Friday, 29 June 2012

We Are Not Worthy

Our God and soldiers we alike adore
Ev'n at the brink of danger; not before:
After deliverance both alike requited,
Our God's forgotten and our soldiers slighted
Francis Quarles 1592-1644

Long ago when Red was just a tot and I was expecting Mr Charming I flew out to Florida to spend a few days with Big Man whose submarine was making a port visit there following a series of UK/US war games. It wasn't long after the first Gulf War and the Free World was still celebrating the liberation of Kuwait. It was Big Man's second port visit to Florida - the first had been several years earlier on a destroyer. At that time there had been an announcement about the visit on local radio and an 'Adopt A Sailor' scheme was instigated. Many Orlandians came forward and treated members of the crew to various fun activities. Big Man and his friend Scouse Easton were taken to a tequila bar by a businessman who proceeded to get them royally bladdered. Another guy was flown IN A PRIVATE JET to New York for the night! Yet others were treated to family-run hog roasts, barbeques and pool parties. The hospitality of the Americans and the way they accepted the visiting sailors, just because they were in the military (and Brits, I suppose), is something Big Man has never forgotten.
During the visit I made at the end of '91 we were amazed by the way service personnel and veterans were treated. There was a special 'Speed Queue' entrance for the military at Sea World and after Shamu had finished his (her?) performance the emcee asked all servicemen and women to stand up and get applauded by the rest of the audience. We were able to get access to any military base just on production of Big Man's ID card*, which was great because we were able to buy reduced 'Military Rates' price theme park entry tickets. Say what you like about the American people, they know how to treat the military and veterans. We were spoiled.

Even if I wasn't married to an ex-sailor and I didn't have many years as a Navy wife under my belt I still would have an awful lot of respect and affection for our Forces. All of my grandparents saw service in WWII - RAF, WRAF, Merchant Navy, Polish Free Air Force, ATS and a Military Nurse (that includes a step-grandad and a grandmother who first joined the ATS then went AWOL to join the WRAF because she 'liked the uniform better') - and I come from a port city that appreciates the Navy with a passion, thanks to their support in the Cod War. So I'm really outraged and disgusted when I read things like this article in the paper today. Six soldiers were turned away at the bar of a pub in Coventry when they tried to get a cup of coffee each. The six were in the city to act as pallbearers at the funeral of the brother of one of them, also a soldier, who was killed on active service in Afghanistan. A member of the bar staff had already taken their order before it was rescinded by the publican's daughter who told the men that it was the pub policy not to serve 'anyone in uniform' (including policemen, ambulancemen, nurses, bus drivers??? Doubt it).
The publican has, reluctantly, apologised after first refusing to do so and has given a £200 donation to the fund set up for the dead soldier's wife and child (they accepted it....I would've told him where to stuff it). He also explained that had he known the soldiers were in the city to act as pallbearers at a funeral they would of course have been served. Why does that make a difference? What sort of establishment refuses to serve military personnel in uniform at all? Coventry is hardly Aldershot or Portsmouth, full to the brim with testosterone-charged young fighting men....there can't be that many uniformed servicemen causing trouble in the Midlands - heck, even in Pompey you very rarely see a matelot in 8s.

Prince William wears 8s very handsomely

Years ago when the IRA were very active in the UK the MOD banned servicemen from wearing uniform outside of military establishments - their visibility could very seriously pose a threat to their safety - but nowadays it's encouraged. And so it should be. Protecting one's country is nothing to be ashamed of. A Facebook group set up to protest at the treatment received by the soldiers in Coventry has almost 100,000 members, which shows that many people are incredibly grateful to and proud of our Armed Forces. The outpouring of affection and admiration towards Lance Bombadier Ben Parkinson reinforces this feeling.

We lionise inarticulate footballers, vapid actors and autotuned singers whilst paying our frontline military crap wages; housing them in sub-standard homes; disrespecting their traditions and belittling their sacrifice. We give them no quarter, either during their careers when they could benefit from discounts and preferential access to services or after their period of engagement, when we send them to the bottom of the housing pile and refuse to acknowledge their service experience and achievements. What is wrong with this country? Every single serviceman is somebody's son, brother, husband. and we owe them so much. We don't deserve them.

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936

* this has never been a reciprocal arrangement to my knowledge and I doubt it happens in the US either now in these post-bin Laden days. I'm interested to hear about the military experience from any of my American readers.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Mission To Lars

If you read my blog regularly you're going to know that my #2 son, Carb Addict is severely autistic. I suppose like many parents who have a child with some kind of 'ailment' (for want of a better word) my ears prick up when I hear the word 'autism' mentioned....same thing when I spot anything written about it in the papers or whatever. So when I read the following review in the Mail on Sunday last week I said to Big Man 'I'd love to see this film'.

'The British documentary Mission To Lars (15) has a whole lot of heart as journalist Kate Spicer and her film-maker brother take their autistic sibling Tom to America to meet his hero Lars Ulrich, the drummer with heavy metal band Metallica. There are times when things feel manipulated but this never deflects from several emotional climaxes.'

There must have been some kind of karma going on because the next morning before work I discovered that our local arts cinema, the fab-u-losa Harbour Lights, was showing Mission to Lars for just that one night! I got Red's okay to mind Carb Addict for the evening (NOT always a foregone conclusion) and told Big Man that we were going out. Believe it or not this is a pretty rare occurrence given that our children are 22, 20 and nearly 19, and that the younger two don't even normally live with us. We were surprised that the cinema was fairly full with all age groups represented but oddly enough mainly older couples in gangs. Who knows what their interest was.

You know when everybody in the audience starts clapping at the end of a film that it's been pretty good. Mission to Lars is a real feelgood movie and yes, it is kind of obvious that there's going to be a successful resolution to the siblings' quest. The gist of the film is that for many years Tom, a huge Metallica fan, has told his sister Kate that he 'wanna meet Lars', Lars being Lars Ulrich, the band's drummer (who, I might add, comes out of the film fantastically well).

In fact Tom isn't autistic but suffers with Fragile X Syndrome. Similar but not quite the same. We recognised a lot of Tom's behaviours in Carb Addict, in particular the desperation to carry out a particular act but then withdrawing, refusing to do it when the time comes. Carb Addict used to have a befriender from Kids, a mid-fifties lady named Margaret who was very glamorous and who I personally think is the cause of Carb Addict's swooning interest in far older (verging on pensionable) blonde women. (Yes, it IS embarrassing by the way, the worst experience being during my nieces' First Holy Communion. Mortified is not the faces all around, not least the flustered, pink-cheeked grandma of another child). Anyway, Margaret came once a month to take Carb Addict out for a few hours, normally bowling, and during the rest of the month that wasn't those four hours Carb Addict would constantly be repeating 'Margaret, Margaret'. However, when Margaret arrived to take him out in her car he used to refuse to look at her or put his coat on and had to be persuaded or threatened (by me, not Margaret) to go with her. He always had a great time. In the same way, when Tom gets his chance to finally meet Lars he refuses twice......

This was such a great film and it's a shame that it's had a limited release but in all honesty it's the kind of thing you'd see as a documentary on Channel 4. In fact, don't be surprised if thats exactly where you catch it, maybe even before the end of the year. A really good thing is that the profits from the film are being donated to Mencap. I urge you to see it if you possibly can at any Picturehouse cinema. Here's a taster....

Monday, 11 June 2012

Pressure Drop

Uncle Grandad's comment on this Speaking Blood Pressure Monitor from Lidl was "do you think it just gives you the reading or will it say 'ooh, I'd get myself to the doctor's if I were you'?"

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Great Keshling Giveaway!!!!

I am struggling my way ever upwards but I'm hoping to hit 100 followers before too long. For a little push I am planning a giveaway in the next fortnight, just things that reflect the kind of stuff I like and stuff I write about - saving money, food, old things, creating.....have to find something also that relates to my inherent snarkiness. Hmmmm. To do that I've decided to go to Babcia's house with Carb Addict for a few days. He is highly excited and has been counting down the days until we leave since....ooh, yesterday maybe? My Dad, 'Uncle Grandad' as Mr Charming used to think he was called, has apparently offered to look after Carb Addict whilst Babcia and I do 'stuff', so that's chazzing for us two and book auctions for the fellas.

Pic from here

I always call it my malignant Northern hometown. Can you guess where it is yet?