Monthly Archives: November 2012

No doom and gloom just bravery and beauty

Chantelle Msumbuga

What’s the connection between Charles Dickens and this: Should have died in infancy. Didn’t. At the age of four had meningitis and went into a coma. Recovered. Had a stroke with complications that lasted a year. Survived. Major blood transfusions. Long term organ damage. Hours of chelation therapy five times a week to reduce iron overload from blood transfusions. Bruising, discoloration, pain, pain, pain…

Dickens is renowned for cataloging the suffering of the poor and downtrodden, but this is not the torment visited by his imagination on some poor character. It’s real suffering. It’s what happens when a young girl is born with sickle cell anaemia.

A young girl like Chantelle Msumbuga. She’s now a young woman – almost 16 years old. Last weekend she told me and some others about the succession of pain and setbacks she’s undergone in her short life. And she was so cheerful and beautiful as she told it. Her blog is here. She educated us about the condition and the very invasive and intensive treatment she received at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for Children.

Liliane’s lovely buns – you have to bite through the head of Charles Dickens to taste them.

Now do you get it?

After JM Barrie and Peter Pan, Charles Dickens is the famous figure most associated with this London hospital for children. Shortly after it opened, he helped save it from bankrupcy and to double in size.

That’s why Charles Dickens fan Christopher West (who also lectures under the nom de plume Charles Dickens London) arranged a special Dickens Day to raise funds for GOSH – to mark the connection between writer and hospital during this year, the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth.

Liliane the beautiful cake maker from the Cote d’Ivoire

Oh – there’s another reason too. It’s not just Chantelle who medical staff at GOSH are helping. They also saved the life of Christopher’s granddaughter not so long ago. So, like Chantelle he’s also saying thank you for personal reasons.

Chantelle and Christopher were helped and supported by lots of other people too. People like the Kings College Chorus, schools, experts and Liliane. She’s from the Cote d’Ivoire, has beautfully accented French, beautiful buns (no not that! I do actually mean the buns in the picture) and is just beautiful.

There was a lot of beauty around that day – and that includes Continue reading

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Filed under art, D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, friends

How to be a Christmas cracker

To keep you going till Friday, here are some top tips of how to win friends and influence people this festive season. In other words – how to be a Christmas cracker.

1. Challenge your friends to these ten bets you cannot lose. (Unless they read this post.) Up to you what you wager – mince pies, whiskey, truth, dare or embarrassing forfeit?

2. Confound gender stereotyping by presenting gifts of toy guns to girls and dolls to boys – as recommended by this Swedish toy catalogue.

Actually, that’s not quite fair. They’re portraying the toys as gender neutral, rather than suggesting one sort of toy should be for girls and one for boys. But still – the pictures did not look at all as odd to me as I was expecting.

Oh no! I’ve become irredeemably right-on. On the other hand…

3. To redeem myself. I’ve been driving around with a 72-pint barrel of beer in the boot (trunk). How manly.

Not a full one obviously. Mostly drunk by now. Oh, and there was the little matter of the tap coming loose and the barrel leaking. Leaking over the boot. Swilling around. Pooling in the spare wheel cavity. How stinky.

If I get stopped by the police it’ll be very difficult to persuade them that I’m absolutely sober behind the wheel.

4. And finally. You remember how I callously sent Top Boy out hiking into the hard rain, iciness, windiness and mist? Some of you (ie Nigel) were wondering how he got on – especially considering that he had to have special permission to take part as he was underage – the youngest competitor in the overnight competition. It was nasty weather – you may have seen it mentioned on the news this week – and many teams and individuals pulled out during the competition. The Grimsdyke Hike. Grim by name. Grim by nature. But – and you can probably guess where this is leading – guess who won the Senior Competition? Oh yeah. Oh yeah. He and his Scout team mates rule.

It’s okay to boast about someone else’s achievement, isn’t it?

Look. I had to tell someone.

So I thought I might as well tell everyone.

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Filed under friends, In the village

Hard rain coming

Nepal – Steve McCurry

It’s one of the most comforting sounds. Rain lashing against the windows, hammering the roof, relentless. As long as you’re inside.

(Not including inside a caravan. Then the choice is go outside and be soaked or stay inside and be deafened.)

So right now it’s stair rods outside. And I thank my good fortune that I’m in. Especially given how I feel about umbrellas. But it’s the big hike weekend shortly.

Top Boy is preparing to tramp over fields and through forests and rivers old and newly created. He and his mates have a tent to pitch in some sopping bog.

It’s shaping up to be one of those formative experiences that helps young people develop trench foot, pneumonia, hypothermia – oh, and character. So that’s alright.

Bon voyage mes braves. N’oubliez pas votre tubas.

Java – Steve McCurry. This photo and the other one are from the blog of the excellent Steve McCurry. I urge you to check out his exquisite views of the world.

Th Continue reading

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Beautiful snoring

Beautiful snoring – it’s not an oxymoron.

Think of the gentle lowing of cows at pasture. Or the regular faint sighing of a sleeping baby.

Or a hummingbird perched – snoozing and wheezing – like this cute little fella…

One, two, three…. Aaaaaa.

The Continue reading

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Pleasure

Life isn’t all Ha Ha Hee Hee – but the pleasures are so many and multifarious that it’s difficult to settle on just one for the Loose Bloggers Consortium.

So these are some people I encountered a few days ago – what a pleasure to share them with you.

They’re Adam Beattie and the Consultants – and this is a beautiful song called “A song of one hundred years”

He’s from Scotland. They play in the Gladstone pub off Borough High Street in south London every now and then. They’re sensitive, intelligent and great. The pub is good too. I was there with a bunch of arty people I met on the radio here (hint hint – clip of me on the radio).

They played this song too – “All I Know” – with Brooke Sharkey singing and playing double bass.  And two guys I don’t know – who were also ace.

What a Continue reading

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A good telling off

Kirsty Allison – photo by Stephanie Correll http://tinyurl.com/d3zqjp5

I’ve been caught out and given a good telling off by Ramana in India of the Loose Bloggers Consortium for not talking properly about epitaphs. Which was a bit silly of me given that I’ve written a book called The Obituarist.

I also used to make an obituary programme for radio called Brief Lives. It wasn’t musty and dusty. Dead people need not be boring. I had happy days whizzing around London trying to find the late Idi Amin’s widow or a couple who had conceived their child to the music of the late Barry White. It was enormous fun.

The problem with writing my own epitaph is that, like Robert Emmet, I’m not yet ready to dictate it. I hope that this will get me off the hook and appease Ramana instead –

It’s a link to a radio programme called Art Saves Lives that I took part in at the weekend. (I’ve mentioned Art Saves Live before – visual art and unexpected drama off stage.) This show was broadcast on London art radio station Resonance FM 104.4 – but you can also find it here. I recommend listening to it all – though I pop up near the end at 48’30-ish in.

But there are loads of other interesting people first – including playwright Mark Ravenhill, post-pop artist  Duggie Fields, Gemma Peppe from the Hepatitis C Trust, singer songwriter Aletia Upstairs (video below) from Cape Town and Nepalese poet Yuyutsu Sharma (who also translates Donegal Gaelic poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh into Nepali).

The presenters were the irrepressible impressario and playwright Dean Stalham, and poet and film producer Kirsty Allison who “combines the cerebral with the carnival” according to the Sunday Times.

You can even see photos of it all by Stephanie Tesse/Correll here.

Am I forgiven Ramana?

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Filed under art, D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, media, Obituarist

Shocking secret Obama victory video leaked

Yes it’s true.* A shocking previously secret Barack Obama presidential election victory video has been leaked. And you can see it here.

I know. Shocking. I saw it at okayafrica.com It could have changed the whole election outcome.

I was Continue reading

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Scamming the bankers – payback time

Ever been ripped off by a bank? Then you’ll like this. (And if you’re an Irish, British or American tax payer, you definitely have been ripped off somewhere along the line.) So click play – and enjoy…

The clip is from The Revolution Will Be Televised, a clever TV show.

As for the bankers – They don’t like it up ’em! – as the just departed Clive Dunn used to say as Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army. Who do you think you are kidding? Of course I still watch Dad’s Army.

Clive Dunn – Lance Corporal Jones – Dad’s Army

I should declare an interest. I was once a banker myself. Just a cashier. One customer sticks in my mind – Irish comedian Frank Carson.

He Continue reading

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A pair of brown eyes

Shane MacGowan and Cait O’Riordan

In days gone by, The Pogues never failed to cheer me up.

We go back a long time.

I remember sitting on top of a wardrobe in the Crescent in Belfast watching Shane MacGowan beat out a fast tempo with a biscuit tin lid on his bonce.

Or the time the UDR kind of pulled us over because the car was bouncing excessively to Sally MacLennane (er… that’s the song rather than any young lady who may share the name). It was odd, because we were stationary at the time. Perhaps it just seemed we were moving. Or they weren’t so keen on The Pogues.

Or the time I was rescued by Jim from a melee in the Ulster Hall. (Dunno why. It was all fine. Just a bit lively. No idea what he was worried about.)

Or the time in Dublin that “Country” Jem Finer accused me of chucking a television out their hotel window. It wasn’t me at all. (Though I’m not so sure about the fella I was with.)

Or the time I bumped into Cait O’Riordan coming out of the gents in the Olympia Theatre. (No, nothing like that. She was with Elvis Costello.) She sounded like this.

Or the time we sneaked into the Fleadh through a bar tent… Or the time… Or the time…

Or all the times The Pogues were a guaranteed remedy for melancholy.

So here they are. They have cheerier songs, but this was the best video I could find. Even with a song of death, regret and mutilation they still lift my spirits.

Anyone got a guaranteed spirit-reviving song they like to offer as an alternative? (And don’t suggest All Kinds of Everything by Dana – it won’t get through.)

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Filed under life, Music

Discipline

Two pictures of discipline: Heads up, shoulders back, chests out, tongues in (that last order refers to the second picture).

On the right – RUC District Inspector Michael Murphy, escorting Princess Elizabeth in Belfast 1949.
(The story of Uncle Mike and the future Queen is here.)

And here’s another picture of discipline. Training will out.

Cat courage? Or dog self-discipline?

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These Continue reading

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