Friday, January 25, 2013

Fork in Hell

Winter's going away for a while, but it's going to make sure you remember it before it does.

All week I've been looking at the weather forecast, hoping that today at least offers sunshine, even if its going to be bitterly cold. Sadly, the only thing on the horizon is bags more snow before the inevitable British weather juxtaposition of freezing cold followed by unseasonably mild. I mean, if there was ever a recipe for someone catching something it's when the weather does that. The lucky thing is it isn't due to hit this part of the country until after dark and hopefully we will have been to the wedding, enjoyed ourselves, seen lots of people (especially relatives) and left before the weather takes a turn for the worse. I know we only have 20 miles to travel, but we have these dogs and the A428 is notorious for being shit and essentially I'm just mithering...

Who needs the weather to fuck me up. I can do that just by getting off the toilet. My belief that if there is actually a God he has a real hate on for me hasn't subsided, in fact, if anything it has got worse. Not only am I blessed with a doctor who thinks I'm hilarious, but I can't even use the toilet without something going wrong...

My back went. Pretty much badly, although I'm sure it isn't a slipped disc. Fortunately, I have mucho fuck off painkillers and a barrage of other, lesser, drugs, that should see me get through this day. I'm also going in my car, which, of course, was bought with my back in mind. I haven't got a corset, I could probably do with one! 90 minutes after the painful removal of myself from the pan, the intensity has passed and I'm thinking that by lunchtime I might even be able to walk without looking like I've shit myself.

Oh happy day...

"Don't you ever worry about what people might think?" This was something asked of me the other day about this blog. My answer was simple. If I did I wouldn't write about it. I mean, I'm a curmudgeonly old hypochondriac who likes wibbling on about himself; if I cared what others thought I'd possibly temper it a bit. Besides, the constant readers who I actually see - the Shoesville Collective - have always taken the piss out of me in one way or another, so while they're guffawing away like leaky clunges at my misfortune two things are happening: 1) they're leaving some other poor schmuck alone and 2) I'm getting all the attention. Me. [Waves as frantically at you as he can without hurting his back any more while being all too aware that he is talking about himself in the 3rd person].

I have just found some morphine... (Yes, it's that bad).

Effercio et Ineptias

  • I now don't have to look it up/copy and paste it; I know it off by heart.
  • The wife was slightly surprised that I'm up to R in my AtoZ odyssey and I suppose it suggests that I either haven't got that many CDs or I'm cheating. We have CDs all over this house. There are three independent areas in the lounge, plus as many again in my office. These are divided, generally, by several things. Downstairs has all the bought, proper, CDs, plus CDs that a) the wife is more likely to play and b) just randomly there. Upstairs is mainly things I've downloaded and haven't bought as a result. There are (or were) about 1000 of these and this was the initial target - go through these like a proper dose of salts and trim. Of the 1000 (ish) CDs up here, about 25% of them are CDs of vinyl I possess; 25% are albums I play regularly - so these two categories tend to be skipped (unless I haven't played something for a long time and then I would indulge in a spot of nostalgia). Of the 50% left, 25% have never been played and the other 25% have been played, but probably once, maybe twice. It has been this group that I have targeted and as a result I have parted company with between 100 and 200 CDs (I will have a final tally before I give them all to CJT). Once I have done this, I am going to do the same downstairs, exempting anything that the wife plays (grunge, metal, wailing rockers, Bauhaus, etc). I expect there will be at least another 200 CDs and some shifting around (because I'm convinced there's albums downstairs that I'd play more often if I remembered they existed) to be done. I bet you all feel like you can die at peace with the world now, don't you?
  • I like Polish rock band Riverside; I just can't help feeling that they have a neo-Nazi following back in their homeland because every video I've seen of them live have skinhead and wankers throwing themselves around in them and frankly this band has never been like that - musically. But, saying that, when me and Roger saw Amplifier at the Waterlogged Trees Festival a few years back, I was astounded by the amount of young twats fucking about while Amp were on stage, all professing to be fans of the music...
  • The (dead) Old Man's house is being viewed as I type. I swear to god the young estate agent who has turned up to show the couple around is so skinny she'd snap if a crane fly landed on her.
  • Must go and put a suit on...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Epididymis Unbound

"I'm bored. What ailment can I have today?"
"How about an obscure virus, your majesty, one that fucks up your throat and makes you feel as though you're constantly drinking shards of glass?"
"That sounds right up my street. Have it delivered forthwith."

And so it came to pass that I have a virus.

I need to emphasise to you the depth of hilarity my doctor had when I went to see her yesterday. At one point you would have thought I'd just told her the funniest joke in the world. That was around the point where I accidentally punched myself in the kidneys falling arse over tit in the snow. As she said at one point, 'when your luck is out, it's really out!' She also apologised for laughing several times...

When described in a Phil-talks-about-Fuckwit-kind-of-way, the last 13 months could easily be turned into a stand-up routine. Man lurches from one misadventure at the doctor's to another. All without his trousers falling down or any custard pies landing in his face or midriff. When you go to the doctor's as sardonic as I was yesterday, I suppose you have to laugh or you might have wanted to operate on my face, without anaesthetic. I like this particular doctor; she's composed mainly of pragmatism with a hint of sarcasm thrown in to make you appreciate she has to put up with fucktards like me every day.

My moles are not melanomas. My lungs are not cancerous. My kidneys aren't going to explode. The blood in my sputum is from the pleurisy and might take a week to completely clear up (it had gone this morning...). As long as it doesn't become thick, dark red and coughed up in great chunks, I have nothing to worry about (did I mention it had gone this morning?). The blood in my wee is down to [guffaw] punching myself in the kidneys and she understands that I'm anxious about it so she's ordered a scan and a blood test to ensure there's nothing wrong with a) my prostate or b) I've not done any serious damage to my kidneys (through accidentally punching myself in them!).

She believes that I'm just Mr Unlucky. She conceded that perhaps I might have been given stronger antibiotics back in December 2011 and because that didn't clear up completely it had a cumulative effect on my autoimmune system, which meant that I suddenly became this beacon for illness. If there was something going around, I'd get it. The fact I work in a Petri dish of disease (a school) meant that those nasty virus germs saw me and I was a tasty treat. Let's head for Phil and have a party in his chest! It's warm, moist and we can go and hide in his head or bowels when the antibiotic police come along to try and stop our viral rave!

"Sometimes we just get unlucky and that's what's happened to you. Being a healthy vegetarian who does lots of exercise and has given up smoking doesn't automatically qualify you for good health. Even really healthy people get ill for no apparent reason." And there you have it. Five days of thinking I'm going to die (I am, just hopefully not next week) of some horrible disease (I probably still will) and I'm just a virus magnet. Some people attract money; others women (or men); I attract illness. Now all I have to do is find a way where this new-found talent can earn me some money!

But seriously, I woke up yesterday with a virus, which caused the doc even more hilarity. I have a throat like a skinned bear and nothing is touching it. I haven't had a sore throat this bad for 25 years (cos it was 25 years ago in June that I had my tonsils out) and the real bonus for visitors is my voice is giving up. My fingers are still working though...

Effercio et Ineptias
  • Why has Facebook started making noises at me?
  • It's snowing again (which wasn't forecast).
  • I spent the morning in a slightly confused state.
  • I must be ill, I'm not quizzing for a second week on the trot.
  • Dave really is a bit of a twat, isn't he?
  • Loft insulation probably shouldn't be mummified corpses.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Drift Would

The wife measured 7½ inches last night... She was really excited!

That's how much snow has fallen in the last few days (at least in our yard). Shows how much I know; I was convinced that we would barely see anything accumulative and the piddly amount we would have would hang around for yonks. I might be right about the latter.

This is so true!
We watched a Winter Watch 1963 Special last night, which was essentially a programme made in March 1963 - presented by a youthful Cliff Michelmore (who is now 93, so you do the maths) - and frankly if 1963 happened again in this country we wouldn't cope. In 1963, most people still had that war time siege mentality and most groceries were seasonal and not flown in from Kenya or Peru. If we had snow like that in the south again, I think the country would just freeze up in a catatonic state and if the phone networks went down... Ha, I'd love to see it. The brother-in-law has always taken the piss out of us for the amount of tinned, dried and 'store cupboard' goods we keep. "We're not going to have a nuclear winter," he would say, when he lived with us. No? For my lunch today I have a healthy lentil soup, of which 50% of the ingredients came from our store cupboard. Who's mad now then Neil?

Taken at 3.30pm on Sunday, another 2 inches fell
until it stopped at about 3am. The road is encrusted!
Despite being off work sick, the school has closed. The bad weather got the better of the powers that be and while the main artery roads are working fine, back streets look like a scene from The Grey but without the wolves or dying Alaskans. I've been out in it already; had to go and collect my certificate from the doc's and when I got back the dogs had locked me out...

I used the analogy - it never snows, it blizzards earlier in the weekend (it's a play on an existing one) and had I not changed the name of this blog I might not have bothered to tell you about it. I woke up on Saturday morning with a stinking cold and then yesterday to add injury to insult, I slipped over in the snow and buggered my back up. I really do feel as though everything has it in for me at the moment. I said to the wife on Friday, "I'm hoping this will be the end of it for a while." Obviously if there is a God I've fucked him off something chronic. At the time of writing I'm waiting for the appointment line to open because developments in the last half an hour have meant that I need to see a doctor sooner rather than later...

I did learn something interesting yesterday; something that might earn me points on Qi. Have you ever noticed why drain covers have never got snow on them? Drive along a snowy road and suddenly there's a couple of black drain covers for no apparent reason. Well, sewers have a their own micro-climates and most sewers are roughly the same temperature as caves, between 6 and 8 degrees, hence why you never see frozen drain lids. Must be all that fermenting shit...

The other thing I learnt yesterday was that if you put ":putnam: :poop:" into a comment on Facebook you get a small gif of Justin Bieber eating shit - honest.

Here's some odd irony: I'm watching a load of tits playing on the roof of the Sexually-Explicit Family's house (Boy, do they need some loft insulation).

I am zeroing in on six months of packing up the fags, which considering the shit I've had to put up with regarding my poor wee chest is pretty good (although I'm pretty sure had I still been smoking I would have been hospitalised at least once in the last six months). The last time I made it to six months, I had a cigarette to celebrate (I am, if nothing else, a complete and utter twat); this time I am going to take the wife out for a Chinese meal. Speaking of celebrations, we have two hurtling towards us at the moment: a family wedding on Friday; one of my 2nd cousins (and the grandson of my God parents) is getting married in Bedford and then the following Monday, the wife will have put up with me for 30 years.

I see lots of funny things on the Internet and sometimes I even think about sharing them. The following picture (to the left) is quite apt really and will probably come true>

Effercio et Ineptias

  • Now on O. N was short lived and most got dumped. N doesn't appear to be a good letter to name your band after.
  • Superpinkymandy by Beth Orton is as rare as rocking horse shit and really it shouldn't be. It's a sublime album produced by William Orbit and I thoroughly recommend it, pop pickers.
  • There's a thaw scheduled for the weekend, whether it's a rapid one or a slow one will decide whether we get floods to follow the snow.
  • Bradlaugh Fields was like a winter Glastonbury yesterday; I have never seen so many people and just about everyone was having a good time.
  • The car needs new wiper blades again - the cold weather fucks them up, you see.
  • Purple spuds are back. They don't seem as versatile as they did in previous years.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Changing the Gourd

It's snowing. It started a little after 9 this morning and at some point yesterday they were forecasting 6 inches and by 10.30 this morning that had been reassessed to 5 cm. The snow is still falling, but apparently the stuff that's buggered South Wales up isn't even going to reach this part of the country.

Do I sound disappointed? I'm actually quite ambivalent about it. I'm not going anywhere as I am not back at work yet (still coughing up a little blood, chest feels like it's been rasped clean by a carpenter's tool and it would be nice for the headache to go for more than an hour at a time), so watching the world grind to a halt because of freezing water is a worthwhile experience.

Talking to the young Canadians that work at my place, many of them don't remember a time when Canada would succumb to 30 feet snow drifts every year and still manage to function like a sunny, warm spring day, and this was 45 years ago, not five weeks. I would love to see what Scandinavian satirists make of the UK (not Scotland as they do seem to know how to deal) when we get half an inch of the white stuff - it would probably make me cringe, because we are wusses.

Once upon a time, this 'snow event' would have got five minutes at the start of the news, because we didn't have 24 hour rolling news services which need to make more of an issue out of it than necessary and there in lies the rub; this isn't really a 'snow event' this is winter, but because producers have to fill 23 hours of TV a day (the other hour is adverts and links) then we get some windswept reporter, standing next to a crazy mad motorway, in the middle of a blizzard, telling us just how fucking bad it is. Once, we would have looked out the window and gone, "Jesus, it's snowing, let's go back to bed!"

Fuckwit appears to be having one of his ... odd periods again. If you recall, this is a man with one small car and a double car pad in front of his house, who, on the rare occasion, actually parks his car there. He also, I noticed the other day, has one of those 'not quite official' blue badges in the back of his car (which suggests to me that his request for a blue badge was turned down); so he wants people to think he's disabled even if we all know he's a lying sack of shit. I'd love to be able to work out what goes on in his mind, even if I risked insanity as a result, because there often seems to be no rhyme of reason for any of it. The last few days have been a perfect example of this. On Wednesday, he got in his car, took it off the drive and parked it in the spot where I always park my Sedici. He did this at about 2pm and it was there until just after 6pm, when he must have gone and put it back on the drive. Obviously, the wife has been using my car while I've been off - her preference - and she got home from work to find the usual parking spot filled.

The same thing happened yesterday and it got me thinking whether or not it's his weird and slightly autistic way of perhaps punishing me... Think about it; we're the only people it disrupts, or technically we're the only people he disrupts. Yes, it causes problems in a domino effect, but I don't think Fuckwit thinks that broadly. It's like the wife's theory that the four nails in tyres incidents we've had since we've lived her have all been his doing. When I worked at the YOT, I'd ask people, kids, why they committed a specific mindless act of criminal car damage - smashing car mirrors, scratching vehicles, breaking windows, etc, and most of the time I'd get a shrug or an ignorant 'they're insured' comment. Fuckwit is of such a low common denominator in terms of human intelligence, I could seriously see him doing something stupid like that because he thinks its clever or achieving something, negatively. Rational people like us find it almost like an anathema to believe that people, fuckwits, can do senseless things, but I see it all the time. But, hey, I get angry at things I can do nothing about and feel like lashing out. Fortunately I don't, but it's human nature and some of us, who aren't blessed with all their brains working proper like, will prove it.

Anyhow, back to Fuckwit. I had thought he might have found this blog and realised I talk about him a lot, but the reality is it is going to be Fishwife (or more importantly Fishwife's wife or mother-in-law who will eventually find this) who does and if Fuckwit found this, he'd probably think it was an offshoot of ITN or CNN, either that or he can't read. I'd really like to know how two fat and useless unemployed spongers live such a comfortable life (albeit not as comfortable as it used to be, but still good enough to have cars valeted and private gardeners. I'm obviously doing something wrong.

It's 1.15. The snow is still falling, but all main roads are clear. I have watched the road transform over the last  four hours, but in reality there's actually probably been less than a inch fall. The Met Office is now suggesting we might see some substantial snowfall Sunday morning. I'll believe it when I see Fuckwit do a swan dive from the cliffs in Acapulco.

Effercio et Ineptias

  • M is proving to be very interesting - and large - on my A-Z journey of the stuff I have downloaded over the years. The surprising thing is the number of CDs I haven't dumped. I've been pretty much losing 30% of each letter of the alphabet so far and have freed up enormous amounts of space; but M is different. There's been one so far and that was because I had it on an MP3 disc and figured I didn't need it duplicated. The jury is very much out on the following - Mojave 3 (kept one album but the rest might go), Manual (kept one album, the rest is just fucking weird), Marconi Union is a bit dull, and early Mercury Rev is, at times, a bit hard work. The real dilemma lies with a band from the 1980s who are still extant now. My gut feeling is I'm just going to keep one old and one new album and dump the rest, because, frankly I doubt I'll even play the others and would be scared of having the piss taken out of me.
  • The last couple of days have been the first for months where the back garden hasn't been like some Everglades swamp land and that's only because it's frozen rock hard. The bad thing about this spell of less damp weather has been the realisation of the extent of work that I need to do in and around the big shed. My brother offered a workable solution to my shed dilemma recently, but in many ways it's as big a job as the alternative, especially as I really have to spend a lot of time getting the garden up to scratch. I have a huge fire to have; I have move things, I have cut things, I have clear things, I have to treat things and I have to hope that at some point from April on, we get a week to 10 days of dry, preferably sunny, weather, to allow me to do any of it.
  • I now haven't been out of the house for a week, apart from letting the ducks out over the last few.
  • I seem to have gone off coffee. This is a huge concern.
  • Cheats never prosper; just ask the disgraced drug cheat millionaire Lance Armstrong.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Boardwalk Expired

Every time I go through the TV listings and see Most Haunted, it makes me laugh. I think it's the use of the term 'most' that does me. It's a peculiar word and not one that I tend to think of as subjective, but I suppose it is. Like when a shop says something like Britain's Most Popular Retailer; I suppose you could prove it, but would you want to if someone suggested they were Britain's Most Popular Bum Juice Seller?

Several years ago, either in this blog or somewhere else, I was talking about retail and the death of it. Banging on about it not mattering that town centres are dying because the future is what I'm conveying this message through - the Internet. In ten years time, there won't be town or city centres like you remember them, they will be festooned with Mobile Phone shops, App Centres, Supermarkets, Coffee shops, Cafeterias, pubs, charity shops, speciality retailers targeting local cultures and banks - most of which will have a two year shelf life before they have to reinvent themselves. You might find bookies, arcades and a few niche market outlets, tucked away in even further afield back lanes than now, but in general, town centres will change like the seasons and retail parks may well become mass unit graveyards or developed into cheap affordable housing (and I can dream).

You know how motor car showrooms tend to dominate these out of town trading estates; dotted around the edges, hoping to pick up the passing trade with their £99 down and 0% finance deals, or their competitive deals and extended warranties? Well, I think even these are going to change as humanity becomes more and more dependent on their digital mobile devices. Electronically contact a dealership, arrange a test drive and from some small unit somewhere no one knows, an untrained salesman will send you the computer simulation of the car you want to test drive and then if you're happy you'll arrange to go and test drive it at a small and well advertised centre that takes up less room, while all the stock is kept in those massive warehouses you drive past every day and wonder why it's always got a To Let sign up on the side.

Retail as we know it (and that has changed drastically since our grandparents day) is metamorphosing in front of our eyes. There is so much you can order and get delivered and such a dwindling number of things that you actually have to look at, in the flesh, to decide whether you want it or not. There have been debates as to what our, totally generic, town and city centres will look like in 25 years time, well, probably nothing like they do now, and a lot more people will have moved back into towns. The growth industry will be courier and postal services that cater for the punter rather than offer a general delivery time and, of course, all of this will be played out on your tablet or handheld device.

The demise of both HMV and Blockbuster in recent days isn't that unexpected. When video shops were replaced by DVD rentals, I was one of the first to declare that at some point this new technology would be replaced by something even more compact and bijou (and that was back at the start of the 90s when downloads could be no bigger than 64k and that took you a week and cost you £200). The need for most shops is no longer a need, it's a luxury or even, arguably, a hindrance. I have done my Christmas shopping on line now for over 5 years. I can't remember the last time I went shopping (other than for food) apart from when I've needed something replacing. I'd have bought this PC, the Netbook and several other electronic goods in the house on line had I not wanted to get out of the house and do something old fashioned, like browse in real time.

Go out on a weekend to a retail park, or wander into the town centre and you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Yes, for every Woolworth, HMV or Our Price we lose, some entrepreneurial geeza will come along and sell you money, coffee, sim cards, dodgy jewellery or Slovakian chocolate covered goats testicles - at the moment - until the virtual reality can catch up and those Slovakian chocolate covered goats testicles suddenly become much cheaper on the 'net. The point is that there might be people going out, but are they shopping, or are they taking their kids out to show them a dying institution? Is this some subtle historical anthropological shift and the last generation that remembers 'proper shopping', like my generation remember Wagon Wheels as big as Desperate Dan's arse cheeks, are taking their kids to see it before the buildings become shells and Brantano goes the way of the dodo.

It is true that consumerism has destroyed society and is the root of all evil, but you have to admire the way it is mutating and that's either in a prophet-like way or just much earlier than it probably needed to. The planet is changing; fossil fuels will become scarcer and one of the first things that will change will be the way food is produced and shipped around. I'd hazard a guess and suggest to Jocasta and Quentin that they enjoy their Peruvian asparagus while they can because one day, probably before they die, it's going to become a thing of the past or it's going to be out of even their price range. Sorry Peru, but unless you want to subsidise the air fare then your world market is going to dwindle.

Food in particular is something that needs revolutionising in this country because of the way we have become so snobbish about what we eat and how we eat it, yet persist in stuffing our faces full of perfect, or perfectly bad, things that haven't been genetically modified, but if you looked at their uniformity you'd think they were. We live in a country where someone with an allotment can pull a gnarly, three-pronged parsnip out of the ground in February, covered in all kinds of shit, with worms writhing through it and look forward to taking it home, cleaning it, peeling it, cooking it and eating it and some chav wanker will be buying reconstituted chicken mcnuggets, prepared frozen mashed potatoes and value line tomato sauce, giving themselves a heart attack because they're actually physically scared to try anything that might be good for them! Food phobias? Food bollocks, more like. If these people had been fed properly by their lazy-arsed parents in the first place we wouldn't be in this mess. I blame Thatcher.

But I digress... Aside from the Amazon tax scandal and the retailers who have successfully shifted a big chunk of their business on-line, opening anything in a high street now is a crazy arsed scheme that needs massive amounts of factors to work. I saw something flicking through the myriad of shit on my cable TV that made me wince; 70% of new start restaurants and bistros fail inside two years. Of the 30% that are still standing after two years, only 15% of those will make it to 5 years; the period at which an establishment can call itself established (and then I'm guessing that doesn't take into account the unexpected?). Now, is that 15 in every 100, based on the initial 70%, or is that 15% of the 30% that remain, which would mean that for every 100 eateries opening about 4 people succeed... Do you know, that doesn't look that unreasonable.

Apparently, coffee shops are advised to change their decor and layout every 16 months, to give the impression of newness. Shop experts seem to think modern punters like shiny and new more than warm and comfortable and familiar. They might be right, but the pubs I frequent fall, mainly, in the latter category and despite now being in the over 50 camp, surely my quids are as valuable as some power-dressing businessperson with clitoral piercings and a metrosexual lifestyle (whatever that is). You know the kind, the people who are always using credit cards, have zero cash, ever, and an existence as hand to mouth as a Mumbai beggar.

I suppose I noticed the first changes in town centres when the plethora of travel agents started disappearing, leaving only local independents or a token Thomas Cook-styled shop more as corporate advertising than as practical economic appliance. And then the retailers started falling off the radar like shit from a cow's arse as certain goods became easier to buy on-line and get delivered than bother to drive into town, pay the extortionate car parking fees, shuffle around town beside a bunch of fuckwits just to get something you can order from that new mail order company Amazon and before you know it you've ordered £100's worth of stuff, you're not paying any postage and you'll receive them all by Monday afternoon. Fuck me, how good is that?

The problem is, I haven't got an answer, neither have you and nor has anyone else; that is why centres of urban conurbations, regardless of how much money is spent (or how generic they are made), are slowly changing and being replaced by some other kind of retail; need supplier; desire. If prostitution was legal, we'd have shops on high streets as brazen as those now defunct Blockbuster displays.

I heard a suggestion that empty shops and spaces should be offered to kids in communities to do things with, such as open community youth cafeterias, galleries or small theatres, using (what) local government funding and allowing them to develop as local community features before the subject of rent or rates are discussed - I like it that this couldn't be a wholly altruistic suggestion and that the eventuality of money always crops up. I don't think it would work because many urban communities will take advantage of something like that and criminals would be queueing up to make money from it; policing it would only add to costs the councils already want rid of.

The sad truth in modern Britain is that if ten great kids came to you with a brilliant idea for a gallery cum youth cafe, run to the highest of standards, with a percentage of profits going to the council, etc., someone would try to steal from it, sell drugs from it, wreck it, antagonise people in it, help to get it a bad name; do anything they can to make it theirs and alienate it from the rest of society therefore making it unacceptable or impractical to do it. So scrub that idea, Dave. I mean, I want to be optimistic about this, but I have worked on the front-line, with some of the most disadvantaged kids.

The thing is, this isn't a political thing. The high streets of the world have been slowly changing since the massive moves forward in electronic goods and gadgets. MacMillan probably was extremely right when he said we'd never had it so good. Yet every generation learns that karma has a way of affecting most peoples lives whether they believe in it or not and for all the riches there's always a few rags (apart from maybe Dave and George) and this is why shopping is still evolving. Pound shops are popular at the moment and they do spring up all over the place. Short term rent deals; tonnes of cheap shit to be sold as quickly as possible for the minimum profit - it's all really about turnover nowadays anyhow - and then move on to the next town or idea. It's a bit like selling dodgy goods out of the back of a wagon, but legitimately.

I think the irony is that in maybe 100 years when fossil fuels really begin to become cost prohibitive, we will start to see the return of local shops and town centres, because mail order companies and delivery and couriers will be facing higher transportation costs, so it could be a situation where everything that has been around will come around again.

If there was a way in which you could possibly make money from this situation it would be by being able to sell goods locally that have been produced/grown/manufactured locally; or at least create a dispatch depot that could supply local businesses with local requirements at a price that means it is as cost effective as flying something in from South America. But now I'm delving into areas I really know nothing about.

The big immediate worry is the human cost of the failure of the high street and that is where politics enters the fray. There have been 6,000+ people assigned to the dole queues this week and only a small percentage of those will be back in work quickly and purely because of the uncertainty on the high streets of the UK. Many will end up working for a supermarket chain or entering a different area of retail, on less money and fewer prospects. The current government pinned a lot of the recovery's hopes on the private sector stepping in and filling the void they created. The problem is the private sector needs the money and the confidence to do it and as retail continues to slip around like an old person on an unsalted path that confidence isn't there.

Any corporate asset stripper will look at the Blockbuster or HMV chains and baulk at lack of salvage there. No entrepreneurial investor is going to look at CDs or DVDs and think, 'hmm, I can make a killing there' and there isn't likely to be some independent store rising phoenix like from the ashes like we saw with some branches of Woolworths or Do It All. People sometimes need a new broom, they probably don't need an old Nikki Minaj record or the latest Adam Sandler flop...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apocalypse Then

[This was all written before I got pleurisy]

The plan, albeit tenuous, was for this year's blog theme to be... less trivial, more poignant, relevant and focused on the things that are appreciated. I kinda knew I was in trouble Saturday morning when I sat down to write my usual weekend blog and found I didn't have anything to talk about. My 'blog notes' had a scribble that was uninspiring and hardly the thing you want to launch a new year of blogging excellence with and I've had a couple of ideas floating around the back of the cranium, but I keep letting them slip whenever I need them. To add insult to injury, I tidied up my office and threw away a piece of paper that had notes scribbled on about something or another... Quel malheur as they say, quel malheur.

I have been reasonably busy in a blogging kind of way though, with the creation of I have two working, one occasional and one dormant blog. I view the A to Z of Mushrooms as something I've been itching to do for years. Back when I had that very first blog which eventually became a kind of on-line Movers & Shakers (the gossip column I wrote for Comics International for 11 years), one week, in September 2002, I opted to write something I called The Mushroom Report, which prompted one wag to suggest that my writings about mushrooms and my hunt for them was far more interesting than anything I wrote about comics. One reviewer said I had a real passion for mushrooms, the kind of passion he remembered me having for comics, once. A year later I did the same and sporadically I have continued with the annual update whenever I could be arsed. I always felt I could write a lot about them, but, you know, they're largely seasonal; unless I talk about varieties which can be bought in a shop (which I will touch on, but only the wild versions). There hasn't been one for a few years; this autumn just gone was remarkable. Our notoriously dry autumns of recent years usually caused their own problems, but thanks largely to dew and it being the autumn you could pretty much guarantee something growing somewhere. 2012's torrential and prolonged rainy season meant that the poor bastards were probably drowning in saturated earth.

[This was all written after I got pleurisy]

As I said in Ill, you can see that despite it being over two weeks into the New Year, I am relatively bereft of stuff to talk about, unless I want to talk about my health; that black cloud that has been getting closer and closer to destroying my life. Yeah, I really think that. I might think that you all think I'm some kind of freaky hypochondriac (I'm pretty sure my brother does), but I've had about four years of some kind of health issue - shoulder, back, chest and any inconsequential bug going round - and it's beginning to grind me right down. I know I sometimes seem to take almost a gleeful pride in my bad health, but I'm really beginning to miss being well...

It's Tuesday. The pleurisy has subsided a lot; I'm still coughing up blood, but that is probably due to the fact I got this bout less than a fortnight after having a chest infection, so there was probably still a lot of junk to expel and as everything was inflamed, I was sure to pop some kind of capillary and then not allow it enough time to heal. I feel washed out and miserable and I have had a headache since Friday that doesn't seem to want to go away, just sit in the background and burst out when I'm least expecting it - like a shocking moment in an Aliens film. The odds are that I'm more likely to be going back to the doctor's tomorrow rather than returning to work - who it has to be said have been unbelievably supportive and have given me no reason at all to feel as paranoid and depressed about my situation as I do.

The depressing thing is the way I'm witnessing my mates all suffer in the New Year - job suspensions, losses, pay cuts, fear of unemployment, more ill health, deaths in families - 2013 hasn't started at all like I hoped (or most others either, I'll bet) and to top it all off we have a prime minister intent on pissing off everyone, helping to screw the country up to a point of no return and seems to have proved, once and for all that the worst people to run the country are politicians. The weather is shit too.

Do you know, I almost seriously asked the doctor on Friday if she could put me down!

Still, mustn't grumble, eh?

Effercio et Ineptias

  • I am eagerly awaiting the new Ulrich Schnauss album, due out at the end of the month.
  • I am also eagerly awaiting the end of the month because of a number of good things: a family wedding! Not a funeral, but a joyous occasion, the kind of thing that doesn't happen enough in my dwindling family. Also me and t'wife will be celebrating 30 years together on the 29th. Sadly, as I've mentioned countless times in the past, the 29th is also the 15th anniversary of my mum's death, so you can't have it all your own way, eh?
  • I am up to L in the great AtoZ clear out. The wife and Team Squonk are off to the quiz tonight (without me) and she'll be taking over 50 CDs to our mate Colin to sift through and see if there's anything he doesn't want to throw away. I might not have to buy any jewel cases for a while.
  • Fringe finishes next week, I might shed a tear.
  • I am now as up to date with everyone else with The Song of Ice and Fire, so I can get as bitter, twisted and impatient as all the others.
  • I've been making a lot of soups.
  • I sat and watched Mission to Mars for the first time the other day, it's Prometheus without the pretentious bollocks and the embryonic Aliens. It's also made by Disney.
  • I don't know if it has anything to do with my recent health bollocks, but I am drinking SO much water at the moment you'd think it was going out of fashion.
  • There were other things, I've forgotten them. They'll be sure to pop back up.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


It’s Sunday 13th January. The New Year has been going for nearly two weeks and there hasn’t been a recent blog entry; what is going on?

Well, there’s a half-finished post that I had been working on since January 5th. It was going to be the first of a new style of 2013 entries for this blog – which might be in for a name change – but I was struggling to find much to report back on. The start of 2013 has been dull and anodyne; very little of note has happened and I have been so wrapped up in work and dull day-to-day shit. It’s not been about being uninspired, more like being unmotivated; there have been things I could have commented about, but, you know, I just couldn’t be arsed and that was apparent with the way my first blog entry of 2013 was stalling and stuttering along.

The minutiae of the last week will probably be included in the as yet finished above mentioned entry; this is here for me to talk about my favourite subject – my health. The reason I’m seriously considering changing the name of this blog from Phill Hall to The Diary of an Ill Man is because I am beginning to think that my unofficial nickname is ‘Sick Note’ and because I have been ill, yet again. On Thursday, I was talking to a colleague who had had an awful two weeks off of work with pleurisy. I had not been feeling all that brilliant myself; I’d got into work at 8.15am and by the middle of the afternoon I was feeling as though I’d walked 6 miles – I had, I have a pedometer – and was beginning to ache. By the time I got home I was feeling cold. At 7pm, I had a bath to try and warm me up, but had to give in to feeling crappy, so texted Roger to cancel our Thursday night drink. Remarkably, I was in bed by 10.45pm, with the electric blanket on and feeling decidedly like I had some kind of bug. At 1.15am I thought I had the Noro virus because I started to feel sick as well as cold, but the sick wasn’t to come for another 8 hours.

By 6.30am on Friday I was in a lot of pain. The wife had gone and slept in the spare room because she had to go to work, but she realised that she couldn’t go to work when she saw me. I was coughing up blood and couldn’t breathe without feeling as though someone was digging hot knives into my ribcage. I knew what I had without having to see a doctor – I had got pleurisy… It isn’t contagious and was obviously just a weird coincidence, but Jesus Steve Christ riding a wave on a gold-plated Weetabix I have never felt so ill in my life. It was horrible. I was running a temperature of 104; I was shivering and I really wanted to die. Amazingly I got a cancellation at the doctors’ and was in there at 9.40, but not before I brought up a load of nothing. The doctor confirmed my suspicions, put me on loads of drugs and told me to go and get a chest x-ray this coming week and like whenever I have a bog standard chest infection I thought I’d feel better almost immediately. Ha!

Like I said, it is now Sunday, this was Friday morning. In the last 60 hours I have sweated my way through 14 t-shirts; the bed clothes have had to be changed and I’m sitting here on the Netbook, in the lounge, with a blanket over me, feeling pretty bad. I haven’t eaten much, but have just started to get something of an appetite – I want to eat some dinner tonight, but probably because I haven’t eaten anything other than half a bowl of soup and a small bowel of granola since Thursday night. I look awful; the wife thinks I look awful and she’s also been an absolute star; unselfishly looking after me, because she realised that I have something wrong with me that could have been serious. She hasn’t felt that good herself, but she’s done everything and that’s why on January 29th I will have been with her 30 years. As I said to someone the other day when they said she would have got less for murder, I said she would have got less for being a serial killer! She is my star and do you know, she probably won’t even read this…

So there was no work on Friday (again) and I don’t know when I’ll be back. I am better than I was but nowhere near well enough to even go out (not that I would want to with winter hurtling towards us like an express train) and this is the 6th chest related infection in the last 13 months – if I haven’t got COPD then I have to start wondering if I have something else, something serious, because I haven’t been particularly well since early December 2011. I have grown accustomed to either feeling crap or recovering from feeling crap; it would be nice to just feel okay again.

I expect the other blog will be finished in the coming days as I feel more human. I will obviously update you all on my health – so no change there then – because it gives me something to moan about J

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

... The Story So Far ...

As someone who whinges about the passage of time almost as often as I whinge about my health, I was quite surprised to see that I actually started blogging only about 10 years ago.

I think of 42 ( as being the place where my blogging started, but in reality it started in 2002 with my first personal blog. 42 was always going to be a place where I wasn't Phil Hall (although as it was only read by two people and they both knew who I was...) and would say and pontificate about the world and its inhabitants without the spotlight (conceited, or what?) being shone at me. Conceptually 42 was a good idea, but there are literally more blogs than there are opinions out there and like arseholes everyone has at least one opinion and as I've discovered over the last 12 months, blogs are only as popular as the things you write about in them.

My first blog, which I started shortly before I left CI, was never going to amount to much, mainly because of Dez Skinn and the fact I couldn't have an opinion. I'm surprised it took me so long to start 42 and yet that happened After Dez. 

Eventually there was FarkyNell.

FarkyNell was my second ever personalised blog and anyone who reads this (regularly) will know the reasons why that bit the dust. In fact, I've always been a wee bit disappointed about that blog's demise, mainly because it had some good stuff on it and in a fit of pique I deleted the entire thing when I just could have deleted the entry that ended up getting me into a lot of trouble at (my then) work (sort of). Whereas 42 exists - even if I don't know how to access it any more, FarkyNell is lost to the ether, along with some good reviews, some cutting edge opinions and quite a few funny things.

Then there was this (and the others).

While trying out new designs for 2013, I saw that I had written lots and lots of things over the last few years - over 475 posts - and that is some body of work (not including all the other entries in other sub-blogs), especially as over the years my (small) audience has dwindled. That's a Roy Castle-like dedication.

A kind of rough approximation of the last 12 months would see that my favourite subjects were: my health, my neighbours and my ranting about something unrelated to those above two. Your favourite subject was rants about my neighbours, usually something to do with Fuckwit. I've even stopped writing about some things that I know the people who read this blog are not interested in (but I haven't stopped writing about feeling crappy; I mean, what do people have blogs for if they can't just all be sympathy-fishing closet hypochondriacs?

Some of my blogs have kept me amused. My uncanny ability to forecast the British weather is always a laugh (or not) and I enjoy my gig reviews, sometimes more than the gigs themselves. I have attempted to have some kind of 'structure' to my blogs - an annual theme or a general feel - and this year is no different. I'm sure anyone who gives a shit about my quirky little pointless games will understand the upcoming themes quicker than I'd care, sooner than I figured.

I have a vague trail; I might change it. Perhaps 2013 should be about free forming. We shall see.

Effercio et Ineptias

  • Back to work tomorrow. Goodbye to another memorably awful holiday. I go back to work with a raging sore throat and dodgy guts. I'm sure you wanted to know this, I'm positive I needed to tell you.  I'm thinking the damp is now just causing everyone to rust. I expect I will still be coughing when the next spell of cold weather eventually arrives.
  • I am devoid of something to read. The George RR Martin books are all up to date and I didn't get any 'reading' books for Chrimble.
  • I bumped into someone I went to school with - in the actual same class - and for all my health hang ups, I look okay.
  • Tonight I'm going to milk the last strands of my holiday and watch some crap on TV; at least having to go back to work for just two days (sort of) means that before you know it there'll be a weekend again (and then a miasma of hell sprawled out beyond that)!