Friday 21 June 2013

Magic moments

I remember when The Boy was young and we had gone skiing in Austria.  We had a bit of an argument, over what I can't remember.  Obviously it was soon forgotten about. But as I packed at the end of our trip, I found a note that he had written in the heat of the moment; it went:

Dear Dad,

I hate you.  I have decided to leave and find my fortune as a street magician

Lots of Love
The Boy x

I kept the note for years as it touched me deeply, and was quite sad it got lost when we moved.

Last night we went to a magic show.  Yes, our cultural adventures are nothing but, well, adventurous. The conjurer in question is in fact an old friend of one of ours....he trained in accountancy before deciding that a different sort of life beckoned.  The tricks were good, and his particular patter is about the tricks that Charles Dickens performed whilst performing as a magician and conjurer. Now you're probably thinking that Charles Dickens is an author without compare, a daring hero who came to people's aid during a terrible rail accident, and 201 years old.  That is indeed true, but he was known to turn a trick too.  No I don't mean that.  He did perform magical tricks in front of an audience, and thought himself as very accomplished.  So Ian Keable has taken this little known part of Dickens' life and turned it into an evening of entertainment. Magic with a bit of comedy as well.  All very pleasant it was too, especially after we dined at a pub I hadn't been too for twenty or so years.  Magic may not be the popular entertainment it was in the days of Tommy Cooper, but it makes for an innocent and fun evening.

Remarkably we solved our insurance dilemma in a way that was totally unexpected.  Having rung round more insurance companies than we knew existed, we went to The Cat's Mother's insurance company, and simply asked if we could add The Boy to the insurance.  "Yes" they said.  "How much we said?".  "Nothing they said".  We nearly bit their arm off...and in fact thought they'd made a mistake, so we waited until the documentation arrived.  The Cat's Mother remains the main's her car, and she needs it to buzz around the neighbourhood, and she's not insured to drive mine (she says she has no desire to drive something that's bigger than a Chieftan tank) so that's totally legitimate, I'm a named driver as I use it occasionally and the teenagers are also named drivers.  It seems too good to be true, but we're completely above board with everything so it must be a all OK  Result.

Of course, that meant I went out for a drive with The Boy.  Naturally the first trip was down to the local kebab shop...well there's more than one way to die.  I was surprisingly relaxed, even with a slight deviation onto the wrong side of the road and stopping at a green traffic light...anyway, practice will make perfect.  The Cat is improving too.  They both are commenting how many dreadful, aggressive drivers there are out there...and I'm waiting for the "I've never had an accident, but I've seen plenty" comments to come rolling in.

I regularly have to remind The Cat's Mother that many thousands of hours were spent designing the air conditioning system on her little Toyota Yaris.  It's incredibly sophisticated, unlike the one on my Jeep that was knocked together by a couple of rednecks whilst shooting rattlesnakes.  On the Yaris, you dial the temperature and press the auto button.  That means in the winter it quickly warms you up by blowing hot air, and in the summer, it cools you down by blowing out cold air.  Once set you never need to touch it again.  But nobody listens to me (not just on this, but on many, many other matters too).  If it's a hot day, the air conditioning gets turned on full blast until you sit there with your teeth chattering, and on a cold day, the heating gets turned up so far that I have to strip down to my bikini.  I've been nice about this, I've been calm, I've been patient.  And I've ranted and I've raved, but all to no avail.  Of course, The Cat's Mother is not alone is determinedly not wanting to grasp the essentials of a car's heating system.  How many times do I see cars being driven along completely steamed up because, the owners haven't turned the fan on, or don't understand how the thing works...a steady throughput of air keeps the car fresh, and the driver awake, and the windows clear of condensation....and at the right temperature.  Small rant, but really it's this sort of thing that keeps my mind sharp and active.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Rubbish/not rubbish

Are you old enough to remember the miseries of the three day week...power cuts just when you wanted to watch the next episode of Crossroads, rubbish piling up and up and up, and the mortuaries so full that bodies were left here there and everywhere, like some zombie movie.  Obviously I'm too young to remember that, but you might.

Down in Brighton, it's a bit like that now.  Apart from the power cuts and the mortuaries.  Although there are zombies...remarkably having been associated with the city for a quarter of a century, I hadn't known until recently that every year there is a zombie gathering - the annual Beach of the Dead walk.  Watch out for the zombie banana in the video below...about nineteen minutes 50 seconds in.

Something else that seems to be an annual problem in Brighton is rubbish collection.  I swear they have more strikes than the rest of the country put together.  The unions are claiming the council is cutting the pay of the rubbish men by 40%.  If that's true, it's rubbish...who (apart from a banker) could afford to take a 40% cut? You've got to feel sorry for the town's traders who have two successive poor summers, and now have this to drive the tourists away.  Anyway, courtesy of the BBC, here's a picture of the rubbish piling up.

Only the seagulls will be happy...they're pretty aggressive these days, and tend to peck the rubbish bags open to provide themselves with a gourmet meal.

Any way Ted has told me not to come and visit because the city is a tip.  Ted is the ever so nice photographer who took a picture of The Cat's Mother and I during the Open House during May.  We were so pleased with it that we bought two copies - one for the house in Loughton and one for the flat in Brighton.  He's been kind enough to send us a copy for the digital photo frame too.  Anyway, by way of recommendation, if you would like a splendid portrait, or indeed, any other good photography,Ted's your man.  You can find him here  And you can find our picture here:

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Last Holy Communion

It's interesting watching other people's family tensions like a fly on the wall.  I remember well when my own family imploded, and I stropped off not talking to either of my parents for some years.  The whole episode was a disaster for everyone, and very damaging.  With nearly two decade's hind-sight I realise that everyone behaved badly, and didn't think through the consequences of their actions.  It's good that it's distant history.  And in a strange way, I do wonder if that explosive event ultimately proved beneficial for most of us in the long term.

I'm really interested to see the outcome of the Iranian elections...a 'moderate' has been elected President.  In most western countries he would be branded anything but, but by Iranian standards, and certainly those of his colourful predecessor, President Iminadinnerjacket, he's someone 'we can do business with'.  So I may well breath a sigh of relief because it at least delays, and hopefully ends the prospect of the Israelis blowing the hell out of the country and setting off an uncontrollable middle eastern conflict.  Thank heavens for democracy.  But I do wonder what the country would be like if we hadn't stuck our noses in during the 1950s...rather more settled and developed I would guess, and most of the radical Islamic fervour that has swept the region would have been buried before birth.  There may be a lesson there.

We watched Argo at the weekend.  What a terrific film.  I was so disappointed to have missed it at the it was on my list of 'must sees' last year.  None the less, the video was an excellent substitute.  We were on the edge of our seats from the beginning, and the tension was there right until the very end.  Excellent.  Afterwards though I did feel the need to find out the real Argo story, knowing the film was only loosely based on the facts.  And there I found that like all good American films, this one had completely ignored many of the basic facts, and the involvement of the British, minimising the efforts of the Canadians as well.  Does this matter?  Well on one level absolutely was a terrific piece of entertainment...but on another level yes it does matter because it distorts history...and Americans being Americans I rather suspect they tend to get their knowledge from films rather than text books (sorry, that's just my experience).  Still great film.

Meanwhile over in Syria, it's all a little tricky.  The Right Unhonourable Hague now says, that it's a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils, as the choices are quite unpalatable.  I suggest we JUST STAY OUT of it, and let a sovereign country settle its' own internal differences.  It may be difficult to watch people being slaughtered in a bloody civil war, but every time we've stuck our noses in, the long-term outcome has never been good.  And if we stick our noses into this one, will we feel it necessary to get stuck in to Turkey at some stage?

There was another First Holy Communion this weekend...The Cat's Mother's nephew..son of The Maestro. There's been a lot of family gatherings recently.  The church service was at 10.30, with the celebratory lunch three hours later at 1.30.  The Cat's Mother left early for the service, whilst I drove down later to arrive in time for the meal...well I've never been known to turn down a free lunch.  Everyone was on good form and we all had a splendid time.

Anyway, I'm off home now to half throttle The Cat's Mother...obviously it's just a playful tiff and I always find grabbing a woman round the neck and squeezing the best way of winning an argument, so don't worry too much about it....Charles Saatchi obviously doesn't

Monday 17 June 2013

Never too early for a gin and tonic

Following my little piece on the education system last week, I was interested to see this Facebook update from one of the teachers at The Boy's school: "Deplorable Edexcel C3 paper today. Usually a paper has one or two 'dodgy' questions, but this had loads. Allegedly 15 candidates in tears IN the exam room..."

The whole shambles was reported on the BBC here

Another year, another shambles it seems....any way I  that may be what happens when you farm these things out to private companies...

Yesterday was Father's Day, so I was delighted to have my breakfast brought to me in bed...I don't suppose that is going to happen too much in the fact this may be the last time, as he'll soon be flying the nest in one way or another.  I even got gifts..a very splendid tie, and a 'Dad' mug.  Anyway, back to the was an egg and bacon weave open toasted sandwich.  I was too busy scoffing it to take a picture...but here's one he did earlier.  That is indeed eight rashers of bacon interwoven and then grilled.  Delicious...

In the afternoon, we went off to Three known to me as the pace where we auditioned and rehearsed for the Olympic Opening Ceremony.  There were drummers and working men and women from the Ceremony performing for everyone's entertainment, but this time I was strictly a watcher having said a big hello to all my friends.  We went on a guided tour of the Mill itself which is evidently the world's largest tidal mill.  More importantly, at some stage it stopped grinding wheat for bread, and started doing it for gin instead.  What a marvellous idea.