Whilst I have read and enjoyed the gently thrilling thrillers of Dick Francis for many years, I have never given any serious thought to why I like them so much.
Until yesterday, when my wife, who is currently working her way through our entire collection of his books (some 10 or thereabout), suddenly looked up and asked me if I knew why she was so enjoying reading his books.
Obviously I replied in the negative.
So she explained why she – at least – was enjoying reading them so much, and it is remarkably simple.
I have just finished reading a small volume of what has to be the best book to keep in your lavatory. This small volume of highly improving fairy tales written by James Finn Garner and entitled with great accuracy as “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories” consists of some 13 well loved fairy tales rewritten to conform to the needs of our Politically Correct age.. Well, obviously not really, the whole thing is a superb satire on the more idiotic aspects of PC thinking.
To give you a taste of this totally enjoyable little book, here is a section of his “improved” version of Little Red Riding Hood.
There once was a young person named Red Riding Hood who lived with her mother on the edge of a large wood. One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water to her grandmother’s house–not because this was womyn’s work, mind you, but because the deed was generous and helped engender a feeling of community. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult.
So Red Riding Hood set out with her basket of food through the woods. Many people she knew believed that the forest was a foreboding and dangerous place and never set foot in it. Red Riding Hood, however, was confident enough in her own budding sexuality that such obvious Freudian imagery did not hinder her.
On her way to Grandma’s house, Red Riding Hood was accosted by a Wolf, who asked her what was in her basket. She replied, “Some healthful snacks for my grandmother, who is certainly capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult.”
Like all of us, at various points in my life I have had a wide range of jobs. Also as with most of us, the great majority of these jobs were ones I had on my holidays when I was a student. And most of them were pretty mundane – factory work, truck driving and so forth – they produced the money that I wanted to enable me to wander around Europe as a hitchhiker, but did nothing much else for me.
However, some of these holiday jobs had a profound effect on me in one way or another, and there are a couple that really stand out in my memory as significant to me and my world view.
The first of these jobs that I can bring to mind was when I was a driver/salesperson in one of those vans that chug around selling soft ice-cream to people. On the face of it, a harmless occupation – but it had its dark side too….
This was the relatively large number of people in the Council house estates I trundled around in with my van and chimes, who came out every day (I did this 7 days a week) with large jugs that I had to fill with the soft ice I sold… Literally every day these misbegotten people bought kilos of ice-cream from me, and presumably ate it too…
Can you imagine a diet based around about 5 litres of ice-cream every day? It really saddened me – no, lets be honest, it disgusted and revolted me to think of the harm these people were doing to themselves and their kids by eating the chemical rubbish I was selling as ice-cream…
Death Of A Centurion:
However, the job that really got in amongst me was when I worked as a Ward Orderly at a huge mental hospital. Though frankly to call it a hospital seemed to me to be a wild overstatement, as the poor people in the ward where I worked never saw any doctors, except on rare occasions when they flipped completely and needed stronger tranquilizers to keep them calm and easy to control.
The other day I was reminded of this incredible phenomena, El Sistema, in which kids all over Venezuela receive a musical education outside their schools, with an emphasis on kids in the poorer sections of Venezuela such as slums and villages.
As you can see from this video, these kids are obviously having a total ball playing their music. Such energy and exuberance is so good to see.
Many years ago while I was Production Manager at the Roundhouse Theatre in London, we did a whole series of concerts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Pierre Boulez(a delightful man to work with by the way), but what struck me most forcibly about the musicians was their apparent boredom with what they were playing – it was obviously all a matter of rote for them. I found the same attitude with most of the other major orchestras I also worked with in those years.
So watching these kids playing, laughing their heads off, swaying and obviously truly enjoying what they are doing is so refreshing, and to my mind what playing music should be about.
Back in the mid 50’s of the last century (God that makes me feel old to say that – the last century indeed!), owing to my mother’s very left wing attitudes I attended the first meeting of what was to become the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in London, and became a fervent anti-nuclear activist – well, a moderately active one perhaps I should say.
At this meeting it was decided to adopt what has since become the universal Peace Sign, that upside down “Y” thing, and that as a form of protest, an annual march from Aldermarston Atomic Weapons Research Establishment which was about 80 km from London to London – or vice-verse – would take place.
I took part in the first three of these marches, which each took three days of gentle marching through the countryside, in the company of many thousands of other peaceniks and were actually very enjoyable to be honest. Lots of friendly people, lots of singing, happy songs, as well as the sort of dismal dirges more normally associated with such demonstrations of people’s will.
And it was quite fun marching in the company of such people as Bertrand Russell and Michael Foot as well.
Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria and mountaineer:
A short diversion here, My maternal Grandmother who had been a member of the Communist party since about 1895 – at which time she was a Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria – and who was a splendidly eccentric woman, once went on holiday to Crete with Bertrand Russell and together they both made the first recorded ascent of a large mountain there, which the locals renamed Mount Lilly in honour of my splendid Grandmother. So if you happen to visit Crete, check out Mount Lilly and think of Lily and Bertrand clambering up to the top of it – as unlikely as that sounds!
While we were living and working in Beijing, I became totally besotted with the wonderful ways in which Chinese was often translated into English – Something we ex-pats called Chinglish, and which all of us loved with a passion, and made a hobby out of collecting examples of this form of English.
I shall probably post occasional small jewels of this art form for your pleasure, but here to start with is a sticker I saw in the back window of a very large SUV in Beijing.
BABY ON ROAD
Alarming I think you will agree…… (O:
Share with us:
Do you have any examples of this art form? From China or anywhere? Do share them with us here please to spread the joy.
Since arriving in Brisbane, and no longer being able to spend my free time scuba diving as I did every few days whilst living in Cebu (more about this in another post), I looked around for some other free time activity that would be amusing and might bring me into contact with other friendly souls. Oh, and not cost me a load of money too – important when you are an old retired geezer like me.
Happily one day a friend took us to the Brisbane Jazz Club one evening, and apart from enjoying the music, I discovered that one could work there as a volunteer – what is commonly called a “Volly” here in Australia.
So I promptly signed on as a volunteer, without having the slightest idea what the work of a volunteer actually consisted of.
Well, I discovered this pretty quickly when Rita, the dauntingly efficient President of the club gave me her training course.
Rita is a lady who takes the way the club and its staff present themselves very seriously, so I was initiated into the correct way to set up the tables – Cold water bottle to the left of the Table number card, glasses, upside down to the left of the bottle, and in line with it… and so on.
What the work actually consists of is setting up the room before the club opens, welcoming people to the club, showing them to their tables, telling them where the lavatories are and other useful information, and generally being friendly. And then through the evening ensuring that they have enough cold water to drink and that they are happy and content. And then at the end of the evening, clearing everything away and setting it up for the following evening’s crew. Basically a sort of glorified waiter.