Friday 23 September 2011

Who's Who

Families are not what they used to be. Once upon a time there was a mummy, a daddy and two and a half children. I know that. I was taught it at school. But these days there are all sorts of permutations as no one seems able to stay married for more than five minutes. I include myself in that. But not in the category of people who seem to think that getting married is a hobby and should be done as often as possible. I guess practice makes perfect.

Nursemyra pointed out that I've not been very good at explaining the relationships in our extended family, so here is a little word of explanation:

The Boy is my son with his mother who had a daughter (The Sister) from her first marriage to The Ogre. When The Boy's Mother died, he came to live with me and she went to live with The Ogre. We weren't close, so my contact over the years has been sporadic. It was The Sister - also known as Handbag who graduated this week...and what a lovely lass she has become - I'm very pleased at her success. The Boy and The Sister tend to meet up at his mother's mother known as Grandma in Wales (or affectionately - if you've seen the musical Wicked you'll understand - The Wicked Witch of The West). Also in Wales is The Boy's Uncle who I haven't yet thought of a name for, because his usual nickname includes his name. Its hard being creative you know!

His other Grandma is Grandma in Cyprus...who for sometime was known as Grandma in Cyprus Not in Cyprus due to the difficulties of actually moving out there. Grandma is married to Grandad in Cyprus, and has been for more years than I care to count. Grandad in Cyprus is my stepfather. My father died a few years ago. I also have a brother, The Boy's uncle, who makes occasional appearances, particularly when he has a heart attack. On that basis, the less he appears, the better. If you see what I mean.

The Boy was best friends with The Cat, and that is how I met The Cat's Mother. They are still best friends, but regularly squabble like brother and sister at which point I say "I don't care who started it, I'll finish it." We all live together in leafy Epping Forest, sometimes blinded by the bling and orange tans as we stroll down Loughton High Street. Loughton forms one corner of the area known as either the Golden Triangle or WAG's Triangle in recognition of the large numbers of footballers who live in the area. Flash cash is the name of the game. I should also mention The Cat's Father who I may refer to as 'Only for emergencies' or ELBA for reasons I cannot reveal for fear of The Cat's claws. He's unlikely to appear.

The Cat's Mother has a brother who I was at school with (though we don't remember each other) and he is known as UP, she has another brother who henceforth will be referred to as The Conductor. Then there are The Muffins - The Cat's Mother's sister's family of one husband and two girls.

Finally there is The Cat's Mother's parents who have yet to appear so don't have a name....suggestions on a postcard please. Of particular interest is that The Cat's Grandmother is married to the brother of the man married to her sister.

Now that should all be clear so don't say I haven't told you so.

Wednesday 21 September 2011


It's deeply disconcerting to see one of my former classmates who is now a Captain of Industry being quoted in the press because his organisation is moving all its funds out of Europe. He and his fellow officers are clearly just waiting for one country to fall (let's assume Greece) and then presumably we will see a domino effect. The 2008 Lehman debacle will seem like a picnic in the park if this does happen. It makes me both sad and angry to see this going on. The crux of the problem has been the behaviour of the banks who transferred all the responsibilities to sovereign nations, and now the financiers are preparing to do the unthinkable...bring the whole system crashing down our ears. Political, social, economic. It really doesn't bare thinking about.

Back in Palestine, the crowds are gathering, ready to have the folly of US policy paraded in front of them. In the words of one commentator, they will once more be consigned to the 'treadmill of doom'. Obama has shown his absolute ineptitude again. If Cameron votes against Palestinian statehood, I'll be digging out my 'Not in my name' T-shirt again.

OK. I know when it is. I know where it is. For once I know something you don't. I am privy to the most secretest information. And for a very large bribe I am prepared to reveal where you can go and stalk Brad as he makes his new film World War Zombie. My imagination has no bounds. No limits. So the bribe will have to be a fantastic one. But I'm prepared to sacrifice all my moral scruples for the right amount of wonga or other prized treasure. Don't let me down will you!

Monday 19 September 2011


The Boy is taking a day off school tomorrow. He's off to Plymouth to see his sister graduate. I'm very pleased for her...she will soon embark on a teacher training course and so will begin her life in the really big, bad world. I'm even more pleased that he is going down to see this celebration.

Before their mother died they were as close as any brother and sister could be...fighting, squabbling, laughing, playing. After the divorce, I hadn't had the chance to see them together for a long time - as the 'ex' I saw The Boy, rarely The Sister and never them together. But I have an abiding memory of when I took them off by aeroplane to Ireland where their mother had collapsed suddenly with a brain hemorrhage whilst on a business trip. They chatted, they laughed, they were just fantastic together. It was beautiful to see. It was that journey that made me determined that whatever happened they would continue to have that relationship. It was such a shame then that time and circumstance meant that didn't happen, certainly not as I would have liked. The Boy lived with me, and The Sister moved to the south coast to be with her father. A big distance when you're young and not in control of your own social arrangements. Their grandmother worked hard, very hard to keep the contact up, and get them together whenever she could. And as they have got older they seem to have found their own way with their relationship, and that's a fabulous thing - she came over to our place for his sixteenth birthday this year, and now he's off to see her graduation. I don't know if she will pursue a teacher career but whatever she chooses to do I'm sure she'll be a great success.


"Leo Max Frank (April 17, 1884 – August 17, 1915) was a Jewish-American businessman whose lynching in 1915 by a party of prominent citizens in Marietta, Georgia drew attention to antisemitism in the United States and led to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League.

The superintendent of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, Leo Max Frank, was convicted on August 26, 1913 of the murder of one of the factory workers, 13-year-old Mary Phagan. She had been strangled on April 26, and was found dead in the factory cellar the next day. Frank was the last person known to have seen her alive, and there were allegations that he had flirted with her in the past. His trial became the focus of powerful class and political interests. Raised in New York, he was cast as a representative of Yankee capitalism, a rich northern Jew lording it over vulnerable working women, as the historian Albert Lindemann put it. Former U.S. Representative Thomas E. Watson used the sensational coverage of the case in his own newspapers to push for a revival of the Ku Klux Klan, calling Frank a member of the Jewish aristocracy who had pursued "Our Little Girl" to a hideous death. Frank and his lawyers resorted to stereotypes too, accusing another suspect—Jim Conley, a black factory worker who testified against Frank—of being especially disposed to lying and murdering because of his race.

There was jubilation in the streets when Frank was found guilty and sentenced to death. By June 1915 his appeals had failed, but Governor John M. Slaton believed there had been a miscarriage of justice, and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment—to great local outrage, in part because Slaton was a partner in the law firm that had defended Frank. A crowd of 5,000 marched on Slaton's home in protest, and two months later Frank was kidnapped from prison by a mob of 25 armed men—the "Knights of Mary Phagan"—who drove him 150 miles to Frey's Mill, near Phagan's home in Marietta, and hanged him. A crowd gathered after the hanging; one man repeatedly stamped on Frank's face, while others took photographs, pieces of his nightshirt, and bits of the rope to sell as souvenirs.

On March 11, 1986, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Frank a pardon, citing the state's failure to protect him or prosecute his killers, though they stopped short of exonerating him. The names of the lynchers, though well known locally, were not made public until January 2000, when Stephen Goldfarb, an Atlanta librarian and former history professor, published a list on his website. The Washington Post writes that it includes several prominent citizens—a former governor, the son of a senator, a Methodist minister, a state legislator, and a former state Superior Court judge—their names matching those on Marietta's street signs, office buildings, shopping centers, and law offices today." So says Wikipedia.

You may think the lynching of a Jew would make a strange source for a musical, and indeed so would I, but we went to see 'Parade' this weekend. Parade is based on the terrible true story of Leo Frank. Oddly, the performance was remarkable, and the musical numbers only added to the pathos of the whole thing. We saw it at the Southwark Playhouse under the arches of London Bridge station. Recommended. It'll make you think. It'll make you wonder whether even today's American justice system is all that it should be.

On the other hand, Shrek The Musical, is a jolly old thing which we went to see with just about all The Cat's Mother's family on Sunday. But it doesn't really hit the highs of the original movie. It wasn't helped by the theatre being only half full, but most of the performers didn't really put much effort in. Particularly Richard Blackwood as Donkey...he was a very dull ass indeed. It's a shame that the actors don't just let themselves go, or perhaps the whole thing could be re-scripted as a pantomime...otherwise I can see it shutting up shop before the New Year.

I'd love to tell you all about the twists and turns in the filming of Brad Pitt's new film World War Z, as I've been privy to all sorts of stuff. It almost hurts keeping a secret, but I must. Perhaps if I'm a good boy Angelina will drop round to massage my ego.

The Firsts went down 3-6 on the rugby field on Saturday, and he was rather more han disappointed. And so he should have been. I could only stay for the first half, but really I could see they could and should have won. But to be a winning team you need attention to detail, determination and a twist of luck. I'll be cheering him on next week.