Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shall I Tell You...

...what I hate?

Yes. You know, I think it's time for a good old fashioned rant. Just a bunch of random vitriol about stuff that really isn't worth getting bugged about, but sometimes you're just in that frame of mind, dammit. So here I go.

First of all one of the things that really has started to get royally on my tits is when people say an extra "eve" to denote the day before an actual "Eve", as in "Christmas Eve Eve", "New Years' Eve Eve" and such. That really gets on my wick! That's not an "Eve", it's just Thursday. Knock it off already!

I hate the fact that I can't stop buying DVDs and CDs because they are either movies I love and have seen a bunch and just want in my collection or they are movies I've heard good things about and want to see and they really are a bargain price that's just too good to pass up - I never have time to watch them. Or rather, I do, I just choose to spend my time on the web writing blogs and ranting... I think what it boils down to is that I have this secret fantasy that one day I'll have enough money (how I come into this money, I'm sure I don't know - I doubt I'll ever make lots of money, so it would have to be money I was either given or money I won, but I digress) to have a fancy house with its own cinema in it and I'll invite my friends over, make a ton of popcorn and we'll all sit there watching What About Bob? and Blazing Saddles on my own personal big-ass screen. Nice. As to the CDs, I love music, so get off me. One of these days I'll have my own car, and play any damn CD I want in it. But if I do get a car, it'll have to have a cassette deck too. Just cause I want to.

I hate the fact that it takes one large mug of coffee in the morning to get my motor running. I hate people who wake up already to go. Who are these people? Do they even exist outside of TV movies and works of fiction?

I hate people who will not eat certain vegetables or meats or fungi or whatever, because they 'don't like' them, yet they cannot say for sure whether they've ever eaten them or not. Would it kill you to try something new? If you have a genuine allergy, that's fine, I'm not talking about you. I mean the people who only like their food 'a certain way' or they won't eat it. Oh, and what's with the crazies who don't like their foods to touch or who won't eat a casserole because things are mixed up in it?

I hate the fact that you can do online banking but you still have to wait 4-5 business days for your account info, bank card and PIN number to come by snail mail. Once you've been approved for an account, why isn't there a machine like the one that does the new licences at the DMV that can just spit out your new stuff?

I hate Facebook's new profile page. That's all I'm going to say about that.

I hate (I know, this is getting old - even I'm getting tired of it) the ppl who use abbreviations on their Facebook status (statuses? statii?) all the time even though they are not tweeting or texting. Facebook statum (?) should be in full, so that we can understand them. Oh, and just so you know, it's isn't a crime to use punctuation. I'm so tired of reading stuff like luv u huni :-) u r mi wrld <3 even if I know what you mean because just reading it makes me want to do physical harm to you.

I hate when things change for the worse or when I really dig something and it stops, like a TV series or a magazine.
Change is supposed to be good, but when it sucks all the fun out of things... good thing Blogger hasn't changed much since I started on here all those moons ago, back in the day.

Anyway, I appear to have run out of steam. You are all probably relieved about that. Go ahead and go back to your lives. Move along, nothing to see here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Nearly Over

I can scarcely believe that I have been back in the UK a whole year. In some ways it seems a lot longer than that, yet in others it's been like the blink of an eye. At this time last year I was still in Georgia, stateless and belonging apparently nowhere. I wasn't sure what to do or where to go (although I did know a few people I would have liked to have told where to go, that's for sure), but I kept blogging, durnit. I wasn't gonna let my public down.

At this time of year, with just a couple days to go till 2011 (that's two thousand eleven, NOT twenty-eleven, people. God, that's annoying), the 'Net and every little sub-section, sub-genre and oddball category you can imagine (and some you can't)  is full of lists of Top Ten Moments of 2010. Top 10 Soccer moments of 2010. Top Ten Emmy moments of 2010. Top Ten Accountancy moments of 2010. Top Ten Vietnamese Nail Salon Owner's moments of 2010. So, not being slow to recognise a bandwagon when I see one, I thought I would try to think of some of my Top moments of 2010 and seal my place in the 2010 moment-list-writing thingummabob of the blogosphere, and all that jazz, innit, blud? And then once I write them down maybe they'll make a coherent list of about ten. So here goes. My list of  Memorable Moments (good and bad) from 2010 in no particular order. There may be more than ten.

  • Spending 7 hours in Dulles Airport watching the constant coverage of the Haiti Earthquake on CNN and Headline News. 
  • Snow! Actual real snow. Not the pretend stuff you get in Georgia that only stays for a day.
  • Having three jobs in a year.
  • Catering for the Town Mayor.
  • Proper fish and chips!
  • My old girlfriend from 1987-88 becoming my new girlfriend, and moving in with her.
  • Making lots of new friends, and seeing a bunch of my old friends for the first time in many many years.
  • Fireworks in November instead of July.
  • Halloween at The Rare Breeds Centre.
  • My Sister and I's End of Summer BBQ.
  • A reawakening of my passion for photography.
  • A guest shot on my friend Clark's blog.
  • Going to lots of fun places and eating at lots of nice restaurants.
  • Seeing Billy Bragg in concert, and meeting him after the show. 
  • The Smallhythe Beer festival, where we first met The Dealers' Pierre Vincent.
  • Seeing The Lucky Ones, a truly great band.
  • Staying at The Queen's Head in Rye.
  • Mandy and Kev's Wassailing party and their End Of Harvest Foraging party, the pumpkin casserole, the sloe gin and the dandelion wine.
  • Making fun movies and taking lots of pics with my nippy little phone.
I could probably think of a bunch more stuff but my elbows are tired, and I need another sip of coffee before it gets too cold to drink and I have to go downstairs and zap it in the microwave. Plus the longer the list becomes the more pointless the whole exercise seems. So what I am going to do is to wish you all a jolly New Year, although I am sure you will hear from me before the big night.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Lame List

I was just over on reading a list of their Top Ten Things We Wish Had Never Been Invented, and like most lists of this kind, it was very subjective and I naturally agreed with some and disagreed with others, and some I could kinda play Devil's Advocate with and see both sides. So here is their list, with my notes and addenda:

  1. Plastic  OK, right off the bat we can see that this is a flawed list. We know that plastic is non-biodegradable and lives forever in landfills and there's a notorious giant floating plastic junk island in the North Pacific, known variously as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or The Pacific Trash Vortex (Google it). We know that recycling is essential in order to keep the levels of crap down. We also know that plastic is one of the things that keep building costs down, is lightweight, durable, and that if we did not have any plastic, all bottled drinks and dish soap and laundry detergent, not to mention hazardous chemicals, would have to be stored in weighty metal or glass containers. We'd all have amazing muscles from just doing the grocery shopping. All toys would be wooden. So obviously some sort of balance must be arrived upon concerning plastic. Who knows what cars would be like. And don't even get me started on airbags and most high-tech hospital gadgets. We have clearly arrived at a point in time where we cannot continue the same lifestyle without plastic. So essentially, what I am saying is, it's all very well wishing plastic had never been invented, but without it, you're screwed.
  2. Neck Ties  The article cites several reasons that neck ties are such an awful item (I disagree wholeheartedly on this one, by the way - I own several and love to wear them). These include: Uncomfortable (really?), pointless (I'm sorry - wearing jeans halfway down your butt isn't??), and hazardous (only in certain situations, surely? I mean, you're not going to be operating heavy machinery in a necktie, are you?). It kinda reminds me of the old joke about the guy who returned a tie to the shop, because it was too tight.
  3. Cellular Phones  Again, this is a tricky one. We can all think of things about the mobile phone that are annoying just as easily as we can think of things about them that are great. People talking too loudly on them in public places is probably my pet peeve, especially when it's of a deeply personal nature ("I told her no nails, love, no nails!! The missus'll kill me!!"), but I think we can all agree that the most aggravating part of owning a mobile phone is the service providers - they're all flawed in one way or another.
  4. Condoms  Obviously this list had to have been written by a guy. Yes, they're uncomfortable, yes, they are deeply unattractive, but the fact is they provide a great service to mankind - 99% of the time. And they've been around for centuries, so you're never going to get rid of them overnight. Next.
  5. Bras  Yes, definitely a list made by a guy, and a boob man for sure. Ridiculous. I know that many women bemoan the fact that it is extremely difficult to find one that fits well, is comfy and does the job it is supposed to, but I am sure there is an army of women who can get behind the fact that they are, again, an essential - no-one has designed anything that does a superior job of supporting breasts, and even those women who are not well-endowed in the chest department can agree that if they went braless every day, there will be sagging, and plenty of it. Sorry dude, but just because you wish there was one less fabric layer between you and a handful of heaving bosom, doesn't mean it's gonna happen anytime soon.
  6. Paris Hilton  So now we go from the ridiculous suggestion to the ultra-ridiculous. For starters, no matter what you think of Paris Hilton, she is a person - a deeply flawed one, but a human being nonetheless. Secondly, she wasn't invented - she was born. What the list should have put instead of her name was celebutantes, of which she was the first. That way it could have been extended to mean people who are famous just for being famous. People who have no real marketable talent, except their ability to get their mugs in the paper and on TV and generate controversy. I'm sure if she hadn't been born into a rich family she'd be just the pretty but dim girl next door.
  7. Bombs   It's all very well wishing they had never been invented, but sooner or later some scientist somewhere would have figured out that putting a couple of key chemicals together would cause an explosive reaction. It's just a short journey from there to some military prick saying "Wow, if we can blow up a clay pot, we might be able to blow up a building - or a person - or a town!" Fact is, people are just bastards and there will always be warlike dingbats around the corner who would kill you as soon as look at you, given half a chance.
  8. Fast Food  How far back do you wanna go? They had street vendors selling quickly prepared, portable food in Roman Times. If you really want to get rid of fast food, you will have to get rid of the people that buy it (that means you).
  9. Glenn Beck  I agree with this, but I would lump Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and the entire FOX News Channel in with him. Oh, and while you're at it, how about Sarah Palin. And let me refer you back to the Paris Hilton paragraph - they're people, so they weren't technically invented, were they?
  10. Infomercials  Well now. Something we can all get behind. Think about it. A world with no more Slap Chop, ShamWow, Tony Little, Slankets and Snuggies. No more Diamonique, Nads, or Ron Popeil. No more Chef Tony, or compilation CDs that nobody in their right mind wants to buy. What will the TV networks do? How will they fill their programming schedules? I mean, they don't want to waste that precious airtime when there are sad lonely people out there with credit cards in hand at 4 in the morning, do they? So who knows what vapid shite they would broadcast instead?
There seems to me very little point in wishing that things that are already in existence had never been created. Instead we should try to recognise when scary possibilities are just around the corner, and try to avert them before they become reality. Take scary celebs and ensure they never reproduce. Take explosives and ensure they are only ever used for innocuous purposes, like building demolition, not nasty things like blowing the top off a humongous mountain just to get at the lovely coal inside. And make sure that lists like this never get written, because they are so easy and fun to deconstruct.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Clever

It is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, the day when the Western world collectively wakes up at 10 a.m., looks at the time, groans and says 'Sod it, 15 more minutes...', rolls over and goes back to sleep for an hour. There is literally nothing going on, no shops open, and everyone is regretting the excesses of the day before - the turkey, the thirteen different side dishes, the Christmas Pud/Trifle/Cheesecake/whatever, and of course, the mass quantities of adult beverages, and not forgetting the mass quantities of cocoa and coffee and tea (which are required in between meals and adult beverages in order to stay awake from the first holler of "Santa came!" at 4 a.m. to the last gasp of decent TV at around 11:30 p.m.). As I look around me, I see three boys either playing Xbox, computer games or watching Toy Story 3 on the telly, all in their jammies or other relaxing attire, Laura taking a well-earned soak in the tub (she's still got a case of the crud, bless her cotton socks) and myself sitting cross-legged on the bed in my relaxi-pants and bummy old t-shirt, composing this post on my poor old laptop. How old is it? Well, in computer years, it's from the Late Cretaceous.

So why is it Boxing Day? Who named it that and why? We've all heard various explanations of the term over the years, but now I have all this computing power at my fingertips, and a day with nothing much to do, I can search for the truth.

These are some of the explanations of the term, none of which are definitive.

During the Age of Exploration, when great sailing ships set off to discover new land, A Christmas box was a good luck device. It was a small container that priests placed on each ship while still in port. Crewmen, to ensure a safe return, dropped money in the box. It was then sealed and kept on board for the entire voyage. If the ship came home safely, the crew gave the box to the priest in exchange for the saying of a Mass of thanks. The Priest kept the box sealed until Christmas, and then opened it to share the contents with the poor.

An 'Alms Box' was placed in every church on Christmas Day, into which worshippers placed a gift for the poor of the parish. These boxes were always opened the day after Christmas, which may be why that day became known as Boxing Day.

During the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of the manor "boxed up" leftover food, or sometimes gifts, and distributed them the day after Christmas to household servants and tenants on their lands. Many poorly paid workers had to work on Christmas Day and took the following day off to visit family. As they prepared to leave, employers presented them with these Christmas boxes.

The tradition of giving money to workers continues today. It is customary for householders to give small gifts or monetary tips to regular visiting trade people (the milkman, dustman, coalman, paper boy etc.) and, in some work places, for employers to give a Christmas bonus to employees. Samuel Pepys mentioned this tradition in his diary entry for 19th December 1663,and it is referred to widely in Victorian literature.

The European tradition dates to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. Some claim it dates to the late Roman/early Christian era when metal boxes placed outside churches collected special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen. You may remember this is the date upon which "Good King Wenceslas", who was Duke of Bohemia in the early 10th century, was surveying his land when he saw a poor man gathering wood in the middle of a snowstorm. Moved, the King gathered up surplus food and wine and carried them through the blizzard to the peasant's door. The alms-giving tradition has always been closely associated with the Christmas season, but King Wenceslas' good deed came the day after Christmas, when the English poor received most of their charity.

So there you have it. Or rather, you don't.

In recent years we've become all Americanized here what with the advent of 24-hour shopping and such, and so many stores have decided to open on Boxing Day (a shame really, I can't help but feel). As a result, there is some anticipation of Boxing Day sales, much like the post-Thanksgiving sales in the USA. Ugh.

There are some rather grisly customs associated with this day also: there's the traditional Boxing Day hunt.

Horse riders dressed in red and white riding gear, accompanied by a number of dogs called foxhounds, chase the fox through the countryside in the hope of tiring it out. Eventually the hunters hope the fox will be so tired that the dogs will be able to catch it and kill it. Many animal welfare campaigners object to fox hunting saying it is cruel to kill a fox in this way, while many participants view it as a crucial part of rural history in England, vital for conservation, and a method of pest control. In November 2004, MPs voted to ban hunting with dogs in England and Wales. As from 18 February 2005 hunting with dogs became a criminal offence (although it is still legal to exercise hounds, chase a scent and flush out foxes to be shot). Myself, I don't know where I stand on this one. While I object to animal cruelty of any kind, and disagree with it being any kind of 'pest control', I must say it is rather visually stunning to see all the riders on their gorgeous horses dressed in red and white, and is one of those amazing images that is burned into your brain. If they could just get them together like that and get them to do something nice and innocuous, like having a race, rather than killing a fox, I'd be all for it. The hounds would be nice and tired out and everyone will have had a fun day, and of course the brandy at the end would still be available.... ah well.

It is unlucky to kill a wren on any day apart from Boxing Day. Hunting of the Wren on Boxing Day was once a popular activity in England. Groups of young boys known as 'Wren boys' would hunt a wren and then tie the dead bird to the top of a pole, decorated with holly sprigs and ribbons. With blackened faces, the group would sing at houses in hopes for coins, gifts or food.

"The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
On St Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
We hunted him far and hunted him near
And found him under the bushes here.
Hurrah, my boys, hurrah!
Hurrah, my boys, hurrah!
Knock at the knocker and ring at the bell,
And give us a copper for singing so well."

Those that gave money to the boys would receive a feather from the wren as thanks. The collected money was then used to host a village dance.
This odd, if not downright bizarre,  ritual was not restricted to England. It was prevalent in some continental countries on Boxing Day as well as the Isle of Man, Wales and Ireland. People are strange, eh?

Anyway... I've got a roast beef cooking nice and slowly in the oven, and of course there are plenty of leftovers from yesterday. I have no plans to leave the house, and I have hopefully enlightened you all a little bit. Have a Happy Boxing Day, and see ya later.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Bing and The Andrews Sisters tell it like it is. Sure wish I was in Hawaii right now, with ma best gal by ma side... eggnog in a coconut shell, opening presents poolside...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas: It's A Wrap!

So this evening I finally wrote my last Christmas card, wrapped my final present, and had a celebratory glass of port. This Christmas is vastly different to the one I had last year. Last year I was in the USA, didn't have a job or a green card, and cannot remember getting anything much. This year I am in the UK, and am spending the hols in the effusive company of my girlfriend and her boys, her dogs and, it seems, cold Arctic blasts and sleet/snow/ice/whatever else Mother Nature can throw at us.

I hadn't actually sent Christmas cards for a number of years. I used to send loads, when I was a school-kid. We'd even give cards to virtually everyone else in our class even though we sat next to each other and would see each other when school went back in January. As you get older, more and more responsible, and acquire kids and extended family, you find you have less and less free time in which to do things like sit and write cards, yet this is precisely the time when you need more time to do these things. So something's gotta give.

Now we live in a time when the need to send Yuletide messages by post has dwindled due to the rise of email and e-cards. This is exactly why I chose to sit and do a load of cards this year, to prove, mainly to myself, that it could still be done. I did a bunch. Not every card I wrote got sent, and not everyone whose address I asked for got a card, due to time constraints. But I'm happy to report that all my family got cards, and even my blogger friend Angie of Katt Food/Catladyland fame received a festive missive from me. Not only that, but she replied with a card of her own (adorned with a cat picture, of course)!

One thing I am particularly crap at is wrapping gifts.  I like to do it, because I feel that a crappily wrapped present beats a store-wrapped one any day. If someone sees that you wrapped it yourself, it gives them a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you took the time to do it yourself. That could be a lucrative business, and I'm surprised no-one has thought of it before (I'll probably be flooded with responses saying that it's already been done, I just know it), wrapping presents for those consumers that have no time to do it themselves and will gladly shell out good money to have it done and made to look crappily home-wrapped complete with gummy bits of tape at odd angles and gift tags made out of last year's Christmas cards cut out with pinking shears. If no-one's done that yet, and someone takes this idea and turns it into a cash cow, I want full credit. And 10%.

Anyway, I also took the easy route food-wise. I want to have a Christmas Day where I don't have to spend it in the kitchen the whole time. Luckily, I work in a wonderful shop called Cook where we sell ready-made home-cooked frozen meals, made using no additives and preservatives, so I used my staff discount and bought a turkey crown stuffed with pork, chestnut and sage stuffing, and a bunch of yummy side dishes, and come Saturday I'm just going to pop them in the oven, pour myself a nice single malt, and enjoy myself, and I'm going to instruct my girlfriend to do the same. If I could get everyone to eat off of paper plates (not very eco-friendly, I know) I would. Nobody needs to wash dishes on Christmas Day.

So, with Christmas Eve just a few hours away, I shall bid you all a very fond Joyeux Noel, God Jul och gott nytt år, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Cool Yule, y'all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Taz good boy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dear Senor Santa Claus

Strange. Yes. Not politically correct? Certainly. Unforgettable? Of course. An absolute classic.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Good Traditions

I have lived in several different places - Tenterden, Kent, the place where I was raised and lived and worked until I was 25. Lake Stevens, WA, the place I lived for 8 and a half years during my first marriage. Various neighboring towns in the Gainesville area of Northeast Georgia, the place where I spent the bulk of my second marriage. Each place you live and set of people you live with have their own traditions - either ones that are old and have been handed down through the years from generation to generation, or the relatively new ones that you or your loved ones have started. And if you're a pretty well-travelled person like myself who cannot shake the habit of making friends everywhere they go (for better or worse), you seem to pick up other people's habit and traditions as and when the mood strikes.

As you may or may not have noticed, we are about a week away from the Big Day, El Navidad, the Head Honcho of all the other holidays. A day that is positively soaked, like trifle sponges imbued with sherry, with traditions. I love them all. Caroling, tree-trimming, mince pies...

When I was living in Lake Stevens we would usually go up to La Conner to spend Christmas with my in-laws. My mother-in-law had so many traditions that I just fell in love with. Like her annual Christmas party, a week or two before Christmas, when she would pick a different culture's cuisine every year to entertain her guests' palates with. One year it was Scandinavian, the next African. And she would have us over a week or so before the party to bake up tons of nibbles for the event. One year I remember spending a lot of time encasing olives in a cheese-straw-like dough.

As well as the party, there was the Christmas Mush. Ah, the Christmas Mush... those words just make me drool. I loved it so much I would make it myself every year during my second marriage.

What you do is to take about 1 cup of rice and combine it with 6 cups of milk (whole milk is best) in a heavy pan with a lid or a slow-cooker (crockpot). Cook it on low, I mean really low, stirring occasionally, for about 4-6 hours or until it is nice and thick, but not yellow. Serve in a bowl with a knob of butter or a dash of cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and brown sugar. To me it's not Christmas Eve without some mush!

Christmas Eve traditions continued with the filling up of everyone's stockings with little, uh, stocking-fillers such as miniatures of port, little books, puzzles, just cool little doo-dads and such after all the others were snug abed. It was always fun to eat a Christmas breakfast of cheesy potato casserole and a big iced wreath-shaped bun thingy that Joanne (ma-in-law) would always get from The Calico Cupboard in downtown La Conner. It was drizzled with sugary icing and candied peel... we'd sit there pulling all the goodies from our stockings and munching, very relaxed, just perfect, with a view of the water outside the back window.

One of the funnest things I ever did at a Christmas gathering (not sure if it was a tradition, but it would be fun to make it traditional) was when I went to a holiday party at my friend Nigel's grandparents' house.  As soon as we stepped through the door we were handed a piece of red yarn and instructed to follow it to its end. Trouble was, it was entwined throughout the house with everyone elses' piece of red yarn, in and out of all the rooms, inbetween the banisters, until finally one found the end, tied around a boxed miniature bottle of either Scotch, Sherry, Port, Gin or whatever... a fun icebreaker, if a little complicated, but it kept everyone out of the kitchen while the cooking was going on!

Another thing I once did that would be nice as a tradition was when I went with my family on a church bus, stopping at various nursing homes and neighbourhoods and singing carols... it really only works if you are not self-conscious, don't care about whether you're in tune, and give it your all, with some serious gusto. It was cold, and the bus was not the most comfortable in the world, but we gave it some stick! It was quite magical.

So I guess you could say, that when it comes to Christmas, I love all that schmaltz and romantic atmosphere. I love Nat King Cole and Dean and Der Bingle and Mel Torme. This is my time. Bring it on!

So Long, Farewell...

Death is always a tragic thing. When you hear of a celebrity dying, the reaction can range to one of mild interest or surprise (if it's someone you aren't very keen on) to complete shock (if it's someone you're a fan of, or someone quite young, or both). Yes, folks, it's that time again - time to see who we lost to The Grim Reaper this year. Quite a few surprises, too.

  • Alexander McQueen, designer
  • Art Linkletter
  • Barbara Billingsley
  • Dino De Laurentiis
  • Dennis Hopper
  • Christopher Cazenove 
  • Simon McCorkindale
  • Corey Haim
  • Dixie Carter (This shocked me!)
  • Eddie Fisher
  • Doug Fieger of The Knack
  • Fess Parker
  • Gary Coleman (another shocker)
  • George Steinbrenner
  • Gloria Stuart
  • James MacArthur (Danno, from Hawaii Five-O)
  • J.D. Salinger
  • Jean Simmons
  • Joan Sutherland
  • Jill Clayburgh (shocker number three)
  • Captain Beefheart
  • Jamie Gillis
  • Lionel Jeffries
  • John Forsythe
  • Lena Horne
  • Lynn Redgrave
  • Justin Mentell
  • Maury Chaykin
  • Mitch Miller
  • Paul Gray (Slipknot)
  • Pernell Roberts
  • Peter Graves
  • Rich Cronin (LFO)
  • Patricia Neal
  • Robert Culp
  • Ronnie James Dio
  • Tom Bosley
  • Teddy Pendergrass
  • Rue McClanahan
  • Tony Curtis
  • Solomon Burke
  • Chris 'Champagne' Kanyon (pro wrestler fired by Vince McMahon due to his homosexuality)
And the ones that really shocked me...

Greg Giraldo, stand-up comic and judge on Last Comic Standing. On September 25, 2010, Giraldo overdosed on prescription medication. After he failed to appear for a scheduled performance at the Stress Factory, police officers found him in his hotel room at the Hyatt Hotel in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and rushed him to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in that town. TMZ reported that he had been in a coma for four days when his family had life support removed. He died on September 29, 2010. He was 44.
    Manute Bol (October 16, 1962 - June 19, 2010) was a Sudanese-born basketball player and activist. Until the debut of Gheorghe Mureşan, Bol was undisputedly the tallest player ever to appear in the National Basketball Association. Bol was believed to have been born on October 16, 1962 in either Turalie or Gogrial, Sudan. He was the son of a Dinka tribal chief, who gave him the name "Manute," which means "special blessing." Manute Bol was 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m) and 225 lb (102 kg). In 1985 Bol was drafted in the second round by the Washington Bullets. He played in the NBA for ten years, from 1985-1995, spending parts of four seasons with the Bullets, parts of three with the Golden State Warriors, parts of four with the Philadelphia 76ers and part of one season with the Miami Heat. In 1987, the Washington Bullets drafted the 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) point guard Muggsy Bogues, pairing the tallest and shortest players in league history on the court for one season. Bol was very active in charitable causes throughout his career. In fact, he says he spent much of the money he made during a 10-year NBA career supporting various causes related to his war-ravaged nation of birth, Sudan. He frequently visited Sudanese refugee camps, where he was treated like royalty. More recently, Bol has been involved in the April 2006 Sudan Freedom Walk, a three-week march from the United Nations building in New York to the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. The event was organized by Simon Deng, a former Sudanese swimming champion (currently a lifeguard at Coney Island) who is a longtime friend of Bol. Deng, who was a slave for three years from the age of nine, is from another tribe in Southern Sudan.  On June 19, 2010, Bol died of complications from Stevens–Johnson syndrome at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    Robert Schimmel (January 16, 1950 – September 3, 2010) was an American stand-up comedian whose material was often X-rated and controversial. He was perhaps best known for his comedy albums and his appearances on HBO and The Howard Stern Show. Schimmel is number 76 on the 2004 program Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups Of All Time. Schimmel cited Lenny Bruce as his all-time comedy hero. Schimmel incorporated any aspect of his personal life into his act, even his cancer and the death of his son. In one signature bit, Schimmel joked about making obscene suggestions to a lady from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.    On August 26, 2010, while travelling on Interstate Highway 10 in Phoenix, Arizona, Schimmel was involved in a major car accident that left him in a very serious condition. Aliyah, Schimmel`s 19-year-old daughter, was driving with her brother also in the car. Sources say Aliyah swerved to avoid an accident in her lane and lost control of the vehicle which rolled over. It came to a stop on its side on the shoulder of the freeway. Aliyah Schimmel was hospitalized and is in stable condition. Schimmel’s son was not injured. On September 3, 2010, Robert Schimmel died of his injuries.

    Fare thee well...

    Santa Claus Is Watching You

    Some very good lessons in this tune.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Festive Fun With The Home Chaps

    To get you in the holiday spirit, I thought I'd post this festive movie I created over at, where you can create animated movies of your own just by writing the script. Happy Holidays, yo.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Rude Boys and Girls

    So I was sitting here this evening wondering about whether to post something or not, and I decided eventually to give it a crack. I really didn't have a clear idea of what to write about, but that seems to happen to me a lot and so far it's worked out just fine and dandy.

    I've had a lot on my mind recently, what with the recent anniversary of my unfortunate incarceration, and the students rioting and poking Camilla, England's finest thoroughbred, with a big stick, and my recent acquisition of a new job, and Christmas shopping (and then of course, wrapping the presents - not a skill I could put on my resume), and writing and sending Christmas cards, and catering for the Town Mayor, and making movies and taking photos and all that malarkey. It's enough to make you wanna spit.

    I was reading about all the wondrous advances this species has made in the last century-and-a-half or so, what with electrickery and cars and phones and whatnot. One of the subjects under discussion was rudeness. How we, in general, as a culture, have become ruder and more self-absorbed and more concerned with the inconsequential. Especially with mobile phones. It seems to me that texting is not really rude unless you break off from an actual real live conversation with another individual to do it. Texting is an activity that one can perform quietly without disturbing someone else, but phone calls are another matter. No-one wants to be forced to overhear your private conversation with the wife about little Timmy's diarrhoea or the man who installed your double-glazing. But people carry on like this all the time. The best analogy I read for this was from Lynne Truss's book Talk To The Hand:
    To me, the delight of people answering or making calls is that they suddenly - and oblivious to the enforced eavesdropping - reveal enormous amounts about themselves, as if they had, under the influence of hypnosis, stood up on a table and started stripping, and then, just as suddenly, got down again, adjusted their clothing, and resumed the anonymity of the everyday humdrum passenger.
    Another thing that has struck me as being a bit odd since I got back from the States is how free and easy we stiff-upper-lip Brits have gotten with the usage of the F-word. In the States, if you want to show a movie with curses of this nature in, you have to either show it on a premium channel such as HBO or bleep it out or replace it (which can lead to such odd sentences as "What the fruit is going on?"). Here, it's all over the TV, at not particularly late hours. I was quite taken aback the first time I heard it. 20 years ago you'd have been publicly flailed in the daily rags for uttering an oath on prime-time TV. It has now become so common that it's not even shocking anymore. Trouble is, with all the exposure to this, along with violent video games, the Internet and other such demons, the language of young children has also gotten to a shocking level. Many teachers face being cussed out daily by their pupils for giving too much homework or other terrible infractions. I have lost count of the number of times this year I have said to some person or other, "If I'd have said that to my mother when I was their age..." and of course, ended up sounding like an old fogey in the process.

    But it's funny, two of the most popular shows on TV in recent years, Nanny 911 and Supernanny, have shown that unruly potty-mouthed tantrum-throwing kids can be transformed into halfway-decent children just by the judicious use of discipline and a little respect and consideration for others. Of course, that's just for the parents, those self-interested, self-ingratiating twats. And yet, and yet, despite the lessons learned by these families on a weekly basis in front of an audience of millions, the millions cannot seem to grasp it. We've all watched these shows - Wife Swap  is another one - and tutted and shaken our heads at the fact that these parents are so concerned with not upsetting little Jimmy, even though the little snotrag's been having a tantrum for the last seven hours merely because he got a PB&J in his lunchbox rather than a Big Mac, when they should have been teaching him to tough it out ("You get what you're given, like it or lump it" as my Mum would have said), yet a large percentage of us act just like that, albeit to a smaller degree, with our own kids. We are so desperate to have a quiet life, it makes you wonder why we didn't think of that before we decided to have kids.

    I am lumping myself in this, by the way. I am not hurling accusations and trying to paint myself as some sort of glowing example of parenthood. I, too, have been suckered into the delusional thinking that accompanies most bad parenting. But I like to think nostalgically back to my own childhood and think "What would/did my mother do?" because as far as I remember, she didn't take any crap from us kids, even though we occasionally dished it out. She gave as good as she got. And the F-word was something that you ONLY said around your buddies, not within any adult's earshot. Nowadays anyone wishing to not be exposed to rude language had better sell their TVs, CDs, computers and radios and buy a set of earplugs for when they are out in public. Better still, just stay in bed. Hey... that's not a bad idea.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Christmas Repeats

    I am aware that this is the second time I have featured this video on my blog, but it's just too darn good. Love Death Cab For Cutie.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Liike, Yeahh :-)

    I know I sometimes harp on about the way the English Language, our mother tongue, is continually being bastardised and reduced to a shadow of its former erudite self, but sometimes there are things about which I become so incensed and enraged, I feel compelled to put fingers to keyboard once more.  (I also know that I have been depriving you devoted readers of quality, original material to sink your collective teeth into, so that is another incentive).

    As you know, unless you have been making your home under a large boulder on a beach in the Southern Indian Ocean, the Internet, mobile phones, Top 40 and rap music, movies and TV, chavs and other social phenomena have been gradually eroding our once-great language away and giving rise to such horrors as Txtspeak, LOLspeak, and such, innit, blud? I now have to report on a new fad in Facebookland that is driving me crazy (this week). Aside, that is, from the large amount of young people who have clearly falsified their date of birth in order to obtain a Facebook account and chat inappropriately to all their other little ten-year-old chums online.

    What I am tallkiinggg aboutt is the additionn of exxtra :-) letters to wurdz n their deliberate misspellzing, abreviatin and omission of vowels n rdr 2 lk kewl. I think this must have all started when someone was online that genuinely couldn't spell or type properly. Someone thought it looked cool and copied it. And now, it extends to adding these oh-so-hip effects to their names, and then giving themselves hilarious or silly nicknames and middle names. If I did that, I might be called Jefff Pork-sword Hiickmoot.  And I don't think anyone wants that, now do they?

    Why is this necessary, young peeps? Isn't it enough we have to deal with your strange behaviour and predilection for talking arrant bosh every day of the year, as well as your liking for pants that are big enough to house a Vietnamese family hanging halfway down your butt and ear-grommets so huge you could drive a bus through them? There is a whole generation of people with piercings everywhere you can think of and hair that would have been considered outlandish in the 80s (which is saying something) who now work in banks and offices. I was recently at the JobCentre, and the young fella-me-lad that served me ("Col") had an armful of tattoos, piercings in his lower lip, and earplugs through his lobes the like of which I had not seen since the last time I picked up a copy of National Geographic. My sister's personal banker has a nice shirt and tie, a faceful of zits and hair so spiky it looks like Limahl mated with a hedgehog.

    I guess I am just an old fuddy-duddy, wanting things to be the way they once were, getting all nostalgic for 'the good old days' and regarding young people with suspicion. I know we gave our parents fits when we were that age. I am not surprised by the fact that teens are rebelling, coming up with their own culture and buzzwords. Nor am I surprised by the fact that most of them obviously don't give a flying f**k who they upset and annoy. I am upset by the fact that this stuff bothers me, when I thought twenty-five years ago that none of it ever would. I thought I was hip. I assumed I still was... I was down with all the latest music and was up-to-date culture-wise. Then one day I heard some noise emanating from a speaker, screamed "Turn that crap off and play something with some words!" and it's been downhill ever since.

    Oh well. I've said my bit. Time for my cocoa and slippers.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    My Christmas Song For You

    One of my absolute favourite Christmas songs, by the Mills Brothers. A rare treasure.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    100 Records That Shook The World, # 55

    The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

    Pink Floyd

    "I've got a bike
    You can ride it if you like
    It's got a basket, a bell that rings
    And things to make it look good.
    I'd give it to you if I could
    But I borrowed it."
        -- Bike, Pink Floyd

    Pink Floyd's debut album was the only one based on the vision of founding singer/guitarist Syd Barrett, an art student whose world revolved around music, mysticism, and liberal doses of hallucinogens. The band's moniker was taken from the first names of Georgia bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council (an album of theirs was a favourite of Barrett's), and the album's title came from a chapter of Kenneth Grahame's children's classic, The Wind In The Willows (also a staple of Barrett's library).
    Recorded at Abbey Road at the same time The Beatles were cutting Sgt. Pepper, Piper is an avant-garde pastiche of trippy improvisation and snappy pop snippets--a blurring of musical borders that went far beyond what the Fab Four were doing a couple of rooms away. (Producer Norman Smith had been The Beatles' chief engineer for much of the early '60s.) Instrumental tours de force like "Pow R. Toc H". and the 9-minute 41-second "Interstellar Overdrive" smashed the conventionality of the pop mainstream by opening up traditional song structures, as bits of Rick Wright's reverb-soaked Farfisa organ and Barrett's scratchy guitar float in and out of the mix. The other side of Barrett's musical expression was an ability to write shorter "pop" songs that were similar to traditional fare only in length--acid-fueled observations of a Siamese cat on "Lucifer Sam", and child-like tales on "The Gnome" and "Bike".  Barrett seemed destined for greatness--that is, until psychedelic drugs got the best of him, and he abandoned the band to bassist Roger Waters and new guitarist David Gilmour. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Christmas Island

    The lovely Andrews Sisters with Guy Lombardo bring us a tropical Christmas wish.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Christmas Sucks

    This band is Porn Orchard & The Opal Foxx Quartet. This tune has being doing the rounds of the 'Net for a few years, often mislabeled as being by Tom Waits and Peter Murphy, which is a sort of tribute to the accuracy of the impersonations. Enjoy...

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    A Houseful

    I find myself in the very odd position of sharing a house with one very lovely woman, three mentally challenged  dogs, one 20-year-old who is barely ever here and three boisterous boys. This is by choice, you understand - I have moved in with my girlfriend Laura and her brood. Now, I have fathered children of my own, and the challenges of parenting never change, but the challenge of what is essentially step-parenting is a new one to me. In an environment where one is "the new boy", getting accepted is one thing, but getting listened to is quite another. I generally have no trouble with the 20-year-old Amy who is hardly ever here because she spends a lot of time with her significant other, and Josh, the 15-year-old who generally is off in his own little world of Line Rider, Fallout New Vegas and Xbox-related activities. The 10-year-old Matt with his trademark cheeky grin is usually OK with things I say or do, but occasionally has yelled at me, and 9-year-old Ewan is also quite sweet most of the time, unless one or other or both of his brothers says or does something he disagrees with, or dislikes, or vaguely construes as some kind of a dis. It is when the boys decide to fight with each other about something seemingly trivial that I have to grit my teeth and either let their mum sort it out or let them fight to the death, because I have found out to my chagrin that I am still too much of a noob to be taken seriously or even listened to most of the time.

    It's weird, being in the position of being able to offer parenting advice (having been a parent and worked as a daycare provider for 6 years), yet not being able to apply any of my knowledge because it will get ignored when utilised, by three boys who still regard me with some suspicion. I have been told on a few occasions by one or other of the anklebiters to be quiet (well, they didn't put it so politely) or that they "don't care", simply because I am the "new" one of the group. I then have to somewhat bite my tongue. (It should be said here that two of the boys have learning difficulties. It should also be said that I do find them all charming and endearing in their own ways. Josh and Matt have great senses of humour and even Ewan has come out with some priceless corkers. They are all quite sweet, and it is important that this be understood, and that I am in no way criticising them, or their mum.) Whatever happens, though, it's certainly not dull.

    The dogs are all a bit special, it must be said. Speaking as one who has lived with cats for most of his life, I've always regarded dogs as being a bit, well... dim. I think it is the independent streak in cats that I find most endearing, that kind of "I don't really need you, but I choose to stay here" attitude that sort of commands respect from us dullard humans that I like. Dogs, however, are the opposite. Always looking at you like, "Ooh, whatcha got? Whatcha doin'? Ooh, entertain me!". However, living with these dogs is interesting.

    There's Tigger. He's the top dog. He is in charge, and gets upset with the other two if they fight. He loves people, especially if they are wearing black pants which he can smother with his ginger hairs. Especially my sister, for some reason. He's not allowed on the furniture, except when my sister arrives and then he thinks it's OK to sit on the sofa next to her and will not be budged. He's like, "This is my woman and I am not leaving her side." He has one of those plaintive faces that just melts your heart.

    Then there is Sally a.k.a. Bear. She's a little barrel-shaped Border/Lakeland mix with a quizzical expression on her face who gets excited at the mention of her name and pats her front paws in a kind of quick pat-a-pat motion coupled with little leaps. She can actually jump surprisingly high for a dog of her stature.

    She and Charlie both have this habit of doing what I call the "Chicken-Leg", dragging their back legs around the carpet in an attempt to get noticed.

    And then there's Charlie. He's... well, he's a special dog. You've heard the expression 'wag the dog' - well, when his tail wags, his entire spine does too, giving rise to his nickname 'Charlie Sideways' among others. It's especially funny when he tries to walk and wag, and funnier still when he tries to walk downstairs and wag. He's also prone to peeing when over-excited. Poor Charlie.

    So, here I am in probably the most boisterous, noisy, busy house I've ever lived in. But there isn't anywhere else I'd rather be. Right now I can hear the boys talking and playing in their room, Amy's esconced in her bedroom, Laura's sitting in her computer chair, and I'm on the bed blogging. The dogs are downstairs in their beds, and we are all looking forward to a nice crisp day tomorrow, hopefully with a bit of snow. All is right with the world.

    Christmas Dreaming - Christmas Through the Years

    The very wonderful Dick Haymes croons one of my favourite Yuletide tunes. Get your festive on.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Writer's Block

    I have a serious case of writer's block.

    "But Jeff..."

    Lemme just stop you right there, dear reader. I know what you're going to say. I'm way ahead of you. You're going to say something smart-alecky about how I'm writing this, so how could I possibly have writer's block, huh? Aren't you?

    I'm lounging on the bed in a cat-like pose, resting on my elbows which is terrible for my dry old-fogey elbow skin, thinking hard of something to try to entertain you people with. It's not easy, you know. People think it's easy writing this drivel day in day out. Except it hasn't been every day... it's been a while. Last time I actually wrote something that wasn't an instalment of 100 Records That Shook The World or a chapter of my novel was on the 10th, the 10th!! 13 days ago! So what to write about?

    It is Tuesday November 23rd. Yesterday was my daughter Emily's birthday. She is now 11 years old. She's growing quite tall, now matching her mother in height - and her mother is no shrimp. Today is the birthday of both my friend Nick, and my father Alan. Happy Birthday to you both. It is my birthday on Thursday. It will be Thanksgiving also.

    It is hard to believe sometimes, but at this time last year I was living in a homeless shelter in Gainesville, Georgia. I won't go into the circumstances surrounding how I got there, because that might once again force me into having to take down this post, for reasons I cannot fully explain, nor completely understand. It just does my head in. My question to the world in general is this though - what is the statute of limitations on this? When am I going to be allowed to say what I want to say about my ex-family in a public forum? When they're all dead?

    I digress.

    When I was released from jail, where I had been for six days, I spent the night hanging around a shopping center, mainly at a Wal-Mart, until I could (a) get a hold of some belongings from my spouse, and (b) wait for a shelter to open. When I finally got into the Salvation Army shelter on Dorsey Street in Gainesville, GA, it was like a homecoming compared to what I had just endured. OK, you say, six days in jail doesn't sound like much, but to me, who has had very little legal trouble in the grand scheme of things, six days away from my home and family and familiar surroundings, spent in the company of some very unsavoury types, is a whole helluva lot.

    That first night was great. The shelter had just receiver a large donation of food from Red Lobster - the very one where I had been a waiter (sorry, server) in 2006. So that night the food was amazing.

    The place was full of characters, probably still is.

    It was run a by a big jolly Hispanic man named Jorge, who was kind and understanding but didn't take no mess from anyone. If you screwed up by coming in late or under the influence, you were gone. Jorge's son and wife would help out.
    Then there was Jay, a black guy from New Orleans, who did most of the cooking. He would rustle up wonderful Cajun-influenced grub from almost nothing. Sweetest guy, troubled by poor vision, seemed to do most of his cooking by touch and sound rather than anything else.
    Then there was big, burly Steve, who cooked breakfast most of the time, and would come wake us up at 6 am with a loud, gruff, "Bre' fust!!" as he knocked on the door of the dorm and opened it. The sort of guy who could talk your ear off about almost anything, and sometimes nothing.
    The people I shared the dorm with, those I remember, were interesting characters too.
    Joe was a tall lanky guy who worked in construction, with a love of Southern Rock and a tremendous appreciation of Jay's food, and a liking for the comedy of Ralphie May. We were allowed to stay up till 10pm watching TV, and oftentimes it would be me and Joe and maybe one other person in there watching Comedy Central.
    Ernie was like an older smaller version of Joe but with a coarser sense of humour. Always enjoyed watching things like Operation Repo and stuff on the Discovery Channel.
    There was a funny black guy named Kirk who was there with his wife Jennifer. Kirk slept in the bed opposite me, and Jennifer of course had to sleep in the women's dorm. I snore quite loudly, and while most other people complained about it, Kirk went the other way. "You gon' sing me to sleep tonight, Bubba?" he'd say, as he settled down for a rest. Lovely guy.
    There was Jose (or as Ernie called him, Jose-can-you-see) who slept in the far corner and liked to play his selection of ringtones for us every night. Oftentimes the bed would shake me awake, and I'd roll over, rub my eyes and see the shadowy figure of Jose shuffling back towards his bed, and I'd know he'd jolted the end of the bed to stop me snoring.
    There was Willie, the taxi driver, who spoke with a kind of hurried sniffy stutter, and was completely into WWE wrestling, reading the autobiographies of people like Batista and Ric Flair.
    And there was Louis, a Jewish guy from Noo Yawk, who loved English humour and wanted me to find him some more 'Essex girl' jokes for him to tell some other English folks he knew (In case you don't know, 'Essex girl' jokes are somewhat similar to Blonde jokes, but a bit cruder).

    This year, even though I live in a country that does not celebrate Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the wonderful people at the Salvation Army shelter on Dorsey Street. Everyone with a roof over their head should be thankful for that fact. I never had to sleep on the street, but that freezing night at the Wal-Mart in my shorts and T-shirt was pretty damn close.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    100 Records That Shook The World, # 56

    Cold Sweat

    James Brown

    "Cold Sweat" is a watershed event in the evolution of funk music. Written by Brown and his bandleader Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis, with some subliminal inspiration coming from Miles Davis' "So What", and recorded in one 7-minute take with no overdubs, this was the first song in which Brown calls for a drum solo ('give the drummer some') which began the tradition of putting rhythmic breaks in dance tunes that continues to this day. It was released in July of 1967 edited into two parts, one on the 'A' side and the other on the flip. The entire 7-minute track can be found on the LP of the same name (pictured above). Enjoy.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    100 Records That Shook The World, # 57

    The Velvet Underground & Nico (LP)
    Early copies of this Andy Warhol-designed sleeve invited the new owner to "peel slowly and see". Peeling the plastic yellow skin revealed a flesh-coloured banana underneath.
    'The Velvet Underground & Nico' was The Velvet Underground and vocal collaborator Nico's debut album, originally released in March 1967 on the Verve label. It was recorded in 1966 during Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia event tour, and it gained notoriety for its experimentalist performance sensibilities, as well as its focus on controversial subject matter expressed in many of their songs.

    Although it was largely ignored upon release, the record has since become one of the most influential and critically acclaimed rock albums in history, appearing at number thirteen on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time as well as being added to the 2006 National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Chapter Three

    You may recall that I restarted my novel in July, and posted Chapters One and Two during the summer. Since then my life has been a bit of a rush, what with a new relationship blossoming and moving and jobs beginning and ending and such. So Chapter Three has been a long time coming, but I finished it tonight. Anyone wanna read it? Of course you do.

    The book's title has changed too. As with all works in progress things are apt to change from time to time. The book was originally called Don's Tiny World, which I was never really happy with, so I have decided to change it to a simpler, more immediate title that more accurately reflects the path of the book... Atomic.

    Chapter 3

    Camden market, for the uninitiated, is a very cool place. The stalls are arranged in a fashion perfect for just wandering and 'happening upon' things. You are just as likely to find a flower stall as you are to find someone selling an ancient soundboard that was used at a '72 Roxy Music gig. It is situated next to Camden Lock, and within spitting distance of various watering holes, mostly run by Irishmen who know how to look after their Guinness. Don liked Camden market and the Lock for the good beer, the atmosphere, the great selection of eateries, and the record stalls. This was his primary reason for going there, which he did once every two or three months. His flat was sparsely furnished, yet he possessed a collection of vinyl, tape and CDs that was probably worth more than the flat itself.

    For some reason Perry had wandered off on his own. He often did this, and Don was used to just going home by himself. Perry had invariably shown up the next day with a story about bumping into an old mate, a woman, or some D-list celeb that had invited him to a party. How much of it was true, Don neither knew or really cared. As long as he got to wander round his beloved Camden a few times a year and enlarge his record collection, that was fine. Perry could do what he wanted. Either way, Don was on his own, riffling through the records under 'B'. Barrington Levy? Sure. Bardo? Not so much. Blondie?.... ah, Blondie.

    He suddenly stopped and reminisced as the copy of Eat To The Beat that had met his fingers stared back at him poutily. Yes, that was the LP with that fateful song on it, Atomic. The one that always reminded him of Stephanie, her hair, her eyes, her party, that first real kiss. He lingered for a few moments before moving on to Buddy Guy. Why did this guy file things under people's first names?

    His next stop after the records was a bookstall. As well as music, Don was a passionate reader. He didn't really have a preference for a particular style, just as long as it was good, well written and interesting. Sometimes he would just buy a book because it looked like it might be interesting or had a cool looking cover. In some cases the cover art was way more exciting than the contents turned out to be. Still, no matter. He was browsing through a rack of newer hardbacks when a slim volume caught his eye. It was curiously entitled Home Of The Spider, and he picked it up and had a quick peruse. It seemed to him that it was a fairly standard thriller and he was about to put it back in the rack when he froze, agog at the blurb on the back. More accurately, the picture accompanying the blurb, depicting the author, one Louisa M. Hall, artily photographed in black-and-white, standing next to a rubber plant. That face... those eyes... that Theda Bara bob. There was no mistaking it was Stephanie, his Stephanie. She was a thriller writer, a pulp novelist... wow. Just wow. He quickly regained his composure just enough to be able to buy the book. After that he was too stunned to continue shopping. Best go find a place to sit down. Maybe a drink would help calm him. After all, he'd just had a shock – a fairly pleasant one, but a shock all the same. His heart was seemingly trying to eject itself alternately out of his chest or his throat, and sometimes both at once. He tottered unsteadily to the nearest pub, bought a pint, sat down at an outside table and began to read.

    It was clearly Stephanie's writing style, he thought to himself. He could imagine her voice intoning the words as he read. It wasn't the greatest book in the world, but that did not matter to Don. He had found something that brought her back to life in his mind, and that was all he cared about for the moment.

    After two or three more drinks he was about halfway through the book and was hit with the sudden realisation that time was actually going by at its usual speed. Two whole hours had passed and Don had been in a dream state. If he didn't pick up the pace he was going to miss his train back home. He quickly gathered his stuff and made to go back to the market for one last browse. As he moved off, head down, bustling along, his elbow nudged a woman he was passing and sent the bags he was carrying and the papers in the woman's arms flying in fifteen different directions. Shit. That was all he needed. He quickly dropped to his knees and started scrabbling for all the pieces of paper and the contents of his bags, trying to rearrange them as neatly as he possibly could as he did so, and placing the papers into the waiting hands of the woman with the bob haircut. The bob hairc...



    He tried speaking but found his lips to be non-functional. He dumbly nodded as if his neck muscles had been replaced with jelly.

    “How the hell are you? What's it been, twenty-odd years?”

    Alright. Try to speak.

    “Mm. Mm.”

    “Are you okay, Don? You don't look too well. Here,” she motioned to the chair he had just vacated. “sit down.”

    Eventually he regained the use of his mouth and they spent the entire rest of the day catching up on old times. She had left uni and wandered from highly-paid job to highly-paid job, never feeling completely satisfied in any of them, before finally jacking it in and focusing on something she had always harboured a desire to do – writing. She had adopted the pseudonym because she thought her name sounded too boring. He told her how wrong she was, how he loved her name. He was like a giddy schoolboy. He completely forgot about the train, the market, or Perry. She offered to let him crash at her place for the night, and really, how could this silly infatuated man-boy refuse? Now that he'd found her again, he didn't want to let her out of his sight.

    Somehow he knew her stylish Hampstead flat would be decorated this way – an eclectic mix of old and new, a bit of IKEA here, a Chesterfield there, some Art Deco, Monet's “The Artist's Garden At Vetheuil” on the wall next to a Roy Lichtenstein, a Bauhaus-influenced armchair, a weaver's loom in the corner of the hall, some African sculptures and primitive American folk art in the bathroom. It was the way he would decorate if he cared about decorating and could afford to. None of it matched, yet it all seemed to fit together so well.

    They sat up all night just talking until their eyelids would not cooperate and they were forced to rest. She toddled off to her room, leaving Don on the Chesterfield. It was probably only the second time in his life he'd ever sat on a Chesterfield and certainly the only time he had used one as a bed. He slept soundly despite the extremely uncomfortable angle at which his neck was propped, due to abject exhaustion and too much excitement. He was roused by Stephanie's gently shaking his shoulder at about 11 a.m. and presented with a mug of strong coffee and a glass of OJ.


    Wow, this was a level of hospitality he was most unaccustomed to. He had to think for a minute to get his bearings somewhat and remember where he actually was.

    “Um, sure.”

    From the kitchen he could hear the satisfying sounds of sizzling, pans and plates clinking and clanking, and water boiling, along with the dizzying aromas of eggs and bacon and toast and more coffee. This was better service than any hotel.

    After breakfast, eaten at the table (at the table! How long had it been since he'd eaten at a table? How long since he'd even had a table?), Stephanie looked him directly in the eye and said, “How about a shower?” in that sort of semi-whisper much favoured by female actresses in American soap operas.

    He nearly choked on his last mouthful of coffee. “Wh-whaat?” he spluttered.

    “You probably need one, Don. You did sleep in your clothes, after all.”

    He was both relieved and disappointed at the same time, as the realization that she was suggesting he showered solo hit his cerebral cortex.

    “Oh, yeah. Right. Sure, sure.”

    The hot steamy water enveloped him like an old friend, running down the front of his face and chest, onto his belly and covering his naughty bits with a warm wet cloak of soap-enhanced goodness. He stayed in that shower for a good 15 minutes, revisiting in his mind every detail of the previous evening's happenings, all the sights, sounds, smells, conversations and wonderful memories it evoked. He could scarcely believe how fate seemed to have smiled upon him for once. As he stood lost in his reverie the shower door slid open and there stood Stephanie, towel in hand.
    His first instinct, like most men would, was to cover his manhood with his hand. He was slightly alarmed that Stephanie's response was to let out a small giggle.

    “Oh, come on, Don. I'm not a girl anymore. I've seen one before.” Her tone was a tad schoolmarmish, which he found mildly arousing.

    “Yeah, but you've not seen mine before, I mean, a little prior warning would have been nice.”

    “I just wanted to see the look on your face.”

    After a moment he could not help himself. He stepped out of the shower, made to grab the towel, but moved close to her, his damp chest rubbing against her blouse and the next thing they knew they were entwined, lips locked, heading towards her room, a moving pink mass of arms, legs and hair, tripping and fumbling until they fell onto her bed.
    It was there that they stayed until about 5 p.m., until they finally decided that they were both hungry and it was time to eat.  

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010


    A teacher says she had to give up teaching because she developed nodules on her vocal cords, caused, she says, by constantly having to raise her voice. She has been awarded over £150,000 in compensation. People are idiots.

    A survey of 17 large towns found that the stupidest town in Britain was Swindon, in Wiltshire. Participants were asked a variety of fairly straightforward questions such as how many legs an octopus has, and according to the man in charge of the survey, "You wouldn't believe the answers we got. How many animals have 13 legs?" People are idiots.

    Apparently Michael Jackson has a new single out, made from vocal tracks that were left in the care of producer Teddy Riley. Trouble is, several family members say it's not Michael's voice on the record. I say - who cares?! People are idiots.

    A five-year old boy, who has little or no concept of gender roles and sexuality, wanted to dress up as Daphne from 'Scooby-Doo'. What's the problem with that? He wanted to dress like that for his school's Halloween Parade. So he went to school dressed like that. Again, what's the problem? Nothing, except for the attitudes of other children, and adults, who jeered him and made negative comments. And then his stupid mom went and blogged about it. I don't know where I stand on this one. By all means let your kids dress up and express themselves, but have the good sense to realise that not everyone in this society is an enlightened peace-loving individual, and in fact some are outright assholes. But it is a double standard, isn't it? If a 24-year-old man went to a Halloween party dressed as a woman, that'd be fine, in fact we'd all be laughing our socks off at the funny man, wouldn't we? But a 5-year old boy, oooh, nonononooo. Grr. People are idiots.

    Apparently 43 percent of British local councils are considering cutting back on street lighting to cut back on costs. Opponents say that this could bring about a rise in crime. Duh. If crime rises, then of course more public money will be wasted on police and corrections. People are idiots.

    Some plonker found a piece of promo footage for a 1928 Charlie Chaplin film that contains a sequence of a woman walking across the screen with her hand to her ear as if talking on a cellphone. Now all these other dimwits are suggesting that this person is some sort of 'time-traveller' or even an alien. Look, even if someone could travel backwards through time to 1928, would they be able to use a cellphone? And who would they call even if they could? I know people are thick, but this takes the biscuit. No cellphone networks in 1928, no cellphones, ergo, no way. People are idiots.

    A 63-year old man from Boulder, CO shot himself in the leg with a 9mm bullet while sleepwalking. Apparently he regrets keeping a gun by his bed. Well, duh. People are idiots.

    George Dubya Bush went on telly Monday night in the States in an hour long interview with that boob Matt Lauer. He is as delusional as ever. He is convinced he did everything right and does not own up to any mistakes. He thinks that picking Dick Cheney as a running mate in 2000 was "a very good" decision, and refusing Donald Rumsfeld's resignation in the spring of 2004 "was the right decision." Waterboarding wasn't torture "because the lawyers said it was legal" (and because "I'm not a lawyer"), he "really didn't" have any doubts about the pre-war intelligence on Iraq and WMD, and "we just didn't have any solid intelligence" warning that 9/11 was possible. Oh, and the idea that his administration could have done something between 2001 and 2008 to prevent the Wall Street meltdown? "I frankly don't think this was a crisis of a lack of regulation." Some people are idiots, and then there's Dubya.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Musical Youth

    Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just jealous that a 10-year old has a record in the charts and I don't, but I am afraid that I just cannot stand Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair", a pre-pubescent paean to the joys of spinning your head around really fast (which, if I tried it, let's face it, would probably put me in the ER in minutes) and letting your long locks whip around like some hairy helicopter blade.

    While this may be, in young Ms. Smith's mind, a worthwhile topic to discuss with others of her peer group, I feel that it should be a topic best discussed in the schoolyard as opposed to the Top 40 charts. Don't get me wrong, I am sure she is a pleasant enough young lady, and her parents are both fine individuals, as is her brother, but I really cannot see that she would have made the charts if her dad wasn't Will Smith.

    Let's just take a gander at some of the, ahem, lyrics, shall we?

    Don't let haters keep me off my grind What does that mean?
    Keep my head up and I know i'll be fine
    Keep fighting until I (yea)
    Am down and I feel like giving up

    I whip my hair back and forth
    I whip my hair back and forth (just whip it)
    I whip my hair back and forth
    I whip my hair back and forth (whip it real good)
    I whip my hair back and forth
    I whip my hair back and forth (just whip it)
    I whip my hair back and forth
    I whip my hair back and forth (whip it real good)
    I whip my hair back and forth
    I whip my hair back and forth (just whip it)
    I whip my hair back and forth
    I whip my hair back and forth (whip it real good)

    I really despair sometimes. Let's just hope that if any more, er, tracks are forthcoming from Ms. Smith, she has the good sense to employ songwriters who do not have "songwriter for Barney the Dinosaur" on their resume. She's not going to be 10 forever, so a little imagination and maturity in her lyrics might be an idea. Still, as ridiculous a song as it appears to be, it's insanely catchy... unfortunately I don't seem to be able to find the video on YouTube as I'm in the UK, and for some reason Willow's channel is not available to us Brits, even though we buy her records and watch the video on TV. Here's a TV performance from the Ellen Show, and I guarantee you will either be pulling out your hair afterwards or singing it all day tomorrow.

    Earlier, while skipping from channel to channel in the company of 17-year-old Jack, I was subjected to something that to me is quite odd - British rap. Yes, rap is big in this country, but when you see a video that looks like it could be any other rap/hip-hop joint and the black dude opens his mouth and starts sounding like Snoop Dogg meets Dick Van Dyke, it's a bit jarring. I'm still not used to it. Let me show you what I mean...

    In fact, ever since Corinne Bailey Rae's big hit of a few years ago, Put Your Records On, it seems to have been in vogue not to disguise your English accent when you sing, and in fact to exaggerate it so that you sahnd like ya come from the East End of Ol' Lunnon Tarn, innit, blud? So we now have all these singers like Eliza Doolittle, Lily Allen  and Kate Nash going for that cute-English-girl-next-door-with-attitude sound. It's a bit bizarre.

    Used to be the only singer anyone could think of that didn't adopt a North American inflection when he sang was Morrissey, or perhaps John Lydon. Now the place is crawling with 'em.

    Anyhoo, that's about all I have to say today. Sorted, mate. Back of the net.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Be My Guest

    Well, I was gonna write something today, but I can't think of anything. So why don't you head on over to my friend Clark's blog and check out today's guest blogger... it's you-know-who...

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Life, etc.

    I am sitting here on the bed, well, I say sitting but I am in fact lounging. Feet on the pillow and resting on my elbows, laptop balanced on the far left corner. Got that picture in your mind? Good. I'm not sure what to write about, but as we've seen in the past, some of my best posts start out in just such a fashion. A lot of stuff has been going on recently and maybe I'll just start out cataloguing them and see where that takes me. OK?

    The thing I need to talk about first and foremost is my girlfriend. As avid readers of this blog will no doubt remember, I am in love with my lovely Laura, who funnily enough was my girlfriend back in 1987/88.
    Adorable, no?
    After I arrived back on these shores in January (has it really been that long?) I embarked on a quest to rekindle friendships and have a few beers with old friends, which I did. One day I received a message from Laura's daughter Amy on Facebook, and soon I was visiting Laura and family. After several visits and many long talks on the computer, Laura and I realised we were still in love with each other after all these years. We have been dating steadily for a couple of months and I am now at the point where I am due to move in with her. 

    Jobwise I just finished my stint at Smallhythe Place when it closed for the season on October 31st. So now I am seeking gainful employment. I cannot remember the name of the person that said it, but there is a well-known quote that is quite apropos: "I used to think I wanted a career. Now I realise I just want a paycheck." That about sums up my attitude toward work in general. I think I'd probably be bored out of my skull if I had the same job year in year out. I'd rather do lots of different things and create good relationships and memories than be tired of the same faces day after day.

    My dear daughters are growing big and strong and beautiful and I hear from them and their mother frequently, all is well within their camp and I am happy for them.
    Charlie is studying in college and getting more handsome, like his dad, every day. He's a talented musician, too, and he just turned the ripe old age of 20. He lives with his grandparents who are still adventuring the world.

    It is now the best season of all, Autumn. A very busy time for me traditionally, lots of birthdays and holidays.
    It all kicked off in October with my son Charlie's birthday (see previous paragraph), then my Uncle Steve (who lives in Oz) on the 20th, then my friend Kev for whom I baked a decadently gooey chocolate cake, then Halloween, which is also my daughter Sue's birthday. Then we have a busy time at the end of November - my daughter Emily will be 11 on the 22nd, my dad's birthday is the 23rd, my friend Nick on the 24th, and me on the 25th. This will be the first November in 19 years that I have not celebrated Thanksgiving too, so it'll be weird. But I'll manage, I suppose. I always roll with it. 

    That's the key to life, I think, to roll with it and not sweat the small stuff. Oh, and by the way, I tried reading the book Don't Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, and it was OK, I mean, most of what he said seemed like common sense, but then about halfway through he had to go and bring God into it, and that is when I just switched off. It's OK.... the book was getting to be a bit 'up itself', you know? So even if he hadn't mentioned the G-word, I was getting fed up with it anyway. I just had a hard time believing this guy was as nice and calm as he was making out. I was longing for him to talk about getting really angry, just once, just enough to let you know the guy was actually human. Instead every difficulty was met with a placidness usually associated with a statue of an iceberg. My advice, if you haven't read it, is... don't waste your money (unless it's a gift, in which case, take it back to the store and buy something cool for yourself instead, like a nice teapot and some teabags, then go home and make a nice brew).

    If you want a better book, try Charlie Brooker's Dawn Of The Dumb or Benjamin Hoff's The Tao Of Pooh. Both thumping good reads.

    Anyway, that's my little update on things, a nice random read, and I think it turned out pretty well, don't you?
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