Sunday, May 29, 2011

Circumspect Bastard

I'm not having the best of long weekends.

On Saturday, I twisted my ankle. Today it is swollen and painful and doesn't like me walking on it.

Last night, while turning over in bed, I managed to pull a muscle in my back, which hurts like billy-oh when I breath. Good job I have my work chair in my own office now; it allows me some comfort and support. However, not one of my vast array of painkillers has been able to touch it. I have been in a lot of discomfort now for all of my waking hours. My ankle doesn't hurt, so they're working on something!

Things come in threes and I'm thinking perhaps I should go and hide myself away, out of harm's way.

***

I'm being highly critical of my serialised book. I'm really happy that people are reading it; happier still that it's allowed me to touch base with some of the people I liked from my past; but I'm expecting to spend a large part of today - Sunday - re-editing part of it and rejigging the duration.

Since it's been serialised, I have been going into the scheduled post a few days before it gets published and I've been editing it, again. Just having a read through and generally tidying up anything I might have missed in March. Ironically, the version on my PC in Word and the version slowly being released to the net are growing more and more diverse.

The reasons for my Sunday editing session is simple - I'm highly critical and I think the next 4 or 5,000 words can either be improved on or cut out altogether. In the grand scheme of things, I looked upon sections such as these as the condiments for the meaty parts; but sometimes there has to be a relevance. For instance, I realised that the opening paragraph in Chapter 15 not only belongs at the end of Chapter 14, but requires a bit of bridge work because the change is so jarring. I have to admit that the serialising was done quickly and I might have missed some logical breaks.

Obviously, if you're not reading My Monthly Curse this means nothing to you, but if you have been then hopefully you'll not notice anything different, apart from maybe it flowing better again.

***

Director's Cut by Kate Bush is possibly the most underwhelming album of 2011 so far, and trust me it's far from a classic year already.

I've been trying to get into some new stuff over the last few weeks, and I suppose you can't class the 'new' Bush album as new stuff by any stretch of the imagination. I mean I've been trying to listen to things I maybe wouldn't and this has included an album by The Unthanks, a soundtrack CD of The Wire and The Pierces...

Nu-Folk doesn't really float my boat, although overall it was the best of the three. Hip hop is an enigma to me; I just think it's a load of shit with no redeemable features and the alt-country sisters, the Pierces are pleasant enough, but I must be listening to the wrong stuff because if it is then famous people must be letting their questionable standards slip.

I have been listening to and thoroughly enjoying the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Cure albums - all classics. Some of the songs make Leonard Cohen seem genuinely upbeat!

***

If you ever watched The Young Ones you might remember Neil the hippy being blown away by the cycle of life - we plant the seed etc. Well, it is pretty funky. my own vegetable excursions this year are having a better than average time of it. My spuds are looking healthy and blight free; my rhubarb crown is bursting out all over and my spinach is just about ready to pick, to encourage more of it to grow and allow me a summer of green leaves. my beans are better than expected in my grow bag experiment and despite the best attentions of one of the shitbag dogs, the beetroots and peppers are thriving. The basil and coriander isn't up yet and my instincts are they won't - I think the seeds were too old (plus, the weather has stopped being good for germinations).

Just as an aside, the spell checker on Google Chrome doesn't accept that a beetroot can be pluralised... Obviously in it's logic you can have more than one of them or the world will end in fire and runny pooh...

***

... Or something like that.

A final thought about Doctor Who. I watched a bit of the Proms concert the other day and it had loads of excerpts from the last 6 years and I realised that for me DW is largely throwaway. I mentioned to the wife that they should bring Davros back, completely forgetting they had. I try very hard to feel the same way about it that I did with some classic US SF in the past, but I can't get past the fact that whoever is in charge of the show, it just lacks ... something.

I really like Matt Smith; I think he would have made an excellent first Doctor - maybe a young William Hartnell - because of his fascination with life and its complexities; but after Ecclestone and Tennant, I just don't think this regressed DW works. What's more, I'm not convinced that this first half of the series is going to hold together logically.

I don't think Steven Moffat has been any more sophisticated or thorough than Russell T Davies. They both have to serve their masters and that is to understand that DW is a kids' programme. A series and a half into Moffat's run and I'm actually growing more ambivalent about the show than I did when Tennant was the Doctor. Now considering the rude things I'd subject Karen Gillan to, this suggests to me that the show hasn't actually gotten any better; it's just got new clothes and I'm beginning to see through them as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Serious Subject

"To argue for controls over the Internet may not be cool. But the Internet was surely not meant to be this way. The geniuses who created the modern web and made it so exciting did not do so in order to create the largest pornography bombardment in human history, to have a global email system weighed down by spam, to encourage hostile hacking into national security secrets, to embolden sectarian bigots to violent threats or mere gossipers to say ill-considered things under the protection of pseudonymity. Of course governments must not be heavy-handed in the way they undo these things. Of course the industry needs to be fostered not fettered. But all revolutions generate unintended consequences that need to be put right. The Internet is no different, except that it is a global revolution. And global questions require global answers." Martin Kettle commenting in The Guardian on Friday, 27 May.

Sometimes I wonder why wise words such as these are not put up as a reason for exploring ways of ensuring the Internet is 'legislated' some how. Those who are vehemently against 'policing', like so many others, are unable to see the middle ground that a journalist like Kettle so obviously picks out. In black and white, not one of the things he lists as a good reason for some monitoring can be argued against without sounding pathetic or obtuse. The porn industry also runs the majority of illegal streaming sites and a lot of torrents site; if there are sites flaunting the rules, then porn is the money behind it, because it gives them free advertising to a large potential target audience - (young) men.

The thing is there's a difference between controls and censorship, but everyone seems to be getting the two confused.

A mate of mine has a 12-year-old daughter; she's been watching a TV series not aimed her age group via downloading it from a torrents site. Apart from the obvious kudos that should be given for being so young but navigating things that would frighten parents away, she was downloading the thing, via a link, on a site I know well and it's pretty much X rated in its advert content. There is little left to the imagination and frankly, if I was 12 I wouldn't want to see that if it was any indication what my adult life would be like.

But how does a family have parental controls on the PC and Internet, especially if they want to visit some of these more salacious sites when the kids have gone to bed? Most parental controls I've seen have passwords and kids seem to have a knack with them, or they circumvent that and use their folks' account/log in details, which will probably be their name and last two digits of their birth year. Should this kid's parent be looking at donkey porn at 2am anyhow, regardless of whether it's their life or not? Is that some kind of breach in parenting law. If a mum is watching aforementioned donkey porn on her PC and her 8 year old walks in, what kind of impression, let alone explanation is it going to have? We've already got pre-teens who are more streetwise than most of my peer group - something that saddens me; kids are losing their childhood far too soon. I get a bit of a nostalgic thrill at seeing kids climbing trees or building dens; it happens about once every three years!

Porn, spam, hacking, terrorist networks, spuriously libellous statements and accusations, fraud and the onus our lives are put on social networking sites now - opening all kinds of ethical and moral dilemmas as well as a complete ignorance of our own personal safety and settings, have made the Internet something that has a thick, unpleasant underbelly; one which we all dance around or with. The net is run by people who are ambivalent about who sees the content - the pre-teens are all a potential future market and not something to be protected; I mean what's the point?

Kettle suggests that the four major ISPs in this country could quite easily put a block on porn with no difficulty, yet no one wants to make the first move. Yet, surely, an ISP that offers its family customers peace of mind and porn free surfing would be financially advantageous? If you had kids, wouldn't you feel happier if you didn't have to worry about what they have access to? ISPs could offer an alternative access, should you want to look at porn, available only after 9pm and by using a verification log in that has to be changed regularly, with some form of proof, such as a credit card or bank account number until we all get retinal scanners on our PCs. I'm sure there is a computer whiz kid out there who could come up with a 99% foolproof programme? There could be punitive measures in place, loss of Internet access if the conditions are breached in any way. It's difficult, and it could quite easily be circumvented.

I remember a guy on an old Yahoogroup I ran, who, apart from giving many people the creeps because he was utterly unsocialised and more than a bit creepy, posted a link to a book published on-line. It was, if I recall, See No Evil and the little bit of it I looked at was probably some of the most vile and pornographic literature ever written. This was stuff you didn't want to see, let alone linked to from an all ages group with kids reading; yet it's just words and people will argue that it has merit in some way; the same way that members of the BNP are allowed to have their beliefs, regardless of how heinous we might find them.

There isn't really any way of differentiating between control and censorship and this makes the debate about governments having control over the Internet remarkably altruistic. For starters, every country would have to agree to a charter they all agreed to and that means cultural differences. The logistics behind it would be immense. I remember this debate back in the 90s and the naturists were the most vocal claiming that there was a difference between pornography and nudity; yet were probably responsible for posting more pictures of naked children and teenagers than the must industrious of paedophiles. The debate would be more understandable if you have a long memory and can remember one-time ITN newsreader Julia Somerville being questioned by police for attempting to develop photographs of her naked children playing in the bath - at bath time, enjoying a family moment; taking pictures to embarrass them with ten years down the line when one brings a new boyfriend home. This was in an era before widespread broadband and global net coverage. If someone posted pictures of that nature on Facebook and someone else happened to mention it or someone else downloaded the pictures (if your security settings are not set to 'friends only') and used then or manipulated them, where would they stand?

The main thing at the moment, illustrated by this Ryan Giggs business and Twitter is that how can you sue 100,000 people who breach an injunction? In print, the footballer could arguably sue the magazine that printed the letter with the revelation in and also the printer and the distributor - all three would be culpable, one for writing/allowing it, one for printing it and one for distributing it. With the net any anonymous person could accuse anyone of anything and there's no comeback. You can't really sue the ISP; however interesting the idea might sound; however getting them all to agree to release personal details of the individual using a specific IP address might stop people from running illegal sites and make people be more careful about the things they say on line - a wee bit of self-awareness never hurt anyone in an age where you can instantly send an email you might live to regret.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Akhenatan's Hangover

I’m currently sitting here nursing a hangover and listening to a cassette of the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy (although I don’t believe the Conspiracy had started at this point) playing a live gig in Oxford in around 1984. A gig where I was standing in the front and got a (kind of) name check during a riotous rendition of A Few of My favourite Things. I realised that it’s been at least 15 years since I played this tape and I’m quite impressed by the sound quality; even if me, the wife (girlfriend at the time), Joolz, Mitch and the rest of our small entourage from Northampton were the only noisy people in the crowd.

Anyhow, all this nostalgia is not why I’m here today. I’m here to talk about my hangover and how I came about it.

One Ell and I went for our customary weekly drink up the Queen Adelaide and Paul the landlord asked us if we wanted to be two of the judges at this year’s BIG Beer festival at Delapre Abbey. I realise that’s like asking if the pope is catholic, but sadly One El couldn’t do it because he has to earn money, so I roped Roger into it and we got to Delapre for 8pm. I was like an excited kid all day – what a result!

Except Paul got the times wrong and we needed to be there for 6pm; far too early for either of us and therefore we missed the judging and therefore the free beer... So we bought some tickets and decided to get drunk anyhow. Except, neither of us were particularly enamoured by the 300 odd beers on offer. Yes, you heard that correctly. Blonde Volupta from Oldershaws was a divine beer, but at 5% isn’t for a session unless you want to be praying to God on the big white telephone at 2am. Salopian Lemon Dream is still a good, zesty pint and at 4.3% is borderline session ale. But, of the other 8 beers we tried, none of them could really compete. Even my White Squall from the hallowed Newby Wyke Brewery was below par and it was the only one of the 4 from the Lincolnshire brewery that was ready to drink; so I didn’t get to try their new Summer Session 3.8% jobby.

It was cold; there was rain in the air; there was barely a seat available and yet it was about a fifth of the attendance that will be there tonight and tomorrow and my sciatica decided to play up and on top of a massive curry and biryani for dinner, by the time I got to my 5th half I was feeling bloated and uncomfortable. So we decided to go home. Neither of us was impressed with the beer on offer; disappointed that yet again there was no Oakham beer and a tad underwhelmed – the beer festival, which we’ve been to four years on the trot now, seems to be declining rather than improving and that’s a shame considering all the great beers out there.

So we began the long walk back into town – the Abbey for those who don’t know is about a mile from the town centre, maybe a tad more, but the last ¼ of a mile is up hill. Not a steep hill, just a debilitating one for a fat, half pissed bloated bastard. Except, I wouldn’t have been half pissed if Roger hadn’t, quite easily, twisted my arm about having a swift pint in the Malt Shovel. The Beer festival might not have had any Oakham ales, but the Malt did; my favourite Bishop’s Farewell and their new beer Akhenatan, which is essentially like their funky Citra beer but with massive hairy balls! We had a pint and a half in there and would have had more for fear of not having enough money to get the taxi that Roger had declared we were getting home.

There was more atmosphere in the Malt than there was at the Festival; there was a very fit young lady playing in the darts team, which we struggled to keep our eyes off; especially her cosmic leggings and feeling drunk enough not to feel like a lecherous old git, we left without a pang of voyeuristic guilt. The walk from the Malt to the taxi rank means walking up the hill and by this time my new trainers were screaming at my feet and the extra beer had not made me feel any less bloated and I trudged past the big church, I wondered if I was actually supposed to have enjoyed myself. Roger keeps things buoyant, but even he couldn’t compensate for the cold, the wind, the decidedly February like conditions and it brought back memories of our 2000 Trees festival in 2009, where July transformed into January just for us (and countless holidays where monsoons have hit parts of Scotland and Wales).

The Lengths Some People Go To

There might be strange things going on and not all of them are easily explained...

I don't know if my security has been compromised, but I'm writing this in the most peculiar way (for me) and I have no guarantee it will even appear.

I'd like to say that Blogger is buggered, but it doesn't appear that other people are experiencing the problems I am. Let me start at the beginning.

I discovered just recently that I can't sign out of my account on Blogger. It's permanently signed in on this computer; so when I tried to create a blog for Roger and I to wibble on about our sports interests, it wouldn't allow me to do it. It essentially would not let me log out and I struggled to get my head around it, so I created a WordPress blog for us both. But the nagging feeling wouldn't go away, so I decided to try and see if it was a peculiarity of me using Google Chrome as a web browser. So I opened Firefox, went to Blogger, created a new account, did a test post, was satisfied that it was a fault with Chrome and then ... couldn't sign out.

Anyhow, I had something to talk about, so opened up Chrome this morning and went to Blogger and was asked for my details; something I haven't had to do for a long time. I did this, figuring that whatever problem it was had been sorted. Except, it wouldn't sign me in. It accepted my details, but wouldn't let me leave the sign in page. I scratched my head, perplexed. I searched around Blogger's site for some info; emailed Roger and tried to access my fake account on Firefox. There was nothing helpful from Blogger. Roger was in and using it and my fake account would let me post something. Very weird.

So I went through the signing in bollocks; got confirmation, changed my password, cleared my cache and did all the other suggestions that I usually sneer at as bollocks. Still no access to my blogs. Hm... This was getting annoying. Then I noticed I had two emails from Blogger regarding access; one of them said it had found another blog linked to me and would I like to link it directly?

Huh? Another blog? Not likely. But I thought it might be a clue to what is happening. So I clicked on the link and it tells me that the blog - Secrets & Lies - was now linked to my blog list. Of course, because I still could not get into my own account I couldn't look at it. So, I used my fake account to access Phill Hall blogs and there it was, Secrets & Lies. It had been created on May 25 and was ornate, had my profile prominently displayed and the description: The real story behind Phil Hall's life in comics.

I certainly didn't do it. But, it's got to have come from somewhere. The obvious giveaway is that my first name has been spelled the old way and that it was unlinked, but somehow associated with me in some way. Like I said, weird.

So, if you are reading this, how have I managed to get into my blogs? Well, I'm using Internet Explorer, which allowed me to sign in, which suggests the problem could be linked to my browsers - Chrome and Firefox; seems unlikely, but why else? Of course, I haven't tried to post anything or sign out of this account yet, but at the moment I have access to what is rightfully mine, which dispenses with the idea that I might have been hacked a lot worse than is apparent. because, I must have had some attack, otherwise this phantom blog wouldn't have appeared.

Anyhow; I can't be arsed farting about like this to maintain Blogger blogs if they're going to screw me about; so I've created two new blogs on WordPress, which will, unless things get back to normal, take over the publishing of this blog and will continue to serialised My Monthly Curse on a separate blog. I'll give the URLs and stuff when I've got them looking how I want them and am sure that I'm doing everything right, because WordPress makes Blogger look like a system designed for idiots... oh...

The wrinkles don't stop though. The reason I don't use IE is because of it's crapness. I wrote a blog entry this morning, in Word, because of the Blogger difficulties. When I came to cut and paste it into an empty template; IE wouldn't let me paste anything. The paste tool appears to be disabled. It won't even let me cut and paste text from this blog entry! At least not by using right click. IE is monstrously bad, complicated and I really hope I don't have to use it again for a long time...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Goat Cheese Enema

According to the front page of the Guardian, if you are Asian you stand 42 times more likely to be arrested or questioned on suspicion of terrorism. 42, huh? That's extremely specific, don't you think? Did they round that figure up from 41.5 times or down from 42.3 times? Who did the maths?

***

As a friend of a friend pointed out; the Guardian also ran a lovely little letter from a reader asking if the public could take superinjunctions out against celebrities, so we don't have to read about them any more!

***

Ryan Giggs shags large breasted glory hunting dog while leaving his wife and kids at home to watch Corry - come on, sue me, you hairy Welsh midget!

***

So, for some reason Bob Dylan turning 70 is headline news. I thought it was August where we saw dancing sheep and women giving birth to 6 babies she had no idea she was carrying type stories? I'll be 50 next year, perhaps the BBC will do an Alan Yentob special on me?

***

My boiler was serviced by a man from Ghana. He was also a Liverpool fan. I had just two words for him - Luis Suarez.

***

I've been mildly enjoying Game of Thongs or whatever it's called (despite all the thundering Yorkshire accents in it), but I have several problems in general...

George RR Martin. Now have his middle names really got Rs at the start of them or did he think, 'hm, it worked for Tolkien'.
If this series takes place on a different world, how come they all have normal(ish) names. Jamie and Robert just two examples? Or the fact that it looks like Earth and has all the same creatures as Earth.
Did the author (or maybe the producers of the series) think: what do fanboys love more than anything else? Blood, guts, sex, incest, homosexuality, dwarfs, using the C word for no apparent reason and dragons, would be my guess. All stock examples of generic science fantasy. Did Martin actually have an idea or did he just take all fantasy elements, chuck them in a bowl and waited for something to come crawling out of the slime?

Don't get me wrong - compared to Starz's Camelot, which, apart from Joseph Ffiennes's splendid Merlin, is just a mishmash of nudity and bad acting, Game of Thrones is top drawer entertainment. It's just a bit... you know... nerdy. I'm watching it with half an eye on whatever the next stereotypical fantasy element is about to make an appearance.

The dwarf is great though. best actor in the series. Best role. Best lines and storyline. Class act.

***

Apparently an Italian music promoter reckons he can tempt Talk Talk out of retirement. Good luck with that one!

***

Having spent the last 10 days playing the 28 audio cassettes I deemed worthy of not throwing away, it is amazing how they ever proved to be so popular, apart from the ease of portability. The quality is remarkably shit, it takes forever to rewind or fast forward and in my infinite wisdom, when I put all these tapes together, I opted not to include any information on the inlay cards. This has led me to writing in marker open on several - I don't know what it is, but Keep!

***

Do abacuses count for anything?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Get In Get Out of Lorraine

In the very late 1970s and early 1980s, I got to see some class acts - some of the cream of British music. I saw Led Zeppelin at Knebworth, Pink Floyd do The Wall at the NEC, Genesis a number of times, David Bowie at the old Wembley Conference Centre, and I also saw Adam and the Ants and Gary Numan in Hammersmith - I was just 18 at these last two gigs and I felt like I was one of the oldest people on the planet - especially at the Ants concert, where me and my companion left 2/3rds of the way through because of the screaming girls!

In 1981, I fell in with a good bunch of people who were all nurses at a mental hospital where my folks ran the social club. There's a raft of names from my past who I'd love to bump into again - Ricky, Rory, Gertie, Ruth, Jim, Jim, Gaynor, Andy the Rhodesian SAS man and Gay George. All the heterosexuals at Shenley liked to hang around with George, because George's friends tended to be all the totally fit women working at the hospital.

One warm evening at the end of April 1982, Rick, George, Rory and I were smoking some cheap weed, sitting on the terrace of the male nurses home drinking cider and chewing the fat. We were listening to some nonsense on Rory's cheap little stereo, when George disappears and returns with a single. George was from Glasgow, he was well into the new music scene, where the rest of us could have been described as borderline Neanderthal - with our denim, hair and rock tendencies. "You'll all know the A side," he says, "But check out this B side!" He played Theme For Great Cities by Simple Minds. It was inspirational instrumental madness, but I was the only one of us, apart from George, who was that enamoured.

Over the following weeks, I was introduced to Sons and Fascinations and Sister Feelings Call, a sort of double album by Simple Minds produced by ultra uber-hippie Steve Hillage. We were both eagerly awaiting the release of the band's next album. Then George announced the band were playing in St Albans and we bought tickets. The two albums I'd been introduced to were on constant rotation on my tape deck and it seemed logical to go and see them.

The only real problem I had was musically I thought Simple Minds were impressive, but lyrically and specifically Jim Kerr were not as. I didn't like Promised You A Miracle (still don't) and some of the vocal tracks on my two albums were... difficult to get into. My main concern was that with the exception of Genesis, I'd not seen a band that would deliberately play any of their instrumentals. Simple Minds were highly unlikely to play the song that got me into them or the other mesmerising instrumental called Sound in 70 Cities.

The gig started well; they opened with The American and then went into a couple of tracks from the new album which sounded considerably silkier than their earlier stuff. They then stopped. At the end of Boys From Brazil Jim Kerr seemed to disappear. He looked like he was singing, but there were no vocals. his PA had packed up!

We stood there shuffling about for about five minutes. Kerr tried the backing vocal mics, but none of them seemed to be working either. Now, the venue wasn't huge, it was June and it was hot; the natives were growing restless, so imagine my joy when the band broke into Themes For Great Cities, quickly followed by Sound in 70 Cities, which I presume they would have done the vocal version had Jim not been off trying to fix the PA with a couple of roadies and a man in a suit!

They ended up doing Somebody up There Likes You from the New Gold Dream album, and it was much more raw and noodly than the album version - like they were playing it from memory. but in all, they did 20 minutes of instrumentals and a wee bit of jamming before Jim got his voice back and they finished the gig. George looked at me and muttered something about me rigging the PA to blow up so they'd have to do my favourite songs. I do remember the frisson of excitement at hearing something I really didn't expect to hear.

The only other time that has genuinely happened was at a Porcupine Tree gig in Cambridge, in 2008. I was beginning to suffer with my back at that point and it was giving me grief that evening. I managed to find myself a bit of wall to lean against while the Tree played one of the more heavy metal styled songs they love doing on stage. Then Steven Wilson was talking, saying how they were going to play a song that isn't on an album. I never expected Half Light to be played and I stood there with the first signs of tears in my eyes - I felt as though the song was being played for me. I'd only just declared it to be one of, if not my favourite PT song and here it was being played exceptionally well less than 30 feet from where I was standing. Didn't feel my back during that 6 minutes, I can tell you.

***

An aside...

I get some pretty dull spam emails (although I do wonder if my PC has a trojan because it seems very well targeted), but yesterday I opened the email account, went to the spam folder to check there was nothing that crept in there and saw an email that read: Buy Pics of Sexy Older Women. There is so much wrong with this that it's hilarious.
1. Why would I want to buy pictures when I can go to a million websites and look at them for free?
2. Older women? I don't care how sexy they are. I'm nearly 50, if I wanted to look at pictures of sexy women, surely because of my age I'd be looking for the youngest most gravity defying?
3. Why? I might not have grasped the basics behind spam, even after all this time, but if it isn't a hoax designed by some malware agent, then someone obviously thinks they can make money by selling pictures of sexy older women...
4. I can look at my wife, who is sexy, but doesn't yet look like an older woman!

***

Another aside...

Have you noticed how the weather has been slowly changing into that constantly cloudy and cool feel? Unseasonal winds and still no rain for the south east. I stand by my forecast of the other month - the rains will come soon and we'll be looking back at April and feeling like we're about to get webbed feet again this summer.

Get in get out of the rain!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eat Your Own Bra

Applications are flying thick and fast; sort of. The main one would take me into direct contact with my now previous employer almost immediately, should I be so lucky to get it. But I'm getting ahead of myself - literally and metaphorically.

I was walking the dogs on Friday, barely unemployed, when I bumped into an ex-colleague from the YMCA, who is now managing a hostel for the company I left to go to the job I've just left. I told her about my redundancy and she told me that there might be a project worker's job coming up at her place; she wants a male and she'd be happy to make the right noises for me to the powers that be. Good show!

At my leaving do, modestly attended, an ex-colleague from another department of my last employer, told me about some work he could practically guarantee, working with adults in an assisted environment. Not my first choice, but certainly can be considered an iron in the fire.

An old friend who I've recently hooked up with has offered me some work as a driver's mate - which actually sounds like it might be something completely different for a while and a few quid.

***

The Saints played like the Barcelona of Rugby for 40 minutes on Saturday night and followed it up by playing like the Cobblers of Rugby to lose the Heineken Cup, in one of the best games of rugby I have seen in years.

it was just painful to watch though...

***

I might be in court on Monday. I have been asked to provide a character reference for an Asian friend of mine who is in a completely crazy situation, one which has left me in a dilemma.

Yes, I'm happy to do my thing for my friend and if the scenario he's told me is true then he should walk free from court to resume his normal family life; but if it isn't and he has done what he's been accused of then his life will be so over it won't be worth anything.

My mate got into a friendship with an Armenian who runs a small industrial launderette; they started doing some business and became friends, enjoying a game of snooker on a Monday and entertaining each other's families. Then, one day, completely out of the blue, the Armenian asks my mate for £200, except it wasn't a loan or a favour, it was essentially - you give me £200 or bad things will happen to you. My friend explained that he didn't have £200; he works hard for average pay, has a wife, baby and mortgage, plus, he couldn't understand where this demand had come from. The £200 went to £50 a week, every week and still my friend refused to entertain the demands and it seems there was no relationship between the two.

One morning, about a week later, my mate is woken up at 6.00am by four police officers, arresting him on suspicion of sexual offences against the Armenian's daughter!

He sat in front of me last week and told me the only thing that has ever happened between him and the little girl was a kiss on the cheek as she was leaving his home; the same kiss he gave her mother; yet he has been charged and must appear at Crown Court on Monday for what I believe will be pleas, statements and an adjournment.

To add insult to injury, his visa runs out on Sunday, he isn't allowed to renew it because he under police investigation. Can you imagine what must be happening in that man's head.

But, what's that expression about shit sticking regardless? What if he's lying to me? What if he's actually done something? What if the alleged 'rinsing' by the Armenian is just an elaborate lie or something he's telling me for my agreement to stand up for him? I'm pretty sure he's on the level; organised crime from the old Easter Bloc is rife and is spreading, especially in smaller towns like the one my friend lives in.

What a world?

***

For some reason, I've just reminded myself of a conversation I had with an ex-colleague I was having a coffee with. She was getting ready to have a breast reduction operation and had just explained to me what it entailed, and giving her much reason for amusement at the faces I was pulling at the gorier bits.
"I had tits by the time I was 10," she said, with no sign of embarrassment or self-consciousness. "By the time I was 13, I knew I was never going to have supermodels tits, my nipples were already staring at my feet!" I laughed, but felt a pang of pity for her; she was a good looking girl, quite slim considering and was self-deprecatingly refreshing. "It was good for attention from boys, but after a while, you know, you want them to look you in the eyes." She went on to explain that unlike some girls who grow into their tits, she stayed disproportionately huge. By the time she was 18, she was wearing specially made bras, with 'more underpinning than the Eiffel Tower' and was finding relationships difficult to have.
"So I decided to have them chopped off, or at least reduced to the point where I can wear a bathing costume again."

There's no real happy ending. The op reduced them but it was barely noticeable, despite having gone down about 4 sizes. She had to have a second operation and for reasons I can't remember it was going to cost her as second ops for breast reductions aren't or weren't free on the NHS. Anyhow, about a year ago, I was talking to mutual friend and she said the girl had since had a baby and along with all the usual weight loss, she lost a huge amount off her boobs; more than the operation managed. It turns out that her mother was also very heavy when she was younger, but once she had kids, she shrank down to a reasonable size and the same would probably have happened to her.

Funny what pops into your head at 1.00am in the morning when you've nothing better to do and don't feel tired.

***

Apart from my possible day in court, my diary for next week is bordering on crazy.

I have the man to service the boiler coming on Monday morning. A quiz on Tuesday. Visiting my mate's new flat on Wednesday. A beer on Thursday night and maybe Friday lunchtime. Oh and I have the car in for a service also on Thursday and I need to renew my insurance. Can you say 'woo' followed by a 'hoo'?

I'm sure if I'd just won the lottery I would be doing something a little more cutting edge...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ostrich Phlegm

Sitting here, just gone 1:00am and two chaps are walking up my road. They're talking loudly, my window is open and my blinds are pulled back.
"Blah blah blah, I was never really sure about [someone], he used to stare at my knees."
Mumbling from other person.
"It's very quiet. Why do you think it's quiet?"
"All the people are in bed."
"Do you think they're asleep?"
"Probably."
"There's someone who isn't asleep." I realise they're standing over the road, looking in at me looking at the computer screen. "Why aren't you asleep?"
"Shut up, he'll see us." There is a man about 50 standing over the road on the path and in the road is a younger man, possibly in his 20s on a bright yellow push bike.
<>
The younger man falls off the push bike, just as a man who looks just like Roger walks past my house and under the street lamp, seemingly oblivious to everything.
"Don't fall off your bike. That will wake people up." The younger man mumbles something again and picks himself up, but leaves the bike in the road.
"I think I've cut my hand."
"Do you need to go to the hospital?" He stares straight at me and I look as though I'm writing something and not really looking at him.
"No, it's just a graze."
I decide to turn my monitor and desk lamp off, plunging me into darkness and I push my seat back as far as it will go. The two men are still jabbering away when someone, I think it was the man at 48 bellows something about pissheads and shutting the fuck up and making about three times the noise the two men are making.
"I am not a pisshead and my friend has fallen off his bike."
"I DON'T GIVE A SHIT. FUCK OFF SOMEWHERE ELSE!"
The younger man gets his bike and motions to the older man. "Come on. The shop's at the end of this road."
"Shop? It's fucking quarter past one in the morning, it's been shut over 2 hours!" Says the man over the road.
The older man turns to his friend. "That'll be why everyone's asleep." And they walk off in the direction of the closed shop, babbling away in a way that sounded anything but drunk, or stoned.

***

I was actually sitting here thinking about The Rapture and the fact that anyone who hasn't given his heart to Jesus is going to burn in an Earth-born hell, etc etc. I heard all about the last time this was supposed to happen from the brother of a good mate of mine, who was mysteriously transformed from a God-hating atheist with sarcastic overtones into Jesus' best friend in the whole world. He is Mr. Christian Fundamentalist.

One day, I'll give the whole story; I remember it well. But as it's late and I should go to bed I'll just share this. Earth is going to be topographically altered into a paradise that rises above the masses of mutated and transformed unbelievers. Only the chosen will stand at God's side and the rest of us will suffer an eternity of damnation.

How anyone takes these born again nutters seriously is beyond me sometimes...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Strange Cheese

I stumbled across this while Googlewhacking to see if my serialised comics book has made any impact; it's from my former employer's Wikipedia page and is the only entry for the section Comics International:

Former Comics International editor Phil Hall has made numerous allegations about Skinn's character, including claiming that Skinn fired him in January 1997 for missing a business meeting to attend his mother's funeral.[9]. Skinn claims that as Hall was working freelance, he could not be fired and that Hall's memory must be at fault as his mother had died almost a year earlier.

This would once upon a time have had me reaching for my inhaler and hurtling a barrage of abuse at the computer screen. 'Numerous allegations'? Cheeky bastard. Once, in a column for the Comics Village did I relate the tale of being fired because my mum died - which did happen and I have the email to prove it! It also happened in 1998, not, as he suggests 1996. There have been some others, but all out of the general glare of publicity; but no more than were levelled at me by him.

He loves accusing everybody else of rewriting history, while he edits his own to his heart's content...

***

This time tomorrow I shall be unemployed. I think I've indicated that it's begun to hit me harder than I expected or showed, but there are some glints of light on the horizon, which is better than I could have hoped for.

As for this part of my recent history, well, let's make sure I get my redundancy money before I comment on it further, eh?

***

I had a list of things. I seem to have mislaid it...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Octopi Primrose

Part of me wonders if my wibblings about television are more of a turn off than my ones about football? Maybe I should do one about football and television as a form of weird hybrid?

The similarity with this title and the last one is deliberate. I have now seen the 4th episode of Doctor Who and the finale of Smallville. I am no further to proving my DW theories from last time, but nor have they been disproved. I expect the next two part episode, which will also conclude this series until the autumn, will either prove me to be a genius or just another sad fanboy second-guessing SF series.

The latest DW was entertaining, but it wasn't the work of genius that many of my friends have been bestowing on it. I shan't go into details but it was a trifle confusing for the young'uns, the villain was not very defined nor was there much logic or reason behind whoever 'House' was; yes he wanted Time Lords and there might have been some relevance in the 'boxes', but I'm growing a little tired of each episode ending and me having more doubts/questions put in my head.

But, the main reason I'm writing this is because I watched the finale of Smallville and here's my review:

Meh.

Yep; that's it. 'Meh'. And trust me that's being generous.

The series has always been a mixture of shit, shittier and diarrhoea, but the final episodes were poor. I mean really, really poor. Villains despatched in less than 1 minute; a pointless, and boy do I mean pointless, return for Michael Rosenbaum; a pointless death, a pointless disappearance and a pointless book end that didn't really make any sense. Final episodes of series you invest a lot of time and energy into are supposed to bring a tear to your eye; send a shiver down your spine; have you on the edge of your seat, shouting at the telly.

None of you want to read about me wibbling on about a show you won't watch and probably think I'm mad for wasting 170 hours of my life on.

The finale was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how shit this series could be.

And I'll say no more...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Octopus Prime

I watched the final episode of Stargate Universe on Wednesday, it was a series that, imho, was for a large part better than SG1 (albeit after Jack left) and much much better than the pooey Atlantis. This isn't rocket science and we are talking Stargate, after all.

Universe was Battlestar Galactica meets Voyager meets Lost in Space.

There were a couple of characters that really worked - Everett Young, the guy in charge; excellent character - watching him go insane on a weekly basis was a true highlight. Nicholas Rush played by Begby aka Robert Carlyle, a real post modern Zachary Smith, but with balls. And, Eli Wallace, who was the one that probably struck a chord with most SF fans - the computer game geek in space; David Blue's character was allowed to grow in the two series probably more than anyone else and it was fitting the final part should focus on him.

And what a finale? Keeping the grimy, nasty theme alive until the last knockings. It was a brilliant ending for a better than average series and it amazes me that SyFy (what an awful moniker) cancelled this and kept Haven. Universe had no big massive ending as such; it had both a hollow and oddly fulfilling 'conclusion' - if you can get your head around that. Great last 90 seconds though; really, really excellent; possibly the entire franchise's finest hour.

***

It very much appears that the jury is reconsidering its verdict regarding Doctor Who. Even some of Steven Moffat and Matt Smith's biggest defenders are questioning whether the series actually benefits from an ultra-confusing US styled season long plot thread. The speculation that the current plot is actually going to spread out across all 13 episodes rather than just this half season has got non-nerds contemplating their commitment. From what I've read - probably all wild speculation any how - is that the death of the Doctor, the child/Timelord, Amy and the one eyed woman, are not all necessarily to do with each other.

I had this entire blog entry called 'Multiverses' which delves into my own speculation regarding DW but I decided to not bother running it because of the way I was feeling; why don't I just cut and paste it in here?

The following contains Doctor Who spoilers and a couple of theories...

There's a new film coming out from Fox Searchlight Films, the indie arm of the Murdock owned film company. It's called Another Earth and looks like the next esoteric SF film success - the first being Gareth Edwards' Monsters. I don't know much about Another Earth apart from the trailer I saw a couple of weeks ago on IMDB, but it appears to be the story of what happens when a alternative Earth appears in our sky, with the same people, but living different lives. The premise is intriguing and it is a thoughtful and intelligent examination of the event rather than having space ships, ray guns and evil twins. It could be described as a 2011 Donnie Darko in that it will ultimately appeal to people who are not genre heads.

A couple of years ago there was a series called Charlie Jade, which had a great idea, but wasn't particularly very well executed. It was about 3 parallel universes that were either merging into each other or were infecting each other. it was a serious take on Sliders and probably failed because the idea was probably far too complicated for its target audience. In recent years, Fringe has the same concept of us existing in a multiverse rather than a single linear existence (an idea that hasn't been discounted by scientists, but sounds to me like a theory driven by human imagination and wish fulfilment rather than any solid scientific evidence) and has produced some really bonkers TV.

Just last week, one of the producers of Game of Thrones said in an interview that people who can't get their head around the geography of the new HBO series should try and think of it as different versions of North and Central America. It seems like the idea of parallel universes is de rigueur...

Don't panic, I am going somewhere with this; although I can't guarantee I'm going to understand much of it, so you're all well and truly scuppered.

[I just deleted an entire paragraph because no matter how I worded it, it just didn't seem right.]

Doctor Who. There are your Steven Moffat fans and your RTD ones. Those who love David Tennant and those that hate Matt Smith. There are so many different camps it's a little pointless wasting time explaining them all to anybody, so we won't. DW has generated a lot of copy since it returned at the end of March 2005 and that's because it's one of those rare British things - an SF programme that is almost universally appreciated. This is something that should be considered a high achievement considering it is ostensibly a kids' programme - ably highlighted in the most recent episode by the Doctor getting his hand covered in alien snot and then wiping it on Amy Pond's sleeve (one of the first times I've laughed out loud at the series ever - which also shows the kind of level my humour is at). There has been debate about whether DW is no longer for kids, but now for adults [with little brain power]; with some academics claiming DW is even too scary for kids. That's is answered in one word (maybe two, depending on whether you're that pedantic): Bullshit.

The point is, DW has always been a kids programme, that way you can excuse the glaringly huge plot holes in most episodes. To emphasise that point, last week's episode had one of those moments that if you think carefully will make no sense at all. Back in the second ever new DW episode, when Christopher Ecclestone takes Billy Piper to the End of the World, there is an important part of the story that involves DW turning off the spaceship they're on and that requires him to go through an Indiana Jones styled adventure just to flip the off switch. I remember people at the time being apoplectic that something so stupid should be the thing the entire story hinged on. "Why on earth would the off switch be at the end of a deadly assault course?" Opined one of my friends, analysing the show far too much than is healthy. The excuse that it was just a kids show was pooh-poohed with gusto. "My kids are more intelligent than that!" Okay, it's not aimed at your kids then!

Throughout the 4 series of Ecclestone and Tennant, Davies came in for slagging off all the time - his stories were dull; they made no sense; they had characters doing things they wouldn't do; I can think of a host of complaints aimed at the series; yet all the critiques still watched it avidly every week. I sometimes think they did it to just be able to criticise it before any of their other dissenting friends could. My counterargument to the silly plots and impossible scenarios has always been to say its a kids show and that's always been thrown in my face; but kids like Indiana Jones films and they're full of bollocks that makes no sense. If a kid is playing a platform game on his PS2 then the simplest task is going to be made more difficult by the placing of an obstruction; even if it doesn't make sense. The game the kid plays will be as dull as dishwater if all he has to do is walk around a game encountering no threats. So having assault courses on the way to the off switch is the kind of thing a kid will encounter playing a game. Makes sense now, doesn't it?

Last Saturday's Doctor Who could have been one of those RTD episodes my friends were quick to complain about. It was riddled with plot holes; made little sense and could very well have been put in place just to allow the main plot to be advanced. Not only was it one of the weakest episodes of DW for years, it was also obviously aimed at kids - which, as I keep harping on about, is supposed to be the target audience. I did warn you earlier there were spoilers and here they come...

The Doctor, Amy and Rory turn up on a pirate ship, an incredibly civilised pirate ship it has to be said, even if the opening 7 minutes were a bit silly. They've arrived as the members of the crew are being picked off one by one by a Siren, a creature of the sea who takes anyone who has a cut or graze or in the case of the captain's son, a disease - if you are damaged in any way, it takes you. This gives way to essentially 25 minutes of running about, hypothesising, with a bit of human drama thrown in to make it look like half an idea. The Siren is actually 'the doctor from Star Trek: Voyager', but she's not so don't rush off to look. It's an automated nurse that got summoned whenever there's damage, but grows bored when the occupants of its spaceship all die. It decides to start treating injured humans instead. It exists on a different plane of reality, or as the Doctor put it, comes from a universe that sits inside ours - a different plane of existence - an example of multiverse. That's going to be important, that.

After several signposted plot twists, everybody lives happily ever after. The pirates flying through space in their new ship with a mega powerful nurse ready to attend their every medical need; Rory and Amy back on the Tardis and the Doctor feeling all smug. Except it was really poorly executed; the clever special effects on Lily Cole - the Siren - were overshadowed by some poor acting, some laughable decisions and the fact that any kid worth their salt would have seen most of the plot long before it came into plain sight. For me, the most glaringly bad part was when the Doctor, Amy and the Captain decide they have to go with the Siren. The three wake up in some hold on a ship - able to walk around freely and do whatever they have to do. They eventually find all the characters taken by the Siren, all wired into the ship's computer and unconscious, but being fixed, to the best of its abilities, by the medic. Why were all the crew and Rory on beds and unconscious and the Doctor, Amy and pirate captain not? How come the Siren/medic didn't place them three in the same medical stasis as the others? How did everyone make the leaps of logic they did without any real clues?

There's more; but I'll be fucked if I'm going to get all nerdy. The point is, it was as bad an episode as the worst of any that appeared when RTD was series runner; but regardless of how bad it was, I believe it explained what is going on in the rest of the series.

For however dreadful last week's episode was, there were a couple of key moments and I'm not talking about when Amy saw that curious one-eyed woman. The second was when the Doctor was looking at the scan of Amy at the end, the one that says she is pregnant and isn't in alternating sequence. This is the second time this has been observed and I think I've sussed out what Moffat is doing. Earlier in the same episode, the first key moment, Doctor is explaining to his team and the captain that the alien spaceship is occupying the same place in space as the pirate ship, but in a different universe; a different reality and that all over the place are spots where the two realities can interact - thin spots (borrowing from someone else again). The pirates in space final sequence had me frowning and scratching my head though - where were they? In our universe or the pocket universe the Doctor casually mentioned?

Now... who is the Impossible Astronaut? Who is in the suit that kills the older version of the Doctor at the beginning of the new series. There have been suggestions that it's the younger Doctor, it is Amy, it is River Song or it's the girl from the suit in the first two episodes. I'm swerving towards it being the Doctor who received the Tardis blue invitation (and not the one who sent it). I think the Doctor who gets killed at the beginning of the current season, the older Doctor, is actually the Doctor from an alternative dimension. I believe in that alternate dimension there is no Rory, so Amy has a relationship with the Doctor and has a child - the girl in the Impossible Astronaut - and the existence of that child has thrown the universe out of whack. Amy is alternating between being Amy of our Doctor's life and Amy from the other dimension; hence why she is pregnant, she isn't pregnant, she is, she isn't, etc.

That was as far as I got with it before I started to get my aforementioned blockage, but I was planning on continuing the piece on DW with a question that has confounded me. Timelords - Lords of time and space? Yes? Therefore, strictly speaking they always exist, or at least they exist at whatever point in time they stop at. If Ecclestone went to the end of the world, then technically Smith could do the same and might bump into himself. Do you see what I mean? What is there to stop Matt Smith's version to pop into the past/future and meet up with himself when he was #3 or #6 or Paul McGann? It's (sort of) how we had the 3 Doctors and the 5 Doctors episodes in the 70s. So when the clips from this coming Saturday's episode were shown and the Doctor was getting excited about there being another Timelord somewhere, surely there's loads of them, or were DW and the Master the only people to have Tardises? [I am also aware there were other Timelords, I just don't want to bog the entire story down with unimportant nerdy minutiae.]

And that's sort of how that ends. Probably should have waited until tonight's episode before hypothesising, or possibly writing it like there's a middle and end of it, but...

***

Smallville ended last night in the USA; 10 years of unbelievably poor formulaic TV. You can set your watch by this show. Intro, titles, 30 minutes to take the story past the intro and concludes on 30 minutes regardless of how hopeless the situation is to allow 11 minutes of reflection, humour, love and satisfaction.

By the time I realised that Smallville was the devil's poop it was too late, I was hooked like a [gender non-specific] whore on crack. The final series has had, on the whole, the best story arcs and most character development. There's elements of the series that I can't fathom, the most recent ones being Alison Mack's sudden disappearance from the show - presumably she wanted away for some reason, and we had to make do with only 5 appearances this season - and the anticipation that she's going to be around for the finale. The other was the emergence of Darkseid as the villain; it seemed like an afterthought once they realised they were going to struggle to bring Lex Luthor back for anything but an appearance in the final episode.

I shall enjoy sitting down to the final 90 minutes over the weekend and I can say that I won't be fondly remembering this series like so many others that have existed during Smallville's 10 years; but it was interesting to see how they either did comics well or really badly - sadly, badly wins by a considerable margin...

When was the last time you saw sadly and badly sitting next to each other in a sentence, huh?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Arseholes Are Like Opinions, Everybody's Got One

A mate of mine, who shall remain nameless, claims he hates 98% of everybody. Not just the people he knows, but everybody. How he can be so sure of the exact percentage, I don't know, but what I am starting to realise is the perhaps he's not as misanthropic as I thought he might be.

People are just complete and utter bastards. Most of them I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire and if I could have immunity from prosecution, I'd start mowing down great swathes of them before I could finish writing this sentence with the biggest and most powerful automatic weapon I could find. I really have lost that loving feeling... Especially to drivers of cars.

What I would like to know is how some of the people driving on the roads ever got driving licenses? Yeah, some of them haven't, but in my experience it's the ones without licenses that are the safest drivers - that's not saying I condone the illegal act, but for fuck's sake I wish more illegal drivers would inhabit the roads, at least that way I'd feel as though they're all not out to kill me!

Coming back from work this morning, I witnessed no fewer than 5 examples of crass stupidity, dangerous driving and aggressive arrogance from people who probably are very lovely to their friends and are not cruel to animals and love their children, but give me a big knife or some dynamite and I'd show - in several thousand bits - just why that person had to die.

It started with the driver of the Vauxhall. "Sorry mate, but you can't park there." I looked around and couldn't see a sign that said permit holders only nor was there any restrictions imposed. I asked him why and was dumbfounded when he said, "Because that's where I normally park." Now, I ask you, what would you do in my situation? I'm less than 100 yards from the shop I want, but there's this guy who obviously fancies himself telling me that I've parked in his [read: anyone's] parking space. What to do? So being slightly arsey, I suggested it didn't have his name on it and started walking up the road to the shop. "Be a shame if your shiny Fiat gets an ugly scratch on the doors, wouldn't it?" Suddenly everything went a shade darker. I stopped and looked at the guy, about 35 wearing a tracksuit (natch) and with short cropped hair. Instead of over reacting or even essentially having any reaction, I looked at him incredulously and said, "What?"

Now I need to point out that he's double parked; just as I was getting out of my car he pulled up and is parallel with the car directly behind me. He just stopped there and got out of his car. I'm hypothesising here, but from the look of the slippers on his feet, he had just jumped in the car and gone to get the fags that he was holding; in the 3 minutes he was gone, I came along and pinched his parking spot and guess what? The next one was right down the other end of the street, a couple of hundred yards at least.

His answer to my question was literally to stroke the side of my car. I can't afford some wanker damaging my car and I wasn't about to start an argument with this guy. I muttered For Fuck's Sake under my breath and walked back to the car. I was allowing myself to get bullied, but what do you do? Honestly, would you risk a fight in the street with a person brazen enough to do that? I know I wouldn't. The insult was him waving at my like a child as I pulled away. That is a man who needs a serious beating by someone even more of a cunt than he is.

So, I decides that the milk I need will be available on Collingwood Road; but before I could get there I almost had the front of my car taken off by a Renault Espace that only stopped at the last minute as I drove past the road it was on. I could see the woman driving talking to her passenger, completely engrossed about something and thought, half-jokingly, 'She isn't going to stop!' She almost didn't.

After narrowly avoiding that, I get to a mini roundabout and almost have the front of my car removed again, this time an old bastard in a Fiesta is turning right at the junction, but doesn't bother to indicate. I throw my hands up in exasperation and am amazed that he manages to see this and flick me the Vs while failing to indicate where he's going - I suppose he needs his hands to be offensive to other drivers. I'm now slightly fearful of the rest of my journey and with good reason; as I pull into the aforementioned Collingwood, a woman in a Nissan 4x4 just pulls out in front of me. From a standing start, parked on the other side of the road, she just pulls into the middle of the road. I slam on my brakes, toot my horn and she's like looking at me totally unaware that she almost hit me; then calls me a wanker and turns right down Ashburnam.

I get the milk I want, get back in the car and head home. I pull into Fullingdale and there's a big fuck off BMW doing a sort of 3 point turn using the car pads at the rear of our convenience store. The road is busy, but he just carries on doing what he was doing, aware but ignorant of my presence and that of another car coming in the opposite direction. Yet when the lady driving the grey Vauxhall and I look at this guy being incredibly rude and selfish, he just tells us both to fuck off. I mean, how could we be so audacious; it was obviously his road because he has such an expensive BMW.

Very expensive as it happens; a call to my 'friend', the manager of a local BMW garage and he said it was worth about £70k - which is more than my first two houses cost; put together. He also said that if I knew the registration number or even give me a good description, he could probably find out who the car belonged to, especially if the car had been bought from his place. Being game for a laugh and all that it turned out the owner of the car was a Milos Djurovic. I wonder if he pays his road tax or even has a driving license recognised by this country?

Now as this was 100 yards from my front door you would think that nothing else could happen. Well, think again. Now, you all remember the Eastern European exhibitionists over the road? The couple that like to shag with the curtains open? Well, he's a taxi driver (no surprises there) and today was either hosting the tea party for the local taxi firm or had got all the drivers together to discuss forming an Eastern European wing of Bounds Taxis. The entire fucking road is empty apart from about a dozen taxis parked all around his house; where I park my car, where the wife parks - everywhere!

Being slightly pissed off by this point (and this was before I found out about friend Djurovic), I stopped the car, knocked on his door and essentially did what had happened to me not 10 minutes earlier; except I did it in a civilised and friendly manner. My neighbour apologised, but the owner of the taxi parked in front of my house looked a trifle pissed off that he was going to have to walk 30 feet further.

All of that took 11 minutes; from leaving work, buying some milk and getting home, I managed to encounter at least 5 arseholes.

Obviously this is something that happens more increasingly every day; the roads are never likely to be anything but hostile, selfish and potentially violent. Whoever uses the roads begins to feel that they own the part they're using, even if evidence suggests they're not actually using it at that specific moment.

It's not like I'm standing here (or sitting as is more accurate) suggesting that I've never been selfish in the car, but the wanton ignorance and stupidity of other drivers leads me to believe that these are either people who need signs to go to the toilet or they're just hateful cunts who are so over confident and full of self belief that they are completely oblivious of other people; thick chavs with pointless and vacuous lives.

Gah, people, don't you just fucking hate them?

This unscheduled rant was brought to you by Injury Lawyers 4 U and The Only Way Is Essex.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Status Quo Song

My official last day at work is May 20, but in reality I've not been there for ages. I go in, check my mail, potter about and come home. Spend varying amounts of time looking on line for possible jobs and then, depending on the weather, sit in the garden and slowly allow the darkest parts of my soul to take control of my mind.

My critics, of which I have many, could suggest that I've had a year to prepare for this and in reality I have, but, in my defence, the last couple of years have been odd and much of it through no fault of my own and I'm not just talking about slipped discs and arthritis scares. This stuff is the subject of a blog entry currently under construction and while it has a place here, it isn't going to be allowed to enter. The thing is, I prepared myself early, within a week of knowing there was a good chance I'd be made redundant, I was scouring the papers and the net for a replacement job. I had notional success too; interviews for 4 jobs (6 if you count the two on offer at my current employer), a second interview for one of them, but... always the bridesmaid. I have this theory that I don't actually get jobs from interviews and if you examine it closely there is truth in my theory.

I was never interviewed for my job at Comics International, nor was I for the work I did for IMS (in fact, it was me that went to the meeting with demands and they gave me them), when I came into the social care industry, my interview for the YMCA was on the steps of a co-operative vegetarian market on a cold February Saturday and with my current employee my 'interview' was half an hour chewing the fat with an old friend before he told me what the deal was. Even the Mayday Trust was odd; I went for a job as a support worker and got offered a deputy manager's post based on my experience. I'm beginning to think I give good interview to a point. There's always one person better than me. The story of my life in some respects and don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about it, I can just see a pattern over the last 49 years.

The question on the lips of some of my close work colleagues and the majority of my friends is, 'what are you going to do?' and the honest answer is, I haven't got a clue. One of my bosses, bless her heart, suggested I go back to journalism. I'm always careful not to do something hysterical in front of colleagues, so I said that I'd been away from it for too long, was far too rusty and a bunch of other feasible but largely bollocks answers. The truth is I'm not good enough. I was good enough for what was essentially a semi-professional comics magazine, but I'm a damned sight better 'journalist' now than I ever was when I worked for QCL and I'm still several miles behind most of the people I know. I'm not technical, you see? At least not technical enough to hack it in the hack zone.

One of the reasons why I've edited and serialised my 'book' about comics, was at the suggestion of an old friend in the industry who said in an email the other month, 'Why don't you get back into comics; ironically, you're about the right age to succeed now?' But, in reality, they might as well have said why don't you see if you can get paid for beating yourself up. Plus, while the serialisation appears to be well received by some, I've been spending a lot of time over the last week re-editing the coming weeks' entries, because they're just too boring and subject specific, but they need to be there. Plus, there's this thing about not liking comics; if I work with a kid that I dislike, there's a good chance the next one I will like. With comics, I despise them with a passion - the same way most addicts despise the drug of their choice. The thin line is far too fragile now and I'd upset too many people.

Obviously, remaining doing the kind of thing I do now is the most likely answer; but I'd just about hit the top of the tree as far as unqualified people go, at least in terms of pay and benefits. I could return to management, but I hated it the first time around and frankly there are several totally logical and uncontroversial reasons why that becomes an outside chance at best; equally, there are a number of reasons, if I could go that route, why it would suit me. Taking a step backwards looks like the likely course and end up taking maybe a £5k wage cut, returning to work shifts, nights and Bank Holidays, 6 years after I said I'd never do that again. But, I'm also now joining 900 other people on Northampton's dole queue and that's where the reasons I'm saving for another blog entry come into play; but essentially I leave my current employer with zero confidence that I can even do this kind of job any longer.

There's my little music sideline project, but that is a project, something I can do in my spare time with a couple of hours free. If, and we all know it's a big IF, something comes out of it, then great, but I've had too many dreams dashed to enter into this with nothing but achievable targets.

This is probably the main reason for my mental blockage - the half a dozen unfinished blog entries that I can't focus on - this blog has always been cathartic, even when it's got me into trouble and the truth of the matter is I'm worried sick. The wife might see it, if she does she's not letting it outwardly affect her - which, by the way, is a very good thing as long as she isn't letting it fester inside. I've always been able to put on a brave face; most people who know me know that I get grumpy, but they also a) treat it with the ridicule it usually deserves and b) know that it will pass, normally very quickly; but on the whole, I'm the man with the sunny disposition. Two of my senior bosses who I've been dealing with over the last couple of months have been inspired by my lassez faire attitude, my positive outlook and my jovial resignation of the events unfolding in front of us and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't what I do in most situations like this. I've always been a good man to have in a crisis.

It's when I get home and have the rest of the day staring at me that I become racked with doubt, worry, fear and hopelessness...

Still, mustn't grumble, eh? It's not like I've not been here before, is it?

Moving on...

Actually, no, let's not. I want to brag about something and by God, it might give me a bounce in my self esteem.

I am great in a crisis. I don't know why I didn't think of it before; probably because areas of self analysis didn't go there in the past. My wedding: my best man wasn't. I had to arrange everything he had a month to do in 24 hours. My shop: when the chips were down, instead of sitting burying my head in the sand, I got out and did things to avert the disaster. Ultimately it didn't work, but it gave me another year at trying.

Death: With both my parents, the wife's brother, various relatives and friends, I either ended up having to deal with the logistics; be the shoulder to cry on or keep calm while everyone around me was falling apart. I did my own grieving, but usually days, even weeks after the event. However, I don't do pet deaths anywhere near as easily, but they don't tend to be as public.

When I was at Comics International, probably the thing my old boss misses the most is my ability to solve problems. Give me a pagination table and the need to put a quart in a pint pot and I'd do it, seamlessly. Half a page of copy in 20 minutes - done and dusted. Technical glitches - even if I didn't know what I was doing, I'd fix it enough to get us by. Even if I wasn't there, I'd get a call asking me what I'd do and invariably we'd come up with a solution.

So when I came into social care, the best of me was seen when situations got stressful, potentially violent or just a bit over the top. If there was a problem to be solved, I'd solve it. From getting a forgotten kid an education to helping people when they think all is lost. The first couple of years I was with my soon to be terminated employer, I was working almost exclusively with the young people who didn't interact - at all. I had so much success, even if I didn't alter their course, we found out why it was happening. It was probably the happiest time I had there, I felt like my employer's crisis manager.

Perhaps I can think outside of the box; or maybe it's because I remain calm, because I have to, that allows me to think straight; see the obvious where others are overcomplicating things? All I know is I deal with another person's crisis with the same skill as I mask my own.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Hung Like a Horse Whisperer

I have a blockage... Don't panic, it's nothing physical. There is not going to be a stream of shit at some point that is going to cause a disaster. The blockage is up here [taps side of brain]. It's not a full on mental block, but it is stopping the synapses from doing their job to the extent that I'm racked with doubt and self censorship.

I think it has to do with my feeling of damp squibness. The feeling that things, for everyone, not just me, are going to get a lot worse before they get better and it will be a gradual plunge into shit not a quick and unexpected one. I have this feeling that we're all going to watch ourselves drown and it'll be slow enough for us to discuss it with each other and apportion blame.

I have four unfinished blog entries. I know what I want to say, I just can't seem to be able to put it down on cyber paper. Or, as is the case of the four unfinished pieces, I don't seem to be able to put across what I am trying to say without overcomplicating it. I am becoming the literary equivalent of one of my fellow quiz team members; I appear to be using 50 words where 1 would suffice. Is what you are trying to convey to me a negative answer, an opposite to an affirmative answer? A short word that essentially is you saying that you are not, as they say, in certain circles, up for it? Sometimes No is just No. I seem to think that more is needed. I am going off on tangents that I shouldn't. and they're not making it better.

I suppose you could say I have a rose rather than a blockage. You know, the thing you stick on the end of a hose that has umpteen different jet settings. I don't have a blockage, I have a mental rose. I'm wandering off down many paths when one or a couple would do. I'm sprinkling when I should be spurting; I'm veering off into sexual innuendo areas again.

I have lots to opine about; but nothing has solidity or the point I want to put across is being obfuscated by minutiae.

In a nutshell, I'm having a moratorium on politics,. I'm going to stop writing my political blog for a while because of the way I feel about politics at the moment.
I want to be a fanboy/nerd and talk about my theories on Doctor Who, but every time I write something it ends up being deleted or I stare at it and despair.
I have a semi-serious piece about illegal activities and the Internet, which is genuinely about a friend of mine and not just a thinly-veiled piece of confession.
I have a rant about work - which is unfinished and waiting for the 21st May (if I deem it worthy of publishing).

And, while I think about it, I have this question...

Who are you and how did you find me? You know who I'm talking to; your mum works with my wife. I want to know how you found me? Was it by accident? Did you find me and then work out that your mum worked with my wife, because she never talks about my blog to her colleagues, so something must have happened that made you put 2 and 2 together to make 4. Do I know you? Are you a comics fan? And if you are how did you work out that the woman your mum might mention was actually my wife? Especially as I've mentioned her name just once ever in these pages. How did you work it all out?

I think I know what the problem is. Everything feels a bit pooh at the moment... Oh, I sort of said that already... See?

Bah!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Beast With Two Heads and Other Tales of Terror

Back in February, I was having some unusual reactions to the concoction of pills I was taking for my back pain, nerve damage and sciatica. To add insult to the injury, my face erupted in a mass of thundering blind spots - my skull looked like it was trying to get out of my face! It was quite ... almost humiliating; this 48 year old man suffering from spots a teenage oil head would be aghast at.

At the time, the project I was running last year was being showcased in a DVD produced by Northamptonshire Libraries. It was one of the highlights of the School of Life project I was involved in and they wanted me to appear, on camera, talking about it. Not a problem, except for the lumpy face. I turned up for the shoot about a week after the worst, a spot about two inches under my left eye - and at one point so huge that I could just about see it with my left eye - had just started to stop looking like a limpet had attached itself to my face. However, I was still incredibly conscious of its presence and couldn't help but notice people were drawn to it like some religious icon - My God how can something so big not drag his face off? - they probably thought to themselves.

The director suggested we shoot from a specific angle so that it wouldn't really be in shot, especially if I kept my head reasonably still. We did the shoot - I think I talked about it on here - and that was that. I forgot all about it. Then at the end of March I went to a conference in a place called Alderton and it got its world premiere and there it was, my extra head, so huge it was bobbing in and out of shot like a penis in a porn film. It was still so big, the week of the swelling going down had just reduced the impact slightly. I looked in horror as my spot stole my thunder.

I got copies of the DVD today and figured I'd look at it again and see how bad it was. My memory is shot, but not that badly.

People who see it and then meet me are going to wonder where half my head has gone...

***

The ground is like August, but the grass is greener. The trees are out - bar a few Ash trees - and so has all the blossom. It's been weird, you normally get blossom and then greenery; this year they came together. The days are warm, but the wind is weird. The weather, as usual, is bonkers again. It wouldn't be Britain if the weather wasn't schizophrenic.

You know what's going to happen, don't you? It's going to start raining soon; just a wee bit to start with. May will trundle along with periods of rain and warmth and hot sunny days; then the rain will get heavier and in June and July we will be cursed with more tales of woe as people on Snowdon get flooded out. August will be damp and September will be a repeat of April, but 5 degrees warmer. Autumn will arrive on October 2nd, it'll snow by the 20th and there will be a mini ice age in December before the same weird shit happens again, but differently in 2012.

That'll be £10,000 please.

***

Someone at work asked me why I do that. Put *** between stories.

The short answer is 'cos', the long one is - it breaks up unrelated stories. I toyed with giving each bit headings - like I used to when I did my comics column, but Jesus Harry Christ, it's hard enough to come up with weird and surreal titles, let alone weird and surreal sub headings.

***

While I was in Kettering today, I popped into my old office. A lot of my colleagues over there hadn't seen me since January, when I was using a cane and looked pretty emaciated. My office partner Doreen commented at the time that I looked drawn and half the man I was. She's an ebullient West Indian who I've know known for 6 years and I miss sharing an office with her. Today, she was genuinely astounded. "Where the stick? You look normal!" Gee thanks Doreen!

The thing was I saw many of my former workplace pals and they all thought I looked better than I have in years. Probably the three stone I've put on in weight since I packed up smoking, I suggested. But no, they all thought I really looked good.

Now, there is a point to this backslapping and praise and that is I don't think I look good. Yeah, I do look healthy and I actually suit a bit more weight than I had, maybe a stone, but not three! The irritation extra weight carries on the arm pits, thighs and gut is just frightening and the sooner I lose some of this extra padding the better. Plus, there's this fucking massive irony taking place that hasn't escaped me because I'm the one dealing with it. As a smoker, I really started to struggle to walk fast and got out of breath really quickly - one of the reasons for stopping, I hasten to add. Now, with my lungs still playing catch up with the rest of my healthier body, my extra weight has suddenly meant walking long distances and steep hills is just as bad, if not worse with the added aggravations. But, if I've put on three stone, then I've effectively increased my size by just under a quarter again. Imagine carrying a sack of spuds around on your back!

So it's got to go and I see three logical solutions: start smoking again. Go on a diet. Kill myself.

This is not a referendum.