Category: true life stories

Reasons to be Cheerful …

Haven’t felt like posting for a while. Or reading other people’s posts, for that matter.

It’s not much fun sitting around in somebody else’s clothes – especially if they’re too small for you – while you wait for your delayed baggage to be delivered.

I’ve spent hours online trying to get some response from the airline, who had faithfully promised to keep us informed.

Guess what. Zilch.

8 days we had to wait before last night our bags finally came through. At last we could give our family the presents we’d chosen, the baby clothes we’d bought for our new grandchild, the TV box-sets they can’t get hold of. It feels like our stay with them has begun all over again.

Still, I’ve learned one lesson. Banging your head against a brick wall isn’t so bad, after all  … it’s really nice when you stop.

 

Weird or What?

If the future doesn’t exist, yeah, how come my New Broom For Bafflesby post predicted what has now come to pass? Or maybe somebody rich and powerful read it and got to thinking. Whatever, here’s an extract from the post followed by a recent news item. Go figure.

“Several correspondents suggest that flood-prevention barriers around my golf course made the flooding of Bafflesby town-centre much worse. I say, sure, the children’s playground was six foot underwater but life is much more than swings and roundabouts.

Scratch that … er, life is no more than swings and roundabouts. You win some, you lose some. No pain without gain. My golf course goes under, the golfers go elsewhere. Golfers are competitive people, they know it’s dog-eat-dog out there. They go to Broad Acres, they go to Par Venue, they go to Leafy Lanes.

Now I know what you’re thinking. What does Ewell B. Flush care? He owns every golf course in the damn country! It’s no skin off his nose. He throws a bunch of golf-course workers from Bafflesby out of work, so what?

Excuse me … so what? Is that your idea of how Ewell B. Flush thinks? Well, it’s my turn now and have I got news for you? You can’t be too greedy, of course, but Ewell B. Flush doesn’t just think of Number One thank you very much! His golf course keeps going, his workers ain’t adding to Bafflesby’s unemployment statistics. We’re talking win-win here. I’m a winner but I don’t play winner-takes-all. Elect Ewell B. Flush and you can all be winners!”

Schoolboy satire, huh? Well, if you think so, time to get a grip on a slice of real life … names and places changed to cover my ass protect the innocent, otherwise the words are exactly as found on an online news site. Ah, the pleasures of copy and paste …

         

   The Strange Reason Flush Wants To Build A Wall Around His Golf Course

         Oh, the irony.

              by Scooper Raiseworthy, 23 May 2016, for ‘The Bafflesby Echo’

Ewell B Flush dreams of walls—walls to protect Bafflesby, walls to keep the “murders” and “rapists” out, gold walls in gold towers and casinos that bear his name. Also, walls to protect his golf courses.

In February of 2014, Flush invested buckets of money into a golf resort on the coast of Atlantis. Around the time he closed on the deal, the rugged Atlantis coastline, ravaged by storms, was slipping into the sea. You could argue it was a bad investment. Sad!

       A golfer at the Atlantis course watching his ball disappear into an enormous water feature

The original Flush plan to build a reinforcement structure along the coast—yes, another wall, made from 200,000 tons of stone— was blocked by the Atlantis national government, so he recently reapplied through a county government. An environmental impact report carried out by Flush people stated the coast was threatened by rising sea levels and storms, specifically citing climate change as the most dangerous factor.

Flush in public—mainly, Flush via Twitter—has disavowed climate change as “bullshit” and “a total hoax.” More recently, on the campaign trail, he has stated he believes global warming is a weather pattern, not a man-made phenomenon. Keep in mind that “climate” and “weather” are two different things entirely.

Still, global warming must be real enough to justify a wall. A great, great wall. A wall that, just maybe, he can get Atlantis to pay for.

         

  We hear the surfers on Atlantis Bay ain’t happy!

  We say … Atlantis today, Bafflesby tomorrow!   

 Why don’t you have your say?

The Lessons of Dreams

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The novelist Henry James once said, “Tell a dream and lose a reader.” Perhaps he’d have sold more books if he’d ignored his own advice, to judge from the success of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol and Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories. And think of the impact Martin Luther King made with I had a dream

For what it’s worth, then, here’s one I dreamed last night. I was taking a class of Year 8 youngsters on a country ramble – something I used to do in reality when the school where I taught had an outward-bound centre in the Peak District. There’s nothing like a long walk for getting to know the kids in your tutor set and my dream was completely faithful to life in that respect.

We end up on a railway station platform. It’s dusk and the lights are coming on – ornate, old-fashioned Victorian lamps – while trains with brightly-lit carriages lumber slowly past us on either side in both directions. I ask the class to get into groups of 3,4 or 5. They disperse into waiting rooms and other nooks and crannies. I go in search and find they’re all in groups apart from 3 kids – 2 who want to work together and 1 nobody else wants. After some gentle diplomacy, I fit these into other groups and bring the class together to explain the task – not easy above the racket of trains and station announcements.

I’m just getting going when something bumps me sharply from the side and an eccentric figure runs past in Dickensian gear – top hat, cream-coloured coat and long leather boots.  Just before disappearing round the corner of a station building, coat-tails flapping like the White Rabbit, he turns to me with a mischievous look and I see a face that resembles Robin Williams …

I’m awake. My wife has nudged me in the ribs. It’s 3.33 am. The cat is scratching at the bedroom door. I stumble downstairs to the kitchen and point the sleepy animal at the dried food still in his bowl. I go into the lounge and scribble down the main points of my dream.

Back in bed I lie awake, words of explanation to my dream class forming effortlessly in my mind. Turns out I want them to come up with creative responses to school life – they’re already experts on that subject, with more than 100 years of experience between them – working together to fashion poems, improvised drama, scripts, stories, letters, cartoons, research projects, you name it … and I fall asleep practising my speech in the hope that we are just about to meet up again.

There are many things I could say about dreams (and just as many about teaching) but I am curious to know what other people think. Do you have any observations to make? I would be very interested to read them.

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Seasonal Stop Press!

              Shoppers queue as fizzy-drink truck rolls into shop car-park

Families from across town queued up in their hundreds to sneak a glimpse at the famous bright red truck as it made its way into Bafflesby.

The iconic lorry rolled up at Pennywise in Markdown Lane yesterday to greet queuing shoppers ready to have their photograph taken and grab a giveaway bottle of the fizzy drink.

April Fuddle and her daughter Freebie were among the throngs of people queuing for their time in front of the camera.

The 46-year-old, of Witsend, said it was fun to come down with her family and get into the festive mood.

She said: “We’ve never seen the truck before so we thought we’d come down as it’s in Bafflesby. As soon as you see the advert you feel really festive. We’ve been singing the tune non-stop.”

Queues were already building before the truck’s arrival time of midday, with residents from across Bafflesby travelling specifically to see the brand’s television advert star.

The brand’s TV advert has become synonymous with Christmas and the iconic tune Party Time Is Here Again blared out across the car park all afternoon.

Tick Boxer was also waiting with his family to have their photograph taken with the bright red lorry.

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The 60-year-old, of Barmcote, said: “We’ve come down just to look at the lorry. It’s my first time coming to see it but it’s famous so we just had to come.

“I’ve seen the advert already so many times on the television. It’s a nice festive event on the run-up to Christmas.”

The red lorry first graced television screens in 1995 and has since travelled across the UK to spread festive cheer in various locations. It was last in Bafflesby in 2012 at Lowprice, Greater Dumdale.

Fellow fizzy drink fan Sippy Thicket, 21, of Potherfield, added: “It’s the first time I’ve seen it in Bafflesby so we wanted to come down.

“I’m really excited. I absolutely love it. I’ve come along with all my family and we’re looking forward to having our photo taken.”

This news item appeared in my local newspaper. I have changed nothing but the names. I never look a gift horse in the mouth and this was obviously a message from the gods of satire. You may look forward to further bulletins from Bafflesby …

 

 

Part of the Problem?

It behoves us oldsters once in a while to put aside the comforting toys of our second childhood and consider the state of the world we leave our children. Against a background of rising inequality and failing ecology that surpasses the foggy 19th century, we witness religious upheaval that seems to emerge from murky mediaeval mists. Wasn’t the Enlightenment supposed to banish the Dark Ages for good? And who in the egalitarian and optimistic 1960s would have predicted such a lurch into irrationalism and tribal conflict?

E.P. Thompson in his brilliant book The Making of the English Working Class (1963) suggested that history showed a desperate oscillation between periods of political activism and religious fervour: whenever one was seen to fail, the other would be tried once more. And as in the macrocosm, so in the microcosm … if my own experience is anything to go by.

I was a churchgoer as a child and would sit in my pew searching for spiritual illumination through stained-glass windows with the best of them. Left to my own devices I would later climb tall trees to the sound of church bells, as if to gain a higher perspective. The voice that came to me in the wind through the leaves spoke a different truth than the preacher below. Two voices, then, and both of them in my head still …

 

“I am an actor mouthing another’s words, my days spent in drab rehearsal for the cavalcade that shimmers behind death’s parting curtain. I want to know nothing beyond scripture, for it is blasphemy to search out divine purposes. I seek only to assuage an angry deity, despising and even persecuting those who fail to observe the little rituals and shibboleths that may keep the wrath of heaven at bay. I think of Us and Them. I am generous to those whose ways I approve because I yearn for eternal reward. No matter what else I may say, my one concern is personal salvation.”

 

“I search for the voice that nature and experience will give me, each day until my last a new voyage of discovery. I want to know everything because I seek to become as whole as the world. My happiness and security are founded in the union of equals. I think only of Us. I study the ways of every creature and strive to be generous to all. I do not fear death because it brings value to life, which I hold sacrosanct.”

 

A third voice might point out that the other two are polar opposites, exaggerated and even caricatured. Most of us are strung out on a ragged continuum between those positions, with many believers more charitable and many non-believers more selfish. My only question in these turbulent times would be,  which perspective is most conducive to peace?

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Grumpy Old Muso Rant #1

Anyone else had an experience like this?

I am standing in a dense crowd near the stage in own little musical bubble, with the funky keyboards of Booker T Jones swirling around my head. Suddenly, I am barged from behind and forced to stagger forward. A small woman has pushed past me to take a photograph of the organ maestro. I shrug and get back in the groove. It happens again. The third time, I turn to her, moved to say something polite but firm.

Me   Look, if you want to take a photo just tap me on the arm and I’ll move aside. The pushing kinda breaks the spell …

She  You’re rude, you are!

Me    Oh, and shoving me in the back without warning isn’t?

She   (leaving for the back) You’ve spoilt my evening, you have!

I turn to watch her go and am confronted by a little guy with two large henchmen.

He     That’s my missus you’ve been slagging off, mate …

Me     Well, actually, it’s the other way around. I was standing there enjoying the music, when …

He      Button it … there’s people here trying to enjoy the show!

That is rich. And his pet Neanderthals – no offence to that unfortunate species – manage to look offended on behalf of the whole audience. I leave, but only to find a bouncer. Once I’ve told him the problem and he’s reassured me that I can rely on him if there’s any trouble, I go back to stand exactly where I was when so – yes – rudely interrupted. The sound is perfect there and besides, a principle is at stake.

I’m trying to get back in the bubble but now I can’t help wondering why people have to take photos at moments of particular musical intensity, oblivious to the enjoyment of others around them? And why do people sitting down insist that others, inspired to stand up and dance, move out of their personal sightline to the stage when the generous thing would be to enjoy the dancers’ joyful abandon? Is visual obsession the new fascism … oh, buggeration, the gig’s over! 20130114-cellphone-595-1358196043-650x0

Swimming Against The Stream

5 April, 1982, is a day I shall always remember. All afternoon the TV news showed huge crowds waving hundreds and hundreds of union jacks at departing battleships bound for the South Atlantic. The British Task Force was setting off to recapture the Falkland Islands, seized by Argentina just three days earlier. We watched in stunned silence, hardly able to believe our eyes. The speed and scale of it was overwhelming. Oh well, I said in a loud voice to no one in particular, they must know what they’re doing.

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In the kitchen, a pan crashed to the floor. My mother had heard me. She hurtled into the lounge in her apron and in no uncertain terms proceeded to read me the riot act. Her actual words are now a blur but that righteous anger of hers brings a blush to my cheek to this very day.  I can still see my kids on the floor where they were playing, open-eyed and open-mouthed, their faces turned up to watch and hear their grandma – kind, gentle, sweet-natured grandma – tearing into their dad as if he was still a small child himself and one who had been brought up to know much better than to spout such stupid nonsense.

My mum began to hurl imprecations at my head like the Fury in a Greek drama, o ye gods, how on earth could I have forgotten that the Americans had promised they would mediate between us and the Argentinians at the United Nations? Surely I could see that this ridiculous trumped-up farrago of force and hubris was designed to pre-empt negotiations which might yet save lives? This was just another shabby deal behind closed doors, a dirty conspiracy between the hawks in the States and Whitehall, yet one more lost opportunity to employ ‘jaw-jaw not war-war’ … her words return to me in fragments … ‘that man Haig’ … ‘she wants her way, they’re all terrified of her‘ ‘the old, old story’

Once my Mum got going like that, there was no stopping her.

Oh, I try but I can’t really reply to her. There are things I could say in defence of the British action, if only I could think of them, but I’m entirely absorbed in how my kids are reacting to this new and unexpected experience. Their eyes skitter between grandma and daddy, taking in her beautiful anger and my sheepish submission. My cheeks are still burning, more than thirty years later, but now it’s pride and gratitude that lights them up.

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I’m so glad they got to see her like that, in her true colours, flying before the wind of her indomitable human conscience. Whenever she disagreed with something you said, she would use a phrase which she got from her dad who must have heard it from one of his own forebears, a phrase that has always stayed with me … Never, she would say, never in the memory of man

Mum believed that the United Nations was at the summit of all human striving for a better world. She agreed with Thomas Jefferson that the price of freedom was eternal vigilance. And there was no one more vigilant than she, especially when others were climbing on a bandwagon going the other way. That April afternoon, amid all the bunting flying and ships’ horns tooting, never in the memory of man was her contrary clarion call.

And now it was a touchstone my own children would inherit.

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