28 June 2006

Party

When Yorkshire Pudding won £7.5 million pounds on the UK National Lottery, he decided to host a party specifically for all the bloggers he had encountered on the web in the previous twelve months. All transport and accommodation costs were paid for and Mr Pudding even arranged to cover wage costs with the employers of any bloggers who were actually in work.

The party was held in a big marquee in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield. It was last used by the Beckhams when they threw their celebrity pre-World Cup bash in Sawbridgeworth. On the day of the party, YP waited nervously inside the tent, checking that everything was ready. On stage, Bruce Springsteen was tuning up. "Turn that f*!?*!g row down!" yelled Mr Pudding as he surveyed the canapes and the free drinks bar, "I'm The Boss now matey!"

Then the guests started arriving. Arthur Clewley was the first in. Wheelchair-bound with yellow drool dripping from his chin, his long-suffering wife Elsie pushed him straight to the bar where he ordered a Babycham and a pint of Irish stout for Elsie.

p31-marquee-guests
Looking surprisingly unjetlagged, but fresh in from Seattle, Brad the Gorilla bounced into the marquee in his fake gorilla suit. He hugged Mr Pudding, obsequiously declaring how much he looked up to him as a blogging trailblazer. "I am not worthy!" grinned Brad. Loitering behind him was the delicious Alkelda - author of "Saints and Spinners". Fluttering her eyelashes, she immediately tried to seduce the happily-married Mr Pudding. Though tempted by her feminine wiles, he pushed her away as if she were no more than a Verifican goatherd. "Get off me shallow wench! You're only after my millions!"
The night started to swing. Springsteen's set was amazing. Down at the front, Reidski was bopping away like a madman, his wild "Braveheart" hair flailing all over the place as he and his beloved JJ lost themselves in the music but later they smooched like teenagers when the band attempted a New Jersey version of "It Must Be Love". "It's all a load of cobblers to me!" chuntered Arthur Clewley in the corner.
Yorkshire Pudding was over at the bar guzzling
pints of Tetley with a bunch of American bloggers including his old buddies "By George" and Amy Fridays-Web. "Just a minute," whispered Pud, lifting Friday's long brown tresses to inspect her neck, "as I thought, as red as a beetroot!" "Yup! Weez all rednecks down South!" grinned George, displaying her ruddy nape.
A fight broke out near the Gents loo. Steve from "Occupied Country" and "Shooting Parrots" - both from Lancashire - were beating seven bells out of Ilkley's resident hippycook, "Yorkshire Soul". Pudding steamed in to assist his compatriot and as in the War of The Roses, the Lancastrian wimps were driven back to their dominoes. "What was all that about lads?" said mine host. "He said he'd had more hits on his blog than both of us put together!" sniffled The Parrotman.
In spite of their marital status, Krip from Gillingham and Martin from York were trying to chat up two of the female transatlantic guests - Kara from Georgia and Zandrea from Boston. The American ladies couldn't understand a word the lads were saying so Yorkshire Pudding came over to translate but before he could get a word out, into the marquee burst Australian blogger Dirk, creator of "Arm The Insane". "Jesus Christ, I feel as dry as a kangaroo's jock strap!" he uttered before visiting the bar for a bucket of Fosters, bumping in to The Retarded Rugrat from Vancouver who was smooching with her darling Jeff.
And so it went on until the early hours. There was dancing, revelry, quaffing of beer, necking of bottles, debate about blogging techniques and etiquette. Every blogger present was given a framed and signed photograph of Yorkshire Pudding who was lifted on to the stage in a wave of excitement as all the bloggers together sang, "For he's a jolly good fellow!".... And England won the World Cup!
Winner of the "Weekend" Silly Blog Post Award for June 2006

26 June 2006

Lard

You've heard of the Michelin Man, now here's the Michelin Lady - courtesy of Macdonalds, Pizza Hut, lard sandwiches, pure unadulterated greed and some kind of personality disorder.
Caption anybody?

jiggles

25 June 2006

Anniversary

Hells bells! A full year has passed since I began this weblog. What an adventure into the unknown it's been! Like Brad the Gorilla, my transatlantic adversary, I don't know if I'll have another year's worth of stuff to write or another year's worth of enthusiasm. This is what I wrote in my very first entry twelve months ago....

"So this is England in mid-summer. Lovely warm weather and you know what, they're all bloody well complaining! "Oooo it's too hot!" "Open a window!" "Oh I feel faint!" Whingeing whining wimps! I just love to barbecue, walk out in shorts, sweat, wear flip flops. If only all of our summers had long hot spells like this! Leather on willow. Swallows performing acrobatics in the evening sky. A glass of ice cold light white wine with condensation running down the side. "Oh! It's too hot! I couldn't live in a foreign country if it's like this!" As my old mate Trog used to say - Knickers! Knockers! Knackers!"
SMOKING
Trog was a neighbour who became a dear friend. He died two years ago of lung cancer. I will always remember him in his dressing gown, holding up a twenty pack of cigarettes to show me the government warning on the side - Smoking Kills. "It's true you know", he said with a wicked grin. He was such a character and such a kind and decent man. Now there are new people living in his house - people who occupy his space but never met him or care one iota that he was once with us. I guess that's life...or maybe it's death. Rest in Peace Goronwy "Trog" Evans.

22 June 2006

Youth

A life filled with regrets would be the shadow of a life, hemmed in by self-doubt, fruitless longing and if-only’s. And yet as we grow older and look back upon youth, from time to time we may consider how different things might have been. How might we have done it differently if the tape of one’s life could be rewound? I guess that what I am leading to is another “meme”. If I could have my time again…
1. I’d have played rugby through university. I was naturally good at rugby. I represented Hull and East Yorkshire from the age of thirteen through to eighteen and yet at university I scorned the rugby club crowd. I was stupidly cooler than them and I neglected this sporting talent till it was far too late.
2. I would have never smoked tobacco. I didn’t start until I was twenty one and I smoked until I was thirty four – twenty a day. What a waste of money and breath! Now I actively hate the foul aroma of stale tobacco and I’m 100% behind any moves that are made to drive this horrible habit into extinction.
3. At the age of twelve/thirteen I would plonk myself next to the beautiful Susan Hawkins on the schoolbus into Hull and I’d tell her how I felt about her and how I’d love to kiss her pouting lips and be her first boyfriend instead of suffering like a fool month after month, tongue-tied and utterly self-conscious.
4. When my left testicle started to enlarge at the age of twenty, I’d have gone straight to a doctor for a diagnosis instead of spending a year fretting and hoping it would go away and feeling like a condemned man. It turned out to be a “hydrocele” – a benign and watery growth that was easily removed via minor surgery. How stupid I was.
5. I’d practise more often and more determinedly to improve my guitar playing and I’d have written songs all the time, never leaving my guitar hanging on a hook or shut up in a wardrobe gathering dust for months on end. I’d nourish this talent and help it to grow.
6. When at two thirty a.m. some time in 1975, the lovely Kate Thompson invited me to run west with her across the open fields until the morning came, I would run with her for the hell of it and because she loved me and through running with her I know in my heart we would have found something out there but instead I declined and rolled over.
7. I wouldn’t have fallen asleep at the Isle of Wight Festival, missing The Doors entirely. I still can’t believe that that happened but in my defence I was extremely tired – I’d been grooving to the music for forty eight hours solid – Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Free, Jethro Tull, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Donovan – amazing!

Jim-Morrison---The-Doors-Poster-C10293914

8. I wouldn’t have trained to be a teacher. Instead I’d have tried to forge a career in advertising where I think I’d have not only been successful but I’d have a found a great outlet for some of my creative energies. Teaching can be so stifling. You’re giving out all the time and working with children impacts upon the way you are with other adults,. Over the years, I have grown to detest rudeness, ingratitude and idleness and the humdrum conveyor belt-like nature of the school year. And I hate all the “experts” and politicians and gravy train passengers who attach themselves to education like monstrous barnacles on the hull of a great ship.
9. I’d have dodged the cricket ball that smashed my front teeth at the age of fourteen and took away the confidence from my smile – perhaps impacting on the way some people have assessed me over the years, maybe even having a negative effect upon my so-called “career”. Good smiles are precious – they leave positive first impressions.
10. I’d have more of the state of mind that I have now – stronger, more “at peace” with myself, more battle-hardened, more aware of my virtues, less inclined to bother what anybody else might think of me, relishing simple things like the rising of the moon and the Friday night curry. And maybe I’d have emigrated to America where I have always felt so much “at home”.

19 June 2006

Manners

thankyou

As a child, I had the language of manners drummed into me. What do you say? Errr... oh yeah.. thank you, thank you very much. And what's that magic word? Errr... yeah... please, please that's it! That's the magic word. The drill was to use these words where ever you went. Speeding ticket? Thank you officer! Toilet visit? Please may I go.
Actually I think these words are a bit over-rated. Using "please" and "thank you" is all very well and good but these tags can be used without genuine intent. They can be mere language habits that you exude simply through training. Showing gratitude should be felt and meant - so should requesting someone's service via "please". You can say "please" and "thank you" with vicious resignation when they should be uttered with real human feeling, a real sense of the "other" human being with whom you are in communication.
But manners is about much more than these words. Manners is about valuing and respecting the people that we all have to live amongst. One of the main tenets of my life is that I am everybody's equal - I'm not better that anybody else and nobody is better than me. I don't care how rich you are or how poor, how clever or stupid, how famous or unknown, how young or old, how masculine or feminine, how tall or small, how black or white - you're just my equal that's all. And everybody has their own story to tell, we are all products of genetics, environment and perhaps the choices we made when we arrived at crossroads in our lives. There but for the grace of God go I.
I hate ignorance and bullying. These characteristics typify people who lack basic manners. We might sometimes say - "Manners cost nothing but they are worth a lot". Manners prove we recognise that we are members of a society that connects us, makes us interdependent.
So don't try and push in front of me in a queue or you'll feel my wrath and I may not say "thank you" when I ask you to move your ass. And don't expect me to say "please" when I am claiming my rights. And when I fart or sneeze or belch I won't beg your pardon - these are involuntary physical expulsions for which I make no apology. But I will always try to say "sorry" and mean it when I have made a mistake because that is an important element of manners which demonstrates that at times human beings can be as selfless as they are selfish.

17 June 2006

Decking

HPIM0236

Before

Like many houses in Sheffield, our house is on a hill. Of all the cities I have ever been in - only San Francisco can compare with my adopted city in that respect. Last October we visited Rome with its seven "hills" but to me that seemed a pretty flat city with minor gradients - nothing like Sheffield.
In our sunny west-facing back garden we had a little patio, paved with huge Yorkshire stone slabs and a metre of block paving that I added to extend the patio ten years ago. Trouble was that because of the hill, this patio was never entirely level. When we put our picnic table on the patio, stuff would slide.
An English TV obsession is home improvement or D.I.Y.. Perhaps this is where we acquired the idea for decking over the old patio area. Two thousand pounds later and the decking is in place. We got a man who runs a little landscaping business to do the work. He had been recommended to us by one of the doctors that Shirley works with down at her health centre.
So often, tradesmen will let you down - overcharge or fail to keep their promises, leaving shoddy workmanship behind them. We're used to it. But this time we came up trumps and the job the guy has done is brilliant.
We had the vision of knocking out our old back room window, sticking in French doors and then having two levels of decking built with steps between. Mark - the landscape man - suggested a wrought iron ballustrade rather than wooden lats and so we went for that. We are so pleased we made that choice because it gives a lightness and style to the whole construction.
We have enjoyed some lovely summery weather in England recently and the benefits of our new decking have been noteworthy. The back room opens out onto an airy balcony overlooking the garden and the main decking area is completely level so that our new glass table doesn't slope any more and dinner plates don't slide.
I have manoeuvred some of the old slabs to lay a little path beneath the decking to our barbecue area and the compost bin. Perhaps the only downside of all this work - apart from shelling out a huge wodge of cash - is that you now have to bend down to access the underhouse workshop and storage area but we anticipated that and it's not really a big inconvenience.
So that's it - decking. This year's main home improvement project. I think we'll put off other major plans till 2007. It's amazing to think that in 1989 when we moved in - this house cost £60,000 - but now it's worth £220,000 - and that's another peculiarly English obsession - the "How Much Is Your House Worth" game. Perhaps we should just get on with living...

June06 003

After

June06 005

13 June 2006

Football

The World Cup is well underway now. I just watched Brazil beating Croatia 1-0. At times Brazil looked vulnerable but you couldn't help feeling that they were just operating in second gear, simply warming up for the rest of the tournament.
One thing that puzzles me is why the players emerge from the tunnel holding hands with little kids. This never used to happen but it has become an unquestioned ritual. Some of the players never even talk to the children they drag along beside them. I think it is meant to have something to do with "fair play" but why holding hands with a child should symbolise this is a complete mystery to me. I mean when police officers walk down the street they haven't got little boys and girls in tow. Judges in courts of law don't hold hands with children as they pass their wise judgements so why World Cup football?
Personally, I think they should pile all these little kids in a truck and drive them deep into the Black Forest. If they have read "Hansel and Gretel" they will surely find their way out of there, unless of course they meet a witch with a rather cool house constructed from confectionery products.

hansgret

Mmmm! Imagine that! Waking up in the morning and chewing on the liquorice walls or the milk chocolate door frames!
England looked, well, rather ordinary against Paraguay on Saturday but we beat them 1-0. I think we are crying out for St. Wayne - Mr Rooney - to inject a bit of passion into the team. I just hope The Turnip (Sven) holds him back till the Sweden game - perhaps bringing him on as a second half substitute.
In the rear windscreen of my car, I have a homemade sticker that reads "Come on Togo!" next to an image of the bright Togoland flag. It's meant to act as a counterbalance to all the English flags gaily festooning vehicles owned or driven by these intellectually challenged serfs that I have to live amongst. Unfortunately, Togo were beaten by South Korea this afternoon but I expect them to thrash France who looked like they were on valium or maybe Thierry Henry's mother had died before their match with Switzerland.
England's match with Trinidad on Thursday will not be a walk over but if we win it we are through into the knock out phase, so COME ON ENGLAND!
On a sad personal note, Hull City have today said goodbye to their manager - Peter Taylor who has decided to join Crystal Palace in London - the crazy fool! But this now leaves an opening for me as The Tigers' new manager. I'm just waiting for the call....

10 June 2006

Pleasures

My Yorkshire compatriot, Lord Cliff of Richmond architect of the imaginatively titled but now defunct blog, “Cliff’s Column”, recently ran a post - like a meme - in which he listed “Ten Simple Pleasures”. This was such a nice idea, I have borrowed it and here are mine…

1. Eating a traditional Sunday dinner round the table with my family – roast beef, new potatoes, roasted leeks, fresh peas and carrots with gravy, horseradish sauce and of course Yorkshire pudding – Yes ladies you can eat Yorkshire pudding!

2. Lying on my back in the garden watching summer swallows dancing under the clouds.

3. A lovely clear and well-kept pint of draught Tetley’s bitter with a half inch head that leaves foamy drinking lines down the inside of the glass.

tetleys_english_ale

4. Picking up my guitar and revisiting songs, forever amazed that my fingers, my voice box and my mind are capable of such artistry.

5. Visiting the old graveyard near the former site of St Faith’s church, west of Leven, East Yorkshire – I don’t know why but this place continues to hold special significance for me. The silence. The mystery.

6. Burying myself in a good book in times where responsibilities and schedules don’t intrude and spoil the connection.

7. Pottering around in the garden in shorts and flip flops, clipping sycamore shoots, briars and bramble runners.

8. Seeing a starry sky on a dark, dark night with no urban light pollution. Amazing!

9. Clean linen sheets that smell of the outdoors and welcome you to sleep.

10. The slightly metallic smell of the air when rain has fallen after a dry spell.

5 June 2006

"Spellbound"

Here's a poem I want to share with you in which words are like music. The core "meaning" seems to me to surround the lost world of childhood - a golden time that's gone forever but more important is the delicious harmonies of the language - as if the poet - Dylan Thomas - was inebriated with words, rolling them round on his tongue, enjoying the feel of them, celebrating man's connections with nature.


dylant

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.


And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.


All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.


And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.


And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.


Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Like the American Dylan, this Dylan has always meant a lot to me. I have visited the village that became his adopted home in South Wales - Laugharne - many times. I once put flowers on his grave - a simple white wooden cross in Laugharne churchyard and I have drunk in Brown's Hotel and walked the paths that he walked. Sadly when you search for images of him on the web, he never comes back smiling or laughing - as if his word wrestling and poetic craftsmanship left him drained and morose, not quite in tune with the real world that most of us occupy... "though" he "sang in" his "chains like the sea".