Proper Followers

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the season to be jolly!

The Christmas traders are out in force as usual and taking lots of dosh! Why wouldn't they, though? With all that pester power and peer pressure about! We went shopping in Manchester Arndale Centre at the weekend and it was packed. The streets outside were just as busy and the continental markets were doing a roaring trade. The thing I don't like about this time of year is the cold weather - I suppose that's why there are so many seasonal festivities - people perhaps thought them up in times of old to take their minds off the weather.
We haven't started to put up any crimbo stuff yet, we've not bought a tree this year 'cos last Christmas we purchased one with living roots and planted it in the front garden and guess what? Surprise, surprise! It's still alive and its grown a few inches and filled out a bit too. So, in a couple of days I'm going to take my spade and dig it up!
One of the girls who works for Nic is a Vegan and it's often difficult for her to go out to eat as there always seems to be some dairy product or some little meat or fish thing that people offer her. So, I was quite pleased to find out that Uncle Joe's Mint Balls (made in Wigan) are suitable not only for vegetarians but also for Vegans.
Anyway, she asked what we were going to have for Christmas dinner.
And I replied Cold Turkey!
Does it make any difference if it's hot or cold she asked.
Well yes, I answered, It all depends on what you believe.
Of course, I'm virtually a vegan myself - I tell a lie, I'm nearly a vegetarian! It's true, I eat my five lumps of fruit and veg every day and swig four pints of water. I am partial to a nice piece of fish though and the odd bit of chicken or cold turkey, organic, of course! And that's what I mean when I say it depends on what you believe. You see, if I really was a vegetarian, I wouldn't eat fish or meat - I wouldn't eat anything with a face! I wouldn't want to be a pescatarian or an organicarian - I would go the whole hog (pun intended) and grow my own f+g!
Of course, I would need a slogan to make me feel special, something like One mans rust is another mans riches. Perhaps, although I think that is probably just a paraphrase of another earlier saying. However, after the manner of that, I could say: One mans meat is another mass murder! It makes you think, doesn't it? Errm, and it is about time to write down my New Years Resolutions! Excuse me a mo, I'm on the dog 'n bone, "Is that the Butcher's???
Edible underwear has been around for quite a while now, not as long as edible hats but that's a different story.
Edible undies? What a horrible thought! But what a great idea!
Edible Jo Grundy's?
No! I'm talking recycling here.
Hold on a bit, eating your undies, skid marks and all, is recycling! Isn't it?
Okay, I suppose so, but when I say recycling I mean RECYCLING! with a capital E!
Capital E? Don't you mean...
Let me explain! I believe that ALL RETAIL PACKAGING should be EDIBLE!
Is that possible?
Of course it is! They make edible undies, don't they?
You can read my really bad pub-poetry blog SweetTalkingGuy.. clink-the-link-HERE.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Way to go...

The usual madness is well underway as we find ourselves in the retailers heaven known as Christmas. The supermarkets are packed at all hours of the day and much of the night too from what I hear. The panic buyers are out in force and the pester power of their offspring is creating a demand for the latest electronic wizardry.
Driving is a nightmare at times too. On Sunday we went to Liverpool, Nic and her Mum and Nic's Brother Steve went to see Echo and The Bunnymen and Jack and I went to the flicks to see Hitman. The Hitman must have killed about 200 people and walked away without a scratch. The stuff of dreams, the essence of movies, pure escapism.
I clicked over to Nic's webpage earlier and she has had it decorated for Christmas. If you would like to see the holly you can clink-the-link-HERE. What happened to the mistletoe I ask you?
You can visit my really bad pub-poetry page but please leave a comment to say how bad you thought it was. Of course if you want some really really bad and I mean veally veally bad poetry, as the Monty Python people might say, you can come over to Wigan on Thursday night to the Crimbo Slam where I'll be performing! It's at the Tudor House Hotel in the town centre and it kicks off at 8pm. Full gig details from
No, not the Christmas pressies, the blog for this week!
However, before I go I must tell you that the December Issue of Nicola Batty's Newsletter Raw Meat is now Online at:
Oh yes, and you can clink-the-links in my sidebar to some of my favorite places on the web! More next week...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

All in a days work...

They say that there's nothing new under the sun - and 'they' may well be right. I've been waiting for the leaves to fall off all the trees in my extended back garden so that I can see the Tower at the end of Deansgate, which is about a mile away from this keyboard. Today, I was finally rewarded, for the first time this winter I can actually see the darn thing. I checked this blog to find out what date the same thing happened last year and found that we're about three weeks late this time. Global warming? Perhaps!
In fact, so little has changed since this time last year, as far as unresolved issues go, that I think I will actually re-post two or three of my little bits an' pieces today, rather than try and rework the same old points of view.
First posted on Saturday November 18 2006
Scraping Skies...
I looked out of Jack's bedroom window today and I saw the Beetham Tower. Nothing unusual in that, if you know Manchester, you'll know that you can see this sky scraper from more places than you can't. The reason I mention it is because, only yesterday I couldn't see it at all. I looked for it yesterday and the day before that, but it wasn't there. You see, it was there really, I just couldn't see it because of the leaves on the trees. However, the last few days have been quite windy and cold at times and enough of the autumn gold things have dropped off the trees to allow me to see the Beetham Tower.
The bottom half of the Beetham Tower is a hotel. And on the twenty third floor, which is sort of halfway up the building, there is a panoramic viewing room. Jack was telling me that when he went to the cinema across the street, in the old Great Nothern Warehouse, he could see a queue of people waiting to be admitted to the Hilton Hotel. How mad is that?Although, I do know that the view is pretty good from up there, because I used to live on the sixteenth floor of a tower a mile or so away in Salford. From my kitchen window, in those days, I could see the Runcorn Bridge, which is thirty five miles up the Manchester Ship Canal. Heady days!
Before I go, I must mention the Penthouse apartment, or whole top floor, I believe in the case of The Beetham Tower, which is occupied by the architect who designed the building. I've read that it's worth in excess of £3,000,000 (yes, that's Three Million British Pounds!) and that he has imported an olive grove of three hundred year old olive trees from Italy and has replanted them in a giant conservatory on the roof of the tower, five hundred and sixty one feet above the Deansgate pavement. The highest residential accomodation in Britain? Go on Tarzan, eat your heart out!
First posted on Thursday, November 09, 2006

I got a bit of stick on a couple of web sites for saying that it was too expensive to go to see City at the new stadium.
I wasn't having a go at City or at City fans and supporters.
Firstly, I am and always will be a City fan.
I may not find myself in a position where I am able to find the money or the time to visit the stadium, so I guess whoever it was that called me an armchair supporter, was right.
I support arm chairs, in fact I wouldn't sit on anything else.
Secondly, because I don't go to the match these days, I can't call my self a City supporter, because I don't support them financially.
I was a season ticket holder for many years at Maine Road.
I stopped going after they made it compulsory to sit down.
The last song I sang at Maine Road was 'You'll never seat the Kippax!'
Yes, my daft poetry blog StraightTalkingStreetTalkingSweet... is at:
First posted on Sunday, November 19, 2006
What really annoys me #2...

As previously promised, I was going to have a moan about bus deregulation, but everybody else seems to have jumped on the bandwagon and put their twopunnce worth in first. So, just to put the record straight I'm going to reprint a little thing I wrote on the subject in 1991 in my publication W N Funzine.
Hi, I'd just like to get a few things off my chest about the 2/8 (two and eight, rhymes with state) of public transport in this country.
Firstly, it is painfully obvious that 'deregulation' didn't work.
Secondly, the 'mini-bus' psychology of certain operators is a retrograde step.
A) Because it makes our streets reminiscent of a Banana Republic.
B) Most of the so called drivers are madmen.
C) These buses don't appear to run to a timetable.
D) They don't go where you want them to.
E) They are uncomfortable.
F) They are difficult to get on and off, with shopping etc.
G) They are driven much too fast.
H) They are reknowned for 'sailing' past bus stops.
I) They always seem to charge different fares.
J) Only the driver is allowed to smoke.
In closing I might add that ALL Third World economies are mini-bus MAD!
Of course there remains a lot left to be said about the state of the nations buses. In Manchester we seem to have reached crisis point. There are two or three big operators and a few other players. Nothing's changed since I wrote the above piece apart from the fact that a lot of the smaller operators have folded. At one time we had the crazy situation of having over seventy bus companies competing for business on our city streets. Now we are back to the near monopoly situation, with private companies in the driving seat (no pun intended) instead of the local councils. Anyway, I'm going to stick a couple of rhymes, on my daft poetry blog, that deal with the bus issue. The first one Buses was also written in 1991.
The second one Bus Degradation was a little later, I think 1992.
Anyhow, to check them out, you can clink the link marked My Poetry.
Or go to or clink on My Poetry Archive in the right hand column of this blog. Better still you can clink this permalink straight to the relevant page.
I must tell you that I'll be performing at The Wigan Christmas Poetry Slam at The Tudor House Hotel in the centre of Wigan by the bus station and a few mins walk from the main line railways. It's at 8pm and it's FREE admission. So, if you're not too square - I'll see you there!
Had enough of this nonsense?
Want to read a proper blog?
clink-the-link-to-Raw Meat..

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The New Mode...

Recycling is the big thing these days and so many people get so mad about the stupidest issues that sometimes you wonder if it's all worthwhile. Take the supermarket collection points for instance, they have these massive big skips for putting different materials in which in theory is good. However, in practice it is all such a pointless exercise - you see, you save up all those juice and milk cartons and dutifully take them round to the collection point and then you find that you have to post each carton individually, through a mail slot size opening! How mad is that?
Last week I had a bit of a mad rant about the state of the traffic coming into Manchester in the morning rush hour and a nice person in India sent me a picture of a real traffic jam! You can check it out by clinking the link in last weeks comments. On my Grande Tour of the web earlier in the year I came across a site called Car Free Tokyo! I seem to remember that I read on his blog that although there is massive congestion/pollution etc. in Tokyo only a small percentage of commuters actually drive. Maybe you should check this out for yourself I'll put the link HERE.
There are some great stories and pictures on this site, including one of a Chinese bicycle wedding!
I told you about the lyrics competition and that I got 2nd place - the winner was Moxy Casimir who wrote a wonderful song Raspberry Space Cadet Cap that was 'out of this world' it had ufo references in it and everything - a very well crafted piece and a worthy winner - congratulations to Moxy! You can check her out at which is a great site for performance poets - you can put your own profile on their showcase if you like!
Well, getting back to the new mode and 2nd place I will now post my lyrics :

You can do The Sugar Shake Beat.
When you kiss my lips, sweet sweet.
You can shake your hips – like this…
When you’re dancing down the street
To the Sugar Beet Suite, that’s bliss,
Sublime, sweetness – little sweet Miss.
Yeah, that’s neat! Up outta yer seat!
Now you can do, The Sugar Shake Beat!

Go do The Sugar Shake Beat
Down at - The Sugar Beet Suite.
Yeah, you can dance, that’s neat,
Go do The Sugar Shake Beat.

If you wanna look cool, sweet chic.
Make me look a fool, sweet sweet.
You can shake your hips – like this…
This time really move your feet
At the Sugar Beet Suite, sweet bliss,
Red wine, sweet lips - little sweet Miss.
Hey, that’s cool! Who you gonna meet?
That’s what I call, The Sugar Shake Beat!


The Stones were rolling out the beat.
Made Brown Sugar neat, sweet sweet.
You can shake your hips – like this…
When you’re groovin’ to the beat
Down The Sugar Beet Suite, sweet bliss,
One step, two feet. Little sweet Miss.
You’re really dancing at the Suite!
All stand up for, The Sugar Shake Beat!
Danny Wise DW161007

Don't forget you can visit my really bad pub-poetry page SweetTalkingGuy... clink-the-link

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Out and About...

I used to love driving but these days it can be so depressing. Everybody is in so much of a hurry to reach their destination. But, you know the worst thing I hate about driving in Manchester is that there are so many traffic jams that don't need to be traffic jams. What do I mean by this? Well, I've said it before and the powers that be didn't listen to me then, however, I will let you know that a lot of the 'No Left Turn' signs need tearing down to allow the traffic to flow!
I had to drive home along the Mancunian Way in the rush hour this evening and I nearly couldn't get off at my exit - thankfully, the nice driver behind me let me into the exit lane so I could go down the ramp onto Cambridge Street. Which was really lucky 'cos the vehicles on the flyover had come to a complete standstill.
Enough of this madness, just thinking about driving around this city at certain times of the day is starting to hurt my head! If the local government wants to know how to solve the traffic problems in Manchester all they need do is ask me. I'm not saying I have all the answers but there are some very simple cost effective measures that have been seriously overlooked.
The other pet-hate of mine is the amount of dis-used and dis-mantled railway lines in Manchester. I have written at length on this subject in the past, again my opinions fall on deaf ears. Today, I've been in Eccles, in Salford, in Newton Heath and in Ancoats and all the driving between. In all of these places there are amazing railway links under-used, dis-used or dis-mantled. What is going on? If, the powers that be can't afford to replace the track and the stations and invest in the trains, then surely they can tarmac over the former railways and run buses!
With all the private investment from firms like Stagecoach they could make it part of the contract to run X amount of services on these Dedicated Busways! The successful routes could then be upgraded to Metrolink or Rail although, I think that with a few bendy buses on these forgotten routes the operators would be reluctant to let them go. Imagine, travelling from Eccles to the city centre on a bendy bus in the rush hour along a Dedicated Busway - how long would that take? About ten minutes! How long does it take now? Well, it takes about twenty minutes to clear Eccles, then you have to negotiate the Salford traffic, then you need to join the lengthy queues of traffic coming off the M602 then...
Okay, what about the Metrolink? Well, now you're talking, the tramway was built following the line of the pre-existing railway track, about fifty yards to the right of it, if you're coming out of Eccles. Let me explain it the way I see it - Coming out of Eccles towards Manchester city centre there are two big A roads, Eccles Old Road and Eccles New Road. One Urban Motorway (M602) A railway line (under-used) which runs alongside the Motorway. And the Metrolink which shares space on Eccles New Road for part of its route, and also runs parallel with the pre-existing railway track and the motorway and Eccles Old Road.
Well, now that you mention it there are a couple of other alternatives. You see, also running parallel to the five above mentioned conventional routes there are at least another three alternative routes you can take - two of which are definitely quicker than any of the available road, rail or tram routes. The easiest of these would be to cross over the Centenary bridge into Trafford Park and follow the city centre signs. Travelling this way in the morning rush hour we did it in under fifteen minutes from Eccles Library to the Hilton Beetham Tower on Deansgate. Of course if you want to be really radical and not even have to worry about a parking space then you could take a waterbus straight along The Manchester Ship Canal, which is probably the most direct route to central Manchester and these days definitely the least congested.
So, which route should I take? Well, the Metrolink takes the longest time about ten to fifteen minutes longer than the bus and all the road routes are congested because they all lead to other traffic streams, for example Eccles Old Road runs into the A6 which is a very busy road in its own right, however, at this point it has just swallowed up all the traffic coming in from Liverpool off the A580 East Lancs Road and all the traffic exiting the M60 Manchester Orbital Motorway and all the traffic coming in from Preston, Blackpool and beyond off the M61 Motorway and all the traffic coming in from Bolton on the A666 (hell of a route!) So, I can't recommend Eccles Old Road!
Eccles New Road? No chance, because when you get to Trafford Road roundabout, you need to join Regent Road which is the dreaded A57 which is the link road through Salford from the M602 Motorway and it is mega busy at all times of the day. So, no I'm sorry I can't recommend Eccles New Road.
Well, yes there are one or two Jibs you could try. When I lived at Fitzwarren, near Salford Precinct, I used to use Liverpool Street - that was a good Spare Rib in those days, it is still possible to go that way but the route runs out near Salford Rugby Club and you need to Jib over to Eccles New or Eccles Old Road to complete the journey. Of course heading for the city centre you would need to do this in reverse (not gear) if you get my drift. However, I must tell you that you need to really know where you're going when you reach the Oldfield Road area as there is so much new development there - you are likely to end up back on the A57 or the A6. - So, Jibbers only for the Spare Rib!
Hey, this is getting a bit MAD! So, to reach a speedy conclusion I will have to nominate the Trafford Park Route as the winner - But I must warn you that even this route can have serious tailbacks on the Bridgewater Way section of the A56 which you would use as the most direct link to the centre. Phew!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I can feel it in the wind...

You really don't want to be out canal walking at this time of year, not in Manchester anyway. For starters it's freezing cold then there's all the idiots who lay in wait for any opportunity to rob you. Yes, it's true, there are a small number of hoodlums who prey on those that walk the ancient banks of this city's canals.
On a lighter note I was reading about some of the proposed re-development in the city centre. There was one article in the Manchester Evening News about the new design proposal for The Cheethams Hospital School, winning an award. Talk about a self congratulatory society - it hasn't even been granted planning permission yet!
Don't you just love blogs and blogging? I do, although with the commitments I have here I have to limit myself to certain times on different days. What I try to do is to post something on each blog every tuesday - I don't always succeed but that's what I try to do!
Don't you just hate winter? I do, mostly but I must admit I like some things like Christmas and New Year. I used to like bonfire night and building a big bonfire and all those fireworks especially the catherine wheels. However, since Jack decided that he didn't want any fireworks last year or to have or go to a bonfire, I kind of lost interest. Apart from making what had become our traditional November 5th. meal we didn't celebrate Guy Fawkes Night this year.
Don't you just love cooking, don't you just love food? Don't you just love eating - when you're in the mood! I do, and we had hot dogs and bubble+squeak to eat and hot chocolate to drink and for pudding we had Parkin+chocolate custard! We also had treacle toffee and baked apples and oh yes! mustard and onions on the hot dogs. We didn't have any fireworks but Nic asked for a sparkler!
Don't you know that you can read my really bad poetry blog HERE!!!
Anyhow, thanks for visiting Proper Joe's - guess what? I'm going out to fish-in some Inland Driftwood tonight from one of the good people on Manchester Freecycle.
%%% *** +++ £££ $$$

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Proper Joe's

I'll be saying a thing or two when I get back later tonight!
Get back?
Yeah, that's right I'm off to collect my prize!
Prize! what prize?
Didn't I say? I've won a prize for writing song lyrics!
First prize? you?
Well I don't know if it's the first prize or the tenth prize,
it may well be the booby prize - anyway, I'll tell you all about it later!
Okay, I'm back! I got 2nd place and a parking ticket! But, we had a good night! Nicola went with me to the Phoenix Theatre in Bolton and a whole set of singer/songwriters strutted their stuff. I think my favorite was... hell! I loved them all!
We were over in Liverpool today to see Nic's Homeopathy lady, Ruth went in with Nic while I went to the Tesco store next door. I was talking to the nice lady on the chocolate counter about this new wonder chocolate that makes you lose weight -
Something to do with the anti-oxidents - she told me.
'Go on then,' I said. 'I'll give it a try!'
Oh, we don't sell it! The nice lady replied.
'Well where do I get it from then?' I asked.
You have to go to the health and beauty counter. She whispered.
'Right, thank-you!' I mouthed and headed for the car park.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gone fishing...

Hi, it's been one of those very long days. I drove across to Norfolk this morning to pick Nic up from the crazy place she's been staying. Now, Norfolk is one of those strange places to get to. First of all there is no direct route - No motorway that runs from Manchester to Norwich - in short there's no easy way to get there. When I took her over last week, I drove via Chesterfield, Newark (half way) and Sleaford. The problem was that to get to the first stage (Chesterfield) I had to negotiate horrendous roadworks near New Mills and the punitive road calming measures on the A6 through Stockport. Which when added together made the forty one mile journey to the town with the twisted spire take a whooping two and a half hours. Last October I made the same trip all the way to Swaffam Norfolk in just over three hours. So, today I went a different route Via Sheffield, Worksop, Lincoln and Sleaford. It was a little quicker than last week but again hampered by mega roadworks, this time on the A1(M) also there's that stupid bottleneck at Hollingworth that could/should have been sorted out years ago. Anyway!


chitchat – chew the fat
what went wrong at Chelsea?
‘cos they put six past you
now you really know Sven
what It’s like to be a blue
I hate to say I told you Sven
but I’ve seen it all before
years ago at Arsenal
we lost by the same score
you really need to buy new men
Sven spend spend
chitchat – chew the fat
I’m City ‘til I die! they cry
and to their dying day they’ll say
Sven spend spend
chitchat – chew the fat
no matter what you say or do
the blues will come back to haunt you!

You can read my pub-poetry blog at:

Monday, October 29, 2007


Who's that guy? standing out there
every time I look outside
he's standing there - looking in
I'm indoors and he's outside
in the place where I see me
but he's not me - he's too old
he's always there though - rain, shine,
hot or cold - mimicking me.
He's just a little fat guy -
I'm tall and slim - I'm inside
but he's out there looking in.
He sees me - I don't know him.
Danger, reflection, stranger!
clink-the-link to my pub-poetry page SweetTalkingGuy


I'm stuck in the mist of time
sitting on a pile of discarded discs
on a desert island in the midst of the myth.
The wind-up gramophone is getting on my bone
and I'm wishing that things could be fine. When the
bell on my fishing line rings and I reel-in a bottle of wine.
I un-cork it and it talks to me. It's a message in a bottle from home.
Come back to the UK, all is forgiven, today's a new day... it starts to say.
But I can't go any place. I ain't got a ticket for an aeroplane, I ain't got the fare
for the train and there ain't no bus I can take for free. I got no credit on my dog an'
bone, ain't got no candy for the wall pay phone. Unless I can find a Girl Friday
with a cell phone charged that can call for me. Then I'm stuck up the creek
without a paddle for my canoe. What can I do? For the record:
I'm stuck in the mist of time - with HMV!
Barking up the palm-tree...
I might as well be
a zillion miles
from home.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Fashion-sister, skin and blister.
No, she's not Budgie's bird no more,
since she's been dressing oh so slick.
Hell, she's sure not nobodies chick!
And when she goes to cross the street
the cab and bus drivers honk - beep!
Her stripy tops and dots on socks
look the part with her golden locks.
fashion-sister, skin and blister.
Can't resist her - Fashionista!
Danny Wise 231007
Don't forget to clinketh-de-linketh to my pub-poetry page SweetTalkingGuy...

Poetry prompts...

I've been spending some time over at Writers Island and I discovered that they do a writers prompt at just gone midnight on Fridays which you post to your own site and then publish a link on their site when the widget thingy opens on the following Tuesday. If you don't know what I'm talking about you can clink-the-link to them HERE and find out for yourself. Oh yeah, just to let you know - this weeks prompt is: Haunted.
I wrote a couple of things for the previous posts on Writers Island but didn't think they were good enough to post but I think I will let you see them here anyhow - seen as I know everybody that visits this blog anyway! Don't I? Go on, I know you're smiling now 'cos you think I don't know who you are - but I've got you tracked! (only joking!)
Phew! you're still here, so I guess you want some more of my really bad poetry! Well, there's a couple (or three) of things you can do. You can scroll down this page a bit and find my NEW poem Fashionista! Secondly you can clink-the-link to my pub-poetry page SweetTalkingGuy. Thirdly, you can visit my archive poetry at:StraightTalkingStreetTalkingSweet...TalkingGuy, which is old blog postings of which there are seventy one posts, and about eighty poems in all for you to read.

Midnight muse...

The above line was once used in one of my mum's haiku. Which brings me to the reason why I'm sitting here at this computer keyboard at gone midnight UK time. The blog time reads: 4.27 pm and my screen time reads: 00.28 The crazy thing is it's going to change again in twenty four and a half hours time as we (UK) switch to daylight saving time by moving the clocks back one hour. I can never figure out whether we lose an hours sleep or gain an extra hours drinking time at the bar.
Some of you might have detected a new direction for this blog recently. Well, I'm really going to blow your socks off this time because my other blog SweetTalkingGuy is running at capacity and this blog Inland Driftwood is really slow with an average readership of only a dozen people and many weeks when only my regular six visitors turn up - I have decided to dedicate this space - no dedicate may be a little too strong - I have decided to incorporate some poetry on this site and will start by making some new links to some really good poetry sites.
I've been reading lots of web poetry lately and one of the things that I often come across is strange words. These strange words are only strange because I'm not familiar with them and nine times out of ten I end up looking in the dictionary. Which of course is good for me as it increases my word power. However, I usually get told/warned off, when I use a strange word in my poetry. Take Fashionista for example, everybody here has told me that the word doesn't exist and that I shouldn't use it. What do I do? Listen to the plethora of writers who sit around my kitchen table? Or go ahead - publish and be damned? Well, I must tell you that I have used this word before in articles elsewhere and I have seen it used from time to time in my local newspaper The Manchester Evening News. So I know that it exists and I'm happy with it. But for all the kitchen-table writers and Fashionista's out there, I have made a clickable link from the title of the above poem to the word thingy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What's up doc?...

You'd think that it would be easy to get around in Venice and for most of us it is - you/I/we simply get off the water bus and walk. The problem is, if you can't walk and you rely on Ziggy like Nic does to get about, then you're well and truly snookered! Ziggy is Nic's wheelchair in case you were wondering. You see, everywhere you want to go in this ancient city, there is a bridge to cross and the bridges are for the most part stepped. So, if you're a wheelchair user, you'll need a strong pusher/puller to get you over the blooming bridges. The alternative is of course to travel everywhere by vaporetto (water-bus) but that means lots of queuing up and waiting about.
The good news about Venice for people in Ziggy, is that they have lots of brand spanking new Ziggy Loo's all over the place. We've been to Venice on several occasions and I can tell you that it has been a nightmare in the past to find a decent place for Nic to spend a penny. I remember a few years back, we had an access map of Venice that had little orange Ziggy symbols showing accessible routes and toilets. We had just crossed over the Rialto bridge, I was dragging Ziggy backwards by the handles and there were about one hundred and sixty steps to the middle and the same amount again to negotiate to get down/across to the other side of the Grand Canal. Anyhow, we had just got across the bridge when Nic wanted the loo - "No probs," I told her, "We've got the special map!" And sure enough, there was a Ziggy loo listed less than a hundred yards away - when we found it however, it was boarded up. There was nothing for it but to retrace our steps back across the massive bridge.
The good news this trip was that we found two really nice clean brand new Ziggy loo's. The first was a public loo at Garibaldi, just near the statue. Now, we have been to this facility before and in the past it was the smelliest, dirtiest, filthiest public inconvienience anywhere. Not now though! The second place was in a little restaurant, I know where it is, and I could take you there, I just can't think what it's called. I can see it now in my minds eye (I'm going to have to go and search for that Venetian street map in a minute!) it's close to the water-bus landing at Zacheria - if you really need to know where it is you'll have to e-mail me and I'll find it for you on the map. Oh yes, they do a really nice pizza and coffee and they speak English - I nearly forgot!
Many thanks to all of my readers! I am of course talking about my really bad poetry blog SweetTalkingGuy... as you'll know if you're a regular reader of this blog, Proper Joe's, that I did a Modigliani poem recently and I've just reached 1,ooo visitors on the hit counter on STG! So, a BIG thank-you to everybody who clinked-my-link! And hey, it's not too late - but you'll have to scroll down the page a bit as the Modi posting was on the 9th. - you never know - you just might like it! Anyway, what I was trying to say about Modigliani was/is that I've updated/decorated the posting with a picture of The Portrait of Mario! So if you want to know what the Greek musician looked like... duh!
Did I mention that it was his birthday on the 16th a week or so ago. I'm sure I did coz Nic told me to tell you that he would have been a hundred and fifty three? I think! Anyhow, this posting isn't about Nic it's about her famous dad Colin, who starred on the BBC local News programme just two days after Oscar's birthday. I must explain that Nic's mum and dad work in the Oxfam shop in Nantwich where a rare numbered first edition of The Importance of Being Ernest was recently found. Nic's dad, being the book expert, was interviewed on tv - he had valued the book at about £700 - it sold instantly - and the phone's not stopped ringing. How's that for fifteen seconds of fame? And just think, it wasn't all that long ago that I reported that we saw the blue plaque on the wall of an apartment building that stands on the site of the house in Worthing where Oscar actually wrote it! How famous does that make me? Phew!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Here we go again...

Yes, wow! Wait! I was hoping to bring you a glowing account of the thriving performance poetry circuit. However, I have been unable to get out this week apart from a couple of trips to the shops. Hold on! Which reminds me, last week on National Poetry Day, we went shopping at our local friendly ASDA store and (you're not going to believe this!) the check-out lady (nice lady) actually recited a John Cooper Clarke poem for us. How cool is that?
So, what I have been doing this week is checking out some 'dead good' poetry blogs. I've been particularly impressed with some of the Haiku that I've found here and there, I haven't written many myself but I think I will, some time soon. In fact I've just found an article I wrote in 1982 for my Doktir Nairobi collection. The piece is titled: Rumour - Gossip - Imagination - Advantage. and I'll be pasting it to my Gobsplot blog when a get a moment. For those of you who don't know, Gobsplot is an anagram of blogspot! anyhow, what's all this nonsence got to do with Haiku or poetry blogs for that matter? Well, at the end of the aforementioned article it says: As the twentieth century closes, three types of people are revealed, those that create, those that appear and finally those that watch. As my good friend Shakespeare already said: 'The world is a stage' you either call all the shots, play your part, or clap! The last line is a found haiku is it not?
This week it is just about everybody's birthday. Today of course is Oscar Wilde's 153rd. Nicola just informed me of this amazing fact - you can read her Newsletter, Raw Meat clink-the-link-HERE. Last Saturday, the 13th. Was my Brother in law's birthday, it was also my Mum's birthday, she really could write Haiku, sadly she is no longer with us. On Friday, it will be my Brother Frank's birthday Happy Birthday Frank! And then on Sunday, my Sister Kim will celebrate hers! So, Happy Birthday Kim!
To continue the Italian theme from last week, as promised, I will start with a moan about driving in Europe. I must explain that in England many of us view Europe as some foriegn place where everything is different. As far as driving goes, it definately is. You see, we (in England) drive on the right-hand side of the car and on the left-hand side of the road. Whereas, over there (in Europe) they mainly drive on the left-hand side of the car and the right-hand side of the road. Funnily enough, it has never really bothered me that they (the Europeans) drive on the wrong side of the road. It's just one of those mad mad things! What does really, really, really bother me though, is the fact that they drive on the wrong side of the CAR!!!
Don't you just love canal walking? We/I do it all the time, you see here in Manchester we have lots of canals, many of them appear to be hidden and some of them actually are. But Manchester canals are one thing and Venetian canals are something else! Venice is one of those places that you feel at home in. Well, I do anyway! Sometimes, I think that the ancient, falling down, palaces and apartment buildings remind me of my own falling down, ancient house. But, there's much more to it than that, perhaps it's the water! I just love being by the sea! I don't know what the magic is - but it does exist! Anyhow, Nic and I had driven on the wrong side of the road in a hire car from Lake Garda. It was a very hot day and when we arrived at the car-park-Island there was nowhere to park. Eventually, we found a space in the multi-storey-thingy, then after a long walk to the vaporetto (water bus) we set off thru the back canals of Venice. MORE LATER

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Carry on regardless...

Totally Optional Prompts.
Hey, there's a new web site on blogspot called Totally Optional Prompts. The idea is that they give you a poetry prompt each week and then every thursday you publish it to your site and put a link from their site, sort of like Poetry thursday used to be. Anyway, clink-the-link and find out for yourself. Oh yeah, my poem Salt Girl: is HERE!
It was National poetry day last week and I took Nicola to a poetry 'read around' at Oldham library. I had written a new poem for the day but as luck would have it there were more important people there than me and by the time it was my turn they were in a hurry to close the event. I really didn't want to rush my new poem so I did a very short and very old rhyme - maybe next time...
I'm not in a rush right now! And if you don't have to hurry, you can clink-the-link to my pub-poetry page and read it for yourself. It's called TOUT-TOUT... I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I've numbered it PC28907 and it will be added to my ever growing Paris collection.
The poem is mainly about Modigliani, the Italian artist. He spent most of WW1 in Paris. What strange times they must have been. Anyway, if you do get a minute to check TOUT-TOUT you should know that Jeanne was Jeanne Hebuterne the mother of Modigliani's daughter, who shared the same name. Mario, was Mario Varvogli the Greek musician who was reputedly the last person to sit for Modigliani before he died in 1920. Livorno, was the Italian town that Modigliani came from. The model who posed for Nu Couche in 1917, I'm sorry I don't know her name. But Nic has a very nice picture of her on her wall.
We went on one of those end of season bargain breaks, three weeks for the price of two, granny goes free, and gratis car-hire if you book a budget airline flight thru the same agent. We only wanted to go for seven days so when the company lady added up the deal and subtracted the discounts they actually owed us money! How mad is that? When they say it's cheaper than staying at home, they really mean it. We'd have been daft not to go, so we packed our bags and headed for Lago di Garda!
It was a bargain break on a budget airline and we had to fly from Liverpool's John Lennon airport. How Rock 'n Roll's that? I had flown from Liverpool airport many years ago on one of those wind-up-and-go-planes to Ronaldsway in the Isle of Man. In those days Liverpool airport was called Speake and the terminal was like a garden shed! I know they've done it up now - it's more like a double garage these-days! Don't you just hate flying? I do! But what can you do, if it's cheaper to go abroad than to stay at home - then you'd be a fool not to go! Anyway, as it turned out we left on a miserable autumn day and flew for two hours to Milano, where we encountered summer sunshine.
We picked up the gratis hire-car from the aeroporto and drove for one hour to our accomodation on the banks of Lake Garda. The nice car-hire people had up-graded us to a large four door vehicle, which was very handy for Ziggy! So, thank you very much to the wonderful staff at Bergamo airport, which is about as close to Milan as Liverpool is to Manchester, but that's budget (bud-jet?) for you I guess. As it happens, it turned out in our favour as Bergamo is a lot of Kilometers nearer to Lago di Garda than Milano. So, the sun was shining and the camp site was first class, did I mention that we were in a tent? Well, you can't have everything, can you? And the tents are FM! flaming massive!
One thing we noticed this time in Italy was the number of people wearing some kind of uniform, we were strolling along the lake road when a bunch of people on bicycles came towards us, there must have been fifty people in the group, men, women and youngsters. There were fat people and thin people and tall people and small ones, but the funny thing was they were all wearing the same outfit, black lycra style cycle shorts and a black and red vest. We sat by one of the little harbours on the Lakeside near Simione and a car pulled up and six young men got out. They walked towards the harbour wall in single file. They were identically dressed in long blue shorts and white pumps and socks and purple polo shirts with a little anchor motif on the chest. They climbed down the wooden ladder to a waiting boat and sailed out into the morning mist on the lake.
The best uniform buddies that we saw were the Soprano's. The campsite thermometer thingy read 32 degrees and these guys were dressed in wellington boots and orange waterproof trousers, big oven-mitt style gloves and blue polo shirts and dark glasses. They all looked and acted like Tony Soprano and they were the campsite bin-men. All the happy campers on the campsite had seperated their empty bottles into one bin and their plastics into another, cardboard into a different place and general rubbish into another skip, all for recycling and then the Soprano's came along and recycled everything! Into one big dustbin-cart!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Back on song...

To cut a long story short, we've just got Windows Vista on a new computer. I won't bore you with the why's and where for's but the dastardly deed is done. What a pain it has been to not be able to get on the net and blog! But guess what? looks like I'm BACK!
Being unable to use the computer has enabled me to whittle my way through a pile of books that I've been meaning to read for ages. I've just finished a book by Patrice Chaplin called Into the darkness laughing. It's mainly a story about the life of Jeanne Hebuterne who was Modigliani's last mistress and the mother of his daughter also named Jeanne.
We've lived with Modigliani pictures in this house for the last fifteen years, I hasten to add that they are NOT originals but merely prints. Well, framed posters if you want the truth! Anyway, I wrote a poem about the wayward Italian artist last week and I really wanted to read a bit about him in a book I knew Nic had, called The True Bohemian or some such thing, but after searching hi and lo, here + there et al. I came to the conclusion that she had leant it to someone else. Whoever you are please return it soon! I'd still love to read it.
It's well known these-days that I write really bad poetry and if you don't believe me you only have to search my name on google or clink-the-link to my pub-poetry page. Well, I've written this thing about Modigliani in three languages but I can't publish it to the blog until I've checked all the dodgy French and Italian words... maybe NEXT WEEK!
Okay, I mentioned the book launch thing to you some time ago now I know, but here's the update anyway! This friday at The Manchester Muesum as part of the Manchester International Literature Festival, Nicola's twin sister Suzanne is launching her new book The Barking Thing and will be reading along with other Bloodaxe Poets at the event. DON'T MISS IT!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Please slow down!!!

Book launches are like busses, they all seem to come along at the same time. One minute you've got nothing to read and the next you're inundated with requests to buy this book or that novel. We've been to four book launches in recent days and we've still got another two, sorry Suzanne, three to attend before very long. Anyway, I'm not really complaining, after all it's good to get out and about. Isn't it?
We've just got Suzanne's new poetry book, The Barking Thing It's really good and it's published by Bloodaxe you can clink-the-link HERE to review it for yourself. Suzanne is Nicola's twin sister and she is one of the editors of Rain Dog the Manchester based poetry magazine. Okay, we/I've read her book but we haven't been to her book launch yet. I think it is in October at the Manchester Museum, I'll have to give you details nearer the time. In the meantime - buy the book!
Don't you just hate running out of time? You're just starting to enjoy yourself and the pub decides to close. You've very nearly finished a project and the electricity goes down. You're just geting into that deep sleep and the alarm clock wakes you up! We've all been there at one time or another. Well? What is all this stuff about time? Does time even exist? Maybe, you need to speak to Steve Taylor, or better still get a copy of his latest book Making Time. I did! But I haven't had much time (pun intended) to read it yet.
Nicola, Jack and I went to the Steve Taylor book launch at a local cricket club, it was a really good evening with entertainment by the way of poetry and song. Steve read the introduction to Making Time and signed and sold a stack of books. In the second half of the evening, we saw the much talented Gary Parkinson perform three songs, one of which was about the former Ancoats pub The Land of Cakes. Manchester writer and prize winning novelist Mark Sullivan hosted the evening, with some really bad boxing promoter style introductions (only joking Mark - you were brilliant!) Next up was copland smith with a mixed bag of poems and songs - I've heard some of his stuff before, and it's just on the edge of brilliance - if you don't know what I mean, do a google search on him! Finally the act we'd all been waiting for, Steve Taylor himself. Steve performed a number of songs, including his version of Dirty Old Town, Dirty Old Time!
Sometimes, I wish that things would slow right down. Everybody and every thing seems to be in such a rush thesedays. Please slow down! Take it easy! Chill out! What's the hurry? Who are these weird people who phone me up - all the time? I got a call from a guy in Oklahoma today, "I'm just calling people in Europe, to tell them that Jesus loves 'em!" he began. The very next call was from a woman in Jamaica, "Whose that?" she asked "whose that?" I enquired, of her. "Me calling me sister fram Jamaica!" she replied. "I think you've got the wrong number!" I told her. "Me thinks me got the wrong number!" she agreed.
Talking about all these book launches and famous writers and poets in our midst, makes me want to tell you about my very own poetry page. But, I'll warn you, don't get too exited, because I'm NOT famous and I write really bad poetry. Some real poets like Steve Waling, may even call my stuff lightweight. That's okay, I don't mind that. In fact, most of my rhymes are so bad that even I describe them as 'throw away poetry'. I even wrote a poem once that went something like this: Save your replays for tv/ a new thought's what I've come to hear! We were talking about BAD poetry today in the car going to Wythenshawe Park. I said that the worst/best rejection slip I ever got from a publisher was the one that said: This is NOT poetry!
Or should that read: Finally! Perhaps? Well, anyway, whatever, you can check out my really BAD poetry page HERE clink-this-link
I haven't mentioned the blues, for a couple of weeks, but I expect Sven is finally beginning to get the picture. The blues, are of course Manchester City football club and Sven is the ex-England manager, who is now in charge at Eastlands. When I say in charge I mean he is the highly paid employee of City's new owner who is the ex-prime minister of Thailand. If you're reading this blog in Thailand, and I know that a few ex-pats do, you may not know that it is officially DANGEROUS to wear a replica Man City football shirt in Bangkok - not because of maurauding Uni-ted fanatics, Chelsea pensioners, or Arsenal addicts, of which there are plenty, I'm told, in the bars of Krung Thep - but because of the Thaksin connection! This has been a coded message to my readers in thingy, what's it called? Anyhow, you know who you are and why I can't mention this by e-mail... don't you? Next message is to Spend! Sorry to Sven! Spend, Sven, Spend! But you know what they say, don't you? You only get what you pay for!
I've got this thing about parks, or more properly, perhaps, about beautiful parks. We were in Wythenshawe Park today in south Manchester, the weather was glorious and I got this feeling that I could be absolutely anywhere in the world. It's one of those timeless/placeless feelings that you get from time to time in place to place. Last week I got excactly the same feeling/impression in London's Regents Park. We were with the Shakespearean actor Nick Simons (more name dropping) in the wonderful park and he remarked that 'you could hardly hear the traffic, even though we were surrounded by the city.'

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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THANKS FOR READING Proper Joe's......

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Been there, done that...

The debate goes on and the silly are becoming stupid - the blind are leading the blind and congestion madness is just that - MAD! I could say 'I told you so!' but what's the point? Anyhow, I guess I've just said it anyway! And the point is that it was inevitable that not just Manchester would want to charge the motorist for daring to enter it's boundaries but that every other local authority and national institution (motorways/main roads) would follow suit! And lo and behold, it has been revealed today that I was right. Check the road charging story in the Manchester Evening News tonight.
I've had a look at the so called congestion on the roads of Manchester and my verdict is that the only congestion is a self made congestion. Some of it by ignorance, some of it on purpose. The bus lane fiasco, the blocked off streets, the no left turns, the no right turns, the dodgy one way streets, the over zealous parking restrictions, the roads to nowhere, the Mersey river crossings, the dismantled railway lines, the disused railway tracks, the overgrown railway routes, the railway lines with no stations, the closed railway stations, the metrolink in the wrong place, the metrolink proposals not including a route down Princess road/parkway. The list goes on...
Park and ride has not been tested properly in Manchester, the only schemes I know about run at christmas and close early - just like the buses! Not only that but they run from stupid places like Heaton Park and The Siemens Factory. If you want to get real about tackling the congestion you need to stick the park + ride right out where the polluters come from. You need to take a little look at the map and find the little black lines that run from/to Piccadilly or Victoria or Oxford Road stations and follow them until you reach the M6/M62/M60 motorways etc., then you need to build massive car parks and a railway station at each junction and put up a BIG sign on the motorways that says Manchester Park+Ride. End of problem!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No matter what...

All this talk about congestion charges/charging who pays what to whom and where and when? The political football that this issue has become needs kicking into touch. I've said it before and I'll repeat it here - Manchester is nowhere near ready for congestion charging. Let's get it right! Congestion charging isn't just another tax on the poor little hard pressed driver. 1) It is a detterent - You might as well put up a sign that says: CLOSED FOR BUSINESS! 2) If Peter drives into the city to work and Paul takes the bus, isn't congestion charging just another way of robbing Peter to pay Paul? 3) The Metrolink needs a re-think, Fifty million pounds per mile to construct is way too much. In the early 1970's Manchester rejected the Picc-Vic Underground Railway (Piccadilly station to Victoria station) because the five million pound quote was deemed too much. 4) What happens to all the money anyway? It certainly doesn't physically cost fifty million pounds to construct a mile of tram track. In fact if you give me a million pounds I'll get a couple of the lads out of the pub and we'll do the first mile for you!
No matter what you say or do as an unknown individual, you'll most likely find that anything you do say or do, will be disregarded or at best treated as a hill of beans. Roy Keane, on the other hand, as a well known international footballer (and captain of Manchester Uni-ted, at the time) came up with his famous prawn sandwich quote. I mention it here and credit the new Sunderland manager with the thought behind it because it pretty much sums up what is happening in Manchester today. Take the International Festival we've been having in the city the past couple of weeks - great if you can afford tickets to the events - but don't worry if you can't - 'cos the prawn sandwich brigade can! Sounds a bit like all this nonsense about congestion charging, doesn't it? Don't worry if you can't find an extra fiver or so a day to pay the tolltax from your minimum wage job - 'Cos the prawn sandwich mob will pay that much and more gladly, to drive on a clear street!
We took Jack and his friend and Jessica (Nic's helper) to Alton Towers at the weekend. It was saturday and everybody was prepared for rain but the tickets were booked and at that price (moaning about money again!) there was no going back. As it turned out the weather was wonderful and everybody actually got a little sunburned. Anyway, if you're driving from Manchester, it's a pain of a place to get to, it's not very far - less than an hours drive - but once you get past Leek the roads get a bit thin and guess what? Congested with coaches, cars and mini-busses! Sounds like a certain local council's view of the Manchester rush hour, only this is rural Staffordshire, although quaint, it ain't! So, you drive forty-five minutes out of the uncongested city, clear a couple of towns - Macclesfield and Leek - no traffic on the A roads - everythings fine - then, just as the sun starts to shine and you're just six miles from your BIG day out - You hit traffic, slow moving coaches, cars and mini-busses packed with excited children stuck behind a blooming red-deisel guzzeling TRACTOR! Not the farmers fault, he's just going about his business of making hay while the sun shines - you can't blame him, can you?
So, six miles up the road and another forty-five minutes later you arrive at the main gates to Alton Towers, only to be confronted by another traffic jam, and you guessed it, A congestion charge. The first thing you see is the notice that reads: car park £4.00 and the massive queue of vehicles waiting to get in it. But they're canny these experienced congestion conners, they know that parents are tearing their hair out, in the fronts of exited kid packed cars, they know that nobody likes queues, and that desperate people (and prawn sandwich types) will do (pay) almost anything to beat the system. So, what do the clever theme park operators do? (Manchester, take note!) They make a queue busting filter lane to a priority car park and charge you £10.00 how's that for a canny con?
Here's a little two-in-one idea for you. I've mentioned Pomona, part of the former Manchester docks on the ship canal before. The area is mostly in Trafford borough, some of it is in the city of Manchester, and the north bank of the canal is in the city of Salford, so politically it is a hot potato. The problem is, it is a post industrial dump and nobody seems to be interested in developing the site. I have heard rumours about some kind of waterfront style city park and also a year or so ago now, I read that three or four residential towers, in the manner of a ships sails, were to be built on Pomona Strand, but we're still waiting! Well, here's my idea - build your city park + and an amusement park with all the latest rides - it's in an ideal place, transport wise, as so many railway routes already run through the area and there are the overhead metrolink stations at Cornbrook and Pomona. Why should the good people of Greater Manchester have to travel to congested Staffordshire or up to Blackpool to ride a roller coaster? Do the green thing and move it to Manchester!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Use it or lose it...

First of all a BIG thank you to Freda! Not only did she send me the Vileda Super Mocio to try but she also sent me an even better/deeper wringing/and cheaper version, 'The Asda Kitchen Mop Bucket + Wringer' in cream and blue, for the super bargain price at Asda Walmart (at Manchester Eastlands) of just £1.82
So, it's mop bucket city at our house these days. I've got the Asda Kitchen Mop Bucket in the bathroom - The Vileda Super Mocio in the utility room - The Addis divider bucket, minus wringer, but complete with Magic Mop in the kitchen - The proffesional/industrial contract/hospital style bucket with long-handle wringer and castor wheels complete with wide style/industrial mop is now in the back yard waiting to be freecycled.
Guess what? It's Jack's birthday tomorrow and he's going to be FOURTEEN! Can you believe it? So, what's he getting for pressies? Loads of money and book tokens so far and a trip to Alton Towers and a Chinese Meal at a place in China Town. Oh yes, and he's got/getting lots of war gaming stuff (his latest obsession) just recently he's been busy glueing fantasy warriors together and painting them. It all started with his Grandad (Nic's Dad) taking him to the War Gaming Club. Okay, what else? Oh yeah, he wants to buy a weight lifting bench and weights with his b'day money. He wants the latest Harry Potter book and he's going to the movies on Sunday with Aunty Suzanne (Nic's sister). So, he's got a busy birthday week - and on the school front he's going to an art gallery in Sheffield! Phew!
Well, they keep on coming don't they! Sven-Goran Eriksson being the latest big name to arrive in the city. He's going to take Man City (the football club) up to the top of the Premiership where they belong and he's going to bring in some big name players with plenty of fire-power, oh yeah, and they're going to win the FA cup! Next year they'll be playing in Europe and they'll win the European Cup! The following season they'll sign a couple of new players and they'll win the treble! Nice one Sven, trouble is - we've heard it all before!
I was reading in the local paper a letter from a guy proposing a Monorail system for Manchester. Great idea! We can apply for it, there's nothing to stop us from dreaming that one day the powers that be will wake up and actually fund a reliable public transport alternative for this city region. City what? City region, I said, notice how you start to pick up the political speak when you start dabbling in transportation issues! (transportation? how American sounding is that?) Anyway, a monorail right down the middle of Princess Parkway/road from the Airport to Manchester Central (formerly G-Mex, originally Central Station) would be a good start. Of course it doesn't have to be a monorail, it could be a Metrolink tram, or a dedicated busway, or just a couple of bendy-buses, of course if we/they were really adventurous we/they could dig up the old street tram lines which are still buried under the central reservation and save us all a few bob!
Seriously though, this congestion charge nonsense is way out of control - It's a political thing and nothing you or I can say about the matter will make an ounce of difference. Nobody I know wants it, that's about all I can say, if you want to pay an extra grand a year or more to drive into this city at the peak period then write in and let me know, please! Because what the political odd bods don't/won't tell you is that sticking an extra/unfair road charge/tax on the people of Greater Manchester is only the beginning. Yes, this is to be the testing ground for the provinces and if people are daft enough to pay the charge here then they (central government/every local authority) will soon introduce the same thing to your neck of the woods. So, if for instance you work in Manchester and live in Liverpool you will quite likely need to pay not one congestion charge but two or three. You see, Liverpool will charge you because you live there, Manchester will charge you because you work there and of course Warrington will have to charge you for driving through their borough twice a day during the rush hour. By the time all this happens (in a couple of weeks?) there'll be a toll on the Motorway as well, so driving out of Manchester you'll have to pay the M602 toll then the M62 toll and if you use the M56 and M60 you'll need to pay their tolls too. Don't toll booths cause congestion?
Of course the real solution to all of our problems transport wise in the Manchester area is to re-instate the railways. Doesn't it make you mad driving round this city and seeing all those dismantled railway lines. The Victorians had the right idea, the roads were clogged up with horse and carts but no-one was bothered because they were all on the train! The trouble is, these days the train tracks have been dismantled and even where we have nice train lines we don't have any blooming stations! Mad? It gets madder! Take Wythenshawe for instance, a third of the population of the whole of the city of Manchester lives in Wythenshawe and there's not even a direct bus service to the city centre (more about that later!) There is however, a nice railway line that runs right through the middle of Wythenshawe, but there are no stations on it. The said railway line or should that be sad railway line links up with the metrolink interchange at Altrincham and runs through Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly in the opposite direction. It also crosses a couple of other strategic routes where interchange stations could be created, not least, the airport line.