Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Essence of Summer

The shopping mall is filled with bustle,
Peeling skin and bright-red faces
Van McCoy is playing The Hustle
Sun-browned limbs in public places – suddenly, it’s summer.

Refracted vistas; walls that waver
Bright-blue sky and plane delayed
Lip sunscreen with fruity flavour
We only find respite in shade–that’s just summer.

Braided hair and straw sunbonnet
Rose-pink dawn and evening stars
A broken flip-flop, jewels upon it
Melting tarmac, dusty cars– bring on summer.

Long, bright days and ice-cream sundae
Salty snacks and cool, sweet drinks
Short, dark night and boredom, Monday
Flaming oranges, shocking pinks –good ol’ summer.

Bright-green salads, dressings oily,
Polka dots on painted nails
Strawberries, cream and paper doily
Stripy beach bag, wind-blown sails – celebrating summer.

Swimming parties by the river,
Gentle breezes, yellowed grasses
Icy water makes us shiver
Clinking cubes in cocktail glasses: we love summer.

Sweaty nights and shirts are sticky
Lightening forks and violent thunder
Broken sleep with dreams so icky
Downpours sudden and – no wonder; it’s summer.

All too soon, maybe tomorrow
The bright sun fades, the darkness conquer
Season’s joy will turn to sorrow
And that is when we will long for – summer.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

The poetic 65 bus....

Still on the subject of Seeing Things: A Memoir by Oliver Postgate, it touched me to learn that daily, he hopped on board a no. 65 bus as part of his journey from Finchley to his earliest art lessons at Kingston College. The route has changed somewhat since the late 1930’s, but the bus is still in existence, cutting a transport lifeline through west London. Oh, the poetry of that voyage; originating in Kingston, the 65 bus travels through the streets of Ham, down Sandy Lane and past Petersham Meadow before descending into the art deco delight that is Richmond. Outside of the train station, the bus seems to pause in prep for breathing in the perfumed air that absolutely must waft over the walled enclosure of Kew Gardens. Refreshed, the 65 bus heads through Kew village, past the green and across the bridge, then travels west alongside the sparkling waters of the Thames. Turning north, the bus manoeuvres relentlessly through Brent, skirting Gunnersbury Park and Walpole Park, past classical portico and Gothic spire, until the green and pleasant pastures of Ealing come into sight. I don’t know why, but this event always puts me in the mood for afternoon tea, even if the journey is in the morning. As passengers alight at the terminus, it is tempting to reach out and stroke the body of the bus, parked as it is on the Broadway, like a faithful horse harnessed and ready to canter southward again.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Gather ye round and read my Nog-Blog...

In the lands of the North, where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long the men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale...
As I read those words, reproduced in Seeing Things: A Memoir, Oliver Postgate’s sparkling autobiography, the past came rushing back. It was the 1960’s once again, and my siblings and I were seated around a winter fire following a day at school, watching the wonderful Noggin the Nog on television. I quote Postgate: “nobody who has watched those films...will ever hear those words without remembering the slow icy chords with which Vernon Elliot (bassoon) and his daughter Bridget (clarinet) heralded and accompanied that opening speech.” Well, even if they have, I haven’t.
The genius of that Noggin the Nog opener was that it pulled the viewer/listener right into the narrative. You could actually feel the heat from those great log fires that the Northmen sat around – or maybe it was coming from the coals hissing in our domestic grate? And those bassoon and clarinet chords were indeed like icy motes troubling our backs and necks as we watched and listened – or maybe it was actual cold air creeping through our home window fittings – a not unusual occurrence in those days before ubiquitous double glazing? But it matters not.
Noggin was storytelling at its best and as I continued reading Postgate’s narrative, I cried and laughed aloud as he recounted - and I recalled - characters and episodes from the long-running Saga. Nogbad the Bad, for instance, and the Ice Dragon, and a steampunky longship with mechanical wings, built by Olaf the Lofty – I had forgotten him! In his earlier years, Postgate himself had been the inventor of a host of failed devices, and I have no doubt that he derived a measure of glee from channelling his experiences into the cartoon features, created with the equally talented Peter Firmin. Whatever, this Nog-blog is nearly done, and I have had a lot of fun recounting other creations of the Postgate/Firmin duo, Ivor, Clangers, Pingwings, all, characters that will live in the memory of grown-up kids, like you and me...

Monday, 31 December 2018

Board game, never boring.....

Christmas is a time for families, so they say, and during the season, every family finds its inner board game, and suffers the attendant yawns. This year proved to be a game changer for me, when Younger Niece introduced me to the most deranged activity since It's a Royal Knockout; I am talking about Bugs in the Kitchen. No arena for the slow and meditative types this, the chief characters of this game by Ravensburger are a pair of electronic bugs, ingenious little gadgets that when switched on, charge head-on through a morph-able labyrinth of knives, spoons and forks. The aim of the game is to capture the little buggers into one of four "dens" each presided over by an individual player. In turn, each player rolls a die to determine what part of the labyrinth to gain permission to alter, thus modifying the progress of the charging bugs and increasing his or her chances of netting a bug in his or her den. Each entry by either of the bugs into whatever den wins the player a token, and the player with the most tokens at the end of each game is the winner. Sounds daft? It is, and gloriously so, affording Christmas revelers, weary with food, booze and seasonal bonhomie a post-seasonal rush of adrenalin. Believe me, this innocuous game reduces otherwise sane and hungover adults to nearly-hysterical ciphers begging and pleading the little plastic pests to move in their direction. Friend, these electronic amis will light your fire and ring your bell and fill you with such conviviality towards the insect world that you will never again swat away a fly or try to murder a wasp. Somewhere, out there in the wider universe, I'll bet that BITK groups are forming leagues and holding heats and championships, alight with joy as the bugs charge about the labyrinth. Sadly, I won't be joining them. Come 2019, I'll be returning to sober normality - well, normal for me. A happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Crumpets, Kermit and A Christmas Carol

One day, a few short weeks ago – possibly because of the newly-fledged bite of the colder weather - visions of hot, buttered crumpets danced in my head. That night, to my delight, I witnessed an advertisement for Warburton’s version of the same, presented by the finest bunch of troupers that twentieth-century puppeteers ever spawned. Friend, I hesitate not to inform you that I LOVE the Muppets. I have always had a soft spot for Miss Piggy and Fozzy and above all, Kermit the frog – and there they were, my favourite puppets – Fuppets? – extolling the virtues of my bonne bouche of choice. Needless to say, I went out the next day and added liberally to the pensions of the Warburton shareholders, and have been doing so since. It is impossible to mention the Muppets at this time of year, of course, without throwing in a credit for their movie interpretation of that Christmas story by Charles Dickens. Ah, how the Inimitable would have approved of the Muppet's A Christmas Carol! How he would laughed at Gonzo masquerading as himself, the author of the tale, alongside of Rizzo Rat, and to see popular actors and cartoon characters bring home the story of redeemed greed to today’s audiences. And how he would have lauded the understated performance of the unassuming Kermit in the role of the beaten-down Bob Cratchit. And I’ve no doubt that Dickens would rage to discover that, 160 years following its publication, the message of A Christmas Carol is at least as relevant as in the Victorian environment of inequality and exploitation. On that note, I’ll finish this frog-blog and wish all readers a happy Christmas and in the words of the immortal Tiny Tim, say “bless us, everyone”.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Night and Day

If you have ever fantasised about spending an afternoon in a 1930’s pastel paradise, with guys in dapper suits and gals in flapper dresses partying to the strains of the saxophone, then the Night and Day: 1930’s Fashion and Photographs exhibition, current at the Fashion and Textile Museum (83 Bermondsey Street) is for you. The items of clothing are organised into themed tableaux bearing sumptuous names like “Happy Days are Here Again” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, followed up by “Thirty from the 1930’s”, that is, thirty photos of Cecil Beaton’s fashion creations. Really, your eyes will pop and your mouth water at the line-up of frothy, frilly day dresses and luxuriant evening gowns in the understated styles of the 1930’s. And the curators haven’t shied away from showing the darker side of life back then. In the Smaller Gallery, Brother Can You Spare a Dime is a rolling film montage showing the rise of fascism and revealing the shocking social inequality of the time. But hurry: you have only got till January 20, 2019, to see this exhibition.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.....

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
Old houses are daunting
The ghosts are a-haunting
The bats are a-flapping
And ghouls are a-tapping….and you’d better fear….’cos I’m here….wooooo-oooooh!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
The staircase is creaky
The rodents are squeaky
The attics are musty
And basements are dusty….and you’d better fear….’cos I’m here….wooooo-oooooh!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
The dark nights are scary
You’re right to be wary
‘Cos banshees are screeching
Long fingernails reaching….and you’d better fear….’cos I’m here….wooooo-oooooh!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
The werewolves are howling
And phantoms are prowling
And zombies and witches
Eat corpses with stitches…. and you’d better fear….’cos I’m here….wooooo-oooooh!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With skeletons dancing
And ghost horses prancing
With Gorgons a-glaring
And their eyes staring….and you’d better fear….’cos I’m here….wooooo-wooooh!