Sunday, 31 May 2009

May's blogs and some Goldwynisms

As we say farewell to May 2009, I'll be remembering to say 'white rabbit' three times in the morning for good luck and 'black cat' tonight to see the month out.

The month has been a diverse one for stories and subjects. I started with superstitions because of my propensity to be rather superstitious and I enjoyed the research to find the real stories behind why I do things - and now I can understand why I do these little ritualistic responses to certain events.

Next came a spooky tale about a visit to an old church and unfinished mysteries to be discovered I suspect. I then extolled the virtue of the East Riding of Yorkshire and places to visit followed by a sad obituary to an old friend, Common Sense who died recently. The cricketer Graham Onions prompted me to write about surnames and those odd one's I had come into contact with over the years and then we had a giggle day with some jokes and stories as well as exploring the funnier side of the difference between the sexes.

After a quick one paragraph rant about MPs expenses, I chatted about memories of my old Dansette record player and my taste in music (or not) when I was a kid. 'Enigma' was a thought piece about Derren Brown after seeing his mind bending show of that name at the Grimsby Auditorium followed by my recall of seeing old style comics on stage in the East Yorkshire area after the news that Ken Dodd had been cancelled for a show in Nottingham.

Picking up my son after university was my next story and filling my modest car to its full capacity (and more) with his stuff that his mother did not know he had. I then decided to do a list, something I had neglected for a while and exposed some myths and put forward some real facts such as: 'You have NO muscles in your fingers - fingers use tendons.'

Another spooky tale came along with my experience of 'the Traveller,' in Tale of the Unexpected 2 - still shivering from that one! And then a more sanguine blog about gardening in the glorious May weather. 'Menagerie' was a mix of different bits and pieces I needed to get off my chest and 'Number 29' was a memory tester of a childhood home, its garden and my maternal grandfather. Yesterday I described a meditation exercise for anyone who needs to relax; and today? You've just read it!

Happy June!

Here's a quick list of my favourite gaff-maker's finest work, courtesy of course, of Samuel Goldwyn.
  • They say it's not as bad as they say it is.
  • It's spreading like wildflowers.
  • We'll jump off that bridge when we come to it.
  • Gentlemen, include me out.
  • I'll give you a definite maybe.
  • I can answer in two words: im-possible.
  • Directors are always biting the hand that lays the golden egg.
Courtesy - The Funniest Thing You Never Said - Rosemarie Jarski

Chat soon


Saturday, 30 May 2009

Meditation to relax...

As May comes to a close in glorious bright spring technicolour, it's time to take stock and if you remember I said I would look at meditation and give you a simple start to the art, and I'll begin with meditation to relax. Meditation isn't mumbo-jumbo, nor is it dangerous, perhaps it could make you nod off until you get used to it which is why you should never attempt this when you are driving or operating machinery because you can also meditate with your eyes open.

What is meditation? I'm not an expert and I've learned my techniques from friends and experience and from my inspirers Shirley Ann and Barry, but one thing it is not and that is clearing the mind. You can't do it - it's impossible, so I try to channel the thoughts that I have into an all round pleasant experience. Your mind will wander, no doubt about it, but as you persist, it will get easier to concentrate on keeping your mind focused and put to one side the stresses and trauma of the day. You will come out of the meditation refreshed and if you do it late at night when the house is dark and quiet, you can nip off to bed when it's complete and hopefully sleep well.

You can do this at any time of the day or night. The first thing is make sure that you cannot be interrupted. Unplug the phone, give the dog a bone and sent it to another part of the house, switch your mobile off and if there is anyone else in the house - tell them what you are doing and stick a note on the door; DO NOT DISTURB!

Choose some music. Soft music, not strident and no singing unless it's something like Gregorian Chants type music. It should last about half an hour or so at most - something instrumental and easy listening is fine. Put it on low as a background noise.

Loosen the clothing - try to undo the belt gents, and ladies, a dressing gown is good or loose dress. Now find somewhere to sit. Now I prefer a hard backed dining type chair where I sit upright with my feet firmly on the floor - it helps me not to nod off, but for now, if you have a favourite comfy chair, that's fine. Your hands and arms need to relax so put your hands in your lap or rest them on the chair arm. If you want to hold something in your hand, like a favourite old ring or a flower or a token from the past, please do so.

The important thing to remember is that you shouldn't stop a meditation and suddenly get up and rush around the room, if you do, because your body is so relaxed, you could feel dizzy, so take your time to make sure you are fully aware of what's happening around you before you start to move around. The same applies at the end of your meditation.

Try to ignore noises like traffic or someone walking around upstairs or sneezing - make it part of your imaginary journey. Stay calm, do not get angry or frustrated.

If you are ready, then let's begin.

Close your eyes and wait a few seconds until you feel comfortable with your eyes closed. If at anytime you are worried or think there's someone around, you can open them briefly.

1 Take three deep breaths. Take your time. Every time you breathe out, feel your body relax and your muscles loosen their tension.

2 When you've taken your three breaths, concentrate on breathing steadily and reasonably slowly. When you breathe, concentrate on your stomach muscles relaxing and moving in and out as you breathe.

3 I want you now to imagine your favourite colour. It can be anything you like but make it a bright and cheerful colour. Imagine a blanket made of that colour, that bright light and imagine wrapping it around yourself, cover yourself fully with its protective and healing light. Imagine pulling it over your head, wrapping it round your body even under your feet until you are fully surrounded by this blanket of beautiful light.

4 Return to your breathing and start to relax even more every time you breathe out. Feel your shoulders dropping, your facial muscles relaxing (you might have a gormless look on your face - it doesn't matter - no one else is around). Your fingers totally relax and every time you breathe out, relax even more, down and down.

5 Imagine now your favourite place, perhaps from childhood or some time ago. It can be indoors or outside. This is your safe place. It is a place you enjoyed and have happy memories, and any time you feel sad or lonely or vulnerable, you can meditate and return here. Look around you - what is in your favourite place? Are there objects on the table or shelves, can you remember what was in the drawers; what colour was the carpet; if you are outside is the grass green, what flowers were in this place, is the lake placid and calm - look for some details. You might even remember a favourite person, someone from your past in that place. Remember the smells, sights, sounds and feelings. You can spend a few minutes here. Once you've done that it's time for a journey.

6 It doesn't matter if you are not very able or fit, this is a journey in the mind, there are no barriers. You can go anywhere you like, but for now, let me take you to a really nice place and on the way, try to imagine some detail of the place that surrounds you as we walk along.

7 The day is warm and there are fair weather clouds above. We are walking along a grass field with insects wafting gently in the breeze highlighted in the sunlight. There are wild flowers scattered in the ground and the sun is warm on your back. In the distance in front of you are some hills, green and dappled in sunlight and a few yards away a hedge with a stile in it.

8 You climb over the stile and begin to walk up the hill - up a gentle incline and remember you will never be out of breath no matter how steep it gets. Sky Larks twitter high above your head - concentrate on their distant warbling. A rabbit feeds on the grass nearby and in the next field behind a dry stone wall are sheep lazily chomping on grass.

9 You come to a path and the path leads you to a 'chocolate box' cottage with white walls, rambling roses and multi-coloured bright flowers in a small garden. As you approach the door, you notice it is slightly ajar and the door opens as if to welcome you in. As you walk in, there is a highly polished floor and a three piece suite with a floral pattern to it and against one wall a roaring fire sparks up the chimney.

10. You sit in the chair near the fire and look around you. Spend a few minutes doing this. There may be books in a bookcase - notice their bindings and colour; are there flowers on the table which is covered with a crocheted table cloth - a re there other objects. There may be a piano with picture frames showing people from long ago, some you may recall. Is there an animal dozing in a chair, a cat or a dog perhaps - you might even recognize it?

11 Put some detail of this lovely cottage in your mind , the smell of pine logs on the fire or baking of fresh bread from the kitchen. Out of the window, what can you see in the garden? Perhaps you might want to go and wander round the borders and smell the flowers. Can you smell your favourite rose or herbs; actually try to imagine the smell. Stay here a few minutes.

12 You have a last look around after soaking up the atmosphere and we begin our journey back. Down the path, down the gentle hill - easier walking this time, down the hill and over the stile and into the grass field and finally into your favourite place - your safe place. Has anything changed? Are there new objects or has the scene changed completely?

13 Become aware of the seat you are sitting on. Feel the clothes you have on against your skin. Stretch your fingers, wiggle your toes and when you are ready - don't rush this - open your eyes.

14 Sit still for a few moments, become accustomed to what you see around you before moving. If you come round too quick, you might experience a slight headache. If you do close your eyes again and breath deeply for three breaths. Take a drink of water or a soft drink and you should be fine.

Did you nod off? Well that's okay because clearly you needed the sleep to refresh your body and mind and sleeping is excellent relaxation. As you get used to meditation, you find yourself nodding off less and less.

How do you remember all this? Well don't worry if you miss something out or you get it all done in ten minutes, as long as you discipline your mind to the detail you are imagining, you will be fine. During your meditation, if the thought comes into your head that you have to go shopping, or you think about the fall out you had with your spouse earlier or 'how I am going to pay the bill', then think very clearly and if you want to, say it out loud, "I don't want to think about that," and think hard back to your journey and think about the detail of the journey.

The same applies if something unpleasant or nasty pops into your head. Just think hard and say out loud, "I don't want to think about that - go away," and watch it shrink away against your strength of character.

Don't forget, you can journey where ever you like. If you don't like open spaces, walk around inside a large building with corridors and rooms. If you like water, walk along a river. You don't have to make it all up, you might decide to journey somewhere you've been before and enjoyed; your imagination can take you to a new world of your own creation because you can put whatever pleasing detail you like into your imaginary world, whether its a scene you know or you've just made it up.

I hope that's been useful... enjoy and let me know how you've got on.

Chat soon


Friday, 29 May 2009

Number 29

This must be the first weekend since perhaps this time last year where I can honestly say I have nothing planned, perhaps cutting the grass and that's it. I have pondered about sitting out, and enjoying the sun sheltered from the breeze and maybe listening to the FA Cup Final on the radio whilst enjoying the fresh air. Food has been bought in for the weekend and the car is already nice and clean. My wife has done the housework because she's been off this week and there's no washing and drying to do.

"A husband is what is left of the lover after the nerve has been extracted."
Helen Rowland.

So, this is a time perhaps I like most, taking the opportunity to relax, recharge the batteries, read, meditate and just chill out. Lazy? No I think I'm entitled now and then. One none energetic thing I will be doing is testing my memory again in meditation looking back to childhood, remembering smells, events, sounds, feelings, sights, people, home and whatever else comes to mind. My friend Shirley Ann says that most memory survives and is locked away somewhere and I guess that meditation really does allow recall to become easier and is certainly remarkably so in my case.

The large Victorian house - 'number 29' as the family remember it had surprisingly small gardens. The front was perhaps only eight feet deep, concreted with a small bird bath in the centre surrounded by four standard roses in neat square holes in the grey utility ground. London pride and cotoneaster grew on the edges and the low wall with sandstone top was convenient to sit upon and chat to whoever was around. The iron railings which must have once stood proud on the wall had clearly been taken during the war years to help with the effort against the enemy and surely built spitfires or tanks.

Mr Western lived next door, a former war hero who sadly decayed into dementia and alcoholism in his dotage. His back garden was untended and knee deep in nettles, always an unpleasant experience when trying to retrieve one's tennis or cricket ball. The back gardens were shallow too, perhaps twenty feet at most with borders made of sandy soil, made gritty over the years through dumping ash from the many fires in the house in the garden. A small home made concrete fish pond stood lonely in the corner of the garden with a lily that was too big for it and indeed dangerous for goldfish because my father, a fisherman had once brought home a pike he had caught in a plastic bag that he thought was dead with a view to feeding the cat, Thomas. The pike miraculously had survived the journey and refused to die and lived out its life in the pond for several years, feeding on goldfish and goodness knows what else - stray curious cats and birds landing on the lily pads to drink I suspect.

Although there was a toilet and separate bathroom in the house with a huge zinc bath, there was also an 'outhouse' and coal house next to it. The toilet had to have a little Kelly lamp lit in the winter to stop the water freezing. The coal house had coal and coke for different fires which for some reason were peculiar for what they would or wouldn't burn. The back garden was too small to play ball games in and friends and I would play cricket and football in the back ten-foot (because it was ten-foot wide) using Mr Kirkness's garage door as a goal or wicket.

This is the first and probably the last picture you will ever see of me, and that's as a young boy, seven or eight years old, proudly stood in the back garden of 'number 29' with Grandfather, a blind World War 1 veteran with one leg, the other having been shot off in the trenches. Spiritually, I know he's still around my family today even though we have moved many miles away; spirits have no sense of distance! A great background detail is Mr Western's 'outhouse' and coal house!

"Instead of getting married again, I'm going to find a woman I don't like and just give her a house!"
Rod Stewart, musician.

Chat soon


Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Menagerie... in the context of this blog, 'a diverse or miscellaneous group'. So much to say, so little time to write blog - indeed, it's gone 10 pm and I should be in bed.

But, dear blogger friends some good news to impart about the diet. I hadn't forgotten to update you, but if you remember I am only getting weighed once per month and Tuesday was the day. My belt is getting smaller, my trousers baggier and there is a gap appearing around my collar making my shirts just loose enough for me to button the collar for the first time in many a good year.

Well I did it again, I lost 4.9 Kg or 10.75 pounds in four weeks. That makes, in total, a loss in three months of three stone one pound. Low fat (as few saturated fats as possible) is doing the trick, plenty of fluids and walking. My wife who is also doing the diet has lost 14 pounds in the same period.

Work is busy and I have just had a promotion which is good news in this economic climate, but the price to be paid is a lot more responsibility and staff to supervise which I thought I had left behind some three years ago. But I like the challenge and having supportive, intelligent and 'can-do' line managers helps drive the job ever forward. One of my valued work colleagues and friend has moved to another department and although his move is temporary, I suspect it will become permanent as he such a professional and will make excellent headway in a difficult role. One of my line managers is retiring shortly after exceptional service and he will be sorely missed, but I am very lucky as a human being to count him as a friend and I will follow his retirement and the exciting plans he has with a lot of interest - more on that when he goes in July.

A blogger friend
Magnumlady who lives in Sligo, Ireland has complained that while we were having glorious sun last Bank Holiday weekend, she was having drenching rain and her latest lovely picture shows a flower, perhaps an iris, covered in rain. Well news for you Val, its been raining here and temperatures have dropped dramatically and a cooler breeze has set in for the time being - a bit of a shock, but a nice weekend is forecast - I'll order some sun for you.

My psychic work took a turn for the better this week with an excellent psychic circle and clearer contact with the world of spirit than I've had for a while, it made it all worthwhile. Psychic ability, skill or gift, whichever you prefer to call it goes in peaks and troughs - good weeks, bad weeks and indifferent weeks and I suspect it very much depends on how you feel, what your attitude is, how calm and relaxed you are and what meditation and practise you do.

Well that's about it for tonight. Having watched Manchester United get turned over in Rome by Barcelona (they just didn't turn up!) on very poor quality
ITV coverage and helped my middle son write some letters to cancel all his bills now he's moved out of his student flat, I am now going for a meditation while listening to some very soothing Gregorian Chants in the background. I think this weekend, I'll post some details about the way I do meditation (from a very good teacher) and see what you think to having a go to relax the mind and body yourself.

"I want to be young and wild; and then I want to be middle aged and rich; and then I want to be old and annoy people by pretending I'm deaf."
Rowan Atkinson, Blackadder

Chat soon


Sunday, 24 May 2009

Summer is a-coming in...

Solanum Crispum 'Glasnevin'

What a fabulous day. I have no idea what the temperature has been, but there's been no breeze to speak of and the sky has not seen a cloud all day. Simply glorious.

Most of the bedding plants have gone in today, some in the border and some in tubs and this year, for the first time I've had to put slug pellets down. We have loads of birds in the garden of every description and for the thirteen years we've been here, we've never had a problem because the blackies and thrushes go hunting for the little slimy buggers, that was until last year when all the hostas were left like skeletons after an invasion of slugs and snails. Anyway for all you slug and snail lovers, it says on the tin that the slug pellets are organic, it means it kills them kindly!

Gardening question: If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?


Early summer flowers are here in force, the weigela are nearly in full bloom and the ceanothus is bright blue, taking over from the clematis montana that has just finished. The bearded irises are almost ready to come out and the hostas are in full leaf and with several varieties, I have a nice mixed green display. I have a nice tan and despite the midges, never got bitten once.

Tomorrow it's time just to sit and enjoy. It's a nice place to meditate and the birds singing help me to drift off and exercise the spiritual mind.
The Met Officer weather warning for heavy thundery rain on Monday afternoon moving up from the south means a morning sun and meditation session.

Hull City have retained their place in the Premiership for next season by the skin of their teeth and hopefully they will be spending some brass on players that can stick the ball in the back of the net. Well done the Tigers.

How about a gardening story today?

A man went into the local flower shop. The assistant politely enquired, "Is there anything I can get for you sir?"

The man hesitantly replied, "Well I... erm.. I don't really know what to... erm... I..."

The assistant helpfully said, "Perhaps I can assist; tell me exactly what you've done."

Chat soon


Saturday, 23 May 2009

Tale of the unexpected 2...

During my Saturday evening hike walking through pleasant hills and dales in the countryside of the north, I had spectacularly misjudged the time it was going to take me between the pub I had my lunch at and the B & B in a small rural village I had booked on the Internet. Looking back, perhaps I had imbibed just one extra for the road which isn't a good idea normally for a walker with a few miles in front of him, but the beer was cool, tasty and golden.

The last vestiges of light were showing to the west and stars were just starting to twinkle in this place where no light pollution barred the delights of the heavens. A full moon, low and large in the sky showed it's mournful face. The day, if you remember was warm, the first dry day for a while and the air was still and smelled slightly damp.
I decided that as the forecast was fair, I would sleep al fresco overnight and was looking for a suitable spot, an old barn or a derelict shepherd's hut often found dotted around these lonely roads.

, the tarmacadam road, although narrow and wide enough just for one car, became cobbled. My walking boots slid easily across the smooth well worn stones. Ahead I saw a cottage on my right. As I got closer, I noticed it was covered in ivy and the front garden which was about three foot deep was overgrown with what remained of cottage plants, hollyhocks, roses, lupins and others I couldn't identify.

The windows were dark and I knocked on the door and the hollow sound of my knock thundered through the cottage but there was no response. I looked around the back garden which was full of sapling trees, seeded over years of neglect but the doors were firmly shut. The moonlight cast a half light about the place creating dark shadows here and there and I felt slightly uncomfortable, as if being watched, but then I was tired and the place was unfamiliar
to me. I walked back onto the road and opposite the cottage I spied an old bench on the other side of the cobbles facing the ivy clad cottage. Like all good hikers, I came prepared and settled down in my sleeping bag on the solid if somewhat elderly bench, resting, I imagined, like many before me.

Uneasily, I began to nod off when I heard loud knocking. Startled, I raised myself on my elbow and as I looked toward the cottage, there was a man stood at the door. He knocked at the moonlit door and I heard him ask firmly, "Is anybody there?"

I suddenly noticed that just a few yards along the road was a horse, tethered to the fence and it was eating the grass on the verge; yet despite the stillness, I could not hear it chomp. A startled bird flew out of the iv
y above the man's head and frightened me for an instant, but it seemed not to bother him. He was strangely dressed in what looked like a brown coat with long tails and a brown waistcoat. He wore a white silk cravat around his neck, almost flourescent in the moonlight. His trousers were like cords and he had riding boots, shining and highly polished in the moons silvery glow. On his head was the strangest thing, it looked like a tricolour hat, three corners and black - how bizarre. He hammered on the door again, "Is anybody there?" Louder this time.

No one answered and I was dumb struck, I couldn't move. I wanted to tell him that no-one was in, but he stood still, lis
tening. The silence was overwhelming and I daren't intervene. Nothing was there to listen to the sound of man in the dead of night, and yet, I imagined a thousand eyes upon him from the windows, a hundred ears listening quietly from the dark empty interior.

The horse moved and I jumped again. This time the man, (I'll call him the Traveller because of his mode of transport), banged on the door even louder with his clenched fist and almost shouted, "Tell them I came, and no-one answered, that I kept my word." I thought I heard the echo of his emotional and fatalistic sounding voice through the cottage and then once more silence descended and what I was watching was, for a fleeting moment, captured like a photograph: still and silent, but no camera could capture the melancholy of the scene before me.

I fumbled for my digital camera and took a picture but even though the flash lit the scene and highlighted the face of the man in his early thirties, with a handsome and weathered face, he batted not an eyelid as he put his foot in the stirrup and rode away and the sound of iron on the cobbles faded away as he rode off into the enveloping darkness.

Silence reigned once more and I nervously packed my bag and hurriedly left the area in the pitch black with just a small torch and moonlight to guide me. Eventually, out of breath, I came to an old pub a few miles down the road where I obtained shelter for the night and settled into a warm soft bed but not before I had partaken of a neat scotch with the landlord to settle my nerves.

Over a hot chocolate in my attic bedroom, I looked on the map for the name of the cottage on the cobbled road and although I had the latest edition of the Ordnance Survey for the area, I could find no cottage and no imprint of a road, any road on the map - cobbled or otherwise. I scoured the map until the early hours of the morning and could find no trace of the ivy covered cottage.

I looked at the one photograph I took of the Traveller as I had lain on the bench transfixed by that haunting scene.
I had seen his face through the viewfinder brightly lit by the flash at the time I took the photograph.
The photograph dear blogger, shows the old cottage with slate roof and mature creeping ivy; but... no Traveller.

Chat soon


With thanks to Walter de la Mare for his inspiration. Story and picture intellectual property of Rarelesserspotted.

Don't let facts stand in the way of a good story...

It's a while since I did a 'list' and I've been reading a fascinating book written by the QI team of John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, the Book of General Ignorance. For want of a better expression, they explode some popular myths which is really interesting in a yawn inducing kind of way, but the real facts do allow you to say to your mate in the pub, 'actually you are quite wrong there, the reality is...' and this can help you sound like a real smart arse. So here we go with just a handful of the 'real facts list':
  • You have FOUR nostrils, not two - two you can see and two you can't;
  • The driest place on earth is Antarctica (no rain in parts for two million years);
  • How many wives did Henry VIII have? - Four NOT six. The marriage to Anne of Cleeve was annulled which means it never took place and the marriage to Anne Boleyn was illegal because Henry was still married to Catherine of Aragon;
  • Where was Baseball invented? England in 1744 - then called base ball;
  • What do we use to write on a blackboard? Gypsum (NOT chalk) which is calcium sulphate;
  • The equals sign, = comes from Wales first introduced and used by Robert Recorde in 1557;
  • The chicken is the commonest bird in the world with about 52 billion of our very useful feathered friends around;
  • You have NO muscles in your fingers - fingers use tendons;
  • The longest animal is not the blue whale, but the boot lace worm, Lineus Longissimus which reaches lengths of 60 metres;
  • Statistically, Monday 27th is the unluckiest date, NOT Friday 13th.
And here's one for all you fervent nationalists around, the Duke of Wellington, (who did NOT invent Wellington boots) was Irish, born in Dublin in 1769.

And today's story: A man went to his doctor and told him he thought he was going deaf. "What are the symptoms?" the Doctor asked.

The man replied, "A yellow cartoon family and the mother has large blue hair."

(The picture at the top is a 30 second exposure shot with camera on a tripod during a thunderstorm in East Yorkshire, if you click on it to enlarge you will see a brave bird flying at night. The lightening flashes are both spectacular and intricate.)

Chat soon


Friday, 22 May 2009

As time goes by...

Wow - a whole working week without posting a blog - life has been so busy I don't know where time has gone. I had the whole week free on a night time but that soon went Pete Tong as demands on my time became more intense - so much for relaxing. My middle lad has finished his university degree course reading archaeology and I went to Nottingham to pick him up after work last night. I had a director's meeting and I set off around 7.30 pm and arrived in Nottingham around nine.

Eric: "When it came to education, my father wanted me to have all the opportunities he never had."
Ernie: "So what did he do?"
Eric: "He sent me to a girl's school."
Morecambe and Wise, 1979.

My son had already been back home at Easter and had allegedly brought most of his stuff back home then according to his mother and this trip would be a couple of boxes and Bob's your uncle. WRONG!

After a whole hour loading my modest estate car, full to the gunnels with stuff jammed in to nooks and crevices all over, I had to move my seat so far forward that I was virtually touching the wheel with my chest. That was fine except when I got back home after midnight, I struggled to get out of the car! Anyway - welcome home son - good to have you back!

I've given up one of my football interests with regret because I need to spend more time at home with my long suffering wife and family and spend more time with my spiritual work. My mother says that since she retired, she has never been so busy - she raises cash for charity by fund raising, cooking and selling pies and cakes, and all sorts of other activities which is commendable; sometimes, I wish she would just slow down but she's happy and dad, who spends his time playing snooker a couple of times a week, fishing, reading and gardening is comfortable that she's kept occupied.

Computers are the problem along with television. PCs can be so convenient to do work on but they can do so much these days that you do more of course. Television is just a pain in the proverbial and takes over life in the home sometimes, not that I watch it a lot, it drives me mad that there are so many programmes that my wife records then has to watch during her spare time that I just don't see much of her. It's all the CSI's and stuff like that from America; the Apprentice; Trawlers Rigs and Rescue or something like that and all the rest. If I could unsubscribe tomorrow, I would. Give me a book anytime.

Well the long weekend is here, Whit holiday in England and Wales and hey presto! the forecast is good for a change - so a bit of quick and dirty gardening, wash the car and sit out, read and enjoy is the order for the next three days - until someone says - 'can you just...'

Quote of the day: Behind every successful man stands an amazed woman.

Hope you have a good one!

Chat soon


Monday, 18 May 2009

How tickled I am...

I wonder what on earth possessed the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall management to call off the Ken Dodd show after just a few people had said that Ken was no longer funny enough for 2009. I know he may be getting on, but there's no doubt he provides excellent value for money often performing until the early hours of the morning.

I am fortunate enough to have seen Ken Dodd twice, once at the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough 25 years ago and again about 10 years ago at the Bridlington Spa Theatre and I have to say he was damn funny both times and his act had changed substantially over the years. If you've ever seen 'An Audience with Ken Dodd' from the ITV production, that about sums up this great man's career: well respected, funny and topical. The last time I saw him at Bridlington, my three children, all in their teens fell asleep and we carried them out of the theatre about midnight and Ken had by no means finished.

Les Dawson was another favourite and again I saw him in Bridlington on his comedy stage show and at the Hull New Theatre in a Ray Clooney farce, 'Run for your Wife' in which he showed how good he was at stage acting. He sadly died soon after.

I only saw Tommy Cooper once, again at Bridlington Spa. Even before the big man started to speak, just standing at the microphone gave the audience hysterics. I always remember after the interval, there was just a grand piano on the stage. He appeared in tuxedo and began to play 'Autumn Leaves.' An odd leaf fell from the ceiling and fluttered down onto the piano as he was playing. Then another leaf. And a few more; then, quite a few leaves were falling around him and finally a torrent of leaves falling, covering the piano and to cap it all, hessian sacks with 'Leaves' written on the sacking were thrown from the ceiling and the whole house collapsed in painful laughter as he looked so serious and surprised as he peeped out from the pile of leaves. Good stuff; simple, perhaps adolescent - but fun.

All three men were of their time and they were unforgettable and we have to look for new talent and there doesn't seem too much around to compare. There are a few good stand ups performing but Cooper, Dawson and Dodd were unique in their approach - well known themes, tried and tested for the audience of the time. Perhaps modern younger audiences would not find them so funny these days because those classic comedians challenged the values of their day and we have moved on - sadly.

There were others: I saw Morecambe and Wise at the long gone ABC Theatre in Hull and Bob Monkhouse at the now defunct Westfield Country Club in Cottingham. I am privileged to have seen all those I have mentioned.

"I wouldn't say my mother-in-law was a big woman, but she went to the cinema the other night in a white dress and they showed the picture on her back."
Les Dawson

Chat soon


Saturday, 16 May 2009


Hello dear blogger, the weekend is with us and as I look outside on this dull dreary day, it's raining yet again so no gardening today. I am fortunate however because last night my world was lit up with the magic and mystery of Derren Brown. Above is a copy of his programme cover. The act included magic, psychology, simple showmanship and astonishing entertainment and I was blessed with the company of four good friends, Steve, Tammy, Shirley Ann and Barry.

I don't know whether or not you've heard of Derren Brown; if you haven't, you may want to look him up on Channel 4s website and see if you can catch a glimpse of this guy - his tour show is called Enigma which in many ways represents him. I can't and wouldn't want to describe his show to you, that would spoilt it for him and many thousands who are yet to visit a theatre near them and marvel at the psychological dexterity of which he is capable. I recall his TV shows often started from a position where he was happy to divulge that his 'act' was magic, misdirection, tricks and many other things but however he does it, try not to exercise too much brain power trying to work it out because even if you had an inkling, you'll never really know.

Derren himself is a larger than life character in a thin body damn him, who is articulate, obviously highly intelligent and yet often displays a nervousness and energy which is surprising considering the the amount of public facing exposure he has. There is something slightly vulnerable about him and yet the contradiction is the amount of confidence he must have to achieve what he does. He is personable and witty, sometimes outrageously so and clearly a supreme con man (in the professional theatrical sense), but boy, would you trust him? I am not sure.

This is the guy who gets Tote bookies to pay up on losing tickets, who makes someone not able to see the London Eye when you are stood right next to it and can hypnotise you with a touch of the hand. An amazing and I suggest unique set of talents all rolled up into one man. If you get chance to see his show - go just for the experience.

Today's story is inspired by Derren.

A second rate magician was on board a second rate cruise liner doing his magic show. In the first trick he was making a woman disappear in a box. The ship's parrot was at the back of the audience on its perch and it squawked, "There's a hole in the floor, there's a hole in the floor." The audience murmured and a fuming magician moved on to his next trick.

The next trick involved making a card disappear. Again the parrot squawked, "Its up his sleeve, its up his sleeve." One or two boos rang out from the audience and a increasingly angry magician moved on to the next trick which involved sawing his assistant in two. Remorselessly the parrot piped up, "There's two of them in the box, two of them in the box." The audience began to leave and the magician was forced to abandon his show.

During the night, the ship hit an iceberg and sank with all hands save for the magician and the parrot who were afloat on the high sea on a plank of wood. After two days of silence the parrot finally said to the magician, "Okay, I give up, what have you done with the ship?"

Chat soon


Wednesday, 13 May 2009

'My Old Man's a Dustman.'

I would like to have had a rant about MPs expenses, but I am so angry about it and having debated it at work with equally as angry colleagues who scrimp and save every penny of our public organisations money whilst trying to find savings and cuts in every dark corner, I've had enough of it. Safe to say, most of the MPs have no credibility left in my view, the Parliamentary process is in disrepute and hopefully independent or smaller party MPs may have a chance to put the country right at the next election in May 2010.

"The House of Commons is the longest running farce in the West End."
Cyril Smith, Politician.

I had a deja vu moment today as I listened to BBC Radio 2 Steve Wright in the afternoon on the way home from work when he played Lonnie Donegan's Rock Island Line in his 'three after three' spot. Lonnie was my favourite artist of my youth for reasons I will explain later, so I'm having another memory testing blog today as I try to recall my own childhood in sunnier days in Cottingham East Yorkshire. I can't really remember exactly how old I was, perhaps six or seven, when my parents bought me a Dansette record player in a green colour. It played 45's, 33 and a third LPs and if you changed the needle, 78s. (The figures are all speeds of the record - revolutions per minute.) It only had two buttons on the front next to the speaker, volume and base/treble and you could load up to nine 45s in a stack and it would automatically select the next record after the previous one had finished.

The portable Dansette was kept in the large back room, quite isolated in the large Victorian house so as not to annoy my parents and grandparents who lived with us with loud 'pop' music. My playing list (iPod thinks play lists are new!) however did not necessarily reflect the popular songs of the day; I was in fact more interested in the comedy song, very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. I think a 45 cost me about 9s 6d, the equivalent of about 47 pence today. Lonnie Donegan was one of the first records I had with his hit 'My Old Man's a Dustman.' Charlie Drake made 'My Boomerang Won't Come Back' and Bernard Cribbins brought out 'Right Said Fred,' with requisite sound effects as Fred and Charlie demolished the house to move a piano and failed of course: "The trouble with Fred is, he's too hasty, you never get nowhere if you're too hasty." We didn't bother with correcting double negatives in those days!

I know it sounds daft now, but I recall often finding something, anything that resembled a microphone and I pretended to sing the song to an invisible audience with word perfect miming accompaniment to the record and receiving the imaginary applause at the end. Most of Donegan's records seemed to be recorded in front of a live audience and the applause rang out from the appreciative crowd. 'Does your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight?' was another where his unique brand of skiffle music drove the song along with a comic edge. There were recordings from comedy shows and one I had on a double sided 45 was a Steptoe and Son recording from a Royal Variety show where the tatters from Oil Drum Lane, Shepherd's Bush had visited a big house which turned out to be Buckingham Palace. Classic belly laugh material.

A few years later, as a teenager I was bought a second hand reel to reel tape recorder and I recorded many of my all time classic comedy favourites the 'Navy Lark' with the talented Bill Pertwee and brilliant Leslie Phillips (and many other talented actors that you would recognise by sight, but probably not remember their name) and another leader in its day, the hilarious 'I'm Sorry I'll read that Again.' I heard some of that show recently repeated on BBC iPlayer and it's as fresh today as it was in the 1960's and early 1970s. 'I'm Sorry...' had the likes of John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie and ran from 1964 to 1973. I also recorded my own plays with school friends with sound effects in the front room on a weekend after days working on dreadful scripts. Sadly (or perhaps not), none of those survive.

And yet, I love music but know nothing about it at all. I would never enter a quiz because my knowledge of music (singers, dates, titles) is nil along with my knowledge of TV soaps - no idea. Despite this lack of knowledge, I've just listened away for entertainment value for hours and hours, probably hundreds or thousands over my lifetime and yet for that lack of knowledge I've had no less enjoyment.

Here are two cutting comments attributed to Sir Thomas Beecham, impresario and famous conductor of top orchestras to two hapless musicians in his charge:

1 "Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands - and all you can do is scratch it." He was of course referring to her cello.

2 "We cannot expect you to be with us all the time, but perhaps you would be good enough to keep in touch now and then?"

Chat soon


Sunday, 10 May 2009

I say, I say, I say...

Hello dear blogger, I hope this Sunday finds you well. I thought it was time for a giggle today to lighten the mood a little. Thanks to Ged for some of these bits of philosophy and stories, and good luck to fellow blogger and friend Middle-aged-gapper who is running his 10k race today in Beverley, East Yorkshire.

The hall is booked; the orchestra's engaged; it's time to exercise those chuckle muscles...

I saw in the papers this morning that a dwarf had had been a victim of pick-pocketing. How could anyone stoop so low?

A woman brings eight year old Johnny home and tells his mother that she caught him playing at doctors and nurses with her eight year old daughter, Mary. Johnny's mother says, "Let's not be too harsh on them, they're bound to be curious about sex at this age."
"Curious about sex?" Mary's mother replied, "He's taken her appendix out!"

I've sure grown old! I've had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, fought prostate cancer and diabetes as well as being half blind. I can't hear anything quieter than a jet engine and I take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts.
I occasionally have bouts with dementia and have such poor circulation that I can hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. I can't remember if I'm 89 or 98 and all my friends are dead.
But, thank God, I still have my driver's licence.

A priest was driving into town and got stopped for speeding. The officer smelt alcohol on the priest's breath and then saw an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.
He said, "Sir, have you been drinking?"
"Just water," said the priest.
The officer said, "Then why do I smell wine?"
The priest looks at the bottle and said, "Good Lord! He 's done it again!"

A male patient is lying in bed in the hospital, wearing an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose, still heavily sedated from a difficult four hour surgical procedure. A young student nurse arrived to give him a partial bed bath.
"Nurse," he mumbled from behind the mask, "Are my testicles black?"
Embarrassed, the young nurse replies "I don't know, I'm only here to wash your upper body and feet."
Exhausted, he struggled to ask again, "Nurse, are my testicles black?"
Concerned that he may elevate his vital signs from worry about his testicles, she overcame her embarrassment and sheepishly pulled back the covers. She carefully examined his testicles, lifting and moving them around. Eventually she said, "There's nothing wrong with them."
With some effort, the patient pulled off his oxygen mask, smiled at her and said very slowly, "Thank you very much. That was wonderful, but listen very, very closely...
"Are - my - test - results - back?"

Men & Women

The difference between men and women (not the biological difference necessarily) are some of my favourite opportunities for humour:

A woman has the last word in any argument.
Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument..


Women love cats.

Men say they love cats, but when women aren't looking, men kick cats.


A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.

A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.


A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.

A successful woman is one who can find such a man.


A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.

A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.


Ah, children. A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favourite foods, secret fears, ilnesses and hopes and dreams.

A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.


A married man should forget his mistakes. There's no use in two people remembering the same thing.

And finally...

"My wife is a sex object. Every time I ask her for sex, she objects."
Les Dawson

Chat soon,


Friday, 8 May 2009

Dear Mr Onions...

I have many weaknesses (I'm a bloke) and one of them is cricket. It was the only game I played when I was younger that I was any good at in an average sort of way. The weakness lies in not being able to turn away from the television when a test match is on. I can live without television I suspect, but I would miss the sound of leather on willow on the big screen. This opening gambit is just a link to the subject of the day (don't say in four words what you can say in a paragraph) which is surnames. England hero on his debut Graham Onions took five wickets in his maiden innings as a bowler and will have his name written in the Lord's hall of fame for all to see for a very long time.

"I became a great runner because if you're a kid in Leeds and your name is Sebastian, you've got to be a great runner." Sebastian Coe, Athlete

Graham doesn't use an alternative of how to say the name of the faithful
British favourite vegetable - the onion. He could use the pronunciation 'Oh - nye - ons,' but he is proud of his name. If he was bullied because of it when he was a child, he is surely sticking his tongue out at his detractors now - answering them with his abilities while representing his country at the highest level.

I was trying to think of some good Yorkshire names that I grew up with at a time when the population was less transient - didn't need to move around because jobs were plentiful and local. I can remember that in the early sixties if you didn't stay in your home town, you moved for a better job or stayed in your university town, or joined the armed forces or met a loved one and moved away to marry. Up here we tend to be a bit parochial. How about '
Backhouse' as a good Yorkshire name, and I always imagined 'Arkwright' was local to us - and memories of Ronnie Barker's formidable shopkeeper; sadly such a Yorkshire sounding name hails from our rivals in Lancashire. 'Wasling' was a common one where I came from in East Yorkshire with the top three names: Smith, Green and Roberts. Thwaite is another local to Yorkshire.

I was always told there all surnames derived from four sources: place where you came from; occupation; 'son of'; and nicknames. I used to do loads of family history transcriptions of old parish registers onto computer and I remember some corkers: How about one woman I recorded who was a single mother in the eighteenth century called 'Whalebelly'. 'Smellie' was another common one and 'Death,' often written De'ath and pronounced 'Dee- ath,' was not unusual.

Would you be interested to know that according to one quality daily paper, traditional surnames are disappearing as people change unpopular surnames and some of the most popular in Britain today are Chinese.

Ah well the weekend is upon us dear reader of blogs. Nothing too exciting planned outside because the weather is not forecast to be decent, but I have acquired a second hand treadmill to help with the diet (I could never eat a whole on all at once), so I'll no doubt end up exhausted and something will end up getting sprained no doubt. I'll have to warm up like a premiership footballer; I saw Chelsea's
Drogba do something different this week after his team's defeat at Stamford Bridge - I'll go and find a referee and swear at him while waving my hands excitedly - that should do it! If I did, I'd deserve to be locked up - so did Drogba!

Legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly once said to a player in answer to a question about how to perform in front of goal, "Look, if you're in the penalty area son and aren't quite sure what to do with the ball, just stick it in their net and we'll discuss your options later." Wise man.

Have a great weekend,

Chat Soon,


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Obituary: Common Sense, R.I.P.

I'm sure most of you at some stage have seen the e-mail obituary of our old friend, 'Common Sense' who died recently. I don't claim anything for the articulately written piece which bemoans the loss of Common Sense but never a truer word was said in jest.

I was reminded today about the obituary by of two pieces of news broadcast today, the first about the police officer in the UK who refused to sit on a bicycle that had been donated to his force by a charity for a picture call with the local media on the grounds that health and safety forbade it until he has passed a cycling proficiency test. Although the force claimed he was following guidelines, he was hardly likely to have been run over by a 38 ton truck on the forecourt of Halfords whilst sat on a bike having his picture taken was he? Risk averse? Of course. Common Sense - none applied.

The second story is about a visit of school children to a small farm who have pigs and the school has apparently demanded that the pigs be removed as a precaution to catching Swine flu before the children arrive - EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN'T CATCH SWINE FLU FROM PIGS! Amazing.

A lot is said belittling health and safety and unfairly in my view most of the time. It is a superb piece of legislation that has undoubtedly saved lives and has all but got rid of the most dangerous of practises in the work place that could cause serious injury and death. But to use health and safety as an excuse not to do something simple, straight forward where the chance of injury is so low, people don't even consider it at all dangerous and it's something that we have done for years is absolutely nonsense. Health and safety does NOT restrict or forbid risky practises. It seems to me that it says you should do a risk assessment, either in your head or on paper and take all reasonable precautions to avoid personal injuries, otherwise we would never step outside our door in a morning to go to work.

I reprint the obituary for the benefit of those who once loved and used the services of this great institution all of their lives:

'Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

'Knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

'Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

'His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

'Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

'Common Sense declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

'Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

'Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

'Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents Truth and Trust, his wife Discretion, his daughter Responsibility and his son, Reason.

'He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;

'I Know My Rights

'I Want It Now

'Someone Else Is To Blame

'I'm A Victim

'Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.'

Chat soon


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Come up and see us sometime...

I've had a great weekend so far; very busy both in the garden and in the house doing just bits and pieces but achieving a great deal. As Saturday and Sunday has been so productive, and my wife is decorating my son's bedroom on Bank Holiday Monday, I thought I'd just nip onto Google and check 'things to do on a Bank Holiday.' It just took 0.23 seconds to come up with 119,000,000 (one hundred and nineteen million) hits. See the screen grab to prove it.
So, as it's an impossible task, (at an average of 30 seconds scanning the average site to decide whether it's the sort of information you require) it would take me over 113 years without sleep to scan all of them by which time I will no doubt be passed bloody caring what to do on a Bank Holiday weekend. So thanks Google for not helping a great deal. I've read a news article today (and for the life of me I can't find it now) that says there is a new rival to challenge Google who will make searching more relevant to what the searcher wants. It says it will revolutionise searching - hooray, hours of searching saved.

I've decided to go and see my parents and take my son who's learning to drive with me - just going to have a leisurely day. Where I live, in East Yorkshire there's plenty to do generally. We are within easy driving distance of the coast and three towns of Bridlington, Hornsea and Withernsea and if you like it a bit wilder, Spurn Point is isolated but splendid for coastal walks, bird watching and bracing air but dress up because except for high summer, it can be chilly with sea breezes. If the sea is not your gaff, the countryside is beautiful. It's not mountainous or anything, but green, lush and pretty and plenty of it. The iconic Humber Bridge is good to stop off and see and it has some great vistas.
The Humber Bridge south bank tower (click to enlarge)

For non-seaside places, Hull can be a bit disappointing for things to do with a few exceptions. The best attraction is The Deep with its sea life aquariums, that's good for half a day. There are some museums, Wilberforce and the Street Life museums are good and interesting and some of the architecture around the city centre is okay. If you're into ice skating it has an arena as well as a climbing centre. Other than that - it's just like any other city with its 'same-old, same-old' production line standard food outlets, cinemas, City Hall, theatre, bowling alleys and shops, providing of course the recession hasn't hit you in the pocket and you can afford to do these things. Hull is simply in need of regeneration - full stop.
The Deep, looking like a shark peeking through the concrete, (click for larger picture)

Beverley, an ancient market town is cool and great to walk round with nice shopping areas and weekly merkets, plenty to see and you'll have read my blogs about the Minster. Driffield is a lovely wolds country town and good to walk round. Indeed either round Hull or anywhere else, the best plan is to walk. The East Riding of Yorkshire Council has lots of planned walks, long, medium and short, details of which can be obtained and in Hull there is a city centre 'fish trail.' In Pocklington, there are the magnificent Burnby Hall Gardens with extensive lakes, manicured gardens and one of the biggest collections of water lillies in the UK I understand.
Burnby Hall Gardens (click to enlarge although this may be a little pixilated - it was a large file)

So there we have it for now - only a snapshot of the East Riding of Yorkshire, if you're ever thinking of visiting the area, let me know and I'll give you some tips.

Finally, there may be worse off places to visit: "It's a ghastly place. Huge gangs of tough sinewy men roam the valleys terrorising people with their close harmony singing. You need half a bucket of phlegm in your throat to pronounce the placenames. Never ask for directions in Wales Baldrick, you'll be washing spit out of your hair for a fortnight."
Rowan Atkinson on Wales, Blackadder.

Chat soon


Friday, 1 May 2009

Tale of the unexpected...

I'd been hiking through the hills in the north for most of the Spring day and as evening approached I had still not reached my destination in a village some three miles away. As the mist and heavy drizzle appeared out of nowhere, I spotted an old building through the damp haze and decided I needed some shelter, perhaps someone was there to give me some respite and I could make myself a cup of tea with my portable stove and kettle.

I clambered over a stile in a barbed wire fence and walked briskly across some earthworks that indicated a settlement had been there in medieval times. As I approached the building, to my astonishment, it appeared to be a red brick church and desperately in need of repair.

As I was a fair way from my evening destination and with dirt tracks and old war-time concrete single track roads to navigate, I decided to see if I could get some relief from the penetrating damp by trying the heavy wooden weathered oak door. It swung open with a groan and the sound echoed round the building. A single bird fluttered in the rafters above my head. As the fluttering died away, there was no sound at all; even the ravens and crows outside had stopped their raucous noise. I shivered, probably with the chill damp and set about making a cuppa.

The church just had one main room. The windows had no glass and a few old wooden pews were smashed and piled up in a corner. Roof tiles, debris and signs of vandals were all about. I thought I saw a movement with my peripheral vision in the dark corner near what looked like a small vestibule. I walked over to the six feet by six feet room and being careful against the uneven rubbish strewn stone floor found nothing there except the bell tower above me minus any bell or rope; probably stolen I thought. A noise from behind me I cannot describe accurately made me jump; it was a mixture of a breath of wind or a moan of breeze in the rafters, yet as I looked out of the arched window, the mist shrouded trees outside were still.

I went back to the steaming kettle and poured the water into the mug. My mind was wandering thinking about getting into a nicely made bed after a hot shower when I heard a blood curdling scream followed by a massive chorus of bird calls and flapping in the trees outside. I stood up and my heart was pounding and I struggled to catch my breath. Perhaps it was an owl or other bird calling to a mate. The church grew dim as the evening drew in and the dark mist enveloped the surrounding countryside. I was actually shaking - the noise had unnerved me. Stupid man; I tried to drink the tea but my shaking hand spilt the hot liquid down my front.

What happened then I cannot explain. The sound of a heavy door slamming shut roared round the building and reverberated in an echo for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds. Almost immediately the noise faded, a bell began to ring, quietly at first, growing in intensity and volume until it started to hurt my ears and I shouted out loud - just making a noise, a loud noise, any noise to frighten off whatever was there - I probably screamed as much as a man can scream to be more accurate and I took to my heels. I stumbled though the open doorway and ran blindly across the sodden grass tumbling head over tip into the wetness; I got up with drizzle in my eyes making it difficult for me to see and I scrambled to the fence and cut my leg badly on the barbed wire and ran as if my life depended on it despite the deep bloody wound. I didn't look back even though I'd left all my damn gear in that place.

After a few minutes, I slowed down and a shadow began to emerge from the heavy mist in front of me in the middle of the concrete road. It was an old boy dressed in typical drab country garb with a cap to protect him from the damp and a walking stick. He politely bid me good evening and asked if I was all right. I managed to get my breath back and although my story was laboured through trying to get enough air in my lungs, I told him what had happened at the church. He listened patiently, without interruption.

I finished my tale and felt exhausted. He looked at me askance and smiled. After a while he said thoughtfully, "You must have had too much of the local brew my friend. The church ain't been there some seventy years. It was struck by lightening and caught fire one night. Killed a young woman it did." He paused. "My sister Betty it was. Church were so badly damaged they bulldozed it."

He wiped his damp cheek with his jacket sleeve, tipped his cap to me and walked on. I stood and watched him amble slowly toward the direction of the Church until he disappeared into the swirling dense mist.

Dear reader, that church WAS there. I WAS in it. I DID hear what I heard. I am NOT mad; although strange as it may seem (and I can't explain this either), I can't find the scar that the barbed wire fence made on my leg.

Sleep well.

Chat soon

(pictures and words intellectual property of Rarelesserspotted - click on the pictures to make them larger)

White Rabbit, White Rabbit, White Rabbit

As usual this morning I said my traditional 'White Rabbit, White Rabbit, White Rabbit,' to bring me luck for the month. I've done this for as long as I can remember and try to make it the first thing I say on the first day of the new month. I get my superstitious bent from my mother and her family who were cockney's and my father's parents who came from a fishing community in Hull at a time when it was the premier fishing port in the UK before its decline.

"Never trust a man who, when left in a room with a tea-cosy, doesn't try it on."
Billy Connolly, comedian

Why 'White Rabbit?' Well its simply supposed to bring you luck and was first mentioned as folklore in an article in 1919 in the Westminster Gazette and there are many variants such as saying 'Black Cat' on the last night of the month and 'White Rabbit' on the first day of the month. Its origin is sadly unknown. I had to be aware that when I was a child because when something happened, my mother or grandmother would have a superstition to fit the bill, typically:
  • Right palm itches = you will receive;
  • Left palm itches = you will give;
  • Nose itches = you will get angry;
  • Ear itches = someone's talking about you;
  • Shiver = someone's walking on your grave (good to tell a young child - NOT);
  • Never walk on the cracks on the pavement or the devil will get you (this refers to the old flag stone paths of course and for years I avoided the cracks like the plague).
If I spill salt, I still throw a bit over my left shoulder for luck and this of course comes from the days when salt was so scarce and expensive, you had to ward off the devil on your shoulder who would scold you for spilling it. I NEVER walk under a ladder and that's for the very sensible precaution of preventing the person at the top of the ladder dropping something on my bonce! Very pragmatic approach, but again, the origin goes back to the ancients believing that the ladder against a wall represents the Holy Trinity (floor, ladder and wall,) and that you should never disturb the Trinity. Others believed that if you were single and walked under one, you wouldn't get married for a year.

The one my mother used to get really irate about was if anyone put their shoes on the table. I can understand of course it is unhygienic but the reality is that they represented the boots of a hanged man (off the floor where they belong!) Only this month, I was walking down the corridor at work and one of my shoes squeaked because it was about worn out and someone said to me, "Haven't you paid for the shoes yet?" I thought they were cracking up - but when I looked it up - that's what they used to say - if they squeaked, you hadn't paid the boot maker and it was his way of cursing you. From the fishing fraternity point of view, if one of the fisherman's boots had fallen over on a night time, he was unlikely to go out fishing the next day for fear of a disaster happening.

Now this is the strange thing, I really don't like Friday the thirteenth - but for a reason. Some horrible things have happened to me, like my car was written off by a bus (while it was parked) and my garage fell down in a storm and all on Friday the thirteenth. I once took the day off and spent it in bed just to make sure nothing would happen. Fortunately the house didn't burn down or something equally as nasty while I was in my jim-jams. I suppose the origins, although somewhat obscure have their history with Judas Iscariot being the thirteenth person present at Lord's table at the last supper.

There are so many others that still affect me: I'm still uncomfortable with a black cat crossing in front of me (bad omen); I NEVER knowingly step on a grave; I ALWAYS say 'bless you' to someone who sneezes be they friend or stranger (expelling the devil); I genuinely hate passing someone on any stairs, no matter how long or how wide (don't know why although I once heard that if the other person you were passing was female, she would become pregnant!); I ALWAYS leave a house by the same door by which I entered (whether I sit down or not); and scissors must always be left closed but probably more for the practical reason that if you don't, you might cut or stab yourself.

Well there we are, daft old bat that I am - still superstitious, but it's in the bones now.

My aunt died at precisely 10:47 a.m., and the old grandfather clock stopped at precisely the same moment in time - it fell on her."
Paul Merton, comedian

Have a great long weekend (Bank Holiday in the UK)!

Chat soon