The Yorkshireman Speaks: Pensioner Pastimes

The man doesn’t give a pluck

I can’t wait until I retire. It can be the glory years. Just think about all the things you can do. The joy you can get from just paying the world back one day at a time for all the misery it’s caused you. I’d be getting up at 8am every morning, getting into rush hour traffic and then just getting in everyone’s way, towing a caravan behind just to annoy people further. Then I’d go home, listen to Gardeners world, before popping out at lunchtime to go a stand in the post office queue, clogging it up, just for one stamp, glorious!

With all this time on your hands you can discover new hobbies, like my dad has done. He is now the member of a Ukulele troupe! The Pontefract Pluckers! I don’t know what the correct collective term is for a group of Ukulele players, maybe Ukuleleurs, ukers, ukulelites, ukuleliers or maybe a twang of Ukers. Whatever they are it’s a group of blokes that meet in my parents kitchen every week to strum through a badly tuned version of the classic hit “I am the urban Spaceman” by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

“It was like The Who playing next to a busker.”

Playing an instrument is a great way to lose yourself and relax, but it does depend on what type of person you are. There is a member of the group who is a bit difficult, a bit of an Axl Rose, from Guns and Roses type of character. If the band ever got their big break he would be the first one demanding he was taken everywhere on his own jet, saying he won’t go on stage without his psychologist, or until someone sorts him out a bowl of M and M’s with all the red ones removed and a bottle of Evian at precisely 0 degrees. He would be late to soundchecks and have the crazy artistic girlfriend who would stop him going to jamming sessions until his chakras were totally aligned and he had finished feeding his spirit animal.

This guy, let’s call him Brian, because that’s his name, has a reputation for being difficult. He has been thrown out of two other Ukulele groups. At one group the woman in charge asked him to leave because he was always plugging his amp in during practice sessions and drowning out the rest of the group. It was like The Who playing next to a busker.

Another group asked him to leave as he was turning up every week for the lesson but not paying, after a few months they confronted him and he said, “I’m not paying because you didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know!” what a maverick!

Recently the group and Brian had a “gig” I say “gig” it was a gathering at some parish councillors back garden at a fundraiser for the local rotary club and I had the pleasure of going along to watch them. They “Pontefract Pluckers” were on a little veranda in the corner. Brian had printed out song sheets for everyone. However, when they started it was clear that they would only be background music, like a lounge singer in a hotel foyer. No one was paying attention, apart from the one lady who had a few too many glasses of prosecco and was clutching her song sheet swaying and singing, quite badly, into a breadstick. It was quite windy and the sound travelled but not brilliantly and they had no mics, they only had a little amp, provided by Brian.

They were doing fine but no one was paying attention. Then in the middle of Brian just puts his instrument away turns off the amp and leaves in a tantrum, stopping only to grab a scone from the table as he walked past. I’m surprised he didn’t kick over the amp, smash his Ukulele on the side of the veranda and try to get a riot going. He would’ve struggled to be fair, it was The Rotary Club not the Hells Angels.

@scottbcomedyuk
scottbennettcomedy.co.uk
Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

University of Beestonia: 30 Days Wild

Somewhere in Beestonia…

30dayswild
Logo credit to @30DaysWild (Twitter) and The Wildlife Trust

As I write I’m just recovering from a two-day conference run at the University in collaboration with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, perfect for this issue’s ‘wild’ theme and their 30 Days Wild campaign.

The conference itself was very calm, the wildness left for the content of the presentations and debates. We heard about koalas, sheep, badgers, lizards, stone curlew and hedgehogs. Hedgehogs were mentioned quite a lot… not least in our public lecture by Hugh Warwick on Monday night.

I co-lead one of the University’s research priority areas called Life in Changing Environments. We exist to bring together all researchers across the university working in any way on this broad theme. Working with The Wildlife Trusts, particularly the team from Nottinghamshire we were also able to bring together many environmental practitioners from across the East Midlands and beyond.

“We all have a responsibility to look after the bits of the world that we can, our own gardens, our own streets, the nature reserves we enjoy spending time in.”

We listened to panels discuss how best we can all work together to improve environmental conditions for all, and the challenges posed by environmental policy, including those in a post Brexit landscape. These panels included Paddy Tipping, the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Sara Goodacre from the University, Oliver Harmar, the North East Area Director for the Environment Agency, Jeff Knott, Eastern England regional director of the RSPB, and Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager, for The Wildlife Trust. These were highly informed, enthusiastic debates that were inspiring to listen to.

In the afternoon we heard from a panel about the concerns of our current students’ generation about what is going on with our environment, and not just about plastic. The panel included Katie Jepson, Sustainability Project Officer, for the NUS and Isla Hodgson, Associate Director, of the youth organisation A Focus on Nature. We then listened to a fascinating discussion about how best to communicate environmental science issues to a wide range of audiences including politicians and the general public, and how to best make a difference.

A theme that ran throughout the conference was how we all have a responsibility to look after the bits of the world that we can, our own gardens, our own streets, the nature reserves we enjoy spending time in. It’s also clear that there are many amazing, inspiring and engaging people working hard to make all the bits of the world we encounter better for everyone and everything in it. We should be thankful to them and hopeful that bit-by-bit differences can be made in the right way. Challenges and uncertainties around funding and future legislation make life difficult for environmental practitioners, as it does for those of us working in universities and many other sectors, but there was a definite sense of the ‘cautious optimism’ described by Ellie Brodie throughout the meeting. It was good to hear.

We were optimistic enough about the feedback from the conference to put next year’s in the diary already. It will be on the 24th and 25th June 2019 – keep an eye on our twitter feed @LCE_RPA and we’ll maybe see some of you there!

MJ

The Beestonian is: Scott Bennett – Yorkshireman

Beeston-based Stand-up Comedian Scott Bennett, writes the regular “Yorkshireman Speaks” column, normally from the relative comfort of his shed. Insulated, with three power points, electricity and superfast broadband, it’s been the perfect portal to broadcast his ill thought opinions on society.

Scott has worked as a writer for The Chris Ramsey show on Comedy Central and the BBC News Quiz on Radio 4. As a stand-up he has supported Rob Brydon on his nationwide tour. He also writes and produces his own pilots with his supremely talented wife Jemma. Their mockumentary “Caravan of Love” made the official selection for the Beeston Film Festival in 2018. You can also hear his actual voice on the Scott Bennett Pubcast on Itunes, with some other Beestonian regulars.

He’s an English Comedian of the Year runner up and can be found most weekends slogging up and down the nation’s roads, spreading mirth to places as exotic and as far afield as Hull.

Twitter: @scottbcomedyuk
scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

The Beestonian is: Tim Pollard – Robin Hood

Just to be clear, I don’t actually think I’m Robin Hood.

My heroes are James Bond or Captain Kirk but bizarrely Robin Hooding is genuinely my full time job – although it’s more fun than work, meeting incredible people and VIP’s, guiding tours, supporting charities and doing lots of very silly things!

I married my beloved and brilliant wife (and Maid Marian) Dr Sally Pollard in September 2016 but heartbreakingly she died of breast cancer in June 2017, aged just 39 – so these days I concentrate more on bringing up our beautiful four-year old daughter Scarlett than pretending to be a hero – except in Scarlett’s eyes, and now that’s what really counts.

The Beestonian is: Daisy Leverington – Motherhood

Daisy had a baby in 2011. She’s still trying to get over it. Daisy doesn’t think she’s entirely adult enough yet, despite being on the wrong side of 35. She wrote for Standard Issue Magazine for 3 years before Matt granted her honourary citizenship of the Isle of Beeston. She is currently trying to type this while her 6 year old asks her whether colour exists. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t feel like she knows much anymore. Daisy tries to be funny on Scott Bennett’s pubcast but is mostly just tired.

DL

The Beestonian is: Matthew Jones – Co-founder/Resident Don

Matt has lived in and around Beeston for 14 years and founded the Beestonian with Matt. Since then he’s stayed involved with the magazine (can actually almost call it that without infringing any trade description issues!) in one-way or another. He reads it occasionally, and edits the ramblings of Prof J and other contributors from the university. Matt is excited, and secretly a little proud, by seeing the Beestonian take its next steps.

Motherhood #6: Testing Times

Spring is trying to arrive and our 6 year old is in full swing with her SATS exams at school.

A thoroughly pointless hoop-jumping time of year which does little more than assess how well the school teaches kids remember what >, %, £ and < mean and how phonemes can affect common exception words. (Your guess is as good as mine.) My kid thought the symbols were old fashioned emojis but whatever. As much as my husband and I have little motivation to exhaust our anxious little hard-worker, we have been really surprised with just how competitive she’s become. Seriously, she’s like a Year 2 Terminator. Her teacher commented on how she relishes a difficult test sheet and is super happy when it’s exam time. We’re currently looking into hospital records from 2011 to see if we brought the wrong one home.

Given that she cares so much about her assessment results, we have started to jump on the competitive band wagon and have become her cheerleading squad. She delights in telling us that she got 5 out of 5 on her weekly spelling test or all her homework questions correct, and we make a fuss of her hard work each time. We’ve always held the opinion that rewards are for behaviour and effort, rather than results, so we are still careful not to spoil her when she nails a new maths theory. But I want to, I want to launch glitter-canons in the streets and shout about how clever she is, but it’s wound in and packaged as a ‘that’s great babe, you worked really hard on it’ instead.

As parents we have a couple of degrees and a PhD between us, so we were expecting her to do okay at school. She’s one of the youngest in her class, so we were also aware that she would be almost a year behind her classmates, both socially and academically, but she’s overtaken everything we hoped for and is now an Uber Geek of the highest order, and we are (quietly) really proud.

So, little lady, go and smash those exams. Those silly tests which could be better spent outside digging up worms or making dens. If she’s happy, we’re happy. And if you come top of the class, we might just buy you an ice cream on the way home. If it ever warms up.

DL

The Yorkshireman Speaks: Having kids

You’re stressed? Course you are, you’ve got kids!

There is a simple fact that children have a much bigger impact on your quality of life than say smoking or drinking. But when you buy those products there are warnings on the packaging for the consequences to your health. They should do that on the stuff you buy when you are trying to get pregnant, imagine walking into Boots, picking up a packet of Folic acid and on the back is a picture of a couple having a lie in, that would make you abandon the idea in an instant. There are probably other images you could use, but how do you capture in a photograph someone strangling your dreams?

Having children is stressful, there is no doubt about that. But you have to work very hard to not let that stress affect those members of society who haven’t got children and that’s easier said than done, because you despise these people. Watching them dance through their lives without a care in the world, it’s like looking at who you once were; free, happy and blissfully selfish.

“What shall we do today, we have no responsibilities, no ties, don’t you feel energised after that twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep?”

All you want to do is just take your pushchair and ram it into the back of their smug heels, just to release that tension, to bleed the valve on the pressure cooker that is parenting.

But there are many occasions where you can’t contain it, where it explodes, like some sort of social terrorism, here are some of my favourite examples.

The family meal out

Is there anyone who enjoys a meal out with the family? You do it because you feel like you should. The only meal out I enjoy with my kids is when I am in the supermarket, they are hungry and I open a loaf of bread and give them a slice, basically when I treat our kids like ducks, that’s a stress free meal out.

You have visions of that perfect Utopia, the children sitting there happily, with angelic faces, “We’ll eat anything daddy, you know us we are not fussy, order what you like, we are just thrilled to be all together.”

But that illusion is washed away in a tsunami of blackcurrant Fruit Shoot as soon as you walk in the place.

You see the other parents in their own private hell, holding phone screens up to kids’ faces, every time it’s pulled it away the kid starts to scream, it’s like a medic treating a wounded soldier on a battlefield.

There isn’t a table, it doesn’t matter. You find the people who are on their desserts and stand next to them and make them feel so uncomfortable that they speed up, “he’s just looking at that cheesecake, just move!” you help them put their coats on, you basically evict them from that table.

Once the kids are sat down the pressure is on. The first thing is to get the crayons and activity sheets, god forbid that the kids have to occupy themselves for five minutes. Why the obsession with stationary?!?

You may as well just have a picnic in Rymans.

When the waiter arrives you’re just angry.

“Are you ready to order guys?”

Course you’re ready to order, you were ready last Wednesday, you just wish they’d stop wasting time. You begin to lose your temper:

“When you bring the food, just bring the bill too, this hell needs to end. In fact, forget the cutlery or plates mate just get the chef to pop out of the kitchen with a catapult and fire the food directly into our miserable mouths!”

The waiter just stands there stunned, it’s all so awkward. This tension isn’t helped by the fact that you are so ashamed that you have left that table in such a disgusting state, that they only have two choices, claim on the insurance or set fire to it.

Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Somewhere in Beestonia…continued

Somewhere in the University of Beestonia Dr. Chewtaar sighed. It was a long and audible sigh directed towards his office ceiling, and it had at its center a less audible, but critical, growl. It had been a funny few months and, between him and his ceiling, Ainsley was feeling a little broke.

The spring term hadn’t felt particularly springy. It was particularly daft calling it the spring term this year anyway, having already finished by the time British Summer Time had started (more potential confusion there…), but mulling over it there didn’t seem to be a particularly good alternative. The ‘grey, cold few months when lots of people are a bit miserable’ term didn’t seem particularly catchy, and certainly didn’t fit into the University of Beestonia branding particularly well.  He’d had a Great Aunt called Hilary, he seemed to remember, that was a nice name, and apparently one she’d shared with a French saint …

Reality was returned with a sharp knock on the door. “Sorry to bother you…” for a second Ainsley drifted back to his Great Aunt, he had this vague recollection of her at some odd meal held in honour of an important wedding anniversary of his paternal grandparents, “… could I come and see you some time this week about my coursework?”

Ah the vacation, those long sprawling oceans of free time, which family members and people you meet randomly in shops think you have off because you work in an educational establishment. If only. In fact having them off isn’t the goal, having them free would be good enough. Free to think (?!), create and push back those intellectual boundaries one increment at a time.

“No worries, let me just check my diary,” Ainsley smiled back. In his more cynical moments he remembered that the Office for Students was drilling down into its spreadsheets, making sure the curvature of his smile was above the minimum standard required, but most of the time he enjoyed teaching the students that came each year to the University of Beestonia. They were generally nice kids and kept him on his toes. If all he’d had to do was help them learn and push an occasional boundary a little bit closer to its next increment the term would have been a lot more springier.

 I didn’t get much sleep…

Prof J

Somewhere in Beestonia…

The Office for Students (OfFS); an Orwellian curiosity located within its carbon-neutral, architectural award winning, many windowed new complex down Diagon Alley.

In the penthouse twelve carefully selected volunteers sit around their roundtable overseen by a mysterious and dangerous sounding overlord. Never seen, this Master of the Twelve exists behind a set of beautifully carved wooden doors which if opened eject plumes of green smoke which legend has it will melt you in seconds (the reality is a fairly normal looking fellow sat in front of a bank of spreadsheets – but perception is everything dear reader).

Out of town a renegade band of academics, feeding off scraps of research funding, shelter in dark, cold corners whispering about how they could make themselves heard. “Where is our champion?” they shout into the wilderness, the words swallowed in the wind before anyone can hear them.

This is not a good combination; conflict is inevitable. A war fought on many fronts for the soul of what should be a ‘higher’ education. Or perhaps it’s more than that, battles for actual souls.

Questions remain on both sides however if the enemy is really the other, or if there may be some greater force, a common enemy to which their energies should really be pointed. For a grey, slightly damp, autumn is coming. Hidden behind a wall of call centres and satisfaction surveys, something is stirring; no-one knows what.

It was against this background that Ass Prof Ainsley Chewtaar peddled his way into work one fine winter’s morning. He’d had a reasonable night’s sleep after reviewing some piss poor attempt at a paper that he’d meant to get back to the journal six weeks ago. He was feeling rather smug about his cryptic ‘anonymous’ comments to the authors and slightly lighter in the shoulder area having had a good rant to the editor about how the subject never really progressed, and how these authors in particular should know better.

The story will continue (once I’ve had a bit more sleep)…

“What? Pensions you say? Sorry, no idea mate, is something going off?”…

Prof J

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