Suddenly, out of the blue, something occurs that triggers off your memory mechanism and fires the neurons involved in the original experience.

You can't hear them, but they travel effortlessly, noiselessly across the vast emptiness that separates their world from ours. They creep into the optical fibre cables that criss cross their way into our homes and then, as if by magic, a miracle of modern technology converts them into an intelligible language and they come splashing out in alpha-numerical codes across our PC screen. 

Recently, in the last couple of years in fact, I went through this process three times. The original events occurred several decades ago and the memories came flooding back, bringing with them deep feelings of fondness and love and friendship, as the sound of laughter rang in my ears. But then again melancholy appeared and feelings of sadness and nostalgia crept in and an occasional tear escaped. Doesn’t time fly!

Technology! That’s what did it; modern technology in the shape of computers and associated tools and utilities such as facebook, twitter, linkedin, blogs, etc. If your name appears anywhere, you’re sure to be found!

The first one to trace me, about two years ago, was my best man – at my wedding! I hadn’t seen him since shortly after I got married, and though we corresponded for a year or two we soon lost contact as we both emigrated and got on with our separate lives.

Soon after, I got a mail from a woman asking me if I was the boy she’d played with when she was a teen in an African republic. I’d been there during the summer and was about 17 at the time. We were neighbours and did spend a lot of time together, swimming and partying, and generally behaving the way colonial kids behave. The holiday came to an end and I went back home to school. She stayed on with her family and later emigrated to another continent..

Finally, a few weeks ago, I got the shock of my life when I read a comment in my blog. Initially, I didn’t realise who it was from, but a second comment left me in no doubts. Someone, a very special someone, had read one of my posts and got in touch.

Now, so many years after we all parted, a new kind of contact has been restored, electronically, via email. Stories and pictures are exchanged and we reminisce about the experiences we shared and tell each other about the lives we lead. Hopefully in the future, meetings can be arranged and visits organised.

I thought I’d try and trace some of my school friends and work colleagues and found one big drawback: most girls of course have got married and changed their surnames!



This is neither about Ethel Mannin’s nor St Augustine’s books. It’s about an old woman I neglected during several years and whose memory haunts me even today. I last saw her on her death bed, in coma, surrounded by some of her children and grandchildren. The sight moved me to write this short poem:

The happy face
has gone,
and in its place
a line or two to mark the passing of the years.
The tears
like waterfalls have carved their way
and left their trace.

Tonight, sitting at my desk by the open window, refreshed by a cool Mediterranean breeze, after another hot summer day, I can’t help thinking about her quiet dignity and resignation in the face of the abysmal darkness that surrounded her. As I approach the twilight of my years, I realise what a phone call, or even a few lines, from time to time, would have meant for her.

Kennedy said: “Think not of what your country can do for you, but rather of what you can do for your country.”
I say: “Think not of what your parents can do for you, but rather of what you can do for your parents.”

I’m sorry, mum; so much more I could have done.



Having found an on-line publisher - lulu.com - and published one book already, the logical next step was to publish a second one (I've got another six in line!).

This one's called 'los doce garbanzos', which translated from the original Spanish means 'the twelve chick-peas'. The story takes place in Morocco, in a small village near Tangiers, where a young boy discovers, on the death of his father, the amazing power of faith. It highlights, above all, the values of culture and education.

The book was written mainly for adolescents, especially my grandson,... and for those who went through that difficult stage in years gone by.



After patiently pursuing publishers for half a decade, I must confess I was beginning to get a bit downhearted in view of the many rejects I got from them.  My agent, bless her heart, said the time was wrong, the industry was in a pitiful state, nobody wanted to risk their money on an unknown writer... I could go on!

A few months back I discovered an online-publisher who seemed to offer the ideal solution. I'm refering to lulu.com. So, I entered their blog and started to investigate, and lo and behold, I found it wasn't all that difficult. (If you're thinking of publishing you could do a lot worse than try them.)

Anyway, after  weeks of learning to cope with the tools they offer you - it really isn't difficult, it's just that I'm a slow learner! - I finally managed to put together a fairly decent piece of work. It's entitled: Historias de Ajedrez, and, yes, I'm afraid it's in Spanish!

It's a collection of short stories, - six in all, - revolving around chess. Those of you who have followed my blog will be familiar with my frequent references to this game/sport and my absolute devotion to anything relating to it. BUT it is not a technical book! I'm not really good enough for that...yet! As I said, it's just a few stories I've put together based on some of my experiences in the fascionating world of chess.

I'm now working on the English version, though it will be a few months before it's ready. In the meantime, if you're Spanish is good enough you might like to have a crack at it. You can go to http://www.lulu.com/ and type in my name in the search engine, or you can go straight to my author page: www.lulu.com/spotlight(joerahal.
Happy reading! 



Some people might think this is a daft question. I mean, how much space does a soul actually occupy? I don’t now if anyone has ever tried to calculate this, but I did read somewhere that a soul weighs about 21 grams. If that’s so, then it follows that it must take up some space.

But let’s just go back in time, a few thousand years, say, to the beginning of man. Is there a date for the creation of man? I mean, did God create man in the year… whatever BC? Or do we all agree that man evolved gradually over the ages. If the first possibility is true, then it should be reasonably easy to calculate, give o take a few hundred thousand years, how many people have seen the light of day between then and now. Consequently, we can also work out the maximum number of souls that could have gone to heaven in that time, assuming ALL HUMAN BEINGS HAVE HAD A SOUL.

However, if the second option is the correct one, then we must ask the following question:


The world population today is around 7 billion people. However, an estimate of the total number of people who have ever lived was prepared by Carl Haub of the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau in 1995, and subsequently updated in 2002; the updated figure totalled approximately 106 billion.


Well I can’t pretend to have the necessary skill or knowledge to answer that question, or any other, for that matter, related to souls. But I’d certainly sleep better if someone provided me with simple answers, in terms I can easily understand, to two questions that have been bothering me for some time now.


I searched the bible for an explanation and found 147 references to the word “soul”, but none of them throws any light on its real meaning. For those who want to read more on this subject, I recommend the following link with a complete on-line transcription of The New Jerusalem Bible :




It's difficult to believe this song dates back to the late sixties! Joni Mitchell looks at love and life and clouds from both sides and, in the end, finds she doesn't know any of them at all. I suppose,when all is said and done, we all reach the same conclusion. But how many of us can say it in such a beautiful fashion? Emma Thomson's performance during this song in "Love actually" is absolutely spellbounding. Here are the words - pure poetry. The video is further down, courtesy of http://www.youtube.com/ and CritiquesMaster. Thank you both
Bows and flows of angel hair/And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere/I've looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun/They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done/But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now/From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall/I really don't know clouds at all
Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels/The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real/I've looked at love that way
But now it's just another show/You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know/Don't give yourself away.
I've looked at love from both sides now/From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall/I really don't know love at all.
Tears and fears and feeling proud/ To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds/I've looked at life that way.
Oh but now old friends are acting strange/They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost but something's gained/In living every day.
I've looked at life from both sides now/From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall/I really don't know life at all.
I've looked at life from both sides now/From up and down and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall/I really don't know life at all.



Last night I saw a film, a most unusual japanese film called "Twilight Samurai". Spanish readers can find it under the title of "El ocaso del Samurai". The video that follows is the song featured at the end of the fim; a gentle, touching and yet simple melody sung beautifully by Yosui Inoue.

The Samurai code of honour is something which has fascinated me for as long as I can remember: duty above all, something that is somewhat rare these days when most seek personal gain and satisfaction.

Courtesy of www.youtube.com & The Holy Liberator - Thank you both



At first, when I read this in a tiny little section of a Spanish newspaper I thought it was an exagerated report of an isolated incident involving one or two domestic-service situations. After all, slavery was abolished in Great Britain in 1807.

However, I looked it up anyway and found to my horror that it involved twenty-four slaves, all men, and most of them British!

The gruesome details have been published
and can be seen even on youtube.com,
so there is no real need for me to reproduce them here.

What really worries me though is this:
Are British people so stupid as to become trapped into this sort of situation and become slaves against their will?
What about the neighbours?
This took place, allegedly, in Leighton Buzzard - Bedfordshire County - on a caravan site, with hundreds of other people living within earshot! 200 police were needed to arrest just five of the people responsible for this outrage on humanity.
I mean, if this was not so serious we'd laugh about it.

FOR CHRIST SAKE - WHAT KIND OF A COUNTRY IS THIS TURNING INTO? What kind of people are WE turning into that we can allow such practices to develop in our society?

FIFTEEN YEARS - that's right - 15 years! That's how long some of these men were kept as slaves!



Thousands of people out of work.
Speculators aggravating the economy.
Politicians more interested in votes than in social justice.
Big businesses striving for bigger profits than would seem just.
Our planet is fast going to pieces and no clear future appears on the horizon.
There's a clear lack of leadership in Europe.
There's a clear lack of leadership in the UK.
There's a clear lack of leadership in the world.
Is it really any wonder that thousands of people of all ages, of all races, of all political and religious beliefs come out onto the streets to protest against a rotten system that's destroying rather than building our social fabric. The death of
Mark Duggan, RIP, a father of four, at the hand of British Police,can only worsen the situation. British bobbies used to go unarmed in the past. Why this radical change of policy that puts guns in the hands of some, not all, trigger-happy individuals?
This is not an isolated national incident and must be seen in a global world context. We've seen it in Egypt, in Lybia, in Siria and we passed it off as only a protest by liberty seekers in under-developed countries. But then Spanish non-violent protesters took to the streets and marched onto the capital. A non-violent protest probably due to that countrry's tradition of violent suppression by its forces; a reminder of Franco's regime. And in Greece, too, we've seen massive protests. These are not backwards countries, but modern, democratic European states. Now London, at the heart of democracy. AND IT IS NOT GOING TO STOP THERE. I expect we'll see more protests in other European countries before the summer's out. Indeed it's going to be a hot, hot summer and I do hope a better and fairer society will rise out of the ashes of the fires that are burning in the hearts of our cities... and of our people.



When will the powerful minority stop exploiting the weak majority? 11th July - A SAD DAY in SREBRENICA!

Back in the early 16th century, over 200 people were executed by order of King Henry VIII as a result of what became known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Just like that! (Impressive picture taken fron the series "The Tudors") Among them were prominent members of the community, such as Robert Aske and a dozen peers of the realm, 50 odd monks and priests and over a hundred ordinary people, including women and children. An isolated incident? OF COURSE NOT.

History is plagued with thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of similar crimes against humanity, perpetrated by emperors, kings and rulers, dictators and generals; The last one, probably in Srebrenica, in 1995, when over 8,000 Bosnian males were slaughtered by the Serbian VRS army (Republika Srpska) under the command of General Ratko Mladić, currently being judged for his war crimes at the International Court in The Hague. Here’s what he said on TV at the time: "Today, the 11th of July 1995, is a great day for Serbia. We are in the town of Srebrenica. We offer this town to the Serbian nation in memory of the rising against the Turks. The time for revenge against the Moslems has arrived.”

Now, of course, Kings and Emperors do not have that kind of power anymore; at least not most of them, though they continue to posess great wealth and influence. And so do Large Multinationals, Newspaper, Arms and Oil Magnates, Presidents of Powerful Countries and Organisations, Military Generals, not to mention Drug Barons and White Slave and Prostitution Merchants, many, if not most, of whom have accumulated impressive fortunes on their way to, and especially at, the top of their profession. Many of them, if not most, have not been exactly scrupulous in their dealings and decisions. Just look at Murdoch and his “News of the World”. It is not enough to say sorry for something he knew was going on and which has caused so much distress. Nor does closing down the newspaper make the evil doing go away. Or look at Bush, Blair and Aznar. How many civilian deaths do they have on their conscience? AND THEY JUSTIFY IT!

And what is the common factor? What breeds such violence and disregard for human lives and human rights? Once upon a time, you could have said it was religion. But, NO, that’s just a smokescreen. As the song goes: “Money is the root of all evils”. Yes, the oldest of all reasons: MONEY, WEALTH.

King Henry VIII, through his faithful, and equally corrupt, Prime Minister, had no qualms about dissolving Catholic Monasteries. The revenues from the sales of the confiscated lands went to engross both Cromwell’s and the King’s pockets, as well as the treasury. Did the King sleep at night? Cromwell, of course, was eventually betrayed by his king and lost his head!

Murdoch’s permissive attitude led to more sales and revenues. I doubt that closing the newspaper will even dent his financial armour. Does he sleep at night?

Iraq and Afghanistan would never have suffered the beastly and (at least in the case if Iraq) illegal onslaught of the thousands of bombs and missiles they were subjected to had they not had huge reserves of oil and gas. I really don’t know where the arms engineers get their ideas from in order to design the thousand and one different weapons that enable such wicked and destructive power to be unleashed against helpless civilians. Do the three leaders, and the engineers, and the pilots, and the generals, and the remote control operators, and the spotters, and the arms manufactures get any sleep at night?

As for Mladić, I’m sure he slept reasonably well, in spite of the blood he shed, protected as he was by the highest authorities in his country, until it became politically and financially suicidal not to hand him over. How else could they join the European Union and reap the benefits? From the way he faced his victims’ relatives in court, it seems obvious he has no regrets; though I’m convinced he too finds it difficult to sleep at night in jail.

We, the workers, have slowly, very slowly, gained our rights and recovered our dignity only through repeated revolts and the willingness to suffer and, if necessary, die for our just cause. Whether we continue to allow others to exploit us or respect us is entirely in our hands.







I wonder if the descendents of those murdered during King Henry XIII’s “Pilgrimage of Grace” repression could now claim compensation. If they could, who would pay up, his descendents….or we, the workers, through our government?



Incredible as it may seem for a chess player of my modest level, my team won for the second time in three years the Catalan National league Championship - Second category - in Catalonia, Spain.

To do this we had to compete in a block of a hundred teams of eight players each, divided into 10 groups. First we came top in our group, and then, came through the various play-offs winning the finals 5-3.

Not bad for a team with three 60+ players, four 50-60 players, and only one player under 30!

Here's a photo of our team, taken just after the final game.

You can read the whole story by selecting and pasting the following link . It's in Catalan, I'm afraid, but I'm sure you can get Google to give you a reasonably accurate translation.





The following is the opening paragraph of the article refered to above, in the link.

Death toll from hospital bugs hits new high
More than 30,000 people have died after contracting the hospital infections MRSA and Clostridium difficile in just five years, official figures will show this week.

30,000 people! A full-scale war!

My sister had a heart attack, followed by a stent implant. She was sent home within a couple of days! My uncle had a similar experience a couple of months ago and suffered a massive heart attack the day after he was sent home! Both of them live in the South of England.

I live in Spain. I was admitted into hospital about a year ago with respiratory difficulties related to my heart problems. They replacd a stent within a couple of days and I felt like new. But, they kept me in hospital for nearly two weeks, most of the time under observation! I asked to be allowed to go home to play the final round of a chess tournament and they wouldn't hear of it!

What's happening back home? Have conditions really deteriorated so much since I last lived there? Can it be that the Spanish National Health Service is better than the British NHS? I'm approaching retirement and am having serious doubts about going back home....and not only because of the weather! For heaven's sake, is noone doing anything about this? We have the power to change governments and to reverse policies. Let's make full use of it. Bring back effective social policies. Reform and improve the NHS. Full, comprehensive social cover is perfectly compatible with some capitalist concepts. It is a right many have fought and died to secure and protect

Let's not retreat, but move forward in our traditional leading role of providers of what used to be refered to as the world's best welfare state.



Ever since I discovered her I have been an ardent fan of hers, even though I'm not a follower of that type of music. She has a unique way of combining two styles to produce the kind of music angels must surely play in heaven.

Do listen right through. Notice the unusual drum beat, the musical range of her extraordinary voice, the contrast produced by the rich, deep voices of the backing choir. Do listen... and then listen again. I'm sure you'll find it a very rewarding experience.

Here's the youtube link and, below it, the lyrics..

Quel cuor perdesti - per un miraggio.
Quel cuor tradisti - odiar di piu, non puo!
La mia voce senti - il suo dolor... o no ?
La tua spari, e io, pazza, t'aspetto!

Dimenticar... O non piu vivere
Ormai salvo... La notte... la notte... la notte...
Ah !...

Spente le stelle - Col pallido raggio di luna
Piange l'amore - Che si lancia come l'onda poi se ne va
Vuota, la notte - E la sua speranza breve
Ora sgorga l'amaro pianto - Un cuor ferito, disperato passa qua.

Dunque fuggisti - i sogni vuoti
Dunque perdersi - i brevi vortici

Dimenticar... etc.

Spente le stelle... etc.
Ah !...



Do I understand well? Does Stephen Hawking really claim that the universe created itself and, at the same time, that God exists; or at least that both of these theories are perfectly plausible and can co-exist? As a child, whenever I asked:"...and who created God, then?" I was told He had ALWAYS existed. It never occured to me then to ask:"WHERE?"

It's easy to imagine oneself in a room with a table on which someone has placed a completely void, transparent container which has been hermetically sealed, AND WE WAIT, AND WE WATCH FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN. Would THAT be the state before the universe came into being? No, because that container is itself INSIDE a space and, therefore, it is subject to the influences of that external space. No experiment could really reproduce the conditions that existed before The Creation because these external influences would always exist and we'd always be asking ourselves:"And WHERE DID ALL THIS TAKE PLACE?" Similarly, the Big Bang theory lends itself to the same questions: WHERE? and HOW?

But what about GOD? Here we also have two questions: WHO or WHAT is GOD? and again WHERE was, and is, HE? We don't need to ask HOW because we're speaking of GOD, to whom all is possible.

Now, some scientists have come up with another claim: The universe has its days counted. It cannot expand forever. Expand where? Where exactly IS the universe placed? Can we fathom an outer region with no limits into which this expansion is taking place? Because the moment you place limits, you're saying it's INSIDE. So, WHAT is OUTSIDE?

I'm not a scientist and do not pretend to throw light on these misteries. But neither am I stupid. Both main theories are based entirely on faith, faith in the existence of God, or faith in that scientists really do know what they're talking about. However, anyone can put forward untested and untestable theories.

So where does that lead us? Logically, to a third, and probably more fundamental, question which must remain "forever?" unanswered: - WHY?

If the possession of FAITH is essential in order to believe in something, then as far as I am concerned, I prefer to place my faith in God, even though I do not understand Him, for I know I will never be able to do so. Humans should be humbly thankful and grateful to He who gave us all. We should not be presumptuously questiomimg HIM and attempting to belittle HIM by putting forward ridiculous theories that seem to aim only at demonstrating how easy it must have been to create something out of nothing.



Pride, more often than not, is the culprit.

How often have we found ourselves in a situation that required swallowing one's pride and making the first move? I'm not talking about dignity or honour. I'm talking about simple, practical gestures that lead to reconcilliation. I know, 'cause I have sinned, too! More than once.

Age, however, gives you the privilege of being able to measure your actions in the light of your, and other people's, experience. If the loss is negligible, then of course we needn't worry too much. But if it hurts.... if it really hurts, then for the love of Mike, get on the phone and call. Call him, call her, call alcoholic anonymous, call your mother. For Pete's sake, CALL ANYONE THAT MATTERS.... but call!

This is a beutifully performed song by Lady Antebellum, a country group. Written and composed by D. Haywood, C. Kelly and H. Scott (components) and J. Kear, it illustrates the point rather nicely. (Courtesy of youtube.com and saxophonegirl13. Thank you both). Enjoy



Lately, I've been recalling my years at school, wondering what has become of my former schoolmates (We were the Post-War children who grew up with Dylan and the Beatles and read Mao's red book and answered the Student Revolution call and took the pill and won women's lib.). Most of them, I suppose, are approaching a well deserved retirement. Some lucky ones have already retired. A few, I imagine, have left us for good and I'm sure will be missed by their loved ones. How quickly these last fifty years have gone by and how much has been achieved in them: higher studies, holidays, romances, holidays, marriage, honeymoon, jobs, holidays, kids, fewer holidays, grandchildren, more holidays, and soon retirememnt - a permanent holiday. Is that the sum total of our lives?
I want to feel

- that we've left our mark, somewhere along the line,
- that we aren't going to simply disappear,
- that, along with our genes, we'll have transmitted something of importance to our future generations, our descendents,
- that, on the way, we'll have touched some lives, each with his/her own special magic,
- that, if we've been lucky and blessed with talents, perhaps we'll have also managed to leave behind something tangible, of substance, maybe some love letters, or a book, or a song, or a painting,
- and LOVE. Oh, yes! LOTS OF LOVE, along with the memories.

As I recall my years at school, I browse through my photograph album, read my schoolboy diary, some letters that have somehow survived this last half-century, and I feel a nostalgic smile forming as my lips murmur, first a name, then another.

The school, ALL HALLOWS ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOOL in FARNAHM, SURREY, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year (Hopefully, I'll be able to make the trip and get together again with friends from the past), so, I'm putting together a special record of events, as I recall them. IF YOU WERE THERE, during its first five years, and have any documents of any sort that you'd like to share, feel free to contact me. I'd love to include them.

A couple of photographs on the left. The one at the top of this article shows Mr Doyle, the first Headmaster, wearing his usual black toga and heading, seemingly in a hurry, for the playground.



It's back, again.

I came here looking for the sun and now I find I hate roasting in it!

I really can't stand the oppressive summer heat, the sweat slowly dripping from my brows, the shirt sticking to my back, the constant thirst and need to refresh myself, the packed beaches and the flying sand that penetrates every pore in my body, the polluted Mediterranean waters full of jelly-fish and domestic waste - shall I go on?

So, when the long-awaited, by others, holidays finally arrive, I choose to sleep during the day and thus escape from the harmful ultra violet rays and the hot temperatures that bathe the country when the sun is out, and, like vampires and bats, I come out at night.

Of course, I don't go round sucking blood and transforming my fellow human beings into nearly perfect replicas of Count Dracula. No, no, that's not for me, thank you. I'm quite happy with my present low fat, low salt, and low sugar diet. I prefer to sit at one of the numerous "terrazas" that most bars offer these days and sip an iced coffee or a Martini Rosso. I watch the scene and try to absorb every detail; the colourful summer - and usually very sparse - clothes, the continuous to and fro, the excerpts of conversation I snatch here and there, the fragrance of the different perfumes and eau de colognes Spaniards love to spray on themselves before going out (and frequently even whilst they are out), or engage in pleasant conversation with the numerous friends I've made since coming to live here over twenty-five years ago.

Then, in the early hours of the morning, when the bars have finally pulled their metal shutters down and everyone has departed, I make my way home, sometimes, especially if the Martini was particularly good, following a slight detour, and sit at my computer to play a few games of "blitz" chess before starting to write.

The choice is wide: something new, something already started, something finished and in need of revision, a piece of poetry, some ideas I jot down, an e-mail, or two, a new article for my blog, and always music in the air, soft classical music, usually. And coffee, or tea.

But, unlike bats and vampires, I don't crawl back to the profound darkness of my cave when the first golden rays of the morning sun appear. I go on with my self-imposed task. I continue till I feel the first effects of its warmth raising my body temperature. Then I know the time is right. I draw the shutters and close the windows, lest the outside temperature invades and disturbs the coolness of my seclusion. I have a hot shower, followed by a cool one, and, having discarded my bathrobe and dried myself thouroughly, I lie naked on the white cotton sheet of my wider-tan-average bed and turn the light out.

Autumn is just a little nearer.



In the words of an old Elvis Presley hit:"It was a night, what night it was, it really was such a night!"I only just got the photos, which is why I hadn't posted anything before.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, back in February, one of my courses ended and the students suggested having dinner together to celebrate. Well, I always enjoy an evening out with my students, and in this case even more so because they were all women, ALL young, and ALL attractive. Wow! Was it going to be fun!

We met at 9 pm at the local "Vienna", where we ordered a wide variety of goodies. I had a small salad, a chicken roll and a Diet Coke. We talked, we laughed, we cracked jokes, we recalled special moments in class. Some of them showed photos of their children, we exchanged gossip and, in general, a good time was had by all.

At about 11 o'clock, one of them suggested going on to a bar for drinks, so I took them to a friend's bar - a Heavy Metal bar, I should stress - to help him out a little as times are a bit hard at the moment. We piled up into a couple of cars and headed for the joint. When we got there, there were exactly six guys inside! Well, it was a Thursday night! Naturally, he was delighted to see me arriving with a bevy of beautiful maidens and was already counting the "Cuba Libres" he expected to sell. Anyway we all crowded around some stools near the stage and placed our orders.

Just then a couple of guys went on stage with their guitars, and a third one sat at the drums.
That night was "Jam Session" night, so we were going to have some live music. After about forty-five minutes, my friend came and said he was going on the drums and would I like to go on stage. Well, I'm not Elvis, or anything like that, but I do give a reasonably good rendering of one or two of his songs. However, they wanted to play something with a bit of a beat so I suggested an old Black Crowes number with a simple chord sequence: SHAKE YOUR MONEY MAKER - you can listen to them live at the following youtube.com link:

By then, the place started to fill up, though not excessively. The girls couldn't believe I was going on stage so they all crowded in the front, forcing the rest of the drinkers, well, the shorter ones, to stand on their toes or a stool. Anyway, no sooner had I launched into the song that a scream was heard, then another, an another. The girls literally went "beserk". One of them got on stage to hug me, another tugged at my sweater (well, it was february and there was no heating on), while the others danced frenetically and screamed. The public couldn't stop laughing and pointing at them. Nevertheless, THEY ALL CLAPPED ON AND ON when I'd finished!

Later on, the mood quietened down a bit and I gave them my very own version of Hank Williams's classic "Your Cheating Heart", a favourite at parties, I might very modestly add (See youtube.com for an Elvis Presley version):

By about 2.30 in the morning I was absolutely shagged out. The girls started to get their bags and coats and called over "Are you coming with us". I said "Sure. Which one of you is taking me home?"· "Home?" they replied, "We're not going home. We're off to the all night disco!" Well, I think you can guess what my answer was... so I won't print it here.



I've been living away from home for so long now that I honestly don't know what's going on there. I counldn't even tell you what the price of a loaf of bread or a pint, or is it a litre now, of milk is these days. I wonder whether any of the three main candidates shown below know the answer.
I'm a socialist at heart, though I liked Ted Heath and was sorry when he lost out after the "Three-day week". I finally left England, however, mainly in order to get away from the Thatcher doctrine.
I found Spain a much more dynamic country where I was able to bring up my kids in a much healthier and much better political, cultural, culinary, educational, and social environment. They now all speak Spanish and Catalan as well as their native English, and needless to say, so do I. Did you know that Spain leads the way in many sports, including Football? Motorcycling? Cycling? Motor Racing (Rallies, Formula 1 (until very recently)? etc.? Where's britain now, I wonder, and will it get back on the track in time for the Olympic games?
I have found, through my Spanish experience especially, that hung parlaments usually produce coalition governments that cannot be as radical as those with an overwhelming majority. Instead, over a period of time, the partners learn to work together to produce laws and policies that benefit more people. In Catalonia, three parties have been working successfully together now for several years; The "Tripartito" they call themselves, or the "Three-party party".
I sincerely hope both the Labour and Liberal parties come to an "entente" and govern jointly for a while in the UK. I'd hate to see the tories back in power, even though it wouldn't be me who would have to live under their nightmarish rule!



A couple of weeks ago I was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties. The medical team diagnosed coronory failure and sent me for a "catheterism" operation. This is not as complicated as it sounds. The surgeon introduces a very thin catheter through one of the main arteries to check out the bloodflow in your heart and repair the damage (see image on the left). The following link explains it in more detail. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4491
The whole procedure took less than an hour and I was fully conscious during the whole operation. Really, I felt like a car being taken to the garage to have a faulty valve replaced!
Anyway, the extraordinary thing was that afterwards, the surgeon approached me to check if I was OK and asked me where I was from (all this took place in a Spanish hospital). I said I was English and he looked surprised. "From your name I thought you were Jewish," he said. "No," I replied. "In fact I'm Catholic." "OH!" He said, "I'm Palestinian!" I just stood there staring at him for a few seconds and finally we both burst out laughing. The man had operated on me as best he could, even though he thought I was a Jew!
I don't remember his name, now, but I really do want to thank him from the bottom of my heart.