A Chorus of Complaints

As Michael Fish once said (or was it Iain Macaskill?) I’m trying to think of something nice to say about the weather.  Meanwhile here is some light music.  Apparently it was Iain Macaskill – here’s one I posted earlier:

That isn’t the one I thought.  Oh well.  Anyway, the weather is… awful awful awful.  Schools are closed, motorways blocked, roads impassable and temperatures lower than a limbo-dancer’s back.  It’s cold.

But none of this compares to the ritual grumbling chorus.  It’s a musical for two competing choirs and it goes like this:

Choir 1:  It’s so awful.  I’m freezing.  We’re going to run out of bread/milk/gas/food/the ingredients of food.

Choir 2:  This is typical of Us.  What about Norway?  They don’t grind to a halt when there’s a few inches of snow.  Why can’t we manage?

To be honest, I have little sympathy with either side on this one.  Choir no. 1 is panicking unnecessarily: though of course there is suffering, the people complaining are not usually the ones suffering the most.  The ones I feel sorry for are the homeless and the hard-up, those who at the best of times have to choose between heating and eating and who must now be tearing their hair out.

But as for choir no. 2, it’s a completely false comparison.  You may as well say, ‘why can’t we cope with the heat like they do in Spain?’ or ‘why can’t we have canals everywhere like they do in Holland?’  They cope with snow in Norway because they have it every year!!!  They know it’s coming; they know more or less when it will come, how much there will be and how long it will stay.  They are geared up to it; their houses and trains and buses and roads are all designed with snow in mind.

But how often do we have this sort of weather?  How predictable is it?  How long does it usually last?

Like I say, there’s no comparison.

All of which causes me to wonder about Complaints Choirs.  These were a thing a few years back; choirs of people coming together to moan in four-part harmony (or cacophony) about mis-sold pensions or computers crashing or delayed trains or – anything at all really.  But I haven’t heard anything about them for a while now.

Well, according to this they’re still going – or they were in 2016:


Now stop moaning!

Kirk out

The Right Sort of Snow


And once more we return to the perennial subject of the British weather.  It’s like a standard filler for a slow news day; it’s something to say while you’re thinking of something else to say that might prove more interesting.

But! today the weather is quite interesting in itself; for not only has it snowed (yes, snow is general all over England) but it is quite positively the Right sort of snow; the sort you can make snowballs and snowmen out of, the sort that engages children of all ages in blizzardly activity in parks and gardens.  On Sunday when the snow first fell I decided to make a snow car.  In my head it looked like a perfectly-formed snow-child of Bertie: in real life it looked like a misshapen heap of white.  But all was not lost: along came a child who helped me to improve it.  Sadly I ran over Bertie’s snow-child while taking Bertie for his yearly check-up (he needs a couple of new tyres but apart from that he’s perfectly healthy) and I can report that out there it is not only freezing, it is Failing to Thaw.  Normally when we have snow it doesn’t last; if it freezes overnight it thaws during the day (thus causing more problems since the remaining slush refreezes and becomes treacherous) but this time it’s staying.  If anything it seems colder now than it was this morning when I literally had to unfreeze Bertie’s doors with a hairdryer, letting down the extension lead from upstairs like Rapunzel’s hair.

The roads were not too bad, considering, but I can’t see anything thawing out today.  Even in the sun it’s completely arctic.

Have I thought of anything more interesting to say?  Nope, we’re stuck with it.

Oh, and in case you’re not in the UK and don’t instantly recognise the reference, the title refers to a British Rail announcement years ago that a train was cancelled because of ‘the wrong sort of snow.’  They don’t make announcements like that any more…

Kirk out

‘Tis the Season to Self-flagellate

Oh no!  I’ve just realised I’ve committed the crime for which I have excoriated so many others – namely, creating a compound verb.  And yet somehow ‘to flagellate ourselves’ doesn’t pack quite the same punch as ‘to self-flagellate’.  What to do?

Anyway, what’s brought all this on?  The weather, that’s what.  It never varies – every year when we get a cold snap and some snow on the hills, the seasonal self-flagellation begins.  Why can’t we deal with this? a nation moans.  Why aren’t we more like other countries?  Every year we compare ourselves with another country and ask why we can’t be like them.  This morning, on ‘Today’, it was Russia and their fleet of snow-ploughs.  Before that it was Austria – tomorrow it’ll be parts of China.  Why can’t we be more like them?

Answer – because we aren’t like them!  These other countries with whom we so darkly compare ourselves, have snow every year.  They have it in largely predictable amounts, at generally predictable times, and for usually predictable periods.  They are geared up to it.  What do we have?  Unpredictability.  In one winter we can have snow, hail, wind, flood, unseasonable warmth, sun, drizzle, fog and rain.  The one thing we can be sure of is that we can’t be sure about any of it.  So what is the point of comparing ourselves to places that have snow every year and know what to do about it?  Sure, we could invest in fleets of snow-ploughs, but chances are they’d stand idle most of the time.  And you can bet those same self-flagellators would be the first to complain about the waste of money.  So let’s embrace the glorious unpredictability of our weather.

Let’s not embrace flooding and global warming though.  Let’s not do that.

A Very Happy Thursday to all,

Kirk out

Beware the Ice of March

Need I say more?  I shall not trouble you, gentle reader, with a description of my lungs and what they are currently bringing up; suffice it to say that the noxious cocktail of steroids and antibiotics has knocked the infection on its head and I am now recovering.  I am not, however, venturing far this weekend: sadly side-stepping the beer festival, I shall be merely hopping as far as Tomatoes, after which I shall stay In The Warm.  I am expecting a dull weekend, as I was looking forward to the beer festival and other things happening: however it does not make sense to go out in the sort of blizzard which I see whirling outside my window.

There is a deep sense of injustice in most of us, about this weather: a seething resentment and a boiling anger which will not go away.  It’s Not Fair!  It’s Not Right!  We’ve had our winter and now it should be getting warmer.  Coupled with an overriding sense of impotence, this does not make for happiness.  I am a hot-weather person: I would have preferred in many ways, to go back and live in Spain after marriage – but it wasn’t practical; and now I have to put up with this.  It sucks.

If I had the money I’d be on the next plane to Tenerife.  Just try and stop me.

Today is the anniversary of Sarah’s death.  I’ll leave you with a reminder of her – and a reminder to me also, not to Whinge.  Sarah was one of the most cheerful people I knew, and she remained so right up until she lost consciousness and died.

RIP Sarah, we miss you.


Kirk out

(But mostly in)

Potty Time

Who remembers Potty Time?  Hands up now… OK, a few of you.  In case you don’t, Potty Time was an utterly bizarre and Goon-like children’s programme with Michael Bentine cackling madly over a series of home-made puppets.  That makes it sound really crap, but oddly, it wasn’t: and I think it was Bentine’s character and his evident enjoyment of what he was doing that made it watchable.


My own personal potty time took place a few years ago in a wonderful building called Manor House Neighbourhood Centre.


It was closed for a few years and has now thankfully reopened as an Adult Ed centre: however in the years I knew it, Manor House was a haven for creative parents, and particularly mothers.  It had a creche and laid on sessions in pottery and other crafts as well as hosting yoga, karate and a whole spread of classes.  The creche was the key, and when my children were small I spent many happy afternoons creating pots.  I preferred to hand-build rather than use the wheel, and the house is still littered with my creations – pinch-pots, coil-pots, slab-pots and frankly slap-dash pots which hold dental floss, jewellery, fruit, candles and until recently, bread.  The bread-bin was the pinnacle of my potty achievements: large enough to hold two or three loaves, it sat on our dining-table for years – until a bizarre glass accident (see previous post) caused the bread and bread-bin to become studded with tiny shards of glass, like some Damien Hurst creation.  It now sits by the back door and holds the shears and secateurs which would otherwise be eaten with rust.

One of the classes now offered at Manor House is ESOL, a subject which I myself taught for several years.  Teaching ESOL is very interesting, not least because it makes you aware of the kind of mistakes students make – and forces you to try to explain why the English language works as it does.  This is something to tax even the most linguistic of brains: how do you explain, for example, the difference between ‘thinking about’ and ‘thinking of’.  If you – er, think these are the same, think again.  The difference between, say, ‘I’m thinking about buying a car,’  and ‘I’m thinking of buying a car’ is a subtle one, but nevertheless real.  Thinking about has the sense of reflecting on, whereas thinking of  conveys more of a plan.

That’s just off the top of my head – there are a million more examples and most of them have no logical explanation.  You just have to say, ‘that’s the way we talk,’ and leave it at that.  Not satisfactory.  But it does provoke you into thinking about (!) the language in a new way.

Holly is taking me for a beer tonight at the Western.  We were supposed to go yesterday but she couldn’t get back because of the snow.


I’ve had enough now.

Kirk out

Ripe Tomatoes are Here!!!

Yes!  The Tomatoes pamphlet is here, with a brilliant cover by Daniel showing a church as a tomato:

Tomatoes poem logo thing (2)

Don’t you think that’s great?  He’s terrific at Graphics – a possible A* at GCSE.  So, hot, sizzling and juicy, the pamphlet will be on sale at Tomatoes next Saturday at the knock-down price of £1 each – and once I have cleared costs 10p of each sale will go to support the work of Tomatoes!  It includes perennial favourites such as ‘The Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge’ and ‘The Ode to the Upperton Road Bridge, as well as the Tomatoes poem: so come along next Saturday and get your copy.


Last night I watched ‘Transsiberian’, on iplayer.  it’s an excellent film starring Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer – she has a bigger part than he does.  They are travelling across Siberia and meet Carlos, a good-looking but arrogant and utterly repellent character who turns out to have convictions for sexual violence, robbery and drug-trafficking.  He tricks her into carrying his drugs, then she kills him by an overenthusiastic clonk* on the head with a cemetery paling as he is threatening to rape her.  There’s a terrific performance by Ben Kingsley as a corrupt Russian policeman (sorry, perhaps that should just be ‘a Russian policeman’) – he speaks Russian fluently in the film, or appears to (my Russian extends only to ‘glasnost’ and ‘samovar’, though I can say those words fluently.)  Justice slowly sorts itself out as the snow covers everything: the woman gets away with the killing; the policeman is brought to book and the much-abused girlfriend of Carlos finds his jacket – if not his body – buried in the snow, and takes the money he’s carrying.

But the real hero of this film is the railway, running through the Russian landscape, that vast expanse of snow in which the train is the only corridor of warmth and safety.


The snow at the end reminds me of the finale of Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ – ‘snow was general all over Ireland… falling over the living and the dead.’  Terrific ending.


And finally, let’s spare a thought for the prank that went horribly wrong.  Juvenile and pathetic though the prank call was, they could not have foreseen such an outcome.  It is very sad for all concerned.

Kirk out

* it’s ages since I’ve had the opportunity to use the word ‘clonk’

Blast and double-blast!

It’s snowing!  Yesterday I had nowhere to go and it didn’t snow – today I have plans and two inches of the stuff.  The roads here are not yet gritted (although my teeth are) and the occasional car whispers by slowly grinding the stuff to a stiff compact iciness.  Lovely!

So will have to put things off till tomorrow.  I dislike being forced to procrastinate but there’s no help for it.

Unimpressed yesterday by Torygraph journalists posing as constituents.  There are situations where this sort of subterfuge might be justified but this is not one of them – and the most annoying thing of all is that now it will be harder for the government to oppose Murdoch’s takeover of Just About Everything.com.  If right-wing Tories don’t like the coalition, it’s tough, because, guys, in case you didn’t notice – you Didn’t Win An Outright Majority!  So deal with it!

Rant over.

I wonder if Daniel’s too old for snowmen?

Woke really early and couldn’t believe the whiteness outside.  Hope it clears so we can get to Peter’s for Christmas.  I feel sorry for all the people who had special Christmas plans and are now queuing to get into St Pancras or sleeping in marquees at Heathrow.  But if it was me I think I’d just stay at home.

Assuming I was at home.

Anyway, a very happy – what is it? – Wednesday to all.  We are going to the Western later for beer and carols, though in Mark’s case I suspect it will be tomato juice and carols.

Still can’t believe I married someone who didn’t drink.

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and I forgot to say – Daniel’s reading age came out at 13 yrs 10 months

Do you mind if I blog?

Bloody snow again.  How much longer can this winter last?  It reminds me of the winter of ’63: my dad shovelled me a pile of snow to make a snowman and it froze solid.  It seemed like weeks before I could make that snowman.

Apparently – though this may be media hype – children are now supposed to ask permission before they throw a snowball at someone.  The words “Health and Safety” begin to sound like “Ministry of Truth” …

Mark’s mum is in hospital.  We knew she was going in – on the 25th: then they had a cancellation and she was taken in on Tuesday.  They told her on Monday.  Did she tell us?

Apparently we’re supposed to guess.  We heard about it yesterday from someone else.

I have to say this is fairly typical behaviour.

A half-day today.  Thankfully the library is warm.

We are very pissed off today about CRB checks.  The whole thing is a racket.

Kirk out.

Rich in muty goodness..

Mark and i went through a phase, largely, I think, influenced by Jonathan, of saying things like this: whenever an odd or unusual word came up, we would say “it’s rich in ————– goodness”.  It also comes from the Simpson’s where a dinner-lady (or lunch-lady as they seem to call them there) says “it’s rich in bunly goodness”.

Nope, I’m not finding a video on youtube.  But I think I had a post called “rich in plinthy goodness”, when I was doing the Plinth.

Yep.  Here it is:


Still lots of snow this morning.  Mark has a swollen face due to toothache and is actually agreeing that he might have to go to a dentist.  My god!  It must be bad.

Holly has just gone off on her paper round (it’s 6.50 am)  Yesterday Daniel went to see Avatar which he says is the best 3D film he’s ever seen.  He was disappointed, though, that he didn’t get to keep the glasses.

Haven’t heard from Steve for a while.  Hope you’re OK Steve and keeping warm.

I have just muted this keyboard because it has a tendency to announce its presence with a sort of orchestral fanfare when you switch it on – and in a hushed library, this is something of an embarrassment.

Got two stories ready to go to Radio 4 – just need to find where to send them.

Keep warm.  Stay focussed.

Kirk out.

Mark to the rescue!

They were talking on the radio today about the winter of ’47 which apparently was worse than this one in every way – not only colder but with food and fuel shortages.  Ugh!  I do, however, remember the winter of ’63 which was almost as bad.  I was six and I remember my father shovelling some snow into a pile for me so I could make a snowman.  It was so cold that the snow froze – and it seemed like weeks and weeks before I could make the snowman.

Today Mark helped to rescue a bread lorry which was stuck on the road near us.  First he pushed it (with some other people) then, when the others had gone, he put some cardboard under the wheels so it could finally move off.  The driver gave us a loaf of bread to say thanks.

Say it with a loaf!

Fortunately we have supplies of flour in the house as well so any bread shortages will not hit us for a while.

This weekend Daniel has been invited to a birthday party and next weekend it will be his birthday party.

Pavements are becoming like ice-rinks as snow becomes compacted, freezes and more compacted.  Pretty but dangerous.

Kirk out