Sunday, July 31, 2011

Censorship And Sensibility (With Apologies To Jane Austen)

“So, I said to her, I said to her, blue parasols are sooo passé. So last year. Only the lower orders go for blue parasols. You’re not much better than a milkmaid in your Sunday best if you carry a blue parasol around with you. So common. Well, I said it so loud she turned and fled red-faced and hasn’t dared to show herself here at Eastwick Towers again. Everybody who was there who saw and heard it thought it frightfully entertaining.” And with that Fanny dissolved into rather undemure laughter while her good friend and confidante, Jane, applauded her for her cutting-edged wit and prettily voiced cruelty.

It was at that moment that Mr D’Arcy presented himself to them both with his cheeks flushed and a little dappled with perspiration.

“Well, hello, Miss Fanny and Miss Jane, what splendid luck to find you both here. I confess I am rather ebullient in my sentiments today for I have just published my own pamphlet to sell to the good people of London. Pray take a look and tell me if it is to your liking.”

Mr D’Arcy forthwith inserted his glossy looking tome into the hands of the suddenly quivering ladies.

“Oh I say, what a jolly funny name,” said Fanny. “Put It In Your Pipe And Smoke It.”

“Indeed.” Replied Mr D’Arcy. “It has a certain ring to it and reflects my own personal viewpoint. It is merely my own opinion which thanks to the laws of this great and noble country, I am at liberty to express freely.”

Fanny began flicking through the pages and suddenly her face paled and fell. She looked suddenly distressed. “Oh Mr D’Arcy how could you? You have written a piece here attacking the red parasol. How could you be so brutish and cruel when you know I am never seen without a red parasol.” And with that Fanny waved aloft her parasol which was indeed red.

“Oh my.” Stammered Mr D’Arcy. “Madam, I had no idea you carried a red parasol, truly I didn’t. Besides my piece does not attack your parasol specifically only certain red parasols generally. And, at the end of the day, good lady, as my disclaimer clearly states, the views contained within this publication are purely my own personal opinion and are not meant to be authoritative.”

“Tish tosh.” Said Fanny. “That makes no difference to my case. I feel personally slighted therefore the slight is real and I have been most certainly slighted. What you have written there, sir, is slander and defamation and infamy. You have slandered my good name by my known association with red parasols in bold print, sir, in your infernal publication, and it causes me upset and hurt. Every court in the land will surely see it so.”

Mr D’Arcy composed his face a little after this outburst and strove to speak calmly and measuredly. “Come, come, Miss Fanny. Consider this: you yourself not two minutes before reading my pamphlet did speak uncivilly about blue parasols. Indeed you recounted how you sent the owner of a blue parasol packing with your cruel barbs ringing about her ears and you did so in full view of witnesses and furthermore have recounted the story to Miss Jane thus exacerbating the damage done to this anonymous lady’s name. You have made your views and opinions public in a manner which also caused hurt and upset. Is this also not slander and defamation and infamy? I wager every court in the land will most certainly see it so.”

And turning upon his heel forthwith Mr D’Arcy made his excuses and left Eastwick Towers for, despite the transparency and glassiness of its walls, the occupants within were wont to throw stones with appalling regularity in order to not be able to see their own reflections staring back out at them from the glass.

The End.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No I Am Not Going To Stop Talking Even Though You Are Talking

So what do you do when a client persistently, obliviously, ignorantly talks all over you at business meetings?

I mean what is the correct etiquette that one should follow? Is grabbing someone by the scruff off their neck and shaking them so hard their blood separates into its component parts socially acceptable? Is it de rigeur to pinch their nose hard and pull their head down to within an inch of the tabletop and quietly mutter death-threats in a voice not unlike Robert De Niro in any of his films?

I need to know because I swear to God I am going to pop a vein if I attempt to suppress my anger any longer.

I think what annoys me most is that, in the moment, I allow it to happen. I can’t seem to raise my voice to battle theirs. I mean, I know I can do it. I know I can summon up the volume; my lungs have the capacity. It’s just that – in the moment – that response seems lost to me. I keep talking. Starting, restarting, restarting, restarting until finally Little Miss Gob-Jockey finally grinds her tongue to a halt. Then I get to speak. Only what I have said doesn’t seem to be heard or acknowledged or valued because the Uber-tongue starts up yet again exactly where it left off.

My only consolation is that it isn’t just me who has this problem. It’s not personal. I’m not an isolated case.

But it feels personal when it happens. Damned personal.

Time was, years ago, I was quite a placid character. An easy-going guy. Wasn’t really in touch with my anger, all that jazz. But over recent years, me and my anger, we’ve started becoming better acquainted. We’re not leaving it so long between phone calls if you get my meaning. The satellite link up is experiencing less and less delay.

It used to be that I’d get talked over by Be’elzeblah and the anger would hit me a couple of hours later. There’d be a bit of a drag to it.

Now though we’re talking ten minutes max.

It’s catching up with the moment. And you can see what’s going to happen, can’t you? Soon, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of my life my anger is going to be there right on the button.

And I need to know what is the most socially acceptable way of reacting. How far can I push the anger envelope and not have myself carted off to an anger management course?

Because part of me would just like to mutter “blah blah blah blah blah” continuously, unendingly... starting off real soft and low and slowly building to a crescendo that has everyone in the meeting, one by one, falling silent and looking my way. Another part of me would just like to be working class and just slam my palm down onto the tabletop and exclaim “fer fook’s sake, woman, will you please just shut yer fooking trap and let me fooking speak?” You know, the direct approach?

But there is another part of me – slightly unhinged with all this repressed fury – that just wants to scream “shut up shut up shut up shut up” into this person’s face and maybe spit a little bit into her mouth. ‘Cos – and this might come as a surprise to some of you – this situation is really starting to get on my goat.

Hey? Are you even listening to me?

Oi! Focus dagnammit! This is important!


Monday, July 25, 2011

It All Turns To Shit When I’m Not Here

No, it’s true, honestly.

I don’t know I how I do it but when I’m here things are calm and reasonable. When I’m not all hell breaks loose and the agents of chaos roam free over the landscape doing whatever it is agents of chaos do. Unpredictable stuff. Wearing odd coloured socks. Driving their cars upside down. Forming coalition governments. Whatever.

Take last Friday. I take the day off. It’s my wedding anniversary. 6th if you must know. I’m not at work. Karen and I spend the day in Stowe-On-The-Wold and Moreton-in-the-Marsh (basically we like places with hyphenated names – it’ll be Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Langwith-Whaley-Thorns next year, mark my words).

We have a lovely time freed from the whip-crack and joy-ruin of work. We mooch, we shop, we eat and wonder why we can’t spend every day like this for the rest of our lives... curse you, mammon and the need for mammon!

When we return home I – as I often do – log into my work emails.

I’m not sure why I do this. Why I give up my free time to connect with an environment which over the years has become anathema to me. But I do it. I think I just want to be forewarned of any impending trouble before I return. Give myself loin-girding time. Because I have learned from experience that whenever I am not at work shit happens. Worse shit than would normally have happened had I been there to shit-manage it. (Are you noticing all these rogue-hyphens?)

So I log-in wondering what could have befallen the old girl this time (my place of work that is).

Will it be a flood again as has happened on previous occasions? Will it be a bunch of hoodies steaming the crowds in the foyer and having to be kettled off the premises by the local constabulary? Will it be an amorous couple of tramps in the public toilets getting passionate together and deciding to mix-and-match their fleas in the most intimate manner possible?


This time in my absence there was a fire. On the boardwalk at the back of the building that allows passersby to admire the River Leam. It seems that a bunch of daft school-leavers thought it might be a jolly jape to make a little pile of their now-obsolete school books on the wooden boardwalk and set light to them.

Some kind of ritual cleansing of their school days. Alma mater immolated.

Cue the bods in the office wondering what the smell was and assuming that the laminating machine had been left switched on. Cue black smoke coming in through the windows. Cue the fire brigade turning up and hosing down and cutting out and heading off, leaving a small black edged hole in the boardwalk right outside a ruddy fire escape.

Cue me laughing my dyed-in-the-wool socks off that something else stupid and mad has happened yet again the one time I am not on the premises to deal with it.

I swear I do not know how I do it. Some kind of morphic field manipulation perhaps? When I am here I exude a field of relative calm and order that envelopes the entire building much like the protective charm that the professors put around Hogwarts in The Deathly Hallows Part 2. The agents of chaos find themselves dissuaded from entering and causing havoc.

My pheromones have Zen-like qualities. All breathe deep and be at peace.

And in... and out... there. Feeling any better?

Either way I think my employers ought to review my fiscal remuneration in light of my chaos-soothing qualities or I might decide to take them elsewhere. I mean, I’m sure BP would pay a fortune for a guy like me that could greatly reduce their propensity for unplanned-for foul-ups. Even BSkyB would benefit from my becalming influence.

Now all I have to do is pay those bloody kids off. Sodding “hush-money” indeed. Right avaricious little buggers kids are these days, I’m telling you. We’d have set fire to stuff for free in my day...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Howlin’ Mad Murdoch

Being of weak moral persuasion and a sucker for an old git in distress I found myself having a turncoat moment this week when I saw and read about the custard pie being thrust into the face of Rupert “Dr Evil” Murdoch.

I know he’s an avaricious, power grasping, devious, underhanded media mogul who cares little for the little man on the street other than how much spare change he’s willing to throw at his scurrilous newspapers and his satellite channels. I know he probably didn’t ask too many questions about how his minions acquired their scoops and exclusives other than “how little money do you want in your redundancy pay-off if you don’t get the story?” I know he looks like Arthur Askey in a baseball cap.

But, come on, guys. He’s 80 years old! He’s probably attached to a colostomy bag. He probably can’t remember the names of those closest to him (which is why he said of Rebekah Brooks – “my priority is to look after this one”). He’s probably being fed a diet of Viagra pills just so that his aides have something to keep him wedged upright under his desk with when he attends board meetings.

He’s an old man.

Sure, in the past I have spat at the mere mention of SKY. Sure I have wiped my metaphorical arse on the pages of The News Of The World. Sure I have lampooned all that he has stood for.

But a custard pie in the putz of an old man?

Is that an appropriate protest? Is that an appropriate way to display displeasure?

Isn’t it like Regan pulling Gloucester’s beard in King Lear? Ignobly done?

I know, I know. How much more ignoble have Murdoch’s minions behaved in their phone hacking activities? There can be few things lower than sifting through other people’s personal grief just to sell a few newspapers.

But even so. A custard pie in the face of an old man? It’s just not cricket, is it?

I don’t doubt the custard pie thrower (Phanton Flan Flinger – remember him, TISWAS fans?) thought he was striking a blow for us all.

“I was doin’ it for justice wun I? Doin’ it for you’s lot and all the uvvers that Murdoch and his team ‘ave trampled all over. Power to the people!”

Except he wasn’t, was he? He was doing it to get on the telly, for self publicity, to get (ironically) into the newspapers and (if he had any kind of business acumen) to publicise a new chain of pie shops that he’s about to open.

This whole thing has been enough of a circus as it is. And while I’d be quite happy to see Rebekah Brooks flung about in a skimpy leotard and fishnets on a trapeze (with me lying on the safety net down below) I don’t really want to have to witness Horlicks the Clown (standing in while Co-Co is on sabbatical) lowering proceedings even further with a short crust pastry base and whipped cream from a can.

Can we have a bit of dignity please? It’s been in short supply all round through this fiasco and would make a really nice change.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Stripper

I think I’d be less amazed if it was more rare. Because then it would make more sense to me. But the fact that it happens with such mundane regularity is what disturbs me the most.

I mean, who loses an item of clothing? Who leaves the house, goes about their business in town and then gets home again and says, “Oh buggerations! I seem to have mislaid my coat / jacket / trousers / left shoe in the street?”

Because I’m not talking about leaving things on the bus or in the office or in the library or in the car park at the back of Sainsbury’s late on a Saturday night.

I’m talking about mislaying things in the street. On the pavement.

And it doesn’t just happen in Leamington Spa; it happens all over the place. Certain types of people – people whose genetic make-up and IQ are as yet unknown to me – manage to lose the clothing from off their bodies and not actually notice that anything is missing.

How? How is that even possible?

I mean, I was walking home yesterday and I came across a discarded jumper on the pavement. It wasn’t there the day before and looked reasonably clean. This in itself had me shaking my head and wondering how someone could lose that from about their person and not notice. But there was more. Ten yards further along there was a jacket. A decent looking jacket. Also discarded. I realize I am making a connection here that I cannot prove but I bet the two items of clothing had one common denominator: the same owner.

In the past I have also come across lone shoes – trainers, boots, high heels. All singular in their singularity. How can someone lose one shoe and not notice?

Two I can understand. You’re in high heels and being chased by the police (you are a transvestite thief, OK?) and it’s just easier to run without your gait being compromised by 6 inch stilettos... so you discard them to aid your getaway. But why get rid of one and keep the other?

It doesn’t make sense.

Discarded baby clothes I can understand too. I know how this works. You’re pushing young Quentin around in his Maclaren buggy and you’re so busy keeping an eye out for rogue cars, rogue pedestrians, rogue rottweilers – any one of whom could be about to make a beeline for little Quentin – that you fail to notice said Quentin hoofing his mitts, his shoes and the cardigan your mother knitted for him out of the pushchair and into the street. By the time you get home you’re too frazzled to go back and look for them and that cardigan was a bloody embarrassment anyway.

But a pair of men’s trousers?

I have genuinely found such an item of clothing discarded around my local town.

Was someone debagged on a stag night? It’s possible. But given the absence of shaving cream and novelty marital aids in the surrounding area (and believe me I looked) it seems unlikely. Was there a sudden and violent heat wave that prompted someone to whip off all their clothes in a delirium of dehydration like that poor Arab fella in Lawrence of Arabia (yes, I know, they were all poor Arab fellas)? In the UK? In summertime? I think not!

So all I can surmise is that in every street, in every town in the UK, there is someone with a genetic imperative to strip off. To strip naked and shake their tassels into the startled faces of the X12 bus queue.

I’d like to think it was someone with the face and body of Keeley Hawes. Sod that. I’d like to think it was Keeley Hawes.

But it isn’t, is it?


It’s Mr Bertram Hardcastle from no. 47 Middleclass Close with his ruptured hernia, his man-boobs, his asthma nebulizer from Boots The Chemist and his cornbeef cankles.

The one man in the country who should remain fully clothed at all times.

People, next time you find some discarded clothes in the street, beware and be very, very afraid.

Mr Hardcastle might be looking for someone to help remove his G-string with their teeth*.

*Apparently this exercise is rendered less onerous by only breathing in and out through one's mouth.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ears, Nose And Throat

So I’m still pouring Olive Oil and bicarbonate of soda down my lugholes.

My hearing hasn’t particularly improved despite the distressing amounts of brown goo and hardened matter that I have removed in perfectly fossilized replicas of my meatus acusticus externus – hmm? Wasn’t that a song by Ian Dury? In fact, despite my daily endeavours things seem to have slightly worsened in the old hearing department.

On the bright side though the skin of my inner ear is beautifully soft and fragrant. Anyone wishing to dip an olive into my ear – or even an entire salad – do feel free.

I have noticed though that as my hearing dysfunction continues there are sundry knock-on effects. These knock-on effects just highlight to me the sheer interconnectedness of all my internal tubes. The back of my nose and throat feel constantly irritated and thick with mucus. The sound of my own voice sounds deafening to my own ears and like I am speaking underwater. Unlike the popular myth that Deaf people speak louder I have found the opposite to be true; I am speaking so softly that my wife is saying, “what?” to me more than I’m saying it to her.

However, I am hopeful that all this auricular irrigation is having some kind of positive effect (even if it is occurring in slow increments) as I have noticed that, over the last few days, my sense of smell has noticeably improved. I am suddenly noticing ambient smells that have previously past me by. Some of these are even pleasant. The smell of cooking. The smell of household cleaning agents. The smell of Voldermort blackening and curling up around the edges like old newspaper in a bonfire.

Some of these will no doubt give you a clue as to some of the weekend’s activities.

Some smells, however, are less than pleasant.

In particular the smell of mothballs that emanated from the six and a half foot giant who plonked himself down next to me in the cinema over the weekend while I feasted my eyes on Hermione, Harry and Hogwarts.

I didn’t think people still used mothballs but plainly I was wrong. The smell was overpowering. The guy reeked of it. No sooner had I lost myself in Gringotts than my very own Hagrid would shift an armpit and release the moth-killing mustiness of what must have been decades and decades of mothballs lying dormant in a drawer somewhere.

“Why? Why have you come out like this?” Was the question that constantly ran through my mind as I angled my good ear to the speakers. “You’re youngish – no older than middle aged – and you are accompanied by a woman of relatively attractive persuasion. Why are you mothballing your jumpers?”

Hold on, a minute. Jumpers in July?

Sigh. I guess that’s the clue, isn’t it?

This guy obviously lives with an elderly mother or perhaps even his granny.

She still gives him homemade wool knits for Christmas and packs him off to work with a cheese and pickle sandwich and a scotch egg every day. Bet he takes a spoonful of cod liver oil every night too when he’s dressed in his jimjams.

He’s a good boy.

He’ll no doubt go far.

Just sadly not far enough.

What did you say, Harry? Smelly armus? You’re not far wrong, mate. You’re not far wrong.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hallowed Ground


The Harry Potter franchise has its detractors. Those who scorn the books, those who scorn the films. It doesn't 'speak' to everyone. No story ever can.

But I don't think the influence that the Harry Potter stories have had on such a wide demographic - and for so long - can ever be denied.

I am not one of the detractors. I loved the books though freely admit the first two are overly simplistic. The films I have always loved unreservedly. I don't know why but they evoke the mood of a Christmas holiday in my house. Something special and comforting. Rowling has done what all writer's dream of doing (even if they don't admit to it): creating a world that the reader wishes to lose themselves in completely.

It's been a long journey to get to this finale. Over a decade. It hardly seems possible. For me the films have maintained a consistently high standard all the way through and though many felt The Deathly Hallows Part 1 was a let-down I was not disappointed. It was faithful to the book and served its purpose well - to whet the appetite for this: the mother of all showdowns.

The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a huge film. All the planets are in line. It is a cataclysmic event. All loose ends must be tied up or tied off. There are deaths a plenty. This is the war that has been brewing around the edge of the Harry Potter world since the first story.

There has been much talk in the press and the media about the significance of death in the Harry Potter stories. Rowling herself has been quoted as saying that Death is on every second page of the books, always there, waiting, driving, steering.

I suspect this is part of the appeal of the Harry Potter world. Like all fairytales it has a hidden subtext, it deals with subjects that children - God, even adults - find difficult to deal with and puts them into a context that makes them slightly more palatable; that at once removes them and draws them intimately near at the same time.

Death, when ideal, should be seen as an old friend. Not necessarily an enemy...

And so to the film.

Gripes, if any gripes I have, are few and far between and tiny. I wish more had been made of Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) and Julie Walters (Molly Weasley). They are damn fine actors and it is a shame to see them reduced to cameos. But they are not the main protagonists so I can understand why the editor's scissors treated them so harshly. Rickman's Snape has been voted the best Harry Potter character in some survey or other this week. Now that his story is fully told you can appreciate why. Rickman's performance has been brilliant, moving and subtle throughout all the films, yes, even despite his Boarding School teacher sternness. His tragedy has been written on his face from day one. His death and 'redemption' are emotively handled. As is Harry's realization of what he really is and what he must do. These are big issues for a children's story to be dealing with but they are handled with aplomb.

I wish the dual between Molly Weasley and Bellatrix had lasted longer - a small complaint really. It was a long time coming and so, so right. But again... time contraints no doubt played their part.

On the whole the film stays true to the book though there are a few omissions - Harry making peace with Creature; the revelation that Harry's sacrifice effectively does for everyone at Hogwarts what Lily Potter's sacrifice had originally done for Harry: render them all untouchable to Voldermort; Neville Longbottom's partial strangulation with the Sorting Hat... but these, I guess, can be left out. They don't create huge gaping elipses that punch holes in the plot. Other bits are added: the battle with Voldermort's snake, Nagini; Harry's final dual with Voldermort is elongated and run through the length of Hogwarts and yet the final denouement takes place in isolation, away from the eyes of onlookers (in the books it is in full view of everyone).

But none of this spoils the film. It is a visual and emotional spectacle. It has been many years since I have watched a film at the cinema and witnessed spontaneous cheering and applause from the audience. You can guess which bits prompted this: Ron and Hermione's kiss and Neville hacking off the head of Nagini at just the right moment.

The film is one long build up to an almighty, world changing crescendo.

In the peace that falls afterwards one feels sated, satisfied but also oddly bereft. It has been a long journey. An enjoyable journey. And now that it is over one feels sad and a piquant sense of loss.

A whole world has ended happily ever after.

One must say goodbye to an old friend.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Save Your Love, My Darling, Save Your Love

One of you has blabbed.

One of you couldn’t keep your mouth shut about the good thing we had going.

The meals out. The flirty texts. The lingerie and the peanut butter. The hot nights rucking up the bedsheets in cheap hotels as we lost ourselves in wild abandon.

One of you has run to the press and sung like a canary.

And I mean to find out who (Rol, I may yet forgive you if you come clean right away).

I’ve been approached by a journalist. A freelance journalist no less. And yes, I had to control my knee-jerk sneer at the word “freelance” because I interpreted it as “I Want To Be A”. Apologies to all you freelancers out there. I am a man in the grip of cynicism.

This journo wants to do an interview with me. A telephone interview no less. She wants to start a new blog (blog? Oh. That kind of freelance journalist? One of us, basically). A blog about love, relationships and dating but more particularly centred around the issues of long distance relationships.

And she wants to interview me because (and I quote): “as you are quite the expert, gaining your insight would be fantastic”.


Quite the expert? Me? The only long distance relationships I have (if you discount my parents who live in Sheffield while I live in Leamington) are with you guys.

And although I love some of you dearly (most of you cheaply) I’m not sure that I can say we’ve ever dated. Let alone spooned or exchanged bodily unctions.

I know some of you have fantasized about it. I know some of you have begged (please keep those emails a-coming – they give me a good laugh when I’m down).

But I think I’d know if, you know, you and I had got serious.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t care about you guys. I’m not using and abusing. I’m not going to kick you into touch once the shine has worn off. We’re going steady. But you do know it’s purely platonic, right?

I’ve got a wife and family and a major phone tapping scandal to think about here.

So, what I’d like to know is: which one of you has been telling porkies? Which one of you has been telling lies? And are there going to be any faked photographs in the tabloids?

This is a polite request to withdraw your allegations.

Because they’re really not going to help BSkyB’s plans for world domination one single iota.

Just think about it and do the right thing, kay?

P.S. Car park as usual tonight. I’ll flash my headlamps twice. ;-)


Monday, July 11, 2011

My Cadbury’s Ball Is Broken

To a certain degree I am my own jailor.

Due to certain job parameters that I must fulfil I carry about me more ironmongery than Harold Steptoe. I am literally weighed down with keys. I am a prime candidate for curvature of the spine and a dowager’s hump.

I shouldn’t need so many keys because one of those in my possession in supposed to be a master key (one key to rule them all) but this is a conceit. It isn’t really a master key. It opens most but not all. There are facilities and security add-ons to the building suite that require their own especial keys. And that’s before you take into account building changes and random acts of locksmithery that have further seen the suite of keys that I haul about with me augmented to the point where I am carrying the combined weight of the Mir Space Station and Anne Widdecombe around with me at all times.

This is hard on the ol’ trouser pockets.

Every woman I meet thinks I am pleased to see them but really I’m just prepared to open a few doors.

I reckon I’ve gone through more trouser pockets then the Artful Dodger. In fact, I no longer have pockets. I have express elevators straight down to my shoes.

I dread to think what all this ironmongery is doing to my thighs. I’m amazed I am not black and blue at the very least or regularly splinted up in a hospital bed. Because any key-ring that I carry about with me tends to be obliterated within 6 months.

I had a Lego brick key-ring once. A perfect little red 2x4 Lego brick that could have been used within any building project and not looked out of place.

It is now a sorry sight indeed. It’s crisp corners have been bashed and rounded down. It’s perky little studs have been flattened and worn smooth; the “Lego” moniker utterly obliterated by the violent action of clashing keys. It looks like it has been half melted in a furnace.

I always knew my thighs were hot stuff.

The loss of this key-ring grieves me. But worse, much worse than this is the loss of my Cadbury’s Ball key-ring.

I say ball but actually it was a little silver and purple representation of the globe that span round inside a metal ring (not on the correct astronomical axis I have to say). I bought it at Cadbury World last year and was a much treasured possession (as indeed are all balls that I keep in my trouser pockets). It was doubly treasured because Karen and I took the kids back to Cadbury World a month or so ago and found that Cadbury’s are no longer marketing these little spinning globe key-rings.

I had something that one day could well have been a collector’s item.

More fool me then for allying it with the keys of Beelzebub. ‘Cos they’ve done for it good and proper. The rod on which it span like a spit roast (steady there, people) has been bent out of line. The globe no longer spins. This is the day the world stood still.

My keys have claimed another victim.

And this worries me. Because my keys spend the entire working day swinging about very close to another treasured possession of mine. A possession of a personal biological nature. A master key that I was born with and that has given me a good deal of pleasure over the years.

I really don’t want this to be the day that the earth never moved again.

I think it might be time to invest in a key chain.

Or at the very least stage a massive break-out.

P.S. I’m talking about abandoning the prison regime, not freeing my beloved master key from its trousery confines. Just in case you were wondering.


Friday, July 08, 2011


It doesn’t even look like a real word, does it? It looks like the title to another duff, soppy-voiced, “soul” record by Peter Andre.

But no. It’s real alright. It’s a recognized condition whereby the sufferer can’t help but have sex with whoever he/she is sharing a bed with in his/her sleep. He/She doesn’t wake up at all. He/She has sex, can’t fall asleep afterwards because he/she is already asleep and then remembers nothing about it in the morning.

I could make jokes about the whole premise. Crack a few gags.

But it’s not funny.

Because a 16 year old girl brought a rape case to court this week and lost because the defendant claimed he was suffering from sexsomnia and various medical experts backed him up.

His ex-partner and his current wife also confirmed that [let’s call him] Mr Z regularly groped them in his sleep and had had sex with them but had no memory of it the next day.

Now, I’m trying not to pass judgement here because I don’t know enough about the case or the condition but... and it’s a but that won’t go away... various facts about the case make me feel uncomfortable and, dare I say it, suspicious?

This 16 year old college girl was spending the night at the defendant’s house. It was hot so in the early hours of the morning she went to sleep on the defendant’s bed – with him still in it and already asleep (according to him) – because it was cooler.

The girl then awoke later to find the defendant having sex with her. The next day he sent her a text asking her if she was OK and enquiring if anything had happened?

See, all that does not add up to me.

Where was the defendant’s wife? She cannot have been at home if the girl was able to sleep on the defendant’s bed with him in it. If the wife wasn’t at home why the hell did the defendant allow a 16 year old girl to stay the night on her own knowing that he suffers from this condition?

What 16 year old would take it upon herself to share a bed with a grown man no matter how hot it is? I’m not blaming the girl here, but - and I’m wary of making an accusation – wouldn’t she have needed some coercion? Wouldn’t the suggestion have had to have been put into her mind by someone else? Certainly not naming Mr Z here. *cough cough*

Mr Z clearly suspected something had happened because he sent her a text the next day asking the girl if she was OK.

No. she’s not OK. She’s been raped but this appears to be a crime with a victim but no assailant.

This cannot be right, surely?

To my mind, I can just about buy the idea of sexsomnia. Some geek in a white coat has staked his reputation on it so it must be real.

My problem is Mr Z knows he has the condition. He knows he is a danger to people sleeping in his house and sleeping in close proximity to him. He allowed this girl to share his house and share his bed – no matter what innocent reasons lie behind this. He knew he was a danger to others and allowed the assault to happen.

Sorry, Mr Z, but in the kangaroo court of my mind, you are guilty. Because the full weight of responsibility for managing your condition was yours.

I rest my case.


Monday, July 04, 2011

Blood And Earwax

It’s been like an episode of ER in my house over the weekend. The live one directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The wife and I have been vying to win a competition of ailments and injuries.

Call it cowardice, call it lack of motivation, call it perhaps just a healthy dollop of sanity but I put on a very poor show. I hardly made an effort.

I kicked off with a sore toe at the end of the last week. Is it a corn? Is it a nascent verruca? Is it a Manitou growing on the side of my little toe? One that will eventually start talking to me in a the lost dialect of the Mohicans, asking me plaintively what the hell ever happened to Madeleine Stowe ‘cos she was a proper fox, she was?

The wife suspected it was just a sore patch where my feet had been rubbing together. Not even worth a Band-aid.

Next I went for an infected ear. I’ve been suffering loss of hearing and irritation in my inner ear. Have been for months. Eventually I went to see the doctor. He couldn’t see any infection. Mainly because he couldn’t see my eardrum. It was occluded by a large mass of compacted earwax. In fact both my ears were 90% stoppered by plugs of my own making. I imagined two big balls of wax each the size of a Granny Smith but then couldn’t help wondering – if wax balls that big were inside my head where the heck would my brain be?

What? I didn’t quite catch that?

Anyway, I thought I might be in for a good syringing but no. The cure these days is a week long course of olive oil ear drops followed by a week long course of bicarbonate of soda ear drops. The first to soften; the second to [and I quote my doctor here] “fizz and disperse”.

I know, I know. I let Tarantino down. And I was hoping to get Brad Pitt to play me and everything.

My wife, Karen, however, decided to go for something not only spectacular but also improbable.

Picture the scene. She’s in her jimjams / sweats / slacks / comforters / whatever you want to call them. A casual trouser and top combo by any other name. She’s heading upstairs. Suddenly there is an ear piercing shriek (well, it would have been if my ears hadn’t been gunked up with wax). I dash out to the hallway, hastily abandoning my book, the TV remote, my box of chocolates and my crème de menthe and find my wife mimicking the one-footed kung fu pose from the original Karate Kid film.

The big toe on the foot that is raised is bloodied. Bloodied in fact in a thin line that seems to extend completely around the toe a few millimetres from where it extends from the base of the foot.

My first thought is that she’s broken the toe. Stubbed it against something so hard that it’s snapped violently and ruptured the skin all the way around.

But no. She hasn’t stubbed her toe.

What happened was, whilst walking barefoot in her slacks, she managed to catch the toe in the hem of the bottom of the trousers.

I turn slightly green, imagining a loop of loose thread that has acted like a cheese wire around my wife’s big toe. Karen fears the same and tells me later her biggest fear was that the skin was cut so deeply all the way round that the flesh would have simply fallen off like a discarded sheath, exposing the perfectly clean bones of her toe beneath.

I’m not even sure if that’s possible.

As it is, once I start cleaning up the would I see that actually she’d only cut the flesh on the top of the toe. Quite deeply but not enough to need stitches.


I have a few minutes when I think that maybe I’m about to trump her endeavours with a mini heart attack but actually once I’ve calmed down I’m fine. Panic over. Don’t worry about me, folks.

However, Tarantino and my wife are now like this.

His next film is gonna feature a toe-job, I’m telling you.

And my wife wishes me to tell you that, just from experience, it’s not a nice way to go.


Friday, July 01, 2011

I Won’t Bite

My relationship with Twitter is absurd. In fact, in common parlance, it would be considered abusive.

I use Twitter. I use it only when I want something from it. Once it’s delivered I drop Twitter like a hot potato. I neglect it. I go off elsewhere, leaving Twitter to sob pathetically on the shoulder of a girlfriend while I’m down the pub laughing about it all with my mates. Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen.

It seems to work. Twitter is always there for me when I want it. It never says no. Sucker.

I say this so you’ll understand that my use of Twitter is highly infrequent.

Now. I Follow a few celebs. Mostly just to be nosey. And I realize that this whole enterprise is utterly pointless because I’m not on Twitter often enough to read any of their Tweets. Every time I dip into Twitter it’s full of people moaning about their children not going to bed properly and people who I don’t Follow trying to sell me something. I’m rarely online when Barrack Obama is for example. I guess we are like ships that pass in the night.

Very, very occasionally though, I get lucky and find myself Tweeting when a celeb is Tweeting.

It’s tempting, isn’t it? To reply. They’ve come out with some lame witticism or other and you think, I can top that.

And so you Tweet and hit Reply.

And then you feel dirty.

And a little sad.

Because none of us like to think of ourselves as sad star chasers. None of us would go into work the next day and boast that William Shatner had replied to one of our Tweets and aren’t we absolutely amazing as a consequence.

OK. That’s a bad example. I probably would boast about William Shatner replying to one of my Tweets. It’s William Shatner, for God’s sake.

But in general. the celebs don’t reply anyway.

And then you move from feeling dirty to feeling insulted. Hey! Cameron Diaz! Don’t ignore my 140 character review of your latest movie! At least have the grace to say thank you when I made the effort to spell ‘vacuous’ correctly!

But what did you expect? It was dumb to send the Tweet in the first place.

But I do get caught like this occasionally.

On Wednesday when I was doing my usual Twitter based sniping at The Apprentice (about the only time I use Twitter to be honest) Lisa Rogers, star of The Big Breakfast, Scrapheap Challenge and possibly at least one other TV programme that is still being shown on Dave (and pictured above) entered the snarling ring of Apprentice putdowns with the conjecture that the contestants were all “nobbers.”

Given the biscuit based activities of this week’s task I automatically responded with the Oscar Wildeian “don’t you mean ‘HobNobbers’. (Excuse me while I snigger to myself again... ahem ahem ahem; I’m just so funny sometimes.)

Lisa didn’t respond.

I mean, come on. What girl doesn’t like a biscuit based joke? A digestive jest? A drink is surely too wet without one?

I did get annoyed. But then I calmed down and thought it through. I was being unfair. I can imagine what it must be like. You’re a celeb. A star of TV, stage and screen (or maybe just Heat magazine) and all these people are Following you on Twitter. Every time you log-on you get thousands of Tweets from desperate Twits desperate for your attention. It’s easy to see what happened.

Amongst all those tens of thousands of Tweets that Lisa was receiving that evening my superbly crafted slice of immaculate comedy gold must have blazed forth like the sun shining into Bryn Celli Ddu barrow on Midsummer’s morning. Her retinas would have melted with mirth.

No wonder the poor girl couldn’t bring herself to reply. I mean what on earth could she bring to the table after that little hydrogen bomb of hilarity had gone off and vaporized her funny bone? She probably thought that anything she said after that would just sound wet and as funny as one of Eamonn Holmes’ jokes. Best to keep schtum and not reply.

Lisa, what can I say?

It would have been fine. I’m brilliant at summoning up polite laughter to bolster other people’s fragile egos. I would have made allowances for your comedy ineptitude.

I don’t bite.

I’m like a big cuddly HobNob of comedy.

You don’t have to be a high class biscuit yourself to appreciate my fulfilling oaty base. You can dunk me in your best China and it would be fine.

You wouldn’t cramp my style, honest.

And I’d even be prepared to sample a couple of your custard creams in return.

Now I can’t say fairer than that.

P.S. And I didn’t even make a joke about Ginger Nuts. That’s how good I am.