Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Yes, save our souls, those overgrown children from the school for spies are at it again: this time they have chosen to play one of their favourite pastimes for murderous muttheads, 'kill the turncoat kid.'
Now I haven't that much time for the alleged former Soviet agent currently in a critical condition in hospital. To me he appears to be just another of those daft buggers who has been playing silly James Bond games.
I do have a degree of sympathy with his daughter, a great deal of sympathy with Sergeant Nick Bailey of the Wiltshire Police, and concern for the many other innocent people effected, though.
Apparently they have been poisoned by a nerve gas known as Novichok: a Russian invention.Who says mad scientists can only be found in fiction?
As is the custom, politicians are spouting outrage and false innocence in equal measure.This has culminated in a Russian bigmouth reminding us that his country possesses nuclear arms so apparently should not be questioned. Bollocks! 
Most of the time, spies - like gangsters - stick to murdering each other, so the rest of us can pretend they don't exist: now we have been reminded again that they do. Appalling, isn't it?
With luck, and a load of decontamination, nothing will come of it all.
Without luck these recalcitrant renegades from the human race will eventually plunge us into another world war.
I'm far too old to let it frighten me, but I do fear for our descendants.
In brief (because this blog is starting to look like an in memoriam column), both Ken Dodd and Stephen Hawking have died this week. Each man had a fine brain and each was an expert in his own field.
Wherever their spirits rest up will be the better for it.
We have been watching:
Shetland (good).
Below the Surface (good).
Portrait Artist of the Year (always watchable) and
Homeland (a neurotic nightmare).
We have also seen the entire series of Endeavour (excellent) and Call the Midwife (alive with loud ingenues in labour, fine ensemble acting, and a Judy Parfitt (pictured) performance that brought me close to tears of joy every week).
 (What's that? Recalcitrant renegades from the human race? Hell, if you're a born hack you can't resist the occasional jaunt into journalese.)





Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Post 286. A SHORT MONTH.

Goodbyes and Hallos.

On Monday of this week we said our final goodbye to old friend Joan Keep. Customary service at the (above) crematorium down the road from here.
The one bright note was that her beloved little dog has been adopted and, our reliable informant tells us, is blissfully happy with its new owner.

She would like that.
The late John Tree's funeral service will take place on the mainland next week. I have been invited to attend but have regretfully declined. It's a bit too soon after Joan's and a bit too far for me to travel. (The spirit's willing, but the bladder...)
My kindest thoughts will be at Southwick - pronounced Suthick - in Hampshire on the day. My parents lived at Widley, a village close by, as did my Leader and I for the first few years of our marriage.
Unbeknown to me until many years later, John Tree and his wife, Bubbles, lived on the other side of the village from us, in the very road where my grandparents (on my mother's side) resided throughout WW2 and for some while thereafter.
A cliche, I know, but sometimes it really is a small world.
So to Tuesday of this week when we said happy hallos to Maureen's nephews Steve and Phil, the sons of her late (loved by the entire family) sister Jean Butler.

They - icy wind and snow squalls notwithstanding - ventured over from Gosport, Hants., for the day to take us out to lunch, reminisce, and generally make an elderly aunt and uncle feel wanted.
Despite the fact that they now qualify for bus passes, we still think of them as "the boys."
Over the years they have had their health problems, but neither has ever let illness keep him out of the work place for a single day more than the medics have deemed entirely necessary. The pair of them are a credit to their departed parents and thoroughly nice people to know.
So thanks again, boys. We'll try to make it over there to you for a day in summer.
Endeavour has been back.
All the leading actors (and those who back them up) are excellent. Roger Allam's DCI Fred Thursday is the best character currently on television.
The Walking Dead is back.
All the leading actors (and those who back them up) are excellent. Chandler Riggs's Carl Grimes (below) is the best character currently leaving television.
On a personal note: we have very much enjoyed your acting (and seeing you grow up) over the past six years, Chandler. Thank you and every good wish for the future.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


On the really bright side.

First and foremost we have had the news that our favourite granddaughter, Jess (above left), gained a first in her recent university exams.
I don't have an inkling what that really means (lacked the background and the nous ever to qualify for uni) but I gather a first anywhere along the line is a very good mark indeed.
We are delighted with - and for - her.
Bonchurch Pond no longer beckons, lovely girl.
And on Shrove Tuesday our favourite grandson, Ellis (above right), came here with his mum, our Roz (nowhere above), for the annual pancake fest.
He took one look at Mo cooking the first of the batch and asked: "Can I do that?"
Maureen has never in her life turned down a willing volunteer. "Why not," she said and prepared him with one more example prior to handing over the ladle and skillet.
He then turned out nigh on a score of perfect pancakes.
Any television chef would have been proud of him.
We certainly were.
We ate very well that evening.
RIP two more old friends.
The older you get the more it happens. Stands to reason, doesn't it?
A week ago last Tuesday: our friend, and a former work colleague of Mo, Joan Keep, died in a nursing home at Sandown.
Joan was highly competent at whatever she undertook. A first class social services administrator, a devoted carer to her parents throughout their later years, and a splendid gardener all her life, it was a particularly sad irony that this nice lady, eventually stricken with dementia, was forced to leave her pet dog, together with her lovely home and garden at Ryde, and go into care.
We were told that she died peacefully, in her sleep. No surprise there. Joan never made a fuss about anything.
Then, last Sunday evening one of the straightest coppers I have ever known, longtime acquaintance John Tree, died at his home on the mainland following a long illness.
John was a born policeman. I think he first went into the police as a cadet, followed that with national service in the Royal Military Police and then joined the Portsmouth and Hampshire force to serve out the rest of a solid police career, quickly reaching the rank of sergeant.
By the time he retired from police work I believe he had become something of a security expert.
For a while he was the highly respected security chief of the largest company here on the Island, eventually leaving when his health started to deteriorate and the commute from the mainland became too much.
I'm afraid I then lost touch - only hearing on the grape vine of his ventures into local radio and 'oldie' choir singing - but I continued to like him and everything I heard about him.
He once said to me, apropos the security world: "There's no such thing as complete security. You can never cover all the angles."
John Tree was a man to whom you listened. He had no time for bullshit.
Go carefully, friends, you're a dwindling race.



Wednesday, January 31, 2018



Yep, a month into the new year
and time again to battle my annual inclination to cancel everything and hybernate for whatever remains of winter. Harry Nilsson (above) has been a godsend for years: A little touch of SCHMILSSON in the night on the music centre transforms my SAD into relatively optimistic for as long as it lasts, i.e. long enough to get me back to the keyboard with a faint smile on my face.
After that it's all a bit of a lottery. Finding music that is easy to listen to whilst retaining the incentive to scribble is not as simple as it may seem: few albums are good right through and those that are can be more of a distraction than an inspiration. I would perhaps eschew background music altogether - I do on the rare occasions I drive the car - but there's not just myself to consider: in our current ground floor living situation there's also my Leader

The cat Shadow can doze peacefully to Doris Day, Nilsson, Robeson, Tauber, The Hollies, most piano concertos and anything tuneful on the violin: I think the latter has some archaic connection to catgut.
He is not keen on anything too loud, clearly favours the romantic school, and is out of the cat flap like a bullet the moment Sir Simon or whoever opines that modern classical music is anything other than a cacophony. (I have taught him rather well. It's not.)

Right now he is asleep on a chair in front of a radiator and in sight of Mo's sewing machine in the study next door. She is working there.
The chosen music is gentle.
He is blissfully happy.
That's good. It spreads.

We have been watching the French series Spiral on BBC Four, the English series Kiri (with Sarah Lancashire - pictured) on Channel 4, and have finally watched the Bond film Spectre, originally shown on ITV1 on New Year's Day.
The French series contains more sexual content than the Bond film and the English series is more disturbing than either of them.
None of it has shocked or affected me as much as have the latest episodes of Silent Witness.
I can laugh at Still Open All Hours and Death in Paradise (picture below), too, and be close to tears over Call the Midwife.
I know, 'get' and 'a life' spring to mind.
All for now.

Next month: Text it, Brexit or Trump it?






Monday, January 15, 2018

Post 283. TO START 2018.

Whatever the tunnel it does all look rather black.
Somebody on television (possibly the ubiquitous Miriam Margolyes, top marks to her agents) recently remarked that they saw no light at the end of a tunnel.
How very sad that is, whoever said it.
But how understandable when you stop to think: around the world there is nonstop conflict, much of it indescribably bloody.
So vast are the numbers trying to escape assault or annihilation that many of the countries where refuge is customarily given are talking migrant saturation and threatening to close their doors.
What can anyone do?
Well in this country it seems what we do is try to sell arms to even more tinpot dictators than the current crop from whom we currently obtain billions of pounds a year (and probably sustain better than 100,000 jobs).
Nobody in government will ever be seen to lose such a buoyant source of revenue.
I think it's called 'economics' or, in political terms, 'common sense.'
I wish I could be optimistic, but in cold light, whatever the tunnel, it does all look rather black.
The rich get richer and the poor get stateless.
Not very promising, is it.
So, on a lighter note...
Rummaging through my list of saved television programmes recently I found another recording of The Good Old Days (this one circa 1980) with Leeds City Varieties favourite Robert White on the bill.
He sang three songs and on that occasion concluded with the John McCormack signature tune I Hear You Calling Me.
It could have been the Count himself up there.
As he acknowledged the applause I said to my Leader: "Now that's a singer. Every word as clear as a bell." 
She smiled. "And effortless," she said.
Mr. White is also listed to appear on a Good Old Days (1980) repeat to be shown on BBC Four next Friday (19th January, 2018).
He was eighty one on the 27th October 2017. Doubtless still singing.
Doubtless, too, he will never see this blog post.
But belated birthday greetings anyway, maestro, and many happy returns.
An email Fw: Google Pizza sent to me by old pal David Parry which I hope appeals not only to those to whom I have already sent it but to anybody else who may read it, including those faceless geniuses at Google:
CALLER: Is this Gordon's Pizza?
GOOGLE: No sir, it's Google Pizza.
CALLER: I must have dialled a wrong number. Sorry.
GOOGLE: No sir, Google bought Gordon's Pizza last month.
CALLER: OK. I would like to order a pizza.
GOOGLE: Do you want your usual, sir?
CALLER: My usual? You know me?
GOOGLE: According to our caller ID data sheet, the last 12 times you called you ordered an extra-large pizza with three cheeses, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and meatballs on a thick crust.
CALLER: OK! That's what I want ...
GOOGLE: May I suggest that this time you order a pizza with ricotta, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and olives on a whole wheat gluten free thin crust?
CALLER: What? I detest vegetables.
GOOGLE: Your cholesterol is not good, sir.
CALLER: How the hell do you know that?GOOGLE: Well, we cross-referenced your home phone number with your medical records. We have the result of your blood tests for the last 7 years.
CALLER: Okay, but I do not want your rotten vegetable pizza! I already take medication for my cholesterol.
GOOGLE: Excuse me sir, but you have not taken your medication regularly. According to our database, you only purchased a box of 30 cholesterol tablets once, at Drug RX Network, 4 months ago.
CALLER: I bought more from another drugstore.
GOOGLE: That doesn't show on your credit card statement.
CALLER: I paid in cash.
GOOGLE: But you did not withdraw enough cash according to your bank statement.
CALLER: I have other sources of cash.
GOOGLE: That doesn't show on your last tax return unless you bought them using an undeclared income source, which is against the law.
GOOGLE: I'm sorry, sir, we use such information only with the sole intention of helping you.
CALLER: Enough already! I'm sick to death of Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and all the others. I'm going to an island without internet, cable TV, where there is no cell phone service and no one to watch me or spy on me.
GOOGLE: I understand sir, but you need to renew your passport first. It expired 6 weeks ago...

Must go now: it's time for The Archers (an everyday story of BBC cosmopolitan country folk) on BBC Radio 4.
Keep smiling.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Post 282. SO MUCH FOR 2017.

On 27 January 2017 (Post 258) I concluded with the words 'may this year be good to you.'
Sadly it has been nothing like good for far too many people. Four of our best friends and a number of esteemed acquaintances died from one or another of the terminal cancers that can strike, with scant warning, at any time.
Loved ones have been left brokenhearted: friends helpless to placate them.
Elsewhere in Britain people have lost their nearest and dearest to the wanton acts of those who are a waste of space in any society: worthless nutcases who have driven vehicles at the innocent, shot them, bombed them or cut them down for no good purpose.
I would still hang every twisted little sociopath caught carrying out such an act.
But then, I would have hanged Brady and Hindley.
I'd happily throw arms dealers off a plane into an active minefield, too. We oldies can be impatient.
No. it has not been a good year.
A little fat ego in North Korea deliberately upset a big fat ego in America by recklessly ordering the launching of nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean, each of them increasingly close to America.
Not a wise move.
Now the US has stationed three aircraft carriers off the Korean Peninsula and there has been much rattling of nuclear sabres.
WW1 was proudly boasted to be the war to end all wars. What a reliable prophecy that turned out to be. There has been war all over the world ever since.
Watch us hasten to attach ourselves to any forthcoming US led conflict.
Will the buggers never learn?
So far as I can see, neither David Beckham (above) nor I has been knighted this year.
I am disappointed for Becks, but now that I've seen the list of those thus honoured I'm not sorry to still be a mister.
The cat Shadow has had his breakfast and is now comfortably settled on my Canon printer.
A kindly New Year's Greetings email has just arrived. Life's good.
 A Happy 2018 to you and yours, dear reader.



Sunday, December 17, 2017


Yeah, it's on us again.
I don't know why I bother to pack the decorations away. You no sooner lose the fairy off the tree than it's time to put the little varmint back up there again – if you can find her. Every year I swear I'll give up on it all and every year I finish up chasing my tail and wondering how many friendly noses we shall put out of joint this year because we have somehow overlooked sending them the customary greetings card. It's never deliberate but it gets worse by the year.
My Leader writes most of the cards now anyway. I plead arthritis. She also purchases, packs and sends all the presents. I maintain a studied indifference. She, bless her, cheerfully absorbs the spirit of Christmas right up until it arrives and then on to the end of the year. I sit back querulously reflecting that for a two day event we appear to have stockpiled enough food for a fortnight.
Happy Christmas, though, if you're one of the nice folk who bothers to read this.
Apologies in advance, too, if you're expecting a card from the Barndens but don't get one. 
Clearly Christmas is with us.
Most series are coming to an end or, like The Walking Dead, reaching half term and killing off at least one main character in the process.
Everything feels as though it has been given the compulsory light coating of tinsel or simply been raked up from the network's archive of hopefully forgotten dross.
We watched all five episodes of 32 Brinkburn Street (obviously straight from the Beeb's archives), an old fashioned drama set in Manchester and we struggled through the eight episodes of Witnesses: A Frozen Death (BBC Four) which was a load of bilge valiantly acted by French speaking actors. We gained little but didn't lose much from watching either series.
We also saw the final of Strictly Come Dancing and concluded that the whole of Scotland had to vote for Joe McFadden (a worthy but uninspiring finalist) if he was to beat Alexandra Burke or Debbie McGee to the glitterball trophy. Looks like the whole of Scotland (plus a mixed herd of racists and mysogynists?) actually did.
There's no accounting for folk.
And, as Larry Grayson used to say, he seems like a nice boy. 
Pictured below is our plastic half tree bought many years ago.
It makes no mess and is easily packed away when it's all over.
We like it and can't be having with the snobs who don't.