Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Looking for Eric

Some of you who read my previous post will know that Steve Evets, the star of Ken Loach's new film Looking for Eric, was represented by the agency that I work for when he got the part - - and in fact, 'twas me who wrote the letter submitting him for the role. From the casting breakdown (which outlines what the characters in a film, play or television series are like) I thought that Steve would be perfect for it.

And so it proved. Silverback and I took ourselves off to t'pictures this afternoon and found a tremendously entertaining film, funny and moving and superbly acted by all.

Of course, most of the publicity has been centred around the mega-famous French footballer Eric Cantona who is in the film. But I must say that the real star of it is Steve, who is in just about every scene - it's a huge role - and who is brilliant.

As Steve says in this clip of news footage from the premiere in Manchester, the film was, unusually, shot in sequence and Ken Loach doesn't always tell the actors what will happen next - with the result that the expressions of shock on Steve's face at various points in the film are genuine.

Silverback has already written - very enjoyably as always - about the film on his blog here . Here's the trailer, with Steve Evets and Eric Cantona:

One or two people have said they think they won't like it because it's a "football film" - well, that's really not the case, football is not the focus of it at all. And Eric Cantona does send himself up very well!

I spoke to Steve afterwards and he says he's still surprised when he hears his name mentioned in a review of the film. Our agency represented him from the mid-nineties and he's always worked solidly, mostly in television, but has never had any kind of fame before. He's up for a couple more films, so look out for him. Sadly, of course, our agency doesn't represent him any more - that's showbiz! Lots of big agencies that wouldn't have considered him a year ago decided he's a Very Good Thing - - which, of course, us lot in Leeds have always known. I don't blame Steve for leaving us at all, I stress this - actors lead such precarious lives that they must take every opportunity that they can - but I wish that "showbiz" in this country just wasn't so London-centric.

Do go and see the film if you can. It's already into profit - - and a tiny bit of that goes to me! So, you'll enjoy it and bring me money at the same time. Grand!

Monday, June 29, 2009

On the Cat Table

Here's Wendy, Olli and Gareth's kitten, on my friend's shoulder, when Wendy first arrived back in September:

Incredibly cute and she never stayed still - in most of the photos that I tried to take of her, she was either blurred or missing altogether, having jumped out of the picture at top speed.

Now she's grown up into a very beautiful cat, and still comes to stay with us most weekends when Olli and Gareth are busy:

She has a very long body and is extremely athletic. Also, she has no sense of fear at all. Hence I've spotted her in a few very strange places: a few days ago, she was right at the top of the big old pear tree, having a pitched battle with the very large magpie that has its nest up there.

There are several cats that haunt our garden - including our very own Froggie, who is extremely cute but middle-aged and sedate. There's a three-legged cat, known as Tripod. I don't know what its original name was, but it answers to Tripod now. It lives next door but seems to prefer our garden. There are a couple of huge and aged black-and-white cats, and a large ginger one.

Most commercially-available bird tables just aren't high enough, so cats can easily jump on to them.

Our bird table, however, was built years ago by The Communist, with this in mind. Birds love it and so far no cat has ever managed to reach it from any direction.

Then I looked out of the kitchen window this morning and saw this:

I'd simply no idea what I was seeing for a few moments until I worked it out. Yes, it was Wendy, Half Cat Half Cheetah, having got up there with a Supercat Leap.

The bird table's getting very old, as you can see. Sadly the Communist's not around any more to build me a new one. If I'd shown him this photo he'd have been out there this afternoon, with a hammer, some wood that he'd scrounged from somewhere, and about half a ton of cement to keep it in place - he was very fond of cement.

So I think we're on the lookout now for a very, very high bird table. Something about the height of a Saturn V rocket should do it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We Choose to Go to the Moon

On July 15, 1969, something momentous happened to me. I became a teenager.

The next day, July 16th, something momentous happened to everyone. They launched Apollo 11, taking the first astronauts to land on the Moon.

I've always loved everything to do with the Moon landings and space exploration in general and I've thoroughly enjoyed all the commemorative programmes being shown on television at the moment, with the fortieth (sighhhh) anniversary coming up. To me, visiting the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida last year was not so much a dream come true, as what seemed to me to be an impossible fantasy come true: I truly never, ever thought I'd go there.

As part of the commemorative programmes, they keep showing that clip of President Kennedy, speaking at the Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas on a very hot day, September 12, 1962. He says,

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard - -

So, I wondered - and have wondered for years! - what are the other things?

Thanks to the wonders of t'interclacker, I found the whole speech.

He's been talking about climbing the highest mountain, and flying across the Atlantic, and those kind of things are the "other things" to which he refers.

It's a great speech. Watching it now, it's interesting to see the faces of the people watching. For a long time they're not really listening. They are just thinking one word and it's HOT. They've all put their best suits on for the President and it's TOO HOT. The poor chap on the right hand side of the screen looks about to melt - he mops his brow about a million times.

It's only towards the end of the speech that some of them seem to pick up on the excitement of the idea of putting a man on the moon - - and even then, it's hard to tell. They might just have been thinking "Hurrah, it'll soon be over and we can go and get a cold drink".

President Kennedy, of course, was cool, the kind of cool President that we've not had since then, until the current one. Cool in all ways, he seems completely untroubled by the heat It's a well-written, powerful speech and on he goes, sounding as though he knows it's momentous, even though the watching crowds don't really seem to.

He mentions the Russians, of course, because this was at the time of the Cold War and showing the Russians who was Top Nation was a big part of the space programme. He says that the USA is going to do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out. But, apart from the Cold War references, the speech sounds so modern in some ways that it's hard to take in that it was nearly fifty years ago. And, of course, it all happened - - he says that there's going to be

a new building to be built at Cape Canaveral as tall as a 48 story structure, as wide as a city block, and as long as two lengths of this field.

And they built it! And I've seen it! The Vehicle Assembly Building!

Most importantly, of course, men walked on the Moon. It still amazes me.

Here's the full text of the speech.

Of course - and it's hard to take it in, watching this speech - President Kennedy never heard Neil Armstrong saying it's a small step for man but a giant leap for mankind, because of course President Kennedy was assassinated; shot dead in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.

Where was I when I heard the news? In the kitchen of this house, where I had my breakfast this morning.

I may be a Woman of a Certain Age heading towards Bearded Lady territory - - but hey, I feel sorry for those who weren't around to experience the excitement of the Apollo missions. There's never been anything like it, and I don't think there will be again.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Mataland

Off we went this morning to Matalan, to buy Stephen some new trousers.

"It's not long since you bought some new trousers," said my mother, who was coming with us to try to buy a jacket, having reluctantly decided that she needs one.

My mother doesn't approve of buying new clothes. Every time I set off to buy some new clothes - and, Heaven knows, it's not often, twice a year at most - my mother says, with a small, resigned sigh of disapproval, "But you've got some clothes."

I don't know quite what her objection is but since I don't like buying clothes anyway, it brings me one step nearer to "Quite right! Well I won't then."

Anyway, the reason Stephen needs some new trousers is because he's got thinner. You know that thing they say about how if you have lots of exercise you'll lose weight, and we all go OH yeah, course we will, I'll do that one day but just not yet, could you pass the chocolate? - - Well, they are RIGHT. Stephen has been cycling twelve miles a day in total, to work and back for some time now and as a result he needed trousers with a ridiculously small 32" waist.

So off we went and we found the trousers and that was fine. And Mum couldn't find a jacket because the manufacturers had, according to Mum, made them all with arms that were far too long, and they were the wrong colours too.

So then, after all this, I thought I would have a look at the women's clothing and was faced with this kind of thing:

Arrrrgh! I turned to look the other way and there was this kind of thing:

I just freeze in these circumstances. Too much choice. Too many styles. Too many colours. No idea where to start - I just want to be out of there!

Actually, I was very good, I kept calm and managed to try on and buy both a skirt and a top, which was a bit of a miracle. They don't go together, of course, oh no that'd be too easy.

I don't like all this choice. I don't like it in restaurants either. I don't enjoy one meal so vastly much more than another that I want to spend half an hour deciding what to have. I just want someone to say, "Would you like the steak or the fish?" and the answer is steak, requiring no thought at all.

I suppose there are people who enjoy spending time browsing through all these clothes, and they may well be the same people who enjoy spending a long time looking at the restaurant menu.

I prefer clothes that I just happen to find when I'm looking for something else. For the rest of the time what I'd really like is The Black T-Shirt Shop - Three Styles, One Colour, Every Size.

Perhaps I should open one. I'd find out then if there are other people like me. Perhaps I'd be its only customer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Tracks of my Fears

Kim, who left a comment on my post this morning, was right, apparently - it was Michael Jackson who stole t'interclacker last night, or at least slowed it right down. Squillions of people all searching for information about him.

In case you've spent the day locked in a dark, soundproof room, the news late last night was that Michael Jackson has died suddenly, age 50.

Now everyone everywhere's saying "His music must be left to speak for itself, we don't want to rake up all that mud about his private life."

By next week or so all that will be forgotten and the papers will be full of Michael Jackson Seduced My Teddy Bear and similar.

I wish they wouldn't. I hate it when they do that. He's dead, isn't that enough? Leave him alone! Actually, I've never been a Michael Jackson fan - and I know it's probably sacrilege to say that today of all days, and I apologise, but please bear with me - it's just that most of his music is brilliant, but doesn't do it for me. And I know it's brilliant, and yet it just doesn't, and I'm trying to work out why not. Like everyone else, I can't help tapping my foot along to Billie Jean - - - and yet, I'd never choose to listen to it.

Perhaps it's because a lot of his music was great for dancing to, and I've never been able to dance really, and I resent this. So perhaps I associate him with a failure on my part. And parties, and clubs, and discos - - and I've never felt comfortable in any of those settings.

I've heard lots of people on the radio saying "he was more than a musician, he was the soundtrack to my youth" and similar. I'm trying to work out why I don't feel that.

I think it's because, firstly, I'm that bit more ancient. The sounds of my teen years were Marc Bolan and David Bowie - - not that I got to listen to them much in our classical-music-only house.

And that's probably it. Michael Jackson's music makes me feel uneasy, because it takes me to a scary world that I just don't know about, never have done, never been happy with. I was a swotty, bookish teenager, deeply uncool, at a swotty girls' grammar school which I thought was stuffy as hell, but academically it suited me just fine.

I don't like that side of myself, the swotty girl with glasses - and in many ways I'm still her, and I don't want to be. I am a broad-shouldered, shy, short yet gawky deep disappointment to my poor tiny, extrovert, graceful, sociable mother who will dance the night away at the slightest opportunity. I am the daughter of the Captain of the University of Leeds hockey team - - and I have always hated playing all team sports.

Both my parents, but especially my mother, devoted a lot of time to trying to get me interested in parties, and dancing, and big social occasions, and playing team sports. Even a few days ago, when I said "But, Mum, I always hated hockey," she replied with a sad shake of the head and "Oh, you are silly." She's spent a lot of time over the years trying to drag me onto dance floors, because she simply can't take no for an answer, because, in her world, dancing is such fun.

Of course, in some circumstances, I'm perfectly happy in a big group of people, and that's when it's work-related. This morning, for example, I spoke to a nurses' conference about my work in Communication Skills, and I was perfectly happy to do it, and it seemed to go very well.

So I'm afraid it's not you, Michael - - it's me. Your songs are the music to illustrate and accompany my inadequacies, and I expect that's why I don't like them very much.


We had a real problem with the internet here yesterday - it was going at the speed of a schoolchild on the way to a maths test. Stephen checked everything and it wasn't a problem at our end, and fortunately they seem to have sorted it overnight.

So I couldn't post yesterday, though will later on today, no doubt.

Meanwhile, here's a photograph of a strawberry that grew in our garden.

It was delicious.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Strange Fruits

I eat some strange things when nobody's looking. They don't seem strange to me, of course, as I've always eaten them. But sometimes, if somebody does look, and sees me, I can tell they're thinking - - hmmm, strange.

Nasturtium leaves, for example. To me, they have a delicious freshness and the flowers taste good too. We have some growing in the garden and, as I pass, I'll grab a leaf or two and eat them.

Ever since I was small I've been eating a leaf or two of sour dock whenever I came across it. The link that I've included tells me, for the first time ever, that the leaves contain lots of potassium oxalate (whatever that is) and are poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

But that's the point - I've never eaten them in large quantities, just nicked the occasional leaf or two. It was my old grandma who introduced me to sour dock and did she ever die of it? No!

Though actually, she did die - - but that's because she was born in 1898, so would be heading for her hundred and eleventh birthday on July 28, if she was still alive. But she didn't die of sour dock poisoning!

Here's something I ate today:

A piece of cheese, perhaps? No.

When I was round at my friend David's house yesterday, his friend Graham was there and he gave me a turnip. "I've brought you a turnip, Daphne," he said. "We've grown lots of them."

Not many people would think to do that.

"Fantastic," I said, "I'll eat it raw, I love raw turnips."

Graham didn't think this was weird.

"Great," he said, "so do I".

Here it was before I peeled it:

It was delicious.

I've always liked raw vegetables. Most days I seem to eat a chunk of raw white cabbage. Raw peas are my total favourite. Raw cauliflower - - delicious! When I was a child I always used to eat raw potato, but I don't now because I'm told it's not good for me.

I suppose that many of these flavours have one thing in common, and that's a rather bitter taste. Apart from the peas, of course, which are sweet.

I remember seeing some research recently that said that some people hate bitter flavours, and some like them. Clearly, I'm one of the ones who likes them. Bring on the radishes, say I.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

At a Certain Age

You find a certain kind of Laydee at Stately Homes. We found them at the Globe Theatre in London, too.

They're ladies of a Certain Age, and they like doing things involving Culture, and they're not short of a bob or too, generally. So they volunteer to help visitors to stately homes and so on. The Globe Theatre has thirty volunteers for every performance.

I'm not quite sure what I think about them. They like to feel part of it all: in the Globe's case, they like to feel part of Showbiz - though the one whom we met there did seem keener on keeping the lower classes (that'd be Silverback and me) out of there.

They're usually slim, well-dressed in a nice-tweed-skirt-and-pearls way, and with immaculate Standard English vowels.

So Silverback and I went in through the main entrance of Blenheim Palace last week and were greeted by one of these ladies.

Now, there's a play by Bertolt Brecht - possibly The Caucasian Chalk Circle - and you keep getting told "Hear now what the little goatherd (or whatever) thought, but didn't say."

So there we were, greeted by Volunteer Lady in nice skirt and pearls. Hear now what Daphne thought, but didn't say.

"Hello, and welcome to Blenheim Palace" said Volunteer Lady.

"SHE'S GOT A BEARD!" thought Daphne.

"First of all you can look round downstairs," said Volunteer Lady.


"You just follow the red carpet to the right - - "


"and then when you've been round all the downstairs, come back in and you can visit the interactive exhibition upstairs - - "


" - - and I hope you'll enjoy your visit to Blenheim".


I couldn't look at Silverback. He misses nothing, so I knew he'd have noticed.

It took me a whole corridor before I stopped thinking about it.

How does this happen? Presumably, when she was, say, thirty, she'd have been horrified to look in the mirror and see such a thing.

So I guess that something happens to you at a Certain Age which makes you stop noticing. One day you're looking in the mirror and any spot or stray hair fills you with horror. But suddenly, the next day, you look in the mirror and you just think "Yes, fine!" and off you go about your business.

I suppose there must be clues. And perhaps they are when you start thinking "Hey, those thick beige stockings are rather attractive" or "I'd like to get my hair permed so it resembles a sheep as closely as possible."

That's the top of the slippery slope. I'm worried that I'm only a few yards away from it, and getting nearer all the time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Midsummer Night's Owl

I said the other day that I always tell the truth on this blog, and this is a true story, and it happened last night. Truth can be a bit strange sometimes.

Last night I watched a television programme with the excellent wildlife presenter and cameraman Simon King demonstrating how to get closer to some wild animals and birds.

He spoke to a cuckoo by doing a "cuckoo" noise and explained that it was important to leave the same amount of time in between doing it as the call takes, so that the cuckoo could reply. And, although his cuckoo imitation was by no means perfect, the cuckoo did indeed reply.

Then he played a recording of a tawny owl in the woodland, and explained that if you did this, any tawny owls about would take it as a challenge to their territory. They would repeat the call and come to have a look at you. Sure enough, a tawny owl turned up and he managed to film it.

Much later on in the evening, I went across to my Mum's house, which is next door to this one - - but her house was built in our house's garden so now there's one big garden.

To my amazement, in the distance I could hear a tawny owl hooting, making exactly the same sound as in the programme. I have heard it before - we live quite near to the woods - but only a few times every year.

Well, I didn't of course happen to have a handy recording of another owl with me - - but then I remembered how Simon King's cuckoo imitation had worked. Presumably the cuckoo in question just thought it was a cuckoo that spent its summers in a different part of the country.

So, feeling a bit of a fool, I stood in the middle of the lawn and did my best Tawny Owl impression. Kind of a rather wobbly "Hoooooooooo".

The owl immediately hooted again so, filled with new-found confidence in my Bird Impression skills, so did I. Again it replied, and was definitely moving nearer.

After a few goes I sounded more like a Tawny Owl than the real thing. Certainly, the real thing thought so, as it kept moving nearer and nearer, until finally the calls were coming from the old pear tree above me.

I was looking for the dark shape in the branches and I think I might have seen it, though by now it was late and very dark.

"Hoooooooo!" said the Tawny Owl.

"Hoooooooo!" said Daphne.

I didn't want to frighten the owl as I was aware that what I was saying was actually "It's my land! Clear off!" So after a few moments with the owl in the tree above me, I stopped calling. The owl did a few triumphant "Hoooooooo"s and then flew off - I could hear it calling from time to time as it headed for the woods.

With a slightly spooky feeling of midsummer magic, I headed for the light of my Mum's back door.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

The Communist wasn't a great one for remembering Father's Day, but I always did.

So I'd take him a card and a box of chocolates or sugared almonds (his favourites).

"What's this?" he'd say.

"It's Father's Day, Dad," I'd say.

"Oh," he'd say, opening the card. "Very nice."

And that was it.

I'd forgotten it was Father's Day today until I saw people's messages on Facebook, and then the suitable Father's Day presents all over the supermarket this morning.

I'm absolutely amazed by how much it's got to me, now I don't have a father any more.

Happy Birthday Helaina

We've been over to Manchester today for my cousin's daughter Helaina's fifteenth birthday party and here she is in front of all her cards:

It's not the best photo ever but it does, I think, show how tiny she is and also how sunny-natured.

I've written about Helaina before, of course - she has Costello's Syndrome and her parents, Colin and Cath, have done wonders in getting research for the condition and bringing it to public attention. Here's the website: there's a video about Helaina at the bottom of the page, filmed when she won the Woman's Own Children of Courage Award in 2007.

One child has it out of every three and a half million babies born, so as you can see, it's rare. It's a bit like Down's Syndrome and brings with it all sorts of problems: learning difficulties, curvature of the spine, cancer - which Helaina has had twice - and heart problems, to name but a few.

When she was born it was held to be unlikely that she would walk or talk. She does both. She smiles a lot, too, has a great sense of humour, and really enjoys her life, thanks to Colin and Cath's continuing care and positive outlook. She loves books - when she comes to our house she spends hours going through the whole bookshelf of Olli's children's books. It's impossible to tell quite what she makes of them but she most certainly enjoys them.

She's been on heart medication for ages because of an irregular rhythm, which in general worsens with age in Costello's children. Recently, they took her off it for a while with the idea of changing to a different medication, but they waited for it to get out of her system first.

After a few days it should have been out of her system but her heart continued to beat normally. To everyone's surprise, it has continued to do so and she hasn't needed more heart medication.

The thing is, I think Helaina's never quite taken on board the - theoretically - terrible hand she's been dealt in life - - so she just gets on with it, and has, I'm certain, had a far better time of it than many people with more obvious advantages.

And now she's fifteen. Happy Birthday, Helaina.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Geographically Challenged

I was accused the other day of being geographically challenged.

It's a man thing. Men think that the way to a place looks exactly the same whether you're going there or coming back again. In this they are entirely wrong. It looks completely different.

Silverback was most amused when we were in Oxford, because I didn't know the way back from the hospital ward to the lifts, not even the third time we visited.

Well, of course not! When you're on your way to somewhere in a hospital - and I frequently am, on my way to do a roleplay somewhere - you follow the signs that say "Ward 23" or whatever. I am good on words. I am not good on spatial relations (that was spatial, everyone, just pointing it out).

So when you leave the ward and turn round to head for the lifts along the maze of corridors, there are no signs that say "Back The Way You Came", are there? You're just supposed to know. And I don't.

However, I am pretty good at some kinds of geography, the knowing-where-places-are-on-a-map kind.

This morning I was at the hairdresser's. You know, the crazy one, just down the road. The one I swore I'd never go back to. And then yesterday I looked at my hair and it was turning into some kind of Susan Boyle Special. And have I found another hairdresser? No.

So there I was, at the hairdresser's. Let's pretend she's called Mad Barbara, though Barbara is not her name. The mad part is my description, for accuracy.

There were two other customers, and an assistant, and Mad Barbara. And the customers and Mad Barbara had a conversation which I listenened to, in complete silence, and didn't shove my oar in at all, and it required considerable restraint, and I should have got a medal for Keeping Quiet Beyond the Call of Duty. Here it is, for your edification.

I had to wait for a while as Mad Barbara was drying the hair of Short Grey and Spiky next to me. "Are you going anywhere nice for your holidays?" asked Mad Barbara. Clearly all hairdressers are taught to ask this at Hairdressing School.

"I'm going to Bridlington next week," said Short Grey and Spiky.

Mad Barbara was not impressed, I could tell, but after her initial look of horror, which Short Grey and Spiky could see in the mirror, she tried to rescue it with diversionary tactics. Her daughter's school friend, Brassy Blonde, was to my left, having the blonde made a bit brassier.

"Ah, Brid," said Mad Barbara. "Isn't that where your parents have a boat, Brassy Blonde? The one that the ducks peck at?"

"No, said Brassy Blonde, "it's in Brig."

"Yes, that's right," said Mad Barbara, who never listens, "Brid. Short for Bridlington."

"Not Brid," said Brassy Blonde. "BRIG. It's in Lancashire."

"Oh, Lancashire, " said Mad Barbara. "I thought it was on the East Coast."

"Yes, it is," said Short Grey and Spiky, "Bridlington IS on the East Coast."

"But my parents' boat isn't in Bridlington," said Brassy Blonde patiently. "It's in Brig. Which is in Lancashire."

She paused for a moment, deep in thought.

"No, wait a moment," she said, "I think it's in Lincolnshire."

"Well, Lancashire and Lincolnshire are next to each other, anyway," said Mad Barbara.

"No, I don't think so," said Brassy Blonde. "Lincolnshire's in Norfolk."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fish and Biscuits

On Wednesday this week, Silverback and I were in the Secret Garden at Blenheim Palace, on our way back from Oxford. I wasn't too struck on the Secret Garden at first - it all seemed a bit artificial - but after a while its prettiness grew on me.

We came across a pond with some large carp in it and Silverback was taking photographs of them. One or two blew bubbles at the surface and this looked far more interesting than when they were just swimming around, seen from above.

So I thought I'd try to encourage them to do this by feeding them and the only thing I had that might make food of interest to fish was the biscuits from the bed and breakfast (yes, the ones from my room. I didn't eat them at the time but I did pocket them for later. Go on, lock me up and throw away the key).

The fish were very keen. It was exactly like piranhas stripping all the flesh from a horse in under a minute - - only with big goldfish and oatmeal biscuits instead. But it was a feeding frenzy all right. From now on they'll be refusing fish food in favour of biscuits, cakes and burgers and will get fat and unhealthy on their new junk food diet, and it will be all my fault.

I'm not scared of many creatures. Oh well, apart from the dangerous ones, such as lions. I mean I don't mind spiders or creepy crawlies or snakes at all. Apart from the poisonous ones.

And I'm not actually scared of fish - - but I just hate it when I tread on one in the sea, or when one brushes against me. Could I have waded into that pond whilst all the carp were in a biscuit-eating frenzy? - - Well, probably, if I had to, but I would have hated it.

I think it dates from when I had a whole tankful of goldfish as a child and I had to clean them out and whilst I was catching them the others would swim past and touch me - - ewwww no. I wonder if it's just me who's freaked out by this.

I tried half of one of the biscuits, purely to save the fish from too much junk food and it was delicious. Okay, this has been Daphne, late at night, with more news about biscuit-eating fish than you perhaps wanted to know.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Little Bridges

Here's the Bridge of Sighs at Hertford College, Oxford, on Tuesday this week:

and here's the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona last November:

They remind me of each other! I first saw the Bridge of Sighs in Oxford perhaps ten years ago, and then thought of it when I was in Barcelona - - and then thought of the Barcelona one while I was in Oxford.

Of course the Oxford one looks far more - - well - - British. I love them both - they're both beautiful and interesting and unexpected.

There's another Bridge of Sighs, of course - - in Venice. Perhaps I'll see that one too, one day. This past year has been really difficult in some ways but one of the great things that has happened is that I have travelled more than I have in the past ten years - - oh, okay, in probably EVER. I've loved it and I'm looking forward to more!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Back from Oxford

Here's a stone gentleman whom I saw in Oxford, outside the Bodleian Library:

Oxford is beautiful: wherever we looked there was something like this:

The bed and breakfast where we stayed, Pickwicks, was delightful. It was chosen primarily for its closeness to the hospital, as Silverback and I were visiting our lovely friend who's currently a patient there. But it turned out to be excellent - characterful and clean and with a delicious breakfast.

Strangely, when I got back home and downloaded the photos from my camera, thirty of them have mysteriously disappeared - - some of the numbers are simply missing. Stephen is going to try to track down what's happened. Meanwhile, I should point out that, of course, those thirty were absolute works of photographic genius, as opposed to the rest of my snapshots. Hey ho.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Summer Day in Oxford

Blogging from my Blackberry in Oxford, here to visit a dear friend who's in hospital.The drive was very easy - much smoother than my usual driving but I think that could be because it wasn't me at the wheel, Silverback had kindly offered to drive.
A sunny summer day in Oxford was all beautiful old stone buildings, meadows,rivers, flowers,boats,bicycles,bow ties and the eccentric English at their most quaint. And my bedroom has a balcony too!
A sad reason for the visit but a beautiful place.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Things I Can't Say

I tell the truth on this blog. Or the truth as I see it, anyway.

So when I tell a story as a true story, then, as far as I know, it's true.

And when I give an opinion, then it's my real opinion - I don't just say things for effect. I quite like taking a stance sometimes and arguing a more extreme view than the one I actually feel - - but I don't do that on this blog.

Sometimes my stories will get a bit corrupted by time and false memories - - but I don't mean them to. "History is what you can remember" as Sellars and Yeatman said in that gloriously funny book 1066 and All That. Sometimes my memories will be a bit wrong.

Sometimes I'm not sure if things are a memory or what I've been told afterwards. I think I remember eating the whole pot of pepper by mistake when I was less than two years old - - but perhaps I've just been told about it. I've hated pepper ever since, though.

So I tell you the truth, as I see it or remember it, and nothing but the truth. The bit I'm missing is the whole truth. I can't always tell you that.

I can't tell you the whole truth in some of the things I write about because it would be hurtful to my family, or to my friends - - or, sometimes, to me.

So there are things that I'm thinking a lot about that I can't write about on here. Some of my friends who are reading this blog know what at least some of them are. I wish I could share them with all of you - - and when I can, I will. But some things will probably have to stay a secret.

I don't like that. I like openness, not secrets. But I'll always try to protect my loved ones: my family and my friends.

Sorry to be so enigmatic. It's really not my style.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer Meadow

To me, the title of this post is a really evocative phrase. Sunshine, buttercups, lazy afternoons, white fluffy clouds, lovely British countryside - -

Yesterday Stephen and I woke early and decided to go for a walk around Swinsty Reservoir, near Otley. Unlike those many mornings which start off sunny and then dwindle to a disappointing greyness, this one started off grey and then improved as it went on.

By the time we were half-way round the three mile walk, it was a beautiful summer day.

The grass everywhere was full of summer flowers:

and the summer meadows were all around us.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

And Now, More Importantly - -

My friend Silverback - whom, as regular readers will know, I met through writing this blog - has written a post today, Bless Me, Father, for You Have Sinned about his schooldays, on his blog Retirement Rocks

It's wonderfully written, has haunted me all day since I read it early this morning, and should be required reading for anyone who has anything to do with the education of children.

Looking for Eric

"How many actors does it take to change a light bulb?" runs the old gag.
"A hundred."
"Why a hundred?"
"One actor to change it, and the other ninety-nine to go THAT SHOULD BE ME UP THERE!"

When the casting breakdown for Ken Loach's new film Looking for Eric came into the office of the small, Northern actors' agency where I work, I knew instantly that our actor Steve Evets could be perfect for the lead role of the postman Eric Bishop.

(Evets, by the way, is his stage name and nobody ever notices that it's just Steve backwards!)

Here's the trailer. The film's about Eric Bishop's troubled life and his obsession with the characterful French footballer Eric Cantona. It's had excellent reviews and was nominated for the Palme D'Or at Cannes. (Steve's the one on the bike!)

Direct Personal Management had represented him since the mid-nineteen-nineties. He'd always worked pretty constantly, playing roles of all sizes from small to episode leads in many of the drama series filmed in the North. He's very castable: native Manchester and very "real". His previous two films had been my friend John Coombes's excellent independent short, Babbling Fools and then Kenneth Glenaan's superb film Summer, with Robert Carlyle, in which Steve had a large and crucial role.

I watched Steve work on Babbling Fools: always word-perfect and totally focused when the camera was on him, yet modest and totally professional when it wasn't. And one thing about Steve that's not always obvious from his cv of gritty Northern television roles - - he's hilarious, a real natural comedian.

So I submitted Steve for the role of Eric and did my very best to make sure he got an audition - - and he did! Several rounds of auditions later, he got the role, and had a wonderful time filming it last summer, being surprised again and again by Ken Loach's directing style where the actors don't know in advance what's going to happen.

As soon as he'd filmed it, of course, all the big London agents - who wouldn't have looked twice at him a year earlier - were after him. "Your agent is who? And in Leeds?" For "the business" is still very London-based.

Finally - as, sadly, I'd guessed would happen all along - Steve left us and went to a London agent. I can't blame him - actors' careers are so precarious that they have to take every chance they can, and he still keeps in touch. No, I don't blame Steve - but I SO wish things would change in this business, and that Us Up North would be taken a bit more seriously.

At the moment in Britain you can't pick up a newspaper without a picture of Steve Evets and Eric Cantona in it somewhere.

Do go and see the film - it went on general release yesterday and I'm sure it's excellent and will be going to see it soon. (And for every million it makes, our agency gets some money so I'd like it to break all box-office records, please, so do take all your friends). I hope it will lead to more great roles for Steve, because he's superb.

There was only one occasion when I completely lost my sense of proportion and sense of humour about it, and that was when I tried to ring Steve's new agent

"Sorry, who are you again?" asked the assistant.

His new agent wasn't there. Where was she? Promoting Steve at the Cannes Film Festival down in the South of France.

And, like the ninety-nine actors, I thought, "That should be me down there!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Happiest Day of My Life

I don't think that children and animals tend to contemplate the nature of happiness. If you see a happy dog, it's all HAPPY and no room for anything else.

That's how I was when I was a child. Going on holiday = HAPPY. Arithmetic test = SAD. I was a much-wanted only child until the age of nine, when my brother was born. My parents had enough money and I had plenty of friends and I got on well at school and although I wished that I didn't need glasses, I didn't have any major things to be sad about.

When you get older, it's hard to find that easy, uncomplicated HAPPY. Some things always do it for me. Rounding the corner on the road into Tenby and seeing the view of the harbour for the first time every year. Travelling up Lindale Brow on the way to visit my relatives in Barrow-in-Furness, and seeing the sea behind me. Swimming in the sea. And, of course, fairly recently, arriving in America for the first time ever.

There are quite a few things that make me happy and they're mostly to do with friends and family and lovely places, sometimes all at the same time.

But there was one time in my childhood when I was amazingly, incredibly happy - the first time I really felt it, and noticed that I was feeling it. And it wasn't anything that you might expect.

It was towards the end of the week, on a schoolday. I was probably ten. I was a great reader of comics - girly ones like Bunty and Judy and comedy ones like The Beano and The Dandy. But, if there was a pile of comics somewhere, I'd tackle any of them, no matter how BOY they were. I loved comics. My mother rather disapproved - she wanted me to read Proper Books. But I always did that as well - it was just that I loved comics, and I was fortunate enough to have my current favourite delivered every week, and it was always like getting a present.

At this time I had just moved on to a pre-teen comic called Diana which was slightly more grown-up in its content. These days I expect the equivalent would be all about fashion or teen celebrities but when I was ten it was mostly school stories and horses and the very occasional pop star. I loved it.

I woke up on this schoolday and realised that we'd be breaking up for the holidays soon so schoolwork wasn't going to be too onerous. Everyone assumed that I must like school as I was quite good at it: but I didn't. I had far better things to do with my time and found it boring. Throughout my childhood I'd hear grown-ups say to each other "Oh yes, Daphne likes school." Did they ask my opinion on this before saying this slander? No. Did I like school? No. I liked my schoolfriends, but I didn't like school. I always thought that there was something a bit odd about children who did.

So, the holidays were coming. Hurrah!

And then I remembered that some of my favourite relatives, Frank and Amy from Barrow, were coming to stay for the weekend, and we'd be off out with them to do interesting things in interesting places.

And then I remembered that my new comic, Diana, would arrive the next day. And it had a free gift of a ring with a blue stone.

And that was it. That was enough. I knew it was the happiest day of my life, so far at least. I knew it would be hard to beat.

I've still got the ring from Diana, of course.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stunning Kitten Photos

Here's Gareth's sister Jo's kitten Henry, who is staying with us at the moment:

Stunning photo, eh?

Here's another.

Kittens are like that. Though this one doesn't seem anywhere near as manic as Wendy, Gareth and Olli's kitten.

I finally got him to keep still for a while:

Awwwwww. I've been writing something for work tonight and I don't seem to have any words left for blogging, so I'll let the Cute Kitten Photo do the work for me.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Six Months Ago Now

It's six months since the Communist died. Six months yesterday, in fact, but I left it until today to write about it.

Here he is, in the last photo ever taken of him when he lived at home, slightly over two years ago: June 3, 2007. I'd gone round to their house next door and found both my parents having a little snooze on a summer's evening.

A few days later and he was in hospital.

"How does he call a nurse to come?" I asked.

"He presses the buzzer, of course," said Snotty Cow of a Sister.

"There isn't a buzzer," I said.

"Of course there is," said Snotty Cow of a Sister in tones of contempt.

Well, game and first set to Ron and Daphne: we enjoyed proving her wrong. Here he is, making light of the fact that the buzzer on his bed was simply a couple of bits of bare wire.

I'm glad he didn't know then that he was about to run the gamut of Geriatric Ward Hell.

Then he had a few months of ricocheting from grim ward to grim nursing home to grim ward. The geriatric ward at St James's was the bottom of the pit of hell, run by people who were both uncaring and deeply stupid. The management sets the tone of course, and the ward at Leeds General Infirmary was much better.

Here he is, November 2007, just a couple of weeks after having his right leg amputated, because of ulcers caused by diabetes:

And here he is again, April 20, 2008, my mother's birthday - this is one of my very favourite photos of him in old age, taken by Silverback, and we had a giant poster of it made for his funeral.

He was such a strange mixture of contradictions, the Communist:

a lover of peace who was an ace shot with a rifle
a very gentle man who joined the Communist Party
a grumpy old codger who was perennially optimistic
a Jewish atheist who would bore you to death about religion
a natural conservative who loved left-wing politics
a man from a very working-class background who loved opera and Shakespeare
a Jewish atheist with firmly established Christian values

He was a proud and devoted hard-working family man who was always keen to show off his family's achievements. He adored my mother, my brother and me, and our spouses and children.
A pharmacist until he retired, he worked as an actor in retirement, and loved it.

He could never understand that I didn't like to "show off" what I could do and one of my abiding memories of him is the fear of embarrassment in restaurants when he would try to force me to speak to the waiters in whatever he considered their own language to be. I actually got up and fled the restaurant on several occasions but he never learned!

For his last year he lived in a nursing home, one of the better ones - - and yet they still talked over him while they made his bed. Because everyone else in the nursing home had lost their marbles rather, they assumed he had.

"This is the wrong dose of these tablets - I should have another one."

"Of course you should, dear. Never mind. You just take this one."

"I'm a pharmacist and I know it's the wrong dose."

"Yes, dear, of course you are."

The Communist had the ability to remain optimistic throughout all this horror.
My mother, I know, would not. She would commit murder in her first couple of days in a nursing home. The Communist had to live in one because he had had his leg amputated and had to be turned twice in the night - - this we could not have done. I always felt bad about it. Still do.

The nursing home cost £23,000, a huge proportion of their savings, and my mother has worried about money ever since. I'd like to be able to say that it was money well spent, but it wasn't. Nursing homes are about making money for their owners more than they are about care for the elderly.

Perhaps my best time with him was just after I'd been horribly ill in 1984. I was trying to walk myself back to fitness: he was fairly newly retired and he and I would go for walks every day, all over the place, especially in his beloved Roundhay Park. I think he was pleased to see me gradually coming back to life.

I can still hear the Communist's voice in my head - deep, distinctive, "educated Leeds" with a touch of Jewish already. Sometimes, as I drift off to sleep, I am convinced he's there, I can hear his voice, I feel I can almost touch him.

It's a trick of the mind though, I know, part of the grieving process. It's not real. I hope he's in Heaven going "Damn it, I got it all wrong - there is a God" - - but sadly, I don't think so, I just can't believe it. That's one thing he passed on to me, along with his big nose and big hands.

I'm still not used to it. If I go anywhere interesting - such as Bridlington last week - my first thought is how he would have loved it. I'm still waiting for him to come back. Come on, Dad, the joke's over. Let's go to the seaside.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Dangerous Goings-On in York

Here's an old saying. "If voting changed anything, they'd have banned it years ago." There's some truth in it, perhaps, but not the whole truth.

On this occasion, lots and lots of us all decided to protest by staying at home and NOT voting. We stayed at home in our millions, because we are so sick of our lying pocket-lining MPs. But sadly there's nothing on the ballot paper that registers "Stayed at home and hates you all, kindly change the system", damn it. Or even "I'm voting but it's only to keep the other lot out - don't think I actually approve of your lot, just because I'm having to vote for you."

They'll be banning Facebook next, since clearly it's the source of Subversive Activity.

I am related to a source close to the Subversive Activity (as they say in reports). In fact I'm related to two sources, one of whom has just come out of hospital. And I'm not saying whether or not they were there. Though they do live in York. And it's true that one of them was heard to say "We're going back to York as there's going to be a pillow fight".

In the Museum Gardens in York yesterday, a large number of people sat around and then, when a whistle blew, produced pillows from about their person. For ten minutes they then had a gigantic pillow fight. And this - I can tell you because I am Cool and Youthful - is called a Flash Mob, and I'd guess - and might even confess under torture, or even after a bribe of biscuits - it was organised on Facebook.

But clearly someone had reported this as a possible cause of the end of Society as we Know It.

So after ten minutes four police vans turned up, plus some paramedics on bikes, plus a dog unit and 200 members of the SAS brandishing rifles (okay, I lied about the SAS).

So who tipped them off? And why? It did seem to be a ridiculous waste of resources - - but if the police thought there was genuinely going to be trouble, what had led them to think this? As far as I know, there was no trouble and nobody was hurt.

Do the police have people scanning Facebook in a search for Subversive Events, I wonder?

Look, I wouldn't want to take part in a gigantic pillow fight, because - - well, look, I can't think of a valid reason, I just wouldn't. Oh, okay, probably because I'm old and dull. But for those who like that sort of thing, I think they should just be able to get on with it.

I did like a comment that someone has left: "Duvet do this every year?"

Sunday, June 07, 2009

At the Artmarket

This morning I went to Holmfirth, to the Indoor Market, to visit the Art Market where local artists display and sell their work.

I missed the last one as I was in Florida (ooh yes, notice how I just snuck that in). I wanted to see my friend Katrin's stall (see her online shop here) and also to see what everyone else was showing.

I love Katrin's corsages, which can be worn as brooches or hair clips. The one I bought was pale blue and dark purple which isn't a combination I'd have thought of but the colours go beautifully together - - and pale blue goes with most things that I wear. Here's a whole trayful of them:

I don't generally wear jewellery at all and I'm not sure why not - I love it sometimes on other people but I don't think it's "me". In my youth - (oh, I've got to THAT age, have I, when I start sentences with "In my youth") - I wore a lot of badges, usually with some kind of slogan on them, usually with a point to them but hopefully funny too.

But now I just don't tend to wear any jewellery. Not "proper" jewellery - I'd rather spend the money on something else - and not the strings-of-beads type either - they both feel wrong on me.

But these corsages can be either dressed up or - in my case - dressed down and that's one reason why I like them - and no two are the same.

There were lots of different stalls:

Although the actual artists may be different, you do tend to get the same "spread" of exhibitors at these kind of events - - a photographer - - watercolours - - clothes - - knitted things - - and I always find myself wondering the same thing - - is this Art or Craft?

You always get someone who has a duff idea and flogs it to death, and they are usually the person who is strongest in the defence of their works as Art. Something like making models of the Eiffel Tower out of empty crisp packets. They think that the world needs this, and indeed has been craving it, possibly for hundreds of years. Their crisp-packet Eiffel Towers are a metaphor for something or other - - what? Man's ability to rise high above the rubbish and reach for the stars - - well, that's the kind of guff I'd write if I were Crisp Packet Craftswoman.

The trouble is, Art is held to be worthwhile: Craft, on the other hand, is held to be something that well-off ladies do in their spare time, and therefore doesn't have much credibility. Its creativity is judged to be somewhere on a par with painting-by-numbers - something I never liked. So lots of Craft people insist that their work is Art. Similarly, there are plenty of superbly skilled craftspeople who wouldn't dream of classifying what they do as art - the wonderful wooden furniture that my mum's cousin Frank used to make, for example.

I think that Craft should get a better press, and the skilled end of Craft should be as well-respected as Art. And, further, I think that Art should involve skill too, as well as ideas.

And I think that the type of Art or Craft that involves neither skill nor ideas should be reclassified as "pretentious crap". There we go. Sorted.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful

Yes, Gareth has finally had his operation, after being Nil By Mouth since Tuesday whilst they did various tests and then whilst they waited for a slot for his operation.

They finally did it at two o'clock this morning. Why this unearthly hour?

Was it because they didn't want to leave it till the morning in case the infection got worse?

- - - er, no.

Was it because they took pity on him since he'd been hanging around waiting for it for two days with no food?

- - - er, no.

Was it because it just happens to be a twenty-four-hour operating theatre and that was when his slot came up?

- - - er, no. They don't usually operate on non-emergencies after midnight.

Was it because they felt he'd had enough stress and been messed around enough, what with it being nearly a month since he first got appendicitis, and him being in and out of both major hospitals in Leeds as well as encountering the Butchers of York in the first place?

- - - er, no.

So what other reason could there possibly be?

The answer is - - - drum roll - - - they want his bed for someone else today, so they needed to get him out of hospital!

Inside Gareth they found a piece of mesh packing, a 1927 map of Tasmania, a single by Ian Dury and the Blockheads and a very small student nurse who'd been observing the original operation.

What? I exaggerate, you say? Surely not. - - Well, the packing was certainly there, a leftover from one of the previous occasions when they'd rummaged around inside.

Let's play the single, shall we? Gareth, this is for you.

How Not To Clean Your Brain

Well, there I was, Friday afternoon, my brain a bit fuzzy like it tends to be at the end of the week. So I thought I know, I'll get a little saw, take off the top of my head, give my brain a good swoosh round with something hygienic, and get it all nice and clean.

So I disinfected the saw and grabbed the bottle of Hibiscrub - - and then I thought oh, damn it, that's no good, is it?

If you read the small print - and I'm sorry it's a bit fuzzy, but that's because it was Friday afternoon when I took the photo - it says quite clearly "Avoid contact with brain, meninges and middle ear".

So I had to give up on the idea and tried a Chinese takeaway and an excellent film instead, and that did seem to do the trick.

Meanwhile, the Saga of Gareth the Poorly continues. You may remember that my son-in-law Gareth had his appendix out, under rather dramatic circumstances, almost a month ago now. In fact the time before Gareth was ill seems a very long time ago, like the Battle of Hastings or the time when we thought MPs' expenses were perfectly fair.

Well, since this less than perfect experience under the knife of the Butchers of York, he's been in and out of most hospitals in the region - in fact, if you've been in hospital at all during this period, that chap with the long blond hair in the next bed will have been him.

He's had a persistent infection that has been refusing to go away, and therefore the wound's been refusing to heal. Tonight he's having another operation to sort it all out and put a drain in. Or probably tonight. He's been in hospital since Tuesday whilst they've done various scans and things but since his condition isn't life-threatening - at the moment! - his operation keeps being postponed, with the result that he's had hardly anything to eat since Tuesday.

He remains amazingly resilient and cheerful, and his partner Olli's in York looking after Wendy the Kamikaze Kitten. I think every single one of us is getting very, very bored with the whole thing now. Another day of this hanging around and we'll be tempted just to open him up ourselves and pour in the whole bottle of Hibiscrub - being careful, of course, not to let it go anywhere near his brain.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

i'm On the Train

I'm blogging from my Blackberry on the train on the way back from a meeting in London.
Why do train announcers speak in such strange way?
"And please DO ensure that you DO take all your belongings with you when leaving the train."
And if I had a pound coin for every cliche that I've heard spoken loudly into a mobile phone on this train, I'd have enough to stretch to the moon and back.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bygone Bridlington

Until yesterday, I hadn't been to Bridlington since the early sixties, which was when I was Very Small Indeed.

I do remember having a donkey ride there and when I mentioned this to my mother today she remembered it too. Somewhere in this house there's a photograph of me, very small on a Bridlington donkey, and I hope to find it one day.

The donkeys are still there, though possibly not the same ones:

There are very few seaside donkeys left these days for various reasons, including the fact that many people think it's cruel to the donkeys. Well, I think that, providing the donkeys don't work too long hours and are well looked after - and these had water to drink and did seem to be in good condition - donkey rides are not on my list of things to abolish if I'm ever put in charge of everything.

It's easy to get all steamed up over perceived cruelty that we just happen to come across, and to choose to ignore "hidden" cruelty - I think people's time would be better spent getting upset over factory farming of pigs, for example. I've seen round an intensive pig farm in France and hated seeing intelligent animals kept on concrete for their whole lives.

Anyway, after that little digression - -- in the early Sixties we were in Bridlington on a day trip with the Communist's parents, my grandparents.

Grandad knew that I liked stories and decided to entertain me with the Welsh legend of Gelert.

The story in brief (though there's a fuller version at the link, above): The prince goes out hunting: can't find his dog: comes back to find his baby's cradle overturned and blood everywhere: assumes dog has killed baby: dog turns up and, horrified, he kills it: then he finds baby alive: then he finds body of huge wolf which dog has killed defending baby.

This was not a good story to tell a sensitive animal-loving small child. I could not bear it. I did the only possible thing in the circumstances, which was to howl with grief at the sadness and injustice of it.

I howled all the way back to Leeds. I bet my Grandad wasn't popular with the rest of the party.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

From Brad to Brid

I've nothing against Bradford, but you really wouldn't want to drive there first thing in the morning. Actually, thinking about it, I've got quite a few things against Bradford, the chief of which is that it's in a dip, and that dip is always full of traffic.

I had to be there at half past nine for a roleplay - quite a "heavy" roleplay with a lot of emotional content, so I was gearing myself up for it as I drove through the centre of Leeds and onto the M621 and the M62 and the M606 and through the traffic-filled streets of Bradford and into the car park of the health centre and out of it again as there was nowhere to park and into it again as I'd spotted someone pulling out of a car parking space.

When I got to the room, I was surprised to find the other roleplayer who plays this role already there. She was equally surprised to see me.

We each produced a list with our own name on it, and today's date. Hers was later than mine, so I think I'd been moved from this date but didn't know.

It's strange how you can gear yourself up to do a job - even a job that you enjoy, and I love doing this work - and then when you're suddenly let off, you're like a child let out of school early. Yippee!

So I went to see my friend David for a little while, to discuss a play. And then I heard from Silverback, who had found he didn't have to stay in today to await a delivery, and so he was going to have lunch at the excellent Wellington pub and was then going to go out in the sunshine. And he kindly invited me to go with him, since I suddenly had some free time, and our office was in capable hands for the day.

So we had lunch and wondered where to go to - - and he suggested Bridlington, on the East Coast, which was, I must say, a brilliant idea. It took under two hours to get there from Leeds, and it was a lovely drive too, with the countryside at its Spring best.

It was a gorgeous day, and I had a lovely time: thank you, Silverback.

So, morning on the grimy mean streets of Bradford: afternoon on the broad beaches of Bridlington.

I love the unexpected, when it's good.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Fame At Last

Today I was involved in assessing a student doctors' exam in Communication Skills.

The lucky candidates had to watch a video and write about it. (I think that's not giving too much away).

All the assessors gathered in a room to get our instructions for how the afternoon should run. We were shown a bit of the video.

I didn't know the doctor in the film, but there was something terribly familiar about the patient.

"Ooh!" I squeaked, "Er - - that's me!"

Everyone muttered admiringly at my ability to identify myself. "Oh yes, so it is."

Apparently I filmed it three years ago, though I have no memory of doing so - - but then I've played a lot of patients before then, and a lot of patients since. And apparently this little film has made an annual appearance in the video assessment, though I haven't been an assessor before. So every medical student in the university - - and there are hundreds - - has seen me in this role.

Unfortunately the patient I was playing was thoroughly miserable, and I had dressed accordingly. I was wearing a rather old jacket, and was a stone heavier then, and had my old glasses on, and I looked about a hundred and thirty-three - - so all in all, I felt that the glamour element was rather minimal.

However, it was interesting to see what I was doing, three years later, and I had to admit to myself that I did a pretty good job in the role.

When the Communist was ill and I frequented the various hospitals in the area as he was moved about, I did notice that a lot of the younger doctors peered at me with slight confusion. A few even asked it outright: "Excuse me, do I know you from somewhere?" And then I had to explain that I work in Communication Skills for the university, and that they will undoubtedly have met me before, though I would have been someone else, with a different complaint.

If I ever do have an accident or serious illness, I can tell you now what's going to happen. I'll be lying on a stretcher in an ambulance somewhere and I will look up with gratitude at the young doctor looming over me, hanging on their every word, seeking comfort and reassurance.

And they'll say, "Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"