Deal or No Big Deal?

The other day I happened to be at the hospital with a friend.  Having negotiated the building site that is the modern LRI and avoided being run over by ambulances, we visited the WRVS café.  Now, I have nothing but respect for the women (and men) who run these services at a fraction of the cost of the other franchises available, but on this particular day we ran into somebody rather like this woman:

Our order was fairly simple: two drinks and an Eccles cake.  We already had the cake, so all she had to do was organise a peppermint tea and a coffee.  Could she do it?  Nope.  She ordered two teas, then two coffees, then a hot chocolate and something else and completely flipped when we reminded her about the Eccles cake.  As for ringing the order up on the till, that was obviously way beyond her powers.  My friend went and sat down and I did a lot of yoga breathing until we finally got it all sorted out.  After consuming our purchases we went down to the waiting room.

Now, since nobody can be expected to sit in a waiting room without the TV being on, and since I hadn’t brought anything to read, my eye kept being drawn to the Noel Edmonds money-teaser Deal or No Deal.  I have no idea how it works and no interest in finding out; however, watching it with the sound down was quite fascinating.  It seemed to revolve around a young woman choosing boxes with different amounts of money in them and either winning or losing that money; being cheered or commiserated with accordingly, hugged by other players, consoled as she wiped away a tear at losing money she never had in the first place; cheering and jumping up and down if she got it back again and being guided through the whole grizzly process by an unflappable Noel Edmonds.  I have to admit it’s hard to dislike Noel: like Wogan, he’s likeable and genuine – but the programme!  Hugs, tears, applause, emotional highs and lows – I half-expected a message to come up at the end saying ‘have you been affected by any of the issues on this programme?  Support is available – just go to…’

And already it’s Friday and I have spent a profitless morning in the library because I forgot my pen-drive.  Some days I just can’t be confronted by a blank page.  So that’s it for today.  Have you been affected by any of the issues in this blog?  If so please log on to

Wow!  Apparently that’s a real site!  Who knew?

And by the way, other blogs are available…

Kirk out

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I Wanna Tell You a Story…

Those of you of a certain age will recognise Max (Shudders) Bygraves’ catch-phrase in today’s title.  Catch-phrases seem to be a fairly new thing, but though there are certainly more of them than ever and while they are probably more necessary in order to differentiate an ever-increasing army of comedians (just take a peek at the Comedy Festival brochure) catch-phrases are not new.  ‘Can you hear me mother?’, ‘Oops, where’s me washboard?’ and ‘You lucky people’ are all wartime examples * and there are probably others dating from the era of music hall.  Perhaps even poor Yorick had his own catch-phrase… Mine, I suppose, is ‘Kirk out.’  As a performer I don’t yet have a catch-phrase, but perhaps I should.  Last night ol’ Max’s would have suited perfectly, as I went to ‘Telling Tales’ by the Leicester Guild of Storytellers, where I adapted one of my published stories for oral delivery. It was a very enjoyable evening; there was a mix of traditional stories from China, India and Nigeria; a true-life story from a fireman on the Flying Scotsman of ‘The Day the Fire Went Out’ and a charming tale of an eager snowdrop.  My ‘Mem Mat’ story about a memory mattress which absorbs people’s actual memories, went down very well and so I shall probably go again in April.

I’m updating this post from the library now, where Mac (I’ve decided to call OH ‘Mac’) has suggested that because I’ve forgotten my pen drive I should buy a new one; and, when I objected that a new one could hardly be expected to have all my stories and poems on it, he said that in a freak accident, it could happen.  ‘That’d be an improbability pen-drive!’ I quipped.

Kirk out

* actually one of those is a spoof


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I Love Pierre

I absolutely love Pierre Bezuhov: he is my favourite fictional character ever.  More sympathetic than Marcel Proust; more flawed than Elizabeth Bennett, more human than I, Claudius and much, much nicer than Rebus, Pierre is my hero.  Warm, affectionate, forgiving, flawed and fatally indecisive, he is truly mon sembable: the character I most identify with.

I will never forget the first BBC adaptation of ‘War and Peace’:

I watched it obsessively, then bought the books and read them which, even though I skipped a lot of the ‘war’ bits, is no mean feat for a 15-year-old.  I was completely involved with the story: I mourned with Natasha, fought with Andrei, hated Count Bolkonsky and wept for Sonya – but most of all I loved Pierre.  As interpreted by Antony Hopkins I thought he couldn’t be bettered, but Paul Dano is, if anything, even more brilliant.  His eyes shine with goodwill and his feet stumble with ineptitude; both characteristics which get him into all kinds of trouble.  He is a character to rival Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin.

Kirk out

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Dead Floral Dance

Gosh, they’re dropping like flies at the moment aren’t they?  First David Bowie, then Alan Rickman, then Lemmy from Motorhead and now the Prince of Charm himself, the leader of the Blarney Army, Terry Wogan, is the latest to succumb.

What can one say?  Mark’s response was that we need a version of The Floral Dance in a minor key.  Sadly I don’t think anyone has recorded this so you’ll just have to imagine it.

It was hard to dislike Wogan.  I never really went for his anodyne wink-at-the-camera style, but I couldn’t really summon up any strong feelings about him.  He was pleasant, he was uniformly charming, and he was there – in a career which matched only the shudderingly awful Bruce Forsyth’s in longevity.  Sadly Brucie is still going.

Have to go now as I have a busy day.  Happy Mondays, happy February.

Kirk out

PS  This just in – actor Frank Finlay has also died: he was 89 apparently.  I remember him from the ’70’s – a very stylish and accomplished performer.

RIP all.

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Yes, But is it a Catholic Miracle or a Protestant Miracle?

So, let us consider more about miracles.  Yesterday I defined a miracle as something that, according to the laws of nature or society, ought not to be possible.  I also think that a miracle is something which comes just when you need it.

Now, I’m not going to give away any confidences (in fact I couldn’t if I wanted to) but recently we have been in dire need of some money – and then it came, largely in the form of anonymous donations.  It came at precisely the moment when we needed it and as much as we needed.  That is definitely a personal miracle.

As regards miracles in general, I differ from many Catholics: I’m not one for weeping statues or bleeding icons.  I don’t really see what they achieve: we know there is – or used to be – fraud in the production of relics and miracles, but even supposing a statue could genuinely ‘weep’ at certain times (probably a phenomenon due to seeping water or a leak in the roof) – what is the point of it?  The point seems to be to increase the faith of believers, or else to make money for the church.  Give me a practical miracle any day.  Something that actually helps, something that changes lives.  Jesus didn’t go in for weeping statues, he did practical stuff.  Healed people.  Saved them from stoning.  Told them stories and helped them not to worry.  That’s a real faith – living from day to day and believing that things will work out.  And you don’t have to be a Christian – or even to believe specifically in God – to practise it.

Kirk out




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Do You Believe in Miracles?

Today let us consider the question, What is a miracle?

Maybe you’re like Colin Blunstone and you don’t believe in miracles:


But first we should define our terms.  A miracle, I’ve decided, is something that, according to all the laws of nature or society as they are observed, ought not to happen.

So: let us consider the crossing of the Red Sea.  According to what we now know, it was a combination of low tide and shallow water that enabled the Israelites to cross and escape their enemies.  The waters ‘parted’ – which, according to what they knew at the time, it ought to have been impossible.  As we now know, the phenomenon was caused by a combination of low tide and high underlying rock.  But maybe this misses the point.  There’s always an ‘explanation’ – if you think about it, how could there not be?  But the miracle in this case was that it happened at exactly the right moment for them to escape.

Miracles happen all the time.  As God said to Bruce in ‘Bruce Almighty’, ‘a single mom who’s working two jobs and still finds time to take her child to soccer practice, that’s a miracle.  A teenager who says no to drugs and yes to an education, that’s a miracle.’

Now I go along with this to a large extent, I really do.  The trouble with some new-agey positive-thinking-type philosophies is that they miss out the very important element of work.  They seem to think you only have to wish for it, or pray for it – and it’s yours.  I once knew someone who actually believed that if you think the right thoughts you can literally grab money out of the air: I have to report that this person ended up living in a horse-box in a field.  What I’ve concluded is that if you want something you’ve got to work for it, and that’s as true in the world of miracles as it is in the everyday sphere.  You’ve got to put the work in – and sometimes it’s a hell of a lot of work.  It’s like the guy who kept praying to win the lottery: God, please let me win the lottery; God please let me win the lottery!  Eventually God gets fed up and says, ‘look – will you do something for me?  Will you at least buy a ticket?’

Now buying a ticket isn’t much, but it’s something.  You’re making an effort.  It’s like people who beg for money: I don’t usually give them anything because according to an informed source, they’re not usually homeless.  Still the argument that you’re giving them money for doing nothing doesn’t hold up.  They’re not doing nothing – they’re begging.  It’s not useful work – it’s not even work as usually defined – and yet they are sitting on a cold and damp street and asking strangers for money.  I can’t begin to imagine how hard I’d find that.  Is it work?  It’s more effort than buying a lottery ticket, that’s for sure.

So where was I?  Yes, what is a miracle?  It’s something that by all the laws of nature or society, as we understand them, ought not to happen.  Some of the miracles reported of Jesus can be explained – not explained away – because of what we now understand about medicine and what we know about touch and healing.  For example, the bleeding woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment probably had endometriosis and may have been outcast because of her problem.  Part of the cure for her, as for lepers, may have been just to feel accepted and included.  We are now much more aware of the connection between physical and mental/emotional health than we have been.

There are more things in heaven and earth, definitely, than we understand.  We still don’t know how bees fly…

And I don’t know how we survive.  But we do.

Kirk out


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Something has Happened

Something has happened but I’m not allowed to say what.  All right, I can tell you I’ve had a poem accepted for publication but I’m not supposed to tell you where.  All I can say is that it’s a national magazine and that it will be published in March.  It’s a comic poem which I think I mentioned a while back, based on one of Hilaire Belloc’s cautionary tales.  I thought they might go for it – and they did!

So that was a bit of news which brightened an otherwise bad start to the day: the computer got screwed up and then I couldn’t get Daniel’s laptop to work with my documents so in the end I went out and booked a computer at the library, using the intervening time to get outside a really HOT pot of tea at the lovely Tiny Bakery, where I also picked up the latest gen on the proposed residents’ parking scheme.  I’ve yet to hear anyone who wants it and I can’t say it’s been a hit in the West End either.

And so back to the laptop-face where I eventually churned out some words.

And that was Monday.

Kirk out


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