Dragons Den Rich List

I have been enjoying the latest series of The Dragons Den. I say enjoying
even though I spend most of my time shouting at the TV in frustration. It’s
not the often inept presentation of the inventors and entrepreneurs, who
are trying to prise money out of the dragons that leads me to despair.

It is the way that the multi-millionaire stars seem to enjoy ridiculing
the poor fools who enter their lair. A young couple, who had invented what
seemed to be a quality product, have just been called naïve by the tall
one. Of course they are! They are nothing but kids and have only been in
business for a few months.

Its as if they want people to be the finished article when they arrive
into the den. But surely they wouldn’t need to ask for help if they knew
all the answers.

Apart from Theo mentioning his ‘children’s inheritance’ time and again it
is the lack of comprehension they show regarding they are giving away that
riles me up.

Duncan Banatyne, for example, is estimated to be worth £320m. During this
latest episode he offered £200k to a couple of inventors. Your initial
reaction might be one of amazement at such an investment.

This is such a small percentage of his overall wealth. If you or I had a
bank balance of £1000 it would be the equivalent of giving away 63p. That
would make the above investment mere loose change to a wealthy businessman.

I am not commenting on the integrity of Duncan and his fellow Dragons but
context always gives you the right perspective. I am sure they give many
thousands of pounds to charity every year and that such giving makes a
definable difference to needy causes, but let’s keep it in perspective.

A recent survey indicated that the lowest earners amongst our population
give a higher percentage of their income to charity. I am quite sure that
most of our people give more than 63p to charity each year.

Figures vary but most commentators reckon that the average annual giving
by British people is 0.8% of their yearly wage. I know many people who give
a lot more than this.

It has been moving to see the response of the British people to the
Pakistan flood victims. Whilst never enough a substantial amount has been
raised and most of seemingly by ordinary folk.

So whilst the Dragons enjoy publicity seeking in their den as they revel
in handing out spare cash to young hopefuls, the rest of us make a real
difference by pooling our resources to help those who don’t have the luxury
of owning any loose change.

Thread The Needle

Following a recent cold snap Mrs M and I decided to bring out our winter
coats from hibernation. There is something both concerning and comforting
about such an event; concerning because I become all too aware of another
passing year. Comforting because I am reminded how much I love to wear my
winter coat.

As I pulled from its pockets old train tickets and a selection of receipts
I was reminded of some of the things we enjoyed during last winter. A trip
to York to visit our youngest daughter. A day out with our parents to
sample real ale and country fare in a Yorkshire dale’s village.

I tried the coat on to make sure that my summer intake of beer and pork
pies hadn’t enlarged my frame too much. With a gasp of success I exclaimed
that it still fitted me ‘like a glove’. But only just!

As I displayed my victory over the calories to Mrs M she reminded me that
there was a time when growing out of our clothes was seen as a normal part
of life.

We reminisced about the last few days of school summer holidays when our
parents would prepare for our return by buying new uniforms. My mother, as
with most other parents back then, would always buy my jacket a couple of
sizes too big.

Then, as I complained about it not fitting she would announce, as if
offering a timeless truth, ‘you will grow into it’.

And so I would turn up for that first day back at high school to meet all
my friends and compare how much of our hands were showing from beneath our
coat sleeves.

That was then, and this is now. I don’t need a new coat every year. I can
make my old faithful jacket work a treat. As I expressed this last
sentiment to my bride a button popped off as if to puncture my elation.

Not to be defeated I found the family sowing box and began the repair

It is some time since I last tried to thread a needle and I don’t recall
having any difficult with the process. In fact I always prided myself on
being able to offer my mother support for such things.

Now, however, this seemingly simple exercise has turned into a major test
of my grown up abilities. No matter how much I squinted I could not get the
needle threaded.

I donned the reading glasses that I only need for ‘the smallest of
writing’ and still could not find a way to complete my task.

Not to be beaten I tried to find a bigger needle hoping that the eye would
be larger and give me a better chance to thread the cotton.

I am nothing if I am not a tryer and I swear that I missed several TV
programmes before I followed my mother’s example and asked for help from my

Almost without taking her attention from the TV she threaded the needle
and handed it back. In an instant I realised what my mother felt like when
she had to rely on me for such tasks.

Once the job was done I put the coat to show the result of my work. As I
inhaled in order to fasten the buttons Mrs M offered me the following
comforting words ‘don’t worry you can slim into it’

Christmas Too Early

Apparently a shopper with aspirations of being a social commentator has
again taken a stand against retailers stocking Christmas product too early.

The individual concerned has taken the bold step of re-labelling the
festive signs found in a supermarket with other home made slogans
including; ‘Not Yet Christmas’ and ‘Come Back In December’.

I am not sure what drove them to this end but the fact that they came
prepared suggest they had spent some time brewing their anger.

As funny as I find this action I am not advocating that we should all take
to the isles in such an act of defiance even though I can understand the
sentiment behind this latest protest.

I wonder if the store in question has any CCTV footage of the perpetrator
and whether they intend taking further action.

I can’t help thinking that life is meant to be seasonal and that having a
gap between summer and winter is good for us. They used to call this gap
autumn but now the edges of our historic divisions have been smudged.

All of this begs the question ‘when should the Christmas festivities

If we follow the song then we should start on the 24th December and
celebrate the twelve days of Christmas. If we enjoy the chocolate offered
by modern advent calendars then we would have to start at the very
beginning of the month.

Retailers, however, follow neither of these models and start well before
the rest of us have mourned the loss of summer. They then begin to rip
through the tinsel on Boxing Day to entice us in with massive sales.

Every family will have their own tradition and ours is no exception. The
tree is brought out on December the first and we begin our countdown to one
of our favourite holidays.

We often don’t even begin our shopping until this point. This will seem
odd to some. We have friends who begin buying their presents in the post
Christmas sales in preparation for the following year.

Whilst I admire their organisational skills in doing so, and the fact that
they save a good deal of money, I feel as if this is step too far for my

It also seems unfair to Santa (just in case we have younger readers) who
then has to store them for a full twelve months. This is a logistical
nightmare and must present health and safety issues in the North Pole.

You could imagine Father Christmas contacting his union in order to
complain about the extra workload. I wonder what type of action he might
take in order to place the celebrations firmly back where they have
traditionally been.
He could work to rule and only deliver to houses that still have chimneys.
He could limit his involvement to families that can be bothered to provide
mince pies and a tot of whiskey as he makes his travels.

Or he could visit the Bradford area in September and re-label the
Christmas decorations in a supermarket. I cant wait to see the CCTV

Student Waste Binb

Last week my wife and I took one of our regular trips to York with the
intention of visiting our youngest daughter, who is attending university in
that fine city.

I say that she is attending this honoured place of learning without any
real evidence of this being true.

Back in the days of primary school we parents were almost completely
connected to the education process; letters from teachers, parent’s
evenings, assemblies all added to this connection.

By the time your children start to become embarrassed by your every move
they are protected by the high school years.

Then, before you can get used to sight of their first piercings, your
offspring are heading towards adulthood.

If it weren’t for the regular depletions from your bank balance and the
occasional Facebook messages you wouldn’t really know that university

On this recent trip our stated agenda was to visit our daughter and have a
spot of lunch. Not once was I told that we would spend a good amount of our
time cleaning her room and repairing various broken items.

Not that I resent this; I tend to be grateful for any contact with our
daughters even if I am valued by my usefulness.

What I mind is our continual pretence that we are making the forty-mile
journey merely for lunch.

As we began to wade through several months’ worth of student debris I
couldn’t help notice that although the floor was completely covered,
neither the waste bin nor the wash basket contained any items.

I commented that these containers resembled by bank account but mum and
daughter we enjoying putting clothes in the wardrobe. I have occasionally
tried this myself but I can’t say that I understand the thrill.

I think my enjoyment has been somewhat quashed by the constant comments
offered by my bride. It seems that you cannot count it as a successful
exercise if all the hangers are not placed on the rail facing the same way.
I tried to ask why this was important but my wife answered in her customary
fashion ‘If you don’t know then I cant explain it’.

I have a suspicion that it might be woman code for ‘I don’t really know
but I wont admit it’.

Either way, my youngest daughter and my bride of nearly thirty years, both
seemed to understand the rules of engagement without need for explanation.

Once the room was good enough to be photographed, and the said pic was
uploaded to Facebook, we headed off for lunch.

Before long my wife and I were reminiscing about our own student days and
Mrs Molineaux’s youngest commented about the similarities with her

Our parents would often ask us about our studies and we would offer only
monosyllabic replies; much as our daughters have done to us.

‘Did you keep your rooms tidy’ our precious offspring enquired. We laughed
and then I pointed out that in comparison she was living in relative

My waste bin was a plastic shopping bag and I used a pillowcase to hold my
washing. I confess that I did occasionally tidy up if things became too

‘You have more motivation to clean your room’ Mrs M informed our daughter
‘So that the Facebook photograph looks good’.

The Genetic Factor

Is anyone else a bit fed up of TV presenters telling us that the future of
their contestants depends on us? Whether it is singing wannabees or
celebrity dancers it seems that they just cannot manage without us.

This appears somewhat ironic given the fact that they present us with a
panel of experts all vying to give us their opinions.

‘If you don’t want your favourite to leave then pick up the phone now’ the
presenter informs the audience presuming that a) We have a favourite and b)
that we care enough to spend our money in order to secure their future.

Perhaps if they had a ‘none of the above’ option I might be more tempted
to take up the responsibility that they so freely offer me.

I expressed this thought to Mrs M and she suggested that I was looking at
the whole thing a little too negatively. She even intimated that I might
feel more at home watching Grumpy Old Men.

Perhaps she has a point but I can’t help feeling that these programmes
bring out the worst in me.

I wonder how long it will be before newscasters start asking us to vote on
which headlines they cover. Or when weather reporters start running a
phone-in competition so that we can decide the kind of weather we should

This all sits well with the media obsession of getting the public’s
opinion on virtual every subject you can name. They start by asking a few
well-educated professionals to start the debate rolling. Then before you
know it they are on the streets to ask Doris from Bolton what she thinks
about genetic modification.

Not that people christened Doris, nor indeed the residents of Bolton,
have the right to speak; it’s just that I am not sure whether either label
qualifies you to have a useful viewpoint on multi cellular organisms.

Perhaps the future of genetic engineering is more important than the X
Factor (although you wouldn’t know that from the viewing figures) but I
don’t really care what Doris thinks about either and I am quite sure that
my thoughts are equally useless in such things.

I expressed this opinion to Mrs M and she replied ‘You are making the huge
assumption that Doris doesn’t have a PHD in such matters or that she
doesn’t work as a record producer.’

I detected that she was offering a little too much sarcasm so I explained
to her why she was missing the point but she was too busy listening to
Simon Cowell destroy another young hopefuls dreams.

If you want my unqualified opinion, if it wasn’t for genetics the X Factor
wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is.

Coming Up

Mrs M and I are committed telly watchers. We always have been but
especially so when our four daughters were younger and funds were limited.
Once the kids were fast asleep in bed we would hope and pray that there
would be something good to watch for the last hour of the evening before we
collapsed in to bed.

We are not just a family of TV ‘watchers’, we also try to be fully engaged
with the process; commenting on the storylines, arguing about which
contestant is our favourite, and occasionally shouting in the direction of
the screen if we find something to disagree with. This last one is usually
my practice and tends to annoy the other family members but at least I have
stopped throwing things at the TV these days.

Although we had the luxury of a video player back then most of our tapes
were either cartoons or compilations of home movies. Not like today when we
have so much technology available to aid us in our free time.

One of our most favourite of the new inventions is the ability to record
most of our favourite programmes using something called series link.

In addition to the fact that we very rarely miss episodes we are also able
to fast forward past the adverts. This has increasingly brought to our
attention the fact that an hour of TV only contains about forty minutes of
the actually programme.

If this is not bad enough there is the use of a phrase that I have come to
quite literally detest. It is employed in nearly every show and without any
sense of how it affects the viewer’s experience.

The phrase is ‘coming up’.

It is used just before the advert break and seems to suggest that TV
producers have very little confidence in either their product or their

They must assume that we will get distracted during the ad break and
forget what we were watching. So they try to tantalise us with snippets of
what is about to happen.

Well I would like to announce to these producers that I am not interested
in what is coming up until it arrives; so stop telling me what I am about
to see.

You might feel my annoyance coming through these words but don’t be too
concerned because my pain has been alleviated by the fact that we can now
fast forward past such nonsense.

Added to this ability to eliminate this TV chaff is the fact that I can
increase my engagement with programme by shouting at the screen ‘we are not
interested in what is coming up!’, before pressing the fast forward button
on the remote control.

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

I have just put my holiday hat away to hibernate for the winter. Using all
the skills of a Blue Peter presenter I stored it in a box at the back of my
wardrobe making sure that there was enough air circulation to ensure it
emerges undamaged next year ready for the baking heat of a British summer.

Whilst completing this important process I found a couple of items that
have managed to avoid Mrs M's regular clothes cull. She does one of these
quite regularly, spurred on by some charity or other that has kindly
dropped a bin liner through our door.

I often wonder whether it is our need to follow fashion rather than our
support for the concerned charity that drives such action.

Here, however, I had found some clothes that had avoided the cull.

Firstly there were my old jogging bottoms circa 1988. Made of shiny
material with two long stripes running up each leg, they included the
helpful feature of a small zip near each ankle so that you could take them
off without removing your footwear.

I have worn them very occasionally during the intervening years but I have
to confess they don’t offer the same comfort they did when I was in my

I tried them on and posed for my wife, holding in my stomach, and hoping
to look at least a little sportsman like. Mrs M seemed more amused than

‘It would work if you had a moustache and a curly perm’ she offered.

‘I think there is still a little life in them’ I replied. At this point my
bride’s laughter subsided to be replaced with a slight look of fear at the
thought that I might actually wear them outdoors.

‘Don’t worry’ I said hoping to offer comfort ‘I will wait until they come
back in fashion’

I said this in certain knowledge that, apart from the cod piece and the
Bay City Roller tartan trousers, everything else does seem to return to the
forefront again.

Just as I have managed to afford some small framed, branded reading
glasses, it seems that the old style large specs are making a come back;
think Deirdre Barlow and Richard Whitely.

We have seen a few celebrities wearing such items recently on TV and
commented how ridiculous they look.

Most people react like this when, in truth, it is not long before the
irresistible need to conform overtakes them and they start wearing what
they once ridiculed.

The second item I found during my holiday hat hibernation ritual was a
shirt on which the collar and cuffs are a different colour to the main

I tried to model this for my wife too but ended up feeling a little
depressed as I tried to fasten the buttons and failed.

‘If I had managed to fasten them’ I said pushing through my sadness ‘I
think I could have pulled it off’.

‘If you had managed to fasten them' commented Mrs M 'we would have had to
cut it off with the scissors’ Then she rolled her eyes in a way that has
never gone out of fashion.

Football Crazy

The football season has well and truly begun and I am feeling a great sense of excitement. This might not seem surprising if you were to know that I was a football fan. Given the disappointment of last year’s World Cup I had thought that I would devote less time to the Nation’s favourite sport.

Yet, as soon as the first whistle blew on the Community Shield Cup back in August my interest returned in spades.

Part of the fun is the regular conversation I have with some of my closest friends; most of whom support different teams than me.

I was speaking with once such friend, who is a Liverpool fan, just a few days ago. After I reminded him that his team play in an orangey-red and therefore must be inferior to United, I asked him where they were in the league at the moment.

His answer made me laugh because it displayed the full partisan feeling experienced by most fans. ‘They are joint sixth’ he said with a decent sense of pride having seen them sitting just above the relegation zone only a few weeks earlier.

‘Don’t you mean ninth?’ I enquired seeing through his plan to spin the situation like a good politician. ‘It depends how you look at it’ he replied.

He confessed that had Everton been in the same position he would have definitely called it ninth place.

Another of my long time friends is a Newcastle fan with whom I have spent many happy hours talking about every aspect of football over the years. Several months ago I found out that he had sadly past on after battling several of the complications that life often throws at some of the world’s loveliest people.

When talking about Mark’s favourite team I would often quote to him a phrase from the funeral service ‘we sorrow but not as those without hope’.

He would usually reply with some humorous comment whilst acknowledging that being a Magpie fan was often a difficult experience. The humour was useful in deflecting from many of the other struggles he faced and I am glad to say that before he died he learned that his beloved team had beaten Arsenal away from home.

For Mark and me, football became our touch point, so that in the midst of the pain we could find some enjoyment talking about our common passion.

In years gone by we would often watch a match on TV; me in bold red and him in black and white stripes, to ensure that our rivalry, although friendly, would be apparent.

He used to regularly remind me that I couldn’t be a true Man United fan because I didn’t have a southern accent. I would respond by asking him whether the till beeped when he walked though the supermarket looking like a bar code.

In addition to this passion for football Mark also had a belief that there was a future after this life was over. He would tell me that this gave him a lot of strength to deal with his difficulties.

As I think of him now I remember my oft quoted phrase ‘we sorrow but not as those without hope’ and am hoping it might be helpful for the whole of life and not just for football.

Whistle Me Up Scotty

Whilst in the doctor’s surgery last week I was arrested by a strange noise
that evoked memories of my youth. Another patient was waiting for his turn
to be treated (an odd word for an experience that seems to be far from
anything resembling a treat).

Rather than spend the time reading tired copies of Readers Digest he
amused himself by whistling. This in itself might not seem an unusual
occurrence. However this musician, for that is what his skill obviously
made him, was purposefully producing a melody.

Indeed he seemed to be working his way through a selection of Glen Miller

If it were not for the modern surroundings of the newly built health
centre I could have sworn that I had been transported back to my late
sixties childhood.

The rise of the MP3 player and mobile phone seems to have all but put an
end to the long lost art of whistling.

When I was a kid every tradesman worth his salt could belt out a
recognisable tune as he climbed ladders, hammered in nails, or painted
window frames.

Today people have music available in any and every situation and so there
no need to amuse oneself and others making melody through pursed lips

A couple of younger folk in the surgery looked across at our waiting room
musician as if he was a little odd.

This seemed rather strange to me if not a little sad.

Today it is not unusual to see someone walking through a town centre,
plugged into a mobile phone, in full conversation.

For a split second I am convinced that they must be talking to themselves.
In the days of my youth the only people who did this were those of a more
delicate disposition.

What a change in a mere four decades. It is now acceptable behaviour to
walk around having disconnected conversations yet if you whistle you look
like a mad man.

I was walking through Leeds Railway station looking for my connecting
train when a young lady appeared from the steps declaring 'it's the wrong
way and if you don't change you will be late'.

The fact that she was looking directly at me seemed to indicate that her
comments were aimed at me. Not so! She was engaged in a mobile conversation
with someone from her office. She happened to look at me because my
eighteen stone frame happened to be directly in her path at this very

For a split second I prepared to answer her but fortunately realised the
situation in time to spare my blushes.

Such mobile conversations would have seemed futuristic when I was a lad,
confined to the likes of Star Trek.

Matter Transmitters, Phasers, Warp Drive, and tiny electronic
communication devices were all the stuff that fed a young boys imagination.

Most of these technologies haven't been invented yet but one out four
ain't bad.

Nobody has yet found a way of separating the component parts of flesh in
order to reconstitute it again; unless you count chicken nuggets.

Warp speed would be a complete waste of time given the near gridlock we
experience at rush hour.

The nearest thing we have to Phasers are the police use of tasers; even
then the sight of a long wire shooting out of a gun is hardly space age.

I should have seen these changes coming, after all you never saw Captain
Kirk whistling on Star Trek.

I Really Don't Like Mondays

Not too long ago the news came out that the BBC had apologised to Sir Bob Geldof.
Why, you may ask! Was it for not giving airtime to the Boomtown Rats
re-release of ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ in the mid nineties? Or for not
forcing him to visit the hair and makeup department before appearing on
Parkinson a several years ago?

No! This recent apology was for alleging that a good proportion of money
raised through his various Live Aide projects had not reached the intended
victims of famine. In fact they claimed that some of the funds had been
used to buy weapons.

The original piece, given by BBC World Service Africa editor Martin Plaut,
was first broadcast back in March and then followed up with a discussion on
Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning programme.

I am sad to hear the news of these editorial failings for a number of
reasons, not least because the BBC directly benefited from the Boomtown
Rat’s efforts by having hours and hours of live music footage that all but
guaranteed them huge audience figures.

Who can forget Status Quo’s opening rendition of their hit ‘Rocking All
Over The World’ or Freddie Mercury’s Queen getting the crowds to respond
with ‘We Will Rock You’. Or even Sir Bob passionately shouting ‘Give us yer

All these years later perhaps my greatest disquiet is the fact that such
allegations only feed the growing feeling of disconnection felt by the
British public and our long history of generosity.

I often hear people declare that they didn’t give to a particular cause
because they were unsure whether the funds would reach their intended
target. Giving then becomes secondary exercise and we all too easily find
an excuse for our lack of generosity.

For sure charities need to act responsibly but scare story headlines like
the one offered by the BBC are hard to argue against for all but the
largest charities meaning that there remains in the public consciousness a
nagging doubt about the validity of any future requests for help.

The regular phrase trotted out by people wishing to avoid helping those in
greater need is ‘charity begins at home’ and one cant help feel that in the
present credit crunch crisis we are going to hear it a lot more.

If you take it to it’s logically conclusion it would mean that families
would just end up giving money to themselves; which is not charity. When
our four daughters were teenagers you could be forgiven for thinking that
they saw my bank account as a form of charity but I hardly think that

There are thousands of good causes in this country and they represent
something of the DNA of this great nation. The money raised Sir Bob, Midge,
and the Live Aid team changed real lives in foreign places and, in an
almost unseen way, changed real hearts in this land. At a time where market
forces were being seen as the great driver of everything, ordinary people
made a small stand for something bigger than their own personal gain.

If I could meet Sir Geldof I would want to thank him for two things;
firstly that I can accompany my morning blues with few lines from ‘I don’t
like Mondays’ and thus realise I am not alone. Secondly, for waking us up
to the need in far off countries and to our collective ability to make a

The Limping Sportsman

I entered this year with the good intention of talking regular exercise has been somewhat thwarted by some knee pain that I have been labelling as a sports injury. Mrs M seems intent on ridiculing this description by telling everyone that it happened in the local pub.

In this she is correct but I still maintain that sport was directly involved in bringing on the pain I now feel.

I was playing crib with two friends and my ninety-year old father in law whilst keeping one eye on the TV that was showing the other drinking regulars the selected game of football.

Being a dutiful son-in-law I was determined to ensure my wife’s dad had a peaceful night, given he is a mere ten years off reaching his century, by making all the trips for ale on his behalf.

As I rose from the table attempting one such trip I intended heading left towards the bar when the rest of our party made the ‘someone has nearly scored’ noise that football fans make in unison. Because the TV was on the opposite side of the room I instinctively tried to turn right to view the spectacle but had already put most of my weight in the other direction; thus twisting my knee and causing the said sports injury.

Who knew a game of crib could be so dangerous?

Not long after this incident I visited my father who is recovering well from a hip operation. I, of course, told him the full tale without pausing to allow Mrs M to express her opinion on such matters.

My dad nodded his understanding with a smile and we walked toward lounge to continue our conversation about leg related pain. At this point my bride and my mother started to chuckle in the way that wives do when they have noticed some deficiency in their husbands world.

‘You are both limping in the same way’ my mother exclaimed continuing to laugh at us in our hour of need.

‘You could borrow your dad’s walking stick’ added Mrs M as if we weren’t already in enough pain.

On our return to the Aire Valley I determined that this injury was not going to make me look like an old man before my time; well not in public at least.

With this in my mind yesterday I agreed to walk the two miles to the office and determined not make any of the whining noises that had become part of my custom.

What I didn’t account for when I made this decision was the fact that we live in one of the hilliest parts of the country. And it seems that when you have a sports related knee injury walking down hill is far harder than walking up hill.

As we turned the last corner before arriving at our destination Mrs M tripped ever so slightly.

‘Oops’ she said steadying herself by holding my arm ‘I don’t want to have a sports injury’

‘You couldn’t use that term for it anyway’ I replied laying claim to the title.

‘Fell walking is more of a sport than cribbage’ she replied, once again believing she had won the argument.

I limped off in a sportsman like manner without saying a word,

Mrs M is the Hot One

Mrs M and I have been under the weather over the last seven days. I am tempted to call it flu but I have used the word too often to make it stick now. The fact that my bride shares the same symptoms allows me to let her make this call; after all she is the nurse in the family.

In between regular doses of paracetamol, one of the spin-offs from being ill is that you have the pleasure, if I may use such a word, of watching daytime telly; much of which is rather banal.

Perhaps that’s what you need when you can’t concentrate on anything more significant; TV that doesn’t stimulate too much.

I had often heard it said that we Brits have an obsession with the weather but now I have had it confirmed by the fact that all of the news programmes have covered the snowfall from every conceivable angle.

They usually start with a reporter stood near snowdrifts. I presume they feel this helps us viewers to realise how truly cold it is. We are then shown footage of abandoned cars and pensioners being helped from isolated buildings.

Following information about how many roads are affected we are shown video clips of the many schools that have been closed across the region.

They always seem to close the report with scenes of kids sledging so that we are not left feeling too depressed by our countries inability to deal with adverse weather conditions.

Drivers of 4 x 4 vehicles have come out well in most of the reports. It appears that not only do they have cars that don’t struggle with snow but they are also extremely neighbourly.

Mrs M and I have also received good support from friends and family during this winter illness; they have been more than willing to come to our aid by providing much needed food and supplies.

I have managed to get the shop myself during moments when I have felt slightly better but have faced a significant challenge when it comes coping with being ill: in most shops I am only allowed to buy two packets of pain killers.

Here is the main problem. We have two sick adults in the house who are fully committed to using painkillers in order to get through and yet I am forced to visit several shops in order to buy in a sufficient supply for our needs.

When your main goal is to keep your temperature down it really matters that you have drugs available on demand. In fact we have an electronic thermometer and therefore can accurately monitor the effects of our malaise at regular intervals.

Because of this I can confidently announce that for the first time in our thirty years together I am officially hotter than my wife.

In order to deal with our painkiller shortages I have had to recruit several friends to visit local shops to in order to provide a regular supply. I am not sure that turning such good people into potential drug dealers is what they intended when they decided to limit how many packets each person could buy.

Mrs M is keen that I receive my supply of pills so that she can remove me from my position as the hot one in our relationship.

Hot Chilli

If asked my family will tell you I am a decent cook. In truth I have learnt to make a few meals well enough to fool everyone in to believing that I know what I am doing. Mrs M gave me the ultimate compliment a few days ago when she said that she generally prefers to eat my food than what we have when we eat out. I need to point out, however, that she only said this in response to the pressure I was giving her to make a decision about what she wanted from the menu at a local Indian restaurant. It seems that it is the quality of my food that has made it almost impossible for her to make a speedy decision.

When it comes to choosing a curry my wife and I have different approaches. Mrs M goes for the relative safety of a fairly mild option, whereas I like a dish that will put up something of a fight. When the food arrives we do the husband and wife thing of trying each other’s dishes only to return to our own version of the perfect curry.

I do tend to avoid the infamous Vindaloo these days normally stating the apocryphal story that it is not authentically Asian and was only made to placate the often drunk British punter, who wanted a hotter dish than was normally available, to feed his larger fuelled hunger. Whether or not Vindaloo means ‘the one with the potato’, said to have been used to distinguish it from other dishes, I no longer choose to eat it.

In truth it is too hot for me these days and tends to bring on both an attack of perspiration and the threat of tears. Don’t think, however, that I have stopped liking spicy food altogether.

At home I will occasionally make a chilli that contains fire and usually the family appreciate it in silence. It is one of those dishes that stops you worrying about the general pressures of life by firmly locating you in the moment.

If it were not for the possibility of indigestion it would be perfect to get rid of one’s thoughts just before you go to sleep. Or perhaps it would work as breakfast in order to remove any potential worries for the day.

It would certainly be better than the rabbit food that Mrs M usually makes me eat. I recently tried to protest about this produce by suggesting that now I am over fifty some of its contents are a little too hard for my teeth.

Unfortunately my bride bought me some porridge as an alternative but this is even worse than the rabbit food. Firstly, it takes more effort than I am willing to expend on a breakfast that doesn’t contain bacon. Secondly, it is only a healthy option if you refrain from adding sugar or honey, or indeed anything else that would make it taste of anything palatable.

On reflection the porridge does have something in common with my hot chilli; both them have the ability to distract you from the worries of the day. One by filling your mouth with fire; the other by filling your life with boredom and your mouth with wallpaper paste.

The Whole Truth and Nothing But.....

Perhaps I am growing cynical in my middle age but somehow I cannot watch the television news without wondering to myself whether we are being presented with the whole story.

They seem to take a subject then present the most ludicrous extremes of the argument as if there are no other alternatives.

Thank goodness we have hit Christmas time so that we can have the balance of the nativity story to keep our feet on the ground.

Having said this it occurs to me that the same thought often came to mind when I used to watch our daughters performing as angels in the school version of the tale; this is not the whole story.

If you were to remove from the tableau the various bits of tradition that have been added over the years and the copious amounts of tinsel, silver paper, runny noses, and tea towels, what would we be left with.

Perhaps it would be a tale of enemy occupation, corrupt government, ethnic cleansing, and asylum seekers. All too familiar stories that seem to be often repeated on our news screens.

I understand that primary school teachers would be hounded out of their classrooms if they were to invest time in such subjects at what has become the season to party and enjoy the excesses we have become used to.

I feel sure, however, that we miss some of the subtlety of the scene. The promise that we are not left alone in our helplessness. The hope that one a day a child would be born who would bring about a different way of seeing the world. The reality that those in power don’t like such grass roots ideas. Even perhaps the possibility that there is some purpose in this corner of the universe!

One thing is for certain in the tale that we have come to know as the nativity; it is not the whole story. The main characters all seem to be the wrong type of people for such a seemingly important event. They had ancestors who were murderers and prostitutes. They were from the wrong part of the country. Without any connections that would make them seem powerful. Perhaps there is hope for us all.

One wonders how such a story would be covered by today’s television media. Would they interview the wise men about possible delays in travelling across borders during the holiday season? Or perhaps run a documentary series on the corruption in corridors of local government.

They would probably try to find a quirky angle from which to view the whole thing. Perhaps it would be the various uses of camel dung or the problems of finding hotel accommodation at the time of a census.

One thing is for sure; it would not be the whole story.

Thank goodness we have discovered the true meaning of Christmas today. Nigella Lawson’s recipe for goose-fat roast potatoes. The infamous cola advert. The office party. The vast amounts of money spent on presents.

And enough alcohol to cover up any thoughts of ethnic cleansing or a supposed visit from a deity in the form of a baby. Perhaps the newscasters have understood us well; after all we don’t really like the whole story.

Heroes Needed

No sooner had the winner of the X Factor been announced a few months ago than I saw a Twitter message by Steve Brookstein. ‘Who?’ you well may ask.

Steve won the competition six years ago and now, according to his recent message, was singing to twenty people in a coffee shop.

So as Matt Cardle sets off towards gaining his almost certain Christmas number one record spare a thought for all the forgotten winners whose dreams have been turned in to….well perhaps not nightmares, but you know what I mean!

Just think about other winners and runners-up; Andy Abraham, G4, Ray Quinn, Leon Jackson, and Rhydian Roberts. The memories are rushing back in.

In truth I remember very little about any of them.

Will the same fate be handed out to the latest winner Matt or will he gain international stardom along with the likes of Leona Lewis.

Just prior to the winner being announced we celebrated the 49th wedding anniversary of some very dear friends of ours. This quiet meal for a dozen friends could well have gone unnoticed by the other customers of the restaurants and yet for those involved it was a special occasion. Our happy couple are at an age where they too must go unnoticed by most of society. We tend to do this with age as if those with the most experience of life have nothing to offer the rest of us less experienced travellers.

The gentleman of our couple was one of the Ambulance heroes of the Bradford City fire all of those years ago. He doesn’t talk about it too freely but every now and then, when pressed, will tell a little of the trauma of that day and how so many people worked tirelessly to rescue those in greatest need.

Our time at the restaurant celebrating this precious couple seemed somewhat at odds with the celebrity culture honoured by programmes such as the X Factor.

Our ambulance hero has never sought the limelight as for many years he served his beloved Yorkshire, yet on one fateful Saturday in May his daily job became linked with the stuff of headlines.

The rest of who looked on back in 1985, hoping that our loved ones were not caught up in the blaze, will always remember the bravery of those who came to the rescue. Yet we do so without knowing their names for this is not the same remembering that is demanded by the celebrity culture. It is more important than that.

So as Steve Brookstein becomes a casualty of Simon Cowell’s fame machine its hard to have too much sympathy. He knew what he was getting in to and he must have known that it wasn’t really about music; it never is.

And as Matt Cardle’s new song hits the airwaves this Christmas lets take the time to remember some of the heroes in our locality who are all too easily forgotten.

I wonder what incredible stories we might uncover as we do. Perhaps there are other heroes of the Bradford fire who deserve the chance to be honoured by simply taking the time to listen to their stories. They had the X factor back then and, as we have found out with our dear friends, they still have the X factor now; it just isn’t about singing.

Come to think of it neither is the Simon Cowell version.

Middle Class Commoner

It's not very often these days I am made to feel aware of my social
class. This could be due to the general lack of awareness I have as to
my surroundings or it may be that life has changed so much that such
things no longer have any meaning.

There is, of course, the odd time that I drop an aitches in polite
conversation and find someone wanting to correct me. And every now and
then someone might make a comment about their school and I am distinctly
reminded that the variety I attended was the second class modern type.

It was as if they were training us to be working class. The careers
teacher actually laughed at me when I informed him that I wanted to
become a maths teacher. Instead he sent me off for an interview at a
local engineering works. I didn't get the job partly because he sent
every other boy to the same interview. The guy who took the interview
sounded decidedly middle class not that I was really aware of what
difference it made.

Now, as the newsreels have been resounding with the news of a royal
wedding, we are informed that the future royal, Kate Middleton, is in
fact middle class.

This may not come as a surprise other than the fact that her parents
are millionaires. Herein lies the problem; how do we decide what counts
as lower, middle, or upper class in an age of egalitarian aspiration.

I was born to working class parents in suburb or a northern town. I
never considered myself to be anything other than working class and yet
several decades later I became a manager in a large company. Perhaps
during this time my staff would have considered me a traitor to by roots
but somehow I felt just the same as I had did all those years ago.

So what is it that determines ones class? Your parents, your job, your
wealth, your accent, your postcode, your attitude, or the school you

Whatever it is I am sure that our newest royal has no control over it.
Either the media, or the Great British public, or both will decide and
pass judgement accordingly. One report not only described her as middle
class but also a commoner.

I was intrigued to find that on hearing the engagement announcement
that one TV news company commissioned a poll to discover what the rest
of us commoners thought about it. It informed us that 62% of us had no
opinion what so ever.

Perhaps that is the real test of whether you are a commoner; you don't
have a significant opinion on the royalty or who they should marry.

The poll did reveal that men out number women when it comes to such
apathy. My wife often tells me that my behaviour is a little common.
This could explain why I didn't get the engineering job; or indeed
become a maths teacher.

I take it that Her Royal Highness the Queen approves of William's
choice of bride despite her more humble status, so that should be good

In that respect she has a lot in common with Mrs M, who informs me that
she wouldn't have protested had one of our girls decided to marry a
prince. She is definitely not a commoner.

Good Companions

We had the pleasure of recently attending a performance at Bingley Little Theatre. I am sad to say that since we moved here in 2005 we have not paid a visit until now.

We were invited by our dear friend Doris along with a bunch of other friends.

I have to confess that it is the best part of two decades since I attended an am-dram production and so I had to become quickly accustomed to the feel of watching a live performance during which you can’t do many of the things you have become used to at home.

You know what I mean; arguing about who is going to put the kettle on, shouting at the TV when Simon Cowell destroys another one of the hopeless contestants on The X Factor, or pausing the programme whilst you nip to the loo.

Such behaviour is not allowed in the theatre it seems after all you can hardly ask the performance to wait a moment whilst you run to the toilet.

This being said Mrs M and I joined the other ‘theatre-goers’ (for that is what we now were) and took our seats to watch JB Priestly’s Good Companions.

It was the most enjoyable evening and I judged it as a triumph for a number of reasons; Firstly, within the first couple of minutes I had stopped seeing the performers as actors and believed them to be their characters. Secondly, the time went by so very quickly.

It was a great performance and an enjoyable experience; one which I hope to repeat again soon. I am slightly surprised that it has taken me so long to get there given the fact that I really enjoy community events, however large or small they may be.

It is tempting to think that only the larger well attended events can be considered as successful. Yet our towns and villages are filled with programmes that could be considered as insignificant to the rest of the world. In fact these moments act as the glue that holds our communities together.

Not too long ago I had the pleasure of celebrating the ninetieth anniversary of the Royal British Legion.

The Legion had organised an event in our local town centre to remember the great work that this organisation has done over the years.

It was a typical small town, British event. I say this not as a compliment. It had bands, and stalls, and food, and drink, and entertainment. Given that it was held in this country it also had rain.

Perhaps the organisers would have felt a little downhearted at the weather but the event was a success in so many other ways. They had managed to bring the community together and celebrated their excellent organisation’s anniversary.

Both occasions display what is best about our community; real people using their skills to provide a place for people to connect. For me this was a great antidote to the world view propagated by shows like the X-Factor.

I for one was glad to have attended both the play and the anniversary celebration. We made new friends at the Royal British Legion and we attended Good Companions with our own good companions.

The Paperless Office

My dream of a paperless office has almost completely disappeared after we acquired two printers for our spare bed room. This room is multifunctional in that it houses the bed settee so that we can welcome guests, the collection of books that my wife and I have threatened to read should we get a moment, and our home office equipment.

I didn’t set out to have two printers; the first of our collection failed to disperse ink on the A4 paper and had to be sent away for repair. Not unreasonably I considered life without creating my own documents to be hardly worth living so I bought another to see me through the waiting period.

The original being satisfactorily repaired we now own two. It seems to me that this might not be a bad situation for a house full of daughters.

My wife and I are constantly refereeing arguments about the use of ‘the’ hairbrush. The fact that we have only one is a complete amazement to me as I have bought many over the years thinking I was bringing peace to the Molineaux household.

The use of computer associated equipment has also been a source of conflict over the years therefore perhaps the ownership of two printers will prove effective in sister to sister relations.

We already have a good collection of mobile phones between us; the irony here is that whenever I try to call them I never seem to get a reply. Such is life.

I am concerned, however, that my collection of duplicates is growing. A few months ago I bought a laminator to assist in adding protection to all those important documents that we produce on our two printers; things like….. well it doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that they are important.

This purchase was made a few weeks before we moved house so I didn’t get round to opening the box never mind using the equipment. Much to my daughters amusement my father-in-law insists on calling it a marinator,

A couple of weeks after our flit I decided that I needed to cover an A4 sheet in plastic so I went on a hunt for the required item. It was not to be found and I spent several moments mourning its loss.

Even though my need for its services was crucial to the running of the household it was not until several weeks later that I bought a replacement for our lost equipment.

Needless to say I found the lost laminator the very next day and now we have two!

I wonder whether this duplication will also stave off arguments between the siblings. They can now print and laminate in tandem.

I just now need to buy another hairbrush.

Sister Act

I heard this week that a Spanish nun has been sacked from her religious order for spending too long on the social networking site Facebook. It seems that 54 year old Sister Maria, who had been in the organisation for 35 years, was enjoying making friends from all around the world; six hundred in total.

It is hard to resist imagining it was like a scene from The Sound of Music, where the more senior nuns break out in to song with a melancholic rendition of ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria’.

Sister Internet, as she was known by the other residents of the convent, now lives with her mother and plans to visit some of the places she has become acquainted with whilst surfing the net.

It probably shouldn’t surprise us that computers have become so popular with such a wide variety of people. Our dear friend Mel, who is several years into his retirement, has joined the growing band of Silver Surfers.

Mel was an ambulance driver for most of his working life and has seen many changes over his lifetime. He tells me that when he first started in the service they still had ambulances with mechanical bells fitted.

The speed of change in technology is breathtaking and one wonders where the next century will take the human race.

Consider for a moment that there was a mere 84 years gap between Karl Benz offering the first commercially available car in 1885 and Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind as he landed on the moon in 1969.

Back then, when Sister Maria would have been more likely singing ‘I am thirteen going on fourteen’ she must have been aware of the moon landing would probably not have understood its significance. Teenagers would have been more interested in pop music rather than lunar landings.

The compact cassette had only just arrived on the mass market and so most of our music was still on vinyl. My own teenage record collection took up three LP cases and several boxes for singles. I guess that would have been around 1500 tracks and would have filled the boot of a small car.

Today I have a mobile phone that can hold twice as many songs and fits into my jeans pocket. Oh the speed of change!

I was discussing the development of mobile phones with my daughters just a few ago and they were amazed to hear that back in the sixties my parents had our first phone fitted in the house. It was what was known as a party line. This was a way of having a more affordable phone line by sharing it with someone else in the village.

Before being able to make a call we had to check that the other ‘party’ was not speaking to someone. This all seems so very old fashioned now.

Although I look back with fondness on these times I would not swap any of our modern gadgets that have come to enhance our lives: mobile phone, dishwasher, computer, internet, satnav, George Foreman Grill, not to mention the advances in medical science.

To quote another song from the Sound of Music ‘These are a few of my favourite things’.