Teething Problems

dentistI had to visit our dentist Dr Gorgeous today, a tall dark Irishman who has made Lady Barton St Mary ensure she gets regular check ups. However, she was rather disappointed when he grew one of those big, bushy, hipster/street drinker beards, but has persevered  with her admiration of him. But this isn’t the subject of my post.

I was in the chair for some cosmetic work. I’ve finally reached that time of life when I’m visiting the dentist to have teeth replaced rather than removed. Yes, my American Wordpretzels, I know it’s hard to believe but some of us Brits do care about our teeth.

Dr Gorgeous greeted me in his usual gregarious way, BBC 6Music playing in the background. I know that time has moved on when your dentist is fiddling about in your mouth whilst humming along to Public Enemy’s ‘Don’t Believe The Hype.’

We had a quick chat and I settled in the big chair, being elevated and reclined with an easy movement from Dr Gorgeous from behind me. Efficiently, he placed a wad of cotton wool into my cheek on the bottom right of my jaw. I felt the usual tingling of the anaesthetic as it took affect, but at the same time felt a nagging feeling in the back of my butterfly brain.

Sophie, his petite, pretty dental nurse, suddenly said, “Are you sure that you wanted to do that?”

I looked across at her, dazzled by the large light above me.

“Aaahhh,” said Dr Gorgeous, chuckling.

“What was I thinking? We will be working on lower right at another time. Today it’s upper left. Silly me.”

I looked back into his deep blue eyes and smiling face.

“It’s having young kids,” he explained, ” I don’t get anywhere near enough sleep,” he continued, stuffing more cotton wool wads into the correct area of my mouth away from the unnecessarily numbed right half of my face, before charging his hypodermic needle.

Not the most comforting words to hear from your dentist.

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One of those days in the First World.

An artistic impression of my beloved trolley.

An artistic impression of my beloved trolley.

What a personal disaster. My shopping trolley that I use at (almost) voluntary work fell apart today. I’m bereft. Little Andrew just laughed at me, but maybe that was because she caught me changing my trousers and shirt. On the top tier of the multi storey car park.
“Not many cctv cameras, here, then,” she commented, as the wind whistled through my under trunks. Unhelpful. Trolley shopping tomorrow.
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Bowie – I Never Knew I Cared.

Lying in bed in the dark, just the light of the radio alarm clock illuminating my face. 6.50am, the radio clicks on and the presenters on BBC Radio 5Live are chatting, sounding bright and vibrant, despite the early hour. Then, five minutes later, Nicky Campbell, the male counterpart of the morning show, says quietly:

“I think I have to read this breaking news, don’t you?”

There’s a long pause, before Rachel Burden, his presenting partner, said,

“Yes. I think you should.”

Another pause. This was bad news, I realised. Really bad news, a major disaster.

“David Bowie has died,” said Nicky.

I sat up in bed, trying to assimilate what I’d just heard. It wasn’t a 9/11 or a 7/7, more an Elvis Presley or John Lennon moment.

But let’s move away from the scene and let me explain that I wasn’t a big Bowie fan. As a youngster, Bowie and I had a rather distant relationship. I can remember sitting in the bedroom of my best friend from school, Huwy Griffiths, and listening to the album Hunky Dory. More specifically, ‘Andy Warhol’, ‘Queen Bitch’ and ‘Life on Mars’, which still remains my favourite Bowie song.

But still, I wasn’t smitten. I never ran out to buy Bowie singles and albums. But he was a constant in my formative years. ‘Rebel Rebel’ and ‘Jean Genie’ remind me of Tuesday nights at the youth club, buying fruit salad sweets from the tuck bar (which my mum and dad ran) and fighting in the school gym.

But still, his music was in the background. I had friends who painted the Ziggy Stardust pattern on their faces but stopped short of dressing like a girl. Unless they were girls. I watched him on The Old Grey Whistle Test when my dad and his mates returned from the pub and sat making disparaging remarks about his voice and appearance.

Bowie was like Genesis. I never quite fell in with it all, despite the (now) obvious advantage that both of them were very popular with girls and therefore were a good way of meeting girls. For example, the afternoon I spent at our neighbour Mrs Docherty’s house with her five granddaughters. Mary, the eldest, was a massive Genesis fan and insisted that I listened to ‘Nursery Cryme’. She was 17, with long dark hair, pale skin and freckles, a classic Irish Catholic girl in a light cotton dress to keep cool in the summer heat. I was 15; as I sat in Mrs Docherty’s comfy chair, Peter Gabriel murmured about giant hogweed while Mary sat on the arm and absent mindedly ran her fingers through my hair as her four sisters sat on the sofa, smiling benignly at me. I was terrified.

Four years later as a student, I met a girl who found Bowie’s album ‘Heroes’ an incredible Bowie_HeroesSingleaphrodisiac. I’m sure you can join the dots on this particular story. At the time, I was extremely grateful for Mr Bowie’s Berlin period.

Lady Barton St Mary is a David Bowie fan, so I started to listen to more of his music in my twenties. ‘Ashes to Ashes’, ‘China Girl’, ‘Let’s Dance’… all played in our house. Admittedly, the Tin Machine project passed us by, but Bowie was always a staple by this time.

But the really weird thing is, I generally disliked most of his songs on first listening, even ‘Rebel Rebel’ or ‘Jean Genie’, before discovering they were, in fact, brilliant.

When ‘Where Are We Now?’ was released, Gerald, my old friend, told me how awful it was, a dreadful dirge. I concurred; but, two weeks later, I downloaded the track on Spotify. Looking at the side bar of my Spotify page, I noticed that Gerald had been playing … ‘Where Are We Now?’ by David Bowie.

However, I had a new experience just after Christmas. David Bowie released the single ‘Lazarus’. I instantly liked it. I downloaded it, along with the album, Black Star. I was finally a David Bowie fan.

Then, the following week, Nicky Campbell was telling me that David Bowie had died from cancer, that he’d been ill for some time but had kept it quiet.

That morning I played ‘Lazarus’ in my car on the way to (almost) voluntary work and realised that this song was his farewell message – “Look up here, I’m in Heaven…”

Suddenly I realised that David Bowie wasn’t on the periphery of my life; he’d made a significant contribution to the official soundtrack of it.

David Bowie is dead.

This can’t be right.


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The Tale of the Loose Canon and The Old Meg Clog Dancers

Yesterday evening, we had the pleasure of being invited to Master George’s 18th family birthday party. This wasn’t one of those usual 18th birthday parties where all the adults sit in the kitchen whilst hormonally charged youths consume their single malt whisky and vomit in the bath, but a ‘family dinner party’, where everybody sat around the long table in the barn at the Loose Canon’s house.

We were honoured to be the only guests who weren’t immediate family. It was a wonderful evening, sitting between The Sexton and his younger sister Sue, with a sumptuous chicken and ham pie cooked by Pen, followed by a slice of delicious frangipani, created by Sue, who bakes for a living.

You’re probably thinking that this all seemed very pleasant, with little incident, but events that happened towards the end of the celebrations made the evening very special for me.

After we’d finished our meal, guests congregated at the other end of the large barn, warmed by the gas fires and space heater blasting away in the corner. I found myself sitting next to The Loose Canon himself, who had settled himself in his favourite wingback chair with another large glass of red wine. Next to him sat the young boys of the family, Ollie, Master George and Master Johnny, all attempting to make balloon animals,unsuccessfully. They resorted to balloon crossbows and eventually balloon headbands, gurning and laughing at each other. The Loose Canon observed them carefully, his fingers laced together across his chest, resplendent in red trousers and navy blazer, the brass buttons flashing as he shifted in his chair.

“There you are, Johnny”, he suddenly blurted, pointing up to the gable end of the barn, “ you can have that one when I’m gone.”

Everybody’s attention was drawn to the array of animal horns hanging on the wall, the uppermost being a fine example of a buffalo.

“Thank you,”  Master Johnny grinned.

“Hang on,” said Master George, “ you can’t write Johnny into the will!”

“Oh, yes I can,” replied The Loose Canon defiantly, “ I can do what I like. Johnny, you can have all the horns. But you’ll have to wait until I die.”

The boys looked bemused, but not surprised. This wasn’t an unusual statement from the ecclesiastic, who, after a few glasses of wine and approaching 80, would contemplate his ultimate destination to meet what he hoped to be his maker.

“Anyway, you’ve got all the maps, George. Tom gets all the furniture,” he continued, pointing at The Sexton’s eldest son, who sat on the other sofa, clearly enjoying his grandfather’s performance.

The conversation then moved on, The Loose Canon accepting the offer of another glass of wine, becoming even more relaxed in his chair. However, it didn’t take long for the subject of his chattels to come to the fore once again.

“Here’s a painting you’d appreciate,” he said to me, pointing to a rather large pastel hanging on the wall to his left, just above the sofa where the boys sat, now joined by Jane, wife of The Loose Canon.


Old Meg and three others, I assume.

It depicted four ladies cavorting on a village green at what appeared to be the annual summer show. But more than that; it was a scene from the village I lived in and entitled ‘Old Meg’s Clog Dancers’ by Peter Rasmussen.

The Loose Canon explained that Peter was an old friend of his, now sadly passed on, who lived in our village.

“What do you think of it?” he asked.

“I really like it,” I answered honestly, “ there’s something quite magical about it,” I continued, before removing my phone from my pocket and taking a picture, to share later with the other villagers and perhaps display at the 50th anniversary village show in September.

“You can have it.”

I looked at The Loose Canon with surprise. He sat serious faced, hands still intertwined, his rheumy eyes staring back at me.

I laughed.

“No, of course, you can’t just let me have the painting,” I said.

“Didn’t you pay £250 for it, dad?” enquired Pen, looking slightly concerned.

He sat as if in thought for a moment.

“Yes,” he said, “but it doesn’t matter. Robert shall have it,” he stated firmly, as if decreeing a law.

I looked at Pen. She shrugged, a look on her face saying ‘if that’s what he wants’.

I decided to play it cool.

“Well, I think you should think about it, it’s very generous of you,” before returning to my seat and waiting for somebody to change the subject. Perhaps he’d nod off and forget his rather magnanimous offer.

But no.

The Loose Canon, with no little effort, hauled himself out of his wingback chair, took a couple of paces toward the painting, leaned over his wife and grasped the picture frame firmly by the corner, attempting to remove it. Being over a metre long and half a metre wide, the sheer physical effort needed to take it off its hanging place safely was very unlikely. Jane, alarmed at finding her husband looming over her, aware that a large work of art may fall on her head at any moment, let out a small shriek. The boys reacted quickly in helping The Loose Canon extricate it from the wall.

Victoriously, he handed Old Meg’s Clog Dancers over to me. I didn’t know how to react.

“I know you’re a little embarrassed, Robert, but you shouldn’t be. I want you to have it. Hang it in Randall Towers. It’s a picture of your village painted by an artist from your village,” he continued, “and that’s where it belongs.”

“What on earth are you doing, John?” asked a rather bewildered Jane.

“I want him to have it. Anyway, I need somewhere to hang my Badger.”

Jane shook her head.

“But the badger is awful,” she commented, already resigned to losing the removed artwork.

“Well, thank you John. Thank you very much indeed,” I said.

“That’s quite alright. Just invite me around for supper, that would be lovely,” he replied.

We left half an hour later, with the painting. Pen insisted that it was the right thing to do.

“I’ll come and pick it up tomorrow when he’s realised what he’s done,” said The Sexton.

So now we’ve got to find somewhere to hang it in our house. Lady Barton St Mary is pleased it matches the colour scheme of our drawing room.

So thank you, Loose Canon, for your tremendous generosity, giving a valuable possession away; a retired vicar showing an act of Christian kindness to a friendly atheist.

May your god go with you.

Posted in art, Atheist, blog, blogging, blogs, comedy, comic characters, dinner parties, freshly pressed, humor, humour, Lady Barton St Mary, life observations, Loose Canon, Peter Rasmussen | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Not All Hot Air

Dear Mr Dyson,

Your actual Airblade Tap hand dryer

Your actual Airblade Tap hand dryer

You may remember my letter from last year referring to your Air Blade hand dryer and the unsubstantiated claims about its ability to dry your hands in 10 seconds.

After a recent visit to Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, I happened upon another of your innovative products, the Dyson Airblade Tap hand dryer.

Before I recount my experiences with the aforementioned futuristic cleansing/drying accessory, perhaps we should analyse the name itself. Air blade and tap. Air and water. Surely the two ingredients in a recipe for disaster.

The instructions that I didn't see.

The instructions that I didn’t see.

Of course, I was unaware of what the device was when I came to use it after taking my ease in the lavatory of this illustrious west country shopping centre. I just thought it was a tap, so applied some soap from the dispenser and stuck my hands under the tap.

Imagine my surprise as my cupped hands were subjected to a sudden blast of warm air, expelling the small gobbet of soap onto the middle of my chest. Unaware of the destination of the soap, I reacted by moving my hands away from the gusty source, to be met with a stream of tepid water, or to be more exact, tepid water over one hand, the other still demanding a forceful blast of Dyson wind.

Before I knew it, my face was sprayed with tepid water accompanied by a full force gale, the result being the few remaining shards of soap gel flying up into my eyes. It was akin to a scene from the film ‘A Perfect Storm’.

Except that as I staggered out of the gent’s, I didn’t look a bit like George Clooney or Mark Wahlberg. The futuristic Airblade tap had also managed to propel a considerable amount of water into my midriff.

No, definitely not George or Mark E Mark, more middle aged man with reddened eyes, a greasy stain on my shirt and a massive wet patch over the crotch of my trouser, as if I’d copiously pissed my pants.

A passer by, looking very sympathetic, sidled over and pressed a pound coin into my hand.

“Get yourself a cup of tea, love,” she whispered, “ and I hope you find somewhere for the night.”

Yours sincerely

The Rural Spaceman

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Happy New What d’yer call it

It’s 2016.

So how did you say that in your head?

In the 1990s, people talked about ‘the new millennium’ – we considered a thousand years in one statement.

We had ‘the year two thousand’, not ‘two thousand’ or ‘twenty hundred’. In fact, we didn’t have the ‘twenty hundreds’, we had ‘the noughties’, which is so noughties when you think about it.

Then once ‘the new millennium’ had settled in, we started talking about ‘two thousand and..’

For example, 2003 was ‘two thousand and three’, ‘not twenty oh three’, not ‘twenty three’, (or ‘two thousand three’ – unless you were from the United States of America).

When did it change from ‘two thousand and…’ into ‘twenty’?

Well, here’s my theory, as far as dear old Blighty is concerned.

It was the London Olympics.

We had two thousand and eight and nine and ten and eleven, but always planned for ‘London twenty twelve’. Personally, I quite liked the ‘two thousand and…’ nomenclature, a bit of formality, but concede that  it was time to change when twelve came along; a  bit like getting to know a regular customer in a business, who you call Mr/Ms until one day they say, ‘please, call me Dave/Doreen’. A very British custom.

So, have a lovely twenty sixteen. Or two thousand and sixteen. Or two thousand sixteen. Or two oh one six.

Whatever you call it, have one.

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Rural Spaceman’s 2015

So, here I am in 2016, with a cup of peppermint tea and some yoghurt, fruit and nuts for breakfast, the usual habits of somebody into the second day of January and determined to end the year as a sleek, intelligent, fit, attractive man. Lady Barton St Mary suggests this would only be possible if I had a body transplant. And possibly a head transplant as well. Oh, and if this does occur, could it be George Clooney or Carlos Acosta’s head and body?

Talking of Carlos Acosta, the year started well with a visit to Covent Garden in February to with my lovely niece Lady Fairfield and her husband Young Mr Raggett to see Swan Lake – I think. At my age, I can remember things like what football team my school mate supported in 1967, but not the ballet I saw. It was Chelsea, by the way; the football team, not the ballet.

More ballet in March, when Lady BSM, The Sexton, Pen and I saw Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of Edward Scissorhands at The Millennium Centre in Swansea. Yes, The Sexton travelled to Swansea to watch ballet, although he seemed a little nervous about his rugby club finding out what he was doing that night. It was a fantastic production – I’ve never seen the film, but followed the story quite easily. A triumph, although I’m not sure that The Sexton is quite ready for a cravat and burgundy blazer.

Nearer home, we saw a tremendous production called War Songs 19:14 – 19:18. Our old friend Lee-Oh! had collaborated with musical producer George Moorey to create two pieces of music based on the poetry of Glouceestershire war poet Ivor Gurney. Cleverly, one piece was 19 minutes, 14 seconds long and the other 19 minutes, 18 seconds long. It was a great night – if you want to know more, got to http://www.warsongs.co.uk/


It’s been a busy year – looking back, it’s been a bit of a nostalgia trip – this may be because Lady BSM and I celebrated 30 years of marriage, quite an emotional landmark. I know when I reminded Lady BSM she’d spent most of her life with me, she was so emotional she cried for days, muttering “why me?” between sobs.

I also attended a Wombats concert with Miss Katherine and Master Johnny, who had bought the ticket for me for Christmas. I love The Wombats; we saw them the day before their latest album Glitterball was released and this would be my album of the year.

The nostalgia trip started with Al Stewart at The Albert Hall, surrounded by similarly ageing musos enjoying a live performance of Year of the Cat. Al is quite elderly now and from his chats with the audience, still thinks that we are living in 1974.

Sting and Paul Simon in Birmingham served up a 3 hour treat – the latest little and large partnership, Sting ably sang the Art Garfunkel parts. They took turns on the stage between the double act. When Sting sang ‘Shape of My Heart’ the tears flowed down my face.

“It’s a good job The Sexton isn’t here, you big softy,” said Lady BSM, almost proudly.

Elton John belted out all his hits at Kingsholm before rounding on a rather over enthusiastic steward who was battling a prat in the audience. It made all the tabloids but turned out alright in the end.

We saw Paul McCartney – one of the few times in my life when I’ve been awestruck. I suddenly understood why all those black and white films of girls screaming and clawing their faces at Beatles concerts did what they did. I did manage to refrain from doing this. He was brilliant.

The Proclaimers played at The Malvern Theatre and provided a brilliant evening of fun – I’d forgotten how big and Scottish they are.

The final concert of the year was Frank Turner – the old Etonian punk/folk singer, whipping the audience into a frenzy at Colston Hall in Bristol. We managed to find a seat in the unreserved section. For some reason, Miss Katherine and Master Johnny stayed with us, whereas if I were their age, I would have been pushing for the front and the opportunity to pogo, but not these days, not with these knees.


On the films (movies) side, it’s been quiet. We’ve only been to the pictures twice this year as far as I can remember. James Bond: Spectre and Star Wars only last week.

They were both fun and as my mother used to say, quite far-fetched. Daniel Craig has managed to keep his aging body in terrific shape, although I feel he may have overdone it in the gym. He used to be a terrific clothes horse, but with all those muscles and large shoulders, he looks a little bit like a chimp in a suit. Still, if you can brutally murder two men before forcing yourself sexually on an attractive Italian middle-aged woman, who am I to judge.

Star Wars was more fun, a sort of re-make of one of the old Star Wars films – Return of the Jedi? In this one, a really clever independent young lady called Ray (?) joins up with a stormtrooper who doesn’t want to be a stormtrooper. Observing the similarities between ‘The First Order’ and ‘The Third Reich’ I can understand why a young black man may wish to distance himself from a neo –nazi organisation.

Anyway, they find Indiana Jones and that big muppet who looks like sweep from Sooty and Sweep and with help from Princess Leia who isn’t called Princess Leia any more, having lost the Danish pastries she used to have for ears, they all did their best to find

The new Darth Vader. He's not as confident as the old one, but can take that black potty off his face.

The new Darth Vader. He’s not as confident as the old one, but can take that black potty off his face.

Gandalf before it was too late and Snape killed them all. I may have been distracted. What you have to remember is that Star Wars, like Harry Potter and Lord of the Hobbits are all children’s films. Our choice of old family favourite for Christmas is Reservoir Dogs. We excitedly await the release of ‘The H8teful Eight’.


Lisbon was magnificent – reasonably priced, great food and a hop on, hop off bus tour that is perfect for fat middle aged men wishing to sleep off a long leisurely lunch. It got better when we travelled to Setubal to spend a week with all of Lady BSM’s family in an old farmhouse, definitely something I’d be up for doing again. Don’t go to the Algarve, go to Lisbon/Setubal.



Alarmingly, my race participation was reduced to just one half marathon in the Forest of Dean – this is where I convinced a young female runner I’d had the top half of my leg amputated but kept the lower half.

More significantly, I’ve become a qualified football referee, meaning I can travel to different grounds around Gloucestershire on a Saturday afternoon to be constantly undermined, questioned and shouted at. I thoroughly enjoy it. By March, I should have completed my training, taken my exam and been promoted a level.


A year for daddy Daves – DaveJohnDaveJohnDave and Mathilde started the year with twins – Josephine and Antoine.

The year ended with my nephew Dave and his wife Kirsty welcoming Daisy, their first child, so very exciting for them and satisfying for all other parents, who are happy that another couple will go through sleep deprivation, a need to watch the latest children’s programmes over and over again and be resilient to faeces and projectile vomiting.

Ambitions and Plans for 2016

So, back to where I started this stream of consciousness I have to lose the 14lbs of extra weight I’ve somehow gained in the past 12 months.

Two musical events are already booked – Gilbert O’Sullivan at Cheltenham Town Hall in February and a family trip to see AC/DC at The Etihad Stadium in Manchester in June.

As far as writing goes, I’ll do my best to torment you with my ramblings every week. I’d also like to start writing some short stories – what I like to call ‘proper writing’. I was explaining this to somebody the other day.

“What would your stories be about?” they asked.

I riffled through the imaginary notes in my brain.

“Sex and Death,” I explained. They stared at me dumbly.

“Sex – and Death??” they asked tentatively, “Nothing else?”

“What else is there?” I mused…

Happy New Year.


Posted in Al Stewart, ballet, blogging, Cinema, elton john, Forest of Dean Half Marathon, freshly pressed, gloucester rugby, Guild Hall Gloucester, humor, humour, Ivor Gurney, Lady Barton St Mary, linguistics, Lisbon, Paul McCartney, Portugal, referee course, relationships, The Wombats, War Songs, wordpress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments