Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Blame This One On The Cat!

Bonny, my ginger feline friend woke me abruptly this morning, by jumping onto the bedside cupboard and sending everything flying. It was at precisely 1.58 am that this happened. I didn't get upset. Indeed I felt kindly disposed towards her. She must have timed her jump to coincide perfectly with my inner body clock. Which today even at such a very early hour, would appear to be set at happy. She meant no harm. What she wanted by her action was my attention. I was happy to oblige, and after some stroking and ear rubbing, combined with suitable words of adoration, she returned, purring contentedly, to her own bed beside the window. Leaving me wide awake.
It was far to soon to get up, and so I lay there for a while thinking. My mind travelling back to my early childhood in a home run by London County Council. Specifically, because my mood was good, I was thinking of people who have had some positive influence on me.
Eventually, the thought occurred to me to get out of bed and write it down.
Which is how I come to be sitting here at four o'clock in the morning, shivering slightly, for the sun, unlike me is not yet up. Perhaps the cold will keep me sharp, and focused on the job in hand. Which is to introduce you to some special people.
People like Mrs Williams, a primary school teacher. A kind and pretty woman with a smiling open face. Mrs Williams looked and smelt delicious. She was fond of wearing tight sweaters, that defined and accentuated her ample breasts perfectly. I adored her. Actually, thinking about it now, she was my first love. Five years old! An early awareness.
Mr Hewitt, was also a primary school teacher. He taught me how to read. Gave me individual attention. Of course he gave everyone individual attention, but he made me feel special. The mark of a great teacher. I used to wish he was my dad. Mr Hewitt smoked a pipe with great enthusiasm, and spoke, suck puff, slowly, suck puff, and suck puff, thoughtfully, suck puff, like this.
One day there appeared in this residential children's home, a new face. This was Mr Heap, the superintendent. Until he appeared on the scene I hadn't even been aware that there was a home superintendent. I never got to know him well, but a smiling benevolence radiated from him at all times. Something which meant a lot to me. Sadly I left the home soon after he arrived, but nevertheless he was a definite influence, simply by the fact that he acknowledged my existence.
I must not forget to mention Miss Steed. She also came into my life shortly before I left the home. She was the new housemother. A kind and loving woman who cared about us all. Her first job was to rid the house of the myriad of notices which were stuck everywhere you looked. Warning notices, don't do this, don't do that, type of notices. Miss Steed thought that such things did not belong in our house. It was good to see them go. She made lots of changes to the formerly strict regime. Life was much happier with Miss Steed. I would likely have been better off staying with her. But the future wasn't mine to decide.  
Reg was one of the gatekeepers. I spent long periods in the gatehouse with him as I waited, often in vain for my Mother to visit. On the many occasions when she failed to turn up as expected Reg would hug me and wipe away my tears with his enormous white handkerchief. I'm sure he kept that handkerchief specially for that purpose. I suppose many kids needed a comforting hug at times. Sadly these days Reg's kindness and hands on approach towards us children would be frowned upon. But he was simply a warm hearted caring man. I liked Reg.
The other gatekeeper was George. He would play snakes and ladders or ludo with me, as we whiled away the time waiting for mum to arrive. Later on when I was older, and was allowed to venture outside the grounds of the home I would visit George and his wife at their house across the back field. His lovely wife used to make little sponge cakes with icing on them. A rare treat for a boy in those spartan times just after the war. George once gave me a shilling to buy a white mouse and made me a cage for it. I wasn't allowed to keep it in the home but I left it with George and would visit my mouse whenever I could.
Because my Mother was prone to let me down. I was sometimes visited by Uncle Bob and Auntie Sheila. Not real family but a foster Aunt and Uncle. They had a motorcycle and sidecar. I would be strapped to Uncle Bob on the back of the motorbike, Auntie Sheila in the sidecar and off we would go, for a day out. Nice memories. Sometimes I would spend a weekend with them. Once or twice during school holidays I would spend a whole week or more with them at their house. I loved it, but it had to end because I would get too distressed when it was time to return to the home. I hated leaving them. I can still feel the heartache of it today.
Just before I finish, I must mention someone who I never actually met, but who I admired greatly. I am referring to the wonderful comic actor and film star Norman Wisdom. Every once in a while there would be a film show held on a Friday evening in the school hall. Norman was making lots of films at that time in the 1950's and so he would often feature at these nights. I loved it. He made me forget all the sadness in my life as I laughed along to the storyline. Maybe I identified with the little man who fought against authority and always came out on top. I didn't analyse it in those days. I just knew it made me happy. Strangely enough when I was older and read his autobiography I discovered that his life had many parallels to mine. Perhaps that is why he was able to portray pathos so well. Norman Wisdom died recently. I felt the loss. My extremely handsome son George bought me a boxed set of all his films. I still enjoy them.
Well that's it. The sun is just over the horizon. Looks like it will be a nice day. Bonnie has woken again and wants her breakfast. Sadie and I shall take a walk over the fields. After that, I have plenty to keep me busy today. I still feel good. Hope it lasts.
Bye for now.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Not Just Any Woman. There Are Some Prerequisites.

Quite an auspicious start to my online dating I feel. Eleven women made contact after reading all about me on the dating site I joined a few days ago. Six of them sent me messages. Mostly about what a wonderful change it was for them to read such an refreshingly truthful self appraisal. Five of them didn't bother with a message. They preferred the direct approach simply indicating that they would like to meet me. This seemed to me to be a fairly good, though modest, return. I had expected more interest if I'm honest, especially since I had included a photograph.
This initial influx happened within the first few hours of me signing up. How exciting I thought, as I eagerly looked up the profiles of my would be romantic interests.
The thought did occur briefly to me as I read, to wonder how they had reached the conclusion that I had written an honest profile. Because according to some, indeed I would go as far as to say most, of these women, men were, in their opinion, liars, cheats and fly by nights. It does appear that an awful lot of women felt badly let down by the whole online dating scene. I suppose it says a lot about the tenacity of women that they continued in their quest to find the perfect man.
Oh dear! How quickly the desires of this ardent potential suitor began to diminish as I read through the profiles. Perhaps it's just the way I am, but I do not want to be subjected to the lists of requirements which I found these ladies have. It seems to me that in order for me to have a relationship it is necessary for me to be an absolute paragon of virtue. Something I am blatantly not, and have no wish to be. If I wanted to be saintly I would become a priest. Oops! Bad example, but you know what I mean.
I find these things unnecessary and off putting to say the least. Look! Why not just meet up a few times. Get to know each other like this. Surely this would be more in the natural way of things. Find out if he is the man for you in this way. I realise that time is passing by quickly. But maybe a long term relationship needs a little time to develop. Lets face it, the type of man who you are so keen to avoid, isn't going to take heed of your needs. He's just going to lie to you anyway.
Bit of a tidy up wouldn't go amiss.
In all the profile pictures the ladies look lovely. Glamorous even. This concerns me. I am such a scruffy person myself. Take a look at the picture I put onto the site. Honestly I'm ashamed. Not much to get excited about is there? Haven't even made an effort. I can look better. I'm told that I scrub up quite well. But unless I'm going somewhere really special, I'm just not inclined to bother. I do know this statement does not show me in a good light. But that's who I am. Hey! I just realised. Despite my photo, eleven women did respond. What I am trying to say is that I don't want a glamorous woman. Sophistication frightens me.
I haven't arranged to meet anyone yet. Now that the opportunity has presented itself I seem to have lost my nerve. I can talk the talk but it seems I can't walk the walk. I will get there though. Just takes time. No need to rush these things. Patience ladies, please. It's a virtue you know.
Let me meet Miss ordinary. A woman without pretensions. A woman who is happy with herself. A woman who enjoys the simple life. A woman who...
Oh my God! What am I saying! How hypocritical am I? This sounds just like a list of requirements!  

Friday, 27 May 2011

Calm Down Ladies. The Love Machine Is Switched On Ready To Go.

Did I mention to you that I was thinking about joining a dating site? Yes I must have. I share everything with you. Well I've done it! Girded up all my inner strength and done it. It's true. I am now a member of a dating site. Success is guaranteed on this particular site apparently. Which means sadly, that I am going to be extremely busy juggling dates with all the women who view my profile. I say sadly because obviously there will not be a lot of time left in which to blog.
Lovemaking, in my opinion is something not to be rushed, and I expect to be doing a lot of it soon. My gym membership has been renewed. I intend to be in peak physical condition for each and every one of the beautiful women who are sure to come lusting after me. After all I do think it is only fair to give equally of my time to the hordes of lonely ladies who once they have viewed my portrait, will come knocking on the wagon door, in a feverish sweat of excited anticipation.
I intend to limit myself at first. Not more than two women each day. Best to build up to things slowly. No need to be greedy. As I say this site does guarantee success. So there will be lots to choose from.
I am so excited! Just think. Me! About to fulfill the dreams, hopes, and aspirations, of so many lonely ladies.
I have always felt that my unselfish, generous, and modest nature would come in useful one day. This is why I dwelt on it a lot, as I was writing my profile notes for the site. Sure to be hard for the ladies to resist.
Hopefully they won't be too disappointed when they arrive, and discover that the picture I have used is not actually me, but one of Clint Eastwood. I'm sure they won't be. After all if the truth be told I am better looking than him anyway. The only reason I used his photo is because it is of a better quality than I was able to get on my camera. Besides that, we do both wear hats. Also I have told a little white lie and said that I am over six foot tall. This shouldn't be too much of a problem though. I am going to explain that I have very short legs for my height.
Okay then. I am going off now to check my inbox. Probably have to delete a few messages without reading them. Wouldn't want to crash the system by letting it get overloaded. They'll come back though. Who could resist me?
When I first started on this article I mentioned that I shared everything with you. That is no longer true I'm afraid. I am a gentleman. Well maybe not always if you get my drift. But some things must remain a secret. I'll keep you informed of course I will. Just not absolutely everything. Hmm.. Better get the bedroom tidied.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Thanks For Following This Lazy Writer.

I just wanted to let you, my loyal followers, know that I have tried several times tonight to repost an old blogpost. Well I am feeling tired and didn't think I would be at my best so decided to take the easy and possibly cheeky way out. However I can't seem to get it to publish. It says I have published successfully, but I'm blowed if I can find it.
So if in the morning you find three copies of an old post clogging up your computer, I'm afraid it's my fault. With a bit of help from Blogger.
Also I seem to have lost all my followers. I suppose you are still out there somewhere floating around in cyber space. I hope you don't all get too light headed. I also hope that you will float back to me soon. It just wouldn't be the same without you.
While I'm on the subject of followers it would be nice if I could say thanks whenever someone joins up. Please believe me I have tried but Blogger won't let me do it. So to those I haven't thanked for signing up I do so now. Thank you. I do appreciate it very much.
Well there you are. At least that is something positive I have managed to achieve tonight. Hmm... Just wondering if I will be able to publish this?
That's it then. I have been punished for being lazy, and have ended up writing almost as much as I usually do. These computers. Arrgh! They do like to give us a bit of a runaround don't they?
Now just have to think of a title for this, and then I'm off to bed with Mr Charles Dickens, and Mr Pickwick.
Now stop that! Really! Can't a chap read in bed?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

My Childhood In Three Photographs.

The photographic record of my childhood consists of three photos. Which when I think back over the upheaval of those early years is quite an achievement. I do feel quite sad though that I have no way of looking back pictorially on my formative years. This first photo which I am about to attempt to put on this page was taken when I was about one year old. Also in this picture are my sister Marian aged 15 and my brother Victor aged 8. Strange how there is exactly 7 years between each of our births. I can't remember this being taken of course but it must have been shortly before my parents divorced. I was taken into care at age two. So this must have been almost the last time we were all together. Makes me feel sad to think of what became of us.
This next one is me aged five. This was taken in Shirley Residential Children's Home run by London County Council. This was the second council care home I had been in. I have a vague memory of this photo being taken. Things like having my hair tidied and my face cleaned with a wet flannel. I think it was taken for me to send to my Mother. She must have sent it on to my Aunt Jo. On the back of the photo in my Mums handwriting it says 'with love to Aunt Joey from John age 5 years'.  I will now attempt to put it on this page. Wish me luck.
Amazing! I have managed to get it here. Shame there is this big
open space here. Also whenever I want to write another line the
photo moves down with it. I think I'll try and move the photo back
 up. Yes I did it. Hey! I'm getting the hang of this.
Now here comes a difficult bit. I have one more photo to show you, but it is still in the camera, so I will have to leave this page I think to get it into the computer. This is the moment when I could possibly lose everything I have just done. I'm a bit nervous but here goes. Might be back soon. Might not. Bye for now.
I'm back. Would you believe it I could not find this in my camera. Goodness knows where it had got to. Then it appeared again from nowhere. Doesn't it drive you nuts? Sorry about the delay. Hope you didn't get impatient and go away. I do talk nonsense sometimes don't I?
This picture was taken by Miss Steed our new house mother. I can remember this being taken. What a motley crew! The lady behind us kids was leaving the home. Her name was Miss Beeston. Sadly she was going blind. This picture was taken I think to remember her by. Miss Steed was the nicest housemother I ever knew. I believe she truly loved kids. When she arrived one of the first things she did was to go around the house removing all the notices which had been put up telling us kids what to do and when to do it. She said this was our home, and homes do not have written instructions all over the place. Soon after this picture I was sent to foster parents. I missed Miss Steed a lot. I used to run away from the foster home and go and see Miss Steed. Quite a journey for a little chap like me. Sometimes I would be mentioned in the South London Press as a runaway. What a claim to fame. Nobody ever asked me why I ran away. Perhaps if they had asked they might have let me go back and live with Miss Steed. All very ironic when for most of my life there at the home I was so unhappy. When Miss Steed eventually left the home she adopted the two girls you can see at the back of this picture. What a woman!
I am the handsome little chap standing directly in front of Miss Beeston. You can see that she is blind. She has her hands on my shoulders. What do you think of my haircut?
I am now about to press the preview button. Should be interesting.
Well I just had a look at the almost finished blog. Not quite what I had hoped for, but I dare not try and change it. Could lose it all.
Anyway here it is. My childhood in three photographs. Hope you like it.              

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Looking For Love But Thinking Twice About The Dating Game

That's it. OK. Right. I have definitely decided. Yes why not? I am going to have a determined look at some dating sites. After yet another night out on my own it is time to take action. I need a cuddle.
There must be a woman somewhere, who would be interested in meeting a short, fat, aged, balding bloke with no money, no prospects, and not a lot of hope. Who said the mental asylum?
Surely there are women out there who are desperate to live the simple life. I bet there are thousands of them clamouring to live in a wooden wagon, built from reclaimed timber. Hmm.. Maybe best not to mention the wagon.
I suppose if I do go ahead and join a dating agency, I ought to make them aware that I am perfectly happy with this alternative, frugal, lifestyle, apart from the lack of female company obviously, and am far to old to change my ways, even if I was inclined to do so. Which I am not. Having said that, I suppose a little bit of compromise would be required if things are going to work out.
I wonder if it would be appropriate to mention what a fantastic lover I am. No. Perhaps best to let them find that out for themselves. I said them, obviously I meant her. Freudian slip.
As I sit here, thinking about my chances of meeting the woman of my dreams, it has occurred to me that thus far in my life, I have demonstrated time and again, an abject failure to maintain a long term relationship of any worth. Although I somehow manage to remain on friendly terms.
In the past I have always entered into relationships, expecting them to fail. Not even giving them a chance to grow and flourish. I know why this is. It's because I am unable to believe that anyone would really love me. I've always felt that I don't have much to offer. Which is true. I don't
It's all down to the way we are brought up I think. If you have parents with aspirations, then it follows that some of those aspirations will rub off onto you. My parents only ambitions in life, if indeed they had any, didn't include their children. In fact it didn't even include each other most of the time. Now there you are you see. I've got myself thinking I'm talking nonsense. Because obviously I would want my children to do well.
But I have to face up to the fact. I have never really pushed myself in life. I've always been quite happy with what I've got. Never hankered after the so called good things in life. Never wanted a big house or a top of the range car. I suppose someone with my attitude to life is going to struggle to meet a woman with expectations of a normal comfortable existence.
Listen to me rambling on. Now where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about dating sites wasn't I? Well thank heavens I allowed myself to get sidetracked. It's given me time to think about it. How lucky I didn't rush into joining one. It's patently obvious that they're not for people like me. Best to knock all that nonsense on the head. Why was I even thinking about it?
Phew! That was a close call!
I might just take a quick look though. Can't do any harm can it? Besides it's a bit unfair of me to deprive the ladies of such a wonderful opportunity.
I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Sad Pathetic Attempt To Make My Blog Look As Good As Yours.

This is a practice session. The second practice session. The first one complete with pictures has vanished into thin air. After nearly an hours work too.
This is not a genuine old toilet. I made it last year after a visit to the Weald and Downland Museum. I love ramshackle old sheds. Isn't ramshackle a lovely word? Sadly this shed has to go soon. It is in the wrong place. The writing is doing strange things. I wanted this bit to be alongside the picture.
I am now going to try and put a picture of Sadie below these words. Wish me luck. Here goes. Hmm.. Not quite as intended. Never mind. Sadie is licking her lips because she has just stolen an egg.
Why won't the cursor go to the edge of the page?  
This time I will put a photo on the left of the page. Ha! Famous last words. OK here we go!
Yes, success in placement! But still the cursor, curser wont move. Hey! I have just realised what an appropriate word curser is. Not that I've been cursing you understand.
Just noticed that the text is gradually heading West as I write. Perhaps if I keep going it will end up where I want it. Oh! Obviously not.
I am going to give up for the time being. I shall ask my friend and neighbour Steve if he will help me tomorrow.
I must just say that I am full of admiration for my fellow bloggers who do such a good job with photos etc. Maybe I will get my brain around it too. But not tonight!
Watch this space though. Well, not quite this space, but the area around it.
Goodnight. Sleep well.  

Saturday, 21 May 2011

I'm So Lucky! It Was Just A Touch Of Gas.

Last Wednesday I decided that I needed to see the Doctor. This was an unusual thing for me. I don't normally do ill health. But I have been having headaches and a feeling I can only describe as like a hangover. A 'spaced out' not quite with it, fuzziness. A sense of impending doom.
"We don't have any ordinary appointments available until two weeks time", the Doctors receptionist informed me as she tapped my details into the computer.
"What's an ordinary appointment?" I enquired.
"None urgent." She answered. "Do you need an urgent appointment?"
"I'm not sure."
"Well how ill are you?"
"I don't know. I was hoping that the Doctor could tell me?"
More tapping on the keyboard. "Monday. Ten forty five."
"Thank you. Is that ordinary or urgent?" I asked.
"It's a cancellation." She said. "You're a very lucky man."
Leaving the surgery, and thinking about how very lucky I am. I headed for the local shop and bought two lucky dip lottery tickets. I suppose I only needed one lucky ticket really. But I believed the receptionist when she informed me how lucky I am, and in my  befuddled state I decided to double up. After all I'm so lucky that I would probably win twice.
The spaced out and fuzzy headed feeling continued for the rest of that day. On Thursday I was able to function a little better, but the headache came back when I returned from an evening out. On Friday the fuzziness and spaced out, feeling of impending doom returned with a vengeance, and I took to my bed for most of the day.
This morning, Saturday. I woke feeling that I had done ten rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson. If this had happened of course I would have knocked him out in about round three. No contest. But anyway my head was ringing fit to bust. I held my head under the cold tap trying to clear it. But to no avail. Next time I will try turning the tap on!
George, my extremely handsome son came visiting at about midday. "There is a horrible smell of gas in here Dad," he said, as he came through the door.
"Sorry about that son." I said. "It must be the Fava beans I had with liver, and a nice bottle of Chianti last night." I always have to make a joke. Even when I'm feeling like death.
George didn't laugh at my joke. "Can't you smell it Dad?"
Well I had noticed a strong smell. But to be honest, I thought it was coming from an onion that I had chopped and left in the fridge. I had found the lid was not on the container properly. I thought the smell was permeating from that.
Close investigation revealed that when I had fitted the new butane gas bottle some days previously I had failed to connect it properly and it had been leaking out.
I am so stupid! I thought when I fitted it that it hadn't gone on correctly, but because gas was coming through to the cooker I just assumed it must be all right.
The situation is now rectified. I am still a bit light headed, but improving all the time, thank the good Lord, as the toxicity leaves my body.
I am so pleased that when I built this wagon, I put the bedroom at the other end from the kitchen. I could have died in my sleep! No more blog. How would you have coped without it?
That, Jon and Clive, is the reason I couldn't make it to the Wintertones gig last night. I was here at home. Stoned out of my mind!
Perhaps I should have opted for the emergency appointment. The Doctor would probably have found out that I was slowly poisoning myself. Too late now. Never mind. All's well that ends well. As I am sure someones Granny must have said. I'm going to keep the appointment. There is a mole on the side of my face that I ought to have looked at.
My lottery tickets didn't win, but the Doctors receptionist was right. I am very lucky today.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Just Another Day.

The thing I like most about the nature blogs I follow is the photography. I am not brave enough or knowledgeable enough to risk putting any pictures amongst my prose, but today I have put new photo's on the edges of the page. I have done this so that you can have an idea of what an extraordinary life I lead. Not!
During the course of today, when I should have been out drawing portraits, Sadie the German Shepherd and I went for a walk to the village. Nothing very exciting happened.
I did get a soaking as we passed by the huge sprinkler system which has been crawling up and down the rows of potatoes. In fact as it has been such a hot day I found it quite refreshing. Well all right to be honest with you, I walked under the spray deliberately. Sometimes I behave like a big kid. I tried to persuade Sadie to join me but she is far too intelligent. It wasn't until after I had refreshed myself in this way that I began to worry about what might have been added to the water. Suppose it had fertiliser in it. Or worse, some horrid chemicals. I had a good sniff of myself and, oh my word, I smelt terrible. However, on reflection, I decided that I didn't smell any worse than I normally do. So I carried on with the walk.
Inspired by the nature blogs, I had my camera with me, and so when I spotted a couple of ladybirds I attempted to photograph them. I say that I spotted the ladybirds. This is true in one way and false in another. They already had their spots when I spotted them. The spots were none of my doing. They were spotted ladybirds. It might have been possible, if I'd had a paint brush and some paint with me, that I would be able to add spots. But I didn't. The spots are genuine. I'm going to get off the subject of ladybirds for now. It's getting out of hand. Anyway they are very small insects and I can't even see them in the photo.
On reaching the park and still being of a mind to capture some nature shots I became excited when I spotted, no not spotted, noticed, a bee entering a buttercup. Quickly ordering Sadie into the sit and stay position I dropped to my knee's. I must remember not to do that again. My knee's don't like it. Very painful. However I was down now and slowly and carefully crept up on the bee. Oh dear! I do wish people would clean up after their dogs. The bee must have flown off as I was setting my camera to close up. Never mind, I'll try again tomorrow. I made a mental note of the time. Hopefully that bee is a creature of habit.
Despite my creaking knees I managed to catch up with Sadie, who had completely disobeyed my order to sit and stay. She had been tempted by a strong desire to sniff at the rear end of a passing spaniel. I understand strong urges, so I let her off with just a mild scolding in this instance. The spaniels elderly owner had sadly got herself worked up into a bit of a strop, and surprised me by employing the descriptive talents of a drunken sailor, as she explained exactly what she would like to do to my big brute of a dog. Really madam! A little decorum please.
So it was that Sadie and I made it to the village shop. Where, using the knowledge gained from years of service as a merchant mariner I managed, after several attempts to secure her lead to the bike rack. Sadie always looks sad and forlorn when I leave her like this. So I was not surprised to find as I left the shop, that she was being fussed over by an attractive woman. This happens a lot with Sadie, and it is always women who are attracted to her. I have not yet worked out a strategy for deflecting this attention away from Sadie and on to me, but it is something I am actively working on. Perhaps if I tied myself to the bike rack... Hmm! Might be worth a try.
Another chance for a fantastic nature shot occurred as we made our way back across the park. I saw a pair of birds sitting on the grass. They may have been standing. I couldn't be sure as they were some distance away. Camera at the ready I tried to look nonchalant and uninterested as I drew nearer. One of the birds saw straight through this bit of trickery, and flew off, but to my surprise the other one stayed where it was. I got within a few metres and it very kindly allowed me to take several photos before Sadie came galloping along and finally the bird saw sense and took off. It's so easy this nature photography. Obviously the secret is to pretend you haven't noticed your quarry. Simple!
Sadie's claws had scratched me yesterday as she asked for a biscuit, so we walked the rest of the way home on the pavement. I think the tarmac makes a good job of filing her sharp claws down, and it saves me struggling with the nail clippers. She is not fond of having her nails clipped.
This way home enabled me to take a few shots of the local scene to share with you. Unfortunately it also allowed Tricia to see me coming and gave her a chance to ask me to fix her bike which had got stuck in gear. I got Sadie safely home and turned my attention to the bike. After a couple of hours it was fixed enough for her to ride, and she cycled off to work.
I was by now ready for a cup of tea, and had just put the kettle on when the phone rang. It was my handsome son George needing to be picked up from the station. Good heavens! Is it that time already? How time does fly.
George wanted a football kickabout when I got him home. I don't like to miss these rare opportunities to spend time with him, so we spent a happy hour or so as I demonstrated my phenomenal skill as a footballer.
He then went off to have something to eat, and I was finally able to make myself a nice cup of tea.
Yesterday I was commissioned to paint a portrait of a dog. So I now spent a bit of time dithering about whether to start work on it, before finally deciding that it could wait until tomorrow. Not out of laziness you understand. No! It was just that I had seen some birds in the hedgerow and was keen to photograph them. Which is why I have included these snaps of the hedge. There are birds in there somewhere but I'm blowed if I can see them. Actually, please forget about the hedge photos. I can't find them. Sorry to get your hopes up.
Suddenly it was time for me to get ready for open mic night at the Winterton Arms. I hadn't eaten for hours and decided that I would eat something at the pub as I had no time to prepare anything. The kitchen at the pub was shut by the time I arrived. However despite my hunger pangs the evening was very enjoyable.
Now I am back home. Not much to eat here either but I managed to rustle up a cheese and onion sandwich. A wonderful concoction to go to bed on. The indigestion has already kicked in.
That's about it then. Another productive day over. So I will wish you goodnight. I must get to bed. There is a busy day ahead tomorrow. I shall get such a lot done.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Warning! Do Not Read. Depression Alert.

It is twenty minutes past five in the morning. I only went to bed at one o'clock and I have lain awake for an hour reflecting on my life thus far. So only three hours sleep and yet I am wide awake. All this without the help of the 'Wing Commander' my handsome golden cockerel, who has only now begun to crow his welcome to the new day. A day which is emerging lethargically, rather than the bright pleasantness we have grown used to in the first few weeks of this early Spring. It is grey outside. A grey to suit my mood this morning.

Very occasionally I am crushed by an overbearing weight of sadness at the way my life has transpired. This morning I feel it strongly. I have been thinking of family mostly. My mother. A Dad I never got to meet. Three brothers and a sister. None of whom I really got to know terribly well. They are gone now. My brother Victor and my sister Marian, both a lot older than me, I knew a little. I loved them both and had the privilege to tell them this. Even so, we could hardly be described as close. Alistair, just a year older than me, was a half brother I never got to meet. He died young, still a boy. Brian is, or was, another half brother. He disappeared as soon as he was old enough to survive on his own. I often wonder about him.

Many years ago I had some kind of a nervous breakdown. The Doctors gave me pills, and I would every week or so, go and talk to a psychologist. My wife told me later that I spent most of the next three months in bed, refusing to see any visitors.

I ended this period of depression suddenly one day, when in a period of lucidity I came to my senses, and decided to take back control of my life. The pills were flushed down the toilet. I never took one again. Whether the medication or the psycho analysis helped I cannot say with any certainty. Perhaps it did. But I like to think my well honed survival instinct kicked in, and I healed myself. Nonetheless for that, I got better quickly and life became 'normal' again.

What this breakdown did I think was to take a great load off me. Introspection took a back seat. Lots of bad memories loosened their grip, and sank into the background of my mind. I stopped feeling so sorry for myself. Stopped being so needy. Most importantly I was able to brush the chips off of my shoulders. Take stock of how lucky I was compared to the sad plight of so many others around the world.

These days I do not allow unhappiness to reign free over my emotions, but as I say, it does occasionally rear it's ugly head. This morning it has crept up on me. Held me for an hour or so, but now I will shake it away.
Sadie, the German Shepherd and I, shall go for an early morning walk.
"Come on Sadie, where's your lead? Find it girl! Find it!"

So I Like Teddy Bears And I've Written A Love Story. Want To Make Something Of It?

Dirty, wet, limp, dull eyed and hung by the neck from the radiator grill of the local dustcart with a length of baler twine, the big yellow teddy bear did not have much going for it.
For a short time when the bear had first been found it was proudly displayed as a trophy on the cart. There had been no malice in this act. Albert Smith the refuse man who had rescued it from a dustbin, had simply wanted to personalise his truck.
Unfortunately as the days had gone by, he and his workmates had quickly forgotten all about the bear. Despite it's prominent position on the front of the vehicle, familiarity had soon bred in the men a form of mental blindness. They saw and yet they did not see. A common enough human failing.
Rain, hail, sleet and snow had all wreaked their havoc on the yellow teddy bear in the weeks since it had been tied to the cart, not to mention the battering it took on the journey to and from the refuse tip twice a day.

Albert Smith a widower, had, unbeknown to him, an admirer. A spinster, in her middle years, who had taken a keen interest in him from the first day she had seen him going about his work in his usual no nonsense way.
The lady in question, a Miss Violet Parsons was particularly taken with what she had observed to be Albert's kindly nature and his gentle ways. Not to mention his good looks and distinguished greying hair. She liked the way he always had time for a spoken pleasantry or a smile for young and old alike.  Her admiration had increased even further the day she spotted Albert rescue the yellow teddy bear from a neighbours bin and carefully tie it to the grill of his truck.
Miss Parsons a schoolteacher, would often run the risk of being late for work on a Monday morning, just so she could catch a glimpse of Albert doing his rounds. The lovely lady was quite besotted, and yet so shy and tongue-tied in his presence that she found herself quite unable to respond to his always cheery, "good morning."
Albert who had not the slightest idea that he was so ardently admired, took her silence as a sign that she perhaps felt unable to bring herself to converse with a lowly dustman. However he believed in treating everyone with the same respect whatever their background or position in life, and so he continued to be his usual self.
One Monday morning, Violet was standing beside her living room window, in happy anticipation of the dustcarts imminent appearance at the corner of her street. The day has begun kindly, and she noticed that the first crocus had opened in her small front garden. She was pleased. She saw the bright yellow flower as the first tangible sign that Winter was ending, and that Spring was in the air.
The colour yellow had also been a factor in Albert's start to the day. Not a yellow flower but a yellow teddy bear. The same hapless bear which had been tied to the grill of his truck for several weeks had chosen this particular day to make it's sad sorry state known to him. Shocked to discover the plight of the bear Albert took matters in hand.
So it was that this morning, the teddy, who had been named Trashcan, found itself sitting, in a position of honour, on the dashboard of Albert's Dustcart.
Unfortunately Trashcan's troubles were not yet over. The powerful heater above which it was seated had begun to dry the bear out. The stitching was rapidly coming apart. Trashcan was in great danger of falling apart.
As fate would have it, Trashcans dilemma was spotted by Albert just as he was pulling up outside Violet's house. Without seeming to think about the matter Albert carefully wrapped his big hands around the bear and jumped from the cab.
Violet from her position by the window was surprised to see Albert ignore her dustbin and continue on to her front door, which he began to knock.
As she opened the door Albert held the yellow bear out to her. "I wonder have you got a carrier bag I can put him in?" He asked, bending to retrieve an arm that had fallen to the ground. "He's falling to pieces."
Carefully Violet reached out and took the bear from him. She was touched by his concern and the fact that he had given the bear a gender. "I'd like to see if I can repair him," she said shyly, "look, I think your friends are waiting."
Albert turned to see his workmates staring at him open mouthed. He had a feeling that this was going to be a hard one to live down.
"Thanks for your help then Mrs...?"
Please call me Violet," she said, adding, "and it's Miss. Can you call by in a few days for the teddy bear?"
Thus began a true romance, leading to marriage and a happy life for all concerned. Even a yellow teddy bear by the name of Trashcan.

Monday, 16 May 2011

An Inarticulate, Starving, Ungrateful, Wretched Boy.

My legs are weak. My knees are buckling. Oh help! What is going on here? My head is swimming. Looking up at the high ceiling it appears that the lights are spinning crazily. I am going to fall.
Concerned faces loom over me as I regain consciousness. Someone picks me up and carries me to an empty classroom. A sit down and a drink of water later I am feeling better.
The school nurse asks me what had been wrong. My six year old mind struggles for an answer. All I can come up with by way of explanation is that I had an empty hollow feeling inside.
It seems that morning assembly at school had overwhelmed me, and I had fainted. That's all it was. The heat probably, and the lights, had got to me. If only I had been able to state it so simply all those years ago. But I couldn't. As I say I was only six years old.
Several days later, the housemother -this is a children's home- tells me that I am to hurry and put my best clothes on. I have been summoned to the main office. Usually this happens because some prospective foster parents have arrived to give me the once over. See if I meet their requirements. My own requirements, even if I could think of any, don't come into it. Several people have looked me over, but I haven't been chosen yet. Does a lot for a child's self esteem, this process. Anyway I don't want to go anywhere. I've got a Mum. Somewhere.
My best clothes are the same as my normal clothes, gray. Except that they are newer and have not been subjected to repeated washing and mending. I have to wear shoes instead of the usual hob nailed boots. Oh yes, and I have to wear a tie. I hate ties. In fact anything which involves tying a knot or bow causes me concern. I can never tie anything up properly. Apparently, being able to do things like tie shoelaces or neckties should be simple for a small boy. I invariably get a cuff around the ear due to my lack of these essential life skills.
The cuff around the ear punishment is meted out on a regular basis for small, so called misdemeanours. Things like having elbows on the table at mealtimes. Or holding your knife and fork wrongly. Using the fork upside down to eat peas is very wrong. Deciding suddenly, that you need to go to the toilet. Not sitting up straight. Not realising that you are being spoken to. There are so many ways to irritate an impatient adult. The cuff around the ear is apparently an essential commonplace practice.
When administered with full on venom and uncontrolled anger, it then becomes a heavy smack around the head and is highly dangerous. Probably the cause of a great deal of brain damage. Hey! That explains a lot.
There are no prospective foster parents on this day. Instead I am ushered into the office of Mr Stevenson, the deputy superintendent of the home. He glares at me over the top of his wire framed glasses, "Stand up straight boy".
I have only ever seen this man from afar. He has a fearsome reputation. I am about to experience it for myself. "So. This is the boy we don't feed properly, is it?" He is looking at me, but his words are obviously addressed to the housemother. I sense that I am in trouble for something. I am right.
It seems that the school nurse has reported my fainting episode. My childish explanation has been misconstrued. She has reported me as being undernourished and hungry. This has caused a heap of trouble for the housemother. Mr Stevenson obviously does not like his staff to be criticised. He takes it personally. A loud and frightening verbal onslaught begins
Perhaps I tried to explain. But I was in fear of this man. He shouted a lot. Accused me of being ungrateful for all that was done for me. Anything I may have said would not have helped. We kids were, as the old saying goes, expected to be seen and not heard. I was left in no doubt that the whole situation was all my own fault.
The punishment for my 'crime' was that I must have double rations at every meal. For a picky eater like me this was very difficult. Luckily the ordeal only lasted a week. But it was a week of much crying and upset on my part, and much anger and intolerance from the housemother. Her right hand was well used that week.
It was only a faint for God's sake! I still don't know what caused it. But I'm pretty sure I wasn't hungry. Well, not for the food they dished up to us ungrateful little wretches anyway.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

I See A Pale Green Baize Moon Arising

Just a few days ago I was bemoaning the fact that my extremely handsome young son George, wasn't interested in going to the snooker club with me anymore. So it came as a bit of a surprise when he suddenly announced a desire to accompany me to that very place.
Oh let joy be unconfined! George's simple request made my heart leap and soar with happiness. How I would delight in beating him on the green baize once again. When I say beating him, I don't mean that I actually hold him down physically and beat him with a stick or a paddle. I would never do that. Not even when, during one of our friendly wrestling bouts, he chances his luck, and has that look. The look that tells me he thinks he can take on his old Dad and win. He is taller and probably stronger than me now, but no son. Not just yet.
Driving to the snooker club we are delayed behind a woman cyclist. Not normally a subject worth commenting on. However I could not fail to notice, even with my failing eyesight, that she was wearing, what I think are called leggings, but look like tights. Those stretchy things, which look very nice on the slimmer feminine figure, but which take on a somewhat less pleasing aspect when worn by women of a more, shall I say, Rubenesque form.
Let me hasten to add at this point, that I am very fond of the amply proportioned woman. I enjoy a cuddle as much as the next man. But I do feel that the larger lady wearing stretchy green tights, should perhaps not be wobbling along a busy road on a bicycle. Especially when those tights are stretched to their maximum loading capacity and have, in the process become see through. Thereby revealing her underwear. It must be thoroughly uncomfortable wearing a thong when cycling. A white thong, with a label on it, stating that it was bought in a well known department store.
Now the reason I am relating this incident is of course purely in the interest of road safety. A lesser man than I could very easily be distracted enough by a sight like this, to cause a road traffic accident. Not me though! Although I was stuck behind this lady for some time, I am proud to say that I managed to avert my eyes quite a lot. But not before being reminded of an oil painting by Turner. I can't recall the paintings title at the moment, but it is the one which depicts a pale moon rising from a turbulent green sea!
When George and I arrive at the snooker hall, he reminds me that it is time to pay our annual membership dues. A fact which makes me a wee bit suspicious of my dear boys motive in inviting me to play. But no, he is not a devious young man. Not at all. I pay up happily. Pleased to be in his company once more. We play two games. Of course I let him win the first game, and only narrowly let him win the second. After all I don't want to knock his confidence.
Suddenly four of George's friends arrive. Unfortunately they don't have enough money to pay for a table but they wouldn't mind a game or two.
I leave my son happily playing snooker with his pals, and drive home alone. Wondering how an inexpensive outing with him has left me without enough cash in my pocket for fish and chips. Wondering also why his friends turned up if they had no money.
It was a lovely couple of hours though. Well worth it. Emotionally I mean, not financially.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Only Slightly Off My Rocker.

Hooray! I'm back! I bet you're pleased. I understand how sad you must have been feeling. I have felt it too.
It seems like an absolute age since I was able to post anything. There have it seems, been a few technical problems with this site.
Actually it has only been a couple of days. Inveterate bloggers will know how I feel though. Shaking. Sweating. Muscle spasms. Paranoia. I bet it's just my blog they've blocked. Bet everyone else is all right. What was it I did wrong? I'm sorry I described that person as fat. How bad I am, laughing at someone who has to walk backwards. Should never have mentioned my former teacher. Perhaps no one believes my German Shepherd can talk. All these things have been going through my vivid imagination. But I am all right now. It was, as I say, only a technical problem.

"Oh yeah! Do you truly believe that John?"

Who said that?

Now I have to ask your forgiveness. Because right now I do not have time to entertain you. It is Friday. I am going out for the evening. There is a slight possibility that intoxicating liquor will be consumed. This may render me incapable of stringing two words together, let alone a complete paragraph. I say a slight possibility, because it might be one of those dreadful nights when nobody offers me a drink. Heaven forbid that I have to buy my own! In which case it will only be my usual half pint.
But I shall return tomorrow! When I will rewrite the complete article I had almost finished and was about to publish when the site went haywire. It is so upsetting when that happens don't you think? Or maybe it is only me that suffers this.

"Stop it John! You are imagining things."

Who said that?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Open Mic With Sedge and Jon.

After my extremely handsome Son, George had left school, I soon came to realise the next phase of his life was not going to be so reliant on me. All right he still needs his Dad to drive him about, but the places he goes do not include me being involved. Nowadays he goes to football matches with his friends. I have no idea when I will get the chance to beat him at snooker again. In fact he even goes to a different snooker club. As for our camping trips. I suspect they are a thing of the past too. On our regular walks to look at nature, his young eyes were a great help in spotting things my own old eyes would miss. Nowadays I have to remember to take a pair of binoculars with me.
That's OK. I'm pleased he is becoming his own person. I'm glad that he has friends that he likes to spend time with. It did leave quite a gap in my life however. I needed to get on with things for myself. I needed to, 'get a life', as they say.
For some years I have been trying to learn to play the guitar. I say trying because at my advanced stage of decay it is not easy. Actually I discovered that the guitar is quite fiendishly difficult. Not least, it requires an ability to coordinate both hands to do separate things but at the same time. It is something obviously, which is best started young. When brain cells still have the ability to learn easily. It is also something which requires an awful lot of practice. I have not practiced enough. After eleven years I am still rubbish at it.
But, let me tell you, all is not lost. I have discovered the fun to be had at an open mic night. The open mic nights are becoming more and more popular and are now a regular part of the more discerning, great British Public House. They give anyone who wants to, a chance to get up and entertain.
Well I suppose the reason I wanted to learn the guitar was to entertain. Although I have to say, for some strange reason I have never been able to figure out, nobody ever had the time to listen to me sing and play. Whenever I would suggest getting my guitar out, people would make excuses that they had to be somewhere else. Very odd. I have been told I have a beautiful voice. Well they may have said, interesting, rather that beautiful. But they mean the same thing, Don't they?
Thank goodness though for 'Open mic with Sedge and Jon'. Two Maestro guitarists. Two brilliantly gifted virtuoso performers. Two young -relatively speaking- men of spectacular ability. (Is this all right guys. Can I stop now?)
On Sedge and Jon's poster it invites anyone to join in. So it is their own fault that I now regularly go along. They are so welcoming, and I have made many new friends. Even though I never buy a round of drinks.
Apparently my open mic performances attract so many people that a contract is being written up stating that I must always appear. I never knew about this until last night when I was told about it, by a bloke who wanted me to lend him a tenner. This is very moving, and I am filling up with emotion, just thinking about how far I have come as an entertainer. Thank you so much you guys.
There is a downside though. Of course there is. There would have to be wouldn't there? As soon as women hear me sing they become hysterical. Fainting and swooning have become commonplace among my female fans. To be honest I have even seen blokes standing there, staring open mouthed in disbelief at my musical ability. Lots of people get so excited that they have to leave early. I may have to tone my act down a bit. I'm beginning to feel a bit like Elvis. You know what happened to him.
So that's it. This is my social life now that George is not so reliant on me. It seems that I have become a phenomenon. People whisper my name whenever I appear. They don't need to whisper, I know what they are saying. All I can say is thank you. I appreciate it very much. I do not intend to let this new found fame change me in any way. It is so hard to be humble when you are perfect. But somehow I will manage it.

You can see Open Mic with Sedge and Jon at www.myspace.com/play_live. They are on facebook too. You might even see and hear me singing. But please have your smelling salts ready.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Lord Nelson And Lady Chatterley, Surely Not?

Old Tom and I are standing beside a newspaper stand. He is trying to teach me how to shout out the name of the papers. We are selling the London Daily News and the Evening Standard. I don't want to shout. It's embarrassing. I've never been one to draw attention to myself.
"Right orf you go Johnny boy. Loud as ya can. Go on".
Self consciously I give it a go. "News and Standard".
"Gor stone me. Did yer say somefink Johnny boy? Do it agin, a lot bleedin' louder. Come on, Lord bleedin' Nelson wants to ere' ya".
Lord Nelson was looking down at us from his column in Trafalgar Square across the road. Old Tom and I were situated beside Admiralty Arch in Whitehall. It was a prime spot for selling papers and Old Tom and my newly found older brother Vic were really pleased to have the permit for it.
I grew to really enjoy selling papers here. Even got brave enough to shout out the odd headline or two.
I loved watching all the posh gentlemen in their bowler hats, coming and going from the Admiralty. Lots of them became regular customers and they were very good tippers too. Most would give me an extra penny. Some of them would give me sixpence for a threepenny paper and say, "keep the change young fellow." Sometimes I'd even get to keep the change from a shilling. But that was quite rare.
We also had the concession to sell papers and sweets in the Charing Cross hospital just down the road. It was fun to push the trolley around the wards. People were really nice, and always seemed pleased to see me. So as you can see life was not all misery.
This part of my life's tapestry took place when I was about eleven years old. It was a happy time, because I got to know my brother Vic who was a lot older than me. He was quite a character. Full of fun and confidence. Having him around was fantastic. It was wonderful to have someone on my side for a change.
Vic and Old Tom also had a bookshop in Camberwell and I would help out. It wasn't a very busy place, but I loved books and was happy to be there.
It was in this tiny little back street bookshop that I, at the tender age of eleven made history, when I became the youngest person in the whole world, or so Vic told me, to sell one of the first ever copies of the newly legal, Lady Chatterleys Lover. Which I believe was some kind of instruction manual for gamekeepers. Apparently a lot of readers, mainly male, skipped this bit. It was certainly a book which opened my eyes very wide, and taught me a lot. Though of course it would be some years before I was able to put theory into practice.
These happy times came to an abrupt end when Old Tom ran off with all the money. Vic had to find another way of making a living.
He chose to take the Queens shilling and joined the army. It was a sad time. I didn't see him again for many years.
Vic may have left a big void in my life, but he also enriched it hugely. This short period in my life is something I love to think back on. Me. Making history. Who'd have thought it? I have such a lot to thank my big brother for.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a great big thank you, to Mr D.H. Lawrence, and Penguin books, for helping me to become such an accomplished and versatile lover.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Macaroni Cheese And The Cupboard Under The Stairs

Auntie May has shut me in the cupboard under the stairs. Difficult for me to remember the reason why on this particular occasion, because there were so many misdemeanours it was possible to commit. Though most of the things we got up to which were considered bad enough to merit punishment, were in fact just us kids being kids.
My regular and most featured crime however, was not being able to eat macaroni cheese. I actually lived in fear and trepidation of macaroni cheese day. What day it was precisely I cannot recall. All I know is, that it came around relentlessly every week, and every week I knew I was going to be tormented by a plateful of this disgusting concoction.
Try as I might I could not get it down. Auntie May would get angrier and angrier as she watched me picking at it. She was so determined I would empty my plate, that she would resort to holding my nose as she attempted to shovel the muck down my reluctant throat. It was all to no avail. My gagging reflex would kick in and the battle would be over for the moment. Off I would go to the cupboard. Where I think I was supposed to reflect on my crime.
What Auntie May didn't realise, was that after my initial fears had subsided, I was quite happy being imprisoned in this cupboard, among the mops and brushes and other sundry cleaning materials. As far as I was concerned this was quite a nice little haven. Away from the petty squabbles and upsets of life in a children's home. Even in the pitch darkness my eyes would somehow find enough light for me to to fashion a pillow out of dusters and cleaning cloths and snuggle down, engulfed in the scent of carbolic soap, for a few hours peaceful sleep.
She was however a determined woman, and often, the next day would find me confronted with the same plateful of food for breakfast, dinner and tea.
Being able to adapt to this punishment was to serve me well a few years down the line, when I was left in the care of a monstrous foster 'mother'. A foster 'mother' with a cellar. I'll keep her for another time.
Not everyone was as adaptable as me in these circumstances. Being left alone in the dark is a very common and terrifying childhood fear. It was extremely worrying for us youngsters to have to watch one of our peers being dragged kicking and screaming to the cupboard. It sets off a sense of helplessness in a child when it is realised how powerless they are to prevent suffering. This compounds a feeling of worthlessness in children. Some of whom are already deeply troubled by unpleasant circumstances in their young lives.
It is not an excuse, but to my mind, inflicting these unthinking and traumatising punishments on children in care is the reason so many of us would go off the rails. I include myself in this. Maybe it is an excuse.
As I sit here today, thinking back over a troubled childhood, I am filled with incredulity that grown people in a supposedly caring profession could act in this abhorrent way. Quite astonishing how many people who dislike kids actually choose childcare as a career. Or am I being incredibly naive? How I wish it was possible to confront them with their crimes.Tell them what I thought of them then. What I think of them now.
By my next post I will hopefully be back to my normal happy self, and will have a tale to amuse and give you cause to smile. Can't promise anything though, because my mind gets kind of cluttered at times.
I am off out now. Been invited to dinner. Hope I mentioned that I don't like macaroni cheese!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Murderer Amongst The Roses.

Richard was, until his retirement a few months ago, a warder at the prison just across the fields from here. Probably less than a mile as the crow flies.
One day not too long ago, Sadie the German Shepherd and I bumped into him on our walk.
"Hi Rich", I greeted him. "How's things?"
Richards normal morose expression changed to exceedingly morose. "I'm bloody well annoyed."
As Sadie, and Richards black labrador Jack, conducted a detailed analysis of each others rear quarters. He told me that he was so fed up, he was seriously contemplating selling up and moving away from the area. The thing which had brought about this thinking on his part, was that every day when he looked out of his kitchen window, he was confronted with the sight of one of his former clients, sitting on the grass verge opposite his house. In this hyper sensitive politically correct age I knew that when he used the word 'client' he was in fact referring to an ex prisoner.
Due to client confidentiality Richard was not able to go into any more detail. I commiserated with him. Said goodbye, and Sadie and I went on our way.
Two or three days after this exchange, Tricia, my friend and former partner, told me that she was thinking of employing someone to come and help her in the garden for a few hours a week. On hearing this I went through my usual speil of telling her it wasn't necessary to employ someone, as I was always available to help. Having heard this before, she laughed, thanked me for my kind offer, and told me she was going ahead with her plan anyway.
I didn't like the new gardener at all. He seemed a bit smarmy, and a bit too familiar if you ask me. He was there more than a few hours a week too. Once I overheard him tell Tricia to make a cup of tea for them both and come and have a sit down. The cheeky b-----d. Added to that, he never even had any garden tools of his own. Always wanting to borrow mine. Normally I have this maxim. If you need to borrow something more than three times then you probably need to buy one for yourself. In this case though, because it was helping Tricia I let him get away with it.
Move forward a few days. I get a phone call from Tricia. She wants me to call round to the house. It is urgent. She sounds upset, so of course I hurry round to see what the problem is.
Richard has been around. He is concerned for her. The new gardener is one of his former clients. The one who has been sitting on the grass verge outside his house every day.
The new gardener is out on licence from prison. The new gardener is a double wife murderer!
Understandably Tricia has changed her mind. She doesn't want anyone helping in the garden. She is worried and frightened and doesn't know what to do, how to get rid of him.
Gallantly, and with extreme heroism, if I do say so myself. I offer to tell him to go away.
"No"! She says. "He might kill you"!
"He won't kill me". I tell her. Adding thoughtfully. "He only kills women."
"You mustn't say anything to upset him. He might come back and stab me in the night".
After I have reassured her with the thought that he only kills women he is married to. We hit upon the solution to this somewhat tricky situation. Tricia will simply tell him that her financial circumstances have changed, and she cannot afford to pay him.
It turns out that this man uses a technique known as passive aggression to get his way. He is extremely good at it. It is a technique which a well mannered person, such as Tricia would find hard to resist. It relies on a person being simply unable to know how to tell the aggressor to go away. It is somewhat similar to the methods that might be used by a high pressure salesman.
This man is now back inside and awaiting trial for the attempted murder of his new partner.
To conclude. If you are thinking about employing someone you don't know to prune your roses, I offer the following piece of sound advice. Think again!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Why Flannel Is Pants.

It is the summer of nineteen hundred and sixty three. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones are just starting out on their incredible journeys to fame and fortune. I too am on a journey. Without the fame or the fortune sadly. I have almost completed a long, long train ride from Aberdeenshire, in bonny Scotland. Here I am at last. Sharpness railway station in Gloucestershire within reach of my destination, the Merchant Navy training establishment, TS Vindicatrix.
There were quite a few of us youngsters milling about the station entrance, with our various bags and suitcases. Some of the boys had obviously met up on the train and were in groups of two or three, being quite loud. Their new found friendships lending them a bravado which others, including myself were not feeling.
Standing alone, slightly bewildered as to what to do next, most of us were nervously and inexpertly puffing on cigarettes.
We exchanged glances. Sizing each other up. Who looked friendly? Who best to avoid? Tentative smiles. A greeting. "Alright?"
 "Yeah. You alright?"
 "Yeah mate. I'm alright"
I'm fairly sure that most of us weren't feeling alright, but we soon relaxed into each others company. Kindred spirits embarking on a journey into the unknown.
A bus with a roughly scribbled notice on the windshield, TS VINDICATRIX, pulls into the station forecourt and out jumps a tough looking man wearing a naval uniform. He greets us warmly. "You can put those fucking fags out for a fucking start."
Impressed with his commanding use of the English language we hasten to obey.
He impresses us even further. "Now pick those fucking cases up and go and stand in two lines over there." Indicating with his pointing finger where over there is. "And get a fucking move on."
In our nervous rush to please, we make a right mess of lining up in two's, provoking more seaman like vernacular. But eventually, by the brute force of his winning personality, our new found friend and mentor, manages to get us lined up, counted, and on the bus.
Five minutes later we arrive at the Merchant Navy Training Establishment, TS Vindicatrix, Sharpness, Gloucestershire, England.
At sixteen years of age my dream of becoming a merchant seaman is about to be realised. A dream which is soon to be a nightmare of dreadful food, early morning wake ups, exhausting physical exercise, marching routines and any other hellish thing you can think of that might cause a rebellious teenage youth to have second thoughts about his chosen career path.
Our quarters were long wooden huts. The kind of things you would see in prisoner of war films. In fact for the next three months this was a prison, for if we wanted to complete the course we would not be allowed outside this camp, except for two days 'leave' in the last week.
It was to be a very tough regime. A lot of lads were not prepared to put up with it and soon gave up. Quite a few of them would not last even one day. How they thought they would manage for months at sea I have no idea.
One boy. A bit of a 'Jack the Lad' was shown the door, when on being asked to declare his religion, he answered that he was an atheist. We were expected to be God fearing. No place for a non believer at sea apparently. Can you imagine that happening today? Unthinkable. Superstitious lot sailors. Doesn't really make much sense if you ask me. After all if the good Lord is looking after you, what is the point of being superstitious. Still better safe than sorry.
I didn't have any worries about completing the course. This place was just another institution and I was very well used to that. No, I had a much bigger concern than that. I had a concern that had traumatised me for days. I was very worried about my underpants!
My clothing at this time was still being bought for me by the children's department. In the shape of my welfare officer. They call them social workers these days. She was a stickler for the rules this one and insisted that I have the regulation, old fashioned flannel underwear. I wanted Y fronts. I begged her for Y fronts. But no, she would not budge!
That woman! The angst she caused me. Those flannel underpants were longer than the regulation PE shorts and hung down below them for everyone to see. Oh, the cringing embarrassment!
I've forgotten a lot about my time at the TS Vindicatrix, but I will never forget those underpants. Honestly I'm still traumatised today. Maybe I should have some counselling.

I wish to apologise for the Chief Petty Officers bad language.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Man Who Walks Backwards.

Now then, I am well aware that it is wrong to laugh at other peoples misfortunes. I am. I really am. It is absolutely wrong. Very naughty indeed. Not something I would ever do. Never! Who? Me? No!
But you have to admit if you're honest, that it is quite funny if you happen to see for instance: a fat bloke stuck in a turnstile at the football ground. Even funnier if it's one of the away team supporters. What about when the bottom falls out of someones carrier bag full of shopping? That's quite funny, isnt it? Someone having a hard time walking on an icy pavement. that is always good for a chuckle. Especially when they do that scampering along trying to keep their balance bit, before the inevitable happens and they land on their bottom. Quite funny that. Hilarious actually.
Don't you just love those TV shows where they delight in showing peoples misfortunes? You don't? Are you sure? I could have sworn I saw you suppressing a smile. Oh well, if you say you don't who am I to doubt you?
But anyway as I was saying. I would never laugh at some unfortunate persons discomfort. Never!
Except today. When something happened that keeps making me chuckle to myself, every time I think about it.
Oh dear! Stop it! Just get on and tell the story! Sorry about that. Just giving myself a bit of a telling off.
Today, down at the local shop, I met a man who could only walk backwards. I didn't know he could only walk backwards when I started chatting to him, because he was standing still at the time. The subject came up in our conversation.
Apparently what happened to this chap, was that one day as he was crossing the road, both his knees locked and he couldn't move. This of course was unfortunate. What made it even more disastrous for the poor bloke was that he was only halfway across when it happened. This is not funny. The road was very busy. So he was stuck there for quite a long time. He was very worried. Well you would be, wouldn't you? About the traffic naturally, but mainly about his knees. They just would not bend.
He told me that he tried doing pelvic thrusts in an effort to gain some forward momentum, but had to give that up when he noticed a woman looking at him suspiciously and reaching for her mobile phone. Also some drivers were winding down their windows and saying things, like pervert, and weirdo. Which is not very nice, but perhaps understandable. Especially when directed at a bloke, standing in the middle of a busy road, doing highly suggestive movements.
Eventually, after wracking his brains for some time. He hit upon the solution to his dilemma and walked backwards to where he had started. Which as he said himself, was a very dodgy thing to do, because passing motorists couldn't tell if he was coming or going.
He walked backwards all the way home,and because he had to keep stopping and shuffling around to see where he was going, people were making nasty comments as he made his awkward progress.
To cap it all off he told me that when he finally got home his wife gave him short shrift because he hadn't got the shopping. When he explained about his knees she called him a daft old fool.
The operation to try and sort out his knees had not been successful. He was going to go back into hospital soon, for another go, but in the meantime was still having to walk backwards.
The police stop him a lot apparently. Wanting to know what he's up to. He's getting fed up with them. But as he says, it's a free country. There's no law against walking backwards.
Because he was facing the door I assumed that he was just leaving.
"Are you going"? I asked him. Thinking I might offer him a lift home.
"No", he said. "I've just arrived", and with that he walked off. Backwards.