Sunday, 26 February 2012

It was All so Nearly 3 out of 3: Cardiff City the "Almost Men"

Oh dear. My ruse of supporting the "oppo" (see last post) nearly came off; but not quite...

Wales were victorious on the rugby pitch, in the boxing ring... and almost - against all odds - on the football pitch.

If anyone says I was wearing a blue and white jester hat, screaming till I was hoarse as Cardiff scored right at the end of extra time, then don't believe them.

Of course having supported Liverpool in my ruse to let Cardiff win (and I honestly thought Cardiff would lose), it seems it had the desired effect and Cardiff nearly, nearly won... oh so nearly.

After England v Wales and Liverpool v Cardiff I think I need a lie down in a darkened room for quite a few days. My Auntie Mary, the gun-totin' fighting nun from the posh end of Fairwater "texted" me as they were visiting relatives and she said they were all crying in their beer.

I think Old Pa Hurley will be wearing a black armband on the next few visit up the Cons Club. Perhaps they will discount a few pints of Brains Dark to lift his spirits.

In a cup final it is all or nothing, but Cardiff City did very well and ended an heroic Welsh weekend in a way we'll all remember. Even if they are mostly Scottish.

Oh well. It's only sport after all. A nice cup of Glengettie Tea to sooth my sore throat (from gentle cheering and polite clapping for Liverpool and England of course) and I'll be ready for another week of 'normal' work and family shenanigans and adventures.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Why I Will be Supporting England and Liverpool

Oh today is very exciting. I was listening to BBC Radio Wales this morning in the shed as I pottered about tidying up and finding things not seen since the Autumn. They were reporting from the London Welsh Rugby Club  in Surrey and the excitement was palpable.

So it with a heavy heart I have to say that, after a long walk with Patch TD (the dog) this morning on which to reflect the vital things in life this Lentern season, I have decided to support the English teams.

You see having backed Cardiff City in so many cups and promotion play-offs, and previous upsets with Wales... I have decided that more often than not I have backed the losing side. Ipso facto if I support England today and Liverpool tomorrow, I may send victories to the correct (i.e. Western) side of Offa's Dyke (foreign readers: look it up).

I don't have an English or Liverpool shirt to put on (come on! I can only go so far) but by stating it publicly I am letting lady luck know that my usual support for the losing side can continue.

Am I clutching at straws? You bet!

Besides which, supporting England and Liverpool must surely fulfil much of my Lentern obligations (alms to the culturally poor, sacrifice etc.) with at least all the Welsh Saints in heaven interceding on my behalf for this heart-wrenching decision.

And if anyone catches me cheering and screaming when Wales score a try, and similarly doing cartwheels should Cardiff score, remember it's not me. I am supporting the Saesneg teams. And I hope to be unlucky...

"Swing low..."

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Ash Wednesday, Lent, Rugby & Brains Beer

Not much going on lately. Lent has started and so choccies, sweeties, beer, ice cream etc. are out the window. I even got through Ash Wednesday's fast relatively unscathed. Funny thing was we went to the chippy after Mass last night to get some chips to share, and as with last year, forgot we had bold black crosses on our foreheads. But I think the chip shop staff are used to us being senile and nutty in equal measure.

I never know the "done thing" with the ash crosses. Are you supposed to wipe them off swiftly? I think doing that it's almost like you're ashamed of them - but then to stroll about with them for too long might look like you're trying to be a bit 'holier than thou.'

In the end I forgot again (no surprise there!) when I got home and washed it off just before bedtime when I was brushing my toothypegs.

I must admit that I usually embark on Lent a quite cautiously as a bit of a chore, but this year I'm looking on it as an opportunity - if only to fight the dreaded middle age spread. And not digging in for choccies and crisps today did make me feel a bit better.

I may have to contact the WRU though, as their habit of holding the Six Nations during Lent isn't conducive full enjoyment. As Wales travel to London to (hopefully!) beat England in the home of English rugby I will just have to cheer them on from my favourite armchair with a nice cup of Glengettie Tea.

I'm just hoping that come Sunday when Cardiff play Liverpool I'm not going to be in a situation where I miss my pint of Brains to cry into...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Who Are the Role Models and Media Heroes?

I think we should always push for jaw-jaw rather than war-war, but 'SAS Eddie' told me about this image, which does sum up quite a lot, very succinctly:

Monday, 20 February 2012

Hobnail Boots in Religious Orders

Yesterday I wrote about Pam Ferris's character in Call the Midwife, a Sister Evangelina. It got me to thinking of another great member of a religious order who was known for walking the streets of London in his hobnail boots and of being "a 13th Century monk in 20th Century London" - Fr Vincent McNabb the Irish Dominican Priest (1868 - 1943).

Not in any way happy clappy, steeped in scriptural knowledge and with a burning desire to speak out against poverty, he lived an absolutely Catholic life.

Some of the best known Catholics of his day had nothing but nice things to write about him:

"The greatness of his character, of his learning, his experience, and, above all, his judgement, was altogether separate from the world about him... the most remarkable aspect of all was the character of holiness... I can write here from intimate personal experience ... I have known, seen and felt holiness in person... I have seen holiness at its full in the very domestic paths of my life, and the memory of that experience, which is also a vision, fills me now as I write — so fills me that there is nothing now to say."
Hilaire Belloc

Father Vincent is the only person I have ever known about whom I have felt, and said more than once, 'He gives you some idea of what a saint must be like.' There was a kind of light about his presence which didn't seem to be quite of this world.
Monsignor Ronald Knox 

... he is one of the few great men I have met in my life; that he is great in many ways, mentally and morally and mystically and practically... nobody who ever met or saw or heard Father McNabb has ever forgotten him.
GK Chesterton

I like to think, as Fr McNabb worked for the reunion of Anglicans with the Holy See, that Sister Evangelina (or the person she was based on) would have known of Fr Vincent McNabb in pre-war London.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Call the Midwife, St Raymond Nonnatus & God is the Bigger Elvis

The Hobnail Nun - no tambourines please
We've been fans of the Call the Midwife series on the BBC. That's Mrs H and I of course.

For me the character played by Pam Ferris, Sister Evangelina, is the best. You can't beat the kind of nun who should wear hobnail boots, that's what I say!

I know they're not Catholics (though bizarrely their order is named after a Catholic Saint), well we can't have everything, but with the plainchant, prayers and habits, they are possibly closer to the real thing than many modern 'M&S nuns' busy strumming kum-by-ya on guitars.

We (yes, Mrs H and I) used to like the series Lilies set in Liverpool based on a Catholic working class family in the 1920s. Despite loving it in the Hurley home, the BBC did not commission a second series - the swine!

What I like about such series is that they do not hide away the hard lives people had, but they do convey the sense of community, and the reality that there was much good alongside the poverty.
Out of Hollywood for a Happier (& Longer?) Life

Given its popularity let's hope the Beeb isn't as remiss with this new series.

On the subject of nuns-on-film there was a piece in the Sunday Telegraph today about Sister Delores Hart who gave up the life of a Hollywood super-star (who was in quite a few big Hollywood films) to enter the cloistered life 50 years ago, at the age of 24. A documentary about her life, God is the Bigger Elvis, is up for an Oscar.

Perhaps it will paint a better picture of Catholicism than the usual Hollywood fare.

In the week in which the pop star Whitney Houston died, perhaps these nuns can - if only for a fleeting moment - provide more of a role model for daughters everywhere than the "stars" who live in a drug-addled mess.

Right: St Raymond Nonnatus - the Spanish Cardinal after whom the 'Call the Midwife' Anglican nuns' order was named.

Howardian High and the Son of a Cardiff MP

Sorry this week has been a bit barren with posts. There's a cartoon in the latest Private Eye which has a person saying to another "how am I supposed to know what you think when you don't update your blog." Well, quite!

Anyhow, I got to reminiscing this week about the good old days. Yes, rose-tinted specs firmly in place, and all periphery vision set to sepia, I dived (dove? tweet tweet) straight in like an older and less fit Tom Daley.

When I was in school - at Howardian High in Cardiff - there was one chap who was a friend. Not a close friend, part of the inner circle, folks you played sports or 'hung' out with at dinner time or after school, but the kind you shared one lesson with and got on great with.

His name was Toby Grist. He was a good laugh, intelligent, but open to the kind of incisive and clever humour that still tends to tickle me to this day. Now despite him being a thoroughly good egg, this isn't what's made me put pen to paper (well, you know what I mean!).

No, the fact was (and is) that Toby's dad was a Tory MP, for Cardiff Central at the time I was in school. Sadly he died in 2002. Yet despite being a Conservative, his son went to what was in essence a bog-standard comprehensive school.

I don't (and didn't) know anything about the politics of Ian Grist MP, yet the fact his son was a funny bloke, likable yet intelligent, and that his dad hadn't ushered him off to some private school always made me think highly of the Conservative MP.
Kirsty Williams with Welsh stereotypes

Without getting too political I've always thought it a 'bit rum' that the very MPs who vote on schools and hospitals very often send their children to private schools and/or use private healthcare. It's like a social version of the Mid Lothian Question. I have long thought that those who went to or send their child(ren) to private schools, like Dianne Abbott MP, should be forcibly absent from votes on the education system.

A regular face on the Welsh news is Kirsty Williams, the leader of the Welsh Lib Dems. She went to a very expensive private school in Carmarthenshire, yet often attacks the Welsh government's record on education. Whenever she pops up on TV to launch into a tirade, especially if it's on education, I often think of Toby Grist the son of a Tory MP, and Howardian High which was sold-off when I was in my last year there.

Ahh. The good old days.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Man With the Flying Spying Cameras

Bit big for a Nintendo thingymajig?
Shocked this week to see an old work colleague/friend Mark Lawrence pop up on the One Show as the spokesman for a firm (AirRobot) selling remote control flying spy cameras to the police of all things!

It's weird when you haven't seen someone for close to 20 years yet as soon as he popped up on the screen I recognised him.

He lost his job under a cloud back in the day, so it was good to see he's doing well for himself.

Every now and then someone pops up on TV on the Welsh news (no, not on Crimewatch, thankyou!) but it's rare to see someone on "UK" wide TV.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Crazy Names in American Politics. Randy What?

Republican politician Randy B. Honest
Beware politicians and their names.

I have long thought that the 'trend' with many politicians to have separate names from their spouses (Ed Balls and Yvetter Cooper to name just one pair) is a means to disguise huge joint incomes (not to be confused with illegal drug profits) and possibly nepotism.

All too often I'll be reading the paper (see Mum, those years in school paid off) only to discover that Mr. A is married to Mrs B; or even worse, especially for an old-before-my-time curmudgeon like me, Mr. Y is married to Miss Z. Since when has a married woman been a "miss?" Trade Description Act m'lud.

At first I would stumble upon one or two of these, but the more news I read and watch the more examples I find. It goes on in acting and business too, but it worries me especially in politics. Oh I know some will be "wymmin" who insist on keeping their family name; funnily enough, a patriarchal family name, from their father - you'd have thunk they would choose their mother's maiden name. Oh but hang on, that was patriarchal too from their grandfather. And so it goes on ad infinitum... Perhaps that should be "Miss X" like Malcolm X the black Muslim radical in America who did not want to keep the name of a 'slave-master' (I'm sure some feminists think men are slave-masters too).

Anyhow, I've wandered off the beaten track (again!). This matter of different names does get a bit confusing. At one time, with all the expenses fiddling and the matter of David Mills who was a solicitor for Berlusconi who was married to government minister Tessa Jowell... it seemed that every government minister was married to someone with a different family name (Cherie Booth and Tony Blair, Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey...)

I haven't looked yet, but I wonder if the Conservatives and Liberals are the same?

Yet no matter what we might think of this state of affairs, and the dodgy dealing and/or political correctness behind it, it seems we have to cross 'the pond' and go Stateside to see some real rib ticklers when it comes to politicians and their names.

There is a German name Baumgartner, and obviously a lot of them travelled to America as the list of famous Baumgartners on Wikipedia shows. But here's a hint. It's worth a lot of money to the right person. Call it an investment for the future and a way to ensure happiness in the household. If your family name is Baumgartner whatever you do - and I mean whatever you do - do not anglicise it to Baumgardner. Especially when the media pronounce it "bumgardner." Oh, and one more thing. if you (a few generations down) find yourself in that predicament, please (and I cannot emphasise this enough!) for the love of all that is Holy, in the name of all the saints in heaven, do not call your child Randy.

Yes Randy Baumgardner. The Republican politician, who had to go through school with a name pronounced as randy bum-gardener. Hmmm. Like "the man named Sue" do you think it made him into a stronger person?

Some parents just seem to have a streak of evil in them.

Then we have Scooter Libby. I mean what's the story there? "I know, we'll name our son after something kids ride around the block or that Italians zip around Rome on." Scooter? Kids are taken into care on flimsier pretexts than that!

And what about Newt Gingrich? Newt? Newt? Come on parents! You have a duty of care. You are supposed to love your offspring, not offer up a bully's charter.

Have you ever heard of the German three-piece songmeisters that excel in operatic serenades? Ron, Paul mit Romney. Oh yes their talents at high pitched wailing are legendary. Oh no, hang on. It's Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.

Mitt? Mitt? What were his parents thinking? "Shall we name him after the German word for 'with'?" or "ah, he's as cute as a mitten - will that do?" Honestly. It gets worse. Mitt isn't even his first name. His full name is Willard Mitt Romney (a German double act, wait no, I've done that joke). Now Willard isn't a great name. But it's a name. A recognisable, OK-ish name. Willard Romney. It stands out. It's half-decent. I could get my head around that quite easily. It's not weird or complicated and I got A levels. I think I could cope. But Mitt?

Let's get this straight, Willard Mitt Romney has a lot of money. He's some sort of millionaire or billionaire (quelle surprise!) it seems that's what you need to get buy (sorry - by) in the world's greatest democracy. The best democracy money can buy! So he's loaded. He could call himself Dave if he wanted, no-one would argue/care. But to dispose of Willard in favour of Mitt? He may not be a dollar short of a million, but he could be a fork short of a picnic.

So there we have it. My brief sojourn into the world of political names. It's been quite an adventure! If you have your own examples of great names (or even craven nepotism disguised by different names) do please leave them so we can all have a giggle.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Big Needle Paul? Quit Your Jibber Jabber Fool!

My nephew Paul took my great nephew (oh he's his son too I s'pose)  Alex for his first injections.

Here's the report that came back to me from my spy:

"Baby Alex had his first jabs today, Paul had to leave the room when Dr got needle out!!!!!~~~~~~~~~ so Dr gave Paul a sticker for being a brave boy!!!"

You wouldn't think such a 6-foot something strapping young man with a close friend professional rugby player would be such a wussie.

SAS Eddie says that severe action may need to be taken in a 'Black Hawk Down' stylee.

My spy - code name "Old Ma Hurley" - finished her encoded message with this:

"So many times he has passed out seeing injection needles. "

Imagine our heroes, in Elizabethan England, Ireland and Wales facing the 'rack and rope' simply for having a priest visit or attending a secret Mass, being afraid of a little needle... they wouldn't have lasted very long.

Where's Mr. T when you need him?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Old Pa Hurley Posts a Letter?

Is this Old Pa Hurley down Albany Road? Is he reaching out to other communities? Or is this a statement on the Post Office and its planned price rises in April?* Or has he simply and finally lost his marbles?


*Old Pa Hurley thinks a first class stamp still costs 1/6d (and even that is "pricey").

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A Great Welsh Victory

Cardiff and Wales hero: Leigh Halfpenny
A big apology to all Irish folks looking in... but Wales were phenomenal today, and everyone here at Hurley House is very excited!

The Grand Slam (France not withstanding) is ours for the taking, as long as the team kick their penalties, tighten up their line-out and above all else, stop the silly yellow/red cards.

The walls are still reverberating with the screams and shouts from the tries and especially that last penalty kick.

I don't know if there will be any rugby played in heaven... but there might just be some Irish and Welsh saints up there given a little time off to take stock of the match. There must be some rugby players who get there, sooner or later.

They must be singing Bread of Heaven tonight. We sure are down here in our little plot amidst God's creation.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Tackling the Devil's Own Wallpaper (Before the 6 Nations Rugby)

(sing a la Pink Floyd: Oi kids - leave those walls alone).
I have a lesson for all true workingmen, rugby fans, Christians and husbands.

My story begins this morning. Just prior to becoming a "six nations widow" Mrs H made me promise to re-wallpaper a section of one of the childrens' rooms (which used to be shared by a daughter and son - making us officially homeless, how ridiculous!) if only for the impending visit of some delegates from the Tulloch side of the family.

So there I was, fresh from the stress of taking Patch to his obedience lesson of a Saturday morning (which deserves a missive all of its own!), opening up the wallpaper having prepared everything and gathered all the tools of my trade.

Now, lest there be any doubt at all, I am a male. Yes, a bloke. Not without some refinement, but a blokey bloke nonetheless. As such, instructions, like maps, are an alien thing to me. I will jump in at the deep end and busy away, often to be corrected by Mrs H as she calmly reads through the instructions.

Today i discarded all the wrappings of the wallpaper and started rolling it out on the pasting table, dipped my brush in the paste and proceeded to swipe it across the wallpaper. This of course is the way I was taught to do it so many years ago by Old Pa Hurley. The paste seeps into the wallpaper, you fold the paper over, let it drop over the edge of the pasting table, before doing the same with the 'second half' then both ends would be folded over, ready to be carried carefully, up the ladders to be placed on the wall. It's surely a method as old as the hills (which I believe is the same age as Old Pa Hurley give or take a decade, but who's counting?).

Well, imagine my shock this morning when I pasted the paper and the paste did not start to soak in. It sat on the back of the paper in pools and droplets like water on a wax jacket. Something was not right. I checked the paste, but it was mixed to near perfection. Hmmm. I didn't like what was going on, so decided to cross over to the "other side." OK, I'm not Liberace or anything, but to the shame of men everywhere I actually fished the wallpaper packaging out of the bin. I know, I know... The very saints in heaven will be peering down over their reading glasses, as they pause in their hymns of praise to gently 'tut tut' at events unfolding.

Yet I have an excuse! You see this wallpaper was the very work of the devil. It was evil, and an evil so wicked as to overthrow years of tradition, when workingmen in their smelly overalls would pluck a pencil from behind an ear, scratch their backside (pencil optional), then proceed to work out measurements on the wall they were about to cover. I could sense ancient craftsmen like William Morris turning in their graves. You see, this wallpaper was not meant to have paste put on it! Oh infernal works unknown to man. What twisted malevolence could think up such a thing? Are our traditions, steeped in the sweat and cheese sandwiches of workers down the decades, so easily overturned? With nary a warning on the packaging???

As the tiny, microscopic writing (in several languages) on the reverse of the little title paper, informed the unaware, the idea is that paste is to be 'rollered' directly onto the wall, then the dry paper hung on the wet wall. What perversion! 'Tis the reversal of all that was normal and right. Some say the end of the world or some great tribulations would be signalled by men dressing as women (and I think we passed that stage some years back!) or the widespread move away from Faith (ditto). But might there, in some ancient writings -- perhaps the Dead Sea Scrolls or in the footnotes of some second century Council of the Church, hidden deep in the Vatican vaults -- be a warning against the day when "ye very manner of wall hanging adhesion would be reversed, making a mockery of Creation." There should be!

So there I was, wiping the paste off the back of the devil's own wallpaper! That such a day should ever rear it's ugly head. I feel somewhat ashamed, that I may have unwittingly heralded the advent of some dread event, that I have brought shame on the Hurley family, and especially Old Pa Hurley and the Hurley men stretching back generations. No longer will I be able to tuck that nibbled half pencil remnant behind my ear and munch on a cheese sandwich (pickle optional), having betrayed the traditions of the workingman. If there were a Guild of St Paul (the Patron of Decorators) and if I, in my fumbling unprofessional way, were a member of such an august body, I would no doubt face dismissal and their opprobrium for such infernal activities.

So there we have it. I eventually got the devil's own wallpaper up (by "painting" the paste on the wall with a brush), but let that be an end to it. I have told Mrs H that in future when choosing and buying the wallpaper she wants me to put up, she must ensure it is of the traditional kind, that the choirs of heaven (and Old Pa Hurley - surely their shop steward on earth?) would approve of.

So now I've told you this story (tapping away whilst watching a resurgent France beat Italy in the first game of the six nations championship) I feel somewhat purged of my sins, after this public confession. The Calcutta Cup (England v Scotland) is on soon and we have all the excitement of Ireland v Wales tomorrow. Having tangled with the diabolical wallpaper I feel I can sit back and enjoy the game that brings so much civilisation to the world and enjoy it with a fairly clean conscience.

Here endeth the lesson.