Category Archives: friends and family

Red Sky At Noon – Shepherd’s Panic

Image result for red sun

Yesterday as most people will have spotted, the sun turned red in the middle of the day.  It was quite spectacular in an apocryphal sort of way; you could just imagine medieval folks running for the church in a panic, thinking the world was about to end.  But even for us more enlightened folk such phenomena can trigger a primitive response, like seeing an unexpectedly huge lorry looming: the primitive brain immediately kicks in and yells ‘Threat!  Huge animal approaching!’ and it’s all you can do not to turn and run.  Which reminds me: on last night’s ‘Unbelievable Truth’ it transpired that 40-something per cent of Americans believe that dinosaurs and humans were alive simultaneously.

Now that’s scary.

Anyway, the red sun (which, as the Daily Mail pointed out, was all Corbyn’s fault for being such an out-and-out Marxist) was a direct effect of storm Ophelia which apparently travelled East, gathered up some dust from the Sahara and flung it in our direction, thus making the sun appear red.  I remember back in the ’80’s the same kind of thing happened when bits of the Sahara were lifted up, whirled half-way across the planet and deposited on people’s cars.  Everyone woke up to find their windscreen had been sandblasted during the night.

It also reminds me of a sunset phenomenon a couple of years back where a full moon rising on one side of the earth coincided with a brilliant sunset on the other side.  The result was a full orange disc in a black sky.  It was most surreal.

Kirk out

 

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Are You Having a British Dream?

*Sigh*

For some inexplicable reason, my latest works of staggering genius didn’t make it onto Newsjack.  Well, I thought they’d be inundated with stuff about the Tory Party conference so here, as promised, I display them for your delectation:

Breaking news:

Last week Theresa May was standing in an empty hall trying to get over a bad cough when a rogue Tory Party conference broke in and handed her a list of Labour Party policies.  It is not known how the conference, played by a bunch of comedians, was allowed access to the PM.

The conference slogan was in trouble too, when a couple of words fell off, obscuring the message ‘building a country that works or everyone will die’.  Officials have denied that the message originally read ‘come back Dave all is forgiven’.

Afterwards there was an epidemic of tumbleweed as Party members were asked their opinions on Theresa May’s speech.  Many of them had gone to bed hoping it was all a British dream but woken up to find it was only too real.

I’m wasted here…

Kirk out

 

 

 

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If I Told You That, I’d Have to Kill Myself…

Val McDermid has taken the somewhat unusual step of adding a surprise ending to the surprise ending of her latest novel.  But more of that in a moment: I started the week by listening to the latest radio adaptation of ‘Rebus’.  Fleshmarket Close is a novel I know fairly well, and so far (this was just episode 1) it is excellently done.  Except for one thing: they have made Siobhan Clarke Scottish!  This is just plain wrong.  As anyone knows who has read the books, one of the main features of Clarke is her Englishness, the fact that she has to struggle to be accepted not only as a woman in CID but as a Sassenach in Scotland.  So that spoilt it somewhat for me as all the way through I was shouting ‘Siobhan is English!’ at the radio.

Annoying.

However that was more than compensated for by discovering Val McDermid’s latest in the library.  ‘Insidious Intent’ which I believe is a quotation from T S Eliot (yes, google confirms that as I thought it’s from  Prufrock:

http://www.shmoop.com/love-song-alfred-prufrock/stanza-1-summary.html)

is the latest in the Carol Jordan series.  I know I blogged about the TV adaptations (Wire in the Blood) a while back, complaining that you wouldn’t know Carol Jordan was the main character in the books as Tony Hill (her friend and sidekick) completely takes over; in fact you could be forgiven for thinking it was the Robson Green show:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/women-on-the-verge-of-a-tv-series/

McDermid’s is a world largely run by women and in Insidious Intent she has upped her game to a new level of quantum entanglement (hang on, that’s a thing isn’t it?  Let’s ask the oracle.  If you have two quanta with a common origin and you measure one they will both be in the same state.  Thanks, oracle.  Not sure how that helps us here, but still…) anyway, in this latest novel we catch up once again with Jordan and Hill, now sharing a converted barn (though not in the biblical sense) while Jordan gets over the trauma of seeing her brother and sister-in-law murdered and goes cold turkey on the alcoholism which nearly ruined her career.

Tony Hill is something of a redeemed character – product of a cold and abusive mother and an absent father, he has reinvented himself, partly through police work and partly through his relationship with Carol Jordan.  This relationship is tested to its limits and beyond as REmit, the new murder unit headed up by Jordan, handles its first case: the case of The Wedding Killer.  A serial murderer picks women up at weddings and later kills them; clever and forensically aware, he outwits the police until the very end.

And here’s the thing.  This is a new novel; released just this summer and with an ending that is bound to stun all but the most Sherlockian of readers.  I certainly didn’t see it coming: I sat there saying ‘Oh, my God!’ for about five minutes and it was fully ten before I could bring myself to say anything else.  But eventually I turned the page to see a note from the author asking readers not to give away the ending.  Quite right, too – there’s far too much of this sort of thing; not only in blogs, reviews and on social media but often from the publishers themselves.  It’s like film trailers which show you everything, or TV programmes that finish with what’s going to happen in the next episode.  I don’t want to know!!!  I’ll watch it next week, thank you very much – and I’ll thank you not to spoil it.

Enough.  So nothing will induce me to give away the ending to ‘Insidious Intent’ because if I told you that, I’d have to kill myself.

Kirk out

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One Who is Bored With Life is Probably About to be Creative

I’m not often bored; however sometimes a state of tedium does overtake me and nothing I do can shake it.  I feel like Sherlock when he lacks an interesting case to exercise his brain; like Sherlock I would probably fire some bullets into the wall if I could get away with it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6J_AUBT-PAo

but my inner Mrs Hudson heads off any such activity (not to mention that I don’t own a gun) so I am reduced to pacing up and down and sighing.  Deeply.

However, as my wiser self well knows, boredom is not so much the lack of interest as a lack of being interested.  And whereas when I was a child I often suffered excruciating boredom through, for example, having to sit through three services every Sunday, nowadays I am rarely bored – just so long as I have a notebook and a pen.  Because no matter how dull the situation, there is always something interesting in it: and the something interesting usually lies in describing it.  Suppose I’m stuck in a particularly dull lecture where to walk out would be either rude or impractical.  I amuse myself by describing the situation: first, my own sensations, then the voice and demeanour of the speaker, then the surroundings and then, most interesting of all, the reactions of the audience.  If I have long enough I can work up quite a good blog post on the topic, and that’s a portion of my day’s work done.

But often being bored is not so much about what’s happening outside as what’s occurring inside.  I find myself unable to take an interest in anything that has previously absorbed me.  All my books are dull.  TV is dull.  There’s nothing on Netflix, nothing at the cinema, I don’t want to go for a walk, the guitar is tedious and I’m fed up with sewing.  Quite simply nothing engages my interest because my interest is not ready to be engaged.  But just as we found with the children that the best response to ‘I’m bored’ was ‘I’m sure you’ll find something to do’, so rather than bombarding the brain with possible toys I allow it just to be bored.  Boredom is the mental equivalent of fallow ground: it is necessary to the creative brain, and often my best ideas come after a period of boredom.

Mind you, I don’t go to the lengths that Graham Greene did: he made life more interesting by playing Russian roulette:

http://dangerousminds.net/comments/novelist_graham_greene_played_russian_roulette_as_a_teenager

So there it is.  Sorry you’ve been subjected to this, but I hope the post was more bored than boring.

Kirk out

 

 

 

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The Tumbleweeds

I’ve been busy this morning putting together some jokes for Newsjack about the Tory Party Conference, and coming up against the ‘Trump Conundrum’ ie how can you make fun of something that is itself a joke?  Still by dint of Herculean efforts I’ve come up with a few one-liners: if they don’t get on – and let’s face it, they’ll be inundated by such contributions this week – then I’ll post them here.  Not to mention the possibility that she might resign or be pushed over the weekend.

What a fiasco though, eh?  Left to itself the speech would have been dull and unmemorable, the only good points stolen from Labour and the rest an embarrassment of poverty.  Who came up with the phrase ‘British dream’ and what were they on at the time?  Lots of cocoa, one can only assume…  We sat through the turgid flow for several sluggish minutes before OH had the brainwave of putting it on at double-speed; even then it was hardly entertaining.  I would imagine you have to watch a Theresa May speech at x 10 speed for it even to approach fun.

I can’t tell you much about what was in it, since there wasn’t much to tell.  As I say, she’d stolen a few initiatives from Labour, plus a lot of hollow rhetoric about equality and stuff, but the biggest cheers came from remarks about ‘wanting everyone to keep their money’ and ‘enjoying the rewards of all your hard work.’

Hmm.

The contrast with Corbyn could hardly be greater.  But the worst, as we already knew, was yet to come.  First a rogue ‘comedian’ broke in and handed her a P45 (even the Tory party disruptions are dull) and then she broke into a coughing fit* which lasted most of the rest of the speech.  Being Tories they manfully stood and clapped during the battle between voice and phlegm, but no amount of standing ovation could smooth over the car-crash of this speech.  If more evidence of God’s disapproval were needed, an ‘F’ fell off the sign behind her and, for all I know, down the back of her dress.  You’d have thought the Tories could afford decent signage at least.

Ah well – it’s all good fun, as was Amber Rudd’s excruciating interview on PM last night:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b096gjrb

William Hill are giving 9/4 odds on Theresa May resigning this year.  Mind you, I’m none the wiser as I don’t really know what 9/4 means…

http://sports.williamhill.com/bet/en-gb/betting/e/11251986/When+Will+Theresa+May+Leave+Office+as+PM%3f.html

Kirk out

*I almost wrote ‘coffin fit’ – Freudian slip

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Do You Have Clergy? Take Our Simple Test…

Do you suspect that you may have clergy in the house?  Here are some fail-safe ways to spot them:

  1. Are there any long black garments on hangers?
  2. Are there bits of paper lying around which when placed in order spell GOD or JESUS?
  3. Is there lots of jam in the house?
  4. At this time of year are there baskets of fruit and vegetables strewn around?
  5. Does anyone in the house go around muttering feverishly jelly, cat food, Mars bars, Bible?
  6. Is anyone suspiciously absent at breakfast on Sundays?

And finally:

7:  are there pouches of cat food which have been mysteriously emptied and filled with jelly and bits of cut-up Mars bar?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any four of the above then you probably have what experts call ‘clergy’.  Sorry, there’s no cure for this: you’re stuck with it.

All of which is a propos of our weekend in Wales.  Yes, I’ve finally persuaded OH to take his massive brain down to Grosmont for a couple of days in order to veg and to climb some hills.  We didn’t do half the things I wanted to do but we did manage to climb Garway Hill, the highest in the immediate area though nothing of course to the Black Mountains and beyond them, the Brecon Beacons.  Garway features spectacular 360 degree views, sheep, and bundles of bracken destined to be made into biofuel: it is accessed by a drastically steep and bumpy track leading up to a widened spot which is not so much a car park as a place to abandon all hope of your vehicle’s suspension.

Apart from visiting a friend and going to church on the Sunday we didn’t seem to do much else, except that on the Saturday there happened to be a ‘Last Night of the Proms’ concert featuring a local choir and brass band.  This was fun, though it would have been more fun if we had not both been so exhausted.  Still it was a good weekend and a restful time.  Getting away is always good.

Oh, and the cat food?  Shall I tell you?  Oh, all right then… the theme of the service Mary was leading was ‘trust’; it being an all-age service she wanted a concrete example of trusting someone in the face of contradictory evidence.  So at very little expense but with a great deal of painstaking (not to mention sellotape) she cut the bottoms off some pouches of cat food and constructed a good lookalike from jelly and tiny bits of cut-up Mars bar.  This she would then offer to a child with a smile and the words ‘do you trust me?’

Kirk out

 

 

 

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Shorthand and (Stereo)typing

In the old days everything was simple.  Your social status was immediately obvious because your clothes, your accent, your demeanour, everything about you – all spoke of your position in society.  Though there was some level of social mobility, it would have been almost impossible to ‘pass’ as someone of a different social class, else there would have been no ‘Pygmalion’  – and even no ‘Educating Rita.’

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/pygmalion/summary.html

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085478/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

The advantage of this (if you want to see it so) was that it operated as a kind of shorthand.  You could tell at a glance who someone was and how you should treat them.  They could tell at a glance how to behave towards you; whether with deference or brusqueness, whether to give an order or hail you as a fellow.  It made life easier and more straightforward.  It also made it terrible.  It put people in strait-jackets; it consigned individuals to oblivion or slavery before they were born.

Even when I was growing up in the ‘sixties, three distinct social classes were still in operation.  It would not have been remotely funny for two Ronnies Corbett and one John Cleese to do the famous ‘I look up to him/I look down on him’ sketch if it had not expressed a visible truth.  (Women didn’t even figure in this scenario because they derived their social status from the men in their lives; any unmarried working women were either definitely working-class or else practically classless.)

But now we have thrown all this out in the name of equality.  I’m more than thankful for that, don’t get me wrong: the class system perpetuates privilege and injustice and ought to be abolished (insofar as it actually has been.)  But there’s a problem.  Because now that we have no shorthand telling us how to treat people, some of us are resorting to typing.  Stereotyping, that is.*  If you rely on appearances to judge the person in front of you, that’s called prejudice.  We seem as a society to be particularly bad at taking people as we find them.  We seem to need a kind of shorthand to help us with short-term encounters or first meetings.

*see what I did there?

Nowadays men know that they shouldn’t patronise women; white people are better-informed about how to treat ethnic minorities and I hope we are all much better at talking to people with disabilities.  This is not to say that prejudice doesn’t exist; of course it does, but we’re more clued up about it.  We have strategies – and in some contexts, laws – to deal with it.

The problem is that the progress towards equality has taken place – in this country at least – within the context of individualistic captalism.  We may all be equal, but we are all in competition with each other.  We live in a ‘me too!’ society where everyone wants to be at the top; and we deal with this by means of competitions.  Everything’s a competition now – just look at the TV schedules.

There must be a better way to do this.  I just don’t know what it is yet.

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and while I’m mentioning ‘Educating Rita’ I must recall a brief sojourn into the limelight by a friend.  He phoned into Dermot o’Leary’s show on radio 2 to protest at the amount of rap music he played, and was invited to come on the programme and choose one word to describe a song they had just played.  Words such as ‘bilge’, ‘offal’ and ‘dross’ received an outing: the item was called ‘Educating Peter’.

 

 

 

 

 

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