Laugh

holidays with my little sister

They make me laugh

Laugh from my heart

Laugh from my belly

Laugh from my eyes

Laugh from silliness

Laugh from new experiences

Laugh from winning

Laugh from loosing

Laugh from playing

Laugh from seeing

I feel better

Because I am still laughing

The Year a TV moved in to our house

The Year a TV moved into our house

 The riots raged in the streets of Singapore and bombs went off in the city and on the beaches, they were not aimed at us, it was a country fighting for independence, the right to self govern. I remember it so vividly because that year we acquired a television and the horrors of war and a struggle for independence was delivered to our front room.

American soldiers poured into Vietnam that year, and every night at nine we had chapter and verse of who had been killed, where, when and how. Da Nang, Mekong Delta, Saigon, all names and places more familiar to me than Dewsbury, Melksham and Sittingbourne.

The TV took over our lives, it hypnotised, it desensitised and mesmerised us, it became our drug and we needed to get our daily fix. Even father had to have his daily fix of news. The idea of having a television was supposed to be educational, but it was more entertaining and brainwashing by adverts if the truth were known. This deadly narcotic with it’s silvery blue light pulsating away in the corner of the living room introduced us to new worlds with new friends without us having to leave home. We began to know these new friends intimately, they were there in our house talking to us, and they made us laugh or cry; they became part of the family; we grew to love them.

I fell in love with Samantha from Bewitched; and wished secretly that she were my mum. I practised the nose twitch to no avail. I also wanted to be cool like Napoleon Solo, The Man from UNCLE (United Network Command for Law Enforcement), with his sidekick Ilya Kuryakin. Then of course we were inundated with a plethora of cowboy stories from Rawhide with Clint Eastwood, and Laramie, F Troop and the best of them all Bonanza with the Cartwright family, moral judgement and the fight for rights, I was becoming Americanised.

On a lighter note we tuned in for a weekly visit to Americas most unlikely multi millionaires in Beverly Hills, the Clampett family and the antics of this very fish out of water family. Or to wish we had the one thing that Larry Hagman had, a genie in a bottle and again a weekly visit to see Barbra Eden as Jeannie in I dream of Jeannie. There were so many to choose from; Mr Ed the talking horse; my favourite Martian; My mother the car, the list went on and on, and we were addicted.

This was the year that I attended my first funeral, I had a ring side seat as I watched Sir Winston Churchill being carried through the streets of London on a gun carriage, my parents solemn and forlorn as they gave us anecdotal accounts of what this great man had said or done. This in itself was probably the best history lesson I ever had; I have certainly not forgotten it.

The magic box in the corner was not able to give us all we longed for and the silver screen at the cinema was a regular feature for a boy in the 60’s, with the lure of the Saturday Matinee: Rocket Man, Flash Gordon and others opened the performance and always left us with a cliff hanger so we had to come back the next week. The big films of that year were Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. She was everyone’s favourite governess as she danced, cut up curtains and sang songs that my generation will never forget. Frank Sinatra stared in Von Ryan’s Express and gets killed right at the end, after saving a bunch of British POW’s led by a miserable Major in the form of Trevor Howard. James Stewart in Shenandoah is both tough and loving with some witty sarcasm thrown in as he tries to rescue his sons from the evils of the American Civil War. The big love story of the year was Dr Zhivago, which sent my mum all soft and gooey and I still don’t know why but she was in love with Omar Sharif.

The highlight of 1965 for me was Christmas, and opening a very small surprise package that contained an Aston Martin DB5 in gold made by Corgi. Goldfinger merchandise was vogue and I was ten, what more could a boy want?

Inside the office of the muddled mind

His office is organised chaos, there seems little logic other than that which is on the desk; lap top, computer and keyboard with track pad, several pots containing pens and pencils, printer, phone and note pads. Behind the door sits a the old pine bookcase with four shelves of books and other paraphernalia seeking a home, taking up residence amongst the books. Now like the books they gather dust.

Then there are the assorted boxes full of bits and pieces like, cameras, wires, chargers and more books. An old grey battered filling cabinet with an equally battered set of drawers on top looking out of place between the wood and the plastic; Index labels stuck to the drawers elude to the contents which they do not contain, then there are more.

More plastic filling boxes followed by bags and yet another even larger plastic box filled with books, topped by a filing tray filled with junk and covered with a crumpled plastic bag, which hides a collection of legal documents awaiting destruction. A tall stately four shelf bookcase fills the far corner of the room with its two rows of box files containing even more legal paperwork, box files of receipts, instruction manuals, and collections from a child’s years at school; there are more bags, camera bags, speaker bags and a whole variety of electrical gadgets of an indescribable nature, followed by yet more plastic boxes. Grey, shabby, dirty well used boxes; one for waste paper awaiting the shredder the other with an assortment of envelopes, the words ‘Par Avion’ peep over the edge of the envelope box, which also contains an assortment of Christmas cards now starting to turn yellow at the edges, the silver glitter falling as snow into the bottom of the container, a reminder that Christmas is once again approaching at speed.

There is no order to anything in this room, even to the rows of CD’s lurking beneath the desk, in metal wire racks tucked well back as to be out of reach from being kicked. The sign above the desk declares that a cluttered office is the sign of a genius at work. Above that is a monster of a wall hanging set of drawers and shelves containing an assortment of books and bits together with a growing mountain of spectacle cases. Pride of place goes to the Oxford English Dictionary whilst a small bronze figurine of a Royal Marines Commando poses menacingly next to a slightly larger statuette of Buddha who sits in the lotus position surveying this carnage, this tipping ground of everything the owner holds dear to his life, all mixed in and jumbled up in a confusion of literature, knick knacks and dust. A complete cacophony of noise to the eyes.

There was a place for nothing and nothing was in its place, other than the man in the big brown leather swivel chair on wheels. Ask him for something and his arm would reach out instinctively and produce a book, a leaflet, a CD or even something from one of the many closed drawers. The map in his mind constantly updated every time something is moved; Oh yes! Organised chaos, but the chaos was in order!

The office of the muddled mind

His office is organised chaos, there seems little logic other than that which is on the desk; lap top, computer and keyboard with track pad, several pots containing pens and pencils, printer, phone and note pads. Behind the door sits a the old pine bookcase with four shelves of books and other paraphernalia seeking a home, taking up residence amongst the books. Now like the books they gather dust.

Then there are the assorted boxes full of bits and pieces like, cameras, wires, chargers and more books. An old grey battered filling cabinet with an equally battered set of drawers on top looking out of place between the wood and the plastic; Index labels stuck to the drawers elude to the contents which they do not contain, then there are more.

More plastic filling boxes followed by bags and yet another even larger plastic box filled with books, topped by a filing tray filled with junk and covered with a crumpled plastic bag which hides a collection of legal documents awaiting destruction. A tall stately four shelf bookcase fills the far corner of the room with its two rows of box files containing even more legal paperwork, box files of receipts, instruction manuals, and collections from a childs years at school; there are more bags, camera bags, speaker bags and a whole variety of electrical gadgets of an indescribable nature, followed by yet more plastic boxes. grey, shabby, dirty well used boxes; one for waste paper awaiting the shredder the other with an assortment of envelopes, the words ‘Par Avion’ peep over the edge of the envelope box, which also contains an assortment of christmas cards now starting to turn yellow at the edges, the silver glitter falling as snow into the bottom of the container, a reminder that christmas is once again approaching at speed.

There is no order to anything in this room, even to the rows of CD’s lurking beneath the desk, in metal wire racks tucked well back as to be out of reach from being kicked. The sign above the desk declares that a cluttered office is the sign of a genius at work. Above that is a monster of a wall hanging set of drawers and shelves containing an assortment of books and bits together with a growing mountain of spectacle cases. Pride of place goes to the Oxford English Dictionary whilst a small bronze figurine of a Royal Marines Commando poses menacingly next to a slightly larger statuette of Buddha who sits in the lotus position surveying this carnage, this tipping ground of everything the owner holds dear to his life, all mixed in and jumbled up in a confusion of literature, knick knacks and dust. A complete cacophony of noise to the eyes.

There was a place for nothing and nothing was in its place, other than the man in the big brown leather swivel chair on wheels. Ask him for something and his arm would reach out instinctively and produce a book, a leaflet, a CD or even something from one of the many closed drawers. The map in his mind was updated every time something is moved; Oh yes, organised chaos, but the chaos was in order!

Check it out

“can I help you with your packing?”

She enquired in her high pitched voice sounding like a telesales person reading from a set of prompt cards.

“do you need any bags today?”

That was two questions in less time than it takes to draw a breath.

“No and yes”.  I quickly replied before she could ask me anything else.  The checkout lady had the long sorrowful face of a person cast into the pit of boredom, she was on autopilot, follow the script, check and scan move quickly and next customer; greet with, sorry to keep you waiting and the script rolls on and monotony eats away at the soul of the checkout lady.

The all seeing eye of the bar code scanner bleeps with impatience  as it awaits the next item.  Checkout lady has obviously been programmed by this ‘beep, beep, beep’ and I sense that a race has just started and I fear that I have been sucked into the race.

Her hands move deftly at the speed of lightening, moving pre-packaged food past the all seeing eye (beep) faster and faster the hand, the arms, the eyes all in perfect synchronisation as the moving belt carries the scanned objects towards me and my mountain of plasticised bags.

I can’t keep up!  She is winning, then suddenly the rhythm of the bleep stops; the all seeing eye has suddenly gone blind.  The constant flow of produce had ceased, frustration was etched into the tired face of the checkout lady, a hiatus in the system; loose leeks, the all seeing eye does not recognise anything without a zebra striped badge stuck across its backside.

Look up produce, weigh produce, move item and the system temporarily gets back up to speed, until the loose lemons, grapefruit and oranges arrive at the magic eye.  We finish our race with checkout lady looking smug and self satisfied and the eye returns to hibernation.  The belt has stopped its journey and the high pitched voice rings out again “how many bags did you use?”

My ordeal was over and I hastily left the store glancing over my shoulder to watch checkout lady and the all seeing eye repeat the process all over again.  And there but for the grace of God go I.

Dartmoor Dilemma

It seems that I spent a whole life time criss-crossing my way across Dartmoor, following contours; climbing Tors; bathing in quarries or streams; stumbling over vast granite plateaus one moment and struggling through soggy, stinking, fermenting bogs that just want to suck you in and swallow you whole the next. Hostile, inhospitable, treacherous, Threatening and sometimes spooky Dartmoor can and will take your life unless you treat her with respect.

There is nothing more enjoyable than a Sunday afternoon stroll up to one of the many Tors that litter the landscape, the stunning views from Bellever Tor, or the majesty and height of High Will Hayes or Great Links Tor. Feel the blood pumping through your veins as you climb 2000 feet with the sun beating down during the summer or driving rain trying to wash you back down the side of rocky crag in winter, this is the appeal of dartmoor, it has so much to offer and probably contains a bit of everywhere in the world in one national park. Forests, reservoirs the size of lakes, tall trees, rivers and streams, canyons in quarries and challenging tors to climb. There is the ‘beast of Dartmoor and not forgetting the hound of the Baskervilles, as well as numerous ghost stories, yes Dartmoor is haunted. There is even a prison up there on the edge of Princetown. For the adventurer Dartmoor has it all, it has it for nature lovers, bird spotters, ramblers, fell runners, photographers and little children, and its mostly free.

I know so much about Dartmoor because I lived it, breathed it, slept it, ate it and walked it day after day, night after night it was the most inhospitable training ground the forces could offer to a would be Royal Marine. Which is why I am now trembling with anticipation waiting for my daughter, my little girl, my baby, well fourteen year old teenager to be exact, to come home from a two day map reading and camping expedition on Dartmoor. I know the instructors will look after them, crumbs I was once one of those instructors, I know everything will be fine. But lurking in the back of my mind is that little question of doubt called ‘What if’ and that dear reader is my dilemma.

Accidental Evangelist

Standing on the street corner, Bible in hand and kitted up with a head mike like an ageing rock goddess at an O2 concert they sprout from the most unlikely places in our high streets to thump their books and berate us on what sinful lives we lead. We can be saved, (or so they say) from the clutches of Satan and that eternal damnation that is hell.

Never in a million years would I consider that I could humble myself to Christianity in the way that these evangelists do. I have no strong conviction about anything other than the state of this country and the lack of expert governance by those elected to improve our lives, and even then I only vent my spleen against the television when I have to listen to the lies that spew from their mouths.

Today, all that changed, accidentally, out of the blue, I suddenly became an ‘Evangelist’ not by choice, not by design, not for any other reason than a lady filling shelves in the supermarket asking me a question. At first I was unsure how to answer the lady, although I knew the answer, and would be able to give her chapter and verse. But as she knelt before me I just felt that this lady needed the information that was going to gush from my mouth.

She knelt in the aisle looking tired, her skin appeared dry and it was evident that she had some sort of skin condition, her hair was dehydrated, brittle and in need of a good brushing. It was obvious that she had been filling shelves since either very early in the morning or all through the night and tiredness was etched into the drawn lines of her face. With heavy eye lids, and dry eyes her gaze followed me as I attempted to unburden myself of the natural zero fat, live Bio culture, organic yogurt that was destined for my fridge and the recipes that were on the menu for next week.

“What do you do with all that yogurt”? That was the question, for which I could have come up with numerous witty answers or even some profound dismissive remark just to end the interruption to my shopping mission before the hordes descended upon the supermarket with their offspring loaded into super sized double seater trolleys stuffing endless amounts of salted, sweetened carbohydrate wafers of artificial food into cavernous mouths that would otherwise be screaming were it not for the crispy crunchy things that they were chomping on.

I felt a need to help this woman on her knees and thus the evangelist within me awoke, you see, I am an advocate of juicing, you name it and I will probably juice it, I drink beetroot, celery, Kale and fennel, as well as apples, oranges, carrots and pears, I add ginger or parsley, basil any other herb or spice that will enhance my juicing experience. There I was in the yogurt aisle telling this lady how wonderful juicing raw fruit and vegetables were, “I have been cured ” I exclaimed! Years of suffering with psoriasis, endless toxins pumped into my body to ease the debilitating condition, steroids that pushed my weight into the realms of the obese, other drugs that bore names from the nuclear industry but there is no cure. The evangelist on the corner screams out ” I have seen the light” well surprise surprise so have I.

My juicing journey started with Joe Cross of the film/documentary ‘Fat Sick and Nearly Dead’, when he decided to live on juice to cleanse his body. I was now Joe, I was repeating his words, chanting his anthem I was a disciple an apostle of the juice revolution and in the yogurt aisle I had found my soapbox. Unscripted I assailed her with the benefits of ginger as an antihistamine, the benefits of pectin in apples and pears, all these things gushing from lips stored up to be released to those willing to listen. I was in full flow quoting recipes for health and vitality, gut cleansing and detoxification; yes, the evangelist in me had awoken.

It was then that I became aware of several people gathered around, listening with keen intent, suddenly the yogurt aisle was blocked, I had my own show, all I needed now was a table a juicer and a pile of fruit and veg and a full blown demonstration would have ensued. The shock of having an audience caused me to pause and that was the moment they attacked, the verbal onslaught of questions of ailments and conditions and what juice would I recommend for gout, heartburn, indigestion, high blood pressure and the list went on. I stood in the yogurt aisle scribbling recipes onto the pages of my note pad handing them out like confetti at a wedding. Yes I had arrived an evangelist to the world of juicing. It’s funny what happens when you go shopping early in the morning.