Porky Porn

I was looking at my blog stats a few days ago. It is a short look as there ain’t that many people that want to read my demented ramblings. Nonetheless, I trip onto the list of most used search terms that bring people to my blog and you’ll never guess what they are so I’ll tell you: Naked Men In The Shower, and about twenty different iterations thereof. The rest of the terms are so few they are lumped into an uncategorised group called General or somesuch.

I knew when I entitled a post Naked Men In The Shower, as a rather tongue in cheek poke at the high level of sexual use of the internet, that it may generate a little more mistaken interest . I didn’t realise that I had unwittingly plumbed such a vein of special interest. So hi ho, t’internet is a funny ‘ole thing, which in itself isn’t a shocker. For my innocent and pure mind I was surprised, still, at the level of specialisms that are catered for. Puts me in mind of a quote about purity that I learnt from MFTS. “I’m like Snow White, but I drifted.”

Let me relate a little story that happened to a friend. Really, it did happen to a friend. Gary runs a very funny and rather infrequently updated blog called How Do In Bialskishire, about life and goings on in his small rural Lancashire village. He has throttled right back as the deeper he gets into village life the harder it is to comment as an outsider. Being a connected sort of fellow as well as being a farmer on a smallholding a friend shot a mobile phone video of him attempting to ride this rather humungous sow.

Gary suddenly received an inexplicably high number of hits – 5k+ – on this silly little video he had posted for the amusement of some friends. A bit of digging into it and he made a startling discovery. It was hot, he was a shirtless farmboy and apparently there is a specialist interest in, and I quote, “Sitting Down”. So quite innocently Gary and his sow became  a feature video on a gay porn fetish site. Who’da thunk it?

It rather trumps dudes in the shower.

Just Snoozin’

The human brain is an amazing instrument. More than once my brain has dug me out of trouble with a lightning quick, subconsciously driven reaction that I can only process through regular cognitive channels after the event. I then reflect on my inbuilt saviour and am mightily impressed.

During a phone call with my brother where we whiled away  30 min or so talking shit and other general sibling smack talk – about mistresses for some reason –  I had a flash of a story to write about. Generally I am fond of a bit of embellishment for the sake of the crowd, and my ego. Today the lily requires very little gilding.

When 18 I dropped out of a very lackadaisical attempt at the first year of Uni (one of these now converted to University status Community Colleges, much the same as an old Polytechnic in the UK. You know the type; used to be an abandoned petrol station and now it’s a University as everyone deserves a degree in Meeja Studies) to go and work at Lake Louise. Skiing, girls, booze and an 18y old male that is vaguely sporty and very horny in a province where it is legal to drink. What could possibly go wrong?

One of my most memorable events was when I found that I was liaising – consecutively I might add but sadly not concurrently – with two girls who happened to be roommates. One was called Michelle, who was the primary object of my attentions and the other called Susan , a more peripheral but willing young lady if I recall correctly.

Nonetheless, I discarded the hazy rose-tinted specs relating to my astonishing studliness – read insatiable 18y old horniness – and recalled the following great brain save.

I have a fairly well off Uncle in Calgary so, with the offer of the guest bed in a palatial house, I invited the young Michelle to spend a night there with me and get away from the terribly insular community that is the workers at the resort. She readily agreed and we did whatever and repaired, eventually, in a fully relaxed state to our bed. Being horny 18y old’s – yes, I don’t want to belabour the point too much, but sex and skiing were pretty much all we thought about – we undertook what came naturally. Lying there exhausted, post vigorous Ugandan discussion’s, and still a bit pissed, I was drifting in and out of sleep with Michelle snuggled beside me. In my blissfully contented haze I apparently uttered the word “Susan”.

Well bugger me, I had no idea a woman can go from a post-coital glow to rabid frothing monster quite so fast. Apparently they can. Michelle was sat upright jabbing her finger at me – I think she may have suspected as I went to great lengths not to see them in the same space as I was sure one, other or both would twig – and accused me of sleeping with Susan behind her back. Which was true.

Cue my self-preservation brain seeing the need to save it’s owner from what had all the hallmarks of a kicking. From a girl. Quick as a flash and with no concious effort I adopted a puzzled yet pained face and remarked in as innocent a sounding voice as possible, “Susan, Susan, her? Are you mad? I said I was snoozin, just snoozin’ ” It worked as she immediately softened and apologised for being jealous.

Much as the opportunity was there for some good ‘ole reverse guilting, I didn’t.

I am far too much of a gentleman to do something like that.

You Know When You Know

In a totally out of character move for me I actually gave this post some joined up thinking before I put finger to keys. At least 30 minutes. Really; most posts are just stream of consciousness outpourings of opinion, so expressed in percentage terms it is a hell of a difference.

For the past 3 or so years I have been going back and forth with the founder of a small process improvement management consultancy. It’s never been the right time for some legitimate reasons. Now it is right for him and so wrong for me. It’s flattering to be wanted, I guess.

As dry as this topic sounds it was something I gave a lot of thought to when I had Only Organic. It was not about selling veg it was all about fulfilment of a perishable product. Screw it up and you’ve spent money. Process improvement, get it right and you save money. The role we have been discussing is also interesting because it plays to my strengths of enthusiasm for using technology and business development.

<<- as a total aside, I am sitting in a nice cafe in Oxford with good WiFi, and at the table beside me are two people that are struggling to have a conversation. Obviously not boyfriend and girlfriend and he is less interested that she is. It is alternately fascinating and annoying and great fodder to write about. She has a nasty antipodean grate which was hard to place until the mention of going home to live in Wellington. Moaning about the price of everything, the weather, the inconveniences etc etc. As hard as I am trying not to earwig, which is helped by her being partially unintelligible as her voice makes a sharp upturn at the end of every sentence and pens are pins etc etc, I have gathered that she went to London, didn’t like it but spent £100 seeing two ghastly sounding musicals. She then shared with the poor long-suffering chap that she was tempted to look inside the Savoy and see how the other half live etc etc… I fought back the urge to explain that it would have been far more enjoyable to spend her £100 on a decent lunch at the Savoy rather than on  The Lion King etc… There is a strong urge to lean over, give her a tenner and invite her to fuck off home where it is so wonderful. Since I am being a bitch then, in the interests of completeness, she has a moustache that I’d be proud of. Really, I can’t look over as I will just be staring at the facial furniture. I know, I am going straight to hell for being an insensitive prick. I have come to terms with that long ago. ->>

I drove home from the meeting with the MD and the FD with the agreement to start in July. I have decided to write to Peter – the MD – as I just cannot  pass the opportunity to do this degree. Chance of a life time and all that. People keep asking me what i’ll do with a History degree. The truth is that I have no idea. What I do know is that I’ll go down unknown avenues and meet interesting people. From that I am sure opportunity will present itself.

In the meantime I get on well with the lads at the local bike shop to the point where for a couple of pack of Hob-Nobs – why does this sound like the start of Jimmy Savile style tale? – I can use the workshop and store my bike there. They are around the corner from my new gaffe in Jericho and an ideal job would be working there. I have shared this with the owner and he didn’t fall about laughing. What a great job to dovetail around being a stoodent. I must drop by soon, eat biccies, drink tea and try again to be hired…

PS: being on a computer with several tabs open I skipped across to an Indy interview with the Rev. Richard Coles. He is a bit of a meeja vicar and made a v. pithy remark to the reporter that I think fairly sums up this blog: “We frequently sail perilously close to the banal…”

Right To Life or Smother At Birth? You Decide.

I know I should believe we all have an equal right to life. My bleeding heart liberal (read: educated) parents raised me so. And I actually do believe it. However, my faith is being tested when I see this muppet from the dancing mouth-breathing racists that are the English Disco League, or as you may know them, the EDL. Watch him and try to maintain your feelings of equality.

Let’s be charitable and assume that there are a few remaining brain cells that aren’t addled by strong weed and many, many, cans of wife beater and possibly a bit of crack, just saying. My money is not on him finishing school. I appreciate that should he have done so a First from Oxbridge would not be likely to grace the wall of his state funded housing. Nonetheless, I’ll bet there was some capacity for learning in there at some point and possibly he could have been taught a teensy weensy bit of joined up thinking, even if it to recognise his limits and avoid talking to the press.

The scary thing is that despite being from the paddling depth end of the gene pool he may breed at some point, if not already. It makes me ashamed to share DNA with him. I so dearly, dearly hope that he is made to see the Muslamic benefits/jobcentre employees from now on. They can talk in two-syllable words and double digit numbers whilst keeping one sweaty palm wrapped around their ray-gun hidden under the desk. That’d learn him.

Joke Of The Day

The SAS, the Parachute Regiment and the Police decide to go on a survival weekend together to see who comes out on top.

After some basic exercises the trainer tells them that their next objective is to go down into the woods and catch a rabbit, returning with it ready to skin and cook.

Night falls…

First up – the SAS. They don infra-red goggles, drop to the ground and crawl into the woods in formation. Absolute silence for 5 minutes, followed by the unmistakable muffled “phut-phut” of their trademark silenced “double-tap”. They emerge with a large rabbit shot cleanly between the eyes.

“Excellent!” remarks the trainer.

Next up – the Para ‘s. They finish their cans of lager, put their Playboy mags away, smear themselves with camouflage cream, fix bayonets and charge down into the woods, screaming at the top of their lungs. For the next hour the woods ring with the sound of rifle and machine-gun fire, hand grenades, mortar bombs and blood curdling war cries. Eventually they emerge, carrying the charred remains of a rabbit.

“A bit messy, but you achieved the aim; well done”, says the trainer.

Lastly, in go the Coppers, walking slowly, hands behind backs whistling Dixon of Dock Green. For the next few hours, the silence is only broken by the occasional crackle of a walkie-talkie “Sierra Lima Whisky Tango Fanta One, suspect headed straight for you…” etc. After what seems an eternity, they emerge escorting a squirrel in handcuffs.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” asks the incredulous trainer, “Take this squirrel back and get me a rabbit like I asked you five hours ago!”

So back they go. Minutes pass. Minutes turn to hours, night drags on and turns to day. The next morning, the trainer and the other teams are awakened by the police, holding the handcuffed squirrel, now covered in bruises, one eye nearly shut.

“Are you taking the piss!!??” asks the now seriously irate trainer.

The police team leader nudges the squirrel, who squeaks:

“Alright, alright… I’m a fucking rabbit!”

Education, Education, Education.

I can’t say I agreed with Tony Blair (Bliar? not sure) over many things but this was one quote I approved of wholeheartedly.

When I was married, my wife and I were discussing the ins and outs of paying for schooling for our daughter. An older friend, the guy who introduced us, related a story about his experiences. After marrying, he and his wife bought an Landrover and drove it from the UK to Australia. What is known as a right proper hard-core trek. In those days driving across the Middle East was possible as the religious bitching was at a relative lull. Not only was it a bold undertaking but the people they met left a lasting impression on them.

When Graham offers advice, you listen. He said that regarding children; you can only give them two things, love and education. That informed our choices re schooling and in getting divorced. Our daughter goes to a great school and she knows that, above all, that she is loved and that her Mummy and Daddy are friends. In all things to do with her we resolved to continue backing each other up so my daughter, H, got a single message. We may have our differences but we talk about and plan around H. As she is on the cusp of turning into a scheming teenager (they are all devious and scheming even if you think butter wouldn’t melt…) she knows that I won’t be sold the “but Mummy said…” story without checking first.

That aside, I got to thinking about my time in the Specials (Police Reserves for you dang foreigners). I was talking w. a mate today who is a full-time officer and we agreed that the  vast majority of police time is spent dealing with a small but significant minority (and most are repeat customers) of the population. What common distinguishing feature is shared by these people?  Most of them are thick, dense, dumb etc etc but I don’t actually believe that. I have always wondered if it was genetic but have decided that it is through lack of formal education. Sure, some of them will never be the brightest coal in the barbecue but I’ll bet they are capable of learning to read and write properly. Some are downright crafty and ingenious in the way they commit crime. In fact, they’d be a proper menace to society if they had basic Maths and English. I once spent 6 hours taking statements from two muppets that were being horrible to one another on Facebook. Neither of them seemed familiar with the concept of Unfriending someone. Gaaarrrgghh.

Amongst this small and select band of idiots, education seems to be actively sneered at and discouraged. Being unencumbered by burdensome basic literary and numeracy skills is something to be proud of. It seems that there needs to be  lessons in  education and the benefits of being educated. In Western society most countries have mechanisms for assisting those without the means to cope. In the UK we refer to the Welfare State and I believe passionately that this is a correct mechanism to have for those that actually require it. However, here comes the but, there needs to be some sort of active disincentive for those that shun the opportunity to learn and then expect to be supported by the state and waste police, doctor, teacher, court time – along with many other resources – as they know their rights. For all their knowledge of their rights there seems to be very few obligations in their mind.

This is a thorny question and much, much smarter people than me have approached it and to date failed to fix it. I believe that, a bit like National Service was obligatory back in the day, then being educated to a minimum standard should also be obligatory. You can just picture the enforcement officers. Imagine getting  stop-checked by a man with suede patches on his elbows and be made to do basic maths and punctuate a sentence or get sent back to school in a big yellow bus. Stop tittering in the back, I know I wouldn’t pass the latter part of the test.

With an education around some of the basics of life the EDL, and many of the Tabloids, would die on their arse. Small minded and ill-informed rhetoric relies on people being too stupid to be able to process the facts and come to their own conclusion. Manipulative people with access to the poorly educated can then move in and control the dumb masses. With a basic education I daresay that many more people would have the intellectual toolkit to laugh at splinter groups and move on or the radical religious whoever is the hating flavour of the month.  That poor bloody innocent soldier was hacked to death by impressionable morons, imho. Allah’s work. My arse. If there was any sort of a God then I reckon he’d frown on that, don’t you?

Going Solo

You are standing in the airstream, grasping the wing strut with white knuckles and are trying to process what it is you are about to do. Namely; let go of a perfectly serviceable aeroplane and trust the folding skills of someone you have never met. The bricking yourself part was done a while ago. The tough bit was choosing to do this. Now, being loudly exhorted by the instructor you let go, spreadeagle as shown and…..well, it was odd. Not scary, no sense of falling just a sensation of being in mid-air and watching the aircraft shrink away from you really quickly. Quiet, suddenly there is a soft jolt, the canopy opens and the sound of the aircraft recedes quickly. After all, it is moving at 100-kts and you are just there in the middle of the sky dangling from a soft round canopy. Minor problem is that when practicing the freefall count and pulling on the dummy D-ring wedged in the webbing you were rather enthusiastic – fear numbed – and grabbed it and tossed it away. Eh, you were supposed to hold onto it to demonstrate your ability to work well under pressure. Fail. That’s a $22 replacement cost and something you assured the instructor that only a fear-stricken idiot would ever do.

I had to stop writing there for a moment and go and look at an accelerated freefall course (AFF to those in the know) in Spain. Definitely a Bucket List thing, but I ain’t doing three months rent in one hit just to abandon a serviceable – you hope – aircraft solo from the word go. In the same way that Brenda must think the world smells of fresh paint then I imagine the folks that are detailed to take a firm grip on you when you jump out semi-solo at 13,000 feet for your first jump think everyone is sweetness and light. FFS, it is them that are giving you a fighting chance. I have seen  a jump that lacked the essential opening of the parachute part – a small but important detail – and they required removal from the LZ in an interesting way. The paramedics shovelled them into bin liners that were then popped in a zip to the top sleeping bag style cover. Nice. Of course you are going to try and be over-pleasant. Even grumpy atheists like me will be puckering up and kissing rings like there is no tomorrow. If they are a believer in the good lord then so am I. Durrrrh.

More to the point – point, keep to the point you say? You’ll be lucky – I am moving into a flat of my own in three weeks. It is the first time in my pretty unsheltered life that I have actually had a place of my own. It feels like skydiving. All calm, the tough bit of the decision is done, and now I am just working on managing the landing. I remember feeling pleased and perplexed the first time I boshed into the ground. Yes, despite all the para-roll practise you just bosh in the first time as the sudden ground rush caught me by surprise. You get up, dust yourself off, look up for the aircraft to remind yourself what you just did and then get the shakes. I expect I’ll stand in the flat, look around and remind myself that I need to book an appointment to have my kidney removed so I can sell it to pay the rent.

The Brain Abhors A Vacuum

So says Scott Fraser, Forensic Neurophysiologist. In my world there is a skeleton of facts that is fleshed out by imagination.

When I write I have the nugget of a memory and over the years the memory is only kept alive by re-thinking and re-imagining it over and over. It is called reconstructive memory. We ALL do it. There is no other process for keeping memory alive as far as I know. It does suffer from the flaw – anyone, anyone, please say it ain’t just me – that we are all terrible at remembering and keep it whole by adding bits as required.

Anyone, anyone at all, who claims to recall accurately an event more than a few hours old is just deluding themselves and, at worst, practising an intentional deception on others.

There is a really interesting TED Talk on the fallibility of eyewitness accounts by Scott Fraser that is definitely worth a watch. Watch it, you’ll be stunned.

So, if anyone wonders if what I say here is actual fact then bear in mind that the way I try to put flesh on the skeleton is by making it slightly humorous. I like to laugh at the past ‘cos why get dragged down and bogged in it. We could all wallow in self-pity, but that sucks. As is oft said by me;  Illegitimi non carborundum .

Oh, and if you find yourself bumping up against eye-witness accounts then do question them, thoroughly.

Ninja Ho

Much as I expected, Mum read the last post. Apparently she is now interviewing Ninja for a one-off overseas gig. I am not scared as I know the CSC Ninja Squad will end up offing the wrong person. Mum has a propensity to grasp c. 50% facts in a way that only makes sense to her and puzzles the bejesus out of those in full receipt of reality.

I am reminded of a funny but apt phrase I am fond of that I learnt whilst in the police reserves. One slightly older and more experienced officer was keen on telling drunken arses whom were on the verge of arrest, “don’t confuse me with the facts, I have made up my mind” Their puzzled looks were priceless, just prior to the handcuffs going on. If they squeaked too loudly about fit of said ‘cuffs he’d give them a friendly pat on the back, as they were hoicked into the mini-cell in the back of the van, and assure them that , “don’t worry, I am sure they’ll stretch”. Oh how we laughed.

Back to more mother lessons and madness:

  • Racism. Back in the 70’s mum would merrily re-tell jokes to us kids that, by today’s standards, would be considered racist. However, her actual regard for other people, regardless of race,  was not tainted in this way. There was a big influx of Sikh immigrants into Western Canada in the late 70’s. The vast majority were agricultural specialists and in the time-honoured Indian immigrant fashion (Kenyan Indians, Idi Amin and corner stores in the UK anyone?) arrived somewhere with sweet FA, an incredible work ethic and tight family bonds. With this determination to succeeded and make a new life you’d get under-performing farms being taken over and magically the land would start producing vast quantities of fruit and veg. Oh how this made the lazy white racists seethe. We lived in a rural community and there was one such farm down the road.  Some  graffiti soon appeared on the road. A start and finish line that bracketed the Sikh’s property was sprayed on the road and hastily scrawled were the words, “Paki zone 500 mph”. Mum was appalled. I mean properly appalled. She took some homemade preserve – of which there was always a many and varied selection – as an offering and marched the quarter of a mile to the Singh family house. This was not a time for regular walking as that would just not adequately communicate the seriousness of the matter. This was proper pissed off English woman striding. The Home Counties twinset and pearls sort of pissed off that results in strongly worded broadside to the editor of a vaguely right wing broadsheet kind of pissed-off. Us kids were terrified as something had clearly set her off but, collectively, we all knew that for a change one of us wasn’t going to get some learning.  It was not uncommon for Mum to become the self-appointed anti-racism, school fundraising, CSC writing standards or whatever Monitor. So, the Singh’s must have wondered what to make of this slightly demented middle-aged English woman holding marmalade and banging on the front door. Hints of the Raj… When they answered she went inside – she rarely ever required an actual invitation to as the sense of entitlement from “doing the right thing” didn’t require pleasantries – and proffered the culturally inappropriate preserve and announced that we, the wider community but she really meant she,  didn’t all feel like that and in her view the Singh’s were  very welcome additions to the community. She probably offered to locate  the perpetrators as she knew everyone in this small rural community. You can imagine the Singh’s baulking slightly when the inevitable follow-up to the location offer was a public beating possibly followed by a lynching of these dumb white boys. She departed by apologising for the sorry state of the Canadian education system that their kids were to join, that lead to such poorly written graffiti. As any fule knos it was accusing them of being from the wrong country, Canada was metric, no road car can do 804.672 kmph  and there ought to have been a full-stop in there as well. 
  • Immigration. Poor, did I mention we grew up pretty poor? Veg gardens, shopping at the second-hand clothes store, old and tired cars etc etc. Nonetheless, Canada took an influx of Laotian Boat People – refugees that escaped in tiny and vastly overcrowded boats, can you imagine what Health and Safety would say? – and we the Shadbolt’s (mum really) sponsored one of these families into BC. Because Mum spoke French fluently and so did the family matriarch they were matched. I can only imagine the poor woman that headed the refugee family being hit with the whirlwind that is Sara in best intentioned help mode. Though I suppose that if she had fled with family on an overcrowded fishing vessel then she had demonstrated that she could handle challenging situations. This lady and here family, who may well have been hoping to slip unnoticed into society, of a country that is made from immigrants of all flavours,  was wrong. Like it or not she was going to be socialised, taught English, settled, integrated, befriended etc etc and that was that. Mother had decided what was best. End of. Still, you can’t argue the charitable intent and beggars can’t be choosers etc. According to my other brother, Eric, one of the youths is quite a handy Asian Gang member now. Mum takes the very sanguine view that Canadian prison is still better than the Laotian alternative.
  • Sponsorship and Money Management. No one can budget like my mother. It is the only thing I have ever heard acknowledge my dad for. “He may be a bastard – or similar etc etc – but he taught me to budget” Despite spending many years in or near poverty she always had money for Christmas presents, bills and enough to sponsor a couple of kids through Plan. No matter how little we had, she correctly reasoned, there were always folk worse off.
  • Fundraising. To carry on the financial theme it is worth noting that when Sara decided to raise money then it was damn well being raised. No seemed to be a word she was unable to process. Despite her English roots it is something that doesn’t trouble her. Relatively recently she politely demanded a decent contribution from a rock star. This poor guy had obviously figured that rural Canada was a good place to build a big pad all tucked away and melt into occasional obscurity. Wrong. Mum got wind of him and it was pointed out to him that as he now resided in the community and was clearly obscenely minted, an appropriate contribution was expected. As he was so put off I believe he gave her vastly more than the number she suggested just to be left alone. A very wise move imho…but wait until next year my friend. Not such a bright move after all, eh? The local primary school has her to thank for a pretty awesome adventure playground back in the day. It involved committees. However, I have a vision of a bunch of co-opted and terrified members doing exactly what the Chair – guess who the Chair was? – suggested they do.
  • Homosexuality. Whatever, this comes under the heading of ethnicity as far as she is concerned. However, I do have a distinct memory of standing with hands on hips and thumbs pointing forward. She very sweetly whispered in my ear, “Don’t have your thumbs pointing forward my dear. Only homosexuals and interior designers stand like that.” WTF??? Baffled? You will be.
  • Nudity. Mum just couldn’t be bothered with other people’s hang ups and would stroll around the house naked and often sunbathe as such. My mates and I were at a friends house in town when another friend, George, rocks up and is clearly traumatised. When we enquire as to the problem it transpires that George dropped by my house looking for me and my mother greeted him wearing nothing other than bikini bottoms (thank god for small mercies). When a slack-jawed George managed to stammer out that he was dropping by to see me he was promptly upbraided for staring at her chest. It was politely enquired of him – a 16-17y old Catholic boy – whether or not he would extend the courtesy of looking her in the eyes and not the chest. Poor bloody George was probably scarred for life. To make it worse for him she was his Nanny when he was a nipper. That and all the Catholic hang-ups I s’pose.
  • Religion. Mum decided one day that we would all become Catholics just to get us into a good school. Not being content to do anything by halves she dragged us to  Mass, hither and thither to church events and enrolled us in a Catholic school in Chilliwack. Though I am led to believe it is far more civilised now the ‘Wack was a shithole of a place. We were involuntarily baptised at about age 11. I protested strongly as even then I was pretty sure organised religion was an utter crock used to control poor and thick people. The approach to this dilema and moral crisis was laid out thus: if you say anything other than yes I will beat you to within and inch of your life. At 11 that is a no-brainer. I felt that if on some slim chance there was this all-powerful and understanding deity then he’d know I kept my fingers firmly crossed. Chris reminded me that he was an altar boy for the money from sing-a-longs, funerals, weddings etc. He got extra if he stood by the graveside. Obviously for some of the more innocent lads it may have been danger-money. Not for Chris, his mother ensured we’d have no wet and wooly behaviour. Dead is dead apparently. With hindsight I am not really sure she had fully embraced the whole Catholicism thing.

Chris has kindly supplied some food based memories.

  • Eating. As Chris observed, I could probably write a book about Mum’s views on food. We both remember poor Nicky, our half-sister, taking a dislike to some broad beans. Nicky was told that if she didn’t finish them then there would be no pudding. Rather unwisely with the stirrings of pre-teenage defiance Nicky decided to stand her ground. Wrong. Mum’s view was that you finish the food in front of you, all of it. She wasn’t going to tolerate attitude from a young girl. Nicky sat there for several minutes making it hard on herself by eating them one by one. She then tried to pretend she was sick and spat some half-chewed beans back on her plate and claimed that she was ill. Mum breezed by, reiterated the finish it all view and then observed that Nicky was to eat the part masticated deposit. Mum then went further by explaining that we were all eating strawberry cheesecake now and it was far tastier than sicked-up broad beans. We three brothers we were pretty merciless and I can remember a lot of exaggerated enjoyment over said cheesecake. We were little bastards to poor Nicky. Siblings, gotta love ’em.
  • Eating well on a budget. Two dishes have scarred us. The first was beef heart in peanut butter. If I’d have known vegetarianism was an option I may have swung that was. Foul doesn’t begin to describe it. The second was a memory that was re-ignited when Chris referred to stuffed marrow. The stuffing was delicious but the marrow was wet, squidgy and ‘orrible. It was homegrown so it was damn well being eaten. Chris couldn’t even look at a courgette for many years after leaving home. I’ll eat them but they aren’t no.1 on my list. The best intentions to feed hungry kids sometimes led to occasional culinary wrongs. Still, it was probably good for the soul to be force-fed the delights. When I had to eat a worm-omelette on a survival course it was not a challenge.

It feels like I have plumbed a line of enquiry here. It is also a good cathartic thing to get it all down. The kids of today eh? Don’t even know they’ve been born. Pah.

Lessons From Mother

I know I can bore. I am also aware of my propensity for repetition and exaggeration. I have many close friends and family who have shared this with me more than once. A close friend who, upon hearing me start a sentence with, “My mother said…” politely suggested I may like to write down the pearls of wisdom and Mum stories as a) people buy cheap trashy books like that and b)they were fed up of hearing me repeat myself. That’s the polite version of being told to STFU.

I tried to be offended but the thought of money from selling  trashy books dampened down the feelings of deep hurt. I had a fleeting “if I won the lottery” moment. Really fleeting. Could have been measured in nano-seconds, in fact. It finished with a mental image of the book in a wire bin alongside the autobiograpy of Wayne Rooney in a discount book store. Oh the shame. Would rather change my name to Michael Gove and tell people I play the piano in a whorehouse than languish beside the Spud Faced Nipper in a bargain bin.

As a complete aside, but hey, wtf: I get the feeling that I merrily split infinitives but have no idea how or what or when. Probably doing it now. Hi ho. Doesn’t bother me as I have no idea I am doing it. If it bothers you, and if you are that way inclined, as I know several of my circle are, I am trying to care. Really though, I just can’t. If I even knew what an infinitive is I’d die a more knowledgeable person. Oh yippee.

Back to the list, but before that I’ll try and give a brief idea of why I have a very weird relationship with my Mum. Though I guess most people feel that. Freud could have devoted a lifetime to it but she probably would have weirded him out in some way and he would have left puzzled and slightly scared. Anyhow, in a previous post I rather dramatically suggested she abducted us (I have a long-suffering brother as well) but apparently she did. She lived in Canada, we lived with our father in the UK after they divorced. He sent us on a summer holiday and she didn’t return us. We had no idea and on reflection she had a v. clear idea as from Day 1 she talked as if he was bored of us and had given us over to her care. We were too young to know or care as we were with our mum, and what kid doesn’t like that? As a teenager I was re-homed back with my father because, “if he doesn’t take you I’ll have you put into care”. Thankfully, he did the decent thing.

Herewith the list:

  • Beating. Mum had/has a firmly held belief that, especially with boys, the shortest route to their brain is usually through their backside. In the spirit of learning (lessons I guess) we were were regularly and enthusiastically beaten whilst growing up. The fact is that the majority of the time I think we deserved it.
  • Fairness. A fond memory is when I witnessed my brother getting his licks. We spent a large amount of time trying to pin the blame for various misdemeanours on one another so I had probably dodged a few bullets and pinned the blame on him. She broke an entire pack of wooden spoons on Chris in a week.  The price of a replacement pack was taken out of his allowance as, “no one should be that naughty”. Oh how I laughed. I think I got a smack for that. Mum was nothing if not a keen sharer when meting out learning.
  • Domesticity. She taught me how to sew, iron, clean and cook though. My brother and I were allowed to make the most foul concoctions in the kitchen. Her view was that we were learning and indeed we were. Both of us are pretty decent cooks now. When I joined the Sea Cadets I was issued a uniform, came home with it and very politely and patiently explained where the creases were to go and just how the badges were to be sewn on. She then marched me to the ironing board, iron and sewing kit. Yup, now I can iron and sew as well.
  • Chores. On Saturdays we were always keen to go and play. Before that we had to do our chores. Mine was cleaning the back bathroom and Chris’ the front. Think of a barracks inspection by a Drill Sergeant and up the intensity by a factor of five. We had to stand whilst our handiwork was scrutinised. She had a real penchant for a clean lavatory and if it didn’t gleam above and below the waterline, then time to start over as it was likely that the rest of the bathroom wasn’t unreasonably shiny and ready to double as a food preparation area. I remember being regularly exhorted to get my hand right in the loo with the Ajax and clean it properly. Happy days. I can clean the loo well now.
  • Equality. “Playing” with Chris once I threw a stone at him as I am sure it was adding to the point I was trying to make. Sensibly, Chris ducked and the stone smashed a plate of glass on the house. Cue Chris looking very pleased at my impending punishment, as would I if the tables were turned, when the scrupulous sharer emerged with fire in her belly to mete out retribution. I was told that I would be docked half the cost of the glass from my allowance and then, get this, Chris was to be docked the other half as, in her view he shouldn’t have ducked and allowed the glass to be broken. Astonished and disbelievingly, Chris very reasonably observed that it was a big rock travelling at high speed and it would have hurt him. He was informed that he should have “taken it like a man”. How I laughed, again.
  • Work ethic. Mum is incredibly hard working and proud. She felt that there was always a job if you were willing to do it. Her mantra was “McDonalds are always hiring”, which is true. When we grew up as a family of four kids and two adults in the late seventies and early eighties things were pretty harsh. My step-dad was a helicopter pilot which was a very seasonal feast and famine sort of thing. He would be away working for three months one moment and laid off the next. I distinctly remember Mum had a job on a mink farm skinning minks. She stood there all-day beside the chap that gave the live mink the good news and was then passed the still warm body to her to skin. In case you didn’t know, minks are some of the smelliest animals going so Mum carried Eau de Mink with her everywhere she went. Didn’t really register the social implications as a kid but mingling with others must have been tough. You couldn’t just shower it off. If you read this Mum then may I offer a humble “Chapeau”.
  • Self-sufficiency. She also ran a pretty impressive veg garden and about 1/8th acre – maybe more – was grown for food for use. To keep the kids semi-interested, as a source of cheap labour we were allowed to grow our own pumpkins with the aim of getting the largets one come the village produce fair. Totally random as to who won the biggest pumpkin competition, but it was ultra-competitive as the pumpkins were marked when young and green,  and by scratching your name on with a nail. As it grew the scar tissue was just an expanding name. V. cool and removed any opportunity to claim another as your choice all along.
  • Hard lessons. I rose v early one morning, and wandered into the garage where the gigantic chest freezers were located, to be confronted by my mother taking some freshly born (sub 30 min) kittens and, one by one, giving them a firm bop on the head. Understandably surprised and a bit of a cat lover, as I had assumed my mother was up to that point, I enquired why she had gone all Hitler on them. She was very cool and replied that there weren’t the resources for them to survive and doing this was a humane precursor to chucking a weighted sack in the river with said kittens in – a traditional unwanted pet disposal method in rural Canada – as it was the decent thing to do. All this was very hard to argue against as she was correct on all counts. It wasn’t nice or pretty but she was absolutely doing the necessary thing despite the unpleasantness of the task.
  • Yobs. Mother used to be quite high up in an operational role in the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC from now on) and worked in high security men’s prisons. Mum is a guest in the UK of our then govt prison big-wig, Martin Nairy, and when not sharing her wisdom at a conference goes to visit some ancient old relative. After apparently being taken on a slo-mo but white knuckle ride, the octogenarian lady proclaims that she can’t park her car in the usual place as there is some boy rollerblading back and forth across the entrance. Despite the pensioner’s protest, Mother disembarks and politely requests the young lad go and skate elsewhere. She is met with a less than polite reply. Next thing said young man is being dangled up against a wall by a 65 year old woman who, in her words, used “prison speak” on him to get her point across. When pressed her for a fuller explanation of prison speak I heard words that I was surprised my mother knew, let alone in context. The encounter ended apparently with an offer to, and I quote, “break both of his fucking legs” if he didn’t go now. All delivered with a big smile. When he objected from a safe distance that he’d tell the police he was met with a snort of derision as she observed that the police are hardly likely to believe that a frail old woman had assaulted and properly scared a burly young lad.

So Chris calls me today to check if my appeal to him, Eric and Nicky is serious. I explained that I didn’t just want stories of crazy – which are entertaining I grant you – but also of lessons and insights. Now in our forties and we still don’t *quite* trust one another…

[This post will carry on as long as Mum doesn’t have me killed by a special ninja squad from CSC]