Wednesday, 30 January 2013


I watched the Olympics with great interest as our sporting heroes racked up the medals. 

In the interviews following their successes, they spoke as one about the importance of their 'teams', of their coaches who had brought them to their athletic peaks of ability.

I took this on board. 

Clearly, in order to do better at my own sport I needed to see a coach and let him guide me to perfection.

So I did. I had a two-hour session with a professional who certainly improved my performance. 

I also now have a strict training regime to follow. I must spend at least an hour per session, two or three times a day training hard.

Shouldn't be too exhausting though. Oh didn't I mention? My sport is darts.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


I write this in January - the month of bargains and sales. In keeping with this spirit I bring you not one but two phrases which are similar in meaning.

If I ever did something a little odd, my Grandma would often remark 'there's nowt so queer as folk'. Clearly it means that people can be very strange. 

The origins are unknown but no doubt the phrase comes from Yorkshire or Lancashire if the word 'nowt' (nothing) is anything to do with it. The oldest written reference to the phrase dates from 1905.

There was a British TV series in 1999 called 'Queer as folk' which was set in Manchester and was about three gay men though the original phrase uses 'queer' in its literal meaning as 'odd'. There was also an episode of John Sessions' tall tales called 'There's nowt so queer as folk' which was aired in 1991.

The second phrase is my favourite. I love the humour of it. It is

'All the world's queer save thee and me and even thee's a little queer'.

This time we're in luck as the origin is known to us. It is a quote by Robert Owen (1771-1858) a Welsh social reformer, factory owner and inventor.

Basically he was one of the first entrepreneurs and his greatest success was in the area of infant child care. He was probably motivated in this through the death in infancy of his first child, though he fortunately had seven further children who survived.

He fell out with his partners at one point and this remark was made to one of them, a William Allen in 1828. 

If ever a quotation told you reams about the good nature and character of a person this must surely be a fine example.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Before the advent of the motor car the business of travel largely centred on the horse. Whether one sat on the saddle or rode in a cart or carriage, horse-power was the order of the day. 

Just as we require garages to supply our cars with fuel and to repair them when they go wrong, so our ancestors needed a handy blacksmith or farrier to tend to their horses when the need arose.

Horse travel being much less prevalent today we have seen the demise of many of the Farriers and Smiths which were once such a common sight.

The same applies to many other trades which were once common but for which progress has made them unnecessary. For instance not so long ago, no-one would think of leaving home without putting on a hat but now hat shops are a rarity since most people when out and about are happily hatless.

We may  look back on these establishments with nostalgia but time marches on. Farriers became Texaco garages and hat shops and furriers became Primark.

The closing of many familiar high street shops such as Woolworths, Jessops, Blockbuster and the like are merely part of the same process and should not be mourned. 

In time to come, no doubt we shall have local rocket refuelling bays, bionic limb clinics and food pellet dispensers to look forward to.

Sunday, 20 January 2013


Snow has come. Proper stuff. Thick, fluffy, clumpy, chilly, pretty stuff. 

It's in its early stage when, though inconvenient, it beguiles you with how beautiful it makes everything look. A kid's paradise.

I watched the children throwing snowballs and dragging themselves round in sledges just as I used to do at their age. Though I can't take part now that I am of advanced, brittle-boned years I can enjoy the fun of it by absorbing some of theirs.

I've a photo of my baby granddaughter looking out at the snow which had mysteriously messed up her usual view from the lounge window and almost hidden her tree from sight. She was puzzled and trying to make sense of it. Her very first encounter with the strange white blanket.

I found an anonymous poem which sums it up: 

See the pretty snowflakes
Falling from the sky;
On the wall and housetops
Soft and thick they lie.
On the window ledges,
On the branches bare;
Now how fast they gather,
Filling all the air.
Look into the garden,
Where the grass was green;
Covered by the snowflakes,
Not a blade is seen.
Now the bare black bushes
All look soft and white,
Every twig is laden,
What a pretty sight!

Snow heart photo by Tina Phillips

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Winston Churchill is a great hero of mine. It was his destiny to help our nation to stand up to the might of Hitler's Germany and I never tire of studying how he organised himself in achieving this aim.

One way in which he crammed so many hours of work into a day was through taking a nap. 

Generally speaking, at around 5:00 p.m., after a weak whisky and soda, he went to bed for an hour and a half. He always maintained that this short sleep, a habit gained in Cuba, allowed him to work for an hour and a half days in every 24 hours:

“You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half-way measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one - well, at least one and a half, I’m sure. 

Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”
Churchill’s afternoon nap was a non-negotiable part of his relaxed approach to his daily routine. Indeed his nap was so vital to him that he kept a bed in the Houses of Parliament and believed that napping was the key to his success in leading the country through the Battle of Britain.

I'm off to try it out for myself.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


I'm not normally a betting man. I was innoculated against gambling fever by watching my grandmother fritter her money away by betting on the horses. 

Young as I was, she was always giving me betting tips.  I remember that one of her hot tips was to bet on a horse if it had an 'O' in fifth place in its name. Another was if its last three race placings had been 0-2-0. Neither of these guidelines helped her to win anything though.

Time was when the moment a race started, the betting odds were frozen. Nowadays though, with the advent of the internet, the odds on a race or game will keep changing for some while after the start.

These changing odds apply to life too. For instance, if you are between 5 and 14 years of age, actuaries tell us that the odds on you dying this year are less than 1 in 8000 if you're a boy and less than 1 in 10,000 if you're a girl.

At 55 years old, those odds have shortened dramatically to 1 in 112 for a male and 1 in 178 for a female. I think this gives me about a 1 in 50 chance of making it through to 2014.

As I said, I'm not a betting man but despite George Burns' advice not to buy green bananas once you grow old, I'd place a small wager that I'll still be around next year. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


I think I have the most comfortable chair in the world. 

My chair moves if I move so that I am always comfortable. What's more it's heated. It's always lovely and warm and snuggly.  

The arms on my chair sometimes move to hold me close and safe and other times they let me wriggle about if I need to.

Most of the time I'm too busy studying things to take any notice of my chair but occasionally I turn round to look at it and check that it still looks the same then turn back to my studying.

My chair is quite old. There's a little bit of it which feels lovely and hairy. I think it must be where the stuffing is coming out but I sometimes like to twiddle it in my fingers.

If you would like a chair like mine I'm sure you could find one. But you'll have to find your own because this one is mine. It's absolutely perfect if like me, you're seven months old.

My chair is called 'Grampa'.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


I was never in the scouts. My general ineptitude is a witness to this fact. 

However, I was in the sea scouts which is some sort of watery version, but only for one day. I quickly discovered that sea scouting had nothing to interest me but for some reason, my parents were upset with me for making this decision. Something to do with the cost of the uniform I think.

Of course I was unable to join the brownies even if I'd wanted to on grounds of sex and yet I am occasionally awarded brownie points for my hidden talents. 

The most recent example of this occurred the other day when to my wife's absolute joy, I saved her from countless hours of tedious ironing. This is not the first time my skills at ironing have been called upon.

On this occasion, my wife's energy levels were flagging and she asked me if I would mind finishing the chore off by ironing my handkerchiefs. Delighted to be of help I pointed out that there was no need to iron them since the moment I remove one from the drawer it is immediately sneezed upon and placed in a damp, crumpled state in my pocket. They merely need to be dried and may be left in their creased state for future use.

The discovery that she would never have to iron them again has filled her with joy. My only concern is that she might stop to consider the many years during which she has needlessly undertaken this task and see this as a failure to communicate on my part.


Wednesday, 2 January 2013


Good news guys! The European Commision have decided that the car insurance companies cannot any longer let women have cheaper car insurance than men just because they always drive with a high-heeled shoe on the brake. 

Whether or not women are safer drivers than men matters not, they must pay the same as us. This means of course, than very soon our driving insurance premiums will be reduced to be in line with those of the fairer sex - right?

Wrong. Apparently this would mean that those poor cash-strapped insurance companies would lose money and we can't have that can we? OK so what will actually happen is that women's premiums will be raised a little and men's premiums will be lowered a little so that they are the same - right?

Wrong again. Adjusting all those premiums would be far too much work for the aforesaid insurance chappies and chappesses.

Therefore presumably, women's premiums will simply be raised to match those of the men and the companies will therefore make a lot more profit. However I believe that they will then use this profit to lower premiums for all on renewal.

I also believe in elves, gnomes, the tooth fairy and that there is an urgent need for a new runway at Heathrow to cater for flying pigs.