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 Escentual.com 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_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.

AND THAT’S WHY….
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.

octopus

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.

assholes

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_borderIt’s more than just a car..

amadog

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_borderIs There Life After Birth?

life

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,

“FOR EXTRA VOLUME AND BODY.”

…No wonder I’ve been gaining weight!

Facepalm!

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

“DISSOLVES FAT THAT IS OTHERWISE DIFFICULT TO REMOVE.”

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

bookmark_borderTick Tock

dscf0100

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.

bookmark_borderSuperheroes

superhero
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_borderI might just get a dog..

babemagnet

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 sticky..is 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?

————————————————————————————-
harrison_guinevere

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_borderLife. Chapter One. Page Two

Exactly.
Exactly.

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_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_borderFirst world problems

1stWorldWater

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.”

358qra
1stWorldWater3rdwrldWe won the lottery being born in the West, didn’t we?

bookmark_borderSuch is life when lived

gateway

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..

ohdeargod

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_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_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_borderCenterfolding

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_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_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_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” ..as 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, ..is 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_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_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
CHORUS:
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_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

True.

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_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_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_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_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_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_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.” 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6MYLtqL9T8

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_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_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_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_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 http://photoshoplooter.tumblr.com/

A nice cuppa tea sorts everything.. This has NOT been photoshopped

http://london.craigslist.co.uk/mob/2536072357.html

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_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_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;

http://www.robomow.co.uk/

(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 shit on a shovel with me holding on for dear life… apparently racing horses come from Arabian stock, I wish someone had explained that before I got on, I would have chosen a camel instead… or a donkey… and again, when I sat on on of those ponies going down the side of the Grand Canyon, same thing – the pony looked at me and thought, yup, we got a virgin here, let’s play with him and the bugger spent nearly all it’s time reaching down to eat clumps of grass on the edge of the track as I stared over the edge of the precipice and prayed to God, Allah, Buddha, Confucius and every deity I could think of..and perhaps it’s just the Universe trying to get its own back on me for being so mischievous…  and computers are like that, they understand if you are not good at computers and immediately conspired to mess you about, you can almost see the thought bubbles  “Aye yup, here comes sausage fingers… let’s play with him/her…” and they conspire to lose that email you just spent two hours writing out and hide that very important Excel Spreadsheet you had just a minute ago, but when ‘I’ sit at a computer it’s knows I’m not going to take any shit from it and therefore behaves…

So next time you use a computer, dress in black pizza stained teeshirt, drink Bolt cola, don’t wash for a week, grow a beard and the computer will behave and not shit you around…   easy…eh?

And one last thing, the most important lesson, don’t anthropomorphize computers cuz they really hate that..

bookmark_borderWomenopause

I vote for spiderman pyjamas..

So, I’m not sure what you lot think but I’m beginning to suspect ‘mother’ nature has designed us men to last only 50 years, I’m thinking this because I smashed a tooth this morning eating some muesli, plus I don’t seem to be able to hear as well when in a bar chatting away and what else… oh yes, I need to wear glasses for very small writing that I’m sure I could see a few years ago easily… and my memory is going ..plus my memory is going..

Billy Connelly once said that now he’s sixty years old he plans his trips by toilets, he says when he needs to go somewhere he needs to know where all the loo’s are, I haven’t quite got to that stage yet but give me ten more years..

He also says that there are three things all men need to remember when they hit 60;

1)      Never trust a fart – for one never knows what might slip out at the same time

2)      Never pass up the opportunity to use a loo, never ever walk past one – for one never knows where the next one is going to be and you could be caught short

3)      And most importantly, never waste an erection – even if by one’s self

I’m wondering if there is a such thing as an male menopause…and talking of which..

A woman goes to the doctor’s and says, “Doctor, Doctor, you have to help me. Every time I go to the bathroom, DIMES come out!”

The doctor tells her to relax, go home, rest with her feet up and come back in a week.

A week later the woman returns and says, “Doctor, Doctor, it’s gotten worse!

Every time I go to the bathroom, QUARTERS come out!! What’s wrong with me?”

Again the doctor tells her to relax, go home, rest with her feet up and come back in a week.

Another week passes and the woman returns and yells, “Doctor, Doctor, I’m still not getting better! Every time I go to the bathroom, HALF-DOLLARS come out! WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH ME?!!”

The doctor says, “Relax, Relax,…it’s nothing to worry about, you’re just going through the change!”

So, the  male version of a menopause, it does seem a bit unfair that woman endure one during their 50 but men can carry on fathering children well into their 60’s.. As a small diversion, what seems equally unfair is that it’s called the menopause, why is that, why isn’t it called the womanopause …and when you think about it, why have all these words got men in front of them; menstruation, menacme, menorrhea, menostaxis, menoschesis. I can understand perhaps menage a trois and these words having ‘men’ at the front of them;  menace, meningococci, menald, mendicant, meningitis, mendacity, mengovirus  but menopause, menstruation… it really is a man’s world..

Anyway, I digress, I asked the all-knowing all-wise all-seeing oracle, Mr Google about the male menopause and one site wrote the following;

“Have you noticed your father, brother, or partner acting strangely lately? Does he forget things, seem lethargic, or wake up sweating, have mood swings, seem a little tetchy? If so, he may be suffering from male menopause.”

My question is, how can you woman tell the difference, I think that description fits not just about every 50 to 60 yr old male I know but it also perfectly describes that 14yr son of mine most mornings, from the moment the testosterone started coursing through his veins he lost the ability to form coherent sentences and was reduced to expressing himself through grunts, perhaps we men are just in a constant menopausal state right from the moment puberty hits, now wouldn’t that be ironic?

bookmark_borderHedging your bets?

go on, I DARE you...

I’m reading Richard Dawkins ‘The God Delusion’  at the moment and there’s two reasons why;  firstly I caught a little bit of it on Channel Four one evening a few years ago and I liked his arguments and his passion and his logic but secondly and more importantly I firmly believe that the best books to read are exactly those ones that argue against your opinion.

Having been brought up during The Troubles in Norn Iron and being able to see both sides of the conflict, I’ve always strived to expand my perspective but growing up in a family with eight other siblings did make it difficult at times to see arguments from the other persons perspective. And growing up I kind’a had religion rammed down my throat whether I believed it or not. When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realised, the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me … and I got it! And unusually for an Irishman, I wasn’t brought up Catholic but still, each Easter I gave up picking my belly button for lint.

However, the thing I find really interesting (and very ironic) is that Richard Dawkins will never know if he is right were-as the Archbishop of Canterbury will never know if he is wrong. Perhaps I’d better explain, if the Archbishop of Canterbury is wrong and there is no such place and heaven or hell then he will never actually know, he will die and that’s it, so he will never know that he was wrong, he will only know if he is right BUT the opposite goes for Richard Dawkins, when he dies and if he is right he will never know that he is actually right because of course he will not exist but if he is wrong then he will indeed know he is wrong and get prodded up the butt by some cloven hooved demon or whatever, but the thing is, since atheist’s seem to get a raw deal here, I’m wondering if it’s best just to hedge your bets and say you believe in heaven and hell and fire and brimstone because if it doesn’t exist then it won’t matter but if it does exist then you are covered..   or is that a bit cynical of me…

I’m quite like the arguments Richard Dawkins is making and I imagine God is probably reading his book right now and thinking “wow, there is no way to go against his logic, therefore I must not exist..” and God suddenly vanishes in a puff of smoke.

And talking about God (whom I believe invented the sense of humour)..

A middle-aged woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table, she had a near death experience.

Seeing God, she asked “Is my time up?”

God said, “No, you have another 43 years, 2 months, and 8 days to live.”

Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a facelift, liposuction, and a tummy tuck. She even had someone come in and change her hair colour. Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.

After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. While crossing the street on her way home, she was killed by an ambulance.

Arriving in front of God, she demanded, “I thought you said I had another 40 years? Why didn’t you pull me from out of the path of the ambulance?”

God replied, “Oops, sorry, I didn’t recognise you!”

bookmark_borderModel Teacher..

I hear they are looking for chemistry teachers in Belfast..

I’ve blogged about my school days in a previous entries here and here but I was asked why I am so mischievous and is it all down to my mother and it turns out it’s not all down to just her, it seems I may have to blame my chemistry teacher as well.

Perhaps I better explain.

The secondary school I went to was more like a Borstal/Reform School/Prison and it was a very tough school, the teachers were pretty brutal and when they said jump you shouted “Yes Sir how high Sir!”  However, in fourth form the Chemistry teacher left and the school got a new teacher in the name of Raymond Blair. Ramie Blair looked like he had just stepped out of a Scooby Doo cartoon, he was an unreformed hippy, long curly hair and he kind’a didn’t follow any rules – ever.

During our first month with him we found out that he and the French teacher, Miss Roberson had done the dirty deed in the store cupboard. We also found out that he and the Physics teacher spent most evening smoking weed and blowing it out via the fume cupboard. He also told us about the time he got struck by lightning in the Alps and lived (obviously), and that he used to be a roadie for Led Zeppelin. He was meant to be teaching us chemistry but one afternoon he took us all in the school mini-bus (there was only nine of us doing chemistry that year) to Helens Bay and we spent the afternoon messing around at the beach whilst he went swimming in the sea. I’m not actually sure if he brought swimming trunks or just swan in his underwear.. After that we always brought our swimming trucks to chemistry. We got to use them, more than once.

He used to play this trick on us when we were concentrating on some experiment on the workbenches, he would come along and bash the underside of the bench with a big hammer and we’d nearly have a heart attack. Bastard.

One afternoon when we were meant to go into the classroom he came out into the corridor and instructed us to come in very quietly and as we came in the previous class also left quietly. One of the pupils had fallen asleep at the back of the class so he left him sleeping there and we went in and he started the lesson. Eventually the kid woke up and realised that he was in a room full of strangers and was utterly confused. We all laughed.

Ramie Blair was entrusted with taking thirty of us on a ski-ing holiday to Italy, there was the Physics teacher as well so it was bound to be OK, wasn’t it? We arrive at the resort and there wasn’t a drop of snow so he told us all to sit together and think think think snow, so much snow that we could hardly open the doors. We all laughed at him but he insisted and we all sat there (in the bar!) praying for snow. We went to bed and next morning there was so much snow we could hardly open the hotel doors! We were totally amazed!

We vaguely remember seeing Ramie at breakfast time and that was it until next morning so we spent a lot of time falling down the nursery slopes during the day and drinking really cheap wine all night long, there was about 20 of us boys in each dorm and I’m pretty sure we never went to sleep before daybreak for the entire week. Ramie joined us most nights and told us stories about his LSD days. Did you know that LSD stays in your system for a few days and even after a few weeks afterwards you still have the odd whooaa moment but the strange thing is, if you eat just a tiny piece of chocolate the effects of LSD are completely nullified, it’s like an instant cure.

Needless to say none of us passed Chemistry.

(but since then I’ve been dying to try LSD!)

bookmark_borderI’ve had nights like this (and mornings afterwards)

Never again.... honest!

Am reading Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Under’ and this passage is somewhat familiar (from what I can remember), very funny book, recommended to everyone.

Well, I can’t pretend I remember a great deal of what followed. We drank huge amounts of beer – huge amounts. We ate steaks the size of catcher’s mitts (they may actually have been catcher’s mitts) and washed them down with more beer. We made many friends. We circulated as if at a cocktail party. I talked to ranchers and sheep shearers, to nannies and cooks. I met fellow travellers from around the world, and talked for some time to the proprietor, one Bruce Caterer, who told me the complicated story of how he had come to own a pub in this lonely and far-flung spot, of which confidence I have not the tiniest recollection and certainly nothing approximating a note.
As the evening wore on, the bar grew almost impossibly crowded and lively. Where all the people were coming from I couldn’t guess. What was certain was that there were at least 50 cheerfully committed drinkers tucked away in the bush in the vicinity of Daly Waters and at least as many visitors like us.
I got comprehensively beaten at pool by at least 14 people. I bought rounds for strangers. I called my wife and professed my lasting devotion. I giggled at any story told me and radiated uncritical affection in all directions. I would have gone anywhere with anyone. I awoke the next morning, fully clothed and on top of the bedding, with no clear memory past the catcher’s mitt portion of the evening and a head that felt like a train crash.
I pressed my watch to an eyeball and groaned at the discovery that it was nearly 10 o’clock. We were hours late if we were ever going to get to Alice Springs. I stumbled down to the bathroom and put myself through some cursory ablutions, then found my way blearily into the pub. Allan sat propped against a wall with his eyes closed, a cup of black coffee steaming untouched before him.
There was no-one else around.
“Where coffee where?” I croaked in a tiny voice.
He indicated vaguely with a weak hand. In a side room I found an urn of hot water and containers of instant coffee, tea bags, powdered milk and sugar. I loaded a cup half full with instant coffee powder and drib-bled in some water. Weakly, in the manner of an invalid, I lifted the cup and introduced a little coffee to my lips. After a couple more sips, I began to feel a little better. Allan, on the other hand, looked terminally wretched.
“Why are you sitting with your eyes closed?”
“Because if l open them I’m afraid I’ll bleed to death.”
“Did I disgrace myself?” I peered around the room to see if my boxer shorts were draped from any rafters.
“Not that I recall. You were shit at pool.”
I nodded without surprise. I often use alcohol as an artificial check on my pool-playing skills. It’s a way for me to help strangers gain confidence in their abilities and get in touch with my inner wallet.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“You’re doing a house swap next summer with a family from Korea.”
I pursed my lips thoughtfully. “North or South?” I asked.
“Not sure.”
“You’re making this up, aren’t you?”
He reached over and plucked from my shirt pocket a business card, which he presented to me. It said: “Park Ho Lee, Meat Wholesaler” or something and gave an address in Pusan. Underneath it, in my own handwriting, it said: “June 10-August 27. No worries.”
I placed the card, folded once, in the ashtray.
“I think I’d like to get out of here now,” I said.

Bill Bryson ‘Down Under’

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Down-Under-Bill-Bryson/dp/055299703X

  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Edition edition (6 Aug 2001)
  • ISBN-10: 055299703X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552997034

bookmark_borderDoris and Bob

You're getting some tonight - and some cake as well.

Most folk tend to write nice things about their parents after their death,  I thought I’d write about my mother, Doris whilst she is still alive. Occasionally I get asked questions like why I like to break rules all the time and why do I call my mother Doris and not mum. There is a reason for both and both are connected.

Doris, my biological mother fell pregnant with my twin sis and I out of wedlock in ‘60/61 and naturally being a very conservative Christian community it was a scandal to be pregnant and unmarried but rather than marry our biological father Sam McKeown, Doris chose not to marry but spent her entire term sixty miles from home, had us in Belfast and gave us up for long term fostering. She went back to Kilkeel after the birth and nothing was said about ‘her time away’, but everyone knew..

To cut a long story short, sis and I went looking for her when we turned 18/19 and then we went looking for our biological father as well and this is why I don’t call her mother, because she didn’t actually raise us. However, it’s been 30 odd years since we both found her and she’s getting on now (so am I!) so this is the Doris I know.

Without doubt she can be annoying, she will sit on the phone for an hour and I have no idea what she is saying because I have drifted off, it’s usually some story about getting some gravel spread over the track to her house, her house is on a dirt track in the middle of nowhere. However despite the fact that she can talk the hind leg off a donkey, she does have some endearing qualities as well, qualities I hope I have inherited, for example, she refused to marry Sam, our natural father and you may not understand just how incredibly brave this was of her, in 1960’s Ireland it was like the biggest sin to have a child out of wedlock, she would have come under enormous pressure from her family and the tightknit community as well to marry Sam but she refused and the principal reason was because she didn’t love him, actually it turns out he was quite a shit and she was wise not to but to be with child and not married in 1960’s Ireland was a huge sin and I’m sure even the local minister would have been putting pressure to marry Sam. However she refused and wanted to hold out for true love and incredibly bravely had both my twin sis and I out of wedlock and then bravely gave us up for long term fostering.

So why not adoption rather than fostering you ask, well, principally because she had faith that one day she would meet a man that she would be proud to call her husband and then she would come get us and re-unite the family. And so she and Sam went their separate ways and over the years there were various suitors but no-one lite her fire, no-one made her feel like this was the one and time passed, she settled into community life and the church became her life. Then three years ago she attended church at the glorious old age of 81 and there were some strange men there, they were part of a group called The Mourne Men (the Mourne’s being the range of mountains in Ireland) and they were all retired but spent their time going around local churches helping out the members with jobs that they couldn’t manage themselves like cutting hedges, putting up shelves, fixing roofs, painting and decorating and generally improving the lives of the parishioners.  So Doris was at church that day and she looked across the group of men standing at the front of the church offering their services for free and her eyes met Bob and it was thunderbolt city. She knew right away that this was the man for her and within six months they were married.

Since then they have been to London twice and been to Scotland and last year they made the trip to Australia for a wedding and explore, it was massively hot there and folk were falling over and dying but not Doris (83) and Bob (79), they are made of sterner stuff and then they came back home to one of Irelands worse snow storms with the country closed down. They were nonplussed.  They have a combined age of 162 and they didn’t care or fret, they just got on with things and I asked her about that, she said it didn’t matter as she had Bob and that’s all she needed, come rain or sunshine she didn’t care, she had Bob and that’s all that mattered.

So, what lesson and qualities have I inherited from Doris, well, the courage to give two fingers to any rules and the balls to go plough my own furrow, the courage to tackle anything and the wiliness not to settle for second best and stuff what the rest of the world thinks, and the wonderful habit of pitching up at Heathrow airport and going off on adventures when everyone else thinks you should be settling down to a quiet life. And probably the most important lesson I have learnt from Doris, is that no matter how long you wait, you will eventually find true love and be happy. Thank you Doris. Now if I could just get you to stop talking about the friggin gravel on your road..

P.S.  her last suitor had a big argument with her when she wouldn’t date him and stormed off shouting “you’ll never find someone as good as me”. She rang him up after getting married to Bob and told him he was wrong and cackled down the phone at him.  And you lot wonder why I am mischievous..

bookmark_borderWhat makes you smile? (Part deux)

Bummer of a shot, the bare-faced cheek of it!

Hopefully you will already have read ‘what makes you smile’ posted the other day but it just occurred to me, that’s what makes woman smile, at least from my own experience but what happens if I switch things around, I wonder what makes men smile? If I see a woman carrying some flowers I don’t give that little involuntary smile and woman with small dogs don’t work in same way for me, when I see a woman with a white Scottie I don’t think awwwwhh and even if I see a woman with a huge man-eater brute of a dog I still don’t give that little involuntary smile, so what does, when do I un-expectantly smile?

I’ve given this some thought and there are the obvious things that makes both sexes’ smile, for example seeing your loved ones, partner/children after a long break away from each other but these are personal things, what makes men smile when we see a stranger? There are certain things that ‘should’ make a man smile, the equivalent of seeing a man carry flowers, seeing a woman carrying a six pack of beer back to the car to take home for her man, one would think that would be an obvious choice but it does nothing for me, so what does?

Well, I know I am going to get kicked for how sexist (and bad manners) this is but if I’m walking down a windy street and I see some woman struggling desperately to hold down her skirt/dress to stop it blowing over her head, that will always make me smile and I dare say just about every red blooded male in the vicinity, I know it’s not gentlemanly but it’s a reflex I can’t help and it’s not the sort of thing you will ever see happening to a man, unless of course you are Scottish and in the habit of wearing a kilt and then well, traditionally, you are going to get a good view of what Scot’s men keep under their sporran..

You might like this cheeky link..

American lady: Is anything worn under the kilt?
Scotsman: No, madam. I can assure you it’s all in perfect condition.

Traditionally Scots do not wear anything under their kilts, but the shirts (known as a blouse) have a long tail that may be tied between the legs. There are many ‘standard’ answers a kilt wearer could give you when you ask them including ‘The Glory of God’ or in the case of a female questioner, ‘Would you care to look for yourself?’

So what else, OK, in counter-balance to the last paragraph, we smile at any opportunity to be a hero, for example seeing a woman stuck by the roadside with car trouble, that makes me smile, I stress not because I will drive past but because it gives me a chance to go help and be manly, that’s something that Irish men can’t resist, we have this inner compulsion to help damsels in distress and not just young good looking  woman, even grannies get the helping hand – although being someone we can flirt with is just the icing on the cake, we can’t help it and blah blah blah equality and woman’s rights etc but I have done this in the past, even though it was pissing out’a the heavens, we just can’t help it, any chance at all to be all manly and a knight in shining armour, I have changed flat tires in the rain, I have jump started cars for complete strangers and I have gone to petrol stations with strange woman to buy/fill petrol cans to get her car going again.. Sadly the opportunity to do this is greatly reduced now mobile phones are common and every woman can simply call the AA but then again, I wonder, do the very nice men of the AA spend most of the day smiling because they get to rescue lots of woman in trouble, from a man’s perspective, is it the best job in the world?

And other little things that make me smile, holding a door open for a woman, we just automatically smile at each other, it’s manners and helping some lady carry her shopping, just another opportunity to show there are some gentlemen left in 2011..

However, the big thing that makes me smile at strange woman, is at the airport arrivals area, standing there and watching girlfriends come back and hug their boyfriends and watching parents coming back and hugging their children and vise verse, that never fails to make me smile and brighten my day, it’s damn good therapy too, much better than Prozac..

Another thing that will always make me smile is walking around Wimbledon Common or any park and seeing a father taking his young daughter for a walk, I see it all the time, the father and the little kid either being carried or slowly walking along and chatting, hand in hand, it’s just very cute and I can’t help smile, it’s still cute seeing a father with a young son but ten times more cute seeing a father with his young daughter, don’t ask me why, maybe it’s because I’m a man with two sons and no daughter, from experience it seems to me that daughters seem to engage and chat with their dads more than sons of the same age, I’m not sure but I always smile when I see it..

So what else makes men involuntary smile, well there are two things that are guaranteed to make any red blooded man smile, if I’m walking down the street and I see a woman carrying a shopping bag from Victoria Secrets, that will always make me smile, it’s the equivalent of men carrying flowers, impossible not to smile at and grin… (and be jealous!)

And one last thing (and not strictly from someone you don’t know) BUT.. being at work and getting a dirty text message from your partner, letting you know what she plans on doing to you later that night, that will make every single man on this planet smile involuntary (just don’t be surprised if he comes home a little [or a lot] early!)

What makes you smile? (Part deux)   Hopefully this blog entry 🙂

bookmark_borderWhat makes you smile?

I was a beautiful baby, wasn't I? Time and mother nature have not been kind to me since..

OK, have noticed a certain trend in woman, let’s see if any of this sounds familiar.

If I’m walking down the street carrying a bunch of flowers, nearly every woman smiles upon seeing them, you can almost see them thinking “some woman’s a lucky bugger”  or more likely “some poor sods in big trouble and has had to buy flowers!” – not like I get a lot of opportunities to buy flowers these days!

But also men carrying babies have the same effect on woman, when I carried my two wee’uns around in their sling I always got that same smile from other woman…unless of course (as my friend says), they are ugly and have a snotty nose!

For one weekend a few years ago I had to look after a white Scottie dog and every single woman smiled at me (or him!)  and he worked like a babe magnet and I absolutely loved it, I’ve never been surrounded by so many good looking woman before in my life, (and probably never will again!), when his real owner came to get him back I begged him to let me keep him, or let me doggy-sit him every weekend, I wanted to keep him forever!

However, this morning it was a friends birthday at work so I was carrying three birthday cakes from Marks & Spencer through the corridors of power and funny enough, I noticed the exact same smiles.. I wonder was it the same thought, “some lucky bugger is getting cake”  or “oh ohh ..someones in trouble..” or perhaps it was  “If I trip him up I can grab one and run out of the building…”

What makes YOU smile?

bookmark_borderJudgement Day, All Stock Half Price.

Trust me, God's not the only one

Apparently the world is going to end tomorrow – or at least Judgement Day will kick off tomorrow morning at 7am.

and straight from the horse’s mouth;

http://www.familyradio.com/

Is going to be a bad hair day

This is a bit of a bummer for various reason, number one being of course do I do a big shop tomorrow morning or just get enough for breakfast? Number two being bloody James Cameron already has the movie rights and made the movie  but the really annoying thing about Judgement Day – the event, not the movie – is that it curtails my hobby of telling celebs what complete pricks they are.

Now that I’ve messed about with nearly all the Royal Family I was looking for a new hobby (some may say ‘victims’) and was hoping to tell Paul David Hewson (Bono) that we are fed up with his sanctimonious preaching as he jets  around the world meeting famous folk like cough cough George W. Bush.  And then there’s Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner (Sting), for pete’s sake, give us a break about the rain forest and whilst we’re at it please stop banging on about tantric sex, we don’t want any more of that rammed down our throats, what goes on in the bedroom stays in the bedroom, stop boasting!

And then there’s the cults of Simon Cowell  and Steve Jobs,  at least I think cult is the word everyone used to describe them, the cult of tucking your black jumper into your trousers, not a good look and never was, did your mums never tell you not to tuck your shirt into your underpants either..

And then the ladies, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice whom I think last smiled in 1981, pooh faced skinny runts that all need a damn good feed, runts I said..  Sarah Palin, Piers Morgan, Gordon Ramsay..do any of them really add anything positive to the world and BTW ‘Lady’ Gaga,  you need to marry a Lord to become a Lady and it also depends on the wording of the Letters Patent issued by the monarch to see if you really are a Lady.

Sorry, I must digress,  here’s the thing, If all Christians are teleported to heaven tomorrow then it’s really going to bugger up the already depressed housing market, for of course there are going to be a lot of empty houses flooding onto the market but more importantly there are going to be quite a few cathedrals surplus to requirements… I thought that Westminster cathedral looked alright a few weeks ago, I’d like first dibs on that please, put a plasma screen in one corner, a bar in the other and still have lots of room for a pool table, heaven!

=============================================================

Damn, it’s 8am on Saturday morning and no sign of any rapture, bugger, does this mean I won’t be moving into Westminster Cathedral?

Brilliant quote regarding the non rapture online “But Kieran Healy had a slightly more comforting message for those disappointed at not joining Jesus: “I guess on Sunday when the #Rapture people feel really upset, we can’t console them by saying ‘Cheer up, it’s not the end of the world.’”

bookmark_borderA Song for Europe? I don’t think so sweetie..

The good old days

It’s Eurovision (Song For Europe) right now as I write this, and it’s hard to explain this tradition to non-Europeans but what started out as a high minded song contest between European countries is now just an object lesson in ritual humiliation not just for all the contestants but for the UK as well.

Quote from Wikipedia “Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. Each country participates via one of their national EBU-member television stations, whose task it is to select a singer and a song to represent their country in the international competition. The Contest has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most-watched non-sporting events in the world with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally.”

That’s the official line but it’s really just an excuse to play politics and backstab your neighbouring countries and score points with others – literally. I think during the 60’s and 70’s it probably did keep to it’s high minded ideals of trying to give everyone a sense of being part of Europe and during those days the UK did occasionally win but these days are long behind us now and now it’s a competition to see who can wear the most kitsch outfit and perform the worse song and make 600 million Europeans collectively groan in agony.. well, if you are going to completely die on stage you may as well do it in front of 600 million..

Jedward, proof that fashions have not moved forward in 30 years

For some reason which I am at a loss to explain, Europe now seems to include countries that couldn’t possibly be counted as being in Europe, this includes Israel which is about as European as beef jerky and lamb samosa and the many Arab (!) broadcasters screening the 1978 contest had stuck in an ad break while Israel’s entry was performed; when it became clear that Alphabeta were set to win, they simply pulled the plug. Jordan prematurely ended its transmission with a lingering still shot of a vase of daffodils.

However, as is traditional in this country, the boys and I will sit through all three or four hours tonight like everyone else in this country and squirm at the songs and shout outrage as everyone gives the UK  ‘nul point’s (pronounced as if French, as [nyl pwɛ̃]) and smile as Ireland beats UK yet again and all across the country there will be Eurovision parties, normal sensible folk will dress up in trashy glittery outfits and get drunk and shout at the tv and argue about which song was the worse.. Did I mention UK came 25th out of 25 last year, I think if the other countries could have awarded UK 26th place out of 25 then they would have. However, the UK will take  some consolation in the fact that despite it being a contest between 25 countries with different languages, English is the main language used throughout the contest including the songs. So not only is America trying it’s best to set English as the universal language but so too is Eurovision, mustn’t gloat (but will!)

Some of the best moments from Eurovision are here but I guarantee you will watch this one clip below at least twice!

Ireland’s  entry was excruciating bad (Jedward pictured above somewhere) but then that’s the plan because Ireland is broke and can’t afford to host the contest next year.. or for the next ten years..

Blue, the UK entry has just been on, terrible terrible song, so bound to win! If not then we send in Susan Boyle next year, you have been warned.

OMG the The Moldovan entry (below) is like a live action Far Side cartoon of the Eurovision, it’s like Leprechauns on acid…unbelievable.. my ears are bleeding and so are my eyes..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OF21pTGtKTw

The general opinion of the boys is that Azerbaijan (below) ought to win but WTF do we know..

I can’t wait to buy the CD 🙂

Excellent, Azerbaijan won! There is a god after all :)))

bookmark_borderOne of millions?

You're definitely getting some tonight.

The little girl on the left, do you think she might be a little bored, you know how it is, 100’s of millions watching ya and you’re a bit fed up.. or maybe she wants to be the fairy princess and has been waiting patiently for her promised turn all day..

OK OK, it would seem I’m either a closet romantic or closet royalist, you decide but it seemed a bit of a shame not to go to the wedding when so many of my friends across the sea would have loved to go to it, so I took off my bah humbug face and went along..

bookmark_borderWill-i-am and Kate MiddleClass

Anyone want to take three guesses as to which photo will dominate all English language newspapers tomorrow – of course you won’t need three guesses.

Oh, surprise surprise, I would never have guessed!

Am bit surprised that I didn’t received my invite, after all I’ve met nearly all the Royals (Charlie boy twice) and I thought I was almost family – albeit an embarrassing distance Irish throwback that no-one wants to talk about, not only that but as a tax payer I think I have paid a fair share of the wedding costs and can’t understand why I didn’t get my invite, and talking about taxes, Kate Middleton is actually unemployed and therefore should be the last person attending this wedding, at least not until she gets a proper job.

Secretly I wonder how William feels about having to take Kate down to the Dole every Tuesday morning and get her to sign on so she gets her Job Seekers Allowance, between thou and I it’s a bit embarrassing really and how she is going to afford to pay the rent for Clarence House on £60.50 per week, perhaps we should pass the hat around for her, like that’s not even enough to buy a decent pair of shoes, is it and I wonder what he will do, drive around the corner so no-one spots him and then get Kate to walk around to the Dole Office herself?

So, considering she is unemployed, (grinning vacantly at flag waving crowds is not actually a proper job), I’d like to make a few suggestions if she wants to earn a buck or two, namely she could star in a few television programs, for example just looking at this weeks TV listing we could adjust the format slightly and sell it abroad for zillions;

Who Do You Think You Are Royal Special,

(Special Guest Star: James Hewitt! )

So You Think You Can Dance (Like a Royal)?

65 million of us have watched the JK wedding dance videos, I think Will-i-am and Kate should take to the floor to perform the climactic scene from Dirty Dancing in front of a panel of judges including Simon Cowell and Arlene Phillips. The public decides which is best and they have to dance like this at the reception, beamed to an audience of bajillions.

And other suggestions;

Pimp My Royal Wedding Coach

Royal Snog, Marry, Avoid.

Royal Name That Foreign Dignitary.

The Real Housewives of Buckingham Palace.

London, of course, is stuffed to the gills with British royalists but they are far outnumbered by a golden shower of dignitaries and American news crews broadcasting their entire programs from Westminster, it’s actually getting to be a bit embarrassing as they are having problems finding someone with an English accent..or even an Irish one 😉

bookmark_borderGoogle results for “killed whilst…”

Killed whilst dressed as a zebra, 9,990,000 Google hits


Google Results.

Killed whilst blogging, 8,770,000 hits  (update now 14,800,000 and by some strange co-incidence this page is top hit!)

Killed whilst ironing, 7,530,000 hits

Killed whilst skateboarding, 5,380,000 hits

Killed whilst knitting, 4,100,000 hits

Killed whilst swimming, 3,444,000 hits

Killed whilst ice skating, 2,040,000 hits

Killed whilst horse riding, 2,000,000 hits

Killed whilst surfing, 1,600,000 hits

Killed whilst figure skating, 1,290,000 hits

Killed whilst rollerblading, 1,200,000 hits

Killed whilst skydiving, 846,000 hits

Killed whilst hang gliding, 333,000 hits

Who knew blogging could be so dangerous; perhaps I should wear a safety helmet and take up a less dangerous hobby instead, like hang gliding.

P.S. Killed whilst having sex, 78,900,000 hits, killed whilst masturbating, 16,100,000 hits, it’s enough to put me off my stroke.

bookmark_borderYou don’t have it ALL your own way..

Over here in the UK we have this perception that everything here is much more expensive than in the US and we get paid about half of what everyone gets paid over there too, this has been confirmed by friends of mine and it’s hard not to think we are being shafted by big business, even the Apple iPad2, top of the range; $699 and you can be sure we will get charged £699 for the same item even though there is $1.50c to each pound, so instead of paying £442 we get to pay for even more of Steve Jobs cancer treatment thank you very much. (UK prices have just been released, instead of paying £442 we get to pay £659.00… explain that to me Steve Jobs..)

When I was working as a Nurse on ICU I was always reading about nurses in NYC getting paid exactly twice of what I was getting paid and the temptation was to ditch the NHS and go get a living wage instead of the peanuts I was getting doing nightshifts, weekends and even working Xmas day in London.

However, it’s not all a one-way street. Thanks to the law of supply and demand it seems not everything here is 50% more expensive than in the States and I was talking to a friend across the pond recently and some of these figures may make you envious.

I pay £10 a month for unlimited txt/data and 1,000 minutes across all networks. When I talk to a friend mobile to mobile it uses up my minutes, not theirs as well…there is zero cost for receiving in this country. I have a rolling one month contract and can cancel virtually anytime.Occasionally I cancel it so the Retention Dept will call me back and offer me an even better deal. Verizon and AT&T, you’re having a laff, aren’t you? We have the Competition Commission with the power to cap prices and stop price fixing between companies.. Why on earth are American cell systems so horrendously expensive and lock you in for years and give you so much grief and where are all the massive profits going, T Mobile here isn’t any more super efficient than it’s US cousin and yet makes a tidy profit here too.  Go figure.

I pay £15 a month for unlimited Internet.

Our version of Cable – no ad’s, £12 a month.

My car insurance for a Jeep Grand Cherokee is £400 a year, that’s a year, not a month. Fully comprehensive.

Breakdown cover to the AA, £15 a month.

Life insurance pays out some stupid sum if I get hit by a falling piano, £39 per month.

My home contents insurance ‘New for Old’ is £23 a month.

My Council Tax (bin men, street cleaning, policing ) £50 month.

Gas and electricity, paid monthly, £25 per month.

We don’t have City tax, local tax, we don’t automatically add ?15% to every price, the price you see is the price you pay. Simpler.

We don’t have medical Insurance, we have the NHS, no-one has ever been asked for insurance details as they exsanguinate on the A&E (ER) floor.

One CAN buy private medical insurance but it’s not common and if you were going to have a major op you’d want to have it done by experienced teams in a huge teaching hospital, not in some small private hospital by someone who views you as paying for his next holiday in the Bahamas.

Pet Insurance, a friend pays £8 a month for her cat and has never paid a penny to her vet despite being there every other week it seems.

Here in South London I can feed four adults a huge effing Indian slap up meal for less than 50 quid – and get Red Eye next morning into the bargain for free.

And generally our policemen don’t carry guns.

However, all that good grace and favour is throw away because petrol over here costs £1.26p a litre – which for the mathematically challenged (and allowing for US gallons rather than UK gallons and exchange rate) is equal to $7.21c a gallon. I’m NOT entire sure but if Americans had to pay over seven bucks for a gallon of gasoline then the government would be out on it’s arse before the end of the day. However BP needs to make it’s BILLIONS of pounds profit somehow…eh?

bookmark_borderBreaking News..

Even Obama is doing his bit to help economic recovery..

Today’s breaking news in the papers is that President Obama has given up fags. Yes, fags in the UK means cigarettes so picking up a fag here or lighting up a fag are quite a normal expression – unlike in the States where I believe it means something altogether less savoury, apparently bumming a fag will get one arrested in the States (just ask George Michael) but it’s an expression used daily in dark secluded corners and doorways all over this country and not just in the bars.

So let me see…

The economy isn’t so hot
Lost control of the House to the rabid right.
Forced to continue Bush tax cuts for the rich
Guantanamo still open
Afghan war no nearer to resolution
50,000 troops still in Iraq despite ‘departure’
Unemployment still dangerously high
Totally lost over what to do about Egypt

As Lloyd Bridges would have said: Looks like he picked the wrong year to give up smoking 😉

I wonder, when times are hard (when are times not hard!), does he have a nosey through the drawers of his desk in the oval office looking for one of Clintons old cast off cigars, I’m sure they are quite flavoursome by now..

When I was working as a nurse on Intensive Care we had a room that the smoking staff could go to have a puff – and yes, I geddit, smoking staff over here means staff who smoke, not staff who  are hot – but invariably I would go and sit in the smokers lounge rather than the non smoker lounge simply because smokers tend to be more sociable and chatty. I think there is a comradeship between smokers, it’s like they are hard done by, everyone targets them; the tax man, the medical profession, the media, so they all huddle together outside work entrances trying to maintain a united front.  They are brothers (and sisters!) in arms, I’m not sure why that is, perhaps smokers have to keep friendly and chummy with each other so they can cadge a fag off each other when times are hard, but during the nightshift the non smoking staff would sleep and being the sociable bugger that I am, I’d go chat to the smokers, no-one had fully researched the effects of passive smoking at that point but I’ve never actually smoked proper although you would be surprised at the number of nurses (and doctors) who do. It was always a bit disingenuous to hear a member of staff lecture a patient about the dangers of smoking when they obviously stank of cigarettes themselves.

In the UK the law was changed a few years ago to ban smoking inside bars and clubs, so now I’m much more aware of smokers, the other evening I was walking down the high street and all the smokers were out in the street puffing away on their fags and I was walking through clouds of smoke rather than all the smokers keeping their fumes inside the bars.

So Obama has the odd puff, in a way I quite like this idea of him standing outside the Whitehouse gates with his security men under an umbrella and them arguing who’s turn it was and did anyone bring a lighter, Martin Sheen, sorry,  I mean President Bartlet, easily America’s greatest President,  did almost the same thing in The West Wing and it tends to make him more human, even if it is a terrible habit. And GWB gave up booze and cocaine so kudos to him too but I don’t know about you lot but I think we should start a campaign to get Obama smoking again, after all, who can resist a smoking hot President? I know Monica Lewinsky can’t!

bookmark_borderDogs, The Universe and playing my part

OK this is to try to counter and redress all the flank I’m going to get from dog lovers because of the previous post, it’s a long dogs tail (sic) but it was the Universe playing with me.. if you can’t be arsed to read it all then just read the last paragraph.

Years ago when I was seeing Debs and living in London we bought a dog. Ever since I had first know Debs she was obsessed with dogs, her family in Ireland had a small dog and it was ‘hers’ and when she came to London she missed it very much. She use to stop people in streets and pet their dogs and she would always look at me with that sort of look people look at babies with, that wide eyed ahhhhhhhh.

She was living in Nurses accommodation and sharing with three other nurses and pets naturally weren’t an option but she would see people walking their dogs across the playing fields and call me to see special ones and go all dreamy….so Debs liked dogs…the first year in London her best trip was to Earls Court to see the Crufts Dog Show, she went around stroking all the dogs and then owners got annoyed because then they had to re-comb them for showing later. In particular she liked Sheltie dogs, sort of small Lassie dogs and use to dream of them, yeah substitute children..

So one day when she needed some serious cheering up, some serious distraction I suggested she get a dog at last. We were sharing in Mitcham in a ground floor flat and she really needed something to distract her, so we talked about it and how to manage it and all the ramifications and possible problems but from the moment I suggested it I knew she would have one no matter what the issues..

So we looked in the local papers and looked in Loot ( like Craigs list) and eventually found a Sheltie in East London. I had no idea about that side of the city so we called them on the phone, it was still available and they were very willing to get rid of it for nothing – good home sort of thing so we jumped on about three trains and eventually arrived at this train station in the middle of some very very run down sprawling council estate, I was pretty concerned about our safety but Debs was determined to get that dog ..

So we walked miles and eventually found this block of flats where the family lived, the flat was on the sixth floor and the lifts didn’t work or and there was the smell of pee everywhere, not a good sign but I found the door, rang the doorbell and this…..well, this ‘thing’ opened the door, I think it was a woman, she was huge, dishevelled and smoking and as she was opening the door she was shouting and swearing at some teenage kids running around….

I told her we had come for the dog and she told me to come in and get it, it was tied up on the outside balcony and I was welcome to it, she wanted to get rid of it as they had a new huge monster dog and didn’t want the small dog any longer, it was about one year old and looked scared shitless..it was very thin and unkempt and cowered away from me when I approached it. The house was a disaster zone, the doors were chewed, the carpet stank and had never been hovered and there was clutter and junk and rubbish everywhere.

I gave the woman twenty quid for it and got out as fast as I could, Debs was waiting outside and it was like love at first sight, her eyes just opened up and she was beaming. We got out of there ASAP and back to the train station and home with a great sense of relief.. There was a real sense of “rescuing” that dog from there…

Debs was SO excited and happy, she washed him and fed him and combed and brushed him and it was like every Christmas in her life rolled into one for her

She was working the next couple of days and so was I so in the morning it was walkies at 6am, please do a pee and then he had to stay in the flat, we locked the bedroom door and the living room door and left the kitchen and bathroom and hall open for him to mess around in, he had loads of toys and food and water and a huge doggie basket for him to sleep in……

We went to work and hoped he would be ok but when we come home we were in for a shock……he had went crazy and chewed his way through the doors, there was some sort of honeycomb cardboard holding the door together and he had sat there on his hind legs and scraped and dug at the doors until he had destroyed them, then he went into the living room and peed everywhere and chewed just about everything..disaster zone..and Debs looked so..like so concerned that I was going to get angry with her, of course I didn’t but I thought, shit, we need a flat with a closed off garden…

So Debs took the next few days ‘off sick’ and looked after Honey fulltime, of course she was in her element and just so happy, I had never seen her so happy but then she had to go back to work and I was at work and the same thing happened, we went to work and came back and the place was destroyed, most of the furniture was chewed to bits and the carpet had holes dug in it and there was shit everywhere.

We were in a quandary, Debs loved him but the dog was completely untrained and needed a house with a garden, she was so happy and yet so sad and I started looking for a garden flat.

We had Honey for almost a week when one day I was at home doing things and Debs had taken Honey for a walk. She took an awful long time I thought but eventually she came home but with no dog and crying floods. I thought OMG, fearing the worse I asked what happened, has she run away, has someone stolen her, have you just lost her?? What???

She looked at me very guiltily…

She said she had given Honey away to a stranger…

I said WHAT!! And then she explained..

Whilst she was standing outside Sainsburys about to get some shopping she realised that she didn’t want to tie Honeys lead to the rails incase someone stole him, and as she was wondering what to do a woman of about 40 came along and stopped and petted Honey.

She started chatting to Debs, she lived nearby and had two Sheltie dogs herself, she adored them and her kids loved them as well and she started telling Debs all about them and was obviously an expert on the breed.

She had a large house with a huge garden (you can see where this is leading…) and at the end of the garden it lead onto a park and then common ground and then she said to Debs that one of her dogs had died two weeks ago and the family really missed him and her one son in particular was really distraught about him

So Debs said that she would love to have a setup like that but we only have a small flat and she felt terrible trying to keep Honey inside all day by himself, didn’t mention the fact that he had trashed the flat…probably not wise so the woman invited Debs down to see her house and her other dogs and Debs was thrilled, yes of course she’d love to and off they trotted to the woman’s house, it was only about 20 minutes walk away.

And they got there and Debs saw the huge house, the huge garden and the other Shelties and the kids playing with the dogs and she looked at the woman and thought about it and then just asked her outright would she like to have Honey and of course her kids were all over honey and having great fun and the woman said that she would love to but was Debs sure?

Debs heart was breaking but she knew deep deep down that it was for the best so she put on a brave face and said yes, she was sure, so they let the kids carry on playing with Honey and she went back into the house. The woman was thrilled to have Honey and so were her kids and she told Debs that she could come and visit anytime she liked and take Honey for walks and play with her and Debs left and came home crying floods of tears..

I gave her a big hug but for about two weeks afterwards she was sooo sad, she at long last had a Sheltie and after six days she had given it away..

The thing is, the way I looked at it was that Honey was living in absolute squalor and totally unloved and unwanted by that family that we bought her from, we had honey for about a week to clean him and feed him up and then handed him over to a really nice family with big house, large garden, great kids and two other Shelties for company, he went from one extreme to the opposite in the space of a week and basically The Universe had said, “Look at this poor creature, how on earth can I get it from here..to here” and obviously The Universe used Debs and I can the means to effect that end, we were the conduit for it’s plans, the crappy family were happy to get rid of Honey, Debs was thrilled to have a Sheltie even if it was only for a week, the new family where absolutely thrilled to have a replacement for their own Sheltie and of course Honey was exactly where she was meant to be, in a kind, happy loving home..isn’t The Universe very clever…

bookmark_borderPaddy’s Day

Don't even say it..

Well now, it seems I really shouldn’t try blogging at five in the morning because at five in the morning my brain is able to remember which countries Saint George is the patron saint of; (Portugal, Greece, Georgia [which probably had first dibs on him], Lithuania, Ethiopia, Palestine and Catalonia) but I’m completely incapable of remembering which month Paddy’s day is on…doh!. It’s March the 17th and not February the 17th but at 5am my brain likes to skip the bleeding obvious. I find it really interesting how my brain works, well, when I say ‘works’ I tend to think of it like a little butterfly landing on one subject for a few seconds before flying off onto a completely different subject..

I can hear Snowbunnies laugh still ringing in my ears. I have a friend who blogs at 5am and manages to get everything right and whilst I can come up with nice things to blog about I tend to miss the bleeding obvious, seems I’m distracted too easily by anything br..

(ahem) anything bright and shiny. So I’m going to have to make yet another rule, I have a rule that I really shouldn’t blog when inebriated (but I do anyway) and it seems I’m going to have to resist the temptation to blog at 5am in the morning as well, at least not before I have had some coffee..

and it’s post coffee time so think it’s reasonably safe to post this. I think.

bookmark_borderA Jigsaw Puzzle

Not a good fit.

Occasionally folk ask me why I split up from my wife and I give the honest answer about arguing and fighting and not getting along but you know, there’s a bigger picture here that I didn’t realise at the time but I now have some insight into.

Life really is like a giant jigsaw puzzle and we are all trying to find the place where we fit.

I saw a space all those years ago and thought I might fit in there, It was a bit uncomfortable, I had to hammer myself in and even then I had to take some scissors and cut a few bits off me but eventually I got into that little hole.

However, as time passed, I started to miss those bits I had cut off and amazingly they started to grow back, eventually that little hole could no longer contain me and I popped out. That’s why we split up, because I was in the wrong hole. So here I am today, like most folk, looking looking looking for the one place where I belong, somewhere where I am comfortable, my little place in this giant jigsaw of life..

I probably think too much, don’t I?

bookmark_borderSaintly Behaviour?

Perpetuating a stereotype? Moi??

Oh it’s Paddy’s day on the 17th of March, St Patrick being the patron saint of Ireland. When I was growing up, Paddy’s day was just a small parade and nothing was really made of it but in the last 20 years it seems to have exploded into a huge party, I’m not completely convinced it’s because the Irish have suddenly become more patriotic, my over ridding impression is that we have had visitors coming over from America to celebrate Paddy’s day and they have went “what, that’s it? a small parade?” where-as of course in the States it’s an effing huge celebration where everyone is Irish, so I think everyone has got a bit put out that it’s massive in the States and everyone makes much more of a song and dance about it these days (literally!).

The ironic thing is that it usually falls smack bang in the middle of Lent so we have 20 days of abstinence then a whole weekend of getting completely banjaxed followed by another 18 days in which we have time to nurse one massive hangover..  only the Irish would arrange their major celebration in the middle of Lent.

Now that I’m living in London I should really mention the patron saint of England, St. George, a roman officer who lived in Turkey and got beheaded for refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs. He’s ‘celebrated’ on the 23rd of April, well, when I say celebrated I think about one in ten English actually know when the day is. It’s weird how St. George is the patron saint of England, I think it was Edward the third who decided that and there’s absolutely no evidence that he ever set foot on this land.

It’s somewhat confusing that he’s also the patron saint of Portugal, Greece, Georgia (which probably had first dibs on him), Lithuania, Ethiopia, Palestine and Catalonia, I’m sure there is a link to Malta and Cyprus too,  so when it comes to the FIFA world cup he must really be torn as to whom to support – unlike me who always supports ANY team playing against the French!

In many pictures you see him slaying a dragon and that’s somewhat ironic as the dragon represents a thinly veiled reference to  Muslims and yet St. George is regarded very highly in the Muslim world as well, in the church where his remains are alleged to erm remain, there are just as many Muslims visitors as Christian visitors – go figure.

There are a lot of allusions regarding Saints that Joe Public doesn’t really pick up on, not just the dragon but St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland, post Ice Age there were definitely bugger all snakes in Ireland and again it’s an allusion to non christen beliefs, Ireland was basically the land of tree hugging druids at the time of St. Patrick, (think of a country full of Prince Charles) and he helped convert Ireland to Christianity. He was remarkably successful, 93% of the Irish put down Catholic as their religion, the other seven percent put down Jedi, which just goes to show we haven’t lost our sense of humour when it comes to religion. May the farce be with you.

bookmark_borderPseudo mid life crisis..

Should you REALLY be out driving?

It’s the first day of February (and my true love sent to me.)  sorry, it’s the first day of February and what happens this month? Well, my second born turns twelve and there’s something else..  what was it now… oh yes, I turn fifty, knew there was something else, damn, I’m getting so forgetful in my old age

When I was a child, in my head everyone lived to 100 and considering Doris, my mother is 85 and still going strong I think the 100 figure still holds true – and trust me, it will be a real show stopper if I kick the bucket at 65!

As a child I also had the impression that as the earth revolves around the sun, on the shortest and longest days  the earth momentary paused on  it’s journey before changing direction and heading back, (for the pedantic it’s not actually the 21st of December and June, the Earth’s perihelion occurs around January 3, and the aphelion around July 4).  And I think I should kind’a pause too at this midway point.

Everyone I know talks about having a mid life crisis at 40 but I seem to have missed my mid life crisis at 40, I think I’m having my mid life crisis at 50, my proper mid life, but it’s not really a crisis, more a time of reflection about who I was, who I have become and whom I will become.

I quite like who I have become and I think the older I get the more the wishy-washy parts of my personality will evaporate off me and I will be distilled down to a even stronger concentrated version of whom I am – Lord help you all!

I was reading some research a few months ago about mid life crisis, researchers asked people in their 80’s and 90’s about whether they had an actual mid life crisis and as they all looked back they saw that it was all bollocks, it seems we all have crisis’s all the way through our lives – from in our 20’s right up to our 80’s but when have them in our 40’s then everyone just calls it a mid-life crisis.

However, between you and me, I’m a bit concerned that people in their 90’s are still having crisis’s, one would think that by that age you would be an old hand at this game of life and nothing would throw you but perhaps it’s a different type of crisis, it’s all relative, isn’t it, perhaps it’s a “I can’t find my dentures” crisis.. 😉

bookmark_borderWhat’s in a (sur)name?

Paging Dr Dick, paging Dr. Dick..

I was thinking the other day about surnames. A friend of mine, who has no sons, bemoaned the fact ( a number of years ago) that his name ‘Messervy’ will be dying out with him – it’s an old French name and he can trace his family tree back to the time when the Normans invaded England around 1066. He has a huge dusty book with all the family tree in it and it seems ironic that someone who has got so much history down in black and parched brown is finally going to write the last chapter.

Surnames are a funny business, some folk are very proud of their family history and some not so proud but it does seem a bit sexist that it’s usually the woman who loses her maiden name and takes on the husbands (generally). This of course means she has to change her passport, bank details and a whole host of other official documents where-as the bloke doesn’t have to lift a finger and I’m not sure that’s completely fair – or a good way to start a marriage.

I know there are reasons for this from ages gone past and I know there are numerologists and suchlike that will tell you it’s got to do with balance but this is the 21st century and I’m not sure we should follow these conventions simply because that’s the way it’s always been done.

The way I see it is that when two people come together in partnership and marriage then they create a new entity, something unique and I reckon as a mark of that newness then the couple should be allowed to choose a new surname for themselves, perhaps something that they wish the marriage to grow into or perhaps one that reflects who they are now and not their history, I know certain names will always have connotations to them;   Rockafella, Kennedy, Bush but we don’t get to choose any of our names, our parents do, so perhaps choosing a new surname is making a statement that you have finally grown up and are ready to strike out with your own family.

This means of course that both partners have to make equal efforts to change all official documents and titles but that to me seems fairer. As for my friend, well, two of his grandchildren have got ‘Messervy’ as their third Christian names.. 🙂

bookmark_borderMore Crimes and Misdemeanours

Yeah...like don't drink all my beer and then fall unconscious when I'm around

More crimes I’m afraid.

When I was 25 I shaved off half my friend’s moustache. It was punishment as (a) he was unconscious after drinking all my booze on holiday plus (b) he had booked us a hotel room in Turkey right beside those huge effing speakers the faithful are called to prayer with at six o’clock in the morning.

When the call went out I was fast asleep and I swear, I near shit myself, I thought an ocean liner was about to come crashing through the wall! So as punishment I shaved off half of his moustache and then told him he did it himself in the morning when he surfaced.

A few days later when we eventually found another hotel that wasn’t right beside a mosque I had almost forgiven him right up to the moment when he mentioned that he had been using my razor to shave with – that’s verboten as far as I’m concerned so that day I suggested we go on a boat trip, I knew he had a jippy tummy but told him there would be a loo on the boat.

There wasn’t.

He spent the entire trip pacing up and down the boat anxiously ignoring my suggestion to stick his rear end over the side and do his business – lee side of course. By the time the boat arrived with us and about 20 others on it at the next island Tony was in agony, as we sailed closer to the shore there was a queue to dock on the rickety pier so Tony suddenly dived overboard and swam the last 20 yards and then dashed up the beach and the main street to the one hotel hanging desperately onto his swimming trunks… I think he made it but I (and everyone else) was too busy laughing our asses off to care.. we reckon he broke the Olympic Swimming record for both the swim and the 100m dash…

He refuses to answer my emails these days…  can’t figure out why not…….  😉

Yes, am going to Hell.. care to join me?

bookmark_borderWord of the day: Moist.

We really ought to get out more often...

Working with a load of Geeks can be a challenge at times, one, I should mention, I am always willing to sink down to..  We play games occasionally, one game involves inserting today’s ‘childish word of the day’ into a conversation with a Muggle (non-geek [non-magical] staff). But a few years ago the word was ‘moist’ and the first one to insert ‘moist’ into a conversation won.

So Alma Fluck (I kid you not, that really was her maiden name!) came into the office, she managed one of the research websites and she was asking about getting her name changed on the site from Fluck to Mast, her new married name.

I, of course couldn’t resist it so said to her in very loud voice, ‘no way Alma, we canny do that, we love having your name as Fluck, it gives us children great amusement’, she laughed and said no, it had to be changed to Mast.. where-as of course I said in loudest voice possible, ‘Well, I suppose I ‘could’ change it but not to Mast, how about I change it to ‘Moist!’, Alma Moist?, that’s near enough to Mast surely and has almost the same comedy value as Alma Fluck..’ and of course all the guys laughed and she laughed and I won the game for the day…

Still had to change her name though, she didn’t want to be known as Alma Moist..or Doctor Moist to give her proper title.. We also have a Doctor Dick working with us, seriously, she likes to be known by her first name.

Recently the word(s) were “Small ones are more juicy..” and I won that game too….don’t ask..

bookmark_borderWalking the tightrope

It’s Friday evening and one shouldn’t blog when inebriated but bugger it.

In the game of life, one of the things I really appreciate is – being a man, we seem to have got a better deal than woman, at least in a few respects;

I can count the amount of times I’ve had to queue for the loo on the fingers on Homer Simpson’s left hand.

Generally I’m pretty good at peeing standing up, except perhaps on Friday evenings.. I know that’s strictly not a man talent but I don’t have to hover my backside over the top of a public loo making sure I don’t touch it.

I actually like changing flat tyres, hard to explain why, something about getting in touch with your inner man.. or hero..

I don’t think twice about walking down a street alone and late at night

I get to be there at the kick off of pregnancy and if I’m lucky I only have to pitch up again at the final whistle.

Morning sickness. Say no more.

Stretch marks. ditto.

Minor (and major) disorders of pregnancy – all those weeks on the labour ward certainly made me glad to be a bloke.

The number of times I’ve had to buy tampons is in single digits – three – (nah, I’m not even going to try explaining that)

My urethra is ‘somewhat’ longer than any woman’s – at least I hope so ! Ergo my risk of UTI’s are next to zero.  Plus I never wet myself when I laugh. Or cough. I save a fortune on OceanSpray Cranberry juice.

I’ve never had to shave any lower than my neck – though I do know some perverts do.. and the term Brazilian Wax won’t bring tears to my eyes.. I save a fortune on hair removal treatments.

My grey hair actually looks good and I get better looking the older I get. This point ‘may’ be up for argument but it’s late at night and I’m tired.

Shoes. Cheaper. Less of. Say no more.

Haircuts. Ditto.

PMS.

Nobody stares at my chest when I talk to them. (I think!)

Glass ceilings. What are they?

It’s ‘my’ choice to grow a moustache.

It would never occur to me to ask anyone does my butt look big in this.

I have never – and never never never ever will – bought a single cushion in my life. (WHY, what is the point of them?)

But of course – and to quote Sarah Connor;

“How are you supposed to know? Fucking men like you built the hydrogen bomb. Men like you thought it up. You think you’re so creative. You don’t know what it’s like to really create something; to create a life; to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death… ”

So true.

(Oh and there was something about orgasms but I just can’t put my finger on it at the moment, it’s on the tip of my tongue..)

bookmark_borderAre you taking the piss?

Only another 40 miles to Windsor Castle..

I’m a bit like a doggie,  I mean in the sense that as far as I’m concerned whatever I pee on automatically becomes mine, I own it. I think that’s quite reasonable and I’m sure every single mutt in the world would agree with me. Therefore I now own;

  • Buckingham Palace
  • Clarence House
  • St. James Palace
  • Windsor Castle
  • Belfast Castle
  • Bangor Castle
  • Hever Castle
  • Blenheim Palace
  • Hampton Court
  • Warwick Castle
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Sterling Castle
  • Cardiff Castle

And I’m SURE there are a few more places in the UK that I have forgotten about.  You will of course notice two things about this list, namely that they all seem to be castles or palaces and that’s just my thang, I like to aim high (groan!) but also I seem to have a fantastically weak bladder.  I must be getting old, Billy Connelly once said that now he’s 60+, he plans trips in London and all cities for that matter via public loo’s… I’m much the same but I plan my trips via Castles… 🙂

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors (part four)

There's something fishy going on here...

OK, not sure really if I should confess to this but bugger it, no-one knows where I live, not even me sometimes.

When I was 24 and still living in Northern Ireland I used to go along to my mates Trevor’s house and give him a lift to his footie match on Saturday mornings and support his team.

However, one Saturday morning as I was waiting for him to get his football boots on in the kitchen I spotted that his goldfish, Robert, was lying upside down in his bowl. I said to Trevor and he sighed but went and got a net and fished Robert out. I asked him what he was going to do with Robert and he said he was just going to flush him down the toilet and I told him the decent thing to do would be to bury poor Robert at the bottom of the garden….poor poor Robert..

So Trevor sighs again and moans about being late for the match but  goes get a little trowel, digs a little hole in the garden, buries Robert and off we go to the footie match quite late. (I did ask him if he was going to say a few words but he gave me that ‘go fuck yourself’ look..)

You are probably thinking Robert is a funny name for a goldfish but think about it – if you are called Robert then everyone calls you Bob..  geddit?? Bob..Bob..Bob…

We get there and the teams are still kicking the balls around in pre-match warm-up, the referee delayed the start of the match waiting for Trevor, he didn’t want to play 11 vs 10 aside.  Trevor joins in but I wait by the side line and the referee comes on, he is a bit annoyed about Trevor being late and I have a word with the ref…..  well…when I say a word….I might have embroidered the truth slightly..

So, the ref…  oh dear..  I don’t know if I can tell you this.. so the ref calls both teams together for kick-off but before he does that he brings both teams into a tight circle and explains to everyone that the reason Trevor was late was because he received tragic news this morning of a family bereavement, that one of his distant family members – Robert – had suddenly passed away.  It seems that not only was Robert a great sportsman and apparently he was an excellent swimmer too!

So the two teams stood together for a minutes silence for poor Robert whilst Trevor choked back fits of laughter and looked over at me absolutely wetting myself on the side-lines.

I’m going to hell, aren’t I?

bookmark_borderOne lump or two?

One lump or two?

Here’s a test for all you brain boxes out there, what is so special about the Mayor of High Wycombe, what does s/he (and his/her top staff) do in May every year that no other mayor in the whole wide world does?

The clues in the picture.  Not just the mayor of High Wycombe but the whole council leaves the upper room of the Guildhall and troops down to the yard in front of the ‘Falcon’ where the weighing machine is set up. Here, starting with the mayor, all the Aldermen, Councillors and Officers of the Borough Council are weighed. As their weight is recorded, the Macebearer shouts out the weight, adding the words ‘and some more’ if the Mayor has gained weight over the year, or ‘and no more’ if s/he is the same or had lost weight.

The spectators are waiting for the call, and if the words ‘and some more’ are heard, the person being weighed is jeered, as it is believed that they hav grown fat at the expense of the townspeople. If the words ‘and no more’ are shouted out, then cheers would be the reward.

I don’t know about you lot but I think this is a fantastic idea and one that should be mandatory for any person seeking high office, the thought of anyone getting fat at the expense of my taxes is just not on!

bookmark_borderAre my testicles black?

Are my testicles black?

We (ex) nurses tend to see the world in a slightly different way from Joe Public, words and phrases in common day use tend to make us smile, for example; feedback, when a tutor says to us ‘give me some feedback’ we all titter and immediately think of vomit. Another one is motion, if someone says ‘he’s just going through the motions’ then we think of someone picking their way through shit, and another common one is issues, when someone tells me they are having issues then I have an image of her standing there and all this bodily fluid issuing from her.

Nurses do tend to have ‘gallows humour’ and each discipline tends to have their own ‘in-jokes’.  When I was doing my two months on the Labour ward there was an official sign on the wall saying “Remember, the first five minutes of a human being’s life are the most dangerous.” Underneath, a midwife or nurse had written: “The last five are pretty risky, too.” I loved the Labour Ward.

One of my favourite things to say to mothers in labour (and the break the ice) was ‘Hi, my name’s D*****, I’m at your cervix” to which they would generally laugh and then I’d say “I’m dilated to meet you”, saying things like that usually sets the tone of the shift but considering I was going to be staring at her jacksie for the next eight hours it only seemed appropriate.

I had one female student nurse tell me this;  her patient in ICU was wired up with drips and monitors, breathing with the aid of an oxygen mask. He waves at her and asks “Are my testicles black?”
Embarrassed the young nurse replies, “I don’t know Sir, I’m new here and only here to wash your face and hands.”
He struggles again to talk through his mask and repeats, “Nurse, are my testicles black!?”
Again the nurse replies, “I can’t tell. I’m only here to wash your face and hands.”
The Head Nurse was passing and saw the man getting a little distraught so she marched over to inquire what was wrong.
“Nurse,” he mumbled, “Are my testicles black?”
Being a nurse of long-standing, the Head Nurse was undaunted. She whipped back the bedclothes, pulled down his pyjama trousers, had a real good look, pulled his pyjamas back up, replaced the bedclothes and announced, “There’s nothing wrong with your testicles!!!”
At this point, the man pulled off his mask and said very slowly, “I. SAID. ARE. MY. TEST. RESULTS. BACK. ??!!”

Think she may have made that one up 😉

bookmark_borderMarmite Nuts.

You either love it - or hate it.

Dear Agony Aunt,

OK, this won’t mean too much to anyone across the pond but in the UK we have Marmite which we spread thinly on our toast, you either love it or hate it.. full stop. Only the English could sell something using that tag-line. So my part-time flatmate loves it, above is a photo of his cupboard, I think he’s trying to corner the market in Marmite, either that or he’s injecting it..

Marmite Nuts

Yesterday one of the girls in Health & Safety found these and bought him a packet.

I now call him ‘Marmite Nuts’. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious (but the boss is wondering how I know..!)

A few years ago I went on one of my road trips to the north-west of England, up around the Lake District. Very pretty there and for one of the nights I stopped over at quite a posh hotel. In the morning the staff brought breakfast up to my room, it was that posh, and there was cereal, grapefruit and toast – plus Marmite. I, of course made a beeline for the toast and Marmite but whilst I was eating it I managed to drop the toast face down on the sheets – why does toast always fall sticky side down?

So I tried to wipe up the worse and it just spread it all over the sheet and to be honest it looked like I had shit the bed at that point, long skid marks.. Now, you can probably see just where I am going with this but.. one of the staff come up an hour later to collect the dishes and tray and as she walked past the bed she looked at the sheet and gave an involuntary OMG!.

I looked over and realised what she was thinking, that this old bloke had kacked his pants and I said “no, no, it’s not what you think..” and she goes “Oh, it’s OK, we get all sorts in here…accidents happen” and I thought I’d have a bit of fun, so I walked over to the bed, rubbed my finger in the ‘shit’ and stuck it in my mouth..

I’ve never seen anyone’s mouth open so wide in my life.

I going straight to hell, aren’t I?

Yours Mischievously

The Dating Leprechaun

bookmark_borderQuestions reporters never ask.

Worn out?

Here in the UK we got a new government last May, a Lib-Con coalition and the outgoing administration was Labour. The BBC is obviously very keen to ask the new Prime Minister David Cameron, lots of policy questions about the economy and how the UK is going to handle the Credit Crunch..

I, on the other hand am much more interested in the more gory details of having a new PM.

What I’d really like to know is this; on Monday night Gordon and Sarah Brown slept in Number 10 Downing street and on Tuesday night David and Samantha slept in the same bed… did they change the sheets, did they feel comfortable sleeping in the same bed that his arch enemy slept in, the same bed they had rumpy-pumpy in (and doubtlessly the same bed Tony Blair conceived his child!), I’m not sure I’d want to sleep in the same bed my arch enemy slept in, was it still warm, did Gordon do a big fart under the duvet before leaving the house, after all, he ‘did’ have a mysterious grin as he left… and is David Cameron now having a dump on the very same toilet that Gordan sat on and shat, is that the same toilet tissue? And other little things, is David spreading Marmite on his toast using the same knife Gordon doubtlessly licked (us Celts have terrible table manners!) and has David had to get someone in to change all the channels on the TV from Rugby to Cricket.. These things occupy my mind much more than budgets and European Human Rights, I know they shouldn’t but they do..

And I wonder was it the same for Obama, did he sleep in the White house the first night and say to Michelle “Do you smell something funny..?”

I had a friend who went through a bitter bitter divorce, the divorce from hell and her ex insisted on getting exactly half the contents of the previous home, he was a total bastard to be honest and made a list of everything he wanted, sooooo my friend sent everything along one thing at a time but before she sent them along her and her new boyfriend had a shag on the item of furniture, knowing that her ex would be eating his breakfast on a table that she shagged her boyfriend on gave her even more pleasure than the actual shagging..

I’m wondering, is David Cameron sitting there eating breakfast in Number 10 Downing street and thinking “I wonder why the kitchen table seems a bit worn in that spot…..”

bookmark_borderThe safest building in Britain?

The safest building in Britain?

This is Senate House, London WC1E 7HU. part of UCL, I had to go visit there a few months ago because they run an effing huge computing centre there and wanted to host our services there too. Interesting building, completed in 1937, it has two claims to fame, one well known, one not so well known.

1. Well known; during the Second World War, the building housed the Ministry of Information, George Orwell’s wife worked there in the censorship department and it is thought that it was the inspiration for his book 1984.

2. Not so well known; Hitler admired the building hugely and – I kid you not – he ordered that Senate house wasn’t to be bombed,  when he was ruling Britain he wanted to use Senate House as his headquarters when in London. Therefore the Luftwaffe was under strict instructions not to bomb anywhere near Senate house. Buckingham Palace got hit, St. Paul’s Cathedral got hit but the second tallest building in London (after St Paul’s Cathedral) was left unscathed.  Obviously it was a good place to put the Ministry of Information but I wonder if Churchill had known what we know today then would he have moved the Cabinet War rooms to Senate House. And I wonder, during the air raids and with all the sirens going off, did the staff all run down and shelter in the air raid shelters and London Underground, because of course, the safest place they could possibly be was sitting at their desks.

Who and what got bombed during the Second World War wasn’t really as well thought out as everyone assumed it was. You might imagine all the top brass in Germany discussing with their intelligence sources which are high priority targets but in actual fact they used a tourist guide book. Yes, really. OK, not for all raids but for a few. What happened was that the Royal Air Force here changed their strategy and started bombing towns rather than industrial complexes, the aim being to knock the spirit out of the Germans. However, in Germany, Baron Gustav Braun von Stumm, is reported to have said on 24 April 1942 following the first attack, “We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide.” And therefore the following towns of zero military significance  got bombed;

Exeter (23 and 24 April; 3 May)
Bath (25 and 26 April)
Norwich (27 and 29 April)
York (28 April)

And following the bombing of Cologne;
Canterbury (May 31; 2 June and 6 June)

So, I wonder how the good folk of these towns felt like, I’m sure they were justifiably proud to get three stars in some German tourist guide but I wonder did the local Chamber of Commerce realise that having three stars can be a double edged sword.

And I also wonder what is happening today, is al Qaeda looking at tourist guides of here and of the US and marking everywhere with more than three stars as targets and are they looking at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf and thinking come the revolution this is where we shall rule the UK from…

(And I wonder, do I think too much? 😉

bookmark_borderMy Big Issue

Start early and finish late.

In the UK here we have a charity called The Big Issue that provides help to the homeless by printing a magazine and selling it to the homeless for a pound and then the homeless sell it to Joe Public for two pound.  Each seller has their own ‘pitch’ in the town centre and they have official ID as legit vendors and everyone knows about them in the UK. The charity was launched in 1991 and is seen as one of the more ‘cool and hip’ charities to support so lots of celebs got involved and gave interviews for the magazine.

I was reminded about The Big Issue the other week when I was wandering around Cardiff and noticed the usual load of wino’s in the town centre. You see them in all town centres, there’s usually a group of them, about four or five, drinking cheap booze, scruffy, noisy, cursing at passer-bys and occasionally they have a small dog with them.

What was surprising was that as I was walking past nearly all of them had either Irish accents or Glaswegian accents and it got me thinking, every single time I’ve noticed the local town drunks, be it in London or in one of the many towns I’ve gone on road trips to, they always seem to be Irish or Glaswegian.. and I started to wonder why that is.

Could it be something similar to The Big Issue, are there spots allocated to all citizens of Ireland and when we get to sixty do we have to give up our day jobs, don scruffy clothes as the drunks put on our nice clean ones and then spend two years drinking cheap wine and beer whilst shouting obscenities at passer-by’s and sleeping under bridges. And then after two years a woman comes along with your Irish replacement and you are relieved from duties and allowed to go home?

I will find out in ten years time.

bookmark_borderEyes Wide Shut

Taller than Tom Cruise.

I have many claims to fame in my life, met most of the Royal family…well, when I say met, I mean annoyed, met quite a lot of famous folk when I worked for the Haven Trust Breast Cancer charity but what I haven’t mentioned was that I’m also an extra in a Tom Cruise movie.

It was about 1999 and I got a phone call from a friend of mine, Claire asking if I was free the coming weekend, I asked why and she said she had been asked to be an extra in a Tom Cruise movie, Eyes Wide Shut and her boyfriend was meant to be coming along too but had let her down… So of course I jumped at the chance and pitched up with her in a large country home outside north London. We were told to turn up at 6am (SIX AM!!) and bring Tuxs, I brought her boyfriends (never owned one) (so far) and a swarm of hairdressers and make-up artists descended upon us and the 48 other extras and then we sat around and waited and waited and waited. However, there was ample amount of free food and we all chatted and then about two pm we all got shuffled into a large room/hall and had to be in the cocktail party scene, so we all stood around like we were at a cocktail party, chatted away quietly and didn’t look at the camera or the principal actors… The came in, did their piece… did their piece again… and again and again and again and again and again and eventually Stanley Kubrick was happy.

Then we all got asked to come back on Sunday and do the whole thing again, same thing..hair/make-up/ eat eat eat eat eat/ cocktail party action action action cut and traipse off home with £600 in my pocket.

Sadly, I’ve never watched the movie, too arty-farty and I only watch movies with either Bruce Willis in them or films with lots of explosions, preferably both, but Claire did and says you can clearly see my silver hair in the cocktail scene. I will be signing autographs in Selfridges next weekend, don’t crowd, there’s plenty of me to go around ;p

bookmark_borderAnnoying the annoying (part trios)

A few years ago I was at Sainsbury’s (Walmark clone) at about 9.30pm when I heard this commotion down at the Helpdesk, naturally *never* being one to miss a brawl I made my way to the front desk and there was a fellow Irish woman creating hell with the store staff. She was getting very irate with the staff and she was shouting and arguing with them, she was extremely drunk and was trying to buy more booze and then of course she started cursing and swearing at the receptionist and the other staff at the desk when they refused to sell her more alcohol..

Everyone was looking and I have to confess that I took a sudden and fascinating interest in the display of beans that just happened to be right beside the Helpdesk …as you do 😉

So this woman was really losing it, she obviously had come out from the bar across the road and was cursing away like a trooper, so eventually two security guys came up and tried to remove her but she started accusing them of assault and giving them abuse too, she was tiny and these two huge guys just lifted her under her armpits and dragged her outside the store dumping her on the pavement..

So things kind’a settled down, she stood outside shouting abuse at the staff and security men but by the time I had paid for my shopping she had stopped shouting but was pestering everyone coming into the store to buy her some booze..and the security guys were standing by the Helpdesk keeping an eye on her..

So… never one to miss an opportunity to stir things up with a great big stick…..as I walked past her I quietly said to her, “Here love, see those big fellas in there, they’re telling everyone what an eejit you are..” and she said “WOT???…BASTARDS!!” and I walked off quickly as she ran into the store and threw herself at the guards!!.. I heard the shouts and cursing all the way down the road…..it was great..she was so tiny and those guys huge but she laid into them again..cursing and swearing and giving them a right earful ..

I’m sorry, I know it was probably wrong but red rag + bull…. I’m going to Hell, aren’t I?

bookmark_borderHistory One Oh One

These are the only two pictures I have of my early relatives. This is my mother Doris and my Grandmother, I never knew my grandmother but apparently she was a bit of a dark horse (too), just like my mother and it would appear The Dating Leprechaun too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed my beasties get my sense of adventure too, it’s important.

She was born in in the same cottage as previous generation upon generation, she worked in the fields,  fed the chickens, broke the chickens necks, looked after pigs, made soda bread, potato farls and corn dollies. She rode a pony and cart  into town and picked up fish from Kilkeel harbour and supplies from McCab’s and danced the night away in the local town hall.

Doris and her mum

Apparently, this is my grandmother and grandfather… and some local farmhand who helped in the fields. They didn’t have electricity them days, my mother Doris didn’t actually have electricity until 1985, they pumped water out of a well just outside the cottage, they grew lots of vegetables to supplement their merge diet, they ate lots of porridge (so Doris tells me) and they went to church every Sunday.  During harvest time everyone in the community pulled together and brought in the harvest and during hard times everyone did much the same, pulled together.

Grandmother and Grandfather

They didn’t have any modern conveniences, not even early tractors, everything was done by hand including thatching the cottage roof, they brought seaweed up for the beach which was only a stones throw away and spread it across the fields to improve the soil – a theme in the movie The Field.

What I am interested to know is this, in a recent survey it was the Masai people of Kenya who were rated as the happiest and most content people in the world, they have very few possessions just like my grandparents and I wonder, if the same survey was done on my grandparents generation, I wonder were they would come, I imagine somewhere close to the top, at least that’s the impression I get from my mother..

bookmark_borderVan The Man (part deux)

Royal Albert Hall

Went to see Van Morrison here in the Albert Hall last year, oops I mean in 2009, really nice setting, he did his Astral Weeks album and a lot of his more ‘commercial’ songs. The thing I don’t understand is that even though I ran errands for him as a nipper, I still had problems understanding his lyrics, for example, I think I got nearly every single word wrong in Brown Eyed Girl or Brown I’ded Gurl as we pronounce it at home, I always thought the ‘Hey where did we go?’ was ‘Hey Rodreigo!’ and my friend thought it was ‘Hey there, Amigo.’ and we’re Irish so God knows what you lot thought the lyrics were.

Crap, seems you have to watch these vids on youtube 🙁

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6-dp6RkEY8

Mind you, it wasn’t just Van Morrison I got completely wrong, I sang a completely different song to Queens Bohemian Rhapsody, I thought Freddy Mercury was singing “Spare him his life from his one sausage tea”, I’m not even going to write the original lyrics to that line as it seems I’m the only one with cloth ears here.

And ABC’s (Yes, I ‘am’ that old!) “When Smokey sings, I hear violence.” It was only years later that I found it it was “When Smokey sings, I hear violins”, in my head I saw Smokey The Bear singing and Martin Fry beating the crap out of him…. thought that was a strange thing to include in a nice happy song…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N6PYNRF8mg

bookmark_borderThis man walks into a bar..

A termite walks into a bar and asks, "Is the bar tender here?"

This time last year I was wondering what I should be doing for my next career and I seriously considered stand-up comedy. Well yes, let me explain, this webby think I do now is career number three and I have no intention of doing this the rest of my life, I think the more changes you have in your life the more your personality expands. So I was hunting around, wondering what I’d like to do for the next ten years and I thought about going on the stage and doing a long comedy monologue like Billy Connolly, based on my life experiences, not just dating but about all the other things in this blog and quite a few things you lot aren’t privy to (yet)!

For example, did you know that a man was arrested in Oxford and fined 80 quid for calling a police horse ‘gay’. This happened a few years ago, he spent the night in the cells and was given a fixed penalty fine next morning.

What I find funny about this story is that (a) being gay isn’t a crime and (b) I really don’t think the horse would have minded, if by some miracle it actually understood English, a horse is going to be pretty confident about it’s own sexuality, after all, it is hung like a ermm horse. So if I was defending the young chap, I would have got him off (no pun intended!), I would have simply said that the horse was standing naked, on all fours in the middle of the street with a man on his back… case dismissed.

And yes, for some bizarre reason I seem to know a lot of ‘a man walks into a bar’ jokes..

Anyway, so I thought I’d better research this comedy thing a wee bit, went to quite a lot of comedy clubs, spoke to quite a few comedians and I learnt a lot about comedy. It seems, as a blatant generalisation, that there are only three places in the world that comedians congregate; New York, LA and London. Out of those three two of them are filled with Americans and nothing else. Apparently London, my adopted city is the Mecca for comedy world wide and it’s busting to the gills with comedians of all ilks, English, Irish, Scottish, American, Australians, in fact anyone who speaks English, no matter how badly, and wants to do comedy makes a beeline for London.

There are a few reasons for this, number one is that in the States the gig fee paid for comedy is $50 and that hasn’t changed since the early eighties, so 99.9% of American comedians live on the breadline – or come and make a killing in London, you’d be surprised at the number of American comedians living here in the UK and regularly on the BBC.

And there is a difference in styles as well, in America, comedians develop short 5-10 minutes sets in the hope that TV executives will watch them and get them a slot on shows like the Dave Letterman Show and increase their exposure but in England it’s completely different, comedians here like to develop nice long monologues because we have festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe where you can have deliver a nice long one or two hour monologue. Also, comedy is massive here, every town, even small towns, have comedy venues and this can be attributed to a huge boom in theatre building during the Victorian age.

So I worked on a one hour monologue based on my stories here, the secret to good comedy is practise practise practise so you don’t ummhh and haa all the way through your monologue but also you need to be flexible and involve your audience. I’ve watched a few comedians and sometimes the majority of their content comes from the audience ie Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Carr so it’s good to be flexible.

One of my other stories involves valentines cards, this is a strange tradition, it seems weird to me that I can send cards and flowers anonymously to woman saying I want to sleep with you and they go ‘awwwwwwww, how sweet’ but send a card like that any other time of the year and you are done for stalking…

Sadly, my one hour monologue took two hours to deliver, apparently I’m not meant to laugh at my own jokes. I tried out my monologue on my then flat mate, he said nothing but moved out shortly after that. Perhaps I should just stick to ‘a man walks into a bar’ jokes..

———————————————————————–
A grasshopper walks into a bar. The bartender says, “We have a drink here named after you.” The grasshopper says, “Bob?”
————————————————————————-
A pony walks into a bar and says “Bartender, may I have a drink?”
Bartender says “What? I can’t hear you. speak up!”
“May I please have a drink?”
“What? You have to speak up!”
“Could I please have a drink?”
“Now listen, if you don’t speak up I will not serve you.”
“I’m sorry, I’m just a little hoarse.”
———————————————————————-
A skeleton walks into a bar and orders a beer ..and a mop.
———————————————————————
A mushroom walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender says, “I can’t serve you.” The mushroom says, “Why not? I’m a fun-guy.”
———————————————————————-
A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asks, “Hey, why the long face?”
———————————————————————-
Bacon and Eggs walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve breakfast.”
———————————————————————-
Two blondes walk into the bar….You’d think one of them would of seen it?
———————————————————————
A man walks into a bar with a roll of tarmac under his arm and says: “Pint please, and one for the road.”
——————————————————————-
So a five-dollar bill walks into a bar.
Bartender says, “Get outa here! We don’t serve your type. This is a singles bar.
—————————————————————–
A man walks into a bar and the bartender says, “I’m sorry, I can’t serve you here unless you are wearing a tie.”
The man says, “Okay, I’ll be right back,” and goes to his car to find anything he can use for a tie. All he finds is a set of jumper cables, so he ties them around his neck, goes back in and asks, “How’s this?”
The bartender replies, “Well, okay, but don’t start anything.”
—————————————————————————-
A baby seal walks into a bar and sits down. “What can I get you?” asked the bartender.
“Anything but a Canadian Club” replied the seal.
—————————————————————————-
A neutron walks into a bar. “I’d like a beer” he says.
The bartender promptly serves up a beer.
“How much will that be?” asks the neutron.
“For you?” replies the bartender, “no charge”
————————————————————————
Two cannibals walk into a bar and sits beside this clown. The first cannibal wacks the clown on the head and they both start eating the clown. Suddenly the second cannibal looks up and says, “Hey, do you taste something funny?”
——————————————————————-
Two peanuts walked into a bar, and one was a-salted.
——————————————————————-
Two cartons of yoghurt walk into a bar. The bartender, a tub of cottage cheese, says to them, “We don’t serve your kind in here.”
One of the yoghurt cartons says back to him, “Why not? We’re cultured individuals.”
—————————————————————–

Maybe I shouldn’t give up the day job 😉

bookmark_borderLate Onset Sex

Well..hello there Mrs Robinson..

So I came across a nice news story the other day;

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8558053.stm

“Men are more likely than women to enjoy sex in old age, researchers have found.
Men can expect nearly five extra years of an active sex life compared with women, according to a review of US data surveying about 6,000 people. At 55, men have on average 15 years of sexually active life ahead of them, and women only 10.5 years, the British Medical Journal reports.”

From force of habit I always question this type of new story, in medicine we tend to question all broad sweeping statements, we are a cynical lot or should I say ‘was’ as I’m Mr IT man now and out of medicine. So the reflex is to question stories like this and if it comes from the British Medical Journal, a well respected journal, then it gets even more closely examined, it’s a bit like The Washington Post printing a news story about a London double-decker bus being found on the moon, if it’s printed in that esteemed publication then it ‘must’ be true.

So I’m wondering is this a British survey but interestingly the data set is American, 6000 US citizens and that makes me wonder why the BMJ is publishing research done in the States by the University of Chicago, are Brits just so reticent that they won’t fill in surveys like this or perhaps it’s just considered ‘not the done thing’. And I’m wondering about the limitations of the data, 6,000 Americans is not the world, what about over here in ole Blighty, what about all over Europe…and Asia.. we nurses hate generalisations… which is a generalisation in itself 😉

And statements like this make me raise my eyebrows “The biggest gap was among 75- to 85-year-olds, where 38.9% of men said they were sexually active, compared with 16.8% of women. Another 41.2% of the men were interested in sex, compared with 11.4% of the women.” I’m not sure how this works, does this mean 30% of men are interested in sex but have no outlet apart from the Internet or is it that men are more likely to brag about their interest in sex (surely not! I hear you say) where-as woman I suspect might be more inclined to tell the truth.

I’m banging on about this (excuse the pun) because my own experience differs, and I’m turning fifty next month and papers like this suddenly interest me, I’m keen to know what to expect or perhaps, according to that paper, what ‘not’ to expect..

Of course it’s all very individual and the people I have talked to seem to have vastly different experiences from what the research implies. The English are meant to be cold unimaginative lovers (a vicious rumour put out by the French;)  but my experience is somewhat different from that stereotype. I know of one grandmother in particular who wore out three husbands well into their eighties and this was before little blue pills come on the market. She got married late and discovered the pleasure of slowly making love all weekend long. Husband no. 1 sadly passed away suddenly and she quickly married hubby no.2 and they went at it like rabbits. He turned out to be a bit of a shit so they split up when they were both mid sixties and I thought that was that, at least until one day I popped around for a visit only to hear moans of delight coming from her open bedroom window as she engaged in rumpy-pumpy with her latest beau, and she was in her eighties then. Seems I have lots to look forward to..

I have a theory about sex that seems logical to me but I’m sure everyone will say is ridiculous. Bare with me here, (groan!) but in medicine there is what is called Late Onset Diabetes, it’s were someone is getting on in age, say about 50 and suddenly they develop diabetes despite having no history of it in the family, it’s a mild form of diabetes and can usually be treated by tablets or just diet control but rarely needs insulin injections..

The theory goes that nature has given us a limited ability to produce insulin in our bodies, it is thought that normally there is enough capacity for a lifetime in our Islets Of Langerhans but because of all the extra sugars in western diets some folk have exhausted their ability to make insulin before they are designed to and thus get to 50/60 and suddenly become diabetic.. It’s a controversial theory and a lot of endocrinologist dispute it, but in the same way one has a certain amount of insulin in your lifetime, so too I think we get to have a limited amount of sex in our lives, ‘Late Onset Sex’. I talked to Wilkie, the athletic grandmother and she kind’a confirmed this, it seems that until she hit forty she had absolutely no interest in sex, not even by herself but it seems that the older she got the more she liked it..

Seeing red?

And when I look at Helen Mirren and how delightful and happy she looks at 65 then I’m beginning to think that perhaps Late Onset Sex may actually be something to look forward to. I know it’s only anecdotal evidence but discreetly chatting to others of a certain age seems to bear this out. I am resisting the temptation to ask my 84yr old mother and her toyboy…

I’m kind’s hoping that this ‘Late Onset Sex’ theory is equally valid and we all get to have a certain amount of sex in our lives before we kick the bucket, as coming from Norn Iron, a virtual monastery regarding all things sex until you get married, then one got to have very little sex at a time when one is a walking erection, well – obviously very little sex with ‘someone else’ 😉

I’m reading a book at the moment, Passionate Marriage, and it gives me hope for lots of sex for the next thirty years and for a number of reasons, not just because I had far less sex that my friends (apparently; either that or they are lying buggers) and therefore the Universe probably wants a balance in my (sex) life and not just because of what the ummm much older generation tell me but because it seems we settle into a different kind of sex past 50, it becomes deeper and more intense, like the sex you have as a young man is all about orgasms and frequency but once you hit 50 then you experience sex at a whole different level, you relax about orgasms and count and performance and just do it for the how it makes both of you feel, it’s like the sex you have before is just sex but at 50+ it works at a whole different level, grown up sex is what I’d call it, and the intensity and passion is beyond what you have when you are a kid and because of this passion, this intensity, you want to experience it more and more often and because of all that deeply shared intimacy you become even closer still, a virtuous vicious circle for a change..

Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part as my 50th approaches but I’ll do my best to report back when I’m the same age as my mother in 35 years time, assuming of course I’m not completely shagged out 😉

bookmark_borderLetter to myself, aged 10.

It wasn't me so it must be you..

I was looking at some photos of myself aged ten the other day and it occurred to me that wouldn’t it be cool if we could send a letter to ourselves back in time…
Letter to myself, aged 10.
There’s absolutely no point in throwing a paddy just because your mother insists on taking you out shoe shopping instead of letting you watch the very last episode in the series of Scooby Doo. I know you will find this irksome but having shoes that don’t actually pinch/hurt and let in the rain is preferable to going to school with trenchfoot. Anyway, what you don’t know is that The Cartoon Network is going to be invented and you can watch endless repeats of Scooby Doo until your hearts content.
PS Haven’t you figured out that it’s always the one non-gang member who’s always the baddie in Scooby Doo?

Letter to myself, aged 15.
Oh for goodness sake would you fecking well wash! You stink, you REALLY stink, don’t you realise that the paint peels off the walls when you walk into a room? And for heavens sake, please please please change your underwear/socks daily and your sheets every weekend! Seriously, you STINK!
PS Those documentaries on the telly talking about the coming ice age and scaring the shit out of everyone, well, 30 years later we have the same documentaries talking about global warming…go figure..
PPS something tragic is going to happen any day now but the silver lining is that it will make you question everything and put you on the path of discovery, your Universe is about to grow more than you can ever imagine.
PPPS, stop throwing a paddy just because you can’t watch wall-to-wall Star Trek, the Sci-fi channel is coming..

Letter to myself, aged 20.
I refer you to my letter of five years ago, and you are wondering why you still haven’t a girlfriend..? WASH! you idiot! That noise you can hear is your future self banging YOUR head against the monitor at your inability to understand simple instructions. Of course there is no point in me telling you this as by now you are a walking erection and don’t have enough blood in your body for a functioning brain as well as an erection. Stop throwing a paddy just because you can’t watch wall-to-wall porn, the Playboy channel is coming..
Ohh STOP trying to dance like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, it was only cool for all of three seconds, oh and whilst I’m at it, stop wearing those shirts with the huge wide collars, they were only cool if you were in Starsky & Hutch and your name was Huggy Bear..
BTW Darren, your best friend, is gay and loves you, don’t go to Dublin with him and all the girls from his hairdressers work, you will find it easy to talk to them all simply because they will assume you are gay too and they don’t realise you are trying to chat them up. Please note, large quantities of vodka, whiskey, gin and Chinese food don’t mix AT ALL.
Don’t lend David Savage your electric shaver on your first ski-ing holiday, he uses it to shave his anal hair.
PS stop feeling so guilty about masturbation, it’s healthy and currently the only exercise you seem to get these days.

Letter to myself, age 25.
Dump Audrey, she’s seeing Trevor on the side. Get your hair cut. Brush your teeth more often. Brush your hair more often and no matter how much big chested Wendy from the hairdressers tells you; perms were never cool! Learn to cook, you idiot! Stop throwing a paddy just because you can’t watch wall-to-wall Bruce Willis movies, the Sky Movies channel is coming..
Stop living in fear, the world doesn’t end, WWIII doesn’t kick off, nuclear winter doesn’t happen, Bill Gates isn’t the Antichrist, Hell only exists in your mind and England will never win the World Cup ever again, stop living in fear, live in love.
Change careers frequently, trust me, your world (and your personality) will expand exponentially the more you do this one thing.
Learn to dance!
Dance at least once every day.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, your life is about to change dramatically, bye-bye Belfast and all the bigotry, hello multicultural London, all those feelings and instincts about what’s important in life and what’s flotsam are about to solidify, follow your instincts, you are going to get a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong, it doesn’t matter because you learn equally from both methods, just remember that money doesn’t matter, only people do, just trust your instincts and do what you are good at, fighting for other people, even if it seems unpopular at the time.
(PS You won’t understand this yet – but buy the domain names business.com, google.com, ebay.com, facebook.com and microsoft.com .. oh and maybe wordpress.com 😉

bookmark_borderX Factor Royal Wedding Special

Bugger, it’s been announced that Prince William and Kate someone-or-another are to be wed next year, time to leave the country, it’s going to be like an upper class version of Big Brother.

It’s alright for you lot living over there across the pond (no! America, you idiot, not Ireland, Ireland is as likely to enjoy a royal wedding as Osama Bin Laden turning up as Best Man!), you lot won’t have it rammed down your throats day in, day out for the next year but here it’s going to be wall to wall royal wedding… bah humbug…  and of course it’s all going to be about ‘the frock’, OMG kill me now.

Of course, I’m not actually sure how this modern couple will cope and manage to buy the average 40 bedroom mansion and teams of footmen, what with their student loans still hanging over them, perhaps they can sell the photo rights to Hello or OK magazine. Traditionally the brides parents pays for the wedding over here so I expect a quiet civil affair with a few guests in some posh hotel.. surely?

I suppose if worse comes to worse we could always get his gracious majesty, Simon Cowell, to organise it all (and hive off a slice of the television rights), we could have X Factor Royal Wedding Special, ordinary members of the public could vote on ‘the frock’ (network charges will apply!) and we could vote on the choice of wedding venue; The Spread Eagle in Slough, close to Windsor castle, The Old Forge (Britain’s most remote pub) in Scotland, or for a bit of fun, The Republic Hotel in Australia..

You see, the reason why I’m a bit peeved about this news is because I’ve made a habit, nay, a hobby, of mine to wind up royalty and I thought I had broadly caught most of them out (it’s in the rest of my journey entries here) but now I’m going to have two new ones to mess about with.  I know I’m in great danger of being thrown in the the Tower of London but like a red rag to a bull.. I’m SURE I’ll get my one phonecall to my lawyer… won’t I?

bookmark_borderAnnoying the annoying..

Can't believe there is actually a book with this title.

Was off sick a while back and I had worked though my list of people to ring up, you know how it goes; you ring up your good friends and have extended conversations with them and then once you’ve exhausted that seam you ring up friends you aren’t really friends with but talk to them, do a ‘catch-up’ call and then you exhaust that seam of conversation so you start scrapping the bottom of the barrel and call your mother.

I had done all that and short of ringing up Directory Enquiries or The Samaritans I had run out of folk to chat with, so obviously I wondered who can I annoy now..

Sooooo… I thought I’d expand my repertoire with whom I annoy, previously I’ve  targeted members of the Royal family but thought perhaps it was time to wind up folk a lot further from these shores, so whom better to annoy than President Obama .. (obviously), after all, why talk to the monkey when you can talk to the Organ Grinder…

So I rang up the Whitehouse (as you do) and asked to speak to Ozzie, (001) 202-456-1414 for any other Londoners wondering what the number is. If you ring up you have to go through about ten layers of  ‘Press 1 for threatening message,  press 2 to report an oil spill, press 3 to declare war against the United States of America, press 4 to be put on hold so we can trace your call, press 5 to have the Secret Service smash though your window before you put the phone down, etc’ and eventually I got through to Margaret (or was it Maureen?) and asked if the boss was in. Apparently she’s not allowed to disclose that (incase Russia is targeting the White House with an ICBM) but of course all Russia has to do is watch CNN to find out when he’s in the White House press room.. Margarets job is obviously two fold, one part of it is to provide a firewall to stop any mere mortal getting past the switchboard and the other part of the job is to keep the nutters on the line long enough for the Secret Service to trace you..

So I wasn’t getting any joy there (and a 4×4 with blacked out windows suddenly screeched to a stop outside my window..) so I thought I’d target someone else and who better to annoy than that nice man Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Apparently he’s governor of some small country somewhere, or at least he is until the 3rd of January, 2011.

Well, naturally I’m concerned that Arnie’s going to be unemployed after the 3rd so I emailed him asking what his plans were and did he need some job hunting advice? This is ‘his’ genuine reply;

Subject:                Re:Governor
From:    governor@governor.ca.gov
To:         ***********@**********.ac.uk
Thank you for taking the time to send me your kind words of support.  I’m always honored by the encouragement I receive from thoughtful supporters like you.
I am working hard to improve California’s future and make progress in one of the most difficult budget years in California history.  Even in the midst of this crisis, I believe we have an opportunity to make our government more efficient and to find innovative ways to stretch the taxpayer dollars.   In so many areas of government, there are opportunities for reform – all we have to do is go out and seize them.
Again, thank you for your kind words of encouragement.  Hearing from individuals like you reminds me that we are moving in the right direction.
Sincerely,
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Well, WASN’T that sweet of him, nice to know he can take time out of his busy schedule to fire off a quick email to me…  and I didn’t even vote for him 😉

Next on my list is Steve Jobs, (I have a few ideas about a proper iPod rather than that dysfunctional one he sells these days) and rather surprisingly, Steve’s (because we’re mates of course) email address is freely published as;
sjobs@apple.com

And even better, he’s quite famous for answering emails himself (just like Arnie.. eh!) so wish me luck.. 😉

bookmark_borderToilet Humour? A load of crap.

A friend of mine was telling me how she was desperate to go to the loo when shopping in Selfridges, a very posh London store, but had her five year old daughter with her. So she brought her into the only empty loo with her and was mortified to hear her daughter say in a very loud voice “Mummy, why are you covering the toilet seat with toilet roll..?” much to the muffled sniggers from the other five occupied cubicles.. This, BTW, was the same daughter whom we all went to see Bolt, the Disney movie with, and she said during the only quiet part of the movie, in the most poshest voice ever “Oh bugger, I’ve dropped my bloody nuts..” as a Mexican wave of laughter burst across the entire cinema audience..
We men never have to queue at the loo and thus God must be a man. Obviously you woman think the ability to have multiple orgasms is definite proof that God is a woman but for us men the ability to pee standing up in a line is a ermmm..a Godsend, (groan). I could count the number of times I’ve had to queue for a pee on the fingers of one hand. And I know that woman are quite capable of peeing standing up but of course the (probably male) designers of public conveniences seem to think otherwise.

I went to the Mind, Body & Soul Expo in Earls court a few years ago to try to get some unusual Christmas presents and the vast majority of visitors there were ladies, (abet a large proportion with purple or blue hair and kaftan’s). However, I went for a pee and there was a huge queue for the ladies and none for the gents so I sailed past all the ladies only to be shocked to find the gents full of ladies too! It seemed that some desperate soul decided that since there were practically no men there then the gents were being re-designated as ladies for the day. Of course the ladies screamed with laughter when I went in and suggest I go straight ahead a use the loo. I declined the wall urinal but thought I might be able to use one of the cubicles but let me tell you this, no matter how desperate I am to use a loo, it’s impossible for me to have a pee knowing there is a strange woman sitting only inches away.. All I can say is Thank God! for a McDonalds just across the road..

When I first came over to London in ‘85 I had a friend, Rob, who got a summer job as toilet attendant at Kings Cross train station. He was starting nurse training in the autumn with me and just needed something to help pay the rent. He used to tell me some weird stories, people are weird, people who would only use their one and only ‘special’ cubicle and would wait til it was free rather than use the vacant empty one, no matter how desperate they were. People who would use the toilets as their own office and spend half the day there. There is a well known gay pub just close to the station, it seems everyone used to come out of there and use the loos at Kings Cross for purposes for which they definitely weren’t intended. He’d be sitting in his little orifice office reading his paper and think WTF is that noise and have to call the station security to eject the abusers. The funniest thing he ever said to me, and not without some irony, was “I’m telling you, this place is full of weirdos, when someone comes in here and actually has a shit, it’s like a breath of fresh air!”

bookmark_borderDoris Part Deux

Today’s little story is about Doris, my birth mother, an obstinate old bugger if ever there was one.. and is a counterbalance to the previous journal entry.

Doris was born in 1926 in Northern Ireland in the same cottage generations upon generations of her family were born in, there was no going to the local hospital to be born as there actually was no local hospital. So she grew up in Cranfield, near the border and in a very isolated community.

She had her mother and father and an older sister Elsie, they worked the land and apart from church had very little contact with the 20th century. I’m not really sure if she ever went to school. After Doris’s mum and dad passed away she continued to live in the same cottage not dissimilar to this;

Actually this picture is remarkably similar, the cottage had thick whitewashed walls, was isolated, the nearest neighbours being miles away across fields and lanes, however the scenery was breathtaking, from the scullery window there was nothing but greens fields and in the medium distance were the mountains of Mourne, and from the front room (by no stretch of imagination could it be called a lounge) were more fields and then beaches and the sea. Absolutely beautiful. Until Doris thought it would be a great idea to build a garage right outside her scullery window and block the view of the mountains. Like I said, an obstinate old bugger.

Elsie and Doris had no amenities that we take for granted, they had no running water but a pump outside the front door that produced a brownish liquid. They had no electricity and no gas, no lights, no central heating, a gale force wind blew under the front door and there was no indoor loo. The postman would visit once a week with any post up the lane on his bicycle and the grocery van would visit every weekend with meat and veg. They spent a lot of time walking to church and walking the fields.

She met my biological father, Sam, in the late 50’s and they started ‘dating’. Not quite sure we’d call it dating, more courting but of course one thing lead to another and she fell pregnant with my twin sis and I. Falling pregnant out of wedlock in 1960’s Ireland was a HUGE sin, Doris went to church almost daily but you know, ones natural instincts won’t be denied forever.

Sam wanted to marry Doris but Doris being Doris said no, she wasn’t going to spend the rest of her life married to someone she didn’t love so point blank refused and bugger the social conventions. This was not the first time Doris had defied social convention and it sure wasn’t the last.  So hasty arrangements were made and she ‘went on holiday’ for nine months in Belfast with friends of Sam and by Feb ’61 my sister and I popped out.

We grew up in Belfast but at age 18 went and found Doris and then Sam. As a small digression, 20 years later Doris took some not small pleasure in showing us exactly where we were conceived.. the exact spot.. in the barn.. too much information Doris, too much information.. (and here, look, I’ve kept the broken rubber..  )

So Sis and I stayed in Belfast with Social Services and Doris went back home and not a word was spoken about ‘her time away’. Of course everyone knew, it was a small community and stories get out, apparently Doris was the talk of the church but everyone was far too circumspect to mention it.

Sam asked Doris again and again to marry him and ‘reunite the family’ but she wasn’t having any of it, he was an arse and she was going to defy all conventions and do her own thing. Eventually Sam and Doris went their separate ways and Doris carried on as before with her sister, walking the fields and living in her ramshackle cottage as the 20th century turned into the 21st century. Eventually the local council came a visiting a while back, condemned the cottage, knocked it down and build her a new one with all modern services including water, electricity, central heating, indoor loo and even a telephone line. So Doris went from Victorian age living to modern living missing out a whole century.

During the time she split up with Sam and a few years ago, many men from church tried to court Doris but she refused them all, not because she thought she was a great catch or anything but because she was waiting for ‘the one’. One chap in particular made a great effort to court her, Albert Speers, he was very well off and much younger than her but she refused his advances. Eventually Albert stormed off and his parting words were “you’ll never get as good a catch as me, you’re an obstinate old cow who’s going to live the rest of your days alone..!”

Doris thought she was well shot of him and carried on as normal, walking the fields and now she had a telephone; pestering her son who lived in London ;(

Two years ago in February, when Doris was 82, she went to church on Sunday morning as usual and there was a talk from a group of men, The Mourne Brotherhood, a group of men whom go around the community and help out with jobs and tasks needing done by the community, chopping logs, trimming hedges, mowing lawns, doing small repairs. There was about half a dozen men there but one man stood out from the rest. Doris clapped eyes on him and he on her and it was love at first sight. He was/is called Bob and is 76. They got married exactly four months later.

Doris n Bob cut the cake.

I went to the wedding and was picked up by Bob as I arrived at the airport. I asked Doris how will I recognise Bob. She said you’ll know him because of his big hooter. I ‘think’ she was talking about the size of his nose. She was right, it’s HUGE.

 

The BBC wanted to film the wedding for the news, Doris told them to bugger off.

Since getting married she’s been to Scotland and London a few times but in January this year went to Australia for two weeks with Bob, her hubby. One night in Melbourne it was 32 degrees centigrade, the next day she flew back to Ireland and the worse snow they had in seven years but as she said to me, it’s nice to be back home..

She sent a letter to Albert Speers recently and told him he was wrong, it looked like she wasn’t going to spend the rest of her days alone after all. I think she cackled as she posted it.

And you lot wonder where I get my sense of adventure and humour from?

PS I think cackling is good, folk in the world don’t cackle nearly enough! ;p

bookmark_borderDoris Part One..

My mother, Doris came to visit me here in London last summer. Nothing too unusual about that but the thing is, Doris hasn’t really encountered the 20th century, never mind the 21st century. She was born in a cottage that generations of her family have been born in. It was out in the sticks, rural Ireland, miles from the nearest town. She had no running water, no indoor loo and definitely no modern conveniences; electricity, gas, telephone..

She spent all her life (until two years ago, see photos) living like a character from some Charles Dickens novel. She grew her own vegetables and had a well outside the back door which produced some brownish liquid she called ‘drinking water’. You can probably guess that my twin sis and I weren’t brought up by Doris but in a land far far away with all modern conveniences. Doris had never really travelled too far in her life, up to Newry on the bus was the big trip but otherwise it was stay at home and feed the herd of wild cats she seemed to acquire. She didn’t get to see too many people out there in the sticks, the occasional lost hiker and maybe a farmer or two on his tractor spreading muck across his fields.

So, you get the picture, she was very isolated but that was her life.. Two years ago I invited her over to London for a visit.

Big mistake.

Getting her to London via Air Lingus was bad enough but here’s the thing, she’s lived quite an isolated life with only mangy cats and the radio for company, so when I eventually got her to London she insisted on saying hello to everybody and chatting to them. This was OK on the Tube (captive audience!), but once we got out onto the streets she kept smiling at folk and saying hello and trying to engage them in conversation… “hello, that’s a nice raincoat you have..” “hello, where did you get your scarf from..” “hello, where do you come from..” I was almost going to put blinkers on her to stop her talking to absolutely everyone… We were walking to my flat and it was “oh, there’s a house….. there’s another house….. oh look…another house… this ones got a green door… oh another house, why do you think they have a red door…” it took me ages to finally get her back to the flat.

However, growing up in rural Ireland means that your exposure to multiculturalism is limited… severely limited, it basically boils down to thinking of left handed folk as curiosities. I didn’t really think about this until we were walking along the street and four huge black guys came walking along, nothing unusual about that but Doris said in a voice slightly too loud “Oh look, here comes four darkies…”

Shit! I nearly fell to the floor! Doris!! You DON’T EVER refer to folks skin colour, nobody see’s skin colour in London this day and age, its completely unacceptable to refer to anyone by the colour of their skin! To which she replied “but they are darkies…” at which point they definitely were within hearing range… for a moment I thought of just disowning her and running like hell away but I just apologised profusely to the guys and explained that this was my mothers first trip outside of rural Ireland and she wasn’t house trained yet. And all the time she eyed them suspiciously…

I consider myself lucky to get away without a beating that Saturday afternoon but she did the same thing on the Tube that evening, a gang of Asian youths got on, a bit boisterous but good natured and she said it again “Oh, watch those darkies over there…”  We only narrowly avoided being lynched by me pleading complete insanity..

Sadly, I can understand just where Doris is coming from, I have made the same error when visiting Arizona a few years ago. I was talking to some folk in a bar and I was telling them what Tooting, SW London was like, (it’s full of Asians and curry shops BTW) so I said it’s full of Indians but they said Indians?, in London?

So I realised that they thought I was talking about ‘American Indians’ so I said  “no, no, not red Indians, indians from India..you know, with the Marajha’s”

Everyone looked shocked and I thought bugger, what’s wrong, is it not correct to refer to Indians here? I was politely informed that the correct term is Native American’s, never ever RED Indians… oops! You see, over here in the UK our only experience with Native Americans is from old black and white movies of cowboys and indians and the wild west and in those days the term Red Indians was acceptable. Of course everyone has stopped making Cowboy and Indian movies so here in the UK we are still using terminology from 40 years ago..and yes, I ‘now’ know that the red bit comes from the war paint they used on their faces..

So I digress, after those two episodes I thought it would be prudent to keep her well away from anybody… everybody.. Sadly she decided that whilst she was in London then she would buy a new raincoat, What I didn’t realise was that when you are 82, buying a new raincoat is ‘an all day event’. I took her to one shop and there were some bargains there, half price and very good quality, a done deal? No chance, it was lets see if we can find any cheaper ones, and it was traipse around half a dozen shops and engage every single sales assistant in idle banter. Eventually it was getting dark and she decided that nope, she would wait until she was back visiting Newry.. Lord, give me strength.

The thing I noticed about 82yr olds is how slow they walk, and how they have to negotiate steps one minute at a time, a dotterly foot hoovering gingerly over the step, almost trying to decide if it’s maybe too high..or too hot.. and then indecisively touching the step before lifting it up again and placing it two millimeters to the right… I could feel the life slowly draining out of me trying to get Doris up three steps..

It’s interesting that as you get older, you become more childlike. Walking any distance takes forever and you are easily distracted (there’s a house!) and just like when you have toddlers, you have to point out steps, obstacles and any dog poo on the road… and you have to help them cross the road safely…even if it means the drivers waiting 20 minutes whilst she places one foot laboriously in front of the other.. And eating, a toddler makes a huge mess and so does a 82yr old, give a toddler a drink in a cup and most of it will be split, give the same drink to a 82yr old and because of the shakes, the exact same amount hits the floor as well.. Place some garden peas on a plate and watch how both a toddler and 82yr old skits them all over the place and eventually used their fingers to eat the few actually remaining on the plate.

The other thing is, of course, that toddlers and 82yr olds fall asleep at the same time of the evening – just after the 6pm news actually and strangely, they both wake up at the same time in the morning – 6am. I thought I had burglars on the Sunday morning because ‘nothing’ ever surfaced in my place on a Sunday before 9am, sadly it wasn’t burglars but Doris, fully dressed and trying to put the plastic (electric) kettle on top of the cooker and trying to light it… oh dear.. something to look forward to 😉

The only differences between toddler and 82 yr old’s as far as I can see is that 82 yr olds watch the News constantly, we have BBC News 24 here and they are addicted to it, I took her for a walk and she was impatient to get back ‘incase she missed something..’ The same news had been repeated for the past 12 hours but there seems to be some fascination with news the older one gets, I jokingly asked Doris if she was worried about missing her obituary but she replied that it had been written many many times but never published and never will be and then proceeded to cackle.. honestly, she actually cackled…

bookmark_borderThe Mrs Doubtfire look..

You know when you have a baby and everyone says “oh, he sooo looks like you” or “he has your eyes”? I was reading an article the other day that explained we always say this because it’s an evolutionary ploy from prehistoric time to make us fathers think that the baby is indeed ours and we won’t throw it off a cliff but will stay at home in the cave and take out the prehistoric trash. This seems quite logical but I have to question one of two things about that.

First of all, how do researchers know this, it’s not like Stone age man left additional messages on those cave walls in southern France saying “This is a picture of me hunting the Mammoth…and this is my son, doesn’t he look like me?” I don’t think Stone Age man got past the stick drawing stage and during those times I’d imagine there was some difficulty in knowing which was your child and which was a small monkey (don’t think things have changed much these days if truth be told), throwing a banana into a gang of children would be the only way of sorting out which ones were actually Homosapians and which ones were destined to become a bosom pal of Tarzan..

…assuming one could find a box of banana’s in the back of the cave..

So the article was making an assumption but the other thing is that do I really want my child to look like me, I know a lot of folk will stand there all googly-eyed and say the baby is beautiful but honestly, I’ve seen some babies that look like ET on a bad day, and I’ve seen some babies that were so ugly the paint would peel off the wall every time they came into a room. No, I don’t want my kids to look like me, especially if I happen to be a built like a Rugby Scrum Half, I want the fruit of my loins to look like George Cloony’s/Angelina Jolie’s love child, not like some extra from a Shrek movie.

And what happens if the fruit of your loins happens to be a girl, “oh, she looks so like you..” take it from me, Rugby Scrum Half is ‘not’ a good look for any child, unless of course, you happen to be a fan of the Mrs Doubtfire look..

bookmark_borderRecycled Words, Part Three.

Yet more recycled village/town/hamlet names that could be put to better use; (these do actually exist)

Papple; To do what babies do to soup with their spoons.

Lackawanna; The inability of New York Taxi drivers to know where Central Park is.

Marytavy; A person to whom, under dire injunctions of silence, you tell a secret that you want everybody to know.

Patkai Bum; Mysterious illness affecting recently disposed heads of state which means they won’t be able to stand trial.

Laxobigging; Struggling to extrude an extremely large turd.

Plymouth; To recite an amusing story to someone, completely forgetting it was them that told you it in the first place.

Pitlochry; That background gurgling noise made by folk in restaurants trying to get the very last bits of their milkshake.

Lingle: To touch 9v battery terminals with your tongue.

Roosebeck; Useful emergency all purpose word. When a child asks you what is that bird/flower/funny thing that man’s wearing? you simply reply “it’s a roosebeck, darling..”

Spruce Knob; Men’s genital aftershave.

Stibbard; That invisible brake pedal in the passenger side of the car.

Quedgeley; A rabidly left-wing politician who can afford to be that way because he married a millionairess.

Ompton; One whom has been completely kitted out in tartan but still clearly comes from Idaho.

Nipishish; Description of person walking barefoot on gravel.

Lowestoft; The proper name for belly button fluff.

Malaybalay; That excitement at suddenly remembering a wonderful piece of gossip that you just have to pass on to EVERYONE.

Nybster; The type of person who takes an elevator to go to the first floor.

Pofadder; A snake that can’t be arsed to bite you.

Princes Risborough; The right of any member of the royal family to have people laugh at their jokes, no matter how crap they are.

bookmark_borderConfession Time; Readers Wives..

Apparently it's only read for the astute political commentary and the articles on cars.

Confession time number three or four… so many confessions, so little time..

Being Irish of course I have four older brothers, two older sisters and two younger brothers, nine of us in total. Around 1978 my eldest brother asked me to look after his house as he and his girlfriend were going away on holiday for two weeks and he didn’t want to house left alone. I jumped at the chance as it meant I had peace and quiet from home plus a TV remote control all to myself…heaven for a 17 yr old..

Obviously I had good nosey to see where he hid all his dirty mags and in one cupboard not only did I find all his dirty mags but also lots of topless photos of his then girlfriend…. She and I didn’t really get on… she detested me if truth be told and was mean to me all the time, so I had a cracking idea…. wouldn’t it be funny if I grabbed a few of these topless shots and sent them off to Fiesta, the tatty Brit version of Playboy that he read….. they had a Readers Wives section in it each month and it was too good an idea to resist, revenge would be mine..

So I wrote a nice letter to the editor of Fiesta magazine about how proud I was of ‘my wife’ and how we would love to see photos of her included in the Readers Wives section of his esteemed magazine… and sent some snaps off along with the letter…

I know, I know, but I was late teens and almost certainly not as sensible as I am today 😉

I told Ken, my best friend and he laughed and laughed… So we used to titter into ourselves every time we saw my brother and his despised girlfriend… and eventually we forgot about it..

Until about six months later when I came home and my eldest brother was at our home having a big argument with my other two older brothers… It seemed that out of the blue he had received a letter from the editor of Fiesta magazine thanking him for his contribution to his magazine and also a cheque for 30 quid…. oh dear… I TRIED not to look to guilty as he was arguing with his brothers as to who did it… I made a swift exit…

He never suspected me as I was ‘so young and innocent’ (ha!) but the final outcome was that his girlfriend found out from one of my other brothers and dumped him.. Soooooooo it worked out quite well for me actually…..

bookmark_borderMay Contain Nuts.

If you are easily offended then stop reading.

During my Student Nurse days I had to spend three months working on the Psychiatric hospital in South London. Some of the skills I picked up the was the ability to dodge incoming blows easily, wrestle a six foot six psycho to the ground in one deft movement and play poker, skills that have occasionally come in handy since then.

I worked on the admissions ward and nearly everyone there was sectioned (court ordered) and it was a bit of an eye opener. Some of the guys there were huge, brick shit-houses and you didn’t turn your backs on them *ever*. Most of them knew that if they punched your lights out then nothing would come of it, it’s like “are you nuts or something?” and the reply being the obvious “well, yes actually..” At times I felt like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest and developed a morbid fear of pillows.. So one developed a sixth sense when you were going to get decked, there was a chart on the Staff room wall with whom had went the longest without getting thumped, the longest period I went fist free was ten days but some of the old timers there nearly managed 100 days with a punch-up.

I should actually say that some of the Staff quite liked the fighting and enjoyed the fisticuffs with some of the more insane patients. I *did* see one guy, huge fucker, high on some weird concoction, take four staff on and beat them, eventually it took six police officers to subdue him enough for someone to jab his butt with a syringe containing enough sedative to take down a bull elephant..

The daily routine was to try to cajole the ‘inmates’ out of bed in the morning and get them off to occupational therapy but most just wanted to lay in bed all day and vegetate. We’d get most of them out of bed (eventually) but one huge guy in particular didn’t take any notice so the technique was to leave him to last, then two of us would grab his mattress, yank it up and literally toss him off the bed and run like fuck. He’s come charging after us but we were too fleet footed for him and eventually he’s give up and go get breakfast.

I wouldn’t want you to think I wasted my time there, I spent a lot of my time there constructively by learning to play poker. Playing poker with normal sane folk is difficult enough but playing it with someone psycho is a bit of a challenge for various reason. Knowing that your opponent could suddenly throttle you certainly added to the excitement of the afternoon, sometimes you’d see the other player being distracted and when you asked “what’s up?” it was somewhat unnerving to hear him say “the voices are telling me to kill you..”, and that was a member of Staff.. (only joking!), it certainly made the game more interesting. I did wonder though, was this just them playing us along, were they really hearing the voices but it was only for cigarettes so it was no biggie. I *have* sat at tables reading peacefully and suddenly all hell breaks loose because of the voices..

Anyway, we had quite a turnover of patients on the ward but one chap in particular was very memorable due to the fact that he masturbated continuously, even when his elderly parents came to visit (which thankfully was infrequently). I did suggest that they should perhaps visit during the night when he actually did sleep due to his strenuous and vigorous daily exercises but then conversation would have been minimal to say the least. Eventually they just rang up occasionally and listened to him panting down the phone at them, I’m sure some men pay good money to toss off down the phone to someone and I think I may have spotted an excellent retirement career for them, phone sex but didn’t dare suggest it. However, I did find it slightly worrying that to think I was masturbating almost as much as him – and he was considered mentally unstable.. where was the dividing line, two, three, four ham shanks a day? and what happens, was Big Brother watching in some sort of perverted way from the wardrobe and ticking them off on some clipboard..

Billy Connolly did an excellent sketch on masturbation, he was told how to masturbate when he was a young lad but then he was told that once you’ve done it a hundred times you die! So he masturbated furiously for a few weeks and counted them all up but he wasn’t sure, he lost track and then when he was masturbating he had this huge fear that he was going to die, and the shame of being found by his Mammy in bed with his hand around his member would have been too much to bear, it would give added meaning to the term rigor mortis.. or having a stiffy..

(Oh and I have a terrible terrible confession to tell about Springfield Psychiatric hospital and one dark stormy night but I’m going to consult lawyers before I post THAT!)

bookmark_borderBah! Humbug!

So it’s December and the festive season, for most folk the festive season starts just about *now*, well, of course that’s for the more ..cough-cough organised of the sexes, for some of us it usually starts about the 24th (and sometimes even later). *All* shops this side of the pond are closed on Christmas day, therefore the opportunities for emergency gifts are severely limited with only petrol stations open. Thus gift giving can be a bit of a challenge, little five year old Tommy gets a car jack (so he can practice being a *real* mechanic), teenage Cindy gets a bottle of Battery De-ionised Water (very good for removing nail varnish and outer layers of skin) and Granny gets some forecourt flowers that not only have been sitting outside for two weeks have have a distinct odour of Eau De Petroleum

On the other side of the pond I know Christmas shopping starts with a big bang on Thanksgiving day aka Black Friday but I was surprised to see a Christmas shop open in July in New York City. It seems it’s open all year round including Christmas obviously and I’m wondering is there discount on Christmas day. I don’t know about you but I have a certain amount of admiration for the staff who work there. When working on Adult Intensive Care we all admired the Nurses who worked on Neonatal Intensive Care, we’ve no idea just how they did that job and I have the same sneaking admiration for the staff who work all year round in Christmas shops.. How do they do it, are they only allowed to work a few hours at a time, do they rotate with Libraries for a break, are they on drugs, are they deaf, do they get special counselling at the end of each day.. I’ve no idea how someone could work in a store like that day after day, it’s sounds like my idea of hell. I went into the one in NYC and chatted away with the staff, they all seemed reasonable sane and rather surprisingly I couldn’t see the wires controlling them nor could I find any large stashes of Prozac behind the counters..

So I don’t want you thinking you have it all your own way in the States, there actually is a reason why I am so Bah! Humbug! over Christmas.. When I worked in supermarket management in Norn Ireland during the 80’s, Christmas for us started on the first of September (move those beachballs and buckets/spades out of the way) and carried on relentlessly and remorselessly until 5:30pm on Christmas eve… We had the Christmas music playing over the shop constantly for four months and I was going demented by week three, especially as we were all working extra hours. David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy I considered a particularly cruel and unusual punishment, by Christmas week I had developed a nervous twitch on hearing the first few bars of that tune and eyed the pick axe handles suspiciously..

So Christmas and me have history, but The Universe has got a huge sense of humour.. In the rest of London the street decorations don’t really go up until about the start of December but I live in Rooting Tooting. Tooting has a huge Asian population and a very popular Hindu festival is Diwali, which means a row of lights and it lasts five days. Wandsworth council, being the nice enlighten souls that they are, (and certainly aren’t chasing votes..) erect street decorations to celebrate Diwali.. In Tooting we have decorations going up in time for Diwali which I think was October the 17th this year..so since about the start of October I wander the rather interestingly lit streets of Tooting looking at the rather unusual Christmas decorations, I say rather unusual because half of the street lights are of Indian elephants and folk in turbans with “Sponsored By Spice Village” underneath and the other half are of reindeer’s and some jolly fat bloke with a beard.. (also sponsored by Spice Village strangely enough)

Oh, one last thing, on this side of the pond we celebrate Boxing day, a tradition when staff would receive small gifts from their employers in days gone past but I’m sure in centuries to come historians will look back and sagely declare that the origin of the name comes from the custom of taking boxes of gifts back to Toy’r’us for exchange the day after Christmas.. ;p

bookmark_border‘Her’ Today, Gone Tomorrow..

Growing up in Norn Iron there was one constant ritual in my life and that was getting my hair chopped off. It was not a happy time. My brothers and I (all seven of us) would be marched down to the barbers beside the train station to be denuded. We’d all stand there in line, awaiting our turn with some trepidation, Roots was being shown on TV at the time and I knew exactly how Kunta Kinte felt, lining up with his fellow warriors to be circumcised..

The barber would always say ‘who’s the first victim?” not without some irony and no-one would step forward voluntary. It’s not like we had any sense at all about style or fashion, it was the 70’s after all, the decade fashion forgot, but it was always an uncomfortable experience and having no hair in the middle of freezing winter was no fun, we knew exactly how shorn sheep felt, freezing cold, teeth clattering away in unison like some Antarctic musical ensemble as we marched back home..

As I was nearly the smallest I’d be lifted up onto the barbers chair and sit on a plank of wood placed between the armrests so I was up high enough, a perilous place to sit without support and these days Health & Safety would go bananas over it but then the barber would push my head forward so my chin was on my chest and start shearing away. Of course he’d look at me Ma and say ‘the usual?’ and she’d acquiesce but really this barber need’a bothered his arse asking her because he only ever had one haircut in his repertoire and that was the skinhead. Oh yes, he had all these photos on the wall, enticing the gullible into his emporium, numbered one to twenty four but they were just there for show, everyone got the same haircut, we think he practised on us so during the quieter summer months he could go off and enter sheep shearing competitions.

Of course none of this mattered to us because we had one thought, and one thought only and that was ‘please don’t cut off one of my ears! oh please, please, please..” we’d sit there praying with the devotion of a saint and daren’t move an inch or do anything at all that would distract the Barber from his shearing or, in a misplaced moment, we would look like Van Gogh with one ear. There was a story about this particular barber, that he had a habit of gouging bits out of kids ears and of course in the school playground this was amplified to he chopped off someone’s entire ear and they had to go to a special school as not only could they not hear anything but they couldn’t wear their glasses any more as they kept falling off their face.. We absolutely believed that..

When I got older I got a part-time job and was then expected to get my own hair cut, of course being a teenager I wasn’t going to spend any of my hard earned cash on a haircut when there was so many other delights to spend it on, Airfix models, Meccano and chocolate, so I let my hair grow into the long lanky mop that the more braver of you can see in one of my photographs. I was a teenager and eventually even puberty hit me, and I had the oiliest greasiest hair in the neighbourhood, Exxon Mobil applied for permission to drill on top of my head because it I was so oily, I’m probably not painting the most glamorous picture here but it’s true, haircut or Cadburys Dairy Milk Chocolate…no contest..

Eventually of course I got my fat arse down to a (different) barbers and he too had the same photos of chisel jawed part-time superheroes with perfectly styled hair on the wall in black and white. Yes, sir (sir! I was soo important!) which cut would you like?…you could see him eyeing my mop from afar thinking “I’m going to need the hedge clippers for this one..” .. “and maybe gloves..” So I’d peruse the assorted photos on the wall and pick a number twenty four, he looked like a man’s man, square jawed and hair like the Fonz, hair that said “make way, I am The Main Man..” and no matter how many times I went to that barbers I never got to resemble the superhero that was number twenty four, I was always given a number twenty five, twenty five wasn’t on the wall but it was euphemism for ‘shit haircut..”

Now of course, it’s all completely different, it’s a pleasure to get my hair cut these days, I go the the ‘hairdressers’, the Lovely Lisa (ohhhh the Lovely Lisa) cuts my hair now and I sit there and flirt outrageously with all the hairdressers. I’m 48 now and the big change I have noticed is that there are fewer and fewer blokes with full heads of hair. Okay okay, I may look like Blake Carrington from Dynasty with my silver locks but I have a full head of hair and I appreciate it during the winter months, especially when it is raining. I remember my biology teacher, who was as bald as a coot complaining about being outside in the fields, he said, it’s all right for you young’uns but I feel every single drop of icy cold rain that falls on my head.. So I make a point of moaning (overly loudly of co) to Lisa about how fast my hair grows and how thick it is and please *do* chop off as much as possible… as I glance around at the other blokes having ‘just a trim around the sides please”.

I know, I’m evil and am going to hell but at least I’m taking both my ears with me:)

bookmark_borderThen again, so is love.

I read this in a blog and thought it was very sweet..

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I sat at the gate, waiting for the plane back to Belfast and watching a man at the far end of the lounge read to his girlfriend.

Ah. So sweet and tender. I think being read to is one of the nicest things possible. I once told a friend that my idea of romance was to be shut up in a cottage on Cape Cod while Ira Glass read poetry to me. This was a number of years ago, before I moved here, and while the proper nouns have changed, the general scenario is much the same.

So I tried not to stare at the guy who appeared to be reading aloud items from the newspaper. Ironically, at this touching airport moment, I was deleting all the text messages I’d collected from the only glimmer of romantic possibility I’d had in Northern Ireland. I erased the little library — not out of pique, but out of boredom and resignation — and wondered why I’m always attracted to people who are

(a) supremely talented
(b) charmingly quirky
(c) arguably gay

As I chose my seat on the plane, I noticed that this man was extremely attentive to his travel companion. They were many rows behind me, but I saw him place her bag in the overhead compartment. At journey’s end, yard down the footpath, I watched him light a cigarette for her — old-time-movie style, both in his mouth.

Finally I indulged my curiosity. I walked to the smoking area so I could get a good look at this paragon of gallantry and the woman who inspired him. She is blind. Then again, so is love.

——

so sweet..

bookmark_borderOut-Holying Each Other

There is a book out here in the UK called My Life In Orange, it’s the childhood memories of Tim Guest growing up in a hippie community during the early eighties. The title of the book comes from the fact that everyone wore orange coloured hippy clothes. Orange is like the seventies – the decade fashion passed by..

So Tim spent a lot of time in this community of 200 mums and dads who wore lots of orange and practised free love and chanted a lot. One would think that within a community of ermmm ‘enlightened souls’ that there would be no politics or backstabbing..however that was not the case. There was always this pressure to ‘out-holy’ each other when in groups. A typical round the table discussion going like this;

“well, of course I’m vegetarian, eating meat is wrong”
“well ..I’m vegan”
“well, I’m vegan and won’t wear leather shoes”
“well, I vegan, won’t wear leather shoes and this belt is made out of recycled newspapers”
“well, I never leave the house incase I cause a butterfly to move from it’s chosen path..”
“well, I’m vegan, and won’t wear leather and this stew is made entirely out of recycled Dingo dung..”
“well, I’ve stopped breathing incase I pollute Mother Earth with my carbon dioxide and use sign language to chant my mantra to Mother Earth”

So everyone was always trying to out-holy each other…

I was reminded of this the other week. I meet up with a bunch of nutters to chat about Life, The Universe and Everything every once in a blue moon, really really nice folk and it’s the idea of coming together with like minded souls (which is exactly why I refer to them as my Nutters). However there is one chap there, Bob we’ll call him, who likes to out-holy everyone else, no matter what you have done, he’s done it better and he likes to say something holy and then bask in the appreciative nods of approval from almost everyone else…

So the other week we were discussing the homeless and begging on the street and he said “well, of course, every time I see a beggar on the street, rather than walk past, I say to myself ‘what would Jesus Christ do?’ ” and everyone nodded their head and he basked in that warm (smug) glow…

Sadly, I was in my usual mischievous mood…and no longer able to bear it any longer I said “well, yes, of course I think almost the exact thing when I see beggars in the street with one slight difference, I think to myself ‘what would Homer Simpson do….’ ” Bob glared at me…darkly.. but everyone else was too busy sniggering..

I’m going to hell, aren’t I?

bookmark_borderHouse Training..

Now here’s a little anecdote that I suspect more than one woman can relate to..

My friend Sibs has come back from Australia, she’s been there for about two years and it fills my heart with genuine joy to know she is back in this country. We shared a flat for a few years and never a cross word said, never a dull moment, she’s one of those souls that anyone and everyone likes, gentle warmth. Mind you, she’s completely useless at laundry, she’d wash everything in one large load at high temperature and then wonder why all her underwear gradually turned grey, in fact all her clothes attained the same grey colour whilst my T-shirts stayed white(ish!)… I had to explain why we separate whites from coloured.. a job her mother should have taught her.. it took me ages to house train her 😉

During our time together she went through ‘a dry spell’ as she calls it and didn’t date anyone for about three months, “Mennnn!!!” as she would moan and complain… consequently didn’t really care about her appearance too much and crucially she stopped shaving her legs.. This didn’t matter to me of course as she was more like my sister than a bit of fluff and I certainly wouldn’t be snuggling up with her, no matter how cold the nights got. However, one evening I’m having a shower and I noticed the shower basin was rapidly filling up with water.. I thought “that’s odd…” and after stomping around a bit and giving up trying to unblock it I got dried and dressed..

Then Sibs came back from shopping and I mentioned this to her…and she had the good grace to look guilty and said “oh ermm, did I not mention I’ve got a date tonight ..and shaved three months fur off from my legs this afternoon….” … I left her to unblock the shower with strict instructions to shave a bit more frequently..even if she is not dating…

I had to house train another flatmate after Sibs, Ed, an Italian, he was even hairier than Sibs but fortunately he didn’t shave anything except his chin, he was like a bloody werewolf thou, I pity the woman who had to snuggle up with him, it would be like snuggling up with Scooby Doo..

Anyway, Ed was typical Italian, he lived with his extended family and this was his first time away from under moma’s wings. Seemed a nice enough chap but he had no idea that meals didn’t cook themselves and dishes didn’t wash themselves and shirts didn’t iron themselves. After about a week he had run out of clean clothes and he said to me how come nothing works here? I said what do you mean and he said “well, at home I throw my dirty shirts in the laundry basket and when I come back from work they are washed and pressed and hanging up…and when I get up out of bed I leave it in a mess but when I come home it’s made…” and I looked at him and laughed… he hadn’t a clue… it took me months to get him to actually cook and clean and iron and do all those things that keeps us sane but towards the end he finally had it.

However, his moma come to visit one day from Italy to see the sights of London and stayed with us. She was flabbergasted when she saw Ed ironing a shirt, and couldn’t believe the change in her son, she kissed me on both cheeks and hugged me tightly because she had never seen Ed wash a dish or iron a shirt… I think she wanted me to go back to Italy with them…

bookmark_borderMuggles et al

My current job title is Webmaster, when I saw the job advertised in the newspaper I naturally assumed it was for a leading role in the latest Harry Potter movie, imagine my surprise when I pitched up here and they actually expected me to do some work, so I spend a lot of time working with non-magical folk (or Muggles as I like to call them), some folk here shouldn’t be allowed within 50 yards of a computer.. They come down here in desperate need of something fixing and I work my magic and viola, it’s all sorted, so I suppose that really is why I’m called the Webmaster.. I had a young woman working with me until recently, she used to answer the phone as Webmistress (which amused us no end) senior admin complained one day about it being unprofessional, so we made sure we ALWAYS answered the phone like that from then on..

This is about my 10th job, I won’t say career as I think that is something you stick to all your life, previous lives have included Milkman, Postman, Quality control, Management, Batterersea Dogs Home, Axe Wielding Psychopath, Intensive Care Nurse, Breast Cancer Nurse and now Webby stuff (spot the one that’s not entirely true)..

bookmark_borderAntarctic Slang

Found this whilst eating breakfast, some of it is very interesting and I thought I would share it 🙂

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Like any other close-knit or isolated group Antarctic communities develop their own sub culture with their own slang words and phrases. This list is far from exhaustive, inclusion here is my purely subjective view as to whether the word or phrase is worthy of note, because of how frequently it is used or as to how amusing I find it.

Where possible I have attributed a nationality to the word Am – American, Aus – Australian, Br – British, NZ – New Zealand. Where no nationality is attributed it is because I’m not sure.

A

A – factor – The Antarctic factor, unexpected extra difficulties presented by Antarctica. Aus

Airdrop – Cargo and personal items dropped from an airplane, a huge morale booster for winterovers. Am

Antarctic 10 – A person of the opposite sex who might be considered a “5” elsewhere. Am

B

Bagdrag – McMurdo base – US, dragging your bag – luggage – to weigh in for for a flight out. Due to weather conditions a bagdrag is not always followed by a flight and in any case will rarely take place at a convenient time for the dragger of the bag. Am

Banana Belt – The South Orkney Islands and South Georgia where there have been British bases for many years. As these bases are in the maritime Antarctic and not very far South by comparison to some others, they are referred to by inhabitants of other stations as being in the “Banana Belt” – still very chilly and windy though. Br

Beaker – A scientist, if said scientist is unwanted or unpopular, the term jafa, may be used – Just Another F….. Academic; Am, Aus, Br, NZ

Big eye – Insomnia caused by changes in the length of daylight.

Bog chisel – An implement with a wooden handle like a broom handle about 6 foot long and with a metal chisel-shaped blade about 2 inches wide at the end of it – blunt by usual chisel standards. Used as a snow and ice probe to test sea-ice – more than three thwacks to get through and it’s safe to walk on, less than three and it’s time to walk back where you came from – very carefully. Also used as a crevasse probe. Br

Bolo – Burnt-out-left-over an expeditioner who has been in the Antarctic for too long. Aus.

Boomerang – A flight to Antarctica that turns back before it gets there, usually due to poor weather conditions at the landing site. Am.

Bunny boots – Boots for extremely cold weather, large, white and plain, but effective, the name comes from a layer of rabbit fur that’s supposed to be part of the insulation (actually wool felt). Am

C

ChCh – (pronounced Cheech), slang for Christchurch, New Zealand, a stopping off and kitting up point for US Antarctic programme personnel en route for Antarctica. Am

Chinese Landing – A phonetic pun, based on the unusual aircraft angle when landing in stiff Antarctic cross winds: one wing low. Am

City Mice – Support personnel whose duties force them to remain at McMurdo Station. Am

Country Mice – Scientists and their assistants who get to travel to camps around Antarctica. Am

Crawlies – Blowing snow at ground level that snakes along being very atmospheric. Snow blows around in Antarctica far more than it falls from the sky, the low temperatures means that it stays powdery and loose and ever present winds move it back and forwards a lot.

Crud, the – Common name for colds / flu contracted by new arrivals to the US McMurdo base. Most common with a large entry of new people bringing a large influx of fresh germs. Any germ-related illnesses in Antarctica are rare in the winter as the base personnel have either had the illnesses by then or are immune to them. The longest continuous period of my life free of colds and flu was when I was in Antarctica. Am.

D

Dear John – A letter from a girlfriend left behind informing the recipient he is now (at his choice) not only thousands of miles and many months away, but also surplus to emotional requirements. Br

Degomble – Being outside in Antarctica in wind-driven snow makes a lot of the snow stick to your clothes and in nooks and crannies around back-pack etc. De-gombling is the process of removing this loosely attached snow before going indoors into a hut, base-building or tent where it would melt and make life more unpleasant.

Originated (I think – clarification would be appreciated) with dogs in the days when they were used to pull sledges, in certain conditions, snow could form into balls (gombles) that hung from the dogs fur, making them heavy and uncomfortable. Br.

Dingle – Good weather, on a dingle day it’s time to get your boots on and go out to play – or excellent visibility. Br.

Dome – An aluminium Geodesic dome, 50 meters (165 ft) in diameter at the base and approximately 17 meters high (55 ft) at the top at the American Scott-Amundsen base at the South Pole. Looks a bit like an ice-age EPCOT. The South Pole base was established in the 1950’s and was seen as a great status symbol location for a base. That being the cold war, the Russians then followed it up by establishing their status symbol base at the pole of inaccessibility – the point on Antarctica the furthest from any ocean – the Vostok base. Am

Dome Slugs – Those who live and work in the central Dome at the south polar station. Am

Donga – Sleeping area. Aus

Doo – Short for skidoo, small robust and very effective small-scale transport over snow and ice, like a motor-bike on skis. Can be used to transport driver and one other sitting down or much bigger loads towed along behind on a sledge. Br.

E

ECW – Extreme Cold Weather. A label applied to protective clothing issued to American base members, includes parkas, bunny boots, bear claws (large mittens), balaclavas etc. Am

F

FIDS – “Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey” was the original name for the “British Antarctic Survey” (BAS). Members of FIDS referred to themselves as Fids and the name stuck. It is usually taken as meaning someone who has travelled to Antarctica and worked on a FIDS or BAS ship or base. Some purists maintain that it should only apply to those who have wintered on such a base. Br.

Fidlet – A FID in his or her first year, sometimes considered as someone in their first summer south preceding the first winter after which they will be a Fid proper. Br.

Fidgob – Any job that is “gobbed” together using materials available at the time by a Fid. Not usually a very elegant solution due the improper materials and / or tools and / or inexpertise of the Fid concerned. Antarctica does, has always and probably always will, run on the equivalent of Fidgob solutions to broken or missing apparatus and machinery. Br.

Field, The – Anywhere not on a base. Scientists in particular like to talk about being “out in the field” – it makes them sound more rugged and heroic.

First Call – The first visit of the season to a base by a ship. An eagerly awaited event by winterers as it brings mail, fresh food, new people, cargo, shopping they’ve ordered and almost a new way of life as the summer now starts. Br

Fingy – The pronunciation of F.N.G.. A derogatory term of uncertain origin for the F… New Guy (or Girl). Originally used in Vietnam to describe a solider on their first tour of duty. Am, Aus, Br, NZ

Five hundred club – Those who have been in Antarctica for more than 500 successive days. Aus

freshies – Fresh fruit and vegetables brought in by air or ship. Food is a perennial topic of conversation at all Antarctic bases, most of the year the food has been preserved in some way. The arrival of fresh produce is an event of great importance especially at the end of the winter when exotic delights like boiled potatoes and carrots taste like you’d never believe that they could. Am.

G

Gash – A Naval term that has two meanings, firstly it means rubbish / garbage anything to be disposed of and secondly it describes a task or event. Many bases have a gash-rota whereby each member in turn is gashman for the day. This means that they help in the kitchen with menial tasks, wash-up, deal with the gash – rubbish/garbage and generally carry out various base house-keeping duties (similar to Aus. “slushy”). Br.

Gomble – An accretion of snow on hair. This is usually facial hair or the hair on a dog in the days when they were used to pull sledges. In certain conditions, snow could form into balls (gombles) that hung from the hair or dogs fur, making them heavy and uncomfortable. (see degomble) Br.

greenout – The emotion felt on seeing and smelling green things (plants) again after an extended period on the ice.

grips – Photographs, “getting the grips in” is an Antarctic occupation that can be taken to extremes. Particular incidents and occurrences can only be legitimately claimed to have happened once the grips had been got in. Br.
This has now progressed to videoing everything, I have been recently pleasantly surprised to come across this, part of a great and noble tradition.

H

helo – Helicopter.

Herbie – The name given to particularly powerful and dangerous storms that affect the US McMurdo base coming from the South, through “Herbie Alley”, winds can be in excess of 100 knots. Am

Hollywood Shower – A naval term, derisively used to describe showers of longer than the allotted two minutes (fresh water in a liquid form is relatively rare in Antarctica) Am.

House Mice – Personnel on periodic janitorial duty. Am

I

Ice, The – A common nickname for Antarctica. Being in Antarctica is referred to as being “On The Ice”. Am.

J

Jolly – A pleasure trip, can be used derisively “jolly merchant” for someone who always manages to get to go on the interesting trips (despite the title I never came across one who would sell places on jollies). Summer only personnel may sometimes be referred to by winterers as “on a summer jolly” Br.

K

Klatch – Personal belongings Br

L

Last Call – The last visit of the season to a base by a ship. The departure of last call takes with it people who have been in Antarctica for up to 30 months and heralds the start of winter with no physical contact with the outside world for up to 11 months depending on where the base is. Br

M

Manhaul – A sledging trip where the sledge is pulled by men rather than vehicles. Br, Aus.

Mactown – A nickname for the US base at McMurdo. Others are McMudhole and Dirt Town because of the gritty volcanic soil there that is exposed in the summer.

Mank, manky – Overcast weather, particularly common in the maritime Antarctic Br.

Mainbody – One of the three seasons of the American Antarctic year. At McMurdo for instance, it lasts from approx. 1st of October until the last flight at Station Close, around late February or early March. Seasonality in Antarctica is timed by events as much as the calendar and seasons are not reckoned to be over or begun until events such as the first or last ship or flight of a particular season has happened. Am.

Medevac – A contraction of “medical evacuation” – a special flight out for someone before their tour is over as a result of illness or injury. Am, Aus, Br, NZ

Monk-on – A term for being in a bad, usually introspective mood, “he’s got a monk-on”. Br

Mukluks – Inuit style cold weather boots. Soft outer, pale cream in colour with a very thick sole and a wool felt liner, very effective as long as you don’t try to do any climbing or walking over uneven surfaces in them. Am, Aus, Br

Munch – Dried meat granules a common part of the winter diet in the absence of fresh meat, also used by field parties as water can be added by melting snow or ice. Br.

Mutt – American sheathbill, a small Antarctic bird the size of a larger but rounder pigeon with disgusting table manners and thought by some to have been overlooked by evolution. Evidence of the first point is that in the days when waste matter was flushed into the sea, some thought that Mutts could hear the sound of the flush and take position at the kaka-pipe (it wasn’t really called the kaka-pipe). Evidence of the second is that in winter some would come into land on a slatted jetty and only put down one leg to save heat loss, the result is that the one leg would go between the gaps in the slats. Br

N

Nutty – The general term for any type of chocolate or sweets / candy, whether it contains nuts or not. A personal note here, when I first arrived in Antarctica I was most unimpressed with the unhealthiness of the food that people took out with them when leaving base for a day trip – one to three bars of chocolate and nothing else. Being of sterner stuff I promptly made myself some healthy sandwiches (tuna if I remember rightly) – I was observed with interest but without comment by other (as it turned out – wiser) people around. Come lunch break, while others tucked into their hard but edible “nutty” I sat and sucked on a frozen sandwich. Br

Nutty (alt -probably original) – The dog food which we carried and used in the field came in compressed blocks of meat and fat weighing about 1lb per block (I think) and in boxes weighing 70 lbs each which would last one team (9 dogs) for 5 days. It’s trade name was Nutrican which was abbreviated to Nutty by the dog drivers. (Thanks to Drummy Small for this – more.) Br

O

OAE – Old Antarctic Explorer. Someone who’s been around in Antarctica for a while, several summers, or at least a Winter, the more the better of course. Wintering at the south polar station confers OAE status. Am

Offensive potatoes – tinned potatoes

Oggin – The sea. Br.

P

PAX – Passengers. Am

Pit / pitroom – Bed / bedroom. Br.

Poppy – Alcoholic beverage that is chilled with natural Antarctic ice. Hundreds of thousands of years of pressure captured bubbles of environmental gas that, when warmed with Glenfiddich (or any other less qualified inebriant of choice), pop in your face. Due to the extremely low humidity of the region, hangovers induced from poppys were particularly onerous and it wasn’t uncommon for someone to say, “Had too many poppys last night.” Trust me, it had nothing to do with genealogy or flowers. Am

PSR – Point of Safe Return. Applied to aircraft flying to Antarctica, the furthest the plane can go and still return to its origin. Some aircraft that fly to the American McMurdo base can fly all the way and then back to the take off point in Christchurch New Zealand without landing. In this case the PSR is actually McMurdo itself and on occasion due to extreme weather conditions, planes have flown all the way there and then gone back again without landing. Am.

R

Race around the World – A popular race around the south pole marker on Dec. 25th. Am

S

Sawdust – dehydrated cabbage Br

Scradge – Food, Br.

Scrubout – A weekly occurrence on some bases where at a regular time (after dinner on a Friday is popular) everyone sets to to clean the base up being allotted a different place to clean by weekly rota. Br.

Skua – to appropriate goods by means that are not quite stealing, but also not quite not-stealing. Named after Antarctic Skuas that hang out near the Galley in McMurdo. – Am – (thanks to “Icegirl” for posting this on the guest map ;o))

Slack – Something badly done, often applied to gash – “slack gash” is a withering admonishment and difficult to live down. Br

Slot – crevasse. Where a glacier goes over a bump in the underlying bedrock, it cracks from the top (widest point) pretty much all the way to the bottom, this is a crevasse.

Slotted – Something that happens if you fall into a crevasse, an almost ubiquitous hazard in Antarctica as the wind-blown snow often covers up these tapering cracks in the ice with a snow bridge that can easily be 50ft+ (over 16m) wide. The weakest part of the snow bridge is going to be the middle of course. Falling into a crevasse without a rope to stop you has to be one of the most unpleasant ways to go. There’s a deep enough fall for you to pick up a fair speed before you get wedged into the narrowing space at the bottom (known as “corking in”). Assuming you don’t crack your head on the way down and are still alive, you will become aware of being held by your pelvis or ribcage that may well have been broken in the process. You now have to get out while firmly wedged and in some considerable pain. If not roped up you will be dependent on whoever is on the surface, so hope they’ve a long enough rope. To make matters worse it will probably be pitch black or at least very dim and if it’s summer there’s a possibility that the bottom of the crevasse may even contain very cold meltwater. I worried a lot about falling in crevasses. Am, Aus, Br, NZ

Vehicles can also be slotted.

Slushy – A sort of kitchen helper/hand for the day performed by base members on a “slushy rota” (similar to Br. “gash rota” and gashman). Aus

Smoko – Coffee or tea break, a Naval term. Smoko is a bit more of an event than just stopping work for a break, the whole base pretty much would go to the dining room and drink / chat / eat and smoke too in the days when it was almost compulsory. Br.

Snotsicle – An icicle of frozen mucous hanging from the nose of the owner, once they start to form, they cause the nose to run so speeding up the growth. Aus.

South – Antarctica. Usually referred to in the form “going south”, “been south”, “went south” etc. Br

Springer – A summer worker who arrives before the main hoards. Br

T

Three-hundred-club – To belong, you need to go through 300 degrees Fahrenheit, this is achieved by rolling naked outside in a chilly Antarctic temperature and then going inside to hit the sauna. Am

Thrutch – difficulty, usually applied to progress through deep or poor snow conditions. “the last bit was a real thrutch”. Br

Transantarctics – The Transantarctic mountain range that stretches across the middle of the continent, from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. Am

U

U-barrel – A 55 gallon drum used for the collection of urine in places that lack plumbing. U-Barrels are painted bright yellow. Used as the basis of a toilet of various degrees of primitiveness. Most countries remove all their waste from Antarctica these days so as not to degrade the environment. As 55 gallon barrels are used to bring in all kinds of fuels, they are an ideal way of taking all the waste out again and find use for all manner of purposes as well as for the traditional one of cutting them in half and making a barbecue. Am.

W

Weather Guesser – A meteorologist. Am

Windy / windies – Name for the ventile windproof jacket and over trousers issued to members of the British Antarctic Survey. Apparently old fashioned and low tech, but remarkably practical and much loved by generations of Fids. Br.

Winterovers – Any one who stays on an Antarctic base for the whole of the winter.

bookmark_borderThe Tooting Popular Front.

I live in Wimbledon Borders…well, when I say *Wimbledon Borders* I actually mean Tooting, SW London but like most folk in Tooting if we want to impress a bit of fluff in a bar then we say Wimbledon Borders, you see, Wimbledon borders Tooting. I seem to be falling into the trap of what most English folk do and go for location aspiration, one of our politicians, a slippery little bugger who would give even Harry Houdini a run for his money, coined the phrase ‘being economical with the truth’ and most folk in Tooting can be somewhat economical with the truth of where they live.

Talking of which, about 40 miles due south, just before you splash into the sea is Brighton. Brighton has kind’a merged with it’s sister town Hove over the years but if you ask anyone in Brighton where do they live they will say ‘Actually’… This is a bit of an in-joke as Hove considers itself a few steps further up the social ladder than Brighton, so when you ask anyone in Brighton did they really live in Brighton they would invariably say “Hove actually” and now even the very posh just say “I live in Actually..”.

Tooting of course isn’t *that* bad or undesirable but on my travels around the world nobody has heard of Tooting but everyone has heard of Wimbledon.. Most Brits of a certain vintage will remember Tootings most famous resident, Wolfie Smith and the Tooting Popular Front with great fondness but I guess everyone else will just have to google him.

Tooting means ‘the dwelling of the sons of Totas’ and was mentioned in the Doomsday book but it’s strange to think that even in relatively recent times this area was countryside. Up the road is Springfield Psychiatric Hospital, or ‘home sweet home’ as I call it, the Victorians would always build their loony bins well out into the countryside and I’ve seen pictures of Springfield surrounded by cows and haystacks and yet I live within the boundaries of London.. or Londonium as I like to call it.

Tooting itself is actually referred to as New New Delhi by my friends as it is the main Asian shopping area in London, like most cities different ethnic groups tend to clump together and so Tooting has become the place to buy anything Indian or Sri Lankin, which of course means that there are excellent markets selling fruits, veg and spices unknown outside the Indian sub continent but even better nearly every other shop in the High Street is a proper curry house..

However, because of the effect of second and third generation families sending their children to University rather than working in the family restaurant, we now have the rather interesting situation of a shortage of Indian waiters for the restaurants..so now we have Polish waiters in Indian restaurants waiting on the tables and trying to pass themselves off as Asian and adopting comical Asian accents. Most folk out of town don’t notice this but the great unwashed of Tooting can spot non-Asian waiters a mile off and it gives us great amusement to use the few words of Gujarati we know to the waiters and get blank stares.. it’s an interesting turn around of events when an Irishman knows more Gujarati than the waiters in an Indian restaurant 🙂

bookmark_borderWeddings and Christmas

Almost December and the big push to Christmas starts. It occurred to me that there are a lot of similarities between Christmas and weddings and each of the two sexes have very distinct roles.. Of course this is just a broad generalisation but generally we men just get told what to do and to BEHAVE!

We get told to organise the rings, best man and car and hand over wallet (now please don’t jump all over my nuts of saying that, it’s a generalisation and I can only quote from the examples I know of) and stay out of the way until you are needed …ummm that’s about it, the woman of the family do practically everything else, write out the invites and tell us where to sign the cards to folk we haven’t seen since school days, choose flowers, wedding gift list, church, dress, clothes, reception, seating plan and the thousands of other jobs that we men don’t even notice that make the day so wonderful…

And it’s the same for Christmas, just keep quiet, get the Christmas tree, help with the shopping when required, hand over your life savings, countersign that huge pile of cards to folk you haven’t seen since school days and stay out of the way whilst the woman of the house organise everything else, what we are eating, where everyone is sitting, what gifts to buy and Christmas day happens as if by magic..

Talking to a friend it appear that, for a sizeable amount of us men at least, Christmas (and weddings) are something to be endured, a quick poll around the office confirms this, we get told what to do and when to do it and experience has taught us it’s best just to keep quiet and not protest too much…

However, there *is* one area that we generally take more than a passing interest in – at least at Christmas time – and that is outdoor decorations…we love ’em..I’m sorry ladies but that’s our domain..the more lights and god awful trashiness of them, the better…move over darling, you ain’t seen nothing yet, money is no object when it comes to us men and things with plugs;

Santa With Train Silhouette Rope Light 3.1m for 69 quid…bargain..
Konstsmide 3650 micro LED outdoor Christmas light set at 49 quid..a steal..
4 X RUNNING WHITE LED TWINKLING DEERS WITH SLEIGH SILHOUETTE 449 quid..I kid you not, it really is that price so it MUST be good…
A one meter tall led Santa, 149 quid..giving it away,
The look on your stuck-up neighbours face at the vulgar tasteless tat on your house…for all of December – PRICELESS 🙂

bookmark_borderA Sting In The Tale

I’m practising my CPR

A funny thing happened to me on the way to Minneapolis…

This tale has not one, but two stings in the tale.

A number of year ago I decided to take a trip to Minneapolis. It’s main (only?) claim to fame is it’s home to the Mall of America, America’s largest shopping mall, come’on, who wouldn’t want to go there?

So out of Gatwick, past Glasgow, past Reykjavik, onwards towards New Foundland, all plain sailing (or is that plane flying?). I had an American guy sitting beside me and I took great delight in showing him Father Ted comedy series on my computer.

Quiet flight, everyone settling down for a snooze….or so I thought!

Suddenly there was a commotion a few rows in front of me, an American lady stood up and started shouting at her husband “Wake up! Wake up!” this looked bad so I thought I’d better go and have a wee nosey, you know, just make sure everything was OK.

So up I got, wandered down a few rows, looked at her husband and got the shock of my life!

He was slumped in his chair, obviously not breathing, unconscious and most startling of all, his lips and the tip of his nose were very blue due to lack of oxygen! The medical term is central cyanosis, every medics nightmare!

I’ve been working in computers for the last twenty years BUT by a stroke of luck, prior to that I worked for ten years as a nurse in both General Intensive Care and Cardiac Intensive Care. What luck!

So my NHS training immediately kicked in. THANK YOU NHS!

First action must ALWAYS be call for help, so I immediately screamed “I need a Medic and I need a Medic NOW!

And then I asked one of the flight attendants to put a call out for help over the tannoy.

Next, check breathing, feel for a pulse, any response to vigorous shaking. Zero. Zero and Zero.

Crap!

I needed to start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) immediately.

Unfortunately this gentleman was by the windows seat and wasn’t light. So with strength I didn’t know I possessed, I managed to pull him from the seat and got him onto the floor of the plane in one swift move. It was a tight fit!

Next step. Start CPR, 15 compressions to each breath.

Pro tip 1. Do the compressions in tune to the BeeGees ‘Staying Alive’.

Yes.

Seriously.

Google it!

While I was doing this Ah–ONE I asked Ah-TWO the Flight Attendants Ah-THREE what Emergency Packs Ah-FOUR they had?

Fortunately (and THANK GOODNESS!) all American Airline flights have defibrillators! So off she went running for it while I carried on with CPR …Ah-FIVE…Ah-SIX

And she hurried brought the lifepack back but before handing it over I got “I can’t give you this until I see your license to practice”!

So, step one, show another willing passenger how to continue with the compressions.

Step two. Politely snatch the Defib off the young lady, we can argue about licenses later.

Step three. Connect up the Defib and pray!

Fortunately it was one of these new automatic Defibs so I connected it up, switched it on and it said;

“Assessing Patient..”

“Accessing Patient..”

“Ventricular Fibrillation”

Thank fuck! VF (Ventricular Fibrillation) is a shockable rhythm, it responds very well to cardioversion. Think of it like every single muscle fibre of the heart is firing off simultaneously, every muscle fibre of the heart is having an epileptic fit, a quivering limbo dance, and passing a charge across the myocardium resets the electrical activity and fingers crossed, they reset to sinus rhythm.

“Prepare to Cardiovert Patient–Stand Clear”

“Press Green Button”

I double checked everyone was clear and even more importantly ensured he wasn’t touching any metal parts of the plane.

Pro tip 2. Airlines are worried about mobile phones interfering with navigation equipment and ask everyone to switch them off or put the device into Airplane Mode before take-off and landing. They should be even more worried about having a Defib being used incorrectly at 38,000ft. Passing 300 joules of electrical energy through the plane fuselage means everyone’s going to have a bad day that day! It’s somewhat imperative to make sure your patient isn’t touching any metal..

So, the Defib did that whining noise we all know from the movies as it charged up.

Deep breath.

I pressed the Green Button

He did a large sudden jerk..

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE…

and the Defib called out

“Assessing Patient..”

“Requires Further Cardioversion”

FUCK, still in VF! I tuned the juice up.

“Stand Clear and Press Green Button”.

I made sure we were all clear and pressed the button again, he did another sudden jerk PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE…

and then the Defib said

” Rhythm attained, please attend patient.”

Thank FUCK! Hurrah! Hurrah! I could breathe again! So could absolutely everyone else on the plane! Phew!

I read the ECG from the machine and he did indeed seem to be in a sinus rhythm, though very unstable but a rhythm with an output is enough!

The flight attendant found an oxygen cylinder, an ambu bag and a face mask with a good seal in the emergency pack so I kept his airway clear and tried to get some O2 into him. I found a stethoscope in one of the medical kits and tried listening for air entry on both sides of his lungs.

Pro tip 3. Don’t bother listening for air entry, all you’ll hear is the sound of four General Electric GE90 jet engines drowning out any airway sounds.

I glanced down the aisle. Absolutely everyone was hanging further and further out of their seats, so much so that the passengers at the end of the aisle were in danger of falling out. Kim Kardashian could’ve been standing buck naked at the end of the plane and no one would have noticed, all eyes were on us!

At this point the pilot came wandering up and asked what the score was, I told him in no uncertain terms that this man needed proper medical attention ASAP! We were about an hour out of Iceland, so he simply turned the plane around 180 degrees and headed back to land at Reykjavik…to a chorus of groans by everyone else.. Aren’t people funny, you’re a hero one minute, then your flight turns around and suddenly you’re the worse of the worse… if it had been your dad….

So we carried on like this for the hour, taking turns to ventilate, watching the rhythm, getting things ready in case he should have another arrest and at the same time trying to talk with his wife to reassure her and get some medical history.

Eventually we got near Reykjavik and the Flight Attendant said we need to take a seat whilst the plane landed for safety’s sake, I told her it was impossible to ventilate him effectively from the seat, so I sat on the floor with his head between my legs facing the direction of the aircraft while we slowed from 700mph to a very bumpy landing at Reykjavik airport.

At Reykjavik the ambulance had arrived but due to the thin aisles of the plane and him being a bit heavy we couldn’t use a ‘back-board’ to stretcher him off the plane. So they simply hauled him off in very undignified fashion with me ventilating him from the side.

Pro tip 5. Reykjavik, Iceland, February, about 5am in the morning, a bit parky. Don’t just go out in a tee-shirt!

I helped get him into the ambulance, passed on a report to the ambulance crew and very quickly got back into the lovely warmth of the 777 before I got frostbite!

We spent about the next hour tidying up the plane, getting fresh medicines on board (in case lightening did indeed strike twice!) and eventually started making our way to the States. The flight attendants were so grateful for my assistance that they put me in business class for the remainder of the trip, they kept saying just how thankful they were to have us on board.  No No, thank you American Airlines for having Defibs on every plane!

Pro tip 6. Now, dear readers, I’d like at this point to offer some very important advice.

IF at any stage in the future, you plan on having a cardiac arrest, it’s somewhat important, actually, imperative,  that you ask around your immediate vicinity the following question: “Is there anyone here with medical experience, ideally ten years’ experience working as a nurse on Intensive Care?”

If no-one replies in the affirmative then it’s probably not an ideal time to have your heart attack, you might want to postpone it until you’re somewhat closer to a hospital. Probably the very worse time and place to have a cardiac arrest is when you’re travelling at 700mph at 38,000ft halfway across the Atlantic.. If you look out the window you won’t see many ambulances out there..

And now the two stings in the tale.

1. I wasn’t actually meant to be on that flight. Gatwick Security was so bad that day that I was held up and missed my flight. So I was put on a later hop skip and jump flight. If Gatwick Security had been efficient that day then I would have been on an earlier flight and who knows what would have happened. I asked the Flight attendants what actually happens when someone dies on a flight and they said we try to carry them (covered up!) to the galley, lay him down there and try to leave them there until the flight lands.

2. On the way back to Reykjavik I asked his wife about previous medical history. They’d just spent two weeks touring England but were returning home to Dallas. She told me his father had died..yes, you guessed it, from a heart attack. Her husband had chest pains three days ago in London! I was flabbergasted…What! Surely the doctors in A&E would have absolutely refused to let him fly…reduced oxygen and all that??

“Oh no! we don’t trust your British hospitals so he didn’t go, he treated himself..” and she said he was an anaesthetist, she was a nurse and they carried an emergency pack of meds everywhere they went!

So, let me get this straight, you’re both medics, know all about the classical symptoms of cardiac failure, but rather than call an ambulance immediately or go to the nearest A&E you treated yourself because he didn’t trust our NHS hospitals.

FACEPALM!..what did you think we would treat him with? Leeches?

bookmark_borderBigamist Feline..

When I was about 20 my sister brought home two very cute kittens from the animal shelter, we named them Cleo and Patra and they seemed content enough. However after a few years Cleo, our black cat, used to disappear for weeks at a time, the first time she disappeared I thought she had got lost or was trapped in someone’s garden shed and I plagued my neighbours to check their sheds and garages but I couldn’t find her.. and then she would just turn up again like there was nothing to it… I spent many a night scouring the streets for her but never ever found her but a week later she was at the kitchen window looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth… or I’d go up the stairs and she’d be sleeping on my bed.. like bloody Garfield…

Then one day walking around the next street I saw a lost cat note attached to a lamp post and when I looked at it I burst out laughing, it was Cleo… I went around to the house in the note and asked them about it, it seemed this couple had adopted this ‘stray’ cat and she stayed with them and then regularly buggered off but this time she had been away for quite a while…. they called her Snowy (Cleo was jet black!) and she slept on their bed at night time…

I explained that Cleo was mine and I had brought her from Whitespots Animal Shelter along with Patra and we all laughed but Cleo kept on sharing her life with sis and I and that nice couple in the next street.

When I left for Ireland for London I ‘gave’ Cleo to them… might as well of as she lived there 50% of the time…they used to send me photos of her at Christmas time and little postcards with “Having a wonderful time..” and signed with a little paw mark..

But here’s the thing, even though I was gone and living in London, Cleo ‘still’ disappeared for weeks at a time… I’m pretty sure she had adopted yet another couple…. is my cat a slut? 😉

bookmark_borderNursing Life (part deux)

Working (previously) as a nurse on Intensive Care one forgets that ‘normal’ folk haven’t experienced the kind of life you have and it tends to warp ones sense of humour, for the worse. Like Eskimo’s with their many different ways of describing snow, that you also have a many different ways of describing diarrhoea, the least favourite way of describing it when a Medic asks you about it being “just look at my shoes..” (and yes, this is how we spell diarrhoea in the UK)

There are no holes barred when you work as a nurse (literally), my fingers have been in places where the sun don’t shine many times.. and not just during my lunch-break either (joke!), and I’ve seen more willies than any porn actress. I’ve also seen some strange objects inserted in body cavities, it’s amazing just how many men ‘accidentally’ sit on things left in their sofa; hairbrushes, satsumas(!), lightbulbs and the amount of men that hoover naked (in winter) and somehow manage to accidentally catch their willies in the hoover hose… I’m telling ya, I’m starting to get suspicious..

Part of my job was to educate patients about the dangers of smoking and what it does to their health but ironically there is a silver lining to smoking – at least from a nursing (and cost) perspective, I’ve had patients who are heavy smokers and the very first thing they do upon waking up from an operation is to ask for a fag (that’s cigarette here in the UK sweetie!). Upon being informed that there is no smoking allowed on the hospital premises they nearly always manage to struggle out of bed, hobble down the corridor and stand outside and light up, sometimes literally if they have an oxygen mask on! Not without some irony, physiotherapists were always saying to me that they wished every patient was as motivated to get out of bed and mobilise as smokers were..

bookmark_borderWeird Phobias

Was listening to radio this morning whilst getting dressed and they were chatting about weird phobias, not very exciting, a phobia of wasps and bee’s, didn’t think that was too weird, I had a friend from years ago that was absolutely terrified of bee’s and unfortunately one got into his car whilst we were both in it, he went crazy, panicked and flailed about whilst the car swerved into the path of an oncoming lorry… it was the last time I ever got in a car with him…bloody bees.

However, I have my own weird phobia(s), it’s people on crutches.

OK OK, you’re thinking WTF but it’s true, it all stems from when I was about 10 years old, I was walking up a hill towards home with a bunch of friends and there was this bloke standing at the bus stop leaning on crutches. I can’t really explain it but as we all walked past him chatting and joking away, somehow or another my right foot kicked his outer crutch …and he fell over …with quite a thud! I was mortified and apologised immediately but he struggled to his feet with both his crutches screaming at me that I was a clumsy clutz and started swinging the clutches at me… We all ran like hell leaving him behind to curse and swear at me but ever since that day I’ve always been a bit nervous near folk on crutches, it was probably a bit foolish of me to train as a nurse and work in a hospital for twelve years then…

I also have a weird phobia about large breasted woman (or large breasted men for that matter!). This all stems back from my very first proper girlfriend who was enormously endowed, not like that was the (only!) reason we dated, it was hypnotising, like watching two small bald headed men wrestling under a duvet… Unfortunately her chest was also incredibly sensitive and one couldn’t actually fondle them without her winching and slapping me in the face. Even spooning was an issue (never mind actual forking), I’d snuggle up in bed behind her wrapping my arms around her and she’d scream “ouch! watch it!’ and I’d have to very gingerly move my arms either around her hips or around her bleeding neck. My friends used to ask what it was like dating her and I’d tell them I was just a bunch of nerves, Irish folk are very physical, we like to hug a lot but even this was out of the question – assuming I didn’t want kicked in the shins. I had a Kiwi friend from a few years ago, she was similarly endowed, she said the exact same thing, incredibly sensitive.. I suppressed my usual urge to hug her too, my shins still hadn’t recovered. And of course like my phobia of people on crutches, later on in life I went and worked for a breast cancer charity for two years… I was a nervous wreak there.

Oh dear, two recent postings about breasts, I’m going to be getting emails saying I’m obsessed… as opposed to my friends who say I’m possessed..

Weird phobia number three. Computers. Some background. A few years ago I went across the pond to the Grand Canyon, took a helicopter ride over it, landed at the ridge and then went on some horses slowly down the trails to have a picnic at the bottom of the canyon. That was the plan but I’ve never sat on a horse in my life. Horses can tell if you’re a novice, they sense it and being the mischievous buggers they are, they tend to play up on it. My horse knew I was a virgin so he kept strolling over to the edge of the trail to sniff occasional clumps of vegetation…this kind’a terrified me as I could see myself sliding out’a the saddle and falling down into the canyon head first. No other horses did this, everyone else had been on a horse before so the horses behaved, mine knew I was a ‘virgin’ and decided to play with me. So phobia number three. Computers. In much the same way that horse knew I was a novice, so do computers, someone once said ‘don’t anthropomorphize computers, they hate that’ and it’s true, I think computers are alive and equally mischievous. When computers first came out I could never get them to do what I wanted and even now I can go to the Help Desk with some query, they will press a button and it all magically works, I can’t understand it, I go back to my desk, do the exact same thing and it all falls over. So I’ve got a bit paranoid about computers, I think they know I’m a novice in certain areas and they scheme amongst themselves, it’s like the horses, the computers go “here comes sausage fingers, lets play with him..”. And of course, like folk on clutches and large bosomed woman, the Universe has conspired with the job market to place me in an IT job now.

bookmark_borderYou never really lose them..

I’m reading a book at the moment, 101 Things To Do Before You Are Five, it’s hilarious but a lot of it is true, for example at #10; Pull daddies chest hair til he screams (check) and #8; Get mummy to ghost write your thank you letters (check) but it’s number two that interests me the most; Look Just Like Daddy (check). Nature is very sneaky, my first born spent his first 12 years looking just like me, in particular he had very straight blonde hair and his maternal side ALL have very curly hair, so in a sense I always thought of him as ‘mine’ and this was nature providing proof by making him look like me..

After all these years of thinking at least he will have a good head of hair (even in his old age) I was a bit put out to see that the moment puberty hit, his hair started to curl quite dramatically, and now really he’s got his mothers hair… the longer it grows to more curly it becomes.. bugger, but isn’t it interesting that the curls only appeared at puberty, was this Mother Nature saying to his mother “look, I know he will gravitate towards his father now that puberty has hit but he’s still yours and to prove it I’ll give him your curly hair..” Natures very sneaky..

It’s said that a male child is his mothers until puberty hits and then he spends the next 10 years looking for male role models – his father, teachers, Captain Picard (in my case!) and I can see that in my first borns behaviour but there is a small part of me that is a bit quirked that he doesn’t look anything like me – and there are friends of mine that say Thank God he doesn’t look anything like you!

Soooooooo… Mother Nature has one more trick up her sleeve, which goes like this; the second born is really into music big time but the first born doesn’t really take much notice of chart music, so the three of us were in a shop the other day and one of my current favourite songs was played overhead, it’s a non-chart quirky song, and rather surprisingly my first born came up to me and asked what it was and could he get it…. and in an instant I knew he was mine – because he’s got the same quirky taste in music as I have.. and he couldn’t understand just why I was grinning at him so much.. isn’t Mother Nature very clever?

bookmark_borderThe Waltons (Part deux)

Growing up in the ‘typical’ Irish family of eleven can have it’s challenges, the biggest one of course being space. We used to play hide and seek a lot but every easy hiding space was already taken by an older sibling, one of my earliest memories was of my brothers face ..from behind the oven door window…it was a bit tight in there with the roast chicken.. “you’re getting warmer” took on a slightly different meaning those days.. (I smelt like roast chicken for quite a lot of my childhood… I was followed by a herd of cats everywhere I went, I was tasty those days but not in the way I wanted to be…)

One day when I was about ten my Ma sent us out into the woods to play hide and seek, we were told to count to 1,000 and then come find her. We couldn’t find her but when we went home she’d moved house. No really, she did, she moved to Conlig, Co. Down, then came back in the afternoon to pick us all up.. which reminds me of this;

A large family, with (only!) seven children, moved to a new city. They were having a difficult time finding an apartment to live in. Many apartments were large enough, but the landlords objected to the large family.

After several days of searching, the father asked the mother to take the four younger children to visit the cemetery, while he took the older three to find an apartment.

After they had looked most of the morning they found a place that was just right. Then the landlord asked the usual question: “How many children do you have?” The father answered with a deep sigh, “Seven…but four are with their dear mother in the cemetery.” He got the apartment.

(I think my Ma was doing much the same thing, pitched up in Conlig with no kids, got the house and then came back for us lot…)

bookmark_borderThe Waltons..

Growing up in a big family can have it’s advantages and it’s disadvantages. If you include my parents there are eleven in my generation – don’t ask, it’s a long dirty tale – but during the 60’s that was kind’a normal for Norn Iron. I have four older brothers and it really did feel like I was living in a some lost tribe, I’m sure David Attenborough from the BBC’s Natural History unit would have had a field day with us lot …and here… if one peeks quietly through the undergrowth of clutter and clotheslines one can peek the Lost Tribe of Conlig at feeding time, see how they fight for a share and eat quickly, grunting and burping, leaving nothing on the plate or the larger members will finish it off..

On Monday evenings at 9pm, the Walton’s finished with g’nite granpa, g’nite granma and I knew exactly how Johnboy felt, by the time everyone said g’nite it was time to get up again. At one stage there was five of us boys in one bedroom with two sets of bunk-beds and a small bed, human rights organisations would be appalled at our overcrowding, we used to fight over space and processions and I have clear memories of wanting a big safe for my birthday so I could put my few things away safely.

Having four bigger brothers and coming from a poor family meant that clothes were always handed down. I used to be deeply envious of the eldest brother as he always got first go with the new clothes, by the time the clothes got handed down to me they tended to be quite baggy, worn, acquired strange stains and smelt ‘funny’. I never realised that vests and underwear came in the colour white, I just assumed all underwear was faded grey and shapeless.. My most earnest wish those days was for a set of underwear that no-one else had worn but I considered myself fortunate to a certain degree – I had two younger brothers as well so God knows just how holey underwear was by the time it got to the very youngest.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, generally no-one picked on you at school because everyone knew you had four older brothers who would extract painful revenge on them – unless of course they also had four older brothers – not unknown if truth be told. At the weekends in our street it really did look like those kids from Monty Pythons ‘The Meaning Of Life’ movie, there was tribes of us out playing in the Valentines playing fields, we could practically cover the entire soccer team without calling anyone else in. It was also easy to blame someone else for some misdemeanour’s one had committed – well, one was spoilt for choice of whom to pass the blame onto.. not like ‘I’ would do something like that…

I had two sisters as well, one of them my twin, they complained bitterly about being brought up in a house full of smelly Goths but generally the ratio of bodies to beds in their bedroom was better than ours. They also didn’t have to put up with the stifling smell of the great unwashed that I had to and generally their underwear remained in good condition when passed down. We also rode shotgun for them and made sure their boyfriends treated them well, actually we put the fear of God into most of their boyfriends…

As I got older, keeping track of who’s who became problematic, I was an uncle when I was eight (I think) and had three nieces by the time I was ten, by twenty-five when I left Norn Iron my eldest brother was a grandfather, it seems we Irish are a fertile lot, must be all the spuds.. ;p

bookmark_borderThe Smoking Sixties

When I was a kid I used to get a clean jam jar or a clean milk bottle and examine the bottom of the local stream through it. I could see all sorts of goings-on that one couldn’t see merely from looking at the surface, possibly because the stream was so polluted! I did feel a bit like a God peering down, unknown, on the swamp life below. I was reminded of this the other night when I caught the last 20 minutes of a program on the telly called Mad Men. I’ve had to google this but it’s a series about an advertising firm in the 60’s. The firm is in Madison Avenue hence the title Mad Men but as a glimpse into the past it’s fascinating..

The sets and fashions are terrific, things I’ve forgotten about, I really do feel like I am peering down a jam jar again but this time into the dim past. The sexism, the racism, the adultery, the constant drinking and most of all the smoking. Everyone seems to be smoking and I wonder how they managed that this day and age, did they advertise for actors that smoke, are the non-smoking actors going to sue the producers for passive smoking and is the series sponsored by ?Camel cigarettes. These days it’s very rare to see anyone actually smoke on telly, I’m sure there is some regulation against it and thus it’s all the more noticeable. I know quite a few A list actors are secret smokers but still it’s interesting, the change in attitudes since the sixties. Most of my family smoked ++ when I was growing up and it was almost de rigueur to smoke where-as these days if you smoke it’s something you do standing outside in the rain huddled up together for support. I’m sure it’s not going to be long before it’s a crime to smoke (or is it already in California?).

I don’t smoke and never have (merely once inhaled as Mr Clinton said), but experience has taught me that in two groups of people, smokers and non-smokers, the smokers are much more chatty and sociable. I realised this when during my nursing days the nurses in the smokers room would chat and engage with you where-as the non-smoking room nurses tended to switch off mentally. Of course I can only quote from personal experience and your mileage will differ but I wonder is there a certain camaraderie or sense of ‘Brothers in Arms’ between smokers that others don’t have.

I also wonder what the person looking down today from forty years in the future would say, smoking will be on the same level of offence as Class A drugs by then but I wonder, will he look down and be fascinated to see me put two two sugars in my tea ..salt on my chips, or eat meat ..or white bread ..or heat something up in a microwave… and nod wisely and think how much wiser and healthier folk are these days.

bookmark_borderThe Sunscreen Song (part deux)

In the previous entry I wrote out the lyrics to the Sunscreen Song and one of the lines goes as follows;

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t know.”

Trust me, even when you get to almost 50, one can still not know what to do with your life, I think I’m on my seventh career and am starting to think that my career is changing careers.. I was pondering this the other day and wondering what would be my next career move and came up with the following possibilities..

Funeral Director…
OK OK I know that may seem to be a bit of a downer but from a job security perspective people are always going to continue to reach their expiry date and require your services – at least that is until they discover the fountain of youth, as an added bonus, you get to work in the dead centre of town (groan!).. In my early twenties I had a friend who did just that and he said that it could actually be quite fun, he was almost as mischievous as moi and told me some stories I couldn’t repeat here to protect the innocent but his handle on the CB radios of the time was Stiff-Shifter… says it all really..

Valentine Card Writer:
Hmmm shouldn’t be toooooo hard;

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Orchids are expensive, Will dandelions do?
Violets are red, Roses are blue, If you go into photoshop, And mess with the hue
Roses are red, Violets are blue, I can row a boat, Canoe?

President of the United States.
Yes, never happen, not with a name like mine.
Barack Hussein Obama

bookmark_borderThe Sunscreen Song (Part one)

There’s a song out there in the Interweb called The Sunscreen Song

I love this song, vide’s not so hot but the words are excellent..

paste..

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99: Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you can imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t know.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And then you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders. Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look like 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more that it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

bookmark_borderCrimes and Misdemeanour’s

My life of crime actually started when I was very young, I was obsessed with dogs (apparently!) as a toddler and whenever I saw a dog I’d run over and hug it. This wasn’t too bad but sadly my first words wasn’t Mamma or Dadda but actually DOG, much to the great disappointment of my parents. This was, I suppose quite cute but for quite a long time the only words I would say was Dog, Dog, Dog! Normally this would have been ok – except for the fact that (a) it always sounded like I was saying Doug rather than Dog and (b) the Postman was called Doug.. It seems I sparked off some gossip in my neighbourhood about whom my real father actually was…

Later on in life when I was about five and folk asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I always liked to say “International Playboy”, one of my much older brothers found it in a book and patiently taught me to say it. For some unknown reason this always startled folk and I liked the reaction I got from folk, sadly I’m still working on the actual International Playboy bit…

Then in my teens I went through my evil period… (or my creative period as I like to call it). We lived in a village for a few years and there wasn’t much to do in the evenings apart from kick around in the streets, we were too young to drive and no grown-ups were going to drive us to the bright city lights of Belfast so we had to find our own amusement.. So we made up this games called Thunder and Lightning, this entailed sneaking up quietly and ringing peoples doorbells and running away as quietly as possible and hiding behind a fence watching the person come out and look for the invisible man.. we derived great merriment watching folk come out, look around puzzled and then press their own doorbell.

Sadly, and like a drug, we started to get bored with merely ringing the doorbell so we had to up the ante… I had this box of matches so I thought why not ruffle up some old paper, set fire to it and then ring the doorbell. And this worked a treat, folk would come out, be startled to see some paper burning on their doorstep and they’d immediately stamp it out, doing this little dance.. the Doorstep Dance as we would call it..

We thought the Doorstep Dance was hilarious BUT there was one guy in the village that we all feared, he was always complaining to our parents (and anyone really) about us noisy kids and giving up grief…he had a ferocious dog that he used to set on us and it always burst our footballs… sooooooooo one day when I was feeling particularly mischievous I rolled up some small paper bags but as an addition I scooped up some of Arthur’s poop from his garden and placed it inside the bag. I am ashamed to say that then I placed it on the doorstep, set it on light, rang the doorbell and ran away… My Grumpy did indeed come out, saw the burning paper and immediately started stamping all over it…

I hang my head in shame..
(and am somewhat worried as my two boys are almost that same age now too… I’m wary of answering my doorbell these days..)

bookmark_borderModern Dilemma’s

I had a chat with one of our Estates and Facilities staff this morning, nothing too unusual about that, except that on Friday he had thin wispy grey hair and this morning he had a full head of lush jet black hair..

He’s obviously wearing a syrup but I’m not sure what the protocol is in this situation, does one pass comment ‘hey, nice syrup man, can I try it on..” or does one completely ignore it? It’s very hot here this week and the poor blokes sweating buckets so having a syrup on is only going to make him even hotter, his skin colour is that shade of white that makes the whole wiggy thing even more obvious but what I really wonder is, why would someone who is happily married and in his mid 50’s want to wear a wig, it’s not like he was completely bald and thinning hair can look quite sexy when managed correctly.

Sadly all these thought’s whizzed past my addled brain to be replaced with one thought and one thought only …’DON’T stare at his wig.. DON’T stare at his wig…”, you try SO hard not to stare but sadly it’s now impossible to chat with him without addressing his hair piece..

I met an ex-girlfriend a few weeks ago in Paddington Train Station and she looked pregnant, it was either that or Pie Retention, what’s the protocol if there is some doubt, do you ask “when’s it due?” hoping that if you are wrong you can pretend you meant the next train..

It’s like when one of the girls here got a boob job, what is the correct protocol, ignore her obvious enhancement – she was plainly VERY pleased, is it OK to stare? We spend a lot of time trying not to offend anyone but is it ok in this case to inspect closely and would it be considered very rude not to show polite interest and ask for a feel? I’ve looked up Debrett’s A-Z of Modern Manners and even the Hillbilly Book of Manners but am none the wiser. She’s saving up to have the other one done next week.

bookmark_borderBoxing Day Explained…(eventually)

It’s still Thanksgiving over there in the States whilst I write this but for course over here in Blighty it’s ‘just another day’ and everyone has been slaving away as par usual, ok perhaps not everyone has been slaving away but I did actually spend more than five precious minutes at my desk this afternoon…and noticed I had managed to kill my cactus. Not sure how come I have developed a talent for Cactiide but in the process of looking up that word I have discovered that tumbleweeds are part of the same family too…tumbleweeds grow? tumbleweeds are *real*? I thought they were just some Hollywood movie prop, never seen them any time on my travels out to Az or Ca… and speaking of Hollywood… did you know that the only place in the world where frogs actually go “ribbet ribbet” is in northern California, in no where else in America, Europe, Asia, Oz, south pole do frogs make a ribbet noise.. I know this doesn’t seem a very interesting fact, however, when sound first came to the movies all the sound guys went out to record animals sounds and insect sounds and of course they recorded the Californian frog making that unique ribbet call and in ALL movies throughout the world frogs ALWAYS make that sound, even in Europe and Oz where frogs croak rather than ribbet… I bet you have been wondering about that for ages, haven’t you?? 🙂

Anyway, yes, Thanksgiving over there across the pond but I also only discovered recently that Christmas is not as big a deal over there and all the shops are open from after midday, in addition I have discovered that Boxing day is not celebrated in the States, I may have to explain Boxing Day, I know it sounds like an excuse to pop around to your neighbours and duff him on the hooter and trust me, manys the time I am tempted to but actually there are two stories I’ve been told about Boxing Day;

1) In Ye Olde Golden Days when us poor folk worked for rich folk as servants, butlers, maids and cooks it became the tradition that after the day after the big feast of Christmas when the Landed Gentry had had their fill of feasting and glutomy, that the Staff would have the 26th off and come round with boxes to help themselves to the leftovers and have themselves a jolly litle meal of cold meats and cold brussel sprouts.. yum..

2) and from Wikipedia (or as we would naturally spell it Wikipaedia) “The name derives from the English tradition giving seasonal gifts (in the form of a “Christmas box”) to less wealthy people. In the United Kingdom this was later extended to various workpeople such as labourers, servants, tradespeople, postal workers and errant Webmasters.”

I tend to lean on the Duff Thy Neighbour on the Hooter theory because after 24 hours coped up with immediate and distant family and Aunts that smell strange but insist on watching Strictly Come Dancing I really do feel like knocking someones lights out, maybe my family is unusual but Christmas goodwill lasts until ohhhh ..about midday or whenever the final present has been opened and then the fighting and arguing starts..

Some folk in this country bemoan the fact that whatever happens in America eventually happens over here too, I think really that for the peace and goodwill of the nation it would be good if the shops and malls *did* open up at midday and that would save a few broken noses..

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all

bookmark_borderThe Sheep Joke

This week in work one of the guys made a passing reference to ‘The Sheep Joke’, I looked at him with a blank stare and he said, ‘THE SHEEP JOKE!’ and still I had no idea what he was talking about so he says;

“What do you call a sheep with no legs?”

….”A Cloud!”

I’ve never heard that before but I just laughed and laughed and the more irritated Tom looked the more I laughed.. He said SURELY you know that joke, everyone learns it in Primary school… but obviously not, I’d never heard it and it seems it is very national, only Brits know it, having been told it at primary school and it is passed down through the years class to class but it never made it across the water to Ireland…

Soooooooooooo I have been doing some research and ringing around random folk via their names in the phone book – yes, you read that right – we have about 1,000 staff listed in the phone directory so I’ve been picking folk randomly by their foreign sounding surnames, ringing them up and asking them if they know the sheep joke, and so far out of the 20 folk I have rang up every single one has laughed and been nice about it, and it’s true, Brits and Kiwi’s know the joke – high proportion of sheep farmers in both countries but the French, Canadians and South Africans don’t… I rang up one friend, Vics, who is an Aussie BUT got her boss instead and now he is now doing the same research in his entire department…

And to think they actually pay me to work here..I do actually do work and create/manage things but I think work should be as much fun as possible, I spend long hours in committee meetings and my game there is to count how many times the VP says ‘basically’ (14 last time) and I to try to use the word ‘sodding’ as much as possible….not difficult considering how old some of our servers are..

Sometimes if the meetings are REALLY boring and I know everyone then I pretend I have Tourettes Syndrome and I curse suddenly and at random intervals.. but only I seem to find that funny..

bookmark_borderSome clouds have a full colour lining.

During the 70’s and 80’s we had a spot of bother in Belfast, we call it ‘The Troubles’ and for a lot of folk it wasn’t much fun, terrorism, bombs, shootings, assassinations, knee-capping etc..

However, as a kid growing up during these times it didn’t really impact on us too much, at least not in a bad way. Every few years the IRA would fire-bomb the Co-op, Woolies and Wellworths , like clockwork and EVERYONE would know, it was always a Saturday afternoon in the summer and they would ring through a warning to the local police, the police would go through the well observed routine of clearing the High Street and a hour later the fire-bombs would go off and burn the stores down. The stores would get gutted and rebuilt and two years later the cycle repeated itself. It was rumoured that a local building contractor was actually paying big money to various folk to make this happen but was never proven.

So, we caught onto this routine very quickly and the next time the High Street was cleared we would nip around the back streets and wait, we’d see The Meat (we called the police The Meat because they drove around in armoured Land Rovers or what we called Meat Wagons), we’d see The Meat clear the area and then fall back themselves waiting for the Army Bomb Disposal to come along, and like a swarm of locusts, dozens of us kids would run into Woolies via the back goods entrances and help ourselves to assorted goodies.

For some reason Duracell batteries were all the rage, everyone made a bee-line for them and anything small and electrical like torches and small transistor radios… (and dirty mags too!). We’d grab what we could, filling our pockets and scooping anything and everything up in our jumpers before running out the back and heading off home via the backstreets.. We used to grab boxes and boxes of Duracell’s and in the school playground would trade them for sweets or cards, the market rate being one trading card for one AA battery or a box for a football, I was particular canny and would eek out my supply of batteries over a few months and trade them for a lot more rather than immediately trade them when the market was flooded, an early lesson in market economics..

This was life, a nice treat every couple of years but then one year when I was about 13 me Ma seen me with all my Duracell batteries and demaned to know where I got them from, she thought I had shoplifted them and was about the scalp me arse when I told her the truth, I told her that we all went into the back of Woolies and grabbed whatever we could..

So, being the kind loving generous mother that she wasn’t…she thought about it and then said..really? so next time you’re there can you grab me one of those new microwave ovens?!!

And of course I said yeah, no problem… and two years later, same routine… but this time I ran into the store and grabs the biggest microwave oven I could find and off I go with it… Sadly it was much heavier than I imagined it would be and it was still in it’s box (well, I’m not going to be getting me Ma a shop spoiled one!) but I struggled up the street with it…and other kids were running past with small portable black and white TV’s too.. Unfortunately I actually lived quite a distance from the High Street and by the time I got the microwave home it felt like me arms could scrap the pavement whilst standing up..

However, me Ma and Da were hooked and the next time I was told to get a colour TV, they had just come out and were horrendously expensive but we managed to get one of these, I had to enlist the help of my younger brother ( did I mention there was 9 of us?) but we got this monster home and it was like Christmas in our house during the middle of summer.. Me Ma invited all the neighbours around and when I came home from school one Monday afternoon there was about a dozen of them in the front room watching horse racing on the new Channel 4 TV station..everyone was amazed at the colours of the grass and my Ma was Queen Bee for many a moon..

It was a right few years before me Ma actually had to buy any major electrical item, she was gutted when the IRA called a cease fire, I’m sure if I could have lifted one then she would have asked me for a chest freezer but what I wonder is this, after the fire-bombs went off and the flames had been put out, did the Firemen wander around the store looking at the empty shelves wondering WTF had happened to all the goods, they must have thought Jesus, the heat was so intense that everything has vapourised..

So although the Troubles caused a lot of heart ache during the 70’s and 80’s, for my family at least there was a silver lining…or a full colour one 🙂

bookmark_borderObvious Strapline..

The bossman sent around a request this afternoon, we need a strapline for the Computing Services..

AudioVisual have got : ‘Opening the Technology Pathway’

Library have got : THINK – Turning Health Information into Knowledge

All the geeks are racking their brains trying to come up with a slogan..

I’ve suggested

“Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again..”

bookmark_borderWedding Speeches

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I was asked to be Best Man at my friends Tony’s wedding…no problem, tell a few funny stories, embarrass the hell out of Tony and have a great time.. Stood up and said the following;

“Being asked to be Best Man is like being asked to make love to the Queen Mother….it’s a great honour but Christ, you don’t want to do it…”

Complete silence..tumble-weed moment…. Tony didn’t mention the fact that everyone there was a committed Christian…

It took ages for me to stop laughing…

I wasn’t asked back.

 

bookmark_borderHow To Speak Fluent Norn Iron.

It’s fascinating how we speak English on both sides of the pond but the interpretation can be so different. A few years ago I had to go to a conference in Dallas and during a lull in the proceedings I was asked what was a typical Sunday afternoon like in Northern Ireland (usually pronounced Norn Iron). I replied innocently “Well, you gather the whole family around, Granny, Kids, Mum, Dad and we all share a joint…and have a nice relaxing afternoon..” Everyone went “WHAT?” and I said “well, yes, of course, even Granny likes to suck on a bit of a joint occasionally, never done her any harm…”

It seems in America a joint doesn’t mean a joint of meat…nor does ‘rubber’ mean something you give your kids before they go to school, they use ‘erasures’, we call pants trousers and for us pants are underwear only, not too sure about knickers as that’s ladies only..

So it occurred to me that perhaps one or two of you might one day find yourselves in Norn Iron and wish to pass yourselves off as natives and avoid making some major faux pas, so I thought I might pass on the following expressions for you to drop innocently into conversations.. Of course you canny say any expression in monotone, the Irish accent is very commonly described as lyrical. What that really means is that a typical sentence sounds more musical and sing-songy than American English, you have to practice saying them with a swing pitch and ALWAYS end your sentences with the pitch swinging upwards..

Lesson One.

Do you think I came up the Lagan in a soapy bubble? This means do you think I was born yesterday, not entirely sure of the origins of this but there is some connection with Moses in his basket.

Have you been out raking the roads all night long? You can’t crawl out of bed in the morning, your head hurts and your guts rot because you have been out on the piss all night long, your Ma will come in and ask you this…and not with a lot of sympathy..as she tosses you out of bed..

Boggin’, Mingin’, Mankin’. Messy and horrible, as in, I’m not going to use that bath, it’s boggin (as in bog) or my socks are really mankin; ie they smell so much that guys in Radioactive Protection Suits have come along to remove them…

I’m nipping out to get me messages… Not a Norn Iron way of reading your email from an Internet Cafe but me Ma would say this to me as a child, it means she’s nipping out to the shop to get her groceries.. I think this came from the habit of writing shopping lists and the list looked like messages..

Yer man.. Not YOUR man or any ones man for that matter, just some guy, as in ‘Look at yer man staggering down the street, he’s had a skinful, so he has” and incidentally, you should always add a “so he did” or “so he has” or “so I will” or “so I am” onto the end of all sentences as it’s the law in Norn Iron – so it is.

The dog’s bollocks (or the mutts nuts). Brilliant, fantastic, excellent, great…why the dogs bollocks are so great is a mystery but they must be because even the Queens corgis lick theirs all the time.

Are you all red up? meaning have you finished your work, usually it comes from your Ma after you’ve taken all morning to tidy up your room..

The suns splitting the tree’s. It’s sunny, at least that’s what’s implied. Usually, it must be said, it’s given as a response to get rid of you so your Ma can have some peace and quiet, it could be bucketing down and your Ma would still say the sun was splitting the tree’s to get rid of you..

bookmark_borderThe 80’s – The decade sex passed by.. (Part one)

It’s said that the 70’s was the decade fashion passed by, from my perspective the 80’s was the decade sex passed by..

It’s interesting how times and attitudes change over the course of ones life.. I’ll be 50 next year and my ideas are somewhat different from the ones I had when I was in my 20’s. At home in Norn Iron during the 80’s it was damn near impossible to engage in rumpy-pumpy with a member of the opposite sex, very different from now. You had to be dating for a very long time and even then… the running joke at the time was ‘What’s the definition of a Belfast brothel? Four sheep tied to a lamp post.. (apologies to all sheep lovers out there!) …(but you REALLY ought to get a proper girlfriend!). The norm was one needed to be seriously engaged before one got past first base as our American cousins call it.

Of course we all bragged about how many times we were doing ‘it’ with some non-existent girlfriend and at that age one was basically a walking erection, full of hormones and with only photos of bare breasted Maasai woman in National Geographic to provide some relief. Rather ironically, we had the Sunday Observance Society that made sure all the large chains of shops were closed on Sundays but one could buy a copy of Playboy from the local newsagent (but not a bible) on a Sunday.

That, in itself, was a challenge because everybody knew everybody else in the community, the local newsagent was on first name basis with your Ma and Dad, it’s where they got their fags (cigarettes!) from on a Sunday. So going in to buy a copy of Playboy was wrought with difficulty, one had to buy up lots of other useless magazines including Popular Mechanic’s Today, Woman’s Own and Country Houses Monthly and deftly insert a copy of Playboy in there as well, hoping of course that the newsagent wouldn’t say anything or he wouldn’t want to lose such a big sale.

Naturally what happened more often than not (I had ‘lots’ of practise!) was a number of things, the newsagent would see the mag and give you a withering look that said ‘wanker’ as you stood there sheepishly and shamefaced, or he’d ask your age as one had to be over 21 to buy adult mags, he’d make a big song and dance about it holding up the offending magazine and it was usually this point that your next door neighbour would walk in at that very same second to witness all this and frown on you even more, or worse the newsagent would unexpectedly take a break just as you placed all your mags on the counter and his daughter would take over serving, the same daughter you’ve had a crush on since you were seven and now she’s about to see what a perv you are and will tell all her girlfriends in the local watering hole.. I’m pretty sure that newsagent never actually sold a single copy of Playboy in his entire life.

It was the same when one went into Boots The Chemist to buy some Frenchies, our usual term for condoms, the same rigmarole, buy lots of useless junk along with a three packet of Frenchies only to have the same look from the Pharmacist, or you’d get someone evil who would process all your useless goods, get to the condoms and shout out (so loud that the whole store could hear) to the manager standing only two feet away “Mr Smith…Mr Smith.. how much are the three packs of Durex’s?”, every customer, including the ever present next door neighbour, would glare, mumble to the nearest person and point at you like some Zombie extra in the Thriller video, “him! HIM… HE’S the ONE..”, not that you really noticed as one was too busy feverishly praying for a big hole to open up in front of you and swallow you up..

I’m telling ya, those sheep looked more and more attractive each day… baaaaaaaa..

bookmark_borderWhat a Guy..!

We have a Professor that works with us, brain the size of a planet, incredibly smart, I went to one of his lectures a while back and he lost me half way through the first sentence, I’m not sure if he was speaking Gujarati or Klingon but I nodded my head at what I hoped was the appropriate places (and wished I had sat at the back of the lecture theatre..)

He writes papers with titles like this;

Shortened lymphocyte Telomere length is associated with the development of chromosomal loss of heterozygosity in serrated adenomas. Non-synonymous DNA repair polymorphisms and the DNA repair phenotype: a in-silico analysis. Methylation-specific multiplex probe ligand amplification analysis of methylation patterns in serrated adenomas

I’ve aged three weeks before I make it to the end of that sentence.. if I didn’t know better I’d think someone had just randomly ran their fingers across the keyboard to create that title..but very learned men clap very loudly at the end of his lectures..surely he can’t be fooling them all, this man is bright, very bright, government minsters come to him for advice and he came to me today for some advice on writing a web page..

I thought this would be a easy as he’s mega brain..so I sat him down at my workstation and the lesson begun… “Doubleclick on the Dreamweaver icon on the desktop Prof…”
…erm he looks a bit confused…
So I point to the Dreamweaver icon and say “click here…THAT’S the Dreamweaver icon..”
and he goes “Oh yes.. I see.. ”
and reaches over to the mouse, ..and lifts it and points it at the monitor like a TV remote control and keeps stabbing the button…

I sigh..deeply…

Now, give him his due, he did retire about two thousand years ago and works one day a week for the love of the job but somehow or another this Professor has managed to achieve what thousands of guys out there can’t do – and that’s Live Off The Grid, there are guys out there who won’t own a mobile phone or have email or credit cards and pay everything cash and get paid in cash and as far as the big brother computers are concerned they don’t exist as they don’t appear on any databases… paranoid little fuckers if you ask me but I have a tip for them, don’t bother, just become a Professor of Genetics…then you don’t ever have to touch a computer, you can bypass the whole Information Age completely..

I asked the Prof surely he uses a PC to write his papers but no, he never got the hang of them so he dictates his papers onto a ?Dictaphone and his secretary types them out…or sometimes he types them out on an old typewriter he has at home and gives that to his secretary…she, BTW is almost as old as him, I’m sure I noticed cobwebs betwixt her arms and chest but she has succumbed to the information revolution.. I asked about ribbon for the type writer and he agreed it was becoming harder to find so he bought a few extra ribbons a while back…just in-case.. So want to live off the grid, not want a mobile phone, live without a credit card..not actually have an email address – well, one that’s never been used by him – then study REALLY hard and one day my son, one day all this will be yours..

What a Guy..!

bookmark_borderRight Royal Cock-ups..

Around the year 2000 I was working with Breast Cancer Haven, a breast cancer charity set up in Effie Road, Fulham, London. VERY posh area – so I felt completely at home (not!)

Prince Charles was the patron of Breast Cancer Haven and we had the official opening in 2000 when he and his large entourage pitched up to officially open the place, cut some ribbon and give us lots of free publicity.

HRH wandered around the place getting introduced to the staff but when he came to me I was in one of those mood (as always), so he asked what did I do.  I told him I was one of the nurses and advised on different types of prosthesis and then I uncovered dummy wearing a bra fitted with two prosthetic breasts… I asked him if he would like to test them for realism and then perhaps (PURELY for research purposes of course) test my friend’s  Tr boobs who was standing right next to me – to compare the difference of course..

EVERYONE GASPED but he just looked at me, grinned and he said that perhaps that wouldn’t be a good idea – I said it would make an EXCELLENT photo opportunity (Prince Charles feels a right tit) and he just laughed and everyone breathed a sigh of relief…  Well, it had to be done…

Then we got invited to St James Palace for an reception celebrating the opening of Breast Cancer Haven. We were all in huge hall when HRH enters and the boss started introducing staff members to him. He eventually came along to yours truly and boss woman was about to introduce me when Prince Charles stopped her and said “it’s OK, I remember who this young man is….and so do my security men!”

Then one day I was looking after the reception there because someone was off sick and yet another well heeled group walked in and started to look around. This wasn’t unusual, Breast Cancer Haven seemed to attract a lot of posh people and a lot of celebs. Sadly I didn’t read Hello magazine and couldn’t afford a subscription to SKY so I hadn’t a clue who half these people were! I had to be told who Jerry Hall and Bryan Adams were! And lots of other celebs long ago forgotten..

The group were admiring the buildings windows, it’s a converted Welsh Chapel.. Then a lady broke off from the group and asked me in a VERY posh voice where the boss office was? I told her upstairs and she went off in that direction. I called after her and said did she have an appointment as the boss is always incredibly busy. She turned around, looked at me very oddly and said to me in a ..”Oh, do you not know who I am?” With a sinking feeling in my tummy I said I’m sorry, I don’t watch much telly.. and she smiled and said “perhaps you might not know me but you might know my husband” …and pointed to one of the men in the group..

I looked at him and thought “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! It’s Prince Edward….” oh dear…why I haven’t been throw in the Tower of London is beyond me..

A few years before all these cock-ups I was working at the Royal Brompton in South Kensington on the Adult Intensive Care Unit. On the way in to a night shift I noticed a crowd of people standing outside the gates interviewing staff, I asked Security what was going on and apparently Princess Di was having ‘a fling’ with one of the consultants there and they were all trying to get some dirt on him, I thought ‘rubbish’ and went on into work.

At about 2am I was starving so I went downstairs to the canteen in the basement, I noticed that all the journalists had gone. I got some food in the canteen, got back into the lift to go back to the AICU, pressed the button for AICU when a voice called out “Hold the lift please…”

I stuck my foot in the door and it slide back… only to reveal Prince Diana!

The staff canteen is in the basement and then it struck me, she had drove around the back to the basement door and came in through there to avoid the press!

My mouth fell open, she looked at me and smiled and said hello, I smiled back and mumbled hello, you’re up late tonight.. She said yes and asked me where did I work?

I said the Adult Intensive Care Unit on the 1st floor.  She said that’s great as the surgical teams offices were on the same floor, could I do her a favour and check if the coast was clear of journalists before she got out of the lift?

I said of course, went up to 1st floor, she stood back and I checked out the general area, the place was deserted, I told her it was OK to come out, she said thanks very much and have a good shift and off she went in the direction of the surgical team offices…and I thought to myself  ‘that consultant’s one lucky bugger!!!”

bookmark_borderThe Men Who Stare At Goats

Went to see The Men Who Stare at Goats last night with my Irish friend K and for the first time ever she actually walked out half way through, the movie annoyed her intensely, anything that makes reference to the US being in Iraq makes her hackles rise and she quickly mounts her high horse, so she got really annoyed with the movie and stropped out cursing and swearing..this is the woman who thought HellBoy 2 was brilliant…*shudders*

K is from Ballymena, N. Ireland and the woman from there are a special breed, they don’t just have balls, they have the complete fishing tackle, woman from ‘mena don’t take any prisoners, K can be quite challenging, she has no filter between her thoughts and her mouth and will take anyone on, it’s normal practice for woman in ‘mena to actually start the bar fights, if a crowd of six hoodies were in her way she wouldn’t hesitate laying into them and giving them a mouthful – and then kick the shit out of them… even her muscles have muscles.. you only cross ‘mena woman once…she’s called me the c word a few times but I look upon it as a term of endearment..

I, on the other hand quite liked the movie last night, it had no substance, no big lesson, not a movie one would hold in their head for days afterwards but it was quirky and cute and it held my attention for two hours..

The last movie I REALLY liked was The Brother Bloom, like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels updated for this decade and Rachel Weisz’s character was absolutely brilliant, I don’t want to marry Rachel Weisz, I want to marry Penelope, her character in that movie, she was brilliant, cheeky, funny, incredibly daring, outrageous, sexy, and innocent at the same time – and knew how to juggle chainsaws…whilst riding an unicycle… excellent..

Anyone here know how to juggle chainsaws?