Following bountiful Christmas fare, and with emotions loosened by the Malbec, we plopped onto the sofa and cried our way through Mama Mia, Here We Go Again on DVD and Call the Midwife on the Beeb. Others, meanwhile, took to Google in search of something altogether less wholesome and more carnal. I do hope those dropping into pansyland looking for ‘pussy lovers’, ‘pussy galore’, ‘sticky knickers’ and ‘sex emporium’ weren’t too deflated to read about cats, Bond girls, a heat-wave and two old poofs on holiday.
Christmas comes but once a year, thank the Lord. You can almost taste the stress in the high street from the world-weary shoppers to the fixed-grin workers with tired old tinsel in their hair. I shop early to avoid the hurly-burly. We do, though, always look forward to the John Lewis festive TV ad, and this year’s offering featuring Elton John is a cracker. But then, I’ve always had a soft spot for Captain Fantastic. Predictably, a few scrooges got all bah humbug about the extravagance in these austere times; the moral high ground can be a joyless place. Besides, it’s our job to fix the ills of society, not a shop.
This year, Liam and I are having a quiet one in the microloft. The calorific grub will come courtesy of Mr Marks and Mr Spencer and the quality of the vino will go up a notch or two. Then we’ll drop onto the sofa to foot-tap our way through Mama Mia – Here We Go Again! Out on DVD just in time for Christmas. A perfect day.
Seasons greetings to one and all. Whatever Christmas means to you, may your day be peaceful.
My poor Liam fell badly and broke a couple of ribs. Naturally, most people assume he was a little worse for wear after a few sherries. In that case, he would have bounced. No, he slipped on some icy decking in broad daylight and cracked his back on a wooden planter – big ouch! Attractive it may be but decking can be treacherous at this time of year. Despite the cocktail of painkillers prescribed by the quack, Liam’s still in considerable discomfort, though it’s slowly easing.
I feel his pain. Many years ago, I broke a rib falling off a ladder. I wasn’t pissed either but, I confess, my wobbly ascent, rooted as it was in shingle, was an accident waiting to happen. It didn’t have to wait for long.
In the meantime, Liam is confined to the sofa, propped up with some pillows, popping pills and bored silly by a daytime diet of quiz shows and ‘classic’ episodes of Coronation Street. For my sins, I’m acting as good nurse, dispensing TLC and peeling grapes as required. As I dance in attendance I’m trying not to make him laugh because it hurts. Liam’s developed a taste for Cadbury’s Twirl and sends me out into the cold to feed his new addiction.
On the second day of our London jolly, we were planning to take in the view from the Shard, until we realised it was thirty quid a piece. So it was enough to see the tallest building in the European Union (not for much longer, of course) from the window of our hotel room. Instead we opted for a slow stroll through the City to the Museum of London. Well, it was free.
Along the way we crossed the Millennium Bridge, skirted around the magnificent St Paul’s, walked beneath Temple Bar and took a snap of Channel Four’s First Dates restaurant.
The Square Mile may be a throbbing epicentre of money and modernity, but the street plan is distinctly medieval and there was a surprise up every alley.
The Museum of London is one of my favourites – quirky, informative and well worth the free entrance!
After a couple of hours travelling from pre-history to the filthy lucre, the West End beckoned and we jumped on a bus to Soho, our spiritual home.
Late lunch was a bowl of Thai at the Tuk Tuk Noodle Bar on Old Compton Street – delicious and still ridiculously cheap – followed by a happy hour or two with the brethren outside the Duke of Wellington. As the warming sun began to set, we headed back to Bankside for an early evening cuddle.
And so ended a glorious few days in the big metropolis. As writer and clergyman Donald Lupton said of London in 1632,
‘…she swarms with all ages, natures, sexes, callings… she seems to be a glutton, for she desires always to be full.’
Amen to that.
Two Hollywood stories caught my eye recently as I flicked through my newspaper and sipped my coffee in a local café. The first was the revelation that comedy actor Richard Prior and brooding macho heartthrob Marlon Brando had been lovers. Generally, I don’t go in for celebrity tittle tattle. I really don’t care who does who as long as it’s consensual and they don’t frighten the horses, but it was the statement from Richard Prior’s widow that, given enough cocaine, her husband would…
…f**k a radiator and send it flowers in the morning…
that had me spitting out my americano. What a woman. I’m not sure I would have been quite so magnanimous.
The second story was the news that British-born actor John Mahoney had died at the age of 77. John Mahoney found fame later in life as the crabby blue-collar dad in ‘Frazier’ who delighted in pricking the pretensions of his snobby sons. He was often handed the best lines and one of the best was…
Boy, things have really changed since my day. Back then, if a girl got into trouble, her family would send her away to relatives in another state and if anyone asked, just lied and said she went to Europe. Then when she came back, they’d raise the baby as a little sister. Not like today, we had morals and values back then.
I remember those values. And I see them coming round again.
It’s often said that the strength of the English Language is its extraordinary ability to absorb, evolve and invent. All fine and dandy. Otherwise we’d still be grunting like Beowulf. But being old and increasingly resistant to change, there are some modern verbal twists that make me want to scream – literally.
Here are a few of my least favourite things.
I like ‘like’. It’s a likeable little word with an ancient pedigree – Old Norse – handy for many a sentence. Handy that is except when it’s repeated ad nauseum by some reality TV nobody in terracotta tan and Brazilian.
“She was like, ‘you aren’t using that word correctly’, and I was like, ‘yes I am’. That’s, like, so unfair.”
No it’s not, like, so unfair. It just makes you sound, like, a bit thick.
Can I get…
Strictly speaking, it should be “may I have…” or “I’d like…” but I’m not that much of a purist. I’m okay with “can I have…” even though it’s actually a question not a request, but “can I get…”? No, no, no, it’s just ugly.
These days everything is awesome. No it’s not. The Niagara Falls are awesome. The annual migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti is awesome. A meal at Nandos is just chicken.
So, it seems anyone explaining something or telling a story – from learnéd professors on the Ten O’Clock News to the trendy young things on Graham Norton’s big red chair – begin with ‘so’. So, literally everyone’s at it. So, even Mr Norton’s TV company is called ‘So Television’.
And when asked how they feel about something, the response invariably starts with…
You know what?
No, I don’t. That’s why I’m asking, stupid.
Or they’ll say…
I can’t lie.
Which, of course, is a lie.
And then there’s ‘myself’, ‘ourselves’ and ‘yourself’. Why have people suddenly started speaking like a copper trying to talk posh in the witness box? What the hell is wrong with ‘me’, ‘us’ and ‘you’?
A phrase used to describe the variable quality of services across the realm, used over and over again by lazy journalists. Frankly, I’m only interested in the actual postcode lottery and only then if I’ve won the twenty-five grand.
You smashed it/you nailed it/you made it your own/you blew the roof off.
The mindless verdicts delivered by talentless talent show judges to some wannabee who’s just butchered a Whitney Houston classic. Someone really should tell the tele-fodder that their pop career will be shorter than the life cycle of a fruit fly and that the only one really nailing it is Simon Cowell.
Do you want a bag at all? Do you have a Nectar card at all? Do you want a receipt at all?
What’s the ‘at all’ about? All of what? Yes, of course I want a bloody receipt – all of it. How else can I bring something back?
Where once we used to challenge, expose, question, examine and probe, now we ‘call out’. Even Maybot (our current prime minister who may not be in Number 10 by the time this nonsense goes out) says it. And her a grammar school girl too. I blame Harvey Weinstein and the rest of the neanderthals who’ve been ‘called out’ with their knickers down.
I’ll give it 250%
Er, no you won’t. You literally can’t.
In politics, optics trump metrics
I think I first heard this techno-babble on the BBC’s Newsnight. Apparently it translates as ‘belief overcomes fact’. Nothing new there – religion has been playing that trick ever since Adam and Eve uttered the words ‘where do we come from?’ In my day, metrics were all about metres and litres and an optic was a device for measuring the hard stuff in a pub. Can I get, like, a double?
And last, my most disliked…
So, everyone’s gone literally crazy. It’s literally this and literally that.
“I literally jumped out of my skin.”
No you didn’t otherwise you’d be in the morgue with your vital organs hanging out – literally.
So, I’m, like, calling out this dreary repetition and misuse of, like, certain words which are, like, literally sending me, like, bonkers.
“Can I get, like, a crappafrappaccino?”
I don’t know, can you?
Here endeth the lesson from a fully paid-up member of the grumpy old farts club.
There’s one evergreen Christmas custom in the Scott-Brennan household that gets rolled out every year – thumbing through the Radio Times for festive televisual treats. Liam likes nothing more than ringing his must-sees with a red felt-tip pen. It’s a quaintly old-fashioned ritual in today’s online, on-demand era. The magazine, first published in 1923, has a loyal but ageing following. I wonder how long it will be before both go the way of the dodo. The advertisers know this too, judging by the loose leaflets that drop from the magazine pages – funeral plans, will writing services, equity release schemes and special furniture for special needs. It’s enough to make me think I’ve already got one foot in the grave. On the other hand, those rise and recline chairs do look comfy.