Saturday, 16 March 2013

Mad march days . . .

I could use this blog to drone on about the weather. I could use it to drone on about the people I know who are forever droning on about the weather. It's weather. We have it every day. End of story. Still, living in the capital, I also have to contend with people chewing over every minute of their train journey into the city. "Ooh the 7.06 came in at 7.10 and so some other woman was stood in my space on the platform and I didn't get my regular seat three quarters of the way down the carriage and . . ." SHUT UP!! I don't need to know these excruciating details!

Anyway, enough of that. As a non-Catholic I was mildly interested in the election of a new pope this week, in the same way that an appearance of a new Blue Peter presenter still has the power to intrigue me. For BBC News, it was a chance to speculate, ad nauseum, about who the new pontiff might be. Would he be from Africa (flick to Oddschecker to see what's being offered on Peter Turkson)? Could it be the comedy cardinal from Boston. According to some grim-faced harridan in St Peter's Square, no. The church isn't ready for an American, she prissily stated. Long after the white smoke had been blown to the four winds, as my eyes focused on a balcony and my mind wondered if the new man would emerge in one of those papal Vera Wang gowns, out toddled . . . another old man. Yes, 85 year old Benedict XVI had made way for 76 year old Pope Francis I. The BBC frothed and waxed lyrical about his status as a Jesuit, his humility and so on. Would he be a liturgy man like Benedict or more approachable and jolly like John XVIII? By now it was time for Coronation Street so that was as far as I got. Anyway, I wish him well and hope that eventually, I won't keep thinking I'm looking at Jim Bowen in fancy dress.
More importantly though, I'm gearing up for the Eurovision season. In reality, the season began last autumn but by Monday we will have the full list of runners and riders from 39 countries. I think it's fair to say that 2013 is far from a classic year. Amongst the shrieking Bulgarians and prog-rock Albanians sits our own challenger for Malmö, Bonnie Tyler. For those of us of a certain age, she will forever be associated with doomy Jim Steinman tracks (let's draw a veil over that hideous duet with fellow Welsh crooner Shakin' Stevens) and turning around with bright eyes. For Eurovision though, a mellow, country and western tinged offering which while not sounding like a winner, will probably not lead to Engelbert-style meltdown on the big night. Bonnie will be up against kilted Greeks, a Russian power ballad, a brace of Americans and a former Nobel prize nominee so at least the chit-chat in the Green Room should be a little more cerebral than usual.

Bookwise, let me recommend the wonderful How I Killed Margaret Thatcher by Anthony Cartwright. Set in 1980s Dudley, the story tells of a young boy called Sean who watches in dismay as Thatcherite policies come to bear on his family life. Very funny in places but also heart-breakingly sad. Much of it is also written in Black Country brogue which makes for an interesting read. Like Sean, I spent much of the early 1980s expecting nuclear obliteration courtesy of the Soviet Union and wondering why our forces were being sent to rescue distant islands off the Argentine coast. I wonder what Pope Francis, native of Buenos Aires, has to say on the matter? We may never know.

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