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» Grandparents

The Doctor
My grandfather was a bit of an inspiration to be honest. The son of a local village vicar, when he was about six years old he tripped on an exposed tree-root and fractured his arm. Although x-rays were extremely experimental in those days, he managed to have his arm checked out by one which was then put in a cast for six weeks (the arm, not the x-ray). During those six weeks he continually moaned about how much his arm was hurting but was told, with the typical bluntness of the mid ‘20’s to put up or shut up.

When the cast was removed from his arm, it revealed a huge mess. The x-ray had fused the wrist bones together, along with the fingers of his left hand, and burnt the skin from wrist to elbow. He endured several years of what can only really be described as incredibly painful surgery (a lot of it was eventually re-worked by Dr. Archie McIndoe for any of you that know about plastic surgery). For all of this, he was rewarded with, iirc, £2,000 compensation from the hospital.

So what would you do in that situation? He was left with a crippled left arm, had missed altogether about 3 years of education and was still in considerable pain. He decided that rather than see anyone else put through the same sort of thing he would become a doctor himself.

To say he saw a lot in his life is a massive understatement. He studied during the Second World War, and was on fire-watch duty when an incendiary bomb hit the Royal College of Surgeon’s hospital at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in ’41 and was the first doctor on the scene. He was the Police Doctor in Jersey for 25 years, spearheading the use of forensics by the police in the hunt for the Beast of Jersey. He was the only official doctor on the scene after the Jersey Airlines crash which killed all bar one on board. But he also saw a lot of life – 5 kids, 12 grand-children and at least 3 great-grandchildren by the time he died.

And the favourite hobby for a man with a pretty-much unusable left-arm? Driving. After the age of around 30, the only cars that he drove were Rolls Royce’s, Daimlers or Talbots. He was the epitome of old-school style, his manners were impeccable and he enjoyed life to the full. I have so many fantastic memories of the man, mostly him sitting in his arm-chair watching his family all around with a gentle smile on his face, waiting for the chime of 5p.m. from the grandfather clock in the hallway when a tumbler of whiskey would appear in his hand as if by magic (although in reality, helped there somewhat by his stalwart wife, my Grandmother) - my favourite memory however was simply chatting to him, man-to-man when I must have been only about six years old about the qualifications on his wall.

He was a true patriarch of his family. He sat at the head of any table he ate at, and deservedly so. He was treated with respect from all that knew him. At his funeral, we had a full police escort from his house to the church – motorbike outriders to stop traffic and cars flanking a convoy of his RR Corniche III, RR Wraith and ’37 Talbot driven by his kids and with the rest of his family packing them out. He had a guard of honour formed by the Police and St. John’s ambulance, with the latter’s flag draped over the coffin, and the church itself had people standing outside because there wasn’t even standing room left inside.

Apologies for the length and the lack of amusement, but it’s been seven or eight years now and I still miss him, along with all of my grand-parents – even the one I never knew. I’m not an emotional person, but I have tears in my eyes as I remember him. I could add so much more – I have a copy of his memoires still, and think I may read them again soon.

Thanks for the opportunity to share.
(Mon 6th Jun 2011, 15:38, More)

» Conspiracy Theories

An open letter.
Dear Conspiracy Theorists,

Conspiracy theories are just that – theories. When you begin to use facts (actual, real facts) to back them up they start to become more than theories and could possibly attain the status that you think they deserve – i.e. truth. If you continue to ignore facts in favour of your own misguided belief that you alone know better than the vast majority of people, including many experts on the subject, then you will continue to be branded as a nutter.

Please note:

The twin towers were brought down by aeroplanes hitting them. For evidence of this, please refer to the footage of a fucking aeroplane hitting each tower. A big aeroplane, flying very fast and full of fucking jet-fuel. This is enough to bring down a skyscraper, as evidenced by the US National Institute for Standards and Technology ( 1.usa.gov/ieAvGz ), American Society of Civil Engineers (http://bit.ly/twA2oQ) and the UK’s Institution of Structural Engineers ( bit.ly/s0k98s ). The main argument against these reports was presented by a Professor of that World renowned institute for academic excellence, Brigham Young University (entirely funded itself by those luminaries the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints – better known as the Mormons). His field of expertise? Nuclear Fusion.

The Freemasons are a society of generally well-meaning old men who have a focus on self-improvement, being in the company of friends, a bit of the theatrical, charitable work and some good old-fashioned drinking. The secrets of Masonry have been “unveiled” dozens of times, and never have they been revealed as being a secret world government. There are funny hand-shakes, trouser-rolling, special words and acting out a few stories generally from the Old Testament. Everything that goes on inside a Masonic Temple is available if you look for it, either in a library or just on the internet. The United Grand Lodge of England ( bit.ly/7WCyp2 ) are remarkably free with the information that they provide, and if you don’t want to trust them then look at the hundreds of websites that go into intimate detail about their ritual. Seriously though – it’s actually a little boring if you’re not involved with it yourself. You can also go to the Grand Temple in Great Queen Street for a visit if you wish (it’s free), see where they meet, introduce yourself to some Real Life Freemasons and ask all the questions that your heart desires.

The Bilderberg Group is an invitation only group of politicians and business leaders that meet so that these people can get together and talk freely and informally about the state of business and the economy without fear of it being reported in the press. It was set up with the intention of building international relations in a comparatively informal environment and its tradition of secrecy is why it remains a successful tool for commercial and political discussion.

If you believe that space-reptiles have enslaved humanity using mind-control, then you need to take the tin-foil off your head and get yourself to a psychiatrist. Quickly.

The thing is that if a conspiracy theory were true, we would know about it. If there were a secret cabal of people controlling the world, then don’t you think that somebody involved would’ve blabbed by now? They’re politicians for crying out loud – they can’t even keep their personal dirty laundry out of the media – how do you think they’d keep something like that out of the media? We have government secrets revealed by ministers walking out of 10 Downing Street, the most photographed door in the WORLD, with documents the wrong way round. These people couldn’t keep a secret if their life depended on it.

The fact is that people who believe these things have an inherent desire to believe that they are something special – that they have a special insight into the world that others fail to see. Personally, I feel sorry for them.

The fact is that the world is generally a rational kind of place – Occam’s razor can be applied to many things to explain it. Secrets are hard to keep, people talk and when people have power they make sure that people know about it. That’s what it comes down to. The only real truth is bit.ly/bKEJmU

Regards,

Normal People
(Fri 2nd Dec 2011, 11:55, More)

» School Naughtiness

Harmless fun...
I did many things at College, and was even busted for a few of them. I managed to get kicked out in the end, but that, believe it or not, is a pretty boring story in itself.

One of my favourite memories was when I was skiving off one afternoon. I called a mate of mine who had a free period to grab a lift home. He answered his phone but was already half-way to town, so I thought there was little chance of him coming back.

A bit of background here - the school I went to is private and about 160 years old, with all the attendant gothic architecture and pretentious attitudes that go along with that type of establishment. It is also boys only. The local girls private school had recently moved to the College's old boarding house, just up the road. We had various shared facilities, including one of our sports fields.

On this day, as Tom and Michael came back to pick me up, we noticed that the girls college had started lining up on the shared sports field for their annual school photo. This, apparently, had garnered his attention and ideas were bubbling. We nipped fairly sharpish into town, to the nearest fancy-dress shop where we proceeded to purchase large, hairy, monkey outfits and inflatable mallets. Tom drove us back up to college, with Michael and I getting changed in the car.

We arrived back up the hill (our school was at the top of a hill) and jumped out of the car just as the last of the girls school lined up on the specially erected grandstand, ran onto the football field and proceeded to beat the shit out of each other in monkey costumes in front of, and totally disrupting the mass photograph of, 600 girls - now cheering us at the top of their voices.

I know it's not exactly the most horrific of things that will be shared this week, but it was definitely one of the most enjoyable pranks that I've participated in.
(Thu 8th Sep 2011, 17:27, More)

» Conspicuous Consumption

Sinking, drinking and swimming in the pink...
Not me, but my father.

Many moons ago, my father used to be fairly senior in the Banking world. When I say fairly senior, he ended up as the General Manager of an Offshore Private Bank - for those of you who don't know, that's essentially an old-fashioned Bank Manager, i.e. the chappie in charge of the particular branch.

As such, he often found himself being invited to many corporate shindigs. I work in finance now and pride myself on being invited to a whole host of different CorpHosp events and chugging my way through a decent amount of champagne and canape's, however back in the day when real expense accounts were prevalent, the realities were a little different.

Dad ended up being invited to Royal Ascot in the late 70's with a couple of other senior bods from the bank. Jersey tended to be a little different from the rest of the corporate world back then - housing regulations were very tight (and still are) which meant that there was a lot of rapid promotion from within - Dad was in his mid-30's and very much up for a laugh. For laugh, read drink.

As is normal at Ascot, everyone went the whole nine yards. Morning suits for the gents, big hats for the ladies. Dad was, and indeed is, 6'5", so with full tails and top-hat, he cut a rather dashing figure.

He was attending with one of his best friends and they, unsurprisingly, ended up with a few drinks inside of them. When the time came for the last race of the afternoon, neither of them were particularly interested in it, far more interesting was the free bar with rather pretty barmaids (he was at this time between marriages).

One thing led to another, and he and his friend ended up calling a taxi to take them back to the hotel with a couple of the afore-mentioned buxom wenches. Also accompanying them was - literally - as much pink champagne as four people could carry. I have mentioned that my father is not a small person - he can carry a prodigious load at the worst of times - when it comes to carrying alcohol (especially pink, bubbly alcohol), Sampson would have been put to shame.

They had already drunk as much champagne as they could manage before leaving, but free champagne is far too hard to resist. They ended up back in their hotel suite wondering what to do with a huge amount of bubbly, so they did the only sensible thing possible.

This is how my father, the legend that is my father, ended up sitting in a spa-bath in his hotel suite with one of his best friends and two newly acquired fillies from Ascot BATHING IN PINK FREAKING CHAMPAGNE.

If that's not wallowing in luxury, I have no idea what is.
(Fri 29th Jul 2011, 10:53, More)

» Irrational Hatred

Me Vs. Them
A bit of explanation is required first.

I ride a bicycle. A lot. It is one of my genuinely favourite things to do – I don’t drive, so it gives me some freedom to get around and it also keeps me relatively in shape. I enjoy very few things more than going out by myself for a good couple of hours and cover myself in mud and sweat. Yes – on occasion I wear lycra trousers. In the winter, these are pretty much a necessity. I also wear gloves, cycling shorts (with under-shorts) when the weather permits, specific shoes and the rest of the general getup. I abide by the rules of the road and am very aware of my surroundings – if I get hit by a car it doesn’t really matter who’s fault it was, it’s still going to be my problem. Likewise, I look out for pedestrians when I’m on a cycle path as I know who any onlookers are going to side with if there’s a problem.

I also use an iPad. It’s not that I’m the bastard love-child of Steve Jobs and a MacBookPro – I have a few other Apple appliances because they’re easy to use, functionally and aesthetically tasteful(ish). I use an iPad because it does what I need – I’m often on the move and it gives me easy access to my e-mails, books, films and music whilst also being able to keep me entertained and informed through the ease of 3G. I know that I could use a smart-phone for this, but they just don’t suit me personally.

Finally, I like vodka. Neat. Maybe with a couple of lumps of ice, but it has to be good. Yes – I will turn my nose up if I ask for a neat vodka and somebody offers me that distilled formaldehyde that passes for Smirnoff. Yes, I will be a snob and ask for brands that few people have heard of, and yes – I will happily pay what many people think is an extortionate amount for a large measure of transparent liquid that they think tastes like burning. The simple reason is that I enjoy a good vodka – nothing more, nothing less.

So here’s the irrational hatred – I hate the fact that other people look at me and judge me for what I’m doing/using/drinking. They make an assumption on what I happen to have with me rather than actually knowing me. I hate the fact that people think I’m a self-serving, smug, egotistical prick for using things that I actually like. They’re not a fucking lifestyle choice and they don’t tell somebody who I am, so why the fuck should they make a judgement about me?

It’s THEIR irrational hatred, and I fucking hate them for it.
(Mon 4th Apr 2011, 17:09, More)
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