Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why even Bob Dylan loves Woolworths.

Woolies is one of those shops nowadays. It's nice to have around. You go there every once in a while, like when you're not sure where to buy garden twine from. Or... ummmmm, y'know, stuff. Old fashioned lightbulbs. I don't know. As soon as I think of something to buy from Woolworths it seems like a better/cheaper place flashes into my mind.
  • B&Q or the garden centre might be a better bet for garden twine.
  • Have you tried searching online?You can usually get that from some file-sharing site.
  • Or if you just want something really cheap, how about one of the fourteen Pound Shop on the main road in Longsight?
Admittedly, at the £shop whatever it is you're buying is either covered in Arabic writing and may be horribly toxic & isn't legally actually allowed to be sold in Britain, or else has been manufactured by tiny handed Vietnamese orphans, but, y'know - it costs a pound!

At Woolies it would probably cost £2.99 (reduced from £3.99).

It's the same with your actual long playing records and chart singles. You're not likely to have that dispiriting moment any more when you rush to Woolies to buy the new (insert band of your choice: Adam & the Ants, The Thompson Twins or Shakatak) single - only to find - woe betide! - there's a gap in the display - they've run out of stock of the current number 7 hit. Bah! Luckily they've got a list of the current top 40 so you can check what else they should have. How about number 38? No. No, no Big Country. All they've got are two copies of the Fat Larry Band single and loads of Spandau Ballet. Grrrrr.

And yet, you'd put up with that. Ask when they were next getting a delivery in and mooch around a bit. Usually see if you could find anything else to waste your hard earned cash on. (Or the money wasn't hard earned - it was your *spends* - or in my case, money I'd saved up by not eating anything at school. My lunch-money-for-vinyl strategy. I could always have some Rice Crispies when I got home.)

All of my Woolworths memories are from the past - ummm, incidently, I think that's where all memories live. So, ummm, shut up. Woolworths must have touched everyone at some time. It's there in the nation's DNA. Some item bought there, some experience shared there. I remember where I was when bla bla... But now, Woolies, it's like a loveable but slightly embarrassing uncle, the one that still styles his hair like it's 1983. The one with the Chris Waddle mullet, white socks & rolled up sleeves on his jacket. He thinks he's in Miami Vice, he thinks he's *with it*. But talk to him about downloading & out-of-town shopping centres & specialist internet retailers - and his eyes will just glaze over. It's always 1983 for this over-extended metaphorical Uncle Wooly...

Top Ten Woolworths moments

  1. First LP record bought with my own money: Hatful of Hollow by The Smiths. Second purchase 3 days later (where did I get the money?) The Smiths by The Smiths. Moz was only born down the road, it seemed like the least I could do to support the local band. Plus, I think the record did actually blow my mind & sound like nothing else I had ever heard in my life.
  2. First disaster I ever witnessed. Mum was taking me to the Dental Hospital so that student dentists could wonder at what an overconsumption of sugary sweets & Alpine pop could do to a young boy's teeth. We got off the bus at Piccadilly Gardens - across the way the giant Woolworths department store was roaring with flames. 10 people died, most trapped by the fire or from inhaling the noxious fumes given off by the nasty 3-piece-suites on sale in the Household section. At the time I knew nothing about the danger & loved the excitement of it. And the fact that I got to see. On our way back we went over to see what was happening. It's horrible to think about now, but exciting at the time. Shame & sadness.
  3. Male rites of passage tend to revolve around fighting, girl-based endeavours & dares. The last one is where Woolworths comes in. If you were going to shoplift anywhere, Woolies was the easiest. Big shop, bored moustachioed bloke polishing lightbulbs over in the far corner. Bored young woman working on the record counter. About 10 girls from the girls' school talking loudly on the stationary aisle. "Quick! Grab that thing. Doesn't matter what it is. Put it under your blazer. Run! Run!" O, happy days. (n.b. shame & sadness)
  4. Pick'n'mix. What to pick? What to pick? This is like some test set by a Greek philosopher. Is it better to choose something you've never had before or just stick to the sweets you know you like? What if you get one of everything - you can't, there's too many, you've not got enough money - what if though - and you realise that you really love those green ones. It's better not to look - just choose them with your eyes closed. But not any of those chocolate eclairs or the nutty ones, they're too heavy. Get the pure sugar ones, you get more for your money...
  5. Discovering Value-for-money. Woolworths opened my mind to bargain hunting. Prior to Woolies if I wanted something there were 3 main options. Someone bought it for me. It was a free thing so I just took it ("I want a stick! I really want a stick to poke at that white dog poo. O, there's a stick, great!"). Or lastly, it was something that I could buy with 30p or less - but there was no bartering or bargains to be had at our local newsagents. A comic was the price it had on the front. Crisps were the same. What else could I possibly want? Well, eventually, records, particularly singles. As many of them as I could get. I just needed them. And Woolies had their bargain shelf full of singles that no one else actually wanted. Joy Division? Who are they? 50p. May as well get it. It got to the stage where I was checking the bargain shelf every day on my way home. Waiting for singles to drop out of the top 40 and hoping no one else would buy them in the meantime.
  6. Elasticated black pumps. Or plimsolls as you might like to call em. I've never liked the word *plimsoll*. It's just wrong. (I've just G00gled em & they're still for sale but are described as, "Black canvas plimsoles with elastic gusset." *Lexical shudder.* Anyway, Woolies was were you bought your black elasticated pumps that went in your home-made pump bag (mine had my name stitched on it) and stayed at school all year. With your stinky unwashed PE t-shirt & shorts. All perfectly normal in the olden days of course. Uncle Wooly would approve. They were similar to his Miami Vice slip-on espadrilles...
  7. The massive toy aisle. Kids clothes. Kids toys. It was like the Kay's catalogue come to life. All those things you wanted for Christmas. "I want that. I want that Action Man helicopter. I want -" slapped hand - "I want gets nothing, please may I have, might just..." I find it hard to believe that going to Argos, finding the correct number in the laminated catalogue and queuing up twice will ever be so exciting.
  8. I like to believe that the first girl I ever had a proper snog with worked at Woolworths. But it might have been a newsagents. Maybe she worked there afterwards. Maybe she's the managing director. She's not done a very good job, has she? I blame myself.
  9. The stationary aisle. End of August, beginning of September, maybe you wouldn't be getting a new shirt off the market, (it depended how much your neck had grown over the summer) but you would definitely be getting a new pencil case (preferably metal so you could scratch the names of bands on it). The pencil case contained a little ruler, a rubber, a pencil, a pen, a protractor & a compass. You never used any of these items except the ruler which was useful for underlining the date. "Put the date at the top of the page. And underline it. Yes, Sullivan, what is it?" "Not got a ruler, sir." "Sullivan, you idiot, did you bring a brain today? Johnson, lend Sullivan your ruler... No talking, you boys." "Sir, Holmes has just stabbed me with his protractor, sir." "Sullivan, you really are an utter fool. He's just stabbed you with his compass, you mean?" Compass/protractor - they were both weapons.
  10. Buying a spade. This is possibly the story of Woolies. I never set food in there after the age of 18, until I bought a spade at the age of 32. O, okay, I occasionally bobbed in to buy Easter eggs for my nephews, but I never had any interest in anything they sold - for me. Just CDs & other similarly unimaginative gifts for relatives that fulfilled a birthday/Christmas function. Now I get free delivery from Amazon or buy the Chocolate eggs from Asda.
Uncle Wooly, I salute you, but your time has gone, I'm afraid.

[Edited after failure. Grrrr. Ever feel let down by technology? Bob, mate, this video of you holding up the word card, it just didn't work. I embedded but you're not playing right. Even after a quick right-click to click on *play**. Still nothing. And another click to press: Play. You're singing but the cards don't say anything. They're all blank. You've let me down, Bob. More importantly, you've let Woolies down. Hang your head, sir.]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Why Jasper Carrot's ITV quiz show is based on *Game Theory* and quite probably the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962.

ITV quiz shows are where old comedians go to die. But don't get me wrong Jasper Carrot is still loveable & deserves all the money he's getting paid, but like everything else on this show, he's part of a copied formula. He's got the job of presenting Golden Balls, because Bob Monkhouse is busy presenting The Golden Shot in TV Heaven.

The ITV1 quiz Golden Balls is a fantastic dog's breakfast of a show. A Frankenstein's monster of cobbled together bits and bobs from other successful quiz shows. I'd never seen it before today, but I believe it is a popular show amongst the target audience (invalids, monged out students, tired schoolchildren, people sitting in Casualty at the hospital trying not to fall asleep or pass out with pain while they wait to be seen by the triage nurse).

The worst bit about the show is the inevitable Chris Tarrant style pauses when you're just about to find out the answer to something: "We'll know the answer to that, right after this break..." Annoying. All the more so when all the adverts are for The Furniture Warehouse, another shop called the Sofa Warehouse and another shop selling cheese. That may have been the Cheese Warehouse, but I wasn't concentrating. It's the sort of show that up until a few months ago was followed by adverts for MFI & Woolies. So I'm not entirely convinced that the viewers of these sort of show are interested in buying anything. I think it would be a decent bet to assume that, some time in January, the Sofa/Furniture & Cheese Warehouses will be going out of business.

[R.I.P. MFI, I never bought anything from you and was always bored by your adverts. But even more of an R.I.P. to Woolies - it was on sale for a few days for the stately sum of £1 - I was going to buy it, really I was, but I wouldn't know what to do with all that pick'n'mix. Ahhh, shame, but why would you go in there nowadays? is Woolworths without the sweets & the queuing.]

There are also a lot of adverts for ITV Bingo which may be more targeted for the audience.

"88! Two fat ladies!"

That's basically the demographic of the audience - and the contestants. People who eat cheese, play bingo and like to sit on comfy seats. People I could happily get along with, share an evening in the pub or down the Mecca Bingo/Social Club in Gorton. Easy going folk. Well, you'd think that to look at em, but you'd be oh so very very very wrong.

Cos these Golden Balls contestants are some mean assed, hardcore Darwinian dog-eat-dog peoples. They would sell their own grandma if it meant they could win the big prize. Sadly that isn't part of the show - that's *Sell Your Grannie For Money* on Channel 5.

But one of the best bits of watching the show (for the first and possibly only time) is seeing which bits they stole from where. It's like watching a 2nd rate rock band and thinking, yeh, the lead singer thinks he's Bono, the drummer is nodding his head like he's Keith Moon, but the guitarist seems to be influenced by the conservative economic theories of the 1950s. Which is a bit odd.

Golden Balls steals from:
  • The 'What's in the box?' thing from *Deal or No Deal*. Make money if you guess right, lose it all if you don't.
  • The vote off the most rubbishist contestant thing from *The Weakest Link*. As well as the the post-game interviews & penalty shootout round from The Weakest Link.
  • It's got ... oh, I'm getting tired listing all the bits. But lots.
  • Then it's got the clever Game Theory bit at the end - which I was going to blab on about but upon researching it 15 minutes ago I realised everyone else has noticed that as well. Well, when I say *everyone*, some other clevercloggy barstanders... Basically the theory is, if everyone is nice to each other everything will be fine; if you're nice & the other person is nasty - they will destroy you. But if you're both nasty, you both get destroyed. So therefore, states Game Theory, it's probably a good idea to be nasty. Just to be on the safe side. It's a complex, messy and thoroughly nasty theory that was a big influence on the superpowers' theories of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) during the Cold War. But who cares about any of that? If you do, here be more links. And a diagram over there: prepare to get a sore head.
Game Theory

The Prisoner's Dilemma

Non-Zero Sum Games

Nash Equilibrium

The final bit televison magic that Golden Balls steals quite brilliantly is the loud Shouting-Outside-A-Pub-On-A-Friday-Night arguing bit that is the best/worst thing about *The Jeremy Kyle Show*. But Golden Balls is just about economics. So it's the potential prize money & the lies they're all telling (Poker-style bluffing) that they're arguing about.

It's not quite as interesting as whether a 52 year old woman is right to leave her husband for an 18 year old crackhead lesbian, but it's still a great TV formula. Just get a bunch of working class people with regional accents & make them angry enough to shout at each other. Fast-forward the YouTube vid to 2 minutes 30 seconds to get right into it... yeah, Mike, not only is she a liar but she's old looking isn't she. Make it personal... Darwin would be proud.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why I have decided, on balance, that I would like to live in the Regency era, if you're going to give me the choice.

I was recently criticised for my prediliction for the colour puce. This saddened me greatly; I take it as a sad example of prejudice against a man exhibiting an exuberant use of colour. And it was a digital watch for Gawdssakes!!! It’s not like I actually *own* a puce neck tie, or would dare to wear a hibiscus shaded jacket. Pershaw!

I don’t want to walk down the street and be accused of being a *puce ponce*. No, a man can’t dress like that nowadays, he’d end up looking like a David Dickenson impersonator, or be mistaken for Jonathan Ross, and no one would want that…

But there was a time when women were women and men were, well, men were just DANDY.

I speak of course of the Regency era (1811 to 1820 or there or there abouts – like the 1970s, the Regency era lasted longer than it should have done.) A time when a man could dress like Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen without getting pelted with stones in the street - ay up, hang on - maybe I've made a terrible decision here... let me think.. no, Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen would still get pelted with stones if he walked down the street, even if it was 1814. They'd just pelt him for fun. And probably for crimes against fashion. He's no Beau Brummel despite what he might like to think. The dandies were far more subtle, allowing vigorous colour on their waistcoats only; their other clothes finely cut, made of the smoothest silks and cottons, but all ever so subtle.

So it's the Regency for me. Though I'll admit I did flirt with this idea from Steven Wright:
I went to a restaurant with a sign that said they served breakfast at any time. So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.
But I'm sticking with my original time travelling destination

And I have 10 fine and dandy reasons for my choice.

  1. The Brighton Pavillion. All over the world there's all sorts of revolutions going on: the French, then the Americans - even in blighty there were riots and all sorts of goings on. But the Prince Regent had his priorities in the right order. Build a lovely palace in Brighton. Good work, your Royal Highness, the Prince Regent. That'll show the oiks what's what...
  2. Regency furniture - how can you not want to *lounge* on that candy striped chaise longue? And in the Regency period, I would be *gay* for suggesting it, yes. But gay like a cavalier rather than a pub in Soho.
  3. The Hellfire Club. Exclusive clubs for high society rakes established all over Britain in the 18th century. These clubs were rumoured to be the meeting places of "persons of quality" who wished to take part in immoral acts and the members were often very involved in politics. Splendid! Listen, if I'm going back in time, I'm going back rich. Poverty stinks whatever era you're living in...
  4. The Regency period's vehicles of choice: the Hansom cab - ideal for secret assignations with a painted lady. Or the Penny Farthing - God's gift to comedy cycling. Get me one now!
  5. During the Regency the pre-eminant English writers include: Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, William Hazlitt, Thomas de Quincey & a young George Elliot. I'm not even going to bother to compare that list to today. It's breathtaking.
  6. John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich (who unfortunately died just prior to the Regency period in 1792, but I'm including him as an *honorary* dandy) - not only did the silly old bounder pay for Captain Cook to toddle off on some boat based adventures and so discover the Sandwich Islands (now stupidly renamed Hawaii), the dashed blighter only went and invented the sandwich, didn't he? Which is the greatest invention since sliced bread as far as I'm concerned. All because he was busy gambling and didn't want to waste time eating away from the table. "Dash it all, I'm playing cribbage here, don't you know. Bring me some meat slapped between a couple of chunks of bread." It was also his *fault* that Britain lost the American War of Independence. But y'know, as every gambler knows, you can't win em all, right? Truly my all time hero. How different the world would have been without him. Especially if he'd left it to that idiot the 8th Lord of Sussex to name our favourite sliced bread comestible. Corned beef sussex, anyone?
  7. More transport related follies: a Scotman named James Watt has already built a bally silly *steam engine* thing and now in 1814 a young English fellow called George Stephenson had this dashed silly idea of inventing a horse-less carriage contraption that seems to *run* along rails. Calls it a *steam train*. Never catch on to be sure. But jolly good show for trying, chaps.
  8. J. M. W. Turner. Okay. Come on, don't make me mention Damian Hurst, alright. I mean, like Damo & his pickled sheep, but please, this is the guy they named the prize after.
  9. This list has mainly been a list of cultural things and nice things to sit on, but despite my deep reservations about his activities in Ireland, I'll throw in Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington for his boots & also for besting Napoleon at Waterloo and so inspiring the classic Abba song.
  10. It would be easy to just throw Romance in here at 10. We have very romantic notions of the Regency period. Georgette Heyer does, Jane Austen films do. There was obviously lots of poverty and despair, but hey, I'm time travelling first class here. I get to choose what happens. So I'm going to have Famous Regency Romances (I may have just lost all my macho credibility here. Though I'm not sure I had any to begin with. Pah.) I give you Lord Byron & well, lots of ladies; Emma, Lady Hamilton & Nelson; Mary Shelley & Percy Shelley, and lots of people doing that polite hand holding & bowing dance that they do in all the Jane Austen adaptations. Great dresses for the ladies as well, I have to say, if only to pick up some male points for my caddish behaviour...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why it's easier to be a broker than a broken, when it comes to hearts.

Cedric is saying, "I'm broken. There's no cracks on the outside. No tears. But inside, I've crumbled." Whoops. Oops. Was it something I said? I promise I won't mention mice again. How did we get onto this topic? We'd managed to avoid it so far. Me and Swoosh knew. We had the phone call, but we thought that was the end of it. Hmmm. But now Cedric's started there's probably no stopping him: "I miss her like I miss the rest of my life. Do you understand? Because it's not going to happen any more!"

O blimey. I'm calling him Cedric for the porpoises of this bloggage, this friend of mine.

Hello Cedric.

We'd gone out for beer, y'see. Me, Cedric & Swoosh. (These are great made-up names aren't they? Well if you're going to give someone a fake name why choose Brian and Anthony - particularly if those actually *are* their real names..... Err, I mean, they're not really, no. O. Anyway. Close bracket.)

So I'm there and I'm drinking & I'm thinking: O shut up, Ced. Come on, man - be a man. Deal with it. Sh1t happens. Grow up. Or if you must splurge all this out, just do it n I'll sit here nodding & looking empathetic. And occasionally glancing over your shoulder at Match of The Day.

Me: "Hmmm, yeh, terrible, I know. Bitch. No, not a bitch, I mean, I don't mean it like that. She's lovely. But not worth it. No, no, you're right, she is worth it, but I mean, you've gotta move on. No? O, well maybe she will have you back, do you think? She will."

What are you supposed to say? And I'm not gonna hug you, Cedric, alright, so don't go getting any silly ideas about male bonding and the modern world. The modern world stops at Cheshire. It's barred from this pub. See that man over there with the scars and the tattoos and the dog? Is he the modern world? No. And if you start crying, then we're all in trouble. If you're crying over a woman then you're gay. That's a science fact in this pub.

Of course I don't say any of this. It's easier to just nod & say general things, "I feel for you mate, I know how you feel, I've been there." I want to tell him that clever metaphor about how there are lots of sea creatures and all you need is a big net. But I'll leave that until next week. Let him mope for now.

Cedric: "I'm sittin on a shelf & on the next shelf down is where suicide lives. I just need to step down and I can sit next to him. We can start makin plans about how we're gonna do it."

And that's the moment. It's the mentioning suicide moment where you have to take stock, cos it's easy to think: yeh, yeh, anyone who *talks* about suicide isn't going to do it. Except I did have a friend who talked about it & and he did attempt it. He failed and died by other means but that's another story - but the point being - if someone *does* mention suicide and you don't take them seriously and then they go through with it... well ... that's not nice. Not that you should be thinking of yourself at that point, but who can stop thinking about themselves at any point - at any time - ever?

Cedric: "She took my t-shirt. I gave her this t-shirt that she wears in bed. She borrowed it ages ago, I wanted her to have it. I liked that she was wearing something of mine. It was so great. It was too small for me, but, it sounds sad, but... she took it. How can she take it? How can she wear it ever? Is she just going to give it away to Oxfam? Put it in the bin?"

Ced, in all honesty, you've got some *priority issues* here. Methinks maybe the t-shirt shouldn't be your first point of concern. If you're going to care at all - and yeh, you're allowed to care - then perhaps there are some other more fundamental relationship thingies you should be complaining about, no? GO to Primark buy a new t-shirt. Etc. Worry about why she left you, if it's to do with all the crap things you've done, if it's to do with her being bored with you, if it's because of her ... bla bla someone else ... etc. Y'know? I can't even put those words together in my head, never mind say them to you.

Maybe we're all just a bunch of sad single blokes in a pub. In fact that's exactly what we are. Let's go to a lapdancing club. Let's pretend we're popular and loved. O, dear, Cedric - what have you done to us? You've started to infect us with your misery. Cos now I'm thinking: will we all be still sat here in a year's time? Maybe all 3 of us should be sitting on the shelf next to the suicide man...

Cos once one of the apples in the bowl starts to rot - it soon spreads.

Luckily Swoosh has been sprayed with anti-misery pesticides so he seems fairly safe. He's rolling his eyes at me. Cedric is still saying things but we're only picking up the occasional bunch of words. We just need to wait it out, stay closed up to all emotions, and hope all this emotion thing will pass. Perhaps we could replace ourselves with cardboard cut-outs programmed to agree with everything he says: yeh, right, correct, not your fault, you're a good guy etc.

Cedric: "She used to wear my t-shirt to sleep in. But it was mine. How can she wear it now. Does it mean nothing to her?"
Me: "I know. Terrible. T-shirt. That is so crap."
Swoosh: "My round is it? Same again?"

Cedric shakes his head and gets up and goes over to the jukebox. Swoosh gives me that look. His monkey-faced look. He looks at his watch & suggests that he might have to make some excuses if this carries on.

Over at the jukebox Cedric puts on a Simply Red record. He comes back over, slightly embarrassed but with a little smile on his lips, mouthing the words to 'If you don't love me by now.' It's like Simply Red will heal all wounds. Thank the Lord for Mick Hucknall and his tuneful unfashionable wailing. It's going to be a long night. Cedric put in a few quid, stacked up the tunes: mainly Phil Collins & Simply Red. Enya. Anything pathetic and mawkish.

Tattooed and scarred man is looking over at us. Like he wants his Irish fighting songs back on. So Cedric might not be crying any more, but I'm still worrying if we're gonna get outta here alive...

This is how wars start. Helen of Troy => Jackie of Levenshulme.****

[****Of course there was no violence towards us in the end. Just a bit of drunken staring. No one even pushed a wooden horse into the pub, sadly.]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why thoughts of blogging can go violently wrong before they even become interweb pages (caution: the following blog contains a crying puppy).

So I got carried away with my new camera and my cupboard love.

I'm a little bit afraid in the house at the moment as I stupidly took a photo of next door's puppy standing whining by their back door in the rain where it's been for the past hour. It was there at 7am, but it may have been out in the meantime. It may have been frolicking in the park. Who knows. I'm not sure what it's been doing in the meantime as thankfully my room is at the front of the house.

My friend told me when I started using this camera: you don't need to use the flash. But I'm an amateur and I'd been photographing dark cupboards. I have trouble focusing. So there were a couple of flashes. The little wet dog jumped and barked at me.

I thought there was no one in their house. I mean, how else could you stand to live with that little dog pining and whining by the back door?

I made an error.

Two minutes later I've come back in and thankfully locked all the doors. I'm writing an enquiry to the RSPCA just to find out what the law is. If there is anything I or anyone else can do. I see no beating, I see no starving, no chains. Just sadness and I hear the whines every time I go into the bathroom. How horrible is that? Brushing your teeth at 7am: whine whine whine, scratch at the door, whine whine.


My camera flashing was not ignored.

Someone is pounding at the front door. Fist thumping against the metal. No, sounds more like a foot. And now they've discovered the bell. Ringgggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg. Ringggggg.

Do they think I''m going to answer? Really? If they just pound the door a little louder, maybe?

They're not giving up. Bang bang. Thumping the front door for the past 15 minutes. Literally. What kind of rational behaviour does that display? They stopped for a minute. Then it started again. Possibly the husband or someone with bigger fists. More banging.

No, do they really think, after 20 minutes, I'm finally going to hear them and go down and ask what they want? Are they selling me double-glazing? Or is it a close personal friend come to visit?

No. I know they want to scream at me. I know they want to hit me. They might not actually assault me, but I'm sure they'd like to if they were allowed. But they're not. It's the law. So it's fine. We'll have to see. It's not a comfortable feeling. But unless they break the windows or the doors I'm going nowhere. But my stomach is churning.

All I did was take a photo. All they did was buy a dog then leave it outside in a back yard all the time. A dog that I hear whining to be let in at 7am. Why get a dog if all you're going to do is dump it outside? It's probably not loud enough for me to complain to the council about it. It's probably not cruel enough - or is it cruel at all arguably:
  • the dog'll get learn to get used to being outside
  • that's how you train a puppy
  • it's only a dog
  • a dumb animal.
  • it's not that cold & it's got a fur coat

Although this family did have another dog earlier about 9 months ago, and that was a whole other story. There were many complaints about that dog. It was big and it was loud and it frequently escaped. It walked all day in tight little chained up circles slowly garrotting itself before it managed to work out how to untie itself. Eventually it escaped, neighbours complained about the noise to the council, the dog warden picked up the dog and the dog never came back. Not a happy ending.

But that's all history. Forgive and forget.

I'll probably get hit by the man and definitely get an *earful* off the wife and probably the kids. But those are the breaks.

I'll be telling the nice door-thumping people from next door that it was such a lovely cute little dog "I really just *couldn't* resist taking a picture."

So why are they so angry? Why is taking a photo of a dog such a bad thing? Okay, it's on private property. But the RSPCA recommend taking photos on their website.

So yeah, I'm sure I'm over reacting. I'll just live with the sound of a puppy whining as I brush my teeth. I must ask my flatmate how well he's sleeping. And I'll see what the RSPCA have to say. I don't want to be complainy guy. I've not reported them for the drumming after all. I live and let live. And just whinge...

But this is my pre-violence insurance. My evidence is here first & the pictures of the puppy have been disguised to avoid any offence to any innocent canines. Perhaps I'm wrong. I'm sure I'll not hear anything more. From humans or the puppy. We'll see......

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why these kitchen cupboards give you so many clues.

Cupboard One

My house. 3 people living here. 4 cupboards. 1 person has 2 cupboards. I could give you character descriptions but that would be too obvious. Needless to say - lifestyle-wise - one of these people probably has too much time on their hands; one of them is very busy at work & the other one is very rarely even here (it's been 2 months I think).

I'm sure it's pretty easy to work out which is which. But who owns cupboard 4? And no, I'm not sure I even care. But I just like how different they are. They're like little short stories & although I probably shouldn't even be looking in there - can I say how endearing and beautiful they look. Can I say that? No. Okay, well I like them anyway.

Still lives of busy lives...

Cupboard Two

Cupboard Three

Cupboard Four

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I will be attempting to make Jeremy Clarkson cry on December 11th. Why he will no doubt be grinning like a horse faced loon.

So, yeah, I ride a bike, you got a problem with that, eh? Eh? Jeremy Clarkson & all you local Mancunian Clarksonistas? Yes, you probably have. And that's fair enough, I can see your point, I am sort of *in your way* as I pedal along; my luminous yellow cloak flapping in the wind; my 14 flashing red & white lights lighting me up like a lovely festive Christmas tree.

But give me a wide berth, please. And you too, big bus driver. Thanks. And yes, that's me up there not actually riding my heavily laden bicycle up a massive - I tell you it was massive - mountain in the Brecon Beacons. Not a little tiny hill. Really. It was a biggie. But freewheeling down the other side was -
wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee - yippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee -
ooops here comes a Range Rover at 70mph.
brake brake brake. phewwwwwwww......

See that's the problem: traffic. Or more simply: other people.

You are going somewhere important and you don't want to faff about waiting at lights, queuing up behind idiots, slowing down for cyclists bla bla bla. Other people get in the way, no matter if you're in the countryside or in the city. They are all annoying.

I'm annoyed by you, you're annoyed by me. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. No wonder millionaires buy their own islands.

Other people!!! If they're not driving around too slowly, they're parking and blocking up the streets or there's some lollypop lady stopping the traffic to let some little kids cross the road. Cross the road!!! AMaZinG! Who do they think they are? Bloomin children.

Okay, you're not allowed to say that, but you probably have thought it. Why do they always want to cross in front of me? Hmmm. Little *************s.

Ideally we'd all like to be the last person alive who owns a car or a bike. No one else anywhere, not even the police. Wouldn't that be the greatest. Life as a video game. Or life as a psychopath, thinking you're the most important person in the world, which is kinda the same thing.

I did used to drive a car as well, up to a month ago, when it was forced to return to its spiritual home in London (for reasons not explained here). So goodbye little car, we had a good laugh didn't we? We listened to a lot of CDs together, shared a lot of petrol, oil & water. But (for those unexplained reasons) we had to part & now you're living in South London. In the Congestion Charge Zone, where you probably don't get out much. Never mind, car; enjoy your retirement.

Congestion Charge

See that's the thing - in Manchester we're all going to have a lovely big vote. Y'know, like they do on the telly for dancers and singers - and in America where they get some interesting people to choose between. Like that only a bit more dull and a lot more predictable. We're having a mass debate about whether to have a peak-hour charge for cars coming into the city centre. Drivers are not happy. No one else is that bothered.

Well that's not true, various companies and local government people have made statements. Norwich Union, House of Fraser, Manchester Metropolitan University and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's Fresh Retail Ventures are in favour of the charge - which will be backed up by lots and lots and lots of new trains, trams and amazing fuel efficient buses. Strangely, whilst House of Fraser love the idea of lots of people coming into the city centre on cheap trains from all about the north west of England, the manager of Harvey Nicks & loads of other shop owners are whining about how it will be a bad thing bla bla losing customers.

Who knows what will happen in the vote and whatever happens afterwards.
  • Vote yes and we get a lovely transport system and maybe slightly less cars on the road.
  • Vote no and we don't get the billions of pounds of infrastructure improvements that have been promised.
  • Umm, blackmail, they're calling it.
But I just can't see people going for it. Voting for the future, voting for something they can't see, voting themselves out of their cars and back into the world full of nasty other people? Nah. I doubt it.

It will be easier and simpler to vote no. They can see what they're getting if they do that: nothing. They can kvetch all morning at the traffic, but at least they won't have to pay any more money.

I can't quite believe that this vote is even taking place.

Manchester is different to London in that it's actually a very small city centre with a very big suburban area. One that has grown and been built on people's ability to drive to work. However, the people that travel from Chapel-on-Le-Frith and Buxton and Chorley don't get a vote. But they'll try and make sure everyone else living in Greater Manchester does vote NO.

I say:
  • Pedestrianize more of the city centre.
  • Introduce a congestion charge just in the inner city.
  • Provide parking at the edges of the congestion zone.
  • Provide more of all the good things on a smaller scale: nice buses, big healthy cycle lanes that I don't have to share with buses...
This vote is a big waste of time. I can't remember any referendum that voted in favour of a conceptual, progressive change that would actually cost anyone any money since.... since... I don't know, if anyone has ever voted for something like that. The planet needs less traffic, we all need less traffic, but none of us want to be the ones that have to pay for it. A conundrum that will only lead to more congestion.

O. I've depressed myself now. I need to watch some puppies to cheer myself up...... Ahhh, that's better....

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why does anyone *ever* get out of the bath? Why not just stay there forever?

Sing hey! For the bath at close of day
that washes the weary mud away
A loon is he that will not sing
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!
If I could write poetry, I'd write poems about having a bath. And they would be small silly meaningless poems like this one by that Lord of The Rings fellow. And that's the point. Nothing bad ever happens while you're in the bath. Nothing. And that's a science fact.

I think I am a *shower person*. I like the way you're in & then you're out. Done. Off to do something else busy. Because there's always lots to do, even if it's only making a cup of tea and making sure you don't miss the start of your programme. Or else it's the morning and you've no time for dilly-dallying. No shilly-shallying for hours in a bath tub. Who has time to do that?

And then one day, for reasons unexplained here, you have to start bathing instead. But I mean, bathing? It sounds so womanish. Like *pampering* & *essential oils*. I'd rather smell than ever admit I used essential oils in a bath. I would especially never use lavender. Never ...

No, I *have a bath*. A manly bath => a functional thing that ends with the result => that I am nice & clean. I think I can be open & admit to that. Today I bathed. Tired out from walking about on the best Autumn day we'll have.

But then you get in, a bit achy, a bit tired & a bit nothingy. The bathroom full of steam, the water too hot to cope with at first. You get in and the world just stops. Nothing to see out of the frosted window. The distant sound of trains & cars & children hitting each other and screaming. Nothing for you to worry about.

[Barbie Cake Tub by Kathleen Owens]

Bits of your body floating to the surface. Pushing your shoulders down to get some more of that warmth, forcing your knees to fold up and out of the water. Steam rising, drips of water dribbling down the side of the tap.

[bathtub postcard from 1912]

You can read a book provided you don't wear glasses. You can listen to the radio, provided its not the news full of death and horrible arguing.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

[Joseph Robertson photo]

Why didn't someone tell me? How is this a *sort* of secret? How did I never realise that I was missing out? I'm not sure there's much better than staying in the bath. I'm not sure what there is to get out for. If I can arrange for someone to bring me in some cake I might stay in there until tomorrow. I hope my laptop's waterproof ...

All images from

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why hitchhiking isn't hip any more.

I was tempted to ask: why don't people hitch hike any more. But the answers are pretty obvious:
  1. Fear of getting murdered, chopped into pieces and thrown in a ditch.
  2. You can get a Megabus to anywhere for tuppence ha'penny (a booking fee may be charged).
So why would anyone want to stand by the side of a motorway, getting lungs full of exhaust fumes, getting cold, getting rejected, getting v-signs off angry drivers. Drivers angry that you choose to ask them a question that makes them feel guilty or just angry because they're angry type people... So, the question is: why o why o why would anyone hitch hike?

And why did I spend about 6 months doing it when I was 18 & 19.

I don't have the answers, so I'll just merrily indulge in some naked autobiography and see if any answers arrive through the back door. I only got thinkin about this as I found a bunch of hitch hiking signs in the kitchen. O, you wud not believe the amount of plop there is in some of these cupboards. Not mine, but for reasons I can't go into I'm not able to throw anything away. Well nothing that anyone might want any time in the next 700 years. Bla bla snore.... The reasons I was rooting through cupboards that are never used? Mouse hunting. The reason there's all bare brick and mess everywhere... I don't even want to go into that tediousity of tediousness (builders, leak, they seem to not be returning my calls, perhaps they have gone on holiday to Tenerife; I'm sure they'll be back soon...)

First thing to note about these *signs* = how crappy are these destinations? Kings Lynn? Norwich? And why no *west* sign. West is 1 of my favourite destinations. Not that I ever believed in using *Final Destination* signs. I had one that said *5 Km* if I was especially stuck but that was it. Useful in France that was.


Naked autobiography alert (exit now... exit now... exit now...)

So... when I was 18 I had nowhere to live. So naturally I did the only sensible thing and left the country. But I was sensible, I bought a 1 way train ticket to Athens. Didn't actually have a great deal of money left over but I was sure I would get back somehow. Greece was in Europe somewhere. Past France & some other countries.

I think this may be why I'm quite forgiving about the lack of worldy knowledge amongst your modern day *youthingtons* - coz when I was 18 I didn't really even know *exactly* what countries Greece was next to. There was a list of big stations on the ticket, but who knew where 'Beograd' was? What country was that in? Who cared. Sit on a train. Arrive. Get a job in a bar in Greece. On an island. Return to Ingerland, 3 months later. Good plan I thought.

So I trained it & ferryed it & had a bit more training then arrived in Paris. Got on a Metro underground train. Got fined about £50 for not having an appropriate ticket. Couldn't argue cos the guard had armed police with him & I spoke about 17 words of French.

Arrived at another train station: gare de sud? Wandered around. Ordered a pizza (French food? probably). The cheapest one on the menu. I pointed to it. The surly man cooked it & handed it over. It was an olive oil, olives and anchovy pizza. No cheese, no tomatoes. Not like the frozen mini-pizzas I was used to. Ummm. I had just picked one of the cheap ones at sort of random. I had no idea what I was getting. Ummm. I ate the crust & binned it. It was 8am & I was starving. Ummm.

Long story dull. Train buzzed along. Tried to sleep got kicked out of a carriage. The train stopped at the border to Slovenia. Border guards didn't like the cut of my jib. Kicked me off the train & locked me up for 24 hours. In a skanky jail cell. But there you go. It was an experience. They kept playing Whitney Houston in the distance. Thankfully I didn't have to share my cell. These things happen. Then they deported me back to Italy. (Ask no questions, I'll tell no lies.)

I think I'd slept through Italy. Where was Italy in relation to where I was going? Greece. There was the sea in the way, right? So I gave up on Greece.

I got a train to Milan. Because I had heard of Milan. They had a football team. Fell asleep. Woke up & we had stopped at at station that said 'Milan Industrio' or similar. I grabbed my bag and got off. Got lost in an industrial estate. It was the wrong station, but I wandered off anyway. Bla bla got another train to the South of France. Tried to get a job. Hung about for a month. Lazyin about and trying to find work. Couldn't get one. Lots of gay men wanted to befriend me. I ran away.

I ran out of money. And that was how I discovered hitch hiking. Mainly because I didn't have any choice. But, should anyone ever decide to hitch hike around Europe (you won't, it's a historical activity), don't start in France. You'll be lucky to get 20km a week. Walking is quicker. Luckily being a lovely 18 year old the gay community helped me out again, "Je desire un garcon." I did know what that meant.

O well, what did I have to lose. Not much, as by then I had befriended the only other bloke daft enough to hitch hike in France: an unemployed Algerian truck driver. The gay drivers stopped for me while my Algerian mate made rude signs at any Algerian truck drivers that didn't stop for us. We made quick time to Paris. Where we slept outside a train station with the homeless on lovely bits of cardboard. Which was nice. And then we went our separate ways. Another slightly strange man gave me a lift & I got to Boulogne where I met up with loads of British homeless people (I don't say tramps & beggars now, but I did then). They were hanging out near the port with occasional trips up the church in Boulogne town centre on a Sunday to beg off the nice Christians. Then back to the port arrivals terminals to convince Germans & Belgians that their pound coins were worthless. Or convince Brits that they didn't need their European money any more.

It was all pretty easy really. Money was there to be made. A lad was begging with a sign that said he needed money for his ferry fare. I borrowed the sign & set about begging. My homeless buddies stopped passers-by to point at me and convince them to give me money. I did look pretty pathetic. Dirty, skinny, sunburnt, 18. The money rolled in. Then someone said, come on, I'll give you a lift. And paid for me to get back to Dover. I almost didn't want to go. But I did. I went back to Ingerland, but still had nowhere to live.

So one week later I got a one-way flight to Athens and tried to find a job in Greece again. Followed by another hitch hiking expedition through Europe another couple of months later.

The next year, I just went everywhere. A couple of months full of lifts from genuinely scary psychopaths, drug dealers kidnapping me & taking me to Switzerland, odd but nice ladies, nice Germans, hippy Dutch people wanting to speak Ingerlish.

And nowadays it's all *Gap Years* in India & bungee-jumping in New Zealand. I say bring back hitch hiking. Not for me especially, but it might help the youth to learn something about the world.

Kill or cure, as *they* say...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why should *the kidz* care about Remembrance Day?

At 11:00am today I was teaching GCSE Ingerlish. The stoopid *media* part of the course that I'm not a *massive* fan of - partly, perhaps, because I only partly understand what the heck it's about. And I'm *supposed* to be *teaching* it? Hmmm... And throw in some extra hmmms for good measure.

The bell goes. We dutifully go silent for almost 2 minutes.

I avert my eyes from the students, cos really, I don't want to know what they're doing. I should keep my eagle eyes on them and their constant mobile phone abuse, but I don't want to spend a minute telling someone to shut up. It would spoil things. But it's okay anyway, they sit and they keep schtum. They are very good at obeying this ordinance. They know this 2 minutes silence thing is important. In the room next door I can hear a bunch of lads having a too-excited discussion about football. Again, I could go next door and tell them to shut it, but it'd be too late.


When the bell goes again, I ask the studes what they know about Remembrance Day; a couple do have a clue, but most of the rest seemed unconcerned and uninterested. I can understand that. It doesn't impact on their lives.

When I was a lad of 18 there was all that white poppy vs red poppy malarkey to worry about. As a wannabe socialist with a brother-in-law in the army it was something I did think about. But not for too long. White poppies seemed a bit pretentious.

"The White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers. Our work, primarily educational, draws attention to many of our social values and habits which make continuing violence a likely outcome." [ from white poppies for peace]

The red poppy was supposed to be pro-war. Or as far as I could work out. That always seemed a bit odd. I thought it was mainly anti-death. Reading about it now, I can see that they had a point, and there was clearly a political edge to the Red Poppy when it was first introduced after the First World War with its echoes of Empire & the commemoration of British dead.

The white poppy was intended as a more inclusive (politically correct in 1926?) symbol of all war dead from all countries.

When troops returning from Afghanistan marched through the streets of Belfast at the beginning of this month there was a vivid reminder that not everyone is happy to celebrate valiant troops or Remembrance Day. It was either a mini-riot (the Irish News) or an entirely peaceful parade (the British Daily Telegraph).

Not being a resident of Northern Ireland, not being an Irish Republican, or a member of the military, but being a sort-of sensible grown up who has watched too many documentaries, visited cemeteries and read (and previously taught) a fair bit of World War One poetry, I think it's important to make sure that *the youth* know about that war and have some sort of understanding of the wars that are still going on. It's all very sad. Them not knowing is sad. The wars that happen anywhere in the world are sad. O, stop me at any stage for stating the blinkin obvious...

They do teach them about poppies and Remembrance at school, but the studes in my college class either didn't go to school or didn't concentrate very much while they were there.

Yeh, just the sort of kidz that end up as cannon fodder. Back in 1915, back in 1939, up-to right now - coz the Americans, the British, the Iraqi police - the people that join up, join up cos it's the best/only job they can get. Or that was my understanding of it, thinking back to the lads at my school that joined up. Yes, they liked the macho aspects of being a soldier, but they weren't top of the class either. It's hard to imagine any of them going on to write war poetry. But maybe war forces you to extremes. Creates a need to express yourself and get those emotions and thoughts out of your body.

Watching some of this BBC documentary on Walter Tull would have sparked their interest I'm sure. The first black officer in the British army and a professional footballer before he volunteered, it's a story that they would be sure to relate to. In fact, I might just let them watch it next week. See link for more info: - walter tull programme_on_bbc4

For the next week you can watch this summary on 'The One Show' on the BBC iPlayer: The_One_Show - fast forward to 16:00 minutes in.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why you should never trust weather forecasters. Why the weather at Stoodley Pike is always like this.

The jury is out on the grand Daniel Corbett debate (well, perhaps debate is too grand a word for it: short conversation between a few carefully invited guests....) And the upshot is this: "Sunday, scattered showers... bla de bla bla." Scattered?

Scattered, my friend? Thanks to my new camera I can provide empirical evidence that showers were not scattered. Or certainly they weren't where I was. They were concentrated and serious about the matter. Relentless. Pounding. End-of-the-worldish. That sort of showers. God had a power shower and he left it running while he went out to the shops. He came back and everyone was drenched. Me especially. So don't give me your "scattered showers" malarky.

I give you evidence - or the best I could manage without taking tiny photographs of tiny raindrops. And did they mention the wind? Did I actually listen?

And I admit that the forecast that I heard & that emboldened me to walk up into the hills was not actually from Mr Corbett. It was from some Radio weather forecaster chap. Damn him. I hope he's going to clean my boots for me. Hmmm. Unlikely...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why American tv drama needs to be taught a lesson it won't forget.

I'm sorry Sylar, I'm sorry Bree, but it's time for me to move on. We've had some good times together, but, look, this sort of thing is never easy. It's not you, it's me. I've changed. I just don't think it's working out between us any more. Y'know? I don't know.

No. Forget that. It is you. Both of you. You've jumped the shark. You've pushed up against my realism quotient and knocked it over. I think Adam Buxton said it best when he (didn't quite) say:

I want a quantum of realism, and no more than a quantum.
I know they do big bags of realism, but I don't want em.
I only want a teeny tiny slice of realism, or else I turn off...

[some scary beardedness not usually seen on the Adam & Joe 6music radio show]

But that's not the point. The point is: Heroes. The second point is: Desperate Housewives.

Shark jumping: to wit - an episode in 'Happy Days' where the Fonz rather than being cool and successful with 18 year old girls, goes water skiing (in his leather jacket & a fetching pair of trunks) and jumps over a bunch of sharks (school of sharks? a mob of sharks? a collision of sharks?)

Well you might say, what's wrong with that, fair enough, ay, that he would want to do something different. After all the Fonz was about 45 by then, so fair play to the lad that he might want to stop hangin out with 18 year olds, trying to get to *1st base* with them on the back seat at the movies. He needed to move on. To slightly older girls. Or their mums.

Now that would have been a worthwhile plot line. It would have been a natural progression. The ideal plot development surprises you, but also has a sense of inevitability. What? The butler did it? O, well he always did look shifty, I just wasn't thinking about him...

You don't just stick a pin in the *ABC book of Plots* and come up with a new idea. Plot springs from character. Or should at least have some sort of relation to the character.

So point one: Heroes

I stuck with it through the hard times. I did my stint on Series 2. When some of the other lightweights were getting out. All that stuff about Hiro going back to 9th century Japan, okay, stupid & his new mate, Adam = annoying, but I hung in there. There were enough interesting developments, all running on from Series 1. They were saving the world (again). But that's okay. You can save the world twice. That's sort of fine. But to misquote Oscar Wilde:

To have to save the world once, Mr Petrelli, may be regarded as a misfortune; to have to save it a second time looks like carelessness. But if you have to save it a third time, I mean, mate, that's just effin ridiculous, innit?

And now in a shark jumping set of plot twists that can only have come up whilst the writers were stoned/bored/drunk - or 'avin a larf - everything and everyone that was good has turned bad. And everyone that was bad - well Sylar anyway, is good. Though virtually everyone is bad. And some of them are bad in the future.

It makes me feel like little Ralphie Wiggum when I watch it. "This bad plotting makes my brain sad. My nose makes its own bubble gum!"

So there we are: at an impass. I didn't watch it Wednesday. I tried to watch it Sunday - sort of now - it's sort of on in the background but I no longer care. I don't even care about Hiro. And I love Hiro. And Doctor Suresh is all icky & thumpy. It's not nice. I want more nice. I want, umm, some actual heroes. I am holding out for a hero till the end of time. But it's not going to happen. I've grown up maybe. Or Heroes has gone off. It sort of stinks like a bag of kippers that have been hidden behind your radiator by a friend. Who did it as a joke. Cos he *thought* you'd find it amusing. Well yeh, thanks for that. Cheers, *mate*.

Second on my list of ..... oh, no, they didn't, did they? No, is this a joke? Are they going back to normal next week? What about all those 57 plot lines they just, umm, dropped? Errr...

Desperate Housewives. Okay, shallow, stupid, scantly amusing, but an enjoyable tumble drying of the brain on a Wednesday night. Until they decided to JUMP into the future. 5 years into the future - where apart from the *amusing* fact that Gabby is slightly frumpy - oh, how tittersome that is - they all look exactly the same. And the world looks the same. In fact, all their cars are at least 5 years out of date. How unlikely is that?

No. Come on. Silly. Stop it. I've stopped watching. Wake me up when you're back on point, ladies.

But that's good, cos now I don't watch any tellybox items at all. Apart from Buzzcocks and Dvds of The Shield. Nothing. Nowt. Ziltch. Not even Little Dorrit. Just cos I'm not sure I can be bothered. When you lose the habit of long term drama you kind of start to think you don't need it. What is there on, that is worth watching? I beg of you. Or else I don't. Because it gives me more time to... to... to... go for a walk? Sit in the park on a wet bench wondering if that is a raindrop dripping down my cheek or a little tiny sad little tear ... mourning the death of my tv habit. Is this how ex-heroin addicts feel? Do they miss the days when they were hopelessly in need of a fix?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Why I found my inner bastard.

Subtitled: why I wanted to live in the peace & love era of the late 1960s but my inner bastard had to take control and take me back to 1954.

So 2 weeks ago. Imagine a documentary film crew following a student teacher around - for research purposes & probably so they can make a hilarious programme on Channel 4: full of tears, laughter, anguish, screaming, tears - and probably a scene (just before an ad break) where the teacher turns to the camera and says,

"Stop it! Stop it. Stop filming. I've had enough. I don't want to do this any more. It's all too much. I can't cope. I don't even know why I'm doing it. I want to give up... " [Close-up on tense, tearful face of trainee teacher - and cut to indent - "This programme is sponsored by Kleenex, the *man* sized tissue, for those moments when your nose is really full of snot."]

Some adverts for Christina Necrophilia's (thanks spell-check) new perfume, some car, some yoghurty stomach aid, a government advert telling you not to jump off buildings when you're drunk; a quick trailer for Gordon Ramjet's new programme 'How to Fucking Swear Like a Twat'. - and we're back to the show.

It's the next day. Student Teacher man is back at home talking to the documentary film director. He is trying to explain what went wrong -

And in case this made-up programme analogy is going to far - please be aware - HE is ME. He is real. The events described herein: are real. Except for legal purposes, and if anyone involved cares - none of the events described happened, okay? It's all fiction. Complete made-up real life fiction...

The student teacher is speaking: "I was as hopelessly inept as Gordon Brown at a Speed Dating event. Lots of muttering, occasional shouting to try and get attention; no one listening."

Witter whitter, whine whine, whinge whinge, moan. He talks about how he is boring, the subject is boring, no one is interested, he had no idea what he was doing. His strange and sudden capacity for crying. Boo and hoo.

The camera cuts back to the lesson he's kvetching about. As he voiceovers. A GCSE class full of 18 young people at a 6th form college that shall remain nameless. They are all happy if a little bored and distracted. There is no one being thrown out of the window. There is no knife- or horseplay. Basically they are kind of acting like *he* is not there. Unless they are shouting comments over to him about non-topic topics. It's more like a youth club than a lesson. Hmmmm.

The teacher says, "I was doing my confident friendly teacher act. Chatter chatter, yes, fine, let's get back to the work. There was no violence and hatred, it all just dribbled out of control and ... and ... and ... my brain went blank ... too many things happening - not enough solutions. O dear....Friendly banter degenerated into random shouting, groups talking and ignoring what they were meant to be doing - me no longer entirely sure what we were meant to be doing... Throw in some headphones, some covert texting - and it turned into a head exploding - *I can't cope* kinda situation..... I don't even like Ingerlish as a subject. *Analysing media* - what is that when it's at home? Really. I don't like teaching as a job. I don't like the world. I like birds when they're singing, but even they shit on your head... It's all rooobish. Rotten. Hopeless."

And this week? The return to the class from Hell? Well, this post is long enough for one go. It's a failing. We hear at NAFANTK would like to apologise for the over-long nature of a lot of these bloggages...

CUT TO: preview of next week's show. The trainee teacher is looking anxious. His mind is focused. He has to find his inner bastard.

This blog was brought to you by Kleenex, the man-sized tissue for mopping up all your male effluvia. With Kleenex it's okay to weep; we're there for you...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Why Daniel Corbett is either a *maverick* genius or else just slightly annoying and unnecessary. Why it's time for the jury to decide.

Come on everyone!!! Let's have a mass debate. What do you think? I can't do this on my own can I? It wouldn't be a *mass* debate then would it? What would you call it, a solo debate? Hmmm. It's just not right. I would never have a *mass* debate on my own. What sort of pleasure would I get out of that? Huh. None. Obviously. So. Here is the thing:

##Dan Corbett - maverick genius or just some guy camping it up so students will post clips of him on YouTube?##

Cos if he's *for real* then I'm all in favour. If he's trying to be a *cult* then he's a bit of a mass debater himself, frankly.

"Wait up," I hear NAFANTK's yawning, Imaginary Reader exclaim. "Who the chuff is Dan Corbett? Is he any relation to Matthew Corbett or Sooty Corbett, his glove puppet sidekick? Or even, Ronnie Corbett the legendary glove puppet sized comedian? How about Corbett's shoe shop on Polshaw Road, in Lower Ancoats, does he work there? If he does, does he do keys as well? Or does he just do heels and soles?"

Sadly no, Imaginary Reader, Dan is a BBC weather man who both amuses me and scares me, especially when I am sleepy: because he never is. He looks like he exists - in Lester Piggott's words - on coffee and cigar smoke.

He is as thin as a pin, and as jumpy as someone who's just stuck his fingers in an electrical socket. If I was 5 years old and drawing a picture of a man, the man that I did drawed would look like Daniel Corbett: big waving arms, head slightly out of proportion to the rest of his stick man body, big happy smiling face - and in the background - the sun / the rain / the snow.

"Polar bears ... doing a spot of Saturday morning shopping in Glasgow."

He does of course now have his own fansite/blog - the healthily obsessed That's the Weather, For Now

Where many many Daniel Corbett weather report transcripts can be found. Such as this from the day before yesterday - entirely at random:

Monday, 03 November 20083rd 19:56 BBC News

Through the night, a damp, cloudy night, not one of the nights for many of us to wheel out the old telescope [telescope gesture].

With the blanket of cloud like a big thick blanket on the end of the bed, it's not as chilly.

Low pressure to the south, so this is bringing in this sort of like sheet, like putting a sheet on the bed and it just sort of sits there.

Then by Thursday a bit of a weather sandwich.

So the question is - is Daniel Corbett:

  1. Alan Partridge?
  2. A character off the Fast Show?
  3. A genuinely eccentric word mangling stick man?
  4. Russell Brand shaved, brushed up, stick body stuck in a suit, providing surreal amusement in his new role as a weather man?

Wiki says Dan has, "developed something of a cult following due to his personalised style of weather presentation, including his trademark 'point-and-nod' sign-off: "That's the weather... for now.""

Other trademarks

  • Giving temperatures as "the numbers"
  • Using creative similes in reference to the weather, such as: "it's like I've gone mad with my crayon here" or "like cold treacle running down fudge pie".
  • He often refers to rain on the radar as "blobs" or "little chappy/chappies"
  • He's also known for giving specific weather-related advice ("so if you're out shopping ..."; "maybe an extra blanket on the bed tonight"; "nice day to take the doggy out to the park"; "a lovely day for a picnic").
  • Wet weather (said quickly and with heavy use of pronouncing 'h').
  • General elision when speaking, evident in individualistic pronunciations such as "Scottun" for Scotland; "Ingun" for England, etc.
  • Making sudden and pronounced movements and gestures for no apparent reason.

The jury is still out, frankly. Right now I'm ready to put my vote on the *National Treasure*

I may have changed my mind by this time next week. He *could* get a bit annoying...