Sunday, 30 June 2013


I have mentioned my lack of D.I.Y. prowess before. 

My latest effort involved assembling a 'loft' wardrobe. My better half and I buy far too many clothes and need to store them in the loft - seasonally. Hence our 'his' and now also 'hers' loft wardrobes.

Seemed straightforward. All parts present in the box. Idiot-proof instructions provided - so what could go wrong?

Well the good news is that I completed the task. The bad news is that it took me most of the day instead of the usual one to two hours.

You see, I discovered four opportunities to use my initiative. Sadly, I am lacking that gene. 

Four times I had to make a decision to place a section one way or the other with no help from the 'even a blind blonde could do it' guide.

I got it wrong on each occasion. 50-50 chance, wrong four times in a row. What are the odds on that?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


In which I extract the poetry hidden in some favourite popular music. Can you identify the song?

I recently acquired a new coffee machine which enables me to indulge in my favourite hot drink even more than before. Perhaps it is my love of coffee which led me to like this song.

January 9th 2000. A date which is imprinted on my mind. My mother had been dying in hospital for several weeks but was determined to make it into the new millennium.  Her wish was granted. 

On this day, I was sitting by her bedside as she drifted in and out of sleep because of the strong painkillers which she needed. Once she looked at me, smiled and then whispered 'I love you'.

A little later, a short while before she slipped away,  she started to sing, her eyes remaining closed. This was what she sang:

I love coffee, I love tea 
I love the Java Jive and it loves me 
Coffee and tea and the java and me 
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup.

Recognise it? It's called 'Java Jive' and was a big hit for The Inkspots in 1940. It has also since been revived by Manhattan Transfer - music by Ben Oakland and the lyrics written by Milton Drake.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


The other day I was watching 'Sarah and Duck' with Emily, my granddaughter. In case you didn't know, this is required viewing for one-year olds or aged grandfathers. 

Anyway, poor Sarah was ill in bed suffering from a cold and duck was doing his best to cheer her up. Sarah was described as being 'under the weather'. This is a well known and well used saying which I hadn't given much thought to before but once you stop to consider it, it seems an odd turn of phrase. 

Obviously it means to be feeling unwell but what has this got to do with the weather?

The answer it seems, is that the phrase has a nautical origin. In olden days when sailors were ill, they were sent below decks to recover and to be under (i.e. away from) the weather. 

It can also apply to passengers who feel sea-sick and need to go below decks to feel better. 

Presumably if they feel under the weather they go below until they feel over it.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


They say that there are two sides to every story. But then, my grandmother always used to say that 'They Say' are dreadful liars.

The jury's task is to hear both sides and then decide who is lying. You are the jury.

First we have the case of Nigella Lawson apparently being throttled by her husband in public. The police interviewed and cautioned him and Nigella has since left home with the children. The photos seem clear enough and this was not the first time it had happened. However, her husband states that: 

"There was no grip, it was a playful tiff...Nigella's tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt...We had made up by the time we were home. The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke yesterday morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled."

The second case is that of Ian Brady (AKA The moors murderer) who along with Myra Hindley was convicted of murdering five children, at least four of whom were sexually assaulted in the mid '60's. Hindley died in 2002 and Brady was declared insane in 1985. 

He says that he is not insane but that his crimes were:

"an existential exercise, personal philosophy and interpretation... His behaviour was petty compared to politicians and soldiers in relation to wars".

Your verdict please. Me? I'm just sitting here on this fence watching the pigs fly by.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


In which I extract the poetry hidden in some favourite popular music. Can you identify the song?

1967. I was living in London. I didn't enjoy it much and often wondered how it was possible to feel lonely in such a busy, vibrant city. As I walked the hot, humid streets that  summer, this song seemed to sum it all up for me. 

'Hot town, summer in the city 
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty 
Been down, isn't it a pity 
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city

All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

But at night it's a different world
Go out and find a girl 
Come-on come-on and dance all night 
Despite the heat it'll be alright

And babe, don't you know it's a pity 
That the days can't be like the nights 
In the summer, in the city 
In the summer, in the city.'

Lyrics by Mark Sebastian (originally written as a poem). Song by The Lovin' Spoonful.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Warning - Spoilers!

Kids are so gullible. 

Every Christmas, we tell them that this weird old man with a long white beard dressed all in red will visit them while they sleep. Arriving on the roof in his reindeer-powered sleigh, he's going to bring them a load of presents once he finds his way down the chimney.

Of course it must be true because when they wake up there are the presents just as Mum and Dad said they would be. 

Obviously I never fell for this nonsense. I knew all along that there wasn't a Santa Claus - that it was just a load of old cobblers which my parents came up with because they liked to play pretend games. Far too worldly-wise me.

Anyway, today I visited the dentist and had a tooth out. I'm not daft. I asked to take the tooth home because I plan to put it under my pillow tonight so the tooth fairy will visit and leave me some money.

When I was a youngster it was about sixpence but allowing for inflation I'm hoping for at least a fiver by now.

Sunday, 9 June 2013


I recall that when my grandmother heard or read something joyous in the news, she would say that 'it warms the cockles of your heart'.

Now personally I never have and never could eat a cockle, but of course we all know that cockles are bivalve molluscs which are often eaten as a seaside snack. How could they have anything to do with your heart? 

The answer is that they probably don't have a lot to do with it. 

The cockles of the heart are very likely its ventricles, which are called in Latin "cochleae cordis", from "cochlea" (snail), alluding to their shape.

Additionally, the cockle genus is called 'Cardium' from the Latin for 'heart'.

Finally, if you look at a cockle from the side, it is heart-shaped.

Ahh. After writing this the cockles of my heart feel lovely and toastie.

Image courtesy of [SOMMAI] /

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


I went to my granddaughter's very first birthday party yesterday. As befits her utter gorgeousness, she was deluged with presents with an emphasis on pinkness.

As she was helped to unwrap them, she performed the classic manoeuvre. One present was wrapped in  white tissue covered in silver sparkly stars. Oblivious to the present, she proceeded to spend a full five minutes first examining this paper in close detail and then slowly tearing it into shreds. She was totally engrossed in this and eventually the adults gave up trying to point out the delights of the present itself.

The thing is, I was minded of the fact that this is not an entirely childish trait. Adults too can be guilty of it.

For instance, a few years ago, we bought a large Christmas cake from a well-known emporium. The cake itself was completely unremarkable. What caught our attention however, was the excellent and functional plastic cake container which it came in. 

My wife loves making cakes and when she makes a large one, she then keeps it in this container, especially if it is to be transported somewhere else...

...and as for bubble-wrap - keep it away from me because I am an addict!

Sunday, 2 June 2013


T-shirts were made with place names on them from as long ago as the early 1950's. The idea was to show everyone where you had been for your holiday. No doubt there were many who wore them to suggest they had been for an exotic holiday when in reality, they'd never gone further than Scunthorpe.

Then in the 1980's, some bright spark had the notion to put messages on your chest. These could be humorous,  protestations or perhaps adverts for pop bands or even simply the clothing manufacturer.

A few examples of ones which have caught my eye are

For her:
"My eyes are up here" (across her bosom with an arrow pointing upwards)

For him:
(Displayed on his back when riding a Harley Davidson no doubt) "If you can read this the bitch fell off"

For an ugly version of either sex:
"Drink 'til you want me"

For a very fat version of either sex:
"I beat anorexia"

The latest trend however, is for shoes to have messages to the wearer. My wife has shoes which bear the message inside them "Your feet look gorgeous".

I await the version for men's shoes -
"Your feet stink mate".