Saturday, December 31, 2011

And Don't Call Me Sherlie...

Three good reasons to go and see Sherlock Holmes 2 A Game of Shadows:

1) It's better than the first one even though that one was, in my opinion, brilliant.
2) It's fun, it's full and it's fast moving.
3) Noomi Rapace.

And not necessarily in that order.

Now I'm well aware that Guy Ritchie's take on the Sherlock Holmes legend has resulted in apoplexy in some and epiphany in others. There are just as many people trying to raise Sir Arthur C. Doyle from the dead to exact a terrible spectral revenge on Mr Ritchie as there are rubbing themselves off with fake deerstalkers in bristling Watson-esque ecstacy. I don't own a deerstalker myself but I will own my own opinion and say that A Game of Shadows is absolutly superb.

The plot of the first film - for all it was excellently executed and a wonderful cinema specatcle - was, all things considered, absurd. Magic, voodoo and hoo-ha. For many they had to suspend their belief a little bit too far. Not so with A Game Of Shadows. The intrigue here is good old politics, war and greed. Europe is on the verge of the first World War. The countdown to the world's darkest hour (no, not The X Factor) has begun. The machine of war is oiling itself up and getting ready to roar. And there are those afoot who are already positioning themselves to own both the bullets and the bandages. Those with vision, for all it is dark, realize the outcome is going to be war and profiteering on an industrial scale...

Cue neat segue to Jared Harris as Professor James Moriarty. He is an excellent addition to the cast. He seethes with intellectual malice and a gingery beard of the purest evil. Holmes has indeed met his match. Downey Jr and Law reprise their roles as Holmes and Watson with a glee that postively spills over onto the screen. There is real chemistry there and weirdly it feels right that Watson ends up spending his honeymoon with Holmes rather than his wife, getting shot at by a load of belligerent Germans. Bravest role of the film goes to Stephen Fry as Holmes's brother, Mycroft, and who bears his nipples, his paunch and his polished vowels with unabashed abandon in a scene of astonishing nudity. After that seeing Downey Jr's Holmes in a bonnet and lipstick is nothing to be concerned about at all.

The biggest pull of the film for me though was Noomi Rapace. Her previous incarnation as Lisbeth Salander has made her famous in Europe among Stieg Larsson's many devout followers (though probably less so state-side). And I have to say it was odd going to see her in Sherlock Holmes and passing a poster in the cinema foyer for the remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and finding her not on it. How would she cope with a role as comparatively lightweight as a gypsy girl in Sherlock Holmes? I thought she was mesmerizing. She held the screen so brightly she almost set light to it. I wished Ritchie had made more of her to be honest. The steampunk priestess of piercings had transformed herself into a knife throwing, tarot reading Cadbury's Flake girl (minus the Cadbury's Flake) and, with apologies to Watson's wife, held her own against the big boys and saw off any other challenger. No double entendre intended. Though possibly one wished for.

I'm not going to spoil the ending for you but I thought it was a good move by Ritchie. It plays around with the original Sherlock finale but leaves any sequels open to throw off the shackles of the old and venture completely into pasture new.

Or does it?

I mean, after all, those gingery beards are legendarily hard to get rid off...

Cue echoey Victorian laughter...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Crap Dad Or Great Dad?

I totally get that life doesn't have cheat codes. Totally. There are no shortcuts. No booster-packs. No level-ups. No invincibility toggle. (Of course, if you're a multi-billionaire you can ignore all that.) You makes the bed you've been given and you learns to lie in it.

You do the best you can with what you've got and try to learn the skills you need but don't currently have.

That's life. I get that.

It's a parent's job to encourage their kids to accept this and grapple with it from as early an age as possible so that they engage and stand a better chance of getting where they want to get quicker.

But Goddammit, 2 days of playing The Incredibles on PS2, trying to get to the robot battle level on behalf of my 4 year old (who only ever really wanted to play the robot level) was driving me frigging insane.

It's a brilliant game. Beautiful graphics. Superb playability.

But it's as hard as hell if you're not a full-time gamer. And the worst thing is, you fail and it sends you right back to the beginning of the level. I'd lost hours of my Christmas just getting to the halfway mark in level 3. The robot level was level 7. My 4 year old would be an old man before I got there and technology would have moved so far ahead that the PS2 would have become a museum piece.

I had 2 choices. Sit back and wait for natural obsolesence to claim me and the PS2 or do what normal, intelligent people the world over do.

Search Google for cheat codes.

I hit Google with gusto.

My 4 year old son is now happily pummelling the robot on level 7.

Life might not have cheat codes but sometimes, just sometimes, it's a parents job to cheat to make their kids happy.

And if that makes me a bad dad you can come and lock me up.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Every Little Helps My Arse

There should be a comma somewhere in the title but... oh, never mind.

I had every intention of writing a warm, sentimental, cosy-on-up type of blog post today, I really did. Something that would have had you all scooting up on the sofa just that little bit closer to your loved ones. Something that would have had you nuzzling up to each other like mewling kittens of Christmas love.

And then Tesco rained on my parade last night. Not hugely. Not diluvian by any means. But enough to make me feel like Mr Tesco himself was pissing down my neck.

The wife and I do our shopping on-line. Have done for years. Why spend 2 hours dragging the kids around a superstore at the weekend when 40 minutes on the computer can get it all done for you and then one of Mr Tesco's Little Helpers will deliver it all to your door on the day of your choice at a time you specify?

It's a wonder of the modern age.

Not that it is not without it's little foibles and foul-ups. The chief of these being the "substitute game". This is the one where your personal shopper in-store can't find the exact item you have requested and so substitutes if for something similar or approximating or something barely genetically linked.

This happens quite often. Sometimes we keep the substitutes; sometimes not. It all depends on the ability of our personal shopper to think inside the box and not come out with something so leftfield you wonder if he/she has had one half of their brain removed for medical experimentation.

But the point is, if Tesco haven't got what we want they have always done their best to offer us a consolation prize.

Until last night.

The night our Christmas shop was due to be delivered. The night our big Christmas chicken was being delivered ready for the big day tomorrow.

The delivery guys arrives at 8.00pm. He unloads. There is no chicken. There is no chicken at all. Anywhere. We check the print-out of what we have ordered - just in case the error was ours. But no. The chicken is listed. Along with the size we specified.

The print-out informs us it was not available. And no substitute has been provided.

None at all.


Even the delivery guy is amazed that Tesco have done this. Isn't it obvious that this is the main component of our Christmas meal? What if we were old, infirm and housebound? What would we do for our Christmas meal then? Make do with a couple of mouldy old Garibaldis from the back of the cupboard?

Thank you, Mr Tesco. That was really helpful. That has really warmed the Christmas cockles of our hearts.

I know, I know. They'd probably sold out. Had none left in the store. But we'd placed this order days ago. We'd put our dibs on a chicken and, as far as I'm concerned, had reserved one. I mean, we pay £5 on top of the food bill for this service after all.

The delivery guy recommended we ring up and complain. Assured us that Tesco would be taking deliveries tomorrow and more chickens would be in stock.

I'm sure he was right. But Karen and I had lost our faith in Tesco. We just wanted our chicken now - safely there in our fridge where we could see it's cute little parson's nose slowly defrosting. We didn't want to play Christmas chicken with our chicken and leave it until Christmas Eve when Tesco might let us down again. 'Cos plainly Tesco didn't give a fig(gy pudding) whether we had anything to eat on Christmas Day or not.

So Karen nipped out to Asda. They had a chicken. A big one. And they sold it to us.

It is now in our fridge and Christmas is saved.

No thanks to Tesco, though.

Tesco - Christmas or not - you can cock right off.


Thursday, December 22, 2011


One of the unfortunate side effects of this time of year is finding yourself queuing at Argos; standing like a stranded penguin at Collection Point A, B or C, waiting for one of the backroom boys to hoof your internet-ready-teasmaid-DVD/Blu-Ray player out of the warehouse and onto those cheap looking shelves at the back of the counter that look like they were found in a skip outside IKEA.

It's amazing what you can overhear as you wait for your product to arrive for the clientele of Argos is a bizarre mix of every social strata known to mankind. I bet even Prince Wills pops in every now and then to take advantage of their AA battery multipacks.

So I am waiting. Trying to look like I don't shop here very often at all. And I hear a youthful voice piercing the "rhubarb-rhubarb" of the shop's natural ambience.


I raise an eyebrow and half turn.


There is a boy who looks like the fruit of Fagin's loins sitting on one of the chairs. He can be no more than 10 or 11 but plainly has the vocabulary of a teenage barrow-boy. Hearing an impatient sigh to my right I deduce that his mother (25 going on 47) is stood next to me at Collection Point B.


The call comes again and I briefly wonder whether the boy is merely pointing out an Empress's new clothes (but can see no evidence of public nudity) or is insulting a mortal enemy after swearing off four letter words.

His mother, turns and utters his name like it is itself an expletive.


Kevin clearly hears the warning in his mother's voice and changes tack.


Oh joy, I think. Sex education at the junior school level is plainly working. Let's talk about sex (baby). Let's talk about all the good thing and the bad things, etc, etc. It is after all what Collection Point A was made for.

The word penis is intoned a few more times, steadily rising in volume, like Master Pottymouth is the high priest of the great god, Nob before his mother finally kicks in with an unspecified threat.

"Kevin, if you don't shut up..."

Kevin shuts up. Though not before positing the argument that, "What? They're just words."

And for all I found his shameless genitalia obsession a little disturbing and worryingly unwholesome I have to concede that he has a point. They are just words. But I wonder what he was trying to communicate with them? What meaning lay behind them in his mind?

A cry for help?

A call for information on this topic, please mater, for it fascinates me deeply?

Or just a sad cry for attention to someone who can't even focus on her son long enough to formulate a decent cause and effect response to his inappropriate behaviour?

Who knows. My goods had arrived by that point and, it being Argos, I figured it was all bollocks anyway.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Remember Me?

I came across the above photo surreptitiously (you can click on it to enlarge it). I say surreptitiously because it was not sent to me; I merely found it on an old school acquaintance’s Facebook page. I doubt they even remember me, let alone would have reason to send me a copy of the photo.

Because you see, despite this being a snapshot of my peers outside my old sixth form college, I am not on it. I don’t even recall this photo being taken. I was totally unaware of it at the time; the fact that somebody gathered this select few together, organized them, took the photo. I was not invited or even told about it.

That sounds bitter – and maybe it is – but that was undeniably my first reaction.

Followed swiftly by a “why the hell would they have invited me anyway?”

You see I doubt if most of the people in this photograph would remember me. I expect that most of them didn’t know who I was even at the time. They would have past me in the corridors, sat behind me in the classrooms and I wouldn’t have impinged on their consciousness in the slightest. Except maybe as “the really uncool kid”, “the nerd”, “the weird looking one”.

I doubt if I had a name to most of these people.

I was a wallflower at school. Complete and utter. And while my sixth form years were the start of me emerging from my awkward shell, I was still a long way off from gaining any kind of confidence or self esteem.

When I look at this photo I feel a painful sense of want. An agony of wanting to fit in and be cool and be popular. Kind of like Kung Fu Panda (before he discovered the secrets of Kung Fu) wanting to hang out with the Furious Five.

Only for me it was never going to happen.

A couple of my friends are on this photo. Tristan Fitzgerald and Steve Fox. It’s telling that they didn’t tell me about this photo being taken at the time. For them it would have been a pleasant but not particularly especial event. If I had been asked to join this group it would have made my entire year.

Well. It plainly wasn’t my year.

It’s weird to see how young everyone looks. So eighties. So dated. Faintly ridiculous. And yet this was the epitome of cool. This was a group of teens who thought they knew it all before University and Life proved to them how wrong they all were.

This was a group of teens who I envied, who I hated, who I adored and in a couple of cases – Sarah Cullen and Emily Sweetman – I would even have gladly drunk your bath water.

But I am not in this photo. I am somewhere else in the building. Probably in a darkened room writing trauma inducing poetry about not fitting in. About not belonging. About desperately wanting to. About how was I ever, ever going to get a girlfriend?

Looking at this photo now I can finally see how all that really didn’t matter. It was only me that made it matter; that hamstrung myself with it. All those useless hang-ups. All those miserable desires and the unfairness of not having them realized.

Looking at this photo now I wish I could go back in time and instil a different kind of world-view into myself. To not have myself care so much. To bother a good deal less about other people’s opinions. To have the scales pulled from my eyes. To pull these people down from the dais that I had placed them on. To stop wanting to be like them.

Because going my own way – as I eventually did – was always the right thing to do.

To not be on this photograph was always the best thing to be.

I just didn’t realize it at the time.

This is a photograph of me before I woke up to myself. Before I became me.

It’s only now that I’m smiling for the camera.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oi! Moffat! No!

It was the pressure. It was fear. The motivation was stinking lily-livered terror.

That’s my theory anyway.

It was announced last night that Steven Moffat – Doctor Who script writing major domo – has announced that the next series of DW will be the last to feature Amy Pond and Rory Whateverhislastnameis. They’re going to be written out via a “heart rending storyline”.

*furious sigh*

Well, I’m just sickened. Sickened.

Not just because Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) is leggy and red-headed (actually that probably ought to be “not just in spite of”). Not just because Amy has been the best DW companion since Donna Noble. Not just because Amy is River Song’s mum.

But because I was planning to write a DW script in the New Year centred around Rory. I had it all planned out and everything. A nice WWII story set around the D-Day landings and featuring Rory’s (about to be invented by me) grandfather. I’d even begun to research odd happenings on D-Day so that I could have used a weird happening as a plot device to shoehorn The Doctor into proceedings.

But no. The uber-work has been nipped in the bud. The rose has been cut before it could bloom. My plans have been scuppered. Sabotaged.

Moffat heard about my plan. He must have. It’s the only explanation.

“Christ on a unicycle,” He probably said. “Steve is going to write a script and send it into the Beeb. The game will be up. I can’t withstand that kind of competition. I need to pull the rug out from under him.”

And thus he hit low and hard. Removed the two characters that were integral to my plot.

Karen Gillan I am sorry. I am so truly sorry. I feel so responsible for your having been written out of the show. And Mr Rory Actor (I can never remember your real name) I would have made you a star. And I would have learnt your real name off by heart. It would have been a fabulous story. Worthy of being the 2012 Christmas special.

But now I’m going to have to wait until after the next series. See who the new companions will be. Adapt my story to their personality and the way they speak. It’ll be 2013 at the earliest.

Because I’m not giving up. You hear me, Moffat? You ain’t off the hook yet!

I’m coming for you and there won’t be a Tardis big enough for you to hide in!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Women On The Telly Who You’re Not Meant To Fancy But I Do, Sort Of (Part 1)

1) Monica Galetti.

Anyone who has ever watched Masterchef will know that Monica Galetti is Michel Roux Jr’s senior sous chef and right hand man. Literally. She is like the personal body guard to the godfather of food. This woman spends 90% of her time looking so fierce that she’s more of a serious Sioux chief than a senior sous chef. You mess up that jus or crash that ganache and this woman will have your trembling gonads plucked and par-boiled in a white wine reduction before you can say egg chips and spam. I have seen professionally skilled contestants on Masterchef quail and gnash their teeth when faced with the warrior palate of Monica Galetti. This woman does not pull her punches. This woman knows culinary karate. Offer her a dog’s dinner and she’ll fillet you in the most painful way possible. I suspect that even Michel Roux Jr himself is secretly terrified of earning Monica’s stinging disapprobation. But when a chef gets it right, when a contestant delivers the dog’s bollocks then one word of praise from The Galetti Machete is enough to reduce the hardest, toughest chef into a bubbling soufflé of sheer pleasure.

This woman is undoubtedly high maintenance. She is exacting and demanding and expects perfection every time. That would be enough to kill most men. But what a way to go. Because there is just something about Monica that does the business for me. There is something of the Amazon about her (and I’m not talking about express delivery and better DVD deals than She is athletic in her brooding intensity. But I suspect that away from the harsh get-it-right-first-time plate-‘em-up pressure of a 2 Michelin star kitchen Monica is something of a Cadbury’s Flake eating Pre-Raphaelite fairy. Sort of floaty and into water colour painting and tantric yoga. Needlecraft and cushion making. The sort of woman who secretly wants to defer all decisions to a big hairy tattooed brute of a man.

Oh who am I kidding? It would be Monica on top every time with a carving knife against your throat and a garlic press up against your testicles. This woman cooks and, yes, I mean that euphemistically as well as literally.

Chef, I say, chef?! I think my custard has set!

2) Ruth Goodman.

I am, if I’m honest, hard pressed to state why I think Ruth Goodman is quite attractive. But I think she is. Yes, she has a pointy orc nose. Yes, her teeth are not perfect (but neither are mine). Yes, she is so freckly she must have the melanin levels of an entire Mediterranean country. But she has something that makes me go “Hmm” every time I see her. She’s clever. She’s into history and is not averse to squeezing herself into a corset (ah – that might be it) to provide televisual re-enactments of days gone by. She has also got, I suspect, a filthy sense of humour as evidenced by her butter making skills on Victorian Farm Christmas this week when she informed the audience that when butter has been successfully churned the correct term to use is that “the butter has come”. This woman makes butter come! I mean, come on! That’s got to hit the spot of every red blooded male for miles around (well, barring all those that are on Benecol, of course). She then inserted herself up a windmill in the same episode so that she could admire the grinding mechanism. She is plainly insatiable.

To be serious for one moment though, I think the most likeable thing about Ruth Goodman is that she’s honest. She’s on TV a lot but she doesn’t dress herself up or go in for personality fakery. She is what she is and she neither apologizes for it nor forces it down your throat. She’s the woman next door. The woman at the bus stop. Real and vivacious. In a corset and a Victorian bustle. And she makes butter come. Even Monica Galetti can’t do that (though I have no doubt that she can stiffen a soufflé).

3) Miranda Hart

I’m not really sure if Miranda qualifies to be here in the sense that I think she is plainly very fanciable. It doesn’t feel as “out there” or as leftfield to say one finds Miranda Hart attractive as compared to the two lovely ladies above. I think this is simply because Miranda is warm and funny and smoothly spoken and kind and personable... I mean, just what is there not to like?

But a lot of people find her height and stature off-putting. I can appreciate that. After all, she is a majestic giantess of a woman. A colossus with an impressively deep décolletage. Her ideal partner in terms of physique would be The Cerne Abbas Giant. But what hillside would not be improved with an impression of Miranda Hart carved into the side of it? Hell, my own lawn is big enough and I’m pretty good with a hoe - if Miranda fancies a modelling assignment I’m free most weekends. I’ll even leave a few strategically placed dandelions dotted about the place. There may even be room for a vegetable plot. It would double the pleasure of seeing the legumes pushing through the topsoil next summer.

Miranda strikes me as being jolly good company for all occasions. She sounds posh but isn’t at all stuffy. She’s statuesque but delightfully feminine. She’s a comedy extravert and yet also winningly shy and demure. And, Godammit, she just has a very beautiful face and a smile that makes you want to hug her. She’s a gorgeous ‘gel’ and no mistake.

She’s given me a funny bone.

So, over to you guys. Who is your guilty pleasure on TV these days?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Get Out Of The Way

Sometimes you just want to get home. Sometimes you just want to get from A to B through C (A = morning, B = evening, C = work / life / society) with the minimum of fuss and upset. You want to take the shortest, quickest, easiest route. The path of least resistance. As the crow flies.

Because you’re (to quote Shrek) a donkey on the edge. You are a Hadron collider of disenchantment molecules. One more straw on your back and you are going to get mediaeval on the world’s ass.

It’s not that you have anything against the world. No big beef. No real big issue. It’s just there. Today the world is there and you would much rather it not be there. But if it’s going to be there the least it can do is shut the fuck up and play ball.

That’s right. I want the world’s ass to play ball. Don’t get picky with my metaphors, I’m not in the mood.

So why is it, on these days, on these days when your mind is a hurricane of venom and antisocial energy that people, things, get in your way?

You’re just trying to get through to the other side as peacefully as you can but they – them – they get in your way. Constantly. Deliberately.

The phone call you know you shouldn’t answer but you do and it braindumps another load of crap onto your ass just before you’re about to go home. The people who insist on stopping immediately in front of you when you are rushing through town on an irritating, shit-kicking errand and they just stop dead and flounder and flummox and flop about wetly blocking your way even though they know you are there. The car at the junction that slows down in front of you not to let you cross but because they can’t be bothered to rush too much and so they slow but not slow enough for you to be able to cross in front of them and it’s raining but now you have to wait until Mr Air Conditioned Leather Car Seat and his kajillion decibel sound system on wheels rolls past you before you can cross. The shops who choose this moment – this exact moment – to run out of whatever essential item you need to buy on your way home when they have it every other sodding day of the year but no, not today, not at this hour, and now you have to go out of your way, walk longer, encounter more people, just to get this one solitary item from another shop which you don’t even like and which isn’t going to make your life any better but will feel like some kind of victory if you do actually get it.

Why? Why do all these get in your way?

Why do they choose today of all days to get in your face?

Why can’t they just stay the fuck away?

You know what I need?

A gun. A gun like Dirk Deckard had in Bladerunner. A huge fat jumbo jet sausage of a gun that shoots bullets the size of coke cans. Cos’ when Dirk pulled that piece and shouted, “get out of the way” people did. They got out of his way.

Well, that’s what I need. That’s what I want. It’s not a luxury. It’s an essential item. It’s survival, people, survival. I will die without it.

And it’s nothing personal. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I don’t want to hurt you. Truly I don’t.

I. Just. Want. You. To. Get. Out. Of. The. Way.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Homing From Work

A lot of employers these days are saving money by encouraging (or ‘supporting’ as it is known in business parlance) employees to work from home. Some IT bod leaves his subterranean life denial system (otherwise known as the IT Services Office), goes round to the employee’s gaff and installs some software onto their home PC or laptop which enables them to dial into their work PC almost as if they were actually at work doing it in person. I guess a simple telephone monitoring system then enables the employer to sift official work calls from spurious demands to sex line numbers in order that they pay for bona fide work calls only.

Hey presto, your earnest young employee is now being paid to work from home but without consuming the employer’s electricity, gas, water, lighting, air, toilet facilities, canteen services or any of the other perks that an employer is wont to provide. The work gets done; the employee gets paid as usual but the employer saves a pretty bundle in consumables and fuel bills.

‘Working from home’. It’s a great lark and a wonder of the modern age.

But I feel the envelope has not been pushed out far enough.

I want to work for an employer who not only allows me to ‘work from home’ but also – more importantly – allows me to ‘home from work’.

I want to be able to sit at my workstation dressed in jimjams and even possibly wrapped up in an old blanket with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in my hand. I want to be able to spend 3 hours on internet prevarication before I actually commit myself to the task that I originally sat down in front of the computer to perform. Once this task has been completed (i.e. answering a few emails) I want to waste another few hours on Facebook and Twitter giving the entire world a blow by blow account of all the amazing things I am not actually doing.

Sat at my desk drinking cocoa. Where does the time go? Lol.

I demand daytime telly, lunchtime telly, afternoon telly and then one of those mid afternoon drama serials – Mid Somer Murders or some shit like that – something I can snooze off too. I’ll also need a steady supply of bread to make toast, accompany tinned soup and comprise the odd sandwich that I will need to nurture my delicate constitution towards the safe haven of the evening meal when I can at last relax and bask in the glory of another hard day at the office completed. Then, of course, I will want to snookem’s up in bed with a nice hot water botty placed lovingly upon my tendermost regions.


You may be wondering what benefit this set up will have for society? Well, the more of us that home from work the less social housing we will need. This will free up housing for those people who are unable to home from work because they don’t have a job and therefore have nowhere to live. I must point out that people who take busman’s holidays don’t really feature in my Utopia. The more of us who home from work in communal offices will use less fossil fuels en masse than we would if we were all living in separate domiciles – thus the ecology of the planet receives a much needed boost. We could also share TVs, fridges, ovens, PlayStations – again, reducing consumption of fossil fuels and the creation of CFCs. There would also be no need to drive to and from work – so further reductions in oil consumption and pollution are produced.

For the planet this entire set-up would be nothing but an out-and-out winner.

The only downside would be having no downtime at all from your employer.



Back to the drawing board...


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

All Hail My Hair

I’ve never expressed my love for my hair before but I feel it is time to get personal and say the words that are sprouting in the deepest chamber of my heart.

My hair, I love you. More than that I am grateful to you for sticking around for so long.

I know 42 years doesn’t sound much. Certainly not when Canadian Redwoods can live up to a thousand years and Bruce Forsythe’s grip on life seems to be eternal. But if I’m honest I didn’t think you’d make it through my twenties.

My dad showed distinct signs of male pattern baldness in his early twenties – receding hairline at front, sides and rear. The monk’s pate soon revealed itself.

I felt that Fate was surely waiting in the wings to cruelly crop my luscious tawny brown curls. It would only be a matter of time.

In my late teens I made the decision to grow my hair long. I’ll make the most of it while I’ve got it, I thought. And for the next decade I wore my hair down to my waist.

It thinned a little I’ll admit. I braced myself for that first small tell-tale hole in the carpet to appear.

But it didn’t. It wore thin. It got a little threadbare. But full depletion never occurred. I outgrew my long hair. In my thirties I got it cut and went for a more respectable, shorter, office friendly length.

I feared this sudden change in volume and weight might trigger off a seismic follicle reaction which would see my locks leaping off my head like hirsute lemmings.

But no.

Here we are over ten years later and – though various stray fibres make escape bids daily in the shower or on my comb – largely my riah has remained securely in place.

And now I’m getting my hopes up. I’m beginning to get confident that maybe my lugs are here for the long haul. That me and my quiff are destined to share a worm-eaten box together in God’s good brown earth, destined to be examined and carbon dated by a hologramatic version of Tony Robinson in the year 2678 (a date that I have just typed in at random).

I know that the odds are stacked against me: work stress, youngest boy about to start school next September, eldest boy approaching teen-hood, my complete and utter contempt of Grecian 2000... all agents of the dreaded demon of depilation... but I feel that the roots of my hair run deep. We are bonded in ways that are unbreakable. Unassailable.

Not even Delilah herself would dare mess with my mane.

My ruff is too rough to be ravaged by mere Philistines.

So take a good look at me, Old Age! I’m coming for you permed and preened like Jon Bon Jovi in his heyday! Look upon my locks and weep oh poor denuded ones!

Hair today. Hair forever.


This was a public service announcement brought to you on behalf of my hair. Thank you for bristling.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Me And Mr Clarkson, We're Like That

We love a bit of hoo-ha in this country. A little bit of brouhaha. A little bit of outrage and apoplectic armchair slapping.

A little bit of whoa. A little bit of ooh.

On some deep perverse level all those people who complained about Jeremy Clarkson’s comments on The One Show (that striking public sector workers should be shot in front of their families) must have secretly enjoyed Clarkson’s comments. Been secretly pleased that he’d made them.

Because it got them excited. Made them feel alive. Got the blood surging through their veins and got their moustaches bristling in a thoroughly British bulldog manner. Here is some meat we can savage, Goddammit, get stuck in lads!

But really. It was a storm in a teacup. It was stuff and nonsense. It was nothing.

A comedy grenade tossed into the crowd to see which fellows it would take out and which it would leave standing.

Before I continue I need to make it clear that I am one of those striking public sector workers that Mr Clarkson would apparently like to see shot in front of my wife and kids.

Am I offended?

No. Not at all. I watched the show and took it all with a punch of salt. It was plain – absolutely plain – that the comments were off-the-cuff jokes designed to illicit nervous chuckles from those watching. Designed to shock. Designed to both offend and entertain. Frankie Boyle uses a similar kind of shtick though to greater effect (i.e. Frankie Boyle is actually funny). My wife wasn’t offended by Clarkson’s comments either though I’m pretty sure she got straight onto the phone to our solicitor to see whether she could amend my life insurance policy to include “death by publicity seeking celebrity”.

See. I made a joke out of it. It really isn’t worth twisting one’s knickers up about. The whole thing was tongue-in-cheek.

And I have sympathy with Mr Clarkson. No. Really I do. I’ve got into trouble on this ‘ere blog by people reading posts that were clearly meant to be tongue-in-cheek and not-to-be-taken-at-all-seriously and then taking them very seriously indeed. And being offended. And, worse, seeking to be more and more offended by coming back for more.

Because, let’s face it, some people just like being offended.

So what are the alternatives?

Everybody is censored and is not allowed to say anything at all that could be construed as even slightly controversial? Well. We all better start wearing gags in that case and gimping ourselves up. None of us had better say another word. And where the hell do you draw the line anyway? Who decides what is offensive and what is not? Most jokes – even the genuinely funny ones – have a slightly offensive component to them. You could even argue that most things we find funny are built on someone somewhere being offended and offensive. Do we want to live in a world where humour is outlawed? Where no one can tell a joke because no one can take a joke?

I certainly don’t.

Get a sense of humour. Lighten up. Stop taking things so seriously.

If Jeremy Clarkson wants to drive past my house and take a pot shot at me from his Bugatti he is most welcome.

He won’t be able to get up my street anyway. The bin men were on strike on Wednesday and the roads are now chocka with crap.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Let’s Get A Handle On Hygiene

You know when news reports appear about food shortages or product shortages?

Well, I haven’t yet seen an occasion yet when there’s been a soap shortage. Or a shortage of wash basins. Or even, Goddammit, a shortage or paper towels. The food industry could go belly up tomorrow but we’d still be able to wash our hands.

So why is it that some of us don’t?

Why is it that some of us are just happy to smear our less attractive microbes over every communal surface possible in order to spread a little “germ love” to those we love and even those we don’t?

This is an age old complaint. I know it is. One day a fossilized stone slab will be found or possibly even a Mesolithic cave drawing that features some hang-dog caveman going about his toilet, not wiping his hands on a mammoth fur flannel and then being thrown out of the tribe for fingering the sabre tooth tiger steaks and scratching his back side with a flinthead axe.

And here we are in the 21st century and that hang-dog caveman is still around. The mammoth steaks and the flinthead axes might have disappeared but the not washing after using the toilet remains.

Countless times I have found myself ideologically trapped within a toilet facility. I have gone about my business. I have washed and dried and I’m ready to go. But a patron is ahead of me. A patron who has relieved himself of some intimate burden and then – for sheer want of any kind of civilizing influence – has vacated the premises without introducing his hands to soap and water.

Instead he has greased himself all over the door handle.

Which leaves me with a dilemma.

Do I try and grip the door handle at the point where I think he will have been least likely to touch it? This means trying to operate it only from its merest extremities – difficult when the door is heavy. Or do I wrap the handle in a paper towel and open it by way of a sheathing device? Or, even more dramatic, do I prop the door open with my foot and contort myself to the point of popping a hernia to reach the sink to wash my hands a second time and then barge my way out through the ajar door to gain my freedom and retain my germ free existence?

I don’t need this kind of conundrum when I want to use the bathroom! If I want more challenges in my life I’ll take up Sudoku.

Please, please, please, is it too much to ask that we all wash and go... after we’ve gone?