Saturday, 20 March 2010


Looking through an old drawer, I came across this column I wrote on my 65th birthday.
Reading it again at 80 when I am so bored I can find nothing better to do than rootle in old files, I can only say. “Hear hear ...” to that

To: Peter Hollinson
From: Ian Skidmore
(who has no faith in fax machines. Could I be rung if it

Since I started work as a 14-year-old printer's devil, I have only ever had one ambition: to retire.

Over the years I have chucked in a boss's job, turned down Fleet Street and a foreign correspondency, and declined to twinkle as a minor star on Radio 4. Have written so many columns like this I am known in the trade as the Parthenon Kid.

Always with the eye fixed on the alpaca jacket, the walking stick and the rose garden.

I've got the jacket, the stick and a three-acre-garden like you wouldn't believe. And here I am still grafting.

Sixty-five. All my own hair, someone else's teeth and it is still, "Have word processor, will grovel."

If I have to work, I could hardly find better jobs. I get paid for arguing on his radio News Quiz with Vincent Kane - which most people would do free; for listening to the radio to compile a weekly programme of my favourite moments on Radio Wales; for interviewing interesting Welsh people on the same station; and for reading the newspapers so I can do weekly broadcasts to Welsh servicemen, and to Australia and sundry other parts of the globe where I am a sort of Alistair Cookaburra.

Don't get paid a lot but at least I can do it from home.

Look at it this way. I may be Wales's lowest paid broadcaster but I am the highest paid gardener.

But RETIRE to the Roses? No chance.

Why am I still at it?

It is this part-time vocational work I do as a stress counsellor to the bank. How it works is, I sign a cheque and the bank manager rings me up in a shocking state. So I have to write him long, soothing letters to calm him down. I cash so many cheques in my Anglesey local he thinks I am being blackmailed by Bass Charrington.

My good friend the Bishop of Bangor relieves stress by making chocolate gateaux the gastronomic equivalent of a choir of angels. Takes his mind off worries like the refusal of the Church in Wales to ordain women.

Time to rewrite the rule book?

I sent him this and he said it cheered him up. (He is Archbishop of Wales now and prayed for me when I had cancer.)

.......... And God spoke unto Adam and He said: "Why does it take you so long to come to the phone?"

Adam said: "Have you seen the size of this garden? From the orchard, I can't hear the bell. Also I wish you would have a word with that angel you sent with a blazing sword. I've got scorch marks on the dahlias and the heat is bringing on the chrysanths too early..."

And God spoke and He said: "Give it a rest. I am paying for this call. Put an extension bell in the orchard, dummy.

“The angel is Security and outside my remit. Obviously been a mistake. He shouldn't be there till apple picking..."

Adam said: "A blazing sword? A Theme Park we're building? A Kebab House already?"

And God spoke and he said: "I wanted Dobermans but Finance estimate an overall saving with flames that is very impressive.
It's something they picked up from the Competition.

“About the garden staffing levels. We are working on that.
Originally, Research and Development favoured stage automation. We were going to let you invent the plough, then we planned electricity which I personally am very excited about and cannot wait to create Faraday."

Adam said: " Talk is cheap. When do I get to invent the plough?”

And God spoke and He said: "That is the reason I called. R & D have come up with this new concept. I thought I would just run it up that apple tree for you and see if it flaps."

Adam said: "God, sometimes you say things which are a mystery to me..."

And God spoke and He said: " Goes with the territory. But about this R and D idea. It will do the gardening; it is an
entertainment concept and it does home nursing. Runs on the same stuff you eat, would you believe?

“R & D are working on a modem called sex which completely does away with the spare rib method I originally planned. The modem will need a User Manual. I'm thinking of calling it the Ten Commandments."

Adam said: "Does this machine have a name?"

And God spoke and He said: "What's in a name? as Shakespeare is going to say. We were going to call it a slave and then a skivvy but Marketing said names like that give off the wrong vibes, consumerwise. So what we finally came up with was Woman. What takes the Woe out of Man. Woman. Neat, eh?

“Copywriting and Graphics reckon we could achieve a 98 per cent penetration of A and AB markets."

Adam said: "I want an assurance from management that this woman machine will never be programmed to take executive decisions."
And God spoke and He said: "Thursday already? Have to go. Only two days before my day off."

And He rang off.

It was only later when Eve harvested the apples and there was this Leak from Head Office about relocation that Adam remembered he had been given no guarantees about the woman machine.

And Adam was sore afraid.


Meanwhile back in March, Cambs in March 20/10


I would do almost anything to avoid listening to the Archers. Even, as I did this week, watch a programme on the ”Wonders of the Star System”, a subject which misses me by wide margin. I have enough to do worrying about my own planet and little inclination towards far off stars which look to have been covered in cold porridge.

The presenter of this programme is a professor who looks about fourteen and is alive with the joy of his subject. Few things are more attractive in TV that a presenter who is more interested in his subject than himself. Professor Brian Cox joins the pantheon of presenters who enthuse rather than irritate and in an instant I was on his team.

His subject was the sun and he spoke of it in the language of the King James Bible. So strong was this impression I found myself thinking that, had our cave man ancestors used commonsense to describe nature rather than imagination, science would be our religion. Both end in Judgement Day. The Religious version is pure Walt Disney. Science, on the other hand, threatens us with a celestial vacuum cleaner which is even now hoovering up great swathes of the universe.

So Messianic was Cox's praise of the risen sun, he reminded me of the 14th century Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep 1V who banished Egypt's tribe of gods and ordered that only Aton, the religion of the Sun, could be worshipped, which, since the Sun creates, makes a lot more sense as a symbol than a petulant old man worrying about status.

Admittedly, it got the Pharoah in terrible trouble and the moment he died the old gods came flooding back.

Six hundred years later Sigmund Freud also got into terrible trouble suggesting that Moses was an Egyptian priest of the Sun God and the Monotheism he taught the Jews in the desert, in place of their old volcanic god, Jahve, was worship of the Sun.

It was an act of great bravery on Freud's part. He was trapped in Nazi Vienna. The Zionist movement was planning to get him out but it was so incensed by this blasphemy it was on the point of abandoning him to Auschwitz.

I went to a Faith school under false pretences. From an early age, I have thought the bible a collection of VERY Grimm tales. The only miracle, in my opinion, is music. All other miracles are legerdemain. Like the character in Moliere who was amazed to discover he had been talking prose all his life without realising it, I was a Buddhist for years before discovering it.

I came acrosss a quotation by Hermes the Thrice Great in Sir Thomas Browne's 'Religion of a Medical Man'”: “God is a Circle, the centre of which is nowhere and the circumference everywhere.”

The Buddhist belief, as I later discovered, is that we are all part of God. Sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind besides which nothing exists.

Thought thinks, claims The Lord Buddha, and so does Descartes. “I think, therefore I am.”

Later still, I came across Aldous Huxley's 'The Perennial Philosophy', which argues there is something in the soul that is identical with Divine Reality; not only in all primitive religions but in every one of the higher religions. No need for Bells and Smells and celestial conjuring tricks. He has been there under my shirt all the time.

There is a lot to be said for not listening to the Archers.


China's Rogue Blogger
China's top blogger, a young novelist who drives race cars on the side and whose good looks have made him a sex symbol, has been clashing with the country's censorship policies. At 300 million hits to his blog, The New York Times suggests Han Han might be "the most popular living writer in the world.,” but not all of his posts stay up long—the government has been known to take down offending material overly critical of the government. A wry satirist, one recent post by Han criticizing China's eviction of residents for new developments suggested replacing housing projects with prisons so dissenters could more conveniently be locked up in their homes after they object. His latest project, a new magazine entitled "A Chorus of Solos," is being held up by the government over its content.
Read it at The New York Times
Posted at 7:28 AM, Mar 13, 2010

You couldn't (possibly) make it up...

My friend Revel Baker, sometime Head Honcho to Cap'n Bob Maxwell, sends the following cuttings from newspapers:

TO all you hunters who kill animals for food, Shame on you. You ought to go to the store and buy the meat that is made there and no animal harmed.

Dog attack- Lower Duck Pond. Lithia Park. Ashland. Police responded to a report of two dogs running loose and attacking ducks at about 11.20 am on Sunday. The officer cited a resident for the loose dogs. The ducks refused medical trearment and left the area.