Marmiteboy - Urbane Warrior.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


A recent e-mail conversation with a new cyber friend and last weekends Jackanory night, has got me thinking about the art of storytelling.

My friend mentioned that she likes to unwind after a long day, by listening to a audio book. It's something that I have got out of the habit of unfortunately. I used to love to chill out with a really good adaptation of a book, provided it was unabridged. The thought of someone editing a story to suit their version of it, fills me with horror. Lily has been listening to one of the Harry Potter series, so expertly read by the national institution that is Stephen Fry. I'm not advocating listening to the audio book instead of reading here, by the way. It's just that sometimes it's just so relaxing to be read to. Maybe I'm regressing into childhood here and remembering being read to when I was very young, whatever it is, I just love it.

Any book that is read out loud is only as good as it's reader. It can be the greatest book it the English language, but if it is read without passion then it isn't worth the time it takes to listen.

I had a tape when I was a kid of Bernard Cribbens reading stories from 'A House At Pooh Corner' and it has stayed with me since then. Whenever I read it now, I hear Cribbens' voices he gave to Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and co. I especially have fond memories for his interpretation of Roo. I have a cd version read by Alan Bennett now, and although very good, it iusn't quite the same.

When I was a child, one of my favourite programmes was undoubtedly Jackanory. In todays day and age of PS2's and X Boxes it seems impossible to think that millions of children sat down and watched someone telling them a story EVERYDAY!!! There were so many great stories told and so many brilliant story tellers. The aforementioned Bernard Cribbens was the most regular reader, closely followed by Kenneth Williams, but such greats as Judy Dench, Willie Rushton, Beryl Reid and Rik Mayall also took part. By God even Prince Charles read a story. That's how important it was.

It hasn't been on our screens for some 10 years, so a whole generation of children have missed out on sitting still and being read a wonderful story. Maybe some of these children may have been inspired to pick up a book and read it, instead of blasting things on a pc game, had it still been on. Apparently Jackanory is soon to make a comeback, which is great news. The next generation of children, my young nieces included, can hopefully get as much pleasure as I did from the art of storytelling.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Lark Ascending.

It's been a good week. I've been doing what I love best (well almost!!). I've been in darkest Berkshire, if there is such a thing, at a training college in Sunningdale. The large public sector organisation that I work for has run Positive Action for Disabled People courses for about 15 years now and I have been lucky enough to be involved for the last seven years in one form or another.

For the last four years I have been my employers departmental trainer on these events, working alongside a truely remarkable man, who I will call Mr C. Mr C is the most inspirational man I have ever met. Our own Lady Bracknell knows him too and has mentioned him in dispatches. He has run a disability training and consultancy business for the last 25 years or so and has touched many lives with his philosophy on disability. He has installed in many, the view that it is society that disables us and that the old view (and medical model of disability) that it's our medical condition that is the causes disability is not valid. I make no apologies if you do not agree with this I'm afraid. To go into all of his philosophy would take up a number of books (of which I'm glad to report there are soon to be several) so I'll just say that without him I wouldn't be who I am today.

Mr C and I work very well together. He is old enough to be my father, but our working relationship is strenghtened by our friendship. We are always laughing in the classroom. He gives me such a hard time but I'm glad to report that he has created a monster and I give as good as I get now. I think the atmosphere we create in the classroom really helps in what is at times, a very heavy subject. Quite often, the delegates we get are in a very bad place. Some have a newly acquired impairment and are grieving for their old lives. This may seem a bit melodramatic, but I truely believe that some people (if not all) who acquire a disability go through this process. Not only do they have to deal with the new condition and all that brings, but also have to deal with loss. As well as the effect their condition has on family and friends. It's something that Mr C tackles with a positive attitude. There is plenty of empathy, but we really try not to let people turn into, what Mr C calls 'Opera Singers' (me, me, me). The course programme explains rights under DDA 1995 and the Human Rights Act, that delegates can use if they have to. This alone can have a profound affect. Knowing that you can't just be sacked because you are a disabled person is very empowering and it's surprising just how many people have never heard of the legislation.

More importantly though is Mr C's personal philosophy. We are bombarded with negative images surrounding disability. People are portrayed as either pathetic cripples, or brave soldiers. The course has been designed to drive a Sunshine Bus through all of this crap and show disabled people that there is nothing 'wrong' in being disabled. In fact, we show that it is bloody brilliant. That being positive about being a disabled makes life so much better. In fact it makes it exciting. As we say 'Disability is a way of life'. It's who I am and who I want to be.

This is the kind of work I would love to do full time and it's something I want to look into doing as a complete change of career. There are organisations out there that are crying out for both Postive Action and Disability Awareness training, and I have been lucky enough to deliver both with Mr C.

Mr C is on the verge of retiring now, although many of the organisations he works for won't let him, and he is pushing me to take over some of his contracts. Just him mentioning this to me is a tremendous honour, if a little scary, and he told me this week that he has been putting my name about to some of his clients (without my knowledge, the tinker).

So it looks like I might have to pull my finger out and look at that change of career. It will need planning as I have a safe job and a good wage. I'd need enough money to survive, and of course a proper portfolio of courses, but I've had some thoughts recently about some of my target clients. It will take a lot of hard work and research but maybe it's time to do something about it.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Running Up That Hill.

Frank Spencer, the eternal optimist once said, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better". How we laughed as the world around him was turned into chaos. We might all do well to follow his philosophy though. Frank was never down trodden. No matter what ill luck plagued him, he picked himself up and dusted himself down, and started all over again (Note to self. Write a song for a musical using these words later).

It has taken me a very long time to see that this approach is the best approach to life. To a man who the glass has always been half empty, it comes as a shock to suddenly realise that maybe, just maybe, the glass is actually half full. What has brought about this shift in my perception of life? No, not class A drugs, copious amounts of beer or too many orange Smarties. The hypnotherapy/psychotherapy I have had recently has been the main instigator in this turn around. In recent years when I have had some form of therapy, I have always held on the feeling of anxiety/depression and used it as some form of comfort blanket. I did this all unconsciously of course. I didn't have the self awareness to see that I was doing this. A combination of this being pointed out and me being ready to move on, has been a revelation. I still do hang on to my anxiety a bit, but the ties are getting weaker and weaker. I'm continuing with the therapy until I've broken them completely and they will never be able to return. It may still take a little while but I know I'm so much better than I have probably ever been. I'm posting this for one thing and in the past the thought of feeling well was so alien, that I know that I checked in with myself to ensure I was still feeling shit. I would have found it very difficult to admit to being alright.

My very good friend Debi told me on Thursday that she could see a change in me. My negative outlook was not there anymore. It was lovely to hear. I've felt a change in me, so it was nice to be told that others have noticed it too. Holly, told me too that the change in my physiology was markedly better since I first started receiving treatment from her. I don't look so drawn and tired, and although I still feel pretty tired I know that this won't last for ever.

The next step is to get off these anti-anxiety/depressants that I have been on since June 2004. I'll take it steady and consult the doctor on how to do this in a couple of weeks time because I want ensure that it isn't the meds that have brought about this change in me (although I'm pretty convinced it isn't). My increased tiredness is probably due to the meds not having a whole lot to do at the moment, so they have decided to make me tired as a punishment ;-)

For the first time in I don't know when, I actually feel positive about the future, whatever it brings. And that I can assure you feels pretty darn good.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My Funny Valentine.

What is it with Valentines Day? It's a cynical attempt by greeting card manufacturers to get us to part with our money after all. Why then does it matter so much when yet again, Mr Postie fails to deliver the truck load of cards you've been hoping for?

It shouldn't matter a jot really, should it? It's all a load of mushy bollocks. Or so the Radio 5 Live phone-ins would have us believe. I don't really agree I'm afraid. But then I'm just a failed romantic.

I have sent a fair few cards to the secretly admired in the past and although the person it was sent to has worked out it was from me (on one ocassion by soemone telling them, the bastard)I have not had any success. Even in the last relationship I was in I showered the woman with cards, chocolates and roses and didn't even get a card. She did present me with a pair of boxer shorts though. Not exactly a romantic gesture!!

The last few years I have chosen to be a bit more circumspect and have held off from sending the card to the 'girl wot I fancy'. Not only has this saved me money it also saves you all the stress of getting it to them and then the stress of them finding out it was from you and being horrified and all the embarressment that it may cause them. Maybe I'm getting to be a realist in my old age. I usually get really pissed off with all the constant talk of romance on the tv and radio around this time of year. As a single person, you are again reminded of your single status and that you might just be a bit freaky. This year I feel a lot better about being single at this time of year. I'll not be spending my evening over a romantic meal, oh know. I'm going to yoga. Far more productive than moping about not get any lurve action ;-)

If you have had a lovely romantic gesture made to you this year, in the form of a card, flowers, choccies, or even, God forbid a pair of pants, then I hope the rest of the day is a lovely romantic one for you.

If you haven't received zip, or are on your own, then I'd like to wish you a very Happy Valentines Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Upward Over The Mountain.*

This last few weeks or so has given me time to reflect on how I see my life panning out. Do I keep to the same path of anxiety and all its manifestations? Or do I change?

In the past I have sought some form of help for my mental state, and although at the time the counselling I received did put the finger in the dam, it didn't shore it up.

I realise now that I wasn't ready to change completely at that time. The anxiety and depression was my anchor, my safe place. You can get so used to feeling a certain way, that change, even for the better is a scary thing. Adrenalin is a drug and as the anxious state I have been in pumps a bucket load of the stuff round my body, you kinda get addicted. The sessions of pyschotherapy and hypnotherapy that I have had recently have shown me that I check in with myself to see if I'm feeling anxious or not. It's not really a conscious act, but none the less, it is damaging. In the cold light of day it seems pretty silly that if your not feeling anxious, you should check to see if that anxiety is still there, thus making you anxious again.

Well, enough is enough. I am making a real effort not to do this. I have mentioned before that I am somewhat of a dweller. I have had a habit, which is all about feeling safe and anchoring myself down, to go over and over incidents in my head that have caused me upset. This is the first thing I'm trying to rectify. It's quite tiring because it means using a lot of distraction techniques. Luckily I have been off work for the last few weeks and have been able to put these into practice. I've been out a lot which is a help. It stops you even beginning 'the dwelling process' (great name for a band, that). If I am indoors and find myself thinking about stuff I shouldn't be thinking about I actually tell myself to stop thinking about them now. This is so much healthier than wallowing I can tell you.

I have also been set a number of targets by Holly (my psychotherapist). I am to give myself loads of positive affirmation to counteract low self-esteem. This is quite difficult, mainly because it feels so unnatural to me. I have bought a couple of hypnotherapy cd's that are helping me to do this. It means making time for myself every day to lie down, put some headphones on and do the exercises, but I think I'm starting to feel the benefits. No, scrub that. I AM starting to feel the benefits. There have been times this week when I haven't felt anxious at all and although this is quite an odd feeling, it is pretty damn good.

I still have some way to go. I have just started along the road to liking myself and accepting myself for who I am, but I'm finally ready to finish the journey now.

* Iron and Wine song taken from cd The Creek Drank The Cradle.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Another Sunny Day.

Belle & Sebastian - Hammersmith Apollo Friday 10th Feb 2006.

It's always a Sunny Day when I go and see Belle & Seb, and this, my second B&S gig in 8 days, was no exception. The Apollo is a big, big venue and I'm not really a fan of the place. In fact, the last time I went there was in 1985 to see Depeche Mode (when they were a pop band).

On arrival, the crowd stretched round the block, which meant I missed seeing support band, Brakes. I like this band, they're different enough to capture my attention. They mix an almost alt-counrty feel, with that of late 80's US indie guitar. Oh and they do the odd 5 second thrash song as well. It's worth checking their album Give Blood, a sixteen song, twenty-eight minute gem.

After taking our seats up in the circle we didn't have long to wait before Stuart, Stevie, Beans, Sarah, Chris, Richard and Mick hit the stage. They started off with their first ever single "The State I'm In", so it was evident straight away that the set was going to be different to last weeks Cambridge gig. Too many bands these days just go through the motions and do the same set, night after night. Not Belle. They are a band who obviously relish playing live and mixing it up a bit. Tonight we were treated to quite a few tracks from 'If You're Feeling Sinister' including the magnificent "Judy And The Dream Of Horses".

Stuart did some rubbish dancing again and was very pleased that he had such a big stage area to show off his ahem...skills. He forgot the words to "Another Sunny Day" because he was laughing at someone in the crowd dancing (the cheek of the man) and also gave us the hook line from "White Collar Boy" on a kazoo 'borrowed' from someone in the crowd. He did promise to give it back at the end but I don't think he did.

As usual the band were spot on. It never ceases to amaze me who talented this band are. They effortlessly swap instruments between songs. They have come a long,long way from the reportedly shambolic early gigs. Another memorable gig. B&S are always guarenteed to lift ther spirits. Thye should available on the NHS ;-)

The UK tour is now finished but Rob, Jim and I are hoping to get to a European venue later in the year. Barcelona or Madrid would be great. Sun, Sangria and Belle & Sebastian sounds too good to miss. Who wants to come?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

No, I think you'll find that you're it.

Gimpy Mumpy tagged me with a Meme.

Now I'm not really sure what one of those is, but thank you anyway. Also, my rubbish home pc won't let me do html within posts so I can't really do it properly so apologies.

Two jobs in my life

Plate washer (virtual slave labour at 80 pence an hour for a 12 hour day)

Civil Servant (my current employ)

Two films I could watch over and over.


The Shawshank Redemption

Two places I have lived.

The Wirral, Merseyside

Benfleet, Essex (place of my birth).

Two TV series that I enjoy.


Brideshead Revisited.

Two places I have been on vacation.

Northern Ireland (beautiful place, wonderful people).


Two foods I love.

Stuffed hearts.

Marmite on Toast (obviously)

Four Websites I visit daily.

The Diary of a Goldfish.

Gimpy Mumpy.

Lady Bracknell.

BBC Ouch (my homepage).

Two bloggers who should play.



Monday, February 06, 2006

Oy! Oy! Malcolm Hardee A Tribute

Malcolm Hardee Tribute Evening- Hackney Empire February 5th 2006.

Malcolm Hardee had five jokes that he told on stage. He would wander on stage, usually pissed, tell the five jokes (all of which are too rude for here but if you want to know them e-mail me). Then he'd play the blues harmonica with his nuts hanging out the front of his trousers. Not much of an act, to be sure, but to many stand up fans Malcolm was the daddy.

Why was this? Well, he ran a number of comedy clubs in South-East London that set some of our best loved comedians on their way. Jo Brand, Jeremy Hardy, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, Stewart Lee, Alan Davis, Dominic Holland and Harry Hill were all given gigs very early on in their careers along with countless others. His venues were always notorious. The Tunnel Club and Up The Creek were hotbeds of the heckle and the put down. If you survived you were on your way. Jim Taveré tells of the period in his life when the game was to get Taveré off in under thirty seconds. That was the type of place it was.

Malcolm sadly died last year, but in a way that only Malcolm could. Pissed, with a bottle of his favourite beer in his hand and the winnings from the bookies in his back pocket, he fell off his boat into the Thames and drowned. The autotopsy report alledgedly states that he still had the bottle of beer in his hand when they found him.

Tonights event was a tribute to the great man. It was held at The Hackney Empire (where, trivia fans my Granddad worked as an ASM in the thirties) and the line-up showed just how much Malcolm was loved.

First up was a truely shambolic opening, of which Malcolm would have been particularly proud by, Charlie Chuck. Charlie was one of Malcolm's favourites and if you were about in the late eighties or early nineties you would have undoubtedly seen his particularly bizzarre act at some comedy club or other. Our compare for the first third of the evening was the great Arthur Smith. He told many stories about Malcolm and told a few of his jokes, we then had a nice tribute from Frank and Poppy Hardee, Malcolm's children.

Over the next five hours (yes, five hours!!) we were treated to some great stuff. Jeremy Hardy (a Lady Bracknell favourite) told some old jokes from his early days on the circuit, Stewart Lee did some of the routine from his first gig at one of Malcolm's clubs, Ricky Grover, who reminisced about a truely crap show he did with Malcolm and the Bastard Son Of Tommy Cooper at Edinburgh in 1995, was very funny (it was crap too. I had the very great pleasure in seeing it). Jimmy Carr was booed on!! And you don't see that much. If a Tunnel crowd doesn't like you then no amount of TV glory will help you out. I'm not a fan of Carr but he took it well and almost revelled in the stick he got. Malcolm would have been proud.

There were loads of other acts too but I won't bore you with them all. However there were a few worth mentioning. Jools Holland a friend and neighbour played a couple of tunes, one of which was a blues number that Malcolm wrote and always finished his shows with. There was no full frontal nudity this time though. Glenn Tilbrook (ex of Squeeze) almost stole the show when his guitar pick-up wouldn't work on his first number. Unperturbed, he jumped down off of the stage and sang "Goodbye Girl" from the audience. As my mates and I were in the front row this meant he was standing about a foot away from me when he did this. Great stuff. Simon Day did a turn as Tommy Cockles (from the Fast Show) and was very funny, but surely the most bizarre act of the evening was Frank Sanazi. He is, as you may have guessed, a Frank Sinatra impersonator. A very good one at that. The twist is that he dresses up like Adolf Hitler and changes the lyrics of Sinatra's songs so that they are about the Third Reich. This is done completely dead pan. It was hysterical. The man is a genius.

The man that is Johnny Vegas closed the show and in the true spirit of Malcolm, was a complete disaster. He was very, very pissed (quelle surprise!!) and embarrassingly unfunny. He just stumbled about the stage ranting. The crowd turned on him very early on but he wouldn't go off. In the end Boothby Graffoe, another of the evenings compares, had to lead him stage.

I'm sure if Malcolm was lookng down he would have loved it. I saw him many times, but the one that sticks in my mind, was the time I saw him in Liverpool with Lady Bracknell and my then girlfriend and Malcolm was not going down well. There were about forty people in and 90% of the audience, including my girlfriend and Lady B were hating it. I LOVED it and shouted out to Malcolm as he kept ploughing on, that it was going a bit shit. He looked at me and said "yeah it is shit, but fuck it, I'm getting 300 quid for this" and carried on regardless.

That was Malcolm. A one off. Loved by many of the comedians he either acted as an agent for or put on at his clubs and worshipped by his adoring fans, even though he did the same act EVERY time you saw him.

It was a great night and a fitting tribute to this giant of London stand up.

Oy! Oy!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Belle & Sebastian Live Cambridge Corn Exchange 2nd February 2006

If You Find Yourself Caught In Love

If you find yourself caught in love
Say a prayer to the man above
Thank him for everything you know
You should thank him for every breath you blow

If you find yourself caught in love
Say a prayer to the man above
You should thank him for every day you pass
Thank him for saving your sorry ass

If you’re single, but looking out
You must raise your prayer to a shout
Another partner must be found
Someone to take your life beyond
Another TV “I Love 1999”Just one more box of cheapo wine

If you find yourself caught in love
You should say a prayer to the man above
If you don’t listen to the voices then my friend
You’ll soon run out of choices
What a pity it would be
You talk of freedom don’t you see
The only freedom that you’ll ever really know
Is written in books from long ago
Give up your will to Him that loves you
Things will change, I’m not saying overnight
But something has to give
You’re too good looking not to live

If you find yourself out of love
Shed a tear for the one you love
Tell your boss that you’ve gone away
Down your tools for a holiday
If you’re going off to war then I wish you well
But don’t be sore
If I cheer the other team
Killing people’s not my scene
I prefer to give the inhabitants a say
Before you blow their town away
I like to watch them play
I like to marvel at the beauty of a simple village girl
Why should she be the one who’s killed?
If you find yourself caught in love...

I am a happy Marmite today. Last night I wen to see the marvelous Belle & Sebastian in Cambridge and they encored with my current favourite favourite Belle song (reproduced above). They were, as usual on top form, with a selection of tracks right back to the first album. Hearing, as Stevie introduced it, the first flop single The State I'm In was a treat too. They highlighted the new album The Life Pursuit which I have been lucky enough to have heard (it's not out until Monday) and a fair few of the sell out crowd were singing the new songs straight back at them. Stuart Murdoch entertained us with some spectularly crap dancing and a grand time was had by all.

Belle and Sebastian must be one of the happiest bands around. The atmosphere they generate at gigs is fantastic. I always leave B&S gigs with a huge grin on my face. They are a very good tonic indeed. I recommend them highly. I'll be seeing them again next Friday for a another dose. Can't wait.