Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Time for a Walk

This is definitely one for the caption competition

Now that my daily exercise regime consists of lifting an electric toothbrush I've noticed that I'm seeing less of my feet each morning. I've been promising myself that I'll get my legs moving for weeks, but there's just no time. So I made some.

I'm lucky enough to live within five minutes' walk of Stafford Castle so it's boots on and off into the green stuff.

It's not that impressive as castles go. What's visible now is actually a Victorian folly built on the original 11th Century foundations. But who cares? There were squirrels, buzzards, even a jay giving me accusing looks from the branches of a beech tree. I think it was a beech. Could have been a rhododendron to be honest. Or a giant hogweed.

There's no point whatsoever to this blog today, other than the picture at the top, which made me chuckle even if no one else sees the humour. But it's worth mentioning because today's walk in the woods made me realise there's always time. Nothing disastrous happened because I was away from the phone. No one died because I didn't pick up my Skype messages.

So go. Tomorrow morning, do yourself a favour. I promise you'll come back in a better mood than before you started.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

James Blunt, misunderstood artist or rhyming slang?

Give the Boy a Break!

The notion that Chris De Bergh could have a spiritual successor may be as believable as Gordon Brown's smile, but I feel that one has emerged. And as such , in my unhumble opinion, he deserves something other than the general opprobrium that surrounds his name.

You see, like the five-foot, rolled-sleeve eyebrow gnome, I think he's the victim of our need to be cool.

When Phil Jupitus commented that, on the basis that Radiohead allow us to download their new album for what we think it's worth, James Blunt should be paying us, we all laughed dutifully, "Oh that James Blunt, he's just such a perfect gadget, do not you think, Camilla?". Then we all snuck off and made it the number one selling album.

As I write this, I'm listening to Mr Blunt's new offering. There, I've said it out loud. Good afternoon everyone, my name is Jeremy and I... I... I'velistened toJamesBlunt!

D'you know what? It's really not that bad at all. In fact when I stop being prejudiced there are some good songs in here. Trouble is, because the guitar-strumming, lyric-based genre was established by a Duluth-born bloke from Minnesota, we presume to judge anyone who can't create a line like "Dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free" as a pretentious git. This is like condemning Albinoni because he wasn't Vivaldi (which a lot of people do). It's just a bloody pop song for God's sake!

Back in the eighties, my wife caught De Bergh's Syndrome, and the house resonated to Lady in Red and Tender Hands. I shut all the windows in case the neighbours heard, opening them only when she'd gone out and I could redress the balance by playing Tom Waits. Then I caught myself singing along with Last Night, or admiring the Gilmour-like guitar solo in What About Me.

So the point of this entry - if there is one - is that everyone has the right to like or dislike any bloody music they want to, and the people who produce it have an equivalent right. So James Blunt has an androgynous voice? No one seemed to have a corresponding problem with Nina Simone. Don't listen to it if it threatens your sexuality.
I do accept that You're Beautiful is pretty dire though.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The Excitement of Vintage Aviation

Any modelling contracts on offer?

The target for today is Cherbourg. We're taking a group of enthusiasts over to Northern France for a tour of the Normandy Beaches. What better way to do that than in a Dakota? I'm tagging along for the ride because we'll be spending most of the day giving pleasure flights in Plymouth.

So it's an early start from Coventry, with an unscheduled aircraft change because G-AMPY isn't feeling very well this morning. We transfer lifejackets and catering to G-AMRA. There's some sort of philosophical relevance to the fact that we're loading inflatable clothing that will do us no good whatsoever should we make an unscheduled landing, as well as chocolate muffins that are doing us no good whatsoever whatever happens, but at least don't smell like polystyrene cement.

I'm buggered if I know what it is though.

The new merchandise clothing has arrived, so I'm wearing my white Classic Flight baseball cap with pride ("White? Why the bloody hell did you order white?" "Because white won't boil your brain on a hot day" "Sod that, I'd rather have sunstroke than look like a pouf").

We take off and I'm asleep in seconds. Tom Everitt takes a photo of my sartorial sleeping elegance which he feels we should use to promote the new headgear. I try to show him how funny I find this, but unfortunately the slipstream prevents me getting him all the way out of the exit door.
Nicole asked me if I wanted a muffin when I woke up. I know that's not what she meant, but in my half-asleep state...
(note to non-UK readers - this schoolboy humour only works in English).

What Price Bushido?

This all happened within living memory. The human race has little to be proud of

This was a big one. We were planning to fly the Dak from Plymouth Airport. As part of the advance publicity campaign, and with the help of the airport's PR agency, I arranged a competition through the Plymouth Herald. The idea was for those with powerful memories of the Dakota to send them in to the Herald. The response was overwhelming, but among them was a simple, unembroidered account of Alf Baker's liberation from the Japanese at the end of world war two. His account of flying to freedom in a Dakota, with his stretcher mounted near the forward window, was an obvious winner, and so I invited Alf to join us on board the Dakota.

Alf's a quiet, pleasant-natured gentleman, so when he kindly sent me a copy of his book What Price Bushido I had few defences ready for what I read. He was one of 600 artillerymen captured by the Japanes and transported on one of the infamous hell ships to Rabaul. When he was liberated three and a half years later he was one of only 18 survivors. Alf's story is one of the most powerful accounts I've ever read, not least because it's told without drama, heroism or intention to shock. He's written it in the third person, with "Blackie" Baker as just one of the cast. As he explained to me, "I didn't want to include 'I did this' or 'I thought that' because it isn't my story; it's the story of all of them, all those people who fought disease, famine and cruelty to stay alive".
One of the great privileges of working with Classic Flight through this summer has been the opportunity to speak with people like Alf.
You can buy his book - and I recommend strongly that you do - by sending £12.50, plus £2.50 post and packing, to
Rev Alf Baker
The Anchorage
111 Trelawney Road
Plymouth PL3 4JZ

What happened to the Summer?

Following a few prompts from Caroline Van Gysel (thanks Caroline - nice to know that someone finds this stuff vaguely interesting), I'm appalled to find that my last blog entry was in July.

So what happened in the last months? What's my excuse for zeroBlog? Who invented concatenatedWords? WhoDecided where theCapitalsGo? Who givesAToss?

I feel I need to catch up, even if it's only to remind myself what's been going on. It's been a hell of a summer and I don't want to lose it to hardening arteries.