Northern Atlantic Elephant Seals basking
28 December 2006
Been "busy doing nothing". And I am not ashamed. We seem to spend so much of our lives rushing around, getting things done, like ants on a great antheap. These last few days I have been in a kind of hibernation. It happens in late December most years. This morning I lifted the duvet and looked at our radio alarm - 8.32. What the hell? Like a Northern Atlantic elephant seal I rolled over and went back to sleep till 9.43, groggily emerging from a jumbled dream.
Down the stairs for a mug of tea and a bowl of hot oat cereal. Turn on the TV to watch "House Doctor" in which an American interior designer advises home sellers how to best prepare their homes for prospective buyers. Out goes all the clutter of life. Instead we step into a magazine world of neutral shades, strategically positioned vases of flowers and scatter cushions. Outside in the garden a young man with the unlikely name of Sven Wombwell lays paving slabs and shovels up dog shit. Then surprise, surprise - the prospective buyers are wowed by the property. "Join us again for the next edition of House Doctor. Goodbye". Time for another mug of tea. Time to let the cat in. Time to scatter the remains of our Xmas turkey on the lawn for my bird friends. Hey it's now past eleven. Time for a shower. Cut my toe nails. Open the mail. Get dressed. Yawwwn! Perhaps I should go back to bed?
This is what Pliny the Younger called "That indolent but agreeable state of doing nothing". Trouble is Shirley's on a half day at work and she'll be back at one asking me what I've been doing. The answer "Nothing" might have gone down well with Mrs Pliny but my missus won't find such a response agreeable. I think she expects me to wash all the clothes, iron them and put them away. As a compromise I spend three minutes emptying the dishwasher. Then I check the turkey soup I made yesterday afternoon. Toss in a little cream and some pearl barley. Mmmmm! Smell good!
And so the day goes idly on. I am now the official Roger Hargreaves Mr Lazy. The biggest activity of the day was taking Shirley's little Nissan Micra down to the petrol station to fill up and now I'm thinking I'll take a lazy stroll to the pub for last orders. Might see some other lazy assholes down there too and we can talk about our different experiences of procrastination. The spice of life!
23 December 2006
A Christmas card landed on our doormat this morning - all the way from Minneapolis, USA. It was from the first American I ever really knew - Richard. We met so long ago on the other side of the planet. He was in his mid twenties and I was nineteen. He was a Peace Corps volunteer teacher and I was sponsored by the UK's equivalent organisation - Voluntary Service Overseas.
Richard - cropped from Rotuman school photo.
When I signed up, I said I wanted to be located in the Caribbean - perhaps Jamaica, Trinidad or the Cayman Islands - not too far from "civilisation".
As it happens, V.S.O. sent me to the distant Pacific island of Rotuma. It was so remote - over three hundred miles north of the main Fiji Islands. By copra boat, it took three days to get there from Suva City and the boats were very infrequent - perhaps six a year. Rotuma appeared first as a smudge on the horizon - was it cloud or land? Then as the "Aoniu" chugged further northwards over the rolling Pacific blue, you could make out volcanic peaks and later the tropical greenery, white sands, coconut palms, Rotuman children playing.
Rotuma coutesy of Google Earth. A green jewel in a deep blue ocean.
The island was a world in itself. The rest of the planet seemed almost irrelevant. Though only ten miles long and two miles wide, it contained so much variety. There were remote beaches, tiny offshore islands, palm groves, beautiful pristine reefs where multicoloured fish hovered or darted, kitchen gardens in the mysterious "bush" where island men wandered daily with their lethal machetes. There were wild pigs and squawking seabirds and yellow bellied spiders as big as your fist and one starry night I watched a fisherman pull in an enormous sea turtle - illuminated by a benzene lantern, it looked like a true monster of the deep.
I recall much of my time there in vivid detail. While other years have utterly disappeared from my memory, that sojourn in Rotuma is etched on my mind like a Polynesian tattoo. The people were so resourceful and often so kind. They didn't have much but then again they didn't need much. They had a fertile island, plentiful seas, friendship, neighbours and of course the ubiquitous palm tree that served so many functions - providing trunks for canoes, leaves for thatching or weaving into intricate mats and fans, copra oil for export, refreshing milk from young coconuts and nutritious white meat for the pigs and chickens.
For me there were many highs and several lows. I had a lot of growing up to do in a short time. I couldn't phone home and the post took so long that it was hardly worth writing. With Richard I was teaching at the Malhaha High School - the only secondary school on the island. Most of the classes contained thirty to forty children and I had to learn about teaching "on the job". I taught English, History, Geography and sometimes Rugby. It was a steep learning curve.
Back at the house I shared with Richard in the village of Motusa, I loved to wander down to the white arc of Mofmanu beach and dive in the sultry Pacific waves at a point where there was a break in the reef. Usually, I was the only swimmer. One of the things that could sometimes get you down was our limited food options - fish and taro, corned beef and taro, breadfruit and taro, taro and taro. Feasts were better with whole pigs roasted on hot rocks, covered with banana leaves and sand for three or four hours and there were feasts every other weekend.
Sometimes, with old men from the village, I drank the narcotic "grog" made from the crushed roots of the yanquona plant. You didn't get drunk - just sort of zonked out - in a state of mind where nothing seemed important any more. The grog hut was a quiet place - no uproarious laughter just zonked out guys crosslegged in the shadows, listening to waves pounding on the edge of the reef.
Richard - cropped from Rotuman school photo.
There's so much I could say about Rotuma. Richard was there much longer than me and almost stayed forever. He was the real "fa fisi" or white man. He got to know the Rotuman language quite fluently and I guess his family in Minnesota thought he would never come home. Since then, his work has taken him around the world and he married a lovely Korean lady called Yong Sun who gave him a son who is now a man - Adrian.
Richard always remembered what I once said about the island of Rotuma - "a funny kind of paradise". He knew what I meant. There's an airstrip there today and the Rotuman people are much more worldly-wise. It's possible to holiday there now but back in the seventies, Richard and I were at first the only white people there - two strangers thrown together so far from home. Incredibly, with the updated version of Google Earth, I can scan the island like a deity, finally uncovering part of the mystery of Rotuma's "bush".
Richard told me in his card that he sometimes peruses this blog. It's funny how you make connections with people. You find youself in a situation and then many years later you're still connected. To regular visitors to this blog and to Richard, Yong Sun and Adrian in Minneapolis, I say
Merry Christmas and all the best for 2007!!
22 December 2006
Well I guess that an accused man is innocent until proven guilty but this is the night when the Suffolk County Police put their cards on the table and declared that the killer is forty eight year old Steven Wright. UK visitors to this blog will know what I'm talking about but my readers from the USA may be baffled. Let me just say that in the last month, the corpses of five young women have been found in south eastern England near the coastal town of Ipswich. Oddly, all five bodies were totally unclothed.
It was here in Sheffield that the famous Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, was arrested in 1981 after another killing spree. He was finally collared in a car park just twenty yards from the old Sheffield Teachers' Centre that I visited very regularly. Like Sutcliffe, it seems that Wright held a particular grudge against young sex workers. He may have killed other women up in Norwich and elsewhere. If it is him, thank God he is in custody now so that other desperate young women can sleep more easily in their beds.
This case makes me contemplate three issues. Firstly, how could any young woman living in a rich country like the UK ever resort to prostitution? There are many impoverished, drug-dabbling women for whom prostitution is totally out of the equation. Secondly, what kind of a man even considers going with prostitutes? Perhaps I am naive, undersexed or something but I would never, ever think of having sex with a total stranger who - apart from anything else -might have an STD or a scam for ripping punters off. Where would be the pleasure in swift copulation in a dark car park with someone you didn't care about, paying them hard earned money for this sordid activity? Thirdly, how could you murder someone who hadn't done you any harm at all? I could almost understand topping somebody who had bullied you or humiliated you or caused you pain but a young lass on a street corner in Ipswich, pathetically trying to live from day to day, how could you end the life of somebody so vulnerable? It's so sad.
When a dog mauls a child, we expect that creature to be put down. If it transpires that Wright is definitely the killer then I would recommend the same response for him. Perhaps there are background reasons for his evil acts - maybe his mother didn't love him, maybe he has some erectile dysfunction - I don't care - I would recommend death. That's real justice - natural justice. To Gemma, Tania, Anneli, Paula and Annette I say - Rest in Peace and sorry that our society couldn't give you another path to walk.
17 December 2006
Roary The Tiger is Hull City's mascot. Like Swansea City's Cyril the Swan, our mascot has attitude. He grabs kids' hats and confronts linesmen, makes sliding tackles and runs off with people's food. On more than one occasion, he has had to be reprimanded by officers of the law. Yesterday afternoon, Roary was as happy as the rest of us as The Tigers thrashed high-flying Cardiff City 4-1. Oh what a sight to behold! The leek-munching taffies were all over the place. They didn't know what had hit them and our lads played like, like... well like Tigers.
Of course we are managerless as I write this post. Rumour has it that the grim disciplinarian, Gary Megson, will fill the vacant post but I'm petitioning for Roary! The previous incumbent, Parkinson, was sacked twelve days ago and yesterday's victory was inspired by assistant manager - Phil Brown - named Championship Manager of The Day in that awful Sunday newspaper - "The News of The World".
I would never buy such a rag myself - I read it at Winnie's house. Winnie is my mother-in-law and she lives out in the sticks of north Nottinghamshire. Ian and Frances came along with us and we all went for Sunday lunch at "The White Swan" in Drakeholes by the Chesterfield Canal. Beautiful carvery lunch where you stagger back to your table with enough food for a couple of Irish Catholic families. And the weather was lovely - bright December sunshine, looking out over the ancient green arable landscape that reaches right down to Lincoln.
Sorry I guess that's all too boring for Anonoman. May I recommend that he visits the News of the World website at www.newsoftheworld.co.uk for seedy sex scandals and suchlike. With a box of Kleenex, this should keep him happy for a while.
One for the ladies - a cuddly Roary - available from Hull City AFC Club Shop.
14 December 2006
Boring - that's not a label anybody has ever attached to me but perhaps in all my years I never encountered such an astute judge of character as Anonoman - this stalker of the blogosphere whose mission seems to be to piss off the creators of any blogs he visits. Well maybe I am boring now, maybe I became boring somewhere along the line - I don't know. Perhaps you, dear reader, could judge for yourself as I describe my day.
I woke at seven as usual but my head was still pounding. I knew I should have left the casino earlier. However, after I had won that £15,000 on the roulette table, Sean Bean, Naseem Hamed, Michael Palin and all my other Sheffield mates decided we should party on and there was champers for everybody. I can't remember when I picked up that model - Natasha I think she was called. Gorgeous ass and she smelled like honeysuckle. Shirley was none too pleased when she woke up to find this Natasha between us - snoring lightly with contentment.
I decided to phone work to tell them I wouldn't be in today. Instead I jumped in my specially imported silver Ford Mustang and zoomed off into the Peak District for a spot of hang-gliding with Colin - an importer I have known for years - we have often chilled out at his ski lodge near Beaver Creek. Jeez it was brilliant to be up there on a bright December morning - up with the birds.
After a spot of ropefree rock climbing in Whinnat's Pass, I said my farewells to Colin and sped over to Chatsworth House for an excellent lunch with long time friend The Duchess of Devonshire. Lovely lady. We ate roast partridge and asparagus followed by these delicious paw-paws flown in specially from Guyana.
I had set up a brainstorming session with my committee in the aternoon. I am making most of the background arrangements for The Concert for Diana to be held in London next July. Elton John was being an utter bitch as usual so I just slapped him down. Honestly, that guy! You'd think he was an effing Princess himself.
After the meeting I had to zoom back home to "supervise" the guys who are installing the pool in our back garden. It looks like they are going to have it finished by Christmas after all! With tradesmen, I find you just have to show them who's boss and they jump into line like little schoolboys. They're doing a superb job. It's amazing what you can get for £85k.
Later on a familiar black Merc pulled up outside and Tony - the private detective I have hired - flipped open the boot and yanked out the weedy little specimen he has been tracking down for a couple of weeks now - this snivelling twerp who has been leaving unpleasant comments on my blog. He calls himself "Anonymous". Well we got him in the ballroom and Tony untied him. You could tell the guy was frightened - shaking and everything but I carried on with my plan. He put on some pink boxing shorts and a pair of gloves and I followed suit - though my shorts were baby blue. Then I gave this creature the biggest hiding of his life. Crunch! Splat! He lost a few teeth and his nose now points west so I guess I was the victor. Kindly, I ordered him a taxi home.
Later, after a meal of larks' tongues in aspic washed down with finest cognac, my family and I waltzed down to The Last Laugh Comedy Club where I have done a regular stand up gig for a few years now. I was surprised to see Jarvis Cocker and Phil Oakey (Human League) in the audience. They really are boring old farts compared with me so I declined Jarvis's offer of a line of coke when I encountered him in the Gents after walking off stage. Honestly - coke! Been there done that, got the T-shirt. Besides, the audience were stomping and chanting for an encore.
So here I am at my keyboard after another day in my life, mug of Horlicks and a mince pie by the monitor. The wife is desperately calling me upstairs - bloody insatiable she is - "I'll be up in a bit darling!" You know, life can be so dull sometimes. Ho-hum!
12 December 2006
Yo ho ho! It's the festive picture quiz! Which two blogs are represented by these pictures? Don't try this if you have an average IQ or you happen to be an anonymous bystander.
10 December 2006
Balanced on the top step of our aluminium step ladders, reaching, straining to saw away branches from the tree that overhangs the little block paved path that leads to the top half of our garden. I don't even know what kind of tree it is but I do know that it sends out long spindly branches that reach for the sky and need to be pruned from time to time. I see this tree from our back windows and every day I think - gonnna prune that mother! Well today I did it. The tree has had its long-awaited haircut.
My beloved Hull City lost again. This week we ditched our manager and so the assistant manager is in charge. Supporting this club is a pastime filled with pain and so little sunlight. How could we even dare to dream of the Premiership? It looks like we are sinking back into the abyss again. There can be no other supporters in the Football League so goddam hungry for success - just a little walk in the sunshine - that's all we ask.
At the pub tonight we watched the Bolton boxer Amir Khan strut his stuff - a clear points victory. Irish Joe was there and we swapped pint buying duties. And the Romanian student Rejvan was there again. His dad is a politician back in Romania. Rejvan is only eighteen but he's full of knowledge, curiosity and a zest for life. He's here in Sheffield as an undergraduate, pursuing a degreee in International Relations. Me and Shirley have invited him home for a traditional English Sunday dinner tomorrow evening.
Well, what can you say? These are the dark days of December before the Winter Solstice. You just have to get through it - in the knowledge that round the corner there is light, new growth, a new year. On Sunday, I will be writing Xmas cards as I did twelve short months ago. How come time is speeding by faster and faster? ....Sorry that this is such a mundane little post.
7 December 2006
An escape from everyday life or a time for recharging batteries. Sleep - oh come to me - you are night's daughter - so sang The Incredible String Band. "Sleep perchance to dream" said Shakespeare. And if I spent a few research minutes, I could find lots of other reflections on sleep. It's something all human beings have in common. Sometimes I nestle in to the clean cotton sheets that Shirley has laundered and it feels like easing into the Mediterranean - when warm waters lap over you and beneath the surface you are deafened, made lighter than you are, enveloped by womblike waters. It's like a rehearsal for death.
The night is filled with dreams but for me they rarely wait behind - they're gone like gossamer. I try to grasp them as I wake but they slip away and in any case, I know they are meaningless - just the brain ordering itself - filing and making some kind of sense of the ocean of data it receives each day. Sometimes sleep evades you when you need it most. When your head is filled with anxieties or pain and no matter how you try, those demons won't get lost. They torment and they torture till the morning palely brightens and you feel you've climbed a mountain. You're still exhausted.
We never talk of great sleeps we had in the past. For the majority of us that means we don't talk very much at all about one third of our lives. I remember Athens Airport in 1980. Rucksack checked in and a five hour nightime delay. I left the heaving terminal and under a nearby olive tree placed my passport and wallet under my head and fell asleep. I woke to a pastel Grecian dawn, before the sun rose like an angry eye and wandered back into the terminal where travelling chaos ensued.
Sleep - sweetest friend I ever had - always waiting there to embrace you. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz!
2 December 2006
Anonymity can be attractive or enormously irritating. Positive anonymity might be when you're lost in a crowd or you're in transit between places - just another human being in the flow of life, leaving the niggles and stresses of the everyday world behind you. When nobody even knows your name. And being an anonymous giver or hero is also attractive. I enjoy news stories about kind strangers who help old ladies to escape from house fires or pull somebody from a car wreck or pay thousands to prevent a hostel for the homeless from closing. Then of course, there are all those anonymous war heroes buried or lost - for example, where the plains of northern France meet Belgium - the unknown soldiers - entirely deserving of our endless honour.
Bad anonymity is different - the nameless morons who smashed my car window on five occasions to get at the CD/radio - the graffiti sprayers who leave their ugly scrawl for the rest of us to notice - the bureaucrats who don't give you their names when you're on the telephone - and in the world wide web there are those maddening but unnamed spammers and cowardly stalkers who leave "anonymous" messages in blogs - sometimes of an offensive nature.
However, maybe I'm being a little hypocritical about this because of course my parents didn't christen me "Yorkshire Pudding"! I have another name that people outside this cyberworld use and perhaps it's time to come clean. This whole blog has been an invention. I have never been to Yorkshire. My real name is Earl Radsinsky. I live in Baltimore, Maryland and I have been commisioned by the CIA to hunt down "anonymous" contributors to wholesome blogs. May I assure everyone out there that I know who these "anonymous" computer users are. I am gradually closing in on them and in the course of time they will each be, well, let's just say - eliminated!