The Play Way

It’s almost three weeks since my previous WordPressing and so – concerned that I might be starting to run out of steam – have just gone back five years to my first ever post in search of fresh inspiration …

My voyage of exploration begins. I want to recapture the spirit of childhood, when we would set out from home with the deliberate aim of getting hopelessly lost. No point in going over old ground, after all …


Reading that again, I’m somehow reminded of these opening credits to a groundbreaking TV show:

Many people of my generation will know every word of this off by heart. Back then we wouldn’t have missed the adventures of the Starship Enterprise, ha, for the world! Pre-moon landings, outer space was still sexy and post-Beatlemania but pre-Woodstock we were eager for alternative experiences. Boundaries were boring and Star Trek, by definition, didn’t have any. Plus it employed some clever sci-fi screenwriters to explore some radical new ideas … well, radical by comparison with the fusty old 1950s of our childhood! Yes, in 1966, Warp Speed was the only way to travel …

In many ways they were confident times in which to grow up. The following opening credits feature two stylish special agents with a refreshingly chilled-out attitude to the Cold War hanging over their – and our – heads:

Looking back, the appeal of both shows was their optimistic and playful approach to serious subjects. Escapist, even naiive, their exploration and make-believe brought welcome extensions to our childhood. And come to think of it, much of our playing had involved pretending to be grown-ups. Adults appeared resourceful, capable, powerful. The very last person you’d want to be was Peter Pan – I mean, what sort of lunatic would want to stay a kid forever?

But now, looking back with a nostalgic eye, how we revere those precious moments of innocent discovery! As so often, the philosopher Nietzsche nails this idea:

‘In every real man, a child is hidden that wants to play.’

Ironic, isn’t it, that children yearn for adulthood while adults still feel like children? I suppose this doubleness in our nature is the basis of empathy between the generations. I find in playing with my grandkids a way to re-live my past through younger eyes as well as sharing in their fresh discoveries. I’ve just read what follows and every word of it struck a chord:

Play is the most valuable way that children learn. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.

As young children struggle to create a desired effect with a toy, they discover that it isn’t always easy. They realize that there is perhaps a problem to be solved and that they have to practice to acquire and improve the skills necessary to achieve their goal.

Studies have proven that play with other children is also critical for the development of children’s social skills, They are developing skills and habits and attitudes that will stay with them throughout their lives. Play is children’s work, and they give a tremendous amount of energy and effort to it. It promotes emotional well being – awareness, acceptance, personal integration, coping skills – and builds values including empathy, trust and respect for others while they play.

It’s good to know that even an old codger like me can help in this valuable process! And through it I learn that life goes on and – who knew? – that it isn’t all about me!


Midnight Meditation

I couldn’t let today pass by without saying something about the climate change protests that have taken place around the globe. Let armchair critics have their outraged rants about schoolchildren missing lessons and adult working days being lost, their fury fueled by reactionary media in cahoots with tax evaders and toxic polluters. I believe we’ve heard too much cynical mockery of youthful idealism and more than enough nasty ridicule of the ‘snowflake’ variety. The future belongs to young people and their children and it’s absolutely right that they have their say now, before it’s too late. The times, along with the old demographics, are changing and if politicians understand anything at all it is the power of symbols to change hearts and minds – a power exponentially amplified in the huge whispering gallery of a deregulated social media. In the increasingly faint but fervent hope that our wars can remain purely cultural, I’ve chosen a picture which seems to strike some kind of balance. It’s a balance between science and art, man and nature, pessimism and optimism, work and play, now and forever. After all, as everybody really knows, the best things in life are free …

Image result for climate change pictures


Image: Time Magazine


10 of my recent posts featured Comedy Songs – this hyperlink will take you to the first of them. They seemed to go down well so here’s another amusing ditty – Chas and Dave with a slightly cleaned-up version of their cheerful anthem to an archetypal cockney dad.

The words are printed below. Omitted from the original lyrics, the word ‘cowson’ – a mild term of abuse for one born out of wedlock – and the phrase ‘When the dog’s left a message on the step’ – a gentle enough euphemism, you’d think, but clearly too racy for dear old Auntie Beeb back in the day!

As for the line ‘Sister’s boyfriend put his sister up the club’, well, that suggestive ‘put’ is replaced by a more innocuous ‘take’.

Never mind, plenty left to enjoy! And a timely reminder that once upon a time we Brits could make the world smile – on purpose rather than just by accident …



Now there’s a word that I don’t understand
I hear it every day from my old man
It may be Cockney rhyming slang
It ain’t in no school book
He says it every time that he gets mad
A regular caution is my old dad
Rub the old man up the wrong way, bet your life you’ll hear him say
Gertcha, gertcha
When the kids are swinging on the gate
When the paperboy’s half an hour late
When the pigeons are pecking at his seed
When the barber starts digging up his bean
Gertcha, gertcha
Bar stool preaching
That’s the old man’s game!
Now the old man was a Desert Rat
Khaki shorts and a khaki hat
How me mother could have fancied that
I just don’t know
But when the enemy came in sight
They gave up without a fight
They rubbed him up the wrong way
This is what they heard him say
Gertcha, gertcha
When me rock and roll records wake him up
When the Poles knock England out of the cup
When the kids are banging on his door
When the barman won’t serve him any more
Gertcha, gertcha
Bar stool preaching
He’s always been the same!
When me mother says he can’t go down the pub
Sister’s boyfriend put his sister up the club
When the tomcats, when they’re kicking up a din
Tottenham Hotspur couldn’t get one in
When me mother locks him out of the flat
When it’s raining and he can’t find his hat
In the mornings when his motorcar won’t go
Next-door neighbour, when he won’t give him a tow
Gertcha lyrics © Kobalt Songs Music Publishing, Snout Music Limited

But is it normal, Doctor?

I don’t know about you but I reckon there are times when the world around us gets so downright peculiar that it’s only really strange music, the weirder the better, that can hit the spot.
None stranger, of course, than Don Van Vliet – aka Captain Beefheart. Here are two live performances, both recorded in Paris, the first at the Bataclan in 1972 and the second at the Théatre De L’Empire in 1980.
I’ve included the published lyrics if only to show how far Don departs from them. The personnel may differ but both bands are superb, from the train-coming-down-the-track polyrhythms of Click Clack to that uncanny sound of a car windscreen-wiper – faithfully copied from life – which provides the riff to Bat Chain Puller. The good Captain’s car was stopped at a railroad crossing with an apparently endless goods-train trundling past … 
Two trains
Two railroad tracks
One goin’ ‘n the other one comin’ back
There goes my baby on that ole train
I say come back come back baby come back
Click clack click clack
There’s my baby wavin’ her handkerchief down
My ears stand up when I hear that sound
This time it sounds like it’s for keeps
Click clack click clack
I get down on the ground
With the gravel around
I pray t’ the Lord
That the train will stop
Turn right around
‘N never stop till it drop my baby off
Now I had this girl
Threatened ‘n leave me all the time
Maybe you had uh girl like that
I-yuh all time cryin’
Well I had this girl
Threatened ‘n leave me all the time
Threatenin’ t’ go down t’ N’Orleans-uh
‘N get herself lost ‘n found
Maybe you had uh girl like this
She’s always
Bat chain
Bat chain puller
Puller, puller
A chain with yellow lights
That glistens like oil beads
On its slick smooth trunk
That trails behind on tracks, and thumps
A wing hangs limp and retreats
Bat chain puller
Puller puller
Bulbs shoot from its snoot
And vanish into darkness
It whistles like a root snatched from dry earth
Sodbustin’ rakes with grey dust claws
Announces it’s coming in the morning
This train with grey tubes
That houses people’s very thoughts and belongings.
Bat chain puller
Puller puller
This train with grey tubes that houses people’s thoughts,
Their very remains and belongings.
A grey cloth patch
Caught with four threads
In the hollow wind of its stacks
Ripples felt fades and grey sparks clacks,
Lunging the cushioned thickets.
Pumpkins span the hills
With orange Crayola patches.
Green inflated trees
Balloon up into marshmallow soot
That walks away in faulty circles,
Caught in grey blisters
With twinkling lights and green sashes
Drawn by rubber dolphins with gold yawning mouths
That blister and break in agony
In zones of rust
They gild gold sawdust into dust.
Bat chain puller,
Puller puller

A story I made up for my grandchild, aged 5, and later wrote down …

King Folly was, in a word, horrible. He had a terrible temper and kept putting his subjects in prison for no good reason. He was very vain and would send you to gaol for being better looking than he was. And woe betide you if you looked at him funny, as he called it – anyone who did so was liable to be locked up on the spot.

Many people ended up behind bars because the King was somehow convinced that they weren’t telling him what he needed to know. People learned to smile sweetly and think of nothing as he passed by. They could always stick their tongues out when his back was turned.

One day a boy called Honest Jack was climbing a tree near the King’s castle. It was a nut tree and, as everyone knows, the best nuts grow nearest the top so that was where he headed. Suddenly, from far below, came a stern voice. 

“Know ye not, scoundrel, that this be the King’s tree?”

“Did he plant it?” the cheeky lad replied.

“Of course not,” said the stern voice. “The tree is hundreds of years old.”

“Then how can the King claim it for himself? Surely its sweet nuts belong to anyone brave enough to collect them?”

“You’ll not be so brazen when you get back down here!” the stern voice replied. It was King Folly, of course, out hunting with his soldiers.

“I’m very happy up here,” Jack said, “with nuts aplenty and dew upon the leaves.”

“Axeman, chop it down!”

If you were Jack, what would you have done? Down he came and the King commanded his arms be tied behind his back. Soon enough, he found himself in a gloomy dungeon that smelled of damp straw.

“Never mind,” he told a rat who came out to watch, “these nuts are nice!” The rat looked interested and in few moments they were the very best of friends.

Meanwhile King Folly was bored and up to his usual tricks. He gazed into his favourite mirror at his favourite face. And as usual he began to find fault with what he saw.

Can’t put my finger on it, he thought, but something’s not quite right.

So he did what he usually did. He went down to the castle prison and chose a prisoner at random to ask whether he (or sometimes she) thought that he (King Folly) was the most handsome man in the land. For some peculiar reason, the prisoner would always confess that these were his (or her) very thoughts.

“You have excellent taste, my good man (or woman),” the King would say. “For that and that alone, I release you back to your humble life!”

Today it was Jack’s turn. “You, handsome?” he replied. Even the rat held his breath. “You’d be no worse looking than anybody else, I suppose … if it wasn’t for the curl of your upper lip and the way you look at people down your nose.” 

The King was certainly not accustomed to this kind of thing and flew into a rage.

“You, boy,” he spluttered, “will be here, for that and that alone, to the end of your wretched days! And you can forget bread and water! From now on, it’s stinky … mouldy … cheese!”

The cell door slammed shut and Jack and the rat stared at one another.

“Never mind,” said Jack, “there’s nuts in every pocket!”

Upstairs, King Folly gazed in his mirror. All he could see now was the curl of his upper lip and the way he looked down his nose. And yet hadn’t the other prisoners said he was the handsomest man in the land? Surely they couldn’t all have been lying? He thought of the damp straw smell in the boy’s cell, the crust of stale bread and cup of dirty water. Why hadn’t the boy told him what he wanted to hear and thereby gained his freedom?

“That young man in the cell with the rat,” he asked an attendant. “What do they call him?”

“Honest Jack, your Majesty.”

Hmm, thought the King, perhaps the young man was telling the truth. He glanced again in his mirror and was surprised to catch a kinder expression on his open face. The curl of the upper lip was gone and there, in its place, was a gentle smile. In a daze he somehow made his way down to the dungeon and knocked on the door of the boy’s cell. He could hear shuffling noises within.

“It is I,” he said, “your King!”

“Quick,” said Jack, “hide those nuts under the straw!”

Could he be talking to the rat, wondered King Folly? He went in and gave them both his widest smile. “Forget the nuts! You are free to go. Pick as many nuts as you want whenever you like, for you have told me what I needed to know.”

They went round the prison releasing all the prisoners, King Folly and Honest Jack and the prison rat – still nameless but later to be known as Nutcracker. And from that day on, people noticed the friendly look on the King’s face and thought he wasn’t so bad looking after all – although, of course, it wouldn’t do to tell him. Honest Jack became the King’s chief adviser and always told him what he needed to know.

After a year and a day, Jack said that the King was ready for a new name. Henceforth he was to be known as King Jolly.


Image result for nut tree



Paper Chase

The other day I was talking ‘personal organisation’ with my fellow-retiree and WordPress correspondent Curt Mekemson – click on the name to view his enjoyable blogsite. Our conversation reminded me of a highly effective system I’d begun to use by the end of my working life. If I’d seen it earlier, I might have more hair now!

It’s paper-based but I’m sure it could be adapted for computer. I’d recommend a read to anybody, if only for a glimpse of perfect order in an otherwise disorderly world … 🙂

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The Less Stress Desk System

Operates on the “doing one job at a time” principle and “out of sight, out of mind” principle. Also keeps a running check on the work in-hand while constantly keeping papers in the right priority. Most desks have piles of papers on them, usually in no order of priority. Pending baskets invite paper piles. Double and triple tier baskets double or triple the size of the pile and the pressure. They are a constant reminder of work waiting to be done, and they distract from the current job. The less stress desk system cures this. Here’s how it works.

It uses one in-tray, one waste-paper basket and one bank of size A4 drawers. Drawers are better than baskets or trays because they keep pending work out of sight, but aren’t essential to make the system work. The drawers are labelled as follows:

Action Today

Action Soon




Info Needed

Under pain of death, people are warned to put papers only in the in-tray on your desk. Each time you return to your desk, or complete a task (whichever is convenient to your working style), you sort, not deal with, the in-tray contents as follows:-

1.  Take the first in-tray document, scan it quickly and ask yourself “Am I ever going to need this piece of paper again?” Be ruthlessly honest in your answer. If the answer is “No” put the document in the waste-paper basket.

2.   If the answer is “Yes” put it away immediately in the appropriate drawer of the bank of 6, including papers that you intend passing to other people. Put these in Redirect.

3.   If you have a Secretary or an Assistant, have him/her empty and deal with Redirect.

4.   Don’t go home until you have dealt with all the contents of the Action Today drawer. These will be processed one at a time and put in one of the other drawers or waste-paper basket as appropriate. If you are rigid in your discipline about not leaving each day until the Action Today drawer is empty you will become very realistic about what you put in it.

5.   As you leave at the end of the working day, put the contents of the Action Soon drawer in the in-tray ready for the same process at the start of the next day. This keeps pending material under constant review and prioritises it constantly.

6.   To prevent the Info Needed drawer becoming like the usual pending basket, handle it as follows:-

a)  Write on the original document the action needed from another person to provide the info needed plus the date you expect it by with a note to let you know if the person can’t do it by that time immediately on receipt.

b)  Note this in your diary on that date. Put the document in ‘Redirect’ to be passed on but with a note for it to be copied and this copy go into the ‘Info Needed’ drawer. Your diary will bring this to your attention at the right time to pull out and put in your ‘Action Today’ drawer.

c)   People will get used to meeting your diary date if they know you don’t forget and automatically chase them on the due date.

7.    Put away any material that will take more than a few moments to read – e.g, Trade Journals – in the Read Drawer. Plan blocks of time to do reading daily. And filing things away can be relaxing when you don’t want to do anything else.

And there you have it. Almost makes me want to go back and have a second crack at it. Almost.