Categories
letters

L’Orangerie De Lanniron, 25th August 2004

Dear Mr Jones,

Bonjour. I am writing to you from a soggy campsite in Brittany where, if I am able to claim any good fortune in respect of our holiday activities, the Davies family is ensconsed in a mobile home rather than a tent. As I write I am unable to hear myself speak due to the thundering rattle of the rain on the roof of the mobile home. This has been the pattern for a substantial part of the thirteen days of our holiday so far. Today is Wednesday and the forecast for the remainder of the week, and thus the remainder of our holiday, is not good.

Considering this I now come to the main purpose of this letter. I would be most grateful if you could make representations to the Headmaster, Mr Strong, for an extension to the timetabled holiday. It is patently unfair that two of what should have been the best weeks of the holiday have been literally washed out by what might in some circles be seen as an Act of God. Clearly as the Head of a Church School it is not unreasonable that Mr Strong should find some sympathy with this request.

Moreover, if your bid to prolong the summer holidays was to be successful, it would seem that your popularity amongst the pupils of William Farr School would rocket higher than it already is. Therefore I would urge you to contact Mr. Strong by any means possible, and lengthen the period that we all know and love as ‘The Summer Hols.’ May I take this opportunity to thank you for reading this letter and I wait in hope (and torrents of unexpected rain) that your efforts are successful. I expect to be contacted within forty eight of you receiving this letter, inviting me back to school on the sixteenth of September.
Au Revoir,

Tom

Categories
letters

Center Parcs, 20th October 2004 – later

Dear Mr Jones,
We went for a family game of mini golf this morning. For the princely sum of £12.80 all four of us kids got to play 18 holes. Dad said to the girl in the kiosk that you could almost have a full round of proper golf for that. The 18 holes comprised of two different 9 hole courses, each of which kept the ball after it was sunk on the 9th green. The two courses were the Greenwood Course and the Castle Hill course. There was nothing to distinguish the two really except that you could see all the balls in the hole on the Greenwoods course which was a good job really because I hit my ball into the lake on the second hole of the Castle Hill course and had to go back and fetch another from the Greenwoods 9th hole, if you can follow that.

The rain kept falling steadily and wetly and a number of the fairways were waterlogged. It didn’t dampen our spirits though. The final scores for the 18 holes were as follows:
Tom 89
Hannah 125
Joe 142
John 165
I think there was some creative accounting going on somewhere but I can’t quite lay my finger on it. Also the contestants were not always fully acquainted with the full rule-set of the Royal and Ancient.

Later Hannah and Dad cycled through the rain to the Country Club for lunch. Dad said that he needed windscreen wipers for his specs. Dad likes going off with one of his kids for a little treat every now and again. Whilst they were there they booked a squash court for 10.15 tomorrow immediately followed at 11am by an hour’s snooker. Fun for all the family.

I went off to the pool and was just coming back to get my football kit ready when I met the rest of the gang on their way with their costumes. Apparently they invented a new kind of sling for John made out of a plastic carrier bag. He thought it was pretty cool and spent a lot more time in the water than on earlier occasions.

Mum and Dad are off out for a curry tonight. They have booked a table at Rajinder Pradesh for 8pm. We will all be forced to stay in with me as a baby sitter. There is plenty of popcorn and tortilla chips to keep us quiet. It’s dark now as I write – about 6.25. It just goes to show we are nearly into winter. The clocks will soon be going back. Always seemingly a step function into winter I think. Incidentally we are also having curry tonight for tea and, tapping away here as I am the smells are wafting over from the kitchen, 4 feet away.

Well that’s it for now I think unless I can come up with some inspiration as the closing paragraphs take form. It’s more a question of weariness rather than writer’s block. I say paragraphs but it is more likely to be paragraph really, although I am not aware of any rule limiting the length of a paragraph and in practice could extend it as long as the mother of invention requires. That isn’t to say that the paragraph would be extended without good reason. I mean to say I’m not going to waffle on for the sake of it.

Bye for now.

Categories
letters

Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest, October 20th 2004

Dear Mr Jones

What can I say. Here we are on holiday again, a cosy family unit ensconsed in villa number 31 at Center Parcs, and dehors le deluge as they would have said in Brittany. Perhaps our family motto should be “Avec Nous Le Deluge”.

As we were walking to the Sub-Tropical Swim Paradise yesterday Dad actually remarked that if we had been in Brittany we wouldn’t have been doing anything so namby pamby as going to an indoor swimming pool. We would have been stripping off at a beach with true British fortitude, or perhaps stupidity as the French might have put it.

Although a villa at Center Parcs is a step up from a mobile home in Brittany it still shares some of the characteristics. Namely the noise of the rain on the flat roof at night wakes you up and from Dad’s perspective the noise levels from us cooped up kids also becomes intolerably high. Even if there is no noise from the kids this is compensated for by the noise from the TV, that being the one way to keep the kids quiet. Except of course when they can’t agree on what to watch or one of them has possession of the remote control and annoys the others by flicking around the channels without prior agreement.

Old John is still in the unfortunate position of having to wear a sling on his right arm after the broken collarbone incident of two weekends ago. He stayed out of the pool on the first day. Either Mum or Dad stayed with him and Dad to a certain extent made a rod for his own back because on that first day he took John to the pool café for a drink. The next day John didn’t want Mum to look after him on the obvious premise that he was more likely to get another trip to the café with Dad. In the end Dad ended up taking him into the pool with his sling on much to Mum’s quite natural concern. The upshot of it all was that the sling was soaked and in fact inadvertently left behind at the pool when we departed.

That was yesterday. Yesterday was actually a fairly action packed day starting with badminton in the morning, ten pin bowling after lunch and, following a stint in the pool, I went to “Football Camp” where, in the rain, the only difference between football and the swimming was that I got dirtier playing football. Wetness was a prominent feature of both activities.

Dad and I went out last night to watch Liverpool play Deportivo in the Champions League. It ended a very disappointing nil nil draw. Dad always says he can’t understand the attraction of football. There are never very many goals involved. Unlike cricket or rugby (typically) or even golf for that matter.

On our way home we stopped off at Chez Pierre, the Parc’s French bistro, for a nightcap. To Dad’s disbelief they only had one brandy, and that was a cheap one at that. He couldn’t imagine a French bistro with half an ounce, or even a gram, of credibility not having a reasonable selection of brandies. He also reflected upon a number of associated thoughts: namely that the French bistro was staffed entirely by locals from nearby Ollerton (our waitress’ name was Sharon, or Shaz as the receipt indicated) and that there we no persons of Asian origin in sight at the Rajinder Pradesh curry house across the Market Square from Chez Pierre. Equally I doubt that the Mediterranean restaurant (pizza), the American food joint or the top French fine dining restaurant were staffed by the relevant nationals. None of this of course takes anything away from the excellent leisure product that the owners of Center Parcs have put together for our enjoyment. You just can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Dad and I had a hot chocolate sat outside under the stars (clouds and drizzle actually) being kept warm by the patio heaters positioned near to every table. We enjoyed ourselves.

When we got home Mum was still up watching the television but after a short while we called it a fairly action packed day.

Categories
letters

8th October 2004

Dear Geoff,
I hope you don’t mind me calling you by your Christian name. I realise that it is normally considered inappropriate for a pupil to call his teacher by their first name but I think that the medium of the letter is quite an intimate one and within the four corners of this piece of paper I feel able to open up a bit more than I might otherwise do in the confines of the classroom. It’s a funny thing. My Dad tells me that he used to call one of his old headmasters Mr Phillips until both Mr Phillips retired and Dad went to university at which time he changed from Mr Phillips to Pete. He’s dead now. Pete that is, not Dad. He was a golfer, as is Dad.

Anyway this is not developing the theme of the letter as it should be not that I have a particular theme in mind. There are no threads coming out of this train of thought; no revelations; no profundities. Two good words there: revelation and profundity. I think I prefer profundity but really have nothing against revelation. This in itself is not much of a revelation nor is it a profundity. If I were to tell you that I was a in love with you that would be a profound revelation. In fact it would be totally astounding and I also have to tell you that it is totally untrue. I thought I’d get that in quick to make sure that there are no misunderstandings here, Geoff. It’s all very well playing around with words but we have to draw the line at playing with fire.

Staying on the subject of fire there is a fireworks display on at the rugby club in Lincoln. It has been an excellent event for the last couple of years. Good value for families and safe to boot. I don’t use the word boot in the context of rugby footware here of course but I’m sure that you realised that. We are a fairly keen rugby family here. I play with the Under 13s at Lincoln RFC, my brother Joseph and John play with the Under 8s and Under 6s respectively. Dad is past it now and sticks to writing the rugby reports for the Echo and the Chronicle and he also maintains the club website.

Poor old John has had his first taste of rugby injury as he has broken his collarbone during an unfortunate period of rough play with Joe at the club yesterday. They weren’t officially playing – just messing about whilst Dad watched the first XV. John had scored and Joe followed through and fell on top of him. The poor lad was in some discomfort and a friend of ours Sue Protheroe, who is a doctor, made the diagnosis and despatched Dad and John off to the Accident and Emergency department at the Lincoln County Hospital. This is conveniently down the road from both our house and the rugby club. He is going to be out of action for a few weeks with his arm in a sling and is an illustration as to why properly organised mini rugby at his age is non-contact.

Dad tells me that Saturday afternoons at the A&E department was a fairy regular event when he was playing!

Later that evening we were scheduled to go to the 18th Bailgate Scout Group family quiz evening at the Bailgate Methodist Church. Dad said it wasn’t normally his cup of tea on a Saturday night but both he and Mum thought that we should support the event. It turned out that other people we spoke to at the quiz felt exactly the same. There is a scenario whereby everyone taking part in the quiz was only doing it because they felt that they should support the event. I’m sure that the organisers thought that they were doing the right thing. Nothwithstanding this we all had a good time.

I went on Callum Mackenzie’s team much to the annoyance of Dad who thought I should be supporting the family. The Davies and Mackenzie teams were level on points at the halfway mark. Then after the cup of tea Mum took John and Hannah home and the bombshell was dropped. The next round was on the Bible. Of course being complete heathens neither Dad, nor Joe’s Godfather Terry who had come along for the action thought they had much of a clue in matters Biblical (despite being well read!) and with Mum having gone home they had lost their subject matter expert. In the end they called home on Dad’s mobile and spoke with Hannah who relayed the questions to Mum whilst she was reading John a bedtime story.

We got nine out of twelve in that round. Not bad and even Joseph contributed with “frogs”, that being the second plague of Egypt. All those days at Sunday School had paid off at last. The Mackenzies beat us by half a point in the end. Not bad considering we had lost half our team at the break. Clare Mackenzie ended up giving Joseph and myself a lift home and Stuart went to the Morning Star with Dad and Terry. A reasonable finish to the evening they thought.

Off to bed on – more in due course

TTFN

Categories
letters

Chateau De Lanniron, Thursday 24th August, 2004

Dear Mr Jones,

Hello. Le Soleil ne brillait pas. Sorry to go on a bit about the weather but it has been somewhat uppermost in our minds. Actually I am not being completely fair. The soleil in reality does brillait this morning. It is one of those rare mornings where we can sit out doing nothing but relaxing as one is supposed to do whilst on holiday in Brittany.

Yesterday we went to visit the Wards at their campsite near Quimperle and Dad and Alistair spent the afternoon drinking the local plonk whilst us kids hit the pool and the water slides. The Wards, in an attempt to get him to learn French have renamed William, Guillame. Don’t be surprised therefore when we return to school that you may well have to change the class register from W Ward to G Ward. You might of course, being a German language teacher, elect to persuade William to keep his original initial and call himself Wilhelm. I don’t think he has particularly strong views or any strong attachment to the French version. I leave this to you to decide.

We had a bit of a drama on the way home. It was quite late before we set off from the Wards campsite. Mum was driving and the petrol warning light had come on. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem because there were two 24 hour petrol stations nearby. However French petrol machines don’t seem to like British credit cards and we found that whilst our credit was good we were unable to pay for the fuel. French petrol stations being unmanned at that time of night therefore meant that we couldn’t actually get any petrol. Oh!

Not to worry said Dad and he promptly rang the international AA. He had just joined before going on holiday at the enormous rip off expense of £155 for 1 year’s membership to insure against this very possibility.

No problem said the voice on the other end of the phone. You just carry on driving and when you run out of petrol just give us a call and we will have assistance to you in 45 minutes or so. Great said Dad. That was clearly £155 well spent – not!

In the meantime Mum, who being the designated driver and had therefore not been drinking, spotted someone filling up at the service station and persuaded them to pay for our petrol with their credit cards in exchange for cash. Phew as they say in France. At least that’s what I imagine they would say as phew seems to be an universally accepted exclamation. They may spell it differently and emphasise it differently, though I doubt the latter, but say it I’m sure they do.

We made it home after the camp guards had put up the shutters for the night so we parked outside the perimeter fence and making full use of World War 2 raiding techniques stepped over the low chain fence and walked to the mobile home and bed.

I mention World War 2 because it is a hot topic here at the moment being the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of France. Vive la Republique, vive l’Entente Cordiale!? It gets nearly as many column inches (pardon monsieur, centimetres) as the Olympics which are on in Athens at the moment. Particularly annoying as whilst the British are doing better medalwise than perhaps they expected, the French are doing even better – zut alors.

Categories
prose

Lincoln 12 – 18 Paviors 18th January 2003

When you are down and having a run of poor results, bad luck seems to come looking for you and there is no place to hide. This certainly seems to apply to Lincoln Rugby Club as they struggle to find form in the 2002/3 Powergen East Midlands Division 3 (North).

On Saturday they played host to Nottingham side Paviors in a game that they might have expected to win. Indeed whilst at times the visitors performed better in the set pieces Lincoln were easily a match for them in the loose and had the crowd in a state of anticipatory excitement on a number of occasions with territorial breaks coming from both forwards and backs.

This was a crowd who, feeling comfortable after the pre-match three course lunch, wanted to be entertained by a home win. Their hopes were to be unfairly denied to them in a game in which the dice were rolling the wrong way.

Although Paviors kicking down the slope went into an early lead with a penalty in front of the posts. Lincoln came back with a vengeance with a period of sustained pressure in the Paviors half. A clearance by Paviors was kept in by scrum half Ewen Hamilton to set up centre Paul Clarke for a superb Lincoln try. This was converted and although Paviors were to reply with one more penalty Lincoln went into the turn one point ahead and with the wind and slope in their favour.

The second half however had a completely different tone to the first and was dogged by stoppages. It is unfair to complain about the refereeing because this amateur game could not be played without the efforts of referees giving up their Saturdays to enable others to lay the game.

However in this case it is possible to identify two specific refereeing mistakes that lead to tries by Paviors that decided the result in their favour.

The first was a clear knock on by Paviors in open ground that was seen by everyone. The ball was picked up by Lincoln but no advantage was gained and the same movement saw Paviors recover the ball to score.

Nevertheless Lincoln came back and despite a period where every decision seemed to go against them found themselves awarded a scrum five metres out from the Paviors corner. Veteran Clive Lewis playing at flanker took no chances and a thundering drive took him over the line and Lincoln back into a slender 12 – 11 lead.

Lincoln held on to this lead until near the end of the match when the second major refereeing mistake cost them the game. A kick forward by Paviors lead to Lincoln full back and skipper Nick Middleton being unable to control a difficult bounce. A further fly hack saw a race between a Paviors payer and Lincoln winger Adam (Sid) Whitwell actually won by Whitwell. The referee following on at a distance of some 30 to 40 metres awarded a try to Paviors.

Categories
prose

Boxing Day Rugby Match, 2004

Boxing Day at any rugby club in the country is when the true spirit of the sport emerges and its innate entertainment value is brought out by the bottle (seems a better way of putting it than bucket load).  Just as Christmas is a time for families to come together the traditional Boxing Day sporting event sees anyone that has ever been involved in the wide community of  rugby turn out to meet old friends and for some festive fresh air and exercise. The outcome is usually hugely amusing, the rugby flowing and people discover their shortcomings under benign and understanding circumstances that all can enjoy.

These days it is often the only game of rugby a veteran plays in the year.  An old trooper who has long hung up his boots will root them out of the cupboard when his son or his daughters’ husband comes home for the holidays in a desperate attempt to keep in touch with his youth and to show he can still do it.  It is a well known fact that a rugby player never retires.  It is simply that the gaps between matches get longer and longer. Indeed at a recent holiday in Center Parcs this rugby writer dug out his old shorts to play badminton with his kids and not only did they refuse to play with him in his old gear but they frogmarched him to the sports shop to buy a more modern, longer and therefore trendier and more acceptable kit. Harrumph.

At Lincoln Rugby Club,  Boxing Day was a beautiful crisp winter’s day.  Even though the midday the sun was low in the sky and the ground was largely frozen around fifty players old and new turned out to do battle on the ice rink.  If this had been a league match the game would have been abandoned before it started but there was one hundred percent consensus that the game was important enough to carry on.

Because Lincoln only have the one strip there was some objection because of the cold conditions to the notion of playing one side in “skins” and it was decided that one team would just turn their shirts inside out. As Chairman of Selectors Keith Younger read out the teams individuals would troop over to one side or the other just as they still do in school during the break when the two captains pick their own team.  Those not chosen were not too dejected because they knew that they could keep their coats on for another half an hour on the touchline.

This truly is a family day at Lincoln Rugby Club and a number of families turned out to play.  In the vanguard was Geoff Newmarch who brought three grown up sons along for a game, followed by Adie Smith and son Tom. Other father and son pairings included the Smalls, Dudleys, Woods and Woodthorpes.  The Younger brothers added a fraternal slant and Malcolm Withers at the young old age of 68 turned out in a museum piece of a scrum cap that has preserved his good looks through six decades of the sport.

Referee John Kirk turned out in a Father Christmas outfit that bulged so much after his Christmas lunch the previous day that everyone present felt that he would never get down that chimney again unless he put in a real effort at slimming in the New Year. John kept the game flowing as never before – nobody really wanted to slow down for a scrum or lineout because it was too cold.

At half time as the teams changed round and those players yet to have their turn came on several bottles of port were distributed together with oranges soaked in chilli vodka.  If anyone minded the vodka no-one mentioned it and in fact it was so cold that it may be the case that no-one actually noticed the difference from the normal healthy orange segment.

As for the game itself?  It ebbed, flowed, it entertained, kicks were booed and individual performances were cheered, many tries were scored and nobody kept the score. Old timers received knocks that reminded them why they didn’t play any more and of all the players on the pitch no one person gets a specific mention other than Pete Webster who likes to see his name in print. Well played Pete.  Well played everyone.  See you in 2005.

Categories
poems

Leader

A hard fought campaign.

The hustings.

The response of the crowd.

The populist vote.

Laughter, silence, emotion.

Tension.

Release.

Victory.

Celebration!

Categories
ideas

Choir by conference call

Anyone wanting to participate in a choir could ring in to a conference bridge and participate in the session remotely.

Categories
ideas

The Virtual Rock Concert

How about we create virtual rock concert venues where we get everyone a seat. The early bird get the lower seat numbers. there could be incentives for early birds eg free cd’s, t shirts.

The venues don’t have to be virtual. This could be something we offer concert promoters as an added value and a means of creating additional revenues from concerts.

Attendees could log on and check venue details, concert information, ticket delivery information, buy merchandise in advance, book parking facilities etc

Categories
the art gallery

The Readers

One person sits on a stool reading a book. The location is somewhere public where people can come and watch.

The work has a finite length – it is the time that it takes the person to finish the book. 

The activity can be repeated as many times as desired either using the same person and book or different people/books etc.

The work can then be extended to having two persons reading. This could offer a contrast such as for example a university professor reading one book and a barmaid reading another. When they have finished they could swap books and start again.

This could be a display in a bookshop.

Categories
the art gallery

The Candle

The candle sits there surrounded by darkness. It is stood on a glass plate inscribed with the date and location. When it has burnt out the melted was covers much of the glass and this is then mounted for future viewing.

Categories
the art gallery

Suicide

A roped off area of exhibit space is empty except for an extremely sharp knife…

Categories
ideas

The Lawnmower

Historical
In prehistoric times if it was done at all it is likely that the function of the lawnmower was performed by the use of sheep and other animals to keep the grass down.

The concept of having a lawn as a largely decorative part of one’s garden is almost certainly an idea born out of civilisation. This set of ideas explores the history of the lawnmower and looks at it’s position in and effect on society during the period of its existence.

Artistic
It is easy to see the lawnmower as both a work of art and a tool, paintbrush if you like, that can be used to create art. In this section both aspects are looked at.

Organic
The clippings of a lawnmower can be used to create compost that will then be fed back into the soil to encourage further growth. This cycle can be looked at simplistically or in a manner that provokes wider thought.

The simple view is just the breakdown of the process of cutting the grass, making the compost and feeding it back into the soil.

A more complex approach might be to use the process to look at much deeper subjects such as the whole existence of life.

On the way we can see that the grass cuttings, laid down over millennia, could stratify into layers of rock that illustrate the lasting effect and influence of the lawnmower.

Religious
In this we explore the religious aspects of lawnmowers from being simple mechanical objects used to religiously mow the lawn every Sunday afternoon to iconic symbols representing a higher order of things (aka the cross) through to the lawnmower itself being a god.

Nostalgic
A simple look back at the good old days of the lawnmower.

Scientific/Engineering
The lawnmower has evolved from being a simple mechanical cutting tool to a sophisticated electromechanical machine that embodies many advancements in the science of mankind. This extensive section looks into all the technical aspects of a lawnmower.

Sophistication
There are many facets to the lawnmower as a sophisticate from the use of expensive high end lawnmowers to mow the lawns of the wealthy to the highly developed and sophisticated brain that we might attribute to a “lawnmower about town”.

Practicality
A down to earth piece about the usefulness of the lawnmower.

Redundancy and Obsolescence
The coming of artificial grass possibly sounds the death knell for the lawnmower. We discuss a scenario that postulates the end of the lawnmower era.

Obsession
I’m just crazy about lawnmowers. I collect them, I lovingly maintain them, I defend them from critics in the same way that I would defend my sixteen year old daughter from the attentions of the young lothario.

Violence
Their blades rip, cut and destroy all living things in their path leaving behind a trail of death. Is there beauty in this violence? Is it pure malevolence?

Emotion
It all wells up in me when I look at my lawnmower. Lets find out why.

Duty
Does a lawnmower have a sense of duty? After all, aside from the occasional difficulty getting it started it rarely complains when asked to do a task.

Event
Roll up ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the lawnmower.

Influence of
The lawnmower has influenced many great inventors and artistic geniuses. Lets look at how.

It is also now an offence to be found driving under the influence of a lawnmower. Lets see why.

Categories
chinks poems

9th September 1958

9th September was a big day
In 1958
There she was
Late,
Renee, her right
on her big day.
There stood Keith,
Nervous
But excited
Neck
Craning to see
If his bride to be
had arrived.
Music, vicar, I do’s, kisses
More music,
Laughter, expectation
Sherry, lemonade, beer, wine
No more rationing
Boots filled speeches
Reminiscences
Tin cans, horeshoes
Glow, hope, expectation.

9th September 2008
50 years on
Taxi on time
Posh hotel
Posh nosh
3 kids, 6 grandchildren
Their mark imprinted
Sherry, lemonade, beer, wine
Speeches, more reminiscences
Absent friends, achievements
Glow, home, satisfaction.