Wednesday, 29 December 2010

FALLEN OFF THE PERCH

Those friends of mine who don't 'do' Twitter say things like 'Well they're not real friends are they?' Maybe not in the sense of having met them but when I was a child and had 'pen' friends I hadn't met them either. It didn't stop them being real though.

They say you can choose your friends but not your family. The suggestion is that your friends will be good ones because they were hand-picked. So are my Twitter friends.

They are not 'virtual'. I usually know their names and where they live. Through their tweets I get to know their character and a great deal about their daily lives. Or deaths.

One of my Twitter friends died suddenly and unexpectedly on Christmas Day. We mostly tweeted about our mutual love of music. Her last tweets still sit there on her page as a reminder of the fun person she was. she said "Grooving". "Hips moving, saxaphone. I am gone so gone........"

....and now she is and I am sad.......so sad......."


Saturday, 25 December 2010

HAVE A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS

My head is full of 'Spare a thought for those who......' and 'When you're enjoying your Christmas, don't forget that.....' and of course we should. Many of us do. If you are alone this Christmas or if you are in pain or full of sorrow then you may hate this Christmas and that may give you some comfort.

But my heart is full of what Christmas should be to those lucky enough to have a happy day.

The younger children will enjoy their Christmas because they'll be excited as hell with heads full of Father Christmas but they'll forget him the moment they start opening their presents.

The older children will enjoy their Christmas because it is the way it was when they were younger - they might pretend they don't but really they love the tradition.

The parents will enjoy their Christmas because of seeing their children enjoy their day.

The grandparents will enjoy their Christmas because it will bring them happy memories.

They will all enjoy their Christmas because they are together as a family.

Happy Christmas everyone. Come what may, you are part of the family of man.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

WOMEN ARE SO COMPLEX

It was 8 a.m. on the morning of dear daughter's wedding. We were in our hotel room and the bride's mother was busy making herself look even more beautiful than she was on rising.

She was off to the hairdressers where she would also meet up briefly with the bride and her bridesmaids. Me? I was doing the crossword.

I glanced up and there, sitting on its clothes hanger, hung my wife's stunning outfit. She was going to look a picture - second only to the bride herself. Foolishly, I thought I'd show off my understanding of female things -

"It's a lovely outfit. I presume you won't put it on until the last minute. Have you brought something else to wear to the hairdresser?"

"Of course I have. Front-opening obviously"

"Obviously"

I thought. I thought even more. I really don't want to look stupid here. No. It's no good I'm going to have to ask her. Being a mere male, trying as hard as I might, I could think of no good reason why the hairdresser would need easy access to my wife's bosom.

"Er....why does it need to be front opening?"

With a heavy sigh my wife replied, "So I don't have to pull my clothes over my new hairstyle of course"

"Of course"


Sunday, 19 December 2010

CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

There are some aspects to Christmas which cause me to worry about the sanity of the human race. I mean just imagine that a friendly neighbourhood Martian was to pass by and thought he would drop in to introduce himself.

After the common courtesies had been observed he points at the funny man dressed in red, wearing a fake white beard and asks for an explanation. The ensuing conversation might go something like this.

HUMAN: "Well every year we lie to our children and pretend that there is a man called Father Christmas who will visit their house on the night of the 24th December and leave presents for them - but only if they've been good."

MARTIAN: "But how does he travel round the world and visit all of the houses?"

HUMAN: "Ah, well he flies a sleigh through the sky which is pulled along by a group of flying reindeer."

MARTIAN: (Who is developing a rather worried expression) "I see - and your children believe this story?"

HUMAN: "Oh yes and they hang up stockings and leave some food out for the reindeer. They also write letters to him at the North Pole".

MARTIAN: (Who is slowly backing away to reach the safety of his flying saucer). "Well it was lovely meeting you Human. Do drop in when you're in our neighbourhood". (He is now running for his spaceship at full speed).


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

I READ THE NEWS TODAY - OH BOY

I'm sure you've heard of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

She is the Iranian lady who having been found guilty of adultery, was sentenced to death by being stoned. Just to be clear, this means that she is buried vertically in the ground with only her head and shoulders showing so that she cannot use her arms to defend herself. Men then throw large stones at her head until she suffers a fractured skull and then dies.

You may wonder then why I was saddened to read in the paper that she had been temporarily released and allowed to visit her son at home. Let me explain.

I have no idea whether this lady is guilty or not. In an oppressive state it is hard to accept the truth of apparent public confessions by such prisoners. If she is guilty then she deserves punishment according to the law of her country. My problem, shared by civilised countries the world over, is with the barbaric nature of the punishment. This is why such intense diplomatic pressure has been applied to Iran.

I normally defend our free press to the hilt. It is one of the foundation stones of our democracy. Of course it was pleasing news that she had been allowed to go home. The problem was that some of the press didn't simply report the facts of the release. It didn't say anything about Iran's government demonstrating that it could be merciful.

It said that Iran had bowed to Western pressure - that it had been humbled.

This was no time to crow. It should come as no surprise to anyone that following these bragging headlines, the lady has been re-arrested.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

THE WEDDING STRESS

I first reported on our Christmas family wedding with regard to my wife's search for the perfect outfit. The wedding is now just a week away and stress levels are now at high altitude.

The latest issue concerns capes. Being a December wedding, there is a natural concern over keeping the bride and her maids warm so my wife found some fake fur wraps on the internet and ordered them many weeks ahead.

As the clock ticked and there was no sign of a parcel so my wife kept looking out of the window and co-ordinating our social calendar to ensure that one of us would be in at all times to receive the garments. Yesterday she phoned the supplier yet again and was assured that they were on their way. This morning as my wife was all but having her breakfast at the front window they arrived!

She was relieved, I was relieved, so much so that our combined sighs of relief could have powered a wind farm. My wife opened the parcel with the zeal of a 4 year old on Christmas morning. She tried them on and modelled them for me. "Pretty aren't they?" she said. I knew the answer to that one.

Then the seed of doubt arrived. "Would you say they were ivory?" I knew the answer to that one too. "You don't think they are yellow?" Again I knew the correct, reassuring answer to give. As a mere male, I have the colour sense of the blind but it did occur to me that ivory is a sort of yellowish-white. Naturally I didn't share this thought.

However, the seed of doubt grew and I next witnessed my wife's near hysteria take root as she convinced herself that they were yellow. Normally I have a well developed sense of self-preservation but it must have been about then that it deserted me.

I foolishly suggested that she might let the bride-to-be see them without knowing of her own colour concerns. "Don't say a word to her - see her unbiassed reaction" I heard myself saying.

This got me the mother of all tongue lashings. In the circumstances, I am beginning to see the benefits of living in sin.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

THE SIMPLY RED LIGHT DISTRICT

I read with incredible jealousy interest that Mick Hucknall has apologised for sleeping with three women a day for three years making a total of around 3000 women in all. Casanova must be turning in his grave.

Just think of the logistics of this for a moment. Remember we are talking about three different women per day. By all accounts, well by Mick's account anyway, these were groupies and obviously 'up for it'. Clearly Mick was 'up' for it too (sic). Some of these romps may have been threesomes which would make life a little easier. As for the rest, I envisage Mick's bedroom having a mating waiting room adjoining it where having taken a ticket from the machine, the second and third candidates would be leafing through well-thumbed copies of 'Muscle man' or the like whilst Mick's receptionist offered them glasses of bubbly.

Forgive my questioning nature but does the thought cross your mind that our jewel-toothed hero might just have been bragging a teeny weeny bit?

Anyway if this is the way things are heading I don't think Mr. Hucknall (or Mick Humpall as I'm sure he will be called) should have it all his own way so (with names changed to protect the guilty) ....

I'm so sorry Phyllis for our coupling in that bathroom. I realise now that sitting on that sink must have been very uncomfortable for you. Penelope, will you ever forgive me for lighting my cigarette so quickly afterwards? I was a slave to nicotine, what can I say? Dear Suzette, when I said 'fat' I really meant generously proportioned OK?

Oh dear. I seem to have run out of material.


Sunday, 5 December 2010

THE CARDS ARE STACKED AGAINST US

In case you hadn't noticed 'tis the season to be jolly. Like everyone else, we're digging the decorations out of the loft and are all set to transform the place into our version of Santa's grotto.

Lest we forget, let me remind you that our grandparents used to buy things like paper chains which had to be assembled by licking and sticking them together. If they couldn't afford to buy these, they would cut them out of colourful magazine adverts and then apply the glue. It has to be said, that for many, this pre-Christmas activity was all part of the fun.

Do you remember those folded paper decorations which when opened up became a colourful bell or ball shape? There's a lovely blog about these vintage Christmas times here. I suspect that all the paper decorations went out of fashion after a few house fires and got banned by 'Christmas elf and safety'.

We like to make an event out of writing our cards. On goes the Christmas music and out comes a nice bottle of wine. As you might expect, the handwriting tends to deteriorate as we progress through the alphabetical list of recipients. Still, at least those with a surname early in the alphabet will receive theirs.

One of the most effective part of our decorations at Christmas is to display all the colourful cards we receive. You can buy special holders for them of course but we like to cover the doors with them. This presupposes that someone has taken the trouble to send us a card and I'm sad to report that it looks like the sending of Christmas cards may go the way of the paper chains as more and more people can't be bothered to buy them, write them and post them.

Unfortunately the era of the e-christmas card is upon us and in future, we are likely to receive festive greetings from our nearest and dearest via the web. Well contrary to the trend, I love writing Christmas cards so my friends wont be getting e-greetings from me just a hand-written personally chosen Christmas card - which if their name begins with 'W' or beyond will contain a completely illegible drunken scrawl.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

PRUNING TIPS

Vajacials. There I've said it. I know - I'm a man. I shouldn't even know the meaning of the word let alone write about it. So let's presume that I'm writing this as a guide for my fellow males ..... although I'm willing to bet there are a few ladies out there who hadn't heard of the word either.

I also have a working knowledge of euphemininisms. Good word eh? So before we discuss vajacials we need to learn the ladies' lexicon.
BRAZILIAN - easy one to start with. It is of course, a depilatory waxing treatment for a ....
LADIES' FRONT GARDEN - female pubic hair.
LANDING STRIP - one version of a Brazilian which leaves a thin vertical line of hair.
HOLLYWOOD - A full Brazilian - also known as a 'KOJAK' among ladies of a certain age.
BOLLYWOOD - You thought it was an Indian musical? Yes but it's also a 'Hollywood' with added jewellery.
AXE WOUND, BEAVER, BOX, VADGE - slang terms for vagina (an almost endless list)
LITTLE PRINCESS, LITTLE MAN IN A BOAT - slang terms for clitoris (there are plenty more)

OK enough with the words before I keel over in a faint. Back to vajacials. If you didn't already know, it's a facial for a ladies front garden. Eve's daughters can now book in for their pedicure and get their bushes trimmed at the same time. As with hair styles, they can even browse through a portfolio of style options and pick their preferred choice. " I'll have the spider's web please, with a candy pink tinge ".

Men, aren't you glad we're male? Oh and guys. Before you all go trooping off to apply for a job at the local beauty salon, I'm pretty sure that the sex discrimination act doesn't apply here - sorry.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

WISHING WELL

It's the pantomime season so in the best traditions of Aladdin, here I am, your genie of the lamp, to offer you three wishes. Well if you're reading this you've obviously got too much time on your hands so please indulge me.

You have to decide what your three wishes would be but there are some conditions. Your first wish has to be a wish for the whole of mankind. Your second wish has to be for your family. Finally, your last wish may be for yourself or you may choose to make a wish for someone else.

I'll go and boil the kettle while you're having a think.

My guess is that your first wish was for global peace. I agree with that sentiment. I can think of nothing better than to put all our soldiers out of work. I would refine it a little though. When you look back at all the wars which have taken place, it seems to me that religious differences are most often the root cause of hatred and enmity. So my first wish is for global religious tolerance.

Your second wish was for your family. I'm afraid you can't wish them health, wealth and happiness because if my Maths is right, that is three wishes. When you think about it, it's a no-brainer. I wish them happiness. If they are happy, they are not likely to be too ill or too poor are they?

Finally did you wish for something for yourself or did you selflessly bestow it on another? Me? Being the clever clogs that I am I wished for three more wishes!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO BELIEVE

I have been fascinated by computers ever since 1980 when I bought my first machine, a Sinclair ZX80. The ZX81 followed and then the Spectrum and a whole host of other computers which now reside in techno museums somewhere.

It wasn't long before I discovered role-playing games and spent many hours in a virtual world usually with a virtual sword in my hand and my heart racing as I wondered what would be around the next corner. Of course sometimes this was a monster of some sort or a massive warrior who would smash though my feeble defences and dispatch me to my virtual grave.

The joy of these adventures was that by frequently performing a 'save' of the scenario which I had reached, I could easily 'restore' myself to the situation as it was before my demise. Of course, now that I was aware of what lay around the corner I would be all ready to deploy my sword before the creature had time to draw virtual breath.

I rarely indulge myself in such adventures nowadays but there are many thousands of people who do. I completely understand why people would want to bring excitement into their humdrum everyday lives by taking on roles which are normally the stuff of dreams. It is easy to escape from reality and emulate your heroes by being victorious in battles, winning races or becoming a 'guitar hero'.

What I can't get my head round, is those people who choose to live in a virtual world which is close to their normal lives.

In 2009, a Korean couple became totally addicted to a role-playing computer game called Prius. The game involves raising a virtual child called 'Anima'. Indeed they spent so many hours in an internet cafe looking after Anima that left alone back home, their own 3 month-old baby starved to death.

Sadly, the couple cannot restore their lives to an earlier time to retrieve the situation.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

PRODUCTIVE TIME WASTING

If you're anything like me, you spend a lot of time playing games on your computer or mobile phone. If you're less techno, it might be solitaire or jigsaws. I love doing this but I always feel a little bit guilty when I've finished. My thoughts are usually based around "I could have been doing .... instead". Well I may have the answer.

Next time you reach for the mouse / cellphone / jigsaw or pack of cards consider doing one of the following instead. The important point is that you can do them all sitting down in your favourite comfy place.

1. (My favourite). Stage 1: Make a list of jobs which you need to do. This could be a lengthy list and might well include some of the items below but don't despair as the list grows because next we have - Stage 2: Prioritise your list. This makes you feel a whole lot better as you push some of the jobs into the background.

2. Organise your photos. Sort them out, discard some, stick them in albums, label them and while you're doing it, think of how much the kids will appreciate your efforts after you drop off the perch. Last Christmas, my wife made individual photo albums for the kids showing them at various stages of growing up. They both said these were the best presents they'd ever had.

3. Make a meal plan for the week. This has nothing to do with diets or healthy eating (unless you want it to), just have fun thinking ahead to what you'd like to eat each day. Give some thought to being a little more adventurous when you know you will have more time available and don't be afraid to include take-aways.

4. Write letters. This is so much fun as an activity and the recipients will love you for it. Consider slipping some of those photos in with the letter too. I have a relative who lives in Australia who sends me wonderful letters and he always sticks something inside - last time it was a Kookaburra feather!

5. Write down some of your memories. make sure you buy a special book or journal for this. think of it as a sort of diary set in the past.

If you do some of these I can pretty much guarantee that you'll feel you've really achieved something with your time. Anyway..... back to my game of solitaire.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

FISHY TALE

I hate to let facts get in the way of a good story. You may have heard of the striped mittenfish. No? How remiss of you. Well the story goes that this is a recently discovered deep water fish which lives near Java where the coffee comes from. Please stop yawning or at least put your hand in front of your mouth when doing so. Trust me this is an interesting fish.

The story goes on to say that this incredible creature can change its sex at will by turning itself inside out. I cannot find corroboration for the story but I just love the concept. Just imagine if you will what this would be like for humans.

You would wake up and think 'what sex shall I be today?' Actually this is a no-brainer. On waking I would definitely be a male. We take a lot less time to get ready in the morning. I'd remain male for breakfast because I prefer a cooked breakfast to the rabbit food which women seem to eat.

Then it's off to the shops. I would change into a woman before leaving the house just so that I could drive a pink convertible car and also because male drivers would give way to me as I whizz around with my long blonde hair streaming in the wind.

On arrival at the shops I would pop into the loo to change back into the male sex. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly there's always a queue for the ladies' toilets and secondly men can get their shopping done so much quicker.

Having got my purchases I'd probably go female again so that I could go and get pampered somewhere. Nothing too grand, just a facial, Indian head massage, quick visit to the nail bar, back massage and pedicure.

The more I think about this ability to change sex at will, the more I like it. Except for one thing. When changing from male to female. Where would I put the spare half of my brain?
*Ducks quickly :)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

The year is 1960. My family have just moved to Bristol and taken over a pet shop. Although my mother intends to convert this into a furniture shop, she continues selling rabbits and budgerigars for a few months to get the hang of the selling thing.

I am a spotty youth aged 13 and a quarter. It is Saturday morning and I am working in the pet shop to help my mother out. A scruffy boy enters the shop, approaches the counter and says he has something to sell. He proceeds to put his hand in his pocket and pull out a white mouse. "How about sixpence?" he asks. We agree on threepence and I ask him to put it in the mouse cage so I don't have to handle it.

Fast forward 50 years to a different shop in Bristol - the 'Apple' computer store. There I am again, now a gentleman of mature years aged 63 and a quarter. I approach the counter. "I am having a problem with something I bought from you" I announce. I then put my hand in my pocket and pull out a white mouse.

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” - Ecclesiastes.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

READING THE TEA LEAVES

I read with interest that 'they' are predicting the end of the wristwatch. Apparently, we will all be checking the time on our mobile phones rather than on our wrists. Personally, I don't think watchmakers need to become suicidal just yet though. There are still some 86% of us who wear a watch. I think the doom-mongers may have forgotten that wristwatches are not just utilitarian but are also very much fashion accessories. So hang on to your shares in Cartier or Rolex for the moment.

However, it set me thinking about which other everyday 'essential' items might become redundant in the future. Here are a few possibilities.

Books. Of course we are being led to believe that in future, we shall be reading our books on kindles so the poor booksellers and libraries might as well shut up shop. I've already expressed my opinion on this in an earlier post and I remain firmly convinced that this is nothing but sales hype from those who are trying to flog their new fangled kindle thingles.

Diaries and calendars. Now here I must confess that I have succumbed to the trend and my time management is totally electronic now. It is many years since I last bought a diary and it is one less thing to have to carry around. There are still times though when I think that writing in a diary was easier for some tasks - especially when making changes.

Newspapers. As with books, the suggestion is that we shall download our newspapers direct to our iPads in future. Hmmm. Maybe. But in my humble opinion, the only sensible way to do a crossword is with a pen, not a keyboard. There's another factor here. Old newspapers have always been extremely useful. My grandparents used theirs for lighting the fire with. There is also a time-honoured tradition of using them to wrap fish and chips in. Furthermore, what are you going to line the bottom of the rabbit hutch with pray tell?

Calculators. Any smart phone worth its salt has a calculator app and since the nature of the beast involves tapping on keys this may indeed be an item which will not survive the test of time.

Phones. I mean landlines of course. The kids today all have mobile phones so they don't need to pay out for a landline phone at home. Surely it can only be a matter of time before older generations follow suit.

So is anything future-proof? Which of the possessions which our ancestors used will still be around in the next century? The only thing which comes to mind is clothes unless of course, the naturists inherit the earth.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

CARING ABOUT THE CARERS

The government is looking at what I regard as an interesting and radical idea which would involve assigning credits to those who volunteer to help the elderly. Later in life, the volunteers would then be able to cash in the credits to gain extra help with their own care when they become infirm. Apparently, the scheme already works successfully in Japan where it goes by the name of Hureai Kippu.

Of course the 'glass half empty' brigade have kicked off. They argue that rewarding volunteers is against the spirit of giving your time freely. I don't see the issue here. There seems to be an assumption that the volunteers would be giving their time in order to receive such credits. The truth is that existing volunteers would be doing it for the same reason that they already do. If the introduction of this scheme encouraged much needed, additional volunteers that is surely a good thing.

Others argue that the elderly care should be provided by the state. In our society, the state does have an obligation to provide a degree of care for the elderly but I believe the idea of the scheme is to augment existing care, not replace it.

So on balance, I recommend this idea to the nation. "Can I help you across the road sir?"

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

DEAR DEER

I think my stance on hunting was set when I was a child and my family went to visit an aged aunt near London. It probably took me a while to spot the offending item but once seen, never, ever forgotten. It was a small footstool. I mean that literally. It was a stool made out of a foot - the foot of an elephant.

No doubt this also explains why elephants are my favourite animals on Earth. Deep in a scrap album, I have a faded old picture cut from a newspaper which shows a family group of elephants who are busy taking food to a very old elephant who is blind and cannot forage for itself. These animals are far too precious for their feet to be used as bits of furniture.

Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with hunting for the purpose of obtaining food. My problem is with killing animals for the sake of it.

Trawling for fish is fine but I've never understood the pleasure in angling in order to prove that you are cleverer than a fish with a brain the size of a pea.

It will be no surprise then to hear of my disgust that a huge stag, purported to be the largest wild animal in Britain, has been shot so that the hunter can display its antlers. The hunter apparently paid thousands of pounds for the privilege and whilst there is nothing illegal about it, locals are furious because the stag known as 'Emperor', was a big tourist attraction to the area.

In this age of computer shoot-em-up games, it is sad that some people still feel the urge to 'kill for a thrill'.

Sorry, I'm going to have to stop there. A pesky fly keeps bothering me. Now where did I put my fly swat?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

I live in a quiet little cul-de-sac on a quiet little estate, in a quiet little .......... OK, you get the picture. Usually, the closest we get to the call of the wild is an occasional glimpse of a fox skulking about late at night. This morning however, I discovered that it's a jungle out there.

I have previously mentioned my bird-feeding habits ('Surrogate dogs') and was heading out to scatter my seed when I realised that all was not well in my garden. The first thing my sleepy brain took in was the pile of white feathers on the path. Surprisingly, I was awake enough to realise that this signified the demise of a pigeon. Just beyond the feathers was our lovely garden statue of a sparrow-hawk and nearby was ....... hang on! We don't have a statue of a sparrow-hawk.

It was a magnificent sight. Perched motionless on top of its prey which it grasped firmly in its talons as the corpse twitched occasionally. I watched in fascination as it then proceeded to deftly pluck the pigeon's feathers off and started to eat its fresh, warm breakfast.

I called my wife to see the sight and as you would expect, she went all girly with cries of "Oh the poor little pigeon". She then turned on her heel leaving me with 'Obviously it will be you clearing up that feathery mess out there'. As for me, I was resisting the boyish urge to shout out 'You want fries with that?'

Later, when the bird had flown, I went out to do the man's job of dealing with death. While I was sweeping up the feathers I came upon a rather large quantity of blood underneath. No problem. We men can handle it. For some reason it occurred to me that in all my years, I have never seen a female butcher. It seems that it takes the male of the species to handle butchery.

Then as I finished up, I suddenly discovered a bloodied little pigeon's head (*whimper).

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

WAY TO GO

I attended a funeral yesterday and I had a great time.

I was saying goodbye to a cousin of mine, John Letts, who is a sculptor of considerable note having at one point in his life been commissioned to make a bust of the queen which Her Majesty unveiled.

He also created the statue of George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) which has pride of place in her home town of Nuneaton. His talent is self-evident as you look closely at his work and I can imagine his depth of involvement with the subject as he worked on each piece.

We learned how it was impossible to walk through the village with him without people stopping to say hello. If he sat down on a bench outside certain shops, someone would come out with a cup of tea for him. Words of love were said about him and tears of sadness were shed at his passing but the service was exactly as advertised - it was a celebration of a wonderful person with an amazing talent.

His son Chris continues the work of his father with the same dedication and skill inherited from his Dad. Have a look at their work.

Goodbye John. I really enjoyed your final party.


Sunday, 17 October 2010

SPEAKING BLUNTLY

As far as fashion is concerned I think my family would describe me as 'well-trained'. After a few errors and a gently sloping learning curve I have the basics sorted. I know not to leave the house wearing 'crocs'. I know not to wear socks if I'm wearing sandals. I don't wear a medallion. I've thrown out all my jeans and replaced them with 'boot-cut' versions and I know I'm not allowed to wear cardigans unless I call them 'fleeces' or maybe 'knitwear'.

Being fashionable however, is a whole different ball game. Current trends change so frequently that it's hard to keep up. I mean is it OK to be seen in public with a mobile phone which isn't an i-phone? Is it cool to keep a baby pig instead of a cat or just plain stupid? Is it safe to go into McDonald's if you're a male over 25 or will you be regarded as a prospective pervert?

You're pretty safe with opposing the government, hating bankers and recycling everything I suppose and of course it's quite safe not to like James Blunt. Or is it?

I have recently become intimately acquainted with one of his songs (shhh - don't tell my kids). It's called 'Carry you home' - have a listen. Yes, it's sad. It is also absolutely beautiful. It's apparently about a young woman who becomes so depressed that suicide seems the only solution. That is right on the current trend button. We have lost so many young people in this way in recent times.

But basically it's about a young girl dying - sung by someone who cares. A mother who's young daughter is dying of cancer, has asked me to learn it and sing it to her. The lyrics are poignant and so pertinent. 'Someone's little girl was taken from the world tonight.' 'I'm watching you breathing for the last time'.

So Mr. Blunt may be unfashionable, but here is my confession - I like his song and I respect his talent. There - I'm 'out'.

I just hope I'm given the strength not to choke when I'm singing the song to her.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BRIDES

Further to my previous tale of my wife's search for a wedding outfit, the whole family is buzzing with excitement and we have had a wedding invitation factory operating here for several weeks.

I have the honour of giving the bride away having helped to bring her up since she was 6 years old and of course this means that I shall be writing my speech soon.

I'm sorry that you won't be able to be there but places are limited - however I thought I'd give you a sneak preview of part of what I shall be saying.

I intend my speech to contain 'something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue' and the blue part concerns a family meal time when the bride to be was about 8 years old. She is now a brilliant English teacher with a necessarily thorough mastery of the language but it wasn't always the case.

During the meal, we were talking about the pros and cons of underwater swimming - snorkelling if you will. I asked her if she would like to try the activity out. She was quite adamant that undersea swimming was not for her. On further enquiry she explained that she was frightened in case she encountered an octopus and it grabbed her with its testicles.

The family fell about laughing and I knew at once that my wedding speech had its first item.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

HUMAN NURTURE

Let me say from the outset that my daughter, who is my only child, is a delightful person and I couldn't have hoped for nicer offspring. Her name, Amie, was chosen by her mother and the deal was that if our child had been male, I would get to choose his name. My son would have been Daniel.

Occasionally I wonder how it would have been to be father to Daniel. Would we have done lots of father/son things? Would he have made me proud of him? Would he have been proud of me?

I don't have to dwell on the 'what-might-have-been' for too long though because the luck which I have always felt to be a feature of my life provided me with a step-son. I had the privilege of helping to bring him up from the age of three so I hadn't missed too much. We got on very well and he honoured me by referring to me as 'Dad' many times.

He has grown into a really lovely man and has a charming wife. He has a great sense of humour, is very personable, honest and well-meaning. In short, you couldn't hope for a nicer son.

I claim no credit for this. Obviously, he inherited none of his character from me and I have no evidence as to whether any of his good traits have come from being nurtured by his mother and I. The only thing I can glory in, is that I taught him to drive which he is very good at. As to the rest, I can only say that if anything in his make-up has resulted from my influence, I am a very proud man.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A GRAVE MATTER

I recently hosted a big family reunion in the Midlands. There were a total of 88 of us with a further 10 who joined us after the meal. It was much enjoyed by everyone and their pleasure more than repaid all the hard work which I had put in to the event.

At one stage, I was chatting to a newly discovered second cousin who I had met on the internet through our mutual interest in ancestry. She suggested that we might go exploring one day, armed with our cameras, and try to find the addresses where our shared ancestors had lived.

This was music to my ears as I had often thought to do the same thing myself and with two heads being long established as better than one we should have a lot of success in our quest and a lot of fun too. We would also be able to track down a few gravestones which would be further photo opportunities.

Having decided to go ahead with the idea at some future date, I suggested to my wife that she might like to join us for our trip to Birmingham which is where our family roots lie.

She jumped at the offer and I immediately thought how the third person would make it easier to take photos of the other two. However, this plan then went by the board when she said "Obviously I shan't be interested in your families' homes and even less in their graves but you can drop me at the shops and pick me up when you've finished".

I'll never understand how she can pass up the chance to visit my family gravestones just to go round the biggest shopping centre in Europe. Women!