30 July 2006

Turkey

Tomorrow morning, Shirley and I are away on holiday to Turkey for ten days or so. I might not be adding any posts for a while unless I can find an Internet cafe. One of my all-time favourite films is "Midnight Express" - largely set in Turkey. If that film is anything to go by, this could be my last blogpost ever!
Why is "Turkey" the name of a country and also a big fat North American bird often eaten at Christmas? The story goes back to the seventeenth or early eighteenth century when turkeys first appeared in England via France. Rumour had it that these rather impressive creatures originated not in the wilds of New England but in the land of the Turks - so they got the handle "turkey". On the theme of Christmas, we will be staying just five miles from the little Turkish village where it is reputed that St Nicholas (Santa Claus) was born. See you!

28 July 2006

Censorship

To me, one of the great things about the Internet is that it is like an unchained beast that runs free. Okay, it may initially have been developed by the US military for improving armed defence and attack procedures but it has become something that was never anticipated - a platform for ordinary people, an open window on the world. Science fiction never predicted such an amazing communication system.

Blogging is just an avenue of this freedom but what are the rules for blogging? There doesn't seem to be a governing body enforcing a manual of regulations and we don't seem to be blighted by those shadowy moderators who used to oversee certain chatrooms, looking in from their moral stepladders, castigating contributors, asserting their own sometimes hypersensitive brands of justice.

Often, when I make comments on other bloggers' posts, I like to be a little mischievous - a little risque - for that is in the nature of humour and God knows the world needs more laughter right now. But sometimes my comments will be heartfelt and serious. Recently one particular blogger, who shall remain nameless, posted a map of Saharan Africa showing how that part of the world is suffering and will suffer further in the future - largely because of the West's callous disregard for human life there. I left a comment that began , "Don't Cry for Me Argentina, cry for Africa, cry for the victims of the AIDS epidemic, cry for the wild animals we are waving farewell to..."etc.. If I say so myself, it was rather poetic.

censorship_5

Another visitor to this post then accused me of being "self-righteous" and "mawkish". Now if you ever met me you'd know that those descriptions are way off-beam. I'm the least self-righteous and mawkish person you could ever wish to meet. And so I thought - too often in life have I encountered voyeurs who don't act, don't make stands, don't push ahead but stand on the touchline judging the game, judging the action. I retorted with some barbed humour - no threats, no foulness.
The upshot is that I have now effectively been barred from the aforementioned blog. I can't leave any more comments and my blog tag has been removed from the blogroll. No debate, no explanation, no right of appeal - just barred. Actually I am so annoyed about this heavy-handedness on the part of the blogger concerned that I have no intention of visiting his damned ego-massaging blog ever again. Besides do I really want to know which restaurants he's visited, which I-Pod tunes he's listening to, his pseudo-intellectual booklist? No I don't.
All of this has led me to form an organisation called the BCA - Blogging Control Authority which from now on will be actively policing blogs from around the world. I am now the unelected President of this Authority. In our first meeting we decided two things:
1) All bloggers have to become fully-fledged members of the BCA. The annual membership fee is £55 (US$102) which should be sent by cheque immediately to Mr. Y. Pudding Esq., BCA Treasury, Pudding Towers, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England S69 1FU
2) Censorship of other bona fide bloggers' comments is now strictly prohibited. Anyone found guilty of this heinous crime will be flogged by Alkelda the Dominatrix then sent to a holiday camp in southern Lebanon while their blogs are seized by the BCA Thought Police for export to needy and blogless bloggers in sub-Saharan Africa.

24 July 2006

Garden

Images from our garden taken this afternoon - Shirley's newly blooming hibiscus - dappled sunlight on the trunk of the thirty foot horsechestnut tree that began as a conker in 1987 - a sky full of apples on our ancient apple tree - the grave of Blizzard the cat with its gnome guard - blue hydrangea - reflection in our bird bath. Loveliness is close if we only remember to look. And here we are three miles from the centre of one of England's great industrial cities...




22 July 2006

Urination

Urination? You’re already thinking maybe that this a no-go area even for bloggers. In my recent “Facts”, I noted that the very first time a toilet had ever flushed in a film was in “Psycho”. All of us spend a good portion of lives pissing out urine. It’s something that all human beings have in common. In fact it’s probably true to say that the majority of people spend more time pissing that they do having sex. And yet in films, you are much more likely to watch titillating sex scenes than you are to even catch a glimpse of someone pissing. Sex seems to be acceptable ground but pissing and pooping are still very much “in the closet”.

urinals

Everybody has private pissing stories and as examples, I’m going to share two or three with you. Can there really be anyone in the world who hasn’t pissed themselves at some time or another? Yet if you try a “urine” or “piss” search in Microsoft Word Synonyms you get “No suggestions” back. Why?

Well here’s one story. You know how cities these days have very few public conveniences? Well maybe twenty five years ago, I was walking home from a night out that involved several pints of beer and I desperately needed to urinate. I left the main thoroughfare with its pedestrians and lights and Saturday night traffic and wandered through the back gates of a small engineering company. Such relief! Between the waste bins, I pissed out two hot pints, zipped up and went back through the gateway, only to be confronted by a policeman with a torch. What was I doing there? I told him and he made me turn back to show him where I had pissed. He shone his torch on a still steaming puddle of piss and with a second experience of relief let me go.

And once I got very drunk when Shirley and I lived in a little one-bedroom flat. In the middle of the night, I got up in a drunken stupor and headed for the wardrobe. I took out her two red wellington boots and filled them with piss even though the bathroom was only two metres away. I guess I was dreaming - but of what I will never know.

Then there was the time I got something very horrible and very painful called a urethral stricture – something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone apart from George W. Bush, Tony Blair and the entire Israeli military. I had to have an operation to allow me to piss naturally again while a tube in my bladder did a temporary job. Straight after the operation, I was an Olympic pisser. A full bladder would be expelled in two seconds flat. Talk about siphoning the python? I felt as if I could be a one-man fire brigade with no need for hoses!

We all urinate – every day. Old people often smell of it. Babies fill nappies or diapers with it. Every public or private building where people work or spend money contains lavatories for pissing in and yet we don’t talk about it much, sing about it, read about it, include it in our films and plays. It’s almost a taboo subject and that’s why I made this particular blog entry about it. Are you brave enough to share a urination story of your own?

19 July 2006

Anthems

NATanth

National anthems? What do they all mean? Usually they are crass, jingoistic nonsense. Somewhere in the world there must be grinning national anthem writers churning them out and laughing all the way to the bank. How about an anthem for the world that we could chortle out into the universe and beyond? I was investigating a site – web address www.national-anthems.net - and selected extracts from these typical anthems:-

Togo (Original in French)
Hail to thee, land of our forefathers,
Thou who made them strong, peaceful and happy,
Men who for posterity cultivated virtue and bravery.
Even if tyrants shall come, thy heart yearns towards freedom.
Togo arise! Let us struggle without faltering.
Victory or death, but dignity.God almighty,
Thou alone hast made Togo prosper.
People of Togo arise!
Let us build the nation.

Fiji (Original in Fijian)
Blessing grant oh God of nations on the isles of Fiji
Shores of golden sand and sunshine, happiness and song
Stand united , we of Fiji, fame and glory ever
Onward march together
God bless Fiji.

Oman (Original in Arabic)
O Oman, since the time of the Prophet
We are a dedicated people amongst the noblest Arabs.
Be happy! Qaboos has come
With the blessing of Heaven.
Be cheerful and commend him to the protection of our prayers.

Latvia (Original in Latvian)
Bless Latvia, O God,Our verdant native land sod,
Where Baltic heroes trod,
Keep her from harm!
Bless Latvia, O God,
Our verdant native land sod,
Where Baltic heroes trod,
Keep her from harm!
Our lovely daughters near.
Our singing sons appear,
May Fortune smiling here
Grace Latvia!Our lovely daughters near.
Our singing sons appear,
May Fortune smiling here
Grace Latvia!

Zaire (Original in French)
Zaireans, in the new found peace,
United People, we are Zaireans
Ahead with pride and dignity,
A free people forever!
Three-coloured flag, stir up the sacred fire in our souls
to build our country increasingly more beautiful
Beside the majestic river, Beside the majestic river.

Verifica (Original in Verifican)
Oh lovely mountain land of goats
Where we grow oats
And wear overcoats
Where men are strong
And women are wrong
And everyone gets along
And sings this song
Verifica! Verifica!
Best country on Earth
Let’s sing it for all we’re worth
Verifica! Verifica!
Nice place for your holidays
But bring your cash in dollars!

17 July 2006

Sunshine

Here in England we have known many dud summers, half-summers where the sun never really shone, where barbecue parties were rained off, where you look up to see iron grey skies and your flip flops and shorts hang about in the wardrobe redundant. So you fly away to The Mediterranean and you feel miserable to have inherited a climate that is so unkind. But this summer we have already known the extended honey warmth that we knew in 1976 - long hot spells where the grass turns yellow-white and cats nestle under ferns to stay cool, where the temperature gauge soars in the afternoon into the high thirties and barbecued meat with salad seems the best meal to eat.
This evening I donned my shorts and flip flops as soon as I got home, took a bottle of Holsten Pils from the fridge and read the local paper on our beautiful new decking. The headline read "Inferno" and the lead story was all about the massive conflagration at Sheffield's biggest bakery - Fletcher's. It's near where I work. The fire began on Sunday morning but thirty six hours later the bakery was still belching out evil smelling fumes. A mile away when I got out of my car, I could feel the acrid smoke in the back of my throat. Lord knows how it must have been for local residents on Sunday afternoon with windows closed, sheltering indoors on the hottest day of the year.
So I made the evening meal. Shirley and Ian are always late home on Mondays. Frances was with friends in the park and then on to a barbie. I made mince rissoles with rice and broccolli and ciabatta bread warmed through in the oven. Boris the cat strolled into the scene from his mysterious daytime wanderings. There were swallows in the sky and my gang of cheeky sparrows busying themselves around the bird table. The sun beamed down. It was all so simple and so ordinary and so easy to dismiss and yet there could come a time when I might look back on an evening such as this one and see it as the summit of my life, the very zenith of my happiness. Health, family, good food, security and the sun shining - what more should we ask for?

14 July 2006

Facts

1. A person swallows approximately 295 times while eating dinner.
2. Nike Air Soles do not actually have 'air' in them.
3. Oak trees are struck by lightning more than any other tree.
4. Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise.
5.There are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people in the world.
6. During his or her lifetime, the average human will grow 590 miles of hair.
7. Children laugh about 400 times a day, while adults laugh on average only 15 times a day.
8. The human brain is insensitive to pain.
9. Cattle are the only mammals that pee backwards.
10. The average American uses eight times as much fuel energy as an average person anywhere else in the world.
11. Female canaries cannot sing.
12. Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood each day!
13. During your lifetime, you'll eat about 60,000 pounds of food, that's the weight of about 6 elephants.
14. The first toilet being flushed in a motion picture was in the film “Psycho”.
15. The warmest temperature ever recorded on Antarctica was 3 degrees F.
tier3
16. A Koala Bear sleeps 22 hours of every day.
17. A rainbow can only be seen in the morning or late afternoon.
18. During a typical human life span, the human heart will beat approximately 2.5 billion times.
19. A survey reported that 12% of Americans think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.
20. Cats make over 100 different vocal sounds; dogs can make about ten.
Visitors - do you want to share any other interesting facts? Please leave them in Comments below.

10 July 2006

Competition

What exactly did Marco Materazzi say
to Zinedine Zidane to enrage him so?
Please leave answers in the "Comments" section below. The winner will receive a year's supply of frozen "Aunty Bessy's" Yorkshire puddings and a copy of Zinedine Zidane's latest self-help manual.

zidane

And the winner is..... Laura for her suggestive, "I've tried your sister but your mother was better!" Prizes below. I will be happy to deliver them personally. All I need is your home address Laura! The Zidane book is unfortunately in French - "Le Roman d'une Victoire" which roughly translated means , "Head-Butting for Beginners". On the cover Zidane is doing an impression of his ample Algerian mother.

2266101994

auntBessy

Ants

Google Earth is improving its coverage of our planet - with those aerial photograph zones extended to even include the humble city of Sheffield. Clues in these close-up aerial views lead me to deduce that the satellite coverage of Sheffield was compiled in the summer of 2004 – probably in August.

And so now you can zoom right in on our humble semi-detached home on our humble street in our humble suburb of humble Sheffield. From this distance, people in the streets appear like ants casting ant-like shadows. Perhaps that’s all we are with our antennae and receptors, most of us worker ants, tending the larval ants while older ants decline into memory.

our  house google earth

In these streets and houses and gardens we eke out our dreams, most of us quietly imagining that the spotlight of the world is focussed upon us but maybe we’re all just ants on a great antheap, connecting with other ants, busying ourselves day by day with close-up events of the here and now, rarely zooming away to look at the wider picture.

7 July 2006

Traditional

As suggested by Alkelda, here's a reworking of the traditional song "Cape Cod Girls" covered by Dan Zanes. Actually this song has many forms and the chorus normally refers to South Australia. All join in now! One...two...three...
Farewell to Spurn Point

Yorkshiremen ain't got no fears
heave away, haul away
They comb their hair behind their ears

They’re men who will amaze ya!

Chorus:
So run away you Lanc’shire boys,
Run away, far away
Run away don’t make a noise
We’re the men who will amaze ya!

Spurn%20Point_HighTide
Yorkshiremen ain’t got no stress
heave away , haul away
What’s less is more what’s more is less

Our lads they will amaze ya!

Yorkshire folk don’t need no pills,
heave away, haul away
They eat pigs’ ears and codfish gills
Our diet would amaze ya!

Yorkshire gals ain't got no care,
heave away, haul away
They run around almost bare
Their knickers would amaze ya!

*The photo shows Spurn Point/Spurn Head at the entrance to the Humber Estuary which is the mouth through which most of the water in Yorkshire's river system eventually flows.

4 July 2006

Yorkshiremen

Yorkshire has been the homeland of so many great people. The recent death of "Fiery" Fred Trueman - a cricketing legend and a typical Yorkshireman - led me to think about other great men and women who have emerged from this paradise on Earth. My top ten would include the charismatic football manager Brian Clough, cricketer Geoff Boycott, sculptress Barabara Hepworth, inventor of stainless steel - Harry Brearley, gifted writer of "Wuthering Heights" fame - Emily Bronte, artist David Hockney, slavery reformer William Wilberforce, poet Ted Hughes, pop music trailblazer - Jarvis Cocker, failed parliamentary plotter Guy Fawkes... but my number one Yorkshire hero of all time has to be Captain James Cook (1728 -1779). His life details are summarised below.

Cook was born in a small village near Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, and learnt his trade in small sailing ships known as 'cats', in which he journeyed up and down the coast from the Tyne to the Thames. He later served with the Royal Navy, and in 1768 won the appointment of commander of the Endeavour.

In 1769 Venus was due to pass in front of the Sun, a rare event that can be used to measure the distance of the Sun from the Earth. The Royal Society decided to send astronomers to the Pacific to record the transit of the planet, and enlisted the Navy's help. The Navy agreed, as long as one of their officers was in charge of the boat.


Cook was chosen as commander, and the Whitby-built HM Endeavour was acquired and fitted out. After calling in on Tahiti to witness the transit of Venus, Cook sailed down to 40ยบ latitude but found there was no land.


In accordance with his instruction he turned and headed towards New Zealand, which had previously been 'discovered' by the Dutchman Abel Tasman. During the rest of the voyage Cook and his crew charted New Zealand, sailed the east coast of Australia and rediscovered the Torres Strait.

In 1772-5, not satisfied by his previous exploits, he made a second voyage of discovery, this time to chart the Atlantic.

Cook was a practical seaman, who understood the importance of vitamin C to maintain the health of his crew, but on his third and final journey, in command of the Resolution, he did not deal so well with the Hawaiians he encountered when he landed on their island .


Misjudging the situation, he took their king hostage, after some hostility. Then during a brawl in another part of the island, one of the Hawaiian chiefs, Chief Kalimu, was killed by one of Cook's party. News of this reached the king just as Captain Cook was leading his hostage down to the Resolution.


The Hawaiians had by now started to distrust Cook's intentions, and attacked the English group. Cook remained aloof from the fighting, until one warrior crept up behind him and hit him on the head with a large club. Other warriors then joined in attacking him with daggers, causing him to fall in the water. Cook managed to get his head up again, but another warrior gave him a shattering blow - and Cook went down for the last time.


Well those are my alltime greatest Yorkshiremen - including a couple of women. I considered including Arthur Clewley but quickly rejected that absurd idea. Can anyone suggest any other great Yorkshire people I might have missed out?

3 July 2006

Renaissance

So there I was hanging from the apple tree, as dead as honour in high places. A magpie had perched on my shoulder, defecating white slime all down my back. Surprisingly, I was still conscious, floating outside my body, inspecting the vessel of flesh and bone that had carried me through the years.

But who was that at the back gate? She seemed familiar with her greenish pallor and her flowing medieval garments. Yes. It was Alkelda the Gleeful of “Saints and Spinners” fame. She was cradling a small silver vial. She proceeded past the compost bins and the comfrey plot to where I was swinging like Dick Turpin. The magpie that was now perusing my jelly eyes flew off to the chimney pot.

Hanging%20Man

Alkelda chanted some ancient incantation and tossed the contents of the silver vial all over my front. I guess it was just water – some kind of holy water. “Water of life! Heal this erring son!” She stood on the picnic table and unfastened the thick sisal rope that had killed me just as my conscious spirit returned to fill my body like a tide moving over a beach. I was alive again! I twisted my head back and forth and pinched myself as Alkelda disappeared back through the gateway.

“Come back Alkelda!” I yelled but she was gone like a departing rainbow.

Back in the house my wife said, “Where’ve you been? You’ve missed all the quarter final and what’s that red mark on your neck?”

“Oh it’s just those bloody brambles again!”

“Want a cup of tea?”

“Thanks love.”

“Do you wanna know the score? The match?”

“Why what was it? Lost on penalties again I bet.”

“Not this time honey. It was England 4 Portugal 0! That Sven is a master tactician and motivator. Looks like we’re playing France in the semis… Should be a walk over. Walcott scored a hat trick and Michael Carrick played his usual progressive midfield role… it was brilliant! Want a biscuit?”

1 July 2006

Gutted

guts

World Cup Quarter Final

Arrrrrgh! It's happened again! England lose on penalties! The Portugese team looked pretty ordinary all afternoon and even though we were a man down, England created the better goalmouth chances by far. Owen Hargreaves was again a revelation - full of energy and commitment. Our back four were also brilliant. But Lampard and even Gerrard were disappointing today. England's army of fans deserve more than this - more than our uninspirational Swedish manager could provide - in spite of his barrowloads of money. In the end, I would have to say that he has been a dismal failure and I am glad to see the back of him. It's so frustrating. We have so much talent and yet in this World Cup it was never properly harnessed. Like most of the English nation I am well and truly gutted (see above with apologies to the squeamish!) and I'm just going up the garden to string myself up from the apple tree! Farewell cruel world!