Thursday, December 01, 2016

CHRISTMAS: Your typical day?

Christmas. It comes around pretty quick, doesn't it?

No sooner have you picked up the last of the pine needles from the living room carpet, it's time to bring out that damned Christmas Tree again!

And if that's not disturbing enough, the telly has once again gone bonkers with Christmas ads, with those "Now That's What I Call Rubbish" cd's, to new albums from long forgotten old farts that have not been heard from in years, to various artists and groups that you've never even heard of!

As we draw nearer to that dreaded day, the kids get an early parole from school on account of the approaching festive season and hysterically begin to demand (not ask) for all of those Christmas "Must Have's" that they want, and it's all written down on a list that's as long as Tolkien's, Lord of the Rings.

And being the good parents you are, you begin making plans for the big day, by making list after list, of gift ideas, food, decorations, a new tree (even if you don't need one) and cards for just about everyone you know.

Except perhaps for the twats who live three doors up, who kept parking their car outside your house during most of July, while their drive was being built, thus preventing you from parking yours.

Inconsiderate bastards!

Then as the big day draws even nearer, you trudge through the aisles at the supermarket, doing your level best to avoid all those cages of Christmas stock that the shelf stackers put in your way, whilst doing all you can, to avoid those screaming kids who are either charging around like lunatics, or simply throwing one of those classic kiddie tantrums because Mum or Dad did not pull off the shelf that computer game, or that ridiculously useless lump of plastic, put together I might add, by some desperately poor unfortunate soul who through no fault of their own, finds themself working a sixteen hour day in some Chinese or Indian sweat shop for a boss, who simply couldn't give a floating fart, if they died, provided of course; that they don't die whilst working.

What sort of Christmas will they have, I wonder.

And if this wasn't sad enough, when you finally get home absolutely knackered and loaded with all the stuff you took out that ridiculously over rated payday loan to purchase, you then proceed with the unenviable task of wrapping up all those gifts you just went through hell and back, to get hold of, only to realise that you have forgotten something, and you now have to face the daunting task of returning to that dreaded supermarket.

But wait; you have just remembered.
They've just had a Black Friday.

Ah yes. That delightful uncivilized tradition from America (I mean where else could such unconditional greed and wanton selfishness originate?) where seemingly normal, quiet, reserved and polite people, undergo a transformation from ordinary humble everyday shopper, to a greedy, ruthless, wrenching, grasping, smashing and grabbing, pushing and shoving, ill mannered, covernous old sinner, that would surely make Ebenezer Scrooge himself, look like Pope John Paul II.

Then; as the big day finally dawns, you get up at Stupid O'Clock, because your little charges couldn't wait to get their hands on all those gifts you spent most of Christmas Eve and the wee small hours of Christmas morning, wrapping up.

You even missed watching Carols From Kings.

And as Christmas morning progresses, you spend most of the time wrestling with an oversized turkey, that could easily have fed the entire population of Africa, for an whole year, stuffing it full of sage and onion before attempting to shove the whole damned thing into an oven, that was neither designed nor equipped, to accommodate something that many a right minded person would perceive, as the MasterChef equivalent, or the Culinary Equal, of Sesame Street's, Big Bird.

And all the while your little loves are busy wantonly destroying your living room, a piece at a time, before your very eyes.

There's a knock at the front door, and family members you were rather reluctant to invite over to spend Christmas Day with, have finally arrived.

And it's not long before they appear to carry on from where they left off from the Christmas before, with pointless disputes, bickerings, nigglings and petty squabbles, regarding trivial or unimportant matters, or renewing old conflicts with rival siblings.

Very in keeping with the season . . . NOT.

And It's at this point; that you realise why you have not bothered much to keep in touch nor indeed, why you have not heard much from them either, since last Christmas.

And you also wonder why the heck you invited them over, in the first place. Peace on earth? Who are you kidding?

And so; after your guests have gorged, belched, farted, and criticized their way through the Christmas dinner you worked so hard to prepare, and also the Queen's speech that you were hoping to watch uninterrupted, for underneath all that turkey grease, gravy stains and squashed Brussel Sprouts, you still like to consider yourself, a true patriot, you return to the kitchen to load up that dishwasher and deal with what's left of Big Bird's carcass, while your husband stays in the living room, snoring his head off on the sofa, dribbling, and slowly spilling his beer over his huge, and rather unflattering gut, while the afternoons so called blockbuster Christmas Day movie, which nine times out of ten; turns out to be a James Bond film from 1900 & frozen to death, or the bloody Wizard of Oz, plays out on the TV.

After which, it's almost teatime.

And what seems to be 370 Turkey sandwiches later, you finally collapse on the sofa beside your pot bellied husband, whilst holding a modest glass of Blue Nun, and you spend the rest of the evening sipping away, and scoffing After Eights; even though the time has only just gone half past six, while your little kiddies, after having finally destroyed, worn out, or completely broken their Christmas presents, are playing on the PlayStation 4 they got for their birthday back in July, or are busy Facebooking their so called friends on their tablets, or watching uncensored adult material, that they shouldn't really be watching, on their smartphones.

And as the evening rolls on; you take time out to study the Christmas TV schedules and realize, that all the crap they had on last year, is back on again, this year.

And this rather depressing realisation makes you wish that just for once, shows like EastEnders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street, would take Christmas Day off, like the rest of us.

When you finally go to bed, after what has been a very long day, you lie there thinking about all the Christmases you had, when you were young, and how much it has all indeed changed since then.

And you begin to see how commercialised Christmas has become, and how the true spirit of Christmas (if indeed; there was any to begin with) has been deeply buried beneath all that media hype, consumer crap and feverish festive bullshit, and how once again, that morbidly obese tub of lard, grossly and over-affectionately known, as Father Christmas, has robbed you yet again of all the credit, for the Christmas Day, that you yourself, planned for, worked for, saved and payed for, and unswervingly, ruthlessly, and without exception, slaved your tits off, to put together.

How typical.

So if you also, have indeed experienced Christmases like these, then without any doubt, in my personal opinion, you are more than just merely entitled, to join me, and say in a loud voice, with unrestricted conviction, and with absolute certainty . . .

I fucking hate Christmas.

Now then; have I left anything out? Oh yeah!
What was I thinking? How very unseasonal of me.


Merry Christmas everyone.



Thanks for reading.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

AMERICA VOTES: At last.

Now that all the live debates, the political mud slinging, the back biting, the bitching, the accusing, shouting and bickering and all the other various scenes, screams and drama's is over . . .

America finally has gone to the polls.

What a country!

American presidential campaigns have always been somewhat crazy in their way, but I have to admit; I have never witnessed a campaign anywhere near as crazy as this one.

I have never, EVER witnessed such a blatant, venomous, vicious, scathing, ridiculously crazy, mockery munching, reckless and at times, shameful display of American Politics as I have seen during this long long drawn out campaign, to find their next president of the United States.

America; what the hell was all that about?

Back in the eighties when I was young, virile, and a bit of a tart, I worked at what is now known as BAE Systems, Rochester, Kent.

Back then I knew it as GEC Avionics.

During that time, I worked on a good number of Hi-Tech projects, and these on many occasions brought me into close contact with that fascinating, outspoken, different, imaginative, creative, inspirational, intelligent, diverse, unpredictable, friendly and peculiar race of people, more typically known as . . .

The Americans.

For me at least; those were good years. Aside from all the tech stuff, Americans were an intriguing lot to work with.

In fact; it was an honour to work with them.

Those were indeed the great days of our "Special Relationship", and during those years and for many years afterwards, I found Americans to be a wonderful people, from an equally wonderful country. And in spite of their questionable at best, gun culture, their notorious street crime, their varied and peculiar religious ministries of evangelism, and other,  "Funny Little Ways" . . .

I have always respected them.

However; the events regarding the campaign to find their next President has left me wondering what the hell has happened?

In my lifetime I have seen many United States Presidents; Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (Senior), Clinton, Bush (Junior) How did he get there? And finally; Barack Obama.

And with a population of I think approximately 320 million people, I have to ask myself another question. How the hell did a country so rich, powerful and diverse as America, come up with two of the most unlikely and controversial candidates ever for the office of Commander & Chief?

They are dreadful! I'm not impressed with either of them.
Come to think of it; neither are the Americans.

As I write, the people of the United States are now voting for their best shot for the Whitehouse and I'm pretty certain that the folks of  good ole U.S. of A, whom I have respected for pretty much most of my life, will be voting for the lesser of the two evils.

And as usual, the media machines and spin rooms across the USA, will be running at supersonic to keep them all informed as the results come in, state by state.

The BBC, ITV and SKY Newsrooms here in the UK will be burning the midnight oil too, bringing us fever pitched reports, facts, figures, opinions, predictions and statistics, that would make any sane viewer crazy enough to watch fall asleep on their sofa.

It'll be a long night.

I bet the computer graphics boys have even built a USA version, of the Swingometer? And will anyone over here be watching?

In fact; will anyone over here, actually care?

Well; I for one, do care, however, I will not be watching.

Far be it from me to pour any scorn or criticism on our news channels coverage of major events, for they really do, do a great job, I won't be burning the midnight oil with them.

And whatever the result I see, on the morning of Wednesday November 9th, I will at least be refreshed enough, thanks to a good night's sleep, to take in that final result of what has no doubt been, the most controversial and media grabbing presidential election campaign, in living memory.

And I also have a feeling that day will be long remembered, for all the wrong reasons. Whichever candidate America has gone with, I cannot help but feel with growing unease, that it was the wrong candidate they went for. Time will tell.

They say two wrongs don't make a right.

Well; we shall see.

God bless America! Or should I say God HELP America.
Come to think of it; they could well do with both?

The coverage of this historical event begins tonight at 10pm. It won't matter what channel to watch it on; it'll be everywhere.

Have a good night.



Thanks for reading.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS. Join me and send off the Summer in style

So here we are, once again.

We have reached that time when we must say goodnight; & goodbye, to the BBC Proms for yet another year. And what a delicious, delightful musical feast it has been.

I cannot tell you how happy my middle aged lug-holes have been,
during the last two months.

And now; as Autumn is almost upon us, and the nights are drawing in, what better way could you find, to celebrate the passing of  summer and to herald in the new season,

than the Last Night of the Proms.

Scientists & Weather Forecasters; are in my opinion, a bit too neat and tidy for my liking. And if I may say; sometimes, a little dull.

They like the yearly seasons to begin at the beginning of the chosen month. Spring: March 1st, Summer: June 1st etc.

The Pagans & Traditionalists are just the same. Only they like their equinoxes to begin on the 21st day of the chosen month.

All well and good I suppose. Each to their own I say.

But when it comes to the Autumn,
we ought be a little . . . different?

We need the Summer to go with a bang!

To go with a rousing chorus, with all the bells and whistles It can muster, and with a reassuring reminder that in spite of all this wonderful, controversial and indeed, rich diversity, be it musical, political, cultural, religious or ethnic, that surround us all every day throughout the year . . . we're still British.

And the Last Night of the Proms; in my opinion,
helps me to feel precisely that.

As I mentioned earlier, this year's Proms has been one of the best I've heard in years. And trust me; I've heard a few in my time.

For those who have already read my previous review on the first night, will know how I was brought up on this stuff, thanks to my dear Mum. And she would have enjoyed this Prom Season just as much as I have. It really has been an absolute belter.

Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, and Love in general have been the primary themes throughout this year's BBC Prom season.

The highlights for me were many. But I won't bore you with them.  Suffice to say that if you have not tuned in to watch nor indeed,  listened on BBC Radio 3 during the last two months . . .

then you have truly, missed a treat.

But all that can be forgiven, providing of course; that you tune in for the Proms' climatic closure, to what has been perceived by many I'm sure, as one of the best Proms in many years.

I'm certain that all the usual "Last Night" favourites will be heard, like Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March (Land Of Hope & Glory) Thomas Ame's Rule Brittania, Hubert Parry's Jerusalem, and if we're really REALLY lucky  . . .

We will get to hear Sir Henry Wood's Fantasia on British Sea Songs. After which there is only Auld Lang Syne followed by God Save The Queen to finish off a splendid evening.

But the real highlight of the night for me at least, will be George Butterworth's "The Banks of Green Willow".

You have simply got to listen to that.

It's very, very beautiful; trust me. And it's a personal favourite of mine for this reason.

I used to have an old recording of Richard Adams' Watership Down, read by that brilliant actor, Roy Dotrice. Mum and I spent many  weekends listening to it, being as it was a particular favourite story of hers. And the music which was used to accompany Roy's brilliant narration, was that of George Butterworth's.

And that particular piece (The Banks Of Green Willow) which was  used in the Dotrice recording, was an absolute favourite of ours.

And I have a suspicion that somewhere among those stars above me, Mum had a hand in this Last Night Of The Proms.

Perhaps to remind me of those weekends, now long past? I'm not sure. She may have just sneaked in Green Willow; just for herself?

Who knows. Whatever the reason; thanks Mum.

So why not tune in and join me, along with a glass or three  of your favourite tipple and send off the summer in style, with a rousing chorus of Rule Brittania, Jerusalem, Sea Songs, and a whole host of other wonderful music, that is not only an absolute must on such a special occasion, but also, and most importantly, very typical and indeed; very traditional, for such a night . . .

as the Last Night, of the Proms.

You will be in very good company, and I pretty much guarantee; that you will be very glad you took the time, to tune in.

So until the 123rd, Proms season,
so long, farewell, and most of all . . .

Rule Brittania!


Thanks for reading.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

STEVE T : THE GARDENER THE NEIGHBOUR THE FRIEND

A eulogy  I wrote for my neighbour & friend who passed away on Friday August 12th 2016 Here below is the transcript I would have read at the service if I had been asked.

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If I may begin by quoting a line from a favourite film of mine,
It comes from Watership Down; by Richard Adams . . .

"My heart has joined the thousand;
for my friend stopped running today."

The main character in the book (Hazel) would say this "Rabbits Prayer if you will, when a rabbit had been killed by a fox, stoat or weazel, one of the thousand as Adams put it,
"Natural Enemies", of rabbits.

I have only used that line on two occasions, once for my Father when he died  in 1995, and again for my Mother in 2004.

And I sadly had to use it yet again the night my good friend & neighbour, Steve, died, on Friday, August 12th, 2016, at 9:40pm.

He was 60 years old.

I know it's not exactly a religious thing to say, but being as Godless as I am; I found that for me, it somehow helped.

And while I am on the subject of God . . .

It seems strange being here, given as I've just confessed to you, to being a non-believer in the so called, "All Mighty". So I am hoping those of you who are of a religious faith, and who are gathered here as I am, to celebrate the life of a friend, brother and neighbour, not to think too less of me.

For in my own way, I too have faith.

I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, and set in the evening only to once again return the following morning, rising in the east as it has done since the dawn of time. Not that I often see this natural wonder, thanks in part; to our typical English climate, and to me not getting out of bed early enough.

I have faith that this current summer will return again next year.

I have faith that Spring will come again, bringing with it, all its beauty and renewed life. I have faith too in the Autumn.

Autumn; for me, the Artist among the seasons, who paints the leaves on the trees in bright yellow and gold, red and brown, as if in respectful celebration of the passing summer, to send it off perhaps, in a blaze of colourful brilliance.

A talent, few artists (in my opinion) passed or present, can equal.

I have faith in all the seasons and I also have faith in other things closer to home, that for me, are just as important, like love, truth & friendship, family, loyalty, understanding, mutual respect, trust and unity. And perhaps, just perhaps . . .

I may have a tiny bit of faith, in our politicians.

And I think (perhaps I suspect; with the exception of the politicians) my good neighbour & friend, Steve,
had faith in these things too.

Steve was a gardener, green fingered, a lover of things that grow. He could take a tiny seed, nurture it, care for it, plant it, and he would let Mother Nature do the rest.

Steve had great faith in Mother Nature's talents; and she rarely let him down. Steve was (and is; and shall always be) my friend.

I am aware of course; that I did not know Steve as well as some who are gathered here today, but I believe I knew him well enough to know that he was a good, decent man. A private man; in some ways, yes, but a good man nonetheless.

A good neighbour, and a good friend.

And as I sat alone in my living room on that long night, following the evening of his passing, trying to put this eulogy together, drinking lots of coffee and smoking way too many cigarettes, I suddenly came up with the question . . .

How will I remember my friend?

Well; thanks to Steve, that question;
for me at least, was easy to answer.

I shall remember a man, who was noble, honourable, kind and courteous, and a true gentleman.

A man very much like his Father; William.

I shall remember a man who loved the outdoors. For when he was not gardening, he would often put on his rucksack, and take off for a long walk, typically along the Calder & Hebble canal.

And also; Steve would often visit his local library.
For Steve was in many ways, a knowledgeable man.

I shall remember a man who laughed a lot, smiled often, had time for his neighbours and friends, and not forgetting; time for my mischievous cat, Bailey.

I shall remember a man who; in the evenings he spent at home, would often be heard laughing and chuckling loudly whilst watching TV.

Steve had a liking; for comedies.

I shall remember a man, who looked at this old Southerner from Kent, standing before you today, right in the eye, and at last, finally, calling him a Yorkshireman.

Mind you; it took him 17 years to finally say it.
"You have to do your apprenticeship lad", he told me once.

But most of all; I shall remember a man who loved all the seasons, the stars twinkling in the deep summer blue of a night sky, the sight and scent of the many flowers that bloomed in abundance in his garden, and a man who never once had a harsh word; nor held any grudge, against me.

And I shall also remember a man; who never once, told me a dirty joke. Nor did I ever, not even once, hear Steve, break wind!

Steve was way too much of a gentleman for that.
Although I suspect; he probably knew a dirty joke or two.

So; as we gather here today, to celebrate Steve's life, let us remember I think, one very important thing.

Steve has not left us, not really.
He now lives in our hearts & in our minds.

And when I go fishing, and see that summer sun rise in the early morning, Steve will see it with me; through my eyes.

When we feel joy, as we will again, after this day has long passed,
Steve will feel that joy too, and celebrate it, with us.

And should a time come when we once again, feel sorrow,
Steve again, will be there, in our hearts, to comfort us.

What I am trying to say is, that although Steve is not here, as we once knew him, in the form that he once was, he is still here now; inside us, inside all of us.

The reality as I see it; is that Steve is closer to us now,
than he has ever been.

And that surely; is indeed something to celebrate.

And also for this old sinner; standing before you . . .
it's something else, to have faith in.

So in answer to that question (How will I remember Steve) I will watch the seasons come & go, watch those flowers blooming in the gardens and parks, fade and be born again, gaze up at the stars in the night sky, hear music & laughter, maybe have a beer or two, a toast, to celebrate the honour of knowing him.

And all the while, I will know; Steve will
be with me throughout, always.

Or maybe; I'll remember Steve quite simply; as my thoughtful Step Daughter beautifully put it on Facebook, upon hearing of his passing . . . "There's another bright new star, in the sky."

Either way; I shall not forget him.

Rest in Peace; Steve, The Gardener, The Neighbour, The Friend.

And; if I may close as I began, with a line from another favourite of mine, from Shakespeare's Hamlet, act one, scene two . . .

"He was a man. Take him for all in all.
I shall not look, upon his like, again."


Thanks for reading.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

ALL HAIL SIR HENRY WOOD and my Mum

The 122nd season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts began last night at the Royal Albert Hall in London and for me personally, these concerts bring back so many happy memories of my early life.

My mother (may her soul rest in peace) was a music nut and in between all those Andy Williams LP's she would play on her radio-gram, she would often assault my young ears with various pieces from Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Greig, Shostakovich, Vaughan -Williams, Bizet, Rachmaninov, Schubert, Lizt, Brahms, Bach, and so many others I could list but I reckon you've got the idea.

And as the years went by all too quickly it seems, my mum & I would tune into BBC Radio 3 around this time to listen to the BBC Proms. Once there we would embark  on a nightly musical journey of imagination accompanied quite literally by some of the greatest classical music ever composed.

Those were good years.

Mum sadly passed away 12 years ago and to this day, I still tune in and hope that somewhere up among the stars or maybe at the Royal Albert itself . . .

She too is listening.

And of course had it not been for Sir Henry Wood's brilliant idea back in 1890 to bring, conduct classical and popular music to the masses at low prices, we would not be enjoying the Proms (as they are now affectionately known) today.

Sadly too; Sir Henry died in 1944 but his legacy lives on and I have to say quite happily, that it shows absolutely no sign of dying.

Quite the contrary; it becomes more lively with every passing year.

Now I know to some who may be reading this, Classical music is not your cup of tea but here's the thing. These Classics have been playing for hundreds of years and to be honest, they'll still be played long after the likes of Justine Beiber, One Direction, Nuclear Pusscat or Lady's Permitted have gone the way of the Dodo taking all their music (hopefully) with them.

Last night's "First Night of the Proms" on BBC Four was a blast and also very moving from the beginning.

Music really is a language we all can understand and it was a lovely gesture at the start from the BBC Symphony Orchestra to play La Marseillaise (the French National Anthem) as a mark of respect in the light of the terrible events in Nice.

France; we are with you.

This was shortly followed by Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture of Romeo & Juliet. A moving piece that's been unfortunately featured in many a comedy love scene.

After which came Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor. Now I had not heard this for a very long time and I must admit that I'd forgotten how beautiful it is.

Then came the Russians with Sergei Prokofiev Cantata 'Alexander Nevsky.

Even for me this was heavy stuff as I sometimes find Russian Classical music just as heavy and complicated as their language however; there is an intriguing beauty about it which kept me listening.

I should have really watched this on BBC Four but I've always listened to the Proms on the radio. I find it easier to just lie back, close my eyes and simply listen.

After all; why change the habits of a lifetime?
Besides; I feel it brings me closer for a little while to my mum

In summing up I think the Proms are well worth a listen. If you're tired of the latest storyline from Coronation Street or fed up of Phil's constant heavy breathing in EastEnders, or even if you have never listened to Classical Music before . . .

Why not give the Proms a go?

I mean who knows; you might just like it. And it may surprise you to learn that you've already heard some of it before elsewhere.

The Proms are on every night for the next two months and for those who love this music genre have plenty to look forward to. Failing that you can always catch up on the concerts you've missed through the BBC's iPlayer service.

It's all there for ages so you have plenty of time to catch up on them all.
As for me; I'm looking forward to two months of pleasant ear therapy.

It's a nice way to pass the Summer evenings. Let the music begin!

Rest in peace Mum; and thanks for the musical memories.


And thank you too for reading.

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