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.

Saturday, December 02, 2017


Last Tuesday, 28 November, 2017:
I was telephoned by one of my oldest friends, Bill Harrison, who lives in Pitlochry, Scotland, with the news that on the previous Tuesday, the 21st, his dear wife, Kath, had died of pancreatic cancer.
She went quickly, and (God bless the NHS) without pain, in the cottage hospital at Pitlochry. 
I think the last time Bill and Kath were mentioned in this blog was at 2(48) BACK AGAIN (Wednesday August 17, 2016) when, following one of their rare visits to the Island, I described them as 'high on my list of favourite people.'
Can't say much more than that.
It is one of those occasions when I am at a loss to find the right written words.
Kath's funeral was on Thursday last (RIP, lovely girl) and her departure leaves a huge gap in the lives of all those to whom she and Bill have given their unswerving friendship.
Our most sincere commiserations go to Bill, who has not been in the best of health himself of late.
Keep trundling on, old mate.

That's it for the time being.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Post 279. MOSTLY THE REST OF 278.

Have they something to hide?
Gone off razors? Or what? Many years ago the Daily Mirror columnist Cassandra (William Connor - above) castigated the increasing number of up-with-those-times males who were growing beards. What, he wondered, were they trying to hide? Weak chins?
Well they're back now, those beards: every foolish follower of fashion in fiefdom seems to have grown, or be growing, one.
If you're as ugly as sin clean-shaven a beard is unlikely to improve your looks, and if you are devastatingly handsome without a beard, growing one only makes you look like a sad, ageing dropout.
Perhaps the PC Brigade and the Fighting Feminists should take against face fungus: well, they've taken against just about everything else since the start of this century, so the weak-willed sheep who slavishly follow the herd would surely return to the razor rather than face their combined displeasure.
I'll just be glad when the fad is over. I think young men should stay looking young for as long as they can and older men should know better than to camouflage character (of whatever degree) with a scruffy stubble.
End of lesson.
Have just read:
The Book of Dust volume one La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. 
Mr. Pullman is back in his parallel world where humans are accompanied by their own daemon.
If, twenty two years ago, you read and enjoyed the three His Dark Materials stories you will enjoy this, the first of another trilogy.
La Belle Sauvage tells baby Lyra's tale before the events in His Dark Materials took place: the hero is Malcolm Polstead, eleven years old, potboy and son of the innkeeper of the Trout inn.  Lyra's survival throughout the first year of her life eventually depends on his (and determined antiheroine Alice's) unswerving devotion.
The following two books will pick up the story after The Amber Spyglass (last of the first trilogy) ended.
Wonderful writing and well worth the wait.
As a follow up I am now reading Skeleton Key, the third of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider stories for teenagers.
This is another writer who knows his market very well indeed; according to the web, the Alex Rider yarns will soon be seen on our television screens, too. Apparently they will be made by a former producer of Foyle's War.
Sounds good to me.
A marvellous send-up.
Murder on the Blackpool Express. (GOLD) If you have not seen it, Johnny Vegas and Sian Gibson are top of the bill in this marvellous send-up of every star-studded whodunit ever filmed anywhere. I almost got caught out by the last minute red herring.
Loved it and hope writers Jason Cook and Mollie Freedman Berthoud will do many more along similar lines.
It's bound to be repeated around Christmastime, so if you did miss it...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


I have been

less than assiduous in the writing department of late.The intention has been there but the execution has too often wavered.
It could be the onset of winter; it could be the thought of that bloody hour changing again; it could even be just an age thing (it would be daft not to admit, sometimes, that I'm getting on a bit).
Rule out that most pretentious excuse for idleness, writer's block, though. I prefer the word ennui.
And that's enough introspection for now:
let's move on...
Everything seems to have become disturbingly more expensive of late. Here on the Isle of Wight, England (I name the country for the benefit of any nice American reader who may automatically assume I am sitting at a desk in Virginia) we are not short of large supermarkets. Since Mo and I moved over here in 1968 their presence has increased at a rate far beyond anyone's wildest speculation: much the same goes for their prices.
In view of the limited off-season population of the island (140,500 in 2010) whether they are all making a profit has to be open to question.
I can only assume there is so much money about (on an island packed with pensioners which for years has endured one of the highest unemployment rates in Britain?) and their profit margins are so high, that nothing can sink them.
If all else fails, brass neck will see them through.
Which reminds me of the many nonstop charity organisations already begging for Christmas donations. Let's move on...
Wrote in Post 277
that I would maybe include friend Anne's painting of feet and the rest at the end of the month.
Here it is and isn't it good?
My current viewing is decidedly haphazard.
So The Walking Dead is back (series 8) and in the very first episode Rick (Andrew Lincoln) had Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in his sights and could have shot him dead.
He should have.
That he didn't is what is wrong with every one of those television series that began life as an American comic book. None of them makes the slightest damned sense.
Oh, I'll still watch.
My Leader's love of quiz shows has me occasionally looking in on Eggheads for all its glaring faults.
The format still needs a change to even out the balance of the questions.
How much more does the opposition need to know about the weakest subject of every indivdual Egg? The director/producer (whoever) of the programme should desist from encouraging (instructing?) presenter Jeremy Vine to openly side with the opposition, too.
(Dermot Murnaghan clearly had the same brief.)
And it's about time dear old Chris Hughes retired from the scene. He now spends more time in the banished box (mostly thanks to sport - which he loves not) than he does on the panel.
He should have gone gracefully when Daphne Fowler did.
And for gawdsake don't ever lose Kevin Ashman.
He is the Eggheads
Happy bonfire night to you all. Mind those beards!


Thursday, October 19, 2017


Or is that racist and sexist?

 And do I care? Well, you never know whose corns/bunions/suffering feet you are going to tread on nowadays do you?
My Leader continues to monitor her husband's occasional plunge into the pit of the politically incorrect, but unless she chooses to mention it he is mostly unaware of such transgressions.
No working class Englishman, brought up in the nineteen thirties, should be expected to have a doctorate in diplomacy anyway.
Diplomacy is for politicians and look what a backstabbing, lying, undesirable bunch they can be.
That having been said: I did learn tact in the NHS. Just decline being tactful to an angry dentist (former navy officers were particularly prone to tantrums), a pompous GP (would-be consultants could be the most fearful snobs), a self-pitying pharmacist ("Our profession is bedevilled by bureaucrats and doctors' handwriting!"), an irate optician ("We'll all be back to 'private' soon anyway."), or an always aggrieved member of the public ("Oi pays me stamp."); let alone upset that political pain in the arse member of your governing committee ("The people who voted me in won't like this..."): and see where it gets you.
Out in the street sans pension is where.
Oh yes, I learned to be tactful: albeit with difficulty and a tongue scarred from the biting of it.
But that was long ago.
I finished up with early retirement and my pension so it shouldn't still rankle. In any case, the protagonists from my time are all dead or retired now. Unlikely I will come across any of them again.
Oh, it's not that small an island: and after I've kicked the bucket I doubt I shall encounter any of them playing a harp in some cloud-cuckoo-land in the sky, or stoking up a devilish furnace in the bowels of the earth.
But enough of the light-hearted stuff...
At this lovely artistry.
Our friend Anne (see Post 276), the semi-retired GP whose former surgery is now our home, has, at our request, emailed us a selection of her recent art work.
She attends a part time course at an art school in Cornwall and is currently concentrating on the realistic reproduction of hands and feet. Hands here. Feet and the rest at the end of the month maybe.
And there's more.
Not only does she produce this remarkably promising artwork, she is also a highly qualified professional acupuncturist and a constantly active chorister who has sung in cathedrals all over the world. I know. I'm in awe, too.
But I shan't tell her.
She won't read this.
When it comes to the written word though...
Anthony Horowitz (pictured).

I have just read the first two books in Mr. Horowitz's Alex Rider series: Storm Breaker and Point Blanc.
Alex, a fourteen year old schoolboy, is destined to transform into a teenage James Bond; a role he has no innate desire to play.
The stories are delightful tosh, clearly aimed at the teenage market and I (at 87) have loved every glorious, unbelievable, mad moment of them.
Well, what would you expect from the man who wrote Foyle.s War?
Eight more to read.
Quiet please in the library.