Do Eye not like that

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I woke up early on Sunday morning feeling (and no doubt looking) a bit like the “littlest hobo”.  I had done more travelling in 5 days than Michael Jordan in an NBA finals but at last it was time to take things easy.  We had a traditional English breakfast to start the day.  I had actually forgotten what bacon tasted like until my Mum dumped the remains of half a dozen pigs on my plate.  In the USA “bacon” consists of small hard strips of something that smells kind of like burnt cherries and tastes like wood.  The bacon in England actually originates from real pigs and has a meaty taste and smell.  My wife didn’t like it because it was unfamiliar to her but for me it was like manna from Heaven.  I ploughed through my rashers, some eggs and the customary piece of freshly incinerated toast before heading off to Mass.  Church was as I remembered it being give or take a few old folks who’d since been replaced by previously young folks who had aged since I last saw them but all in all it was your typical Sawbo service.  The main event of the day though was the birthday party.

My sister was pragmatic enough to make sure her second son was born around the same time as my daughter so that if we were ever to live in the same area we could kill two birds with one stone by having a joint party.  The time had arrived for her plan to come to fruition as we celebrated my lonely only and her youngests big days at the same time.  I dragged along my fellow Who fan Dorney and his new girlfriend to liven things up a bit.  He fitted right in to the otherwise strictly family affair by starting an impromptu class for five year olds in the art of stage fighting.  My sister can sleep more soundly at night now knowing that her 3 year old can pull off a convincing right hook and that his older brother knows how to dodge a sword blow to the head.   My sister laid on a lot of food which was something of a relief as she had in the past had a reputation for taking a Mr Bumble approach to meal times.  Once when I was younger my parents had left her in charge of making dinner and she literally sliced peas in half so that we all got four and a half peas to go with the egg sized jacket potatoes she had made for us.  Somewhere along the line I assume the penny dropped when her house guests kept dyeing of malnutrition so on this occasion she laid on quite a feast for us. 

I had wanted to end the night with a visit to the local pub quiz but the folks I used to go with were either on the road in camper vans doing audits for B & Q, studying sheep herds in Aberystwyth or in the case of my younger sisters were just old fashioned cheapskates.  We went to bed early without so much as a pint of the nasty stuff from the pub where the landlord would dump the drip tray overspill back into unsuspecting punters glasses.  I mean I guess avoiding the risk of contracting hepatitis from the most unsanitary ale house in England should be a good thing but when you’re accustomed to something you miss it.

Monday was the day I had been dreading.  It was time to ride the “London Eye”.  I really hate heights and  I am claustrophobic.  Only the sickest of individuals would therefore think it was humane to force me to endure an 40 minute “ride” in a fragile looking glass bubble millions of feet above London.  The guide book said it was 135 metres high but that was a lie.  I know for a fact it went higher because when we were near the top we passed through two meteor storms before the roof got dented by some debris from Saturn’s outermost ring.  They say that you can get some nice pictures from the “eye” but I really couldn’t tell you because I spent the entire ride with my feet firmly planted right in the centre of the capsule with my eyes glued to my camcorder as I pretended to perform emergency repairs on said item.  I wasn’t alone.  Another guy older and uglier than me was pulling the same stunt much to the chagrin of his even older and even uglier “life partner”.  The old guys excuse was a faulty Mp3 player.  Not much of an excuse really as it wasn’t exactly critical to make sure you got your dose of Lionel Ritchie to enjoy the ride.  More people believed me than him and I think it was a nice touch when I feigned disappointment at missing the sights as the camera miraculously “came back to life” 30 feet from the ground. 

Once we were off the ride I got away from it as far as I could because I have an irrational fear of giant bicycle wheel shaped objects falling on me.  We quickly made our way onto some kind of ferry boat thing that looked a bit like the starship enterprise and made our way down the Thames.  Our next stop was the Millenium Dome.  It was pretty massive.  It would have been ideal for the tent parties we used to have after school plays each year as there was no shortage of room in it and it looked liked it would take all of 2 seconds to knock down when you were done with it.  The reason we were there was to see the Tutankhamen exhibit.  The Egyptian authorities had also entered in a secret pact with me and my sister which tied King Tut tours to the birthdays of our offspring.  The display itself was very impressive.  The colours of the artefact’s had lasted much better after 3000 years then even the reds on the brightest sweaters on Persil automatic commercials.  I was kind of sad that Tut himself wasn’t there but they did bring his coffin which was probably more aesthetically pleasing that his withered remnants plus we didn’t have to worry about the curse of King Tut killing us and that was a blessing on a day when my nerves had already been put to the test. 

That was that and after a couple of pints of Guinness with Grandad, a visit with my old piano teacher, a bottle of bubbly with family friends and the customary squabble with a sister we finished our trip and came back to Gainesville.  If I had time I’d tell you about how the airline lost our bags for a week and laughed about how stupid I was to expect to safely get 4 bags there and back but that would be unkind since they did give a $350 of gift vouchers after I (falsely) told them I had started legal proceedings but lets let bygones be bygones and aside from that I am knackered.

No rest for the wicked

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My family live about 25 miles from London and yet to get there was a struggle.  My parents were of the opinion that since we had “been there before” that there was no need to go again … ever.  In my opinion not going to London on a UK visit would be rather like waiting in a long line on “free ice cream day” at “Ben and Jerrys” only to decline a dessert and ask for a water on reaching the front of the line. 

London is kind of like Budapest if you disregard the absence of 3 million Hungarians, cold war era buildings and the fact that Buda and Pest are actually two cities and are on either side of the Danube rather than one city on the Thames but aside from all of that it is similar.  It is also rather larger and has a much fancier looking business district and they have red double decker buses as opposed to orange trams and black taxis as opposed to papier mache trabants.  The restaurants are different too and the Hungarian women are prettier but anyway aside from all of that the two cities struck me as much of a muchness I mean for one thing it rained in Budapest last time I was there and it always rains in England but anyway since hardly anyone has ever been to Hungary I guess it is actually a bit of a crappy comparison so I’ll get to the point.  London is arguably (along with Budapest ?) the greatest city in the world.  In fact if the ancients were to come back and re-evaluate the “7 wonders” of the world today they would surely ditch the Lighthouse of Alexandria and replace it with the city of London.  That being said they could probably replace that boring lighthouse with the Odeon in Harlow and be onto a winner but my point is that London has everything you could want in a city and the best way to see it is on a badly driven red bus. 

Many tourists flock to the capital and get ripped off by Eton drop outs who act as tour guides on cramped single level coaches that plough through pedestrains at Leicester square but the savvy cockney knows that the actual local transport system is the way to go.  I’m not a cockney so I didn’t know this but since my old man grew up singing “I’m forever blowing bubbles” he was well aware of this so our first hour in the capital was a rapid fire whirlwind tour of the main tourist spots courtesy of Red Ken.  My daughter liked it because she got to see “the Peter Pan clock” (Big Ben), the Mary Poppins Bank (Eddie George’s place) and the Cyberman church (St Pauls).   

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant where we unwittingly took part in a Guinness book of records attempt to squeeze 4000 tables into and 20ft by 20ft room.  The meal was nice and certainly nicer than the one I once had at the pub opposite some years back when Deacon got drunk on 2 Harp shandys and humiliated himself by singing “Stayin’ Alive” on karaoke in the style of Pee Wee Herman. 

Lunch was followed by the days main event which was the stage musical “Wicked”.  To those who don’t know it is the leftie apologist back story of the wicked witch of the west and her house flattened sister.  The star looked uncannily like Elaine from “Seinfeld” but greener and with a voice more like the “Super Nanny” and the role of “Glenda” was played by a Bonnie Langford wannabee with a blonde wig.  The show was very entertaining and allowed my Mum the opportunity to see something that she wanted to see under the guise of it being someone elses birthday present.  Mine actually.  Fortunately for her I am easily pleased but my Mum has a long history of this kind of behaviour.  The most famous incident occured when my Dad decided to leave the post office after 20 years of service and his co-workers threw him a big party.  He was mortified on receiving nothing but expensive books on pre-Raphaelite art as goodbye presents .  His naive work colleagues had called my Mum and asked what he might like for a farewell gift.  When they called to ask she set down the picture book of Italian art work she was reading, thought for one second and then told them that my Dad loved nothing better than to come home after a long days work and look at pictures of limbless nude Florentine statues.  They must have thought he was a right weirdo but it didn’t stop my Mum and she used that as a starting point to acrue a vast collection of antiquituies that she bought for people only to see them re-gifted … to her.  “Wicked” though was one occasion when everyone was happy and after a rousing ovation we left the theatre and whilst my parents took my daughter back to Sawbo my wife and I ventured into unchartered territory…South London.

My Dad had tried hard to discourage us from visiting “Sarf London”.  The reason of our visit was to see an old school friend I had known since I was 4.  My parents showed us newspaper cuttings about headless Ukranian women being thrown from tower blocks, rampaging gangs of Neo Nazis and hordes of Satanist roaming the streets in search of flesh blood to feast on.  My friend had called and told me that he lived in a “dodgey high rise” which didn’t help matters but undetered we caught the tube and headed closer to the equator and into the mystical land they call Crofotn.  We exited the train and as the mist slowly cleared and the crows gathered over head I heard what sounded like the faint croaking murmur of a dyeing man.  I stopped dead in my tracks and held my breath.  The voice was getting fainter but I could just about make out some words.  “mind…………mind the ……..” I could almost hear it but the pitter patter of rain was obscuring the last word of this haunting message.  Then abrupdtly the rain stopped and the baying crows went silent long enough for me to hear the mysterious words ….”Mind the gap.”  It turned out that they had a faulty speaker at the train station so the tannoy operator was trying extra hard to make himself heard !  

The area was actually very nice once we left the station.  The scary image my parents had painted was about as accurate as a “fair and balanced” debate on Fox news.  My friend Aidan lived up to his reputation as a wind up merchant and far from living in a high rise he actually lived in a pretty expensive and nice looking house in a quiet neighbourhood.  The next 3 hours were a chance for me to meet his family  and he mine. We both had children which was scary since neither of us even had a girlfriend last time we met up.  We discussed how we’re haunted by memories of our sadistic primary school headmaster and still amused by childhood incidents such as the birth narrative of James Canning (He claimed his Mum never knew she was pregnant and took a sepository the day he was born) or the fact that there is a hotel resort in Orlando named after Gaylord Nathan.  It seemed like we hadn’t been there for long when it was time to leave as my parents had put an effective 10pm curfew on us.  Granted I am 31 and so what if I live 5,000 miles away from them and only speak to them via phone once a week, in their minds I can’t be trusted to be out after dark and so we said our farewells to our hosts and made our way home.  We were back just in time to see the Everton highlight on “Match of the day” which has always been the prefect way to end a day.

Wine, Weirdoes and Wildebeast

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 For anyone who was wondering when the “Doctor Who” story was going to be “continued” as promised …. now you know how it feels to be a “Jericho” fan.  That being said here is the next installment ……….

Organizing a “Doctor Who” convention is harder than you would imagine.  My first attempt at hosting one ended in dismal failure because I only sold one ticket (to Dorney).  The sad thing was that I had actually convinced one of the actual actors who played the Doctor on TV to drive down to the St. Thomas More church hall in Harlow for a mere 100 quid.  Given that the going rate at that time for convention appearances was about 1500 I was amazed that the actor in question agreed to attend for such a meagre fee. I don’t want to cause any issues with the actors union so to protect his anonymity we’ll refer to him cryptically as a man whose last name suggests he makes bread but his first name isn’t Tom.  Anyway for some reason it didn’t occur to me to actually advertise the convention and so with a heavy heart I had to call back the star in question and tell him that the convention was cancelled due to lack of interest.  

Some people don’t learn from their mistakes Paris Hilton, Briney Spears, Saddam Hussein or Kenny from “Southpark” for example.  I on the other hand see the value in failure because it helps you to prepare better the next time around unless of course your failure was an attempt to prove that swimming with Great White sharks is safe but anyway the point I am getting at is that the next time I advertised the hell out of the convention.  We didn’t manage to get a Doctor to attend because frankly we didn’t have the 1500 quid that a certain white haired scarecrow impersonator wanted and to make matters worse two of the other Doctors were already dead which meant they were very infrequent convention guests !  Well my thought was that if you can’t get the Doctor you get the next best thing, his assistant.  Some people might even say an assistant trumps a Doctor particularly if you’re watching a “Carry On” film but anyway we were lucky enough to get two of the Doc’s onscreen companions to come.  The offer of “travelling expenses” was enough to lure them.  In fairness they probably thought that “travelling expenses” was code for “a small but adequate appearance fee.”  If that was their assumption then they were in for a surprise because I was a man of my word and “travelling expenses” meant literally that as I painstakingly figured out the cost of petrol for them to get from their London homes to the site of the convention.  I was cheap then and I am cheap today somebody has to be otherwise there would be no one to patronise the frivollous about their foolhardy ways. 

We held the convention at my high school because it was larger and less expensive than any other location.  I also thought it would be cool because the place was haunted and I was really hoping an apparition would appear in front of a celebrity.  As ever I overlooked a few details in the planning and it was only on the day of the event that my Dad pointed out the fact that we had made no provisions for refreshments.  This was easily solved as I ran to Sainsburys and bought some orange juice for the attendees and some wine for the the guests to get smashed on in the Biology lab we were using as the hospitality area. 

As the day began the anoarks started to arrive and before long my school hall was full of odiferous greasy haired young men, a few bearded women, a couple of dwarves, 5 or 6 haemaphrodites and a herd of Tanzanian Wildebeast.  Quite a motley crew.  As you can imagine I didn’t tell any of my friends about this whole thing so I was a little mortified when someone from the local radio station showed up to do an on air interview with me.  All the cool kids at my school were probably driving around town looking for pubs that allowed underage drinking when across the radio waves I was revealed to be a sci-fi loser.  I got off fairly lightly as only about 17 or 18 THOUSAND people heard the bloody radio interview and went on and on about it for the next 5 years ! 

Whilst my social standing was descending to the level of a sub amoeba, the convention was starting to take off.  Since I had recruited the guest speakers I basically let John Dorney interview the guests who I wasn’t as fascinated with and kept the big guns for myself.  The interviews took place on the same school stage where only weeks before I had done a pathetic attempt at an American accent as Riff in the school play of “West Side Story.”  Dorney had played a character called “Action” in the same show and I was afraid he was going to see some real action at the convention because I had him interview writer Gary Russell.  Just before going on stage Russell had been browsing through a copy of our Fanzine which included a vicious attack on his career but none other than the same Mr Dorney who beckoned him on stage.  Luckily either out of embarrasment or shame Russell made no mention of the article and kept the fans quite entertained or at least that is what I was told.  I didn’t actually see the interview because I was trying to locate the next guest who had gone AWOL from the Biology lab.  I eventually found her reclining on the back stairs that lead to abandoned school attic.  The backstairs were notorious for two things; people kissing and people seeing the grey lady ghost that roamed the school.  Either way it wasn’t a great location to be with a faded starlet who was blowing smoke rings and who was rumoured to have seduced unsuspecting fans at recent conventions.  Now wasn’t the time for any bs so I abruptly told her she was needed on stage and then retreated rather rapidly to the safety of the hall. 

The day moved along without too much drama until Sophie Aldred showed up and suddenly all hell broke loose.  Sophie was one of those people who looked fairly attractive on TV but was much better looking in real life.  That apart she was also still young and she didn’t smoke.  Dorney was in the middle of asking John Woodnutt about filming at Loch Ness when word broke that she had arrived.  The next thing I knew chairs, cups and bodies were being hurled around the room as the mob scurried after her.  I didn’t have to wrestle anyone to get to her since I was the host and in fact she came looking for me.  It was kind of cool having this chat with an attractive TV star in front of all these jealous Who fans.  I felt like the coolest man in the town at that moment in time.  In all honestly though compared with the average “Who” fan even a 700lb, two headed, mutant dwarf with leprosy would have seemed pretty cool with or without Miss Aldred but whatever I was the one who got to hang out with the celebrities for half the afternoon with only a couple of bunsen burners and the skeleton of a recently dissected rat for company.    Terrance Dicks (who had survived an earlier visit to our fan group) and Barry Letts (who I had previously interviewed over the phone) arrived soon after and helped my Dad prove that when there is good wine available that even the most sterile of environments can serve a prupose as an impromtu bar. 

All in all the day was a great success.  There were a few uncomfortable moments like when Philip Featherweather (who as ever was wearing his egg stained tuxedo) got into a row with Barry Letts about which quarry one episode from 1973 had been filmed in.  I always wondered what would become of weirdoes like him and recently I discovered he has put “Who” behind him and become a busker on the streets of Cambridge.  I don’t know if it was the whole quarry thing that caused his life to change or the fact that nobody wanted to hang out with him anymore but either way there is at least the chance now that a rain storm might wash that yoke of his lapel.

When everything was done I ended up going to the pub with a group of sychophants who tried to attach themselves to me in the wake of the conventions success.  I sat half listening to them harp on about how we could have another con and it would be bigger and better.  Over their heads I could see Gary Lineker on “Match of the Day” and images of Eric Cantona and Manchester United were crying out to me “Ditch these losers….watch the footie……”.  The voices won and not long after I cut my ties to “Doctor Who” fandom forever.  I still have a book that is autographed by the various celebrities I met during that fateful year and they all wrote what seemed like pretty genuine messages about wanting to come back to any more events I hosted.  It was not meant to be though.  My world was a far cry from the pipe smoke filled rooms of the BBC where tweed jacket wearing boffins would read the “Guardian” and debate the merits of marxism.  Without the anoraks and weirdoes I was nothing to them and so as quickly as the “Herts and Essex Borders Local Doctor Who Fan group”was born it came to an end.

“To Rome or not to Rome ?” – That is the question

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Next year my wife and I plan to visit England.  The last time we went was 2004 so we decided visits should now always coincide with Olympic years not so much because we like watching athletics on the BBC but more so because the exchange rate means that the UK is so bloody expensive now that we can only afford to go there once every four years !  Anyway my wife would like to take advantage of one of these Ryanair “fly for the price of a bag of crisps ( which is more food than you can ever expect to be served on our cheapskate flight)” deals to visit Italy for a day or so whilst over there.  She has never been there and my daughter is pretty excited about meeting Pinocchio since she seems to think we’ll run into him in Rome.  The fact that she has already met the string-less wonder at Disneyworld hasn’t dampened her excitement.  I have been to Italy more times than Paris Hilton has been drunk so I am trying to convince my family members that if we do take a trip within a trip that it should be to somewhere else.

I would like to visit either Bulgaria or Denmark for the simple reason that I have never been to either nation before.  When I was a kid I had a weird obsession with Denmark which lead my Dad to think I had some kind of trace memory from our ancient ancestors who were marauding vikings that made their way to Ireland and started our clan on the emerald isle.  He seemed to think there must be some deeper reason behind my desire as a 7 year old to move to the Nordic nation but in reality the only motive behind my childhood plan was to go there and buy a soccer shirt.  Back in the mid 80’s Denmark had a shirt that was red on on side and thin red and white stripes on the other.  Somehow in my mind this seemed like the most attractive looking piece of clothing ever created and that coupled with the fact that Preben Elkjaer scored a hat-rick against Uruguay in the first world cup match I ever watched was the driving force behind my first emigration bid.  When I was 19 I almost went to Denmark once when my mate Deacon found a deal to go on a “cruise” there for 40 quid round trip.  It sounded great but when I realised that it actually involved sharing bunk beds with 3 other people (two of whom would be complete strangers – probably Swedish chef looking style serial killers) and a grand total of 4 hours ashore in the land of bacon I decided it was better to pay 129 quid to ride on a rickety old bus to Prague for 5 days instead.  I am sure that in reality Denmark has more to offer than classic Hummell soccer shirts but beyond bacon, legoland and a recently defaced statue of the little mermaid I am not exactly sure what !  Therefore the only way to find out is to show up there and asked the first basin headed blond that I run into where the party is.

Bulgaria is another country I have never been to despite the best efforts of a NYC based “Bulgarian” dentist to lure me there and pay 16 times the price I ended up paying in Romania for my recent mouth renovation.  Back in the day I recall Bulgaria was little more than a place for weightlifters, Papal assassins and people who use poison umbrellas to kill Russian dissidents but apparently today it is a Mecca for Brits.  You know a place has come of age as a tourist destination when even some of my parents less than worldly neighbours have been there and at the last count they knew at least 3 sets of middle aged Sawbridgeworth based couples who have recently made the trip.   When I first went to Eastern Europe in the 90’s these same people reacted as if I had just visited Alpha Centuri so either Hristo Stoichkov and co. have come a long way or the good people of Sawbo have been priced out of their usual haunts on the Costa-Lotta.   For my part I did once eat a can of Bulgarian luncheon meat in Budapest that was covered in green fungus and more recently I discovered that the father of one of my daughters pre-K friends once represented Bulgaria as an Olympic gymnast so I am not totally in the dark about the place.

Bulgaria like Denmark was a place I wanted to visit as a child.  I had no desire to purchase the rather bland looking Bulgarian 1986 world cup soccer shirt but I did think it would be a good idea for me to go there as a 9 year old and explain to the people that being communist was pretty stupid.  Luckily for me the people there realised that long before I showed up and since then it fell off my radar until this whole Ryanair thing came up with my wife.  She seems to think that the basis for choosing where to go should be what the country has to offer as a destination.  I am more concerned with satisfying my obsessive compulsive desire to have a red dot on my world map showing that I have been to every country in Europe and I don’t want to “waste” an opportunity by visiting a country I have already been to a thousand times.  I guess we will see what happens and in reality we will no doubt discover that the cheap flights have more stipulations than loan from a Scottish bank but hopefully my wife will realise that whilst we could climb the leaning tower of Pisa, marvel at the piazza Michelangelo or stand in awe at the size of the Coliseum that we could also more importantly tick one more country off my “must visit” list and surely that is what travel is all about.

The Best Kids TV Shows Ever !!!!!

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1. “Boy from Space” – “Look and Read” : This was a popular TV show in the 80’s that kids would watch at about 11 am each day as a break from class.  The host Wordey was a legless red faced little man who would fly around chanting “Magic Magic E”.  Nobody realised at the time that he was a pioneering drug pusher getting ready for the era of raves.  “Boy From Space” was one of the stories featured in the show and it revolved around a couple of alien kids who looked like the children of the damned but with blue suits that appeared to be made from tissue paper and a language that only the teacher from Charlie Brown could imitate.  The actual episodes were all of 5 minutes long at the end of each “Look and read” segment and sci-fi obsessed kids all over Britain waited with baited breath each week for the latest fun installment.  The “Dark Towers” story was also a classic but the little lad from the stars was the pick of the bunch.

2.”Newsround”: with John Craven:  It may seem odd to highlight a kids news show as being a cult TV classic but the sad reality is that Craven and his sidekicks produced a 10 minute show containing more real news items than you’d see after a year of watching Fox and or MSNBC today.  I particularly liked the endless reports on giant Panda’s and space shuttle launches.

3.”The Flumps”: Long before that northern bloke was winning Oscars for dull films about Wallace and his dog the BBC had set the standard for animation with “The Flumps”  This was easily the best show of its genre and one of the all time classic moments of television was when Grandpa flump got stuck in his Flumpaphone.

4.”Mr Benn” : This guy was the ultimate master of disguise.  Every week he went to some kind of fancy dress shop and disappeared through the dressing room into many weird and wonderful places.  He tried his hand at being everything from a cowboy to a clown but his real brilliance was in his ability to persuade the shopkeeper to let him keep trying on costumes all the time without ever buying a single item from the store.

5.”The A-Team”: In this era of cheesy remakes I am surprised that no one has decided to make a big screen version of the greatest US TV show of all time : The A-Team.  I bet George Clooney would like a stint as Hannibal alongside Jim Carey as Murdoch and perhaps Di Caprio as Face.  BA would be harder to cast but perhaps DMX would be the man for the job and it would be the kind of thing that could lead to at least 3 or 4 sequels which is right up Clooneys alley.

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6. “Tim Tyler “(aka Timm Thaler) : This was a German classic about a kid whose laugh was stolen by an evil Baron in 1970’s Berlin (?)  The show was great because the worst sound editors in the history of television hired some drunk B movie actors to dub it into English and during the whole series not one word was uttered by a character in English at the same time his mouth was in motion.  Aside from the cheap production this show was also memorable for the flairs and hippie hairstyles that defined an otherwise forgettable era.

7. “Degrassi Junior High” : This was Canada’s answer to Grange Hill and was so terrible that it was actually  good for its utter patheticness.  I remember that one episode caused a stir as it featured the revelation that one of the teachers was a lesbian before the old BBC watershed.  Oddly enough the BBC didn’t buy a lot of shows from the land where people say “aye” after the ratings for this one were compiled but I still have a soft spot for it.

8.”Silas”: The people who dubbed this Polish gem into English did a marginally better job than their counterparts had done with Tim Tyler but the real issue was the fact that phrases that take about two syllables to say in English take 5 minutes to say in Polish and vice versa.  I remember that Silas was harrased by an nefarious harridan who was known simply as “The Old Shrew”.  I can’t remember the plot of the show but basically it involved around a kid riding around on a horse and every  week it had the same cliffhanger ending as he crossed paths with his nemesis and he exclaimed “the shrew”  Brilliant !

9. “Airwolf”: Some people may remember Ernest Borgnine as the Roman soldier at the foot of the cross or as the cop who married a hooker in “The Poseidon Adventure” but I remember him most fondly as the pilot of the best helicopter ever built, Airwolf.  This show had a simple message:  Criminals beware of copters loaded to the brim with machine guns because no matter where you run Ernie will blow your head off.  This was much better than anything you’ll see on CSI, eat your heart out David Caruso.

10. “Neighbours”: Not technically a kids show but try telling that to anyone who grew up in the UK in the late eighties.  So many kids were skipping school to watch this Aussie classic that the BBC moved it to the 5.30 spot after “Blue Peter” which had usually been reserved for shows like “Doctor Who” or “Friday film: The Glitterball.”  I was skiving off school in 1987 when the first episode was broadcast and after I saw Max Ramsey lose his temper, Des fall for stripper Daphne and Shane introduce the southern hemisphere to the mullet there was no looking back.

May back in England.

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When you move to a new country you tend only to think of the major things that will be different and overlook the small things that you will miss.  Since I moved to Florida four years ago the list of events I look back on fondly has grown with every day that passes.  I think in part it stems from the fact that I am a “the grass is always greener/glass is half full” kind of guy but there is something to be said for some of the old traditions back home.

As we head into May I can expect to get a phone call from my parents within the next few weeks explaining how they have been out all day at the town fayre.  In the small Hertfordshire town that I am from the annual May fayre was a big deal.  For any Americans reading this try and imagine Oscar night and the Superbowl rolled into one, add a few crowded pubs, the odd carney and hey presto you have the Sawbridgeworth Fayre.  When I was a kid I thought it was great because it was one of the few times that my parents would let us roam freely around the village green without watching our every step.  Usually I would have my sister persuade my Dad to give us a few quid and then we would head over to the attractions.  The “attractions” were modest even by the cheapskate standards of village events.  Basically the big thrill was a tiny airbone carousel where you could sit in either a red or blue plane and slowly rotate at above 5 feet above sea level for about 40 seconds per ride.  It was amazing !  I would have stayed on it all day but for the temptation to gamble.  Yes gambling was encouraged at a young age in Hertfordshire as our token town carney lured unsuspecting kids into handing over the 50 pence pieces in the vain hope that they might win a prize.  Our local carney was an odd kind of fellow with a glass eye and an abnormally small head.  He wore a mullett hairstyle well into the 90’s and when he wasn’t ripping off kids at the fayre he was propping up the bar in the “Queens Head” pub.  I don’t recall his name but since I knew a similarly strange fellow who went by the name “Carney” I will just refer to the glass eyed boy as “Carney” for the purposes of this tale.  So Carney ran about three stalls all of which involved some element of luck and the apparent ability to win a prize.   If you were lucky enough to win he always found some kind of reason why he couldn’t give you a decent prize and instead gave you a “gonk.”  I won two of these one summer some years back, one was blue and the other was white.  I was pleased at first just because I had actually won but once I got home and realised that “gonks” were nothing more than toilet rolls with a strip of fake fur glued around them and and two ping pong balls attached as eyes, I was a little annoyed with Carney.

Aside from the one ride and the rip off merchant the fayre always attracted Sawbo’s weirdest residents.  The bearded men and one or two bearded women of the surrounding area would show up in outfits that appeared to be made from rags and shredded news papers and try to pass themselves off as “morris dancers.” It was kind of like an episode of the Mr Men.  Mr Fat the biggest man in town would have his “double glazing” stand which basically was just an advertisement and not in anyway a true attraction.  Mr Boring would team up with Mr Drunk, Mr Short and Mr “I can’t afford a razor or shampoo” and and perform the lousiest attempt at Barbershop since Sweeney Todd.  Sometimes the fire brigade would show up and once this complete nutter called “Mad Ken” who walked around town all winter without a shirt on showed up in his WWII army tank and for 25 pence each all the local kids got to jump all over it for 10 minutes spells.  Kids loved all of this crap whilst the parents got quietly wasted whilst feigning interest in the fortunes of the local cricket team who always seemed to lose unsually badly on this day.   Luckily for those chaps it usually rained after lunch so they could save some pride due the inclement weather forcing a drawn game.  Unluckily for Carney all his gonks cardboard centres quickly fell apart in the rain and he must have lost 2 or even 3 quid to weather damage each year.  It is kind of sad that we don’t have this to look forward to in Florida but the even sadder thing is that I actually miss it !  What is wrong with me ?!!!