Saturday, April 08, 2006

Colonel Moseley's Least Favourite Things

What ho! Yesterday I was enjoying a Mr Kipling bakewell slice after Countdown and idly thumbing through a few back editions of Birmingham 13. Although I had been trying hard to eschew cynicism and giving constructive advice on topics ranging from weddings to problems at work, I noted that the by-line of my column had descended from an encouraging “Moseley Musings” to “Moseley Moaner” and even “Blah, Blah, Blah”. As Kenneth Williams once said “Charming!” – or was it “Ooooh, matron”?

Anyway, I drew this to the attention of the Mem who advised that I should write something in keeping with my feisty by-line. Although I couldn’t stretch to the vituperation of Julie Birchell, I must admit I rather fancied myself as the iconoclastic Will Self of Oxford Road, so here are my current ten least favourite things:

Smoking: I’m in favour of personal freedom, so do what you please unless it harms somebody else or frightens the horses. For the life of me, however, I can’t see why anyone should be forced to breathe in someone else’s smoke against their will.
Metro-sexuals: I first noticed this when the Mem kept going on about that wonderful David Beckham and AA Gill and remarking on their immaculate grooming and “lovely skin”. For some reason, it seems that ladies of a certain age are impressed and attracted by the sight of straight chaps in a sarong with a working knowledge of moisturisers or able to wax wittily about molecular gastronomy at the Fat Duck at Bray. It’s all very unsettling.
The Deputy Prime Minister: I don’t want to comment about easy targets like the Blairs, so what about this man? Leaving inarticulacy and fisticuffs aside, can anyone tell me what The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has achieved or any good stemming from policies on regional assemblies in England or building on the green belt?
Supporting Birmingham City: if you are a genuine football fan, once you have a team, it’s yours for life. However hard you try, Saturday nights are made better or worse by that day’s result. In the case of the Blues, it’s always been tricky, but so far this season it’s been misery with no remission. Can anything be done about that gypsy curse?
Smug cyclists: some cyclists do it for environmental reasons, some for fitness… but some because it’s really cheap.
Winterbreak - political correctness gone mad: I believe that a wider knowledge of diverse cultures and beliefs will increase understanding and prospects of peace. Multi-culturalism, however, doesn’t require the renaming or deletion from the public calendar of festivals, such as Christmas. All faiths should be celebrated authentically with offence to no-one.
Middle-aged trendies : men past 45 should avoid brightly coloured waistcoats, cheeky-chappie bow ties, small ethnic woollen hats, novelty socks, ties and tee shirts and all Lycra, especially cycling shorts.
Wrapping – not Eminem, packaging: I don’t think it’s just advancing years, but should it really be so hard to open a milk carton, vacuum-packed 13 amp plug or container of soup?
Manic mothers: assertiveness on the school run in very large 4 x 4's is a worry to lesser mortals : I know it’s tough, but please slow down.
Close votes: in every viewer’s vote on TV, whether it’s Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing on Ice, it’s invariably “too close to call”. We all know it’s actually about maximising income, so come off it, Davina, Brucie or whoever….

I’m afraid whiskers on kittens didn’t make the list, but then I’m not exactly Julie Andrews. Pip, pip!

*this piece also appeared in Birmingham 13


Friday, April 07, 2006

Profile: who is Colonel Moseley?

Colonel Moseley – retired and daring to give advice

Until recently, Wilfred Moseley was Managing Director of Moseley Engineering. He now lives comfortably in retirement with his long-suffering wife Letty – affectionately called “The Mem” - at Moseley Towers just off Oxford Road in the leafy and multicultural suburb of Moseley in Britain’s proud second city of Birmingham.

Letty and her twin Bunty came from a good Warwickshire county family – the Tittertons of Snitterton - and were well versed in a range of country pursuits, particularly riding.

A shared love of horses gave Wilfred and Letty something in common on meeting at a tennis party between the wars. After marrying in Birmingham, the young Subaltern Moseley took his pretty bride back to his Cavalry Regiment in Poona for many happy years.

Now making the most of his retirement after promotion to Colonel and a lucrative subsequent career in component engineering, Wilfred fills his days at Moseley Towers. He is found useful tasks by the Mem and enjoys simple pleasures ranging from avoiding family gatherings to eating Mr Kipling country slices whilst watching Countdown most afternoons.

Keen to give something back to the community, the Colonel also submits helpful articles on a range of issues to local neighbourhood magazines and equestrian publications. His extensive body of work includes the insightful portrait of life in livery in a yard in the leafy Vale of Vaysey owned by an old school-friend of the Mem's, snappily entitled, "Bunty Pargeter's Lazy Pastures".


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Colonel Moseley on Motoring

Today, I want to share with you my thoughts on some of the things on the road that really increase my blood pressure. My current top ten objects of irritation, if not loathing and derision are:

1. Suburban mum on a weekday morning causing traffic congestion by chauffeuring Angelica-Louise and Tristan to school in an enormous Edgbaston tractor, aka a 4 x4.

2. The same suburban mama causing more mayhem on Saturday morning in the same huge gas guzzler, frantically late, taking Angelica-Louise and Tristan from mini-rugby and jazz-tap to riding lessons,

3. Salesmen in the outside lane, mobile glued to the ear, with three shirts hanging up in the back, suddenly appearing close-up in your rear view mirror and flashing their headlights to overtake,

4. HGV drivers who never signal before pulling out and spend forever in the centre lane overtaking,

5. Motor bikes with engines tuned to be painfully loud,

6. Any car or lorry driver, motor biker or cyclist who is rude or inconsiderate to horses or pedestrians using the road responsibly,

7. Drivers who stay in the outside lane after road narrowing signs and force their way in at the very last minute, thus increasing the delay for those politely getting into lane earlier

8. All caravanners, with or without trilby or flat cap

9. Mile after mile of coned-off motorways with no work going on, and

10. Absolutely anyone driving a Nissan Micra, anywhere at any time!

Anyway, safe driving, peddling, riding, walking or whatever. Pip. pip!

* a version of this piece first appeared in Birmingham 13

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Colonel Moseley on Christmas

Here is a Yuletide piece....bah, humbug!

What ho, ho, ho ! Festive Greetings to one and all. I'm not sure whether in this day and age, I am permitted to single out Christmas or whether I should greet you inter-denominationally and include additional felicitations for Divali and Hanukkah. Alternatively, perhaps I should substitute secular greetings, in which case "Festive impending Winterbreak" to all readers.

The Mem is up to her armpits in tinsel and stuffing and has sent me out of the way to the study with a mulled pink gin. I thought I would use the time to share with you my thoughts on the impending annual ritual: so here are my top ten gripes and objects of derision on Christmas:

1. It starts too early - just after the shelves at Sainsbury's are cleared of Easter eggs,

2. Exchanging Christmas cards with scores of people with whom you never have any contact is mindless and expensive,

3. Most Christmas gifts are pointless and costly; the process epitomizes precisely the opposite of the values that Christmas is supposed to promote,

4. Family Christmas newsletters are formulaic, boastful and yet another unfortunate import from America; they should be sent back together with Halloween, Father's Day, sleepovers, family values and therapy,

5. Supermarkets in the week before Christmas are a zoo - and that's being unfair to zoos,

6. Christmas facilitates family get-togethers; these events are unnecessary and stressful. Lubricated by resentment and drink, they usually end in tears and often in breakdown or divorce,

7. Similarly office parties promote unnatural proximity, familiarity and even abandon with objects of loathing, fear or lust; they amount to a heady cocktail of anger, alcohol and lechery and frequently end in tears, a brawl or redundancy,

8. Too many people nowadays seem to aspire to the vacuous celebrity/Hello magazine version of Christmas, where Cilla, Dale and Michael Winner exchange gifts in diamante by the pool at Sandy Lane; they are sad and deluded,

9. Christmas is overrated and fattening. Like the Titanic, it's too costly and too long, but still holds a morbid fascination, and

10. To risk stating the obvious, most of us have lost sight of the whole point of Christmas.

I hope you survive it and enjoy the Happiest of New Years. Pip, pip!!

*this piece first appeared in Birmingham 13

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Colonel Moseley on Holiday Airflights

What ho! Gloomy old time of year, what? These cold grey winter days are rather depressing with only Carol Vorderman to brighten up that dull period between lunch and the first snorter of the evening.

The Mem and I spend a lot of time just now poring over the seed catalogues and loads of brochures from Damart, Thingies of Stow and Saga. They seem to be the only things, other than brown envelopes, to come through the letterbox each morning.

To counteract the black dog or seasonal affected disorder or whatever it’s now called, the Mem and I debate where to holiday in the coming year. I call it a debate; it’s actually a chat before we agree to go where and when the Mem wants.

Everyone must agree that holiday brochures lie. Sea and skies are never that blue, views are never that perfect and one’s fellow revellers are never that attractive. My absolute bete noir on the subject of holidays, however, is holiday airlines; here are my top ten gripes:

1. At the best of times air travel is tiresome and debilitating. On package holidays the problems are compounded many times over and it takes forever. It may take less than two hours to fly to the Balearics but you have to deal with the motorway system to get to the airport and check in several hours before take off,
2. At the worst of times air travel is impossible. Assuming you can get to the airport on time, check- in queues may be monstrous and flight delays interminable, especially when the French air traffic controllers or baggage handlers strike, as they seem to do every summer. The discomfort of delays on the way back in sticky foreign holiday airports with insufficient seating and dubious sanitation is infinitely worse,
3. If you do succeed in pre-booking and paying extra for a seat at the front with additional legroom and reassuring proximity to the exit, you are subjected to muttering and malevolent stares from less far-sighted passengers boarding and throughout the flight,
4. Aircraft lavatories are disgusting fairly soon after takeoff and the queues are humiliating,
5. Without extra legroom, seating on holiday flights is cramped, uncomfortable and, with the threat of DVT, potentially life-threatening. This discomfort is augmented by knees in the back from behind and concussion when the tired and emotional passenger in front reclines violently to the fullest extent as soon as possible after takeoff,
6. The charm of the staccato drumming of children’s sharp little feet in the small of the back throughout the flight and their constant screaming escapes me,
7. Holiday aircraft food – beef or salmon – is utterly revolting,
8. Many of one’s fellow passengers, modelling shell suits, ear-rings and tattoos (including the men) appear to be able to take the whole extended family on holiday in the Mediterranean several times a year on benefit, child allowance, the fruits of the black economy or crime. To put it politely, not a great deal of taxed income appears to be spent,
9. Cabin crew are, at best, disinterested and, at worst, downright rude. They are only concerned to get through the “service” of food and drink quickly so as to get onto the more profitable business of selling overpriced perfume, pens and inflatables and then gossiping in the galley,
10. Luggage is often misdirected, delayed, damaged, pilfered or just lost. There is a special final humiliation at the very end of your holiday in waiting at the carousel until everyone else has collected their luggage and gone. You then watch the carousel go round and round empty apart from a solitary beach umbrella and cardboard box tied with string, wearily knowing that out of three hundred cases only yours has been lost. You must queue up yet again to persuade someone to speak to you. You are then permitted to fill up a form on the off-chance that the case containing a fortnight’s washing may turn up: a fitting end to the holiday flight experience

It looks like Eastbourne again this year. I think I just have time to write to Mrs Miggins at the Braemar before Countdown starts. Pip, pip!!

*this article first appeared in Birmingham 13

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Colonel Moseley on Family Gatherings

What ho! Funny time of year, December. The approaching festivities seem to give rise to perverse desires and practices. They range from drinking advocaat, not normally to be touched with a very long (and appropriately Dutch) barge pole, to an implausible wish to “see more of the family”.

I guess I should have seen it coming. Yesterday afternoon, just after Countdown, the Mem decided it was opportune to dust off the Christmas card list. Understandably, my resistance was at its most feeble after my weekday dose of the lovely Ms Vorderman. She had coyly shared a particularly brilliant solution to 931 using six small ones, but I digress.

I really ought to have known better. As the Mem, apparently casually, ran through the list with suggestions for inclusion and exclusion, in my reverie I distractedly said “Yes” and “No, M’ dear” in what I thought were the right places. Before I knew it, I had negligently agreed to entertain the Mem’s sister Bunty, her dull husband and their brood for the whole of Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Thus was a prospectively pleasant, relaxed and solitary Yuletide converted to tribal misery. Let this be a warning to all, of the heavy price to be paid for too deep an absorption in even the most attractive and numerate of daytime TV presenters.

This also leads me to share with you my top ten insights into the use of mild deception at family gatherings and how to make more effective use of your status as “elderly”:

1. Like cold-sores and Morris dancing, family gatherings are best avoided if at all possible. To do so full use can be made of excuses and white-ish lies. Favourites include: illness, simulated or exaggerated, bereavement, distant and unverifiable, urgent business afar, broken-down cars, inclement weather and acts of God. It is important that the option selected is plausible. It is sensible to keep a list of those used to avoid repetition giving rise to suspicion,
2. If attendance is unavoidable, it should be limited to the shortest time possible. This may be flagged up in advance, on arrival or more dramatically by a prearranged ‘phone call requiring one’s immediate attendance elsewhere. Again, it is prudent to keep a record of circumstances used to avoid any duplication another time,
3. Cover up your complete inability to remember the names of family members by using your own mode of address for everyone. In my case it’s “my dear” for the ladies and “old boy” for the chaps. Done correctly, this manages to be practical and yet endearing at the same time,
4. Sleep is a great comfort during long days en famille. Whether genuine or feigned, it provides a break from the interminable conversation. With advancing years this refuge of the terminally bored is tolerated and even expected,
5. Tedious tasks such as looking through family photo albums or playing board games can be avoided by “accidentally” leaving one’s spectacles at home. In extremis, they can be broken in situ, but this is an expensive final resort and to be saved for cases of desperate need,
6. Watch out for the “nephew and niece promoters”. They are ruthless, devious and persistent. If you are childless and reasonably solvent, even if not actually well-heeled, you are likely to be targeted by the cash poor and child rich and encouraged to bond with tiny Torquil or Petunia. This is done in the hope that the little beasts will feature in your will, or at least, that you will fund their gap years abroad. Such predators should be avoided or put off with protestations of poverty and, if necessary, hints of prior claims from a string of illegitimate heirs in Torquay,
7. Family bores can safely be ignored by faking deafness. Certain large national health hearing aids give added authenticity to this deception and can be converted to radio reception, enabling one to tune into the cricket instead of the family,
8. Only regular practice will enable one not to cause embarrassment by compulsively mentioning any of the one’s relatives’ afflictions, ranging from hare lips and lazy eyes to flatulence and obesity. Happily, occasional faux pas are allowed by the elderly and even considered quaint,
9. Feigned infirmity can be used to avoid tiresome family rituals such as the birdie song, conga, charades, karaoke and long country walks to build up an appetite. Any mention of a hip replacement or flash of a surgical boot is as good as a note from mother to get off PE, and
10. Above all, truth has very little part to play at family gatherings. Like Christmas newsletters, the role of conversations with relatives is to perpetuate comforting myths and give the deluded the strength to carry on. Topics where it is acceptable to blur the truth beyond recognition include fidelity, wealth, career prospects, weight, looks, age, sexual prowess and, most particularly, happiness.

I hope that helps. If you have to grow old, do it disgracefully. Pip, pip!

*this piece first appeared in Birmingham 13

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Colonel Moseley on Weddings

What ho! Spring seems to be on its way, judging by the snowdrops in the garden and the slap of wedding invitations onto the mat when postie calls each morning – or rather early afternoon most days, but that’s another issue altogether. Presently the mantelpiece in the morning room at Moseley Towers is awash with stiffies. The Mem and I seem to be invited to the impending nuptials of half of South Birmingham and surrounding counties.

It takes me back to my younger days – a time before Carol Vorderman took Maths “O” level. I remember being a young subaltern, back on leave from India and first catching sight of the Mem at a tennis party somewhere off Oxford Road. Letty Titterfield, of the Snitterfeld Titterfields, was a beauty and quite a catch. She caught my eye playing doubles with her sister Bunty. Later she offered me seed cake at tea and that was that: there followed courting for six months, a year’s engagement, three dinner services, several toast-racks, marriage in St Mary’s and a sit-down wedding breakfast for one hundred and fifty at the Plough and Harrow. Then off we went to start wedded bliss in married quarters with the Regiment in Poona.

Sadly, wedding planning seems to involve as much forward planning, stress and sheer terror for all concerned as the D Day Landings. It seems unfair that no campaign medals are awarded in recognition. Although my views on its logistics and consequences may have tarnished somewhat since my own Great Day, I still feel able to share with you my top ten tips and pointers on weddings:

1. Always look at the prospective bride’s mother. It may not be conclusive, but it’s often a good indicator of what’s in store as regards looks and attitude,
2. Try to hold the stag or hen night at least a week before the big day. This should allow enough time for cuts and bruises to heal, hangovers or even alcoholic poisoning to be treated, bail to be arranged and groom, or perhaps the bride, to be shipped back from Tierra del Fuego,
3. Avoid little-known hymns at the service. Fewer folk go to church nowadays and an unknown, tuneless dirge or embarrassing, happy-clappy, folk-rap hymn only adds to the discomfort and feeling of desperate unfamiliarity,
4. Clapping in church when the knot has been tied is not very English,
5. Get a professional photographer or video maker. Do not entrust Uncle Norman to create your record for posterity. Unless you are very lucky, he will screw it up,
6. Make a conservative choice of best man. Better a dull but competent best man’s speech than an amusing but controversial account of premarital sex and other lurid, past dalliances,
7. On the whole brides should avoid crinolines, ra-ra skirts, Doc Martens, exposed mid-drifts, fluffy mules, piercings, tattoos and anything resembling or that could be described as a “meringue” or “blancmange”,
8. Couples should be dissuaded from writing their own vows. Such expressions of intent are usually nauseatingly sentimental and recklessly optimistic. Just because they say such things on “Friends” does not mean they play well in Birmingham 13,
9. Avoid serving or drinking cheap and nasty sherry, wine or champagne at the Reception. It only ends in tears, nasty stains and probably a fight. It’s better to supply or consume less of something decent and, beyond that, to have a pay bar, and
10. Consider avoiding the whole grisly business, saving the money to use as a deposit on a house and eloping to Gretna Green or St Lucia.

The Mem instructs me to express the hope that this should not put you off the fine institution of matrimony. I need a drink. Chin, chin!!

*this piece first appeared in Birmingham 13

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Colonel Moseley on Leaving Do's and Don'ts

What ho! After my concerted effort to be constructive about trouble at work in my previous article, I seem to be in the Mem’s good books. Last night I was allowed three glasses of red with dinner. This pro bono approach clearly has its advantages. Hopefully this month’s even more helpful advice might be worth a few glasses of port and perhaps a cigar.

Leaving jobs can take many forms. In my day you tended to join a firm and stay until you retired with a few promotions in between. Leaving do’s tended to be a finger buffet in the boardroom marked by a speech from the Chairman and the presentation of a clock from the company and garden furniture paid for by a whip round amongst soon-to-be-former colleagues. This was followed by a tentative and emotional speech in response by the tearful but relieved retiree. In some cases the retiree’s good lady was wheeled to partake of the sausage rolls and sherry and to be given a bouquet.

Nowadays employees seem to be more mobile and companies are much more ruthless about chopping off dead wood. As a rule, staff leaving due to dismissal or naked ambition to move on after twelve months to get a Mondeo instead of a Clio, don’t merit a leaving do.

Redundancy or other culling at any age over 50 is generally masked as “early retirement” and is usually further camouflaged by a do. Such occasions always generate a myriad of conflicting emotions, unspoken anger and seething angst. Here are my top ten tips to cope with the termination process, including the “leaving do”:

1. Always take the precaution of saying what leaving present you would prefer before the collection is completed. If you want a Mont Blanc and there’s only enough in the kitty for a Platignum, hopefully the company will feel honour-bound to make up the considerable shortfall,
2. Be careful how much you drink; you know what they say about “in vino veritas”. The leaving do is a place for many things, but veritas is not one of them,
3. Always try to get someone who likes you to make the speech about you. Like the vicar officiating at your funeral, that person may not know you but should preferably at least get your name right,
4. Accept the fact the majority of people attending your do will be from accounts and completely unknown to you. Always remember, they have given to your collection and are entitled to as many sausages on sticks and glasses of Jacobs Creek as they can sink,
5. Take great care in preparing your farewell speech. Do not make jokes unless you are good at it,
6. Try to avoid most of the following: foul language, slander, break dancing, tears, conjuring tricks, any threat of violence, and group hugs,
7. Remember that what you do not say can be just as potent as what you do say. A thoughtful tribute to colleagues who have been kind and helpful will magnify the impact of failure to thank or even mention a line manager who has made your life a misery. Most of your audience are well versed in what has been going on and will get the message,
8. Do not do anything which will impact on any outstanding reference or compensation,
9. If you do know where the bodies are buried, try not to forget; corporate memory may come in useful one day,
10. Once you have left, leave. There’s nothing sadder or more humiliating than someone who just has to keep coming back.

I hope that equips you to cope with the trauma of leaving; should be worth a port or two! Pip, pip!!

*this advice first appeared in Birmingham 13

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Colonel Moseley on Trouble at Work

What ho! Enjoying a cup of tea and a Mr Kipling country slice after Countdown yesterday, I was telling the Mem that I thought it was about time I explored political correctness.

She used the word “combustible” again, and went on to comment that my views were “ a tad grumpy”. “Couldn’t you try to be a little more constructive?” she said. Not being the sort of cove to resist a challenge, I thought I would dip into the wealth of experience gained from those years leading the troops in the Regiment and then at Moseley Engineering.

I appreciate that the world of work is now more and more a jungle. The days of a pleasant chat over the tea trolley and jobs for life are over. Now it’s all bullying in the workplace, stress induced illness and tribunals. So this month here are ten ways to know you’re in trouble at work. It’s probably time to take the hint, move on and change your job when your boss:

1. Never lets you finish a sentence,
2. Looks six inches above your head, never at your face,
3. Rejects all suggestions you make,
4. Forgets to invite you to any company functions,
5. Throws things at you,
6. Contradicts any statement you manage to make,
7. Removes the best parts of your job,
8. Kicks your desk and/ or filing cabinet,
9. Belittles any part of the job or achievement you consider important, and
10. Prefers anyone else to do your job, including the Chairman’s niece.

I hope that helps: even more constructive advice follows next time. Pip, pip!!

*this advice first appeared in Birmingham 13

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