Friday, August 31, 2007

Diana

Hello, dear reader. I love you!

I'm back from the brink. Yes. Back! Back!! Back!!! Etc. On returning from Bournemouth, I seem to have shaken off my melancholia and left my inner gypsy on the apron at Prestwick airport.

I do plan on writing some more on my Summer soon, my extended trips to Dorset (Bournemouth, Bourne Free and Polly's baptism), my week in Ireland and the odd day spent here in the Athens of the North. But for now, I want to talk about the ramifications of the events from ten years ago; the death of Diana.

Curious, how only yesterday I was sorting through some books and old tat and putting them up for sale on ebay when I came across The Royal Baby Album and images of the late Princess of Wales. All through the night and with resonating clarity on each waking mo
ment (and there were many) Diana was on my mind. More curious, then, in a slow week for news when most bulletins have gone ignored, I wake up to a world awash with news about the people's princess.

Without getting bogg
ed down in how or why, it can be said, quite simply, that Britain is a strange place, indeed, a very strange place. And what of the British? A strange society. If opinion polls are to be believed, the majority of us like living under a constitutional monarchy. We like the Royal Family to be something they cannot be; the same as us but different. We like to see The Queen wearing ermine, we like her to deliver a speech to Parliament with jewels worth millions of pounds perched upon her head, we like to see the changing of the guard, we like to see a Royal wedding, we like to see an elderly couple living in a palace that could house thousands. We liked to see The Queen Mother wandering around the East End of London after a WWII bombing raid, we don't like to see Harry smoking dope and dressing as a Nazi, we don't like Windsorial infidelity, we don't like to see a family of toffs running out into the countryside to kill hundreds of wild animals for a bit of fun and we don't like to see Her Majesty getting away without paying tax.

We seem to like the Royal Family, on some level, being above us, but we want them to act as if they weren't.

The current bunch do not fulfil that rôle. But Diana did. And that's where
, for all of us, it went horribly wrong. The bridge between the corporeal and aethereal was always a weak one. When it collapsed and was swept away, no-one seemed to know what to do.

Cubans admire Castro, Americans adore Washington and some Russians still have a thing for Lenin but you'll be hard pressed, dear reader, to find any Briton who has a good word to say about Oliver Cromwell.

Cromwell is hated, actually. Revolution? Cutting off the King's head? Not very British, is it.

As much as Cromwell is hated, Darwin is admired, even loved. You see, my lamb, Britain doesn't really like revolution. We're more keen on evolution. And in the days after Diana's death, The Queen instinctively knew this. She chose to play along with the masses who seemed to be damanding her presence in London and in some way acted as though she were being dragged back to the capital kicking and screaming.

She was not. She knew that the mood of the country was for change, but she knew it was a blip and not a powder keg under the House of Lords. She understood our desire for slow and methodical adjustment. She knew, to survive, she had to appear to bow to pressure, although to keep her authority, she had to be the author of that change. One has a glimpse of this in her metaphorical stamping of the royal foot when she addressed the nation shortly before Diana's funeral, "As your queen..." and, for good measure, reitterating the same but different mantra, "...and a grandmother..."

There have been blips before, of course, wobbles, if you like. In 1917 when most if not all British people thought the only good German were a dead one, the Royal Family dropped all their German titles and in the PR stunt of the century, changed their name to Windsor. How very, very, very British.

In 1936, the government preempted the country at large not being in favour of the King's choice of wife. With some mutual decision making, it must be said, Edward VIII and his gay divorcée were quickly dispatched and replaced with the epitome of perfect British family life.

The Queen is a clever woman and she's used her family history to teach her some very important lessons, the most important of which is to watch for a right Royal mess and how to clear it up.

Very often, we Britons can't tell the difference between what's important and what's impressive. Perhaps uniquely among Royals, Diana was both and loved by everyone. We realised a lot through Diana's life. We were a sentimental nation, we were imaginative and loved a wee bit of rebellion.

"Hey! Queen! Get down here to London! Hey! Queen! Get that Union Jack up at half mast! Hey! Queen! Do what you're bloody well told."

The Queen liked us to think she was doing what she was told. In fact, I'd bet everything I own that coming back to London was her dcision and her decision alone, therefore her victory and not our victory; the Monarchy being stronger and more stable now than at any time during Elizabeth's reign.

What's my point? Not sure that there is one. This has been less a rant more a pseudo-drunken ramble, but there must be a point...

...Perhaps this: That the Royal Family and Diana (inside and out of it) can never and could never be what we want them to be. That people scheme. That a national sadness could be born out of the guilt of a people who perhaps expected a wee bit too much from such a young and fragile life.

Our head of state claimed lessons would be and had been learned over Diana's death. So how come the monarchy's in no different place now ten years after said claims were made? Because the Royal Family don't want change? Or because Britons are disinclined to accept it?

Revolution, dear reader, or evolution?

Or stagnation?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Apple


Ian and I are in the Apple store in Glasgow.  I am on my way to Bournemouth.  Ian is on his way to Greenock.

I feel fabulous.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Wii

HI! My name is Minge (formerly Jackie Collins). And you'd better watch out... What an outrageous evening we had last night. It was hot. It was steamy. And it's coming to your screens soon.
A wild party! There was drink, drugs and sex happening all over the place. We met Harry Belafonte, Warren Beatty and Marilyn Monroe! So exciting!

And we played Wii after watching X Factor!

Where were we?

Alan's house in Armadale.

It all goes on in West Lothian, you know, dear reader.

The Lady Mallet

Hello my darlings and wilkom in The Sunday Mallet, a word association game inspired by Timmy Mallett and TVAM and played out in the comments section.
For the original post and instructions, please click here.  You might find it exciting.  You might not, dear reader.


Last week, David left us with caaaaaaaaa!  I might be about to say something stupid, but the first word to pop into my head is lady.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Abomination!

Dog

An old dog, contrary to popular belief, can be taught new tricks.  I intend to prove this, if only to myself, by taking a leaf out of Alan's book (even though he wants to give me a delicious toe job!) and engage myself in the following:
Pottery (inspired by Krafty)
and

Sadly, the one course I was most eager to take, dear reader, doesn't seem to be on this year, the art of photography.

I have books on the subject and one or two people with whom I could chat.  But.  Can art be taught?  Or is it in ones bones?  Is it not true to say that one is either artistic in nature or not?  I really do not know the answer to those questions but I suppose I will find out over the next few weeks on Mondays and Thursday.

I also have the opportunity to learn how to cook an array of world dishes and fully intend to take up this opportunity.  Though only if Alan commits.  I'm not going to go all the way over to Bathgate every Tuesday evening to complete a course on my own.  I hate meeting new people and those getting to know one another approaches, so, I suppose, doing a cookery course with Alan will make life easier somewhat easier for me.

I'm not using Alan, though.  I want that to be made quite clear.

Meeting people and introductions are more than scary.  I'm sometimes in floods of tears at the thought of it.  Pure panic and fear take a horrible grip on me and all I can think of doing is running away.

But I digress...

By Christmas I may be able to tell a Raphael from a da Vinci, make myself look thin in photographs, pour tea into a cup I've made myself and know what all the funky buttons on my camera are for.

I'll be like a fourteen year old Rottweiler with the ability to operate a VCR.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Stupid

I woke up this morning, dear reader, and got out of bed from the wrong side. With my first footfall, I scowled, tutted and sighed.
I was beginning the day in a world where Carole or Gerry are the likely evictees in tonight's Big Brother. Why I let such trivia upset me or even register in my mind is sometimes baffling (to me and to others) though I face facts and accept that Big Brother does seem to play a large rôle in my life during the Summer months.

But why?

Perhaps because my life is so shallow and empty. I don't know. And the only antidote to that is to engross myself in the lives of other people. People who will, whether they want to or not, let me in. Few do.

For the life of me, I cannot understand how Brian is the favourite to win and the twins are second favourite. After the racism debacle in the Big Brother house at the beginning of the year and the perpetrator's fall from grace, I thought we UK citizens had lost our appetite to watch and our admiration for the stupid.

Brian has no concept of who or what Shakespeare is.

The twins do not know how to spell taxes, who their Prime Minister is and describe the world as pink. Do UK universities not include a spelling test in their endevours to sort the wheat from the chaf? If not, shouldn't they?

Ingnorance and stupidity are not the same thing, but they are common bedfellows. Not knowing how to spell or how many UK PMs there have been since Robert Walpole became the first in 1721 is ignorance and could be blamed on any number of contributing factors. But lacking any understanding of who's in charge of the country is an example of pure stupidity, exposing a lack of interest in anything above the puerile.

Yes, the twins (Sam and Amanda) are kind, polite and inoffensive but with their vanilla harmlessness, they display themselves as empty vessels, bereft of opinion. Air-head idiots.

I'm reminded, here, of a similar numpty. Fiona Hyslop is our Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. When I lived in Armadale, I was blessed with her as one of my regional MSPs and wrote to her about the same sex marriage/partnership/civil union debate. Twice. Did she bother to reply? Did she hell. And when, perturbed by being ignored, I contacted her office, I was told she held no opinion on the matter.

Aye, right.

No opinion, my arse. She held an opinion, I'm sure. She just didn't want to share it. With anyone. Which is worrying. If she didn't have an opinion, she should have come to one. An MSP without an opinion is like a Christmas dinner without turkey. She should have an opinion, an opinion on her constituents, their lives and the things that affect them.

But, really, what else should one expect from a ridiculous party like the SNP headed by a sly old dog like Alex Salmond? The man who can be blamed for an unprecedented number of spoiled ballot papers in a Scottish election by asserting that one of the choices was for First Minister. Yes. The SNP box was daubed with Alex Salmond for First Minister. Any idiot knows that in a parliamentary democracy, by vote or convention, the leader of the largest party is elected to the post by their fellows in the chamber and appointed by the monarch. The electorate at large do not elect him or her. But obviously, Alex Salmond did take us for fools. And perhaps we were in splattering his box with our mark.

Having said that, perhaps Scotland will soon wake from its lunacy. Salmond's honeymoon is over. Wendy Alexander (the hottie Douglas' sister) is coming to rock our First Minister's dingy. She'll not sink to his vulgar level. She will not fool the electorate, she will not lie and she will not come across as an arrogant and fat pig. And she'll have plenty of ammunition:

Whilst earmarking twenty two schools for closure, our illustrious SNP/Lib Dem council is spending God only knows how much money on refreshing its logo. How strange for the SNP to put themselves before the education of Edinburgh's children. Who'd have thought it?

Edinburgh Council workers vote to strike in a bid to stop their masters from implementing a programme of cuts. To me, that means losing education staff, home helps and social workers.

Alex Salmond's national conversation on the dissolution of the union is not only a waste of money, but propaganda at the nation's expense. He should remember that he has no moral majority. Only forty seven out of the one hundred and twenty nine seats in the Scottish Parliament (ONLY one more than Scottish Labour) and opinion polls suggest the mood of the country is not for independence at all.

Salmond's been calling for broadcasting to be an issue devolved from Westminster to Holyrood. It's obvious why. Not only does Mr Salmond want to get his grubby mitts on the issue, but also on the power that goes with it. Mr Salmond is not satisfied with the title of First Minister. He also wants to see the word Editor on his door.

You see, dear reader, similarities between that infamous Channel 4 programme and Alex Salmond are profound. We adore the stupid and Alex's desperate to be a Scottish Big Brother.

Scary, isn't it!

He who sups with the devil should use a long spoon. Sadly, no spoon is long enough, in my opinion, for the poor people who have to work with our current First Minister, though, thankfully, no political party in the parliament will agree to work with him. He doesn't care, himself, with whom he sups.

The SNP's election victory was paid for by Brian Souter and should have been a taster for things to come.

So yes, I'm scared.

No Jew would have voted for a political party in the pay of Adolf Hitler and I could never bring myself to vote for a party in the pay of a vulgar wee homophobe, but I am scared to see that so many people in Scotland did. Again, similarities are frightening. The Nazi Party, too, were a homophobic body. Contrary to popular belief, they, just like the SNP were not brought to power by war or a coup d'état, but by the electorate. They made homosexuals stateless. The SNP want to make me a foreigner in my own country.

What a bunch of cunts.

I'm still scowling. Even a breakfast of cheesecake and rooibos has, alarmingly, had no impact on my mood.

Suggestions are, as always, more than welcome.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cake!

Russian Forest Gateau
You will need (for the cake):
  • 250g 70-80% cocoa solids chocolate
  • 3 large organic free range eggs
  • 250g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 4 tablespoons good maple syrup
  • 40g self-raising flour
  • 20g cornflour
  • half teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 250g raw beetroot (peeled and finely grated)
  • 100ml very strong black coffee (not instant, please!)
  • 30ml extra virgin olive oil
For the topping:
  • 150g 70-80% cocoa solids chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons very strong black coffee
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons good maple syrup
For the filling:
  • Half a jar of good quality black cherry jam
Instructions:
  1. Dip a pastry brush into the olive oil and grease a 20cm springform cake pan.  Set aside.
  2. Set your oven to 140ºc (fan) or 160ºc (conventional).
  3. Melt the chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water and set aside to cool slightly.
  4. In a large bowl, scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod, add the eggs, maple syrup and sugar and then beat vigourously with an electric whisk for three minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until fully incorporated.
  6. Fold in the beetroot, chocolate, coffee and oil, again, until thoroughly incorporated.
  7. Pour your cake mix into the prepared tin and bake on the middle shelf for ninety minutes, after which time, remove from the oven, cover with foil and return to bake for a further thirty minutes.
  8. Test to see if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer.  If it comes out clean, it's done.  This is a moist cake, though, remember, so it won't come out spotless.  If it's really messy, return it to the oven for another five or ten minutes and then test again.
  9. Now, take all the ingredients for the topping and melt, again, slowly over a pan of barely simmering water.  Once everything's melted, mix together gently and set aside to cool.
  10. Once your cake is done and cooled on a wire rack, slice it in half, spread the bottom layer with the cherry jam and pop the other half of the cake on top.
  11. Pop your cake, now, onto a plate and cover the top and sides with your chocolate topping.
It's utterly delicious.  Serve with a hot drink, coffee or, surprisingly, tea!  Rooibos is a perfect accompaniment!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

News

Look what I've just seen as I glanced out of my bedroom window, dear reader!
Yes, the owners of the house next door have put it up for sale!  And by the look of the particulars, the lady next door has been doing a spot of tidying up and even thought to take the washing from the line which had been outside and exposed to the elements for weeks!

I hope the place is sold quickly.  No longer will I have to hear her shouting and swearing at her poor children, her vile transistor radio-sounding hi-fi blaring out at two in the morning or the slamming of doors at breakfast time as she rows with her husband!

The lady who lives on the other side of my neighbour will be as gleeful as I am, I'm sure.

Now, If I hadn't drunk the last bottle of champagne in the house on Saturday night, I'd be popping the cork at this very moment.

If you always dreamed, dear reader, of living next door to Minge and within spitting distance of J K Rowling, clickez-vous ici.

Also in the news...

Alex Salmond has started what he's calling a big conversation.  I call it a sly move, but who am I to speculate upon the shenanigans of a rat?

His chances are remote, and he knows this.  So why press ahead?  What's his wee game?  Win or lose, the break up of the union is his end game and wants to keep the idea fresh in our minds for as long as possible.

He'll succeed in that, I'm sure, especially if we as the United Kingdom elect a conservative government next time around.  A British Tory governement would be too much for many wavering Scots to stomach and I can predict, with reasonable ease, what the result of any independence referendum might be.

But of course, Mr Salmond is an awful way off from a referendum.  With a parliament well short of a fifty per cent nationalist majority, it's probably never going to happen.  The SNP like to cheerily snort and cackle about winning the election in May.  But I can't really see it as a victory.  With a margin of a handful of seats, the electoral equation gives a very curious answer to the SNP and the voters.  The numbers of Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat seats remained pretty static.  The SNP took their additional seats from the Greens, Solidarity and the SSP - all of whom are also nationalist parties.

O grave, where is thy victory?

Other supposed successes for Salmond include populist moves like saving A&E departments, the abolition of prescription charges for people with chronic illnesses and tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges.  Though remember, dear reader, two things:

  1. The money for these measures has to come from somewhere
  2. The Scottish Parliament has tax raising powers
The Scottish political scene is going to be a very lively and interesting place over the next few years.  Lots of ifs, buts and maybes, though.  Does Alex Salmond have the balls to go for legislation that may be voted down by the parliament?  Does the parliament have the balls to go for a vote of no confidence in the government/executive and First Minister if the SNP lose a vote in the chamber, prompting a Scottish parliamentary election?

Breaking up Britain would be a pointless and ridiculous leap in the dark.  Not in Scotland's interest at all.

Help!

I'm still coughing for Britain, there's a suspected case of foot and mouth in Kent and E.coli in Paisley.  Is it just me, or are we all dying?

Hello

Violent

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Erotic Mallet

I'm not a witch, I'm a love technician, dear reader.

Guten tag and welcome to The Sunday Mallet, a word association game played ut in the comments section of this post. Players are required to input (I love that word, input) the first word that comes to mind after reading the previously given word, whether it be here or in the comments section.

What does the word you think of say about you? And what would Mr Freud deduce?

It's a wild and wacky game inspired by TVAM and Timmy Mallett.

Come and play. You know you want to!

Last week, Ian left us with his penis. The first word I thought of is...

Erotic



Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kundew


Yes.  I know how icky it sounds.

Soundtrack

Although untagged, I'm picking up the baton from A Novelist and Alan. In a pioneering mood, I venture forth, dear reader, with the soundtrack to my life.
I'm getting off to a bad start here, beginning with a song out of chronological order.

I was fifteen when I first heard this record. My friend had a country compilation LP with this track on it. I nearly fell off my chair when, early on in the song, I heard my own date of birth, the third of June.

So perhaps this song isn't out of chronological order, really (though strictly speaking, of course, it is).

and

The early years of my life are quite horrible and, to be frank, I'm rather glad human beings don't have vivid memories of our first few years.

My Father could not be found as my Mother went into labour. As it later turned out, he was with his mistress in Wareham. Probably fucking her while my Mother was giving birth to me. Horrid imagery is conjured in my mind when I think about it.

I was a poorly child right from the start. At three moths old, my Mum was told I'd probably not live beyond my first birthday. Doctors considered removing my spleen, but then discounted the idea claiming it would neither save me nor prolong my life. But as now, I clung on to life.

Numerous blood transfusions carried me from a babe in arms to a two year old boy, nearly three.
A week before my third birthday, I went into hospital. Again. This time, no-one was really sure if or when I'd come out. Blood transfusions. Steroids. Confined to bed. But I did get better. I remember eating a whole packet of custard cream biscuits on my birthday and then vomiting up the lot in a tiny metal dish shaped like a kidney. The spew went all over my Mum and a nurse.

Actually, that's probably my earliest memory. I always thought it was waking up on my fourth birthday. Strange that only know I realise that this is not the case.

Those are my memories. The memories of others are of me and my record player. I only had two records, apparently, and would play them over and over again. Puppy love by Donny Osmond and Kiss me honey honey kiss me by Dame Shirley Bassey.

Later, when I'm probably about five or six years old, I remember playing the Bassey song in my bedroom. I remember feeling a sense of shame, hoping no-one heard me playing Kiss me... Not because I thought people might think the song was naff but because I actually thought the song was quite rude.

My Father was a strange person. His mood could change like the wind and he had a temper like no other man on the face of the earth. He made Saddam Hussein look kind.

In our car, we had an eight track cassette player. One of the many cassettes which lived in the glove box was by Perry Como. Dad loved And I love you so. I'm always reminded of him when I hear Perry, which is a shame as he's quite a nice singer and the song is actually quite beautiful.

I can't believe how often I use the word nice. It's such a bland word.

The Nolans must have come to the fore in the late 1970s and I'm in the mood... I remember, was a favourite of my sister's when she looked like this. Some of the most splendid moments of my youth were spent with Christine. She's very special to me. And some of those moments were spent in her bedroom. This special moment was spent there with her, I and Debbie. I remember having an old curtain over me. I believed I was an old gypsy woman. The three of us were dancing to I'm in the mood for dancing.

It's such an innocent memory. I had no idea, then, that people might judge someone pretending to be a gypsy woman.

I just remember us twirling, laughing, having fun.

I hated going to Sunday School. I really did. And it was a Baptist church to boot. I really dug my heels in and told my Mother that in no uncertain terms was I prepared to ever go again after the superintendent told me that my dog was indeed not in heaven (animals don't have souls and only Jews and gentiles go to heaven) and I'd been hit on the head by one of the teachers. With an umbrella. Hard.

My Mum loved music. A minibus called to pick me up and take me to Sunday School and then bring me home again. I think, practically every time I came back from that awful place, just in time for lunch, Mum would be playing The Ink Spots on our old hi-fi. The track she liked best was I don't want to set the world on fire. I used to know all the words. Sadly, I can now only remember the second line... I just want to start a flame in your heart.

By the mid 1980s, I was well into pop music. When I first heard La Ross singing Chain reaction, I nearly had a heart attack. I thought it was the best song I'd ever heard and nothing could ever beat it. I thought that if I had this record I'd never need another.

and

I'm never sure, dear reader, if Madonna's True blue or Tina Turner's We don't need another hero (Thunderdome) was the first record I ever bought as, strictly speaking, I bought them together. In W H Smith's in Bournemouth. Of course, the cashier must have put one through the till before the other. Which one, though, I don't know and now, never will know.

I remember there was an instrumental version of We don't need another hero (Thunderdome) on the b side of Tina's single. I'd play the 7" in my bedroom (where there were no mirrors) and then go and stand in the bathroom in front of the medicine cabinet which had a mirror on the door. I'd sing the song, pretending I was Tina. The instrumental version was no quite the same as the a side, though, and I'd often get lost somewhere with in it. I remember thinking Tina was a bitch for that.

I saw Pet Shop Boys perform their first ever UK number one single on Top Of The Pops either at the tail end of 1985 or the beginning of 1986. I'm sure, actually, it was 1985 as they weren't yet number one. West End girls didn't get to number one until the first week of 1986 when it knocked Shakin' Stevens (a guy I thought was utterly hot) off of the top of the chart.

I remember thinking that both Neil and Chris were quite dishy. And the song was something else. I'd never heard anything like it before and had to have it. Sadly, though, I had to wait a while. I saved up my pocket money and bought Please in 1986.

I'd been buying CDs since 1987. It's s sin, being the first. But the first CD I bought and played after buying my own CD player was Wicked by Sinitta. Love on a mountain top is my favourite song on that album.

The video for Justify my love was the filthiest I'd ever seen. I was desperate to buy the single and the Immaculate Collection video. Imagine my surprise, dearest reader, on having bought said single, to hear the the beast within mix. I was scared shitless.

My Mother's younger sister, Barl, died in 1986. Mum asked me to play Sarah Brightman's Time to say goodbye in the morning on the day of the funeral, just before we left the house. We looked at each other with a bitter-sweet smile and ended up in floods of tears.

After the funeral, Sue, my cousin, Barl's eldest daughter, told me that on going through her things, she'd discovered her Mum had kept a photograph of me in her purse. It was old, somewhat faded and tatty at the edges. It had been there for years. Whenever I think of that (even now) I shed a tear.

Aunty Barl was a dear woman who lived a troubled life. She was glad to die. I could never understand it when she went, but now, eleven years later, I do.

One of the hymns at the funeral was Abide with me. I want that at my own, too.

Dream a little dream of me is featured in one of my favourite films of all time, Beautiful Thing. It's very special. J'adore it - the film and the song. Ian used to sing it to me.

XWiz and I adore being Rumours Of Whores. Schizophrenic, for me, is the highlight of the experience.

As I type, It only takes a minute by Take That (it's not shit at all) is playing on iTunes (I've got it on shuffle mode). An apt place to stop.

Fab!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fear

As you may or may not know, dear reader, I've just come back to Edinburgh from an extended holiday to England and Ireland.  I must have been away around six weeks.
Six difficult weeks, it must be said.

Some of my earliest memories are of being afraid; of fearful situations.  I recall my brother telling me the funny man was on his way to get me.  That wasn't funny at all.  I recall trips to the toilet.  No relief was to be found there.  I was sure someone was on the stairs, watching me, watching me dart from the living room, across the hall to the bog.  I recall laying in bed at night, alone, unable to stand the fear anymore...  I'd creep down the stairs and sit by the living room door with the voices of adults for comfort.

I've always been afraid of being alone and of being got.  This fear, all too tangibly, has continued into my adult life.

A sickly child, ill health was a constant threat to my very existence.  Mother was very kind to me.  Without wrapping me up in cotton wool, she protected me from death and disaster.  Without explanation, I knew I was safe.  The sight of blood, however, mine or anyone else's, and I was in hysterics.

All those horrid fears; of threat and of solitude came to me like a fist to the face in the early 1990s when my work colleague and I were held up in an armed robbery at our place of work.

As an adult, I had to face things on my own.  I had to cope.  Unable to face these things, unable to cope, I fled from life itself and into my bedroom.  I did not come out, save for visits to the toilet and bathroom, for six months.

Slowly but surely, with the help of doctors, nurses and psychiatric specialists, I emerged from my bedroom.  Not really because I wanted to, no, but because my fear of letting down the medical staff and my Mother was greater than my fear of what might lie outside of my bedroom/stronghold.

However, regardless of the hows and whys, I did it and soon realised the outside world wasn't such a bad place after all.  My fears were based on something I'd suggested to myself rather than on anything real.  My fears were all about what might be, what could be.  Just like my funny man fear.  What he might do to me, what he might look like.  Just like my fear of someone watching me on the stairs and where they might take me if they caught me.

But aren't all fears like that?

What if?

Fear still plays a starring rôle in my life.  He's been a special guest star in The Minge Show since 1972.


Between then and now, fears have also been about self doubt and about a lack of explanation.  Being told I was daft and shouldn't worry have never been a cure for my fears.  I need proof that I'm daft and proof that my worries are groundless.  That's how I came out from my bedroom after six moths of self-imposed imprisonment.

From my Spring trip to Japan and through to my Summer trips to England and Ireland, my fears have been alive and well.  I've been coughing, without much of a break, since the beginning of this year.  Antibiotics have seen off chest and sinus infections, yet still the cough refuses to pack up and go home.

This week, I visited Dr Wendy here in Edinburgh.  I see her every so often for check-ups after the removal of the tumour from my tongue.  She knows of my ever present fear of the c word and understood my hints over the constant coughing.  She also knows about my fear of facing up to things, ever afraid that my thoughts could be confirmed as fact.

"See your GP," said Wendy.

So I did.

First of all, it must be noted that when I first saw the guy, a new doctor at the practice, I thought Alan was playing some kind of trick on me, impersonating my GP.  But no, the guy was either his doppelgänger or his long lost twin with an English accent.  As he called to me, with a wink, "Mr Tapping?" I nearly fell off of my chair.

What a wonderful man he was and put my fears to bed, I hope, once and for all.  And he certainly knew how to do that.  Not with a ruffle of my hair and a, "Don't be a silly lad," but with an explanation.

Apparently, after a chest infection and sinus infection quite close together, my sinuses are inflamed and inflamed sinuses tend to overproduce mucus.  That mucus finds itself on my chest, hence the coughing.  The wheezing is caused, not by an asthmatic lung or even a cancerous one, but by the constant coughing and the bronchioles tightening, then not relaxing.

I'm not to worry.

And spookily, I'm not.

For the first time in months, I'm able to spend moments alone without my mind wandering into the realms of pain, death and funerals.  I've actually read a passage from a book today.  Something I've been unable to do for some weeks.  This afternoon, after I've taken my ladies out for another walk, I plan on watching The Weakest Link.

I love this sense of freedom.

But still, I look back into the past and ponder my theories of fear and regret.

I'd love to be a person who can look back upon their life and say, hand on heart, "No regrets."  Sadly, I regret a lot of things, from ugly romantic relationships, fucked-up thoughts on how to keep a man, smoking and always wondering what people thought of me (and the tests I put them through to discover the answer).

I can't live a life of fear.  I can't.  It's horrible.  The depression that comes with it is like a lid on my kettle.  I want to whistle, sing and let all that steam out.  Crying, lying on the bed in a ball, pulling out my eyebrows - all things I want consigned to the past.  I'm doing my best.

I'm high maintenance, I'll admit that, and a needy person, though I won't ask.  I'm not ashamed of being needy.  I'm not ashamed of myself, though I am ashamed, on some level, of not asking for help.

But I do get help.  Sometimes it's a surprise, sometimes it's from the dependable people in my life.  My fears of being alone are, I think, at last allayed.

I'm still coughing, but I'm no longer afraid.

Donna!



Of course, I'm jumping for joy over the return of Donna, whom I adore, but my excitement reaches some kind of pinnacle over the appearance of Fenella Woolgar who shone (If you'll excuse the pun) in Bright Young Things.

Another guest star is Tim McInnerny who, in my humble opinion, was quite delicious whenever he appeared in Blackadder, codpiece or no codpiece.

Also, how wonderful to see Richard Briers in Torchwood and Felicity Kendal taking part in the next series of Doctor Who.  I wonder if they'll be reunited on screen somehow and shown digging up Donna's back garden, turning it into a farm?

The Christmas special is only a few months away.  I cannot wait.  For Kylie!  It's turning out to be a gay ol' Christmas.  As camp as...

And to top it all, we have Torchwood II to look forward to and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

How fabulous.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Seriously

On Sunday evening, Ian and I went into Edinburgh to see Seriously. Pet Shop Boys. Reinterpreted.  What a wonderful way to be broken in to Edinburgh's 2007 Fringe Festival.

Wonderful, yes, though queueing in the rain, the performance starting almost half an hour late, I wasn't feeling too wonderful, it must be said at curtain up.  Although there wasn't actually a curtain.

Fringe productions almost always run to time, the whole event being such a tight ship, so waiting half an hour for Seriously to start was like waiting five hours for a cold starter in a five star restaurant.

I felt a tad scared as I took my seat at a front row table (just like dinner theatre!) and wondered how dampened the crowd's ardour would be.  Quite damp.  Almost soggy.

But once things actually got going, wet jackets and the smell of damp dog were totally forgotten.

I'd once thought calling this piece of, let's face it, musical theatre, well, might be slightly pretentious, as if the songs were not serious but made serious by their reworkings.  No.  Not the case.  More that the seriousness of the songs are exposed thanks to the stripping back of the HiNRG and revealing the hurts, the jealousy, the sadness, the euphoria and all the other extreme emotions which make up our lives.

A story is told through the piece, yes, though nothing contrived or as ridiculous as the stories concocted for Mama Mia! and We Will Rock You.  Indeed, no words are spoken, the audience being shown aspects of life, of the characters lives, through music and lyrics.  A boy falls in love with a man, his Mother's losing her husband to another woman...

How are they going to get through?

Who'd have thought that Flamboyant could become a classy swing/jazz number?  Who'd have thought that a medley of Left to my own devices and A red letter day could become something of a torch song or that another medley, this time Love comes quickly and Miracles might bring a tear to ones eye or make the hairs on the back of ones neck stand up on end?

The piece was amazing, though just short of perfect, all thanks to technical hitches and us punters having to wait in three disorganised queues - almost chaos.

Michael Howard Smith's mic kept crackling and crashing out.  He then came back on stage with a bulkier, clumsier and more obvious piece of electronics.  Quite aptly, he then began to sing The survivors.

I hope Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe get to see it themselves soon.  They should.  It's fucking brilliant.

9.5/10

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Words

I love words.  I love playing with words and watching others play, too.  So you should imagine, dear reader, that I love the word verification service offered by Blogger to protect users from spammers and other similar nasty types.  The strange mix of letters on offer are usually dull rendering word verification, for he or she verifying their words, nothing more than annoying.

But word verification on Krafty's blog was far from dull and far from annoying today!

The word I was asked to enter was cunjeta.  Nothing wild, you might think.  Actually, no, completely wild!  Like a new word invented for the lady garden and reminding me of Conchita Martinez.

Fabulous.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Water

Today, on my return from Borders here in Edinburgh, I was listening to PM with Eddie Mair.
How shocked, dear reader, do you suppose I was on hearing a moaning fish wife from England calling in to complain about having no drinking water on tap for the past thirteen days?  I'll tell you.  I was very shocked indeed.


I cannot believe, in a world where a child has to travel many miles on foot to collect the dregs of a muddy puddle, a woman in Gloucestershire seriously expects us to pity her having to boil the water coming through the tap in her MFI kitchen.

Yes, floods are terrible but, hey, at least the moaning Gloucester bint is alive.  I wonder if it crossed her tiny mind, while waiting to go to air, in the silence of her own thoughts, not to yack on about having to boil water in her electric kettle but to beg for more media attention and aid for the two hundred million people affected by flooding in South Asia?

Sadly, two hundred and forty people have died in India...


But those three people are the tip of the iceberg.  It's been revealed today that the flooding may be the cause of Britain's latest foot and mouth outbreak.  Debby Reynolds (Debby, sadly and not Debbie) appears worried.

I'd be more worried if I were a cow, pig, sheep or goat.  Many cows have already been slaughtered and I expect more animals will be murdered yet.

It's time people sat back and really considered their own positions.  Boiling water in order to make it drinkable isn't such a dreadful thing and certainly nothing to grizzle over.  At least there's water on tap and it's only been unfit for human use for the past two weeks.  The slaughter of sentient beings and the plight of millions of Asian people affected by floods might move me to telephone a radio news programme. Boiling my kettle would not.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Sunday Mallet

I came back (back, back, etc), dear reader, from my hiatus and state of limbo.

While away in England, Northern Ireland and Eire, I had much time to think.  More about that later, but first, thoughts about the matter at hand and what's to be done with an interactive Sunday. Holidays always seem to remind me of Mallett's Mallet, seemingly because I often find myself getting up earlier while away on holiday than I do at home.  As a boy, weekdays meant staying in bed as long as possible before getting up for school.  Weekends and school holidays meant getting up early to watch children's TV.

Wacaday was a wild part of my childhood and teenage years and it's with great reverence that I put my own spin on the show with The Sunday Mallet.  I did toy with the idea of Minge's Mallet, but narcissism can be oh so horrid.

So, how to play...  Much as we did with Fib Sunday, though this time there shall be no fibs, just simple rounds of word association.  Yes, The Sunday Mallet is a word association game.  No need for suggesting topics and so forth.  I shall presently come up with a word.  In the comments section, a player should provide the first word that pops into his or her mind.  The next player, on seeing said word, should provide the first word that they think of and so on.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So, the first ever word of The Sunday Mallet shall be jubilation.