Sunday, 29 July 2012


I was bowled over by the Olympic opening ceremony and while there's so much to be said I will confine myself to a few of the things which I learned.

Two hundred and four nations are taking part and for the very first time, all of those teams include women, Qatar having included them for the first time.

Bhutan was the last country in the world to receive television.

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world.

Ecuador mourns the death of the last Galapagos giant tortoise, 'Lonesome George'.

Norway is the most successful country in the world in the Winter Olympics.

The Chinese flag bearer is over seven foot tall.

The front and back of the Paraguay flag are different.

Let the party begin!


Wednesday, 25 July 2012


We Brits are reknowned for our patience and we've had to use this skill to the utmost in our long wait for summer to properly kick in this Olympic year. 

We moaned of course. But now we can do what we like best and moan about the heat. 

Suddenly, all along the high street, legs have appeared. Male legs I mean. Lots of other body parts are also on show and probably shouldn't be. 

I am particularly pleased to be able to eat salads again. Those wonderful, guilt-free meals with mounds of healthy lettuce and other greens all drowned in lashings of gut-swelling salad cream. 

These are indeed the 'Salad days' which I'm sure you recognise as a familiar phrase. Though sometimes used to mean 'in the days of our maturity' it actually means the opposite.

'Salad days' refers to the days of our youth when we were as green as salad. 

Queen Elizabeth, during her Silver Jubilee Loyal Address, referred to her vow to God and her people in her ascension to the throne when she was 25: "Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it." 

She was actually quoting Shakespeare who had written in Anthony and Cleopatra (1606): CLEOPATRA: "My salad days ...
When I was green in judgment - cold in blood"
I think I prefer the more modern treatment of the salad days of our maturity. Long may they continue.

Sunday, 22 July 2012


I hold you in my arms looking down at your sleeping form. I hear your soft breathing and gently stroke your hand. Even though you are asleep, your fingers close around mine. Your skin is soft and warm.

I gaze at your beauty and not for the first time I am in awe at your perfection. You stir and move. Will you wake? No, you allow me a little longer to look and admire.

Eventually your eyes open but only a little. I smile. You return the smile and I wait patiently for your eyes to open fully.

When they do, we examine each other's faces for a while. I think to stand up and discover that two hours have passed without me noticing. Two hours spent doing nothing. Nothing but love.

Along with my heart you have stolen two hours of my life but I am the richer for it. Though I am two hours older, I feel years younger, for whilst I held you, the years fell away and my thoughts returned to the warm summers of my youth.

You are the time thief.

You are Emily...

...and you are seven weeks old today.



Wednesday, 18 July 2012


My first wife had a lot of christian names - five to be precise.

I have just one middle name. It is Peter but I doubt that my friends know that.

If I were to ask you the full name of our queen, you would probably be as stumped as I was until I discovered that it was Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. 

Of course she also has titles. When she was crowned she was declared as being

"Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the faith". 

But we should count ourselves lucky that we weren't born in Uganda for that modest chap Idi Amin decided to call himself

"His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular".

But I bet he signed his name as 'Idi'.

Oh and just for good measure, he also declared himself to be the last king of Scotland. Yet try as I may, I am unable to locate the pattern for the Idi Amin tartan. Funny that.


Sunday, 15 July 2012


We all do it, some more than others. Newborn babies spend about 15 hours or more asleep and so do the octagenarians I see in the retirement home. 

But whilst humans tend to sleep for about 8 hours a day on average, other creatures are quite different. Bats for instance sleep for around 20 hours a day whilst giraffes only need 2 hours sleep in every 24. 

I suspect that you think you know why we do it but you are wrong. Nobody knows. It is still one of the behaviours which baffle science. 

Of course there are theories. One is that we need to rest after our hectic day. Another is that we need to heal. Some believe that it is a learning period when we set to work re-organising our brains by filing away some stuff and discarding anything no longer needed. Finally, it may be that we sleep in order to dream.

The dream theory works for me. I think that sleep gives us a chance to try out things which we cannot do when awake. Sometimes we dream we are flying for instance. Other times, we might dream that we are running a bookshop or running in the Olympics.

Of course there are also the nightmares when we just seem to want to scare ourselves until we scream with fright. 

Goodnight - sweet dreams.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


My dear Grandmother used to keep a tidy house and was very careful with the pennies. She lived in Shirley which is in the West Midlands which is also where I was born.

One day she heard that bacon was 2d a pound (yes old money) cheaper in a shop in Solihull than in her local grocers. She therefore got my Granddad to drive her there (a round trip of about 10 miles) completely oblivious to the petrol cost involved. We used to call this being 'penny wise, pound foolish'.

I was reminded of this when I recently travelled some twenty miles to go to a store where I knew they had wine racks for sale at £15 which were £25 elsewhere. 

I was very pleased with my £10 saving but there was a slight problem. When parking in their car park, I dented my bumper which cost me £220 to repair.

It's all in the genes.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


If any of my kids are reading this be warned - I am about to refer to sex.

Right - that's got rid of them.

I've often said that if I didn't live in England I'd probably live in Amsterdam. It's a lovely place in its own right but I really like their laid back attitude to sex, drugs and life in general.

There's a lot of fuss being made at the moment about so called Mummy-porn with the recent publication of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' by E. L. James. This, in case you just returned from another planet, is a graphic sex novel which seems to have taken the fancy of ladies of a certain age. 

This puts me in mind of the time (1960) when Penguin books were finally allowed to publish 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' which D. H. Lawrence had written way back in 1928. This also contained explicit sex references and was privately published abroad but our own censorship laws prohibited us from buying it from the local bookshop.

I have no idea whether James' novel is any good or not but I am delighted that our society has matured enough to allow us to choose whether or not to read it.

I am also pleased that it is read openly rather than under the bed sheets which is where I perused Lady Chatterley as a wildly hormonal teenager. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


My brother has never enjoyed the best of health and when he needs to go into hospital, he always seems to catch an infection and/or suffer complications.

So it was when he went in for surgery around Christmas 2010 which was expected to see him discharged two weeks later. He was in there for nine months.

It is now July 2012 and although he has been living at home for a few months at a time, he is still in hospital. Worse, he has now been told that though in his early 60's he will live his life wearing nappies, with incontinence of the bowel. As if that wasn't enough, he will also be nil by mouth so no food or drink just liquid tube feed for 12 hours a day.

This is a hammer blow. Not to be able to enjoy food and cooking (he is a great cook) and not to be able to enjoy his wines is a real cross to bear.

He doesn't read these scribbles of mine but I must get him to focus on the positives. He is otherwise fit and healthy so can presumably play his golf. He can enjoy all the other pleasures which life has to offer and having lost a lot of weight, can make me feel jealous of his slim build. 

He aint heavy. He's my brother.

Sunday, 1 July 2012


I was very impressed with the way that the 'Respect' campaign was integrated into the Euro 2012 football championships and would like to add my small voice in support of it.

In case you don't know what the campaign stands for this is a quote from one of its ambassadors:

"Football today more than ever needs a strong reminder that everybody is equal on and off the pitch, regardless of their race, religion, skin colour or gender."

Of course the real point is that this sentiment should not just apply to football but to every aspect of our society.

The differences are slowly disappearing as different races intermarry and produce mixed race children. If only we were all one colour there wouldn't be a colour issue.

Here is another quote, a favourite of mine, this time from the lyrics of "Melting Pot' sung by Blue Mink:

"What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough to take the world and all it's got 
Keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
And turn out coffee-coloured people by the score."