Monday, April 23, 2012

Music to panic by

That nice Pearl periodically uses the caprices of title selection by audio shuffle to read the auguries of the day. The serendipity of this appeals to me rather so I thought I'd have a shot at it during a tram ride to the Small Object of Desire's gaff...

The songs my iPhone threw out at me were:

  • Half Man Half Biscuit: "Joy Division Oven Gloves"
  • Smokey Wood and the Wood Chips: "Keep on Truckin'"
  • Allan Sherman: "It's a Most Unusual Play"
  • Henry Hall: "Here Comes The Bogeyman"
  • The Supernaturals: "The Day Before Yesterday's Man"
  • Weird Al Yankowicz: "Jurassic Park"
If anyone wants me I'll be curled up in a ball over there...

Monday, April 16, 2012

On hearing the first ice cream van of Spring

Dear sir,

Kevin and The Small Object of Desire cannot come to work today because it is a nice day and they want to spend all morning in bed and then go and play out they are not well

Yours sincerely,

Our Mum (Mrs.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Unearthed treasure

Frabjous joy.

Frog, clearing the decks in readiness for one or other of the latest bits of nonsense, accidentally disinterred a bit of history. He has found the only remaining entire copy, in living colour, of the pantomime we co-wrote about fourteen years ago: "Blibala and the Forty Beancats." We wrote it over the space of five weeks, each taking a turn at writing a page and largely ignoring anything in the way of plot, characterisation, continuity or plain common sense that may have crept into the earlier portion of the script. We printed off a few copies, covers boldly declaring that the whole shebang had been sponsored by Socko, the Wonder Duck-Whitener. I managed to lose my copy in the move over to Railway Cuttings (ditto the unpublished A0 poster version of "King of the B-Movies" starring Stanley Baldwin as Sexton Blake).

I'll stir myself to share the joy over the next few days. I'm still quite pleased with the ending.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I remember when all this was fields

The small niece-child is learning a bit of Spanish at school, which I think is no bad thing. As is the way with these things, it is the purest accident: one of the teachers happens to be Spanish, it's not in the school prospectus. The idea of a school prospectus bewilders me slightly as I'm of that age when you went to your local primary school unless your parents were particularly keen Roman Catapults in which case you went to the nearest R.C. similar. And that was the end of it, none of this trawling through prospectuses, web sites and league tables and poring one's way through the Ofsted reports. Not that I hold much faith in the latter anyway: every school I go past in the course of an ordinary week has a big banner strapped to the front boasting of its Ofsted plaudits ("Sums were enthralling" — Harold Hobsbon). It pisses me off to think that the money schools are spending on Ofsted Plaudit banners could fund a medium-sized county library service book fund for a year.

Anyway… We went to our local primary school, which was good because it was within walking distance, which was good because hardly anyone had a car and them that did only ever used it for their dads to go to and from work.

Our local school was out in the middle of a big field just by the motorway. Over the years the field got bigger and became a school playing field as the wilder edges were given over to dutifully-manicured grass. At the end of the field, behind the first houses of the estate, was a particularly wild stretch full of mustards and thistles and the occasional haunt of lizards. Through this ran the brook which started off from out of nowhere near the cornflake factory and ran for a couple of miles before trickling into the Irwell at Barton. At the school end it was a bit sluggish and fed a small pond choked with water mint. Further up you could squeeze through the railings behind the builder's yard and look for sticklebacks and stray frogs. I wonder how many kids these days get to see a stickleback; it is a concern.

Over yonder, where the shopping centre car park is now, there was a field of Friesian cows, gently a-mooing and chewing their cuds. Behind would be Barton Power Station, a miniature edition of Battersea. I miss that almost as much as the annual air show, three days of random aerospace history to-ing and fro-ing to the aerodrome for the Sunday event. Gypsy moths and a Vulcan bomber were a given. Sometimes there'd be the thrill of a Hurricane or Lockheed Lightning and, just that once, a Spitfire and a Lancaster. Sunday tea time would see everyone standing in their front gardens to watch the Red Arrows and then it was officially over.

Behind the school was the freight line that fed goods to the western half of what was then Europe's biggest industrial complex (that was the reason why we were semi-rural as far as the rates were concerned). Just the other side was a scabby field of scrubby grass, home to partridge, lapwing and many a courting couple. That's concrete now, with a warehouse stuck on it.

Now it's all cropped green fields, car parks and triple carriageways serving the shopping centre. The quiet Sunday afternoon walk behind the church and round to the main road is an expensive leisure complex. And kids trapped in the school run are taken round the shops to socialise them.

I'm under no illusions as to just how rough things were really in the sixties. But the brook at Longford, now culverted and covered over by concrete and beer cans and old mattresses was once lively with yellow flag irises and water boatmen and I don't think much of the swap.