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Reviewing the Reviews

After a longish period, with not much happening at all, the last week has been a particularly good time for reviews of my 'nostalgedy&#...

Saturday, 30 March 2013

I want to be a lawn



I have a confession to make.  A couple of weeks ago, I mowed the lawn…there, I've said it!

I know, I know, therefore it's all my fault that we're up to our armpits in snow and ice again.  I don't know what came over me.  It was just a sunny, warmish day with a hint of spring in the air and it occurred to me that if our two year old grandson went out to play football on the patch of grass we laughingly call a lawn, we would probably never find him again.

I'm not actually very good with a lawnmower, but it's probably the safest option when it comes to me being let loose in the garden.  Anything else and I'm a one-man trail of destruction.  I think it's something in the genes, my dad was exactly the same, although he would never admit it.

I remember one night of shame, way back in the 1970s, when he and I had called in at the pub on our way home from work and spent a little longer there than was really sensible.  It was a warm summer's night and still quite light when we got home.  Mum had been nagging dad for some time to weed the top patch of ground so that she could plant out some seedlings she had been nurturing.  As we made our way down the entry to our house, dad said we should get on and do that now, as it would be a nice surprise for her.  Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, as these things do when you have had far too much to drink and not enough to eat.  We set to, removing all the bits of greenery in this patch by hand.  It took quite a while, but we felt vindicated when we looked at the fruits of our labours, a nicely cleared patch of ground and a pile of green spindly shoots.  I'm sure you've probably guessed by now that mum had spent the whole day weeding that patch and planting out her seedlings.  You may also have guessed that we were not very popular for some time after that, although dad took most of the heat as he should have been able to spot the difference between seedlings and weeds, whereas my ignorance in that area was widely known.

When I had a place of my own, my 'garden' consisted solely of a patch of grass that I could look down on from my bedroom window, if I was so inclined (most of the time, I wasn't).  This meant that the appalling state of this savannah was only really a problem for my neighbour below who really had no choice but to look out on it.  I had to walk past it to get to my car, but that was as far as it intruded into my life.  Every now and then, when it became impossible to get to the rotary clothes line without a guide, or when my cat could vanish without trace in the waving fronds, I would get out my one concession to garden tools (a strimmer) and hack away until it was partially tamed.

Therefore, when I first got married and moved to a rather nice estate in a (as the Estate Agents say) 'much sought after local village', I was shocked and dismayed to find that I was now responsible for the upkeep of not one, but two lawns (front and rear) and that my wife had strong views about how tidy these should be.  Edging shears edged their way into my consciousness for the first time.  There was a proper lawnmower with grass box and everything.  It was all rather intimidating, as I'll explain next time.

This story, and a whole host of others, will feature in the next compilation "A Kick at the Pantry Door", coming soon to a Kindle near you.  If you can't wait for that, you can always console yourself with the two volumes already published, Steady Past Your Granny's and Crutches for Ducks.



Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Getting cross at Easter!


I know that I have banged on about this before, but I think it's a subject that warrants a little more discussion, so bear with me.  

Just as an aside, that phrase 'bear with me' always makes me think of The Perishers in the Daily Mirror from years ago, where one of the characters had a bear called Gladly.  It was called this because it had cross-eyes, from the hymn, 'Gladly , my cross I'd bear'.  Seemed an appropriate aside considering the topic.

I think there are a number of problems with Easter.   Firstly, why do we have this rambling festivity? I don't mean why do we have it at all, just why is it a moveable feast?  No other celebration roams the calendar like this. Your birthday doesn't shamble about the zodiac as it thinks fit. Christmas doesn't leap out at you from behind a bush in August (although October is a distinct possibility, I'll grant you).  You never know where you are with Easter, it can turn up at any time and, as a consequence, the prevailing weather may not be ideal for taking a holiday, like this year where exposure is considerably more likely than a sun-tan.

Then there's the advertising.  In a perfect world, advertisers would really love us to treat Easter as another Christmas.  You can see it in the style of the TV advertising, all glistening and appetising foodstuffs on a laden family table.  I may be wrong (perish the thought) but I think they're on to a loser here.  Easter just does not grab us in the same way.  

For a start off, where's the focal point?  At Christmas, it's pretty obvious that it's Christmas Day.  Sure, the other days play their part, but Christmas Day is the Big One and no mistake.  But how about Easter?  Is it Good Friday?  Hardly seems a time for rejoicing and getting out the festive fayre does it?  Easter Day then?  Well, possibly, but I don't think we'll ever be comfortable about celebrating a particularly brutal murder.  Yes, I know all about the Resurrection, but you have to have all the doom and gloom to get to there, and I'm not even sure that the Church is all that convinced anyway.  Whereas with Christmas, you can't go wrong, everyone loves to celebrate a  birth and the story is the stuff of which childhood memories are built.

Christmas is also about rampant hedonism.  From all sides you are encouraged to 'laissez le bon temps rouler'.  Just about anything is possible and forgiveable.  Easter, on the other hand, is all about guilt and how could it not be?  I'm sure it was a great blow-out in the Middle Ages but, to be fair, after 40 days of the deprivation of Lent, when Lent meant giving up everything remotely pleasurable, not just the odd cream cake, I should think the Plague would have been a barrel of laughs.

Then there's Easter Cards.  I had never even heard of these until I met my wife.  It was just not something that our family did.  Now you see them everywhere but, again, there's this lack of certainty about the tone that should be adopted.  There are, of course, the outright religious ones but also you have a fair smattering of cute animals (bunnies, chicks, ducks etc.)  What we don't appear to have, as yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time, is the humorous or downright obscene Easter Card.  You may, of course, know differently and I'm sure you'll tell me.

As I've said before (A Modest Proposal), the timing of Easter always used to irritate me as a child.  It just didn't fit in with my strong sense of what should be a proper narrative flow.  You've got your Nativity story in the Advent period, and that's fine.  Then three months or so later, we've got a fully grown man who is heading towards Jersualem and certain death.  It's like Lewis solving the murder just after the first commercial break.

I may come back to this in the days ahead.  In the meantime, Happy Easter (I think)

Philip's compilations of 'nostalgedy' stories and curmudgeonly rants like this:  Steady Past Your Granny's , Crutches for Ducks  and A Kick at the Pantry Door are available from all Amazon sites worldwide.


The author and friend in the spring


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Delving into the Slightly Odd World!

I've been interviewed!  Have a look at A chat with Philip Whiteland

Any comments would be much appreciated ;-)

And, until midnight GMT on Sunday, 17th March, you can now get Jambalaya for just 99p/99c.  Come and join Celany and the crew for a madcap chase through the Old South.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Get quacking!


Just a gentle reminder that today (Friday, 8th March) is the last day of the great 99p/99c Duck sale.  Go on, dip your bread!

Crutches for Ducks