Ear Today, Grown Tomorrow

For last month’s birthday my nearest and dearest bought me a vintage Noddy Annual. Grand it was, with its pink, hardback cover and brightly coloured characters.

Tessa knows I like old books, especially those harking back to childhood. And she probably chose Noddy as a joke because I do nod off like a baby – typically ten hours a night plus daytime naps. In fact, on the parabola of life I’m wandering happily down the second childlike path. Having skipped along my first childhood and barged through the earnestness of middle life, I am once again showing off and making demands, and people think I’m sweet.

Big EarsBut inside the Annual I discovered a perhaps more pointed reason for her choice. Tessa had picked an edition where Big Ears sets up a taxi firm to rival Noddy’s, with a brightly coloured people carrier, cut-throat fares and an aggressive advertising campaign. Noddy’s livelihood was threatened and his sixty year friendship with Big Ears was teetering on the brink.

In itself the story made excellent fireside reading but, I thought, is her choice of the “Special Big Ears Edition” trying to tell me something? Was she perhaps inferring that Enid Blyton introduced Big Ears to make older readers like me feel less alone?  Was she teasing me about the differences between early and late periods of childhood? After all, in this secondary phase I hobble rather than skip, I take a daily dose of multi-coloured tablets not sweets – and yes, my ears are rapidly growing longer. An esteemed graduate of the British School of Irony, it wouldn’t be beyond Tessa to poke fun at my lengthening lobes.

I’m trying to grow old gracefully, bumbling and stumbling my way as best I can. But short of radical surgery (a ”lobe job” as they say) I can’t stop my lugs growing. Until recently I thought it was either genetic – that not everybody’s ears grew bigger – or that it was nature creating a larger funnel to compensate for loss of hearing. And I only thought about it when, say, World War 1 veterans appeared on TV or I was singing carols in a care home.

But I’ve discovered that ear growth is a natural part of the ageing process for all of us. Studies since the mid-nineties in Italy, Japan and the UK have proved that ears elongate by an average of 0.22mm a year, a fact so accurate that forensic scientists can determine someone’s approximate age by their ear size.

A little help funnelling sound

A little help funnelling sound

One school of thought is that an enlarged auricle (outer ear) does help funnel more sound. But a more accepted explanation is that ears sag with age thanks to a loss of elasticity as the collagen and elastin fibres that make up the ear’s cartilage and surrounding skin start to break down. Deterioration of this cartilage removes structural support, allowing gravity to take over and cause the appearance of droop. Since noses are constructed in the same way, they too are subject to apparent enlargement, though less so than ears. The effect is exacerbated by a loss in volume of surrounding areas like cheeks and lips, making the organs next to them look larger.

Ear-lengthening happens to women as much as men, but because their ears are often covered up we don’t notice. Under the pink and purple rinses on those coach trips to Scotland lie an abundance of awesome auricles. In fact sagging ears are potentially a greater issue for women because earrings, especially the ‘drop’ variety, encourage gravity to do its dastardly deed. No surprise that it’s women who most often seek redress through lobe surgery. A similar tug must be exerted by the ear stretchers in vogue with many young people. The combined vertical strain and butchered lobes will surely come back to haunt them in later life. But, huh, what do they care?

I’ve just measured my ears – they’re exactly 70mm long. If I live another thirty years they’ll be 76.6mm when I’m ninety-seven. But since 0.22mm is only the average growth, they could get even larger, occupying the entire sides of my face. I’ll be able to hear well enough, but it could spoil my chances with, say, a woman I’m trying to chat up in my nursing home. And I worry about other silly things, like how will I deal with all that unwanted extra hair? Would I need giant Baby Buds? Would a mobile phone disappear down my swollen ear canal? Will I experience violent ear-popping on flights, causing my head to explode?

Obama checks today's flap factor

Obama checks today’s flap factor

 

Maybe I’m taking it too seriously. At least I don’t have sticky-out ears. With decades of growth and a high flap factor, people like Barack Obama and Gary Lineker might in later years find it tricky staying grounded in a strong wind.

 

I think I’m still on the right side of ear droop. Holding the Noddy Annual alongside my head in the mirror, I’m no way like Big Ears. And I’ll never catch up because his ears should grow with each new Annual. Let’s just say Tessa’s gift has made me think properly about my ears’ future; and she’ll be pleased I’m not now ordering from Amazon the gorgeous blue and white striped 5mm ear stretchers I’ve been banging on about for the last year.

Anyway, they wouldn’t have gone with my titanium butterfly eyebrow bar.

Copyright © Paul Costello March 2015

click. com - a play by Paul Costello. A comic romp through the joys and pitfalls of internet dating for ‘mature’ people. Showing at Bosbury Parish Hall Friday 10th/Saturday 11th July 2015

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Game of Public Thrones

When I turned sixty-five my doctor gave me three pieces of advice.

  1. Never knowingly walk past a public loo.
  2. If you think you’re going to pass wind, don’t risk it.
  3. Should you get an erection, use it.

Sound ideas, I thought, except perhaps the final one since an irregular heartbeat already deprives my brain of oxygen-laden red cells and redirecting yet more blood might make me pass out.

The first suggestion was the most useful. I’m now in a steady relationship with public loos. I do knowingly walk past them, but never without adding their locations and opening times to my mental map – an imprint which includes cafes, bars, hotels and any stores with toilets the public can use. A relief map, so to speak.

The map for my home town of Ledbury is of course complete, as are outline maps of nearby towns Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester. Further afield, Birmingham City Centre and London Paddington Station are fairly well plotted, and having spent a great deal of my life in Brighton I’m confident about its layout too.

Does that mean more than one men?

Does that mean more than one men?

Where there’s a choice, the quality of premises counts. For example, my map shows that the men’s loo at Gloucester Bus Station is no-go for hygiene and feel-good, whereas Wetherspoon toilets are generally well kept. And whilst the loos of most Ledbury cafes might be all potpourri and frilly flowers, there’s one hotel that could do a good trade selling surgical masks in its men’s toilet.

Then there’s the question of payment. Perhaps once or twice in my life, in desperation and not without a good deal of resentment, I’ve paid to use a loo. The idea of charging originated in major railway termini, perhaps using their captive market to tempt people with a more attractive alternative than toilets on trains. Admittedly they are very clean. Thirty pence a go, it is – free for moneyless people whom I’ve often witnessed climbing in through the exit turnstiles with practised ease.

Charging has now become more common. McDonalds has coded loo doors – you have to buy something to get a code. I’m told that in Amsterdam nightclubs you have to pay each time you go to the loo or buy a night pass for 3Euros. A while ago Michael O’Leary floated the idea of charging customers to use the loo on Ryanair flights. And many local Councils in the UK, where they haven’t actually closed toilets, have started charging – supposedly a fund raiser in these hard times.

Fact is you shouldn’t have to pay once you’ve developed a mental map. There’s always a free alternative nearby, more often than not sponsored by the very places charging. Pubs and cafes in the retail ‘villages’ on major railway stations are a good bet. And some Councils promote so-called Community Toilet Schemes where Marks and Spencer, Wetherspoon and the like are encouraged to give free access to their loos.

I contend in any case that charging to wee is proportionately unfair on us ageing men. We can’t help how our bodies change. “Slo-flo” and “little and often” can be part of daily life. Should we really have to pay over the odds for nature’s shortcomings?

Fortunately I’m able to laugh along on that subject. I remember a work colleague at an English Heritage site pointing to a cow in an adjacent field and wistfully saying, ‘I wish I could still piss like that.’ And whenever I’m out with my teenage daughter I come to expect her cry of, ‘Not again, dad! You’ve only just been!’  I even enjoyed a younger friend’s inadvertency at a Brighton and Hove Albion soccer match. The half-time scrum in the men’s urinals involved banking up behind existing stallholders, creating a second row as it were, then stepping up when the man in front had finished. On returning to his seat my friend said, ‘Trouble is, you get stuck there for ages if you land up behind some old bloke with a prostate problem. You wonder if he’s ever gonna finish!’ Yeah, thanks for that, Buzzer. It was probably me.

Yet, charging to use loos might be better than shutting them altogether. Closing public toilets in tourist towns like Ledbury, Hereford and Worcester is a bad plan. Such places are a mecca for day-trippers who add life to the streets and money to the economy. Visitors need wooing. Throughout the year I see coaches dropping people off on Ledbury High Street for a two-hour stopover. Who are these people?Elderly People sign Well, like me, they’re part of the growing elderly population that has time on its hands. And what’s the first thing they might want when they’ve been stuck on a coach for the last hour or two? Visitors often stop to ask me where there’s a loo. When I worked in Ledbury Library we were asked every day. At the moment I can still point to one that’s open, but for how long I don’t know.

As a visitor to Malta last Christmas I was relaxing in glorious winter sunshine on Sliema harbour front when a group of elderly tourists came tottering towards me. Led by a cheerful if mechanically-spoken lady sporting a blue Saga badge, the dozen or so newcomers moved at the pace of the couple bringing up the rear – dead ringers for the Highway Code road sign. Saga specialises in holidays for the over fifties, with a majority upwards of seventy-five. One of the company’s routines is to run a local orientation walk on the first morning. In a small Majorcan resort, when the rep pointed out the chemists, supermarkets, churches of various denominations and public toilets, I remember thinking how sensible this was for new people in unfamiliar surroundings, particularly the most elderly and those with special needs.

In Sliema the group stopped alongside my bench while the leader waved her arms semaphore-style, like the cabin crew doing safety drill on an Airbus 300.

‘In the likely event of you getting caught short,’ she said loudly, ‘there are public toilets therethere – and there.’

Indeed, Malta is proudly endowed with public loos, and I’d formed an excellent mental map by the end of my first day. I thought it ironic that a country perhaps second only to Britain in Britishness continues to recognise the importance of such public investment, made by the British, while back in blighty governments now deem public toilets surplus to requirements. Perhaps we can learn from this former British colony. How nice it would be, say, to find that my local Council had printed ‘GO’ at the end of its welcoming HEREFORDSHIRE – YOU CAN logo – and meant it.

I mean, we all have to.herefordshire-road-sign

And when you’ve gotta go …

 

 

Copyright © Paul Costello    January 2015

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. A hilarious Bed and Breakfast memoir set in deepest Shropshire. Order through bookshops or direct from http://www.fineleaf.co.uk

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

 

When She’s 94

In A Last Banana I reflected on my feelings when Dad died. Too often it’s only after such loss that we feel able to express our emotions – when, perhaps, it seems safe and normal to do so. So this New Year I write a living tribute to my Mum, alone seven years aged ninety-four …

… whose brilliant smile welcomes me in when we’ve not met a while. Who in all sorts of weather sets pots of pink fuchsias and waves of white heather. Who daily ticks the Guardian Quick. Who knows all the scores – Wimbledon, Old Trafford and Lords – and still bowls a winning wood indoors. Who correctly predicts the winner of Strictly, and “did all those dances with Dad in the fifties”. Whose diary is filled with visits and trips. Whose faithful old heart is put to the test, just like her bus pass getting no rest. Who stumbles and falls, yet hauls herself up, with a thin-blooded bruise. Who sings all the hymns on Songs of Praise and polished pews. Whose spirit nourishes the branches beneath her. Whose Thursday perm rests on my chest when she squeezes goodbye with a hug so strong it lasts long beyond my departing.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello  January 2015

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. A hilarious Bed and Breakfast memoir set in deepest Shropshire. Order through bookshops or direct from http://www.fineleaf.co.uk

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Donuts and Toilets

On a recent trip to Stroud I spotted a postie delivering letters to the Wy Wong takeaway, and since my mind works in mysterious ways I imagined that the white envelopes scattered across the mat were from dissatisfied customers answering that very question.

2014-08-30 13.56.43‘Because it wasn’t the weightwatchers version I asked for,’ might be one reply, or ‘because as always I was still hungry after eating it.’ Or simply, ‘because you forgot to put in the prawn crackers.’ That sort of thing.

Naturally, I jotted these thoughts in the Moleskine writer’s notebook that follows me around, its pages rich with wacky catering snippets – a source of writing inspiration only surpassed by people’s moronic mismanagement of mobiles in public.

A lot of material has come from Indian Restaurants – probably because I’m in them so often. The chicken madras in the Rice ’n Spice at Haywards Heath according to the menu contained ‘avid black pepper’. In the Bengal Lancer at Llanelli you could get a ‘potion of chips’ (spooky).The Bilash at Rugeley offered ‘King Prawn Roshuni – a pleasant dish of king prawns made by our chef,’ which sounded, well, really pleasant. When I hurried the order along at the Jalsagor in Hereford the manager said he’d ‘hasten the papadums in a minute.’ And in the Taste of India at Leominster the menu described chicken tikka as ‘tender pieces of lamb cooked in …’. I wondered if it might have been ‘torn’ chicken – torn, that is, between whether it was a chicken or a lamb. It got eaten, so we can’t ask it now.

Elsewhere, a sign in Tesco exhorted me to buy puddings: ‘Life’s Short – Eat Dessert First’. In the same store a man asked the shelf filler if they had any Camp coffee. ‘Ooooo, I’m not sure. Now let me see-ee.’ And in a lovely cafe called Quinns in Worcester the menu offered ‘a lovely large bowl of home-made soup, lovely salads, lovely old-fashioned puddings and orange squash served in a lovely plastic cup with a straw’. Lovely. I was, however, appalled to see 30p for a glass of tap water with ice and lemon at Nice Things cafe in Ledbury, a charge sensibly removed by new owners.

Further afield, I liked the English blackboard menu outside the Hotel Verol Restaurant, which included chicken breast with chips, chicken wings with chips – and chicken tights with chips, presumably a thirty denier Las Palmas speciality.

I'm sure there's a chimp in here somewhere.

I’m sure there’s a chimp in here somewhere

And during a three-night stay in Bangkok I took a shine to a nearby fish restaurant – Kuang Seafood – which had numerous fish tanks fronting the street. Families and business people filled the room each evening, waiters brandishing huge trays of mouth-watering delicacies and chefs periodically lowering their nets into the bubbling homes of red snappers and catfish. In Thailand what we know as prawns are called shrimps; and tucked among the long list of shrimp dishes I found ‘Baked Chimp with salt’. I didn’t fancy the salt and opted instead for crab curry and fried rice with fish.

On the move, I particularly enjoyed the jolly Welsh trolley man on Arriva trains between Manchester and Cardiff. Happy in his work and determined to offer travellers a new experience, his operatic rendition of ‘Just One Cornetto’ lightened the atmosphere of a crowded carriage, as did his later promotion of sea serpents and snake venom in as deadpan a way as one might sell Walkers crisps or KitKats.

And on a bus near Gloucester I overheard a woman telling fellow travellers they should try a cafe in Herne Bay, Kent which sold ‘the best garlic bread in the world’. Okay – tomorrow perhaps.

I’m used to restaurants glossing their menus; outrageous descriptions are now so commonplace that I rarely bother noting them. A roadside Brewers Fayre listed ‘fresh, hand-battered, pole-and-line caught Cornish cod, served on a bed of chef’s chunky, crispy-dipped potato strips and topped with a jus of caper-infused mayo rich in mountain tarragon’. To you and me, fish and chips with tartar sauce. Even M&S gets in on the act with ‘handcrafted, British pork sausage rolls’. And I found a fine example at the Seven Stars pub in Ledbury: ‘complex, muscular yet graceful, with fine length and lovely maturity’. Not as I had imagined some sort of sex service, but a bottle of Bolinger for fifty quid. A stark contrast with the pundit on a TV wine tasting who glugged some red and got ‘a WVS clothing store’.

2014-11-04 11.04.31

Only last week I found that a Weston-super-Mare seafront cafe had thoughtfully placed its menu on the outside wall.

Only two choices. But which first, that’s the exciting thing?

Eenie, meenie, miney …

 

 

Copyright © Paul Costello November 2014

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. A hilarious Bed and Breakfast memoir set in deepest Shropshire. Order through bookshops or direct from http://www.fineleaf.co.uk

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Eddie’s Eye 9 – Goodbye

Rosette

Well, friends, it’s time to say goodbye. Sadly, this is the final edition of Eddie’s Eye.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse of our political shenanigans, and that you’ll laugh as much during the Show as we have at rehearsals. Come and see your favourite politicians as never before, facing a public that demands its say! The World Premier of Terms and Conditions Apply – coming to a theatre near you! Ledbury Market Theatre

But before I go, here are the parting thoughts of our colourful characters:

Dave Camshaft:                               Pffft!

Nick Clogg:                                       I know I can do it – please let me try.

Usborne:                                          Sorry, too busy – dining out all week.

Govis:                                              They got me all wrong.

Ducken-Sniff:                                  Yes, I’m still here.

Eddie Moribund:                              A new era is dawning. Make it Laborious.

Theresa Mayhem:                          Get them out!

Harriet Harmful:                              I’m the one sat by the Laborious Leader.

Nigella Gar-arge:                            Auf wiedersehen.

Middle England Residents:            Hard knowing who to believe.

See you at the Theatre!Rosette

Eddie

Eddie’s Eye - folllowed by BBC Radio – has been brought to you by Paul Costello on behalf of the cast of Terms and Conditions Apply.

Terms and Conditions Apply – a play by Paul Costello. Fabulous political satire about a 5-year coalition government, seen through the eyes of ordinary, suburban households and, in stark contrast, the rose-tinted spectacles of politicians. Director, Bob Maynard.  Thurs 31st July – Sat 2nd August @ 8pm.   Ledbury Market Theatre

Tickets £10 adults  £5 students

On line:  www.themarkettheatre.com

Or: Masters House, Ledbury (Mon/Tues 9.30 to 4. Fri 9.30 to 2) 01432 260500

Or:  07967 517125

 

Rosette

Eddie’s Eye 8 – Govis

When LADS (Ledbury Amateur Dramatic Society) began rehearsing Terms and Conditions Apply  the title and plot were very different from the Show you’ll see at Ledbury Market Theatre next week, 31st July to 2nd August.

My original play was about a sixteen year old desperate to go to the school prom in a pink stretch limo, get off with a feller she really fancied and live happily ever after. Sadly, the girl was the subject of bullying by two ugly sisters who on the night of the prom forced her to stay at home and watch repeats of Don’t Tell the Bride.

Armed with this exciting format, Director Bob thought the ugly sisters should be played by men, and chose this actor (seen at his first rehearsal) to play the one I’d called ‘Drizella’.

Gove funny

At first the casting seemed perfect. The man would stand uncomfortably close, emitting a light spray through botoxed lips and staring at you fixedly through the pebble lenses of his oversize, horn-rimmed spectacles. It was hard to feel at ease in his presence and no surprise to find he’d once been cast as the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

But whilst his looks were ideal for the part there were problems with his personality. From the start he set about manipulating the play in little ways, throwing ideas around like actors do; a change of word, a change of emphasis, perhaps a tweak to the set. But lurking behind those pebbly eyes was a mind so dogmatic and forceful that he soon began pushing for greater change; getting rehearsals rearranged, forcing costume changes and demanding that whole scenes were scrapped, insisting he knew best.

Although resentment was building, Bob went along with his ideas because his frightful face was so perfect – even without specs.

Gove funny 4 no specs

It got worse. Before long the actor had changed the plot, altered the setting, renamed all the characters (taking Govis as his own) and changed the title to what it is now – Terms and Conditions Apply. We didn’t know where we stood from one rehearsal to the next, and the play seemed more of a political satire than a love story. With the Show due in a few weeks, our fate was set.

But as is right, it was the Director who decided on the final change. He had ‘Govis’ fired in an early scene by a character of his own creation, Dave Camshaft. Relegated to a minor role, his influence was removed with one firm blow, and we’d now see very little of him. What a relief!

And my writing was not entirely wasted. You see, in revising the script ‘Govis’ had given a character called Nick Clogg a similar role to the one I’d written for the sixteen year old girl, and even found a use in Clogg’s dialogue for the word I’d dreamt up for my original play title – Cinderella.

Back soon, friends.

Eddie

Watch out for the final Eddie’s Eye!

Rosette

Terms and Conditions Apply – a play by Paul Costello. Fabulous political satire about a 5-year coalition government, seen through the eyes of ordinary, suburban households and, in stark contrast, the rose-tinted spectacles of politicians. Director, Bob Maynard.  Thurs 31st July – Sat 2nd August @ 8pm.   Ledbury Market Theatre

Tickets £10 adults  £5 students

On line:  www.themarkettheatre.com

Or: Masters House, Ledbury (Mon/Tues 9.30 to 4. Fri 9.30 to 2) 01432 260500

Or:  07967 517125

 

 

 

 

Eddie’s Eye 7 – Henchmen

MAYHEM, USBORNE & CON SECURITIES

Take the worry out of life with a family-friendly 5-year renewable Security Contract. Our Exchequer Division has years of expertise transferring most of your money into government funds. Leaving you less money reduces your cash management problems and lowers personal risk – and you can’t be too careful with all the baddies around these days. And what’s left in your pocket is fully secured by our Protection Directorate which sorts out anyone posing a threat to you or your loved ones. Terms and Conditions Apply. Vote Con.

A leaflet containing this promotion was dropped by private Cessna aircraft before the last Election, targetting the marginal electorates of Rotherham, Runcorn and Burnley. Sadly, it’s proving hard to replicate this Con tactic in Terms and Conditions Apply  due to the problem of getting Cessnas in and out of Ledbury Market Theatre.  But we do use leaflets in the Show, and you’ll have plenty of candidates to choose from – not just big Parties like ConDems and Laborious, but niche groups like the Dream On Party which offers unbelievably generous policies.

So who are Mayhem, Usborne and Con (MUC)? As you’ll see, Dave Camshaft’s empire is minded by iron-grip henchmen. His primary protector is Usborne, whose boyish fringe belies a sharp-fisted, no-nonsense character fit to grace the doorstep of any town bar. If you think you spotted him last Friday wearing a yellow armband outside Wetherspoons, you were probably right. But bouncing is only his night job. By day Usborne heads the Exchequer Division of MUC, offering just what was promised in those Cessna drops – taking away your money for safeguarding in huge underground coffers deep below 11 Downing Street.

Now, clearly MUC doesn’t want to leave you too little to live on. So you’re left with a float, a monthly allowance as it were, to buy staples like Tenko Value Tea and Morrisons White Potatoes and to save towards gas and electric, or thermal clothing if these are not affordable. Here’s the bit from rehearsals where the man playing Usborne declines a request from a Doncaster resident for an increase in their monthly allowance during a particularly hard winter.

osborne sneer

Sadly, it’s a postcode lottery – South v North.

And for those little emergencies which the allowance never covers MUC will direct you to chic City bankers (The Henchman Reserve), always willing to tide you over with a loan – at the going rate, of course.

But how does MUC then secure your monthly allowance? Well, that’s where the Protection Directorate comes in. Theresa Mayhem, Camshaft’s other adjutant, is there to wipe out threats to your hard-come-by leftovers. Anyone coming within ten metres of you or your property is a suspect; anyone who’s a suspect is banged up, deported or taken out; and experienced Chinese builders are nearing completion of a great wall round the British Isles to stop invasion by people with dodgy passports. We rehearsed this scene outdoors, with the Mayhem actor and her best friends on their way to sort out a suspect found sneaking through the remaining gap in the wall.

May with police

So rest assured – your residual pocket money is fully protected.

In Terms and Conditions Apply  Camshaft’s henchmen might appear flippant. But don’t be fooled. Beneath the frivolity lies MUC, a system of protection dictators would die for. MUC, a fully-owned subsidiary of Camshaft & Co, Accountants.

Sounds a good racket to be in; wouldn’t mind a slice of it myself!

Eddie

In Eddie’s Eye 8, the penultimate edition of this highly acclaimed newsletter, I’ll tell you how a character called Govis systematically interfered with the production of Terms and Conditions Apply. Out soon.

Terms and Conditions Apply – a play by Paul Costello. Fabulous political satire about a 5-year coalition government, seen through the eyes of ordinary, suburban households and, in stark contrast, the rose-tinted spectacles of politicians. Director, Bob Maynard Thurs 31st July – Sat 2nd August @ 8pm. Adults £10, Students £5.  Ledbury Market Theatre

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8