Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Popping One's Clogs

My last post (or more specifically, its title) got me thinking about Red Dwarf. And in particular the episode where Rimmer and Lister perform a mind swap. For those of you who don’t know the show, Rimmer is a hologram (cos he’d dead) and gets to borrow Lister’s body for a week on the condition that he puts it through a rigorous training regime to get it back into shape. Rimmer, of course, reneges on the deal and goes on an extravagant orgy of eating and drinking. Lister is less than happy about this and accuses Rimmer of mistreating his body. Rimmer’s answer is that Lister has mistreated his body himself for years... and points out all the little pains, tweaks and twinges that Lister never ever mentions...

Now I’m not, by rule, a hypochondriac. By and large, like Lister, I ignore all but the most insistent messages that my body gives me. Or at least I did when I was younger.

Now that I’m 40 I’m suddenly becoming more aware of them. The slight headaches that come and go. The twinges in my guts. The aches in my elbows and my thumbs. The low level but nevertheless ever-present back pain.

Lying awake in the morning I can’t help but think my body is giving up whispering its messages to me and is now beginning to shout them at me through a loudhailer.

Are these all signs of my inescapable mortality?

I’ve never been one to dwell overlong on death and existentialism but I guess with my granddad grumbling his way through Death’s waiting room and a spritely 2 year old running around my home my thoughts are, quite naturally, being prodded into contemplating the great mysteries of life.

The last ten years of my life have flown by like they’re nothing at all – which is a little worrying for the next ten which will take me up to (gulp) the big 50. I’m already slowing down. I can feel it. My powers of recovery are weaker. I feel more tired more easily. I’m starting to really enjoy eating my greens. And, worst of all, I have stopped buying music.

I am becoming – slowly but perceptibly – old aged.

Mentally I still consider myself the same curmudgeonly, mean spirited grump that I was in my twenties... but physically I’m now less inclined to chase after ruffians on bicycles and throw my shoes at them for being cheeky. The spirit is willing, etc, etc.

I’m becoming less inclined to move with the times. I’m losing my grip on popular culture. Musically I’m still in the 80’s and cannot deny the parallel with my parents who were stuck in the 60’s when I was getting into Killing Joke and Fields Of The Nephilim. New music is beginning to pass me by.

Of course there other factors at work here. Less disposable income. Less space in the house to store my already humungous record and CD collection. But is this how it starts? Will I start falling in love with old black and white films purely because they remind me of my childhood? I can’t deny I’m already tempted to buy retro kid’s programmes on DVD for Tom (Bagpuss, Chorlton & The Wheelies, Pipkins).Of course I realize this is not on. He needs to be experiencing the same reference points as his peers not those of his father.

So am I merely wanting to regress to my own childhood to satisfy my own craving for what was once familiar? Isn’t this one of the signs of old age? Seeking to abandon the confusing present for the safety of the rose tinted past?

But maybe I’m looking at all these twinges and aches the wrong way. Maybe they are protests? A wake up call to get with the programme? To smell the New World coffee? A rallying cry to deliver me from the abyss of entropy?

Hmm. You know, I think that’s how I’m going to look at them.

A call to arms. A war cry raged against the dying of the light...

My 40’s are going to be my new 20’s. Old age can wait a little bit longer.

I is feelin’ the need to get me some bling, innit?


Monday, October 26, 2009

Q: Where Do All The Little Toasters Go?

A: To Silicon Heaven.

My computer died over the weekend.

The secondary hard drive experienced some kind of coronary during a bout of game playing (that’ll teach me!) and went into catastrophic mechanical failure. In the process it managed to blow the network card, take out my museum-piece floppy disc drive and mangle parts of Windows and Internet Explorer.

Quite how all these components were ever interconnected is beyond me but my computer’s internal biology is now completely irrelevant.

My desktop buddy has been rendered a virtual vegetable as a consequence.

Internet access is impossible. No network card means no modem. Although the router is still working and I can gain access via my wife’s laptop downstairs I, nevertheless, feel cut off and isolated from the virtual world of the World Wide Web.

I can no longer surf as and when I see fit but must (quite rightly) await permission and book a time slot on the laptop.

The loss of the hard drive also means I have lost an immense amount of data and media that I had amassed over the last 10 years. Although I have always been pretty good about backing things up you know what it’s like... You get complacent. You get lazy. You put off until tomorrow what really should have been done today. I’ve undoubtedly lost stuff. Thankfully nothing major or essential but the loss of it still hurts.

The loss of my little electric friend has left me more than a little bereft.

I’d had my computer for 10 years and had built it myself to my own spec. It went from a single hard drive beastie to a high-end multi hard drive, disk burning, internet munching monster in the space of 2 years under my careful nurturing and tutelage.

But then I got married, had kids and, I admit, the computer got neglected. The upgrades petered out. I made do with what I had rather than buying shiny new add-ons. As a consequence, it began to slow. It began to struggle with newer programs. The processor speed began to under clock. It couldn’t keep up with what I wanted it to do let alone what the software was asking of it.

I guess that was the beginning of the end really. The day of reckoning was bound to come. And now it has finally arrived and my finger is poised over the switch to the life support machine. I am merely waiting until I have finished harvested its software organs and its data banks for any retrievables.

Call me heartless but I am already in the market for a new computer. A replacement. My wife, God bless her, has not only given me permission but has insisted that I treat myself. An upgrade is long, long overdue. Possibly my wife merely wants her laptop back.

So I will be going to the local computer shop this week to spec myself up a new high end, quad core machine that should be able to levitate off my desk with the sheer speed of its fans.

I feel strangely ambivalent. It’s money I’d rather not be spending right now but I cannot deny that the acquisition of a new computer is very exciting.

The only thing that truly gets me down is the days of work involved getting it all running properly... connecting the modem and router and the other peripheries... getting email and internet access re-established.... getting the software and drivers installed... ‘cos none of this ever runs smoothly. Plus I will have a brand new operating system to contend with: the much vaunted Windows 7 which, yes, I have heard good things about but I would still welcome other people’s opinions on it.

In the meantime I am building a funeral pyre for my poor crippled friend. His mask has fallen off and I have at last seen the face of Darth Vader. The Force has left him. The electronic wheezing is just getting on my wick.

It’s time for him to burn.

P.S. Another milestone. This is my 500th post! Thank you all for reading!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Bird Strike

So I’ve been going merrily about my business, ignoring the distant thunder of swine flu rattling the headlines and, though not feeling myself immune, at least feeling myself relatively out of reach. Nobody I know has had it. And my place of work brought in an excellent “stay at home if you or someone in your family has it” policy way back when the flu thing first kicked off in the media.

I felt secure. I felt buffered. I knew The Flu was still out there but I had a moat around me and the drawbridge was up.

Until yesterday.

My walls have now been breached. An ugly ballista rolled over my ground troops and fired a flaming rock over my ramparts and set fire to my great hall.

I attended an IT training session at work yesterday. 5 of us in a little room breathing the same air for 90 minutes. Nothing untoward in this. The biggest fear is usually someone with COSHH standard B.O. The pandemic was the furthest thing from my mind.

But just as I was signing my name on the attendance sheet a rather attractive female course delegate breezed in, apologized for being late and calmly announced that her kids were currently very ill at home with Swine Flu.

My chin dropped so fast I still have the pen top imbedded in my beard. My first thought was: in that case what the hell are you doing at work risking a further spread of the virus? But before anyone could speak she made an attempt to qualify her continued presence at work by stating that she thought she’d “probably had it herself by now and was fine”.

Oh great. You think you’ve had it. And you are therefore assuming that you are, as a consequence, not a carrier of the disease.

She then sat down directly behind me.

Have you ever tried to hold your breath for 90 minutes? I can tell you now, it’s not possible though the hallucinations almost make the attempt worthwhile.

So now I’m paranoid. I’ve woken up this morning with a racking cough and a sore throat. My nose is bunging up as I type. Admittedly I’ve had a perma-cold for the last 4 weeks so these symptoms could be just an extension of that but no. I am now convinced I have got Swine Flu and have carried the disease home to my wife and kids.

I should have done more to protect them. I should have stayed away from home for 2 months. I should have placed myself in a plastic bubble for 7 weeks and had the air exhaled from my lungs processed by second-hand equipment bought from NASA. I am unclean. I should be walking around with a bell around my neck or living in a colony in Cheddar Gorge living off berries and discarded McDonald’s hamburgers (a fate worse than death).

*Sigh*

I’m trying to be sensible about it but it ain’t easy,

In all seriousness I’m not so worried about myself as my kids. Ben has chronic asthma so already has a respiratory weakness and Tom is only 2, God bless him. The possibility of infection is and always has been a major worry.

I must admit I feel very annoyed about the blasé attitude of my work colleague yesterday. But at the same time, in sane moments, I’m trying not to let paranoia run away with me. Lots of people have had Swine Flu and shrugged it off. But I also know that others have not been quite so lucky.

I just feel annoyed that someone saw fit to ignore the clear stipulations of my employer based on their own inexpert diagnosis of their own health. Whether it’s Swine Flu or not, whether my fellow delegates and I are now infected or not, it showed a remarkable contempt for the health and welfare of the rest of us.

Or am I just letting social panic and media hype get the better of me? Am I over-reacting?

Or am I on the ball? Should I be acquiring black market Tamiflu and Michael Jackson’s old face-mask right now?

Hand on heart, I promise not to sneeze over those who wish to cast a voice of dissent into the ring.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Ang Is A Sket"

This particularly informative piece of graffiti appeared on the road outside my house late last week. Applied with white aerosol paint the letters are about a foot high and each word has been rendered with a wobbly capital.

I have, I admit, been tempted to take a photo of it to publish it here for your delectation but, much as I love you all, being run over by a passing BMW or a souped-up moped doesn’t strike me as a suitable pay-off for my photographic skills so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

I had to Google the word "sket". I’m afraid I’ve long lost touch with street slang and youth speak but there are some bizarre resources available online which can bring one up to speed in no time at all (the Urban Dictionary being invaluable). Sket, for your information, means a loose woman of elastic morals. Or thereabouts. You get the picture I’m sure.

So basically some love-struck teen has discovered that his gal has been spooning some other chap behind his back and it’s soured his brandy somewhat to the point where he feels he must besmirch her good name in the nature of a painterly public broadcast announcement to warn all us other chappies to steer well clear of her unless we’re not averse to taking sloppy seconds.

How sweet.

I can’t help feeling sorry for Ang for all that she may be no angel. I can’t help but think of her every morning as the wife, kids and I pile into our little red Peugeot and inevitably drive over her name as we set off for our various destinations in town.

She’s been condemned without a fair trial. She may be innocent and of unblemished character but the tarmac now accuses her of base harlotry. She may even be guilty, may lie on her back nightly with a whole regiment of thrusting young bucks... but there may be mitigating circumstances. Maybe her "official" boyfriend is something of a sket himself or just plain nasty and she has sought comfort in the arms of someone more worthy and more understanding of her needs.

Whoever she is, I can’t help thinking how upset she must feel to see her name cast so indelibly to the dirt in this way. How awful if she lives in the same street (which presumably she does) and has to pass this graffiti every day with her parents or her siblings. What must they think? The shame must be burning her up inside.

I hoped, when I first saw the lettering, that a good rain shower or two might wash it all away. But no, Mr Paragon Of Virtue Himself saw fit to spray his snide little missive in permanent paint. Nearly a week later it’s still there, as bright and brazen as when it was first applied. Hester Prynne must be turning in her fictional grave.

Whoever you are, sir, I put it to you that there are worse things in life than being a sket.

Being petty and immature are two of them.


Monday, October 19, 2009

It’s That Time Of Year Again

Fireworks as operated by an idiotI’ve ranted about this before.

But like a poo that just won’t flush away it keeps coming back.

Fireworks.

I’m not trying to ban them. I’m not trying to make them Public Enemy no. 1. But I would, if I’m honest, like to see them more strictly controlled.

Now, I’m not a fun-puritan or a celebration-Nazi but it seems bizarre to me that a shop needs a license to sell fireworks but any idiot with a debit card or the cash can buy them.

Absolutely any idiot. Any idiot at all.

And they do. In droves. (Actually what is the collective noun for idiots? A pranite? A trough? A smear?)

We’re only half way through October but already we’ve had our evenings disturbed by the war in Afghanistan being reenacted outside and this nightly barrage will continue well into November as the shops who greedily stockpiled their weapons of mass disruption continue to offload them onto pyromaniacal youths with expensive Nike’s and cheap cigarette lighters in order to recoup their initial expenditure.

Where do these youths get the money from to buy all this gunpowder? I’m not talking about the odd bang every hour (hey – sounds like a great night in) but a whole orchestra of explosions and aerial eruptions. A veritable symphony of aural fire and destruction. And I’m not talking about little fizzes and popping noises either; I’m talking about the kind of detonations that could dissolve kidney stones if the sufferer was standing close enough.

The windows shake. The cable TV connection twitches. Pacemakers pause (literally) for a heartbeat.

The kids are disturbed. I’m disturbed. The TV is disturbed. And animals... well, animals just become disturbed.

And for what? Some pretty coloured lights in the sky. And that’s before we get onto the subject of burns, accidents, malicious damage (great name for a record company) and the number of deaths caused by unregulated firework usage in the UK alone.

I have personally witnessed youths launching fireworks horizontally down the middle of the road in a bid to prove how dumb and dumberer (great name for a film) they really are. Or worse still, throwing them – ignited – across a road. And then you read about the ones that launch fireworks through people’s letterboxes or light them inside a house or tie them to the tail of someone’s pet... on and on it goes. People who can’t be trusted with a bottle of Clearasil are being allowed to play with gunpowder at night on our own streets! It’s positively insane!

In my opinion it’s criminal.

So. I’m not saying “let’s ban fireworks”.

I’m saying let’s ban the sale of fireworks to individuals. Let’s have properly organized displays only. They’re safer. They’re more cost effective. They’re more entertaining. And, even better, they’re confined to a single night of the year.

Sorted.

So am I making sense? Or am I just an older banger with a short fuse?

Answers on a rocket to the usual address please...


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On The Run

Regular readers of this blog will have “heard” me speak about my Polish (ex)neighbours before. Particularly daddy Pole who liked to wear shorts so tight it was like looking at a couple of vacuum packed faggots stapled to an all-in wrestler’s crotch.

Well, there have been developments.

They disappeared a couple of months ago amidst loud telephone conversations in their native tongue that we could hear quite plainly by standing on top of the kitchen counter and pressing a stethoscope to the wall. The conversations sounded stressed and urgent. They were obviously trying to book last minute flights at the nearest international airport. We assumed they’d decided to cut their losses in recession hit Britain and were heading back to their motherland.

Once they were gone we thought no more of them except to occasionally reminisce whimsically about the stressed faggots.

And then we received a letter from a debt collecting agency last week enquiring very stiffly if we knew of their exact whereabouts (the family and the faggots).

It seems they’d racked up quite a bit of debt and had decided to jump ship before the bailiffs arrived to confiscate their Nintendo Wii.

Not sure how I feel about it really. Part of me – possibly the slightly xenophobic part of me – feels a little put out that they came to this country, made good with our products and services and then left without paying their dues.

But the biggest part of me, if I’m honest, thinks good luck to them. Keep your heads down and keep running!

I’d like to think of them growing ridiculous moustaches and wearing incongruous sunglasses on the Costa del Sol somewhere. Possibly having dealings with the European underworld or local mafia. Obtaining new identities, false passports, new dental records. Maybe even having eye transplants like Tom Cruise in Minority Report – though I admit this might be taking things a little bit too far.

I also find it amusing (though it’s an awful joke) that this dear Polish family have absconded without paying council (poll) tax... even though it’s effectively cocking-a-snook at the local authority that pays my wages.

Anyway, I’m checking the Interpol web site regularly now.

Keeping an eye out, keeping ‘em peeled. Scanning the Most Wanted lists.

I’d recognize those freshly pressed faggots anywhere...


Monday, October 12, 2009

General Hospital & Major Cock-up

I have bored memories as a young child of having to sit through General Hospital because my mother used to enjoy watching it. That and Crown Court were the bane of the afternoons in my early years. I hated them but I do recall being faintly impressed with the dynamic efficiency of the hospital as represented on television. And that impression stayed with me for a long time. I long thought that hospitals were models of precision timing and perfectly coordinated activity.

It’s so disappointing as an adult to realize that like most things in the UK they actually run like two badly oiled bricks.

My granddad has been in the local hospital for most of the summer. He had a fall. Got a chest infection and a water infection. One thing after another and it seemed unlikely he’d ever come out again.

But coming out he is. This Tuesday after lunch apparently despite being unable to walk and therefore unable to care for himself.

He does however have all his marbles and has exercised his right to be sent home. Although some of the family are against this and would rather see him shoehorned into the nearest nursing home I’m of the opinion that as an adult he has a right to make his own decisions and die where he likes. And let’s be honest; that is what this is really about. Thankfully the law is with me on this. As he is fully compos mentis it is his decision and nobody else’s.

Getting him home however is proving to be a nightmare and this is where the badly oiled bricks come into it. I was plagued by phone calls all day Friday (which marred Tom’s 2nd birthday a little). First he was being sent home Wednesday. Then Monday. Then finally Tuesday after lunch. A care package was going to be put into place. Phew – very glad to hear that. 2 care workers 4 times a day will visit him. But before all this can occur he needs to have a hospital bed installed downstairs and a key safe put into the front porch so the care workers can gain access to him as and when.

Could I let them into the house to do all this?

Yes. No problem in theory.

Except that Saturday – the day when all this was supposed to occur – came and went with no sign of the bed arriving and Age Concern who handle the key safe side of things being shut all day.

It’s now Monday and I’m at work and cannot now just drop everything at an hour’s notice (the best the hospital can give me regarding the bed installation) to disappear for God knows how long while they shove a bed into my granddad’s dining room. And then possibly have to make a second journey to the house to meet with the Age Concern handyman (who also hasn’t got back to me yet) to get the key safe installed... because to coordinate the two together into one trip is, well, like trying to drive two badly oiled bricks up a hill.

It really feels like the hospital’s left arm doesn’t know what its right arm is doing... which isn’t what you want from a place whose primary function is to coordinate care...

*Sigh*

Thank God my granddad hasn’t been booked in for a tonsillectomy and an endoscopy... or there might be some very unusual organs in a pickle jar by now.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Disaster Movie

My ambient paranoia has become such that, just like Chicken Little, I feel that my life is like an imminent disaster movie just waiting to happen. All the ingredients are there: low flying jumbos, a spate of local fires, a cut in funding for the local emergency services and more oddballs wandering around the streets than you could fit into the Casualty waiting room (and I’m talking about the BBC medical-soap series here, not the A&E reception of the local hospital which, let’s face it, tends to be bad enough).

Take the plane thing.

Now it might be I have just become more sensitive since having a little ‘un arrive on the scene but I swear to God they are flying lower and in greater numbers than ever before. So low I could slash their tyres with a kitchen knife as they pass overhead. Has Birmingham Airport re-arranged its flight lanes I wonder? I don’t recall this volume of air traffic ever occurring when I was a kid, teenager and young adult.

And I know the chances of one of them falling out of the sky is so remote I’d stand a better chance of winning Strictly Come Dancing than witnessing a plane crash on my home town but even so. The paranoia is there and kicking like a mule.

Every time a jumbo strains overheard I find myself listening closely to the engine sound just in case, you know, I can hear if something is wrong. Not that I’m a flight engineer or anything but I’d imagine hearing a rattle or a coughing exhaust at 3,000ft isn’t going to spell good news for anyone.

And then there’s the flight path itself. I find myself triangulating it mentally, breathing a sigh of relief when I realize it does not pass directly over my boys’ nursery and school buildings. Or my home. My place of work I don’t care much about. To be honest a good plane crash would sometimes relieve the monotony – provided, of course, no one was actually in the building at the time (I mean, I’m not completely callous).

More and more I find myself objecting to this invasion of my family’s personal air space. Who are these people who are endangering the lives of my loved ones with their holidays and their business trips? Why can’t they catch a bus? Or better still, walk?

Haven’t I got enough to worry about with the dying economy, the permanent risk of terrorist attack, food shortages, global warming, misleading food packaging, the war in Afghanistan, the UK’s underage pregnancy rates, swine flu, an increase in the Bank of England’s base rate and the Tories getting into power at the next election?

It’s all too much.

Come on, air traffic control! Give me a break! Send them over Coventry. It’s not like anyone would miss the architecture...


Monday, October 05, 2009

Meeting The Neighbours

It’s funny. Only two weeks ago I was lamenting to my wife, my friends and my work colleagues (anyone who would listen in fact) how much I missed university. The buzz. The creative atmosphere. The sense of higher learning and personal development that offered a sense of relief from the relentless toil of 9 to 5.

And then a week ago the university came back to me...

...in the shape of new neighbours: students.

Oh joy.

Now I might have had my gripes about our old neighbours – the Polish family – but really they were lovely and hardly any trouble at all (as long as you averted your eyes when Mr Daddy-Pole was squatting in front of his barbecue like a Sumo wrestler in shorts so tight his genitals appeared to have been shrink wrapped in cling film). They were quiet. Kept regular hours. And mowed their lawn occasionally.

They had a young family like us and so there was enough common ground for us to harbour mutual respect for each other’s home lives and need for private R&R time.

The same cannot be said for the party animals now living next-door.

OK. I’m being a bit harsh. I’ve had one disturbed night out of 7 but really, given that they’re going to be here for at least 9 months, the odds aren’t great for me maintaining my beauty sleep regime.

Friday night the loud music kicked off at 10.20pm. Not a constant thump-thump-thump (which would be bad enough) but a horrible start and stop track that seemed to be on a permanent loop. It was maddening. However, end-of-week exhaustion worked in my favour and I did manage to drop off... Only to be woken at 1.0am by the same track now being pumped so loudly out of a car parked out the front that I could hear the house bricks vaporizing with each thump of the bass.

And then the music was unbelievably drowned out by a sleep shattering barrage of giggling and shrieking and screamed conversations whose beginnings, middles and ends consisted solely off “yeah, man, like, yeah, like, yeah man...”

In the end I had to don trousers and coat (it only occurs to me now that I was in danger of adopting flasher chic) and go outside and politely hail them over the hedge. Tempted as I was to give them a mouthful (I’m only talking strong language here, OK?) I decided to keep it polite. I figured it might be wiser not to launch straight off into a war on my own doorstep. I asked them if they wouldn’t mind “keeping it down just a bit so that their neighbours could get some sleep?”

To be fair to them, they apologized and the music volume was instantly dropped. And within minutes they had all disbursed and gone back to their hashish bongs or whatever it is they’re called these days. And I was able to get back to sleep.

However I was tired and grumpy the next day. And I suddenly recalled all the things about Uni life that had begun to irritate me greatly when I was there.

Students and their fun and their music and their good times and their living life to the max and their craziness and their drinking and their inane loudness and their totally in your face youthfulness and ebullience.

Bah humbug!

Come back Mr Cling Film – all is forgiven!


Friday, October 02, 2009

Meeting The Locals

Wednesday evenings have somehow become take-away night. The reasons for this are far too mundane to go into so I shall skip them. But being a connoisseur of the fish & chip supper I’ve been taking myself off to the local chippie at the appointed hour there to purchase the finest cod and chips that my hard won money can buy.

It’s a mere 5 minute walk to the top of the street but it does take me through the badlands – the rough end of the street; the wrong side of the tracks, etc.

By and large I’ve encountered no trouble but have passed some sights that have encouraged an occasional bout of rubber-necking. Couples arguing in cars. The contents of front rooms scattered over DIY gravel drives. And enough snotty nosed 7 year old smoking Marlborough’s to make me think this country’s potential population explosion might be naturally capped in about 40 year’s time.

This Wednesday, however, was different.

There I was, my freshly wrapped chips slung under my arm, heading towards home when 4 lanky youths disembarked very untidily from a house on the other side of the street.

Naturally, minding my own business, I attracted their dubious attention.

Initially I got the ubiquitous “alright mate”. I admit I didn’t respond. I’m rather choosy about whom I consider to be a mate. Maybe this was my mistake? The next two comments were plainly insults – I can’t even recall what they were – followed by loud, rather effeminate hooting laughter.

I didn’t respond again. I carried on walking. Neither quickening nor slowing my pace. Curiously I didn’t actually feel threatened. I’d quickly surmised that these paragons of teenage virtue were no more than 14 or 15 and were merely being buoyed up by each other’s leaking testosterone. On their own they wouldn’t have said boo to a goose.

But afterwards I did feel angry. Not seething, blood boiling angry but angry in a “maybe I should have crossed the road and lamped one of them” kind of angry. Why should they be allowed to get away with such behaviour? What makes them think they can act so aggressively to complete strangers and not have any come-back?

I know, I know.

It’s not worth the risk of a flick-knife in the guts. I’ve got a wife and kids at home. I’ve got cod and chips under my arm. All they’ve got is their own inferiority driving them on to acts of desperate foolhardiness.

But nevertheless the anger was there. Little shits.

In the past I have responded when a complete stranger has seen fit to be arsy with me in the street. I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve just hit boiling point straight away and launched in with some particularly nasty vitriol. The old adage that lions roar so loudly to avoid combat has held true. My opponent has usually turned tail and beat a mouthy retreat.

Afterwards I’ve usually kicked myself for being so damned stupid. But I can’t deny that I’ve also felt a small, glowing sense of satisfaction that I’ve held my own. Stuck up for myself. Taken no shit.

This Wednesday I was just too tired, too preoccupied, and possibly more sensible.

But even so. I can’t help wishing I’d kicked some ass.

Do you think it’s possible I have been exposed to a small dose of gamma radiation?