Saturday, 22 December 2012

22nd December 2012 - of Sex Lies and Scandal

Nothing to do with Christmas - but then I have gone on record about my views of premature decoration, and am surprised that all those Nigerian spammers have not also decided to suggest medication for my lack of Christmas Globes in addition to comments about my apparently publicly known medical conditions.

No, nothing to do with Christmas, but following a recent Blog post upon Americymru (an excellent website /  for Welsh Pats and Ex Pats if you are not in the know!!), it is more about Christine. Christine Keeler to be exact - and the continuing story of 1963, a scandal that "rocked the government". Oh, it would be an insignificant oversight in the light of modern governmental frailty, but in the sixties the press was at its peak in "investigative journalism" - pre-dating mobile phones, computer dating and Britain's third TV channel BBC2, which would not arrive until 1964, and then only after  delays due to power cuts.

Now, in 2012, Christine is in her 70's, living with her cat and spurning men. After a brief residence in Wales where she thought the fresh air would assist her emphysema she now lives once again in London, estranged from her mother, her two sons and most of the world - still carrying her legacy with her photo sitting upon a chair, apparently naked - though she claims she had her knickers on at the time.

By comparison, the "disgraced"  John Profumo (family motto: Virtue and Work) endured only a brief spell of ignominy. His wife stayed with him until her death in 1998. By 1975 he had been awarded a CBE for his charity work in London’s East End; at Margaret Thatcher’s 70th birthday party he was not only a honoured guest, but he sat next to the Queen. When he died in 2006, aged 91, the great and the good attended his funeral: reputation had been redeemed; his status restored.

But this is about Christine and not Christmas.

But as I cast my mind back to 1963, it is with a more personal recollection. At 9 years old I had only a little interest in politics and world news. This was before "Craven's Newsround" brought current affairs into the minds of minors, with John Craven carefully explaining complex issues into single syllables - I think there is still a need for such a  programme though incessant repeats of Sky News will have a similar affect upon the feeble minded.

No, at 9 years old I was more interested in a family holiday in Portugal. My family had always been inventive in finding holidays that were slightly different. My father's view was that a good holiday was worth saving for and was better than a new three piece suite. He rarely liked the concept of package tours or pre-arranged bookings. 1963 was not different. Gibralta still had open borders with Spain at that time. Flights from London to Gibralta were available and at reduced prices - and as I recall the flight into Gibralta, where the runway extends out into the water and crosses the main road were highly interesting. I vaguely recall the Barbary Apes on the rock - how and when we saw them I do not recall - but see them I did!!

But more memorable was the hire car that we took from Gibralta - and then drove across the whole base of  Spain heading for goodness knows what in the next country. Memorable. yes - because the hire car unfortunately sprung a leak in the radiator. Of course, now  we would call an international roadside assistance with our mobile phone or iGadget. Not in 1963!!  A simpler solution was a regular stop at garages and shops across the whole of Spain to beg for a refill of water. Which in those days, meant doing the polite thing and buying something at each stop !!

My Sister and I drank more Coca Cola from small bottles purchased at roadside stops than I have at any time in my life until 2 litre bottles started marketing at 3 for £3 in the lead up to this Christmas. But this is nothing to do with Christmas !!

The basis of the family holiday in the 60's was that they would last until the money ran out. This would normally mean a couple of days of luxury somewhere, and then downsizing and nurturing resources to ensure the longest period away. It was quite reasonable to expect a two to three week holiday in Portugal.

As we limped across the border into Portugal, our battered car, steam pouring from the bonnet, limped up to the Vasco de Gama hotel - an oasis of luxury in the undergrowth. Swimming pools, Doors that opened automatically except for the large glazing near the dining rooms where uniformed porters held the door open for a 9 year old and called him "sir".  We stayed two days as I recall - only remember the swimming pool and the porters calling me "sir". I was only 9 !

In normal fashion, we  moved on from Fantasy Island into a bed and breakfast hotel/guest house overlooking a glorious beach and deep blue seas. I would have more memories, but it seems that British Newspapers were delivered in Porta de Wherever - l failed to learn to speak Portuguese  though I did play some beach football with some local lads - GOAL!!!  is universal in the Glorious Game .....

Newspapers would not be a problem in a normal family - but mine was a Fleet Street family. As Daily Mail Parliamentary Correspondent and lifelong self made journalist, my father always read every newspaper - our paper boy hated us at home as our one house was the equivalent of a full street of deliveries - I am sure our papershop loved us for the same reason.... We probably paid for his holidays in a real hotel.

But the Newspaper cried out a scandal in the making!!   Early days - perhaps just the day the story broke - I was playing football on the beach and failed to understand the subtleties of the situation, but the political ramifications were clear to my father - and so the holiday was abruptly cut short.

I do not recall - but I am sure that we must have ditched some suitcases and added a barrel or two for spare water in the boot - because I do not recall multiple stops on the way home - I know we drove through the night !! I barely remember the argument at the Spanish Border trying to get back into Gibralta or the flight home..

But I do remember the song we sang as we came home. It was a family tradition to write a holiday song on each of our trips - and this one was no exception - and it was to the tune of "Oh Mr Porter""

I still recall to this day :
"Oh Mr Profumo - What did you do??
We have to leave old Portugal and its all because of you
We have to get back to England 
As Quickly as we can...
Oh Mr Profumo - You are a naughty Man "

So, nothing to do with Christmas - but all to do with Christine.  As she looks after her cat in her later years and looks back upon her life 60 years ago - when as a 17 year old she tried to make her way in the big city -  I feel a little sorry that even in our holiday song - she did not get a mention... but that is the way of sex, lies and scandals

Thursday, 20 December 2012

20th December 2012 - Last day of the World

As the Mayans seem to have identified that the world ends on the 21st December, I look with some satisfaction at the posts on Facebook from friends living in New Zealand - who are pointing out that it is already 21st December there and they are still there. Well, at least their posts are still there.

Of course, I have never really convinced myself that when they said that it would end on the 21st,  that meant at the beginning of the day, after breakfast, (or second breakfast if you are part of the current Hobbit Appreciation Cult) tea-time or at the stroke of midnight after the day is complete. If the latter is the case then I have to wait awhile to check that our antipodean friends made it, and we may still be in trouble...

However, as I prepare for my "Viking" style concert tomorrow night at Crosshands, I was gratified to read the following verse:


Despite all the hullabaloo
‘Bout Mayans predicting the End
I know that what I know is true
So heed what tell you, my friend:
While Asgard is under his rule
Old Odin would never allow
That Ragnarök happens on Yule
So bring on the beer and the chow!

I think I will stick with good old Odin the All Father on this one .... after all, if not I wasted £30 on tickets!!!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

19th December 2012 - Not a lot happening

Forgive me readers I have prevaricated. It is a week since my last confession and nothing much really seems to have transpired. Such in the laziness of the double retired.
Of course the Lyre is taking a certain amount of time, now have a basic repertoire of 10 songs with original arrangement which I  am working on, which will probably end up on Youtube in the New Year. Seems strange but there are still no videos for the 16 string Lyre out there at all!!

Otherwise - it is preparation for the Solstice at the Cinema for Friday. After a number of changes in the line up - it seems that I will now have a 25 minute spot to myself  rather than singing in the round as originally intended. Which places me sort of in the same position as the headliner, Amy, which is nice, but rather challenging for a performer who has not actually been on stage before !!!

Have worked upon the stage setting - something needed to be easy to get into place - I only have a couple of minutes for the changeover, luckily I am single guitar connection and microphone, so the electrics are simple enough, and decided upon taking the Crimson Moon as my setting - after all it is the place where I am most comfortable!!  And some Mead of course!! One bottle left!!

and so....  built in my living room is a art of the Crimson Moon - all based upon a clothes rail so it will roll into place and a couple of boxes and barrels for good luck !! Of course - in the Cinema/ Theatre it should have a black backing and the full lighting which may make a difference - sort of imagining it as ...

Well only another day and we will know how it all went!!!..

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

12th December 2012 - Deposit received, moving forward..

So today - we have a the deposit for the sale of the Crimson Moon successfully transferred.
On line postings say the following as the current teaser ...

A chill on the air brought a wisp of moisture on the breath, the moon was bright and shone on the water, the creak of ropes tightening as the moored dragon boats rose on the tide...  Tonight was special. Tonight was the passing from one life to another. Tonight a door closed and the future was unknown.

The quiet harbour was hidden from most eyes - and the passage over the water back to Norscan Lands had been planned with the greatest secrecy. Too many people knew that the "Widow" Agnes was returning to her homelands - not sure what she would find after so many years. After accusations of evil deeds, poisonings, attempted murder of  Norscan Nobles, all distant deeds. Years of separation from her people, indifference of her Lord General, lack of support as she struggled to carry the Tavern from land to land to support the Warhost....

For a brief period, she had allowed herself  to find a new family with her adopted children - the Ua DĂ©aghaidh, but one by one they had succumbed, departed and died... the last throwing his life away upon the whim of  Cole... another sadness to carry with her to the new lands..

Yes - too many knew of that they were travelling, but Vollsanger had planned carefully and he was confident that no-one knew of the travel plans that would take them back to Norsca.

Behind them - the entire contents of the Crimson Moon Tavern was packed and secured and was being led away from the bay. Neither knew where it was to be stored - it was not their problem now. There was no doubt that the Crimson Moon would be in place when the Warhost met for Beltane. But the "Widow" and Vollsanger would not be there - only the new owners....

"That was a lot of gold ... everything we asked for" Agnes said quietly to the Bard. "I never thought that they had that sort of money.."
"There are rumours of a Dragon Hoard ... I have never seen such runes as appear on the gold - but you have tested and it is good gold.... I do not think we have cause to fear"
"Still, I shall miss the Warhost - it has been my family for so long..."

"Should we tell everyone who has bought the Tavern?" she asked...
"They will find out soon enough" he replied.

"We shall find a new life back in the Homeland...  It is time to get aboard..."

Their hands clasped for a second and gave a tender squeeze. The wedding may have been at Beltane, may have been only a year and a day ... but, possibly there would be more for the "Widow" Agnes and Vollsanger....

Friday, 7 December 2012

7th December 2012 - Crimson Moon's Last Stand

The rain and the sleet was driving down this afternoon as I loaded the van for the last time, for a Crimson Moon venture under our direction. Forecast according to shows that tomorrow (Saturday) should be cloudy with sunny showers, and a temperature of 6 degrees. Let's not talk about Sunday at the moment - after all we will be on site and can't do much about it by that time.
It is the evening before that as the temperature drops, you have the opportunity to think that bed is going to seem very inviting at 5am tomorrow, as we start a drive down to Caerphilly Castle before dawn.. a long time before dawn!!

Monk's habit s ready and hanging by the door for my Alter Ego 'Brother Weaver Barrel' - the Drunken Monk, and "Nona the 'nebriated Nun's" wimple .  Guaranteed to scare a random Jehovah's Witness should one be silly enough to call!! But no, I am sure that they have more sense than to be out in this cold.

On this occasion - we are not taking our own marquee, which is sitting in the living room awaiting scrutiny for replaced guy ropes and patches, but are lucky enough to have an historic tent being put in place for us (I hope they remember to put it up!!). As a result, the van looks deceptively empty, with only the boxes of Mulled Wine, Mead, a crate of plastic Ivy, gas burners and 1,000 cups.

Sad to say, our benefactor, who normally graces the Castle as the Barber Surgeon, has just had his trailer stolen containing the full contents of his Victorian Hospital, and despite circulation through Facebook Accounts does not appear to have been recovered. Roger's knowledge that the axle is broken and the frame is unroadworthy does not help him as the trailer seems to have disappeared from his South Wales home..

I may have to sympathise with a few glasses of mulled wine tomorrow!!

So Caerphilly Christmas Fayre will start tomorrow morning for two days. Our last trading days as the Crimson Moon though no doubt I will be involved in the future helping the new owners.
Also our last chance at this stage, to spend the night in our favourite castle.

If you are in the vicinity of Caerphilly - hope to see you there...
Caerphilly Castle Christmas Fayre

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

5th December 2012 - History takes the biscuit

After surviving the evil of the kitchen boiler - it is restful to be back in Wales, and and face the simple life. A little study on the internet and an opportunity to better oneself ..

It was in this spirit that I found the following picture on my researches..
Seems to sum up my day ...

That's All !!!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

4th December 2012 - The Evil Entity in the Kitchen..

Some central heating systems seem to have a mind of their own. There is probably a technical term for over anthropomorphising a plumbing system, but when you are in someone else's house, and the temperature is dropping sharply, and the radiators are cold, and none of the buttons seem to work then you have to forgive me for thinking that there may be a hint of malicious intelligence in the boiler in the corner.

There is a simple white box on the wall of the kitchen, it says that the heating is on timer. Well when I say "it says" I do not mean that I have over-egged the intelligence bit by implying that it is actually speaking to me in a "we will take over the world Pinky" type manner. I mean that the little arrow is pointing to the "Timer" line in the LED display. There is a button next to it, and though it says ADVANCE HEATING, which might mean that it considers itself to be the height of technology, or that it wants you to move forward with the times, pressing the button simply switches a green light on with the letters ADV ( which implies it is doing whatever it is meant to ) but the radiators don't warm up, and the master mind which looks like R2D2 in the cupboard is remaining stubbornly quiet!!.

Looking art R2D2, there are some buttons saying plus and minus, and MODE - and the readout says 54 - which looks like a temperature - blooming cold !!!! Pressing the MODE button seems to do little. Though I was getting somewhere when I pressed the PLUS and the numbers started climbing. But when I stopped they kept on - up into the 70's and then into the 80's.

Forgive me if I admit that I panicked just a little. After all it is not my house. I did not put the evil entity into the cupboard, but I am not be sure that it isn't blaming me anyway !!!. But if the numbers kept on climbing then the whole thing might explode!!!  Okay, I know it is an exaggeration, and slightly extreme, but it seemed likely to me as I hurriedly pressed the minus button....  Yes...  I watched the numbers drop into the single figures ......

But more important - the radiators are still cold!!!
and then - one radiator started to warm up - just to spite me I reckon!!!

I know all the radiators were on this morning so none have been switched off!!
So why is only one radiator warming up ??   And that is quite hot now - but I don't want to spend the rest of the day hovering over one radiator. While the remainder refuse to budge.
I can't hear the boiler running - so where is the heat coming from????

Ahh - the sound of a car driving up - we may solve the mystery.........
Watch this space .....

Sunday, 2 December 2012

2nd December 2012 - Only a Museum Piece....

An interesting morning. Visiting the lovely old building at Parc Howard, known generally as Parc Howard Mansion for the NSPCC "at Home".

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has been a major charity that I have supported for the last 30 years, and while I am currently the President of the Llanelli and Area District, in practise - my role was much more a reprise of my other main characterisation, that of the Barkeep!!.

And so, as the great and the good, the old and the young, the fit and the infirm all trooped into the great hall my main task was to provide a glass of red, white or blush wine and or orange and apple juice....
Of course my main task revolves around having a louder voice thank anybody else, always good for calling attention to the Chairman, the Mayor, or the raffle draw.

It was then that things started to get a a little surrealistic. I know that Llanelli is a small town, and that we have been there for many years, however, as I examined the excellent displays of Llanelli Pottery and read the history of the development of that industry in Llanelli, I began to see familiar faces...

We have always laughingly referred to our local Mayors as the "Chain Gang" - after all they wear Chains and come n groups. Especially in Llanelli, where we are graced with the Llanelli Town Mayor,  the District Mayor, Rural Council Mayor, used to be a borough Mayor and of course the deputies and the consorts.....
It was indeed a delight to see that they all had agreed to come along to our buffet and wine Christmas Celebration and Carol Singing - but the faces were strangely more familiar than I was expecting...
And so it was, that it slowly dawned that the last time I had seen the Town Mayor, Councillor Winston Lemon - also known as the Singing Decorator !!  was when we shared the stage on Llanelli theatre (the Classic Cinema for locals  which was for years our only theatre in town) , not at a fundraiser or political meeting - but South Pacific!!  We both trod the boards and sang our hearts out.
It was about 25 years ago !!!
And then I looked to the next mayor - Deputy Town Mayor Roger Price, and this was a clearer view - I had  been singing in the local Llanelli Folk Club in the Queen Vic  in Queen Victoria Road only a few months ago. Roger has started a highly successful Folk Train Trip up the Llanelli Mid Wales Train Line form Llanelli up to Ammanford, singing on the way - stop off in the Ammanford Folk Club and back before closing time..

So there in the front row were two of my erstwhile singing companions.    

Add to that, a few ex policemen and a couple of magistrates who spent some time recalling my early days as a constable long before I had a pony tail or wore a tie at social events .... and a successful raising of charity funds for my favourite Charity - a strange day ... But that is what being Welsh is all about ...
History made alive, in a great historical building...
Maybe we all belong in the museum....

Saturday, 1 December 2012

1st December 2012 - It is December - Not Christmas

December dawns, how did that happen? Seems only yesterday that we were celebrating the lack of Summer, recalling a couple of warm days back in April, and counting the floods that formed the period from Summer Solstice to the first leaves dropping from the trees. And then, December!!
That means that Christmas will be on everyone's lips, covering the shops, the news, the streets.

Now, call me a traditionalist, but my tree and decorations go up on Christmas Eve, after the sun has set and not a moment before. Christmas commences with the car being put in the garage, locked away for the duration if possible, and the curtains closed except for the bay window that contains the Christmas Tree.
Once the sun has set, then it is time to set the tree, a family task to get the tree covered with as much sliver, colour and general "tat" as possible. We are not looking at symmetry, we are not looking at design, we are not looking at planning, we are looking at enthusiasm and abandon!!
We have gone through the stages of a star on top of the tree, there was a family Fairy that had pride of place for a number of years, but for the last couple of years I will admit that a small teddy bear in a witch's costume has sat at the top of the tree. Plenty of lights, mainly because I will buy some extra on the assumption that last year's lights will not work, but they often do...  But again - colour co-ordination is not what is required.

So why Christmas Eve and not before??   Because we have always done it that way would be a reasonable answer and quite traditional. It is a family tradition may be another ways of saying it. But mainly, it is that Christmas is a special time of year tome - and I do not like it being diluted by starting it in September. I know families who are taking their tree down on Boxing day - they are already fed up with having the tree there for so long..

For me 12 days is quite sufficient, and therefore Christmas Eve is the time to put the decorations up. In my view they should stay up for a full 12 days of Christmas and be taken down on the 13th day....
When the children were younger, excitement could happily build as we sorted the tree and got the house looking right for Christmas. An exciting evening and off to bed, to allow us to finalise the preparations for Santa to call. As they went to bed, there would be a few presents around the Christmas tree. Each child was invited to bring their presents suitably labelled and stack them under the tree. Likewise, there would be a present from Grandparents that had come through the post, and perhaps a present from Mum and Dad.
Yes, a few presents would be under the tree as they went to bed.... but the look on faces as they see what is under the tree in the morning is one of the great delights of childhood.

I always enjoy my Christmas, but Christmas starts on Christmas Eve with the tree. Christmas morning becomes special with presents being distributed by young "postmen" who have the opportunity to look through the presents and read the names, and then are responsible for  trying to distribute gifts in a fair and equal manner. One for Mummy, one for Daddy, one for Sister, one for me....  We normally insist that presents get opened one at a time, reinforcing that the pleasure of giving is equal to the pleasure of receiving. It is as much fun to watch someone open the present you have chosen for another.... Also, present giving lasts a lot longer....

After the joys of Christmas Day and perhaps some visitors and late present giving on Boxing Day, another ten days of decorations and Christmas Spirit seems sufficient to me. After that, the tree can be taken down, needles will mainly be falling off by now unless some imitation tree is at the core of the shining monstrosity in the bay window. Boxes can be filled and stowed away for another year....

Don't get me wrong... I enjoy Christmas, just don't want it to start too early .. Christmas Eve will be time enough...
Oh, and don't you dare come and sing Christmas Carols outside my house before Christmas Eve....
because it may be December - but it is not Christmas yet !!