Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Christmas cheer

Christmas was good this year, everyone was happy. Mum and dad relaxed, sis returned from 11 months travelling, I got to see friends and have a good drink and there were no tidal waves in south Asia. We went to see Nan in her nursing home and she was happy to see us, inbetween periods of not realising we were there and sis and I had a chuckle at a woman called Nancy trying to eat soup with a knife.

Yes, everything was good.

I couldn't even get too worked up about the hideous decorations worn by some of the houses round our way. I'm well used to these by now but still enjoy making a slight detour on my way home from wherever I've been just so I can sneer at those houses whose owners believe that the way to celebrate the birth of Christ is to cover their home in lights. And they're not tasteful lights. These are santas lit up, reindeer lit up, christmas trees lit up, santa climbing up a chimney lit up, santa in a helicopter lit up, snowmen lit up etc. Yes, that's santa in a helicopter. Here are some things about santa

- He lives in Lapland, in a place no child has ever seen (except for ones with names like Antonia whose wealthy parents fly them over there)
- He delivers presents to all good children from his reindeer-drawn sleigh
- He manages to do this all over the world in one night

These all help to perpetuate the myth (sorry, but I just don't believe it) of Santa Claus. If we start putting him in a helicopter the story starts to lose its magic as we make him into a mere mortal. What next? Are we to expect children in the US to have Christmas delayed as santa has been held up at immigration? After all, his passport has stamps from all over the world, maybe even Axis of Evil countries. There's no way he's getting through immigration without a lengthy interview. And just how does he park a helicopter without waking the entire neighbourhood? That is if he can land without taking out phone and electricity lines and ruining Christmas for everyone. No sir, I don't like it.

These are minor gripes though compared to the bigger picture in which Christianity's biggest festival is turned into an orgy of buying buying and more buying. But I don't need to go into that as it has been written about many times by people far more articulate than I. Plus, as I wrote a few paragraphs ago, Christmas has been good and I'm happy and I don't want to jeopardise that.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

From Weather Girl to Cheeky Girl

I read this today. Do I laugh or not? The presence in this story of a Cheeky Girl should make it funny but I'm not sure that it is. Our MPs are as flesh and blood as those who vote for them which means that they are subject to the same whims and desires and strengths and weaknesses as those who vote for them. They can fuck up. And they do. But, unless Mr Opik thinks he's pinpointing the so far untapped X-Factor vote, his political career has been severely compromised. Let's consider some facts:

- His ex, Sian Lloyd, is nationally recognised as quality totty, by MPs standards at least. Her presence at his side wins votes.

- If you are running for MP you need to assure your constituents that you are the right man, or woman, to vote for. You are intelligent, you have the issues of the community at heart, you have strength and gravitas and a strong chin. You do not date a woman whose job entails her to sing songs called "Touch my Bum".

- Mid-life crisis must be ugly.

Maybe Lembit was sick of Sian. I don't know what you call that clicking noise made when you talk and your mouth is a bit dry but Sian has it. Personally, I find it quite sexy but I'm happy to concede that Lembit might dislike it. This could be what happened. Maybe this particular verbal inflexion is impossible in those who are brought up in Transylvania. Or maybe, and I accept that I'm going out on a limb here, he just wanted a younger model. It's not inconceivable that the Cheeky Girls could be Sian's daughters. Similar build, y'know? He's just trading in for a younger model, isn't he? Who knows?

What I do know is that campaigning with one of the Cheeky tarts at your side will not win votes. Lembit, you've been quite endearingly eccentric for a while but your time in the Commons will shortly be up. Good luck trying to get twos-up with the other sister though.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Broken English

There can be few of us who don't encounter some quite shocking misuses of the English language on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Unless you happen to live in a country where English isn't the first language, of course. Generally speaking I don't have a problem with those people who choose to pepper their sentences with, for example, innit. If I did have a problem with them then I'd spend most of my days coiled up in tightly wound ball of rage and I don't have time for that. I didn't even mind when I heard the following on the bus last week:

"Fucking I'm going up the 'ospital innit. My mum's there. Fucking don't know what's fucking up with her innit."

Terrible, eh? But I understood what was meant and, for me, that is what is important. I'm not a fascist and I don't believe that it is my place to tell other people how to communicate. There is, however, one particular phrase that that makes me want to hack off lumps of my own flesh whenever I hear it. That phrase is: I'm not being funny, but...

What the hell is that? And how did it enter common parlance? What does it mean? I find that the phrase is often followed by a rhetorical question and I have no idea why - here are a few examples:

I'm not being funny but who does she think she is?
I'm not being funny but how did an ugly fella like him get a fit girl like that?
I'm not being funny but how does he afford to go out that much on what he earns?

The first few words of each of those sentences are completely superfluous yet I hear them many times every day. Today, I sat and listened to two of my work colleagues have a conversation about someone they didn't particularly like, each of them beginning their sentences with I'm not being funny but. I have a friend, an English graduate, a journalist, a man of letters (loosely speaking) whose words are read by people up and down the country every day. He says I'm not being funny but... on a regular basis. Why? I don't get it. If anyone, apart from me, ever reads this (unlikely, I know) and has any idea as to why this phenomenon occurs I would be grateful if they could tell me. Thanks.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Une Jour Sans Lumiere

Tickets to see Arcade Fire play in January/February went on sale today at 9am and were sold out by 9.15am without me getting any. This is the group that I want to see more than any other and I'm feeling pretty upset right now. I could buy tickets from a tout on ebay. If I really wanted to see them I wouldn't mind spending £80, would I? Well, I might yet be reduced to that but I really don't want to. Plus, anyone who could own one of these tickets and have such a fucked-up sense of priorities that they'd rather sell it than use it for its intended purpose is not going to get my cash. YOU FUCKERS!

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Don't Dream. It's Over.

I've just about recovered from the trauma of waking up this morning to discover that England had lost the Second Test after batting so well a few days ago. I'm told that no team has ever lost a match after declaring on as many runs as we had.

This is the kind of defeat that gives you nightmares. Nightmares featuring 12 foot tall Aussie players bowling balls of fire along a pitch made of cobble stones whilst the poor English batsman defends his stumps with a rubber chicken. And that's just the fans, how must the players be feeling? They've just suffered the greatest psychological injury since Brad Pitt's character opened that box in Se7en and found his wife's head. You don't recover from that kind of thing quickly. It takes years of counselling from highly qualified practioners. Friends must rally round and be prepared to face anguished screams and wailing at all times of the day and night. A descent into drink or drug abuse is wholly understandable, the oblivion that follows being far preferable to remaining lucid and having to face those terrible memories. I imagine the Brad character suffered a bit too.

So, what now? Our players wander through the remaining tests in a daze, relying on instinct to guide them as even simple tasks now become a struggle. The Aussies might even let us win the last test but I doubt it. They have a ruthless streak that no English sporting team can ever have. Maybe in about 15 years time we might win The Ashes again. But not before.

Onto happier news. John Bolton resigned from his post as US ambassador to the United Nations today. The Democrat hold on both houses of congress has seen Something Good happen, that's for sure. This man should no more be an ambassador to the UN than Dracula be ambassador to this organisation. Good riddance.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Saturday Night Man

These days I don't get out as much as I used to. I mean, I go to the pub, I play football, I eat out but I don't go out out. When it gets to about 11pm I want to go home. Going to a club means extreme drunkenness and, unless someone is driving, an expensive cab ride home. Or an uncomfortable night on a friend’s sofa followed by public transport home the next morning wearing the clothes I danced and slept in. It also means that the next day is a write-off. I used to enjoy the extreme drunkenness but it is unacceptable for someone of my age to curl up in a dark corner when it’s all got a bit much.

This Saturday just gone I braved it in honour of a friend’s birthday and I’m glad I did as I had a good time. Also, since most of our party were women, I got a real insight into the mating rituals of Saturday Night Man. This species has been around since time immemorial and is believed to have remained impervious to evolution, preferring to use crude physical movements to communicate and possessing only a rudimentary grasp of language. Another trait is an admirable persistence in the face of indifference or even hostility. The Discovery Channel probably has a programme on right now featuring animals showing a more sophisticated mating ritual than the ones I saw on Saturday.

But if, as already outlined, this approach has indeed remained unchanged for millennia then there must be a reason for this and I can only conclude that this is because it works. Not every time, of course. It didn’t work on Saturday for any of the many men that tried their luck with the women I was with. Maybe their advances were particularly unrefined, maybe they just need a little extra practice or maybe they were aiming a little too high. Does a lion give up if a tasty looking gazelle gets away from it? No, it continues to try until it succeeds in catching its prey. Or dies of hunger. The point is that Saturday Night Man will continue to use his trusted approach as he knows that it will work eventually.

Some women have developed a fine turn of phrase to deal with unwanted suitors. One man was sent whimpering into a corner with the line “You look like Dean Gaffney's uglier brother”. I think I would have run home crying and locked myself in my bedroom for months if I’d received that comment. Which brings me to the real reason for this snooty appraisal of my fellow man – I respect them and am quite jealous of their resilience and know that, even if I were so inclined, I wouldn’t be able to compete with them. I don't have the front, the cojones, whatever you want to call it. These men are warriors. They don't think, they trust their instincts and act. Saturday Night Man, I salute you.