Archive for the month “December, 2017”

A Christmas like no other.

The people who collect our recycling had a bit of a surprise a few weeks ago.  It’s not every week that our glass recycling bin looks like this.


And what was our excuse for this outburst of unaccustomed alcoholic excess?  It was nothing less than the arrival, some five weeks ago, of this young lady, our first granddaughter.


In the months leading up to her birth, no decisions could be taken about her name, because the parents decided not to be told the baby’s sex in advance.

Linda and I did, however, have a working title, thanks to a dream that Linda had several weeks before the little one’s arrival.  She dreamed that our daughter had told her that they had decided on the baby’s name and that she would spell it out, so that we wouldn’t get it wrong.

The new baby was to be named W-O-R-B, Worb, to rhyme with ‘word’.  And so the new infant became in all conversations relating to his or her imminent arrival and future prospects.  We even developed a diminutive form of the name and started to talk about how life would be once little “Worble” had arrived.

And then she was finally born and we found ourselves elevated to the exalted status of new grandparents, a role that we found remarkably easy to adopt.  Still no decision had been taken on the name, so ‘Worble’ it was.

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Caption:  Worble’s first outing to the park with doting grandparents.

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Caption:  Proud granddad with sleeping Worble.

And so the big day came when Worble had to present herself at the Registry Office to be officially registered.  As befitted the occasion, she was dressed in her finest outfit, a testament to our daughter’s legendary understanding of contemporary fashion and her awareness of the delicate art of complementary colour combinations.


And so we were delighted to welcome into the citizenry of the United Kingdom the brand new, young Martha Florence, formerly known as Worble.

Great to have you in the family, kid!

To be honest, young Martha wasn’t too impressed with the registration process and found it difficult to get too excited about it.


And look what I got from Father Christmas to mark the beginning of my new career as Grandad.  Something special to hang on the Christmas tree!


What a brilliant way to finish the year!



Happy Solstice, everybody.

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year and the longest night.  Which goes some way to explaining why, at eight o’clock in the evening, we found ourselves standing in a huge crowd on Brighton’s seafront gradually freezing to death, as the cold of the pavement made its way through our shoes and feet and on upwards, and the cold sea breeze started to chill our faces and make its way down.

For the last 21 years, Brighton has marked the solstice with a huge children’s parade.  Hundreds of children gather in the town centre with paper lanterns that they have made in the weeks running up to the solstice, under the auspices and guidance of a charity called Same Sky.


Working all over the south east of England, Same Sky describe their mission as encouraging people to come together through involvement in parades, street drama, puppetry and light shows.

We advise on community outreach and social cohesion, building connections with people who’ve never been involved with art before, and those in vulnerable or hard-to-reach groups in the community. We work with them to develop creative skills and talents, and show them how art can change their everyday life.”

The title of the parade, marking the winter solstice, is always “The Burning of the Clocks” and last night the parade took a full three quarters of an hour to pass in front of our vantage point overlooking the Marine Parade.


Thousands of Brighton residents and visitors lined the streets to witness the event as clocks of all shapes and sizes passed by on their way to a specially designated area of the beach, where the children and adults alike were asked to throw their lanterns, unceremoniously, into a big heap.

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Big clocks, little clocks, well-constructed clocks and clocks that had been assembled by less expert hands were all piled up and committed to the flames.


Once the bonfire started to die down the seafront erupted into a splendid fireworks display to celebrate lowest point in the winter and the fact that from now on, the days will slowly start to get longer and we can look forward to spring being just around the corner.

We trudged home to thaw out our frozen feet, but wouldn’t have missed it for the world. (Note to self:  Must remember my hat next year!)

Well done, Same Sky.  Well done, Brighton


Says it all, really!


No further comment needed.

There’s a hole in my carrier, dear Lisa, dear Lisa.

At 280m (918ft) long and with an estimated half-a-century working life, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the biggest carrier ever built by the UK

Not only have I just spend £6,200,000,000 on two aircraft carriers designed for a type of warfare that was popular fifty years ago, but it has just been announced that the first one to be delivered, years overdue and wildly over-budget, is actually leaking,  Yes, our shiney new ship, the biggest target in Russia’s war plans, is shipping water at the rate of hundreds of gallons a day.

The Ministry of Defence has blamed faulty rubber seals around the propeller shaft.

Now call me curmudgeonly, but I must confess that for £3,100,000,000 I thought I was entitled to receive a ship that was, at least, watertight and didn’t need hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of repairs on its first day at sea.

I’ll gloss over the fact that this floating airfield will have to fly American jets for the next three or four years, because the ones that were supposed to fly off it are, wait for it, years overdue and wildly over -budget.

A senior Ministry of Defence spokesperson, speaking on the radio yesterday said that the new aircraft carrier will ‘project British power abroad’, as it can be filled either with Military hardware or with humanitarian supplies for disaster situations.  OXFAM must be delighted.

Brexiteers have, for the past tow years, been championing the cause of ‘taking back control.’  If this is an example of control, then heaven help us!

Now I’ve seen it all!

When I was a teacher, it was my constant delight to be able to impart the finer elements of German grammar to a constantly changing and evolving succession of young people.

I loved it and above the whiteboard in my classroom were emblazoned the words “Grammar is Next to Godliness,” a quote from a long-deceased Bishop, who combined his religious devotions with a healthy respect for grammar.

Some years passed before I realised that not all of my young charges shared my enthusiasm for relative clauses or the finer points of the subjunctive.  Some even found the subject tedious!  Incomprehensible, I know, but what can you expect from a generation brought up on electronic gadgets, designed to turn you brain into mush and a constant diet of carefully manufactured, pre-planned and scripted ‘reality’ television.

( I recently met a woman who took part in a nation-wide TV general knowledge quiz show.  She fought off all of the competition until she reached the final and was within one question of winning the prize of a year of travel to all sorts of exotic places.

Prior to the final episode, the TV company asked her to record her ecstatic reaction as she won the glittering prize.  Unfortunately, they also asked the other finalists to do the same thing.  My friend’s daughter was drafted in to add to the excitement with lots of delighted squeaks and ” Oh my god, I can’t believe it!!!”, as they ran along to corridors to the waiting taxi that was to take them to the airport.  Then my friend got the final question wrong and came second.  Close, but no cigar, and no foreign travel either.   Reality television, my eye!)

Anyway, back to my stoical pupils and our unequal affection for grammar.

Part of my strategy to make my lessons more interesting was to occasionally ‘go off on one’, to launch a rant on whatever came to mind to be worth ranting about.  I was never short of subject matter. Kids using the word ‘gay’ to mean ‘defective’ or ‘of no value’.  That was always worth reacting to:  Kids using the word ‘like’ to punctuate every sentence.  “So I was like standing there and he like told me like he was like totally going to like dump me, right.  And I was like totally like shocked yeh, and I said like….”  With this one, I used to tell the kids to think the word ‘poo’ whenever they said the work like. It soon cured them.

But one of my favourite rants was about the kids’ use of make-up.  In retrospect, I should probably have been fired from the teaching profession for crushing the psyche of generations of young girls as they started to experiment with applying ‘products’ to their young faces.

With great relish, I would tell them the words of the CEO of Revlon, one of the world’s biggest cosmetics companies, who once said “In our factories we manufacture cosmetics, but in our shops we sell hope!”  I would ask why they thought that plastering themselves with paint and powder would make them more beautiful than they were in their natural state.  Why did they feel the need of a mask to hide behind?  And what happened when the person they were trying to impress saw them without the mask?  Who were they then?

Being a language teacher, I couldn’t  help making the semantic point that in English, the verb ‘to make up’ is used to describe the action you take to address a deficiency. You ‘make up’ for lost time.  You ‘make up’ with someone if you feel you have wronged them in some way.

So what deficiency were these girls assuming they suffered from when they painted their faces?  Why had they swallowed the cosmetic industry’s lavish advertising that was all geared to convincing them that they were not good enough, with their natural good looks;  that the world  would judge them if they dared to venture outside un-adorned and didn’t spend their money on the endless arrays of over-packaged gloop and gunk and potions and lotions that the glittering shop counters and baby-doll shop assistants were constantly pressing on them.

My students used to have great fun locking horns with me over my rants and telling me all the reasons why I was an out-of-touch, old fuddy-duddy, who didn’t understand anything about the modern world.  They were always very happy to put their pens down and hope that the rant would last until the end of the lesson – which it often did. Great fun and a welcome break from German grammar!

But perhaps I should have kept to my lesson plans and not burdened my young charges with such off-the-wall observations.  Perhaps they were right that I was just too out of touch with the world of today to make any meaningful contribution to the debate.

That was certainly what went through my mind when I saw the latest cosmetics industry advertising campaign plastered on 6-foot high posters on the sides of all of the bus stops in Brighton.


Is it just me, or has the whole world gone mad?

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