Sunday, 30 December 2012


It will soon be time to take down your decorations and throw away your Christmas cards - that is if you received any in the first place.

Apparently the first Christmas cards were illustrated by a certain John Horsley in London on the 1st of May 1843. The picture, which was of a family with a small child drinking wine together, was controversial, but the idea of creating and then sending Christmas cards to friends and family caught on.

Sadly the tradition seems to have run its course. No doubt the continued rise in postage costs has taken its toll. At 50p per card, £1 for sending a pair is a considerable outlay and although I have resisted for years I finally succumbed to handing some of mine out to people as I encounter them.

The next generation are avoiding the cost in a different way. It seems that e-cards are the thing today. To my Neolithic mind, nothing says that you couldn't really give a damn more than sending someone an e-card. 

When we decorate the house, we stick the cards onto the doors which has a very pleasing effect on an otherwise barren space. If the future is e-cards, does that mean I shall have to print them off to cover the doors with?

Wednesday, 26 December 2012


OK so you've presented your presents, pulled a cracker, gobbled the turkey and stuffed yourself with stuffing. I'm guessing that the cracker jokes weren't too good.

Help is at hand - try this small selection from The Guardian which were printed in 2009 ...

What's the slogan for the Eskimo lottery?
'You've got to be Inuit to win you it!' 
- Alistair McGowan

A French Cat, Un Deux Trois, and an English cat, One Two Three, went for a swimming race round a lake. Who won?
One Two Three, because Un Deux Trois Quatre Cinque. 
- Jo Brand

A woman walks into a bar and asks for a double entendre…
So the barman gives her one. 
- Meera Syal

What's pink and wrinkly and hangs out your pyjamas?
Your mum. 
- Jeremy Dyson, The League Of Gentlemen

Why did the turkey cross the road?
Are you kidding? It's Christmas – he should run a bloody mile. 
- Stephen K Amos

Sunday, 23 December 2012

OLLY WREATH (Oliver with a twist)

T'was the night before Christmas
and in the workhouse,
Little Olly was chatting
To his favourite mouse.
As he told him his dreams
and ridiculous schemes,
the mouse caught a passing woodlouse.

The mouse had heard it all before
and had to stifle a yawn
as Olly coughed his lungs up
and spoke 'til the first light of dawn.
He was wracked with consumption
and I'm sorry to mention
was doomed from the day he'd been born.

T'was Christmas day in the workhouse,
little Olly was sweeping the floor.
Of all the jobs they gave him,
this was his favourite chore.
As he pushed the broom
round the echoing room,
his coughing sounds bounced off the door.

He dreamed he was up in Heaven
where brushing the floors was a treat,
and was pushing his gold-plated broomstick
asking angels to please lift their feet.
There were chocolates galore
in piles on the floor
and he could have all he could eat.

T'was now the day after Christmas
and Olly had finished his coughing.
A pauper's grave was his destiny -
no hearse to carry him off in.
His broom lay at rest,
he was dressed in his best,
laid out in a rather small coffin.

In heaven the angels were singing.
Their prayers had been answered it seems.
Little Olly was sweeping around them
having finally realised his dreams.
He flew round the room
with a gilt-covered broom
and his mouth full of strawberry creams.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012


I know I'm not alone in being a great fan of 'Strictly Come Dancing'. Apart from the delight of the actual competition, I also watch it in order to augment my Granddad dancing skills.

However, while watching the other night there was an added benefit. Head judge Len used a phrase which rang a huge bell in my head and took me back to my childhood days. The phrase was 'Yum, yum, pig's bum'.

Sadly I can find nothing about it's origin. The version which I knew was

'Yum, yum, pig's bum,
All wrapped up in chewing gum -
Take a slice, very nice.'

There appears to be an Irish form which goes:
'Yum, yum, pig's bum,
Cabbage and potatoes.'

It clearly refers to the meal consisting of that part of the pig's anatomy.

Of course there is a dirtier version which I'm happy to share with you. Look away now if you are of a delicate disposition.

'Yum yum bubble gum
stick it up the teachers bum
if it sticks
pull her tits
and turn it into weetabix'.

Boys will be boys ...

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Oh no I've done it again! I swore I wouldn't repeat the mistake but there I was in the supermarket wearing something which I'd bought there. 

You do feel such a plonker standing there by a rack of the same item you're wearing as if you were somehow modelling it. 

Worse still they might think I'd slipped it on and whipped off the labels so I could do a runner without paying. Though I suppose I could point out the wine stain on the front of my item in mitigation.

In this case I was wearing the same baggy sweater as the row of them before me which mercifully hadn't gone down in price - that would have been even more galling. Actually, come to think of it, the ones on the rack weren't baggy-looking - funny that.

Anyway, I really won't do this again. Far from offering me a job as a male model for their clothes, I think it far more likely that they would call me quietly to the side and politely ask if I wouldn't mind standing well away from the sweater rack since they hoped to sell some.

I know my limitations.  

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


I don't know about you but I find that 'one man's meat is another man's poison'. However, in the context of the phrase which is the subject of this piece, this should read 'One man's roquefort is another man's road kill'.

There is an archetypally British phrase used when someone has a piece of bad luck. The words of commiseration which I refer to are to say 'Hard Cheese'. 

Now I must confess that the phrase is heard less and less nowadays and perhaps only dinosaurs like me ever use it. Obviously the suggestion is that hard cheese is unpalatable and that presumably soft cheese is preferable but I know a number of people who would prefer some shavings of parmesan to a runny brie - one man's meat etc.

The earliest reference to the phrase appears to be from 1837 in a play called The Tiger at Large, which was printed in a collection of plays called The Acting National Drama, edited by Benjamin Webster.
"Jem. His wages was too low. Don't you think a pound a month, and find one's self is hard cheese?"

There is a more modern version in the form of 'hard cheddar' which has the same meaning and which dates back to 1931.

I hope you've enjoyed this little trip down the dusty  alleyways of our glorious language and if you didn't - 'hard cheese'.


Sunday, 2 December 2012


Not for the first time and certainly not for the last time, I discover that my aged brain is lacking in knowledge

In case your own brain has a similar problem let me enlighten you.

I have discovered that when I was recently enjoying hugs and cuddles with my granddaughter, I was actually making oxytocin.

Furthermore, we can also make it by shaking hands with a friend, stroking a pet or even thinking about a loved one.

It is known as the 'love molecule' and is basically a love potion which is released from our brains when we feel kindly and loving. 

Scientists claim that it greatly helps with mother-child bonding, assists with healing and pain-relief, fights obesity, is an antidepressant and reduces stress levels...and its free!

You could also try to impress your partner by suggesting 'let's make oxytocin' before they have time to develop a headache.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


The other day, my wife was messing about with the iron while I was very busy in the next room with my newspaper keeping abreast of what was happening in the world, forming opinions about national issues and doing puzzles and crosswords to keep my brain in tip top condition. 

After a while, I heard her switch off the iron, pack up the ironing board and start putting the clothes away. This activity on her part didn't affect me so I was able to continue with my studies without any loss of concentration.

However, a short while later, I heard her swearing and presumed that she had made some sort of mistake - something which she is very prone to do. Once again I was careful not to let this interrupt my train of thought so all was well.

All was well that is until she came in and actually interrupted me to explain her circumstances. I showed no displeasure at this and prepared myself to feign an interest in whatever troubled her.

It seemed that there was one item of clothing which she had forgotten to iron and having packed everything away, she couldn't be bothered to get it all out again. 

Seeing the look of puzzlement on my face, since I could not for the life of me fathom why this situation could possibly have any bearing on me, she proceeded to explain her idea.

She folded the offending garment and asked me to raise my buttocks off the chair whilst she lay them down underneath. She then said I could sit down again and allow the heat from my posterior to iron the creases out of the clothing.

Happy to help, I did as she requested and continued my perusal of the newspaper. Yet again proving my ability to multi-task.  

I must say, there is nothing to this ironing lark.   

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Yesterday I met up with my second grandchild. My life is now enriched with the addition of Emily and Charlie.

I wish them both joy and happiness.

I wish for them to have good friends along with their already happy families.

I wish them both good health.

I wish them fun with more laughter than tears, more sunshine than rain.

I wish for them to attain their dreams and become what they seek in life.

I wish them both long and fulfilling lives with the joy of becoming parents if that is what they choose.

I wish that when they reach their second childhood like me, they will look back and feel proud to belong to the human race which they have just joined.

I wish them love. 


Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Firstly, here are a few things you might not have known about pigs ...

1. Pigs snuggle up and often sleep nose to nose. They dream too.

2. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mothers' voices and to recognize their own names. Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing.

3. Pigs are known to be cleverer than dogs which is why they are intelligent characters in literature such as 'Animal Farm' or 'Charlotte's Web'.

4.  Contrary to popular opinion, pigs prefer to eat slowly and savour their food.

5. Pigs are clean animals. If given enough room, they will be careful not to soil the area where they sleep or eat.

This being so, how can we humans justify the practice of army snipers shooting live pigs (with targets drawn over their internal organs) so that surgeons can then practice operating on them? This is barbaric in the extreme.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


If you are remotely competent with tools you are welcome to stay for the laughs but if reading about total ineptitude raises your blood pressure I would advise caution.

I have three tool kits. You're impressed I can tell.

The first I keep in the house. This contains the absolute basics such as screwdrivers, tape measure etc. 

The second is in the garage. This has larger items such as pliers, a Stanley knife and my magic hammer. I call it 'magic' because it usually finishes off the jobs which other tools cannot accomplish, at least when wielded by me.

The third is in the garage too - somewhere or other. It contains tools which I know neither the name nor the function of. It is there so that when someone skilled such as my stepson helps me out and asks whether I have a 'Circumgrade flange toggle' or whatever, I can say 'Probably - take a look in here' as I pass him the lot.

I recently had to fit a draught excluder to the bottom of the front door. I unwrapped it and tried the novel experience of reading the instructions. 'Screw to bottom of door using the four screws supplied' was the gist of it. I was slightly unnerved by the bit about cutting it to fit and crimping the ends of the brushes so they wouldn't unravel but pressed on.

Eureka! It fitted perfectly so no cutting or crimping would be necessary. My wife was going to be impressed on her return from the shops. Clearly this was only going to require tool kit number one. About half an hour later the draught excluder was still not attached. This was because after attempting to screw it in for the period of time forementioned, I had discovered that behind the innocent looking white paint on the door lurked a metal plate.

After a further ten minutes a brain cell awoke and informed me that I possessed a 60-piece rotary drill kit which I had bought about 15 years ago in case I needed it. Boy did I need it now. After only 20 more minutes searching, I found it and began to drill a small hole through the metal plate. At least I would have, except that the 'easily rechargeable' drill had inconveniently lost all its power at some stage over the last 15 years. I put it on charge and went off to practise my darts while I waited.

On my return half an hour later, I first checked the drill's instructions and found that charging took about 5 hours. Actually somewhat longer than that since although I was alone in the house, somebody had switched off the drill charger after I had carefully switched it on. I switched it back on and now had yet another Eureka moment when I found that it worked happily when plugged into the mains. Come to think of it, so do all the other rechargeable items which I possess. Thankful that there were no witnesses to my dimwittedness I began the drilling process. The quick task had taken about an hour and a half so far.

Next I soon found that my rotary drill kit was designed to drill any of 60 different types of hole into nothing more demanding than cheese. Though I suspect that a mature Cheddar would give it a strong challenge.

With a sigh, I went to fetch my magic hammer. I then used it to bang a masonry nail through the four clearly marked places. Just a couple of hours or so after I had started, there sat the draught excluder and in walked my wife. 'That's a neat job' she said with a note of undisguised  surprise. 'Was it
a tricky job?' 

'No problem at all' I replied.

Now you can see why I'm a Don't Do It Yourself enthusiast. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


When I was a special needs teacher we would all dread the Ofsted inspections when a small army of people would invade our school, watch us all at work, ask the kids what they thought of us and then mark our school on how good or bad we were.

It's not that we had anything to be ashamed of. We were proud of our efforts and scored well on the inspections. The reason we dreaded them was because of the stress which they induced because we were all understandably worried in case anything went wrong and we let the school and our colleagues down.

Does your job involve people sitting with clipboards watching you at work and then grading you?

Following this process, the inspectors would then meet with us and give us the benefit of their advice. 

The latest advice from Ofsted is that toilet roll holders, which have been used in schools for model-making since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, should be microwaved for 10 seconds before use to kill any germs they might have on them.

I wonder how long you need to microwave an Ofsted inspector for until they become sensible? 

Sunday, 11 November 2012


It was Mark Twain who said 'Giving up smoking is easy. I've done it hundreds of times'.

I could say the same about dieting because yes you guessed it - I'm dieting - again. 

Of course my wife is delighted, but then I suspect that she thinks I'm on a Brad Pitt diet. When reality kicks in, if I'm in any way successful, she's going to be disappointed to discover that it will still be me, just a bit less of me than before.

I have a simple technique, some days I don't eat. Instead, I spend almost the entire 'fasting' day in planning what I'm going to eat tomorrow. 

Of course I realise that several bacon sandwiches interspersed with doughnuts might undo the good work of yesterday so I try to keep to healthy-ish foods in small quantities.

The other day I was tucking in to a small snack consisting of a tiny meat pie with a handful of fries when my wife entered the kitchen.

She was full of praise. 'Well done! You've followed my advice about portion control - excellent'.

Little does she know that seconds before she came in, I had just decided to have a second pie and chips to follow the first.

I fear I'm a lost cause.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Today is my birthday. Naturally I am celebrating it by opening cards and presents, eating a bit too much and drinking a lot too much. Birthdays are a time for celebration just about all over the world.

However this is in some ways a sad day. This is the one day of the year that I cannot celebrate another event. The only day of the entire year that you cannot wish me 'a very merry unbirthday'. 

In case you can't remember, an 'unbirthday' is celebrated on any day that is not the person's actual birthday. It was invented by Lewis Carroll in his 'Through the Looking Glass' and gave rise to "The Unbirthday Song" in the 1951 Disney film 'Alice in Wonderland. 

In the film, Alice encounters the Mad Hatter the March Hare and the dormouse having an unbirthday party and singing "The Unbirthday Song". Alice at first doesn't realise what an unbirthday is and when the Mad Hatter explains, she realises it is her unbirthday as well, and receives an unbirthday cake from the Mad Hatter. 

An 'unbirthday' is a neologism. This may be defined as a newly coined term, word, or phrase, which may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. 

You learn something every day, especially on your unbirthday - speaking of which, I can't wait for my birthday to be over so that I may celebrate my unbirthday.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


Halloween. So called because it is the e'en (evening) before All Hallows (or All Saints) day.

There is a common misconception that the 'trick or treat' custom is of American origin. It isn't. It was almost certainly a Celtic activity which was exported across the Atlantic where it was well received. The name for the custom in Scotland and Ireland is 'guising' because children go from door to door disguised in costumes to ask for a treat on threat of retribution if one isn't received.

It's a bit of fun and kids love it. The trouble is that many grown-ups don't - especially older ones who find it intrusive, annoying and in some cases genuinely frightening.

This can be problematic. Excited youngsters get all dressed up and roam the streets knocking on doors to ask for sweets but may find the door answered by a very cross adult shouting at them to go away.

There is a simple solution. If you are happy for the kids to call, put a sign up to tell them so, a pumpkin outside the door perhaps, or simply put on a welcoming outside light. Alternatively leave some sweets outside for them to help themselves to. 

If you don't want them to call, leave the front of your house in darkness. 

If you're the parents of the trick or treat kids, tell them only to call at the welcoming doors. Explain to them that the houses in darkness are where the witches and monsters live who turn children into black cats which they keep in cages and feed pieces of dead rats to.

That should do it.