If I’m Bored It Must Be Sunday

When I was a child Sundays were practically synonymous with boredom.  Everyone went to church and the whole thing was an incredible performance; dressing up in your best (and most uncomfortable) clothes, sitting still through hours of excruciating boredom and not being allowed to do anything fun.  When I was a teenager it was hardly less exciting as the pubs were closed most of the day, only the paper shops were open (and with restricted hours) and there was nothing to do.  It is hard to see a connection between all of this conformity and the teachings of Christ.

Religion everywhere is a magnet for those who seek power.  The tragedy is that religions often stem from prophets or messiahs who preach against power – but the lure of getting people under your spell by promising heaven and threatening hell and by aligning yourself with the gods you are supposed to be worshipping, is too great.  One survivor of Catholic abuse said a nun told her ‘I’m God.’  This is the most basic idolatry ever and you can’t understand how they don’t realise it.

But!  Yesterday was an antidote to all that because I went to a brilliant service at All Saints.  The church, so often associated with shaming gays and lesbians and excluding those who don’t fit in (thus directly contravening the teachings of Jesus) has changed – and one small church in Loughborough has taken the brilliant step of having a Pride service.  It was a terrific event, inclusive and welcoming not just to gays and lesbians but to everyone, encouraging us to love ourselves as God made us.


After that I went to the pub and then to another pub and then for lunch and then for a walk along the canal.  That’s what Sundays should be like.

Kirk out

Buried in Barrow

I have just come back from a well-deserved break in sunny Barrow-on-Soar, staying at Jan’s flat.  Barrow is actually an interesting village in many ways: first, it’s alive and not dead like some villages; people actually live there as opposed to being commuters who are only really around at weekends; secondly it has a number of interesting buildings including the so-called ‘Roundhouse’ – actually an octagonal building – which used to be a lock-up, the inevitable workhouse, and a building called Bishop’s House which seems to have been constructed out of anything the builders could lay their hands on; it’s an incredible mish-mash of tiles, stone and timber all covered over with a layer of local clay.  Weird.  And then there are the fossils.  Barrow sits on a large area of land which was once underwater and the whole region is rich in fossils, the most famous of which, the Barrow Kipper, now rests in Leicester’s New Walk Museum.  The guided tour I followed takes you around a number of sculpted fossils embedded in walls, including a trilobyte which, the guide helpfully informs us, did not exist in Barrow.  Go figure.  But it’s the canals that are the making of Barrow.  The river Soar and canalised parts of it, run at the bottom of the village and there’s a pub on the waterside as well as a cafe and lots of mooring by the lock.

I did a lot of walking by the river: the first day, I walked as far as Mountsorrel and the second, I made it to Swithland Water.  It’s interesting to watch the boats, and on that first day I saw what looked like a Hindu funeral: I guessed they were going to scatter the ashes on the water as they do in India.

Swithland water is beautiful and atmospheric: trees sweep down to the water’s edge and far off, the trains come over the bridge with a haunting whistle.  However, you have to walk miles to get to the waterside and Severn Trent, who own it, are unwelcoming to visitors to the point of being hostile: there’s only a short part where you can see the water, there’s nowhere to sit and if you sit in the car you have a lovely view of the wall and not much else.  A couple of fishermen had broached the wall to sit on the shore, but I didn’t feel like doing that; I was, however, much in need of a rest so I lay down on the only patch of grass and relaxed for a few minutes.  And then I was off: back up through the woods, along past the old quarry where there’s a monument to the stoneworkers who worked there; past the Beacon (I think these were originally built to warn of Napoleonic invasion) and back between the houses to Mountsorrel Buttermarket.

This morning as I was taking my last walk along the canal before returning home, I ran in to a friend who has a boat.  He is usually moored at Thurmaston but he and some other friends were taking a trip: he offered me a ride but sadly I had to decline as I needed to get home.

Daniel is now almost recovered.  He had the all-clear from the ENT clinic today and he is looking much better.

Kirk out

I’m not Racist and…

As I was Tomato-ing yesterday I came across an article in The Guardian.  It was a review of a book in which the author seemed to be saying that multiculturalism isn’t a good idea because – and I quote, from memory at least – ‘We are more comfortable when we are with our own kind.’  Now, leaving aside the question ‘what is our own kind?’ and assuming that he is not specifically being racist as he doesn’t say one race is necessarily superior, just that white English people should hang out with white English people, there is still an awful lot wrong with this statement.  If you’re going to stick with what is comfortable, well – I am more comfortable sitting on the sofa watching TV than I am getting out my laptop and writing a story.  Should I therefore stick with the sofa?  Of course not.  Nothing is ever achieved by sticking to your comfort zone – and the likely consequence of people sticking with their own is that their horizons will shrink and shrink until you get the kind of ridiculous parochialism I experienced when living in Leigh, Lancashire.  I told my friends one day that I was going to Wigan.  ‘What d’yer wan’ go thur fer?’ was the response.  ‘They’re all pie-eyters over thur.’

That was the local name for Wiganners in Leigh, though I never understood why: they also had a very entertaining name for people from the nearby town of Westhoughton.  These were known as ‘cay-yeds’ or ‘cow-heads’ because, so the story goes, there was once a local farmer who kept cows.  One day he installed a new gate which he had made himself – and when one of his cows got its head stuck in this gate and couldn’t get it out, rather than chop up his precious gate, he chopped the cow’s head off!


In the local dialect the town of Leigh was called ‘Leyth’ and nearby Atherton and Tyldesley were known as ‘Bent’ and Bongs’.  I spent a couple of cold and unprofitable evenings once helping distribute a local alternative magazine called ‘Leyth, Bent and Bongs’ round all the pubs in the district and not stopping for even one beer!  I was most disgruntled, and the locals were deeply uninterested in the magazine’s ‘Private-eye’ style reportage.

Here’s a site Mark was looking at this morning:


I’m more comfortable with mockney, myself.  Perhaps I should have stayed in London…

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and I’ve started a group on Facebook for peri- and post-menopausal women to share their experiences.  It’s called Crazy Crones, so if you’re interested send me a request.

So Farewell Then..

… Richard Griffiths, he who as a youth used to weep in butchers’ shops; he who as a grown-up was uncle to Harry Potter and father to Dudley Dursley; he whose anecdotes were wont to set the table at a roar – alas, poor Richard, I knew him not at all, but somehow I felt I knew him all the same: you can smell the actors’ yarns he would spin, late into the night over a bottle of claret, surrounded by friends and fellow-actors.  Sadness is instantiated in the breasts of Richard E Grant and Daniel Radcliffe, and other tributes will surely flood in as the days pass.


He was born at a very early age, to parents who were both deaf, and he learnt sign-language in order to communicate with them.  He left school at 15 and worked as a porter but later went back to drama school and joined the RSC: he became a celebrated stage actor and appeared in many plays including Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, but he will perhaps be remembered best for his role in Withnail and I where he played an outrageously camp Uncle Monty.


I also enjoyed his role in the entertaining but preposterous crime’n’cookery series, Pie in the Sky.


He was apparently considered for Dr Who at one point: his weight must have been a problem for him in some roles, but it clearly didn’t stop him being successful.

RIP Richard, we will miss you.

Bong!  In other news, I got up rather drastically early this morning and went to all-night prayer at the church: I was going to go last night but was too tired, so just made it down there for the last hour or so.  A much better way to start the day than tossing and turning in bed.  And then home to surprise Mark with a pot of coffee and to this dialogue:

Mark:  When is happy hour, usually?

Me:  Around five to six pm – when people don’t usually go to the pub.

Mark:  Oh, right.  Well, why don’t they have a sad hour to counterbalance it?

Me:  Mark, every other hour apart from happy hour, is ‘sad hour’.   If you drank alcohol you would be only too aware of that fact.

We then went on to discuss our pet peeves in modern language: nouns as verbs – eg ‘to process’ – and the reverse, verbs as nouns.  My worst one of these is ‘spend’.  So don’t ever let me catch you saying ‘the total spend is…’ or you will be deleted from my followers forthwith.

And speaking of followers, did you know?  If you sign up to follow this blog I will always take a look at your blog or website – and I may reblog it if it’s good.

So follow me!

follow me, the wise man said

but he walked behind.

Kirk out

A Novel Beginning

OK now how does this grab you as the start of a novel?

A phone rings in the hall.  A hand appears from the dark; a hand with white fingers.  There’s a silver ring on the fourth finger.  The hand picks up the receiver.  A voice sounds low, almost whispering, the words indecipherable.  The phone is put down.

From the bureau in the hall a flap is lowered.  The same hand reaches for a yellow pad and a blue biro.  The ring glints as the hand writes on the paper.  The biro has a white bulb at one end like a ball of snot.  The blue pen writes a few lines and then stops.

That is how it starts.

Chapter 1

As they splashed in their thick boots down the muddy land, Sara looked regretfully at the locked door of the pub.  There were aspects of jogging that she liked: the open air, the views, the company – the feeling of well-being once you’d taken a shower afterwards – but it was the sheer persistence of the thing which bugged her.  Could they not stop once in a while to look a the view?  Or pick up a fallen leaf to admire the half-eaten pattern of it?  Or simply rest and breathe because they felt like it?  No.  None of these things could happen – because they were jogging – and once you were jogging you jogged.  You had to keep jogging until the jog was finished, otherwise you’d have stopped jogging and entered a different state, one which needed defining and sanctioning.

There’s no fluidity, grumbled Sara to herself as they crossed a stream by a tiny bridge.  She would have liked to stop and admire the fret-work of the bridge; the pattern of straight and wavy lines in fine metal – a filigree design, almost, she thought, but the pack was already fifty yards in front and on the point of noticing her absence.

Why had she ever thought joining in was a good thing?  As someone at the rear of the pack half-turned to see where she was, Sara bent double, pretending to be catching her breath.  It was then that she saw the foot.

What shocked her the most was that the boot was similar to her own.  It could have been herself lying there, half-in and half-out of the water, with one foot upturned on teh bank and the other hidden under the leg.  It was as though the person had been sitting cross-legged on the bank and just tipped in.  Except that then, they would have fallen completely into the stream – but here was a body half-in and half on the bank, the waters running over her head like Ophelia and – she has seen it but in her shock not taken it in – blood mingling with the hair and the clear water.  Fresh blood.

Tara was at her elbow.  ‘Are you all right -?’ she began to say, but inhaled hafl the sentence in a sharp breath as she saw what Sara was seeing.  For a moment the pair stood, side by side on the filigree metal bridge.  Then Sara got out her phone and thumbed the same button three times.


Opine, please!

Kirk out