Friday, 12 December 2008




This is the time of the year for telling old stories by the fireside. This is my favourite………….


I keep going back in my mind to the Christmas when I was out of work and this pal of mine said: "Don’t suppose you’ll be having much of a Christmas?"


I said: "If I wanted a mince pie I would have to buy it on H.P.  We’ll be out on Xmas Day because it is warmer out than in the house.  I have promised the kids we’ll watch the Queen's Speech through the window of a TV shop.  Then we’re going to a park to mug robins for their breadcrumbs."


"Not having a bird on The Day then?"


"Not unless I can grab one of the robins as we steal its breadcrumbs."


He said: "Why don't you nip down to the market just before it closes on Xmas Eve?  They practically give birds away.  Then," he added, "come to the Press Party at the Continental Cinema."


So I did.  I picked up a chicken with my last fifty pence and went to the party.  Where I set up a record for drinking free scotch and eating vol-au-vent which was unbroken for many years.


Then this guest said: "Let's play rugby."  


Another guest said: "We haven't got a ball."


A third guest said: "Yes, we have," and grabbed the parcel of chicken from where it had been roosting under my arm.


Everyone but me applauded the skill with which the next guest, a rather showy chap, executed a back pass with my parcel between his legs.


I was less pleased than anyone when another guest followed through with a drop kick.  It was powerful, I will say that.  It sent the parcel soaring across the foyer, out into the street, over the heads of the passers-by, to drop, perfectly positioned, under the tyres of a passing bus.


They were all very apologetic.  The manager of the cinema particularly.  He said he hoped the parcel hadn't contained anything important.  I said, no, it was just a chicken I got for tea on Boxing Night.


For the rest of the party I was a bit thoughtful, though I did manage to clock up a further freeloader's record of 18 scotch and a round dozen vol-au-vents.


At the death the manager came up and gave me a parcel.  "I hope you will accept this replacement with our apologies," he said.


It was a twelve pound turkey.  Which would have been nice... but we didn't have an oven at the time, just a gas grill.  So we had to cook it a leg at a time.




Here's a funny thing.  We went by coach to Rochester for the Dickens’ Festival.  It is great fun.  There is a procession, led by a pipe band, of townspeople dressed as Dickens’ characters, special services in the Cathedral which was the setting for Edwin Drood, a carol concert in the grounds of the magical Norman castle and later a second procession by candle light lanterns of Dickens’ characters.  There was a Christmas market, mulled wine stalls in the streets and a fun fair.


I spent the journey reading some memoirs of the Restoration poet Lord Rochester written by his contemporaries and I came across this explanation of the Hobbesian influences which shaped his thought.

In the "The Leviathan” Hobbes wrote:

"The present only has a being in nature; things past have a being in memory only, but things to come have no being at all."

Rochester; wrote:

"All my past life is mine no more;

"The Flying Hours are Gone
"Like transitory dreams given o'er
"Whose images are kept in store
"By memory alone.
"Whatever is to come is not,
“How can it then be mine?"


Marcus Aurelius wrote of life being like a river.  The past has flowed by irretrievably; the future has yet to reach us; it is only the river at our feet which exists.  The Eternal Present is a Buddhist concept.

So that’s the Lord Buddha, Marcus Aurelius, Hobbes and Rochester agreeing we should live in the Present - which makes it pretty well unanimous.  I must say, it is a concept that has given me much content.






Pantomime horses are a much-loved staple of the genre.  But the star of a new production of the classic fairytale has been denied her horse-drawn carriage because council officials say the use of Shetland ponies breaches rules on health and safety and animal welfare.

The stars of a new production of Cinderella which opened at the Nottingham Theatre Royal on Friday night had hoped to be joined on stage by their regular team of ponies.  But officials in Nottingham have banned the use of live animals in premises they control and so Cinderella's coach had to be brought on stage by two male members of the cast wearing horses' heads.