Parents may get this. We had a guest at our school prize day at the end of term – Gerry Hughes. A remarkable man, born deaf, who was at the forefront of having British Sign Language recognised as both a necessity and a right in the classroom. He sailed solo around Britain in 1981 (the first deaf man to do so), and extended on this with a transatlantic trip in 2005. Then thought he should top it all off with a global jaunt crossing all five capes in 2012-13.
He’s won prizes in deaf football and deaf golf. He was the first registered deaf person to achieve chartered teacher status in Scotland (before the government abolished the scheme for reasons which I will never understand a year or so ago).
Overall, an amazing person who’s crammed more into his lifetime so far than most of us could shoehorn into half a dozen.
He was hanging around after the ceremony and I really wanted to go up and say something to him.
Sadly, that’s the point where I realised that the only British Sign Language I know with any degree of accuracy is: “Mr Tumble’s Spotty Bag”.
Today marks seventy years since the Normandy landings which pretty much swung the Second World War for the Allies. A huge amount of preparation went into the offensive, which was delayed until just he right moment. Technological advances were made, tactics changed and intelligence scrutinised.
But overall, it was the bravery of thousands of men and women who made it possible and made it work. Sickening numbers didn’t make it back. Many didn’t make it as far as the beaches.
Every single one was a hero. Every. Single. One. Whether they made it back or not, they deserve to be thanked, remembered, immortalised.
The Allied soldiers who assaulted the beaches. Men from so many countries, including many Irish who, if they didn’t surrender their lives, surrendered their citizenship upon their return for daring to take the British side in the conflict.
So often forgotten or vilified for their “capitulation”, the brave men and women in the French Resistance. Without them, so much intelligence necessary to make the assaults would have been impossible to obtain.
Women who maybe didn’t make it to the front line back in those days, but who worked in munitions factories – many losing their lives due to the working conditions. And the many who were every bit as important to the work done at Bletchley Park as their male counterparts, decoding German transmissions.
Take two minutes today and ask yourself – “Could I be that brave? Could I actually imagine the sheer, staggering terror of being floated towards military bombardment in a tin can while seasick? Then fighting for my life afterwards?”
And once again it’s that time of year where everyone spends a ton of cash sending bits of paper through the mail to people they haven’t seen since that holiday inÂ TorremolinosÂ in 1997; stress themselves silly trying to get the last remaining [insert current trendy toy here] for the kids for them to cling to for a week before binning it for the next piece of cheap mass-produced, but well-marketed crap; assault their digestive systems with far too much… well, everything – especially sprouts.
Yet for some reason, people call it a celebration.
OK, let me be specific. Humbug to all the stuff in the first paragraph. It’s fluff. It’s unnecessary. It’s nice, I suppose, but in the end it succeeds only in making the retailers happy.
What makes most of us happy at this time of year? Spending time with the family. And I include myself in this – despite recalling many,Â many holiday seasons in the past which I enjoyed hugely simply because I was on my own.
The Americans have one thing right. Which is pretty poor, given the size of the country, but hey. One thing’s better than nothing. They have the Thanksgiving holiday. A holiday the sole purpose of which (OK, sole other than to make Hallmark even richer) is to bring families together and make them recognise that they all have something to say “thank you” for. It’s non-denominational. It doesn’t exclude anyone based on race, colour, creed, height, or even if they’re ginger. Hell, they even invite non-Americans if they’re kicking about in the country on their own.
It is more important for Americans to be with their family for this one annual meal than it is at any other time of the year.
Here in the UK, we don’t have Thanksgiving. The closest we have is Xmas/Christmas/the December holiday. Family is what it’s all about. Kids opening those crappy presents they’ll have broken before the batteries (which you forgot to buy, you fool) run out. Grandad pretending to be Santa, handing stuff out. Thirty+ people crammed into a house designed to hold half a dozen if they think elbow room is a luxury.
And the one or two members of the family celebrating it with a little one who’s going through it all for the first time.
That’s me, that is.
Humbug to everything else. The best Christmas present I ever received arrived 5 months to the day earlier. She wasn’t delivered by a fat bloke in an ill-fitting suit. She was delivered by my beautiful wife, Gillian. She needed wrapping when we got her. She’s self-powered – we just add milk and sloppy stuff from tubs. We’ve also managed not to break her (although at times it feels like she’s breaking us).
She’s beautiful. Perfect.
This is her first Christmas – and I couldn’t be any more thankful.
So, to all friends and family – have a brilliant day, but specifically:
Gillian – thank you. For being my wife and the mother of all three of our children. I can never repay what you’ve given me. But I’ll do my best.
Ellissa – we don’t always get on, but you’re the best annoyingly pre-teenage daughter a man could ever wish for.
Austin – I defy anyone to claim they have a better son than I have in you.
Ann – if it weren’t for you, I’d not have Gillian. Mothers-in-law like you are the reason Bernard Manning ran out of steam all those years ago, and I can never thank you enough for letting me marry your daughter.
Mum & Dad – I know you were generous to a fault all these years, and I had some cracking presents. But I’m sure you’ll agree that none of them can match what I have to be happy about today.
And in case you forgot who it was writing all this: HUMBUG.
I mentioned in the recent Shinedown review that some comments at the gig had got my head ticking. I also said that it would result in another blog post.
This is that blog post. The events posted within don’t occur at any point near the California Presidential Primary.
Shinedown’s singer Brent took a pause between songs to “converse” with the crowd. By which I mean he asked some questions and imagined he heard the responses he wanted. Most likely unbeknownst to him, a rather light-headed person at the back of the room (horrificÂ diarrhoea, no food in 24 hours then 1/4 pint of cider will do this to a man) actually engaged in the conversation. It went like this:
Brent: What’s one thing that’s certain in life?
Brent: Rock and roll! There is nothing in life that can’t be made simpler with drums, guitars, a bass and some kick-ass vocals. Rock and roll has been there for each and every one of you. How many times has rock and roll been there for you in your life?
Me: Three. Maybe four. No. Three.
And then I actually started thinking. Which is dangerous territory when your blood sugar only exists because of rehydration salts and 150ml of Strongbow.
Rock and rollÂ had been there for me a few times. Seriously. It had. During some severe downtimes, I’ve turned to the likes of Hatebreed whose lyrics basically tell you (OK yell, loudly) that you shouldn’t be weak, that nobody can get you down but yourself and that you should fight back. I’m actually going to come back to that line of thought in yet another post shortly.
That would have been a sensible place to stop. But no. My mind meandered further down the wibbly-wobbly barely-focussed road it could barely see and the words “Weebles Wobble But They Never Fall Down” erupted from my lips. Much to the amusement, annoyance and/or bemusement of my lovely wife and our friend Wendi who had joined us for the gig.
Why? Because Lawnmower Deth have a song by that name. And it’s silly. And because when I’m upset or want to take my mind off stuff, I think of silly things. It cheers me up. It also cheers up my baby daughter as I sing some of their songs to her. Mainly because I’m a bit strange, but also because I know all the words. After all, it’s not difficult to remember the words to “Thermonuclear War Is Good For Your Complexion” when they’re:
Thermonuclear war… is good for your complexion,
Thermonuclear war… is good for your complexion,
Thermonuclear war… is good for your complexion,
Thermonuclear war… is good for your complexion.
I doÂ not have a great memory.
Anyway, this got me thinking further. The lyrics for “Weebles…” are as follows and are lifted from the TV commercial for the little toys from way back when I was a kid. I think you can still get them these days, but they won’t be as good. Oh, no.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the embodiment of rock and metal. It’s been pushed off the airwaves, banned by religious movements, used as a prosecution tool by useless parents when their kids go tonto, vilified in the press… but it keeps coming back. Simply, you cannot keep a good thing down. Not unless you keep your finger pressed on it permanently. And every kid eventually got fed up doing that and the Weeble just popped right back up again.