Claws For The Weekend: How To Brighten Up A Rainy Manchester Street

I love this video, taken on Market Street in the city centre, for the music, the crowd’s spontaneous reaction and then the band joining in at the end. And the guy still talking on his phone during it all. All in front of the Ann Summers’ shop. Would have been great if they’d all conga’d right in there, coming back out wearing all sorts of things! Especially on the trombone ūüôā 

Have a great weekend everybody. See you on the flip side.

Mongrel Nation

St.George’s Day again, here in our mongrel nation. ūüôā This was last year’s post on this day.

City Jackdaw

Today, here in an overcast, breezy England, it is St.George’s day. How much we can say we actually know about the real St.George is very little. I ask my kids, and all that they can come up with is that he killed a dragon.

And they also recognise his flag, of course.

England

Personally I think St.Aidan should be England’s patron saint. As the Apostle to the English, and with a little more verifiable information available to us, I think he has the greater claim. I love the history and stories of all the Celtic and British saints that have walked these same scattered islands that I do now. Among my favourites are Aidan and Cuthbert. But that’s for another day.

There was a time, when asked what my national identity was, I would reply ‚ÄúEnglish.‚ÄĚ But then I began looking into my own family history. What I have discovered, up‚Ķ

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Birthday Bird

For twelve months now the Jackdaw has flown, no longer the fledgling that he once was. Riding the high air currents, descending low to roost, his perspective always tinged by his north west habitat. Appreciative always of those cousins who have observed his flight. Those who accidentally entered his territory, and then left. Those who consciously decided to nest in the same tree as he. The migrants and the indigenous ones. The silent trackers  and the communicative callers. The Jackdaw appreciates and acknowledges them all. In the dark of dusk he wonders what the future will hold, how he can adapt to an environment that is irrevocably changing. Come the first blaze of dawn he forgets all of this, and takes once again instinctively to the sky.

 

We, At This Time

We, At This Time

A virginal shroud settles upon our abodes.
Fairy lights flicker in the long night.
Inside, all manner of songs and odes
are offered to acclaim our rite.
Those of us not overtly religious
indulge themselves out of tradition.
Those of us not openly pious
offer tacit prayers without petition.
But all desire to feel the joy
that shines forth from every child's eyes.
An augury, in innocence's employ,
that lifts the soul amongst the winter skies.
Though we partake in the gathered feast,
and survive the night imbibing wine,
we recognise, when all has ceased,
that part of man inherently divine.


©AJM


A Deluge of Doctors

The moment was almost  upon us. After counting down the days, and all the hype, it was now time for the 50th Anniversary special The Day Of The Doctor. I was sat with my unenthusiastic wife Jen, who would rather be watching X Factor. Quarter of an hour to go, trying to wile away the time by browsing my Facebook feed, I learnt that Darren, an old school pal of mine who had moved from oop norf (Manchester) to darn sarf (London), along with his partner Laura, had somehow managed to acquire cheap tickets to watch it in the cinema.

Of course I took the posts personal. Every mention of the Whovians in fancy dress, how he made sure he didn’t sit behind the Sontaran as the massive potato head would obstruct his view. Being offering a jelly baby by a three foot cybermidget.

Consumed with jealousy?

As the clock wound down towards zero hour and my wife Jen sighed and plugged into her ipod?

You bet I was.

I tried to replicate the cinema experience, switching off the light, getting some chocolate, trying to ignore my wife singing along to The Dooleys.  But, then, I learnt that

he

was

viewing

in 3D.

In complimentary

stupid glasses.

To pass those final, frustrating minutes before the show aired, I decided to swamp his newsfeed with relevant Doctor images.  Just for my own amusement, you know. Maybe the vibration of numerous Facebook notifications would distract from his ogling of a Leela in a loincloth,a Romana in a rah-rah, with a surreptitious glance towards Laura from behind his green and red lenses.

The product of a juvenile mind, I thought that I would share them here with you. I should explain that references such as ‘chips and gravy’, are just a peculiarity of the north-south divide.

 

Just like your London buses, you wait hours to see a Doctor then five turn up at once.

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Great atmosphere here, even Jen is getting into the swing of things

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Tenth Doctor:”Cheap tickets, for the southerners, to watch in an obscenely comfortable cinema in 3D?”

Eleventh Doctor:”Yes, while those poor commoners oop norf have to watch it sat on the couch, squabling kids around their feet, wives that would rather watch that X Factor rubbish. We must do something timey wimey and wibbly wobbly.”

photo (54)

 

“Oi, you Cockneys-take those damn silly glasses off first!”

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“I can barely watch, Pond. No gravy. Chips…without gravy.”

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“Hello my Cockney Darlings! Time to kick some Dalek arse!”

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Darren, when you said you got those tickets cheap, did you bother to read what it actually said on them?

photo (58)

 

Yes I know. I’m cool in 3D.

photo

 

Unravel this one, Jeremy Kyle.

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No Jen-don’t put your earphones back in. Let me run this by you again…

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Darren, you haven’t have you? Laura please check and let us know. Don’t worry, they won’t be in 3D.

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This is just up your street Darren. The London eye, I mean, not the erm, you know…

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With this last photograph posted, I ran out of time. The programme started, and it was ‘fantastic’, to quote the above Doctor. With the mini episode before it-The Night of The Doctor, both Paul McGann’s and Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor were tied up nicely,providing continuity, and I just love how the ‘new Doctor Who’ acknowledges, references, and celebrates its own history. ¬†Has to be important for a show about time travel.

And for a long term fan like me, the surprise appearance, at the end of the episode, of my Doctor, the great Tom Baker, was the icing on the cake.

We only have to wait until Christmas now to see Matt Smith’s regeneration and the new Time Lord on the block.

Darren-what do you mean, you have tickets?

Jen-what do you mean, divorce?

December Relic

Well hello there, December. Is that snow I can see in your pocket? Come in and rest your hoary head.

How soon the seasons come around. One minute I notice the first leaves start to turn brown, the next  the decorations are going up and people are rushing around in their customary blind panic.

photo (67)

Unpacked and dusted down is the above antique. A seasonal decoration that is now thirty seven years old. A masterpiece of royal blue and gold.

The things you can do with toilet roll and tinsel.

This is the last link to my very first school, Mossfield Primary. I made this aged five, in my very first year at school. A year later I left due to my family moving home.The cracker came with me.

Every Christmas this inimitable creation took pride of place on many a tree that has long since been discarded. I think once I got older and left the family nest my folks were pleased to see this work of art go with me. And then my less than impressed wife, every single year, tries to relegate it to the back of our tree where nobody can see it, or, even more brazenly, attempts to leave it in the cardboard box altogether. Ostensibly to help preserve this ancient artifact, but she has been heard to mutter, God forgive her, that it is ‘just a thirty seven year old bog roll.’

Uncouth, common, love of my life that she is.

It is a symbol, dear wife, a symbol.

So the cracker is on the tree, the fixed points on my timeline are all joined up. Our season of celebration has now started and Christmas Day will be here before we know it.

Try to take some time out if you can, to enjoy the season, and attain a bit of perspective, before you get swallowed up by a mass of competitive humanity rolling in the aisles over that last bag of sprouts.

Have a great time.

In fact, have a cracker.

Three James’ Day

Yesterday was a special day in our home-it was the third birthday of my son James. For those of you who are familiar with my post Boonless In Southport (19th June) you will know just how much he is obsessed with balloons. Mention it being someone’s birthday,¬†anyone’s birthday,¬†be them seven or seventy, and his immediate response is “Boons!” So, of course, first thing in the morning he was confronted with balloons everywhere-helium filled, resting against the ceiling, tied to chairs and door handles, and breath filled, covering the floor in a carpet of colour. His presents and cards weren’t even afforded a second glance.

Cue Sinatra: For I only have eyes, for boons.

He loved being the center of attention for the day, offering long-lashed, bashful eyes in response to the obligatory ‘Happy Birthday’¬†song.

I have a diary, as I expect most of you do. Along with the usual entries, I also put into it significant dates from the past that are significant to me and to my family. Dates where I set time aside to remember and mark things that were, and still are, important.

Two years ago, on the day my son was one year old, we came together in the pale fresh light of early morning to mark this momentous occasion. His first ever birthday. Even if he was unaware of its meaning, we sung ‘Happy Birthday’ and opened his cards for him, showing him the colourful pictures. And yes, balloons. My cousin Lorraine participated in this milestone event, and then, when we had finished opening everything, she broke the news to my mother that her elder brother-James Brown, had died that very day. Lorraine’s father, my Uncle Jim.

Life’s two great inevitables demonstrated within a minute.

My uncle was a great man, friendly, family oriented. I remember when he met my future wife for the first time, a few days after we had become engaged. He shook her hand and said “Welcome to the family.” ¬†Like an elder statesman. A family spokesman.

Another time, the telephone rang and the teenage girl that we were fostering answered it. Jim was on the phone, and spoke with our foster daughter for some time before she handed the phone over to me, commenting “Aw, what a lovely man!”¬†They had never met, never spoke before, but in that first encounter she had got him to a tee.

I also include in my diary any information gleaned from doing my family history. On this same date, already chronicling my son’s birthday and my uncle’s death, I have also recorded:

James Denis O’Sullivan died, 1906.¬†

This was my great-uncle, the brother of my gran. What I haven’t added is that he was born in 1905. It doesn’t look right does it:great-uncle, when he only lived to be one year old. But in the horizontal and vertical nexus of lines that constitute my family tree, that is what he was.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with someone who was mourning the death of a friend’s baby son. Sometimes you struggle to come up with anything positive, or any words at all. All I could offer was:

Remember that the world is a different place because that child was born. It doesn’t matter if he was here for a year, a month, or a day. His brief presence has touched people, changed people. ¬†Wherever his family go in life, they will take him with them. He will always be a part of their story”.

James Denis O’Sullivan, forever a part of my gran’s story. In 2007 I stood at his father’s graveside in Thessalonika. A victim of the first world war, he brought his son with him to the sun-kissed soil of Greece, where his own chapter closed.

One single day in August-three people named James. With one a celebration, and the excitement of a future unknown. With one a thanksgiving, for the role he played in life. And for another with remembrance, of a life sadly unfulfilled.

Three figures all connected by bloodlines and story.

Mongrel Nation

Today, here in an overcast, breezy England, it is St.George’s day. How much we can say we actually know about the real St.George is very little. I ask my kids, and all that they can come up with is that he killed a dragon.

And they also recognise his flag, of course.

England

Personally I think St.Aidan should be England’s patron saint. As the Apostle to the English, and with a little more verifiable information available to us, I think he has the greater claim. I love the history and stories of all the Celtic and British saints that have walked these same scattered islands that I do now. Among my favourites are Aidan and Cuthbert. But that’s for another day.

There was a time, when asked what my national identity was, I would reply “English.” But then I began looking into my own family history. What I have discovered, up to now, is that I am at least the fifth generation of Murray born in Manchester, England. Also that I have four different lines of Irish ancestry, and that my surname originates from Scotland.

Now, when asked that very same question about national identity, my answer is decidedly “British.”

Britain

It goes further. Having the Y-chromosome of my DNA analysed, that is my paternal line, I have discovered that my genetic signature belongs to a group that is prevalent in Ireland and northern and western Britain. I am from probable Celtic descent, with strong similarities to the genetic signature of the Basques of Iberia. This suggests colonisation of Britain and Ireland by ancient maritime migrations along the Atlantic coast of Iberia, France and Brittany. A journey can be traced through western Europe and the Middle East right back to a particular man who lived in Africa 80,000 years ago, to which all  men alive  today can trace their paternal line. I have not had my maternal line analysed yet, but with the female, mitachondrial line we  can go back even further. Everybody alive today can trace their maternal line back  to a single woman who lived in Africa between 150,000-200,000 years ago.  So, although they never met, and lived thousands of years apart, we have our Y-Chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve.

Back here in the present, I know someone who was very anti-Celt, claiming to be of Anglo-Saxon origin. He immersed himself in the history, writings and culture of that race. Much to his chagrin, he later discovered that he had Welsh ancestry. Of course, when we talk about Celt, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, whatever, it is all a romanticised perception that we hold. But the point is that we cannot be sure of our blood. There is no such thing as a pure race. These islands have for thousands of years been subject to incoming waves of people of all races, either with intentions of peaceful settlement or of conquest. We truly are a mongrel nation. Go back far enough and we are all related. All connected.

What a revolutionary, healing concept this could be, if people would only grasp it. Everybody alive today and tomorrow are descended from the same place, from a people of one skin.

Africa

The Irish contingent here in Manchester put on a great show on St.Patrick’s day. Every year it gets bigger and bigger, the town center being transformed into a great sea of green. The English by comparison no longer really embrace St.George’s day. Apart from isolated pockets, it mostly goes by unacknowledged. A few flags fly outside pubs and shops, desperate to drum up trade.

Among the ex-pats throughout the world though, there seems to be more enthusiasm to embrace St.George’s day. Perhaps being cut off from your roots creates a need to continue your traditions, to celebrate your cultural heritage.

Without roots and tradition we become disenfranchised. We drift.

I think we should always be proud of where we have come from. And also of what we contribute to the place where we are now.

Happy St.George’s Day to all of the diaspora, wherever this day may find you.