Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Horn-swagglers beware!

Have you noticed that you never see Gabby Johnson and David Cameron in the same room together?

I’ve always enjoyed this clip from Blazing saddles. I think it epitomises the archetypal pseudo-expert or politician in that it shows how anyone who has the gall to stand up and shout their mouth off will be accepted and believed by too many people.



Monday, 17 December 2012

The end of the world is nigh

For some people this week their world could end. And of course I could be one of those. And whilst you can never say never I think the likelihood of the world ending on the 21st of December 2012 is somewhat remote.

Supposedly the Mayan calendar ends on 21/12/12 according to quite a number of uninformed people. The sort of people that reckoned that the current millennium stated on 1st January 2000 and not 2001. The witch doctor weirdoes and the peddlers of mumbo jumbo jump on this sort of stuff in a feeding frenzy of mystical masturbation and metaphor mixing. The world is full of charlatans ready to pontificate on what it all means and back it up with spurious ‘evidence’ and bizarre theories.

Why are people so ready to accept superstition, conspiracy theories and new-age nonsense over scientific knowledge?

There is no evidence for most mumbo-jumbo beliefs, so why believe?

I might as well believe that the earth is a giant pizza and was created by a sky-blue-pink angel called Doris. And, I just know I wouldn’t be alone in my beliefs!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Fine and Godless

According to the latest census without religion is fast becoming the new norm, thankfully. It’s where a lot of the good people hang out. Religion doesn’t have exclusivity over caring. In fact I would say that it’s easier to care without the constraints of religion. Religion is judgemental. Caring as a compassionate human being can be judgement free. Religion should never be a default position. Caring should.


I was pleased and surprised to hear about, and then read the headline “Census shows Norwich 'least religious city' in England and Wales”. The BBC online article is written, I notice, by someone I’ve conversed with on Twitter @jonmwelch. I am pleased that I live in such a fine city and that I am one of that number of atheists. It would also appear that 783 of the inhabitants are Jedi Knights although they must keep themselves to themselves. “Have you got a light sabre? No but I’ve got a dark brown epée.” Boom boom! Norwich is a fine city and all the better for being ‘godless’.


As I’ve said before religion is a matter of personal choice. Anyone who proselytises, indoctrinates or forces their religious beliefs on others is godless in the extreme. Brainwashing your children with your beliefs is tantamount to child abuse. I thought that Richard Harries got it right this morning with his Thought for the day.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

EDL were not welcome in Norwich

Last Saturday’s march (as mentioned in previous posts) was a success for the people of Norwich. It made me feel very good that so many people cared. The EDL were the ramshackle, social misfit bunch that you’d expect, and thankfully small in numbers. Diverse Embracing Populi 10 – Fascists 0.

For the Eastern Daily Press report click here and photos click here.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Horror-scope

“What is your star sign?” someone will ask.
Actually I’m a Gemini.
What does that mean?
It means absolutely fuck all!

I don’t believe in time. That’ll have umpteen academics ripping up Einstein, Hawking et al. When I say that what I mean is that I believe that there is only the present. The past happened, it is literally history. The future is yet to happen and is so far undetermined. The idea that the future is somehow mapped out is ludicrous.

Astrology is for the gullible. Like religion it is based purely on superstition and is yet another way to try and control people. The idea that you can tell someone’s future from their date of birth is laughable. And people fall for it. The future does not exist. This desire to know the future is connected to the human desire to give meaning to their lives; giving it the structure, order and simplicity that most people crave. I’m sorry but I can’t buy into that.

Of course proponents of astrology will say that the horoscopes in newspapers are ‘just a bit of fun’ and that they are a generalisation of what astrology is really about. I accept that, but in turn it doesn’t make ‘proper’ astrology any more valid. They will say that an astrological reading needs to be based on a person’s date of birth, including the year, and other criteria. Cobblers I say. What about environmental factors, life chances and personal decisions? Life is serendipitous. Where the planets and stars were positioned when you were born or where they are now is highly unlikely to affect your life to much of a degree above gravitational forces. Do those born on the same day live similar lives and have similar character traits? I doubt it. And if they do it isn’t going to be anything to do with their star sign. Especially if you take into account the mathematics of probability.

My birthday is on 1st June. I was at school with twins also born on the same day and in the same year as me. All three of us were different. And the two brothers were very different indeed. One was studious, focused, musical, very bright and with mousey-coloured hair. The other struggled academically, was over-enthusiastic about most things but achieved little at school, was emotional, couldn’t play a musical instrument to save his life and had black hair. Whilst I was a day-dreaming layabout arty type that was quite capable but rarely met expectations. I kind of think that we should have been so similar that you could have hardly been able to tell us apart, don’t you?

Astrology my arse.

It’s all mumbo-jumbo!



Wednesday, 7 November 2012

EDL Not Welcome Here

This Saturday will see the EDL marching in Norwich. Those fascist hate merchants of low IQ infamy.


Free speech is a tricky blighter. It should be everyone’s right. Unfortunately free speech allows those whose extreme opinions seek to divide and oppress others. We have laws that deal with incitement and hatred but if those whose obnoxious message offends all decent people stay within the law they have the right to speak. But those of us who find what they have to say offensive have the right to challenge them. And challenge them we will.


People of Norfolk please do your bit before you have no bit to do.



Thursday, 18 October 2012

Gateway

Aged 54 my life changed; I moved from the town of my birth, Bury St Edmunds, the place that I had always lived, to Norwich. I love Bury St Edmunds but I don’t plan to return to living there if I can help it.


Whenever I hear Gates to the Garden by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds I am reminded of my home town. I remember the first time I heard the track. I didn’t know what the song was about. But as soon as I heard it I thought, “Bloody hell it’s a song about Bury St Edmunds”, and indeed on looking at the lyrics it sure is.


For me its one of those songs that brings a lump to my throat. I have a love/hate relationship with my home town. I miss it terribly but in the end I couldn’t wait to get away from it. Now, within reason, I think I could live in most places in the UK.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Blair

A hero of the thinking left George Orwell is probably my favourite author. He certainly wrote my favourite book of all time. Many think that 1984, written in 1948, was about the then future. A prophecy. I suppose to a certain degree it was but I fear many people tend to take it too literally. But in essence it is simply a really great love story, and on a number of levels.


So many numpties on the right brand the book as an attack purely on Stalinism. It isn’t of course, but it suits their own simplistic prejudices. It is a damning attack on all totalitarianism whether it be on the right or the’ left’*, or from capital.


There’s a certain irony in that the fodder that watch Big Brother on the telly are like the proles that fed on the pappy escapist novels churned out by the Ingsoc state machine. The fact that they are also mostly too ignorant to understand where the term ‘Big Brother’ comes from just reinforces Orwell’s prophecy and how it has truly come to pass.


If you’ve never read 1984 I suggest you bloody well read it now.







*actually totalitarianism by its very nature can only ever be right-wing. Stalin was a right-winger. A left-wing government can only ever be democratic. If it is not then it isn’t left-wing; pure and simple.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Grayson Perry does it again

Grayson Perry to build holiday home 'shrine' to Essex everywoman
Turner prize-winning artist wins planning approval for holiday home which pays homage to mythical woman called Julie

According to this Guardian article Grayson Perry has been granted permission to build a rather different kind of holiday home. Perry, one of my favourite artists, who is always willing to go into very interesting directions has come up with this wonderful idea. So if you fancy a holiday in Essex in what looks a bit like a gingerbread house then Grayson has the answer to your dreams.
 
 


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

To rock-a-boogie or not to rock-a-boogie

Some say it’s the devils music but of course I don’t buy that religious shit. But listening to rock-a-boogie can present one with a moral dilemma. That dilemma is ‘should certain artistes be persona non grata’ because of actions in their personal life?


Those seen as undesirable could include Jerry Lee Lewis, Gary Glitter, Jonathon King, Phil Spector and Pete Townsend, not to mention any number of neo-fascists or misogynists that have strewn the ranks of the musical glitterati over the years. To what degree should one shun their music? It’s a question that has often troubled and perplexed me.


I think the answer is that art can be appreciated for art’s sake, no matter who created it, and no matter what the lifestyle or intentions of the artist.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Ambi-dextrose

Unless there are sound medical reasons for not doing otherwise a wrist watch should only ever be worn on the left wrist. The wearing of a watch on the right wrist is the mark of a complete knobhead! It’s not big, it’s not clever and it doesn’t look cool! There is no rational justification for it.


And, don’t give me any of that ‘left-handed’ shit. Yes I accept for a left-handed person the right-handed world is not always a user-friendly place but there are some things that are just not handed centric. Driving a car is a classic example and wearing a watch most certainly falls into this category.


Not as heinous as wearing a watch on the wrong wrist but equally as plonker-like is the wearing of a watch on the ‘inside or underneath’ of one’s wrist. This I have found to be the territory of anorak types, train-spotters and readers of Terry Pratchett novels. You know, sad gits.


Occasionally the world gets it wrong. Sometimes there is a better, alternate hand way of doing things. Take the computer mouse for instance. Am I the only right-handed person who uses a mouse with their left hand? Why anyone would use a mouse in their right hand is beyond me. So inefficient!


Here endeth this public service announcement.




Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Budding lyricists

As spotty teenagers my best friend Neddy and I dreamt of mega-stardom. We were going to take the world by storm and secure our fortunes by writing killer lyrics. Of course it never happened. I’ve spent my life languishing in dead-end jobs that I’ve always hated and he has ended up a vicar for the jolly old CofE. The world lost out.


Why am I telling you this today?
Well, the first song lyric that we wrote was entitled ‘The 25th of September’.
It’s possible that I may still have a copy of the said lyrics somewhere but would be too afraid to go in search of them for fear of what I might find.








Happy birthday Penelope, wherever you are x

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Happiness in magazines

What is happiness?

Is it attainable?

The world is full of idiots who see material wealth as the key to happiness. The queues for the latest iPhone prove that.



Money doesn’t buy happiness. I suppose that’s easy for me to say that as I’m a ‘have’. For the ‘have nots’ it’s a harder concept to grasp. And quite rightly so. I’m a firm believer in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in as much as all people require a certain level of comfort to feel happy. Other than that happiness is a state of mind generated by the self and cannot be induced by acquiring wealth.



Happiness comes from within.



Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness” – Zhuangzi

Friday, 21 September 2012

War is over...

Today is the International Day of Peace:
“Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” – United Nations


One day humankind will be advanced enough and civilised enough to realise that war achieves absolutely nothing. The United Nations are there before most states. They recognise that war is futile and have declared this day of peace. Sadly most of the rest of the world don’t seem to be able to grasp that war benefits no one. But that is no reason not to mark this day. I’m a great believer in “from tiny acorns, mighty oaks do grow”. So publicising and marking the International Day of Peace is a positive step. War can be over if we want it. If we really want to eradicate war we can do it. All it needs, and it’s a big all, is the will to change. If people want it peace will break out. I live in hope that good will win through over the misguided.


“Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future” is the theme chosen for this year's observance of the International day of Peace. As the worlds resources start to diminish co-operation and sustainability are the only way forward. Anything else is effectively suicide for humankind.


There are no winners in war. War destroys. War is in no way positive. Support the International Day of Peace in any way you can, even if it is only to make someone else aware of it. Together we can eradicate war.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

If I had a hammer

“If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”

- Abraham Maslow

Dear Diary Nº 4

Dear Diary, some days I tire of Twitter. Today is one of those days. I think, “what’s the point?”


I suppose DD in essence there is no point. There is no point to anything. We are all just victims of Chaos Theory, cause and effect.


“My brain hurts”



 

Life tag – The Beatles – I'm Down

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Be very, very afraid

I’m always frustrated when people defend not voting or not taking an interest in the political system by claiming that all politicians are the same. I’ve never believed that they are. I am convinced there are some of them driven purely by altruistic political belief and are not just there to line their pockets. I hope I’m right.


Last week’s report on the Hillsborough disaster frightened me probably more than most of the ‘revelations’ of the past few years. It seemed to me that ‘corruption’ in public life had spread further than many imagined in a way that was quite insidious and fascist in nature, and, it started with Thatcher as I’d often suspected. It made me realise that politics is still riddled with vested interest and corruption and it permeates all levels. The ‘Establishment’ rules like it has always ruled. Very often the ‘Establishment’ is made up from a smallish number of families and interlopers, all public school educated and hell bent on preserving the status quo. They fight tooth and nail to keep what they have. They play dirty. Very, very dirty.


Perhaps it is time to just kick everybody out from top to bottom and start all over again?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Unity is strength

I’m a member of Unite, the union. As someone whose politics have all his adult life been on the left I’ve struggled off and on with my affection for the trade union movement. No one can deny that we owe them a great debt but I’ve also always held them partly responsible for Thatcherism. In the late 70s and early 80s they played right into the hands of the evil Thatcher and her henchmen. I often think the union movement and the Labour movement in general has never fully owned up to their part in failing to effectively fight the Thatcher Reich. I’m no Blairite but Tony Blair certainly ‘got it’ in terms of understanding the Thatcher rise to power.


I’ve long maintained that the remit of trade unions is far too narrow. I don’t like what Thatcher did to this country but we are where we are. With a continuously crumbling industrial base unions need to branch out into the wider community. I don’t support violence or mixing religion with politics but I do have a slight admiration for the work of Hamas as an organisation not only do they strive for political power but they try to look after the welfare of the people they seek to represent. We still have some semblance of a welfare state despite the debauched excesses of the current Tory government but it might not be too long before organisations do what David Cameron wants and caring people start picking up the pieces of Tory Broken Britain.


My union, Unite, has recently started something called ‘Community Membership’. It’s union membership for those not in work. The idea is to encourage those in the wider community to organise and fight the injustices in our society. It’ll take a lot of hard work to establish something that can challenge the moneyed establishment and counteract the lies of their lackeys in the press, but if enough people get to know about community membership and actually get involved things could change for the better. It’s a big if of course. Getting people to get involved is an uphill struggle. But if an organisation like my union could pull it off the lives of so many people could be transformed for the better.


You can’t fight the establishment on your own!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Dear Diary Nº3

Dear Diary you find me having been a bit under the weather of late. Health issues to be precise. Men are notoriously bad about certain and many health problems. Yes we get man-flu, which is highly debilitating, but we never complain about that. But we tend to ignore tell-tale signs that our bodies give us about bits that might start to break down or fall off. And, men don’t talk about health do they DD? No Paul they don’t.

A definite no go area for us chaps is to talk about the prostate. DD don’t tell anyone but I’ve got a prostate problem. Mine is enlarged according to the doctor that stuck his finger up my arse. I’ve also had blood and urine tests to see if there are any signs of anything else being untoward and thankfully there doesn’t appear to be. So Dear Diary I can no longer ‘write’ my name in front of me on the urinal, it takes me a bit longer to wee and I usually have to get up in the night to visit the lav but I can live with that. Apparently past the age of 55 the men’s prostates do start to increase in size, its part of the natural aging process, just some increase more than others. Other problems can occur. Cancer for instance. But if caught early can be treated successfully. Dear Diary I think more chaps should be aware of this stuff, not stay silent and should certainly seek medical advice.

DD they do say that, “it never rains but it pours”, and that’s how it seems to me as my blood tests showed up that I have Impaired Glucose Tolerance. My blood sugar level is on the high side of normal. I also have a spare tyre. Dear Diary I need a lifestyle change; more exercise and a better diet. This is it now for the rest of my life. If I can stave off diabetes I will do so.

This getting old lark is a bit of a bugger really.

Psst! Dear Diary like I said don’t breathe a word of this to anyone please.



Life tag – Jethro Tull – Life is a Long Song

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed

A week and a half ago I was traipsing about in the mud at Ely Folk Festival. My main reason for going was to see Show of Hands. I’m a late convert to the Show of Hands cause. On record I never really understood what all the fuss was about. I have loved folk music since the seventies. I had seen Phil Beer perform live as part of the Albion Band many years ago. But, Show of Hands just didn’t do it for me. That was until March of last year. In March of last year I went on the TUC March for the Alternative in London and we finished up in Hyde Park for speeches and entertainment. Show of Hands topped the bill so to speak. I watched. I enjoyed. I felt the music. The penny dropped. They played a short but blinding set. And, the song that stood out from that set, and the song that turned my head was their song about the bankers and the capitalist money men who have exploited and financially raped us; Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed. It is a perfectly crafted song that says all that there needs to be said about the misery that these evil people, the monied classes, have inflicted upon us. It makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I hear it. I hope it moves you as much as it moves me. Here it is:


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Trees Nº1

I learned recently that a very good friend shares my love of trees, and their odd and interesting shapes. I admitted to often taking photos of them. With our conversation in mind I thought I’d look through my photos and perhaps share a picture or two.

So here are two:




Thursday, 28 June 2012

If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit join our club

God is a concept/By which we measure/Our pain” – John Lennon

I’m an atheist, but I’m sort of drawn to religion, even though I fight it. I’m not sure why as I’m not necessarily looking for answers. I suppose what I’m after is to obtain a peace with myself.

They call me The Seeker/I’ve been searching low and high/I won’t get to get what I’m after/Till the day I die” - The Who

Some of my earliest searching led me to read about Buddhism. I knew I didn’t want anything to do with ‘god botherers’ and Buddhism seemed to offer a religion that sort of made sense. I say sort of because I have one really big problem with Buddhism and that’s reincarnation. I don’t believe in it. For me gods, reincarnation and time don’t exist; only the here and now.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog I used to attend Quaker meeting for worship. I did so for five years which was pretty good for me but for a number of reasons I couldn’t sustain it and never felt able to apply for membership.

I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member". Groucho Marx

I think this is the problem I don’t really want to join a religious organisation but I want to partake in some of their practices and thinking. Perhaps there’s an online community that I could dip into?


Friday, 15 June 2012

The sound of summer

When I was a kid the council house that I grew up in had a brick built shed out the back. The roof was of corrugated asbestos. In the school summer holidays when it rained, yes it rained in summer even then, you could find me sitting in the shed with the door half open, listening. I love the sound of summer rain on a corrugated roof. So satisfying and comforting. I would sit there for ages listening and enjoying. I would metaphorically soak up the sounds. It was a sound that would make me tingle with pleasure, and still does. I still love the sound of summer rain. Oh and don’t get me started on the smell of rain.

Am I weird?

Well yes I am but this has nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Social niceties

I’m a shy sort of bloke really. I am nervous of many social situations. One thing that has always foxed/scared me is social kissing and hugging; when to and when not to. As a result I tend not to push myself forward for such things, preferring to wait for the other person to make the move. Perhaps I’m repressed? Who can say?

It has occurred to me that these social norms are an ever changing beast. Even earlier in my lifetime such familiarity would have been seen as quite outrageous. In Victorian times such behaviour would have been seen as licentious and probable an arrestable offence, as it would today in many conservative cultures. In this country that which is socially acceptable between friends is ever changing. Who knows where we will be and what will be acceptable in five, ten or twenty year’s time?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Our day

Last Friday I met my pen-pal for the first time. Does that mean she is no longer my pen-pal? I think it may well do.

We had an away day to a popular city. Chosen because it was only two hours by train for both of us. And, thankfully, the trains behaved themselves. In terms of scheduling ‘our day’ ran like clockwork.

The day wasn’t about being tourists, it was a convenient place to meet and to start to get to know each other. A way to animate our erstwhile predominantly written based friendship.

My pen-pal had “the whole Red Polka Dot meets Purple vibe” going on which made for easy spotting as I met her off her train. Right from the beginning we started chatting with ease. Beforehand I think both of us were a tad concerned that we might run out of things to say. Not one bit. We chatted more or less constantly yet we only seemed to scratch the surface of us.

We drank coffee, we lunched. I didn’t get as many chips as I should have done and there was a hint of garlic in the air. After lunch we toddled off to see the Grayson Perry exhibition at the Victoria Miro. Not an easy place to find. But it was well worth finding. I’m a big fan of Grayson. I love his work. I like the way he weaves so much into his pictures; words and colourful images merge. Each time you look at his work you see something new. Check it out.



Our day went so quickly and before we knew it we were sitting in the Bree Louise, a real ale pub close to Euston station having a last drink before my pen-pal caught her train home.

I think we have established a friendship that will last. I hope we have. When, where and whether we’ll meet again remains to be seen but I hope we do.

It was a really good day.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Paul’s floppy

Just before we came back from France on the shuttle just over a week ago we dived into Carrefour in Cite Europe to do a mega shop. You know the sort of thing; essentials; beer, wine, cheese, saucisson, crisps and sweetie things. One of the packs of sweets I brought was made by Haribo and residing under the name of ‘Floppy’. For all I know the Haribo Floppy may well be a big hit in British playgrounds but I’d never heard of them. So I just had to buy them. Haven’t tried them yet. I might just keep them in their virgin state.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

And here’s the news

I happen to think all life is sacred. And, even though it is a word that has its origins in the religious I don’t mean sacred in a religious way. I just believe life to be the most important thing. In fact really it is the only thing!

Unfortunately as far as the gospel according to the British news media is concerned there are British lives and then there are the lives of Johnny foreigner; the former taking president over the latter. It never fails to irritate me how our media reports the loss of life in wars and other disasters. X amount of Britons dying will be conveyed in suitably sombre and sympathetic tones. Any death of those from other nationalities will be delivered almost off the cuff and in a very matter of fact way.

I’ve no doubt that the same happens in other countries.
But isn’t that wrong?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Bats about rainbows

We are all on the spectrum
How true that is.

Art/Empire/Industry we all need that spectrum. We all need those colours.

I likes a good rainbow. It often makes me feel that I’d like to dip my brush in one and paint the world.





“She comes in colours ev’rywhere;
She combs her hair
She’s like a rainbow
Coming, colours in the air
everywhere
She comes in colours”

Jagger/Richards




Thursday, 31 May 2012

Ann Kaide

On this day in 1909 my Nanna S was born in Dundee. My Nanna [sic] was like a second mother to me. I was the first grandchild and was spoilt something chronic. Sadly she died in 1974 at too early an age. I miss my Nanna.

Just after my father died I found a load of family photos thought to have been destroyed. I was over the moon I can tell you. In amongst the photos were a number of my Nanna. Here’s one of her at the age of 48:



Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Bayeux

Last Saturday we returned home from a wonderful holiday in France:

After a hectic first weekend of our holiday with our friends near Compiegne we made our way down to Bayeux for a relaxing few days. We had rented a Gite right in the town.

We are not very good tourists. Most people seem to like going to places and tick as many tourist 'attraction' boxes as possible. Not us. We like our holidays to be slow and gentle.

For most visitors Bayeux is not a destination. It's just another stop on the relentless ardour that is American coach trip hell. Most visitors seem to come to the area to visit the beaches famous for the D-Day landings. Something that didn't greatly interest us. We had come to Bayeux to see the Tapestry and generally chill.

The Bayeux Tapestry is something quite remarkable even though it is embroidery rather than tapestry. Pictures don't really do it justice. It's not as tall as I expected but much longer than I had imagined. We had decided to visit late in the afternoon in an effort to avoid the crowds. Turning up at 5 o'clock certainly paid off. There were thankfully very few other visitors so we were able to peruse the tapestry at our leisure. You can gauge how busy it must get at peak times by the speed of the commentary on the electronic guide that you are given on entry. We listened and walked at a fairly rapid pace along the almost 70 metres of the tapestry. And then, the commentary dispensed with, we went back to the beginning enjoying the work at our own pace. Studying bits of interest in great detail. And a mighty fine experience it was indeed. It not only tells the story of the Battle of Hastings but events leading up to it. From a Norman perspective obviously. Pro William the Bastard nee Conqueror most certainly.



Bayeux's cathedral is quite a spectacular edifice to behold. Standing head and shoulders above the whole of Bayeux with its spiky twin towers at the entrance, a central domed tower with a spire on top all vying for attention. The medieval equivalent of the Ferrari or Lamborghini and a cudgel all rolled into one; a rich man's penis extension and a vehicle for oppression.

We had no real desire to visit any of the D-Day landing sites. That would seem to be the domain of very narrow minded people. Although we did make a couple of small exceptions. As a pacifist I am so often misunderstood by those that seek to glorify war. I will be accused by those types as being disrespectful to those that fought and died for our freedom but I am most certainly not. We stop on the coast road overlooking the site of some of the landings the skeletons of the mulberry harbours still visible after all this time. I felt sick in my stomach and I welled up inside at the thought of the death and destruction that reigned over that area on people of my grandparents' generation. Nobody should have had to of gone through such unimaginably fearsome times. War is evil. No one ever wins. War serves no purpose.

We had a lovely afternoon in Deauville a rather quirky town on the coast east of Bayeux. It's a seaside town that looks as though it could have been designed in Hollywood. Quintessentially French essence distilled into a concentrated form. Masses of timber framed buildings with towers and conical roofs.



On the way back we stopped at the Pegasus Bridge, we just felt we had to do something. I really can’t put into words how it made me feel.



Bayeux is a nice little French town to spend time in. We spent much of our holiday just wandering around and pottering there. We’re not good at the relentless schedules.





Wednesday, 23 May 2012

From Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

This piece has no significance. It just happens to be a good bit of writing. Enjoy.


MR EDWARDS:
"I am a draper mad with love. I love you more than all the flannelette and calico, candlewick, dimity, crash and merino, tussore, cretonne, crepon, muslin, poplin, ticking and twill in the whole Cloth Hall of the world. I have come to take
you away to my Emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires. Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast
."

Sunday, 20 May 2012

It's a mad world

But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here.

- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The power of advertising

I try not to be affected or influenced unduly by advertising but sometimes I can’t help it. And last night I gave into such temptation. I was swayed by two adverts. The first was an advert for Sky television and the second was for Greene King IPA.

Now before advertising executives get all horny about the fact that their powers of persuasion are absolute I will burst their bubble. First of all I have to say that I wouldn’t give Murdoch the pickings of my nose so I sure as hell am not going to any of his products or services. In fact I couldn’t actually tell you anything about the Sky advert apart from it is for Sky and has some great background music. Now I am a fan of Greene King IPA and I don’t need an advert to tell me how good it is but I do like the advert. The Greene King ad starts with a cask bearing the place of it and my creation, Bury St Edmunds. It’s a well made ad. It features a pub. I don’t know if it’s real or fictitious but it feels as if it should be in Bury and it feels as if I’ve been in it. The ad features some slightly odd if not mildly menacing characters and that coupled with the haunting background music make for a visual masterpiece.

And my purchases?
Two music downloads of course.
The Greene King IPA ad: ‘Country song’ by Jake Bugg

Monday, 7 May 2012

My paramilitary past

Oh that crazy Scandinavian furniture

All my adult life I’ve been a pacifist. Peace can only ever be the sane option that an intelligent, rational human being can choose. War is failure. War solves absolutely nothing.

I haven’t always recognised this. At the tender age of fourteen I joined the Air Training Corps, an offshoot of the RAF (and I don’t mean the Red Army Faction). It existed to groom and indoctrinate young boys into the cult of murder and a life in the Royal Air Force.

I have to confess that I enjoyed much of my time in the ATC. As well as learning the meaning of Esprit de corps I learned to shoot a rifle and had the opportunity to fly a couple of times. I never grasped the ability to march in time with my fellow cadets though. I blame two left feet, the lack of music and the fact that it used to bore me shitless on never mastering the left right thing.

But despite the fact that it is something I now find abhorrent. I did learn from the experience and I suppose because I am the sort that will question most things I didn’t succumb to their propaganda. The exposure to discipline and the culture of being ‘an officer and a gentleman’ certainly did me no harm, but I acknowledge it might not have suited everyone.

Going away to camp for a week was also right up my street, after getting through the initiation ceremony that is. Initiation at ATC camp was known as Brylcreeming. Interestingly it had no connection with hairdressing or that particular hair grooming product, although I suppose in the mists of time it had been pressed into service. Shaving foam was the unction of choice for the Brylcreeming ceremony in my day. Brycreeming was carried out after barrack room lights-out. The victim was de-bagged and his bollocks were sprayed with shaving foam. It was customary to resist the treatment, and after a brief struggle and an application of the said foam you were left on the cold floor in the dark, half naked and squirming. Oh how we laughed. The rest of camp was good. We took part in a night exercise. Did some shooting. Had a flight in an Air Support Arm Britannia; which was due to fly us up to Prestwick, but half way through the flight we developed engine trouble and had to turn back. As we came into land we could see fire engines and ambulances waiting, they then proceeded to follow us down the runway sirens blaring. It was so exciting. I didn’t twig the danger of the situation until much later.

I was a member of the ATC for about a year and a half. I realised that the military was not for me. I realised that having a possible future hand in killing was not for me. I also didn’t like how one’s individuality was suppressed, plus the uniforms were bloody itchy.

A warning to children everywhere

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Dear Diary Nº2

Hello again Dear Diary. I expect you are quite shocked. You don’t hear from me for thirty two years and then like buses two entries come along almost at once.

You’ll recall that the last time we met I mentioned 1974. It was a very significant year. I’ve already recorded some of the reasons for its significance but there were other reasons. We’ll gloss over the nocturnal near miss and go straight to the music. One of the short-lived group of friends, the one I am now in contact with now, is a Yorkshire man. At the time he mentioned a local band to watch out for. He was convinced they were destined for greater things. Their first album was released in that very year. The band in question was Be Bop Deluxe and that first album was called Axe Victim.

I was hooked from the first play and have been a firm Bill Nelson fan ever since. Rather unfairly at the time they were criticised as being a little too Bowie-esque. Be Bop Deluxe went through several line-up changes and five albums in its history, finally transmogrifying into Bill Nelson’s Red Noise for one album before Bill deigned to dream in colours and go solo. I was lucky enough to see Be Bop Deluxe on their Modern Music tour. Modern Music being their fourth album. Their biggest hit single was Ships In The Night.

I always felt that Bill Nelson has never had the recognition he deserves. Not only is he a great songwriter but an absolutely brilliant guitarist as well. Any bit as good as many of the so-called greats. His music has always stood me in good stead over the years.

I’m always looking for the next exciting thing musically. Sometimes good stuff comes along but real wows are few and far between. But I continue to search. It keeps me young.

I have no idea what music will manifest itself this year but despite that I think this is going to be a year to remember one way and another DD

Monday, 30 April 2012

We’re only making plans for Nigel

It doesn’t do to be complacent but up to now thankfully Britain has never really had any truck with fascists in government. Yes the BNP has had some very minor electoral success but what little popularity they had is waning. I don’t think they were ever a serious threat to our way of life. But as I say you can’t be complacent.

We have some friends in France. We will be visiting them in a few weeks time. They are a French family. During the last French presidential elections they were horrified at the popularity of Le Pen. They ended up voting for Sarkozy even though they didn’t want to. They felt it necessary to do so to make sure the fascist didn’t get elected. It’s frightening how popular Le Pen junior is now. It’ll be interesting to see how they feel about the current state of French politics.

Nationalism is an abhorrent emotion. It is the politics of the shallow mind. Insularity never does a population any good whatsoever. For me the ideals of a collective EU are far better than an isolated England*. Yes I know Europe isn’t perfect but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for those collective ideals; much better than turning our backs and becoming ‘Little Englanders’. I don’t have a very high opinion of UKIP as I’m sure you can imagine. I have always thought of them as a bunch of dysfunctional renegade Tories. It’s what they are after all. At worst I’ve thought them a joke; at best they take votes from the Tories. But I’m now thinking this is a mistake. UKIP are a problem. A big problem. UKIP need to be afforded the same attention by the left as the BNP. The only difference between the UKIP and the BNP is that the former have sharper suits, more money and went to posh private schools and the latter are a rag tag bunch of social misfits, retired sergeants and assorted Neanderthals. Their respective messages essentially are not that different.

Beware the sinister souls in yellow and purple. Beware the Farage posse!





*I use this term because I know that the Irish, Scots and Welsh have far more sense than turn their backs on Europe.





Saturday, 28 April 2012

Reflections


“The Queen gasped, and sat down: the rapid journey through the air had quite taken away her breath and for a minute or two she could do nothing but hug the little Lily in silence. As soon as she had recovered her breath a little, she called out to the White King, who was sitting sulkily among the ashes, ‘Mind the volcano!’ *


Ditto, ditto on the wall who is the silliest of them all?

Mirrors are like blotting paper they absorb and display back to front.

They can confirm you are breathing. They can confirm beauty.

Opposites attract, but do dittos?


*Lewis Carroll – Through the looking glass and what Alice found there

Friday, 27 April 2012

Happiness anyone?

Anyone who includes the sentence “I blame Margaret Thatcher although I tend to blame her for pretty much everything.” In the first paragraph is assured to get my attention. Those are sentiments that i agree with. Thatcherism was a shameful but pivotal moment in our history. Thatcher took away the opportunity from so many for so many to be happy.In his blog post John Linney muses on being happy and perhaps what it takes to get there. Read it. It’s a good read.



For me happiness can be attained provided you have the Maslow basics, an open heart and mind plus much love to give.



Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dear Diary Nº1

Dear Diary, I’m sorry it’s been quite a while. Well actually its 32 years to be precise. And, DD you know how I like to be precise. You’ll remember how back in 1980, our last encounter, I made an entry for everyday of that year and then how a couple of years later I destroyed all those entries. Too many hormonal thoughts put to paper do not shared reading make. 1980 was an eventful year for me. I suppose the pedant in me would say but every year is an eventful one, no year is bereft of events, it’s just some events are more mundane than others.

You’ll remember Dear Diary how 1974, 1980 and 1999 were momentous/eventful years. It would appear that 2012 could well be added to that list.

1974 was eventful for many reasons, but I won’t bore you with too many details because DD you already know. We had two general elections that year and it was the first time I’d ever voted in a general election. I voted as I’ve voted in every general election since. For the Labour Party candidate. I’ve never ever elected a member of parliament. I do hope I live to achieve that goal one election soon. This was also the year that I met a group of people, via my employer at the time which was Lloyds Bank, who I had a great deal of fun with. They were short-lived friendships, of the moment. I also left the employ of the bank that year and contact with ‘the group’ fizzled. I had three different jobs that year. I didn’t know then what I wanted to do and if truth be known I still don’t. The real sadness for me that year was the death of my Nanna. My mum’s mum. Nanna was like a second mother to me. I was Nº1 grandchild and therefore possibly afforded a lot of attention. The loss of Nanna was the first heart-felt bereavement that I had experienced.

1980 saw me and two friends on a very cold but amazing holiday to Moscow; the first trip abroad that we as friends had ever organised. It was also the year that I first went out with the woman that was to become my wife. And, it was also the year that I went out with the woman that I’ve too often wished had become my wife. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I lost contact with the latter young lady a year or two after that time. Thinking I would never see her again I was so surprised when three years ago a message appeared in my Facebook inbox enquiring as to whether or not I was me. We now meet up for coffee or a meal occasionally and DD I can tell you I am most happy about us being friends again.

1999 was the year that my marriage broke up, and the year I met my now partner the lovely Lady. It was also the year that I felt I started to live again. One small change that heralded the dawn of this new era was that I had my ear-pierced. It’s as if it’s a symbol of my new life.

Whilst there have been momentous occasions other years, the death of my other grandparents, the birth of my son, job changes and starting my own business they have all been spread out a bit.

As I suggested earlier DD this year could well be a year to remember, but stating the bleedin’ obvious only time will tell. The death of my father was the big thing. A little while back I found one of my 1974 group of friends on the interweb, on that there Friends Disunited. I’m hoping to meet up with him later on in the year. The Lady has her sixtieth birthday at the end of this year which is in itself is a memorable milestone. And if that wasn’t enough, I have arranged to meet my pen pal in June. An event in itself and something I’m much looking forward to.





Life tag – Be Bop Deluxe – Love is Swift Arrows

Saturday, 14 April 2012

If music be the food of love, play on

I love music.
Music loves me.
Music soothes.
Music excites.
Music prompts.
Music bonds.
Music is a faithful old friend that consoles and lifts the spirit.
Music can make you cry when it reminds you of times past.
Music can make you laugh when it reminds you of good times past.
Music makes smiles.
Music catalogues life.


Monday, 9 April 2012

Inspired electronic doodling...

...but inspired by what or who and why?

What’s in a smile?

Smiles cost nothing yet pay dividends.
Smiles are infectious and thankfully there is no cure.
Smiles heal
Smiles bond
Smiles are just plain nice

I smile in the face of smiles



What's this ear?

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Is art the new rock and roll?

You would only ever hear me utter those words in jest. Sardonic irony is the best protection against the pretentious broadcasting nonsense by the likes of Andrew Graham Dixon and Brian ‘a lemon stuck up his arse’ Sewell.

We are just back from a couple of days in London. Well actually we spent the night between in Essex, but we’ll gloss over that. Who wants to admit to going to Essex? In London we visited two different art exhibitions. Two very different exhibitions. The first was the Hockney Exhibition at the Royal Academy, and the second Yayoi Kusama at The* Tate Modern.


I work with someone who could organise a piss-up in a brewery. Unfortunately he can’t organise much else. And, in a similar vein the RA can organise an art exhibition but not much else. What a shocking place to go and gawp at art! I never want to go there again that’s for sure. I suppose in fairness the David Hockney exhibition is very popular. I’ve never seen so many people trying to get into an exhibition. Hence the title of this post. We were thankfully lucky enough to have pre-booked tickets, so we strolled in at our allotted time. It was very full inside the exhibition, which made it difficult getting round and seeing the pictures, but it was well worth it. I’ve always liked Hockney’s work although only ever seen relatively few pieces ‘in the flesh’. This exhibition changed all of that for me. There are just so many wow pieces. And some huge pieces. Huge and wow. I love Hockney’s use of colour on his landscape. He has the ability to convey the light like no other artist I’ve seen. He makes blue trees work.



This is very much a mouth wide open experience and with every new room comes more colour. More colour and shapes to absorb. I just soaked it all up like a sponge. Hockney has always been at the cutting edge of technology in art and I particularly liked many of his iPad (other tablet computers are available) creations. They make for very interesting pictures when printed out. The huge ones of Yosemite are just breathtaking. The only pictures that I didn’t care much for, because of the subject I suppose, were the ones of ‘The Sermon on the Mount’. They filled an entire room and were basically Jesus on a giant carrot proselytising to a multitude. Rum do that!


New day and a new exhibition. Up until a month or two back I hadn’t heard of Yayoi Kusama. There was a documentary about her on one of the Beeb channels. And when the lady’s nephew suggested we all go to her exhibition we happily agreed; he’d done his thesis on her for his degree. The Tate Modern does know how to put on a good exhibition. It is always a pleasure going there. Thankfully whilst her exhibition was busy it wasn’t as heavily subscribed as the Damien Hirst one. Rather uncharitably I felt slightly smug as we passed the large queue of Emperor’s New Clothes devotees waiting to glimpse the mediocre. Little did I know what a surprise was waiting for me inside. I’d have felt even smugger. Bad I know.



Yayoi Kusama is big on spots, vivid colours and phallic symbols. Her exhibition is a mix of pictures, sculptures and installations. Yayoi is in her ninth decade, sporting bright red hair and still producing great stuff. Her paintings of the fifties interested me greatly. Some seemed to contain hints of Miro but mostly they are uniquely hers. Spots and twisted shapes feature heavily. When she first went to the states she did a series of canvases painted with white dots and splodges. I didn’t greatly enjoy these, I have to confess, but just about everything else was pretty neat. The latter pieces of her work gave me the most pleasure. One room filled with large square canvases painted in striking colours absorbed me for ages. Paintings with faces, eyes, amorphous shapes, stick people, spots and circles. Prior to that was an installation which was a room furnished like a small flat; the walls and furniture were covered in fluorescent dots of various colours. The room was lit only with a small amount of ultra violet light creating an effect that made the dots stand out and very bright.


 
Just when you think nothing can possibly beat this you enter the last room and the last installation. Room 14 Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. I didn’t want to leave. It was a room with masses of small round coloured lights, suspended from wires and then a series of mirrors around the edge of the room. The effect was truly amazing. I found myself a little corner and stayed there for ages. Lights changed colour and the lights went out and each time a change occurred it put a whole new perspective on the room. Infinity Mirrored Room? Infinite possibilities room more like. This exhibition is a must see. This woman, who voluntarily lives in a mental institution in Japan, is a pure genius.




*I’m taking a leaf out of Stewart Lee’s book, sort off

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Bodgit & Scarper

One of the most important economic drivers in this country is the house building industry. If you build houses people spend money when they move in. The more houses you build the more money the new residents spend on their new houses.

If the government were serious about economic growth they would be investing in house building.

If the government was serious about house building they would make sure that Britain had a credible and quality driven house building industry.

The house building industry in quality build terms is the equivalent to British Leyland in the 1970s. Shoddy is the order of the day. I know I live in a brand new property. Oh how I wish that Honda built houses.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Half socks, an obstacle to world peace

I am convinced that the half sock or trainer sock is a significant obstacle to world peace. That and narrow minded oppressive violent ideologies. Oh and injustice.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

My dad loved his life!

I’ve never really understood the point of funerals. I’ve always questioned the need for them. Much to most people’s bemusement. And please don’t tell me that it is about saying goodbye because it is not as the deceased is long gone. I’ve also never understood the need to worship the dead like so many people do. By worshipping the dead I mean the very existence of a grave and the tending there of. Or, the laying of flowers at a roadside, or where people have fallen. What is that all about?

I think that it is about people being in denial. Denial that their loved one has died and denial about their own mortality. Most people can’t seem to grasp the concept that death is final. They are desperate to believe that there is more. Now I can’t prove that there isn’t more, the same way that I can’t prove that there isn’t a large blue elephant with pink spots floating around on a fluffy cumulonimbus, but given that there is no evidence for either, both would seem highly unlikely.

The trouble is that most people tend to become highly emotional around death and rational thinking goes out of the window. Questioning the necessity for a certain type of funeral or a funeral at all would seem like a pointless exercise.

We buried my father yesterday. He died on 10th March as a result of a heart attack he’d had two days before. It was a CofE funeral and a burial beside the village church. Not what I would have chosen but they were his wishes. I was asked if I would like to read a lesson. I declined but said I would be happy to say a few words. Which indeed I did. I thought I would share those words with you:

In many ways father and I were like chalk and cheese. He was a very practical man, good with his hands and could turn his hands to most things. I am a DIY numpty. He loved sport, whilst I can’t abide it. He accepted tradition and superstition and I challenge it. But, stood together there was never any doubt that we were father and son. We had the same boyish good looks. We both had the large Garrard ears or lugholes as he would have said. We shared mannerisms and both had the same laugh. In fact it is the laugh I am most grateful for, because it was from father that I inherited my wonderful sense of humour. He gave me the ability to laugh at the most ridiculous things, and to see the funny side in much of everyday life. Father could tell a good story as well. Much better than I could ever hope to. As kids we would always be laughing about something with dad. There was always laughter in our house.

Growing up he rarely called me Paul it was either boy or the slightly enigmatic Lard-head. These were terms of endearment that I happily answered to.

I have so many nice childhood memories involving dad that it’s hard to single one out. The Christmas I received a Scalextric set was one of note. I’m not sure who derived the most pleasure from it. The track took root on the dining table and we would spend hours racing against each other, both of us equally excited and enthusiastic. One big kid and one little kid. Kids in their element.

Father was never prolific in telling us off. I remember in my teenage years the first time that I came home rather the worse for drink. Rather than scold me he laughed. He knew that I was learning the hard way. He was shrewd enough to know that a life lesson has more effect on a teenager than the words of a parent. And he laughed again.

I remember father was always very keen on swimming and despite my general disinterested in sport it was something that we had done together both in my childhood and then later when three generations of the Garrards went to the pool; Dad, myself and my son.

Something else that we had in common was our love of good ale. I treasure the memories of the few beer festivals that we attended together. Both as eager as the other to try something new.

Now fast forward to January of this year. He was so happy the day he reached his eightieth birthday. To him it seemed like a major achievement. And indeed it was. A few weeks prior to his birthday he had said to me in quite an earnest but enthusiastic way “You know, I like my life. I really enjoy it”. I was well moved. Here was a man whose body had been ravaged by HD and still he was happy with his life. I think it was the most inspiring thing that he had ever said to me. I certainly won’t forget it. It is the overriding memory that I shall carry with me always. My dad loved his life!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Pure pop for now people

Every so often a new song will come along that I just have to play over and over again. I’ve always done it. In my youth I would rush out to buy the latest obscure fav 7” platter, whack it on my turntable, play it, and then play it again as soon as it finished. And loud! The latest song to do this to me is Tosta Mista by Hooded Fang. Love the guitar sound. It’s the sort of guitar playing that would melt chocolate at well over one hundred paces. This song is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. But for maximum enjoyment get your kit off to it!

I have a dream...

Well, actually, to be precise I had a dream. And, I can already hear a voice saying “how very PG is that?” Last night I dreamt that I wandered into a baker’s. Possibly in Bury St Edmunds. Their speciality, their signature bun so to speak, was an Eccles cake. Not a comestible you naturally associate with Suffolk I’ll grant you, but in dreams all is possible. Anyway this was no ordinary Eccles cake. First up it was the size of a dustbin lid; extraordinary in itself. And as if the size was not enough to contend with, inspiration had been drawn from the traditional Cornish pasty, in as much as the giant Eccles cake was half savoury and half sweet. The sweet half was your normal Eccles cake with the dried fruit filling and the sugar on top. In the other half it was cheese, but also with the sugar on top; hmmm, a combination to work at.

Sadly in my dream I never got to try this cutting edge pastry, as when I arrived home the lady and our guest had been out buying all manner of breads and cakes, which for some reason we had to eat first. By the time we got around to the giant Eccles cake it was stale and considered past its best. Oh well, another dream perhaps?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Black





I have black moods. I’ve had them since my teens. They are a very strange place to be. I don’t choose when to have them. I don’t know when they will arrive. They don’t seem to be caused by events or other people. They come without warning. They can confuse other people something rotten, and they don’t do me a lot of good either. Sometimes other people think that they have upset me or that I have been upset by someone. Whilst others do upset me from time to time they are never the cause of the blackness. Thankfully, these days, the slough of despond rarely lasts longer than 24 hours, and often it is much shorter. They have also become less frequent the older I get. In my earlier years they might have gone on for several days, often been a lot deeper and manifesting themselves much more often. Now, I know that they will pass; that the chemical imbalance will wash through my system. Sadly, even though I know this, there is bugger all I can do about it apart from retreat into my shell. It’s almost as if there are two of me in this body. Eventually the storm clouds pass and I am all smiles again. I much prefer the smiley me!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Pen-pals

In my second year at the Tollgate County Primary School in Bury St Edmunds all the children in our class were given a pen-pal each. Our pen-pals were from a school in Northern Ireland. I have no idea what the school was but I suspect that it was a protestant one given that I was educated in a state system that was heavily biased towards CofE. I have no idea where the school was either, but for some reason Craigavon sits in my mind poking me as if it should ring some bells. This was in the early sixties, so well before the troubles that erupted at the end of that decade.

As you might well imagine, at the age of around seven years old, as a lad more interested in the likes of Whirly Birds, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and American Civil War bubble-gum cards the thought of writing letters just didn’t figure on my radar. I was a boy. I was at a state school on the council estate where I lived. Boys like me didn’t write letters.

Our opposite numbers in Northern Ireland were charged with writing the first letter, and the day duly arrived when Miss Rous handed them out and we got to know who our pen-pal was. They had matched boy with boy and girl with girl. Names were read out and a letter was handed over to the lucky recipient. I waited patiently. My name wasn’t forthcoming. Even at that age I wasn’t perturbed. I was getting used to being forgotten, ignored and being left out of things. A state of affairs that has stuck with me most of my life, and not without its advantages I have to say. But on this occasion I hadn’t been forgotten. I was just left until last. Our teacher explained that there weren’t enough boys in the Irish school to go round all the boys in our class so I had being given a girl pen-pal. A GIRL! Bluueerrr! Oh how I was teased. Oh how I blushed. Oh how unfair the world was. A girl child? Why? I didn’t want to write to some smelly girl in a far off land. Now I know that from East Anglia Northern Ireland isn’t really a far off land. But as a young lad who had hardly travelled out of Suffolk and having very little knowledge of the world, Northern Ireland could have been another planet for all I knew. I don’t remember the poor girl’s name save that her surname was Cochrane. I remember this because it was a surname in my family and a surname that I had never come across apart from that. We had to write a letter back in class, which I did grudgingly. I remember that it was a very short effort and said very little. I remember we had to address an envelope and then hand it in to the teacher. This I did and then promptly forgot about it. The plan was that after this initial exchange we were to carry on at home writing back and forth. A couple of weeks after our letters were despatched an envelope arrived at home. I had post. I never had post! It was from that girl. I never wrote back. I was a horrible kid. I do hope she wasn’t too upset.

I’ve changed a lot since I was that scabby-kneed, scuffed shod schoolboy. It’s funny how puberty changes your attitude to girls. They go from ‘urrgh sissy’ to ‘corrr whoah’ as your voice breaks and your face erupts. “Now, is that green soap for oily skin or oily soap for green skin?” In my mature years thankfully I no longer go ‘corrr whoah’. I have a bit more respect for ladies, I hope. Although, should Christine Lagarde, Judi Dench and Celia Imrie walk by I might find it hard to contain myself. I value friendships, and feel particularly comfortable in the company of women. I wouldn’t be fazed at all about a female pen-pal now.

And, indeed I’m not.

I now have a female type human pen-pal. We came across each other in a slightly serendipitous way, like you do. It turns out we have a similar taste in music, we both have oddball and wacky senses of humour that appear to be derived from common comic reference points, and we have a few character traits that aren’t too dissimilar. We both love Under Milk Wood (a play for voices) which was one thing we discovered early on in our conversing. I’m left wing and she is just wing but that doesn’t really get in the way. We like to banter. It’s all very innocent and mature although far from stuffy, even though she has been known to refer to me as starchy pants. We’ve never met. I don’t know if we will. We’ve never spoken. I don’t know if we will. None of that seems to matter. We enjoy sending emails to and fro, gradually revealing bits of our life. It’s a bit less formal than letter writing but equally, if not more, valuable.

For me now having a pen-pal is very enjoyable. If you’d tried to tell me that when I was seven I’d never have believed you!

I feel quite lucky to found someone that likes communicating in a long handed sort of way. She is a very nice pen-friend indeed and a refreshing change from many of the numpties you come across on the jolly old interweb.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Split Enz

"When my baby's walking down the street
I see red, I see red, I see red.
How could someone wicked walk around free
I see red, I see red, I see red.
I see red, I see red
(red!), I see red.
"
Tim Finn