Monday, May 31, 2010

Music Monday; Just How Will You Say Goodbye?

A while back, I was doing a bit of internet surfing and I came upon a rather interesting article about modern songs being played at funerals, which is an increasingly popular phenomenon. Yes, gone are the days when one went out with a dignified chorus of Jerusalem or  The Lord is My Shepherd, now folks go out with anything from Queen to Robbie Williams. I've got to admit I have some sympathy with vicar, Geoff Strickland, who is quoted in the article as saying;

"To stand at the door of the church and hear Frank Sinatra singing ‘My Way' as the coffin is carried in, and then to hear ‘Grandad' playing as they file out is not right."

Too Right Fr Geoff! Have you heard "Grandad?" Well don't bother, it's complete pants! But if you really, really, really, want to hear it, here it is. (Oh, and stick with it because it gets worse as it goes along....)

You can check out the Grandad video here; I've removed it - as for some reason known only to teccy people and not to simple folks like myself it is doing what is commonly known as "screwing up the system." Now don't be afraid to check it out - you don't want to miss the sheer awfulness of it! But for those of you can't be bothered; it features an elderly man sitting in a rocking chair, singing an awful goey song and surrounded by a chorus of school girls dressed in 1970's fashions.

See, I told you. Complete pants. (High waisted ones with braces, of course.)

Blimey, I love those 1970s fashions though don't you?

(Sticks fingers down throat.)

Well, interestingly, the article also gave the results of a survey conducted of 30,000 funeral services to find the top ten most popular "last" records in the UK. So here they are, in reverse order;

10 "Unforgettable" Nat King Cole (Possibly- if you were generous in your will - if not, don't count on it. You may be forgotten as soon as the cream cakes at the wake have gone.)

09 "You'll Never Walk Alone" Gerry and The Pacemakers (Nope, not with six hearse bearers you won't be. Awful song. From Liverpool - that explains a lot obviously.)

08 "I Will Always Love You" Whitney Houston ( Be careful - you may get arrested.)

07 "My Heart Will Go On" Celine Dion. (Nope - you're dead. And if you're not - Boy have you got a surprise coming to you!)

06 "You Raise Me Up" Westlife/Boyzone/Josh Grobin ( There go those hearse bearers again - it's a busy day.)

05 "Over The Rainbow" Eva Cassidy (Yes, well, that's putting it mildly. Unfortunately, there may not be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow but you can always bluff it out and hope for the best!)

04 "Angels" Robbie Williams ( Well, I guess that's got to be better than Gary Barlow and Take That.)

03 "Time To Say Goodbye" Sarah Brightman/Andrea Bocelli. ( Sarah Brightman was married to Andrew Lloyd Webber you can sort of see her point of view....)

02 "Wind Beneath My Wings" Bette Midler/Celine Dion. (Um, a matchstick is probably more accurate.)

01 "My Way" Frank Sinatra/Shirley Bassey (Oh come on, nobody does it their way! Do you think if Elvis had died "his way" he'd have ended up with his pants down on the loo? Nope, I don't think so!)

Well, there you have it. Some pretty predictable choices really. Now, I guess, you're all curious to know what song I'd like to go out with? Well, I hope so or this post has been a complete waste of time! If you've been reading my blog for a while you may remember some of my Music Monday posts and have an inkling that I'm bit of a Glam Rock girl. So there's only one tune really for Mrs T and it's this one from the mighty SLADE;

So that's me done and dusted. So what about you folks? What song would you like to go out to? Leave the details of your farewell song in my comments section and I'll post the most original - or post it on your blog and let me know. Let's see who chooses the worst/best songs!

Oh yes, and if you thought you recognised "Grandad" - you're right. It is Clive Dunn from Dad's Army. Now there's a show to make you proud of being British!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A few weeks ago, I travelled down to the heart of London to BBC Broadcasting House where I attended the BBC's World Book Club to participate in an interview which was being recorded with David Mitchell, author of the best selling literary novel Cloud Atlas. I spent a very enjoyable morning enjoying the hospitality of the BBC and listening to David talk about his fascinating and complex book.

David's latest novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet has just been released this month in hard back. I highly recommend both books but if you'd like to find out in greater detail what I thought about both of these literary feasts then please pop over to the The View From Here and read my article The Thousand Autumns of David Mitchell.

In the meantime, here's a pictorial overview of my day.....

BBC Broadcasting House -with a van conveniently parked outside to ruin my shot. It always happens doesn't it? Just when you think you've got the perfect view some idiot (or small child) ruins it! The building looks small from this angle but it's rather like a tardis. Fortunately, I had an able BBC employee to show me around, otherwise I could have been lost for weeks. Oh, and by the way, BBC coffee isn't as bad as you think.

David Mitchell answers questions on Cloud Atlas. David is a quietly spoken, modest man with a very affable personality. As you can imagine, being a literary giant, he is also highly articulate so the whole experience was very interesting and rewarding. The show will be broadcast on June 5th so if you'd like to listen, check out when it be aired in your area on the World Service Book Club site.

Broadcasting House is in the centre of the West End, so afterwards I took a stroll around the area. Above is  Regent Street. Many years ago I worked for a prestigious shop located just along from the very famous Hamleys toy store so I walked this and nearby streets daily. This is a fairly quiet day. At Christmas the streets would be jostling with crowds and vendors selling roast chestnuts and imitation designer perfumes. The shop where I worked has now relocated further down Regent Street and whilst it is very sleek and modern it doesn't have an ounce of the character it had in my day when goods were displayed in wooden and glass cabinets, we sat at oak desks and customers revelled in our traditional ways.

I was even more saddened to see that the wonderful Garrards, the crown jewellers, and where I did some of my training, has also relocated. I was once down at Garrards in a back room when one of the staff appeared  and said "anyone lost these?" She'd found a £19,000 pair of earrings on the stairs! It was a very old fashioned but lovely place with a splendid flowing staircase perfect for those grand entrances;  I always fancied doing a bit of a turn on them aka Ginger Rogers but never got up the courage. Pity! Lots of interesting people came and went at both shops and at the sister shop, where I worked, I remember an occasion where the security guard held the door open for a thief who was hiding a £15,000 sterling silver armoured tank under his coat! Ahhh... I miss those days.... such fun!

The world famous Carnaby Street. This was situated just a few footsteps from the rear exit of my employers. It's full of fashion boutiques and gift shops. The street was first laid out in the 1600s but it became a hot spot  in the 1960s when some of the modern fashion icons like Mary Quant were in residence. Alongside nearby Wardour Street, where upcoming musicians like The Stones and The Beatles used to play and socialize, Carnaby Street was a hub of 1960s decadence. Needless to say, it was pretty quiet when I walked through and seemed to have heaps more gift shops. Strangely enough, I didn't want to purchase an elephant painted with the Union Jack; I didn't know elephants roamed our countryside! Well not round here, although I hear there's often strange going ons Up North...

The stylish Libertys department store with its facade reminiscent of the Tudor period - you can just imagine what London might have looked and felt like back in the 1500s! Although, I guess, the streets of the 1500s were considerably more smelly.... you certainly wouldn't have wanted to walk around without a hat on your head.  And, of course, pictured in this photo are the two of London's infamous black cabs - fantastic if you want to get somewhere on time. Or not.

Occasionally, I used to pop in and have a wander around Liberty's ground floor in my lunch break. It was usually full of quite scrumptious colourful goodies like scarfs, umbrellas, notebooks and ethnic jewellery - all the kind of things that would appeal to the tourist with money to burn. And before anyone asks; I didn't spend most of my lunch hours shopping! In fact, I was a bit of a workaholic in those days and used to work through most of my breaks.... funny how things change. These days it takes a hot poker up the backside to get me to do anything that remotely resembles work - which is why I'm blogging and not tidying the kids bedrooms. Hmm, the shit is probably going to it the fan when Mr T discovers my negligence.......

The London underground. Not at rush hour obviously. Otherwise I'd probably been splattered on the tracks whilst trying to find some elbow room to take a photo. Not a lot as changed; some new upholstery, some new posters, even the occasional electronically displayed poster. Other than that, it's still ghastly. Some things you just don't miss!

So there you have it; a day out in London. And, believe it or not, I came back empty handed! (Well apart from the chocolate bar I bought at Euston.)

And just to finish; here's a book trailer for the wonderful The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which if you get a chance to buy, may I recommend the UK edition which has a superb cover which will, I'm sure, be treasured by many a bookaholic.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Let's have a Chinwag

Oh blimey, why is time going so fast?  I swear that as you get older time seems to pass more quickly. It seems only yesterday I wrote my last Music Monday post and then blink -10 days have passed. Where does the time go? It is categorically unfair! One minute I was 17, slim and looking to take on the world and the next minute I'm 45, with a somewhat larger arse and face rapidly looking like a Christmas turkey.

Anyway, I'm not going to talk about saggy chins. That would be defeatist wouldn't it? Besides I'm good with a paring knife. My mother didn't teach me how to slice the runner beans from top to bottom for no good reason you know. I'm going to offer my services to David Cameron though - come on David you represent this country now get that saggy stuff seen to will you? We can't have a PM who looks like he's wearing his shirt on his face and not on his neck.

Twisting your neck to one side can't hide it David! Either get under the scalpel or start wearing a polo neck. Although, on second thoughts it could be really cool to have a Prime Minister who wears polo necks. Hmm...If David teamed his polos with a handbag and some plus fours London Fashion Week might be as exciting as it was last year for the stylish man about town.

Right, other than ageing rapidly what have I been up to? Well, I think it's more a case of what haven't I been up to. Yep, I looked in the utility room this morning and nearly passed out. It had got to that stage when there is so much stuff in there that the only sensible thing I can do is so curse like a mother *******, shut the door and pray to God that Mr T will sort it out before I slash my wrists. It's bad enough the place is loaded with laundry and sports equipment but there are also 3 of Mr T's latest purchases - a pressure washer, a box of extra attachments for said pressure washer and a chainsaw. Hmm.... needless to say I am pleased the new patio has been completed. And I'm still alive.

Anyway, this morning I was looking for my Emergency First Aid kit (I have 4 of varying size as well as 3 medicine cabinets - all of which look like a small grenade has been set off inside them). The Emergency First Aid kit - is not in fact for emergencies ( well not medical ones) but perhaps could be better described as the "Get them off to School before you put your head in the oven" Kit. I'm sure you know what I mean - it houses the equipment us ladies use to placate small personages trying to pull a fast one at 8.25am when a tiny bruise has rapidly escalated to a situation where the small personage can no longer walk without the aid of an umbrella and/or six lumps of chocolate.

Now in order to deal with these untimely situations Readers the EFAK must be located promptly and the appropriate contents used accordingly. For those of you without an EFAK may I suggest the following contents;

1. Chocolate. Always a true test of illness. If the "Sick" child cannot consume chocolate then there is a good chance they are genuinely ill or in severe pain. A more accurate method of diagnosing genuine illness has not yet be found. The theory behind this remarkable discovery has been credited to a Mrs Jane Turley, a housewife of extraordinary talent residing in the UK. Recently nominated for a Nobel prize Mrs Turley was quoted as saying "I spent years researching the best chocolate for the test and I concluded that children prefer milk chocolate. I'm still working on which dark chocolate is the most effective for adult hypochondriacs -it may take me some considerable time."

2. A roll of stretch plaster.  Do not bother with individual plasters as you will never have the correct size or shape. They will either be too big, too small, too square, too rectangular or worse, too round. Small personages are very particular and will not wear a round plaster over a vertical or a horizontal cut. In addition, never buy gimmicky plasters with cartoon characters on them as this sets a dangerous precedent. Initially you may think a small cut warrants a Superman plaster but in time you will realise a bad cut warrants a Superman colouring book and an accident of more serious nature will involve the purchase of a Superman costume  - or at the very least some small red pants to go with those blue tights you bought back in 1982.

3. Placebos; always have an appropriate placebo to hand. I suggest children's vitamins tablets cunningly disguised as... children's vitamin tablets.... but "with an extra ingredient for small bruises" written in very, very small print on the bottom of the container and which can't be read without the aid of a x20 magnifying glass. However, you can be as daring as you wish on the placebo front - depending on the amount of time you have and your degree of good nature you can also offer;

a) Sherbet pips
b) Smarties
c) A Broccoli and Celery Smoothie.

4. A " Magic Cream." I favour a tube of Arnica which is effective on bruises and all those imaginary lumps, bumps and general malaises of the body of which small personages are particularly fond. However, a tube of an unscented general cream such as E45 will do as a substitute. And, if you are unfortunate enough to run out or misplace said cream, a quick visit to the fridge for your "New Magic Yellow Cream" will suffice......

5. Bandages. A vital part of any EFAK. Note; small personages' visible war wounds grant them elevated status in the playground and access to surplus school milk.  So never underestimate the power of bandages in helping small personages to overcome their lack of enthusiasm for attending school. Unless bleeding is involved elasticated tubing for muscular/bone injuries provides a quick and easy solution. I have recently discovered a blue roll of self adhesive gauze which has become a staple addition to my EFKA and can be administered in record time with great effect; it is also seriously impressive in the school yard. If you find yourself in the unholy situation of being without a bandage - cut the foot of an old sock and as the saying goes Bob's your uncle

So there you go; the five essentials for the EFAK. If you have to upgrade to the genuine emergency first aid kit then make sure you do what's best for child and trust your instincts; there is no better judge of illness than a mother's natural instinct. And what if it's that occasion when you really aren't sure and the symptoms could be something minor or something serious? My advice? Get it checked out and if you aren't satisfied get a second opinion.

So yesterday I spent two hours in Casualty with Master Ben; it was my first trip there with him. I've been twice with Master Jacob who, on one occasion, had a bad fall on his arm and, on the other, decided to spoon feed himself a load of paracetamol (testimony for the fact that children's medicines should actually taste disgusting!) and I've also had one trip with Master Sam when he head butted a wall when he was a toddler. Anyway, fortunately, it turned out nothing was wrong with my little gem but 2 hours in Casualty is a sobering experience. It's a vivid reminder how quickly things change; how life can suddenly and dramatically be ended. So my friends, enjoy your day, may the sun shine, may your children be fit and well and may we all be thankful for another day upon this beautiful earth.

And don't forget to keep the EFAK fully stocked.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Music Monday; When Classical meets Modern and Words meet Music

I've had a request to play some "serious" music - so I am - but, of course, with a slightly different spin! Instead of playing something by an established classical artist I'm going to play something by the runner-up in the 2007 X Factor, Rhydian . A Welsh baritone, Rhydian, is one of a few classical artists who have successfully crossed over into mainstream music. Since his appearance on the X Factor he has already had two bestselling albums! Below is his take on O Fortuna, a movement of  a cantata  by the German composer Carl Orff who set the words of a 13th century poem to music in the 1930s in what was to become Carmina Burana.

Well I think that's utterly marvellous; the voice, the music, the drama! When all those ingredients come together the result is thoroughly intoxicating.

And if you fancy some more self indulgence, check out BBC Radio 3 on iplayer where you can hear The Art of Friendship. The show is an exploration of friendship using classical and contemporary music and poems and prose read by the hugely talented Robert Lindsay and the lovely Diana Quick who you may remember as Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.

The show is a real treat; so remind yourself what friends are for and tune on in!

Friday, May 14, 2010

When All You Want is Solitude

It's been a funny few weeks. I've had a workman here most days doing a backlog of jobs - mainly in the garden which was looking a right mess due to boys decimating just about everything with their bats and balls. We've dismantled their old play shed, replaced a fence, built a patio and had a various number of smaller jobs done that had been accumulating. The last two days the workman, a lovely elderly fellow of the "old school" of tradesman, has been in and out of the kitchen doing some electrics and I've got to admit  after a number of weeks it's now driving me a little crazy.

I've come to really value my few hours at home during school time where, subject to the usual domestic chores, I can do whatever I want. I haven't really been able to settle down to write except in the early morning before anyone gets up and when all is peaceful. It's an endless procession of questions, cups of teas , opening windows, closing windows.... and so on. I've no complaints about my workman (apart from laying the wrong colour slabs - which I decided in the interests of my sanity not to object to!) but I can't wait for some solitude next week when hopefully things will be back to usual for a while.

As a child when I used to ask my father want he wanted for his birthday he would always say "P & Q"  (peace and quiet) - and now I'm the exactly the same. Well, okay, I do drop hints about a nice gem and luxury chocolates from time to time but failing that I'm happy with a bit of  P&Q! Hmm... I think this means I'm middle aged. Oh cripes, soon I'll be listening to classical music, reading poetry and warming my feet by the fire. I may even get a bed jacket...then I think it would be permissible to order some of those weird inventions you get in Sunday supplements. Hurrah!

Okay, okay, so I fancy a tin opener that doesn't require me to anything more than breath to work! Why should I wait till I'm 90? I want one now! And I want a long pincer on a pole so I can pick up stray litter that's blown across the garden without bending down.......and whilst I'm at it I could do with one of those electronic crossword solution finders.......

What is it about those darn magazines? They're totally addictive - who the hell needs drink and drunks - when you can have one of those magazines? If I get one of them, I'm glued to it. Those mags are better than Tolkein - the imagination it must take to dream up some of those inventions is unbelievable! Sometimes I look at them in awe thinking ...

Cripes look at that digital watch that's also is a magnetic key holder and converts into a parachute! Wow, I really, really want one of those! I bet Nic Cage has got one! And that plate stacker which fits into the corner of the cupboard that doubles as a walking frame! .... And I could really use that talking pen which tells the time AND your weight......  And..... oh my goodness...... I 'd lovvvvvvve one of those tables that go over the side of the bed then so I could use my lap top in bed.......

Oh alright, I haven't brought anything from one of those magazines yet. But one day my time will come! In the meantime I'll just have to make do with P & Q and You Tube! Continuing on a political theme here are a few of my favourite clips of the wonderful going-ons in our House of Commons;

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sex and Sleaze; Whatever Happened to Journalistic Integrity?

Following on from my previous post In All Seriousness this week the outcome of the UK general election, a hung parliament, finally bore fruit with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats announcing the first coalition government since Churchill's during the Second World War.  This coalition, I hope, will usher in a new period of genuine progressive politics. I'm very happy about this outcome and, having long been a supporter of the Liberal Democrats, hope that their leader Nick Clegg and our new Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, will show maturity and integrity by working together to bring about real social, economic and political change.

On a slightly different tangent, but one that has been brought to my attention yet again, is that MPs and high profile personalities are often the victims of ridiculous media scrutiny beyond what is morally acceptable. We all have skeletons in our closets but, fortunately, through our anonymity, most of us are able to keep the door firmly shut upon such intrusion. Alas, for some personalities this is not the case and media revelations are often spurious or, even if truthful, have little relevance or bearing upon the victim's competence. For example, do we really need to know about youthful indiscretions, love affairs or university frolics? I don't think we do, unless there are exceptional circumstances which raise legitimate concerns.

Personally, and I know I've said this before, I intensely dislike the scrutiny and harassment both politicians and celebrities have to endure. Whilst there is an acceptable and understandable degree of public interest if one works in a high profile job, I believe the media should exhibit better self regulation when it comes to thrusting personal details into the limelight. Frankly, unless such revelations can be totally justified it's shoddy and unpleasant behaviour.

Our new Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has also been the victim of this excessive media intrusion - by none other than the less than commendable Piers Morgan, former editor of the Daily Mirror and the News of the World, who now works (?) on reality TV shows like Britain's Got Talent and America's Got Talent. In an interview for GQ magazine back in 2008, Piers Morgan cross examined Nick Clegg about his sex life and Mr Clegg foolishly admitted to having had "not more than 30 lovers."

Since I don't read the tabloids or GQ and my reading is selective (in that it tends to steer away from complete drivel) I only heard about this vital nugget of information 2 days ago. However, I doubt that upon hearing this important piece of news I would have changed my vote even though Mr Clegg is obviously an utter scallywag. No doubt they'll be some people who will question his capability to govern on the basis that sleeping with 30 women makes you morally corrupt.

Right. No one mention Kennedy.

Hmm...I wonder what the interpretation of the news would have been if Mr Clegg had said he'd remained a virgin till he married? Probably, he'd be described as either a complete freak or a closet homosexual!

There's nothing like double standards in the press is there?

Anyway, does any sensible person takes notice of this tittle tattle? Unfortunately, some people do. Mostly these folks are the idiots who send money to actors in soap operas whose story lines have them hitting hard times - but the viewer fails to realise the soap opera is actually televised fiction. Doh! The ones who aren't idiots but believe it all are just well.... figure it out.

In my opinion (and yes I have a lot of them) from what I've read and seen of Nick Clegg he seems a decent, honourable man who just so happens to be pretty good looking and attractive to women. Nothing wrong in that and it doesn't mean he's a cad. Besides, I seriously doubt if sleeping with 30 women is a world record for a 43 year old man! Really, couldn't Piers Morgan come up with a more intelligent and seriously minded question?

Why do these sleazy journalists always assume that the public wants to read this kind of utter rubbish? It seems to me that a lot of  publishers are just gearing their magazines to sex, sex, sex. In fact, the other day, stuck without any reading material and with very little choice at the petrol station, I picked up a copy of Cosmopolitan for the first time for ages and I'm afraid, in my view, it was just page to page sleaze. There was nothing substantial to read in it at all!

If sex, sleaze and showbiz is is all our young folks want to read then I find it very worrying indeed. And as for publishers - they need to stop abdicating their responsibilities and produce material which is informative and entertaining at the same time - instead of pages of talk about celebrities and sexual conquests.

In truth, I'm not a prude and I've absolutely nothing against talking or writing about sex; it's a vital, integral part of our lives and can be a source of great joy and happiness, sadness and frustration, as well as humour. There's nothing to be ashamed about writing about sex, either in a fictional or factual way. We write about birth, death and just about everything else - so why should we steer away from something so essential to our physical and mental well being? I think it's the way that sex is portrayed in the media that disturbs me. Of course, I frequently temper my own writing with innuendos and sexual humour for fun but the way sex (and therefore love) is consistently cheapened in the media with this obsession with sleaze is getting extremely irksome; I just wish they'd give our young people something decent and intelligent to read instead of concentrating their minds on tiresome soap operas, overrated celebrities and sleazy sex.

I guess there's a bit of investigative journalist in me - so when I come across anything that stirs my interest, I do more research. I found the clip below on You Tube of  Nick Clegg being heckled about this incident at the House of Commons.

Hmm..doesn't The Speaker handle the event well? Somebody hand him a party hat and some streamers!

Anyway, I'll not deny I laughed out loud at Nick's situation - you've got to see the funny side of life; the smirks on some of his colleague's faces are priceless. Poor Nick gave an honest but foolish answer to a question he should never been asked and as a consequence he's had to suffer a few school boy jokes. I reckon most of those heckling MPs were just jealous of Nick's new found "stud" reputation and, let's face it, there's not many of the old duffers who even with the aphrodisiac of power would attract the attention of 30 bedbugs let alone 30 women!

But seriously, I think Nick Clegg handled himself with dignity, as he has done throughout the whole election. When you see the behaviour of some of our MPs at Westminster, as if they were still in the school dorm, it's no wonder he and others like him want to bring about a new period of responsible politics. I certainly hope he and David Cameron can fulfil their promises.

That's political promises obviously.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We Are The Champions!

I'm celebrating this week as on Sunday Master Benedict and his U9 school football team won a significant football tournament in our vicinity. Hurrah! What makes this a really special achievement is that the team are just a small school team competing against club teams who recruit from all around the area and practice regularly. In contrast, Master Ben's team fly by the seat of their pants! They've had very few training opportunities and sometimes haven't even had a substitute - and they have still come shining through; I'm so proud of them all for this really wonderful achievement.

It will be sad when the boys move on to different schools in July. They've made some valuable friendships and had some terrific fun - and so have all the parents. I've had a splendid time too yelling from the sidelines, abusing the opposition (under my breath of course) and writing my football reports for the local newspaper and, in earlier days, for the BBC. It's been a roller coaster of a ride and I've loved every minute!

Here's my own little record of the event for posterity;

The team warm up below using Coach (Mrs) Johnston's unusual methods - in this brief excerpt Master Ben demonstrates to his team mates the importance of mastering Irish dancing techniques. Alas, Master Tommy and Master Remington fail miserably - both opting for Coach Johnston's preferred choice of sixties dance manoeuvres. Master Tommy selects The Incontinence Jump whilst Master Remington attempts to mimic the Irish kick but then opts for the Locomotion.

Above it's tough talk from Coach Johnston with Master Karl taking the full frontal assault. Fortunately, a team mate discreetly blocks out out the view of Coach Johnston's bicycle pump - thus preventing any untoward photo opportunities from the gutter press. On the right, Mr Johnston attempts to look interested but can't resist practising for his session down at the pole dancing club. Master Craig, grinning, on the far left makes the most of the photo opportunity

Master Ben (right) and Master Miles look pensive discussing how best to foul the opposition without anyone noticing. Master Miles has just whispered in Master Ben's ear " What you have to do is stick your fingers up the opposition's nose. The Ref will not believe such a foul is possible!" Master Ben, duly concerned, is looking to Coach Johnston for confirmation whist attempting to edge his fingers towards to Master Miles nose to test out the theory.

 Below the two teams make a grand entrance into the stadium. Master Ben's team wear red and he is at the back wearing no 6. It should read 666 but I'm not too good on the laundry front. There is a lot of wild screaming particularly from a woman who I am not related to and bear no physical resemblance. The goalie in yellow is the opposition goalie - this is obvious because he puts his hand up when he realises he has forgotten to put his boots on.  

Play gets under way. Master Ben tries to combine the Irish fling leg kick with the upper body Liberace hand flick but fails - thus pulling a grimace only comparable to Gordon Brown's when he finally realised he screwed up the economy.
Half time and the team lead 2-1. Master Ben, decides he is too hot and is going to risk removing his bullet proof vest. Master Miles behind Ben has dropped his knuckle duster and is trying to discreetly put it back on. I think that's also Master Jake behind Miles sheathing his dagger in his sock. You can just see Mr Johnston holding out the plastic bowl that the boys spit their gum shields into.

Full time and Coach Johnston looks down into her sick bucket. Somehow, even though the boys have had greater possession and more shots on goal, the opposition have fought hard and sneaked a crafty goal to draw level. Out of shot, Mr Johnston is seen on the balcony quietly stringing up a rope from the stadium flag mast.

The teams select 5 players for the penalties. It's a tense, nervous atmosphere as the penalties get under way. Coach Johnston gets out her hip flask, Mr Johnston checks the noose and Mrs Turley fumbles in her bag for her slingshot and takes aim at the opposition goalie.  But fortunately.....
.. the team take the trophy winning 4-2 on penalties! Master Jamie, having only switched from striker to goalie this season saved the day with a firm rebuffal of a shot designed to take off his head. Coach Johnston looks a bit more relaxed now she knows she will not be lynched and below Captain Craig takes yet another after match photo opportunity - he's obviously modelling him self on George Burns.

" If it's a good script I'll do it. And if it's a bad script, and they pay me enough, I'll do it."
George Burns Master Craig

Some of the lads strike up an informal pose. Master Jake, who has scored more goals than Pele, takes centre stage with his arm dangerously placed around the off spring of Mrs Johnston. ( Always best to keep on her good side.) The three missing team members are repacking the "equipment" case. Carefully.

Thus ended 4 years of fun and friendship with a mighty and deserving victory for 10 special kids.

To read some of the slightly dubious, politically incorrect and mainly humorous football reports of Mrs Jane Turley, Housewife Extraordinaire, follow the links here.

Disclaimer; this commentary does not represent the views and opinions of Master Ben's team. Apart from the outcome it is wholly fictitious. Master Ben's team fully endorse the FA Respect campaign. They do not, however, endorse David Beckham's haircuts.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vacuum Cleaners, Fleas and Men's Habits That Make Me Mad.

I was over at Paul Burman's site the other day gloating about the sudden death of a number of Paul's electrical appliances which had caused him a lot of anxiety. Alas, I should have known better - especially after my posting my blog Pride Comes Before A Fall. Yep, you've guessed it - as soon as I turned on my vacuum cleaner the blasted thing started making weird noises and emitting sulphurous odours. Yep, it kicked the bucket - good and proper!

I can't complain though about my old DCO2 (limited edition) Dyson vacuum cleaner - 12 years of sterling service. Dysons are so powerful they can even suck up up fleas! Don't ask me how I know that - I just do.  Of course, I've never had fleas in my house but I had a friend who did and she swore that a Dyson was better for rapid flea removal than any lethal potion. In fact, my friend was so good at  flea extermination she auditioned for the part of Ripley in Aliens. She didn't get the part though - some two bit actress by the name of Sigourney Weaver who had a DCO3 and a large water pistol got the job instead. Huh. Hard to imagine Sigourney Weaver saying Get away from her, you bitch better than me my friend who is exceptionally eloquent. Hmm... life can be a bitch a times....

Anyway, after the demise of my Dyson I mulled over the potential replacements. Being a philosophical soul, as you know, I came up with a few serious questions about electrical appliances in general;

1. Why do manufacturers always give products silly identification numbers? Now a DCO2 is relatively simple - but boy, some of those washing machines and DVD players' serial numbers are mind blowing! For example; I regularly see identification codes like DW121WCS28, DWE19121WD28 and WD122CWS27.  Now I don't want to state the obvious but all these long codes don't make it easy to recognise products when you're trawling though the catalogues. And have you noticed how these identification numbers always have a combination of the same letters and numbers and just when you think you found your DW121WCS28 at a bargain basement price on the net you realise it's another model because one stupid digit is wrong? Yep, this identification number process really screws me up. Why can't they simply call them  A, B, C, D, E, F ..... and so on. I mean how many models does a brand have? Come on, get real manufacturers; I don't want a degree in quantum physics just to work out your identification codes!

2. Okay, if it's not codes it names. And no, manufacturers don't have simple names like Basic, Standard and Luxury. They have names like; Featherlight Deluxe Senorita, Classic Gold Senor or Platinum Supreme Madame.

Now I don't want to sound facetious but really I couldn't give a monkey's arse about these names! And I'm intelligent enough (no spurious comments please) not to fall for the marketing ploy that wants me to believe that if I buy the Featherlight Deluxe Senorita vacuum cleaner I will suddenly become a light footed flamingo dancer swirling around my lounge with a sexy looking piece of suction equipment. Look, I know I'm bonkers but even I don't imagine myself making out with my vacuum cleaner! And well, whilst I know sometimes some more adventurous gentlemen are partial to vacuum cleaners I have absolutely no intention of sucking up to my breasts - not only do I not want breast reduction but neither do I want a conical shaped bra like Madonna.

3. Why do men always name their pieces of electrical equipment or cars? Are they bonkers?? For example Mr T calls his car "Bess." Excellent - you cannot imagine how many times I've heard how "Bess" has got Mr T through typhoons, hail storms and appalling blizzard conditions. Yeah, but what I want to know is can Bess make a beef hotpot, wash Mr T's shirts or clean the toilet?

 NO SHE ****** CAN'T!!!!!

And it's not just cars is it Ladies? Nope, every piece of machinery has a name! For example, take the tradition amongst pilots and soldiers to name their aircraft and tanks. Madness, complete madness.  Not only does the darn thing have a silly identification code like M4A1(76)W ( that's a genuine Sherman tank) but then they go and call it something daft like Matilda or Marilyn. Yep, I just love the idea of calling lethal weapons something so soft and fragrant as a woman....

Aw schucks, whata day I had! I took out two Panzer V Tiger IIs  and I was just about to go in for the kill on  a Panzer V Panther when a Limey in a MKII Matilda II pulled up alongside and nailed it in the turret! By that time the worst was over, so I climbed out and I was yelling at the Limey when we both noticed that the Krauts had called their Panzer "Helga." Man, we creased up! I ain't never laughed so much - so I went back and patted dear old Mabel. Why you'd never get me call my old girl anything as stupid as "Helga"...... 

Men. Don't you just love 'em!

Anyway, I know you're all interested to know what I'd call call my car, vacuum cleaner and a few other appliances if I named them. So here we go;

Car = The Death Trap
Vacuum Cleaner = Sucker (Possibly with the occasional slip of the tongue.)
Cooker = The Instrument of Torture (abbreviated to T. I. T.)
Washing Machine = The THING
The television = Mr T's Love Machine
My Laptop = Cupid
Vibrator = Brosnan

Oh and on a final note, here's a piccy of my late DCO2 limited edition sucker;

Umm.. I think you can tell from the colours why it was a limited edition!

And here's it's replacement; a Dyson DC19 Precision Bagless Cylinder;

It looks a bit space age doesn't it? Hey, that's okay - next time there's a dressing up day at school I'm going to strap it to Master Ben's back and send him as Buzz Aldrin.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Musical Interlude for the Written Word

Below is a lovely trailer made by my colleague Jen Perrson from The View From Here for my good friend Paul Burman's book The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore which I reviewed late in 2008. Paul is with independent publisher PaperBooks which is part of the Legend Press group.  As I'm sure many of you are aware, it's a long, hard process to be published and even when you are in print bringing your work to the masses is no mean feat; especially when the independents have to compete against the might of the mainstream publishers. So I've no doubt Paul was absolutely thrilled to see Jen come up with such a delightful trailer which, I think, captures really well the essence of the book. Have a look and see what you think!

Well done Jen! What a lovely gift for Paul!

Paul's second novel The Grease Monkey's Tale is due to be published in June and I hope to be giving you a full review later in the year. In the meantime, when I've caught up on some outstanding blogs, including a recent trip into London, I will be giving a run down on some of the books I've read over the last few months.

See ya all soon!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Music Mondays: Taking Music at Face Value

Sometimes you forget how good a singer or pop group is... the CD gets lost in the collection, recent releases are played continuously on the radio, other musical preferences take over and you simply forget the old favourite. Then, one day, a song does pop up on the radio and you think "Wow, why did I ever stop listening to him/her/them?"

This happened to me last week. I was driving along and on came Easy Lover by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins; an uptempo pop tune from 1984. Although the the tune is credited to both Bailey ( Earth, Wind and Fire) and Collins (Genesis) there's no doubt when you hear it, it is the unmistakable sound of Phil Collins. Within a few days I'd heard Easy Lover several times (great music to drive to!) Against All Odds (Take a Look at me Now) and several other tracks and I was thinking to myself why/when on earth did I stop listening to Phil Collins?

A little bit of research explains the renewed media interest; Phil Collins has a new album due out later this year. Going Back  will consist of covers of classic 1960s Motown and soul tracks which Collins will be previewing at New York's Roseland Ballroom in June. The album will be Collins' first new material from a studio since 2002 and it will certainly be interesting to see just how he covers old favourites such as Stevie Wonder's Uptight (Everything's Alright) and Martha and the Vandella's Jimmy Mack.

Going Back
Phil Collins' Going Back will be released in September 2010

For someone who has sold 250 million records (150m with Genesis and 100m solo) the last 10 years have been pretty quiet for Collins. Although divorced from his third wife in 2007, Collins, now 59, has been playing more of a fatherly role to his children and even been spending time constructing miniature train sets! (Yep, even great rock stars are afflicted by the curse of steam engines!)

Sadly, Collins has also been suffering from hearing loss in one ear since 2000 and more recently in 2009 a dislocated vertebrae, which required surgery, caused nerve damage affecting the use of his hands. It's been reported that during the recording of Going Back his drumsticks even had to be strapped to his hands. Nevertheless, Collins has adopted a philosophical, pragmatic view of the affect on his capabilities; "stuff happens in life" he wrote on the Genesis website - which is great news for music lovers because we know that every now and then, even when things aren't the best, Collins is going to come up with one of his musical gems.

In fact, it's possible that Collins is one of those musicians who works best in the face of adversity; some of his greatest music has been when he has been under emotional pressure - as perhaps his most well known song testifies. In the Air Tonight from the album Face Value was written after the breakdown of his first marriage. It's an atmospheric song which can really alter your mood; the tension in the introduction is quite palpable. I find it a particularly fascinating piece of music. So turn up the volume now and listen to this really great song from the very talented Phil Collins;

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Accent on Accents

Recently, I read about a British mother who developed Foreign Accent Syndrome. Sarah Cohill suffered several acute migraines causing her to be hospitalized. As a result of the migraines Sarah lost her natural Devonshire accent and began to speak with a Chinese accent. I imagine that the whole episode has been very upsetting for Sarah  and her family. However, I'm also a great believer in finding the positives; I bet Sarah gets priority at the local takeaway!

Foreign Accent Syndrome is extremely rare and was first described by French neurologist Pierre Marie in 1907. However, it was with the case of a Norwegian woman struck on the head by shrapnel in 1941, who subsequently began talking with a German accent, that the condition became fully recognised. (Pretty unfortunate for the Norwegian lady -Although luckily she didn't also wake up with an involuntary twitch in her right arm.) Since then approximately 60 cases have been reported including a Yorkshire woman who now speaks with a French accent, a Brummie who now speaks with a Welsh accent and a Geordie who now speaks with a Jamaican accent. 

Hmm.. I think the Brummie fella is actually lucky because conversing with sheep is a hell of a lot easier in Welsh. And what about the Geordie sufferer? ( The lovely Cheryl Cole's accent) Hmm.. well...that could result in an unfortunate marriage to a footballer. Not that there's anything wrong with footballers - but let's just say if  the majority of footballers woke up with Foreign Accent Syndrome there would probably be no discernible difference in the amount of intelligible conversation.

Research suggests that Foreign Accent Syndrome is the the result of significant head trauma, strokes or, as in the most recent case, severe migraine. The resulting damage to the areas of the brain that control speech functions affect speech patterns, pronunciation of words and pitch causing the sufferer to develop an accent to which they may never have been exposed; the syndrome has nothing to do with memory associations.

So obviously Readers, I've now given up heading footballs, listening to heavy metal and banging my head against the wall when Mr T asks me to some more cleaning because waking up with a foreign accent would be like my worst nightmare come true! I mean, imagine if Mrs T with her sexy, posh British accent, woke up speaking like a German...

You vill get into ze car now or ve vill be late for school! Nein, nein, nein, stop ze messing around or I vill crash ze car!

You know, I could see me taking on a whole new personality with a German accent; overnight I might be transformed from a mild mannered middle class mum to a raving nutter with a personality problem. Okay - it is true some say I already have a personality problem but how was I to know that crashing my bike through my neighbours' gardens when I was child would lead to a fixation with world domination?

And what would happen if I developed a French accent?

I guess I'd get a lot more sex right? Hmm, well I've no objections there! But then again ...what would happen if I felt I had to conform to stereotype and subsequently stopped shaving my armpits? Hmm, that doesn't bear thinking about.........

Still, something could be worse than either a German or French accent; I could develop a Liverpudlian accent! Then I'd be forced to sing "Ferry Across The Mersey" at every opportune moment and sing the praises of The Beatles for the rest of my life whilst secretly preferring The Rolling Stones......

Cripes. This accent business is quite a nest of vipers isn't it? Perhaps if we all woke up with a different accent there would a lot less discrimination in this world? Now there's food for thought.

Hey, that song's no so bad after all. Do you know; I think this post actually turned out to politically correct for a change.

I must be ill ! Okay, I just want to reassure you Readers that I'll still be making jokes about the Germans because frankly those boots were just plain silly.

Oh, and I still be making jokes about us Brits. Hey - it's not my fault George Bush has gone into retirement and I have to make do with second best!

Oh alright, alright I admit it; I love you Americans! After all you're really Brits but with a funny accent! (You know we deliberately lost the War of Independence - Apparently George III wanted to settle in the US so he disguised himself as Texan farmer and left a look-a-like in charge here in the UK. Apparently his great great great great great grandson made it big in Oil.)

Ps - Nobody ever, ever, ever take anything I say seriously. Pleassssssssse.

My Nominees for the US and UK Elections and Other Waffle

It's the early hours of the morning, and I have had a large gin... Late-night alcohol is always a good recipe for writing gibberish. And...