The weather in the UK right now is, as they say all too often, changeable. It is the time of year when we Brits face the perennial challenge of what to wear? Should we wear a light jacket, a heavy jacket, or no jacket at all? Should we carry an umbrella or leave it at home?
Wednesday saw the hottest day of the year, with 25 degrees being registered in central London. And, I should know. Because I was there.
I should know because I travelled home on Wednesday evening on a Virgin Pendolino. Temperatures on board were rising because, as it is all too often, the seat reservation system wasn’t working when we boarded. Little pockets of “seat rage” were popping up throughout the train, but particularly in First Class where people lacking arms and legs simply wanted to collapse into the seat for which their limbs and appendages had been sacrificed.
About ten minutes into the journey, and, therefore, about ten minutes too late, a reboot of the train’s system fixed the seat reservation…..and rendered the air conditioning useless. On the hottest day of the year.
Temperatures in the cabin rose to a sweltering 30 degrees and, unlike the days of old when opening a window and sticking your head out might have offered a certain relief (especially if another train was coming the other way) modern Virgin Pendolinos are hermetically sealed units through which breezes and, frustratingly, mobile phone signals, will not pass.
Everyone began to sweat and melt into chairs that had been reserved by other people. I texted C to apologise in advance for my unkempt and whiffy state, masked only by the occasional spray from my pocket-sized Channel Blue.
C responded, most sympathetically, and I returned home to a most welcome, cooling and stress-relieving candlelit bath and a change of clothes. The bath and C’s sympathy were also most welcome as I saw neither for the next couple of days.
We awoke on Thursday morning to find the boiler locked out. No heating. No hot water. The boiler had locked out because we had run out of oil. We would not have run out of oil but for the unseasonably chilly weather which had preceded Wednesday’s aberration and a broken oil tank gauge. Or so I argued. But, ordering the oil is my job. And so a chill descended as C gazed upon me with a mix of disappointment and murder in her eye.
I thought I might have been given a reprieve as I immediately called the oil supplier and secured a delivery for Friday and because Wednesday had been the hottest day of the year. But, as I said, the weather can be changeable this time of year. Thursday’s chill was not just to be found in C’s metaphorical frown. It was meteorological too.
Fleeces were donned, electric heaters were recovered, the fire was lit, and I spent much of the day sitting around the heat of a hot cup of coffee while being admonished for my inefficiency in the oil ordering department.
It was even colder yesterday. And, of course, yesterday was the day when the power company chose to undertake essential line maintenance, requiring our power to be shut off between the hours of nine in the morning and four in the afternoon. No hot water. No heating. No electric heaters and no hot cups of coffee to huddle around.
The oil was delivered but, when the power came back on the boiler remained locked out. Thankfully a plumber was found within the hour and he was able to shift the air and get the oil flowing. But only after we had been required to dismantle half of the kitchen unit above the boiler and breaking one tile. And, payment of a hefty call-out charge.
The hot shower yesterday evening was a welcome relief.
Today is sunny, although it is far from hot. It is about 14 degrees. And yet many of the citizens of Sandbach this morning had been lulled into a false sense of temperature and, like moths drawn to a flame, left their homes with an inappropriate jacket. Indeed, a high proportion were shivering, wearing nothing but t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Fake tans, muffin tops and tattoos aplenty were on display.
At least today, I was able to return home to a hot cup of tea, heating and hot water.
I must not forget to order the oil. I must not forget to order the oil. I must not forget to order the oil. I must not forget to order the oil.
Today’s TV, radio, and social media are full of political pundits and self-servers such as Katie Hopkins picking over the bones of last night’s UK Leadership Debate.
Many had described the format as the worst episode of Fifteen to One, the Weakest Link, or, Take Me Out…..as if there could ever be a good, of better episode of Take Me Out. Not Paddy McGuinness’ finest moment.
While the moderator, Julie Etchingham, did exert control in an Anne Robinsonesque manner, for me the Debate took on an otherworldly feel.
Rather than a TV quiz show, I was minded of the fantasy of the Fellowship of the Ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. In this story, the disparate and diverse people of Middle-earth came together in an uneasy coalition of men, elves, dwarves, wizards and hobbits, to save the world from evil and destruction.
For me Nick Clegg was Legolas, trying to bring ancient, long-lived elvish wisdom and compromise to the short-termism and hot-headedness of the men. This is a political world in which the dwarves and hobbits are unfortunately too few in number or lacking in stature to rule in their own right, but are an integral part of the alliance.
It remains to be seen who will emerge as Frodo, the diminutive hero who ultimately saves the world and allows the King to return to his rightful place of enlightened, absolute power.
But, I suspect it will not be Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru, who is mostly Welsh. She is as Welsh as a Welsh thing, stopping just short of standing on stage next to an inflatable leek and rallying the audience with a cry of Oggy, Oggy, Oggy.
I despair that it might yet be Farage, who offered nothing but fear of HIV infected health tourists and the fact that the Communists were coming. I think he would promise a lot of sweat and tears – his sweat and our tears.
And, while I would hope that Clegg could be the voice of reason and compromise in a Labour-led coalition this coming May, I fear that Nicola Sturgeon, might be Grima Wormtongue whispering in Moribund’s ear, which will not bode well for this United Kingdom.
All in all I would say that the winners of the Debate were Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie Bennett, who spoke well and honestly, answered the questions, and showed that they had a sense of how normal people in this country live. Girl power might be on the up.
Unfortunately, both Cameron and Moribund seem stuck in their fantasy world of Middle-earth.
Turn to camera and make puppy-dog eyes……
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.
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
The 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….
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.
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….
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.
And 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.
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 want 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.
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…