Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Yes, it is Special.

Christmas or Xmas if you can't be arsed writing the whole word, it's either a time to be looked forward to immensley (if you are a kid) or a logistical nightmare of shopping hell (if you are an adult).

I remember feeling insanely excited on Christmas Eve as a kid. The angel chimes were put on top of the telly and the candles lit under it and we were all allowed a snowball each courtesy of my Grandma's stash of Advocaat.

Does anyone drink Advocaat at any other time of year or in any other form than a snowball?

Me and my brothers would put a pillowcase with our names safety pinned on them under the tree and leave out mince pies and a glass of brandy for Santa then go to bed as giddy as idiots.

After waking up and running around like demented bloody banshees the kids would open their presents first, then my Dad would go pick up his mum so she could enjoy the unfeasibly large Christmas dinner before we all had to muck in with the washing up.

Mum excluded as she had cooked the whole thing.
Then time for the adults to open their presents before Grandma hogged the telly and watched Please Sir!' while we complained that we wanted to watch the Bond film.

As I've got older the presents side of Christmas has become less important and the food has taken centre stage, the big dinner, leftovers for tea, mince pies and crackers and cheese.

Don't let big stores hijack it by trying to get you to spend yourself into bankruptcy,at the end of the day Christmas feels special and we should enjoy it as much as we can.

Although I'll be at work all over this Christmas unfortunately.

Friday, 26 November 2010

English Snow

Snow. Basically it is rain that's gone hard. We haven't had much over the past decade or so but last winter was a beauty. I even ended up crashing my car when the council didn't grit the steep road in  Lowtown and my car went skating downhill into a parked Peugeot.

Annoying for me and the owner of the Peugeot but also exciting as I slithered down the icy hill, steering away from the car in front and another struggling up the hill towards me before banging into the Peugeot's rear end. It certainly gets the heart racing at 06:25am.

You know when it's going to snow over here as it is headline news, as though an apocalyptic ice age was hoving into view rather than a couple inches of snow.

Obviously kids love it as it means possible school closures when the boilers mysteriously pack up. How come school boilers are the only ones that can't handle the cold and the one at my work chugs along just fine.

Despite the inconvenience caused by the bad weather I still get a bit excited by snow and I bet most people do. Except maybe pensioners for the obvious reasons.

Everything looks different and trying to get about becomes a challenge and although it is a bit of a pain I enjoy the change of routine.

So let's stop moaning about snow and accept the fact that it gets cold in winter and always has done.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Evil Feline

Cats, docile domesticated pets or evil furry little Hitlers bent on world domination? They sit around our houses eating and sleeping and acting all innocent.

However if they think no-one is around this behaviour changes.

My wife used to have a cat when she lived in a flat and one night got up to go to the toilet in the dark. While she was sat on the pot her cat came into the bathroom and didn't see her sat there in the dark.

The cat then jumped into the bath, squatted over the plughole and had a wee. When my wife spoke the cat looked around in shock, as though caught out.

As for myself, I used to have an early morning paper round when I was a kid that took me around a housing estate. The gardens used to have high wooden fences and gates so you couldn't see into the garden until you opened the gate.

One morning as I was approaching one garden I could hear a strange mewling sound, it sounded a little like the cat in the old 'Charlie says' public information films, (Youtube it and you'l see what I mean).

I pushed open the gate and was confronted with a number of cats all sat in the garden in a circle, the cat making the strange mewling noise was sat in the centre of this circle.

Everybody froze as the gate opened, I stood looking at them, they all turned to look at me. There was an awkward silence for about a second then the cats all starburst, shooting off in all directions leaving me looking at an empty yard.

Now I know I didn't imagine this but it did make me wonder what goes on at home when I am at work and the cats have got the house to themselves.

Having a catflap it probably means I have a house full of cats all sat in my living room, passing around a mouse and larging it on catnip.

Don't be fooled, they have a secret life that we don't play a part in. Watch your backs.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dress your Age

I recently went to a Slayer gig and came away with a sore neck, ringing in my ears and a tour shirt.

The sad thing is when I got home and tried the shirt on I looked like a right knob. Clothes that I wore when I was younger now look ridiculous on me, as though I am desperately trying to remain young by wearing tshirts with bands on them.

It's like when you see someone who was famous years ago and they still have the same hairstyle they did when they were famous, it looks tragic.

So my future now contains shirts, tank tops and trousers with high, elasticated waists.

I can still wear my Slayer shirt but only when I am decorating the house.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

God save the Queen from what?

When is the Queen going to shift over and give Prince Charles a go? He's starting to look a bit old these days but it looks like she's welded herself to the throne.

Charles is touring the country in the Royal Train at the moment, trying to spread awareness of climate change and doing his bit by having his train run on cooking oil.
I didn't even know there was a royal train.

At least Charles tries to talk to people, the best we get from his mum is the Christmas Day speech which she has been doing for years and still comes across as stilted and awkward.

She may as well hold up a sign saying 'I'm reading this from an Autocue'.

I've nothing against the Royals apart from them having too much money.
What is annoying is the forelock tugging and toadying that occurs whenever the media runs a story on the queen.

It is a given that nothing too controversial can be said about them. I don't know why, it isn't as though they can have us executed anymore.

Whenever someone brings up the subject of the queens vast wealth you can bet someone else will pipe up and say 'Yes but she works had for this country'.

Well I work hard for this country too but no-one gives me a castle and a shed load of jewellery.

Lets keep the Royal Family as they do pull in the tourists and the only time America takes any notice of us is when it's something to do with the Queen.

Also they are one of the more visible aspects of our culture and in this day we should cherish that.

But let's give them a sensible wage.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


There is a bloke who stands on the Leeds/Bradford Road all day in all weathers holding a sign advertising a hand car wash.

It's one of those places staffed by immigrants who are probably trained as accountants or doctors but who were unlucky enough to have been born in some Third World toilet and have had to come over here.

Not only does this poor sod hold a sign but is dressd in a grubby, motheaten bear suit, like a football mascot that has hit the bottle and lives in a skip.

It is similar to the staff at Asda who get to stand near the checkouts holding up a sign shaped like a pointing finger saying 'Space Here'. I always thank these people and feel I should give tham a tip or something.

The worst job I had was as a flue cleaner.

I used to work for a company that cleaned the flues of huge factory chimneys. The flues were large chambers at the base of the chimneys were the soot and ash would collect while the smoke and fumes went up the chimney.

When these chambers got full then they would shut the boilers down and bring in a contractor company to clean out the soot.

We would arrive at the weekend when the factory was shut and climb into the soot chambers through a hatch in the boiler room wall.

It wasn't a technical job. There would be blokes inside the chamber shovelling the soot towards the hatch in the wall where a piece of corrugated tin was shaved onto the hatchway and curved to form a ramp where someone would stand outside scraping the soot down the tin into wheelbarrows.

The barrows would then be wheeled through the boilerhouse and out into the yard where the barrow would be run up a plank of wood placed against a skip and emptied in.

This process was as grim and back breaking as it sounds. We wore full body suits with smog masks and goggles and wellies.

Portable lights were set up but clouds of soot would blow in the breeze coming down the chimney and out through the open hatch and the goggles were so scratched and dirty that most didn't wear them as vision was virtually impossible.

As you dug further down the soot became hotter as it hadn't chance to cool down and you couldn't stand in the same spot for too long.

The blokes inside the chamber would swap with the barrow pushers and do it in two hour shfts.

I remember coming out and looking down at my wellies. The soles had melted in the heat and rubber was actually dripping off them.

Needless to say it was a filthy job and in two days we would fill four giant skips with soot. The pay was pretty good but all the blokes I worked with had death rattle coughs and smoked Capstans or Senior Service filterless fags as they were past caring about the state of their lungs.

I reckon most of them have died from Emphysema by now.
Sittng in my office with a cup of coffee and a computer doesn't seem that bad now.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ada Porch - 5th Dec 1910 to 22nd Apr 2010

Our grandma passed away in Lands House Nursing Home after succumbing to a chest infection, eight months shy of her 100th birthday.

She was 2 years old when the Titanic sank and she lived through both World Wars. Born Ada Pullan in Burley-in-Wharfedale to George and Beatrice Pullan she had a younger sister soon after who sadly passed away at a very young age.

A second sister, Mabel, came along in 1913 and as the two grew up they helped their dad by working in his small grocery shop.

She married Gordon Porch in 1935 and on 15th of May 1937 she gave birth to a baby girl, Pauline.

Unfortunately Gordon and Ada did not have long together before World War Two came along and Gordon joined the Army. He did not survive the war and was killed in North Africa when a German artillery shell struck the lorry he was driving.

Ada never remarried and brought up Pauline as a single parent as many widows had to do after the war.

Mabel married Les and they also had a daughter, Angela.

Pauline grew up and met the man she wold spend the rest of her life with, George Cameron, a sailor in the Royal Navy. They married and had a son, Gordon and after a number of years moved to Halifax. They invited Ada to move in with them in 1965 as there was plenty of room.
This room was quickly taken up by the arrival of another three sons, Fraser Heath and Callum within the next six years.

Mabel's daughter Angela married Bob Lee and they had two daughters Cherie and Collette.

Ada and Mabel were very close and went on foreign holidays together. This was back when most people went to the British coast for their holidays but Mabel loved travel and Ada was happy to go with her.

Tragically in November 1994 Pauline fell ill and deteriorated alarmingly with a brain illness that doctors were unable to treat.

Pauline lapsed into a coma and passed away in March 1995.

Mabel too passed away in 2005 after suffering a stroke.

My grandma lived with us all the years that my brothers and myself were growing up, she was like a third parent only one that didn't give you a rollicking.

If I ever did anything to annoy her she would say that I was "warna me arse" which as far as I can tell is old Yorkshire for "you are as much use as my arse".

She smoked Peter Stuyvesants and liked to put whisky in her tea. If she wanted to go to the toilet she would call it "spending a penny".

She would buy me a Pink Panther bar every Saturday and would have her lunch at the Merrie England cafe in Halifax just about every weekday.

She opened up a building society account for each of us and put money into it religously for years.

The thing she used to say most of all was that she was a nuisance and we would be glad when she was gone. While her presence must have occasionally put a strain on my parents marriage, she was never a nuisance to me or my brothers and the fact that she lived with us made for a stronger bond between us all.

I don't want to appear as though I am looking at the past with rose tinted glasses and making out that we were like The Waltons.

We were just as fractious and squabbly as any other family and some of the rows my grandma and my mum had were blazing.

But now that she has gone I see how much she contributed to our upbringing and the effect that she had on all our lives and I'm grateful she was there for us.

I think I can speak for my dad, my brothers, Angela, Cherie and Collete when I say that we love you.

Night night Grandma.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Proper Music.

When I was a kid in the early '70's my big brother listened to Black Sabbath. I was going to church and sunday school at the time and won awards for my scripture exams. As such I always thought that my brother Gordon would be going to hell for listening to devils music.

I used to sit in his room and listen to his records with him, mainly due to big brother worship. Slade were okay which was mainly down to Noddy Holder's voice which seemed to grab you by the ears and give you a bloody good shaking. No-one can shout like Noddy.

He listened to David Bowie which just went in one ear and out the other, it was Sabbath that fascinated me. The sombre, doomy song Black Sabbath that starts with a thunderstorm and has lines like 'Big black shape with eyes of fire'.
These were more than songs, they were theatrical pieces.

As I grew a little older I started listening to Johnny Cash because some of his songs had fights in them and told stories which I thought was great. Relatives however thought this meant that I liked all country music so bought me Dolly Parton and Ken and Billy Ford albums.

The punk movement was at it's peak when I got into my teens and I was a bit too young to get into it. My friend Paul listened to the Boomtown Rats so I did too.
Looking back they were pretty much public school punks but there songs had structure and they knew how to play their instruments.

Punk went out of fashion then a Mod/Ska revival occurred with the Specials, Madness and the film Quadrophenia at the cinema.
This held no interest for me as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal happened at the same time and everything clicked into place for me.

I can remeber going to Bradleys Records in Halifax, the metal section was downstairs and I didn't know where to turn, there was stuff everywhere. I bought my first three albums that day, Deepest Purple, Wheels of Steel by Saxon and Glory Road by Gillan. My friends and I would go to each others houses and listen to Axe Attack and the Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance.

We wore denim sawn off jackets covered in patches, it didn't matter which bands were on them, as long as they were metal. Pop music was looked down on as people only liked it because it was fashionable. Metal is all about the guitars and the talents of the musicians and if your band has mediocre musicians then you won't last long.

Ozzy Osbourne was the uncrowned king of metal and we went to every gig we could, leaping up and down in the crowd and bellowing ourselves hoarse. Neckache and ringing in the ears were suffered the day after concerts but it was worth it.

We would go to the Tram Shed on Sunday nights and blag our way past the doormen because we were underage and spend the evening there, headbanging and trying to make half a bitter last all night because I only had money coming in from two paper rounds.

Thirty years later and I have just been to see Trivium, an American thrash band with my mate Colin, whose house I used to listen to the Friday Rock Show in all those years ago.

Musical fashions come and go but metal just won't go away. It creates sub species and is used in mainstream media but it is still looked on as a poor relation, an embarrasing noisy cousin who refuses to grow up and mature gracefully.

Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath put his finger on it when he said that liking metal is like supporting a football team. Once you know you like it you are in it for life.

I know that I am and I give thanks my big brother Gordon for letting me listen to those booming Black Sabbath materpieces when I was a kid. Cheers.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

My Eyes Hurt

When I went to see Avatar we decided to go for the full mashings and saw it in 3D on the Imax in Bradford.

I've never watched a 3D film before and was expecting to be given those flimsy cardboard specs with the red and green acetate lenses. Instead we were given some big black lens jobs that made us look like 7o's era Elton John.

I have to say I thought the 3D was great and the film is a massive technical achievement with pinsharp attention to detail.

The story itself was best described on South Park as 'Dances with Smurfs' and lets things down a little. Sam Worthington in the lead role is a bit bland and the plot device used to get the main characters out of military custody seems forced and unconvincing.

However this misses the point of the film which is to point and say 'Wow' at the special effects, which for once are genuinley special.

This could be a weakness when the film comes out on DVD as it is the 3D experience that makes the film stand out.

Worth a look but go all the way and wear the Elton specs.