Sunday, 18 May 2014

Kids if you don't want to annoy the crap out of your parents...

...then don't phone them on your mobiles when you're out shopping, in restaurants, on trains in fact any place where you might be interrupted while talking to your folks.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Kids what do you think of this MAD LOVE story?


MAD LOVE - an almost true story

You’ll know if it’s happened to you; mad love. When it strikes it’s the only adequate translation for the French L’Amour fou. All the more crazy, when, as in my case, it was unrequited.
I was in my early 50s, divorced, and living alone in a rented apartment in north London. To break the work-sleep-work cycle I signed up with an arts group for a course of Saturday guided visits to the capital’s galleries.
The possibility of meeting a woman of a similar age from among my fellow students added extra spice to my anticipation. And when we met up that first Saturday, now more than 10 years ago, there were indeed a number of suitable ‘candidates’ in the group. That was until I saw Lucy.
She looked as though she had stepped out of my Sociology class in the Sixties dressed in a long white cheese cloth dress which one moment would cling to her hips, the next sway from her body as she moved.
Shortish, a brunette, I don’t remember Lucy as a great beauty, but O, her eyes, her smile, her laugh. I wasn’t to know a web of lies, sleepless nights, tears – all mine – was to be my fate for the next two years.
For the first couple of Saturdays I only exchanged a few words with Lucy. But perhaps because she was by a good way the youngest in the class – 31 as I was to learn – she didn’t team up with any of the other cliques. We began to discuss the paintings in front of us as we walked round.
By the last few Saturdays we took our sandwich lunch breaks together. The final afternoon the two of us had a farewell drink in the Thames-side pub close to Tate Modern.
The setting sun bathed St Paul's; I glowed in the presence of an angel.
Lucy was an English teacher at a secondary school in the East End of London, one of the country’s most deprived boroughs. She had been privately educated.
“On the front line now,” I joked. She chided me on my flippancy and explained she felt driven to use her advantages to help youngsters to whom fate had dealt such a poor start.
The woman was perfect. She was better read than me; knew more about art, film and the theatre. Lucy was about the best-hearted person I’d met in a long time. There didn’t seem to be a ‘significant other’ and, yes, I ached to take her to bed. This last consideration was the reason the “fou” got added to the “amour.”
I had told Lucy I’d been divorced three years and it seemed so right to say I was in a long term relationship which was on its last legs. I reasoned if Lucy was to see me again, she had to be reassured I wasn’t a sex-starved letch (you be the judge on that).
I invented a girlfriend Annie (probably after Annie Hall), a neighbour; an embellishment I would regret.
We did see each other again. As soon as I could I intended dumping fictitious Annie for flesh and blood Lucy.
Art galleries at weekends, some movies during the week. I once took Lucy to a black-tie dinner at the Royal Academy (I was disappointed she didn’t make more effort to dress up) where a journalist chum slipped me a note: “Introduce me to your daughter.”
But mostly we met for supper in the West End. Reader, take my word; she was lovely in candle-light.
Sometimes we went dutch but mostly I paid. As a journalist I was earning a lot more than her and I never once got the feeling I was being used. I talked about taking her to Paris but she never took the bait. We never ate anywhere I hadn’t first checked out the location of the nearest hotel just in case the extra Sambuca did the trick.
My biggest extravagance was taxis. When I got to dropping her back to her place and then turning the cab round to take me home, I told Lucy I would be charging the fares on my work expenses. To be caught fiddling meant instant dismissal and I never risked it.
She refused to visit me; she said Annie wouldn’t understand if we bumped into her. But I always tided the place up before we met just in case she changed her mind.
Eventually I got to cross the threshold of her small council flat. I’d bring a bottle of wine and we’d order a tepid takeaway, listen to music, discuss books, and talk. We’d sit in chairs with a few feet of insurmountable carpet between us – and the hours rolled by.
I learned how tough it was being a conscientious teacher in the East End.
There was nothing else going on in my life so I’d talk about Annie. Or Sarah as I once called her with my brain muddled by Merlot.
“Who’s Sarah?”
“Did I say Sarah? I meant Annie. Sarah’s Annie’s daughter.” Why not? Expanding the cast aided the narrative. Lucy liked it, for example, when I helped Sarah leave her abusive boyfriend.
A year came and went; I reached a point where I’d all but given up hope that Lucy would see me for what I was – a sensitive, intelligent, humorous if older man; one still with a man’s needs for all that.
Given her generous spirit perhaps I could worm my way into her affections via a different route by becoming one of the sad case, lost causes she supported
Annie and I had a reconciliation; quite a passionate one if you get my drift. Then we broke up again bitterly (hence the tears). I still couldn’t make it across the carpet.
Lucy began to make excuses and our dates became fewer. I was even more watchful for evidence of a boyfriend when I did successfully invite myself over. There were no razors or multiple toothbrushes in the medicine cabinet.
One night I took a cab and had it park a few doors away from Lucy’s building. I had intended to stake her place out from behind an abandoned car or whatever. But one look at the dark, threatening streets encouraged me to tell the cabbie to take me back home.
It started to look as though Lucy wasn’t taking my calls. After about a dozen attempts one Sunday evening she picked up.
“I know it’s late but I must see you,” I blurted with a catch in my voice. “I can’t explain over the phone.”
“I had to get dressed,” Lucy complained as she opened her door. “What's the matter?”
“Annie’s a lesbian.” I recited the speech I’d composed in the cab. I told her how I’d been shaken to my core when Annie came out during another argument. How unmanned I felt losing my lover to another woman. Meaning, Lucy, take me in your arms and make it better.
Lucy made me a cup of tea and said she was pregnant.

I never found out who the father was of baby Tomas (without an ‘h’). Lucy never said and I didn’t really care. I saw her twice during her pregnancy and once after the birth and he didn’t seem to be around.
At first I felt pretty stupid. “You must get out more; all work and no play,” I’d chide her over the phone. I’d kidded myself that without me Lucy would have become a hermit, or was that a nun? Clearly she was neither.
Dylan or someone sang you should not be where you don’t belong. And I had no place in Lucy’s life; certainly not her bed.
But no damage was done. Not even to my pride; if I’d had any I wouldn’t have been such a dick in the first place. And then I would have missed not fun, no it wasn’t fun. I would have missed the chance to feel alive – alive as a first parachute jump.
The chance to will the cabbie to jump every stop light. The chance to stand at her door; the chance to draw the cork and pour the wine. The chance to talk, the chance to invent a parallel life. The chance to kiss cheeks goodnight. The chance to come away in despair and frustration. To lie awake and replay the night.
The chance to know mad love.


Kids, I wrote this post nearly four years ago and I think it still reads well. I tinkered with the truth but there's enough of the real me in it to underline age is no guarantee of wisdom. At my age now another bout of Mad Love is highly unlikely and not even welcome. But it's good to look back at the man that once was me.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Kids nothing expresses better my love for your parents than the poems I wrote to them on their 16th birthdays


To my son on his 16th birthday

Where were you while
your cheeks whiskered
your legs haired
your arms muscled
your reason bettered?

Where were you while
you grew tall and true
where were you?


In my heart.


Being an equal opportunity parent, a few years later I repeated the exercise.


To my daughter on her 16th birthday

Child grown to woman and ever still my child,
I greet your 16th birthday.

From the moment you squeezed into the world,
I have always loved you.

Years from now when we are apart,
You will cross the road,
And feel me reach for your hand.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Kids here's a saucy story about old farts like me

Kids I like the story of the three couples - senior citizens and friends since childhood - who regularly holiday together.
This year they decided to be more adventurous. Rather than their usual Spanish villa, they flew to Las Vegas.

Disappointingly after the long flight, when they got to their hotel they discovered a mistake over dates meant their three rooms were booked from the next day.
"I'm sorry," said the girl at the reception desk, "there are four conventions in town and all we have left for tonight are two double rooms. I could ring round but I expect everywhere will be full."
"Let's take the two rooms," said Bob's wife Gladys. "American beds are enormous; for one night we girls can squeeze up together - and the boys can do the same in their room."
And so it was decided. A quick shower and change of clothes and the six friends headed off into the night.
They dined and wined, gambled, took in a show, danced, and wined some more. Exhausted but ecstatic they arrived back at their hotel. The men and women went to their separate rooms.
As luck would have it Bob found himself in the middle of the bed sandwiched between his pals - and unable to sleep. "Are either of you blokes awake?" he whispered.
"Me," said Barry.
"Sorry, mate," said Bob, "I've got to climb over you and get dressed. I don't know what this town does to a person but I've got a hard-on you could cut glass. Things haven't been great in that department for years and I'll never forgive myself if I don't go and find Gladys."
"I'd better come with you," said Barry, "it's me you're holding."

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Kids the case for circumcision isn't clear cut

Kids, I'm happy to share my opinion about most things but if any of you popped out a baby boy you can rest assured that whether you were circumcised or not wasn't influenced by me.
It's a decision your parents will have had to take; and it won't have been an easy one.
The pro and anti camps both have strong arguments on their side. Be it barbaric or healthy, I doubt by the time of your births the case for or against circumcision will be any more clear cut, so to speak, than it is today.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Kids protect your health

Kids I wish you a long life in good health. But you cannot take the cause for granted. This means eating sensibly, watching your weight, taking regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding drugs, and drinking in moderation.
I've not met a sporty type that hasn't suffered injury - sometimes life-changing - and that includes cyclists. But I wouldn't have you smothered in cotton wool - go rock climbing, scuba diving, bungee jumping if you must - just carefully weigh the risks.
Resist invitations to distant beach parties by iffy-looking characters; forgo the chance to race round mountain roads on clapped-out, hired motor scooters; and don't jump from hotel balconies into inches-deep swimming pools.
Never be led by others into risky escapades; always think for yourself. Like Joni Mitchell (search her out) says "you don't know what you've got. Till it's gone." Nothing more so than your health.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Kids eat your peas properly

Kids please eat peas properly. First you have to have been brought up to reject American-style one-handed feeding where diners having cut up their food proceed to eat it with a fork in their right hand.
One-handed eating is only acceptable where the fork (or spoon) can do the cutting without the necessity of a knife, for example, with cake.
Generally adults should hold their fork in the left hand, prongs pointed downwards and their knife in the right, the index finger extended and applying pressure along the handle.
You are now ready to eat peas. Never, never shovel peas on to the fork's upturned prongs. Rather you must hold your fork, prongs downwards, and squash the peas on to the back of your fork with your knife.
To eat one-handed looks juvenile, disrespects the food and those who have prepared it, and, above all, is just inefficient unless it has been previously diced - then use chopsticks.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Kids, I give you John Keats's Ode to Autumn

Kids I'm sure you'll have an education that will make mine look dumb. From learning Mandarin to how to code, much would be as incomprehensible to me as my algebra homework was to my dad.
You'll be taught how to make your way in a world much tougher than the one I grew up in. Looking back I can see my generation was feather-bedded. You face university tuition loans; we got educational grants. It looks like the law of the jungle now in the workplace compared to the security of our employment contracts and final salary pensions.
I just hope the finer aspects of life aren't overlooked in your eduction. It's a pity I might not be around to  help your souls to flourish.
I'd start by introducing you to my favourite poem John Keats’s ‘Ode to Autumn’ as first met at school.
There is the beauty of the words themselves as Keats paints a picture of the developing season in the mind of the reader, which engages all the senses. The three stanzas - ripeness, harvest, and the preparation for winter - are perfectly structured.
But what sets the poem apart for me is the poet’s observation that though the songs of spring are gone forever, autumn has its own music. It struck a chord with me as a young man and has an even greater resonance now that I’m that closer to the abyss.
The sadness is Keats’s life was snuffed out so early he never had the chance to experience the insight of his own words.
Here is the poem.

Ode to Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Kids, dead cats drink no milk

Kids I've been reviewing some of my earlier posts and find I'm particularly pleased with the one below, which was my attempt to event 25 new sayings for the 21st century. I'm not claiming any fresh insights but if you're interested in what made your grandfather tick, clues are contained in the following.

Empty as a Facebook user’s diary
Girls with the nicest legs tend to wear the shortest skirts
The smaller the fruit, the greater the taste
Age is no guarantee of wisdom
Today’s experts are tomorrow’s unemployed
It takes two to argue
God invented A & E to give atheists an idea of eternity
To oil the gate's hinges before you enter
May you pay off your student loan – a new wedding toast
Messy eaters make the best lovers
As worthless as a politician’s promise
The selfish are quick to accuse others of the fault
Pigeons dump on the wrong heads
When everything else fails there’s always a curry
A fart – nature’s ring tone
It never rains on a neighbour’s barbeque
Celebrity culture – a contradiction in terms
Dead cats drink no milk
Any son but mine – the general’s plan of attack
Look before you heave
A banker’s bonus – proof there is no justice
A banker’s bonus – proof some have no shame
As strong as a footballer’s marriage vows
Is Jane Austen one of the most widely read writers in English literature? Classic put-down
Twats tweet

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Kids let's have a meeting of minds at the Pergola

Kids if you ever want to feel close to your dead grandpa don't go looking for a gravestone. Visit instead the Pergola and Hill Garden - Hampstead’s best-kept secrets. I'll have probably been cremated anyway.
I enjoyed the Spring sunshine there yesterday making it my umpteenth visit to this little patch of Edwardian magic sandwiched between Golders Hill Park and Hampstead Heath.
Views across the woods from the raised terrace and vine covered colonnaded walk are as close as this city boy needs to be to commune with nature. As has happened before a fashion shoot was in progress; photographers clearly appreciate the perfect dreamy backdrop for their pictures presented by the Pergola.
But there is enough room and peaceful corners to allow quiet reflection. Now that I don't read poetry any more, it's about as spiritual as I become.
I'm sure you're bright kids so you can read up on how to find the Pergola and how it came to be built by soap magnate Lord Leverhulme. But I will break my no pictures/no links rule with the photo below because I took it myself one winter.