Wednesday, 28 December 2011


E-readers? What are they all about?

For the uninitiated an e-reader is a mobile electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital e-books and periodicals.

It is similar in form to a tablet computer. A tablet computer typically has a faster screen capable of higher refresh rates which makes it more suitable for interaction. Tablet computers also are much more versatile, allowing one to consume multiple types of content, as well as create it. The main advantages of e-readers are better readability of their screens especially in bright sunlight and longer battery life. This is achieved by using electronic paper technology to display content to readers and viewers.

Impressive stuff!

A recent survey revealed that the Amazon Kindle is the most popular e-reader in the UK (47%), followed by the Apple iPad (31%) and the Sony Reader (14%).

But let’s face it a row of e-readers on your bookshelf seems like a very mundane assembly to me where each device looks much the same – if not exactly the same – as the others. Truly boring and dull...

Give me paperbacks and real books anytime. I remember the books of my youth – especially the works of Capt. W E Johns who wrote over 100 volumes detailing the derring-do and exploits of Biggles, the RFC fighter pilot of WWI. The titles come back to me now – Biggles Secret Agent, Biggles Sees It Through, Another Job for Biggles, Biggles Delivers the Goods and my own particular favourite Biggles Flies Undone.

Interesting fact - Akathisia is the inability to sit still, an involuntary jiggling of the leg, or a terror of sitting.

The Black Horse
91 Church Street
North Yorkshire
YO22 4BH
Tel: 01947 602906

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Season’s greetings!

Aaahhhh Christmas! – my dear Mum, bless her, truly loved this time of year – for as she used to say it was the only occasion she got to strangle a turkey! Not one for protocol either was she - you would often see her dipping into the After Eight mints from 7:30pm! She didn't care! Outrageous!

Naturally it’s that special occasion to celebrate with family and friends, of course it is  - but it’s also a time to reflect and think about those who are sadly no longer with us.

As a ten year-old, I pestered my poor Dad endlessly to get me a bike for Christmas... 

I’ve got my eye on a Raleigh bike, Dad! It’s in the cycle shop window on the High Road! Come and have a look?”

Aahhh! Keep your eye on it son by all means” he jokingly replied “because I doubt you’ll ever get your ar*e on it!”

I shouldn’t have been so surprised really with my Dad; he gave me an empty shoe box the year before proclaiming that I had been given a rare Action Man figure – a deserter in this case - and then there was Christmas three years earlier when he convinced me that the cupboard under the stairs contained my own special money box – only to realise many years later it was the gas meter!

So I decided to ask God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way; so I stole a bike and asked for His forgiveness, instead!

I never did quite understand why my Dad treated each festive season with such military discipline and an approach to those few days at home where almost a siege-like mentality existed. It wasn't so much a time to relax and pig-out but more a restaging of the Siege of Khartoum - he never quite accepted that the shops would indeed be open for business directly after the holidays and food, toilet rolls and cigarettes would be available once more. If there was ever going to be a dysentry outbreak in greater Nottingham during Christmas - we were more than prepared for it! Three days at home without shopping, that's all we had to contend with - but we ended up with enough food in the larder to last until Burns' Night...

Cherished memories...

Christmas cracker - and no mstake...
Remember - Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad...


Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Office parties – very much the thing this time of the year. Ho, Ho, Ho!

Can’t stand them in all honesty and best avoided in my case. Highlight of the year or an opportunity for shame and ignominy? – take your choice. I tend to end up telling people who I don’t particularly see eye-to-eye with exactly what I think of them – in an alcohol-fuelled fug no less - and then spend the rest of the holidays worrying about exactly what it was I’d said. If you are being urged to let your hair down and have a good time – that’s fine – but you realise people don’t necessarily share your sense of humour. And don’t some people bear grudges? I stopped going to these things over 30 years ago. I can still recall a young Chris Miller aiming peanuts at the back of our boss’ head – and being successful in most cases  - bouncing off  his balding pate they were – for the duration of one boring party when I worked in the City. Miller thought he got away with it – (he couldn’t remember anyway) – but sadly that was not the case – he was overlooked for promotion for the next 10 years... Good lesson that though - no matter how great the temptation to throw nibbles and cocktail sausages around on these occasions - resist it! He never did find out if our boss was gay, incidentally!

To sum up - office parties... If you're the sort of person who is a disaster in social situations (like me!), or deeply misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Derby County (like me!) or otherwise bigoted in any other area or you work in an oppressive, miserable environment - where you are underpaid and unappreciated, then avoid them... You know it makes sense!

Give me a few drinks with mates anyway – I’m OK with that – but have real difficulty making small talk with people where I don't really give a monkey's! I have never mastered the art of putting on a brave face, so no longer try!

Office parties – No, No, No!

And then there are the antics of the women! Standing under the mistletoe next to the gent’s loo and puckering their lips (facial that is!) when you approach the karzie – it’s not a pleasant sight in all honesty. “Kiss you under the mistletoe, love? – I couldn’t kiss you under anaesthetic!”

Doctor Browns
135 Corporation Street,
Tel: 01642 213213

Friday, 2 December 2011


Image consultants – what on earth is all that about?
A serious amount of money can be earned giving advice on personal styling and image consultancy.
A personal image consultation is intended to enhance confidence and improve business performance.

Give me strength!
When you wear a colour near your face the light reflects upwards either enhancing your look or casting shadows and making you look tired. Wearing the right colour near your face will make you look bright-eyed, more vibrant and younger.
I see where I have gone wrong now...

The Dog and Gun Country Inn
Cooper Lane
North Yorkshire DL6 3HQ
Tel: 01642 700232

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


"I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of nations"
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

OMG – I don’t do txt-speak!

SMS language or textese is damaging the written form of our cherished language believe you and me. It’s irritating beyond measure and encourages a sloppy written English form that is devoid of or at least lacking correct grammar and punctuation.

Its creepage is not confined to text messaging either. Children are adopting textease in their written work at school. I came across a request from someone (a very senior someone), who should know better, that had written – “Let me see the results B4 you send them to...” on a personal file. Beggar’s belief!


Golden Lion
6 West End
North Yorkshire
Tel: 01609 883526

Saturday, 19 November 2011


A beer in the very late evening... this one.

SCD 2011. I must be honest after Nancy D’Illusional left Strictly, I was a little disheartened. You remember her? She describes herself as Italy's second most famous woman after Sophia Loren (who’s she kidding?) and is either in her late forties, early fifties or 37 - she can't make up her mind on that one!
Well I wouldn’t mind showing her my enchufla I can tell you!  
But she departed and so my interest later turned to Russell Grant. Now how he didn’t know he was going to be eliminated last Saturday is a little difficult to comprehend since he is an astrologer, isn't he? Clearly his departure wasn’t in the stars or maybe it’s just that his psychic powers have been waning recently?
Strictly Come Dancing? - get back on that pitch!

In any event he’s also gone now – so my support and backing goes to the man that looks like Tarzan but talks like Jane – Robbie “Lily” Savage, no less.
He describes himself as “the most hated man in British football”. Few would argue! 537 league games, 39 international caps, 89 yellow cards (then a record) and 8 appearances on SCD – impressive stuff! He was famously fined £10,000 for taking a dump in the referee’s ablution facility before a game whilst at Leicester City. 
Interesting fact - An Adamite is someone who, for religious reasons, goes around in public with no clothes on.

Sequins! Fake tan! Aarrrrrgh!
2 Mechanic's Yard (off High Row)
Tel: (01325) 468324

Saturday, 12 November 2011


Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin...

Once upon a time – many years ago – there was a boat. A steamboat called the S/S Enterprise. The Enterprise was proudly skippered by Capt James T Buerk – who was a kindly, avuncular man who had sailed and steamboated the seven seas for most of his life. His main duty on the steamboat was to oversee delivery of very important goods and chattels to the far-away island of Presbyacusia. Now this island had a great many elderly people and they relied on the good Capt’s boat so that they could grow special seeds that in turn provided magic powers that enabled the old folk to hear their offspring and friends without the need to be shouted at...

Now Capt. Buerk was a very important man – and he had earned la médaille des Conneries du Chien for his many years of devoted service in all things seafaring. But lately he was rarely to be seen on deck at the helm and in truth the S/S Enterprise would often list badly and lurch in a very unseaworthy manner. The ratings were overworked, undervalued and underpaid and they had recently had their pay and rations frozen for two years which did nothing to improve their mood – I can tell you...

Capt. Buerk did not keep a Captain’s log – like most Captains – oh no - instead he kept a Back log. This was a list of the number of times the ship travelled from the main island to Presbycusia to deliver its load – including the magic seeds for the old folk. Lately the deliveries were taking longer and longer – some of the crew had jumped ship whilst others preferred to stay in their hammocks during the day. This meant that the ratings had to work harder than ever to deliver the seeds within the deadline. The Steamboat Authority had stipulated that the number of journeys to be made before an old person received their seeds should be no more than 18 journeys – and sometimes it was the case that the seeds were delivered after this time. The islanders were very unhappy about this and used the island’s semaphore station to send messages to the S/S Enterprise to ask when they may receive their seeds! This caused a lot of upset and extra work for the semaphore operative on the S/S Enterprise who was a comely, flame-haired woman of ample proportions and maturity called Juanita. Juanita did her best to deal with the very many semaphore requests from the islanders – and there were times where she spent so much time at the boat’s semaphore office that at the end of the day she was very tired and used to flag quite badly.

This went on for many months. Extra coal was ordered to make things go faster – but it was very poor quality and used to fall out of the ship’s boilers. And still the Back log showed no signs of improvement. Oh dear!

Now the S/S Enterprise was not the only vessel that made the trip from the main island to Presbyacusia to deliver the magic seeds, By Timothy, no... There was a fleet of small steampackets – The Hellraisers – who could deliver the magic seeds in next to no time by comparison. Their crew wore smart uniforms, with shiny buttons and lanyards. They had been operating the route for a little while now without the need to keep a Back log. Food for thought, mulled Capt. Buerk.

One day the Capt. gathered the ratings together to read a notice posted outside the boat’s boiler room. The notice was headed TTL (Toe The Line) and it said that the tender to deliver the seeds was very much up for grabs – and that from next year those ships that could deliver the magic seeds quickly and without spillage would be looked on more favourably by the seed merchants on the main island.

What does this mean?” one of the old salts asked the Capt.

Good question!” he barked “I have been looking at the Hellraisers way of going about their business and I like the cut of their jib, frankly” he continued. “Look at their uniforms and smart lanyards, they really do look the part! Look at us by comparison, my hearties! Perhaps we need to improve our appearance and start to look the part also”

The ratings looked at each other somewhat confused.

Will we get extra coinage to pay for the uniforms?”

Oh no!” laughed the Capt. “there is no money for that!”

 “The lanyards will get in the way of our stoking, won’t they?” said another old salt.

I’ve thought of that” said the Capt. and he proudly inflated his chest and the ratings could see his bright new lanyard – tucked inside his vest.

Ooooooohh!” they gasped in wonderment.

Will the new uniforms reduce our back log? For in truth we are overworked, undervalued and underpaid” asked one of the ratings.

And skint!” said another who had already worked out that a considerable proportion of next month’s meagre pay would be spent on his new uniform.

 “What news of Midshipman Qeasy?” ventured another skint crew member.

He is on a very special mission in the Tahitian Seas” replied the Capt. somewhat uncomfortably, “looking at treatments for mal de mer, seasickness – that sort of thing”.

Will he bring news of our back log?” the skint crew member further asked.

 “Probably not” replied the good Capt. “That’s all for now” said the Capt. “all hands on deck!” (except those that were still in their hammocks).

The islanders continued to wait for their magic seeds from the S/S Enterprise – were they overly concerned whether their seeds were delivered by a smart uniform? - no-one in truth knew. “Should have gone to Hellraisers!” was fast becoming the mantra of the old folk on the island... [to be continued].

The 2nd Saltburn Beer Festival 
Saltburn Arts and Community Centre
Albion Terrace
North Yorkshire TS12 1JW
Tel: 01287 624997

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Does anyone else find these football club mascots annoying? Some of them look bloody frightening and have the most ridiculous names - Cyril the Swan (Swansea), Gunnersaurus Rex (Arsenal) and Sammy the Shrimp (Southend Utd).

They can traumatise a small unsuspecting child for life; the way they creep about and start waving their paws/fins/wings/tails etc. Like the child snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - they give me the creeps. Have people not heard of coulrophobia? Well there must be an equivalent with these often grotesque artefacts! And they think they’re so bloody cool and funny with their inane gestures and silly mannerisms. Well they’re not... Mr and Mrs Magpie at Meadow Lane? - you just want to shove the pair of them under a 'bus.

No-one is laughing...

Sammy the Shrimp
What happened to the old traditions? – Everton Toffee Mints  being thrown into the crowd before each game at Goodison Park? Do they still do that? Or the Beeston and District Pipe Band  playing at the City Ground?

Now let's consider Doncaster Rovers. Earlier this year Tracy Chandler, 40, was ‘devastated’ when she was sacked by email after posing next to her Donny Dog (Doncaster Rovers) costume in little more than her night attire. The self-employed hairdresser had been appearing as the mascot at the Keepmoat Stadium for three years - unpaid - prior to the incident.

Thankfully Doncaster Rovers chairman John Ryan had a rethink on the decision saying: ‘I think sacking was a bit over the top, Some people thought it was inappropriate, which it was, so we took a dim view of it'

Ms Chandler, who admitted that she didn't tell the club about the photo shoot, said she's just looking forward to getting back on the job this season.
Tracy Chandler, underwear,  mascot, sacked, Doncaster Rovers
'I've loved being Donny Dog and I'm delighted to get my job back' said Tracy.

Nice puppies Tracy, by the way!

Doncaster Rovers mascot Tracy Chandler has been given her job back as Donny the Dog
Billingham Catholic Club
37 Wolviston Road,
Cleveland TS23 2RU
Tel: 01642 551137

Sunday, 23 October 2011


FIFA 2012 – what’s all that about? It’s in the game apparently...

Now in my day it was table football – and Subbuteo in particular. Flick to kick! None of this Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 malarkey – but real plastic playing pieces on hemispherical bases (which were self-righting and allowed a dribbling movement of sorts) with a football the size of a small planet proportionally speaking. You moved the players across the pitch with a flicking action, usually with the index finger - no pushing or shoving allowed. I had such a set which I had built up over the years. Tremendous fun! Not just domestic teams either but teams from all corners of the globe were there – Cameroon, Italy (away strip), Uruguay, Argentina and not to forget Belgium...

Of course not everyone in our family appreciated the aesthetic and pleasure to be derived from staging a mini-World Cup tournament within the space of an afternoon. Especially younger siblings.

Enter sister dragging a limp, lifeless doll behind her complete with a vacant expression – and I’m not talking about the doll either. Plodding into the living room (now converted into a comprehensive playing area complete with floodlights and commentary box) with not a care in the world and trampling over the plastic players preparing for a free-kick; she didn’t have any clue the havoc she was causing! Considerable damage and carnage was wrought, I can tell you!

There was no explaining to her the mash-up she had made on these occasions! All she could offer was senseless, childish babble! In truth that was all she was reasonably capable of at that developmental stage of her life to be fair! After guiding her off the playing surface, with a few harsh words for good measure, the scale of the destruction was assessed. Peter Osgood (headless), Norman Hunter (missing left leg – probably no bad thing in his case), Gordon Banks (supine and unlikely to be upright again), Bobby Moore (missing bracelet) and it went on... You couldn’t repair them either – no amount of skill with an Airfix glue kit could undo the needless mutilation.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, I’m told. Now kids can be cruel – we know that. After a particularly distressing incident where most of the Brazil team was butchered after another thoughtless heavy-footed incursion onto the sacred green baize, I decided to teach the little minx a lesson – once and for all. Now I’m not proud of this many years after the event – but all I can say is the howls of pain and heartrending sobs at the discovery of a much-loved Tiny Tears doll – bereft of lachrimal function due to enucleation  – has lived with me for a long time. Truly traumatised, my sister was, with more tears and sobs than the doll had ever provided. After the eye removal the doll looked more like the spawn of Chucky than anything that could be taken to bed for comfort and cuddling! Not nice, though! Hang your head in shame...

I was chief suspect, of course – but then as now – have a habit of shrugging my shoulders on such occasions and adopting an implausible but at the same time credible aura of innocence – as if to say – “Surely you don’t think I would do such a thing? The very idea!” It’s an invaluable skill to have – so use it...
My dad – although given to bouts of ergophobia – was quick to act on the disharmony that existed between his two youngest offspring and entered into “resourceful dad mode”. He laid out the green baize pitch once more – but this time on its own bespoke chipboard base – which provided the necessary grip to bring about a perfect, smooth playing surface. Like Portman Road on the opening day of the football season. It didn’t end there, by Timothy! Goals were installed with mini clamps to keep them in place and the floodlights were repaired and were brighter than ever. The whole assembly could now be positioned on the kitchen table, which after tea was ready for some finger-flicking fun! Turning the kitchen lights off and relying on floodlights alone brought a collective gasp of wonderment - "Ooooooooo!"-  from school mates preparing for the evening ahead. Magical! Truly floodlit football - just like the Bernabéu Stadium on European football nights it was. Good work, dad!

I revisited my Subbuteo years later when I moved into a very nice studio flat in Crouch End and acquired additional playing resources. However the revival was as short-lived as a David van Day comeback, due to lack of playing partners, and the whole show was consigned to a closet for the duration of my time in north London and remained in closets and attics since then on my later travels elsewhere.

Why bring all this up now? Well I have recently decided to sell the remaining teams that survived along with those I acquired somewhile later. Seemingly there is a thriving market for these things which I have only just become aware of and some interest has been shown from dealers and table football enthusiasts alike. In truth the teams have lain untouched in various attics and hallways across the country for nearly three decades - and the proceeeds from their sale will pay for a decent night out or two. Some serious money can be trousered for the rarer teams, I can tell you. Italy (2nd strip -  ref 443 - see below) - £40.00?

It's funny but I have bonded once more with these little plastic fellas in recent weeks, but they have been boxed up (25 teams) and sent off to a dealer who has offered a decent wedge for them. I hope they get the opportunity to grace the baize once more. I miss them already.

Interesting fact - tin cans and tin foil are constructed from aluminium, not tin.

Saltburn Conservative and Unionist Club
1 Balmoral Terrace,
TS12 1AS
Tel: 01287 622473

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


12th October 1985 – Nottingham Forest beat Aston Villa 1 - 2 at Villa Park on that Saturday; it was a warm, balmy day as I recall and it was also the day I got married at nearby St. Mary the Virgin parish church. I’m no longer married now – that much is obvious. In truth we ended up with food in the 'fridge that lasted longer than our marriage – but I remember my wedding day as if it was yesterday – if it was tomorrow I’d cancel it!

I am not saying I lacked uxorious intent, my ex-wife and I were happy for quite some time, but that was before we met each other!

Happily-married – an oxymoron or a blessed union? I’ll let others decide...

I had to hector my pressed mum and dad to let me have a drink in the Rodney before we attended the church service – a bit embarrassing that for a man in his late-20s imploring his parents in that way. The fact that we had to wait for the pub to open didn't lighten my dad's mood any. And his mood was to get worse! I still don't know how we got lost on the short trip to the church. The narrow country lanes didn't help of course.

"What does that sign say over there, Minnie?"  he said to my mum sitting in the front passenger seat, after we left the pub.

"Err.... Pick Your Own, Jim"  she said.

"NOT THAT ONE! I can bloody read that one! I mean the one underneath!"

"Errrr..... Strawberries"  she replied. "And there's no need to shout!"

Four of us – including best man – crammed in a Talbot Samba – the colour of which I will never be able to describe eventually made the trip to the church after an all too quick pint. Last pint as a bachelor...

Interesting fact - Ambisinistrous is the opposite of ambidextrous. It means 'no good with either hand'.


The Rodney
North Hill
nr Chelmsford
Essex CM3 4TQ
Tel: 01245 222385

Saturday, 8 October 2011


My first trip to the US was a long time ago now and included a wedding in Connecticut (a couple I scarcely knew in all honesty) and a chance to meet up with an old, sadly now-estranged, friend of mine who was best man at my wedding some two years previously. Incidentally I have never held that against him! He had moved to NYC the year before I got married – maybe he knew something I didn’t...

When I go abroad I tend to avoid drinking places which have “Pub” in their title – and especially if they’re Irish/Scottish-themed with shamrocks, shillelaghs or tartan! They don’t resemble any pub I am likely to want to drink in anyway...

Now we have the internet at our disposal, you can plan your likely watering hole locations in advance before you travel. My recent trip to northern Italy was a good example of that (blogs #39 – 41). A spectacular success! Good bars and food...

Planning ahead saves hours of low-quality drinking time. I’d sooner walk past 10, 15 or even 30 establishments to find the right rub-a-dub dub that will suit my needs and wants.

Thankfully my estranged chum was aware of my drinking preferences and took me to the place featured here. It’s relocated since those days, not far from the Village, and the beer range on offer remains impressive (another pub is now at the previous address). Yes – Peculier Pub does include “Pub” in its title – I’m aware of that – but a little local knowledge helps as well.

Let’s Go Mets!

Peculier Pub
182 West 4th Street 
Greenwich Village
NYC, NY 10014

now relocated to:- 

145 Bleecker Street
NYC, NY 10012-1429
Tel: (212) 353-1327

Saturday, 1 October 2011


Indian summer – what’s all that about?

Well the recent good weather certainly reminded me of what these unseasonably warm and hazy conditions in autumn are all about!

Now the term Indian Summer has nothing to do with the south-east Asia continent, but rather the reference began to emerge in the 18th century with North American Indians who were considered the first to witness and comment on these meteorological conditions. The North American Indians - native Americans - who lived on the eastern seaboard used to depend on extended periods of fine, quiet, sunny weather at this time of the year to complete their harvest and to put together stores of food to see them through the long, cold winters.

The north-eastern US is well known for the combination of high temperatures and high humidity levels during the summer, often starting in June and not subsiding until September.

In the UK, weather observers knew of the American description from the mid-19th century onwards, but the expression did not gain wider usage until the 1950s.

Ms J Grucela
The Cask & Glass,
39-41 Palace Street,
Tel: 0207 834 7630

Sunday, 25 September 2011


In 1961 Cliff Richard was already a household name...

 ...not in our house he wasn’t!

My mum had many fine qualities and attributes – a nurturing spirit, someone who I could always turn to and one of the few individuals I could rely on for loyalty and understanding.

The one thing she didn’t have was a sense of humour at times!  

She couldn’t understand puerile pranks in particular; like the time I arrived home one Christmas Eve afternoon and shoved the biggest courgette imaginable through our letter box and shouted:

Mum, mum, run for your life – the Martians are coming!”

She turned round to my father and merely said “What’s he going on about, Jim?”

Not even a smile... 

Admittedly alcohol was involved in thinking up the practical joke in the first place. Why did I bother? The cost of a phallic proportioned courgette at that time of year was half a week’s wages, anyway.

But it was my mum’s dead-pan puzzled look on these occasions that was often the bigger laugh; she could be funny without realising it. That may seem insensitive towards her, it’s not meant to be. The truth is she wanted to join in – but she sometimes didn’t know how, especially if the joke was too silly for her to be bothered... I can't really blame her.

God give her Paradise...

Do book early for Christmas...

The Artillery Arms
102 Bunhill Row
Tel: 020 7253 4683
Fax: 020 7553 9019