Sunday, 29 August 2010


Lucy is a typical, lively 12 year-old girl except that she has muscular dystrophy. This confines her to a wheelchair and it is terminal. This doesn't stop her from living life to the full though as I discovered when I was privileged to spend some time with her recently. Have a listen in -

Lucy: "OK so you're the boss and I'm your fashion designer that's why I have the clipboard".
Me: "Lucy, I've called this meeting so we can discuss what this year's fashions are going to be - any ideas?".
Lucy: "Sure, I thought we'd produce clothes for toddlers".
Me: "Any ideas for colours?"
Lucy: "I thought pink and purple for the girls and blue and purple for the boys".
Me: "Sounds good and.."
Lucy: "Your phone's ringing" (it wasn't).
Me: (pretends to answer phone) "Hello, who is this?"
Lucy: (whispering) "it's your daughter".
Me: "Oh hi ermmm.."
Lucy: "Her name's Gill"
Me: "Hi Gill how's everything? Are you at college?"
Lucy: "She's 8".
Me: "Sorry I mean are you at school?"
Lucy: 'I was joking - she's 18"
Me: "You misheard me Gill, I said 'college' - anyway I'm in the middle of an important meeting with my chief fashion designer. Can I call you back later? OK bye". Sorry about that Lucy now where were we?"
Lucy: 'Your phone's ringing again"
Me: (pretends to answer) "Hello ermmm..."
Lucy: "It's your Grandma"
Me: :Hi Grandma! I wasn't expecting to hear from you again after we cremated you"
Lucy: "She's deaf"

This continued for about an hour. By the time we went home I was exhausted!
Don't you just love Lucy?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


So here are we Brits trying to scrimp and save and what happens? Holiday firms start going bust so we can't even have a break from it all. "Sorry kids - no holiday this year" - sound of screaming and crying (and that's just from Mum). So what's to be done? Don't despair because yet again, I have the answer.

You will love this because you get a holiday and it costs almost nothing - would I lie to you?

OK my brainwave holiday at home. No, no, bear with me. You wont miss a thing. Here are the 10 steps towards getting the perfect holiday experience at home. Let's pretend we're off to Italy (but you can tweak it to fit any country).

1. Buy a few large bags of sand and create a mini 'beach' in the garden. Don't use all the sand up though, you'll need some later.
2. Get some big posters of Italian beach scenes from your local holiday shop and stick them up in your windows.
3. Put out a few loungers and then drape towels over them because they've been reserved by some Germans.
4. Buy a few cases of the cheapest Italian wine you can find and work your way through them.
5. Buy lots of pasta and eat some every day.
6. Pick a rainy day and huddle together under a beach umbrella on your mini beach.
7. Sprinkle some sand into your underwear drawer and round the bathroom.
8. Put a sign on the TV screen saying "Italian programs only - sorry".
9. Sit in the car on your drive for a couple of hours and pretend you're in the queue for the airport.
10. Rejoice because you remember you didn't actually go away this year.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


If you are of a nervous disposition or easily upset I advise you not to read on. I'm serious.

My friends regard me as strong-stomached. Its true. I can indulge in 'toilet humour' whilst having a meal without any difficulty. In fact if someone were to vomit next to me I would carrying on eating - and yet.........

I vividly remember going to watch 'The Exorcist' in 1974. As I left the cinema I felt waves of utter disgust at what I had seen. I had a strong feeling of revulsion and I remember thinking that whoever had made the film had done so with the single intent to shock the viewer. In my case it worked. That was the moment when I parted company from the whole genre of the horror film. The experience is branded on my soul. I wish I had never seen the film. In the 36 years since that day I have never felt that way again despite seeing and reading all manner of disgusting things........until now.

I have always been a strong supporter of 'the open Internet'. I am aware that there are some horrors on it such as disgusting pornography for instance, but as far as I know, these items are only available on closed sites for which you have to subscribe. Like the pin-up magazines on the top shelf, they are out of our reach and our eyes shouldn't alight on them unless we're searching them out. Not so.

When I read that an international conference was taking place behind closed doors to discuss the future of the Internet, I was worried. However, after my recent experience I now feel that the Internet does need to be policed to prevent certain images being freely available.

I stumbled upon a news report from 2009 of a missing 6 year old girl in Sri Lanka. She had been abducted from her school and brutally murdered. Her remains were found in a bag near the roadside and there were vivid photographs of her little body which had just started to decompose. Her arms were taped behind her back and her ankles taped together to prevent movement. The same strong tape had been used to cover her eyes so that she could not see and her mouth so that she could not scream and her nose too so that she could not breathe. If this description disturbs you, imagine what seeing the actual photographs did to me.

I wish I had not seen these images and I firmly believe that they should not have been placed on a freely available internet news site.

One other thing is clear. The emergency service personnel who have to deal with this as part of their job, deserve our greatest respect and our sincere thanks.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


I'm not a big fan of shopping, unlike my wife who ranks shopping somewhere between breathing and eating in terms of importance. When I do shop for clothes I do 'man' shopping. Women do not generally understand how this works so for the benefit of any ladies present 'man shopping' goes like this....

1. I decide I need a new pair of trousers.
2. I go to the shop and buy a pair.
3. I come home.

Except that I recently found myself in a clothes shop with time to kill so I started browsing, but of course this was 'man browsing'. This version of browsing entails idly picking up the odd item which catches the eye and then thinking of a good reason why I don't need it and returning it to the rail.

'Woman browsing', which sounds strangely like a pastime you would undertake in the red light district of Amsterdam, is different. I have observed my wife doing 'woman browsing' and she is expert at it. To understand the female version of browsing, read the definition of 'man browsing' above but substitute the word 'desperately' for the word 'don't'.

However, I have a confession to make. There is one thing which can seriously interfere with my browsing and that is spotting what appears to be a bargain. So it came to pass that my eyes alighted on a linen jacket which was 'denim' blue with a very fine white stripe. There was only one left and as you may have discovered, this fact leads you to grab the item concerned with undue haste just in case anyone else might be interested. I checked the label - it purported to be my size. I slipped it on and looked in the mirror and discovered that it fit like a glove - well like a jacket anyway. At this point I was in touch with my feminine side as I seemed to be trying to think of a reason why this jacket would fill a big gap in my wardrobe.

The price was £27 which was a definite bargain I felt but just to be sure, I took it to the tills and played hard to get by asking them to check what its original price was. This turned out to be £99.

I walked away and after feigning an act of indecision I eventually succumbed walking back to the tills and said 'I'll have it' hoping that the assistant wouldn't notice me slavering slightly. The bar code was swiped and the lady said 'That will be £9 please'. I offered my credit card with a trembling hand and after the transaction was completed I left the shop at indecent speed.

It was only later that the thought occurred that perhaps I should have haggled and asked them how much they would pay me to take the jacket off their hands.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Back in the mid 50's I used to have a two-mile bus ride to and from school. My Mum would give me the fare each day but little did she know that I often used to walk home and spend the bus fare on sweets. Those sweets were so good that I have never forgotten them.

There were packets of 'KP' peanuts which cost 2d (two old pence or just under 1p), Flying Saucers filled with sherbet, Sherbet dips which were bags of sherbet with a liquorice stick in them and of course Wagon wheels.

I also used to buy bubble gum. Now there was the big lump of it which always blew the best bubbles but there was also the thin slice which had a special wrapping usable for creating a fake tattoo. It was a good joke the first time when I went home and kidded my Mum that I'd had a permanent tattoo done on the back of my hand.

Thankfully, that is the extent of my experimentation with tattoos. I can understand the attraction. I mean they can even make you money as one lady discovered when she offered her forehead for rent as a tattooed advertisement.

But they are not for me. I can't help feeling that many people who get tattoos haven't thought it through properly.

"Grandma, what does that mean on your arm - 'Get stoned' ?" or worse "Granddad, why have you got a picture of a willy on your back?".

A tattoo can seem like a good idea at the time but as Susan, a lady friend of mine found out, when love dies, it can be costly to remove a tattoo proclaiming your undying passion for an old flame. She is happily married now with two kids but in her youth she tried out lesbianism. Her first girlfriend became the love of her life and as a token of this, she had a prominent tattoo done on her arm.

Imagine the scene when many years later, she went to meet her boyfriend's parents sporting a large tattoo announcing her love for a girl. On this occasion however, she was lucky. Her ex-girlfriend's name was Georgina who was better known by her nickname. The tattoo said "I love George" - phew!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


I think my wife may have helped me to solve a long standing family mystery. Let me explain.

My paternal grandparents lived in a small semi-detached council house in the Midlands. It was typical of its day being two up and two down. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and a 'boxroom'. These were common enough features back then and were basically tiny upstairs rooms which weren't big enough for a bed but which could hold your 'boxes' ready for your next house move. There was also a bathroom - but no toilet.

Downstairs was the front parlour or lounge and at the back was the dining room with a tiny kitchen leading off it which had a small pantry attached in the space under the stairs - but no toilet.

To find the toilet, you went out of the back door (from the dining room), turned left past a small cupboard and there it was in all its glory. It was part of the house occupying the space in the corner formed by the dining room and kitchen but it had an outside door, a door with a space at the top and bottom to allow the air to circulate.

As a child, I remember that one of the big features of my Grandparents' house were the newspapers. Once read, they were kept under the cushions of the 3-piece suite in the lounge and were then used for various purposes. They would be scrunched up and used as firelighters for the coal fire in the lounge. A large sheet of newspaper would be used to 'draw' the fire by being stretched across the fireplace once the fire was lit. This used to create a great blaze very quickly.

They were also torn up and hung in the toilet as a softer and cheaper alternative to the hideous 'Izal' toilet paper commonly used back then in the 50's. Most people would rather have used sandpaper than Izal.

First though, the papers were read and this leads us to the mystery. I would watch with fascination as Granddad would pick up the newspaper and go outside to the toilet where he would sit and read it for anything up to an hour! I know he didn't just read from the evidence of my nose plus the evidence of my eyes since I could see his trousers, braces and long johns round his ankles under the gap at the bottom of the door. The mystery to me as a six year old, was why did he spend so long in there? It was hardly a cosy space to sit like the lounge would have been.

Well I was explaining this to my wife over a romantic dinner - she is used to my toilet topics during dinner. "Oh yes" she said, "my Dad did exactly the same. It was how he got some 'me - time' away from the family. A bit of personal space like you get when you go upstairs to the computer". Mystery solved, courtesy of my dearly beloved.

So Granddad was in a brown study.

I am reminded of the quote by U.S. baseball player Satchel Paige - "Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits".

Sunday, 1 August 2010


I have recently taken up Badminton. I already play tennis to an awesomely average standard so I thought 'How hard can it be to play Badminton?'. The answer is - very hard.

My main problem is timing the overheads. The opponents have quickly learned that hitting the shuttle cock high above my head will usually both win them the point and also afford them some amusement as I inevitably make a violent smash at the thing and miss by a mile. The smallest of flies hovering above my head will be dead in a split second as my racquet thrashes through the air but the falling shuttlecock which is the size of my fist is totally safe from harm.

As a result of this, I tend to be on the losing side. The session is organised by asking one of the players to pick their four. I see them scan down the line of expectant faces rather like a client might in a house of pleasure, but it is as though I am invisible.

This takes me back to my schooldays. My talent for football was on a par with my skill at ballet dancing so when two football captains chose their teams from the remaining 20 players, I waited agog to discover whether I would be last to be selected as usual or whether I would be chosen 19th which afforded me the pleasure of giving number 20 a look of disdain.

I have some friends who are bad at golf and who tell me that the usual sound heard when they swing their club is the whoosh of the club through the air followed by an expletive. The swearing is because the ball either flies a short distance in the wrong direction or else stays put with a sigh of relief. Because of this, they say that they don't play 'golf', instead they play 'swish-bugger-it'. In the same spirit, I have decided that I don't play 'Badminton', I play 'swipe-sod-it'.