Category: General

A New Career – Film Critic

I have decided to take up a new career as a film critic. Fear not – I shall still be the Lifestyle Support Guru, since this is a role that is given, not chosen. However, having seen two very different films within the space of three days, I feel that I am now well qualified to offer my considered opinion.
To aid me in my research, I was accompanied by BFG (Bazza the Friendly Geordie) and, for the first film, her husband, who shall remain anonymous, mainly because he’s quite shy (even though he, too, is a Geordie, and Geordies are not known for being backwards in coming forwards; however, he often has pithy comments to make, so we allow him to accompany us on occasion), so I shall refer to him as BSG (Bazza’s Shy Geordie).

Judy GarlandThe first film was ‘Meet Me in St Louis’, starring Judy Garland, and the screening was well attended – mainly by people who were old enough to have seen the film when it was originally shown in 1945.
Basically, the plot revolves around Judy Garland and her sisters who lead a lovely, comfortable, upper-middle class existence in St Louis at the turn of the 20th century in the year leading up to the World’s Fair to be held in 1904. (I assume the World’s Fair is rather like the World Series in baseball, where no one else other than the US takes part.) Judy and her elder sister have their eyes on two young men whom they hope to marry, although the young men in question know nothing of these plans. The story takes us through the seasons of 1903 from summer (sunny), through autumn (sunny but with fewer leaves on the trees) to winter (sunny but with snow) and eventually into spring of 1904 (sunny with lots of flowers). There are lots of parties and jolly japes, plus a rather creepy Halloween scenario where the youngest daughter proves to be a bit of a madam who throws flour into the face of a neighbour (she also likes burying dolls in the garden and chopping the heads off snowmen) and the local children, totally unaccompanied by any responsible adult, build a bonfire in the middle of the street.
There are some jolly songs, such as Meet Me in St Louis and The Trolley Song, as well as one called Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, sung whilst gazing wistfully out at a snowy garden (no sun, just the moon), which is rather miserable and may bring tears to your eyes. The film finishes with the Smith girls getting their men, against the backdrop of the World’s Fair being opened with a grand display of lights and fireworks which puts the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony in the shade.
To sum up, Judy Garland is a bit of a hussy who throws herself at the boy next door. It is a ‘feel-good’ film with a happy ending.

The second film is a recent release called The Unknown Girl, a Belgian-French drama which tells the story of a female doctor, Jenny Davin, who sets out to uncover the identity of an unknown young woman who is found dead after being refused entry to the good doctor’s surgery late one evening. The BSG decided to give this film a miss because, he said, he had had enough with ‘Meet Me in St Louis’, so he decided to do some wallpapering instead, in preparation for a gathering at their house in… April (this is called ‘planning ahead’ or ‘getting out of seeing a film you don’t fancy’). The film was attended by…two people – me and BFG. The film follows Jenny’s attempts to discover who the dead girl was: these include interrogating workmen at a building site, where Jenny is not even asked to wear a hard hat, and being threatened in her car by drug dealers (who were more or less totally irrelevant to the plot), one of whom hits her windscreen not once, but TWICE with a crowbar and doesn’t leave a mark! She also gets pushed into a big muddy hole on a different building site (again, she has no hard hat) but doesn’t get a spot of mud on her coat, which we think was welded onto her because she rarely removed it during the whole film. Throughout the film, we are shown Jenny treating a range of patients, all of whom have nothing to do with the story other than to demonstrate ‘gritty social realism’ because they are poor (although they seem to be able to cough up plenty of euros for her fees), and one guy tries to hang himself from the water pipes in the surgery. She deals with this very calmly, remembering to turn the water off at the stopcock first before asking him if he’s hurt himself.
To sum up, Jenny Davin is the complete opposite to Judy Garland’s character and I think she should have been the one to sing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ whilst gazing wistfully out of the window at the traffic streaming past on the expressway outside the surgery. She should also have considered putting in a Stannah stairlift because there were steps leading down to her surgery from the waiting room and some of her elderly patients had trouble negotiating them. This is a ‘feel-depressed’ film and yet… I enjoyed it in a strange sort of way, although I do think they could have livened it up a little by having Jenny’s car blow up or her being mugged when she returned to her surgery late at night.

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas!

Good Neighbour Bad Neighbour

Being a Good Neighbour
A very good evening from the Lifestyle Support Guru. Tonight I wish to offer some useful advice on how to be a BAD neighbour or a GOOD neighbour. I have recently ‘acquired’ a new neighbour and I have learned rapidly from this experience just exactly what constitutes a BAD neighbour and felt that you may benefit from my advice so that you can be a GOOD neighbour.

Bad neighbour

Bad neighbour

To be a BAD neighbour, you must:
1. be blonde, slim and athletic-looking and wear fitted clothing that shows off your figure to advantage. This will ensure that your GOOD neighbour feels totally inadequate.
2. have cleared your garden of all weeds and long grass, installed a nice wooden garden bench, put up a new clothes line and scrubbed the wall at the bottom of the garden of its coat of peeling paint, all within the space of a few days. Again, this will create great feelings of inadequacy in your GOOD neighbour.
3. have a housewarming party which is not too noisy and finishes at 10.30 pm, so that the GOOD neighbour feels guilty for wondering at what time she will be able to complain to the police.
4. fill your bin (which is about four feet high) to overflowing with black bin liners, then, in one bound, leap athletically and lithely on top of the aforementioned bin liners and jump up and down on them in a graceful manner to make sure they fit in the bin. This should be done when the GOOD neighbour has just returned from a hard morning’s shopping and is loaded down with purchases; by now the GOOD neighbour will be contemplating moving to find a more congenial neighbour.
5. enjoy the early evening warmth by sitting on the garden bench with an attractive man and sip delicately from a bottle of water rather than the glass of wine which the GOOD neighbour is contemplating whilst looking up house prices in a more downmarket area.
To be a GOOD neighbour, you must:

Wild Life Friendly Garden

Wild Life Friendly Garden

1. be overweight, wear loose clothing as a disguise and have greying hair. In this way, you create no feelings of insecurity in any other neighbours.
2. maintain what is known as a ‘wildlife garden’, ensuring that there are plenty of flowering weeds which are, apparently, attractive to bees. Thus, you are helping the environment.
3. have no parties because you do not wish to disturb your neighbours (and it would mean cleaning and tidying up and the cats don’t like parties, anyway).
4. only leap up and down (athletically or otherwise) when you tread on one of the cats or the drawing pin you forgot to pick up several days ago.
5. enjoy the early evening warmth by going out to the pub where, as far as you know, they don’t sell water. Thus, you are helping the local economy.
You will have gathered from this that being a GOOD neighbour is far less tiring and requires much less effort than being a BAD neighbour. In addition, you are saving energy environmentally because less electricity will be used if you are in the pub rather than sitting at home; added to this, you will also have had some physical exercise because you walked to the pub, although probably not quite as much exercise as jumping up and down in a bin, but with a far more enjoyable outcome.
And now let’s finish with a short chorus of: “Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours…”

Oop North at Halifax

The Lifestyle Support Guru is on a quest to introduce you to places you should visit before you die and Halifax is on the list. ‘Why Halifax?’ you ask. ‘Why not?’ I reply. There is, in fact, a very mundane explanation – I don’t like leaving the cats for more than 24 hours without some human interaction (it’s called ‘cleaning out the litter tray’), so somewhere within a 2-hour drive is ideal. And I like going ‘oop north’ – it’s another country! In fact, it’s another world!



The first thing that took me by surprise (just after Sheffield, which is where I consider ‘the North’ starts) was passing an Audi driver on the motorway who was in the nearside lane, even though there was plenty of space in the other three lanes. I have never seen this before although, sadly, I didn’t see any Volvo, Merc or BMW drivers following this brilliant example.
The satnav was set to take me to Halifax via the excellently-named Netherthong – how can you not go to a place with such a wonderful name? – so imagine my delight when I found there was an Upperthong as well! When I got out of the car at the top of a very steep hill in Upperthong to greet TOFU (Trefor of ‘Ull), I could fully understand why you would need both upper AND nether thongs (and preferably fur-lined) – the wind was a tad chilly in all quarters.
Having visited Barnsley on a Bank Holiday weekend, TOFU and I were not completely taken by

hot cocoa

hot cocoa

surprise in Halifax because it’s very similar – there’s just more of it. TOFU remarked that we seemed to have arrived ‘late to the party’ at 8 in the evening. One young lady on the dance floor in the first pub we entered had obviously consumed more than the recommended number of alcohol units and another young lady was more interested in watching her own boobs jiggle about as she sat bouncing to the music. Personally, I find a cup of hot cocoa more enthralling.
The next pub had karaoke in full swing when we walked in – ‘Kingston Town’ sung by Halifax’s answer to Orville is something that will stay with me for a long time, along with the young man dancing next to our table displaying a ‘Top Man’ waistband on his underpants. If you must

men's underwear

boxer shorts

display where you buy your underpants, at least go with fake Calvin Kleins, daaahlings.
We then headed to the nearest Wetherspoon’s, even though we knew we would have to spend a long time waiting to get served by staff who have never learned to smile. (I have only ever been in one Wetherspoon’s pub where I was greeted civilly, served quickly and with a smile – and that was because she was an ex-pupil!) However, the pull of a pub without techno-trance dance music or karaoke sung by Orville was, I have to say, irresistible.

There is some class in Halifax – TOFU heard one young woman ask for a bottle of rosé… with a

Joie de Vivre

Joie de Vivre

pint glass. His immortal comment, however, once we were seated, was ‘There’s a lot more flesh on display than perhaps there should be,’ as yet another person in shorts/hot pants passed us. I replied that that was perhaps why the textile industry failed in this area because people don’t wear enough of it. No fashion judgements were being made, you understand.
The night ended with that famous quote: “When a man is tired of Halifax, he is tired of life; for there is in Halifax all that life can afford.” ‘Who said that?’ asked TOFU. ‘Boris Johnson,’ I replied.

And the next stop on the LSG’s world tour? Who knows? Suggestions are welcome – as long as it’s within a 90-mile radius of Derby so that I can carry out my litter-cleaning duties!

Did they really say that??


Africa Street sellers

Africa Street sellers

Good evening from the Lifestyle Support Guru, once again here to guide you across life’s babbling brooks, raging rivers and terrifying torrents. Surely, you must think, there cannot be much more that the LSG can teach us? She has already helped us with so much, such as what to say to a lady with her dress tucked in her knickers, how to deal with marauding monkeys, and enjoying a night out in Barnsley (or all three together, if this takes your fancy).
Oh, my faithful followers, there is still so much to learn, including when you may use exclamation marks, as laid down by our all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful but beloved government (I may have made that last bit up).
Today, however, I wish to share with you some of the deeper thoughts I have gathered from listening to those around me and, thus, help you to avoid making a complete fool of yourself by repeating such silly things. I shall also include some photographic evidence so that you may make up your own minds.

The first ‘jewels’ are all courtesy of my acquaintance, TT (the Tiny Tyke), who has featured in previous posts because of his wide-ranging level of knowledge (believing that the English for Beaujolais is Bordeaux, for example). He was studying some of my glorious photos of African scenes (in other words, I was showing him my holiday photos, yawn, yawn) and, upon seeing a

Market traders England

Market traders England

typical African street scene of crowds of people selling fruit and vegetables and anything else that might bring in a few Tanzanian shillings, he remarked, ‘I love little market towns’, as if he were looking at a picture of Pickering in North Yorkshire!
Upon seeing another street scene with concrete crossings across rainwater ditches, his comment was, ‘That reminds me of the canals you see when you come into Birmingham on the train.’

12916790_10153353868247714_7073409013680909671_oAnd finally, while looking at a photo of a main road crowded with vehicles of all shapes and sizes, he commented that he couldn’t understand ‘why they only ever seem to have one main road running through African countries’. I patiently explained that this might have something to do with the arid wilderness and wild animals found in many such countries, so there’s no real point in having another road, since you are likely either to end up dying of dehydration or serving as a packed lunch for a lion (or both?).

But TT is not the only one who has given me pause for thought with his observations. I overheard a conversation in the pub the other night when two men were discussing Burns Night (yes, I know it’s April, but Derby occasionally takes some time to catch up with other, more forward-looking towns and cities). One of the gentlemen said that he didn’t know the words to ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and he’d never tried haggis because he’d never been to Scotland. In the next12524133_10153353899977714_5005369881554209382_n breath, he said that his favourite food is curry. With my most innocent face on, I asked him if he’d ever been to India. ‘No, of course not,’ he replied, with no hint of irony.
I shall finish with an example of something which still puzzles me: why would my youngest sibling, over a Sainsbury’s ‘Junior Breakfast’, ask me if I had ever thought of working on Sainsbury’s checkout when I retired? Dearest devotees, much as I admire Sainsbury’s checkout staff, I am afraid that I would have to consider Waitrose at the very least!

Do play along with ‘Spot the difference’ in the photos…

Hospital visiting

diagram of personality


A good evening to you all from the Lifestyle Support Guru and I hope today’s post finds you well! I am currently wondering if I need a new title – I picked up a leaflet at a charming little café in Derby the other day which had been placed there (the leaflet, not the café) by an ‘integrative counsellor/psychotherapist’. Does the LSG need to move with the times and be ‘integrative’ and would I then become an iLSG? If so, do you think Apple might be interested in my services?
Moving on: today I wish to discuss hospital visits. I have described a previous visit – if you remember, my left kidney was described as ‘very photogenic’ and it still hasn’t let me forget that. However, this particular most recent visit was to the Eye Department where they found that I have a ‘nevus’ on my eye. ‘What is a nevus?’ you ask. Well, it was described as a little mole or freckle, which sounds quite cute, really, so I

nevus on retina

Nevus on Retina

have decided to call this mole Morris, which seems a very good name for a mole, I think (I had considered Malcolm the Mole, but I already own Malcolm-the-strangely-named-cat-from-Australia, and I didn’t want to confuse him). I may also refer to it as Neville the Nevus or Freddie the Freckle. Somehow, I feel that a mole needs a masculine name. The consultant said they would just have to keep an eye on it, at which I smiled broadly but the consultant didn’t – I wonder how soon eye specialists get fed up of everyone coming up with that joke!
The visit was quite interesting in a number of ways – I have never seen so many women without eye makeup in one place, for a start! Whilst waiting, I read a thriller in which the police became suspicious about a character because ‘there wasn’t a fresh vegetable anywhere’ in the character’s kitchen. I hadn’t realised that fresh vegetables were a sign of guilt or innocence, so I had better rush out and buy some before I go straight to the top of their ‘Wanted’ list.

Garden vegetables

Fresh Vegetables

The appointment was for late afternoon and by the time it was finished, it was almost dark. Not having had lunch, and feeling rather hungry but not keen on going home to cook (which won’t surprise many of you), I decided to treat myself to a meal at a pub/restaurant opposite the hospital. I asked the very nice waitress for a table for one, thinking she’d show me to some dark, little corner out of the way, as often happens, but she sat me down right in the path of everyone coming into the restaurant section, which didn’t bother me at all – I just smiled at all the other customers as they walked past and carried on reading my thriller, wondering what other insights into the criminal mind I might learn. A full washing basket is a sign of a serial killer, perhaps? Or a lack of hoovering indicates psychopathic tendencies? What surprised me most of all, however, was that

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc

the restaurant menu prices practically doubled after 7 pm, for exactly the same food, so I was pretty pleased that I’d made it in time to order the cheapskate version! I had a very nice steak, then the waitress asked if I would like some pudding; when I said no, she smiled and said, ‘Ah, the wine’s obviously enough.’ She hadn’t looked like the sarcastic sort…

And so I wended my way home with Morris/Nevus/Freddie to introduce him (them?) to Charlie, Molly and Malcolm. I hope they can all be good friends. Enjoy your evening, dear devotees. I look forward to hearing if you think I should become integrative. In the meantime, I’m off to the ‘Fresh veg’ section of Sainsbury’s.