Thursday, April 30, 2009

Introducing Miss Pixie Lott

I've got so many blogs waiting to write - if only I had more time! I could write one every day but I've got too much to do - take for example this morning I have a tennis lesson with the lovely young Simon which (cough, cough) must take priority...... well you know my backhand does need improving... and of course I'm doing this for the boys so that I can play better with them as its become rather embarrassing being beaten by a 10 year old. And of course one day I also hope to beat the lovely Mrs D, my friend the tennis coach, in a game of finely tuned skills, strength and cunnning strategy. (Calling all her shots "out" and cutting the strings on her racquet.)

After tennis it's the hairdressers where I will be humbly apologizing for forgetting to go to my last appointment which was March 5th. I don't normally bother making appointments in advance because I have a habit of ..well..forgetting. But I thought I'd be able to remember that one as it was the day before my birthday and every gal wants to look good on her b-day doesn't she?

Well every gal except me obviously. Now that I look like Worzel Gummidge I thought I'd better have it cut. Blimey Mr T doesn't realise how lucky he is having a wife who hasn't had her hair cut since January!

Have you noticed that once I start writing I can't stop? I only popped in here to introduce to you Miss Pixie Lott who at the tender age of 18 is forecasted here to be the next singing sensation. Have a look and see what you think!



Not sure? Let's have another look...



Hmm... somehow I don't think One Republic and Gary Barlow will be complaining.

See you all soon for some silliness!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Little Miss Tigga (aka The Cat from Hell)

Yes, Miss Tigga was the ultimate Cat from Hell but you know folks I was more than a little fond of her.

Above is a piccy of Tigga aged about 12 months, along with Master Sam aged about 3 months. As you can see at this stage she was still pretty curious about the new arrival and in this particular photo was staking her claim to be in no 1 pole position in my affections. Fortunately, after circling Master Sam's cot on top of the rails about a thousand times (she used to walk around the bath rim as well and once fell in) she realised he was not going to feed her and cater to her every whim so I didn't have many worries about her invading his space. Instead, Miss Tigga took to biting my ankles and scratching the doors for my attention.... sometimes if she was a little too enthusiastic I had a indoor plant spray that I was forced to use in the early hours just to get some rest!

I don't think Tigga grew any more after this photo and was probably the smallest cat I've ever seen. Quite often she would leap upon my back or shoulders when I was least expecting it and sit on my shoulder like a parrot where she would peruse the surroundings or make the occasional leap to the wardrobe for an even greater vantage point. My legs, arms and back frequently bore the scars of her surprise attacks; a more wily adversary could not be found! And I'm afraid that even Mrs T whose verbal wit has reduce many to the a jelly-like state was no match for Tigga, the ultimate Cat from Hell.

But you know folks, even though she drove me bonkers, especially in this last year as her health declined, I guess she'll always have a special place in my heart because her love was totally unconditional and I'm so glad that on Friday morning when she didn't appear I found her in time to say our last goodbyes. In the end it was just her and me - as she always wanted.

It's hard when you know the inevitable is waiting round the corner and the loss of Tigga, despite her frustrating ways, has been hanging over for me for a long time. There isn't a good way to die; I lost my mother suddenly and dramatically and my father in a long drawn out battle against cancer and medical negligence. Each was traumatic in very different ways. However, what I have learnt is that is very good to have those you love around you.

And even though she was only a cat, I'm so glad that I was able to be there for Tigga, my little feline friend.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Music Monday; X rated!

The song I'm playing today is one of my favourites for getting into the groove and boy what a sexy little number it is! I'd like to think that I looked as good as the young ladies in this video but alas the curlers, pinny and 50 denier tights just don't have the same effect. Shame. But in my mind well.....you know...things are a lot better.....

Just a Little by Liberty X was released in 2001 when they were running high from their failure in the reality show Popstars. Yep ... that's failure. This is because the band comprised the five losing finalists. Bizarrely, the winning five contestants who landed a prized record contract went onto to abysmal failure after their intial popularity and sank without trace in about 18 months as the floptastic group Hear'Say. In contrast Liberty X stayed together until 2006 and although they have now officially separated continue to do the odd performance for charity.

Enjoy!



Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.




Monday, April 20, 2009

Maths defies Logic!


Okay, okay I know I haven't exactly had a good track record in the car department of late but it's not my fault. Really.

Did I tell you about the time I managed to avoid a boat trailer on the M1? (That's a very busy UK motorway if you're not familiar with our terminology.) It had detached from the car in front and was wavering about all over the motorway. Yep, somehow I managed to avoid it without causing a pile up. Amazing! I admit though that Young Master Jacob may have had his hands over his face and may have been screaming words to the effect of "We are all going to die!" (He's watched Zulu too many times.)

Right, what was I going to talk about before I got sidetracked on that bit of conceited "make myself feel better at driving because no one else does will do it for me" routine?

Ah yes. Maths, logic....and driving; they do not compute. Well, not in my brain with its thespian inclinations. In fact, to compensate for my lack of mathematical skills I did a maths course a couple of years back which incorporated logic, numbers, circles, squares and other dull and confusing stuff. In fact it was soooo hideously boring I was almost compelled to start listening to classical music as therapy. However, I restrained myself and opted for breaking my chocolate into pieces and methodically counting them into my mouth with the purpose of seeing if 1/3 pie X 250g sq dark chocolate= 1 cm expansion of my tummy. (That's apple pie obviously, not 3.14)

Oh and the answer is "Yes" by the way.

Ummm.. I should say at this juncture my apologies for any weird meanderings in this post folks -the kids have gone back to school today and my mind is all over the place - that's what euphoria does to you. Anyway, the maths course also had some revisionary stuff about working out speeds, distances and miles per hour etc etc for the idiots who had forgotten it. (i.e - me) Therefore, unsurprisingly, I 've now forgotten all the formulas again but I have worked out that whilst in theory it all seemed to make sense, in real life such formulas are complete rubbish.

Take for instance a few weeks back when the clocks went forward (Yes, I know it's a Brit thing - does anyone else do it?) I found myself in the awkward situation of having to be at a tennis tournament on a Sunday morning and needing to travel 43 miles in 50 minutes or risk the wrath of Master Benedict's team mates. ( And believe me those racquets can hurt a botty at close range.) Now theoretically, if I travelled at 48 miles per hour I should have got there with a few minutes to spare. Yes??

Okay I actually got there in 48 minutes. BUT (and it's a big BUT) for most of the journey I was travelling at a speed in excess of 48 mph.

Yes, whilst I was driving along the (nice, clear) motorway I fell into one of those Mrs T dream-like stances and IMAGINED I was travelling at 85mph.... in fact at one point at the height of my dream I IMAGINED that little pointy thingy on the speedometer was even higher. I even DREAMT that Master Benedict was in the back crying "Go faster, faster!!" I DREAMT that small little Renault Clios and those disgusting Smart Cars (which look like they get to the end of the production line and then someone drops a really big hammer on them) were just fading into the distance as I sailed past them. And I'm not even going to mention the cheetahs on the inside lane......

So tell me if you had a dream like that - where for approximately 5 miles you travelled at a speed averaging between 30 and 50 mph and then for the remainder you were like....going really, really fast.... how come I.... how come you.... didn't get to your destination quicker? Uh huh? Someone please explain.....

Humph. What's more none of these speed/distance formulas mention the other contributory factor that so often accounts for your journey taking twice as long as normal. Yep, you know the one I mean....

Yeah.....SUNDAY DRIVERS

I'm sorry but people who drive at 30 mph in a 60mph zone drive me nuts! Inevitably, a huge queue of traffic builds up behind these people. Drivers who are normally completely sane start to make dangerous manoeuvres to overtake in the vague hope that they can complete their journey before the end of the century. Passengers throw themselves out of windows screaming "I can't take anymore!" or are forced to urinate in plastic bottles because they know it will be at least another 2 hours before the Sunday Driver looks in his mirror and sees a queue as long as the Mississippi behind him and thinks that maybe, just maybe, he might be causing a hold-up. Yep, Sunday Drivers are sooo slow that even the farmers towing a year's supply of hay behind them consider stabbing themselves to death with their pitch forks because even they can go faster.

It's no wonder farmers have a high rate of suicide - It must be hell for them stuck behind a Sunday Driver. Imagine the top speed in your tractor is 35 miles mph and there's some nincompoop in front of you doing 29mph? The frustration! Instead of having the cows milked, the field ploughed and the sheep sheared bymidday you'll still be sitting behind a 1973 Ford Cortina while the 75 year old occupant is trying to shift between first and second gear and his wife is unpacking the picnic basket in the front seat. Let's face it, in those situations sticking a pitchfork through your brain would be an easy death compared to a long drawn out descent into mental illness and ultimately shutting yourself inside your cab and suffocating yourself on petrol fumes.....

Yes, you can probably gather Iget stuck behind a lot of Sunday Drivers........

Okay there's another missing factor too...

ROADWORKS

Look, I don't mind about essential roadworks but what about all these roadworks where there's entire lanes closed for miles and miles and not a workman in sight and not even a trace of pothole???

WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

Is it some sort of government conspiracy to give me a heart attack? I dunno....Perhaps at midnight a fleet of helicopters sporting giant floodlights arrives and deposits a team of masked workman who "work" solidly all night long sipping tea and munching biscuits.......

But there IS one thing worse than inexplicable roadworks and that is...

BEING STUCK BEHIND A SUNDAY DRIVER IN ROADWORKS.

Noooooooooooooooooo!

Yep, last Bank Holiday I was off with both the Young Masters for yet another tennis tournament. The roads were virtually empty. Hurrah, hurrah! I was in seventh heaven believing I would get to my destination on time. In fact I hadn't felt so ecstatic since the last time I'd squeezed my arse in a pair of size 10 trousers.

But no, it was not to be.

The greater part of this journey (a regular of mine) is in a 60mph zone with a short duel carriageway (70mph) in case there's a surplus of tractors. But today ALL the 60 mph zone has been reduced to a 40 mph for some INVISIBLE roadworks..... and what happens?

Yep, you guessed it...

I got stuck behind the Sunday Driver plodding along at 38mph.

I want to grow wings.

Copyright Jane Turley 2009


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Experimenting with writing.

As some of you are aware I have been experimenting with my writing. A while back I wrote a short story which was published on The View From Here which I've now also published below it's called In the Wink of an Eye. It marks quite a different departure for me as it's a war story which has quite a surreal element to it. It is also written in the Second Person; an idea which I'd been toying with for sometime but finally got the push to do it when I read that Georgie was experimenting with it too.

I'm sure that this story won't be to everyone's taste, especially as people are used to me being pretty silly, but any feedback is welcome, either positive or negative. I enjoy exploring different ideas, situations and emotions as much as I like writing humorous material. In fact, my book is turning out to be a combination of the humour and suspense - so I'm not exactly sure whether there will be a market for it! On Gary's advice I've sent the first 3 chapters to a professional critique service that he has used; I guess it will be pretty interesting to hear what they say. In the meantime I'll just keep on writing!

( Ps: There's plenty more silly stuff to come. And you won't believe this but I had one of those strange mystical experiences again the other day when I took the young masters to the zoo - I discovered something quite amazing... but you're gonna have to wait to find out! In the meantime you can always check out my latest BBC article Easter Bunny Blues for a giggle or two.)

In the Wink of an Eye

Caterpillar tracks. Fresh, impressed deep in the sucking mud. The enemy lurks nearby, somewhere close. You can feel them in your bones, taunting you.

A stench of sickly sulphur, fetid corpses and manic fear hangs in the air. Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat. Your heart pounds, trickles of sweat run down your grimy face. Anxiously you glance around, dilated pupils flickering over ravaged trees, burning trucks and smoldering wreckage. You pause only a second longer on the decapitated head of Sean Watts. Poor bastard.

You take another look. Fuck. Did he wink at you?

Sinking down into the mire, wet sludge clings onto your combats like curds of brown rancid butter. The heavy backpack weighs you down pushing you deeper into the sodden earth. Stay alive, stay hidden. Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat. Duty calls, there’s no time for sentiment or grief. Remember your training. Block out Sean’s face stricken in macabre astonishment.

But you wonder if he knows something that you don’t.

Fight, not flight. You crawl across the slime, belly wet, face blackened with stripes like a serpent of death and find Sergeant Hughes crouched in a shell hole. Where to now Sarge? No reply. You push his shoulder. Now what Sarge? Then you notice the warm stickiness on your fingers, the hands clasping a split stomach, slippery entrails protruding through bloody fingers. You slump back, breath short.

So Sean did know.

An eerie whistle screams overhead, the earth shakes, explodes. Mud rains down like a plague of locusts, consuming you. Pinpricks of rainbow light appear before your eyes and the sun begins to shine through the wetness. Heat spreads through your limbs and torso.

Ring, ring ring. You shake your head furiously. Ring, ring, ring. It’s 8.50 am. Your knees are grubby from the fall. Don’t get messy before school Robbie. Clean up quickly before the teacher sees you. Hurry, before you line up. You struggle to your feet, body aching as a voice calls across the playground. Robbie! Robbie! Too late. You’re in trouble now.

But it’s not the teacher, it’s Karen. She runs towards you, arms outstretched, white veil billowing behind, the train of her dress catching on thorny shrubs. A small boy follows, thumb in mouth, clasping a toy rabbit by the foot, the long soft ears stroking the uneven ground. You drop your gun and reach out to greet them, overjoyed. Karen, Tommo, I’m here! But Karen runs passed, across the pitted clearing and back into the woods. Tommo trails after her, mud squelching through his toes.

And Superman on his pyjamas winks at you.

The ringing fades as you hear the crushing of undergrowth, the tearing of branches, an unmistakable throbbing, pulling engine. Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat. Shouts, screams, rise above the shuddering ground. A grey, hideous monster appears, compressing debris, churning the earth. It strikes fear in you standing defenceless in its deadly shadow. Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat. You turn to run and wonder if God is on your side.

When you awake you hear gentle murmuring in your ear and distant echoing voices. You feel warmth, comfort. Safe at last. Maybe God was on your side. Slowly, you open your eyes, blurred shapes move to and fro. Gradually you begin to focus on the black silhouette at your side, the white collar, the familiar face.

And then he winks at you.

Hello Mate.


© Copyright Jane Turley 2009

Photograph courtesy of K M Ellen/Flickr

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Music Monday; Seven beautiful seconds.

I first heard the song I'm playing today back in 1994 when it was an international hit and I'm not sure quite what is is about this song but it has really got under my skin - in a positive way. It has a quite a repetitive beat and lyrics which is nothing new in a song obviously but I never get tired listening to it. Vocally, there are no highs or lows it's just very melodic and easy to listen to and it's just slipped under my skin and every time I hear it I want to hear it over and over again.

I think sometimes videos add to the addictiveness and potency of a song but whilst looking for this song on You Tube I realised that I'd never actually seen the accompanying video. But actually it is quite an interesting one made simply in black and white and just concentrating on the faces of the two singers who have a sort of quiet passion about them; visually and harmonically I think this song works really well as a duet; it adds to the subtle strength of this song. As the video progresses the faces of the singers are interspersed with faces of adults and children from many different backgrounds, some superimposed on top of each other, and as I watched it it actually brought tears to my eyes - there's a brief section where there's a violin solo which maybe more than other instruments can produced a very melancholic sound - it was at this point the montage of black and white faces reminded me of all those dreadful photographs of The Holocaust.

As for the lyrics - I don't even understand half of them as they are French but the few I do understand have always been enough to realise what this song is about; it's about the first 7 seconds of a child's life before they are exposed to the violence and horrors of our world.

This song is by Neneh Cherry and Youssou N'Dour and is called Seven Seconds. I find it a very beautiful and moving song. I hope you like it too.


Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.




Sunday, April 12, 2009

More philosophical questions (For Easter)

I know I have a curious mind as you can probably tell from my last philosophical questions post. However, as it's Easter I've been thinking some more (a dangerous situation I know). Here's a few questions that have been plaguing me over the Easter Holiday:

1. Why didn't Jesus change the bread into chocolate?

2. Why is it when I'm at the kitchen sink that my glass of water magically changes into wine?

3. Do bunny rabbits have big ears so you can peg them on the washing line?

4. Why isn't there a spare place in all those pictures of the Last Supper? Cos, you know, there's always someone who doesn't turn up...

5. Why is it that my bread doesn't rise even with yeast?

6. Why is it that that at Christmas, Easter and on my birthday I get chocolate but on my wedding anniversary I get a bank statement?

7. Why hasn't someone marketed miniature chocolate Pierce Brosnans? And why stop there? I'd happily eat a chocolate Kevin Costner, Keenau Reeves or a Hugh Jackman. And as for a chocolate Will Smith... mmm....I just love a dark chocolate, especially one that tickles the taste buds.

8. Why do Easter Eggs have to come in boxes so big you could stick two together and make a jumbo jet? (You might need a few extras but let's not be too picky please.)

9. Why is that nuns wear habits but priests wear frocks?

10. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat - Why did he write a song for the Eurovision song contest??

HAPPY EASTER!

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Epiphany

It was Epiphany.

Later this evening he’d switch off the Christmas lights and the garden would be shrouded once more in the dark January night. On the weekend he’d return, remove the lights and put them safely back in the loft where they’d been stored for as long as he could remember. But now he gazed out of the window watching his mother sitting upon the garden bench, shoulders hunched, collar upturned, alone in the naked garden.

Maybe it was time.

He snapped open the clasps of his briefcase, the sound reverberating in the stillness of the room. His actions, his feelings, seemed magnified as he slowly withdrew the creased envelope. His secret.

“Maybe you should come on in Mum. It’s freezing.” He sat down beside her. The cold, damp fingers of the night already penetrating his thick Aran sweater.

“I will in a minute Dear. I was just thinking about your father.”

“I know you were. You’ve been thinking about him for 6 whole years. Maybe it’s time to let him go.”

She turned towards him, the red Christmas lights reflecting off her hair. She looked different bathed in the colourful illuminations.

“I’ve got something to show you,” he said, watching her breath blossom in the wintry air.

“And I’ve got something to tell you,” she replied. “Me first.”

“Okay then.” He began to feel nauseous; the envelope felt like fire in his hands.

“I’ve met someone I really like; his name is Alan. I’ve been seeing him for about two months… I hope you’ll like him… I know how much you loved your father.”

“Oh Mum!” He threw his arms around her shoulders and pulled her close. “Of course I’ll like him. If you like him he must be pretty special; I can’t wait to meet him! I’m so pleased for you. It’s been too long.”

He kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her tighter. She did look different. He could see it now; she emanated beauty, radiance.

“I know, but I loved your father so much. It just seemed such a futile waste of life. I never even found out where he was going.”

“Maybe that’s just as well. Having a focus or someone to blame might have made it harder,” he reasoned. “It was just a tragic accident.”

“You’re probably right. Now, what’s this you’ve got to show me? Good news?” A smile spread lovingly across her face.

“Oh, this is nothing special,” he waved the envelope nonchalantly. I’ll save it for another day. Let’s go inside and celebrate your news!”

“I’ll be there in a while. I just need a little longer.”

“Well okay,” he hesitated... perhaps this moment was her making peace with the past. “But I’ll stoke up the fire and break out the champers. So don’t be long.”

He threw another log on the fire and withdrew the letter out of the envelope; the letter addressed to his mother which he’d accidentally opened the morning his father’s car had slid on the icy road. He remembered the panic, the pain in his chest as sobbing he’d read the unexpected words.

A request for a divorce citing irreconcilable differences.

But he knew there had to be more to it. Especially when he'd seen Her standing slightly apart from the other mourners at the funeral. He could see it in her eyes. Her guilt, her loss. The Other Woman.

He tossed the letter, followed by the envelope into the fire. The flames leapt up, the paper curled, sizzled, and shrank into glowing embers. Suddenly, he felt a huge burden leaving him.

Because he knew that now, no matter what the future held, he would never break his mother’s heart.

Copyright Jane Turley 2009

This story was the first short story I'd written since a teenager and was first published on The View From Here on 6.1.2009 (The feast of the Epiphany.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

If you're not the one

Well there I was talking about Daniel Bedingfield on Monday and then his song, If you're not the one popped up on the radio this morning. I've got his CD with this song on it anyway but I've not heard it for for a while on the radio. At the moment the radio is suffering from an overdose of Beyonce's If I were a boy which, very possibly, may drive me to complete insanity if I hear it just one more time. In fact, even the young masters nearly threw themselves out the car windows onto the duel carriageway the other day when we'd heard it for about the fourth time in one day. The local DJ is obviously obsessed with the song but I reckon he should watch out in case some nutty fruitcake housewife rings up the station uttering the words "Play Misty for me."
Know what I mean?

Anyway, here's Daniel Bedingfield with his beautiful song If you're not the one.



Well I guess we might as well listen by Daniel's sis Natasha. Here's Unwritten



What a talented duo. They remind me how spectacular my sister and my two brothers and I were at singing. In fact, I think if we'd held our act together I think we could have wiped the floor with The Osmonds. Our vocal harmonies had to be heard to be believed. Here's the lyrics to our favourite tune that we used to wow our parents with...

Run rabbit run, run, run, run
Here comes the farmer with his gun, gun, gun
Time flies by without a rabbit pie
Run rabbit run, run run, run

Boy, we were dynamite!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Master Sy and Mrs T get silly

I apologise now!

Sometimes I just can’t help being politically incorrect. Especially when I get into conversations with Master Sy. Here’s a conversation with Sy that we had by email the other morning when probably we both should have doing something more constructive. It pure adolescent behaviour but well I guess it made me laugh – quite a lot! If you're the type offended by a little political incorrectness read no further!

Mrs T; Were you Googling yourself yesterday Sy?

I had an amusing hit ..."Turrets syndrome and air traffic control..."

Sy; Was I Googling myself? Nope!! I actually did some work yesterday! Rare I know, but hey!

Turrets syndrome? Where do these people learn to spell!!

Mrs T; Okay …that was my spelling! Just a rare slip up of course..............

Umm...how do you spell it??

Sy; It's #******! Tourettes.

*#*#. BOOBS! *#*#.

I dunno what the fuss is about...I think it is an awesome disease.

Mrs T; Classic Sy...classic....

Of course its #****** Tourettes what was I a*** thinking big b**** off?

Sy; I used to know someone who had it. Its hard for them...put entertainment for us.

BIG HAIRY NUTS***K!

Mrs T; Man, you were lucky to have a friend like that! I'd die just to have a mate like that!

Hours and hours of sheer unadulterated #******..................

Sy; He was awesome. He couldn’t help it, naturally, but he understood that being a child, I had to laugh and he would end up laughing at it too. Maybe it helped him learn to live with it...maybe he hated me for it! Who knows!!!

Mrs T; I just checked - whoever it was did Google "turrets syndrome and air traffic control". That's obviously where the spelling got into my head.

But now I'm thinking...what if there is real air traffic control turret syndrome? Maybe air traffic controllers go mad after a while watching little blips on a radar? What if they start playing Space Invaders?
Maybe they run around clutching their heads screaming "No, no another blip, I just can't take it! Somebody help me!" And then they throw themselves out the turret window and are splattered on the runaway and a Jumbo 747 runs over them because the pilot is suffering from Cockpit Syndrome?

What d'you reckon?

Sy; I can believe that would be some kind of problem they would have, but I am thinking that they would maybe find that they see the dots on the screen and run to the anti-aircraft turret and see if they can "land" it on their own. This would be a great stress reliever as everyone loves playing space invaders!

Mrs T; Do you think when they're "landing" they wear they those funny hats and make "Vroom, vroom” noises?

Sy; I know that the pilots do. Captain Giggles from Bigglesville always wears them.
I am very sure that the ground movement guys make the vroom vroom noises as they tow the planes from the stand!

Did I ever tell you about the emergency has we had when I worked at ********? The server room was past a load of different departments, so if something went wrong, one of us put a yellow hat with a big goose sticking out of it and another put one of those hats with the light on top and we would run towards the server room looking concerned. Serious? Of course we were!

Yes, I know it was childish but hey, sometimes even the most sophisticated people of (me, obviously) have to let their hair down.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Music Monday; Magical Mraz

Last night I took into trip into London to the Hammersmith Apollo to see the very talented Jason Mraz whose star is on the rise in the UK. I discovered his music a few months back over at Intrepid Ideas and I've been hooked ever since. Jason's style is jazz, soul and funk all mixed together - I love it! His songs are mainly happy songs about love, mostly with an upbeat tempo but some ballads too. Fortunately, I discovered Jason before his current release "I'm Yours" made it into the charts over here and I was able to get a ticket. Yippee for me!

He can do some amazing things with his voice, including singing very high notes. I don't why I've always found that quite appealing in men which is why I'm attracted to singers like Daniel Bedingfield, Justin Timberlake and James Blunt. But I have to say Jason outclasses them vocally. He also has a very lithe body and although he doesn't dance much in his performance his movements reminded me of Marcel Marceau. I bet he could moonwalk as good as Michael Jackson any day!

Here's his current UK hit I'm Yours which is going to be the start of something big!







Here's the song he ended on...Butterfly







Oh what the heck- it's my blog, I'm gonna indulge myself and this time not with chocolate! Here's O Lover







Somebody chuck some water over me!

Why didn't I buy a mobile phones that zooms in?

The figures lit up in the centre are Jason's brass section, thrilling the audience in the circle seats.

Jason with arms aloft trying to catch a large pair of granny knickers flying from the circle...damn it... it was chilly on the way home....

Here's a review of last night's performance at The Times online

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.


















Sunday, April 5, 2009

Climate Change: Interview with Paul Brown, author and journalist.

If you find this post informative then please do share the information and spread the word about climate change. Quotes are acceptable usage but please do give do give links/credit back if possible. You may also enjoy my science-fiction story Fantasia, which is about what Walt Disney discovers when he awakes from cryogenic suspension in 2031.  Fantasia is part of my short story collection A Modern Life, available on Amazon.

INTERVIEW WITH PAUL BROWN

Paul Brown is the author of 9 factual books, primarily on environmental topics. He worked for The Guardian newspaper for 24 years, the last 16 as their environment correspondent. During his tenure The Guardian won Environment Newspaper of the Year 4 times. He has met with numerous eminent politicians and scientists, attended climate change conferences and travelled to some of the world’s most remote places, including Antarctica. Although he left The Guardian in 2005 he still writes a weekly column in between travelling the world educating other journalists for The Guardian Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme whilst continuing his campaign to raise awareness of global warming. Global Warning, The Last Chance for Change was published in 2006 and was a best seller in the United States. He is currently writing his first novel, a political thriller revolving around the nuclear industry.


A first part to this interview where Paul and I discuss writing, journalism and his novel can be found here on The View from Here as can my review of Global Warning Last Chance for Change. Paul was very accommodating during my interview and we discussed a variety of subjects at length. What follows is the mainstay of our conversation on climate change; it makes very interesting reading.

One of the curious things that struck me in Global Warning was how much interference there had been by the American government and businesses in trying to prevent the progress of climate change discussions and negotiations - Even to the extent that some businesses have disguised themselves with names that imply they are pro climate change and even the doctoring of reports.

Yes, in the narrowest sense they are protecting their interests but in the broadest sense they are actually killing people off.

It’s morally hard to grasp that. 

For me, more than the warlike tendencies of the Bush administration, was the morally reprehensible defence of the coal, oil and motor industries against overwhelming scientific evidence that they are destroying the planet.

Do you think the Americans are going to come back into negotiations now that Barack Obama is on the scene?

Oh yes, there’s a huge change in the attitude of the American Administration and all the scientists who were marginalized by Bush have been totally rehabilitated and put in key positions in government.

I was shocked to read that in California by 2020 there could be water deficit for eleven million people. Surely people must be ignorant of these facts?

In California there is now an awareness that there never was before. I think it is partly down to Schwarzenegger. He did genuinely say he got his re-election as Governor because of his green policies which is an extraordinary thing for a republican to say! And I think the attitude in America is changing.

Do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger has been more successful because he’s not a life long politician and is never going to have to live off the back of a political career? So it doesn’t matter to him who he offends?

Well I think its partly character isn’t it? He’s essentially European so in a way he’s sort of an independent person. He genuinely looks at the situation from the environmental point of view and looks at the evidence and can’t ignore it. The snow situation in the Sierra Mountains is terrible and when the glaciers disappear, as they will inevitably will, California is going to be a dustbowl. Okay some politicians have ignored the problem but he hasn’t.

But warming is a global problem rather than an individual event so whatever he does will be counteracted by countries elsewhere that do nothing.

One of the things that came across in Copenhagen last week and as Lord Nicholas Stern said was that this economic downturn was a huge economic opportunity to change into a low carbon economy and if places like California manage to thrive as low carbon economies, as indeed they appear to be doing and adopting green cars and all that sort of thing, then everyone else will want to do it. Because you’re creating a huge series of industries that are growing and the only industries that are growing in this recession are environmental industries. Wind, wave and tidal powers are all growing at a huge rate whereas the traditional industries are struggling. So it’s a potential for growth that people can see by example. So although in California people are still going to suffer they will also be pioneers and will be able to export green technologies to other people.

Until you actually read some of the hard facts you don’t really realise the situation. Finding out about the time delay – the thirty year gap before the full effect of the CO2 emissions and the sea level rise over the next hundred years – that these are going to happen anyway was shocking; I wasn’t aware of them at all.

 In fact since I wrote Global Warning the sea level has risen dramatically. And much faster than scientists anticipated.

Some islands, like the Maldives, are going to flood anyway by the end of the century whatever they do, aren’t they?

Yes, and very possibly before. I think that was one of the things that frightened me most was the inevitability of the sea level rise.

Yes, we’re talking about huge civilizations flooding and where will all the dispossessed go? That is a really huge question. Perhaps in America they can all move inland but where will people who don’t have the same religious backgrounds and beliefs go? It’s just going to be awful.

Yes, people keep talking about China and India being the powerhouses of the world but if you take the effects of the glaciers melting in the Himalayas, the water supply running out and the flooding of the Deltas because of the sea level rise you’re talking millions and millions of people who have nowhere to go because the country is already so overwhelmed with population.

It is almost inevitable that millions of people are going to die.

Yes. One of the scientists at Copenhagen, was saying he thought that unless we made drastic cuts in CO2 now we are looking at a population crash from six billion to one billion.

Whole civilizations.

Yes. Five out every six people could perish by the end of this century. That’s extraordinary.

It is. You didn't dwell on it that much in the book - perhaps because you didn’t want to scare us - about the Gulf Stream and what effect it will have on us in the UK.

If the Gulf Stream stops now, today, it would be about 5 degrees colder on average. That may not seem much but it would mean the winters would last from about the beginning of November to the end of March or even later and the sea around the coast might freeze. The summers would be shorter we would be a bit like Iceland. The amount of crops that could be grown and ripen might be limited - it could become difficult. It would be an unpleasant place to live as opposed to a very pleasant to live. However, the chances of that happening are not very great – the Gulf Stream just turning off over night – it might slow down a lot- but by then the world might have warmed up a bit and it might counterbalance out.

So we don't really know the whole effect?

I’d been wondering before I knew about your novel how, if you wrote the global warming scenario into fiction, how many more people could you reach. There’s a certain type of person who only reads factual books.

One of the things that would very much come into this book is that its always been the nuclear industries view that  if you have nuclear power stations that you can also have renewable industry too - which is exactly what the government is saying now. But of course this isn’t true because if you have big nuclear power stations you need a completely different form of national grid than if you have small renewable industries - which is actually what we need. So you either have to have 2 grids or you say we’ll invest all this money in nuclear power and say we don’t need any of this renewable stuff. So it is about whether you do something credible about climate change or whether you build nuclear power stations and so in a sense it is about climate change because in a sense the two things are inextricably linked.... And the motives of the people in the Dept of Energy or as was… these are the people who have been making the wrong decisions and have been for the last 30 years and these are the people you have to make central to your novel because they must have motives. People like Mandelson and Gordon Brown just haven’t got it. They haven’t understood it. What’s extraordinary is that Gordon Brown has been wonderful on poverty in Africa; he really obviously cares about it. But he’s completely wasting his time unless he does something about climate change at the same time because the children in Africa are going to be wiped out by climate change as quickly they are going to be wiped out by poverty and the two things are hand in hand and if you haven’t got that - it’s a tragedy.


Yes, I’ve read that there are actually more economic refugees than there are from war. It’s logic really.

Yes it getting worse all the time and every year it is going to get worse.

I was also surprised to learn in your book how much China has done about climate change because the input I’ve had from the media is China is terrible and far worse than the United States when actually it seems to me they have done quite a lot of good things whereas America are producing 25% of the entire CO2 emissions. Of course China will go on making lots of emissions and increasing that because of their population but they do seem to be much more aware of it.

The Chinese scientists are very good and they have warned their government in no uncertain terms about the problem of the melting glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau which is going to make their rivers dry up. They’ve also warned them about sea level rise. And the Chinese Gov is aware that they will lose control if millions of people become environmental refugees and so they are much more concerned about climate change now than they were 5 years ago because they realise it’s going to directly affect them. But the other thing is they get the blame for all the CO2 emissions they make by making all the stuff they sell to us; I mean about one third of their pollution is pollution we’ve exported to them. So they get the blame for that…. I was over in Beijing at the invitation of the Chinese government talk to Chinese journalists at how they should be writing more about climate change and I discovered every street lamp between Beijing and the Great Wall of China is solar powered.

That’s amazing!

And we don't have any!

And that seems like a comparatively easy thing we could do.

Yes, and as far as I was concerned they were streets ahead of us in renewable energies. Okay, they’ve got much more to do and their air pollution is shocking but they are turning out more wind turbines and more solar power than we are by a long chalk.

I just don’t think people in this country are really aware of what’s going to happen.

No, not at all.

I know at school they do teach quite a lot as I was talking to my seventeen year old son last night about this and he had obviously been taught about Kyoto. He also knew about the thirty year build up of CO2 but I don’t think people of my age would know that. Maybe there has to be a bigger education programme for the masses.

Well it’s very hard isn’t it? In one sense it’s been out there for sometime and if people wanted to know they could have found out. I think there’s an element in all of us of that “I’d rather not know about that because I might have to do something about it.”

Yes – ignorance is bliss. At the end of the book when you talk about wind power and hydro electric dams I remembered that when I was girl and lived in Weston super Mare there was talk for years about building a barrage across from Weston to Wales  *and what effect it would have on Weston - and that’s thirty years ago and nothing’s ever happened. And yet it’s the second highest tide in the world - just waiting for technology to use it.

Yes. One of the frightening things is that certainly politicians and people like Tony Blair have been on about climate change for years. Tony Blair was on about it from the moment he became Prime Minster. I mean, he was on about it from the beginning and was there for 10 years yet absolutely nothing happened. It’s completely unforgivable really.

In the book you say we really have a maximum of fifteen years before there’s a tipping point.

Well the scientists in Copenhagen were actually saying 2015.

Right. (Momentary silence.)

They’re saying we’ve got to start reducing CO2 emissions by 2015 at the absolute latest by 3% a year from then more or less for ever and a day. We’ve got to something about it. 

That’s almost insurmountable from a politician’s point of view.

From a politician’s point of view, from a scientific point of view, from a technical point of view and every other point of view it is quite possible to do that - if we had the political will.

That seems to be the key point. In your book, basically, you say if we stop burning fossil fuels we stop our carbon emissions. Although we will still have other problems to contain like the methane coming from the permafrost.

Yes. There were people at the Copenhagen conference who were saying it’s already too late because these things are unstoppable but I feel that’s the wrong attitude because the science is uncertain - in the sense that you actually can’t tell precisely how the earth is going to react to things. But what we do know is that we’ve underestimated how quickly things will happen which is the frightening bit. Because it would be much nicer if it was reacting much more slowly. But you can’t say we give up. No.

Yes – that’s just like wiping out the future of mankind isn’t it?

Well for those of us with children its liking wiping out the future of our children. 

If everybody had a carbon allocation do you think that would be the way to go? Obviously flying is a real major problem. The emissions from planes are a serious issue; we need to cut down on them. There are people taking three or four holidays abroad a year.

Yes. I went to Copenhagen last week to the climate conference and it was important for me as I was actually giving a lecture. It was important for me to get up to date with the science as I’m teaching journalists about climate change but it is worrying that the only way of getting there practically is to fly. But I am in favour of a personal carbon limit. The Royal Society of Arts and Commerce of which I am a council member has done an experiment with personal carbon and they think it will work.

The carbon trading system that resulted from Kyoto seems to have had a big effect in promoting new industries in poorer countries; so its worked on a global scale so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work on an individual scale. And it seems to have been more successful than they ever thought it ever would be.

Also, if you had a really large carbon footprint you could justify that by insulating your loft a bit more or buy a gas condensing boiler - and then you'd able to afford a holiday abroad.

Yes, and if it made people think twice then it would work just like the water meters have worked in the UK.

Yes, and the moment people start to think about it you are winning aren't you?


**************************

Final comment from Jane:

I've been thinking seriously about climate change for a year now since I first read Paul's book. I'd like to think I was aware of it before but I'll be honest and say I wasn't aware of possible total effects which could be catastrophic. However, as Paul concludes in his book we do have the technology to help limit the impact of climate change. What we have to do is act quickly and that means everyone one of us playing a small but necessary role in helping to safeguard the world for future generations.

I've also now read quite a bit more on climate change and of course there are many sceptics. In particular there are those that say we are in a period of  natural global warming. Like Paul, I am inclined to believe that many of these people have vested interests and short term agendas. As for this period of global warming being a natural phenomenon I came across a quote taken from a report entitled “Is the climate warming or cooling?” by David Easterling of The National Climatic Data Center and Michael F. Wehner of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in which they say;

“We show that the climate over the 21st century can and likely will produce periods of a decade or two where the globally averaged surface air temperature shows no trend or even slight cooling in the presence of longer-term warming.” (Source Andrew C. Revkin of the New York Times.)

It's a question of who you believe. And sometimes you have to go with your instincts because everyone knows that facts can be twisted or interpreted any which way you wish - especially if your motivations are not entirely honourable. For me, looking it in the most simplistic sense it defies logic to believe that what we have done to our world cannot have an impact and that burying our heads in the sand will only make the outcome more tragic.

There's a saying in the UK that "An Englishman's home is his castle" and, likewise, all over the world people spend vasts sums of money modifying, refining and equipping thier homes with the best they can afford. I think it's about time that we remembered that our castle is more than just four walls, it's our world. And we need to give it the same love and care that we afford to our material lives.

*(Please read link - I found a quote from Alistair Darling saying tidal power was still "in it's infancy" - The Weston barrage (or various forms of it) has been discussed for years - "The 10-mile (16km) barrage has been mooted in different forms since it was first proposed in 1849, according to Roger Falconer, professor of hydro-environmental engineering at Cardiff University" (BBC) )

Copyright Jane Turley and Paul Brown 2009

Don't understand "global warming"? Read this explanation by NASA


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Open Mike Night (Never a good idea if you've got a big mouth.)

Last week I did something I hadn't done for over twenty years; I gave a performance. (Hmmm..perhaps I should add that this had absolutely nothing to my new status as a soft porn starlet.) My friend Mrs B and another friend, Damien, had invited me to what is commonly called an Open Mike Night which is when budding writers and poets read their work aloud to a (questionable) audience of hecklers, drug addicts, pseudo literary critics and dinner ladies from the local school on a night out. (The recession is hitting us hard in the UK; you've got to take the cheaper forms of entertainment when you can. In this case - £2.00. Not bad for a small dose of Mrs T, cheap coffee and a hard plastic chair.)

Well, as it turned out I was last but one on the schedule so by the time it was my turn I was feeling a little nervous, especially as being the grossly under prepared person I am (no surprises there)I hadn't managed to practice my piece other than reading it twice in my study about an hour beforehand. Fortunately,the Gaviscon numbed the effect of the disturbing churning in my stomach otherwise there could have been a hideous explosion on a par with Krakatoa.

I took four pieces of work with me but as the evening passed I elected to go with an abbreviated version of my blog To Cook or not to Cook? I tripped over my words a couple of times but, all in all, I thought it went rather well. I got some laughs and a few nice comments afterwards which rather made me yearn for those days years ago when I used to tread the boards as an amateur. Mrs B was very kind in her praise but the thought did cross my mind that she was after a giant Green & Black's Easter Egg that she keeps pointing out in Tesco Express. (Look, Easter Eggs are for kids Mrs B, I know you like screwing the shiny green tinfoil into little balls and dropping them into Mr B's vegetable hotpot disguised as peas but you've got to get a grip on yourself woman.)

My friend Damien sent me a nice text too the following day. Well I think it was nice. Only it was in text word speak - which I have as much chance as understanding as I have of becoming an Olympic long jump champion. So in the interest of egotism and sad delusional behaviour I translated into Turley word speak.

" Geez Jane, you were well hot last night. Have you ever thought of becoming a soft porn starlet?"

Yes, I've had strange thoughts since......

Anyway, I met Damien on a creative writing course about three years ago and since then we've kept in touch. Occasionally we meet up for a coffee and discuss our latest forays into writing, work (his work - not mine as obviously I don't do any) and whether or not the fly landed on the Chelsea Bun on the counter or on the Custard Slice. Important discussions, as you can no doubt discern.

Now a while back, when we were in less of a Chelsea Bun mode and more of a Kit Kat mode we decided to write a poem about each other. Damien, being a proper poet wrote a serious but sweet poem extolling my more virtuous characteristics (This was before my secret identity as a global super hot horny housewife became public knowledge.) and I wrote a poem about him that was full of blatant untruths, nonsensical rubbish and downright stupidity. And you know what? He kinda like it!

Boy, do I love folks that are easy to please!

Bond, Damien Bond.

Damien works for The Ministry of Defence
Sitting at a desk at the taxpayer’s expense
Shuffling paper work, imputing data
But it is what he does later
That makes me feel
All is not real
Perhaps it is a lie
For between you and I

I think Damien is a spy

His passports reads “universal exports”
It proves he is in cohorts
With the likes of “M”
And dubious men

Beneath his coat there’s a protruding bulge
The secrets of which he has yet to divulge
Some say it’s a Walther PPK
But perhaps he’s just a jolly good lay

Oh yes and those big thick glasses
Through which his perception passes
Are they X-ray specs
Oggling the opposite sex?

I’m a little bit worried
If Damien looks hurried
He could be on a mission
Requiring expert vision

If I’m one of his foes
He may peep through my clothes
And when his eye flickers
He may see through to my knickers

And if it’s one of those days
When I’m set in my ways
He’ll catch me in huge pants
The source of my awkward stance

But enough of this trivia
He may break by tibia
And poison my food
For being so rude

I bet he has already got out his pen
Glanced at his watch for the moment when

HE BLOWS ME UP

For there is no excuse
To make someone so puce
With writing so shit
On a par with Chick Lit

But you watch him escape
As he binds you with tape
Your acknowledge I’m right
As he takes off in flight
With jet propelled pack
Strapped to his back

And as I go to Heaven…

He’ll shout “I’m 007!

Copyright Jane Turley (aka Miss Funnypenny)

Okay.. yeah it was dire. That's why Damien calls himself a poet and I call myself an idiot.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quick Philosophical Questions

Right I'm busy today and I'm about to embark on another writing challenge with Gary Davison but before getting down to the serious business of writing I first had to email some photographs of Master Ben and his team mates winning a tennis tournament to another parent. During this (so far failed process) I discovered a few things which need pondering on;

1 Why is that I have 7 leads for cameras and gadgets on my desk and NONE of them fit my mobile phone?

2. Why is that it is that is nearly 12 o'clock and NO ONE has told me that I am wearing my cardigan inside out?

3. Why are a pair of Master Ben's boxer shorts suspended on the 5th shelf of the bookcase?

4.Why is it that sunflower seeds taste appetising in the morning but like crispy gerbil droppings in the afternoon?

5.Why is it when men tidy things away you can never, ever, find them again without calling out a search and rescue party, a team of sniffer dogs and the Fire brigade?

If you have the answers to these questions do let me know.

For Easter philosophical questions click here