This is the Way We Count the Votes, Count the Votes…

It’s a cold and frosty morning here all right, with a swodge of mist thrown in just in case we weren’t quite chilly enough. I had to break out the winter quilt yesterday, that’s how cold it is and I’m glad of it – the cold, I mean. But also the quilt. Lots of fireworks were being let off last night, which also made me glad – I’ve been saddened in recent years by how much Hallowe-en (or a tawdry, supermarket version of it) has superseded Bonfire Night, but this year Guy Fawkes was back. Actually I don’t know how many people do burn guys – you certainly don’t see kids any more in the street crying ‘penny for the guy!’ with a stuffed suit in a wheelbarrow – but the bonfires and fireworks are alive and well. Unlike poor Guy, who was disembowelled before being burnt, as memory serves. Well, if you will try to blow up the Houses of Parliament…

The stars were bright last night as well – when we could see them over the smoke and flashes. We stood and watched from an upstairs window for a while, then back downstairs to check on the US election results. No change. And no change overnight either, except that it’s neck-and-neck in Georgia and Pennsylvania. It seems pretty clear at the moment that Biden will win – what’s not clear is what Trump and his supporters will do. Some of them certainly seem to have lost the plot – his spiritual advisor approached the state of a whirling dervish in her fervency:

It’s funny. You can laugh – in fact you must laugh at such things, but it’s also sad and a little desperate. Angels have been dispatched from Africa. Who knew? I had no idea the cherubim were holed up in Rwanda these days but hey ho, she seems to know all about it.

All of which brings me to Spitting Image which I thought had now finished but according to Wikipedia continues tonight. Excellent! I really hope they do something with Trump advisor Paula White. It is an excellent series and my only disappointment is that TV nowadays is so fragmented; you don’t go down the pub any more and say ‘Did you watch Spitting Image last night?’ (You don’t go down the pub at all now, but that’s another story.) Sure, they get a large audience but it’s a fragmented one; the episodes are streamed rather than broadcast so there’s no fixed time to watch it and many of my friends haven’t seen it at all because they’re busy catching up with Nordic noir on HBO or binge-viewing old episodes of Downton Abbey. Things just don’t have the same impact any more. Even so I can’t wait to see what they make of Paula White – in my mind I have some sort of exploding puppet surrounded by robot angels but they’ll do it so much better. Please let them do it.

Kirk out

What Enola Crap

It’s been a while but I’m back now and seriously grinding the nose to the stone because Nanowrimo has begun. Yes, it’s that time of year again when people aim to write a novel in a month – or 50,000 words at least, though some go way beyond that and aim for the whole 50K in one day which leaves me asking why, god, why? much as I do when people take on a triathlon. I guess I can understand the urge to push oneself to the limit but there also seems to be a fair amount of end-gaining and competitiveness here as well, the point of which eludes me. But there you are.

So what have I been up to during my absence? I’ve been decorating is what: the pantry has been transformed from a cobwebbed black pit of mould (quite suitable for Hallowe’en really) into a lovely clean white space, and I’ve begun work on transforming the bathroom from a pasty and patchy blue to a beautiful dark aqua. In order to obtain this shade I went to B&Q, as one does, clutching the bag in which our shower curtain came, so that I could match it. Failing to find the exact shade I wanted I headed over to the paint mixing desk (sounds a bit musical, that) hoping for a nice friendly chat and the mixing of the perfect pitch that I was after. There was someone being served and a man waiting so I tried to guess where the queue was and positioned myself, appropriately distanced. The person being served eventually finished and they started on the man in front of me. They mixed him a pot of paint and then another, then the two members of staff began working in tandem to fulfil his order, placing pot after huge pot in the shaking dens (or whatever they call them) having added the appropriate colour to the base paint. It was interesting to see how it’s done but the interest palled after about ten minutes. What the hell is this guy painting? I thought. Presumably he was a tradesman but he was getting enough paint for a whole row of houses. Eventually I’d had enough, decided that he must be painting the Forth Bridge, and left. I plumped for a contrasting shade of ready-made paint and I was glad I did. It looks great.

So much for decorating. I also have to confess I’ve been watching a fair bit of telly as well; there are a lot of great series coming up, such as The Crown series 4 which includes Princess Di, the next instalments of His Dark Materials and other things I can’t remember – but in the meantime I’ve had to make do with repeats of Sherlock and the excellent Michael Palin’s travel series, supplemented by retrospectives of the same.

Like many people I take a stroll through Netflixland now and again to see what’s new. Not much, is the answer, at least not yet. I’d decided that Enola Holmes, the story of Sherlock and Mycroft’s sister, looked really naff but then a couple of people raved about it so I gave it a whirl. If I hadn’t been so exhausted that afternoon I’d never have sat through it – in fact I think I slept through some – but if you haven’t seen this, don’t bother. Seriously. It’s awful. The main character is mawkish and about as believable as an Enid Blyton heroine; Helena Bonham Carter gives a fairly entertaining cameo as her eccentric suffragette mother, but when she leaves the family home unexpectedly and Enola’s brothers Mycroft and Sherlock arrive to take care of her, the fun definitely stops. Considering how many and varied the portrayals of these characters have been in film and TV, they could have done so much with them but here they are never more than cardboard cut-outs; Mycroft is the repressive patriarch and we see none of Sherlock’s brilliance, he’s just a sort of meek backdrop to Enola’s supposed genius (compare and contrast the final episode of the BBC’s Sherlock featuring his sister Euros.) There was never any sense of danger; though Enola is threatened by many and various enemies there’s never any question that she will fight her way out, and when she finally breaks the fourth wall and asks the audience if we have any ideas to help her, I gave up. Or would have, if I’d had the energy to reach for the remote. Enola Holmes is a pile of bats’ droppings and thoroughly illustrates what the vlogger Thoughty-Two has to say about what is wrong with Hollywood these days.

On the other hand, Britbox’s resurrection of Spitting Image is great fun; the puppets as brilliant and inventive as ever with Priti Patel as a vampire, Dominic Cummings as a swivel-eyed alien and Boris’s hair having a life of its own. Trump’s face is melting, his tweets are written by his anus and I cried with laughter at the scene where Boris tries to channel Churchill and ends up with Thatcher who gives him a good slap round the face for supporting Brexit. So go watch – and if you haven’t got Britbox there was an episode broadcast on ITV on Friday.

I’ve also taken up the piano again – or to be more accurate, the keyboard, and tried to do my scales and exercises with a little more dedication.

So that’s us up to date. How have you been?

Kirk out

Compost Corner

I’m a bit late with today’s post as I’ve been going through some short stories and sorting out which can go off to magazines and which I can serialise for you guys. And then I had a biscuit attack.

In general I have a fairly healthy diet. I’m vegetarian with a dairy allergy which means that for the most part I’m vegan except when I go out to eat. I don’t have caffeine after midday and I don’t drink much more than a beer or glass of wine with dinner. But I do love a chocolate digestive; in fact I’m starting to love them rather too much – so I decided that instead of buying some more I’d make flapjacks. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

I’ve just taken them out of the oven and I have to say they look a bit sticky. I think I went a bit mad with the honey. Never mind, I’m sure they’ll be delicious. They have to cool down before I can cut them though.

Yesterday I did a job I’d been putting off for ages; namely, sorting out the compost. We have three compost bins but I’d been gradually emptying the dalek one as it’s become a magnet for badgers. I’ve tried clingfilm, I’ve tried netting, I’ve tried wire – nothing seems to keep the buggers out. We had some partial success with male urine sprinkled around the bins but the only sure fire way is to empty out the new stuff and replace it with well rotted compost. I actually filled four bags with the stuff which I suppose I should put on the garden in the autumn (hang on! It is the autumn! Blast!) and put the rest inside the dalek. No badgers so far.

So that’s all good.

TV wise, I’ve been re-watching the first series of His Dark Materials which they’ve put up in preparation for the second series next month. There’s a few good things in the pipeline; another series of The Crown, ditto The Handmaid’s Tale and, most interestingly of all, the return of Spitting Image. It remains to be seen whether there’s any satire left to be made out of current politics – I have to say both our government and the US seem to be moving further beyond the pale with every passing day. I feel an email to my MP coming on…

And with that I’ll leave you for today. I hope you’re enjoying the serial; I’ve got more in the pipeline on subjects including death row and domestic abuse. Cheerful stuff…

Kirk out

PS Anyone remember Compost Corner? It was Tiswas’s spoof of Crackerjack.

My Friends in the North

I found out today the meaning of the word ‘fiasco’.  Well, I sort of knew it was Italian, and I seem to remember I’d come across it meaning bottle or something similar and being related to our word ‘flask’.  So far so good, but then how did it come to mean a disaster?  An epic shortcoming: a flop, a failure?

Well, it’s a fascinating story.  Or at least an interesting one.  When people in the Middle Ages joined guilds they had to provide an example of their work – and when they wanted to demonstrate their glass-blowing skills they would make something fine out of glass.  However, if the thing they made it turned out to be sub-standard, it was turned into a bottle – or fiasco.

Sadly, now that I have done a few seconds’ research on the internet, this explanation seems to be only one among many; others of which are connected to the Italian theatre where the term was more commonly used.  But sources seem to agree that the term came to us via French rather than directly from Italian.

So now you know.

Or not.

But at least you know that you don’t know.  And neither do I…

Something which has definitely not been a fiasco is my spring-cleaning!  Yes, I’ve been going in for the whole housewifely thing of stripping down cupboards and searching under wainscots to find dead beetles, sagging cobwebs and lots and lots of dust.  Actually it’s not only dust I’ve been finding but also damp, since the leeward side of this house (which faces East, though I don’t know how relevant that is) is prone to damp and the small toilet was literally black with the stuff.  I have found it best to attack this scourge with anti-fungal mops, then rinse and repeat before leaving a convector heater to dry the place off.  As for the dust, it has been hoovered to within an inch of its life in spite of our only having a vacuum cleaner which is held together with clothes-pegs and sticky tape (I kid you not.)

At this point I should probably upload a picture of said vacuum cleaner.  Can I be bothered?

Nope.  Here’s a much nicer picture of our friends in the North instead:

Ah!  They are, going clockwise, Spouse, Gail, Chris and Barbara.  Oh, but you can’t see the baby.  Hang on…

There he is.  He’s called Jack and he’s six weeks old.

And now before I go, I must say a word of farewell to Spock.  No, he is not Spock; he is Leonard Nimoy – and he is no more.  Alas poor Yorick, I knew him not at all…

And here, just because he’s dead, is the man himself:

I don’t feel right saying Kirk out any more to sign off.  Oh no!  What shall I say?

Erm.  Hang on…

Just give me a sec…



Adios, adieu, ciao?

Hari om?

Peace out?

I’m going to have to think about this.   See you tomorrow!

Where did THAT come from?

So, where did yesterday’s burst of near-American enthusiasm come from?  Well, it’s kind of latent but specifically it was triggered by watching ‘Made in Dagenham.’  I don’t know why I hadn’t got to this film before, but we borrowed it from a frankly miniscule selection at the library.  I don’t know what I was expecting but I found it brilliant.  In the tradition of Mike Leigh – though not directed by him – it tells the story of the battle by the women at Ford’s in Dagenham to be awarded equal pay with men.  It was a real feel-good movie and reminded me a lot of ‘Calendar Girls’ in that problems loom and threaten but are blown away like clouds on a fresh summer’s day.  This was no coincidence as it had the same director.  A female-centred movie with men playing peripheral parts – in contrast to the way the society was at the time – it also featured Bob Hoskins in a secondary but important role as the shop steward, Geraldine James as one of the ‘girls’, and Miranda Richardson as a rather rose-tinted Barbara Castle.  I thought the guy who did Harold Wilson got the voice pretty well – Wilson had a very distinctive voice, not easy to imitate – and only later discovered that it was John Sessions!  Not surprising as he started off on Spitting Image, though I wouldn’t have recognised him at all.  Check this out:,r:0,s:0,i:85

So.. basically the premise of ‘Made in Dagenham’ – like ‘Calendar Girls’ – is that women can do anything we put our minds to.  And that by extension, history is often made, not by the powerful but by the powerless; the unimportant, the insignificant, the shy.  And why?  Because we have nothing to lose – no wealth or position or reputation.  We have only our own souls.

We also borrowed War Horse, which we haven’t watched yet – and what with Casualty and Chris Conway

to get through, not to mention an interview with Alex Day

we may not have the time.

Great day at Tomatoes yesterday – the first batch of pamphlets has gone and I’m getting through the second batch.

Kirk out

PS Chris Conway will be on radio Leicester this afternoon around 2 pm


A side-order of SaLaD

I was thinking about political leaders nowadays and how they not only look the same, they sound the same as well.  Every time I hear Ed Milliband I switch the radio off (it stayed off for fully 15 minutes this morning as he was having an extended interview on ‘Today’) – mainly because he seems to be doing a very bad Tony Blair impression.  I’m not sure what impression Cameron is giving us (apart from a bad one, ha ha) but like the others he looks and sounds bland.  It’s a far cry from the heyday of Spitting Image with the SLD (salad) party and the Shrinking David Party:

And thinking about this, it occurred to me that ‘Spitting Image’ would have a hard time nowadays satirising all these people – in fact they’d have to have just one puppet standing for everyone.  Even the women, with one or two exceptions, sound the same, all spouting the same party line.  It’s enough to make you feel fond of Ann Widdecombe, and I’m even starting to feel a sort of affection for Ken Clarke.  Help!  Is there something I can take for that?  Maybe aversion therapy would work: perhaps I should listen to his jazz programmes in my sleep.

Is there another way?


It’s Daniel’s party today and he has several friends coming for pizza and computer games; we will also be trawling the neighbourhood for abandoned Xmas trees to burn on our fire.  They do make a spectacular blaze, thanks to the oil in the needles.

Work-wise I’m working on several short stories, mostly autobiographical: one about my childhood as a VK *, one about the 74-stone woman I blogged about the other day

and a third about an archaeological dig I once took part in.  This was the hardest physical work I’ve ever done in my life: I thought I’d be delicately scraping away at fossils; instead I was digging ditches with a mattock and shovel.  Bloody back-breaking.  Anyway, as well as these stories I’m working on a review of a short story collection for Thresholds ( which needs to be in by the end of Feb.  It seems weird to see 29th Feb as a closing date for something.

Must get on as I need to tidy and vacuum.

Kirk out

*Vicar’s Kid