Posts Tagged ‘Grandchildren’
When you reach my age almost every day is much the same as any other. I say almost because today has always felt special. The likelihood is that, like me, you remember lying awake wondering if Santa was near. Somehow I always seemed to be asleep when he actually arrived, but the sheer magic of seeing that pillowcase at the foot of the bed confirmed that he had been.
For many years I didn’t mention these memories, rough and tough chicken-keepers have surely put aside such childish matters. And then some years ago now I began to visit an elderly lady in a nearby nursing home. Whenever I called I noticed an attractive doll on her bedside cabinet, but it was at the first Christmas of our freindship that she told me the story of Alice, her golden-haired lifelong companion.
Mrs Grieves leant forward that day and told me of a Christmas Eve of long ago, a time when presents were few and far between. It was a cold and frosty night and, in the pre-car age, all was still. She had no expectation of more than an orange for, following the death of her beloved Dad, she understood enough to know that money was scarce. So as she lay there she prayed for a friend, for someone to play with.
As she did so she heard a tap on her window and even thtough closed eyelids the room seemed suddenly bright. As she lay there a warm glow came over her and she lay wrapped in that state midway between being awake and asleep. And then she hear the faintest sound of sleighbells echoing across the cold night air. As they faded she slept.
When she awoke she clambered out of bed, intent on running in to Mum. It was then that she first saw Alice. The doll that was to be her lifetime’s companion, through good and sad times, was sitting on the bedside table. Of course we cynical adults believe that we know how she arrived. But my friend was adament, she was visited by an angel and, in her wake, Santa himself.
On the last Christmas that I was to see my friend she implored me to make a special effort to ensure that my grandchildren had a magical Christmas Eve. Such an experience lasts a lifetime, she insisted, and there are but a few years in which it can happen. Tell them to listen, she said, there are angels and sleighbells out there but only small people passing but briefly through the land of imagination can hear them. Only they have access to magical moments that occur but once a year and for but a few years.
Alice now lives with us and every so often I glance in her direction and wonder and wonder.
A magical Christmas Eve everyone. Chickens still need service on Christmas Day so I shall wish you a happy and blessed Christmas tomorrow.
YOUR CHRISTMAS EVE QUIZ: 1. Which Queen wrote the Casket Letters? 2. Which former Take That star had “Child” at No 3 in 1996? 3. What can be metric royal, metric demy and metric crown? 4. In which TV series was the character “Boss Hogg”? 5. Who succeeded Charles Clarke as Home Secretary ? 6. Which almond cake is traditionally made for Mothering Sunday? 7. Who had hits with “We are Glass” and “Cars”? 8. David Bentley joined Blackburn Rovers from which London club? 9. Which actress had lead roles in the films “Out of Africa” and “Silkwood”? 10. Which two European languages are spoken in Madagascar?
ANSWERS ON CHRISTMAS DAY MORNING!
On Monday Jimmy Perry spoke by telephone to his long-term co-writer David Croft who was in Portugal, where he and his wife Ann had a place. David suffered from Parkinson’s disease but had just enjoyed a “lovely day on the beach”. Just hours later David died in his sleep. It was, says Jimmy, a great way to go.
The sad moment certainly marked the end of a great life. David and Jimmy first met in the mid-sixties. Jimmy was a struggling actor and, almost in desperation, had written a play called ‘Fighting Tigers’, a story-line based on his time in the Home Guard during World War 11. He gave a copy to David who loved it. David himself had served as an ARP Warden and so knew something of the Home Guard and saw potential in telling its story. He quickly persuaded colleagues at the BBC to consider it and the two men set to work.
Their aim was to tell the Home Guard history for real, laced with a little extra humour. The first series was filmed and the BBC bosses at the time became more enthusiastic when a market research company reported a very favourable response. Soon the audience was regularly hitting 18 million and it ran until 1977. The scene in which Mainwaring tells Pike “Don’t tell him Pike” is still voted as one of the funniest TV moments of all time. And today, repeats of shows first screened forty years ago draw audiences of 4 million!
Together the two men created a whole range of hilariously funny shows. Remember Hi-de-Hi and It ain’t Half Hot Mum? Throw in Allo Allo written by Croft on his own and you have a pretty impressive return. You have comedy that still outclasses any modern production. And that is not just my view, my grandchildren’s generation love it too.
For me the greatest of them all was Dad’s Army. The wonderfully selected cast matched the age range of the real Home Guard, a mixture of the very old and the very young. It was not unusual for the local, and pompous, bank manager to hold a commission and for the local butcher, undertaker and grocer to be in the ranks. Inevitably anyone with experience from earlier wars would carry the stripes. Indeed the reality contained a lot of Mainwarings, Frasers, Uncle Arthur’s and their suspected offspring.
I have very clear memories of the Home Guard. To this small boy many of them looked a hundred years old, and some did strange things. I remember watching open-mouthed as some arrived on bicycles to chase a bearded man reported by our neighbours. To my simple mind he was a tramp but the chase was on. On another occasion I and my pals were marched to the church hall which served as the Home Guard HQ. We had run the streets making warbling siren-like noises and a fat bloke with pips on his shoulders gave us a lecture about the danger of causing a mass panic. Oh no, Croft and Perry didn’t exaggerate.
Of course they also reflected the fact that many of those who volunteered were brave men. Our island was under great threat after Dunkirk and these old men and young boys were prepared to sacrifice themselves had the Germans arrived. Even as a child I could work out that they wouldn’t last one day against highly trained stormtroopers, but that was not the point. They were brave enough to be willing to try.
I wonder how many of today’s comedy writers will still enjoy repeats of their shows come forty years. David Croft and Jimmy Parry had a very special talent. They presented life as it was, and they underlined the funny bits. If you think about life, little that happens is without its comedy, just watch the slimy ones performing at the various political party conferences to realise that.
Life was not meant to be taken too seriously, we are all on a crazy, sad, triumphant journey. David and Jimmy bottled the very essence of life and turned it into a tonic more powerful than anything your GP can prescribe.
We live in an age of phoney celebrities. If Bruce Forsythe merits the title of Sir, David Croft merits The Honourable. Rather like the Honourable Uncle Arthur, who mysterious appeared at Pike’s breakfast table each morning.
If there is a heaven we can be sure that David Croft is already making notes about the less efficient aspects of its administration! May he rest in peace!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. New Kids on the Block 2. Juliet Bravo 3. Smallpox 4. Ben Hur 5. In space 6. Chicago 7. Pat Garrett 8. American Pie (2003) 9. Milan Baros 10. Hot and spicy
“The whole world has finally gone stark raving mad” muttered Bob as we cleaned out the mad – as in angry – chickens this morning. Albert, back from his Bank Holiday in soaking Blackpool, inevitably agreed and pronounced it doomed in his best Private Fraser voice. But later, having read what they had read, I found myself joining the chorus.
Steve Jones is a highly respected scientist who some time ago warned that life on our planet had but 150 years to survive given the rate of environmental damage being inflicted by its every growing number of human inhabitants. Yesterday he revised his forecast. He now firmly believes that all life will have been ‘blown away’ within 50 years.
Perhaps, like me, you have tended to dismiss talk of eventual obliteration in a thousand years, it seems too far ahead to worry about. Even Jones’s 150 years sounded incredibly remote. But 50 years? Ye Gods, that is within the lifetime of our grandchildren!
When A S Byatt, the Booker-winning author, spoke at the Edinburgh international book festival last week she referred to the Jones warning and she believes it. She was speaking at the launch of her new book, a retelling of the Norse Ragnarok myth, in which, after a succession of natural disasters, the world ends. She admitted that the story was impelled by a profound sense of gloom about the environment and indeed about all human endeavours. We are, she said, like those stupid Norse gods and “we are destroying the world”.
She went on to talk about her despair at what we are doing despite the terrible predictions of people like Steve Jones. She said that her greatest nightmare was the fact that we have created in the Pacific “an area of plastic as big as Texas, just stuff, dread, semi-translucent, in the middle of the ocean; and no one knows what to do”. She is, she added, extremely pessimistic about politics and the ecology.
I guess we have a choice here. We can either dismiss the scientific evidence or we can begin to panic and, just maybe, act. This is the age of risk-assessment and the new-age experts tell us to plan for the greatest possible risk. That has to be the Steve Jones prediction but what are we actually doing? In a word, nothing.
I find the whole thing really surreal. If you look around in this country what do you see? People worrying about the football transfer deadline, people excitedly discussing the whereabouts of Gaddafi, people fighting for Olympic tickets, politician lying about nearly everything. The latest subject for the worry-beads is the plan to build over most of the green belt. If Jones’s prediction is right those houses will have a limited life!
In other countries the situation is similar, in fact in the gas-guzzling United States many leading lights are dismissing all scientific evidence. Carry on emitting and fear not they say. In the developing economies they see nations like the USA and the UK carrying on regardless and shrug their shoulders. No one believes enough in the danger and no one does anything of significance. If they did world leaders could presuambly at least ban plastic bags instead of leaving the fate of humanity to the management of Tesco et al.
Being an ostrich by nature I, having typed this, will bury my head and choose to believe that my grandchildren’s grandchildren will inherit a world still full of all its wonders and joys. What else can I, or you, do?
Eat drink and be merry. Given the scientific predictions we might as well ignore the latest warnings about half the population being obese in thirty years time. If Jones is right they will still live the longest life available.
Surely the very least the world leaders should do is accelerate meaningful action. In many ways it is of course good that so many nations are now turning to democracy. But in this matter it is an added curse for democracies seldom do anything unless they are convinced of imminent danger as was the case in World War 2. And even that required a uniquely inspiring and forceful leader.
Sorry to disturb your day. I’m going to forget the whole thing for any other course leads to madness!
A blustery but sunny morning as we wandered, in cynical mood, down the lane to the allotments. Cynical? Most of us are permanently cynical, this morning especially so, having just read that Clegg and Cameron had already agreed the changes to the NHS bill before the Sheffield Kid announced on yesterday’s BBC his intention to demand them. As we reached the gate, Albert remarked that expert though the pair are in the art of deception, they will need to produce something very special to explain the situation in Libya.
Almost forgotten it? Understandable, given all the things that have swept it from the headlines since we began our bombing mission there some six weeks ago. But we and the French are still bombing away. Bombing is perhaps the wrong term for we are mainly using missiles which cost a cool £850,000 per one-way trip. According to Reuters we have so far managed to kill or maim almost as many civilians as we have saved from Gaddafi’s wrath.
Shortly before the no-fly zone was imposed Barack Obama assured a bipartisan group in Congress that the action would take “days not weeks”. A week later he told the American nation the aim was limited to purely humanitarian ends. He refuted absolutely any suggestion of regime change. Two weeks later, in a joint letter signed by David Cameron and Sarkozy, he brazenly conceded that it was, after all, about regime change when he said “it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in charge”.
Perhaps that fits with the bin Laden execution. Assassination is now, apparently, the foreign policy du jour. Yesterday, the British defence secretary, Liam Fox, insisted that “Nato does not target individuals”. True, it goes for families. Just over a week ago they killed Gaddaffi’s son and three of his grandchildren. Much waving of American flags over bin Laden but on Libya the French and Brits will soon be left to bomb alone, for Libya is not a popular cause in the States and, having obtained his political pay-off from bin Laden, President Obama is poised to withdraw almost completely.
So here we are with a conflict supposed to last days, and was not about regime change, that has gone on for six weeks, cost a fortune in terms of lives and weaponry, and won’t end until the regime changes. Even as we prepare to negotiate a truce with the Taliban, Gaddafi’s offer of a ceasefire has been rejected out of hand. In the name of humanitarianism, the war must be prolonged. If need be for ever since there is stalemate on the ground.
Of course the bombing does have support to a degree from the United Nations, although many countries are now protesting that the French and British action is beyond that authorised. Many ask why not intervene also in Syria and Yemen, where many protestors are dying daily. There is no logical answer, only the one that the gung-ho French and Brits have already bitten off more than they can chew.
The only way in which they can exit without humiliation is to go in on the ground and some British ‘advisers’ are already there with the increasingly suspect ‘rebel’ forces. But it would need American troops to make up a strong enough force and that is unlikely. A prominent US senator in New Hampshire said ‘if the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of US troops is to prevent genocide, then we should have 300,000 in the Congo right now, where millions have been slaughtered. We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan. We would be staying on in Iraq”. The senator’s name was Barack Obama.
We can pontificate for ever on the Libyan ‘mission’. Unless we arrange an assassination or send in troops there will be no progress, only bloodshed. Surely we can only settle for simply imposing the no-fly zone however ineffective that may be. Right now we are edging into something that we cannot control and which cannot succeed.
The prime minister must tap in to his self-understanding. Hoodwinking Clegg is one thing, doing it to a watchful world an altogether tougher task!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; WRITING “ Your life story would not make a good book. Don’t even try!”…..Fran Lebowitz “Is there any living writer whose silence we would ocnsider to be a literary disaster?”……Cyril Connolly “Advice to writers; sometimes you have to stop writing. Even before you start”……..Stanislaw J Lec “Writing is the hardest way to earn a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators”….William Saroyan “Writing is one tenth perspiration and nine-tenths masturbation”….Alan Bennett “You, a writer? Listen, dear, you couldn’t write ‘fuck’ on a dusty Venetian blind”…….Coral Browne “There was a time when I thought my only connection with the literary world would be that I once delivered meat to T S Eliot’s mother-in-law”……Alan Bennett “Writing is not a profession, but a vocation of unhappiness”….Georges Simenon “Writing is like the oldest profession. First you do it for your own enjoyment. Then you do it for a few friends. Eventually you think, what the hell, I might as well get paid for doing it”…….Irma Kalish
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Francis Ford Coppola 2. Anthony Eden
TODAY’S QUESTIONS ; CAN YOU BEAT THE EGGHEADS?; 1. What kind of sculpture was originated by Alexander Calder, who died in 1976? 2. Who wrote ‘Whatever happened to Sex?’ ? 3. Asuncion is the capital of which country? 4. Which ‘Pop Idol’ star was born Jan 20 1979, in Berkshire? 5. Who had hits with ‘Take Your Time’ and ‘Got to Have Your Love’ ? 6. What is a paravane used for? 7. Dr James Naismith devised which game? 8. In which decade was Jeremy Paxman born? 9. Which worldwide magazine was conceived by DeWitt Wallace? 10.. To within two years, when were postcodes introduced to the UK?