Kitchen Sink Dramas of the 1980’s

A while back I did a post about the kitchen sink dramas that emerged in the 1960’s but I thought I’d look now at some later films that have continued that tradition of focusing on working class life. I’m not really sure that today in the 21st century the working class still exist. Modern UK is, to a great extent a classless society. Then again, perhaps it’s just a society of the haves and the have nots. That concept relates particularly well to the 1980’s. The decade of Thatcherism and Yuppies and inner city riots. Kitchen sink dramas were almost exclusively northern, set in places like Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire with strong no nonsense northern characters. Here are four films from the 1980’s that fit that category.

Educating Rita (1983)

This was a breakthrough film for Julie Walters and I remember Michael Caine who also stars in the film saying that this film would do for Julie what Alfie did for him. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. The film is about a Liverpool hairdresser played by Julie who wants to better herself. She decides to take an Open University course in English Literature. Her tutor played by Caine is initially confused as he has the name of Susan White on his documents and Susan explains that she has now changed her name to Rita after reading Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. Frank Bryant (Caine) is not keen on taking Rita on as a student but she convinces him otherwise. Rita finds Frank has ignited her passion for literature but has to contend with her husband who wants her to be a traditional wife and produce babies. Husband and wife finally split leaving Rita to pursue her studies. She moves in with a fellow student and gradually, as she mixes with more students and studies more, she becomes less and less like her former self. Frank becomes more and more fond of her, possibly even in love with her but his position as a university lecturer is compromised by his heavy drinking.

In a lot of ways this is such a good film. Julie Walters is outstanding as Rita and Michael Caine is excellent too. The big problem for me is that while Julie plays Rita as a typical scouser with a superb Liverpool accent, the setting clearly isn’t Liverpool. Not only that but the other accents in the film all grate with Julie’s as they are a mix of various northern accents. Caine of course as the lecturer, doesn’t have to have to be a Liverpudlian but the hotchpotch of brogues, some from Manchester, some from Liverpool just seemed to jar to my ear. The film was apparently filmed in Ireland so why not make Rita and her family Irish? That would have made more sense although filming in Liverpool with a local cast would have been the better option. Perhaps production finances made that impossible.

Shirley Valentine (1989)

Like Educating Rita, this was a film based on a play written by Willy Russell. In this one Liverpudlian Shirley is getting a little bored with her life. Unlike Rita in the film above it’s not learning that Shirley wants, it’s a good holiday. She is getting a bit fed up of waiting hand and foot on her husband and when the chance comes to go to Greece with her friend she wonders if she could really do it, really leave her husband behind and swan off to the sun? A couple of things make her decide that it is really time to put herself first. The first one is when her husband gets really annoyed when she serves chips and egg instead of steak for their Thursday evening meal. Surely she knew Thursday was steak night? The other is when her daughter comes home and like her dad, expects to be waited on so off Shirley goes to Greece. Things don’t go quite to plan when her mate finds herself a man on the flight over and leaves Shirley to her own devices. After a few days Shirley finds her confidence and begins to enjoy things alone. She meets Costas, a bar owner and spends time with him on his small boat and when the time comes to leave, Shirley decides she is going to stay.

Like Michael Caine in Alfie, Shirley talks straight to the camera and reveals she is in love. Not with Costas but with herself. At the end of the film her husband arrives in Greece and the two sip wine together by the sea. Will Shirley return with him? The film leaves the question open.

Shirley Valentine is a much better film than Educating Rita. Shirley and her husband played by Pauline Collins and Bernard Hill come across as authentic Liverpudlians and the whole film, especially Shirley talking to the camera, works very well. Both films were directed by Lewis Gilbert who directed amongst other things, the Michael Caine classic Alfie. With some better casting in the smaller roles, Educating Rita would have been just as good.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1987)

Like the two films above, this too was based on a play, in fact it was two plays that were adapted and merged together into a screenplay by the play’s author Andrea Dunbar. Andrea was raised on the Buttershaw council estate in Bradford, West Yorkshire and became pregnant at 15. This event inspired her first play The Arbor. It was written originally as a classroom assignment and encouraged by her teacher, Andrea developed the work into a full blown play. The film was filmed on the Buttershaw estate where Andrea continued to live, despite several residents threatening her because of the negative portrayal of the area in the film.

In the film, two babysitters Rita and Sue, begin an affair with Bob for whom they have been babysitting. Bob’s marriage later breaks down when his wife finds out. Sue later gets involved with an Asian taxi driver called Aslam who becomes violent. He attacks Sue but Rita arrives and the two both turn on the taxi driver, disabling him long enough for the two to escape. They flee to Bob’s house where Aslam turns up and pleads for Sue to forgive him. Bob arrives and then the Police, who have been called by the neighbours. The Police leave in pursuit of Aslam and Bob decides to have a bath. When he goes into the bedroom, the two girls are in bed waiting for him.

This is really an incredible film on many levels. It is funny but also shows northern council estates for what they are, a mix of rough and ready characters, some of whom take pride in their homes and the way they conduct themselves and some who do not. The tone of the film shifts quickly from humour to drama and back again and the documentary style of filming gives the film a gritty realism.

Gregory’s Girl (1981)

Gregory’s Girl was a low-budget movie made in 1981 and was written and directed by Bill Forsyth. The film is a gentle comedy about a young lad who fancies a girl who has just joined his school football team. The film was one of those special films where so many things come together to make a truly great and memorable film, in fact it is ranked number 30 in the British Film Institute’s list of the top 100 British films.

It reminds me so much of my own schooldays in so many ways even though it was filmed in Lanarkshire in Scotland. The hairstyles in the film were similar to those of myself and my friends back in 1973, the year I left school (armed with only four O levels to take on the world). The school ties and jackets were similar to mine, as were the classrooms and lead actor John Gordon Sinclair’s clumsy and shy manner both on and off the football field was just like mine.

Gregory lives on a new estate just like the one my family moved into in the mid 1970’s. He develops a crush on a new girl who has just joined the school football team and eventually he plucks up the courage to ask her for a date. He borrows his friend’s jacket and off he goes to meet her although things don’t turn out quite how he planned. Gregory’s Girl isn’t as gritty as the films I’ve mentioned above but for me it’s like a nostalgic trip back to my schooldays. Look out for the film on TV or you can even find the complete film on YouTube.


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16 Annoying Elements of 21st Century Life

I have to admit, this isn’t a totally new post. Sometimes I struggle to think of something new and sometimes I have to update some old stuff. As you read this I should be tootling about France in a motorhome, depending of course on how welcome the English are considering the Brexit situation which is why I haven’t had chance to produce something new. Just wondering now about what to write for next week. . .

Anyway, this post appeared originally as 13 annoying things. Now I’ve thought of an extra 3!

    1. Irritating Internet Blogs. Not long ago, a blogger I follow published a post that was short and to the point It went pretty much like this:  My favourite Elton John track has to be ‘Tiny Dancer’. (I think it’s only fair to say at this point that names have been changed to protect the innocent. In this case, the name of the pop star!) Now you might think there would have been a photo included. No, there were no pictures. The writer could have done a search on google, clicked the box for images and ticked the ‘labelled for reuse’ tag and something copyright free would have appeared. No, he didn’t do that, no images. He could have also searched for a video of Elton performing Tiny Dancer and linked the video into his post. No, no such luck, just ‘my favourite Elton John track has to be Tiny Dancer.’ The thing is, last time I looked he had over twenty four likes and a shedload of views for something that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Facebook status post! Now, that gives me an idea for my next post: My favourite Kate Bush track is . . Whoa, wait a minute, don’t want to give my full post away before publishing!
    2. Annoying Websites. Here’s an example. The other day I clicked on a link which said ‘You’ll never guess what Victoria Principal looks like now!’ Victoria Principal was once one of the stars of Dallas back in the seventies or eighties, whenever it used to be on TV. She wasn’t my type but she was clearly a pretty and attractive young lady. Well, I wondered, what does she look like now? Anyway, I clicked on the link and was taken to a new page which took forever to load up and with my very fast iPad I wasn’t expecting that at all. After a while I was presented with a picture of a young girl from an American 70’s TV show looking about 15 in picture 1 and looking about 60 ish in picture 2. No sign of Victoria Principal but after scrolling through a shed load of advertising I was finally presented with a ‘next’ button. I clicked this and veerrryyyy slowwwwly another page loaded this time showing a seventies movie star in picture 1 and her somewhat older and chubbier 2017 self in picture 2. After battling through the interminable advertising to get to picture 3 I couldn’t stand the web page any longer so I exited the site. What is even more annoying though is this; I keep wondering what does Victoria Principal really look like now?
    3. Watching TV. Now this is more of a man thing than anything because women cannot multi task when it comes to TV watching. The art and science of TV watching is and always will be a purely man thing. Picture this: A man arrives home from a busy late shift, pours himself either (A) a beer (B) a glass of wine or (C) a glass of whisky, brandy or any other spirit.  He then combines this with either (D) a call to the local fast food delivery place or (E) whacks a slice of bread into the toaster. After settling down he might come across a James Bond film which he has seen approximately 35 times but He continues to watch it thinking, ‘this will keep me going until the adverts then I’ll flick through the channels to see if anything better is on’. Now here’s where the problem comes, you turn over in the adverts and unless you’ve turned to BBC 1 or 2, there are also adverts on the other channels! Why can’t the other channels schedule their ads at different times so there is always something for the channel hopper to watch? Is that so hard?
    4. david-essex-rock-on-cbsListening to the radio. Now I do like music and in years gone by I was a big singles man. I spent a lot of time in record stores flipping through racks of singles and I still have my record collection intact stored in big boxes. Not so long ago I got myself one of those turntables that you can connect to your pc so you can digitise your records. Technology: it’s just amazing. Of course I still hear records on the radio that I really like, just like the good old days but why is it that 21st century DJ’s don’t seem to bother telling us WHAT THAT RECORD ACTUALLY IS? As it is we will probably never hear that track again, so how can we actually buy or download it! Where do they get these DJ’s nowadays!
    5. Why is it that after an episode of your favourite soap on TV they then show you a clip of what’s going to happen next week! Don’t do that! We don’t want to know until next week when we are actually watching the show!
    6. This is yet another TV gripe: Why do they show part 1 of something then neglect to advise the viewing public when we can see part 2? Once upon a time if something was on a Thursday night at nine o’clock then it would be pretty much a certainty that part 2 would be on the following week at nine o’clock on a Thursday night. Is this the case in the 21st century? NO! I started to watch a cracking documentary on BBC4 the other day about O J Simpson. Excellent and informative. I expected to tune in the next week for part 2 but found out a couple of days later that the following parts were shown on subsequent days! People at the BBC -I am Not happy!
    7. Reality TV. What the heck is reality TV, who thought it up and how can I contact the mafia to put out a contract on them?
    8. Now I’m not really a grammar nut, at least not to the extent that I’ve joined the grammar police but there are people who put things on Facebook like ‘Wish I could of done that!’ It’s could HAVE done that you numpties!
    9. Telephone menus. Not so long ago I wanted to ask my mobile phone people a relatively simple question, so I dialled the number and I got through to a menu: Press 1 for accounts, 2 for phone problems, or 3 for network problems. Well it wasn’t any of those so I pressed 1 then got another menu. A two minute phone call escalated into half an hour of my life! If in doubt on any menu press the hash button, you usually get to speak with a real person. You can also try http://www.pleasepress1.com a website started by frustrated phone user Nigel Clarke with hints and tips for bypassing menus. Thinking of telephone menus, it reminded me of this joke: The psychiatrist’s answering machine that plays this message to callers: “We are very busy at the moment. If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly. If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want. Stay on the line so we can trace your call!” The oldies really are the best!
    10. Don’t you just hate those ‘what’s on next’ banners that come on your TV screen in the last few minutes of your programme? I don’t need banners! I’ve got a TV guide! There’s an on screen TV guide too!
    11. Why is it whenever it’s raining and I’m driving home from work on the motorway there is always one plonker hurtling down the outside lane with only one headlight working or worse still, one very bright headlight and another dim one! Get your lights sorted and don’t hog the outside lane you Plonker!
    12. MobileJunk phone calls. It’s bad enough getting junk mail but phone calls from people trying to sell you something just get on my wick, especially if you are forced to answer the call. For instance if you’re waiting for a call back from your bank or insurance company or something or even the guy who’s coming to fix your boiler. You see that unknown number on your phone screen, decide to take it, and surprise –it’s someone calling you about PPI refunds! Take a look at this blog on the subject.
    13. A pint of Mild. As I begin to approach the mature years of my life I find myself drawn to towards the darker beers that life’s brewery have to offer. I have been through my younger years with an array of ciders and refreshing amber lagers but these days I tend to fancy a Guinness, a stout, even a porter but where are these exotic beers to be found? Guinness is available in most pubs but what about the humble pint of mild? How many more times must I suffer the stunned look of the teenage barman when I ask ‘do you serve mild?’ Not only that but what has happened to one of my favourite pubs in St Annes?  The Number Fifteen pub Has now stopped serving the rather lovely Theakston’s mild! Not happy!
    14. Ripped Jeans. OK, accidents happen in life. Doing some work in the back garden and you trip over the mower and catch your jeans on something sharp. Oh well, that’s that pair of jeans consigned to garden or decorating duties, well, that’s my thinking anyway. For some other people who want to look trendy (or plain daft) then check out the new range of ripped jeans in your local fashion emporium. We went through some crazy fashions in the seventies, penny round collars, kipper ties and so on but ripped jeans, brand new jeans that are . . ripped? Do me a favour!
    15. DVD Advertising. I do love cinema and I have quite an impressive DVD collection. I particularly like those 2 disc ‘special collectors’ versions that you get when they remaster some old classic and add in documentaries, features and interviews. What I really hate is when you buy a disc like that, press play and get some advert for a film you are not in any way interested in. Not only that, sometimes you can’t even exit the ads which is doubly annoying!
    16. Hallowe’en. What on earth is that about and how has it descended like a plague on modern life? When I was a school boy back in the 1960s and early 70s I had never even heard of Hallowe’en but nowadays hordes of kids and youths hammer on my door and beg for sweets and other goodies. Go away and don’t mither me especially when I’m relaxing with a glass of red with some classic film on TV. Personally I blame the Americans!

If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information or here to go to my amazon page!

Manchester

It was shocking to watch the events in Manchester unfold the other night. I was on a night shift and I looked up from my desk in the control room where I work, glanced at our large TV screen and saw Sky News revealing the dreadful news. I hoped as the night wore on that it would all turn out to be something and nothing, some minor incident inflated by social media but sadly it was much more serious.

One of my Mum’s favourite sayings is ‘nobody wants war’ but I have to disagree. War happens because some people want it. Hitler wanted it badly because it was a medium for him to realise his dreams of revenge, domination and murder. War also took a different turn in World War 2 because Hitler had the means to take war to innocent people, raining down bombs on England in the Blitz with bombing raids, V1s, and later V2 rockets.

In the 21st century war has taken another turn and now those consumed by hatred feel they must bring death and murder to peaceful places like a music stadium in Manchester where young people throng to see their musical heroes.

This is a sad day for my home town and for people all over the world because in this age the world is truly a global community. Terrorists will never succeed but they do leave nothing but pain and sadness in their wake. Let us hope that this incident will not sow the seeds of more hatred but will instead fan the flames of love and compassion so much so that one day hatred will have nowhere to show its face.

13 Annoying Elements of 21st Century Life

I have to admit, this isn’t a totally new post. It’s one I’ve used before but this version has had a major update. OK, don’t start giving me stick. Week after week I produce new content, all of it reasonably interesting I think, well at least to me. So I think I’m entitled to a week off and an easy blog post. After all, I’m a busy guy, I’ve got stuff to do that involves things like drinking, dining out, meeting friends in the pub, cycling and things like that. Occasionally, and I do mean occasionally, I might have to update an old post because I don’t have the time to make a new one.  Anyway, I read a blog a while ago about ‘curated’ content. Ever heard of it? Basically it’s about copying some else’s post but then linking your post to their original one. It’s sort of like stealing someone else’s work but saying, here’s the original so I didn’t really steal it! In this case the original was my work anyway so I’m doubly in the clear!
Interesting idea. Anyway, here’s my updated post.

    1. Irritating Internet Blogs. Not long ago, a blogger I follow published a post that was short and to the point It went pretty much like this:  My favourite Elton John track has to be ‘Tiny Dancer’. (I think it’s only fair to say at this point that names have been changed to protect the innocent. In this case, the name of the pop star!) Now you might think there would have been a photo included. No, there were no pictures. The writer could have done a search on google, clicked the box for images and ticked the ‘labelled for reuse’ tag and something copyright free would have appeared. No, he didn’t do that, no images. He could have also searched for a video of Elton performing Tiny Dancer and linked the video into his post. No, no such luck, just ‘my favourite Elton John track has to be Tiny Dancer.’ The thing is, last time I looked he had over twenty four likes and a shedload of views for something that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Facebook status post! Now, that gives me an idea for my next post: My favourite Kate Bush track is . . Whoa, wait a minute, don’t want to give my full post away before publishing!
    2. Annoying Websites. Here’s an example. The other day I clicked on a link which said ‘You’ll never guess what Victoria Principal looks like now!’ Victoria Principal was once one of the stars of Dallas back in the seventies or eighties, whenever it used to be on TV. She wasn’t my type but she was clearly a pretty and attractive young lady. Well, I wondered, what does she look like now? Anyway, I clicked on the link and was taken to a new page which took forever to load up and with my very fast iPad I wasn’t expecting that at all. After a while I was presented with a picture of a young girl from an American 70’s TV show looking about 15 in picture 1 and looking about 60 ish in picture 2. No sign of Victoria Principal but after scrolling through a shed load of advertising I was finally presented with a ‘next’ button. I clicked this and veerrryyyy slowwwwly another page loaded this time showing a seventies movie star in picture 1 and her somewhat older and chubbier 2017 self in picture 2. After battling through the interminable advertising to get to picture 3 I couldn’t stand the web page any longer so I exited the site. What is even more annoying though is this; I keep wondering what does Victoria Principal really look like now?
    3. Watching TV. Now this is more of a man thing than anything because women cannot multi task when it comes to TV watching. The art and science of TV watching is and always will be a purely man thing. Picture this: A man arrives home from a busy late shift, pours himself either (A) a beer (B) a glass of wine or (C) a glass of whisky, brandy or any other spirit.  He then combines this with either (D) a call to the local fast food delivery place or (E) whacks a slice of bread into the toaster. After settling down he might come across a James Bond film which he has seen approximately 35 times but He continues to watch it thinking, ‘this will keep me going until the adverts then I’ll flick through the channels to see if anything better is on’. Now here’s where the problem comes, you turn over in the adverts and unless you’ve turned to BBC 1 or 2, there are also adverts on the other channels! Why can’t the other channels schedule their ads at different times so there is always something for the channel hopper to watch? Is that so hard?
    4. david-essex-rock-on-cbsListening to the radio. Now I do like music and in years gone by I was a big singles man. I spent a lot of time in record stores flipping through racks of singles and I still have my record collection intact stored in big boxes. Not so long ago I got myself one of those turntables that you can connect to your pc so you can digitise your records. Technology: it’s just amazing. Of course I still hear records on the radio that I really like, just like the good old days but why is it that 21st century DJ’s don’t seem to bother telling us WHAT THAT RECORD ACTUALLY IS? As it is we will probably never hear that track again, so how can we actually buy or download it! Where do they get these DJ’s nowadays!
    5. Why is it that after an episode of your favourite soap on TV they then show you a clip of what’s going to happen next week! Don’t do that! We don’t want to know until next week when we are actually watching the show!
    6. This is yet another TV gripe: Why do they show part 1 of something then neglect to advise the viewing public when we can see part 2? Once upon a time if something was on a Thursday night at nine o’clock then it would be pretty much a certainty that part 2 would be on the following week at nine o’clock on a Thursday night. Is this the case in the 21st century? NO! I started to watch a cracking documentary on BBC4 the other day about O J Simpson. Excellent and informative. I expected to tune in the next week for part 2 but found out a couple of days later that the following parts were shown on subsequent days! People at the BBC -I am Not happy!
    7. Reality TV. What the heck is reality TV, who thought it up and how can I contact the mafia to put out a contract on them?
    8. Now I’m not really a grammar nut, at least not to the extent that I’ve joined the grammar police but there are people who put things on Facebook like ‘Wish I could of done that!’ It’s could HAVE done that you numpties!
    9. Telephone menus. Not so long ago I wanted to ask my mobile phone people a relatively simple question, so I dialled the number and I got through to a menu: Press 1 for accounts, 2 for phone problems, or 3 for network problems. Well it wasn’t any of those so I pressed 1 then got another menu. A two minute phone call escalated into half an hour of my life! If in doubt on any menu press the hash button, you usually get to speak with a real person. You can also try http://www.pleasepress1.com a website started by frustrated phone user Nigel Clarke with hints and tips for bypassing menus. Thinking of telephone menus, it reminded me of this joke: The psychiatrist’s answering machine that plays this message to callers: “We are very busy at the moment. If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly. If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want. Stay on the line so we can trace your call!” The oldies really are the best!
    10. Don’t you just hate those ‘what’s on next’ banners that come on your TV screen in the last few minutes of your programme? I don’t need banners! I’ve got a TV guide! There’s an on screen TV guide too!
    11. Why is it whenever it’s raining and I’m driving home from work on the motorway there is always one plonker hurtling down the outside lane with only one headlight working or worse still, one very bright headlight and another dim one! Get your lights sorted and don’t hog the outside lane you Plonker!
    12. MobileJunk phone calls. It’s bad enough getting junk mail but phone calls from people trying to sell you something just get on my wick, especially if you are forced to answer the call. For instance if you’re waiting for a call back from your bank or insurance company or something or even the guy who’s coming to fix your boiler. You see that unknown number on your phone screen, decide to take it, and surprise –it’s someone calling you about PPI refunds! Take a look at this blog on the subject.
    13. A pint of Mild. As I begin to approach the mature years of my life I find myself drawn to towards the darker beers that life’s brewery have to offer. I have been through my younger years with an array of ciders and refreshing amber lagers but these days I tend to fancy a Guinness, a stout, even a porter but where are these exotic beers to be found? Guinness is available in most pubs but what about the humble pint of mild? How many more times must I suffer the stunned look of the teenage barman when I ask ‘do you serve mild?’ I can only answer by saying thank heavens for the Number Fifteen pub in St Annes which serves the rather lovely Theakston’s mild!

If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information or here to go to my amazon page!

Three Funerals and a Pork Pie

Letters from an unknown author!

quotescover-JPG-12The other day my Mum started discussing her funeral plans with me. She is eighty five this year and I suppose at that age one starts to think that the day is coming when you won’t be around. Even so, it was pretty shocking to be talking about her funeral.

The first ever funeral I went to was my Uncle Raymond’s. Raymond was my favourite uncle and the most wonderful guy. When I first started work when I was sixteen, going on seventeen, I used to get off my bus, the 152, at the Bluebell pub in Handforth after coming home from work in Manchester and Uncle Ray was there, waiting for the pub to open. Inside he chatted to everyone, the staff, punters he had never met before and at the drop of a hat would produce the photographs from his recent cruise showing him and my Auntie Elsie…

View original post 483 more words

National (Customer) Service!

Steve HigginsBad manners, foul language and general bad behaviour are some of the criticisms pointed at the youth of today. Some people blame poor schooling, some blame bad parenting as the source of the problem. Of course the thing is what to do about it?

The first thing my dad would say, and perhaps many others of his generation too, would be ‘bring back National Service!’ Ok but I say let’s go one better: Let’s have National Customer Service! Yes, the youth of today should have to commit to a minimum of two years customer service before they embark on life. Two years given to the mother nation in the name of customer service. That would do the job!

THE SCENE: MANCHESTER BUSES CUSTOMER ENQUIRY OFFICE ON A QUIET SATURDAY MORNING.
THE TIME 08:12 HRS.
IN LEVENSHULME THE 190 SERVICE INTO MANCHESTER ALBERT SQUARE HAS PASSED THE MIDWAY PUB FOUR MINUTES EARLY.
AN IRATE WOULD BE PASSENGER HAS IMMEDIATELY CALLED THE ENQUIRY OFFICE.

OPERATOR 1
Morning ,bus enquiries.
IRATE CUSTOMER
Where’s my f***ing bus!
OPERATOR 1
Sorry, I am not paid enough money to listen to that sort of language!
OPERATOR 1 CANCELS THE CALL.

OPERATOR 2
Morning, bus enquiries.
IRATE CUSTOMER
Where’s my f***ing bus you bast***s!
OPERATOR 2 CANCELS THE CALL.

OPERATOR 3
Morning, bus enquiries.
IRATE CUSTOMER
You lousy bas****s! Where’s my f***ing bus?
OPERATOR 3 CANCELS THE CALL

Eventually the call reaches operator 8. Now operator 8 is my friend Jiffrey. That’s right, we tend to call him Jiffrey, rather than Geoffrey, his actual name.  He used to be known rather humourously, we thought, as ‘Jiff Lemon’, as he is a bit of a, well, a lemon. Having said that the way he dealt with our irate customer should qualify him to be an instructor in the new National Customer Service.

JIFFREY
Morning, bus enquiries.
IRATE CUSTOMER.
Your fu**ing company and your drivers are a shower of bas**ds!
JIFFREY
I see, how can I help though?
IRATE CUSTOMER
Your fu**ing bus has gone past 4 minutes early! I’m going to be late for f***ing work!
JIFFREY.
Dear me. Shall I call the local zoo and tell them the monkey cage is going to be short this morning?
IRATE CUSTOMER
What?
JIFFREY
Don’t mind me, just my little joke. Sorry about the bus this morning. I’ll send a report to the inspector straight away.
IRATE CUSTOMER
And another thing. One of your people just called me a bastard! Tell him he’s a cheeky c**t!
JIFFREY
I’ll pass that message on straight away.
IRATE CUSTOMER
So what can I do now?
JIFFREY
Well there’s another bus at 08:38. That’ll take you to Albert Square or if you want Piccadilly there’s a 192 every six minutes.
IRATE CUSTOMER
OK I’ll have to wait for that one then but I’m not f***ing happy about that. I’m going to be late.
JIFFREY.
Well, sorry about that. Anyway, It’s been a pleasure and a privilege speaking with you. Have a nice day.
IRATE CUSTOMER.
(Lost for words.) OK.

Jiffrey was, as you can see, a master of customer service. He had skills that are so lacking in today’s society but a National Customer Service would remedy that issue. The benefits are enormous:

1: No more foreign call centres.
2: Foreign people from eastern Europe could be sent to the centre too, vastly improving their English language skills.
(Not long ago I went for a pint in Manchester with my brother. The lady behind the bar was a Polish lady. I greeted her with ‘Hi. Can we have two pints of lager please love.’
She replied with ‘Vot did you say?’
I repeated, ‘Two pints of lager!’
She looked at me as if I had used similar language to the irate man in the text above, went into a back room and returned with the landlord. He said ‘yes?’
I replied, ‘two pints of lager please mate’
He looked at the girl and said ‘two pints of lager.’
She looked again at him questioningly and he pointed to the lager pumps and gave her two fingers. I assume for the number of pints.
Eventually we were served but then another man came in and said, ‘pint o’ bitter love please!’
She answered with, ‘vot did you say?’)
3: Improved manners and behaviour in young people.
4: Vastly improved people skills nationally.
5: Unemployment figures vastly improved.

Lobby your MP today for National Customer Service!


If you liked this post why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information or better still, click the icon below to go straight to my Amazon page.

Floating in Space

A Tale of Four Horses.

The Grand National is one of those institutions of British sport, and coming in the early part of April like it does, it’s one of those events that herald the gradual warming of the days, the better weather and the move into the summer. It also heralds, at least where I work, someone going round with a card asking for money to enter the office sweepstake. Pay a pound, choose a horse at random and hope you are going to win some money. The National itself is pretty random. The nature of the event with its long course and numerous fences mean a huge amount of luck is involved. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular with the betting public. Anyway, it made me think about horses and their connection with my family which, when it comes down to it, is more considerable than I had originally thought.

Royal Horse artilleryMy Grandfather, George Higgins fought in the First World War with the Royal Horse Artillery and this is him in this splendid picture with his horse, Prince. My Dad had the picture with him in his wallet when he was in the forces and as time went on it got a little torn and tatty and somewhere, I suppose it must have been in Hong Kong where he was stationed for a while, he found a little photographic shop that specialised in rescuing old pictures. The background of the picture was originally a forest but the rescue work removed them in order to make the picture good.

Both sides of my family, my father’s people and my mother’s, came from the back to back terraced houses of Salford. They moved to Wythenshawe in the early 1940s. Wythenshawe was known as the ‘garden estate’ because instead of small terraced houses, here were bigger and better houses with front and back gardens. The estate was built on land purchased by Manchester City Council from the Tatton family. It was originally rustic countryside full of farms. My Dad worked on quite a few of them and my Mum tells me stories of getting milk from Potts Dairy farm which stood apparently just across from my old junior school. You’d never know because no trace of it remains today, just a row of council houses.

Wythenshawe

Image courtesy Wikipedia

One of my Dad’s early jobs was as a milkman but not for him the electric milk van. No, he had a horse drawn milk trolley and he told me with pride how, as he ran up and down through the gates of the various houses dropping off milk on doorsteps, he didn’t have to run back and move his trolley up. No, just a whistle was all it took and his horse would trot quietly forward to my Dad and he would replace the empties and take out fresh bottles for the next house. My Dad was pretty attached to that horse. It was stabled not far away in Northenden. Once his father, my grandfather, the WW1 Veteran came to see the horse. He checked the horse’s teeth, apparently a good indicator of equine health and pronounced himself satisfied.

On another occasion, my Dad rode the horse to a nearby fair in Northenden. It was a bank holiday weekend and my Dad rode his horse bareback. For a joke, some comedian decided to whack the horse and it rose up and galloped off at a great rate, my Dad hanging on for grim life. After a short sprint, the horse spied its own field, hit the brakes and ducked into the field for a quiet grass chewing session. My Dad hopped down, closed the gate and walked back to the fair. Numerous people congratulated him on his riding skills and horse control!

In the 1990’s I took some horse riding lessons myself. I went to a small riding school run by a young girl who looked to me to be nothing more than a schoolgirl but she told me with great pride how she had started the school from scratch and made it into a good business. She gave me a horse called Granite, a huge grey horse who was that tall it was not that easy to mount him. The first strange thing for a new rider on a horse is ‘what do I hold on to?’ On a motorbike or a bicycle, you have your handle bars but not of course on a horse. OK you have the reins but if you pull back on the reins you’re send a signal to the horse to stop. It took me a heck of a long time to get used to just sitting atop my horse. The other thing is that as you trot around, I always thought the rider would just be sitting there. Oh no. You have to learn to go up and down with the horse as you bob along. The thighs certainly get a good workout!

HorseI thought it was important to get along with Granite so I made a point of bringing him a juicy carrot every week. Granite loved that carrot and he would frisk me with his nose every time we met. One day, Vanessa, the young girl trainer spied me and told me in no uncertain terms not to feed her horse! Why not? I asked. Well, she didn’t want strange substances going inside her horses she said. What exactly she meant by that I really don’t know but she was in earnest and kept a close eye on Granite and myself for any signs of contraband carrot!

Granite of course was not happy. After our lesson, the last of the day, we trainee riders unsaddled our mounts, brushed them down and popped then into their stable. The first day without a carrot Granite showed in no uncertain terms he was not happy and tried to pin me against the stable wall to let me know.

Next lesson, I brought a carrot, cut into a number of bite sized pieces and slipped them to my horse surreptitiously. Once again, my horse was a happy horse.

Just to finish, here is another happy horse, well, for me at any rate. Rule the World was the winner of the 2016 National and it just so happened that he was the horse I pulled out in the draw. Happy days!


If you enjoyed this post, then why not try my novel, ‘Floating In Space’? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Manchester, Saturday Night, and Floating In Space

My book, Floating In Space is set in the Manchester of the late seventies. A pint of bitter was 25 pence. There were no smartphones, no Internet and no wireless networks. In fact ‘wireless’ was an old fashioned word for the radio. I’m tempted to say that things moved at a slower pace then but that’s not true. Things just moved at a different pace. In 2015 you hear a lot about pubs closing down but back in 1977, pubs were far from closing down; at the weekend they were the place to be! That was where my friends and I met up, drank beer, listened to music and chatted up the ladies. Saturdays were the focus of our week and here’s an excerpt from Floating In Space where Stuart, the narrator, talks about the upcoming Saturday night.

ManchesterSaturday night was in a lot of ways the culmination of the weekend. I always preferred it to Friday nights because things were more relaxed, there was no rushing home from work, no rushing to get your tea down your neck so you can get changed, then leg it out for the bus. Saturday, you could take your time and leisurely work up to things. Sometimes I would go out shopping and buy myself something new to wear for that evening, a shirt, or perhaps even a new pair of trousers. Then later I would have a long relaxed soak in the bath, and dress unhurriedly in my room to the tune of my favourite music. In 1977 my favourite album was Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick road’, and as I dressed I would mimic Nigel Olsson’s measured and rhythmic drumming to ‘The Ballad of Danny Bailey’, or ‘Candle in the Wind’.

There was something about Saturday nights in Manchester. Some quality of security, of expectancy, a feeling that the night and the future were going to be good. A feeling that you might just ‘get off’ with some gorgeous girl and that even if you didn’t it didn’t really matter because there was always the excitement of the people, the music, the drink, and everything else that made up the evening. And then there was always the expectancy of the next night, and the next, and on and on into the future. The past building up inside you like a great data bank, reminding you, reassuring you, like a light burning in some empty room in the corner of your mind.

The main venue that night, and on many other Saturday nights like it, was the ‘Playground’, a small disco bar on Oxford Rd in the town centre. Flickering multi-coloured spotlights rotated across the red carpeted room, which, on Fridays and Saturdays was generally packed. It had a small dance floor sunk low like a pit, where people up on the raised bar level could look down at the gyrating girls, and where also, on week day lunchtimes, a topless dancer appeared at the stroke of one o’clock to translate the soul and disco music of the time into pulsating physical motion, the eyes of jaded office workers glued to her as she did so.

My friend ‘Matty’ Edwards and I used to meet up in the Salisbury, by Oxford Rd station, have a few pints and a bit of a natter to any Regal cronies who we might find there, then make the short walk to the Playground. There was a paltry fifty pence charge to get in, the solitary bouncer was silent, but not unpleasant, and the DJ, who always began the night with ‘Loves Theme’ by the Love Unlimited Orchestra, played alternate sessions of rock, disco, and chart music. We were both mad about Jenny, the barmaid. She was lovely. She had a kind of round, open face, framed by thick blonde hair and her skin was a creamy white. She served us Worthington ‘E’ and we melted into the hubbub of people on their Saturday night out while the music of the seventies drifted through us.

Matty was tall; he had lazy, rather hayfevered eyes, and a biggish nose over thin lips. His brown hair was short and untidy and he dressed smartly, but had a sort of ‘middle of the road’ taste in clothes.
“Jenny’s looking gorgeous tonight,” he told me over his pint of Worthingtons.
We were propped up at the bar in a convenient spot where we could eye up any possible female talent, and cast a fond eye over Jenny’s appealing form.

“You’re not wrong mate.” I agreed. “I wouldn’t mind getting a grip of that myself.”
I caught Jenny’s eye and ordered two more pints of Worthington ‘E’. It wasn’t a great drink but we were tuned into it now for the rest of the evening, and anyway, I hadn’t as yet developed any clearly defined tastes in beer. The first pint I ever ordered myself was a pint of mild, and that was because I had nervously entered a Cheshire country pub after a long cycle ride and hesitatingly asked for a pint of ‘beer’.
“A beer?” asked the barmaid.
“Yes,” I replied, “A pint, please.”
“A pint of what?”

I realised, uncomfortably, that something more was required. I had thought that ‘a pint of beer’ would have been enough, but what the barmaid wanted to know was did I want bitter, or lager, or mild even? My first tentative forays into the world of the alcoholic drink were with my friend Mike Larini and it was always he who had done the ordering. What did he ask for, I thought? I couldn’t remember but down the bar the faint voice of an old man asking for half of mild drifted along to me, and so I went on to drink mild.

Later I changed to bitter, and even now I was currently considering another change as someone had given me the cheerful news that bitter ‘rots your guts’. Perhaps it had been that eternal pessimist Matty Edwards with his inside knowledge of beer. His father was a Didsbury publican, and Matty’s drink changed from pub to pub. Sometimes it was lager, sometimes bitter, but here, in the Playground, it was that now long departed brew, Worthington ‘E’.


You can read on and find out what happens to Matty and Stuart on that and other Saturday nights. Click the icon below to go to my Amazon page or click the links at the top of the page to find out more about Floating In Space.

My 10 Best Posts of 2015

dsc_ed0287Yes, it’s that reflective time of year again, the one where we look back at the last year, review what happened and work out what will be our resolutions for the next one. We’re not necessarily going to keep those resolutions but what the heck; it’s a worthwhile exercise anyway. I planned to write a follow up novel to Floating In Space in 2015 but I stalled after two chapters. Oh well, I’ve got an extended holiday in Lanzarote to look forward to in January 2016 so I’ll have to sit down and get stuck in. Come to think of it, I had an extended holiday in Lanzarote in January of 2015 but only managed to drink a great deal of wine, eat a great deal of tapas and swim a lot. C’est la vie as they say, at least I did a lot of ground work for the sequel and I did get those two chapters down on paper so the minimum I might expect this time is, chapters three and four!

Looking back at my blogging year my anecdotal posts have thinned out a little and I’ve concentrated a little more on two of my favourite things, books and classic movies. What I’ve tried to do is perhaps link some personal moments to something about books, film or TV and give a personal slant on my subject matter. One of my goals in blogging is to emulate the talkative, colloquial style of my novel Floating In Space in my posts, so if the reader likes the posts, he might just part with some money and buy my book! Psychology, isn’t it great! Anyway, hope you have all had a fabulous Christmas and New Year. Best wishes for you in 2016 and here’s a quick run-down of my favourite posts of the year!

1: Be Nice to People on Your Way Up! Absolutely. Just remember, if things go wrong, you’ll be meeting those same people on the way down!

2: Breakfast TV and the Apollo Moon Landing. I remember this like it was yesterday, getting up for school and the Moon Landing was being shown live on TV! How my poor mother managed to pack me off to school, I’ll never know!

3: What Happened to my White Jacket and my 70’s Pop Star Heroes? This is an interesting post and it’s strange to think how much we, as youngsters, are influenced by our heroes from the world of TV and music. It was David Essex who unwittingly influenced me to buy a white jacket but it didn’t turn out to be the babe magnet I thought it might be!

4: Marilyn Monroe: Suicide, the Kennedys, and a Red Notebook. I’ve probably got more books about Marilyn in my book collection than about any other movie star. Not only is she such a fascinating character but her death is just as big a mystery as the Kennedy Assassination and I do love a mystery!

5: A few unconventional Thoughts about Time. Travelling through France and seeing the relics of past wars inspired me to write this post about time and the way it passes.

6: Sunday Lunch with my Arch Enemy. This was an updated post about Liz’s father, who sadly passed away in October, 2015.

7: Four Random Thoughts on a Sun Lounger. A little sun, a sun lounger and a notebook and it’s amazing what comes to you!

8: Why Commuting Isn’t as bad as you think! Travelling into the City centre for a management course wasn’t a complete waste of time as I came up with this post!

9: TV Movies and a Serious Case of Deja Vu! I do love my TV movies but why do we get the same ones, time after time?

10: 12 Chart Hits from a Decade when Music was Fun! A quick bit of research and here’s the result, a fun filled music video post!

Hope you enjoyed my post. You can check out my favourite posts of 2014 here and if you fancy reading more of my work why not check out my book Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information or the icon below to go to my Amazon page.

FIScoverbuynow

 

Memories of Christmas

Christmases I have known.14nuffield
Well, there have been a few but the ones that stick in my mind are from long ago. Take a look over to the right. I have shown this picture before in a previous post and yes, that was the house where I used to live in when I was a child.

We had some lovely Christmases there. I remember watching old films on our black and white TV while my brother and I slurped fizzy pop like Dandelion and Burdock or Cream Soda, our faces lit by the warm glow of the coal fire. Bob the dog sat as close as earthly possible to the fire and if anyone dared to sit closer – my brother and I both liked to lie on the hearth rug and be close to the fire too – well Bob the dog would paw us till we moved or slump over us. He would peer into the fire until my Mum would shout at him when his nose dried up. Apparently a really bad thing for a dog, so she seemed to think.

Bob the Dog.

Bob the Dog.

We would watch films with stars like Judy Garland and Donald O’Connor. Musicals about Vaudeville and the American stage. ‘The Glenn Miller Story‘ was a firm favourite as well as ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business‘ and ‘the Jolson Story.‘ Poor Larry Parks; his career destroyed by the McCarthy Communist trials.

Funnily enough I saw the Glenn Miller story the other day and wasn’t impressed apart from the music. James Stewart was too old and there are too many shots of him looking quizzical and thinking about ‘that sound’ and, well I won’t say any more because years ago I loved that film. That and a hundred others like the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby road movies. Don’t seem to see many of those on TV any more!

Another Christmas TV event was the Andy Williams show, I loved that show and I so hoped the bear would get some cookies! ( Cookies and the bear? If you don’t understand you never watched the show!)

My Dad used to tell me all he ever got for Christmas was an apple and an orange and if he was lucky some second hand item like a box of tin soldiers! What he thought of the pillowcase of things my brother and I received for Christmas I don’t know!

Anyway, cherish your memories, because one day your loved ones will be gone and those memories will be so much more important to you. I hope you’re having a lovely Christmas and to all my past, present and future readers, thanks for looking in.

Let me finish with something a very dear and much missed old friend used to say to me;

May your shadow never grow less!


Remember, if you stuck for something to read this Christmas, Floating In Space is available for an instant download to your Kindle!