Honey I Spent the Voucher

Yesterday I went ahead and spent the Waterstones voucher (no apostrophe is intended, for the apostrophe has gone) which Daniel got me for Christmas.  With it I bought both light and life, which I will explain in a moment.  But first the apostrophe.

I’m sure I’ve blogged about this before *, but the saga of the Waterstones apostrophe reminds me of a pub in Northampton which went from sensible to silly and then just plain absurd.  I have mixed feelings about apostrophes: when they are used I like them to be used correctly, but they are in general so poorly understood that I think we should abolish them altogether.  However, this pub in Northampton started out as a perfectly respectable establishment called the King William IV.  It then being the eighties, it reincarnated as a silly fun-pub catering for yuppies and styled itself King Billy’s.  But over the ensuing months bits of the name dropped off, leaving the name as King Billy’ (losing the ‘s’ but keeping the apostrophe) and then as King Billy with half an apostrophe, something wordpress is unable to reproduce.  So that the failure of punctuation mapped the downfall of this once respectable pub.

Here it is, apparently now closed but due to reopen; if the brewery can be believed (and who could doubt the word of a brewery?)


So with this voucher, as I said, I bought a light.  It’s a very useful light as it clips onto the pages of the book you are reading enabling you to read in bed without needing to get up and turn the light off afterwards.  And I also elected to buy a book of short stories.  I prefer novels but the problem with a good novel is I devour it in a matter of days (I’m already on my second reading of the Rebus I got for Christmas) whereas short stories last me a lot longer.  They also have the merit of introducing me to authors I may never have read.  There is much to say about this particular volume of short stories, but I’ll save it for another post, except to comment that the introduction laments the lack of outlets for writers of the form – a view with which I concur utterly.

So as I come to the end of this post I notice another year has begun.  I wish you all – what do I wish you all?  Everything you wish yourselves, unless what you wish is like this (go to minute 32):

Kirk out

*I did – it’s here:


Everybody’s Dead Dave

So begins the first episode of that classic sitcom, Red Dwarf – and it also sums up how I’m feeling at the moment.  Everybody’s dead, Dave – aren’t they?  They’re dropping like flies at the moment; first Bowie and Lemmy and then Alan Rickman and that composer guy, Peter Maxwell Davies and now Patsy Byrne (Nursie in Blackadder) and – hang on, there was someone else – Cliff Michelmore, was it?  (It was, and bloody hell! he was 96!)  Basically everyone I grew up with is either dead or dying.  And it strikes me that it’s a bit like what happens in your family.  In the normal course of things you first experience death when one of your grandparents goes, usually in your teens.  That’s what happened to me: my grandma died when I was about fourteen and although my granddad survived her by nearly thirty years he went before either of my parents.

And so it is with famous people: the news comes on and your parents go, ‘Oh!  Alvar Liddell’s dead!’  You are vaguely aware of Alvar Liddell, who used to be a newsreader (I always thought his name was Al Varleydell) but it doesn’t really affect you because old Al wasn’t someone you grew up with.  He belonged to a different generation.  But when the immortal David Bowie dies; when actors and singers and film stars and TV presenters who were fixtures; immovable parts of your own childhood or adolescence – start to pop off; well, that’s a different story.  It’s like your parents dying.  And it strikes you when your parents die that basically, pal, you’re next.  It’s you in the firing-line now; no-one standing between you and death.  When the Grim Reaper comes around it’s your turn.

Sorry to be maudlin.  I don’t mean to be: but the reality is, we all have to die.  So the sooner we accept this as a fact, the better.  We’re kind of weird about death nowadays; it’s almost replaced sex as the great taboo, and I’m quite uneasy about it.  It’s one thing to have a long and fulfilled life; it’s quite another to have a long, boring and incontinent old age.  I’d sooner go when I was in the midst of things.

And because we don’t quite know what to do about death, our funerals are often quite odd.  I’ve noticed recently that funeral corteges go much faster than they used to, and that what used to be a sombre affair can now be a colourful celebration of someone’s life.  That’s not wholly a bad thing, and yet – I have an uneasy feeling that something is left out.  I once went to the funeral of a young man who had committed suicide, where everyone wore bright colours and celebrated his life.  It seemed quite startlingly inappropriate to me.

So I’ve brought all these ideas together in a poem, called ‘Funeral.’  It begins:

When no-one can slow down for death

the hearse speeds up a shade

the carriage touching twenty-six

so no-one gets delayed.

Just grave enough for dignity

a gesture to eternity.

The more learned among you may recognise a reference to Emily Dickinson there.

Kirk out

I’m Sorry I Don’t Give a Clue

I’ve enjoyed I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for years and listen whenever it comes around, as it inevitably does; but lately I can’t help feeling that it’s succumbing to a bit of an ‘old fart’ tendency.  Not only that, the audience seem so hyped-up that at intervals they actually shout ‘hurray!’ like a bunch of over-enthusiastic Enid Blyton characters, and practically have an orgasm whenever Mornington Crescent is announced.  It’s a shame, because on the whole I like the programme: it has some great ideas, Jack Dee with his deadpan humour has taken over well from Humphrey Lyttleton’s ‘slightly bewildered ringmaster’ act, and it’s just silly, pointless fun.  But I’m getting rather tired of the inevitable Hamish and Dougall who’ll always have had their tea: frankly, it could do with some new blood and a fresh twist of lemon in that cup of tea.  Not to mention a new audience.  What do they give them?


Last night Daniel and I watched an extra, ‘reunion’ episode of Red Dwarf.  These things are rarely a good idea (exceptions include Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley) and although this had its moments, it definitely jumped the shark when they teleported through a television screen and out into – guess what? – the early twenty-first century.

Oh, no.  We switched off.

The memoir is almost finished.  I know I’ve been saying that for a while now, but it really is.  I’m determined it will be finished by early next week and then October will be preparing for NaNoWriMo.

I’m glad it starts on November 1st otherwise I’d end up awarding myself an endless holiday, like Richard Branson’s employees.  What do you think of that idea?  Interesting, huh?


Kirk out.

PS I am going on holiday.  I may be some time…

Kirk out

The Red and the Black

At the moment I am reading ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks, a novel set during the First World War.  I have never yet read anything by Faulks, which seems to be a fairly serious omission, and so far I am enjoying it.  There’s an adulterous love-affair which reminds me a little of Madame Bovary and which I suspect is a prelude to the main action.  I’ll update you as I progress.


My waking thoughts concerned lost TV series: not that any series is ever lost nowadays; you can always find it on youtube if not actually on DVD, but in the sense that they are no longer part of our lives.  Their catch-phrases have gone, we no longer imitate the characters, and so on.  Of course there is the rare example which permeates the language (‘Don’t mention the war’; ‘life, the universe and everything’ – from ‘Fawlty Towers’ and H2G2 respectively) but mostly these things come and go.  Thus the two coloured sitcoms which in their time were favourites of ours: ‘Red Dwarf’ and ‘Black Books’.  Alas, where are they now?

Er – on DVD’s in our house, actually.  Or on youtube…



And while I’m on youtube, Daniel is watching this – it’s very funny:


And now a question for you: does familiarity breed content?  I’m thinking of the way the recent debate on GM crops has gone.  I was as opposed to this as anyone but a recent article suggests that many people are less opposed to it than they used to be.  On examining my own responses I found that I, too, am far less opposed to GM than I used to be.  Now, why is this?  I actually have no idea.  Is there some recent event which has changed my mind and which I’m not aware of?  Or is there a process ongoing which makes GM seem less of a threat?  I don’t know.

Any thoughts?

Delenda est Cartago

And finally, a late news item has flooded in – at least, to the US: Carthage has fallen.  That is, we can only assume that the number of places in the States which are named Carthage indicates a lack of awareness in that country of the city’s tragic history.  Or so said Mark.  I think they probably frankly just don’t give a damn.

My dear.

Kirk out

It’s cold inside, there’s no kind of atmosphere

Did my prayers in the form of a poem yesterday and they went down very well.  Here’s one verse to give you a flavour:

For the homeless and the unemployed

with little income or support

for families whose heart is void

for those who try to hold the fort;

whose lives may seem unending struggle

with far too many things to juggle

in these household’s hearts be there

Lord in your mercy:

Hear our prayer.

The last line is a response from the congregation, so that they become a part of the poem.  I wasn’t sure how well it would work in terms of being prayerful but from what people have said it worked very well.  It’s mostly in the delivery I think – I needed to let the rhymes be there but not emphasise them too much, and also to read slowly so that the rhythm didn’t run away with me.

But!  Disappointment today because I wanted to do a vlog; however, Daniel’s video camera is broken and he says the other one isn’t too good, so once again my plans are on hold.  I have also thought of starting my own youtube channel for yoga videos.  I’ll keep you posted.

Talking of post, a friend had a parcel from Canada which was causing a number of problems as he had to keep taking time off work to wait for it not to turn up; in the end he redirected it to us.  It arrived: a flat, rectangular package which I assumed was a calendar or a photo.  I took it round.  He opened it.  It contained – a card.  ‘That’s nice,’ I said.  ‘What else have they sent you?’  He turned the package upside-down and inside-out.  ‘Air,’ he said.

‘Better than tobacco,’ I said.

Why anyone would bother to FedEx a card at ten times the cost of posting it, neither of us could fathom.

Watched the Christmas ‘Rev’ again yesterday – a total gem.  This got me thinking again about sitcoms and how they’ve changed since the 70’s.  A staple of sitcoms is ‘there’s no escape’ and it used to be easy to think of situations you couldn’t escape from – usually, marriage or family, and social class.  Now that society is more mobile and divorce more common, people have to work harder to think of ‘sits’ to be ‘com’ about – but this often results in much greater creativity.  Where could you be more stuck than in a spacecraft with the hologram of a person you can’t stand and the ship’s cat who has, over the time you spent in stasis, evolved into something like a human being?  Or – you could write about a vicar.  Rev is stuck because he has a true vocation – unlike the Vicar of Dibley he actually seems to believe in God (though he doesn’t go on about it) and to genuinely care about those he serves.  But he’s not just a naive victim – and therein lies the strength of the character: whilst knowing exactly what is going on, he still hopes for the best.  He is Candide with balls, basically.

If you haven’t seen the Christmas episode, get to it before it disappears from the iplayer.

Too late!  I’ve just looked and it’s not there.

Ah well.  Today I shall be mostly… strapping myself to the swivel chair until I’ve done my tax return.

There’s a brilliant scene in a sitcom about that:


Kirk out