The Reason for the Picture on My Blog

Just in case you were wondering why my last post has my giant mug put at the beginning of it, I was not overtaken by a sense of narcissistic joy. I also did not feel the need to make sure everyone knows what I looked like before my heart attack. Just for the record, I don’t look a lot different, I’ve just shaved.

I don’t feel the need to publicise my weather beaten visage any more than I have to. Although I do have a couple of YouTube channels where I punish the viewers on a semi-regular basis (or I did before my heart attack).

The reason for my face preceding my written post is simple. WordPress went a bit odd when I posted my last blog post. When I went to publicise the post instead of a choice of thumbnails from my post as usual, it was offering images of every bloody thing on my blog. It included images of all those folks I follow and it even offered up the Freshly Pressed tag on my page.

I tried repeatedly to sort this out, but, as I am an impatient sort I decided not to approach the support staff. I just hit the “featured image” button and popped my favorite picture of myself with the idea that it would be featured in the publicised post.

This worked fine for Google+. All the other sites had no image at all. Still it was better than having thumbnails that had nothing to do with the post.

Just after I had posted my latest offering to the blogging community my daughter Meg looked at the post and asked, “Why don’t you put that picture on all your posts?” She loves the picture. I have to admit it is one of my favorites. Taken by my good friend Bruce Howard of Bruce Howard Photography, Suffolk I think it kicks ass.

I liked her suggestion, but, I feel like it takes up too much room in it’s original form. I have made it smaller just to see how it looks and to be honest, it still looks a bit vanity driven.

I have opted instead to change my header and include my beady eyes as the first image you see on my blog. I think that will be my new improved look and I’m sticking with it.

Just be advised that if you are suddenly faced with my “mean” face as Bruce calls it, it’s because my thumbnail option has gone south again. Not because I am so enamoured with my good looks that I feel it necessary to show the world.

After all, if you really want to see what I look like you can check out my YouTube channels which are linked on my page.

Happy looking.

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country 6

A new arrival in the unit asked me if I was interested in sharing a house with him in a small Suffolk village. He’d rented the house and it was large and had about four bedrooms in it. I went out to the village of Swaffham Prior and had a look at the place.

For starters it was excellently placed in the village as it was right across the street from the village Pub. Don’t get the wrong idea. I liked my drink as much as the next person, but that wasn’t why I was so pleased with the proximity of the Pub.

The Red Lion

Pub’s were, at that time anyway, a meeting place for the village. Through the Pub, you met people, found out what was happening around the area and who was who in the village. That and if the Pub was close enough, you could drink a skin-full of booze and just stagger home.

The house itself was old. It had been a coach house in the olden days. (I cannot for the life of me remember when the house was originally built, but the coach house bit is a dead give away for how old it actually was) It was long, much longer than than the Google earth picture above. And when I lived there with Ralph, it was white.

On the right hand side of the house as you faced it from the street was an agate gravel drive that branched off to the left and led you to the back door. The front door was used only once when I lived there and that was when the local vicar stopped by to welcome us to the village.

When you entered the back door you would find the back hall, bathroom, stairs to the first floor (that’s second floor to denizens of the US) and a smaller hall to the rest of the house.

Nestled in between the drive and the back door path was our ‘sitting’ room. It had a two seater settee, Ralph’s leather recliner, a fireplace and the television. The window faced the front of the Pub across the street.

When you walked out of the ‘sitting room’ you crossed the small hallway and walked past the front door to the huge dining room. If you continued you walked through the kitchen (a perfect square of a room) and on the other side of the kitchen was my massive bedroom. That plus a utility room that housed our washer and dryer made up the ground floor of the house.

My bedroom featured the only other door that opened onto the high street. I say opened, but that is a bit of a misnomer. The massive four inch wide door was sealed shut and could not be opened at all.

The first floor of the house was comprised entirely of bedrooms. The one opposite the Pub was our ‘cold’ store. In the winter we left a window cracked and it kept most of our perishable foodstuff nice and cool.

The first couple of months that Ralph and I lived there we would occasionally both watch the telly in the sitting room. When anyone walked up the gravel drive and the path to our door you could hear them as clearly as if the path were in the room with us. One night we sat there watching the news when, during a break between stories, the volume lowered enough for us to hear someone walking up the drive.

“Looks like we have a visitor.” Ralph said with a smile.

He turned down the volume on the TV. We both sat grinning like a couple of idiots as we listened to the footsteps progress from the side of the house to the back door. The gravelly steps stopped at our back door and waited we for the knock.

Silence permeated the air. No knock. Nothing. We sat there is silence and waited for the footsteps to start their journey back to the street. Still, nothing.

Finally, we couldn’t take the suspense any longer. We both got up and jogged to the back door. Ralph flung open the door with a loud and cheery, “Hi!”

There was no one there.

We had quite a giggle about this turn of events and made jokes about ghosts and possible pranksters having a laugh at the ‘new boys’ in the village. As we walked back into the sitting room we watched the fancy leather throw on the back of Ralph’s recliner start swinging back and forth.

Ralph looked at me with one eyebrow up and said, “The fireplace must be open. I’ll close the draft.” He walked over to the fireplace and knelt down to close the flue. He suddenly stopped and looked up the chimney. He looked back over his shoulder at me.

“Damn thing’s closed already.”

As he stood up, the throw began to sway again. Ralph walked over to it and held his hand by the throw. “Nothing.” He moved his hand fractionally. “Not a breath of air.” We both shrugged and sat back down to finish watching the news.

This occurrence would be a regular event at the house. We used to make jokes about our mysterious sitting room ghost and our invisible house guest who was too shy to knock on the back door.

It was only after we had lived there for about six months that the activity increased and soon shifted it’s focus on to Ralph’s new girlfriend. But that was after it decided to pick on me and after I had moved out of the house and  into  a flat with my new fiancée .

My bedroom and it’s inoperable door.

Bob Hoskins Another Fallen Idol

Bob Hoskins
Bob Hoskins (Photo credit: lewishamdreamer)

Some folks may well dispute my referring to Bob Hoskins as an idol. But to me that is exactly what he is. I first saw him work in the brilliant low budget gangster film The Long Good FridayHe mesmerized me as the small time hood with big ambitions,  Harold Shand was going to move up in the world. At the end of the film, Shand’s face is that of a cornered animal who knows that it has been caught and is going to die. Hoskins performance in that film turned me into an instant fan. For life.

By that point in his career Hoskins had already been working steadily for years. Eight to be exact. He was busy learning his craft and it showed. Like another of my favourite actors, Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins was the ‘real deal.’ Although he was born in my neck of the woods in Suffolk, he learned his acting spurs by doing it, not learning it in some classroom.

Mona Lisa was the next thing I saw him shine in. As George  the hapless jailbird who falls in love with the hooker his performance actually made me cry. Moving stuff, especially considering that he’d just finished making me laugh at his performance in Sweet Liberty.

Then adopting an American accent he played  gumshoe Eddie Valiant whose partner was murdered by a ‘toon in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.This role not only saw him win the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actor, with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, but also resulted in Bob suffering from a nervous breakdown from exhaustion. The demanding role of Eddie knocked Bob down but not out.

Once again he adopted another American accent to play opposite Cher and Winona Ryder in the popular film Mermaids. Whether Hoskins is making us laugh as Smee in Hook or Neverland or impressing us with his characters ‘hardness’ in Doomsday he never fails to impress. Hoskins is one of those actors that makes you believe that he is the character he”s portraying.

Now after appearing in over 70 films, he’s retiring from the acting world because he’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

It is news of the most depressing sort.

He is now a member of that bitterly exclusive club of actors/celebrities who have been stricken by this debilitating disease. His fellow sufferers include Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali. Parkinson’s affects some 127,000 people in the UK and has no known cure.

Michael J. Fox has publicly fought for more education about the disease and increased funding for research to find a cure.

Hoskins has released a public statement saying that he intends to spend more time with his family. He will be sadly missed by his fans, but if anyone has earned a right to retire, it’s Mr Hoskins.

Enjoy your rest Bob, and know that we’re hoping that a cure can be found, not only for you but for the rest of the 127,000 sufferers in the UK and the rest of the world as well.

Press advert for Parkinson's Disease Society
Press advert for Parkinson’s Disease Society (Photo credit: HowardLake)

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country

Flag of the United States of America
Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughter and I were discussing the differences between America and England. She had read a blog or two about Brit’s abroad and living in the US. I thought that they must be interesting and then wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing something similar.

I have always enjoyed living in England. Growing up and watching Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce playing as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s great double act, Holmes and Watson made me long to tread those foggy streets of London. When I was given the opportunity to live here courtesy of Uncle Sam, I couldn’t believe my luck.

I will point out that I have actually lived in the United Kingdom longer than I lived in the country of my birth. I have thought of this castle filled country as my home for at least the last eighteen years. I got out of the USAF as part of the force downsizing drill in the nineties and not too long after applied for citizenship. Luckily for me, I did not have to ‘give up’ my status as an American citizen so I’ve always had the best of both worlds.

Despite the fact that I came to this country with a cloud over my head (that would soon be replaced by the real clouds that so frequently fill the sky in this country) I felt that just walking the streets was a great adventure. For years I would be driving somewhere and see the ruins of a castle or a picturesque thatched cottage and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m living here!”

Of course I have now lived here so long, that I don’t have many occasions where I have trouble with the local language or have to learn about traditions or quaint practises of the country. I have, though, developed a strange accent. One that is an odd blend of Arkansan,  American, and English. I live in Suffolk, one of the more rural areas of East Anglia, where you can get trapped behind a tractor for miles on a narrow, two lane road and the local populace all talk like an English version of country bumpkins.

It is a beautiful countryside that still plays havoc with my sinuses, despite having lived full-time in the county since 1990. And each year I await the rape and mustard season with dread knowing that my eyes will water and itch and my nose will steadfastly refuse to work properly until the blasted stuff is harvested.

But back in 1982, I didn’t know about rapeseed and mustard and how much it can affect you. I only knew that I really needed a change of scenery and the positive press I got from my  commander made it sound a bit like heaven. I got my orders and flew to RAF Mildenhall, the “Gateway to Europe” and arrived on the 5th of July 1982. My sponsor, a Staff Sargent from my new unit, met me and helped me get settled in my room.

I had an invite to his place later in the day for a barbecue and he left saying he would come back and pick me up later. I wandered around the wide open base. In those days RAF Mildenhall was pretty much open to the public. The only part of the base that was fenced off was the flight line area. Everything else was easily accessible by everyone.

At the edge of Mildenhall’s archaic base housing was a bus stop and a place called Mickey’s T bar. It boasted American style food and seating. I went in and ordered a double cheese burger. When the owner brought me the burger he pointed to an American style mustard bottle and said if I needed mustard on it, to help my self. I grabbed the squeezable bottle and lathered my cheese burger with mustard.

I then went to a table, sat down and took an enormous bite of instant fire. Eyes watering, I looked at the burger I’d just taken a bite out of in surprise. I hastily grabbed my can of coke and gulped the entire thing down in an effort to stop the burning in my mouth. I carefully put the cheeseburger down on my plate. I went back to the serving counter and bought another coke and asked why the burger was so damn hot.

The owner looked at me oddly and said, “Well of course it’s hot mate, I’ve only just cooked it.” I explained that I didn’t mean temperature hot, but spicy hot. He then started chuckling.

” You didn’t put mustard on did you?”

“Yeah,” I said, “Of course I did.”

“Well that’s not Yank mustard, mate. It’s English. We like our mustard a bit hotter than you lot like yours.” He continued chuckling to himself and after he sold me my second Coke stopped and thoughtfully rubbed his chin. “You know, I probably should mark the bloody thing. We get quite a few of you Yanks in here straight off the plane. Did you just get here?”

I nodded and he offered to make me another cheeseburger, no charge since I’d ‘ruined’ my first one. I said he didn’t have to do that, as I could  just scrape off the excessive amount of mustard that I had put on.  I finished my burger and wandered back to my room for a nap before the barbecue that afternoon.

My first day in England and already I’d learned two valuable  lessons. Not everything was what it seemed here and don’t put too much mustard on your burger.

English mustard.