One of the best things about Elaine and I being born just three weeks apart is that we remember loads of the same things from our childhood—especially television programmes and various items from the shopping basket.
Now I could stroll down a memory lane that has been cleaned by Vim or Ajax, but today’s offering has a chocolatey theme. I think it’s fair to say that my mouth bears the metallic scars of far too many trips to the sweet shop. When the dreaded time came for the six-monthly check-up, we would normally have the earliest appointments.
As a kid I used to think that if I went in first, I might catch the dentist before he was fully awake and he’d therefore miss the cavity that was staring up from one of my molars, yelling: “go on then, drill me you bas*!%&"... oops, something happened to the old keyboard there...
On a positive note, whenever there is a question on Pointless about metallic elements of the periodic Table, I usually do pretty well—mainly because most of the answers have been residing in various teeth since the 1970s...
Anyway back to the Topic (now that’s really clever) in hand.
I can’t really recall having a particular favourite type of chocolate, although I did feel it necessary to work my through every single bar as part of my research. Many favourites like Crunchie, Mars, Aero, Kit-Kat, Fruit & Nut etc have stood the test of time, but far more have disappeared for good. How many of this top ten of sadly departed bars do you
1. Cadbury’s Milk Tray – yes, in a bar!
2. Cadbury’s Bar Six
3. Mackintosh’s Golden Cup
4. Cadbury’s Amazin’ (raisin bar)
5. Nestlé Pink Panther Bar (strawberry flavoured)
6. Barratt Triffik (chocolate covered nougat)
7. Nestlé Texan (chew bar and cavity creator)
8. Rowntree’s Nutty (fudge and caramel coated in peanuts)
9. Cadbury’s Aztec
10. Rowntree’s Cabana (coconut and cherries... I bloody hate cherries)
And the absolutely best thing was that whichever bar you chose, you could wash it down with a can of strawberry Cresta—“it’s frothy man”.
In “our day”, we weren’t distracted from chocolate by things like computer games and other fancy gadgets that cost a fortune. Enjoyment and satisfaction could be bought for just a few pence—and there was the added benefit of the brisk walk to and from the sweet shop. Add to that the fact that thousands of dentists were able to regularly practice their drilling skills and there you have it: chocolate... the gift that just keeps on giving.
With Elaine on another late shift, I’ve spent a fair bit of the past two days on my own in the house—not something I particularly enjoy. I don’t mind my own company (well…), but I think a combination of “life experience” and an enduring ability to think too much can occasionally make being “home alone” slightly less relaxing than it should be.
In a previous life, various things happened that resulted in me finding it almost impossible to answer the door or pick up the phone because I always expected something bad to happen (because it often did…). The first ring of the phone and my heart would just start to race and it actually took several years of being with Elaine before the unseen wouldn’t panic me.
In just over a fortnight, Elaine and I will have been together for seven years—I honestly didn’t think I’d ever truly understand what words like “happy”, “trust” and the old indefinable “love” actually felt like. In my head, I didn’t deserve to find out, but Elaine must have seen something I couldn’t see in myself and as 10th July (our anniversary) draws closer, I instinctively start to remember how incredibly hard we fought to be together and how much I owe Elaine for believing in someone who felt he had very little to offer.
I do still dwell on negative things when I have too much time on my own—and yes I know that I shouldn’t, but I am far more aware of how my mind works, and I also know which music not to listen to! The fact is that every day starts and ends with the person who changed my life for the better and that is something I don’t ever forget.
In amongst it all, Elaine gave me the encouragement to write and the prospect of becoming a published (as opposed to self-published) author is one more thing I don’t think would have ever happened had Elaine and I never met. I have also been able to commit personal thoughts and feelings to paper (or its electronic equivalent) and that has certainly helped me come to terms with what many people would call “demons”. It’s not so much the fact that others read my blogs, it’s more the slightly selfish act of the release, but much as I’m a stronger person than I was a decade ago, I realise only too well the main reason why...
I love you Elaine... hurry home xxx
You know how it is, you hardly ever have a big night out and then two come along at once.
On Friday’s we’ll be travelling north to see the Mrs Brown’s Boys stage show (for the third successive year) and seventy-two hours later, Elaine and I will get the chance to see—and hear—the wonderful Bo Bruce at Newcastle’s O² Academy. We’ve had the tickets for ages, so I suppose it’ll be nice not to have to find the money—although as I remember, you don’t get much change out of a tenner for a drink and a hot dog at the Metro Arena (that’s where Mrs Brown’s Boys is taking place).
Of course, we could split the hot dog and get two straws for the drink. Better still, pig out at home and try and smuggle some pop past the security men...
Last year, we were lucky enough to meet most of the Mrs Brown’s Boys cast and I was impressed by how approachable and friendly they all were. I’m sure that in the world of celebrity, you will encounter any number of people wanting a bit of your time. Exchanging a few words, signing an autograph or posing for a photo might only take a minute or so, but especially for the young “fan”, those few moments will be both personal and special.
Down the years, I’ve almost shied away from such encounters, mainly because I always remembered meeting a couple of people I’d admired from the world of sport and let’s just say the prospect was far removed from the reality.
I wouldn’t use the word “heroes” —that word is reserved for the likes of Muhammad Ali—but when I was about nine years old, my favourite cricketer was the Lancashire and West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd. The meeting was a chance encounter with the West Indies touring party at York railway station. Virtually the whole squad had signed my autograph book when I offer my book and pen to the team’s figurehead.
But he refused... he’d signed too many autographs...
Sadly, at nine years old, I didn’t know the right word to describe my immediately ex-favourite cricketer. Forty years on, I know loads of suitable words... but I fear the moment has gone.
A number of years later, I was a club cricketer of little or no repute, and still a Lancashire fan despite being born in the White Rose county. I went to “an evening with” Paul Allott, decent test bowler and future poor commentator. I did admire him as a cricketer, but when I spoke to him, he was arrogant to the point of being rude.
Luckily by the age of twenty-six, I was far better acquainted with the term “arsehole”...
Thankfully, such examples are few and far between, but just go to show how the memory of one bad experience can linger for years—which probably explains why I don’t eat rice pudding.
So much as I’m now far too old to be “star-struck”, I’m really looking forward to both nights. If the last two years are anything to go by, Mrs Brown’s Boys will be great and, having exchanged quite a few e-mails with Bo Bruce before her career really took off, she seemed to be a kind and genuine young woman —as well as a fantastic singer. Who knows, maybe I might get to meet her in person next Monday: I won’t have my autograph book (I threw it at Clive Lloyd’s carriage as the train pulled away), but, just in case, the camera’s already on charge!
It looks like the sun has deigned to come out on my last day of being forty-eight—some small compensation for the clock ticking inexorably towards the “big 5-0” next year.
Actually, it’s no compensation at all. . . .
We’re going to go out for a meal tomorrow, but there’ll be no real celebrations, and certainly no cake—not that you’d be able to see any cake for all the bloody candles.
And I’d probably have a seizure trying to blow them out.
Or start a potentially serious fire if I couldn’t.
Or both. . . .
As for next year, well I doubt it’ll be any different, although affordable life cover (with no medical—acceptance guaranteed) will be available and I’ll get a Parker pen just for enquiring. Marvellous, I’m always losing pens. Elaine and I have already decided (seeing as we were born just three weeks apart) on a joint party, that will involve lots of drink—and just two guests.
You can enquire about coming—non-acceptance guaranteed—but you
will receive a half-chewed William Hill biro for asking.
At least my fiftieth won’t be any worse than my fortieth, which came less than three months after revelations that changed the course of my life forever. It was the absolute worst of times, but ultimately (albeit indirectly) led me to where I am now I suppose . . . married to someone I absolutely adore.
But first I’ve got to contend with twelve months of being forty-nine—the last time my age will be a ball in the lottery. Hopefully it will be a good year; I’m so excited about having my Doctor Who book published, but writing doesn’t pay the bills and with major changes imminent at work, I suppose there will be more unsettling times ahead.
That said, I can’t influence whatever decisions are made, but at least I know that each and every day begins and ends with Elaine and, to be honest, that is the best birthday gift of all.
I normally have two subjects that I try to avoid writing about... work and religion, but after quite a bit of deliberation following events from the past few days, I’m going to break my own rules this once.
The work aspect of the blog came just over a week ago when members of the local Muslim community attended a blood donor session in Middlesbrough. It would not be right to mention anyone by name, but on the day and in the meetings that led up to the event, I will admit to being welcomed (if that’s the right word) by people of a religion and culture to which I’ve rarely been exposed, but with whom I would gladly sit down and discuss at length the deity and doctrines that guide them. It won’t change my own personal beliefs,
but I don’t see anything wrong with trying to understand more about the diverse nature of the country in which we now live.
I can appreciate the difficulty of trying to challenge stereotypes and change the popular (as in “of the people”) perception of the general Muslim community. I’m not going to get drawn into any sort of analysis because I would be out of my depth, but I believe those I have met and started to get to know are representative of the overwhelming majority of Muslims across the country, genuine, good people striving to make a positive difference to the communities in which they live.
On Wednesday, Drummer Lee Rigby was brutally murdered, an indescribable act carried out in the name of religion but for which there can be no justification. The simple unavoidable fact is that a child has been robbed of his father in devastating and needless circumstances.
The media coverage was understandably extensive but arguably did exactly what the perpetrators hoped and allowed their fanatical ramblings to get totally unwarranted airtime and, in some quarters, incited words of racial, religious and cultural hatred that could potential escalate into yet more pointless violence, but distracts completely from what matters the most – the shattering effect on a family trying to come to terms with the inhumane slaughter of a loved one.
I just don’t accept that any religion can be offered as a valid excuse for the disgusting crime that took place earlier this week. You can claim allegiance to any God you like, but bad things are done by inherently bad people and the two men deserve nothing more than to be locked up... and forgotten.
Tragically, for the friends and family of Lee Rigby, forgetting is something they will probably never be able to do and this blog is respectfully dedicated to Lee’s memory. Rest in Peace young man.
Many hobbies have come and gone down the years. Writing is obviously my number one pastime at the moment, cricket has been a massive part of my life, but I’ve also been a bit of a collector too: various things ranging from PG Tips cards (The Race into Space 1971... Prehistoric Animals in 1972 etc), via York City football programmes, through to Jean Harlow cigarette cards.
Luckily, Mrs Whiting from the local store saved the tea cards and gave them to my Mum, rather than her and Dad having to drink twenty cups a day in the vain hope of finding that missing dinosaur. She also gave me some plastic figures that fitted on top of each other to make a totem pole... I think they were from boxes of Sugar Smacks. We used to get those little selection boxes where you got a choice of eight different cereals - the Ricicles always got left until last...
During my teenage years, I accumulated a large collection of vinyl 45s from the punk/ new wave era. All were in picture sleeves, quite a few were coloured vinyl and they would probably be worth a fair bit right now, but unfortunately they were traded in many years ago to temporarily delay yet another financial crisis. My ex-sister-in-law Emma still has some of the records. She claims they were a gift, but that’s not how I define the word
The York City programmes are from the 1983/84 campaign when the side won the old 4th Division, becoming the first British club to reach 100 points in a season in the process. I went to virtually all the home games, but the only away trip I made was to Feethams, then home of Darlington, for a 0-0 draw that I don’t remember at all. At the last count, I’m missing five away programmes and with a bit of luck, eBay will come to the rescue at some point.
But now, I spend my pocket money on cigarette (and confectionary) cards from the 1920s and 1930s featuring Jean Harlow and Marie Prevost, two of the Hollywood actresses about whom I’ve written. The cards can cost anything from 99p upwards. The most I’ve ever paid for a single card is £6.99 (or £2.99 if Elaine’s reading this) and I have something like eighty cards now, which are all displayed in a nice little folder.
The thing about hobbies is that whilst some people might find your particular pastime or collection interesting, others just don’t get why anyone would possibly want to just sit and look at... let’s say a cigarette card in an album. That said, I am currently setting up a small web site where you can view the cards for yourself.
The address is www.harlowcard.weebly.com – feel free to have a look and if it’s not completely updated, it’s just because I’m trawling eBay for that elusive Mansfield
I joined LinkedIn on Monday... mainly in response to a letter sent to staff at work about the upcoming restructure that has been “impending” for just under two years. Regular readers will know that I love my job... but that I don’t go into great detail about work-related matters in what is essentially a public forum. Safe to say it’s bloody hard not to feel unsettled...
And so I uploaded a photo and added various bits and pieces about my education and work history. The end result wasn’t too bad...well I’d employ me!
Three days later and I’ve gained quite a number of contacts from various times and aspects of my life – including an old school friend I haven’t seen for more than thirty years. I genuinely have no idea what the future holds; if I had a choice I would love to keep doing what I do... and help to develop those around me, but I guess things will become clearer with time.
I have to admit that searching to try and find one or two names from my past was becoming potentially addictive – but the fact that my school contemporaries all seem to be CEOs, Directors and the like soon cured me. Evidently I might not have climbed quite so high up the career ladder (for “might not” read “have not”), but I’m good at what I do... and how many other people are about to have a Doctor Who book published?!
Anyway, this is a quick “thank you” to those with whom I am officially “connected”. If you want to join the fun, just click this link!
Onwards and upwards Kirbs...
The blogs have been relatively few and far between recently, but as another week draws to a close, now is the time for a new post.
It’s been a bit of an up and down week. The lighter mornings are a blessing, but I tend to wake with the dawn and I’ve been getting up, ready and driving the fifty miles to work before the clock’s reached half past six. The knock-on effect is that I’m usually shattered by nine in the evening and there are some days when Elaine’s barely home from a late shift by then and I feel pretty bad that some nights I’m just no company at all.
I occasionally manage a quick nap which can then extend my evening as late as the ten o’clock news, but if I sleep during the day (for however long), I tend to jump awake, in the style of a mild panic attack and last Sunday, I genuinely had no idea where I was for a split second (I was in the conservatory, if you were interested) and felt weird for the rest of the afternoon.
I still have incredibly vivid dreams during the night and their effect is somehow draining, almost as if I’ve physically experienced what my mind has imagined and it can take a good couple of hours before I feel properly awake (although the process can be hastened by some serious chocolate intake!).
Having two “fast” days during the week isn’t helping, nor is the fact that I haven’t added to the five pounds lost so far and on Wednesday, I was tired, hungry and in a real fettle with myself. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t get tetchy very often (honestly I don’t), but if I’m at work I tend just to go quiet and this must be such a contrast to my usual jovial self (!) that the offer of a hot chocolate and a chat is happily never far away.
Thankfully by home time, I felt much better and with Elaine finishing relatively early too, we had a nice relaxing evening together. Today’s been fine, but tomorrow is my second fast day and it’ll just be my luck to stay awake long past ten o’clock safe in the knowledge that the chocolate muffin will just have to wait...
The scenes at the end of yesterday’s Boston Marathon were more reminiscent of a movie than real life –after all, you don’t train for months to run in excess of twenty-six miles, cheered on by loved ones and watched by tens of thousands of spectators and then expect so many lives to be cruelly ripped apart by two explosions near the finish line.
I’m sure that information will become clearer as time passes, but as I write, three people are dead and more than 140 injured – several critically and a number of amputations have also been carried out as a result of injuries sustained by what I’ve seen described as “crude devices”. Some reports have suggested that the bombs contained shrapnel, which I would guess is designed to inflict as much damage to anybody unlucky enough to be caught in one of the blasts.
What could ever possess people to be so callous and uncaring about the lives of innocent folk simply enjoying a public holiday? Maybe the perpetrators are have some nationalistic objective or maybe the dreaded word “religion” will be mentioned at some point, but whatever the case, does any organisation seriously believe that their cause will have been in any way enhanced by the murder of an eight year-old boy?
Whatever the answer, surely anyone capable of free thought will be simply horrified at the events that unfolded and the tragedy of the aftermath in which lives were ended or forever altered in an instant.
A century ago next year, the world witnessed the start of a conflict of massive proportions and millions of lives were lost in the name of a “peace” that appears no closer now than it did when Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo all those years ago.
Yesterday three more names were added to that death toll – my heart goes out to all those affected by what transpired yesterday. It makes no sense... and it’s such a terrible waste...
It’s two years to the day since I wrote my first blog – I’m not entirely sure how many I’ve posted since then (feel free to count and let me know...), but I’m guessing it’s in the region of two hundred. The subjects have varied from the random to intensely personal and I’m grateful to all those of you who have read any of the articles. It’s no great surprise that the most significant reaction (in terms of comments and messages) came when I revealed my struggle with depression.
There is a selfish element to being so open in a public forum, although I wasn’t (and am not) looking for any sympathy. Writing was my release from the occasionally vice-like grip of an illness that I didn’t ask for, don’t want, but however hard I try can’t always hide from those who care.
The response was overwhelming – knowing you’re not alone is not necessarily a comfort because that means others are suffering too, but it does bring a kind of reassurance that doesn’t totally remove the black clouds, but lightens their shade just a fraction.
For the record, I’m coping reasonably well and have been for a few months. I still get anxious (very easily if the truth be told), mostly about money and security, but given there’s a major work restructure drawing ever closer, I defy anyone with a anxious tendencies not to pick up their half-full glass, tip it over, empty it and have a bloody good worry. On the better days, I’m consoled by the fact that I’m good at what I do (or at least that’s what I’m told), but my mind still finds it easy to run away with any scenario that has a bad ending.
Away from the workplace, I have carried on my writing and self-published more books: a 1994/95 diary of Gateshead FC, a book about the Coronation Street barmaids and a biography of Marie Prevost. There was also a lot of interest (relatively speaking) in my Marilyn Monroe bio, which somehow found its way into the hands of various authors, experts, fans, impersonators etc, many of whom had kind words to say about the book. I was way out of my depth here, because Michelle, Marijane, Marisa, Maureen, Jackie and Hanna et al have probably forgotten more that I will ever know about Marilyn, but their reviews and comments about the content, but also my writing style were a huge boost.
The revised edition of Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman was also published in 2011 and I’m still digesting the fact that the updated version is to be published by BearManor Media. I can’t fully describe how it feels to know that someone considers your work worthy of publication, but I’ll start with “thrilled” and “excited”. The only downside is they’re not keen on the use of parentheses or the three-dot ellipsis (bugger...).
On the home front, Elaine and I are closing in on our fifth anniversary – which I believe is signified by “wood” (I was hoping for wine... maybe it counts if it comes in a wooden case?). I don’t need a blog to tell her how much she means to me, but... I love you darling xx
We are starting a new diet on Monday... and added to my 2-3 weekly trips to the gym, I’m naively expecting to have the body of a God by the time the summer finally gets here. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to reveal (via the gift of photography) my torso on my 49th birthday. The date you need to put in your diary is 2nd June... my birthday is actually on the 3rd, but you might want to unfriend me in advance!
Anyway, that’s the second anniversary blog done and dusted. As always, any/all comments welcome and thanks again for taking the time to read the stuff what I wrote x
All my own work... almost.