Monday, 30 November 2009

Laughter tonic for the day and Tom Rush singing his 'Remember Song'

Given the nature of this posting, namely, the infirmities of age, I feel it would be appropriate to attach the Tom Rush song I attached to an earliet post back in the Summer :

My cousin in New Zealand sent me an animated e-mail attachment about the alphabet. I can't add it to this post, but it seemed apposite for 'No Country for Old Men'.

New Alphabet and the painful truths for Old Timers

A's for arthritis

B's the bad back,

C's the chest pains, perhaps car-d-iac ?

D is for dental decay and decline,

E is for eyesight, can't read that top line!

F is for fissures and fluid retention,

G is for gas which I'd rather not mention.

H is High blood pressure, I'd rather it low,

I for incisions with scars you can show.

J is for joints, out of socket, won't mend,

K is for knees that crack when they bend.

L for libido, what happened to sex?

M is for memory, I forget what comes next.

N is neuralgia, in nerves way down low,

O is for osteo, bones that don't grow!

P for prescriptions, I have quite a few, just give me a pill, I'll be good as new!

Q is for queasy, is it fatal or flu?

R is for reflux, one meal turns to two.

S is for sleepless nights, counting my fears,

T is for tintinitus, bells in my ears!

U is for urinary : troubles with flow,

V for vertigo, that's 'dizzy', you know.

W for worry, NOW what's going 'round?

is for X ray, and what might be found.

Y for another year I'm left here behind,

Z is for zest I still have in my mind.

I've survived all the symptoms, my body's deployed,

And I'm keeping twenty-six doctors fully employed!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Happy Birthday old thespians Rodney Bewes and John Alderton

Rodney Bewes is 72 today, but for many of us he will always be in in his thirties as the English actor playing the lovable Bob Ferris in the classic BBC sitcoms 'The Likely Lads' and 'Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?'

John Alderton is 69 today, but like Rodney, he too will always be in his thirties playing the hapless teacher, Mr Hedges in the t.v. sitcom, 'Please, Sir!'

Here is the trailor of the film in which he starred in 1971 when he was 31 and Britain was a very different place to the one it is it is today.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Britain is a country where old men were once 'dirty', but 'healthy' little boys

Here I am at the age of 6 at my lovely new primary school in London, built for 'baby boomers' like me and the 39 others who stand around me.
I stand on the extreme right in the bottom row and I'm sure my knees are dirty with grime. The little inset is me a few years before in a tin bath.

Why is this here ?

Well, I've just read an article in the 'Guardian' newspaper by Caroline Davis entitled :

Scientists give grubby children a clean bill of health

She reports that recent research shows : 'that the more germs a child is exposed to during early childhood, the better their immune system in later life'.

This bears out the 'hygiene hypothesis', first proposed in the 1980s, which suggests that early childhood exposure to bugs might prime the immune system to prevent allergies.
It has been used to explain why increasing numbers of children in developed countries, where antibacterial sprays and wipes are common, suffer from allergies such as hay fever and eczema.

The pressure group 'Parents Outloud', which campaigns to stop children being 'mollycoddled' and 'oversanitised' by health and safety regulations, welcomed the research.

"Hopefully research like this will help parents realise that it's natural and healthy for children to get outdoors and get mucky and that it doesn't do their health any harm," said a spokeswoman, Margaret Morrissey.

That being the case, I have reason to be grateful for the fact that in the 1950's we had a bath once a week.
It was a tin bath, with the water heated on the coal fired 'range'.There was no question of changing underwear, pants and vest, once a day. That was done once a week.

Kids at school had 'tide marks' where there dirty necks were separated from the unexposed bit below.

I'm sure fleas and lice abounded, although not in my home.

Washing soap was 'carbolic'.The washing was done in a boiler in the 'scullery'. Soda crystals were added to the water to get the job done.
The cleaning in the kitchen was done with'Vim'.For the washing which didn't need the boiler, the scrubbing board with soap was required and then the mangle to get the waster out before it was pegged to the line in the garden to dry.
The result of all this was that we were not very clean, but apparently more healthy than clean kids today.

It's a funny old world.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Britain is a country of unhappy old men who lament the loss of the past but recognise the benefits of the present

I've just read an article in the 'Daily Mail' newspaper by Tony Rennell which, when you strip out the right wing stuff about the level of immigration and membership of the E.U.' which old people are worried about, makes some telling observations about the way they feel about their life in Britain today.

The article was based on a book called 'The Unknown Warriors' by a 33 year old writer from Tyneside called Nicholas Pringle.

Rennell begins : 'They’re the generation who saved us from the Nazis. So what do they think today of the land they gave so much for?'

He starts with Sarah Robinson, who was a teenager when The Second World War broke out. She lived through the Blitz and as soon as she turned 18, she joined the Royal Navy to do her bit for the War Effort.

Rennell said that : ' Hers was a small part in a huge, history-making enterprise, and her contribution epitomises her generation’s sense of service and sacrifice. Nearly 400,000 Britons died. Millions more were scarred by the experience, physically and mentally. But was it worth it?

Her answer, and the answer of many of her contemporaries, now in their 80s and 90s, is a resounding 'No'.

'They despise what has become of the Britain they once fought to save. It’s not our country any more, they say, in sorrow and anger.

Sarah harks back to the days when ‘people kept the laws and were polite and courteous. We didn’t have much money, but we were contented and happy. People whistled and sang. There was still the United Kingdom, our country, which we had fought for, our freedom, democracy. But where is it now?!’

There followed a lot of negativity, but I want to home in on the positive comments :

One old chap praised the breaking down of class barriers in Britain compared with the years when he was young and ‘infinitely’ increased prosperity.

'More clothes, cars, holidays abroad, home ownership. As a young teacher in the Fifties I had one suit,of Army issue and the luxury of a sports jacket and flannels at the weekend.

Education has made vast progress. In my early days I taught classes of 50. Only five per cent of children went on to further education compared with over 40 per cent today.

The emancipation of women has also been a huge plus, with the introduction of the pill a large contributor. Before the war, women teachers were dismissed as soon as they married.’

A Land Girl who laboured on farms in Devon during the war agreed that :

‘We have so much to be grateful for. So much progress has been made to transform the standard of living since the war.’

A Captain with a Military Cross for 'valour under fire' thought Britain was : 'still the best country in the world'.

A grandmother, the widow of a Royal Marine who took part in the D-Day landings, was grateful for a pensioner’s free television licence, ‘ which brings art, travel and animals into my home’, and being able to text her grandchildren. Just being alive was a bonus. ‘Although I hate what is happening to our country, I am so happy to be here, grumbling, but remembering better, happier days,’

On the negative side :

'One of the bitterest complaints of the veterans was that their trenchant views on many of the matters aired here were constantly ignored by those in authority. Their letters of complaint to councillors and MPs went unanswered. It was as if they didn’t matter, except when wheeled out for the rituals of Remembrance Day.

‘Why do so many of the British public confuse sentimentality with genuine concern for others?’ asked one letter-writer.

Rennel said : 'The overall impression any reader of the letters gets is that this generation feel unheard, unwanted and unimportant'.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Happy Birthday Old Thespian Brits and our adopted American, Terry Gilliam

Sir Peter Hall, theatre, film and opera director, 79

John Bird, actor and writer, 73

Terry Gilliam, animator, writer and director, 69

Tom Conti, actor and director, 67

My calculation is that they were conceived in the tail end of the star sign of Scorpio. I wonder if that means anything ?

Friday, 20 November 2009

The battle of the blogs Part Six : 'Small animals' v 'Old People'

I've said my daughter has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and rewards of being a small animal vet in Britain today'.

Her father has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and nostalgias of old people in Britain today'.

I can't believe it. I mean, look at her visits today :

1. United Kingdom Colchester, Essex
2 United States Chatsworth, California
3 Unknown
4 Slovakia Kosice
5 United Kingdom Wokingham
6 United Kingdom Chatham, Kent
7 United Kingdom Colchester, Essex
8 Unknown
9 Austria Vienna, Wien
10 Slovakia Kosice
11 Australia Caboolture, Queensland
12 United States Chatsworth, California
13 United States Houston, Texas
14 United States Vancouver, Washington
15 United States Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
16 Unknown
17 United States Henderson, Nevada
18 United States Evansville, Indiana
19 Unknown
20 Saint Kitts and Nevis Basseterre, Saint George Basseterre
21 United States
22 Saint Kitts and Nevis Basseterre, Saint George Basseterre
23 United States Cincinnati, Ohio
24 United States
25 Brazil So Paulo, Sao Paulo
26 United States Henderson, Nevada
27 United States Seattle, Washington
28 United States Opelousas, Louisiana
29 United States Henderson, Nevada
30 United States Houston, Texas

She's even using a photo I took of her at a zoo in Kent, with no attribution, to Dad, I may add.

Meanwhile, I've had 4 visits today and 3 of those were from me.

This is sad.

Who are the real baby boomers ?

Earlier this month, the Guardian newspaper published an article by Caroline Davies
entitled :
'We should be so lucky. The 1948ers who had it all : sex,drugs, music and a pension'.
In the article she mistakenly calls those born in 1948 'the original baby boomers'. They were not, since they were conceived in 1947 or early 1948. The War in Europe came to an end on May 7th 1945. The true 'baby boomers', those whose conception had been postponed because of the War, began to kick and scream their way into the World in 1946 and 1947, not 1948.

I know that I am a true baby boomer. I was born in the Summer of 1947 and therefore conceived in the Autumn of 1946. My elder brother, on the other hand, was born in 1939 and lived through the War as an only child because my parents postponed another birth. He was 8 years old when I was born.

Apart from that mistake Caroline's article was interesting and everything she mistakenly attributed to the 1948ers applied to us.

* Family allowance, introduced in 1945, put clothes on our backs.

* Rab Butler's 1944 Education Act schooled us for free.

* She omits to say that new universities were built to handle the bulge of the true baby boomers.

As we entered adolescence, 'The Who' really did sum up some of the thoughts of my generation, even though Daltry and Townsend were not baby boomers, having been born in 1944 and 1945 :

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Britain is a country for a big man called Peter Kay who makes us feel good on the way to Amarillo

'Is This the Way to Amarillo ?' is a song written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, referring to the town of Amarillo in the State of Texas. It is about a man travelling there to find his girlfriend. The reason that 'Amarillo' was chosen for the song was because it was the only place name that Sedaka could think of which rhymed with 'willow' and 'pillow'.

The song was recorded by Tony Christie and released in the UK in 1971, initially reaching number 18 in the UK Singles Chart. However, it was much bigger hit across Continental Europe, notably in Germany and Spain where it made number one.

In Germany, the song's chorus is widely adapted as a chant by football and hockey fans even today. Following its re-issue in 2005, when it reached 'number one' in the UK, the song gained even greater popularity.

In 2006 it was played at the World Cup Final in Berlin and was also played by The Central Band of the Royal British Legion on Centre Court at Wimbledon before the start of the Men's Singles final.

Sha la la la la la.
Sha la la la la la.
Sha la la la la la.

When the day is dawning,
On a Texas Sunday Morning,
How I long to be there,
With Marie who's waiting for me there.

Every lonely city,
Where I hang my hat,
Aint as half as pretty,
As where my baby's at.

Is this the way to Amarillo?
Every night I've been hugging my pillow,
Dreaming dreams of Amarillo
And sweet Marie who waits for me.

Show me the way to Amarillo,
I've been weeping like a willow,
Crying over Amarillo
And sweet Marie who waits for me.

Sha la la la la la la [X3]
And Marie who waits for me.

There's a church bell ringing,
Hear the song of joy that it's singing,
For the sweet Maria,
And the guy whos coming to see her.
Just beyond the highway,
There's an open plain and it keeps me going,
Through the wind and rain.


Sha la la la la la la [X3]
And Marie who waits for me.

Sha la la la la la la [X3]
And Marie who waits for me.
[till fades]

Peter Kay in the television studio :

British soldiers in Iraq :

Monday, 16 November 2009

Britain is no longer a country for old war veterans : Part Two

A Second World War hero has been banned from selling 'Remembrance Day' poppies after raising £140,000 over 50 years, because he is too old and needs insurance.
D-Day veteran Harry Billinge, 84, has been collecting money for military charities every year for five decades.

Harry, president of a Normandy Veterans' Association and a Royal British Legion branch chairman, has been told this year must be his last, because he will be 'uninsurable' when he turns 85. Apparently, the British Legion have told him it would 'not be able to afford the cost of the insurance'.

Like a true Brit, Harry claimed he would like to "stick a bayonet up" whoever made the decision. "I fought the Germans on D-Day and many of my friends died protecting this country".


Also sad, is the fact that on 'Remembrance Day', this year, hundreds of D-Day veterans are to marched past the Cenotaph in London for the last time.

With the average age of survivors of the Second World War Normandy landings in 1944, now in the mid-80s, organisers said it would not be possible to stage the mass event for future anniversaries.

Before the parade, Peter Hodge, 'Honorary General Secretary' of the Normandy Veterans Association, said : "We hope to have in the region of 600 veterans and family members there. It's going to be tremendously emotional, it's the end of an era. It's the final parade for the Normandy Veterans Association in Whitehall in London."

He praised the veterans, adding: " We would like to see as many people as possible in Whitehall to give these guys a final clap. They are such an illustrious, gallant group of men."

And lastly sader still,was the anger of a First World War veteran's family, after binge-drinking student was photographed urinating on poppy wreathes on a war memorial.

John Ievers, the Grandson of a First World War soldier who died at the age of 32 in 1917, said of the the 19 year old student who pissed on the wooden cross he had laid in memory of his grandfather : "I am annoyed - he's a drunken idiot. He should be made to clean the streets of Sheffield or do some kind of community service."

So, in some respects, Britain has become a sad old country.

Having said that, it is heartening to know that, it still a place where men like Harry Billinge live and for every 19 year student who has neither any concept of living in a 'wider society', nor any idea that their actions might cause offence, I acknowledge, that there are thousands of 'good kids', who do.

And from the wonderful T.V. Series about the 'Home Guard' in the Second World War called 'Dads Army' :

At my Brother's suggestion, a laughter tonic for the day : the B.B.C's ' Porridge '.

My Brother tells me I should "lighten up my blog" and to do that, I turn to the B.B.C. Comedy Series from the 1970's called ' Porridge'.

Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, it starred Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale as two inmates at the fictional Slade Prison in Cumberland.

'Doing porridge' is another phrase for 'imprisonment', porridge being once the traditional breakfast in U.K. prisons. As important in the Series,, as 'Fletcher' and 'Godber', was the prison officer Mr Mackay, played by Fulton Mackay.

Here are some quotes from the brilliant La Frenais - Clement dynamic.

* Fletcher has lost a tin of pineapple chunks:
Fletch: "I don't quite know how to put this, gentlemen, but there is a thief among us".

* Medical Officer : "Suffer from any illness?"
Fletcher: "Bad feet".
MO: "Suffer from any illness?"
Fletch: "Bad feet!"
MO: "Paid a recent visit to a doctor or hospital?"
Fletch: "Only with my bad feet! ..."
MO: "Are you now, or have you at any time been, a practicing homosexual ?"
Fletch: "What, with these feet? Who'd have me?"

* The M.O. has finished Fletch's medical, and points to some urine specimen containers over on a table.
MO: "Now I want you to fill one of those containers for me".
Fletch: "What, from 'ere?"

* Officer Mackay: "There are only two rules in this prison: 1 - do not write on the walls. 2 - You obey all the rules".

* Fletch: " A lot of famous people were born out of wedlock you know. All those royals in history, Lawrence of Arabia, Napper Wainwright ..."
McLaren: "Who's Napper Wainwright?"
Fletch: "He was a screw I knew in Brixton - mind you, he WAS a bastard!"

* Warren: "I've got this letter, like."
Fletch: "From a woman, it looks like, and, judging by the handwriting and stationery, a woman of low standards."
Warren: "That's right! It's from the wife!"

* Godber: "I'm only in here due to tragic circumstances."
Fletch: "Which were?"
Godber: "I got caught."

* Officer Barrowclough: " I'm Scots on my mother's side, well, a bit of everything really. Scots, Irish, Polish ..."
Fletch: "Got about a bit, your mother."

*Fletch: " Who's been having your old lady while you've been on nights?"
Officer Collinson: "Oh, that 'is' original, Fletcher. I've been getting that for the last seven years."
Fletch: "So's she an' all!"

Sadly, all the stars of the show are now dead :

Richard Beckinsale, 'Godber', at the age of 32 in 1979.
Fulton Mackay, 'Mr Mackay', at 65 in 1987.
Ronnie Barker, 'Fletch', at 76 in 2005.

Here, Ronnie Barker talks about the series :

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Battle of the blogs : Part 5 : 'small animals v old people'

I've said my daughter has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and rewards of being a small animal vet in Britain today'.

Her father has a blog about the 'trials, tribulations and nostalgias of old people in Britain today'.

Well, the Father has to concede defeat and it is an ignominious defeat, in the present battle.

The facts speak for themselves :

Small animals :

: visits yesterday : 41
: visits so far today : 18

Old people :

: visits yesterday : 1
: visits so far today : 0

Beaten in the battles so far, but undefeated in the larger war, the Father 'will', or Churchill would have said, "shall" be 'Churchillian' and blog on.


Britain is no longer a country for old war veterans : Part One

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At the 'Remembrance Service' in Westminster Abbey held to pay tribute to the those who gave their lives in the 2 World Wars, for the first time, there were no old soldiers from the 1914-18 War.

There were 3 there last year, but each has since died.

The last was Harry Patch. Here he is recalling the 'Battle of Passchendaele'.
While it raged for 90 days, each day 3,000 British soldiers died.
It was an ocean of blood.

Above, is the family photo taken, I think, in 1914. From left to right, it shows my wonderful Granny, with the twins, Cecil and Cecilia on her lap.
They died shortly after this from the measles.They were 6 months old.

Next, came my Mother holding the flowers which were, 'studio window dressing' and taken from her after the photo was taken.

Then we have my 4 uncles, in their Edwardian suits and on the right, my stern Victorian Grandfather.

Dominating the photo, and probably the reason why it was taken, was the tall man in army uniform with a riding crop under his arm. He was my Uncle George and he was 16 years old.

He'd joined the Army that year, when he was 16 and not 18.

He'd lied about his age and had signed up after a young woman had pinned a 'white feather', a sign of cowardice, in his button hole that year.

He'd immediately taken himself off to the local recruiting office, 'took the King's shilling' and entered his contract to join the British Army.

My Grandfather did not intervene.

At the time he was working with my Grandfather on a horse and cart, delivering jam jars for the Robinson Jam Company in Woolwich in South London. This explains why he joined a cavalry regiment.

Of course, with the use of 'trench warfare', he saw no action on horseback and spent the next 3 years in the trenches in Northern France.

I can't imagine what horrors he experienced.

He was crippled by German poison gas at the end of the War in 1918 and returned home as an invalid in 1918. He was 20 years old and my Mother said that, " he looked like an old man."

The only First War veteran I really knew was a remarkable Welshman called David Parsons. He was studying History at Oxford when War broke out in 1914. He signed up and became an officer, a 'first-lieutenant'.

He didn't know it at the time, but His life expectancy in the trenches was 3 weeks.

David and I used to meet and sip martinis together at his Conservative Club, me in my 20's and he in his 70's. He never once spoke about the War and I never asked.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Britain is still a country for a Dark Knight called Sir Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee who is 87 and has appeared in more than 250 film and TV productions, has been 'knighted' by Prince Charles in recognition of his 'services to drama and to charity'.

Sir Christopher said that he "would always be grateful to Hammer", the low budget studio with which he made his name in a string of horror roles in the 1950's and 1960's.

How tame these 'horror' films appear today, in comparison to 2009 horror films which excel in torture, blood and gore in the most graphic way.

Lee hales from a gentler age.

In 2007 a Dutch media tycoon, John de Mol, bought the Hammer Film Production Company and announced plans to breathe new life into the brand, targeting a 'new generation of horror lovers'. This was more than 30 years after it produced its last horror film.

Sir Christopher will appear in new Hammer movie, 'The Resident', which is due for release next year and stars Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank.

I hope this isn't a mistake.

I prefer to remember him in 'The Curse of Frankenstein' (1957), in which he played the monster, and 'Dracula' (1958) in which he played the Count.

Battle of the blogs : Part 4 : 'small animals' v 'old people'

She's still winning - my daughter, the vet. Her blog about life as a vet in small animal practice gets an average of 49 visits a day.

My blog gets an average of 4 visits a day, which is rounded up from 3.5.

What's more, she can't either,spell or punctuate.

I just don't understand it.
I wanted a list of my postings since mid October, here it is, starting with the most recent :

Britain is no longer a country for Churchill's English.

Old lady crossing the road : Part Two.

Britain is no country for Guy Fawkes and thank goodness for that.

Laughter tonic for the day - genuine or a set up ?

Britain is still a place for the voice of Donovan.

Laughter tonic for the day - give a dog a bone.

Big brother says Britain is no longer a country where young people can visit old men.

The battle of the blogs : Part three : 'small animals' v 'old people'.

Happy birthday Dick Francis and the other old timers who rose from humble beginnings.

Britain is no longer a country for Phil Archer of 'The Archers' radio soap of 60 years.

Happy birthday to Peter Green, 'Man of the World' and three other special Old Brits.

Britain is a place for old urban squirrels.

Britain is a place for old urban foxes.

Britain is a place for old urban herons.

The battle of the blogs Part 2 : 'small animals' v 'old people'.

Britain today - Weller's or Sting's ?

Is Britain today more a country for Paul Weller than for Sting ?

Britain's Google is a healthy place for the brains of silver surfers so say Gary Small and Teena Moody from the U.S.A.

The battle of the blogs : 'small animals' v 'old people'

Britain is no longer a country for Ludovic Kennedy who crammed so much into one life.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Britain is no country for Churchill's English

When Winston Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953, for his "m
astery of historical and biographical description" and his "brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."
In the first volume of his autobiography, Churchill explained where, at Harrow School, he had developed this talent for language.
Here he was compelled to study English, because he wasn't considered bright enough to learn Latin and Greek.
He wrote :
'By being so long in the lowest form I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that. But I was taught English. We were considered such dunces that we could learn only English. Mr. Somervell, a most delightful man, to whom my debt is great, was charged with the duty of teaching the stupidest boys the most disregarded thing, namely, to write mere English.

He knew how to do it. He taught it as no one else has ever taught it. Not only did we learn English parsing thoroughly, but we also practised continually English analysis.

Mr. Somervell had a system of his own. He took a fairly long sentence and broke it up into its components by means of black, red, blue, and green inks. Subject, verb, object: Relative Clauses, Conditional Clauses, Conjunctive and Disjunctive Clauses!
Each had its colour and its bracket. It was a kind of drill. We did it almost daily.

As I remained in the Third Form three times as long as anyone else, I had three times as much of it. I learned it thoroughly. Thus I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence, which is a noble thing.

Naturally, I am biased in favor of boys learning English. I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. But the only thing I would whip them for is not knowing English, I would whip them hard for that'.

I have a personal reason for remembering this piece of Churchillian writing, since on the morning of 25th January 1965, I read it from the lectern on the school stage to the assembled audience of 1,500 pupils.

You can see the lectern in the photo. It is in exactly the same position it was, on that morning 45 years ago.

I was reading because, being a 'Senior Prefect', this was a 'duty'.

The passage chosen by the Headmaster was from 'Corinthians' in the 'Old Testament'.

I was word perfect and then the day before I was due to perform, Churchill died and the next morning the Head called me into his office, handed me Churchill's book and told me to read the pencilled in passage.

I left his office in horror. I would have no time to rehearse !

I mounted the stage filled with trepidation.
I was aware of my right leg shaking and was sure everyone of the 3,000 eyes fixed on me could see it.

I got through it.
I was 17 years old.

I might have learnt 2 lesson in reading the lesson :
Don't bank on certainty.
Will yourself to do something and you might succeed.

Sadly, in Britain today, Churchill's grammatical English is disappearing fast.

Where are ? :
* The humble comma indicating a pause.
* The semi-colon as a super comma.
* The colon, hyphen and dash.
* The avoidance of ending a sentence with a preposition.
* The avoidance of using an 'or' without an 'either' and a 'neither' without a 'nor'.
* The use of inverted commas.
* The correct use of quotation marks.

About 10 years ago I observed a young secondary teacher with a class. She asked them : " What was them books, we was using last week ?"

Churchill's masterful use of the English language :

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Old Lady crossing the road : Part Two

I sent the link to family and friends asking them if they thought it was a set up. Of the 9 who replied to my e-mail, they all agree with my wife, that it was a set-up.

I'm still not convinced. I think the jury is still out.
The facts are that the video has been around since 2006 and it appears on a number of web sites.

Let's examine the evidence against a spoof :

1. The boy in black who falls off his skateboard at the sound of the screech of brakes, seems genuinely surprised. He would need to be a good actor.

2. The laughter of the Mum doing the filming seems a genuine reaction to events.

3. The old lady could be suffering from sleep apnoea at the side of the road.

4. The old lady seems genuine. She would need to be a good actress.

5. She hit the grill of the car with her paper bag because she knew it would do no damage.

Evidence in favour of a spoof :

1. The drivers over-revving and beeping doesn't ring true.

2. The old lady hits the grill of the Mercedes with a paper bag which won't damage the grill.

3. The bag hitting the grill of a stationary car would not trigger the air bag.

4. There was no cloud of airbag dust.

5. Airbags deflate rapidly.

6. This is what happens when an airbag inflates :

And here is the Old Lady :

P.S. Having weighed up the evidence, I've changed my mind, it was the airbag what did it.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Britain is no country for Guy Fawkes and thank goodness for that

I accidentally deleted a post and for a blogger, it's a bit like loosing a child and I'll do my best to resurrect it.

The 'Daily Mail' published an article called : 'Where have all the Guys gone? QUENTIN LETTS'S nostalgia for the fantastic Bonfire Night effigies of yesteryear'.

In the article he :
* Lamented the fact that guys were no longer burnt on bonfires on November the 5th.

* He said : ' Perhaps it's just me, but have you noticed something missing from our streets at this time of year? In the run-up to Bonfire Night, children in every town and village used to tour the streets with almost human figures, happily shouting 'Penny for the Guy!' - which they duly proceeded to burn at the stake (or rather, at towering infernos on the village green or local recreation ground)'.

* He went on to suggest that the Labour Government were to blame for the missing guys.

* Then followed some wonderful black and white photos of kids with their guys in the 1950's.

* He was good at this point, when he reminded me that the kids would shout, "penny for the guy" and collect money from passer -bys, in old jam jars or biscuit tins. This money, supposedly to go towards the cost of making the guy and building the bonfire, was probably spent on bags of barley sugar or sherbet lemons at the local sweet shop.

* He asserted that guys were : 'a celebration of the arrest and execution of Guy Fawkes and his fellow Papists in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and that an annual celebration, initially ordered by Parliament, was an act of defiance of terrorists and anti-parliamentarians. 'It was a tremendous assertion of pride in our House of Commons and in our Protestant faith. Guy Fawkes Night was a celebration of nationhood'.

All this prompted me to do a little research. Here is a woodcut print from 1605 :

It shows the 3 stages of being 'hanged, drawn and quartered' in public, after being found guilty of plotting to overthrow the state - treason.

1. The plotters were dragged through the streets by horses. They were tied to wooden hurdles so that they could be subjected to the bile of the crowds and have stones thrown at them.

2. They were then hanged by the neck until half dead.

3. After being cut down, their stomachs were cut open and their entrails drawn out. These were then burned in front of them. They were not burnt at a stake.

4. Finally, the were cut into 4 by an axe, starting at the feet.

5. The 4 parts of their bodies were then exhibited in different parts of London and left until they rotted. The heads were staked on the old London Bridge.

6. Without a Christian burial, their souls would be tortured in Hell for Eternity.

So the burning of Guy Fawkes resonated with echoes from our barbaric past. I'm glad kids don't burn guys any more.

Quentin Letts could have written a far more interesting article if he had asked the question :
'Why did Robert Catesby and 12 other Catholic gentlemen attempt to blow up the King and the assembled House of Commons and Lords, knowing what would happen to them if the plot failed. Why did they risk so much in order to restore the True Catholic Religion?'

This question is all the more intersting in our world today, where similar religious fanatics are also willing to die for their cause and kill others in the process.P.S.
I remembered that Mel Gibson, playing the Scottish rebel, William Wallace had suffered the same ordeal as the Plotters in his film 'Braveheart'. Only 'google' it and watch it on You Tube if you have a strong stomach. No pun intended.

The link to Letts :

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Laughter tonic for the day - genuine or a set up ?

I found the clip below very funny, played it 3 or 4 times and had a good laugh each time. When I showed it to my wife, she didn't laugh at all and said that I was "being naive" and the whole thing was a set up.
When I threatened to put how nasty she was being to me and I'd mention this on my blog, she said : 'that doesn't bother me, only about 2 people look at your blog anyway."

This was true, but hurtful.

So my 2 viewers , what do you think ?

Was the whole thing a set up involving the 2 skate boarders, the driver and the old lady ? Or was it genuine ?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Britain is still a place for the voice of Donovan

This autumn has been spectacular for its colour, apparently it's something to do with the chemicals in the leaves of trees. It would certainly match 'New England in the Fall'.
When I saw the raindrops on the leaves of the acer tree I was reminded of the words of the Donovan song, 'Catch the wind'.

In the chilly hours and minutes,
Of uncertainty, I want to be,
In the warm hold of your loving mind.

To feel you all around me,
And to take your hand, along the sand,
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.

When sundown pales the sky,
I wanna hide a while, behind your smile,
And everywhere I'd look, your eyes I'd find.

For me to love you now,
Would be the sweetest thing, 'twould make me sing,
Ah, but I may as well, try and catch the wind.

When rain has hung the leaves with tears,
I want you near, to kill my fears
To help me to leave all my blues behind.

For standin' in your heart,
Is where I want to be, and I long to be,
Ah, but I may as well, try and catch the wind.

He recorded it when he was a fresh-faced youth of 18 and I bought a copy when I was a fresh-faced youth 17.

I didn't know that he is Scottish. In fact there are a number of things I didn't know about him :

* He became a friend of leading pop musicians including Joan Baez, Brian Jones, Bruce Springsteen, and The Beatles, and was one of the few artists to collaborate on songs with the Beatles.

* He influenced both John Lennon and Paul McCartney when he taught them his finger-picking guitar style in 1968.

* His commercial fortunes waned after he parted ways with the producer, Mickie Most in 1969, and he left the music industry for a time.

* He continued to perform and record sporadically in the 1970s and 1980s, but gradually fell from favour. His gentle musical style and hippie image was scorned by the critics.

* He underwent a revival in the 1990,s Britain and late in the decade, he recorded an album with producer and long-time fan Rick Rubin.

* He and released a new album, 'Beat Cafe', in 2004.

The first link below gives the voice of that fresh-faced youth of 18and which I bought as a fresh-faced and, in love youth, of 17. It was a small vinyl record, a 45, and cost quite a lot of money, I think, 7 old shillings and 6 old pence.

The second, Donovan today, which I found, both poignant and moving. It brought a tear or two, to my old eyes.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Big Brother says Britain is no longer a country where young people can visit lonely old men

'Big Brother' has a new younger sister called 'Isa'. Isa, or the the Independent Safeguarding Authority, is well looked after, she has an income of £40m and a staff of 220.
Isa's job is to 'help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults'.

Isa may be young, but she has powerful teeth and employers, local authorities and professional regulators, have a duty to refer to her if they have information about individuals, working with children or vulnerable adults, who they consider to have caused harm or pose a risk of harm.

Isa works with another older brother called Creb or the Criminal Records Bureau.

Word about the power of young Isa has already got around schools, where the tradition of pupils visiting lonely pensioners either, for a chat, or to help with housework, is under threat because schools fear that both the teenagers and the pensioners will have to be officially vetted by Creb, to check they are not 'potential abusers'.

Although Isa doesn't start to exercise her power until next year, some organisations have started implementing policies to reflect her requirements and some schools have dropped home visits, following seminars given by her officials.

Isa's strictures have already reached :

Wellington College, Berkshire, which is reviewing all its home visits to the elderly.

King’s College School, an independent school in London, which has already said it would avoid home visits.

Millfield school, Somerset, which said it had dropped home visits after being advised the pensioners would have to be vetted. The Head of Community Studies at thew school said : “The idea of going round for a friendly chat, running off to get the newspaper or befriending them in that way is finished. We now only visit nursing homes.”

What a sad country Britain has become, with its lonely old citizens the latest victims of the burgeoning power of a State which, while it is 'ostensibly' there to protect them is, 'in reality', sending them further to the margins of society.