Friday, 18 September 2009

So who was Sven Karlsen?

I was seventeen at the time and I was playing first cornet in a brass band in my native Stoke-on-Trent. Every couple of years, the brass band did an exchange tour with a brass band in Norway from a town near Stavanger. They were the brass band that belonged to the farming equipment giants, Kverneland and it was our turn to go over there to play a series of concerts with their band.

I remember being very excited as apart from a school trip to Paris in 1979, this was only my second trip abroad and it was with a group of people I got on very well with and had fun playing music with them.

I do recall that I still had that god-awful curly perm at the time, which I thought looked cool.
The trip to Norway involved a long coach trip from Stoke to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a boat crossing from Newcastle to Stavanger and a coach ride from Stavanger to Keverneland.
The sea crossing was the worst bit as the water was very rough and everything I had eaten that day decided to pay me a visit over and over again. However, once I had got used to the choppy seas, I saw something that I will never forget. Whales. Yes, I saw whales swimming and water coming out of their blowholes, it was a fabulous sight.
The trip was surprisingly good once the sea sickness had gone and we were all excited but a tad tired by the time we arrived at the Keverneland plant to be picked up by our host families.
Me and my friend Tracy were to stay with the Karlsen family. The Dad didn’t speak English, but the Mum did and so did the children and they loved having us there and wanted to talk to us all the time.

There were three children, two girls and a boy. The boy was Sven. A chubby faced, curly-haired boy with blue eyes (one of them a lazy one!) and the most amazing smile you ever saw. I was smitten as soon as I clapped eyes on him!
Sven was the drummer of the Kverneland band and he was so sweet. He made us feel very welcome and when we weren’t in rehearsals, he was showing us around his town and teaching us Norwegian words in exchange for our English ones.

He taught me what the Norwegian word for “pea” was = echt and the word for “pop” = brut. We were walking around a department store and I pointed at things and he told me the Norwegian word for it. Cheekily I remember asking him what was the Norwegian word for “sex” and he said, with a very evil smile “the same!”

There was an attraction between us and although he was two years younger than me, in no time at all, we were holding hands and going off on long walks to the beach and sitting in the sand dunes watching the fish leaping out of the sea.
It was all so innocent and sweet. It was while we were sitting in the sand dunes that we shared our first kiss. My little crush on Sven was the talk of the brass band and some of my cornet playing boy chums were really taking the piss out of me because Sven was fifteen and I was getting the usual “cradle snatcher” remarks.

Meal times in the Karlsen household were always something to look forward to as you never knew what you were going to get and thankfully, it was all nice. None of the smoked reindeer that I was told about by some of the older boys in the band.
Sven’s Dad would have loved to have been in on some of the conversations and you could tell his frustration at not being able to understand what his kids and us were laughing and joking at but he laughed all the same because he was pleased to see his kids get so much out of the new house guests.

All of a sudden, a daddylonglegs came flying in through the window and Sven asked me what we called them in the UK?

“A daddylonglegs” I said.

They all laughed at that and laughed even more when Mr Karlsen tried to repeat it and it came out as “dooblieblombleb” so ever since 1980, daddylonglegs are now known as dooblie-blom-blebs in my eyes.

It was a really sad day when we had to say our goodbyes to the Karlsens. The week-long tour had gone well. We’d played some great music, had some wonderful excursions to the Fjords and were made to feel very welcome by our host families.

Saying goodbye to Sven was very sad. He gave me a flower and a notebook and a cap. His Mum and Dad could see that he was upset and gave us some time to ourselves to say our goodbyes. We hugged each other for ages and then had a lovely long kiss and then another hug and he said to me these words – written phonetically: “yoy oisker doy” which I found out meant “I love you”
I was late getting on the bus and everyone knew why and so when I eventually got on they all started whistling and singing “Ali’s in love, Ali’s in love!”

I did shed a tear or two when the bus drove off and all our host families were waving at us but I had a lovely time and nearly 30 years later, I still think of Sven and wondered what happened to him.

We kept in touch for about six months or so and both of us had left our respective bands by the time the Norwegians came over to us. I re-wrote the words to Flanders and Swann’s Hippo Song to fit in with my experience with Sven and for a while afterwards, I did it as a party piece at brass band rehearsals.

So Sven Karlsen may be the name of a fictitious Private Eye in a thriller I am not writing at the moment, but the real Sven was a sweet-faced little drummer boy who inspired me to cheer on Norway every year when the Eurovision Song Contest came around – just in case he was the one playing the drum!!!!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The final chapter - back where he belongs...

Well, Monkeh has had one heck of a week.

He's swam with sharks in Anglesey, been on Mr Punch's stage in Llandudno, hitched a lift to Harlech, caught a bus to Barmouth, been involved in petty theft from his Mum and Dad, been caught in a four-in-a-bed romp with The Williams sisters and a sheep and finally, put behind bars in Conway by the infamous policeman, Sweeper of the Yard.

Once his bail had been paid and the charges against his were dropped, we went to pick the little fella up from the Police Station.

He was obviously very pleased to see us and looking none the worse from his ordeal.

We gathered his belongings and packed the car and headed for home.

It's been a very strange week but Monkeh will not forget the new friends he met and the old dodgy acquaintances he encountered. Who can forget Sharon and Tracy to two ginger tom cats in Harlech or Brian the Pug who helped him with the picture scam?

There was the mean Yorkshire man who ran the B & B, the strange Geordie voice-over guy and the Dutch hotel owner whose wife had a penchant for filming their guests while in the privacy of their own room.

Then there was George Seagull who conned him out of £400 to appear in a film that didn't exist, his old flame Annette her thin sisters and of course, Blodwyn and Bethan Williams and the Sheep.

Going back to Coventry will seem so normal but will Monkeh put his naughty ways behind him and behave himself on the way home? Will he realise that he has been a bad boy and be able to accept the consequences?

I'm not really surprised that he ended the film blog by showing us his bum, but that's Monkeh all over. He's home now and has gone out to meet his other Monkey pals to tell them about his big Welsh adventure.

Normal blogging service will return as soon as possible.

Or will it?

To look at Monkeh's holiday photos check out the following link:


Friday, 10 July 2009

Softly softly catchie monkeh....

We last saw Monkeh in his hotel room in the Dutch Quarter of Barmouth with his friends, The Williams sisters and a sheep.

After a riotous time in the hotel room, their antics came to a sudden halt when Inspector Sweeper of the Yard, Britain's most monotonous Policeman, burst in and arrested them.

They were all carted off to Conway Police Station - Monkeh was put behind bars (see picture) obviously this was nothing new to him but it was a new and unnerving time for The Williams sisters - both of them had been behind bars before, but at their local "The Welsh Tiger" where they took it in shifts to serve pints to the locals.

The sheep had never experienced this kind of detention and was obviously worried that he was going to be sent to the place where his Mum and Dad were sent - and never came back.

We catch up with our hero, Monkeh, being interrogated by the aforementioned Sweeper of the Yard in one of the station's interrogation rooms.

Please take heed of this warning - if you are at all affected by any of the over acting you are about to witness, a helpline number will appear at the end of the film. Headphones again, are required.

The film producers would like to apologise for the scene where Monkeh was offered and accepted a cigarette. Please children, do not try to attempt to copy anything that Monkeh might do in the film as smoking can damage your health.

Tomorrow, Monkeh and his Guardians say goodbye to Wales and reflect on the week they have had.

Monkeh hoodwinked by chum and much more....

We last saw Monkeh being given his orders on house rules for the shady B& B he was staying at in Barmouth.

"No way do I want you to be entertaining those Williams sisters in your room" said the brusque Yorkshire landlord to our little knitted chum.

However, Monkeh needed to see them because they had promised to assist him with his Welsh accent for the audition his mate George Seagull had told him about. Monkeh managed to sneak the sisters up to his room and they went about transforming him from a normal, healthy knitted monkey to a convincing young Welsh woman complete in a traditional Welsh costume (see picture).

He was bound to get the part and pass himself off as a Welsh woman, wasn't he?

Monkeh and the Williams sisters all went to the location where the film was being shot. Monkeh thought it was strange that his friend George Seagull wasn't there to meet them and what was even more strange was the fact that when they arrived at the location (which was on the other side of town to where his B & B was) there were no film crews, no make-up or costume tents.

Strangely enough, there were no other extras there, no film stars, no crew canteen and no sign of filming.

Monkeh was fuming - he'd been lied to and his so-called friend, George Seagull (who he had given £400 to in order to get a part in the film) was nowhere to be seen.

"Never mind, Monkeh" said Bethan Williams,"there will be other films but the next time a seagull comes up to you in the street and asks you for 400 quid to appear in a film where you'd have to learn Welsh and dress up as a woman, I hope you'll be a little bit more suspicious!"

"Yes, be very cautious" said Blodwyn Williams. "If we had known that it was George Seagull who had told you about the filming, we would have told you not to go as he's pulled this scam before.

"You got off lightly. He conned Babe the Pig once out of £1,000 by telling him that he was a cert for a Danish Bacon commercial and when he turned up for the film shoot, he'd actually been sold to the local butcher and now he's in the deep freeze - so you were lucky."

"I don't feel very lucky," said Monkeh. "I feel foolish. But at least I've still got my B & B for the next few days, so why don't we all go back to my room again and work our way through the mini bar?!

"Ooooh yes," giggled Bethan and Blodwyn. However, when they got back to the B & B, Monkeh found his belongings on the doorstep and a note left on his case read: "You broke the rules, you're out on your Monkey ear!"

"What on earth am I going to do now?" said Monkeh.

Blodwyn said: "I know of another B & B where they are more liberal about what you do and with whom, why don't we go there? There are other ways to break into film you know, so don't be downhearted."

"Oooh yes" said Bethan. "Let's go to that other B & B in the Dutch Quarter".

"Well, I've got no other choice," said Monkeh and off they went to the infamous Dutch Quarter of Barmouth.

Again, ear phones are advisable in order to hear the film in decent quality.

Oh no! What on earth is Monkeh going to do now? He's got no money, he's a long way from home and he's about to find himself in the slammer with a couple of Welsh sisters and a sheep. How is he going to get out of this latest predicament?

Tune in tomorrow to find out the latest in the escapades of Monkeh in Wales.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A bus ride to Barmouth for Monkeh

You last joined us when Monkeh had nicked the contents of my purse and hopped on a bus to Barmouth.

He just couldn't wait to get there as he not only had family there, but an old flame who he actually met up with, her name was Annette (Monkeh pictured talking to her and her sisters).

He was so excited as he hadn't seen Annette for such a long time and boy had she grown but was still as thin as ever. Monkeh told her that he was on the run and she advised him to lie low for a bit and she gave him the name and address of a local B & B which was run by a rather arrogant Yorkshire Man, who himself had dabbled in some dodgy dealings.

The only problem was that the B & B wouldn't let you book in until after 3pm, so Monkeh had a couple of hours to kill and in that time, how much trouble can one Monkeh cause?

Monkeh met up with another old friend of his, George Seagull. He was telling Monkeh how he has just made a film and that they are looking for extras for his next one if he was interested.

"There's only one drawback" said George to Monkeh "you have to be Welsh and a woman" but he insisted that it was very easy to achieve.

Monkeh got really excited. The prospect of being in a film was just a wonderful feeling. He'd always wanted to expand his portfolio, afterall, there's only so much you can do about tea for 30 seconds a time.

Filming was due to start in the morning and last for several days. The costume fitting would be the first thing that the extras would have to go for and Monkeh thought that he could pass himself off as a woman, afterall, he'd passed himself off as the Queen once for an alternative Christmas Day broadcast and no-one seemed to notice.

Monkeh decided that once he'd booked into his B & B (using the credit card that he nicked from my bag!) he could have a good night's kip and put lots of moisturiser on his face and shave so that you couldn't see his Monkeh stubble and start practising his Welsh.

Luckily, he had a couple of friends living locally who were notorious and would do anything for a night in a decent B & B. Bethan and Blodwyn, or The Williams Sisters, as they are known locally, had made friends with Monkeh years ago when he used to work on the fun fair with his Uncle.

He rang the sisters and told them that he was in town and wondered if they would come to his B & B later to give him a few pointers on how to pass himself off as a Welsh woman.

It was coming up to checking in time and so Monkeh made his way to his B & B which was in a seedy part of Barmouth down a little narrow lane. He found the place and it was dark, miserable and very much out of the way - perfect for lying low.

He made his way to the reception and spoke to the woman to book a room. Sadly, he couldn't use the credit card as the name didn't match, but he did have the cash and she accepted that, with no questions asked and then sent him upstairs.........but what awaited him?

With so many restrictions - will Monkeh manage to sneak his friends up to his room?

Find out tomorrow in the next thrilling installment of Monkeh's trip to Wales.

Monkeh hitches to Harlech

Yesterday, I told you how Monkeh had jumped in a strange man's car and hitched a lift.

Someone who was standing next to Monkeh overheard him telling the guy that he wanted to go to Harlech Castle and this man said he was going there and told Monkeh to hop in.

You may need to pop your headphones into the PC as this is what happened:

Poor Monkeh and what a mean man to send him on a wild goose chase.

Luckily, our knitted chum soon found his way back into the town and we all met up again and had a good trot around to see what the small village of Harlech had to offer.

To sum it up, it was like a one horse town but without the horse! Seriously, it was very quaint. Monkeh visited all the shops buying presents for his friends (these were mainly fruit-based presents and banana in shape) but he did buy me a nice pendant to say thank you for letting him come on holiday with us.

Monkeh also spotted and befriended a ginger tom cat who was sitting on a bench outside the church. The two of them got chatting and Monkeh discovered that although this cat was a boy, his cruel owners had given him the name of "Sharon" and his twin brother was called "Tracy" - a strange sense of humour in Harlech, obviously.

I was a tad concerned because since Monkeh had run off on two occasions and both times we'd caught up with him, he was now being very good and attentive, even offering to carry my handbag.

He couldn't do enough for us which made me even more suspicious. It wasn't until I asked him for my bag and went to get my purse to get out some money for a newspaper that I realised the little so and so had once again, robbed me of my notes and loose change and was heading off down the road.

I thought he was being very generous on the banana for presents front and now I know why - he was being generous with MY money.

He was last seen running up the road where he met up with a sandy-coloured Pug bitch called "Brian" and the two of them were planning on fleecing the tourists by asking them if they wanted to pose with Monkeh to have their picture taken.

Brian the Pug would take the money, take the picture and take the person's address to send the picture on to - Brian was all take, take take!! However, what the unsuspecting tourists were not told, was that there was no film in the camera.

Between them in just an hour, they had made £70!! Because it was Brian's camera, he gave Monkeh £30 and Brian kept the rest.

Monkeh waved goodbye to Brian and realised that he hadn't sent his Uncle Dave a postcard, so he soon put that right and once he'd written it and posted it, he was seen heading towards the bus stop to go to the seaside town of Barmouth where he knew they had a fun fair.

His Great Uncle Barney was a barker at a fair and so Monkeh knew he would soon feel at home if he should take a trip there. He took £2 out of his "takings" and boarded the National Express to Barmouth.

This time, we knew where he was going as we saw the name of the seaside town on the front of the bus, so once again, we followed him to make sure he didn't get up to any trouble on the bus.

Apart from leading the singing to "4 and 20 Monkehs came down from Inverness" - he appeared to behave himself and even used the on-board loo instead of pee-ing out of the window like he normally does.

So, what does Monkeh get up to in Barmouth?

You know the score by now but what I can tell you that once he gets to Barmouth, he meets his match at a local B & B!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Monkeh goes to sea

This is the continuation of Monkeh's recent trip to Wales and the chaos he caused.

We last saw Monkeh hopping on the number 37 bus from Llandudno to Anglesey - as we were no where near our car at the time, we had to dash back to the car park and try our hardest to catch the bus up so we could get to Anglesey at the same time before he caused even more trouble.

Luckily for me, I went through this trouser pockets the other night to liberate some spare change that he didn't give me back after buying 3 fish suppers. I saw a leaflet for the Anglesey Sea Zoo - so it didn't take a genius to work out where our little friend had taken himself off to.

Fortunately, hubby bought his sat nav so we were able to determine which route would get us to the Sea Zoo to beat Monkeh's bus. We didn't think it would be hard to track him down once we got there.

Thankfully, by the time we arrived, he had just jumped off the bus (he managed to con a dear old lady to pay his fare for him by promising her free cups to tea for the rest of her life) - you won't see that money again, love. Sorry.

Monkeh stood outside the Sea Zoo (see photo) and once he clocked us he ran up to us, knicked my phone from out of my hand and ran inside, dodging the turnstile by jumping over it.

By the time we'd joined the queue and paid to get in (there was a big party of school children in front of us) we then had the task of trying to find him inside the building. Knowing him as I do, I just looked for the clues to catch up with him and there they were: a trail of banana skins and monkey nut shells. We followed him but stayed just enough further behind him so he didn't know we were there.

He had a great time. He saw fish, crabs, sharks, sea horses (although he did try to mount one of them) star fish, sea anemones and lobsters. All of a sudden, he got extremely excited. We heard this almighty shriek - he had entered the tunnel of fish and in there were the biggest fish you ever saw. Monkeh got really animated, jumping up and down and then it all went quiet.

We went to the tunnel but couldn't find him anywhere but he did leave behind my phone and this is what we found on it.

Well, I'd heard of walking with dinosaurs, trust Monkeh to go one better! Again, we'd lost track of him but outside there was a lot of cheering and applauding.

Monkeh had paid for all the kids on the coach trip to get into the adventure playground and that meant that they could go on the rides and on the climbing frames. Monkeh shouted to the excited kids "The Monkeh bars are on me!" and as quick as a flash, he was gone.

He'd got into some strange man's car - where was he off to? You'll have to find out tomorrow.

Where ever he goes, he causes trouble.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Monkeh runs amok in Llandudno!

Can I say at the beginning, that it wasn't my intention to upset little children or in fact deceive them in any way, but when you are in the company of a knitted monkey who likes to be the centre of attention, then people who are in his way tend to get hurt.

Yesterday, I left you hanging around for the latest installment of Monkeh's recent trip with me and the other half to Wales.

While I was talking to Bonnie the dog and her owner, Monkeh scampered off to seek out an adventure of his own and after a few desperate minutes of searching for him on Llandudno pier, I spotted the little beggar trying to scale up the side of "Professor Codlyn's Punch and Judy Show" booth on the promenade.
This particular show has been going for a long time, ever since Moses was a lad in fact, so it was no surprise that Monkeh wanted to get in on the act.

Although the next showing wasn't until 2pm, there were dozens of small children sitting down and waiting in anticipation for the Punch and Judy show to start. Why on earth they like to watch a story about a battered housewife, an abused baby, a dog that runs off with sausages and police brutality is beyond me, but we've all watched the show one time or another and P and J (as I call them) are a seaside tradition.

Monkeh obviously wanted to be part if it all but his little legs couldn't quite make it up so I gave him a helping hand, much to the amusement of some of the waiting children.
I put Monkeh on the "stage" so he could have his photo taken.

"What are you doing with that monkey, missus?" was the question from a little ginger-haired girl whose dress was covered in chocolate and her hair stuck together with bits of her little brother's candy floss.

"Well" I said. "My friend Monkeh wanted to come and audition for the Professor as he would like a starring role in his next show. Do you think he'd be good?"

"Yesssssss" was the general response by the now several children who had taken interest in my monkey capers.

"What's his name?" asked her little brother. "Why, it's Monkeh, you must have seen him on the telly in the tea bag ads," I said.

"Do you mean he's the famous one?" was his reply. "Yes and I think if he doesn't get down from the stage, he might be the famous one who is also in big trouble. " I said.

By this time, far too many children were getting far too interested in what I was saying about Monkeh and wanted to meet him and know more about his "role" that he was auditioning for. I made some remark about him being late for his lunch and that the Professor had seen his audition tape and would let him know if he was going to get a part, but as we were in the area anyway, he wanted to see the stage he'd be working on for himself!

"Oh I hope Monkeh gets the part," piped up the original little girl. "He makes me laugh and he could take the part of the baby."

Now I'm not one for doing actors (puppets or real ones) out of a job and so I didn't want to encourage false hope. However, I did say as my parting shot that anything was possible and that if Monkeh were to get a part in the show, it would be as himself and not masquerading as a baby.

I took him off the stage and let the little girl give him a cuddle and shake his paw before I headed off feeling totally shameful that the thing I wanted in the first place - (which was to get Monkeh's picture in an interesting location to send to his "Uncle Dave") - should now mean that dozens of kids are going to be shouting out at the next Professor Codlyn show - "We want Monkeh".
The poor man will not know what has got into them and wonder why on earth they are shouting for a character that is not in his show.

Professor, if you ever get to read this, I'm truly sorry!

As for Monkeh, as soon as I'd taken him from the chocolate-covered hands of the little girl with the ginger hair, he was off again - this time seen boarding a bus heading towards the Anglesey Sea Zoo.
To find out what he did there, you will have to log in again tomorrow - holidays are certainly not dull when Monkeh's around!!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

And Monkeh came too!

I bet you have been wondering where I have been? Well, I've had a few days away in lovely North Wales and decided that rather than do a conventional photograph album of pictures of me or the hubby, I'd take Monkeh along so he could experience Wales himself. Boy did he have a good time!

Here is the little rascal standing in front of Conway Castle. Built in the 13th Century, it is an amazing building and Monkeh really loved it. He especially liked standing right on the top of the tower and throwing his discarded banana skins at passing tourists!

I took him to the harbour where we sat and ate fish and chips between the three of us and in the background, we could hear the strains of singing at a nearby pub. We found out that there was a Blue Grass Festival going on and that is why there were so many people walking around with guitars strapped to their backs.

Not so long after we had finished our food, that Monkeh scampered across the road to the pub and insisted on taking the microphone. Then he took the stool and then he robbed the bar of its takings - only kidding, he insisted on singing one of his own songs that he wrote when he was a wee small chimp. The song is called: "I may be made out of wool, but don't make a Monkey of me!!" - er, too late, mate, someone already did.

He has been a little sod for running off most of the time we were there. I nipped to go to the loo at an amusement arcade and when I came out, Monkeh was on the roulette wheel placing all of his money on black 17 (seventeen is his lucky number as he was the 17th baby born to his Mum). Of course, it wasn't to be as he lost all of his money and very nearly lost the shirt off his back - if it wasn't for some skilled negotiation on my part, he'd have been walking around with no clothes on.

While in Llandudno, we came across a man sitting on a wall near to the pier. He had a lovely little West Highland White dog with him called Bonnie. She was so pretty and I just couldn't resist giving her a stroke. Then her owner started to tell me all about her recent operation.

She collapsed a few weeks ago and the Vet said that her heart had packed in so they rushed her into doggie hospital and she had a pace-maker fitted! Yes, a tiny little pacemaker. Now, I am not one to boast, or I could have done by telling this man that a relative (distant and in the US) of mine, actually invented the pacemaker - but it was Bonnie's story, not mine, and I didn't want to take the glory away from her.

However, when her owner told me how much it cost to have her made well again, I nearly fell off my platform shoes. Her vet bill came to Five Thousand Pounds!! Luckily, he was insured but had to pay £250 out of his own pocket because the fees had taken her over the limit. She has now got at least 10 good years left before the battery runs out and she didn't half look happy on it.

I really like stories like that. Of course, that did not impress Monkeh. While I was talking to Bonnie and her owner, he was off in search of a new adventure and .......

Well, I will save it until tomorrow to let you know what he got up to!

Friday, 29 May 2009

A lovely day for a lovely lady

I was back in the homeland today - yes, Stoke.

Where people say book like it should be said. Where oatcakes are eaten at every meal and where a duck is not only just a water bird or getting out in cricket and not scoring but also a Stoke term of endearment.

It was a glorious day, which I am pleased about because it was the day of Jessie Moston's funeral. My Dad's cousin who died just 30 days shy of her 100th birthday.

I went to the funeral today and decided to go up on the train to Stoke because I just couldn't face the M6 on a Friday. I'm glad I did as I felt more relaxed and as I was due to read a eulogy to Jessie, I wanted to be calm as I always get very emotional at funerals.

It was nice to meet up with Stan's family (Stan was Jessie's companion for 20 years and he sadly died a few years back leaving Jessie on her own). Stan was the love of Jessie's life and at the funeral today, the Minister said that she often used to tell him when he was her Parish Priest, how much she regretted never marrying Stan.

Jessie came to the Church (St. Matthew's, Birches Head) in a beautiful wicker coffin which was draped with flowers, the colour of which took your breath away. I didn't really see much of Jessie after my Dad had died, so I was very pleased to meet Linda Goodwin and her family who were Stan's relatives and who looked after Jessie and her affairs until the day she died.

Linda bought some pictures with her today and asked me if I wanted any of them. I took some that had my Great Grandparents on (my Dad's grand parents) and also my great uncles and aunts. It was nice to have something as I don't have many pictures of my Dad's family and there's no-one left around who can tell me about his family, sadly.

The funeral service was really nice and I managed to keep it together to read the piece I had written about Jessie. I was sitting on the front row on the end and when I was called up, I had to walk up a couple of steps and read at the lectern. I was a bit nervous, but as soon as I got up there, I was surprisingly relaxed and even managed to get people laughing at some of the things I said.

Jessie would have liked the laughter - she had a sense of humour. The one thing I was really scared about, was bumping into the coffin on the way back down the stairs and I did! I slightly touched it with my hip, but thankfully, it didn't knock it over.

We stood outside in the sunshine after the service and a couple of people came up to me to say hello as they remembered me from my presenting days on Radio Stoke and they all said how much they missed hearing me on the radio, which was nice! One of them was a former Lord Mayor of Stoke and his wife.

I was given a lift in one of the big cars with the family; a seven-seater Jaguar no less. It was lovely. I asked the driver how he felt about taking me back to Coventry later!

After the service, we went to the crematorium and then back to The Birches Head Pub (pictured) for sandwiches and tea and that's where I was given the photos.

It was nice to be back home, albeit for a short while but tinged with sadness to say farewell to the last link to my Dad's side of the family. However, if Dad had have been alive, he would have done what I did today and said a few words about Jessie, so in a way, I'm glad it was me that did something on his behalf. I basically used stuff from the blog I did about Jessie when I heard she had died and updated it slightly.

Once I had said my goodbyes, I got a taxi back to the station to get my train to Coventry and while I was waiting at the counter in the shop to buy a bottle of pop, I saw and spoke to Wendy Turner-Webster (Anthea Turner's sister) and we had a chat and she introduced me to her kids. It was nice to see her as I hadn't spoken to her for years and I told her that I was only with her sister a few weeks back! What a small world.

I travelled to Stoke First Class on the train as it was not that much more than standard class and you get a seat and something to eat and drink - I like to do it when I can afford to do it.

Hubby picked me up in the car when I got home to Coventry and for the rest of this evening, I've been quite mellow. I guess funerals do that to you, make you look at your life and compared to what Jessie fitted into her first 46 years, I've done nothing!

I was going to mention something about watching "Britain's Got Talent" tonight, but I won't because I found the whole thing very disturbing.

All I want to say is that it is fine for kids to take part in talent shows, but this was just car crash TV tonight watching the little girl plead for another go because she cocked it up first time and then they put her through to the final!! Gawd knows what she's going to be like tomorrow. I am not going to put myself through the ordeal of watching it live - I'll record it and whizz through the uncomfortable bits, especially if it means witnessing dumpy Divas, groaning Grandads and Crying Kids all over the place.

Britain's got Talent, Britain's Got Schmalent! If Jessie was still alive, she would have auditioned for it playing her recorder!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Farewell Jessie - a grand woman

It is a sombre start to my blog today as I had some sad news. Jessie Moston (right) died peacefully in her sleep on Friday night aged 99 and 335 days old.

So instead of everyone planning for her birthday party, there are now plans for a funeral.

Jessie was part of my extended family. I've known her all my life. Her Mum was married to my Great Uncle, so although she was no blood relative, she had been part of the family ever since she was 14.

Jessie never married. She was an independent woman. Very intelligent and the kind of woman who did not want to be pigeon-holed. She was a Head Teacher in her younger days, she was one of the first women to hold the seat of a Councillor on the city council in Stoke, she was Chair of the Arts Committee and was one of the people instrumental in bringing about the building of the Hanley Museum and Art Gallery which holds one of the best ceramic collections in the world.

Jessie was also an accomplished musician, linguist, raconteur, artist and traveller. She was well travelled and was not afraid to seek out new adventures. She rode camels in Egypt, busked in the street with her recorder (at the age of 95) and defied the constraints of her generation by "living in sin" with Stan, the man she loved until he died.

I have fond memories of Jessie. She used to come to ours with her sister Gladys and when Jessie and my Dad locked horns about politics, Jessie always had the upper hand. Jessie was a Labour supporter and Dad a Conservative.

Jessie and Stan went to America in 1991 to attend my brother's wedding and was such a sprightly 80 something year old, she didn't look her age.

She was a true lady. When Gladys died, she gave me £1,000 which went towards my wedding fund which she said, she wanted to do as she didn't need Gladys' money. The rest, she gave away to charity.

I last saw Jessie in 2008 when I went to visit her at the care home she went to near Longton when she could no longer look after herself. I was shocked to see how frail and little she was and even though her memory was not the best, every-so-often, she'd have a flashback and she remembered that I used to sing and work for a radio station and that she'd been invited to attend my wedding, but was not well enough to travel.

Jessie had a wonderful life, so I'm not going to be sad about what we've lost, but celebrate about what she had. She worked hard all her life and she did things other women of her generation could only have dreamed about.

She was a pioneer in local government, education and culture. She gave so much of her spare time in her younger days to help others and instead of taking a camera with her on her travels, she'd take a sketch book and bring home with her a unique record of her round the world adventures.

When God made Jessie, he built one to last. It's just such a pity she couldn't have lasted a little bit longer so see her 100th birthday, but she made it into her 100th year, which is no mean feat.

Also, when you think of what Jessie has seen in her lifetime, it's quite daunting. Advances in Science and Technology and supersonic travel. The first man on the moon, Two World Wars, the first woman PM in the UK and the first ever Black President of the USA. The bringing down of the Berlin Wall, the death of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. She's lived through 5 reigning Monarchs, been around for at least 17 different Prime Ministers and the one that is most important to Jessie - she was born at a time when women did not have the right to vote, which when you think about how a majority of Jessie's life was centred around politics, was unthinkable!

If Jessie's lifespan were to have been calculated as a whole day - she was born at midnight and died at 23.59 - so near and yet so far.

RIP Jessie. You will be missed.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Sweets I have loved..

At the pub quiz the other night, my friend Katie pulled out a packet of sweets. They were Fruit Salad.

My eyes lit up. "ooh I love these" I told her and she then said something which made my night..."I've got some black jacks at home, I'll bring them in for you."

Black jacks. I loved these more than I loved the Fruit Salad. Not only did they taste great, but they made your tongue black. When I was little my Mum used to hide them from me so I wouldn't eat them before my tea. However, I did used to find them and was forever licking my tongue out to her just to show her that I had been eating them! That's the kind of rebel I was when I was younger - I were reet mad, me! In't black jacks brilliant?

Anyway, true to her word, Katie bought me a packet of sweets in and I sat there and with them on my desk and once opened, I had passed the point of no return. I obviously offered them round to everyone in the office but I think I might have said it in a very low voice because no-one wanted one (YES!)

I am thinking of bringing out a book called "Sweets I have loved" and the Black Jack would definitely be in there along with Spangles, Tutti Frutti and the Milk Tray bar (you know, the chocolate bar that had seven or so different chocolates in the one bar. They don't do them any more) I also remember the Aztec bar - that was nice.

As I said in an earlier blog, my brother was very canny when it came to sweets as he knew that I used to gobble all mine down quite quickly and so he would save his and then sell them to me later - he was a right spiv.

I've just been speaking to him actually on the Skype thing. It's great to be able to see him and speak to him in real time. He was telling me something that I was absolutely shocked by... it is twenty years since he went to the US of A to seek his fame and fortune.

Yes, twenty years since I took him to the bus station in Hanley, Stoke -on- Trent and said my goodbyes to him and his two friends who were also going to try their luck in the US. I remember giving his friend, Phil, a kiss goodbye and my brother was quite shocked with the way Phil and I got carried away! I just reminded him of that... "oh yes, bloody hell!" was his response.

Back to my topic of the night - sweets. I used to go to Stoke market on a Saturday morning and buy a quarter of chocolate buttons with bits on - loved them. I also used to get sherbet from the shop opposite my Nan's house and it came with a stick of liquorice. Mmm, is it any wonder I am built this way? Guess not. Sweets have been a big part of my life.

I could just fill this blog with the names of sweets that I like - apart from those horrible sweets that taste of violets and anything with marzipan in it - I haven't met a sweet I didn't like!

When I used to work at the city council in Birmingham, I was fortunate enough to have a space in the underground council car park - it used to drive one particular radio presenter in the area mad to think that this parking space was there for the councillors and officers to use!

One morning, I parked my car there and bumped into a well-known local person who was on one of our Scrutiny Committees. I had met him on several occasions but never really had a decent chat to him and so I thought that as I was in the car park and we were both walking in the same direction, I would introduce myself.

I started off by thanking him for making me the shape I was....he was the reason why I was shaped like a barrel - the man in question was Sir Adrian Cadbury, no less! He probably won't remember this - we are talking well over 10 years ago and you name me one person who can remember a conversation with a near stranger in an underground car park from all those many years back. However, I remember it and that's all that matters.

I am going to nail my flag to the mast now and say, hand on heart, that you just can't beat Cadbury's chocolate. It is divine. It is the best tasting chocolate in the world. Who told the Swiss and the Belgians that their chocolate was the best? Not I. Only if I'm desperate would I eat their chocolate.

However, coming up fast on the inside lane is a recent find - ALDI chocolate. Yes, GERMAN Aldi Chocolate. My Dad would be spinning in his grave to think that I preferred German chocolate to British but even my friends at work had to concede that Aldi chocolate was nice and if you were to come into our office on any day of the week, you will find a general assortment of sweets, chocolates and cakes - we are connoisseurs.

Sweets are no good for you but why do they taste so good? Why can't the things that are bad for you taste horrible and the things that are good for you taste nice - you got it slightly wrong there G-Man but then if we all ate what was good for us, the Government would have a dickie fit at not being able to preach to us, so I'm doing them a favour by single-handedly keeping the economy going on the sweet front and helping the sweet industry to ride the recession.

Will I get a mention in the Queen's birthday honours for my hard work? I doubt it but I can go to bed at night safe in the knowledge that over the years, I've kept the nation's sweet shops going when all other establishments sans bon bons have fallen by the wayside.

Recession, what recession -it's 2009, it's supper time and I'm 'aving a curly wurly.

This is Gene Hunt signing off.

Monday, 13 April 2009

My ideal wooden man!!

I have made no secret of my desire for this man. Paul Metcalf (aka Captain Scarlet). He is such a fox. I have always loved him from the first time I clapped eyes on him when I was a little girl.

There is something about him that used to make my heart race and that voice of his could melt ice in seconds - it was hot.

Captain Scarlet was the stuff dreams were made out of from his perfect skin, blue eyes, jet black hair and those lips that I used to dream about kissing (and if I'm honest, still do).

So what is it about this mini marvel that made my growing up years so special? Well, for a start, I always used to imagine myself as Mrs. Scarlet - I was a former Angel who settled down with him to a life of domestic bliss and while he was off saving the world from the clutches of the dastardly Mysterons, I'd be waiting at home for him him to mop his brow and scrub his back when lying in a well-earned bath after a long day of earth-saving.

He might have been indestructible (gawd knows he would have needed that skill if he was relying on me to cook for him) but he was still a man and I was merely Mrs. Paul Metcalf.

His Cary Grant like voice, his square jaw and perfect physique - I wonder if Gerry Anderson knew what he was doing inflicting so much manhood onto an unsuspecting world of adoring females? Well, the Angels were created for the boys to lust after and Capts. Scarlet and Blue (aka Adam Svenson) were the eye candy for the girls.

However, 30 odd years later, I'm still dreaming of this man with the wooden hands and imagine being whisked off for a romantic weekend in the country just as plain old Mr and Mrs. The other boarders in the B & B not knowing that the man in Room number 17 has just saved the earth from being blown up by Spectrum's arch enemies.

Oh yes, away from Spectrum, Capt. Scarlet had a whole new life with me. We lived in a rambling cottage on an equally rambling estate in the country, Cotswolds I think, we had a black dog (Labrador) and a King Charles Spaniel. We had several cats and two horses. Paul and I would go for long walks in the country and if the weather was nice, we'd take a picnic which would always end up with us lying down on the blanket on the ground in each other's arms looking up at the sky and making plans for the future.

Yes, his life from Spectrum was a whole different world but then, there was the time I would dread, something about his person would start to vibrate and I just knew it would be work calling him back to cloudbase. That's why our weekends together were so precious because they didn't happen very often, how could they? He belonged to the world and I was merely just a tiny part of it.

Our front door bell was the only give away to his life in secret service as it would chime the seven notes of Spectrum.

It would always end up as a tearful goodbye when he was called into work and I would always think that this just might be the last time I saw him. What if the Mysterons had found some way of reversing his indestructibily? What if life with Mrs. M in the country was getting dull and he fancied going off with one the glam Angels? What if he were to fall for a beautiful, enchanting alien and decide that he wanted to try life on another planet?

Yes, these dreams were real of mine as a young girl growing up and many a daydream have they been part of.

Now when I see the good Capt. on the TV, I often think about the life he had that no-one knew about with me all those many years ago and wonder whether or not he would have been happy with leading a double life?

Who will ever know? I am flesh and blood and living in the real world. He is plastic and wood and living in comic books, TV supermarionation programmes and has a new legion of fans following him now he has been revamped and bought up to date.

I thought I was sad to lust after a man I knew didn't really exist and for whom I had created a whole new life for but when I was told that a friend of my husbands (who is in her 50s) still has a poster of Virgil Tracy on her bedroom wall, then I didn't feel so bad about nabbing Capt. Scarlet for myself for a fantasy or two.

He may just be a puppet, but he knew how to tug on my heart strings!

Monday, 2 February 2009

My Dad, my Mum the cat and the trifle.

This is a photo taken of me and my sister. I can't exactly remember when but it is at least 40 years ago and was taken in the back garden of one of our first family homes in Stoke (I'm the little flump on the right).

My sister is five years older than me. She's only small (she never grew more than about 5ft and a fag end) but she's one of the most bossy people I know - yet when I was growing up, and even now, I really wished I could be more like her.

As the oldest of the three of us, my sister always had the hardest time when it came to our Dad. He was not the easiest person to get on with, in fact, at times it was very difficult and even though he's no longer with us, the way he treated my sister and us has had a lasting effect on her because she refuses to talk about him or acknowledge his birthday or the date of his death to this day.

We look happy enough in the photo and to be honest, I was well aware of the rows that my Mum and Dad used to have and more often than not I used to feel the back of my Dad's hand when I misbehaved. However, as scared as we were of him sometimes, he was our Dad and I loved him.

This feeling however, is lost on my sister. She can't forgive him for some of the hurtful things he said to her in her youth and the way he treated our Mum throughout their marriage. He was a bully and he was hard to live with, but as I said before, he was our Dad and I loved him although at times I wondered why.

They say you can choose your friends and you can't choose your family. My Dad literally drove us all away from home as soon as we had the chance. I used to come home every weekend because of work commitments but during the week, I was allowed to be myself. At the weekends, I had to tow the line and not upset him in case he took it out on my Mum.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad all the time, in fact we had some great times as a family but there always seemed to be something that would set my Dad off and then we'd feel this black cloud descend upon us.

One of the great things I inherited from Mum and Dad was a sense of humour. Dad did have a great sense of humour and there were times when we laughed ourselves silly to the extent of having stitch in our sides. We had some great laughs and I try to keep those memories with me to delete some of the bad ones.

As well as a great sense of humour, I have also inherited my Mum's sneaky traits! She was the Queen of pulling the wool over my Dad's eyes and sometimes, she got away with the most amazing things!

I'll never forget one Christmas. My Mum used to make the best sherry trifle and we all used to wait with empty bowls pining for the best or biggest portions. It was mouthwateringly superb. Layers of cream, custard, fruit, sherry, sponge - you name it, it was included and it was like nothing I've tasted before or since.

After our Christmas lunch, Mum bought out the trifle. It was housed in a big, beautiful crystal bowl we couldn't wait to get stuck in!!

Even when all five of us had a big bowl each, there was still enough for our tea. Mum took the remainder of the trifle and put it on the kitchen table while we all helped to tidy up after dinner.

Unfortunately, Mum didn't cover it with cling film and by the time we came back into the kitchen, the family cat was licking the cream off the top!!!

I was so upset because I knew that Dad would go up the wall and if there wasn't any for his tea, we would all know about it. However, Mum being Mum and the natural successor to Henry Kissinger for diplomacy, had a grand plan.

"Only you and I know that the cat has licked the cream off the top of the trifle" she said. "I know just what to do."

She went in to the fridge and got out the remainder of the whipped fresh cream and carefully re-covered the missing bits that the cat had licked off. She then got the pot of hundreds and thousands and sprinkled them on top.

"There you go" she said "as good as new!" I couldn't believe it, was she seriously going to try and carry on as nothing had happened and bring this out at tea time?

Yup!!! However, I had a quiet word with my sister and brother and told them that if they knew what was good for them, they'd skip the trfile at tea time and have something else.

Tea time came. Turkey sandwiches with branston pickle followed by trifle.

"Mmmmm" my Dad said. "Trifle." He was extremely surprised that no-one else wanted any saying that we wolfed it down at lunchtime, but little did he know that most of the cream from the original trifle was now firmly lodged in the cat's tum.

"Please yourselves," he said. "That means more for me!"

We laughed about that act of deception for years to come and it was only much later towards the end of my Dad's life and after Mum had passed away that I fessed up about what Mum and I had done.

Ironically, he laughed about it when I told him, but I very much doubt he would have done so at the time!

That one act of blind panic to replace the cream by my Mum all those many years ago, actually gave my Dad and me one of those wonderful belly laughs later on in our lives that I remember well and for that, I will always be grateful!