Saturday, 26 May 2018

All sorts

Image: Perry Harris - another regular

There is a festival organised by some people who use our pub this weekend, and almost all the young lot (or youngish) have gone off to Bruton to spend the weekend in a field, so now there are only old or sensible people drinking in the early evening.

Yesterday I found myself in the middle of a row of friends at the bar and it struck me how egalitarian English pubs are. To my left was an airline pilot, a high-class restauranteur and a 1970/80s pop star, and to my right a seller of vintage clothing, a college lecturer, a publishing media man and a retired British Rail worker. I am a sculptor (of sorts). It could have been a scene from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, or a London Coffee House in the 18th century.

Tomorrow - as part of the Bath Festival - Robert Plant (and a few others) is playing on the Recreation Ground just over the road from me. Mr Plant is a shareholder in our pub, and sometimes pops in for a drink and chat with the locals.

Like I say, you get all sorts and they all come with baggage. Lots of it.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Falling in love again


I have to get a grip. Things are beginning to fall apart. I began by booking in a builder to help me replace the roof tiles smashed off my workshop - again - recently. I will have a massive Spring-clean of the yard as he works.

It is a delicate balance to keep the place looking lived-in without also looking that there could be stuff worth stealing on the inside. There are two types of people who do damage to isolated buildings like mine - opportunists who comb the areas for vulnerable buildings to break into and vandals who think that if a building looks abandoned they will help it on its way by smashing it up even more.

When I left home, I no longer had my mother telling me to tidy my room, so I stopped even thinking of tidying them in all the houses I ever lived in. It is about time I grew up.

Wash the car. It recently began making a horrible clunking sound from the nearside front wheel and I suspected the worst. There were - as I thought - three very expensive options for the cause of the noise, but when I went to collect it from the mechanic, he said it was some sort of counterweight come loose (from driving through all the pot-holes around here) and he fixed it. How much? No charge. I was in a state of near euphoria for the rest of the day.

I think it all boils down to one thing. The more you stop caring for something, the more of a liability it becomes. Deterioration speeds-up the worse it becomes.

Whenever I clean the car, I briefly fall in love with it all over again. Things need love and attention to be at their best. I know I do.

Oh - that Dementor. The angel sculpture in Rachel's church reminded me of it.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The age of innocence


Every day now, there is a party of school children like this one going to visit the gallery. I loved school visits - my favourite was one to Hampton Court - and we never had to wear fluorescent Hi-Viz. I suppose that there were some areas where children could play in the streets in those days, or at least I heard rumours of those places. They were probably in the North, when nobody could afford cars.

There is a sticker on the windscreen of that car saying 'Fucking Classy'.  What, I wonder, is classy about it? In the days when kids could roam safely in the streets, anyone using that language in public would have been arrested and fined.

I went on a school trip to Switzerland once. On it, my friend and I absconded from the main party, bought a large bottle of beer and a large bar of chocolate, then sat by the lake at Interlaken to polish them off. I would say that this was the beginning of a life-long romance with beer, but I had already brewed some of my own years earlier.

I also bought a flick-knife and a bundle of crude cigars. Obviously the Swiss would sell anything to children if it meant making some money. The banks were stuffed with Nazi gold in those days - and probably still are.

As I stood by the lake, fondling my flick-knife, a British policeman on holiday approached me and commanded me to throw it in the water. I refused. He insisted and again I refused. He gave up. He was on holiday and his warrant card did not work in neutral Switzerland.

The night before we boarded the coach to go home, a teacher quietly said that I looked like a sensible boy and asked me to smuggle a gold watch back for him. I felt proud and agreed, so hid it in my luggage alongside the flick-knife.

At the border, customs officers opened the luggage hold and I began quietly shitting myself.

They didn't search my bag, but the experience marked the beginning and end of my career as a smuggler.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Fire and ice


Along with the other 2 billion who watched the wedding yesterday, I am going to add my bit to the all the terabytes of verbiage bouncing off satellites this morning.

When I said that my favourite bit was Bishop Michael Curry's sermon, what I meant was that my favourite bit was watching the entire congregation (apart from the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh) gradually but surely break into smiles and then laughter at his sheer cheek in hi-jacking the ceremony with his Southern-style 'love and fire' tirade.

I particularly liked the bit when - half way through - he stopped short and promised to shut up because "...you all need to get married!" then carry on with the fire bit for another ten minutes. I thought for a moment he was talking about hellfire. He certainly broke the ice. 

At one point toward the end, a camera was trained on the Queen and Prince Phillip. She had her head down in the order of service, but he was gawping open-mouthed at the preacher in disbelief. I think that if he had been a bit younger he would have shouted something abusive out loud, if not got to his feet and wrestled him off the podium, but age has mellowed him.

I think it must have been Prince Charles's idea to sneak in a Greek Orthodox priest to say a few brief words. I have heard rumours that Charles veers toward Greek Orthodoxy and has expressed the ambition to be called 'Defender of the Faiths'  if and when he becomes King.

When you walk down the aisle of St George's Chapel, you pass over the graves of Henry the Eighth and Charles the First. Henry represents the split between England and the Roman Catholic Church and Charles is a stark reminder of what happens when you let republicans control the Anglican Church. Anyone who abolishes Christmas (let alone commit regicide) will not last long in this country.

Everyone is saying how wonderful the little bridesmaids were - one is only two years old. As the huge Rolls Royces swept up the 2.6 mile-long ride to decant them at the West gate to the chapel, they all waved charmingly at the thousands of well-wishers lining the route.

Then I thought, actually, if you put any small child in a huge limo and drive them down the street, their natural instinct would be to wave and smile at everyone on the outside. They wouldn't need to be told to do that any more than once.

I am amazed at how Megan's mother held it together. In a few short days, she has come from being an ordinary social worker in America  to a member of the Royal Family with all that entails. She was so composed for someone who watched her daughter's marriage - seated alone - in a place that could have been Hogwarts, complete with overhead flags and standards.

I don't think she need worry too much though, because most parents with children who marry a royal are soon forgotten - unless they disgrace themselves. I am not so sure how her father will cope though. The British press cannot stop themselves from digging up anything which will cast a shadow on the royals if it sells newspapers. Remember Diana. They actually killed her in pursuit of a scoop.

Long live The Queen...

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Fully-functioning disfunctionals


Rachel has just reminded me of a brilliant book by Sue Townsend called 'The Queen and I'. In it, a bloodless revolution headed by a Jeremy Corbyn-type figure gets the entire Royal Family sent to a small council house on an estate in the suburbs, where they subsist on benefits and the Queen goes shopping for food bargains in the local supermarket.

The Queen copes very well (as I am sure she would in real life), mixing with the neighbours and popping round to borrow cups of sugar, etc. but Prince Phillip falls into a deep depression and spends all day watching TV with the curtains drawn. Occasionally he can be heard shouting things like, "Bloody fuzzy-wuzzies!" at the screen, but that is about all.

When Charles and Diana had their fairy-tale wedding, the court's biggest fear was that Barbara Cartland would gate-crash Westminster Abbey. She was a close relative of both of them, so probably thought she had the right.  Harry and Megan's biggest fear is probably that her father will turn up after all. I can only imagine the off-the-scale levels of anxiety that the organisers must be experiencing right now.

I think that the Royal Family are worth every penny for the entertainment value alone.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Give the man the Nobel Peace Prize

Days before a history-making summit between the USA, North and South Korea as the beginning of the end of the nuclear program in the region, Trump organises a joint military exercise between South Korea and his own country. Brilliant strategy.

Now, be honest, are you still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt?

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Don't call me anti-Semitic

I'm sorry. I have tried not to talk about this - not because I might upset people who may disagree with me, but because I don't want to ruin my day/s by getting angry. I have to talk about it though, even though it may provoke arguments amongst us peace-loving/seeking people.

Trump. He opens the new American Embassy in Jerusalem on the very 70th anniversary of the founding of the Israeli State. People begged him to defer for fear of how this would foment even more violence at what was already predicted to be a very violent date, but he seems to need the support in his own country from Evangelist Christians, never mind the Jews.

As also predicted, the Palestinian demonstrators gathered on their side of the fence - the only side available to them - and the IDF shot them in their thousands -  THROUGH the fence as they stood.

Of course they were carrying wire-cutters, and of course some of them threw stones or petrol bombs at the well-defended Israeli forces, but to shoot them with live ammunition as a first option was an unforgivable thing to do without first resorting to water-cannon or rubber bullets as any other civilised country's army would do when faced with such a small threat. Of course HAMMAS people were there - never mind what you think of them (and I don't think much) they are the only legitimate representatives of ordinary Palestinian people. Some of those ordinary Palestinians were children - shot in the back.

The Israeli government feel they are unassailable because they now have the unconditional  backing of the USA. They think that they can get away with murder. Perhaps they will.

Trump has been pressing for the Nobel Peace prize, not that he needs the cash.