Friday, March 29, 2013


Any mistakes in this I'm blaming on the boogie that is going on in my head this morning...

I realised about two months ago that I was nearing a landmark. The reality is that I've probably written closer to 1000 blog entries; but the actuality is this is the 500th under the Farkynell2 banner.

I do write a lot of bollocks at times and I still need an editor, big time (and a time machine - for oh so many reasons). 

So, what's my 500th entry going to be about? Something special? Something that will attract more people to my erratic writing than ever before? Maybe just write about what I'm happiest with. Who can say for sure, because this is all I'm going to write tonight. I'm going to bed in a minute. In the morning I might feel completely refreshed and inspired. I might indeed.

That was written during the week. Today is Good Friday. From the size of my hangover and the fact my arse wants to spend the day in the loo while I want to do other things is proof that there is little Good about it at the moment. To make matters worse, the wife is full of cold and there is still far too much snow on view for the end of March for my liking. Some warmth really wouldn't go amiss at the moment.

My hangover is the result of going to a beer festival and drinking pints of good ale. My hangover isn't actually as bad as it could have been, but thanks to a largely unwanted shot of tequila it is worse than it perhaps should have been. The fact I'm 50 and 5½ pints of beer and a shot fucks me up worse than you could imagine is nothing more than a testament to ageing and the fact that I should have at least been sensible.

Last night was a bit of a hoot on many levels. Roger and I haven't been to a beer festival, with the intention of getting drunk for nearly two years, and oddly enough that day the weather was also horrendous and Roger buggered his knee up because I don't walk as fast as him even if it is chucking it down like a Bangalore Monsoon! Last night, it was just cold and I had no intention of walking home.

The pub quiz winnings has been the subject of much amazement in recent weeks. We've had a meal for 5, a night out on the booze for free and we're still well into 3 figures and if we keep winning £60 jackpots week in and week out, soon we could, technically, never have to spend any of our own money again, just so long as we keep winning regularly (but I'm getting paranoid about winning the quiz so regularly). This Wednesday, because the wife is off work, I drove so she could have a cider or three. I had also decided that I wanted to do the Lamplighter's beer festival, so Roger and I did that instead of our usual Thursday night out at the Adelaide (and that we would pay for a taxi home using quiz winnings). 

We walked into the Lamplighter and immediately I felt like I could drink for England, so instead of halves, we opted for pints straight off. Hop Back Spring Zing was okay and frankly if it had been one of the beers on a usual night we would have drunk it all night long, but the shadow of Oakham Citra and Dark Star APA loomed over us. The Citra, coming straight out of a very fresh barrel was one of best tasting beers ever and after one pint of that I needed another and then another and as Roger said, "It's going down too fast," which of course, as you will find out, could have been the mantra of some one else in the pub we were yet to meet.

After 3 pints each we were both feeling a little woozy, so what better way of ridding ourselves of this unwanted wooziness than by drinking more beer! So we both had our third pint of Citra each and Roger (not being a wuss at all) reckoned that should be our lot. So when we finished that we had a half each - he stuck with the Oakham and I needed to try the 4.7 APA, just to satisfy my curiosity. Then Zoe arrived...

We had positioned ourselves at the bar and had only been saying how, in bygone years, we would have been cursing the old gits at the bar for taking up all the room and that was essentially how the conversation with Zoe started. I think we both expected her to get drinks then bugger off with her mates, but she stayed and started to talk to us; ages were discussed and she thought Roger was younger than me and worse still she thought I looked like Rik Mayall, which as anybody who knows me will testify that he isn't something I'm keen on being compared to. But, because of this and that Roger is 'younger' than me, it was becoming all too obvious, even to us old duffers, that Zoe seemed quite interested in him. However, like me, the idea of being chatted up by girls in a pub while a massive ego boost is also quite scary, so Roger disappeared off to the loo, for ages, and left the girl with me and her attention or the object of her affection changed.

Now, she had already bought us tequila shots for being 'gentlemen' and she was as pissed as a fart, but why she should latch onto us was the biggest puzzle (or perhaps I'm just being down on us oldsters). Anyhow, I ordered another half each, just for the journey home and because, you know I was pissed and I wanted to see exactly what this girl's intentions were before I ran away and hid. Roger wasn't as adventurous and started to pretend he was taking phonecalls from B. Unfortunately, no one was paying any attention to him. Zoe was introducing me to her very large arse and I know how that sounds, but we were in a busy pub - she was just showing me how fat she was; literally. That's how weird this night was becoming...

Various different things happened, including her telling us in French what she'd like to do. Roger had some idea of what she was talking about, I was oblivious. Then the two halves turned up and they were pints and Zoe insisted she paid for them and Roger looked as though he was going to die and I think I ended up drinking most of both of them. Then she asked me if I'd like to take her home and I looked at Roger and he literally dragged me out of the pub and Zoe turned her attention to someone else at the bar. Lovely girl, very friendly, but if I was her dad (who was 44 or 48 depending on who she told) I'd lock her in a cellar.

And I was terribly terribly drunk at the time...

I'm really not used to drinking so much and at 7am this morning I had to piss like a horse while standing up with a head that was pounding. It was cold, the birds were screaming and I struggle to sleep when I'm hungover. I did manage it though and the next thing I noticed it was 10am.

Surprisingly, despite my head and my stomach feeling a wee bit fragile, I feel almost chipper today. That was my last big blow out before taking it easy and hoping to get a job. I simply can't afford that kind of debauchery at the moment. But, you know, I stood in that pub last night looking at it rocking and full to bursting and wondered just what the problem with pubs is in this country at the moment. There are several places in this town that buck the trend of pubs being a dying business, and there are several pubs in this town that could turn into monster places if they had the people who run the Lamplighter or of a similar ilk running them. I firmly believe, still, with my pub background, my energy and enthusiasm, I could do what the guys at the Lamplighter, or Paul at the Adelaide, or the guy who runs the Wig & Pen in town. I just need to be in the right place or find some rich benefactor who wouldn't mind investing in a concept that everyone tells you is dying.

The irony is that for years The Lamplighter was the preferred destination for Rog, B, the wife and me and we were regulars there for a good five or six years until the old landlord left and was replaced by someone who did his utmost to destroy a good thing. When we started to go to the Vic, the Lamp was still very much on the wrong side of good, but gradually, and presumably since the new guys took it over, it has attracted more and more of the town's artistic people and the sophisticated pub visitor and I reckon it's returned to being the best pub in town. Now it is clean, stylish, and sells exceptionally good food, they hope to have 6 or 8 real ales on at any time soon, and it has an incredibly vibrant, jolly and friendly atmosphere. You can't beat the place, really and well done the landlords. I'm a fan.

Effercio et Ineptias

  • I am currently listening to: God is an Astronaut, Amplifier, David Bowie, Aesthesys, This Will Destroy You and the Sugababes. I'm lying about one of these, but all the others have not failed to impress me, which is a good thing considering how disillusioned I was becoming about music.
  • Oh, and the new House of Love album - the dog's bollocks my friends - it's like 1989 all over again!
  • I am about halfway through re-reading The Shining, it is still a little like reading a new book and it isn't until you get down to the nitty-gritty that you realise that Stanley Kubrick essentially took the idea of the book and a bit of the framework and did his own story. I have always struggled to really like the film and seeing the way Kubrick destroyed a perfectly good story hasn't enamoured me any more to it.
  • Can someone explain to me why Jaime Murray gets work as an actor.
  • Shameless US continues to be the best thing on television by a country mile.
  • I recently found out that the amount of sugar we should be having, daily, is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar a day. I have two sugars in coffee and I have, on average, 10 to 12 mugs of coffee a day. If you factor in the amount of chocolate I eat; the amount of sugar that's in a lot of the stuff I eat, no wonder I have high cholesterol and it's almost a pathetic decision to cut out peanuts from my diet. I mean, it's a bit like a smoker saying they're going to cut down from 40 to 30 a day. So I went and bought some expensive cholesterol lowering margarine/spread - that will sort it out, you watch!
  • Thanks to everyone who have stuck with me for 500 blogs. Bring on the next 500 (and has anybody noticed how I haven't been talking about my health since I left my job?).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Total Wipeout

Does anyone, apart from the rich and utterly misguided, think the current government is doing anything at all to help anyone that hasn't got a 7 figure bank balance?

By now most people must realise that George Osborn and his rather dopey friend, the prime minister Dave Cameron (or Baldrick as I used to call him and can't understand why I stopped, what with his cunning plans...) are not interested in fixing the country or reducing the deficit (that's been proved by the amount of money they're still borrowing), they are just fixated on dismantling the welfare system to the point where, if we had a Tory majority or a UKIP coalition, they can either push the human rights act to the limit or abolish it completely.

You'd think that in the 21st Century, at a time when we are more aware of our humanity than ever before, the idea of a supposedly civilised government taking away our human rights so that they can inflict untold misery on the have nots would be treated in the same way as we think of North Korea or Zimbabwe. If it was reported that a government was victimising the poor and needy, we'd be sending a task force over to depose the tyrants running that country; yet because 'we're all right, Jack' we allow it to happen under our noses and only now, and mainly from women, are we beginning to say, "Hang on a minute, what this government is doing is a) wrong and b) not what any non-Tory voter voted for. There is no mandate for these massive, life-changing 'improvements' to the way our country treats the unfortunate.

Yet, do you know that if you tell the average person in the street that corporations 'swindled' the government out of £2000billion in unpaid taxes, while the entire welfare bill comes to £63billion and the so-called scroungers and fiddlers account for just £2billion; the average person in the street will say, "Yes, but, we can relate to the dole scrounger because we see them every day flaunting the system." So, by that logic, if someone, like my neighbour Fuckwit, is scamming the system EVERYBODY using the system shall be punished. Oh, I forgot, that's already actually how it is. If Starbucks don't pay their taxes, then neither do Amazon, Vodafone, etc etc., but if Fred Bloggs screws the system, then every person already struggling to live, feed themselves or exist will be punished as well. Where is the fairness in that? How is that 'we're all in this together'?

Gideon Osborne can argue till he's blue in the face that if you don't give corporations tax concessions then they will take their money to some other country, well, I kind of think that if they're not giving us any money they can take their money elsewhere, because we're not seeing it anyway!

The other thing the Tories are doing, which really is the most abhorrent and heinous thing and it beggars belief that the Libdems are so impotent around them, is implement so many expensive changes, subtle changes and bureaucratic changes that whoever gets in power next will not be able to do anything to solve the country's woes because it will be stymied by the trail of madness left by the current government. Melvyn King said in 2009, whoever gets into power at the next election faces an entire generation of not seeing power again. I think the Tories know this all too well and therefore are making sure that a) no one is electable and therefore because Tories can mobilise their core vote much better than Labour b) they have a good chance of being re-elected pretty quickly because the party that replaces them won't be able to fix things without bankrupting the country.

We're then left with a country run by people who view it as a company that's always ripe for asset stripping. Oh, that's pretty much what its like now, eh Vince?

How many people are beginning to get fed up with the Tory stock excuse - it's Labour's fault?

You all have bad memories, don't you? However, this is well documented so I'll repeat it to remind you - in 1997, Tony Blair, inheriting a country that had teetered on the brink several times in the early 1990s, came into power and banned his MPs from blaming the previous administration, saying, quite rightly, that the people aren't really interested in who is to blame they're only interested in it being fixed. I cannot remember one single Labour MP in 1997 saying that the mess the country was in was down to those blasted Tories. The blame game does no one any favours, yet the Tories have this default setting - it's everybody else's fault but ours. Aren't you getting just a wee bit fed up with it never being anything to do with them, especially when it plainly is?

Gideon Osborne has had FOUR budgets to try and turn things around (including the infamous 'Omnishambles' Budget of 2012), yet its still Labour's fault the economy is in a mess. I kind of think even Tory voters would like to hear someone say, "actually, the whole of Europe is fucked and it isn't Labour's fault that Greece, Ireland, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal and several other countries are on the verge of bankruptcy." People seem to forget that for all his faults Gordon Brown was praised by both Newsweek and Time Magazine for, albeit temporarily, stopping Europe from sliding into financial oblivion. He was on the covers of both magazines being heralded as the saviour of Europe's economies. Fortunately for Brown he is never going to be as vilified as Blair.

I'd worry about this country turning into a police state, with the Old Bill dispensing Tory justice like some Judge Dredd comic, but where they were once the party for law and order, they're now the party that has royally pissed off every decent copper on the force and most of the dishonest ones too. At one of the anti-austerity marches a couple of years ago there were so many policemen there, on the actual march, that you probably didn't need all the police there 'protecting'. Everybody is paying for the mess except for Dave, Gideon and their mates. But, you have to remember - WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!


Of course the weather doesn't help. I'm sure I'd be talking about something else entirely if I can sit in the garden with my shirt off for a few hours without getting frostbite or freezing to death. Last week I (almost) confidently said it would be warmer by April 2; that has been reappraised by the weather sites to April 14; although there is a suggestion that on a couple of days we might just see the temperature reach about average. If you saw the 5 day forecast on Countryfile tonight you would have seen the panic in Susan Powell's eyes when she got to Good Friday and suggested that we might see 'another snow event'. That saying 'March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb' has been put into a canon and fired into the stratosphere. March roared in like an Arctic fox and is going out like a demented polar bear with the DTs.

I read somewhere that the BBC has been fiddling with weather forecasts; cutting them short and making the 5 day a 4 day forecast because 4 days of future misery is more tolerable than 5. Sounds feasible.


I have a number of projects on the go at the moment, lets just hope I can concentrate on one of them long enough to achieve anything, eh?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sanity Test

I'm coming to the conclusion that the world is changing badly or I'm just out of step with it.

My mate Chev has been posting some stuff up on his Tumblr account - - that initially I just ignored. You know how it is, you subscribe to everyone you know and eventually a lot of the stuff you see in your FB news feed or on your Tumblr dashboard just washes over you. Then I noticed that he had posted something which appeared to be US television news coverage of the rehabilitation of a rapist. Fortunately it proved to be a spoof, but the point was that earlier in the week he had posted something to his Tumblr site that was anything but a spoof - about the tragedy of how rapists' lives have been ruined because... they committed a rape.

Apparently, in the USA, rape is still considered a 'dodgy' charge; something that is deemed an unfortunate blip on someone's life or career rather than this heinous crime against women; unless of course you're black. There are 75% more black working class rapists in US jails than white people in general. So, if you are a college student in the USA and there's a girl you really want to 'do', just do it, if you're not black or from Chicago you'll be fine as long as you have a good lawyer.

We watched Beasts of the Southern Wild the other night. We expected it be like a New Orleans version of the superbly bleak Winter's Bone but instead it was just a bit crap - a cheap and badly made film that left the viewer completely bemused and befuddled at the end (and not in an enigmatic good way either). The young girl who starred in it (how she was nominated for best supporting actress when she was on screen for almost the entire movie is confusing - she didn't support anyone) was good, but in general all the film did was prove that the USA really doesn't give a shit about its poor and deprived. That said, if you were an alien just arrived on this planet and you were told that the planet spent over $2,000billion on war in the last 12 months, but $500billion would eradicate WORLD poverty...

The BBC has been celebrating its new News studios; showing us all where a lot of our license fee has gone. I love BBC News, it is way better than any of the other news suppliers and I feel I know the people who work on the Beeb. However, I can't help thinking that even though I'm not even remotely an accountant there are things going on at the BBC that I would frown upon, big time...

I have mentioned in the past that the Beeb must spend enormous amounts of money shipping out their A list reporters to cover stories that their bog standard reporters have been doing an admirable job on. Take the Pope for instance - all through the day, every day, the new Pope's adventures have been covered by the lovely (and probably Italian) Luisa Baldini; that is until the BBC1 News when suddenly Jon Sopel or some other heavyweight reporter is wheeled on to tell us everything Baldini is more than capable of. Do the BBC think that having someone they think we'll recognise better doing the link makes it easier for fuckwits to understand or is it just an excuse to ship the likes of George Alaghia, Fiona Bruce and Sophie Raworth out to these places because they can?

Or how about the fact that the BBC moves to Salford, but the entire news department refuses to move, so what we have is Breakfast from Salford and all the sports reports, but all the news, etc coming from London. Plus, they're shutting Television Centre in Wood Lane and have moved to a place in the city - at a huge cost compared to the previous place. Progress means having to spend lots of our money, doncha know.

It's this kind of comedy use of money designed to make programmes with, which makes me far more angry than some executive's decision to pull a Jimmy Savile story...

And then there's politics. Really, I can understand why UKIP are growing in popularity, because they'll say anything that will make people agree with them; the problem is if they ever got a sniff of power you'd see that they have ideas but no money to do them with - which is a good thing in many ways because a lot of their ideas are so right wing they'd make Mussolini baulk. Can you imagine a UK that is run by the Tories and UKIP as a coalition? You'd have nothing left. You'd walk the streets full of homeless, starving and ill people and the country would be fascist in all but name. Thatcher had this idea when she won a third term and that was to hold a referendum on whether or not she should stay as prime minister in perpetuity, because the people had given her a mandate three times on the trot, so they must want her permanently. Fortunately some people saw that she was quickly becoming a megalomaniac and John Major was drafted in to ground everything again. If we had a Tory/UKIP coalition there wouldn't be anything left for a Labour, Liberal or Green party to repair without completely bankrupting the country - because that's kinda what the Tories are doing now - they're making it very very difficult for whoever gets in at the next election to fix (even if they get in, but even then it doesn't matter because they'll be all right, even if you're not).

I just wish people would think about fairness when they think about voting. We should be trying to make this country a fairer place not allow the rich to get richer and the bigots to set the agenda.

I don't know if I'd want to be in this country any longer if we don't get a government who puts its people first...

That said, what are Labour doing to make me think they're any better. Nothing at all; but what they are doing is this: and Liam Byrne, who I actually thought had some integrity, proves that all politicians are essentially cunts.

The weathermen are tentatively talking about a 'snow event' later this week. The weird thing is that Pete Gibbs sort of suggested as much as long as a week ago, saying that winter was by no means even close to ending. It appears that parts of Scotland are experiencing piss poor weather with inches of snow on the floor and just about everywhere is suffering from well below average temperatures and it's going to get really bad before it gets better. They don't quite know how much snow will fall or where exactly, just that there's an Atlantic low hitting the cold, blocking, air that has sat over us for best part of the last 4 months and every time that has happened so far this winter we've had lots of snow. Apparently it might be the last blow out of a winter that really has lasted best part of 6 months, but if you scour the long range weather forecasts (hey, I've got nothing better to do), you see nothing that makes you want to break out the spring wardrobe.

Accuweather - who have the longest long range forecasts but do seem to be closer, even more accurate, don't have us even experiencing double figures until April 2 at the earliest and even then 13 degrees is the high and it gets colder and wetter as we head towards my 51st. The Weather Channel's 10 day forecast has a maximum of 9 and lots of cloud, rain, sleet and winds from the wrong direction, the BBC just hedge their bets and have ranges of temperatures that can be as wide as 15 degrees, such is the Met Office's complete reluctance to make any kind of forecast beyond 5 days now. The Weather-Forecast page suggests we'll see spring for a few hours on Saturday before it all goes tits up again. In fact, the general consensus appears to be we shouldn't expect anything of note until the end or middle of April, which you could argue is pretty much par for the course, but, you know, in winter and early spring there's always a few nice sunny and mild days that reaffirm your belief that the world isn't just hell...

I'd like to get out in the garden and dig the borders over and prepare my veg patch for the inevitable waterlogging and rot that will be prevalent in July and even though the sun has just peaked out from behind the wall-to-wall cloud, the temperature on the patio - the warmest place in the garden - is still only 6 degrees - that's 5 degrees colder than the average for March 19.

You know I have a Facebook alias? Well, Bill has become very useful recently for me to discover that you're being conned by Mr Zuckerberg's retirement fund again. If you get tagged in a photo or something and you want that tag removing it is a simple click, click and gone. Yes? No. Yes it's removed from your Timeline and you won't be tagged in it as far as you're concerned, but it doesn't take the tag away from everywhere else. I play Bill at Bejewelled Blitz; it's sad, I know, but it helps wile away the hours, plus when I play other people I have no control over what they put up, but with Bill I do. Every time me or Bill wins or achieves something in the game it posts automatically - you have to have this option or you can't have the game - and I'm very quick to delete the post and un-tag myself from it. But if I go to Bill's Facebook page, I see that its only gone from my view and not from 'his'. The thing I hid is still there; so I asked someone else who I play if my posts with Bill appear in her feed and they do, despite me taking untagging my name. Facebook tells me: "Your tag has been removed. Remember: This content still appears in news feed, search and other places on Facebook"; so in other words, it hides this information from you and no one else. So you can't see it, so out of sight should be out of mind. What a crock of really stinky shit. You cannot avoid Facebook or affiliates using you even if you think you can. What appears in your Timeline isn't what appears in others, obviously, but what you think people can see about you isn't what they see at all.

Now, just to add a wrinkle to this almost circular bit of 'net manipulation. I went into Bill's account and did the same thing; it claims that I, Phill Hall, put the tag on the post, even though I didn't and I know that Bill actually was responsible for the post going up because he always goes second. Also, there's this option that says - Contact #### and ask him to remove the tag from this post. So, despite having already removed the tags from anything on my Timeline, Bill needed to message me asking me to take the tags off, which of course I'd already done... This entire set-up reminds me of a Möbius Strip...

I'm going to be intrigued to see if any of these Phill v Bill posts remain on other Bejewelled Blitz players' Facebook pages because if they do, we're just being butt-fucked by these legalised identity thieves.

This might not bother you and if it doesn't that's fine; but, you know, it should. This is a company that is slowly collecting more information on you than Big Brother and will eventually use all of that info to target you with advertising, promotions and all kinds of shit. They will also sell that info to whoever wants to buy it and because of the unique way Facebook works as a social networking platform, you will struggle to even find a way to complain to them that will be seen by human eyes.

In case you forgot, we're all going to die (and then again and again in different horrible realities until we reach the complete depths of Hades...)

Saturday, March 16, 2013


So, you have no income and the dishwasher decides to go tits up; it only happens when you're down.

I hoisted a theory at Roger on Thursday. We're all dead and this is hell. Of my wilder theories this seems to be the one that has more people nodding in quiet agreement. The only real worry is if we're just on an increasingly worse kind of hell and next time we come back we all have to live in a bucket of shit and eat whelks... Obviously some people might like whelks and one of my dogs would happily live in a bucket of shit, but each to their own and all that...

So I haven't got COPD, but I have got potentially serious airways damage due to smoking things without filter tips for 30 years. I have new medication; an exercise routine and the carrot of my lungs not being shot at all and therefore with the right treatment and not starting to smoke again I might actually improve my condition even if I can't cure it completely. I've set myself the task of walking 5km a day until I get a job and then we'll see what I'm doing and what I can do.

We're coming up to the first anniversary of the (no longer in force) hosepipe ban; I wonder if it's going to rain to celebrate the fact?

I think I need to explain something to some people, whether they read this or not; I donate money to animal charities and only when I can afford it. I do not give to any other charities and that is because a) I'm a curmudgeonly old bastard, b) we shouldn't have to have things like Children in Need if governments were to do their jobs properly (that's any government), c) we donate enough overseas aid to save the NHS, therefore we shouldn't be expected to fork out extra charity money for domestic issues when the government (this or any previous) could eradicate domestic poverty by taxing the rich and the corporations, not giving millions of pounds to Brazil (which is now one place ahead of us in the world rich list) and ensuring that we have a fair country. As horrid as it might sound, charity should begin at home.

Yesterday I thought I pulled a muscle in my back stretching. When I went to the doctor's I mentioned this and she said that I might not have pulled a muscle, I might have slightly dislocated one of my ribs from my spine!!!! Then she said this was relatively normal and it will pop back in and I'll barely notice it - probably after a good night's sleep. She might have been right.

My plan, I think I mentioned, for the last week was to get some work done in the garden. I did, but nowhere near enough and next week, as soon as it stops raining, it will be Operation Buttercup, because at least two of the main borders in my gardens have been completely overrun by those bastard yellow flowers (although not yet, obviously). We've lost so many plants through the last 12 months, most of them drowning or rotting in the saturated ground - but not the weeds; the weeds could live under water without sub-aqua gear for months.

Fuckwit might be facing a dilemma in the coming months. I think I told you about him getting the local Dids to chop the tops of the leylandii trees in his garden - a seemingly pointless exercise it seemed - well, the wife pointed out this morning that the two stunted trees are looking very yellow around the edges. Now, this would suit us perfectly if they died (we might even be able to scrounge the trunks as fire wood), but I get the impression that Fuckwit would be reluctant to spend money having them removed - he can have his car valeted once a month, but I'm thinking DLA must pay that, but I'd lay odds that he wouldn't pay for the trees to be removed because of all the extra costs that would be entailed; partly because of me.

When we got the new dogs, I had to ensure they couldn't escape the garden and one of the things I did was nail two fence panels to the leylandii, with big 6" nails and lots of them. I did it partly in the hope that it would help with the killing off of these eyesores, but that was 5 years ago now and if the trees came down, it would be his responsibility to replace any fence panels that get destroyed or ripped up as a result. I don't think that man would put his hand in his pocket if it meant that one of his neighbours would benefit from it. This is a man who, as I said, has his car valeted but when I suggested to him a few months ago that we go Dutch on replacing a couple of well-dodgy fence panels down the bottom of the garden pleaded poverty. I should have asked him how he pays for his car to be valeted, really (or if he ever passed his driving test on account of him being unable to parallel park).

I might do more later in the weekend. I might not. It could be a surprise.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Queer as Dogs

Always here to present you with encouraging or even good news, you will be mortified to know (unless you are Will Vigar) that winter will last until the beginning of April. It might not stay as bitterly cold, but it will stay below average, wet, windy and generally shitty. Then it's April, renowned for showers, winds and maybe some nice weather, if you're lucky and have sacrificed enough children to your gods...

I tell you, trying to find a job would be easy if I was a computer programmer or an engineer (and that isn't someone who walks up to machinery and says, "what's this engine 'ere?") I would be earning shed loads of money and have my pick of several billion vacancies. Even with a slightly more varied CV now I see maybe one job a day that I could apply for without having to bullshit my way through an interview, if I was fortunate enough to get one. The six jobs I have applied for in the last four weeks have yielded ZERO interviews and ZERO replies, even a 'You're 'aving a larf ain't you, we ain't giving you a job, not while we have holes in our arses' would have made me believe that I at least exist and am not a figment of an over-active imagination.

I don't tend to talk about the dogs too much, which considering I love them so much is surprising. I suppose I figure that if I was to really explain to you about the four of them, you'd probably wonder why we still have three of them and the fourth one, well, perhaps if he had his vocal chords removed... The thing is I have the dogs' Tumblr account which posts pics of them, at various ages, and while I'm happy to wibble on about all kinds of shit that most of you are not interested in, I rarely talk about the dogs.

I suppose the reason I've got them in my head at the moment is after 6 years I've come to the conclusion that at least three of them are winter dogs. Just last week, when we had that mild day (or the summer as I said in an earlier blog), Lexy, the Bassett/Rottweiller cross, looked like she's just been saved from a sauna by the time we finished our walk. She's a plodder anyhow, what with her dodgy legs and long body (when she runs she looks like a jack-knifing lorry), but as soon as the temperature hits double figures... it's like someone has just put her in Saudi Arabia. But, yesterday, with the windchill at around -6 and me dressed up like Scott of the Antarctic, she was bouncing around like a pup and only her absent-mindedness kept her from being right behind me for most of the walk. Lexy's faults are essentially small things - she barks at inappropriate times (6.50am every day - we think she's telling me to get up as this was the time I used to get up) and because of her absent-mindedness she sometimes gets lost. Now, she's a serial barker at times, sitting on her sofa issuing instructions to the other dogs, while never moving a muscle (she is unbelievably lazy, I've never known a dog to be as sloth like as she is); yet if she gets lost, does she make any noise when we call her? Does she f...

Ness, the little black minx, has always shown a propensity for cold weather. You open the freezer door at any time of the year and she's lying in front of it like a cat by an open fire (and incidentally, when we have a fire, she's the furthest from it). When it snows, she rolls in it, ploughs her way through it and generally acts (and looks a little) like an Arctic fox. I can honestly say she looks at her happiest when there's snow on the ground. However, as the smallest dog in the pack, it should come as no surprise that she's also pack leader, at least inside the house, outside, I'm not so sure. We call her 'minx' because she's violent, nasty and wilful. We have complete control over her, the other dogs have to put up with being bitten, bullied and barked at - and her bark is a mixture of pathetic and a squirrel. We believe that Lexy hates her, but as she is the boss, she hates her in a quiet, growly, understated way. Ness gives Lexy a really hard time, far worse than the other two. we thought it might be because Lex is #2 in the hierarchy, but actually we now think it's because Lexy is happy being #4; she's just happy to have a home and puts up with all kinds of shit as a result. Ness is insecure - massively insecure and everything she does appears to either be asserting her will or her interpretation of helping us. Yet, she is a dog that would hide from a duck fart. She is scared of the fridge; doesn't like noise that she doesn't know and if you strapped a Martini on her while the bin men come it would be fit for James Bond!

Murray is our baby boy despite him being 6 now. We've had him from 6 weeks, but we met him when he was 3 weeks and he sat in the palm of my hand and cried. He'd still do that now if he could. He is the biggest poof in the world (and I mean that in a completely non-homosexual way, despite having no testicles, Murray only has eyes for Lexy). Murray whines and whinges and then whines some more. We met his mother, she did exactly the same, but worse. Murray is a lap dog despite being a collie; he loves cuddles and curling up next to me when the wife gets up in the morning. His nickname, or at least one of them, is Pantomime Dog. This is because... He's (always) behind you!!! Never have I had a dog that can walk to heel as well and he's never been taught to do it, he just figures that's where he belongs. You have to tell him to go and run about and even then he seems reticent about it. Growing up with 3 girls has been good for him - they all worship him. He can do anything to them and they'll let him, yet if they so much as get in each others way you soon discover why female dogs are referred to as bitches.

Captain Catshit...
And then there's Captain Catshit or Marley. We should never have called her Marley, that was asking for trouble (and really not like us to call a dog by such a popular name). We often have said we should have called her Kali, because when she was younger she liked making war - with any dog. She was horrible and just to compound it, she would find anything that was dead, rotten or shit and roll in it. She has some German Shepherd in her and some Labrador, possibly some Lurcher, but I'm not so sure about that now, and she has something in her that has made her slightly smaller than either of the two main breeds in her. She is everything you wouldn't want in a dog and I love her to bits; she reminds me of a punk version of my old dog Megan. Where people say that Lexy looks like Gifford, Marley doesn't look like Meg, but as she's got older she's slowly turning into her. It's difficult to explain, but anyone who knew Meg will see Marl slowly going that way - and that'll be a good thing. Over the last year or so, she has stopped attempting to beat other dogs up and has thickened up a little. She's our summer dog - it's the breeds in her that has caused it - and if she sees water, mud, the sea, a full bucket, she's trying to be in it. She also does as she is told up to a certain point, but its like she knows what's 'bad' and what's 'advisory'. For example, out the Sunday before last, it was quite mild and we were about 100 yards from a big pond; Marley was half way between us and said pond. I bellowed at her not to go into the water and she looked at me, waggled her head and went and jumped in the muddy pond. She's a cow and she knows it; she also knows what will get her into proper trouble and what will be amateur dramatics from me.

Marley is also like Megan in that she winces; especially if she thinks she's in trouble and therefore gives the impression that we beat her at the drop of a hat. There is nothing more embarrassing than a dog wincing and pulling away from you when you're talking to other dog owners. It looks like we're really cruel to her; the last time she got a wallop (and as all dog owners will tell you, a dog wallop tends to be less hard than play fighting) she was about 3 (she's 7 now) and that was for attacking a Belgian Bassett. Bobby is her bette noir; he's a lovely dog, but we reckon he insults Marley in doggy language because the only other dog(s) she has a problem with are English Setters (not Red or Gordon Setters. In fact she positively loved an old Gordon Setter who died a couple of years ago), but that's Marley to a tee - she is brilliant with old dogs; she loves puppies, but everything between, especially for the first 4 years of her life, was classed as a threat. I think she's got out of that now. In fact, there are two wonderful Bearded Collies that go for a walk at the same time as we do at the moment - Dumble and Frodo - Dumble is lovely and a bit like Murray in that he loves cuddles and fuss. Frodo wants to play, all the time (and he's a year older than Marley) and he's a bit too much in her face and Marl doesn't like confident dogs; they bother her and she slinks off and goes for a mooch whenever there's a dog about that she can't control or bully. Frodo just wants to play and can't understand why this girl dog wants to avoid him.

There you have it: four dogs and yet Marley is the one that gets the most written about her and that's because she has considerably more going on with her. She was also the dog we took from the shelter on a whim rather than as a calculated decision. I'm just glad that's she's turned out to be a good dog because we agonised for over a year about whether we should get rid of her. But, saying that, I am horrid. When we had Meg and Giff they were such mild-mannered well behaved dogs (to the point where they were a little snobbish) and only really associated with the people and dogs they knew and if either of them were attacked or hassled by another dog I would get mega-defensive and probably accuse the dog's owner of not being in control. I positively love watching Marley get beaten up. I mean, if she was really being beaten up I would step in and break it up, but she's just being bitch slapped down by bigger and more confident dogs than her. Now, if the other three were set on that would be a different story entirely...

Meg & Giff
The weird thing is that I don't have favourites; it's like you don't favourite kids, it wouldn't be fair to have a favourite dog. When we had Meg and Giff, everybody loved Giff; and to be fair he was one of the coolest dogs you could ever have met and it was obvious that everyone saw Giff and no one paid much attention to Meg, she was just this nondescript Collie-x; but I actually miss her more. I suppose it was because she was my dog (Giff was the wife's) and we spent a lot of time together; but my mum was always my best friend, but I sort of miss my dad more now. Funny that.

But anyhow, I now can't believe that I wanted to get rid of Marley; we've never had a dog who has been so totally devoted to me. The wife's two - Murray and Lexy - both love their mum passionately; but Ness and especially Marley turn to me for everything. I've also always been 'Dad' to all the dogs - they know 'Dad' rather than 'Phil', but to Marley I'm 'Daddy'...

They all have loads of names; Lexy is 'Stinker' or 'Ginger Pudding'. Ness is 'Minx' or 'Minxy Minx', she's also 'Evil Dog' and 'Nessington' (don't ask). Murray is 'Pantomime Dog', 'Poof', 'Moz' or simply 'the boy' and Marley is 'Marley Moo' 'Captain Catshit' 'Vile shit-eating hound' and a bunch of other things including 'shitbag', 'retard' and 'you fucking useless dog...' All of them answer to the term 'sausage', but I don't think I've had a dog that didn't answer to 'sausage'. In fact, I call most dogs Sausage, even dogs I've never met before. I think dogs like being called Sausage...

Other facts about these hounds of the apocalypse include: Lexy was 24 hours away from being put down when we saw her. We had already decided she was coming home with us before we found out that she was literally going to be put to death if we didn't have her. She looks a little like a Staffy and the kennels were choc-a-bloc full of unwanted Staffies and she just got lumped in with these doomed doggies. She's also a strange dog; she doesn't play and she growls at everything; but while her growls are all the same, we worked out pretty quickly that its her way of expressing herself. She has a strange bark. She doesn't behave on the surface like a traditional dog, but scratch beneath it and talk to people who have Bassets or Rotties and you soon discover that she is just like the dogs she comes from (but she still doesn't know how to play, bless her).

Marl, Moz and Ness all love to shag her. There isn't an intact dog in the house, but shagging boils down to a dominance thing, either that or Lexy is the Karen Gillen of the dog world (I'd like to think that because she's a red head it's the latter reason. And remember Lexy rhymes with Sexy...)

Ness came from Battersea sight unseen. When we lost Gifford, we decided to rehome and we'd had no joy locally so I contacted Battersea Dogs and we arranged to have Ness (who was 10 weeks when we got her and was obviously born in the dogs' home) without seeing her first. We took Meg down to London - she hated it - met this tiny bundle of teeth - Meg hated her - and brought her home. Ness hates cars; she threw up about 40 times on the way home and was dehydrated and poorly for her first 24 hours in her new home.

Murray was arranged. He came from a dodgy estate in Wellingborough (where, we believe Marley was found) and Murray rhymes with Worry and that appears to be what he does best. He's almost the spitting image in personality to Megan (both Collies), but where Meg didn't like the sound of her own barks, Murray is a noisy little shit at times - normally when his mum gets home or when he's bored and being a Collie, he gets bored a lot.

There's tonnes more I could tell you about them and Meg & Giff, but these 'tails' can wait for another day!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Album Review 2013/3

Echo Street
Thank you God.

Just as 2013 was turning out to be a stinker in terms of good music, a band that I'd started to believe had had their day, rediscovered it. Back in the last century when Amplifier got together they recorded some songs that would end up on the fan appreciation CD Eternity, it showed a darker, embryonic, more post-rock influenced band who seemed to like atmosphere over impact. Coming to these songs and liking them, especially after falling for Amplifier's unique rock stylings, was something of bonus - like discovering Picasso was a damned good landscape artist too!

I have also been a fan of first albums (and more often than not by bands who would go on to become giants) because the first album, in most cases, shows you what these artists are capable of doing when they have nothing to do. First albums tend to be everything a band has done up to that point in their careers, second albums have been written at the end of the first album, sometimes while on tour, but usually in considerably less time - hence one of the reasons for Second Album Syndrome. So rediscovering that verve especially after 13 years together and four previous studio albums is always going to be a tough ask.

Isn't it the way? You look forward to a bunch of things and they all let you down, while the one thing you had been ambivalent about turns out to be fucking bonkers brilliant. The Octopus was a magnum opus - a massive prog/space/rock opera with more baggage than Heathrow. It had a mixture of great songs and Sci-Fi bollocks and would have made a stunning single album (especially if Interstellar was on it).

What The Octopus also had was a distinctly different feel to it - Amplifier had changed from this rock band with prog leanings to the exact mirror image - a prog band with rock leanings. Something else about this band, that I'm sure they'd struggle to appreciate, is that they produce some great stadium pop/rock anthems (that just happen to have bolt-ons and extras to make them less accessible to the 3 minute emo rock song fan). With The Octopus the band probably did enough to become recognised outside of their own little fan base - Echo Street, with the backing of a proper label, seems to have brought them back to their atmospheric space rock roots.

Something else happened while they made that album; the band changed line-ups and while Sel Balamir has always been the driving force behind Amplifier, the new guys bring something extra to the table. There are harmonies, effects and paths you wouldn't imagine the old three-piece Amplifier would go down. Suddenly this bunch of bordering middle-aged rockers had found the maturity that possibly has been missing from their music up until this album.

Those early pop/rock anthems were charged with gallons of space rock and you faced a wall of cosmic noise every time you turned the volume up to 11, but The Octopus turned Amplifier from being three blokes getting on stage and rocking the world to something a little more organised and focused - something that at times required too much effort and not enough fun and this showed in lacklustre live gigs. Echo Street sounds like that embryonic band from the Eternity CD with a lot of effects pedals, quite a bit of angst and an urge to rediscover the atmosphere.

Echo Street is quite simply the antidote to 2013's anodyne output so far. Don't get me wrong, this does have some faults (but nothing to really jar) but it will confirm that this is a band who have been given a new lease of life and provided KScope do the business, Amplifier might well become this year's break out rock band.

The opening song Matmos is not really a single (although it has been marketed as such) and gives you an idea where this album is going. It is dark, driving and atmospheric and yet melodic. Up next is The Wheel which continues the theme, but has tended to be almost forgotten because it is sandwiched between two very epic songs. Extra Vehicular, which follows it, is a monster of a track with a guitar riff that will have you nodding your head in greebo agreement. It starts slowly, promises something, then pulls it away and it continues to tease like this for seven minutes before just deciding to assault the listeners senses for another five - simply stunning and I expect it to be a real crowd pleaser at live gigs.

Next up is the wonderful Where the River Goes, which is almost soulful (until the crescendo that takes you somewhere else entirely), Paris in the Spring is a bit like CSN&Y meets Muse and the Laurel Canyon theme continues with Between Today and Yesterday. Echo Street, the title track, is just both thunderous and dreamy in its psyche rock splendour. For me it was the first track to jump up and slap me round the head. It all wraps up with Mary Rose, which reminds me of Pink Floyd circa 1971 mixed with a bit of XTC and yet not like either.

I won't say this is a return to greatness because The Octopus is a good album and it deserves its place, this does though feel like a 'proper' album, if you know what I mean and it's been a very long time since Amplifier did a 'proper' album. My faith has been restored.

8½ out of 10

Friday, March 08, 2013

Politics of Suet

I must be getting bored. Yesterday I did almost everything. Well, you know, not everything, just some things. This week has been building up to me doing or starting to do all those jobs that I've been putting off. Plus, it's been raining so I can't really go outside and do anything in the garden. So the de-clutter started in earnest and by the time the wife got home a mixture of spring cleaning and reorganisation had taken place.

I was walking around last evening trying to think of things to do today, in between going shopping, maybe going for a beer, finally having that bloody spirometry test and walking the hounds. I have this 'keep busy or go mad' head on. But I might have a new project to keep me alive and get me thinking with a better, clearer, head again. I am letting all my outside influences govern me at the mo.

Ouch... I just realised what a really corny link that is. I was going to say, talking of governing and then segue nicely into a piece about Tony Blair, then it was going to go through this list of political things I've written down, but I've kinda blown that...

Tony Blair. Never liked him. Saw him on a BBC election phone in programme in 1992 and thought he was possibly the 2nd reason behind Neil Kinnock why John Major got in. Thoroughly sleazy guy and given a hard time by Kilroy-Silk; I remember thinking 'what a twat'. Still think that today, but I do think he did far more good than the one major wrong he did. Yet for some reason to a generation of people he is as abhorrent as Margaret Thatcher is to me and mine.

People probably have forgotten or never knew that there is a creditable case to believe that Thatch and General Galtieri (the then boss of Argentina) created the Falklands Crisis for both their benefits. People forget that up until the Argies planted a flag in Port Stanley, almost apropos of nothing, Thatcher was the most unpopular UK prime minister EVER. The Tories who had swept to a landslide victory on the strength of Labour buckling to the unions' pressure, were in serious danger of being beaten back out of power by an equally large landslide in the other direction - which, given how shit Labour were, would have been a massive event. But then the Falklands 'Crisis' came along and BAM as a result the country fell to bits, slowly, as Thatch and her cache of very nasty people dismantled the infrastructure of the country, selling it off and by the relinquishing of its assets.

In comparison, Blair probably colluded with George W to conspire to invade Iraq, which to be fair is arguably much better off than it was. Still, I didn't agree with it then and I still think that prime ministers in this country seem to think they won't make a mark on history unless they've invaded someone or been part of a war. Sad really.

George W didn't like Hugo Chavez because the now-dead Venezuelan President saw right through his US counterpart and a damned sight easier than 50% of the population of the USA. Chavez may well have courted the likes of Iran, Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend is possibly the reason for this and he was also well liked by reputable countries as well. Plus, he's a damned sight more popular still than most US Presidents are ever in the eyes of their people - he's almost as popular as leaders whose names start Kim...

Just last week I was saying how I really have a gut feeling that North Korea is making a concerted effort to be seen as 'more open' and able to change. That's my credentials as a diplomat out of the window then... The thing is, is all of this really them being aggressive or is this just a plea for help, especially as China don't really want anything to do with them any more. Someone may have suggested to North Koreans that losing a war is the best thing to happen - just look at Japan. Reminds me in a less comedic way of The Mouse that Roared.

You'd think, what with our own leaders looking like some SEN government, that the despair being felt by a lot of people would have been seen by Gideon and Co deciding that they have borrowed as much money as Labour did and we're much worse off than we were. You did know that, didn't you? The Tories have been harping on about how all of this is Labour's fault - all that borrowing and unnecessary building of schools and hospitals - and yet they have borrowed more over the last three years than Labour did in the last 8 years. Yes, a lot of that is to do with inflation - but whose fault is the higher inflation? Oh yeah, must be Labour's because that's all Tory MPs say now - a generic 'it wouldn't be this bad if it wasn't for Labour', the sad thing is there's still at least 20% of the country buying that LIE hook line and sinker.

Tories and Libdems are crowing about how labour finished fourth in the Eastleigh by-election and to be fair you would have expected them to do better given the fuckwits that were standing against them, but Hampshire is not a socialist stronghold - I'm amazed that the pathetic face of socialism (ie Liberal Democrats) does so well down that way - perhaps its just socially conscious Tories who can't bring themselves to vote for anything red? The fact that the Yellow Peril actually retained the seat despite being led by Nick 'I'm a wanker, me' Clegg suggests to me that the country is in a miasma of doubt, anger and confusion. No wonder UKIP has been able to infiltrate as they have. You do realise that UKIP are just a posh version of the EDL, don't you? Other than their oft trundled out immigration policies, have you actually looked at some of their policies? I'm sure usual Labour voting people who fucking hate all these eastern Europeans and will plonk an X in UKIP's box should also see what they would do with most of the services and provisions this country has. The NHS is still basically free, despite the best efforts of Gideon O, under Nigel F ... Just look at their manifesto before you decide that voting for them will mean Johnny Foreigner gets the boot. Don't be a fascist xenophobe until you've seen what happens if they get a sniff of power - read their policy document, be amazed (and not in a 'Wow, that's great' kinda way).

Effercio et Ineptias

  • Twice in Sainsbury's someone attempted to intrude upon my personal conveyor belt space. I mean once is bad enough, but twice? First this old woman starts to put her shopping on at one end while I'm busy putting mine on at the till end. "I wouldn't do that, my love" says I and she realises what she's doing and apologises profusely. I tell her to not worry and not be silly, it was an easy mistake to make (even if it really wasn't). Two thirds of the way through emptying my trolley and this younger woman comes up and just dumps her stuff at the rapidly diminishing empty end. "I've still got a fair bit to put on," I said. "Oh, you'll be fine." She says in a matter-of-fact, don't-give-me-any-shit kind of way. "I do have a fair bit left in my trolley," I says, slightly irritated. "Stop complaining and just get on with your packing," she says in a really rude and school ma'am way. "Being rude isn't make me go any faster," I said and pushed her seven items pack towards the end of the conveyor - much to her obvious annoyance. When I was asked if I collected the Vouchers for Schools, I said I didn't and she piped up that she did and she would have them. I told the checkout woman that I didn't want them and I didn't want anyone else to have them.
  • I saw about 10 people on the road today who I wouldn't trust with a spoon let alone behind the wheel of a car.
  • People are just becoming more horrible.
  • Applied for three jobs on Tuesday; that's seven in total in the last 10 days - it doesn't sound a lot but unless you are a computer programmer or an engineer finding a job is like finding a civil person in Sainsbury's.
  • Still reading The Shining and still quite amazed at how our memories of things are distorted, especially by films.
  • Inter Milan? Who are they then?
  • Sometimes its best never to find out some things, because all it does is make you angrier.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Oh Moan, Whinge and Moan

I'm not in a good place at the moment, so therefore I'm extremely negative. Most of the things I want to write about I can't or if I try I look back on what I've written and wince at my lack of discipline, the mistakes, the fact it doesn't make sense. I've always written like I've talked, which begs the questions - do I really talk that badly? I've been itching to write something for the last three weeks, but it isn't happening. Ideas are withering before I can even get them down and that's a good word to describe my mental state too. Even that is odd, the spirit is willing, but, like I said the ideas don't even fruit, they're gone before the blossom is out.

You could argue that I'm doing my fair share of writing, purely based on the amount of blogs that I've published; but a lot of that has been rubbish because that's what I do best, that and I am a creature of habit.

Almost a year ago, there was a period where, even by my standards, I'd hit a bottom that was getting on for being as low as I'd been ever. I was struggling with some elements in my life, trying to keep my fears and worries away from the wife and wrestling with turning 50. I even managed to keep a lot of it away from my closest friends and over 10 months later I look back at it and can't believe that I was that low and yet I must have bounced out of it, because I'm still here; I didn't slit my wrists (and to reassure anyone who might start panicking, I didn't at any point consider it, it's just looking back on it I sounded like I'd throw myself off a bridge even if something good happened).

Writing for catharsis has always been my main reason for writing since I stopped writing and earning money from it (and I do believe I'm much better now than I was when I worked for Skinn, so there's some irony hidden away in there to be mined - I mean considering that I'm currently thinking how crap I am, you have to question his judgement in an era when I looked as Neanderthal as I probably wrote) and during those few black days around Easter 2012, I sat down and tried to get everything off my chest. It's written in an email, because I was not where I currently am when I started to write it and I use the email composition tool in Yahoo to do a lot of things.

I kept thinking that some of it needs to be used. That's a habit I picked up from Skinn as well - try not to waste anything and it's only been in the last few years where I can delete things wholesale without worrying that I'll have an aneurysm worrying about things that I will never even look at let alone might provide me with a future best seller. The wife, like my dad, is a nail collector - nails, screw, saws, hammers, clamps, brackets, if it has a DIY purpose then it has a potential future. It's that collector mentality you see among comics collectors who don't want to get rid of that 1970 Millie the Model comic, in shit condition, because even if it isn't worth much, you never know... It might be useful for something.

I have so much shit saved onto various discs that if I should die tomorrow it would probably take the wife several years to go through every single disc to see if there's anything saved that's worth keeping and she probably would struggle - photos, maybe, but most of them are one one disc...

So, I was about to cut and paste the entire thing into this and then decided that, no, perhaps its just a little too much me-bearing-my-soul-to-the-world in a way I'm not at all comfortable with. Yes, I suffer from bouts of depression, but I'm not bi-polar, and currently me and those lyrics from the Simon and Garfunkle song are tangoing around in my head; having a kind of existential slam-down. Who can say who will win? But what I do know is there's a lot of things that are best left unsaid, for ever.

The thing is I've had a really good (and at times decidedly surreal) day and yet it's also been shit. I'm really seeing visible physical improvements since packing up smoking that should have given me a buzz; I applied for THREE jobs inside an hour this morning, got reasonable news from trenches and I'm still slightly euphoric from Spurs beating Arsenal at the weekend (and are now 3rd, again). This whole week there's been some good sex, good beer, good company, good film (watch Robot & Frank), a really good birthday for t'wife,  the money hasn't completely run out so I've not resorted to eating gravel and dirt and summer was here for an hour yesterday...

But, all the same, I'm still in a funk.

I had an idea for a kids' book while I was walking the dogs. I might have a go at working that up. I might even do it. When I say 'do it' I don't mean 'do it' I mean 'work it up', so that's not writing, per se, but it's something other than sitting front of the monitor and writing a blog when I feel I have something to wibble on about.

Christ, I've downloaded enough shit films in the last few weeks to keep an army of nerds and geeks happy for 24 hours, but I just haven't got the motivation to watch any of them.

Hey, moaning is much easier than being happy... or positive... We are all going to die...

Monday, March 04, 2013

Now Then, Now Then

The Internet - it isn't any good for you, honest
I sit here and seethe a lot. About it and because I can't talk about it.

I stay objective though, unlike others who I'd like to believe have less time than me.

Facebook might be a lot of things but each of us is reasonably well protected from the freaks and psychos. If nothing else, Facebook allows you, to a certain degree, to choose your audience and as a consequence 'flames' and 'trolls' have all but disappeared. The same cannot be said for platforms that are more accessible to everyone. Take Amazon for instance; you don't think of Amazon as a social networking site, do you? That's because it isn't, but it does allow an enormous amount of interaction between 'customers' and unlike sites like the BBC or You Tube which have sections specifically for interaction, Amazon's is a feedback forum and whatever screening process that applies to the rest of the world possibly doesn't here. Amazon reviews are a number of things and helpful, is, amazingly, among those things. In many respects, the reviews on Amazon are more truthful; they're written 50% of the time by people who care enough to make an opinion and while that's exactly what it is, an opinion, it has led me to purchase things, on spec, that I might never have bought. I bought a Nitin Sawney album on the strength of a recommendation in another review - so it does work and I kinda have more respect for a fan who writes a review than someone who is obviously doing it for some strangely ungratifying reason. Some reviewers seem to take it all too seriously and while there's nothing wrong with having pride in your work - hell, pride is missing far too much everywhere else - some reviewers almost treat it like it's their job (and who knows, it might be).

Take my current musical bette noir - Steven Wilson's The Raven that blah blah blah and my decision to post my blog review of that album onto Amazon - because, you know, I've literally got nothing better to do - and my belief that it would be largely ignored. It hasn't and while it isn't garnering as many responses as the other negative review (which may well have been posted first and people probably think I jumped on his/her bandwagon) it has upset a few people. What I find remarkable with this is that it's obvious who have read the review and who have read my rating; those that disagreed with my review have at least tried to explain to me the error of my ways, a couple of others just got arsey with me and one in particular accused me of an awful lot based on my own humble opinion. The thing is I could almost feel his resentment and dislike seeping through the screen; it stunk of 'you disagree with me therefore you are shit on my shoe' and I opted, for once, to take the moral high ground (and because it was there to take).

This trend of being vilified in a really defensive way by passive aggressive objectors has become rife over recent years. Where it was once the confines of the private forums and groups it is now prevalent everywhere and because it is written in a distinctive way it allows the person - not a troll by any stretch of the imagination - permission to goad the detractor to the point where, because of their reaction, they can then take that 'hang on a minute, it's you who's swearing/getting angry, not me' approach, in public, that suddenly tars an otherwise reasonable view into that of a fanatic. Plus, having been on the receiving end of that more than once, if, like me, you rise to the bait more often than is good for you, there is the possibility that your initial reasoned argument/negative comment will be forgotten completely because you suddenly stop using smileys.

The Internet has always been a bit like that, but usually you knew that we're talking about minorities of people, nowadays, with so many people using the Internet, it could be anyone with an opinion that makes you foam at the mouth. I'm amazed that the world is not just one big slanging match between those who like things and those who dislike them. I suppose that's the good thing about diversity, there's too many things to be diverse about so you can always avoid the loony who disagrees with your belief that Star Wars is just a homoerotic advertisement for animal sex and incest.

The weird thing about the Amazon forum at the moment is that I have taken the moral high ground - which is unusual for me - because one or two of my detractors have been naughty and nasty. The thing is I could see the red mist descending as I was reading one of the replies to one of my replies to an earlier point, but suddenly, very lucidly, I thought, 'This is designed to ignite. This comment is designed specifically to draw the worst possible response and prove that my review has no validity because I am volatile and incendiary.' So I instead twisted his comment round and threw it back at him and took that, sensible, moral high ground

I remember going on the Guardian blogs during Andres Villas Boas's early days at my beloved Tottenham and being quite unnecessarily hostile about him. I say unnecessarily, but at the time I was absolutely incandescent with rage that my football team should have been defiled in such a way as to hire a failed Chelsea manager, etc etc. We also didn't look very good and it seems that everyone I was trying to convince couldn't remember all the good things about Spurs when Harry Redknapp was the manager. I was banging my drum and it was falling on deaf ears and that frustrated me even more. Very slowly, however, I realised that perhaps the manager wasn't the problem, so I admitted that I had been wrong and said as much on the forums.

Facebook isn't immune to it, despite what I said earlier. It's one of the places that generates its own controversies every time it decides to change something. Just recently, one of the Tech websites announced that the News Feed in your Facebook is going to change again. One of the people on this site's comment section said about the changes in Facebook: "Everybody will complain about the new layout just because people hate having to get used to something new, not because they actually hate the new layout. It's the same reason why everyone has complained about virtually every version of Windows since XP. It's not because the new OS was actually bad, it's because they don't like having to get used to new stuff. There's comfort in familiarity." 

I'd stick my neck out and say change was the biggest reason for a lot of unhappiness in the Internet - two million people (a drop in the ocean) moaning about some change Facebook has just made and probably those two million people are all over 30 (probably 40). People like me (but not necessarily me) need to understand that we're only being allowed to use these toys; we'll all be dead sooner than young people and they won't have to put up with our bitching and moaning about things they don't even blink at.

Change is a necessity because we are hurtling towards a time when what I'm doing - sitting at a PC - will only be done by people... like me and everybody else will be on the 'Net via their phones, Xboxes, tablets, iClouds or whatever the Japanese are currently developing for the 2020s.

I can't, for the life of me, understand a lot of the changes that are implemented. It appears that old adage 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' no longer applies in the real world. I'm sure the only way a developer makes money now is to come up with something different based on somebody else's different and then it is ephemeral - throwaway.

But I don't matter; the same as my opinion doesn't really matter, especially if it doesn't conform to the norm. The net is really all about inclusion and the safest way for it to go forward is for us all to accept everything and never moan about it, because one day we'll realise that it isn't worth the effort.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Mangel Wurzel Terror

Effercio et Ineptias

  • Summer will be Tuesday this year, make the most of it.
  • One of those long range weather forecast 'experts' reckons this coming summer will be drier than last year... No shit Sherlock? We'd all have government-issued yellow submarines if it got any wetter!
  • My review of the new Steven Wilson album has angered people, especially on Amazon.
  • I cooked an Indian version of beans on toast last night - a chick pea curry spooned onto a toasted naan bread. it was blummin' 'andsome!
  • One of the things that's winding me up at the moment are all these things appearing on Facebook (and probably Google+) that are essentially huge slabs of moral blackmail. "99% of people won't post this..." kind of shit that means fuck all and won't change anything; even the kind natured, good intentioned bollocks that 'well-meaning' helpers think by tagging this 'threat' to some fluff piece will get more exposure. Also, there appears to be a spate of pictures of 'lottery' winners who are going to, for some unknown reason, give a million dollars to you if you share a picture of him holding his winning ticket. I don't care if you can prove to me that a) he is a lottery millionaire, and b) he means it - it's bollocks and it's bollocks that makes you look like a complete and utter twat.
  • Our patio looked like an explosion of a thousand bowels this morning... The dogs have been wormed and as a result all night there was the sound of the dog flap open and closing. Dog flaps - utterly fucking genius ideas.
  • While out for a walk yesterday we met another pack of dogs - 7 in this one and 5 of them were lurchers/whippets. I watched Marley, who is rapidly losing her crown of the Dog Bully, as they came into sight and it was closest I've ever seen to a dog's shoulders slumping, especially as none of them seemed at all bothered by her.
  • The job search is slow and leaves far too much time for reflection.
  • It's the wife's 48th birthday tomorrow; do you know absolutely no one believes me when I say how old she is? I sometimes wonder how young she would have looked had she never got lumbered with me...
  • On Sundays I usually clean the duck shed out; it's not a job that I relish despite it taking, at most, 20 minutes to do from start to finish. Last week I was wrapped up against the elements and the other week it snowed throughout the job. Today, however, looks inviting. The sun is shining, the light is beginning to take on that spring time feel (it won't properly until the 21st) and even if it is cold, it just looks good out there!
  • And it was, I stayed outside for over an hour; tidied up a bit and continued the work started last week. The real shame is we have rain on the horizon and I could have done with a couple more weeks of dry weather so that I could tackle that main shed roof.
  • I saw my first blossom of the year on the 1st, the wife seemed to think this was later than normal.
  • Almost time to bite my nails down to the first knuckle...

Friday, March 01, 2013

Lard is Closer to Xenophobia than Ballroom Dancing

I almost got beaten up on Monday or Tuesday - I can't remember exactly because days tend to blur into each other at the moment - and while I was in the right, I probably almost deserved it because I was the one who resorted to name calling and casual racism. Let me explain in my usual way...

My dad was a bit of a pioneer. When I wrote his epitaph for his funeral my brother was concerned that I might paint this picture of the superhero we all thought dad was, but for all my faults and foibles I did learn about objectivity and the word 'pioneer', possibly 'maverick' were as romantic and prosaic a words that I used. I called him a pioneer because he wasn't afraid to do something completely out there, like up and move to a different country when you have three boys under the age of 9 - that takes some balls, especially in 1964.

The year after we came back from Canada the UK had a referendum on whether or not we should become a member of this European Common Market thingy and while I can't ever say for sure my bet is that my folks voted for us to be members of this new-fangled idea; I mean, we are, after all, co-inhabitants of this planet, we should, you know, get to know the others and work together. I think that was the philosophy that won the Yes vote and threw us into this partnership that has caused no end of strife ever since.

I was once partial to casual racism. Despite coming from a very metropolitan family, when you grow up in the 70s you couldn't avoid it and therefore words such as 'Paki' and 'wog' were probably used, but in defence, so were words like 'honky' and 'pig'. I hung around with an Indian guy who referred to himself as 'just some Paki' which actually was both ironic and racist, yet because he was Indian and therefore pretty much indistinguishable from a Pakistani to all but the most trained observer, people just thought he was reclaiming the word and being post modern. Oh how he laughed; most Indians I know hate Pakistanis with a passion (and vice versa). In fact, the first real hateful racism I ever witnessed was when I saw some Chinese kids beating up an Asian boy because he was 'a dirty Paki'... Not nice when you see it in writing, is it?

Spending a couple of years living, working and shagging my way through Shenley Hospital at the start of the 1980s made me realise I was unavoidably surrounded by a multicultural stew - the place was jam packed full of the United Nations of Mental Health and British was a minority and subsequently you had this bizarre situation of a truly peaceful multicultural 'commune' in a time when this kind of thing was still inside the developing brain of some whizz-kid (literally) sociologist. In fact, the most obvious tensions in that place was not between the - in appearance - the skin head Brit kids and the West Indians or Asians, they actually all got on really well; it was between the British and the Irish. I'm not saying racism didn't exist, but I saw considerably less there than I saw outside of its fences.

Before I met the wife, I was actually engaged to a girl who was of Polish origin. Linda was from Middlesbrough but her dad was a WW2 vet from Krakow and had been in the UK since the end of the war.  He belonged to a small but settled group of ex-pat Poles in Middlesbrough and there was never any tension between them and the 'locals', but you could say the same for Northampton which has always had a huge number of Poles living here and once they all lived here peacefully without the hate. In fact racism, has always been pretty much cyclical and to prove this I listened to a man from Gujarat who has lived in this country about 20 years complaining about the number of Eastern Europeans coming into the region. I'm sure some West Indians complained about the influx of Ugandan Asians back in the 70s... It's what racism is about, innit?

The closest I've got to being racist in recent years was when we were coming home from the pub one night and we were barred from driving up a narrow road by a taxi driver. We sat there behind him, with another car behind us, patiently, then we flashed him, then we tooted the horn, eventually me and Roger, full of alcoholic chutzpah got out of our car to tell this jackanape to get a move on. The man was obviously Lithuanian, we didn't know this at the time but I've since discovered that just about the worst insult you can throw at a Lithuanian is that he is Russian. As soon as this guy got upset about me suggesting he was a Ruski prompted Roger and I to unleash a cascade of derogatory Russian put-downs until, bowed by our racist wit, he drove off, cursing us.

I know a lot of people who are more intolerant of other races at the moment than at any time in my life - even in the mega-racist 1970s, because then it was kinda treated almost like a way of dealing with it and while some people wanted them gone most were quite happy to keep them as long as they could make the occasional joke. This is alarming but also completely understandable, things are shit at the moment and we can't blame the government for everything and people from other countries are new, so we'll blame them instead. Now this isn't just idiots thinking this, there are intelligent people who seem to think that its all their fault and if we pull out of Europe things will suddenly become so much better. Really? I gave a little laugh just before I typed 'really' because people who think we'd be better off out of Europe are OUT OF THEIR FUCKING MINDS!!! Do you want much higher prices for your food? For your gas and electric? Do you? Then if we have another referendum vote that we should come out. Do that and find that travelling around Europe isn't as easy as it is now; or that those French apples, German strudel, Italian cheese or Dutch capsicums are suddenly twice the price they were or simply no longer available. Watch loads of our farmers go out of business because you're not going to keep them in business, you've got your own concerns.

Who is going to pick your fruit in the summer? Clean your work toilets? Clean your car? Be up at 4am doing some job that even I wouldn't do and I'm unemployed? No European bank to bail us out when it all goes tits up and no way back without having to eat the humblest of humble pies and make ourselves look like a complete and utter bunch of cunts in front of the two nations we least want that to happen in front - the French and the Germans. Leaving the EU is a bit like telling your neighbour he's a wanky twat yet still expecting him to put your rubbish out, let your ducks out when you go on holiday and take in parcels for you. Of course, we're British, we kind of expect Europeans to do that anyhow...

UKIP, some idiot Tories, the EDL and other racist organisations might think that us not being in Europe would be the best thing to happen, but the only things that would change - unless you really wanted to become a neo-fascist country - would be the cost of living and no more immigrants from Europe coming in to do all the above jobs that you don't want to do. Do you know how much wheat-based products are in Norway? Go research it all you Euro-sceptics; go see how much you pay for anything that's got wheat in it because Norway can't produce enough wheat to meet even a third of its needs. Norway has great trade deals with the rest of Europe, but look at the cost of wheat. Do you know how much a pint of lager is in Oslo? About £8. Norwegians will tell you that they don't think they're thriving by not being in it because they've never been in it so there's no way of really telling; is that just so Scandinavian or what? Why do you think Norwegians eat things that have been buried in the ground for months? Because if they were in the EU it would be banned on H&S grounds - or at least that's what the Daily Mail would have you believe.

So I'm driving back from my solicitor's and I get cut up something shocking on the roundabout by Riverside. I mean, I have to slam my anchors on cut up because the twat in a Mondeo just tootled out and might have well stuck two fingers up at me while he was doing it. I flashed him and made a gesture akin to suggesting he plays with his genitals in stroking motions a lot and he took umbrage to this and stopped. I then cut up several other cars to pull alongside the Mondeo and castigate the driver for his unprofessional behaviour on the road. He offered to punch my lights out in a thick Eastern European accent. I accused him of being 'foreign' and told him I didn't wish to fight him but I would take his number plate, report him to the police and see if there was any, reasonable or harsh way they might have him deported out of my country and back to whatever toilet he crawled out of. I then drove off thinking that one of these days I am going to get my arse handed to me on a plate by someone on the receiving end of my Coward-esque bon motts. I also need to chill out when I get cut up in the car - there are utter genital defilers out there who probably found their licences in Christmas crackers, but unless I suddenly become imbued with the powers of Superman all I'm going to do is end up dead - aneurysm or stabbed.

A footnote to this; I think I was upset even more by the fact that Long and Hambly isn't there any more; just wasteland. As eras go this was one only the wife and I are probably aware of...