Shall I Part My Hair Behind? Do I Dare to Plant a Tree?

My blogging prompt for yesterday suggests writing a post about trees but instead I went shopping and got my hair done. Now if you’re new to this blog you might get the impression from reading this that I’m the literary equivalent of Rachel in Friends, not getting around to Jane Eyre but reading Vogue instead. The thing is, there are some days when despite your best intentions you can get all your books out and sit there staring at the computer and it Just Isn’t Happening. And on those days when a card arrives in the post with some birthday money inside there’s only one thing to do and, reader, I did it. I went and bought me a new outfit and got my hair done. I have to say I’m very pleased with the hair cut and clothes and intend to estrenar both tomorrow at the Labour Party ceilidh.

Estrenar is a very useful Spanish verb for which there is no equivalent in English. But there should be because we need it; it means ‘to use or try out something for the first time.’ I coined a similar verb as a child, to pervise, however this is very specific to a jar of Marmite (or something with a similarly smooth surface) and it means to broach that surface for the first time. So I think we should all adopt estrenar into our language – as indeed OH and I do.

Now I know that you’re all champing at the bit wanting selfies but in my experience a photo never does justice to the splendiferous reality so I’m going to paint you a word-picture. There’s a lot of rust around at the moment in clothes shops (maybe it’s all the rain) and I eventually persuaded myself to try on a pair of rust-coloured trousers. They were stylish and comfortable so I took a chance and bought them, along with a couple of mix-and-match tops. I’d also taken a chance on a new hairdresser’s in town (Loughborough seems to have more hairdressers than any town has a right to; I don’t know why and my stylist couldn’t shed any light either) as I’d chickened out of unisex one Daniel uses because it was full of teenage lads. Sad, I know… anyway she did a brilliant job and took about six inches and ten years off me.

Today it’s back to the laptop face though. And I haven’t said one word about trees… ah well, maybe tomorrow. Or not, as it’s my actual birthday then and I have lots of stuff planned.

Kirk out

Bye Bye Auntie

No more Auntie for me!  For as of today it is no longer legal to watch the iplayer without a TV licence.  To be honest I don’t think this is particularly unreasonable: the Beeb in her infinite wisdom puts nearly all her programmes up for viewing about ten seconds after they’ve aired, so you’re not really losing anything by waiting.  I don’t really know why they do that: it’d be fairer in a way if they left it for a day or so.  They’re sticking with the licence fee for now, although I think that’s going to have to change at some point: subscriptions seem to be the way to go.  Then again, I’m going to be house-sitting in a few weeks so I’ll be able to watch TV in that place.

We gave up TV years ago, partly because it was expensive and partly because our Home Edded children were watching far too much of it.  We were down to a few programmes a week and eventually this whittled down to two: Friends and Frasier.  Then first the engaging Friends and then the infinitely wittier and more intelligent Frasier ran their course and went plink.  And that was that.  The TV ariel socket was disabled so that we could use it to watch videos and nothing else, the licensing people sent us regular threatening letters but never actually came even though we begged them to come and look at our mangled socket; and we took to viewing endless back to back episodes of The Simpson’s.

And then we got a video camera!  The kids had hours of fun with this; as much fun as my sister and I had with our first reel-to-reel tape recorder, making spoof adverts and radio programmes and laughing endlessly at the sound of our own voices.

And now?  I don’t know.  There’s plenty on All4 which one may view for free; we have a large stash of DVDs and if the worst comes to the worst I can always read a book…


Anyway, I’ll leave you with my favourite ever episode of Frasier, the one where he and Niles lock themselves in a hotel room and try to write:


Happy viewing!

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?

Friends Limericks

Two for one today – here’s an extra post requested by facebook friends during a discussion on Friends.  If you watched that series even half as obsessively as I did, you should recognise most of the events here.

Friends Limericks

It starts with a Rembrandt or two

who say that they’ll be there for you

a fountain, some jiving

a bride who is skiving

cos everyone says she’s a shoe.


Ross is a dinosaur dude

and Joey loves women and food

they hang out in a bar

Phoebe plays the guitar

ugly neighbour reclines in the nude.

In series three Joey gets dumber

Drake Ramoray’s killed off – what a bummer!

the museum hires him

then Monica fires him

they go to Montauk for the summer

You can knock Joey down with a feather

when Rachel and Ross get together

but let’s not get cocky

it looks a bit rocky

we should keep an eye on the weather


that coffee-shop girl’s on the make

and Ross makes an awful mistake

when they do more than kiss

– but answer me this:

say, were they, or not, on a break?


Phoebe has embryos planted

her song-partner takes her for granted

now Phoebe is bitter

she’s sold for cat-litter

her smelly-cat jingle is chanted.


Ross and Emily’s two weeks of fun

turn into romance on the run

he suggests they get married

the motion is carried

but aren’t they just jumping the gun?


The wedding plans all go awry

Phoebe’s too pregnant to fly

like Thomas a Beckett

comes Rachel to wreck it

Ross says, ‘I take thee Rachel,’ – oh my!

Meanwhile in a bedroom close by

Chandler and Monica tie

some knots of their own

– just look how they’ve grown!

the end of an era is nigh.


Events take their pre-scripted course,

Ross and his chippie divorce

the triplets appear

they drink lots of beer

and Chandler makes cranberry sauce



We’ll take a large latte to go

as Phoebe weds Mike in the snow

Joey has a good grouse

as the Bing’s buy a house

Rachel’s job is in Paris, and so –

It ends with a Rembrandt or two

who sing that they’ll be there for you

as they bring home the twins

and Joey’s head spins,

and although it’s insane

Rachel gets off the plane

and that’s how it ends

– no more fountain, no jiving

no Central Perk skiving

no picture-frame peephole

no half-insane people

yes, that’s how it ends:

is there life without Friends?

Let’s see what’s on BBC 2.

c. Liz Gray, 2011

The Devil’s Double

It was a dull start to the week on i-player but it picked up towards the end.  Without Father Brown or WPC 56 or, of course, Sherlock; I had no engaging dramas to anchor my viewing schedule.  So I floundered about in the land of QI for a bit and then I was so stuck I got out some of my old Friends DVD’s.  But this was a bit of a shock: long-time readers of this blog will know how much I loved Friends and how devastated I was when it was cancelled.  But when I put on a random episode from Series 3 I just sat and thought, What the hell did I watch this for?  It seemed to me the most self-indulgent, inconsequential, almost incestuous trivia, so much so that I turned it off after only 20 mins.  It was like finding someone you used to hang out with, and when you meet years later, you can’t understand why you ever put up with them.

But the week picked up, especially when I fell into a a film about Uday Hussain’s body double.  The notoriously dangerous and unstable son of Saddam Hussain sent his henchmen to pick someone off the streets who looked like him, to be his body double and so save him from potentially dangerous situations.  Like everyone Uday chooses, Latif has no choice but to go along with the charade, undergoing facial surgery and tooth extractions so that he looks just like his tormentor.  The agony of such a choice is really rubbed in; in the end Latif has to do as he is told in order to save his family whom Uday has threatened.
‘The Devil’s Double’ shows Uday grabbing girls off the street to have sex with them and later dump them – in some cases literally – and living a life of out-of-control lust and rage.  The film’s most shocking moment comes when the pair happen to drive by a wedding.  The bride and groom have just tied the knot; she is all in white and they both look very happy.  Uday gate-crashes the reception, looks at Latif and says: ‘I could f*** that!  Could you f*** that?  I could f*** that!’  Latif tries to talk him out of it, but it’s hopeless: Uday seizes the bride, rapes her and leaves her pn the bridal bed, after which she throws herself from the hotel roof.
But this is the turning-point.  In the end Latif escapes with Sorabh, Uday’s girlfriend.  She betrays him but when Latif’s father is threatened he saves the day by telling Latif to ‘tell this devil to go to hell – or you are no longer my son.’  The tale ends with Latif shooting Uday in the genitals and escaping.
I urge you to watch this before it disappears: it’s at least as compelling as the story of Caligula and brilliantly acted.
On the radio I caught up with an intriguing drama about the mysterious death of Jane Austen:
and an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice:
Oh, and I watched a bit of Blandings, which was entertaining but a bit OTT; more Tom Sharpe, I thought, than PG Wodehouse, but there you go…
Kirk out


That was the day, that was… and where did it go?  One minute I was awake unfeasibly early and bemoaning the lack of sleep throughout the white night; the next, it’s nearly time for the Archers (and I don’t mean the omnibus).  It’s not as if it’s been a specially eventful day, either: after the usual yoga session and boiled egg breakfast, I hung around the kitchen for a while until it was time to go for my weekly hour of silence at the Friends’ Meeting House.  I always find it hard to concentrate but feel tons better afterwards.  And so home to construct a curry for tonight and finding that annoyingly the tomato puree was in the freezer and undefrostable in the microwave, the tube being made of metal.  Incidentally, did I tell you that our microwave has a CHAOS button on it?  That gave us a laugh.  Probably accounts for the state of Mark’s brain, as well… After that Mark and I watched our ritual episode of Casualty, whereupon Peter arrived for yoga and wine (though not at the same time).  And that was the beginning of the end, since after a half-hour of stretching in chairs, we launched upon an unreasonably cheap box (yes, BOX!) of wine.  Apparently the Co-0p in Leicester are selling these for £9 each, which I’m sure has to be a mistake.  But so it is.  Sadly I have to report that the box is now almost empty.

And that was the day, that was.  sorry not to have any Deep and Significant thoughts – but life’s like that sometimes.  You just gotta roll with it…

Kirk out


Mother Gives Birth! Baby is a Boy!! Baby Weights Eight Pounds Six Ounces!!! Now let’s all jump up and down and talk bollocks!!!!!

Sheesh!  We turned our radio on and off so much this morning it was like listening to Radio Luxembourg when it used to fade in and out.  We had a TV like that years ago, too: the house was in a hollow and the reception was so bad that we struggled to recognise faces.  Watching ‘Friends’, we’d peer at the screen and ask each other ‘Was that Joey or one of his sisters?’

But back to the real world – or what passes for it… we seem to be stuck in the Zone of Irrelevance at the moment.  I don’t mind a discussion on the royal succession or some people’s disappointment (mine included) that the baby wasn’t a girl, meaning that it will be a long time before the heir to the throne is automatically female and not in default of a male alternative: I wouldn’t object to comments along those lines.  What I really can’t stand is this sort of bollocks:

There’s a particular kind of gushing sycophancy which is the radio (or TV) equivalent of soppy birthday card verses, which people speak on these occasions and which is just Bad Prose.

Enough already!  Let us return to sanity: let’s look at the rest of the world and see what else is in the news.  Oo! – I found this:

But a big thumbs-up to Private Eye, who have summed up the mood perfectly:


Kirk out

Tits, Tits, Tits – What are they For, Anyway?

– or more importantly, WHO are they for?  The Guardian has just launched a campaign to get offensive sexual images off our high streets:

and people have been campaigning for decades on the right to breastfeed in public.  Breastfeeding is a known factor in helping the immune system and aids bonding between mother and baby: yet it is on the decrease.  This is partly because more women are going back to work – though in many office-based jobs could theoretically cope with a feeding baby (I will always remember footage of a ‘Friends’ editorial meeting where a couple of the editors were feeding babies) and I suspect a baby or two around the place would calm a lot of testosterone-fuelled atmospheres.  On the other hand a continually screaming baby would definitely not help… but workplace creches could deal with that.

No: it’s not so much women at work, it’s the idea that milk is a product.  The very worst culprit here is undoubtedly Nestle, who have been marketing formula in the most unscrupulous ways, particularly in Third-world countries:

Breast milk is not a product – it’s a relationship: a bonding between mother and baby which is beneficial for both.  And what makes me incandescent with rage is that tits on page 3 are OK but breastfeeding is not.  Women should never feel embarrassed about feeding in public.  Why the hell should we have to go to the toilet or to a special room?  Take your sub-pornographic mags into a special room because they offend me.  and not only me but most women and a number of men.

So join the campaign and tell Facebook that breastfeeding is OK in public!  And that tits on the High Street are not!

Kirk out

Listen: here be Dark Matter

Had a rather busy day yesterday, what with compiling a poetry collection to go off at the end of the week, then going to You and Me friendship group in the afternoon and Drink and Think in the evening.  The latter was very good, I thought: a useful discussion which, though it didn’t reach any conclusions, did help to dissect the whole vexed question of Political Correctness and whether or not it has ‘gone mad’.  Amongst other contributions we heard the sad story of someone who was hounded out of a job for using the word ‘Queen’ – not as a homophobic insult (though I’m not sure how insulting the word really is in that context) but meaning the monarch herself, my namesake.  It sounded like a case of someone cynically using legislation to get someone they didn’t like out of a job – and that sucks.  So, too, we decided, was using PC as a means of ticking boxes or looking as if you’re doing the right thing rather than actually wanting to do the right thing or believing in doing the right thing.  It’s knee-jerking rather than conviction – and that, in my view, is where things have gone wrong.  As I pointed out, if I’m the only woman in a particular workplace and people are making inappropriate comments, I want something behind me: I want a framework of legislation supported by social attitudes, otherwise I’m fighting these battles alone.

During the discussion it occurred to me to think about the importance of listening.  This is not something most of us are good at – and I am no exception – but we can practise it, and through practice, get better.  Here’s a great initiative I came across recently:

So here’s an idea: then next conversation you have with someone, make it a rule to really listen – even if they’re talking utter bullshit.  Come to think of it, especially if they’re talking utter bullshit – the harder you listen, the more likely they are to realise that they’re not making sense.

And here’s some space to listen to the universe:





Kirk out

PS  Oh, and the title was just about Dark Matter being a sort of ‘here-be-dragons’ sort of explanation for something when they don’t know what is actually there.

Have You Sinned Today?

In fact, have you done anything recently that you would classify as ‘sin’?  Don’t worry, I’m not going all judgmental on you, I just wanna know.  We don’t talk about sin much nowadays: even the Church is much more user-friendly and talks about ‘saying sorry’ instead.  So what is sin?  Do we even have a concept of sin any more?  What would be the modern version of the Seven Deadly Sins?  Terrorism?  Mass-murder?  Rape?  Child-abuse?  Drug-addiction or drink-driving?  It all seems to end up sounding a bit tabloidy really.  And do we even believe in such a thing as sin?  Don’t we rather believe in a combination of genetics and upbringing as the causes of human action?  Don’t we rather think that human beings operate in a tiny pool of limited choices; that we run on a set of tramlines laid down by our conditioning and backed up by 47 pairs of chromosomes?

Hmm.  And yet – and yet, at the same time we talk as if people have a huge range of life-choices.  No child’s career options are to be limited in any way: no matter what the conditions of your birth, no matter your gender, disability, race or creed, you can reach for whatever star you have set your eyes on.  But hey, you couldn’t help killing all those people – you were driven to it by your early-childhood trauma.  It was in your genes: it was in your stars.

It seems to me that things always go this way – that what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabout.  So we have gained a lot of life-chances; the possibility of travel, of trying – oh, I don’t know, blindfolded water-skiing or parachute-jumping (I once did a jump for charity but it was on the back of an experienced jumper) or sailing the Atlantic or whatever – but we have lost… what have we lost?

Time.  That’s what we have lost.  We don’t have time.  And what we really need is balance – because there’s a baby in that bath-water.

As for my own life, I have nothing else to report since I spent the whole weekend watching ‘Friends’.  I was really, really tired…

Kirk out