Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Anti Anti-virus

There are some things in life that you just have to put up with.

Paying taxes. Catching a cold. Working for idiots (for peanuts). Bruce Forsythe.

These things are just never going to go away. They are always there. The rough with the smooth. If you want the positives (i.e. local amenities, immunity to millions of bacteria, money to enjoy and... er... Tess Daly) then you just have to put up with the negatives.

So I understand why, if I want to enjoy broadband connectivity with the World Wide Web, I need to have an anti-virus program installed. And since first going online in 2000 I have never been without one. Although I initially bumped for McAfee I have, by and large, for the last 9 years stuck with Norton.

And it has increasingly irritated the shit out of me.

It has got more and more invasive. Rather like a virus itself actually.

It hogs resources. It does things behind my back. Things like “idle time scans”. It slows and frequently stalls my machine – particularly when I’m in a rush to do something – to the point where sometimes the whole thing just freezes and I have to initiate a “hard reboot”. Of course the scandisk thing then kicks in. And although you can press a key (any key) to opt out of this, you just know that paranoia will get the better of you in the end. So you let it scan.

And it finds errors. Invalid entries. Truncated files. Misreported file sizes. Files with names that no homo sapiens would ever come up with in a million years. And these files all originate from the Norton program folder.

Because Norton was doing something that I hadn’t asked it to do and the hard reboot messed it all up.

*Sigh*

I’ve started to hate my anti-virus program with a passion.

I know it is only doing its best to protect me. That it’s looking out for my best interests.

But really.

It’s like hiring a security guard to protect your house and then finding yourself barred from the kitchen when you want to make a meal.

“Sorry sir, you can’t come in. I’m scanning the kitchen for malicious equipment.”

“But... I’m hungry. I need to eat. Can’t you do this later?”

“Sorry sir. Got to be done now. The procedure can’t be interrupted once it’s been started.”

“But I only want to make a sandwich. I’ve somewhere I need to be in half an hour. I have to eat now or I won’t eat at all.”

“Sorry sir. Your security comes first. You’ll have to wait.”

“But... but it’s my bloody kitchen!”

And it’s my bloody computer!

I don’t want Norton to initiate idle time scans without my permission. If my computer is being idle leave it damn well alone. Let it be idle and receptive to my commands! I want it to be ready to do what I want it to do!

And I don’t want to have to have a Master’s Degree in computer programming just to be able to make Norton behave. I want Norton to have one button which says “Steve, you are my master” which I can press and then relax in the knowledge that my computer that I bought with my own money and operate daily does so under my command and not at the behest of a group of faceless computer geeks based in America writing program code that takes over every computer it is installed upon under the guise of doing the owner a favour.

Anti-virus?

Yeah. Half right.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Stepping Outside The Barricades

The first time we put Tom into his cot it dwarfed him. He looked like a peanut in an empty warehouse. We filled the space with soft toys and spare blankets but still he looked lost.

Somehow, over the last year or so, despite our watching him intently he’s managed to sneak the act of growing past our eagle eyes. He’s grown stronger, sturdier, more self willed and determined. And longer.

And the cot has slowly shrunk around him. First it reduced itself from warehouse to wrestling ring – allowing Tom to charge around its railed edges in an endless game of ring o’ roses. And then it shrank further still. It became a one child pay pen. At full stretch Tom was practically touching the far edges with his toes.

And then, inexplicably, it became a pleasant prison. One he never complained about being inside – thankfully Tom has always loved his bed – but one he suddenly began to try and escape from a couple of mornings ago. The early signs were there. Tom was gearing himself up to “go over the walls” (as opposed to smuggling himself out with the laundry).

Such activity sounded the death knell for the cot. The drop down to the floor was such that Tom would be likely to suffer a broken neck or at the very least broken limbs.

Such a likelihood was simply unacceptable.

So the cot was dismantled yesterday afternoon and reconfigured into a proper bed. Tom’s first.

I must admit I felt... sad, regretful. There was something comforting about bedding Tom down in his cot each night. He was safe and secure. Contained. He could come to no harm and no harm could come to him.

He was also still my little baby boy.

Now, suddenly, I have had to re-adjust my thinking. Accept that he is no longer a baby. He is a very active, singularly determined toddler. He’s a proper little boy.

After we’d rearranged the bedroom yesterday afternoon we allowed Tom a little playtime in it. This proved to be a good move. He was very excited by the changes and his frequent squeals of “ooh look” indicated he was pleased with the new arrangements.

The test was bedtime of course. Rather sagely we managed to wear him out so that he’d be less reluctant to get out of bed and it seemed to work. He was tucked in and snuggled down. All his usual furry toys were there.

I snuck up to see him after half an hour and found him sprawled on top of the bed – the blanket kicked off as usual – sound asleep. Mission accomplished.

This morning he was up at 6.10am, running around the bedroom, dipping his little fingers into all this amazing stuff that Ben leaves lying around in the room they share. He loved it. So much so he really didn’t want to go downstairs today and only did so under duress.

So. Another developmental stage has been encountered and passed. The baby has gone. And I shall miss him dearly. But the boy that has appeared in his place more than makes up for the loss. I daresay as his confidence grows his morning wanderings will take him to the stair-gate at the top of the stairs or to the bathroom and all its myriad opportunities for mischief... I suspect I shall not get much of a lie-in for the next week or two...

But despite and perhaps because of that I feel immensely proud.

Welcome to a little bit more of the world, son.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making New Cheese Out Of Old Cheese

Eric Estrada
I don’t believe it.

They’re bringing back Knight Rider.

Re-made, re-cast and possibly retro-fitted, Michael Knight and his camp Kit car are already gearing up to turbo-boost back onto our TV screens sometime this Autumn.

And I feel nothing but dismay.

Some things are just best left alone.

Most of the TV shows from the eighties being a case in point.

Although I have fond memories of Knight Rider, The A-Team and Airwolf et al, they are time-locked into a small, blessedly sealed, period of my teenage years and that is where I’d prefer them to remain.

My teenage years weren’t great. I was shy, geeky and nerdy and not particularly a success with the ladies. I lived most of the time in my head, my imagination fuelled by the shows above, my morals and political outlook to a degree informed by the heroes who machine gunned their way to justice and democracy for all. In my innocence I bought unthinkingly into the American way.

Yes folks. I wanted to be Michael Knight. I wanted to be David Hasselhoff.

Oh the shame. And I’d rather not have to relive it.

Well, to be honest, I never wanted to actually be Michael / David. But I did covet the car. I coveted the car in a big way. Yes, I wanted a car that looked butch but was, at heart, gay... Though that gayness is only apparent in retrospect. At the time it wasn’t so obvious. Kit was, well, just Kit. Just as C3PO was just C3PO (and not a metallic version of Charles Hawtrey – which he plainly is).

Looking back on it it’s plain to see why I was such a messed up teen.

But that aside, I’m just sick of this regurgitation of the eighties. It’s lazy. Nostalgia is nice when it is infrequent but not as a permanent mindset. And nostalgia certainly isn’t an art form worth spending money on.

But plainly I’m wrong.

Some TV money man somewhere obviously feels Knight Rider is good for a few bucks more. So they’re wheeling it back out of the scrap yard only this time without the Hoff.

Which surely is a bit like having The A-Team without Mr T?

Or Star Trek without Shatner?

Er...

OK.

That last point wasn’t argued so well but even so...

It’s just not going to be the same. It’s like – having mentioned Hawtrey above – trying to remake the Carry On films. It cannot be done. Sure you can emulate all the physical / visible ingredients. But what you can’t recreate is the original time frame. Nostalgia just cannot be contemporized.

Now, maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe they will inject a whole new ethos into it. New blood into old wine skins, etc, or whatever the saying is. But why bother when you can buy the originals of every bloody series from the eighties on Amazon?

I mean, can people not write anything new anymore?

What are they going to remake next?

Street Hawk (remember that anyone)?

Whizz Kids (anybody)?

CHiPs?

Geez. CHiPs. Please, please don’t get me started on Eric Estrada...


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Mystical Toilet

A toiletWhen you're a kid, toilets are magical, mythical, mystical contraptions.

Aside from the boyhood / manhood pleasure of blasting your urine around the rim like you're strafing an invisible enemy army, there is the magic of the disappearing water.

You pull / push the flusher and all that water shoots down and disappears... where?

As an adult, of course, the toilet is downgraded to merely a mechanical appliance that is (quite literally) always at your unthinking convenience but as a kid... they're akin to dragons and unicorns. Eerie, intriguing, frightening beasts of indeterminate morality.

My eldest boy, Ben, was always a little scared of the toilet and overcoming that fear was a major factor in getting him properly toilet trained... making that big step from carelessly filling his nappy to anticipating the demands of his bladder and making a pre-emptive strike at the portal of the big white telephone. He got a toy car every time he successfully made it to the toilet. Even now those cars are referred to as "poo cars". But his initial fear is understandable. That wide open mouth... The chasm down to deep waters... The porcelain abyss with it's strange smell even when the water is clean... It's a big thing to park your bum over it for the first time and relax enough to let nature take its course.

That fear is also greatly increased when the toilet has eaten one of your toys.

Ben once accidentally dropped a favourite toy down the loo when he flushed it. Of course it went the way of all small solid things trapped beneath the flush cycle.

And that only added to the mystique of the toilet. It transports things elsewhere... Elsewhere via dark underground water chutes. Through the sewers, through vast underground caves... out, out, far out to sea. Or so I used to think as a kid. It's a bit disappointing to learn as an adult that everything actually ends up in some huge sediment tank at a nearby water treatment plant where all the muck is literally sucked out of it. God knows where that toy is now but it's certainly not floating around the Atlantic as Finding Nemo would have you believe.

Anyway, my youngest, Tom, is displaying early signs of having an interest in the toilet. When he has a bath (or a "splish splash splosh" as it is known in my house) he likes to have a quick peak over the rim to see what's down there. I'm hoping this bodes well for future potty training and isn't an early indication of his entire Duplo brick collection making a bid for the Pacific sometime soon.

But regardless of erroneous submersibles and unlikely submarines, it's comforting to know that his toilet rites of passage will begin soon. That he too, in time, will embrace the mystique of the toilet.

Enemy in sight. Release safety catch. Open fire...! Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta...!

Magic.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Birds, Bees And Tee-Hees

Pocket Goddess, Lucy PorterThe funniest comedians are physically unattractive. Discuss.

We were talking about comedians at work this week and being a shallow lot the discussion quickly moved on from merely which ones we thought were funny to those we thought were attractive. And it quickly became apparent – certainly from the males – that if they found a female comedienne attractive they tended not to find her very funny. But this was OK. This lack of comedy skill was forgiven totally provided there was the redeeming presence of a nice face, or nice tits, or a nice arse. Eye candy made up for all the comedy shortcomings.

And yet those comedians we (the men) deemed to be masters of laughter were all unanimously declared – by male and female alike – to be Hound Headed Troglodytes From Planet Ugly.

Or at the very least Plain Janes and Joe Averages.

Such a judgment seemed rather sweeping.

And it got me to thinking. Is it true across the board?

On the face of it, it seems to be. A quick example: I think Frankie Boyle and David Mitchell are the funniest things on the comedy circuit period. Witty, sharp, intelligent and frequently thought provoking. Everything I could desire in a comedian. But attractive? To anybody?

Surely not (though some of you may prove me wrong). Frankie Boyle by his own admission looks like one of The Proclaimers (which isn’t a good look even for a corpse) and David Mitchell is, well, er, very funny.

As for comediennes I find attractive, Lucy Porter would be top of my list. Petite, brunette, curvy, vaguely elfin in an early Kate Bush kind of way... she’s hot hot hot. I like watching her.

But she doesn’t make me laugh. Much. She raises the occasional smile and something else but that’s about all.

Jo Brand, however, I think is much funnier and well, there you go. Argument proved.

Or is it?

I think the possible explanation for this rather sexist dissection of who is good and who is not good at comedy is centered around gender politics in a different way. Being heterosexual I don’t, by and large, find other blokes attractive. Sorry, I just don’t. Instead I seek out other admirable traits in men. Intelligence, wit, a certain coolness, etc. As for women, well, I know what I like and I gravitate towards it.

But women’s humour is just different from men’s. Stand-up comedy isn’t as broad as people think. It’s the old French & Saunders thing. Women (mostly) found them very funny while us men (mostly) just didn’t get the joke. Because it was from a strong female perspective. It just wasn’t meant or pitched for us.

Is the converse true though? Do women not get bloke jokes?

Plainly they do. So are male comedians pitching their gags to a more universal audience while female comediennes pitch theirs to a stronger female demographic?

I’m confused. Maybe there is no clearly defined right or wrong answer.

It was interesting to note, however, that some of my female colleagues found Frankie Boyle and co. not only “not funny” but also not very attractive as well. They lost out on both counts.

How funny.

I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

But as long as everybody is happy and getting their laughter injections somewhere, does any of it really matter?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fair Or Foul?

The curvy, gorgeously sexy Kirstie AllsoppI got excited at work last week.

This singularly rare occurrence was caused by Kirstie Allsopp.

It seems that my employers were taking part in the new Keep Britain Tidy campaign that was about to be fired up and were asking for volunteers to take part in a special lunch time litter pick. How was Kirstie involved? Well, this new national campaign was being figure-headed by the particularly luscious Kirstie who I mistakenly thought was going to be personally throwing her lust-inducing weight behind the endeavour.

I was all prepared to wear rubber gloves and rubber boots (in fact rubber everything), give up my lunch break and get stuck in to the man made mountains of mess that regularly besmirch my home town of Leamington Spa. Not only was I prepared to invest in my own litter picker (which I’d be quite prepared to let Kirstie handle) but I was actually plotting to shovel extra detritus around the district’s footpaths and byways just so I could present my bulging sacks to Kirstie at the end of the event to show her what a tip-top litter picker-upper I really am.

I just know she’d have been impressed and would have whisked me off for a mochaccino somewhere to say a private thank you.

I had it all planned.

Sadly, once I tore my eyes from her picture and actually read the article on my work’s intranet properly it transpired that Kirstie would not be present at the actual Leamington Spa event. Instead she’d be at the official launch in London. What? Get your bleeding priorities right, Kirstie!

It seems all we’d get in L Spa was my big boss in his marigolds.

Not exactly a crowd puller. Needless to say I spurned the litter pick and moodily ate my sandwiches in the park and begrudgingly threw my crisp packet into the bin afterwards.

This is the story of my life. To not exactly brush fame as to see it smeared across someone else about 100 miles away.

Not that we don’t get to meet famous people through special events organized by my employers...

Only last month I could have taken part in an anti dog fouling campaign and met (not necessarily shaken hands with) Ricky Tomlinson who was taking a personal interest in the campaign and actually come down to Leamington Spa to throw his lust-repelling weight behind the launch.

Now I’m not knocking this campaign at all. Speaking as someone whose shoe soles seem to be permanent turd magnets I wholeheartedly approve of any endeavour to remove dog logs from our streets.

But Ricky Tomlinson? Posing next to a dog turd bin? It didn’t exactly get the juices of my enthusiasm flowing.

Kirstie, you’ve broken my heart.

P.S. Would anyone like to purchase a second hand litter picker? Unused. Clean. Grip handle squeezed only once. Going cheap.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Fence Is The Best Defence

The Bloggertropolis security compound was strengthened and fortified against all rogue incursions of the canine variety over the weekend.

A sterling local company of fencing experts who go by the name of ID Fencing descended on the ol’ homestead early Saturday morning and disgorged enough woodery and nailery from the back of their flatbed truck to construct a fully functioning watchtower complete with machine gun posts and sniper slits.

Alas, such an item of garden furniture was beyond their remit to build and so instead they worked like Trojan’s to put up a 6ft fence that greatly diminishes the possibility of anything larger than a squirrel ever gaining access to the inner sanctum of my lawn and herbaceous borders.

I’m proud to say my backyard is now tighter than a gnat’s arse.

We’ve even seen a drop-off in the amount of cat poo that normally bullet-holes the lawn which, as far as I’m concerned, is an added bonus.

Although we’ve lost a little bit of view and the illusion of space the good definitely outweighs the bad. For the first time ever we feel safe and private in our garden. And more importantly we feel that the kids are safe. Our troublesome neighbours with their rampaging rottweiler left over a month ago but we decided to push on with the fence plans regardless. You never know who might be moving in after them – a wild cat maniac, a boxing kangaroo aficionado or even a man in a cloth cap with a penchant for cock fighting. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

As it happens the fence was a wise move.

The fencing boys – being local lads – were able to inform us that the garden that abuts onto the bottom of ours belongs to a “half way house” of indeterminate variety.

Marvellous. And I thought we lived in a nice area. Hyacinth Bucket as opposed to Onslow and Rose.

Seems I was wrong.

Seems we have the Gallagher’s living at the bottom of the garden. Or to be exact, rejects from the Jeremy Kyle show. During bouts of weekend gardening Karen has been able to eavesdrop on drunken protestations of love and drunken death threats should one or other of the rehabilitatees veer from the path of physical faithfulness and exclusive intimacy. Not so much the course of true love as the coarse...

Anyway, Mr and Mrs Ex-Jailbird own a ruddy great pit-bull.

*Sigh*

I’m wondering if there is still time to electrify the fence and build that watchtower...


Friday, September 11, 2009

Some People And Me

Three items on the bugbear list this morning.

First off – a flagrant disregard for child safety.

I took the boys into school / nursery this morning as Karen is in Birmingham on an accountancy training course. On the way we passed one of Tom’s nursery mates being walked to school by her dad. Well, I’m assuming it was her dad and not her uncle. Whoever he was he obviously wished he was doing something else. There were frequent exhortations to “come on” and “hurry up”.

Bear in mind his ward is a wide-eyed 2 year old.

Now Tom loves walking. He finds it a great delight and no doubt feels very grown up doing it. Unfortunately, at just under 2 he just does not understand how important it is to hold mummy or daddy’s hand when busy roads are nearby. So he gets strapped into the pushchair. He’s fine with this thankfully. It’s still fun to be out and about even without the ability to perambulate freely. But even if he complained I’m afraid he’d still be stuck in the pushchair regardless.

I’d rather have him crying and safe than laughing one minute and forever silent the next.

So it was with horror that I watched this poor girl almost run out into the road when a car was coming and then get hollered back onto the pavement at the last minute.

For God sake man keep a grip of your child!

This would be bad enough in isolation but my wife witnessed a similar incident with the same family a few afternoons ago when she picked Tom up from nursery. Again the kid ran out into the road and was only hauled in at the last moment. The poor motorist who was almost involved looked ashen as they drove away.

It’s an accident just waiting to happen.

What is wrong with some people?

Secondly – cleanliness.

Due to blocked drains I’ve been flush testing all the toilets in the building this morning. As I was doing this someone came into the toilets after me. Now, I don’t know why, but I instinctively stood still and kept quiet and out of sight in the cubicle. I instinctively became furtive. Bizarre when I wasn’t even doing anything that involved the lesser-loved bodily functions. But there you go. Maybe I was a pervert in another life? Please keep your responses to this to yourself.

Now I know for a fact that, due to the location of these toilets, they are mostly used by the catering staff.

So imagine my disgust when I heard the urinal being used and then the “urinee” head straight back out without even a cursory swill under the taps.

This is someone who literally has his fingers in every pie going. Not to mention casseroles and stews. And a whole menagerie of sandwiches. On a daily basis.

How can you do that? How can you “point Percy at porcelain” and then not even wave your dannies under a bit of running water?

Folks, there’s a lot to be said for preparing your own packed lunch every day.

Lastly – my own self deprecation.

The other night I assisted some work colleagues who were having difficulty alarming their department at the end of the working day.

When such difficulties arise and seem to be insurmountable I always recommend that staff ring the local CCTV guys and ask them to keep an especial eye on the building. It’s a little extra security measure that probably acts as nothing more than a mental placebo.

I was asked if I had the number to hand.

I did. It was in my head instantly.

My head is full of useful numbers and codes and passwords. I make no effort to memorize them. They’re just there. They stick. It’s a natural facility. When I used to work at British Telecom I found I could give out a lot of the numbers to people without referring to the computer records at all. I had them off by heart. Only the frequently asked for ones I hasten to add. I’m not one of these people that make a living (or a living death) out of memorizing phone books.

But instead of just giving out the number I made a pretence of thinking hard about it. Pretending to strain as I fired up the old memory engine. Why did I do that?

It’s like I was embarrassed to have the necessary knowledge so ready to hand. Was I afraid of appearing sad and nerdy as opposed to just damned efficient?

Why hide my light under a bushel?

Some people, eh?


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Just A Small Sample

I had to remove a little bit of me and insert it into a plastic tube last night.

A part of me that has been succoured on my blood and the food I intake daily. I’ve walked around with it. Slept with it. Worked hard and played hard with it (according to my old school Principal’s motto).

And then this morning I dropped it off at the Doctor’s reception desk without even a fond farewell or a by-your-leave. We didn’t even exchange a hug.

Abandoned. Orphaned. Destined for some white coated scientist’s lab... Some Uni post grad who’ll dissect it, analyse it, microscope it and then... gulp... see if something grows on it. I have sent it out into the big wide world with neither my protection nor my blessing.

Well. It was beginning to be more trouble than it was worth. And at the end of the day dodgy toenails are notoriously hard to love.

Over the years it had become ridged, thick and ugly looking. More like a dog’s dewclaw than a toenail. By and large I ignored it. I clipped it along with its brothers same as usual but bestowed no special fondness upon it.

I was a bit ashamed of it really. Least said soonest mended.

But then the discoloration began. A dark browniness. A yellowing. A muddy blackening of parts.

It was undoubtedly a dirty protest.

An ignored child seeking bad attention.

It was a foolish manoeuvre because now things have been set in motion that I just can’t stop. The doctor requested a sample. A clipping. I had no choice but to separate us.

It all now depends on the lab results which could take 5 to 8 weeks to come back. There’s a possibility that it is merely dystrophic / atrophic growth – I can’t remember exactly what she said as I was hypnotized by the small wooden airplane that was hanging down from her ceiling on a wire. If that’s the case there is nothing she, the doctor, can do. I’ll just have to live with it and embrace my ability to climb tall trees in my bare feet. Think of the fruit I could gather for my kids!

But there is a real possibility that it is a fungal infection. Something unwholesome living off the fruits of my body’s labour. If that’s the case then it’ll mean 3 months of medication. What exactly I don’t know. But she mentioned “possible side effects”. Again, what I don’t know. And I didn’t think to ask. Curse that damned airplane!

I’m betting it’s not a sudden ability to climb walls with my hands and feet and swing from skyscrapers with webs that I can magically produce from glands in my wrists.

It’ll be constipation. Or sleeplessness. Or itchiness. Or all three.

*Sigh*

Take care of your toenails, people, before they take care of you...


Monday, September 07, 2009

Domestic Violence

It shames me to admit that, this weekend, I have been the victim of this.

You know how it goes. You get too close. You don’t give someone enough space. You press the wrong buttons.

Suddenly something gives.

Something snaps.

A sudden quick movement.

Physical contact is made.

You’re left reeling. Shocked. In pain...

There is blood.

After Tom headbutted me he gave me a funny look – a look that said why were you trying to kiss the top of my head when I was playing with my Duplo Police Car anyway? Couldn’t you see I was busy?

He seemed uninjured by the encounter and carried on watching Cbeebies as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile I ran to the kitchen sink and spat the blood from my split lip down the plughole and checked my teeth. Thankfully they were all still there. Just a bit wonky but that’s normal.

Today I have a pout that is both scabby and bruised. I look like I’ve been Botoxed by a scheister.

I’m sure the Scottish contingent of my family will be smiling mawkishly at this story. Ah bless the wee bairn. His first Glasgow Kiss!

Harrumph!

All I can say is, it effing hurt!

However after a quick counselling session Tom and I are fine again. We’ve talked it through using Gestalt therapy techniques and have come up with a relationship work plan which should prevent such acts of violence from ever occurring again...

I’m going to give him a bit more space when he’s playing and Tom... well, Tom, is going to carry on as normal.

Cos he’s just perfect as he is.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Fame Game

Russell Howard lives in Leamington SpaOn Monday afternoon Karen and I decided to make the most of the last day of our holiday staycation by following in the footsteps of many and spending a pleasant few hours in the local park with the kids.

And by “the kids” I, of course, mean our kids specifically rather than “the kids” generally. I’m afraid the days when I’d sit on a park bench necking back a bottle of Diamond White with the local yobbery are far behind me. There are, after all, only so many cars that you can nick, joyride and leave burning by the roadside while you hold up the nearby petrol station before it all becomes a tad boring.

Ennui totally killed crime for me. My low boredom threshold made a straight man of me in the end.

So we’re feeding the ducks and some of it is reaching the birds and 33% of it is going into Tom’s mouth as he can’t bear to part with his share and we pass what looks like Russell Howard on a park bench.

For those of you who don’t know Russell Howard is an up-and-coming comedian who appears regularly on the BBC’s Mock The Week programme and is extremely funny – and I apologize to my overseas readers as Russell Howard and Mock The Week will undoubtedly mean absolutely nothing to you but the experience I’m about to recount possibly will so bear with me.

Anyway, Mr H is neither swigging Diamond White nor getting down with the kids but is doing his best to look unobtrusive and unremarkable while he talks to someone rather earnestly on his mobile phone. He is, in effect, blending in.

And indeed he would have got away with it but for an uncanny act of synchronicity... I’d bought Karen Mr H’s comedy DVD for Christmas last year but as we’re working our way through an immense DVD backlog we’d only got round to watching it the day before our visit to the park. The “Extras” package on the DVD features footage of Russell in civilian mode where he looks oddly unrecognizable from the bouncy persona he presents on TV and stage... but having seen it we were able to see through his “blending in” tactics and pick him out immediately.

It was him. On a park bench in Leamington. Him off the telly. A real life famous person. Him. Him there.

It’s funny but I always thought I’d be unfazed by a close encounter with a famous person. That I’d play it cool. Nonchalant. They are, after all, only people. Same as you and me. No big thing. Autograph hunting is for saddoes. Etc.

And yet I cannot deny there was a small part of me wanting to run up to Russell, shake his hand, say hello and act like his best mate in a manner that would have resulted in the rest of my life being spent trying to overcome the subsequent sense of shame and wince-worthy degradation.

The impulse was so strong.

But I was saved by his mobile phone. Fame be damned. There was etiquette to think of! One cannot just interrupt a phone conversation for the sake of self gratification! It’s bad form! It would be un-English Goddamnit!

So we fed the ducks and left Russell Howard in peace and he – no doubt feeling the sniper glare of our distant attention beginning to bear down on his shoulders – soon got up and walked away from us, looking smaller than he does on the telly and disappointingly un-star-like and disappeared into the milling Bank Holiday crowds of Leamington Spa.

When we got home we did a quick Google search... you know, just to see if he was playing any gigs locally which would explain his presence in the park and found this (check out the last question at the bottom of the page).

Yep. Russell it seems lives locally. He’s moved in. He’s become a Leamingtonian.

He and me are practically brothers!

Welcome to Leamington Spa, Russell! Hope you like it here. But next time you’re walking around town, keep your mobile phone handy, eh?

For both our sakes.