29 April 2012

Banned

Captain Brett's right arm
From time to time, you see yachts drifting about the Andaman Sea. Sometimes I go to The Headland and wave my Hull City first team shirt above my head hoping to attract attention. Perhaps it will be Katherine, Mick, Libby or some other blogger who has finally made it to our brave new world. Invariably, the sailboats just drift past and I trudge back miserably to my idyllic but lonely new lifestyle.

I caught some of  "Match of the Day" on my computer this morning and apart from the football, one thing I noticed was the growing number of players whose arms are now adorned with tattoos. What  the hell do these unthinking sheep think they're doing graffitiing their bodies indelibly like this? How will the tattoos look when their grandchildren visit them in their old people's rest homes? And what is it about these horrible, ugly markings that they like?

Co-incidentally, later in the morning, a luxury yacht anchored at our wharf. Monty Python's "Lumberjack Song" was blasting out of the boat's sound system. I went over to see what was happening. It was a bunch of arrogant, wealthy Canadians guzzling "Molson" beer. They thought they were still in Burmese waters and could pull up anchor where ever they like. The "skipper" hopped on to one of the wooden walkways and introduced himself as "Brett". I noticed that one of his arms was covered with ugly tattoos (see photo above)

It was there and then that I made a unilateral legal decision on behalf of all absent citizens of Blogland - that henceforth it will be unlawful for any residents of Blogland or foreign visitors to step upon our shores with visible tattoos. Anyone found revealing tattoos will be subject to the full weight of the law and will risk immediate deportation. May I suggest therefore that any tattooed bloggers still intent on joining me over here should apply for laser removal as soon as possible.
The Canadian Yacht -   The Jolly Lumberjack

28 April 2012

Mick

Who is that? Is it the "Milk Tray" man? Is it a senior member of the paparazzi or a Tory MP at a show jumping event? No. It's none of those, it's Lord Mick of Bristol, blogger extraordinaire, grandfather, Popeye impersonator and all round good egg. Even better is the fact that he's just sent me a cheque for seventy four guineas in order to secure a guest spot in this former Yorkshire blog - now transferred to Blogland. For seventy four guineas you too can have a guest blogpost published here - free to all Yorkshire bloggers but double for French bloggers and Lancastrians. 

Why was Mick so keen to appear here? Well, he wanted to tell his story about how he was thwarted in his determined efforts to get to Blogland and how he still plans to get here. You can take the man out of the army but you can't take the army out of the man...


I arrived at Manchester Airport and reported to the Reception as instructed only to find they had no knowledge of me or any tickets to fly to Blogland , I asked them to check and check again only to be told by a very unhelpful receptionist no airline tickets for me or any other come to that, funny that I thought !!!!, I asked to see the Airline manager and explained to him that  YP had reserved them a few days before, the manager went off and on his return confirmed what the receptionist had said “NO  TICKET” or reservation had been made.
I toured around the other Manchester’s Airport Airline reception desks and told exactly the same, NO TICKET or reservation, eventually the Airports security staff arrived, two rather large foreign gentlemen gentle they were not and roughly manhandled me outside.
I reversed charged telephone call to daughter No 1 and explained the circumstances and she said she would come up the next day in one of her vans and collect me and I could stay with her until I made other arrangements.   No problem there.
Fast forward one week.
I contacted [e-mailed] one of my old Army mates who when he retired bought into a 40-M class A  square sail rigged ship and for the last thirty years or so has been operating a trading company in the Far East going around the various island in the Pacific  shipping small cargo items along with training crews in seamanship with some holiday tourists.    I received an e-mail reply and he told me he would be back in the UK for a refit and have ‘Her‘ in dry dock for a bottom scrape.   I met him last week and I know people say when they haven’t seen someone for years they don’t look any different - true, he’s still the dashing [although I did see some grey hair there] Bronze Atlas looking 6-foot man also I had the pleasure to met his wife as well and for me they’re like ‘peas in a pod‘ ideally suited, a fantastic couple.
I explained my circumstances about my wanting to escape to Blogland, wanting rid of all the corruption and the nauseating trappings of this so called modern way of life with all its  negative  rules and regulations  
I suggested that on his next trading commission to the Far East I could accompany him working my passage as part of the crew.  I am a certificated Sailing Ship deckhand having gained my experience in training on a three master albeit some 50-years ago - [true] but I explained because of age the days of swinging through the rigging with the freshening breeze in my hair and a shanty on my lips have long since gone perhaps it would be better me just working on the deck.    Skipper Tinsel - [Don’t ask me how he got that name I don’t know] offered a ‘Galley Cooks ‘position together with being the ships radio operator and helping the ships carpenter should the need arise, he mentioned I would have to keep the ‘Ship’s Bell’ polished, its a tradition the galley staff have to do - [I’ll bet a lot people didn’t know that?].   I immediately signed on.
Image supplied by Mick
Missing out on the Air ticket has been a blessing in disguise no longer limited by a weight limit I am now able to transport some items I would otherwise have had to leave behind, my carpentry tools, cooking utensils, camera equipment and a small library of books.
I’m making arrangements with an agent in Singapore  to collect some live stock, chickens, pigs and a collection of various tools when we dock at Singapore a for a three days lay up.
We set sail on June the first, sail out of Southampton and make passage to our first port of call to pick up a  French cargo - [I believe it to be 4-tons of metaliferous ore].   then onto Brest, a 1-day layup, take on fresh provisions for the expected route through the Bay to Santander, Porto [take on wine casks] Lisbon, Nouakchott and then around Cape Province - [Cape of Good Hope].   Hopefully I will be more informed of the future route and course later on.
My estimated time its going to take to arrive in Blogland looks to be about ten or eleven weeks so should be arriving around mid August - [ETA 22nd/08]
   
The accommodation I have been allocated ‘Driftwood Cottage’ sounds idyllic, I note from the position on the map its terraced on a hill with only one path access and isolated from other islanders, good, that just what I wanted.
Looking forward to meeting up with other Bloglanders. 
More details to come given time and internet access - Mick

27 April 2012

Snorkelman

"I'd like to be under the sea in an octopus's garden 'neath the waves"... Yes that's me above, snapped by Thuza before I ventured into the bay on another snorkelling expedition. I'm sure you will agree that I am an exceedingly handsome young fellow. Today I tested out my new underwater camera - kindly mailed to me by R & E Brague of 13 Acme Factory Road, Canton, Georgia, USA. May I say a public "thank you" to my rich American benefactors for this unexpected generosity.

Below are just three of the underwater pictures I snapped this afternoon. Down there it's another world, a quiet world of beauty and colour, of predator and victim, mysterious shadows and sparkling light filtered from above. Swimming in that other world, you feel like an invader. I ask myself , on a planet that it is two thirds ocean who should we say owns it? We imperialist human beings or the creatures of the sea? There are far more of them than us and unlike us they live in harmony with their environment... regardless of our growing threat.


26 April 2012

Marley

A full length documentary film is currently playing in British cinemas - all about the life of the legendary Jamaican music maker - Robert Nesta Marley (1945-1981). It's simply called "Marley". Yesterday I received a pirate copy and watched it on the big screen in the social club. Two and a half hours long, it was an intense watch.

You see the little shed in the impoverished inland hill parish of St Ann where Marley grew up with his mother, Cedella. Some time in 1944 she was impregnated by an English plantation overseer - Norval Marley who was considerably older than  Cedella. He died when Bob was just ten years old. That Bob was therefore of mixed race made him uncertain of natural allegiance. Perhaps he was of the world as much as he was of Jamaica.

Largely through interviews with Marley's musical associates and family members, the documentary follows his life to Trenchtown - the vibrant shanty district of Kingston. There he develops his musical and songwriting talents as well as embracing the Rastafarian religion with its somewhat bizarre focus upon Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. This diminutive and politically dubious figure even visited Jamaica in 1966 - greeted at the airport by many thousands of Rastafari and ordinary Jamaicans who literally mobbed his plane - such was the excitement and adulation.

Smoking ganja was not purely recreational. The notion was that it allowed Rastafari a closer connection with Jah - their God. Bob Marley smoked a lot of it but he also loved to play football at every opportunity.He was also sexually active - siring eleven children by seven different mothers. One day after a football game, his big toe hurt like hell and when he got it checked out he discovered he had a melanoma. This was to be the beginning of a four year journey to death but in the meantime he created most his finest music - playing huge concerts across the world including his triumphant "Uprising" shows at Madison Square Gardens.

From such humble origins, Bob Marley came to touch the world. It wasn't just about his music. There was something special about him - perhaps something spiritual. He seemed to embody the quest and the hope that is in all of us. Whereas so many ephemeral musical artistes have been obscured and forgotten by the passing of years, Bob Marley endures. I wish I'd seen him in concert:-

25 April 2012

"Swelled"

It was December 1965 when Paul Frederic Simon and Arthur Ira Garfunkel recorded "April Come She Will" for their "Sounds of Silence" album. Hell, that's forty seven years ago. Another song was recorded at the same time - "Homeward Bound" which recalls Paul Simon's folk performances in small British venues during the early nineteen sixties. The legend is that he was inspired to write it at Widnes station near Liverpool as he waited to "get home" both to his then girlfriend Kathy in Essex and to his native New York City. Simon once described those years as "the best time of my life".
April come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain;
May, she will stay,
Resting in my arms again

June, she´ll change her tune,
In restless walks she´ll prowl the night;
July, she will fly
And give no warning to her flight.

August, die she must,
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold;
September I´ll remember.
A love once new has now grown old.

Checking out the BBC Weather site, I see that it's raining in England now. An Atlantic depression has swept in to deluge the entire country with the wet stuff. So much for the drought they've been having over there! No, the streams will certainly be "ripe and swelled with rain" now. I'd have probably been hammering away at my computer keyboard in the study watching drops of rain "weave their weary paths and die" on the windowpane.

Instead I'm just off snorkelling in the bay. The social club jukebox is now playing Rupert Holmes's  "If You Like Pina Coladas"... Well I do, but I'd rather not write about that song. So I'll leave you with the simple genius of Paul Simon:-

24 April 2012

History

As esteemed regular visitors to this humble blog are well aware, from time to time I like to post photographs I have snapped myself. And following on from yesterday's St George's Day post, as I swam twenty more lengths of the social club pool this afternoon, my mind drifted back to two little walking expeditions I undertook  in the Sheffield area before emigrating to Blogland. The two photographs I have chosen speak of England's rich history and both are of unsung buildings that you will probably have never heard of. Such is our history.

This building is in Old Whittington which is a suburb of  Chesterfield - the north Derbyshire market town. It's called Revolution House but was once a pub called "The Cock and Pygnot". Here some time in 1688 three influential noblemen met to plot the overthrow of the Catholic king - James II. They included the Earl of Devonshire and the Earl of Danby. They are seen as the architects of England's "Glorious Revolution" in which the threat of a Catholic takeover with all that that might have entailed was resisted:-
Revolution House, Old Whittington
And here's Upper Padley Chapel, close to the village of Grindleford. This stalwart building was part of the Padley Manor complex which predated the Norman invasion. Again, echoing that ancient tension between Catholicism and Protestantism, it was in this building in 1588 that three Catholic priests were found hiding - having been given sanctuary by the lord of the manor -Sir Thomas Fitzherbert. They were duly hung, drawn and quartered. Labelled the Padley Martyrs, a Catholic pilgrimage is still made to the chapel on July 12th each year:-
Padley Chapel, Upper Padley
And that's just two unsung historical sites in the Sheffield area. It makes you think - what the hell was all that religious strife really about? Was it to do with the manner in which one should worship the Christian God or was it more about economic power and the ownership of land? That tension coloured much of English history in the middle ages and beyond and perhaps the vestiges of it still remain. I mean, why do English cities still accommodate Catholic state schools when Protestant children's schools are open to everyone - whatever their faith?

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm heading for the forest with my catapult to shoot a few parrots. They're delicious when plucked and then barbecued.

23 April 2012

England

May I wish all readers and accidental visitors to this blog a Very Happy St George's Day! Today is England's national day though bizarrely its people will pretty much be going about their normal daily lives. It's not a national holiday. Some cleverdick commentators and politically correct whingers have in the past implied that declarations of English patriotism and pride in the national flag are somehow inherently  racist and those of us who have felt inclined to sing our nation's praises have had to be more than a little wary.

I find all of that maddening. In America, patriotism is more visible and of course July 4th is a national holiday with family parties, sports events and fireworks. Throughout the year you will see the stars and stripes fluttering from flagpoles on some of the remotest properties.

Of course, I'm Yorkshire Pudding - not English Pudding - but even so I do feel a kinship with most of the fifty million people who inhabit that ancient kingdom and yes - even Lancastrians, even Londoners. We have much to celebrate and to be proud about for our beautiful little country has achieved so much and spawned so many talented people in a wide range of fields from art to science and from exploration to invention. If I began to list them all, this blogpost would be longer than an Andrex toilet roll.

Then there are all the unsung heroes - the Chartists, the coal miners, the Ban the Bomb demonstrators, the lost soldiers from anonymous streets, the suffragettes, the helpful neighbours and the animal rescuers. We should also be proud of their stories for they are the true bones of English society, the hidden foundations.

Of any nation, if you were so inclined, you could dredge up a list of negatives designed to prick the bubble of patriotism but it's always easy to knock, to deride. Harder to stand up and sing your nation's praises. Though I am far away sipping juice from a fresh young coconut by a turquoise bay, I am still proud of  my motherland, my England. Let's raise a coconut to St George, the slayer of dragons. Happy St George's Day Everyone!

22 April 2012

Islands

In the social club there's a state-of-the-art pub jukebox with access to over quarter of a million songs. Flicking through the index, I found this 1971 song by King Crimson. It's a song that has often echoed in my mind and somehow it seems to reflect the far distant and peaceful mood of Blogland. I was still humming it as I sauntered along the coastal path, under silver moonlight and the silhouettes of palm fronds back to my new home where Henry the peafowl stirred in the shadows:-

Earth, stream and tree encircled by sea
Waves sweep the sand from my island.
My sunsets fade.
Field and glade wait only for rain
Grain after grain love erodes my
High weathered walls which fend off the tide
Cradle the wind
to my island.

Gaunt granite climbs where gulls wheel and glide
Mournfully glide o'er my island.
My dawn bride's veil, damp and pale,
Dissolves in the sun.
Love's web is spun - cats prowl, mice run
Wreathe snatch-hand briars where owls know my eyes
Violet skies
Touch my island,
Touch me.

Beneath the wind turned wave
Infinite peace
Islands join hands
'Neath heaven's sea.

Dark harbour quays like fingers of stone
Hungrily reach from my island.
Clutch sailor's words - pearls and gourds
Are strewn on my shore.
Equal in love, bound in circles.
Earth, stream and tree return to the sea
Waves sweep sand from my island,
from me.



YouTube video clip by Vesmar who is the maintenance engineer at our wind farm and a thoroughly nice chap. The young lady who agreed to star in the filming is Chit who had been specially selected to be Arctic Fox's housekeeper...


21 April 2012

Mistake

After all of that effort, risking our lives on the open sea, it turns out that the woman living alone on Pulau Bada Island is not in fact the elusive Katherine de Chevalle at all. She's in fact a marine biologist from the University of California gathering data for her PhD thesis on the sex life of leatherback turtles. She's called Carrie Liebowicz from Dayton, Ohio. 

Carrie's living in  a large tent in the coconut plantation back from the beach. She kindly made a nice meal of rice and fried turtle eggs for me, Thuza and Maung before we set off back for Blogland. I feel so stupid. I could have sworn I'd located Katherine's island but the old Burmese fisherman clearly needs his stupid eyes testing.

Thank God the old lifeboat got us safely back to Blogland. It was almost dark when we tied up at the wharf. Back in the social club I ordered a large brandy and checked to see if there were any comments after my last blogpost - "Found". There was this puzzling comment from Earl Gray of Trelawnyd:- "YP please do me a favour   - WRITE A BOOK ON A SIMILAR SUBJECT". 

What the...?

Instead I retired to my new home where I am gathering quite a collection of animal friends. Well, no other bloggers made it here! I have acquired several Burmese chickens - mostly avian flu rescue hens from an egg farm on the outskirts of Rangoon. And there's a bantam cockerel called Clegg who crows like the devil every morning then spends the rest of the day following Dave, the other cockerel, as he struts around the compound. Doris the bean goose has become friendly with Henry the peafowl and Hilda the scaly-breasted partridge spends most of her time squawking under my wooden verandah with a long-billed partridge called Stan. But at the end of the day there's nothing I appreciate more than a slithery hug on my bamboo rocking chair from Brenda the Burmese python. She's so affectionate. And as I rocked, I wondered where Katherine could be...
Dinnertime for Brenda the Burmese Python

20 April 2012

Found

I have no idea the name of this island, but if you have found it, I am delighted! I will wait in excited anticipation on the beach all day today, although my nose has already peeled once despite my palm-frond hat. By the way, I have discovered I am not alone! A turtle came to my beach yesterday! He was good company for a couple of hours. I have noticed I've started talking to myself, but that's understandable I guess.

I've been drinking a bit of seawater, not too much, and found a bit of plastic flotsam that makes a little water underneath that I can lick off, if I put it over a hole with fresh vegetation in it. 
Looking forward to being rescued!  -  Katherine de Chevalle (Thursday Aprl 19th)


So we set off at dawn. The sea was like a millpond. The outboard motor puttered like a little motorbike as we sliced through the water. Maung and Thuza were with me and we'd brought plenty of water, a couple of jerry cans of extra fuel, fruit and a first aid kit. 

Heat hung heavy over the Andaman Sea causing sky and water to merge in a haze. We saw tiny rocky islets and I smiled to see one particular tiny island because it was just like those desert islands you see in cartoons - a miniscule beach and one lonesome palm tree. Thuza and Maung sang an old Burmese fishing song and a flying fish flashed like a silver bullet over the old inflatable.

Finally, the island of Pulau Bada emerged from the heat haze. We slowed the outboard motor and drifted in to the first sandy bay we saw then we dragged the ancient RNLI craft up towards the palm trees. Katherine was nowhere to be seen but we saw footprints in the sand - just like "Robinson Crusoe" and we followed them round past the rocky headland to a second beach. And there she was just floating in those crystal clear waters:-

19 April 2012

Located

Have you heard? On her way to Blogland, New Zealand blogger Dame Katherine de Chevalle was the only survivor of a tragic plane crash. She is on an island somewhere west of the Thaiiland/Burma border. This aftenoon I showed her i-phone pictures to a couple of Burmese fishermen who had tied up at the Robert Brague Memorial Wharf. 

Straight away, the older fellow - gnarled and salty - became very excited. He'd recognised the island. "Pulau Bada! Pulau Bada!" he kept yelling. We showed him an old map of the Burmese islands - there are hundreds of them - but within thirty seconds his ET-like finger indicated Pulau Bada due south of Blogland. I reckon it is probably about twenty five miles off the most southerly point of our wonderful island world and not to be confused with the Indonesian island of Pulau Banda.

We waved goodbye to the two fishermen and headed back to the social club to plan Katherine's rescue. I wondered if our new nation's naval vessel would be up to the job. It's just a large inflatable with an outboard motor. It came secondhand from a lifeboat station in the picturesque Welsh coastal village of Rhyl Regis. The Development Committee thought it would suffice for a while but there was never any expectation that it would ever voyage big distances on the open ocean.

Nevertheless, we're going to risk it. The idea of such a talented artist and expert muffin baker wasting away on an uninhabited island is too much to bear. It's getting dark now but when dawn comes and if the sea is calm enough, we'll be off to rescue Katherine.... 
The old Rhyl Regis lifeboat

18 April 2012

Promotion

In my absence from what we laughingly call "civilisation", my first and possibly last Kindle e-book has been launched via Amazon. I don't know much about the world of e-books but I am well aware that getting a first novel published via traditional means can be as difficult as breaking into Fort Knox so I thought I would simply dive in the Kindle deep-end and see what happens.

As a former secondary school English teacher, I guess I wrote this 55,000 word novel with adolescents in mind but hope that it will also have a degree of  "crossover" appeal so that some adult readers also find pleasure in its electronically presented  pages.

If you use a Kindle yourself or know any mid-teenage Kindle readers, why not give my original book a whirl or recommend it to someone? Priced at only US$3.15 or UK£2.05, it is surely one of the literary bargains of this decade! I understand that Kindle e-books can be accessed via some other electronic devices.

To find out more, and get a taste of the novel via Amazon's "Look Inside" facility please click on:-  "The Headland"

17 April 2012

April

Oh to be in England in the green of April time
To walk old paths of mystery
'Neath beech and birch and lime...

Shirley has just sent me these two pictures she snapped while walking round Eyam Moor in Derbyshire. It brings a lump to my throat here in my tropical isolation to think of my dear wife so far away and of my beautiful motherland, my fair England, far beyond these turquoise shores and these feathery coconut palms...
Millstone outcrop and view to Abneylow
At an abandoned hill farm above Stoke Ford
Meanwhile, my heart has been lifted by the discovery that Kiwi blogger Dame Katherine de Chevalle may not be far away - stranded on another island in The Andaman Sea. I am doing my best to work out her exact whereabouts. This was her plea for help....
Thank goodness I've managed to find this old computer so I can send this message. My plane crashed into the sea. I have made it to an island and I think I'm not far from Blogland. I don't think anyone else made it. I've been eating shellfish but today found a kind of underground living accommodation*** and there is loads of food here, and also - bliss - a bed and fresh water! 
Please please can anyone find me and rescue me? YP, Brian, John, Helsie, Jennyta, Fox, Robert, Jan, Daphne? I don't know if you have a boat of light plane, but as soon as it's convenient...please? I have not been able to post words on my TLVD blog, but have sent some photos I took with my iphone as the plane was descending over this island. And one of my view from the beach, but that could be anywhere! I hope you can identify the island from the shape.

I am now going to go back to the beach and lay out all but one of my brightly-coloured lavalavas on the sand above the high-tide mark as a sort of beacon. I hope you can come soon! I miss you all!

***= I think she means a cave!
If you're reading this Dame Katherine, please do not despair. I'm working on it. Rescue may be imminent. Please remain calm!

16 April 2012

Satisfaction

The servants are becoming bored and disenchanted with their lot. I think if they had plenty to do they'd have no time left for whingeing but with only one immigrant to cater for they're getting a bit restless. I can see it in their eyes. This evening Madam Elsie - the head cook - was cursing in Burmese when she plonked my dinner plate down on my poolside table. The gravy swished about in my giant-sized Yorkshire pudding like a mini-tsunami. I was not amused.

Recently, I have sensed some dissatisfaction with accommodation arrangements from emigrants who haven't even stepped foot in Blogland! "I don't like this" and "I don't like that" and why's my villa near the  sewage plant and why has John Gray got such a nice living area? Frankly, such moaning leaves me cold. I mean, why can't people just be happy with what they've been given? They should follow Daphne's wholesome Yorkshire example. She simply said, "I'm just happy to be so near to the beach. Everyone else's comment is really thoughtful but I'm just going - - PALM TREES! SEA! HURRAH!" That's what we want in Blogland. Positivity!

Earlier today, I visited the beautiful Plague Beach just west of the island's state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant. This is where Mr Robert Brague's Balinese-style accommodation was erected at great expense. I wandered around inside, checking that the finishing touches had been completed in line with the contract. Honestly, it was stunning. A luxurious rainforest shower in a split bamboo-lined bathroom with his and her lavatory bowls right next to each other allowing for idle conversation during synchronised toilet visits.

The king size bed that Mr Brague had insisted upon was hardcarved by Balinese craftsmen. On the bed-head there's a sort of frieze showing Eve taking the apple in Eden and Adam hiding behind a tree. Luxurious pink fluffy bathrobes with embroidered letters "R" and "E" hang from pegs. Of course in the kitchen there's a popcorn maker, several jars of American peanut butter and a dozen bottles of best Kentucky bourbon. However, the Bragues' two servants were nowhere to be seen.

I took a couple of pictures. Here's The Brague Place:-
And this would have been their stunning view of Plague Beach:-
By the way, the natural odour from the sewage plant was almost non-existent when I visited. There was a light breeze blowing in from the bay.

15 April 2012

Instruction

Not far from my humble hut in Blogland there is a path which leads into the great jungle that covers most of the southern part of the island. On the edge of the jungle, there is a natural pool fed by mountain springs. I walked there today in the thick tropical heat with my personal assistant Miss Thuza, Elsie who is the head cook at the social club and Earl Gray's houseboy Maung. Like me they were all feeling rather bored. It turns out that until recently Maung was pursuing a Media Studies degree in Kuala Lumpur and is skilled in film and film editing. Just for a laugh, we decided to re-enact a scene from "South Pacific" which Maung said he'd record. It's a scene in which the two lovers are given helpful instruction by a regular Earth Mother. It took ages for me to learn my lines and I was left wondering what exactly is  a "lucky cuss"? Anyway, here's the result of our filming starring Thuza, myself and Elsie. May I say to Shirley, Ian and Frances that when I kiss Thuza in this scene it's just acting - that's all:-

14 April 2012

Interview

Not Blogland but Dinnington, South Yorkshire
I'm settling in to life in Blogland but I must admit that I have far too much time to think. Too many hours spent on my own. Okay there's the Burmese servants and Thuza especially has made every effort to make me feel welcome. But they're not bloggers and they don't communicate in English. I hate to admit it but I'm feeling a tad lonely.

This afternoon, I inflated my "Donald Duck" airbed and floated away from Pudding Beach towards the uninhabited islets that lie just off shore. The tropical sun was sweltering down so I was grateful that Thuza had expertly applied protective coconut oil to every exposed nook and cranny of the corporal temple in which I dwell. The sea was so calm - just a gentle swell  - and after a while my mind started drifting back to the late nineteen seventies...to November 1977 in fact...

I was about to leave university and had intended beginning my teaching career proper in London but to my amazement the interview panel at Fairlop High School  in Ilford had instead opted for the teacher who  was already temporarily in post. I had a broken leg at the time and on my way back to Scotland I scanned "The Times Educational Supplement" for another English post. January was getting close and in teaching there are only three points in the year when you can commence a new position. In that respect it's not like other jobs.
Dinnington High School
So, ten days later I was back in England again - still with a broken leg - at the South Yorkshire mining village of Dinnington. In those days the local pit was still operational and the visual backdrop to Dinnington Comprehensive School's higgledy piggledy collection of uninspirational buildings and temporary huts was a vast charcoal coloured mound - the slag heap.

The morning went well and I ate lunch with the other candidates - talking politely to them when I really wanted to knock them out. The afternoon was reserved for the formal interviews.

Hobbling in like Long John Silver, I noticed the size of the interview panel - all sitting formally behind a long table. There was the headmaster, the Head of English, a deputy head, the local authority's English adviser and four members of the governing body including the chair of governors who I discovered later was  also a "deputy" at the local pit: a big strong man with skin the colour of lard and hair as black as coal. He spent most of the interview just glowering at me. Sitting on a plastic chair in front of this assemblage of important people, I felt like a prisoner in front of the parole board.

The interview went swimmingly. I dodged and dived and batted responses back to them that left all but one of them smiling - they surely had their chosen candidate in front of them. Then the headmaster, Mr Ingham, turned to the chair of governors. "Ahem! Have you got any questions Mr Burkinshaw?"

A hush filled the room. I was expecting something highbrow pertaining to the advertised post. Then Mr Burkinshaw cleared his throat.

"Aye 'edmaster, ah've just got wun question to ask 'im... "

All eyes of the interview panel turned to him with expectation or was it embarrassment.

"Are ye courting?"

I rapidly processed this irrelevant question in my head, quickly judging that the ignoramus was trying to clarify my sexuality. Good god, in a pit village like Dinnington they wouldn't have wanted any puftas on the staff! I was tempted to say to Mr Burkinshaw - "No, I'm not courting but you seem like a nice boy!" Instead I spluttered something about my Scottish girlfriend and how we were in a serious relationship though I refused to embellish my response with the details of my red-blooded heterosexuality...

The airbed had drifted close to the first rocky islet. A single shark fin was circling my vulnerable craft and I splashed madly back to Pudding Beach where Thuza was waiting with my Superman beach towel.
Dinnington slag heap today.  © Copyright Martin Lee

Inspection

After Cameron's boat disappeared over the horizon, the servants trickled back to work and I headed for the social club for a bit of breakfast. I ordered freshly squeezed orange juice, paw-paw, fresh pineapple, coddled eggs and wholemeal toast with a pint mug of mellow-roasted Colombian coffee.

While I was waiting for my order to arrive, I dived in the social club pool and swam ten lengths. The water was crystal clear with a tepid bath temperature. Then I ate my breakfast on the terrace in a deafening silence, wondering what the ambience would have been like if all the emigrants who had pledged to journey here had kept their solemn promises. What merry japes we would have shared together - a conga round the pool after breakfast followed by one of Mr Brague's famous quizzes. Then beach cricket and a wet T-shirt competition for the ladies.

I decided to explore our new country a little more and headed along the jungle track towards Earl John Gray's estate. The Burmese construction team had worked hard to make a fenced compound for his livestock but there was just one lonesome turkey there called Chris - a gift from the people of Turkey. Forlornly, it was pecking in the compound dirt  with a joke sign round its neck - as if waiting for the rest of the menagerie to arrive.

I went inside the traditional living accommodation and spotted a picture of a dog on the tropical hardwood wall. Welcoming garlands of flowers on the table were already drooping and a nesting parrot had pooped on the window sill. I thought that perhaps deterioration in any neglected tropical property begins like that.

Early Gray's houseboy Maung - who looks remarkably like the singer Matt Cardle - came up dripping from the beach carrying a basket of fresh lobsters and shiny sea bream. "Where John Mr Pudding? When John come? I bored Mr Pudding. I wanna serve Mr John. Do whatever Mr John say."

"I'm sorry Maung," I said. "It looks like Mr John will not be coming after all."

Maung showed me Earl Gray's bedroom - a big bamboo bed with a scarlet pure silk cover - beautifully embroidered with a traditional Burmese dragon design. From his elevated bedroom window there was a lovely view of the bay - right across to Pudding Towers.

"Why? Why Mr John no come?" asked Maung.

But I didn't know the answer
Kitchen/living area Earl Gray's Residence, Blogland

13 April 2012

Pith

Cameron sucking up to Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma
Horace Ponsonby-Cameron, the British prime-minister has just visited Burma, meeting with the country's own Mandela-like figure - Aung San Suu Kyi. Wishing to brown-nose and bolster his credentials as an international leader, Cameron's people thought it would be a great idea if he could visit Logland which mistakenly they thought was symbolic of  what might be achieved through improved Anglo-Burmese business relations. Somewhere along the line, one of Cameron's Old Etonians must have overlooked the letter "B", imagining that they would be visiting a jungle logging development and not a community of bloggers.

I was lying in bed in my humble native hut when Thuza came rushing back in from her morning shower.

"Sir Pudding! Sir Pudding! You must to get up! Big boat coming to wharf! More blogger come!"

I leapt out of bed, yanked on my lilac speedos and after keying the code into my security gates jogged barefoot along the sandy forest trail towards the Robert Brague Memorial Wharf which is at the north of the island. I passed the empty homes of Mountain Thyme, Arctic Fox, Brain Brian and Katherine. Dozens of servants were already down at the wharf but they parted like the Red Sea to let me through. Cameron's cabin cruiser was just docking. He leapt off the boat wearing a khaki jungle outfit and a safari pith helmet. Perhaps assuming I was some sort of manager of a logging company, he headed straight for me with his hand outstretched. Several photographers followed in his wake.

Now I can honestly say that I have never in my life shaken hands with a known Tory, let alone the leader of the Conservative Party so I just ignored Cameron's manicured paw. 

"Passport!" I said.

"What?" grinned Cameron. "What do you mean?"

"Passport!" I said. "This is a sovereign state - the newest in the world and we do not take kindly to alien invaders... so passport!"

"But do you know who I am?" grinned Cameron, turning for the approbation of his press pack.

"Do you know who I am?" I retorted.

"No!" said Cameron scanning my lilac speedos enviously.

"I'm Yorkshire Pudding - representing the people of Blogland and there's certain things we don't allow here! No drugs! No weapons! No French! No Reality TV and no frigging Tories! So get the hell out of here ye silver spoon slimeball!"

By now Blogland's menial workers were cheering and chanting my name. Cameron was yelling that there would be a blackout on news or pictures from Blogland and who the hell had forgotten the "B"? He clambered back into "The Saucy Rebekah", accidentally dropping his pith helmet and his whole party headed back to Rangoon as I taught our assembled servants Yorkshire's traditional two-fingered salute for departing unwanted visitors.
Don't take the pith!

12 April 2012

Map

Formerly known as Lampi Island, the Blogland community dwellings were all constructed in the fertile north of the island. The southern tongue of the island is quite mountainous and the jungle there is almost impenetrable.You will be happy to know that I have arrived safely - greeted to a tumultuous welcome by the assembled servants. Together we stood outside the social club. I made a speech apologising for the non-appearance of other emigrants and then there was a rousing rendition of "Island of Dreams". Later, at Chez Nous, in order to fully orientate myself, I decided to draw the map above with some help from my personal assistant - Miss Thuza. Stars are twinkling above the Andaman Sea and I can hear night birds in the forest. The absence of vehicular noise pollution is palpable - so peaceful. Miss Thuza is plumping up my pillows. Just one single malt on the verandah and I shall retire for the night. It's been a long journey.

11 April 2012

Phuket

Way down in the south east of Thailand my worst fears have come true. Not only did the British contingent fail to appear at Manchester Airport but it seems that the American and antipodean emigrants also failed to follow travel instructions. Even Senor Brian from Catalonia created a jokey excuse for his non-appearance.

I headed for the Royal Phuket Marina where two luxury boats were already waiting to whisk us across the Andaman Sea to our new land. There was a champagne reception in the boathouse where guests would have been invited to receive soothing Thai massages after their long flights to South East Asia. 

It's now near midnight Phuket time but still no one else has arrived so I have told Captain Joonpe to cancel the second boat. Again the sponsors won't be happy about this. So in half n hour or so, emigration to Blogland will begin but with only one lonesome traveller. I still feel excited but also a little sad.

Finally, I was going to get to meet legendary American blogger Robert Brague with whom I had been drawn in the first round of the arm wrestling competition. And there'd be Mountain Thyme and Libby, Rhodesy from Manchester and Johnny from Welsh Wales, Helen from Brisbane and Jan from Sunny California and everybody else. And we'd party on the social club terrace and drink copious amounts of Tetley's bitter and maybe I'd push Jenny in the pool just for fun and Mick would dive in to save her. Now all these dreams are evaporating into the tropical night.

Ah, here's Captain Joonpe. Seems like we'll be off real soon. See ya!

Flummoxed

? < That's how I thought I should title this blogpost and I think that some of my British visitors will know exactly why. Here I am sitting in Dubai's massive terminal building on my lonesome. Well - there's hundreds of other people here but NOT the travelling companions who should have been with me. 

I waited till the last possible moment at the main information desk in Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport but nobody else appeared - no Mick, no Earl John Gray with his poultry and dog baskets, no Shooting Parrots, no Dame Daphne, no Libby and not even the Countess of Wrexham - the lovely Jennyta. The nice lady at the information desk even put an announcement over the tannoy system in the other terminals.
At Dubai Airport
I feel like a spotty teenage boy left standing outside a cinema,waiting for his date to turn up and then gradually realising that he has been stood up - it was all just a sick joke. Why the hell did you guys string me along like this? What am I meant to say to the sponsors? It's all very embarrassing. Up at the front of business class on my Emirates flight here I was on my tod when I had expected I'd be getting to know my fellow bloggers. Oh woe is me!

Well all I can say is it's your loss! You'll not be laughing when the sponsors send round their debt collectors - Knuckles and Beefy. No. you won't be laughing then!

Anyway, I'm sure the other emigrants from foreign countries like the USA, New Zealand, Australia and Catalonia won't have chickened out. They'll be waiting for me in Phuket and we'll travel on to Blogland without you cowardy custards! And we'll build a world of our own...

9 April 2012

Farewell

Perhaps it's only when you are about to leave something, somewhere or someone that you start to appreciate what is about to be part of your past. Yorkshire - my Yorkshire. Shall I never see your rolling wolds again, your quiet rivers moving perpetually to the vast silted mouth of The Humber - a word that in ancient English simply meant "river". Shall I never see your ancient villages with their medieval stone churches beneath towering sycamore and beech where rooks caw to greet the day? Oh Yorkshire, when I am gone please think of me some times, my sweet, sweet motherland. Home to Captain Cook and Emily Bronte, J.B.Priestley and Ted Hughes, David Hockney and Arthur Scargill, Saint John of Beverley, William Wilberforce, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Brearley and Paul Daniels. Though I am gone you shall liveth for evermore in my mortal heart.

And I shall miss our weather, our unpredictable weather with blue and grey skies, sunshine and snow,  that Forrest Gump chocolate box quality. And I shall miss steak pies from Sean's, "Eastenders", fish and chip specials from "Three Steps" and long walks in The Peak District with camera in hand and the banter in our local and visits to Hull to watch my beloved Tigers. Vegetables growing in our garden. There is plenty that I shall miss.

However, there's plenty I shall be glad to leave behind. The careerism of professional politicians with their weasel words. Reality TV shows and "talent shows" and Simon Cowell and Jordan (aka Katie Price) and "The Sun" newspaper and people rushing their lives away and tattoos. And I won't miss our monstrous supermarkets and our crowded motorways or graffiti or litter or clusters of people standing outside public buildings like lepers under clouds of blue grey tobacco smoke. Nor shall I miss taxi drivers or potholes in the road, drivers on mobile phones, dog dirt on verges or unsolicited calls from money hungry call centres. No I won't miss any of that.

Please don't think I'm having second thoughts. Just pensive that's all. We are the new pilgrims aboard a metaphorical "Mayflower" - bound for a new life in a new world - Blogland - where all of our dreams will surely come true and we can live in peace like our new national anthem says - "far far away from the mad rushing crowd."

I might not get to blog again until I reach Blogland though there may be some spare time when several of us are in transit at Dubai Airport - one of the world's great new crossroads. All human life passes through there. I trust that all emigrants are ready to go and that  private arrangements have been made to get you to your previously nominated international airport. As I said before - tickets will be available at the main information desk. All you need is your passport and luggage. I'm so looking forward to meeting everybody on Thursday when we'll assemble round the social club pool for nibbles, informal drinks and the very start of our new life together in Blogland. Afterwards, there's the arm wrestling tournament which should be a load of fun.
Blogland

Suitcase

Oh lordy lordy, I can't wait for Wednesday to come! Normally I fill my suitcase at the last possible minute but hey - this time long term  emigration to Blogland means I'm being a bit more sensible and have even drawn up a list. I trust that other bloggers are doing the same.
  • Seven pairs of underpants
  • Sandals with seven pairs of white ankle socks
  • Flip flops
  • My cuddly toy tiger - Waggy (can't sleep without him)
  • Guitar with spare strings and electric tuner.
  • Framed photograph of the Yorkshire Wolds.
  • Framed photograph of Shirley and the kids.
  • Six boxes of instant Yorkshire pudding mix
  • Lilac Speedos
  • Sports Relief Shorts (2 pairs)
  • Camera
  • Knotted handkerchief
  • Sun glasses
  • Laptop
  • Ball point pen and A4 notepad
  • Seven "Yorkshire Pudding" T-shirts in various colours.
  • Linen suit, formal shirt and tie
  • Fluffy bath  towel
  • "Superman" beach towel
  • Watch
  • Toilet bag including razor blades and large bottle of "Brut" aftershave.
  • "The Koran"
  • "Robinson Crusoe", "Swiss Family Robinson", "Coral Island".
  • Penknife
  • Beauchat Marlin Carbone 95cm spear gun
  • "After sun" lotion
It's like that line in John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane"... "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go..."

7 April 2012

Shining

Departure Day grows ever closer. Born in 1927, Harry Belafonte captures something of the mood of anticipation currently running through the blogging community:-
Today I visited "Matalan" where I picked up some lilac "Speedos" and a couple of pairs of  leftover "Sports Relief" shorts - a bargain at only £2.50 a pair. There were piles of them.

A Hollywood film production company has contacted me and plans for "Blogland - The Movie" are now well under way. Thanks to Earl Gray for hatching this idea. A film crew will join us in Blogland some time in mid-June but most of the steamy love scenes will be filmed in Hawaii. I think the film crew are just coming to capture scenic shots that can then be edited in to the final product. Leslie Nielsen was going to be signed up to play Mr Brague but sadly we discovered that Leslie passed away in 2010 so the producers have managed to tempt Robert Redford out of retirement instead.

How film profits will be used in the end depends upon the assembled Bloggish people. I think one or two emigrants imagine that I will be some kind of leader but please understand that I have only ever wanted to be a facilitator. I would like to think that Blogland won't actually need a leader in the usual sense of the word. Besides, I'll be too busy playing beach volleyball, wrestling on the sand, drinking Tetley's bitter in the social club or kayaking beyond the reef to have any time left over to be a leader. Don't you think leaders are massively overrated anyway?