The Last Jedi I am Not!

The Last Jedi

I have just returned from seeing the latest Star Wars film “The Last Jedi” and very enjoyable it was too. Myself and Lady Ann took James our ten year old grandson and he was mesmerised by the sheer spectacle of it.

Lady Ann on the other hand took the opportunity to get comfortable, warm and kept nodding off. Now thats not a reflection of the film more a reflection she hasn’t been sleeping very well  due to her back issues.

Its strange to think that the film franchise has been going for more than two-thirds of my lifetime and it must be one of the only franchises that most of the main character’s are still involved in a realtime storyline.

The iconic opening roller and fanfare still to this day still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It has to be one of the most iconic openings of all time.

This time though the film has had a more profound effect on me. It has made me more aware of my own advancing years. It was whilst watching these characters perform on the screen I realised I have known them for most of my adult life and that is very strange.

So with Luke and Princes Leia acting there grumpy old socks off on the big screen in my mind whilst watching them I can still remember vividly the younger versions of these characters in the first Star Wars movie back in 1978.

It got me thinking, I wonder when younger family members see me the person in front of them do they perhaps see a glimpse of me as my younger self.

I was trying to explain to James who Luke Skywalker was, I could see him trying to reconcile the young Luke Skywalker who he has seen on DVD and the one in the film, in his mind he thought the older Luke was the younger ones father. (because he has a friend who has the same name as his dad)!

According to James, age is an alien concept, he thinks his teacher is very old and she is only in her mid thirties, I haven’t been brave enough to ask him how old he thinks I am.

I suppose our culture is defined by the young for the young so I have now realised that maybe I have become a little more reflective and have started to look back just as much as I look forward.

Looking at the present do I see the panacea I was promised all those years ago?

Unfortunately not at all, all I am seeing is greater division in society and more and more social injustice.

I am sure most politicians enter office to make a difference and help everyone in our society. But I cant see that at the moment, all I see is self interest and people holding onto power at any cost.

I have realised however that if I was living in that Star Wars galaxy far far away I definitely would have been fighting the Empire.

As my mum once said I could get dirty in a field of snow so wearing a storm trooper’s uniform would be out of the question.

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The Magic of Music

Abbey Road

Image Courtesy of Apple corp

This time of year, is very special to me because as a family collective we love Christmas. I know this because the women in our family start planning for this extravaganza in October.

To make things worse come the first of December Lady Ann starts watching very average American TV Christmas films full of very bad acting and melodrama that could make you choke on your hot chocolate.

The only thing I truly love about the pre-Christmas warm up is the genius of the creativity of the people who make the Christmas commercials. These thirty or sixty second mini masterpieces are the result of people at the top of their creative game and they have budgets to die for and stories to tell which are truly fantastic.

My favourite by a huge margin this year is the John Lewis Commercial. It’s not only the story that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside although that is amazing, it’s the choice of music and the artist that makes it special.

Golden Slumbers by the Beatles is by any measure a masterpiece. Add Guy Garvey into the mix who has a voice like velvet and a story that resonates with most of us (lying in bed scared of the monster’s underneath) is a work of true genius.

What makes it special is it works on several levels. I can remember listening to Radio Luxembourg on a transistor radio in my bed when Abbey Road was released in 1968. They played the album in its entirely without commercials (which was unheard of at the time) and thinking this was by far the best thing I had ever heard.

Two weeks later after saving up my money from my paper round I had enough money to go and buy the album, something I will always remember. Handing over a couple of quid and running home to listen to the album.

So, let’s travel forwards to the present. I sit down and watch the commercial and listen to Guy Garvey doing a fantastic version and it still has the same effect on me as it did then, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. That’s no mean feat from an almost 50-year-old piece of music.

Music is invaluable it brings memories flooding back. It feels like it happened only yesterday.

I remember the very moment I heard it, lay in my bed feeling the soft fluffy sheets dressed in my stripy pyjamas with a small transistor radio hidden underneath the pillow, listening to this magical music on a single earpiece with the volume drifting in and out of signal and me thinking life will never get better than this.

That is the Magic of music!

Being Down with the Kids

Male hippie making a peace sign

Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks so I apologise now for ignoring you all. So, what have I been up to. Well I have completed a short-term teaching contract and that believe it or not was a very pleasant experience.

I know some grumpy old geezers who don’t talk to young people but I on the other hand love it. Getting down with the kids as it’s known in our house is one of the most entertaining things you can do.

It’s their understanding of how they think about the world and they have priorities that are not bound by our life experience.

For example, one young man told me last week  that he wasn’t late because he had phoned up to let me know he was going to be late.

There is a logic in that premise, but it’s still flawed.

Another student once asked me “what was it like when the world was in black and white”. I answered, “I can only remember it being in colour”. To which they replied “so why do we have black and white films then”.

Don’t get me going about mobile phones. They seem to walk around looking at the screen with earphones in. If they lose Wi-Fi it’s as though the world has ended.

The main thing though I have noticed about the young people is that they have a different outlook on life and different priorities than us baby boomers.

Firstly, they don’t live to work, they work to live, and that is no bad thing. They are also brutally honest to the point of being rude and above all they need to feel respected, but don’t we all.

So, to all the grumpy old geezers out there here is my advice. Look past the hoodies, the trainers and the dodgy haircuts because think back to when you were a teenager, just how cool did you look in a pair of flared velvet trousers and a Kaftan.

I think the answer is not very cool at all.

A Night at the Happy Beaver

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Tonight, has been a good night, no one was killed or even threatened slightly and in this day and age is a good thing. I find the older I get the less I am shocked at what the world throws at us.

My visit to the happy beaver tonight has been a great experience at best very funny and even at its lowest point it was a very enlightening experience. What I have discovered in my adventure with alcohol is that people become far less guarded and the true nature of a person comes to the fore. Now this is no bad thing, quite the contrary.

Tonight, I have discovered that people would like to be perceived as being like swans gliding through life without a single issue. That as we know is not how life is.

We all have moments when we feel like our lives are spiralling out of control and we feel like screaming. In other moments, we feel comfortable and totally in control. All this leads me to believe is that life is like a roller coaster ride, sometimes we are in control and others we are not and this is the fabric of life.

We are only here for a short time.  I know when you are young you feel like you are immortal. The older you get you realise that life is very short and you should live in the moment and make the most of every second.

So back to my premise. I have laughed, and I have had a blast with all sorts of people who all are fighting battles that no one else knows about.  They are people who have great compassion and know how to have a great time.

That is a quality we should teach our young ones, life is to be grasped by the throat and shaken vigorously. If there is a lesson to be learned you should travel whilst young, be hungry for knowledge and find a career that lets you be a child for the rest of your working life.

That way you never work a day in your life and you become like the people in the Happy Beaver, comfortable in their skin, care about other people and above all have the ability to laugh at themselves even more than they laugh at other people.

The Hectic Life of the Semi Retired

Older man relaxing by a luxurious pool

I am now embracing the life of a semi-retired individual and all the flexibility that comes with it. The freedom to do whatever you like whenever you want does have a certain appeal.

The reality of course is far from that. In between your family and doctors’ appointments there seems little time to do what you want when you want.

I don’t know what it is about the medical profession but once you reach sixty they have a fascination with your health and keep sending you for endless checkups. Now I’m not complaining and our doctor is fantastic. So much so that he appears on the latest Nation Health commercials for lung cancer.

I know that is no measure of his prowess as a doctor but he has the manner that I find refreshing in a Doctor. Not only is he good at diagnosis but he tells you like it is and whilst that might not be everyone’s cup of tea it certainly suits me.

This week we are off to Manchester for some tests with Lady Ann who is suffering breathing issues at the moment. So far, we have had several hospital visits, met some very capable doctors and some very nice support staff who are working incredibly hard to find out what the problem is.

I am just glad I don’t live in a country that charges for healthcare because by now I am sure the amount of treatment lady Ann has had I would now be living under a railway arch somewhere in a sleeping bag.

To add to our extensive diary commitments, whilst we were out the other day I received a call from a colleague I worked with at the local college. She had phoned to see if I was busy and before I had chance to answer Lady Ann had volunteered me for a couple of days teaching for the next few weeks just so I don’t get bored! I think she just wants me out of the house just so she can get some peace.

Now I don’t mind but I had my heart set on watching a box set or two and embracing one of life’s true luxuries, the afternoon nap. Ann’s logic is that the extra money could pay for some of life’s little luxuries and I’m all for that.

So after I finished my first week of teaching Ann said she thought that I needed cheering up so she had booked a surprise cruise for us in May next year. Now that was a surprise and I do love the Aegean, something she said for me to look forward to. What I wasn’t expecting was the bill! All I can say is I am really cheerful now!

Somehow this retirement malarkey isn’t panning out quite as I had planned it. But at least I am not getting bored!

The secret of creating interest in your blog

Teddy

The other day whilst I was getting out of the car on the road in front of Eccles Hall I found a very small cute Teddy Bear which was probably dropped by one of the children on their way to our local primary school.

It was raining and I thought I would do the right thing and pick him or her (we haven’t decided yet) and take it in doors. We dried it out and I had a thought, why don’t I use social media to try and reunite the little fellow with its owner.

What happened next has be almost lost for words. I posted a picture of him and asked if anyone recognised him or her and message me if you need to pick him up. I know its a long shot but you never know it could work.

Normally my pedestrian posts about were I am or what I had for breakfast etc normally get one or two likes or retweets but the amount of interest it has generated has surprised me to say the least.

To date it has been retweeted 35 times and liked by 11 other people. When you look at how many followers each have its been seen by 17,500 individuals. Non of them may I add from were I live.

The majority of the people come from Manchester which is about 15 miles away

Next is Oldham which is 9 miles away

But my favourite was the guy in New York who I thinks Diggle is a city.

Now this has been the most interest I have ever had on my social media. Now I wait to see if our little visitor manages to be reunited with his owner.

The End of Summer

elderly retired couple sitting together on the bench in autumn park, love concept

Summer here in the UK is when most people take a vacation or the very least have a long weekend doing stuff of life rather than the stuff of paying bills.

Now according to the BBC (and they should know) this year summer started on Wednesday 21st of June and will end on Friday the 22nd September. But if you are like me you think that summer ends as soon as the kids go back to school and that is normally the first week in September.

I think we all have our personal clocks that match our lifestyles. For example a friend of mine his clock is governed by the Premier League and when the season starts thats when his every waking moment is analysing the fixtures and team signings, etc.

Now here in Saddleworth it’s a standing joke that our winters start a month before anyone else and summer starts a Month later. This means in real terms that our summer is one month long and  with a challenging climate it means that if it isn’t raining its either just stopped or its about to start.

People who visit us from abroad always comment on how green it is, I tell them thats because it is always raining. Now that is an exaggeration but everyone I know has an umbrella and a waterproofs in the car and when we get to November you can add to that a shovel and walking boots in case of snow.

So the beginning of September gives me a feeling a little like Sunday nights when you have work the day after.

Now we have another couple of weekends away to come before the end of the month so I am doing my Mr Sunshine dance so we can at least feel the warmth on our bones before the first frost arrives.

So here I am moaning at the passing of summer and grumbling about a bit of rain. I can only count my blessings that we do not suffer to the extent of the poor people of Texas who have lost family members and everything they own in some terrible storms.

Now in recent weeks we have read in the media about the rise of Right Wing Facist groups operating in America but all the photographs I have seen in recent days doesnt bear that out.

In a time of need most people will try to help and it doesn’t matter what your beliefs, politics or race are.

It’s a pity we don’t remember that when everything is running smoothly.

The Shock of the Summer

Image courtesy of 96.2 The Revolution

For me this has been a summer of shocks and this week the biggest shock of all came in the form of our local newspaper The Oldham Evening Chronicle being placed in administration because of dwindling circulation and ever decreasing advertising revenus which made its business position untenable.

The Oldham Evening Chronicle for many of the towns older folks was the first stop to find out what was happening in the town and more importantly it was a place that made our local politicians and council officers accountable for the decisions they make and that is an important function of any media institution.

Now many people will blame the introduction of the internet, free news sites and social media for the decline in readership, but thats not the only reason.

More importantly the readership have less time to spend consuming the stories and articles that newspapers deliver. We have arrived at a population of headline readers. People who are intrigued by a headline then will want a very short paragraph or two outlining the detail of the item and that is not viable when you have to fill column inches in a daily newspaper.

So after 160 years the paper has finally shut its doors and the town will be a lot worse off for it’s passing. I hope that the dedicated staff who lost their jobs soon find a new home for there skills but somehow it wont be the same, we will loose all that local knowledge and expertise which means that something very special has now been lost forever.

A Sad Long Goodbye

 

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It’s been a bit of a bad day today. I was woken this morning with the sad news that an old friend had sadly passed in the night. Now this was no surprise to me as we had said our unspoken goodbyes at our last meeting but it was upsetting non the less.

Paul and myself go back a good few years, about thirty to be precise. Now in that time our lives collided now and again but as life has shown me it is not the frequency of contact that counts, it’s the feeling that meeting engenders.

Paul had that rare ability to make you feel special, that you make a difference and that you had relevance in an ever complicated world. That may sound a little old fashioned to the thrusting young guns but can I say this is a very special gift.

I am not one to eulogies but today I am at a loss. I have mixed feelings, I think maybe I could have done more to help his final weeks on this planet we call home but I am sure that is not what he wanted. I know this because he like me was someone who played his cards very close to his chest.

In the end all he wanted was to be surrounded by his loved ones and to feel normal not to be a victim but to have a pint in a place he called home surrounded by people he cared about and who cared about him.

My final meeting with him was when he was very ill and with his wife we sat in the square in Dobcross sharing a pint or two talking nonsense and me trying to convince him and myself that the inevitable may not happen.

To his credit he didn’t try to make me look like an idiot (but in the face of adversity I think we all turn into blithering idiots).

This is a man who made my life a little brighter when we met, made me a little more compassionate and above all made me think I had a friend who I could count on.

So all that remains to say is fairwell my friend I hope your God is kind to you and maybe we will meet again in some other place.

God Bless and my thoughts are with your family at this time.

OMG I am debt free! So what do I do now?

Debt Free.

I am in a unique position like about 5% of the population I am about to pay my mortgage off. As a sixty odd year old guy you are probably thinking what took you so long.

Well, I can tell you, Its because mid career I decided to take the decision to become one of the great unwashed!

Now if you are one of the fortunate people who have always had a salary to depend on you are lucky enough to enjoy your job you won’t understand my logic, but if you are not passionate about what you do eventually the salary slips don’t make up for the boredom you have to endure. With that thought in mind I became one of many people who serve a very important part of the creative industries economy, I became a freelancer.

Now freelancers are a very special bread, they operate on a very different level to most people you know. They live in a very precarious business environment and are often brought in to provide very creative solutions to very difficult scenarios and some of the guys I have worked with are borderline geniuses.

Now you would think that most businesses that employ us are happy with this arrangement, but sometimes they are not. They often pay us handsomely to give them the information and strategies they need but then they often ignore us because they judge it to radical and goes against their own business operating environment .

This is very frustrating and can lead to a breakdown in many a working relationship. I can say though I have never had to walk away from a contract because of that reason.

If you are brave enough to operate in this environment it is one of the most rewarding environments to work in. When you make a difference no matter how small you get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Most people I know who work in the media do not do it for the money, they do it because they can make a difference.

I look at people like Amor Rajan who was the editor of the Independent. He and his team had the hearts of lions. They in one headline and photograph showed the world the true horror of being a refugee. A small boy being picked out of the waves in Greece reduced my to tears and has had a lasting effect on me.

Without people like him to uncover injustice and hypocrisy the world would be a far darker place.

So tonight I will sleep knowing I will not have to sell my humble family pile anytime soon and I can work in the voluntary sector and get some job satisfaction. I can also pursue vanity projects that I can see a point to rather than trying to please everyone and that is a great position to be in.

Someone once asked me if you could turn the clock back 20 years would you still make the same decisions that I made then or would I change them.

I can safely say I wouldn’t change a thing!