A place for all the other “uncategorised” stuff – with a bit of nonsense thrown in for good measure

A dispiriting lack of “Welcome in the Vales”

20151226_151102After a nice Boxing Day walk up Lady Bagot’s Drive, we called in at the Drovers Arms in Rhewl and found this framed press cutting from September 1982 with a picture I had taken of Mum and Dad when they retired from running the pub after 26 years. They had taken over the tenancy in 1956 from my Mum’s brother George and before him, my grandfather John Lewis.

We’ll keep a welcome in…
A lot has changed since then, sadly not all for the better. Five minutes into enjoying my Guinness, another couple walked in, and were greeted with “We’re closed”.

Then the cheery Christmas tree lights were switched off.

A couple of minutes later another gent walked in… “We’re closed”.

Glancing at the several customers with half full glasses, he asked: “Oh. Any chance I could just get a quick Coca-Cola?”. This reasonable enough request was met with an abrupt: “Well I’ve just said no to somebody else, so I’m not going to serve you, am I!”

I couldn’t believe the way the landlord was speaking to people bringing him custom. My dear old Mum and Dad, overseeing this from their gilded picture frame, would have been turning in their graves!

As the still thirsty traveller vacated the building, the landlord switched off the remaining lights in the area where we were sitting, me with half of my Guinness still remaining. Obviously aggrieved at the fact we hadn’t taken the hint and leapt up the minute the tree lights had gone out, he snapped: “Finish off now”.

I interpreted this to mean “We’ve had your money, now sod off”.

I am utterly astonished at the lack of Christmas Cheer being shown to customers at a time when pubs locally are closing down at an alarming rate.

It saddens me to say, that will be the last time I shall darken the door of the inn that was my family home for almost sixty years.

Meanwhile, I’d like to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year. All except the present incumbent of the Drovers, that is!


The good old days. Mum and Dad (Jim and Effie Birchall) at the Drovers in the fifties, and a painting by the late Arthur Dalrymple.

By |December 27th, 2015|8 Comments

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Pharaoh ‘cross the Mersey

20151208-9944This latest offering from writer Fred Lawless has all the hallmarks of the type of show that has had audiences rolling with laughter in the Royal Court aisles for the past seven Christmases.

Most theatres go for the time-honoured option of choosing a classical pantomime and then reworking the script for topical and regional purposes. This particular theatre, on the other hand, has built a reputation for dishing up something different. Back in 2009, Fred Lawless presented them with a script about two neighbours, one an avid Everton fan and the other a staunch Liverpool supporter.  Merry Ding Dong was an instant success and it set a Royal Court precedent.

20151208-9927Each year since has seen a brand new Christmas comedy which such titles as Scouse Pacific, Nightmare on Lime Street and Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fazakerley; shows that encompass the sublime predictability of a panto but with a totally original storyline.

And whilst “normal” pantomimes are aimed primarily at children, whilst at the same time laced with double entendre that will go over tender young heads, the Royal Court Christmas Shows are unashamedly adult humour gift-wrapped in scousness.

This year I was unable to attend the official press night due to prior commitments, so my review is a good week later than normal. So although I make it a rule to never read other reviews before writing mine, I’m sure most of what needs to be said has been said by now. And if there is any justice, this show will have racked up a whole bunch of 4 and 5 star ratings.

20151208-9914First, let me add a little perspective. As it was Jayne’s birthday, we left wet Wales to spend a couple of days in an equally wet Liverpool and on the first night treated ourselves to a “psychological thriller” at The Playhouse. I deliberately put that description in parenthesis because the most thrilling part was Jayne’s phone going off –unsilenced! In the end, we only managed 35 minutes of The Haunting of Hill House before becoming comatose with boredom.

20151208-9999Walking out of The Playhouse mid way though the first half, cemented what I already knew: Home-grown Royal Court productions, drawing from a pool of talented Liverpool actors, writers and directors, have hit upon a magic formula that puts bums on seats and keeps them coming back again and again. Real down-to-earth scouse humour is what makes the Court great and sets it world’s apart from your typical “luvies” theatre.

From the very second the curtain goes up on Pharaoh ‘cross the Mersey you are drawn in to a fast-moving musical comedy wonderland that doesn’t let up until the final curtain call.

20151208-0029They have a knack of getting it right. Excellent comedy, lots of action, fun puns, great songs.

It was just perfect. From Andrew Schofield’s (much flaunted) raggy underpants to Hayley Hampson’s lovely legs; from Mickey Stark’s magnificent stage presence to Lindzi Germain’s powerful singling voice; from Michael Fletcher’s rolling Russian accent to the expressive tom-foolery-in-a-fez of Danny O’Brien.

But if I just made the aforementioned sound like pantomime clowns, I can assure you they are all far more than that. They are talented actors with perfect comedy timing, the ability to take a scripted part and make it their own, great singing voices, and many of them fine musicians too. And they all truly understand Royal Court audiences.

20151208-9963As in previous years, the music, performed live on stage, forms a thread which ties the whole show together.  Songs we all know, often with suitably changed lyrics, seem to leap out of every pun. Songs that fill the whole place with energy and have you bouncing along in your seats.

I mentioned sublime predictability earlier. Well when Andrew Schofield answered “eight” to the question “how many love potions have you tried making up to now?” you just know what song the band are about to strike up!

Alex Smith has cemented his position as musical director since stepping up to the mark when Howard Gray took on the role of director.

If you’ve been to any of the Royal Court’s previous Christmas shows, Pharaoh ‘cross the Mersey is everything you’ll want it to be – and more! If it’s your first time, I promise you it won’t be your last.

The show runs until January 16th and you can book on line at the theatre’s Box Office. Do yourself a favour – do it now!

5/5 – This is definitely a five star rating for the six actors on stage and for the dozens of off stage production and theatre staff who make it all possible.

Click  to enlarge and let the pictures tell the story


Footnote:  It was great to see the new foyer and box office taking shape. All credit to the theatre staff for keeping this lovely Art Deco style theatre functioning through all the alterations.

By |December 11th, 2015|0 Comments

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Who’s your friend?

The common house fly tramples in dog poo before invading our homes spreading that poo on kitchen surfaces, in the sugar bowl and any food it can lay its beady eyes upon. The spider, however, can actually help rid your home of these disease bearing flies

At this time of the year, people seem to go into a frenzy about spiders!

With the approach of Autumn, the spider population  seems at its greatest and they make their way indoors because buildings offer the best environment for weaving their sticky webs in a way that will maximize their food supply.

The likes of Facebook becomes flooded with OMGs and “Someone save my from these monsters“, whilst newspapers, for want of a better story, run scare headlines like Spiders the size of MICE could soon invade Welsh homes and Six ways to get a Giant House Spider out of your home

This all begs the question… Why? 

Let’s put this into perspective. The common house fly will trample in dog and cat poo, or practically any other poo it can find, and on the rotting carcasses of dead birds and animals before invading our homes to spread its poisonous payload onto kitchen surfaces, in the sugar bowl and on any food it can lay its beady compound ommatidian eyes upon.  Yet we seem happy just to casually wave them out of the way with a wafting hand.

Yet it seems the mere sight of a spider, those friendly little creatures that can actually help rid your home of these disease bearing flies, will send the lady of the house reaching for the vacuum cleaner, or even screeching and screaming until their dutiful husbands reach for the nearest shoe to squash the eight legged interlopers to arachnoidal oblivion.

No spider will hurt you. They will naturally scurry away from human beings. Yes they can bite but there is no spider in this country that will give you anything more than a mild irritation. Certainly far far less than the result of a wasp sting or even a nettle sting and despite common folk lore, there very few spiders in the world that can deliver a deadly bite. And it is important to understand that even in those counties that to have the odd “dangerous” breed, “death by spider bite” is very rare indeed since clinics, poison control centres, and hospitals often have various species-specific antitoxins on hand to treat the bite.

The common house fly on the other hand, can do you a great deal of harm. They spread infectious diseases by carrying viruses, bacteria, protozoa and even roundworm and threadworm on the hairs of their legs. They regularly spread diarrhoeal illnesses  such as salmonella,  E.coli, Shigella, CampylobacterEnterococcus, cholera and dysentery.

Other diseases carried by house flies include typhoid, anthrax and tuberculosis. There are in fact over 100 pathogens (disease-causing organisms) commonly associated with house flies.

So next time you see that little spider scurrying across the floor, leave him to go about the business of protecting you from this very real danger.  And when that spider’s web turns up in the corner of the room, think of it in terms of being a much more efficient and healthy method of pest control compared to the toxic chemicals in fly sprays and insecticides.

Long live the Spider!

By |August 22nd, 2015|0 Comments

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How to play guitar in a band (Video Tutorial)

First, get a guitar. It doesn’t really matter what kind.

Then learn how to hold it.  It doesn’t really matter which way around, so long as you have one hand around the neck with the fingers on some of those little metal strips that go across it.  Then the other hand… well you need to practise moving that up and down more or less in time with the music.  It is important that you don’t plug any wires into the guitar as it might start making a funny noise.

Next you have to make sure no one actually looks at your hands, so get yourself a full makeover including the all important scouse brows.  Make them nice and high. Go for the “surprised” look.

Okay, this might still not be enough to ensure your guitar playing is authentic to the eye of the onlooker, so just for good measure take your vest off and replace it with  bit of sheer chiffon. Oh, and ditch the bra of course. That would spoil the effect.

In fact… damn it all… the last thing you want to do is allow their eye to wander to your hands. Whip off your knickers too.

All you have to do then is practise your expression and you’re on your way to pop stardom…!

Play the video to see the amazing results in action!

nakedrockstarWarning… If you’re a bloke, the above instructions don’t work.  You’ll just have to learn how to play the damn thing…

By |June 10th, 2015|1 Comment

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May the Fourth be with you


Chris (right) in his edited clip from Star Wars

I’ve just finished wishing three of my friends a happy birthday in the same manner that I do each and every year on “Star Wars Day”.

As a photographer, I’m not averse to a bit of photoshoppery but this bit of expert editing by a film fan is by far the best thing I’ve seen since rag week students re-arranged the letters on a sign above an Odeon Cinema to read ARSE WARTS !

Vermont based cinematographer Chris Seerveld has created for himself the ultimate fan boy experience by actually editing himself into a clip from the Star Wars film A New Hope, and the result is this epic YouTube video showing him in conversation with Luke Skywalker and taking a trip in a X-wing.