Thursday, 31 May 2007

It was only a matter of time...

Even though my old friend, Thomas Hamburger Jnr, recently received the accolade of being nominated as a Thinking Blogger, I noted that he pointedly did not include me in his own list of five subsequent nominees. I thought, at the time, that it was a little unthinking of him.

Thankfully, my thoughtfulness has been noted by another. Thank you, then, 70s Teen for nominating me for the self-same award.

I shall not let it go to my head.

Here are five blogs that make me think, and I hope they'll make you think too:

  1. Homeless Family's Blog - a recently-discovered place worth a regular stop-by, methinks
  2. Moon Danzer Delivers - more proof that the words 'thinking' and 'American' aren't as contradictory as President Bush might suggest
  3. On the strength of this single post alone, People in the Sun gets my vote.
  4. Saskboy is another blogger who makes me think - so much so that I regularly Fuel His Blog even though he's a competitor of mine in the tightly-fought-out News/Politics section of FMB. He keeps a close watch on our transatlantic cousins from his north of the border vantage point - and I for one am glad.
  5. Dear Domestic Minx has already been nominated twice for this award, but I can't resist making sure she has a third for her crowded mantlepiece. Her decadence delights daily.
______________________________________________________________________________________

The rules for winners of the Thinking Blog Award are outlined by originator Ilker Yoldas:

1. If you are nominated, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' - you can find more details here - with a link to the post that you wrote (there is an alternative gold version if silver doesn't fit your blog).

Artless

It's quite a journey, but I had been promising myself a visit to Darlington ever since I discovered the local authority's innovative approach to raising revenue.

I never did find the offending miniature parking bays. Instead, my attention was diverted by a sign for Darlington Arts Centre.

I first visited the imposing building which houses the Arts Centre shortly after it was opened, some 30 years ago, when delivering a lecture to a class of trainee journalists at the nearby technical college. When, all those years ago, I chanced upon the converted building which had begun its life as Darlington College of Education, founded by the British & Foreign School Society, it was a delight.

Of course, this was the late, (but pre-Thatcher) 1970's, and attitudes to art were a little different to those prevailing these days. The arts 'industry' was in its infancy. But I remember a vibrant mix of exhibitions, a buzzing bar and the sound of avant garde music playing everywhere you went.

Little wonder, then, that I fancied recapturing a touch of those days gone by when I saw the sign for the centre. My regular readers will know that I am not much given to nostalgic yearnings. Nevertheless, the road already travelled sometimes appeals much more than the uncertain one ahead, so I decided, on a whim, to revisit the Centre.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I discovered. Darlington Arts Centre's best stab at providing art to the masses seems now to be a corridor outside the gents, where someone (possibly accidentally) had left a few works by local artists hanging - no more than twenty pieces in all.

I'm not a man to give up easily when I've got the scent of culture in my nostrils, even if it's mixed just a little with the smell of bleach. Pausing only to take a (quite decidedly horrible) coffee in the misnamed 'Garden Bar' (now a shabby room, on the first floor, whose only access to the anything like a garden was the glimpse of a boring patch of grass through a dirty window) I made my way back to reception, determined to be directed to whatever works of art the Centre was hiding - however minimalist they were.

Unfortunately, the reception staff - though perfectly friendly - struggled in the task. Had I seen the display in the corridor near the toilets, they asked, hopefully.

'Come back on Monday,' they pleaded: 'We're having a Grand Re-opening then'. A bit of me was tempted, although I wondered for a moment if I had stumbled into some kind of artistic recreation of Monty Python's famous Cheese Shop sketch. Would there be any art available to see, I wondered, hesitantly voicing my query even as I (shamefully) began anticipating their reply. They gamefully studied the programme, but it was no use. They had to admit that nothing was scheduled.

My top tip for anyone who has received an invitation to this 'Grand Re-opening' - which seems to centre around a new reception area, as the rest of the building was looking tired and shabby, is this: save yourself the anguish. Stay at home and flick through that coffee table Taschen book your cousin bought you for Christmas a couple of years back.

And, if the Community Arts Co-ordinator at Darlington Arts Centre is reading this, I only hope you enjoyed your lunch. Had it ended earlier than 2pm, when I was there, you might have had a piece of my barbed tongue to contend with.

(Incidentally, readers should not confuse the establishment with this place which, though tagged with the same moniker, seems at least to be living up to what an arts centre should aspire to), even if it is a few thousand miles away from the North East Centre for the Misnomers.

Fortunately, just around the corner, I discovered the quite lovely Gallerina art gallery. It's website may be 'under development', but I can assure you that the gallery itself is well and truly finished - and there you'll find an eclectic mix of intelligent painting and sculpture while discovering some local talent that hasn't been relegated to a corridor outside a gentleman's lavatory.

They had a few items by an artist who perfectly captured the camaraderie of the old mining communities in south west Durham - Alistair Brookes. Huge, white canvasses, with shadowy black figures of miners on their way to work: the dignity of labour acutely caught in vinyl. And not a whiff of bleach to be had anywhere.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

I Doff My Cap

Entries to the inaugural Fuel My Blog Caption Competition, which I was proud to initiate last Wednesday, continued to trickle in throughout the week.


This week's hastily-assembled panel of judges have had a tough time of it. Cloistered away for the evening in the opulent (if slightly noisy) surroundings of the Widnes Travelodge, they have nevertheless managed to come up with what I hope you agree is a fitting selection of worthy winners.

HIGHLY COMMENDED - bigcol

"This is the book you want, sonny, Sue Your Barber: Embarrassing Hairstyles And The Law".



HIGHLY COMMENDED - karen
Teacher: "Can you read out loud this piece of text for me?"
Boy: "Goethe was a great poet....."
Teacher: " No, "oe" is pronounced "ö".
Boy: "Göte was a great pöt
..."

THIRD PLACE - sylvied
Let's see what the word "couilles" means in french shall we dear?


SECOND PLACE - daddy papersurfer
"And you've wanted to be a cockatoo for how long?"





FIRST PLACE
- karen
"Blog, BLOG!, no, no young man the future is surely to go forward and use this wonderful modern reading material called paper in the form of what I like to call a book!"


Of course, the judges have asked me to add the obligatory load of nonsense about all the entries being quite worthy and witty, but we know that's only platitudes, don't we?

Anyway, well done everybody, and I look forward to receiving entries for this week's competition.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Breakfast at Wetherspoon's

My daughter, Barbara Blunt, has always been the artistic one in the family. Her early foray into the t-shirt business as a teenager (and who would NOT want a 'Bill Blunt Speaks My Language' logo on their chest?) was something of a springboard for her later career.

Since reading my posting about the delights of the Wetherspoon chain of hostelries, she has been hard at work on a screenplay for what she calls a 'modern day parody'.

Her main character is only loosely based on that of Holly Golightly, the New York socialite made famous by that darling of the silver screen, Audrey Hepburn.

Holly (at least Barbara's version of her) is the kind of woman you'll find in the corner of any Wetherspoon's at eleven o'clock in the morning, nursing a Gin and Tonic and wiping away the smudges of fag ash from the 'little black number' she threw on before she went out last night.

Her make-up may look a little awry, her hair dishevelled, but somehow she manages to attract a certain kind of gentleman with her invitations to "Come and buy me a drink, lover-boy," always drawled in that raspy, half-asleep voice fuelled by Marlboro Lights.

George Peppared-Steak-on-Rye will play the louche writer, Paul Varjak-Budweiser, always a sucker for Holly's come-on lines.

I'm not an expert on the movie scene these days, but I do rather think she's onto something with this one.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

ADDENDUM
:

Barbara has complained that the above picture did not do justice to her fine artwork. Some of the detail may have been lost, so here are a couple of close-ups, just in case anyone comes across Holly and, in the darkness of the bar, imagines she is, for a moment, Audrey Hepburn. The warning signs are clearly there - if only the need for a good going over with the old Prolectrix...

Monday, 28 May 2007

That's about the size of it

Finally tiring of deleting the endless e-mails I seem to receive promising to increase the size of my manhood, I decided I needed to do a little definitive internet research to establish, once and for all, whether size really matters.

It's not a subject I have ever discussed with Mrs Blunt. She is of the 'You Take What You're Given, And Be Grateful For It' school of thought. As my experience of women other than Mrs Blunt is rather limited (and my tryst with that kiss-and-tell bimbo, Miss Jennifer Muffin, some twenty-odd years ago is not to be counted, for these purposes) I cannot know whether my endowment is either more or less than that of the average man.

However, I did find this useful piece of documentary material, which does rather suggest that women, as a species, have contradictory views on the subject...

Sunday, 27 May 2007

A Milestone

I know Thomas Hamburger Jnr will excuse me asking him to post this latest missive on my blog, but sometimes a man must cast his bushel aside and bask in the glow of the light that shines.

Earlier this evening, Jasper rang me, excited to let me know that Bill Blunt's Blog is currently languishing at the number 25 spot on Fuel My Blog, the website that has done for self-promotion what Buddy Holly, Jim Reeves and Glen Miller all did for air travel.

Only a matter of a few weeks ago, my blog languished at number 87, a position I see is now held by an interesting blog by Loretta.

Someone quite famous once said that a month was a long time in politics. If that's the case, then in the world of blogs it's an absolute age. Of course, Francium's position in the periodic table hasn't changed - some things in life are immutable. And it's quite feasible that Rodney Atkins has slipped from the Billboard Top 100, his fame waning even while my own grows.

It's a harsh world out there. Anyone who (even now) admits otherwise is storing up trouble. I'm not a man who usually brags, but I have been pleased to watch my quite distinctive voice develop during my time on the blogosphere.

From Francium to Manganese in one month. I don't think I'll sleep tonight.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Not Fade Away

Rather amazingly, I seem to have shrunk over the last couple of months.

For more years than I care to remember, I have fought to squeeze my portly frame into increasingly tight 38-inch trousers, fearing further expansion into even larger sizes might be on the horizon. Catching sight of my body in the mirror became a singularly unedifying experience, except that certain parts of my anatomy were only now visible that way.

Having graduated from small, to medium, to large - and then to extra large, I couldn't help but worry that 'Tory Party Councillor' size was just around the corner.

Then, something quite unexpected happened. Some magic synapse in my brain was triggered that sent me scurrying off to the municipal swimming pool. A weekly hour or so doing a few lengths has now become part of my regular routine.

This week, I found myself wearing (for the first time in more years than I care to reveal) a pair of slim, 32-inch jeans borrowed for the occasion from my son, Jasper.
Result! In addition, I am now able to view my manhood without resort to the wardrobe mirror.

And so, I can commend to you the simple pleasure of the swimming pool. If you suffer from the kind of girth expansion I did, you'll thank me for it.

Brotherly Love (II)

Strange are the workings of the mind. I was recently walking by Sefton Park in Liverpool, one of the many delightful areas of that fair city, when I chanced upon a sign that got me thinking.

Somehow, as soon as I saw it, the song 'Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?' came to mind. It's a powerful song, encapsulating the ups and downs of life as mirrored in America's Great Depression, and I heard it most recently when performed by gay icon George Michael. And a good fist he made of it, too.

Don't get me wrong: I've never been the biggest fan of Mr Michael. I remember when (some many years ago) young Jasper came home once with a strange haircut. He told me it was modelled on one sported by George Michael at the time, and I began to understand why everyone was banging on about banning GM crops.

But Mrs Blunt likes some of his music, and my daughter Barbara decided to buy tickets for a forthcoming GM concert at the euphemistically-named Council House in Manchester for our recent wedding anniversary.

None of this explains, however, why Mr Michael should have sprung to mind when I saw this sign:



According to Jasper, Fuel My Blog are running another of their wonderful competitions, this time offering a trip to Hollywood for the winner. He thinks I should enter the photo with a suitably pithy caption. And, if I were to win, I could even visit the actual Beverly Hills toilet where the alleged incident took place.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Wordful Wednesday

As I rummage through the sometimes murky world of blogs, I have noticed something called Wordless Wednesday. I can't pretend to get it: what kind of religion, politics or cult demands silence of people on that unassuming day?

As a way to redress the balance, I have used some space granted to me at Fuel My Blog's blog to even things up a little.

Any blogger frustrated by the idea of being gagged once a week for 24 hours is invited to untie the gag and let their imagination run riot in a new competition. Pop along there now - and tell them Bill sent you!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

8 Random Things About Bill Blunt

Just when I thought it was safe to hide in the corner and rest my quill a while, I discover that my fellow curmudgeon Archie has also tagged me, this time to tell the world 8 random things they don't know about me. I have spent an hour or two writing a couple of dozen things down, and I have asked Mrs Blunt to draw them randomly from my late Uncle Jesmond's old cloth cap which we keep in the back of the sideboard for those occasions when we are asked to be random.

  1. For a brief period I kept a cree of pigeons
  2. I lust after leek pudding, a dish rarely seen on any menu these days
  3. I am inordinately proud of my three fine children, but I would never tell them that to their face in case they developed inflated egos (which I consider to be one of the worst vices in humankind)
  4. I have never been awarded a state honour
  5. I won the 1956 Fitton Hill Junior's 'Most Mischevious Metaphorist' competition
  6. I quit smoking in 1979, 1984, 1989, 1993, 2005 and 2006. I plan to do so again later this year
  7. I am starting to get addicted to the quite enchanting writings of The Domestic Minx and worry that Mrs Blunt will discover this at any moment
  8. I once almost had the chance to steal a plaque from the Empire State Building
As I am now all tagged out, I do not feel in all honesty I should tag anyone else. While I understand this may condemn me to rot in some kind of dungeon in the blogosphere, forever cast aside for my 'bad form', it's a risk I am prepared to take.

Bill Blunt's Dining Recommendations

Thanks to Daddypapersurfer, I discover I have been 'tagged' to tell my loyal readership about '5 Places Near To Me Where It's Good To Eat'.

Of course, this brings into question the whole issue of what is meant by 'near to me'. I am not an insular man by nature. The world, to me, is not a whelk, but more a delicious oyster to be savoured and relished.

I err towards the thoughts expressed by that great newspaper columnist George Ade, of the Chicago Record, who once said "A friend who is near and dear may in time become as useless as a relative".

So, my search for the top five places I like to eat has involved me casting my net a little more widely than Oldham.

In no particular order, I must mention:

Salieri's
I first discovered this little gem about ten years ago, whilst hosting a party of European visitors to our capital, and a visit to London is now rarely complete unless I drop in to eat here. In the area around Covent Garden and the Strand, there have always been many tourist traps ready to entice the unwary. Finding Salieri's was, therefore, a delight. Its modest interior is decorated with a wide variety of stage memorabilia, including photographs of West End stars past and present, puppets and masks, and the menu presents a fine selection of varied, European cuisine. Situated on the Strand, opposite the Savoy Hotel, the staff here have (usually) been particularly friendly and welcoming, the food of a high quality and the price not (too) gasp-inducing.

Nando's Restaurants

As anyone knows me will attest, I am a sucker for getting my hands around a plump thigh. If the thigh happens to be a chicken, and it is served in a ravishingly hot peri-peri sauce, then so much the better. This chain of fast-food eateries offers fresh, high-quality food (for which read almost exclusively chicken) at a very reasonable price. In my travels I have greased my fingers in perhaps 8 or 9 different branches of Nandos, and the food is always consistently good. There is bound to be one near you and I can only heartily recommend a visit if you have not already been.

The Ox
This is a miniature gastropub of the finest order. Located not far from the Castlefield area of Manchester, you can be assured of good food, superbly quaffable ales and the usual eclectic mix of customers that only a Manchester public house can provide. Handy for the museums, with a nearby metro station ready to whisk you away to whichever hotel you may happen to be staying in, The Ox will satisfy and leave you ready to return again and again. Take an umbrella.

Whitburn Lodge
This is a pub. It has none of the fancy frippery of those awful gastropubs you find in places like Manchester. It's honest, down to earth and knows what it does best - and that is serve beer and good, home-cooked food. There isn't even a terrifically good choice of beer, but it is blessed with some of the friendliest bar staff you'll find anywhere in the country. It's located just five minutes walk from a rocky coastline and about ten minutes drive north of Sunderland. Neither Mrs Blunt nor I would describe it as the homeliest establishment we've frequented, but one taste of their home-made mince and dumplings and you'll be coming back to the Whitburn Lodge for more.

Jaen Parador
The town of Jaen isn't one of the prettiest you'll ever visit in Spain, but a trip there will unveil the wondrous beauty of its parador, perched high above the town itself and offering stunning views across the olive groves of the district. The menu (in common with most of the Spanish paradors) offers local and regional delicacies not easily forgotten. Their 'Taste of Jaen' menu serves up something like twelve individual dishes all on one huge plate, so you would make a mistake if you ordered one each (unless you were accompanied by Mrs Blunt), who is a great rectifier of mistakes. Of course, it's invidious to choose one particular parador as there are so many that are attractive, but Jaen was one of the first I visited, so it holds special memories for me. I certainly learned a thing or two about Mrs Blunt's appetite during our stay there, and that's one memory that (try as I might) I have never been able to erase.

I understand that I now get the pleasure of inviting five other bloggers to share their views on the same subject (and that they in turn can invite five more when they have completed the task, so that, in time, the entire blogosphere will have had to list their top 5 eateries near to where they live).

Here's my list of taggees (and if any have already done this, my apologies in advance):

Julian Syngen-Smythe
Enumerator
Archie
70sTeen (and we are looking for a suitably '70's theme here)
and
Crofty, whose recent visit to Amsterdam may have led him to discover one or two decent places to scoff.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Looking Back

Last night, I spent the evening in quiet reflection on whether my debut in the world of blogs has been worth it. At a time in any project, just as in one's life, one needs to 'take stock' every now and again.

I wondered whether it is all, actually, worth it? At such dark moments of the soul, I usually find a glass or two of scotch helps the process along enormously. That's all it takes to get Mrs Blunt nodding off, and out of the way so I am free to pursue my exploration of angst alone, and undisturbed.

How to measure whether it has been worth it? Now, there's a tricky one. I decided to stop by a couple of websites and blogs I had mentioned in my time, so see whether my own contribution had made one iota of difference to the world.

My first port of call was at the website of Rob Wilson, a local artist chap of some considerable talent who I gently plugged in an earlier column. It's hard to know whether my brief mention of his work led to a rush of punters to his door to buy his finely-crafted works. As I hold no brief for Rob, I can tell you that, as a result of my posting he re-instituted the picture of a pigeon atop of his head on his home page - so, at least, I did have some small influence somewhere along the line. I do hope he continues to flog his pictures too, though.

Next, I dropped in on those interesting people who are hoping to buy an old double-decker bus and restore it, to see how they are faring since I mentioned them here. Unfortunately, their site is temporarily unavailable, so I can't tell whether they have raised enough dosh and have closed down, or whether they need a little more cash to feed their blog meter. A shame, as I was feeling quite sentimental last night and could easily have been persuaded to throw a couple of dollars their way again.

Finally, I wondered about those pig tarts. Since I published my first piece about them, the local campaign in Dorset has gone from strength to strength. I like to think my own, still voice has helped the campaign along a little.

Was it worth it? I think so.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Mr Blair Regrets

As he approaches the time when he will step down from office, it's surely fitting that Tony Blair is taking time out to reflect on any regrets he might have about his decade as Prime Minister.

Thanks to the BBC, we now know that what keeps Mr Blair awake at night is not the thought of a costly and pointless war waged in Iraq at the behest of his transatlantic puppet master, nor even the countless re-disorganisations of the NHS which he has sponsored.

No - Tony Blair's big regret is (apparently) that he's not done enough to promote the great British cuppa. In fact, he claims that if he was running for office again, he would make the defence of tea a major part of his platform.

I wonder that he hasn't read the warnings about tea that have been posted by the influential Loyola University Health System? I'd certainly think twice about promoting it given the possible health implications outlined there.

His professed love of the brown stuff puts him alongside some strange bedfellows. Tony Benn is one self-professed tea drinker, who once claimed to have drunk enough to float the QE2. And George Orwell also had a thing or two to say on the subject.

Anyway, by way of tribute to our 'great' leader as he prepares to depart from office, here are the lyrics to what might have been his campaign anthem, were he standing for another term:

I like a nice cup of tea in the morning
For to start the day you see
And at half-past eleven
Well my idea of Heaven
is a nice cup of tea
I like a nice cup of tea with my dinner
And a nice cup of tea with my tea
And when it's time for bed
There's a lot to be said
For a nice cup of tea.


Personally, I'm off to get myself a coffee.

Disclosure Policy

"Pa," young Jasper said to me last night, "have you thought how your distinctive voice might be influencing people?"

At first, I thought his question was one of those idiotic remarks he has been wont to come out with since reaching puberty. I've never been a man who is afraid to influence people. My reflections on life, the world and Oldham Athletic have always been designed to make people think.

"No, Pa!" he went on. "What I mean is you need to be upfront with people - let them know when you are being paid or sponsored for your views."

Then, he pointed me in the direction of Disclosure Policy, where I was able to generate my very own, personalised policy. And here it is:

This policy is valid from 20 May 2007

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact thomashamburgerjnr (at) gmail.com.

This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.

This blog abides by word of mouth marketing standards. We believe in honesty of relationship, opinion and identity. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.

The owner(s) of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

I think that says everything it needs to say. Now all I need are a few sponsors.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Dander

When my dander is up, I don’t mind saying it is not a time to be a visitor at Blunt Mansions. I am normally an equable enough chap – slow to form hasty judgement, and equally swift in taking my time when responding to a crisis.

But certain things seem to get my dander up.

I’m not a doctor, so I cannot even tell you with any certainty where my, or anyone else’s, dander is located. I imagine it to be somewhere between the small intestine and the liver. I am sure someone with medical knowledge will enlighten me.

One thing I do know, however: a dander’s natural state is to be down. It is happiest when immotile, snuggled away not doing anyone the slightest harm. For the most part, we go about our day-to-day life without the slightest awareness of its workings.

When provoked, however, the dander can easily grow to four or five times its normal size, fuelled by gall, ire and bile. It can be prodded into life by the front page headline of any edition of the Daily Express, particularly if the words ‘asylum seeker’, ‘rising interest rates’ or ‘immigration’ are mentioned.

Most recently, I have found my dander stirring whenever I witness the attempts to canonise Tony Blair, our ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ prime minister. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of these rabid anti-Blairites you sometimes see popping up on the TV every now and again to have a go at the PM. But nor would I pretend to be one of Tony’s staunchest defenders.

I am, at heart, a man of balance. That doesn’t mean I have any truck with liberals, of course. Rather, I err towards the words of the late, lamented Aneurin Bevan, the firebrand Ebbw Vale MP who warned us that ‘People who stay in the middle of the road get run over’. I steer my course through life more as the drunk who makes his way home late at night, having squandered the few quid he’d put by for a taxi on one last drink. I stagger to the left, then I stagger to the right – but I never follow the white lines.

For the most part, I find this keeps my dander well in check. But Britain’s apparent willingness to jump into bed with our American cousins at the slightest invitation – whether this be the first Gulf War or the current one, brings my dander out in all its fearsome glory. I cannot (and will not) believe that the best interests of the British people are served by this ‘special’ relationship.

And Tony Blair’s lasting legacy will, I’m afraid, be precisely that he fed this same relationship with a slavishness bordering on sycophancy. I heartily hope that Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, will steer a different course in seeking out a ‘special friend’. But I’m not holding my breath.

Back - as Bold as Ever!

My critics may have been grinning slyly to themselves thinking, perhaps, that my distinctive voice had been quieted. Well, I have news for them! Mrs Blunt and I have had a few days away from Blunt Mansions - of which more, later. This interrupted my usual habit of e-mailing a post or two to Thomas Hamburger to put up on this blog on my behalf. The weasel-tongued critics were wrong - and not for the first time!

The one pleasure of returning home is that I will be able to spend a little time catching up on my favourite blogs. Over the last few days, my fingers have been itching for the keyboard, to find out the latest happenings at the Gimcrack Hospital, the recent findings of my old friend, Professor Julian Syngen-Smythe from the historical goldmine that is the Journal of Lord Likely, as well as my new friends in the Papersurfer family. Not forgetting, of course, one of my first internet pals, the estimable Crofty. And not forgetting the interesting Mr AG Articles, and that fine curmudgeon, Archie.

However, a few e-mails were awaiting my return, and these demand my prior attention. Work before pleasure is a maxim that has served me well in my working life. I just wish it hadn't served Mrs Blunt quite so well in her private life.

Monday, 14 May 2007

It's Official!

Any thoughts I might have harboured about the role of our local postman in the non-delivery of my Awardee (not to mention a DVD that a friend posted that has somehow 'gone missing') were well and truly quashed this morning when he rolled up with my certificate from the World Blog Council.


I must applaud the WBC for their efficiency. My certificate now takes pride of place above the fireplace in the lounge at Blunt Mansions. I'm proud to be a complete member of the WBC. As Mrs Blunt kindly pointed out, I have always been a complete member to her, and I don't mind saying I gave her a peck on the cheek when she told me that.

Don't Look Back

"Pa," young Jasper said to me this morning, "perhaps your readers would enjoy reading about how you got interested in journalism?" I thought I detected just a hint of sarcasm in his voice, but it's so difficult to tell with the younger generation these days. Well, it's an idea, anyway.

When I try to recall the spark that led me into a life-time of working in a newsroom, I'm drawn inevitably to that Christmas Day in 1953, when an excited young chap opened up his presents to find, amongst them, a John Bull Printing Set.

In the days before blogs and computers, this was possibly the only way a youngster could get to see his name in print. For the benefit of anyone who never saw the John Bull in all it's glory, it provided an array of tiny rubber letters (none of which, strangely, came with accents - unless there was a special edition of French letters that I never discovered), and you were expected to slide these into a special holder.

Once you had assembled your words, using a tiny pair of tweezers, you were ready to impress them on an ink pad, and then away you went. Of course, producing anything more than a few lines was the labour of Hercules - but it was a start. This was desk top publishing at its most primitive. But the heady smell of the ink, the wondrous smudgy feel of the paper when it had received its imprint was like a drug to a child with little opportunity before him other than, perhaps, working down a local mine.

I am sure it was that Christmas Day, in the kitchen of that tiny, terraced house, that my fire was first lit. The rest, as they say, is history.

Thank You, WBC!


More seasoned Bloggers than I will know that the pressures of writing a daily blog can be great. Children may go unfed; jobs may be neglected; wives may be deserted. But the blog goes on.

Never let it be said that Bill Blunt is afraid to blow his own trumpet. Just minutes ago, I learned that the World Blogging Council have awarded me one of their prestigious (and highly-coveted) Awards. At moments like these, the unfed children, neglected jobs and deserted wives truly seem worth it.

As is the unfortunate fashion, I must of course thank a few people who have helped me along the way to this singular achievement. Thomas Hamburger Jnr is first in line for the bouquet (even though he is now accusing me of somehow preventing him writing his griping tale of a family which, even after 85,000 words, steadfastly refuses to be found). I trust the word 'churlish' is springing to his mind.

Next, my dear old mother who, at 102, I still hope might yet become the world's oldest blogger (although she's got a long way to go yet).

It would be remiss of me not to thank my dear, dear wife, whose love of shopping has meant that I have had many free hours to compose my blog posts. Wally Green, my long-departed mentor, would also have enjoyed today - had he still been alive to witness it. I like to think that his spirit is hammering on the side of a massive web-fed rotary offset printing press somewhere, in appreciation.

And, of course, my sons Justin and Jasper who each, in their own way, have helped me master the technology of the internet. Not to forget my daughter, who has made her own way in the world of art, making the name Barbara Blunt a by-word for t-shirt sloganeering over the last two decades.

But none of this would have been possible without you, dear reader. Your faith in my prognostication and your ability to see beyond the mixed metaphor has given me a new lease on life. Even just today, I was dusting off the notes for my autobiography, Fatha, Get The Coals In which, when it was rejected by every publisher except Lacklustre Press in 1989, seemed destined for the remainder shelves. Not any longer! With the imprimatur of the World Blog Council, it may yet reach a wider audience.

I shall go to sleep with a smile on my face tonight - and I don't care what Mrs Blunt has to say about that.

Thank you, WBC, for making a disgruntled old man very happy and, if anyone else is seeking World Blogging Council endorsement, I can only suggest you visit their site and see whether your blog measures up to their exacting standards. A small token of your esteem (preferably used and non-consecutive banknotes) seems to do the trick.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Worshipping at the Font

When I was a callow youth, knocking about a leather football on the municipal park, my thoughts rarely turned to how my life would span out. If they did, I may have imagined a career in professional football, perhaps. I do remember even wondering whether a future in the (then) popular medium of BBC radio might have awaited me.

It wasn't to be, of course. A particularly vicious tackle during a match with a local secondary modern school's centre back put paid to any hopes I might have had of turning out for Oldham Athletic. And any dreams I nurtured of working in the broadcast media were dashed because my accent, at the time, was considered something of an impediment.

My life was fated to take a different course, and a sports journalist I became. Even so, when I later came to ruminate on retirement, I never thought for one minute I would be penning a blog. Younger readers may find it difficult to conceive, but they hadn't even been invented at that time. I suppose, if I am truthful, in those halcyon days I imagined my dotage would be spent on cruise ships in the Med - and I don't mean as a celebrity speaker.

One thing's for certain: I little expected I would spend my 65th birthday in deep discussion with my best friend, Thomas Hamburger Jnr, on the subject of fonts.

I've just come off the telephone to Tom. We were both logged onto a website he discovered earlier tonight which more than lived up to its name:
www.1001freefonts.com.

Perhaps it's because we both of us worked together at the Birkenhead Beagle, but our telephone chat tonight found us discussing the merits of Detectives Inc vs Decadance, and Ready when you are vs Ransom. After fully an hour of swapping views, we both of us had to acknowledge that it was a sad way for two grown men to pass the time. Surely we should have been down the pub, playing dominoes?

Brotherly Love

It's a brave man that accuses Bill Blunt of nepotism. I've always fought shy of promoting my talented brother - not for me the ways of the metropolitan media types, who make their careers on the back of their siblings' or parents' name.

Sometimes, however, real talent deserves to be showcased and, as Jasper has helpfully pointed out, 'Pa, a lot of people search for recipes on the internet. It wouldn't do you any harm to include one or two in your blog.'

Step forward, then The Batchelor's Cookbook. In particular, Colin Blunt's recipe for Beefburgers:


When the weather begins to turn warm, nothing's better than sitting in the garden with a beer and a burger.


Ingredients

½ kg rump steak, trimmed and chopped

¼ onion, peeled and chopped

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp plain flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

fresh white burger rolls


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

2. Place the chopped steak into a food processor and blend to make mince.

3. Add the onion, oil, flour and seasoning to the food processor and continue to blend until the mixture binds together.

4. Remove the mixture from the processor and shape into a burger using your hands.

5. Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the burger for 2-3 minutes on each side.

6. Transfer the pan to the oven and continue to cook for approximately 8-10 minutes.

7. While the burgers are cooking, watch the latest Grand Prix live on the TV.

8. After 40 minutes or so, scream at the top of your voice and run into the kitchen.

9. Wave a tea towel about to clear the smoke.

10. Throw the charred and blackened burgers into the bin.

11. Order a kebab

To be noticed is a wonder

Young Jasper was at it again, with another of his almost-legendary reports, yesterday. While his brother watched Eurovision, he was hunched over his PC checking for any and all references to Bill Blunt out there on the net.

Well, the news is good. The weekend controversy over my forum ban drew a record 259 pageloads from 129 unique visitors. Perhaps that's why the prestigious World Blog Council is currently 'considering' my application for membership of their august organisation?

Similarly, although I have yet to receive it, Jasper tells me I was awarded an Awardie a few weeks ago.

He muttered something about 'vanity publishing' when he threw his report at me in disgust. It's a brave son who accuses his father of being vain, so I'm glad he only muttered it.

Congratulations - and celebrations!

It would be churlish not to offer our congratulations to Marija Serifovic, the Serbian winner of the much-coveted Eurovision Song Contest.

I must confess that I no longer have the tolerance to sit through the three hour spectacle that is Eurovision. I rely instead on reports from Justin and Mrs Blunt, who gamely kept up with the whole show, as is their usual wont.

I do like to keep my finger on the pulse of popular culture, however, so I had listened a couple of times to the UK entry, Scooch, in the lead up to the contest. Their song had all the appeal of watching someone self-administer an enema in the middle of a busy shopping precinct.

Somehow, this dismal song made me yearn for the days of Cliff Richard, Bucks Fizz and Sandie Shaw. Now that, I don't mind saying, is quite an achievement - in anyone's book.

To those of my readers who live outside of Europe, and to whom the whole concept of Eurovision is somewhat alien, I can only say this: you lucky, lucky people.


Saturday, 12 May 2007

That List of Reasons

At the risk of boring my reader, here's the list of reason(s) why I was banned:

Sorry ... you are banned from using this forum!

Reason: Why start going through all your messages and defacing them?
Just in case you thought I was vandalising my posts or otherwise defacing them, I was apparently caught in the act of deleting some of my previous posts to the forum. For some of the posts, the option to delete was not available, but they could be modified.

All I did was delete the body of the text and insert a simple full stop. Of course, members of the forum probably have no idea that I've been banned, since I had no right of reply before being summarily locked out. They might be imagining all sorts, for all I know.

Anyway, I have e-mailed the site owners asking for all my posts to be deleted, and I await the response of their response with interest.

It's a brave man that accuses Bill Blunt of making a mountain out of a molehill. (Jasper tells me that I have one or two readers of this blog from Germany. Just in case the euphemism is lost on them, Babelfish tells me this is Bilden eines Berges aus einem Maulwurfshügel heraus).

Friday, 11 May 2007

I Feel Dirty

I wonder, dear reader, if you ever visited an internet forum?

Well, I must confess that, in my time on the internet, I have visited one or two. For a list of reasons that would probably bore any reader of this blog, I have been banned from one particular forum which I regularly frequented.

I'm not normally a man who acts in haste. And this occasion was no different. I spent a couple of days thinking about the situation, and whether my contribution to that forum had been meaningful to me - or, indeed, to anyone else.

I may have posted over 2,000 items to it - may, even, have praised it a couple of times in magazines or on national radio.

But the fact that I've been banned - and thus can't access the forum to even state my case - makes me feel just a little shabby about the whole affair.

Thankfully, I noticed that in the terms of membership of this forum, which I think I must have signed up to when I joined, it states that (and I quote):

you remain solely responsible for the content of your messages


I had a chat with a legal friend of mine tonight, and he assures me that this means that, if I request that every post I ever made to that forum is deleted, it would satisfy the terms of my membership.

So, here's hoping. I'd hate to think that, somewhere on the internet, all my dirty linen was hanging there for all and sundry to see, without me having a chance to give it a quick run through the Indesit.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

What price democracy?

The announcement (today) by Tony Blair that he will finally unburden himself of the heavy mantle of office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom should give us all pause for thought.

I hold no brief whatsoever for Mr Blair, although I have watched his political career with interest ever since he was shoe-horned into the safe, Labour seat of Sedgefield, in County Durham. The story of the shoe-horn is one that I will save for a later date.

Inevitably, my thoughts today turned to the subject of democracy (even if that notion had been palpably lacking at the time he was selected as the Labour candidate for Sedgefield in 1983). Approximately every five years or so, I am invited to do something which is quaintly described as 'cast my vote' in a General Election which, I am told, might determine the very course of our nation. It has always been a source of concern to me that this 'right to vote' is universal, and extends way beyond the circle of friends and other people I have come to trust for their opinion. Be that as it may, when the people speak, Bill Blunt listens. The gripes I have against the Blair Government are fewer, and weaker, than I might have expected when he came to power in 1997.

But I digress. My thoughts, today, were on another form of democracy: the democracy of the internet.

Ever since I discovered the blogosphere, I have been invited to 'vote' on a quite alarmingly frequent basis. In fact, I think I may have spent at least ten minutes of every day since that date (which, thanks to the wonders of the internet I can pinpoint as 2.42pm on 19 July 2006) voting on something or another.

Every day, I vote for the admirable Ben Sparks, who (for reasons best known to himself) wants to be paid to 'blog for a year'.

Then, there are the new (and old) friends and acquaintances who I regularly vote for via such sites as Fuel My Blog. All in all, I seem to spend an increasing part of my day voting. I don't mind in the least doing this - in fact, I find the whole process both empowering and (to a slight degree at least) enjoyable.

Yes, I have my 'favourites'. And I'm not in the least afraid to list them here - so, if you feel inclined, you might vote for them yourselves. The democracy of the internet means you no longer have to wait five years to scratch a blunt pencil across a ballot paper. You can vote as many times as you like (well, on a daily basis, at least) for some (or, indeed, all) of these people:

Daddy Papersurfer
Papersurfer
nursemyra
Harry McFry
Crofty
GenBIRES
GenBIRES II
Lord Likely
THAT Domestic Minx
Archie

Of course, after having spent just a minute clicking all those links, you may have a few seconds to spare to vote for Bill.
I can't promise you that the world will change when you (preferably right-) click those links. But it may be a slightly happier place, all things considered, than it was in 1983, when Tony Blair abused the democratic process to push his way into a safe Labour seat. If you don't believe me, perhaps you should ask wiki. Paying particular attention to paragraph two of 'Early Political Career'.

If you choose to bookmark this page so that you can, like me, easily vote for those people you have come to respect and admire, then you'll know, by now, it's not my style to stop you.

What price democracy? A minute a day, now, if you bookmark this page.

Waving, Not Drowning

For some reason that isn't quite clear in my mind even now, I thought this morning that I should go for a swim. It's something that (many years ago) I used to enjoy a lot. Somehow, I drifted out of my habit of a weekly visit to the municipal baths.

For once, the thought was midwife to the act, and so I found myself earlier today queuing to pay for a swimming session at a nearby leisure centre. The whole experience gave me pause to reflect on the pace of change in life. I'm not a man who is fearful of change - but I like to know why it's necessary.

What happened to those foot-baths of chlorine we used to have to wade through before we were allowed to get anywhere near the pool? They were designed to promote a proper sense of hygiene, I am sure, and must have done their bit to prevent the spread of goodness knows how many millions of foot infections in their day. Yet now, they are nowhere to be seen.

Was some test carried out that I never heard of, proving them to be ineffective, after all? Or are they just another casualty of local authority cuts: an attempt to reduce the costs of providing much-needed leisure facilities?

I shall be checking my feet very carefully indeed for signs of infection, I can tell you - and I have my solicitor's number to hand, just in case.

As for the introduction of wave machines, I am merely left gasping as to why they are thought a necessary 'improvement' to a swimming pool. If I had not been able to persuade Mrs Blunt to stay at home while I swam, and had she chosen to dive in while the waves were in operation, then the prospect of a mini-tsunami would have been real. And that, I have to say, is something that makes me shudder to think about, even now.

Nostalgic Yearnings: Not For Me!

I've never much been one for raking over the past. As Bob Dylan once said (quite frequently, in fact) Don't Look Back. It's a philosophy that has served me well in my dealings with life to date.

But when I had a call at Blunt Mansions yesterday, I couldn't help but reflect that sometimes there is a proper place for nostalgia. "Bill," they said, "I've searched the internet in vain for any of your old articles for Beyond the Boundary. Couldn't you throw a few on your blog, for old-times sake?"

It's a couple of decades since I penned those articles. The political landscape has changed almost as much as the girth of Mrs Blunt. And if my time at the knee of Wally Green taught me anything, it is that 'old news doesn't sell'.

So I'm not entirely convinced my blog readers will really want to pore over articles culled from what was, I must admit, the best football fanzine of its generation. But, I suppose there's only one way to find out.

Here's one from what I consider was my finest hour - when the magazine took a stand on the issue of censorship. I was proud to lend my distinctive voice to that campaign.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Bill's Top Tips: #2 Save Yourself Half An Hour of Time (Every Week!)

In its heyday, The Harry Enfield Television Programme was able to showcase some of the finest comedy genius of its era. Together with Paul Whitehouse, Enfield created some genuinely funny characters that have stood the test of time.

Harry's career then seemed to drift into some sort of strange abyss, while Whitehouse's star eclipsed that of his former sparring partner by soaring into the heavens via the vehicle of The Fast Show and the quite sublime Happiness, which charted one man through the stormy waters of his mid-life crisis.

So, the news that Enfield and Whitehouse had re-united once again in Ruddy Hell! It's Harry & Paul should have been the signal to cancel your night out down the pub, or at least to learn how to operate that new DVD recorder you got for Christmas this year.

Instead, the show is a lame and pale imitation of their past work. A mere toenail on the giant of comedy they once were. Whitehouse's star has been dragged down into the Enfield abyss, and not the other way round, as we might have hoped. It is quite simply an unfunny show (which is always, in my book, the sign of a loser for something that purports to be comedic).

My Top Tip for this week is: don't bother watching Ruddy Hell! It's Harry & Paul. Save yourself half an hour of your life, instead. You'll thank me for it.

Help, I Need Somebody!

I have never been a man who was afraid to admit my technological weaknesses. In my later days at the Birkenhead Beagle, I well remember the excitement when our first ever Amstrad PCW's arrived, as we gamely got to grips with the language that was Locoscript. Patience and a lot of assistance from the helpdesk meant that we eventually cracked it (even if poor old Johnny Mercer never did understand that a Macro could be more than just somewhere you could buy cheap booze).

I can laugh at those days, now. Perhaps that's why I so much enjoyed this clip, sent to me by Jasper this morning?

That's Better, Tommy!

Ever since my debut on the blogosphere, I have had in mind that my pitch here should look a little more like a newspaper, the better to reflect my past life as a journalist and commentator in the press.

Of course, as I have absolutely no technical proficiency, and rely very much on my kind friend, Thomas Hamburger Jnr to host this blog, I am also, by default, reliant on his decisions when it comes to layout.

Anyway, I am pleased to report that, over a couple of pints last night I was able to outline to Thomas how I thought my blog should look. After all, if I'm getting all these visitors dropping in to read about mp3 players, prostitution in Oldham and Walthamstow Dogs, they deserve to think they've found someone of some substance - something my previous (rather washed-out) blog struggled to portray.

This is much better, Tommy - well done! I wonder what my reader thinks, though?

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Searchers

I've had a report in from Jasper about How People Find Your Blog. I thought, at first, he'd been asking my readers for their opinions about the blog, which would have been interesting.



Instead, he presented me with a statistical digest, culled from something called Statcounter, which made interesting (and sometimes frankly bizarre) reading.

According to Jasper, my humble blog comes out at No 1 on Google for people who search for stats for walthamstow dogs. I know I mentioned Walthamstow Dog Track on an earlier posting, and I am sure I must have used the word 'stats' here and there since I made my debut on the blogosphere all those weeks ago. But it left me wondering whether the poor visitor who chanced upon my blog after his (or her) Google search really imagines that I am the world's foremost authority on dog racing statistics for the north east London venue?

More alarmingly, I discovered that I am ranked at No 2 on Google for a search on Oldham prostitution - this, apparently, on the basis of some comment or other I made about a Waterloo Street massage parlour I was vaguely aware of some thirty-odd years ago.

I was less surprised to learn that I am a world expert on the prolectrix 1gb mp3 player, (at least according to the Romanians) and I hope whoever visited the blog to find out my views on it were satisfied with my opinion.

As I read more of the details, I will let you know of any other surprises in the small print. Until then, I can only offer my apologies to those who have come to read my thoughts thinking, perhaps, that I am some sort of guru on dog racing, tarts and mp3 players.

Monday, 7 May 2007

To Err is Human(ist)

I've been doing my best to keep up with Thomas Hamburger Jnr's Case of the Missing Family which, I see, has now reached the epic proportion of 87 Chapters, and still counting. I'm under instruction from Thomas to Fuel His Blog each day - which I don't mind doing in the least, since he has been so helpful in enabling me to set up my own little pitch here on the blogosphere.

As for his griping tale, I confess I don't much understand what's going on with the plot. I thought, at one point, Harry McFry was going to end up living with his sister-in-law: she seemed to have set her sights on him, and I didn't think Harry was up to resisting her. I still haven't worked out whether they did 'it' or not.

Anyway, if he did, he needs to watch out. It's only a matter of a couple of thousand years, after all, since people who did that were burned to death. I know society is a little more forgiving of this kind of thing these days, but I guess there are still some people around who like to follow the law according to Leviticus.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

I Know What I Like

Mrs Blunt and I have long since agreed to differ when it comes to the appreciation of art. She favours a more impressionistic style, whereas my own taste has always been reasonably eclectic.

Just this weekend, I came across a fine artist fellow who was selling his wares via a display of local artists' work in a shopping centre. His rendering of the Yorkshire and Northumberland coastline appealed to me greatly - so much so that I was prepared to risk the wrath of Mrs B by buying a couple of his works on the spot. It may mean one less visit to the beauticians for her each month (for a while, at least) - but what price art, I say?

It's a brave man who accuses Bill Blunt of plugging, but I don't mind spreading the word about this talented individual if it means more people can appreciate his work. Rob Wilson's website is well worth a visit, if only to see a picture of a man with a pigeon on his head.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

On The Buses

A hardly-credible story from the BBC caught my attention today, when they reported that the city of Palermo, Sicily had employed over 100 bus drivers who didn't actually hold driving licences.

This catastrophe came to light only when a local councillor (described by the BBC as 'tenacious' and 'left-wing') demanded a probe into the pervasive practice of nepotism there. Jobs had been doled out to family members in an attempt (it is suggested) to buy votes in the forthcoming mayoral elections in the city.

Il mio uomo anziano è un dustman, as they might say in Rome.

Our Perfect Weekend

Some years ago, I booked a surprise birthday weekend for Mrs Blunt, via a site on the internet that specializes in taking bookings at the last minute (I forget the name just now). The package included two night’s accommodation at a swanky hotel in the country, together with all meals and access to the hotel’s wonderful fitness and beauty suite.

It offered staggering value for money (not that I am allowed to make money an object when it comes to Mrs Blunt, you understand), and was substantially discounted from the hotel’s own tariff for the same package.

While there, she was able to have ‘the works’: a new haircut, a facial, a manicure, a pedicure and (even) a full-body waxing. She spent the spare time between these activities relaxing in the Jacuzzi, or sitting in the hotel gardens, idly flicking through copies of her favourite celebrity gossip magazine. In the evenings, she dined from an extensive a la carte menu, before retiring for a post-prandial drink and cigar in one of the hotel’s many spacious, yet comfortably discrete bars.

The bedroom was perfectly appointed, offering spectacular views across the hotel lawns where, in the early-morning dew of a summer’s day, baby rabbits could be spied enjoying their quiet, undisturbed play. The Grand King Size bed in the particular room they allocated to her was a special, and unexpected, treat.

On her return, she pronounced her weekend ‘the best I’ve ever had’.

Since I had taken advantage of her absence by making a rare visit with some friends to Walthamstow Dog Track, followed by a fantastic feed in a Chinese restaurant off Leicester Square, I could only agree.

Those Car Parks

I've just discovered an e-mail address for the people at Darlington Borough Council who deal with car parking (payment.queries@darlington.gov.uk).

Although unlikely, it's not impossible that Mrs Blunt will one day wake up and take it into her head that we must visit that particular town's branch of Evans which (for reasons I perhaps don't need to go into here) is one of her favourite shops.

I thought I had better fire off a missive to the officials who 'own' the Car Parks there, if only to ask them about the measurements for the bays in the different car parks, and to ensure we'll have no problems parking the Austin Ambassador. In the interests of public service, I'll let you know the results.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Caught in the Net

Jasper found an interesting site that lets you find out what kind of sandwich you are. Before I did the test, I always imagined myself as a roast beef with horseradish sauce but, it seems, I was wrong.

You Are a Tuna Fish Sandwich

Some people just don't have a taste for you. You are highly unusual.
And admit it, you've developed some pretty weird habits over the years.
You may seem a bit unsavory from a distance, but anyone who gives you a chance is hooked!

Your best friend: The Club Sandwich

Your mortal enemy: The Turkey Sandwich


Anyway, it seems I'm in good company.

If you try the test, you might like to let me know how you turn out. Us Tuna Fish have got to stick together. Or maybe it would be better if we kept our distance, given the size of the nets, these days.

When The Line's Not So Fine

How pertinent that it should be the day after the English local council elections that I read the story of campaigner, Nigel Allen.

According to a newspaper report, Nigel's wife was stung by a £60 parking fine when she accidentally parked her car outside the white lines on a council-owned car park in Darlington, County Durham. Nigel says his wife had parked next to a huge 4x4, and the remaining space was so tight she had to park a couple of inches over the line.

But plucky Nigel Allen isn't letting it lie. He took his tape measure to the car park and discovered that the width of each bay was just 2.1 metres. Thanks to the power of the internet, Nigel found that the Government had issued guidance that bays should be a minimum of 2.4 metres wide. He's challenging the fine - and good luck to him!

What really got my dander up was the reported comments from 'A spokesman' for Darlington Borough Council:

"The figure of 2.4 metres is not Government legislation, it is only guidance. The car park belongs to us and we can set the spaces out the way we choose."

I sincerely hope whichever wretched 'spokesman' uttered those words is made to eat them with a hearty plateful of tarmacadam someday. I could almost be persuaded to pay £60 to watch such a spectacle.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Bill's Top Tips: #1 Save Yourself a Tenner


Mrs Blunt and I have always had a bit of a soft-spot for Bryan Ferry (easily the best thing to come out of Washington, County Durham since the A1231 road to Sunderland). Who can forget his rollicking version of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall?", which reached number 10 in the UK charts in 1973?

It was on the strength of this memory of a fine interpretation of a Dylan classic, and a review by Ian Gittins in the Guardian a couple of months ago which gave it 4 stars, that I yesterday bought Ferry's new album, Dylanesque. An entire CD devoted to re-working of Dylan classics.

On paper, it would seem like a winner: the marriage of Brian Ferry's smoky voice with the piercing intensity of Bob Dylan's lyrics. If so, then it was a marriage made in hell. This album, I am sad to say 'sucks'.

Ferry's vocals sound lame at best and pedestrian at worst - they are delivered with all the passion of a semi-comatose teenager who has been invited to 'wake up and smell the coffee' by his mother, but who has decided, instead, that he'd prefer an extra couple of hours under the duvet.

Only one track verges - almost - on the reasonable: Ferry manages to breathe new life into a wonderful (and not much known) Dylan song Make You Feel My Love.

But one swallow does not a summer make. Today, I'll be doing something I've never done before in my life. I'm taking the CD back to the shop. Not because it's scratched, or won't play on my car's stereo system (which has happened before now with an odd CD or two) - but simply because it's a pile of pants.

Today's top tip, therefore, is to save yourself a tenner by avoiding this CD like you might a rare and virulent strain of botulism that you found on your doorstep.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Curmudgeonly Courtesy

I am grateful to learn that the estimable Archie has added me to his Blogroll. He is clearly a man of eclectic (and undoubtedly good) taste. I have returned the compliment by adding Archie's blog to my list of favourite sites, and would heartily recommend that you pay him a visit.

Just in case my wife should ever develop an interest in the world of blogs (and all things are possible), I feel I must point out that in no way am I 'attempting to ignore Mrs Blunt', as Archie claims. I can't for the life of me understand how he has formed this impression. If Archie were ever to meet Mrs Blunt, I am sure he would rapidly learn that any such attempt at ignoring her would be quite out of the question.

Whither Wetherspoon's?

The Wetherspoon chain of pubs in the UK has always striven to be a little bit different. Their ability to takeover existing buildings such as old cinemas, theatres and the like and to transform them into civilised places to drink has taken them a long way. Their commitment to good beers and ales, sourced from all around the world, has introduced the palates of a new generation of drinkers to the delights of ‘real ale’ at a fair price. Meanwhile, their early morning opening times, and service of a full English breakfast for as little as £2.10 (just around $4, for the benefit of any trans-continental readers of this column) is a rare bargain in a world of ever-increasing costs.

Now, they’ve gone wi-fi, and are currently offering 30 minutes of free wi-fi access to all customers. For the cost of one of their very fine Lavazza coffees (just 79p in most of their premises across the country – even if a disappointed Chelsea player would be asked to pay 99p in central London), you can ‘surf the net’, catch up on e-mails and even – as I am this very minute – post to a blog. And all from the comfort of a sunny conservatory overlooking the Cheshire countryside.

I don’t wish my good friend Thomas Hamburger Jnr to feel redundant, however. Without the patient explanation of the pub manager, I would probably still be stuck at stage one of the helpful instructions they provide for you to connect up. But, it’s personal progress of a sort, for me, even if, in future, I’ll still be asking Tommy to do my postings.

The whole experience has, however, given me a genuine love of the Wetherspoon ethos. Long may they thrive. I know Mr Hamburger would agree – since his genealogical mystery has more than once name-checked The Brass Balance in Birkenhead, which I know was always a particular favourite of his.

The Beautiful Game

It’s been a long while since the Bill Blunt by-line appeared at the head of a football match report. Time has moved on apace since those halcyon days of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s when I was at my peak, and it would be graceless of me not to recognise it.

Last night, I spent an amiable few hours in the company of an old friend, watching the semi-final of the European Champions League in which the Mighty Merseysiders, Liverpool, finally demolished the hopes of the South London arrivistes, Chelsea.. A triumph of substance over style, the match had me on tenterhooks right until the last penalty clincher.

Tonight, the prospect is real that another north-west team, in the shape of Manchester United, may accompany Liverpool to the final at Athens on 23 May 2007. This could, then, be a great day for English – and more potently, north-west English – football.

The particular triumph, for me at least, has been that much of the tournament has been broadcast on terrestrial television. I am someone who turned his back on the Empire of Murdoch many years ago, which means for me that I not only spurn his Sun and his Sunday Times, but also his satellite services. You will search in vain for an ugly dish stapled to the outside of Blunt Mansions.

How I wish dear old Johnny Mercer had been alive to witness this potentially proud day for his native north-west. How he would have enjoyed the hubris of the soft southerners as they left the field last night, their metaphorical tails betweens their legs, like a pack of limp dogs in search of an apt simile!

“Money Can’t Buy Me Love,” as the Beatles put it all those years ago. Last night, their fellow Scousers proved it couldn’t buy a Russian businessman a place in the final at Athens, either.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Update on those Pig Tarts

Thanks to the wonderful immediacy of the blogosphere, we are now able to register our disapproval about the Robin Tarts and the Pig Tarts here.
It's a brave man who accuses Bill Blunt of sitting on the fence on such important matters, so I've already done my bit by signing their petition.