Monday, 30 March 2009

Diet - one month on...

For some reason, I had been very nervous today because I had an appointment with the occupational health nurse at work at 3.30 pm to be weighed for the first time since I started my diet four weeks ago. I decided not to get myself weighed once a week, because I would have felt annoyed or disappointed if I hadn't done so well. I feel I have done really well even if I say so myself - but would the weigh scale agree?

I began a Weightwatchers diet on the back of the same diet my better half started, I did one a few years back and lost three and a half stones so it clearly worked once and I am hoping it will do the same magic again. Low fat, plenty to eat, no rubbish or fast foods and although I miss my favourites, milk and crisps, I feel so much better for not having them at all - not even as a treat; one packet and I would have been hooked again. The milk I get through my tea and with breakfast cereal. I suspect if I had lost weight, most of it was through liquid, I pee for Britain!

With trepidation I pressed the buzzer on the door and waited to be admitted. The nurse greeted me with warmth and anticipation and I emptied my pockets and took my shoes off. I stepped on the scales and steadied myself and looked straight ahead at the wall (no point in looking down to see the reading, it was hidden under my stomach!)

"How do you think you've done?" She asked.

"Well okay I think, people have told me I have lost weight and I feel so much better. My cholesterol is on the floor, my blood pressure is excellent so all in all, I feel good."

"Well I have to tell you, in four full weeks, you've lost 9kg [19.8lbs or 1.4 stones.]"

I couldn't help but beam. That is fantastic! I thanked her for her support which has been so encouraging and not patronising at all. As I was walking to my car I felt like crying - I had achieved in four weeks better than I had dreamt but more than that, I had kept a promise to myself to do this and change my lifestyle and habits with food.

So there you are: if a fifty-something Yorkshireman can do it, anyone can. With the right support and encouragement the sky's the limit. The next goal is to keep losing it, I know physiologically it will not be possible at the same rate, but with a reasonable loss on a monthly basis, I can reach my ultimate goal within the next eighteen months or couple of years and more over, the change will hopefully remain permanent along with the food lifestyle which is the hardest goal of all. I'll report again in a month.

Top Ten Reasons Why Diets Are Better Than Sex

10. You don't have to take off your clothes.
9. You can go from diet to diet without feeling guilty.
8. Carrots are ALWAYS hard.
7. On a diet, you carefully consider everything you put in your mouth.
6. It's GOOD if a diet is over quickly.
5. Dieting doesn't make you pregnant.
4. You can doze off in the middle if you want to.
3. It's okay if your dog watches.
2. You can do it with your best friend's partner.

And the number one reason why dieting is better than sex....

1. You don't have to worry if it was good for the cottage cheese too.

Top Ten Reasons... thanks to

Chat soon


Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sights, sounds and tastes of yesteryear...

As a lad growing up in Cottingham, East Yorkshire with my parents and grandparents in a three storey Victorian house you might imagine that being born only 14 years after the war ended, perhaps things were still a little tight and our diet I remember was interesting to say the least.

My motive for writing today's blog is to test my memory of the sights and sounds, smell and tastes of the old house. Starting with the diet which brought all this to mind, my Grandfather was a Londoner, born back in 1882 in Islington. One of his delights was to eat tripe and onions. He was the only one to eat it mind; my mother cooked it and never a morsel of it passed her lips. It looked disgusting: white and spongy and the smell is unique. It was cooked in milk as I remember and the sweetness wafting through the house belied its looks. He never ate other traditional London foods such as jellied eels or anything else like it thank goodness. Thinking about what tripe actually is, I'm glad I never tried it (look it up if you don't know!)

One treat of course was bread and 'dripping' after the Sunday roast. For the uninitiated in this modern world, the meat was fairly fatty and lumps of lard were often used to baste the meat. When the roast was cooked, sliced up and served, the juices from the meat had the fat spooned off and placed in a cup and the meat juice used for the gravy. When the fat in the cup was solidified, that was the dripping, served up on doorstep slices of bread liberally sprinkled with salt! Any 'Weightwatcher' would faint at the thought of it - and one slice would have probably made up the whole week's points.

The kitchen was tiny compared to the rest of the tall rambling house, probably 8 feet by six feet, very narrow because there was a cold walk-in pantry taking up much of the space. There was the traditional marble slab to keep food cold and let me tell you with high ceilings, brick walls and no window to let sunlight filter through, it was effective. The gas cooker was temperamental unlike today's cookers and if mother was baking, you couldn't enter the kitchen or shut doors quickly anywhere in the house for fear of the draft causing her cakes to sink! We never starved although having snacks was difficult because the Anchor butter was always rock hard and the bread which you had to cut with a bread knife could never take it and inevitably I ended up with a lump of hard butter and loads of holes in the bread! The Stork margarine mother used mainly for cooking was no better and when I was young I remember slicing a lump off thinking it was cheese and let me tell you - I was nearly sick! The once a week treat was Smith's crisps with the little twisted blue bag of salt so you could sprinkle it to taste.

We made our own homemade ginger beer too, until the time when the bottles of ginger beer were put outside in the warm weather and the tops secured far too tightly. Of course the fermenting yeast kept building up the pressure and whilst eating tea one day, a series of loud explosions rent the air as one by one each bottle exploded with the pressure. After that we bought it in from the Jones' delivery man who came with bottles of soft drinks once a week on his open backed lorry, (tuppence on the bottle if we gave it back.) His ginger beer, in glass bottles delivered in a orange painted wooden crate had secured wired stoppers on the top.

The house must have had servants in years gone by because there were still bell pushes in some of the rooms and in the middle downstairs room next to the kitchen there was a bell board which told the servant where the bell was rung from. The house had huge ceilings, probably ten feet high with picture rails and the house was draughty and usually chilly, no double glazing or central heating then. Enough reminiscing for now - time for bed with a slice of toast thinly spread with margarine and a spoon full of marmalade - 1 'Weightwatcher' point!

Chat soon


Saturday, 28 March 2009

A Wonder of Yorkshire on our doorstep

There are many wonders in Yorkshire and recently, local BBC weatherman Paul Hudson decided that his seven wonders of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire were:

Malham Cove and Gordale Scar; Flamborough Head; Hornsea Mere; Spurn Head; The peat bogs of Thorne and Hatfield Moors; The Three Peaks (Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside); The Wash.

I wouldn't argue with any of these beautiful places being natural wonders however, the original seven wonders of the ancient world traditionally described by Philo of Byzantium were all man made and one of my favourite man made wonders of Yorkshire is the Beverley Minster.

I don't want to dwell on the history too much but the place itself which is both beautiful and iconic - a picture postcard of a historical town frozen in time; indeed a visitor to the area would have seen the same sight over 500 years ago as he or she descended from the Wolds that they would see today driving in on any of the approach roads. The light coloured local Tadcaster stone from which the building is constructed makes it stand out even on a dull day. Started in 1220 AD, the building was completed around 1445 AD and although many alterations have been made since, it is larger than many English Cathedrals and is in pristine condition unlike its cousin in Kingston upon Hull - Holy Trinity which is in a sad state of disrepair.

The different styles harmonised together makes it interesting to view visually with clean detail all around.
There are many fascinating and unique features about the church, such as having the tomb of Saint John of Beverley within it as well as the largest collection in the world of medieval musical instrument carvings. There is so much to see. But what is special about the whole place is the atmosphere. It is open to the public and you are warmly welcomed by the guides who advise on the history of the church and point you in the right direction and leave you with it. Soak in the atmosphere. Take your time and wander through the different chapels, look at the tombs, the decorations, the windows and perhaps meditate in the small chapel within especially put aside for quiet reflection. I have meditated there and it's inspiring.

If you are very lucky, you can climb to the higher parts of the place, rarely opened to the public except on special days - I've never been fortunate enough to have gone up there, but those who have describe it as magical and wondrous.
You don't have to be religious at all to go there and marvel at this Yorkshire building - just enjoy.

By the way, what do you get when you cross an atheist with a Jehovah's Witness?.... Someone who knocks at your door for no apparent reason.

Have a great weekend!

Chat soon


Friday, 27 March 2009

Quantum of Solace and Taken

Had a rare but welcome night in last night with the family after an early evening meeting and we sat and watched a film together, the second this week - luxury!

The first film we watched was 'Taken' with the very talented Liam Neeson and ex Bond girl Famke Janssen as his divorced wife. Neeson is a retired CIA man who never spent much time at home hence the divorce and there is a daughter by the marriage. The spoiled and hitherto over-protected daughter goes to France on holiday with a girl friend and gets kidnapped to the sex trade and the story is how Neeson gets her back. The film is violent so if you are squeamish don't watch it and although there is not much gore, there are multiple acts of violence leading to people getting killed.

There's nothing very subtle about the film in parts and much of it is predictable, but what is lost if you are not careful is the relationship issues between Neeson and his ex who now has a new rich partner. That is beautifully played and shows the anger and anguish of a divorced couple with plenty of pain in their history. There are bits of Bourne and 007 in there and once on the journey of seeking his daughter, it is a non stop roller coaster of action with sub plots of old French intelligence agency colleagues trying to get Neeson out of the country because of the mayhem he is causing. The fight scenes are heavily edited to shows flashes of spilt second shots making you feel part of the action and that is one of my few criticisms of the film: it's sometimes hard to keep your eyes focused on the action. One to watch.

Quantum of Solace was an excellent piece of fantasy action. I didn't see this at the cinemas because of the mixed reviews and the allegation of there being no plot. This is simply not the case. The plot was thin, yes and the villain, while nasty was also subtle and not the crazy madman we are sometime used to in the older films. Older Bond movies used to move through the plot with lots of shots of the hero going about his business, speaking to people, meeting suspects, making the plot obvious - slowly unfolding, dreadful throw away lines and black humour with occasional action scenes. Not Daniel Craig; his 007 goes from one body crunching experience to another in quick time hardly letting the viewer breathe. It was probably half an hour before the film settled down from a fury of car chases, chases on foot and general mayhem into a nice rhythm. Yet again, what is exciting about this film is a relationship. The relationship between Bond and his master, 'M' deliciously played by Dame Judi Dench is a brilliant chess game to watch and is the real jewel in the crown of the new Bond.

I liked this film and Craig is definitely bedding in (excuse the pun) and there was a brilliant throw back to the Goldfinger film only this time one of his lovers ends up dead in bed, naked and covered in oil! This is slightly unusual film in that there is some continuity with the previous superb production of Casino Royale and this gives it a familiar touch - some of the characters are known and the relationships already understood. This is clearly the second in a trilogy because the dastardly organisation behind the plot is still at large and a mystery to the security service. One criticism - hate the theme music which is instantly forgettable! Highly recommended action thriller.

Today's story:

James Bond is sitting next to a particularly attractive young lady at a bar, and he keeps glancing at his watch. Noticing this rather odd behaviour, the young lady leans across to 007: 'Excuse me, but you keep looking at your wach. Are you waiting for someone?'

'No' replies the intrepid secret agent. 'Q gave me this watch, it's our latest piece of field equipment. It uses alpha waves to talk to me telepathically.'

'Really,' says the girl, intrigued. 'What's it telling you about me, then?'

'Well,' says Bond, 'it's telling me you're not wearing any knickers!'

The girl laughs out loud. 'Well you'll have to tell your friend Q that it's not working right, because I AM wearing knickers!'

Bond looks at the watch and taps the dial. 'Damn thing's an hour fast!'

Chat soon


Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Lancashire Wassock

Us Yorkshire folk have never thanked the Lancastrian folk for a great deal but today I heard the term 'wassock' used on the radio (and it wasn't a term of endearment) and I think it's a great word which originates from Lancashire, so begrudgingly, thanks to the dark side from west of the Pennines. Wassock is pronounced wazzock with emphasis on the 'zz' rather than the 's' sound and in simple terms it refers to a gullible fool, or a village idiot, with elements of pomposity. So its not just that someone is daft - its means that they are pompous too - they have a sense of excessive self-esteem or exaggerated dignity.

There's been a debate on the radio recently about how to address a woman - Mrs (Mesdames) Miss (Mistress) or Ms. It seems that the feminist lobby are up in arms about it because it's pigeon holing someone to be called Mrs or Miss. Ms is neutral as it were and of course us guys are different, we are Mr (Mister) no matter what our age, social or marital status is, so of course we are treating women differently. My wife on the other hand, a married woman (what else?) hates to be called Ms and she tears up any correspondence addressing her as Ms without even opening it. She is comfortable with being pigeon-holed.

What we call people is important though and we should of course be considerate. But being considerate and calling someone Miss or Mrs by mistake isn't being disrespectful at all, it's just society is confused about helping us say the right thing. I'm sure other languages are much more simple. In modern German speak, Frau is given to adult women while Fraulein is the address for a younger girl - seems like a solution to me.

Being a letter writer, I hate receiving a letter from someone who doesn't give their 'title', particularly women. When receiving a letter from someone you've never met and about who you know nothing when all she signs herself is 'Sarah Jones' presents me with a dilemma: How do I respond? Dear Miss Jones, Dear Mrs Jones or the neutral Dear Ms Jones? Either way, you have a 66% chance of really cheesing her off. Dear Sarah seems too personal to me and rather presumptive that calling her by her first name is acceptable.

And today's story: A man was invited for dinner at a friend's house. Every time the host needed something, he preceded his request to his wife by calling her "My Love", "Darling", "Sweetheart", etc., etc.

His friend looked at him and said, "That's really nice after all of these years you've been married to keep saying those little pet names."

The host said, "Well, to be honest, I've forgotten her name."

Chat soon


Saturday, 21 March 2009

Spring Weather Arrives...

Spring has arrived I think. It's a sunny warm-ish balmy day at around 14 degrees Celsius. Today the grass has had its second cut and a scarify to take the moss out. Some spring bulbs I planted are coming through nicely and the daffodils are just in flower and the yellows and oranges are bright in the sunshine. The purple hellebore (Christmas rose) is magnificent providing a lovely backdrop and contrast to the daffs.

Taking a breather, I have noticed a blue tit dipping in and out of a bird box that I placed about 12 foot high on a sycamore tree facing south east. I'm going to try and get a photograph of it with my Canon EOS 40D and 70-300 zoom lens on a tripod and remote so I can keep perfectly still and not disturb it. A female blackbird is collecting moss and building her nest in a yew tree next to my garden pond. Dunlins are frolicking and displaying and chasing each other frantically round the garden.

Doesn't it make you feel well with the sun on your back and warm air filling your lungs with the deep scent of newly cut grass?

All is well with the world here in East Yorkshire.

Chat soon


Friday, 20 March 2009

What NOT to say to a Police Officer...

The weekend is upon us and time for a light hearted look at life. Jokes about our contact with the Police are legend: "Blow into this bag sir." "Why?" replied the motorist. "Because my chips are too hot." The old one's are the best!

I've been stopped by the Police twice whilst driving my car, not for anything important by the way, but it's still a nervous experience. We would all like to think we can be calm and have our responses or excuses ready, but perhaps there are some things we should NOT say to the officer:
  • "Sorry, I can't reach my driver's licence unless you hold my beer!"
  • "Aren't you the bloke from the Village People?"
  • "Blimey, you must have been doing a hundred and twenty five to keep up with me - great job!"
  • "I thought you had to be in good physical condition to be a police officer?"
  • "I pay your salary!"
  • "Do I know why you pulled me over? Well no but as long as one of us does that's okay."
  • "Erm... you're not going to check in the boot are you?"
  • "Well thanks for the warning officer, the last one gave me a warning too!"
  • "Thank you for complimenting me on my good driving, you have to be careful when your p1ssed!"
  • "Red light? What red light?"
Have a great weekend

Chat soon


Goodbye Captain Brian

My sister in law's father Brian died unexpectedly recently while abroad and although he was in his seventies, he was an active man with a busy job. He was a merchant seaman foremost, latterly a Captain then a consultant and ship builder and spent most of his time and life abroad. On the occasions we met he always had a smile, a warm handshake and stories of his time in the far east and the travelling he did between great countries, the people he worked with and the hard life endured by the indigenous populations in the places he worked. Most of all he loved his family, wife, children and grandchildren. He will be missed by those who knew him and who didn't get to see him nearly enough as they wanted because he was a workaholic.

I lost a great uncle on board a trawler in the 1960s off Iceland when it sank with all hands in severe winter storms and although not directly affected then, I was too young, the family were naturally devastated. Sailors and their families are unique.

So here's my personal prayer for sailors and a thought for Brian too.

Dear Lord, your fondest feelings almost certainly are for sailors. They face the greatest of all perils to feed our families and supply us with the necessary things of life and each and every day, a long way from help, they risk all they have for us.

Spare a thought for their families who live with faith but uncertainty, who have love and patience in equal measures but with the knowledge that you will guide their loved ones to safe port once more.

Thank you for the life of those gone before who we celebrate not for their death but for the life they shared with us. Memories are the gift they leave with us and hope that we will meet once more in the place beyond our horizon.

Please Lord receive Brian into your house and begin the healing process to mend the souls of those left behind. There are many who can thank Brian for his expertise and commitment to the real camels of the sea, their design, construction, launch and maintenance. The safety of those who sailed in them was his concern.

Bless each and every sailor on the high seas, on the rivers and oceans of this planet, help them steer a true and safe passage through adversity. Let them witness bright clear dawns and magnificent sunsets on their journey through life with a sure and certain belief that whatever happens they have a greater life to look forward to.


Chat soon


Thursday, 19 March 2009

What's in a Name... Again?

I've been following, in a fashion, a debate in the Yorkshire Post about calling someone by their surname (or family name if you want to be PC), mainly in the media - and particularly newspapers. I suppose the basis of the arguments is simple. To call someone by their surname in print is simply rude. Others cite that it is a method of psychologically belittling or being critical of a person by just the use of the surname. Others are quite comfortable with it as a norm.

For example, "Brown argued that the economical solution proposed by the Tories was unworkable." Two issues there: why call our Prime Minister by his surname when he has a title - 'Brown' is sharp and functional and stand-offish; whereas 'Prime Minister' or 'Gordon Brown' seems respectful and rather more dignified. Tories, another argument altogether, of course seems to me to be simply disrespectful.

But of course newspapers and usually the big boys don't care, they know they won't be challenged and if they are, they'll simply ignore it. Being disrespectful and hoping for a bite is their business and the tabloids think it's what the common man wants to hear. The question is are they setting a damning standard for disrespect in this country? I believe they are.

However, at school both in the juniors and senior school, I can't ever remember being called by my Christian name (I can call it that - I was Christened a Christian). Being spoken to in class, shouted at in the play ground - it didn't matter and in fact my surname became a recognised and regularly used nick name for me that people would call me in everyday conversations; indeed we would do the same to their surname and convert it to a practical term of endearment. Like 'Aggers' is a friendly representation for Agnew the cricket commentator, as is 'Jonners' the familiar term for the late and much missed Brian Johnston, Belly (for Bell) a school friend of mine or Youngy for Young, simple and non offensive, never intended to be disrespectful and fully accepted.

Perhaps like the much parodied but necessary and overdue 'Respect' campaign being run by the Football League, perhaps the papers need to start respecting the public as a whole and editors need to start respecting people as individual human beings. Given respect, respect may be returned in kind. Only the destructive and evil monsters in our society deserve our contempt.

Chat soon


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Fashionista... eat your heart out

I can imagine that different things appeal to different people at different ages. Is that why I've been looking forward to wearing a nice pair of new comfy work shoes? In contrast my son, an avid 'Next' buyer looks forward to new shirts to show off and look trendy in or awaits with keen desire for the delivery of a new pair of jeans that look, when it arrives brand new in the package, as if its been worn by the entire 5th battalion of the Light Dragoons. I've never been fashionable and can't even keep up with new trends in ties.

A magazine article recently espoused that someone my age shouldn't wear jeans or rugby shirts because it simply doesn't suit our age. The weight is coming off but I still don't make a pair of jeans look good. I mean when I have them in my hands fresh out of the wardrobe they look as if they could clothe a family of six!

I think that's the rub. It's about age. Things to be avoided for me are anything styled, because it'll split at the seams; fashionable shoes that only look good on a model and I get blisters, hip t-shirts and the latest NY baseball cap - it just doesn't go with grey hair! I can't even wear tight trousers because they spilt if I bend down. I'd look like an idiot and be conscious of the fact that everyone will look at me and think 'dear, dear, why doesn't he dress for his age.' My wife is open and she usually asks if the clothes combinations she wears look okay for her and she is fine with an honest response although I rarely complain about her choice. Most women I am sure realise that they are being scrutinised by their peers, secretly or otherwise and can dress accordingly. I don't think men of my age give a toss most of the time - its what we think suits us and it's comfortable.

PJ O'Rourke in 1983 gave this advice for women and their choice of clothes, "Don't wear anything that panics the cat."

Perhaps people wear stuff just to be outrageous. I saw a woman the other day walking in the street in the cold and she must have been 50 years old and 18 stones - that's okay, it isn't a crime. However the senses were offended by how she looked - it couldn't be helped. She was showing her midriff and had a white t-shirt with a very short skirt. She must have been at most, 5' 4" and dripping with gold and plastered make up. Frankly, someone should have had the courage to say - 'whoa girl' because she looked awful. But who am I to judge, I hear you say and you are right of course, but we are all judged by certain standards aren't we whether we think we should be or not and consequently, she stood out in a crowd.

We can be old and dress well. We can be fat and dress appropriately and for comfort and still look good. I wore a white shirt to the cinema once and they showed the picture on my back!

Two lawyers are leaving the office. “I can’t wait to get home,” says one of them. “As soon as I walk in the door, I’m going to rip my wife’s panties right off.”

Lucky you,” the other says. “No, I’m serious,” says the first. “They’re killing me.”

Chat soon


Saturday, 14 March 2009

This Product Contains Nuts

I once did a paper review on the local BBC radio station with a friend Lucy and we revealed a number of strange instructions that appeared on packaging for a variety of products and I think it's worth having a giggle at the best of them:

On Boot's Children's Cough Medicine:
Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.

On a knife sharpener:
Caution: knives are sharp.

(The all time classic) On Sainsbury's peanuts:
Warning: Contains nuts.

Printed on the bottom of Tesco Tiramisu dessert:
Do not turn upside down.

(The most bizarre) On a Swedish chainsaw:
Do not attempt to stop chainsaw with hands or genitals. (

On a rifle packaging from Japan:
Warning - the use of this weapon may have fatal consequences.

Talk about stating the bleedin' obvious!

Elbert Hubbard once said, "Don't take life too seriously - you'll never get out of it alive!"

Chat soon


Friday, 13 March 2009

"Space, the Final Frontier..."

I like using text on the mobile phone - cheap, easy and quick. I got up this morning to a text from my very good friend Barry Chessman, an Emotional Freedom Technique practitioner and technician during the day. The text was sent at 2 am because he was on call on his job and the message was full of technical jargon and I did wonder why Barry was sending me some fairly obscure stuff which didn't make a great deal of sense. Of course he had selected the wrong person from his contacts and we've both had a good laugh about it.

But it's easy to do - I have big fingers and texting can be difficult and mistakes a regular occurrence. I recall my first use of a 'mobile' telephone in the early 1990s, probably around 1992. The phone, in black heavy plastic with a glowing green screen that could be seen from outer space was neatly tucked on top of a battery the size of a shoe box and connected by a coil of wire that could be used on the National Grid. Reception was hit and miss to say the least and must have used radio technology which by today's standards I suspect was fairly crude. It weighed a ton, not something you could put in your pocket!

Yet today the technology is remarkable. With a tiny piece of kit weighing just a few grammes, we can talk to someone on the other side of the the earth with a quality as if they were in the next street. How far away is Star Trek technology? When will somebody invent the equivalent of 'warp drive' that will take us to other galaxies - It can't be that far away? But still, we can't solve the problem of the common cold, zippers getting stuck at very inappropriate moments, and why we have little hard bits of dry toothpaste on the end of the tube every morning which we try not to get on the brush?

Here are ten things you could do for fun on the Star Ship USS Enterprise, NCC 1701 D:
  • Plug your Nintendo DS into Lt Commander Data;
  • Play 'Star Trekking' by The Firm on a loop on the tannoy system and superglue the off switch;
  • Put a sign on all the toilets, 'Do not use whilst in orbit;'
  • Give Lt Worf a wedgie (and run);
  • Ask Captain Picard if he could use a sextant because the computer has gone 'blue screen;'
  • Use the shuttlecraft to go to your weekly shop at Nettos;
  • Use the photon torpedoes to play space invaders with paedophiles as the targets;
  • Wander blindly round the corridors asking the crew if they've seen Luke Skywalker;
  • Alter the voice of the computer to talk like Billy Connolly;
  • Replace the automatic sliding doors ('shhhhhht') with purple velvet curtains.
Have a great weekend!

Chat soon


Thursday, 12 March 2009

Comic Relief sings...

Comic Relief is upon us once more and they have produced yet another classic song (Barry) Islands in the Sun with Ruth Jones and the clever and funny Rob Brydon of Gavin and Stacey fame. Although nothing can beat the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers version, this is a treat and well supported by Robin Gibb in the video and Tom Jones who plays along with some comic style. It's a bit like the Mamma Mia film, not brilliantly sung, but who cares - it's a laugh.

Charity is important to most people who perhaps give a quid on Poppy Day, do something daft for Children in Need or donate for the privilege of being heartily entertained on the Beeb for an evening of fun for Comic Relief, and to prove it: b
efore the show on Friday 13th March 2009, Comic Relief has raised over £35M for UK and African good causes.

For the last seven years, the Comic Relief song has been number one in the charts. How many comic songs can you name (there were some pop songs too)? I struggled, but cheated to list them here for you...
  • 2008 - 'I'm gonna be (500 miles)' - The Proclaimers, Brian Potter and Andy Pipkin;
  • 2005 - 'Is this the way to Amarillo' - Tony Christie and Peter Kay;
  • 1994 - Absolutely Fabulous' - Pet Shop Boys, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley;
  • 1992 - 'I want to be elected' - Smear Campaign, Bruce Dickinson, Angus Deyton, Rowan Atkinson;
  • 1991 - 'The Stonk' - Hale and Pace backed by David Gilmour and Brian May;
  • 1989 - 'Help' - Bananarama and Lanananeeneenoonoo - French and Saunders with Kathy Burke;
  • 1987 - 'Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree - Mel Smith and Kim Wilde;
  • 1986 - 'Living Doll' with Cliff Richard and the cast of The Young Ones.
Let's not forget why we give to charity because behind the facade presented to persuade us from parting with our cash, there is the serious business of saving life or making the quality of life more bearable for disadvantaged and vulnerable people around the world. What else can we do in our everyday lives to bring the world into peace, make less opportunity for war and provide comfort for those who have just a tiny fraction of what we have and enjoy without thinking too much about. Individually we can't put the world to rights and to think we can is delusional. But the efforts of celebrities who entertain and the hundreds of thousands who will work to raise funds is very worthwhile and I salute them all.

Have a great Comic Relief Day

Chat soon


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Murder in Ireland

My thoughts are with the family and friends of murdered PSNI police officer and grandfather Stephen Carroll gunned down in Craigavon and my thoughts go out to those close to murdered soldiers, sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar murdered by gunmen in Antrim.

I was watching the BBC News and looked in horror at the terrified faces of women interviewed on the streets of Craigavon who didn't want a return to violence and who had children who had never experienced the terror on the streets and others interviewed who have enjoyed the recent peace in that great but troubled land of Ireland.

Thousands marched on the streets, people crossing political divides to condemn the murders. Silent protests and vigils mean that people care about their society and their communities as any peace loving people should do. I hope it passes a message to those that attempt to destroy what has been worked so hard for and which has had such a heavy cost in lives over the decades that the ordinary Irish people do not want violence of any kind. All politicians have so far joined the condemnation, some more vigorously than others and I hope those responsible are brought swiftly to justice.

Ten years since the last police officer murdered, 12 years of peace, troops down from 27,000 to 5,000. What an achievement against seemingly overwhelming odds. Let those politicians who were once on the 'other side' play the right hand and not deal a winning solution to the dissident terrorists who will be watching their reaction closely.

Chat soon


Sunday, 8 March 2009


I was reminded by one of my football correspondents (who send me local youth match reports for publication) that my blog goes further afield than I would have imagined - thanks for your kind comments Ivor. The world of volunteers is vast, without whom, all the attributes of a caring society would surely disappear?

"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."
Elizabeth Andrew

In the context of what Ivor and his kind do, they may do it for their children or community; to give something back, to see others benefit without necessarily asking for or expecting anything in return. We all have the ability or opportunity to give something to our community whoever they are - a particular social group, the area, a group of people perhaps disabled or young or old. I can vouch, as a volunteer, that the act of giving something back gives a warm glow no matter what people think - and there are those who still criticise volunteers, those critics are sad, sad people.

Volunteering probably replaces the caring for the family by the family we see in many countries around the world. In this country, we care more for others than our own family often and that's not a criticism, it's an observation of something of which I approve.

We have developed, through having a free and open society with opportunities, a kind of independence through the more recent post war years. In my young life, my grandparents lived in the family home as well as my parents and myself. My family history research has found that multiple generations living in one house or part of a house was common, and the geographical location made no difference - my London roots are no different from my ancestors in the heart of the East Riding of Yorkshire and Kingston upon Hull.

But I was lucky to have a job as a 16 year old and bring in a small income from an unskilled job and I had parents who were wise enough to put some regular, albeit small sum of money away on a regular basis which in the end provided a full deposit for my first house. I gained my independence in pretty quick time and married at 22 with my own house. How different it is now with kids struggling to find deposits, decent quality reasonably priced homes in reasonable areas.

Perhaps our children will once more become more dependent on their parents than I had to be (although mine helped me out often in the early years of struggle) and maybe we will see more than one generation living together in the future, who knows? Family values and better people may emerge.

"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Chat soon

Ta ra.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Ten things to do on a Weekend

It's the weekend and with only two days, what can you get up to to make it a satisfying use of your own time - I've made some suggestions below. I looked for some suggestions on the net and the results were not promising. One site suggested in it's top ten: Visit a planetarium; Take a Barista Coffee course; Take a defensive driving course; Test drive your dream car; Visit a day spa; Visit a theatre or opera; Take a coach tour; Book a last minute hotel room; Have a posh picnic; Visit an old friend.

Wow. There's an emerging theme there: you have to have oodles of spare cash or live in a larger city and have servants at home to do all your work. So I thought of the top ten things I might think about doing myself (wife in bed because of her shift work):

Visit The Deep in Hull - cheap and you don't have to use your brain and jostle with the occasional little bad tempered brat - cost - negligible;
Visit a book shop - browse at leisure in a quiet atmosphere and watch men sneaking peaks at erotic novels pretending to have a serious literary interest - don't have to buy anything;
Have a nice coffee in a book shop cafe - couple of quid for a coffee and earwig the nearby conversations to see how the other half live;
Put the clothes in the washer - don't mixed coloureds and whites on a hot wash - cost - already bought the tablets which have turned into powder and spill on the floor the minute you tear the strip seal;
Tumble the clothes you earlier put in the washer - no immediate cost just a huge electricity bill at the quarter end - don't forget to clean the fluff filter and place it in the carrier bag which already has three months worth of pubic hair and fluff;
Clean son's bedroom - Don personal protective equipment, recover 6 side plates, fourteen corners of mouldy bread crust from sandwiches, eight glasses of pink coloured liquid with floating furry mouldy things and 37 assorted single socks from around the room, all different - cost? Five years off your life through worry in fear of what you'll find;
Wash the car - Good exercise and plenty of fresh air on a spring like day - find dents in door where some uncaring bastard has opened their door onto your pride and joy - cost? Previous good temper;
Buy a lottery ticket - learn from last time: attempted to buy a lottery ticket only to find I'd forgotten my wallet and only had 93p in change;
Read the paper - 50p to read depressing investigative journalism, find out what who is doing to who in soap operas, take a sneaky peek at the agony aunt's page for a bit of spice and complete all the crossword clues except one - there's always one;
Cup of tea - the Yorkshireman's best drink of the day - relax and enjoy!

Chat soon


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Diet Started... Day three and not hallucinating yet!

The late, great Harry Secombe said, "My advice if you insist on slimming: Eat as much as you like - just don't swallow it."

I started my diet on Monday and the planning for my other half to join in starts soon and we will also get a grip of better planning for meals and shopping around our dietary needs. The shocking realisation was that I might have to lose nearly half my weight over a period of about two years! Hell fire - it looks worse when i write it down. But I am absolutely determined.

Buying the right food can be a little more expensive I guess which is why I always think it's a bit of a dilemma if you are not particularly well off and need to diet. After all, I can't use the tins of tuna in the back of the cupboard that have a 'sell by' date of June 2006, nor can the soft squelchy bit of cucumber end in cellophane at the bottom of the fridge be of any real use. The carrots bend like fingers and the celery is now yellow instead of green. The brown Cos lettuce has bred with the furry tomatoes and produced something that snaps at me every time I put my hand in the fridge.

I think I'll start an on line petition on the 'Number 10' web site for tax relief for slimmers.

Let's see: taking into account inflation, cost of living, embarrassment compensation, tax saved on not having NHS treatment for mass liposuction, new clothing allowance, rabbit food allowance, buying new recipe books allowance, allowance for time spent responding in kind to people who say they think you look ill when you've lost a few pounds, denial of crisps and chocolate allowance - I think the Government owes me money for losing weight and with a hell of a lot of weight to lose - I could be rich!

One - two - three - snap! I'm back in the room! Time for a reality check. Will someone tell me what the hell is poly-unsaturated fat? No don't. I think I'd rather be ignorant and stick with low fat, sensible, moderate eating based on an old Weightwatchers diet book we found in a cupboard from a few years ago. My friends have been very helpful with their hints, all of which contradict each other.

We're off and I'll keep you posted as I only want to weigh myself once a month. My first weighing on the day I started my diet resulted in a zero weight loss. (Ha! I'm not telling you how much I weigh - it's a national secret.)

"Self delusion is pulling in your stomach when you step on the scales."
Paul Sweeney

Chat soon


Monday, 2 March 2009

Where there's a will, there are relations...

I am delighted that I've made an acquaintance with a lost lost relative who lives in Canada. Hello Christine! The thing is, it took the sad passing of her mother to bring us together. I knew from our family history that someone - I had no idea who - lived in Canada. Someone connected to my grandmother.

By coincidence, I rekindled my acquaintance with another first cousin once removed (don't ask what that means) Anita just a couple of years ago having not been in touch for donkey's years. It was Anita who identified my Canadian first cousin also once removed. I don't mind embarrassing Anita , because I haven't identified her, by saying she is a one off kind of person in a family that keeps in touch with everyone no matter how distant and keeps a grip on what's happening. She cares for those who are not well and gives of her time and love freely even though she lives some distance away and has her own family to look after.

My brother in law is the same. Through the years, he has maintained a positive contact with all his close family even though some of them did not used to talk to each other unless necessary. He is another of this kind I am referring to - they deserve awards.

As a nation, we have perhaps lost in part the ability to keep our relatives close by in our hearts and do the right thing when necessary without living in each others pockets. The same might be said of our neighbours - well those we get on with. What is that? Good citizenship, having a conscience or just being a good person. Being able to bury the hatchet, put trivial disputes the origins of which are probably long forgotten behind us and move on - life is too short to harbour grudges and animosity. To be bitter about something or someone will drive you into an early grave.

I don't know much about the Bible (and this is not preaching because I am not a religious person as such), but it accepts that forgiveness is not a right to expect nor is it automatic that it be given. Why would you or should you forgive someone who has murdered a loved one of yours for example or committed some other grievous crime against you and I don't think anyone in their right mind would expect you to. For me, to give pity and to feel sorry for someone is the greatest weapon in your arsenal and move on. It isn't forgiveness but allows some peace perhaps. Whilst one may personally decide to forgive, ultimately, to forgive is a divine right and there's only one 'person' that can give it.

So make allowances, bite your tongue, make contact, say hello, share a cuppa and friendships and relationships will bear fruit - perhaps, but how do you know unless you try?

Elbert Hubbard in The Notebook, 1927 said, "Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you."

Chat soon


Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Great Game - (for the time being)

I don't support Hull City nor am I a fan, in fact I'm a footballing neutral but being my local team, I do follow them with interest. I listened today to the commentary on the local radio and frankly, they way the commentators described Hull City's play - it sounded dire and relegation could now be on the cards after their dream start in the Premiership. They needed to win against Blackburn and get the three points; in fact they lost, at home, 1 - 2.

The late Bill Shankly, a dry humoured Scot and legendary Liverpool manager once said, "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

My dad was a reasonable footballer and played for Hull City Juniors as a young man and finished his footballing days playing for Cottingham United. Indeed dad was a good athlete all round, probably thirty years before his time. I've wittered before about footballers wages - I earn in one year what a lot of them earn in less than one week! But at the end of the day (another cliche - sorry) they are being paid humongous wages for playing a game which of course is now big business all round. It has, in my view destroyed the game I loved as a kid which was good honest good quality football with no frills attached. There's the big six Premiership teams and the rest. Big money groups and self made millionaires are buying up clubs for silly money and expecting to get overnight success.

They change managers like they change socks but have forgotten one of English footballing fundamentals: Football is a culture in this country and will not, should not and cannot change overnight. Manchester United have got where they have after years and years of passionate commitment. Liverpool 50 years ago were in the second division and have grafted with the same guts and determination to get where they have today. Chelsea paid to get into the top and found success for a while but that hasn't been sustainable as yet and won't become so for many years. Arsenal won't find that elusive consistent success until they start to have a mix of home grown and foreign talent. When will the money men realise that success cannot be bought overnight?

But then what do I know? I don't have the answers, I am not a tactician but simply an armchair voyeur into the world of sport in general and some fans think people like me shouldn't have an opinion. The professional world of football needs to have a damn good look at itself because if you're not in the top handful of mega rich clubs, we'll see semi pro football as the norm in years to come for everyone else. The 'great game' will be no more.

Ian Rush, another home grown Liverpool hero was quoted as saying, "It's best being a striker. If you miss five then score the winner, you're a hero. The goalkeeper can play a blinder, then let one in… and he's a villain."

Chat soon