Category Archives: In the village

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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The last three people I spoke to…

The last three people I spoke to before I closed my eyes were…

1. The bloke asleep on the train: He looked like a daddylonglegs. A sleeping daddylonglegs – all splayed out across six seats. His wallet there. His phone here. Dead to the world. Continue reading

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Reasons to be cheerful – Part Two

There’s a hawthorn tree in there. No really.

Coincidentally, I was feeling cheerful this time last year. This is why I’m in a good mood now.

1. I planted a hawthorn tree. Few things are better than planting a tree. Putting down roots. Engaging with nature. Creating a legacy that will last till…  Well, I hope it’s still there. I haven’t looked since the weekend. Better check it tomorrow. It’s tucked away in a corner between the village recreation ground and the allotments.

2. I encountered someone who has changed her mind and admitted she was wrong. She’s discovered she can’t wipe away what she wrote. But she’s apologising and rejecting the wrong. I find that refreshing. Good on you Nadia.

OK, I admit it. Some people’s hole digging productivity was a lot higher than mine. But surely that’s what Scouts are good at?

3. It may take a while, but given time and a fair wind, even a writer who it seemed had been written off, can get a publishing deal Continue reading

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Happy St Patrick’s Day you mutha…

Not at all like my own Mum. There'd be a tea cosy on that pot for a start. Sunglasses in the house? No way. That colour hair? No. And more importantly, she has no need to pretend on either of the two days in question. OK, end of excessive schmaltziness.

If only all festivals could be this cooperative.

St Patrick’s Day only starts after midday in my English village – in the pub whose owner is married to a Mayo woman, which is run by a Leitrim man and which is frequented by the denizens of Clare, Tipperary and Antrim. Some British people manage to squeeze in too.

The delay is to accommodate Mothers’ Day in the morning. (American mothers are even more accommodating, they mark it on another day altogether.)

So if you’re an Irish mother, you’re welcome all day. On the downside, you may have to put up with plastic Shamrock-tinted tat.

I may drop in myself – just out of politeness… to Mothers.

But beforehand, as is traditional, I’ll link to my all -time favourite St Patrick’s Day joke.

And leave you with this I Spartacus-type short Patrick-themed film Continue reading

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What do snowmen drink?

Wonder no more – the answer is here.

I saw this guy this morning. In his left hand a can of Continue reading

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Pinch Punch

I'm not asking Spock round for New Year ever again. I still can't feel my drinking arm.

Ouch and double ouch. I was expecting Auld Lang Syne. Or a communal glass raising. Cheers or embraces.

Instead the assembled mob in the living room counted down to zero and instantly began to seethe in a frenzy of squirming activity and mutterings - which I realised too late to defend myself was “Pinch, punch, first of the month.”

And that’s why you should never let children stay up to midnight on New Year’s Eve – least of all a pincer-fingered horde Continue reading

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Rolf Harris – lost early years photos revealed

Can you tell what it is yet kids? It’s early days Rolf Harris as you’ve never seen him before. This photo and those below are the work of the late James McDougall, better known for photographing sets and tableaux for the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera House.

James had quite a collection of shots of the timeless Rolf - acting the chimp, clowning around, with his partner, playing the didgeridoo, etc. These are just a selection. I wonder if anyone would be interested in an exhibition?

Meanwhile Continue reading

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The day I met… My Nemesis (and discovered his secret)

I’d been dreading this moment – yet also girding my loins for the encounter.

Remember how this  The Day I Met… business all began? The incident involving the little girl, her hat, the bestselling writer and his eye for a pretty lady? Well… As the weeks and months passed, and summer danced into autumn, I knew that some day I would have to face him once again…

My nemesis Continue reading

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Who was that masked man?

Is your dog ready for Hallowe'en?

Hallowe’en is coming and the goose is getting fat… That was what we sang door to door at Hallowe’en back in Belfast. Tuneful? No. A seasonal song? No. On the scrounge? Yes.

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat… At some houses my mates and I were listened to once, then other residents would be summoned to the door for a repeat of our odd performance.

If you haven’t got a penny, a pound will do… And at many doors we were Continue reading

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Do ballerinas say “Cheese”?

James McDougall photographing a set at the Royal Opera House, London

My neighbour James McDougall was a gifted photographer. He recorded for posterity the nearly all the sets used by the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera between 1962 or ’63 and the early 2000s Continue reading

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