Sunday, October 30, 2011

Savage Breasts

First a word from our sponsor...

Finger exploded. Getting better now.

Now, your featured programme...

***

Music. I do music, but in blogs that seems to be my pal Roger's domain. He does the reviews, gets the free copies and generally has built up a little niche for himself and bloody good on him too, I say. I encouraged him to write more and it pays off sometimes. http://astoundedbysound.blogspot.com/ is worth a read, especially if you want to be confused and think the author is considerably better than you, by virtue of him having heard things you weren't even aware existed.

However, I'm not averse to music reviews. I mainly do gigs though. I'm just never particularly confident about tackling full album reviews because... well, because. Plus, I like a lot of stuff that doesn't have words and trying to review an album of instrumentals is a bit like reviewing a turnip. Or something like that.

I do get excited about things and try to convey that to people who stumble my way, as often as I can. It's just your fault if you've never taken my recommendations seriously. I tend to know a good thing when I hear it.

Anyhow, this is just a preamble because I feel the need to share with you the several albums that have been on heavy rotation this year - or at least the ones I can remember.

I think this year probably started with last year's North Atlantic Oscillation; a 21st century prog album with countless other influences. Grappling Hooks is wonderful and I can completely understand why people wouldn't like. It's a bit too cerebral for the likes of you.

Kwoon appeared on my horizon this year and their Tales and Dreams album is proof that French music does not begin and end with Air. I was considering yesterday whether I Lived on the Moon was quickly becoming one of my three favourite singles of all time. The album it is from is shades of light, dark and neopolitan and made me realise that post-rock was now my staple musical diet. Plus, if you think North Atlantic Oscillation is high brow, then this album will probably make your nose bleed.

Through a bit of an accident I discovered Nyctalgia - an Italian guy who traded rave beats for M83-styled ambiance. His album has apparently barely sold 1,000 copies - this is a travesty. If you can find it, it's music for a breezy summer's day. The same has to be said for El Siete Es La Luz, which as Roger pointed out is in Spanish and the band are called French Teen Idol and the guy behind them is Italian. Go figure, but the album is quite delightful for allowing the day to drift past.

The spring also saw the triumphant return of Ulrich Schnauss, this time working with Manual's Jonas Monk on a shoe gazey, ambient, indie dance groove thang, which like many of the albums I've listened to this year can be labelled 'Epic'. For a while, I thought this might be my best album of the year.

The late summer brought two albums which had a profound effect on me. Bon Iver's self titled album was a revelation and considering his/their previous albums had washed over me like distant memories; I found myself falling totally for this unusual album. Highly recommended.

Also as the sun wandered over the equinox came M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, which we'll come back to.

I had a flirtation with Iron & Wine, a kind of folk version of Mercury Rev; but as I was given their back catalogue, I can't really pick on particular album to single out.

The surprise of the year was undoubtedly The Horrors 3rd album Skying, which as I touched on the other day usurped anything they had ever attempted. It's a great throwback album and another that I recommend wholly to people of the same age and musical influences as me.

The new Jane's Addiction - The Great Escape Artist - was possibly the most eagerly anticipated album of the year. I have a deep love of this band and regardless of what the critics think, JA are one of the best rock bands of all time. The new album was disappointing to start with, but after three plays I'm really beginning to think it was worth the wait - and it's not often you can say that.

The new Florence and the Machine album - Ceremonials - is pretty fucking epic as well. It does what other artists touted as superstars haven't been able to do with their follow up albums; produce something truly excellent. Second album syndrome is a killer and Flo has ripped up the stereotype book. This is likely to win lots of awards.

Steven Wilson released his second solo album and to be honest it's been tough to get into. Don't get me wrong, it's actually a really solid double album; but, you know, I sorted of expected something different and found I could have been listening to a Porcupine Tree rarities CD.

Mylo Xyloto deserves a mention purely for the fact that Coldplay have produced an album that is probably better than the sum of its parts. The album hangs together very well and it surprised me. I can't however see me having this on rotation.

My mate Chev drew my attention to an album from 1986 by the CA Quintet, which despite being something of a mystery made me realise that Pink Floyd sometimes wore their influences on their sleeves without people ever realising it. The title track of the CAQ's only album Trip Thru Hell is quite remarkable.

I've also been listening to the first Genesis album again, a lot. I don't know if I have a penchant for 1968 (and 69), but I've been impressed by how this From Genesis to Revelation curiosity stands the test of time.

Other mentions in dispatches for Ladytron, whose latest album is as good as previous efforts. The new British Sea Power album which got into my play list during August. The quite amazing Zola Jesus, who sounds like Souxsie Soux meets acoustic industrial metal. She also appears on M83's new album doing stuff she doesn't normally do and very well she does it.

The Pierces latest album is fabulous and for a while back in the early summer it was on constant rotation, despite the feeling that I was selling out. The Engineers released a 3rd album quickly after their 2nd and featured a new line up. Despite the presence of Ulrich Schnauss and KScope records, the new album was better when all the lyrics were removed - the bonus instrumental CD has been played far more than the main disc.

Of course, falling just out of the period, was Amplifier's The Octopus, which was released for the great unwashed in January (after the fans got theirs before Christmas). It is also epic; confirms they are the kings of space rock and rock prog (yes, I did get that round the right way). In a normal year, The Octopus would win my album of the year.

But with two months of the year left and more possibilities on the horizon, I think my album of the year has been Hurry up, We're Dreaming. It's an odd album because it has very little subtlety; it is, as the Observer noted, an album of epic proportions. It's dancey, it's rocky, it's indie and above all it sits together far better than any of Anthony Gonzalez's other M83 albums. It is his best so far and it has been played probably more than anything else I've acquired this year.

My musical year has been very eclectic and that's just how I like it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Crushed by Pig Farmers - A Cautionary Halloween Tale

Mr Squeamish here; the man who can't watch an operation and the discussion of women's problems has me running screaming from the room with his hands over his ears singing La-la-la-la-la-la-la, is something of an enigma.

I am, of course, talking about me and my love of real gore. So imagine this: the antithesis of Sweeney Todd standing with a sharp scalpel in my hand poised to mutilate my own body! It's unlikely, but it happened last night...

My finger woes are progressing. The thumb is fine now, if not a wee bit angular at the top; the wart appears to be succumbing to the delights of super glue, but the index finger with its almost microscopic slither of prickle has gone a bit yeeeeugh! On Wednesday, the wife got a needle out and pierced the most likely place on the end of the finger and nothing really happened; a bit of watery stuff popped out and we wrapped it up, hoping to draw anything out. The next day, as I said, it was a bit disappointing. I got a little splodge of pus and what I believed was the offending splinter. I wrapped it up again to be on the safe side and by Friday it had swollen up and looked like someone bigger and heavier than I had swapped forefingers with me. There seemed to be this odd coloured reservoir building under the dark spot where the wife had attacked it with a needle. But you see, the finger has been pulled, pushed, squeezed and generally manhandled for nearly a week, a lot of the pain might be from simple misuse. Nah!

Last night, after the wife went to bed, I decided that I'd check on the wart, so I took off the protective plaster, got the scalpel out and scraped all the dead skin off, looked at what used to be a wart and was satisfied that probably one, maybe two more applications and I'd have my old finger back. I then looked at my finger and got some bizarre idea in my head. I rummaged through a draw and found an old lighter, semi-sterilised the blade and decided that I was going to go in in the same spot as the wife, but this time with a very deadly weapon (I'd only swapped the blade a few days ago and it could cut through wood quite easily at the moment). Despite all my apprehensions, I scraped back the original tiny wound and ignorant of the pain - more from the finger than from the knife - I pierced my flesh in an altogether bigger and less user-friendly way than my dear wife.

Oh my sweet Jesus Hillman Imp Christ! Ever had your stomach do a back flip, turn itself inside out, perform Hamlet in Finnish and then appear on several consecutive episodes of Strictly? No neither has mine, but it did roll about a bit and threaten to give me a repeat performance of my dinner. If the first eruption had been disappointing, the second was infinitely more impressive; we're not talking Exorcist spectacular, but we are talking Monster Boil proportions!

Yellow and red sort of go together as a colour scheme; but there's something slightly unnerving about the combination...

Saturday morning and my index finger is several degrees warmer than rest of my body and it throbs. The new wound has almost disappeared, presumably from the pressure being exerted by the rancid reservoir of junk sitting atop my index finger and I expect that later on; after I've soaked it in the bath for 20 minutes that I will attack the finger again and this time I won't rest until I've fainted!

***

I've been considering a major face lift to my blogs. I'd like to do it now, but I figure as they are essentially diaries of my life then I should at least keep a style for a year; but the new ideas I have aren't astronomically different from the current stylings; I just have an inclination to get a bit retro.

All will be revealed and no one will care a hoot. Which is exactly how it should be.

***

The iron is back in the fire. I have a date with destiny next Wednesday morning. Fingers crossed peeps; I have a bigger test than normally. I have to try and temper my enthusiasm for just getting out and chatting to different people and channel that into something that sounds like I'm the best equipped person to do this job - and frankly, I think I am, but it's a gamble. More about this when and if and all that.

***

This 'thing' next week has come at a good time. the drugs are working fine and the flatulence has subsided to average levels. Even the wife commented on my seemingly new vigour, doing things (of a non-sexual nature I might add, you filthy minded people) I wouldn't have attempted three weeks ago.

However, with me feeling pretty good at the moment and possibilities on the horizon, the Glass Half Empty me rears his ugly head and says, "Yes, so something is bound to go wrong!"

The bastard!

***

Obviously, I've been skirting round the issue that has me foaming at the mouth more often than I eat vegetables. It is perfectly true that today is a sad day and that tomorrow will be the worst day of the year. Bollocks to this January 24th being the worst day of the year nonsense; tomorrow is the worst fucking day of the year, every year! In fact, this tends to be the worst week of the year; what with fucking GMT, Halloween and that utter cunt of a day/week for allowing people to use incendiary devices wherever and whenever they choose.

What a shit week? Easily solved by doing three things - abolishing GMT, banning anything but organised firework displays, and enforcing a law that if we're going to celebrate fucking Halloween it is not going to embrace the American model and will not become a bloody season like Christmas, Easter or BBQ.

What an utterly shit week.

And don't fucking tell me that the kids love the latter two. I don't care. If your kids want to have fun; have fun with them without disturbing me! I do not want my dogs petrified by loud bangs and I really don't want your fucking little brats knocking on my door and begging. I am not a freak because I didn't choose to have children, therefore I shouldn't be fucking subjected to it. I'm beginning to think that being vegetarian and childless has placed me in the freaks column in terms of my standing in society. We get no breaks, because we choose not to over populate the globe; we use less energy, and most kids love us because we're not like parents. We should be fucking sainted! I should get an extra £100 a week benefits for being such a shining example to saving the planet and acting selfless while others go out there and pop sprogs out like I take a shit! RAH!!!

And breath...

***

While I'm on one...

I was reading... hang on. I was looking at the stats for my blogs and I had a referral from a site I'd never seen before. Clicking on this led me to click on another link and then another and before you know it I was on the website for some County newspaper in Georgia or Minnesota. I really didn't take much notice because I was stunned by the article I'd stumbled upon. It was a newspaper column about anti-abortionists campaigning to have a 17 year old girl and her abortionist prosecuted. There had been picketing around the doctor's clinic, he has lost 40% of his patients, most leaving because of what he did, but many because he's suddenly become 'dangerous' to see.

The girl, who had been repeatedly raped by her grandfather since she was 13, finally fell pregnant to him and she went to the local doctor, who horrified, granted the girl's wish and terminated the pregnancy. A receptionist who belonged to the Loopy Jesus Army of Totally Moronic Opinions found out about it and spread the news, without the details - not that it mattered in the end - and soon the crazies were flocking to shout God sanctioned obscenities at the clinic and the terrified young girl.

The sole basis for these crazies argument is that the life inside the mother isn't responsible for the crimes or misdemeanours perpetrated against the mother, therefore whoever the father is the baby deserves its chance at life.

Do you know what's wrong with that argument? The fact that once she becomes pregnant a mother suddenly loses all of her human rights. She is nothing more than a big food bag for the creature inside her. She has no rights, because they've all been transferred to her inbred child in her stomach.

And we have the audacity to think Muslims are weird or dangerous?

***

I haven't burbled about TV for a while. This is down to the fact that I haven't really had much to moan about, relatively.

However, I will tell you this: don't, whatever you do, watch Once Upon A Time. The alarm bells were ringing immediately because it's made by ABC, who have the reputation once held by Fox in the USA, but I figured Robert Carlyle was in it, so it was worth 42 minutes of my time. Oh no it wasn't!

Let's be kind. Haven could teach it a thing or six about television making.

Fairy tales are simple ideas, yet this poor excuse for a show has made the premise deeply confusing and it's full of 'D'you know, I really couldn't give a shit' performances. They did a poor job of setting the scene, but don't actually tell you what it's going to be about, giving me reason to believe that it's going to be Fairy Tale of the Week, with a different fairy tale character taking centre stage and done in a decidedly un-post-modern way. The only character that comes out of it with any interest is the kid and you just know that by episode three you're going to want him dead and not just in the TV show.

In the end, I felt like I was watching an episode of Haven on some mildly hallucinogenic drugs. It even reminds me a little of Haven in that the lead female character's history is a mystery, which sounds like it could be a line from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical number - My history is a mystery... cha cha cha.

So far, of the 8 new US shows that deemed worthy of repeat watching American Horror Story is the only guaranteed survivor (and the latest episode, weighing in at 38½ minutes must be the biggest cheat in cable TV history) and Person of Interest has been given a stay of execution on the basis of the first episode being mildly of interest. The rest have gone down the shitter.

Oh, we have Grimm #1 to watch tonight. The odds suggest we should like it. On what basis I'm making this calculation, I know not.

The Fades has been pretty interesting stuff. Roger reckons it goes up its own arse around episode 5, well we have that and the finale to watch tonight, so we'll see.

Switching to film for a bit. We watched Captain America last weekend and I hate to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's good fun and very faithful to a bad original story in a good way.

Back in the 70s, when I was young and little scared me I saw a film called Don't Be Afraid of the Dark with Kim Darby and Timothy Hutton's old man Jim. Watching it again a couple of months ago, I could see why it scared me (and others) first time round, but age had not been kind to it and by halfway through I wanted it to end. Last weekend we watched Guillermo Del Toro and Troy Nixey's remake with someone and Tom Cruise's wife. It looked great. Unfortunately the story is essentially the element that has aged the most. It was ... alright.

***

One of the musical highlights of the year for me has been The Horrors album Skying. It has impressed a lot of people and justifiably so. I'd heard the thing that made this album so good was the fact that the Horrors previous albums had all been shite. This morning I decided to put that to the test.

The answer is conclusive. The Horrors until Skying were worse than shite. It was like having my brain scraped by mutant spiders.

***

Karma only happens to people who look for it.

***

I was thrilled and proud of the fact that my potato snobbery is something that runs in the family. My eldest niece is like me, angry about the utterly shit spud offerings from our supermarkets.

It's your fault! If you were a bit choosier about your potatoes we wouldn't have to suffer bland rubbish white balls of cloth or soup. Try one of the heritage range on offer; see what a better spud tastes like. What we need in this time of strife and uncertainty is a campaign for better potatoes. Damn, I'm going to write to my MP. This is far more important than the fact I can't afford to buy any.

***

As you can probably tell, I'm a little bored. Since the wife started doing full days on Saturday, as overtime, I sort of treat it like a normal weekday, which means that I'm sort of stuck for things to do by the time chores are done. I know, I mentioned this yesterday and probably countless times before, but everything is blurring into one with me at times and the boredom is relentless. At least I'm allowing my brain to work even if it means telling you all about how interesting my boredom really is.

Back in the days when I smoked too much illegal substances, doing nothing was easy. I'd just do nothing. The 1980s were full of nothing with sporadic acts of less nothing. Now time, a thing I get obsessed with, is now, at times a vast chasm and all the things I used to wish I had the time for are hiding in the darkest crevices of my mind. Bloody hell, if I could earn money procrastinating I'd be a millionaire. But... I haven't got anything to do and I feel as though I shouldn't be frivolous yet I sit here and waffle away on a blog.

I'm going to start a small project on Monday, while the weather is still reasonable - by bonfire night it will be like standing under an elephant taking a piss - I'm going to do some border redesigning in the garden. Who says I'm not rock and roll?

Now, do and do something less boring and remember, be careful out there.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tangerine Spleen

So, last weekend I opened up my new short story and decided to start the process. I sat there and didn't even look at it. Something had caught my attention. Several minutes later, I started a new story.

My short stories might end up being a load of shit; but I've just finished the second one. I finished it last night with a bit of a whimper and it came in at 19,973 words - roughly the same as the first, if I recall. This time I very much think it's the bones of a slightly longer story; I already know there's parts that will need fleshing out a bit; but I'm also aware that it is attempting to be the antithesis of a specific sub-genre of fiction, so it might stay roughly the same.

The first short story is a ghost story of sorts and the second is a pragmatic post-apocalyptic story. I say pragmatic because, in my view, that is what it has to be.

This is all a bit prolific for someone who me because I haven't created this much stuff in years; if you discount my ramblings on my blogs. I seem to have found an enthusiasm for short stories after avoiding them like the plague for most of my writing life. I also know that this is a good thing; my penchant for tomes and attempted trilogies, quadrologies and shared universes has probably been a huge and unnecessary burden I've placed on myself. The problem is, I've now got a bug for them and I can't wait for the next idea to come along and it's just not there. I'm looking too hard for it and therefore it's hiding and pulling faces at me from its nook.

***

My finger was really disappointing...

***

I'm going to a gig on Monday night with Monseigneurs Roger and the other other Phil (of wine, women and Wandsworth fame). We're going to see Steven 'Hardest Working Man in Showbiz' Wilson perform his solo album (and probably get arsey at fans asking for Porcupine Tree tracks; in fact there will probably be a big message beamed onto the back drop telling people not to film it on phones, take pictures, record it or ask for PT songs otherwise you'll get a slap in the face and your iPod will be destroyed by Wilson on stage with a big fuck off hammer).

I mention this, not the bracketed bit, the bit about going out, because I don't get out much now and rather scarily I'm starting to enjoy my own company. I'm reminded of 1997, the middle of a very strange period of my life. This isn't detailed in any way in my book (available for the Kindle at all good Amazon stores) in fact, much of 1996 to 1999 isn't told in any detail, just selected highlights. I probably should have included it, but hey, since I wrote it I've thought of shedloads of stuff. Anyhow...

I might have smoked a lot of drugs while the shop was open, but between the years 1995 and 2000 I smoked far too much and the effects started to show in 1996 when I slowly withdrew from normal life. By 1997, I had become a fully-fledged borderline agoraphobic. You could almost count the places I went to on one hand and all of them were places I felt comfortable (although not comfortable enough to take a shit in), other than that I went nowhere. I didn't go anywhere where there were a lot of people; it wasn't paranoia, it was more a feeling of being suffocated by people I didn't know and didn't want to be near. I became so insular that the wife and friends started to take the piss out of me for it. Possibly not the best thing to do, but it's like water off a duck's back for me - especially at that period in my life.

In 1997, the boys got tickets to the League 2 play-off final between Northampton and Swansea (oh how the years have been both cruel and kind) and right up to the day before the final, I was going and then I didn't want to go and someone else took my place and had a great time - the Cobblers won and went up, Swansea stayed in the bottom flight for another long, hard and cold season (oh how the years have been both cruel and kind).

In 1998, the Cobblers got through to the League One final, tickets were acquired and I chickened out at the last minute again. I was really becoming a hermit. We stopped going to the pub; I became chained to my new office and that alone was a really bad thing - the world suddenly became what I could see out of my 9" by 15" window. I should explain; my office used to be the spare room, but when we took lodgers on, we converted the loft and moved my comics and office up there. once we stopped having lodgers again, the wife didn't want the spare room turned back into a hovel, so we converted the cupboard at the back of our bedroom into my office. It was wide enough to put a table in there, which had my bulky computer sitting on top and a flap for the keyboard (a good sturdy keyboard, much better than this piece of shit I use now that doesn't like my stumpy fingers). My chair went in and it touched the wall with the diddy window in it. It was a tight squeeze, but perfectly adequate. I spent about 20 hours a day in my bedroom and 'office' - a room not much bigger than a cubicle in a public toilet.

To say I went barking mad is an understatement. I even arranged for my drugs to be delivered and because we weren't spending any money on entertainment and a social life, I could buy MORE! And the ironic thing was, I didn't actually have to buy more because, I had a constant supply from work, which if I ever had to pay for it was usually about half of the street price. When I discovered my employer had been opening my mail and keeping my freebies for several years, I decided that he should pay for that by allowing me to smoke all his weed, whether he knew about it or not. I never took lots; that would have been seriously dishonest and a wee bit stupid, but he paid me back for years of deprivation and, of course, however bad it got, there was another reason for staying there. Going to the office was one of the few times I ever got out of the house, but, of course, I was again in an nice warm enclosed space with people I knew, but whenever a stranger came into this sanctum, I usually disappeared off into the front office and worked or sorted out more of the mountains of comics he had come into possession of.

Contrary to this bizarre state of mind, I did go on things like the legendary Laddie Boys Weekends, but I suppose I did that because I felt protected by my two or three fellow Weekend Idiots - plus I could take my illegal crutch with me. By the end of 1999, I realised that I had a problem and I gave up smoking for about six months. During that time, we had New Year's Eve and the big celebrations for 2000. We spent the evening round RnB's and at 1pm in the morning of the 'new millennium' Roger and I decided to go for a walk to Derrick's, which was about 3 miles away. We met all kinds of people and the atmosphere was unbelievably placid and celebratory; it was the night I got better.

Now, 11½ years later, I'm settling into a similar routine, but without the illegal drugs. I take the dogs out in the afternoon for an hour and that's it. I go shopping once a week and the pub on a Tuesday (sometimes if I'm lucky I'll be taken for a beer on a Thursday night or Friday lunchtime, depending on how lovely, splendid and wonderful Roger or One El are feeling) and that's it. The rest of the time I'm stuck here. I refuse to sit in front of the telly for any length of time, even though I have discs full of shit I should but probably never will watch and after my chores I either blog or fart about.

Going to London. Full of fat, sweaty, smelly people, in a venue with a band...

Oh God...

I am so looking forward to it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Incantations and Toenails

Obviously, having no money has made me a wee bit insular. I don't go out because I can't really afford the unnecessary diesel/petrol and therefore I'm left to my devices during the day. I have my chores - having four hounds tends to mean the Dyson is out most days - and I seem to count the days off by emptying the dishwasher. I have also gone quite mad...

I walk around the house singing nonsense ditties and inventing new words to existing songs - none of them are particularly repeatable. I was sitting the bath this morning, inventing words to something or other, when the thought struck me like an epiphany (or it might have been when you finally get that joke). There are an enormous amount of people out there with little or no quality threshold. However, how does one measure quality? Is it good because some no mark critic tells us or is it good if it sells 50 trillion copies or seen by 100 gazillion people?

The problem is, if you measure quality by the masses then the likes of Matt Cardle, Rihanna and Coldplay are the yardstick to measure that quality by. Anyone with what they consider taste would argue that these kinds of acts as hardly superb quality. However, I've been listening to the new M83 album constantly, think it's inspired genius, yet it got a damning-with-faint-praise review in the Observer and will sell about 50,000 copies compared to Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay which will sell several million.

So I downloaded Xylo Myloto or whatever it's called and gave it a proper listen. It is hardly an inspirational album, but it's pleasant enough. There are some catchy tunes on it and others that make you wonder why the band recorded it and why that particular 5 minutes of a Coldplay gig might be the time for a quick shit or a stiff scotch at the bar.

The thing is, I can berate pop music, hip hop, the new RnB, Urban Grime and all the other piss stained rubbish that dominates the chart now, but I'm in the minority and that is slightly worrying. Many of my good friends have very eclectic and interesting music tastes, yet they are also in the minority, because for everyone of them that likes Frank Zappa or King Crimson or Kwoon or North Atlantic Oscillation, there are hundreds and thousands that like Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Mr Jay Zed (said in a Yorkshire accent). I'd rather listen to cats being castrated than spend 45 minutes listening to a Tinie Temper or Dizzy Rascal, but I'm probably ignorant and growing into my parents (well, actually someone else's parents, as mine were quite musically cool). The problem is, even the new rock bands that are surging through sound a bit meh and pfeh to me.

I remember many years ago having a conversation with a large group of people on the net about people's quality thresholds dropping, saying that some programmes they watch are substandard to ones we watched when we were younger. It's a difficult argument to win, because it requires almost nerd like determination to try and make someone else like or acknowledge that Show1997 is better than Show2007. For starters, how do you compare something like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer to Hill Street Blues or Twin Peaks to The Wire or The Sopranos? You can't. You cannot account for taste, because like what foods you like and dislike, it's an individual choice. I don't like raw tomatoes, some people think this is ridiculous, especially as I'll eat them in any other form (except ketchup).

When I did my own magazine, I didn't really want the reviews section to reflect the 'you should' or the 'you shouldn't' formula. It needed space to breath and reflect what something was about rather than anything else. Plus most people, it seems, want immediacy, rather than others who are happy to watch something develop. However, a turd is still a turd, regardless of how long you spend on making it look different.

Anyhow...

***

I love Northampton Council's new road resurfacing policy of just tarmacking everywhere there isn't a car. The Headlands, the feeder road for where I live, has been resurfaced - I can't understand why, when there are so many road really in need of doing - but only where there wasn't a vehicle at the time. Subsequently, it now has this patchwork feel about it, especially where there was a single car. Surely they in formed the locals of this? Probably saved them a few grand by doing it this way, but took a little longer while the engineers worked out the jigsaw puzzle.

***

When the rugby world cup started, I watched a report from the England training camp in New Zealand. It was September, the first official month of autumn and therefore the first month of spring in the southern hemisphere. Nothing strange there, except the report had England on a field, it was pissing down with rain; the landscape behind them could have been anywhere in the UK and most importantly, all the trees were fully loaded - all the leaves were out. This confused me slightly.

During the progress of the tournament, I saw various weather forecasts for the matches and in comparison to the UK, they were all virtually the same. England played a match in the evening and the temperature was 12 degrees; that night the UK night time temperature was 12 degrees.

I thought that was odd, yet strangely obvious and slightly comforting.

Jesus Hydrophobic Christ ... I need a job...

***

I'm having Finger Wars at the moment. Just as I start to feel human again, thanks to my new drugs, I'm fighting a war with three fingers on my left hand. The top of my thumb is healing well after my fight with the potato peeler, and I'm halfway through a bizarre method of getting rid of my first ever wart, which took up residence on my middle finger and is now being bombarded by... super glue. The glue is winning.

However, my index finger is now swollen and potentially pus-filled. Sounds nice.

We went Sweet Chestnut hunting on Saturday and came home with a pound of nuts. I also came home with one of the prongs from the prickly pods of joy stuck deep in my pointing finger. It smarted, but I figured inside 24 hours, my body's defences would kick it out in a show of minor volcanic interest. It didn't and because this is probably less than a millimetre long and buried deep inside my digit, it's just sitting there causing havoc.

The wife tried to get it out the other night, when it first started to go green. She got a needle and pricked it, but got nothing but some watery plasma type stuff. Last night she had another look and concluded that I need to incubate it seriously to draw it out. So as well as having super glue on my middle finger and a plaster wrapped round to stop the coating from cracking, I have a double plaster on my index and the finger of a surgical glove pulled over it to suffocate it into rebellion.

It hurts like a bastard and actually feels worse than sheering the top of my thumb off last week; it's a similar feeling, but more... electric. If I don't an impressive display of yellow junk pour out of it when it's ready, I shall be very disappointed!

***

Something similar to this happened to me in 1980. It got so bad I went to A&E and they lanced it. That was the day I started to realise that I no longer had a strong stomach for real blood and gore.

I stayed relatively good around blood and shit like that until the wife's late brother had his first brain operation to remove a tumour. We went to Oxford to see him and the back of his head looked like someone had had a go at him with an axe and not done a very good job. I felt my stomach do a 180 degree flip and I spent the rest of the visit sitting on steps outside smoking.

The thing that probably tipped me over happened about a year later. I had to take a guinea pig with an abscess to the vet. Our vet, Moira, who oddly enough suffered from the same complaint I now have, knew that I was pretty hands on and good in a crisis, so she decided to lance then abscess and I would hold Teasel, the gp rather than one of the nurses.

She got the poor bugger's head, and basically slit his throat. What ran out all over the table was a mixture of mainly yellow custard, speckled with blood and the smell... oh sweet Deity, the smell was like all your worst nightmares. Moira later told the wife, with huge amusement, that she looked at me, saw that all the colour had drained out of me and that I looked on the verge of passing out, so she called a nurse in who took the gp off of me and I just turned into the corner, like a naughty school boy, and tried to take a breath that didn't include this smell from H.P Lovecraft's arse.

That was it. Suddenly anything on TV that had real life operations or injuries would have me hiding behind a cushion ala Dr Who. I'm fine with film gore - it's not real, however authentic it might look - but operations, child birth, accident injuries - Fuck Right Off My Screen!

Why the hell don't they have warnings, saying, "This programme contains images of scalpels cutting into actual human flesh"?

***

I sent a few job applications off this week. Who knows?

***

I've been picking autumn raspberries in the garden. This summer and autumn have been odd and I can say I've quite enjoyed it and been satisfied with it. Yes, we had crap a July and August, but don't we always.

It's the 25th of October and the back door is open, I've been out without a jacket; the sun is shining and despite the little taster of autumn last week, which was pretty much expected, it's been a pretty fab last couple of months.

You watch it change after next weekend. You mark my prophetic words!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sing When You're Whinging!

The bride who had to leave her own wedding at St Paul's Cathedral by the side entrance is very right to be a bit pissed off, no one wants their big day spoiled, especially, as she said, by the 'ignorant scum' who have occupied the square in front of Wren's masterpiece. However, tweeting to friends that the protesters were 'ignorant scum' when your father is a extremely wealthy banker and then following up said tweet with the suggestion that these activists are thugs, hooligans and have no idea how the real world works, is a bit thin. She should realise that the protesters absolutely understand how the world works, otherwise they wouldn't have occupied St Paul's...

***

According to Tory Eurosceptics, as many as 50% of the population wants us to withdraw from Europe and feel that a referendum is the only way we can end this debate once and for all. Amazing isn't it, we go 40 years without a referendum in this country and a second one is hurtling towards us before the last one has been forgotten about.

The thing is Tory Eurosceptics are going to say anything. They'd argue they all have the biggest cocks in parliament if they thought some nubile wenches (or boys) would sit on them; where as the truth is probably that they are all the size of a pinto bean and last achieved an orgasm with the aid of a house boy at Eton. I'm fully aware that there are a growing number of people in this country that think we need to be out of Europe and away from the threat of having to bail out some 'tin pot democracy' (an expression levelled at Greece, no less). The thing is we're barely in Europe any how; we have always kept out of things we don't like; have vetoed plans that affect us more than we like and have generally wanted to play the game but have never been willing to get totally immersed in it. This is a good thing, shout all you Eurosceptics and possibly it is; but to blame Europe for the state it's in is a bit like the Tory's blaming Labour for everything from the economy to the melting ice caps - it simply isn't accurate.

If you could see my face, I'd say read my lips - World Economic Crisis. Not 'Labour imposed Economic Crisis' or 'It was the Greeks wot did it, guv'nor'. There is a global problem that our government blames the last government for. I'd actually call that pious and egotistical - we're not that important any more to enforce a global financial meltdown, however much we might think we are. But I digress; pulling out of Europe might be a good idea; it obviously wouldn't affect the rich as much as it would the poor and maybe we wouldn't have this unwanted bureaucracy forced on us (which, it should be pointed out, is actually from the imagination of Paul Dacre and his Daily Mail fantasists rather than based on any actual facts - we opt out of so much of EU strategies that I'm sure the weird and wonderful things the Mail claims we'll have to pay are just alarmist tactics from a paper that likes its readers to think Britain is ridiculously close to actually disappearing up Nicholas Sarkozy's arse hole).

***

Is it very mild or is it warm today? I'd say it was warm, by the virtue of the fact that I cleaned the duck shed out in a T shirt and a thong and nothing else.

***

I think I may have finally made it to the religious blacklist. While sitting here earlier, I saw a swarm of JWs working their way up the street; less than half an hour later, they had passed my house and were working their way back down. We had no call or knock on the door. I am now considering writing a book called 'How To Scare Off God Botherers'.

***

I sat and looked at all the DVDs and CDs I have that are full up with TV programmes or films that I thought might be good to watch and have never bothered to even start. Some stuff, like The Wire and a couple of others, may well get an airing, but others are just now taking up room - despite the small dimensions of a CD - and I have to be honest, I've had more than enough time in the last 6 months to sit down and watch them and decide whether I want to finish watching them.

Saying that, I have about 100 CDs with music on that I may never ever listen to. It's an ultimately pointless and futile exercise to collect things and never watch or listen to them. I often joke I'll have lots to do when I finally retire, but frankly if I don't watch or listen to these things soon, it'll have a similar feeling to watching McMillan & Wife in 2011.

***

I'm sitting here, at this moment, listening to Fuckwit burp, fart and generally grunt out the front of his house. He must have Tourette's, because if he hasn't he was obviously raised by pigs and that sentence upsets me because I really like pigs...

Fuckwit's partner Fat Lass or whatever it was I called her last time, actually looks like a pig and I know how that makes me sound, but she does! However, instead of snorting, grunting and squeeing, she cackles and sounds like she had most of her brain removed before puberty. Did I mentioned that her stock response to something she doesn't understand is to laugh heartily?

This is a woman who complains to the Incest family (Fuckwit's neighbours on the other side) about the amount of cats - domestic, stray and feral - that live around the gardens, yet continues to put food out for whatever she thinks is going to come into the garden - normally all the cats. Now this you would think is the reason for her complaints, but it isn't. She gets pissed off with Incest Woman because the cats all seem to like her more than Fat Lass - it's that childish.

Jesus H Smith, there are some people on this planet that seriously wouldn't be missed by anyone if they just died or were abducted by aliens.

***

Us and the Fishwife Family are on UFW or Urban Fox Watch, after one of Fishwife's chickens was ripped apart in front of their 6 year old. He's a sensitive lad at the best of times and seeing this was slightly traumatic. His 5 year old brother had the best idea, "Can't we just shoot them?" However, Fishwife and his missus were more disturbed by this than the hen death. I suppose I should be grateful that they think their children should be more civilised and not resort to violence, but this is a fox and it ripped their hen to bits; I'm with the 5 year old and I said as much.

***

The doc's new drug regime which involves something called Celecoxib seems to be working. The ultra painful areas of my skeleton - back, elbow and shoulders, seems to have abated considerably, even after just four days. It's pretty amazing really, considering it's a drug prescribed for people with arthritis and I haven't got it.

There is, however, a couple of unwanted side effects - indigestion and tremendous wind. The indigestion has eased now, but I'm still farting like a Viz character. I can live with that, even if others can't.

***

Unless I'm completely wrong here, as I understand it, Gadaffi G'Duck, if arrested, would have stood trial in Libya for his crimes and if found guilty (Ha!) would have faced execution.

He obviously just got shot by one of his overzealous captors, obviously thinking he would become a legend in his country for his act. However, it seems everyone is up in arms about his death and Human Rights campaigners are asking questions. Sounds to me like the usual bollocks the Human Rights people feel the need to comment on and sour grapes from everyone else because they wanted to be the ones who killed him!

***

Heard a great line about Arsenal being bad dog walkers, because they can never hold onto a lead...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

'Orrible Little Bratwurst

This was obviously meant to be posted the other day and wasn't...

Let's get this out of the way quickly: I have made some leeway regarding my back. I'm going to be referred back to the consultant and my doctor - perhaps aided by my sardonic yet level headed approach - agreed that there is obviously a problem that needs to be addressed. I actually spent a good 20 minutes with her and was surprised that I got so much support and affirmative action. I shouldn't be and it all may come to nothing, but it was good to be able to unload to someone who could give measured and expert advice.

The thing is I'm not disabled, I accept that and to be honest I'm very glad. Being disabled in 2011 isn't much better than it has ever been. My doc accepts that nearly 200 days sick since 2009 is indicative of an underlying problem that isn't really being addressed; she also accepts that, currently, I am unable to do specific tasks. She also accepts that I'm not angling for DLA or whatever InCap is now. As I pointed out, I want a job and need one, for at least the next ten years, to be able to pay off the mortgage - benefits don't do that. So, I suppose I'm going to have to consider becoming a desk jockey and the vast array of jobs that comes with that description make me want to throw myself off of a shortish building, repeatedly...

We'll see what comes of this attempt at doing something to sort out my crappy spine.

***

I won't dwell on this next point as much as I'd love to, but let's just say if you work hard, pay your taxes, NI and follow all the rules, if and when you lose your job - probably through redundancy - you qualify for Contributions Based JSA. This entitles you to... fuck all. It entitles you to £67 a week. That's it. As far as supporting you anywhere else - forget it. You are not entitled to free prescriptions, free dental treatment, you're not entitled to anything free.

If however, you've never worked; have never contributed to society in any way whatsoever, apart from maybe deposit little kids around the firmament. If you're a foreign national, have dependants who have also not contributed anything to the IRS or if you are a long term unemployed person who has no intention of ever getting a job - you are entitled to a list of free stuff that would make the average person's mind boggle.

It's fucking disgusting.

***

Several years ago, I attended the funeral of a work colleague who had died suddenly at the age of 42. After the funeral, the small team of people I worked with went to one of our colleagues favourite pubs, in Wellingborough, to toast her one last time. We'd been in the pub for about twenty minutes when four 'Travellers' walked into the pub.

The atmosphere changed almost immediately. The bar staff went on edge; people perched at the bar slunk off into corners and buried their heads in newspapers and the four of them stood at the bar, drinking strong cider and jabbering away in their own Irish tinged language. In all the years I'd lived in Wellingborough, I'd never had any form of encounter with these kind of people before, although I had heard stories that would make your hair curl. I thought it was quite ironic that now I'd moved I was having my first full blown example of them.

It was time for another round of drinks; my boss went to the bar with one of my colleagues; I disappeared into the men's room, leaving three female colleagues sitting alone in the lounge. When I emerged from the loo there was some kind of confrontation going on. The four Travellers were making unwanted and unpleasant advances to the three women. One of them made it quite clear they were neither interested in being bought drinks, not in having the attention of these people. These simple social rules were completely ignored and two of the men sat down where my boss and I had been sitting. Tension rose and my boss, walked from the bar and nicely and without any sense of confrontation said, "Look lads, we've all just been to a funeral; can you leave us alone please?" The men ignored my boss and went back to trying to get the girls to accept a drink from them. One of the woman said quite firmly to a man making very unwanted advances to her that she wanted him to go away and he turned quite nasty, threatening to 'beat the fuck out of her' if you talked to him like that. My boss looked at the landlord, who shrugged his shoulders and disappeared out the back.

Eventually, the four young men, now joined by me and my other colleague, sensed that it wasn't going to be their day, so they retreated to the bar, where they hurled abuse in our direction until they left. As they were leaving, the most mouthy of the group stopped at the door, turned to my boss and said something about it being his funeral next if they ever ran into him again.

The landlord reappeared shortly after and apologised, but also said he wouldn't call the police, because the police didn't respond to calls regarding Travellers and if he had managed to get them to attend, he would have felt retribution from the Travellers, either through taking over the pub with hordes of them on busy nights or damage. We were all slightly horrified, but most of us lived in Wellingborough and realised that what the landlord said was very true; Wellingborough police rarely, if ever, responded to complaints about Travellers - it was literally too much trouble and fraught with danger.

During the 12 or so years I lived in Wellingborough or Taxi Town as we often referred to it as, I'd seen the damage left by Travellers. There was a place we took the dogs to, just down the road from where I lived. It was called Dale End and was a large field used by the local scouts and sat adjacent to a local primary school's playing field. Until 1996, it had never been closed to vehicles, but then a group of caravans and expensive cars turned up and made the field look like some mad cross between a car boot sale and a gypsy village. They were there for five days before they were moved on and during those five days, 14 houses were burgled; thousands of pounds worth of damage had been down to the surrounding landscape and when we could finally take the dogs back down there, all the little copses of trees and wooded areas were awash with human shit, bags of rubbish, empty cans of lager and broken glass. The field looked like the aftermath of a violent Glastonbury.

The local paper ran a feature on it and asked the local council and the police what they were doing about it and the best answer they got was to say that bollards would be erected at Dale End to prevent it from being occupied again. But what about all the burglaries and damage? Asked the local reporter. The police issued a large number of crime numbers for insurance purposes; the council were conspicuous in their absence.

I retell this because of the business at Dale Farm in Essex. Arguably, Travellers contribute nothing but misery and bad feeling to society; they abide by their own laws; trample over the laws of the land, use their ill-gotten gains to attempt legal fights for rights they don't recognise 360 days a year and revert to type when they lose. They are the worst elements of society and when violence flared in Essex yesterday, you could have set your watch by it. I'm sure they love each other, are reasonably kind to something and feel they are oppressed; but they give no evidence whatsoever of being anything more than retarded and violent thugs with a wanton disregard for anything they disagree with. They have cost tax payers enormous amounts of money and while you could criticise Basildon Council for their handling of it; as I said many weeks ago, if I'd decided to build something in my back garden that contravened planning rules, I'd be made to take it down. What makes these scumbags any different from the rest of us?

They're called Travellers; they should travel, preferably back to Ireland or some other country, preferably one that is considerably less tolerant than us.

I have to say that the Labour MEP for that region, Richard Howitt, presumably doesn't want his career to be a long one. He came across as ignorant, ill-informed and slightly ridiculous - just the kind of twat Labour could do with getting rid of if they ever want to stand a chance of being elected anywhere ever again.




Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Waiting For the Drugs to Kick In

Yes, I have been spending a lot of time blogging. And yes, I am aware that too much of a good thing often spoils the fun. How many kids have begged and pleaded their parents for one more go only to projectile vomit over the back of mum's head on the journey home with a mixture of candy floss, hot dogs and excitement?

Obviously, not everybody is going to read everything I write about. looking at the stats to my blog, it appears I am most popular when I am in Victor Meldrew mode - having a rant against fuckwittedness, bureaucracy, arseholes and people who don't deserve even a thoroughly nasty death. This, I am sure, would concern some people - a sort of car crash blogging phenomena, where only the most popular are the ones that rage against the machine of modern wankiness. I suppose that's human nature, or at least one facet of it.

For people who read my blog, my rants are considerably more interesting than my wibblings about my health. That's totally understandable; no one really wants to read about someone else's woes when their own lives are bordering on shit. Oh well...

After the day I had yesterday, today is calm, cold and slightly unwell. I woke up after a surprisingly long night's sleep; I was in bed just after midnight - pretty much a rare thing for me on a school night. Perhaps I was feeling the beginnings of a reappearance of the virus that has, for a few weeks now, been banging at the door, but has never quite stepped over the threshold? I decided, before I really woke up and realised how fucking awful I felt, that I would have a bath - soaking my back in hot water helps me move around better during the first couple of hours of doing my daily 100-year-old man impersonation.

It wasn't until after the bath that I realised I was feeling a bit shit. The wife has a way of describing it, which is almost impossible to put into words, because she doesn't use words or even gesticulations to infer how she feels - she just sort of bobs her head. She'd say, "I feel a bit..." and then bob her head in a 'not quite sure this is reality' way. The thing is, as an ex-stoner, this makes a lot of sense to me, which is why it has stayed a staple form of description in the house for 25 years. I once said to a mate, a long time ago, that being stoned was a little like being ill - your temperature rises, you get a bit insular and if it wasn't for the pleasant feeling, you'd feel like a bag of shit. Hardly a ringing endorsement for taking drugs...

In the last year, since the explosion of my spine into a ball of rage and hate, I have had a fair few drugs to ease the pain - everything from morphine based Bastard Pills™ to things Michael Jackson had a penchant for to bog standard over the counter rubbish. I think they all work to varying degrees - things like Ibuprofen, paracetamol and codeine probably do take the edge off the pain - from unbearable to almost unbearable - not a massive distinction, but trust me, better than nothing at all. The stronger the drugs have got the more adverse reactions they have on me. The Oxycodone (Google it and be frightened) fucked me up so badly I might as well just gone and scored some skag from 16 Stone's husband; Tramadol don't appear to do anything until you stop taking them; then all of a sudden the craving for a cigarette becomes as insignificant as a retarded housefly and both of them deliver an unwanted punch - they make you feel a bit stoned, but without the pleasant bits. When I came off Oxy, I had the drug withdrawal equivalent of the flu (or Cold Turkey as it is referred to in certain circles). Having what amounted to a week of being really ill, coupled with a prolapsed disc was possibly one of the worst weeks of my life. I'm not suicidal, never have been, but Jesus Horatio Christ I could understand why some people throw themselves off of Beachy Head. There is also the plain and simple fact that the stronger the drug the less of a shit you give about anything. I'd contest that drugs that fuck you up don't actually ease the pain, they just make you care less about it!

Tomorrow is D Day - or rather Doc Day. I go to see my doctor with a continually morphing spiel; do I focus on my back and risk my elbow becoming an after thought that gets forgotten in everything else (I rarely talk about my elbow because I don't want people thinking I'm either a hypochondriac or a wuss) and when do I mention the conversation with my employment adviser, the one that starts, 'Do you realise that I've had 187 days off sick during the last two years I was at work?'. It would be a real pisser if I turned up there with a cold.

The reason I bring this up is because over the last few weeks I've had this virus creeping around the edges, but sitting here this morning feeling slightly disembodied, I realised that even if I do have a runny nose sometimes and I'm coughing a wee bit more; it's no more than you would expect at this odd time of the year. I tried to work out if there was any pattern to this; because I started to believe that it wasn't a virus at all. By the time I finish this I will have convinced myself it isn't - the reason is because in the time it has taken me to write to this point, I've started to feel human again...

Now, they say unemployment is a downer and can make people feel ill; it's all psychosomatic innit? But I don't think that's the case; yes I worry about not having any money and starving to death, but I have an iota of confidence in my ability left and know that whoever gives me a job will ultimately get their money's worth. Plus, there have been times when I've actually enjoyed having the freedom I've had for the last six months. I have spent my second summer out of three off work and had the weather been better I probably would be complaining about melanoma now rather than a bad back. No, I think the dodginess I have been feeling could be something a lot more insidious...

I stopped taking the painkillers back in February. I had already thrown the walking stick away and as I've chronicled on these pages, I started to feel bloody good again. Yes, I had the after effects of the prolapse - bad sciatica at times and that dull ache at the base of my spine that finally made me understand what my dad was going on about for years - the one that seems to hang around like an unwanted party guest. I did stuff with my posture; did more walking and generally by the time July came around I was feeling like I could do all the things I used to be able to do before my back rebelled against the rest of my body. Then during that month my elbow started to play up. At first I thought it was just a case of Tennis Elbow, even though I don't play tennis. It made perfect sense; I'd spent two years barely using my left arm, to the point where you could actually see the difference because of the muscle wastage. Once the op sorted it out everything went back to normal, but my right arm had taken most of the strain and it could well be the problems with my elbow could be down to those old chestnuts Mr Wear and Mrs Tear.

It wasn't that bad at first, just a tenderness around the elbow joint, but by the end of August it had begun to inveigle its way into my everyday life. In the cupboard in the conservatory was a big bag of Tramadol; like a said I'd given up the painkillers months earlier, but didn't see any point in getting rid of 400 strong painkillers when my subconscious was continually worrying about slipping another disc. I also didn't see the point in taking them for my elbow; yes it was very painful, but was it bad enough to warrant a bandage rather than a band aid? I dug out my old prescriptions, found one that had a repeat for Solpadol - the 30mg of codeine infused paracetamol which were the last medium strength pills I had taken before being put on the horse pills and got it filled. I decided to take them supplemented with Ibuprofen. Then about a week later I probably had another prolapse and in the last month that 400 tablets of Tramadol has become two.

I was down to less than 10 by the weekend, and the Solpadol was down to the last dozen or so (there might be a few lying around somewhere). Fortunately the pain had decreased from a 9 to about a 6 and there was the doctor's looming ever closer on the horizon; so I've been very careful with the Tramadol; taking them first thing in the morning, supplemented by various other drugs and relying on my dwindling stock of Solpadol to take main strain. And it's been since I've decreased consumption of Michael Jackson's favourite painkiller that I've noticed the days where I've felt like complete and utter pooh. Ooh, can you see a correlation there? I can.

I think I've become as dependent on my daily concoction of painkillers as I have with drinking at least 9 cups of coffee between the hours of 9am and 4pm. If I haven't had a coffee by midday, I start to get a caffeine headache. Neither of these things can be doing me a lot of good, but what are the alternatives? A spine transplant is not possible; even if I get to have an MRI scan and see a consultant, the conclusions were all a bit meh and they all opted for time to be the healer. Perhaps the NHS's new policy is the make people believe something is being done about their problems, when nothing is?

I've been doing this an hour now; the last two Tramadol have been taken and I've had 4 cups of coffee. I still feel a bit fuzzy, but that's probably the effects of the drugs rather the effects of not having them. That leaves me with even more of a doctor's dilemma. I need both my back and elbow dealing with; I need her to acknowledge that 187 days sick through this 'wear and tear' problem - 172 of those days were certified - isn't a good advert and suggests that my problem is a disability; even if she thinks it's a temporary thing, it's a disability for me at this present moment in time and it doesn't appear to be in any hurry to move along. And, I need her to understand that the small pharmaceutical firm I have consumed since May 2009 isn't doing me any favours. You can't have the chicken without the egg; but when the egg is always bad, it's the chicken you have to start being concerned about.

I hate going to the doctor with more than one problem - for a multitude of reasons from psychological to the fear that I will be branded an attention seeking hypochondriac. The thing is, I wasn't even going to see the doctor this time - I'm that confident in her abilities, I was just going to let nature take its course; after all, that's all she'd eventually do.

If you'd asked me a year ago if I wanted an operation, I would have bitten your hand off. By April, when I was offered one, I was recuperating so well that it seemed to be something that was no longer really needed. I actually said to the surgeon, 'I hope I don't rue this decision.' He said that we understand our bodies better than any expert and only I could ultimately decide that. I'm ruing it.

It's now 1pm and I'm virtually back to how I feel most days. I'm a fucking prescription drug addict!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zen and the Art of Being a Sphincter

[Warning: contains bad language, sexism and a degree of intolerance]

I got a tax rebate on Friday. Woo and indeed Hoo. It was only for £164, but Jesus Harry Christ did it arrive at a time when we really needed a bit of extra cash. The wife cajoled me all weekend to remember to put it in the bank on Monday, especially as I bought the shopping on Saturday and subsequently went pretty close to my overdraft limit. So, like the dutiful hubby I am, I trundled off to the local Co-op and it's boxy post office run by the amiable Justin.

Parking on Bushland Road is a bit like some Serengeti plain; sometimes it's empty and other times it's full to the brim; today was the latter, so I had to park about a ¼ of a mile from the shop. My back has been screaming at me all morning and literally by the time I walked the 400 metres or so, I was wincing with almost every step. I have to admit I was slightly preoccupied when I walked into the shop, therefore I amazingly missed the man I walked into. I say amazingly because he made Fat Bloke from the Harry Enfield Show look like Kate Moss. He was also quite old and had a ruddy face and receding hairline - this doesn't have much to do with the story, but it adds a bit of texture.
"Watch the fuck where you're going!" He bellowed at me as I bounced off his midriff.
"I'm sorry, I didn't see you." I said quite honestly.
"How do you miss something this size?" He said without even a hint of humour in his voice.
"Okay, I should have said I wasn't paying attention," I said, putting my hands up in that universal admission of surrender.
"Just watch where you're fucking going!" He bellows at me; loudly enough for the half a dozen people in the queue for the tills to turn and yaup.

When I buggered my back up again, about a month ago, I felt it go. I had a twang in the small of my back and then, a bit like peeing yourself, there was a hot spread of fire across my spine. I had a similar thing happen while standing in front of Uberfat Man. Something just went twang in my head. So as he literally pushed past me, I failed to keep my mouth shut. "Look Fatty, I said I was sorry, there's no need to act like a complete cunt."
"What did you say?"
"You heard me or does being so fucking fat make you deaf as well?"
"How dare you?" He says, face turning a slightly more ruddy hue.
"How dare you not accept my apology. I said I was sorry or doesn't apologising mean fuck all now days?"
"Look I've had a bad day, you should have been more careful."
"So you having a bad day means you can act like a prick, does it?" I was fuming and Uberfat Man probably saw this. He mumbled something about something that might have been an admission of his irascibility or might have been some kind of curse on all my family, I couldn't tell, he'd turned away and was waddling towards the Suzuki WagonR that I somehow doubted would take his weight. I muttered something rhyming with 'Cat' under my breath and headed for the post office situated, fortunately, well away from the front of the store.

The queue for Justin was six deep and standing in front of me was a gaggle (or maybe the collective noun should have been 'clunge') of fat chavs. The one we shall call 15stone was directly in front of me; she was wearing a pair of baggy black shorts, pink tights and a bomber jacket. She had bright red hair, almost purple in the fluorescent lights of the shop. Next to her was 14stone, who was wearing some grey knitted combo that might have been fashionable in the 1970s. She had reddish auburn hair with brilliant white streaks in it, which were a good four inches from the roots; said roots were a different colour from the rest of her bonce and it gave the illusion of some bizarre set of alien traffic lights. The final one of the three or 16stone as we shall refer to her as, had naturally frizzy ginger hair, tied back into a Croydon Face Lift which did nothing but make her face look even more capable of curdling milk. I really can't remember what she was wearing, except that she was leaning against the counter on the left with her arms resting on her belly.

14 Stone: Russ is in Sri Lanka.
15 Stone: What's he doing there then?
14 Stone: He's on 'oliday. A couple of weeks after he gets back he's off to Morocco with his mates.
15 Stone: What's he doing there?
14 Stone: He's going on 'oliday again, innee.
16 Stone: Fucking queue. How long is that old bastard going to take. You'd think they would have a queue for pensioners only. Don't they realise people can't wait around all day. I got things to do.
14 Stone: What you got to do then?
15 Stone: Probably fucking.
16 Stone: Nah, Steve's at work and besides, I've had the shits really bad last couple of days. I wouldn't want to have an accident.

Massive cackles emanate from the trio.

15 Stone: 'ow come your fella's getting two 'olidays then?
14 Stone: He sold that Beemer he bought a few months ago. Some twat on Lumbertubs gave him the full asking price.
16 Stone: How come he didn't take you then?
14 Stone: I don't like 'ot weather, do I.
16 Stone: What the fuck is he doing in Sri Lanka, he can't stand Pakis.
15 Stone: He likes a good curry though.
14 Stone: Sri Lanka doesn't have any Pakis in it.
16 Stone: Well they all look the same don't they?

There were nods and general murmurs of agreement and the queue moved forward. I missed a chunk of conversation because my mind was wandering back to the rudeness of Uberfat Man.

16 Stone: Fucking 'ell. Steve reckons old people should have their own lane in the motorways.
14 Stone: They can't 'elp it. We'll all be old eventually.
16 Stone: I'd rather die than be like that.

Keep eating the chips and pies, darling and your wish will ultimately come true I thought and smiled to myself.

15 Stone: What are you laughing at?

She was addressing me. I looked slightly puzzled at her and shrugged.

15 Stone: Are you listening to our conversation?
Me: No.
15 Stone: What you fucking laughing at?

I frowned and wondered if I had an invisible neon sign above my head which invited people to take a pop.

Me: I was not laughing and I was not smiling at you.
16 Stone: Yeah, what are you laughing about?
Me: Something that isn't your business?
15 Stone: Fucking freak.

The queue moved forward a couple more feet and I opted to stand my ground, put a couple of feet between me and the three fat witches. Half a minute passed and the women were still mumbling to each other with the occasional glance thrown in my direction. I started to zone out again, figuring a bit of daydreaming would make all the idiots go away. Then there was a tap on my shoulder. I looked around and there was a little old lady standing behind me. I smiled at her.

Little Old Lady: the queues moved.

She says pointing at the three foot gap between me and the munters in front.

Me: I know.
Little Old Lady: well keep up with the queue or I'll have your place.

I looked at her and shook my head.

Me: we'll still get there in the same amount of time.
16 Stone: why don't you let her into your place. If you can't keep up with the queue you should lose your place.

I could feel the anger brewing, so I walked the three steps forward and stood about 8 inches away from the bunch of ugly in front of me.

14 Stone: Don't get too close.

They all cackled again and 16 Stone's turn for the cashier came up. She left the other two and we shuffled forward another couple of steps. The two other women went half way to the other woman, cutting the usual distance between the person being served and the waiting queue by about half. I opted not to follow them, figuring I'd stay by the Queue Here sign.

Little Old Lady: The queue?

She was pointing at the four foot gap between me and the other two girls. I pointed at the rather large sign that said 'Queue Here' and turned my back on her. I heard a harumph and she waltzes past me and stands in the gap between me and the munters.

Me: Excuse me. What do you think you're doing?
Little Old Lady: I told you if you didn't keep up with the queue I'd have your place.
Me: But it says queue here; the gap is for privacy.

She just ignored me and turned her back on me.

Me: Ignorant fucking old bag.
15 Stone: What did you call her.
Me: She just pushed in front of me.
14 Stone: I said he was a freak.
Little Old Lady: He wasn't keeping up with the queue.
Me: I was waiting at the sign.
Little Old Lady: Well, these girls are waiting here.
Me: They know the woman being served by Justin.
Little Old Lady: Well, you're not having your place back.
16 Stone: (in the middle of being served) Yeah, let the pensioner in; she shouldn't have to wait.

What?

15 stone: (speaking to the old woman) Some people are just so ignorant these days.
Little Old Lady: He's probably one of those Eastern Europeans; think they can come over here and run the country.

How does that work then? I maybe only uttered a couple of dozen words, but they were all in English and all with my pretty neutral English accent.

14 Stone: My Russ might have a job if it wasn't for all those Poles. Coming over here, getting our jobs and buying our houses. They ought to all be deported. My neighbour says they all belong to some Polish Mafia.

The next few minutes went by without incident. All three of the flabby triplets were served and the old lady, who had pushed past me, got served. She wanted her pension, TV license stamps, electricity card and various other things doing. I timed her; she was at the counter for 11 minutes. When she finished, she walked past me and gave me what can only be described as an evil and satisfied smile.

Me: (on arrival to Justin) Did you see that?
Justin: What?
Me: That old woman pushed in front of me.

He looked at me like I was a five year old moaning about how unfair it was to have to go to bed at 7pm. I paid my money in and left. Anyone seeing me must have thought I had ringing in my ears, because I was shaking my head in disbelief - all the way out of the doors and up to my car...

And it was only 9.35am.

***

Last Monday an old colleague contacted me and asked if I would help with her daughter's university project. Kim, the daughter of my old colleague, is doing some kind of journalism course and her current project is about unemployed people and how being made redundant can have adverse effects on people. She wanted to talk to me because I fitted the bill perfectly.

I spoke with her on Thursday afternoon and she arranged to come round this morning. She was due at 10am, but turned up a little after I got back from my post office adventures. She explained she gave herself plenty of time to find me and found me quicker than she thought. I invited her in, placated the dogs, which she was perfectly excellent with and wandered into the kitchen. "Would you like a cuppa?"
"I don't drink tea or coffee. Have you got any hot chocolate?"
"No. I don't."
"I'm okay then." We chatted for a few minutes, talked about her mum, what she was doing at uni and her iPhone, which she was fiddling with throughout the first five minutes she was in the house. "Are you sure you haven't got any hot chocolate?" She asked.
"I'm positive. We don't drink it and frankly we couldn't afford it."
"You must have one of those free sample sachets that come on the front of magazines." I wondered if I was dreaming.
"No I haven't. We don't buy magazines that have free samples on them."
"Well, I would have thought being unemployed you'd buy things like that for the free stuff?" I wondered if I should explain that the average magazine that gives cover-mounted stuff away usually weighs in at about £3 and the freebie could be bought for less than 20p - economical it's not.
"Oh. Okay. Have you got any Lemsips?" I frowned and shook my head.
"It's just I think I'm coming down with a cold."
"There's a shop at the end of the road." She looked at me like I'd just suggested going upstairs to have some naked fun.
"Have you got any juice?" We didn't. Then I realised she wasn't talking about fruit juice, she was talking about squash.
"I've got some orange and mango."
"I don't like mango." I felt like being really sarcastic, but bit my lip instead. "Could I have a really weak coffee?" Obviously she liked coffee more than she thought.

Anyhow... after this rather bizarre opening, we sat down in the lounge and she got out her ... notebook. I groaned as I sat down on the sofa. "Is your back bad?" I nodded. "My dad's an osteopath." I knew this as her mother was forever touting her husband's business whenever I saw her; she knew I had back troubles and apparently her husband could solve problems that the combined might of the NHS couldn't.
"I know."
"You should go and see him."
"Even if I thought it would do any good, I can't afford it."
"It's only £28 a session; if you're unemployed you get 10% discount."
"I don't have £25.20 to spend on osteopaths I'm afraid."
"No, I said it was £28."
"Yes, but I'm unemployed. I'd get the 10% discount?"
"Oh is that what it is with the discount?" She laughed and I started to wonder how she ever got into university.
"I'll bet you spend that much on painkillers and special mattresses?"
"Um... I get my prescriptions free."
"Do you? I nodded. "Oh..." I smiled. "Perhaps I could ask him to see you as a favour for you doing this?"
"I wouldn't bother; there's no point seeing an osteopath unless you can see him over a number of sessions and I really can't afford it."
"But if you started seeing him, you might get a job in between and be able to pay for your visits." I started to wonder if she was just there to sell her father's wares.

A few minutes passed and we got down to the nitty-gritty of her questions. "So, what's it like being unemployed?" I started to give her a nice full description of the last six months, but she stopped me. "Sorry, but I can't write all of this down. Can you give me, I dunno, six words to describe it?" I felt like cackling a bit, but pulled six words from out of my head that were apt. She nodded while scribbling them down. "What have you done about getting a job?"
"I've looked. Applied for and failed to get a couple of dozen."
"Okay. Why did you lose your job?"
"I got made redundant."
"What does that actually mean?" Can you imagine what was by this time going on in my head?
"It means the job I was doing had become obsolete."
"Yes, but what does that mean?"
"It means that the job I did stopped existing." She frowned, scribbled some notes down, went to ask me something, thought better of it and fell silent. I felt I needed to elucidate a little. "After the budget came in, the YOT, who I worked for, didn't have enough money in their budget to pay every one, so they kind of decided my grade wasn't needed any more."
"Didn't they offer you another job?" I nearly laughed.
"Um, they didn't have enough money to pay me and my colleagues, so they had to make us redundant." She nodded like she understood every word I said.
"That seems a bit unfair." I felt like suggesting 'unfair' was maybe a tad too lenient, but opted against it. "Would you consider doing something else?"
I was about to answer this with an explanation about how my back trouble was preventing me from doing certain types of job, but before I started I could see where the conversation would go and frankly I didn't want to see her bloody osteopath father; in fact, I wouldn't go and see her osteopath father even if I won millions of pounds on the lottery. I'd probably go to his fiercest rival and offer ringing endorsements rather than go to her father.

The next thing I knew, she was standing up. "That's about everything I need," she said making her way to the front door. I was a little bemused, but also quite pleased that this experience was over. Kim thanked me for my help - I wasn't totally sure if I'd given her anything other than a disinclination to see her osteopath father.

I saw her out and said my goodbyes and wondered just what the point of the exercise was.

Then I walked back in the house to be presented by a big pile of dog sick...

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Space and Time Travel Agency

Excuse me for a few moments of self-indulgence and another chance to tell you what an amazingly good ideas man I am...

My good and dear friend Roger commented on musician Boo Hewerdine's FB page today with something that reminded me of an idea I had back in the 1990s (before Dr Who got its revamp). An idea that I occasionally delve back into, but rarely do anything with. In 1997, when I had just started to get back into writing fiction and started to put my myriad of weird and wonderful ideas down on paper (or computer), I had this idea which I dubbed The Space and Time Travel Agency a kind of cross between Mr Ben, Doctor Who and Jim Starlin's Metamorphosis Odyssey and his Warlock saga (the latter two being a very much acid influenced cosmic saga by one of comics' most respected drug fiends).

The nuts and bolts of the idea was that a man - not too dissimilar to the kids' programme Mr Ben - had run off with his race's only means of salvation. A machine that allowed them to go back in time and erase the mistakes that caused their ultimate downfall. The man, who still hasn't got a name (oddly enough), stole the machine because the changes his race intended to make would almost certainly destroy his family rendering him non-existent.

The man buys a shop in a back alley of a city on Earth and offers people the opportunity to travel to any when or where to observe monumental events; the only proviso being they cannot tamper with time or change the course of history or the future. Sounds all a bit DW, but remember that it was a dead concept in 1997, the film had essentially flopped and the BBC were not in any hurry to bring him back.

The man grabs the attention of a future earth that is run by the Multi-dimensional Church of Disorder - a quasi-religious movement that controls the planet and uses time travel to change events in Earth's past for their benefit. As soon as the man discovers their interest in him, he becomes aware that they have been manipulating the past; changing things, allowing others, so that they would ultimately be the most powerful organisation on the planet and this rogue man with his machine could feasibly change back all the changes the MDCD make or it could fall into the hands of rebels, causing a Time War (yep, something else I envisaged in 1997).

That was about it; I got about 10,000 words down and eventually moved onto other projects and ideas. The thing was, the concept of a man out of time (so to speak) stuck with me. I had an idea about a time traveller, created by a future world, who lived outside the constraints of time. He rebelled against the authority that created him to change events in the past and eventually had to fight different time travellers from different points in the future, while all the time killing ancestors so that whatever point in the future invents time travel, he could make sure it doesn't actually happen. However, despite putting down a few thousand words of this, the concept blew my brain apart and just thinking about it left me gibbering like a demented fool.

Eventually, I started on a massive idea called Cosmopolis - set 1million years in the future; which, while it didn't have any time travel in it, had a man who was half a million years old and another who was a couple of billion. It also started the seeds of another idea I had; something called Stasis - an invention that allowed you to place something out of time, so that it never aged or in the case of its fictional invention, allowed space travel, the transportation of perishable goods and was a future equivalent of cryogenics. Stasis froze things in time, so that anything going on outside of it would continue to age, but anything inside would emerge as if they had spent less than a second of their own lives. I'm sure I've discussed Cosmopolis here before - probably the time I gave a list of all my failed projects - but it was a really ambitious idea of mine. I envisaged an entire series of books all based in the Dyson Sphere that was Cosmopolis. I even stole the name of a comicbook villain as my hero for the series - Korvac.

I even attempted to write a kind of prequel to the story, about the invention of Stasis and the battle to control it. That, like all the others mentioned here, sits in stasis, waiting for the day I win the Lottery, when I can create my own publishing company and write or finish all the ideas I've ever had.

The thing is, all the above are science fiction, something I've never really been a big fan of. I think I've read about 5 SF novels in my entire life (not including the faux SF by Stephen King) and as I'm not particularly science minded, this makes a lot of sense. Yet, science fiction and fantasy are such good mediums for outlandish and impossible stories; it amazes me it isn't a popular as it could be.

But then again, when you have TV programmes like Terra Nova, which purports to be SF, but is actually The Waltons with dinosaurs; or the BBC's Outcasts, where nothing interesting happened until it was cancelled; you can understand why SF isn't treated the way fans believe it should be. I think it would be excellent, especially in light of HBO's Game of Thrones excursion into pure fantasy, if one of the larger Cable companies invested in a proper SF series; with a commitment to have at least three series. Several months ago, I wrote a long thesis, originally designed to go up here, but probably consigned to the bin, about Babylon 5. It was written as an exercise in seeing if B5 could be transposed into a 21st century TV show, especially as it offered as many truly SF moments as it did cheesy character building moments.

Probably the most obvious SF TV show at the moment is Fringe, but that is more bonkers than SF and obviously is constrained by the requirements of being obsequious to fuckwit Yanks. You can't really call any thing with the initials ST or SW as SF and showers of shit like V or Falling Skies are only SF in setting. Hell, I had a great idea for a TV series; it was called Second Contact about a race of aliens who come to Earth and are introduced as the first alien visitors, but are actually the second alien race to come here, the first being hidden away, because the second race is actually trying to exterminate them. It had all the usual intrigue; juxtaposition and plot twists that you'd expect and was going to be ambiguous enough to make the viewer wonder if the benign and wistful original alien race is really to be trusted or the monstrous, mega-aliens with big guns and a completely alien culture are really as bad as they seem. That, like the idea I had with my good and dear friend Martin Shipp is probably also confined to the text bin of history...

I can't remember if I've told you about Sea View. It was another time travel idea I had, which I roped Martin into a few years ago. We decided that two such inventive and excellent people as us should not be doing what we normally do, but should be courted by Hollywood (and the BBC) to create and produce stunningly brilliant TV series. Sea View was about a seaside village that just happened to have a time portal in it, which the locals used and abused, but everything gets thrown into disarray when their benefactor dies and his son becomes the new owner of the hotel - Sea View - which is the centre of all the shenanigans. It was Time Tunnel meets The Monarch of the Glen and was going to be Sunday night drama with a touch of the weird and unusual thrown in to tempt the fans of Lost and programmes of that ilk. However, after people read it they thought it was a pile of pooh, so Martin and I slumped back into reality and haven't attempted to work with each other since, despite talking about it a lot. We did have another idea, but it was a bit of a Dexter derivative, so nothing ever really came of it.

It isn't just me; I see lots of my mates ideas; either for their own comics or for short stories and ideas and wonder how the fuck you get the opportunity to usurp the lazy, useless wankers who continually churn out shit like Terra Nova or Haven. I mean, for Chris'sake, do TV executives really think that the vast majority of viewing public adults still need toilet training?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Disco Banjo

"I've run out of ink for my printer and I can't print anything out."
"How can we help with that."
"Can I get some CVs printed off. It's not like I ever use them now, but they're useful for agencies."
"Oh, we don't do that. But if you want to go to Job Club, you can use their facilities."
"Job Club?"
"Yes, it's every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the college."
"But I can't tell anyone about it?"
"..."
"The first rule of Job Club is you don't talk about Job Club."
"..."
"The film with Brad Pitt. Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club."
"I don't watch films..."

Oh, aren't civil servants just as fucking dull as we've always thought they were?

***

Driving back from Job Club (I shouldn't tell you about it, but I will), I thought about the conversation I had with one of the advisers. "Why don't you try to get back into comics?" She said, as if it was a little like popping into Tesco's and buying an aubergine.
"It's not really as simple as that," I said, hoping she wouldn't labour the point and end up with me boring the tits off of her - because I'm feeling isolated I'm gushing more than conversing at the moment, especially when I lure an unsuspecting listener in.
"But if you have all these years experience, surely one of the companies who do the Spider-Man films could use someone with your knowledge." Damn. This meant I had to bore the tits off of her.
"I'm not even going to try to explain why what you suggest isn't feasible, just trust me that I'd have more chance of sleeping with God."
"What about getting back into the media. If you were an editor and journalist for so long, surely that must count for something?" Stop now you stupid woman, you have no idea what you're letting yourself in for!
"I'm not that good."
"You can't be that bad, you worked in it for 15 years."
"Yes, but it doesn't mean I'm any good. Do you have colleagues that you feel don't know which way to sit on a toilet?"
"I couldn't say."
"Well, if you do, then I'd probably fall into that category; if I went to a proper magazine publisher they would probably still be laughing now. I'm also nearly a decade away from it; everything has moved on." Thankfully, she just nodded and continued to look through my CV. I didn't want to come across as someone who didn't want a job, so I did the really unwise thing and said, "Besides, if someone offered me a job in comics now, I'd want a contract that stated quite clearly that I wouldn't get royally butt-fucked by them and I'd get all the money I'm owed from said contract if it all went tits-up. If you'll excuse my bad language."
"Why?"
"You don't want to know."
"Well, it might help me find you a suitable job."
"I doubt very much if the incredibly small number of jobs in comics would ever find their way to Northampton Job Centre; besides I really need to live in New York to stand even a snowball's chance in hell."
"Oh, why's that?"
"Because that's where the work is. I'm not a comicbook writer and the only thing I draw are stick men. It's hardly the kind of trait you'd get headhunted to write Spider-Man for." She nodded, but looked confused as well.
"Have you thought about writing articles for papers and magazines? You could write about comics; I'm sure there are people who would be interested." I was beginning to wonder what qualifications you needed to be an unemployment adviser.
"Let's put it this way. I wrote a book about my life in comics. It's even been published on Kindle, as well as being serialised on my blog." She was nodding like this was something really positive. "To date, I get about 1000 hits a week on the blog and I've sold about 35 copies of the book. I was considering buying a yacht or a small Caribbean island, but my accountant reckons by the time I can afford it I'll be 809." She didn't get the joke.
"How much money have you made from it and when was it published?" Aha, I could see where this was going.
"I have made approximately £80 from it and I won't get anything from Amazon until I've sold 50 copies in whatever country it is sold in. So far it's 27 in the UK and 8 in the USA. If I ask for the money before I reach my targets, I pay an excess fee."
"Okay. How much is the book?"
"About £4. Why are you going to buy it?"
"I have a Kindle; I might just do that." I smiled thinking she had no idea what she was letting herself into; or wondering if she was just interested in getting my royalties up so they could deduct that money from my benefits. Even I don't think civil servants would go that far to save £100.
"I think exploring the comics world for future employment isn't such a good idea. I've had enough disappointments so far and it would end up being a futile search. There's no money to be made from it unless you draw like Michelangelo or write like Dickens and I'm afraid I'm neither."
"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself. Part of my job is to try and get you to feel more confident about going for jobs you might never have considered. At least you have experience."
"Yes, but you need for there to be jobs. There aren't any, anywhere in the UK."
Someone behind us, a man who looked like he'd just forgotten where his arse was, chirped in, "I read 2000 AD, it's really good." I looked at my adviser and shrugged.
"What's 2000AD?" She asked.
"An anachronism," I said with a hint of sarcasm and in-joke. She shook her head; she didn't see the joke and I suddenly remembered the other adviser, yesterday, who didn't know what Fight Club was.
"You seem slightly bitter about comics."
"Go and buy my book." She nodded and scribbled some notes in my new folder. This suddenly injected me with a pang of paranoia. "Look; in a nutshell, I worked in and around comics for 25 years and only really got any remuneration from it for about a third of my time in it. I have won awards; produced a magazine read by over 100,000 people across the world and have always been in the wrong place at the right time. Do you have a hobby?" She nodded. "Would you like to make a business out of it?" She pondered this and eventually shrugged an 'I don't know'. "I loved comics. I was a geek. Then I sold them, then I wrote about them and then I produced my own magazine about them and by the time I got to the last one I hated comics so much I'd have rather be anally probed by Judge Dredd than have anything to do with them. You live, breath and eat your hobby and soon it becomes just another job. Why do you think I left comics and started working with the homeless and disenfranchised? Last year, I was approached by the organisers of the Umbrella Fair and asked if I'd be the PR man for the festival. This involved producing the magazine, getting promotions, press coverage and liaising with all the contributors. When I suggested that if I did it I'd have to run it professionally; I was looked at in abject horror. It was, according to them, the most important job in the festival's organisation, but it also required my skills from working in social care, because some of the people contributing were 'precious' - my word, not theirs. They felt that I could marry the two skills and do a good job, but they didn't want me hassling anyone for copy, adverts or contributions - just in case I upset them and they pulled out. In other words they wanted me to do the job in about three days, not get paid for it and suffer idiots gladly.
"The two jobs don't work with each other and while I could do what they asked for with my eyes shut; it stressed me out just contemplating it. I could not put the two hats on at the same time, which is what they wanted, and I love working in social care and asking me to do this job could well kill off that interest. If you want to know what I want to do, it's to stay in the line of work I've been doing for the last ten years." She hadn't glazed over, she was searching through her computer terminal.
"There's a job at the college for a web technician in their social welfare department."
"I'm not a web technician."
"Yes, but it requires a knowledge of all the things you've been doing for the last ten years."
"Using that logic, perhaps I should apply to be a porn star, on the basis that I have a passion for sex."
"You're not being very helpful, Phillip." No, I wasn't and I really hate being called Phillip...

***

You can tell that I'm suffering from almost terminal boredom at the moment. I've started subscribing to web pages I would have once avoided like the plague. Den of Geek has become one of my favourite sites. It keeps me informed (in a similar way my old comics gossip column did) about what is happening in Geekdom and allows me to criticise the contributors, the programmes they review and the general idiots that frequent these places.

Then I saw the irony...

***

As I don't have a Blackberry (but I do have two bags of them in the freezer), I really don't understand this current joke going around about setting your iPhone to airplane mode.

Not only can't I tell jokes; I can't explain them either...

***

I was reading on the Football Gossip column on the BBC website today that former Arsenal, West Ham and Wales striker Jon Hartson, who recently battled and won a fight against testicular cancer, is having to make do with an allowance of £250 a week because of his gambling debts.

Poor sod. How on earth does he manage on just £250 a week...

Who says sarcasm doesn't work in print?

***

Of course, because I'm now struggling to be a contributing member of society and I face long days of doing fuck all, if anybody knocks on my front door, they immediately become fair game. Just after I wrote the word 'print' above, the dogs went wild and I realised it was someone at the door. I've had the blinds closed, so I haven't been distracted by the flotsam and jetsam that wanders passed my house on a daily basis, so I had no idea that God Botherers were at my door.

I usually have two stock answers for callers - anyone selling me something, I say we just rent the house and if it's anything to do with God I just normally slam the door in their face, mumbling about 'sad pathetic wankers'. This morning, however, as I'm absolutely pumped and in need to unload a lot of verbage, I stood and waited for the delivery.
"Good morning sir. I hope we haven't interrupted anything." I shook my head. "We're in the neighbourhood talking to people about expectations and faith; have you got a few minutes to talk to us?"
"Other than God, what are you selling?" I can recognise a JW from a mile off; I still have their DNA on my fist from the mid-1980s.
"We do have copies of this," he said, offering a handful of Watchtowers in my direction.
"I'm unemployed. I can't even afford to eat properly."
"Some of the stories in these will give you hope and restore your faith," said the bespectacled shorter one.
"Can I eat them?" He looked at me like I'd offered him a free blow job. "If I can't eat them, then they won't serve any purpose apart from as toilet paper. Although, paradoxically, if I can't eat, then I doubt I'd be able to shit much." I think they spotted my sarcasm and inclination to be slightly hostile.
"Thank you for your time, sir, we're sorry if we've bothered you." And they went to walk off.
"Hold on a minute. Aren't you going to try to convert me to Jehovah or give me some spiritual support in my time of need?"
"You obviously don't want to talk to us, sir," said the taller one without glasses and seriously bad acne on his forehead.
"Oh I do. I'd be happy to discuss religion with you. Why it's the root of all evil, causes wars, hate and prejudice. But you obviously don't like theological debates, you're only interested in selling the bloody Watchtower. I thought Christians were benevolent people, willing to donate their time to offer succour to those in a time of crisis."
"We're Christians," said the one with glasses and you could see the shoulders of his partner slump. "We do offer comfort and support to people who deserve it." His friend went to say something, probably along the lines of 'let's get out of here, NOW', but I beat him to it.
"So, on the strength of two minutes conversation, you've decided that I'm not worthy of comfort and support?"
"I didn't say that at all." Said the short one.
"You do have an... attitude, sir. You're obviously not receptive to ideas, at least not today." Said the tall one who now looked like he desperately needed the loo.
"Surely then, I'm the kind of person your theocracy would love to convert?" Eat that, JW!
"There has to be an element of willing with the people we talk to."
"So, you prey on the vulnerable then?"
"I didn't say that."
"I think you'll find you did."
"Someone who is willing doesn't necessarily mean someone who is vulnerable. We meet a lot of people who are fed up with their religion or have none at all, but would like some faith in the current climes."
"Fair enough. So why are you more interested in flogging the Watchtower than talking to people? You would have been happy to take my money, despite the fact I have no job and no money?"
"Some people can find a few pence for some enlightenment, even the poorest people in society."
"Have you ever considered they're just trying to get rid of you?" The short one smiled, but his presumably more senior partner did not.
"Belief in God isn't about money."
"So why are all the churches wallowing in cash and people like me are suffering?"
"Probably because you don't believe in God." The small one was getting slightly belligerent; this was good!
"Now, I never said I didn't believe in God. I don't, but I never said I didn't."
"I think we've taken up more than enough of your time, sir. Have a good day," and he literally grabbed the small man with glasses and walked off.
"Damn, and I was going to ask you if you wanted a cup of tea, or maybe a really filthy three-way!" sadly they didn't reply to this suggestion and kept looking forwards, like they feared the same fate as Lot's wife!

I'm still chuckling about it now, despite the fact that I'm likely to burn in hell for my sins...

***

We won the pub quiz for the third week on the trot on Tuesday. We tried desperately not, but we're just cleverer than everyone else.

The delicious irony of Tuesday night was that both Roger and I have come to dread quiz nights; not because we win a lot, but because the once great pub - The Vic - has rather fallen into a state of ambivalence. The toilets need cleaning; the pub needs sprucing up and the beer, once some of the best in the town, seems to be a bit flat, old and possibly even unclean.

I declared that I'd drive on Tuesday, so disillusioned with the beer, I decided that I didn't mind just having a pint. Roger emailed me to say that he was only having two at the most, because he had an important meeting at 8.45am the next morning. I informed the wife she could get drunk and everyone was happy, until we walked into the pub and saw there were two Oakham beers on tap - the mighty JHB and the wondrous White Dwarf. Oh, the irony.

Roger had three pints and I pushed the limit by having two - JHB is only 3.8% and a damned good session beer. Next week I'm not driving and Roger doesn't have an important meeting; you can bet your life that the beers on offer will resemble lifeless washing up water and we'll both have the shits and a bad head the next day...

It is also quite ironic because One El, our usual beer-loving quizmaster is on holiday in Mexico, a place where Oakham beer has yet to reach. The weather might be hot, but he's missed out on a rare thing, The Vic having good beer. I'm sure he'll be heartbroken.

Who says sarcasm doesn't work in print?

***

Haven has been recommissioned for a third series. Someone is felating the heads of the SyFy Channel, they must be!

Forgive me for a moment; but after reading the comments left on the Stephen King Facebook page - there really are some turkey loving fuckwits out there.

***

The wife was in a charity shop yesterday (yes, we've fallen that far) and couldn't help overhear part of a conversation between a slightly mad looking woman and the two assistants. You'll get the gist of it...
"So the rule of thumb is if you can peel the caps they're edible and if you can't then they're toadstools and will poison you."

This woman is going to die.

I'd say about half of all mushrooms can been peeled; these include Death Cap, Panther Cap and Destroying Angel - all part of the same family as Fly Agaric (the red mushroom with white spots you see on most book covers) - the amanita family; probably the most poisonous and deadly species growing in this country.

Mushrooms that can be 'skinned' also include agaricus xanthodermus or Yellow Stainer - part of the same family as your common shop bought mushroom, but responsible for 80% of all poisonings every single year!

Similarly, there are at least a dozen mushrooms I can think of that you can't peel - including shop bought oyster mushrooms (pleurotis) and shiitake mushrooms - much loved by people who like eating tough pencil rubbers.

In this case a little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing...

***

I watched a bit of the U2 documentary on Sunday night. I'm amazed that the three other band members haven't beaten Bono(bo) to death with his own self-sanctimonious ego. Sometimes course swear words just aren't good enough and something almost inoffensive nowadays will do.

Bono is a tosser.

***

It might seem odd that a confirmed vegetarian such as I would get so much pleasure from watching a programme called Man vs Food. But, what can I say? I find it to be 13 minutes of wonderful car wreck TV.

I say 13 minutes; the show is actually 22 minutes long, but there's the intro, credits, constant recaps and montages of the previous few minutes to pad out what is essentially a large man eating his way across the Saturated Fats Capitals of the USA. It is a meat feast bar none. There is more meat in some of the abominations he puts in his mouth than I ever ate in the 30 years of scoffing dead animals.

The thing is Adam Richman, the Brooklyn born presenter, is an affable chap and tries very hard to come across as an everyman for the lard addicted Yanks. There's an element of geek about him, but also something of a bon viveur. If you'll pardon the pun, the show can be a bit cheesy at times and many of the 'members of the public' he meets are either specifically targeted (because they are sexy, young, female and showing vast expanses of cleavage) or single-brain-celled rednecks (who make you realise why you're glad you're not American).

There is very little for a vegetarian in this programme; although it has given me a recipe for the most awesome cinnamon buns I have ever had and several attempts at making Sicilian pizzas. I discovered that Montana's (famous for mining and dental floss - according to Zappa) state dish is the Cornish Pasty - because of all the tin miners who emigrated there in the 19th century. I also discovered that the other three main food types in this ugly state are ketchup, beer and salt!

The closer to the heart of America Richman goes, the more dislikeable, irritable and awful the population becomes. I can't help wonder if this 'food' programme is actually more of a post-modern look at fat Americans and how stupid they are the closer they get to the centre of Jesusland.

***

Food, Jesus, fuckwits and geeks - I have an array of subjects I can be derogatory about. Who said men can't multi-task?