30 March 2008

Goa

Under a jackfruit tree and slender palms heavy with coconuts, past the old well and a sleeping light brown dog where unfamiliar birdsong begins the afternoon's soundtrack. Along that sandy path there's a flash of green wings as a chipmunk scurries into verdant undergrowth. The air is like warm honey and the sand so hot your feet don't linger. Up through the last little bushes of the dunes and in front of you there's the rippling Arabian Sea bursting rhythmically on a wide arc of golden beach that stretches from the Portugese fort at Sinquerim northwards to Baga.

To the left there's the tumbledown "Baywatch" beach shack and to the right there's "Blue Waves" - all bamboo and coconut palm matting and "Kingfisher" advertising boards with a few knocked up wooden beach loungers. Our sound track continues with melodious surf on sand. We turn right greeting Mustaffa and order lime sodas followed by simple Goan fish curry and rice with chapatis and aloo gobi. It emerges twenty minutes later from the mysterious rear of the unpromising shack but is food you might die for costing little more than three pounds.

I enjoy the laziness of hot beaches. You slow right down, turning pages of a book, watching a crow cawing on the bamboo canopy, wondering idly if yesterday's dolphin will resurface. When your temperature rises and the mood takes you, you search coolness by plunging into the sea. It is almost tepid. You could stay there all day. When you emerge you don't even bother with a towel. You enjoy the cooling sensation of salty water droplets evaporating from your skin. You order a "Kingfisher" beer - the advertising has worked. You're beach crazy.

We loved Goa and wished we could have stayed longer on the massive peninsula that is India. We loved the chaos and the niceness of the people. We liked the birds and the buffalo, the curries and the tuk-tuks, the lush tropical greenery, the intricate wood carving and the market traders, the bird watching expedition we took in a hollowed out mango wood canoe with our guide - Ulay and of course the healing warmth of the sun. In Goa, Portugese Christianity meets the more ancient pathways of Hinduism as the Mandovi River meets the sea.

India has always been special in the recesses of my imagination because it was there - in Delhi - that my parents were married at the end of World War II. They came back to England with jewellery boxes, miniature ivory elephants, gemstones, stories of walks in the Himalayas, hammered brass tables and a pair of wooden bookends that told an ancient Hindu tale. They were both in the Royal Air Force and for anyone stationed in India it had been a different kind of war because the Japanese enemy never arrived. Mum and Dad returned by boat round Cape of Good Hope to begin a new life together. We came back by Monarch Airlines with a handsome rosewood elephant called Jumbo who will sit nicely on the hearth in our back room - reminding us of our dreamlike holiday and of the special land that remains India. I dedicate this post to Mum and Dad - wishing they were still here so that I could tell them new tales of their beloved land.

22 March 2008

Secret

This blog will be unsupervised for the next nine days as Mr & Mrs Y. Pudding venture abroad to a secret destination - not Benidorm or Aya Napa. All will be revealed upon our return - assuming of course that they let us back through security. Have a Happy Easter everyone!

19 March 2008

Blonde

A ventriloquist touring workingmen's clubs finds himself at Woodseats in Sheffield.

He's going through his usual run of stupid blonde jokes, when a big blonde woman in the fourth row stands on her chair and says:"I've heard just about enough of your denigrating blonde jokes you arsehole! What makes you think you can stereotype women that way? What does a person's physical attributes have to do with their worth as a human being? It's peoples like you who keep women like me from being respected at work and in my community, of reaching my full potential as a person... because you and your kind continue to perpetuate discrimination against not only blondes but women in general... all in the name of humour."

Flustered, the ventriloquist begins to apologise, when the blonde says: "And you can stay out of this mister, I'm talking to that little bastard sat on your knee!"

The Internet is filled with discriminatory blonde jokes like the above. Blondes are the new Irish. A few regular readers of this blog are blondes - including Jennyta @ Demob Hippy Teacher and none of her entries confirm the joke blonde stereotype - well not many of them. Do you know any good blonde jokes we can all share with Jennyta?

16 March 2008

Tugged

I have been tugged by Jennyta from “Demob Happy Creature”:-
4 movies I'd watch again: Well, I tend to only watch a “movie” once – but if I was locked in a cinema and told I couldn’t leave until I had seen four films over again, I think I would pick “Woodstock”, “Schindler’s List”, “Once Upon a Time in America” and “Carry on Doctor”
4 places I've lived: ( I am starting to think I have accepted the same tag before!) Rotuma Island in Fiji, Novelty in Ohio USA, Leven in East Yorkshire, Stirling in Scotland..
4 TV shows I watch: “Eastenders” (definitely NOT glum or morbid as arsey reviewers who don’t watch it will often retort), “Sky Sports” (Is this a show?), “BBC News 24” (Is this a show?) “Road Wars” – I love this but how come TV stations can so easily access confidential traffic police video footage?
4 people I email: Brother Paul in Ireland, Daughter Frances in Birmingham, Mate Tony near Hull, Work colleagues (Are they people or cardboard cutouts?)
4 things I eat:Bread, potatoes, meat, vegetables (Exciting and unusual diet huh?)

4 places I'd rather be:I’d “rather” be? That implies I am not happy in the here and now which usually I am – anyway… let’s try upstairs in bed with the wife, at Wembley watching Hull City win the Championship play-off final, swimming in the warm summer seas of the Cyclades islands in Greece, having a beer with my old Yankee chum Chris on the decking of his house near to Canfield, Ohio watching fireflies in the bushes.
…So as you can see I have been well and truly tugged by Jennyta. I am not usually into tugging other bloggers but what the hell… I hereby tug Arctic Fox, Sam at Golden Hill, David in NZ and the delectable Alkelda in faraway Seattle where she is often sleepless.

14 March 2008

Boasting

Have you ever seen the film, "Monty Python and The Holy Grail"? Well I was in it! I guess the Monty Python team invaded Scotland in the summer of 1974 when I was an undergraduate at Stirling University. A couple of posters had gone up around the students' union advertising for film extras though we had no idea what the film would be or anything. All I knew is that I would get paid over the weekend and enjoy some free nosh. It was a lovely warm summery weekend up on the moors above Stirling.

Wikipedia says -"In the closing battle scene, shots facing "Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh" were filmed at Castle Stalker but the shots looking the other way towards the huge army were filmed later on Sheriffmuir near Stirling once they had managed to get enough people - one of them being author Iain Banks, then a student, as he recounts in his non-fiction work Raw Spirit."
We were up on Sheriffmuir throughout Saturday and most of Sunday in our medieval costumes. I was a French soldier and I came over the hill with the rest of the French army. I was also very briefly filmed sharpening a spear - but you only see my hands. And I recall meeting John Cleese down by the catering caravan. He seemed rather off-hand - perhaps he was knackered - or maybe he simply didn't realise he was talking to the great Yorkshire Pudding.
After this film debut, I waited by my phone for years - expecting Hollywood to ring - though they never did. I saw my name in lights - "Yorkshire Pudding and The Temple of Doom", "Confessions of a Yorkshire Pudding", "Carry On Yorkshire Pudding" - in which I would chase Barbara Windsor into a lush shubbery from where her cheeky laughter would emerge - "Ooo! Mr Pudding you are naughty!"

By the way, the later-to-become-author Iain Banks was a rather dull cerebral young fellow. He was in a couple of my seminar groups and occasionally I would stuff him intellectually - though with hindsight I perhaps should have got more pally with the little wimp - I could have been his literary chauffeur!

10 March 2008

Winner

Drum roll like a heartbeat, long dramatic pause, go to the commercial break, return, more drum rolling, contestants standing nervously on the stage as the limerick competition results are announced in reverse order.
In fifth place.... Arctic Fox (Try harder next time!
In fourth place.... Friday's Web (Weird last line!)
In third place.... Occupied Country (Too clever!)
In second place... Alkelda the Gleeful (Unfair advantage given your literary skills!)
AND THE WINNER IS! Du dum, du dum (More Pause)... ANONYMOUS!

See the 1907 limerick with its winning last line:-

There was a young lady of Ryde
Whose locks were consider'bly dyed.
The hue of her hair
Made everyone stare...
Making her want to run off and hide

So Mr or Ms A. Nonymous wins this attractive picture of the Ornamental Lake in Ryde, Isle of Wight - photographed in 1912:-

9 March 2008

Crap

It was back in 2003, that the City of Kingston-upon-Hull was listed by a posh lad with a book deal as the crappest town in Britain. It is a label the city didn't need or deserve. I was back there last night in that city of quarter of a million souls. Out on a limb. Wide boulevards. Wide vista over the wide Humber estuary. Of course, I had been to see another Tigers victory over desperate Scunthorpe United. Who knows - one day we may not be able to boast that Hull is the most heavily populated city in Europe never to have had a top flight team!

In the evening, we went to Hull's old town. Once these two square miles were surrounded by a moat and city walls. They protected one of England's most ancient and most important ports. Later the city was to become the world's number one fishing port in terms of tons landed.

In the old town there are some fantastic old pubs, such as you will not find in more modern places like Leeds, Sheffield or Manchester. These pubs have echoes of a long ago past imbued in the very beams that hold them together. They have emerged organically into the twenty first century, creating ambiences that no designer could ever replicate.

We went to the oldest pub in Hull - "Ye Olde White Harte" then on to the Manchester Arms and my favourite one of them all - "Ye Olde Black Boy". Quite an odd name for a public house and nobody seems quite sure how it got that name. The most popular suggestion is that in the eighteenth century, African slaves were traded in the pub before being shipped out to the Americas. Historical evidence to support this claim is very shaky.

After the old town pub crawl, we jumped into a couple of taxis and headed for the nearby town of Beverley to visit the best pub in the world in my humble estimation. It is just near St Mary's church and it is officially called "The White Horse" but everybody in the Beverley area knows it simply as "Nelly's" after a former landlady now long dead. If you are ever in Beverley and you like pubs then make sure you visit - preferably on a cold winter's evening with the fires burning snugly in the several antique fireplaces and Victorian gas lamps hissing in the various murky rooms. It's beautiful and it is unique.

Oh and who were "we"? It was my mate Tony and the all-male entourage celebrating his fiftieth birthday. Naturally it all finished with a slap-up curry in the Akash just off Wednesday Market.

6 March 2008

Limerick

Right: Limerick coat of arms
If you have an inquisitive mind, questions will often float to the surface and irritate you until you find the answers. Now I have visited the city of Limerick in western Ireland several times. Visually it is an unappealing, flat city. It spawned the BBC media personality Sir Terry Wogan and it figured largely in that marvellously humane novel, "Angela's Ashes". But what has often puzzled me is why certain funny five line ditties should also be called "limericks". What's the connection?

This is what "Wikipedia" has to say on the subject:-

The origin of the actual name limerick for this type of poem is obscure. Its usage was first documented in England in 1898 (New English Dictionary) and in America in 1902. It is generally taken to be a reference to the County of Limerick in Ireland (particularly the
Maigue Poets), and may derive from an earlier form of nonsense verse parlour game which traditionally included a refrain that ended "Come all the way up to Limerick?" (referring to Limerick, Ireland).

Ah well, I suppose that is an answer. But it's not really the gob-smacking solution I was hoping for, so leaving that research behind, here's a limerick:-

There was a young man from Darjeeling,
Who got on a bus bound for Ealing;
It said at the door:
'Do not spit on the floor.'
So he leant back and spat on the ceiling.

It seems that in 1907, Britain was gripped by limerick fever with several newspapers and periodicals inviting last lines. This was one such unfinished limerick and, to win a special prize, I invite modern day visitors to this blog to compose their own fifth lines:-
There was a young lady of Ryde
Whose locks were consider'bly dyed.
The hue of her hair
Made everyone stare...

Above: Groom's party at a Limerick wedding.

2 March 2008

Masts

I don't possess a mobile phone and I don't plan to have one in the future. When I see other drivers babbling away into their mobiles (cell phones to Americans), my blood boils with rage because to me it is like junping into a car when your veins are coursing with alcohol after a session in the pub. It is just as irresponsible and there have been many cases of fatal or near-fatal road accidents caused directly by thoughtless mobile phone use.

But this isn't what I really wished to gripe about in this post. What I want to rant about is mobile phone masts. They seem to be mushrooming all over the place - great big ugly poles that are an ugly blight on our cityscapes and countryside. And because we live in a competitive, enterprising society it seems that different mobile phone companies have to throw up their own masts - thereby massively increasing the number of masts that assault our vision and uglify our surroundings.

I hate them and I wonder, just in aesthetic terms, why they can't start incorporating phone masts into new buildings or running them up the side of existing tall buildings like lightning conductors.

This is to ignore another latent and worrying issue with mobile phone masts - namely,what are they doing to our long term health? I sometimes walk by masts and hear electronic humming emerging from the associated and equally ugly control boxes. Why? What is that humming doing to passers by? Do profit making companies like T-Mobile, Orange and O2 give a damn about the nation's long term health? Ithink not. All they are after is filthy lucre and they'll twist and turn like the operators of the Sellafield Visitors' Centre to deny that there are any health issues with mobile phone masts. Profit is everything to these people.

I am thinking of visiting Osam bin Laden's mates in northern Pakistan to get some lessons in terrorism so that I can form an underground rebel group whose mission will be to fell as many mobile phone masts as we can. We'll be called The PML (Phone Mast Lumberjacks), bringing back a more peaceful, private world to provide sanctuary from the endless cell phone babble and prevent brain cancers.