The Price of Fish…

Friday, 30 May 2008

… remains unchanged. Chips, however, have gone up 10p at Andy’s. So a haddock and chips at Andy’s now costs £3.90, 14.7% more than it cost two years ago when I breezed into town. Yes, it’s two whole years now. Amazing isn’t it!

From this you may surmise that it was time once again to get my fix and take it to the beach at Sandy Gap, to savour while I gaze out to sea and the Isle of Man (faintly visible this evening), toss pebbles and wonder once again what it is I can’t find out that gives them extra energy as they bounce about, and contemplate key events in my life – the death of my father, the Great Open University Murder, sundry blows and spites that chipped away at my self confidence – that I really ought to write down and share sometime.

Someone’s stolen my morning

Friday, 30 May 2008

If it wasn’t enough that I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been whacked with a wet sandbag, it seems that somebody has hijacked both the Grauniad and Freakytrigger sites. I know I have my coffee but apart from that, how else can I be expected to start my day properly?


You’ve Got To Come Back A Star

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Strange forces are at work in the universe!

This evening I made my debut for West Mount Ladies Bowls Team. It’s the first time I’ve turned out for a team in an active sport since I played half a match for the school hockey team when I was sixteen (I think they were scraping the barrel on that occasion on account of illness.) Anyway, I played twelfth in the team of twelve in an away match against West Shore Ladies. And like Ruby Keeler in 42nd Street I was going out a youngster. Quite the baby of the team in fact.

In my match I was paired with a lady new to the West Shore club but who was clearly no slouch and although I lost it 21-10 I’m advised that this is entirely creditable for somebody who’s only been playing for three weeks, and to get double figures on your first outing is something to be very proud of.

They’re going to let me play again!

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

As you see, I’m having a mini-Huston/Bogart retrospective.

I did go to Google in an effort to try to find a previously established connection between this and Macbeth, but apart from being released in the same year as Orson Welles’s filmification of the Scottish Play I found none. This surprises me because it seems to me that there are strong parallels, and I’m more than sure that John Huston would have seen it too.

Like Macbeth, this is a story of corruption of the noble-minded by enhanced fortune, and of fall from grace as a result. For Fred Dobbs, an American down on his luck in a small Mexican town, the weird sisters are replaced by the young boy who through sheer persistence and bare-faced cheek flogs him a lottery ticket and predicts that it is a winner. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? Except that the prediction comes true, but not before Dobbs and his companion Curtin have fought and won a battle against a merciless Macdonwald in the guise of a crooked employer who fleeces his hands.
The lottery win enables Dobbs, Curtin, and the enigmatic Howard, who they meet in a Mexican dead-end doss-house, to join forces and go gold prospecting. But after Curtin saves Dobbs’s life (at great risk to himself) and the prospectors have finally struck lucky, the gold infects Dobbs with the greed, suspicion, and downright nasty-mindedness that destroy him.

All that’s missing is a Lady M, but this is a film about men in a man’s world and there’s no room for one. Still, for all its machismo this is not a film that rejoices in macho values. One wouldn’t want to spoil the plot, because amongst other things this is a captivating two hours, but in the end it is real human values affirmed; the rest just ain’t worth the candle.

As ever, Bogart is superb but it’s a testament to his oustanding and unselfish acting talent that, as with Key Largo, this is not in the end his film. Instead it belongs to the director’s old dad, Walter Huston, who is amazing as the dotty, but ultimately wise and compassionate, Howard. And yet it is Bogart who gives Huston the power to shine.


Once again we eschew the Lake District and head for Westmorland and the limestone country. Longer days mean we can do this, and I note that we’ll be going even further afield in the coming weeks but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The day was sunny, which was nice, and the wind was brisk, which was, well nice in one way because otherwise it might have been almost too warm for comfortable walking. On the other hand, it was coming from the east, which meant we spent almost the whole linear walk going straight into it, and in one or two places it was a trial making progress against it. Out on the wild and windy moors indeed, but I won’t pursue that line too hard in case Tom or his lapine proxy pounce on me.

These are not, in any case, the dour gritsone moors of Cathy and Heathcliff; these are the gentle limestone moors, grazed by many Swaledale sheep and the odd pony, criss-crossed by drystone walls and mercifully well-drained (although it was nice to note the funky little bridge provided to cross a boggy bit.) And it’s sweet walking on springy turf where even the wind is mostly pleasant on the skin. The efficacy of all that drystone walling was amply demonstrated at the afternoon break as we basked in warm sunshine on one side while hearing the wind howling on the other. The easy walking compensatewd for the lack of spectacular views, for the limestone country is pleasant and expansive rather than stunningly dramatic.

The last part of the walk, after descending to the valley and crossing the ghastly A685 road – there used to be a perfectly nice, winding A685 but there just has to be a flat, straightish track for the boy racers at the expense of the land, doesn’t there? – was less enjoyable being across farmland but the best was saved until the last. There, at journey’s end, was quite the nicest pub we’ve ended any of these rambles at. The King’s Head, Ravenstonedale.

Whatever shall we do?

Saturday, 24 May 2008

So, it costs eighty pounds to fill up the four-by-four, does it? Oh diddums! Excuse me while I snigger behind my hand. No, it’s not fair to laugh, is it? But you didn’t have to buy a four-by-four, did you? I mean, maybe you do live in Wester Ross or farm in the Cheviots but, let’s face it, if you do you are one of a tiny proportion of the British population. And if you live in the kind of place where most British people live, then come on, you really don’t need an all-terain vehicle, or a minibus, do you? And unless your petrol-guzzler is a genuine antique; a war-surplus Land Rover, say, then you knew damned well when you bought it that the oil wasn’t going to last forever, but you would rush in, wouldn’t you?

I’m sorry, my dears, but the party is now over. What’s that, I hear yoiu cry? You couldn’t manage without your car? Nonsense. Whatever would you do in a real crisis if you took that attitude? All right, you aren’t going to be able to carry on with your current lifestyle but then we’re all going to have to change our lifestyles in the years to come. What? You need the car because living in that nice barn conversion in the picture-postcard rural village (the one from which all traces of agriculture-related industry were banished long ago in the interests of maintaining the thatched-and-ivy-clad cottage by the duck pond fantasy) means that you have to go to Asda to stock up the freezer every week. And the village shop has closed (because it’s not viable because you won’t use it), so the locals in the middle of the engine-room of food production don’t have it available to them either. But that’s all right, because the people who work and need to live in the county can’t afford to because house prices have been driven out of their reach by people like you buying up the housing so they can drive to town in the four-by-four.

It’s not as if you couldn’t see it coming, now, is it? Unless you’ve been burying your head in the sand over the last thirty years while this country squandered the bonanza of North Sea oil and gas on building an illusion of prosperity; one which stressed the social desirability of hedonism, of the successful never having to do anything for themselves because everything was geared to their convenience. It’s not lasted long, has it? Now the rest of the world is waking up. All those people in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere are starting to want a slice of the action, and there just ain’t enough to go round. We’re going to have to be resourceful and I can’t help wondering if we’re up to it any more. Ten years ago, when Hurricane Mitch struck Nicaragua, Bristol’s least glamorous twin town, Puerto Morazan, was a utterly devastated by the floods which left every house under water and destroyed the local shrimp fishing industry. And such was the resourcefulness of these dirt-poor people that not a single life was lost in the town. If a devastating flood came to Bristol, would the people be so resourceful? In Britain we’re lucky, we don’t have major earthquakes, major floods, major droughts, but we can’t cope with the modest crises we do have (look what happened in Hull last year.) And things are going to get a lot less easy in years to come. Are we ready to accommodate change? Or will we be destroyed by our hubris?

For what it’s worth: it’s twelve years this summer since I gave up driving my own car. In the year that followed I drove a borrowed car a couple of times but that was that. I had to change my lifestyle; no more going to Waitrose and filling the car (a modest Renault 5, not a 4×4) with groceries just because I could; no more just going off and driving round Wales for a whole bank holiday just because I could. I learned to buy according to need; to appreciate the independent shop, the farm shop, the street market. I learned to walk where feasible; not to take the car to go round the corner; to be more self-reliant. Now, I feel ready to cope with any deterioration in general circumstances. Are you?


Saturday, 24 May 2008


I found this chap lying on his back on Michaelson Road. I flipped him over, but although alive he didn’t seem very well at all.

I know little of moths, but perhaps some kind soul of lepidopterist bent will come along and tell me what kind it is.

It was that kind of morning; a little later and not very far away from the same spot I saw a peregrine in the sky above me, amongst the gulls but not bothering or being bothered by them. Pigeons might have been a different matter. The last I saw of it, it flew into the girders high up in the big hammerhead crane on the dockside and perched there.