Friday, December 30, 2011

Why did you marry a Brit, Katy?

So there goes another promising Anglo American relationship – Katy Perry and Russell Brand are to divorce after a mere 14 months ending a relationship that had more promise than – I don’t know – Liz Taylor’s marriage to Larry Fortensky.

This one is somewhat shocking because Katy and Russell were seen as the uber cool couple. However, according to the Sun newspaper they had a “huge row,” – a good term that like their marriage, doesn’t translate – and Brand spent Christmas in none so hip Cornwall.

The Sun newspaper said a source told US Weekly mag the pair had a massive row, saying: "She was like, 'F*** you. I'm going to do my own thing'."

The source said that Russell replied: "Fine, f*** you too."

So in such profound terms one of the most talked about relationships of recent years ended…

If there’s a message to come out of this – and who knows if there is or not – it’s don’t marry a Brit. Americans may like the quirky, offbeat humor thing. They may have seen Notting Hill a few times but the reality is we are unreliable and crap and we’re not very funny after a couple of months. And we hate to put out the trash. We start to miss the strangest things like warm beer and fish and chips that don’t taste like cardboard and we realize we’d be happier watching Newcastle United after the fifth pint of Newcastle Brown.

In recent years we have seen a number of these Transatlantic gigs falter as surely as SkyTrain, which is a very old allusion. Take Madonna and Guy Ritchie, a union that straddled all the stereotypes from the obligatory vows in a Scottish castle to Madonna becoming an honorary Brit, owning horses and trotting round her Wiltshire estate blah, blah. For a while we adopted Madonna as real down to earth Londoner ignoring her obvious lack of any discernible sense of humor.

Guy, in contrast, remained being a regular Guy, albeit one from a privileged background, and later said he didn’t have any regrets, especially as the marriage improved his film career. Spoken like a true Brit.

Now I’m on to taking bets about how long Gwyneth Paltrow will remain with the ginger bloke from Coldplay.

While I never had much time for Madonna as an individual, although I have a soft spot for her as a singer, I have a soft spot for Katy Perry as an individual while I have no time for her as a singer.

I didn’t know much about Russell Brand to start with.  In fact I was rather shocked because I thought Katy, who is kind of cute, even if her eyes are a bit close together, was marrying Russell Grant.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Alas and Santa sucked too

As I predicted in my last post about the Tooth Fairy, Santa wasn't really up to scratch either. He forgot to put anti freeze in the sledge, the reindeer entered a parallel universe in which they believed they were workers at a French airport and promptly went on strike at the prospect of visiting x billion kids in just one night.

I wrapped presents with Zara the night before and we put out cookies for Santa; we even sprinkled reindeer food on the lawn late at night which seemed rather surreal with the neighbor's white car rumbling up and down outside as they went out on nocturnal drug deals.

We went to bed with some kind of vague idea of waking up at 4 a.m. to do the Santa thing but it didn't quite happen. The next thing I knew it was 7: 52 a.m. and I heard Zara yelling: "Has he come yet?"

Cue a lot of confused throat clearing and mumbling.

"Houston we have a problem."

Not only was Zara's door wide open but Santa had obviously been a no show and wrapping paper was lying around the floor.

We sprung into containment mode, locking down her room and finding her presents - no mean feat in itself because some were in the car, her new bike was in the shed and quite a few of them have failed to achieve lift off from the store, although to be fair her list amounted to two pages of A4 and contained a veiled threat that reindeer would be decapitated if Santa delivered the wrong kind of Angry Bird.

Still it was another great escape - albeit one without Steve McQueen and motorbikes. Zara fell for the fact Santa had really visited our humble abode and taken a bite out of the cookie, even though I still had the telltale crumbs around my mouth. Had she not heard the hasty rustling of wrapping paper or noticed it was the same stuff we had wrapped around presents the night before?

My colleague Joe who also has a 7-year-old child has an interesting theory on this. It's not actually that interesting and probably quite prosaic for anyone who doesn't have a 7-year-old.

A few months ago, he tells me, his 7-year-old David was asking probing questions as to the existence of Santa. Some of these questions didn't have easy answers such as what aerodynamic forces exactly keep reindeer suspended in mid air and how does Santa visit every kid in the whole world in one night?

But then a few weeks before Christmas David stopped asking questions and became unfaltering again in his belief in Santa. Because he wanted to believe he believed, Joe told me, even though his rapidly developing intellect was telling him otherwise. Kind of like God for grown-ups, I suppose.

Still Joe surmised that this would be the last Christmas his seven-year-old would believe. This made me sad in an indescribable and abstract way; our childhoods are less an awakening than a long series of realizations at how our parents have betrayed us.

Until the final betrayal when they leave us altogether but we have to fill our closets and sheds with their forlorn belongings - just because.

(the house is not ours BTW)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The tooth fairy as a slovenly bag lady

The tooth fairy was shambolic; she was more like a wrinkly old bag lady living in an beaten up car.

"Sparkle me some glitter dust on last night's beef and cheddar wrapper from Arby's will you love?"

Here I am back from another day of ever deceasing circles, orbiting around abstract meaninglessness and the shelves of a supermarket where I forgot to get half of the items texted to me on the list.

"Zara's lost a tooth - a big one at the front."

"Great. I'll check it out," I said persuading her to open her mouth and show me the gap so as I could laugh at the gap toothed effect so beloved of clowns and vagabonds the world over, peddlers of cheap mirth. (I could never see the point of Benny Hill).

"I can't believe you are laughing at her. She's been upset all day," my wife snapped at me.

"Oh." And I declined to reply that if diplomacy was my strong suit I'd probably be hosting Bill Clinton at some reception at the embassy in Laos hoping he didn't reach for the cigar box.

If the downside of losing a tooth is a disfigurement, the upside (at least for kids) is the visit of the tooth fairy. Don't ask me where this tradition came from but it's there and it doesn't seem to apply to the loss of other body parts. If Mike Tyson happens to chew off your ear there is no corresponding ear fairy to make you feel better. If Lorena Bobbit ... well you get the idea.

Zara demanded $20.

"Get out of here. I could fly to Hawaii and stay there for a week," I said somewhat insincerely. But hey - I'm cheap. If you can chase the roaches around the hotel room it saves the cost of a safari.

The morning rolled around, as it tends to round these parts, and my wife was rushing around and tearing apart my wallet. Zara had woken up and the tooth was still under her pillow. The tooth fairy was in serious big shit, banged up in some cell facing a DUI charge and getting unsettling looks from an overweight and brutal looking deputy.

We managed to salvage $3 and a mittful of quarters (which sounds like a low budget remake of a Clint Eastwood Western) that were wedged under some books on the floor. And by a somewhat shambolic sleight of hand the tooth fairy rearranged her dishevelled  dress and slipped the filthy lucre under the pillow.

Zara was none the wiser and swallowed the tale that the tooth fairy leaves behind large teeth for unspecified scientific purposes, but it's to be hoped that Santa puts down the crack pipe long enough to get his act together for Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Try to remember you're a Womble

I hanker for Britain when I read stories like the one about the Womble removing his head before the cameras stopped rolling and wrecking a lot of kids' dreams. Good old Britain - so progressive and yet so caught in a time warp.

London may have unnerved me last time I was there because everyone was so young and so trendy and so obvioulsy un-British. And yet the Wombles - those loveable rubbish (sorry not garbage guys) collectors from Wimbledon Common are still in vogue.

In fact they are so current that a new generation of children believe they are real. So when Mike Batt removed his head before the cameras had stopped rolling on a recent TV show there was an outcry from children and their parents. It was as if someone had stood up and declared: "Santa Claus is really your dad," and your presents don't arrive in a sledge but a Fort Fiesta.

This story stops me dead in my tracks because I grew up with the Wombles. The song "Underground, overground, Wombling free," was the theme of my childhood in suburbia. And yet the Wombles are not only still living and breathing but kids believe they are real an dthey are in with a shout of being Number One at Christmas - another great tradition that's lost on Americans. But if you are British Mistletoe and Whine is ... well a sort of gawky part of your heritage.

The Wimbledon Guardian reather alarmingly refered to the Womble incident as the "Womble 'severed head' debacle."

The other remarkable thing about this story is the fact that it mentions DJ Simon Mayo; someone who was a fixture of my adolescence if not my childhood. It's extremely reassuring that the likes of Uncle Bulgaria and Orinoco are still ambling around Britain which makes me wonder if Dougal and the Magic Roundabout and Bagbuss are doing the rounds still, although surely not the Clangers, who I tried to introduce to my daughter recently only be be told they were "boring and lame."

And what of Captain Pugwash? - and was it really an urban myth that this show was pulled off air because it contained characters called Master Bates and Seaman Stains.

Of course if you talk to Americans about furry Wombles and Dougal they tend to look at you in a funny way and you can see that look pass over their face as they desperately seek the phne number for social services to dial up a restraining order.

Which is the way I like it, really.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Swept away by the sea - Kitty Hawk pier

I was glad Nancy's memorial service was by the sea because the sea puts life in perspective.

Men and women live and die and the sea simply turns its rounded shoulders, shrugs them and sloughs off, pulling the sand beneath it. About 70 percent of the earth is ocean. As land dwellers we are clinging to the edge of a great watery abyss; we are as insignificant as the grains of sand on the beach.

And as we pass on there are many to take our place. I'd like to say I was moved during the memorial service and I was in places but I spent most of it trying to stop Jax Jax screaming out. BlackBerry therapy only worked to a point - and that was the point where he texted a particularly bad tempered councilman who I had last spoken to on acrimonious terms five years ago.

But beyond the pier house with its Pepsi signs that evoked jaunty times by the sea so many years ago, the great waves crashed on and on, oblivious. They pulled us to the ground where men once made flight.

Funny how our parents always took us to the sea when we were kids. Without fail they would head to the coast as if they had ran out of ideas and wanted to slip off the edge like pre Columbus sailors. And at the first sign of the water my father would strike up the familiar mantra: "I can see the sea through the trees."

And still we see the sea through the trees, although we have long ago departed our childhood selves who would get giddy with excitement at the silvery water and the smell of brine in our nostrils. I wonder if we all remember that time when suddenly we were on the beach with our parents and we didn't want to be there anymore. I recall looking around at the flat dull expanse of the sand and seeing the resort for what it really was, a crumbling piece of nostalgia that I didn't want a part of anymore.

My daughter can spend hours on a chilly beach while I chafe with impatience to leave. But one day she will no longer care about her bucket and spade and something will die inside me. Just like the days when I raced my dad and one day I won and saw him panting and suddenly I was sorry I had won.

Back at the house with the death of Nancy a tie had been broken, a cord that held a bundle of letters has snapped, sending correspondence scattering to the ground.

The order was gone and photograph albums lay haphazard on the floor, some of them spilling pictures - my wife as a kid, paddles and trees and inevitably the sea. And it seemed strange how I felt those childhood days would never end - like the trails I carved in the sand as the sun slipped low over the Cornish coast. Or the day when the fog lay low over the rock pool and I jumped on and on, across briny pools until I came across a huge red crab, magnificent and triumphant as the sun came slanting through the mist.

But to grow up was to lose the randomness of rock hopping and to forget the impetuousness of youth. Yet back at Nancy's house something had slipped; suddenly the children were taking over. There were screams and possies of them and menacing figures in the yard clutching huge plastic guns and whatever they could plunder from the house.

Like a revolution there were forces we could no longer control. It was time to move over or to be swept aside.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leave it to Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Casey Anthony

It's been a tough week following the sudden death of my mother in law and I can't thank my blog followers out there enough for your kind comments that I will respond to shortly.

It's also been a week when I have been rethinking a lot. It occured to me this week that giving 120 percent all the time at work can be rather unproductive. You still end up being kicked around while the people who give 20 percent will be promoted. There was a tale, that may be urban myth, about a worker who died at his desk and nobody noticed for 24 hours. It struck me that this could easily happen to me; in fact people would probably have one sided conversations with a somewhat dead me and not even notice until I failed to comply with a piece of unnecessary paperwork.

So it really is time to revamp my life but how? I have read about people whose blogs make them vast amounts of money but I can't really see how this would happen. Brits experienced something of a spike in readers just over a year ago, and slid down the virtual Matterhorn to level out at a respectable but hardly earth shattering 150 or so views a day.

I think Brits isn't going anywhere fast because I haven't mentioned Justin Bieber enough. I know a bit more about who he is than a year ago and I still can't see the point. But I have forgotten the mantra and neglected Bieber. Have I said I haven't mentioned Justin Bieber enough.

But a lot of people have him on their easily distracted little minds a lot, it seems. A recent survey found Bieber was the most searched person on line in 2011.

And the second most searched person I'm quite mortified to say was Kim Kardashian, a character who gives the Biebs about as much depth as Albert Einstein in comparison. Kim and Justin don't have a lot in common but they do succeed in looking rather like waxworks of themselves.

The most searched news story was the trial of Casey Anthony and somewhat surprisingly the most searched for sports star was Maria Sharapova.

The most searched for musician was - I don't need to say, of course - and the most searched for show was American Idol.

This list is somewhat depressing because it reveals how shallow we have all become; if we weren't that way to begin with. It's the stuff of reality TV junkies and disaffected bloggers desperately seeking a bit more SEO juice guv.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In Memoriam

I had to get away from it all. So I walked. My gait was halting in last night's shirt and Bill's crocks that were too large for my feet.

But the small beach was close and the weather strangely warm for December. I could hear birds whittering away in the trees, three whispy clouds were painted on a peerless blue sky. Such a cruel day to die, although technically the time of death was the night before and the small neighborhood beach ten worlds away from the sterile room at the back of the hospital.

It was the first time I had stared at the work of death, waxy, yellow and undone and while I was grateful for dodging death for half my life, it had caught up with me. Still the words of John Donne marched around my head.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so:

Death struck me as a sickly and a mean thing, not at all mighty, a hobgoblin panhadler that had stolen the vibrancy and magnificent from her face.

And death left me speechless, weak and wavering. Absent minded and wandering, mouthing at cupboards. I was lost unlike my dear wife who put up with so much but complained so little.

Only the beach drew me with any purpose, away to the small jetty and the drifting blueness of the sound. Souls drift away on such days and we can only watch and wonder at the ebb and the flow. I recalled a sunset when I was here before. Noah threw stones in the water and Rob showed him sticks. Still the distance between us went well beyond the beach. Rob was already drifting away and soon would be a name without a face. And the child was an adolescent now, although I had not seen him for a long while.

From a house on the bay I heard laughter from a yard sale and remembered a similar sale here two years ago when we had laughed as I picked up a bulky JVC camcorder for $1 only to throw it away.

Now these people were separated from me both in time and mood. In a way I wanted to be anonymous as if this small beach was a microcosm of the desert island I longed to be a small black figure on, lost in sunsets, like driftwood on the rocks. My mother-in-law could be difficult but she had a big heart; at least until it packed up.

The occasional spats were as insignificant as fragments of shells in the bigger picture of the world, so why did we let them fester? And the words of one of the saddest songs caught in my throat.

Of all the things I should've said,
That I never said.
All the things we should've done,
That we never did.
All the things I should've given,
But I didn't. 

More than 40 years ago there was a wedding of college sweethearts. I don't know the details but picture a small white, clapperboard church. I picture hope springing from the roadside verges. But they went their separate ways and their paths seldom crossed and only bitterness grew from the verges. At least until they were reunited within the year - walking down a valley where we assume there is no sea. A place from whence no traveler returns.

This woman's Work - Kate Bush

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