Monday, 31 October 2011

The Meaning Of Life.

This morning, or was it last night? Can't be too sure about the time. Let us for the sake of expediency call it the middle of the night, whenever that is. Anyway it was still dark outside. Actually it was dark inside too because I never switched the light on. Which probably explains why I didn't know what time it was.

Oh blimey, got distracted again. Why can't I stick to the point? You know, sometimes I wish I had the ability to switch off certain bits of my mind. Then perhaps I would be better able to concentrate on the job in hand. How I managed to get distracted today of all days is an absolute mystery, because my dear friends what happened last night was of such mind blowing importance, that nothing else, and I do mean nothing else, in this world should matter.

Let me explain. Oh good, I hear you exclaim, finally, he is going to get to the point. Really now, there is no need for sarcasm! Please, let me get on. This is so important.

I woke up this morning in an extremely heightened state of excitement indeed! No, not that! Please! No, something really exciting happened. Something of, and I don't say this lightly, worldwide significance. This morning, ladies and gentlemen, I, John Bain, of the tiny parish of Yapton, in the district of Arundel, part of the county of West Sussex, somewhere in England, discovered, wait for it, wait for it, discovered....

                                      THE MEANING OF LIFE!

As I lay there, alone, in my bed, tears filled my eyes, as the realisation dawned, as to what this actually meant. My life would be transformed of course. There would be television interviews. Journalists would besiege my humble abode. People, women mostly, I hoped, would throw themselves at my feet, maybe even into my bed! No sorry, that is wrong, I'm getting carried away again. Scientists would write weighty tomes on my discovery. This blog, would take on far greater significance, than it currently does. The statistics page would go into meltdown. I would, it goes without saying, be world famous.

Briefly I thought about writing down, what I had discovered. But then, laughing at myself, after all, how was I going to forget something this important..? I didn't bother, and drifted off, back into sleep.

Why, oh why, didn't I write it down? It has gone. The meaning of life? Sorry, but I haven't a clue! I have let you down. I have let the world down. I am so sorry, truly I am. I shall go back to sleep, that's what I'll do. Maybe, just maybe. I'll be given a second chance!

I will say it again, I am so, so sorry.

What more can I say?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Beware. Grumpy Old Man.

Isn't it odd the effect one ill thought out remark from a friend can have? I am consumed by grumpiness today because of such a remark, and I have determined never to speak to the person who made it, ever again. I mean that. I am so stubborn. Once my mind is made up, that's it. No way will I change my mind. Never! Not in a month of Sunday's.

Silly isn't it? I know that. I also know that this bad mood will pass as quickly as it arrived. I also know that the person who made the remark, is probably totally unaware of it's effect on me. But leave me alone, to enjoy my grumpy moment, please. They don't occur too frequently these days, and I want to wallow in my misery for a while longer.

We all do it I would think, make unthinking comments. It is impossible to spend too long thinking before we speak. Blimey! If we were to mind our P's and Q's all the time the art of conversation would surely die.
I do it. Used to do it a lot when I was younger. Not so much these days, but I'm sure it still happens occasionally. As I say, sometimes we are not even aware of it.

That's better! Got that off my chest. Now I am off to give my friend a hug. She, or he, I'm not saying, will perhaps wonder why they are being hugged. I shall tell them it's because I like them.

Now you lot, cheer up! Honestly my mood has lifted. I didn't mean to bring you down with me. I like you. I really do. I like you a lot.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Lucky The Crow. 2006 - 2011. Sadly Missed.

Sadness abounds around the old homestead today, as we mourn the death of, as it turned out, the mis-named, 'Lucky' the crow.
She, or he, we never did determine the true gender, but thought female, lived with us from her fledgling days. We knew at first not to interfere when we found her and her sibling. Her parents were still around. However when the sibling was killed on the road, and Lucky was injured by an unknown predator, we took her, if you will excuse the unintended pun, under our wing.

George, my extremely handsome son, cared for her, until she was old enough to be given her freedom. We wondered if her slightly damaged wing would hinder her from flying, but on the day of release, she took to the sky with ease, and disappeared from our lives.
Three days later she reappeared, and never strayed from our boundaries again. In the first few days of her return she was, to be frank, as far as I was concerned, a flipping nuisance. she would without warning fly down and land on my head. Always a shock and painful as she dug her claws into my scalp. I soon discouraged this and she gave me up as a potential roost.

George however, had no such qualms and she took to always flying to him. He became the only person she fully trusted. It was a wonderful thing to hear him call to her and watch her fly and land on his outstretched arm.

Last year at four years old she reached maturity, and I wondered if the call of the wild would encourage her away. But it never did. Perhaps she knew that due to her damaged wing, and small size, she would not prosper.

She mucked in with the chickens most of the time, sharing their food. Sadie, the German Shepherd, and Bonnie the cat, somehow knew that she was part of the family and gave her no grief. Sadie would even tolerate Lucky's favourite game of sneaking up behind her, pulling her tail, and running away. Remarkable tolerance from Sadie, who does not like crows or magpies being on her territory and chases them away. How  she could tell the difference from a distance, always amazed me.
We suspect, from the way her feathers had been plucked out, that she was taken by a sparrowhawk. The same sparrowhawk who has cleared the area of collared doves, and takes the occasional blackbird.

So goodbye Lucky. Thanks for enriching our lives. We will miss you.

She lived free and wild, and I guess she died as a wild bird dies. 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Hey! What's The Order Of Importance Here?

I am up and about early. So thought I would wish you good morning. Or good, whatever time of day or night it is with you.

I have been given two small armchairs, Just the right size for my showmans wagon.

Last night they were both occupied.

Oh well, don't worry about me, I'll sit on the floor!

Sadie appears to have gone from a kennel dwelling guard dog, to a cosseted indoor one. How did that happen?

 Am I going a bit soft?

Bonnie the cat has even taken the shirt off my back!

I wouldn't want to be without these two usurpers though.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Old Timber, Soggy Shepherds Pie, Football, A Parrot And An Open Microphone, Make My Day.

I have had a busy day constructing my outdoor art gallery. I am using any old bits of timber and materials I have about the place to make it, and as usual when doing work like this I am thoroughly enjoying myself. There are no plans for it except in my head. I am aiming to make it look like a rustic covered way, or something like that, and I shall hang my paintings and other stuff that I make in it. Difficult to describe it really, but when it's done I shall take photos and show them to you.
George my extremely handsome son, shares a sandwich with Lucky the crow, and Sadie.

This evening I made dinner for my extremely handsome son George, because his Mum Tricia was away visiting her Mum in London. I made a shepherds pie. Unfortunately I left too much gravy in the mince, and the mashed potato I put on top was absorbed into it, so it was a bit.. a lot, soggy. Never mind he said he enjoyed it and he had a second helping so I believe he did.

After dinner I took him to his football training in town. While he was there I went and saw a lovely couple of people who want a portrait done of their son, and his parrot! I am looking forward to doing this one. The parrot is brightly coloured and will give me a challenge balancing the bright colours against their sons skin tones.

Leaving them, I went back and watched George training. I think both he and I have got over our fears that his recent knee operation would affect his playing. It certainly hasn't from what I could see, and he looks to be full of confidence on the pitch again.

After I had dropped George back at home, I had to go into town again straight away, to play at an open mic night. Which of course I did magnificently! Well I have to say that, no one else will. I'm not blowing my own trumpet though, because I play guitar.

It was nearly midnight when I got home. It's a cold night so I had some cornflakes with hot milk. Then I started reading other blogs. Now that I am following quite a few, it takes a bit of time to catch up, and the time is now 1-45 am.

I had, or have, a tale to tell, but it is late and I am tired. It is quite a complicated story about the time I ran away from foster care at age 13. So I will leave it now until the next time I am on here. I must apologise for not writing a post this time, but it is very late. Please forgive my laziness.

Thank you to all of you for reading my literary efforts, and for your encouraging comments. It all means such a lot to me.

                           Come back again soon. Bye for now.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Cast Iron Lady Warms My Heart.

These photos are taken inside my self built showmans wagon and show the cast iron stove happily working away and keeping me, Sadie the German Shepherd, and Bonnie the cat snug and warm.
As you can see it has an oven and a top suitable for cooking on, which it does perfectly for my simple cooking needs.
There is always a big kettle of water on too when the fire is alight. The kettle is not the pretty one in the picture, but a much bigger one. It comes in very useful in the winter because I have not yet got around to connecting the propane gas boiler for hot water.
The range is called the "Belle Portable" and dates right back to 1860. According to my maths that makes her over 150 years old, and still going strong.
Did you notice that I refer to it as her? This is probably because she gives me comfort and keeps me warm at night. Also as I mentioned earlier she cooks well. But that is a sexist thing to say, so please in order to keep things politically correct, forget I said it. Bloody political correctness! Where the hell did that spring from? In my young days we didn't need it. We just used common courtesy to get by. Sexist, that's another word that has sprung up from nowhere. When I was a lad we celebrated our differences. Now, well we have to watch everything we say. Sod that! Oh, don't get me started!

Sorry about that, I let myself get sidetracked. Where was I? Oh yes, I was telling you about my lovely stove. My beautiful, sexy, feminine stove, My own iron lady. Whoops here I go again!

She burns wood or coal. In fact she can burn any old rubbish. Not that I would do that, burn rubbish I mean. At least not while anyone is watching. It's frowned upon you know. Like a heck of a lot of things these days.

I found her in the small ads. I had been searching for a suitable wood burner for some time. There were lots of modern ones around, but they lacked character. I had seen a beautiful "Belle Portable" on Ebay but it was priced at £4000! Another one I saw somewhere was at £1500. There were broken ones and some with bits missing, but they were all out of my price range. In the end I decided that I would have to go for a simple modern one, even if it did look out of place in the wagon.

Then one day, feeling sad, lonely, and unloved, I was looking through the small ads in the local paper. I was probably, due to my mood, searching for the woman of my dreams in the lonely heart section. Once again I never found her, but I did spot this: 'old fashioned range for sale. £50'.

Well at 50 quid I thought it must be a modern, probably electric reproduction. I mentioned this to George, my extremely handsome son. I said it wasn't worth looking at, but he persuaded me that there was no harm in calling the phone number to find out more. So I did. The lady who answered assured me it was a genuine old stove. But I was still sceptical. I mean £50! Surely it would have been snapped up by now.

I'll cut a long story short. You haven't got all day. It was a genuine, old, cast iron, 'Belle Portable'. In perfect working order, and here it is, in my wagon, doing what it was designed to do all those years ago.

Why it is called the 'Belle Portable' I haven't worked out yet. It is definitely not portable, it weighs a ton!
It's OK though, I have reinforced the wagon floor.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Sadie The German Shepherds Independence Day Ball.

John went out without me today. So it was quite peaceful around the place. I found a way through the fence, and took myself off for a pleasant amble over the back field. It was nice. The sun was warm on my back and eased my arthritis so much that I forgot I had it. Managed to chase a few rabbits too. I didn't catch any though, although obviously I could have done if I had really wanted to.

Unfortunately, my walk was cut short when the farmer saw me, and called me over. I thought he wanted to say hallo, but he put me in the back of his truck and drove me home. Honestly some people! They really ought to mind their own business.

It turned out all right though, because it wasn't long before John arrived back. I was sitting by the gate. He assumed, as usual that I had been waiting there patient and loyal all the time he was away, and made a huge fuss of me, telling me what a good girl I am. Even went indoors especially and gave me two biscuits. I hope the farmer doesn't come back and tell any tales.
That's Bonnie behind me. Showing off as usual. She always has to muscle in.

After he'd had a cup of tea, John came out to play ball with me. I wish he wouldn't. It's OK for him, he's not the one who has to chase after it. It's all right if he just does it two or three times, but sometimes he doesn't know when to stop. He seems to forget that I am getting on a bit now and I like to take things a little bit easy.

I wonder how he would like it if he had to chase a ball up and down the paddock a dozen times. He couldn't do it. He would probably manage to retrieve it once, before sinking to the ground exhausted, and blowing like a beached whale. It's sad watching him. He just refuses to accept that he is getting older.

He can't run properly any more either, but he won't admit it to himself. Instead he has adopted a kind of skipping motion with an occasional sideways deviation, which he thinks makes him look like a professional footballer. So embarrassing, but also hilariously funny to watch.

It used to be that I would retrieve the ball every time and bring it back to him. It was so lovely to see his little face light up when I dropped the ball at his feet. It gave him such a kick to think that he had trained me to retrieve things. The truth is, that I had actually trained him to give me doggy treats.

There was a bit of a respite from the ball throwing, when he discovered that it was making his shoulder ache. He tried throwing it with his left arm, but someone remarked that he looked like a girl, so he stopped that. I did enjoy the break, and thought happily, that his ball throwing days were over.

Do you know what he has done? When he was out today he bought a ball on a rope. He says it is a present for me! Well I know what he can do with that! Really he is so thoughtless.

Anyway, I chased it a couple of times, just so he didn't think I was ungrateful about my new present, and then I'd had enough so I adopted my hangdog expression, and pretended to limp. That always works. I think he felt guilty because he gave me another couple of biscuits.

Ball on a rope, indeed! He is a silly old sod, but I am lucky to have him, and do you know he absolutely adores me.

                              Lots of love, Sadie x

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Day Jimmy Found Some Peace And Quiet.

Jimmy is my Mothers latest husband. He is a proper husband. Proper in the sense they they were legally married in the Registrars office. As usual in momentous occasions in Mums life, I was not at the actual ceremony, but I have seen photographic evidence that a marriage occurred, and I also noticed that Mum had a new outfit, and a new hat.

They have been married for about three years now, which is quite an achievement, given that Mum inflicts verbal cruelty on him daily, and blames Jimmy for practically everything, including all her own shortcomings.
Jimmy is a quiet, dour, man of few words, but when he does rise to the bait, the resulting arguments can be quite terrifying. Nothing physical, apart from Mum hurling objects at him, but extremely loud and nasty. I found the arguments so unsettling, that at the age of 14 I once again found myself in care, and resident in a local children's home.

Today being rather different than normal though, I am back with Mum and Jimmy for a few days. It is quiet in the house, apart from the loud tick tock of the clock.
Mum is in the kitchen, and I am sitting on the new settee in the living room, trying to read a magazine, but because I am constantly glancing towards the door I keep losing my place. I am nervous, because I keep expecting Jimmy to walk through the door.
Mum says there is nothing to be nervous about, because Jimmy is in the bedroom. He is definitely dead, and the lid of his coffin is screwed down very tight. There must be a draught coming from somewhere, because shivers keep running up my back.

Earlier, there had been lots of friends and neighbours round to pay their respects and look at Jimmy lying in his coffin. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best clothes, and the smell of mothballs, shoe polish, tobacco smoke, boiled egg sandwiches, and Brylcreem, was pervasively strong in the air.
The women were drinking Sherry in little glasses, "Just a very small one for me please Muriel," and the men were knocking back Jimmy's best whisky. If he wasn't already dead Jimmy would have had a heart attack at the measures they were pouring themselves. He liked to be hospitable, not philanthropic.

I had never seen a dead body before and was reluctant to look, but Mum said I had to, so that I could properly pay my respects, whatever that meant. The person in the coffin did not look like Jimmy. It looked like a skeleton. Jimmy was a burly ex wrestler.
Mum sensed what I was thinking, "He lost a lot of weight while he was ill," she said.
I was not convinced it was him, but everyone else seemed to recognise him. They stood and looked for a few seconds and spoke to each other about what a fine man he had been, and how much he would be missed at the bowls club. Things like that.

One woman peered into the coffin and exclaimed, "Oh my word Muriel, he does look well!" At which several people nodded and murmured agreement. He didn't though, he looked like a dead man who was very ill.

Just before they screwed down the coffin lid, Mum said I should give Jimmy a kiss. I thought it was a weird thing to do, and didn't want to do it, but I didn't want to make a fuss about it, so I leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. It was like kissing cold marble. Although why I thought that, I have no idea, having never kissed marble in my life, whether warm or cold.

That was the first time I had ever kissed Jimmy, or indeed, shown any affection towards him at all. It wasn't that I didn't like him. I didn't know him. My feelings were quite ambivalent. Besides, men did not show their emotions in those days. It was considered unmanly. It was a long time after his death, that I began to understand his character, as well as the realisation of just how fond of him I had been.

It was cancer that got him. He was 64 years old. It had been a tough life. Most of it spent working in the quarry. He was just a few months off retiring. Poor Jimmy. All that hard work and he never even got the gold pocket watch!

I am 64 now. I intend to keep going for some time. I still have things to do. One thing I will be doing, is letting people I like, know that I like them. Another thing I will be doing is, avoiding pointless arguments. Actually make that all arguments. Lastly, and in my opinion very importantly, I shall be making absolutely certain that I have finished every last drop of whisky in the bottle before I go.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Statistically Speaking This Might Not Count.

Do you believe the stats that Blogger shows relating to your posts? I only ask because I seem to have lost a lot of readers since my short break last month. Before my break I had an average of - don't laugh please - 109 readers every  day. Since my return the average has gone down dramatically. I can't say what it is now for certain, because I can't remember where I got the figures from in the first place. But I do know that it is much less than previous.
Also my most popular post, the one about the naked man and the woodpecker, had been read, according to the stats, 107 times. Now it seems that it has been read only about 80 times. How did that happen?
Before the break, most of my readers came from here in the UK. Now it seems that hardly anyone in the UK reads my blog. At the same time my American readership has suddenly increased about threefold. This is a nice stat. I love my American readers.
I  would like to hear if anyone else has lost stats from their blog in this way, after a short break.
Sorry this is not a proper post. But the subject of stats has been bugging me for a while, and I wonder do I put too much faith in them?
These photos from my recent visit to the Great Dorset Steam Fair will hopefully add a bit of interest to this post.
While I am here, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in my blog, and to thank those of you who have become followers. Welcome also to my new followers. You are all very much appreciated, and have added a very nice new interest to my life.

Sincerely John.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Do You Believe In Ghosts?

Years ago I had a discussion with someone about ghosts. I can't remember who it was, or where for that matter. Oh all right then, I'll admit it. It was with a drunk bloke in a pub. It wasn't really a discussion either. More of a heated argument. In fact he was so blind drunk that he didn't know what I was talking about. I was only slightly drunk, so naturally I recall the occasion very well.
I also remember it so vividly, because when I asked the drunk bloke what he thought of my theory, he said it was a load of, "pretentious old twaddle." I took exception to this remark, and told him exactly what I thought of him. At which point I was thrown out of the pub. It turned out that he was the landlord.
During the course of that learned and thought provoking afternoon drinking session I propounded the theory, that ghosts or spirits, whatever you like to call them, do not exist. That which we think of as ghosts, are, according to the theory I propounded, actually simply memories, or emotions. I used the following reasoning to explain why I thought this.
A woman has lived in the same house all her life. When she was a little girl one of her main chores was to go to the well every morning and draw a bucket of water. She had continued to go to the well every day of her life, sometimes two or three times a day, until the very day she died. She had a long life. Let us say for the sake of argument that she reached the age of 95. Let us suppose that she began going to the well when she was 10 years old. That means 85 years of two trips a day. That makes the number of journeys she made in her entire lifetime, add up to.... er.. erm.. 364 x 2 equals.. er .. 728 days.. erm no..728 trips a year. That makes 7280 trips in 10 years, times 80 equals.. no times.. no wait.. hold on a minute.. I can do this.. well anyway as I was saying that old woman made an awful lot of trips to the well in her lifetime.
Therefore I would suggest, indeed propound, that the memory, or emotions, of the old woman, would still be there, drawing water from the well, for some time after her death. If you had known the old woman, I think it is not unreasonable to suggest, that you would feel her presence so strongly you might even see her there. Further to this, even if you had simply been told about her, you might also have felt or seen her. Particularly if you have an emotional or sensitive nature. Anyway that is my theory.
Guess what has happened? Leading psychologists from four top universities have carried out a study looking at "emotional residue" left in a property.
They believe emotions form the atmosphere of a room. The experts, from Stanford University and Columbia Business School in the US and two universities in India, say they have now identified "contagion".
A spokesman said: "The emotions people experience emanate from their body and leave a trace or residue in the physical environment. When other people enter that physical space, they can sense and are influenced by it."

That, as far as I am concerned, goes a long way towards validating the theory which I came up with many years ago. Not bad for a bloke who finished his schooling at the age of eleven. His schooling, but certainly not his education. Apart from maths that is. I never did get to grips with that.
I should have written a paper on it all those years ago. I could have been famous. Think of the kudos. Maybe I would have been given an honorary doctorate. Too late now. They'll say they propounded it. Well, they didn't. I propounded that theory. Maybe they'll send me a cheque in the post.
I make no apologies for my continued use of the word propounded. It came into my brain from somewhere, and I like the sound of it, and it is after all, the way we learned people talk.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

When Is A Shed Not A Shed? When It's A Gate.

I have been busy this past couple of weeks on a new project, and I thought I would share the fruits of my labours with you.
What happens when I become enthused with something is that I allow it to take over my life. That's what has happened here, and I have been working on this project from early morning to late evening. Which is the reason why I have not done a lot of writing lately. Although the writing I have done, is, as usual, to such a high calibre that no one has been left wanting in that respect. Not that I would ever be so immodest as to actually say that. As you know by now, I am a very humble man, and take extraordinary pride in my humility.
So I hear you ask, what have I been up to? Well I hope you are ready for this revelation. I have made.. wait for it.. wait for it.. I have made a gate!
Now you see it
Yes, I thought that bit of exciting news would make you sit up and take notice. Not only have I made a gate, but it is in fact three gates in one.
Another way through.
Yes I know. I can hear your brain cells ticking over. Not only is he ever so humble, but he is a genius too. Well it is very kind of you to think about me in those terms, and thank you, but really it was nothing. Anyone could have done it. Provided they possessed the same genius as me that is. But I wouldn't ever say that of course. I'm a humble man.
Now you don't
I found this old 1950's milk bottle buried in the undergrowth.
Trompe l'oeil gate.
Side gate open.
Here it is then, the gate. I have just realised that there are actually four gates in one. By the way, that shed you see there is not really a shed. It is actually the main gate. The white picket gate on the left is not really a gate, it is a paint effect known as trompe l'oeil, which means to deceive the eye. It is painted onto the real side gate, which is also painted to look like what is behind it. I'm confusing myself here. The yellow door in the middle is real, and also opens. So there you have it, four in one. Here are some more photos.
The little milk bottle was found whilst George, my extremely handsome son and I were clearing the ground. I gave it a clean up,  filled it with white paint, and made a tin foil cap for it, the bottle is glued to the window sill with aruldite glue, which is very strong. The cap is also glued on.
All materials used in this project, are reclaimed, and cost nothing, except for the leaded window, which I bought from a friend. Huh, some friend, eh?
There is still lots of clearing and tidying to do behind the gate. The eventual aim is to create a space to display my work and open as an outdoor gallery.
Here is a confession. It has taken me ages trying to get these pictures in the right places on the page. This is the best I can do with them. So you see, I am not really a genius, but I am humble enough to admit my failure in this respect.
I do hope you have enjoyed this post. It's a bit different from normal, but I wanted to share my pleasure in this project with you.