H is for Holidays

My father has still been stuck in hospital (although, fingers crossed, the signs are he may get hone today) so we have been commuting the 4-5 hour journey North to see him. It has, as might be expected, taken a lot out of what should be a joyful and happy time of the year and one I normally look forward to, a holiday which allows me to be social and indulge myself in giving presents (a favourite thing and should be no surprise to anyone who knows me well and has been on the receiving end). So, this holiday is not really going to go down as a classic.

But traveling North does remind me of childhood and childhood holidays, the memory of which can bring some reassurance that whatever current difficulties there is always some memories of family happiness that I can reflect on.

I had a whale of a time on holiday as a child. Up until the age of 11, we always went to the same place, a hired static caravan on a site called Warren Mill, that was a stone’s through from the village of Bamburgh on the Northumberland coast. Of Bamburgh – one of favourite places in the world, and somewhere that I think of as the true quintessential English village – I’ll probably waffle on about some other time. More generally, my thoughts have been to the innocence of childhood holidays. It never occurred to me that going to the same place every year might be boring; it did later as I drifted into my teens. In contrast, the very routine nature was a source of reassurance and something to look forward to. So, we would arrive the same route, saying hello to all the landmarks as we approached the caravan site. At the end, the sadness of going home was accompanied with saying goodbye to the same things, in the knowledge I would see them again the next year. Typically – being a child –  these landmarks included the huge castle and the church, but also the less well known ‘Monster’. Let me explain. The Monster was in fact an old dead tree, of decent size, lying on its side on the top of a rise just North of the village. To my young self it was clearly a multi tentacled beast from beyond, but oddly also a friendly one as it was always there to greet me. The Monster was probably the nearest I had to an imaginary friend. I do not know exactly how old I was when it first became a holiday landmark, but I do recall the excitement of seeing if it was still there as we arrived each year. And it was – albeit, even in my child’s eyes – clearly reduced every year as time and the process of decomposition gradually chipped away at it. But the core hung on, and even twenty years later when I next passed this way as an adult some vestiges still remained.

So, holiday was a routine. We would buy fish in chips in Seahouses, possibly accompanied by me buying some tat from the gift shops near the harbour, that seemed like Aladdin’s caves of exotic things with sea shells, and scorpions entombed in Perspex. Then it would be back to Bamburgh and along the winding road to Stag Rock (a magical place for me) and the great joy of large rock pools teeming with things to catch and examine, a process that would occupy me all day, to the point where one, unusually hot summer I badly burned my back in the sun as I was bending down so much. Even that – I could not sleep on my back it was so bad – had its plus points. Once healed, there was great fun to be had peeling away all the dry skin as though it were cling film, much to the disgust of my parents.

Well, I was a boy after all.


G is for Girders

I grew up in a house where the TV was on pretty much all the time, whether or not my parents were actually watching it. In fact, there was often two TVs on at the same time, one in the lounge and one with my mother in the kitchen. It was mainly for company, but it has resulted in myself having real issues with any level of quiet when I am home. Today it is more likely to be the radio than the TV, but there still has to be some kind of noise in the background or I start to get a bit edgy. This cause no end of amusement with us because the Lovely Wife is completely the opposite and likes nothing better than silence reigning. Therefore, if you ever visit our house you will be able to tell whether I am at home or not the moment that you walk in the door; if it’s quiet, I’m out. If the radio is burbling away to itself in the kitchen then I’m definitely in residence, an indicator that could not be more accurate than a flag posted from the roof.

The other thing that this constant exposure to TV brought was something I have noticed in others as well, which is how much we are victims of advertising. In many cases, certain adverts persist in our heads long after the product has ceased to become available, and they are often more vividly remembered than a lot of the programmes they were interrupting. It is very much a generational thing, where people who experienced them at the same time – especially through childhood – can revel in the shared knowledge that a Finger of Fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat; that Iron Bru is made in Scotland – from girders – or wonder if it is possible to get a copy of Fly Fishing by (and some of you are thinking of this ad as you read this aren’t you, the bit where the old man says, ‘Oh, my name? It’s….) J R Hartley.

Sometimes though you do get a blank look, as either by some fluke the person you should have been able to share the joke with managed to miss the saturation advertising (is Fry’s Turkish Delight really ‘full of Eastern Promise?’) or you realise the advert was a regional one. Coming from the North East one of my favourite adverts was for Tudor Crisps (which I am fairly sure no longer exists) where the cheeky paper lad takes a few bags out of his wages and uses them to bribe one of his (dumb) mates to help him with his delivery, involving what at the time was a notorious Tyneside landmark (as with the crisps, I believe the Dunstan Rocket is now gone). I don’t know why this makes me laugh every time. Maybe it is because it reminds me of people I knew (or indeed, at the time, the boy I was) and it is difficult to get more Tyneside in the 1980s then this. I mean it is even the flavour of the crisps featured – Spring onion, pickled onion, and tomato sauce flavours. Class (although there is another version with the boring flavours)

Or maybe I just really like crisps.

Anyway, here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2UfzAQ8Pfg and I am sure that I ‘ve now got at least some of you to decide to waste some time trawling through your favourite adverts on Youtube is a good idea. Go on, you know you want to, they are all out there somewhere you know.

(I’ll note that this week’s blog was brought on by a conversation over Croft Original Cream Sherry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9z9s5-lOrUY After all, one instinctively knows when something is right. Apparently.)


F is for Family

Family is a funny thing, something that really is an accident of birth. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t but I think most of us could, in honesty, sift through the complexities of our own familial relationships and pick out the good and the bad.

Family is very much in my mind now as, at the time of writing, my father is in hospital being treated for a pulmonary embolism. I’m very blessed to still have him at all – quite apart from overcoming cancer almost seven years ago, it was probably only the thoughtfulness of the lady who comes into clean for him once a week that he is now recuperating; she thought he looked ill and took him into Accident and Emergency, and they quickly worked out that a blot clot – probably a left over from the cancer beating surgery – had made its way onto his lungs.

Unfortunately for me, it is over four hours’ journey to see my father so I see him only intermittently at the best of times, although I call him regularly. I wish he lived closer, but he would never move down south and he is normally comfortable where he is, in the bungalow I grew up in and where he spent most his married life with my Mum. After she passed away, he took several years to pull himself away from melancholy to a healthier state of sadness and resignation, although the wall to wall terrible made for TV romantic comedies are a bit wearing at times.

I loved my parents, but I would never have been able to cope with living with them once I became an adult and went to university (OK, after I became an adult post university!). It doesn’t take long for a point of contention to arise and it is usually something petty. I wonder if it might have been different if I had siblings, and certainly that would have been a major difference in the current situation. My parents wanted more than me, but in the end, I was all they got, and I’ve enjoyed the complete attention ever since. However, at times like this it would have been good to have had someone else to share the load. Do not get me wrong – the Lovely Wife and many friends I have can point out the drawbacks of siblings too, but it has occurred to me recently that my side of the family is dwindling to virtually nothing; apart from my Dad I have an uncle and his family, and some second cousins I know well, but basically that is it. At some point I will be in the situation where, in reality, my family is the one I have married into and most of the ties to where I grew up will be purely memories. It is not something I am looking forward to of course, but I am interested to see whether it changes my outlook on life and how I see then the concept of home, of family and my place in it, and whether my personal experience can be put into good use helping those who are not as far along the path as I am.

For the moment, I have to do what I can for my Dad, and be thankful for the time I have had with him and the possibility that exists for more time in the future. In the end, that is all any of us can do with the people we love, family or not, as we never know when they, or we, will be no longer there. In this, at least, we must not so much live in the moment as love in the moment.

E is for Education


The cliché was that school days were the best of life. This is clearly nonsensical propaganda. Personally, my best days are scattered through my life and I entirely hope and expect that I still have a few to enjoy (let us draw a veil over the ones that I’m not going to like so much and just get through those). That said, I consider myself quite blessed, as generally speaking my school days were on the positive side, and sometimes, whisper it, rather enjoyable.

Mainly this was because I seem to have been lucky enough to blunder through my education without any real plan or direction and managed to pitch the amount of effort in that ‘just enough to get by’ zone (being inherently lazy at work, especially work I was not that interested in, e.g., mathematics, which I always saw as a means to an end rather that something worth studying for its own benefit). It all started off rather simply at my local state primary school where I enjoyed being and (intellectual) bigger fish in a very small pond; afterwards and ever since I have had to cope with being surrounded by people much brighter (and worse, more motivated) than I was. Luckily for me, while I may be loud, I’m not hugely competitive. So, I very easily resigned myself to mid table mediocrity and it has served me rather well over the years, and put me in a good place to support friends who have placed themselves under much more pressure to achieve.

My teachers at primary were the first main blessing, not so much by their teaching as much as insisting to my parents that they get me into somewhere, anywhere, other than the big comprehensive school across the road, onto whose grounds our house backed. Funnily enough the school is question has now been flattened to make way for a new housing estate, which is just a more permanent fate then it used to meet fairly regularly at the hands and matches of the local bored arsonists. My parents did not take much persuading, although the solution at the time meant a private school somewhere and that meant fees. At the time (see, this is all working out here in ways I have nothing to do with) you could get government help if you passed the entry requirements of the school concerned and your parents were on a low income, as were mine. I passed and had a choice in the end, but the most important choice here was that my parents chose to forgo anything for themselves for the next seven years as my fees (plus the other inevitable expenses such as uniform) took up every penny, not that I realised at the time.

I am very fond of Newcastle Royal Grammar, which is where I chose. I worked reasonably hard and it was the kind of school where if that was the approach you took the teachers would respond positively back. The only exceptions were music and games, both of which I was useless at. Perhaps surprisingly considering my lack of fitness at the time, it was the former I truly hated. At least the teachers had no real expectations of me as a great athlete, so largely they treated me with mild indifference providing I didn’t grumble and turned up. Music though… I just couldn’t get my head around it (I still cannot read music) and the staff couldn’t be bothered to take the time to teach me the basics. It is a shame as I love music and singing. But in the end the only time in my life I have been thrown out of a class at age thirteen and it was a music lesson. I was thrown out for coughing, I presume I was not expectorating to the right rhythm or something. Git.

So, that was not one of the best days.

Thankfully, other days were better. But maybe I’ll save some of those for another time.

D is for Doctor Who (Obviously)

People sometimes talk about what their first memory is. For some it may be an experience or event, maybe the first day at school or something that sticks in the mind due to something positive or negative. I know my first memory quite clearly and can date it precisely to Saturday afternoon, January 25th 1975; I was a few weeks away from my 4th birthday.

I was watching Doctor Who.

Specifically, I remember the cliff hanger at the end of episode 1 of ‘The Ark in Space’ where one of the Doctors companions, the hapless Harry Sullivan, opens a cupboard door, to have this huge insect like alien fall upon him. Cue screaming sting into theme music, credits and the painfully long wait until next Saturday (spoiler alert – the Wirrn queen is already dead, and Harry is in no danger – yet –  but you don’t find that out until episode 2. Just in case you were worried).

Some people may find it rather sad that my first memory is of a science fiction show and not something ‘real’, but I do not at all. In fact, I’m rather proud of it and it says a lot about me that I’m perfectly happy to be said. I’ve obviously been a diehard fan ever since then and I have never been ashamed of it (this may seem strange to younger readers, as the rebooted show has a much broader appeal than the ‘classic’ series ever did – although not in ratings – but for a lot of my younger life to be a Doctor Who fan was to invite ridicule). We did not care. We had our show, and even after it was cancelled in 1989 I was one of those that persevered through the Dark Time, until the Second (well, third, if you count the 1996 TV movie, which you should, if only so you claim Paul McGann) Coming. Many happy years were spent as a child on Saturday nights getting terribly excited and waiting impatiently for Basil Brush to end so I could take my position behind the folding chair in front of the TV in the middle of the living room (the sofa was up against the wall so not available for cover). It was especially fun when my Nana was staying, as she hated the programme and her tuts of disapproval at how silly it was added to the enjoyment, and as I got older it became a mutual running joke. The show influenced me in many ways, mostly positive (as, at its best, it always is). It fuelled my reading (although my English teacher did despair that my reading record contained mostly Target book novelizations of past episodes. At least, he did concede, I was reading a lot. On a slightly more negative side the show made me somewhat ambivalent to firework displays, which I link directly to November 1978 where, for some reason I could never understand, my parents decided that going to a firework display with my cousins was a better idea than watching episode 2 of ‘The Stones of Blood’. This, at a time when there were no repeats, no DVDs no iPlayer – no chance of ever seeing it. The episode was starting as we left the house. I do not think I was very good company (they never made the same mistake again). My time in the scouts was curtailed when the BBC, in an act of stupidity, moved the programme to the same night. There was never any choice of who was going to lose out, and the woggle was never worn again.

It is some satisfaction that when the show came back, the driving forces behind it were fans like me, of much the same age (although obviously hugely more talented). I still look forward to it, although watching now is not usually the visceral experience it was a child. But it is part of me.

And just in case anyone is wondering what I think of a female Doctor – bring it on. I’m interested to see what they do with it, and the show has a flexible enough format to adapt to the world as it is now. My only problem? It’s fiction. I think the world could do with the Doctor now. But we need to sort out our own mess.

C is for Camping

It came as some surprise to me that the Lovely Wife was under the impression that I did not like sleeping under canvas, that I objected to the concept and practice of camping. This is not true; it is just we have not done very much of it in the time we have been together. In fact, other than camping in a friend’s back garden – there not being enough crash space in the house at the time – at parties is pretty much the only time I recall that we have spent under canvas together. That will change next year when we go to my first proper festival – Wilderness – and I am quite looking forward to the challenges of that and hoping the weather behaves for a festival that includes plenty of outdoor activities. But camping is something that occupies a small but memorable part of my history, mainly regarding when I was young.

The problem with camping for me is that it is a case of opposites; it is either a massive amount of fun or an utterly awful experience. More than perhaps anything else it is weather dependant. I can enjoy a week trudging around the countryside in waterproofs or running in driving rain, providing there is somewhere warm and dry to change into new warm and dry clothes. If you are in a tent this becomes much harder as the even if your tent is up already when the heavens open – and I shudder at the memory of one holiday when a bunch of us lads were trying to get our tents up as the rain torrents fell, which resulted only in everything being soaked and an entire change of plan where the tents were spurned in favour of hastily arranged B&B and hostels for the rest of the holiday – even when they are up in time the water just seems to get in somehow leaving things just a little on the damp side. Then again, as I say, if the sun is shining and glorious, it can be quite idyllic. Until the tent gets too hot.

But I have very fond memories of camping, especially with the scouts as a child. Yes, we were shoved in a tent like sardines (and the tents were very, very old as I remember, the type with separate groundsheets so inevitably everything that could find its way into the tent would. Yes, there was the inevitable dodgy food, and you cannot throw several pre-teen boys together without them trying to humiliate each other by playing strip pontoon (or some other equally pathetic game when everyone was supposed to be asleep). But there was a good atmosphere and you were away from home just long enough for it be exciting and not too long that you got homesick. Our scout leader even had a repertoire of stories around the inevitable bonfire as we waited for the half cooked ‘baked’ potatoes to be vaguely edible. He told with relish, for example, of the Mad Shepherd, who bit the ankles of unwary boys causing them to bleed to death, a story on the so utterly ludicrous to not be frightening at all, but told in such a deadpan and convincing manner that – I kid you not – everyone was very careful to keep their ankles inside the tent for the remainder of the camp.

Ah. Happy days. Enjoy your camping, but watch out for the Mad Shepherd. He is still out there somewhere… And he is still hungry…

B is for Baton

I suspect that many of us have possessions that have some attachment for us, often an emotional or nostalgic one that has much greater strength then any kind of monetary value that something might have, or even what might be considered intrinsic value relating to the age or artistic merit of whatever it is.

I’m a hoarder and a collector (as is the Lovely Wife, which explains the clutter in any place we have lived, live or will live, no matter how much space we acquire). Because of this, my list of objects that fulfil this special status is probably longer than many people’s. One I will focus on today recently re-entered my consciousness when we had the bedroom carpet replaced and various clutter around the antique fireplace had to be cleared away to allow for this. For a short while I was distracted by the discovery, followed by careful removal, of a mummified (best description I could come up with) wood pigeon that had clearly breathed its last in our chimney but dried rather than rotted (thankfully). Anyway, once this slightly tragic and unsavoury item had been removed that left me holding a baton.

The baton is a regulation competition size as used in international relays. It is a good, chunky, metal object, probably adequate for fending off mad axe murders at a pinch. The legend’ London 2012’ on it rather gives away why I have it. Mayor of London Ambassadors, as well as Games Makers all received one as a memento of the volunteering work they had done during the games five years ago (time flies so much!) and it is a very nice thing. Of course, it is not pretty, and while I run a lot I do not see myself taking up the 4x400M anytime soon, but it is a precious object for two reasons.

First, in the specific sense it is of course a reminder of the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012, which many people have fond memories of. From a personal point of view the time I was volunteering were some of the happiest days of work in my life, not so much in what I was doing – standing around telling Swiss synchronised swimmers where they might find a tattoo parlour, for example (in the end, she didn’t go through with it) – but rather being at the heart of something so big and something which, at least to me at the time, seemed bathed in such a positive atmosphere. I was lucky enough to be in the Olympic village itself, and so there was always the thrill of turning a corner and falling over (almost literally, they were all laid out on the pavement stretching) the Australian women’s hockey team. But in London everyone (including the sun!) seemed to be smiling most of the time, which, bless it, is not the usual London experience.

Secondly it reminds me of just how much fun volunteering can be, doing something not because you should, but because you want to. Compared to the pressures of normal work, even hard labour in the context of volunteering seems ‘fun’ because in theory you can walk away at any time. Because of the Olympics I began volunteering with English Heritage at Wrest Park House and Gardens and the De Grey Mausoleum, both in Bedfordshire. Five years on, I still enjoy helping people understand the history of both sites and telling the stories of the people connected to the sites, and the only time it gets boring is soggy Saturday mornings in January where understandably few people want to visit was is predominantly an outdoor site. But it’s worth pulling on the (disgustingly beige) uniform polo shirt for the one family that does turn up.

A is for Aunty

Some people never have the joy of having grandparents. I was lucky enough to know all of mine, although both grandfathers died relatively young. I did however have effectively three grandmothers.

Not being the result of weird 1970s fertility experiment, this was largely because I had a Great Aunt who effectively adopted me as a grandson. She was my dad’s aunt and the next one down in age order from my actual grandmother and one of many siblings, who first exposed me to the kind of kindred mafia that can occur in bit families, the kind of thing that can be summarised as treating each other on a spectrum of toleration to outright conflict between the siblings, but woe be tide anyone from outside the clan that dared to criticise; and instant, instinctive, closing of ranks and a momentary forgetfulness of ongoing bitter feuds in the face of a common attack on the Family.

So, my Great Aunt lived across the road from myself and my parents (I’m an only child, if you do not count the dogs). I have no idea, thinking back, how this state of affairs came to be, as the family did not come from the Chester-le-Street area, coming mainly from Gateshead and South Shields. I never questioned it as a child and I do not know if it was coincidence (highly unlikely) or whether she moved to be close to my parents – and me – which is much more likely.

My Great Aunt had an interesting life. Like my grandmother, and most of the clan, she left school early as the important thing was getting some work to help ends meet and they both worked in one of a small chain of fruiter’s shops in the North East (many were the horror stories of large and terrifying spiders etc. crawling out of the bananas; apparently, there was only one young man who worked in the store and he got the unenviable job of dealing with the unwelcome stowaways). What changed things was that for reasons unreported, my Great Aunt ended up married to the man who owned the chain of shops.

Suddenly, she had status and money, and there are several pictures I have of her dressed up at meetings and conferences in the south of France or Rome. One of my most treasured possessions is large bronze medallion she gave me, an award her husband had received at one of these do’s. they had no children together, which is why she ‘adopted’ me. When he died young, he left her with a generous allowance but left the real money to a daughter from a previous marriage. She never got on with his daughter; as far as I remember she never even mentioned her in the twenty years I knew her and only found out about she existed from the comments from my dad when he was executor to her will.

Of course, this ‘good fortune’ meant that the relationships with siblings became extremely strained. She had broken ranks and was now ‘above herself’. The only siblings she ever stayed on speaking terms with was her younger brother – and he was the sweetest and gentlest of men, I was always fond of Uncle Albert – and my grandmother – although in the latter case this was largely by necessity as they had to share me. I remember many Christmas days, which would have a section where my grandmother would go over to my Great Aunt’s house for sherry and cake (suspiciously without my parents, my mum could be cunning when she wanted to be!) and I would sit and watch the tension build to the point we would leave just before the outbreak of actual hostilities.

But I loved my Great Aunt; she was always kind to me, happily let me play with her collection for brass ornaments with my sticky fingers without complaint, and they would be shiny and clean the next day ready for me to abuse them once more. She made wonderful scones and her apple pie was, and I mean this, ambrosia; I so regret never getting her recipe for it, because I have never tasted better. With hindsight, I was the grandson she never had; and I’m proud to add her to my roster of grandparents. I think she’d be very happy to know that.


This week’s soundtrack: ‘A Lady of a Certain Age’ by The Divine Comedy, not because of the sentiments but because it’s a bloody good song.

Unexpected Excitements

Well, Fulham is certainly full of character.

Let me explain that Fulham is a region of London to the West of the city and near to Hammersmith and Chelsea. I must say I have never been before, and we were only staying there because there was a cheap hotel a mile and a bit from Hammersmith Apollo, one of the iconic London music venues Well, strictly is currently the Evertim Hammersmith, but surely no one calls it that outside of Evertim employees so the renaming is vaguely ludicrous, at least Shepherds Bush Empire and Brixton Academy, comparable venues, only have to put up with ‘O2’ blighting their name, which is conveniently forgotten about by anyone who actually, as I do, loves those venues. We were there to see Californian pop/rock band Train but although the gig was great – it is always good to see a band that can properly entertain – not just play, entertain – live, some of the most memorable moments were not at the Apollo at all.

I’ve harped on about looking up and around before, and London has much opportunity for moments where you stop and go, ‘will you look at that?’. As you walk from Fulham High Road towards Hammersmith it is quite noticeable that the area, while hardly a slum now, has seen better days, as grand Victorian terraces look out on the four busy lanes of the A4, where perhaps there was a quiet lane and a park when they were first built. A slightly battered Georgian townhouse hides, recessed, from the Kebab and chicken shops. The entrance to Barons Court Station certainly would do justice to any member of the minor aristocracy who considered on a whim to investigate the station attributed to them.

Best of all is St Paul’s Studios, a whole row of buildings built in Arts and Crafts style in 1891 to designs by the architect Frederick Wheeler; they are private houses now, but were built as artist’ s studios for bachelor artists, and have magnificent arched glass roofs to provide maximum light to the studio space; not at all what we expected to see but quite magnificent (find out more if you are interested at https://baldwinhamey.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/st-pauls-studios/ )

So, there is plenty to enjoy even when slogging through London to get to a gig. Mind you, you do have to be a bit cautious, especially later when there are fewer people around. We had to negotiate the group of teenagers who seemed to have developed an urge to through live fireworks at each other; never a recommended pastime (to be fair, they took no interest in us, seemingly content to maim each other, but even so). We walked briskly on as the police car glided into sight.

Weirder was the serenade early in the morning. As I lay trying to sleep, the wavering voice of a woman came through the open window, from somewhere unseen in the street (I am making the broad assumption of an older lady). She was, quite incongruously singing ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ in an accent that was almost out of Dick Van Dyke cliché (and no, I was not dreaming this). She went on to go through several verses that she may have made up, but seemed perfectly to fit. Then there was a rattle – going through bins, I thought – and then no more. It was quite surreal. It is hard not for me to think that she comes outside the Travelodge every day at the same time looking for what she can scavenge, and in the process, beats out some ditty or other. The question is does she sing the same thing every day? I guess I will never know, but there is a story there.

Almost Unreal

What is real and what is not? Good question I think, and one that harks back to long evening – or rather early mornings – in university rooms over cans of cheap lager and tea. I think that in broad terms most of us walk through life in a mix, grounded in one way with what is immovable and fixed but away with the fairies in our own heads. At times, one or the other dominates. Sometimes it is cold reality time – the exhaust fell off the car and no amount of daydreaming is going to fix it (or pay for the inevitable repair bill). Then there are the times when what exists within our heads dominates what is outside, because we want it to, as we delude ourselves that the object of our desire really does love us (tomorrow she’ll change her mind and come around, obviously) or actually that coat you bought on a whim and makes people physically sick when they see it will eventually come into fashion.

The musings on this largely comes from finally catching up – ten years late – with the excellent ‘Life on Mars’, the main pleasure of which (apart from the wonderful creation that is Philip Glenister’s Gene Hunt) I having a good discussion with the Lovely Wife afterwards on what the blessed sakes it was all about and what was real and what was not, and whether in fact the whole point is more that what you perceive as being real is more important than any empirical measure that might exist. You believe that something is real, then, to you at least, it is indeed real.

The fact of the matter is that none of us has the identical view of what is real – we cannot have. We might generally agree on some broad approximations by conscious or unconscious consensus but if you dig into the detail we will eventually disagree. As I am writing this I am wearing a blue T-shirt. I think it is quite a pale, bright, blue. But it is not blue, I am perceiving it as blue, and a shade. My eyes are picking up the light signals and my brain translating those as this specific shade of blue, and therein lies the source of difference. Anyone else seeing this T shirt might pick up the same data (let’s assume our eyesight is equivalent) but that other person is not going to see the same shade of blue. They may not even see it as blue at all, depending on how their brain processes the data. We do not, cannot, have the same view of ‘reality’ and while in the interests of fairness I might say that both of our views of reality might be valid, in the final reckoning they are not. For me, only one reality is valid, and it is the one that my brain has cooked up. The rest of you are deluded, poor things.

In many ways, I would love to see how someone else perceives the world, and to be able to compare world views, but I do not think that is ever possible as it will always be through the filter of my own grey matter that would distort any such input. I would be fascinated to know how those with elements of synaesthesia perceive the world; this is where the perception of sense is different from that seen by the majority; people talk of ‘hearing’ colour or ‘tasting’ music. I have always thought that would be fascinating, and again it all relates to that processing by the brain. But, as I say, I’ll just have to use my imagination.


This week’s soundtrack: ‘Even Better that the Real Thing’ by U2