Friday, September 23, 2011

Five Years

Sept 23rd. Pat died five years ago today:

This photo was taken at Sue's wedding (19th May, 2001). It's one of the few that I have of Pat and me together. Behind us, you can see Brian and Uncle Bernard engaged in a heated discussion on parking options in Totteridge Drive.

Although Pat had never enjoyed good health, her sudden death caught us all by surprise; especially poor Dave, of course, who was with her at the time in their holiday home in Minehead.

As the sad news filtered down through distraught family and friends, I was oblivious to everything for a few happy hours, immersed as I was in our town’s fiestas.

As we sat on the square, a lovely rainbow appeared out of nowhere, screaming to be looked at:

Rainbow in Aretxabaleta (23rd September, 2006). I took this photo with my old mobile; I’ve always been a sucker for rainbows, and even more so since this one. The building is the primary school, in front of which stands a makeshift stage for whoever was performing that evening.

A couple of minutes later, Dad rang with the news and— well, you can imagine the rest. Suffice to say, Pat was a wonderful wife, a magnificent mother, a dutiful daughter, a superb sister, a faithful friend, a caring colleague and a nosey neighbour (Sorry, Pat, I couldn’t think of any positive two-syllable adjectives beginning with N.) Yes, I know, all the clich├ęs, but what do you expect her brother to say?
Exactly three weeks later – on 14th October – my favourite father-in-law died. Like Pat, Vicente had a heart of gold . . . and a heart too old:

Vicente. When he smiled, you smiled with him; when he laughed, you laughed with him; and when he lost his temper, you simply shut up, and waited for the storm to pass.
Benita, my mother-in-law, followed Vicente everywhere, every single day, lunch and dinner of their married life: 49 years and 4 months. That was cruel not letting them make their golden anniversary, and it’s not hard to imagine the massive hole that Vicente’s death left in Benita’s life; in our lives too, of course.
Well, that was a cheerful post, wasn’t it? To mark the occasion I chose Five Years, a cheery song about death and so on. Pat’s favourite Bowie songs were The Laughing Gnome – sorry, Pat, no chance! Well, OK, just a quick link – and Sorrow, which, in retrospect, might have been a more suitable title for this post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Games Without Frontiers

Here are a few games that you too can play at home.

Dump your bags here!
What’s the point of taking your bags to your bedroom when you can dump them in the Baggage Meeting Point in the hall? As the bags pile up, it’s fun occasionally to sift through them, trying to identify their owner, their function and whether the bag is just visiting, on its way in, out, up, down . . . or here to stay for ever.

Open those doors!
In this game, you enter as many rooms as possible, making sure not to close any doors behind you when you leave. For extra fun, wait until your victim has got up to close the living-room door and sat down again to continue reading, then enter and leave the room again. Repeat this process until you hear somebody banging their head against the armchair headrest. This is the sign that it’s time to give them a break.

Open those drawers and cupboards!
The kitchen is the best place for this one, we find, the idea being to open as many drawers and cupboards as possible in the space of 20 or 30 minutes. For best results, the husband should try putting away all the lunch plates, pots and cutlery, while the wife takes everything out again in preparation for dinner. If you enjoy this kind of mayhem, try adding random phone calls to and from family and/or friends, plus two hungry kids wanting to know when their dinner will be ready.

Pile up that rubbish!
We find it’s amazing how much rubbish you can squeeze into one rubbish bag. We are very environment-friendly in my household, so we also have a recycling bag into which you can throw anything which looks vaguely like a piece of paper. Occasionally, both bags are emptied mysteriously overnight – nobody has ever commented on this – and the whole process begins again.

Fill that clothes basket!
It’s amazing how many clothes and towels you can get into the same basket. Getting them out again is much harder, of course, but that simply adds to the fun. Once a day, the basket is emptied mysteriously and the whole process begins again.

Change those lightbulbs!
Of course, to change lightbulbs, you need to buy new ones first – and have you seen the price of lightbulbs these days? As a working rule, we wait until each room is down to its last lightbulb and then I go down to the bank to ask for a loan before heading off to the supermarket. Once home, I usually discover that none of the lightbulbs fit, try not to tell my wife this, and sneak off back to the supermarket while she’s emptying the clothes basket.

Answer that phone!
In this game, when the phone rings, you have to let somebody else – anybody else – answer it. Basically, this is a test of endurance, in which the man about the house invariably loses. Needless to say, the call itself is never for the poor sod who picks up the phone.

How about you? Would you care to share your games with us here?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I can’t stand it anymore. My blood boils every time I see them: the five most abused, misused and misspelt words in the English sandwich. Er, language, sorry. OK, here goes . . .

5. its / it’s / its’
Its refers to possession and means “of it”.
It’s is a contracted form of It is or It has.
Its’ is not an English word and means nothing.

Wrong: *Its important to know its’ meaning.
Right: It’s important to know its meaning.

4. your / you’re
Your does not mean you are.
Your refers to possession and means it is yours.
You’re is a contracted form of You are.

Wrong: *Your you’re own worst enemy.
Right: You’re your own worst enemy.

3. their / there / they’re
Neither their nor there means they are.
Their refers to possession and means it is theirs.
There refers to location and means it is not here.
They’re is a contracted form of They are.

Wrong: *There over their waiting for they’re instructions.
Right: They’re over there waiting for their instructions.

2. who’s / whose
Who’s is a contracted form of Who is or Who has.
Whose refers to possession and means “of whom”.

Wrong: *Who’s mistake is this? Whose interested?
Right: Whose mistake is this? Who’s interested?

1. ’s
We do not use ’s to form plurals. Well, I don’t, let’s say.
The apostrophe + s has three uses:
contraction of is eg. It’s easy!
contraction of has eg. He’s learnt it!
possession eg. Is that John’s son?

However, we do not use ’s to form plurals; we use s (no apostrophe).

Wrong: *All monkey’s love banana’s.
Right: All monkeys love bananas.

If the noun ends in consonant + y, we must use ies (but still no apostrophe).

Wrong: *Many family’s are having difficulty’s feeding their monkey’s.
Right: Many families are having difficulties feeding their monkeys.

What really galls me is that these are mistakes made by fellow native speakers; fellow writers even! My students, for whom English is very much a second language or hobby, do not make these mistakes. Or, as they would say, We no do do this mistakes, no?

So, if you’d like to make me happy, next time please, please spell it right. And, by the same token, if you want to carry on annoying me, I’ve handed it to you on a plate now, haven’t I?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Six Teens

Wrote - and recorded - an entire novel at the weekend. Not exactly Shakespeare, but you've got to start somewhere:


Click here for Mikicast

six silly six-word stories

Once upon a time I cried.

-Marry me!
-Piss off!
-Fair enough.

Woke up . . . got up . . . threw up.

-Was it you?
-Yes it was.

-Hey, mind the gap!
-What gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Here lies Mike Church. Silly sod.


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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
June who?
D'you know this one?

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
June who?
D'you need any help?

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
June who?
D'you not think this is silly?

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
June who?
D'you knock my door as much as I knock yours?

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
June who?
D'you never get tired of this?

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
June who?
D'you always nick my punchline?

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
June who?
D'you know any others? . . .

Next month:
Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
July who?
Julie, you pillock!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sign Of The Times

Celebrated getting my CD player back yesterday (complete with poxy little car) by going for a spin in the country - sounds better than "driving like a maniac because I was late for my class" - and listening to my wonderful Roxy Music / Bryan Ferry compilation:
1.      Virginia Plain
2.      A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
3.      The Tracks Of My Tears
4.      I Know How You Love Me
5.      Street Life
6.      Love Is The Drug
7.      Sign Of The Times
8.      Can't Let Go
9.      That's How Strong My Love Is
10.  Dance Away
11.  Angel Eyes
12.  Oh Yeah
13.  Same Old Scene
14.  My Only Love
15.  Over You
16.  Jealous Guy
17.  More Than This
18.  Avalon
19.  Slave To Love

Whenever I get to Sign Of The Times, I always remember Pat because it was one of her favourite songs at the time (1978). And also one of mine. Ditto Angels.
OK, time to get dressed. "Let's do it to them before they do it to us!" <- Hill Street Blues. I'm on episode 82 of 146. Please note that I am not advocating that you punch the first person you meet in the face.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Are We In Trouble Now

(The song is pretty awful, so jump immediately to 3:44 for the most beautiful guitar solo you'll ever hear)

Here's another Mikiature:
Are We In Trouble Now

Upon a time once there was a man poor who had thoughts ordering his problems. More often than not, matter this didn’t. “Eggs, bacon and sausages, please”, “Bacon, sausages and eggs, please”, “Sausages, eggs and bacon, please”, “Please! Where are sodding my bacon, eggs and sausages?” . . . – what make did it difference? The result end was always the same: galore cholesterol.

            Numbers, however, were the life of his bane. According to his portpass, for example, he was 95 old years already, having born been in 1592. And his wife amused very wasn’t when he came from the supermarket back with 21 eggs and 42 loo rolls.

            Day one, his wife an ultimatum issued him with:
            ‘Of this Brian I’ve had enough! Get help or else.’
            What or else, darling?’ he asked, but she meant what he knew.
            So an appointment Brian made with his PG, for he loved the world more than anything else in his wife. Unfortunately, he up turned at 20:10 instead of 10:20.

That last Thursday was. Another appointment naturally they gave him: this Tuesday at 11:11 dot the on. Or was it next Thursday for? Eh well, learn and live, oh?


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Roll With It

Went for a roll up the mountain with my wonderful wife last night, together with a romantic candle-lit dinner.

I had a cheese, ham and red pepper roll; she had chorizo, eggs and chips. Halfway through our meal, there was a power-cut, and out came fork 'andles. Four candles, sorry. With apologies to The Two Ronnies for blatant plagiarism.

I've never known a place take so long to produce the bill, but neither of us was complaining. On the contrary, the surprise element made it quite a delightful evening.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Make Me Smile

Haven't been able to blog for a while; have had loads of probs with laptop, internet, not to mention this Yola blog itself, which is really difficult to write in. Anyway, plenty to smile about too, not least having agreed a publishing deal for dayrealing with my favourite man right now, Tim Roux of Night Publishing. I won't bore you with the details. Yet.
In the meantime, here's another Mikiature I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Haven't been able to record it yet:
Make Me Smile(from Mikiatures: 200 stories of 200 words in 200 minutes)
Once upon a time there was a lovely girl called Isa. When Isa smiled, she was also a beautiful girl but, more importantly, everybody around her smiled too. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the entire happiness of the world depended on Isa’s smiling.
    Mick was naturally worried, therefore, when Isa walked into class and sat down without so much as a ‘Hello’. He soon saw what the problem was: a great big spot on Isa’s chin. Wishing Isa’s spot a short-lived life, Mick proceeded to tell Roald Dahl’s delightful tale about a very special girl called Matilda. Today, however, nobody seemed to be laughing.

Mick woke up the next morning with a throbbing pain at the end of his nose. Needless to say, the kids thought this was hilarious; especially Isa, whose spot had disappeared miraculously overnight. This reversal of fortunes inspired Mick’s Universal Spots Theory, which states that “the total number of spots in the world at any given moment is a constant”.
    So next time you wake up with an ugly spot on your hooter or wherever, remember that some poor soul elsewhere is celebrating that they have just lost theirs. And smile.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Carry That Weight

Operation Swimming Trunks began on Monday (I don’t want to go to the Wedding of the Year with a muffin top). And thanks to my BCP diet (Be Careful Puddinghead!), I have already lost a couple of pounds this week.
Before I go any further, however, a word of warning: BCP can seriously improve your waistline, so please don’t try this at home unless you’re barking mad and/or fat. All I can say is that the BCP diet has always worked for me. Basically, it means you have to avoid anything that begins with B, C or P – hang on, there’s more – if and only if you would normally gobble it down like there’s no tomorrow. In my particular case, this means:

NO beer, biscuits, bread or buns
NO cakes, cheese, chocolate, chorizo, croissants, champagne or caviar
NO pizza, pies or potatoes

In brief: don't eat anything you like.

So, for example, I could still eat bananas, beetruit, cabbage, cauliflower, pears and petrol if I wanted to – because I rarely do. Besides, have you seen the price of petrol these days?

Finally, I should also point out that I have decided to spell koffee with a K until I decide to call an end to OST. Life without koffee? Now that would be krazy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We Can Work It Out

Celebrated my birthday earlier this week by getting up on the 5th at 5am to start work on my new book:

 200 stories . . . of 200 words . . . in 200 minutes.
And this is the first story I wrote (and recorded):
We Can Work It Out
‘Er, Menu A, please. I’ll have the spring roll, special fried rice and sweet ’n’ sour pork.’
          Except I ordered in Spanish, of course, because the menu was in Spanish. ‘Gracias.’ This particular restaurant was nearly always empty, and I had never understood how they could stay in business. Perhaps they couldn’t. Whatever, the service was fast and friendly, the food was pretty damned good, and Menu A was the cheapest set menu in town. In fact, the only drawback was that here was a Chinese family trying to make a living in the Basque Country. It was an unlikely marriage.
          The waitress reappeared shortly with my spring roll.
          Rollo de primavera.’
          ‘Thank you,’ I said, this time in English. My defences were down – you should have seen the spring roll – and my brain had gone into autocruise.

          ‘Bu ke qi,’ she said, smiling mischievously, then taking her leave.
In retrospect, it was one of life’s beautiful moments. So beautiful, I just had to rewind:
            Rollo de primavera.’
            ‘Thank you.’ It’s no good pretending I’m Spanish. I’m not fooling anyone, am I?
            ‘Bu ke qi.’ Hey, don’t worry. I’m not Spanish, either. But we can still be friends, can’t we?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse

I'm delighted to hear that the funniest unpublished author on the web, Greg Levin, has at last been offered a publishing deal for his superb Notes on an Orange Burial.

Here is Greg in fine form (presumably written before he got offered a contract):

Dear Literary Agent:

Thank you for your recent rejection notification, but I am afraid that I cannot accept it at this time.

Please understand that I receive a high volume of rejection notifications and must be highly selective in choosing those that I am able to handle.

The acceptance of rejection notifications is a highly subjective process; the fact that I have decided to pass on your rejection in no way signifies that your rejection writing is sub-par. In fact, I strongly encourage you to continue rejecting the queries and submissions you receive each day, and wish you luck in all of your hope-crushing and dream-dashing endeavors.



Saturday, April 2, 2011

Absolute Beginners

Facebook for the Intellectually-Challenged
I think I'm getting there. Slowly but surely . . .
If you click on Home, you get a random string of posts from a load of people you may or not know. The technical term for this is News Feed apparently. This is also the place to go if you want to poke people. Where or how, I do not know. Strictly speaking, the invitation is to "poke back", which I find worrying, as it suggests they have already "poked" me without my even realising it.

If you click on Profile, you get an even bigger picture of yourself, and suddenly the only posts you can see are yours. There are also a few other differences to the Home page: it tells me when my birthday is (always good to know), and suggests I could do with more friends, together with pictures of "people you may know" who I have never heard of in my life. I suppose "people you may know" is short for "people you may know one day".
So much for the basics. After that, it's simply a question of clicking randomly and manically, and writing as many silly comments as you can think of in 15-20 minutes. Clicking for a living is all well and good, but it won't get the dinner on the table. Well, not in my household, anyway. I definitely did something wrong in a previous life, I suspect.
It's always good to read that Tammy Whammy and Lemmy Hammy - or whoever - "are now friends". It seems that a lot of people must spend their online time arguing, and it's a pity that we don't get any "have fallen out (again)" messages. Possible improvement for version 2?
Particularly rude are messages like "Jo Boghead is now friends with Sam Bignose, Jeff Bumsore and two other people". How come Sam and Jeff get their names in print, but poor old Colin Raphead and Mike Church are dismissed as two insignificant blobs in our virtual universe?
I think I'm going to go off and have a sulk. But not for long. I've got to get the breakfast, do the shopping, make the lunch . . . Oh, and work for 10 hours, I nearly forgot. Living in the real world is pretty tough, too, sometimes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Up Against The Wall

How times have changed. For the worse, naturally. When I started out teaching 27 years ago, we had "photocopier boys" (or girls). With time, the photocopier person became the "maintenance man" (or woman) and, a few more years down the road, the maintenance person was now the "maintenance manager" (or womanager). Then the maintenance person got tired of doing the maintenance themself, and decided that henceforth s/he would be the "maintenance management manager" (or womanagement womanager).

So, anyway, I wasn't totally surprised to find this morning that my company has now taken maintenance management "to the next level". The good news was my request for a corkboard on my office wall had finally been approved; the bad news was I had to do it myself (see photo). Oh, and could I "please return the hammer" once I'd got my corkboard up against the wall?