29 April 2007


It was last Friday morning. Year 11 pupils (aged 15/16) were sitting in the main school hall. I was at the side of the hall next to my form group. I was ticking them off on the register while also giving out a sheaf of letters - bending over my bag which was on a plastic chair in front of me.

At the front the dippy deputy head woman with her Wurzel Gummidge hairstyle was talking self-indulgently about her recent trip to the Somme battlefield in northern France. She had taken pictures of the graveyard where Sheffield lads were buried - after dying for what? - probably nothing.

It was at the most moving point in her talk - as she held up a laminated photo of the Sheffield memorial stone in a wooded glade - that I let out a triumphant fart - or as Shakespeare might have written - a "sennet" blast. This fart was in the key of C major and it was, I swear, totally involuntary. It seemed to resound around the cavernous school hall.
Near to me, the terrible twosome - Sara and Keeley, understood immediately what had happened and who was responsible and so did the Year 11 nancy boy to my right. All three of them started to giggle as I pursed my lips and looked nonchalantly up at the ceiling.
Haystack Hair at the front interrupted her spiel to declare that in no other year group had pupils giggled during her assembly and if the people who were finding her assembly so amusing wished to leave the hall then they were welcome to do so! I just couldn't bring myself to raise my hand and say "Mrs Gummidge - I am afraid that it is my fault! You see I let out a fart that was like a trumpet blast - must have something to do with the leftover curry my wife brought back from her work night out last evening!"

Farting - we all do it and yet throughout the ages this natural activity has caused embarrassment, laughter, shame, annoyance, punishment, false accusation, over-dramatisation, scrunched up facial expressions. What I say is this - Let the farting continue! Kate Moss, The Queen, Hillary Clinton and The Archbishop of Canterbury - they all fart like the rest of us... WAS THAT YOU?

26 April 2007


This little piggy went to market and this little piggy stayed at home. This little piggy had roast beef and this little piggy had none. And this little piggy, this little piggy went down the muddy field and spent forever grunting and snouting around in the muck, looking for acorns. Watch him, he never stops - greedy pig!


Porky Pig - acorn hunter.


On this day back in 1564, William Shakespeare was baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon. It was also the day, in 1894, when Rudolf Hess was born and in 1976, it was the day on which the British/South African* "Carry On" comedian Sid James died (notice the capital abuse on the front cover of his biography!). In 1999, British TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered on this very day and in 1956 it was the day on which the world's very first container ship left New Jersey for Houston, Texas. April 26th - an unexceptional day in human history. I wonder what today will hold for all of us. Will it be an unspectacular working day soon to be forgotten or will it be one of those days that get etched in your memory forever? As they say in certain American eating establishments - "Have a nice day!" or as they say in certain English pubs at closing time - "Sup up and piss off home!" What rhymes with April the twenty sixth?
* Thanks to Mutterings and Meanderings for pointing this out. I had always thought he was half Australian. Quick research tells me he was born, wait for it, on Hancock Street in Johannesburg! And that's true.

22 April 2007


Spring blossom doesn't last for long. A gust of wind and then it's like there's been a wedding with natural pink and white confetti blowing all over the place. But for a short while - five or six days - the trees that blossom are festooned, bedecked, garlanded with tender little flowers. Such a small window of opportunity for pollination.
I particularly love this time of year when the Earth is not just reawakening, it is already coming down the staircase. New growth is everywhere. Leaves are fresh and untainted. Insect numbers are only just starting to increase. There's grass to be cut, edges to be strimmed and hedges to clip.
It's been so dry here recently. Last night after Shirley and I had been down the pub, I was up the garden with my box of matches like a drunken pyromaniac. Last autumn, I had pruned a couple of trees and carefully stacked up the branches and twigs for a night like last night - a crescent moon sinking over the rooftops and just a hint of breeze.
The bonfire crackled as little golden tongues of flame sought to ignite old branches, then "whoosh!" a great mother of a multicoloured flame rose maybe twenty feet above the peak of the bonfire structure, twisting and roaring. I watched the show from an abandoned plastic garden chair, suckling on a bottle of Italian lager. Burning leaves, lifted from the inferno made delicate snaking necklace shapes in the night sky.
Saturday night in Springtime - good to be alive - taking as much sleep as I wish without a clock nagging me to hurry on. Then today, Sunday, I went out hunting for a new barbecue because the other one finally succumbed to rust and metal fatigue. Found a new one at "Tesco". It was flat-packed. Putting it together really required four hands but I only have two. It was flopping about and the instructions had certain deliberate omissions just to make your blood boil but after one hour & forty minutes I had finally mastered the beast... ready for the sultry summer evenings that global warming promises.

18 April 2007


I think that the immediate release by NBC of Cho Seung-hui's "media package" is utterly sick and reprehensible. In his very troubled mind, it seems that Cho Seung-hui sought notoriety - to go down in legend. NBC have effectively given the bastard what he wanted and out there in the back woods and the ghettos of America and beyond there will be unwholesome, twisted young people just lapping it up. Seeds will be sown in warped minds. But this isn't "Rambo" or "Nightmare on Elm Street" - this is real life and those poor victims at Virginia Tech will never see another sunrise.

My heart also goes out to the families and friends left behind. Surely, NBC should have respected their grieving instead of inflaming it with Cho Seung-hui's wicked and self-obsessed media gift. In many ways, it would have been better to simply destroy the package, instead of letting the whole world unwrap it only 48 hours after the horror happened.

I thought the lad was studying English Literature - so how come he produces this rambling comic book drivel...?:-

"You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenceless people.

Do you know what it feels to be spit on your face and to have trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave? Do you know what it feels like to have your throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive? Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled on a cross and left to bleed to death for your amusement? "

What a load of crap!

17 April 2007


Music played, and people sang
Just for me, the church bells rang.

Now he's gone, I don't know why
And till this day, sometimes I cry
He didn't even say goodbye
He didn't take the time to lie.

Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, my baby shot me down...

Cho Seung-hui, aged 23 died at Virginia Tech yesterday morning. He was a South Korean - a guest in the USA - pursuing a degree course in English. What was going on his head? To wantonly cut short so many lives without good reason - it beggars belief. So once again, as an unashamed Americophile, I find myself mourning the wasted lives of mostly young Americans in the land of the brave and the free where lunatics like Cho Seung-hui can all too easily get hold of lethal weapons. Sing it with tears in your eyes for the lost thirty two...
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

14 April 2007


Madame at "Mutterings & Meanderings" recently ranted about inaccurate grammar. Today, as I watched Hull City grind out a 1-1 draw with Colchester United, I noticed one of the rotating advertising bars at the side of the pitch. It was for a local building firm - "Stubb's Bro's"! Well if the Stubbs brothers can't get their apostrophes right, how could I possibly trust them with any bricklaying? They'd forget to put cement in their mortar!

But it's not apostrophes I wish to rant about this evening, it is the widespread and deliberate disavowal of rules surrounding the use of capital letters. Many companies, film makers, TV programme makers, sign makers and advertising agencies seem to think that it is somehow cool and rather jolly and stylish to forget about capitals... - Hey look at us, we are thoroughly modern - we don't need yer damned capitals dude! - Tossers! Try embedding rules about capital letters with texting teenagers in a written word environment that daily evidences abuse of the very rules you are trying to convey.

For all those "cool", fashionable, hip advertising executives and book jacket designers who seek to arrogantly re-invent long-established rules of English grammar, I give you the instances when capital letters should be used:-

the first word of a sentence or fragment
the name of a day or a month
the name of a language
a word expressing a connection with a place
the name of a nationality or an ethnic group
a proper name
the name of a historical period
the name of a holiday
a significant religious term
the first word, and each significant word, of a title
the first word of a direct quotation which is a sentence
a brand name
a Roman numeral
the pronoun I

reading the news about sunni suicide bombers in baghdad and basra in iraq, i have decided to create a crack team of capital protection stormtroopers. our mission will be to blow up any companies or individuals found guilty of deliberate capital letter abuse! anybody out there in blogworld wish to join the c.l.p.s? Of course, people who are either ignorant or word blind and make unwitting mistakes with capitals will be excused from these revenge attacks!
"the scandal of scientology"? Don't you mean "The Scandal of Disregarding Simple Rules about the Use of Capital Letters"?

9 April 2007


Berber merchant.
Last night in the famous Djamaa El Fna Square in Marrakech, I saw a blind man hobbling towards me with a long white stick. He was happy and already communicating with his friends who were sitting on a bench. They hunched up to let him sit. And there they were - four middle-aged blind men together with their begging bowls. United in their sightlessness. Nearby there were stalls that sold only boiled snails and stalls that only sold spices. There were orange juice traders and peanut men. Women in veils pulled at my sleeve and a turbaned man with a monkey on a chain wanted photograph money. Beyond them in the drumbeat darkness, circles of Moroccan men watched clowns, storytellers and musicians. Bizarrely there was a fishing game with rods where you had to hook bottles of Coca Cola. Henna tattoos were readily available along with immediate dentistry, tarot readings and the opportunity to buy animal bones and single cigarettes. And beyond this there were the "souks" - crammed market lanes where tiny shops were packed to the rafters with slippers, pottery, dyed cloths, scarves, lemons in brine, carved camels, carpets, bunches of fresh mint, lampshades, Berber and Tuareg antiques and... heaven knows what else. It was utterly mind boggling.
We spent the first four nights at the coastal resort of Essaouira - such a lovely place. Fishermen in blue boats, camels faraway up the beach, seagulls squawking, a maze of alleyways, the minaret of the Grand Mosque, the souks, the eighteenth century cannons staring out to the Atlantic from ancient ramparts. It was a place of dreams. Here Orson Welles shot much of "Othello" in the nineteen fifties. We stayed in the same hotel - "Hotel Des Iles" - also favoured by Winston Churchill and the present King of Morocco - Mohammed VI.

Fruit seller in the Marrakech souks.

I could write so much about the past week - so many images, so many surprises. It was just what Shirley and I were looking for - somewhere different. The traffic in Marrakech was absolutely crazy. Dropping names I saw Damon Albarn, formerly of the band Blur, buying herbs in the souks and I also saw a leading British politician - David Willetts - in the passport queue at the airport. Strangely, neither of them saw or recognised me! Hope you like my five selected photos.

Sunset over Djamaa El Fna