29 May 2007


Detail of stone carving on the entrance to the church in Noia

So we went, not like the medieval pilgrims who tramped footsore across Europe, mile after mile to get to Christianity's third most holy city - the alleged resting place of the apostle St James - Santiago in Spanish. Instead we flew for an hour and forty minutes from Liverpool. I noticed something about the huge cathedral - how algae and moss and small green plants had established themselves on its high stone pinnacles and windows - rather like a sea cliff. I liked that - the sense of nature threatening to reclaim it.

Our "cool" Peugeot Mover ice cream hire van.

After Santiago de Compostela, we drove to the coast near Riveira. There we stayed in a four star hotel overlooking the bay. How lovely it was to wake up to the sunshine of Sunday morning and see fishermen hauling in lobster pots or casting their lines from small rowing boats. Further round the coast, in our rented white Peugeot Mover, we walked on a wild Atlantic beach untouched by development - just wooden walkways weaving through the dune vegetation to rocky outcrops where broken shells and driftwood had gathered in heaps - as if purposefully installed by modern artists.

View from our coastal hotel room.

I fell asleep on the lonesome beach near our hotel, my mind drifting to forgotten memories and speculations, all swirling together with images from Will Self's 480 page "Book of Dave" - now finished. Don't you just love that sunny summery feeling - like beach fever - time suspended - your mind wandering in a relaxed haze? I wanted more afternoons like that but to have just one was quite lovely.
On the plane on the way home, we met a man of seventy who had walked the Camina Frances - six hundred miles. He began on May 2nd - walking over twenty miles a day to get to Santiago. He talked all of the hour and forty minutes home but you know - we didn't mind. He wasn't boasting - just telling the fragmented human story of his incredible journey along such a well-trodden path.

We only tasted Galicia. There was so much more to take in. Three days is nothing.

25 May 2007


Next stop Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, North West Spain. We are flying there tomorrow afternoon from Liverpool. We will only be there for three nights - actually two of those will be at Santa Uxia on the coast. Why go? Perhaps I would have been wiser, financially, to bank this money instead of jetting off for another mini-adventure but I am sorry, for me travel is like coming up for air when you feel like you are almost drowning. Travel excites me, gives me memories, reminds me that it is great to be alive. This time I am off with Shirley and two friends who accompanied us to the Czech Republic in 2005. We have booked a hire car to take us to the coast and we intend to discover what all the fuss has been about over Santiago ( St James) - the destination of pilgrims from across Europe for centuries. Steve and I also wish to swim in the coastal hotel's swimming pool and in the Atlantic Ocean. We'll be back on Tuesday afternoon. See ya!

22 May 2007


I seem to have got out of the habit of trying to convey something of the ordinary detail of my life. Some bloggers are brilliant at this. Humorous and self-deprecating, they find stories in the mundanity of everyday living. I like that. Me? Just recently I have been drawn to newsworthy matters well outside myself – Madeleine, Darfur, Kentucky Fried Chicken v The Tan Hill Inn etc.. It’s time, I think, to get back to the ordinary stuff.

Well last night Mick the warehouseman and I were up at “The Prince of Wales” tackling the Monday night quiz. Our other buddy – Mike - was notable because of his absence. He might have known the fifth club that Alan Ball played for – it was of course Bristol Rovers! Suffice to say we didn’t win but the new landlady who keeps touching my arm and calling me “flower” said she’d give a prize for the best team name. For the second week running, we won! Last week it was “Rebecca’s Wreckers” after the new landlady herself and this week it was “The Ember Members” because “The Prince” is now part of the Ember Inn chain. The prize was some Argentinian red wine.

Google Image Search - "Ordinariness"

Our garden is looking good. I tamed it at the weekend, hairdressing two hundred feet of privet hedge with my lethal JCB hedge trimmer. Then it was pruning and sweeping up, cutting the bottom lawn, making a bonfire. I love that knackered feeling after hours of physical work. So different from the tiredness that overwhelms you after days of working with adolescent “scholars” (ha!) - many from deprived council estates and broken homes. And oh lovely – I learnt at 5pm today that the dreaded OFSTED inspectors will be coming to call on my department in mid-June. The slime-balls with their travel claim forms, hotel receipts and superior attitudes – if you’re so goddam clever why don’t you get in that classroom and show us how it’s done! But of course they don’t.

Physically, I have always been outrageously fit and healthy. I have never missed a day off work for illness in thirty years. Can you believe it? Thirty bloody years and not one solitary “sickie”. I have soldiered on even when my body has screamed “Stay home you stupid git!” But just lately time has threatened to catch up on me. I have longterm toothache in spite of the expensive interventions of three useless dentists. Somehow I have damaged my knee – unless it’s just wear and tear. The other week I was limping like a twat and I can still feel the bugger now. As a consequence, I have stopped bounding up three stairs at a time like a twelve year old. And then there’s the cold sore at the corner of my mouth that refuses to heal and oh, my eyesight – I refuse to wear glasses but sometimes the words on the page blur as if they are under water. Fortunately the gout in my left big toe has disappeared but for how long? I am starting to feel like a Ford Mondeo that’s done 150,000 miles and is ready for an engine change. Thank God the two most important parts of my anatomy are still working fine.

I am reading “The Book of Dave” by Will Self at the moment. Just getting towards the end. It is a very challenging read as it moves between the here and now of London taxi driver Dave Rudman and a far off future where people have a new god called Dave whose taxi driver philosophy guides their lives. It is very weird indeed. Well that was that. I hope this post has been ordinary enough for you… zzzzzzz!

21 May 2007


See this little girl. She's dying from malnutrition in Darfur, Sudan. We don't know her name but it is not Madeleine McCann. No one wears yellow wristbands for her. No video films of her plight are screened at huge sporting events like the F.A. Cup Final. She was brought to the Doctors Without Borders feeding clinic in al-Junaynah, Western Darfur. David Beckham has not made a TV appeal for her and no one has pledged thousands of pounds to assist her cause. She is like the unknown warriors for whom flames burn around the world. She is just as important as Madeleine McCann and there are thousands of other little girls and boys like her around the world - anonymous children who die of starvation or diarrhoea, warfare or abuse. Her father is not a cardiologist and her mother is not a general practitioner. This little girl's story will never really be told - never filling columns in crappy tabloid newspapers. I salute Oxfam and all the other charities that are working hard for the good of these forgotten children. I hope that when the £3million reward for Madeleine is not claimed that those who pledged it will instead donate it to Oxfam or another charity working to heal the terrors of Darfur. Sure we all want Madeleine to get home safe but let's not forget these other kids. As I say, they are just as important.

17 May 2007


Rabbiting on and on… that’s what human beings do. It never seems to end. If you’re not rabbiting with others, you’re rabbiting in your own head. An internal monologue – as if, as if your body has been invaded by some kind of tinitus alien – rattling on and on – nagging at you, speculating, remembering, fantasising, working out. And people pass with mobile phones – rabbiting away, texting, interacting – or they sit as I am doing at computer screens tapping out messages, comments, emails, blogposts. It’s never ending babble – a gabbling, jabbering word pie world. Give me some peace and quiet and stillness. Floating on a wave of unctuous sea water or motionless beneath it. Hanging like a paper lantern in a still night sky. Listening to the sound of blood pulsing through my veins. In such a void, time would be irrelevant. No voices nattering, squawking, tormenting. Just perfect peace stretching out for miles, quiet and empty… pure nothingness. Like a soul medicine.

15 May 2007


Poor little Madeleine McCann should have been with her family celebrating her fourth birthday on Saturday. If you don't know - this little British girl was abducted from a holiday complex in southern Portugal some ten days ago while her parents apparently ate tapas in a restaurant about fifty yards away.
It may be politically incorrect to say it but I have been appalled by some of the hype that has surrounded the child's disappearance with "The Sun" newspaper pumping up the hysteria. At Saturday's Glasgow Celtic home match, hundreds of "Find Maddy" posters were distributed and the players all wore yellow wristbands. Why? Glasgow is a long way from The Algarve. And then David Beckham made a TV appeal and bigwigs like Richard Branson and J.K.Rowling set up a £2.5 million reward fund. It wasn't like this when little working class Ben Needham from Sheffield disappeared from the island of Kos fifteen years ago. It took a good while for the media to show much interest at all outside of his home city.

Ben is still missing. However, I hope with all my heart that wee Madeleine is found safe and well - though as the days drag on that hope is in danger of shrinking. There are too many bad, mad, greedy people in this world. Right thinking people across the globe will want Maddy back home with her family but hey, at the risk of sounding unfeeling, let's not go crazy about it! See below:-
The shrine to Madeleine in Rothley, Leicestershire.

12 May 2007


Of course, I shouldn't care one jot about the stupid Eurovision song contest which came this year from Helsinki, Finland. But in spite of myself I do. The songs were - as usual - almost universally trite and instantly forgettable. Eurovision seems to have developed a song style all of its own which is totally out of synch with any current musical fashions.

Great Britain's entry was absolutely awful. A bunch of has-beens called Scooch performed their ridiculous jokey but slightly jingoistic number "Flying the Flag". It was embarrassing and didn't deserve many marks at all but it was , amazingly, somewhat better than half the other entries.

It was the voting that really riled me. It was clearer than ever that in most countries people weren't voting for songs but for old alliances and international bonds based on ethnicity, religion or geographical proximity. Hence it was no surprise that Cyprus gave its twelve point reward to Greece or that Sweden gave its twelve points to Finland. As Shirley and I watched the scoring unfold I was nearly always correctly predicting where each country's highest points would end up. Western Europe did very badly indeed and the top places were dominated by former Russian-aligned countries including Moldova, Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine.

The winner was Serbia's Marija Serifovic (See picture top right) with her rendition of "Moltiva" - and what a load of bollocks this song was. The upshot is that the Eurovision circus must descend on Belgrade next May and in my view not enough healing time has occurred since the Serbian atrocities of the Bosnian war and the troubles in Kosovo. Serbia doesn't deserve an historical seal of approval courtesy of the Eurovision media bandwagon - not yet anyway.

If you visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio you will see and hear how incredibly influential the United Kingdom has been in the world of popular music since 1960. However, in Eurovision we persist in putting forward useless acts like Scooch (see picture bottom left) singing meaningless songs. What I'd like to see is a genuine British songsmith up there representing our country, singing a song that has guts and lyrical integrity with a tune that resonates through your head, sung in a way that says - "I don't give a damn about the biased Eurovision voting. This is a real song. Take it or leave it." James Morrison, Elton John, Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Joss Stone, Keane, Travis, The Manic Street Preachers... we have so many talented people to choose from.

9 May 2007


Read the tale of how American "food" giant KFC have legally challenged a North Yorkshire pub's use of the term "family feast" to describe its Christmas menu. Apparently KFC have copyrighted this phrase. On two counts, how can they? Firstly, KFC "food" is rubbish. Personally, I would never consume anything from their horrid menu - not even if it was a mistakenly fried baby rat! So to describe anything they produce as being a "family feast" is in my view blatant and hideous misuse of the English language. A pile of crap cannot be a family feast can it?

Secondly, the English language is there for us all to use. Okay I accept you can copyright "The New York Times" or "Love Heart" sweeties, "Ford Mustang" or even "KFC" but "family feast"? Come on! If that is acceptable then I hereby claim copyright over these four words - "Exit", "Entrance", "Push" and "Pull". However, I also hereby give permission for anybody in the world to freely use these words apart from the KFC corporation. These words must be removed from all KFC doorways. Failure to follow this instruction will invite strong legal action! Sometimes David bites back Goliath!

Tan Hill Inn - England's highest pub. Click on it to see their website.

FRIDAY UPDATE. Given the growing ridicule, KFC have done the "decent" thing and knocked this issue on the head now. More likely they saw how their image was being tarnished by reports of their heavy-handed behaviour and wished to save face. Here's the ITN news report "...a spokeswoman for KFC GB Ltd has now stated that no further action will be taken against the pub.
She said: "KFC has to protect its trademarks against those who seek to trade off its brand. KFC has spoken to Ms Daly at the Tan Hill Inn and confirmed that it will not take this case any further.
The spokeswoman added: "This means that Ms Daly can continue to use the phrase 'Family Feast' on the pub's Christmas menu. It's an unusual situation that has been blown out of all proportion."
Ms Daly said: "They have very kindly said we can continue using the name. Common sense has prevailed. I'm very relieved and ecstatic."
VERY KINDLY!? Hey get real landlady! They're finger-lickin thugs!

6 May 2007


LEFT: City manager Phil Brown spots a seagull during today's disappointing home game with Plymouth.
The last game of the season. Plymouth Argyle at one o' clock on a Sunday lunchtime. There were me and Shirley and our Ian and my friend Tony and his wife Fiona and 20,000 other Hull City fans and around three hundred bravehearts from Plymouth. When did they set off? Must have been five in the morning.

It was a damp squib of a match. Neither team had anything to play for. Our goalkeeper Boaz Myhill brilliantly saved a first half penalty but then they scored anyway just before half time. In the second half we realised that the ugly and balding linesman on our side of the pitch must have been born and bred in Plymouth and was clearly a lifelong supporter of the Argyle because his flag kept going up when Tigers forwards were clearly onside and bearing down on goal. Although Stuart Elliott hammered home a deserved consolation goal for City, we lost 2-1.

On three or four occasions during the match the chant went up from both Hull and Plymouth fans - "We all hate Leeds! We all hate Leeds! Scum! We all hate Leeds! We all hate Leeds!" Rather poetic don't you think - especially in the light of their blatant and cyncal abuse of Football Association rules in order to ensure they are not docked points next season. They were already down for Chrissake so why dock ten points just now? Typical of Leeds! Bad losers and cheats!
So that was the end of the 2006-2007 season. We survived! I saw some great games and some awful ones too. It is clear as crystal that we have to change our squad and bring in two or three significant players who can make a difference if we are to hold our own next season and move away from the relegation lottery zone. Apologies to any readers who are not remotely interested in English football and the struggles of Hull City AFC. I feel exactly the same way about astro physics and Orkney island knitting patterns!

3 May 2007


In the tap room of my local pub there's a corner that we call "Old Fartz Corner". It is where the old regulars have traditionally plonked themselves. The name is even carved on the edge of the television shelf above this part of the pub.
In the eighteen years that I have been a regular, I have seen some of the old farts disappear but one of them seemed to be going on forever. His name was and is Fred. He lived in a cottage at Bent's Green - about a mile away - and every single night for over forty years he made his way by bus to our pub. He always caught the 11.20pm bus home and he always sat in exactly the same place in the pub and he always drank three pints of Tetley's bitter - every night for forty years. By my calculations that's 43,800 pints of beer!

Fred is seventy eight years old now - a simple man without partner or family. By all accounts his cottage is very basic indeed - without central heating or proper cooking facilities. For many years he has lived the frugal bachelor life, his main pleasure being his nightly trips down to the pub. I have lost count of the number of times I said "Night Fred!" to him.

Fred used to look very healthy - a ruddy complexion and a shock of jet black hair - as fit as a fiddle - the kind of man who would never bother with doctors and dentists and hospitals and social workers and home helps. He was independent, a former steel worker, living the golden days of his retirement.

Then earlier this year Fred started to change. He looked unkempt - sometimes forgetting to shave. His bottom jaw sagged lower than before and his clothes started to look really tatty and dirty. Under his top shirt you could see a white vest that was turning grey. Then he started to smell.

It was very unpleasant. Not human excrement or stale urine but still bodily and pungent. It turned your stomach and even hardened regulars made sure they sat well away from Fred. The landlady was none too pleased and in the end had to tell Fred he was no longer welcome unless he cleaned himself up. It was shortly after this that Fred had a fall and went into hospital where they discovered ulcerous, leaking ruptures on his legs. Fred had just about reached the end of the line.

Rumour has it that he will never be back in our pub - he'll have to go into residential care. Another rumour says that he had another fall actually in hospital and smashed his hip up pretty bad. One or two customers have been to see him in hospital. I ought to go myself but I haven't got round to it. He's not someone I would call a friend - he's just the old guy who was in that pub night after night like the furniture. He reminds you that nothing lasts forever. Sometimes things, people, associations can seem as if they will always be there but it all goes in the end... just like Fred.