Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Two More

I have taken the trouble to learn two more of Jake's songs. I will play them both in the club. They're both funny and I just love making people laugh. They're also both on the same subject. I think about sex about every 30 minutes or so and that, I reckon, is about average. Jake must have been plagued with these thoughts more frequently than that.

The two songs are:I may be slow, but I puzzled for a long time over the moral of the Billy Kershaw story (last verse). Now I get it. It makes the song much less frivolous.

Most rewarding.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Tacky Tourist

The Birdman is exasperated by the hassling hagglers trying to flog him things in Egypt. I agree it is a pain in the arse, as are the tacky souvenir shops that pop up everywhere.

I went to Lourdes a couple of years ago. It's like Las Vegas for Catholics, teeming with the most excruciatingly tacky gift shops. I had a competition with my mate to get the tackiest possible item.

I bought a ball-point pen with the Blessed Virgin in the top half. You know the ones when you tip them upside down, a woman's clothes slowly fall off? Well in this one, Mary Mother of Christ ascended slowly to heaven. Except, of course, it was downwards, on account of gravity.

My mate bought a cheap plastic fag lighter with Lourdes stamped on the side underneath a picture of Mary.

I assume not everyone who buys this stuff is having a laugh.

A deeply scary thought.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Grand Night Out

Last night I was bowled over by Eric Bibb. His voice, guitar playing and stage presence are all sensational. Among his friends, and the reason I went, were Martin Simpson.

Martin is unquestionably an exceptional guitarist. He's the most compact guitarist I know. By that I don't mean he's small and perfectly formed, it's that he hardly seems to move his fingers, even during some amazing high-speed runs up and down the fretboard.

Despite Martin's virtuosity, best for me were Ruthie Foster, a powerful American blues singer, and of course Eric Bibb.

I can't put into words how much I appreciate those who are so immersed in their music. It's as though the music itself doesn't matter and just the dedication to it and involvement in it that is so defining and uplifting.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Car Insurance

One of the few benefits of "getting on" is cheap car insurance.

I have a Porsche 911. Yes, I know, I haven't told you that. It doesn't exactly fit with my self-image and I'm getting rid of it. Even so, it does nearly 150 miles per hour. Two hundred quid, fully comp, unlimited mileage, on a classic car policy.

I also have a London Taxi. The maximum speed of this bleeder is 60mph, and that's with a long run up. I got it because, with so many kids, I run a taxi service, so I thought I may as well get a taxi. I couldn't get fully comp, but third party only was two hundred quid.

My main runabout is a little Ford. You have to pronounce it "Kay A" otherwise you get into tiresome conversations with the garage:

"I want to book my Ka in for a service"
"What sort of Ka is it?"

It's a nice little number. I like the shape of it. It costs (you guessed it) two hundred quid to insure. Fully comp. (That's before I had three prangs in it this year).

Now I need to insure two of my teenage daughters. The two hundred is going up to eight hundred.

It's a good job they're not boys or it would have been more like two thousand.

My eldest daughter is 18. She didn't want to drive when she was 17. She didn't trust herself to be safe on the road. Ironically (and obviously), she is undoubtedly more safe than my 15 year old lad will be who's full of testosterone and thinks he's god's gift to driving before he's even started.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Financial Advice

I went to see our IFA today. I suspect this stands for Independent Financial Advicee because I go to see him to give him advice about how he can (independently) make commission from selling me things.

I mustn't be cynical.

I'm now of that age when I can draw a pension. I found out how much I could get paid and was mildly impressed. I went to the IFA not thinking whether I would draw the pension now, but really just how it was going to happen.

I was wrong.

Amid some frankly boggling questions like: "when do you expect you're going to die? It's really the most important factor." and "when are your parents going to die and what's in it for you?" and a baffling run down of what's wrong with the Insurance Industry, we apparently are to put more into pensions, rather than taking out. It's all to do with tax and things.

As you can tell, I don't really have a good handle on all this money business.

I think my wife understood it though. I'm literally banking on it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Childhood Revisited

Bovril may have gone west, but the situation today has been somewhat redeemed. You can still get Jetex engines.

When I saw this, I was overcome with nostalgia for lost boyhood. I used to strap these things to the back of my Dinky Cars and send them scuttling across the kitchen floor into the ankles of my Mother.

I think I'll get one for my 15 year old son. It'll get me vicarious pleasure and bewildered looks from the rest of the family.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Ideal Christmas Present

If I knew where The Birdman lived, I'd send him this for Christmas.

Beefy Drink

This morning I was slumbering if that's what you call it; the delicious state between wakefulness and sleep. The radio was on and I heard something that may have been a dream. I'm not sure. I haven't tried to find out if it was true. I'd rather not. I'd prefer it to be a dream.

Someone said that Bovril is on the way out. Either that or it's becoming vegetarian.

Surely not. Vegetarian Bovril? "Vegril"?

Maybe it was a joke. Not that I found it funny.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Jakefest Lives On

Excuse me this indulgence. The following has just been posted on the Jake Thackray website.

The BBC has announced that a one-hour tribute to Jake Thackray, under the working title (which may well stick) of JAKEFEST, will be broadcast on Christmas Eve, 24 December, from 21.03 to 22.00. It will be written and presented by Victor Lewis-Smith, produced by Graham Pass and is an Associated-Rediffusion production for BBC Radio 2. The programme will include information about the stage musical Sister Josephine Kicks The Habit. More information about the radio tribute will appear here as it becomes available.

I got to read Victor Lewis-Smith while I was working in London. He was easily the best bit of the London Evening Standard (probably still is). His reviews are funny and almost always derogatory to the point of insult. However, he wrote a very touching obituary for Jake, so he's one of the good guys.

Goodbye Yasser

Arafat Peace; Marrowfat Peas; what's the difference?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

eBay Gum

A friend sent me this today.

Have a listen. It's awfully good.

The People of Fallujah

Re my earlier post today, please read this. It's a disgrace to us all.

This letter was sent by representatives of the people of Fallujah * to the UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Signatories: the shura council of Fallujah, the trade union association,
the teachers union, and the council of tribal leaders.

It is more than evident that US forces are committing daily acts of genocide in Iraq. As we write, these crimes are being perpetrated against the city of Fallujah.

US war planes are launching their most powerful bombs against the civilian population, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent people. Their tanks are pounding the city with heavy artillery.

As you know, there is no military presence in the city. There have been no actions by the resistance in Fallujah in the last few weeks because negotiations are in progress between representatives of the city and the Allawi government.

The new bombardment by the US has begun while the people are fasting during the celebration of Ramadan. Now many of them are trapped in the ruins of their homes and cut off from any outside assistance.

On the night of 13 October a single US bombardment destroyed 50 houses and their inhabitants. Is this a crime of genocide or a lesson about US democracy? The US is committing acts of terror against the people of Fallujah for only one reason to force them to accept the occupation.

Your excellency and the whole world know that the US and their allies have destroyed our country on the pretext of the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

Now, after their own mass destruction and the killing of thousands of civilians, they have admitted that they have not found any.

But they have said nothing about the crimes they have committed. The whole world is silent, and even the killing of Iraqi civilians is not condemned.

Will the US be paying compensation, as it made Iraq do after the 1991 Gulf War?

We know that we live in a world of double standards. In Fallujah the US has created a new and shadowy target "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Al-Zarqawi is a new excuse to justify the USAs criminal actions. A year has passed since this new excuse was dreamed up, and every time they attack homes, mosques and restaurants, killing women and children, they say. We have launched a successful operation against al-Zarqawi.

They will never say they have killed him, because he does not exist. The people of Fallujah assure you that this person is not in the city, nor probably anywhere else in Iraq.

Many times the people of Fallujah have asked that if anyone sees al-Zarqawi they should kill him. We know now that he is nothing but a phantom created by the US.

Our representatives have repeatedly denounced kidnapping and killing of civilians. We have nothing to do with any group that acts in an inhumane manner.

We call on you and the leaders of the world to exert the greatest pressure on the Bush administration to end its crimes against Fallujah and pull its army back from the city.

When they left a while ago, the city had peace and tranquillity. There was no disorder in the city. The civil administration here functioned well, despite the lack of resources.

Our offence is simply that we did not welcome the forces of occupation. This is our right according to UN Charter, according to international law and according to the norms of humanity.

It is very urgent that you, along with other world leaders, intervene immediately to prevent another massacre. We have tried to contact UN representatives in Iraq to ask them to do this but, as you know, they are sealed off in the maximum security Green Zone in Baghdad and we are not allowed access to them.

We want the UN to take a stand on the situation in Fallujah.

Best wishes, in the name of the people of Fallujah, the shura council of Fallujah, the trade union association, the teachers union, and the council of tribal leaders.

Poppy Day

The annual remembrance day is upon us.

Most upsetting for me is remembering the many thousands who died in the Great War. Sent to their death by Generals for no better reason than satisfying their own egos.

When will we learn?

Stay away Mr Blair. Stay away and die of shame somewhere.

An Old Face

I was working in London yesterday. I arrived very early at Charing Cross and decided to have a quiet coffee in a coffee shop near the office and watch the world go by for few minutes.

A beautiful woman came and sat at a table near me. Something about her face was familiar. She looked amazingly like the girls from the Sheahan family from Brockley but we moved away from Brockley in 1966. I couldn't take my eyes off her.

I was contemplating leaving without saying anything, but I plucked up courage and asked her "excuse me, but do you know Frank Sheahan?".

It was his sister Clare.

The Sheahans are a lovely Irish family. Their father died before I knew them (in 1959). There are six children: Margareet, Frank, (Rosa)Lee, Nick and twins Mark and Clare. Three of them (Clare, Mark and Nick) still live in the same house in Brockley. All three never married.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

America Decides

No humour today I'm afraid.

As I write this, the fat lady is clearing her throat over the American Presidential Election. It looks as though we have four more years of George W Bush.

I find this prospect depressing for all the usual reasons. I can't think of anything to relieve this. Things wouldn't have really perked up if Kerry had got in. Prospects for peace and an improving environment would hardly have been better.

What is it about Americans?

They had poor turnout. Politicians (mainly Democrats) came out and made patriotic speeches about the value of democracy and the "privilege" of voting and what happens? Turnout drastically increases.

Over here, we have crap turnouts. We get told the same and nothing happens.

A friend has recently returned from living in the States for a couple of years. One thing that struck her was that, when American women (wives) were talking together, they never criticised their husbands. To do so, would be tantamount to admitting imminent divorce.

Over here, wives criticise us openly (surely not).

Maybe America gets what it deserves. Maybe the world gets what it deserves.

I'm currently reading Terry Waite's autobiography "Taken on Trust". It seems to me that his outlook, conviction, resolve and honesty are of another century and gone forever. It's as though I'm reading something from another age.