Knowledge is Power

Usually when I think of a person I know, there are a handful of abiding memories that I recall in connection to them.

For example my friend Neb, one thing that really sticks in my mind about him is a rant he once had about how annoying he finds it when people leave the washing up sponge in the sink, still wet! He was furious. When I reminded him of this funny rampage, he didn’t remember it at all.

The same thing happened when I told another friend about how much I used to enjoy it when he sang hymns in the style of Jimi Hendrix. He had no memory of it.

How many things have you done / said / sung that you have no memory of? Loads, I think. How many times have you popped into the mind of your acquaintances doing / saying / singing something that you have no control over and no memory of!? Loads, I think.

Sometimes it can work in your favour though. I caught up with an old school friend a while ago, and he told me that the funniest thing I ever said was during a playtime football game. Apparently I ran headlong towards a boy that everyone was scared to tackle and tackled him (just that is cool enough).

Then he says, incredulously “Where did you come from?”

And my corker of a reply is, “Wales”.

Brilliant.

But I have no memory of it at all.

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Early Days with Spaghetti Bolognese

I always ate spaghetti bolognese really quickly as a child. I remember it was always a source of pride for me that I finished my spaghetti bolognese before everyone else finished their spaghetti bolognese. 

It was always a dish of choice at Golders Hill Park café, perhaps a continuation of the Italian theme that was fostered in their over-priced ice cream corner. 

There was an unfortunate story passed on to me from Wibsy which involved the involuntary regurgitation of said dish, and the distinctive element to the tale was in the resemblance of the spew to the meal that had been digested just a few hours previous to this ghastly event.

Finally, a reminiscence of Uncle G cooking spaghetti bolognese in our house (he didn’t live there). I remember being struck at the simplicity and effectiveness displayed in the production of the nosh. We went to the shop and bought a tin of chopped tomatoes, and before I knew it the meal was made. What a hero.

I stop and stare at the younger, my heart goes to ’em.

A weekend in London babysitting my little brothers and an extended bank holiday have filled the past few days of my life. My parents had gone to a wedding in Yorkshire and were keen for me to keep an eye on ‘the younger’. I had thought that they wanted me to make sure they didn’t do the classic teen-movie thing of inviting all their friends round for a huge party and get the house trashed, but it was more of an opportunity for some sibling-bonding. We had a lot of fun playing videogames, going to the park and I enjoyed watching some good fistfights; I also benefitted from seeking to share the gospel with the little ones who have not yet professed faith, I’m thankful that God uses our feeble words and answers prayer.

It’s surprising how true the abovementioned school-time situation is. I imagine most attendees to a Western educational establishement could tell you a story about someone’s habitat being ransacked by an entire school-load of children. It were like that when I was in school, as soon as one person said that they were thinking about having a house-party, the news would spread around the grounds like (queue Southern States drawl) wildfire.

The culprit in our year suffered all the more due to the fact that he wanted to party at his own party. You can picture the situation, hundreds of teenagers in a suburban semi, putting calculators in the microwave (this happened); puking in expensive ceramic containers (this also happened); and throwing bicycles over the neighbour’s fence (yes it did really happen). The ‘host’ was passed-out on the floor. Prior to this he too had had the urge to empty his stomach. Whilst rolling around on the parlour floor, he did not want to ruin the carpet, so when the heaving begun he clawed his way past the Persian rug, and stretched his neck like an athlete on the finishing line, so that his mouth reached the threshold of the next room where the laminate flooring began and then it was safe to vomit… and then fall asleep in it. From that point of the evening on, the poor boy was unable to manage his parents’ household and their possessions (wine cellar etc.), until they returned home and everyone either left or suddenly became very polite.

Blewog’s Firey Diary – 19/11/2010 (Washing Machines, MCs & Dental Combat)

Recent goings on in the life of Rhodri Brady have been the writing of essays and the learning of lines, nothing new I hear you say. Well how about I bust you out of your overly complacent cage and tell you about the time me and not one, not two, but three other men went to buy a washing machine together. Not only that, but we came to a descision about which one to buy with in literal minutes! This was after five minutes of making jokes about buying an oven by accident and then actually thinking a tumble dryer was a washing machine.

On Sunday evening I preached! Sadly our planned preacher for the evening had to drop out, so I was rolled in at the last minute. I ended up preaching a very similar sermon to the one I did in Childs Hill in September, but I changed it slightly, eager to come at the passage afresh. I was really chuffed at how supportive so many in the congregation were, God was very good to me and it was a joy.

One evening this week I had my first profiad of ’emceeing’, I am not referring to the rapping kind (as in Jay Zed etc.) no, I mean as in the master of ceremonies, the compére guy. The CU put on an open-mic night and lots of people sung and I was basically given the freedom to shout whatever I wanted down the microphone in-between the actual talent. This was for a good few hours. It was an absolute joy, and I particularly enjoyed making music jokes, political jokes and science jokes—most of which I stole from t’internet. I was hesitant to crush the idea of me being the rapping kind of MC, because at the end of the show, me and my fellow friend performed a rap, a rap all about kicking the bar, which went to the tune of Kick, Push by Lupe Fiasco. We had rapping names, he was called Prfessor JJ, and I went by the name of Serious Filth! We went down an absolute storm and we now have a recording contract (not).

I am rather bruised because in my play, we have to rehearse a scene in which I get beaten up over and over and over and over agin. It’s fun at the time because it takes me back to the days of the old school yard, but when I wake up the next morning, I find bruises in the most unusual places.

I’m off to London tonight, I shall be watching a play there. I’m looking forward to having some time on the train to think, and read, and probably not listen to music because I dumbly lost my iPod, along with another billion other lovely valuables such as my Bible and house keys and TheBestSupermanShirtEver all inside my wife’s favourite ruck-sack. Twas her favourite container in which to carry her rucks. But we live and learn (or in my case live and lose, and lose, and lose, and find, and lose again).

I was eating bonbons in a lecture the other day and the chewy part of it suddenly became hard. I thought to myself, what an interesting chemical reaction these confectionarial makers have managed to create in my mouth! However, what happened was far less Willy Wonka-esque. I had managed to dislodge a gold inlay from my tooth, thus leaving a rather large chasm in the back row of my upper jaw. The day before yesterday (which is the day after the day before the day after two days ago) I went to the dentist. I shall spare you the paragraph in which I share with you the fact that I often find myself revelling in the fear that we all have to some extent of the dentist. Anyway, this procedure was rather easy. I’d kept the inlay in my wallet for quite some time, it was quite the conversation killer. She—the dentist—grabbed it and shoved in there and it felt a bit weird but it was fine, I thought she’d finished, but of course she felt the need to cement it. So then she had to spend five minutes taking it out of my teeth again, the fear of dentists is never too bad until you consider that maybe, just maybe they’re going to make a mistake. You hear horror stories of dentists accidentally pulling whole jaws off, and this is was the genre of fear I was feeling this time. She was yanking, levering and wedging this little metal bit in my teeth, like I’d never seen. What I should have told her was that I would just pop a bonbon in my mouth and then I’d take it out for her! Eventually it dropped out and I almost swallowed it, and then, with spot of cement from her industrial sized mixer, in the style of a true brick-layer, I was kitted up and ready to beep my way through any airport security gate you threw at me. It does feel a bit weird though, because (this is really amazing, God is awesome) when you lose a tooth or a bit of a tooth, the set of teeth below compensate for this by pushing themselves up a bit further to make up for it, to help my chewing! But when she put it back in, all I could feel was this huge metal wad. By now my mouth is getting used to it, but I do have regular tap-dance recitals, inside my head.

“I didn’t ask for your life story.” #9 – Nursery

Early memories of what they apparently now call ‘pre-school’ are few and far between. However, as is often the case, the traumatic memories stay in there, many of which revolve around me not wanting to go to nursery.

“I wanna stay with Muuuuum!”

I remember dreading it when Mum left me there, and begging her to stay. She’d take me over to Mrs. R and she would tell me all about the exciting activities that were taking place today. Then, at my highest point of vulnerability, my Mother would stealthily make her exit.

One weekday morning, I recall that we were doing the story of the three pigs. The teacher had somehow got it into her head that kids liked being scared, so naturally she role played it with me as a pig and her as a wolf. She put on this gargantuan, black, hairball-esque, smelly wig. Then she would, at regular intervals shove it into my face. To this day, I still hate any form of external hair touching my face, it freaks me out.

Story time took place, as it often does, on a seven by seven-foot square of blue carpet. However, it sucked to sit on the floor. There were two bright red cushions, with gleaming white letters of the alphabet written all over them, which two lucky members of the class were allowed to sit on.

We were having a nice ordinary morning, I seem to remember I was playing with a shoe-lace and story time was called. Of course, being stuck in my own world, I could not drag myself away from the marvelous shoe-lace right away, and this was to be my downfall. My best friend had already sat on the red cushion, the cushion next to him was still free, there was still time to get comfort as well as some some peer-to-peer infant solidarity. But, before I knew it, the class ruffian and son of the teacher no less, had placed his backside right where I wanted to be.

What was I to do? I couldn’t sit on the floor with the peasant children, I had to sit next to my best friend and I had to sit on a comfy red cushion! There was no option but to… but to… to use a bit of old-fashioned violence.

I limbered up and charged towards the bully, heading straight for the jugular I pounced. My attack didn’t quite make the impact I first expected it would and I was left grabbing hold of a pair of more hefty arms than I’d ever expect a three and a half year-old to possess. Using my shoulder I eventually managed to shove him off, and the cushion was mine.

But not for long. The rascall leaped up from his vanquished heap and in turn grabbed my arm. He promptly rolled up my sleeve and dug his fangs rather deeply into my left arm. I screamed in pain. Mrs R (his Mother) prized us apart and marched us outside the classroom.

Of course him being her son and all, she was soft on him. I remember being disgusted at the fact she gave us both exactly the same telling of, even though I’d only partaken in a gentle push and shove, but he had made the journey from child to vampire in the space of thirty-three seconds.

Justice must me had! The court case commences next Thursday.

“I didn’t ask for your life story.” #8 – Back Garden Trees

I grew up as one of those blessed children who had a back garden. A modest thirty or forty feet of land which holds of three trees.

Right at the back lay some sort of fir/yew tree which I have memories of standing under and feeling it’s darkness cover me. Friends would come over and claim that they could climb it, but no one ever did. I remember being told numerous times not to eat the leaves of that tree as it was poisonous, I even made an effort to wash my hands after I had touched it, just to be safe. Next to it was a small wooden swing which I could fit into until I was four or five. Neither of these things remains in the garden today. The tree was cut down when I was nine so that we could bring more sunlight into the garden and I climbed into the swing one bonfire night, trying to show off to some friends and put my foot through it.

The second was an apple tree, my parents received it as a wedding gift (1988) and it had been growing ever since then (yes it really was a tree that grew). We always wished that apples would grow on it, but they never seemed to. Someone told us that if one year was bad for fruit then the next year would be great, but they just seemed to be getting worse and worse. We’d get a couple of apples every now and then, but birds would usually peck at them anyway. I believe that by now the tree produces a good crop, and I’m sure my Mum makes a good apple pudding or two out of them.

The third tree, and the best tree is the Elderberry Tree. I’m told it’s extremely rare to have one grow in a garden like ours and this was the main tree, the headline act so to speak, the big cheese, the tree to end all trees. As I mentioned, the little swing at the back of the garden was not serving us much use, so one day seemingly out of the blue, Mum took me to Toys ‘R’ Us and just bought a tree rope swing. I loved that adults could do that, and on those wonderful occasions when I would receive something spontaneously, it was always brilliant. Once she bought me and my brother two cowboy costumes, with guns and everything, out of nowhere! Amazing! However, I don’t think I would have felt such excitement on these instances had they been regular. My Mum would always talk about this concept of ‘spoilt children’ but I really did not understand how giving a child lots of treats could somehow spoil them? Surely it would make them happier!?

The rope swing was assembled by Dad on a ladder and I was promptly instructed not to spin on it, and to share it, because that’s what it said on the instructions. That swing was probably one of the best buys my parents ever made. The accumulated hours that all of us boys must have spent on it, as well as all the friends that came round and played on it are phenomenal. The rope was bright yellow and the base was a friendly green.

I used to enjoy just swinging on it and seeing how high I could go. Then when I got bored of that, I’d get up and spin round on it (even though we weren’t meant to) and feel extremely dizzy afterwards. I also spent many hours with my (then) tiny little brother, he would position himself on my lap, and we’d both swing around for (what seemed like) hours. We invented this thing we called ‘ceremony’ which basically involved us imagining we had an audience in front of us and doing tricks in front of them. No tricks developed much further than him standing on my knees.

I’ve also pushed all four of my little brothers at different stages on the swing. My biggest swings I’d (for some really freaky reason) call “double jam, double peanut butter”. The name stuck, and that’s what my brothers enjoyed having. When my youngest brother came along, he was so tiny (and fearless) that I could swing him up to a ridiculously frightening height. He loved it, we loved watching it. He often ended up over our garden fence in terms of distance. We also did this thing called “baseball bat” when we’d grab the legs of whoever was on the swing and fling them (like a baseball bat) so they’d go spinning and probably fall off and probably cry.

We also invented a game involving a football, which I cunningly named ‘Post Ball’. The tree was called ‘the post’ and the aim was to hit the tree with the ball. I would sit on the swing and try to defend the tree, it was highly different to football. For some reason I loved the idea of this game being closely compared to football, because in football you didn’t want to hit the post, so in this game you did. This logic was somehow strangely translated into me saying “well done, you scored a goal!” when they missed and “oh dear, you hit the post” when they scored. I’m strange, I’m sure it was funny at the time.

Another huge passtime on the swing was getting the big climbing frame (which we awesomely owned, a birthday present I believe) dragging it to the tree, climbing up the ladder whilst holding the swing and jumping onto the swing from great height. Competitions were held for who could jump from the highest height, over time I became the most daring (being the oldest) and could jump from the top! As one gets older, one gets bigger and one day this was to be my (literal) downfall. I leaped onto the swing from the top of the climbing frame expectantly bracing myself for the ride to come, but what happened? The rope snapped. Yes. The rope… snapped. It is a uniquely child-esque feeling one gets when they fall on their bottom. Some sort of immense electric pain rushes right from your bum, up your back into your eyebrows. All you can do is scream and clench your buttocks. All I remember about this occasion was that it hurt too much to cry, I yelped and flailed about and laughed in a manic sort of way. To be fair, that is the equivalent of jumping from the height of about eight feet directly onto one’s backside. I’m surprised I didn’t do myself more damage.

We eventually replaced the now broken yellow rope with a thicker blue one and the swing was ready once again for action, it’s still used regularly, despite the tree having been cut back several times, it has never affected the infamous rope swing.

The elderberry tree was also responsible for various other childhood memories. Our great garden was often the spot for me and my friends from church to sit around thinking ambitiously about what wonderful plans and feats we could achieve. We had dreams of wires going from my house to their house (about a mile away) and making underground caverns or intricate burglar traps. We eventually formed a club which we entitled ‘T.D.S.’ we never told anyone what it stood for, instead, when people asked, we threw in countless red herrings. Did it stand for Traditional Devonshire Shortbread? Or did it stand for Terrible Dancing Soldiers? Or were we making our aims very clear by claiming that it stood for To Destroy Stefan (an older brother of our friends)!? In reality our little crew was entitled The Detective Society (we never actually did any detecting, but hey). We all had code names and were required to donate twenty pence every week for the club fund. We ended up buying a pair of walkie talkies from Argos, which was really cool!

Our most exciting achievement was the task assembling of a tree house. Initial plans in my mind were made and I imagined that we were to create a haven, high, in the clouds, with polished wood floors and at least three rooms where we could eat, watch television and play snooker. The reality was not similar, but no less cool. We started off by gathering a few breeze blocks from a forgotten section of my garden and began to saw them so they could fit into the tree, this was an ill advised task as sawing bricks is not the most child-friendly pursuit and bricks don’t really make the best tree house material. However, these bricks made a platform for us to stand on so we could make the tree house a bit higher up. My family were chucking out an old futon, so we used the planks of wood from that to make a level floor (quite) high up in the tree. Of course, the older and cleverer boys were the ring leaders in this whole task, and they were the ones who worked out the logistics and architectural dimensions. After weeks of labouring, we had a floor which was sit-on able and it was up in the tree! It was super cool! We made a rope ladder out of some rope (funny that) and an old broom handle. And there it was! Out very own tree ‘thing’. Not quite the mansion I was expecting, but something nevertheless. We used the T.D.S. monetary fund to pay for some posh varnish and we were convinced that this meant it could survive all weather. Many an afternoon was spent sitting up there, looking into other people’s gardens, feeling tall and almost falling out and breaking one’s leg. My Dad even started to use it as a quiet place where he would read.

By now, the tree house is no more, the varnish was not as good as we thought it would be, and the planks soon rotted off (with some help from my vandalish little brothers).

The elderberry tree also produced much fun and joy for us in other ways. One of our other missions (not sure if it was pre or post T.D.S.) was to make and sell elderberry wine. The tree was full of berries, so all we needed to do was pick them, press them and earn millions! We spent a long afternoon picking and picking and picking. We filled a massive black bin bag full of elderberries. Before we could do anything with them, it was home time for my friends. I kept the bag outside the house, ready for the next day when we would sort out the planned wine making session. I woke up early the next day and I have this vivid memory of sticking my head into the bag, and thousands of flies swarming around my face. Our plan had soured rather, so our stint in the wine making business was short-lived.

I must not dismay, my life is far from over! I’m sure that one day, I will find time in my adult life to be a wine making, tree house building, rope-swinging detective. And twenty pence a week can buy a lot if you think about it!

Poem: ‘The Snufferjog’

The Snufferjog

He’s runty, and his naked toes
Stumble but not to assuage;
Bewhiskered are his mouth and nose,
And moths doth he engage.
.
Beware the Snufferjog, my friend!
His Vogue stained claws they steal!
Do not his deep pockéts attend ,
They’re full of spoons unreal!
.
He’ll place your brain in his left hand,
Massage it, ’til it’s vanished —
Tall wolfish beings there he hath banned,
Warm crisp-grease too is banished.
.
Carnivorously adamant,
And Snuff’jog’s cocksure eyes,
Say “pint-sized ale cups should be scant,
In any a maiden’s thighs.”
.
“Beware! Beware! That lady there!
She may not smoke death-duty!”
His reasons aren’t in terms of care,
“But for the sake of beauty.”
.
“How didst thou slay the Snufferjog?
With one cruél strong sting!?”
I grabbed his wide-eyed, lamb-like dog,
It’s neck I then did wring.
.
The Snufferjog did die a death,
With which I daren’t agree,
His spirit shrank and turned to breath,
He’s now like you and me.
.