Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy birthday to me!

First off. I'm in a feckin foul mood! Why? We'll, I had just spent 45 mins typing this post (well, not this one, but one just like it), adding links and pics etc only for the feckin laptop to decide it wanted to turn itself off without warning! Oh computers - we love 'em, but we don't half hate the bastards too!

Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME etc, etc, etc.

Thems of you who know me well know I'm a big kid at heart. And I love birthdays! Liz loves birthdays too, so we do tend to spoil each other rotten. We take the day off. Maybe go out or laze around, enjoy some good food, etc. We just have a good day together without distractions. And today was no exception.

I've always had my birthday off (well, nearly always, but more of that a little later). Having a mid-summer birthday meant no schoolground birthday bumps, beats, etc. Come adulthood it also meant no work as I always took the day off and went dragonfly or butterfly hunting. I've had all bar one birthday off work. The exception was when I was leading a wildlife holiday on Shetland and Orkney. The day of 10 July was spent (with a bloody stinkin' cold) on the wonderful isle of Rousay, Orkney amidst the lands and shores of our Neolithic ancestors. Since technically I was also on holiday (from my day job) I didn't really count this as working. And, it was the day that I 'met' Liz. It was half-way through the holiday, but it was on this day both of us knew we had 'clicked'. So, work or no work, it turned out to be my best birthday ever!

But back to the present birthday and my prezzie haul, which was jolly good indeed! Mum-in-law, Elsie, surpassed herself (alright, Liz does Elsie's buying as, bless, at 89 Elsie don't get to the shops as much as she once did) with a book. Ah. Again, those of you who know me well will have just spotted something - me and books aren't a natural mix. And those of you who know me really well will know of the time I was heard to utter the line 'I dont read books' to which someone present retorted 'well what do you do with all yours then?'. Fair question! Well, what I meant at the time was that I wasnt one for novels, travelogues, autobogrphies or books where half-baked celebs tell us their opinions on everythings from footballers wives to clonic irrigation. No, thems the sort of books that aren't for me. This book however looks like it is. Pies and Prejudice, in search of the North by Stuart Maconie. So, what do I think is so special about this book? Well, just reading the cover whetted my appetite. I know you shouldn't pay too much heed to the cleverly edited quotes and crafted publisher's blurb on covers, but it does seem to bode well. Peter Kay (you know, the chubby northern comedian who shouts and sweats a lot and tells 'jokes' about real life stuff such as 'the big light' and like Maconie and me, he's a northern sort - actually you could probably throw a hankie over the area where Stu, Pete and me were raised - OK, a blanket) says, very simply, on the cover 'Bloody crackin'. Nice. The Sunday Times (ooh!) says 'an heir to Alan Bennett . . . stirring and rather wonderful'. Now this is a back-handed compliment from where I'm sat. At the literary level its pretty good being compared to Mr Bennett, but, on a northern level, in particularly at the Roses level, this is not something that I as a Lancastrian can agree with - being compared to a White Rose Yorkie! Nope, and forgive me for speaking on your behalf Stuart, if The Sunday Times reviewer doesn't get the north enough to know the difference between the red and the white side of the Pennines, then they aren't qualified to review a book about t'north. I said you had to be careful about the cover blumph didn't I! I expect Stu's book has at least a mention of the War of the Roses and how we keep up the pretence on the cricket field. I love the fact that my Nan is 'real Yorkshire' and three of her four grandchildren are Lancs! OK, rant over, and turning to the back cover, The Times starts to get carried away a little (at least no northern faux pars) - 'The new Bill Bryson [just an antipidean faux par - exusable]. If he keeps this up he'll be on the National Treasure list pretty soon'. I'm pretty sure they're not referring to the awful Nick Cage film either, so this sounds like reasonable praise too. Oh, but what of the publisher - what do they say? Well, thats the bit I really like (I think I'm meant too - it is after all called the 'sell'). It states -

A Northerner in exile [like me], Stuart Maconie goes on a journey in search of the North [I think this is figerative, as I think he knows where it is geographically], attempting to discover where the cliches end and the truth begins. He travels from Wigan Pier [know it well] to Blackpool Tower [ditto] and Newcastle's Bigg Market to the Lake District to find his own Northern Soul [neat reference], encountering along the way an exotic [!] cast of chippy [thats one word for 'em] Scousers [you don't actually have to travel to the north to encounter Scousers cos as everyone knows they get everywhere. In fact, I'm expectin to encounter at least one when I go to Spitsbergen later this month], pie-eating woollybacks [me again!], topless Geordies [see reference to Scousers], mad-for-it-Mancs [less travelled, stay at home types], Yorkshire nationalists [sedentary of course] and brothers in exile [more about the likes of me and he]. So, it sounds like I should at least enjoy reading about all the stereotypical images of my beloved homeland! And there's nowt like something northern to put back the northern in northern tosser [re. me again].

Amazingly this birthday included two books! Petrina and Jeremy (hi guys) from over in the Deutschland, sent me a fab book by Graham Swift, Waterland. I have read this book before (funnily enough that to owas a present, from my Uncle Paul when I moved in to my fenland gaff here), and re-reading the cover blurb I forgot how great this book is and it will be read again very soon (well, its in the queue after the pile of library books, Pies and Prejudice, etc). Thanks P&J for thinking of me.

Moving swiftly on to the electric bug zapper! Oh yes! Oh no! I can hear the lilly-livered fly-loving liberals among you reaching for the reply button! Just let me explain. We live in the fens. Fens = swamp. Swamp = swampy things. Swampy things = flies. Millions of the feckers! And its serious when you can't see out of a window cos its is quite literally covered in fruit flies. So our house is full of various anti-fly devices - sticky traps, those violet lamp zappers, an Alessi Dr Skud fly swatter (my personal favourite) and now, possibly soon-to-be-favourite, an approved electric racket-style swatter! Two AA batteries and hours of fun. Even better in the semi-dark (I know, fly-hinting purists among you know its not always the best light conditions to hunt flies) when on each fly contact with the electried racket head parks fly as fly fries! Top marks!

Another great device (you never knew I was a such gadget nurd did you) Liz got me was my own little solar charger for all things rechargable and portable - cameras, mobile phone (thats a handy for all my German friends), iPod, etc, etc - a Solio solar charger. Its currently stuck to the front window. Yes I know its dark, but by the end of tomorrow it will be fully charged and ready to go to top up any of my rechargable devices. It might not get bags of use here at home (cos we's got dat ting called lectricity) but when travelling abroad in the likes of up river Gambia and the genny dies, it will be a boon!

We'll I could bore you some more about all the other great prezzies I got (man-care products, CDs, DVDs, nice cardy, Ted Baker socks, etc, etc), but I wont. My Mum would just email me to tell me to 'stop showing off Stephen'. Like the time I first got a car with a remote control keyring thingy. When I first went to see her and we went to go out in the car, I zapped the car to unlock it and out trotted one of her favourite lines 'oh, stop showing off'. Its how you unlock the feckin car you stupid cow! Sorry. I should show more respect for my mother I know. I'll try. But I won't lose sleep over it - don't worry! Oh, I'd better thank her for the very nice wallet she got me (from Danish company Hansson) - thanks Mama (xxx).
Boy, I nearly forgot! Guess who's got tickets for Frankie Boyle at the Peterborough Broadway in October? Thank you very much!!

Lastly, working from home, alone, I don't get to enjoy the office thing of birthday cakes all round, so I decided to buy cakes for the builders instead! Results - five out of six builders like cake; five out of five builders (thats 100%) prefer choccy cake to lemon drizzle cake (which had three peices left over at the end of the day - descerning sorts these builder types!).

Thank you Liz for a great day!

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