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.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Kids, fidelity isn't the only overrated virtue

Kids always think for yourself but be prepared to change your mind. The older I get the less didactic I've become; the greyer the boundaries between right and wrong. Take the A-to-Z of virtues, from ability to zealousness and everything in between. There are occasions when they can’t be trusted to provide a road map to navigate life’s highway. Let me give you a few examples.

Fidelity is the No.1 quality demanded of partners in a relationship. But maybe the capacity to build a home in which to bring up children is of a higher order? Constant infidelity will ruin a marriage but it’s a pity these days one mistake has the explosive potential to destroy a family. Learn to forgive.
Generosity – yes, it’s better to give than receive. But over time the recipient comes to hate their benefactor and the giver comes to despise the recipient of their charity.
Honesty. Tell the truth to the parents of an ugly baby and you won’t be speaking to them very soon.
Humility is a blessed quality some share with the saints but it wouldn’t have got Winston Churchill very far.
Independence is an admirable attribute but taken to an extreme it becomes pig-headedness, as in the case of an elderly relative refusing help.
Loyalty is fine as long as it’s not blind but the 20:20 variety. The person, cause, country, or whatever that arouses such passion should be worthy of the devotion.
Perseverance is at the heart of every great discovery. But there’s also a lot to be said for the advice: “If at first you don’t succeed, try something else.”
Prudence. If you take risk-avoidance too far, you’d hardly ever step out of doors and then only with an umbrella.
Temperance in all things is a sensible way to live. But if you want to learn from your mistakes and have fun at the same time, a little bit of excess now and again should do the trick.
Tolerance is the essential element to get along with families, neighbours, other countries. But there are some things just so wrong that cultural or religious differences offer no defence.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Kids be a mensch

Being Passover it seems appropriate that I your grandfather, a secular Jew, tell you kids what continues to most impress me about the believers long after personal belief has gone. Any religion that doesn't pursue converts has a lot going for it but I find most appealing is the concept of the mensch. 
"A decent, honourable person with admirable characteristics" is how the The Free Dictionary translates the Yiddish plaudit.
You cannot bestow the title on yourself; it is for others to decide. There is no precise English equivalent. "A good bloke" and whatever its female equivalent don't come close to defining a mensch.
You can be the richest, best educated, and most religious person in the land and not be a mensch. This is because the word implies action. To be a mensch you have to do the right thing at the right time.
Growing up I put my own particular spin on the word. I distanced the concept from motive. As long as you did the right thing, it didn't matter too much about what was going on in your head. The hero who is terrified is more of a mensch than the one who knows no fear.
So kids make sure you visit me regularly in the old people's home even if I don't recognise you and however unpleasant you find the malodorous, crumbling flesh. Be a mensch. 

Monday, 14 April 2014


I launched this blog ahead of my 65th birthday and intend to return to it shortly after a near two-year break with my 70th just over the horizon. I've not been entirely idle during this time with regular art gallery visits and travel as far afield as Japan.
But my main reason for putting the blog on ice was to concentrate my energies on an intended laugh-a-line comic novel Bonehead. However I stalled two-and-a-half chapters in and have suffered what has proved to be terminal writer's bloc. For Bonehead read Boneyard
If you take the trouble to read a couple of my short stories, you'll see I had some talent but not enough to carry the book - and the completed ones before it (and the film script, plays, and TV pilots) through to publication.
If on-line publishing had been around at the peak of my output the outcome might have been different.
But the creative well has run dry and I'm deserting the army of unpublished authors. Writing has been good to me. In my private life I reached for the keyboard when other men might have chosen the bottle.
Meanwhile national journalism proved to be a dependable first string and allowed me to pay my way in the world. And I still have this blog.
By rights I should launch an entirely new one but I'm proud of the near-700 posts in the archive I clocked up first time round and I don't have the heart to cast them adrift; that or I'm too lazy to start afresh.
This time I won't be as dedicated and will write only when the mood takes me, no photos, no videos and few facts. Nothing that will slow down an old man keen to pass on his thoughts and advice to his unborn grandchildren.
That then is to be my new focus. If the fruit of my loins were to drop their own offspring tomorrow, there isn't enough time left for their sprogs to grow to adulthood while I'm still around. If I am, I'll be too old to care. Watch this space.