Monday, 30 November 2009


I just got back from a few days in Brussels.

Don't need to say much more really do I? I mean I've got the bragging out of the way. "Eww get him jet-setting it!"

I've maybe induced a touch of jealousy. "How come he gets to go to Brussels while I'm stuck here cooking the sprouts?"

Perhaps there's a little curiosity. "What's he doing going to Belgium? I didn't notice him among the long list of also-rans for the EU Presidency."

This reminds me of my sadly now deceased Aunt Lillie who once actually started off a conversation with the wonderful line:
"You know as you sail into Capetown............"
Well no Auntie, sadly I don't.

Oh alright then, since you ask so nicely I'll tell you. It was to attend a wedding and it was just fabulous.

On the Friday we attended the official ceremony when the mayor officiates and conducts the legal aspects of the marriage. The next day it was all down to the church for the traditional religious bit.

Then it started to turn magical. We were bussed out into the Belgian countryside to a fairy-tale ch√Ęteau where we were greeted with log fires and tasty things to nibble - no not the bridesmaids! A multi-course sit-down meal followed that with wines arriving in response to your thoughts of them. Speeches, coffee, cake - all the usual elements and after a short time to catch your breath it was on with the dancing.

At first, as the drink flowed and the music played, things developed in the usual way. Granddad's gingerly tested out their hip-replacements on the dance floor. Ladies' 'fascinators' started to appear on gentleman's heads. If you don't know what they are check here. Then men started tying their ties round their heads (well OK I started that off!). Then ladies pinched the ties and tied them round their heads where they looked far better than their male counterparts.

This may all have been in part because there was a free bar. Just consider that concept for a moment! Wines, beers, vodka etc. etc. just there as and when you want it. Everyone loved the music for a very simple reason - it was their choice. Each guest had been asked in advance to submit their three favourite dance tracks for the playlist - the ones that make you just have to get on your feet and dance. What a clever idea! So lines of cavorting conga dancers developed, snaking round the hall and we were all doing the mashed potato, the mambo, the macarena or just madly dancing when someone introduced a long pole and before long there was a limbo contest for those whose backs could stand it.

You're getting the picture I'm sure, that we were having a great time. Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, it did! Pancakes were being freshly cooked in the corner to eat with jam and sugar or just lemon. What a wonderful touch!

Sadly, all good things have to end sometime and we were bussed back to our hotels at silly o'clock to dream of princesses being married to their handsome princes having witnessed just how it should be done.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Apparently I don't drink enough. Now if you'd seen me last Saturday night after I'd consumed the best part of two bottles of Merlot unaided, you would question this statement. However, here I am being literal. I do not consume enough fluid.

How do I know this? Because I am blessed to have people around me who care about the state of my health and who regularly nag me about it. Recently, the nagging with regards to my failure to quaff several litres of water per day has come from at least three different people and so in order to attempt to silence my critics, I have succumbed.

I know that going everywhere with a plastic bottle of water clutched in your hand has almost become a fashion statement but I am clearly not in the vanguard of fashion where drinking is concerned. I simply try desperately to remember to drink a glass or two - sometimes instead of my beloved coffee. There I've said it. You now realise how serious an issue this is for me.

Once again I turn to my late grandfather for help and he duly obliges with this poem which I believe to have been penned by him.

"Pure water is the best of drinks
that man to man can bring.
But who am I that I should have
the best of everything?

Let Princes revel at the pump,
Peers with the pond make free -
But whisky, wine or even beer
Are good enough for me."

Sunday, 22 November 2009


Since the dawn of time, men and women have had their individual roles in life.

Neanderthal men would be off killing dinosaurs while their women dusted the cave. Knights of yore fought dragons whilst their ladies spent hours trying to pick the lock on their chastity belt. Elizabethan explorers would sail to foreign parts whilst their wives gave birth a year or so after their departure. Victorian gentlemen in tall hats would build huge constructions out of metal for the sheer hell of it as their ladies sewed tapestries and made lace doilies back home. Last century, the men were off fighting world wars as their ladyfolk packed food parcels and drew lines down the back of their legs to look like stocking seams.

If the men were in any doubt about their role, the female of the species would leave subtle clues. Mr. Caveman would wake to find his hunting loincloth and club waiting for him by the cave entrance. Sir Laughalot would find his armour at the ready, newly polished by his distressed damsel. Explorers' telescopes lay next to their sandwiches by the door. Victorian gentlemen found their place at table carefully laid with knife, fork and screwdriver. The tin hat sat gleaming on the breakfast table as Tommy came down for breakfast.

Things haven't changed. This morning, my wife having departed for work, I entered the kitchen to find that she had left the empty pepper grinder sitting next to a packet of peppercorns both strategically placed by the kettle. Clearly, when it comes to the intricacies of the pepper grinder's mechanism, it's a man thing.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


I sometimes fail to spot things. There was an occasion involving my first wife - you'll understand in a moment why she is my 'ex' - when she returned from a shopping trip wearing a new outfit. This wasn't just a new dress but a skin-tight snakeskin trouser suit. I didn't notice it, much to my shame.

I am more attentive with my second wife. I have learned the hard way that when she has gone for a hair appointment, my line on her return is 'Ooh, your hair looks nice dear'. I even remember to stop reading and look up at her before saying it.

I also sometimes forget things. Like forgetting to zip up when I've had a wee (this is a well-known 'old man' thing). Another example is that I have to put things somewhere where I'll literally fall over them or I'll never remember to deal with them.

I take some comfort though from learning of the Macedonian gentleman who was on a motoring holiday in Europe with his wife. He filled up with petrol near Pesaro in central Italy and got a call 6 hours later in Germany to point out that his wife was still at the petrol station. Apparently, she always sat in the back and clearly she wasn't a back-seat driver because he hadn't noticed she wasn't there! If you don't believe me check here.

Even I'm not that bad. Now, what was I saying?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

NOW I'M 63

You'll remember that John Lennon sang about his concern that the love of his life might not still love him when he reached 64. he wrote the song in 1966 which was the year that his Dad became 64. I was 20 and remember thinking back then that being 64 sounded positively ancient. Now, I'm just a year away.

I know it's just a number and it genuinely doesn't trouble me to be this age. The important thing of course is to be 'young at heart' as Frank Sinatra sang in 1954 - you can hear it here on a 78 r.p.m. record with authentic crackles, just as I remember 78s. 

The snag is that however young at heart you may feel, your body keeps reminding you that it's starting to wear out. I'm lucky in that I still have my hair and my own teeth. In fact all of me is original with a few bits missing. Mind you, it's a race as to whether my knees or my hips will get replaced first.

It took a while, but I've learned that the old guy in the mirror is me. I've also learned what I can still do and what I can no longer do and what tablets to take and exercise to do in order to keep the old body working well. So I'm happy with my age, at home with myself so to speak.

However, if you would prefer to be younger, follow Lucille Ball's advice - lie about your age! Oops! I blew it in the title. Oh well, I'll just have to keep taking the tablets.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Now I know you'll find this hard to believe but I winge a lot. One of my eternal gripes is the constant road works which we seem to get on the stretch of motorway near us and this seems to have spread to smaller roads which are closer still.

Thumbing through Grampa's book, 'Pierrot's Album', which I introduced you to in my post called simply,'Pierrot', I discover that my affliction is clearly hereditary. I was born in 59 Tanworth Lane, Shirley and Grampa lived two doors away in 55.

He wrote this little poem in 1931 - 78 years ago! This was the year he moved into his house and it was before the road had been surfaced. The poem was published in the local paper and as you will see, proves that "there is nothing new under the sun".


In Shirley's heard a sweet refrain
"Let's go and dig up Tanworth Lane".
Builders, sewermen, gas-men too,
All dig holes to obscure our view.

They dig a deep hole for a drain
And then they cover it up again.
The gas-man then he doth appear
Saying "Come on Bill, our course is clear,
We really must have a hole down here".

Saturdays, Sundays there's no rest,
They dig and dig with added zest.
We take much mud into our houses
And Oh! you should see poor Pa's "trousis!".

When Father Xmas comes by heck!
He'll fall and break his poor old neck.

Perhaps some day our good surveyor
Will send his men with tarmac layer
And thus rejoice the poor ratepayer.

Sunday, 8 November 2009


I try so hard to support local shops, really I do. OK for buying the weekly food shopping, supermarkets have won the day but as far as other shops are concerned......

When we moved here three years ago, I was delighted to discover that there was a small opticians only 5 minutes walk away. I went in and introduced myself. During the conversation, I discovered that although my previous optician was in a town some 35 miles away, the same guy who did my eye tests there, came here once a month. It was spooky really, because I was feeling sorry that Pete, for that was his name, wouldn't be doing my eye tests any more.

I booked in with him and had my first test. Now, I have to be tested regularly for Glaucoma and during that part of the test, it became clear that the equipment was so old that it wasn't up to doing the job. Pete was frustrated that he couldn't check me out properly. I was concerned that my eyes weren't getting the quality of test that I needed.

So sadly, I had to move to a large chain of opticians whose equipment is totally up-to-date, who have a much larger choice of frames, and whose prices are much lower. I say 'sadly' but of course, I'm much better served now with the new opticians.

Isn't it a shame though, that market forces are driving smaller shops out of business in this way? Presumably, in time, there will only be huge shopping conglomerates left. Or am i I being a dinosaur again? (Don't answer that!)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


One of my pet hates is door-to-door sellers. Usually it's 'I represent Sparky Electricity. Have you checked your power bills lately?' I hate it when they have learning difficulties or are disabled. It makes it almost impossible to say no when they offer their cheap household goods which you wouldn't dream of buying in a shop.

Occasionally, you get the scary ones. The gypsies selling pegs or offering to sharpen knives. Then you worry whether you will be cursed if you don't comply and will spend the rest of your life doomed, never to win the lottery or meet your frog prince.

One pleasant exception though, many years ago, was a young student who was selling her art. She held up a canvas of a forest scene and it was clear that she had a talent. I succumbed and looked through her other paintings. My eyes lit up when I came upon a seascape, because I am a sucker for water in paintings. I bought it of course and it has pride of place on my study wall.

This preamble is only to set the scene for my experience yesterday morning when the muse came tapping at my shoulder like a salesman offering his wares. I'd been reading a piece about Keats ('How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.....') and here was the muse tempting me with the thought of writing a love poem. My natural lethargy tried to fight him off but then the intrigue kicked in. How hard can it be? What a fatal question that is!

So here is my love poem. Treat it gently, for it is entwined with my soul.

The world is the better that you are in it.
No less is my life for your presence at its heart.

My actions are referenced to you my love
and my thoughts are governed by your nearness.

Let it ever be so.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


I have a theory. I have held it for many years now but I reveal it with some trepidation because I suspect that you will disprove it dear reader.

My theory is simple. I believe that for most people, their favourite time of the year is around their birthday. I don't mean the day itself. I mean the seasonal aspects of that time of year.

In my own case, although I love the energy and vibrance of spring with its bursting new growth; although I love the hot summer sun and the balmy days spent on carefree holidays; although I love the crisp, chilly, wintry days, especially when accompanied with a fresh fall of snow; although I love all these, my favourite time is Autumn. To be more precise, it's the latter days of Autumn when the smoke of fires is on the air and the mists begin to appear.

My birthday is on November 6th and this falls the day after 'Guy Fawkes night'. This is when we celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder plotters in their attempt to blow up our parliament in 1605. Traditionally, this involves a large bonfire and letting off fireworks. Nowadays, this is usually done in large public gatherings but when I was a child, each household tended to do their own bonfire and fireworks - health & safety nightmare! Of course, my birthday celebrations turned into a bonfire and firework party which was the most magical way to spend your birthday as you can imagine.

So that is my theory. I think the reason why it holds true for me and for so many others, is that we never quite forget those childhood days of eager anticipation for the big event of our birthday and the accompanying cards and presents. The falling leaves and misty, smoky days were a harbinger of my special day. I hope your birthdays are as special for you.