Thursday, April 29, 2010

Achtung! Don’t Mention Ze Election!

God knows I’ve done my best to make this blog an election free zone. I’ve resisted commenting on the televised debates (mainly because I’ve very easily resisted watching them). I’ve resisted making derogatory comments about the Tory poster campaign featuring David Cameron, tie off, sleeves rolled up, man of the people getting ready to “muck in” with the rest of us. I’ve even resisted posting a photograph on this blog of the papier-mâché butt I have fashioned out of all the political fliers that have been posted through my letterbox over the last two weeks – enough to account for a large denuded hillside in Scotland, I shouldn’t wonder.

I didn’t want to get political, you see. Not because you’re not interested (though possibly most of you aren’t) but because it has reached saturation point here in the UK and I’m sick of it. It’s being overdone and it’s being overdone badly. We don’t overdo things here in the UK as professionally as the Americans do. When we overdo things it just looks excessively shoddy instead of just shoddy.

But Monday night I accidentally caught a little bit of the televised Party Political Broadcast by the British National Party.

And it riled me. It offended me.

I felt affronted.

Not by anything that was said because when I saw it was the BNP I immediately switched off mentally.

But I was offended by the imagery.

It opened with air raid sirens wailing over a black and white archive footage shot of an anti aircraft searchlight.

Trying to tap into that war time spirit, you see. Trying to tap into the received stereotype of the good old honest-to-God white faced blue collar worker standing at arms with his neighbour in the face of adversity; in the face of overwhelming odds.

And then the icing on the cake: Nick Griffin squatting behind his desk like Jabba The Hut in a Burton’s suit talking reasonably and calmly about whatever it is the BNP would like us to believe that they believe. And in the background, deliberately in shot, the ultimate in product placement. A nice little framed portrait of Sir Winston Churchill.

Plainly the BNP do not do subtle.

And that is what annoyed me.

Do they really think people are that dumb? Do they really think that people who weren’t even around to experience the actual real war will buy into the BNP on the back of some pseudo contrived fake mishmash of Britain’s old war time 1940’s spirit?

Do they really think that people’s knees can be jerked so easily?

Plainly they do. Plainly they think that the British people really are that dumb (and dumberer).

Plainly the BNP think that their party embodies the spirit of Winston Churchill, Boudicca and The Ghost of Christmas Future all rolled into one fat red, white and blue stick of Blackpool rock.

Roy Chubby Brown is the fifth horseman of the Apocalypse: stupidity.

It is this assumption of the nation’s gullibility that makes me angry.

And it is the BNP’s willingness to manipulate the truly gullible among the population with this trite 6th form pub lounge campaign that makes me angry most of all.

Because there will be people, alas, who will fall for it. Who will buy into it. Who will give themselves over to it and think they are doing the patriotic thing. The right thing. The war time spirit and all that. Fighting the good fight.

For all I loathe the concept wars, the semantic duelling and the psychological fencing of both the Conservative’s and Labour’s political campaigns they do at least credit the nation with some intelligence with all their subliminal posturing. They at least assume that the average man on the street is in some way media savvy.

But Winston bloody Churchill and WWII?

Oh come on!

All it did for me is make me mentally replace the portrait of Churchill with one of Hitler and hang a swastika behind Nick Griffin’s head. I mean one stereotype is as good as another, right? If we’re going to deal in knee-jerk broad strokes and buy into old propaganda let’s do it properly.


On the positive side, I at least know [if I didn’t already] who I’m not voting for.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How To Make Money And Influence People

There is a phenomenon in our house called The Wiggles Effect. It occurs certainly in young boys between the ages of 3 and 5 and may also occur in young girls though I’ve no direct empirical proof of this not having any daughters. The effect lasts approximately 18 – 24 months and then dies away rather quickly.

The first time we experienced it was with our eldest boy. We were pretty terrified at the time because, with no historical template to compare it to, we had no idea how long it was going to last. Would he always be a Wiggles fan? Would he never grow out of it? Was he going to start wanting to dress like them, sing like them, dance like them?

As it was he turned 5, got into Star Wars and dropped The Wiggles like a handful of hot potatoes.

So now with Tom showing similar appreciative tendencies we are panicking a good deal less.

The Wiggles, for those of you who don’t know, are an Australian... er, group-band-ensemble-thing that cater for the toddler end of the kid’s entertainment market. They’re like a cross between Geoffrey from Rainbow and a Take That karaoke tribute band. They dress like spares from Star Trek (i.e. the ones that are there purely to get photon torpedoed, lasered and lost during erroneous beam ups) and are the rummest looking bunch of men I have ever seen. I might be wrong but I imagine they grew up in a hard drinking mining town in the Outback that had very few women and at a very early age these 4 boys decided that (a) they weren’t gay and (b) they didn’t like the nasty taste of alcohol either.

There’s something unquenchably wholesome and “nice uncle” about them even as they dance around like every kid’s ultimate nightmare: a party throwing disco-dad.

They are in short plain embarrassing. It’s just too easy to take the P out of them.

And I shouldn’t because both my boys think they’re great (the eldest still has an affection for them – but, shh, let’s keep that quiet, it wouldn’t be cool if his school mates found out). And to be honest I can keep Tom occupied for hours by throwing on a Wiggles DVD.

Even as I’m shaking my head at their lame dancing and gurning singing faces I am secretly thanking them in my mind. Even as I cringe at their awful lyrics (fruit salad / yummy yummy / fruit salad / yummy yummy) I am grateful that they have afforded me a 5 minute daddy break.

And as I said I shouldn’t knock them – I have no right to knock them – because according to a recent poll they are officially Australia’s highest earning performers. They have topped even Kylie Minogue in the recently published Ozzy rich bitch charts.


If I’d known kid’s television was such a lucrative business I would have made a sock puppet years ago and happy-clapped a whole lot more.

For those of you that dare, here is a link to one of their finest offerings: Fruit Salad.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sauna Coats

I really should have more sympathy because when I was a geeky teenager I too did this: wore a long black coat even when the weather was warm. Even when the summer heat was beating down onto my angular shoulders like a scorching hammer onto an extremely bony anvil. I persevered. I stuck with the sweaty neck and the rivulets of moisture that ran down between my callow shoulder blades. Just so I could walk around with a swirly long black coat and imagine I was somehow cool and mysterious.

It had nothing to do with painful shyness and a need to obliterate my physical form with a large bail of machine processed wool that had been tailored for a man 5 sizes bigger than me.

No. It was about fashion. It was about coolness.

And if I suffered in the heat then I suffered for fashion.

And looked an absolute twat (sorry: wassock) in the process. Because I can see now that I did not look cool. I did not look like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. I looked like a nerd who just didn’t have the confidence or maybe the intelligence to dress in a manner that was climate appropriate.

People were laughing at me behind my back but I couldn’t see them because the huge airplane wing collars of my ex-army de-mob coat were obscuring everything that existed behind my 18 year old ears.

But I can see it all now. Because every time Leamington Spa is blessed with warm weather – as we have been this week – there are inevitably at least 2 members of the local populace who (like me when I was a barely pubescent teen) persist in wearing a huge, ankle-dusting coat of leather so black it looks like it has been woven out of hairs from the devil’s own arsehole.

And instead of reaching out emotionally to these idiots with sympathy and understanding I instead feel an overriding urge to sing as loudly as I possibly can the opening bars of Rage Against The Machine’s “Wake Up” used in the closing credits of The Matrix.

When my family and I are cruising the windy streets of Leamington Spa in our trusty Peugeot, the moment they hear a “Na-na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na-na!” burst from my lips all eyes will swivel to the pavements in search of the black caped sweat crusader who has crossed my field of vision.

And there he will be. Black coat lopping the top off sundry dog turds as he walks, legs struggling to lift the massive moonboots he is wearing on his feet and his head bowed and dripping inside the inevitable hoody that he is wearing beneath his absurd trench coat.

Na-na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na-na!

I’m not sure why it angers me so much. Possibly because I am in some way angry at myself for not waking up to myself sooner. If I could go back in time I’d give myself a kick up the arse (if I could find it beneath all that voluminous material) and urge myself to put on a T-shirt. Get some sun on my arms. Not sweat so much. Let the air get to me and circulate.

Heaven forbid, let the world actually see me.

Who knows, if I’d done that I might actually have got myself a girlfriend before my 30th birthday.

After all, miracles have been worked with less.

In the meantime: Keanu Reeves, you’ve got a lot to answer for (and don’t even get me started on those stupid ruddy sunglasses)...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Return Of The Der-Bains

When you’re at school certain insults do the rounds like a weird kind of grammatical virus. Two that stand out for me are “wassock” and “pranite”, both of which became very popular in the early eighties and were slung about my junior school playground like disyllabic Molotov cocktails.

But the one that caught on the most and had the biggest impact was “der-brain”. Anyone who did or said anything remotely idiotic (which when you are 10 or 11 is a regular occurrence) was declaimed in as loud a voice as possible as being a “der-brain”. Adopting a heavily spasticated tone of voice was also thought de rigeur when using this insult.

I’m sure this insult went national during the eighties and was heard in playgrounds (and building sites) all over the land. However, what I am sure was a purely local phenomenon was the transmutation that occurred one day when in my school playground at least “der-brain” suddenly morphed into “der-bain”. The meaning stayed the same but the loss of that single “r” somehow rendered the insult (a) funnier and (b) more effective. Being labelled a “der-bain” was a good degree worse than being labelled a “der-brain”.

Eventually, as these things do, these schoolyard insults died away to be replaced with boring, standardized, post puberty expletive combinations. Insulting someone became a cold and precise undertaking with no real room for imagination or the invention of new language forms. So “der-brain” – and indeed “der-bain” – died a natural death and dropped away from the general lexicon of childhood foulmouthedness.

Until last Sunday.

I must have dug “der-bain” out of my memory and uttered it at home or talked about it to Karen... who knows... but suddenly I heard it coming out of the mouth of Ben, my eldest boy. He was playing in the bath with some minifigures while I did some chores in the office and I could hear him re-enacting various scenes from Doctor Who. David Tennant’s last episode featuring the return of the Timelords (and a viciously spitting Timothy Dalton) had obviously made a big impression.

The improvised script when something like this:

Timelords: kneel before us petty humans! You are no match for us – we are far cleverer than you are and you are nothing!

Humans: no we’re not; we’re cleverer than you think and we will defeat you, you der-bains...!

I have to say I stumbled in my chores and had to stifle a giggle. It took me right back to the playground. I am now wondering if, with some clever auto-suggestion, I can resurrect “wassock” and “pranite” for a new generation.

In the meantime, if Steven Moffatt and the BBC would like to purchase a brand new Doctor Who script with cool playground lingo they can contact me via this blog.

Toodle-pip, der-bains.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spare Change

Leamington Spa’s south end of town has traditionally been viewed as the “less well off” part of town. It has a dual reputation for both trouble and (paradoxically) community spirit. A lot if this reputation stems back 200 years or so when money was poured into developing the town north of the river during the boom time of the spas and everything south of the river – the original old town – was left, not so much to fester, but certainly to scrape the barrel for whatever it could find to keep itself going.

Leamington is still to this day filtered by this binary north-south divide. The town in its genetic make-up is bipolar.

The building where I work is on the very cusp of this divide (the river) and this possibly explains the huge proliferation of drunks and ne'er-do-wells who seem to gather in the vicinity. I cannot go out on a lunchbreak or head home without encountering weather-stained men and women, all with beards and ex army ponchos whose aura of alcohol and marijuana would be enough to make a vicar hallucinate Jimi Hendrix’s entire Woodstock playlist.

You have only to pass within 10 yards of them and a hand will come out asking for money while the other hand clutches the ubiquitous can of Special Brew even closer to their chest. “Got a spare 20p, mate, I need to make an urgent phone call?” seems to be the standard form of address.

I must be honest here and say I very rarely comply. I have so little change available and what I do have I’d rather retain for the use of my family. I feel guilty though. As I walk away ignoring them – for that is what I do – I feel I am doing wrong. The old Christian message of giving when somebody asks still burns brightly beneath the thin caul of my subconscious. On occasion my mind even throws up a quick image of me on the Day of Judgement, fluttering my hands with angst, trying to explain my habitual parsimony to St Peter. Look, I just wanted to buy some chocolate buttons for my two little boys...

But then reality kicks in – and I use it to back up my stance even more: they don’t want to make a phone call. They want to buy more beer. Or more weed. Or more [insert your poison of choice here].But really – do I have the right to attach a moral authority to any monies that I may or may not give to someone? Once it’s given surely it’s up to them how they spend it and what they spend it on? It’s no longer my business.

But such a dilemma is not the reason for this post.

The other day one of the drunken bearded men again accosted me for small change. This time however he was neither drunk nor stoned. He was sober. He was compos mentis. He was bright eyed if not bushy tailed. We had a conversation. I saw humour and kindness and a shy but charming personality behind his eyes. I gave him some money.

Why now and not other times? Why now and not when he is drunk or falling over his own inebriated feet? Am I making a judgement call about intemperance? Does dipsomania render him ineligible for charity?

I’ve thought about it a lot since that day. I think when he approached me I saw him for the first time as a person. The mask of drunkenness that so disfigures a human being had fallen away and I saw an individual. I’m not saying I could read his whole life story in every line of his face but for that one unguarded moment I could see all the hurt that had ever been done to him – and that had put him on the street in the first place – there in his eyes. We connected. One man to another. It was a shock. It was emotional. I felt sad for him.

Since then I have wondered whose mask is the more deplorable to wear. Whose mask is the bigger social evil?

Drunkenness; the desire for unending personal oblivion?

Or the hard eye of respectability that sees enough to judge but not to understand?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Feeling The Strain

It’s a little known fact about our youngest son, Tom, that he has – without fail – been ill for every Christmas and Easter holiday since he was born. Everything from a bad reaction to the MMR jab to horrible gastro-bugs. If it’s out there he’ll do an X Files and find it.

This Easter we thought we’d got off lightly. Just a nasty cold.

But the nasty cold for some reason mutated into constipation.

And not the “nice” constipation either; the sort where you merely feel no compulsion at all to go. No, Tom got the nasty constipation where you feel bloated, fatigued and are plagued 7 or 8 times a day by stomach cramps and spasms that leave you in pain, upset and (if you’re 2 and a half) a bit frightened. Most of the time these spasms would be unproductive. They’d rack his little body, leave him discomforted and miserable and put him off eating (as eating the slightest little morsel seemed to bring them on in the first place). Finally, at the end of the day, after a titanic battle with his bowel, there’d be a weighty little pebble of poo in his nappy. The kind of thing that would have taken off the top of Goliath’s head if propelled from a well aimed sling.

It’s been harrowing and heartbreaking to watch. Tom (like his father, it has to be said) needs space and privacy when having a motion. Hence he’d shut himself away in the hall or the kitchen and groan and strain away in solitude and fend off any kind of outside interest or interference. Until he got so fed up with it that a “tuddle” (cuddle to the layman) was finally called for.

Karen and I turned to the chemist and got him some lactulose. As per the back of the box instructions he’s had 5ml twice a day since Friday. It’s had a barely discernible effect. In the end we decided we could stand it no longer and Karen took him to the doctor this morning.

Thankfully there is nothing seriously wrong – which is a huge relief. As a parent you automatically fear the worst and I’ve lived with the fear that he has had a blockage of some kind for days and days – a ridiculous fear given that he has been producing poos of boulder-like quality but who said parents were rational?

The doctor (as we suspected) issued suppositories and has told us to up the lactulose intake to 15ml twice a day – to be reduced slowly once he starts producing soft poos.

A two-pronged attack. A pincer movement so to speak.

Tom as you can imagine was not enamoured by the first suppository but as I headed back to work this lunchtime leaving him in the care of my good lady wife, there were sounds and smells that maybe that first efficient dart had found it’s mark and things had begun to move freely once again in the nether-world of nappies. Tom certainly looked a good deal happier.

I too certainly feel a darn sight more relieved than I have done for days (it’s so nice that I can empathise with my son).

I have asked my wife to keep me updated on the poo front and possibly to text me a picture of his first post-medication product. It sounds gross I know but those of you who are already parents will understand where I am coming from.

Those of you who are not parents may now have been put off procreation for life.

I can only apologize.

If it’s any consolation it’s something your own children will not thank me for either.

Friday, April 09, 2010


We all have friends I am sure - good friends - who send us funny emails.

Like an unending electronic game of pass the parcel they receive funny emails from their friends, pass them onto some other friends who don't know the original friends and these people will in turn then pass the email onto even more friends who didn't know they had these friends in the first place. On and on it goes and no-one really gets the present.

I bet such activity accounts for 90% of the world's email traffic.

And by and large I don't have a problem with it. Some of the funny emails are actually funny. Some - Heaven forbid - are even informative though this is a rare occurrence. It's a lazy way of keeping in touch with people, I guess. I've received an email from so-and-so therefore I can deduce that they are not yet dead and still have some sort of sense of humour and a working email account.

The emails I do have problems with are the Powerpoint presentations.

You know the ones. The chain letter ones. The mildly threatening ones. The ones that wheeze through 80 frames at one frame every 90 seconds containing a ridiculous sob story sourced from an origin that must be buried deep in the biggest pile of bullshit in the universe.

And then at the end - the thing that really gets my goat - is the "threat". The threat that is bollocks. The threat that you and I both know is utter tosh (because we're sane, well adjusted and media savvy) but that someone (the sender of the email) thinks... ooh, there might be a chance this is real and if I don't forward it I'll have the voodoo put on me... and so they send it. The threat that uses people's own absurd and ungrounded superstitions against them.

You must forward this email to at least 10 other people within the next 15 seconds or bad luck will befall you. But if you do send it you will receive a telephone call within the next hour with some wonderful news!


I want to scream every time I receive one of these. Instead I just delete them immediately but this is in no way cathartic enough. I need a program that will somehow mangle the offending file like a werewolf snacking on a rabbit. I want to hear it scream and gargle in its own electronic blood as it is rendered subroutine from subroutine.

These emails are pathetic. I can't believe that there are people out there who actually spend their time making the damned things in the first place. Who the hell are they? Does anybody know who they are?

Of course not. Because they can't possibly have any friends.

But then again... how do they start the chain in the first place if they have no-one to send it to?

No matter. I just want these people identified and their Adobe Photoshop / Microsoft Office licenses revoked. And then I want them publically lynched and force-fed their own kahunas. And I want it filmed and put on YouTube so I know that it has been done to my highly esteemed satisfaction.

Wonderful. I can then email you all the link.

Please would you all be kind enough pass it on?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Identity theft is a real problem.

I don't think anybody would argue with that. While the papers might not thrum daily to the groan of "he stole my house, bank balance, Facebook account and Peugot 106" horror stories it is accepted that having one's identity stolen (or at the very least borrowed for nefarious purposes) is a very real risk in the modern age.

We all take steps against it, I am sure. Shredding personal documents before putting them in the rubbish. Not storing our passwords and account names on our computers. Not writing down our credit card pin numbers (yeah right - who doesn't do that?), etc.

And talking of credit cards, we cut them up, don't we? When they expire or the bank issues us a new one because they've been taken over / taken over someone else and have changed their name we snap those horrid bits of plastic in half and maliciously quarter them with a sharp pair of scissors. Maybe even cut them in half again just to be sure.

But the question is: how small do you cut them up?

I only ask because I suspect I go over the top. It is a curious foible of mine to reduce old credit cards down to something akin to the molecular level. I recognize there is no logic to this endeavour because any letters or documents that I receive from the bank I merely rip in half and bin without a second thought. If someone wanted to rifle through my rubbish (avoiding the dirty nappies - good luck) and piece them back together and ascertain my account numbers, it wouldn't be too difficult.

But credit cards trigger a primitive sense of paranoia in me.

Not only do I reduce them to confetti but I also have to distribute them over as wide an area as possible. The splintered components cannot all go into the same bin just in case there is a madman out there (and he would have to be mad - and very good at jigsaws) who will spend months locating all the pieces and then somehow gluing them back together again to gain access to my bank account information.

To neutralize this risk I put approximately half into the bin at home and then very cannily distribute the other half into the many street bins that line my morning walk to work. It would be a labour of Hercules to recover all the pieces and put them back together again. Sometimes I even mix the pieces of different cards just to confuse the would be identity thief even more. I like messing with their heads, you see. I like to think that the UK's asylums are all full of would-be identity crims who have all been driven mad by their attempts to reconfigure my old credit cards.

You can laugh if you want to. Call me nutty and neurotic if you have a mind. But nobody - and I mean nobody - is ever going to steal my identity by nicking one of my old credit cards.

I can guarantee it.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Touch My Body

At least once during the average working day I will heed the call of the chocolate. Usually around the mid afternoon point I will get the urge to consume a quantity of cocoa based confectionary. My hit usually takes the shape of either a Yorkie or a Dairy Milk bar. My supplier is just around the corner, barely 50 yards away, and exists in the shape of a little downtown newsagent. His proximity means I can sneak out, score some choc and be back at my office desk before anyone even knows I am gone.

I have the procedure down pat.

And by and large it works well. Except when the normal shop assistant has the afternoon off and is replaced by Jabba The Hut. I don’t know what Mr Hut’s problem is (apart from a low metabolic rate, an underactive thyroid gland and man-boobs that could envelope Katie Price) but he plainly doesn’t have the energy or the enthusiasm to “customer face” effectively.

He refuses to move out from behind the till.

And when I say “behind the till” I really mean behind the till. He wedges himself in there so tightly that the cash drawer must create an S-bend in his colon every time he rings up a sale and his back must bear the imprint of shelf after shelf of Benson & Hedges.

Worst of all is when it comes time to pay for a purchase. I select my bar of choice. I drop it onto the counter to indicate that, yes, this is the bar that I want to get orally intimate with and I hold out my loose change (being mathematically astute enough to work out in advance how much money I must hand over to him to avoid accusations of theft). At this point the normal shop assistant – if she were present – would stretch out her hand also. We would bridge the counter with our arms and meet half way above it whereupon I would place the money easily into her hand.

Not so, Mr Hut.

His hand stays more or less adhered to his gut but as a small concession forms a small palmy plateau into which I am expected to drop my hard earned wonga. I have to practically bend myself double over the counter to achieve this. Anybody passing by would think I was making a pass at the big moody brute. He then compounds this act of rudeness – for that is what it is – by scooping my change out of the till and again offering it to me in the same agoraphobic manner. I have to reach over, one leg out like a snooker player playing a bridge shot and try and retrieve my rightful change at full stretch. As I do so my hand grasps unwholesomely close to his cardiganned moobs.

It’s infuriating.

I have been tempted to throw my money at him or even to drop it onto my side of the counter... but I suspect it and he will merely sit there glowering at me until I rescind and push it closer to him.

I could go elsewhere for my chocolate treat, I suppose, but nowhere else is as close or as convenient. My afternoon sneak-outs would be in danger of being rumbled (if I haven’t already rumbled them myself with this blog of course).

And I daresay some of you might suggest I just give up the afternoon chocolate scam altogether – much the easiest solution... and better for my health and my wallet.

But really! Give up chocolate?

Are you effing crazy?

Come on, people. Serious, workable suggestions only, please.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Who Needs Easter Eggs When You Have Eye Candy...?

Apologies to my international readers (oh how I love saying that) who don't have access to UK terrestrial television but it's been a bumper weekend for both TV and the BBC. Friday saw the return of Ashes To Ashes - the third and final series - and yesterday saw the return of Doctor Who.

Suddenly weekend television is great again.

Given the media stir that both these programmes create surely TV executives everywhere must be able to interpret this as a clear vote for more quality drama on our televisions and less of the (comparatively cheaper to make which is why so much of it is made) reality TV tosh that infects UK programming schedules like slugs around a lettuce bed?


But back to the plot: the first instalment of Ashes To Ashes was shockingly dark. The actual crime story of the episode almost took second place to the black undercurrents of trouble occurring within the police team that Alex Drake finds herself trapped within. The apparently unassailable Gene Hunt suddenly finds himself confronted with a sly nemesis in the shape of Discipline and Complaints officer, DCI Jim Keats - a strange mix of East End wide boy and geeky university post-grad. A cocktail that is never going to appeal to the Gene Genie. And there is nothing poetic about Keats. He is wheedling, he is smarmy, he is two-faced. He is courting Alex Drake - albeit only professionally at the moment - but has already voiced his hatred of Hunt to the great man's face. There was a lovely TV moment when, caught within the glass of Hunt's closing office door, Keats's reflections passed across the image of Hunt like a glowering cloud. Matter and antimatter. Dark and light.

There are uncomfortable secrets about to be revealed. Keats promises to reveal the truth about Hunt... and by extension, the truth about Drake's predicament in this 1980's world. And I suspect it's going to be nasty.

I have to be honest and say that Keeley Hawes could be dressed as a tramp and I'd still watch her but Alex Drake is a fabulous creation and is actually a better foil for Hunt's blustering machismo than Sam Tyler ever could have been. In the end, Sam became one of the boys. This is something Alex Drake can never be. Certainly not with those amazing legs anyway...

...and talking of legs, Karen Gillan made a rather long legged splash onto our TV screens as Doctor Who's new companion. Dressed as a policewoman kissogram with legs longer than the double doors of the Tardis (but, I suspect, leading to a box far more exciting - sorry, couldn't resist; am high on chocolate this Easter morning) Amy Pond established herself within the Doctor Who world with serious redheaded aplomb. In a single episode Steven Moffat has again proved himself to me to be one of this country's finest screenwriters. This first episode crackled with tension, humour, in-jokes, Whovian references and technological cleverness. Unlike R.T. Davies who, God bless him, knows drama from a soapy / emotional standpoint, Moffat understands science and technology. He understands time as well as people. Without blowing too much of the plot for those of you who are still to see it, he establishes a truly emotive link between Amy Pond and the new doctor with ease and without it feeling too clunky or contrived. This is what I like most about Moffat's writing. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is throw-away. Everything is well used.

And what of the new Doctor?

*Nods* Yeah.

I give him - Matt Smith - a thumbs up. I'd seen a couple of interviews with him and found him curiously "not quite likeable" but having watched last night's episode I can't knock his acting skills. Tennant is a hard act to follow but Smith has done it. He has the energy of Tennant's old doctor but also brings something more to it. An Englishness. An eccentricity that appears to be genuine and is, I suspect, as much a part of Smith's true real-life make-up as that of the character he plays. By the end of the episode I had accepted him fully as the Doctor. He had stamped his Gallifreyan DNA indelibly all over the role.

So. A victory for Moffat, Smith and Gillan.

A victory in fact for the BBC.

A proud morning to be British. Happy Easter everyone.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Pent Up

That hollow slapping sound you can hear in the distance is me striking the back of my head with my open palm. If you ever wondered what the sound of one hand clapping sounded like, well, this is it.

A while ago, driven by chagrin and self-recrimination, I posted here about the possible theft of my pen drive. The pen drive that contained the most up-to-date version of my novel (not my only copy thankfully). Even in the depth of my howling despair I knew I couldn’t class it as a proper theft because I and I alone had gone and stupidly lost it. I kept my pen drive loose and cavalier in my coat pocket along with my house keys and, despite it falling out on several occasions, I didn’t see fit to heed the warning signs and store it somewhere more secure.

Eventually the inevitable happened. It simply wasn’t there one day. I searched high and low for it, far and wide, in places probable and improbable.

But it just could not be found.

On this very blog I voiced my greatest fear. That some unscrupulous plagiarizing little toe-rag would not only spend days of their life reading my novel but then would achieve the near impossible and publish it as their own. In my mind’s eye I could see royalty rights disappearing down the toilet. Interviews on Jonathan Ross being given to the faux author whilst I hung about outside BBC Television Centre, a one man picket line, waving my beautifully crafted placard in the air to nobody in particular.

Some of you mocked this. Some of you mocked me. Like anyone would bother to read it, you said. They’ll just wipe it and re-use the pen drive for their own uses, you laughed.

But still my fears plagued me. The possibility was there, you see. It could not be denied.

But in the end – at the final denouement – we were both wrong.

Because I found my pen drive the other morning in the pocket of my “other” trousers. I suspect it had been there quite a while and has been through the washing machine at least once. Certainly all the logos have been thoroughly washed off.

Amazingly the data is all intact. Persil might get your whites whiter than white but it can’t do a damned thing about all the expletives in my novel.

It’s safe. The security breach[es] have been plugged. I have learnt my lesson. I have a new pen drive now that I can hang around my neck.

Along with my shame and embarrassment. Sorry folks, panic over.