Waiting for the New, Are You?

When I was a kid there used to be a little slot before the evening news, some time around 5.45, which was occupied by a brief animation.  My favourite and perhaps the best-known of these was The Magic Roundabout.  It was supposedly for small children but in fact had a very adult strain of humour and some sophisticated characters: Brian the somewhat bitter snail, the happy-go-lucky Mr Rusty, the phlegmatic Dougal, the fulsome Ermintrude – and Florence who made all their problems go away.  And sometimes one of these characters would look directly at the camera and say ‘Waiting for the news, are you?’  It was very funny.

The Magic Roundabout was originally in French and was rendered into English not by a process of translation but by making something up which seemed to fit the pictures:


But this evening we are not so much waiting for the news as waiting for the new – ie the New Year.  And we are not allowed to watch TV, even for the few minutes when Big Ben is on, because Mark is convinced that TV detectorists are waiting to swoop down on unsuspecting unlicensed watchers and discombobulate them, even at this time of year.  So we shall be forced to watch Big Ben on the radio.

I wish all my readers a very happy 2016.  Thank you all for reading and commenting and I look forward to chatting with you in the coming year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Kirk out

Oggi! Oggi! Oggi! Oy! Oy! Oy!

Oggi scribo in Italiano per che ho una lettora Italiana che ha commentato sopra mi blog.

OK that’s enough of that.  My Italian is rudimentary at the best of times and traslochi vibo valentia will have to tell me if any of the above makes sense.  To be honest the only bit I’m sure of is oggi, which I know means ‘today’.

And how do I know this?  Well, from an evening class which I took several years back.  Which reminds me, there’s a restaurant on London Rd called Oggi, and last summer I thought it’d be fun to go there for our wedding anniversary meal.  As Mark was heading off into town I asked him to take a look at the menu.  He came back looking puzzled.

‘Well?’ I demanded.

‘It’s not there any more.  I walked all down London Rd and there was no sign of it.’

That’s weird, I thought.  It was there last week.  I’d described exactly where it was so he could hardly have failed to spot it.  So anyway, a few days later I was heading that way myself – and guess what?  Yep, there it was, bold as brass.  Oggi.

Sadly that was after our wedding anniversary so we still haven’t been there.  But whenever I hear the word Oggi I think about that.

So, what was I going to blog about today?  I had a whole post planned but now it’s gone out of my mind.  This is what happens when you get diverted.  Well, I must confess that for the last few days I’ve been doing very little except going out for walks and then sitting on my backside watching ‘Friends’ and eating chocolate.  Today we went into town trying to get a birthday present for Daniel and failing.  We have until Saturday to find what we’re looking for.  But I did spent all the tokens I got for Christmas.  I bought a pile of books and – something I’ve wanted for AAAAAAAAAAAAAAges – a box-set of the Rebus series; the one with Ken Stott, not the ones with John Hannah.

So since everything I wanted to say has gone out of my mind (as have I) all I can think of is to ask whether, when drunk, you have walked down the street with one of you chanting ‘Oggy oggy oggy!’ and the others replying ‘Oi, oi, oi!’

Have you?

Chris and Peter, you need not reply.  I know you have – I was there.

Kirk out



Adventures with my Friends in Cyberspace

Oh my god!  I cannot believe it’s nearly 2016!  I’ve spent such a long time thinking that 2016 is way wayyyyy in the future that it’s kinda crept up on me.  It’s always the same – every year that extra digit just creeps up so slowly you don’t notice it’s coming.  I mean, you know there’s a new year right around the corner, but somehow it just doesn’t dawn on you that the new year is going to be – well, another year on.  You are going to be a year older, your children are going to be a year older and your silver wedding anniversary (oh god oh god oh god) draws ever closer.

O M G!!!

So I’ve been watching a lot of ‘Friends’ recently – just because it’s good to chill out to – as well as going for long walks and today, listening to the cast of The Archers perform in ‘Calendar Girls.’  I love the film and this was a good production but I was struck by the absence of key members of the cast, notably Tim Bentinck; as well as the women who play Ruth and her mother-in-law Jill – and I can’t help wondering if they are as fed up as the rest of us with the way the series is going.  Ruth seems to be away every time I happen to catch an episode, and I can’t help feeling that maybe she’s taking some time out and that also Bentinck would like to get free of his contract asap.  They also missed a great opportunity to have the actors playing Rob and Helen in ‘The Archers’ as Ruth and her philandering husband in ‘Calendar Girls’.  But it was fun and I managed to clean all the mud off my boots and polish them while listening: one of the great advantages that radio has over television.

So: whilst doing all that, my brain has been active.  Mark has just finished reading a book he bought with his Xmas token, called ‘Adventures with the Wife in Space’.  The book was compiled from a blog; a blog written over many years, bit by bit, day by day, building into a fascinating compendium of anecdote and humour* as it tells the story of a geek’s attempt to interest his wife in the adventures of Dr Who.


And then it turned into a book!  And that started me thinking: if he can do it, so can I: all I need is an angle to interest publishers, and I can turn this blog into a book!

Watch this space folks.

You may even find your comments featuring in the book, if you play your cards right.

Kirk out

*this makes it sound like one of those magazine series you used to get in the ’70’s.  Remember those?

Appy New Year

Wow.  Already five days have passed since I last posted.  I hope you had a good Christmas, as I did: the day passed very pleasantly in a haze of Cava (bought straight from the Cavery, ha ha) a blizzard of nut-roast, a fog of veggie sausages and a perfect storm of roast potatoes, parsnips and sprouts, all topped off with delicious cranberry sauce.  Then after a quick game of cribbage came the pudding, the mince pies and the custard.

Wow.  I was full.

I got some great presents but highlight of the day was seeing Daniel open his cunningly-disguised ukulele* and start to play.  Brill.  I mainly got a selection of tokens which I shall shortly convert into a supply of books and DVD’s.  I also got the latest Ian Rankin from OH, which is every bit as good as the others.


Dr Who was good, I thought, and it was fun playing cribbage.  I hadn’t played for years and it was surprising how quickly it all came back.

The last two or three days I’ve been going for walks; today’s included a trot round Knighton Park feeling very smug in the mud in my walking boots, and a trek up Welford Rd and round to Fingerprints – a total of nearly five miles, according to the online app I used afterwards.



Hope you’re all enjoying what my friend Chris calls ‘Twixtmas.’  See you all soon…

Kirk out

*wrapped to resemble some kind of malformed Dalek

A Saturday Afternoon in the Queue for the Toilets

I think I’ve more or less finished work for Christmas now: I may do a bit tomorrow but then that’ll be it.  So this week I’ve sent off a couple of stories to a magazine, and it occurred to me that they were in some way linked, as if they belonged to the same universe.  The worlds they inhabit are in a future about fifty years ahead – maybe a little more – and like most futuristic writing they take an aspect of modern culture, magnify it and project it forwards a number of years.

The first story concerns a Queue.  At first it’s not clear why the man is standing in the queue, but it slowly emerges that for those who have no work (which is most of the population) the Queue is the only game in town.  They are queueing for a talent show and the chance to win millions.  Life revolves around servicing the queue; those not actually in it are engaged in serving food and drink and running errands for those who are queueing.  The challenge with this story was to make something essentially monotonous seem interesting.

The second story was originally a chapter of a novel – a novel which I’ve unearthed and intend re-writing next year.  Again, it’s set between fifty and a hundred years into the future at a time when thoughts can be extracted from the mind and stored either on computers or in Museums where they resemble art forms.  The study of thought is very dangerous as most people don’t understand the risk of Assimilation – becoming sucked into the Thought and losing your own identity.  All this is of course symbolic, and it turns out at the end that the narrator is in a mental hospital: even so it’s left open as to how much of this is real and how much is delusion.

So that’s that.  And time to wrap up, I think.  Take care my dears and have a wonderful Christmas.  See you on the other side!

Oh, and I am utterly chuffed that Andy Murray won BBC Sports Personality of the Year and almost equally chuffed that Tyson Fury got nowhere.

Kirk out



Compounding the Error

Fair warning – today’s post is a bit of a rag-bag.  First: a rant about compound verbs.  Is anyone else as annoyed by these as I am?  What I mean is the increasing phenomenon of shoving verbs into one word rather than using a short phrase, viz:

to mystery-shop

to target-market

to victim-blame

to project-manage

There are loads of these and mostly I find them annoying and unnecessary, especially when people then go on to add, as I heard the other week, ‘I project-managed a project.’  So why not just say ‘managed’?

I guess it’s because it makes things sound more thingy; more official.  I could use the word reification here if I wanted to be posh and annoying, because that’s what it means – making things more Thingy.  Commodification, I suppose, is a branch of this – making everything into a commodity.

And that’s another – er, thing.  I really hate it when people call something a ‘product’ when it so isn’t – like, for example, football or education or the cinema.  These are not products!!!  A plastic bottle is a product; a computer or a washing-machine or a car is a product.  But I object very strongly to processes, especially artistic processes, being described as if they were churned out on some great cultural production-line.  Nowadays it seems almost anything can be described as a product, from driving-lessons to holidays and from trips out to swimming-lessons.


However, I realise that there’s another phenomenon of which I am sometimes guilty, and that is a kind of subtle, barely-noticeable Malapropism.  So, for example yesterday I wrote that the Partido Popular in Spain won by a whisper.  There’s something quite poetic in that, which is perhaps why I did it, but what I meant to say is that they won by a whisker. There’s a lot of this about; slither, for example, instead of sliver – but I quite like them so I think they should stay.  Just so long as we’re clear what we mean…

It’s snowing quite hard on here today.  I wish that were real: outside it’s just wet and windy and disturbingly warm.  Last night at Beer and Carols we sung an alternative Climate-change version of Good King Wenceslas…

Kirk out


Bent veg? Yes we can!

It appears that in response to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s lovely curls, Morrison’s have decided to sell curly and wonky veg.  They’re selling them at a discount, which is what I thought they should do all along – much more sensible than wasting them, and giving poorer customers a chance to economise – just goes to show what setting up your own stall in their car-park and televising the whole event, can achieve.  They state that the discount is to reflect the extra time customers will need in order to peel the veg.


You never peel veg!  Who peels veg?  You wash them and cut them up, for goodness sake.  And I mean that literally, because all the vitamins are in the peel.

Ye gods!

Anyway, that is good news, but it’s only the start.  We need to keep the pressure up.

Another good bit of news is just how much carrier-bag wastage has been reduced since the 5 p charge came in.  Mark had to clear the churchyard of rubbish today (just stuff that’s blown in , not that’s been deliberately thrown there) and he said there were no carrier bags apart from one really old and tattered one.  So that’s good news.

Plus, yesterday’s election in Spain, although it put the conservatives back in by a whisper, also took away their majority and gave great gains to a radical left-wing party, Podemos.  The so-called Socialists, PSOE, which have been in existence (and largely in government) since the end of Franco’s dictatorship, have been widely discredited and now Podemos (‘We Can’) has come along with a radical anti-austerity programme, rather like Jeremy Corbyn’s policies.  So it is an interesting situation and from a left-wing point of view, a heartening one.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, which I am planning to mark in some way, if only by doing a meditation at dusk.  It is important to note these occasions I think.

Apart from that I am, astonishingly, ready for Christmas.  The cards are sent, the presents wrapped, the shopping bought and the Christmas dinner planned.

So that’s that.


Kirk out

No! No! A Billion Times No!

Sometimes I feel like I’m on QI and Mark is Stephen Fry and every time I make a statement that bloody klaxon goes off because I’ve got it wrong!  I like QI but I hate it too because it undermines everything I’ve ever believed.  I think I know the answer but I don’t; somebody says it and that bloody thing goes off again and Stephen Fry sits there smugly with his cards in his hand and says, ‘No.  It isn’t that.’  And my life is ruined once more.  I’m thinking of writing to the programme to suggest they make it more like ‘1066 and all that’.  History is what you can remember; all other history defeats itself.  I like that idea.

So the latest hellish truth to strike at the core of my self-belief is this: a billion is not what I thought it was.  Now, I was always brought up to believe that a billion was a million million.  That’s logical, right?  A thousand is a hundred hundreds (hang on – all right, that’s wrong) but a million is a thousand thousands so it makes sense for a billion to be a million millions.  But NO!  The Americans have got hold of the jolly old concept and twisted it for their own sinister ends.  So now, apparently, we have adopted the American billion which is something like a hundred million or some such nonsense.  So all those billion pound bonuses we’ve been hearing about are in fact jolly reasonable, considering.

Yeah, right.

I mean how much more of this stuff are we going to be adopting?  We already talk about 9/11 which in any sensible system would mean the ninth of November – but NO! it’s the eleventh of September.  And now this!  Whatever next?

I think we should be told.

I hate it when Mark’s right.

Kirk out


The Queen’s Speech? What a Charade!

Dear Friends,

Many of you seem to have enjoyed my Vicarage Christmas account – but I’ve just realised, I forgot one vital thing.  The Queen’s Speech!  How could I forget that?  It was an integral part of the day, ironed into the schedule and meaning that lunch – or at least one course of it – must finish by three pm.  So, at the hour God intended, we gathered round the TV which was turned on just for these ten holy minutes – though I longed to watch the Christmas Top of the Pops – and then, with a collective sigh from my mother, my aunt and my grandmother about how wonderful the Queen is, the set went blank again.

After a while we took to having dinner in two stages; first course, the Queen, then pudding.

I also forgot to mention the Christmas cake, which was taken with tea at around five or six, after which the evening got under way.  And as for the games, I forgot about charades.  If you don’t know what charades is, it’s basically Give us a Clue – you act out a book or a film or a TV series and the other team have to guess what it is.  Great fun.

They don’t know they’re born these days…

Bear in mind, won’t you, that since I’m still not on Facebook, if you don’t comment on here I will miss your lovely thoughts?

Kirk out


A Vicarage Christmas (#2)

As a teenager I thought we had Christmas dinner ridiculously early. No-one sat down to eat turkey at one o’clock; cool people had theirs at three or four. But by then the adults were asleep and only once they woke up could we have the main present-giving.

This was the order of events which hardly varied until I left home – and possibly after.

We were not allowed TV on Christmas Day, so when the presents had been unwrapped (this was a ritual in itself: we each took turns to pick a present from the pile and give it to the person on the label, who had to unwrap it before another present could be chosen) we had tea and Christmas cake (also made months before) and then the evening set in.

In the evening my mother, aunt and grandmother would change and put on long dresses. And then we would play games: either card games (my Granddad was very fond of cribbage) or board games like ludo, scrabble or monopoly – plus, my mother loved parlour games such as ‘Squeak, piggy squeak,’ where a blindfolded person would be spun around three times (to disorientate them) and then pointed to sit on someone’s lap. The person thus sat upon would give a squeak, and they would have to guess who it was.

I’m sure there were loads of other games we played, but I can’t remember them. I never heard of anyone else who celebrated Christmas Day the way we did.