Tag Archives: Radio 4

Don’t Be A Bird Brain

16 Oct

Followers will know that I like to blog about all kinds of stuff, but that I can become the gobbiest when it comes to the issue of ‘outsiders’. Yes, I get all crabby about those who are on the fringes of society (because of lack of income or birth right or connections) but I also get my knickers in a twist in relation to the way that people who are deemed to be a bit ‘different’, ‘quirky,’ ‘eccentric’ or who seem to be singing from a completely different song-sheet from the rest of us ‘normals,’ are treated.

Elvis falls into one of these categories.  Not only is his name un-cool (because most families don’t listen to Elvis obsessively as we do) but he also happens to be a budgie. And after Father Christmas delivered him to us last year I have lost count of the number of times people have exclaimed “Ha-ha! You have a budgie! Aren’t they a little old ladies’ pet? How bizarre!”

He was a loving little companion. Until he shat on my copy holder.

He was a loving little companion. Until he shat on my copy holder.

So even though our Elvis is one un-cool dude – he has clearly has a feathery little soul of his own. So he gets treated like royalty (better than royalty actually, if Prince Harry trucked up to our house – I certainly wouldn’t be cleaning his turds up with a wadge of Kleenex). During the daytime if the house is empty, Radio 4 is switched on so that he doesn’t get too lonely (he is a huge fan of Women’s Hour and has a bit of a thing for Jenni Murray). And if I’m working from home he accompanies me to the office (he’s sitting on the printer right now chirruping away – and yeah, it’s yours truly who has to leave the room if the phone rings. Not all professional callers are as understanding of a budgie’s need to squawk along to The Archers as you’d hope that they might be.)

Yesterday, I was in the middle of reading an excellent guide  for employers on how to create an autie-friendly workplace when my daughter (who was trying – and failing –  to train Elvis to sing a Beatles song) interrupted me with “Hey Mum, why do we use ‘Bird Brain’ as an insult? ‘Cause Elvis – and all birds – are way cleverer than my brother…” and this reminded me of a fantastic book that I recently read.

‘King Crow’ by Michael Stewart had me all fired up. Indeed, chuffed to bits. Because the action takes place in a very foreign, an oh-so exotic and distant place. Far-flung shores which are all too often overlooked by the UK south-eastern dominated publishers. Yeah folks, this venture into alien territory involves all of us suspending those LondonCentric belief systems and assimilating a superb tale that centres on a general geographical area known as ‘the North of England.’  And then focuses further on an even smaller microscopic part of the landscape which happens to possess a very un-Kensington and Chelsea place name. That of ‘Salford.’ Or pronounced ‘Sol-fud.’ (In case you somehow thought that it should be uttered as ‘SORL-FORRD’)

So yeah, thank God for people like Michael Stewart who are proud of their roots and who enjoy writing for the literati – as well as for plebs like me n’ mine. Folk who get all giddy because we used to wander through those exact same tower blocks which he touches upon.  People who know precisely what the terraced houses he mentions still look like (or indeed,  taste like … I used to have a thing for licking red brick work when I was a nipper. But let’s not go there.)

And my interest in reading this book was piqued further when I realised that the story is told through the eyes of a school boy who is autistic. Although the ‘A’ word is never used. It doesn’t need to be. Michael S  simply shows that his protagonist Paul Cooper, operates on a different plane to most others. And that Paul’s obsessive traits are focussed on birds (and unlike most teenage boys, this kid’s fixation is with on the ornithological – the feathery, rather than the female form.)

Who's The Daddy?

Who’s The Daddy?

Now, you might already be familiar with the ‘Rainman’/ Dustin Hoffman version of what being autistic might entail – but ‘King Crow’ is a beautiful reminder of how autism can take both stark and subtle shapes within a personality. And it also nudges the reader into realising that obsessions – which might at first hold no interest for the reader whatsoever, when so cleverly woven into a story with such a fascinating character – can leave your fingers itching to find out more via Google. Or cause you to fall into petulant arguments with your six year old as to whether “it IS a sodding Crow in the back garden. Or a raven.  Or…let’s get the damned field book out, eh our kid?”

I don’t normally blether on about books that you MUST read – but if you tend to care about the sort of things that I get all het-up about, then this is a book for you. And I won’t say anymore about it for fear of spoiling the storyline…

And for those of you who have already read this book and who have enjoyed other stuff delivered by Mr Stewart. you will be pleased to hear that his next book will be launced in the new year. (Although sadly, the guy cannot guarantee any budgie cameos.)

But hey.  Back to the report that I mentioned earlier*. And an excellent quote from it. Courtesy of a fella named Stephen Shore. Who offers some very sage advice.  Which I reckon, should be applied not only to autism but to many other hidden impairments. And to the overall issue of ‘intelligence’ itself.

“If you’ve met one person with autism. You have met one person with autism.” (Stephen Shore.)


Never mind your bloody bird-brain! Sherlock's latest cerebral rival...

Never mind your bloody bird-brain! Going pipe to claw.  Sherlock’s latest cerebral rival… (and never mind my northern bias – check out Museum of London’s ace new exhib on our Sherlock and his incredible legacy)


* ‘Making Employment a Positive Experience for People in Calderdale’ By Matthew Lowe – for Calderdale Council and National Autistic Society




A Flat Head? EJ Howard, writing and the waterways…

3 Jan ej howard

One of our local librarians managed to push aside the fear of her own redundancy in order to try and engage with me. There I was.  Wild eyed and raddled mother of second, newborn baby. Desperate for something both entertaining and intelligent to get me through the wee small hours of brain and boobie-overdrive boredom…

Without Anon Librarian-Lady, I would never have heard of Elizabeth Jane Howard.  Or the Cazalet chronicles. Without Unknown Kirklees Library-Lass, I would never have ended up corresponding with E J Howard herself.

All it took was a certain librarian making a certain recommendation (sans Amazon, sans Kindle estimates of previous-purchases help…) “Oh – judging from your returned books – I think that you will like EJ Howard and the Cazalet chronicles – we don’t lend them out enough these days. A real shame!”

And this was…what? Some FOUR years before BBC Radio 4 decided to credit Elizabeth J Howard for her societal, spiritual, humanitarian and yes – beautiful prose, dialogue and character-observation.

Oh, dearest BBC Radio 4 commissioners I hate to say this, but yes. I really want to say ‘I told you so.’ Elizabeth’s writing was and is amazing.  Tasty, profound, political – without being preachy. Even though many of her contemporaries – and especially the Literahti – perceive her to be ‘domestic, upper class. old fashioned commercial women’s fiction’

Cobblers, my fellas. Just read her stuff.

And yes, how I wish that Radio 4 had re-discovered her before the very recent time where her Cazalet Chronicles were snatched up as new fodder for a Radio 4 audience who had enjoyed ‘Downton Abbey’ etc… But hey. Better now, than never.

I was fortunate to have been able to correspond with her directly.  She was an exceptionally rare person. A woman able to disreguard the birth prejudices of all of us in terms of economic family of origin.  A fellow ‘starting writer in heart’ even though she soared above us all.  She adored books, grassroots, off-the-wall, boho society. She admired socialism, quakerism and pacifist thought. She venerated books and the ‘simple life’. Here was a woman who ‘way back when’ had braved the infamous Standedge Tunnel and who still admired those crazies of us, who still square ourselves up for that all too rare  200 years old tunnel experience right here and now on the waterways today.

And poignantly, she admired and priorised the extended family. She was a subtle reminder to us all that ‘love affairs’ of the heart can and do change but that actually ‘being a parent’ has nothing to do with whether you have actually given birth or not.That parenting per se goes far beyond biology, paperwork and gushing sentiment…

As for me, I will never forget her kind responses and encouragements to my yearning to write whilst being a mother to small children. And that particular encouragement as to how parking the mammoth Cazalet chronicles on the noggin of child number two might not simply lead to a ‘peculiarly shaped, flat-head’…. but also might lead to a life-long love of books and learning…

ej howard

Laugh? I was choked (or was I nearly strangled?)

22 Jun
Calm waters at Skipton...until it all went horribly wrong.

Calm waters at Skipton…until it all went horribly wrong.

Scene: Driving around Skipton, Yorkshire – trying to find a parking space. Radio 4 blaring out. We are discussing ‘those pics’ of Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi.

Him: Well, they say of course, that Nick Clegg gave a really unprofessional answer. Regardless of the truth of those photos. He shouldn’t have attempted to answer it at all. He’s a senior statesman and should have known better.

Me: Yeah. I would have said – hang on a minute… if you go to Morrisons we can park there for a couple of hours – I would have said, ‘I can’t really comment on this particular situation and I don’t think it’s fair to the people involved and….’

Him: Oh crap! I’ve just taken a wrong turn.

Me: No – no, don’t turn around…if you go down this way you’ll get stuck in the traffic…turn around – go on!

Him: No – I can’t. Oh sod. Hang on, I’ll go the other way.

Me: (back on subject) Yes – it is pretty weird that Nick Clegg tried to go down the path of giving people his overall opinion on domestic violence. And anyway. Why do we call it ‘domestic violence’ if it’s going on in public? That’s just bloody daft that is…Hey! You’ve made the wrong turning again! Honestly! How many times have we been to Skipton? You’re bloody’ useless at directions aren’t you? My dad was right….you’re like a…

Him: (interrupts me) Nyeh Nyeh Nyeh…. (with his best ‘stop nagging me’ voice)

Me: But also and just turn down this road here ’cause that’s the best way to Morrisons – I mean, also if you DID see someone slapping someone else about in public, then surely you would have intervened? Surely people in the restaurant would have commented amongst themselves and someone would have gotten to the newspapers or….here we go. There’s a space just over there.

Him: Well. You’d hope so. But this was Top Notch London wasn’t it? This was Another World away from the likes of you and me…

Me: (correcting him) You and I. And apart from all of that, surely Nick Clegg should have said that it was just … Well. Just Well Chavvy behaviour! I mean – knocking your other half around in public? In the Well Posh Side of London! I mean – those Rich People Of The Establishment sorts should be setting an example for the rest of us plebs….

Him: Sorry but you’re assuming the story that the media are spinning out here…Is this a One Way Street?

Me: No – there would be big blue signs if it was a One Way Street. And – anyway – For God’s sake! The woman looked scared! I don’t care HOW much dosh her parents had, how bloody loaded she is… and how much her husbands has – she looked well upset!

Him: Yeah, fair enough. But photos tell a different story sometimes. Those Charles and Di photos in the Guardian denied that they were about to split up….it was all ‘oh this is just how the media depicts the photos in the tabloids and they are well happy together…’ Oh shit – is this a new mini roundabout?

Me: Yes. You’ve driven here before. What’s the matter with you? We’ve parked here a million times before!

Him: I don’t know. It’s weird when the kids aren’t in the back and killing each other. I’ve lost all normal reference points Is this road next to the canal then? Anyway. All’s I’m not disagreeing with you. It’s a bit tragic. It’s like The Establishment can’t even comfortably talk about abuse – physical abuse or whatever we’re calling it these days.

Me: Well, I’m with you on that one. Just goes to show you how the whole story changes when the affluent are involved….

Him: Yeah. I reckon they’d all be okay to talk about it and have a smooth and really articulate opinion on it if it had happened in your Stalybridge Bismallah on a Saturday night. But not at some posh restaurant amongst the pig-sick rich in Chelsea….

Me: Look, just pack it in being rude about Stalybridge will you? You’ve got room to talk – you’re from Birmingham! And turn LEFT! For God’s Sake!! Turn Left!! What’s the matter with you?!

(We park up in Morrisons’ car park)

Me: Bloody here at last! The car park ticket machine is over there. Do you think you can find your way to it ok without getting lost?

Him: AARGHHHH! I CAN’T COPE WITH THIS ANYMORE!! (lurches over to me and grabs me by the throat – pretending to strangle me.)


(there is a knock at the window. He stops throttling me and winds the window down)

Man Outside: Er…just saw you pull up and wondered if you wanted my car park ticket. Doesn’t expire for a couple of hours y’see…

Him: Oh. Yes. Thanks. That would be really nice. Thanks!

Me: Awwww… That’s lovely of you! Thanks so much! That’s really sweet!

(Man leaves.)

Him: Wow. Just goes to show you…..that bloke didn’t bat an eyelid at us having a massive domestic!

Me: He just felt sorry for you because you’re crap at directions. And anyway. You can’t have a ‘domestic’ in a Fiat Panda. There isn’t the room.
* Note to reader – Of course, we then nearly wet our respective car seats with laughter. Huge irony and Huge Silliness. But as always…. an important point.

As a person who works alongside people who have suffered terribly as a result of violence in the home – this little sketch by no means wants to make light of the whole issue. Rather, it aims to emphasise the ‘Niceness’ – that infamous ‘Politeness’ of the British…

1. Was the Oh-So Nice man who wanted to give us free parking really ignoring the fact that he had seen some kind of bizarre ‘throttling/choking’ motion upon a wee blonde lady in the passenger seat? Was he simply Far Too Polite To Comment?

2. Or was he a Nick Griffin Sort? (Ha-ha – throttling your wife is So Hillarious!)

3. Or was he ‘fast’ enough to see that we were Having a Larf?

Looking back on the entire Skit / Reality Dialogue – Option number 1 worries me the most. Yes I was laughing (me and the other half both were.) It was bizarre, surreal in the extreme. But both of us were left wondering this…

At what point do ANY of us feel comfortable with saying to a total stranger who seems to be involved in some kind of assault or even crazy-wrestle – ‘Hey- all okay there?’…

Beer For Brekkie?

21 Jun
A bit of the beer and a bit of a laugh never hurt the average 5 yr old at breakfast time...

A bit of the beer and a bit of a laugh never hurt the average 5 yr old at breakfast time…

I hate children’s TV. Was never a massive fan back in the 70’s. Even when there were only 3 channels. And since having children myself, I detest the damned thing even more. I despise the way we are faced with non-stop (mostly) utter drivel that turns my offspring into gaping, gawping, lethargic and moronic pixies. I abhor the fact that when you try and turn the box off my already hyper-brood morph into evil little harpies from hell.)

The Antichrist? Or Radio 4…

Still, I wouldn’t go to the other extreme and claim that The Telly per se Is A Medium Of The Antichrist. The TV can be an utterly fantastical learning opportunity for both parents and kids. *If* you do your best to steer away from 95% of kiddy-oriented crap.
So in short, we don’t ‘do’ kiddy TV very much. And certainly not in the mornings.
What do we do instead? Well, with a 5 yr old boy up just before 6am every day, we were definitely not up for the ‘let’s spend quality time together and practise our swahili!’ approach. We had to do something (other than locking the little git in the coal shed).  And as we are big radio-fans, our original approach was to try out Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. But in the end it worried us that the kid couldn’t tell the difference between Evan Davies and John Humphrys. And it got to us that he wouldn’t stop shrieking ‘Turn it Off! It’s those men that make daddy shout and swear and then he burns the toast!”
So then it was a move onto brekkie with Classic FM. After a few mornings of tears and protest-esque grebbing in their bowls of coco pops (8 year old girl “this music is made by like.. people who want you to fall asleep over your cereal”) they finally accepted this new development.
But please believe me. This Classic FM 45 mins each morning is NOT us trying to hot-house our kids into becoming some kind of classical musical prodigies. I would be quite happy if their only forte in all things musical turns out to be a penchant for the theme music to the Harry Sodding Potter movies. The sole reason that we crank up the radio is that the classical music definitely takes the edge off the morning crabbiness and the tendency to handcuff themselves to the hostess trolley so that they don’t have to go to school.

Adult Humour For The Kiddies…

If the wee blighters are ready on time, they are allowed to catch 5 or 10 minutes of ‘grown up TV’. (Not the news headlines. “It makes mummy get really evil. Or cry.”
So sometimes we have Sherlock Holmes On The Box (the old stuff – Jeremy Brett et al) but usually we revert to comedy. ‘Father Ted’, ‘Open All Hours’, ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’ and ‘Frasier’ might not be the favourite programmes of your average 8 year old and 5 year old but in our house, they are objects of veneration.
And mediums of education. Although not quite in the way that you might think. In a recent episode of ‘Frasier’, the star of the show caught a glimpse of himself looking rather un-cool and old-fashioned and muttured to himself “Good God! I’m Anne Shirley!” My girl thought that this was hilarious. I didn’t get the joke – the cultural reference was above and beyond me. She said “Muuum – you know – in Anne of Green Gables…”
(I had no idea, to tell you the truth. I didn’t do any of the children’s classics as a kid. I tell you – those audio books were the best investment ever and got me out of many a bedtime story-telling session…)
But this morning the bloody horse racing schedule had altered our usual ten minute glance of adult comedy. ‘Cheers’ was on instead, for the first time.
And here goes our script when the kids began to that genius programme for the very first time’…

Cheers for the Cha-Chas…

5 yr old Boy: HEY! What’s Frasier doing in this programme?
8 yr old Girl: Wow – yeah! That’s weird! Go back to your own show, you show-stealer!
Me: Oh, this is the series that first created the ‘Frasier’ character. The writers really liked him in this one. So they decided to make another set of shows where he was the main star.
5 yr old Boy: But where’s Niles?
Me: Niles isn’t in this one. It’s just Frasier, see? Niles comes later. In the ‘Frasier’ show.
8 yr old Girl: I like Frasier. He’s a …– a Si-kie ,.. a Sike…a whatever you call it. Doctor for your head when you’re acting a bit differently.
Me: (pleased that she used the world ‘differently’)  The word is a ‘psychiatrist.’
8 Yr old Girl: Well I wish they would send him to our school. We’ve got some right weirdos in our class. Especially that Bradley Morris*. He needs his head sorting out, he does. He’s got something wrong up there I think. Tap-tap Whirly Whirly…Do you know what he did the other day in the boy’s toilets? He got some of the….
5 yr old Boy: (interrupting her) Are they all drinking beer? Can I have some for my breakfast tomorrow?
Me: No.
5 yr old Boy: And where’s Daphne?
8 Yr old Girl: Daphne’s not in it, you doofus. She’ll be in the ‘Frasier’ one with Frasier. I like Daphne ‘cause she’s from Round ‘Ere int’ she mum?
Me: Yes, Rochdale’s not so far away from us.
5 Yr old Boy: I like Daphne because she’s got nice Cha-Chas.
Me: (a bit shocked) Nice WHAT?
8 yr old Girl: It’s a word for BOOBIES. The barman on this Cheers show call ladies’ boobies ‘Cha Cha’s’
5 yr old boy: Cha Chas, Cha Cha’s, Cha Cha’s, Cha Cha’s…
Me: (switching TV off) Right! That’s enough for now. We’ll miss the school bell if we don’t go now…

*Child’s name has been changed in order to protect his identity and his sheer stupidity in attempting to flush several copies of those Rainbow Fairy books down the boys toilet. Though to be honest, I can’t say that I blame him…

Get Yer Baps Back In

25 Sep

I was listening to Radio 4 (Womens Hour) yesterday and heard about the ‘Ban Page 3’ petition, courtesy of one female activist/author – Lucy-Anne Holmes.

Sometimes I get the feeling that I am a bit visionary.  I tend to ‘anticipate’ a lot of things before they become a trend. Rather annoying friends who have known me from being tiny tell me this, and provide me with rather spooky examples.   It’s irritating. By rights, I should be rolling in moolah by now. But no – I just witter on about things…they happen…and then I make no money from it.

But I digress. A week before this petition was launched, my small tribe attended a Family Fun Day. The day was organised by a large group of (employed) young people who were (paid) to deliver Fun Activities for School Children and Families.

Halfway through the activities – my 4 year old son needed to nip to the loo. Outside WC had a big queue. So we ended up dodging the ‘Private!’ signs and getting into the main building in order to quickly locate the employee’s toilets. And then the staff room (4 year old wanted a drink of water…) So we had a little, private viewing of where our friendly hosts hung out in between doing Fun Things with us all.  And up there – bedecking the white board, along with the team’s instructions for the day – for all of these lovely, liberal and (whom I thought) were ‘right on and enlightened and educated’ sorts (for so they presented themselves to us paying punters) was… A carefully cut out picture of one Lovely Lisa with her Humongous Chest. From the pages of That Sun.

“Ooooh! Yuk! Boobies!!” squealed my boy (anything appertaining to the mere existence of women is a pretty revolting experience to him at the moment).

And I was shocked. I really had to do a Double Take (arf arf!)  I don’t buy the Sun…I don’t buy tabloids. In fact I don’t buy or read any newspapers (news depresses me). So I dunno. I just thought that the Tits Out For The Lads Stuff had died out with Bernard Manning and The Dinosaurs.  I guess life and work and kids and life and work and kids da da dee da means that this little prehistoric quirk of the UK had passed me by.

And although I know that the staffing ratio was  about Male to Female 3:1 – there WERE females as part of the team. Perhaps they didn’t mind the photo there – leering at them with her double D’s as they supped their Horlicks. Or perhaps the Lads in the Team were more outspoken, took more of the decisions than the lasses. Maybe the females just rolled their eyes at the behaviour of the males. Or maybe – just maybe, those women in their very early 20s were more concerned about what their male counterparts thought of them if they objected to the Big Bare Breasts. Would they be seen to be ‘Up for a Laff’? Or ‘Miserable Bints’?

So I smiled when I heard Lucy-Anne Holmes on Radio 4 yesterday, describing exactly the same kind of recent revelation. She had stumbled across a Bared Mammary Glands of Busty Bev shot and was shocked to the core.

How the hell did they get away with this for so long? Why the hell have we been ignoring this until now? Don’t give me that “Women choose to do this so …they gain money from it… we like to look at them… and surely they should have the choice too… get over yourself you dried-up old feminist prune”….. crap.

Women choose to do a lot of stupid things. We make ridiculous decisions in life, we hurt others, we abuse others, we can act like total selfish idiots – but we live in a modern country and we aspire to less phillistine approaches to life than our mothers had to put up with.  We live in a country where we want out daughters (and sons) to have a healthy body image, a positive attitude to sexuality and to be told and shown by society that we are equal.

I am not saying that there isn’t a place (somewhere) for bare boobies to be on display. But not in our newspapers. Not accompanying stories about torture in central Africa or bombs in the Middle East. Slinky Sandy with her Silicone SuperWhoppers titilating us as we check what tomorrow’s weather will be like in Bognor Regis is a product of a bygone age.

And as Andrea Mann in the Huffington Post tells us; “George Alagiah doesn’t say, ‘And now over to Angela Merkel, who’s flaunting her curves at the G20 summit today’ does he?”

And yes, the irony of a certain Kate getting her own baps out and having them snapped isn’t lost on me.  Perhaps she is more ‘economically empowered’ not to have to rely on them as an income-stream, but as my other half said “If she’s daft enough to get them out at all, someone as famous as her….well I don’t see why us tax payers should be bloody well paying for her court costs!”

But back to me and the little lad.  A small, but often sensible chap who was equally disgusted at Booby Lady. What did I do about the  picture? I ripped the damned thing down and stuffed it in the bin.  I doubt if the kid will ever remember it, will ever thank me for it. But maybe his sister will one day. But hell. It was the least that I could do.

And now I can sign the petition – please pass it on.


Cover Yerself Up Lass