Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sunday Shorts

Apparently the mistreatment of Iraqui prisoners by British troops was down to a lack of training. It's an odd notion that you need training to stop you forcing people to simulate sex acts. But it fits with the current orthodoxy that training is the answer to everything.
When I was reluctant to employ people who had difficulty spelling or writing their own name, I was told by Personnel Officers - sorry, Human Resources Arseholes - that (a) I was being 'elitist' and (b) as a Line Manager it was my responsibility to train people.
I sometimes wondered why we bothered with a selection process at all and didn't just drag people in off the street at random and train them.
It would certainly be one way to solve shortages in the NHS. A couple of short training courses (not forgetting an Awayday Team Building Exercise) and we'd have all the brain surgeons and cancer specialists we could possibly need.


Austria has gone on to my list of better countries to live than Britain. I learned this week that the film The Sound of Music is never shown there and is virtually unknown.

If you missed Channel Four's The New Ten Commandments it was only worth watching for a story from the doctor and comedian Phil Hammond. He'd been on a course that extolled the medicinal properties of laughter so he prescribed a patient 'fun three times a day'.
The man's symptoms soon disappeared. However, soon afterwards the man was convicted for exposing himself to a Lollipop Lady [school crossing lady].

These are entertaining days for republican atheists. The Charles/Camilla nuptials have descended into farce and the Church of England clerics are fighting like ferrets in a sack over gay priests.
One clergyman is intending to exercise his right to attend the Royal Wedding at Windsor Guildhall and to shout his objections at the appropriate point in the ceremony. This brings the Royal Family the closest they've ever been to soap opera since soap weddings almost never go according to plan. Unfortunately, I don't think there will be TV cameras there to record that moment when the Registrar asks if anyone knows of an impediment.
190 degree pan round congregation.
Close-up on nervous bridegroom.
Door crashes open.
Crazy clergyman stands in aisle quoting 1949 Civil Marriages Act
Doesn't have quite the universal appeal of "He's already married to me!" or "I'm having his baby!" but it would still be a ratings winner.

Gerard Kearns who plays Ian in Shameless did a web chat on Tuesday night and used the expression "as mad as cheese". This was new to me. March hares and hatters, yes. I've also heard "mad as a goat". Shakespeare has "mad as Ajax" (Love's Labour's Lost).
But can a non-cognitive dairy product display signs of madness?
It's true that some cheeses can manifest maturity. Ergo, they must be capable of immaturity. But can they be totally off the wall, eye-swivellingly bonkers?
I'll go and ask the Stilton if it's ever been in therapy.

Disappointing Corrections: No 36 in an occasional series

From The Guardian: "Rufus Wainwright, page 17 Friday Review, has recorded a setting of Agnus Dei rather than Angus Dei."
The choir would have looked so good in kilts and sporrans.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Shut Up and Bring Your Own Vaseline

The man who came to repair the washing machine today is one of several such people that I have used for years. Competent, honest, reliable and not expensive, such craftsmen (I won't use the Victorian term 'tradesmen') are as difficult to find as the perfect life partner and when they retire it's almost like a bereavement.
He patted my ancient washing machine affectionately and said it had done well. I say 'ancient' but in human terms it's only just past puberty. It doesn't however scan a garment's barcode and download the appropriate washing program from the internet or announce in an American accent "your washing is ready!". If it did, I would put my foot through its little glass porthole.

There are two principal types of repair men who visit your home. The first type are taciturn to the point of rudeness. If you hang around to see what they're doing they give you one of those 'Who are you looking at?' looks that you get in the dodgier kind of pubs. One plumber went into my bathroom and as I followed to ask if he'd like a cup of tea he slammed the door shut in my face - behaviour that would only have been justified if I'd been dressed as Marlene Dietrich and brandishing a ten inch vibrator.

A different plumber summoned me to the bathroom where he was lying on his stomach with his head under the bath. "Have you got any vaseline?" he said. There was a long pause while I reflected that perhaps he should take me out to dinner first. I'm rather old fashioned like that. But he wanted it to grease some washers and was too lazy to go back to his van.

The second type never stop talking and if you manage to escape for a moment will ring their wife/girlfriend on their mobile rather than work in silence. Sometimes they want to give you a detailed explanation of what they are doing so that you feel you're on a City and Guilds plumbing course at the local college.
But there are others who, like some barbers, pursue an intrusive and relentless line of questioning about your life - your marital status, your occupation, your hobbies and interests. If, like me, you resent this, saying you're a VAT Inspector usually shuts them up.

A sub-category of this group adopt a critical tone and make you feel a complete failure as a human being. They use phrases like "you could have done this yourself - all you need is an allen key" and "Christ, you haven't cleaned behind there for a long time."
One man gave me a most ferocious telling-off about the clutter in the cupboard under the sink. "How would people like you ever find the stop-cock in an emergency?" he demanded. I replied that I knew precisely where the stop-cock was - just to the left of the litre of anti-freeze from the days when I owned a car. I could have added that I could locate the stop-cock blindfolded in a power cut while wearing handcuffs and turn it off with my teeth but as you know I don't do sarcasm.
Another plumber became furious because I left the bathroom light on when we went downstairs and implied that global warming could be traced back to my personal profligacy with energy supplies.

Yet some of these people leave a lasting impression on your life and are remembered with affection. I sometimes say "I must prune the Honeysuckle round the Mother".
The Mother is a wooden arch in my garden and was so christened by the man who installed it. It put up a lot of resistance to being installed and he cursed it loudly for over an hour. When he'd finished I asked him if it would survive winter gales. He took a flying kick at it and struck it heavily with his boot. I jumped back, fearing I might be next for the kick-boxing treatment. But he gave a satisfied smile and started rolling a cigarette.
"That fucking Mother's not going anywhere", he said.
And it never has. It wouldn't dare. And it will always be the Mother in his honour.

News Values

I was watching Tony Blair's monthly press conference today on BBC News 24 when they cut away to cover a statement about the Pope. This told us little that was new or dramatic, just that he was breathing unaided and had eaten breakfast. Then there were questions following the statement. Then a reporter standing outside the hospital. Then interminable commentary from guest Pope experts in the studio.
I switched to both Sky News and ITV News Channel and they were doing the same. By the time they returned to Blair's press conference it was almost over.
Yesterday BBC News 24 got so excited about the Pope going into hospital that they even put a caption over the poor weather forecaster.

If the Pope has died that merits a newsflash. If the Pope has been assassinated or has ascended into heaven on a cloud in front of the television cameras more extended coverage would be acceptable. But Pope is still alive and has eaten some breakfast?
More important than Blair being questioned by the media and making an announcement about an increase in the minimum wage?
Oh, for fuck's sake.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Pogo Dentistry: The Net Closes

I think I may have discovered who Googled for "Liverpool pogo dentistry."

In a current employment tribunal case where a Labour MP is alleged to have unfairly sacked her researcher, the MP has claimed that the researcher was suffering from mental health problems. As evidence of this she said that when she asked him to provide one page of bullet points on dentistry he produced a 100-page dossier on the subject.
Clearly, in best New Labour tradition, this dossier would need to have been 'sexed up.' And it doesn't get any more sexy or scary than pogo dentistry on Merseyside.

Floss, a dental hygienist from Liverpool, writes: "Although pogo dentistry makes it difficult to drill with a steady hand, it means their white coats billow and flutter in a most satisfactory way."

(The first person to identify the Green Wing reference in this piece wins a free sample of new KY Warming Liquid).

Exit, Pursued By The Secret Service

Yesterday's thoughts on American gun culture reminded me of something that happened when this middle England muser was a backstage myrmidon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
The then American Vice-President Rockefeller was coming to see the show one evening. The Secret Service chaps were given what is now called 'Access All Areas'. But they didn't exactly blend into the background. In fact when it came to standing out they made a sore thumb look like the apotheosis of self-effacement. Clean-cut, in sharp suits, and with short hair at a time when that was unfashionable, they prowled around muttering into wires that protruded from their shirt cuffs.

I was leaning against my winch eating an egg mayonnaise sandwich from the cafe over the road. My friend and fellow winchman was kneeling at my feet simulating oral sex. He sometimes did this to pass the time while waiting for curtain up, especially if he'd spent the previous two hours in the pub. I'd almost stopped noticing it although I once moved suddenly and accidentally kneed him in the face.
The young American agent certainly noticed it. He stood transfixed, all his worst suspicions about the English confirmed. He lifted his wrist to his mouth and started speaking. I couldn't hear what he said. 'Faggot alert!' probably.

There was a scene in the show where two characters dressed as mafiosi ran on to the stage and fired machine guns. The Americans asked that this scene be removed because of the risk that the armed bodyguards in Rockefeller's box would fire back.
The management said surely it would be all right if they were pre-warned that fake guns would be fired on stage. But the Americans said instinct might take over. These guys were trained to shoot first and ask questions later. The management stood firm and refused to make nonsense of the plot by cutting scenes. But I'm not sure if they warned the two young actors that they might be about to die for their art.

I suppose you can understand the Americans' sensitivity, given that Abraham Lincoln was shot dead in his box at the theatre. But in that instance his assassin was in the box with him rather than on the stage and with an admirable classical flourish cried "Sic semper tyrannis!" as he did the deed.

I wonder if George W ever goes to the theatre? I'm sure he could be tempted by a dramatisation of his favourite book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Preferably with a caterpillar trained to use a semi-automatic.
Best to lay off the Latin phrases though. One wouldn't want George to die as he'd lived - confused and bewildered by language.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Is That A Gun Under Your Pillow?

For alphabetical reasons, I sometimes sit next to Michael Moore on bloggers' lists of links. He's the famous, millionaire leftie. I'm the poor, unknown leftie. I'm also the one who still has a 30 inch waist. Cry all the way to the bank, Michael.
Anyway, I finally caught up with Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine on television this week. I thought it was a much better film than Fahrenheit 9/11, perhaps partly because a lot of the material in the latter was already familiar to anyone who had read Moore's books. I also thought Columbine was made with rather more subtlety, although that's not a quality you usually associate with Michael Moore.

It's probably difficult for Americans to appreciate the depth of our incredulity at American gun culture - or perhaps I should say the American culture of gun ownership and its terrible consequences. The number of deaths by gun in America is almost equivalent to four self-inflicted 9/11s every year. Yet nothing is done about it. In Britain, with less than 100 such deaths a year, we had one dreadful school massacre at Dunblane and that was sufficient to result in tightening our already relatively strict gun laws.

I can't understand why a nation would cling so tenaciously to something - the right to bear arms - that was written in their constitution over 200 years ago in a completely different type of society. It's true that in Britain we've hung on to some ancient and idiotic customs and institutions - the monarchy, for example - but none of them cause 12,000 deaths a year.
It wouldn't matter so much if America didn't regard itself as the leader of 'the free world' and adopt a position of moral superiority - even sometimes in relation to the countries of Europe.

When I was about six I was given a toy gun as a present. After the purpose of guns had been explained to me I went outside when nobody was looking and put it in the dustbin. I've often thought this is the only thing I've done in my entire life that I'm proud of.

The twist in Moore's film was that the argument seemed pretty straightforward until he looked at Canada. They have similar levels of gun ownership to America. Yet they rarely shoot each other. They even appear to leave their front doors unlocked most of the time.
As it happens, my back door is unlocked as I type this. I shall lock it before I go to bed. But if I locked it during the day I would think I was becoming paranoid, particularly as I live in a low crime area.
If someone walks in and shoots me mid-blog, you can put on my gravestone: I may be dead but at least I wasn't paranoid.

More from that favourite bloggers' sport of seeing what Google searches people came to you from. Mine this week included "David Walliams big dick". Wouldn't you love to know whether Walliams himself was googling that one?
More worrying was "groping genitals boy". Before the police sieze my computer I should point out that I never wrote that phrase. The three words appeared separately in the same piece.
But my favourite was "Liverpool pogo dentistry". I love that phrase so much I'm tempted to register it as a domain name or have it put on a T shirt or tattooed on my buttocks.
Wouldn't you think the people of Liverpool have been through enough in recent decades without the scourge of pogo dentistry?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Chair of Chairs

It's surprising what you learn when Radio 4 is the background to your day. But sometimes I think I must be dreaming.
Last night as I was preparing some food I heard an American Professor, speaking with all the authority of someone who had written A History of the Chair, say that if you did a manual job and were on your feet all day, to sit down was a treat.
Well, blow me! I suppose it takes years of academic research to come up with an astonishing insight like that.
As I looked for a pen to write down this amazing aperçu the Professor was continuing to share the fruits of her lucubrations. Before industrialisation, she said, people had to make their chairs by hand.
Truly astonishing.
I think I once heard that there was a time before motor cars when people used to ride around on horses. Could this possibly be true? Perhaps Radio 4 will do a programme about it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Women's Section

What a strange programme Woman's Hour is. It's sometimes on in the background when I'm writing this blog, until it gets too distressingly gynaecological. It often has excellent items of general interest but there are also some ludicrously trivial pieces that are considered to make compelling listening for women. Two of my favourites are last week's History of the Hostess Trolley and a long discussion on whether you should 'cull' your collection of cookery books and how to do it.

I once ventured on to the Woman's Hour message board after the actress Sue Pollard had made the ridiculous statement on the programme that all gay men secretly want to be women. A very nice lady who shared my outrage promised to buy me a drink - an easy promise to make on an anonymous message board, but it's the thought that counts.

As a child who would read anything, I often read the women's magazines that the women in our family left lying around. That was in the days when Woman's Own and Woman's Realm seldom mentioned sex, even in the agony columns. But I could never understand why intelligent women read such drivel.
In recent years the market has been flooded with men's magazines and the new breed of 'Lads' Mags' like Nuts and Zoo churning out similar stereotypical pap to their feminine counterparts. Some might think this progress towards sexual equality but I think both sexes are demeaned by this kind of drivel. I also think publications based on sexuality are equally absurd although at least gay magazines have the excuse that they're catering for a minority who are sidelined by the mainstram media.
The sad thing is that millions of lads and ladettes are happy to be patronised by corporations making huge profits by selling advertising on the back of an infantile, gender-based template.


(Skip this if you have a life)

In case anyone thinks I was unnecessarily rude to a commenter, I do reserve the right not to be bored to death in my own blog. If I wanted that, I would offer myself up to one of the local pub bores or take out a subscription to Stamp Collectors' Monthly.
A comment box is not a chat room or message board. Excessive commenting from one individual becomes like spam. I may not always succeed but I try to limit the number of comments I place on people's blogs and keep them short and to the point. Most of the people who comment on my blog do the same. That's why I suggested that it might be better for this person to go away and write their own blog rather than infesting other people's with long and sometimes tedious comments.

In a comment he has since removed this person said that most bloggers get few comments and this might be because they don't like comments that aren't complimentary. He also said "I did think you had more intelligence.....all the hits must be going to your head."
Mmm.....hits to the head.....don't tempt me into a bad pun.
I don't know how he has gained access to my logfiles. As it happens I don't get a huge number of hits, although somewhat above the average. But I write this for my own pleasure and to exercise my ageing brain. If just one person reads and enjoys it then that's a bonus. Intelligent and relevant comments are also welcome and I've had plenty of those since I started.
But a blog should not be judged by the number of comments it gets. There are many brilliant blogs that I visit which get hardly any comments, possibly because few people have discovered them. This might be because they haven't put themselves into directories or built up a network of links or don't ping feed services. Or they may not have had the luck of a popular blogger promoting them.

Although blogging is a public activity, the blog itself remains your own personal space and who you share it with is a matter for you. To tell someone they are unwelcome is unpleasant and potentially hurtful and not something I would often do. If someone ever does that to me I hope I could take it on the chin and not go round bad-mouthing them in other people's comment boxes.
You may not agree with me but those are my views and I hope the matter is now closed.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Lost In The Desert

I return to The Happiest Days of Your Life Season (brought to you in association with Naked Blog) with memories of the 11-Plus, the examination that sorted the sheep from the goats and frequently determined the course of the rest of your life. Of course, many grammar schools still survive but their entrance exams can't hold quite the same terror as the 11-Plus used to because there are no Secondary Modern Schools now and some of those had a fearsome reputation.

Depending on your birthday, you could sometimes take this exam at the age of 10 and that was the case for me. My problem was that I was brilliant at English but hopeless at maths. This produced an inconclusive result. If you were 'borderline' as it was called (half sheep, half goat) you faced an interview with the Headmasters of the local grammar schools.

Thus it was that I faced three middle-aged men across a table who were leafing through my school exercise books and making tutting noises. In my memory they are wearing gowns and mortar boards that half covered the horns protruding from their heads. But they were probably just wearing dark suits.
One of them leaned forward and said "If you were lost in the desert, how would you find your way home?"
Now there weren't many deserts in the vicinity of my small middle England town and my main challenge so far in life had been getting on the right bus. I closed my eyes and thought hard.
I'd once got lost on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare. That had been sandy and very hot. I'd stood and wailed until someone led me back to my parents. I've stayed away from beaches ever since. But somehow that didn't sound a very satisfactory answer to give them.

Maybe a passing Arab would come to my rescue - in the fictional desert, not in that classroom - emerging from the heat haze on a camel like Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia. But my mother had warned me not to get on a camel with a strange Arab. Well actually she'd told me not to get into an Austin A40 with a man I didn't know, especially if it was Mr Jones from Number 32. (I was later to spend many years looking for such a person, but that's another story).

Those were some of the longest minutes of my life. I mumbled and fidgeted and tried to do a pathetic mime of a 10 year old Einstein struggling with some over-arching Theory of Everything. Eventually, one of them took pity on me and said "what about the sun?" Ah yes, the sun. What about the bloody sun, I thought. If I couldn't hitch a ride on a passing camel soon it would burn me to a cinder. And if we sat in this classroom staring at each other much longer, I wouldn't be home in time for Jimmy Edwards in Whacko!

Not surprisingly, those three Grammar Schools decided they couldn't risk their reputations by admitting a cretin who didn't know you could navigate by the sun or the stars. And my parents decided that expensive set of encyclopaedias they'd bought me had been a waste of money.
But all was not lost. I was allowed to go through a similar ordeal with the Heads of Grammar Schools in the surrounding area. One of them leaned forward and said "Which is more graceful, a dog or a cat?"
Ah, this was more like it. Easy-peasy.
"A dog!" I replied. Well after all, a guide dog could lead you safely out of the desert if you were lost.
As it happened, that Headmaster shared my dislike of cats and saw this shared view of animal aesthetics as good enough reason to welcome me into his school. I wasn't a 10 year old failure after all. On the other hand, if I'd gone to the Secondary Modern I might have had a lucrative career as a plumber and have paid the mortgage off by now.

Nathan Barley

A new series from Chris Morris is always going to be something of an event. But after the first episode of Nathan Barley last week I turned to the critics to find out what I thought of it. Uncharacteristic behaviour for an opinionated little sod like me. But the critics were divided and confused as well.
The Guardian's critic last week said: ".....whether it's satire or sitcom, twitire or twitcom, it doesn't really matter. More important is that it's very good - beautifully observed, written and acted and very, very funny."
I agree with all of that except the last bit. I don't find it particularly funny. I have the same problem with this as with The Office. For all its brilliance, the characters make me cringe more than they make me laugh.
It has to be said that Nick Burns as Nathan Barley is casting and acting of genius but he makes you want to put your foot through the TV screen.
One problem for me is that Dan Ashcroft who sees through all the idiots of youth culture and the New Media world is himself such an unsympathetic character. Also, there's scarcely any plot other than the huge improbability of an intelligent girl like Dan's sister getting involved with an imbecile like Nathan Barley.

Some critics, in a better position to know than myself, say that the world it's satirising has already moved on so as satire it's rather passé. I was more conscious of echoes of earlier satires and comedies. Last night's party scene reminded me of the party scene in Derek Jarman's Jubilee of 30 years ago. The adoption of Dan as a kind of unwilling Messiah was very reminiscent of Life of Brian, particularly where the crowd are chanting "Preacher Man" and Dan is shouting back "I'm not the fucking Preacher Man."
What annoyed me most last night was that several times I had to turn the sound down and that really made me feel very old.

I'm not sure whether I want to spend half an hour every Friday in the company of such loathsome and irritating characters. That, after all, was why I stopped watching Eastenders many years ago. I'd rather dig out my tape of Chris Morris's seminal The Day Today and watch it for the umpteenth time. It's as fresh and as funny as the day it was made. Nathan Barley, in contrast, will probably be seen as a brilliant but flawed minor work in the Morris canon.

Friday, February 18, 2005

A Small Cheer

As someone said in 1997: "A new day has dawned, has it not?"
Today hunting became illegal, a small step towards becoming a more humane and civilised society.
And a step towards making our laws on animal cruelty more consistent and logical.
It means that no longer will magistrates and judges who spend their weekends watching foxes being torn apart have to pass sentence on youths who kick a cat to death behind the council flats or tie a firework to a dog's tail.


Nobody has won an Amazon book token for pointing out the mistake in yesterday's blog. The lines I quoted from Ivor Novello were not from two different songs. They were both from the same song. Indeed, they follow each other:
"We'll gather lilacs in the spring again
And walk together down an English lane
So I don't know what the second song was that I sang on that New Year's Eve long ago. Perhaps I sang a medley and threw in some Franz Lehar for good measure. As I said, I remember almost nothing about it. I can't ask the friend I was with because he was blown out of the sky over Lockerbie. I must remember to write about him next December. The greatest tribute to him is not that one of our leading composers wrote a requiem for him but that people like me who knew him only briefly still remember him with the deepest affection. None of us can ask for more than that. But now the tears are coming so I'll move hurriedly on.


Although the school canings I described yesterday were a form of child abuse that is now illegal, they would register only 1 or 2 on the Richter scale of abuse. Anyone who suffered more severe child abuse, whether physical, sexual or emotional would rightly think them hardly worth mentioning. They had no lasting effect on me and I mentioned them mainly to point out that physical punishment used to be routinely meted out for the most trivial things and that a worrying proportion of teachers appeared to be at best bullies and at worst psychopaths.

On the subject of schools, why does the state allow parents to send very young children away to boarding institutions known as Preparatory Schools? Because it's the rich middle classes that do it, of course. If working class parents did it they'd be prosecuted and their children permanently removed and placed with foster parents.
I once saw a mother on a TV documentary tearfully watch an equally tearful eight year old boy disappear through the portals of a Prep School and say "I do hope that if anyone does anything beastly to Harry that he'll tell me about it."
To which the only answer is: 'well don't send him there, you stupid bitch, and don't have children if you're going to dump them in an institution at the first opportunity.'

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Memories of Child Abuse

Peter writes a funny and evocative piece about his schooldays, partly prompted by my own trips down memory lane. And now, in the interconnected world of blogging, he's persuaded me to make more such trips. I'm always reluctant to do so because I don't want this blog to turn into autobiography by other means. Also, because nothing can be more tedious than the reminiscences of the old. On the other hand, it can be a rich seam of material for old gits like Peter and I (I use the term 'old' loosely; we're only middle-aged) and a small contribution to social history. More importantly, readers seem to enjoy them.

There was much that was unattractive about Spike Milligan. He was hated in the theatre because he could be gratuitously unpleasant to the backstage staff on whom all performers depend. But I could understand his lifelong hatred of a nun who had been cruel to him at school. Indeed, I think he said he would like to hunt her down and kill her.
I also bear grudges against certain teachers over fairly trivial things and practices that were normal then but would be illegal today.

I remember at the age of 5 or 6 in my Catholic infant school being sent to the Headmaster, a great bear of a man, to be caned on the hand and walking up a long steep corridor past a statue of Christ with his hand on his sacred heart. Suffer not the little children....
Yes, I was barely out of nappies and this big red-faced man was cracking a ruler down on my tiny hand.
Child abuse, plain and simple. The bastard should have been locked up.

I should say that I was a repulsively well-behaved child but in those days you weren't allowed to talk in class at all. At the Catholic Junior School a teacher caned me for talking to the boy next to me. When I protested that the other boy had spoken, not me, he said: "Yes, but you were listening to him."
On another occasion I was standing on the roots of a tree in the playground and was caned by a sadistic, alcoholic teacher for "climbing trees".
The only good that came of all this is that it gave me a lifelong hatred of injustice. That's why I'm a socialist - a belief in justice rather than equality, although gross inequality is plainly an injustice in itself.

Perhaps these early experiences also account for my dislike of faith schools even though they're no longer allowed to beat and flog - although some Christian groups fought like hell to be exempt from that legislation.
I had a friend who went to a Church of England school and whose teacher told the children the most extraordinary lies about Catholicism. (There's enough to condemn in Catholicism without making things up). He refused to accept my denials of these myths because she was his respected teacher and I was just a child.
In such ways are the seeds of social division and sectarianism planted in young children and there's no reason to think it's much different now.

Well, that wasn't exactly a laugh a minute was it? But then, sadly, childhood seldom is.


James, of James and The Blue Cat fame, who also moonlights as a television writer, gave us a nasty shock by almost pulling the plug on his blog. Happily, he's now just taking a brief sabbatical while he finishes work on the next Green Wing. Now that really is a copper-bottomed reason to stop blogging, the equivalent of a note from your mother excusing you from PE because you've had all your limbs amputated.
The next series of Green Wing is one of the few reasons to hope that an asteroid doesn't destroy life on earth before February 2006. Or autumn 2005, if you're waiting for the DVD of series one.

Before the suspension of normal service, James had just kindly linked to me which brought me a fair bit of traffic. Not that I'm a Traffic Queen, you understand. This blog isn't a toll motorway, more a winding English country lane.
"We'll walk together down an English lane........"
In fact, if you stick around a bit longer "we'll gather lilacs in the spring......"

One New Year's Eve I sang both those songs in a pub close to Ivor Novello's former London flat. I don't remember it myself. I was told about it by one of the few people present. Most people fled the pub after the first verse of my tuneless homage to the maestro of Drury Lane musicals and the landlord lost a fortune on what should have been the most profitable night of his year. The phrase "that's another pub I can't go back to" was never far from my lips in my youth.
I blame my school.
They should have spent more time teaching me to sing and less time on the mysteries of the Holy Fucking Trinity.

Another Pop at Tony

Watched Blair's grilling by voters on Channel 5 last night. The first questioner who asked about Iraq was excellent and could stand in for Paxman tomorrow. "How can you sleep at night?" he asked. Predictably, Blair fell back on the old defence that Saddam had killed more people than he had. But as I've said before, in a different context, arithmetic and morality are two different things.

I was struck by Blair's inability to engage in meaningful debate. One of his ploys is to say 'I respect your sincerely held views but nothing I say is going to change your mind.' This is a stance that would effectively close down any political debate, whether in the Oxford Union or the House of Commons or, for that matter, in the local pub. It also saves him the trouble of having to marshall any reasons to support his point of view.

He also registers astonishment (or feigned astonishment) when someone puts forward a view that is shared by millions of people but doesn't coincide with his own. For example, a man suggested that it would be better not to have any 'faith schools' and argued the case cogently and eloquently. Blair reacted as though he'd said the sun orbited the earth.
Yet there are millions of us who think the enthusiasm for faith schools shows we've learned nothing from Northern Ireland and the catastrophic effects of inculcating a sectarian mentality in children.

Another tactic is to make a joke of somebody's passionately held views. After a nurse had asked him if he would wipe someone's backside for £5 an hour, he grinned at the audience and asked if someone else would like to replace him in the hot seat.
There's a place for humour in politics but Blair gets it totally wrong, using it as a defence mechanism, trying to ingratiate himself by saying 'you see what a tough job it is being Prime Minister. You get all these crazy people shouting at you.'
Of course, he's horribly plausible and a formidable election campaigner. But the triumph of style over substance is always subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Random Round Up

SHOCK HORROR in yesterday's Sun. Members of the Household Cavalry took part in a videod orgy with........a GIRL!
What is the world coming to?
Is there no respect for centuries of tradition?
All those former Tory MPs caught in the bushes of St James Park with one of those fine upstanding men must be crying into their pink gins.

[Well done, Willie. No beaver joke. The cognitive behavioural therapy must be working. - Ed.]


Nauseatingly wheedling speech from Blair on Sunday, sounding like a public schoolboy pleading with the Headmaster to be allowed to stay on as Head Boy despite his record of dishonesty and his unseemly brawls with Brown the Captain of rugby who most of the school would prefer.
His own chosen analogy was to compare his relationship with the electorate to a marriage. How bizarre was that?

But would you stay with a partner who insisted that the nasty man with the moustache who lived next door had poisons in his garden shed (someone in the newsagent told him) and went round and firebombed his house, killing and maiming his children? And then said, when the shed was found to contain just a few packets of weedkiller, that wasn't why he did it anyway; it was because he was a nasty bloke who refused to show him his new hovermower and the neighbourhood will be better off without him?

I'll admit that, way back when he was in opposition, I was taken in by some of Blair's conference speeches. But once he was in Government I noticed the disparity between what he said and what he did. I also realised that, although his speeches were quite effective at a rhetorical and emotional level, if you analysed all those verbless sentences thay were total gibberish. But I never thought I'd end up hating him more than I did Thatcher.

I have some sympathy with Ken Livingstone because the point he was clumsily trying to make was the old one about Nazi officers saying they were just doing their job and obeying orders. But I'd have a lot more sympathy if he hadn't himself worked for the Evening Standard as a restaurant critic while he was an MP.
Of course, even the saintly and principled Tony Benn sold his memoirs to the Daily Mail and then, Pontius Pilate-like, said he left all that kind of thing to his agent.

Many of the public have already seen through Howard's health screening tests for immigrants, judging by the viewers' questions he faced on TV yesterday.
There may indeed be a public health case for testing people for TB and HIV but it won't apply to refugees, tourists, British ex-pats returning home, or returning British holidaymakers - including young people returning from a two week shagathon in Ibiza.
No wonder that, on a live broadcast from his kitchen in Kent, Howard had the uncomfortable look of a man thawing a packet of frozen peas between his legs.

AOL gave me a nasty shock yesterday. In the top right of their home page was a picture of Leslie Grantham with the caption 'Find videoclips of Eastenders'.
Well, I suppose that webcam footage from Leslie's dressing room was bound to surface sooner or later. Hope he didn't, from force of habit, use a clapperboard when he did his online show. He could have done himself a nasty injury.

Apparently a massive asteroid is heading towards Earth. It's due to arrive on 13th April 2029 with potentially devestating results.
Except that, after several anxious click-throughs on the AOL News pages I discovered that it would miss us by a mere 22,000 miles. I just hope their maths is better than mine and that they're not the same scientists who said Saddam had long-range missiles.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Love Bytes For Valentine's Day

Don't think I've ever had a Valentine's card. Or, if I have, I don't remember. Yet as you grow older you remember your early life quite clearly.
For example, the photo that currently illustrates this blog brings back memories of early, unspoken and unrequited love. It was taken on holiday when I was 13. I look as if I haven't a care in the world. Yet I was madly in love with a boy who collected the fees for deckchairs on the beach.

This wasn't some juvenile version of Death in Venice with me gazing at my own private Tadzio, enraptured by a vision of platonic beauty. My voice had just started to break, the testosterone had kicked in and it was normal teenage lust. I use the word 'normal' deliberately. It felt normal to me. It was normal for me.
But it would be many years before it felt normal again because it must have been soon after that that I discovered what society thought of same-sex attraction and I would be 21 before giving expression to that attraction became legal. I was about to enter the darkest years of my life. I could easily have ended my life as so many other teenage boys have done. But I didn't know that then. That's why I'm smiling on the photo.

My love for the deckchair boy may have been both unrequited and pure fantasy - romantic, physical and sexual fantasy - but it held the promise of exciting and wonderful possibilities to come. I remember him so vividly because he represents a curious synthesis of innocence and sexual desire, the joy of the natural and instinctive before it was crushed by social convention and prejudice, an almost pre-lapsarian moment before society wiped that smile off my face and plunged me into several years of teenage despair and loneliness. I returned from the dark side of the moon battered and bruised and eventually that fantasy of romance, love and sex first experienced on an English beach became reality. But I'm not sure I ever smiled so broadly, sincerely or unselfconsciously again.


As you'd expect, it's more common for people to think gay men are straight than vice versa and that's often happened to me. I've had the even greater misfortune of often being mistaken for a Conservative.
It's partly my own fault. I've never felt the need to express either my sexuality or my politics in the image I present to the world. Sometimes life would have been simpler if I had.

A French girl, impatient with waiting for me to make the first move, once invited me to spend a Sunday afternoon with her at London Zoo. I've been puzzling over this for 30 years.
Was it a 'meet the relatives' gambit?
Did she think that seeing the monkeys doing unspeakable things with each other would give me ideas and lead to a Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsborough scenario behind the ice cream kiosk with breathless je t'aime's over a Walls 69?
Or was she hoping that the English love of animals would break down my reserve and my upper lip would lose its monopoly on stiffness?
Alas, I shall never know because I said I was washing my hair or finishing the final chapters of Moore's Principia Ethica.
Heartbroken, she threw herself under a lorry driver, became knowledgeable on double de-clutching and the price of diesel and grew fat on Yorkie bars.

A more alarming experience happened at a university party. I was having an interesting conversation with a girl but nobody had warned me that the her nymph-like looks were complemented by the Irish surname O'Maniac.
I innocently invited her into my room to show her my books on political philosophy but soon became aware that she was standing much too close and gazing into my eyes rather than at the bookshelves. It dawned on me that there was nothing Platonic about her intentions and that I had towed the Trojan Horse of Heterosexuality into my bedchamber.
I swiftly interposed a hardback copy of Russell's History of Western Philosophy between myself and her heaving bosom and edged backwards towards the door, pleading a sudden craving for another slice of quiche.

I got off lightly. A flatmate told me this same woman had come round to borrow a book and in the few seconds that he was finding it on the bookshelf she had undressed and draped herself on his bed. Since he had often told me that she looked like the back of a bus I assumed he had told her to put her clothes back on before she caught a cold.
But no. "A shag's a shag", he said. And: "you don't stare a gift horse in the mouth." And: "any port in a storm."
Heterosexuals are so disgusting like that.
Worse than animals.
At least I usually put on a Pet Shop Boys album and make coffee. I might even say "God, you're beautiful!" One boy even took his glasses off and replied dreamily "Nobody's ever said that to me before."
They haven't seen as many B movies as I have, I thought, as I undid his jeans.
Who said romance is dead?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Fry Up For The Luvvies

Much as I like award ceremonies, I watched only small bits of the BAFTAs last night. This was partly because I rarely watch films, so it would be like someone with no interest in dogs sitting through the final of Crufts. But it was also because the ubiquitous Stephen Fry is beginning to seriously get on my tits.
He seemed a little more restrained last night, contenting himself with an extended - nay, interminable - metaphor based on the notion that the ceremony was a long haul flight, the airline was BAFTA and he was Chief Steward. Anyone in the audience who thought this was dazzling wit probably also thought Eric Cantona was the leading French philosopher of the 20th century.
It might have been worth it if the climax had been a comedy terrorist dressed as a hijacker jumping onto the stage and punching his lights out. As it was, it ended with some line about 'thank you for flying with us' and he ambled off into the wings to place his tongue - which had spent the evening caressing the prostate of assorted Hollywood folk - in a glass of Listerine.

John Major was always mocked for running away from the circus to become an accountant. But did you know that Stephen Fry was the only boy to run away from school to go to Swindon? He was arrested there in a Thistle hotel for cheque fraud.
Why he went there is a mystery. Perhaps he thought he was going to Sweden, a slightly more attractive destination for a gay teenager. But it's an easy mistake to make, as John Major knows. He once stood up in the House of Commons and compared the U.K.'s Gross National Product with that of Swindon. But maybe that was just the old Tory trick of making the economy look better than it was.

I also noticed last night that nobody has told BAFTA that the term 'actress' has been consigned to the linguistic dustbin. They're still dishing out Best Actress awards instead of 'Best Actor (Female)'. This is odd because Dickie Attenborough is a pioneer of sexual equality, calling everyone 'Darling' whether male, female, animal, vegetable or mineral.
But I thought he was a bit off-form and off-message last night. He didn't cry or even almost cry. And he didn't say "It was in 1927 that David Lean introduced me to a remarkable man called [insert name of actor, director, cameraman, lighting engineer, best boy, gaffer, boy who holds the gaffer tape]".
In fact, I'm glad now that I didn't watch the programme. It wouldn't have given me much to blog about.


Two favourites from the coverage of the forthcoming royal wedding:

A reporter on BBC News 24 said: 'although Charles is marrying Camilla, she will not be, Queen.'
This reminded me that someone who knew Camilla told a journalist many years ago "you wouldn't want to be standing downwind of her."

Secondly, it seems that the curious pecking order associated with royal titles means that Anne will have to curtsey to Her Royal Pheromone.
Bet that will get right up Anne's nose.

I'm sure I can't be the first person to mention this so apologies if it's old hat. But the other day I discovered that the Blogger spell check doesn't recognise the word 'blogger'. It suggested I put 'flogger'.
I think I should point out to them that
a) I am not a Conservative MP and
b) I only took up blogging because I thought it was more becoming for a man at my time of life than dubious sexual fetishes.
It's true that blogging can sometimes seem like flogging a dead horse. But it's better than shagging a dead horse.
That could almost be a link back to my previous item. No, come on Willie. Break the habit of a lifetime. Show some respect.

Friday, February 11, 2005

It Could Be You

The Mail's response to Tony Blair's apology to the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven was wholly predictable. But its front page lead yesterday - 'What About The Victims?' - was as stupid as it was nasty. The only people who can apologise to the victims of IRA bombings are the bombers. Blair was apologising to those wrongly convicted on behalf of the British State.

But this in itself raises a different problem because Blair is not the Head of State. It would make more sense for the Queen to issue these kinds of apology and full exoneration. After all, they were prosecuted in her name, in her courts, and stitched up by her constabulary and left to rot in her prisons.
The other problem with Blair doing it is that it has led to speculation that it was related to the Irish peace process and that in turn might reinforce some people's false belief that the victims of this injustice were connected to the Republican movement.
That is precisely the impression that the Mail and other papers have sought to convey along with the idea that their convictions were quashed on a legal technicality. Neither of these things are true and they weren't true of the Birmingham Six either. Detailed books on all these cases are available. They don't make pleasant reading. In fact they're the most horrific books I've ever read in my life. But everyone should read them to understand how a criminal justice system can go so disastrously wrong and how innocent families could find themselves living through a nightmare beyond most people's imaginings.

Dr Michael Naughton, a law lecturer at Bristol University, made these important points:

" By singling out an individual case from 30 years ago the impression is that wrongful convictions are rare and exceptional. This runs counter to the fact that since 1986, for example, when the Police and Criminal Evidence Act came into force, and we were told that there would not be any more miscarriages of justice, there have been over 85,000 successful appeals against criminal conviction in England and Wales, or around 25 successful appeals a day - indicating that 'justice in error' is a routine feature of the criminal justice process.
We agree that the apology to the Guildford 4 and Maguire 7 will help those individuals to move forward with their lives and give them a certain finality about their miscarriages of justice.
The problem is, though, that it only exacerbates the harm to other victims. I have already had Paddy Hill from the Birmingham 6 and Mike O' Brien from the Cardiff Newsagent 3 on the phone and their question is: where are our apologies? They want to know if the Government believe them to be guilty!"

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Nation Rejoices

There was once a Jerry Springer Show about a man who married a horse.
Oops, sorry. I wrote about Jerry Springer several weeks ago. This piece was going to be about Charles marrying Camilla.
Let me start again.
One of the surprising things about getting older is that many things seem more extraordinary and incredible than when you were young. One would expect the opposite - that long familiarity would foster acceptance. For me, one of the things that becomes ever more baffling is the concept of royalty.

Children's stories are full of kings and queens, princesses and princes and that's where they belong - in fairy stories. As an adult I can't understand how anyone can take the concept of royalty seriously. And one of the things that annoys me about the current royal family is that they appear to take it very seriously indeed.
I don't mean the sense of public duty but the mountain of evidence that they care deeply about all the nonsense of titles and protocol. Nothing exemplifies this more than the convoluted formulas that have been designed to give Mrs Parker-Bowles the maximum royal standing whilst not outraging public opinion.
The important thing for Charles I would guess is that she's been given the coveted Royal Highness title for that's the tag that is most precious to them. It's the one that requires subjects to bow their heads or curtsey. If it were rendered as an HTML tag your monitor would probably tilt forwards in a sickening display of electronic obeisance.
Stripping Diana of that title was, for that childish bunch, the ultimate humiliation - far worse in their eyes than Charles shagging Camilla behind her back throughout their marriage. And the late Duke of Windsor, who you might have thought had his priorities right in giving up the throne for the woman he loved, was furious that his wife was denied the Royal Highness title and nursed that grievance until the day he died.

I've seen stories of blunt, down-to-earth Anne freezing out so-called 'close friends' who had the temerity to call her 'Anne' instead of 'Ma'am'. And then there are the even more bizarre stories from royal experts about Charles' early girlfriends, and Diana before their marriage, having to call him 'Sir' in even the most intimate situations. In the Unroyal Lowness of ordinary life the only people who say 'Do you want to shag me, Sir?' are couples into S & M or 15 year old girls making one last desperate attempt to avoid suspension from school.

The only thing to look forward to about today's news is the possibility that there might still be enough anti-Camilla feeling for some entertaining abuse to be hurled as she goes about her royal duties. There's no shortage of historical precedents. At one time, Queen Victoria was loudly booed whenever she ventured outside the Palace. And Camilla herself was once pelted with doughnuts in a Wiltshire branch of Sainsburys.
Not that I'm condoning such a thing. After all, a doughnut packs about as much punch as a gelding at a stud farm. No, in honour of her new title the mob should unleash the cornish pasties. They have a nice hard upper crust and a more aerodynamic design. Charles probably sells them in his organic Duchy Originals range. And just like those foxes that she pursues so relentlessly, the old girl - sorry, Her Royal Highness - would probably enjoy the thrill of the chase. As Oscar nearly said, the uneatable being hurled at the unspeakable.

Down The Canal On A Doily

Since there's nothing in this blog's Mission Statement about topicality, we offer belated congratulations to Coronation Street for winning a South Bank Show Award two weeks ago. This was the first time a soap has won an award in the Drama category, or even been nominated for one. My delight was tempered by the fact that Corrie stopped the award going to Shameless and that was ironic because the latter's creator, Paul Abbott, began his career on Corrie.

James has referred to Paul Abbott revealing in an interview that Corrie paid him £200 grand a year and that also took my breath away, bearing in mind that was before he became a 'star' writer. Are all their large team of writers on that kind of money? And what are they paying Jonathan Harvey who has joined Corrie after a successful career in TV, theatre and film?
Worth every penny of course. Every one of them, especially the great John Stevenson. When they put the writer's name at the end instead of, as now, at the beginning, my party trick was to identify a John Stevenson script before the credit went up. His particular strength is comedy which is also one of the programme's greatest strengths. So is regional idiom. We non-Mancunians never know which expressions are authentic and which have been invented by the writers. A recent gem was a character registering disbelief at what someone else had said by saying "and I've just come down the canal on a doily!"

Paul Abbott and Jonathan Harvey have some similarities as writers. Both can make you cry and make you laugh in quick succession. The extraordinary and mysterious thing is how they achieve pathos without recourse to cliché or sentimentality, sometimes without words at all. No "he/she will come back - you'll see." (Why do people always say "you'll see" in TV dramas?). No "I'll always be there for you". No "but you're Family!". They let the personality of the characters and the skill of the actors do a lot of the work and leave banality where it belongs - inside the worst kind of greetings cards.
No Shameless fans will ever forget the silent scene in series one where young Debbie put her arms round her older and usually stronger brother Lip to console him. Or the scene where Lip pissed on his father from a bedroom window, one of the few times I've laughed and cried simultaneously. Whilst it's mischievous for a writer to play with a viewer's emotions like that and send two contradictory emotional triggers at once, it takes sheer genius to pull it off.
Thank God that with so much formulaic drama on TV and ITV's wretched star system (Quinton, Clunes, Kemp et al), we've still got some outstanding drama and comedy (Corrie, Shameless and Green Wing) which shine like diamonds in a dustbin.


It has been pointed out (by the miniature imaginary reader who sits on my shoulder) that this blog does not in fact have a Mission Statement. It often has a recognisable position on the issues of the day but that is not necessarily a missionary position. But in today's cut-throat corporate world, if you don't have a Mission Statement you're toast. Or pants. Or possibly toasted pants. Anyway, an emergency Working Party will convene tomorrow morning to develop a Mission Statement that encapsulates key elements of our Corporate Strategy in an accessible and customer-focused way.
Shit, do we have a Corporate Strategy?
I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shut Your Beak

It's only early February and already I'm being woken at 5 am by the Dawn Chorus. I stand to be corrected by any twitchers among my readership but I thought that cacophony didn't occur in the middle of winter, so is this another effect of global warming? It doesn't help that I have a large tree quite close to my bedroom window.

My favourite birdsong, if you can call it such, is that of the wood pigeon but they seem to be late risers and don't contribute their more soothing sound to the early morning shrieking. I saw one of 'my' pair of wood pigeons on the garden fence this week and it was nearly the size of a hen. Apparently, they're the largest flying birds in Europe but this one is getting so obese that it will soon struggle to get off the runway. I suspect it lies around all day watching Jerry Springer shows and eating pizza. No wonder the lazy bastard can't get up in time to welcome the dawn of a new day.

The picture, by the way, is several years old. Climate change isn't so advanced here that the bluebells are in bloom. Give them another week or so. But I thought it would cheer up anyone for whom the thought of spring gets their sap rising.
Did you know that spring is a peak time for suicides?


Because I was late to bed last night I can reveal the uncensored content of the email that Alastair Campbell sent to Newsnight. It read "Fuck off, you twats."
It's the lead in today's Evening Standard and you can expect to see a lot more of it in tomorrow's papers, mostly with a great many ********.
Actually, Newsnight bleeped the first word which is rather odd because the other night I flicked to BBC1 at 10.30 and there was Billy Connolly in full rant at about 20 unbleeped fucks a minute.
But the episode proves again what a liability Campbell is and how stupid Blair was to bring him back for the election. He's supposed to be a master of public relations but I wonder which PR course teaches you to respond to a media enquiry with 'Fuck off, you twats.'
Today's Daily Politics programme had an item about political blogging. It was short, shallow and failed to distinguish between blogs and political websites. But I mention it because the presenters seemed to think the very idea of blogging was hysterically funny. The woman who sits next to Andrew Neil - Daisy somebody, Daisy Fuckwit perhaps - admitted she could hardly say the word blogging without laughing. She's the one who reads out viewers' emails so presumably she knows what the internet is.
Maybe it's that strange British thing (if it is a British thing) of sneering at new technology and pretending to be baffled by it. David Dimbleby does it every week on Question Time, pretending not to understand web addresses or interactive television. Is this some kind of snobbery by the so-called intelligentsia in this country? I think it's time the 'blogging community', especially the over-50 section of it, stormed the television studios and banged their smug heads together.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Bum Keynotes

It was good to hear John Major on the radio this morning doing his affable golf club buffer act and using those expressions that disappeared about fifty years ago. 'People will think this a very rum affair' he said. On one occasion he described himself as 'an old plug-ugly' and when, after Black Wednesday, Kelvin Mackenzie of The Sun told him "tomorrow we're going to pour a bucket of shit over you" Major replied: "Ooh, Kelvin, you're such a wag!"

This use of archaic slang was really the only amusing thing about Major. I once had the misfortune to be at a lunch where Major made a speech. It was probably a Keynote Speech. Why is every bloody speech today a 'Keynote Speech'? Anyway, the keynote of Major's speech was excruciating, paper napkin-chewing boredom. It didn't contain a single joke or witticism. And the first rule of public speaking is to make 'em laugh.

I have a theory that these humourless and boring speeches are the revenge of the civil servants who write them on the bastards who have to read them. Unfortunately they forget that they're punishing an innocent audience as well. I once heard Lord Strathclyde, when he was the new Tourism Minister, begin a speech with the line "London is the capital of Britain". Perhaps he was accidentally reading the briefing document his civil servants had given him.

On the subject of political speeches, I was present at one by Shirley Williams, then of the SDP, when she said "class no longer has any relevance to British politics." The sad thing is that she wrote that herself and my friend and I were the only people in an audience of hundreds who roared with laughter.
Another favourite was a speech by Tom King, the pompous Tory Northern Ireland Minister who was trying to sound like Churchill by pausing dramatically mid-sentence. His opening line was: "I have just come from Liverpool." What he said was "I have just come....." ......long pause in which someone shouted "Oh Christ, he's another Cecil Parkinson!"
Student audience convulsed with laughter.
Baffled Minister sees speech derailed after just four words.
What bliss.

Note: I have an uneasy feeling that using the portcullis logo, above, is a contempt of Parliament. I trust my fellow bloggers will campaign for my release if I'm locked up without trial in Belmarsh.

An Old Fogey writes: I see that Mr Biz Stone of Blogger writes in Blogger News about the Bloggies and instructs us to "rock your votes". What??
Biz darling, would you think me unforgiveably old fashioned if I just cast my vote? If it makes you happier I'll hum a song by Meatloaf while I do so.
Last night Channel 4 launched their new youth-oriented entertainment show The Friday Night Project.
It was like watching a car crash. The only entertainment to be had was watching Jimmy Carr's face when one of his co-presenters was speaking. He looked like a man waiting stoically for the fire brigade to come and cut him out of the wreckage.
Just to prove how cutting edge it was, one of the presenters used the word 'motherfucker'. I suspect he was told to by a producer in his earpiece because Channel 4 had sold the show in the trails on the basis that no language was off-limits but halfway through the show nobody had said so much as 'Damn'. In a strange piece of synchronicity 'motherfucker' was what I had just shouted at the said presenter, a little-known comedian who, in Bernard Manning's delightful phrase, was about as funny as woodworm in a cripple's crutch.
OK, I know I'm not in the 'demographic' but why do channels put these programmes out at 10pm on a Friday night when the target audience are in the pub and at least six lagers or alcopops into their binge drinking session? And if I was in that age group I think I'd rather go out and get rat-arsed than be so pathetically patronised by this type of programme.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Our New Sponsor:


Regular readers will be pleased to know that I can now reach my wardrobe without risk of personal injury. On second thoughts, unless they live life as vicariously as I do, they won't give a fuck. Be that as it may, I have been shredding papers like a man possessed. I have filled countless black bin bags with the fruits of my shredding.
But I then decided that this shredded paper would make ideal packing material for fragile items and was on the verge of putting the bags of shreds back into the bedroom or possibly in the attic. This is why people of the 'just in case' mindset are crap at ridding their houses of junk. Anyway, I gave myself a stern talking to and managed to convince myself that the chances of me starting a china mail order business were extremely slim.

Someone mentioned Viz magazine in my comments yesterday and, not for the first time, I thought that I would have made a good judge. I have never seen a copy of Viz. I have never knowingly seen a film by Mr Walt Disney (who I believe to have been the second most evil man of the 20th century) and I have never seen The Simpsons.
'Defence counsel explained to Mr Justice Lupin that The Simpsons was a popular American television animation.'
Of course, one usually knows of these things at second hand so I am aware that one of the Simpsons is a baker because he keeps saying 'Dough'.
But I am always amazed that some people refuse to accept that I haven't seen these things. "Don't be so silly!" people shout at me, "of course you've seen The Simpsons......but everyone's seen Bambi......".
I don't say to people "Of course you've read Middlemarch!.......of course you know Mahler's 9th", or for that matter, "of course you know who Ryan Seacrest is!"

Not for the first time I was grateful that I don't have children when I saw a television commercial for KY. Since the commercial gives no hint of the product's purpose, questions would be certain to be asked.
But this isn't your common or garden KY. It's the revolutionary new KY Warming Liquid which gives a gentle warming effect when applied to the skin. So I'm going to save money by selling my electric blanket and smearing myself with it when I go to bed. Probably best not to have nylon sheets though or you might slide off on to the floor like an inebriated trout.

In the interests of research I went to the company website and found the only place it told you to put the stuff was on the palm of your hand. The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that it's designed for that safest of sexual activities, the one that Woody Allen said was best because you didn't have to get dressed up and at least you were having sex with someone you love.
Oh, all right. Be gone, accursed euphemisms. If you're someone who wanks in a cold room, the new KY is the answer to your prayers.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Prescriptive Pizza

Goodfella's Pizzas
Co. Kildare

Dear Messrs. Goodfella's

The instructions on your Stonebaked Ciabatta Pizza recommend that I use the cooking period to "prepare a leafy geen salad" and "open a bottle of your favourite red wine, leaving it to breathe".

I'm sure you mean well but I consider it an impertinence for you to instruct me how to use my time in this fashion. May I point out that if I am resorting to what you describe as your "unique and memorable pizza experience" it probably means that there's a double Coronation Street and I still have my daily blog post to write.
Moreover, if I had the time to make a leafy green salad (is there any other kind of green salad?), then I would also have time to prepare something more appealing and nutritious than a frozen pizza to accompany it.

Perhaps your commitment to customer care will allow you to answer the following questions:

Does it have to be a red wine or would it be an insult to the hi-tech machinery of your production line to open a bottle of Chablis?
Is 18 minutes really sufficient to allow a bottle of wine to breathe and chambré?
As it happens, I don't drink wine so perhaps you could oblige me by saying whether Assam or Darjeeling tea would better complement your product?

I am sure you have my best interests at heart in advising me to eat a healthy salad with your pizza. But I should be interested to know whether Little Gem, Iceberg, Lollo Rosso or perhaps some Rocket would make the best foil for your pizza's Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Lecithin, Ascorbic Acid and Mono- and Di-Acetyltartaric Acid Esters of Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids?
And are these acids, like the olive oil you boast of on the packet, extra virgin?

I look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully

William Lupin

PS: I see you are in County Kildare in the land of my forefathers. Presumably you dropped the 'O' from O'Goodfella's to make it sound more Italian. Did the Irish pizza industry develop in response to the potato famine?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Struggling To Get Back In The Closet

Design by Vivi BrowneI try to spare my readers the details of my daily life although reading other blogs suggests that, in doing this, I have failed to grasp the essential purpose of blogging, just as I never understood the point of algebra. But a major project threatens to impact adversely on the frequency of postings. This is a Herculean task that I call Doing Something About The Bedroom.

In order to keep my living room sufficiently free of clutter so that it takes only ten minutes to clear a space for a visitor to sit down, I regularly move what my mother called 'Muddles' into the bedroom. This means they are out of sight and is based on the working assumption that few visitors these days are likely to end up in my bedroom. Even if they did, I could always invent a fetish for wearing blindfolds and they would remain unaware that the earth was moving for them in a replica of Steptoe's yard.

But periodically things reach a tipping point. Literally. What happens is that a juggernaut roars past the house in the middle of the night and one of the precarious stacks of books, files and old newspapers tips over and crashes to the floor causing me to wake up with a start - the only thing I ever wake up with these days.

Thus it was that I found myself at 5 o'clock this morning sitting on the floor surrounded by black bin bags and a row of Post-It Notes on the carpet which read: THROW AWAY, SHRED, TO FILE, and NOT SURE. Then I realised I couldn't use the shredder at such an ungodly hour for fear of waking the neighbours. So I sat and read ancient copies of the Guardian to find out which article had made me keep them and computer magazines so old that they had scoops about a new operating system called Windows 98. To keep my spirits up I quietly sang the Bin Bags song from Phoenix Nights:

Come and get your black bin bags,
They're on offer till December
Heavy duty black bin bags,
No matter what your gender
Come and get your black bin bags,
Whether bi or straight or bender.

(For those who don't know this classic, it's sung to the tune from Men In Black.)

Anyway, two hours later the NOT SURE pile was climbing steadily towards the ceiling and the black bin bags were still almost empty. But I must persevere because things have got so bad that I can only get to the wardrobe by means of a hazardous trek across my king-size bed. More conventional routes are closed to through traffic by overflowing cardboard boxes.

My mattress, like me, has seen better days and its topography is now as uneven and perilous as the surface of Mars. The other day when trying to reach the wardrobe I tripped and did an ungainly somersault and found myself lying shaken and breathless on the duvet. Although this brought back some pleasant memories, a middle-aged man who hasn't seen the inside of a gym since Sonny and Cher were at No 1 could easily do himself a mischief and I haven't tried the manoeuvre since so now I'm running out of shirts to wear.
And I read somewhere that pink is the new black so I need to retrieve that pink shirt I bought in Carnaby Street in 1972 before black is the new pink or I'll be dead before I can wear it again.
On reflection it may not be in the wardrobe. It may be up in the attic with a yellow sticker on it saying NOT SURE from the last time I tidied the bedroom.
That's the final stage in the life-cycle of my possessions. I hope the joists are strong because I'm sitting here with ten tons of bric-a-brac above my head. On the other hand, being killed by an avalanche of retro chic does have a certain je ne sais quoi about it.

The deceased was partially covered by a knitted poncho and a 1970s kaftan. Forensic investigations have failed to establish conclusively whether the fatal blow was struck by a 1962 Bush record player or a 1971 Morphy Richards toaster. A fine grey powder recovered from the deceased's hair is thought to be from a decomposed joss stick. Foul play is not suspected.