Advent Calendar – Thursday Tenth of December

Today Elf is playing jack-in-a-box and has chosen to open the window and let in the snow. Fly away and escape 2020 with his favourite Christmas cartoon. Many of you will know this song well. The film became a Christmas tradition.

“Walking in the Air” was written by Howard Blake for the 1982 animated film of Raymond Briggs’ 1978 children’s book The Snowman; the fleeting adventures of a young boy and a snowman who has come to life. In the second part of the story, the boy and the snowman fly to the North Pole. “Walking in the Air” is the theme for the journey. This is the original recording of the song with Peter Auty, a choirboy from St. Paul’s Cathedral. His name was omitted from the original credits. He is now a fiftyish operatic tenor.

Peter Auty – Walking In The Air – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X986dthrhaQ

Silly Saturday- Dropping into Documentaries

I never get invited to be in documentaries. I was watching a documentary about a well known artist the other night, admiring her garden as she wandered down the path to her interesting studio. Then into the studio saunters a young man and on the screen appear the words Fred Bloggs ( not his real name, which I forget ) friend and writer. I have no idea what he has written, perhaps I should have heard of him and read all his work. But it doesn’t matter, he enjoys a certain kudos just by being a friend of a famous ( and infamous ) artist. Did he just turn up or did the producers plan his role and coach his lines to the artist ‘Have you got time for a cup of coffee?’ Luckily she had and they chat about her work, not his writing.

How do you get to appear in someone else’s documentary? It helps to actually have a friend who is a famous artist, or any friends at all. I do have some artistic friends, but nobody has made a documentary about them.

It also works the other way round. I was watching a documentary about a writer last night and lo and behold, we pan to a studio and there is someone else whose name I forget; the screen says Joe Smith, friend and artist. A great asset for the film makers because they can film him painting a portrait of his famous friend. Now I just need to find an artist who paints portraits and wait for someone to make a documentary about me.

If you enjoy visiting galleries, why not visit my Covid safe gallery.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-three-picture-gallery/

Five Seconds of Fame

I keep listening out for the doorbell, I keep looking out of the window, but the street is empty. The postman, greengrocer, Amazon delivery and Co Op groceries have all been, but They never come. Another day when a long pole, with a microphone on one end and a television interviewer at the other end, has not appeared at my front door.

How do they choose all these citizens who keep showing up on the news and breakfast television? I am not talking about science experts, political commentators, journalists and doctors, but ordinary people who sit in their living rooms unashamed of their ghastly wallpaper and awful fashion sense. Out of millions and millions of us how do they get chosen to be interviewed for several minutes in a segment that will be repeated endlessly on the main news and on News 24.

If they happen to have recovered from Covid they obviously have a head start over the rest of us, but it’s not just people pondering on pandemics, I have always been ignored. Every general election, the long years of Brexit, no one knocks on my door or stops me while I’m out shopping for my opinion. Though I would flee in the opposite direction if I did see cameras; too windswept, wrong clothes for television…

But if a reporter did call on me at home they might not get away; all those years of stored up opinions.

 ‘Yes we need more lockdown not less, gatherings of more than two people forbidden, identity cards, everyone to stay inside their own postcodes, disposable BBQs should be banned, litter bugs should be tasered on the spot, private motor vehicles confiscated, air travel banned… it was so nice during the first few weeks of lockdown…. Perhaps you and the cameraman would like to buy one of my books, I just happen to have a box full… or buy all my books…

Maybe a little bribery would secure their release…

Everyone is filmed at home now so if you haven’t had the chance to appear on television you can always pretend. Facetime with your boring family could become one of Alan Bennet’s brilliant Talking Heads – which are perfect for isolated actors and have just been remade.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08ftkkx

Or dust off your bookshelves and pontificate late at night on tomorrow’s newspaper headlines.

In the kitchen you can have your own masterchef celebrity banquet bake off.

‘What are you making?’

‘Bangers and Mash, it could all go horribly wrong… I’m just going to test the potatoes, okay, this is the moment when it could really go wrong, I could end up with third degree burns, I need to strain the potatoes now… make sure the camera lens doesn’t steam up…  yes the sausages all free range, they were running  around in a Hampshire field yesterday… oh oh is that the smoke alarm, I forgot to check the sausages…

Perhaps it would be better to stay in the garden. Gardening programmes are so popular now for peaceful healthy escapism and you can even send in videos of yourself and your delightful children giving a guided tour of your fantastic / unusual / beautiful / bountiful garden. Gardener’s World receives thousands of them, so you might not get chosen unless you have turned your bathroom into a tropical paradise, installed a waterfall in your living room, or turned a six foot sunless concrete square by your back door into the Garden of Eden.

Perhaps it’s best if I don’t film my garden; putting carefully cropped selected flowers on Instagram is my limit. Though if the people with poles do turn up tomorrow I could give them my views on new major projects injecting money into the economy; have all the motorways turned into cycle routes and gardens…

Have you ever invited television cameras into your home?

Silly Saturday – Not Going Out

Whether you are stuck in your twenty bedroom mansion with many acres of private grounds or alone in a tiny flat, there are some advantages to being in the majority of the population not allowed to go out. Remember that feeling when your mother believed it when you said you felt ill and you didn’t have to go to school? Recreate that inner freedom of spirit for yourself every morning.

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You don’t have to decide what to wear each day, even if you are still in your dressing gown when you put the bins out no one will be around to see you.
If you are a schoolchild you are taking part in the biggest social experiment ever; if your exasperated parents call you a rat they just mean it affectionately, you are a laboratory rat. Perhaps the experiment will prove that actually nobody needs to go to school. If you had no friends at school you are a winner, nobody has any friends at school now.

 

Parents, if you are one of those families that appeared in that documentary, Twenty Two Children and Another on the Way, you are laughing, now is your time, with a ready made school and team sports. As you could never afford to go out anyway with all those children, life goes on much the same.
Adults, you don’t have to go to work, or if you have to work from home you can do it in your pyjamas.
You don’t have to go out, you don’t have to go to that boring party, your in-laws’ wedding, that tedious conference, parents’ evening, to the cinema to see that ghastly film your partner wanted to see and you don’t have to go to the dentist.
You can watch television all day long, especially twenty four hour corona coverage.

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Tired of decision making? Remember waking up to sunny Saturdays and discussing how to make the most of a nice weekend? We must go somewhere, but where, a favourite place or somewhere new? A local walk or major expedition? Take a picnic or eat out? Shall we call Barbara and John and see if they want to meet up?

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Ironically you will get to know your neighbours better, even if you do have to yell from your balcony, over the fence or across the road. They are home all the time and the ones that tried to avoid you are pitifully grateful when you wave to them.
Your dog is happy, very happy, never lonely and five walks a day with each member of the family going on their allotted outing.
If you are an introvert this is your time. No one is going to tell you that getting out more would be good for you.

You will have plenty of time to catch up with all those ( my ) books you wanted to read.

 

What advantages have you found in your confinement to home?

Silly Saturday Slowly

First there was slow food, then there was slow television, the antidote to 24 hour news, sport and noisy, violent dramas. With slow TV you can spend two hours drifting down a canal or take a real time steam train journey.

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At this time of year in the northern hemisphere you may be settling down on winter evenings to watch your favourite dramas and probably your favourite crime dramas. January 2020 saw the start of new series of two popular and enduring detectives.
As Vera drove her Land Rover through the wilds of Northumberland a thought occurred. What if she just kept driving and didn’t bother to arrive at the police station, didn’t get any urgent calls on her mobile about a murder? Two hours of lowering Northumberland skies and rugged green landscape, advertisements providing the only drama. How relaxing.

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Vera Stanhope is the creation of a crime writer I enjoy, Anne Cleaves and is played by one of our national treasures, Brenda Blethyn. Antidote to glamorous cops, a middle aged woman in sensible, scruffy clothes and the muddy Land Rover. Some of her team have changed but she’s still going strong in this tenth series.

http://www.anncleeves.com/vera/

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A complete contrast is Granchester, set in a delightful village near Cambridge in the nineteen fifties. The stories were originally written by James Runcie, son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. His crime solving vicar Sidney Chambers has been replaced by an impossibly handsome young vicar who rides a motorbike and fortunately also has a talent for talking to people ( getting confessions out of them ) and solving crimes, helped by the police inspector Geordie Keating. Life in the lovely village is slow, but a surprising number of murders occur. Life in the village would be pleasantly slower if there were no murders or crime of any sort and the police inspector became a lay reader and helped the vicar with his church services instead.

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-01-17/grantchester-series-five-cast-characters/

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Slow Crime, No Crime could be applied to dramas set in any part of the world. There is always ‘the drive’ – through Scandinavian snow or the red dust of The Kimberleys at the top of Western Australia. Frantic chase scenes in cities could easily be slowed to a halt with road works or green protestors.
But how soon before the novelty wore off for viewers? The truth is, most of us don’t want people being killed just for our Sunday evening entertainment. We want to see scenery and in winter we like to watch anything filmed in summer, but we also want to peep into other people’s lives. The advantage of murders is that they give the perfect excuse for screen writers, the police and us to dissect every detail of the life of the victim and the lives of every person known to the victim.

sunshine-blogger
Do you like fast crime, slow crime or no crime?

Friday Flash Fiction – 270 – Autumnwatch

Autumn Compost Watch – Sponsored by Greensleaves Garden centres and introduced by Tim Timber

 Last week we set up our new compost corner and disguised the cameras from wily worms and agitated ants. Now it’s time for our first look at the insect hotel constructed from broken branches and twisted twigs and even more exciting, we lift the lid on the compost bin, replete with vegetable peelings, weeds, autumn leaves, egg shells, egg cartons and toilet roll tubes.

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At Twig Savoy let’s start at the ground floor and watch the workers; the ants are already making themselves at home and who is this? The heavy rainfall of last week has made this corner a dark and damp haven for local frogs. Let’s talk to our clever compost connoisseur Connor. What are we expecting to see when we lift the round green plastic lid off the de-luxe Greensleaves compost bin?

Well Tim, I must stress that we did not put a single creature here ourselves and we have not lifted the lid even for a peek.

Oh this is fantastic, wriggling red worms, hundreds of them, clinging inside the lid, annoyed at being disturbed.

Yes Tim, while we’re tucked up in our centrally heated homes this winter these worms will be chomping their way through the deliciously slimy mass to make compost for our spring bedding. I estimate there are more worms here than people in this town.

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Thanks Connor and viewers, don’t forget to join us next week when we’ll be talking about sweeping up autumn leaves and if you can’t wait till then, listen to our series of podcasts on slugs.

sunshine-blogger

 

Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – The Interpreter

Local man speaking in the tongue of his forefathers: it’s that time of year again, my annual trip out of town to see the land of my ancestors, earn a bit extra, but mainly have a laugh.

Interpreter: We have lived in this land for many generations, since time began, my grandfather was the village elder.

Local man: Who’s this idiot with the microphone?

Interpreter: We welcome you back to our village, now we have the well you built last year our women do not have to walk miles to collect water.

Local man: Thank goodness I don’t live in this godforsaken village, if only they had a decent pub instead of that hole in the ground which dried up two months ago.

Interpreter: I had fourteen children, only three live, if we could build a clinic other wives would not die in childbirth like mine.

Local man: These ridiculous clothes are so uncomfortable, the villagers will be glad to get back into their denims. Wonder what the missus is doing, how come she always gets out of this, probably having her nails done.

Interpreter: It is too far for the children to walk to school.

Local man: The village children have all got the day off school, hoping to get some freebies if they smile for the cameramen.

Interpreter: We send greetings to our dear friends in Great Britain.

Local man: Must remember to Skype my cousin in Slough, remind him to watch Celebrity Pose Day, see what he thinks of my performance, wonder how much I’ll ‘raise’ this year?

Interpreter: Many blessings on your families for your help.

 

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Silly Saturday – Sing a Song of Sixpence

While others cherish all their lives and quote verses from the world’s great poets and song writers, some of us have only childish or banal words and tunes fixed in our brains. I can’t remember what was on the shopping list I left at home, but can recall all the verses of Sing a Song of Sixpence.

My uncle made strange songs up that I still remember. ‘There was a song that I recall, my mother sang to me, she sang it as she tucked me in when I was ninety three’ –  (to the tune of the Christmas carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen ). It wasn’t till years later, when I heard old recordings of The Goon Show, that I realised he had borrowed that and other great works such as ‘ying tong, ying tong, ying tong…

What geniuses are they who write complete rubbish that will stay in our brains forever? They should be celebrated, though they can cause havoc. How many great operatic singers have had their career destroyed when, despite having memorised the libretto and rehearsed the sublime music, they open their mouths for the famous aria only to sing Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, Flower Pot Men.

The best music can be stolen and abused; Tony Hancock in the classic comedy episode ‘The Blood Donor’ sang the words of the poster on the wall to the tune of the German national anthem, it is also a stirring hymn tune, but the words stuck in my head are ‘Coughs and Sneezes Spread diseases’.

When we were new migrants to Australia the Mavis Bramston Show was the first satirical sketch show to gain success on television there. Topics included the then controversial building of the Sydney Opera House, but the sketch seared in my mind forever had the song ‘Go to the tip, go to the tip, all the Australians go to the tip’. This struck a chord with our family as Dad was very good at creating useful things from scrap found at the municipal rubbish tip; it still comes into my head every time we go to the tip.

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Not all verses I remember are worthless, though I hated learning poetry in infant school I have never forgotten the prayer we sang at the end of the day when we had put our chairs on the desks. Thankyou for the world so sweet, thankyou for the food we eat, thankyou for the birds that sing, thankyou God for everything.  A simple verse that could replace all the world’s religions and please environmentalists.

Some of my remembered ditties are useful; also at infant school we learned the alphabet song. I know adults who still are unsure of the alphabet, but for me the letters are firmly entrenched as four parts ABCDEFG, HIJKLMN, OPQRSTU, VWXYZed.  Never superseded by the Sesame Street version ending in Zee.

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But let’s get back to the something silly. My brother had a story book with one of the characters a rag doll who was always losing her stuffing and when she did, all she could say was Piggle Poggle. Oh Piggle Poggle, became a family saying whenever anything went wrong. What a brilliant replacement for angry swear words and what if politicians  just said Piggle Poggle when confronted with national disasters.

Children are still being imbued with the inane. Why on earth did I wake up one night with the words ‘Hello Tombliboos’ in my head? Watching too many episodes of The Night Garden? The Night Garden does have very soothing music, perhaps we should all watch it before going to bed.

Perhaps on our death beds, eyes closed, with relatives uttering meaningful words in case we are listening, the last music in our heads, the last words we try to utter will be such music greats as ‘Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat…’

Friday Fiendish Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Sunseeker

Characters:

Sebastian A. Tan, Sunseeker boat owner

Christina Da Santa, B.B.C. reporter

Joe Carpenter, B.B.C. cameraman

 

Setting: Poole Marina and Poole Harbour

 

Joe: Which berth is it?

Christina: He just said look for the largest boat; we should recognise him from that photo in Dorset Life.

Joe: Yes, he looks very distinguished.

Christina: Pity more men his age don’t look after themselves so well.

Joe: (chuckling) Maybe you’ll be in with a chance, quite fancy him myself.

Christina: I’m very happy being single now, anyway, I thought you didn’t fancy older men.

Joe: Exception that proves the rule, he’s a gay icon apparently.

Christina: Oh, talk of the devil, there he is; what do you reckon Joe, straight or gay?

Joe: He looks all man to me!

Sebastian: (Calling out) Good afternoon, welcome to the ‘Hidden Depth’. Allow me, it’s tricky if you are not used to boats.

Christina: (flustered) This is Christina Da Santa at Poole Marina, on board Sunseekers’ newest and biggest boat. I’m here to interview Sandbank’s newest resident. Mr Sebastian A. Tan has agreed to an exclusive interview. Good afternoon Mr. Tan.

Sebastian: Please, call me Nick, all my friends do and I’m sure we shall be friends Miss, Ms, Mrs.? Da Santa.

Christina: Call me Christina, please; are you settling in, have you met the neighbours?

Nick: I love the area, but the neighbours are a little ‘standoffish’, that’s what you get with ‘new money’, no class.

Christina: Have you always loved boats?

Nick: Yes, I love the freedom, do you fancy a quick spin?

Christina: If Joe can hold the camera steady, I’m up for it.

Nick: I’m sure a strapping young man like Joe has a steady hand, he can film you in the wheelhouse.

Christina: (breathless) This is fantastic; if viewers fancy skimming over the waves at these speeds, a boat like this will cost you more than a house.

 

We’ve weighed anchor now, with a lovely view of Studland Beach; no other boats nearby, time to have an in depth chat with Seb… Nick.

What is your new house like?

Nick: Magnificent, worth every million.

Christina: So are you officially retired now?

Nick: I hope not, but business has been quiet; or rather business has been so good, my influence is hardly needed, I feel quite redundant; a feeling you will be familiar with soon!

Christina: (tersely) I wouldn’t believe what you read in the papers.

Nick: I sympathise entirely; if you think you feel discarded in your fifties, imagine what I feel like in my millions. Still, mustn’t grumble, it’s even worse for HIM. People these days just don’t believe in what he has to offer, don’t believe in HIM at all. Now my package, they have taken up whole heartedly, I should be pleased, but somehow I’m bored, no challenge.

Christina: Does this mean you are able to spend more time with your family?

Nick: (snorts) I’m no family man, over rated business; marriage wouldn’t suit my busy social life.

Christina: Would you describe yourself as a ‘Ladies’Man’?

Nick: (winks) Not just ladies, had a bit of an eye for the ‘Greek Gods’ in my time, still got an eye for young cameramen.

Christina: (taken aback) Well, we’re all open minded these days, would you describe yourself as bi-sexual?

Nick: (proudly) Omnisexual. My dear, I haven’t offered you a glass of wine; it should be nicely chilled by now, you’re looking a bit hot and flustered. I’ll go down below and fetch the glasses.

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Joe: Wow, what do you think.

Christina: He has the most amazing piercing blue eyes!

Joe: He sends shivers down my spine.

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Nick: Cheers, here’s to a successful documentary.

Christina: (embarrassed) It’s only a little slot in News South.

Nick: Surely I’m worth an hour, you are coming to film at my home as well, I assumed you were both coming to dinner.

Christina: Oh… er …this wine is divine.

Nick: Very good vintage.

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Christina: We went so fast just now, we couldn’t film; Nick is just tying up at his private mooring. There’s a bit of drama going on, the lifeboat is just going out to rescue some teenagers in their kayaks, they weren’t prepared for the wake from our boat, Nick said they shouldn’t have been in that part of the harbour.

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Here we are inside Nick’s beautiful home.

Nick: (chuckles) Yes, one would never guess that only a few months ago, all that was here was an old bungalow belonging to a couple of pensioners.

Christina: Do you like to cook?

Nick: I love hot food.

Christina: Viewers, I have to say, this is the most delicious food I have ever tasted; if only we had ‘teletaste’. No more wine for me or Joe, we are working.

Nick: (suavely) Perhaps it’s time you both went off duty.

Christina: Well… first tell the viewers what this fantastic recipe is, the meat is rather like pork.

Nick: Secret recipe my dear.

More fiendish and fun tales here…

sunshine-blogger

 

 

Silly Saturday – How to Cheat at Wimbledon

No, not how to cheat playing tennis at Wimbledon…

Nor how to cheat your way to the front of the queue the night before the gates open at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, or how to get a cheap ticket for Centre Court on Finals Day…

I have been to Wimbledon the railway station ( many times ), the town hall ( amateur dramatics ), but not the tennis. How do you cheat at Wimbledon without going there?

My best Wimbledon was played when I was at junior school. Our friends round the corner had six children in their family. The eldest girl no longer a child, but a sophisticated ( to my eyes ) teenager at the local secondary modern. One year she was going with the school to Wimbledon and had made her own tennis racquet brooch, properly strung with cotton sewing thread; a perfect miniature that fitted in the palm of her hand. The excitement filtered down through sister two and sister three, my best friend and with wooden racquets we played tennis in the middle of our little road. The sophisticated game consisted of seeing how many times we could hit the ball back and forth without dropping it; no referees, no losers.

Learning tennis at high school was quite fun and a friend and I cycled to a Saturday morning tennis club, where the height of our achievement was a certificate for doing 20 forehands and 20 backhands in a row.

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Photo by Bogdan Glisik on Pexels.com

For most adults, tennis means watching Wimbledon on television. This is where some of us have to cheat. I dread the frequent question at this special fortnight of the summer. Not how is your novel going or have you been busy in the garden but

‘Have you been watching the tennis?’

I cringe in shame, I could simply say NO, but find myself apologising… not yet or just caught the end of er um oh how about that fifteen year old who beat Serena or was it Venus.

It is very difficult to cheat at watching tennis on television, you cannot pretend you watched Venus Williams being beaten by Coco Gauff; even if you get the names right you need to recount how play went. You cannot claim to have watched avidly every day without knowing every name, who played who and for how long. Some people book their annual leave so they can watch it all properly, so why don’t I get around to viewing?

Perhaps the protestant work ethic, watching television during the day? Or the sunshine; I may live one hundred miles from Wimbledon, but if it’s sunny there it will probably be sunny at home and how could I stay indoors on a nice day. I have tried to watch, I like the notion of tennis and have a fair idea of what they are supposed to be doing; hitting the ball before it hits the court or not hitting the ball before it lands outside the court. It is exciting when players make horizontal leaps and lob the ball two inches over the net, five yards from their opponent. But you have to concentrate; don’t tackle a complicated knitting pattern, sneak a look at your smart phone, doze off, or pop to the kitchen to make a sandwich, for you will miss the shock defeat or the fastest volley in history.

If you have not been glued to teletennis you can cheat by catching up with the sport highlights on television in the evening. Write down the relevant names and scores and memorise them so at work the next day when someone asks if  you saw the tennis you can reply

‘Did you see Selina Kalashnikov in that last set?’

sunshine-blogger

 

Have you been watching Wimbledon?

Have you been there for real?