Who was the Third Ronnie?

It’s a full moon again tonight, which means that there’s a blue moon this month.  I seem to remember saying the same thing quite recently, which would belie the phenomenon of a blue moon.  Hang on, I’ll take a look… oh, right – it was at the beginning of this month!  As you were then… the last time I noted one before that was December 2010 – so don’t say you never learn anything on this blog.

Mark has blogged about the end of Home Ed for us – a retrospective on our journey.  I expect I’ll do something similar soon but here are his thoughts:


This makes much more sense than Mark’s recent pronouncement that there were in fact not Two Ronnies but three.  So who was the third Ronnie?  Ronnie Biggs perhaps?  That would make a kind of ironic sense after Ronnie Barker’s work on ‘Porridge’.  Then again, perhaps it was good ol’ Ronnie Reagan, hamming it up with that slightly nervous, self-deprecating laugh which says ‘hey!  I’m not a mass-murdering Fascist really…’  Then again, perhaps they went on the equal ops route and it was Ronnie Ancona.

Any ideas?  Who was the third Ronnie?

Last night I watched the Paralympics opening ceremony.  Pretty impressive, I thought; though I have to say Channel 4 don’t do it as well as the Beeb; then I listened to ‘Fry’s English Delight’.  I never quite give the radio the attention it deserves, especially if it’s a thought-provoking programme, as I tend to break off and get into conversation: this, however, was appropriate as last night’s edition was about precisely that – the art and function of converation.


My parents weren’t terribly good at conversation – the dinner table was usually fairly quiet (unless we were having a row) and we were never allowed to talk while they were watching TV, which drove me mad.

Today I shall be mostly… going swimming with Daniel as it is the last chance before he starts college.

Home Ed is over!


Kirk out

Till Death us do Party

Those of you of a certain age will be instantly thinking ‘Alf Garnett’ when you read those words: in fact in my school the series was known as ‘Alf Garnett’ rather than TDUDP.  For those of a younger persuasion, the series was a ground-breaking sitcom which showed working-class characters as real people and, crucially, in crisis.  Previously working-class characters had been mostly figures of fun; cheery chappies cleaning windows or dim, uneducated figures of fun (the Mrs Mopp tendency.)  Johnny Speight’s script gave us a family in crisis; an angry middle-aged man – racist, sexist and homophobic – who takes out his frustrations on his long-suffering family (an early role for Una Stubbs was as his daughter.)

But why do I mention it now?  Well, it’s because I watched for the first time the BBC sitcom ‘Citizen Khan’, about a Pakistani family where the father is the problem.  ‘Oo – that’s a bit ‘Till Death Us Do Part-y!’ I said to Mark – and then I realised what I’d said.  The father is not as rabid nor as angry as Alf Garnett, and some of the jokes are quite lame but in spite of that I enjoyed it.

Here’s a great clip from TDUDP – ‘Jesus was English’:


and here’s ‘Citizen Khan’.  Compare and contrast and then comment…


Today I shall be mostly… writing an article on Elephants in the Room of the Left.  All will be revealed shortly…

And finally, a photo of Daniel’s I tried to upload yesterday:

Kirk out

A Life of Two Parts

Daniel did brilliantly yesterday: his Graphics tutor said that the work he showed her was as good as that of her AS level students, though sadly he will have to start with GCSE first.  Other subjects – GCSE in Photography and English, Maths and something else (I forget what) at entry level.  He came home a different person – much more confident and outgoing – with his college pass and a list of subjects.  Induction will happen next Monday and then he will know his timetable.

Good stuff.

So: the Dickens biography.  It’s not an easy thing, being a biographer: first you have to gather your information, then you have to decide which sources are reliable and which may not be; then you have to put it all together in a readable way and without letting your own personality and opinions cloud the subject.  Then the final product has to be readable and engaging as well as fair-minded.  Claire Tomalin seems to me to do a pretty damn-near perfect job on Dickens: without trying to get inside him, she takes a walk all round him and examines his life and work from all points of view.  She also avoids the other temptation, which is to judge him too harshly according to modern standards.  Naturally she points out that his abandonment of his wife and taking on a mistress was hardly a Good Thing, but she doesn’t castigate him as much as even I would have wished.  Such things are an indulgence, though – and even though Dickens was a feminist nightmare, he was also a feminist hero.  And there’s the rub: he treated his wife badly but did not abandon his children: he took a mistress but gave a lot of practical and financial help to prostitutes.  He did some bad stuff and some good stuff – and surely that’s how most of us are?

One or two things surprised me: not that he bore grudges and once people were out of his life they stayed out; nor that his family life was far from the cheery, harmonious scenes in his writing; nor that his children (some, at least) looked upon him with a jaundiced eye, nor that he was unfair to his wife.  No – what surprised me is that this most eminent of Victorians was actually rude to the Queen, refusing her first invitation to an audience and making less-than-courteous comments when they did eventually meet.  I don’t know whether to honour him for this or to deplore his rudeness, but I think in the end he is to be applauded for upholding his republican sentiments.

As the Guardian review (below) points out, there is a lot of insight here into Dickens’ financial affairs: though his childhood experiences of debt and working in a blacking factory are well-known, it is less well-known how many family members and friends he supported once he became rich.

There’s so much I could say about this book – and about Dickens’s life, but I shall content myself at the moment by a strong recommendation that you get out there and either buy a copy or borrow it from the library before someone else does:


Are you Neanderthal-ist?

Had an argument with Mark this morning in which he claimed that to call something (or someone) Neanderthal is racist.  Whereas it’s obvious to the rest of us that the adjective ‘Neanderthal’ is merely shorthand for ‘primitive’ or ‘uncivilised’, Mark takes up the cudgels on behalf of this race of people who, he claims, were wiped out by genocide and deserve a far better press than they get today.  I can get on board with that: what I can’t fathom is the depth of his feeling about it.  He says it’s like anti-Semitism!

‘But that’s not comparing like with like,’ I objected.  ‘There are Jewish people around today and anti-Semitism has an effect on them and on those around them.  How many Neanderthals do you know?’

‘Ok then’, he said, turning round to face me (always a Bad Sign) ‘so if you were anti-Semitic in a few hundred years’ time that would be OK would it?’

‘I can’t possibly imagine what things would be like then,’ I said.  ‘Anyway, it’s not the same case.’

The argument rumbled on and didn’t get resolved.  Do you use the adjective ‘neanderthal’?  If so, what do you mean by it?

Seriously.  I want to know.  If only so I can show Mark and go ‘ha!’

Kirk out

What’s the Dope?

A Big Day for Daniel today as he is going to enrol at college and be assessed for Graphics and IT – he is taking with him a pen-drive so he can show some of his graphics work and videos.  His bike is f***d so I have to take it into town today and try to get it fixed; also sussing out the price of a new (ie new second-hand) one for Holly to buy her instead of going out for a meal, to celebrate her exam results.  Daniel is understandably daunted by today and I am anxious for him, though there is no real need – it’s just that it’s a big step for him and going to college will be a big life-change.

Speaking of life changes, it seems impossible to get middle-of-the-road, unbiassed research and opinion on smoking dope.  I have smoked some in the past and I think smoking the odd joint is probably no more harmful than drinking the occasional bottle of wine.  Of course, there are varieties of dope just as there are of alcohol and some, like skunk, could perhaps be compared to drinking spirits while others like weed, are more comparable to a weaker beer.  I used to smoke a fair bit, especially when I lived in Leigh, Lancashire where everyone you met was on something and dope was the least of it: once I was in the pub and a couple of guys were on the Space Invaders machine.  The others were watching them warily; when they left it was observed that against their high score (ho ho) they had put their name: ‘The DS.’

‘What’s the DS?’ I asked.  I was so innocent back then…

Nowadays I don’t smoke the stuff, largely because of having children in the house, and in fact I am suffering from withdrawal – but from Proust!  Yes!  I woke up this morning thinking that I must have some more Proust.  I have nearly finished the Dickens biography (I was awake until 2 am and reached death – his not mine – so I’ve only got the funeral and obits to go) which means that Proust can happen soon.  I’ve also had an idea for a novel based on Facebook.

Oh, and Fifty Shades of Shite is now going back to the library so it can pollute someone else’s life.

Kirk out

Blackberry and Samsung Crumble

I wanted to write a rectangular post with rounded corners this morning, but that format has now been copyrighted, so in recognition of this fact, the word for a certain Fruit has been replaced in this post by the word Samsung.

I have received some photos of the vicarage where I lived from the age of 2 to the age of 8: I don’t remember it very well but it sure as hell didn’t look like this:


although the shapes of some of the rooms did trigger vague memories, especially the kitchen where I seem to remember a big black boiler:

It triggers a vague sort of half-memory – very weird.  The whole place has changed dramatically since our days – I remember it being very dark back then.  But in 1965 we moved to Hounslow, which I remember very well: the whole house was done with distemper and dark brown varnish and although the parish paid for some of it to be redecorated our poor mother had to tackle the rest herself.  This was no joke as the rooms were huge and paint in those days needed at least three coats to cover what was underneath.  Horrid.  The garden was also a nightmare, though great for us kids as there was plenty of wilderness to explore in and a couple of samsung trees to climb.  One of these grew cooking samsungs while the others sprouted Worcester samsungs; small, red and very sweet variety which were sadly riddled with worms so that you had to cut them up to eat them.

I don’t eat many samsungs these days as my digestion is Not What it Was: in those days I could pick any number of samsungs and eat them right off the tree, nibbling round the worms or spitting them out, as befitted my current incarnation as a cowboy.  Ignoring my mother’s dire warnings of stomach cramps, cholera, dysentery and worse, I munched my way through several hundredweight of samsungs every autumn – not to mention the blackberries which we were also not supposed to eat raw, but wait until they were stewed.  Probably with samsungs.

I am still devouring the Dickens biography and will post a review when I’m finished.  It is excellent.  I don’t read much biog – the last one I read was about Cohen, which came out a few years ago and which Mark bought me for my birthday.

Today I shall be mostly… buying Daniel a new outfit for his trip to college tomorrow.

Kirk out

So farewell then…

Neil Armstrong.  The first man on the moon has succumbed to complications from heart surgery and died at the age of 82: it’s tempting to say something like ‘one small step for a man; one giant sleep…’ but better not.  As you were then…

RIP Neil.  He seems to have been a humble man, content to laugh at himself for being a geek rather than touring the world talking about how it felt to step on the moon until the whole thing had become so shrouded in myth that he couldn’t even remember it himself.  It reminds me of the scene in Futurama when Fry excitedly lands on the moon, begins to quote Neil’s words and discovers that the moon is now a giant amusement park and that there is ‘one giant queue for admission’.

Can’t find a clip as it’s copyright but it’s very funny.

Yesterday I attended a Cider, Music and Barbecue event at the Western pub: the event was remarkable for not including either cider or a barbecue (we drank beer and went to Sardaar’s for food) but did eventually include music, in the shape of a rather engaging trio of men called ‘Now then, now then!’  For a brief and horrid moment I thought they might be some sort of Jimmy Savile tribute band, but they launched into an early Beatles number, and that was what they very competently turned out for the best part of an hour; early Beatles with a couple of Kinks and Monkees thrown in.  It’s astonishing how many songs I know ALL the words to…

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you

Tomorrow I’ll miss you

remember I’ll always be true

All together now…

A good evening and great beer.  The Western was originally built as a railway hotel for the Great Central railway which ran along the bottom.  The pub might well have gone the same way as many, but for Bede Island Park opening up on the site of the old Vic Berry’s scrap yard (one of the great initiatives of our area in recent years) which placed the pub on one of the busiest thoroughfares between the West End and the city centre.


Holly is reportedly coming home today: I’ll believe it when I see it.  I predict that we will get a text later saying ‘hm tomoz’ or something along those lines.  Now that’s real predictive texting!

And finally: Mark has made a list of terms from ‘The Meaning of Liff’ which he claims we use in everyday life:


They are as follows:

grimbister – a group of cars all travelling at the same speed because one of them is a police car

goosnarg – leftovers in the fridge which have acquired their own life

high offley – what goosnarg turns into if left long enough

ipplepen – a number of pens all stuck together for the purpose of writing lines

kettering – marks on a bum from sitting naked on a wicker chair

oshkosh – noise made when modestly disclaiming praise

scraptoft – a combover

wet wang – a moist penis

and –

zeerust – something which looked futuristic when it came out and now looks dated

So there you go – delight your friends and stun your enemies while  improving your vocabulary.

Kirk out


If there’s anything madder than the idea of raising the Titanic, it’s – wait for it – building another one!  And yet that is exactly what someone is planning to do: some loon in Australia wants to build a replica of the original Titanic, for the same reasons as Kennedy said people went to the moon (‘not because it is easy, blah, blah…’)  But there’s some SENSE in going to the moon!  Where’s the sense in rebuilding a ship that has become a byword for tragedy and hubris?


Yes, the Greeks have a word for it.  What they may not have a word for is ‘chart’.  Used as a noun, ‘chart’ is a perfectly respectable word and I like it.  Used as a verb meaning ‘to plot a journey’, again, I have no problem with *.  But used as Mark did this morning, meaning ‘to be in the charts’ (or as he quaintly put it, ‘the hit parade’) is quite frankly inexcusable, and on a par with the recent Olympic horror, ‘to medal’.


Mark is now standing in the naughty corner….

In other news, I continue to be horrified by the latest ‘blasphemy’ story in Pakistan where thousands of people seem to have taken leave of their senses and everyone else is too scared to stand up to them.  In terms of blasphemy, the sanest thing I can offer you is Eddie Izzard’s routine on the subject:


It’s not the one with the blasphemy song in – sadly I can’t find that.  If you come across a link to it, let me know – it’s one of my fave bits of Izzy.

I have passed ‘Fifty Shades of Shite’ on to Mark and I am now reading Claire Tomalin’s excellent biog of Dickens:


Today I shall be mostly… going to the Western to drink cider and listen to music.

* oh no!  I’ll be in trouble with the preposition police now…


You don’t often get two blog posts out of me in a day but I have a couple of things to add.  First, about Julian Assange: I had commented that the sexual assault charges against him seem trumped-up: today it seems that someone, having slept with him one night, claimed that he ‘raped’ her the next morning.  Rape is no joke – all the more reason not to file ridiculous charges like these.

Second, not one of you pointed out that I had completely ballsed up this week’s joke.  It should have read:

Why did the chicken cross the moebius strip?

To get to the same side.

That’s it.  See you tomoz

Kirk out


My Kingdom for a Hearse

Apparently they may have found a possible location for the bones of Richard III.  Nobody knows what happened to his body but some sources indicate that he may have been buried in Greyfriars car park behind the cathedral in Leicester.  Of course the car park wasn’t there at the time – nor was the cathedral, come to that, as Leicester wasn’t a diocese until the last century.  Anyway, here’s the story:


Mark is rather sceptical about the newsworthiness of this story.  I think it may make a big difference to the museums in Leicester if they manage to dig up Richard III’s bones; he thinks there will be no interest in it at all, rather like the Barwell meteorite.  ‘For God’s sake, let go of the Barwell meteorite, Mark!’ I exclaimed in exasperation.


But!  Enough of all this, for it is Good News Week.  Not only have I been shortlisted for the poetry prize, as I told you; yesterday Holly got her results.  Out of five subjects taken she got 4 B’s and one D.  Sadly the D means that she has to repeat Maths, which she was hoping to avoid, but 4 B’s is great news.  I went into college with her to get the results but mainly so that I could beard in her den the person responsible for deciding whether or not Daniel has a place there.  I have been phoning them for weeks but no joy – finally after practically pinning the poor woman to the wall in the corridor, I got an answer.  And the answer was YES!!  Deep joy.  To be fair to Rhiannon it wasn’t her fault – they were waiting on government funding and the government body which deals with the funding is dragging its feet.  But they made a unilateral decision to accept him in the expectation that the funding will come through.  I was worried that they’d just send me home to wait for a letter but the wonderful woman took me to the office and waited while I was given a letter.  The staff are generally very good at Regent, I have to say, and I felt guilty about hassling her – but sometimes it’s the only way to get things done.

Anyway, result!  So now Daniel has to go in and enrol next week and he will be going to college with Holly in September.  It’s the end of our Home Ed journey.

And finally?  Check out ‘Fry’s English delight’?  It’s on the radio?  It’s all about intonation?

Kirk out

Unheard Ambridge

There’s a lot of unhappiness swilling around 98.4 FM at 7.02 pm every evening except Saturday.  They have made changes to The Archers!  How dare they?  Actually it’s not so much the fact that they have made changes, it’s the particular changes they’ve made: introducing a lot of new characters at once; having new storylines that you can only follow if you’ve heard ‘Ambridge Extra’, having too many sensational plot-lines, and so on.  Now, as I understand it, ‘Ambridge Extra’ is meant to be the teenagers’ room of the series; a place where young people get into a huddle and things go on of which the adults in the house know nothing.  If it works properly, when these plot-lines feed into the main series they will bring a knowing smile to the lips of those who have been in the teenagers’ room but – and here’s the key – without disrupting the understanding of those who haven’t.  Recently, though, I’ve come across characters I don’t know, voices I don’t recognise, plot-lines I can’t keep up with and frankly struggle to believe – and I’m starting to feel a bit like a stranger in the village.

Rather than listen to ‘Ambridge Extra’ I recommend reading the cartoon strip ‘Unheard-of Ambridge’.  This was a series in the Guardian my Merrily Harpur and featuring characters who never appear (though some eventually did) such as Mrs Pargeter, Nigel’s sainted mother; Jean-Paul the chef, Pru Forrest, Ken Ton Archer (the Chinese branch of the family) and of course, the Entity in the Barn Conversion.

I can’t find any examples of the cartoon but here’s a review:


The Year of the Blackberry

This year is turning out to be the year of the blackberry for me: so far I have made a demijohn of blackberry wine, a large jar of blackberry jam and an enormous jar of bramble jelly.  This reminds me of a brilliant sketch by the sadly bereaved Ronnie Corbett, in ‘The One Ronnie’:


Very funny.

I have signed up to a site about Leigh, Lancashire, and in the comments on ‘Leyth, Bent and Bongs’ I was reminded of the cartoon in that paper, Sid O’Common.  Featuring a flat-capped Andy Capp-type character, the name is a pun on Siddow Common, a local area:


Turns out I couldn’t sign up before because I got the test question wrong.  When asked ‘which local town do we mildly hate?’ I thought they were asking my opinion: in fact this was a test of my local knowledge.  I got it wrong!  Still I got a further question right, once I’d sussed what kind of question it was (the answer, incidentally, was of course Wigan: Wigganers are known to Leythers as ‘pie-eyters’, for some reason I have never been able to fathom.)  Incidentally in a bizarre twist, as I was making notes for this post (it’s not just thrown together, you know) a man came on the radio talking about Leigh rugby team.  This is of course rugby league, as opposed to rugby union which is an entirely different sport…


Oh no!  Did I spell that right?  I don’t want to be in trouble with the Gneurggh police.