Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 26 March 2019


Books read in the first three months of 2019. All a delight. Hemingway's was the most challenging. Connolly's was a pleasant romp through much-told anecdotes. Bythell's bookseller diary was a great find. Stamm's story was intriguing. and Wodehouse - I'm on a Jeeves and Wooster binge - is, as we all know, sheer and absolute joy. Spiffing, don't you know!

I will be away for a couple of week's soaking up the culture and history of a far-off land, reading more and writing, or attempting to write, a haiku-style diary.

My memoir on my father is under consideration. A crime caper is in an agent's submissions tray. A radio idea has been sent off. A potential book project called "In Concert" is in early 'scribble' stages.

Oh, and I am looking forward to 3 days mooching around the Belfast Book Festival in June. 


p.s. Oh, and this one. A rather touching memoir about parents as individuals and together, with a child between them. Fascinating study of relationships.

Saturday, 23 March 2019


I am available for writing commissions based on this post, 
and anything else in this blog.

Power Station West, Belfast (now demolished)

I left school with 4 O-levels in 1970 (I beefed up my credentials many years later with an Open University honours degree) and got a job as a junior office clerk working at Power Station West for the Belfast Corporation Electricity Department. My miserable tally of qualifications at the time restricted the jobs I could apply for. Power Station West was a fair old trek from where I lived. It required a very early start and two buses, a bit of a slog. It didn’t help that the job was mind-numbingly boring. One of our team, a hippyish chap, couldn't wait for lunchtime when the office manager popped home for soup and a sandwich. He would stretch out on his desk and nap. He had it down to perfection because he always woke up two minutes before the boss returned.

Harry Worth
The boss was like that old comedian Harry Worth, bespectacled, soft-spoken and prone to call any paperwork a chitty. Also, he would end every phone call with the words: "Cheery-Bye in the mean time."
A cat
To tell you the truth, the most exciting thing in that office-based job was looking out of the upstairs window to watch the monthly capture of stray, wild cats by the “Moggie Squad”, as we dubbed them. The cats were a nuisance and, we were told, dangerous. The Moggie Squad, all decked out in protective gear, would corner and nab the wailing and scratching cats with nets and stunner-prongs before putting them into a caged van. Once pronged, the captured cat would stretch rigid. It was probably cruel by today’s standards but, frankly, it was exhilarating to observe. Where the cats were taken and what happened to them is unknown.

But, cat watching did not alleviate all the boredom or satisfy an active mind, so, after a year, I began to look for something else. I opted for retailing and often thought of those stunner-prongs whenever I encountered a catty customer.

Friday, 22 March 2019


Happy birthday William Shatner - 88 today

In his wonderful 2008 autobiography “Up Till Now”, William Shatner gives a summary of his career and the dangers within: “I’m concerned about being overexposed, so I’ve been very careful to limit myself to acting on the stage and in dramatic television programmes, hosting documentary-type programmes and game shows, appearing in movies and commercials, endorsing products, doing voice-overs, charity appearances, radio programmes, Webcasts. videos, Star Trek conventions, horse shows and dog shows, writing books and songs, making albums, creating, directing and producing television programmes, performing at concerts, appearing on talk shows, competitive reality-type and award programmes.  But that’s where I draw the line.”

Thursday, 21 March 2019


Throughout my life I have loved, been entertained, educated and bamboozled by poetry. It is a strange and wondrous and cryptic and penetrating thing. So, here are 10 favourite poets (there are others) that have influenced me as a writer, a thinker and a human being. I urge you to seek out their work. And this list is in no particular order of merit.

Roger McGough
Leonard Cohen
William Wordsworth
Damian Smyth
Edward Lear
Ogden Nash
Seamus Heaney
Paul Muldoon
Wendy Cope
Spike Milligan

Please look them up.


This post has a male focus.

There's an old boy, I'm estimating in his late seventies, who walks his dog past my house every day. He wears a tie, and looks very smart indeed. My father-in-law seldom stepped out without being booted and suited. Old school standards, you see.

I spent a sizeable chunk of my life working in and around supermarkets and, as a result, I have a vast knowledge of the human species and human condition. Apart from many things, I have noticed a major deterioration in how men dress when they are out in public, and especially when shopping. This morning the man who nipped in for a loaf and a carton of milk was oblivious to funny looks because of his pyjamas and slippers. The chap the other rainy day wearing snug shorts and flip-flops was the bad sight of the week.

Thankfully, there are plenty of male shoppers who make the effort.

But we are in a super-sensitive age when men assume their right to express themselves anyway they darn well please and woe betide anyone who criticises the bulky XXXL chap in his XL vest as he shops for the summer barbecue, or the Chippendale reject who divests himself of said vest. We are about a belly wobble away from seeing the first specimen shopper in nothing but y-fronts browsing the yoghurt aisle. And then it will be full Health & Efficiency in about a generation, as people free of fabric will be happy to shop stark naked for their meat and two veg.

I try to be reasonably smart/casual as much as possible and I see other veteran shoppers making the effort to dress appropriately. I don't wear a tie but I see other men in what used to be called their Sunday best.

Personally, I blame the inventor of the shell suit and football tops as everyday fashion. From sartorial perfection to sloppy scruffs, humanity continues to evolve as dress standards seem to dissolve.

The old boy who walks his dog knows his standard and my father-in-law knew his.

And don't get me started on tattoos, face jewellery, lank hair and shower-gel dodgers.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019


I am available for writing commissions based on this post.

An Occasional Series of Random Thoughts

Stop assuming that freedom means no laws, rules, boundaries, limits, morals or simple manners. Whatever we think, whatever we want to say and do, we should remember that we are human beings in a world of such creatures and should conduct ourselves by treating others the way we would want them to treat us. But if you want to be a cretin, feel free. If you want to be selfish, feel free. If it’s me, me, me, feel free but if you get punched in the face a few times, you’ll know why.

Stop assuming social media gives you an automatic right to be a dick. Twitter is what it is. It’s for twits, mainly, who want to increase and share rather than cut the crap.

Stop thinking outside the box. Like a lot of business managers, I have been to many meetings and conferences and been in conversation with colleagues and bosses about life, the universe, everything and all the bs in between.  More often than not, someone will say eventually:  “It’s not rocket science” or “Let’s think outside the box”.  It is the latter expression that intrigues me. Who owned the first box and who was the first thinker outside of it? What was in the box before it was an empty box that we could climb into, get a mental block and then get out of it to think things through?  When was the decision made to get in and out of a box as a process of contemplation? What happened to the original thinker’s box? When did thinking inside the box become such an untrendy thing to do?  We hear this “outside the box” stuff so often that is has become pretty meaningless, rather like that rocket science blah.  If we all thought outside the box, some guru would start to encourage us to do the opposite.  We never seem to elaborate on the “think tank” idea by suggesting that people should think outside of the tank, do we?  If we had our thinking cap on, no one suggests we think with the cap off.  The inventor of exterior box thinking thought he was onto something and I wonder if he ever considered thinking about his invention inside or outside of another receptacle altogether – a bin, a carton, a crate, a chest, a basket, a hamper, a cauldron, etc, etc. To take it to extremes, what about a tropical fish thinking outside the aquarium, or a dog thinking outside the kennel, or a bird thinking outside the nest, or a corpse thinking outside the coffin or a window cleaner thinking outside the bucket? Okay, I’ll stop this nonsense. Let’s get rid of the box and just, er, think inside our heads!

Stop all this nannying and fannying around with mixed advice on food and drink. Food, diet and health all have their actual or well-spun controversies, crises, epidemics, etc.  Supermarkets need a bloody good overhaul to make things clear to the dumb, dense, witless public (for that is what we are folks in the minds of the behavioural nudgers in politics and business). So, here it is. My revolutionary supermarket layout to satisfy nanny and matron, and to guide us to the promised land of long life and happiness. All the talk about retail regeneration, clarity for customers and healthy living, got me thinking that all food stores, large, medium and small, should adopt this simplest form of layout. Asking customers to read product labels is a non-starter. Too much information. Too much blah. Too much cover-your-arse verbiage. Here's the solution: four sections all painted - floors, walls, and ceiling to avoid any confusion:
Green zone: Contains all food and drink that Matron says is very, very good for us. Load up.
Amber zone: Contains all food and drink that Matron says is not too risky. Easy does it.
Red Zone: Contains all food and drink that Matron says is bad for us - but it's our choice to enter this zone. Risk it for a calorie-loaded biscuit.
Black zone - Contains all food and drink that Matron considers extremely bad for us even though it might be the tastiest selection - enter if you dare!
There you go. Simple as that. No need for expensive research. It's worth a pilot, surely. 
Food and drink industries and the health of the nation are saved.

Stop treating libraries as community hubs, crèches, nurseries, playgrounds, youth clubs, silver surfer sanctuaries and gigantic phone booths. They are places for books, reading, study, quiet contemplation, not indoor playgrounds for kids to run around in or places for adults to shout into their mobile phones, chat loudly or cackle uncontrollably. Sssssshhhhh. 

Stop buying personalised car number plates. A55 H0LE5.

Stop reinventing, reshaping, remoulding, rewriting Star Trek. We get it. We got it a long time ago. These days the pointy-ear guy must be offending somebody. Enough.

Stop playing screechy diva soul music in coffee shops or else I will counter it by reading my newspaper in a high-pitched voice, slurping my coffee loudly, smacking my lips as I eat a pastry and burping with all the gusto of Desperate Dan.

Stop politicians and environmental lobby groups from dictating how much plastic we use. If you give me the choice of war (you know, that thing that bombs the shit out of the planet) and plastic, I’ll take my chances with the plastic.

Stop wasting political party money on printing manifestos that will be shredded the day after elections. Fewer manifestos, a decline in supplies of shredded paper and a hamster cage bedding crisis is the worst scenario.

Stop inventing scientific-sounding ingredients for cosmetics, lotions and potions and just admit it’s snake oil infused with gook de gobble and a dash of balder.

Stop making ordering a coffee complicated and such a slow process. Here’s an idea. Have a jug of instant next to the machine for us people who just want a cup of coffee- like now!

Stop assuming that if you achieve even the merest hint of fame that it gives you an automatic right to become an expert on life, lifestyle, health, happiness or whatever hoohah you want to peddle. Fame does not make a schmuck intelligent.

Stop attacking, insulting and rubbishing people when they are alive and then give them a glowing eulogy once they shuffle off. ‘He was a little shit’ altered to ‘he was the salt of the earth’ is as false as it sounds.

Stop TV news channels referring to every celebrity slip, trip, fall, belch and fart as ‘breaking news’. Breaking news like breaking wind stinks of barrel-scrapings most of the time.

Stop TV continuity announcers from telling us about a forthcoming programme seconds after we have seen a trailer for the same forthcoming programme. Some of us aren’t six.

Stop the bandits who install ‘no change given’ ticket machines in car parks and elsewhere. It’s called stealing.

Stop people eating with their mouths open and doing that aaaaaahhhhh thing after every drink.

Stop sports stars from remaining tight-lipped during the national anthem after they declare allegiance to their country and kiss their shirts lovingly. Hypocrisy United.

Stop continuing to make the airport experience miserable and find ways to make it exciting and pleasurable again. Start by getting rid of that morose security woman from my last trip or at least get her to trim what looked like the makings of a Hitler moustache on her curled top lip.

Stop referring to every new album release as ‘essential’. Essential is food, clothing and shelter. CDs are way, way down the list unless you eat them, make a coat out of them or build an igloo with them.

Stop overusing the words ‘crisis’ and ‘epidemic’ willy-nilly in news reporting to emphasise issues and to create a climate of fear, worry and doom. Issue A can be a ‘problem’ and issue B can be a ‘concern’. Ease up, Grim Reapers.

Stop producing lists of the 1,001 things we must read, see and listen to before we die. If anyone ever devotes the time and reaches the very last items on the lists, you’re life will probably be about done anyway, so mission accomplished. Well freakin’ done!

Stop looking for insults and things to complain about whenever someone is trying to tell a joke. Some jokes are insulting and worthy of complaints, of course, but crying boohoo at just about every wisecrack is not big, clever, necessary or even remotely funny. Wise up.

Stop shouting in the street when making or taking a mobile phone call. The phone is geared up to detect a whisper, let alone a conversation in a normal voice, so keep your comments, opinions, arguments and social arrangements to yourself. Or just shut the hell up.

Stop celebrity fitness DVDs. Just stop.

Stop wasting money on fitness equipment and fitness club membership unless you are really, really, really serious about all that palaver. Beware of all the advertising just after the Christmas binge and all those slogans to make you feel ashamed of yourself and all those photos of six-pack and firm abs people, you know the ones with that strange orange glistening-glow and blindingly white teeth. You will never be one of them.

Stop hogging the middle lane of motorways. Move to the slower lane or the faster lane but, whatever, get out of my bloody way. It’s my turn.

Stop actors pretending to drink scalding coffee out of obviously empty cups. Acting school should give lessons in how to sip hot beverages realistically rather than ignore that annoying thing where the actor buys the coffee and immediately starts to drink it with the cup at a 90-degree angle to the mouth.

Stop crowding entrances to buildings with your gangs of smokers. You smoke if you want to. I’ll not smoke because I prefer not to. But spare me the jog through your fog-smog whilst holding my breath, otherwise I’ll fart my way in and see how that goes down.

Stop putting me on hold when I call a service centre. You call centre people have forced me to hate Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and no matter how often you tell me how important I am, I am so thoroughly pissed off that I am very reluctant to confirm my mother’s maiden name which, by the way, is really none of your damn business.

Stop texting while walking. One day you will fall down an open hole in the pavement and never be heard from again. No signal.

Stop contaminating TV soap operas with criminals, boozers and liars. Does life in these miserable locations not have any comedy? Does it all have to be gangsters, guzzlers and gits?

More to come.........

Tuesday, 19 March 2019


I am available to write an article of any length based on the post below.

I hear that the animated character Fireman Sam is sexist. I can't really be bothered to waste too much time delving into the details, but if even one of us human beans is offended these days, then that is good enough to be both news and fodder for a social media hoo-haa. Yabba-dabba-slabber-doo!

But it got me thinking about the animated shows I watched as a vulnerable child in the 1960s and I wondered what psychological flaws I have carried with me into my adult life.

Did Popeye make me think that a pipe-smoking sailor with a pot-scourer voice and a maniac's cackling laugh who guzzled spinach straight from a can and punched the living daylights out of his rival, was a good role model? Mind you, I did attempt a pipe one time but, after a few amateur sucks, I was sick for what seemed like eternity. Did Popeye encourage my sly puff? Hmmm.

Did Mister Magoo influence a prejudice in me to refer in later life to people who wore glasses as 'speccy-four-eyes' and use terms like 'blind as a bat'? That is until I had to wear them myself!

Did I think it was acceptable behaviour for Yogi Bear to stalk picnickers and nick their food baskets, and encourage his sidekick Boo Boo to learn the scurrilous skills? Jellystone Park was actually a crime scene!

Was it acceptable for a law enforcement officer, Deputy Dawg, to refer to the characters he arrested in derogatory terms such as 'pesky varmints'? Disrespectful.

Did I just accept that Top Cat's gang of mischievous moggies operating out of a back alley was normal, and that a single inept policeman was powerless to eradicate this type of criminality? A miaow mafia was at work and us kids absorbed the subliminal messages that it was all okay.

And I could go on about the deviousness of Bugs Bunny and his addiction to binge-ordering explosives and 10-ton weights from the Acme Trading Company, the lisping and swearing of Daffy Duck ('suffering succotash'), the whole rewriting of stone-age history in The Flintstones, the reckless speeding on the highway by the Road Runner, and being hit in the face with a frying pan as demonstrated in Tom and Jerry. Not to forget Postman Pat zooming around country lanes with an unseatbelted cat loose in the driving seat. Surely a disgrace to the uniform and a danger to wandering sheep and ramblers.

I could go on but I'm hungry. I'm off to the park to steal someone's sandwiches.

That's all folks!

Monday, 18 March 2019


If any features editors would like to commission anything to do with this trip, 
please contact me.

Author: Retail Confidential (career retrospective)
Author: Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood (story of a film star)
Writer: Features, reviews, poetry, fiction, and this blog.


In the not-too-distant future, I will be off to Japan for a couple of weeks. This really is the trip of my lifetime.

There will be Tokyo, cherry blossom, Mount Fuji, shrines, temples, castles and much to absorb in terms of culture, food and a wee nip or two of sake

As is my wont, I will be taking lots of photos and keeping a written record of as much as I can possibly remember and record.

A particular challenge I have set myself, in the spirit of Matsuo Kinsaku, better known as Basho, widely regarded as the first great haiku poet, my diary will be mainly haiku nuggets. Cusho?

Here's two Basho haiku to be going on with:

Boozy on blossoms -
dark rice,
white sake

Under the cherry -
blossom soup,
blossom salad

Saturday, 16 March 2019


1969 was a cracking year for film releases. Here's a reminder of several.

Where Eagles Dare

The Love Bug

Goodbye Columbus

Midnight Cowboy

Once Upon a Time in the West

Easy Rider

Paint Your Wagon

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

True Grit

The Wild Bunch

They Shoot Horses Don't They?

Hello Dolly