29 January 2006

5000

Just looked at my visitor counter and I'm amazed to see that I'm just short of five thousand hits. That's brilliant! One of the things I love about blogging is bypassing publishers to get your own words out into the world for other people to read and this is one of the things I love about the internet as a whole - it's so anarchic - so free. You can go anywhere, find out anything.

I'd like to say thanks to everybody who has visited my site - especially regulars like Amy (Friday's Web), Dawn (Retarded Rugrat), Blog By George and Brad The Gorilla. These relationships are kind of weird - not like meeting someone in a pub or in the course of ordinary life - but in a way more intimate and open. And I'd also like to say thanks to the eggheads at Google for hosting Blogger and making the practical business of blogging so easy compared with how it might have been five years ago when you had to be some kind of geek to create a website.
Five thousand and I don't know when I will ever tire of this medium. There's always something new around the corner but at the core of life there remains an urge to connect with other human beings, to make better sense of this world that we are living in. So I'll shout it from the rooftops - Blog on!

27 January 2006

Tagged

Well, I'm not sure what this tagging thing is all about. I was tagged by "Friday's Web" and I guess the idea is you get other bloggers to address the sub-headings. Whooa! Such fun!
4 Jobs I've Had
1. Turkey farm general assistant
2. Pop singer
3. American summer camp counsellor
4. Foreman of Crown Court jury
4 Movies I can watch over and over (I very rarely do this)
1. Schindler's List
2. Once Upon A Time in America
3. Midnight Express
4. Five Easy Pieces
4 Places I've Lived
1. Stirling, Scotland
2. Leven, East Yorkshire, UK
3. Rotuma, Fiji
4. Newbury, Ohio, US
4 Places I've Vacationed
1. California
2. Ios Island, Greece
3. South Africa
4. County Clare, Ireland
4 Of My Favorite Dishes
1. Battered cod, chips (fries) & mushy peas
2. Chicken balti and egg pilau rice
3. Greek salad with feta cheese
4. Full English breakfast
4 Non-Blogger Sites I visit daily
1. BBC News
2. Hull City AFC
3. smile.co.uk (bank)
4. Ryanair
4 Places I'd Like to Visit
1. Antarctica
2. Easter Island
3. Goa, India
4. China
4 People I'm Tagging for this Meme (What's a meme?)
1. Brad the Gorilla
2. Just Jane
3. By George
4. Retarded Rugrat

26 January 2006

Guitar

He, she or it - I think I prefer "she" - hangs on the wall in a corner of our back room. I bought her perhaps eight years ago. She's an Almansa classical guitar made in Spain by Manuel Rodriguez - number 2012. I loved her smooth tone from the moment I first played her. She's only the second guitar I have ever owned.

I bought my first guitar when I was fifteen with part time money I earned at a turkey farm. There were hundreds of them, turkeys not guitars, white-feathered and identical. You'd bring sacks of feed into the sheds to top up the feeding hoppers and they'd be at you, pecking at your legs. In nightmares you'd see yourself stumbling in the wood shavings and they'd be on top of you - suffocating, pecking the life out of you.

That first guitar is upstairs. My son plays it from time to time. I took it to the other side of the planet, played it through university, made many songs with its help. Sometimes it sat there untouched for months and then I would return to it, picking it up each day, enjoying the relationship between my fingers, those strings and the words and tunes in my head. It was also a classical guitar. I never got used to narrow necks and with large fingers I guess I'm resigned to the easy width of the classical fretboard.
In the last year or so, I seem to always have my capo on the third fret. The sweeter tone has brought a whole new bunch of songs out of me. Mostly I play the songs for myself. I might play them alone at night with some beer in my belly and sometimes that's the best time, the words and the chords melding together in a magical whole which occasionally takes my breath away - as if I am just the vehicle for songs that had simply been waiting to be heard.
Being alive is a wonderful thing. But when do we really feel that truth? I might feel it swimming to the buoys off some Mediterranean beach or I might feel it when I'm enjoying a meal with my family or tackling pub quizzes with my friends or in that orgasmic moment when Hull City or England score the winning goal but I tell you, for me one of the clearest times is when I'm playing that guitar and creating songs. It's like something above and beyond me.
I can play Dylan, The Beatles, old English folk songs, Donovan, Jackson Browne, John Denver but mostly I prefer to play my own stuff. Usually, I have five or six songs in my head and then another one is born and before you know it I have forgotten one of those I had been playing for weeks. I have a dictaphone and sometimes I try to capture my songs like insects in amber - so that they do not slip away. I rarely talk to anybody about my clandestine song making so it comes as something of a surprise - even to me that I'm here at my keyboard blurting this out to the strangers who inhabit blogworld - perhaps a good idea for another song!

22 January 2006

Trivia

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Yorkshire Puddings!

  1. If your ear itches, this means that someone is talking about Yorkshire Puddings!
  2. Yorkshire Puddings are the only one of the original Seven Wonders of the World that still survives!
  3. If you drop Yorkshire Puddings from more than three metres above ground level, they will always land feet-first!
  4. Women shoplift four times more frequently than Yorkshire Puddings!
  5. If the Sun were the size of a beach ball then Jupiter would be the size of a golf ball and Yorkshire Puddings would be as small as a pea.
  6. All shrimp are born as Yorkshire Puddings, but gradually mature into lobsters!
  7. Yorkshire Puddings can sleep with one eye open.
  8. Ninety-six percent of all candles sold are purchased by Yorkshire Puddings.
  9. The porpoise is second to Yorkshire Puddings as the most intelligent animal on the planet.
  10. Yorkshire Puddingicide is the killing of Yorkshire Puddings.

20 January 2006

Weekend

Ahhhh! They've gone. All those adolescents with their hang-ups, aspirations and habits - a microcosm of working class English culture - bawdy, disinterested, foul-mouthed individuals mixed in with wholesome, hard-working " proper" students who look you in the eye and want to make something of their lives. They've gone with their bloody mobile phones and their bloody MP3 players, muddy shoes and cheap jewellery, eye shadow and scuffed footballs, manila folders and Nike bags. With a week's worth of emotional detritus, I remain here in the humming room where I have passed so many hours, spouted so many words, corrected so many lines, read so many books, fought so many battles. Ahead of me - the weekend, stretching out like a vast plain. Far in the distance I see horsemen riding towards a pine forest that sweeps up to faraway mountains. Every weekend it's the same but it always ends up like Groundhog Day - blink and it's gone, Monday morning comes round again and there's another week of hassle - fighting at the frontline for knowledge and decency, success and understanding.
So what of this weekend? Takeaway curry from Hamid's. Two or three pints in the pub. Back home to the mess that is my back room decorating project. Gotta make some progress this weekend - paint the ceiling and the picture rail with some wallpapering tomorrow afternoon. I've also got to fit in four or five hours of marking of students' papers following their recent "mock" exams. Don't think me and Shirley will be able to take time out to see The Tigers play Stoke City - there's too much to do. Tomorrow night, Saturday night, we'll treat ourselves to a few drinks at the pub. Our son, Ian should be home tonight - he's had a week's holiday and he's been staying down in London with friends. We've missed him. I think he's found time to visit three or four museums. I recommended the Tate Modern which is a fantastic home for some superb modern art - so beautifully presented - not busy and cluttered like some art galleries...
Click above for Tate Modern link...
Joan, the school cleaner, interrupted me just then, wiping the table tops, sweeping the floor. She showed me a picture her partner took in France - a marvellous purple sunset over a remote fishing lake - what the French call an "etang". I'd have been proud of that snap if I'd taken it myself. Gotta go - the weekend awaits - I'm "born to be wild"! Yay....!

Weekend 2

15 January 2006

Pineapple

Thanks to Brad the Gorilla for directing me to the fruity personality quiz. I was happy to discover that I am a pineapple - much more like me than Bambi for Chrissakes! A pineapple is well-protected on the outside but sweet and juicy on the inside, kind of exotic with a good top knot.


You are a Pineapple...the traditional symbol of
friendship, you embrace everyone as a
friend...you are loyal, kind and always there
for a friend in need...

What Kind of Fruit Are You?
brought to you by

12 January 2006

Ties

Who the hell invented the tie (necktie to American cousins)? I remember when I was training to be a teacher in Bonny Scotland, about to begin my first teaching practice at St Mungo's Academy, Alloa. The night before, I had to practise putting a tie round my neck for the first time. It was a khaki coloured woollen tie that my father had kindly lent me. Then, as now, the tie is considered de rigeur for male teachers in the United Kingdom. Women can get away with lots of things - T-shirts, cheesecloth blouses, smart denim jeans but for male teachers the expectation is that every morning of our working lives we'll put our necks in a noose.

I have had to don a tie so many times that it's now second nature to me - I could tie one in my sleep. Over the years I have accumulated a big collection of ties. Unfortunately, some have food or toothpaste stains on them and one or two have been irrevocably damaged by snagging on car seatbelts. I have learnt that washing or dry cleaning ties never really works out - sometimes it's to do with the inner wadding but no matter how carefully you clean a tie, it never ends up right.
As I was on the subject of ties I decided to nip upstairs to arrange a small sample of my ties over a wardrobe door. There's my TFNS (Thank You For Not Smoking) tie which I wear every year on National No Smoking Day, there's the zigzag military zie my father gave me before he died, a palm tree tie I bought at the Walmart in Panama City FL,Christmas and birthday ties from my lovely children - Ian and Frances, a gaudy Picasso silk tie my mother bought for me in Hong Kong. The wardrobe conceals a further sixty of the damned things. I swear that if I make it to retirement I'm going to make a bonfire of them - not because I don't like ties but I dislike the pettiness that they represent in my profession - as if being a good teacher had anything at all to do with the way you look.
As time has passed, I admit that I have enlarged. I am not obese by any means but with each slight enlargement my neck has grown accordingly. There's nothing worse than going to your wardrobe to grab a clean shirt only to find that it has "shrunk" and the top button just won't meet the hole like it used to. Finally you manage it, with blood pumping around this fabric neck shackle and you are able to knot your tie, spending the rest of the day looking like a beetroot and speaking like you've just inhaled helium. Menstruation? Childbirth? Such matters are as nothing when compared with the dress code issues that western men face each day!
Details from tie collection

6 January 2006

Dog

- The Rodeo Drive Terrier (formerly Yorkshire Terrier)
The word "terrier" should evoke notions of determination and terror. If you had never seen one before, you might expect a Yorkshire terrier to be a large, fearsome, noble and finely tuned king of beasts as would befit the great county of Yorkshire. Instead, I am ashamed to admit that the dog which bears our name is a very pathetic specimen indeed. These yapping little creatures with their stubby little legs and effeminate fringes, these malodorous and pampered nuisances are as obnoxious as French poodles and do not deserve to be associated with England's finest county - Yorkshire. Consequently, I am unilaterally renaming this horrid little breed the Rodeo Drive Terrier and from now on the British Bulldog will become the new Yorkshire Terrier. The bulldog has all the characteristics of a typical Yorkshireman - intelligence, muscularity, handsomeness, ferocity, a free spirit, loyalty and enormous physical appetites - both reproductive and nutritional. Farewell to the old Yorkie and arise the new hound of the moors and wolds!
The New Yorkshire Terrier
"What you looking at bonehead?"


1 January 2006

2006

Another new year arrives. Fireworks illuminate the sky over Shanghai. It's a time for looking forward with hope and not a little trepidation given the various newsworthy events that scarred 2005. I just telephoned my brother Robin in France. What a disturbing start he and Suzy had to the new year. On New Year's Eve, they drove down to Barcelona in his new BMW SUV with British number plates. Surprise, surprise - in a traffic jam, a scooter passenger opens the rear door and snatches their little overnight bag containing passports, credit cards etc.. Then half an hour later, as Suzy tries to book a hotel room, another scooter rider slashes one of the tyres as Robin sits in the vehicle but he doesn't get out - apparently it's a common thieving technique in Barcelona - get the driver to change the tyre and then muscle in and either steal possessions or the vehicle itself. They drive off tailed by a scooter but at traffic lights, Robin "accidentally" reverses into the would-be thief sending the little bastard sprawling.
They visit a police station and spend three or four hours in the interesting parallel universe we call officialdom. They are so pissed off with Barcelona that they just head home. Whooah! Didn't Freddie Mercury sing about Barcelona? "Such a beautiful city" states a travel correspondent in "The Times", "the modern capital of Catalonia". Fireworks bursting, auld lang syne, peace and goodwill, champagne corks popping and desperate greedy young men stalking the city like wolves in search of their prey.
Me and Shirley, we visited the pub. I bought old Pat McGough from Ireland a pint and wished him a happy new year before we all piled round to Ros's house for drinking and buffet food - including my legendary salad rice with roasted pine nuts, coriander and red pepper. We left there at three in the morning though I swear I could have drunk beer until dawn. I danced with Linda and chatted with Ian, laughed till tears ran down my cheeks and walked the short distance home, only to fall asleep on the couch, waking for what Americans laughingly call "the rest room" at around six.
Later, I discovered that a celebratory rocket had driven itself a good few inches into the middle of our lawn - I wonder if it was a mystical sign - warning or promising something about the year ahead. You never know for sure what's going to happen...
Happy New Year Everyone!