Sunday 30 June 2013

Where's my robot?

A ‘significant’ birthday looms this week – ooh!  I can’t quite get my head around the idea of being this old.  I’d somehow assumed that by now I’d know all the answers and feel responsible and capable at everything, and I don’t. 

Thinking about it reminds me of a primary school lesson when we talked about life in the future, specifically the year 2000.  Back then, in the early '70s, it seemed so far away and so momentous a date.  I thought about how old I’d be  – 37 (ancient!) – and presumed I’d be a different person, i.e. not just a more mature version of who I already was, somehow. I’d be sorted, complete, a proper grown-up.  Life would be less ‘complicated’.  Ha!

The class discussion concluded that the future would be easier for everyone.  The main belief was that there’d be robots, of course, to do all the boring chores. Nobody would have to do anything they didn’t want to do.  Actually, nobody would have to do anything, because in our futuristic robotic Utopia our one ambition was to have as much leisure as possible. Mind you, I don’t recall any suggestions about how we’d really use all that free time (apart from day-trips to the moon when we craved a change of atmosphere). We certainly wouldn’t be spending time eating and drinking, because all nutrition would come in pill-form.  Two tablets three times a day would provide all dietary needs - so convenient!  And quite how this lifestyle would be funded, I’ve no idea, because no-one went to work  – except for the robot programmers, I guess.

Funny how, in 2013, everything I used to think of as futuristic now just seems so old-fashioned and retro.  Including me at 50.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Something beginning with C

The other day I had the biggest laugh that I’ve had since, oh, I don’t know when  (well, actually I do: since reading your comments on Chas’n’ a multitude of Daves, if you refer to the previous post…)  Anyway, I laughed aloud - a rare thing - when I read an email from a friend whom I respect and admire, in which they called me something beginning with C.  And I don’t mean my name.  Nor do I mean Chipmunk, Cherry-pie, Coo Ca Choo or anything else similarly Cute or Cheeky.  No. You know which word I mean.

It made me laugh because it was so out there and unexpected, and at the same time I was actually strangely honoured that someone felt so relaxed with me that they knew I wouldn’t take offence; in fact, quite the opposite.  I found it so funny and so outrageously perfect in the context (i.e. playful) that it had the best impact it could have had.  And it’s just one word.  What power!

It’s still a kind of last resort word, isn’t it? Still the one we rarely hear on TV and then only with a salutary caution beforehand about the “VERY strong language”.  It’s that ‘VERY’ which is the clue now, and we can take it from that emphasis that they don’t mean shit or piss or even fuck; the days of being pissed off at some fucking shit on TV are no longer worthy of warnings.

Thing is, I don’t mind the word, although I fully understand why it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  I’ve thought for a long while that it’s a shame in many ways that slang for female genitalia is considered one of the most derogatory and pejorative in the English language, but then I suppose you could apply the same logic to a number of swear words.  I mean:  I’m quite partial to 'fucking', 'cock' and 'bollocks' in the right context (and you can take that any way you like ;-) )   I suppose the key is not to take any of it too seriously.  But the friend who used it to describe me, with the greatest respect, affection and (I imagine) a wicked gleam in their eye, also suggested that the word we're discussing here could be reclaimed in a totally different light.   How about if it replaced expressions for good things?  They proposed that it could be (and I quote) “… installed in urban slang as the new "legend!",  "dog's bollocks" "awesome!" or "sha-mazing!".  A brilliant night out at Kailee's sleepover would become "Mum, it was a right good ----" as would "A full English breakfast - that's just the ----!"

I’d join the campaign for its reinvention, although I do occasionally like to use it in its insulting role purely because of its current place in language - when you need something which goes that bit further than ‘wanker’ or ‘shitbag’ or ‘dickhead’.  I think the fact that it's only one syllable gives it clout too.  Phonetically it’s such a hard word:  blunt and consonanty.  When I use it in that way I am a million miles from thinking about its true definition.  But yes,  I do like the idea of changing its usage into something far more positive.  I think we could possibly slowly alter its application insidiously and virally over time, in the way that language constantly evolves and words like 'sick' and 'gay' have developed into different things over recent decades.  Every now and then, in emails, texts, blogs and conversations, we could just drop it in, casually, but positively, as if it's nothing unusual.  And I give you my blessing if you wish to use it in a comment here, as long as you mean it nicely, of course.

My only problem with that idea is that I still think we need one striking, extra-strong profanity that we can resort to when we want something powerful and extreme if we’re angry, an expression to shock when we crave some extra weight.  If it isn’t going to be that word, then what could it be?

And next week, I'll be discussing wholesome, cute, fluffy kittens. 

Sunday 16 June 2013

Chas 'n' Who?

Lying in bed this morning, Mr SDS and I started talking about Chas ’n’ Dave.  As you do. 

He and I both have some tenuous connections to this 'Rockney' duo.  Dave Peacock used to live in a village up the road from Mr SDS’ family home, so he would sometimes be seen drinking at their local.  And, if you believe in the ‘born within the sound of Bow Bells’ birthright, I'm truly Cockney, as I came into the world at the London Hospital in Whitechapel (and it was so long ago that said bells could still be heard above the clatter of hooves on cobbles).  However, I promise you that neither of us has ever owned a Chas ’n’ Dave album, nor been to a Cockney Knees Up.  Hand on strawberry tart.

Anyway… Mr SDS was reminding me of the time when Dave left the band and rumour had it that Chas advertised for a replacement, with the condition that the new incumbent would also have to be called Dave. 

“Imagine all the Daves he could’ve teamed up with,” Mr SDS says, with a gleam in his eye, “like….Dave Gilmour?” 

“Or David Cassidy!” I reply.

“How about David Byrne?”

We giggle at the thought of Chas singing the chorus to 'Psycho Killer':  Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better…  With silent ‘T’s in ‘better’, of course.

“David Sylvian!” suggests Mr SDS and launches into a staccato rendition of ‘Ghosts’ in a faux East End accent. 

“And David Bowie!”  I can sort of hear David returning effortlessly to his early Anthony Newley singing style, perhaps duetting with Chas on ‘Love You ‘Til Tuesday’.

Then Mr SDS came out with the classic.  “Dave VANIAN!”

New Rose!” I exclaimed.  At this point I’d like you to imagine a Cockney Knees Up version of this song – it’s not hard, is it?  It would be perfect.   Absolutely perfect.

I gotta new rose, I got ‘er good
Guess I knew that I always would

with a strident pub piano hammering out the chords, and then the chorus…

I never thought this would ‘appen to meeeeeee

Plus, they could make ‘Neat Neat Neat’ into the new ‘Rabbit’.  And can’t you just imagine joining in for their pub singalong …  Just for you, ‘ere’s a love song…

Chas ’n’ Dave Vanian.  Who wouldn’t pay good sausage ’n’ mash to see that?

Sunday 9 June 2013

Make do and mend

It didn’t seem to matter that my dad was in a well-paid job.  I don’t know quite what his work involved, but he went off to ‘The Labs’ every morning where he used his enviable brain power (sadly not inherited by his daughter) to fiddle about with computers the size of small houses, fibre optics, radio waves and things that involved complicated mathematical formulae.  I don’t know how much he earned but it was presumably enough to keep his family comfortably in Clarks shoes and Vesta Paellas and yet the maxim in our household still remained:  Make do and mend’.

We didn’t replace things when they went wrong; we found increasingly inventive ways to keep them going for a little bit longer with pieces of green nylon string, old pennies,  discarded chewing gum or whatever we could find to hand.  And what we could find to hand was a cornucopia of oddities, because we rarely threw anything away -  ‘it might come in handy one day’  being another family maxim.

Does anyone darn socks these days?  My mum used to darn my dad’s socks all the time.  I actually thought for years that men’s socks only came in one shade of grey with random patches of another shade of grey on the heels and toes.  The giant darning needle was kept with the balls of wool that dated back to wartime, along with a vast collection of spare buttons and a ridiculous array of ribbons.  I don’t think we ever needed to use  ribbon for anything and, besides, most of it had already come from Christmas cake decorations and still had tiny fragments of icing stuck to it.

I’m sure my dad’s latest technical report on the descaling of electro-magnetic noodles could have bought us a new television, perhaps even a colour one, but still we persevered with the ancient black and white one because it worked.  Well, it worked when you fiddled about with the strategically placed matchsticks between the control buttons when you couldn’t find the channel  you wanted, and seeing as there were only three channels at the time that shouldn’t have been that difficult.   The picture was ok, as long as the image being shown wasn’t too stark.  Anything that had high contrast caused the picture to wobble, twist and stretch and for a long while I thought Morecambe and Wise – whose black and white suits posed a major challenge to the TV’s warp factor – were contortionists.  But we soon learned that a quick thump to the top of the set could sort it out.  Not just any thump, though, there was a knack.  My father always got it right but then he had probably calculated the exact degree of force required according to velocity and gravitational pull.

So I grew up in a household where remnants of old candles were melted down and amalgamated to make new ones, which were then placed in empty wine bottles acting as candleholders; where cushion covers were made out of old curtains, and where my mum’s laddered tights were recycled and stuffed to make draught excluders for the back door.  Is it any wonder that I still have the little red biro from my old Spirograph Set?

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Break in transmission...

Yeah, I know, I know!  I've been gone ages - and I only nipped out for a portion of chips (a large one, since you ask - salt, vinegar but no mushy peas).  Time flies.  And I'm sorry I've not been visiting others as much I would like to lately either.

I lost my blogging hat while I was out - but it must be around somewhere, so I'll keep looking.  In the meantime, however, here's a photo of Justin Hayward and Ian Gillan in a 1960s fashion shoot.  I just wish it was in colour!  I suspect there's some deep purple in there somewhere and maybe a moody blue too...

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