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Another Brilliant Review for the Christmas Compendium!

I'm really pleased that people seem to like the new collection of seasonal stories 'A Christmas Cracker ' .  This latest 5 sta...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Cider and Stupidity

I was giving my daughter and son-in-law a lift to a party the other Saturday night.  As we were driving along, I remarked that I rather liked early Saturday evening, as the streets are full of young people in their best outfits, all full of hope and expectation for their night out before… “that’s dashed by cider and stupidity” my son-in-law chipped in.  I thought this was such a good phrase, and so accurate, that I just had to steal it for this article.  You see, if anyone’s hopes and aspirations were frequently dashed by cider and stupidity, then it was me. 

August is a trying month for most students.  By now, everyone should have had their ‘A’ Level and GCSE results and I really admire the bravery, but question the wisdom, of those students who were bold enough to open their results letter on live national television.  It was just as well that I was not placed in that situation when I received my GCE and CSE results back in August, 1970.

There were not many subjects at which I excelled at school, but English was definitely one subject in which I consistently did well, mostly because I enjoyed it.  English Literature was a favourite of mine and I was generally expected to achieve a good Pass in my exam, so much so, that I had been accepted to study the subject at ‘A’ Level at Burton Technical College.  Anglesey, my school in Clarence Street, did not have a Sixth Form.  In fact, the Fifth Form that I was in was a relatively recent addition, and it was still the case that the majority of students left Anglesey, with no formal qualifications, at the end of the Fourth Year.

The exam was scheduled to take place on the afternoon of a hot, early summer, Thursday.  Thursdays were my dad’s pay day and I had fallen into the habit of meeting him at The Union in Union Street to get some pocket money, scrounge a cigarette or two and, I regret to say, have a pint of cider.  This had not been a problem in the latter weeks of the school year, as we did not have to attend school, although we were expected to be at home, revising.  Whether it was wise to call in at the pub immediately before an important exam, I’ll leave you to judge.

The main problem with English Literature is that you need to be able to quote extensively from the works that you have been studying, to demonstrate your understanding of the texts.  I have always had a poor memory but I had tried to memorise a few relevant quotes for the exam.  Unfortunately, a pint of cider, on a relatively empty stomach, and on a hot day, is not a wonderful means of improving one’s mental capacity.  Sitting in the oppressive heat of the examination room, it was all I could do to stay awake, let alone recall choice quotes from Macbeth. 

To add to my distraction, there was a bee mooching around on the window next to my desk.  I have always had a horror of being stung and now, in my alcohol-induced haze, I was transfixed by this insect.  Try as I might to concentrate on the question, my mind wandered and my eyes remained glued to the bee and its meanderings.  I could only recall two of the batch of useful quotes that I had tried to commit to memory and was reduced to using these over and over again to support a wide range of points in an ever more tenuous fashion.   

Needless to say, my work did not achieve the standard expected and, in that August, I learned to my horror that I had actually managed to fail an exam that I was supposed to go on to study at ‘A’ Level.  It was only thanks to the understanding nature of Burton Technical College, and some relatively reasonable results in my other exams, that I was able to carry on with my studies.

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA

Monday, 8 August 2011

Win a signed hard copy - 2nd Edition of the quiz

Heard about Steady Past Your Granny's?  The little book that's been a surprise hit on Kindle? I'm offering a signed hard copy of the book to the first correct answer, received by 23.59 BST on 14th August, 2011, to the following cryptic-ish question, the answers to which can be found in this blog.  To make it a little easier, I have put links to the posts, and the dates of the relevant blog posts, in brackets:
What is the connection between a recent venue for a walk (The Hills Are Alive-ish, August, 2011), a little-heard film in Belper (Three for the Flea-Pit Part 2, March, 2011) and a device that perplexed my grandmother (At The Setting of the Television
November, 2010)?
In the event of more than one correct entry, the first one drawn out of my rather disreputable hat will win the prize.  If no absolutely correct entries are submitted, the nearest entry to the correct answer will win the competition.  The author's decision is entirely arbitrary, often wayward and decidedly final!  Post your entry as a Comment, which will only be published after the deadline. Good luck!



And the answer was:  Eric Idle


To explain, the recent venue for a walk was Rutland, a little-heard film in Belper was "A Hard Day's Night" starring The Beatles, and the device that perplexed my grandmother was the television.  The connection was Rutland Weekend Television was a sequel to Monty Python's Flying Circus devised, starring and written by Eric Idle.  From that show came the spoof group, 'The Rutles' (oddly similar to The Beatles) with Eric Idle and Neil Innes.


No winners I'm afraid, clearly I'm making these things too complex!




Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Hills Are Alive-ish Part 1

Do you think we could bring an action against the OS Map people under the Trade Description Act?

The reason for this question is my last Walking Weekend.  I could have put that better, as I sincerely hope it's not my last Walking Weekend.  I mean the Walking Weekend myself and three like-minded mates pottered through a few weeks ago.  I think I've mentioned these before.  They basically consist of a couple of days of healthy exercise and country air, punctuated by bouts of over-indulgence with food and drink (but not necessarily in that order, as per Eric Morecambe).  This year we invaded Rutland.

My issue with the OS is that their maps lead you (well, me anyway) to believe that little treasures are to be found scattered hither and thither across the landscape, only to dash your hopes when reality and the map description don't quite match up.  For example, on our main walk, one of my friends (who is a published historian, and knows what he's talking about) encouraged us up a particular hill with the promise that we would soon be passing a 'medieval village' according to the map.  We toiled over stiles and sheep droppings, until he told us, excitedly, that it was 'just over there'.  Now, I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't this:


"So, where's the village then?"  I asked.  "That's it" our Historian said, with some exasperation.  "But, there's nothing (expletive deleted) there!" I pointed out.  "Ah well, if you know what you're looking for..." He said, with an air of authority, "I suppose you were expecting people in costume or something?" he chuckled.  To which the answer is, no, but I would have expected some evidence of ruins over and above a gently undulating landscape!  I'm afraid I'm a little cynical, having been caught like this before many years ago, as I will explain next time.

The first collection of stories "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available as a Kindle e-book at amazon.co.uk or amazon.com