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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Well I never!!!

Over the years Nicola has dragged me to various Oscar Wilde locations but when I started out today I didn't expect to encounter another one. We went to Worthing to visit some old friends of Nicola's and they took us to see the site of the house where Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Ernest. The house is no longer there, it was demolished in the sixties, but on the side of the apartment block that now stands on the site is a Blue Plaque.
The other places Nic has dragged me to in recent years in the name of research, are Paris, Dublin, Chelsea and Oxford. In Paris we went to Pere La Chaisse cemetery and the Hotel in Rue de Beaux Arts where Oscar Wilde died. In Dublin we discovered Merrion Square and Trinity college. In Chelsea we went to Tite street of course. In Oxford it was Magdelen college. She didn't want to go to Reading Gaol but we did go to Clapham Junction station once... Anyway!
The poetry people I was telling you about from Liverpool a couple of weeks back have reached their target of 800 poems! The idea was to collect 800 poems about Liverpool for the eight hundreth aniversary of Liverpool being a city, which they celebrated this week. You can check out their web site HERE if you like and you can also support the baby charity that the eventual book (when published) will donate its profits to. I sent in two or three poems, one was a re-worked found poem of grafitti that I spotted on the Merseyside railway platforms in 1984. The second one I sent was a poem about a friend of mine Frankie Vine, who was found dead at Liverpools Pier Head. Finally, I wrote a third poem specially for Poem 800 called The Amazing Gormley's, which was/is of course about the army of naked men on Crosby beach!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Not Tuesday!!!

You would cry too, if it happened to you... do, do, do, do, do!
Yes, you guessed it! It's August 25th. and it's my BIRTHDAY!!! So, I want to take this opportunity to say a BIG Happy Birthday to everyone who shares this special day with me. So, Happy Birthday to Sean Connery, Claudia Schiffer, Elvis Costello, Grandmaster Gareth, Matt Aitken, Ronald Waterreus, Martin Amis, Saint Faustina, Jeff Tweedy, Allan Pinkerton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Rob Halford, Frederic Forsyth and Mia Zapata all of whom I have featured on these pages at one time or another and you can still clink-their-links in my right-hand sidebar. Also Happy Birthday to Gene Simmonds, Tim Burton and anyone else who is celebrating the aniversary of their birth today!
I entered the MIMP my Ride competition to design a bumper sticker to make other drivers think about not driving - if you follow me... Anyway, I didn't make the shortlist, so you can't vote for me but you can still take the pledge at MIMP. Which is of course, Manchester is my planet! MIMP are going to save the planet starting with Manchester. So, the sooner you sign up! Anyhow, even though I didn't get through to the public judging bit, you can still read my entry on my pub-poetry blog SweetTalkingGuy!
Wow! I've just been informed that it is Manchester is my Planet's second birthday TODAY! So, Happy Birthday MIMP! I think it is actually the second aniversary of the pledge being started, which now has over seventeen thousand signatures. But, anyway, Happy August 25th.
Some very observent people have e-mailed me to tell me that it's not tuesday yet! Thanks for all the correspondence but the reason I'm writing today is because I missed last tuesday. We were camping in Aberystwyth and I couldn't find an internet cafe. I was sent to one place called Costa, but it was closed. What a contrast to this part of Manchester, where we have seven internet cafe's on this street and two libraries within walking distance with free internet access. also, every other telephone box has a computer terminal (last time I checked!). Anyway, Aberystwyth is a very nice town and we had a great time there!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Up in smoke!!!

I was in the local pub the other day, I usually only manage to have a decent drink on high days and holidays i.e Christmas, New Year, weddings and funerals! But Nic went to her Mum's for a couple of nights and when the cat's away... Anyhow, this amazing thing has happened in British pubs, smokers are BANNED! I know that you already realise this - but to see the ban in action, is something else. The gaspers were all huddled outside the back door, precariously balancing on a patio decking, measuring three yards by two (9'x6'). Directly above them was a patio heater to roast their nuts.
Well, There goes I but for the grace of God! I don't jest! Today, August 14 is the second aniversary of the day I finally managed to give up the dreaded weed! Tobacco that is. I know how difficult it is to quit - and I know that I'm the luckiest man in the world. If you're thinking about giving up - just do it! Yes, it hurts for a few days! Yes, you get irrational voices in your head saying "Just have one cigarette - it won't kill you!" But believe me, after a short time you WILL start to feel better. Two years have passed now and I really don't want to start smoking ever again. I guess, I'm not cured, 'cos if I did have the odd cig, I would probably be addicted. So, It's One day at a time, sweet Jesus! What a drag! - If you get my drift!
Well it looks like August 14. is one of those landmark days! 'Cos today I took the pledge! No, I didn't join the Temperance Society or the local Methodist Church. I simply joined the environmentalists at MIMP or Manchester is My Planet! Clink-the-link! What a great name! Anyhow, you don't have to live in Manchester to SAVE the PLANET! or even in Greater Manchester. No, you can take the pledge at MIMP - regardless of where you reside! How cool's that? Yeah, and they've got a competition running until friday17th. To design a bumper sticker - to encourage other drivers to leave their car at home. The first prize is a folding bike worth loads of dosh!
Congratulations! to Sven Goran-Eriksson, City are unbeaten as I write! The DREAM goes on for Sven and the City faithful. Football, is what I'm talking about, also known as Soccer in the US and other places. Here in England we simply call it FOOTBALL 'cos that's what you do, to play the game, you kick the ball with your foot. Other versions of football, like Rugby Union, Rugby League, American Football, Australian Rules, Gaelic Football etc. all involve handling the ball and throwing it as well as kicking it and a funny egg shaped ball. We say: "If you can't play football, just pick up the ball and run!" After all, everybody else does! Don't they Sven?
The Liverpool 800 poetry thing is still going strong and if you can donate a poem about Liverpool, I'm sure they'd love to hear from you. They need to find eight hundred poems before the 800th. aniversary of Liverpool as a city on Aug28th. this year. They're doing pretty well with over six hundred poems already accepted - still they do need nearly 200 more - so if you can help! clink-the-link! I did! You can read my really bad poetry blog HERE! Also, you can see my daft photo, with my performance hat on!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The future is free...

The future is free! That's how simple things should/could and would be... if only the politicians and the business moguls of today knew that simple principle. Instead, they mis-apply it. They know the theory but they don't believe it can work. Take the museum and art gallery fiasco. They (the government) for some reason wanted to make the art galleries and museums free. Great idea! We should be able to go to these places regardless of our income bracket. But, and wait for it! Making them FREE for everybody, every day is/was a BIG mistake. I said at the time and I'll repeat it here, the answer is/was to have a FREE day, one day a week, say Friday!
The London buses are FREE for school children, nice one Ken! Also, it's free to park an electric car in Westminster and not only that but you can even re-charge the batteries for free at several charging points. FREE charging? Nearly a contradiction in terms, oh yes, the congestion charge is also FREE to EV drivers in central London. What a contrast in Manchester, not only is the average wage about half that received in the city of London but we have the added burden of mega privatisation of the buses and trams - which means that as things stand, we can never get FREE transport here as the private bus operators are in business to make a cash profit, which of course then disappears from the region.
We do have some little FREE buses in the city centre linking the main railway stations. This is a good start, but what we really need in my opinion is a decent railway network - more stations - longer trains - the Altrincham tram link replacing with a proper railway direct to Piccadilly via Deansgate and Oxford Road stations as it used to be in the pre-metrolink days. Then the line could be used properly to bring in park+ride customers from Chester, Northwich and Knutsford. New stations could be built next to the M56 and the M6 with huge car parks... just a thought!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Idiopathic what?

They say that I might have IIH! The doctors that is! Dream on, doctor Dreama - you see they've done all these daft tests on me and revealed absolutely nothing and the only thing they can do now to prove that there is something wrong with me is to say I might be Idiopathic! That I just might have an uncommon disease called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension or IIH for short. The problem is, that they can only diagnose this condition by giving me a lumbar puncture and the problem with that is that if they still can't find anything wrong that they will have to give me another one and another one until there is something wrong! And if I let it get that far, there will be something wrong - so, call me an idiot! but I really don't want to know if I'm Idiopathic or not!
We must be mad! we've just come back from WOMAD! The whole thing was a bit of a nightmare - and it really could have been a great festival. It was spoiled for us by the Wiltshire MUD! Not for everybody, some people were quite happy to wallow in the mud and many seemed resigned to it. The mud, however, was impossible for Nicola's wheelchair, we had to drag her backwards through the worst of it and we kept getting stuck. I waded through four inches of the sticky stuff to the Oxfam tent. Oxfam, had provided the stewards for the World of Music Arts and Dance event. "Can you tell me about disabled access to the main outdoor arena?" I asked the man behind the counter.
"Err, yeah! There's a special viewing platform, directly opposite the stage!" he replied.
"Yeah, but how do I get a person in a wheelchair to the viewing platform through four or five inches of sticky thick mud?" I enquired.
"Oh?**!" he started, "Err, you'll have to speak to Mrs Oxfam about that one - she's busy at the moment - but if you can wait!"
I waited and waited but Mrs Oxfam was very busy and I could tell by the general look on everybodies face that it would be impossible to get Nicola in her wheelchair to the viewing area by any other means than the dragging technique through the mud. So, I left the Oxfam tent and made my way back through the sticky stuff to the camping area.
We arrived at the WOMAD Festival at four o'clock on the Thursday afternoon. I had expected a bit of a queue to get into the park and I wasn't wrong, but after about thirty minutes we reached the main gate. We were waved in by an Oxfam official who reassured us that we were in the right place. "Follow that van!" he shouted to us. We did, until the hippy van in front of us suddenly came to an abrupt halt. We stopped behind the van and slowly started to sink into the Wiltshire MUD! Not to worry, a friendly tractor driver appeared from nowhere and towed us to some dry ground. It was then that we realised that we were in the wrong field entirely. So, the nice man and his tractor towed us back to the entrance gate and gave us instructions on how to get to the disabled gate. He said: Make sure you go in the white gate, if you go in the brown gate you'll end up in the wrong place again. So, off we went, back to the back of the ever growing line of vehicles.
After a short time we reached the queue for the brown gate and this time the local police were directing the traffic. The only trouble was, they wanted all the traffic including us to go in through the brown gate. I explained to the Officer of the law that we had been told by the top tractor driver at the first gate that we needed to enter by the white gate. Reluctantly, the policeman let us continue along the road, informing us that we would probably be turned round and have to re-join the queue. But, what the heck, in for a penney...
At the white gate things were a little less hectic, a single Oxfam steward greeted us and directed us towards the towing queue. Yes, we had to be towed again. This time across a very muddy field at great speed by an enormous tractor. The time was moving on slowly, it was now about six thirty and the sky had begun to cloud over, we were waiting in our car with the trailer tent attatched in the middle of a muddy field and it looked like rain was going to fall at any moment. Nicola, was desperate for the toilet and I had two young boys in the car, Jack and his friend Dan. The other members of our party, Sheila and Sophie were stuck in traffic on the M4, they still had this adventure to come. Anyway, we eventually got our third and thankfully final tow, to the disabled camping field.
We were allocated a space in the disabled camper van field and with the help of the boys I started to erect the tent. As ever, it was a difficult thing to do, Nicola had to sit around waiting and needless to say, it was dark by the time we actually started. It had taken over four hours to reach the camping field from the time we had arrived and another hour to drag Nic to the Ziggy bathrooms in the next disabled field (there were none in the camper van field) and back. So it was in the dark that we erected the trailer tent, with the ever threatening rain fortunately holding off. The other problem was that Sheila and Sophie had now reached the Park (Charlton Park near Malmesbury in Wiltshire) and had been refused entry because I had their tickets.
I had to leave Jack with Nicola while Dan and I went in search of Sheila and Sophie. The route we took towards the white gate was the reverse of the way we had been towed a couple of hours earlier. Only it was very dark now and our torches didn't offer much illumination. We could see the big house in the distance and we had had a phone call from Sheila to say that she had been towed half-way and she was walking along-side the fence in front of the big house. So, she wasn't far away from us but the thick mud and the ever present threat of being run over by a giant tractor kept us apart for another thirty minutes. We eventually found her and gave her the tickets.
So, by about one thirty am friday morning I finally got Nicola to bed in the trailer tent and Sheila had managed to put up her two-man tent in a small space behind us on the camper-van field. I think Jack was a bit miffed that the bathrooms weren't up to his expectations but neither he nor Dan complained. In fact they seemed to take things remarkably well and just went about their business of settling in. Well, so much for the so called thursday camping it had taken us until the early hours of friday morning to put the tents up and unpack the cars. We were all tired now and just wanted to sleep. There was still a big party going on somewhere in the distance, we could hear the music and the raised voices and the drumming - I was too tired to care, I was filthy dirty, having fallen in the thick wet mud earlier by the big house and the showers weren't working yet in the Ziggy bit... but what the heck?
I woke up with a start, I pressed the button on my watch and it read five am. It was raining outside but it was the generators starting up that had awoken me. Everybody else was asleep and I hoped the rain wouldn't leak into the tent, especially into the boys room as it had done on an earlier expedition to Norfolk at Whit week. That had been a bit of a nightmare and I had spent the following day at the laundry washing and drying the bedding - here, of course at the World of Mud and Drumming there would be nowhere to clean the equipment, so I prayed that the boys stuff would stay dry. Thankfully it did! In fact as the day progressed it became obvious that the rain would stay away.
Ok, it was friday and everybody had taken to wearing wellington boots except Jack. I had offered to buy him some but for reasons best known to himself he declined. The boys had gone off to explore the festival site so Nic, Sheila and Sophie and I decided to check just how difficult it would be for Nicola to attend the Peter Gabriel concert that evening. At first, things looked quite hopeful, we managed to navigate our way along the plastic tracking to the back of the main stage. However, there was no access to the arena area for a wheelchair and even if there had been we would still have had to wade through a sea of sticky mud to reach the viewing platform. The girls went back along the tracking in search of mystical stalls and I went treking through the muddy mire to the Oxfam tent.
Getting no joy from Mrs Oxfam, I retraced my steps in search of Nic et al. As I made my way back I noticed that a lot of the campers from the Ziggy fields had packed up and were driving along the tracking to the park exit. One lady told me that she had only brought an electric wheelchair and that she kept sinking into the mud and getting stuck. Another wheelchair user informed me that she would have to go home because her husband couldn't push her through the muddy field to the toilets and back. I knew how they felt, it was possible to push a wheelchair on the grass in the disabled camper-van field and across the tent field to the Ziggy loos, the only trouble was the bit between the two fields where you needed to drag the wheelchair backwards through the thick mud. It was ok for me, for now, with plenty of help but not everybody had as many helpers as Nic.
We decided to stay till after the Peter Gabriel gig as Nic really wanted to see him. Sheila and I dragged Nic through the mud bath backwards on two wheels and with a lot of help from a guy in the crowd we managed to install her on the disabled wristband viewing platform a good hour before the great man was due to appear. The show went well, Nic could hear the music and she was wriggling around in Ziggy which I took to be a good sign. It was only after the gig that things became difficult. The mud had started to set, which meant that people were getting stuck in their wellies and falling over forward meaning that their hands and forearms were now also stuck in the mud. It was a ridiculous but perhaps predictable situation.
Even though Nic, Sheila and I had enjoyed the Peter Gabriel concert the kids Jack, Daniel and Sophie had got bored after a time and had headed back to the trailer tent. So, it was down to Sheila and I to drag Nic backwards through the mud after the show. We started well, but kept on getting really stuck. Not only were our wellies sticking in the mud now, but there was so much accumulated mud on Ziggy's wheels that Nic was becoming almost too heavy to pull. Enter, Malmesbury Tom, a giant of a man who came to our rescue and insisted in doing the lions share of the pulling/pushing/dragging of Nic through the Wiltshire mud. So, thanks Tom, we really couldn't have managed without you!
The thud! of the generators woke me at something past five on the saturday morning. I had managed to get to bed by about two thirty, so all in all I probably managed a good three hours sleep. I took advantage of the fact that Nic was sound asleep and headed for the bathrooms. I reached the shower block and there was no-one around apart from a line of Oxfam stewards who were doing god knows what? Later, we made the decision to pack up and go home, it had been just too difficult for Nic in Ziggy. It took most of the morning to pack everything away.
The Oxfam official spokesperson came and informed us that she had recieved a severe rain warning. She said that it was going to rain for twelve hours! The sun was shining as we drove out of the camper-van field. Yes! Amazing, we were actually able to drive out of the field and onto the one way plastic tracking and join the exit queue! When the traffic started moving it took us just four minutes to reach the exit gate and the tarmacadam road. Four hours and three tractors to tow us onto the site and four minutes to exit! Unbelievable!
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