Archive | March, 2014

If books aren’t your thing….

26 Mar

If books aren’t your thing don’t read on. This little piece will end with me showing off how much I have read so far this year, which only serves to reveal that I am, essentially, an idle bastard. However I am trying to catch up on a misspent youth – not that I didn’t read but I discarded all books which, after a few lines, I deemed to be boring.

These tended to include anything suggested by teachers and, particularly most things I was compelled to read. There’s a lot of rubbish talked by those my age about how they revelled in the classics and Isn’t it awful that Middlemarch isn’t required reading for Key Stage 2 any more. How quickly we forget our youthful philistinism.

I cut my literary teeth on comics (the Victor was a favourite), Annuals (Tiger, Roy of the Rovers, Charles Buchan’s Book of Sport for Boys), Enid Blyton, then Capt. W.E Johns, Richmal Crompton, Nevil Shute and only when I wanted to show off did I carry Graham Greene on the bus to school -the cover ostentatiously showing out of my blazer pocket- specifically to impress a gorgeous girl on the 406 bus whom I never had the guts to talk to.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the abridged versions of Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield fed to me at primary school – but the real magic was in Mr Upperton’s storytime readings. The class ‘got’ the voice and when he told us to read on till the end of the lesson in silence, I co-opted his voice into my head space. It’s still there. I was generally too impatient to learn that it takes patience to settle to a book and attune to its style. Too much fun to be had with bat and ball and other excitements that outweighed sitting and reading. That’s where comics came in of course. Textual soundbites; twitter-reading for 50s and 60s youngsters. They’re still around of course but not the lifeblood for youngsters they once were.

Of course it’s hard to settle to an adult book if you’re not an adult – a self-evident truth which has escaped successive generations of educators. Comics presented both adult and juvenile stories and themes in a juvenile way. Pictures helped of course, especially the brilliant cartoon dramas of World War heroes (British mostly) and villains( German and Japanese mostly)with all the speech-bubbled fun of Achtung! Donner und Blitzen! Banzai! and the rest. Biased as these tales were, comic stories were on the side of good. The good guy scored the winning goal, perseverance defeated fecklessness; working class athlete Alf Tupper always ate fish and chips before outpacing the public school toffs in front of the Queen.

The younger characters were naughty, not nasty: Dennis the Menace, Beryl the Peril, the Bash Street Gang and the rest. There was order in the comic world – and how wonderfully these comics were illustrated. The first book, that I halfway understood, where disorder and chaos prevailed was Lord of the Flies. This was at O Level and I had adult pretensions. I  could handle adult themes – I could even appear serious in class and talk about power, subversion, civilisation, sexuality and the rest without sniggering ..much. Only when Phil Newton (again) asked Ken Cripps our craggy teacher if Piggy was a homo did the class crack up.

And so I  rather stumbled my way through the early years of my journey to unlock myself through books. I have picked up pace but it’s hard to measure progress when the finishing line is beyond the horizon, infinity. I have had the gall to call myself an English teacher for many years now, too. I hope that, for all the twaddle I have had to ram down unwilling throats, I have helped to find, for some, ways of seeing and thinking and enjoying reading and writing. If not, I hope that some of the lessons, at least  were fun and not always boring.

Well most of the books beneath were not boring. I still occasionally ‘bin’ a book after a few pages, usually if it is either too clever by half or too silly by half. So I’m done with Jeffery Archer. Books 2014

 

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Mothering Sunday

25 Mar

Mothering Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent. It dates back to the 16th century and  is a religious festival honouring mothers. Mother’s Day is an American invention which honors (sic) mothers and dates from the early twentieth century. Wikipedia British and American contributors are locked in combat over the merits of provenance but there is no doubt that the Yanks have patented the name of the day. Only those floral, funereal cards that one sends to Mummies in their 90s carry the the Mothering Sunday moniker. As with Halloween and trick or treating we have prostrated ourselves on the altar of Americanism and the retail trades love it.

Time was when youngsters made their own Guy and touted him around in an old pram to con cash from the blue rinse brigade in your locality. Now they beat your door down to demand financial or other material benefit or they’ll piss through your letter-box. And Mummies and Daddies spend extraordinary sums to kit their kids out with diabolic costumes and make-up. The pumpkin trade has run riot and vast amounts of pumpkin soup is wasted. And who has heard of Guy Fawkes these days? The odd primary school teacher.

Back to Mothering Sunday. In the sterile fifties and the slightly more affluent sixties this day was one where the family Sorro children would all sign a card which was handmade by the youngest (who was always at primary school and had a maiden-aunt-style teacher) and delivered while Ma was peeling the potatoes for Sunday lunch. I might have offered a little sous-chef support on the day, occasionally but Mother would usually prefer to do the lot herself, knowing the potential for disaster if she didn’t.

My lovely Mummy would be grateful for the small mercy of a card – possibly some Black Magic Chocolates too, if elder brother had saved enough pocket money and had an uncharacteristic surge of generosity. Father would come out with high-sounding nothings about the importance of the matriarch but we never got anywhere near to going out for lunch; heaven forbid! Neither were the local hostelries remotely geared for an upsurge of Sunday trade. Pubs were places for men to have several beers before the wife put the grub on the table. Sleep followed soon after the belly had been filled. No one had heard of Gastro pubs, catering outlets hadn’t dreamt that they could double or treble the price of their food and watch the suckers flock to table on this oh, so special day.

Well, that was then and this is now. Today, Tuesday, I tried to book a table at three of my favoured posh pub venues and one restaurant. Without labouring the narrative, I failed. One example:

Ah Paul Sorro here, can I book a table for Mothering Sunday?

Do you mean this Sunday?

Yes

Have you booked with us before?

Yes

Hold a second, please. Two minutes pass.

Yes you’re on our system. Can I check your postcode?

I complied.

First we’ve got is 8 o’clock.

Is that morning or evening?

Evening sir, sorry we’re all booked for lunchtimes. Eight too late?

My mother is 86, she goes to bed at eight.

Sorry we can’t help. We do get booked very early for Mother’s Day.

 

And so it went on with each pub and restaurant. I wanted to tell them all that my mother had been happy with a hand-made card, a phone call, a hand with the washing up and a bite into a hazelnut Black Magic.

When I ventured out every retail outlet screamed Mother’s Day. The florist, the petrol station, the supermarket, the pubs and restaurants all were heralding the Sunday that is shortly upon us. The card business has hit the stratosphere.

As a father I have reflected on the paltry attention paid to we worthy males whose seed should have spawned a generation of thankful progeny. The Yanks haven’t quite grabbed Father’s Day by the balls yet…but they will and I will look forward to the transformation from the absolute denial in the 1950s that fathers deserved anything beyond polite but brief communication at set times of day – to the imminent gigantism that a day devoted to Daddies could become if an entrepreneurial Yank gets hold of it.

And it mightn’t end there. I have just reached grandparent status. A Grandma and a Grandpa Day could well be in the offing.I ‘m an uncle and a godfather too. The list of celebrations that could capture the nation and swell the bank balances of parasitic businesses is endless. I’d like a piece of that action.

For now, however, I must focus on my Mummy. Given that she eats like a sparrow (as most elderly ladies tend) the three course, fill-yer-boots with a glass of prosecco at the local Vintage Inn for £30 would be like force-feeding a French duck. She’ll settle for a gin and tonic and a nice home-cooked roast. Well I watched her do it so often, I reckon that I can manage to do a fair job. Won’t be as good as Mummy’s, though.

My Left Leg

25 Mar

I write a poem each day for my own benefit – but I’m thinking there’s money to be made. Perhaps my grandson, the newly-arrived Sebastian, will sell my versifying efforts in about 18 years’ time to fund his gap year. Seems unlikely but who knows how low our literary horizons will be in 2032? I’ll be 81 and won’t give a flying flamingo.

Anyway, as I was drinking my second cup of tea in bed this morning and getting that suicidal feeling that comes with the dreariness of weather and breakfast TV and the prospect of shopping at Budgens, I found myself, once again, scratching my left leg.

My ankle and lower calf area, to be precise. This scaly, flaking, dry almost hairless excuse for what once was a sleek wonder of human engineering. My poem was written in a trice..and here it is.

 

My Left Leg

My left leg was,once, a shapely feature

A muscled, toned, quite hairy creature,

Smooth with health and tanned by sun

Admired? Well – by me, for one.

Pace and grace it was exposed

By 60s shorts and soon it rose

To tread so many sporting boards

And even climbed the steps at Lords.

 

But now it’s sixty two years young

Athletic songs have all been sung:

The knee swells up at every turn,

The quadriceps then feel the burn;

All muscles, once so sleek and proud

Now slight, seem fearful, rather cowed;

No sheen of brown, no oil of tan

My left leg is a pasty man.

A hairless fossil, flaking white

Demanding that I scratch it right..

And dead man’s skin flakes from the sore

(I must not scratch it any more)

And feet that carried, winged and free

Now need some keen podiatry.

Oh shake that leg, you’re much the wiser

Smile and grab the moisturiser.

Other body parts will be enshrined or, rather, embalmed in verse on a regular basis. Read simplysorro at every opportunity to get your anatomical Body Shop literary update.

 

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