Spring has not sprung just yet….

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Spring is in the air and the daffodils have turned their faces towards the sun. The pheasants have begun to play chicken with the traffic in the lane, and the goshawks are performing their falling dance while they shriek their mating calls in the Cheshire skies.

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The local Waitrose has revealed its new outdoor seating area, to tempt the counties finest to sit a while with a latte and the Telegraph and discuss the upcoming election or simply admire the view over the carpark and the trolley park.

But the weather is not yet spring-like. It is wet. It is grey. It is cold. And, it is windy. No not a malevolent, Biblical wind. Not a hurricane, or a tornado, or a tropical cyclone. But still, it is unseasonably windy. Especially for Cheshire.

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Our one hundred and sixty year old house has been buffeted for the past twenty four hours by a steady forty mile per hour wind, with gusts of up to sixty. It went on throughout the night, and C and I huddled under the bedsheets in fear of tiles being ripped from the roof, and ancient glass cracking in their rattling, shaking panes.

We listened expectantly for the sound of crashing trees and smashing patio furniture as the wind whooshed and whistled through the house and the very bricks and mortar rattled, creaked and groaned in complaint.

This morning, we pulled back the curtains, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, expecting to see a scene of desolation and devastation laid out before us. But no. The mighty copper beech still stood watch over the garden furniture and the gazebo remained grounded. The lawn was not strewn with slate. We had survived.

Indeed, the only visible sign of the night’s storm was a blue, plastic watering can which had clearly been ripped from a neighbour’s garden and flung violently across our lawn to its final resting place beneath our hedge. Not quite the end of the world, but it could have put someone’s eye out…..

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But we awoke tired. Bone tired. And, the unrelenting gale did not allow us the respite of an afternoon snooze on the sofa. And so, we remain tired. Tired like the mother in Babadook. And, with the prospect of another stormy night before us, I am going to hide all sharp objects and keep C away from children’s books……

Stay safe people of Cheshire.

March 31, 2015 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Fifty Shades of Pants

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Last weekend C and I went to watch Fifty Shades of Grey at a local one screen cinema. The same little cinema where we had previously viewed other notable “classics” such as “Noah”. We should have known….

We had speculated whether the usual gaggle of grey-haired ladies we had seen there on a regular basis, and who we assumed turned up every week to whatever was currently showing, would be there.

They were not. We were both disappointed and relieved at the same time. While neither of us had read the book we assumed that this was not a film that you would like to watch in front of your parents.

Even my brother-in-law, Joel, whose choice of a collective weekend movie viewing was “Filth” would not make that mistake. I do, however, worry that my mother-in-law will be staying with my other brother-in-law in the near future. Smithy, put the remote control down!

Indeed, there were not many people present at the cinema at all. There were maybe ten other couples in total. The men all looked rather sheepish and worked hard at avoiding eye contact. Clearly they were present under duress and only as a result of some large or small Valentine’s Day misdemeanour. I’m just guessing….

The women shared knowing glances, clearly relishing their partners’ discomfort….

And so, the audience settled down, coats carefully placed over laps – it was chilly in the cinema – and endured targeted advertising for Durex Tingle cream, and the like. And then the show began. It was remarkable. It was pants. It was fifty shades of pants.

The show began with Anastasia, the demure girl-next-door virgin, entering the obsessive compulsive lair (he seems to like most words ending in “sive”….) of Christian Grey, Grey House, a location which merges the best and worse of Iron Man’s Stark Towers and an early episode of Mad Men. Anastasia is definitely Peggy Olson to Christian’s Don Draper….a rather mal-nourished and (according to Mark Kermode) hobbit-like Don Draper.

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The dialogue is sophisticated. Sophisticated in the same way that the narrative of the Mr Men’s series is sophisticated. Not. You would be forgiven for thinking that the script had been translated into English from Mandarin by an eleven-year old.

imageThe direction, in particular of the supposedly erotic sex scenes, is as arousing as the infamous naked balloon dance which was the second lowest point in the career of Keith Chegwin. The balloon thankfully conceals all of the bits that you don’t want to see.

This is a film devoid of genitalia but rammed with product placements for Audi and Apple products. Clearly, this film’s target audience is the Real Housewives of Cheshire, which further explains the quality and pitch of the dialogue. This is a film for WAGs.

The film climaxes…….

The film concludes when Anastasia, nipples erect and hairy legs bristling with static electricity (which could be a direct quote from the original text, methinks) challenges Christian to do his perverse and sadomasochistic worst. And, in a scene which is the hard-core porn equivalent of Denis Healey’s attack by Geoffrey Howe (“like being savaged by a dead sheep”), Mr Bean hits Anastasia on the bum with a belt….six times! Oooh. Owww. Oh.

No wonder she walked out!

We walked out of the cinema, past the assembling audience of the next showing. They looked slightly bemused by the stifled giggles we struggled to conceal with a lot more difficulty than the non-existent involuntary erections that the men had expected beneath their coats before the film had begun.

The most shocking aspect of the weekend, however, was discovering that my mother has read all three books in the series. Thankfully, my poor dad had given up after just two paragraphs. Apparently. Worse still, my mom revealed how book three ended. Frankly, that’s just spoiled two more movies for me.

Pants. Nice pants….

February 17, 2015 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

Upward Mobility

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I was forced to question my working class credentials this weekend. It appears that I am now, well and truly a member of the middle class. Grammar school fuelled social mobility has finally worked its wonders.

It was not the fact that I was lunching in Knutsford, Cheshire, in that “Golden Triangle” which, together with Wilmslow/Alderley Edge and Prestbury, forms the heartland and hunting ground of the Real Housewives of Cheshire and their mediocre footballing husbands; the epicentre of this great country’s sales of champagne; and, charity shops filled to the brim with cast-off designer labels, handbags and dog grooming accessories.

Nor was it the fact that my Oxford-educated self was lunching with my psychotherapist and university teaching fellow and better half in an up-market pizza establishment in which your standard tomato sauce base has yielded to béchamel and lobster bisque and the pizza is served on slate.

It wasn’t even the fact that we were surrounded by three-wheel, off-road Maclaren buggies wielded by yummy mummies and weekend-only fathers attempting to stuff pitted olives and humus into little floppy-haired Sebastian and darling Hermione while talking very loudly to their peers about their latest ventures into interior design and spa treatments, over a glass of bubbles.

No. It was the point at which our own conversation turned to the idea of donating the remnants of our Christmas hamper to our local Waitrose’s food bank.

Now I know that some of you might be surprised that a Cheshire Waitrose has a food bank at all. But they do. I think it is the modern-day equivalent of giving Maundy money to the poor. It is the height of commercial philanthropy and social responsibility. It confuses the shoplifters. It provides company for the nearby purveyor of the Big Issue. And it (the food bank) is strategically located just inside the door so that the poor folk and general hoi polloi don’t linger too long, upsetting the genuine shoppers.

No, we were actually discussing donating the uneaten and discarded remains of our luxury Fortnum & Mason Christmas hamper, which was the size of a small family hatchback and had been gifted us by my employer in the hope that, during the festive week, we would celebrate, break bread and share a drink and a champagne trifle or two with our nearest and dearest and so feel not so guilty for having been apart from and neglecting them for the other fifty one weeks of the year.

We realised quite how far we had fallen, or rather, how far we had risen, when
C pointed out that your average family in need might struggle to make a nutritious and warming meal for five out of a tin of Gentleman’s Relish, a jar of sun-dried avocet in aspic, and poached swans livers drizzled in truffle washed down with a bottle of mulled wine. They could, however, shelter quite comfortably in the empty wicker hamper without the need for bunk beds should they be made homeless.

We were shocked at ourselves and immediately slipped back into our regional accents, and returned home where we talked about football, Coronation Street and the sad demise of the Labour Party, before preparing a fish finger sandwich on white sliced bread with tomato ketchup and a mug of tea (stoically ignoring the Nespresso machine in the corner) and bemoaning the fact that this year’s series of Celebrity Big Brother had ended…..and had clearly been fixed! Go Calum Best. Go Katie Hopkins.

Middleman is middle class. Who would have thought it…..?

February 10, 2015 at 8:43 pm Leave a comment

The Clock is ticking…..

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We are doomed.

On Thursday last week, as the world was distracted by such news frippery and trivia as Obama’s State of the Union address and the death of Deirdre Barlow of Coronation Street fame (RIP – far too young….), the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock forward two whole minutes, to just three minutes before midnight.

We are doomed.

The world is on the brink of self-wrought destruction. Not the Ebola virus. Not alien invasion or an infestation of zombies.

No. Instead, our imminent destruction will result from the ubiquity of outdated nuclear weapons under the control of nutters like Putin and, if the UK election pans out as seems likely, by Red Ed Miliband or, Heaven help us, Boris Johnson.

We are doomed.

And, if the nukes don’t get us then the climate will. Man-made climate change will continue to result in global warming. The seas will rise and flood the low lands while the highlands will burn as fire ravages the land and a displaced populace, ravaged by disease and pestilence, will tear themselves apart in an anarchic world with limited resources.

We are doomed.

Apparently, the Atomic boffins were considering moving it to just one minute to midnight but did not want to appear too pessimistic.

There is after all a chance that we will be thrown back to the Middle Ages if ISIS continues its rampant advance across the Middle East. It might just save the planet.image

Another mitigating factor was that it has also become clear that there is little chance of Katie Hopkins and Perez Hilton breeding, after getting it on in the Celebrity Big Brother House. Imagine the consequences.

Maybe there is hope for us all after all….

January 24, 2015 at 5:26 pm Leave a comment

Je Suis Humaine!

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I am Charlie. But above all else I am human. And I try to be open-minded and tolerant and democratic.

As with many. I watched in horror and amazement as the awful events in Paris and elsewhere in France unfolded over the last couple of days.

But, as I reflect today it is my hope that the spirit of Charlie Hebdo survives and that the world turns its back on the anti-Islamist and anti-Muslim rhetoric spouted by the likes of that vicious little man, Rupert Murdoch, who no doubt now will be issuing a grovelling apology to News Corporation’s second biggest shareholder, Saudi royal Al-Waleed bin Talal.

imageAnd the same can be said of the fundamentalist Christian redneck mid-American reaction filling the blogosphere and other social media, calling for an uprising and a shock and awe Crusade against the Islamic world, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping to the defence of Christianity clad in the white robes of the Klu Klux Clan, no doubt.

You are no better than the terrorists. Two wrongs do not make a right.

It terrifies me that in modern, multi-cultural Europe we can react in such a negative and extreme manner as the Pegida anti-Islamist protests in Dresden, Germany and elsewhere, reminiscent of Nazi anti-Jewish fervour of the 1930s. We attack mosques. We disrespect the robes of modesty worn by women in our streets. We meet hatred with more hatred.

The extreme political right should not be allowed to gain ground as aresult of this attack. Those fools at UKIP should not be beneficiaries.

I think radio presenter James O’Brien has the correct perspective.

http://www.islam21c.com/special/a-james-obrien-masterclass-in-how-to-deal-with-people-demanding-that-muslims-apologise-for-charliehebdo/

These were terrorists. Nothing more, and a lot less. Yes, they murdered in the name of Islam. But it was a warped, medieval, flawed, and incorrect version of Islam. They no more represent the views of Muslims everywhere than I do the views of Anglo-Saxon white men around the world.

Muslims no more need to apologise for the actions of these madmen, than I do for the slavery of my forebears, the carpet bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, or Protestant atrocities in Ireland.

To kill a cartoonist for ridiculing the Prophet is plain stupid. If you imagewant us to stop ridiculing you, stop doing ridiculous things! Do we really think that the world would be a much better place if we executed Ian Hislop? (actually, ignore that remark…..).

I would like to think that a God – yours, mine, or anyone’s would be big enough, divine enough, and powerful enough to turn the other cheek, and forgive those who affronted them.

The world religions seem to me to have much more in common than the differences between them. It is men and women that twist the words and their teachings to excuse their own behaviours and barbarism. It is men who invoke religion to justify war.

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Let us hope that the words of Edward Bulwer-Lytton:”The pen is mightier than the sword”, prove to be correct. Freedom of speech has to prevail. Tolerance must win through.

And we should also retain a sense of perspective. Seventeen people were killed by these fools and a nation was terrorised. The dead included two Muslims – one a cartoonist, the other a police officer.

But, in the same amount of time Boko Haram two thousand massacred in Baga, Nigeria on the Chad border. Yesterday, another terrorist attack in Yemen killed thirty seven. How many more died in Iraq and Syria and in Palestine?

Where was the news coverage of those atrocities? Where were the demonstrations of solidarity for these victims. Or, do we only worry about terror when it is knocking at our own door…..

Oui je suis Charlie, mais surtout je suis humaine…

 

January 10, 2015 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Decline and Fall

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As I sit here by the pool in Doha, Qatar in my swim shorts (definitely not Speedos – I am from Cheshire) and sunglasses in a comfortable 25 degrees with a gentle breeze, I can only speculate as to how much greater might the Great British Empire have been if only we had embraced appropriate hot weather wear and a factor fifty.

Admittedly, we didn’t do too bad a job with our pith helmets, khaki shorts and manly moustaches. And a gin and tonic or three to keep us cool and safely medicated.

But in truth, the Empire was soon cut short once we began to run out of Scots and Irish to do our fighting for us, while we sat in the shade, under a fan, eating tiffin before a game of billiards and a cocktail or three.

As such we were increasingly forced to rely on local troops to do our dirty and spread / enforce the great British creed of commerce, Sunday School Christianity and anti-French/German sentiment.

Unfortunately, slowly but surely, the locals began to think that they might as well be fighting and dying for their own causes, and lining their own pockets, and worshipping their own Gods, and there was a wave of nationalism and devolution much more successful than any Arab Spring or Scottish Referendum.

They were able to do so quite easily in the end. While protected from the Arabian/Indian/African (delete as necessary) heat by their flowing robes and sandals, they were able to seize power while we were taking a Tanqueray induced siesta.

They still prefer us to the Germans though.

If only we’d have listened and learnt from Lawrence of Arabia….

December 31, 2014 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 61,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 30, 2014 at 5:48 am Leave a comment

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