Saturday 14 October 2023

Happy b/day to me! (Sun. 15th)


Yes, we've reached all the sevens! Can hardly believe it myself even if sometimes feeling it with increasing regularity.
Regret still unable to post any new photos, so profile pic is now two years old. Imagine still sparser hair on top and a few more furrows on the physiognomy below it. 
Incidentally, is anyone else also old enough to remember the TV series of L.A. private detectives, '77 Sunset Strip' (1958-64) - [fingers click twice!] - launched to much hoop-la at the time, though hardly ever mentioned since? ("Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb!")
Really nothing more to say - so that's all for now. Heigh-ho! (sigh) 😉

Saturday 30 September 2023

'Graham Norton Show' last night. What a treat!

I do quite like Graham Norton, but as his show (new series starting yesterday) is always on telly at way past my bedtime, I only follow it up, if at all, by watching excerpts of any particular names who get my attention, and that's quite rare as most weeks I can't be bothered. But I tuned in to catch-up this morning because I'd read that one particular person was appearing. 

I've had the 'hots' for a certain actor ever since he first started appearing in films some 20 years ago - and it's (shhhhhhhhh!) Stephen Graham! I don't know why he presses my buttons but he sure does - and it's so intense that he gives me head to toe tingles, and more than ever when he smiles. Mind you, at his 50 years, I'm more than old enough myself to be his dad, so it'll have to remain yet another unfulfillable fantasy. However, he was darned good on the sofa last night talking easily, amongst other things, about a new TV serial 'Boiling Point' set mostly in the  kitchens of a rather chi-chi restaurant, in which he is part of an ensemble cast including, incidentally, his real-life wife. I've got to give it a wee peep, at least.

So, with Stephen G. as an 'appetiser', I've just watched the entire 50 minutes of this Graham Norton Show, the first time I've done so in years!
Other guests last night included comedian/actor David Mitchell  - no, not his namesake, author of the stunning 'Cloud Atlas'. This David M. is one I've also liked for even more decades than Stephen G., though emphatically not in the same way! He wears his considerable intellect very lightly, never arrogantly. He appeared last night because he's just had his book come out which is a warts-and-all telling (particularly the former) of England's (and later, Britain's) monarchs right way back from the start, which sounds very engrossing and entertaining - even likely amusing, given the passage of time since.
I always like to go through his ever-so-readable periodic contributions in the Sunday 'Observer'. There are so many topically significant articles from a number of contributors in that newspaper that I regretfully have to skim-read some of them, but David's features are invariably a real joy to read in full, articles which need to be given the time and effort  they absolutely deserve. 

Then there was also a new name to me, Mawaan Rizwan, who just has a new, apparently surreal-ish comedy starting called 'Juice' in which he plays one half of a gay couple. I'll be giving that a look-in too. It's the first I've heard of this guy but, my goodness, he looks one hell of a head-turner - beard 'n all! He sure is easy on both the eye and ear, and good fun with it! I've just looked up his details and find he's 31, so if I'm not quite a cradle-snatcher for him (beard notwithstanding!) I'm certainly advanced enough to be his gramps!

Then there was the divine goddess herself (trumpets please!) .......'KYLIE'!, shortly to take up a season performing in Las Vegas. She didn't sing at all this time, just easily and relaxed-ly answering Graham's questions and joining in all the conversations. She actually never has to sing. For me, and many others I've no doubt, her just being there is more than sufficient. Lovely stuff!

The show closed with this year's U.K. Eurovision singer, Mae Muller (who'd finished second from last! - which she didn't deserve) singing her new release, a number which to me appealed on this my only hearing - so far. 

A most fine show, this. Must try and keep up with more of the series. Even if any are just half as enjoyable as this one was, it'll be grand.

Thursday 14 September 2023

World-renowned 'classic' writers whom I've never 'got'.

 Although there are more than three, there is a certain highly prominent trio of widely famed authors of the past, each of whom disconcertingly enjoys a most significant reputation and a large and ultra-serious band of defenders, admirers and disciples. I've tried repeatedly to understand why it is that I've never been able to get into them, yet the reason still evades me. While attempting to read and become engrossed by their novels my mind wanders away so far that I'm very soon merely reading pages upon pages of words which fail to penetrate my consciousness at all, until I'm suddenly aware of the futility of the exercise.  

1. Rudyard Kipling

I cannot comprehend why this man is so revered - above all for his children's stories, which I find dense and obscure - and boy oh boy, how I've tried! Even his most famous of all, 'The Jungle Book' (both 'Jungle Books' actually), I find indigestible, completely lacking the welcome lightness of touch which Disney brought to his cartoon (helped, of course by some awfully good songs). 

I've identical feelings towards all the 'Just So' stories. Right now I'm currently ploughing through 'Stalky & Co' and what a joyless slog it is! It's my very first attempt at this one, though I have read the aforementioned novels at least twice each. Apparently 'Stalky' is about a misbehaving group of (public)schoolboys getting up to various japes often involving their teachers or other members of the public as victims. It seems one is supposed to be entertained, even amused, by their antics but I'm finding it so hard to follow that it's leaving me cold and unmoved. But got to persevere, even though when I'm through I simply know now that I'll hardly recall any of it.

I've also read the entirety of the man's poetry, all 800+ pages of it. I have to say that most of it is rather more accessible than his stories, but that's probably because they are largely in more digestible, mostly shortish lumps.  (Btw: Some years ago a BBC national poll revealed that his poem 'If' was voted here as being the best regarded poem of all in the English language - and I wouldn't disagree that it at least is pretty good). 

2. Joseph Conrad

Have to confess that it's quite a few years since I last tried to assail this, for me, highly problematic writer - among whose works are 'Nostromo' ,'Lord Jim' and, his most celebrated of all, 'Heart of Darkness'. I'm not even sure that I managed to get right through any of them, his style of writing being maddeningly circuitous. A lot of admiration towards him is engendered by the fact that English was only his second language (after Polish) so it's undoubtedly some sort of achievement, though for me therein lies the problem. I could never get onto his 'wavelength'. If his thoughts were lucid, and I can't argue that they weren't, then to my mind they didn't translate successfully into the written word. He's definitely another author who gets my mind wandering off to unrelated, more captivating, subjects - though I would like to have another bash at 'Hearts of Darkness' before it's too late.

3. Sir Walter Scott

I get the impression, perhaps mistakenly, that this writer is particularly well regarded by non-English readers, presumably translated into whatever language is appropriate - though how translations cope with his terribly tiresome phonetic attempts at mimicking the Scottish accents through odd, unfamiliar spellings I just don't know, a technique which, whoever the writer or the accent replicated, slows one's reading down disastrously till, I at least, want to say "Oh, stuff it! I can do without this tortuous effort to work out what they mean!" 'Ivanhoe', 'Rob Roy' and 'Kidnapped' are some of his works I've tried to rise to, but I think it's only the last of these I managed to get to the end of - and that with one huge sigh of relief - and then craving for something requiring less effort to read. Mind you, like for Kipling, some of Scott's poems aren't at all bad - so long as it's not those in which he's trying to ape the Scottish accent in writing.

I could mention more writers - P.G.Wodehouse is just another who goes right over my head despite his being so adulated by many of far greater intelligence than I can boast, although he's considered by many to be the ultimate 'light-hearted' and 'gentlemanly' writer in English - but I've got to stop somewhere.

Oh, and I'm aware that I've not mentioned any female writers, though shamefully, it did take me some time to acclimatise myself to Jane Austen. Now she's no longer a 'problem' writer, thank goodness.

But never say never! If I'd written this post, say, 50 years ago, my top three 'unreadables' would quite likely have been Henry James, Thomas Hardy and............yes, even Dickens himself. However, through persistence, I gradually came to love each if them in turn. In fact all three would now doubtlessly feature in my Top 10 favourite writers of all. So one can change if one really wills it.  I merely want to experience those same admirations which other people feel, otherwise I sense missing out on something of significant worth.

Do you have any particularly 'difficult' writers? I'd love to hear some names.

Friday 28 July 2023

A horrible, pathetic 'discovery'.


Those of you who know about my feelings towards all animals may appreciate my horror and distress at yesterday finding a dead fox-cub in our small front garden beside a wheelie bin. How it died I don't know. It was only about eight inches long in body with its brush-tail a further four inches. It was under some foliage and I only found it because two of my cats were outside, both acting rather oddly and restlessly. I doubt if my own or any other cats would have been responsible for its sad demise. I couldn't bear to look at its face mainly because it may have had its eyes open. It was clearly not breathing, and as I swept it up with a hand-brush into a dust pan, grimacing all the while, there was no movement in its stiff little body. Although I couldn't look at it closely, from what I did see there were no obvious injuries. Perhaps it had starved. Nearly tipping over into tears, I double-wrapped its little body and gently placed it in the bin. What else could one do?

There's a skulk of urban foxes (I've only just found out the correct word via google) living in the park on the other side of this road. I sometimes see adult ones foraging for food from the roadside bins when I get up in the early hours to let my pussies out front. Any other cats also out at the time are, unsurprisingly, very wary of them, though the foxes themselves appear to take no interest in feline presences.

As for the poor dead one, I didn't know they would wander far out at such a young age, but somehow this poor chap did - and was fatally unlucky. Poor parents - especially for its mummy. Oh, so blisteringly sad!

Saturday 17 June 2023

Never too old to learn squash is NOT a sweet dessert fruit!


Having never in my life tasted squash until yesterday, and in my constant quest edging towards 100% veganism, I took the plunge. In fact I'd bought this curious-looking foodstuff a week ago, having heard so much about its benefits, but then didn't know what to do with it. Now all my life I'd assumed it was a fruit which, in fact, it technically truly is, but I'd assumed it would be something sweet to be incorporated into an after-dinner dessert  - no doubt because of associating it with what we used to call 'orange squash' or 'pop' ( which some still do). So yesterday, splitting it open and being surprised at how tough it was, I cut out some of the flesh which I diced and then put in a bowl, adding raspberries, blueberries and greek yoghurt. Need more be said? Yuk!!! Live and learn! Now so much wiser and, having googled said commodity, I shall cut up the rest, add olive oil, and roast it, to have as today's dinner with boiled cauli, kale and onion gravy. Now that should be better! 


Thursday 15 June 2023

Glenda Jackson passed away, at 87.


One of the most prominent, ever-present, living glittering jewels of my cultural life died today at her London home. Although it wasn't too much of a surprise considering her age, now that it's happened it feels like a punch in the gut to have now lost the conspicuous feature that she was.  . 

I was fortunate enough to have seen her live three times on stage, first in Webster's 'The White Devil' in 1976, next in Andrew Davies'  'Rose' (1980) and then in Brecht's 'Mother Courage' (1990) - not 'The House of Bernarda Alba' as I'd posted earlier. 

Her acting both on stage and on film was so consistently flawless it never failed to take my breath away. Two Oscars - for 'Women on Love' (1969) and 'A Touch of Class (1973) - and how can one possibly overlook her gloriously entertaining portrait of Mrs Tchaikovsky (that sex-crazed slut!) in 'The Music Lovers '(1971) with Richard Chamberlain also impressive as the mentally-tormented, genius composer - plus her numerous TV appearances, most famously appearing as Queen Elizabeth I in the 6 -part BBC serial of 1971. 

A lifelong socialist, she turned to politics for about 20 years, entering Parliament on the coat-tails of Tony Blair, very soon becoming a scathing critic of him, though she was made a junior minister in the early 00s. However, her political life then became, unfortunately rather low-key and she became largely invisible, though when she did appear in discussion programmes on both radio and TV she was energetically vociferous with her opinions.  Always strongly pro-gay, she was a beacon to many of us throughout the final decades of the last century when we were fighting for our equal rights.

I'd love to have seen her final stage performances - as King Lear himself, which she took to New York four years ago, but by then it had become clear that, even though she'd have wished it, she couldn't keep it up forever.  

Now she's gone, probably my own personal favourite actress of my lifetime. Thanks very much indeed, Glenda. R.I.P muchly!

Thursday 25 May 2023

My three toms all now neutered and microchipped + Tina R.I.P.

 The last 24 hours have been heavy anxiety, but it's over now  - at least until the next drama. 

Last week getting Bobby chipped wasn't too bad. He'd already been spayed when he arrived here 4.5 years ago, leading me to fear that he might already have been micro-injected, thus having an official owner, but he wasn't. He was good being checked over and didn't react to the injection. However, Sloopy, being still 'intact' when he arrived around the same time must be around 6 years old now, and still had to be done. Rather late-in-the-day for that procedure but no getting round it. Last week when I took him for his first vet check there was a heart-stopping incident when he managed to escape en route from the carrier by widening the zip fastenings and squeezing through (my fault!) and he scarpered off down the road which, luckily, wasn't too far from home so he did find his way back, even if I did dread him not daring to do so. But yesterday was the 'big day', much feared by me - the operation, after the obligatory (so cruel) 12 hours of not allowing him any food or even water. With much loud wailing as I carried him the 3/4 mile to the vet, I had to leave him there for 6 hours before collecting him, a period for which I was continually on edge. When the time came I was so relieved to hear that all had been done and without any problem. Told that if he keeps attending to his 'wound' by licking it I'd have to bring him back and have a collar fitted for, possibly, around a fortnight during which he'd have to be kept inside, which would be logistically v. difficult with a permanently open window for he and the other two to go and come as they please. However, since I brought him home, now 18 hours ago, although he has been licking himself 'there', which is hardly surprising, he hasn't been over-obsessed with doing so, so I'm now dearly hoping that the threatened further remedial action may not be necessary. He seems to be back to his old routine of being out all night - though now without having sired any more kitties to add to the population he's likely already to have done - and sleeping all day through. So, early days yet, but looking good.

Glad that's over with no major mishaps.

I'd like to have posted here new photos of Bobby and Sloopy but, darn it, I'm still unable to load photos onto this laptop. Meantime, here are two early pics of the 'boss', Patchie, who's now reached 18 years - one showing him being wary, the other he contentedly settled in.

Btw:  On this morning of hearing the deeply sad news of Tina's passing (she being a highly major feature of my own 1980s life's soundtrack, both literally and figuratively) I hadn't realised that for more than a few years she'd not only lived in Switzerland, but actually in Kussnacht, just outside of Zurich, a place I'd just happened to visit by boat briefly whilst staying for a few days in Zurich city in around 1985 (though Tina herself only started living there in the mid-1990s). Just by chance I'd happened to get off the boat at Kussnacht, which was doing a tour of Lake Zurich. It could have been anywhere else. I also learnt later that world-famed soprano Gwyneth Jones also lived there - and had probably been there at the time of my couple-of-hours visit, I believe. I only wish I'd taken some photos of Kussnacht, a relatively smallish place, while I was in it, not having fully appreciated just how attractive it was. In walking around for an hour or two, I remember lots of roses and other blooms in gardens and window boxes, perfuming the air, and it all being exceptionally clean and tidy.

'bye Tina, uniquely wonderful - thank you ever so much.  


Sunday 14 May 2023

Eurovision - U.K. second again, but now second from LAST....again!


Liverpool hosted this year's contest as the 2022 winner, Ukraine, was unable to do so because of the ongoing war - and last year the U.K. was runner-up. 

As happened last year, before the actual performances began, we viewers were told that we had up to 20 votes at our disposal? Eh? Why? When there are only 26 contenders? Absurd. Then, when it came to voting time, and also like last year, we were told to vote for our favourite act/song/performer - all in the singular, just as it should be. So goodness alone knows what was intended. I first voted for my favourite, Norway, then after a few mins decided to try to vote for my 2nd and 3rd, Poland and Finland, and see if they'd be blocked. They weren't. What everyone else thought and did, Lord knows! They've got to sort this out! Sheesh!

Yesterday's innovation was that this time not only would the 37 original participating countries be eligible to vote (no one voting for their own) but the whole world could! Presumably, just those broadcasting the programme live - countries in North and South America? Arab countries? Asia, Africa, New Zealand? How these votes would be monitored I dare not ask and don't want to know.

Winner was Sweden - a doleful, bellowed-out ballad sung by long-fingernailed damsel-in-distress, who appeared to be locked in some low-ceilinged prison, bewailing her sorry predicament.

The appeal of her song, giving her more than sufficient votes to take the title, escaped me, and still does - even though, on hearing some days ago that it was the bookies favourite to win, I played it several times, and now even after its victory I still do not rate it at all. Must be my age.  Her winning makes Sweden now an equal leader with Ireland for number of wins, seven times. Moreover, this chanteuse, Loreen, is only the second singer to win the contest twice, as well as being the first female to do so, Ireland's Johnny Logan being the first of all. 

Second, and winning just before the final vote announcement, was Finland's brave, sassy and daft - but engrossing - entertainment - 'Cha-cha-cha' by Kaarija (my own 3rd choice) - a true sing-along crowd pleaser, and for me too......

In 3rd place came a nondescript Israeli entry, and then in 4th was the evening's eye-candy, Italy's Marco Mangoni......

Next was my own top choice, Norway's Alessandra with a bouncy, rhythmic number, even if the (English) lyrics were rather banal. But it captured me for appeal.

Sixth place came Ukraine, which I'd feared might win again through a substantial sympathy vote, though it did get a higher placing than I think was deserved.

And it would be criminal to omit mentioning seventh-placed Belgium, with singer, Gustaph, a handsomely-attired top half including fetching white stetson but negated by lower-reaches pink bloomer-pants, rather like jodhpurs, suggestively split between his thighs to shorts/underpants? Oh dear! He was interviewed at least twice and both times he mentioned his husband, which surely must have freaked out certain LGBTQ non-sympathetic countries. Good for him, too bad for them!

And so right at the bottom of the results table, and coming just above last-placed Germany, who had already taken the wooden spoon last year, was the U.K.'s Mae Muller. This was a true surprise as I had liked the song from the very first time I heard it, and I still do, honestly believing that it was a potential winner. Catchy melody, superior lyrics. However, it did have the 'misfortune' to be performed as the very final entry behind all the other contestants, when much of the telly audience would already have made up their minds. Pity. She deserved much better.

The presenters this time were a headache (as usual)......

Alesha Dixon who, I understand, is a pop-singer, and whose name only vaguely rang a bell with me - Ukrainian Julia Sanina - and big, butch-like, six-footer (almost), Hannah Waddingham, English actress, I believe. The latter was particularly annoying, shouting to the audience,,,,,,,,"Are you ready? What's that? I said Are you ready???" - Oh, of course they are. Shut up, woman! For the announcements of the voting results the three ladies were joined by an untypically subdued and reticent Graham Norton who'd deserted his place till then in the commentary box.

The pre-voting 'interval act included last year's runner-up Sam Ryder singing his new release. I still can't comprehend why his last year's song 'Spaceman', came second, though I'm not complaining. After multiple hearings I still cannot discern any melody in it. His performance last night was accompanied on drums by the Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, heavily bearded but whom I recognised before the announcement had been made, though I dare say that much of the audience may not have been sure of who 'Queen' were.

And finally, the most outrageously accoutred (prominent Y-fronts et al!) Croatia's 'Let 3' performing an anti-war song and finishing 12th.......Mad, mad, mad! 😄

So there it was. As simultaneously entertaining and infuriating as the contest always is - and once more every bit as camp as Catterick. We'd been hoping that for the U.K. last year's nearly-first placing had marked the end of our more than two decades of being in the Eurovision doldrums. It now looks like that just may have been a flash in the pan and we're now once again back as a non-entity in Queer Street. But who's to know? What can't be denied is that this year Liverpool, with all the technical wizardry and fireworks we've come to expect, did us and our country proud.  

Till 2024 in Stockholm, then (or maybe Malmo, Gothenburg, Kiruna........?)

Friday 5 May 2023

Cat micro-chipping becoming compulsory


I knew it was on the cards but had pushed it to the back of my mind. It now becomes mandatory in just over a month's time and so becomes priority to deal with. Failure to comply makes owner liable for up to £500 ($615 U.S.) per cat. Oh, shooooooot! Could have done right now without the costs of having it fulfilled, together with all necessary incidentals like health checks when, with everyday household expenses now being as they are, I'm getting close to checking under settee cushions for lost pennies. 

My present bevy of felines includes one, Patchie (now 17+), who already has all the essentials, including health insurance which alone is now getting on for £200 p.a. The other two, Bobby and Sloopy, moved in here (without my active encouragement) 4.5 years ago and have never been to a vet in their time here, both never having shown any signs of illness or physical pain or discomfort. I've no idea where their former homes are. Sloopy has very conspicuously not been 'doctored' so it's unlikely that he was well looked after and is therefore most likely not microchipped. As for Bobby, I'm not sure if he's also male, though I think he is, and if so must have been 'seen to'. So I'm concerned that if he does have a chip in him, his former owner will have to be contacted and told that he's got a new home - and if that's the case I'll tell the vet to explain that I'd dearly love to keep him, with all the costs that it entails. 

As for now, I've made appointments booked at the vet for both Bobby and Sloopy on successive days next week. I'll be glad when it's been done so I can then start weeping about how much it's costing me. But we all know that their friendship is priceless, don't we? (Don't we?........gulp!)  

I'm unable to post up-to-date pics of both my subjects as I can no longer load from my old-fashioned camera to this laptop, as it seems one now needs a smartphone, which I've never owned. However here's two earlier pics of them (Bobby is the mostly black one) from a couple of years ago, any changes due to ageing being minor:-

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Do we veggies deserve a 'holier-than-thou' reputation?.


This post was inspired after reading my blog-pal JayGee's ('Going Gently') own recent posting of some calves mourning the (permanent) absence of their mothers, though he does not, as I do here, cover the topic of vegetarianism:-

One of my most vivid childhood memories is when I was maybe ten or so, out with two of my brothers plus one or two of their friends (I'd never had any friends of my own up to that age, and actually till later still). We happened to be walking by an abattoir at the same time as a herd of cattle was being ushered out of a truck and into the building. I can still recall the animal's faces mooing pitifully, they obviously (one assumes) being completely unaware of the grizzly fate which was immediately ahead of them. I see them even now. Feeling profound horror for the animals myself, I'd heard about abattoirs but had never thought any deeper about it. I think this experience may have been the seed which was, a very few years later, to turn me away from meat-eating for the rest of my life (other than some minor, isolated lapses).

The heading to this post is not something I've ever heard expressed so starkly as I do, but it's an attitude I regularly pick up when reading - or hearing - 'between the lines'. I may be mistaken but it could well be the way I would feel myself were I a meat-eater. 

When I've found myself with a group in a restaurant (in the past, usually a works gathering) and it came to ordering one's meal, sometimes I'd be asked "How long have you been vegetarian?" or, a trifle more insidiously, "Why are you.......?" I can hear the curiosity, which is fair enough, but I also detect a burgeoning unspoken irritation on the speaker's part. When the question comes, which I dread, most especially in an eating establishment, I have to bluster about the subject, trying to avoid it directly yet closing it down, at least until in a less inappropriate location.   

The fact is that my awareness of an animal having had its entire life sacrificed, probably in some horrific and painful way, in order to give me (plus a few others) a few minutes of pleasure is always hovering so real in my consciousness that I could never truly enjoy the experience of eating it. Added to which is a secondary reason, viz the realisation that eating animals is not, by and large, essential to my survival. (I'll expand on qualifications to this shortly).


So, how do I feel about those who, though being aware of my arguments, nevertheless choose to eat meat? (I include fish and seafood generally in the word). Well, I have to confess that I do wish there were more vegetarians in the world - or, better still, vegans. But as far as I know I have never attempted to 'convert' any carnivores out of their practice. That is for them to decide, though I'm pretty  sure that many of the latter feel that we'd jump at any chance to preach our philosophy, and which, I've no doubt some do. However, I reckon such a ploy is largely counter-productive, only succeeding in getting the backs up of their target audience, a reaction which I can fully understand.  

Our 'goody-goody' reputation, if it does exist, stems not just from a dislike at seeing animals suffer needlessly, but a general wish of wanting the survival of beings vulnerable to man's endless whim to end creatures' lives, sensate beings who often have such pathetically short natural existences anyway, protected and, indeed, respected. 

Although I am emphatically not religious in any way, in early posts of mine I've mentioned my reading a Biblical passage most days (i.e. at least 95% of days) for now getting on for 60 years - as well as a daily passage from the Koran (in at least 5 different translations) - in addition to the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita and also various Buddhist texts. What is striking about the Koran, as far as I can make out, is that it's totally devoid of expressing any affection for non-human beings. I think I'm right in saying that Islamic countries have next to nothing regarding the legal protection of animals. As such I would never want to visit such countries where, even a chance visit to a market would be bound to reveal a tethered sheep, goat etc waiting to be sold and used to slaughter for Halal meat, doubtlessly often inexpertly done with an entire family spectating the horrific act. Observing such a creature destined for such a hideous end would ruin the rest of my stay in that country - and would remain in my mind for still longer. 

The Bible's New Testament, at least, mentions in Jesus' parables, the value of sheep, though that is really only as a commodity, a means of income for the shepherd/farmer. In the Old Book there are, it is true, a very few odd verses in Genesis and Proverbs which speak of the mistreatment of animals as being cruel, though such is not an oft-recurring theme in the volumes - and the Bible is particularly down on dogs.   

India, because of its wide acceptance of Hinduism has strict laws against the mistreatment of cattle though, as far as I know, little else for other animals. Buddhism is, as far as I know, the sole major religion which recognises the value of all life - including plants - though not necessarily all on a parity. What I find most difficult to cope with is its doctrine of standing back and dispassionately observing life ('awareness') in detached manner without recognising an absolute necessity of intervening to alleviate suffering in another being where it's possible - or maybe I haven't fully comprehended the guidance/doctrine.

I'd ideally like to become a fully-observant vegan, and for at least a decade I've strived in that direction. I'd describe myself as more than 90% there now. (Milk now has to be exclusively non-dairy - for me preferably oat- or cashew-milk). However there are two or three areas where I haven't made it, a major one being that I just haven't been able to acclimatise myself to vegetarian cheese though I have tried and tried. I find there a bland same-ness, even between varieties which try to mimic dairy cheese 'flavours', almost unpalatable, though I'm sure they'll get better in time. All my life I've been quite an avid cheese fan though have now certainly well reduced my intake of dairy cheese. In my fridge at the moment is a portion of French Brie as well as a some Philadelphia cream cheese spread. Also I'm quite partial to Cheddar, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester as well as a number of Dutch and French cheeses, though without going totally overboard for any of them.   

Additionally, for common-sense health reasons, especially for someone of my age, I take daily cod liver oil tablets to postpone the onset of getting painful joints (even though, regarding fishing, I cannot bear to see it taking place - to witness a fish being hauled up out of its natural habitat and suffocate in the air I just cannot watch). Also, acknowledging that being vegetarian means going without certain essential vitamins, I take daily B12 tablets to compensate for what plant-based foods cannot provide - as well as, incidentally (odourless) garlic tablets, an ingredient well beloved of many but which I myself cannot tolerate in food, including just its smell, though appreciating that it's especially beneficial towards a healthy heart. .

When I mention my exceptions to true veggie-ism, so many times the person I'm explaining to will gleefully pounce on my admissions as if it punches a hole in my definition of being veggie, even going so far as if it invalidates all aspirations to achieve my ideal and, on at least one occasion, calling me out as a hypocrite! But being not totally consistent is merely one aspect of human nature. If I say I don't have a great affection for Mozart's music, yet absolutely adore around a dozen of his piano concertos, does that make me a liar? Enough said?

Looking this post over it reads more heavily serious than I'd intended - as well as being longer - but we'll let it stand. I've said more on this subject than I've ever said to anyone up to now, though hoping it hasn't bored the pants off you. And I still don't know the answer to my question at top. Perhaps someone can respond with a suggestion..........?


Friday 31 March 2023

My cold, wordless exchange with Lily Savage (Paul O'Grady R.I.P.)


It will have been early 1988 when the campaign was at its height to prevent an obnoxious Bill becoming law, which was to make it a criminal offence for a local authority (read 'teachers') to promote homosexuality. Our side's 'anti' campaign itself was unsuccessful as the then Mrs Thatcher's government managed to get her Bill through Parliament in the Summer of that year where it remained for a further 17 years until Tony Blair's Labour government got it rescinded without too much trouble. In fact throughout that law's active life not one single prosecution under it had been made, not helped by no one agreeing on exactly what 'promotion of....' actually meant. (All this, of course, was while AIDS was ravaging the country, knocking gay men over like skittles - a gleeful gift to the gay-hating bigots). But much of the energy of our side's anti-law campaign was on the lines of 'if this gets through, what comes next?' - the answer to which, if not worded as the British law was, can depressingly be seen happening right now in the U.S.A. 

As part of the 'anti' campaign there were a number of events in support of that side, including theatrical charity dos. In London there were two such which I attended, possibly the biggest one being in one of that city's largest West End theatres, the 1,200 seater Piccadilly theatre, with a large number of stars, including internationals, making a brief 5-minute appearance to make their support known. I can't list all the names now, the long tally-call being quite breath-taking, though I'll still have the programme somewhere - but I do remember Dame Edna Everidge, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bates, Alan Bennett, Harold Pinter (and, I think, Tom Stoppard), Simon Rattle with his then wife, the cast of 'EastEnders' and 'Les Mis', Gary Oldman and Sheila Hancock did the seduction scene from Joe Orton's 'Entertaining Mr Sloane'.....and, making their very first live performance ever, the Pet Shop Boys who performed, highly appropriately, 'It's a Sin' (and, I think, 'Always on My Mind') Lily Savage, who was yet to become a national figure though by then very well known on the gay scene. I'd seen her before and, frankly, hadn't cared for her, she striking me as relentlessly bitter and humourless, unless you thought that hurling 'f' and 'c' words with no wit at various celebrities and politicians, was side-splittingly funny which some, indeed, did. I thought his material was all too shallow. Anyway, he did his predictable routine leaving me duly unimpressed. Then after this show I had booked to go straight to another similar event at one of London smaller theatres, half the size of the Piccadilly, with another cast list of more big names but mainly those from the gay circuits. And once again Lily Savage was on that programme too. She came on, same dress as before, and did the very same act which I'd just seen. I was sitting in an end seat on about the third row from the stage, quite conspicuously placed as it was jutting out into a side aisle. In the middle of her piece she suddenly stopped and looked directly at me, probably noticing because I was sitting there, rigid, unsmiling and rather bored despite her best efforts - and it was a looooong, silent, icy, 'if-looks-could-kill' glare. The audience hushed, and I could sense them starting to look for what had caught her attention though I didn't dare to glance around myself. I could have put an end to the dreadful moment there and then by just giving a smile and a thumbs-up, allowing her a sense of relief, but I was frozen into immobility, face and all. Then, after what seemed an eternity, with blood rushing to my cheeks, she looked away. I was certain she must say something, but she didn't. She just carried on with her venomous spiel. She'd have forgotten the moment with me two minutes later, and compared with the vicious heckling she must have got in her early career up to then, it would have been nothing. Yet here am I, over 30 years later, still recalling and cringeing at the memory of that moment of 'nothingness'!

By the time Paul O'Grady died unexpectedly in his sleep the day before yesterday at the age of just 67 (nine years younger than I am now. Eek!) he'd been accorded the now rather over-used accolade of 'national treasure' which is probably fair. He'd ditched the Lily Savage persona for good about 15 years ago and has been appearing on national television since the mid-90s, though in latter years only as his true self, a warm, genial host - a side of him with qualities which Lily Savage's character was devoid and I hadn't been aware of. He was a popular chat-show host, as well as for game shows, though he did also do the occasional theatre appearances, such as the child-catcher in 'Chitty' at the London Palladium - and he was when he died, appearing in Edinburgh as Miss Hannigan on a national tour production of 'Annie', which would actually next week have been in Southampton, just 50 miles along the south coast from where I am. 

Paul became particularly well-known for his concern for animals - for which he gets a huge plus from me! - and, in particular, for rescued dogs, the subject of a popular regular TV programme. He leaves behind a husband (rather good-looking, I must say) as well as a daughter from a previous marriage. 

Everyone's parting is sad, and it seems my briefest of briefs 'interaction' with him, if one can even call it that, did not do justice to the man. 

R.I.P., Sir!

Monday 27 March 2023

The 'N - word' before it became the ultimate unmentionable.


The idea of using this subject for a post comes about through very recent news that some of Agatha Christie's novels (as well as some of Roald Dahl's) are being altered so as to have terms which are now considered to be 'racially insensitive' either altered or completely removed for future published editions. I am not going to argue here whether such changes are or aren't justified.

Those of my generation and older will recall the time when this word was in almost everyday use by many, including friends and even relatives, with hardly an eyebrow raised in disapproving reaction. It must have been in the 1970s when, at least in England, it became 'dubious' until, following the example of the U.S.A., it became (probably in the 1980s) unacceptable virtually everywhere, especially in a social context - though it was , and I believe still is, used by (racist) comedians in the relative seclusion of private clubs. I recall it being used on TV 'comedy' shows still well into the 70s - this was a time when one of the most popular shows here was the weekly 'Black and White Minstrel Show', all the male singers and dancers having blacked-up faces, all the females without the black make-up but in alluring, revealing dresses as also their dancers, some in almost bikini-like costumes so as to give show to much exposed, exclusively white, female flesh which, it was assumed, that audiences liked to see.  

When my family first got a television, around 1958 - before colour of course - one of the very first films we watched together was the Agatha Christie thriller advertised above - which, with its unexpected, breath-taking resolution, made a deep and highly favourable impression on me. Christie herself had used the 'N-word' when transferring her novel, originally called 'Ten Little Indians', into a stage play. 'Ten Little Soldiers' had also briefly been employed. Incidentally, when I saw the play on stage about 30 years ago (though knowing the big 'reveal' of the plot rather blunts the experience) even 'Indians' had become 'Travellers' - which itself, with its uncloaked suggestion of gypsies, has now also become a clear no-no.  And the play's title, like the 1974 re-make film - and with, indeed, Christie's own approval which she had also herself previously used - had by then become the entirely innocuous 'And Then There Were None'. 

I hadn't heard of Lenny Bruce when I saw the 1974 Dustin Hoffman / Bob Fosse film, which I liked a lot - and moved me to find out more about the man. (Oh, how I'd liked to have seen him reacting, assuming his political and social stances had remained unchanged, to our present Trump-world!) In the film 'Lenny' he masterfully illustrates how the sting can be drawn from the word 'nigger' by using it regularly and non-judgmentally - a lesson which is, arguably, still valid today. However, I think there's not enough recognition that within the 'family' of non-white people, the word can be used as a term of friendliness or even affection - as much as the word 'queer' can, and is also used in a non-pejorative sense between gay, (usually) men. But that does not give authority to those outside those particular worlds to use the words as a put-down, something which is obviously not so when used by one member of such set towards another, as like an informal form of address. There is no sense here of one individual claiming a superiority over another in these cases. 

I began primary school in 1952. In my family I have always been the darkest one - as well as the tallest, though that is 'only' 6 feet. Being born in India (of mainly European 'stock') was enough to additionally mark me out as someone 'different'. Some years back my younger brother had one of those ancestry tests done, which showed, unsurprisingly to us, a significant Iberian strain - my father claimed to be half-Portuguese, so hence is my surname, slightly altered from its original - as well as some Scandinavian - my paternal grandfather's 'other half' being Danish. But there was also some [I think 18%] Asian, which may have come from my mother's side, though she, as English, wasn't aware of - or didn't want to say? -  where that originated from. At primary school, and it's hardly credible now, among 600 infant and junior pupils, I was the sole one who was most visibly not white, moreso than any of my three brothers. So I was an obvious target for the 'n' word, though, must say, not frequently, just now and again, and more often than not, abbreviated to 'nig' - and by boys (it was always only boys) from classes other than my own who didn't know me. Of course, being called 'nig' or the full word hurt, as it was meant to, though it didn't obsess me unduly. I just thought of it as being part of the world. As far as I know, my brothers had not suffered the same indignities that I did, though their complexions were a shade, or even two, lighter than mine was. When I started grammar school at 11, I found once again that I was the darkest out of another 600 boys (a boys-only school), that is until a young guy with coal-black skin joined some years later, and who, I noted, after riding out silently all the laughing and ribbing behind his back - sometimes even to his face - he quickly became hugely popular, gaining a retinue of devoted fans who followed him around and chatting with him at recreation time, something I'd never experienced myself. I felt so happy for him, though wasn't brave enough to tell him so.

Anyway, going back to 'Ten Little Niggers', at my first school, there was an annual event where pupils from all years were chosen by their teachers to take part in a series of performances before the whole school in the assembly hall. It was a Roman Catholic school whose headmistress was a nun, as also was her deputy/final-year teacher. All the other teachers were lay women and two men, all also R.C. of course. This particular year when I'd have been 7 or 8, the year above me had been given the task to act-out the then relatively well-known children's song 'Ten Little Niggers' (from which Christie got her book title, though which is never heard nowadays) on the assembly hall stage, with ten chosen boys given blacked-up faces (shoe polish?) - as well as big curtain-ring sized earrings(!) plus some garishly coloured scarf. Then they'd be made to pop up to being visible one by one from behind a low lateral screen to illustrate the song's story, with the respective, varied (humorous) demises - I remember one being caught by a shark, another being poisoned with a cake - all while the whole school, including teachers and nuns, along with a couple of priests as guests from the adjoining church, singing along merrily and heartily the chorus line of - "One little, Two little, Three little, Four little, Five little NIGGER boys" the chorus being repeated as each boy 'died' thus reducing the number 'survivors' - so at least TEN times altogether!.......all the while leaving me inwardly squirming as I watched the wretched, demeaning spectacle from a tightly-packed bench. I don't remember if I made some show of pretending to sing along.

Ah, such were the times! Better now? Well maybe - or.....?


Monday 13 March 2023

Annual Doggie Extravaganza - Crufts Best in Show 2023

The winner - and 'Best in Show' is.........ORCA!

 And runner-up or  'Reserve Best in Show' is........Blondie

Finishing last night, I watch this event every year as religiously as I do the 'Eurovision Song Contest' and can't think why I've not till now done a blog on it, especially considering there are so many avid dog-lovers in blogland, several of whom I'm delighted to be following. 

Crufts, held every year in Birmingham, claims to be the world's best dog show. Whether it is or not it's certainly the biggest, with multiple thousands of entries from all over the globe, providing four days of quality 'entertainment' in competitions, obstacle courses, tricks, skills, obeying commands, grooming etc.......all of course, presided over by expert veterinary supervisors.

I can't claim to be particularly knowledgeable about dogs (nor cats, for that matter) other than liking them hugely, their honest, uncomplicated emotional responses being the main source of their endearment for me. All on the surface, nothing hidden. But I know very little regarding dog breeds (so many of them, and such variety!) and the niceties of interpreting their doggie language. 

I've never been a dog-owner myself, except when as part of the family we owned one between my ages of around 10-18 - and though all my members of my family were animal-lovers to varying extents it was I who was foremost and closest to 'Candy'. Now, with three cats to care for and coddle (it was they who chose me to leave their homes for and move in here!) and at my advanced age, acquiring a dog, or even another cat, is really out of the question, sadly.

So here are some misc pics from the last few days:-

Incidentally, I would urge anyone who hasn't seen the Christopher Guest film 'Best in Show' (2000) to take a look. Totally hilarious, with nearly all the humour coming from or directed at the dog-owners rather than the animals. It's one off my all-time favourites and easily one of the funniest films I have ever seen.

Now, to end with, here's last year's champion, and what a fine specimen of the breed he is, you'll agree! And just look at the winning dog he owns too!