Sunday, 7 December 2008


I’ve occasionally wondered what I’d look like with facial hair, mainly because I’ve never had any. I wouldn’t have to wonder if I’d seen how it looks before, would I? I did go through a short and an ill-advised period of stubble a few years back. I’d been somewhere that had deprived me of the use of a razor for a week and quite liked the result. It made my gaunt face look a bit fuller. The only problem was that the hair on my face barely qualified for the title stubble. Downy fluff would be more accurate. It was too light and too soft. Put it this way, there was no way I was going to be able to ignite a match on it like hard men do in Westerns unless I doused myself in petrol first. And then sat under a magnifying glass in the midday sun. In the Sahara.

This has never been a problem. It would be nice to have the ability to grow stubble but I’m happy without it. Especially since those men who can grow stubble often have to deal with excess hair all over the place. I’m talking primarily about the back and shoulders. I won’t ever need to wax my shoulders and I’m happy about that. The only excess hair I’ll ever have to deal with is ear and nose hair if I ever become an old man and I certainly won’t worry about that. I’ll be too busy writing to the Daily Mail to complain about teenagers and the decline of British society in general to take any care in my appearance. Besides, my old man smell will probably be more of an issue.

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to a Facebook group called Movember, the aim being for members to grow a moustache throughout November and pay £5 to a Prostate Cancer charity whilst doing so. Well, why not? I joined up and waited for my ‘tache to arrive. Then I waited some more. And then some more….

It took a long time but after a couple of weeks it became apparent, to me at least, that I hadn’t just let myself go but was, in fact, growing a ‘tache. It didn’t look good. I looked like the kind of man that mothers might warn their children to stay away from, or those men, often called Kevin, who have left school but hang around the gates in their Vauxhall Novas trying to impress the schoolgirls. The average ten year old Indian boy has facial hair more impressive than mine was at that time. Never mind. Given another week my moustache would surely begin to assume the body and gravitas of, say, Stalin’s effort.

I was wrong. It actually got worse. On a night out with friends I was introduced to someone thus: “This is Ian. He’s doing that for charity”. I started doing this myself, informing anyone that I hadn’t seen for a while that the ‘tache was for a good cause and certainly not for aesthetic purposes. This explanation invariably drew a comment like “Oh, I see!” and an expression which showed that a particularly puzzling issue had just been resolved.

By the end of the month, however, I had become quite attached to my mo. I felt that, having spent a month growing it, it would be a shame to get rid of it, regardless of how silly I looked. I took the rather nonsensical view that I had suffered to get this far and maybe I should keep it. Just for a while.

The day before the end of the month was a Saturday and I spent the evening with a bunch of close friends I’ve known most of my life, none of whom had ever seen me with facial hair. They ridiculed me mercilessly all night. I didn’t mind this. I’m quite used to it. One single episode, though, was quite traumatising. I made a flirtatious comment to a barmaid. She made a flirtatious comment in return. I was just about to continue this brief dalliance when I realised that I was wearing a look that put a good eight years on me. I clammed up completely. The ‘tache had drained me of my confidence. The mo definitely had to go.

I’m now back to my old self. The mo is no more and won’t return. If it ever does then I’ll know that I have finally let myself go for good.

Sunday, 12 October 2008


I don't generally feel the need to answer the door if the doorbell goes. The chances are it will be someone conducting a survey or trying to sell me something. Or, at this time of year, kids doing Halloween stuff. I don't answer the door in the evening in October. And gone are the days when people just wander round to their friend's place and knock on the door like my friends and I did when we were children. Such behaviour now is seen as slightly desperate, even a little bit deviant.

Now I look back on it I find it unusual that I decided to answer the door at 10.45 yesterday morning, a Saturday. I was greeted by a man wearing a three quarter length wool coat and a Fedora who introduced himself as Bob. He looked to be in his mid to late forties and was accompanied by his son, who was smartly dressed in black. I observed these details after I realised that I was being doorstepped by Jehovah's Witnesses. You just know, don't you? They come in all shapes and sizes, and probably colours, but you always know instantly. Except for my Grandmother, who once kept a couple of poor unsuspecting Witnesses in tea and biscuits for a couple of hours whilst they talked to her about Jehovah. I wonder how long it took them to realise they were dealing with an Alzheimer's case and how long they would have remained had the home care not turned up!

When confronted by Jehovah's Witnesses one's instinct is to formulate a plan of escape. For some this comes easy. My dad has a stock response: "The only saving I'm interested in is the saves the Spurs goalie makes on a Saturday!". I believe he thinks it's witty. Others probably have no problem in closing the door in their face. I can't do this. My mum brought me up to show other people more respect than I show myself. So I let them speak and hope that an opportunity for me to end the conversation politely presents itself.

Bob began by asking me whether I was worried about the future of our planet. I replied that I was, or rather that I was concerned for the future of mankind. The planet will always be here whereas we are but dust. Bob liked this. He proceeded to read from the Book of Isaiah, telling me of Isaiah's prophecies. Isaiah got loads of stuff right, apparently, so we should listen when he says that "The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered". Unless, of course, we turn to God.

Bob kept asking me questions. By now I was quite enjoying our conversation. Bob seemed like a nice guy but, more importantly, he was teaching me about the Bible. I don't care what anyone says, it's an interesting book for more reasons than I have the time and inclination to go into here. I mean to read it but keep getting waylaid by other books and TV and the internet. Anyway, each answer I gave to Bob's questions prompted him to dig out another section of the Bible. It was uncanny. Bob was able to relate everything I said to the Bible. We went back to Genesis and talked about the creation and Adam and Eve. Then he related Adam and Eve's temptation to Christ's death. I found it all very interesting. I knew the stories but had never before had the symbolism explained to me. I was enjoying myself and had completely forgotten that I was supposed to make something up to explain why I had to shoo Bob and his son from my door.

I should contextualise all this - I've been quite depressed lately. It's not related to any particular event or prompted by trauma but rather that I've been questioning just about everything. Nothing seems to make much sense to me right now, especially when I seek to justify my own place on this earth. I fall woefully short of justifying my place. Someone else could do a much better job of being me than I do. I'm in quite a vulnerable place right now.

Also, I've long believed that there is a fundamentalist in me just dying to get out (I should point out that I don't believe Jehovah's Witnesses to be religious fundamentalists. Well, maybe only a little bit). I'd love to just belong to something and have that something give me guidance. I just can't take organised religion seriously due to what I perceive as over-reliance upon a book. I can't do blind faith. It is this that will always prevent me from following a religion. I like science and evidence too much.

So, Bob and I are getting on famously. I'm pleased that someone is teaching me something and Bob pleased that I haven't told him to get lost. But then Bob ruins it. He had to because he's an evangelist. But I'd started losing interest when he began talking talking about the the day of judgement being near. I'm not interested in that. I just wanted to hear Bible stories and have their significance explained to me. I told him that I had to get to the bank before it closed, which was true, and said goodbye after thanking him for an interesting chat and wishing him a good day. By the time I got to shut the door he'd shaken my hand three times and given me his mobile number. I think he was genuinely happy. I hadn't told him where to go and was interested in what he had to say. Not interested enough to become one of the 144000 souls who will be saved on Judgement Day but interested nonetheless.

Poor Ashley Cole

There seems to be an awful lot of fuss about the booing of Ashley Cole by some of the England fans during last night's win against Kazakhstan at Wembley. Sky Sports News is full of little else right now, reporting the comments by other players, journalists, managers, various pundits and the ever insightful views of the general public.

I'm going to be terribly non-committal here. I don't like Ashley but have never booed anyone at a football match and can't imagine ever doing so. Sure, I've shouted abuse at one or more of my team's players. It was probably the most fun thing about being a Fulham fan in the mid nineties. I've never booed though. But I can understand why people did at Ashley last night. Here are some reasons that people have come out with to explain why he was booed. They are all wrong:

- Because he made a mistake. This is wrong because loads of players make mistakes and are not booed.

- Because he plays for Chelsea. This is wrong because not every Chelsea player would have been booed after making the same mistake as Ashley. Can anyone imagine JT or Joe Cole getting booed after making a mistake like Ashley did? It wouldn't happen. Lampard? Hmmm, maybe...

- Because England fans are morons. This one has an ounce of truth in it because many England fans are morons. But even morons have a modus operandi. They don't just do things for the hell of it. They do things for a reason.

So why was Ashley booed? Here is some information that might help to explain:

- When I heard Jonathan (Barnett) repeat the figure of £55k, I nearly swerved off the road. “He is taking the piss, Jonathan!” I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. I suppose it all started to fall apart for me from then on. I’d trusted Mr Dein to push the deal through. (Ashley on his miserly £55k per week contract offer from Arsenal)

- The deal he offered was a £10,000-a-week increase to £35,000. A hell of a lot of money. But, when taken in the context of football wages and his own estimated value of me of £20 million, and when placed next to those other Arsenal wages of between £80,000 and £100,000 a week, his offer was a p*ss-take. It was a slap in the face, not a pat on the back. (Ashley on some other contract offer)

- Cheryl Cole told friends today she does not know if her marriage can survive a series of new claims about her husband's affairs. The Girls Aloud singer is "shocked and upset" that a hairdresser who had a one-night stand with Ashley Cole was offered money to have an abortion. (Daily Mail, January 14th 2008, on Ashley's very popular and not at all racist or nasty wife)

- His disgraceful behaviour in the match against Spurs last season.

- And loads of other stuff that I can't think of right now.

The reaction of a small section of the Wembley crowd last night wasn't just aimed at a man who had made a mistake on a football pitch. It was a spontaneous collective outburst aimed as much at what Ashley represents as the man himself. Those who pay an awful lot to watch football matches are rarely treated with anything approaching respect yet they still keep on coming. Acutely aware that those men on the pitch live a quality of life unimaginable to them they demand certain standards, on the pitch and off it. Ashley doesn't meet those standards. Not content with having a dream job, a beautiful pop star wife and more money than he could hope to spend he still moans, still behaves like a spoilt child, still appears to believe that the world owes him something. He may as well be spitting on those of us who pay his wages. And that is why he was booed yesterday.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Stevie Wonder leaves me dumbstruck...

I've just spent the last hour trying to write a review of the Stevie Wonder gig I attended a few days ago. I've just given up, whatever I wrote seemed far too prosaic to convey how great he was and how happy I was. I just don't have the words. It was very special and I won't ever forget it. There, I don't even need to write about it as it's captured in my head forever.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Middle Age

I was flicking through the channels the other day in a vain attempt to find something interesting on television when I came across an old episode of Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson introduced a piece: I want to talk about middle aged men. You're 35, maybe 40, and you have a bit of spare cash.... I forget the rest of the introduction as, well, I didn't actually hear it through the verbal abuse that was being hurled towards the TV. By me. Notwithstanding the fact that I would sooner value the opinion of a lobotomised baboon than the incredibly obnoxious Clarkson, but from where did he get the idea that 35 is middle aged? Is it? Have I missed something? Bugger. It was my birthday two days ago. Apparently I have been middle aged for precisely one year and two days. Wikipedia defines middle age thus:

Middle-aged adults often show visible signs of aging such as loss of skin elasticity and greying of the hair. Physical fitness usually wanes, with a 5-10 kg accumulation of body fat, reduction in aerobic performance and a decrease in maximal heart rate. Strength and flexibility also decrease throughout middle age.

Jesus Christ! Kill me now someone! I would do it myself but I probably wouldn't have the strength to lift the scalpel or the endurance to persevere with the lid on the bottle of paracetamol! Is this really what I am now? Well, no actually. I don't think I'm showing any of those symptoms, apart from a few grey hairs and I don't mind that. It is, after all, the only way I'm ever going to be able to give the impression that I'm wealthy and distinguished. I aim to look like George Hamilton by the time I'm 55.

My birthday celebrations weren't any more or less drunken than they normally are, so that's good. Shows that I'm not really getting older. My mum sent me sweets in the post. Do middle aged men eat Haribo? I think not. I went to the pub last night. The barmaid looked shocked - shocked, I tells ya! - When I told her how old I was. These are all good things. I'm not going into how much, or rather, how little I've done with my life in my 36 years. That just makes me depressed and, besides, I did that last year. Just for the record - I have a great life. It's just a bit pointless, that's all.

In addition to my big day a couple of days back comes an even bigger day today, the occasion of my finally getting to see Stevie Wonder play live. A report will be forthcoming shortly. That's if I'm not completely overwhelmed by being in the same (albeit very, very big) room as my musical hero, making me unable to remember anything.

One last thing - Whilst researching the opening paragraph to find exactly what it was that Clarkson said about middle age, I encountered a pleasing phenomenon. When you type "Jeremy Clarkson git" into Google you get 11,100 results. Take that, twat.

Monday, 25 August 2008

"It's How He Would Have Wanted To Go"

How would you like to die?

From heart failure brought on by an overdose of Class A drugs, suffered whilst enjoying carnal relations with Girls Aloud?

From multiple organ failure after a high speed crash sustained whilst competing in a Formula 1 race?

In the arms of the person you love the most?

These are the romantic ideals. Okay, two of them are romantic. Dying of a drugs overdose whilst shagging Girls Aloud might just be wishful thinking on the part of some misguided souls, and certainly my top choice of the three, but what that notion has in common with the other two is that the protagonist has passed away whilst doing something that made them happy.

A little while ago I wrote of how the only thing I need to do before I die is see Stevie Wonder play live. In 36 days I will be seeing Stevie Wonder play live. Does this mean that I can die on the way home and be happy about it? I'll leave to one side the horrible journey home from the O2 Arena, something that might make me want to hurt myself if I can't find someone else to lash out at. Would I really like to die after seeing Stevie Wonder play live? I don't think I would.

Here are some of the things that I believe I'll be feeling during my journey home in 36 days time: Happiness. Elation. And that's about it, really. I expect to feel deliriously happy, the kind of happiness that I normally only experience when with my friends at a particularly good Glastonbury. The world will be mine, I'll feel unbeatable. I'll believe that I can do anything. It will feel very, very good.

One thing I won't feel like doing at this time is dying. No Sirree, Bob. For a few fleeting hours I'll feel like I want to live forever. Dying is the very last thing I'll feel like doing. Who on earth would want to die when they're at their happiest? That makes no sense.

In conversation with my flatmate two minutes ago he said that he actually would like to die doing something that made him happy. He cited as an example the time he went powerboat racing and thought he really might die. He also thought that if he was going to die he might as well go in this way because then his family and friends would be consoled with the knowledge that he died doing something he loved, which is a good point and makes my belief appear selfish. Which is exactly what it is.

If you Google the title of this post you'll find links to stories about the deaths of famous or noteworthy people. Somewhere in each of these stories you'll find a family member or friend quoted, saying "It's the way....". When someone has died and there's a quote saying that it's the way they would have wanted to die, who is coming out with that statement? It's not the person who has just died, is it? No, it's someone who loved them, someone who is grieving. Someone who wants the hurt to go away, someone who wants to rationalise an irrational situation. Roger Daltrey said it about John Entwistle. I can quite believe that Entwistle felt this way, but wouldn't he have liked to have done it some time in the future so he could have done a bit more of what made him happy? Of course he would. When someone is taken from us prematurely, or when they're enjoying life, it's always a tragedy and no amount of pontificating about the nobility of their death can change that. "It's how he would have wanted to go" makes sense only to those who are still alive.

In a bed.
On my own.
In my sleep.
After being made redundant from a job I love.
Then discovering that my wife is having an affair with my best friend.
Who also happens to be the man who made me redundant.
And then accidently running my dog over as I drove home after that discovery.
Feeling that life is terrible and will not ever get any better.
Having recently told my all of my family and friends that I love them.

That's how I'd like to go.

Friday, 22 August 2008


I upset my friend Kirsty yesterday. She said she didn't care but I know she was just saying that because she's a tough girl and doesn't like to show that anything gets to her. Just the previous afternoon I walked past as she was telling someone that I was her best friend at work. She ran up to me and hugged me as if to prove it. This is the memory that struck me the very moment I looked at her face just a second or two after I'd told her to shut up.

She's a good girl, is Kirsty. Talks too much, but I get on with girls that talk. Always have. I'm a good listener. They talk, I listen, everyone's a winner. She's had to deal with far more adversity in her short life than I have in my longer one, and is more interesting for it. She's young, 20 or 21, and very attractive. She's tall, slim and pretty. She has ambitions of being a glamour model and had her boobs done just a few months ago to further her chances in that field. I'd probably fancy her if I was ten years younger. But I'm not and I don't, honest. But I can't deny that it's nice having having a pretty young girl come and sit on my desk every day. Me being an old git, and all that.

I'd arrived at work that morning in a foul mood. The first two shops I stopped my car at on the way to work were out of Guardians. This annoyed me and made me a little bit late. I don't like being late. My pc hadn't even had time to boot up when Kirsty came into my office and started talking to me about her friend's baby that she'd seen for the first time the previous evening. I'd already heard about this baby. The father cleared off six months into the pregnancy and reappeared as the mother went into labour. She wanted to call the boy Shadon. Yes, that's right. Shadon. I could write a lot about this but can't be bothered. He wanted to call his son Nathaniel. Kirsty thought that he gave up the right to any input because he'd buggered off and, after all, he wasn't the one who had to carry the baby all those months. I had let that last comment go, feeling it churlish to point out that that would preclude any man from ever having a say in naming his children.

Apparently this baby makes cute gurgling noises. He goes a bit cross-eyed and looks confused and smiles when you make a funny face. He grabs your finger really tightly. It's a cute baby. I heard all about the conversations that this baby's mother had with her mother-in-law, the usual stuff where the mother-in-law keeps butting in and doing things that are unnecessary and the mother wants her to stop doing whatever it is she's doing but doesn't want to cause a scene or upset the mother-in-law who is only trying to be helpful and pass on the wisdom gained from having loads of kids a long time ago.

I heard all of this and a lot more and it was all too much. I don't care about babies. They're no use to me unless they can walk and talk. Until then they hold little interest. This applies to pretty much all babies. If and when my sister has one then it will be different. I'll care about that one but even then I might not be interested in the noises it makes and the faces it pulls. All babies do this. If a baby didn't do that, then that would be something. That would be interesting. I'd like to meet a baby that raised a sardonic eyebrow in reaction to all those people making funny faces at it. Like Stewie from Family Guy, but preferably without the psychosis. That's a baby I could get on with. But, failing that, I'm not interested. And I'm especially not interested if the baby in question has just been born to someone I don't know and I'm in a bad mood after an annoying journey to work. And this, after enduring ten ceaseless minutes of information about this baby and it's dysfunctional family, is what I explained to Kirsty:

"I'm going to have to stop you, Kirsty. I'm really sorry, but I'm in a shitty mood and can do without having to hear all about some fucking baby of some friend of yours who I've neither met nor will ever meet nor will ever care about. I'm sorry." It was at this point I saw the shocked look on Kirsty's face. "Oh God, I'm sorry I said that. I'm sorry."

She stood silent for a few seconds, apparently in disbelief. I'd never spoken to her like that before and I felt bad but the damage couldn't be undone. She left the room. I went to her desk about a half hour later and told her I was sorry I'd spoken like that, to which she said she didn't care, but I know she did. And I wasn't sorry really. I mean, I was sorry that I'd hurt her feelings, not that I'd said what I'd said. Given the same circumstances I'd do the same every time.

Babies are inherently uninteresting. No, that's not right. People find them interesting so they must be interesting. What I mean is that they are quite homogeneous. Admittedly, I haven't been paying much attention, but don't they all look similar and do the same stuff? Of course, they're special to their mother and fathers and families but to the rest of us....the CIA reckons that over 350000 children are born every day. How can something that happens that often remain a source of wonder? Still, I know I'm in quite a substantial minority with these views and am certain that I'll turn into a blubbering, gushing mess should the miracle of childbirth occur as a result of my actions.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Glastonbury 08 - The Sun Returns

These days I find it difficult to set off for Glastonbury Festival carrying only excitement and a sunny disposition. Along with the heavy rucksack and tent and beers and various other festival consumables there is also fear and trepidation and the feeling that, should the weather be shit again, this could be my last one. Having fun has been tough in recent years, and I have friends for whom another festival spent trying to navigate knee-deep mud would definitely be the final straw. The weather forecast wasn't bad. Wasn't good either. Could go either way. Fuck it, let's just have fun and forget about it, yeah?

We arrive. We set up camp and it's all good. Sun's out. We hug we laugh we drink we smoke and say hello to new friends. We go to the Brothers' Bar and we can sit on the grass and drink pear cider and it's brilliant and we laugh some more. We wander about and see the same stuff that we see every year but it's still feels new and wonderful. Eat. Back to the camp. Fire. Giggling. More drink. The sun goes down and our spirits are up and it's been a long day so we go to bed early. Jesus, my tent's small. My head hurts, I must sleep soon. But there's no sleep just this thud thud thudding and I feel like I'm being squeezed in a vice and I'm so cold. Shit. Is that the sun rising? I haven't slept and here comes the dread and the knowledge that the next few days are to be endured rather than enjoyed cos I'm gonna be one achey and miserable motherfucker. The next day starts and I've had no rest, no coda to the previous day and no intro to the next. It's gonna be a long one and I feel like crap. The others go out. I stay and try to sleep but that's just a cop-out. Must try to have fun but it's such an effort. Fill myself full of healthy food and drink and it seems to do the job. I still hurt all over but I'm happy and it's back to the Brothers' bar and everything's fun in the sun again. Hello lovely Katy! Hi Becca hi Dafydd hi John. Everything's looking up. Back to the camp. What shall we do tonight? Fuck all, because here comes the rain and everything's gone grey, most of all our moods and we're all depressed and experiencing a horrible deja vu and I'm going to bed cos I'm so so so tired but my tent's carrying water and my clothes are wet but I just don't care anymore because I finally sleep for a couple of hours but only until 2am. Get up. See my new friends. Cheer up. Tomorrow will be good. I don't care that I see the sun rising before I sleep again. Tomorrow will be good...

...But it's grey and it's muddy no-one can be bothered to do anything and the sound of Kate Nash warbling her pointless ditties only darkens the mood. But. But, let's get out there. That's what we're here to do. Vampire Weekend. Hmm. Young Knives, Hot Summer, Hot Hot Summer. It's not really working but well done for trying. This fucking rain. Mud everywhere now, not as bad as in previous years but surely only a matter of time. My friends resigned to leaving early. Had enough. Just can't take it, not again. On my own now, a long walk on my own to see Franz and the rain has stopped and the evening air is warm and things are looking up again especially after a blast of oxygen that clears the sinuses and energises the brain and I'm ready for anything now and so are Franz and they're brilliant and my mood is definitely, defiantly good once again. Spirits are high back at the camp and me and Smith know we're not gonna be sleeping for a long time but Smith overdoes it a bit and I see the sun come up in my tent again but Smith sees it whilst sat bolt upright in a chair next to a campfire that has long since ceased to burn...

...Less than ten hours' sleep in three days, not much food and a lot of drink, how can I be in a good mood? Why don't I want to die? I thank the recuperative effects of breathing pure oxygen and make a mental note to breath in that stuff as often as I can. Today's the day, the main event and everything will go well. I just know it. British Sea Power are all Waving Flags now and the sun's properly out and here to stay and nothing bad will happen now, I know it. Sitting in the Jazzworld field with all of my friends and we're all so happy and I just want this to last forever and it feels like it can. Can't it? Anything feels possible right now, we're invincible. Meet Katy at Elbow and they're lovely. One day like this a year would see me right, that's true, so true. Now I'm on my own again but it's still all good. Over and over and over and over and over like a monkey with a miniature cymbal, oh yes! But now I have to find the others, I need company, this will be special. Back to the camp, back out again, don't want to miss anything. The anticipation is incredible. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Jay-Z? No chance. I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It's wrong. Fuck off Noel, you fucking luddite. For those of you who didn't get the memo I'm Jay-Z and I'm pretty fucking awesome. Oh you are, you so are. You own this place, you absolutely fucking own it and everyone in it and I feel so privileged like I'm watching the world's greatest performer and fuck it, I'm getting wasted again. Why not? This is my last night here. We're going home tomorrow, I don't care if I don't sleep again. Tonight we party. Tomorrow we go home...

...I wake up and I still feel good, this is amazing! Today is less manic, not much on the schedule and there's a measure of relief that we've chosen to leave early, relief that we won't have to queue for eight hours to get out tomorrow. I say goodbye to my new friends and watch some bands and wander some more, drink some more, sit around and laugh some more. The last act I see is Neil Diamond and he looks as happy as I do, as happy as we all are. Sweet Caroline brings happy tears rolling down my cheeks and now it's time to go. Bye bye, until next year.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Things To Do Before I Die

I don't imagine that my parents grew up with this kind of notion. It seems to be a modern phenomenon, a symptom of the affluent times we find ourselves in whereby our aims in life often seem to revolve more around seeing things rather than changing things. Rewind fifty years, and the idea of a list of things to do involving travelling the world (because that's what Things To Do Before You Die generally involves) would seem impossibly bourgeois. Which is precisely what it is. Picture it:

Wife - Don't you ever feel that we should do more with our lives, Ronald? It just seems that we do the same things year after year. Maybe we could do something really different.

Husband - Are you unhappy, Celia? You know my wages as a bank clerk don't really amount to a great deal. And no wife of mine is going to work, that's for sure! Besides, I thought you quite liked our yearly holiday in Weston-super-Mare. You don't actually want us to buy a caravan instead of renting one? I'll have to save for years!

Wife - I think was thinking a little further afield, a bit more ambitious. Ronald, I really feel that I have to see Machu Picchu before I can consider my life a worthwhile one. And I absolutely have to swim with dolphins before i die!

It surely didn't happen, did it? These days you're probably viewed with some suspicion if you don't aim to take a road trip across America at some point, or go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It's unambitious, and people who are unambitious have no place in the great scheme of things. No sir. They're just taking up space and, God forbid!, they might even be content with life as it is. These people are obviously communists or communists-in-waiting and need to be hunted down. And shot.

What of those people who actually do those Things To Do Before They Die? Can they then die happily? That can't be how it is. What I think happens is that they must have a really fantastic time but not so fantastic that it elevates them to some higher plane of consciousness, just the same fulfillment that they might get from something else they enjoy multiplied by a factor of...something. And then they're unfulfilled again. A boring person who fulfills their ambition to skydive remains a boring person, but with the added ability to further bore people with the story of when they went skydiving.

All this stuff is just a way of justifying why we do jobs we hate, isn't it? If we can convince ourselves that all this drudgery is necessary then the drudgery is justified. But then I suppose that that logic can be applied to many things; we have to find ways of justifying doing all manner of things that we might not enjoy. I'm being over-cynical, just for a change. Things To Do Before You Die is the carrot that we dangle in front of us to keep us going. And we all need to do it.

Here's my list:

- See Stevie Wonder play live.

Not very ambitious, is it? Maybe a more ambitious version would have me hoping, by virtue of some as yet uninvented time travel device, to see Stevie when he toured England on the Tamla Motown Revue with Diana Ross, Martha Reeves and Smokey Robinson back in 1965. But it's the only thing I feel I need to do. It will make me extremely happy. And yesterday tickets went on sale for Stevie's first English tour in many years. This would be a cause for celebration were it not for the fact that it sold out immediately without my knowledge. A second date was then added and sold out, also without my knowledge. Then a third date, for which tickets are still available as I type, does have some tickets left but these tickets come with the warning that people who suffer from a fear of heights should steer clear of them. I'm not scared of heights but I am unwilling to watch my musical hero from a distance. I want to be close up.

So, it looks like I'll have to line a tout's pocket to see Stevie but if that's what I need to do then that's what I'll do. Then I can die happily.

Thursday, 29 May 2008


I'm unable to walk past a football without kicking it. If the opportunity is there I'll take it. Do a few keep-ups or something. If I'm out and see others playing football my attention is drawn to the ball and away from whomever I might be with. I can't stop thinking about it. I mentally rehearse what I'll do should the ball come my way. Obviously I'll control it and pass it back from whence it came. But between the control and the passing back might come a few bonus moves. Yes, a few keep-ups, but maybe also a few more specialised moves, my favourite being the one where I kick the ball above my head and then, as it lands between my feet, step over it and use my right heel to flick it back over my head onto my left foot to continue the juggling. The difficulty of the move depends on a few different factors:

- My footwear
- Underfoot conditions
- Who I'm with
- Who is playing football (the less threatening-looking the players, the more likely I am to be a bit flash. Little kids offer the best opportunity to show off. They're easily impressed)

As often as not the ball will come my way and I'll get to kick it. I'll then feel a little bit of a warm glow and am normally unable to suppress a smile. I'm happy, just for a while. I'm doing that which comes naturally to me and it feels right. Having a football at my feet generally makes me feel that way, in any circumstance. This is a constant, I've never felt any different. I don't attain the same feelings of comfort from any other activity, with the possible exception of being at Glastonbury festival (less than four weeks away!!!).

The above is just a laboured preamble to what I really want to say here, which is that I don't get those feelings of comfort and satisfaction from writing. It's a struggle. The words rarely, if ever, flow with any kind of ease or confidence. When I play football there are normally a few who have to try harder than the others to get even the basics right. This is how feel when I'm writing and I don't like it.

This is my first post for over two months. Since that time I've wasted many, many hours doing next to nothing when I could have been writing. There are prison inmates with less free time than me, yet I haven't written a thing. I've logged on to Blogger about six times with the intention of writing, yet have only actually written anything on two of those occasions. Those two occasions have harvested a total of about sixty (promptly aborted) words, even though there's been no lack of worthy topics about which to write. I've had a good idea for a story but it remains in my head and nowhere else. It's like walking to the sink, turning on the tap and having nothing come out. It makes me feel quite useless.

So, here I am, reduced to writing about not being able to write. It's the best I can do right now. All this would be of little worry to me were it not for the fact that writing is my only creative outlet. I no longer play football competitively. I have no children. There's very little scope for creativity at my work. I've never built anything. I contribute very, very little to this world. That isn't to say that my writing contributes anything to anyone other than me, more that, as a human being, there is an imperative to bring things into being, to shape our environment in whatever tiny way we're able. It's one thing that separates us from animals. I'm creating nothing and what that says about me isn't something I like to ponder for too long.

Writing this, however, hasn't been too difficult and it hasn't been unenjoyable, although this is probably due to its cathartic effect rather than simply for the joy of writing. Still, it's been quite nice, like a small weight has been lifted. I think I'll be back.

And how weird is this? I'm just about to hit "publish" when I get a text message. A friend is starting up a football team, do I want to play? Too fucking right, I do! There's a word for this, I'm sure. Is it serendipitous? I think it might be. Whatever it is, I don't care, I'm quite excited.

Man, that's strange.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Village People

Yesterday, Good Friday, I didn't leave the flat until nearly 6pm. If someone asked me what I'd done all day I would have said I'd done nothing. By that I don't mean I pottered about the place, did a bit of housework or caught up with some paperwork. I mean I did as close to nothing as it's possible to do for an able bodied person in a flat in the western world. It was a crap day.

So, I left the flat at six. I needed milk to put in my tea. I find tea and lethargy go hand in hand - Hmm, what shall I do? Shall I do something? I'll just have a cup of tea and a fag while I think about it. It was bitterly cold outside and the road, which was still wet from the hail and sleet storms we'd had earlier, reflected the low sun's harsh light into my eyes. I was glad I was wearing some some extra layers and wrapped my scarf higher about my face.

As I turned the corner I noticed a man standing by the road. Actually, he was standing in the road, only stepping back onto the path when a car approached. As he did so he held an item of clothing out to display to the passing drivers, a blue shirt. Once the car had passed he stepped into the road again and held the shirt out until another car passed and forced him back onto the path again. As I got closer I saw a familiar tag hanging from the neck of the shirt. I don't know which particular shop it was from but it would definitely have been one of the charity shops that thrive in the local town centre. This man was attempting to sell a single item of second-hand clothing by the roadside. In the freezing cold, as the light was fading. In 21st century suburban England.

He wore ill-fitting jeans and a denim jacket that would have provided little protection from the elements. His greying hair and beard made him look older than I guessed he was. He was probably not much older than me. I prepared to give him a smile as I walked past but he kept his eyes on the approaching cars. I carried on towards the village convenience store, wondering what kind of life he thought he might have in England before he left Poland or Bosnia or wherever it was he arrived from. He might have planned owning his own business or maybe he had a trade that he wanted to apply here. Or he might have just assumed that the streets here were paved with gold.

I went to the shop and bought milk and a newspaper and left, hoping that the man would have moved on by the time I walked back past his pitch. I heard a noise to my right and looked over to see a man leaving the pub. He shut the door behind him and tried to walk off but couldn't. His legs wouldn't work. He held on to a lamppost for a second or two before setting off again. His first step was solid enough but this must have used up all of his powers of concentration since on his second his foot just gave way as if it had been planted on ice. He tried to grab on to a wall but missed and succeeded only in making himself look even more ridiculous. His elbow made a loud thud as it hit the concrete and he would have been in a lot of pain had he not been anaesthetised with alcohol.

I'm not good in these situations. I want to help but also know that some people in some situations don't want to be helped. I would probably want to be left alone. My next move was easy then - I crossed the road and went towards him since it was almost the direction I was going anyway and I could just walk on past if he seemed hostile. Yes, I'm pathetic. He saw me approaching and I started to ask him whether he was alright. I only got a word or two out before he started shouting at me and waving a fist. I walked on past. I'd barely gone a few yards before wondering whether his hostility was actually that. Maybe he'd tried to say, "Hi, I'm in need of assistance. Would you please take my hand and help me up?", and with his motor skills seriously impaired it had just come out wrong. I kept on walking. He's be okay.

The man selling the shirt was still there. There was little natural light and it was barely possible to see what he was holding out in front of the cars that, by now, all had their headlights on. How long would he stay there? Had he actually sold anything? Maybe he'd go hungry until he sold the shirt. For a split-second I considered buying it from him. Then I reverted to type and walked on past him and went home and had a cup of tea and a fag.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Did you just type Cheeky Girls into Google?

Cheeky Girls. If you've arrived at this page having typed those two words into Google or, even worse, Google images then you are very probably a sad, sad man. You aren't a fan of their work, are you? No. You were looking for pictures, weren't you? Yes. Why don't you just look at some porn? Proper stuff. Not the Cheeky Girls, please.

The Cheeky Girls, you see, are responsible for most of the traffic that arrives at my blog. Courtesy of a website called Feedburner, I am able to see not only how many people view my blog but also where they are in the world, the website that referred them, their internet browser, how long they stayed and also, if they arrived via a search engine, what they typed into that search engine. The most common term that people who who view my blog have used is Cheeky Girls. In fact it's probably true to say that most of the people who find it have been looking for stuff about the terrible Transylvanian twins and have arrived here because of a post I wrote back in 2006 that mentioned them.

I'm grateful that anyone reads my words. It's especially nice when I see that someone from the other side of the world has spent time here. It's also a little bit dispiriting, not to mention slightly demeaning, when I discover that they're not at all interested in what I've written but have actually clicked on a link and then quickly clicked the back button when they've not found any pictures of the girls wearing something skin tight.

Whilst typing Cheeky Girls into Google may be the most popular way of finding my blog there are also many other popular search terms that might lead you here. Someone, somewhere in the world, once found my blog after typing the following words into Google: Moustached man turkey porn. Just take some time to consider this. What on earth were they actually looking for? My best guess is that they were looking for a Turkish porn star. With a 'tache. I hope that my guess is correct since the alternative, that someone was searching for a Burt Reynolds lookalike engaged in relations with a turkey, is too horrible to contemplate. Each to their own, I suppose.

If you found this page having typed Cheeky Girls and are still reading this, a full four paragraphs later, then thanks. I really appreciate it. And also give yourself a pat on the back. I take it you're aware that part of your soul was evaporating into the ether every time you clicked on another Cheeky Girls link. Of course you're aware. You are, after all, the one feeling pathetic and inadequate. Well, having read this far redeems you just a little bit. Well done. You're not beyond saving just yet.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A little bit of Politics...

Many in the UK might question why we have to put up with daily coverage of what’s going on in the run-up to the US elections but I’m not one of those people. I love it, it’s pure theatre and far more interesting than our fusty political scene. It helps that since the last election I’ve read Hunter S Thompson’s Fear And Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, a book which gave me an insight into just how low-down, dirty and devious you have to be if you are to have any chance of becoming the world’s most powerful person. The game is a much dirtier one now, too. Nixon was as devious as a fox with a degree in cunning but could he have actually stolen an election like Bush did? It’s very doubtful.

Up to now it has, for me, been fairly sedate stuff. The Republicans have been dull. There’s not enough in-fighting for my liking, but then they’re probably saving their efforts for a savage and barbaric assault on whoever wins the Democrat nomination. Today, though, the Obama-Clinton fight just got really interesting. Hillary is starting to panic and her staffers chose this day to circulate a picture of her main opponent wearing a turban and robe. He looks like *gasp* a Muslim! (We can safely ignore the denials coming from the Clinton camp about the source of the leak). It's a dastardly and impressive ruse. Obama, very understandably, isn’t best pleased.

This is what the Democrats seem best at – fighting amongst themselves. Unlike the Republican Party, which generally takes a fairly unified stance, Democrats seem to be best at knowing only what they don’t stand for and, in many cases, it seems that they don’t stand for each other. Who knows what racist or sexist depths the respective campaigns could sink to? Well folks, we’ll find out in the coming months! If the Democratic nomination came down solely to who could play dirtiest, though, Hillary would win hands down. There’s a wealth of experience in the Clinton camp for this kind of fight and it looks like they’re going to need every last ounce of it. I eagerly await the carnage…

What of the GOP? We’ll probably have to wait until the election campaign proper to see them really spring into action. The sole issue at the moment seems to be whether McCain is a little too pink for their liking, but his chances of nomination look pretty sound. What I’m interested to see is just how much effort they’re going to put into securing the Presidency for their man. Obviously they want to win. But could they have a longer term plan up their sleeve? Here’s my theory (well, not really my theory but one stolen from the work of the above-mentioned writer with regard to the Republican effort in the ’76 election):

There is a lame duck President. Right now he and his party are pretty unpopular. The Republicans don’t have an outstanding candidate. Basically, it’s not looking good for them. But it’s also not going to look good for the next President if he or she is unable to extricate the country from the problems that they will inherit: There’s a very unpopular and expensive war going on and the economy is looking a little green around the gills. The next President will probably have little chance of being a success. So….what would be the point, the theory goes, of wasting loads of time and money financing a campaign that would lead to further embarrassment and failure for the party when they could just let the Democrats win the dubious honour of inhabiting the White House for what would surely be four very miserable years? Why don’t they just concentrate on the future and groom a candidate for 2012 and 2016? Look at what happened when Carter won in 1976, the last time the Republicans had little chance of success - His win heralded three consecutive Republican terms. All the Republicans have to do here is let the Democrats win and then fuck things up. That’s my theory.

(Please, any American readers, excuse my ignorance if this is actually a popular theory that you think I’ve plagiarised or if you simply think I’m talking a load of limey bull. And please feel free to correct me. I’m just trying to get involved, y’know? It’s fun!)

Now, some news from England: I saw a man walking his pet ferret through London’s West End on a lead on Sunday. And there ends the news in England.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Brits

The Brit Awards 2008 is on TV right now. I don't normally watch it but, since I'm currently lacking what many refer to as "a life", tonight I thought I'd give it a go. It's nearly finished now. As I'm typing this Alan Carr is presenting the best Single award to Take That. Alan Carr normally makes me laugh. He introduced himself tonight thus:

Hello Everyone, I'm a bit pissed. I just stuck a straw in Amy Winehouse's beehive. I'm really high now!

So, Alan, would that be the same Amy Winehouse who's currently undergoing rehab for a particularly severe and public drug addiction? Well done for that. Poor Amy, bless her tottering around in her heels looking like a little girl trying on mummy's grown up clothes. She's probably been the high point of a particularly crap Brit Awards just by virtue of not falling over. Maybe it's always this rubbish. I wouldn't know. I just found all the mediocrity on show quite dispiriting.

Mika. What is his purpose? We have Scissor Sisters. We don't need Mika.

Take That winning Best Live Act is okay, I s'pose. Better them than Kaiser Chiefs of Editors or some other piffling indie shambles. I decided that I wanted Take That to win whatever they were nominated for. They, at least, do what they do well. Which is more than can be said of nearly everything else here tonight.

After this comes one of those duets that The Brits like to put on at least one of every year. It's an abomination. Rihanna's Umbrella is a great pure pop song, one of those that only comes along every few years, like Britney's Baby One more Time. She looks and sounds fantastic. But she's playing it with two-bob Jesus Jones tribute band Klaxons. They're dressed like Doug McClure in Planet Of The Apes. Who on earth is responsible for this? It's an incredible mismatch, beauty and the beast, like David Bowie being backed by the Bay City Rollers. It really shouldn't be allowed.

Other winners? Foo Fighters. Meh. Kylie won something despite being not nearly as good as she was a few years ago. Kate Nash wins Best Female for her thrilling dittys about brushing her teeth and squeezing spots and having a dump. Has there ever been a pop star that was actually less glamourous than their audience? Kate is that pop star. Arctic Monkeys, fair enough. They're very good. And they also take the piss out of the stage school brats that have been positioned at the front of the crowd. That's a nice touch, by the way. Those poor underprivileged kids probably need all the breaks they can get.

The Osbourne's were presenting. They're a joke that wasn't ever funny in the first place. I wish they'd retire gracefully, although doing anything gracefully is probably way beyond them. Jack and Kelly were pretty good though, to be fair, they've turned out remarkably well considering (Actually, why should I be fair? Really, why?).

Having ruminated on the crapness of The Brit Awards for a few minutes now I've come to the conclusion that it's probably always been this bad. I just wasn't so bothered about it before. Getting old, me? Yeah, so what? If I can't be allowed to be a curmudgeonly old bastard in my advancing years then there's something desperately wrong and I shan't look forward to getting older any more.

News At Ten is on now, the first time I've seen it since it returned to our screens a few weeks ago. Good old reliable Trevor McDonald is still presenting (Hosting? Anchoring?), that's good. The main story is the nine year old girl who has gone missing in West Yorkshire. Let's hope she turns up soon as I get the feeling that the media and public won't be mobilised in the same way that they were for Maddie's disappearance. The girl isn't as photogenic, you see? And her parents are working class, unlike the dashing McCanns. Oh, I am cynical aren't I? I'm also right.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Ignorance is Bliss

I have one grandparent left, one grandmother. This has been the case for a few years now, since my other grandmother died. She was less than a year away from reaching her century and was still independent in her mid-90s where she, despite blindness, continued to live on her own. She was unable to read the labels on cans and used to have to guess what was in them with predictably amusing consequences. Less amusing was when she wasn’t sure that the oven hob was on and tested it with one of hands leaving a spiral shaped burn on her palm. She showed considerable resolve and strength throughout her life, not least when she was sectioned. A daring escape over a wall in my parent’s garden was attempted due to her insistence that we were all out to get her, particularly my dad who, she claimed, kept a tiger in his shed. She then hit a woman who was trying to stop her as she stumbled down the road, threw dirt and stones at a policeman and spat at the paramedics who came to take her away. The rest of her days were spent in a residential care home…

…Which is how my other grandmother lives. She has Alzheimer’s disease and doesn’t really understand what’s going on around her anymore, although she can be quite charming when her synapses crackle and stimulate some previously forgotten memory from her youth. Most of the time, though, her condition is distressing for her and those around her. When her dog died a few years ago she used to ask where Scamp was every day, and every day she would be told that he’d died and would then feel the grief of losing her dog all over again. This is why no one will be telling her that her only sister died this morning. She wouldn’t understand. The last time her sister visited my grandmother didn’t even know who she was. I don’t think she needs to be told.

Thursday, 7 February 2008


What a crap month January was! I woke up all miserable and hungover on New Year’s Day and stayed like that for pretty much the rest of the month. I had little money to do anything with and my social life was fairly non-existent due to most people I know feeling similar to me. I have been bored and bereft of imagination. This is one reason I haven’t posted for a while but not the only one.

I was very grateful to receive an award from my friend Speculator who writes a lovely blog here. I’m not confident about my writing and it was nice to have someone telling me that they like what I do, especially someone who writes so well themselves. This post was to feature my acceptance of the award and a few crap jokes about placing it on my mantelpiece along with my other awards such as Playmate of the Year 1984 when I had really big hair and my commendation from the UN in recognition of my services to procrastination and misanthropy. I would then add my nominations and thoughts on what I believe make a good blog and it is here that I have problems since I only read two blogs – my nominator’s and someone he has already nominated.

I set off out into the blogosphere to find five worthy recipients to whom I could forward the award, as per the conditions of my acceptance of it. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for but hoped that something inspiring might jump out at me, a bit like my method for choosing presents when I’m Christmas shopping. I think I was looking for blogs that were a bit like mine. I didn’t want to select any that were written by someone who obviously took their writing more seriously than me for fear that they would think Who the hell does this idiot think he is? You’re not fit to commend my writing! Get off of my page!

I just wanted to find blogs where the author finds joy or beauty or absurdity or anything else in their day-to-day existence. There were precious few of these that didn’t fall foul of the condition outlined above. Maybe my search techniques were lacking but what I mostly found were blogs that were lacking in wit or creativity and were often horribly self-indulgent (yes, my irony detector siren is wailing loudly here too but I don’t care). Our lives are inherently interesting but you wouldn’t know it from the drivel that I took many hours ploughing through whilst hunched over my laptop. This is another reason I haven’t blogged in weeks. My next post had to be about this subject and I couldn’t post until I’d found some blogs I liked.

I found a total of two blogs that I enjoyed reading. That’s a poor strike rate. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like blogs. I’ve also concluded that the problem is with me and not with the bloggers of this world. I find it difficult to be interested in other people’s love lives. Or in their computer games. Or which restaurants they like. Or what their children are learning at school. Or their music tastes. I’m definitely not interested in their music tastes. I concede that there must be loads of worthy blogs out there but you really have to work hard to find them unless you know where to look. Which I don’t. I would rather be reading books. I love reading books. My boring year has allowed me time to read ten books so far. I love books. I don’t like reading blogs nearly as much.

I feel terribly rude about this but I can’t accept the award. I’m unable to fulfil the acceptance criteria: I can’t find a total of five blogs to nominate and, since it’s clear that I don’t actually like blogs, I can’t very well publish my thoughts on what makes a good one. I’m not the right person to ask. I’m truly sorry. I always hoped that if I ever turned down an award it would be from the Queen, and I would refuse it on moral grounds (although there's no way I'd really do that. Mum wouldn't understand). That would be quite noble. This isn't. Speculator, I'm sorry.


In other news: I have a car! I’ve been a public transport user for four years and thought it was about time I had a car again. Where I live is quite isolated so it makes sense. And I love my little MX-5! So does everyone else who has seen it. I’ve certainly never owned anything quite so lovely before and can’t wait until summer so I can cruise around with the roof down. It might even make me more attractive to women! Well, slightly less repellent anyway. I can live in hope.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Nice And Simple

I need a new profile picture as the current one seems to be of a man who is very unsure of himself and life in general or has maybe just found something unpleasant in his pocket. New year, new profile pic. Out with the old, in with the new, and all that. Except I can’t find one that I like, none that I own anyway. I know which one I want though. A friend has it. It’s me in a black hoodie with a maniacal look in my eyes and a sky that wouldn’t look out of place over Mordor. Except the weather is probably better in Mordor since the photo was taken at Glastonbury Festival where God, for the last few years, seems to have taken exception to all of the pagan fun going on and has punished us with rain and mud.

Glastonbury is a long way off yet but I have to look forward in order to keep myself sane during the joyless month of January. If I could hibernate for just a few weeks I would, just until payday. I’d wake up and find that the mood of the nation had recovered from the post-Christmas comedown and its related cash flow issues and I’d be happy because then I could start socialising again. Not that I’m in a bad mood. I’m a bit hard up until I get paid and have settled nicely into doing nothing. I won’t entertain any notion of frivolity until January 28th. I have a friend who’s planning a birthday night out in London just after that time but I’ve declined my invitation even though it’ll be fun. Ask me again on the 28th. I’ll still say no though.

As it is I can generally be found sitting at home, reading. I’m already on my sixth book this year, such is my inertia right now. I’m reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and it’s brilliant. Apart from the heart-rending story itself I like the economy of language. I like it when writers resist the urge to show us how many smart words they know. That’s why I don’t really appreciate, for example, John Updike. I always get the feeling that he’s writing partly in order to show the world how clever he is. He makes me feel inferior so maybe the problem lies with my own self-esteem. That’s probably it, although I don’t feel so mediocre when I read Philip Roth. Or Paul Auster, even though he’s another smart-arse.

I’m really bored, can anyone tell? I’m sitting here, rambling on about nothing and no-one in a completely inconsequential manner. I feel compelled to write, but why? I have absolutely nothing to offer, it’s just the ramblings of a man lacking the wit to utilise his considerable thinking time in a creative manner. Sigh. Roll on February. My brain will start working then. You’ll see.

So. What fun things can I do this year? What can I start planning once January is banished? A few music festivals in the summer. A weekend in Iceland in the spring. I might buy a car. I haven’t had one for four years now. That’s about it and I’m happy with that. I don’t like having too many things to look forward to. I get nervous. I always worry about what will go wrong, and the more events I have planned then the more things there are to fret over. Best to keep things nice and simple. That’s me. Nice and simple.


My good friend James has just emailed me the profile picture that I mentioned in the first paragraph. I didn't even ask him, he just read this yesterday and knew exactly which photo I meant. What a lovely guy, eh? My profile picture now shows me looking suitably diabolical. Excellent.

Monday, 7 January 2008


I have a friend, a friend of a friend really, who has been behaving in quite an intriguing way. This is what is known about him or her:

His or her undergraduate degree studies took place in a few different countries. Then a master's degree was completed, also abroad.

He or she has a regular job that they are frequently absent from for long periods. When asked what their job entails there is a fair bit of umming and ahhing, as if he or she is unable or unwilling to talk about it.

During these long periods of absence from work he or she often goes abroad. Alone. Areas visited include unfashionable and recently war-stricken Baltic states, and China. China is an interesting destination since the person in question has previously expressed a distaste for that part of the world and its people (I'll leave aside the issue of how any enlightened person can possibly dislike an entire nation's people. I'll never understand that).

The question is: Is this person a spy?

One further point of interest is that this person had an interview with MI5 a while back. They claimed to be unsuccessful in their application for whatever is was they were interviewed for. Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? Exciting, huh?

I must admit to a feeling of apprehension right now. I don’t want to get anyone into trouble here but once I click on the "publish" button this piece will be out there the blogosphere for anyone to see. I don’t believe that intelligence agencies trawl the blogs of people like me looking for actionable information. In fact hardly anyone reads my trivial meanderings but what if I was to activate some kind of intelligence device, one of those things that are triggered when certain sensitive words are detected. Words like Mossad or Osama or Jihad or glorious revolution. That would probably do it. And I’ve already typed MI5 so I needn’t do that again. Oops, I just did. What then? This friend isn’t actually in my email address book or a Facebook friend but they could be one of my friend’s friends…

Might I be initiating a fantastically improbable chain of events that could lead to the overthrowing of a dictatorship? I’ve seen it in films, y’know. Probably. Maybe I might be keeping that dictatorship in power. Could I be endangering my friend’s career?

For the record, then, I’m really sorry if this piece causes the demise of a popular uprising or any submarine to be torpedoed or my friend to be poisoned by some exotic toxin administered via a needle cunningly hidden at the tip of an umbrella. I hope that’s okay.

I’m not enjoying 2008 yet. 2007 was possibly my happiest year ever, I was very rarely down. But since I woke on January 1st I’ve been miserable and this has to change. One factor is that I’m skint, as many of us are at this time of year. The other main reason, I think, is that I’ve promised myself that I’ll do all manner of positive things with my life this year and, basically, I’m scared. I’m going to have to leave my comfort zone and it’s a daunting prospect. I need some inspiration to get me started. Maybe I should read something motivational. But not today cos I’m looking forward to an early night with a DVD and a cup of tea. I’ll do it next week. Along with week one of sixteen of The Official British Army Fitness Program that came with The Guardian yesterday. Hmmm, actually there’s more chance of me getting home tonight to find Stevie Wonder playing a show in my living room than that happening, but the intention’s there nonetheless. That’s what counts and if I put my fingers in my ears then I can’t hear anyone telling me otherwise.