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John Barclay

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What an animal is man –

does so much because he can,

makes his habitat fantastic –

full of concrete, glass and plastic,

poison, noise ‘n’ rising seas,

melts the ice caps, fells the trees,

carves the land up into pieces,

wipes out species after species,

knows the planet’s fragile state –

does too little far too late.




Whenever a government minister is challenged on the inadequacy of their department’s funding of vital services, they use the old trick of declaring “record spending”. With continuous inflation, it’s easy to spend record amounts. All it means is that they are spending slightly more than in any previous year – not that that they are spending enough. In real terms, they can be spending less than the previous year. Then, they further confuse the issue, by quickly adding, “This year we are spending £y million for a certain item and next year we have set aside a further £z million for a different item.” Thus they hope to duck important issues such as:

“We have been forced to cut the number of police on the beat.”

“We have been forced to cancel surgical operations because our beds are full of patients with nowhere to go.”

“We have been forced to cutback school lessons, stop supporting children with special needs and ask parents to pay for vital equipment.”

So, journalists all, please challenge ministers who try to get out of trouble by record use of this worn-out record.


5   Train Journeys

Train is the most civilised way to travel. Less cramped than flying, you can enjoy a steady speed and look out of the window. You can move about. If you’re lucky you can sit at a table, which allows you easily to eat a snack or read a newspaper. You can talk to other passengers or secretly watch them, wondering what sort of lives they lead. And someone else is doing the driving.


4   Fresh Peas

The pea is a delightful vegetable which, like the banana, comes with its own packaging. Shelling the little fellows, so uniform and round, lined up for harvesting, is a most agreeable activity, which can be shared with all ages. I find I can shell with one hand while holding the phone to my ear with the other hand. The smell of a pod just opened is subtle but delightful. Easy to cook, peas go well with anything except cabbage and broad beans. Excuse me, I’m just going to have a pea.


3  Sitting outside in the shade on a hot day

Sunbathing is too much like work – or roasting and basting a chicken. Sitting in the shade is relaxing and agreeable. It induces a sense of wellbeing, without any down side. And the light is good for reading or fine work such as sewing or tackling a crossword. Best of all butterflies entertain you and birds keep you company.


2  Hanging out the Washing

It’s usually the day’s first visit to the back garden.The fresh air and the singing of the birds always makes me feel better. The other day I washed a pair of new pyjamas by hand on their own (“Wash before Wearing”) and hung them out on the line. The weather turned to rain, which grew heavy, and I forgot about my washing. The next day, I looked out to see the jacket dangling wet from a single clothes peg and the trousers escaped from the line and stuck on the hedge. Fascinating stuff, isn’t it?


1 Gazing at the Moon

Whenever I’m out in the dark, I look for the moon to see what phase it has reached. I myself hjave reached the phase in my life of taking pleasure from the full moon, something I was too busy for when I was younger. Now, I work out whether the moon is waxing or waning. Waxing and waning is something I do a lot myself these days, but not on a regular basis, unlike the moon. If the moon is waxing, I keep an eye on it to catch its night of maximum fullness. I look out early evening, when it seems larger than usual because then it appears close to terrestrial objects such as trees and building; later it seems smaller, lost in the middle of the vast dome of the night sky.

I think of the human explorers who fifty years ago landed on the moon. and I call to mind the millions of people who gazed at the moon long before Armstrong and Aldrin,and I try to imagine what they made of it. I must be a “luna”tic!



I now offer a special service to my visitors – free comedy material. I realised that I had written a number of sketches, mini-dramas, song lyrics and so on, and liked the idea of sharing them with people with similar interests to my own. I felt it would be too much work to sell the stuff, so I am giving it away. Nearly all of it has been tried and tested by me or people close to me. Please see my new Comedy Material page.