Well – I’ve been whizzing about in my stats for this blog and trying to understand these little columns of blue and the maps that go with them.  I admit to being a bit obsessive about checking my stats, as I guess most bloggers are (those of us who don’t have millions of followers, that is).  In the last year or so, they have ‘improved’ them, and like most improvements, it’s a mixed blessing.  Instead of giving you just the total number of views in a nice blue bar-chart, they give you another column in dark blue.  This indicates the number of visitors to your shores.  So, it’s like counting, say, the number of birds who visit your garden and then being able to identify each individual bird and discovering you have a lot fewer than you thought because you’ve got the same birds coming back again and again.

Now, I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or not.  If I have, say, 100 views in a day but only 20 visitors, is that better than 100 different people coming and taking a quick look?  And what are these twenty visitors doing, leaving and coming back again an average of four times a day?

Whatever.  So long as the stats go up, I’m happy – although that does mean that when they go down I’m unhappy.  I just can’t seem to cure myself of the habit of looking at them.

Anyway, what I was really going to blog about was the news that broke yesterday about corruption in FIFA.  I couldn’t care less about football (incidentally, why do Americans say ‘I could care less’?  It makes no sense!!!) but my heart still sinks to my boots when I hear these stories.  Is everything up for sale?  Is everyone?

Maybe drugs were involved.  They were certainly involved in last night’s Drink and Think, although we got a bit stuck on currently illegal drugs and didn’t have much to say about legal highs as we don’t really know what they are.  We did touch on prescription drugs though and the good or harm that these do.

If you weren’t there, you missed it.  And a good pint of Holden’s mild, too.

Kirk out

Like Drinking? Like Thinking? Then You’ll Love Drink and Think

Once more I must remind you that tomorrow night is Drink and Think at the Ale Wagon.

This month the topic is ‘Should Drugs be a Matter for Choice or a Matter for the Law?’  OH is going to introduce the topic and will talk about prescription drugs, ‘recreational’ drugs and so-called ‘legal highs’.  He has strong views on this subject, but then he has strong views on just about anything, from coffee to the human rights act, so that doesn’t particularly distinguish it from any other topic.

You should come along.  Yes, Drink and Think is a philosophy discussion group, but it’s not specially academic or high-flown and anyone is welcome to come and join us.  There are usually about six or seven men and women who range from the abstract and intellectual to the very down-to-earth.  And then there’s the beer: the Ale Wagon sports several different real ales and since May is Mild Month they should have at least one type of mild on.

I have strong views on mild.  And tea, but particularly mild.  It aggrieves me that mild beer is seen as an old man’s drink when it is mostly very tasty and, as the name suggests, not too alcoholic.  And yet it has become so unfashionable, losing out to trendy lagers and strong bitters, that you can hardly find it.  My favourite is Banks’ Mild which hails from the Black Country.’s-fresh.aspx

I shall hope to find mild of some description tomorrow night.

See you there.

Kirk out

Popeye and Flagman

Yesterday I went to the Ale Wagon for a meeting about the aftermath of the Scottish referendum.  Jan was going, and I thought it promised to be interesting: however it reneged somewhat on that promise almost as quickly as the British government reneged on its Devo Max promises.  Of which more anon…

The evening was actually somewhat farcical.  First, I turned up at the pub without my glasses and nobody was there.  I only need my glasses for reading, so I could see quite well that the pub was empty; however, I couldn’t see to check the text message I’d got from Jan and confirm the place and time.  I went up to a bloke at the bus stop.  ‘Can you read this for me?’ I said, explaining that my specs were at home on the night-stand.  He read it.  Ale Wagon at 7.30.  While he was reading it, two more texts came from Jan.  The first said Help! and the second said, Meeting upstairs.  Still pondering over why she needed help, I thanked the bloke, collected a half of Hob and made my way upstairs.

Oh dear.  I’d been expecting the usual suspects: some liberal Guardian-reading types, some more down-to-earth socialists and a few nay-sayers.  No such thing: there was an odd assortment of blokes, one of whom had a completely shaven head and who sat draped in a Union Jack.  This did not bode well.

They had a speaker, who was fine; but when the debate began the trouble started.  It was clear that there were some who loved the sound of their own voices – that’s usually the case, but you need a chair who is prepared to shut people up.  This one just let them carry on until they’d run out of steam.  Well; we went around the room, everyone making their speeches or asking their questions; Jan naturally being the most impassioned and the most coherent.  I made a few points, most of which I’ve already made on here, so I won’t sport with your patience by repeating them.  Then it came to the man in the flag.  He’d clearly been gearing himself up throughout the session, and now he was off.  Like a coiled spring he bounded into the air, jabbing his finger to emphasise his points.  It was a rant, and much of it was offensive.  After a few minutes I was reaching the limit of my patience; and when he’d spoken for three times as long as anyone else I could stand no more.  I appealed to the chair to stop him: the chair refused (‘let him have his say’); Jan weighed in on my side, and finally as the guy was still talking we decided to leave.  But no sooner had we got downstairs than one person after another came to apologise for the bloke in the flag; including the flag-bound guy himself, who proceeded to explain exactly why he’d said what he’d said and effectively launching into another rant.  Like Popeye I thought: that’s all I can stands: I can’t stands no more – and I made my way to the other end of the bar, where the barman was also complaining about flagman.  Apparently he goes there every month and he has no manners.

In the end Jan came to join me and we had a chat, but not before two more people had come down to apologise.  I wondered whether we were the first women they’d ever had there and they realised they’d blown it…

Kirk out


Didn’t They Have a Hit in the ’80’s?

Sometimes you get a bit ahead of yourself: I was so caught up in reviews and tasters of the latest Cohen album that I forgot it doesn’t come out till tomorrow!  I wondered why Amazon hadn’t got any…  Not that I want to buy from Amazon; I’m probably going to head into town and get it from an Actual Shop while they still exist – but it’s probably just as well I didn’t go and do that today…

Anyway, I’ve been tinkering with the memoir, finishing off little bits I’m still unhappy with; and when I’d finished I realised it was only four o’clock!  So getting ahead of myself seems to be the theme for today.

With writing the memoir I’ve learned a lot of things.  One is that although I try to write consecutively it doesn’t really work.  You get ahead of yourself and have to go back: for example when I was writing about all the houses I’ve lived in, I got as far as our last one – which I’ve called ‘the house that should have been knocked down’ – and realised I was married with children and I hadn’t even written about meeting Mark yet!  So back I went…

The other thing I’ve learned is that the process of memory, and writing about memory, is cyclical.  You may think you’re going in a straight line, but you’re actually travelling in circles; or perhaps in spirals, where you keep coming back to the same places again and again.  And then of course there is the irony of writing a memoir about memory-loss…

Another way I’ve got ahead of myself today is in reading Don de Lillo.  I’m getting through it, but it’s loooooooooong – about 830 pages, all in American – and I hadn’t realised it was published pre-9/11 so I got a little jolt when he mentions seeing the Twin Towers.  And that started me thinking about Islamic fundies.  Al Qaida were bad enough, but even they think Islamic State are beyond the pale.  What is the matter with these people?  I cannot comprehend them.  I’d say they were hired by Richard Dawkins to make religion look bad, but it’s way beyond that sort of joke.  It’s beyond anything.

So tonight, to take my mind off all that, I’m going to a discussion at the Ale Wagon about Scotland and the aftermath.  It should be interesting; particularly in view of the can of worms Cameron has opened with all this Devo Max stuff.  When an MP for Wiltshire complains that his constituents are being ‘done down’ by deals with Scotland, you know he’s in trouble: it’s one thing to go haring North of the border scattering election promises left, right and centre (sorry, I mean ‘right, right and centre’) – it’s another to go home again and deal with the fallout.

Hm – Devo Max.  Didn’t they have a hit some time in the ’80’s?

Kirk out


Go Murray!

Well, what else can I write about today but the tennis – and what can I say but ‘Wow!’  There were two utterly terrific semi-finals yesterday: I had intended to stop watching the first, between Djokovic and Del Potro, after an hour or so, but I just couldn’t tear myself away.  This nail-biting five-setter didn’t follow the script at all: Djokovic ought in theory to have dispatched ‘Del-boy’ in straight sets, but the Argentine player just hung in there and produced some spectacular shots.  He simply wouldn’t go away and punished each of Djokovic’s errors with a winner.  So Djokovic eventually got through the match, which was the longest men’s semi-final in Wimbledon history; though there have been longer matches at other levels.  You have to wonder whether, after that, he will have the reserves he needs for tomorrow’s final.

Aaaaaand yes!  He will be playing Murray.  After a fairly nail-biting four-setter against the eighteen-year-old Janowicz during which they had a break to put on the roof, Murray was through in fairly decisive fashion.  The match was almost an object-lesson in youth versus experience, Janowicz covering the court faster but Murray playing more wisely and getting far less worked up.  There was some controversy about the decision to put the roof on at that stage; there seemed to be enough light to play on but Janowicz had been whittling about the roof for a good half hour and the break favoured him as Murray was on a roll at that point.  Still, in the end Murray gritted his teeth and won the fourth set and the match.  You have to give him good odds against Djokovic, especially with a home crowd.

Sadly I shall be missing the women’s final as I’m meeting Chris and Peter for a drink: however I have my seat booked for tomorrow from 2 pm onwards.  Not on centre court, sadly, but in front of a decent TV for a change…

Happy Saturday

Kirk out

PS  I can’t remember if I mentioned that I was going to be on TV talking about urine therapy?  I think I did – well, I’m not doing it now as I have received reliable information that this is not the serious scientific study it purports to be but an exercise in ridicule: apparently it is to be called ‘Health Freaks on Trial’.  So no thanks, Channel 4 – if I’m going on there it should be me taking the piss….

It’s a Crime not to Read This

So… on Thursday I went along to the inaugural meeting of the local Crime Reading group: this took place in the library and turned out to be an all-women affair, though the facilitator, an ex-librarian, was male.  He proved to be very knowledgeable about crime and got the discussion going; though people didn’t need much encouragement, being a very vocal group.  We began with our favourite authors: M C Beaton was the first to be mentioned, an author towards the cosy end of crime who was referred to throughout as Mrs Beaton, which amused me.  Ian Rankin featured heavily, of course, as did Patricia Cornwell – whom I have yet to read – Kathy Reichs and Val McDermid were also mentioned; many people liked Agatha Christie (which I don’t) and what was surprising in retrospect was how little Sherlock Holmes was mentioned.  A sign of the times perhaps?

There was a potential split between those who wanted to focus purely on books and saw TV adaptations as irrelevant (‘I have only books and radio 4 in my house’ said one) and those – one woman in particular – who seemed very focussed on TV programmes and admitted to reading only ‘short, easy books.’  I suspect most people are like me, wanting to focus on books but also interested in the dialogue between books and other forms – and in particular, whether future books are influenced by past adaptations.  Some people claimed that Ian Rankin’s books, for example, had been changed by TV interpretations of Rebus.  So that will be interesting.

For next month we have a book to read which is based in the Island of Lewis off the coast of Scotland, called Black House.  I’m finding it interesting so far and he evokes the setting well:

And so to the Ale Wagon, where Jan and I discussed Scottish independence and whether the vote would go through if they had it tomorrow.  She reckoned it might…

…and going back to yesterday’s theme, there’s an awful lot of talk about tennis injuries and why the courts are so slippery, but few people seem to mention the obvious: the utterly crappy summer we’ve been having.


Kirk out

Onward and Upward?

Here’s an insight into the mad, mad world of Mark.  He was on Facebook where someone had said that the direction of evolution is forward.  ‘I mean, what the hell?’ he said.

I looked at him, puzzled.  ‘Mark, that’s a perfectly normal idea!’ I said.  ‘Most people think we are more advanced than the apes.  And so do I.’

‘But we can’t climb trees!’ he objected.

‘No.  I’m not saying some things aren’t lost in the process.  But most people would think that the general tendency of evolution is forward – or upward, or onward – or whatever.’

‘Really?’ he said.  ‘But what about creodonts?’

Some days I don’t know what planet that man is on.  And no, I don’t know what a creodont is either – and I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of asking.

OK.  I will acknowledge that the idea of evolution being ‘ever upwards and onwards’ might be rather simplistic, and that some good species and good ‘ideas’ might have been lost along the way: I also see that the idea of progress can be handily linked to a belief in unfettered capitalism – though I suggest that link is more tenuous.*  But why should it seem strange to Mark that most people think this way?

That man is weird.

And speaking of weird, here’s a really good Horizon programme looking into climate change and its effects world-wide: it’s called ‘Global Weirding.

Bong!  In other news, I’ve started a group on Facebook for post- and peri-menopausal women to share their experiences.  Long-time readers of this blog may remember I went a little strange when it hit me – but my experience would have been a whole lot easier if I’d known how common it was to suffer memory loss and psychosis.  Hence the group: it’s called Crazy Crones.  If you want to join, just send me a friend request on Facebook.

And finally – are we Becoming a More Cruel Society?

I am getting some thoughts together on this theme for the next Drink and Think.  If you have any ideas please comment below.  Are we becoming a more cruel society?  What do you think?

Oops.  The post’s just come and with it probably the letter from the bank I was dreading.

Nope.  We live to fight another day…

Kirk out

* or ‘missing’, LOL

What the Who?

Some good news yesterday – my poem and short-short piece have finally appeared in What the Dickens? magazine.  I’ve had a leaf through and it looks quite good – some interesting articles, short stories and poems, though of course the highlight comes on pp 35 -36 (look for Sarada Gray, not Liz).  It’s free to read on-line though the print version will cost you.  And here it is:

And that was the high point in an otherwise rather dull day.  I made it down to Yesim’s for about an hour and then came home again: there were icicles hanging off the shop-fronts and the puddles were all frozen.

Yesterday Daniel tidied his room without being nagged (a minor miracle) while I watched ‘Coronation Street goes to Ancient Egypt’.  I think you can go a bit far with this ‘viewer-friendly stuff: I’m all for things being accessible but for this documentary on ordinary Egyptians they found a presenter who would not have been out of place in the Rover’s Return.  She really played up the accent and was rather bizarre-looking to boot.  Where do they find these people?  Or do they have a lab somewhere?

Take a look.  It’s quite an interesting programme once you get past the presenting style:

We now have 4 OD downstairs because Daniel’s reward for room-tidying was to bring his x-box down for a week.  So prepare for comments on channel 4 stuff.

Today will be busy-ish: a friendship group followed by Sainsbury’s order coming and then Drink and Think tonight.  Join us at the Ale Wagon for 8 pm where we will be discussing Political Correctness.

Has it gone mad?

Have I?

Kirk out

Are you Still There?

Everyone still there?  Good.  So are we all.  Reports of our death greatly exaggerated then.  OK, moving on…

A good had was all by night at the Ale Wagon where I had a friends’ excuse-me; Peter followed by Jan.  All jolly good fun and a brisk walk home in the cold and rain.  Unfortunately the several pints I had last night are now causing a fog in the frontal lobes of my brain and I’m finding it hard to think of anything to say.  In the meantime here is some light music, a poem about that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano a couple of years back and the ash it deposited on car roofs:


Light Music

(for Eyjafjallajokull)

And it brought back to me my childhood

every second thought killed by a scream

of metal straining to get into heaven.

Long, long ago before the Fall

there was a time of peace. Like this

brief moment between thought and Word.

And it seemed to come from hell, the fire and smoke

(and some said Earth was taking her revenge

though others said that stuff was nonsense).

The sweat of vapour gone, the sky is innocent.

Washed. Only the ash Invisible rains down

(as cars are witness).

Now coaches come, trains shuttle, boats ferry. Taxis triumph.

Government inhales:

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Meanwhile here is some light music.

OK there you go.  I’ll leave you with this song parody, for alien believers:

Then I saw her tentacles

now I’m a believer…

Kirk out

Being wishy one day and then washy the next

– that was Charlie Brown’s plan to change his life and stop being wishy; it also seems to be the Church of England’s plan over the St Paul’s protests.  To their credit, some clerics have come out in support and the chief bod (can’t remember his name) has resigned but other clergy seem more concerned about the day-to-day functioning of the cathedral.  To be honest I was surprised how much they seemed to accommodate the protesters as I would have expected them to be very sniffy and patrician; very establishment about the whole thing, so in some ways it’s been a pleasant surprise.  The trouble about an occupation of protest like that is that it doesn’t have an immediate goal: they’re not saying ‘unless X happens we will stay put’ except in terms of wanting the whole situation to change – and that ain’t gonna happen in the short term.  The value of it is to bring attention to the issues and to express strong feeling – but unlike, say, the Greenham Common occupation, whose goal was to close down the nuclear base (which was eventually achieved) – this occupation has no immediate goal and no direct connection with St Paul’s cathedral.  They’d have done better to occupy the Bank of England or the Stock Exchange as the guys in America have.

Or so it is reputed, though apparently there’s a media blackout.  Shows how serious things in the media are over there.

Meanwhile, life in Leicester continues: a pleasant few beers in the Ale Wagon with Peter last night, where I was pleased to see an elderly couple, both drinking pints!  That’s not something you come across every day.  It gave me hope – for sadly, at the moment, my pint-drinking days appear to be over.  I just can’t handle it.

Mark says I’ve become neurologically interesting – not because of my failure to drink pints but because of a habit I have of sometimes letting my hand drop to my lap as though everything is hopeless and I just can’t take it any more.  I’m not aware of doing it at all, so it seems that the hand-dropping and the lack of awareness are part of the same thing.  We were discussing the ‘Hitch-hiker’s guide to the Galaxy’ and ‘Adrian Mole’ and saying that this kind of observational comedy has been taken over by stand-up comedy.

‘A stand-com,’ quipped Mark.


Today I shall be mostly… reading the Guardian.  Time to put the kettle on as the post is late this morning…

Kirk out