Saturday, June 30, 2012

Red Feathers

The thing about pigeons is, when they get run over by motor vehicles, they tend to pop.

And not a nice dry, party balloon type pop either.

But a horrible, muffled, wet kind of pop.

I know this for a fact because last Thursday I saw it happen up close and personal right in front of me.

I was on my way home after a shitstorm of a day at work and, quite frankly, the last thing I wanted to see was a pigeon playing chicken on the main road that runs through the south part of town. But there he was (I'm assuming he was male, as females tend to have more sense). Strutting his stuff in the middle of the road. Damned stupid when nature had provided him with the means to make an instant airborne means of escape.

But no. He seemed determined to walk his way out of trouble.

I put it to you, my learned friends, that it is nigh on impossible to walk your way out of trouble when a double decker bus is turning 45 degrees and heading right on top of you at 25mph. The first wheel missed and the turn of the bus took the pigeon well underneath the undercarriage. When he emerged again into the light it was plain that the back wheel of the bus had crushed the pigeon's left wing.

The pathetic crawl-flap-crawl-flap commenced.

I felt decidedly green at this point and wanted to rush out and pick the pigeon up. Unfortunately the lights had changed and the through traffic was now starting to come the other way. Not one of them seemed intent on stopping or slowing down. And I confess a little voice in the back of my head was asking what difference any intervention I could possible make would ultimately have. Even if I got him to the vet did I really think they'd waste good money saving one pigeon out of the millions that were already lined up to take his place? The chances are they'd nod sadly and administer a lethal injection as soon as I was out of the door (electric chairs being so costly to run these days) and Mr Pigeon would be off to the incinerator. And all that would cost money too.

As it was there was no time to act anyway. The fourth car along completed the job the bus had started. I had to turn away before impact but could hear the moment of death plainly enough. When I turned back around there was a mass of mangled feathers and raw spaghetti spread all over the road. I felt sick. And I felt sad. And cross with myself for not leaping into the path of the oncoming traffic to save this poor suicidal pigeon. Ridiculous, I know.

Next day only a few feathers and a stain on the macadam remained. I'd like to say we will not see his like again but it just wouldn't be true.

To end then, I'd like to present you with a poem I wrote in my twenties (back in '92) about just this kind of pigeon centred demise. I no longer think the glib tone of the poem is at all fitting but it is all I have. Enjoy.


Oh blue plumed and portly blown pilot,
A tyre has done for you.
Popped like a paper bag obese with
Breath between a clap sandwich.

Macabre children, passing, coo for
You, enquire after your
Two-dimensional demise, your brave
Unbirdlike stand against a
Post office van.

Stubborn pigeon,
If God had meant you to
Strut the road's white hyphens a gunless
Gunfighter, he would have cursed
You human and alcoholic!

You should have known: the mail
Always gets through. You're a sober sight
Now, a sheriff’s badge on a
Black macadam breast, a toe level
Monument to avian
Derring-do or die.

Chiselled by chance
Yet as if by a maestro.
You're almost symmetrical, arranged
Like a vain martyr. Could
Your corpse have been beautified by hand?
Havoc has no such aesthetics.

For a humble pot of a bird, a
Miscalculation of
Strategy has left you ready made
For the Tate; a model of
Impressionism, a
Dis-assemblage on asphalt.

Pop art.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

50,000 Votes But No Cigar

So the Brilliance In Blogging awards came and went last Friday and though yours truly was a finalist in the Lit category, I nevertheless went home a runner-up. In fact I didn’t even have to go home on account of never having left being too niggardly and anti-social to even attend the event despite the lovely Katy Hill being the compare and Ruby Wax also being in attendance. And of course, Ruby is undoubtedly lovely too.

I didn’t win.

Not a bean. Not a sausage. Close but no cigar.

I now know what it feels like to be the “also-ran” at an Oscar ceremony or The BAFTAs. The chin-up. The fake smile. The autopilot applause for the lucky individuals who did win.

Actually, I truly didn’t expect to win. And I mean that. I’m not just saying it to make out that I don’t care or to belittle the event (though of course I’ve maintained all along that I don’t do this for the accolades or the money or the loose women, sorry, the loose change; I do it for the art and the love and for you guys). This is no embittered lie to cover up a crushed soul fermenting itself into poison under the grinding weight of being passed over yet again at yet another award ceremony. I honestly didn’t expect to win.

My blog is too eclectic. Too unfocused. Too nonspecific and too wide ranging in its scope to pigeonhole neatly into any category. And yes I am trying to make a virtue out of a vice.

Of course, some might argue that this blog just wasn’t good enough and that is simply the hard, cold end of it.

And indeed that could be the case but for the fact that, to become a finalist, this blog had to receive over 50,000 votes.


That’s a phenomenal number for a snipey little blog that doesn’t particularly sell anything or offer a worthwhile service.

I was gobsmacked when I discovered that 50,000 was the numerical threshold.

Who are these people? Do they read every day? Why don’t they comment? If I sold 50,000 copies of my novel, The Great Escapes of Danny Houdini (plug plug), I’d be laughing.


So 50,000 people like this blog.

But it is the diet coke of success.

Just not quite successful enough.

Come on, people. Give me some sugar!


Monday, June 25, 2012

A Nerd’s Penance

In a move sure to alienate my remaining 9 readers I must here apologize to Red Dwarf.

I wronged you.

Back in your heyday I was proud to be a Red Dwarf geek. I watched religiously. I used the word “smeg”. And I wore your T-shorts with unironic pride. Smoke Me A Kipper I’ll Be Back For Breakfast was the one I was most proud of.

But during series 7 things went awry. The writing duo split due to artistic differences. Chris Barrie left meaning that Arnold Rimmer – always the lynchpin of the show for me – disappeared. I felt you lost your way. And because of that I never gave series 8 a chance. I was too quick to spot faults or take you to task over some comedic departure. And as for the 3-part special a couple of years ago... I got as far as recording Back To Earth but never watched it. I caught a glimpse of the middle episode and it all seemed too wrong. It all seemed too lazy and obvious. A storyline that treated the viewer with contempt. Like Bobby appearing in the shower in Dallas.  And the cast looked old and haggard. They looked like the residents of a nursing home dressed up in Dizzee Rascal’s cast-offs. Even Kryten had a paunch. I stopped recording and hit delete.

Red Dwarf was dead to me.

The nerd dream was over.

But this year, in an effort to teach our eldest boy about comedy and the joy of the classic British sitcom, we started working our way through the various boxed sets that I own. I had the complete Red Dwarf – minus the final 3-parter – and thought that the early ones at least exemplified all that was great and good about a classic British underdog sitcom.

To my surprise series 7, when we got to it, wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. And as for series 8... well spin my nipple nuts and ship me off to Alaska... series 8 was rather good. Considerably fine in places.

I’d misjudged the show. I can see now that, at the time, I’d become too precious about it. Too unyielding in my expectations. Sure Rimmer was a loss in series 7 but the Kochanski storylines added a bit of depth. And everybody’s return in series 8, although originally seen as a cop out, actually worked. Rimmer and Lister sharing a prison cell actually returned the show to what it had always been about. Banter. Dialogue. Not special effects and huge studio sets. Just the cut and thrust of insult and counter-insult.

Why did I not see this at the time?

I took a chance and bought the final 3-parter. We all watched it with baited breath.

Sure, the crew all looked old and haggard. But that kind of worked. They’d aged and mellowed. The script reflected this. And bugger me if Craig Charles, as Lister, didn’t even actually do some proper acting in a few of the scenes. Tears and wobbly upper lip and everything. And the Blade Runner pastiche worked too. The homage elevated the story and gave it some drive and purpose. A fitting final curtain call as curtain calls for sci-fi sitcoms go.

For those of you who are scorning this post... just take an honest look at yourselves. I bet a fair few of you were there in the early years. Watching. Laughing. Red Dwarf was our sitcom. It was our show. Sure we outgrew it, moved on, no longer thought it was nerd-cool enough. But for a time we had a bond.

All I’m saying is, it might be worth giving it a second go. A review.

If I still had my Smoke Me A Kipper T-shirt I’d be wearing it again today. And though the pride might be a bit self-conscious it would, nevertheless, still be there.

I want to lie shipwrecked and comatose, drinking fresh mango juice...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

8 Out Of 10 Cats Pay Their Tax The Hard Way

It is a measure of how much I detest the Tories when David Cameron's slating of the devil makes me instantly have sympathy with him.

Unless you've been living under a rock, on drugs or just in a different country for the last few days you can't fail to have heard or read about the big hoo-ha involving UK comedian, Jimmy Carr, and K2.

Yeah, that was my first thought too: he hasn't exactly got the physique of a mountaineer.

But it turns out K2 is some clever-clever, smarmy, rich man's tax dodge. I'm not sure of the ins and outs because whenever I read financial information all I hear in my head is farting noises but the basic premise seems to be that rich bastards pay their money into an account in Jersey and then the people running the account pay the money back out to them as "a loan". And because it is classed as a loan rather than a wage these mega-earners don't have to pay the statutory 50% tax rate on their stratospheric earnings.

All perfectly legal as Jimmy Carr and other K2 members have been desperate to point out.

So 'legally' the UK has missed out on something like £45bn per year on missed tax payments because of schemes like K2. Or £45mn. Or 45 drachma. One of those.

This is not funny when the likes of you and me are struggling to make ends meet and the government and tax office and the banks seem set on nobbling the poor, the middle wage earners and small business men in general.

K2 would be a great idea if we could all take advantage of it. The unfairness lies in the fact that it is a club that only the obscenely rich can join.

David Cameron (hardly short of a few bob himself) has condemned Jimmy Carr as "morally wrong".

Now up to that point I was bitterly disappointed with Jimmy Carr. I mean, how could he co-present such politically satirical programmes like 10 O'clock Live, lampooning the misdemeanours of others, when he himself was effectively ripping the entire country off?

But Cameron's condemnation just sticks in my craw worse than the whole K2 bunch. Are we to believe that Cameron knew nothing of this? That all our deeply respected politicians had no idea that such schemes existed and have done so for years and years? Are we to believe that they themselves have never partook of such perfectly legal tax dodging shenanigans?

It seems to me that Cameron's comdemnation comes only on the back of the recent media coverage. Up to then he was happy to have us all ignorant. Isn't that morally wrong too?

Jimmy Carr has today apologized for a "terrible error of judgement" over K2. He was asked by his financial advisor if he wanted to pay less tax without breaking the law. He said yes.

Well, bugger me, but who wouldn't?

The problem isn't Jimmy Carr or even K2 or it's directors (who are surely more morally repugnant than everybody?)... the problem is the long standing loophole in the law that allows such schemes to exist and to flourish. These schemes and loopholes are not new developments; they've been around for decades.

And whose fault is that?

The politicians and the bankers.

Frankie Boyle Tweeted this morning that if he'd been called "morally wrong" by Cameron he'd put it on his [tour] posters. I'd be tempted to put it on a T-shirt and wear it with pride.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

I wonder if my employer would care to loan me next month's wages rather than paying me...?

Trouble is, with my luck, they'd expect me to pay it back...

With interest.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Too Little And Too Much

I am out of love with technology this morning.

This morning the internet isn’t doing it for me and, if I’m honest, it’s been getting on my tits for the last week or so.

First up is Disqus. This is the technology that is working “too little”.

I’m Disqusted with it. I know some of you use it. I know some of you praise it to high heaven. Some of you are even honest and say that it’s just OK. Whenever I encounter it I have worked out that I have a mere 1 in 4 chance of it (a) letting me actually letting log into it and (b) after that actually letting me leave a comment. On some blogs it handshakes with me without a problem. On others it seems intent on giving me the two fingered salute and spitting all over whatever words of wisdom I am trying to impart. Those of you who haven’t heard from me for a post or two (Nota Bene and Wanderlust), I am afraid Disqus says my name is not on the list and I cannot come in. I’m not wearing the right jacket or shoes and I’m not wearing a tie. I have tried. Honestly. I’ve tried signing in via different applications and tried leaving it to work its magic for hours. I get a nice graphic of three cogs spinning around but it just hangs endlessly like a highwayman at Tyburn. I have tried banging my head against my computer screen but that just warps my vision.

As for the technology that is doing “too much”. That is hotmail.

When I log into hotmail I just want to nip in quickly, check for any new messages and then log straight back out again. I don’t want a hug or a snog. I don’t want to indulge in frottage or dry humping. I don’t want a date or a full on marriage with kids, a dog and an affair with the butcher’s wife down the road.

So why the hell do you insist on continuously asking me for my telephone number?

This is a piece of deeply personal information. Surely the whole point of a hotmail account is some level of anonymity? A hotmail email address if perfect for shopping at sites you don’t trust 100% and for on-line surveys where you want to leave information but nothing that MI5 can trace back to your front door. I can’t fathom why an email account provider would need my personal telephone number. Oh I know it’s supposed to be about security and password / account protection. But really! If you can’t vouchsafe the security and integrity of my email account why the hell should I trust you with my telephone number?!

Unfortunately there seems to be no way to switch off or bypass the request (except, I suspect, by acquiescing which I am not about to do). Every second log in I get taken to the “can we have your phone number” screen. I merely retype “hotmail” into the address bar of my browser and finally get taken to my account. But it is becoming annoying. Take a hint Hotmail: I am not giving you my telephone number. Not now and not ever. How dare you even ask? Next you’ll be asking me for my home address, bank account and inside leg measurement and a biometric photograph of the skin whorls on my left testicle.

The only thing I’m happy to give you is a biometric photograph of the skin whorls on my middle finger.


As for Disqus... hold the line, sir, I’ll be with you in just a sec...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Here Kitty Kitty


Back in the day, back when I wrote this blog's very first inaugural post, I made a silent vow to myself:

No posts about fluffy cute kittens.

It's not that I don't like fluffy cute kittens or fluffy cuteness per se. I just didn't want this blog to be about that kind of thing. Next I'd be employing a blog template that featured flowers and dandelion seeds blowing in the wind and taking photos of my animal face slippers that I'd hand crafted myself from a "Make Your Own Slippers Go On It's Easy When You Haven't Any Friends" book that I'd bought from a stall run by Mr Yoghurt-Weaver at a hippy festival.

It just wasn't my bag and still isn't.

Nevertheless it cannot have escaped your attention that there is a picture of a fluffy cute kitten at the top of this post. And furthermore there is another one just beneath this paragraph:

The top picture is Kiah and the one just above these very words is Artemis - or Missy for short.

In a fit of madness but actually after much on-and-off deliberation for the past 12 months Karen and I took advantage of some kittens that were being sold by a work colleague on Friday. Originally we were only going to take one but by the time we'd made up our minds to go for it there were only two left available from the original litter.

Sentimentality ruled our budget: we couldn't possibly split up these gorgeous little sisters and leave one all alone; two cats are no more expensive than one (I'm sure we'll learn the lie of that soon enough); they'll settle down much quicker with a companion that they already know.

Hence our family of four is now a family of six with the addition of the two darling girls you see pictured above. Kiah (mine) is very much a lap cat and pretty docile and yet has a bossy streak that even at this early stage cannot be mistaken. Missy (Karen's) is unsure about being picked up and yet very much likes being stroked and petted and is also the most adventurous and investigative of the two.

We collected them yesterday from Coventry and, after the trauma of the car journey (which they definitely did not like), they calmed down within seconds of their arrival and seemed very much at home from the instant we got them back to our place. They've slept well, eaten well and are now playing well.

In a house that up to now has had a male majority, I suspect things will never be quite the same again.

How does that awful Sugababes song go?

"Here come the girls..."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Surf Tax

Australian retailer has introduced the world’s first ever tax on a web browser.

Users of the site who surf with Internet Explorer 7 are set to be charged 6.8% - 0.1% for every month since the IE7 launch.’s reasoning is that since redeveloping their web site their IT boffins have spent more time trying to make it backwards compatible with IE7 than they ever did getting it to work with Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

They say they’re not expecting anyone to cough up but instead are expecting users to upgrade their browsers (which can be done for free via the Microsoft web site)... the tax is merely an incentive for them to do so.


Am I the only person to feel uncomfortable about this?

If you want to incentivize people to upgrade their browser why not just abandon any idea of backwards compatibility when you redevelop your site? Save yourself the time and effort. If people want to shop on your site they’ll upgrade of their own accord in order to be able to continue doing so. But hitting them with a tax bill just seems rather mercenary and fundamentally unsavoury.

It is also, I suspect, the thin end of the wedge.

Next we’ll have web sites who favour Firefox taxing other browser users; Microsoft taxing every browser on the market including their own IE users and a host of online retailers jumping on a bandwagon which is getting more fat and bloated every day with the increase in web capable gadgetry that is currently on the market. iPhones, Androids, WAP phones, iPads, tablets, Kindles... how all these devices display web pages must surely be a consideration of any web design team? Are we all going to have to be taxed to help pay for that extra creative input? For something that should be an automatic part of the brief in the first place?

And, excuse me, but when we buy products from these places doesn’t our money go towards the upkeep of the vendor’s retail portal? If I buy something from a shop I don’t expect to be hit with another bill on top to help pay for the large text display in the window just because they’ve noticed I wear glasses and therefore they’ve had to cater for short-sighted people. Sod that. If the text is too small I’ll shop somewhere else and they can make a financial saving with their sign maker.

Taxing people over their choice of web browser is bullying. It is denying people their freedom and their freedom of choice.

Sod backwards compatibility if it’s too irksome. You’ll soon prune away those who are too in love with Windows 98 to move on. But don’t cater for their custom when they haven’t actually requested it and then try and get them to pay through the nose for it. And worse, then try and make out that you’re trying to be fair and helpful!

Because, to use tax parlance, that’s just a big act of fraud.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Goosey Goosey Slander

So The Defamation Bill is about to be debated in the Commons.

Ostensibly this gives social networking web site owners a little protection against libel suits that may result from complainants taking objection to something web users may write or publish about the complainant on such web sites. If the web site owners identify the “troll” they themselves won’t get sued.

On the face of it, it is a good idea. It makes the right people accountable for their words and actions. I’m sure the owners of Twitter and Facebook et al will breathe huge sighs of relief if the bill gets approved.

But what does it mean for the rest of us?

Libel is a strange beast. People – particularly minor celebs with major egos – like to sue for it at the merest provocation. Even big celebs have been known to pay off mortgages on second homes with a well won libel suit.

But it’s one thing to sue a multinational newspaper but what about an average-Joe Twitter user? What about suing a blogger? What about suing the likes of you or me?

I guess we all need to be careful about what we say or write from now on. We all need to be clear about what is mere opinion and what is untruth or unsupportable truth.

Because part of the deal with this bill is that the complainant has to show that they have suffered serious harm to their reputations, or are likely to do so before they can take their defamation case forward.

I feel rather ambivalent on this issue, I must admit. Lord knows I have no respect for someone who prints lies and untruths and says that so-and-so shagged so-and-so with a hastily bought legume from Tesco just because they wanted to enjoy the emotional fall-out and social trauma that ensued. But at the same time I reserve the right to say that so-and-so is an utter arse with the brain of a Eurovision songwriter and deserves to be knocked verbally into a cocked hat if that is my personal take on the matter. Lord knows I have given the likes of Russell Brand, Eamonn Holmes and, just recently, Gary Barlow a right Royal drubbing on this here blog and done it with hyperbolic gusto.

But what if these guys feel I have damaged their reputation?

I mean, God knows my opinion is the only one that matters and careers are made or broken on my most nonchalant say-so. I am the all-powerful uber-blogger, after all.

But what if Russell Brand blames me for the break-up of his marriage and the loss of his virility? What then, huh?

Whoa! Whoa! That last bit was just a joke, OK? I’m sure Russ is as permanently randy as an IT student at a Spearmint Rhino half price night but you see how easy it is to fall into this libel trap? I make a non-serious joke about Russell Brand’s completely un-alleged flagging bedroom prowess and suddenly I’m libel fodder. Even though it was plainly a jape and just a device to express my opinion and imagine how worse it could have been if I’d rung him up and left him a telephone message saying that his old man drooped worse than an end-of-season bungee rope? I don’t think a bunch of flowers and an apology would get my arse out of the flames quick enough. My goose would be well and truly cooked. And my bank account plundered and dumped quicker than one of Russell’s ex-girlfriends.

So what’s the answer?

Well, it’s simple.

We have all got to start being nice to each other. And more importantly than that: nice about each other.

I know. Terrible, isn’t it?

What the hell are we all going to write about?


Sunday, June 10, 2012


You know what the best thing is about having time off from work? About having a holiday?

It's not that sweet, sweet moment when you first break-up from work and know that you have days and days stretching ahead of you when you don't even have to think about the office let alone go there. That moment when the holiday stretches before you like a perfumed cushion and nuzzles itself into your consciousness and yet you can't somehow quite grasp it hard enough to feel the realness of it - yes, you really are on holiday.

It's not that moment halfway through the holiday when you've released the hand-brake on your enjoyment of time and have finally allowed the days to run away with you; when you let them gather momentum and don't care because the carelessness and freedom to enjoy and waste time is part of what makes a holiday so great.

Neither is it that moment near the end of the holiday when you can count down the days on the fingers of one hand and their imminent loss finally makes you appreciate the preciousness of the sand that is slipping through your fingers minute by minute.

The best thing about a holiday is the very last day.

The very last day when it hits you that tomorrow you have to return to work. Tomorrow you have to pick up the reins again and hook them over your neck and shoulders and cinch them tight. When you have to take the bit back between your teeth, hop onto the hamster wheel and rejoin the futile, endless cycle of the rat race.

Because that's the moment when you see finally your life most clearly.

When you see the good stuff - the stuff that truly matters - thrown into sharp relief against the stuff that doesn't. When you can see how your life ought to be, how you want it to be and where it is all going wrong. Where in the scales rising above your head you see the people that are most important to you sailing past those who are plummeting down, down into the pit of your most contemptuous estimation.

Suddenly life is perfectly clear.

Complacency, routine, finding your feet, slipping back into the old ways, "it's just like I've never been away"... these are your enemies. These are the soporifics and the narcotics of existence that keep you where you probably don't want to be.

Shun them. Don't cosy back up to them. They are not your friends.

Best part of this holiday? Truly?

Not Legoland or The Space Centre or Enginuity as great as all these places were.

It was a free helium balloon from a restuarant that dashed itself about on its ribbon in the wind yesterday as we walked through Stratford-upon-Avon and had my youngest boy giggling like a maniac. I lost count of how many people that balloon smacked in the face - it was uncontrollable. But every one of them responded with a smile and a laugh and a wink.

That's what life should be like, right there.

Every day should be like that.

Every. Single. Day.

Monday, June 04, 2012

The World's Favourite Banker

I didn't set out to watch Gary Barlow: On Her Majesty's Service, truly I didn't. I was just waiting for The Apprentice final to begin and found myself pitched in at the half way point.

About five minutes after that I wanted to retch up my spleen.

Oh I know the whole premise of the show was a huge Royal arse-kissing exercise with Gary Barlow puckering up his nice-boy-next-door lips and wiping off the residue with a napkin but I was gobsmacked at just how far the ex-Take That frontman was prepared to go in service to Her Majesty.

And can I just say right here, at the top of this mountain of invective, that I genuinely have no beef with The Royals. I am not anti-Royalist by any means though at the same time there is a noticeable absence of bunting from around my domicile this Bank Holiday weekend. I am a jockey who quite spectacularly rides the fence named "Couldn't Care Less Either Way".

I can only suppose from the title of the show that we were meant to see Gary as some kind of James Bond character, travelling the globe on a "mission impossible" to sample as much musical diversity as humanly possible armed only with a state-of-the-art laptop and a boom mic operator. In the last half hour that I saw Gary skipped his way across Africa, Jamaica, Australia and The Solomon Islands.

James Bond he wasn't. Suave and sophisticated he most certainly wasn't.

He was a stiff Englishman in a pair of shorts. And as patronizing as all hell.

But in a nice way. I need to stress the niceness of it actually. He was nice. He went out of his way to be nice. To be above and beyond nice. To stretch nicety to the point where a normal human being's mind would bow and bend and finally snap itself into the irredeemable realm of psychopathology.

He told a group of African musicians who had fashioned their own instruments from rubbish that their music was nice. He told an Aborgine classical guitar player that his music was really nice. Really, really nice. Hey, he was really pushing the boat on that one. The Aborigine guy had an English interpreter, prompting Gary to ask of the guy spoke English. Yes, Gary. He speaks the Queen's English better than you or I, the interpreter was there to convert his 1950's BBC tones into Mancunian slang the better to swing the meaning past your cloth-eared brain. After recording the quite superb guitar playing, Gary turned knowingly to the camera and said that he reckoned Mr Aborigine knew more English than he was cracking on... Gary nodded sagely and lowered his voice an octave to show that a great pearl of wisdom was about to drop out of his beared maw, "Just like the French."

Christ, if that is James Bond abroad then the British Secret Service is truly fucked. Musically we've been buggered for years.

And the end result? The masterpiece cobbled together by all this globetrotting?

They played it to the Queen with not only Gary present but also Andrew Lloyd Webber. I'm guessing his face was there to provide effective distraction from the music. The Queen sat tense and stiff like she was passing a gall stone. And that was before they'd even started playing the CD.

The song was bland. The song was forgettable.

It was... nice.

Gary had tried to capture the music of the world (or to be exact the Commonwealth) in the hope of coming up with something original and groundbreaking.

Instead all he produced was the background music to a bank advert or British Airways.

As the final notes faded out, I expected the voice of Sir Michael John Gambon to intone "HSBC - The World's Favourite Bank", just before the visuals cut to a stylized atlas highlighting all the cities of the world where you can get really appalling service from your bank.

The song said nothing about the Queen or the Jubilee or Britain or anything. The only thing that was Royal about it was one sample of Prince Harry slapping a tamborine about halfway through the song, and to be honest, I don't think Fairport Convention are going to be in a rush to sign him up.

What an enormous waste of money, energy, time and life. For you, for me and for The Queen.

Next time, Your Maj, might I suggest Engelbert Humperdinck?

Friday, June 01, 2012

A Much Bigger World

Today our youngest son, Tom, had his final day at the nursery where he has been going every day since he was 9 months old. After a week’s holiday for half term next week he’ll be starting at a brand new nursery to get him ready for starting school in September.

It is not a move Karen and I have undertaken lightly. It is not a move we make with glad hearts or any sense of victory. But it is a necessary move.

Some of you will remember Tom was going off the rails a bit earlier a year. I don’t mean to go through all that again here. Suffice to say we came within a gnat’s hair of changing his nursery back then but the owner of the nursery (who’d recently retired from the day to day running of the place, handing the reins to a newly appointed manageress) stepped back up the plate and promised us the commitment we both wanted to hear to deal with Tom’s “overly-confident” behaviour. Things improved. But then began to slip again a few weeks ago. The new manageress has her own ethos and way of doing things which, as far as Tom is concerned, just exacerbates the problem.

I must point out here that Tom is perfectly controllable at home and elsewhere. It’s just the combination of this particular nursery environment and he lead to explosions. Though Karen and I feel it is the manageress’s approach more than the nursery that cause the problem: we’ve come to the conclusion that the manageress loves problems that can lead her to acquiring extra funding... And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

The care workers are all very sad. So I suspect are Tom’s friends. And so will Tom be when the reality of the move sinks in. ‘Cos here’s the thing. Everybody loves Tom. His naughtiness accounts for only about 5% of his behaviour – if that.

But we can’t leave him somewhere where they seem unable to curb his ebullience. He needs to be socialized ready for school in September. So it was a case of move him now or do nothing at all and see the situation slide yet again until the manageress is calling in “experts” and “specialists” – all of which has been well and truly poo-poohed by our family doctor who told us quite stridently that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Tom other than he’s ready for school right now and is probably bored witless. The manageress actually looked disappointed with this diagnosis. It was at that point really that Karen and I decided that we didn’t want her anywhere near our child.

So Tom will have a trial at the new  nursery next week. Thankfully he is excited by it. It is a smaller nursery which Karen and I think will help and they have a superb sensory chill-out room where the kids can go when they need space. All of which we think will really help Tom. And, as callous as it sounds, we also think a little period of being unsettled might help him too; a period of being the new boy. We’re hoping it will stimulate a little empathy within the maelstrom of his emotional development.

It’s going to be a difficult time. And then in September further upheaval as he starts school. Sadly he didn’t get into the school his older brother goes to (Ben himself will leave in July and start at secondary school) so that too will all be new.

This is Tom’s journey. Already it is not the journey that Karen and I had planned out for him but at the end of the day he’s a kid not an Air-fix kit. His journey is organic and constantly improvised and we his parents spend our days running hard to keep up in order to kick as many of the rocks away from beneath his feet as we can before he stumbles on them.

He’s about to realize it’s a much bigger world out there than he’d ever imagined.

But I think his imagination is big enough to cope with it. Let’s hope so.