Friday, June 26, 2009

The Me, Me Meme

The mischievous @angpang tagged me with a meme on her blog, which has forced me to turn my cutting insight on myself, not as an uncomfortable journey as I first thought. If you are a blogger reading this, why not take up the challenge (because you would be mad to, that's why not). I have listed my victims, I mean tagged people, at the bottom.

What are your current obsessions?

Writing and Twitter. I don't know how it happened but the part of my brain needed to get my smart-arse comments into 140 characters, kick-started the whole writing/creative side of my brain. I have not written a thing since I left school, and the only things I did then were forced upon me homework pieces, and generally rubbish. It has woken up a part of my brain that will now not switch off, I even carry around a little pad to write stuff down. Plus, I have made some really good friends, most of whom are the type of people I would never have met before. This is probably the only bit of sentimentality in this whole piece, I thought I would get it over and done with straight away.

What item from your wardrobe do you most wear?

Sloppy jogging bottoms in the winter, cabby old gardening shorts in the summer. Ever since becoming a houseband I have tried to get all my 'public' chores done in the morning, shopping, bill payments, dry cleaning, etc. So once I have picked No2 up from school at 11.30am, I can come home, change into old comfortable clothes, and lock the rest of the world out. Blissful.

What is your favourite cocktail, and what is the funniest thing you have done whilst under its influence?

Margarita. When we were on honeymoon in Mexico we were in an all inclusive hotel, and there was a hell of a lot of tequila flowing around. Towards the end of the fortnight we had hooked up with two other couples, and went on a Margarita binge. Our drunken conversation turned to how annoying it was that the, mainly American guests, would reserve their spaces around the pool. They would get up at 5am, drape their towels in the prime positions, and then go back to bed. A course of revenge was decided upon. We all sat up drinking until 6am, and then went down to the pool. We then proceeded to move the towels from all the prime spots, to crappy ones nearby. We then lay back, dozed off for a while, and waited for the ensuing chaos to begin. It was a very loud and argument filled morning by the pool, except for six giggling Brits drinking Margarita's.

Last thing you bought?

I just bought this really strange house-plant; it has the freakiest curly leaves with a tube-like red flower. I don't even have a place for it at the moment, so it is just sitting in the kitchen pending relocation.

What are you listening to?

Eminem, loving his new album, have been a fan from the start, although he can only be listened to when impressionable ears aren't around. Have just started listening to Melanie Gardot, love her voice, a calm afternoon favourite. Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan are always firm favourites, and can be relied on to get me going. Although the artist I listen to virtually every day is Prince, he has songs for all seasons, and all moods, and is quite simply a Rock God. I have seen him in concert so many times, and he never fails to thrill (ohh get me, the fan boy). Almost forgot, I am also listening to 'Grounds for Divorce' by Elbow a lot. Love the song, and has the added bonus of keeping my wife on her toes.

Fave holiday spots

Budleigh Salterton, Devon. If you could have a place as a Soul-mate, this would be the place. It is probably the one place in the world most opposite my public persona, it is quiet, tranquil, and to an outsider quite boring, but it is the one place I love the most. My Aunt and Uncle moved down there when I was about seven or eight, and we have been going there ever since. A beach with huge round smooth pebbles, and an old fashioned Ice Cream shop with about 100 flavours. Plus my Aunt owns the main pub in the town, so what's more to like?

What are you reading?

'On Writing' – Stephen King. If I am to ever make any money out of this writing malarkey, I need to start taking it seriously. I can't think of a better teacher than him. I don't care if literary snobs look down on him, as a modern day character writer he is up there with the best of them. Although to be honest I am not that worried about the money, just to see anything I wrote actually in print would be a huge buzz.

4 words to describe you

Cheeky, funny, flirty, scallywag.

Guilty pleasures

Song – Islands in the Stream, Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers (Genius).

TV – Brothers and Sisters (Crap but riveting).

Film – Field of Dreams (I cry every time).

Food – Tesco's savoury cheese balls (my midnight snack of choice).

If you were god/goddess who would you be?

Horus, the Egyptian God of War amongst other things, they were multi-tasking God's in those days. He is often depicted as a Falcon which is quite cool, and he has some great back-story. His Father was killed by Seth, and Horus then went on to avenge him in an epic battle. A typical bloke type God.

Who/what makes you laugh until you are weak?

You can basically pick any scene from The Young Ones and it will set me off. The first series came out just as I realised humour could be cool and stupid, and the more my parents didn't understand it, the funnier it became. I did not even understand all the jokes i.e. when Viv said that ASLEF was an anagram of 'Complete and utter bastards' I laughed like a loon, and he was right as it turned out. Derek and Clive's 'World's stickiest Bogey' sketch, also has me in pieces. Nobody will ever make the C word funnier than those two, no matter how hard I try.

Fave spring thing to do.

Starting to plant my vegetable and herb seeds, so we can have home grown fine dining all summer. I also really love getting my hanging baskets ready, when they start blooming I just look at them with a huge sense of achievement, and then realise what an old fart I have become.

When you die what would you like people to say about you at your funeral?

"Glad you could make it". I have always wanted a living funeral/wake, so I could say goodbye to everybody properly with one last mammoth beer-up.

Best thing you ate or drank lately?

Swordfish steak, chips and salad, at my Aunt's pub in Devon and it was absolutely gorgeous. I don't eat fish as a rule, smells to fishy for my liking, and this was the first time I had tried swordfish. I have tried to be a bit more adventurous with my eating since I gave up smoking, and my taste buds reappeared.

When did you last go for night out?

Last week for my Wife's birthday we went to our favourite Chinese restaurant, we are always treated so well there we rarely venture to a different one. On this particular night the place was empty, we were the only customers, and it was great, I felt like Tony Soprano in Vesuvio. The manager came over for a chat bearing drinks on the house, the food was great but not rushed. What could have been a total bad atmosphere, turned out to be the opposite and made for a great night.

Fave film ever.

Reservoir Dogs, an absolute cinematic masterpiece. I took my little sister to one of the first showings of it, and it was a midnight screening which just made you feel you were about to watch something special, something more maverick than anything you had seen so far. I remember seeing the trailers, and the clips coming out of the Sundance Film Festival, and just being blown away, and the finished result did not let me down. I have been a worshiper at the Church of Tarantino ever since.

Share some wisdom.

There is always a silver lining to every cloud, it's just that sometimes you have to search damned hard to find it.

Putting ground pepper onto a cut is the quickest way to stop it bleeding, you think it will sting, but you will genuinely not feel a thing.

Song you can't get out of your head.

Ever since reading this stupid question it has been Kylie's 'Can't get you out of my head'. Previous to that it was Dire Straits 'Romeo and Juliet'. I seem to have been humming this for the last 2 weeks on and off.

Thing you are looking forward to

Never having to deal with children's poo anymore, I have exceeded my faeces threshold, and just want it to stop now. I have always wanted a dog, but until they breed one that either doesn't poop, or can clean it up itself, it is never going to happen.

If you could change one detail from your past, what would that be?

Not one - as I am a firm believer in the butterfly effect. If I was to change one thing, even something as insignificant as having an extra drink one night, then my kids would either not be here, or completely different people. The night they were conceived, the fastest swimmer was one of six million, if it came second you have a different child.

Tag you're it......

Meme rules: remove one question and replace with one of your own.

And my unwilling victims are (less two as @angpang nicked one, and one asked me to do a different meme a few days ago.)






Thursday, June 18, 2009

If you have to blame someone, blame him

For anyone that has ever met me, spoken to me, twittered with me, innocently flirted with me, been at the sharp end of my increasingly caustic tongue, watched in bemusement as I walked down the street with bare feet, or been totally confused by my eclectic taste in music, this blog is for you. Not strictly true, as I am writing it for my Dad, it being Fathers Day and all, but you get my drift.

You see, it's my Dad's fault I am what I am. He is the man that made me, shaped me, taught me wrong from right (and how to bend that definition), gave me my values, but let me pick which ones to ignore. I realise you are going to need some proof, so join me as we trawl through the memory banks for tales bookmarked Dad aka Rocky aka Roadrunner (both work nicknames?????)

He has always been a bit of a smoothie, which meant something completely different back in his day, I do not have a delicious mixture of blended fruit for a father. He met my Mum in a Dance Hall when he was out with his mates one night, and according to him, she was wearing a mini-skirt so short my brain won't even let me imagine it. He was fairly sure she was out of his league, but gave it a try anyway (tried to blag it were his exact words I think). After a while he came back to his mates triumphantly, as Mum had agreed to go to the Casino with him afterwards. There was only one snag, Dad was skint, and so he had to borrow some money off his mates, otherwise he would have looked like a proper mug.

My Dad was a printer by trade, which meant that we were never short of paper and pads in our house. You can't explain to kids how much of a luxury paper was in those days, but we had a house full of paper in every shape size and colour. He was also a part time Assistant Manager in a pub up until I was about five. I have vague memories of sitting in the pub and being spoilt by the punters, but Mum reckons most of the things I remember aren't quite true (like being in the pub when Mum went into labour with my sister), so I will just skip over those bits.

Life wasn't always plain sailing for us as a family though. When I was about nine, the way printing was done started to change, and Dad got laid off. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs listening to him tell Mum, it must have been such a hard conversation to have, especially with three kids supposedly asleep upstairs. He always made sure we did not go without too much though, we still got our chocolate flake every Friday evening, and as for ice cream, well as far as I was concerned Dad had the best, best mate ever.

He shall remain nameless for legal reasons, but he was a Security Guard for Wall's, the biggest ice cream maker in the Country. Every third Friday he would turn up with a huge brown sack, full to the brim with tubs of ice cream and boxes of ice lollies. If Wall's made it, you can be sure it would be in the sack. Also in the sack would be a huge lump of ice that, or so we were told, would burn our fingers if we touched it. Sometimes that lump of ice would impress me more than the ice cream. It actually took three days to melt once it had been dumped in the garden. I did wonder if leaving it in a place where tiny inquisitive hands could grab it, was a better option than running it under a hot tap. Nevertheless, I could quite often be found sitting on the back step sucking on an ice lolly, watching the younger sibling of the iceberg that sank the Titanic, and waiting for it to melt.

He soon got a job working for Fords as a Docker (or Stevedore as he likes to be referred to when travelling in posher circles), but as that involved driving all the brand new cars off the ships, it meant he had to learn to drive. He had always travelled around on a pushbike until then. Well, as a young man he used to have a scooter, but I think he packed that in not long after a drunk walked in front of him and Dad knocked him down. The drunk got up, dusted the dirt of his butt, and continued to wobble off down the street.

He used to pick me up from school sometimes, and I got to sit on the crossbar all the way home, far more exciting than any car ride as far as I was concerned. Our first car was an old bright yellow Ford Cortina, and my love affair with driving started about then. I would always sit in the middle of the back seats, so far forward Dad would have to move me just to change into 4th gear. I just wanted the best view of how everything worked, and all our ever changing surroundings.

His love of a good drink is fairly legendary, and he was always a funny drunk, rather than an angry one, although Mum bans him from Gin nowadays in case he gets a bit melancholy. When I was about 15, Mum and I had to drive him to a Christmas works party, he couldn't make his own way there because he had had a cartilage operation on his knee the day before. We helped him out of the car, gave him his crutches, and watched him hobble his way down the jetty towards the party, too proud to accept any help in front of his pals. It took him 10 minutes just to walk the last 100 yards. Mum looked a bit worried, but I was fairly sure his mates would look after him. I waited up with Mum in case she needed a hand getting him up the stairs when he got back.

At around midnight we heard a cab pull up, a car door open and close, and then a load of loud singing. We rushed to the door to quieten him down before the neighbours started to complain, although for my part I was more worried about my ears starting to bleed, he may be many things, but a good singer he ain't. We opened the door to be faced with Dad dancing full gusto, up and down the path, no trace of any pain. He grabbed Mum and tried to twirl her around, but Mum was having none of it. We eventually got him in and upstairs, with him constantly repeating the mantra "Do you know how much I love you son?" The way to correctly answer this is to hold your thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, and reply "this much". I think it is his version of infinity, although it did not matter how far apart the gap was, he always insisted you had it wrong. I would like to be able to tell you that he could still walk the next day, and that a whole bottle of Capt Morgan's Rum is indeed a miracle cure for all that ails you, but alas, I can't. I think it was about a week before he could walk again, although it only took until lunchtime for the first beer to be poured. Dad is a true believer in 'The hair of the dog' as a hangover cure, and to be fair it is the only thing that has ever worked for me.

Dad also gave me my love of Jazz, probably because it was the only music he did not try to ram down my throat. The Police, Frank Sinatra, Mike Oldfield, all people I refused to listen to as a kid, purely because Dad would try to make me listen to them. Don't get me wrong, I love all these acts now, but there was no way I was going to admit that my old man might know what he was talking about, especially as a mal-adjusted 14 year old. I used to hate it, if he actually liked the same artist as me. It is to his eternal credit that he never told me of his love of Madness, lest I stop listening to them, and deprive myself of some of the most fun concerts I have ever been to.

I have so many stories about my Dad, some funny, some sad, mostly funny, and always remembered with awe. Just the ones that moulded me into the Father I am now could fill an entire book, and maybe once I have a grip on the Wordsmith's talent I will write that book, but until then this will have to do.

Happy Father's Day Pops. Love you, hope I didn't make too many mistakes.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Nobbly Oak Woods

I haven't written a blog piece this week, as I have been working on a children's story ('Book 'em Danno!' will explain my thinking). I have no idea what I will do with this story, now that is basically finished, but I thought I would share it with you anyway. Feel free to print it off and read it to your kids (presumptuous I know), would love to hear any feedback, good or bad. A normal service will be resumed next week (hopefully).

Nobbly Oak Woods

Our story starts in Nobbly Oak Woods, it is quite an ordinary place to live. The bats aren't too hungry, the owls aren't too noisy, the trees aren't too scary, and the creepy crawlies aren't too big. Altogether not a bad place to live, if you like talking animals that is. If you were to walk across the thin green bridge, over the pile of rocks that look like a spider, and through Tickly Grass Meadow, you would come across a cosy little cottage. It looks just like the one Hansel and Gretel found, except this one isn't made of sweets, and a horrible Witch does not live inside.

Inside this house live five beautiful forest Princesses. Forest Princesses look like normal castle Princesses, except that they don't live in a castle, and they don't have a wicked step-mother who is always trying to do nasty things to them. In fact they do not have any parents at all, they were made by a magician, because all the creatures and tree's in the woods were lonely, and they wanted somebody to sing to them. So they called the Magician on the wood horn, paid him with berries, flowers, and some nasty smelling mushrooms. Hogrot, for that was the magician's name, waved his wand in a big circle, and Hey Presto, the Princesses appeared.

They all looked exactly the same, beautiful but bald. Everybody wondered how they would be able to tell them apart, but Hogrot gave them all a 'wait for it' look, and one by one their hair began to grow. Hogrot gave a small smile, and introduced them to everybody, everybody except Nodrig the bunny, who had fallen asleep.

First was Sunshine who had long blonde hair, the colour of buttercups.

Second was Raven with hair as black as the cupboard under the stairs.

Third was Lily whose hair was as white as a snowman's belly.

Fourth was Hazel with brown hair that shone like a chestnut.

Fifth was Scarlett with a shock of red hair that looked like strawberries, but smelt of, well hair.

The whole forest laughed, and clapped, and cheered, and once everyone had quietened down Hogrot took a huge bow, and POP, disappeared leaving a small puff of smoke and the slight smell of old mushrooms. The forest folk then led the Princesses into their new home, and left them alone to settle in.

Over time the Princesses learnt all the forest songs (except "Googly is a codswallop" because nobody really liked that one), and they would spend their days, singing, dancing, and having a fun old time. Sometimes they would draw pictures of the wood folk, and they were also good at making the most colourful clothes from the leaves and flowers that grew around their cottage. The years went past and nothing really changed, everyone was happy, and colourfully dressed, and the Princesses remained as beautiful as ever, and everybody lived happily ever after.


What do you mean you want more, I thought everybody liked a happy ending? What more is there for me to tell you? I told you about the hooded horseman and his quest did I not? Silly me, I would forget my head if it was not screwed on. OK I shall continue my story, sit back down, get yourself ready, and back to Nobbly Oak Woods we shall return.

The hooded horseman stopped at the edge of the woods and looked in. All the animals, and at least three of the trees, covered their eyes and turned away. The horseman ignored them, and made his way into the woods. He kept his horse at a slow trot, until he entered the clearing in the middle of the woods. There he announced in a booming voice "I am Prince Griswold, and I have searched these lands from Greentop Mountains, to Wispy Hollow, looking for a beautiful princess to marry." Everyone looked at each other with a worried frown. "I have searched every Castle, and they have all been empty. These woods are my last chance to find a bride. Be there any here?"

Nodrig the bunny, who was not asleep for a change, heard these words, and ran off to the cottage to tell the Princesses. Being a lazy bunny, and one not used to running, Nodrig was out of breath when he reached the Princesses. For 5 minutes they all watched him with puzzled looks on their faces, whilst he tried to gasp out what was happening. After many deep breaths he managed to blurt out "There is a Prince in the clearing, and he is looking for a princess to marry. Comb your hair and put on your best dress, and follow me."

Twenty minutes of busy running around and hair combing later, the five Princesses left the cottage, and started the slow walk to the clearing, with a puffed out Nodrig trailing behind them. Quite a crowd had developed once they got there, and as soon as they entered the clearing everybody went quiet, except Coughy Joe the Mole, who was, well coughing.

"Come forth beautiful maidens. Let me cast my eyes upon you" ordered Prince Griswold loudly. "At last I have found myself not one, but five lovely Princesses. Come closer so I can see you all the better." They all looked at each other and then took a step closer. The Prince took his time looking at them, and then announced "I have found myself a Wife, for any one of you fine young girls will do!"

With that he pulled off his hood so that everyone, including the five beautiful Princesses, could see him. It would be quite safe to say that Prince Griswold was the ugliest person in the whole kingdom. The trees were so shocked all their leaves fell off, the frogs forgot how to croak, the family of otters starting crying, and the ducks started barking. The whole clearing had one big kerfuffle at the hideous site before them.

It is quite hard for me to describe the Prince to you, but I will try my best. One of his eyes was yellow, and the other was mushy pea green, and droopy. He had four big hairy warts on his very pointy chin that was also quite long. His nose was big, round, and red like a clown's, except it was covered with lots of pus filled spots, that were all oozy and running. His ears were 2 different sizes and shapes, and neither of them were a nice size or shape. He also had green and brown hair that looked like it had not been washed since Eldred the Foolish was King, and that was a long time ago. We all missed King Eldred, who had died trying to get his ping pong ball out of a lion's mouth, but that is a story for another day.

The Prince jumped off his horse, and kicked Nodrig out of his way. The Princesses may have been able to fall in love with an ugly Prince, but a cruel one, never. They all turned around and ran off into the woods as fast as their legs would carry them.

Sunshine ran and ran and ran, until she spotted a cottage very like her own. Outside this cottage was a sign that read "WANTED PORRIDGE TASTER, ENQUIRE WITHIN". Sunshine stopped, read the sign, and knocked on the door. A big Bear with a very friendly face answered the door, "Come in, Come in, let me introduce you to my wife and son. By the way, what type of porridge do you like?"

Raven and Lily always did things together, so they went straight to Two Toad Pond. Once there, they grabbed one of the toad's each, and gave them a big wet kiss. Everybody knows that when a beautiful maiden kisses a frog, the frog turns into a Prince, but what is less known is that if you kiss a toad the opposite happens. By the time Prince Griswold arrived, Two Toad Pond had turned into Four Toad Pond, and one of the toads had white hair, one had black hair, and the other two looked very happy.

Hazel looked around not knowing what to do. Mr and Mrs Mole called over for her to follow them, and that is what she did. They led her around the three Oak trees and to the entrance of their burrow. The hole was not big enough for Hazel to fit through, so she dropped to her knees and started digging a hole until it was big enough for her to wiggle through. Once she had crawled along the tunnel, she found a large opening, and saw Mr Mole standing over a fire, brewing a large pot of tea. "One lump of two dear?" said Mrs Mole as she handed Hazel a tea cup.

Scarlett ran as fast as she could into the woods and straight into the arms of Wolfy the Misunderstood. He wrapped his red coat with a big hood around her, "Matches your hair darling" he said, and then he rushed her off to his Grandmother's cave to hide.

Prince Griswold searched for the five Princesses for two days and two nights, and still he could not find them. The more he searched, the angrier he got, the angrier he got, the redder his nose became, until BANG, his nose exploded. If you thought the Prince was ugly before, well you should have seen him then. Not even a blind skunk, without a sense of smell, would have been able to love him now.

The prince jumped back onto his horse, and rode out of the woods, the sounds of the forest folk laughter, ringing in his very ugly ears. He decided to give up looking for a wife, they seemed to be a lot of trouble to find, and to be honest, he hated horse riding as well. He returned to his castle, a long tall building with only one window, and one servant, a tiny person who weaved a lot. The prince could never pronounce his name, so he called him "You". The prince never left his castle again, and You found a golden haired bride of his own, leaving the ugly and angry prince alone.