24 November 2014

O what a lovely War

There's been a lot of fuss about the Sainsbury's Christmas advert depicting the Christmas 1914 truce between the British and Germans in The Great War. A lot of it negative, accusing Sainbury's of capitalising on the horrors of war for financial gain. Critics also say the uniforms are too squeaky-clean and nothing like the blood- and guts-covered mess the real soldiers faced. Come on, this an advert not an accurate blockbuster trying to scoop up an Oscar. The point of the advert was surely not its accuracy to detail but the overall mesage that in the middle of horror, humans can rise above that to be nice to one another. Surely the true spirit of Christmas. Also, unless I am very naive, when all's said and done, aren't all adverts for financial gain? 

As one who had grandfathers on both sides of that war, I do not find the advert in the least offensive and it comes a week after I saw the BBC series The Passing Bells, which I thoroughly enjoyed (if that is the right word) for its portrayal of two young boys on opposite sides, from ordinary families, dragged into a war they didn't understand and quickly wanting out of it. The Germans as a race weren't evil, any more than the British were. The soldiers on both sides were just puppets dancing to the tune of their masters. If you haven't seen it, it The Passing Bells is still available on bbc-iplayer or on DVD. 

18 November 2014

Family matters

I was chuffed to get all your supportive comments about tattoos. I thought we must be the last family in the universe not to have them and was steeling myself for a load of hateful venom in return, but I was wrong. Many of you feel the same way as me and it was reassuring that there is some common sense left in the world.

Here are some lilies presented to my mother the other day - they are such an unusual colour. I cannot say I have ever seen lilies that colour before. In fact in reality they are a much darker electrifying purple.

Other news... I had to go to a family funeral last week down at Hastings. I had to get two trains with six minutes between them. I should have known better. Man can engineer a spacecraft which takes ten years to reach and land punctually on a speeding comet (see here the amazing achievement of Philae) but Southeastern could not get my first train to do a fifteen-minute journey on time and and I arrived at the connecting station 12 minutes late thus missing my second train. Thank heavens I had originally arranged to get to Hastings with an hour to spare, so I could first meet up with a relative and have a coffee before the funeral. Being late meant I missed the coffee/catch-up but got a taxi straight from the station to the crematorium with ten minutes to spare.

As an only child, I have always felt I missed out on the joys of having brothers or sisters, but it seems it's not all it's cracked up to be. The two sons of the deceased were always close as children and young men. Then they went to different universities, got wives and children, in one case got divorced and remarried and have ended up arch-enemies. Nobody quite knows what has caused the vitriolic rift but apparently there is much harking back by one of them to childhood resentments. The younger one lives in Australia now and came over for his father's last few days but the older one, who lives in Scotland and was staying in his father's house for the last few weeks, would not even meet up with his younger brother, let alone talk to him. They made sure they did not bump into one another during visits to the deathbed at the hospital and the older one refused to have the younger one at the wake afterwards. I felt so sorry for the younger one, as he genuinely has no idea what he has done wrong. He originally said he would avoid the funeral altogether, but turned up at the eleventh hour, sobbed his heart out during the service, and then magically disappeared with his car into the sunset, before we had all had a chance even to leave the chapel, so we never got to say goodbye before his return to Australia. Apparently the younger one has waived his rights to the whole inheritance as he does not want to put up a fight. So sad to see two men, both lovely as individuals, being so divided. Their parents would turn in their graves. Maybe being an only child has its compensations  after all!

11 November 2014

Giving me the needle

I realise what I am about to say may upset, offend or stir up a hornets' nest. But I am going to say it anyway and wait for a hundredweight of hate-mail to drop in my in-box. I expect I am in an infinitesimally small minority here, but I think anyone who consciously gets a tattoo is mad, sixpence short of a shilling, a pepperoni short of a pizza, or more appropriately a picture short of a gallery. I say "consciously", as I know there are those out there who after a night of drunken debauchery wake up next morning not only clutching their overhung heads but a sore spot somewhere on their body, declaring their undying love for Sharon, whoever she might be. 

In my day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and it took only 6 months to get to Australia and back on a slow boat to, well, Australia, only sailors got tattoos. Big burly blokes would come home from their travels with M.U.M across their knuckles or exotic birds carved onto their forearms. Skull and crossbones were quite popular too, presumably added on afterwards when M.U.M looked a bit naff. Come to think of it, a lot of those tattoos would have probably been done "unconsciously" when the ship pulled into port and the lads went wild in the nearest town. 

But now? Unless the whole world has joined the Navy, someone please tell me what the point of a tattoo is? Call me old-fashioned, but why does every woman (or man) with less than a full set of brain cells feel the need to go through the pain to end up with a star behind their ear or a swallow on their shoulder?  Don't get me started on the ones that have an entire tabloid-size picture on their............

back or chest. Why and why again? I know it's a generational thing. It masquerades as a fashion statement, just like mini skirts, punk hair, platform heels and hot pants were. But at least hair could be grown out or clothes  relegated to the back of the wardrobe or the charity shop. Even piercings can be corrected when the mood wears off by just letting the holes close up. But with tattoos, what if, in years to come, you hate the tattoo or the reason you had it done?

Can you imagine what people with tattoos are going to look like when they are old and wrinkly? The star will look like a squished spider, the swallow will look like a tit (well, I suppose it was ever thus), and the rose garden will look unkempt and needing a definite dead-heading. If they require surgery, as inevitably people do as they age, will the "You'll never walk alone" scrolled across their abdomen be changed to "You'll never walk" plus a ropey scar across the rest?


Can you imagine living with the same wallpaper for the rest of your life? You'd fancy a bit of a change wouldn't you, but you can't do that with tattoos. Unless you have more painful sessions to cover it with something else or leave a horrendous scar. What if Sharon runs off with the man next door? You're either going to have to look in earnest for another Sharon to date or incur the eternal wrath of a Tracy or Emily who has to look at it for the duration of your time with her.

I've heard the excuse, well, mine is in a discreet place, so nobody can see it. So again, what is the bloody point? You might just as well look for a few moles instead and join the dots up. At least the design would be unique. And if nobody can see it, you included, you might just as well stick a plaster on your back or show off your haemorrhoid scar to full effect. Why bother with a tattoo?

Another reason I've heard is that it has a special meaning, such as it represents the birth of a child or a special place visited. Why not be satisfied with a photo or memento instead? Does a tattoo really make it any more special? At least you can get a photo out and share it at a dinner party. Then again, maybe you can with a tattoo. Depends on the party, I suppose.

I often look at press photos of gorgeous celebs in expensive evening dresses with that tasteless tattoo peering out like a sore thumb. It so spoils the look.  All hopes of elegance sails out the window to me. Tramp stamps.  They look like tramps not ladies. And why do women over fifty who ought to have more common sense feel the need to have them? I saw a particularly wrinkly specimen at the supermarket checkout the other day. Wrinkles everywhere and a bouquet of something etched across her entire upper chest and snakes all down her arms.  It was definitely not an attractive sight. She looked like Nora Batty gone mental.

Tattoos used to be a sign of being a bit of a rebel. In fact, you're more of a rebel if you DON'T have a tattoo these days, as at least it shows you have a mind of your own rather than following the herd. If Kay ever succumbs to the idiocy, I'll know the world has gone mad, but thank God for the moment she has not got one. If she ever did, I'd run away.......and join the Navy, but I certainly wouldn't be getting a tattoo!

03 November 2014

The Tower Revisited

Kay was home for the weekend. I say "home". In fact she was out for some of the time - flitting in and out, as young people do, catching up with old friends, burning the candle at both ends, recharging the batteries on home cooking and much needed TLC. We had some quality time together on Saturday afternoon, travelling to the Tower (once again for me) to see the poppy display and wandering along the riverbank as the sun set. 

What bright spark decided to close the nearest Underground station to the Tower (Tower Hill) for enginering works on one of the busiest weekends for the Tower  (namely school half-term holiday and the weekend before Remembrance Sunday when the poppy display is almost at its crescendo)? The crowds for miles were amazing as they thought of inventive ways to get there and then stand at least ten-deep to study the sea of red all around the moat. Here are some  pictures of our our afternoon in London.

View of the City from the South Bank

It took us over 20 minutes to queue to get onto the Bridge

I wonder whether Boris Johnson ever gets a bit dizzy

We could see the enormous line of crowds from across the river

The sea of blood

Trying to get a photo!

The marshalls (in yellow jackets) getting the crowd to go in a one-way direction

An orderly queue

Time to head home

The Shard on the South Bank