Posted on May 31, 2008 in Conversations, The Home Front by Jay11 Comments »

BikeScanNo. 1 son came round the other night to borrow the sat nav. He told us he was thinking about getting a motorbike again and the conversation turned to protective clothing. He still had his helmet and boots, and a decent pair of bike gloves, but he didn’t have a jacket. Now, I hold a motorbike licence, but it’s been a few years since I rode one, because what with the fibromyalgia and thyroid problem I walk around half asleep most days and that’s kind of dangerous on a bike. So I said he could try my jacket to see if it fitted him, them being unisex and all, and it did. In fact – wouldn’t you know it – it looks better on him than it ever did on me. It’s a black and yellow textile Akito Jacket with lightweight body armour and it made me look like a benevolent wasp. He, on the other hand, looks rather dashing.

‘Wow, it fits!’ he said. ‘Are you sure I can have it?’

Me: Of course, if you promise me not to kill yourself in it.

No. 1 Son: Oh, you want me to die naked?

Me: No … I …

No. 1 Son (interrupting): I suppose being naked on a bike would help with the dying part. Only I have a feeling it’s illegal – after all, I wouldn’t be wearing a helmet.


If he does kill himself, naked or not, I’ll be really pissed. But he’d be better off wearing the jacket. That way, if he merely topples off gently going round a corner, he might not break his collar bone like his father did.

Posted on May 29, 2008 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay13 Comments »

GraffitiAfter issuing my challenge to other bloggers to find something quirky and unusual in their neighbourhood, Natural, of Thinking Out Loud, posted this rather delightful mixed bag as a response. Buried in there is a link to a video documentary which appears to have been made by the youth of Maplewood, New Jersey, with the help of various locals. Watch it before reading the rest of this. It’s enlightening, the young people put their point across well, and the movie is very watchable.

It got me thinking. Maplewood is not unusual in this one failing, nor is it exclusively an American problem. I think many of our own towns and cities fail the younger generations in this way. You might almost expect it in villages with a small population, because they simply don’t have the resources to provide much – and yet they often manage very well. My own village is well served, since it hosts a local secondary school with an intake which covers several rural communities and this school provides evening classes, sports facilities and a youth club. We also have a busy village hall which offers various activities including Shotokan karate.

In other areas, where there is less to do, public benches have been removed to prevent local teens ‘hanging around’ and ‘making noise’. Okay, no-one wants groups of rowdy kids outside their door, but for crying out loud, do we as a society really not understand that if you give kids nothing to do and nowhere to go, they are going to be a damn nuisance? It’s like confining an adolescent border collie to a house and tiny garden with insufficient exercise and no mental stimulation. Is it, or is it not, going to turn into an uncontrollable hooligan? Of course it is. It is simple cause and effect. Hopefully, no sane person would expect otherwise.

So why do we expect our teens to get to the point where they’ve outgrown the kid stuff like playing round each other’s houses and biking around the park and playing on the swings and being taken to ballet classes and Cub Scouts, and miraculously turn themselves into steady, responsible young adults when we give them absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go? They are still young and physical, and they don’t want to hang at home with the old fogeys, they need to get out and be doing.

We take away the biking and the swings and we give them a bunch of ‘don’ts’ – don’t bike or skateboard or roller blade on the pavements. Don’t climb on stuff. Don’t rough-house with your mates, and please! Don’t even think about freerunning, you might hurt yourself or break something or get in the way. And then we give them no alternatives at all and expect them to keep out of trouble.

Is it any wonder that they feel alienated? Is it any wonder that they sit in front of the computer chatting on IM, and MySpace, and Facebook, and playing games all day and half the night? Is it any wonder that they climb buildings and hang off bridges and spray graffiti, or that they get frustrated and break things, just because they can?

What is so hard about providing one single ‘you can hang out here’ venue in each community? Sure, these days you’ll have to police it, but actually, young people have always benefited from a supervising adult. And the cost – while high – is surely less than the policing and fixing and repainting you’ll be doing if you don’t amuse them, and much less than providing secure accommodation for repeat offenders.

I’m not completely naive (having raised two boys myself) and I don’t imagine that this is the easy fix to all social ills, but just think about it. If you take any young dog or horse or monkey and confine it and frustrate it, I guarantee there will be huge great wads of trouble, with a sizeable potential for harm, both to others and to themselves. Young people are not so very different.

What’s wrong with an area set aside for teens, with very much larger equipment for them to play on, or sit and hang out on? Now, I realise that in this litigation-minded society this ain’t gonna go down too well with the Powers That Be, but it’s maybe what they need. Young people need somewhere to exercise both mind and body, and they need to dare. To risk. To see how far they can push themselves.

And until we adults remember how we were as teens and do something constructive about that – are we not always going to have trouble?

Posted on May 28, 2008 in Hounds, The Home Front by Jay21 Comments »

ShirtBedIt was nearly five years ago that we first brought the Princess home with us. We had just lost a dog to kidney cancer and her companion, my beloved James, was pining, so we went to the RGT kennel and asked to see the older hounds, because we didn’t want our arthritic oldie knocked about by some young hooligan. Anyway, among those brought out for our inspection was a long-legged red brindle with a black snout and pretty white chest and toes. James took to her, she took to him, her trainer assured us that she was as calm as any dog she’d seen and unlikely to bounce at James, so we signed the adoption papers, and took her home.

The Princess turned out to be a most affectionate and easy dog, content to sleep and go for walks and follow me around in the approved greyhound way. She and James got along beautifully, and she provided reassurance and comfort for him until his death from heart failure. She chewed a few things in those early days – if we’d known what signs to look for we’d have been forewarned, because she has brown marks on her front teeth from chewing the wire in her kennel – but we provided her with alternatives and eventually she learned not to eat drawer knobs and walls.

But she has never been that big on stuffies – unlike the Pirate who adores them – or stealing things like socks or slippers or TV remotes and mobile phones, as so many dogs do. So why is it that today, five years after being brought home with us, she has seen fit to steal one of my shirts, and take it to bed with her? I didn’t see her do it, but I know it was her.

I wonder. Did she think it would add something to the colour scheme? You have to admit it does look rather fetching there, on the royal purple bed. Or is it – as OH would have it – that she simply wanted to take my smell and snuggle up with it?

I suppose I should be flattered, huh?

Except … I’m sure that the curve you can see impressed in it was made by her bottom, and the Princess does killer farts.

Posted on May 27, 2008 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay13 Comments »

TwentyPoundNotesAfter a bit of a downer in the form of the previous post, I thought I’d search Google for some good news to bring you.

News item No. 1

A man who wrongfully received a tax rebate from HM Revenue & Customs in the form of a cheque for £2o,ooo was today told that he could keep the money. A spokesperson from the office concerned (who asked not to be named) apparently told reporters ‘We made the mistake, and it’s not fair that Mr. Higgins should have to suffer for it. He tells us he spent half the money last week on a huge party for his friends and relatives and gave the rest to charity. How can we ask him to give it back now?’

He added that Mr Higgins’ tax records would not now be investigated in a ‘routine check’, neither would HMRC be making any attempt to get the sum back by re-coding him on the basis of his windfall.

News Item No. 2

Scientists from all over the world are descending on a small village in Worcestershire where a woman claims to have a self-regenerating cucumber plant.

‘It’s amazing’, she told reporters. ‘I was in the greenhouse harvesting the cucumbers, when I broke one off instead of cutting it properly. Imagine my surprise when it started to regrow itself into a perfectly formed new cucumber from the broken end! By evening I had a whole new one on the same stalk, ready to cut! If I slice through the stalk, it doesn’t work, but if the cucumber itself is broken, it just starts to regrow’.

John Smith of the Institute for Biological Studies in Tollesbury, Kent, said that if the plant breeds true, it could herald a new solution to global hunger and food shortages.

He later added ‘It’s a shame it’s a cucumber’.

News Item No. 3

A local council in Devon has announced that as part of the bicentennial celebrations for the birthday of the burgh of Mount-Witchett on the Moor, they will be suspending council tax payments for everyone living within the boundaries of the town this year. Stunned citizens are delighted with the news and local travel agents report record sales with many package deals selling out within hours.

Mrs Scott, a widow of 36 with five small children and a disabled mother to support, said ‘This will make a lot of difference to me. I’ll be able to afford to buy groceries next week, instead of sending the kids to McDonalds and leaving Mum outside Asda with her violin and a flask of cocoa’.

So, OK, none of those have the remotest basis in actual fact. They are a fabrication. A bundle of lies. This is a work of complete fiction and no-one named here bears any resemblance to a real person, living or dead. There is no Institute for Biological Studies in Tollesbury, which is not in Kent, nor – as far as I know – is there a Mount-Witchett on the Moor in Devon, although Devon does, in fact, exist. Nor is there any intent to impugn the good name of either McDonald’s or Asda.

But Google didn’t have one item of good news today, so I made it up, and I bet you smiled at least once, even if only in sorrow for the loss of my blogging integrity.

Please. Tell me you did?