Monday 23 September 2013

It's got legs

What a life for a Daddy Longlegs.  Once it's pupated from the brilliantly named leatherjacket, it emerges from the underground to fly weakly and drunkenly around for a short while, existing solely to mate.  This stage of its life is all about sex, sex, sex - some don't even bother to eat.   And then it dies.  During its brief time as an adult it risks life and, more specifically, limb(s), if it floats into an unwelcoming house and gets fried on a light bulb, or strays into a playground where evil children lie in wait to amputate those fragile legs.

Well, I like them, they're cute.

Here's an old pic from my sketchbook archive.  The original caption was, "Yes, she's gorgeous - legs right up to her neck!"  A slightly less tasteful alternative was, "Let's get legless!"  and others included, "You're pulling my leg" plus "I'm a leg man myself".  The list could go on, I'm sure. 

Oh you sexy thing

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Mental flossing

I was at the dentist yesterday and found myself reflecting on what a different experience it is now to that of forty years ago. Society's ever-increasing obsession with the 'perfect' appearance generally troubles me, but at least it's done our mouths a favour. In the pursuit of a smile so bright white it could compete with car headlights in a 'Dazzle the Rabbits' competition, and jaws so immaculately regular you could name a well-known Blondie album after them (and I don't mean Eat To The Beat), people are taking more care of their choppers. (Phew, that was a long sentence...) It's even happening here where we are famed, in the most uncomplimentary way, for our 'English Teeth'.  Dental clinics have become dental 'emporiums' and the one I go to now has a name that sounds more like a cocktail lounge than anything remotely medical.

As a typical child growing up in '70s Britain, an essential part of my daily diet was sugar, and it was usually taken two to three times a week in concentrated Spangles, Milky Way and Sherbet Pip form. It provided just the right amount of hyperactivity for important pursuits like French Skipping, but my teeth fared less well and by the time I was twelve my open mouth boasted an impressive display of silvery amalgam fillings. Then, just when I was at my most self-conscious, I had to wear two dental braces - simultaneously.  I could set off metal detectors three streets away with ease, but speaking and eating required supreme effort.

The local dental surgery was a familiar place for all the wrong reasons, so my mum used to make each ordeal a little more bearable by promising a small present on the way home. Once she'd wiped the dribble from my chin, she'd take me down to my favourite shop, Pearman & Blacker, where the delights on its many racks and displays let me temporarily forget the fuzzy sensation in my cheek or an aching jaw. No, it wasn't a sweet shop; that would have just been in bad taste. It was a bookshop.  That smell of paper-and-printing-ink overrode the essence of antiseptic in my nostrils, the crisp covers promised magic carpet rides to lands where dentists didn't exist.

I have mercury fillings, corrective braces, extractions, anaesthetics and injections to thank for the shelves in my childhood bedroom becoming filled with Puffins and other paperbacks. Mrs Pepperpot, Five Children and It, the Moomins, Spike Milligan's Milliganimals, the Children of Green Knowe and even the Wombles all came into my life via my teeth. Fortunately those frequent trips to the dentist mean they are stronger and straighter now, but I'm very glad the legacy of a '70s childhood was so much more than just the tooth decay.

Saturday 14 September 2013

All that glitters...

Should I have felt ashamed? Or, even worse: afraid? Afraid that at any moment the police would knock on the door and demand to search the premises, perhaps even to seize my possessions? And all because I couldn't resist listening to something that I'll never again hear on the radio. Regardless of what anybody actually thinks of the song itself it's just not going to get airplay... because once someone has done something despicable, their creative output has to be eradicated from all forms of public exposure too.

It's not that 'I Didn't Know I Loved You ('Til I Saw You Rock'n'Roll)' was ever a favourite of mine, but it was a song that my nine-year old self did rather like. When it turned up on a CD in our local charity shop, I had the desire to hear it again. That stomping glam rock rhythm had me bouncing around in my chair and singing along. Mr SDS cheerfully enlightened me to the fact that when he was at school the lyrics had been memorably changed to, “I didn't know I loved you 'til I saw your sausage roll” as well as the somewhat more unsavoury but typically puerile version, “hairy hole”. Ahem. But I think everybody I knew liked a little bit of Gary Glitter back in the day. I recall walking down the road with my school-friends singing 'I Love You Love' in unison, twirling our satchels theatrically, then collapsing into giggles, the kind that made our chests ache and our eyes stream. It was all so innocent, or so we thought. I certainly never fancied GG, nor (thankfully) did I want him as a Fantasy Dad, but he could sing a good, catchy, rebel-rousing tune and had a unique stage presence that was hard to ignore.

I enjoyed the song yesterday. It was just a song. However, there was something inside me that made me feel I shouldn't be listening to it. Was it like some kind of guilt by association? Was it the fear that if the neighbours were to hear Mr Gadd's distinctive vocals through our wafer-thin walls, they would assume terrible things about us too? Is that why it will never be included in a Top of the Pops repeat or any other TV broadcast in which it might have featured? Although, in a way, not to include it is a bit like trying to re-write history. Acknowledging its existence isn't the same as condoning his behaviour....but it seems that way somehow. There is also the argument that a convicted criminal shouldn't be entitled to earn further royalties, and that a radio station could lose revenue from advertisers if it played something that could be considered offensive. So is it just easier to pretend it didn't exist than to have to explain or justify its inclusion?

Thinking about this reminded me of a blog post I read a while back (unfortunately I can't remember where) in which the writer expressed his personal dilemma at having loved a particular band's music for years only to later discover that they supported far right politics. It didn't stop him liking the songs he'd always liked but it made him feel differently disposed towards them as a whole. His taste in music was separate from his taste in politics, but they all get tangled up together in this business, don't they? I guess the same could be said about attitudes to many people in the public eye with a creative output – authors, artists, comedians, actors – if we discover that they're wife-beaters or racists or anything else that we're repelled by, how do we then feel about the things they made, played or did that we originally liked for very different reasons? Our judgements feel tarnished, our integrity in doubt, yet they weren't made or based on the same grounds. I think there's an instinctive and self-protective need to disconnect ourselves completely, even though it is actually a denial of our intrinsic, personal taste in one relatively small aspect of life.

Anyway, I'm not a secret Gary Glitter fan. I just wanted to be able to say that I listened to a song for nostalgic reasons and that I was honest enough with myself to admit that I still liked it for what it was. I was also honest enough with myself to admit that I didn't know if I 'should' (and I hate that word 'should'!)  So you'll understand why I've chosen not to include it here but, if you find you just can't help singing it in your head now, I recommend trying the 'sausage roll' lyric.

Monday 9 September 2013

What's in the nest box?

Safe, environmentally friendly and cosy accommodation
with comfortable feather bed, central heating and regular room service.
Quiet location with garden view; babies very welcome.
Available Spring and Summer.

Isn't it beautiful?

Trailer Bride: Hope Is A Thing With Feathers

Friday 6 September 2013

Expletives not deleted

You're not easily offended, are you, right?  So you won't mind me posting this pic of a vinyl sticker that a kind friend gave to us a while back.  (I know, other people get flowers and chocolates...)

(Notice the 'not suitable for children under 3 years'...)

We laughed and said, "Thank you very much", then put it in the drawer, along with all the other random things that we 'might use one day'.  Although, this was one thing that I hoped we wouldn't need to.  I mean, where would you stick such a thing?

So... on Tuesday I was checking my bank statement and discovered that someone had stolen money from my account.  Five times - in one day.  I've no idea quite how - had they hacked into my card details online? - have I been caught out at a dodgy cashpoint? - it's still a mystery.  Not the end of the world but a pain in the arse having to make the necessary phone calls, fill out fraud/crime forms, cancel my card and wait for a new one.  I know it's not personal but it still feels like a form of violation.  I've been physically burgled before (like many people, I'm sure), which feels a lot more traumatic - but still there is something about the calculated sophistication of this type of theft which is troubling.  And who else are they doing it to?  Perhaps someone who is already vulnerable, stressed or struggling? Bastards!  

At least now I know exactly where I could stick that sticker.

(I'm still limping on with my old computer, squeezing every last drop from it while I wait to get a new one... creak, creak, whirr, whirr...)

Wednesday 4 September 2013


This beautiful, mellow Summer yawns on in the manner of a sleepy cat, metaphorical paws outstretched. Spider threads hang like washing lines across the garden path, the dandelion seeds drift on the breeze; I still catch them and make wishes.   But I find this time of year a little poignant because I know it’s nearing its end.  The once vibrant colours are looking tired and sun-bleached now and the daylight makes its exit so much earlier, as if it needs more sleep to renew itself (much like I do).  Plus I keep finding dead things.  Dead bumblebees mostly, which are lovely to pick up because at least you can stroke their little furry backs without fear of reprisal.  Lately too I’ve found masses of detached butterfly wings; it seemed a bit of a mystery as to why there were so many, until I witnessed the quite remarkable spectacle of a wasp catching a small tortoiseshell, turning it over whilst pinning it to the ground and then flying off, somewhat heavily, with its prey.  I think the wasps are having a feast this year, what with the caterpillars’n’all.  

And from the sublime to the ridiculous: much like Summer, my faithful desktop PC, which I use for everything, is knackered and close to the end too.  I’ve just had a clear-out and found the receipt for it (from 2006!) which, by complete coincidence, is dated 4th September.  Given the cynical but credible notion of built-in obsolescence I think it’s done pretty well to last this long but it really is arthritic now, limping and wheezing its way through every task, its fan whirring in protest when I push it to work a little harder, so I’m on the search for a new one.  I might be quiet on the blogging front for a short time while I get myself organised.  Just making a wish on a dandelion seed won’t get it sorted….

Emiliana Torrini: Unemployed in Summertime
Just because it's such a perfect Summer song.
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