That’s Fifteen Miles in the Old Money!

As I mentioned the other day, I’m not one for gargantuan physical efforts.  But I do have my moments, and just the other day one such Moment occurred.  On Saturday the weather was perfect – oo!  I’ve just discovered an icon at the top of the page which apparently means ‘mark as sticky’.  What?  Anyway, back to the post… Saturday being a lovely day and it being a Bank Holiday weekend I decided to go for a bike ride.  I had already ridden over to the Martyrs for breakfast so after that I decided to hit the canal and keep going South out of the city until I got to Kilby, whereupon I would come back up the A 50 (or A5199 as they call it nowadays), across to Knighton Park and hence home.  This turned out to be a total of 15 miles; not far for some but quite a way for me as I’m generally used to doing two or three miles at a stretch.  It’s a lovely ride out of town, finding canalside pubs and cafes; locks and quaint old humpback bridges, horses in fields and the quiet backs of houses.  Everyone I met was friendly and helpful and the route was easy; though that didn’t prevent me stopping every so often to check how far it was to Kilby.  Once I got to the main road it was a gentle rise up to Wigston (though I did walk a bit to save my energy, being unsure at what point I might conk out).  Which reminds me of a joke:

Me to OH: I can’t walk that far – I’ll conk out!

OH to me: Yes, but you’d conk back in again.

On with the bike ride.  Pausing like a steam engine (and probably resembling one in some respects) to take on water, I arrived in Wigston and found a handy cycle path away from the main road; following this I hit Knighton Park much sooner than expected.  And so home, where I spent the rest of the day feeling thoroughly energised before predictably feeling knackered the day after.  Anyway, this is what the canal near Kilby looks like:

I’m fascinated by the life of canals; both traditionally, as transport highways, and nowadays as largely leisure locations (although a few people still live and work on the canals and we’ll be seeing some at this weekend’s Riverside Festival.)  There’s something quite detached about a canal, like a separate life that coexists with ours; a quiet backwater that cuts through our lives almost unseen and unheard.  I’ve only once been on a narrow-boat holiday but it’s something I’d really like to do again: it’s peaceful, friendly, interesting and – most importantly of all – features lots of pubs.

Anyway, I was inordinately pleased with myself when I got home – but then of course I logged onto Facebook and instantly saw a map posted by a couple cycling from Lands’ End to John o’Groats who had completed 74 miles that day.

But hey, ho – as I said the other day, no matter what you achieve, there will always be someone who’s done more, so why worry?  You could do the entire Tour de France and still find someone who’s done it backwards or sideways or upside down or in a kilt.  So I am happy with my fifteen miles.  Because it’s significant to me.

Kirk out

Upstart Crowing

I’m making the most of the iplayer before they start charging for it, in which case we may as well a) give up altogether or b) get a TV licence/Freeview box/whatever other packages they’ve come up with in the ten years or so since we last did This Sort of Thing.  Actually I think it might be more like fifteen years than ten.  Anyway… last night was a stonking night’s viewing: beginning with a classic ‘Over-sexed and over here’ Dad’s Army where they meet, greet and punch the visiting GI’s; and continuing with the utterly compelling comedy-drama ‘Love Nina’.  I wasn’t sure about this at first; but it only took a few minutes to hook me in to this series about a nanny from Leicester (yes, Leicester! – which, as it’s set in the eighties, no-one knows anything about) who goes to work as a live-in nanny for two precocious boys and their single Mum Helena Bonham-Carter.  Equally engaging is the latest Jo Brand series.  Knowing that she worked as a nurse, the series ‘Going Forward’ featuring a hard-pressed care-worker and her chauffeur husband is thoroughly authentic and gripping as well as comic.  I can’t wait to see how both of these pan out:

Sitcoms seem to be like buses: and last week we had the first episode of ‘Mum’, a gentle series about a bereaved woman surrounded by well-meaning idiots:

All three of these are different, intriguing and therefore unpredictable.  And what’s even better is that only one of them is on BBC 4.

As if all this weren’t enough, as part of the current Shakespeare-a-thon comes Ben Elton’s sitcom ‘Upstart Crow.’  I dimly recall that ‘upstart crow’ was one of the insults hurled at the bard by a contemporary; such is our reverence for him now that it’s hard to believe he could be so insulted in his own time.  David Mitchell plays a baffled, bewildered, much rivalled and yet supremely confident Will whose closest friend Kit Marlowe is also his nearest rival.  And here’s the rub: for, though David Mitchell is totally right for the part, I can’t help feeling that it’s otherwise a cast of understudies.  It’s as though Elton wanted his dream-team of Blackadder back again, with Rowan Atkinson as Shakespeare, Rik Mayall as Marlowe, Stephen Fry as Robert Green and Tony Robinson as Bottom the manservant, a Baldrick figure if ever I saw one.  So there’s an odd feeling of actors channelling other actors.  See for yourself whether Mark Heap isn’t channelling Stephen Fry here:

Still, the language is nicely parodied and there is a feminist update as Shakespeare’s friend Kate supplies a lot of his best ideas.  So well worth watching.

A good crop!

Kirk out



Sound Decaf

The world seems to be made of cafes nowadays; this afternoon I was lamenting, along with a fellow Sound Cafe guest, the demise of Voodoo.  This brilliant, quirky shop sold all manner of colourful and individual clothes, the like of which you can now presumably only get online.  Call me old-fashioned but I don’t really like shopping online; unless it’s for something rare or hard to get, I’d rather shop for it in town.  But the dynamic is heading more and more to little white vans cruising the streets with parcels which you unwrap in the comfort of your own home, leaving more empty spaces in town centres which are filled by more cafes.  Which is odd, when you think about it.  Cafes in town used to be places to rest and recuperate after shopping.  You’d usually have a cup of tea and a bun, unless you were going out for lunch, and most meals would be taken at home.  But now the whole situation is reversed: people shop online at home and eat out in cafes.  Weird.

I’m not against cafes in principle.  OH and I have our favourites: Fingerprints on Queen’s Rd, St Martin’s and the Peace Cafe in town, and the most recent addition, a place called Six Degrees which is run by a charity and fulfils a need to hang out somewhere on the way into town.  But I’d like a few more actual shops.  The fellow guest and I were reminiscing about places such as Lewis’s (the Leicester department store, not John Lewis) and Woolworth’s as well as lamenting the imminent demise of BHS.  Mind you, M&S seem to be doing better this year, so that’s something.

Six degrees was a bit of a find.  We’re used to cafes doing pots of tea with soya milk and herbal selections etc but this one does loose-leaf tea for a very reasonable price.  They’re a charity run by volunteers and all profits go to the Open Hands Trust:

Sadly at Sound Cafe they only have tea or coffee so as it’s the afternoon I’m forced to have decaf…

Kirk out



Is Benedict Cumberbatch Really God?

I think Benedict Cumberbatch is actually God.  There is nothing the man cannot do: from a whiz-bang slap-up Sherlock to a slithering Richard III who out-Voldemorts Voldemort, the man is a total genius.  I’ve never actually seen his Hamlet but I watched the latest in the Hollow Crown series on the beeb last night and I was totally gripped.  At first I thought he was playing it a bit over the top, but he sustained the level of evil and upped it at key moments to a character that could rival his alter ego’s nemesis, Moriarty.

I had wondered whether they might, in the light of recent discoveries, update it a little: put in a hint or two that Richard wasn’t as bad as he’s painted – but as OH pointed out, the text doesn’t leave you too much scope for that.  It’s a shame he’s been given this undeserved reputation by a playwright who was merely sucking up to the Tudors: even so I thought they might add a little reference at the end to him being buried in the choir of the old church, but the film ended with a shot of the battlefield, pulling back and back so that in the end it looked like a grotesque Breughel:

Sophie Okonedo is also brilliant as Margaret of Anjou, a performance sustained through several plays.

Richard III is far more interesting than the other history plays as it’s basically a psychological drama, the battle coming only at the very end and providing a satisfactory catharsis.  There’s not too much catharsis around at the moment, so let’s make the most of it…

Kirk out

A HemidemisemiQuaker

Years ago I used to have piano lessons: they were taken by one K. Stuart Hart, a well-known and respected figure in that part of West London.  He was a mixture of parts; a gentle teacher (‘the Amos of another age’ as one student put it) but also both staggeringly egotistical and genuinely humble.  He never told me off when I didn’t practise but just sighed in a distracted way while chain-smoking B&H as I fumbled through my latest Mozart.  I took lessons from the age of 11 (when we were given a piano) until my late teens and once showed him the sheet music for ‘Tubular Bells’ which completely baffled him.

As a teenager I used to go up to the Royal College of Music for my exams; an ornate and deeply intimidating building in central London.  The experience was made much worse by precocious three-and four-year-olds running through Bach’s Toccata and Fugue on the practise pianos, so that I never managed to practise before my exam unless the room was quite empty.  The exam itself consisted, as I recall, of three prepared pieces, some aural tests (I was very good at these) and a sight-reading test which I always failed abysmally (to this day I cannot sight-read).  There were theory tests as well which were far less scary as they were written: I quite enjoyed learning music theory and I can still remember that a quaver is half a crotchet, a semiquaver half a quaver and a demi-semi-quaver half of that; after which it goes quite silly and becomes a hemi-demi-semiquaver.

So OH and I were joking that, since he comes to Quaker meeting about half the time, that makes him a semiQuaker.  If he came once a month he’d be a demi-semiQuaker and to be a hemi-demi-semiQuaker I guess he’d have to come once every two months.

Is that right?

Have a good week,

Kirk out

Men in Silly Trousers

There has recently been a furore over a Scottish golf club refusing to allow women to join as full members in their own right, as a result of which the club has been deselected as an Open venue.  It will be objected, I suppose, that as a private club, Muirhead are entitled to make their own decisions.  Of course they are; but if they want to host a tournament which exists in the modern world, then they must take account of the modern world.  It’d be like asking the Catholic church to host a gay convention – except that oh! as long-time commentator Peter Alliss pointed out, ‘ladies’ are welcome to play – so long as they are married to a male member.  Listening to him talk was like going back 30 years as he putted all the tired, discredited arguments around the hole without actually potting a single one.  I can’t be bothered even enumerating them but you can listen here:

and as for his assertion that as a man he wouldn’t be allowed to join the WRVS, he should do his homework.  The WRVS is now the RVS and they DO have men.  So there.

Why is golf so far behind other sports in this regard?  Is it because golfers are a bunch of reactionaries in weird trousers?  Surely not!


They’re almost as bad as freemasons…

Someone who is not a freemason or a wearer of silly trousers, is the universally loathed Katie Hopkins.  I’ve never felt inclined to discover why it is that everyone hates her so: I think people like her get far too much attention as it is; but I decided to watch her being interviewed by Stacey Dooley.  (The programme has now disappeared from iplayer.)  Since being interviewed by Dooley is like being interrogated by a new-born baby lamb, I was curious as to the upshot; and although Hopkins’ opinions (if a bunch of knee-jerk reactions can be dignified with the term) are utterly repellent, it seemed to me as Dooley nodded and smiled along, that underneath the motor-mouthing, the bluster, the rapid-fire rhetoric, lay a huge swathe of self-doubt.  As an empty vessel makes the most noise, so an empty head talks the most nonsense.

That’s far too much about her; and I hardly want to mention her American counterpart who was allowed to pontificate at excessive length on the ‘Today’ programme:

My limit is about 30 seconds…

And that’s far too much about both of them.  Now let’s have something nice and sensible.

Kirk out

Suffragette City

Now, I’m not one for making gargantuan physical efforts: I watch in bewilderment the increasingly mad efforts of people to run six marathons before breakfast, climb Everest backwards, swim the Nile, jog the channel and just about anything that hasn’t been done before.  Why?  In god’s name, why do people do these things?  I once went on a church holiday where the first thing some people did on getting settled on the beach was to join a communal bus-pull!  Why?  I turned to the woman next to me and said ‘They’re mad, aren’t they?  Why don’t they just lie back and enjoy the sunshine?’  She gave me an embarrassed smile before stripping off and charging up the beach to join them.

But don’t go running away with the idea that I’m a couch vegetable.  I’m reasonably active; I do yoga every morning, I walk a couple of miles every day and cycle about ten miles a week, the key word here being ‘reasonably.’  Plus, now and again I push the boat out a little bit: in the past I have swum a mile for charity and taken up karate, weight-lifting and, for a brief period, jazz dance.  So it was in this spirit that I went on a Sky-ride tour of Leicester’s suffragette sites.  Actually it was pretty gentle: only four miles and with frequent stops to hear about suffragettes (and suffragists) in Leicester whilst examining their blue plaques.  The most famous of them is Alice Hawkins who was a key organiser of protesters in the city.  Some women dressed up as suffragettes and we all wore sashes in purple or green.  It was very interesting.

And today I received a leaflet on the coming referendum.  I am intending to vote to stay in, not because I am a great believer in the EU as such but because a) outcomes will be very uncertain if we come out and more importantly b) our politics will likely be influenced far more than at present by the United States which, with the possibility of D T at the helm, is a prospect that fills me with terror.  This, incidentally, is a view shared by Noam Chomsky, though I thought of it first:

So get out and vote!  Even if you don’t care – because people died for the right to do so.

Kirk out (but also staying in)

Eight Years,One Season and 240,000 People!

Wow!  That is the only word that sums up the experience of yesterday – and I’m not even a football fan.  From the moment I exited Peter’s house in Stoneygate there was a carnival atmosphere with lots of families walking towards town: as I drew closer the crowds thickened and by the time I got to the park it was like being on a huge demo.  London Rd was closed off, so people were walking down the middle of it singing, chanting, waving flags and honking horns (remember the vuvuzelas in 2012?) bobbing balloons in the shape of trophies and wearing inappropriately warm scarves.  It was UNBELIEVABLE!!!  and as I drew into the station where I was due to meet OH and saw how many people were teeming off the trains (like London in the rush hour) I was completely overwhelmed by the scale of it all.  Leicester has never seen anything like it; and this was only the beginning.  We inched our way back up London Rd to find a spot to wait

and stood watching the crowd as we scanned the horizon for the blue open-top buses we knew were snaking through the city centre bearing the players and the fabled trophy for us to view.  People were standing on rooftops (we saw one guy standing up on a high pitched roof*), sitting on balconies, leaning out of windows and generally making use of every vantage point available.  And after an hour or so the buses came, preceded by a police car and a vanguard of security men who did a little dance (like Morris men without the hankies) and stood in two lines to keep people from throwing themselves under the wheels (perhaps they were afraid of a suffragette-inspired suicide?)  I don’t think I’ve ever had the experience of being so close to such a major event before and it felt odd as the first bus passed us, the trophy in prime position and the players (some of whom I recognised) smiling and waving.  When the buses had passed we followed them up to the park where the band had finished playing and the players were introduced one by one to a hooting, cheering, flag-waving audience.

It was like a blue Glastonbury: the park was full and I thought there must be at least 100,000 but later the local BBC reckoned it was more like 240,000.  The population of Leicester is only 330,000!  There were pictures of people trying to get on trains to come in – at Narborough Station they were queueing to get onto the station!

I was a bit worried that the toilet situation might also be a bit Glastonbury-like but I needn’t have been – there were serried ranks of them in strategic positions like squadrons of Daleks poised to invade.  So that was good.  And then home, though I partly wish we’d stayed to watch Kasabian and the fireworks.

Still, we got to see Steve and Agnes who had had the nerve to park their car in our drive!


And apparently today it’s the eighth anniversary of my starting this blog!  I seem to remember I had an idea for a little widget called ‘Mr Bloggy’ – a bit like the Microsoft paperclip thing…

*that’s a pitched roof high up, not a roof singing a high note

Kirk out


A Blue Poem for a Blue Day

I have created poetry on any number of themes: political, personal, polemical, environmental, philosophical, science-fictional, locational and literary.  I have written parodies and hymnodies, feminist ripostes and meditative ponderings – but the one thing I have never yet done is to write a poem about football.  But now I have.  The odds against me taking an interest were almost as great as the odds against Leicester winning – and yet these things did come to pass.  So here is a taste of the poem – though not the whole thing, as I’m hoping the Mercury will publish it, and maybe even the Guardian as well.

Singing the Blues

I’ve never been a City-Fox

or a soccer freak.

When a match is on the box

it might as well be Greek;

Cos soccer soars above my head

and straight into the net –

if football’s an infection

I haven’t caught it yet…

but something got a hold of me

when I heard Leicester’s story

when I found out how close our city

had approached to glory.

That’s all for now.  I’ll keep you posted.  Have a blue day

Surprise me, darling – but just let me know when you’re going to do it…

So this morning I was moaning, as I often do, about being hungry.  It goes like this: I’m sitting up in bed drinking tea and listening to the radio.  Or more usually trying to listen to the radio through Mark’s ranting about the news.  This particular morning I was following the coverage of Sadiq Kahn’s very welcome election to the post of London Mayor and thinking a) how good it was to have a London mayor and b) how it would give the lie to all sorts of Islamophobia to have a Muslim mayor.  It almost neutralises the highly unwelcome news, the almost unbelievable news, that the Republican party have had the idiocy to select Trump for the nomination.  The guy is a joke, but a very bad one – a worse one, in many ways, than Reagan; and I remember only too well what that was like…

Sheer brilliance.  But the Trump story is beyond satire: I simply don’t know what we do with it.  I mean, it comes to something when even the Tory Prime Minister insults the Republican nominee.

But onwards and upwards.  As I said, this morning I was suffering the usual breakfast dialogue which goes like this:

I’m hungry.  

But I can’t have breakfast yet.  First I have to get up, then have a wash, put on some clothes, do my yoga and boil an egg.  

I can’t be bothered.  I’ll stay in bed for a while.

But I’m hungry….

It goes round and round like the song ‘There’s a Hole in my Bucket’ which I used to sing as a child.

I learned it from my Dad, who was a fund of songs – not religious ones as you might expect, but popular tunes like ‘Clementine’.

Anyway, I eventually heaved my reluctant brain out of bed, washed its front fascia and slung on some clothes.  I was about to unroll my yoga mat when OH popped his head round the door.  ‘Your breakfast’s nearly ready,’ he said.

He’d made me breakfast as a surprise.  ‘If I’d known you were going to surprise me I wouldn’t have got up,’ I said.

It was sweet of him though…

And the egg was perfect.

Kirk out