Ouch! Kill me now!

bookmark_borderThanksgiving? Yes, once I am President.

This week will be a relatively normal week, work 9-5 Mon-Fri, well, when I say ‘work’ I mean in the loosest possible sense, I will be at my desk occasionally, in-between tea breaks, coffee breaks, social rounds, cake rounds, biscuit rounds…how I manage to actually get the time to do some work is beyond me, however, it’s a relatively normal week here for me and for the rest of London Leprechaun land.

However, across the pond it’s a completely different story, it’s Thanksgiving on Thursday (and Black Friday the next day) and everyone’s minds will be focused on that, the great mass of humanity out in their cars trying to get home or to a relative’s house. It’s going to seem strange that I’m at my desk beavering away but all over America nearly everyone is off and hopefully at home with their families and stuffing their faces.

The English here like to think they are superior to America in almost everything, especially culturally but there are one or two things that America (and Canada!) does much better than here in the UK. (OK, there are a lot of things America and Canada do better than here in the UK but I don’t want to get throw out of this country just yet!).

The first thing is Halloween. Halloween over here is pretty much a non-event, it hardly registers but in the States it’s huge and is a chance to bring out your inner slut. I’m deeply deeply jealous of how America does Halloween and wish the UK would at least adopt the same attitude. This year I didn’t even see one carved pumpkin 🙁

The other thing that America does well is Thanksgiving. We have no equivalent holiday and I think we should adopt Thanksgiving. From what I know of it, it seems to be bigger than Christmas, I assume part of it is because it is a non-religious festival and therefore practically everyone can claim it as their own.

We actually know very little about Thanksgiving on this side of the pond, most folks source of knowledge about Thanksgiving comes solely from the Disney version and not actual historical facts. Consequently we think of Thanksgiving as celebrating the safe arrival of some bible thumping Pilgrim Fathers arriving in America because of religious persecution here in 16th century England. However, it seems that’s not quite true as of the 102 passengers, around 40 were Separatists (i.e., separated from the Church of England), a similar number were regular folks recruited by the London merchants who underwrote the expedition, and the balance were hired men, servants etc.  Even the name Pilgrims wasn’t applied to them until a few hundred years later, settlers would have been more appropriate.

When the Pilgrims sailed for America, they hoped to find a place to settle where the farmland would be rich and the climate congenial. Rather unwisely they decided to travel during the coming winter (were there no sailors on the Mayflower??)  and found themselves struggling with storms and winds blowing in the wrong direction. Eventually they landed on the stony soil (and harsh winters) of New England, mostly because they had ran out of beer!

That’s one little fact Mr Disney glossed over in his version of the Mayflower but I think it was a mistake, knowing that the Mayflower was packed to the gills with booze would have made at least me much more interested in the story. An entry in the diary of a Mayflower passenger explains the unplanned landing at Plymouth Rock: “We could not now take time for further search…our victuals being much spent, especially our beer…”

That may have been the first and definitely the last time America’s  ran short of beer despite their skill at drinking copious amounts of the stuff. They soon learned from their Indian neighbours how to make beer from maize. Local breweries sprouted up throughout the colonies, and experienced brewmasters were recruited from London. By 1770 the American brewing industry was so well established that George Washington argued for a boycott of English beer imports. The Boston Tea Party almost became the Boston Beer Party. Shame!

I found it somewhat surprising that the Mayflower carried so much beer, in fact it was the largest part of the stores and this gives the impression of the Mayflower being the first booze cruise, a tradition that has carried on down to present day. Rather disappointingly it turns out that the Mayflower wasn’t actually packed to the gills with beer because the ship was full of party-goers strutting their funky stuff (although to me that’s an infinitely more desirable image than a ship full of dour Puritans) but because beer, being boiled and processed, tended to keep better than ordinary drinking water and consequently was less prone to give you a jippy tum. What I do wonder is, who all drank it, according to the records everyone drank about a quart each day but did this include the elderly (if any) and children as well, did children drink the beer as a matter of course because it was less likely to be foul.. yes, these things do indeed keep me up at night thinkingzzzzZZ

Anyway, I digress, I had the misfortune to be in the States one year when it was Thanksgiving and no-one warned me about it, it’s a non-event over here in London Leprechaun land and I was trying desperately to find a hotel room but there was no room at the inn, eventually I found a room but it was a close run thing, I thought I was going to have to sleep on a park bench, not a pleasant thought in November.

I’ve never been to anyone’s house on Thanksgiving (but there’s still time darling!), I imagine it’s nice to have all that food and be surrounded by loved ones and the older I get the more important this becomes. Yes, I’m getting soft in my dotage.. I watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles many years ago with Steve Martin and John Candy and the end scene when John Candy was invited to back from the railway station waiting room to share Thanksgiving with Steve’s family struck a chord somewhere deep inside me, it was very poignant and it made me wish we had the same holiday. The movie does have some wonderful lines;

Del: You play with your balls a lot.
Neal: I do NOT play with my balls.
Del: Larry Bird doesn’t do as much ball-handling in one night as you do in an hour!
Neal: Are you trying to start a fight?
Del: No. I’m simply stating a fact. That’s all. You fidget with your nuts a lot.
Neal: You know what’d make me happy?
Del: Another couple of balls, and an extra set of fingers?

Yes, the perfect Thanksgiving movie..

I think perhaps just after I dispose the monarchy here and I am President of the UK I shall make celebrating Thanksgiving my very first decree (along with doing Halloween properly!).

However, one of the traditions America is welcome to keep is Black Friday, we have something similar, it’s on the 26th of December, we call it ‘Boxing Day‘ and it’s the day when we are fed up looking at family members and half of the population here in the UK go to our version of Home Depot ostensibly to think about decorating the home in Spring but really just to get out of the house before we kill someone, the other half of the population hits the stores to return unwanted Christmas presents and is probably the only day in the UK that shops record negative sales figures 🙂

bookmark_borderThe Richard Burton and Liz Taylor of Tudor Times

It’s interesting how real life is nearly always much more fascinating than anything today’s soap opera writers could come up with, some of the events that happened in Tudor England defies belief. I’m reading The Pocket Guide To Royal Scandals  (or is it The Pocket Guide To Royal Sandals?) and that explains the previous post and this one too. A large part of the book is taken up with Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth and when you delve into their stories you can understand why the BBC and Hollywood have made so many more films about them than any other monarch.

Henry VIII of course married only six times where-as Elizabeth Taylor married eight times (twice to Richard Burton) but it’s interesting how the Catholic church influenced both couples, when Liz started having an affair with Richard Burton they were still both married to someone else (Eddie Fisher and Sybil Williams) and the Vatican condemned Burton and Taylor’s affair as “erotic vagrancy”.  A totally excellent turn of phrase. The Vatican influenced Henry VIII marriages to such a degree that it contributed strongly to the Great Reformation and England breaking away from the Catholic Church.

The first act in this soap opera, the prologue, the pilot episode, happened when Henry VIII was ten years old. We all know that Henry’s first wife was Catherine of Aragon but this was not her first marriage, you see, she had been married to Henry’s older brother, Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales and next in line to the throne but four months after marriage in 1502 he kicked the bucket. Fast forward seven years and Henry has the hots for Catherine, his dead brothers wife but there was the small issue of the teachings of Leviticus;

Leviticus 18:16

“Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.”

Leviticus 20:21

“If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing…they shall be childless.”

It became known as “The King’s Great Matter”, would Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon be contrary to the teachings of Leviticus? Catherine maintained that because of Arthur’s poor health during their brief marriage that the marriage was never consummated and therefore invalid and she was free to marry. I suspect the jury may be out on that one..

It would make an interesting soap-opera sub-plot, girl finds boy whom most likely will be King of England, marries him, the silly plonker dies after four months so what’s a girl to do but find another man who’s probably going to be King too, I’m sure the Tudor version of Hello magazine sold lots of copies following that little story.

Henry sought advice from the Vatican and obtained a Papal dispensation to marry Catherine. Getting Papal dispensations was a costly business, basically it was a nice little money maker for the Vatican. You see, the lines in the bible were there to stop interbreeding but of course every Royal House in Europe interbreed, everyone was related to everyone else, this was how they built alliances and stopped wars but the crafty accountants at the Vatican realised that and therefore if some King wanted to marry some woman from another country then the chances of them being a close relative was startling high and required a Papal Dispensation to allow the marriage. Of course these Papal (Paypal?) Dispensations cost a Kings ransom but who’s better placed to pay a Kings ransom but the Kings and Queens of Europe. Basically, the Vatican was laughing all the way to the bank.

However, fast forward 18 years to 1526 and Catherine had produced only one child that survived past infancy, a girl, known colloquially as Bloody Mary.  Wanting a male heir to the throne and believing Catherine to be past prime child-bearing years, Henry had his eye on Anne Boleyn.  Henry told Catherine in 1527 that he believed their marriage had been unlawful.  He instructed Cardinal Wolsey to begin efforts to secure an annulment of his marriage to Catherine that would allow him to marry Anne Boleyn. So one minute he wants the Vatican to bless his marriage and the next he’s asking the Vatican to annul it…go figure. The Vatican wasn’t having any of it and absolutely refused to give an annulment, so Henry separated from Catherine (and then the Catholic Church), made himself head of the Church of England, got Wolsey to declare the marriage null and void and married Anne Boleyn.

Anne produced Elizabeth and to show his gratitude, three years later Henry had Anne beheaded in the Tower of London and within 24 hours he married the third of his six wives. If a script writer approached Hollywood with a storyline like that then he would have had it throw back in his face as being far too ridiculous and yet this was only the beginning of a six season series to be closely followed by a spin-off called Elizabeth, The Virgin Queen..  The lives and loves of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were fascinating but compared to the Tudors, they were strictly amateurs.

bookmark_borderThe Queen of Fashion?

Guilty of crimes against fashion.

It’s long been the case that the ladies of the world use clothing and fashion to accentuate certain curves and disguise others. When I was growing up during the 60’s and 70’s there were many advertisements on the telly for strange underwear like the Playtex 18 Hour Girdle with its ecstatic panels to hide the blubber – I mean to ‘hold and smooth’ the wearers figure.

As a teenager I couldn’t figure out why woman of the world were going out and buying and voluntarily wearing strait jackets, surely they couldn’t all be mad? What I didn’t know was that the svelte ladies of the 60’s and 70’s were following a fashion path that had been laid down 500 years previously. You see, during the Tudor period in England there were certain looks that one tended to avoid, at least you did if you didn’t fancy burning at the stake. One look that was ill-advised was the dark swarthy look with dark skin, dark hair and even less desirable, dark eyes, this was pretty much a fashion faux pas and if you happened to have what I’d call a healthy look then you’d spend a great deal of your time dusting your skin with lime powder to lighten it, al-la Michael Jackson.

However, the most unfashionable (and eminently unwise) look was looking anything remotely like a witch. This might have been all the rage once, say during the time when the local villagers came to you to cure their warts and you’d cackle and hackle over a big pot of newts and toads bollocks, mumble incantations, spread some of your lunchtime hot-pot on their warts and charge them three groats for the pleasure but during Tudor times you kind’a wanted to avoid looking at all like witchy-poo.

So if your name happened to be Anne Boleyn in the early 1500’s you had a bit of a problem, you see, Anne Boleyn not only had very dark skin, dark eyes and dark hair but she also had an extra finger on one hand and a large mole on her neck – a sure sign of a witch if ever there was one – so what’s a girl to do if she wants to avoid   burning at the stake. Well, you do what woman of today do and you start a new fashion, you wear dresses with very long sleeves, sleeves that droop over the hands and cover your extra finger and at the same time you start a fashion craze for wrapping scarves around your neck to hide your large mole.  And this is exactly what Anne did, she started this fashion for long sleeves and one can imagine Tudor Vogue going crazy over this; short sleeves are sooooo 1480’s, today’s modern Tudor girl wants to be wearing long flowing sleeves, they’re so in. Of course it helps if you are Queen of England and married to a complete bastard who wouldn’t think twice about chopping your head off if he thought you were a witch. This from a man who’s fashion faux’s pas are legendary;  stockings held up with garters, fur lined gowns, cod pieces that made horses envious and a liking for headless woman.

However, fashion, or the growth of fashion caused poor Henry VII his own problems,  because in Tudor England, social class was everything and the surest way to tell anyone’s social class was by how they dressed. As merchants grew in wealth and influence, Henry VIII enacted strict laws that allowed him to know at a glance who a person was by regulating what clothes they could wear. Middle-class merchants could now afford many of the luxurious fabrics once only worn by nobles — a trend indicative of a much broader social change that could threaten the king’s own position. Clothes controls — first introduced in medieval times — helped maintain the old, familiar status quo. Cloth of gold or silver and purple silk were restricted to women with the rank of countess or higher. No woman was allowed to wear fabrics embroidered with silk, pearls, gold or silver except baronesses and those of higher rank. Enforcement of these laws was lax but heavy fines could be extracted from those caught in violation by the fashion police.

But what’s really interesting is that black was not a common colour, if one gets onto the tube in London in the morning practically everyone is wearing black, it’s almost like the London uniform but during Medieval and Tudor times black was rarely seen because to dye any cloth black took a lot of dye and this was expensive, so black was generally out, unless of course you happened to be a witch..

bookmark_borderLove, Money, Companionship. Choose One.

Yes, it's this easy to find love, if you start now you might make it by summertime 2012

(High definition version here  and info here courtesy of The Met)

The painting above by Jean-Léon Gérôme is one of my favourites, I was wandering around The Met in NYC (as one does) and came across this hanging unloved and un-admired in a dark corner. I guess some of you will be familiar with the story of how the sculptor Pygmalion fell in love with one of his statues, and how Aphrodite took pity on him and allowed the statue to come to life. There are many versions of this painting and you’d be amazed just how many storylines in plays and movies have been inspired by this theme.

I like this painting a lot because it chimes with feelings, emotions, yearnings, deep inside me and I suspect a lot of others. At times a part of me knows how Pygmalion felt, the search for someone special, someone to love seems endless and if I could then I would carve my own perfect match out of stone and pray to the gods to bring her to life. Mind you, knowing my artistic skills – or obvious lack of – I suspect I’d create Frankenstein’s monster and have to learn to love him  ummmm.. her!.

The ancient Greeks have a myth that we were once literally bonded together with our perfect match. We were so happy the gods became jealous and cut us apart; and ever since, we each go in search of that perfect mate from whom we’ve been separated. The older I get the more credence I give to that myth, my mother Doris thinks the same and had to wait until she was 81 before she found the right soul for her and I’m beginning to suspect I’m going to follow in her footsteps. I know I’m going to miss out on lots of rumpy-pumpy but what choice does any one of us have, do we cut our losses and settle for someone just OK and hope we will fall in love with them eventually, is it better to have at least companionship than wander these shores alone for the rest of your life?. This was the biggest problem with my marriage and I am aware that those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. I have friends whom met someone reasonably suitable and got married and I look at them and wonder are they really happy, is it a deep deep love or just ok, convenient, easy..

Jackie Kennedy famously said the first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship but I strongly disagree, she lived in a world very different from us mere muggles, (plus I wonder what Liz Taylor has to say on the subject), I think those are the three factors but she’s got them mixed up, I know money was not a factor for Doris and Bob and that companionship was a factor but I’m pretty sure in the end the only reason they married was for love. I’m wondering just how long I have to wait before Aphrodite takes pity on me.

bookmark_borderDo onto them, before they do onto you

Made for breaking.

Some folk manage to bugger up their kids lives with almost zero effort but not me, I have to work at it really hard. If you work for Wandsworth Borough Council Children’s Welfare Services then look away now. You see, I have this strong belief that it’s important for my kids to grow up with a sense of fun and know that all adults aren’t boringly ummm adult all the time, occasionally (or frequently in my case) it’s good to have some fun. Consequently, I look upon it as my solemn duty to torment the fruit of my loins at every single opportunity, and trust me, I do exactly that all the time.

Tonight I’ve been with both of them to their college to find out about their ski-trip in Feb/Mar and more importantly, just how much I am going to have to flog one of my kidneys on ebay to pay for it all. So considering just how much I’m paying out for this trip I think it only fair that I should extract as much fun out of it possible… Tonight the organisers showed the hotel the beasties will be staying in and what do you know, it’s straight out of Amityville House of Horror…excellent.. So, two nights before they leave for the trip you wanna guess exactly which movie we will be watching?  I say two nights before because the night before the trip I have already planned our viewing, it’s going to be one of those airplane disaster movies like Airport 77 or something..

Tormenting my kids isn’t a new thing, I’ve done it all their lives because it’s important they know what a crazy idiot their father is – plus it’s payback for all the nights they kept me awake when toddlers, and like all parents, for all the nights they will keep me awake worrying about them for the rest of my life. Occasionally when I drop them off at school I will shout Bye-Bye Darling at them in a very loud voice just to make them cringe, however, I think all their friends have cottoned onto that one and know I’m a nutter.. I must try harder..

We play this game when they are here with me, when one of them goes to the loo then either me or the other rug-rat (usually me though) will creep out and stand really close by the bathroom door and as my son opens the door I let out a huge RAAAAGGGHHHH!! which scares the be’jesus out of him. I would say scares the shit out’a him but it’s too late for that. He’ll yelp loudly and shout DAD!!! and then laugh, more in relief than anything else if truth be told but I think it’s good to get their hearts pumping occasionally. I did this once to the youngest one a few years ago and caught him out; he let out a huge shriek like a little girl and literally jumped across the bathroom floor. The other son and I couldn’t stop laughing, we had tears running down our cheeks…ahh those where the days, although, between thou and I, I’m wondering just who’s going to be paying all those expensive therapist bills the boys will have later on in life!

I fully intend to carry on exactly like this because there are some things my boys need to understand and one of the most important things is that there are no rules, really, there aren’t any, if something feels right and  is fun then go ahead and do it and don’t worry about what anyone else will think. You see, my father had absolutely zero interaction with me and barely acknowledged my existence, I have this role model of distance and absolutely, completely no fun, and therefore I have the perfect example of how not to be a father. I have no excuses, I know what it’s like to have zero input and that’s why I give my two beasties lots of input and have fun with them – some may say the pendulum has swung a bit too much the other way, a bit too much input (especially them!) but these are the important things in life, having fun and who gives a stuff if other adults think it’s childish or immature, we only get one chance to screw up our kids lives and by jolly, I’m going to do my level best to do exactly that, isn’t that right boys? 😉

bookmark_borderMake me one with everything

Many other religions suffer from the same fault, (with the notable exception of JW's within the Christian community)

I tend to avoid conventional religion like the plague, part of it’s because I hate to follow the crowd and partly because I like to question everything and I’ve never got satisfactory answers to some big questions from mainstream religions. We had religion rammed down our throats as kids, we had to go to church and Sunday school and if you excuse the pun, it was as boring as hell. And of course, in Northern Ireland people were being killed because of their religion.

You see, I like my religion to be fun, not dry and boring, after all it was God who invented the sense of humour and it would be umm a sin to waste it. Which is where Raymond Blair comes in.

When I started secondary school we had a chemistry teacher called Mr Blair – or as we called him Yogi Bear, he was an old hippie and practised meditation, so we thought Yogi was particularly apt. He was involved in some flaky guru organisation called Divine Light Mission but I remember him telling me this one joke very early on;

Buddha walks up to a hotdog seller in Central Park and says “Make me one with everything” and Raymond thought this was very witty and apt.

A few years later someone told this joke again but added another bit in;

The hotdog makes Buddha one with everything and Buddha says “how much is that?”
The hotdog seller says “five bucks” and Buddha hands over a tenner.
The hotdog seller starts to serve another customer and Buddha says “Hey! Where’s my change?”
And the hotdog seller says “Don’t you know? Change comes from within…”

I thought that was very clever and I asked him if I could email it to some of my friends, he said it was OK as long as I don’t have any attachments…. (groan!). I was of course sold on the Divine Light Mission after that exchange; if they could make jokes about their deity then I wanted to know more but after a brief fling with them I realised it was all about money money money – not unlike the poster above – and I stopped attending satsang – plus me butt was getting sore sitting on the hard floor all the time. Yes yes, I know, not very dedicated but being uncomfortable distracts terribly from whatever the speaker is spouting on about.

However, that was Zen; this is Tao, Yogi Bear has long since moved on and I’ve had to find my own little philosophy and after many false starts and dead ends I found Richard Bach. He wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull that flew for the love of flying rather than to catch food, an obvious metaphor about us not just struggling to survive but actually living and being who we are meant to be. The very short book sold more than one million copies in 1972 alone and broke all records since Gone With The Wind was released.

Then in 1977 he wrote Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, about ummm a reluctant Messiah. I loved it, it just seemed to capture what I was feeling about the whole meaning of life stuff. In life there are some things that just need to be sorted out once and for all, I have a friend who met a man and fell in love, got married and she said to me “well, that’s that sorted out, I don’t have to search any more, my love life is sorted now and I’m happy, I’m content, I can tick off that particular item on the check list and get on with other things”. I know how she feels, at least when it comes to a life philosophy, I read Illusions and knew deep down somewhere that that was my life philosophy sorted and I can stop searching and enquiring and following false trails. The bit that spoke to me most clearly was the following excerpt right at the start of the book, it appealed to my northern Irish  rebel nature immediately and can be blamed for a lot of things in my life and for me making a lot of the big changes in my life.

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last “I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”

The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”

But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks. Yet, in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “see a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!” And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare to let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”

Those that know me will nod wisely and say that explains a lot, you see, it’s quite important we live, and we live without regrets..

bookmark_borderTo pee or not to pee, that is the question

Idiots guide.

Hmmmm know that point in your existence, the point just before you’re born and God says to you “OK my little spirit being, it’s time to choose, what do you want to be in this life, a man or a woman, decide, it’s totally up to you” and I obviously choose to be a man and I can remember God saying “are you sure, after all, woman get to bring life into this world, they love so much more and so deeply, they have that special bond with their children and then there’s the added bonus of multiple orgasms….” and despite the attraction of ALL that I’m still glad I choose to be a man because I couldn’t cope with being preggers for nine months. I know this with certainty because I had a really nasty risotto the other day at lunchtime and spent the rest of the day feeling bloated, really bloated! It was awful, I was so full of gas I thought I was going to burst and if that’s what it’s like to be pregnant then you woman are more than welcome to it. If a man had to give birth then trust me, the human race would have died out long long ago, either that or artificial wombs would have been invented way before the steam engine.

When I did my nurse training I spent a few months on the Labour ward and had a fantastic time, I loved it but that’s because I was a man and had absolutely no insight into just how effing uncomfortable being pregnant really is. I used to say to my expectant mother’s when they came into the Labour room writhing in agony, “Hello, I’m dilated to meet you, I’m at your cervix”. It’s a wonder I wasn’t kicked out but at least it broke the ice (and maybe broke the waters too as they giggled). One reads about how wonderful being pregnant is and how some woman ‘glow’, in two months of working on the Labour ward I never saw anyone ‘glow’ except maybe in rage, usually at the poor unfortunate husband, if I had a nickel for every time I heard “you’re never coming near me EVER again!” then I’d be a rich man.

Of course I’m not equating one day of feeling really bloated with being pregnant for nine months (but being a pathetic man I will try my best), however it was interesting that I daren’t cough or sneeze for fear of peeing myself.  If someone had a knitting needle I would have quite happily allowed them to stick it in my tum and let all that gas out. Poor poor me. It reminded me of this.

When I was a kid and living in Conlig, Northern Ireland, the farmer up the road cut one of the fields of grass and left the cuttings in the field. There were a few mangy horses in the next field and somehow one of them managed to get into the freshly cut field and feasted on the large clumps of cut grass. The next day when we were coming home from school we noticed that the horse was laying on its side and looking very bloated, fit to burst in fact. I told the owner, he sighed and called the vet. The vet came, regarded the horse for a minute and told the owner that the horse had obviously been gorging on the grass next door and that a horse’s digestion system is not able to cope with large quantities of grass all at once so it was fermenting and producing copious amounts of gas. He went back to his van, retrieved a large metal knitting needle from a black bag and punctured the horse’s abdomen with it.  A crowd of us kids had gathered around as between thou and I this was the most exciting thing to ever happen in Conlig (and probably still is) and as the gas escaped from the horse’s abdomen every kid downwind immediately turned green and ran away, the stench was awful. The owner and vet just laughed but the horse got up almost immediately and obviously felt a large sense of relief as he went skipping off around the field.

That little tale reminds me of something else. When I was working in A&E (ER) as a student I had a bloke come in with a distended abdomen. He hadn’t had a pee for a number of days and an x-ray showed that his bladder was filled and distended massively. It was very obvious that his prostate was stuffed and blocking off his ureter completely and he would need a TURP (transurethral resection of prostate) but in the acute phase he needed to pee and the quickest way to achieve that was to insert a foley catheter. This man was in agony, complete agony which wasn’t helped by him spending the previous evening drinking pints at a stag party, his bladder was almost backed up into his kidneys and I lay him on the trolley to insert the catheter. BUT here’s the thing and if you are a woman you are going to have to take my word for this, if you are a nurse about to insert a foley catheter into any guy who has a blocked ureter, trust me, you can ask for his wallet, his car keys, even his house and he will without hesitation hand them over to you because he is in so much agony. Really, seriously, he would sign a blank cheque if you asked him and once that catheter is in and the pressure is off his bladder he is always as grateful as hell.

Reading that now, I’m not so sure I choose wisely at birth to be a man…oooeerrr

bookmark_borderHatch’em, Match’em, Dispatch’em

When I worked as a nurse on ICU we had this expression about the Genetics department over there in the Med Sch, they dealt with the full range of conditions, from birth to reproduction to death and thus we referred to their department as the Hatch’em, Match’em, Dispatch’em Department. I think Hatch’em, Match’em, Dispatch’em is an excellent title for a detective novel, perhaps one day I’ll write it, I think it’ll sell on the strength of the title alone.

However, it is generally only during the occasions of Hatch’em, Match’em, Dispatch’em  ie christenings, weddings and funerals that I get to give speeches and if there is one thing I’m good at above all others it’s I give good speech. I will always try to speak last and my speeches are always thoughtful and considered and I have only one objective in mind and that’s to make my audience shed a tear, either in sadness or in deep joy.

I will never do a ‘normal’ speech, I refuse to churn out platitudes and follow everyone else, I will always say something completely unexpected and funny and end it with something heartfelt and deeply touching. I’m getting quite good at it and I love doing it, I love confounding expectations, folk expect me to come out with some crap rubbish but I don’t, I talk, I engage and soar and by the end I have them eating out’a my hand. I think I should’ve been on the stage.

I suspect one of my friends is going to get married very soon and I’m hoping I’m going to get an invite because this will give me another chance to say something profound and deep to everyone and show them all that not all Irishmen are uncultured goths 😉
I like to research around the subject and find something unusual to talk about and I found this on the interweb the other day about marriage and will be using it as part of my speech, I should point out that it describes attitudes that would definitely get short shrift from the majority of woman today, that and I’m not completely convinced of the accuracy of the following but it makes an interesting read anyway.

Old World Customs and Traditions

The wedding is one of life’s primeval and surprisingly unchanged rites of passage. Nearly all of the customs we observe today are merely echoes of the past.  Everything from the veil, rice, flowers, and old shoes, to bridesmaids and processionals, at one time, bore a very specific and vitally significant meaning.  Today, although the original substance is often lost, we incorporate old world customs into our weddings because they are traditional and ritualistic.

Always keep in mind, that customs we memorialise today, were once “brand new” ideas, an obvious truth we often overlook.  Although historical accuracy is hard to achieve, because myths and legends abound and are interspersed with facts, the historical weight attached to old world wedding customs and traditions are significant.

Why Does the Bride Wear a Veil?

The bride’s veil and bouquet are of greater antiquity than her white gown. Her veil, which was yellow in ancient Greece and red in ancient Rome, usually shrouded her from head to foot, and has since the earliest of times, denoted the subordination of a woman to man. The thicker the veil, the more traditional the implication of wearing it.

According to tradition, it is considered bad luck for the bride to be seen by the groom before the ceremony. As a matter of fact, in the old days of marriage by purchase, the couple rarely saw each other at all, with courtship being of more recent historical emergence.

The lifting of the veil at the end of the ceremony symbolizes male dominance.  If the bride takes the initiative in lifting it, thereby presenting herself to him, she is showing more independence.

Veils came into vogue in the United States, when Nelly Curtis wore a veil at her wedding to George Washington’s aid, Major Lawrence Lewis.  Major Lewis saw his bride to be standing behind a filmy curtain and commented to her how beautiful she appeared.  She then decided to veil herself for their ceremony.

Why a Wedding Ring?

The circular shape of the wedding ring has symbolized undying, unending love since the days of the early Egyptians. A primitive bride wore a ring of hemp or rushes, which had to be replaced often.  Durable iron was used by the Romans to symbolize the permanence of marriage. Today’s favourite is of course, gold, with it’s lasting qualities of beauty and purity.

Why is the Ring Worn on the Third Finger, Left-hand?

In ancient times, it was believed there was a vein in the third finger of the left hand that ran directly to the heart. Thus, the ring being placed on that finger denoted the strong connection of a heartfelt love and commitment to one another.  Although during times of modern autopsy, this long held belief was found not to be so, the tradition continued to this day.

Medieval bridegrooms placed the ring on three of the bride’s fingers, in turn, to symbolize God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The ring then remained on the third finger and has become the customary ring finger for English-speaking cultures.  In some European countries, the ring is worn on the left hand before marriage, and is moved to the right hand during the ceremony. However, in most European countries the ring is still worn on the brides left hand. A Greek Orthodox bride wears her ring on her left had before marriage, and moves it to her right hand after the ceremony.

Why an Engagement Ring?

In the early days of “Marriage by Purchase,” the betrothal ring served a twofold purpose. This twofold purpose included partial payment for the bride and was a symbol of the groom’s honourable intentions.  The diamond was found first in Medieval Italy, and because of its hardness, was chosen to stand for enduring love.

Giving the Bride Away?

In times when women were granted few privileges and even fewer personal rights, the bride was literally given away to the groom by the father, usually in exchange for monetary gain.  Today, it is seen as symbolic of the blessings and support of her union as a promise of continued trust and affection. Often when the question is asked by a clergy during the ceremony, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man,” the father’s response is, “Her mother and I.”

Why Old Shoes and Rice?

The throwing of rice on the couple has always been symbolic of wishing prosperity and good luck.  In the Orient, throwing rice means, “May you always have a full pantry.” Wheat and other grains are sometimes thrown in addition to rice, thereby also wishing prosperity and lack of want. Each shower bestows  “Goodwill Traditions” of wealth upon the newlyweds. To this day, rice remains a token of a life of “plenty.”

Why Carry the Bride Across the Threshold?

During the days of “Marriage by Capture,” the bride was certainly not going to go peacefully into the bridegroom’s abode, thus, she was dragged or carried across the threshold.  In even earlier times, it was believed that family demons followed the woman and to keep her family demons from going into the groom’s home, she was carried across the threshold upon her entering for the first time. After that, the demons could not enter as she would come in and go out of the home.

The Tradition of the Bridal Shower?

Tradition says that the first bridal shower was given to a poor couple in Holland who was denied the bridal dowry because of the groom’s lowly miller status.  The miller’s friends showered the bride with gifts to help them set up housekeeping.

Why a Wedding Cake?

Beginning in early Roman times, the cake has been a special part of the wedding celebration. A thin loaf was broken over the bride’s head at the close of the ceremony to symbolize fertility. The wheat from which it was made, symbolized fertility and the guests eagerly picked up the crumbs as good luck charms. During the Middle Ages, it became traditional for the couple to kiss over a small cluster of cakes.  Later, a clever baker decided to amass all these small cakes together, covering them with frosting. Thus, the modern tiered cake was born.

Why Something Blue?

Brides of ancient Israel wore blue ribbons on the border of their wedding cloths to denote, love, modesty and fidelity. These are ideals still associated today with that color.  Blue also denotes the purity of the Virgin Mary and is the most popular of all colors.

Why Does the Bride Carry Flowers?

For centuries, flowers have stood for a variety of emotions and values.  Roses for love, lilies for virtue and so on. In ancient marriages, the brides carried herbs beneath their veils to symbolize fidelity. Greek brides carried ivy as a symbol of never-ending love. Orange blossoms, (the world renowned wedding flower) were chosen by the Spaniards to represent happiness and fulfilment, because the orange tree flowers and bears fruit at the same time.  During even earlier times of “primitive marriage,” when the fear of demons was most prevalent, the brides carried stinking garlands of herbs and spices for the purpose of frightening off evil spirits.

Why Does the Bride Wear White?

The colour white has been a symbol of joyous celebration since early Roman times. At the beginning to the twentieth century, white stood for purity as well. Today, it holds it original meaning of happiness and joy.

Why a Trousseau?

The word trousseau came from the French word, trousseau, which meant bundle.  The trousseau originated as a bundle of clothing and personal possessions the bride carried with her to her new home. This was later expanded upon into a generous dowry.  Today, the trousseau includes all of the new items for the household, as well as for the bride herself.

Why a Matchmaker?

For centuries, the matchmaker enjoyed the honoured, if occasionally ridiculed position of ensuring ethnic identity and compatibility. Groups that wanted this assurance regularly employed the services of a matchmaker, whose commission was a certain percentage of the dowries. Today, the modern version of the matchmaker is found as easily as turning on your computer. Computer programs can allegedly match individual backgrounds and traits so accurately that two people brought together for a date can be assured of “common interests” for the very least.  In any event, it is only the dating that can be arranged, not marriage.  So matchmaking of a sort has not disappeared; it has merely changed its appearance and emphasis, as is the case with any custom that expresses enduring human needs.

Why the Blue Satin Garter?

Why this “Something Blue?” In ancient Israel, brides wore a blue ribbon to signify “fidelity.”  The garter-throwing itself derive from a bawdy ritual called “flinging the stocking.” In Britain, the guests would playfully invade the bridal chamber. The ushers grabbed the bride’s stockings; the maids; the grooms. They took turns sitting at the foot of the bed flinging the stockings over the heads of the couple. Whosoever’s stocking landed on the bride’s or the groom’s nose would be the next to wed.

Today, many brides will wear two garters.  The one she wishes to keep as a memento of her wedding day, possibly to be displayed on her grooms rear view mirror, and another, to be retrieved and tossed by the groom to all the young unmarried men attending the event. The “toss garter” is likely to be in the color of the wedding, and not as elaborate as the more decorative garters kept by the bride.

Why Do the Attendants Dress Alike?

Who hasn’t noticed that the maids, ushers, and entire bridal party dress very much like the bride and groom? It was once common for the bride, her groom and all their friends to walk together to the church on the morning of the wedding. Afraid that someone, maybe a rejected suitor, would spot the happy couple and put a curse on them, the groom’s friends wore clothes almost identical to his, and the women costumed themselves like the bride.  These disguises tricked evil wishers into letting the real bride and groom live happily ever after.   Of course, today we dress our attendants alike for the beauty and pageantry of the event


bookmark_borderThe Ghost Teaspoon

About twenty years ago I shared a house with a couple of friends (and a few mice). One of the girls there was called Leslie-Anne and she isn’t aware of this but she planted a seed in my dim skull that have taken root and is now firmly established in my noggin.  It happened one evening when I was washing up the dishes from dinner, I had finished the washing up and ran my hands around the kitchen sink to check if I had missed anything and not finding anything I pulled out the plug. As the water emptied I tutted at finding a small teaspoon which was lying in the bottom of the sink. Leslie-Anne was drying the dishes beside me and said “isn’t it strange, that no matter how many times you check the sink before letting the dishwater out, there’s always a small spoon at the bottom that you’ve missed, it’s the ghost teaspoon..” and I smiled and thought nothing of it.

BUT here’s the thing. Twenty years later and last night I was washing the dishes from supper and I let the water out and lo and behold there was a friggin ghost spoon sitting in the sink and immediately my mind goes back to Leslie-Anne telling me about that spoon twenty years ago. And EVERY SINGLE TIME I find a spoon in the bottom of the sink I immediately think of Leslie-Anne and I know in another twenty years I will still think of her when I find the ghost spoon. I will have forgotten about a lot of folk that will have crossed my path by then but I will always remember Leslie-Anne. I think it’s interesting in who we remember and for what reasons,  I bet Leslie-Anne has completely forgotten about me but little does she know how many times I’ve thought about her in the last twenty years and grinned standing at the kitchen sink. I probably ought to get a dishwasher – and wash wash wash that woman right out’a ma head.

Memory is a strange sense; some things can instantly transport me back to my childhood. The other day I was walking past a house in Tooting and there was an elderly man mowing his lawn with an electric lawnmower. The smell of cut grass instantly transported me back to my childhood in Ireland. There was a large field outside our row of houses and the council would come along every blue moon with a tractor and cut the grass. This left huge clumps of cut grass sitting in the field so all the kids in the street would gather the grass up and make little forts with piles of grass cuttings. Then we’d be the cowboys or the Indians and attacked the other children’s forts and try to kick over their grass walls and throw clumps of grass at each other.

Generally by the time the light faded you could be sure that everyones clothes would be covered in grass marks and so too our knees and elbows and we’d have to quietly creep back indoors and sneak our grass stained clothes into the laundry basket… Aye, those were the days…fantastic..

PS tonight, when you find a ghost teaspoon in the bottom of the sink, who will you think of? 😉

bookmark_borderBallymoney aka Brigadoon

When I was a kid our mum used to make us sit quietly on rainy Saturday afternoons and watch some tedious black and white movie on BBC2 whilst it bucketed down out’a the heavens, sometimes the movies were so bad that the rain seemed the better option. The story of my youth was to spend Saturday afternoons in Conlig with extended family and assorted pets, rodents (and various wildlife pretending to be my brothers), attempting to find a space to sit on the floor in the living room between all the bodies and tails. It was a tight fit with nine of us and mum and pets, trying to get close to something approximating comfortable; not too far from the fire to get cold, not to close to get burnt, not too near to the constant draft of the living room door and most importantly not within arm reach of mum or we’d get a clip around the ear if we dared make a noise and distract her from the movie.

We’d be bored senseless with various Al Jolson musicals but at least warm, and occasionally there would be a movie I actually liked. One particularly wet afternoon there was a movie on called Brigadoon and I was mesmerised. It was about a Scottish town lost in the midst of time;

Quote from IMDB

“Americans Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, on a hunting vacation in Scotland, discover a quaint and beautiful village, Brigadoon. Strangely, the village is not on any map, and soon Tommy and Jeff find out why: Brigadoon is an enchanted place. It appears once every hundred years for one day, then disappears back into the mists of time, to wake up to its next day a century hence. “

Ignoring the awful American attempts at a Scottish dialect (filmed all in Hollywood and not one single Scottish actor in the whole movie), I thought it was a sweet movie, a love story but in Brigadoon (circa 1956) there were no telephones, no radios, no cars, no mod-cons, no Facebook, no modern day attitudes, and dating life meant being chaperoned by some uncle.

It puts me in mind of the town my mother Doris and her hubby Bob live in. She lives on the outskirts of a town called Ballymoney and I like to think of it as the Northern Irish version of Brigadoon, a town of people interested only in Daniel O’donnell and the benefits of cod liver oil.

They have this strange tradition that I completely forgot about now that I live in London, it’s called ‘half-day closing’ and on Wednesday afternoons most of the stores shut up shop so you canny even buy a loaf of bread, never mind internet access time. I’d forgotten about half-day closing, as kids the only shop in Conlig used to close on Thursday afternoons and it was always a disappointment to run around to the shop on pocket-money day and find the door to the sweetie shop firmly shut.

There’s very restricted mobile phone coverage, I always struggled to get a signal when there, I had to balance on a stool in the upstairs back bedroom and hang out the window and could only get a signal when I implored the great God T-Mobile and the wind blew from the south, a rare occurrence in Northern Ireland. So in a town of 10,000 there’s no official internet café which is a surprise as most of the residents seemed to be under sixteen and bound to be Facebookers. Perhaps they haven’t discovered ‘the internet thing’ in Ballymoney yet. Or deodorant. Some of the school kids sitting beside me in the bakers-come-coffee-shop-come-part-time-internet-café stank and yes, I had to email via a bakers shop and I had to sweet talk the girl behind the counter into letting me use her steam powered computer.

There’s a city 120 miles to the north east of London called Norwich. I visited it a few years ago and right from the moment I got off the train I realised there was something different about this city, everyone seemed to be just slightly out of phase with London, people wore slightly different clothes and attitudes seemed a step back. However, travel 500 miles northwest of London to Brigadoon – I mean Ballymoney, and it’s like travelling through a time warp, Ballymoney seems to be the town that style passed by, just like the 70’s (the decade that fashion passed by) everyone wears clothes that are impossible to find in the London High Street, polyester slacks were for sale in the local market, I thought there was some UN treaty banning the use of polyester worldwide but apparently Ballymoney didn’t get the memo.

And the pace of life is much slower there, glacial if truth be told, there doesn’t appear to be any rush hour as far as anyone can tell – except on Wednesday mornings when the OAP’s (Old Aged Pensioners) race and I used that word in the loosest possible meaning, to the Post Office with their zimmer-frames, thick stockings falling down their legs, to collect their pension and do a discrete head count to see if anyone has kicked the bucket since last Wednesday.

However, it’s not all bad, there are some good things going on there that, living in a big city like London, I forgot about. They drive under the speed limit. And will let you out of junctions unlike here in London where it’s every man, woman and car for themselves. And people talk to you. People are friendly and people will make time for you and will engage with you. I always get caught out by that and considering I spent the first 25 years of my life growing up in Norn Iron then I don’t know why I should be surprised.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more Ballymoney is like Brigadoon and that’s not a bad thing to say, it’s actually a compliment. No wonder Doris and Bob live there.

bookmark_borderLife’s Rewind Button – Part Deux

For a long long time in Northern Ireland the two communities, Protestant and Catholic argued, fought and caused a lot of heartache. It became almost a reflex that one side would take the opposing view of the other side, especially amongst the community elders and local politicians. However, there was one subject that all community elders were united on and that was sex, and sex education. Despite the need to reproduce, community elders were determined that no young person in Northern Ireland was going to have sex out of wedlock (and probably not in wedlock either). I suspect not much has changed these days in Norn Iron.

They say that ignorance is bliss, but I’m not convinced, they also say that sex is hereditary, if your parents never had it then neither will you. My parents never had sex. No-one in Northern Ireland ever had sex, at least that’s the impression I got from my parents as a testosterone sodden teenager. It was a taboo subject, never ever to be discussed, (exactly the same as when I asked our minister what happens to you when you die, uncomfortable silence), discussion to be avoided at all costs. I find it kind’a ironic that sex was never discussed but my parents were obviously engaging in it as I had eight siblings so they had engaged in it at least eight – oops I mean nine times. The big family next door obviously engaged in it a lot more. You’d think the penny would have dropped and that the community elders/politicians/local government would have actually pushed for sex education as the birth rate went in the opposite direction of the rest of the western world. They even fought against contraception, the pill took a lot longer to reach Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK and down south in the Republic of Ireland contraception was actually illegal until 1980 and then severely restricted.

It’s interesting how attitudes have changed, if my mum found a packet of condoms in my pocket when I was a teenager or young adult I think I would have got roasted alive, however these days mothers are practically forcing them onto their teenagers. I have visions of some mum shouting out to some teenager as he’s leaving with his pals “Johnny, don’t forget your packet of rubber Johnny’s” much to his embarrassment.

We never had the Birds and the Bee’s talk and school certainly didn’t do sex education, at least not in the 70’s. Consequently my generation grew up in blissful ignorance about sex which lead to a couple of unfortunate and embarrassing incidents with my parents. I never had to suffer the embarrassment of a parent finding condoms in my jeans but there is indeed an endless list of things I did do as a teenager in all innocence (mostly) and looking back now I wish I could press that magical rewind button and erase a few (more) selected moments of my life.

I remember being about thirteen or fourteen and watching telly one Saturday afternoon. As usual it was crap weather outside so we were all glad just to be indoors and reasonably warm doing our favourite past time – watching the box. It was some BBC Bristol nature programme about Shire horses and of course didn’t they start talking about reproduction and siring the next generation and next thing you knew the farmer was getting one of the Shire horses to mount the mare.

Two things happened simultaneously at that moment in time, (a) I discovered what the term ‘hung like a horse’ really meant and (b) my mum jumped up out of her chair (a rare occurrence, let me tell you) and immediately pressed the buttons to switch channels (before remote controls) to ITV and complained about that nature programme being ‘very boring’, not sure if she meant the pun but we settled down into The Dukes of Hazard and once again two things happened simultaneously; (a) the ubiquitous saxophone music started playing as Daisy Duke started taking off what remained of her skimpy clothes and (b) I discovered what the term ‘voyeurism’ meant.

My mum was horrified and once again jumped up and tried switching the channels quickly only to return to the horses going at it with great gusto, and then did what she always did on these occasions, she had a sudden urge to engage me in intense conversation about my school work in a transparently obvious attempt to stop me watching Daisy Duke getting her kit off, one of the few times she asked me anything at all about school,  I half answered as I tried to see past her and get a much better view of Daisy’s dukes.

It was pretty obvious that my parents weren’t going to educate any of us in the ways of making whoopie despite the fact that sprogs continued to keep popping out with startling regularity but I can’t really blame them, they weren’t really equipped to deal with that kind of discussion, like everyone else my age I got my sex education from my peers and it wasn’t comprehensive or indeed all that accurate. To be honest I’m pretty certain that the last thing I wanted to learn from my parents was sex education, I’ve no idea just how that conversation would go but considering the very formal relationship I had with them then I suspect it would be pretty awkward.

One afternoon not long after the Shire horse episode I was asked by my school to bring in my birth certificate for some exam. My mum kept all that sort of stuff in a large trunk in her bedroom so rather than disturb her – she was chatting to my sister-in-law Cathy- I went on ahead and rummaged through the trunk trying to find my birth certificate.  I couldn’t find it but found this strange object instead. It was about six inches long, was made of cream coloured plastic and for all intensive purposes it looked like a torch, it had an on/off switch but instead of a bulb and lens it was sealed at the end. I thought this was strange, I tried twisting the end off like a cap to see if the bulb was under a protective cap but it was stuck firm so I switched it on and had the biggest fright of my life when it started vibrating.  I almost dropped it but was immediately enthralled, being very mechanically minded I loved to take things apart and figure out how they worked but this contraption was a mystery to me. So I switched it off and took it downstairs to the kitchen where mum was talking to Cathy and stupidly I switched it on and asked mum what was it for..

To say I was taken aback at the reaction would be an understatement, mum was immediately furious but strangely embarrassed, she swiftly grabbed the ‘torch’ out of my hand, put it in a drawer and whacked me on the side of the head really hard. I had no idea why but she told me to go to bed immediately and I went upstairs with my tail firmly between my legs wondering WTF just happened. Doh, press that Rewind Button please.

The other incident that highlighted my glaring lack of knowledge about sex happened around the same age. I had been at school with my friends and someone had used a word I’d never heard before, so that evening at home and surrounded by the extended family I thought it would be a good time to ask the following;

“Mum, what’s cunnilingus?”

Shocked pregnant pause..

Much older brother “It’s a terrible, terrible disease”

I couldn’t work out why he started laughing. Really hard.

I finally worked it out a while later. Doh, I’m still looking for that rewind button and it’s not just when I was a teenager but in more recent times too. I’m not sure if this only works in the UK but if you send a text to a UK landline number then British Telecom has this system which enables the phone to ring and when picked up then a computer program reads the text in a voice that used to sound like Stephen Hawkings but nowadays sounds like Tom Baker.

A few years ago I sent quite a somewhat risqué text message to my then girlfriend but rather than select her mobile I mistakenly selected her landline and pressed Send before I realised my mistake. She told me the next day that her dad who was visiting stumbled down the stairs at two o’clock in the morning and answered the phone only to shocked to hear Doctor Who talk dirty to him. Ouch! Press the Rewind button please.

I suspect it’s not going to be the last time I reach for that rewind button..

bookmark_borderPearls of Wisdom. Part Two

Bunny boiler in the making

Minerva is the Roman Goddess of war, wisdom and basket weaving, it actually means fount of knowledge and I’ve always thought that sits uncomfortably with war and basket weaving, a strange combination or a Roman practical joke. I think we never stop gaining wisdom, most of the wisdom we gain comes not from college but from just living your three score years and ten on this 3rd rock from the sun and having it hammered painfully into you until at last the penny drops. I’ve blogged before about how you can get wisdom from unexpected places, like Sex and The City, Carrie et al have come up with some crackers but I watched Under a Tuscan Sun last night and there are some cracking lines in that too

Frances: Do you know the most surprising thing about divorce? It doesn’t actually kill you. Like a bullet to the heart or a head-on car wreck. It should. When someone you’ve promised to cherish till death do you part says “I never loved you,” it should kill you instantly. You shouldn’t have to wake up day after day after that, trying to understand how in the world you didn’t know. The light just never went on, you know. I must have known, of course, but I was too scared to see the truth. Then fear just makes you so stupid.
Martini: No, it’s not stupid, Signora Mayes. L’amore e cieco.
Frances: Oh, love is blind. Yeah, we have that saying too.
Martini: Everybody has that saying because it’s true everywhere.
Katherine: It’s a nice little villa. Rather run down, but redeemable… Are you going to buy it?
Frances: The way my life is currently going, that would be a terrible idea.
Katherine: Mm, terrible idea… Don’t you just love those?
Katherine: Listen, when I was a little girl I used to spend hours looking for ladybugs. Finally, I’d just give up and fall asleep in the grass. When I woke up, they were crawling all over me.
Martini: Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.
Katherine: Never lose your childish innocence. It’s the most important thing.
Frances: [voiceover] What is it about love that makes us so stupid?
Katherine: Regrets are a waste of time. They’re the past crippling you in the present.
Frances: Unthinkably good things can happen even late in the game. It’s such a surprise.

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, Part 11

The old tricks are the best, we used to do this with student nurses.

During the Vietnam War Michael Herr wrote in Dispatches “war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror”. I initially thought he was talking about American Football but I know how he feels, because I’ve worked in theatres and Intensive Care.

In my previous career as a nurse I had to spend about two months working in theatres (or OR as our American cousins call it) alongside some not very bright surgeons. After a few weeks working (or more accurately standing still with my arms at the same length all day watching the clock go in reverse) I realised there were some phrases that one should listen out for, for example;

Wait a minute, if this is his liver, then what’s that?
Everybody stand back! I lost my contact lens!
What’s this doing here?
Am I in the right spot, ’cause I don’t think that should be here… (why am I thinking G-Spot suddenly?)
“Hmmm, well that’s interesting” during a C-Section

but the worse one we all dreaded was ‘FIRE! FIRE! Everyone get out!’ I have actually experienced that one plus a few power failures and you have no idea just how transforming that is to the assembled team, suddenly you stop daydreaming about last night’s (mis)adventures and just like a warzone, everyone moves like greased lightning under those circumstances, not to get out of theatre ASAP but to get the patient off all the support machines and keep him/her alive whilst you push the operating table out of the theatre. It’s all hands on deck literally and when I was working in the National Heart & Lung institute in central London I watched a cardiac surgeon squeeze a patient’s heart manually whilst we pushed the table into the neighbouring safe zone.

I’m not sure how it works in normal business’s but in hospitals the idea of moving patients out into the street is a no-no, usually you have to shove the patients into the next ward and then the plan is to keep moving them if that area becomes at risk. Trying to get a patient down a set of stairs on a hospital bed is not easy. However, in 10 years of ICU nursing I had seen an equally miraculous transformation in patients who normally required two nurses to help them get into a bedside chair but when the fire alarm goes off then they can do the 100m sprint in Olympic time.

What is not common knowledge is that in a fire emergency there is the potential to leave about half of your patents behind. On the face of it that seems callous but there is a logic to it, you see, in an average UK Intensive Care about 50% of your patients will be sedated and on ventilators. Therefore in the situation of an ICU filling up with smoke and fumes (from a distant fire) you triage your patients and the ones sedated and on ventilators are not going to suffocate from fumes as they are on piped O2. The ICU could be filled with thick black smoke but they would still be breathing clean air so you’d leave those ones behind and drag – sometimes literally – the patients that are awake and breathing room air.  I’ve never had to actually do that but every time a fire alarm went off then I automatically figured out if my patient should stay or go. Well.. I say ‘I’ because practically every female nurse (and some of the male ones) did what they always did when they knew Firemen (or Policemen) were coming to the Unit, they ran into the changing rooms and put on some lippy and fixed their hair, think it was something to do with the uniforms..

The normal routine on any ICU is for the ICU Medics to take primary irresponsibility for the patient but various teams (or ‘firms’ as they are called) would come around and advise on specialist treatment; Surgery, Orthopaedics, Obs & Gyna, etc but on ICU we had a running joke on how we identified various teams;

Q: How can you tell what type of physician caught the elevator door just as it was closing?

A: If they put in their hand, they are a medic…if they put in their head, they are a surgeon.

Of course we nurses liked to mess around and take the piss out of everyone but especially doctors, this story did the rounds when I was working with some very posh docs in Harley Street.

Three doctors and three nurses are travelling by train to a conference. At the station, the three doctors each buy tickets and watch as the three nurses buy only a single ticket. “How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?” asks a doctor.

“Watch and you’ll see,” answered a nurse. They all board the train. The doctors take their respective seats but all three nurses cram into a restroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom door and says, “Ticket, please.”

The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on. The doctors saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the doctors decide to copy the nurses on the return trip and save some money (being clever with money, and all that). When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the nurses don’t buy a ticket at all. “How are you going to travel without a ticket?” says one perplexed doctor.

“Watch and you’ll see,” answered a nurse. When they board the train the three doctors cram into a restroom and the three nurses cram into another one nearby. The train departs. Shortly afterward, one of the nurses leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the doctors are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, Ticket, please.”

bookmark_borderIn politics stupidity is not a handicap. Napoleon Bonaparte

No, not a casting call for Pride & Prejudice but The Bullingdon Club some time in the distant past, a breeding ground for our Commanders-in-chief. Prime Minister David ‘call me Dave’ Cameron at #2 and the London Mayor Boris Johnston at #8

Until the Great War, it was standard operating procedure to let your smartest son manage your family business and to send the dim one off to work in the church or the army. That’s what anyone with any sense did and consequently we had business managers who really knew their stuff but an officer class that were, to a large degree idiots. The phrase ‘Lions lead by donkeys’ was around even before the Great War and is thought to have been used during the Crimea War around 1854.

These days not much has changed but with one slight difference, the army is now run by exceptional professionals, so the dim children don’t go into the army, they go into politics.

At the time of writing there are about 500 protesters in the City of London protesting about corporate greed, and in NYC and around the world many many more are doing much the same. I am of the same opinion as them, I think we have all been screwed by the banks but rather than protesting against Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan,  I think they should be protesting against the politicians that allowed it to happen in the first place. We tend not to have very bright leaders in this country, the bright ones tend to go off into global enterprises and manage mega-corporations and Westminster is left with the dregs, our choice of whom to vote for is to choose the least incompetent.

For some perspective; the UK has a population of 62 million and is the world’s seventh largest economy, the government has trillions of pounds to manage, the NHS has 1.4 million employees alone – that’s seventh in the world league of employers*, 1.3 trillion of funds goes through the City of London’s banks each day and being in government is a licence to print money (literally).

Eton College. The haves - and the have nots

So, let’s see how well the Prime Minister is qualified to manage such a large venture, this country we call the United Kingdom. A degree from Oxford in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) and then three months working in Hong Kong in an administrative post requiring no experience. Everything else is politics politics politics..  Never been chairman of a national organisation, never had to manage a large diverse staff, never had to fire anyone, never been unemployed and never had to collect social security and this is the man who thinks he can manage the lives, hopes and dreams of 62 million, who thinks he can understand the complexities of the global financial markets and play them at their own game, a man who can take this country to war, a man who has the final say on whether to use nuclear weapons, a man who  has practically no experience of the real world, no experience of grinding poverty, someone who has never had to go without, someone who went to Eton College and has been primed to become Prime Minister from an early age. Well, at least he has an older brother, Allan Alexander is obviously has the brains because now he’s a Barrister and Queens Counsellor.

Oh well, perhaps the other party was better qualified.  Tony Blair, management experience.. zilch. His teachers were unimpressed with him, his biographer John Rentoul, reported that “All the teachers I spoke to when researching the book said he was a complete pain in the backside and they were very glad to see the back of him”. As a student, he played guitar, sang in a rock band called Ugly Rumours and he reportedly modelled himself on Mick Jagger.  He graduated from Oxford in 1975 with a Second Class Honours BA in Jurisprudence, so not outstanding academically but that won’t matter because he will go into politics and his smarter older brother, Sir William James Lynton Blair will become a judge and Queens Counsellor specialising in domestic and international banking and finance law. Of course it was Tony Blair who sent troops into Afghanistan in 2001 and then in 2003 insisted there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and sent in the troops. I wonder how his interview went for the Labour Party when he applied to be an MP;

What qualities can you bring to the Labour Party Mr Blair?
Oh I can do a great impression of Mick Jagger.. I Wanna Be Your Man
Excellent Mr Blair, say no more, here are the keys to Great Britain’s nuclear arsenal..

Who else, hmmm Margaret Thatcher, management experience, zilch, graduated from Oxford with a second class degree in chemistry, a perfect grounding for starting a war in the South Atlantic. Her older sister owned and managed a 900 acre farm and died a very rich woman.

So, leader after leader, not great source material, none of them have any real work experience and yet they manage the lives of millions and I think the one thing they all do have in common is that they have a very high regard for themselves, much higher than I have for them, after all, IBM or Apple wouldn’t put someone in charge that had no experience and yet all Prime Minsters ultimately manage organisations massively larger than IBM and Apple combined.

Politics does seem to be a strange occupation, Groucho Marks said “I do not care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members” and I think you gotta have a very big regard for yourself to think you can manage this country with bugger all previous management experience. Personally I’d rather see someone with long experience in managing huge complex global intuitions as Prime Minister of this country, it’s not like there’s a shortage, there’s Alan Sugar, Richard Branson, Stelios Haji-Ioannou and even outgoing chairman of BP, Peter Sutherland, well, if you can manage a global corporation like BP with it’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill then managing this country will seem like a gentle stroll in the park. However, if one of these chaps do one day decide they would like to manage Great Britain PLC then I have some advice for him, it’s called  Grandma Soderquist’s Rule for Political Speeches, a little known rule that goes like this;

Don’t ever make a speech with more than one thousand words. The speech should contain and repeat certain key words like: people, 81 times; our country, 26 times;  liberty, 17 times;  the poor, 33 times;  I promise you, 77 times; and call all opponents incompetent as many times as you can squeeze it in.

Trust me; you will never get sued for calling your opponents incompetent, because that’s exactly why they are in politics.

(*at the top of the list is not the People’s Liberation Army but the US Department of Defense at 3.2 million employees, I was VERY surprised at that).

bookmark_borderShakespeare in love

We all leave our mark on this world whether we want to or not, and from birth; our birth certificates, our school exam certificates, our doctors records, our work records and for me there’s a permanent trail of fluff and debris as I traipse Tooting High Street. I could never commit a crime because the police could just follow the trail of dandruff and belly button fluff back to my home.

It’s very hard these days to live ‘off the grid’, everywhere I go I leave an electronic trail, my debit card, my London Underground card, my iPhone tracking me, my Sainsburys loyalty card, passport control, Homeland Security, that woman across the road that spends all evening watching the world going by because, like me, she has no life. Deep in Mountain View, Mr Google will have info on me and all this data is archived off and stored for god knows how long. I’m pretty sure that at some time in the future some bright spark will connect up all these data sources and be able to predict with some accuracy where I am at any given time and what I’m doing – I can save them the trouble, I’ll be in Papa’s Joes eating pizza..

So, the essence of me is spreading across the globe, (a thought that makes my friends shudder) and it’s probably not helped by writing this blog. However, it’s interesting how times have changed, because Big Brother can find out just about everything about me but Big Brother knows sweet Fanny Adams about William Shakespeare.

We have the 884,647 words he wrote, spread over 118,406 lines containing 138,198 commas, 26,794 colons and 15,785 question marks but the man himself remains a mystery. We know roughly but not exactly when he was born and we have a portrait on the First Folio that we think was based on a painting of him but no-one knows if this is actually the Bard or not. We have a total of fourteen words in the man’s own hand, twelve of these being his signature (6 times 2), each one spelt differently and none of them in the form most common today ‘William Shakespeare’ and two other words;  ‘by me’ on his will.

Ironically we know more about Shakespeare than just about anyone else from the 16th century but that’s still hardly anything, large parts of his life is still a complete mystery, nobody knows where he was between 1585 and 1592 and as for Shakespeare in love, well, we know next to nothing about that – but he did come up with some cracking chat-up lines;

I’ll say she looks as clear as morning roses newly washed with dew.  (this btw is almost as good as ‘He said my eyes look like the Irish countryside after a soft rain’ one of my favourite lines from Scrubs)

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

My bounty is as deep as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts.

Journey’s end in lovers meeting.

If music be the food of love, play on

No sooner met but they looked;
No sooner looked but they loved;
No sooner loved but they sighed;
No sooner signed but they asked one another the reason;
No sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy;
And in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage…

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar
but never doubt thy love.

So Shakespeare obviously knew about love but we know amazing little about his actual love life, we aren’t even 100% sure he married Anne Hathaway because according to the clerk at Worcester, Shakespeare applied for a license in November 1582 to marry not Anne Hathaway  but to marry Anne Whateley. In all likelihood he probably did marry Anne Hathaway as the clerks in Worcester weren’t the most fastidious of record keepers. The marriage license is lost but the marriage bond survives and on it Anne Hathaway is correctly identified but marrying Willy Shagspere – I’m not sure if that was just yet another misspelling or was in fact a 16th century pun by the clerks.

What was unusual was that Shakespeare married at 18yrs old and there was some haste in getting married, the banns were only read for one week and not the usual three and it was much more common for men of that time to marry in mid to late 20’s. It’s assumed that Anne was most likely with child but considering nearly 40% of brides were pregnant then the indecent haste is all the more mysterious but Susanna was born the following May.  BTW did you know that the age of consent at that time was 14 for a boy and 12 for a girl? Then it seems that Shakespeare buggered off between 1585 and 1592, no-one knows where but he eventually pitched up in London and started writing plays and scholars think he made trips back to Stratford to be with his family.

So, for a man who wrote some of the most famous lines in literature we know absolutely nothing about his relationship with his wife, how much did he love her, was it true love or did they argue all the time and how much did she influence his writing, no one knows but there’s one odd item we do know and I found this out this summer when I went to visit Anne Hathaways cottage in Stratford. In Shakespeare’s will, he doesn’t mention his wife at all, which was very unusual – except in one infamous line which reads  “I give onto my wife, my second best bed with the furniture” (furniture = bedclothes). This has caused many words to be penned about his relationship with Anne, the best bed was kept for honoured guests and the second best bed was the one which married couples slept in and therefore was Shakespeare showing some tenderness towards Anne, scholars say that it is almost without exception that the husband left the best bed to their wife and this is interpreted as an insult to Anne, but who knows…

Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death. The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse against moving his bones;

“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,”
“To dig the dust enclosed here.”
“Blessed be the man that spares these stones,”
“And cursed be he who moves my bones.”

So it seems that Anne got the second best bed but ironically Shakespeare was determined he wasn’t going to be disturbed in his final resting place.

bookmark_borderPretty As A Picture

A friend of mine introduced me to Vernazza the other day, pictured above. Fantastic looking place and definitely going to be on one of my random trips to Europe one day for some nice photographs, hiking and sticky buns.

I wonder about the folk living there and if they get fed up with all the tourists, in times past it was (and probably still is) the only port for miles around and that’s how everyone made their living but now the major industry is tourism and no wonder because it’s so pretty.

One of my friends lives in the New Forest in Hampshire (nice video) and he hates the tourist season because the roads are full of cars all driving well under the speed limit and admiring the views and New Forest ponies. This irritates him as he’s nearly always late for work. The people who live there in the New Forest have a name for tourists, they call them Grockles (or in Tony’s case Bloody Grockles!) and I wonder if the residents of Vernazza have their own words for all the Grockles that descend on them in droves.

My mother Doris spent the first eighty years of her life living in somewhere equally beautiful, Cranfield, Killkeel. She was ‘out in the sticks’ as we say, the nearest neighbour was quite some distance away. She lived in a cottage that generations had been born/raised in, had walls hand built, whitewashed and about four foot thick. The first thing I noticed when I first found her (at age 18) was not that she had no gas, electricity, water, sewerage, television (but an outside loo and a well by the back door) but that she had stunning views of fields, meadows and in the distance views of the Mourne Mountains, all from her kitchen window. She too lived in somewhere simply stunning but one year I went down to Kilkeel to visit her and was aghast to see a garage had been built in front of her kitchen window. I said to her why on earth would she want a garage built just there in front of the window and she said it was the most convenient place. I said but what about the fantastic view of the fields, the cows, the meadows and the mountains, and she looked at me puzzled and said what view? I pointed in the direction of the Mourne Mountains and sighed..

And I think this is probably what it’s like for the residents of Vernazza, stunningly pretty place but if you live there day-in, day-out then you probably stop noticing it and get annoyed with the tourist – unless of course you run the one and only decent café in the whole town.

I went driving around the Mourne Mountains in the late 80’s with a friend, Jen. It was eerily quiet and spooky but quite special. Deep into the mountains I had to stop the car as the road lead up a steep hill and then just disappeared into a cloud. This wasn’t hundreds of yards away but just a few dozen yards away. We got out of the car and looked up, it was eerily silent, not a sound, no birds, no wind, silence, the air was incredibly still and a cloud hovered just inches from our out-stretched arms, I could almost touch it, it was incredibly well defined, like someone had drawn a line in the air and said ‘below here there be air’ and ‘above here there be cloud’. It was spooky, made me think of Twin Peaks or John Carpenters ‘The Fog’.  Jen suggested we didn’t go any further into the Mourne Mountains version of the Bermuda Triangle and for once I didn’t argue..

bookmark_borderHow To Speak Fluent Norn Iron; Part Six

I'm going back to sign language. Less mistakes.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that it’s not a good idea to call Native Americans ‘Red Indians’ when visiting the states, not unless you want everyone to drop to the floor! Being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, the term was used every weekend at the local flea-pit (Queen’s cinema) as the cowboys fought the redskins. It’s easy to cause unintentional offence with obsolete terminology,  and especially confusing when there’s an American football team named the Washington Redskins, and the Redskins serve as the mascot of Red Mesa High School on the Navajo Reservation in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, go figure.

During my nurse training it was perfectly normal to refer to the Elderly Care wards as the Gerry’s ward – as in Geriatrics – and this was to our tutors. Now I am pretty sure Gerry’s is out and I suspect even Elderly Care is frowned upon, I think it’s referred to Care of the Aged now and during training terms like physically handicapped and mentally handicapped was perfectly acceptable but now handicap is only used during golfing conversations and the term disabled or disadvantaged is preferred.

I was talking to an American member of staff today and mentioned the ‘red’ faux pas to her and she agreed that if she hadn’t been sitting down then she would have fallen over if I used that term in normal conversation, however I went from one faux pas straight into another because I mentioned that her fringe needs trimmed and she looked at me quite shocked, apparently whilst fringe is a common term here in Europe, it’s called ‘bangs’ in America, where she comes from to have your fringe trimmed means something much more personal. Oops!

We all know over here that fag is a cigarette but means something completely different across the pond and beaver is a small water dwelling damn building forest animal – at least in this country but can mean your butt across the pond, fanny here is considered vulgar and not suitable for polite company but not considered that racey across the water. However, during my twenties in Northern Ireland and then in London we had terms, that as young lads we used all the time without a second thought.

Vincent Van Gogh – Rhyming slang for ‘cough’.  As in ‘That’s a nasty Vincent you’ve got there’. As a digression, we had a tutor at school called Mrs Chesnokov and whenever she was mentioned in conversation it was de rigueur to skip her name but to quickly touch your chest then knee and then cough; chest-knee-cough..  geddit?

Salad dodger – an extremely overweight person. Sometimes we would also say busted sofa – an overweight woman wearing a tight dress/trousers. As another digression, I once sat on a bus with my very young son only to be mortified as he said in a very loud voice whilst pointing to the lady sitting in front of us, ‘Daddy, that ladies very fat, isn’t she?’.  The young couple sitting behind us had to get off because for the next five minutes they tried and tried valiantly to supress their laugher before finally giving in to it.  So did the rest of the bus.

OK OK digression #2, when I was at Secondary school we had a tubby chap in our class called George Burns and being the horrible cruel kids that we were, his nickname was ‘Fat Burns’ and loved our cleverness as not only was he obviously fat but because, of course that fat does actually burn.

Aeroplane blond – this is a nursing term and no, it’s not about dumb blonde’s, it’s a phenomena one got used to seeing, especially in A&E (ER) Units, it’s a reference to an attractive woman who has dyed her hair but still has a black box.  As yet another digression, we once had an unconscious patient in A&E who had dyed her pubes green and had a tattoo ‘Come Lie On The Grass’ above it.  She needed to be prepped for emergency surgery so one of the nurses shaved her and wrote in ink above the tattoo ‘sorry, we had to mow the lawn’.

Pearl Harbour – cold weather. Rhyming slang.  “It’s a bit Pearl Harbour out there!”. Meaning it’s a bit nippy out there or there’s a nip in the air. This comes from the well-known surprise attack by Japanese planes on the American port in Hawaii in 1941. We would also say ‘it’s brass monkey weather out there’ meaning it would freeze the balls off a brass monkey, I had absolutely no idea where that came from but if you wish to be educated then click here.

Mork and Mindy – Rhyming slang for ‘windy’, i.e. “It’s a little bit Mork and Mindy today, innit?”. This isn’t actually a reference to the weather outside but this expression is always accompanied with a grin as you flap your hands around your rear end.  Speaking of which, I was reading a blog  (yes, mine actually) about life’s most embarrassing moments and this girl wrote that when in sixth form her teacher asked if anyone could do something unusual…like wiggle their ears or somersault…so this 16yr old said she could do a cartwheel. The teacher thought that’s a good trick so the entire class pushed all their desks back and she stood up to do her cartwheel, unfortunately as she was in the middle of it two things happened simultaneously

1) Her skirt fell down and everyone could see her awful Bridget Jones knickers..

2) She farted…REALLY LOUDLY

The entire class fell to the floor laughing and she was humiliated.. even the teacher laughed…

She left shortly after that and became an axe murderer..

Blouse Bunnies – you can probably figure this one out from the following totally true story. Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he’d just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut, and bruised, and he’s walking with a limp.
‘What happened to you?’ asks Sean, the bartender.
‘Micheal O’Connor and me had a fight,’ says Paddy.
‘That little O’Connor,’ says Sean, ‘He couldn’t do that to you, he must have had something in his hand.’
‘That he did,’ says Paddy,’a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin’ he gave me with it.’
‘Well,’ says Sean, ‘you should have defended yourself. Didn’t you have something in your hand?’
That I did,’ said Paddy, ‘Mrs. O’Connor’s breast, and a thing of beauty it was; but useless in a fight.’

Five Finger Discount – to steal something. Another completely true story. It’s Saint Patrick’s day and an armed hooded robber bursts into the Bank of Ireland and forces the tellers to load a sack full of cash. On his way out the door with the loot one brave Irish customer grabs the hood and pulls it off revealing the robber’s face. The Robber Shoots the Guy Without Hesitation!

He then looks around the bank to see if anyone else has seen him. One of the tellers is looking straight at him and the robber walks over and calmly shoots him also. Everyone by now is very scared and looking down at the floor. Did anyone else see my face?’ screams the robber.

There is a few moments of silence then one elderly Irish lady, looking down, tentatively raises her hand and says, ‘I think me husband may have caught a glimpse.’

bookmark_borderSteve Jobs

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.”

Steve Jobs is dead, and there’s going to be a million lines wrote about him and how he brought Apple from the brink and made it one of the world’s biggest companies and what a tragic loss it is.

But the real tragedy is not Apples but his wife Laurene’s and their  kids, tonight his wife will go to that big double bed and there will be no-one there to snuggle up with, no-one to tell about her day, no-one to share hopes and fears, no-one to confide in, and the kids will come home and have no father to tell about their day, and each kid has the expectation that their father will be there for a large part of their lives to watch them grow up and become adults, to watch them make their mistakes and to celebrate their successes and to proudly beam big smiles at them as they overcome life’s trials and tribulations.  Apple will go on, will survive and doubtlessly grow but the real tragedy is not for them but for his wife and family.

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

RIP Steve.

bookmark_borderYour Own Theme Music?

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own theme music? I’d love it when every time I walked into a room or crowded pub they played my theme music.  Imagine if we all had our own theme music, if the theme music from Happy Days played every time I went into a pub or a party I wouldn’t need to introduce myself because my theme music would tell everyone what sort of happy chappy I am, I’d just have to learn to give the two thumbs up and say “Heyyyy” like The Fonz,  would save a lot of time. Heyyyyyyy..

I think we should all have theme music and not just the same song all your life, you should be allowed to change it as you get older. When I was a wee nipper I helped deliver milk with one of my (many) older brothers and this was a popular song during those days, full of double entendre as only Benny Hill could get away with at that time and this probably deserves to be the theme music of my youth;

Then I worked in a large supermarket with a staff of about 300. There was a food court upstairs and I kind’a think this should be my theme music for those times – or at least during Christmas time 🙂

Next career was working as a Nurse on Intensive Care and I’d have to pick this – especially as I worked with so many queens, this is cringe-inducing BTW!

Now I work in computing with a load of uber-geeks and there is only one, and I mean only one tune that can be my theme music. I want this played EVERY SINGLE TIME I walk into a room, I think it would be fantastic !!  You not think so? “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” 🙂

I have to make a small confession here… A few years ago when I was ummmm even more mischievous I was chatting to the new Senior Registrar at work, he was about to introduce himself to all the University staff and we stood at the back of the hall awaiting his turn. He turned to me and jokingly said he felt like there should be a fanfare as he walks down the aisle towards the podium..  Well, it was like a red rag to a bull, I couldn’t resist it, so when he got the nod from the Dean to come in I sung the above song VERY LOUDLY as he walked down between the assembled staff and he looked back and grinned and the assembled staff sniggered as well, and then as he got to the podium and was about to talk into the microphone I did the same sort of heavy laboured breathing that Darth Vader did and everyone burst out laughing, including him..  well, it HAD to be done..I’m surprised I still have a job there!

bookmark_borderConfidential Cuts?

Looks reasonable, I wonder if they do a number 42?

It is a truism that people change their spouse more times than they change their bank. The grief and hassle of moving banks would seem more daunting than the grief and hassle of changing spouse(s). I know in my case that I have been with the same bank all my life and the hassle of changing is not something I relish; my whole life is there, I pay everything by standing orders; electricity, gas, phone, internet, insurance, mobile, it’s all set up and automatically comes out at the start of my month.

I wrote in the last entry that the rain was the one constant in my life – at least those of us who grew up in Northern Ireland but it seems I forgot about banks.

And hairdressers.

Yes, it’s true, I got my hair lopped off last week and realised that Lisa has been a constant in my life for many years.  I’m not sure how it goes when you find a good plumber or electrician, never found one I’d like to hang onto but I know once I found someone in this god forsaken town who could give me a decent haircut then I tried to make a point of never letting anyone else touch my golden  ummm…silver locks.

Lisa has been another constant in my life – at least my London life and I’ve discover a few things about Lisa and ditto her about me, I dare say I confide in Lisa more than any of my closest friends and that’s because I’ve known her longest, in fact when I look at the people I know now, the ones outside my family circle then she is the one I’ve known longest.

Consequently I know a lot about Lisa and she knows a lot about me, I have confided in her and she in me, I know about her family, her kid, her hubby, her work, her part time training at her local college and the stresses of that and then the offer of a teaching post there whilst she carries on cutting my hair. And vise-verse. She knows a huge lot about me, my life, my family, my love life (!)  (she even fixed me up with a blind date once) and isn’t it strange that we will confide in our hairdressers things that we don’t want to tell our friends. I think really, if Lisa wanted yet another career then she could go into the blackmail business because I’m sure I’m not the only regular who tells her all their secrets. It might be a better idea if she called her place Confidential Cuts or she went and worked as an interrogator for the FBI because it’s amazing just how much information she manages to weasel out of me in one hour every six weeks. Who needs truth serums when you have Lisa.

So, having Lisa as a constant means there’s that least one area I don’t have to worry about, I’ve tried other hair dressers when Lisa is not around or off on holiday and it’s never been as good as Lisa’s and I go back to her, cap-in-hand, begging her to fix my crappy haircut. One time I was up in Middle Earth and popped into the local hair dressers to get my bonnet trimmed, they had rows and rows of pictures on the walls and you simply said I’d like a number 42 and somehow or another one expected to be transformed into Elvis Presley. Little did I know that all the photos were just for show, everyone but everyone got a number 99 which wasn’t one the wall but a number 99 was hairdresser slang for a shit haircut, it was the only one the hairdressers there knew.

A few years ago when Lisa was coming towards the end of her studies and doing her exams she confided in me that she wasn’t that happy working in the current salon and next time I went back she had left. I was devastated. The staff there said that Lisa had passed all her exams and left to teach at the college full time. I was pleased of course for her – but more importantly – what about my hair!!!

I reluctantly let one of the other girls there cut my hair and it was a number 99. Bloody awful. So I spent a few months traipsing around SW London trying to find someone who could cut my hair properly, all without avail. Then one afternoon I was walking back to my flat and past a ‘Beauty Parlour’ that I barely noticed and as I walked past a door opened and a voice called out my name. It was LISA!! OMG I was soooo pleased to see her, I almost hugged her! It never occurred to me that she would be working in a slightly different setup just yards down the road from her previous shithole. I was soooo pleased. So now I have the constant back in my life, my Lisa and everything in my world is alright again 🙂

bookmark_borderLiquid Sunshine?

Bliss – before the bad weather sets in..

During most folks childhood there tends to be something, or someone, constant; the constant love of your mother, the constant need to get your homework done before school starts, the best friend who never leaves your side – especially if he has four paws and a wet nose. These are all quite normal but growing up in Northern Ireland there was one overriding constant and that was the rain.

When I left Northern Ireland and came to London it was like moving to the tropics. You get on the plane at Aldergrove airport swathed in ten layers and a sou’wester and you get off at Heathrow and everyone is in tee-shirts and shorts. And the reverse is true, when you make the return trip you leave London in tee-shirt and freeze your bits off the moment the aircraft doors open in Belfast. We say at home there are only two types of weather; “it’s raining” or “it’s about to rain” and it’s said in humour but “many’s a truth said in jest”.

I have lived in London now for twenty-five years and despite the very wet summer we have had here I still have a bit of colour – at least I don’t look like I’ve been sitting down a mine all my life and never seen sunshine but when I go home people stop me and ask where have I been on holiday because I’m so tanned, and I look at them confusingly and then realise that of course, compared to them I’m actually quite tanned, you see, at home in Northern Ireland the natural skin colour is a light blue.

And the weather affects you in ways you don’t (or didn’t) realise, at home it rained a lot so of course you bought big heavy waterproof duffle coats and Parka’s and you tended to eat big heavy warming meals in preference to salads because, well, because the sun didn’t shine long enough for a salad to seem worth it. But coming to London were it rains very little (apart from this summer) it is perfectly normal to wear nice light clothes and that was the biggest change I noticed arriving here – especially in the tourist spots were there were lots of visitors from the continent who always wore brightly coloured clothes.

There are some expression they have here in London that I’ve never heard of before, terms like ‘water shortage’ and ‘hose-pipe ban’, I’d never heard those words before in my life and couldn’t figure out why you would need them. The other phrases I had never heard before but was pleased to learn was ‘what a scorcher’ (not a reference to last night’s curry or it’s revenge this morning) and ‘heatwave’ and ‘too hot’, something I had to get used to saying.

It is said that the Inuit have dozens of words to describe snow conditions, from the state of the stuff lying on the ground to the speed and direction from which it is falling. Perhaps this is not surprising considering community survival used to depend entirely on the correct interpretation of weather conditions and in Northern Ireland we too have many words to describe rain;  drizzle, pelting,  lashing, bucketing, pissing, perishing, monsoon conditions, peeing etc

The weather would creep into our everyday speech unnoticed, we would say phrases like “It lashed out of the heavens the whole time” or it was ‘a soft auld day’ meaning it was raining gently and ‘passion’, you would hear your dad say ‘it’s passion doon’  which once you got past the heavy accent actually means ‘it’s pissing down’ and if you ask your mum how she was she would respond with ‘I’m right as rain’ which ironically means she’s very well. And one of my favourite chat-up lines is ‘your eyes look like the Irish countryside after a soft rain’, never used that line but it’s kind’a sweet. Perhaps one day.

When I was a kid and helping my older brother with his milk round I used to dread looking out the window at 4 in the morning and see the rain chucking it down. However when I moaned to my brother about the bad weather he would say there’s no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes – and he’d make sure I had something waterproof on. During the winter it was particularly miserable, it rained constantly but was cold as well and then the rain would turn to sleet and I’d be frozen. We were constantly carrying cold wet milk bottles and he’d encourage me to run faster to warm myself up and although I was sweating buckets inside, my hands and especially fingers always remained cold.

I always wondered how everyone else, all the grown-ups, used to stay so warm and they let me into a little secret. They used to wear thick woman’s tights under their trousers and one of them pulled up  his jeans to show me and yes, he really did have thick tan tights on as well as thick socks and jeans. I did wonder about a few things then, for starters he was very hairy, in fact I think he was part werewolf and just how he managed to get those tights up against the grain of his leg fur was a mystery. Perhaps he shaved his legs. The other thing I used to wonder about was did it stop at woman’s tights, did he wear other items of woman’s apparel and where did he get them from because I knew he wasn’t married, did he walk into Boots The Chemist and size them up against himself and get some very strange looks from the other customers..  But the biggest concern I had was what would happen if he was in an accident and had to go to hospital. He would have got some very strange looks if the nurses cut open his jeans and saw that he was wearing tights. Perhaps they’d think he was a cross dresser..perhaps he was..perhaps all milkmen are..

Yes, I know, I don’t think like everyone else…do I?

bookmark_borderAquarius Dating Cheat Sheet

Works for me 🙂

One of my friends was complaining to me recently about how hard it is for anyone to date me, yeah, you’re shocked I actually have friends (still). You see, I’m aquarius and consequently I am the most reasonable Dirty Rotten Scoundrel you will ever come across. In fact, if you call me a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel I won’t argue with you but will readily agree because it’s one of our aquarian traits to see the other person’s point of view and appreciate it – even if we vehemently disagree with it. Apparently one of our other traits is to be annoyingly good looking which makes arguing against us all the more infuriating – personally I think I was in the ‘cute butt’ department and got extra helpings there when I should have been attending the cute face department – at least that’s what I’ve been told in the past..

So the usual methods for trying to manipulate aquarian blokes don’t actually work, after years of dealing with men that won’t listen to a single word you say when the football is on, you actually aren’t equipped to deal with someone who does listen to you. All the lessons learnt over a lifetime of how to get a bloke to do anything now count for nought; nagging or screaming like a banshee or even the most careful rationing of sex won’t work and there’s a reason which goes back to our childhood.

You see, the one over-riding trait of an aquarian is to be different, not to follow conventional wisdom but to question everything, to plough our own furrow and we get all the more pleasure from it if no-one’s done it before us. We are natural rebels, we can’t help it and couple that with the Irish tendency to break every single rule there is and well, we are trouble times squared, not many folk are equipped to deal with that and it’s why we listen to you and even engage in conversation with you, not because we want to sleep with you but because we want to compensate for all the other Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that have come before and treated you badly.

This will have been painfully obvious to our parents when we were children, whilst other kids were playing with Power Rangers and GI Joe this kid was pondering the meaning of the Universe and the mysteries of existence. I was a rebel from a very early age and remember asking our local priest about what happens when you die (and gaining huge pleasure from the shocked look on his face – and the congregation wasn’t too pleased either). I questioned a lot of things that neither he nor my teachers could answer to my satisfaction and that trend has continued unabated. I have questioned everything and gained most satisfaction by not being like everyone else and this includes by not being like my mates when it comes to girlfriends. So I listen, I pay attention and then do the complete opposite because I don’t want to follow the crowd, the urge to be different is so powerful that for the last 20 years I have refused to wear black because on the trains and tubes in the morning practically everyone else wears black, it’s almost like a uniform in London so I have made a conscious point to wear bright light coloured clothes because I want to exert my difference, I don’t want to blend in, I want to stand out. And just to completely screw with your mind set, I have now bought black clothes because I want to prove I can rebel against my rebellious nature… go figure.. it’s so easy to be a rebel when I can change the rules to suit me.

And there is the crux of the matter, if you want to date an aquarian then you need to be different, you gotta walk on the wild side, you must have a sense of adventure and you gotta have balls – (metaphorically of course) and you must have the strong personality to go with it, you gotta be able to argue and fight and stand up to the stubborn aquarian and you have to be willing to tear up the rulebook and make your own rules or even recognise that in the bigger reality there are no rules. Stick-in-the-muds won’t last long because in the ten pin bowling game of life you can either be the bowling ball or the pins – and we will always choose to be the bowling ball.

And there’s something else you should know –aquarians believe in one true love, and are willing to hold out for that, for as long as it takes, and like my mother they will wait until the right person comes along and will deny themselves dates and lots of rumpy-pumpy because they don’t see the point in being like every other guy, better to live a life of a Trappist Monk than play the field so Aquarius won’t serial date, he will simply bide his time and will have faith that The One will cross his path …one day…year…decade..

bookmark_borderRequired Reading

Philip Gould

This is an entry about Philip Gould. Who is Philip Gould I hear you ask? Well Philip Gould was a mover and shaker behind ‘New Labour’, he was one of the backroom boys who got the Labour Party out of it’s almost Communist ideology and helped bring it back from the brink and unelectable to the center left. He helped get Tony Blair and New Labour elected, politics has been his life and he neglected his wife and his children because of the demands of politics. Today at 61 he is the wise old sage that the political aspiring and savvy come to seek counsel.

Sadly he has cancer and has been given less than three months to live. I am not keen on Tony Blair but Tony Blair said something very wise to Philip Gould on hearing he was going to die. He said that the cancer hadn’t finished with him and now was the time for Gould to discover his purpose in life. And this is what he’s been doing, he’s been writing.  Today, he wants to talk about all he has learned, but it’s a very different story to the one he expected to be telling. Not so much about high politics, as the intimacies of family life, friendship and love.

He gave an interview (here) to the Guardian newspaper last week. After a lifetime devoted to politics his priorities are not to write about politics but to write about the love of his life; his wife, his children, his family, his friends and how beautiful the flowers in the park are.  It’s infinitely better to learn the priorities of life at the beginning of your life rather than at the end of it when it’s too late to do anything about it. It should be required reading for every kid just about to enter University.

bookmark_borderGastrosexual – The 12 Stages of Men’s Cooking

Begging didn't work so thought I'd try this

Robert A. Heinlein wrote in The Notebook of Lazarus Long that a human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. I have to admit that it’s been some time since I’ve been called on to pitch manure but I think I could manage most of this list with the one big exception being ‘cook a tasty meal’, the cooking part I might be able to manage but the problem is in the tasty part, that’s where I’d fall over.

It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – although a friend of mine disputes this and says it’s with a big knife through his chest.  I can understand this because her husband is completely useless in the kitchen; he is quite capable of burning water and can’t be left alone unsupervised in the kitchen for more than a few minutes. There’s only one thing more exasperating than a spouse who can cook and won’t, and that’s a spouse who can’t cook and will. One can only hope he makes up for it in other ways.  I have to say I have some sympathy for him (and obviously her) for when I was growing up I was always thrown out of the kitchen, not just because I got in the way but because big pots of boiling water and young children do not mix and if there are nine kids in the family then that’s an accident waiting to happen.

However, since I was born in 1961, there has been a five times increase in the amount of time men spend in the kitchen, at least according to this report (one assumes this doesn’t mean from one minute to five minutes but one cannot be completely certain). I feel I should point out that this remarkable rise has not been entirely down to me. The report ‘Emergence of the Gastrosexual’ cites the popularity of superstar chefs Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver as a factor in making cooking a macho pursuit.  However, like all men coming from un-reconstituted Northern Ireland, the land that the sexual revolution, woman’s liberation, equal rights (and the concept of deodorant) managed to pass by, I’ve had to develop my own cooking skills since leaving home, not because I like to cook but because I had to cook. I didn’t have the advantage of Domestic Science that my sisters were taught for five years in Secondary School or the encouragement of my mother to bake a Victoria Sandwich Sponge Cake on Saturday afternoons like both my sisters did.

Interestingly the findings indicate men’s new found enthusiasm for the kitchen does not mean they are interested in other household chores. The cleaning of the home, washing of clothes and shopping for groceries are still forms of work dominated by women. Men spend just 4 minutes a day washing clothes, less than a quarter of the time spent by women. Judging from the smell coming from my two rug-rats I suspect they spend even less time washing themselves..

So my cooking has been quite a hit and miss affair, it has to be said much more miss than hit, since I was chucked out into the Northern Irish Serengeti to fend for myself at age sixteen. I think most blokes will recognise the following list, it’s a kind of sliding scale of our version of what we laughingly term ‘cooking’ and you might be surprised how long it took me to get from stage 1 to stage 12, especially when we considering buttering bread ‘cooking’.

  1. Peanutbutter sandwiches
  2. McDonalds/Burger King
  3. Local chippie – fish and chips
  4. Chinese home delivery
  5. Indian home delivery
  6. Pizza (you can probably see a pattern emerging here..)
  7. Microwave (when desperate – and broke)
  8. Oven cook (when desperate and feeling rich)
  9. Barbecue
  10. Friend’s house – always female
  11. Raw ingredients – chicken and packet sauce  (half cooking)
  12. Proper Cooking – separate raw ingredients and making your own sauce

You will notice I haven’t put trash cans/skips/dumpsters in the very beginning of that list but when I was 16 and working at Stewarts Supermarkets I had a friend who was a Dumpster Diver and regularly took home food that was past it’s sell-by-date and we had disposed of. Despite my pressing need, I never ate at his house.

I was further dis-advantaged in the cooking stakes (steaks?) in Northern Ireland because I’d never really heard of exotic terms like pasta and rice and ..vegetables. Almost every meal consisted of spuds, usually fried or mashed to a pulp but if I was on a healthy phase then I might make a baked potato and put half a ton of butter in it. The term ‘potato salad’ seemed like a contradiction in terms as far as the Northern Irish were concerned. P. J. O’Rourke said that the only really good vegetable is Tabasco sauce. Put Tabasco sauce in everything. Tabasco sauce is to bachelor cooking what forgiveness is to sin. The next best vegetable is the jalapeño pepper. It has the virtue of turning salads into practical jokes. I’m inclined to agree.

However, according to ‘Emergence of the Gastrosexual’ 48 per cent of people say being able to cook makes a person more attractive to them and 23 per cent of 18-34 year old men say they cook to potentially seduce a partner and this rings true with me. I have clear memories of thinking I would really impress a girlfriend by cooking her an exotic meal so I cooked her a Vesta Curry. This involved boiling the dehydrated ingredients of two separate plastic bags in water for 20 minutes and pouring, yes, pouring, our gourmet meal onto two heated plates. Mere words cannot describe just how vile and un-curry like this meal was but as neither of us had actually ate a curry in our life we didn’t actually realise just how ABSOLUTELY AWFUL it was, it was like eating Pedigree Chum and fried lice. It’s somewhat ironic that I have lived in New New Delhi aka Tooting, London for most of the last 25 years. She dumped me after that. Actually she dumped me about a week later because it took about that length of time for both of us to recover.

Zoom forward on this youtube clip to 1:15 seconds to see the delights of the Vesta curry, now you know where the term ‘making a right dogs dinner of that’ comes from.

However, since that time my cooking has improved. Slightly. Certain factors have help, I moved from Northern Ireland to London and was introduced to the concept of a meal that didn’t include the four basic staples of food;

  • Chips/Fries
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Jacket potatoes
  • McCains Oven Cook Potato Wedges

Not all potatoes are equal

and I discovered terms like pasta, rice and something called ‘vegetables’. My sons still think vegetables are the spawn of the devil and won’t touch them but like nearly all parents I sneak them into their meals unnoticed (and unloved). I have also learnt to grill rather than frying everything in lard and that all vegetables didn’t have to be boiled to a mush to become edible. I now possess a proper wok and a reasonable selection of utensils including a steamer, griddle, various weird tools that my mother wouldn’t recognise (and wouldn’t look out of place in the bedroom). I have to fess up to still owning a pizza slicer and Domino’s Pizza phone number takes priority above the Police and Fire Brigade emergency numbers on my landline. I should really admit that I have not yet progressed to the stage of all my female friends who have items called herbs, spices, soy and fish sauce spilling out of their cupboards and I’ve as yet to knowingly purchase a bag of self raising flour but give me time, I’m only fifty.

The report also shows 60 per cent of British men now regularly cook for friends and family, favouring complicated foreign dishes over traditional British food. Excuse the pun but I think this is a bit of a red herring, I suspect we men cook all these foreign dishes simply because we can bluff our way through and tell everyone that’s how it’s meant to taste.. (well, it works for me!).

These are important matters, I once dated a woman who was even worse than me in the kitchen (yes, I didn’t think it was possible either) but somehow she had managed to go through life without picking up even the most rudimentary basics of cooking and in order to avoid being poisoned each weekend I did all the cooking – or should I say the local Chinese, Jackie Chan’s did all the cooking. This wasn’t so bad because by this time I had picked up some knowledge and this was like a crash course in proper cooking. She was British and it’s said that heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics German, the lovers Italian and it’s all organised by the Swiss. Hell is where the chefs are British, the mechanics French, the lover’s Swiss, the police German and it’s all organised by the Italians. I was in Hell.

bookmark_borderGood Vibrations?

Lets Talk About Sex (part seven)

In the dark ages everyone thought the world was made of just four elements; air, fire, water and earth but in the 16th century an alchemist called Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (try saying that when drunk) was the first to challenge that idea and suggest everything was composed of elements. Then in 1667  Johann Joachim Becher postulated the existence of a fire-like element called “phlogiston”. We know now that phlogiston doesn’t exist but it was a red herring that held back (al)chemistry until Victorian times. The Victorians at last came to realise that phlogiston didn’t exist and probably thought themselves very clever but they didn’t have it all their own way. You see, woman in the Victorian era woman used to suffer from ‘hysteria’, a catch-all condition for just about anything and everything but the condition itself didn’t actually exist. I suspect ‘hysteria’ held back the advancement of sex in the Victorian age in much the same way that phlogiston held back the advancement of chemistry.

However, and this is obviously where the story caught my eye, the treatment ermmm.. handed out by doctors at the time involved pelvic massage, and copious amounts of it until the poor lady achieved ‘hysterical paroxysm’ ie orgasm. I kid you not. I am deeply jealous of the bright spark that thought up that particular treatment and to think the doctors got paid for it, surely to god woman had orgasms even in the Victorian ages but apparently not.

Not only did the doctors of the time regard “vulvular stimulation” as having nothing to do with sex (the mind boggles at that particular one, what did they teach them in Medical School?) but reportedly found it time-consuming, hard work and wearisome. They complained about the effort required to get a woman to the point of ‘hysterical paroxysm’ and how tiring it was on their wrists and fingers – any of this sound familiar? This does make me wonder a lot of things, principally how the Victorians actually managed to reproduce if they were that sexually naive, I’m starting to wonder did they actually figure out the connection between the act of making love and pregnancy..

However, it must have made for some interesting conversations around the Victorian version of the water-cooler.. “Blast it Caruthers, I had to treat Miss Brontë this morning for hysteria. I spent the whole morning caressing, stroking, rubbing and manipulating her good self in ‘vulvular stimulation’ whilst she read me passages from her latest novel, Jayne Eyre. Listening to it I was assailed by sensations of perpetual giddiness and ever-recurring faintness. Between thou and I, Caruthers, I fear it will not be popular, it was a dreadfully melancholy story of love lost but I must be thankful that the many layers of her dress over my head muffled most of the tale whilst I continued my valiant efforts to stimulate her, something she was clearly not doing to me with her tedious book. It does seem to me that she suffers from hysteria a bit too much, almost a daily occurrence and she was most disappointed that Dr. Richard Chamberlain was not able to avail himself on her. Personally I think those needlecraft afternoons are having a detrimental effect on her whole constitution and I shall advise her to refrain from it forthwith and engage in an activity more becoming of a young lady, such as mountaineering or bog swimming. One would think we could get some street urchin to do this work and free me up to do something more useful like waxing my moustache or attending to my stamp collection. I can’t say I’m looking forward to treating her two sisters this afternoon, blast this hysteria for being so infectious!”

So, seeing an opening (cough) and a way to make a quick buck, American physician George Taylor developed a steam-powered device called the “Manipulator” much to the hand relief of the doctors who found all this massage a bit wearing. (I probably should apologise for the three puns in that last sentence)(but won’t). The steam powered Manipulator was very cumbersome to use and not that popular, so around 1880, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville patented the first electromechanical vibrator and 20 years later the American company Hamilton Beach patented the first electric vibrator available for retail sale. This made the vibrator the fifth domestic appliance to be electrified, after the sewing machine, fan, tea kettle, and toaster, and about a decade before the vacuum cleaner and electric iron. Thus, after ones strenuous treatment, one could have a refreshing cup of tea, a toasted muffin and be cooled down by a nice fan. Beats a cigarette, doesn’t it. Good to see we got our priorities right.

What’s a real eye opener is that home versions soon became extremely popular, with advertisements in periodicals such as Needlecraft, Woman’s Home Companion, Modern Priscilla, and the Sears, Roebuck catalogue from 1902 until 1920 – see illustration above.  I suppose it was only a spooky co-incidence that sales stagnated when World War One stopped and the men came back home.

However, during the sixties sexual revolution Jon H. Tavel applied for a patent for the “Cordless Electric Vibrator for Use on the Human Body”, ushering in the modern personal vibrator. The patent application referenced an earlier patent dating back to 1938, for a flashlight with a shape that left little doubt as to a possible alternate use. The cordless vibrator was patented on March 28, 1968. No-one knows how many vibrators have been sold, without doubt many millions but it is still illegal to buy them in India and as of 2009, Alabama is the only state where a law prohibits their sale, though ironically – considering their history – Alabama residents are permitted to buy them with a doctor’s note, perhaps the doctors in Alabama are a tad limp wristed.

bookmark_borderLife’s Rewind Button

It's a tough job but someones...

I took the boys down to Wimbledon Common recently and as we wandered around the lake this soaking wet Golden Retriever came bouncing up to me with a tennis ball in its mouth. Wagging its tail, it dropped the tennis ball at my feet and then did the classic – look at me – look at the ball and back to me- motion and barked, you could practically see it smiling. It obviously wanted me to throw the ball so I obliged, threw it a short distance into the lake and off it jumped with a big splash and went doggie paddling after it. The owner came along, a little old lady, we started chatting and she called Snowy back to her – Snowy?  Snowy’s the name you give to a rabbit, Snowy’s the name you give to your white fluffy cat but definitely NOT to a golden retriever, (maybe she was colour blind) but anyway ‘Snowy’ retrieved the tennis ball and swam back, climbed out of the water, shook practically the entire contents of Wimbledon Common lake over me and plonked the ball at my feet again.

So whilst chatting to the lady I picked the tennis ball up, called Snowy and threw the ball into the lake again but this time a little bit further…and Snowy looks at me..and looks at my hand…and looks at me…and my hand…with tail wagging away and tongue hanging out… and I said (apparently to the world’s most stupidest dog – with the world’s most stupidest name)  LOOK! the balls over there and I pointed to it clearly floating in the water, he stared at my finger and then back to me and back at my pointing finger…bugger…

So I have an idea, I pretend to throw the ball back into the lake and same thing, he glanced at the lake and then continued to watch my hand and I muttered something under my breath about stupid dog and the owner says to me “what about the ball, how was ‘I’ going to get it back?”  I looked at her and said “well, it looks like you’ll be getting another ball, Snowy just doesn’t want to play ball (!)” and thought to myself whilst you’re at it you might want to get a dog that actually knows how to play ball and she says “but it was his favourite ball…”. At this moment lots of thoughts occur to me simultaneously; well, what do you want me to do, strip off and swim out to get the stupid ball? And whilst you’re at it, calling a dog Snowy was bad enough but it is even worse that Snowy isn’t a bitch, Snowy was a male – that dog is going to have issues when he grows up… in fact, it probably already has, it probably wanders around Wimbledon Common avoiding all the other dogs because they will only snigger at him.. they probably make catty remarks, oops I mean doggie remarks at him all the time driving him crazy, I can see the headlines in the local papers one day.. ‘local’ dog savages owner…fully justified claims RSPCA. And all these thoughts happened in an instant followed by bugger! Where is the rewind button? Why isn’t there a rewind button somewhere in my life, a ginormous flashing red button with huge big letters saying REWIND and always within easy reach so I can just turn around and press it and rewind the last five minutes…or even the last five years…

This is not the first time I’ve thought this, I’m constantly making foe-paws, sorry, still thinking about Snowy – FAUX PAS… putting my foot in it and generally being very clumsy, the expression we have at home is kack-handed, if it’s breakable then take it away from me..

I’ve really lost count of the number of times I’ve looked for that REWIND button in earnest, (who’s Earnest you’re asking, aren’t you?), a few weeks ago I bought a new pair of jeans from the local shop and wore them out that evening all over London, only to be asked by a woman on the tube at midnight that did I know the sales labels were still attached to the back and hanging out….ouch… I cringed and tried telling her I was trying to start a new fashion but neither of us looked convinced… Since I couldn’t find the big rewind button (yet again!) I got off at the next stop..

A long long time ago I was debriefed in front of the entire teenage population of my home town, I’ve blogged about it here The Sunday Observance Committee (and my manhood) and as my fishing tackle swung in the breeze I wished and wished and wished for a rewind button…

That wasn’t the last time Joe Public has had the pleasure of admiring my naked flesh. I went to Portland, OR, last year and I had to fly to Vancouver and then catch a small commuter flight from there to Portland. An easy two hour hop, however, I drank a lot of water on the previous flight and the flight was running late so I just managed to get on the connecting flight but wasn’t able to visit the loo beforehand. Not a problem, even small turbo prop planes have loo’s, so about twenty minutes into the flight I nipped to the loo. It was at the front of the plane near the pilots but a loo’s a loo when you’re desperate. There was some minor turbulence (and not just from my jippy tummy) so I sat down and as I’m using the loo we hit a massive air pocket, the whole plane judders and I’m holding on for dear life – as the cubicle door suddenly and violently swings open and the twenty other by now quite startled passengers get a clear view of me sitting on the toilet holding on for dear life. I shit myself (almost literally) and desperately try to make a grab for the door which was by now fully open and swinging in the breeze – which by co-incidence was exactly what my private parts were doing. Even worse, I had to stand up to grab the door and well, it was not a pretty sight. I quickly finished up and went back to my seat but there was a Mexican wave of sniggering as I walked shamefully down the cabin. I have to tell you, those remaining 60 minutes of that flight was the longest longest longest 60 minutes of my life, I couldn’t wait to get off that flight, I’m telling you, if there had been parachutes on-board I would have grabbed one and jumped, I was mortified and once again, no big rewind button in sight!

However, I am comforted in the fact that I have not cornered the market in making embarrassing mistakes, a friend of mine thought he would take his mum to see Jane Eyre the other day so he rang up the flicks and as he was in a rush he just asked for two of the most expensive seats available. So he pitched up there with his mum, got his tickets from the machine on the wall and went to find his seats only to discover that the two seats he bought for his mum and himself were ‘courting seats’. It was the row at the back of the cinema, the seats are in pairs and have no armrests between them… and the cinema was full so he had to sit there amongst all the other courting couples with his mum and try to enjoy the movie.

He says he felt ‘very’ uncomfortable and as he looked around he got some strange looks from the other patrons and he wondered just what were they thinking.. After the advertisements and previews finished but before the movie started the concession lady came around with the usual assortment of icecream/crisps/sweets and he said in a rather loud voice “would you like some sweets MUM?” hoping everyone else would understand that the rather mature lady beside him was his mum and not that he was into dating woman literally old enough to be his mum – but unfortunately this had the opposite effect and made things worse as the concession lady gave him a shocked look that said ‘YOU’RE SHAGGING YOUR MUM???’   Press the rewind button please!

So, life’s rewind button, where is it and the big question I ponder is, if there was one would I actually use it? The thing is, I quite like who I am and I think all the mistakes and faux-pas I’ve made in my life only go to make me a better person. Oscar Wilde once said “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes” and Igor StravinskyI said “I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge” and despite the more embarrassing mistakes of my life I still think I agree. If I/we all had our own personal life rewind button then would we be pressing it all the time – and maybe I have, maybe there is some future alternative me that pressed the rewind button back for about ten years and I’m getting to live everything all over again, and probably make the same mistakes again. And I’m sure that future me quite liked who he is/was ..and I think we learn just as much – if not more from our mistakes as well as our successes, so if we all lived ‘perfect fault free lives’ then perhaps this would diminish us, not make our personalities as rounded as they are.. all very complicated, now my brain hurts, where’s the rewind button?

bookmark_borderBreaking The Seal.

I have never been a big drinker but between the ages of 20 and 25 all my friends would go down to the Castle Arms and get completely smashed after work.  I’m aware this perpetuates the stereotype of the Irish being big drinkers but if you lived in a country where it was cold and rained almost constantly then that’s how you’d spend your evenings too, anyway there’s only a limited  amount of times one can trudge through the delights of Tullymore Forest and The Giants Causeway before the attraction wears off.

I’ve never taken to beer, I’ve tried but I actual detest it, especially Guinness and I know I’m in danger of having my passport revoked penning that but I’ve always done my own thing so I was always designated driver. Most weekends I would happily watch the transformation of my friends from quiet introverted geeks into loud rowdy morons and then into ‘I love you, you are my best-est friend ever’ stage followed by falling asleep in mid sentence and resting their head on the table amongst all the empty pint glasses and full ashtrays.

OK, I know this dwells on toilet habits somewhat but there is a point. What I couldn’t understand for a few years was how the guys could drink pint after pint and not go to the toilet, the general pattern was that they would drink until about 10pm and then go to the loo but then go frequently after that.  They would have consumed anything between four and eight pints from 6pm to 10pm and not go once. I thought they all had cast iron bladders, hollow legs or somehow auto-magically plugged into the Castle Arms plumbing as I had no idea where that volume of fluid was going. However, I was talking to Carl one evening about this and he explained what happens when you’re a heavy drinker. You can drink and drink and drink and not feel the urge to go but there comes a point when you just have to and then after that you go regularly and that’s termed ‘breaking the seal’, it’s like the dam has finally burst and all the water pours out.

I know this seems somewhat convoluted – but I was reminded of that conversation the other day. In my group of friends and colleagues for the last 25 years no-one has got sick and suffered any major health problems but since turning 50 in February I know of three folk who are seriously unwell, it’s like someone ‘broke the seal’ and now I have a flood (ouch) of friends not well and the term ‘grave illness’ seems ironically appropriate.

During the first 25 years of my life death and tragedy was a common occurrence and I lost friends and colleagues due to The Troubles in Northern Ireland, we called it Northern Beirut with good reason and that was part and parcel of growing up – at least in Northern Ireland, I imagine it was probably the same growing up with the gangland violence in parts of New York City during the same era, so the first 25 years of my life was marked with tragedy, some involving very close friends.

However, during the last 25 years it’s been all quiet on the western front  and the only tragedy I’ve had to deal with was when I worked on Intensive Care and although death and tragedy was a common occurrence there it was not friends and colleagues of mine, it wasn’t personal, the nature of the job kind’a insulated you from the worse feelings because you have to come in next morning and start all over again with someone else. However, that was the last 25 years, now it feels like someone has broken the seal and in my extended group of friends and people I’ve had dealings with in the past suddenly there is more and more tragedy occurring and it’s a bit of a shock.

I wrote in a previous blog posting about Facebook and how I was sad that it doesn’t extend into Heaven, I think it would be quite nice to be able to check up on a few friends when they pass over and make sure they are okay..

bookmark_borderThe Love Cycle

Been there, done that, bought the teeshirt

I imagine a lot of you will recognise that graphic above, I certainly do, I’ve been through the love cycle a few times – at least until I stopped serial dating a few years ago but I’m wondering just how many folk have managed to avoid this cycle, particularly in modern days. It’s not an easy cycle to avoid unless you are into arranged marriages and even then..

Part of me wonders that, even if I knew who I was going to end up with right from day one then would I be happy with that? Maybe I would be BUT I’ve found that each time I change career I grow hugely as a person so I wonder just how each of our past dating experiences changes us, transforms us and helps us to grow into the totally amazing person we all are today.. Someone once said to me “thank you for keeping me safe for all those years and helping transform me into the confident outgoing young woman I have become” – to which I responded “thank you for turning me into the bleeding nervous wreak I have become!” – ok ok only joking about the last bit but I do wonder about that, did I help change her or would she have blossomed even without my unwitting help.. I suspect life, (and to a large degree love), is like standing on a tightrope; you can’t stay standing in the middle of the wire for too long, you either have to move forward or move backwards (and sometimes the choice is not up to yourself..)

One of my favourite movies is (sadly) Armageddon and my favourite quote from it goes as follows;

President “- the human thirst for excellence, knowledge; every step up the ladder of science; every adventurous reach into space; all of our combined modern technologies and imaginations; even the wars that we’ve fought have provided us the tools to wage this terrible battle. Through all of the chaos that is our history; through all of the wrongs and the discord; through all of the pain and suffering; through all of our times, there is one thing that has nourished our souls, and elevated our species above its origins, and that is our courage..

‘even the wars we have fought’, I like that like, it has a certain resonance, all the suffering, all the arguing, all the heartache, it’s all made me stronger and given me balls of steel and like they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, which of course is bugger all help when you are actually in the middle of fighting those ‘wars’.

My youngest brother Gerald met someone when very young and they dated (exclusively) (it’s VERY strange to think these days that folk don’t date exclusively, at least not at the start but juggle three or four partners all at the same time) but Gerald met his partner when young and they got married and have remained married ever since. The atheists amongst you will balk at this but there is an old spiritualist theory that says some young souls come down here and team up with life partners quickly so they have that support system in place to help them through their first few lives on this plane where-as some very old souls are able to cope with life without a partner and they just get on with the task in hand,  if there’s any truth in that theory then most of us must be very old souls indeed considering the high divorce rate these days..

I’ve asked a few folk whom have been married a long time about the secret of a long marriage and they all give different answers, patience, partnership, sharing, honestly (warts and all), compromise, two televisions, putting the family first all the time, recognising that benefiting the whole family also benefits you but one chap confided in me this;

People used to ask me why her indoors and I never argued and it all dates back to our first holiday together. We visited the Grand Canyon and took a trip down to the bottom of the canyon by pack mule. We hadn’t gone too far when my mule stumbled.
I quietly said “That’s once.”
We proceeded a little farther when the mule stumbled again.
Once more I said quietly, “That’s twice.”
We hadn’t gone a half-mile when the mule stumbled a third time. I took a pistol from my pocket and shot him dead.
She started to protest over the treatment of the mule when I looked at her and quietly said: “That’s once.”

And another colleague told me this;

The secret to getting my wife to be less inhibited had more to do with me than her. It wasn’t until I started listening to what she wanted from me outside the bedroom that changes happened inside the bedroom. I needed to show that I loved her by talking to her and treating her as my equal in all aspects of life. Once she became secure and felt deeply loved by me, all her inhibitions disappeared. Damn, I wish I had figured that out sooner.
Danny G, age 58, husband for 24 years.

Personally, whilst I agree with a lot of the above, I think the one big factor to a long and happy relationship – is to remain completely and utterly irresistible all the time 😉

bookmark_borderPre-empty Nest Syndrome

When I was in my 20’s I remember thinking ‘Wow! my 20’s are a great age to be, I can party until dawn and still go into work’ (a bit subdued thou) and then when I was in my 30’s I thought that really was the best age to be, my world had expanded hugely, I had started to travel and explore and not just externally but myself as a person, so being thirty was the best age to be…at least until I hit my 40’s and then that was the best age to be, kids meant my life seemed to be in real 3D unlike the shallow 2D life I had in my 20’s..

But now I’m starting to think that fifty is the best age to be….probably definitely! When the kids were 7&5 then it was impossible to leave them alone, I had to take them everywhere and rightly so. I couldn’t even nip out to get a pint of milk from the corner shop without dragging them out with me. Everyone with kids under the age of 10 will recognise this, you just can’t leave kids alone by themselves (despite Home Alone) and there’s other issues, you can’t go to the movies without them and you can’t watch scary movies or movies with complicated plots because the kids won’t get it and conversations can be a bit ummm childish (but sweet).. I suspect all ages have their good points and not so good points..

However, I know at sometime in the future that the kids will fly the nest, go to University and then (hopefully) make a life for themselves and this is when everyone mentions ‘empty nest syndrome’. However, my beastie boys are now 14 and 12 and it’s okay to leave them at home and know they aren’t going to burn the place down or smash the place up and I can watch movies with complicated plots and they seem to follow it better than me. Now I can take them to concerts to see groups I actually want to see (though they haven’t learnt to freak out and scream their hearts out at live concerts yet).

I can even have interesting conversations with them, I know some parents complain about their boys going into the ‘grunt’ stage as teenagers, they go all non-communicative but not if you talk to them about things they are interested in and as they get older then those interests seem to be tallying up with mine so conversation improves rather than deteriorates. I think they are looking for male role models at this stage, I’ve mentioned before that when under ten the boys seemed to be closer to their mother but in the last few years it’s been noticeable that they chat more with me, they gravitate towards me and seem to speak more with me than they did when under ten and I’m actually quite enjoying it.. This is what it’s like to have kids this age and I call it ‘pre-empty nest syndrome’. the beastie boys were fabulous as kids but they are getting more and more interesting and engaging as they get older and I feel my life is not totally focused on their lives but I’m starting to have time for ‘me’ once again.

I know proper empty nest syndrome will occur one day in the future but for now it’s quite nice, I get to be with the beasties part time, they come to the shops/cinema/GoKarting/Paintballing with me and I can still leave them at home with their books/computers/games when I want to go visit Anne Hathaways cottage. I find I have more freedom and flexibility now, I think I get the best of both worlds, I had the boys 50% of the time over the summer and got to go be sociable the rest of the time. When I wander around the park and see couples with their very young children I think it was a great time but I’m quite content to have the kids at this age, it give me a lot more freedom and my social life has improved, I no longer hang out at other couples houses talking about their kids but can now hang out with a wider range of friends and explore further afield. At some stage I will be able to go off for the weekend and leave them at home – of course they will trash the place and have continual parties and go into a cleaning frenzy as my car arrives at the driveway but they won’t have figured out that that’s also what I’ve been doing all weekend, out having fun too. And I’m wondering, at what stage will they be standing outside the front door with a scowl on their faces asking just where have I been to this time of the night.. yes, fifty’s definitely the best age to be – so far!

bookmark_borderBack to the future?

It’s interesting how things change and the future is so unpredictably. When I was growing up and watching science programmes like Tomorrows World on the telly no-one predicted the Internet, email, Google and Social Networking,  the phenomenal leap in computing power, mobile phones  or even 50inch flatscreen  tvs.  The world of tomorrow was all about hovercars and living on Mars.

We now think of a connection to the internet as a service in much the same way as water, gas and electricity, at least in the Western nations , it’s a far cry from the ‘good ole days’ of Compuserve (US) and CIX (UK) in the late eighties when the Internet was unheard of outside academia.

During the time when I was using CIX (and co-incidentally a British scientist, Tim Berners-Lee was writing a paper on Hyper-Text Protocol which paved the way for the web) there was a very popular movie out call Back To The Future. Nearly all of you will be familiar with it but I wonder just how many of you remember that in the first leap forward Marty went ahead to 2015? It’s not long until then and I don’t know about you lot but I’ve as yet to see hoverboards for sale in the shops as yet and there’s not even any prototypes floating around.. I suspect it’s going to be quite a while longer before we get to see hover boards and the big problem is that scientists and researchers don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle.

They understand quite a few of the laws of physics and Newton’s laws of motion enables NASA to send probes deep into space but the fundamental problem is gravity, the same force that brought that apple down for Newton all those years ago and kicked off his Universal Law of Gravitation hasn’t been solved, we know that gravity exists or at least have a theory about this force called gravity but no-one has managed to figure it all out, develop anti-gravity and put it in a box for sale. Personally I don’t think gravity exists, I think the earth simply sucks.

I know the Japanese bullet trains hover but that’s magnetic force as opposed to antigravity, I suppose a kind of pseudo-antigravity. We can store electricity in batteries and force in a flywheel but I can’t pop down to Sainsburys and ask for a six-pack of gravity because no-one can press a button and switch on gravity – except in Sci-Fi movies. This is somewhat disappointing as according to Tomorrows World we should all have our personal flying cars by now (and hoverboards as well). We should be able to attach a small device to a heavy object, press a button and it becomes weightless.

But how do you txt?

Predicting tomorrows world needs a leap of imagination to bring in the world of Star Trek but there’s one or two things from Star Trek that have pitched up much sooner than expected. In Star Trek the crew could communicate with each other easily no matter how far away they where from each other and we can do that today just as easily with our mobile phones and even for free with Skype and a webcam, in fact I don’t actually remember the communicators on Star Trek having camera’s, music players, organisers and a zillion other apps that we have available now. And don’t forget that strange language we all have learnt called txt.

The original iPad

And then there’s the pads some pretty short skirted female (never male) crew member always handed to Captain Kirk to sign, now we have iPads that do a hell of a lot more than just be an electronic clipboard, now we have emails, movies, photos and even Angry Birds all in the palm of our hands..but I am missing my pretty short skirted female to hand it to me 😉

bookmark_borderMoney versus love?

eee-me meeny miny mo..

You’re probably familiar with these lyrics;

Can’t buy me love, love
Can’t buy me love
I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
‘Cause I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love

Credited to Lennon/McCartney

Paul McCartney stated that “The idea behind this song was that all these material possessions are all very well, but they won’t buy me what I really want.” but I wonder if that’s really true these days – or ever has been.

This is not an easy subject to blog about without causing some folk to get hot under the collar but I blogged a while back about my Speed Dating evening and how practically everyone there was only interested in my earning potential but not my loving potential. One of my friends says she doesn’t believe in true love and shooting stars, only in shoes and cars – which saves me having to figure out if she’s dating material..

When I worked in Northern Ireland I had a well paid job, house/car etc and it was interesting that the higher up I went in the food chain (literally as it was a massive supermarket) then the more attention I got from certain woman and I ponder on this quite a lot these days. I overheard a gaggle of my staff once describe me as ‘a good catch’ and I wasn’t standing anywhere near the Fish Dept at the time.

When I left the rat race and went into low paid Nursing then suddenly I became less desirable, my dance card emptied and I wonder how it goes, when I was senior management I had no problems getting a dance but once I went into nursing then that all stopped because of course all nurses suffer from white coat syndrome and will only date doctors. And when I started dating again a few years ago I was disappointed to met up with woman who made it obvious they were only going to date someone with lots of funds. And of course it works the other way around too, friends moan at me about men that will only date young fit woman and they don’t seem to be interested in the loving potential of someone 50+.

This is of course, all generalisations but I can only quote from personal experience, there ‘are’ woman out there in dating land that don’t give a shit about how much I earn but they tend to keep themselves well hidden, and I wonder does it all change as you get older and established, when I was in my 20 and 30’s it seemed to me that most partners were viewing me in a ‘will he provide for a family and make a good father’ attitude but now I’m 50 I wonder does any of that matter as most folk this age are sorted.. it was like love with conditions but when your cat/dog/kids love you they do it without conditions and I wonder how that change comes about…

Paul McCartney was to later comment: “It should have been ‘Can Buy Me Love’ ” when reflecting on the perks that money and fame had brought him, when “Can’t Buy Me Love” went to number one (4 April 1964), the entire top five of the Hot 100 was by the Beatles, the next positions being filled by “Twist and Shout”, “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me,” respectively. No other act has held the top five spots simultaneously. The expression we have at home is he’s well worth rubbing up against (think of a pussycat), and I know there are more than a few gold diggers out there happy to help Paul spend his money but I can see where he is coming from, money can buy you love it seems but just not the sort you might want, I can go buy a puppy and I’m pretty sure after a few weeks I’ll get all the puppy love anyone could ask for but what about non-canine love? (I know a few of you are thinking why on earth would I need any other sort of love).

He probably has a large (pay) packet..

A while back I blogged about Crystal Harris (aged 25) and her engagement to Hugh Hefner (aged 85) and their pending nuptials, I really wanted to ask Crystal the following question “what was it that first attracted you to the multi-millionaire Hugh Hefner?” but it seems that there is hope for me after all as Crystal broke off the engagement five days before the wedding. Not like I want to marry Crystal Harris but it’s good to see that even being a multi-millionaire can’t buy you love – or the illusion of it.

I wonder a lot about this these days for various reasons, I can see the change in attitudes from dates now I am 50, there is much less ‘sizing up’ these days and much more willingness to check out a man’s loving potential as opposed to his financial potential and I wonder will that get better and better as the years pass, my mother Doris waited until she was 81 before she settled on the man who was going to give her true love – unlike a previous suitor who was obviously only interested in her land but I’m kind’a keen to not wait until I’m 81 before finding true love.

Perhaps I ought to start doing the National Lottery 😉

Or perhaps not.

bookmark_borderMy life is complete. I have transmogrified into my friends parents.

Dear kids. You will think I’m making this up but this is what your father’s life was like when he was 19. Rather than simply downloading a movie from the net or from Netflix/LoveFilm like we do today, in the seventies a movie would be released in the US and then more than a year later it would get released at home and all our gang would go to the flicks to watch it. There was no instant gratification those days, we’d see movies advertised in the newspapers and read reviews but it would take about a year for them to come across the water to the UK and then slowly seep back across the Irish Sea to Ireland once everyone’s appetite was exhausted in the mainland.

We learnt to be very patient in Norn Iron.

I loved going to the flicks with my gang, sometimes there would be a dozen of us, I was part of quite a large bunch of some great guys and girls, we’d take up a whole row in the flicks and have excellent fun messing around and general tomfoolery. There are some things one needs to remember when at the flicks kids; never pass your bag of sweets to your neighbour and offer him one, for by the time that bag of sweets went down the row and back up there would invariably be none left. The other important thing to remember was to not trip on the stairs whilst going to get more sweets/coke because the entire cinema would laugh as you fell on your arse in the dark. Fortunately I was so embarrassed that I was able to find my way back to my seat due to my face glowing bright red.

At about this time, in the late seventies, home video recorders became cheap enough for the average muggle to afford one and Trevor, one of the better off in our gang was the first to get his grubby little mitts on one. It was a BetaMax video recorder because he was a purist and he wouldn’t touch one of those inferior quality VHS video recorders – a decision he was to regret a few years later – or should I say his father would as it was him who actually bought the damn thing.

The local corner shop started stocking a selection of VHS & Betamax movies and I know you kids will find this hard to believe but sometimes you’d have to wait about two years before the a movie came out on home video.  Then the shopkeeper could only afford maybe one or two copies of the latest (two year old) movie and we’d have to put our name down on a list and wait until we could watch ET The Extra-terrestrial in the comfort of the living room.

However, if you were friendly with the shopkeeper (and weren’t a cop) then he might rent you one of his adult movies he kept under the counter – well, I mean other people of course, not Trevor nor I because we were goodie two-shoes.. but apparently the shopkeeper made lots more money from renting out adult movies than he made from the rest of the above counter selection.  It’s a bit of a truism that every new technology is driven largely by smut.  A big attraction for Polaroid and then digital cameras, some believe, was the ability to take bedroom photos without having to take film to the snickering teenagers at the chemist. And a force behind the rapid spread of VCR and, later, DVD sales was the ability to watch adult movies without being seen at an adult theatre and it was the porn industry that first worked out how to make users pay online for streaming movies and discreetly acted as consultants for more legitimate business.

So, in 1977 The Kentucky Fried Movie was released. This was a series of spoofs, akin to all the Airplane movies but this didn’t even have any common thread between the sketches.

It was extremely politically incorrect, would be considered unbelievably shocking in 2011 and no-one would ever contemplate making a movie like that now. It’s interesting how attitudes have changed since the seventies. However, when it eventually came out on video Trevor booked it and one Saturday evening about ten of us piled around to his house to watch Kentucky Fried Movie on his dads new video.

Trevor’s parents were out for the evening (or so we thought), so we got popcorn/sweets and even some alcohol and settled down to watch the movie.  Now, I don’t have a copy for reference but about halfway through the movie there’s a spoof scene involving a couple getting down and dirty in the shower and a pair of boobs pounding against the opaque shower-screen. It was exactly when this scene was on that both Trevor’s parents un-expectantly  walked into the living room – looked at the tv with the boobs – went TREVOR! OMG! and walked out – and as they walked out of the living room the boob scene finished, they couldn’t have timed it more perfectly, a minute earlier or later and it was just a comedy movie but what are the odds that they would walk in as the boobs were on show? We laughed but I could see that Trevor was going to be given a hard time about this from his parents.

I had a moment like that the other day.

I was watching Bad Teacher

starring Cameron Diaz  and Justin Timberlake and foolishly assumed that with these two mainstream stars in it then it would be suitable for 14 & 12 year boys. Next time I shall read the reviews and check the MPAA ratings first.

I went into the kitchen to cook lunch and after a while I came back into the living room only to be somewhat shocked to see a doctor examining two naked breasts on the screen and explaining to Cameron Diaz how much it would cost to have implants to make her boobs look like that. Trust me, two breasts completely filing a 42inch plasma screen is quite a shock when you’re least expecting it! I suppose I ought to be grateful that they weren’t actually pounding against the showerscreen..

So it seems the circle of life is now complete, what goes around, comes around, I have transmogrified into my parents – or to be more accurate, I’ve have transmogrified into Trevor’s parents. I knew exactly how Trevor’s mum and dad felt all those years ago when they found us watching what they thought was an adult movie – it was like OMG! What on earth are you watching and I immediately switched off the movie and the boys did a runner back to their computers.

Now, here’s the thing, Trevor and all us lot were about 19 and I suppose adult enough to view such material (despite being hormone loaded sex starved teenagers) but I’ve checked my Raising Kids manual, you know, the one that every parent gets included with the birth of their kid and the relevant pages are (once again) blank, it seems I have to fill in those pages myself.

So what do I use as a guideline? As a kid at that age I was totally uninterested in sex, I barely knew there was a difference between the sexes – this was 1970’s Ireland after all – and sex education was a term never uttered in our school or even in our home. So I have no model to follow and asking the guys at work is no use as all their children are much much younger – and all girls.

The boys get sex education at school – formally from their teachers (and I’m sure informally from their friends) and I have conversations with them about sex and actually question them about the whole reproductive cycle to make sure they have it all correct (sorry boys, blame my nursing background for that!) and excuse the pun but I don’t want to ram it down their throats.

But here’s the thing, I know that between now and 20 years old both boys will take an interest in the opposite sex and it’s how to make that transition, that journey from here and innocence to there and complete comfort, as a father the last thing I want to do is encourage an interest in sex until they are ready, I have memories of my older siblings encouraging me to go get a girlfriend when I was that age and I wasn’t ready or even interested and at the same time I don’t want to completely ignore sex as my parents did with me.

So it’s finding what’s acceptable and what’s not when you’re 14 and 12, and the goalposts have shifted a hell of a lot since I was that age. Then sex was out of the question, culturally, religiously and morally, if by some miracle someone actually alluded to rumpy-pumpy on the telly then our parents would switch channels over until they thought it was over – amusingly they switched the channel over one evening and on the other channel was a nature programme showing a couple of deer going at it ten- to-a-dozen, then there was a great frenzy as me ma switched channels  again trying desperately to find a channel that wasn’t showing sex, and as it was 1977 and we only had three channels then the choice was limited and the telly was switched off!

And what is acceptable for a 14 & 12 year old? I realised after the event that I perhaps should not have said anything, at least at the boob display (even up close and personal on a 42in plasma screen –  imagine if I had one of those new 3D screens!) but I was caught out, just like Trevor’s parents and I was taken aback.

We only really get one chance to get our kids childhood right, we rarely get second chances and I’m wondering just how one handles sex on the telly at 14 & 12 in 2011, it does seem that kids, particularly girls are much more mature than we were at that age (I’m sure that’s exactly what my parents thought of me when I was that age too) but I think I have wandered into a grey area of parenting, I don’t want to ignore sex with regards to the kids but at the same time I don’t want to make it a big deal either and it’s where to draw the line at this age that’s difficult to judge, there’s only a few short years between now and when the boys hormones are driving them nuts and I’d like to handle this as best as I can but from now on I’m going to read the movie reviews, especially the MPAA review, before we settle down to watch a movie.

And then there’s the issue of swearing… and violence and drugs and god knows what else… oh what joy it is to be a parent in 2011..

bookmark_borderLondon riots.

London was quiet last night, watched dozens of police vans heading off to Wimbledon which was the next target according to police intelligence. Wimbledon was completely saturated with police and locked down tight. Was probably not a good idea to pop over there last night wearing any sort of hoodie or be 14.  Bit of a shame really as I was thinking of heading that way and watching a movie with the beasties, the 14 yr old has a really scruffy hoodie and am wondering just how many policemen would jump him if he made any sort of commotion, was so tempted to go there with him just to put the fear of god into him, all I’d have to do is shout ‘vandal’ and he’d be pounced on by screaming mob of middle class grannies.. (his worse night if truth be told!)

Lots of friends phoning up from Northern Ireland to ask if I am OK, funny enough I slept really well these last few nights, the police sirens and helicopters remind me of my childhood. Weird to think of folk from Northern Ireland being concerned about me, when I first moved to London my ma said ‘but London is full of muggers, drug pushers and pimps’, and this from someone who was living in a bloody war-zone…  (and no, never did find the muggers, drug pushers and pimps)



Found these on t’internet, (between thou and I – I think photoshop has been used…)

Behind you David!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

ABBA fan?

One happy looter

Completely understandably, after all, he IS so talented..

And more here

A nice cuppa tea sorts everything.. This has NOT been photoshopped

Am thinking of offering this guy £1,000,000 and asking him to met me outside Hackney Police Station. The /mob/ in the address doesn’t stand for urmmm mob but mobile but it’s kind’a ironic don’t ya think?

and I’ve kept best to last 🙂

bookmark_borderWe are our own saviours

Yes, can’t sleep, lucky foxes are fauxing each other outside and making one hell of a racket so lets share thoughts instead.

Surfing around and found this, I like some of the lines.. particularly the last one

Wond’ring aloud –
how we feel today.
Last night sipped the sunset –
my hands in her hair.
We are our own saviours
as we start both our hearts beating life
into each other.

Wond’ring aloud –
will the years treat us well.
As she floats in the kitchen,
I’m tasting the smell
of toast as the butter runs.
Then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed
and I shake my head.
And it’s only the giving
that makes you what you are.

It’s July the 20th and if I had to name a theme for this year it would be ‘a  year of losing people and VERY long goodbyes’. It actually started on New Years Eve ironically enough and seems to be continuing even more intensely now but I’m not very good at picking up memes until I get hit with them again and again, so goodbye to everyone whom I’ve lost this year (even if some of you forgot to say goodbye) and in particular goodbye to Leanne and Sunny as you all move onto pastures new and thanks for the lessons and the time but there’s one person in particular who hasn’t moved on yet but most likely will due to illness before the year is out and that’s C.

I spent this evening with C and it was a reminder from the Universe about what’s important in life and what’s flotsam and even then the Universe was teaching C lessons. She’s always been very concerned with her looks and now she realises how little that really matters in the end, it’s the person inside that counts the most. I suppose that’s why my mother Doris married Big Hooter Bob (to quote her 81 yr old self) the other year, I think she was talking about the size of his nose.

Fortunately C met a very nice man a few years ago and they are very very happy, I think the Universe can be mischievous and likes to play with us but is not cruel. So C has someone to help and care and share and hold her hand during the night when she feels frightened as frightened she will be, and that’s what it’s all about, it’s only the giving, that makes you what you are..

I spent ten years working as a nurse on Intensive care,  ten years trying to stop folk leaving this world and ten years holding their hands whilst they moved on. From 16 year olds to 95 year olds and I remember so so many of them and their families, and in the final days money, status and politics didn’t matter, it was only about family and friends and love

We called it Intensive Care with good reason

I’m kind’a sad that Facebook doesn’t reach into heaven

bookmark_borderPractice makes perfect?

Between the ages of 27 and 30 I used to go on holiday a lot with my friends, usually to somewhere in the Med. Cheap and hot was what the guys were looking for and that was just the woman. Sandy beaches and most importantly lots of bars were the next priorities for the guys. I’ve never been a great drinker but I was dragged along because I could be depended upon getting the rest of those reprobates back to the hotel in one piece, usually when dawn was long past.

I normally went with Tony, Neil and Steve, Steve had this funny idea that air travel made him unbelievably attractive to the opposite sex.  This delusion started to kick in on the way to the airport and he would transmogrify from quiet unassuming Steve who wouldn’t say boo to a ghost unless he had a drink in his hand (think Rajesh Koothrappali from Big Bang Theory) to superstud by the time he got off the Gatwick Express and arrived at check-in. By that point he was under the delusion that he was God’s gift to every woman and the check-in girl was obviously flirting with him.

This was OK except it started to get even worse by the time he was on the plane, he became very loud and thought every single woman on the plane had the hot’s for him. Last time I went on holiday with him (20 years ago!) I was convinced the airline was pumping hallucinogenic drugs through the ventilation system, but thinking about it now this does sound a little far-fetched as I was my usual (cough cough) quiet self.

On a trip to Corfu via Monarch Airlines (only slightly better than Egyptian Airlines because of their recent ban on hen, chicken, sheep and goats) I watched Steve chat up this blonde girl for the entire three hour flight. Every move she made, every word she said only confirmed to him that she wanted him and wanted him now! By the end of the flight he had delusions of a sordid threesome of him, her and her friend that she was meeting, in bed together for the entire ten days holiday. However, these castles in the air crumbled to sand when at Corfu arrivals she mentioned the friend she was meeting was not another hottie but her boyfriend.

Steve (and the rest of the guys) hit the bars immediately and I had to drag them all out to find a taxi and get us to the hotel.

I don’t know if many of you have been to Corfu and I’m sure there’s lots of culture and history but my somewhat patchy memory was the Red Lion pub followed by fish ‘n chips cafe followed by yet another Red Lion pub and then into some club with pounding music.  By the end of day one my ears were starting to bleed because of the noise.

Neil was the looker in our bunch, I used to watch how he plied his trade, he’d stand at the edge of the dance floor and  just stare at someone dancing, she’d notice, giggle and they’d keeping swapping glances for another minute and then Neil would just walk in and almost drag her off caveman style from her friends. It was like watching a wolf picking off the weakest of the herd. And we wouldn’t see him again until next morning when he’d come back with stupid big grin on his face. And then sleep the rest of the day. I had a dog that behaved exactly like that too. No, I’m not envious… no no, not me..  no, not all all…mutter mutter mutter. Of course it helped that Neil was very good looking, tall and built like a brick shithouse and had a Northern Irish accent too, oh and that his father was fifth in line for the throne – at least that’s what he told the girls but I would wonder then how then he explained the Irish accent.

So, the entire holiday was spent chasing tail, going to parties and getting very very drunk at some silly games. One game was called ‘Bond’. We’d watch a James Bond movie in the local bar, (we’d make a point of getting very friendly with the bar staff so they would play what we wanted on the screens) and one evening we got the entire bar to watch the The Man With The Golden Gun with us, with one slight (but important) difference.  Every time the name ‘Bond’ was mentioned in the film we had to take a slug of Tequila. The entire bar did this. The name ‘Bond’ comes up eleven times in the first half hour. I can’t actually remember much more of the movie. Nor could anyone else.

I do remember looking around and some girl was showing Neil her henna tattoos. Next time I looked over they were playing Tonsil Tennis. I thought to myself, those tattoos will last longer than that relationship.

bookmark_borderPlaying your cards right.

Is there a doctor in the house?

Isn’t it funny how we change as we get older and somewhat wiser? And it starts very early in life. Four years ago I had my then 8 year old pleading with me to buy him the Doctor Who comic because it had collectable cards inside. So for the next two years I bought him the Doctor Who comics and he collected all the cards; the complete cast of characters; Doctor Who, Rose Tyler, Daleks, Cyber men and god knows what other god awful manner of weird monsters the BBC could think up. He had two big special Doctor Who albums full of them and spent long hours each night sorting them into little pockets in the albums and swapping them around.

And then two years ago when he got to ten years old and due to holidays away he missed a few comics. He begged me to write off to the BBC to get the ones he missed, life was not worth living without those missing cards. I asked him what was his most prized procession at that stage of his life and it was his Doctor Who card collection. I asked him could he ever imagine a life in which he didn’t care about his cards and he said NO, he will collect those cards for the rest of his life and I asked did he think he would ever lose those albums and he said NEVER, he will ALWAYS have them.


So, two years later and I’m dropping him off at his mums tonight. I’m in his bedroom and I ask him where his Doctor Who cards are? He doesn’t know. OK, then when did he last see them, when did he last get some new cards? No idea. And would he be devastated if he never saw them ever again? Nope, doesn’t care about them any more. But two years ago he begged me to get him those back issues and it was the most important thing in the whole wide world.

It’s interesting how ones priorities change. Now second born cannot live without me buying him a lifetimes membership of Champions-Online at a cost of £192. I spluttered. I laughed out loud. I tried explaining that in one years’ time he will have outgrown Champions-Online and I’m not going to pay £192 for something that will only be used for one year before that too is lost in the mists of time. And he begged me because it was the most important thing in the whole wide world and he will NEVER EVER get bored with Champions-Online…EVER! Sigh..

But here’s the problem. Can I put a price on my child’s happiness?

He really did LOVE his Doctor Who cards and got tremendous pleasure from building up his collection and swapping cards at school and having a complete set and all the special sets. And at school collecting the cards was the one common activity all the kids did, I think a few years ago it was collecting Pokemon cards but the kids had their own language and knew all about the cards and which ones were the most valuable. There was a whole Doctor Who card culture and to exclude him from that would have been perhaps unfair.. so for a few quid each week he was able to participate in this common interest and feel part of a gang.

Clever marketing by the BBC by the way.

But now he wants me to spend £192 on Champions-Online life-time membership and I asked him about his Doctor Who cards and how he doesn’t give a damn about them now and how he won’t give a damn about Champions-Online in one years time but oh no daddy, I will NEVER EVER get fed up with Champions-Online..

Fortunately Fathers Day was in June, so at least I have eleven months before he rescinds my status as “Best Dad in the Whole Wide World” by not buying me yet another Fathers Day mug. I can’t wait until he has kids of his own and the cycle starts all over again..

When both beasties were five years old I’d sit with them and give them a choice, they could have one sweetie now or if they waited they could have two each tomorrow and always without exception they always took the instant hit, they couldn’t see as far ahead as tomorrow and they were never prepared to wait until then but wanted the sweets now. I have carried on doing this with them at random times but every time they always take the instant hit, a computer game today or two computer games tomorrow, no thank you, I want the instant hit now and I wonder at what point their perspective will change and they will be able to see beyond today or the next few days, and I wonder, if you are a 12yr old boy, just how long is ‘life-time membership’, is it just until you go to bed that evening?

bookmark_borderThey walk amongst us . . . and they vote!

From Thomas Cook Holidays – listing some of the guest’s complaints during the season.

1.     “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”

2.     “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time – this should be banned

3.     “On my holiday to Goa in India , I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry.  I don’t like spicy food at all.”

4.     “We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels.”

5.     A tourist at a top African game lodge overlooking a water hole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel “inadequate”.

6.     A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she’d been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the “do not disturb” sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.

7.     “The beach was too sandy.”

8.     “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white.”

9.     A guest at a Novotel in Australia complained his soup was too thick and strong. He was inadvertently slurping the gravy at the time.

10.   “Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women.”

11.   “We bought ‘Ray-Ban’ sunglasses for five Euros from a street trader, only to find out they were fake.”

12.   “No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”

13.   “There was no egg slicer in the apartment…”

14.   “We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish…”

15.   “The roads were uneven.

16.   “It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only took the Americans three hours to get home.”

17.   “I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends’ three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller.”

18.   “The brochure stated:  ‘No hairdressers at the accommodation. We are trainee hairdressers – will we be OK staying there?”

19.  “There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners now live abroad'”

20.   “We had to queue outside with no air conditioning.”

21.   “It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel.”

22.   “I was bitten by a mosquito – no-one said they could bite.”

23.   “My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”

They walk amongst us . . . and they vote!

bookmark_borderHymn to her?

I’ve lived in London for twenty five years now and occasionally I fall asleep listening to the radio at night only to be woken up at some god forsaken hour as the radio station closes down by playing the national anthem. Now, I don’t know about you lot but I think the English national anthem, God Save The Queen, is a right dirge, it’s completely uninspiring and instead of feeling uplifted I want to leave this country. Perhaps that’s the plan.

It’s a throw back to the times when Britain really did rule the waves and the King/Queen actually did have some power but the glory days of the British Empire are long gone and this needs updating to reflect who Britain is today.

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.
O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.
Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

Some wonderful lines are in there, like “Thy choicest gifts in store,On her be pleased to pour” yeah, like the richest woman in the world, a trillionaire, needs more gifts.

It really should be renamed Hymn To Her but The Pretenders have already got that one.

I once went to see ELO in concert in Earls Court, London, yes, I am that old, (and sad) and they had the London Philharmonic Orchestra with them. During one song they segwayed from Roll Over Beethoven into the national anthem (unbelievably). This was fine for the first chorus until the conductor stopped the orchestra and turned to us, the audience, to carry on singing the rest of the anthem by ourselves. Of course not a soul actually knew the words, so 12,000 people hummed awkwardly through the remaining verses and got quieter and quieter, much to the disgust of the conductor who apparently was taught every single word at school.. it was certainly the quietest I’ve ever been, and not a pretty sight.

God Save The Queen is not well know here, at least by my generation and anyone younger, I don’t know anyone who actually knows the words past ‘God save our gracious Queen’ and I suspect a large proportion of Americans can’t get past their own first verse too, despite it being sung at at major sporting events.And I’ve noticed that every time the television camera zooms along the players line-up at footie matches most of England’s players keep their mouths resolutely shut during the pre-match singing of the national anthem. Today, sport is virtually the only arena in which the national anthem is both regularly heard and sung with some degree of emotional content.

And even there, of course, it is summoned only in support of one section of the United Kingdom (England), the whole of which it purports to represent. When Wales, Scotland or Ireland are taking part in a Six  Nations rugby match or an international football match, the players join in Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land Of My Fathers), Flower of Scotland, or Amhran na bhFiann (The Soldier’s Song), emphasising their independence..particularly when playing against England..teeheehee!

Since it has never been officially adopted as the British national anthem, either by Act of Parliament or Royal Proclamation, nothing stands in the way of its banishment. Tradition is its only ally. The English are stuck with a composition used in the past by Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and it also shares its tune with the national anthem of Liechtenstein, a phenomenon whose moment of destiny arrives almost every year when the footballers of the two nations met at football. So good they played it twice? Not when you are a member of the crowd and don’t know who’s anthem they are playing, yours or Liechtenstein. God Save The Queen is not a song that improves with familiarity.

And I don’t know of any country that has a pleasing anthem but I’d like to suggest that England changes it dreary national anthem to something quintessentially English and instantly recognisable by everyone in this land, a tune that makes you want to get up and dance around the maypole, for that’s what it was wrote for, a tune that motivates you to get out of your bed and be happy, and it’s the theme music from the BBC’s longest running soap opera, listened to by millions each day, yes, of course it’s The Archers;

and if that doesn’t get you up and at ’em then I’d like to suggest this one as an alternative.

I feel I should own up to the fact that I – along with most of the rest of the population don’t actually know the Irish national anthem either. When I first arrived in London a horde of us went to the infamous Swan pub in Stockwell to strut our funky stuff in the club upstairs. It’s an excellent place if you want to be stabbed or hit over the head with a bottle or two, pretty rough and it was no co-incidence that it was frequented solely by Irish. What with five stabbing that night (it was a quiet night) we all had a great time dancing away and getting smashed right up to 2am when the DJ said goodnight by playing the national anthem. And this god awful cat’a’wailing came blasting out of the speakers and I looked at my mates and we sniggered and I said ‘fuck me, he’s got that tape on at the wrong speed, you’d think he’d fix it and speed it up, it sounds nothing like God Save The Queen’ where-upon the bloke standing beside me shouted in my ear that it was the IRISH national anthem and to STFU if I wanted to walk out alive! oooeeerr! The worse possible national anthem rendition in my humble opinion is this effort below, when you think ‘national anthem’ you think low, growly, gravely, fairly rangeless voices, don’t you? and you’d be spot on;

and THIS is one brave woman, Roseanne Barr, I’m not sure even the London Leprechaun with his balls of steel would attempt this in a country with as many guns as America.

and the best ever, IMHO is South Africa’s

bookmark_borderEverybody’s got a soft spot, even the porcupine..

Morris Minor aka a Moggie

I was reading ‘Illusions’ the other evening and I came across a forgotten section,

Donald; “There is no problem so big that it cannot be run away from.”…
Richard; “You’re quoting Snoopy the dog, I believe?”
Donald; “I’ll quote the truth wherever I find it, thank you.”

and it’s true, we find the truth in so many unexpected places, I found a truth in an unexpected place, in the middle of a song that I was barely listening to this evening and the truth was this;

“Everybody’s got a soft spot, even the porcupine”*

I have a soft spot for a few things, obviously my two beasties boys and my bed, (especially when it is raining cats ‘n dogs outside) but I have a soft spot for a few other things as well.

One of them is Morris Minor cars. They were manufactured from about 1948 to 1970 in the UK and exported around the world – some even made it to the States at the time that everyone there was driving gas guzzlers. So why a soft spot for Morris Minors? Well, you see, there is a certain street creed about driving a Morris Minor, I suppose it’s like driving an original Volkswagen Beetle in the States, in this country one can drive souped up roadsters and some mean flying machine but if you pull up at traffic lights in a Morris Minor ALL men will regard you with much respect and some envy.

And it’s completely crazy, my sisters hair dryer has a more powerful engine than the Morris Minor, it’s top speed was 64mph, had drum brakes and more movement in first gear than my car has in neutral but blokes all over this country will nod their head in respect to anyone who drives one, it’s a classic and you know a man who owns a Morris Minor knows more about cars than you ever, he will know how to strip out the big end and source drum brakes from outer Mongolia. The Morris Minor come with indicators that actually pop out on the side of the vehicle like two flapping arms but if you have one you can guarantee every bloke over forty will come along and coo over it like a baby. The last Morris Minor was built 40 years ago in UK but they simply dismantled the entire factory and shipped it to Sri Lanka and started production again.

(But PLEASE…don’t EVER buy me one or you will never see me again because I will spend every waking moment under it in a garage trying to mend some bit of it!)

The other thing I have a soft spot for is Bruce Willis and especially Armageddon movie, sorry, I make no excuses, there is just something raw about this movie that appeals to my inner hero and I think most men can relate to the hero scenes, when all the astronauts come out of the hanger to save the world and the President makes that speech – gets me every time, it talks directly to my inner hero and I get all emotional.

We live in an age of equal rights and woman’s lib but Armageddon harks back to a time when men were allowed to be men and woman swooned at their feet and that kind’a appeals to this unreconstructed Neanderthal, I like doing heroic things and  although Bruce Willis will probably never win an acting Oscar, still I like the characters he portrays and generally I am of the opinion that there isn’t a movie in this world that can’t be improved considerably with the addition of Bruce Willis and large amounts of explosions.

I’m weird, aren’t I?

* More lyrics here and vid here, I particularly like the lyrics.

bookmark_borderThird time lucky?

So, just survived my third near death experience this afternoon, this time it was a truck driver who didn’t see the red traffic light as I was crossing the road in North London, they’re badly positioned traffic lights, barely twenty feet from a junction and he came out and around the junction looking the other way for oncoming traffic and accelerating towards me as the green man was showing.  I looked around and instantly knew I was about to get splattered across his bonnet and in a flash my entire life flashed before my eyes (again!), I could clearly see faces from long ago, faces I had forgotten about, faces from childhood and even teachers from kindergarten, all clear and time itself  slowed down and there was no sound, like a slow motion movie and I had lots of time to think and observe and wonder WTF was going on and then suddenly time and sound returned and the van was serving past me as I was standing on the pavement with no memory of how I got there..

This is not the first time this has happened, about 20 years ago I was driving with ex GF around Scotland and as we went down the side of a small mountain we sped up faster and faster until we were doing nearly the ton when suddenly a tractor pulled out of a field, I swerved instantly to avoid it and I saw a large oak tree coming straight towards me, the car lifted onto two wheels as I tried to avoid the tree and again my life flashed before my eyes, this time images of past deeds and faces were accompanied with a flash of me having to go Jens house and tell her dad (who hated me with a passion and forbid Jen to date me) and tell him I had killed her. Again, sound ceased, time stood still and it felt like ages and then suddenly, like someone had switched on a film projector suddenly, all life came back on and the car was sitting with all wheels on the road and coasting along gently and Jen was oblivious to it all and wondering why I was stopping..

The third near death experience was by far the most interesting. About ten years ago I was in Cornwall and went swimming in the sea. There were lifeguards on duty and we all had to swim between two flags because of dangerous currents, so there were a lot of swimmers in quite a tight area. I got a bit fed up running into others messing about and not getting a decent swim, so I swam out into the area were a couple of surfers were waiting for waves to bring them in. I swam past the breaking waves and into the relative calm and chatted with one of the guys on a surf board as I floated on my back. Then the waves started getting quite big so I swam back towards the beach and the waves started breaking closer and closer to me. I kept an eye on them as I swam back but suddenly one large one crashed on top of me and I went under and it felt like I was caught in a washing machine, I came back up to the surface and immediately another huge wave crashed down on top of me, I went under again and again and this keep repeating, and I was getting breathless and tired and straining to know which way was up or down and panic was starting to set in and I made one more attempt to swim up to the surface when another huge wave crashed down on me and I was thrown deeper and deeper into the sea.

At this point I was totally exhausted and I had no idea which way was up or down and which way I should be swimming, I was completely out of breath and absolutely no energy left and I thought to myself “this is it, the coast guard are going to find my body in a few days time washed up on the shore somewhere and so this is how I am going to die..” when suddenly the world stopped moving again, all sound stopped, the waves stopped and instead of panic I felt utter calm, the calmest and most peaceful I have ever felt in my life and the movie that was my life for 40 years suddenly paused, I actually felt great and serene and wide awake and I had no sense of time and space, only a feeling of complete peace and I thought to myself, well, if this is what it’s like to die then I have absolutely no fear of it, it’s a beautiful experience, if this is the transition from this life to another then I feel completely calm and as I was thinking these thoughts I felt a presence behind me – I can’t explain why but I looked over my right shoulder and I felt someone standing there watching me and he/it just seemed to radiate energy and love and peace and I heard a voice say “it’s not your time..”

and suddenly somebody grabbed my wrist and life started up again, sound returned, waves returned and I was back in the sea and a lifeguard was standing in KNEE HIGH water pulling my arm up and telling me only to swim between the flags and he walked off..

And I was completely shocked, I couldn’t believe I was in three feet of water and a few feet from the shoreline, the last thing I remember was being out in the open sea and struggling/drowning and yet somehow I was in knee high water and a lifeguard telling me off before wandering off muttering under his breath about idiots in the water trying to their best to drown.

I stood up, amazed and staggered to the shoreline and sat down and was at a loss to explain any of what just happened, I remembered everything vividly, the sheer exhaustion and the calm and serenity and then the presence behind me and then by some miracle I had ended up about 100 feet from where I should have been, and I looked around and life was going on as normal, kids were running past splashing in the shallows and the sun was shining but I was in awe, I had no idea what just happened but by some miracle I had managed to avoid drowning in Widemouth Bay.

And it makes me think about a lot of things, I have zero fear of dying now – but am in no hurry to checkout early – but that’s three times I’ve managed to avoid checking out and over here the expression is ‘third time lucky’ and across the pond they say ‘third time’s a charm’ but obviously not, is it because the Universe is a rotten shot or does it have other plans for me, I’m hoping to Christ that I’m shot by a jealous husband when I’m 101..

bookmark_borderYoutube Statistics

Been looking at youtube stats.

Dogs – about 737,000 results
Cats – about 548,000 results

but conversely;

Funny cats – about 316,000 results
Funny dogs – about 212,000 results

and noticed something odd, there are many more dog videos than cat videos but there are many more funny cat videos than dog videos and I wonder why this is, could it be because dogs just aren’t as funny as cats or is it that dogs just need a better publicist. You decide.

Dogs 49,158,662 views

Cats 55,779,920 views

Personally I think this is the funniest;

1 view.
but then I’m weird.

bookmark_borderLife Instruction Manual – Chapter Three

Available at all good labour wards. (Includes free baby.)

Childless couples won’t be really aware of this but when your first child is born you are given an instruction manual. It’s quite a nice idea; out pops baby and you’re automatically given this manual to go along with it. Cool. It’s quite a weighty tome but the surprising thing is that when I looked inside mine it was completely blank. It seems one has to fill it in oneself.

I still have mine, it’s divided into various chapters, chapter one is roughly from birth to when the little tike starts primary school, chapter two is primary school years, chapter three secondary school years and four is university years..

Chapter one has advice on how long it takes for stitches to heal up (way too long), who’s turn it is to feed the baby (always yours) and what is the best cracked nipple cream to use (Lansinoh). There’s also an explanation of words/phrases a man has never come across in his life; like episiotomy, colostrum, meconium and “you’re never coming near me with that thing ever again”.

Additional areas for reference is what to say when your friends pass their (utterly ghastly) baby clothes down to you in a large black bin liner (Oh wonderful, thank you so much, these are all so CUTE!) before placing same bin liner in loft to lay there collecting dust until one of your friends has a rug-rat of their own and you get to (completely guilt free) dump  – umm I mean ‘donate’, same baby clothes to them. It’s a bit like an extremely slow version of Pass The Parcel, eventually this bag of baby clothes will end up back with original couples baby, who by that time will have her own baby and the whole cycle starts all over again.

Chapter two involves such delights as choosing which area you will be moving to get into a good church school catchment area and just how many times you have to make a big show of going to the local church so the priest/minister sees you and will approve your sons application to said school. (every single bleeding Sunday for at least three years if you’re wondering – and you have to help out at church summer fairs, spring sales and completely naff dances etc). Also, here’s a tip, try not to pick a church were said priest is elderly and about to retire or you could be going to church for a few years of wasted effort and have to make friends with new priest.

Chapter two also involves the transition from taking son to school were he cries like a little girl and hangs onto your leg like a limpet mine as you try to prise him off at year one to year six were he runs ahead of you into the school playground because he doesn’t want to be seen with you in those cheap sneakers you bought in Pound Stretchers.
And the baseball hat.

And is excruciatingly embarrassed when you shout ‘Bye Bye Darling, I love you’ across the playground whilst he’s in deep conflab with his school chums.
(ahhh one of the few remaining pleasure’s of fatherhood – tormenting your first born!)

Chapter three AKA pre-empty nest syndrome is broadly where I am now with my two rug-rats.

I have already asked the Army what is the minimal recruiting age (16 and a half) so I have to wait at least two more years before I fill in the application form – I mean ‘they’ fill in the application form. What the manual doesn’t tell you about this age (14 & 12) is that your children turn into monosyllabic Neanderthals who seem to spread their mess around the flat like the black death infecting everything* and everyone.

My only role in this chapter of their lives is to provide money, sugar, internet access, taxi and general dogsbody as they become much more independent and only pitch up at doorstep when it’s raining – or as is more often the case, call me on their mobile and ask for a lift from some god forsaken hole whilst I am snug as a bug in a rug.

And this is the surprising thing that no-one tells you, it seems like once rug-rat #1 pops out then you have no life, at least no social life and when you chat to other parents this is the story you get but none of them actually tell you that once the kids start secondary school they become much more independent and will spend time with their friends or away on adventures. So as a parent chapter three of the baby manual should be sub-titled the Pre-Empty Nest Stage and it actually can be quite fun – especially if you are a tad mischievous like me… For example, I left rug-rat #1 off at college this morning at 7am where he’s joining the other 300 Neanderthals of his year group and heading to the deepest darkest jungle of Kent to learn the art of bushcraft for three days. Not washing for three days and cooking by open fire will be the order of the day.. This is going to be complete shock to him because as far as he is concerned all food comes precooked in a polystyrene box with a side order of fries and a thick shake.. shock number two is going three days without internet access or his laptop, he will be going ‘cold turkey’ for these three days, which by co-incidence will probably be what he’ll be eating as well.

Being somewhat mischievous I’ve had some fun messing with him. Some of you whom are of a certain age will remember the 1977 Roots series on the telly, in an early scene young Kunta Kinte is taken away from his village into the  bush by the elders to undergo the initiation ritual from boyhood to manhood. This involves spending a few days out in the bush drinking various vile concoctions and then lining up to be circumcised with a rather terrifying looking double bladed knife;

It was probably very mean of me to show #1 that particular clip over and over again last night and suggest that’s what’s going to happen when he gets there..and was probably even meaner of me to tell his year tutor who is accompanying them about it,  the tutor just happens to have a large machete for chopping his way through the forest..

Ahhh..  tormenting your first born, can life get any better?

I’m going to hell, aren’t I?

(*thank you Snowbunny)

bookmark_borderWoman and Apples

on trees.
The best ones are at
the top of the tree. The men
don’t want to reach for the good
ones because they are afraid of falling
and getting hurt. Instead, they get the
rotten apples from the ground that aren’t
as good, but easier to pick up. So the apples
up top think something is wrong with them
when in reality they’re amazing. They
just have to wait for the right man
to come along, the one who’s
brave enough to climb
all the way to the

bookmark_borderPaul O’Bear

Genuine never been near Photoshop photo!

Well now, it’s a long way from the Arctic to Tipperary, but scientists have discovered polar bears can trace their family tree to Ireland, isn’t it amazing what Polar Bears can do these days with the help of Mr Google..

Genetic evidence shows they are descended from Irish brown bears that lived during the last ice age. The full article is here (if you are a subscriber) but I find this discovery interesting for a few reasons.

First of all, why does everyone want to claim to be Irish? We had Barack O’bama in Ireland the other month checking out his Roots (groan!) and it seems that on Paddys Day just about everyone in the world seems to be at least part Irish but now even the polar bear is claiming to be Irish.  Previously, scientists say that we all are descended from one particular woman, ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, from West Africa but I’m starting to suspect that actually we all come from Mrs Doyle, c/o Craggy Island. (The Irish amongst you will now be ROFL at that!)

So lets see;

All polar bears have ancestors from Ireland
Barack O’bama has ancestors from Ireland
Barack O’bama is a polar bear!

So THAT’S what Kennedy meant when he uttered those famous words when visiting the Berlin Wall in 1963;

“Ich bin ein Berliner… feck! I mean PolarBearliner”

I know, un-bear-able to think about..

However, I do wonder, does that mean are polar bears Catholic (and the Pope does indeed shit in the woods, I mean snow), personally I’m not convinced, I think it’s a cynical and shrewd move by the polar bears to win votes at the next election..

And isn’t it typical of the Irish and a pattern that’s been repeated endlessly; we fall upon hard times and what do we do, we emigrate to pastures new (or in this case frozen tundra new) even our bears do and they adapt to climate change, dye their fur blonde and have a whale of a time – sorry, I mean have a seal pup of a time..

Which reminds me of this old joke;

There was a little itty bitty baby Polar Bear, who said to his mother one day, “Mom, am I really a Polar Bear?”
His mother laughed and playfully nudged him along with her head.
“Of course you’re a Polar Bear, sweetie.”
“Oh, ok,” said the little bear; but he wasn’t quite convinced.  So after a while he asked again,
“Mommy?  Am I really a Polar Bear?  Really, really?”
“Why, don’t be silly, sweetheart.  You’re a bear.”
“How do you know, Mommy?  How do you know I’m really, really a Polar Bear?”
“Well, sweetie, it’s like this: I’m a Polar Bear, your father is a Polar Bear — so naturally, you’re a Polar Bear, too.  Ok?”
“Yes!  Really!  Now run along and play!”
“I was just wondering. . .you would tell me, wouldn’t you?
“Tell you what?”
“If I wasn’t — I mean, if there was something — ”
“What, pet?”
“Am I really really — really and truly a Polar Bear?”
His mother had had enough.
“Yes! You’re a Polar Bear! For cryin’ out loud, what is the matter with you? Why do you keep asking such a silly question?”
And the little itty bitty Polar Bear looked up at his mom with his big, sad eyes, and said,

“Because. . .



OK, I think I have milked this story long enough, but PLEASE tell me you get the joke of the title..

bookmark_borderAre you a Sneaky F**ker?

Been reading about the Sneaky F**ker Strategy, a genuine scientific term coined by Professor John Maynard Smith in the late nineties. Prof. Smith was a British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist and he tended not to follow rules, in fact he was quite mischievous if truth be told. He passed away in 2004 but he was very interested in sex (shocker eh? British man interested in sex!)

Conventional wisdom states that in nature it’s the most beautiful peacock that gets the bird – or hen in peacocks case, and it’s the biggest silverback gorilla that gets to pass on his good genes and it’s the strongest, fittest stag that gets to mate with his herd and this seems logical,  I’m sure we have all watched nature programs about baying stags fighting over who gets to mate but there is a problem with this theory, namely that after a few generations all male progeny would be strong, fit (and most likely related and therefore cause issues with interbreeding) and logically it should erode genetic variance in the population, it’s called the Lek Paradox.

However, Prof. Smith liked to turn conventional wisdom on it’s head and this is where sneaky f**kers comes in. He took DNA samples from herds of wild deer in Scotland and studied their mating habits during the rutting season and rather surprisingly the DNA seemed to have a very wide spread, it wasn’t just from the strongest/fittest deer but also from many of the less fit deer as well. And then he observed something interesting. As the largest male deer squared up to each other and clashed horns (or antlers in this case) most of the females got bored  (excuse the pun) and sneaked off into the nearly woods where the other deer’s were waiting and they mated with them. And with typical aplomb Prof. Smith called these deer Sneaky F**kers because that’s exactly what they were doing, sneaking off and mating with the lesser deer hiding in the woods and increasing the genetic diversity.

And it seems the world of biology is full of some quite bright people interested in sex and whom like to turn conventional wisdom on it’s head. During the summer of 1994 Elisabet Forsgren (yes, that is how she spells Elisabet) spent a few months studying sandfish in a large tank in Sweden. She put a large and medium sized male in a tank and watched to see who was best at protecting a nest of eggs from a crab. Conventional wisdom states that the bigger fish should be best because it’s stronger and can swim faster but in fact the medium sided sandfish was much better at protecting the eggs, it seemed to be more dedicated to the job than the bigger fish who keep swimming off to explore the tank.

Then Elisabet introduced a female sandfish and the female invariably choose the medium sized sandfish, and the female sandfish hadn’t witnessed the sandfishes previous behaviour but on repeated tests with different fish the female nearly always choose the small sandfish which was more efficient at protecting the eggs than the bigger fish.

So, female deer and sandfish aren’t that impressed with big powerful  muscles and a fine set of lungs, they seem to be able to discern very easily whom would make a better father rather than whom is most virile and I wonder just how much of this translates into the world of humans and dating.

I have met up with folk and (especially during the Speed dating evening) it’s all about what job do you do and how much money do you have, and conversely I’ve met up with dates and none of that figured, they were more interested in me as a person, my future loving potential rather than my future earning potential. And when one thinks about it, in a bit of hot water over there  in NYC is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF and it seems he did have ‘relations’ with the maid, no-one seems to be denying that but consensual sex rather than rape (allegedly!) but it makes me think, is he like one of the strutting deers; strong, powerful (but perhaps not that child friendly)? His wife seems to be very much in love with him despite sexual allegations going back at least seven years, so she must be willing to put up with him not being faithful and yet strangely, she doesn’t need to worry about him providing a good home as she is heir to a massive fortune from her grandfather Paul Rosenberg, so one must assume she is sticking with him because of love and that’s the one quantity neither Prof. Smith or Elisabeth failed to take into account in all their studies. Do the sandfish and the deer choose their partners, not due to conventional evolutionary theory but because of something much more finer? Who knows but whilst you are thinking about it I’m popping off to hide in the woods.. I might get lucky 😉

bookmark_borderHappy 4th July America.

This was doing the rounds on the internet way back in 2000 when GW Bush was trying his best to steal the US election. I think I’ll file it under humour.

To the citizens of the United States of America, in the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories.

Except Utah, which she does not fancy.

Your new Prime Minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair MP, for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a Minister for America without the need for further elections.

The House of Representatives and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up “revocation” in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up “aluminium.” Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘favour’ and ‘neighbour’; skipping the letter ‘U’ is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters.

You will end your love affair with the letter ‘Z’ (pronounced ‘zed’ not ‘zee’) and the suffix “ize” will be replaced by the suffix “ise.”

You will learn that the suffix ‘burgh’ is pronounced ‘burra’ e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to re-spell Pittsburgh as ‘Pittsberg’ if you can’t cope with correct pronunciation.

Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up “vocabulary.” Using the same thirty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as “uhh”, “like”, and “you know” is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

Look up “interspersed.”

There will be no more ‘bleeps’ in the Jerry Springer show. If you’re not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn’t have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary, then you won’t have to use bad language as often.

2. There is no such thing as “US English.” We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter ‘u’ and the elimination of “-ize.”

3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn’t that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier).

You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents — Scottish dramas such as “Taggart” will no longer be broadcast with subtitles.

While we’re talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is “Devon.” If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become “shires” e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters.

British sit-coms such as “Men Behaving Badly” or “Red Dwarf” will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can’t cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness. Popular British films such as the Italian Job and the Wicker Man should never be remade.

5. You should relearn your original national anthem, “God Save The Queen”, but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

6. You should stop playing American “football.” There are other types of football such as Rugby, Aussie Rules & Gaelic football. However proper football – which will no longer be known as soccer, is the best known, most loved and most popular. What you refer to as American “football” is not a very good game.

The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays “American” football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football.

Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American “football”, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies)

You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the ‘World Series’ for a game which is not played outside of North America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls’ game called “rounders,” which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

7. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don’t believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

8. The 4th of July is no longer a public holiday. The 2nd of November will be a new national holiday, but only in Britain. It will be called “Indecisive Day.”

9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap, and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call ‘French fries’ are not real chips. Fries aren’t even French, they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called “crisps.” Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat.

Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.

12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling “beer” is not actually beer at all, it is lager . From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as “beer,” and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as “Lager.” The substances formerly known as “American Beer” will henceforth be referred to as “Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine,” with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as “Weak Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine.” This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in the Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

13. From the 10th of November the UK will harmonise petrol (or “gasoline,” as you will be permitted to keep calling it until the 1st of April) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon — get used to it).

14. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you’re not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not grown up enough to handle a gun.

15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us crazy.

16. Tax collectors from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation.

bookmark_borderHappy (belated) Independence Day ;)

It’s officially the 4th of July now in the UK – so Happy Independence Day across the pond  – and I hope you lot are looking after the old place or we may have to rescind the Declaration of Independence, I fully expect you all to leave the place in just as good a condition as you found it ;p

I was in NYC during 4th July 2009 and sadly had to leave that evening but as the plane took off it banked around in a low circle and we all were rewarded with a magical view of hundreds, if not thousands, of firework going off from private parties and official events, it was something special to witness (and I’m trying to convince myself that it was to celebrate Independence and not the fact that the US was finally getting rid of The London Leprechaun!)

Today, Monday, 4th July is just another normal working day here in London and it’s weird to think that I shall be slaving over a hot computer coding away whilst across the pond flags will be out and parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches and ceremonies (thank you Wikipedia!) will be the order of the day. Well… when I say slaving I mean in-between tea breaks, coffee breaks, lunch breaks, social rounds, cake rounds, biscuit rounds and general tomfoolery but I’m almost certain I might be able to squeeze in some work as well!

(My beasties asked me earlier what I’m reading about and I said ‘Independence Day’ and they both groaned and said we’ve already seen it! You can tell they are not American.)

It’s also a bit weird that you lot are all celebrating the 4th of July as really that’s two days late, in reality the legal separation from Great Britain happened on the 2nd of July, 1776 when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence, but you all know this anyway, don’t you, you were paying attention in history class and not making gooey eyes at the boy sitting next to you?

After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

(Don’t ya just love Mr Google & Wikipedia!?)

Adams’s prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.

It’s an anachronism that seems to pass some Americans by, ‘official’ Independence day was the 2nd July 1776 but everyone calls the 4th July Independence Day, however, I mustn’t grumble, Christmas isn’t really on the actual date of Christ’s birth and the Queen has two birthdays, the public one and her private one so I suppose it’s OK for you lot to be a bit soft on dates too and at least you manage to arrange your big celebrations in the middle of summer and nice weather where-as we seem to have all ours during the rainy season aka Spring, Autumn and Winter (and a large part of summer!).

What I did find spooky was that in a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, you see, with the benefit of hindsight they might have made it the 31st of December and maybe squeezed six more months out’a life 😉

Oh, found this link, seems the folk in Doncaster can’t get enough  history, so they swipe some of yours too 😉

Anyway, you will have all seen this extremely (and without a doubt) genuine document from years ago when America couldn’t decide between Bush and Gore

(BTW, you picked the wrong one!)

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

(You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

1. Look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour’, ‘favour’, ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise’. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ‘like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u’ and the elimination of -ize.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables but still use pints and miles because we like to confuse everyone.

Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

8. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with ketchup but with vinegar.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

11. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.

12. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don’t try rugby – the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.

13. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 5.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.

15. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

16. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

(And let the flank begin! )


bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanours, Part 10

My previous career from ’87 to 2000 was as a nurse, mostly Intensive Care but when I did my Nurse training all those years ago the Uni insisted that we students all stayed in Halls of Residence for the first year so we could ‘bond’ and support each other. So that was me, five other blokes (four of whom were gay) and 100 female student nurses.  Rob (the only other straight bloke) and I couldn’t believe our luck, we couldn’t wait to start training, we were both 27 and very keen to bond with our colleagues!

Now you might make a few assumptions here, that Rob and I spent the entire time bonding,  (as we were hoping) but our hopes were cruelly dashed because student nurses are just like proper staff nurses, they all suffer from White Coat Syndrome and will only ever date doctors and medical students. I’m not bitter.. no no, I’m not bitter…mutter mutter.. not at all ..mutter bitter..mutter..

It wasn’t all that bad, us six blokes were very popular during the University dance evenings and were passed from dance partner to dance partner – yes, those were the days when you actually danced with a member of the opposite sex rather than strut your funky stuff across the floor as we ummm you do now days and we got very comfortable chatting to the opposite sex, sadly the conversation rarely strayed into sport or cars territory but it’s a skill that’s served me well over the years but maybe not now as I work with a load of pizza eating coke swilling geeks.

However, and I know I’m going to hell for this, we all used to get up to some ‘jolly japes’ when living in the Halls. We all had individual rooms and there were about twenty rooms along our corridor and we were always pulling pranks on each other.  An easy one to do during the night when everyone was asleep was to tie two opposing door handles together, this meant that when the respective occupants woke and went to leave the room the doors opened just slightly and then slammed shut, much to the amusement of us children..

The one we loved to do was the ‘water cress prank’. When we knew some poor victim was going off on holiday for two weeks we would break into her room, it was always a ‘her’ and the doors were pretty insecure, and we would sneak in half way through the holiday, wet a large area of the carpet and cover it in mustard/water cress seeds, then make sure the curtains are open and leave the room undisturbed for the remaining week.

Then what happened, amongst the titters of absolutely everyone, was that water cress grew over the week and when the victim came back she opened the door and invariably shouted WTF!!! Whilst we all wet ourselves laughing.

Now, it wasn’t really THAT bad, in fact walking on water cress was infinitely preferable to walking on our manky carpets and sometime the victims would leave it there for a few days because it was actually just like walking on grass, then when it was time to chuck it you just simply rolled it up and shoved it in a few refuse sacks…no harm done… and if you are hungry during the night and fancy a snack..

One of the other tricks we used to do, and this was strictly on unpopular student nurses only and one in particular, was to wait until they left their room to go on a shift and then we’d get a bottle of talcum powder and pour it just under her door in the space between the door and the floor and then get a hairdryer and blow all the talcum into the room. What happened then was that the entire room got covered by a thick layer of ‘dust’, every single surface, it took a few hours to get best effect but usually by the time the student came back it was all settled and once more we all peed our pants laughing at WTF!! I think I should point out that it wasn’t just me and Rob doing these pranks, it was everyone in the corridor..

Oh, and BTW, roosters will start crowing at about 5 am, and if they are indoors, it’s really fucking annoying. Trust me.

bookmark_borderNot so obvious suggestions?

Think you better try Plan Bee

So,  I blogged earlier about Facebook and it’s facial recognition system and how it would be a good idea if we could install that software into our own heads so we never forget a face, the amount of times I’ve been to meetings and parties and I can’t remember someones name… well, it’s getting worse as I get older…  but then I was thinking, what other good ideas are there out there, things that makes you wonder why no-one hasn’t thought of them before…

When driving on a long journey are you worried about falling asleep?  Well, there is now a simple cure; put a bee or a wasp in the car and keep the windows closed. Come on, we all know that for the next 12 hours you are going to do nothing but flap your hands around the place but there is an added benefit because if you accelerate really fast then this will keep throwing the bee to the back of the car and you get to your destination quicker.  It’s basically a win-win situation, maybe not for the bee but for the driver. At petrol stations you could have another little pump that that you fill up with wasps or bee’s depending upon your preference and one of those little hand held pump dispensers filled with jam so you can top up with jam too.

But a word of warning,  I was in a small car years ago with a friend who hated bee’s and wasps, so obviously one got in and I’m telling you, this guy was huge and the wasp was tiny compared to him but he panicked and nearly  drove his car into the path of an oncoming truck, not only did I see his arms flashing about in front of my eyes but I also saw my life flashing before my eyes, after we narrowly avoided that he practically jumped out of the car whilst we were still doing 30 MPH!

So, what else? Well, how about walking boots with Sat Nav?  I know you can get running shoes that connect to all sorts of gizmo’s like the Garmin SatNav but what about shoes with built-in SatNav so they could walk you home when you’re drunk and you would never get lost, or you could program them to take you on the scenic route to work on random days, and you’d never knew exactly when you are about to go on a magical mystery tour – over a cliff.

Then what about nicely flavoured envelopes, I don’t know about you lot but every time I have to seal an envelope before posting it I always go yuck at the gum, how about some nice sweet tasting gum. Of course there is a chance that your kids will sneak in when you aren’t looking and lick all the gum off – or your dog – and then you have non-stick envelopes but it’s worth a shot.

And what about a  one way system in supermarkets, how many times have you been caught in a shopping cart traffic jam in the aisle, lets just sort that out once and for all, enforce a one way system and even put traffic police at the end of the aisle, and if you forget something then you have to go back to the start and begin again.

Then what about car windscreen wipers that keeps to the beat of what ever’s playing on your car radio, that would be much more fun, you might even begin to enjoy a drive in the rain.. and blinkers/indicators that bleep/flash in time to your music…

And what about a standardised Chinese takeaway menu’s so they all had the use the exact same numbers for the same food, that way you can ring up any Chinese takeaway and order in full confidence, you would know, no matter what Chinese you rang up that all you have to do is bark  number 13, 23 and 42 down the phone and you’d know exactly what you are getting..

And finally, what about venetian blinds trousers, if it gets too hot then pull a string and viola, the blinds open up to let the breeze blow in, and this doesn’t have to be restricted to trousers, it can be any item of clothes, your shirt, jumper, teeshirt, even your shorts if you are feeling really brave – or hot. Oh and what about crossing a hamster with a mole, then you have a family pet that when it dies it’s already buried itself.. Yeah, I know, I’m sick!

bookmark_borderSome facts about the 1500’s

Some facts about the 1500s

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.. However, since they were starting to smell Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof… Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how four poster/canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: “the thresh hold”.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old. Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, hence “bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and “chew the fat”.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or “the upper crust”.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of “holding a wake”.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realised they had been burying people alive… So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night “the graveyard shift” to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, “saved by the bell” or was considered “a dead ringer”.

bookmark_borderIn as few words as possible.

But not all at once.

I’ve travelled a bit around this world and when I think about it and my memories and if I had to describe each place in as few words as possible then this is my list;

(Some are repeated as I may have been there more than once)
Italy: Proper pizza
Italy: Cheap wine and 30 16yr olds getting wasted.
Holland: Porn mag machines by the station.
Egypt: Dry. Car horns. Disparity.
Tunisia: Rain. Rain. Rain. (sigh!)
Maldives: Photoshop not required.
Corfu: Red Lion pubs everywhere.
Germany: Beer. Big beer.
Dublin: Beggars on street. Friendly.
Barcelona: Pickpockets. Gaudi. Shades.
Isle of Man: Cats. Motorbikes.
Isle of Wright: Out of synch with mainland.
Silly Isles: 50 years behind mainland. Good.
Maine: A Funeral
Palm Springs: A Wedding
LA: Sex Shop. Coffee
LA: Mowed Lawn (is this a euphemism?)
Las Vegas: Eye popping.
Scotland: Rain. Community.
Wales: Wet. Green. Canals.
Iceland: Cold in February.
France: Smokers. Outdoor cafes.
Crete: Little Britain
Ontario: Maid of the Mist. Big pancakes.
Ontario: England. Fall.
Arizona: Scrub-land. Distant mountains. Yuma.
Colorado: Mountains.
Connecticut: Trees.
Florida: Plastic. South beach. Big waves.
Illinois: Terrible airport.
Maryland: Snake.
Massachusetts: Watching Ireland play rugby in Irish pub.
Minnesota: Cold. Deserted. Everyone in the malls.
Nevada: Big. Empty.
New Hampshire: More Trees. LOTS of trees.
New Jersey: Mafia. Not able to pump own gas.
NYC: Canyons in Manhattan.
NYC Paddys cathedral. Central Park culture culture culture.
NYC Home from home
North Carolina:  Furniture Week. Hotels Full. Irish ambassador.
Oregon: Good book store.
Pennsylvania: Hills. Valleys. Forest.
Rhode Island: Large roundabout. Confused drivers.
South Carolina: Hunting.
Texas: Ma’am. Manners. Republician.
Washington: PC taken to extremes.

Childhood: The smell of cut grass.

bookmark_borderFather’s Day (part deux)

It’s ten o’clock, Sunday morning and I’ve just spend the last hour or so writing but also listening to my 12 and 14 year old boys rough-housing in the spare bedroom. They sleep – if sleep is the correct term- in a big king sized bed and it’s actually quite sweet to hear them laughing and fighting and wrestling and giggling and shouting and playing and bonding about 25 feet away.

That, for me, is the nicest Father’s Day present.

It is music to my ears.

Now to go join them.

I may be some time.

bookmark_borderFather’s Day 2011

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
Mark Twain

It’s Father’s Day tomorrow (Sunday 19th June) and I will be getting another card from my beasties, a rice pudding as usual and yet another Best Dad in World mug, I’m getting quite a collection of them now and I suppose it beats Florescent Ties and Old Spice Aftershave.  But what you lot don’t actually realise is that children, at least my two rugrats are quite mercenary, you see, my status as Best Dad in World is wholly dependant on what presents they get for Christmas and then that status can easily be lost depending on what gifts they get at birthday time in February and March, so the pressure is on..

The good thing about Father’s Day, at least from my perspective, is that it’s the only celebration in the year that I don’t have to actually think about, Xmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day I have to put some thought into them and organise the beasties but this one I get away with Scott free..

My father was pretty much absent all my life but I found this blog that will make you smile and maybe shed a tear as well.

However, it has been pointed out to me that the times, they are a changing…

In 1961, the year I was born, fathers shook their children gently at 7am and whispered, “Wake up, it’s time for school.”
Today, KIDS shake their fathers violently at 4 a.m., shouting: “Wake up, it’s time for hockey practice.”

In 1961, a father came home from work to find his wife and children at the supper table.
Today, a father comes home to a note: “Jimmy’s at baseball, Cindy’s at gymnastics, I’m at adult-Ed, Pizza in fridge.” (or dinner in dog).

In 1961, “a good day at the market” meant Father brought home feed for the horses.
Today, “a good day at the market” means Dad got in early on an IPO.

In 1961, a happy meal was when Father shared funny stories around the table.
Today, a happy meal is what Dad buys at McDonald’s.

In 1961, if a father put a roof over his family’s head, he was a success.
Today, it takes a roof, deck, pool, and 4-car garage.
And that’s just the vacation home.

In 1961, a father waited for the doctor to tell him when the baby arrived.
Today, a father must wear a smock, know how to breathe, and make sure film is in the video camera.

In 1961, fathers passed on clothing to their sons.
Today, kids wouldn’t touch Dad’s clothes if they were sliding naked down an icicle.

In 1961, fathers could count on children to join the family business.
Today, fathers pray their kids will soon come home from college long enough to teach them how to work the computer and set the Tivo.

In 1961, fathers pined for old country Romania, Italy, or Russia.
Today, fathers pine for old country Hank Williams.

In 1961, fathers and sons would have heart-to-heart conversations while fishing in a stream.
Today, fathers pluck the headphones off their sons’ ears and shout, “WHEN YOU HAVE A MINUTE..”

In 1961, fathers threatened their daughters suiters with shotguns if the girl came home late.
Today, fathers break the ice by saying, “So…how long have you had that earring?”

In 1961, a father gave a pencil box for Christmas, and the kid was all smiles.
Today, a father spends £800 at Toys ‘R’ Us, and the kid screams: “I wanted X-Box!”

In 1961, if a father had breakfast in bed, it was eggs and bacon and ham and potatoes.
Today, it’s Special K, soy milk, dry toast and a lecture on cholesterol.

In 1961, a Father’s Day gift would be a hand tool.
Today, he’ll get a digital organizer.

In 1961, fathers said, “A man’s home is his castle.”
Today, they say, “Welcome to the money pit.”

In 1961, a father was involved if he spoke to his kid now and then.
Today, a father’s involved only if he coaches Little League and organizes Boy Scouts and car pools.

In 1961, when fathers entered the room, children often rose to attention.
Today, kids glance up and grunt, “Dad, you’re invading my space.”

In 1961, fathers were never truly appreciated.
In 2011, fathers are never truly appreciated.

bookmark_borderYou’ve come a long way ‘baby’

I prefer a 'suck it and see' approach..

I know I’m going to get kicked in the gonads about this but it occurs to me that the battle of the sexes is over and we men lost, at least in the world I live in.

I’ve tended to work in female dominated environments, at least since I started my first (proper) job at 16 and I never think about equal rights, pay inadequacies and woman not being equal in any way, when I go to meetings at work with colleagues there is always a mixture of the sexes and it would be beyond comprehension to think of any one sex being better than the other, it just doesn’t compute.  And I don’t know, perhaps I am just very fortunate to work in an environment that (whilst frankly immature at times with our jolly cappers) is also pretty much equal, my next two line managers are male but then their boss is female and there doesn’t seem to be a glass ceiling where I work and maybe this isn’t the norm everywhere in 2011 but I can only confidently quote from my own experience.

So a friend told me about this (no, I don’t go reading blokes internet dating profiles) but ..well, have a read;

If you’re not a rocket scientist, please be adorable. If you ARE a rocket scientist, you still have to be adorable and allow me to discover your brilliance, don’t bludgeon me with it. I know that you can open your own door, pull out your own chair, and pay for your own meal. Bravo! Do you also want to hold your own hand at the movies and buy shares in Duracell for the rest of your life? Well then, please allow this man to feel like a man by giving him a chance to feel as if he’s needed. I’m not looking for a business partner in a joint venture (Bill and Hilary), a roommate, or my equal. One of me is enough, thank you. I’m looking for someone who complements my energy. A yin to my yang, a zig to my zag, an innie for my Audi (have you seen the 2011 A8 Spyders?) The last time I checked the queen’s throne was on the same level as the king’s, but it was definitely different (softer, more colorful, better smelling …)

(He’s here ladies if you are interested but I suspect there might be a long queue.. )

And it’s interesting, isn’t it, from what I can tell some men seem to spend a lot of time trying not to offend, trying not to diss any woman, especially the further west you go in the States but I liked what Mr BigFatTrainWreck  is saying, he’s in California and maybe some of you will think that’s the most sensible thing they’ve ever seen a bloke pen, maybe this is a bit of his frustration coming out but I know how he feels, I will always hold a door open for a lady, give a lady my seat on the tube and make sure she walks on the inside of the pavement (you can thank my twin sister for teaching me all that when I was 16) but occasionally, just occasionally I get a rant from some woman about that and  it always throws me, a simple thank you and a smile will suffice but I’ve decided not to let the odd rotten egg spoil it for everyone else.

You see, what Mr BigFatTrainWreck is saying kind’a fits in with the way I was brought up in Ireland, at least the bit I grew up in, where men are men and woman are woman (stating the bleeding obvious here) but at home, if a man treats a woman badly then he will indeed get kicked where it hurts and kicked hard and trust me, I have been kicked quite hard sometimes in my youth. And I don’t think that’s just an Irish trait, in the last few years I very rarely met any woman who would demure to a man’s wishes, of course working in Intensive Care one has to have a strong personality to cope with the day to day rigours of the job but still, even outside, living in London, one would never think of going back to the roles in the 50’s and 60’s when the house wife was kept tied to the kitchen sink with just enough rope to reach the door to bring in the milk (joke!)

Oh, and BTW I did like the Duracell bit above, it reminds me of an old reverse sexist joke;

Why do woman put up with men?

Because vibrators can’t mow the lawn.

Sadly that’s not actually true anymore because they can;

(And it comes in different colours.. sup-phaa..)

Looks like we blokes had better start behaving!


BTW (and slightly related to this blog entry), I like this quote..

The secret to getting my wife to be less inhibited had more to do with me than her. It wasn’t until I started listening to what she wanted from me outside the bedroom that changes happened inside the bedroom. I needed to show that I loved her by talking to her and treating her as my equal in all aspects of life. Once she became secure and felt deeply loved by me, all her inhibitions disappeared. Damn, I wish I had figured that out sooner.

Danny G, age 58, husband for 24 years

bookmark_borderComputer equals horse theory

Quit horsing around..

How are you with computers, are they always messing around with you, can you not bend them to your will, are you always losing work, should you be allowed access to a computer unsupervised – or even out unsupervised? You know the secret about computers? They are like horses, they know if you are a novice, they can sense it..

Perhaps I’d better explain, this is my Computer equals horse theory, BTW I have many theories  eg Dance theory but by far the most popular is Internet Dating vs Estate Agent theory.

However, Computer equals horse theory, when I went to Egypt about a million years ago, they put me on a horse to go see the pyramids at Cairo and the horse looked at me and I looked at it and it knew I’d never sat on anything other than a wooden rocking horse before, so obviously it decided to play with me and took off like shi