Friday, 25 May 2012

'Brighton Is Still Very Gay And Full Of Balls' (Samuel Rogers English Poet 1829) - Times Haven't Changed

I held my hand over a sensitive part of my body and shivered when I saw this sign on Brighton Beach. Having just had an angiogram, I concured wholeheartedly with the advice.

I'd forgotten quite what a wonderful place Brighton is. It has transformed from the rather murky days of Brighton Rock and Keith Waterhouse's view that it is a town helping police with their enquiries. Gone is the seediness and jokes about being the best place for a dirty weekend.

It's buzzing. Buzzing with every nationality and a young person's place. There is something about the place, regardless of whether times are good or bad. It's lovely.

Successive councils have tired their best to ruin it. The blocks of flats blot the skyline. The burnt out pier is a sad reminder of incompetence and a lack of will to restore one of the world's finest pieces of seaside architecture, regardless of cost. The traffic is a nightmare. There are queues of visiting vintage cars, motorbikes and other forms of transport. Frank Gehry's vision of asymetric towers on the front at Hove was scrapped at the last minute, which preserved the beauty of the Regency architecture around.

And now - they want to ruin it for good by building the i360 Tower which will rise to 183 metres. It will be hideous, bear no relation to any of the beauty of the beach or the town, and I bet will sway in the wind giving all the tourists vertigo or motion sickness. What makes it even more incomprehensible is that there is a big wheel just around the corner, high enough to give great views of the city.

Graham Greene was right when he wrote in Brighton Rock:

'Human nature doesn't change - like a stick of Brighton Rock you bite all the way down and still reads BRIGHTON.'

It will survive well into the next century, tower or no tower.

Never Lose Heart

So the time has come to divulge why a blog called the Accidental Bus Driver, about a bus driver who drives buses, has not recently done much writing about that topic.

It is momentarily out of my control. It's my ticker which has caused the cessation of driving. I empathise with Dick Cheney, former Vice President of the United States, who said:

'Except for the occasional heart attack, I never felt better.'

Legally I am tied. There are strict rules in the UK and the DVLA impose certain requirements and restrictions on driving large vehicles with a medical condition. It is rightly so and it would not look good if the Accidental Bus Driver inadvertantly drove a Mystery Tour of octogenarians or a bus full of schoolchildren over a cliff, clutching his heart as he did so.

The difficulty is the bureaucracy.

'Have you got anything? Any illness?' asked one official.

'No,' I replied 'I am under investigation.

'Well - ring us back when you have,' and he put the phone down.

'Can I drive whilst under investigation?' I asked another official.

'Can't advise you there. See your doctor.'

'Can I drive?' I asked my doctor.

'The guidelines don't specifically say you can't drive,' said the doctor, 'but I can't advise you because it's what they don't say. and if anything happened, I suspect they would throw the book at you.'

Now I am under investigation no more. I now know I have two blocked arteries. i am now in a queue to see if I need a stent or two - then it should be fixed as the rest of the heart is fine and healthy.

'Good news. It's not life shortening,' said the specialist.

'Not good news for my blog readers - I could be still writing this drivel when I am 102.'

'No we'll have a cure for that by then,' he helpfully said.

The heart units in the hospitals are fantastic. The staff friendly and professional. They discuss risk the whole time, which suited me being from a bookmaking background. I was a 1000-1 shot not to come through with a complication. The language is stilted. It is a procedure not an operation. An angio not an angiogram. There are anacronyms for everything. Letters were flying around my tiny, overloaded brain, and I was asked to say my name, address and date of birth by everyone I met.

Being an observer of life, it was the patients who fascinated me. I was honoured to be a mere youth in the ward where all the others were in their eighties or nineties.

'Are you taking warfarin?' the nurse asked the patient behind the curtain in the next door bed.

'No I haven't had a glass of water,' came the indignant reply.

'She's deaf, you know,' said the accompanying friend.

'Ooh you are wonderful. I really feel I am having great treatment,' I heard another patient say to the nurse as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

'Complete and utter waste of time,' she said to her companion after the nurse had left in a fit of two facedness, little realising that the expression 'the walls have ears' could not have been more true.

I hope I am not like that when I get to that age and have to go to hospital. Getting a reputation as a grouchy old man would not be good. Then again, maybe I am like that already.

So this blog will continue to observe. Humourous? I don't know - that is in the eye of the beholder. It will be an attempt to translate things in life which make me smile. Someone told me that they liked my mother because she had a love of the absurd. That I my try to replicate, because I do too.

No let me get back to my cracker made out of low fat sawdust, with a thin film of  'I Can Completely Believe It's Nowhere Near Like Butter Or Any Known Dairy Product Except For It's Jersey Yellow Colour' and a gherkin on top.

I feel like the first and last low fat bon viveur.

Football And Smoke On The Water

It is not every day that you see a red football floating gently down the River Wear. Someone must have been a little over-enthusiastic with their kicking. An imaginary Didier Drogba on the towpath. A Carlos Aguero scoring Manchester City's championship winner, or more likely a local hero like  Pappis Cisse, Demba Ba or Stephane Sessegnon.

I thought, as I watched the ball bobble gently in the green water that it was symbolic of a frantic and exciting  football season floating gently off into the horizon for the traditional summer break. Great. It is nice to have that lull to concentrate on other sports.

But not this year.

There is no let up. There's Euro 2012, followed by football at the Olympics which will clash with the start of the next season. No doubt, when there is a spare weekend, they will find some Arctic Cup match in Greenland to screen.

Didn't you just love it when life was simple? Football started with the Charity Shield and ended with the FA Cup and made way for Cricket. Horseracing; the flat began with the Lincoln Handicap in March and ended in November. Jumping had a two month break in the summer when the ground was baked,

Now the 'money men', as the media like to call them, seem to have hijacked sport cramming everything into everywhere. More sport means more money - for sure. The television rites and betting revenue are large. But more sport does not mean good sport. In fact most of it is despicably bad, dummed down but talked up by overpaid commentators and pundits.

Bring back the old days?

No that's unrealistic and life moves on. Bring back the characters, though. The Alan Lambs and Bothams, the Cassius Clays, the Frank Brunos. Anything to improve on the current crop of serious sportsmen and women, who seem in the main humourless and dull.

My favourite was Shirley Strong, who admitted having the odd cigarette or two after a race. An amazing achievement which did not stop her taking Silver in the 100 metres hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

As I was going through my collection of ephemera which I have stored in various cupboards, it was amusing to see who was one of the main sponsors at the 1986 Mexico World Cup .....      

....a cigarette company.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

What's All The Stink About With The Germans In Austria?

I cannot tell you what pleasure it gave me to see Stink Bombs in the window display of a joke shop. So many hours of peverse pleasure have been had by schoolchildren all over the world, myself included. The huge enjoyment of seeing a teacher we all detested, running out of the classroom retching will be one of my lifetime's top ten memories. The fact that when he returned we were all beaten (this was 1971 you know) did not ruin the moment.

Stink bombs seem to have taken on a more serious roll. The American and Israeli Governments have been trying to develop a Super Stink Bomb to be used to break up riots and civil disobediences. It should work a treat.

Looking back through history, a Martin Luther King rally was disrupted by an atrocious smell. 'We've had problems here tonight. The forces of evil are always around,' he is supposed to have said.

My mother and father once did a dastardly trick in the Tyrolean Alps in Austria. They queued for the early morning cable car, in the knowledge that it was mainly filled with German skiers. You've heard about German legendary status of being the first to grab the sun loungers by draping a towel over them. That is nothing to their desire to be the first on top of a mountain.  

My parents cracked the glass ampule before rushing out of the cable car just as the doors were closing, and racing downstairs for a grandstand view of what was going to ensue. Unsurprisingly, as the car left there was frantic movement towards the windows. They opened the windows, shook their fist (I say fist, singular, as their other hand was clamped vice-like to their nose)and  hurled a few old, unintelligible Prussian obsenity at them.

Satisfied that the cable car was well out of reach, they returned to their Gasthaus for breakfast.

An Oystercatcher's Advice To Greeks, Government and Greed

Remember this?

It was only a few days ago.


This is the end of the good weather, after an unusually warm and sunny March. As April turned into the wettest on record and May tried hard to beat it and even produce a few frosts and snow, Britain became a grim place. People walked around with long faces, thoroughly depressed, as if the world was coming to an end.

Naturally we blamed it all on the Greeks, Angela Merkel and Socialist Europe.

And now look. Everything has improved overnight. The days are sunny and warm. The people are smiling. The overcoats have been ditched in favour of khaki shorts, short sleeved shirts and summer dresses. There is a spring in their step. Ivory white skin is turning to a shade of cooked lobster.

But not all is good. Britain is still grim. Looking at the news is enough to make you dive under the bedcovers. Doom and gloom and yet more impending doom. The retail sector's figures were worse than expected. The cause?

The weather....

and the Greeks, Angela Merkel and Socialist Europe.

The answer to happiness and prosperity? To shop more. To spend our way out of trouble. To buy yet more useless things we possibly don't need. Consumerism rules. Accountants rule the world! 'Greed, for lack of a better word, is good' as Gordon Gecko said in the film Wall Street. 25 years later all the fictional cliches seem to be coming of age.

As age creeps up on me, I prefer to go for a good walk on the moors, rather than sit around and watch the gloom. Nature can give hope for optimism. Take this brave little Oystercatcher who tries to lead you away from her nest when you get too close. She's taking a chance to make sure new life will survive and grow. By leaving the nest her young are vulnerable. On top of a cairn she judges the dangers, before swooping, sweeping and hovering in an attempt to lead you off in another direction.

Admirable. You know exactly where you stand.

Perhaps the rest of the world should take note.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

NormaL Service Will Resume Shortly

'Never apologise and never explain - it's a sign of weakness,' is what John Wayne advised in the 1949 film She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.

Advice which is totally disregarded in 2012, because everybody seems to say 'I'm sorry!' at the drop of a hat. Well that is the case in Britain and the U.S. and no doubt the rest of the world.

You will have noticed that the Accidental Bus Driver has been ominously silent recently. 'Good riddance!' I overheard someone say.

The reasons are long. Some good. Some tedious. Some tiresome. Some dull.

I am not going to emulate the Duke. I will copy a teacher who looked down disdainfully at me, scowled and deepened his voice whilst he controlled his ire by saying: 'Don't grovel, boy!'

Suffice to say that I am back and normal service will be resumed. Well, when I use the term normal, I use it loosely. Memories of China 1979, Hearts, a symbolic football and news from the city which has been described as looking like helping Police with their enquiries, Facebook fear and the usual eclectic mix of life's little incidences which created an Accidental Bus Driver.