Wednesday, August 29, 2007

“No,” I insist. “Absolutely not.”

If one is going to spend one’s Bank Holiday at the Village Children’s Sports Day rather than, say, to pick somewhere completely and utterly at random, the Pub, it would seem reasonable to have some right of veto over the Parents’ Race. As it is, people are urging me to participate. I have built a successful and fulfilling life on the basis of not participating in anything, and I have no wish to start now.

Fortunately I grew out of being susceptible to peer-pressure some years ago.

“Watch it... it can get quite competitive out there,” calls Mrs Short Tony as I trudge sulkily to the starting line. She is perceptive. There has certainly been a smattering of shouting and adrenaline-fuelled dads on the sidelines during the ‘4-7 year old’ category. I resolve that I will stand my ground and not be intimidated by these people. I even make a couple of humorous remarks to a couple of the other competitors as the starter lines us up.

Three minutes later, I am being helped off the floor by the Chipper Barman. “I’m ok,” I assure him. “I'm ok.” Dizziness swirls around my head as I wander back towards who I assume might be the LTLP.

“No, I think you’ll find that it’s pretty bad,” he replies, trotting after me anxiously. “You’d better get something to put on that eye.”


It is a well-known neurological fact that whenever a male sustains any form of minor injury, the brain’s first reaction is ‘how can I milk this?’. As it is, I am just about to adopt my ‘brave soldier’ voice when the LTLP gives me a look of horror and I realise that there is blood and stuff and no need for any milking whatsoever. My legs sit down for me.

“What happened there?!?” asks Mrs Short Tony.

It takes me a minute to collect what remains of my thoughts. I can’t feel my right wrist, and there are grazes down my leg.

“It got a bit crowded,” I begin, “and... I think they call it ‘doing a Mary Decker.’”

The under-fours potato race begins. Somebody hands me a tissue to hold against my eye. I am consoled by the fact that despite the eye thing, the sprained wrist, the bruising and the grazes, at least I went down just on the finishing line and so retained my dignity.

Much later, I discover grass stains down the entire length of my underpants and on to my thigh, indicating that at some point during the incident my trousers were not present.

Friday, August 24, 2007


“If I were in charge of A&E, I would put Charlie Chaplin films on a continuous loop. It wouldn’t matter about the sound and it would cheer everybody up.”

I wrote this only last week, and Mousie leapt into action. She is an A&E nurse, and is going to raise the issue at her next team meeting!!! (NB I am making a sexist assumption that Mousie is a female whereas this is a 21st century non-sexist world and it is quite fine for men to be nurses as well if they are unable to become doctors).

Kudos to Mousie. She is a doer.

This journal has a number of readers who work in the medical professions. Will YOU follow suit and press for Charlie Chaplin films to be shown on a continuous loop in your A&E Department? Will you? If there is some resistance you can allow Buster Keaton as well.

Remember the benefits:

- It will make people happy who are unhappy due to their medical circumstances;
- It will make people happy who are unhappy due to the fact that placing a television in the corner of a room, tuning it to a spoken-word station and then turning the sound off is beyond a fatuous use of valuable NHS funds and approaching the provocation to riot;
- The staff on the ward will all naturally work a lot faster as they are inspired by the pace of the movie;
- If there is a fight or aggravation by drunks, people will know how to avoid being hit by running round the room five times and then doing a head-over-heels through the aggressor’s legs before turning round to kick them in the bottom.

But, above all, for an infinitesimally tiny outlay in the big scheme of things, it will make the world a very slightly sunnier place.

So, if you work in the NHS, are on speaking terms with your MP, know how to set up these Facebook groups or have ever used that petition thing on the 10 Downing Street site - do something.

The ill will thank you for it.

Thus ends Campaign Week on JBPSD. It has been interesting, doing something different over the summer. Next week we shall return to stories about the Village and my exciting life in it. Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekends.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


As a sort of full stop on Post Office matters, the animation and song have now been uploaded onto the You Tube.

You can leave a comment there if you want. Clare’s original hosted version is better quality, and has the words, if you are planning to use it at a karaoke party.

When the song was originally recorded, I think most people twigged that essentially it’s less to do with Post Offices and more a silly little satire on the way that when people try to communicate with the ‘yoof’ in their own language, something genuinely risible usually results. But shorn of the original context and with the addition of Clare’s superb bunny video, I’ve seen it archived in the Centre for Political Song, (alongside Bragg, Dylan, Public Enemy et al), shown at a community film festival, linked to by militant Royal Mail staff sites and presented to the Post Office management by strategic design consultants.

And, yes, cited by an anti-Post Office closure campaign as a great example of how to get the kids involved. No link, as I’m genuinely touched by this and don’t want them to think that I’m taking the mick.

So there you go. As one campaign opens, another closes. The campaign is laid to rest; I shall wander up the road to weigh my parcels secure in the knowledge that, however unwittingly, I have Done My Bit. I need a new project to work on now. I wonder what it could be…?

Monday, August 20, 2007


Needing to recover from the Village UFO incident, and rocking from side to side still as I try to write my report of the Village Music Festival, I shall be branching out this week. It is Campaign Week!!! Here, I shall fearlessly campaign.

We shall start with Iraq. Iraq has many of the problems of this part of Norfolk, with outsiders coming in and putting a strain on the local infrastructure.

So a while back, our recruiting chap out there had a conversation with some locals. Essentially, people were trying to explode our soldiers and, whatever you think about the actual warry bit, I think it’s generally accepted that we would rather our soldiers were not exploded.

“You couldn’t give us a bit of a hand?” asked the recruiting chap.

Iraqis #1 and #2 drew deep breaths. “I’d like to help,” said Iraqi #1 finally. “The economy’s frankly gone a bit tits up here. And to be honest, being an educated human being, I would also like a situation where people didn’t explode other people all the time. I’m not really into that. Just because we are Arabs and live in this war-torn country does not mean that we conform to your simple Western stereotypes.” He turned to Iraqi#2. “Does it, Abdul?”

“No, Mohammed,” replies his friend.

“The thing is,” continued #1, “We’d be risking our lives. There are death squads. By helping you catch murderers some would consider us traitors. If we help and they catch up with us then…” he tailed off.

“Oh – don’t worry,” we British replied. “I think you’ll find that the war won’t last that long. We’ll win quite easily and then Iraq will be a lovely place. A bit like Switzerland – that is the plan.”

“But with hotter weather,” chipped in his assistant.

“After all, we’ve got loads of experience in this sort of thing,” we continued. “I really can’t envisage anything going wrong, ever.”

Iraqi #2 thought deeply. “Yes, we will help,” he concludes. “Our multilingual skills and local knowledge will be very useful to you, and will help stop your soldiers being exploded. You have convinced us. Switzerland, you say? Will there be Toblerone?”

“Oh definitely,” we replied. “Sign there. I have to pop over to Afghanistan now, where Kenneth Williams and Bernard Bresslaw are causing no end of a nuisance.”


A few months later and, unfortunately, the Swissification of Iraq has hit a few delays. In fact, it’s not going well at all. Iraqi #2’s association with us means that he is now desperate for our protection. Iraqi #1 isn’t that bothered any more – he was tortured and murdered by the death squads a couple of weeks back.

It strikes me that if you’re going to have a system of giving asylum to people who face terror and horror in their own country, then it would be a reasonable idea to start with people who face terror and horror as a consequence of helping you out. This doesn't seem to be happening. So do we address this, or do we forget the whole thing?

You can find out a bit more about this at Dan Hardie’s weblog, here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

JonnyB’s Holiday Report - #3 of 3

We go to the zoo.

I have not been to a zoo since a particularly ill-thought out double date around twenty years ago. Toddler Servalan screams with excitement at the first sight of a zebra.

Personally I am looking forward to the elephants. It strikes me that most other zoo animals are just larger or differently-coloured versions of things that you see all the time, apart from elephants, which are unusual and thus very worth making the effort for. I expect they came from space originally.

We pass the lemur enclosure. The Toddler screams with excitement. A seagull then lands in front of us. The Toddler screams with excitement and I realise that I could have saved £19 and just sat on the beach for the day watching free wildlife.

It is a paradox, but I find the look of absolute, utter delight on her face desperately sad. That condition of total happiness and wonder is something that is so fleeting; a few nanoseconds later you are an adult and you will never, ever feel like that again.

The closest thing that I can remember as an adult to that unconditional delight was a few years back on Saffron Hill, in London. A builders’ cradle and hoist had gone terribly wrong, upending a trade canister of white emulsion over a passing businessman, below. He was rooted there, totally white, paint dripping off his suit and briefcase, gesticulating furiously and shouting until the police arrived. It was, by a long chalk, the most brilliant thing that I have ever witnessed in my life. But she can get all that from a passing seagull.

We trot round the rest of the zoo. I know zoos are good at all that conservation stuff and all that, but it seems to me that there are a high proportion of non-endangered small South American mammals that are presumably quite easy to feed and house. The LTLP feeds a parrot.

There are no elephants. I am crushed and disappointed at this. We return to the chalet, pack, and drive home. Some mysterious cucumbers are leaning against the front door.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

JonnyB’s Holiday Report - #2 of 3.

I can think of only two advantages to driving through the night to get to Cornwall. Firstly, there is very little traffic on the road, and secondly it is dark as you go through Northamptonshire.

We spend the first part of the journey working out what we’ve forgotten to pack after the unscheduled fiasco at the hospital. The answer seems to be: ‘any form of thing to entertain us, whatever’.

As a child, I remember trips to Cornwall being relaxed, ambling affairs along picturesque minor roads. Pub lunches on the way; stopping on the moors to play with the sheep etc. These days the infrastructure has improved, and the A30 cuts through the county like a newly-sharpened cleaver through a small child’s pet.

Mile after mile, junction after junction. The LTLP and Toddler doze in the back. At one point I stop for a rest at some Motorway Services, but everything is pretty well closed apart from the horrible coffee place and the arcade driving simulation machines. I buy a horrible coffee and drink it, blinking at the distinctive fluorescent lighting that is always employed in Areas of Minimum Wage.

Somebody once said that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. They are an idiot. We draw into the holiday park just after five a.m., and I pull up outside the tiny, tiny chalet that we are to share for a week. My mother and father in law greet us at the door with a warm, comforting cup of tea.

Monday, August 13, 2007

JonnyB’s Holiday Report - #1 of 3.

Accident and Emergency is a bleak and joyless place.

As far as I can see, it works like this. You walk into the department with, say, an axe sticking out of your head. A lady greets you from behind bullet proof glass and leaps into action to establish your ethnic group, address and date of birth. You are then given some notes, which say something like ‘axe sticking out of head’ and record your address and date of birth. These notes are to be put in a tray.

A while later, a nurse emerges and collects your notes from the tray. Frowning, he or she studies these before calling your name. You follow the call into an ante-chamber, being careful to mind your axe on the top of the doorframe.

“What seems to be the matter?” you are asked.

You go through the axe business again, and the nurse carefully writes ‘axe sticking out of head’ on a new page in the notes. They then enquire as to your address and date of birth, before leaving you back in the main area for a bit to make contact with the axe-removal department.

The axe is probably beginning to smart a bit by now, so you amuse yourself by watching the television that’s screwed to the wall, high up in the corner. The BBC News is on. Of course, as it is a hospital, the sound is turned down completely. They have paid for a television in the corner to entertain people, but they have tuned it to a station that generally features programmes that require sound, and have turned the sound off.

Another while later, your name is called once more. It is the axe specialist, who looks at your head-addition with interest. Opening your notes at a new page, he asks you for your date of birth and address, which he records importantly. He then asks you what the matter is. You explain the business with the axe once more, and he writes ‘axe sticking out of head’ on his new page in your notes.

“Mmmm,” he says, sitting back at the end of the consultation. “You have an axe sticking out of your head.”

“I think,” he continues, “we will need to admit you to have a look at that.”

You wait for a while for a porter to arrive, so that you can follow him to the axe ward. The porter is friendly and cheerful, and follows the clearly signposted directions competently. In the axe ward, you are shown to a room with a bed and told to wait.

An auxiliary nurse arrives with your notes, in order to ask you your date of birth and address. She writes this down on a new page in your notes, so that they know where you live and how old you are. The consultant will be round in due course, and is sure to find out what’s wrong with you.

We sit in the A&E reception area, waiting to be seen. Looking on the bright side, I do not have an axe sticking out of my head, but I am otherwise pissed off at the general direction of the beginning of our holiday.

If I were in charge of A&E, I would put Charlie Chaplin films on a continuous loop. It wouldn’t matter about the sound and it would cheer everybody up. There is nothing like a Charlie Chaplin film to make the world seem sunnier, and it would be better than a mouthing Huw Edwards.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I have gone to Cornwall!!!

It will be nice to see some out-of-the-way rural countryside, and have a relaxing holiday with no disasters whatsoever. I shall tell you about my relaxing holiday with no disasters whatsoever on my return.

Au revoir (nb that is French for laters)