5 November 2010

My uncle Gerald, 1937-2010

My uncle Gerald died suddenly today. He wasn't my actual uncle, but was as much an avuncular figure to me as any real uncle. He was actually my dad's cousin and this morning he passed away, a couple of weeks or so before his 73rd birthday.

Gerald represented to me a classic example of the man from one era trying to move into another. He was resolutely old-fashioned and had a lack of world wisdom and education, but he had the best ever excuse for this: he was a farmer. He was born into it, was doing jobs on the land not long after learning to stand up straight and was running the place on his own pretty much from his own coming of age.

We all know, even if it's just from passing interest, that farming is relentless. The mornings are early, the hours are long and the days off are non-existent. The plusses seem to come in the form of physical fitness, considerable fearlessness, a handiness with any outdoor task that happens upon you and a steely work ethic. Gerald epitomised the lot.

His farm was in East Yorkshire, in a village just outside Beverley, and my dad was a frequent visitor there as a child for playtime purposes. Every member of the family got their Sunday roast meat from Gerald as well as their Christmas geese and turkeys but, Gerald being a farmer, they all had to pay up, without family discount. He had a living to earn and saw no reason, quite rightly, why accident of bloodline should mean he earned less from rearing one chicken than from the next.

When my dad qualified as a motor mechanic at the end of the 1950s, Gerald would give him stuff from the farm in return for suitable odd jobs. There were semi-regular visits to the farm to collect poultry or vegetables or dairy products and Dad, sleeves rolled up, would wind up fixing a tractor or plough instead of handing over the money.

There was an occasion that my mum still brings up now - and will almost certainly be given as an anecdote to whoever provides next week's eulogy - when Gerald had set aside a goose for the Rudd family Christmas one year in return for something skilled my Dad had done, but by the time they turned up at the farm on Christmas Eve morning to collect, he'd sold it because someone had made a better offer than the financial equivalent of replacing the wheel on a trailer or something. Mum was livid and had to start making last-ditch trips around village butchers to have something for the oven the next day.

For me, it was all about the fun of having a distant but friendly relative with a farm. When I was a kid, the trips at weekends and in the summer were quite regular, with my brother and I jumping about on the straw while Mum and Dad had a cup of tea and caught up with Gerald. By now he had built a proper house on the farmland, with his ageing mother - my Dad's auntie - staying in the original farm shack with a rocking chair and the biggest coal fire I have ever seen. Gerald married late in life and had a baby daughter by this time and so needed his own space. His second child, a boy, came along when he was nearly 50.

Whenever there was a family get-together for weddings or birthdays, Gerald would tell stories of the hard life in farming and would get the odd crocodile tear from those of us who felt he was laying it on thick. He was easy to tease and he knew it but he had gone through far more tough times on a physical level to get worried in semi-retirement about how he was perceived by the townie side of his family. I just found him fascinating, straight, decent and funny - he could tell a great joke - and his lifelong interest in Hull City also gave us something in common. The Tigers were the only consistent reason he had to go into the city of Hull at all.

At Dad's 70th birthday do earlier this year, I asked Gerald when he had last been to London. "1951, Festival of Britain" was his matter-of-fact reply. The maths show he was 13 at the time. I wish I'd known this when the Tigers got to Wembley because I'd have bought him a ticket and taken him to the game. Otherwise, he had barely travelled out of East Yorkshire and if he did manage to get farmhands to look after the land, he'd take his family to Bridlington or Scarborough for breaks, both only half an hour from home to allow him to nip back each day while the rest of them ate ice creams on the prom.

He retired a few years ago but maintained his financial interest in the farm and bought a house nearby. He couldn't stop himself from working though and still, on a part-time basis, dragged machinery around and fed chickens and herded sheep. The last time I visited his house, a new home on a smart estate, there was an enormous bag of sheep feed in the driveway and wellingtons on the doormat.

He was born into farming and died half a mile from it, and I'm in little doubt that he'd have been doing something farm-related today if fate hadn't stepped in. But all the hard work and thriftiness will benefit his family substantially, especially as his eldest has a child on the way. And thank goodness he took the bollocking my dad gave him a while back on the chin and made a will, because at the age of 70 he hadn't sorted one out. That was Gerald all over.

He'll be missed.

4 November 2010

Hosing and scrubbing as best they can in skirts and suits

Yeah, sorry about the post below. This week I've had to deal with changing the computer (oooh, the rows) and the car (oooh, the rows) as well as dealing with what has been essentially three solid days of migraine and vertigo symptoms. I haven't been swimming for three weeks because of this now and I'm annoyed. My mobile phone company is still taking money off me that I don't owe it. And the bloody fireworks have begun, meaning I have three howling, petrified Basset hounds to console at all hours.

But anyway, hello again. Now, I mentioned changing the car. I'm giving up the Mondeo, the same one that I crashed into an M62 barrier near Goole two and a half years ago, and taking on a two year old Renault Scenic. Today, as a precursor to handing the Mondeo back to the dealership and smiling sweetly, I've had it washed.

I haven't personally washed a car since 1988, when the 15 year old me took part in a sponsored car wash to raise money for the swimming club. Prior to this, I partook in a school car wash for cystic fibrosis in 1985 (a lad I grew up with had the disease; he passed away in 1996) and succeeded in removing some blue paint from the camper van of Mr Richardson, the fearsome basic skills teacher. Mortified, I was. And yet he didn't notice.

Since learning to drive and taking ownership of vehicles - all Fords; that's four Mondeos, two Fiestas, an Escort and an Orion - I have found that utilising the services of the local car wash, be it an automatic machine at the garage or one of those forecourts resplendent with willing, sponge-wielding scallies, to be far more preferable than knocking my pan out with hoses, sponges, various smelly products and my driveway at 10am on a Saturday. The chap who lives opposite me is obsessed with washing his car. He is doing it every weekend, to the highest standards, whether it needs it or not.

His choice. Mine happens to be different. Hand over a few quid and let someone else do it while you read the paper and send text messages.

There is a forecourt in Hull that does a quite brilliant wash and mini-valet for 12 quid, and this is where I took the Mondeo today. It was early afternoon and I'd not eaten, so I took a sarnie with me, gave them the car and seated myself in their warm waiting room, reading a three day old edition of the Daily Star. The warm but intense gas fire makes one think of a minicab office as you wait.

While I settled, no fewer than seven youngsters washed, wiped, vacuumed and scrubbed my car. As ever, the job they did was absolutely tremendous.

And none of them are English, nor speak any more than a few rudimentary words in order to be able to comprehend what the customer wants. The options are plastered on the forecourt in bright lettering of such a size than one can almost just point and grunt and they get it. I wanted a Green Valet, so I pointed at Green and got a "yes" and a thumbs-up. I don't know where they're from but on a colloquial level locally they're known to anyone I mention them to as Croatians. They could be from anywhere just as exotic and far flung, like Greece, Poland or Whitehaven. I don't like to ask. I probably wouldn't be understood anyway. And it may turn me against them if Hull City once had a rubbish, money-grabbing player from their nation. And this is entirely possible.

I drove the car away as if it were brand new, save for the massive scratches that remain after an unforgiving Portsmouth fan let his keys dangle too close during last season's game at Fratton Park. Oh, and the 147,000-odd miles on the clock. Must remember to fill in that form on a certain irritating website that allegedly buys any car and tells you relentlessly via advertising. Over the weekend the trusty Mondeo - and it has been; only the crash took it off the road at any time, and it survived that - will leave my driveway for the last time. And it will be clean and shiny in doing so.

Those car-washers would be just perfect if they didn't insist on retuning Radio 2 to Radio 1 for the duration of their task. That said, it was pushing 2pm so Steve Wright was due on. Even when you don't speak the lingo, there are clearly limits.

3 November 2010


This week has been beyond all realms of appalling. Back soon.

1 November 2010

That show's still on

Another edition of Q The 80s done and dusted. Good one tonight, enjoyed it...

The Jam "Start!"
Elbow Bones and the Racketeers "A Night In New York"

Four Tops "When She Was My Girl"
Stephen TinTin Duffy "Icing On The Cake"

Kate Bush "Babooshka"

Jesus & Mary Chain "April Skies"
Bobby Brown "Every Little Step"

Nick Heyward "Take That Situation"
Cyndi Lauper "I Drove All Night

Simple Minds "Kick It In"
Cocteau Twins "Pearly Dewdrops' Drops"

Midge Ure "Call Of The Wild"
Carmel "More More More"

U2 "The Unforgettable Fire"
Odyssey "If You're Looking For A Way Out"

Aerosmith "Love In An Elevator"
Stevie Wonder "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It"

Billy Joel "We Didn't Start The Fire"
Swans Way "Soul Train"

Kate Bush "Breathing"

Morrissey "The Last Of The Famous International Playboys"
Hue & Cry "Labour Of Love"

Fun Boy Three "The Telephone Always Rings"
Prince "Alphabet Street"

Samantha Fox "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)"

Kim Wilde "Never Trust A Stranger"
Average White Band "Let's Go Round Again"

Queen "It's A Hard Life"
Ray Parker Jr. "I Don't Think That Man Should Sleep Alone"

Tracey Ullman "Breakaway"
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions "Perfect Skin"

Human League "Louise"
Luther Vandross "Stop To Love"

Kate Bush "Army Dreamers"

Housemartins "Me And The Farmer"
Dan Hartman "I Can Dream About You"

Madness "Shut Up"
Level 42 "Tracie"

S Express "Hey Music Lover"
Jona Lewie "You Will Always Find Me In The Kitchen Parties"

Big Country "Wonderland"
Roman Holliday "Don't Try To Stop It"

Black "Wonderful Life"
JoBoxers "Just Got Lucky"

And there'll be another edition this coming Sunday. The Pet Shop Boys interview will be broadcast in three weeks.

31 October 2010

The sleeve shows him climbing a tree as a seven year old

And so tonight we head the way of Q The 80s again. We shall be on from 6pm, either online here, or on Freeview channel 716 or if you're one of those posho London folk, via your DAB radio.

One of the songs featured you can deduce from the title of this blog, while another is for your excitingly pre-emptive enjoyment below.

The Featured Album is an enigmatic masterpiece from 1980 and the Guilty Pleasure song came via Twitter and is likely to earn me a yard of alcoholic refreshment at a London party just before Christmas.

Hope you think it's ok...