Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Damp squib my arse Mr Cameron

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are late and chasing something that you never seem to be able to catch up with? 

Today that was me – trying to catch up with the protest march through the centre of Manchester.

I think I’ll probably be late to my own funeral.

So whereas all other reports will talk about being in the thick of things, I was about 10 minutes behind, power waking along Oxford Road in unsuitable foot wear. I finally caught up with Tris (or Lech Walesa as I like to call him) at the big rally at the end of the march in Whitworth Park.

Trying to catch up with the march.
Police reports put the size of the march in Manchester at 20,000 people – with no arrests. It was an amazing occasion to witness.

From the BBC News web site.
The thing that struck me was just how normal everyone was. I didn’t see a single crusty anarchist anywhere. The march was brimming with people who looked like your auntie Joan. They were nurses, teachers, librarians, physiotherapists and social workers, dressed up in bright union tabards - waving flags and placards. 

'Lech' the striking lecturer!
I was a bit concerned about being 'kettled' but the police were on good form.
None of them will have found the decision to strike easy. Many of them come from the caring professions. They will know only too well the impact of their actions on the people they support. Many will have felt like they were between a rock and a hard place.

Whitworth Park.

These weren’t your typical protesters. They were the sort of people who, even though the roads were closed, walked on the pavement. Who piled up their placards neatly or put them in the bin once they were finished with, because that is the right thing to do. These were the sort of people who apologised for blowing their vuvuzela because they are “a bit noisy.”

These were not radical revolutionaries, but principled people who have had enough. In particular, they are fed up of being painted as the bad guy.

And while I’m not a raving political beast, I am with them on that one. I’m fed up of David Cameron trying to pit the public and private sector against each other. 

Who are you – Harry Hill?

“Private sector – public sector – only one way to find out – FIGHT!”

The pension situation was clearly the big beef today. But it wasn’t just about pensions. Today’s strike was a culmination of frustration and anger about a whole range of public sector cuts. 

People are clearly very angry. 

This lady was angry enough to spend the day with a toilet seat around her neck because she felt the government was flushing the public sector down the toilet.

It seems as though I’ve spent most of my adult life living in a country that (other than the Iraq war) couldn’t really be bothered to get involved. It warmed my cockles to see people getting off their bums, exercising their democratic rights and making themselves heard.

Finally, in terms of the strike impacting negatively on the economy – I don’t buy that either.

The tram into Manchester city centre was full of parents and children on a family outing. 

Starbucks and McDonalds were doing a roaring trade along the march route and if the number of Primark bags on the tram on the way home were anything to go by, then they won’t be going bust any time soon. The Manchester Evening News was even reporting that The Trafford Centre had to open extra car parks to cope with the volume of shoppers.

Time will tell whether the strikes have any impact, but at least people engaged and got involved.

So Mr Cameron – when you say that the protests have been a damp squib, I don’t know where you are getting your information from but “damp squib my arse”. Today in Manchester when they lit the touch paper the display did not disappoint.

Power to the people citizens

Today is going to be an interesting day. The 30th November will go down in British history as the biggest public sector walk out since the general strikes of 1926.

I’ve only just had the similarity pointed out to me, but it does seem that for the last month I have been cohabiting with Lech Walesa. Movember was merely a cover! See yesterday's mo update with a mo-ntage

In fact Tris has just changed his Facebook picture to the one below, so I am now apparently married to the little Polish agitator!

Lech Walesa - Polish political activist.

Like many cities today, a march is planned for Manchester city centre, starting at 11am. Whatever your opinion on the strikes and changes to public sector pensions, it’s a historic day. So I’m off into town to check it out.

What our German guests (from Airbnb) who arrived yesterday will make of it, goodness only knows - to them, Manchester will be a strange combination of public disorder and Christmas markets.

That’s not a bad idea actually, a bit of rabble rousing followed by some gluhwein and a bratwurst!

Power to the people citizens!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Final throw of the Mo

The finest mo in Manchester is in its final throws. In just over 24 hours the mo will go.

I can't say I'll be too sad. But it's always good fun and a bit of a talking point. And secretly I'm quite proud of Tris' manly hairiness which is considerably better than that of Gary Lineker.

For those of you who missed my previous updates, it's all about Movember.

Movember is an international initiative which aims to raise awareness of and funds for research into male cancers.
This year I've named Tris' mo - Mallory. It's his second name and is in keeping with the Edwardian Music Hall impresario he has morphed into. It's become his alter ego. 

So let us back track and watch the mo grow with a bit of a mo-ntage (everybody needs a montage!)


I think we've ended up with Lemmy from Motorhead!

There is still time to support MoBro Tris - click here for his MoSpace site.

He's currently got  £80 on his MoSpace site and he's been harrassing his students with a bucket so it's looking like he's going to have raised quite a bit of mo-ney.

Personally - I'll be sponsoring him to shave it off :-)

“Find any new countries in a cupboard lately?”

This is of course a direct quote by Edmund Pevensie from that fabulous children’s book, ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’.

I know it’s a bit of a random thing to write about on a Tuesday morning, but you see today is a special day. Today is CS Lewis’ 113th birthday. 

Not that he’s here to share it with us. The old fellow (of Magdalene College Oxford) died back in 1963. Weirdly on the same day as author Aldous Huxley and the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

Now that would have made an interesting gathering at the pearly gates. JFK searching for Camelot, Aldous looking for a Brave New World and CS Lewis looking for a stone table to crack in order to turn death backwards.

It’s almost like one of those ‘Who would you have at your fantasy dinner party?’ conundrums.

I don’t know about you, but I loved The Chronicles of Narnia. And if I’m honest, I still love them now – but in a slightly different way.

Now I am fascinated by CS Lewis’ friendship with JRR Tolkien and The Inklings who used to meet up in The Eagle and Child on St Giles in Oxford to discuss fantasy and literature. I’m also fascinated by the impact of their experiences in the trenches of the First World War. You just have to read the battle scenes in the books by both authors to see where they found their muse.

But as a child, I really wanted to find my own Narnia, my own secret world. I knew it was there. If Lucy Pevensie could find it then so could I. 

 So in my quest I tried:

Jumping through my Charlie’s Angels poster. 

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (the third in the Narnia series), the children are drawn into Narnia via a painting of a ship at sea, hanging neglected in a guest bedroom. While we didn’t have any similar paintings in our house, I did have the aforementioned poster which I considered would give my adventure into a new world a modern twist. I put on my best ribbed polo necked jumper for the occasion, shut my eyes, held my breath and hurled myself at the wall.

Sadly this was not the portal for which I was searching. All I achieved was a crack in the plaster and a big lump on my head, which came up like an egg.


Searching for hidden worlds at the back of the wardrobe. 

In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, all the children had to do was walk through a few fur coats in a wardrobe, and there you have it – “Hello Mr Tumnus!” 

I grew up in a big old Georgian vicarage (built in 1833) which was stuffed full of original features. Surely there had to be some route through?

Mexborough Vicarage - enormous but very cold in winter. No central heating upstairs!

In one of the bathrooms, there was a bell (sadly no longer connected) which people would ring to have the servants bring more hot water. When we had the garage re-plastered we found the original kitchen fireplace which was so big you could climb inside it. And a number of the bedrooms had massive built in wardrobes where you could wriggle inside sit on a shelf, shut the door and hide.

One in particular still had the original wire hooks at the back with white rubber balls on the ends. I was convinced that they were special levers and that if I pulled on them in the right order, the back of the wardrobe would open up and reveal to me a world far beyond 1970’s South Yorkshire.

I spent quite some time trying various different combinations, but I never quite managed to find the right one – booo (sad face).

Over the years, I’d just about given up finding my doorway into a parallel universe. Until that is, I bought my current house. When the big day arrived and I finally collected the keys, I went in to find that the previous owners had left a wardrobe behind in the top room. I thought nothing of it until I came to redecorate several weeks later and moved the wardrobe to find a door behind it. I never knew it existed. 

Finally, I’d found my very own door behind a wardrobe. 

Was it to the strange new land I’d been searching for my entire childhood? 

Well, I’ll just have to leave that to your imagination, other than to say that what lies beyond the secret door in my top room is now known by all as ‘Narnia’!

One final footnote – well, I’m being all ‘author-y’ today so I’m allowed. If you’ve ever wondered what the ‘S’ stands for in CS Lewis, its Staples. Clive Staples Lewis. I’ve never been able to find out why or whether there is any family connection, so I’ll just have to make one up.

“Uncle Clive, Uncle Clive – where are you going with that big lion and a talking beaver. Wait for me .........”

Happy Birthday CS Lewis.

By Alison Staples – a not really grown up, grown up!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sunday Summary "Brrrrrrrrrrr"

 Woooo - it's starting to get chilly.

Here at 'Wonderful Life Blog Central' the central heating is on and I'm wearing my Dr Who scarf - the Tom Baker years.

Despite having officially achieved a chest infection last week, I've been riding those bugs out of dodge with anti-biotics the size of horse tablets and many, many cups of tea.

Today we've been to the wilds of Frodsham (Cheshire). There were babies, toddlers, swings (oh my)  .....

First kiss.

We tried to kidnap this Ewok!
......... and the best pudding I think I've ever had!

But it was a bit chilly.

I know - this picture will warm us up!

Regardless of phlegm, it's been another really good week - with my plans for re-developing the blog in the new year really starting to take shape (let's call it 'Top Secret Project X'). I cooked tea for a lot of people last week in return for offers of help and ideas. 

It's all very exciting, but of course if I tell you - I'll have to kill you! So you'll just have to wait until the new year for the big reveal.

So last week in a nut shell ......

Still basking in the glory of nearly 1,000 page views the previous week and official affirmation of being 'cool' from The Red Hot Chili Peppers fan site Stadium Arcadium I started last week on a real high.

On Monday I shared some of my more spectacular DIY comedy cock ups, including some interesting uses for a butter knife and how to grout a sink with tooth paste!

On Tuesday we flew, business class on Emirates to Abu Dhabi. Splendid in her 'berkini', my 'best woman Gill' reported 'Live from the Lounger'. If you've never seen a cash point that dispenses in gold, then click on the link!

Wednesday was a double bill. Firstly with an update on Tris' Movember Mo. 'Oh my bloody God' was one of the more printable comments! It's morphed from El Poco to more of an Edwardian music hall impresario. It's definitely worth a view. 

This was followed by guilt free adultery, rogue spaceships and the 'outing' of a green leafy vegetable - all as a result of typo's in 'The Worlds Top 7 Most Disastrous Typo's'.

On Thursday I was in the mood for a little You Tube fun with the hilarious film of a young Labrador (Benton) herding deer in Richmond Park - towards a road. The original film is funny enough, but check out the mash ups and edits that have followed, with  Benton responsible for, amongst others, charging dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, wildebeest in The Lion King, the death of Bambi's mother and for humping someones grandma. They had us crying with laughter.

This weeks 'If you only do one thing .....' was a tribute to the genius Freddie Mercury, who died twenty years ago last Thursday.

Friday was my weekly Brides Up North gig. This time it was about finding inspiration for your wedding vows (which doesn't include stealing the lyrics from 'Street Tuff' by The Rebel MC). And then six months since our wedding, how I'm getting on with keeping my vows. I've been getting some really lovely feedback from the Brides Up North readers, like Ana, who said:

Alison, so beautiful as always. I have however made a note to myself to stop reading your blog entries whilst in work, as, I cry every time without fail!! Wonderful, thanks for the inspiration! x 

Ahh - that's nice.

Friday bought another really nice message, from the Editor of The Good Review, a web site which reviews books, festivals, music, theatre and films. After my success with The Chili Peppers and James reviews, with the help of a friend of a friend (who is already one of their reviewers), I decided to throw my CV at them. The response was immediate and positive.

I have just read you James review and all I could think was its been far too long since I’ve listened to them, in fact I might bash them on now - I guess that’s the best compliment you can pay to a review. I would love to welcome you to our team!

Hurrah! It's going to give me a fantastic opportunity to go to lots of really good and unusual stuff, and then write about it. I'm awaiting my first assignment!

We finished the week off with another installment from our New England road trip. Check it out, there are some truly beautiful pictures taken from the top of Mount Washington.

So that's about it for this week.

As we stand, I've made £25.33 on Google Adsense so far (thank you all for clicking on the adverts - which can earn me up to 80p per click), which is almost enough for a trip to Primark!

Very exciting!

Finally, I've set up a page on Facebook for 'My Wonderful Life'. Every time I post something on the blog it automatically updates the Facebook page. If you aren't following me on Twitter (@AlStaples) or are one of my Facebook friends, it's a really good way to be kept up to date. All you need to do is hit the 'like' button.

Thanks again for reading my ramblings - lots more good stuff planned for next week!