Monday, November 13, 2006

Steve Strange but true…

Just watching Celebrity Scissorhands last night to see none other than ‘80’s style icon and uber Visager, Steve Strange as one of the competitors.

It was a bit of a shock. ‘80’s cool has given way to noughties shambling, Steve looks completely cooled out. Not only that, he’s just about the worst hairdresser in the world….. He seems to get the shakes when he’s got a pair of scissors in his hands.

I don’t know what he’s been on but he now cuts a sad figure in the Celeb hairdressing salon. He’s still got his eye make up on and his shaped eye brows, but all his face has gone South…… as well as his career it would seem.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A month off… but now I’m back….

October was a bit of a weird month for me. 30 odd days of reflection, resolve and reinvention. Tap, tap tapping has not been a priority, hence the paucity of postings. What caused it? Dunno really, could be my age and a growing sense of my own mortality - or it might be that for the past few years I’ve not so much been stuck in a rut as down a hole. But it was more likely that at the beginning of October Mrs Alfie decided to take a bit of a look at our current financial position – and it’s not good. We owe over 40 grand to banks, finance houses and credit card-sharks…..

So, at 53 years old, is this it? Up to my eyes in debt, doing stuff I hate for a living and living on the hellish A59 uber-bahn, the most dangerous trunk road in the country?

We had to talk. A crisis meeting was hastily convened to discuss ways of getting out of debt and redirecting our lives.

We’ve decided to sell the house and move out of mad commuter belt world and go to live in the middle of nowhere. The more remote the better. I want to live a simpler, more relaxed lifestyle, so I’ve also decided to change career – as long as we can get a broadband connection we’ll be OK.

So for the last month I’ve been playing at Bob the Builder, trying to get the place in some sort of state so we can put it on the market. It’s a five bedroomed house, so we should get a fair whack. The plan is to downsize, pay off the mortgage & the 40 grand and live a simple idyllic life away from New Labour politicians, Tesco superstores and reality TV. We’ve had a look round and found some tumble down cottages with land just right for doing up – and as we’ll have cash in hand, we don’t need Building Society approval for any potential purchase.

We are just 2 of millions in this country who aren’t buying into Blair’s utopian vision of Britain, who feel frustrated and ignored by a control freaked-out government. We can’t go overseas, so we are doing the next best thing – moving to somewhere remote, far, far away from the madness of modern British life. We’re going to pay off the mortgage, grow vegetables, keep poultry, brew home made beer, build my own reed bed filtration unit for our waste and put a big sign at the gate post – ‘Dunlisteningtonulabourlies’……..

That’s the plan. We call it ‘Plan A’ – there is no ‘Plan B’….

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Goodie, the baldy and the babe..

This week sees the start of the Autumn Watch series on BBC1. There is much excitement in our neck of the woods as the show is based at Martin Mere, which is about 2 miles down the road from where I live. With luck, we might get a glimpse of Kate Humble - but we have a superb pie shop in the village -so I guess we're more likely to see Bill Oddie with his chops wrapped around a dribbling meat 'n' tater pie.

I worked at Martin Mere soon after it opened in the '70's. There was a real frontier spirit around then, it was mostly mud, mud - and more mud. The reason it was created in the first place was to protect the wintering marsh land areas of the Pink-footed Goose. This visitor from Greenland & Iceland arrives in West Lancashire - and Martin Mere in particular in great numbers during the winter. It's sobering to think that most of the world's population of these lovely looking birds migrate to the area. Andy, my old friend from the time I worked there has risen through the ranks to become acting Curator of the place, so no doubt he's already met Kate (jammy sod).

Over the past two weeks, I1ve been keeping a close eye on the build up to the show. A little corral has been created in the corner of the car park as every day, more and more 'stuff' arrives - it's wall to wall satellite dishes, motor homes, catering trucks, Landrover hardware and around 15 million makeup artists.

Just how many people does it take to make a wildlife programme?

I hope they never have to change a light bulb.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Calling all pie eaters....

I've found this little site dedicated to the dark art of pork pie eating. I don't think it's based in Wigan...... (but maybe they're ex-pats).
Good news, bad news

The good news? Quiiz uber champ, Pat Gibson failed to turn for last night's quiz. (see previous post).....

The bad news? His replacement was brilliant. We got battered - as battered as a beaten up Blackpool battered Cod......

Monday, September 04, 2006

Clash of the giants…..
Tonight, our quiz league season starts up again.

I’m a bit worried. We’ve just been promoted to the top division – that makes us the Watford, Reading and Sheffield United of the quiz world.

As is customary with newly promoted whipping boys, our first fixture is a bit of a toughie. Our team, the ‘4 Men in a Tub’ are playing ‘The Old Dog’ at the Old Dog pub in Up Holland, West Lancashire. Unfortunately, they have as one of their team members one Pat’ Gibson, a relaxed Irishman, currently living in Wigan, the pie eating capital of the Universe.

Pat’s bloody brilliant, he’s been on telly a few times. In 2004 he won a million quid on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’….. in 2005, he became BBC’s ‘Mastermind’ champion.

Let’s hope the questions tonight are all about daytime telly, ‘Love Island' contestants, the history of the Beano comic and the life and times of Stevie Gerrard, otherwise it could be a cricket score…..

Pat Gibson, all round smart arse....

Monday, August 28, 2006

Forks in the road…..

I’m just watching a programme on BBC2 called ‘Turning Back Time’. It’s a weekly one-to-one between Dara O'Briain and celeb guests. They waffle on about how they’ve made sometimes wise and sometimes foolish decisions in their lives – and the impact those decisions have had on their careers.

This week it was aussie, Barry Humphries talking about Edna Everidge, Australia, tinnies, kangaroos and Les Patterson, which was OK, I suppose. But I’m sort of sick of seeing celebs and their egos on the box. For a change, I’d like to see an ordinary bloke on – someone who could have been a legend, but chose not to…..

I wonder if Dara will ever have Mike Bersin on?

So, who’s Mike Bersin then?

Well he could have been as famous as some members of royalty, if only he’d have said "Yes"…….

Mike was a technician at Liverpool Art College during the ‘70’s when I was there. He was a really great bloke, one of the lads who liked a pint and could play the guitar just like ringing a bell (so to speak) – he was good. The college at that time had spawned a few good bands, including ‘Nasty Pop’ and ‘Deaf School’ - headed up by a sculpture student called ‘Steve’, who by night became lead singer ‘Enrico Cadillac III. Down into town, in Mathew Street, just a few yards from the Cavern, a new club had exploded into our consciousness. 'Eric’s' had opened. What a place, pulsating, sweaty, brooding punk before Malcolm McLaren had given it a name. Around by the college, Kirkland’s, O’Connor’s, The Phil and John Lennon’s favourite pub, Ye Cracke pulsated to local bands and singletons with acoustic guitars. The place was alive. Deaf School managed to get a contract from Warner Brothers – but they needed a manager to try and get a better deal. One night, they appeared at a club down the road called The Back of the Moon. We were all there to support Enrico and the band. Unfortunately, we were all pissed on Black Velvets and free cheese vol-au-vents. Then someone espied Mickey Most, the manager of managers in pop Britain at the time. He had hoped to keep his incognito intact as apparently he was going to sign them up. We descended on him, his cognito was outed – and within minutes, the Simon Cowell of the seventies was gone in a cloud of Ferrari exhaust fumes, never to return…..

Anyway, back to Mike Bersin. The various bands in the college used to ask his advice on musical stuff – Mike had been in a few bands since the late sixties, so knew at least some of the ropes. Mike’s bands included ‘Ibex’ which sort of morphed into a band called ‘Wreckage’…..

The final gig that ‘Wreckage’ ever did was on Christmas Eve, 1969 in Widnes at Wade Deacon Grammar School. Incidentally, the entrance of the school is about 30 yards from the railway bench which Simon and Garfunkel composed ‘Homeward Bound’ on while waiting for a non existent train in the early 60’s…..

After that last grammar school gig, they all went their separate ways. The lead singer of ‘Wreckage’ formed another band called ‘Sour Milk Sea’ - they managed just two performances before that too was wound up.

In February of 1970, the lead singer from Mike’s old band wanted to have another go at stardom.

He came up to Liverpool to try to persuade his mate Mike to commit to the new venture. The singer had thought of a name for the band – plus a new name for himself to replace the rather exotic one his parents had christened him with. Mike ummed and ahhed – and finally decided to refuse the offer his close friend had made…. With that, the singer left to pursue a couple of potential members from a band called ‘Smile’…

So who was Mike Bersin’s lead singer mate – the guy who tried to persuade him to join him in the new venture?

His name was Farook Bulsara, better known to his mates as ‘Freddie’ – better known to us all as Freddie Mercury.

On the 28th April 1970, the new band ‘Queen’ held their very first rehearsal with Brian May, rather than Mike Bersin as the new lead guitarist.

Mike was last heard of working at Middlesbrough Art College.

Further reading - Wikipedia Ibex write up – here

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Life, the Solar System and everything…

Our little bit of space on the edge of the Milky Way has got just a bit more
crowded. The space boffins at Boffin HQ, Boffington have decreed there should be a planet upgrade, nine has now become twelve. A few big bouldery boulders, one in between Mars and Jupiter, and the others way out there just to the left of Pluto have now been invited into the planetary club.

They’ve even named two of the three newcomers, Ceres is the one near Mars. Charon and err, UB313 are the two near Pluto.

But there’s a problem. Planet UB313 doesn’t really sound very poetic does it? I mean, Gustav Holst could, I suppose expand his Planet Suite to include Ceres and Charon, but UB313? It sounds more like a form you get from Social Security….

Maybe there should be a competition – ‘Name that Planet’… or could someone sponsor it? Welcome to the planet of Big Mac… or Disney might want to buy it and call it ‘Goofy’ to go with neighbour Pluto…..

But I’ve had an idea. The closest planet to UB313 is ‘Charon’ – and I’ve thought of a great name that would go really well with planet ‘Charon'.....
Planet ‘Wayne’……

Monday, August 07, 2006

CDS (Competitive Dad Syndrome)….

Saturday was a bit of a bummer. "Why so?" I hear you ask, especially as it was such a nice day. This Summer, ‘nice day’ means checking the toms, counting the visiting Butterfly quotient, watering the hanging baskets, trying to finish off my pond – and just pottering about a bit. Generally chilling out in the garden is the order of the day……

But silly me. I’d forgotten that next door’s garden was the venue for this year’s Competitive Dad Olympics.

About 8 Dads took part, along with their rubbishy non-sporting kids, making around 26 competitors in all. The kids took to the arena as ‘Team Crap’ – the Dads as ‘Team Testosterone’.

It was a gala of sport and competitive mayhem. All the old favourites were there, Chipping a golf ball into a basket, first to the apple tree race. garden cricket, the crying kid competition, keepy-uppy using a beach ball, 12 aside footy – generously spread over a 12 x 6 yard playing area…… and my very favourite, the Victor Ludorum of the day, who can scream the loudest while bouncing on the garden trampoline.

As the day wore on, the Dads began to wilt. More wilting meant more trips to the bar for refreshments. More refreshment meant more ‘accidents’ as little kids got crushed under beer bellies, received green stick fractures and became broken victims of professional foulery from an unscrupulous foe.

Arguments broke out – was that leg before?, was the ball over the line?…. Every argument meant a time out to cool down and visit the bar…… When will this row ever end? I thought.

Fortunately, the guy on the other side of their garden was thinking the same thing. Fortunately, he decided to do something about it.

In order to get rid of an annoying group of fully pissed adults and 18 hyper active, whinging, moaning, spoilt brats you will need the following:

A 6 foot high bonfire.
A box of matches.
Some green stuff to chuck on when it is well alight.
Wind going in the right direction.

He lit it, and chucked on a load of grass cuttings. Smoke everywhere. The pissed adults massed at the border to remonstrate with the manic fireman. He didn’t take any notice – he was too busy trying to hold back his 2 fully grown German Shepherds…..

The games were abandoned, the competitive Dads staggered back into the house to get a drink. Me? I sat on the step, revelling in the silence with tears rolling down my cheeks. Smoke is no respecter of borders.

Monday, July 31, 2006


This global warming malarkey has had quite a few consequences within Alfie towers and its sumptuous grounds.

1) My new best friend is the ceiling mounted fan in the lounge. I’d always thought this bit of furniture was a bit naff – something straight out of Lawrence of Arabia or ‘Death on the Nile’…… Since we got it, we’ve hardly ever had it on - until the hot spell kicked in, and now it is never off.

2) The verdant rolling acres of Alfie towers are long gone. Instead it’s scrubland as far as the eye can see. In order to right the natural temperate balance, the weathermen told us to expect torrential rainfall on Saturday morning. At 11:45am, it arrived – torrentially pouring with rain in a torrentially torrential manner. At 11:46am, the torrential rain stopped – like God had just imposed a torrential rain ban. By 11:50am, the torrential rain had torrentially evaporated back up to the fast disappearing clouds from whence it came.

3) Butterfly wars. The Cabbage White is Alfie’s public enemy number 1 at the moment - even more so than the little bitey things currently hatching out of our pond and making a bite-line for Alfie's shapely legs. The Cabbage White is obsessed with laying her cabbage white eggs on Alfie’s fantastic crop of salad Rocket. Alfie is wondering whether the Cabbage White should instead be called the Rocket Eating Bastard?

The Cabbage White has studiously chosen to ignore the special sacrificial crop of Cabbages Alfie has planted nearby during an especially Buddhist weekend last April. "Shoo" just doesn’t seem to work, nor did a gentle wave of my arms….. Maybe I’ll dig out my Slazenger tennis racquet and practise a few overhead smashes?…..

4) Baggy shirts and baggy shorts are the dress code at A.T. at the moment. It may look crap – but it’s comfy – so that’ll do. Fortunately, being the most coolest guy on the planet means I can get away with knobbly knees, odd socks and builder’s bum when I bend over. Other people are not so style lucky as me however. The other day, I actually saw the squarest man in the Universe. He was about 40 years old, walking down the high street wearing dead shiny black leather shoes, grey calf length socks, a tucked-in white shirt with stripey tie – and the tightest, shortest shorts seen since Kevin Keegan was in his England perm-wearing pomp… I don't want to sound like Trinny and Suzanne, but for God's sake, this guy even had a belt holding up his short-shorts and a tie pin holding down his stripey tie......

5) Sex. Errr, none.
Much, much too hot for rumpstering. The ceiling fan is currently my object of desire…

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blanked by the BBC.....

A couple of weeks ago, I had a go at writing a script for the BBC FiveLive listeners competition, World Cup Tapes. The subject was the World Cup - and the listeners experiences of the great competition over the years. The winning entries would get a few hundred quid cash - and their winning entries would be read out on air by my hero, Johnny Vegas. Needless to say, my effort wasn't selected - which was a bit disappointing. Anyway, for what it's worth, it is reproduced here - and concerns a true incident during the 1986 World Cup when I was trying to illustrate to two of my toddler kids just how good Maradona's legal goal against England actually was.....

Under the blazing kitchen ceiling of the Aztec Stadium, the tension is unbearable, the place is a cauldron of noise, sticky handprints, half eaten jam butties and fumes from last night’s curry. OK kids, gather round. This is it. The 1986 quarter final of the World Cup in Mexico City – and England are playing Argentina in the biggest grudge match since Popeye last beat up Bluto for tipping his cap at Olive Oil.

Now pay attention, this bottle of mint sauce is Maradona – he’s captain of Argentina and is the greatest player in the world. Although having more skill than a shed full of brain surgeons, note his untrustworthy profile, his shifty, low cunning demeanour and his tendency to keep handling the ball when no one is looking. Around him stands the cream of honest English yeoman footballing talent. For them, the Corinthian spirit still beats strong within their noble chests. They must surely be more than a match for the man from the pampas - Diego Armando Maradona!

All of a sudden, the ball breaks to the little guy. In an instant, the rolled-up piece of silver paper is under the control of the greatest bottle of mint sauce in the footballing world. Head down, he’s off towards the English half. The control is exquisite, the silver paper ball is glued to his foot as if held there by a force unknown to the average English defender.

His run is relentless, pounding, pacy and unerring - the little genius from the condiments cupboard is on a mission to double his side’s lead – and put an end to Bobby Robson’s boys brave but ultimately futile attempt to progress any further in the competition. He rounds Hoddle the Pepper Poddle with consummate ease. Next, he shimmies past Reidy the novelty squeezy-sauce tomato - and sashays past the near-empty Sanson butter tub, leaving him spread all over the table.

Things are looking serious for England. Where is Roy of the Rovers when you need him, surely Melchester’s finest would put a stop to this dazzling dribble once and for all? On and on, Maradona bears down. The little genius and spring heeled cheat is zeroing in on sporting history…… – But hang on, just let’s wait a mo’ …..let’s not panic, England’s ‘Heart of Oak’ central defence is squaring up. He shall not pass.

There they are, the twin set of four-squared resolution, the English beefed magnificence that is the mustard jar and the vinegar bottle. Unfortunately, whether they’re affected by the dazzling light and relentless heat from the 60 watt kitchen bulb beating down on them, or because they are just a few dollops short of a full measure, they both collapse in synchronistic heaps, their legs knotted, their brains frazzled, their contents unsettled.

First, he makes a monkey out of the tin of Butcher mustard – and in an instant, glides past the Fenwick vinegar bottle as if he isn’t there – which he isn’t – we forgot to buy some on last Friday’s shopping run… For God’s sake, How can I be expected to recreate the greatest World Cup goal in history on this kitchen table when you’ve forgotten to buy the bottle of Terry Fenwick vinegar?…… Never mind kids – you’ll just have to use your imagination, he should be there – but he isn’t….. come to think of it, the same thing happened in 1986!…

By now, the little guy is in the area, relentlessly bearing down on Salty Shilton’s goal. The mustard jar makes one last, despairing effort to block the ball…. He fails miserably. Salty dives, but…… too late. Mint Sauce Maradona slots the ball home between the knife and fork. The serviette bulges and the ball is in the back of the net ….. Argentina 2 : England 0….

Over the Mexican waved roar from the capacity crowd of 2 kids, an overgrown schoolboy and a despairing wife, commentator Barry Drainboard could be heard hysterically summing up this astounding piece of skill perfectly… "You have to say - that is quite, quite magnificent"….. And it was.

And so ended our kitchen table drama – my recreation of the 1986 Argentina – England football match and Maradona’s wonder goal in our kitchen, to a couple of snotty nosed kids and a long suffering spouse. The kitchen table looked like a bomb had hit it. Reidy the novelty tomato is on his side rotating slowly in an arc. Every time he rolls, another dollop of tomato sauce is blobbed onto the formica top. Shilts is in a salty spin – he’s still trying to work out how a vertically challenged Argentinean schoolboy has out-jumped him to palm the ball in for the first goal…

Hoddle the pepper poddle is grinding away in the corner, bitter that someone has comprehensively out-skilled him in the shimmy department…….. And Sanson the butter tub? He’s gone – carried off for a rendezvous with a rather delicious ham salad sandwich.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Today is my 53rd birthday.

I share my birthday with Franz Kafka(123), Ken Russell(79), Tom Stoppard(69) and Tom Cruise(44).

Today my diet is on his holidays.

Today, I shall be going down to the Blood Tub and drinking a lot – starting with Adnams ale and ending up on the floor – a complete A to Zzzzzzzzzzzzz of English alery.

I shall be meeting Franz, Ken and the two Toms there – we’ll laugh, tell stories and get pissed on the fruit of Kent. Kafka will be a bit quiet on account of him being completely dead.. (it’ll still be more than we get out of Cruise though)……
Quite literally hot ‘n’ sticky….

Sunday, 2nd July

After working all day in the garden under a blisteringly hot July Sun I decided to get a very long drink of ice cool water. I strode towards the french windows, brow beaded with honest toil, gnarlied hands with the ingrained hue of home made compost, my white cotton shirt, drenched in sweat stuck to my skin like sticky glue. I began to muse. What figure from literature did I currently resemble?…..

Perhaps a brooding D’arcy, after his lake swim in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice?…..

Or maybe…..

"Do you think I look a bit like Mellors the gamekeeper from Lady Chatterley’s Lover?"

"More like Stig of the Dump"….

Friday, June 30, 2006

Back crack, sack – and feeling sick….

In an uncommonly brave bit of "childbirth can’t be that painful can it?" banter between me and Mrs A – I was sort of well and truly lead up the garden path and done up like a kipper (metaphorically speaking). Inevitably, being a mere man and not really understanding where the conversation was going, I failed to see the 'Testosterone Gambit' being engineered in front of my eyes. The discussion on pain ended with a very rash bet between myself and my better half, I somewhat foolishly committed myself to a bit of body waxing. Well, not really. It’s actually quite a lot of body waxing (I've got a really big arse) – in very sensitive and personal areas. To be precise, for some amazing and totally bizarre reason, I’ve decided to have what is commonly called a ‘back, crack and sack’…..

Well, it can’t be that painful, can it?

Can it?

I comforted myself by believing I would get it done in our local Waxing Emporium (wherever that is) – the delicate procedure being performed by a stunningly good looking young laydee….. Hmmmm, pleasure-painnnnnnnnnn.

Unfortunately, that bubble has been burst – my missus is going to do the backing, cracking and the sacking. She’s never done anything like this before – and has hardly ever done any waxing of her own legs. She’s always used ‘Desperate Dan’s patent Brillo Pads’ in the past.

She’s advised me to find a substantial piece of English Oak to bite on whilst she does the stuff.

I feel sick.

I’ll keep you posted. Hopefully, I will still be able to walk afterwards, even if it's only on all fours – and I’m going to hide the digital camera – to stop her taking compromising photos and posting them on

Friday, June 09, 2006

Meeting a couple of old friends at Malham Cove…

I met a blast from my schoolboy past last weekend. I literally stumbled upon ‘Clint’ and ‘Gryke’. Not a Yorkshire comedy duo, nor a north country concoction of sheep offal, but something last seen by me in Mr Fraser’s geoggers lesson, circa 1967.

For those who don’t know, Clints and Grykes are the descriptive components of upland limestone pavementing – and some of the very best bits in all of England can be found atop the sheer limestone escarpment that is Malham Cove, North Yorkshire. It’s a fantastic place to go for a walk – and Sunday’s yomp was specifically formulated as part of the ‘Get Alfie Fighting Fit Again’, or GAFFA for short.

After my scare at the doctor’s a few weeks back, I have become a newish man. Drinking alcohol at home is now banned – Adam’s ale is the only exception. I still have a scoop or two when I’m on quiz team duty – and of course, ‘Gin Night’ every Friday is absolutely sacrosanct obviously. But believe it or not, I’ve saved a shed load of cash implementing the GAFFA plan. I used to drink around 3 cans a night at home – that’s at least 20 cans a week, sitting on my arse watching the telly or tapping away on the keyboard.

I hate to think of my weekly unit intake – but counting my ‘quiz beer’ and my ‘gin nippies’ and adding it to my home beer stock, it must have been around 60 per week….. or nearly 3 times the recommended weekly intake for an adult male.

After a hurried, post-doc’ serious chat with myself, I resolved to change my ways. My alcoholic intake is now no higher than 15 units per week – and I feel loads better. The ‘gutometer’ (my jeans belt) has reduced by a full 2 whole holes worth, in only 3 whole weeks – so things are going in the right direction.

I have never had a problem with self-reassessment. I used to smoke like a chimney, between 60 to 80 a day – and gave it up forever on the 1st January, 1983. My first Son was nearly a year old at the time – and I reasoned that if I carried on puffing away, I wouldn’t see his 10th birthday.

Anyway, back to Malham. As well as drastically cutting down on alcohol, I thought I should take more exercise. Walking in beautiful and remote places in England seemed like a good idea. Number 1 was Malham Cove, North Yorkshire. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to find both beautiful and remote places in England nowadays. As we breasted the little hill that guards the entrance to the Malham valley – my heart sank. Millions of people sporting brightly coloured kagools, billions of tents…. And one enormous, hastily convened car park – hours ago it was a sheep field, now it was hedge to hedge metal. The beaming smile of the farmer at the gate beckoned us toward him – and charged us 3 quid to get in. I reckoned a hernia was being groomed under his tweedy waistcoat, courtesy of the gargantuan weight of pound coin in his ticket bag.

Once we’d parked up, had our butties and started off towards Gordale Scar, things got better, kagool sighting got rarer. The scenery was breathtaking, gorge, waterfall, sparkling river until at last we arrived at Gordale. What a place. Just fantastic. A gothic masterpiece in limestone, towering columns and buttresses, rising sheer and going up hundreds of feet - almost closing above our heads has been carved by nothing but wind, ice and water. After Gordale, we wheeled away up the adjacent hill towards Malham. This part of the walk was really knackering. The hill just went on and on upwards towards the top of the cove. And then we got there. The top of Malham Cove proper – and it’s wonderful Clint and Gryke architecture.

The view was stunning, awesome - and then some. And then some more. We could see for miles. Fortunately, in the near distance we could just make out a hostelry, no doubt selling fine English ales. That settled it, we descended the long and winding steps at the double – and then at the treble. We reached the foot of the giant cliff that was Malham. At the bottom of the sheer limestone wall bubbled the source of the River Aire – as clean as, err, a mountain stream. We reached The Buck and downed a superb pint of Timothy Taylor. It had been a really great day, a day that makes you thank your lucky stars you live in England – even though Blair and his control freaks are doing their utmost to wreck the place.

Domino the dog, Clint and Gryke.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hell, high water, wind - and lots of kites….

Monday saw me hurtling down the M1 trying to make a meeting in Redhill, Surrey for 12 noon. Traditionally, I’m late for everything – but this meeting is different, this meeting just could mean kerching city for Alfie, his wifey, his kiddykins and his bank balance. So this time I really must not be late.

To make doubly sure of a timely arrival, I did half the journey from the North West on Sunday night, staying at my sister’s - a pleasant house just a couple of miles to the left of Rutland Water.

To make trebly sure of a timely arrival, I tapped in my destination on the sat-nav before turning in. It reckoned a two and a half-hour journey would do it. Sorted. I’ll get up at 7, out by 8, arrive at my destination by 10:30……. 11, tops.

Dream on.

Everything went swimmingly (it was raining hard) until I hit Luton. Suddenly I’m in the biggest, longest, thinnest, most static car park in the entire world. The sexy sat-nav lady informs me there is a traffic jam. I ‘kin know there’s a ‘kin traffic jam, I’m ‘kin in it.

And I was, right up to my neck.

Never mind, I reasoned, I’ve factored in the ‘why does it always happen to me’ gambit – and allowed loads of time for just this eventuality. Well done to me for being so bloody organised. Just then, the traffic reporter on Radio FiveLive informed me there was a big, very big traffic jam on the M1 southbound. Worse still, there was a huge accident on the M1 northbound – and it is completely closed. They’ve also just closed the southbound motorway so that a couple of Air ambulance helicopters can land.

It put everything in perspective. I hoped the victims were OK. With that, I get philosophical - I ring the office in Redhill, tell them I’ll get there when I can and just sat back and relaxed a bit.

Two hours later, I’m sort of still relaxed, definitely still stationary and still being told I’m in a traffic jam by Ms Sat-nav… 45 minutes after that – and we are moving… moving I tell you! Mind you, by now the heavens have opened – had Hurricane Katrina finally hit our shores?

I’m flooring it on a skid-pan. Every truck in the world is in front of me, churning up gallons of water and chucking it at my windscreen at the speed of a water cannon…… And then I hit the M25. Oh God, the M25, the ring of hell in a tsunami of wind and water. Somehow, I manage to negotiate it. Somehow I arrive wet, late, bedraggled - but alive.

After the road to hell came the art of prevarication from the client. The deal of deals never quite got put on the table. We went through the motions then went for lunch, cardboard salmon steak with reheated carbon chips and a side salad of stale grass. They agreed to commit their offer to paper, in black and white, clear as crystal – so the journey wasn’t entirely wasted..

With that, I drove home, but this time I decided to give the M1 a miss. This time I thought I might try the M40 – a road that carves through some of the finest countryside in the south of England. The road was clear, surprising really for rush hour – and a hell of a contrast from the morning. Some thin ribbons of blue sky even managed to make an appearance through a slate grey, battleship grey, grindingly dull, grey sky.

My spirits rose.

Suddenly, just as I was reaching the Oxfordshire border a bloody huge bird of prey, swooped across the motorway, about 20 foot above the car. Even though I’d never seen one before, I recognised it immediately, this bird is just unique. It had a really long forked tail, so it could only be one bird….. just one.

It was a Red Kite…. No doubt about it. The forked tail and the huge wing-span – around 6 foot across were the giveaways. The Red Kite is one of the rarest birds in Britain – there are a few in remote areas of Wales…. And that’s it.

I was so excited, I rang Mrs Alfie…. "I’ve just seen a Red Kite" I stammered…………."Bloody hell, there’s another one, and another"….. Mrs Alfie indulged in a bit of mega scoffing and put the phone down.

Altogether I counted about 15 Red Kites fluttering above a mile long stretch of motorway Fifteen!

When I got home it was like I was the fisherman who let a whopper go, no one believed me. I consulted the bird books…. They all said that the Red Kite was incredibly rare, how their stronghold was in very remote areas of Wales – and how they were very seldom if ever seen. So how could I have seen a whole herd of them – over a motorway in England?

I decided to ring the RSPB to find out. The conversation went something like this.

"Hello, I was driving on the M40 last night, just coming into Oxfordshire and saw"…..

"Red Kites!!!!"
he exclaimed.
I was gobsmacked. This guy told me that sometimes there are as many as 50 Red Kites all flying over the motorway in this little hot spot…. Apparently, this area has the largest population of Red Kites in the country. I asked him if the site was a secret – he said it couldn’t be as they spend all their days swooping over the motorway.

So there you go, if you want to see a truly awesomely amazing bird of prey, and one of the rarest animals in Britain, head for the M40.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bloggers United - v - NuLabour Sleaze....
After drinking fine English ales, my second most enjoyable activity is slagging off the NuLabour project and the arch diva himself, Tony Blair. God how I hate him and his clack of criminal, no-scrupled foot soldiers.

Sleaze and NuLabour go together like peaches and cream - Prescott, Vaz, Hodge, Mandelson, Byers, Jowell, Cherie....... the list is almost endless. And to commemorate their appalling track record, Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes have compiled a hundred of the best examples. They've asked the blogging community to contribute - and the whole thing was written printed and bound within 3 weeks.......

I've contributed with a few pieces - and I must say there is something extremely gratifying about doing a bit of Blair bashing using the written word....

The books are due to hit the bookshops this week, or you could get it from Amazon by clicking the link on the left....

Friday, May 19, 2006

Grumpy old men – with subtitles….
Fancy a laugh? Then be sure to watch the BBC telly programme ‘Grumpy Old Men’….. not the regular series, no, watch it when it’s repeated in the wee small hours – that's the edition with the added sign language facility - performed by a digitally added person translating every word said.

A little lady is pasted into the bottom right hand of the screen and as the grumpies moan about this and that, bemoaning the annoying detritus of everyday life the lady does her best to keep up with the moan overload. The trouble is with grumpy old men is that they tend to do a lot of swearing….an awful lot of swearing……

It’s good to see that the sign language movements for 'Wanker', 'Dickhead' and 'Tosser' are exactly as you would think they would be….. except that this lady was doing the movements with unbelievable gusto. When a grumpy said how some Traffic Warden was such a wanker – this lady’s hand became a blur of repetitive action. A bit startling maybe – but 10 out of 10 for comedy value…..

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Stevie Gee, legend…..
I’m a scouser – and a lifelong Liverpool fan. The very first game I ever saw was in the Spring of 1963 when Liverpool played Spurs on a fantastically brilliant bright sunny day. Nine years old, walking through the dark damp bowels of old Anfield footy stadium, I breasted the top of the stairway to be met by a dazzling green square, I was gobsmacked. I’d never seen such a verdant sward. By half time, we were 2-0 down, the boy Greavsie doing his brilliant best. The second half saw us scoring 5 goals to run out winners 5-2. I was so excited I threw up – and since that day, I’ve been hooked.

So I looked forward to Saturday’s Cup Final with relish. I thought we’d murder West Ham. I’d even prepared a posting based on the famous rant by a Norwegian radio commentator upon his team defeating a mullet headed England team……

‘Sir Trevor Brooking, Billy Bragg, Ray Winston, Alf Garnett, we gave your boys a hell of a beating today’…….

But we didn’t. We scored 3 fantastic goals and made presents of 3 others. The difference was Stevie Gerrard - what a player – I wouldn’t swap him for anyone else. If he was playing for Real Madrid or Juventus he’d have been world player of the year by now. Forget Rooney’s metatarsal, Beckham’s ego and Sven’s barmy tactics, the key to victory in Germany is Gerrard – and playing him in his best position. (Taking Defoe would help as well!) The trouble is, does Sven realise it?

Come on England!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pass me the warm milk…..

OK, pretty devastating news from Alfie’s rock n roll HQ. I don’t look as bad as Keith Richards, I don’t have his money or his bizarre taste in hair ornaments – but maybe I share a couple of his health problems. A routine visit to the Health Centre for a chesty cough complaint provoked an enquiry from the Doc’

"While you’re here, why don’t we check your blood pressure?"

She did. She frowned. She said "Hmmmmm"

Picture one of those cartoons were the liquid rises at the speed of light up the dial, hits the bulb at the top, bulges, shakes and explodes…..

High blood pressure. Bloody high - as high as an elephant’s eye on top of a high blood pressure chart on the wall of the penthouse suite of the Empire State Building, as it happens…..

It’s the end of the rock and roll lifestyle for yours truly. My Doctor told me the man that is the angry old basket case has got to go – so have the rounds of bread with every meal, so has the beer.

I’m on the wagon. Old Alfie has gone – along with the bacon butties…. and the Turkish Delight…. and did I mention the beer?

New healthy, more caring, more feminine Alfie is in the building, having got here by bicycle…….

But tell me, does giving up the rock and roll lifestyle, the beer, the bacon butties, the beer, the Turkish Delight, the beer and a ton of bread make me live longer – or will it just seem longer?

Friday, April 07, 2006

"and this is Barry Hyperbole reporting for News at Ten, Cellardyke, Fife"..

Blimey, how dramatic was Thursday night’s news? Actually, not very dramatic at all really – it was wall to wall waffle. Talk about ‘bigging something up’. All the main media players were there surrounding the tiny harbour of Cellardyke in Scotland, Sky, BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5 all coming live from the little harbour wall. Anything that moved had a mike shoved under its bracket…. "What do you think about Bird Flu…. Will you still eat Curried Chicken Crisps?…. Is it the end for KFC in Britain?......

Does anyone remember the Monty Python sketch from 'Alan Whicker Island'?..... you get the idea.

The message from everyone was the same. Don’t Panic!!! It was ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ meets ‘Dr Findlay’s Casebook’ as every ‘Northface' weatherproof-wearing anchor man ringed the tiny harbour to report on Britain’s first ‘Bird Flu’ fatality. A full half an hour was dedicated to the Don’t Panic it's a dead Swan story on the BBC news. Experts were wheeled out – they too wore ‘Northface’ gear – plus the occasional ‘Gore-Tex’ job.

One Prof’ said that we were all perfectly safe as long as we didn’t swap bodily fluids with sparrows or eat too much Trill…. Meanwhile, back to the harbour wall and our special Bird Flu reporter, Johnny Waffleburger….."Yes, Dermot, I have with me Dreary McCaber, a local resident. Ms McCaber, you apparently nearly saw the dead swan in the sea. "Och yes, about 2 years ago, I was only looking in that very same spot the swan was found"…..

"So you didn't actually see the Swan?"

"No, not actually - but apparently it was deathly white - so it must have been ill"....

"Great, really interesting…..Sorry, have to cut you short, back to the studio were Dermot has an expert with him on ‘how not to panic by following some simple breathing exercises ’ with him"…..

(I reckon the only panic in Cellardyke last night was when the news teams tried to find a hotel room)…

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I’m back….

For the last few weeks I’ve had a bit of a blogging hiatus. I reckon most bloggers have one at one time or another. It’s a sort of mid life blogging crisis….. Inertia, the culture of the supine and several score of choccy bars conspired to knock me into a blogging-coma. Should I get the lap-top out and bang out a bit of a story - or should I watch Noel Edmonds on ‘Deal or No Deal’?….. I have to say, the irritating beardy with a pile of cash and a fantastic collection of classic cars has been winning out lately.

It was just so easy to embrace the culture of the sloth, the potato on the couch and the Homer Simpson of the idle - a fracture of the will to tap away, waxing on this and that….

I reckon it was the cold weather, the snow, the ice, the wind. It’s been a long winter – and I think it has just got me down a bit. Battleship grey looks better on battleships, not overhead in the sky. That should be coloured ‘sky blue sky’ – especially at this time of the year. Spring has definitely not yet sprung….

So today I decided to do something about it. Today I dug out my trusty dibber, a clutch of seed trays, a big bag of compost and 30 packets of seeds I’d bought in more optimistic times. Time for some action. I trudged through the Somme-like mud in our back garden and prised open the Greenhouse door. Whatever was alive when I put my precious non hardy plants in there last Autumn was now frazzed, every single one of them. Water might have helped. The only living thing in there was a huge queen wasp, hiding in between a couple of plantpots. Respect! I carefully took it outside and put it in a little old disused dog kennel, she could see out the rest of the cold weather in safety. it really was a fantastic animal - I know most people don't like them, but to me they deserve to be here along with everything else, don't they?

Back to the soil stuff..... Thrusting digits into damp, cold seeding compost, feeling the mankyness ooze out, and wondering in amazement at the ability of plants to grow in such cacky stuff seems to have done the trick. Nothing quite wakes you up as when you are trying to plant 15 million seeds each the size of a gnat’s gnob into jet black compost.

(That annoying toe rag, Noel Edmunds is now consigned to the 'off' switch)…

Friday, March 10, 2006

Have – haven’t. Number 1…..
an occasional series

Stuff I’ve never eaten….

1).Veal – too cruel. A ritual too far for a supposed delicacy.

2).Lobster – much too cruel. Left alone, they live for 80 years plus.

3).Frog’s legs – Bizarre choice of food – I mean, why not ‘frog’s eyebrows’?

4).My own bogeys – the mere thought of it bring me out in cold sweat. I just could never understand why kids at school did that.

5).Dog – oh no! It would be like eating a member of the family.

6).Bullocks testicles – don’t even go there.

7).Ostrich – You’d need a bloody massive cooker to get it in.

8).Pig’s trotters – pass me the sick bag.

9).Whale – I have enough blubber of my own.

10).My hat – fortunately, I can bluff stuff out a lot.

Stuff I have eaten – (but wish I hadn’t)…..

1).Rissole and Bluebottle surprise – my once favourite dish, until I saw half eaten blue bottle on a half eaten rissole on my dinner plate. The other half of it was already in my stomach.

2).Daffodil flowers – a drunken bet, I ate them, then someone told me they were poisonous. What fun we had outside the pub trying to get me to throw up.

3).Humble pie – all too frequently on my menu I’m afraid.

4).Human hair – no comment.

5).A caterpillar and cabbage sandwich mistake – so there I am, shoving a bit forkful of organic Savoy into my mouth…. "Hmmm, this cabbage is really juicy"…..

6).Big Mac (with fries, shake and sick bag) congealiality in a polystyrene box.

7).2 extra large Mars bar Easter eggs (consecutively) – you know that scene in ‘Cool Hand Luke’ where Paul Newman eats 50 hard boiled eggs…..

8).Oysters – sliding, sliding, always sliding down. A passable impression of semi-solid Vaseline…

9).A wasp – playing in a footy match, swearing at the ref’ a vespa flew straight into my mouth. I felt it buzzing inside – and frightened the stripey chap would sting me at the back of my throat, I started to chomp. It was either him or me – and a squirt of wasp juice in my mouth confirmed it was him.

10).Tripe – like chewing a bag of 50 year-old rubber bands.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jonathan had a go at my last post, which is fair enough. – I meant to reply right away, but pressure of work has delayed me a bit… anyway, reply below.

Hi Jonathan

OK – I’ll nail my colours to the mast. The piece is blurred re’ exactly which countries are being excluded. For example, Herceptin. In Scotland and now Wales this ‘very expensive and dangerous drug’ is available as of right to their respective populations. In England, if you want it - find a lawyer. Even when the patient’s own Specialist recommends Herceptin – the instruction is to take the prescription to the High Court rather than to the local chemist. It is a fact that England’s PCTs have been using the approval time as an excuse to delay roll out – and hence save money. In Scotland and Wales this is not a problem. Why? Could be something to do with the extra cash they get from Gordon Brown. I really cannot accept an argument that brands desperate English women as being hysterical and media-manipulated by the Daily Mail et al, whilst north of Carlisle and west of Chester, the drug is an accepted part of their National Dispensary, right next to the Asprin – and that is surely not right, is it?.

The guy on the TV the other night has so far spent 10 grand on ‘temozolomide’ – (it is currently keeping him alive). His Specialist told him about the drug as being specifically relevant to his type of cancer. Unfortunately, his PCT didn’t agree. When you’re in the last chance saloon do you really want some pen pusher from your local PCT, wringing hands and explaining that the drug is not available because of this, that or the other, not proven, too expensive, etc, etc…

To broaden the argument – Wales will get free prescriptions for everyone, every single one of them by 2007. In Scotland there are free eye tests for everyone and already in that country 92% of prescriptions are completely free. Bowel cancer screening in Scotland starts at a much earlier age – in England, screening starts a good 10 years later. It’s the tip of a health service iceberg – or in the case of England – a health ‘non-service’ iceberg…..

I sound bitter - and I am. During my Dad's last days a year ago, we bought stuff off the internet, from Canada - stuff that his Specialist reckoned could help him - but his local PCT couldn't and wouldn't supply. They also refused surgery, basically because they reckoned he was too old and 'inconvenient'

In the greater scheme of things, this stuff may have prolonged his life by a smidge or two - but who gave a damn, who cared? Certainly not his PCT. My Dad was 85, he was old, knackered, a busted flush.... He'd worked from the age of 14 straight through to 75 years of age, solid - and paid his taxes every single week of that time. He was never off ill - ever. During the war, he shovelled coal in the bowels of Royal Navy vessels knowing that if the ship got hit, he was a dead man...... So he fulfilled his part of the deal - and when he needed help, they let him down.

Still, if it saves a few quid - and he died a few weeks earlier than he was due - so what?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Nice being nasty again….

So it goes….. Another day, another cancer-suffering English patient having to stick his hand in his pocket to pay for his own treatment…..

Those paper shuffling morons at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) are at it again. It’s not the breast cancer drug, Herceptin being refused this time - Now it’s ‘Temozolomide’ – a drug that treats aggressive, fast growing brain tumours. The drug was invented and developed in this country. Other countries throughout the world are using it routinely – so why not here?

No need to ask really…… money. The guy paying for his own treatment is up to 10 grand and counting.

NICE are really rubbish – it’s nothing to do with clinical excellence. The painfully slow assessment process is nothing short of prevarication and bluster. They use the excuse of non-approval as delaying tactic to avoid spending cash. And when a drug is finally given the green light – we pay on average 20% more than other western countries for the stuff.

Pretty crap really, especially as the annual budget for the NHS is a bloody unbelievable 94 billion quid……

One thing’s for certain, ‘NICE’ are not independent, nor are they ‘nice’ – they merely dance to the Government’s tune. They should be rebranded – to the National Authority for Fund Fannying (NAFF).

Sunday, February 19, 2006


On ‘those’ cartoons…..
OK, I admit it, now and again I do watch Richard and Judy on Channel 4. They’re totally crap, obviously – but sometimes they have some great summarisers on to discuss a topic of the day. Nick Ferrari was on last week talking about the Danish cartoons and the ‘spontaneous’ Islamic backlash. He waxed lyrical about Christianity and Islam – and where he thought to two religions stood at the moment.

He compared them thus,
"Christianity is a bit like an old worn-out jumper, a bit old fashioned, a bit tired - it’s sort of still in the 1950’s….
Islam, however is still in the 12th century"……

You have to admit he may have a point.

On James Blunt winning some Brit music awards
How? Why? Who voted? Are they mad and are they deaf? Yes!

On the coverage of the smoking ban vote…..
I’ve been getting really irritated lately at the way the media report news. Dumbed down and inaccurate, the BBC 6 o’clock news has become nothing more than a comic…. Natasha Kaplinski is no time-served journalist. The chronic standard of script origination and undying allegiance to the great p.c. mantra has left a once noble profession little more than a celeb stepping stone to the supermarket opening circuit…. Kerrrching.

For instance, the smoking ban vote – "The Commons votes to stop Britain smoking in pubs and clubs"….

BBC Breakfast was worse. They proclaimed that as a result of the vote, "Britain had given up smoking" The follow up reportage was completely non geographical – apart from repeating that the vote was about Britain and not England and smoking. Even The Times, anxious to pander to their owner – who is also Tony’s bestest, most powerful media friend in the world ever, stated ‘Britain gives up smoking’

For the record, the smoking ban in public places as voted on at Westminster applies to England only.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Conspiracy theories?……
Nah, just a jobsworth doing my head in again.

I’ve not had a very good week at all. It’s been bleeding rubbish actually. Blogging’s the last thing on my mind as I’ve been trying to clear my name against an establishment, big brother juggernaut.

Yes, it’s been Alfie versus the world…. There could only be one winner.

We are trying, trying so bloody hard to start a new business venture. The company is registered, the site is up – we just need a business banking account. Well, that was in November of last year and we are still bloody waiting. One of the biggest problems is trying to prove who we are – and apparently ID theft is the new crime of choice. There are 5 of us – all equal shareholders, you would not believe how hard it is to prove who we are. A Utility bill won’t do it – neither will a testimonial from a JP - and if you do not have a passport or a driving licence, you’re basically goosed. For in the eyes of the State, you have no identity.

The problems with our submission were many, outdated passports, lost driving licences – it just went on and on. Last Friday week, I received a ‘phone call from Bizz-Bank HQ.

"What’s the problem then?"

"Well you are actually"

According to the jobsworth at the end of the line, I, me, myself had nearly 20 grands worth of CCJs against my name.

I was apoplectic, struck down dumb by the bint on the other end of the line insisting I was a cheat, a vagabond, a n’er do well……

Had my I.D. been stolen? Was a Rumanian gang making inroads into the Alfie fortune? Had I been cloned? Worse of all, was I now in favour of I.D. cards?

I signed up to experian the credit control experts of choice for the well and truly see-see-jayed, to get a copy of my credit report. I applied online and after a horrible weekend of sleepless nights and turbo angst. My keycode arrived under secure post on Tuesday morning. I logged on, tapped my keycode in and there it was in all its glory. My credit report – take it from me, the detail is scary, minute and forensic. There is absolutely everything on it…..

15:3:03 – Alfie swears at cashier as he pays in his pie bill….. (late).

I rang the good folk at Experian to take me through it – where was the CCJ file? It didn’t exist – I was clean, my file was clean. I was happy as the strain lifted…. The jobsworth at the bank was dead.

I rang them – at Bizz-Bank Corps, Mrs Jobsworth answered. They were never wrong, they never made mistakes, they never apologised because they’re never wrong. I sent them a fax of my report.

They apologised. I threatened to sue. One of their oppo’s had made a mistake, he wasn’t in at the moment, but would be reprimanded upon his return. His line manager was as mad as hell……….

I.D. cards might be a good thing, if only the ‘cock-up’ factor could be eliminated….. And that never can be, can it? Whatever is done, Mr and Mrs Jobsworth will be there, at the double, ready to cock it all up….

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bring a brick....

Always ready to help in a crisis, 'Alfie the helpy sort of guy' has decided to step up to the plate and offer his not inconsiderable back garden to the nation….. (For a Saturday afternoon at least).

Apparently, the Chief Executive of ace footy stadium building company, ‘Multiplex’ (motto – ‘Honestly, it’ll be ready by 3:00pm on Saturday afternoon, almost definitely, possibly, maybe’) is making noises that the new Wembley Stadium might not be ready for this year’s FA Cup Final after all. Rumour has it he’s asking the footy loving public to get over to the ground double-quick and make sure they bring a brick each with them….. a sort of ‘bring a bottle party’ – but without the bottle…..

Clouds are gathering at Wembley
– however contractors are confident they’ll
be finished in time for the 2012 Olympics

Oh bugger. That’s a bit of a problem then. The FA are not happy, not happy at all. There they are, TV contracts signed, two footy teams waiting to go head to head – and nowhere to play the game…. Looks like another sojourn to the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff then. Not necessarily….

Thankfully, and in respect to our national game, this Englishman is willing to go the extra mile in order to make sure the English FA Cup Final takes place – in England. I’m willing to open the rolling acres of Alfie Towers and let the silky skills of the Premiership’s finest perform body swerves galore.

Here at ‘Okaybley’, I’ve got all the essential footy stadium accoutrements to make sure 90 minutes of sinew-busting mayhem pass off with all the bravura that a classic English occasion deserves….. (Just as long as they go easy around the greenhouse, which will now be known as ‘Punditry Corner’). I’ve got grass, mostly green, mostly tufty (except the muddy area by the pond). Super comfy couches for the toffs (and standing room only on the garden furniture for the chavs). Queen Betty and the rest of the Royal entourage will have to make do sitting on the kids’ garden trampoline. There, suspended at a dizzy height of 36 inches, they’ll have a truly spectacular panoramic view of the whole garden complex.

So that’s it then, there’s the offer. Just one thing though, there’s the goal post problem and I’m one jumper down, anyone want to play skins?

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I fell for it last Friday, I really, really fell for it big time. The big-breasted rollover lady with the 85 million double-D bazoomas wiggled her jackpots at me – and I swooned.

I didn’t stop swooning until I got to the Euromillions Lottery counter. I bought two tickets at £1.50p each, the winning ticket and a back up just to make sure. While I was there, and seeing I was a bit of a Euromill’ virgin, I picked up a helpful little leaflet explaining exactly how to carry off the enormous 85 million pound cheque without giving yourself a triple hernia with double rupture accoutrement.

I mean, what could I do with all that money? 85 million quid is a King’s ransom with attitude and no mistake. I could buy a forest, a county…. a country even! - who knows? I could save a species, instigate some third world initiatives, help the Amazon Indians against the illegal logging companies and finance a court case through the U.S courts in which all the treaties signed by General Custer and company not to invade native Indian land are actually honoured. Who knows, maybe they might even say the 27 dollars worth of beads given to the native Indians in exchange for Manhattan might just be adjudged to be have been a bit of a rip off……

Anyway, first thing’s first, I’ve got to actually win the jackpot first before I can swamp the world with ‘AlfieCorp’ good works. (Motto, ‘Indignation is bloody useless unless it’s righteous indignation’) As I walked away from the counter with the sure fire winner in my grasping little graspy hand, I scanned the back of the Euromillions leaflet. Hmmmm, the odds of winning are a bit streaky – apparently winning the jackpot is around about 75,000,000 to 1……

‘Kin hell, Seventy five bleeding million to bleeding one……. Geez, how disappointing…….

Anyway, needless to say, I didn’t win, not even a single crummy Euro. But never mind, this week, the rollover has gone up to over 100 million – it’s huge, it’s massive, it’s fantasy ………

Let’s face it, I’ve got more chance of being discovered as the true heir to the throne and proclaimed as Alfred the OK(ing) the first.

Monday, January 23, 2006


According to a very sad scientist, today is the most depressing day of the year. He’s taken into consideration the post Christmas blues, the credit card bills gently flopping on every doormat in the country right about now and the really, really grindingly crap weather…

Added to that, Tony Blair is still in power, my dentist is about to go private, Celebrity Big Brother is still on the telly…… II mean, how could it get any worse?

Easy. The Inland Revenue have sent me a letter, cunningly timed to arrive on my doorstep today, on the morning of the most depressing day of the year. It did. It’s from a Mr T. Watt – and he wants to do an in-depth review of last year’s tax return. They want to look in great detail at the things I’ve claimed for, sifting, sifting, sifting…… It’s so thorough, I think in accountancy circles, it’s called a ‘KY audit’ – they look everywhere, especially in places where the Sun never shines.

Let’s hope they don’t find ‘piles’ - (of cash, obviously).

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Raiding the family archives...
I have mostly been looking at an old photo this weekend. A very, very long, very rolled up old photo. It’s one of those school photos taken on one of those special school picture-taking cameras. It’s 8 inches deep by about 20 miles long……

I’m trying to find a couple of people on this school photo – and I know they are there. But it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack or do a ‘Where’s Wally’ book. If I do find them then this tatty, 50 year old photograph will be worth quite a bit.

It’s really interesting to look at this picture. Everyone is white. There seems to be a lot of kids there that look like ‘Plug’ out of the Beano. Designer spex are an alien concept – it appears there were two sorts of glasses worn in 1955, National Health jobs or milk bottle bottoms….

There are 3 types of kids on the pic’. 1) Swots and creeps. 2) Honest Johns. 3) Wide-boy embryonic teddy boys. There are some great coiffured hairstyles, piled up using Brylcreem, the styling lard of the day. Dee-Ayz, quiffs and dodgy geezer styles abound…..

It’s a really fascinating social document. But I’m more interested in realising cash at the moment… And these two people, I just cannot find them amongst the myriad of greasy, spotty, testosterone laden yoofs of post war England.

So, who am I looking for on the photo?

Good question, glad you asked it.

The photograph was taken in 1955, in the grounds of the then premier grammar school in Liverpool. ‘The Institute’. The photo was given to me by my Dad many years ago. His brother went there and was in the same class as Paul McCartney. Well I’ve found my Uncle in his teddy boy regalia, but as for the legendary Beatle? I’m really struggling. I know he’s there, along with his younger band member, George Harrison, my Uncle pointed them out when we were looking at the photo many years ago. Unfortunately, at the time I was into Cream, Canned Heat, Zepp (still am) and American Blues – so I showed little interest…..

Funny what the promise of cold hard cash will do…..

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Welcome to Thrush TV….
(it’s bloody irritating)

Over the Christmas holiday, was it my imagination or were there more than enough irritations on the box than usual?

It was relentless, aside from the crap standard of the programmes dumb-down TV offered us as a supposedly quality Christmas schedule, it was the adverts, the same rubbishy adverts, repeated over and over again that really did send me into such a seasonal gloom….. Sofas, hampers, more sofas, crap music compilations, still more sofas….. and M&S…

Oh yes, M&S, was in a whole different league of irritability.

"This is not a quality advert.
It is the most irritating, condescending, load of pretentious old rubbish from a has-been-saggy shop, right down on its uppers.

This is an M&S advert, so desperate to sell you stuff that we’ll throw in some exotic words, sexy close up photography and a really annoyingly, whispering Dervla Kirwen voice-over – which surely proves that everyone has their price"…

And, as if that wasn’t enough, some tosser in the ad’ agency ‘Blag, Wag and Nobrail’ thought it would be a really great idea to shove on one of my favourite schoolboy anthems –‘Albatross’ by Fleetwood Mac as the backing track.

"This is not good, it’s a bloody disgrace"….

And then, there was the most hyped music album of the season. Every other advert seemed to be flogging an album by a man who is apparently the most fantastic singer-songwriter to come out of the British Army since Lord Baden-Powell. Apparently, B.P. wrote such classics as the rap version of ‘Dib-Dib-Dob ya Bitch’ - the traditional old favourite, ‘Ging Gang your Gooolies" and the rather risque, 'Can I wiggle your woggle, Skip?'.

Oh yes. Laydees and Gentlemen, James Blunt has left the Armoured Personnel Carrier and entered the album charts. Bloody hell, they’re flogging him like he’s the new Bob Dylan or something… The trouble with that song, that bloody awful whining song, is that once it gets into your head, it’s there for the entire duration. That tragi-falsetto-castrato, warbling away between your ears, scratching away at your brain cells, killing you softly with his screeching…

"You’re beautifulllllllllllll,
You’re beautifullllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll,
It’s terrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue’….

No doubt about it – it’s as painful as nails down the blackboard or an industrial accident involving a lump hammer, a very sharp chisel and an unprotected pair of testicles….

And yes, it’s right there innit, in your brain - and you can’t get rid of it, over and over again …….
It’s terrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue’….

(Just be glad I haven’t gone on about the SCS sofa sale adverts hosted by ex Spandau Ballet quiff boy, Martin Kemp)…

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Snap happy……

Alfie has been out and about with his digital camera over the weekend and discovered two things,

1) I know what Johnny’s slimmer and not-as-funny brother does in the pubs and clubs around St Helens on a Saturday night…..

2) I know that the people responsible for doing the signage for megacorp retailer, Tesco should have lessons in written English – or maybe they could buy a copy of ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynn Truss and learn exactly when you should use apostrophe or two - and when you should not!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Christmas ‘flop’…..

At Christmas, we mostly didn’t get Pictionary, Risk, Twister or Monopoly out from the top of the wardrobe. Nor did we indulge in an energetic afternoon of Charades…… "It’s a film, a play, a book and a tee shirt?"….

Our old favourite, Trivial Pursuits - so well used in times past, (we know all the Q&As’ off by heart) was also parked for the duration along with all the cute little cheeses...... No, for this Christmas we decided we should indulge in a little bit of street cred’ gamesplay. And this could only mean one game would fit the bill - Texas Hold’em poker was our pastime of choice for the festive season. We’ve been following the intricacies of the game on satellite TV. Six players and a dealer, huddled round a green baize table, hands like shovels clacking their chips, clack, clack, clack. The little nuances, the bluffing, the stone facing, the big sovereign ringings, the chunky necklaced blingings, the black as black dark glasses, made by 'Mr Inscrutable' of Milan…...

The men look like they’ve lived their whole life standing on their faces. Every bum deal, every all-night drinking session, every 10-grand blow-out etched on furrowed brows, gaunt expressions and aged puffed out cheeks. They all smoke, it helps with the persona. And, of course, they all have ‘Mississippi Riverboat’ type handles (even though they come from Watford, Bingley and Bootle) ….. ‘Fancy Dan’ Smith, Jimmy ‘Cool Dude’ Prentice, ‘Diamond-Deuce’ Dobson, et al….. They all drink Jay Dee obviously. Sucking it through gaps in their gappy-toothed teeth, some white, some brown, some gold, wincing as the Kentucky sour mash hits their nicotine-stained, lily-livered taste buds.

Even the phraseology of playing is sexy. ’The Flop’, ‘Check’, ‘The River Card’, ‘Ace high’……. With a bit of imagination, I’m there, on a Mississippi Riverboat, playing James Garner, the original Maverick - and I'm about to take him to the cleaners with a well disguised Royal Flush……..

We’ve just got to get a set for Christmas, we could play it straight after the Queen's speech at 3:15pm on Christmas Day.

The set is bought from the New Orleans branch of Woolworths. (sort of).

We’ve got the full poker-playing monty – cards, 3 packs. Chips, bloody loads of them – and they really do make a lovely ‘clacking’ sound. Dispenser, shuffler, rulebook. Just to make doubly sure we have enough chips to play a proper game, we invest in a couple of extra packets. We walk slowly, carefully out of the big Dubbya. We're on the look out for muggers and river boat con artists…. After all, for the princely sum of 20 quid, we’ve just bought almost 100 grand worth of chips…..

Christmas came and went. I put the dark sunglasses on – bought from Mr Inscrutable in Milan, but that just made me want to go to sleep. Somehow, we never quite managed to play. We never quite managed to clack those chips, look as if we'd spent our entire lives standing on our faces or gunned down a riverboat rival with a cunningly concealed Deringer pistol..... Never mind, there’s always next year. Meanwhile, we’ve stored the poker set safely, on top of the wardrobe, in the spare bedroom, next to Twister, Risk and Monopoly…….

All the best for the New Year.