Sunday, 31 October 2010


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!