Thursday, December 15, 2005

Spook central at our local Spar…..

It's strange, but no matter from what angle you look, Degsy's eyes will always follow you around the room......

It was a day, just another ordinary day.
And it was still daylight.
I was feeling pretty OK, sort of, as I parked the car outside the local Spar supermarket. The sky was icy blue and the chill wind made it feel like everyone in the whole world was sucking on a moon-sized peppermint every time we breathed in. I made my way towards the entrance of the shop – it was 2:00pm on a late November afternoon…..

As I approached the threshold, my bright and optimistic candour suddenly evaporated. For no reason at all, I’m feeling as sad as a Leonard Cohen fan with depression and a bit of a headache, what the hell is the matter with me?

A black cat ran across my path. Hmmmm, that could be an omen, I suppose - or it could just be a cat. Suddenly, above my head, a large crow perched on the big plastic letter ‘Pee’ of ‘SPAR’ started squawking at me. His bright yellow evil eye held me in a rabid rabbit, car-in-headlights trance. It fluffed up its bible-black, bible-blackest feathers in an attempt to keep out the cold north wind…. It looked like a little angel of death, waiting for his next victim. I’m no expert, but maybe, just maybe it could be a bit of a portend. A portend of doom?

I thought, long and hard – should I go into this SPAR? Should I risk it - go in, when all the omens are warning me off? It’s just a shop for God’s sake. I mean, I know the service is a bit crusty and they don’t have 97 varieties of coffee brands on sale, but if I’m lucky, I might justbe able to bag the last prawn mayo butty of the day.

I ponder. It’s a battle. A battle of wills between my head and my stomach. Which bit will win? On the one hand there's my primordial instincts - they have enabled the human race to survive and flourish over millions of years by warning of hidden danger through a mysterious 6th sense. On the other hand are the hunger pangs in my stomach. It’s gut-instincts verses gut-guts……

No contest, ‘guts’ wins this, and has done every time.

I breeze in and lunge, the last prawn and mayo on brown is mine all mine. And what a bonus! The corners have hardly bent upward yet – and the bright pink chemical that is supposed to resemble prawn juice hasn’t fully sogged through the sad slices of bread. The excitement of the chase had dulled my survival senses, it was only after the prize was mine that I was aware that I was not alone. I’d just manage to beat a bloke dripping gold, fake sun-tans and the last 1977 consignment of Brut 33. He cracked on that he wasn’t bothered about missing out on the prawn….. he chose something from the losers counter……

The stranger with the several layers of sun tan, the gold stuff and the Brut vapour trail strolled away towards the bottled water display. Hang on a mo’ – this stranger somehow looks familiar. Yes indeed, none other than spirit medium and seer – of all things dead, Mr Residual energy himself, Derek Acorah.

The star of Living TV’s ‘Most Haunted’ was here (presumably in the flesh), in my local Spar shop, one prawn sandwich down and looking to purchase a bottle of water. Now, if you believe the publicity, Acorah is supposed to be unable to walk down the road without tripping over millions of lost spirits – he’s supposed to be able to pick up on ‘them that have gone over’ like other people pick their nose.

I stared hard at his back. He continued to study the not very extensive bottled water range. What was he doing? Was he performing an exorcism on a 2-litre bottle of Malvern Spring? Was he checking his flies – who knows. Suddenly, in a move reminiscent of Antonio Banderas in the latest Zorro film, Acorah spun round and caught me looking straight at him.
It was a fair cop. I was caught, bang to rights, clocking a Zed-list celebrity. His 6th sense was obviously honed to ‘turbo mode’……. Well, it would be wouldn’t it – what with all those ghosts and orbs and stuff. Maybe ‘Sam’ his native north American scout spirit guide tipped him the wink from the fire water aisle?

Just then, Acorah moved. With the speed of a poltergeist on a mission of mischief, he got to the only check-out in the shop before me. He opened his wallet – wall to wall Gold cards and notes……. No doubt about it, there really is money in crap television. Acorah seemed to sense the bad karma emanating from me to him. He looked ruffled, hot and bothered. The ‘great smell of Brut’ was working overtime.

He paid and walked out of the shop. I looked straight at the shop assistant behind the check-out. Lights on, no one at home. She gave the impression she had just joined the living dead. I wanted to say to her, "That la-de-dah Derek Acorah, who the bloody hell does he think he is. Coming in here as bold as you like and buying some water – and almost getting the last prawn mayo on brown"…..

As I said, I wanted to – but some 6th sense inside me was screaming "Don’t say a word, master!"…. Was it my very own spirit guide? Was he an Indian, or maybe a Traffic Cop…. who knows? Who knows which character of the Village People he was trying to materialise to me as – all I know, it certainly worked, because just then Degsy swooped back from behind me, and he would have surely caught me slagging him off.…… "Sorry luv, forgot me water"

A likely story, Derek. I offered a private thankyou to Nobby Navajo, my new pal spirit guide. "Cheers Nobby, mate"

Nobby Navajo, Alfie's spirit guide.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Death of an Englishman.

One of my favourite broadcasters died a couple of weeks ago. John Timpson, native of Norfolk and proud Englishman slipped away aged 77 years. John had a fantastic accent, a comfy and relaxed rural burr, as mellow as a glowing glass of English mulled wine on a crisp and frosty Winter's evening.

Timpson initially got his big break on the ‘Today’ programme when original anchor, Jack deManio began to lose his marbles. Every now and then, deManio would turn up at the studio ‘a bit tired and emotional’ and inevitably make a right pig's ear of the script. On this particular ‘last straw’ occasion, DeManio was trying to introduce a story about some bloke from the Lebanon.

"And Mr Walid, a lesbian…….

Oh, I’m terribly sorry, that should be, Mr Walid, a Lesbianese…….

Errrr, sorry, that’s not right either, I meant to say Mr Walid from Lesbianon….."

That morning, DeManio seemed to have been obsessed with butch women – it didn’t go down well with the prudish Auntie Beeb – and Mr and Mrs Outraged from Tunbridge Wells had a field day.

The old soak that was Jack DeManio was quietly pensioned off to write his memoirs and Timpson seized his chance. – Various partners joined him, until the BBC had the good sense to partner him with Brian Redhead, a gobby Northerner from Macclesfield with a rare commodity amongst current broadcasters – a brain a sharp as a steel trap, and a true journalist, to boot.

For many years, throughout the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, they co-hosted this flagship radio programme. It was superb radio. Full of acerbic wit and off message, non pc comment, the merciless grilling of some inadequate tosser politician of the day was a regular sporting highlight. It was free of the nefarious agenda that currently infests the present BBC.

It was a sad day when John retired. Some young whipper-snapper called John Humphrys took over his slot – and the programme lost its appeal to me. Timpson said he wanted to retire back to his beloved Norfolk to write about the county and Country he loved so much.

Soon ‘Timpson’s England – a look beyond the obvious’ hit the bookstalls, swiftly followed by a follow up. The books were superb to read - witty little quirky snippets from forgotten corners of this great Country. Timpson toured England, finding odd and eccentric facts and figures in churches, pubs and villages – in essence, he recorded the very soul and marvellous eccentricity of this fantastic Country.

Nearly 20 years on, I’ve still got my copies – and when I’m feeling just a bit low, despairing of what this cowardly bunch of no-mark politicians in power are continuing to do to this Country, I dip into them.

It makes me feel a hell of a lot better – and it’s cheaper than Whisky……

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another attack of the ‘Nangs’…

Not been able to post this week at all. I’ve been suffering. Really, really suffering. Loads and loads of nangy things going on in the body that is planet Alfie. Itching underneath my fingernails, wanting to give the backs of my eyeballs a damned good scratch, a crease in the bed sheets irritating the hell out of my back…. In short, just feeling uncomfortable all the time.

Even just ‘thinking’ was enough to bring on a bit of a nang attack – and as the classic nang symptoms are being absolutely unable to switch off – even at 3 in the morning, it’s been a self perpetuating vicious circle of nang. I’m not entirely sure what brings it on, but it could be a type of hyper-tension – I don’t even know whether the condition is known to science. I’ve tried to find it in the medical dictionary – but it just ain’t there.

So what brought the nangs on this time? God knows, but I think it’s got something to do with bad news – the first time I got it was when I was about 9 years old, the cause? Mr Trivett, the school deputy head and psycho in residence hit me with a ruler on my head. When I got home in floods of tears - acute toe-nang was diagnosed by my Mum. There was so much tension in my feet, all my toes arched downwards, fixed like stone – a parrot without a perch. Still, it meant school was a no no, because once I’d got my special school ‘Tuf’ shoes off (with nice animal foot prints on the soles) - there was no way I could get them back on.

Since then, I’ve caught the nangs every year or so, without fail. As I’ve got older, they’ve moved around my body. The nang virus is no respecter of body geography.

I’m trying to think what ‘bad news’ may have brought this year’s attack on – and let’s face it, there’s a hell of a lot of it around. I reckon it might be to do with the news that our temperate climate is in trouble. The Gulf Stream, our bringer of warmth and balmy stability has lost 30 to 50% of its strength over the past 15 years. To put it bluntly, we could soon be up moose creek, in a kayak in 20 foot of pack ice without a paddle - or a pickaxe.

I don’t relish the imminent arrival of a big white Polar bear strolling down our high street, looking for a ‘Seal-in-a-Basket’ outlet – but we’re on the same latitude as Labrador and Alaska – both places hardly renowned for their Costas.

Paradoxically, it’s all down to Global warming. Greenland’s massive ice glaciers are melting faster than you can say ‘a15 trillion megawatt electric fire’. Billions of tonnes of ice cold fresh water are cooling the current flow from the tropics. Reduced salinity, because of the dilution and lower temperatures has meant the Gulf stream has got a bit flaccid and a bit floppy. We need to change our lifestyle habits like right now, or start making a 10,000 tonne Viagra pill to drop into the North West Atlantic.

And talking about greenhouse gases, it was reported this week that 14% of all emissions of greenhouse gases comes out of cow bums. There are over 1.3 billion cow arses on the planet – so that’s a hell of a lot of flatulence from our bovine boffers. So there you have it, cow farts could end civilisation as we know it, unless we change our ways and start eating carrots, or order 1.3 billion jumbo sized corks double quick.

No wonder I’ve got rampant nangyness.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Do's and dont's.....

When moving office, installing a new broadband line, buying a router and a shedload of wireless peripherals, it is most important to follow the installation instructions ‘to the letter’ especially as the entire stable of computery are AppleMacs of varying ages and operating systems.

When receiving the top secret ‘Username’ and ‘Password’ over the phone from the provider, it is most important that extra special care is taken to write it down correctly. Because, as everybody knows, an incorrectly written down password will mean days of frustration, a completely buggered up weekend, a few box files becoming airborne and GBH to a computer mouse.

When ringing the provider up on a snowy Monday morning, it’s important to stay cool, calm and collected, even when you’ve been hanging on for hours and hours, pressing buttons till your fingers bleed and listening to menu instructions till your brain fries. It’s especially important when going over the username and password, letter by letter, number by number, upper case by lower case – because, as the user manual says, ’It’s vital to type in the correct username and password’. - Because if you don’t, then the system will never, ever get up and running.

And it didn’t, no matter how hard I tried..

When talking to the person at the trouble shooting office of the provider, it’s important that all the ticks, all the boxes and all the typed instructions are correct and checked. I have, they are. But still it won’t bloody work.

It is also mostimportant that you do not say "Oh f*cking hell, what d’yer mean "Sorry, that lower case ‘ell’ should be an upper case ‘eye’. Do you know how many f*cking hours I’ve spent twiddling with the settings on this installation screen – and all the while you’ve been giving me the wrong f*cking password, you f*cking moron!"

When you have been extremely pissed off – and pissed upon, it is most important to vent the glottal, exercise the spleen and exorcise the pent up frustration of dealing with jobsworth divvies – and thus helping to avoid a heart attack or commit homicide, don't you think?.....

Friday, November 25, 2005

Alfie’s Christmas Gift Suggestion

Got a few quid to spare? Want to get that alternative Chrizzy pressie for that special pal? Then may I suggest you invest in a few copies of editor Tim Worstall’s excellent round up of the British blogging world in 2005.

‘Blogged 2005 – dispatches from the blogosphere’ is the year as seen through the eyes of bloggers – all the big subjects of the year are there - described in full by the army of blog in a sometimes humorous, sometimes cynical, sometimes analytical way. I went and got a copy from a branch of Waterstone’s in Southport – and it was the last one in the shop. The assistant reckoned there had been a bit of a run on them – and knowing the bohemian folk of Southport like I do – they know a book-cred bargain when they see one. You’d better get one while you can - and take my tip, go to a big bookshop. Waterstone’s was the 6th I’d tried – and at the second one, I was asked what a ‘blogged’ was. Or you could go here at Amazon – and get a few quid knocked off.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Canal walking with a bouncy guy….
I went for an evening stroll along the tow-path of the Rufford branch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal yesterday with my Son Luke and his dog Domino, the bounciest dog in the whole wide world. Dusk was gently closing in and the mist rolling up from the Ribble estuary as we parked the car and set off along the tow path. It was very atmospheric – like a Turner painting without the dynamic of a dose of laudanum. The flat landscape of the Lancashire plain rolled away into the distance, stratified in consecutively lightening shades of grey. It reminded me of a time before colour televisions – wall to wall grey scale.

I love these winter days. Still, quiet and cold - waiting for something to happen. It’s like the whole world is holding its breath. Nothing is moving – apart from the bouncy guy busily shoving his bouncy nose into the ferns.

Overhead, five Bewick’s Swans, winter visitors from the Russian Tundra, white kites against the slab grey sky, flopped and flapped over us, barely 50 yards above our heads. The dog tried to do some seriously extreme bouncing – he obviously fancied Swanski for tea.

The very low level of the canal has exposed the fantastic stone setts of the lock gates, You just cannot help but marvel at the manic Victorian precision of massive subterranean stonework never normally seen. We peered into the frozen shallow watered gloom of the canal, vainly hoping to see the odd fish or two. All of a sudden, we noticed that the bouncy guy wasn’t bouncing any more. He had now adopted the persona of a rigid guy – frozen in an attitude of a doggy Robert De Niro. "Are you looking at me?" He was in a staring contest with a rather hard looking sheep in the adjoining field.

A bit of tension here. Who’s the scariest? Well the sheep’s not given an inch – and she’s got some mates behind her to boot.

We walked away, but still the sheep and dog were locked in eyeball to eyeball starey mortal combat. Who would blink first? We broke the spell by shouting at the dog to "Come on"…… He trotted towards us, stopped and looked back to his chunky wooly protagonist. Was he saying "I salute you as a worthy opponent"…. Probably not – more likely he was saying that the next time they meet, the sheep will be stuffed into the bottom of a tin of ‘Kennomeat’

A group of partridge exploded out from a nearby grassy knoll. The dog bounced in frustration. In the distance, a barn owl quartered a field looking for a rodent supper. Our walking target was a little stone bridge, built to carry nothing more than a muddy farm track over the waterway, but as beautiful a bridge as you could ever imagine. Built at the same time as the canal, the cut stones were still as good as new. The proportions of this little bridge are as perfect as anything built in Venice. Constructed by master craftsmen in a time when men still had pride in what they did – and the consummate skill to go with it.

As we turned to head back, the gloom had virtually enveloped us. Above, the final skein of Pinkfooted Geese, over wintering from Greenland honked their noisy way to their evening roost on the sand-banks of the River Ribble.

The dog didn’t bother bouncing any more – he was completely bounced out…..

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Four men in a tub – the Chelsea of division 2….
...of the Ormskirk quiz league to be precise. This season, instead of being the usual journeymen of the division, assuming a sort of ‘Manchester City’ position, we’re as rampant as a rampant lion, rampaging away at the top of a steeply inclined ramp - in Rampton. And believe me – that’s rampant!

An initial draw and then 8 straight wins on the bounce have ensured that ‘Team Tubsters’ are miles and miles ahead of everyone else.

What’s more, we’re not just beating teams, we’re thrashing them, crushing them, blitzkrieging them. We don’t have a billionaire backer, a Russian oligarch or a rich American in a Stetson bankrolling us. We don’t have a gobby Portuguese managing us either - we don’t need anyone to gee us up, we just go out there and win! And if you don’t believe me, check this out. Being unbeatable has its perks. 'Respect' for a start..... We haven't got any groupies yet, but there's always hope, we've noticed the odd lady bar-fly giving our well honed team the old once over (strange, but it never seems to graduate to the old 'twice-over')... Who knows, in a month or two, we could have a whole groupage of Tubsterettes' in tow ........ ladees, form a queue.

Last night was the best. Our adversaries? Old Hall –our bogey team. We’ve never beaten them, ever. They’ve always managed to intimidate us with various underhand tactics, it’s fair to say, they are our least favoured team. Usually, we have the game, a couple of pints, some butties, then a friendly – but most of all we’re supposed to have a laugh….. but not with Old Hall. They just don’t seem to have a sense of humour - it's all angst and fretting and moan,moan, moaning with the Old Hall crew…. Anyway, back to last night’s game, we came, we played, we battered them. Our opponents? Vanquished to the country of bitter and twistedness. We tried (but not very hard) to act all magnanimous in victory – and only punch the air out of our opponent’s eye-shot.

So why have we all of a sudden discovered a grey matter streak, a nugget of knowledge and a seam of nelly-knowalliness? Our team is the same – and has been for a few years now. There are five of us – from which we perm a team of four. Maybe it’s because we’ve changed pubs. We now play in The Ship at Lathom, known to the locals as the ‘Blood Tub’ due to violent and habitual fighting between bargees there in the late 19th Century. So that’s where our name ‘Four Men in a Tub’ comes from….

Anyway, whatever the reason is, it’s working – if we carry on with the winning streak we’ll get into Division 1 next season. And that will mean we’ll play some very clever people indeed.

And if we do, we’ll come up against ‘Old Dog’ – the team currently second in the top tier. Within their ranks is Pat Gibson, a gentleman Irishman, now living in Wigan and recent winner of a million quid from ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ and last week, the winner of the Grand Final of BBC’s ‘Mastermind’

We can’t wait to play against them. Pat, mate, start to get worried, ‘Team-Tubster’ are after your scalp.

Pat Gibson, man of Wigan looking worried at the imminent contest with Alfie and the rest of the Tubsters

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

(Firework night reprise)...

I used to love firework night when I was a kid. The ‘club man’ dressed in gabardine mac’ and pulled down trilby would knock on the door of our house a few weeks before the big day armed with his ‘Bommy suitcase’. Forget leaflets with photos. In the suitcase was the real thing, packs of fireworks made by what we considered to be the most dangerous manufacturer of all time – ‘Brocks Fireworks’.

The smallest box was the cheapest – priced at a frugal price of one shiny English shilling. Within that box was the odd ‘Golden Rain’, a triangular ‘Mount Etna', a token Roman Candle and a few hand held fireworks that were strictly for the wussy Walters of this world. Next was a 2/6 box (12.5p) – as before with a couple of rockets, a few Catherine wheels and some Bangers. The boxes went all the way up to the gargantuan 1 quid box. Absolutely massive; the stuff of pyrotechnic dreams.

A quid box of fireworks was way out of our league. They were intended for the posh kids whose parents drove Hillman Hunters or Rover saloons, poured themselves a gee and tee when they got home from work and got the Radio Times every week.

My Mum always settled on a 5 bob box (25p) – real class, but not too ostentatious. The 5 bob box had everything, - Roman Candles, Bangers, Catherine Wheels, Versuvius’s, Air-Bombs and……. ’Rip-raps’. What a superb firework rip-raps were! Dangerous, unpredictable and full of street cred. Even lighting them was a bit of a challenge, because they bounced about a lot, in a rip-rappy sort of way. They looked like a snake folded back and forth, back and forth. The more you paid, the longer they were. And the longer they were, the more bangs and jumps you got.

Young rapscallions would throw them at people’s feet. Each time they banged, they would bounce – and a long one would bounce perhaps 20 times. What fun, what joy. They used to drop into chaps turn-ups or ladies knee length boots. Third degree burns were all so innocent then….. Eventually, like all instruments of torture, they were banned……

Also within the box would be a packet of ‘Bengal Matches’. Now these were really, really dangerous. They were like a big match with a black head, which was about an inch long. When you struck the match they would burn so brightly it would light up a star system. Napalm on a little stick they were. They burned in different colours – and all at the heat of the inner core of the Sun. They got banned as well.

Once the deal was done – and we’d agreed to pay the clubman a shilling a week for 5 weeks plus sixpence deposit, the fireworks were ours – all 5 bobs worth of them.

As a special after sales treat, the clubman would give us a box of indoor fireworks. These were deemed to be not as dangerous as the outdoor versions, but you still lit them with matches. Smoke still spewed from little ‘Mount Etna’s’. Kids still got burnt, houses still got burnt down. They got banned as well.

Come to think of it, so did the Bangers…….
Best explanation I heard over the weekend for exactly why the Gunpowder Plot was timed for the 5th of November…..

Well, apparently the plotters decided on that date so anyone seeing them lumping gunpowder, matches and firewood about would think they were going to just another fireworks party.
...the fifth of November.
And talking about Gunpowder plotting…..
There’s been a plethora of drama documentaries over the past week about how the plotters were persuaded to give up their secrets and how they eventually met their collective ends….

Guy Fawkes suffered the most of course – having been tortured on the rack, gouged with gougy things, stabbed with stabby things and having to wear the same underwear for more than a week.

On the day of his execution, he was helped up the scaffold steps because his legs had been smashed through the torture. He was then hung by the neck until he was almost dead. They cut him down, chucked water over his face to revive him and make sure he was still in the land of the living. They then cut off his goolies & knob and chucked them on the fire before his very eyes….. were gouged out and they too were chucked on the hot coals. The barbecue was made complete, courtesy of a full set of Fawkes’ guts and entrails.

Remember, Fawkes is still alive at this point, the disemboweller having taken great care not to injure the lungs or heart. The final act of barbarity was to chop his head off and stick it on a spike. His body was hacked into four quarters and despatched to the outer reaches of the kingdom….

Not much chance of parole there then.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Lordly matters….
OK, the House of Lords application form is all filled in and ready to go. Hardest job was finding any people who were willing to say I was of sound mind and a bit of a decent kind of chap. It’s amazing what the odd threat and the swift application of a judicious Chinese burn will do. But now comes my toughest task. The word is, in the corridors of power that ‘donations’ to certain political parties help the smooth sashay into an ermine robe. Anyway, I’ve had a whip round down at the Blood Tub Pub. Thanks to all patrons who willingly gave up their hard earned wedges for the cause of OKedness – and for the lucky falling into my lap of the PDSA collection box from the pub bar. How much ‘sashaying’ will £18.56p and a 2 Euro coin get me? Am I looking at Ermine Street, Easy Street or Ere’s-the-door Street?
Christmas Day is on 25th December this year isn’t it?
I was in the local Spar the other day. Waiting to pay for my stuff, I noticed a huge pile of seasonal Christmas Selection boxes, each with a fat jolly smiling Santa on, standing on a snowy roof with Rudolf and all the rest of his faithful crew. Think of all those kids on Christmas morning, stuffing their faces with this choccy bounty.

Right next to Santa’s chubby beaming smile was a nice, bold, clear message printed in a regulation EC approved typeface. - ‘Best before 10th December, 2005’…….
Ross Kemp – a big girly…
For tough guy Ross Kemp, recently beaten up by his feisty flame-haired, Sun Editor wife, I have a suggestion.
Ross, if you’re suffering from battered hubby syndrome, call me in total confidence – (sort of). I can offer a shoulder to cry on, a look that I really do give a damn on my face and present a convincing argument that you can still play a hard man in Eastenders and an SAS killer on the telly, even though you’re the world’s biggest wuss.
A bit of sad news….
Near where I live, there was a big guy who used to manage the local petrol station. He had a completely shaven head and the most startling collection of tattoos I’ve ever seen. They were all over his face, like a mask, from the front of his ears all the way round the top of his head and down to his throat. His nose had tattoos all over it – and his eyes poked out from a lavish pattern of paisley swirls all over his cheeks and forehead. Even his filtrum was tattooed.

In spite of his scary appearance, he was a really nice guy – a real character. I often passed the time of day with him after filling up with regulation BP unleaded.

Sad to read in the local paper that he was killed last Thursday in a motor cycle accident. He leaves a partner and five kids.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Werewolf meets Zombies and wins - again!

The other night on the 31st of October I had a visit from a couple of ghoulies….. or were they ghosties? Neither actually, they were both a total pain in the bum.

I was alone, working late at the office – and I heard these dysfunctional noises outside the window….. "Go on, you knock on the door, I did the last one". I saved them the trouble, leaping from the side room to reveal myself in all my glory through the full-length clear glass door.

Now when I want to be, I can be very scary. Eighteen stone big hairy person – a cross between Hagrid, Chewbacca, Rolf Harris and Fungus the Bogeyman can intimidate 15 year olds with latex masks on, no trouble. It’s no contest really…..

After all, I did it last year. When some 'trick or treaters' called, I said sorry, I didn’t want a ‘Watchtower’ journal as I was already a Jehovah’s Witness. Then I went into a Lordy, Lordy death and retribution act. From nowhere, I acquired a Southern States of America accent – and finally finished off my fire and brimstone rant with …."Eternal damnation will be yours unless you repent! Cast those demons aside from your infernal and vile bodies. Repent and embrace the Lord, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy!"......

They couldn’t get away fast enough…

Anyway, back to the present. As a result of my startling appearance, these two zombies, with donned zombie masks and zombie suits took a step back. 1 – nil to me I think. Time to press home my advantage. I opened the door. "Yes, whaddya want?"

"Trick or treat Mister?"

"Trick or treat eh....... OK, give us a Carol then"


"A Carol, gizz a Carol…. Something like, ooooh, er, tra la lar.Let me think… - ‘Hark the Herald Angels Si – ing’ will do, give us a rendition of that then"

"It’s trick or treat Mister. You know, a terrick, or a terreat"

"Great, I do not require a terrick, thanks very much, but I’d love a terreat. And the terreat I would like is for you to sing me a Carol. I’ll help if you like, altogether now, after three, 1 – 2 – 3, Hark the Herald angels siiiiii – iiiiing. Galllorrrrie to the new born Kinga..……."

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, they retreated, back into the inky blackness and disappeared….. One of them whispered…" He’s a right Nutter"

I couldn’t possibly comment.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The House of Lords needs me!

I sent off for this stuff ages ago. Older readers of the Alfred the OK archive may remember my musings on receiving these bits and bobs through the post well over a year ago now. When it came, I was all of a dither - so excited at the possibility, no matter how infinitesimally microid of me, a slob from the wrong side of the tracks actually joining the ‘has’ and the ‘beens’ of the British establishment. When it came, I vowed to give a whole week-end to filling it in – but being very busy at the time, I put it in a really safe place. So safe was that really safe place, I totally forgot exactly where that really safe place was…..

And then, the other day, whilst clearing out an old box of stuff, cunningly marked ‘really safe place’, I found it - along with my Dennis the Menace membership card and my 1972 Pan’s People Annual. Hmmmmmm, Cheryl and Babs...…… Anyway, back to the present.

What is it? The thing I’ve just found? It’s an application form to become a member of the House of Lords - obviously. I reckoned the Lords could do with a chippy, gobby English nationalist in their ranks to shake the detritus from their ermine robes and the complacency from their fallen arches. And anyway, my current pension is crap and I fancy giving the hairdryer treatment to Fatty Falconer and that windbag Lord Kinnock of Gingerness…. And with a bit of extra luck, Fatty Fat Boy Prescott might be getting kicked upstairs shortly – so I can get up close and personal to him…..

I’ve also decided on a couple of names, should I be successful in my application to join the august body. It sort of sums up my reason for wanting to join in the first place – to get under the skin of the Establishment, to be the biggest pain in the arse I can be…..
Lord Scabies of Irritania or Lord Piles of Sandpaper, seem to be appropriate.

Anyway, this time I will most certainly fill this form in – and await the guaranteed rejection letter. It’ll look nice, framed on the lounge wall next to my rejection letters to join the Women’s Institute, Mensa and The Tufty Club…

I can almost smell the rejection – it’ll go something like this…

Dear Mr OK,
Further to your application to join the noble House of Lords, I regret to inform you that this year’s quota of chippy, rotund gobby pains in the arses has been filled. We are holding one place open however, as we are expecting Lord Prescott of Turrets Syndromia to take his seat in the very near future..

We have put you on the chippy, rotund waiting list, behind Bernard Manning, Ricky Tomlinson and the late Les Dawson.

We thank you for your interest, but suggest you try joining an organisation more suited to your talents. Have you tried The Tufty Club?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Boys from the black stuff....

We've had a lot of road works being done around our way lately. All in all, the work will take 6 months to do - and we're only 2 months into it. Old tarmac taken up, new stuff put down, traffic cone heaven, orange dayglo jacketed 'stop - go' men by the hundred. queuing traffic by the million and strange looking machinery everywhere......

Here's a picture of one. For the past few days, 'the tarmac men' have been parking their big toy outside our drive. We live on the A59 - one of the busiest roads in the country - so it's a bit tricky trying to get out in the morning. I reckon it looks a bit like a dinosaur - I've called it a right 'Paininthearseaurus'....

Our house is next to a school - so all the little kiddies have to be negotiated as well. Yesterday, I nipped back home to change into my mourning suit as I had a funeral to attend in Liverpool. I was only inside 10 minutes - but by that time, the tarmac wagon had just dumped a load of hot, wet tarmac right outside the drive. I couldn't get out. The men wouldn't let me drive over it for 30 minutes - "Til it had gone off a bit" ...... Thankfully, as it was a catholic funeral service, being half an hour late didn't seem to matter, it went on and on and on and on......

Monday, October 17, 2005

Why are some people such utter bastards?

If I ever come across the morons that go shark fishing using live cats and dogs as bait, I'm afraid murder will be the only possible solution…..

Full story herebe warned it’s very upsetting.

Do us a favour, sign the petition and send a letter to the French Government, telling them to stamp this barbaric treatment out right now on their dependent territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
LOST? – you’d better believe it, baby….

Does anyone know what the bloody hell is going on in ‘Lost’?

Channel 4’s monster American import - the over perplexed, over played and over here series of a load of self obsessed drama queens stranded on a desert island, is stretching Alfie’s grey matter to the limit. I reckon it’s a sort of Emperor’s new clothes deal – everyone I’ve talked to gives this theory, that synopsis, the other underlying subliminal message…. They’re already in hell, in limbo, in pergatory…… in the money. Definitely. I mean, have those guys never heard of ‘beginning, middle and end’?

It’s not helped of course by the fact that the action always seems to be shot at night. And the ‘brightness’ control on our telly is bust. It’s set at the very, very brightest it can go – a video of Acapulco beach looks like a rainy Monday in Salford on our telly. And a desert island on Channel 4 looks like a black hole in a coal hole.

And then there’s the characters, formulaic or what? Kate, the dead fit babe with dodgy past played by Evangeline Lilly. The handsome Doctor with ‘I tried my best to save him on the operating table but I made a mistake, and he died’ baggage. There’s a fat Mexican, a shallow bimbo and her brother and a bloke who was crippled, but has regained the use of his legs. The obligatory former Iraqi Ba’ath Party torture squad member and the guy from Manchester who played a hobbit in Lord of the Rings……

And that’s the problem. That’s where the fantasy reaches the place of non credibility…… suspension of belief has gone just a bit too far on ‘Lost’ for my liking……

Charlie, played by Dominic Monaghan from Manchester with the big ears – the guy that played one of the hobbits – the guy that didn’t need much, if any make up at all to play Merry Brandybuck from Hobbiton. That guy has tapped off with the dead, dead fit bird from the show – in real life!!!!!!!

Fairy tale, pure fairy tale…..

Dead fit bird and a hobbit.....

Friday, October 14, 2005

Join the Awkward Squad, you know it makes sense….

In these dark days of big brother, his porcine pal Fat-Johnny Prescott, and a whole phalanx of yes monkey acolytes –an Englishman’s castle is no longer the redoubt it once was.

To put it bluntly, our territorial freedoms are under siege like never before. It’s the Alamo, Troy and Mafeking all rolled into one for everyone living in this country. Prescott has powers that would shame a mega braided, South American Junta General - and he's using them, (badly, obviously).

If he wants your house to be flattened and made into a car park for his Jag collection, tough.
If he decides a mobile phone mast is to be erected next to your kids school, you’ll just have to watch the little ‘uns glow with health. The bit of ancient woodland down the road – it’s stood proud for a thousand years and helped build the ships that defeated the Spanish Armada? Well, better enjoy it while you can because soon it’ll be built on - earmarked for low cost housing for ‘key’ workers.

What can be done to stop Prescott’s concrete juggernaut in it’s tracks? Short of blowing him up with a booby trapped cow pie, precious little it would seem….. but possibly not.

Time to get organised, mobile and bolshy…… and now there’s a little bit of help available in the shape of an interesting book. Not quite as earth shattering as Mao’s – but nevertheless, it could help knee Prezza right in the goolies, and that can only be a good thing.

Sir Antony Jay, co-writer of ‘Yes Minister’ and experienced Westminster lobby correspondent has written a book entitled ‘Not in My Backyard’. The title smacks of ‘nimbyism’ – but it’s much more than that. During the next 20 years, Prescott wants to build up to 4 million houses in England - in the name of so-called sustainable development. (Even though there are currently up to a million unoccupied houses in the South of England, alone). His new build programme is not sustainable and it's not thought out properly. He wants to plonk a million houses in the South East - an area of the country with chronic water and energy shortages; meanwhile, Scotland’s population is haemorrhaging as the relentless 'South East drift' continues.

His discredited 'Pathfinder' programme in the North of England is trying to knock down nearly half a million perfectly good, perfectly sound Victorian and Edwardian houses (including my Mum's old house) - and replace them with crap. These houses are not slums - Prescott is currently paying up to £200,000 per house - in order to demolish them. Hardly a price you'd pay for a condemned building. That man will ruin our country - and he has to be stopped. The book hones the prospects of protesters, evens up the playing field (well, the ones that haven’t yet been built on) and gives some much-needed ammunition to Mr and Mrs Joe Public. It could be the best £7.99 you ever spend….

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hold the front page......

I was having a discussion with a colleague yesterday, we got round to talking about something close to my heart……
And that is witty, sometimes corny headlines from newspapers…

I have to admit, I couldn’t beat his recollected efforts – the two best were –

In the ‘70’s the Rolling Stones were doing a tax haven thing and relocating to the south of France. Understandably, the locals weren’t too chuffed – they started a campaign and got a bit of a petition going to stop the legendary hell raisers from living in their midst.

The headline in the newspaper –
‘Rolling Stones Gather Mass Noes’

Better than that though, was the story about books being nicked from an Essex town’s central library. The story was headed thus –
'Book Lack in Ongar'

Brilliant, just brilliant.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ronnie Barker – superstar.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Ronnie was a genius, but apart from the usual ‘Porridge’ and ‘Two Ronnies’ Shows, I remember him, years ago on the telly playing ‘Bottom’ in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – and he was brilliant.

He was also in one of my favourite '60's films – The Bargee", an English film about life on the canals. Ever get the chance – try and see it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

King Conker and the death of a 142er….

When I was a boy, (many, many years ago) this time of year promised a feverish scramble for the fruits of Autumn. Our quarry of course was the conker, seed of the noble horse chestnut tree – and the competition was fierce, very, very fierce. Kids would chuck sticks up to the higher branches in order to get them – because you could be sure that any windfalls will have been snapped up as they dropped. The thrill of actually finding a big one (known as a big’un) or a legendary cheesy shaped one, known as a ‘cheesy’ was like scoring a goal at the Cup Final.

The best ones to find though were the conkers still in their protective prickly green jackets. As the outer skin dried, slowly, sexily, the green jacket would split, widen and the mahogany-coloured jewel within would show us a little sliver of forbidden fruit. That was the signal to peel back the skin and reveal a jewel within. Grainy, and shiny with the most amazing patina and colouring, a real mahogany nugget revealed. There’s just something so special about a freshly opened conker – but then the shininess fades and thoughts turned to preparing it for combat.

Cue secret recipe book, secret ingredients such as Vinegar, nail varnish, creosote, ingredient X and cookery techniques on gas mark 11.

Playing conkers in the playground was a real event. Crowds gathered, bets placed, chants, err ‘chanted’. Each conker smashed amassed even greater bravura to the victor, and lives taken from the defeated and smashed conker were added to the victorious hardened nugget. It seems to be a bit of a non event now – with the result that the Euro conker mountain grows every year. What are the kids doing nowadays? Probably playing Conker-Dong on their Play Stations…..

As with any sport, there were lots of cheats about at our school. ‘Knight’, the school creep and all round twat, (nickname ‘Shitety-Knighty') was rumbled. His conker had lead shot from a fishing tackle shop packed within and the holes covered with Polyfilla.

As usual with Shitey, he overdid the cheating. He packed too much shot and during a few gusto practice swings, he lost his grip on the string. The doctored conker flew into a fairly unforgiving brick bog wall and smashed into a flux of conker flesh and lead shot….

We beat him up. Well, any excuse would do, coz we really hated Shitey.

There was one, legendary conker match though. It had been brewing up all season. Mind games, insults, tactics, bad mouthing from the two protagonists. It had been building up for days, John Skyner and Paul Burnett had the two best conkers in the school. Skyner’s was a 210er and Burnett’s was a 142er.

The two super conkers were really bashed up. Skyner’s had lost some of the outer shell – but Burnett’s had no shell on at all – just a rock-hard shrunken, shrivelled centre. It looked like a scale model of Einstein’s brain after a night on the heavy. The two super conkers had mopped up all the opposition, it was inevitable they would meet for the ultimate conk-off. ‘Super-Conker-Armageddon’ was on!

Afternoon break arrived and the whole school was ready, slavering, baying for sap. An invisible square had been marked out. The arena was ready, beyond was a writhing mass of blazered acned youth. And then they arrived, the two all conkering heroes with their all conkering conkers. Burnett and Skyner milked the applause, shook hands, sent over a few practice swings and tossed up for who was going first. Burnett won. They squared up and prepared to swap blows.

Burnett took aim, swung and missed. Disaster! Skyner would make him pay for sure. He got to work. The aim was true, relentless, sadistic. Burnett looked worried. String strained, conkers twanged, blurred brown arcs of smacked conker against the Autumn sky….. and then, the sound. The hollow, off-key sound of a cracked bell, a cracked glass, a mortally smacked conker.

We knew it was all over. Burnett knew, so did Skyner. He moved in to deliver the ‘conk de grace’ The crowd – by now silenced to a respectful hush exploded as did Burnett’s conker into rapturous applause and a zillion bits of tree pulp…

Skyner’s conker had just gone platinum. Bunett’s had gone into the Stratosphere. It was one of those Kennedy moments. Everyone knew where they were when Burnett’s conker was atomised......

Monday, October 03, 2005

Brock hard….

Last night I saw something I’ve never seen before. And it was bloody great. I’d gone for a bit of a drive – something I do now and again to clear my head, get away from the kids - and listen to a bit of Zepp….. very, very loudly.

I turned down a country lane – and there, curled up lying in the middle of the road was a young badger. It had obviously been hit by a car. It looked dead.

For some reason, I decided to stop the car right in front of it. That way, I could protect it from further harm it if it was, by a miracle still alive. All of a sudden, the badger twitched, jumped up and strolled across the road to safety. Tough or what? It looked fine – a bit wobbly, a bit shaky, but basically he looked OK. He sat down in the verge, checked himself over and ambled into the undergrowth.

I’ve never seen a live badger before, just road-kills. This guy was just immaculate, black and white stripes, grey flanks and a big black snout. What was really amazing though – this badger was only 800 yards from our house - which is on the A59, one of the busiest roads in the country.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Ding dong merrily on high….

Just two weeks after the English cricket team’s Ashes win, I was walking through a West Lancashire village. There, just in the window of a furniture store I espied the first Christmas decorations of the coming season. It was September 25th - a full 3 months before the big day proper…..

These sparkly jaspers, tastefully mixing LED blink-blink technology with old fashioned twink-twink fairy lightery, combined to infuse the passer-by with a veritable tide of mid winter yule-tideryness….. (If you see what I mean)...

If you listen carefully, very, very carefully, you might just be able to hear Santa and his trusty reindeers slapping on their shades and whacking in the sun factor 16 onto Rudolf’s big red nose as we all bake in the unseasonally hot weather……

Anyway, seeing the lights has inspired me. I’ll say it before anyone else does…….. Merry Christmas everybody!!!!!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bollocks to Blair…..

A young lady, one Charlotte Denis, has been arrested for daring to wear a T-shirt with the words ‘Bollocks to Blair’ on it. Before you could say "Nazi Police State", she was banged up by a carefully selected team of p.c., p.c. plod.

The fuzz deemed the Tee-shirt absolutely obscene – a one legged, non smoking, black transvestite lesbian police vegan spokesperson said that they just couldn’t tolerate the brazen and gratuitous use of such a disgusting word within a small community.

"The Chief Constable decided to take action after the wanton and shameless display of this almost pornographic message." P.C. Davinia Dobson continued "I mean, we had no objections to the ‘bollocks’ and the ‘to’ bit ….. But ‘Blair’? I mean how sick can you get?"…..

Friday, September 23, 2005

Anyone know how to get a job in the City?

Scared of London? I should cocoa.
Is there anything that could make me work there? Definitely.
(Well, till Christmas Eve, anyway)…

For it was reported yesterday that over 3,000 dealers in the London money market will receive a Christmas bonus of between 1 million and 20 million quid. I’d like a bit of that – it certainly beats a bottle of bubbly, a big tin of Quality Street and an autographed photocopy of the secretary’s bum….

Added together, that’s a hell of a lot of moolah. The bonus budget will range from 3 billion quid upwards…..

Nice work if you can get it. Just one small point though…. Where the hell is this money coming from? Who’s paying for a tin of Quality Street the size of the Isle of Wight?…..
Yes it’s me, Alfie the wuss - back from that there London.

Been a whole week since my last post – a result of the deep seated shock that set in once I’d got back to the dear old palatine of Lancashire. London is a scary, scary, scary-Mary place – and every time I go there, the panic attacks get just a bit more extreme. Clammy hands, sweaty crotch, banging headache – and I’m not even in Euston yet!

I caught the first train of the day – 6:04 from Wigan North Western. I arrived nice and early, about 5:30 in the morning – and confronted the first problem of the day. No bloody change for the car park – they want five quid in coins for God’s sake. The ticket office is closed, it’s pitch black and there’s no one around….. except for a little old bloke walking towards me.

"Hey mate, have you got change of a tenner?"

"Course I ’ave, cock." With that, this little man with a big heart shoved his hand into his pocket and plucked out a veritable treasure chest of metal.

What a guy, what a pie eater! Would I have got such a positive response outside Euston Station at 5:30 in the morning?

I arrived in Euston at 8:38 – just in time for the end of the rush hour. First tough decision of the day – Tube or Taxi?

A mental toss of a two-headed coin confirms my decision – it’s the Taxi to M&S HQ.

The taxi rank at Euston is a crushingly depressing place – like a bit of old staging from a Blake’s 7 episode. Neon tubes, ‘gulag concretia extreme’ and a bloody great line of humanity waiting for that rarest of animals – a black cab. The queue goes right into the next time zone, there’s bloody millions of us wusses – all with 2 immediate goals in life – 1 get a taxi, - 2 avoid the tube.

They all queue patiently – but I can’t. M&S waits for no one (apart from St Michael) and it’ll be hours before I get a taxi ….. I’ll have to get the tube.

My heart sinks, down the rickety old escalator of Euston Square into the very bowels of that there pit of old London town. I’m surrounded, surrounded by people with rucksacks….

Oh God, people with rucksacks…

Putting myself as far as possible from the rucksack army, I manage to get to the platform. What should I do? Act weird, pretend I’m a bit of a nutter? Fart?…..

Instead, I position myself in the entrance where no one else is standing and await the train to Paddington via the Circle Line. The first train arrives. It’s packed. Packed with millions of rucksack carrying young men. More rucksacks are waiting to board. It’s my train, so let’s go soldier! Brain signals are stopping somewhere near my yellow backbone, feet are resolutely stuck in neutral, - the body, a rigid facsimile of granite stands immovable.

The doors slide, the train whispers off… "I’ll get the next one, honest"

The next one arrives, fuller and more chock full of humanity than the previous train. The Rucksack Express comes to a halt – again I pass, like a reluctant virgin at an orgy.

I’ve been on the platform for a full 25 minutes, people are starting to look at me. I just have to get the next one, or I’ll miss the meet at M&S.

Finally, my train – the OK train of happiness arrives. It’s a rucksack free zone. Superb, Su-bloody-perb. Are there any stickers on the windows I can see? ‘Camping equipment strictly forbidden’….. Maybe not.

Great, even seats are available. I park the ample OK posterior onto the ‘Cool Britannia’ fabric pattern of the seat.


Just then, at the next stop a young geezer gets on – with his I-pod, copy of Metro ….. and rucksack. He sits right opposite me. And then he starts to open the rucksack. Then he starts fumbling inside. Is that a nervous fumble?

What should I do? Twat him? Hard? Act like a nutter? Fart? What would the Wigan pie eater have done in such circumstances? ….

I’m waiting for the wires, the pressure button, the switch to come out of the top of the bag. Oh my God, this is bloody well it!!!!

The young guy pulled out a book. A book on ‘Fungi’…….

Sweat poured off me. I’m just being silly. For God’s sake grow up. Get real……. I mean, what are the chances?

Feeling more than slightly foolish I got to Paddington, walked over the canal to the brand new mega building that is M&S – (which stands for ‘Massive and Spacious). Glass, glass and more glass are the building materials for this monolith. And the lifts, made of clear glass are all on the outside, waiting to catapult me at the speed of expectorated vomit into the Stratosphere.

After rucksackophobia, it’s vertigo. What a bloody morning.
I meet a corporate bint from Australia. She was wall to wall M&S, wall to wall company moll. We go through the motions, exchange pleasantries, business cards, ideas – but not body fluids.

Something may come of it – who knows?…

The journey back was uneventful, except that the Virgin Railway Company totally amazed me by arriving on time at my destination for the second time in the day.

I picked up the car, exited Wigan and headed home. On the way, I drove past Tawd Vale – the boy-scout camp just outside Newburgh in West Lancashire. A troop of scouts marched through the gates….. every single one of them had a rucksack on their backs……………

'Sweat creep' started again.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Retail therapy

I’ve been dead, dead busy this week, preparing for a bit of a potential ‘clover fields initiative’…

The reason? I’ve managed to blag a meeting on Friday in ‘that there London’ – at the HQ of the nation’s biggest shopping institution.

It’s not quite ‘Eminem’ – more ‘Emaness’, actually.

Why do they want to see me? God knows. Maybe they fancy a bit of rough, a bit of greying street cred may be in order to resurrect a wounded retail monster – and a dose of OK-le-dokerly magic is sure to do the trick?

More likely, it’s because I’m cheap and will do most things for a couple of bob, a free glass of milk stout and a packet of salt & shake crisps…..

Friday, September 09, 2005

Wow, the Weblog Review, reviews Alfred the OK.

My new pal, Parker from Weblog Review HQ ran his reviewing rule over the A the OK back catalogue. He described my blog as 'lite' with 'flowery' prose. Parker describes me as being 'prolific' - which will certainly surprise Mrs OK.

'Lite and flowery'........ let's just digest that for a while. I'm a 17 stone beardy man, 6'3" tall with size 14 feet. I'm about as lite and flowery as Fungus the Bogeyman……

Mind you, when I originally sent the site in for review, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, Starsky and Hutch had just started on the telly, my voice was still unbroken and I was wearing short trousers…...

Parker scored me as a 4.75, which I'm quite pleased about, I think.

Son number 3 has just got a job at a new Tesco superstore. Along with the training manuals ‘Packing Bags the Tesco Way’ and ‘Grabbing your Customer by the Tescos’ - he’s been given his brand new uniform. It is mostly made of nylon and is a real electrostatic fire hazard. The colours are fanciful – the shirt is a mix of powder blue, brooklyn blue and a bog standard blue hue. The trousers are a subtle mix of black, bible black and coal-hole black. They also have a sort of mega rigid crease hammered into them, as does the non-trendy blue-check mix shirt.

We made him dress up in all his finery so we could have a look. He wasn’t too pleased. He didn’t like the kit at all…. He started to froth at the mouth and babble. "What if my mates saw me"…. They don't do hoody versions - which is gay! This colour – it’s so gay! – In fact the whole shirt is gay and so are the trousers…. GAY!"
It’s all so GAY, the job’s GAY, this house is GAY, you two are so GAY!!!!"

Which was a bit of a shock really. I mean, I’ve only just got used to the word ‘gay’ meaning homosexual – and now, it appears to have changed. When I was a kid, ‘gay’ meant happy – as in "I feel so gay, today"….

And now ‘gay’ means bad, naff, old fashioned….

I can hardly keep up.
Tom torment…..

Serving suggestion

I planted the seed, staggered over several weeks. Thus ensuring a regular and manageable supply of ripe, red, organic fruits.

To make absolutely sure of a constant supply, I planted some earlies, some mediums and some late fruiting varieties.

To make absolutely, absolutely, abso-bloody-lutely certain, I planted some of the little beauties in the green house and some in pots down the sunny side of the garden…..

Oh yes, it was going to be one long Summer of Tomato heaven and no mistake.

I did everything you’re supposed to do with tomatoes, soil not too wet, not too dry. Feeding liberally and often, taking out the side shoots, taking off the bottom leaves stringing them up with canes using ever more Heath Robinson inspired scaffolding…

Well I’ve waited and waited right through the long hot Summer, waiting for the green to go red, like a traffic light in reverse.

I’d planned for an orderly queue of green’uns to red’uns, well I sort of got one, but not an orderly queue of a couple of months. No, my orderly queue of green to red has happened in just a span of one week.

I’ve got tons of them. Tons and tons and tons of red beauties. So in our house at the mo’ it’s toms with everything….
Sugarpuffs and toms, custard and toms, Special Brew and toms with added toms….. The kids hate them, the cats aren’t too fond of them either, but they’re just too good to waste…

I don’t know, you wait all Summer for one big red tomato to come along and then surprise surprise, several thousand arrive all at the same time.

Friday, September 02, 2005

FArce and the theatre of the absurd…..

David Davies, FA Chief Executive and part time screaming skull impersonator was on the telly this morning. Dave, should have looked as sick as a parrot, but instead beamed a ghastly smile as he enthused about the prospect of Team GB entering a British Football Team into the 2012 Olympic Games. He should be ashamed of himself – he’s supposed to be championing English football and nothing else.

Maybe he was smiling because he knew something we don’t? Maybe a knighthood’s in the offing…. Who knows?

One thing’s for sure, Blair and Sports Minister Richard Cayborne have no doubt been leaning on him to comply with the New Labour all inclusive UK-ery credo. Predictably, the BBC have also fallen into their brown nosing position of abject surrender. Carefully selected vox-popping of non footy fans ‘on the street’ elicited predictably positive responses from people that knew bugger all about the beautiful game.

….. "Yes, a GREAT British football team, we'll beat the world!"...... "Ooooh yes, a British Football team, that sounds like a good idea"

Well, it doesn’t - at all!

Football is tribal – it’s the original sport to replace warfare. Allegiances matter, in my case it’s to the 3 lions (more correctly, the 3 leopards). Over the years, I’ve suffered their triumphs and tragedies. The boys of '66, Keegan’s dodgy perm, Pearce’s manic psycho stare, Gazza’s memorable goal celebration against the Scots – and Owen’s goal of genius against Argentina…. My team is Eng-er-land and always will be….. NOT Great Bri-tain.

And who will play for team GB? If it’s talent we’re talking about, then it’ll be 11 Englishmen. But I guess that won’t happen will it. Politics of the absurd will decree that the team should be equally spread across the 4 home nations for such a high profile team…

Looks like an early exit from the comp’ then……

For more info and an objective appraisal on this sorry state of sporting affairs have a look at Toque's take on it.
By the sea with the metal men…..

In between blinding headaches, Bank Holiday Monday saw the OK crew take in a bit of culture for the masses. Crosby beach, a stone’s throw from the Liverpool Freeport Docks complex is the setting for Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ – which basically consists of around a hundred life size cast iron effigies of the artist liberally sprinkled around the beach.

Crosby beach is a bit of a weird place. The sand is fantastic, the sea is getting cleaner every year – young Salmon have recently been found in the upper reaches of the Mersey….. and now there’s a hundred rigid figures to add to the surreal vista.

We meandered through the sandhills down to the beach. The sand stretched away for a hundred yards or more to the shiny twinkles of the tumbling waves. The hot, high Sun in the middle of an azure blue wash – straight out of a David Hockney painting, the metal men stood erect, gazing out to sea in all their metalled nakedness.

It was all a bit surreal – I half expected some of them to be vandalised, nicked even, for scrap or trophies….. but they were all untouched. The only damage coming from Mother Nature. The iron is oxidising the skin - and the figures positioned further down the beach are suffering from a nasty rash of barnacle infestation in and around the nether regions.

The kids enjoyed them, so did the dog, he smelt up to half a dozen metal backsides before he gave up sniffing and started to wee on them instead.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lights on, no one at home….

Posts have been thin to non-existent recently. Mainly because I’ve been feeling a little bit ‘wrrrrrrr’ and a little bit ‘gahhhhhh’ over the past few days. Laid low with blinding headaches, nausea and a distinct feeling that Stabby-Stan from Daggerthorpe was in residence just behind my right eye. The little git has been gouging away with his stabbing tools for all he was worth. Stabby stab, stabby stab, stabby. So much so that me old pals Pendle Witch, Bombardier and Cain’s Cask have had to go on a bit of a temperance sabbatical. Tuesday night was the worse – I took my eldest Son back to Chester – and drove the whole 80-mile round trip in the darkest glasses I could find…. at 10 o’clock at night. Today I’m feeling a lot better – and hopefully the headaches, nausea and Stabby have gone for good.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear….

I’ve been left a few comments lately in reaction to some of my more contentious posts with the prefix ‘Oh dear’.

What does that mean then? ‘Oh dear’ ….. It’s beginning to bug me a bit. It sort of comes over a bit superior-like – or maybe a bit sanctimonious perhaps? It’s like a pat on a kid’s head from an adult…. "Oh dear – never mind, your mental faculties aren’t quite up to the mark"…..

Presumably it’s intended as a bit of a mild putdown from a brain of a planet bohemian. Maybe it’s the sort of thing Oscar Wilde might have said of one of his contemporaries. "Oh dear Mr Bernard-Shaw, you’re such a beardy-weirdy tosser".

I must remember, next time I need to dig out the ultimate literary equivalent of a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head – from the masters of quick wit and ready repartee… well, it’s got to be ‘Oh dear’….

Yup. Prose perfect.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Tricky, tricky, tricky….

Mo Mowlam’s untimely death this morning has put a bit of a spanner in Tony Blair’s holiday plans – again! Just a week after Robin Cook’s internment, Blair is faced with another tricky decision – and it’s nothing to do with which factor of Sun block to use or where else he can blag another few weeks of executive B and B…..

Does he go to the funeral of his former colleague? – And if he does, won’t that blow his pathetic excuse for not going to Cook’s funeral right out of the water? Blair quoted the old ‘security’ angle….. he didn’t want to ‘distract’ the mourning process and the Cook family service by arriving with 600 RayBann-wearing men in black. It might disrupt proceedings – and Blair, ever the kind, considerate type thought it better to avoid rainy Edinburgh and instead stay somewhere in the dreary Caribbean, relaxing on his sun lounger…. What a guy.

Of course, it sort of means he can’t now go to the Mowlam funeral doesn’t it? And if the excuse is taken through to its logical conclusion he can’t ever go to another funeral ever, ever again. (except his own, of course).

Mind you, everyone else will be there – jockeying for position, plotting, glad handing, sharpening their knives, cosying up to Gordon Brown…

Tone, I’d watch your back if I were you – and I’m not talking about sunburn…..

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Not national, not healthy and not a service…..

A few posts ago, I was severely slapped on the knuckles via the comments box for sharing my cash dodging experiences of how to get out of Hospital car parks without paying. The reason I do this is because of my fervent belief that it is fundamentally wrong to charge people for visiting a hospital – especially as the public transport system would shame a banana republic. I see absolutely no difference between car park charges and charging people at the door to get in through a turnstyle. We go there as patients or as visitors to see sick friends or relations – we don’t go there to do the shopping. I see these charges and others like them as creeping and insidious tax top-ups dreamt up by the BMW pinstripe brigade of strategic health officials.

I don’t think charging people for ‘extras’ was part of Nye Bevan’s utopian vision of free health care for all. Mind you, I reckon Bevan would be horrified to know that the NHS is no longer ‘National’ …… and to be honest, not much of a ‘Service’ either really. The NHS has degenerated into a collection of fiefdoms, run by such ‘indispensable’ middle and senior pen pushers that were all but non-existent 25 years ago.

Ever anxious to make every square yard in the hospital ‘pay its way’ at any cost. Creative thoughts from red braced power thinkers on more ways to wring even more cash out of patients that have already paid their dues via the tax system seems to be the order of the day. They have already earned the right to their treatment – ideally free of charge.

It started in the mid eighties, with the arrival of Healthcare Trusts as profit centres, actively selling and buying skills and equipment time from other like minded organisations. Pretty soon, senior management began to look at realising assets that were not theirs to realise. First the car parks were rented off to a third party to ‘administer’ and maintain them – for an annual fee, obviously. It has moved onto excessive call rates for the use of the ward phone and a particularly insidious and nasty charge to view the ceiling mounted ward televisions at exorbitant rates. These examples are small potatoes compared with the selling off of ‘redundant’ buildings to developers, however.

By ‘redundant’ I’m talking about 'unfashionable'. By 'unfashionable' I'm talking about 'assets to be flogged'...... Buildings like old people’s homes and period nursing homes suddenly being declared unsafe. The residents kicked out and re-housed in some God awful gulag – the unsafe building, usually an Edwardian Mansion suddenly being converted to executive apartments….

Such an episode happened in my own part of the world about 3 years ago. A group of old people, living in a beautiful Edwardian country house within its own grounds were suddenly being moved ‘for their own good’ to an overcrowded '70's hovel in a nearby new town. The excuse from the health authority was that it would cost too much to refurbish – and in spite of wide spread protests, the closure of the home went ahead. Within 3 days, 4 of the old people had died, within 3 weeks, the ‘dilapidated’ mansion was put up for auction. It was even featured on one of those daytime TV property programmes. The slimeball property developer thought he’d got a real bargain, paying £700,000 for the house, he reckoned that he could squeeze some 11 apartments out of it. He said the building was very, very sound – and the only work he would really have to do would be the sub division of the house into apartments. He said he would make about 2.5 mill profit….

Thankfully, local feeling and the downturn in the housing market has meant that he hasn’t sold any…… the last time I past the building he was offering substantial reductions on hastily daubed property boards.

The whole concept of the NHS providing a service – for the benefit of the people that have paid money to finance it seems to have been left behind as some sort of old fashioned reactionary nonsense. The whole concept of everyone receiving the same level of healthcare, no matter where you are and how important you deem yourself is further away than ever. Damning evidence is provided via the Government’s own figures – England predictably fare the worst of the 4 home countries, Scotland come away with most money spent per head of population.

"But why do we have to pay? Didn’t we pay for the building of that car park out of our taxes?" Shouldn’t that MRI Scanner be financed via the Treasury? This country should be sophisticated and savvy enough to organise and optimise healthcare for all throughout the length and breadth of the land. A formula of 1 MRI scanner per so many thousand of the population should not be an insurmountable problem to solve.

But the NHS isn't fair, or free or reliable is it? Live in the South East of England and you get much better cancer care than the North West. Drugs available as a right in Norwich but not in Newcastle, some hospitals are virtual death sentences, such is their awful reputation..... And then there’s the devolution debacle – free prescriptions for all in Wales by next year, nudging seven quid in England. Free dental check ups in Scotland, going up to sixteen quid in England, (if you can find a dentist in England). Fantastic old persons care in Scotland, non-existent except via pernicious means testing in England. And who knows, patients in Scotland and Wales probably get free car parking to boot!

My own local Health authority has just announced losses of 6.5 million quid. They have committed to savings of £13 million over the next 2 years in an effort to balance the books…… They rather laughingly declare that services will not be affected.

It’s all part of the Government project to get out of properly funding the NHS. I notice they have started to put their grubby little digits into the National Lottery coffers – the word from them, (from the Right Hon’ Peter Hain no less) is that apparently, the people of this Country want the lottery cash spent on Health and Education. As ever, from the mouth of Peter Hain, not true, an absolute lie. John Major’s Lottery Bill, passed in Parliament with the specific proviso that none of the money should be spent on Health or Education. He has recently accused the Government of stealing the cash – and rather wearily stated that he thinks the Government have opened the safe and will find it impossible to limit themselves to a reasonable amount. They’ll just keep going back, taking ever more outrageous amounts with them until the Lottery is renamed. – The National Health Lottery……

But the Government know they are on solid ground. They only have to ask whether money should be spent on an extra nurse or a piece of Tracy Emin modern art. Guilt and wanting to say the right thing means the question is a no brainer, but it doesn’t make it right. Adequate health services should be financed from the central purse, not from dodgy car park deals, dodgier property flog offs or planetary scale pilfering from the National Lottery.

Not paying for hospital car parks at the point of exit is my way of protesting that I’ve already paid, through my taxes.

Nye Bevan must be spinning in his grave – presuming he still has a grave and it hasn’t been flogged off for a bit of executive car parking……

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Butterflies are back….

Up till Sunday morning, I, along with most of the nature loving population of the UK wondered where all the butterflies had gone this year. The buddleia plants in our garden are traditional butterfly food beacons, which in previous years has been choc-a-block full with vibrant lepidoptera of all colours, shapes and hues. At the moment, the plants are festooned full of magnificent aromatic blooms – but they look a bit like decorated Christmas trees without the fairy lights. The glittering twinklings of Peacock and Painted Lady wings have just not been present this year.

A bit of a shock then when I strolled out on the OK sod on this last bright, warm Sunday morning.

They’re back. Hundreds of them.
Correction, thousands of them.
Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Large Whites, Brimstones, Peacocks, Brown Skippers, Commas, Common Blues…..

The air was full to bursting, fluttering here and there. The great conical flowers of the buddleia were sagging under the weight of bunteresque butterflies feeding for all they were worth.

They looked like multi-coloured kites pulled by invisible pixies with invisible strings. It lifted my spirits, Ralph Vaughan Williams and his fluttery lark ascending music came into my head…. My little piece of England was whole again.

I was puzzled though. If they’re all here today, then where were they yesterday and the day before that?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Getting better with age, just like a good malt….

A survey has just published some useful, ego boosting findings. Apparently men in their fifties make the very best lurvers – ever.

Of course they do for God’s sake. It's something I've always known – I’m always telling my missus…… Technique, stamina, touch, style, sensitivity and consideration – us big five–0 guys tick all the right lurve-God boxes and no mistake. Yes for us guys in our fifties, it’s not so much ‘wham, bamm, thank you ma'am. Oh no, it’s Barry White on the CD, the scent of jasmine in the air and a bottle of massage oil to hand. Slow, silky, sexy and flexy in the temple of love-action is the norm for us experts in the bedroom.

It’s not so much 'fore' as five, six and sevenplay…

Ladeez, form an orderly queue – I’ll be with you as soon as I’ve finished my beer and this footy match is over on the telly…… And you don't mind if I wear my socks in bed as well do you?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Everything in the garden is not lovely……

Bad news – disease has taken root in the ancient sod that is the OK Towers back garden.

My humble crop of tomatoes are under a relentless attack from ‘brown blob’ disease. Look under the larger tomatoes and there it is – galloping ‘brown blob’. Great big blobby discs of brown – like Antarctica on the world…. Only brown.

Not good. What are they and can they cross onto other species? Would I want ‘brown blobs’? – As if by magic, I saw an article in a magazine by gardening guru Monty Don…. Which is a double coincidence, because I actually saw the great Monty man in the public bogs at last weeks flower show at Tatton in Cheshire …. Amazing really, a BBC celeb actually going to the bogs and having a slash …. I guess that must mean the Queen farts as well then does it?


As I said, I read Monty’s article on tomato diseases and apparently I am suffering from terminal ‘Blossom End Rot’…..

Anyone got a bell to ring then?
The last word in ‘lazzy bands…….

In view of the current vogue for elasicated wrist bands – started by Lance Armstrong’s yellow ‘Stay-Strong’ campaign, Alfie has decided to leap on the elastic bandwagon with his own tribute to an issue near to his heart…

It concerns the return of a long forgotten and much loved Hollywood superstar. Yes, ‘Lassie’ the wonder dog is making a long overdue comeback to our screens. A brand new series of films is planned. Screen tests for the lead role of the pointy nosed dog with the doggy breath and the shiny coat are being conducted. Indications are that the role will go to a canine – but Meryl Streep was reported to be making a late, desperate, last ditch bid to claim the coverted prize.

To commemorate Lassie’s return – and in the hope they will also bring My Friend Flicka, Old Yeller, Spotty Dog from the Woodentops and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo back from the taxidermy table, Alfie has brought out a hot new edition of elastic band – and everyone who’s anyone will want it……. It’s called the ‘Lassie-band’.

If you want to order one of these fantastically classy pieces of mechandise, log onto e-commerce web site at…..

I thank you.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Cheapo Britain….Hospital car parks

Ever visited one of our gloriously efficient hospitals, either as a patient or visitor? If you have and you’ve driven there, then no doubt the hospital car park has ruined your day.

The bright, jolly black and yellow bar rises and you’re in. For the next 20 minutes you cruise around looking for a 5 foot wide space in a sea of metal. Of course, there are places, but only if you are a merc-driving consultant, they’ve got loads of room in their special enclave of executive tarmac.

You eventually find a space, park the car, see your Granny or have your lumps felt. Either way, you’re there because you have to be, not because you’re going shopping or whatever. You’re there because you’re seeing someone who is sick – or you yourself are sick.

So why charge people for the privilege of parking in hospitals anyway? It’s cheap, nasty and vindictive. It’s a tax on the sick and worried - and it’s a bloody disgrace.

Take a tip from me, I’ve never paid to get out of any hospital car park. I drive in, see who I have to, then nip round to the Administrators Office and explain to them that I’ve had to dash to the hospital as a matter of urgency. If they ask "Why?" – tell them to mind their own business. Quote patient confidentiality, then tell them in the rush to get to the hospital, you’ve come out without any money at all.

Before you can say ‘Health Executive’s BMW petrol fund’ – they’ll shove a car park exit token in your hand so you can drive out.

This country is unique in the way we just ‘accept stuff’. Hospital car park charges were brought in when they were given autonomy during the Thatcher era. We were told it was just for ‘administration’ purposes. Inevitably, ‘admin’ gave way to ‘cash-cow’ – charges rose rapidly and the rest is history. Pretty soon, to accompany the spiralling car park charges, exorbitant fees for watching bog standard TV programmes and breathtaking charges for phone calls made from wards followed.

If more people refused to pay, the whole ‘patient tax drive initiative’ would get binned. As a start, I suggest you all find out where your hospital admin’ office is as soon as possible….

Monday, July 25, 2005

We’re alll going on a Summer Holiday, no more working for 12 weeks or so……

No, not a tribute to Cliff Richard’s film career, this time it’s yet another post about our rubbishy MPs and their outrageous 12 week Summer junket. Easy targets I know, but it’s the pomposity of it all that I find so depressing. I mean, 12 whole weeks without Parliament sitting, 12 whole weeks without this right honourable and that learned friend poking about into the guts of our lives, interfering, lecturing, taxing.

How will we get by without all those fat baldy blue rinse busy bodies to guide us? Very well I should think. Somehow, Joe and Jane Public will just manage to survive without the help of 659 parliamentary life coaches.

But what happens to the Palace of Westminster while ‘school’s out’? Could it double up as a site for a car boot sale?…. maybe it could be opened up as a soup kitchen and take in the Capital’s homeless. The slogan to attract them could be ‘Doss where there was Dross’…..

And what of the MPs - where do you think they’ve all gone to? I shouldn’t think too many of them will be at Southport Pontins or doing B and B in Scarborough.. Most of them will be going to more exotic climes –Barbados, Kathmandu, Bangkok ……. And who knows, some of them may actually pay for their own holidays rather than going on a Parliament sponsored fact finding mission.

"Yes, I’d like to go on a most vitally important fact finding mission. It’s not for me – obviously. It’s to support a vitally important part of our manufacturing base. I’d like to take photographs of sea shells on Acapulco beach in Mexico – and compare them with the sea shells on Bridlington beach. We can learn important lessons on the making of little gaudy animals with shells, glue and nail varnish, but if we can raise Mexican sea shells then we can make bigger, better and more colourful animals. This can really help the 'gaudy animal made from shells industry'. To make the research fully optimal I may also want to compare them with the shells on Waikiki beach in Hawaii, so can you put me down for a trip to Honolulu for this time next year as well"………

Monday, July 18, 2005

Well, surprise, surprise. The BBC is not decentralising after all……

In a dramatic U turn, the BBC – slavish Government mouthpiece and ultra London-centric employer of the liberal elite, sushi eaters, the tosserati and John Motson, has decided not to relocate the Sports Department way, way, way, way ‘oop North’ to Manchester, England. Apparently this very difficult and absolutely predictable decision came about after much soul searching, navel gazing and pontificating.

The BBC commissioned a special relocation focus group with a view of finding ways to weasel out of the commitment to move - with a suitably feeble excuse. Titled ‘Operation Going through the Motions’ (or ‘Operation Dysentery’ for short) the group composed several implausible excuses before the Governors decided on the one being circulated to a gullible and fed up public.

Although the excuse proffered is about as convincing as a Tony Blair smile, it still beats some of the more fanciful meanderings that were run up the think tank flagpole.

Rejected excuses include:

1) Not enough Sushi Bars in Manchester.
2) Manchester is not in London.
3) No one at the BBC in London has a road map – and so do not know exactly where Manchester is.
4) Not sure if Manchester has got electricity yet…..
5) London sports journos not keen on tripe, black pudding, pigs trotters or Betty’s ‘Hot-Pot’ down at t’Rovers.
6) ‘Manchester’ does not sound too politically correct. It should be renamed ‘Personchester’ to reflect the equal and significant contribution that women have made to the prosperity of the city.

A bit fanciful? Maybe…..
But take a look at the one they have actually rolled out …..

Press Release:
From BBC HQ / London.

The totally crap excuse for not relocating the BBC Sports Department to Manchester is…….

"The BBC cannot move the Sports Department to Manchester because London has been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games – and the costs involved in getting journalists and researchers down to London for the whole 2 weeks that the Games are on will be absolutely prohibitive"….

Amazing – a whole 200 miles down the motorway…. it looks like it will financially cripple old Aunty for good if they move to Manchester and have to report on the Games in London from there. .

I just wonder how the Beeb survived the Commonwealth Games in Manchester a few years ago, didn’t they have to traipse up to cover it – or did they tune into ITV?…… On the other hand, what would have happened if Twenty-Twelve had been awarded to Paris, or Madrid…… or even New York for God’s sake….

Are they seriously trying to say that covering the Games from Manchester would be more expensive that going half way around the world?

And it’s a bit rich that the BBC should offer ‘expense’ as the reason for calling off the move to Manchester. Have a guess just how many BBC personnel managed to wangle a jolly for the last Olympic Games at Athens, Greece…..

Answer: 628.
Six bloody hundred and twenty bleeding eight people sunning themselves in Athens at our expense!….

(That’s around 62 people per Gold medal)……

Blair’s world of fraud….

Just a thought, our glorious and infallible leader Emporio Blair has spent the last week desperately trying to disassociate the London bomb outrages from the Iraq debacle. There’s been loads of stiff upper lipped posturing from the great man. Lots of trembling voice commitment to solidarity, determination and an implacable British spirit. It was almost as if Churchill himself had risen from the dead and dusted himself off in our hour of greatest need….

But consider the suicidal bomb attacks in Iraq over the last 48 hours. 30 kids blown to pieces in one incident, over 100 innocents burned to death on Saturday night, over 30 more killed in other attacks.

It’s bloody carnage on a daily basis – and a direct result of Bush and Blair’s mad gung-ho adventure in the land of the second largest oil producer.

Not one word from Blair, not one.
Not one word from Defence Minister John Reid.
Not one word from Foreign Secretary, the man of Straw. Nothing from anyone.

How does Blair sleep at night?

Silence is damning and talk is cheap. Does Blair think lives in Iraq are as well?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The price of things and the value of them……
(It’s important to know the difference)

The Mersey millpond, the red duster and the waterfront…

We committed the old man’s ashes to the care of Davie Jones’ lock-up on Monday morning. The day was fine, clear and most importantly, ‘still’ as we gathered at the Liverpool landing stage and waited to board the good ship ‘SS Royal Iris’ for the committal.

The River Mersey was as flat as a millpond – which was very, very good news. Windy days and the committal of ashes do not mix…. The threat of ‘blow back’ & ‘white face’ are very real ones when there’s a force ten gale blowing. And the thought of getting an atomised gob-full of my old man did not appeal.

We huddled in the only bit of shadow we could find – shading us from the fierce Sun. It was weird, but because it was so hot, we were all dressed like we were going to the beach – everyone was wearing ‘Hawaiian-tragic’… I think my Dad would have approved. Just then, my eldest sister turned up with the urn under her arm. My Mum said "What’s that you’re carrying under your arm then?"

"It’s your husband" came the reply……

The Royal Iris steamed into view. It’s one of the Mersey Ferries fleet and takes passengers ‘across the water’ between Liverpool, Birkenhead and Seacombe. The vicar from the local Seaman’s Mission briefed us on the ceremony.

The ferry would steam straight up river at full speed. After about 10 minutes, we would gather at the stern, the engines would be cut and the service would commence. The Rev’ reckoned it would take about seven minutes from start to finish.

"Don’t they mind?" I asked. "You know, the Captain and the ferry company - won’t they mind that the ferry will be late because of the service?"…

"No, they do it all the time…..and they do it for nothing. They don’t charge a cent – except the fare, of course"…

"But what about the passengers?…. The ferry’s absolutely packed with people"…..

"They’ll have to wait – it’s a mariner thing"…

And so it was. My Dad, wartime sailor with the Atlantic and Russian convoys, was given a suitably nautical farewell into the murky depths of the River Mersey. The service was very touching, the engines died, a little reminisce, a prayer or two. A sailor then got out the board that would slide my Dad into a watery oblivion. The ashes were sprinkled onto its inclined plane. Gravity and the super-slick varnish smooth finish of the board did the job and the reconstituted bits of my Dad slid majestically into the water. "Just add water"I thought….

The engines kicked, full throttle into life and the ashes, bouquets and single roses boiled on regulo the foam below.

And that was it. A Company that knows the value of something – and recognises its marine obligations had just done something special, as a matter of course for the community – as part of its operating philosophy…. And it was all free!

Contrast that with the telecom vultures that set up the 0870 emergency help number for worried relatives of the missing victims of the London bombings. Hazel Blears, one of Tony Blair’s ‘Babe Ministers’ sought to justify the 50 pence a minute charges in the most grotesque way…… a pity really, for at the very moment she was telling the world the charges would stay, the back stabbing boys at ‘Back-Stab HQ’ were appointing Tessa Jowell, the former ‘Minister for the Olympic bid’ to be the new ‘Minister for free disaster phone calling’…

Like I said, ‘the price and worth of things’……..

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tony Blair – jammiest man in history, official.

Is he in league with the devil or what? Is one of his middle names ‘Beelzebub, or does he own a four-leaf clover farm? Maybe, along with the jam, he’s covered head to toe in the finest teflonic armour, with an accompanying sporran made from rabbit’s feet just for good measure.

It‘s as if he’s got a pact with Old Non-Stick Nick himself. Teflon Tony is flourishing. He’s just as lucky as the luckiest man in ….. Hang on a mo’ – that’s not quite right is it? There is some bad luck in Tony world isn’t there? He’s married to ‘the mad woman’. So, not so lucky in his domestic life then – but politics? As jammy as the guy with a jammy dodger fetish I reckon. Whenever our glorious Leader appears to be falling into the brown and pungent, he pops up – like a cork in a sewerage farm, without a stain on his ego or odour on his character.

"Tony, what is that God awful smell?"

"Oh that. Looks like John Prescott’s been using the Prime Ministerial toilet again, Cherie"….

Don’t you just hate it? Don’t you just hate that smirky smirk on his slimy boat? How does he always seem to get away with it?

Take this last week, lucky ‘Lionel’ Blair, kicks off by basking in the reflected glory of Live8, rubbing shoulders with Sir Bob, Bono, The Edge and Richard Curtis (I don’t know, do you reckon any of these Superstars own any nice holiday villas?) Then just as quickly he's off, over to Singapore to help bring home the Olympic bacon for 2012…..

Sorry - Tone can’t stay to milk the applause, or blag his latest exotic freebee holiday. He’s got an appointment in Scotland to make African poverty history, sort the climate change challenge… And - if he’s got time after Supper, to dismantle the World’s trade protectionist cartels…..

Tony Blair seems to be able to give a Georgie Best body swerve to potential disaster, or by saying "It was him, not me" a lot. Similarly, he has a real gift to leech onto the beautiful, the brave, the successful, the intelligent …. Oh, and not forgetting the money grabbing, self obsessive, narcissistic Beckhams.

"Who’s that talking to Tony Blair, our glorious omnipotent Leader?"
"Oh him, that’s Jesus of Nazareth trying to get an introduction to Saint Bob and Bono… and a few guitar lessons from The Edge"…..

On second thoughts that would never happen would it, Jesus doesn’t own a sexy beach side villa in Barbados does he?……

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Over a whole week has gone since my last post and I still can't think of anything to write about.....
That must mean that -
a) Everything in the whole world is hunky dory.
b) Tony Blair really is the wise man from the Orange adverts.
c) Our transport system is efficient, modern and cheap to use.
d) John Prescott has finally managed to do something that actually works.
e) I've won the Lottery jackpot.
f) The cruddiness of the Country has finally done me in - and I've lost the will to moan.

The 'eff' has it I think.

Normal, one eyed observations will be resumed tomorrow.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The kiss of death…..

Well there you go, the coup de grace has just been well and truly delivered to the London 2012 Olympic bid by an own goal to end all own goals.

And it was all going so well wasn't it? So ‘professional’, so ‘we’re coming up on the rails and we’re gonna pip Paris at the tape’ …….. but now we’re not are we? The cockneys will probably limp in somewhere behind Moscow, Bootle and Wigan…..

We’ve handed twenty-twelve on a platter with a side salad of golden laurel leaves to our French neighbours…. It’s entente cordial with ‘le knobs on’ as the French are obviously going to waltz away with the big prize now that our cock up masters par excellence, once again do their worse......

What disaster could have befallen our bid? Not enough money? …. Someone pocketing a few million quid ‘biscuit money’ expenses? ….. Bid leader, Lord Seb’ Coe found in flagrante with Anne Widdecombe in a broom cupboard? ….. No, none of those, it’s much, much worse than that.

Some divvi in the Government has just appointed one ‘John Prescott’ as the man, the man charged with ensuring all the London Olympic venues are built, on time, on spec, and on budget……

"Eh up, Coe, yer southern ponce, merk way for t’maestro…. This ‘ere ‘Twenty 12’malarky is now a New Labour prorject so shift yer posh arse, change t’name on the doower, put t’kettle on and go and get us a sack o’ pies & a side skip o' mushy peas, you great gormless posh twat"……

If you listen very carefully, you can hear Jonny Frenchman laughing his head off as he cycles down the Champs Elysee with his stripey jumper and pungent string of onions in tow….