Thought For The Day

I considered standing outside the doors of the local superstore before they opened at midnight on Black Friday, shouting:

“Remember people, you will save even more money if you don’t buy anything at all!”

but I didn’t think that they would be eloquent enough to stand as my last words when I am killed in the stampede.

Black Friday Blues

Chaos. Utter, crazed, consumer chaos. Imported from the US to cause mayhem on our shores.

People fighting over flat screen televisions that must surely have been smashed to bits in the process. People getting injured. People being arrested. Shoppers refusing to leave stores when all of the special deals have run out. People rolling in the aisles as a bemused guy stands in the middle of it all with a look that said ‘I only came in for a tin of beans.’



I normally steer well clear of such media-orchestrated stampedes, but it just so happened that my wife’s day off coincided with this day of all days, when all she wanted us to do was to nip into Manchester, pick up some pyjamas for my Mum, for Christmas, and maybe have some lunch. Such a simple wish list should surely have helped us to avoid all of the animal instinctive madness, shouldn’t it?

We never made into Manchester.

As we headed along the main road into town, a car on a side street suddenly ploughed into our passenger side, into the door I was leaning against. My wife did an admirable job of keeping control as we were shunted sideways.


I ended up in A&E having my hip and jaw checked out, and an X-Ray of my shoulder revealed that thankfully it was only bruised.

It could have been a lot worse. Both my wife and I, along with the driver of the other car, escaped serious injury. And I am grateful that our children weren’t travelling with us.

I didn’t even want to go to flaming Manchester- we only went for those pyjamas! I think I will give my Mum vouchers.

Happy Black Friday everyone. Let’s do it again next year.



Grit And Grease

I have just finished reading East Bay Grease, by Eric Miles Williamson, a tough, gritty, coming of age story set in 1960’s and 70’s poor/working class Oakland, in America. The boy in the novel came from the same kind of neglected background as the children we looked after back in the days when my wife and I were foster carers.   image When reading it, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own beginnings, in my instance 1970’s Britain. I never considered it a poor neighbourhood where I lived for my early, formative years, but an older cousin once told me that when she was travelling to visit us with her mother, she asked which house was ours, to which my aunt replied “It’s the one with the lights on.” Her daughter thought that she was joking, until she did indeed see that most of the houses on that long street were in darkness.

This was the place I lived up until the age of around seven. My Dad had only recently come to terms with the fact that, due to ill health, he would be unable to work again, and so in a case of role reversal, more unusual in those times, my mother went out to work while he took care of us at home.

Being born right at the end of ’71, I was not quite five when the record heatwave of 1976 arrived, so my memories of that time are sketchy. I do remember though, having to wear a navy blue vest instead of a t-shirt as my shoulders were sporting large blisters from being badly sunburnt, and also prominent is the moment when these ‘bubbles’ popped. That was the year when we were actually appointed a Minister for Drought, the year when the countryside turned brown, and where I lived the tar on the road melted. Hosepipes were banned, and the government encouraged people to save water and ‘bath with a friend.’ I am sure some friendships were severely tested by that advice. That long hot, dry, summer also brought with it a ladybird invasion. I remember going on a trip to the zoo, and they were everywhere.  Thick swarms, dropping on people from the trees and covering benches that people wanted to sit on. Kids, I included, were trying to eat ice cream or candy floss that were dotted with dozens of the crawling things.


I always seemed to be outdoors in those years. The days of being enslaved by Facebook and, dare I say it, WordPress, were a long, unimaginable way off. I would be out playing with now faceless mates who have, but for a couple of them, also become nameless, too. The specifics have been stolen from me, but not the general outline of what we did together.

Using broken glass as a magnifying glass, burning holes into pieces of wood. Running over prickle and brick strewn crofts in pursuit of passing, musical parades. Exploring and falling, making dens and tight knit gangs. The first, merchandise-driven movie arrived in the shape of Star Wars in ’77, and everyone went sci-fi crazy. A friend used to walk around stiff legged, claiming he was C3PO, and we all swapped our bubblegum card doubles whilst indulging in a little lightsaber fighting before tea. All of this was played out to a soundtrack of Abba, Brotherhood of Man, Slade, T Rex, and The Bay City Rollers. And then the following year Danny made a play for Sandy at Rydell High and the girls the country over got their own fixation.

Whether they did in my own neighbourhood I can only presume, because by that point I had moved home, leaving my pals and heatwave struggles behind. I remember much of those early years, and all of these memories are anchored in a place that seemingly was much brighter and larger than the decades which followed.

Those images are still fixed, still anchored, in that distant ideal, but now they are fading slightly in colour, and are beginning to curl a little at the edges.

Claws For The Weekend:Two Beleaguered Wife Stories

On Thursday, my wife Jen came home from work early, ill. In the evening she was sat on the couch with a blanket over her. She said “I am weak, I feel like a blow up doll.”  I said “I feel like one too, but I’ve no idea where they sell them.” You should have seen the look on her face. I sometimes forget that she works in the funeral business, and can bury me for free. image   Then last night Jen, my seven year old daughter, and myself, were all watching the ‘eating bush tucker trial’ on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Poor Jimmy and Kendra had to munch their way through such fayre as bug cocktails, cow’s lips, pig’s eyes, pig’s nose, sheep testicles, ostrich feet, and live witchetty grubs. image   During the challenge, Kendra had to eat an antelope’s penis. One of the show’s hosts, Dec, asked her “What does it taste like?” Kendra replied “It tastes like penis.” My daughter Millie exclaimed “Aww…I love peanuts.” Jen nearly had a heart attack. We managed to wing the resulting questions. image Have a great weekend, people. See you on the flip side. If we survive it.

Bon appétit.

When Moonlight Falls

I have been sorting through my accumulated clutter, and found this poem which I wrote when I was around nineteen. Oh the days.

When Moonlight Falls

When moonlight falls upon
the garden's shore,
And no slumber can deny
its insistent beams,
She comes, unbidden, 
through locked door.
Wandering purposely 
through his drifting dreams.

She has been present in
every dream he's dreamt,
Invoking a union 
of the mind.
An age of nights, whilst 
sound he slept,
He has lived a life
that transcends time.


That November Feeling

Yes, yes, I know exactly what my last post was: all about how we should not begin to think about celebrating and getting excited about Christmas until we are in December. But just how is a man supposed to stick to his principles when you nip into the town center and the kids spy a couple of reindeer? Not just any couple of reindeer, but reindeer belonging to him, no less.



I did try to examine the credentials of the three elves, as one was pushing six feet tall. “Aren’t you a bit tall to be an elf?” I asked. But it seems that they have relaxed the criteria these days. They will take on anybody. I suppose that if anyone is going to be equal opportunities, it would be Santa.

And straight from stumbling across his two reindeer, we then encountered the big man himself. On passing through the doors to the shopping center, we found a long line of eager children and beaming adults snaking their way towards the seated jolly fellow. I tentatively suggested, out of earshot of the kids, that we could come back again, maybe nearer the time, but from the wife I got the look.

So we joined the line. A clown who looked like he couldn’t really motivate himself to get fully ready this morning, minus the face paint but adorning the eccentric clothes, refused a request to make a dinosaur out of a couple of balloons and made a giraffe instead. As far as our four year old lad was concerned, you can’t tell the difference between a giraffe and a sauropod.



As we neared the front of the queue we encountered another elf who had been eating all of her greens and was above five feet in height. Now fully committed, resignedly if not emotionally, I tentatively asked her now much it would cost for both of the children to meet Father Chrismas, have their photographs taken, and snatch his hands off when he offered a present each.

Nothing. It’s absolutely free.”

I couldn’t believe it. “Free?” I quickly pulled my arms out of my sleeves and thrust my coat into the wife’s hands. “I’m gonna have a go on Santa’s knee myself!”

Again-the look.

But in the season when everyone seems to make a packet out of everything, you can’t complain about a free meeting with the big man himself can you? Maybe everyone is starting off in the Christmas spirit this year.

Even if it is in November.




It’s beginning to look a lot like December, everywhere you go. In November.

Claws For The Weekend:Christmas In December

I’m sorry, but I’m with Batman here.



I could say that I’m with Santa-but I only speak the Queen’s English.


I’m no Scrooge, and I do love Christmas, but at the right time, so it at least feels like Christmas.

The cold nights, and if not snow, then, at least, frost in the morning. No more leaves left on the trees, the migrant birds looking forlorn. A December date every time I look at my phone. The naturally building excitement among the kids, as they have the school holiday in their sights.

In short-Christmas at Christmas.

In the meantime, have a great weekend. See you on the flip side.

Without the tinsel.