Archive for the ‘Me’ Category

ET-X trailer, nuclear test graphic, North Korean Top Gun, George Lucas Strikes Back, Help the Police, Mark Ronson at the Electric Proms, Teacher vs student rap battle

Monday, March 12, 2012

It occurs to me that some of the excellent videos I’ve spotted from time to time and put on my Facebook feed are actually rather difficult to find. So, here they are:

Spanky Wilson – Sunshine of your love

Thursday, May 5, 2011

If anyone knows where I can buy this track (for reasons unfathomable, I cannot buy it from the MySpace site) then I’ll be as grateful as a cockney pensioner with a cup of tea.

Running out of ideas

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Running is, frankly, a bit of a bore. It takes resolve to get started, it’s tedious while it’s happening, and you have to have a shower afterwards. Why do we do it? The traditional response is that it gives a sense of well-being, but that’s not quite the full story. It also gives a sense of superiority.

That’s why runners are so odious. I mean, I get it. I’ve done it. I have felt good about myself, self-satisfied, superior to my usually lazy self and, by extension, anyone who has not been puffing and panting while I have. But if that is the sensation I’m trying to replicate, there must be ways of achieving it without all the faff.

Rather than induce a sense of superiority through exercise, you could develop an innate sense of superiority by becoming good at something and convincing yourself it’s important. It doesn’t really matter what that thing is. The person I heard scat-singing on Woman’s Hour this morning sounded terribly smug even though her talent was merely warbling “do-do-do-dun-bap-bap-bap-showaddy-waddy” to modern jazz. It could be writing a blog about your dislike of jazz singers.

Or, I suppose, it could be something that adds to the sum of human happiness. That’s something best dealt with off-blog, I think.

Doors to manual

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I love weddings. They’re inherently joyful events, full of truly happy people, excitable chatter, free booze, vol-au-vents and people looking their dashing or graceful best.

My friend M invited me to his recently. More than that, he asked me to be an usher. “I’d be delighted,” I said, “as long as we don’t have to wear matching waistcoats.”

I didn’t mean this entirely seriously. It’s not for me to say how he conducts his wedding. If he wants his ushers to wear hot pants and Timmy Mallett glasses then I ought to go along with it. But why do people think that dressing ushers in matching waistcoats is a good idea?

Is it so that aged relatives don’t get confused about who to ask if they get lost? If they really can’t work out where to go (and let’s face it, they’ve probably been to several dozen weddings in their lives and ought to know that the bride stands on the left by now) then a buttonhole is surely enough.

Is it because bridesmaids traditionally wear matching outfits, and so it is assumed that the tradition should extend to the men? This modern idea is probably the brainchild of suit hire companies who offer job lots on wedding attire. Nothing says “We hired these suits for the occasion” quite like a matching waistcoat.

Is it because there is some idea that wedding photographs will look better if everyone’s outfits match? Why do they think this? What is the compulsion to make your wedding photos look like a staff meeting at a Torquay hotel?

Anyhow, M laughed and said that we would not be dressed like easyJet cabin crew. A few months later, he mentioned that actually, he did have a waistcoat for me.

There’s nothing to do here. I’ve just got to wear it, figuratively and literally. Perhaps it will be really beautiful. I had better start practising my patter all the same, though. “In the unlikely event of a water landing, the exits are here, here and through the vestry.”

Guess Who (3)

Monday, November 16, 2009

By popular request, I have a new poll related to Prejudicial Guess Who. Again, I’ll hide my own thoughts on the matter so as to avoid bias.

I had a difference of opinion with H, the girl I’ve been going out with for almost nine months, over the age and tastes of Anita, the wide-eyed blonde of the Guess Who line-up. I asked whether she would prefer The X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. H said that she would like both, but would lean towards one of them. I think she would have a clear preference for one of them, and it is not the same one that H suggested.

Guess Who Anita


Cast your votes, and I’ll let you know what I think in a week or two.

UPDATE:  The people have spoken, although God only knows what was going through their minds. A majority thought that Anita would prefer to watch Strictly Come Dancing than The X-Factor. Really? Come on – she’s about 15 years old. She’d have posters of Jedward on her bedroom door.

However, I must accept the result. Anita officially would prefer Brucie to Simon.

Guess Who? (2)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The results to the Prejudice Guess Who poll are in, and I’m happy to report that the results vindicate my view in all three cases, although not necessarily by the margin I expected.




Charles, by a majority of 54 per cent, would confront a burglar rather than hide and wait for the police.







Albert, by a majority of 80 per cent, prefers vinyl to digital as a medium for listening to music.







And Sally, by a majority of  76 per cent, says “Byeee!” in a high-pitched voice at the end of phone calls.




The result for Albert is jolly heartening, and the one for Sally far more clear cut than I dared hope, but my moment of trousers-down-buttock-slapping triumph has been marred by a gallingly narrow victory for Charles.

Not only would he confront a burglar, I maintain, he would do so with a walking stick and a shout of: “I didn’t fight the Hun to have my house burgled by the likes of you.” He would beat the hapless burglar, possibly to death, and the local press would run a picture of him with his medals under the headline: “War hero gives youth stick.”

Some friends have claimed that his sad eyes suggest a pensioner too weary to put up a fight, but I would contend that this is more than offset by his moustache, and that any antipathy towards violence would be immediately quashed upon sight of his quasi-antique carriage clock in the hands of some hoodie.

Still, the people have spoken, and I accept the result because to reject it would turn the game from Prejudicial Guess Who into Bigoted Guess Who. And, besides, the majority still agreed with me. Hah.

Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band

Monday, November 2, 2009

Alberto FrogAbout 25 years ago I was watching an episode of the children’s television programme Bod when my older sister walked through the room. It was the Alberto Frog section of the show, in which an amphibious orchestra leader and his Amazing Animal Band performed favours for distressed creatures who, overcome with gratitude, would offer him a reward. (Alberto Frog, it occurs to me now, was a cartoon version of Hannibal from the A-Team, or Don Corleone from The Godfather. I digress.)

Alberto would always respond to such offers with the line: “I wouldn’t say no to a milkshake.”

The grateful citizen would say: “Any particular flavour?”

And the Amazing Animal Band would ponder aloud, listing a series of flavours that, to my recollection, were usually chocolate, strawberry or vanilla, but perhaps I am just confusing his choices with the flavours one used to get in “Neapolitan” ice cream tubs.

My sister, who is eight years older than me and who was something of an antagonist during my childhood,  said: “It’ll be chocolate.”

I disagreed, naturally, and insisted that it must be strawberry, or one of the other flavours. She was right, and it wasn’t just luck. This happened on several occasions, and her predictions always rang true.

I never knew how she did it until I brought it up about two decades later. I assumed that there must have been a subtle clue in the way he spoke that gave away the answer, or a mildly complicated algorithm. Would she at last tell me the secret?

“Oh,” she said. “It was always chocolate.”

Bat and balls

Friday, August 7, 2009

It’s a somewhat minor personal triumph, but I have just shattered my personal best in the bat-and-ball game that comes free on a BlackBerry. Did I want to upload my score to the overall rankings, it asked. Hell, yes, I said, quietly, to myself. What if I’m some sort of bat-and-ball prodigy? What if, by a chain of unlikely events, proficiency in bat-and-ball games equates to some urgently needed skill, such as repelling an invading force of alien spacecraft? I’ve seen The Last Starfighter. (For anyone who hasn’t, it concerns a teenager who is selected to save the earth from extra-terrestrial hostility after achieving the highest score on a Government-monitored arcade game.)

It turns out I am about 682,000th.

I’m having trouble interpreting this. How many people are there behind me? And does it matter? After all, those who haven’t played the game probably aren’t going to be very good, so presumably I’m 682,000th out of the world population of 6.7 billion (ie in the top one hundredth of a per cent).

If skill at bat and ball is closely aligned to alien repulsion, will I still be needed? I imagine that in the event of attack it will be all hands to the pump, but how many pumps will there be?

So, to summarise, I am left with a list of questions:
a) What crossover is there between bat and ball, on the one hand, and world-saving duties, on the other?
b) Are there more than 682,000 places for planetary defenders in the event of an attack?
c) Will defenders have to be suicidally brave?

If the answers to these are “none”, “no” and “yes”, then I may have to devote my time to doing something more useful.

Cad or bounder?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

H, a girl I’ve been going out with for three months, tells me I’m a cad. It’s a running joke. Or it is for her and her friends. I contest it, particularly the implication that I treat women badly, but they insist that it doesn’t mean that. A cad, they say, is merely a rake with a suspiciously self-confident manner with women.


When I was on my gap year in Indiah…

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Nauseating, isn’t it? Anecdotes about India are almost as boring as anecdotes about scuba diving (“There were all these… fish”) or anecdotes about surfing (“The wave was like, woah, and I was like, dude”).

India gappers have become an archetype: floppy-haired students with collarless shirts who “found themselves” by going to a Third World country, eating Europeanised food that the locals would never touch, and travelling along a route so well-worn by budget travellers that you can almost see the rut from space. 

It is tempting, then, to dismiss the gap year to India as a contrived, boil-in-the-bag experience that non-gappers can emulate by going to Ealing and chugging a packet of laxatives.

Lots of people do dismiss it in this way, but they all have one thing in common. They didn’t go. They are armchair critics attempting to mollify their envy by pretending it isn’t enviable.

I did go, and I can tell you this: it was wonderful. I don’t mean “wonderful” as a euphemism for good. It filled me with wonder, and still does, more than a decade on.  The critics are wrong for about a thousand reasons, but here are the top five:

1. There is nothing sanitised about India. Tourism, rife as it is, has had little impact even on those towns tramped by a million Lonely Planet pilgrims. This is a world where laundry is beaten on rocks, men will shout through your train window at 4am to try to sell you tea, and mothers cling the outside of buses after passing their babies through the windows to be cared for by strangers.

2. Poverty is inescapable. Its scale and intensity means that even the most blithe tourist will have to adapt his or her world view to cope with the shock. It makes Western poverty, with its social security safety nets and health provision, seem like a Swiss finishing school.

3. Westerners are outsiders. They will be stared at and hustled, not through animosity but because of an assumption that they have money to burn. Not only is it exhausting, but for white middle-class gappers it is probably the first time they will have been on the sharp end of racist prejudices.

4. Kindness to strangers is endemic and profoundly touching.

5. It isn’t home. Gap years coincide with teenagers learning to deal with the world without their parents, and being in a country far from home only enhances that experience.

None of this is meant to suggest that India is the ultimate gap destination. Any country resistant to western influences will have the same impact. My point is that India is no theme park or pre-packaged experience. People who spend six months there on a gap year do have insights that people who spend that time at home do not.

But yes, the anti-gappers have a point. Those who have been must learn to shut up about it. I shall not mention it again.