Friday, June 28, 2013

Bring Out Your Dead Posts - Guest Blog Month Reminder

I blogged some time ago about how July is Guest Blogging Month because it's just too hot and sweaty around these parts for me to blog. Better to find a shady corner to sit in and moan about the heat.

I had forgotten briefly about Guest Blogging Month but have now remembered. Thanks to everyone who agreed to send me a guest post. You know who you are. At least I hope you do because I'm buggered if I do. But I have a list somewhere. Let's see. Err.

And there's still a chance for those of you who have been waking up in the night, worried that you are not taking part to join up. There are no sign up sheets or the like, just email me your post.

I'm fine with old, recycled or plain dead. Feel free to send an image of yourself, your favorite cat or your aunt Mable's false teeth.

In the meantime enjoy this Monty Python sketch.....

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Sad Tale of Aunt Norma and Easterhouse

Every family has its dark secret and ours was aunt Norma who had the misfortune to inherit a deadly cocktail of illegitimacy, smoldering good looks and a low IQ.

She was taken in and grew up with my father and his brothers but grew apart or was severed - we never knew. In the gray maisonette with its hard pebble dash surfaces, table cloths scrubbed clean and sparse bowl of plastic fruit there were no surfaces cluttered enough to hold secrets. Or so it seemed.

Needs a lick of paint - Easterhouse

Yet when she walked into the room that all changed. She had dark wandering eyes and the air of a Gypsy. Conversations would die and be lulled when she walked in the room. She would light a cigarette and throats would clear. The smoke would hang in the air like the folds of an Arabian tent and then she was gone.

And into the silence would move hushed voices, cracking up and down; caressing her name and jabbing her in the lulls. Even as children we would pick up on the verbal darts. We had a keen nose for a family scandal.

A year or so later we sat in a flat and watched the cracks spreading like fractured spiders across the plaster on the ceiling. The window were too wide and let too much of the city in. The bulldozers moved outside and the buildings around hung open and gaunt. A highway rumbled nearby and the great city was moving in.

Norma and her beau Tommy sat in a blue haze. My parents shifted uneasily in their seats. A baby wailed in the next room.

Tommy was sunken and the green tattoos pulled at his arms. The cigarette burned low and threatened to singe his parchment skin. I can't remember now if Tommy spoke of jail or mentioned Barlinnie or Peterhead. I recall seeing Norma pallid and losing the only thing she ever had, as condemned as the dank walls around her.

A year later the city swallowed the apartment but they had a new home. Easterhouse was outside the great city. The name made me think of pastel colored eggs, daffodils and a new beginning. We were happy that Norma and Tommy were finally going places. It was spring, although a low cloud hung in the eggshell sky.

You didn't need to be one of Glasgow's urban planner to laugh at the naivety of my parents. You just had to turn off the M8 to be confronted by a high treeless plain topped with a maze of ragged gray concrete. Once inside the feeder roads the vast place swallowed us up, a world of limp washing lines, old mattresses and grass that never grew properly weaved with dog feces and used syringes.

For an hour or two we sat inside the flat as gangs of teenagers staged first fights in the streets and pushed a mattress out of the window of an empty tenement. We drove away as soon as we could before night fell on the place.

It was the last time I saw her. Norma and Tommy split up soon afterwards. There were a couple of kids who ended up in children's homes. The last time we received word of Norma she had moved south to England where she was working the streets of Leicester. Somehow, somewhere she was swallowed up. She was never heard of again and nobody bothered to invoke her ghost.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Inspirational Liebster Award Nominations Are As Follows...

A special shout out to Yolanda Renee at Defending the Pen for nominating me for the Inspirational Liebster blogging award. I have been somewhat award averse of late due to time pressures so am pleased to be doing this one, particuarly as it doesn't seem to be one of the onerous one that requires you to find the birth certificate of your cat from 10th grade.

The Questions and My Answers


Birmingham, England


Portsmouth, Virginia




The Constant Gardener


I am re-reading 1984 but Big Brother (ie. the Portsmouth library) wants it back.


I party like it's 1973.


Wild is the Wind by David Bowie


Beginnings, middles and endings and writing agent query letters that result in success or even a polite response.


The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


Dionysus, because he was the God of Wine which beats whine or war.


No idea. The kids always eat them before I can get my paws on them.


1 I can still remember all the words of An Irish Airman by William Butler Yeats.

2 I have a recurring dream that I am at school at I have missed French classes for 20 years.

3 I'm the only person I know who broke a bone falling off the bottom of a mountain

4 I think I would win a medal at the Olympics, but only if spilling food or coffee on myself was elevated to an Olympic sport

5 I once interviewed a suicide bomber but he didn't bother to tell me at the time.

6 I once had a conversation with actress Emma Thompson without realizing who she was.

7 I have a phobia about belly buttons.

My Nominees....

Rowena at Designs by Row

Deborah Wischhheeelow (whatever) at Fashion Plate.

Dee at DeeCoded.

Lisa at Flash Fiction

Kittie Howard at Kittie Howard

Robyn Engel at Life by Chocolate

Sarah Hague at St Bloggie De Riviere

Here are the rules for the Inspirational Liebster Blogger Award:

1. Display logo in your blog to show you've been nominated!
2. Link back to your nominator.
3. Share 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 7 other bloggers for the award.
5. Notify your nominees.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's Father's Day - Let's Get Sanctimonious for Godfather's Sake

So there's a guy I used to work with who has finally got round to having a kid with the help of his wife, or girlfriend - I can't remember which.

So he spent a lot of time publishing kid pics on Facebook, as we all do at first probably from ultrasound to 2 hours old, although hopefully not preconception.

Now the guy is posting stuff about how the bullshit in life pales into insignificance now he has a kid, blah, blah.

And now he's posting memes, or whatever they are known as, telling everyone what real fathers should do. "A Man who doesn't spent time with his family is not a real man," says Brando as the Godfather.

For some reason I find this sort of thing irritating, I wouldn't go to say this is a hate blog, but it's certainly an irritation blog as the kids have been driving me somewhat nuts today, although manageably so.

But really there's something kind of irritating about a guy who has had a kid for all of 4 days, making out he knows all of the ins and outs of the kid business like he's Jon and Kate Plus Eight and Lots of Hate - so glad they have disappeared where the sun doesn't shine anyhow.

When you have been a parent  for a long time and the awe factor wears off, you realize it's not so black and white. You always love your kids but they can be a real pain at times. Sometimes you are a good father and sometimes you are a crap father. You'll forget things and say things you regret.

Still I guess it's OK as long as you're always there for them. Just please slap me hard  if I post some 'what a perfect dad should be' memes.

Suffice to say I am reticent to find Father's Day role models - but there's always Orlando Shaw from Nashville, TN who has rather a lot of kids apparently. he may fall short of being a model father but it seems he's hung like a blue whale. All of which means lot of Father's Day cards - containing demands for money...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Announcing Guest Blogging Month..

Lately I have noticed a certain ennui entering into my blogging efforts. It may be a delayed hangover from the A to Z Challenge or perhaps my blog is like a dog who was kind of cute and interesting as a puppy, but is now another chore and I can't be bothered to take it out for a walk.

Lately I have been feeling decadent. I would like to find a hookah bar to hang out in and smoke that big pipey thing but am out of luck round these parts. What alarms me the most is I'm starting to think Nero was not such a bad bloke and there is much to be said for hanging out in a toga eating grapes and drinking wine, fiddling while Rome burns. I think there was some sort of unfortunate mother issue going on with Nero, but we can gloss over that.

I'm noticing this blog fatigue with other bloggers too having just read the most recent post by my good bloggy pal Mina Lobo.

At this juncture some people will bang on about taking a blogging break which is cue for followers to react on mass: "Don't go. Don't leave me now, now, now," or something to that effect.

I'm not disappearing into blogging obscurity. My idea is delegation. Yes I am going to designate July as guest blogging month which means I'll be posting other people's stuff all month. Not every day. Just when I can be bothered.

I don't want this to entirely sound as if I want to use you and your writing because I'm feeling lazy. There's some great stuff out there and I intend to get into the showcasing business. I will already be showcasing one of Patricia Lynn's fabby posts on July the - errm I can't remember. Anyhow.

So comment here if you want to be showcased. Oh you know you want to. And chuck me an email closer to the time with your post and a pic of yourself or your favorite budgerigar - I don't care.

I'm also invoking the NBITW clause which translates as No Blog is To Weird; unless it's like sinister weird.

Sooo let me know if you want to join the party..

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why is Calvin Harris Living in Sexy Garden?

This has been bugging me for a while, so I thought I would take up the misheard lyrics theme again. There was a song I kept hearing on the radio about someone living in or on Sexy Garden. It made me wonder where Sexy Garden was, whether it was a theme park and also if I could buy a ticket to the hottest hot house in town.

Cue heavy breathing theme park host: "And here are the perennial begonias - don't you find them sooo sexy? I mean just look at those stems.."

I wasn't quite sure about this lyric. At first I hoped it would go away. But every time I went to spin class the song was played, mainly because there's a really fast bit that makes your legs speed up and you sweat like an unsexy pig that would have no place porking around in the vegetable patch in Sexy Garden.

Despairingly I Googled the lyric and it took me to the right song, meaning there are plenty people who are as stupid or obsessed with horticultural sex as me. The song is actually called Sweet Nothing and it's by a Scottish geezer called Calvin Harris.

I tried to get hold of Calvin to berate him for creating the illusion that Sexy Garden was really out there but couldn't track him down. Maybe he's on some remote island fitting himself up for a tartan skirt. Well anyhow the Sexy Garden lyric goes.

And it's hard to learn
And it's hard to love
When you're giving me such sweet nothing

So there you go. How Sweet Nothing becomes Sexy Garden I have no idea. Seems I have written about misheard lyrics before. I wonder if Bonnie Tyler is still getting to grips with her hard egg. Is Sting still wailing "A year has gone since I broke my nose," and is Robert Palmer still reconciled to the truism. "Might as well face it, you're a dick with a glove?"

Or at least the Addicted to Love singer might be if he wasn't dead. Belated thanks to JoJo for reducing the Beatles classic to "The girl with colitis goes by."

Incidentally the video is a bit disturbing. Don't watch it. Just rely on my summary. It's about a man who appears to be dissatisfied with his fish and chips and gets battered.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

England Half Remembered - Avebury Stone Circle

Sometimes it's hard to accurately describe what I miss about Britain so I fall back on the trite in conversations - proper fish and chips and warm beer. That kind of thing.

But if I'm honest it's probably the gentleness of the land, the soft contours and days that are more subtle in their hues than here and the landscapes that are less savage; the autums when the nights are closing in and you find yourself in a remote country pub with the woodsmoke drifting over the moors.

It can be difficult to describe. The longer you live in America, the greater danger you are in of slipping into stereotype, until you have to don a red baseball jacket and white sneakers and fly to Stratford on Avon to yell: "It's so quaint. These houses must be 200 years old."

Once I lived a few score miles from Avebury Stone Circle on the Wiltshire Downs. It's less well known than Stonehenge but is the biggest stone circle in Europe. In many ways I prefer it to Stonehenge because it isn't surrounded by visitor centers, ropes and gaggles of visitors. Instead the stones circle a pleasant little village and you can walk around it in solitude on a spring evening when the clouds cast long shadows on England's green and pleasant land.

All around there is magic and strange feeling of a mysterious past long before Christianity. Nearby Silbury Hill is the largest man made mound in Europe. It rises like a strange angular spaceship from an early Sci Fi movie from the level downs. It remains a mystery.

Avebury Stone Circle is Neolithic and was constructed in about 2600 BC. Archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremony.

It's humbling to stand in the shadow of the stones as twilight falls on the downs and tiny flinty stars spring up in the evening sky. You realize your place in the great sweep of manind, the universe and the strange mystery of creation. And all of your daily worries are frankly insignificant. You could lose yourself on these downs and nothing would really matter.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Twin Lakes State Park, VA - 10 Things I had Forgotten About Camping

I took the kids to Twin Lakes State Park this weekend. It has been ages since I had last camped and I had vague memories of inconveniences, like that time I forgot a foam mat and almost froze to death in Scotland. How hard could I be, I thought. I picked up a tent, some sleeping bags and two air mattresses in Wal-Mart. As we say in Britain, to the complete befuddlement of people in the US. Bob's your uncle.

I won't say it went completely to plan.

10 Things I had forgotten About Camping

1 Tents don't put themselves up and the process can be stressful at midday when the temperatures are nudging 90 degrees and you don't realize a certain plug goes in a certain hole. Still only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the Midday Sun. Thank God for the useful bloke on Plot 12.

2 No matter how good or top of the line your air mattress is it always seems to deflate. On the positive side the nozzle on the battery operated pump worked. On the not so positive side you pay for what you get. These mattresses cost $19 each at Wal-Mart. The nice felt covered top was an insignificant bonus when it ended up like a pancake on the floor.

3 Camp barbecues sound like a nice idea but they need a spark. The one match the sneering park warden gave me did not a fire make. Thank God for the people with a lighter on Plot 14. Even if they were drunken rednecks.

4 The need to have a pee at 4 a.m. Yes who can forgot that sensation of tottering around in your walking boots with your feet half way in them and balancing like a woman on over high heels after two bottles of Merlot as you stagger towards the undergrowth hoping a snake doesn't jump out.

5 The need for kids to have a pee at 4 a.m. Do you accompany the kid who wants a pee to the toilet block and leave another kid alone in the tent to act as a decoy for bears or do you tell the kids to go and pee in the bushes?

6 The lack of air conditioning in a tent. But at least there's a flappy thing you can pull open to let in some breeze and vampire bats

7 The fact the shower blocks on camp sites aren't regularly filled with designer bottles of body lotion and conditioner. You had an old bar of soap and it's in the back of the car somewhere.

8 The fact there are no fridges in tents. Yes you felt like a cool, street smart American camper when you tipped the ice into the cooler earlier in the day. But now the box of burgers is saturated and they become a pulpy mass when you realize there's no knife to open the plastic covering and you are trying to break the seal with a car key.

9 Night crawler displacement. A disorientated child climbs all over you in the middle of the night and you wake blabbering about dreams involving giant spiders.

10 Evil looking flying bugs the size of rabbits with wings that turn the kids into screaming maniacs every time they see them.

It wasn't all bad. The lake had a pleasant beach that the kids liked to hang out on. It's always good to drive almost three hours for an inland beach when you have so many half an hour away.

I Don't Queue : Does That Make Me Unpatriotic?

I'm bemused by the scenes from Westminster today. People are queuing for 24 hours to see a wooden box. OK, it's a fancy box surround...