The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Big Country – In a Big Country

To quote the classic Mass Hibsteria words, This is How it Feels.

I have always loved this song since it first emerged on The Crossing in 1983 – the words speak to me personally, every single one of them – especially now, as I attempt to emerge from some of my darkest hours.

‘I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert,
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime.’

‘Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming.
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted.’

Stay Alive

April 24, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , | Leave a comment

Derek Returns…

I WAS EXTREMELY pleased to see that the second series of ‘Derek’ has finally come around. If the first series passed you by allow me to give you a tip to catch this one. It is as good a comedy series as you are ever likely to see in my humble opinion. Derek works on so many levels, it has great pathos, is irreverent, yet complex and is of course genuinely funny. The cast have a great cohesion whilst one might say the ladies and gentlemen playing the residents of the care home are the true stars.

Ricky Gervais as Derek

When at first I watched the early episodes of the first series of Derek it took me a little while to understand my feelings about it. It’s not straight-ahead comedy but more challenging than that. By midway through the series I was watching repeat viewings of them.

Even if you’re not a Ricky Gervais fan, and I understand some people’s reservations towards him, try to suspend those feelings and watch this anyway.

It is a masterpiece.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , | Leave a comment

Notts County: Jimmy Spencer

I’ve been spending a little time going to visit one of the local football teams recently with three visits to Meadow Lane in Nottingham to see Notts County. The Magpies have unfortunately been bottom dwellers in League One pretty well all season long and as I write are in the midst of a desperate fight against relegation with just two games to play.

In the intervening weeks since my initial visit down the ‘Lane’ Notts have appeared to grow in confidence a little and have picked up a series of hard-fought victories. I’m out of touch with the playing staff at Notts but one or two individuals have stood out with the likes of young ball-playing winger, Jack Grealish coming to mind. Most impressive for me however has been the 22 year-old striker, Jimmy Spencer who has been reasonably prolific of late and put in some fine and mature performances.

Jimmy Spencer

It’s clear to me that Spencer is playing significantly below his level in League One. He is strong, holds the ball up well and has an almost uncanny ability to lay the ball off to a teammate, even under extreme pressure. Not least, the tall striker has superior ball control with the ball at times appearing glued to his foot before another subtle layoff to a teammate. He is quite remarkable in this ability at times and manages to keep possession in some quite impossible-looking situations. As one might expect of a spearhead, his heading is top-class, accurate and when need be, powerful as well as being well-directed.

Jimmy spencer is probably one of the best target men I’ve seen operating outside the top flight of football in this country in many a year. Perhaps the only trait that lets him down a touch is a tendency for constantly complaining to the match officials, which in spite of the rough treatment he receives from defenders he would do well to eradicate or at least temper.

The next couple of weeks are pivotal for Notts County and whether Jimmy Spencer continues his career at in a black and white jersey. I do hope the Meadow Lane club can manage to hang on to his talents. They couldn’t do better in the circumstances.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

When Pat Stanton speaks we should all listen…

Interesting views in the news from Sir Pat Stanton as always. Gentleman Pat is always worth listening to. If only Hibernian Football Club had a few with his attitude now, let alone a modicum of his sublime, God-given ability.

Playing on over six-hundred occasions for Hibs, one might state that Pat is allowed to say exactly what he likes about his beloved Hibs. Unfailingly however, he appraises the situation at Easter Road in a polite but assertive way, full of wisdom and know-how.

No wonder we call him ‘Saint Patrick’.

In the following article in The Scotsman, the subject matter is outwardly regarding Hibs’ impressive training facility at East Mains, a complex I’ve had the pleasure of looking around. Read on though to gather some illuminating general views from The Quiet Man, former captain and leader of the famous old Leith club.

Hibs should savour training facilities – Stanton

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC, Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

‘Microblogging’

People who know me will be aware that I’ve experienced some great sadness and a very traumatic event in my life recently. More of that another time perhaps when I feel ready to talk about it but in the meantime it has meant that an already slightly neglected The Tears of a Clown has suffered a complete lack of new additions recently.

This site has been a part of my life since August 2007 when I first decided to gather some of my previous scribblings and collate them together in one place and further, to add new material at regular intervals. It has always been my attention to continue it for the longest time, particularly as so many people tell me they read it. The diagnostics page happily backs up those anecdotal views too.

So, what to do?

I have little doubt in my mind that I will return to subjecting the online world to regular postings (whether it likes it or not!) but I’d like to ‘warm-up’ again with a few shorter blogs. Sort of like stretching the (cyber) legs once more.

‘Persevere’ – the ancient motto of Leith

Wikipedia defines microblogging as a medium that ‘allow users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences, individual images, or video links’. Perhaps it’s most well-known example is Twitter. I’ll try in these early days returning to the keyboard to do just a little better than one hundred and forty characters. I realise that I do my share of attempting to add a pithy, interesting or amusing comment here or there on Facebook or Twitter itself, so why not here indeed?

Please bear with me and I hope, in time, to add some worthy articles on my favourite hobby horses of sport (Hibs in particular), history, music, travel and general interest and tomfoolery which I hope you’ll enjoy perusing.

As always, thank you for reading…and your patience.

Stuart

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Old Children’s Hospital, Nottingham

I came across a reference to the old Children’s Hospital at Forest House recently and it brought quite a few childhood memories rushing back. I managed somehow to get myself knocked down (well up in the air actually) by a beefy Ford Consul when I was a kid and ended up a guest in said institution. When I eventually landed it was with two broken legs, one in three places, and concussion plus a few sundry cuts and bruises for good measure. I recall being upside down in the air and seeing my shoe flying up the street. I also remember then doggedly trying to drag myself to my feet using a bus stop to hold on to and looking down to see my leg bend in the wrong place. They carted me off to ‘The Children’s’ in an ambulance where I remained for a week. With physiotherapy (learning to walk again basically) my young association with that hospital lasted a year though.

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I was terrified of the place but they looked after me very well (I’ve gone on to run a few marathons as an adult so they did pretty well I guess!) but I was scared stiff of the building and the unknown in there as I thought they were going to take my legs away for good. I remember this below above so well, being taken for physiotherapy there  by my mum.

The kindest, kindest man, a jolly West Indian doctor, looked after me and made me smile – even though he was tasked with re-breaking my legs twice in operations as they had knitted crookedly. On another failed occasion they sawed the long plaster casts half through at the shins and banged wooden pegs in the gaps to straighten my legs. Looking back it was like something out of a Hammer horror movie. I wish I could thank that kindly doctor today though.

March 10, 2014 Posted by | On The Road, Times Gone By | , | Leave a comment

The Skylark – Sunshine turned into Song

IN THE DEPTHS OF WINTER it is good to remind ourselves of long, hot summer days. Some of the nicest of those days for me are when I am out walking in the countryside, with all the sights, sounds and sensations of the hills, fields and woodlands. One of my favourite sounds is the inimitable song of the Skylark, usually followed by a long peer up into the atmosphere for a welcome sighting of this beautiful creature that gives so much joy.

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There are many different kinds of lark but perhaps the one that comes to mind most memorably for people is the Skylark. Without daring to find out I am sure that Vaughan Williams had this little bird in mind when he wrote his uplifting The Lark Ascending, particularly in the way it flies very high, almost out of sight, together with its attractive signature song. It’s song has been described as ‘sunshine turned into song’, quite rightly.

You can listen to a little sunshine here:

Skylark song

January 3, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC, Ripping Yarns | , , | Leave a comment

John Archibald Frew

My dad, John Archibald Frew, originally of Musselburgh, Scotland died thirty years ago this New Year’s Day, just after midnight on January 1st, 1984, shortly after I’d celebrated the bells with him.

Consequently, this time of year is never easy – even after all these years. In those early years afterwards it haunted me.
There’s never a day passes when I don’t think of him, all he imparted to his son, the lessons he taught me. I can still hear the soft tones of his voice any time I care to listen in my mind. That last night we were together during the celebrations I kissed him during the celebrations, the first time since being a little boy.

Photo: My dad, John Archibald Frew, originally of Musselburgh, Scotland died thirty years ago today just after midnight on January 1st, 1984, shortly after I'd celebrated the bells with him. 

Consequently, this time of year is never easy - even after all these years. In those early years afterwards it haunted me. 

There's never a day passes when I don't think of him, all he imparted to me, the lessons he taught me. I can hear the soft tones of his voice any time I care to listen in my mind.

John was the product of a very hard background. Poverty meant that he often went without shoes on his feet as a bairn. It toughened him as hard as teak for the trials he would go through subsequently. Let it not be ignored though that he could show rare wisdom and at times be a very funny man indeed. 

He strived for a living in pits in Scotland as a young boy, working all day long in water. He worked on Scapa Flow then travelled the world as a proud Merchant Seaman. The German U-Boats tried their best but couldn't kill him in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

For the year coming, he would have been proud, I know, to think that the country he loved so, could have the opportunity to stand alone and look after itself.

My dad was my rock and his memory remains that to this day. I owe him much.

Fond memories.

John Archibald Frew 1921-1984 'Life's work well done'.

John was the product of a very hard background. Poverty meant that he often went without shoes on his feet as a bairn. As infants in Musselburgh he and his brother slept in makeshift beds made from the drawers of an old chest. The wee boy’s mammy, Elizabeth, died when he was just four years old. Those early life experiences toughened him as hard as teak for the trials he would go through subsequently. Let it not be ignored though that he could show rare wisdom and at times be a very funny man indeed. People told me he was a most popular and loved man in the town we lived. Wherever he walked he would speak to all and greet them cheerily as an old friend.

As a youngster he had a roaming spirit and attempted to ‘run away’ from home on many occasions. Later on he was to steadily save the money on returned ‘jeely jars’ and acquire himself a ramshackle bicycle with which he cycled from Lanarkshire to Doncaster in England before falling off the bike during the monumental journey and sleeping, exhausted, in a deep ditch for the night. A passing policeman helped him out of there in the morning when he woke.

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He strived for a living in the pits of Scotland as a young boy of just fourteen, working all day long on his hands and knees in water. He then worked on the Scapa Flow naval base on Orkney with his dear brother Alex ‘Sandy’, before travelling the world as a proud Merchant Seaman. The German U-Boats tried their best on those horrific runs but couldn’t kill him in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

For the year coming, he would have been proud, I know, to think that the country he loved so, could have the opportunity to stand alone and look after itself.

My dad was my rock and his memory remains that to this day. I owe him much.

Fond memories.

John Archibald Frew 1921-1984 ‘Life’s work well done’.

January 2, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , | Leave a comment

Five Leaves Bookshop – The Road to Independence

During the 1990s in particular, the High Streets of this country largely lost their small independent bookshops which for most true book lovers was a great shame. I remember prior to those days the likes of Mushroom a co-operative run bookshop in Nottingham’s Hockley area, my first purchase there being the Communist Party Manifesto if I recall correctly! There were other similar interesting little outlets too.

shop_ext

It’s recently come to my attention that Nottingham now owns a brand-new independent retailer, ‘The Five Leaves Bookshop’ situated centrally in the city on Long Row. Five Leaves have been doing very good things in this part of the world for some time and are to be applauded for this fresh enterprise. I intend a visit on my next trip into the city and humbly suggest others check this new business out too. No, I’m not on commission, I’m a lover of literature and reading and what these things bring to our lives. I’d like to see this trend for small independent booksellers grow here in Nottingham and other cities and towns.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | Leave a comment

The Tears of a Clown – 2013 in Review

AT THIS TIME of year, this blog’s host prepares a nifty resume of the past year. A few interesting facts (to me at least) one being that I REALLY need to write a little more in the coming year. Here’s hoping.

Stuart

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | | Leave a comment

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