Sunday, 7 August 2022

Celebrating Life

It started with my Maternal Grandmother in 1971 at the age of 93. She died. She sat down, her heart stopped and she died. Rather like Francis Garrood's Ernest, nobody had expected it, least of all my Grandmother. 

Some years before she died she had had influenza. That was in the days when the doctor would come to the house in the middle of the night and pronounce that the climax would be in a few hours and the patient would either die or, if she got through that, the would be fine. Nana had got through it so was invincible. After that she gave instructions that no black was to be worn at her funeral.

In the nearly half a century I've lived on Lewis I have been to a great many funerals. A funeral is a very important occasion and in the earlier days a thousand people could turn up. I still wear a dark suit, black tie and, in winter, the Crombie I bought in George Henry Lee (John Lewis in Liverpool) I bought around 60 years ago. 

At my Grandmother's funeral I wore a tie of red and black tiny diamonds the overall effect of which was a muted red. At the gathering afterwards I was very publicly berated by a relative. Mores hadn't moved forward.

When our son, Andy, died in 2006, he made all the arrangements for his farewell: it was to be a celebration of his life and there was to be no mourning and nothing black. There was a Humanist celebrant: Andy was atheist. The service opened with a song by The Smashing Pumpkins. Apart from that I can recall absolutely nothing whatsoever of the day: not even where we went afterwards. Mind you it was all in London where Andy lived. 

At the beginning of this week an acquaintance of 40 or so years died. The Celebration of Life Service was held in the Salvation Army Hall. Those attending were asked to wear bright colours. Everyone made some effort - even those who probably had nothing even semi-bright in their wardrobe. I wore my bright red waistcoat, a colourful tie and no black whatsoever. She had a wonderful send-off with lots of happy moments recounted. The irony of it was that probably more people were crying than I've ever seen at any Lewis funeral before.

When I go, and like everyone else I surely shall, please make sure you are wearing a bright colour to remember me. If you're wearing black and talking of the things that await me, I shall come back and haunt you.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Football Finance

In the past I've made it quite plain that my relationship with football has been a fairly disinterested one over the last half a century.

At school I couldn't play because I had a lung disease. Unfortunately Quarry Bank, alma mater of John Lennon and many Oxbridge scholars, wasn't the sort of school that allowed you to get out of sports just because one had a lung disease and I had no choice but to play. [As an aside they would happily kick me out of lessons because my constant coughing was 'disruptive'] 

After I had had part of my lung removed when I'd left school and was reasonably fit I decided that I would become an amateur game linesman. I did and was thinking of taking my refs ticket when I became disenchanted by the way the amateur game was going.

I also became disenchanted by the way the professional game was going and I have had absolutely nothing to do with football as a sport since it became nothing more than a business (whatever many supporters dream could be otherwise). However, on odd occasions I have watched the women's game. I have been impressed. It reminded me of the football ethos in the Sixties. The game mattered. There was respect. To me the superstar era has meant that the concept of 'sport' has been totally superseded by money pure and simple: ridiculous money for 'superstars' and profits (or tax sinks) for the billionaires who finance them.

Last night's result was wonderful. It will do great things for the women's' game. 

I hope that it doesn't spiral out of control but brings some sense to the finance of sport. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Supermarket Checkouts

Recently someone in my Blogland mentioned or blogged about supermarket payment systems comparing manned and self-service tills. I think it may have arisen because of the superfast manned tills at Lidl and Aldi. I cannot recall which the person preferred but he/she was very adamant about it.

So far as supermarkets are concerned it all boils down to money. Fewer people = less cost = more profit potential. Lidl and Aldi have limited employment down to a fine art together with easily scanned bar codes and staff who work their socks off. 

So far as we, as customers, are concerned a lot is personal preference. Going through a manned checkout is rarely fast. An aside - a wonderful irony used to be that one of the fastest checkout staff in our Coop was also one of the most sociable. People would join her queue just for the craic (Gaelic - enjoyable social activity). Sometimes other staff would be free. However, if you are in a hurry with a few items self-service is invariably the fastest way out of the shop.

So far as society is concerned our Coop (which I believe is the largest in Scotland) employs a lot of staff and is an important employer. The more self-service checkouts the fewer people employed.

Amazon has gone one further with a trial shop, in London I think, which has no payment facilities at all. You register your phone when you go in and as you put something in your shopping bag it is automatically charged to your card.

Of course the fewer the staff and the greater the automation the less attention can be given to 'confused' people (usually elderly) or the disabled who need help. 

I do not look forward to a day of complete automation, I'll pay the price and help employment. Am I alone?

Saturday, 16 July 2022


The Mum of CJ and I would have been 113 years old today had she not died at the age of 93, 20 years ago. 

Flora Edith Irene started her named life by creating a family upset. Not intentionally and in fact she had no hand in the matter as she was only months old at the time. At her Christening her Godmother, Edith, when asked "What do you name this child" answered "Flora Edith Irene" adding her own name in between the family's chosen names of Flora and Irene. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with the name Edith if ever there was a person who didn't fit that name it was our Mum. She just didn't!

Flora (flowers), Irene (peace) Edith (rich gift)

Mum was a lover of peace and nature and eschewed any form of conflict and she was, of course, a rich gift for her parents. 

Mum was born into a reasonably well-off family. However Mum's Father's business was a luxury business and the slump and the war put an end to any hopes Mum had of going to Oxford (which had been her Mother's hope) which, academically, she could have done if her Father could have paid the fees.  

Mum never complained about missing uni. In fact Mum rarely if ever complained about anything and, like most people of her generation living through two world wars, she had plenty about which to complain.

We could learn a lot if we hearkened back to the time of Mum's youth. Yes. There is a huge amount of real poverty in the UK now but the privations of the slump and war were worse than most people now can even believe never mind understand and public financial assistance was not readily available. 

I managed to get this photo with no time to focus,  aim or indeed think as I walked towards Mum and she struck the pose. I had the camera at my side and just pressed the button. That it turned out was well as it did was a miracle. It is one of my favourites amongst the very many photos I took of Mum.