Saturday, February 04, 2023

Quietly making fists in my pocket

There are times when having a telephone conversation with my father is like being back at work doing a remote technical support call. After ten minutes'gleaning bits and bobs and correlating them into sensible order, I'll talk it through just to confirm this is where we are and that'll be the point at which some tidbit that kicks the jigsaw asunder gets introduced into the conversation. It all gets sorted in the end but the stress levels aren't helped by my having to compete to be heard over his television while having the cat shouting down my other ear because she doesn't like the telephone.

Monday, July 18, 2022


A weekend 'phone conversation with my father:

Him: "Sorry to bother you but I need a bit of advice, I'm feeling very warm and I'm starting to get a bit breathless."

Me (feeling breathless due to the combination of asthma, heat and the effects of having, on Tuesday, taking advantage of the cat I don't have's practising for her Backwoodscat Badge to fumigate the house after she'd brought in little friends): "Have you had one of those ice lollies I bought you?"

Him: "I'm saving them for when it gets warm."

If you ever wonder where I get it from. (He had an ice lolly and he was "100% better!")

I had thought the cat I do not have was being uncharacteristically sensible in not sunbathing in the back garden this morning until I saw that she'd found a patch of sun by the closed front gate which meant the postman had to jump over the wall to post today's junk mail. She came in briefly but any hopes that she might come in and stay cool were dashed when she used the litter tray and trotted back out again, demanding tuna with menaces. She's lying on her back in a clump of marjoram with a woodpigeon sitting in the cherry tree not four feet above her head and they're both fast asleep. I'm staying indoors and leaving the silly beggars to it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

An outbreak of poetry has occurred

Oh golly,
It's so jolly,
Bunting far as eye can see
Across closed pubs
Adorning food banks
For the royal jubilee.

Grannies knitting
Postbox cosies
Cry: "God bless her, everyone!"
And there she is, 
God bless her, sitting 
Through celebration.

"Is that Titchmarsh or Nick Witchell?"
Asks the Queen of Party Hats.
Aunty's airing hardline views on
Media-confected spats.

Grandpa, cold, has put the fire on,
Best suit pawned to pay the bill.
Someone brought a Party Seven,
For each Union Jack and Jill.

Bunter preens amidst the chaos
Drunk on power and disrepair.
Nanny taps the eighteenth century:
"Jacob, are you still in there?"

So here we sit
Forlorn and luckless
Shades of glory hand-me-downs
Hard the bread
And grim the circus:
Too much shit
Too many clowns.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Missives and epistles

 'Course, when you get to my age you start getting lots of letters from the NHS. Like this one:

Dear Mr Musgrove,

Please stop sending us pieces of shit on sticks. We have more than enough to be getting on with.

Love and kisses
The Poo Clinic


Friday, December 25, 2020

Broad thoughts from a home

2020's been a bit like this. OK, a lot like this…

Have a safe and happy Chrimbo anyway. Take care and be kind.

Christmas at the Ponderosa

Friday, April 17, 2020

Just checking

Just a quickie, checking on you all in the current awfulness as you lounge around in your bouncy castles giving out the lairy chat to passing cocker spaniels. I do hope you and yours are all OK and not yet climbing the walls. Look after yourselves you're the only you you've got.

Mrs. Elspeth Smethurst demonstrating her new social distancing costume
Sing along now…

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


2019's been a ropy old year one way or another so, by way of reaching for a comfort blanket, I've got my Christmas Radio Times so I can plan ahead. And pretty grim reading it is, too. A lot of the same old crap with the word "Christmas" slapped on the front. Discovery is bringing us "A Christmas Hitler," Discovery Science "My Christmas Tapeworm And Me" and the History Channel "Ancient Festive Aliens: The Wishbone Enigma."  We've seen all the Christmas editions of "Porridge," "Only Fools and Horses," "Last of the Summer Wine," "Gavin and Stacey," "Are You Being Served," and "Keeping Up Appearances" because UK Gold has been playing them on relay since October.

And then, of course, there's the Christmas Channel, which has been The Christmas Channel since the end of August and will remain so until mid-January when it becomes The Valentine Channel, rebranding at the start of March as The Easter Channel until, some time in May, it reverts to its official brand title The Films So Cloyingly Awful You Couldn't Sit Through A Whole One Without Gagging Channel. 

On Sky Arts "The Christmas Motion Picture Show" looked promising but turns out to be the artist's lived experience after a week eating nothing but turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, mince pies and Terry's Chocolate Oranges played out through the medium of Abstract Expressionism.

So that'll be me and the cat playing charades again. Here she is last year. The film was "The Big Sleep."

Have a cool Yule y'all.

Monday, August 05, 2019

The waiting lounge

"You'll find that most of them are lookalikes of famous celebrities who died in aeroplane crashes," explained the receptionist. "It doesn't do to stare at them."
"No, quite," I agreed.
"The lounge is just down that corridor, straight ahead, you can't miss it."

The corridor was narrow and flatly lit. The base of the walls up to an imaginary dado were a duck egg blue, above it a yellowing shade of ivory. The walk to the end was just long enough to be uncomfortable. At the end there was large wooden door, glazed with that security glass that has a wire grid embedded in it. Faded Gill Sans lettering that may once have been painted gold announced: "LOUNGE."

The lounge was a bit poky and the lino was chipped at the edges. To the left was a long bar serving no drinks. I looked around at my fellow passengers. Over in a corner girl in a Marilyn Monroe dress chatted to a man in Roy Orbison glasses while being ogled by an old man desperately trying to look like Mickey Rooney. Over there a man in evening dress who could have been either Ethel or Lionel Barrymore. A scan of the room confirmed further unconvincing performances. It was difficult not to stare. A young man dressed as Elvis leapt onto the bar and sprawled in an arrogant pose, I don't know who for or why. I had other puzzles to consider: none of the celebrities being badly impersonated here had died in plane crashes; was I supposed to be another lookalike, if so then who? It was all very unsettling.

The cabin crew came into the lounge and greeted everybody with professional bonhomie. The captain, a tall, suave individual straight out of Central Casting, took centre stage.

"As you know," he intoned, "One of you will die in this aeroplane crash. There is no cause for alarm, nearly all of us will come to no harm."

A quiet murmur ran across the room as his audience cheerfully accepted this and speculated amongst themselves who it might be.

"Nearly everybody will live," he repeated gravely, "But in the event of any unpleasantness or hysteria I may have to forget that somebody was alive."

Monday, July 29, 2019


While people are on about maps, here's one of another place.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Village vignette

The civic hall had had better days but had only fitfully partaken of them. Once upon the time its floorboards had groaned to the foxtrot strains of Yeti Ibbotson And His Darling Tarzanettes, all teeth, Brilliantine and accidental syncopation. In later years it was the haunt of jumble sales and the village pig crayoning club. The pig crayoning craze was a nine day wonder: the pigs weren't much fond of it, the farmers didn't see a profit in it and there's not much that you can do with a pig once you've drawn a crude picture of a house on it in thick brown wax that you couldn't have done by leaving the poor beast well alone.

Saturday, April 20, 2019


I buried my mother today.

Quite literally, I buried my mother. The ceremonials had been done and dusted a few weeks ago and today I placed her ashes in the bottom of a big tub in my father's garden, covered it with compost and planted over it a rose bush that my aunt had bought as a memorial for her. I asked my father if he wanted to say a few words but he said that he'd do it as and when they came to him on his own as he pottered about the garden. Which is more than fair enough.

I'd made the mistake of telling the ex-small object of desire that both parents would probably outlive the rest of us. A couple of weeks later and both were visited upon by the nasty chest infection that was going round. My dad was laid low at home and my mum had to go into hospital. One day she was at in a ward eating cottage pie and trying to play a tune on the oxygen monitors. A couple of days later she was critical on a ventilator. On her last day she had enough strength to be fed a bowl of leek and potato soup and some grapes, and lots of cups of tea. We managed to get the immediate family round to say goodbye, which was a consolation.

When I was making the funeral arrangements I gave my brother the job of coaxing a choice of three pieces of music out of my dad. In the end the choice was good: "Jesu Joy Of Man's Desiring," Mama Cass singing "Dream A Little Dream of Me," and the Beatles' "In My Life."

The other day I dreamt I was doing the reading at my own funeral. It was all rather lovely and I woke up with a tear-stained pillow. These were the three pieces of music:

Be kind to each other.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

On the twelfth day of Chrimbo…

On the twelfth day of Christmas… Oh why did I ever start this?

Fuck me sideways, it's the Easter Hamster already and we haven't even weaned the vicar off the Warninks yet.

Don't forget to put on the sprouts.

Friday, January 04, 2019

On the eleventh day of Chrimbo…

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Theresa May joining in the "Guess The Size Of The Invisble Man's Left Testicle" game at the Abattoir Road Conservative Club, Helminthdale. 

She evidently knew him well before he had the operation.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

On the tenth day of Chrimbo…

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Tickets to see Mrs Threadgold and her Brownies in their adaptation of "Moomins Winter Follies."

Never again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

On the ninth day of Chrimbo…

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Britain's rail operators justifying yet another eye-watering rise in fares by pointing at all the investment in new rolling stock.