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When You Didn’t Know You Knew…

When You Didn’t Know You Knew…

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while (you’ll see how long in just a moment) but life and being in the right frame of mind kept getting in the way. Having recently tested positive for Covid and therefore being confined to barracks means I’ve now got the time to relate something that happened to me in April 2019….

It’s Friday morning, probably the 19th and I’m sat in my office in Hammersmith with Tony Blackburn’s morning programme from BBC Berkshire on the radio. I’m doing little bits of admin and generally having a relaxed time as I always try to on a Friday. I’m suddenly aware that a song is playing and I’m singing along. It’s a song I can’t ever recall hearing and from a band I’ve not heard of. It’s called “Sky High”, is by Jigsaw and was released in 1975. If you want to hear it:

I was 6 at the time; it’s perfectly feasible that I would have heard it on the radio then, very possibly on one of Mr. Blackburn’s programmes of the day. It’s also probably just as reasonable to say that it’s not a record that has had regular airplay in the intervening 40+ years since its release. A quick consult with my book of hit singles shows that it was in the chart for 11 weeks and peaked at number 9.

Of the probably tens of thousands of songs that I’ve heard in my life, how or why this particular one was in my head so vividly that I could remember all of the words, key changes and be able to keep to the tune is a mystery to me. For clarity, I really like it and it’s one of my most played since that Friday.

It does make me wonder what else is lurking in my head that I’ve no idea about….

Maintaining Your Independence, The Hard Way.

Maintaining Your Independence, The Hard Way.

Imagine being in a position where, through no fault of your own, your life is turned upside down. Imagine being told that you’ll be in a wheelchair from the age of 30. Imagine living with constant pain and being reliant on a range of painkillers to hopefully dull it enough get you through each day.

Thankfully for most of us, this will never happen. But for some it’s a harsh reality. Of those that experience this, some will accept their fate. Others will hang on to what independence they have as tightly as they can, for as long as they can. Yes, they may have to adjust their lifestyles – some things that were previously taken for granted become too painful to accomplish, other seemingly small tasks are now only undertaken after careful planning and often reluctantly with assistance  – this is the daily struggle faced by the millions of people with degenerative disorders – they know they’ll never get better, but they refuse to go down without a fight.

It’s this fight that is made so much harder by the thoughtlessness, carelessness or just plain ignorance of the growing number of people in society that think rules don’t apply to them.

Someone trying to maintain their independence may not “look” disabled, but you don’t get blue badges from the side of cornflake packets – they are hard to come by and with good reason. By the same token, designated parking bays being used by holders of the aforementioned badges are also on the decline – it seems that not only are some councils hell bent on reducing the number of bays available near shops and other public places, but those that remain are increasingly occupied by vehicles without the relevant authority to be in the space. This does not just apply to public places – car parking facilities in residential areas are also being abused on a daily basis.

Complaining to the relevant authorities results in the usual fluffy responses which, when boiled down, amount to not having the inclination to do anything about it – after all, it’s not them in unbearable pain because some ignorant cretin has decided to park his (or her) soft top Audi in the designated disabled bay outside the block of flats, causing a genuinely disabled person to have to find parking some 150 yards away and then attempt to walk back, is it?  A walk that was abandoned when the person in question could no longer stand. After a shopping trolley was located, (necessity is the mother of invention) the disabled person was manoeuvred into it whilst crying in pain and then had to be pushed past the Audi, into the block, up in the lift and then go through a humiliating and equally as painful process of disembarking from the makeshift conveyance. The alternatives were to crawl, or call an ambulance.

All because she does not want to give up her independence, the local authority doesn’t want to do anything about illegal parking and because some selfish, ignorant Audi owner has no respect for designated disabled spaces.

If you are one of these mindless morons that deliberately ignores the designated parking convention, I ask this: Have you family members whose very independence relies on their availability? How would you feel if they had to undergo the most excruciatingly painful and humiliating experiences because someone did what you do? Annoyed? Upset? Thoroughly ashamed? Guilty?  All of these? I should hope so.

Whilst I’m not someone to wish harm, just remember, one day, it could be you needing that space and there might not be anyone about to help you into that trolley.

A Lesson in “How NOT to Treat a Prospective Customer…”

A Lesson in “How NOT to Treat a Prospective Customer…”

I’m coming to the end of my mobile phone contract in a couple of weeks and given that my current supplier is in the process of merging with the UK’s largest telco, I thought I’d have a look around to see what else is available.

Finding myself at a loose end for half an hour in Romford town centre, I wandered into the “Three” shop and started to look at some of the handsets. I was rapidly approached by a young lady

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Election 2015: A Vote Up For Grabs…

Election 2015: A Vote Up For Grabs…

As I begin to write this, there are 50 hours until the polls open on the 7th May. After watching about a dozen debates and interviews I feel like one of the Animal Farm incumbents looking in at the window of the farmhouse – I can’t tell the difference anymore!

At a local level, there are eight candidates standing for election. I’ve received leaflets from 5 of them delivered by the postal service. One of the leaflets didn’t even bear any contact details – he’s off the list of possibles straight away. Of the three still to submit their propaganda,  I’m astounded that one in particular has not bothered, considering how close I am to the fabled “White Van & Cabbie” heartlands.

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A visit to the Cinema (or “A nightmare on Vue Street”)

A visit to the Cinema (or “A nightmare on Vue Street”)

Not so long ago I could be found in the cinema two or three times a week but in recent years that has dropped to pretty much an annual visit. The general lack of consideration shown by other patrons with respect to making noise, messing around with phones or generally just making the whole experience a miserable one for people who Just Want To See The Film; the total apathy of the cinema staff and their unwillingness to address bad behaviour have been factors in my staying away – pepper that with a general lack of anything that suits my taste and the astronomical cost and you pretty much get the picture. (geddit?)

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“Fashion Victim”: Light Entertainment or Sexist TV?

“Fashion Victim”: Light Entertainment or Sexist TV?

I first became aware of this programme a few years back. The former Mrs. B. spoke Russian like a native and had lived there for a few years, so it was only natural that from time to time she’d want to watch some output – indeed it went as far as having input into the output, but that is another story for another day.

Anyway, the premise of this particular show “Fashion Victim”, which airs daily on the Russian equivalent of BBC1 is pretty much as follows – someone (usually a husband/partner but can be siblings in the absence of either of the former) nominates “The Victim” to be the subject of the programme – rough translation: “your look is terrible”, so we’re off to a good start…

When in the studio, they will be asked to appear in some of their favoured day/evening/casual wear and the three “fashion experts” will pass judgment upon the various ensemble. This isn’t done in an intimate, coaching way, oh no. It’s done in a large studio with an audience who will also be sitting in judgment, a few assembled family members and friends and the three appointed “experts”. The events are presided over by Borechka Mikhailovich who takes “camp” to a whole new dimension.

Programme host Borechka Mikhailovich in one of his more Conservative outfits.

This is the set and I’ve used a wide shot to put things into perspective. The audience is obvious, the people in front of the low wall are the “friends” and relatives of the Victim and the three experts sit at the tables either side of Borechka who oversees things from his elevated position at centre stage. As we look, the Victim enters from the right, walks all the way across the floor to the full length (and then some) mirror and back until she stops in line with the desk on the right. Borechaka will then say a few words before letting the judges/experts loose with their opinions. This walk is not done in silence; it’s done to the accompaniment of cat-walk style thumpy music and lots of flashing lights. Once our experts have had a go, which you think would be enough humiliation in and of itself, the floor is then thrown open to the friends and family, who are invited to pour their salt on the gaping wound that is the poor Victim’s dignity. She is then given the opportunity to reply – most seem too dumbstruck to manage breathing, never mind putting together a coherent retort. This process does not happen once, but half a dozen times.


Once the Victim’s own wardrobe has been ripped to bits (verbally) there is a brief change of atmosphere as partner/children/family gather around the Victim to say a few congratulatory words or perhaps in the case of some partners who have been less than encouraging in their on-screen comments, usually in the form of a thinly disguised plea with his beloved not to divorce/maim/kick him somewhere vulnerable the moment the cameras stop filming!


Above: One of the gathering of Family and Friends gives his opinions. He could, perhaps, use a little advice himself… Below: The rest of the gathering look on.


We then move onto a section similar to the first, but this time the clothes are chosen by the advisers with comments from the F&F being taken into account, and help is given by stylists, hair and make-up artists backstage. This is where it gets interesting.

You might reasonably expect someone to be nervous at the beginning of such a programme but after a while the nerves will settle. Now make them do it all again, but this time in clothes that are not their own, that they would obviously not normally wear and sporting hair/makeup which is not their usual arrangement. Nervous does not cut it – I’ve seen people come out to do their walks in this section looking petrified!


A split shot. On the left, the Victim in her own clothes, which I can’t fault at all. On the right, an outfit based on comments from experts, friends & family.

Once a few of the “designed” outfits have been paraded, two rails are brought out onto the set, one with the Victim’s own attire and the other with the get-ups from the second half. The “experts” have a chance to do a brief re-cap and comment, the family & “friends” get the opportunity to put the final nails in the coffin that is the poor Victim’s confidence and then The Studio Audience Get To Vote.


Now, this might not be so bad if the margin is not too wide, but in this example (broadcast this morning, so it’s as fresh as I can get it) there is a 100% vote in favour of the clothes that were not supplied by the Victim.

So, not only has the poor woman been subjected to ridicule on National TV (and covering 16 timezones, nations don’t come much bigger than Russia; let’s not forget it also goes out across Europe and beyond too) by her family, supposed friends and some of the country’s leading fashion “experts”; she’s also seen the studio audience tell her by a 100% majority vote that the clothes she liked to wear were rubbish! Just what she wanted to hear, I’m sure!

Watching this today I really felt for this poor woman. It is my belief that you should wear whatever you are comfortable in unless the situation dictates otherwise (uniform for work etc) and that if someone else does not like what you’ve got on, that is their problem, not yours. Oh, and just for balance, this is the most vocal of the “experts”.



I am acutely aware that there is something of a cultural difference in the old Eastern Bloc & USSR where the women seem conditioned to dress as their man dictates (and by acutely aware I mean very recent first-hand experience), no matter how uncomfortable they feel. It’s also odd being a western male put in the position of being asked by a partner what you want them to wear – not just for a specific occasion, but as a style in general. I cannot imagine any of my western female friends even listening to the end of a plea to take part in the programme, never mind doing so!

I have yet to see an equivalent show where the gender roles are reversed…

Becoming an orphan…

Becoming an orphan…

I have tried to start this entry so many times and each time the draft has ended up in the electronic equivalent of a screwed up piece of paper on the office floor… I’m going to have to plunge right in and then hope I’ve made sense by the time I’ve finished.

In the early hours of 8th March 2013, my brother, sister and I became orphans.

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