Sunday, December 24, 2017

My Music Review 2017

Compared to my esteemed colleague and friend Mr R. Trenberg of Surbiton, Surrey, my listening variety is piss poor. Said Mr Tremble reviews for things, you see, and he gets sent more shit than you can wave your gran at. Looking at Mr Tredegar's list of 742 albums of 2017 made me feel small and inadequate. His man-size listening habits are crushing for my modest little oeuvre, but undeterred I opted for the Small-but-Sweet package, paid my £342.99 and settled back for an evening of unrestrained filth to my ears.

The following, based on Mr Trezeguet's extremely complicated 'Hamster's Tersticles' Theorum*, will explain how I determined what albums I would listen to and get aroused by and which albums would make me want to shit myself and cry.

The albums which featured in the latter included a number of artists I simply wouldn't be seen dead admitting to listening to and a few which I went into expecting more of.

Then there was the small list of stuff that either didn't make the 25 short list because I wasn't terribly impressed/didn't grab me by the nads/weren't played enough to stimulate my musical OCDs. I could simply have listed a top 50 albums of the year and hope that no one notices there's only 49.

The albums that didn't quite make it were offerings from Ulva (was a tad disappointed as I like some of their earlier stuff), The Horrors (nothing new to see here), London Grammar (bland in comparison to their debut), Lorde (not risque enough to warrant my calling her the 21st century Kate Bush), The Flaming Lips (a real improvement on recent years, but no longer have any pulling power). I also haven't got some albums, including the most recent Amplifier album, so I can't really rate the album until I've got it and played it to death (or not).

I had a bit of an experiment this year and several stuck, others weren't so lucky - these included: Susanne Sundfor, Ex Eye, Royal Blood, Blanck Mass and an album which covers Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, but re-imagined as a heavy metal album - it was surprisingly better than it sounds.

Plus some old favourites missed out for various reasons. Ulrich Schnauss's collaboration with fellow (nu) Tangerine Dreamer Thorsten Quaeschning didn't make the cut because it was a bit dull. Hammock's film soundtrack to Columbus didn't make it because I haven't yet got a copy of it and from what I've heard I'm not really missing out.

Most importantly, there is probably 1000 different albums out there I never discovered and we all know the word 'discover' has a disco in it.

Now the tough part and because ranking records is a pisser at the best of times, I'm listing 25-6 in alphabetic order - these are the albums I liked this year, but not as much as the top 5.

All Them Witches - thanks to Mr Tremulous for this worthy addition to my year. Top 10.
Bent Knee - marvellous wailing and screeching with fine musicianship, man.
Eat Lights, Become Lights - Krautrock infused electronica.
Foo Fighters - surprisingly entertaining psyche-rock from the most well known on my list.
Hammock - the band finally do an album about death rather than just alluding to it constantly.
Michael Head - it's not Shack but it's still a damned good sound.
Mark Lanegan - my first real exposure to him since his band work; great album for a drive.
Mew - big contender for album of the year, in January. A real return to form for the Danes.
Mogwai - I tend to avoid well known 'post rock' bands, I didn't with this and was glad.
Nordic Giants - big chance to make a bold statement and blew it with more of the same.
Orange Clocks - madness from Northants. Nothing quite like this anywhere else in 2017.
Radiohead - yes, it was a reissue, but the 2nd album was all new to me.
Shaman Elephant - stumbled onto these after discovering someone else; groovy.
Space Above - New Zealand ambient pop - picked up from Radio6.
Stellardrone - the 'new' album features 5 tracks, 3 of which have been out for two years.
Stone From the Sky - bitching heavy grooves from Franceland.
Tangerine Dream - in name only. One track might pass off as a TD track, just. OK though.
Temples - Like psychedelia forced through Mercury Rev's socks.
War on Drugs - probably shouldn't even be played by me but surprisingly listenable.
Steven Wilson - his latest album was so commercial he appeared on BBC Breakfast. Sell-out.

This brings us to the Top Five albums of the year...

If I was to tell you that there were up to seven albums this year vying for the top spot and it has changed in the last week, that would be what the year in music has been like for me. None of the bands or artists I regard as my current favourites did anything much this year, so it was always going to be a case of whatever's been floating my sneakers in the drain of life. Or in other words, there be no real IT album because many have their merits and all did the job that was needed when it was neededed.

So, not really in a definitive order, as it might change as often as a very hygienic person's underwear.

At 5... Jonas Munk & Ulrich Schnauss - Passage

I like Manual (Munk's project) and I've enjoyed Schnauss's collaborations more than his solo stuff for a few years now. This is electronic Krautrock with added Dane that has an ambience about it that borders on post rock. There are some cracking bits of music on it too.

At 4... Elder - Reflections of a Floating World

One of those 'WTF' moments when a heavy rock band flicks all the right switches and reminds you of classic heavy riffs mixed with modern production values. These guys are so heavy they sound like a heavy rock orchestra. It's been there or thereabouts since I discovered it.

At 3... Motorpsycho - The Tower

This was at #1 until last week. I played all my favourites over the last 3 weeks and while this is a cracking album by a Norwegian band that never fails to deliver something to put on repeat play, this album is marred by a couple of, what can only be described as, 'weak' tracks, the rest are borderline classics; Ship of Fools becoming their latest epic monster.

At 2... Ride - The Weather Diaries

And #1 on and off since its release. This is one of those 'triumphant return' albums, 25+ years after their last, presumed final, poor disintegration on vinyl. The time off has done them a lot of good and this is jam-packed with excellent pop psychedelia with a shoegaze feel and a 21st century sensibility. Favourite bands of the 90s on comebacks rarely live up to expectations, this exceeded mine (and many critics too).

And at 1. Carbon Based Lifeforms - Derelicts

What a truly gorgeous piece of work this is and I stumbled across it, after repeated prompting, on You Tube, while listening to Stellardrone's latest. One day in October, I finally listened to it and then again. I couldn't work out if it was electronica or post rock; it seemed to merge the two at times and steer clear in others. Gradually, various tracks began to burrow their way into my head until it became the most played album of the last three months. As a largely instrumental work of sometimes minimalist qualities it is akin to modern classical music while remaining strangely ethereal and quite odd. Several tracks are classics. It's Swedish, and completes a Scandinavian trio with Denmark and Norway. I can now call myself musical hygge. You can call me Al.

Any thoughts, Mr Trenstein?

*Actual spelling

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Self-Indulgent Year End Bollocks

Homes Under the Hammer is so successful in other dimensions and timelines it exists in slightly different guises... Looking through my interdimensional mobile device, this is what you get:

Kelly Holmes Under the Hammer
Homes Under the MC Hammer
Sherlock Holmes Under the Hammer
Homes Under the Hamner
Crush Skulls Under the Hammer
Wombats Under the Hammer
Homes Under the Hummer
Remmah eht rednu Semoh
Ollie Eggboo and Vorgaltron

It is also an as-yet-well-known fact that at some point in the future someone will travel back in time and convince two young chaps called Arthur and Paul that Ollie Eggboo & Vorgaltron is the name they should use as a stage name because it will catapult them into a sun of success. At that point, everyone on the planet will believe Simon & Garfunkle is a firm of New York lawyers for the Yiddish community...

If you died in 2017 then you probably weren't as famous as you could have been. Obviously people who died in 2016 were like the top of the Christmas tree; by 2050 celebrities will be dying and no one will give a flying fuck. You can see the headlines in your mind because I can't be arsed to imagine them for you.

Brexit threatens to make the UK the laughing stock of the world.
What even more than we already are? Just to name a few things that we often get ridiculed about for this year alone:
Believing 6 inches of snow is actually an apocalypse.
The England football team.
The Ashes.
The current government.
52 as a solid and absolutely massive percentage.
Minister for Porn.
Wayne Rooney going bald for a second time.
The X-Factor.
Obsessing over the wife of a dead magician.
Eurovision success.
The Daily Mail.
The real purpose of David Davis.
Our tolerance and understanding of the poor and disabled...

Musically, I'm struggling to come up with a definitive Best Album of the Year. It is as difficult as learning the balalaika at 55 (I'm not).
Best film of the year? Probably the one that settled on a pool of sea water near Monreith in August.
Twat of the year? I'd be hard pressed to look no further than the mirror. I mean, just how reckless is selling up, moving to the arse end of nowhere and leaving all of your friends 330 plus miles away? But, mentally I've had about four bad days in the last five months, as opposed to four good days in the previous five months. You win some and you win some. Gonads to the losers.

I picked up a jellyfish. She was really boring and didn't put out.

Someone I know is a complete fraud. A pure fantasist with attachment issues. If this description applies to you then you need to get rid of all the baggage, chill the fuck out and start becoming a nice person again.

I think I murdered some limpets in the autumn - purely out of interest.

What do I miss?
Oakham beer.
Tony, Phil, Roger, Luan and the Lamplighter (in no specific order)
Oddly enough... Not having Bradlaugh Fields for the dogs. It's weird, we have big hills, forests, beaches, wide open spaces, but lots of livestock and four 'Towny' dogs. Plus, in a short space of time Doug has been in more wars (because of deer) than he had in the previous 2 years. However, if it was a choice between 'The Seaside' or 'Bradlaugh' - there would be no competition.
Nene Valley Brewery.
Newby Wyke - I am literally scraping the bottom of the barrel already. Can you believe that? I mean, I miss Newby Wyke, but I could easily live the rest of my life without it (and probably will); the same with all the beer I miss, so you can probably knock three things off that list straight away.
The Luvvie - I need a new place that inspires me as much as the old cut through between Bective and Moulton Park did. Or alternatively, I could do something with all the neat ideas I've had walking through it for five years.

Ollie Eggboo & Vorgaltron.

Fat people - how do you put up with all that touching flesh?

Miriam Margolyes.

Advice for 2018:
It's just a TV programme
It's just fantasy
Double check first so as not to make yourself look like an utter cunt
Educate yourself, especially if people are abusing you for or accusing you of being a [insert pejorative here]
Culture, especially someone else's, should be very very low on your personal agenda especially if it bothers you. Stop it and worry about your kids/mortgage/football team/wife/mistress or dog
If you find waking up in the morning is an event that makes you want to commit murder or scream continuously at something then you need to change your life or you will die/go to prison
Don't breed your pet you fucking cockwomble
Don't drop litter and respect your environment and kick someone hard in the shins if you see them doing the opposite (you'll be fine, their shins will hurt so much they won't be able to run after you)
This is the final year you will be able to use the name Ollie Eggboo & Vorgaltron, cos, you know, 2019 and the invention of time travel, monster stars; clackers; New York; Fanny; jumpers for goalposts, Rolf Harris before he was a paedo - all this and more to look forward to.

More soon (or not. Depends.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pop Culture is Dead To Me 2: The Flying Killer

So here's the irony. You start a blog by pointing out how this kind of blog is the least viewed kind of blog I do and two weeks later it's the 3rd single most viewed blog I've ever written on Farky Nell (this blog). I don't know if the timing was good or if the TV I talked about just happened to be topical enough to be largely patronised, but I decided to do it again, to prove to myself the last one was a fluke.

In this month's thrilling instalment I'll be wittering on about The Walking Dead, Lucifer, The Gifted (and a quick return to the Inhumans), Mr Robot, Star Trek: Discovery among others and having a bit of speculation involving things I haven't seen yet or have yet to be released. This is a spoiler warning. There will be talk about things you might not have seen yet (but in most cases you're probably ahead of me).


Four weeks into the new season of The Walking Dead and I'm quite pleased to see they've revisited a 'style' that worked for me. Back at the start of season five or six (I lose track), the producers spent about six episodes played out in real time about how they funnelled an army of walkers away from their settlement. It was tense, dangerous and illustrated how scary the dead could still be. I have no idea of knowing, but I get the impression that this new season might be played out entirely as one real time 'war' between Rick's gang of altruists and Negan and his Negans. And honestly, how good would that be if the entire 16 episode season was centred around one or two days and the consequences of it?

I expect what we'll get is eight episodes of this, ending in some kind of massive defeat for Rick's team - my guess would be the death of Judith and the majority of the Alexandrians - it seems to be the least defended in case of a retaliation and some of the characters there don't exist in the comics. I also think Enid will off Hilltop's self-appointed ruler and that Gabriel will be the one who does Negan more damage than we could ever imagine. But this is all speculation and the fact there's speculation again suggests to me that TWD might be rediscovering its mojo by keeping it simple.

Possibly the biggest shock on TV in 2017 will be the one 'shit' and two 'fucking's in Star Trek: Discovery. I know I've been about the only person who has been surprised by it and while it felt unnatural and forced, it also felt right... Last time out I was less than complimentary of ST:D and because I was wrong I got two packets of Galaxy Cake Bars as a present!

At the end of the two-part pilot, I felt a little underwhelmed; slightly peeved and the ST fan boy inside me I never knew existed was seething about how everything was far too... advanced. I said to the wife that we'd give it a couple more goes and if it was rubbish it would go the way of every ST series since the Next Generation, it would be ignored. By the end of episode three I was absolutely blown away. It's like some dark and slightly sinister half-sister to ST:NG and half the characters are greyer than a school kid's trousers. There are some moments worthy of the best ST cringeworthy scenes, but there are also Machiavellian plots, psychotic captains, and Klingon tits. It's not Star Trek for your kids, that's for sure. It might turn out to be just style over substance, but it's quickly moved up my list of must view stuff.

The TV series that has vied for top spot for the last couple of years has been Lucifer (always challenging Shameless but never quite beating it) and the last time we did this the new series hadn't started and I was expressing concerns about Tom Welling being added to the cast. For those of you not familiar with Welling, he was the last TV Clark Kent/Superman and Animal from the Muppets is a better, more emotive, actor.

The last series saw the final four episodes dropped and added to this one; whatever the reason it hasn't made this series feel any less Scooby Doo like. There was a point when I seriously considered Lucifer to be the best fun 'fantasy' TV show out there because it was so rubbish. Every week you would tune in for 'lame crime of the week' but you'd really be there to see how the real story progressed; even if the real story only got two out of the 42 minutes. Most people work out the killer before he or she speaks (it's usually the first person Lucifer and Chloe talk to) and that usually takes a back seat while Tom Ellis pontificates around the set like some extremely camp music hall thespian and us clued in viewers wait for whatever new revelation is going to be uncovered. Those four held-back episodes have been distributed among the opening seven (notable by the absence of Tom Wooden, I mean, Welling).

Don't get me wrong, I still think it's a great series, but something needs to happen to advance the story a little. It is not popular because of its crap procedural dramas, equally it might not be because of the actual Lucifer/angel/God business, it might be purely down to the way Ellis chews the set up every time he's there; but I can see it losing its way if it doesn't find one.

Speaking of something needing to happen... I'm just about at the end of my patience with the majority of Marvel's TV output. I'm looking forward to the new series of SHIELD because I think Phil Coulson is a great character, but there have been times when I've felt the series needed something more than just an association to the Marvel Universe. Agents of SHIELD is like a John Le Carre novel compared to The Inhumans' small press comic strip. It is not that often when something you want to like gets dropped after just one episode, but the pilot of The Inhumans was so bad you would have struggled to believe it wasn't produced by some cosplayers with a $500 budget.

Agents of SHIELD introduced the Inhumans as a 'new' conceptual menace, because Marvel doesn't own the film rights to the X-Men and nothing has worked quite as well for Marvel than mutants versus humans, so instead of trying to sort something out with the mercenary 20th Century Fox, Marvel tried to create a new 'mutant' menace by bigging up the characters that were first introduced back in the mid 1960s (who were, originally, of Kree origin, which should tie in with the Marvel films but doesn't). The entire story arc involving the Inhumans in SHIELD was pretty awful and what was originally being touted as a major feature film, soon became a major TV series, which eventually became an eight-part mini-series, which eventually got cancelled before it was launched because, as a friend of mine in Hollywood told me, 'It had already become the laughing stock of Hollywood'.

We gave up on the Inhumans after the pilot because, quite frankly, I've seen more interesting things growing on old dog shit.

We didn't give up on The Gifted quite so fast. We gave it seven episodes before finally deciding that despite having an interesting cast and being a Mutant Underground X-Men tie-in it was actually a load of dull, boring and thoroughly uninspiring shite. It's probably me, but how do some of the scriptwriters on these shows get work? The Gifted's problem is nothing happens, everyone in it suffers from melodrama, the two main actors are essentially redundant and it just feels half-arsed. Perhaps this is the way superhero TV is going, if it is then it belongs to another me.

The fact there's 13 episodes in the new Punisher series fills me with dread... I might give it a miss.

We finally caught up on all of Mr Robot season two just as season three was starting. I dunno if it was suffering from second album syndrome but ... WTF? The first series had a madness; a crazy feel to it; season two was very much after the parade; a bit like Moonlighting after Willis & Shepherd finally copped off with each other. I got through the entire season thinking 'something is going to happen' and nothing did and then it ended on a cliffhanger that could easily have taken place ten seconds after the cliffhanger at the end of season one...

I still haven't gotten around to watching the new Twin Peaks.

Stranger Things 2 was considerably better than season 1 or was it? It certainly had more money thrown at it and it moved along at a pace unlike the first series; but ultimately did it achieve anything; did it further the story; was it any good?

On hindsight it kind of reminded me of a lukewarm bland wank, which, to my knowledge, is something I've never knowingly experienced, but imagine being simply perfunctory and could have been so much better with a bit of passion, vinegar strokes and some obligatory 1980s unnecessary nudity. I expect I will enjoy series 3 when it's on and then retrospectively tear it to pieces like I've done with the first two.

I'm saving the current series of Shameless for when the rest of TV has a winter break; looking at William H Macy's naked arse once a year is all I need to confirm it's the best thing on TV.

Yet again I'm struggling to think of a film we've watched since the last one of these that I'd recommend to anyone I like. I'm sure there has been, but for the last few Saturdays we've been doing something a bit retro and watching old classics. A few weeks back we watched The Thing, followed the next week by Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and then Harryhausen's Mysterious Island (which was so much worse than I remembered) and we have Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Old Dark House, Network, Trafic (The Tati classic), a bunch of other Carpenter films from the 80s and 90s and if I can persuade the wife to watch a Mexican film about a tentacled alien sex monster living in someone's house, then The Untamed is on my list. Obviously I'm looking forward to Thor 3 with almost zero expectation, now that I'm losing the will to live with comics films/TV. Oh and we watched The Limehouse Golem the other day and that's two fucking hours I'm never going to get back (even if Bill Nighy was excellent).

Meanwhile in the UK... I thoroughly love Only Connect. From the Barda-esque (Jack Kirby joke there for my comics friends) VC-M to wanting the twats who say 'Hor-Ned' to die from horrible itching diseases. The problem with Only Connect is it's a quiz show...

Most people I know who have discerning taste in TV have constantly recommended Peaky Blinders and I'm sure it's the best thing since multiple orgasms but I know a lot of people from Birmingham and I struggle to take any of them seriously and a cowing nutritious pot noodle.

Big fan of Simon Reeve. We play the "How many times will he say 'Bloody Hell' in a series?" all the time and I won with 6 for his three-part journey across Russia.

Sue Perkins's trip down the Ganges wasn't a patch on her Dan-Dare-tastic trip to see the Mekon.

Struggling to think of anything else we watch that is good or bad enough to mention; so it's probably time to end this nonsense.

Next Time: It'll soon be Christmas and that means falling asleep during Dr Who, wondering why the BBC even bothers now and probably NOT me taking the time to discuss ITV's new format. you know the one... based on the USA's idea of having FIVE advert breaks in an hour instead of four, the last one being just before the last fucking 30 seconds and credits. Honestly, TV executives are just complete cunts.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Block

For the benefit of those not privy to my social network face thing, here's a recap:

I spent over a year (not continuously) writing a novel essentially aimed at the 14 to 21 age range. It's called The Imagination Station and was something I must like because I've spent an inordinate amount of time on it; far more than I usually do with fanciful creative writing projects.

I reached a point about a year ago where I wasn't prepared to do anything else to it until I'd had an appraisal from someone I trusted. I opted to ask my wife to edit it. A bold move considering she had never done anything like that before; she was close to the author and she might have been inclined to pull her punches. I, personally, opted for her to write it because I trusted her to tell me quite candidly if she hated it. I am confident my wife will never give me a snow job or blow smoke up my arse.

It was almost a year to the day from printing it out to her sitting down with a pencil, rubber and constructive critique's hat on and that was the day the block arrived...

It wasn't there, then it was. Like some insane barrier appearing out of nowhere, I crashed. Along with my usual syntax errors, I discovered my input keys were fried. Except, they weren't. Metaphorically, if I looked in a specific direction and I could not see the barrier I could write. From the point when I finally decided I could write no more on the novel, I outlined Station's sequel, wrote a short story that fits into an idea I was working on before Station popped into my head and nothing else. In the same amount of time, I have written 43 blogs, an article for a comics fanzine and more shite on social media than you can shake a dirty stick at...

Whatever the block is, it's transparent to certain things.

The wife really liked Station. She's appalled at some of my syntax; she thinks it needs some intensive polishing in places, but she didn't see things coming; she had no idea I was going to do certain things and she was bitterly disappointed that parts of it weren't expanded on - "You have to make the HG Wells thing a stand alone chapter!" was something she actually got quite enthused about (I tease you with enigmatically). It's a good job really; at 55 I was seriously considering calling it a day at creative writing and just farting about with blogs. I don't really expect to become a famous writer now; that ship has sailed and even if I got a break my health would probably limit my longevity. I've spent far too much time not spending enough time on the things I write.

As someone with a vivid imagination, I often used to think if I'd lived in Hollywood I would have pitched hundreds of ideas for different kinds of TV shows or films; as I got older I've treated my own creative writing as nothing more than my own little worlds where if I'm the only person who knows about them then that's fine by me. One of the beautiful things about Station for me was knowing how it ended, but not knowing quite how it was going to get there. I mean, I knew all along but as my conscious mind uncovered the subconscious story it was a bit like reading a good book or watching a good film, for the first time. That's a joy and one money (or filmmakers) can't match.

Since we've lived in Scotland my imagination has kind of dried up. There are still ideas, but apart from one isolated thing, I've not started any new ideas since three weeks prior to leaving Northampton. Don't get me wrong; my brain is attuned okay. It's working overtime until I sit down in front of the computer. Actually, that's a lie; I don't open Word or do anything remotely like I'm going to do something constructive and usually end up doing something trivial or pointless - a card game or blowing something up on Facebook games. The need for either a job or a constructive hobby is probably essential for my health. I have put on weight, which is a bad thing for me and the catch-22 is I don't get the exercise I used to despite it being wonderful here.

The change in our lives has changed me.

I have a manuscript to edit and I should be approaching it with gusto; after all, my wife has given me a little bit of optimism and ambition back and I've been itching to get back to the story since I finished it. But... you know... It's like both of us have switched off from the rest of the world and we simply can't get back on the wagon.

We do the new pub quiz over in Newton Stewart every Thursday, with our team of fellow English people. I expect now that we've completely destroyed the opposition, having won by insulting margins for 4 consecutive weeks we'll start to be treated like deep-fried dog shit by the regulars and ... do you know, despite really enjoying the company of our new friends, I miss winning money and drinking something that resembles beer when I do pub quizzes. I'd be lying if I said living in Scotland has been all brilliant; but the material things I miss I can live without quite easily. The way I look at it, if and when I get to have the things I don't get very often I'll enjoy them more.

I don't know if the slight ennui I have about the quiz is also what is bothering my creative writing process. Honestly, grammatical laziness aside, writing this stuff is clown's shoes and really easy; writing something you care what others think about is fooking hard. So when one is in a kind of existential fugue state like I seem to be at the moment, getting my shiny groove on is pretty much the same as being depressed but without the black shadow of despondency hanging over you. And like depression, it isn't a case of just pulling yourself together or working through it, it's about being in a mental position to do yourself and what you work on justice. Having a block isn't like not wanting to do something, ending up doing it and having a better than expected time. It's literally about not being able to do what I'm doing here.

My fantastic ability is to be able to write like cows shit, and on demand. I was trained for years to regurgitate press releases and hash out a news story from some sticks and bits of gravel, but if I had to write a fictional story in this current state... I have more chance of using my own farts to propel me to the moon. Actually, while I have written a fair bit since 'finishing' Station, in comparison to previous times, even my 'factual' output has dropped off this year - not surprising given the traumatic year of upheaval we've just experienced, but at the moment it concerns me that my surroundings have rather enchanted me the way a vampire transfixes its victim. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pop Culture Is Dead to Me

It's time for a lot of words that will mean very little to most people who stumble onto this...

It's not through boredom, neither is it through a sense of a need to share; it's more about other things such as prevention and/or time saving exercises. At least that's how I condone it. Plus, sometimes I need to do this kind of shit to keep myself fully insane.

TV and Film.

Let's start with film. I've kind of given up on films. Blockbusters are slowly failing to do it for me, probably due to being all style and no substance. I pretty much approached the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel with zero expectations and was still disappointed by it and I'm sitting here struggling to think of a film I can remember watching that I've enjoyed...  actually, with the exception of Wonder Woman, I'm struggling to think of anything I've seen in the last couple of months that I can remember watching (I had to go check in case I missed anything glaring).

Even critically-acclaimed films are leaving me feeling as though the genre needs to go on hiatus for a while.

As for TV... Well, I'm watching less than I did and I'm struggling to love much of what I have.

[Spoiler Alerts]

The Marvel TV stuff, principally Iron Fist and Defenders were largely meh. I didn't think Iron Fist was as bad as a lot of people, but the guy playing Danny Rand acts as well as I can run to the moon (the star of that was the character Ward Meachum, who essentially went from being an arsehole to a man you just had the utmost sympathy for) and it essentially didn't do anything but set up the next show - which has been the complaint of all of the series since the first Daredevil; nothing concludes, ever. Unlike the comics, this is something casual viewers of TV sometimes want - resolution.

The Defenders was quite lame and the Hand has become as convoluted and dull as the Inhumans did in the SHIELD series. Marvel's TV wing is in dire need of something positive to happen because it's not going anywhere slowly. Seemingly proven by the imminent cancellation of the as-yet-unseen Inhumans.

The Walking Dead had me floundering in 2016. At the end of Season 6, I knew, like many of the readers of the comic knew, how Season 7 would start and I'd grown quite fond of some of the characters, specifically Glenn's almost comedic ability to 'almost' die every series. I wanted the showrunners to do what they'd done occasionally in the past and throw the 'Series Rulebook' out of the window and deceive 'us in the know' - but they didn't, so it took me 10 months to get around to watching the season opener and meeting Negan and his baseball bat and then I fast forwarded through the intensely gross moments and concluded it was just torture porn.

The rest of the series was essentially the antithesis of that first episode. There are actual LOL moments - a real rarity - and unfortunately there was also a shark riding a unicycle about to be jumped by a tiger, hiding in the background. I presume they've all seen Mad Max, because it seems like TWD has turned into a kind of Undead Max World. Illiterate rubbish tip dwellers; isolated communities, mad psychos with polystyrene filler in between to enable all of the bonkers things to have some meaning or validity.

It was quite enjoyable in a slightly surreal kind of way, but with the 'walkers' now decaying very fast and the survivors dealing with most deaths before they reanimate, the main threat is now less dangerous than living in Australia and one of the worst things about the dead now is akin to putting your fingers into a rotting potato by accident. Surely, as we may discover, if there was an apocalypse, some normal people would survive and not just all the psychopathic rednecks?

Which brings us nicely to the current run of TWD's sister show Fear TWD, or as I like to call it - Fear The Moronic Living. Whereas TWD has that dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmare misery deeply ingrained in it, FTWD is like a comedy parody played earnestly without the cast being in on the joke. It is everything TWD isn't`. It is populated with utterly dislikable characters who appear to be immune to death and they must be saving a fortune on make up because the dead only appear when they need to fill the void between one ludicrous scene and the next. The main character is Madison Clark and there has never been a lead character in a series that you will want killed off more than her. However, she seems capable of walking into places with warlords who make Negan seem like Frasier Crane and walk away with the impossible. Perhaps she just puts out a lot off camera?

I remember last year, my mate Kelvin was slightly surprised to discover The Strain was still going. It finally ended with a 10-part series, last week. What a load of old wank it was too. I really don't know why I persevered with such a dreadfully self-indulgent original-V-standard series, but I did and it ended in a totally meh way. Corey Stoll, the main star was loathsome; his son in the series possibly the most horrid young person since the last one and most of the other characters were just there to help the plot plod along. It was hammy, seemed to borrow loads from others despite having a fairly unique premise for a vampire series and should never have made it past series 1. Don't be tempted if you see a box set or it's shown on some obscure cable channel.

Preacher's first series was fun. I could pick many holes in it, but it was great comic book nonsense with some funny lines, ultra violent scenes and lots of Europeans pretending to be from Texas. The second series was as dull as beige. It was too long, didn't do enough with Starr as it should and missed all of the characters so skillfully introduced in the first series. It's following the comic to a certain degree but it seems to be following all the bits in the comic that didn't make it brilliant. The second series was so meh I'm struggling to remember what the cliffhanger at the end was...

As Odin Quincannon in Preacher, Jackie Earle Haley was a serious nemesis for Jesse Custer, but he presumably died when Preacher's town was wiped off the planet. Haley reappears as The Terror in possibly the most enjoyable load of nonsense you'll see this year. The Tick is pretty bloody excellent; a surrealist comedy with swearing, violence and a serious undertone. the brilliant Peter Serafinowicz is The Tick, who may or may not be a physical manifestation of his sidekick Arthur's mental health issues.  The first 6 episodes are well worth watching and there is a brilliant bit of continuity dismissal in episode 2 (obviously filmed much later than the pilot) the Tick's costume has noticeably changed since said pilot, but only minutes between the Tick and Arthur's scenes. This was dealt with the following exchange:
Arthur: Has your costume changed?
The Tick: Yes!
And they just carried on.

Game of Thrones dropped the nudity for more dragons, zombies, backstabbing and a faster pace. We're heading for the final season - eventually - and if you've stuck with it this far, however it ends will probably be some form of anticlimax. Plus, it was obviously too dangerous the film in the arctic, but in the books when winter finally came everywhere had 50 foot snowdrifts; in TV's Westeros, winter coming is a hard frost and some shallow lying snow. Plus, let's not discuss how the Wights got their massive chains or how small GoT world really is when you're flying a dragon or you're Gondry.

I haven't watched Twin Peaks yet. I'm just not sure about it any more.

Other stuff? There must be other stuff. I mean, what else do I do with my time? A lot of the things I have watched (like S7 of TWD) have grown hairs and gone bald. I watched Better Call Saul when I moved up here and that felt like it had been sitting on my hard drive for months. The wife has the last two seasons of Supernatural to watch and the new one starts in about three weeks (unless it's been cancelled and I missed the news, I mean, I've never watched it).

The Expanse is the closest thing I've seen on telly to Babylon 5 in years; passable SF and SFX married with bad acting and dodgy accents; it just needs a Vorlon (and there might be one just round the corner...). There hasn't been a Shameless US since I last did this to rave about and Lucifer starts again in October - with the four standalone episodes that were supposed to have concluded the last series. Can't say I was too happy about Superman joining the cast, but the show often deceives you that way with weird casting that works.
The last series (maybe final, please) of Sleepy Hollow ended up being quite shit, but frankly it had been shit since season 2. Agents of SHIELD lost the plot and improved its ratings enough to be renewed and I don't watch the DC shows.

Meanwhile in space... Star Trek: Discovery debuted this week. I have loads of continuity problems with it, mainly to do with Klingons; and I feel that maybe they should have simply rebooted it rather than try and retell the past in a different more expensive way. Not sure about the former TWD alumni in the #2 chair or the Harry Potter one in the #1 chair, but that story hasn't started yet and I worry I'm going to be looking out for episodes that DON'T have Klingons in them.

On the flipside is... The Orville, which is not a show about a space-faring green and yellow bird operated by a wanker called Keith, but is a ST parody by the Family Guy people, best known for their Simpsons parody. It's poor. Very, very poor. It will last 6 episodes. It should have been good and Adrianne Palicki (or however she spells her name) is wasted on it, so no one wins. It spends too much time trying to be Brian the dog meets ST:NG; which I really don't think would be as bad as this.

Yes, everything here is from the USA and a few of them are veering into stories involving a totalitarian state run by a twat, so even some of the bad stuff has had moments. British TV of the serial variety..? I might need reminding that there is any worth mentioning, especially as I really couldn't give a seriously runny shit about Doctor effing Foster, the life of a dead monarch who appears to have been reinvented as pretty or any of the other things that appeal to me about as much as having a case of the seriously runny shits. So there.

Saturday, July 08, 2017


I've not really written anything for weeks.

It's not even through a lack of inspiration; I'm bristling with ideas.

Actually... I've written a lot in recent weeks. I just haven't written anything like a blog or a story. I've been channelling my blogs, my creativity, plus my anxiety and my unhinged madness via social media - the medium I love and loathe in equal measure. I've written more on Facebook in the last three months than the previous nine years.

It's because while I steadfastly refuse to get remotely excited about the last great adventure (until we're in Scotland), I can feel the mixture of elation, fear and trepidation rising inside me and it's completely out of my control. I am a big bag of sentimentality.

I expect things will change once we've gone. I will have much to tell people about escaping the rat race while not being wealthy... at least that's the plan.

Life, at the moment, is a wee bit like a delirious fever dream without the fever and a lot more anger.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Art of Staying Sane

Let me quantify something. What I'm about to write might be considered the moment when many people who read this might consider I've finally sailed over the edge of sanity and into loony land. The fact that I am rational enough to make this distinction, sadly, means I'm probably still sane...

Is it me or does the world now seem like some scripted soap opera where you literally only have to wait a week before there's some new plot twist that makes you go 'WTF?' not only because now days it's easier to type than 'What The Fuck?' but also because we pretty much ignore normal now unless it has a high body count or sounds like an episode of The Simpsons leaking into reality... Honestly, I'm growing increasingly convinced this is just a big fuck off simulation billions of the years in the future which aliens plug into and relive the hell that mankind was. My mate Roger would say it is now malfunctioning, but I'm wondering if it's deliberate: a warning to future sentient beings that if you go the path of humans it ends up in madness... Orange and blue madness with random death wishes and intolerance thrown in.

I really do wonder if the drugs worked too well when I took them because now I know that 7 of the 8 main symptoms of Alzheimer's are the same as being stoned, I'm surprised the government simply don't accuse dementia sufferers of being potheads and have done with them...

In April 1989, a thoroughly nasty piece of work (I do have a habit of attracting them like flies to shit) who I worked briefly for told me to fuck off and do my own thing because I clearly wasn't suited to his kind of work. My shop didn't open until the October, because what should have taken 6 weeks to get into place ended up taking nearly 6 months and in 1989 I smoked so much pot the simple fact I managed to start a business (and kept it running for so long) suggests I might have been mega-successful had I been straight. The thing was between May (the month), when we got the loan to start Squonk and by the time I opened it, we frittered away half of the money just in living expenses and interest rates. I'm not suggesting that was anyone's fault but mine and with hindsight I should have got a part time job to ensure we didn't spend my business start up cash.

I'm feeling the same way about the move to Wigtown. It is now fuck knows how long since we 'sold' our house, got fucked over and then sold it again and yesterday, May 24, we were supposed to have moved and in reality we're no closer to that move than we were the day we drove back from Scotland having decided what house we were going to buy. Maybe between them and now I should have done something with my time, because while my overall mental health has been fine, boredom mixed with extreme frustration has thrown my usual rational self into a slightly 'couldn't give a fuck' mode. It doesn't help we have another election looming; the UK has just suffered its latest 'terrorist' atrocity and Chelsea and Arsenal are playing in the FA Cup final, so whoever wins it's lose-lose for a Spurs fan...

I have been (half) joking recently about thinking that this is hell and we can't leave. Couple that radiant optimism with Alan Moore's theory that we exist in a perpetual groundhog day that we are unaware of so therefore it plays out the same for eternity. So, in other words, when you think 'what if I'd done that differently?' that is what you think every time. Surely they're both the same concept? Variations of the hell theme...

The boredom is the worst thing. Since I packed up smoking I seem to be unable to fill the voids with anything constructive; although to be fair I weigh the same now as I did in July 2012, so I don't fill the voids with the eating of junk (although I do have binges occasionally, just last week I bought and ate - shared with the dogs - an entire white cabbage; raw and crunchy and probably burned more calories eating it than were in it).

It's the limbo I can't stand. I barely write anything. I flounce about listlessly, take the dogs for long walks. It's like depression without feeling that bad. I have essentially become a bored housewife...

I find it frustrating that my inner bastard won't do any gardening because it won't be my garden for much longer and because we blitzed the house pre-sale, there's nowt to do on the DIY homefront. I look at my heavily-laden gooseberry, red and blackcurrant bushes, my rejuvenated plum trees, my raspberries and the sea of white flowers in my strawberry beds and wonder if I'll actually get any benefit from them and then it reminds me of the two children who used to live next door. They moved into a house with a wonderfully stocked veg and fruit patch, lovingly maintained by Fishwife and his noisy children. They just dug it all up and dumped it in a skip - it would have made Percy Thrower cry. He worked for Sainsbury's at the time; he said anything he wanted he could buy at a discount. Within two months their garden looked like a patch of the Somme.

These people will inherit the country.

So, if anyone knows the art of staying sane I'd be dead keen on knowing the secret...

As some people are aware, I've grown a beard. I did it for a joke, of sorts. When the first house sale fell through, when the new ones came along I was so... dispirited I said, "I'm not shaving until we move." It was a kind of self-reverse psychology, figuring if I did something stupid it would speed things along. Hah. Where's your rational thought now, Hall? Huh?

I look a bit like a crap Captain Birdseye impersonator but for the first time in 55 years, you can actually see a beard, because it's white and wiry, not blonde and wispy. It is horrendous. I hate it and it's hot in hot weather. I was going to get rid of it last week, after almost ripping my face off because of the constant itching and then the worst thing ever happened... The wife said, "I really like it. It suits you. It balances your face."

What on earth does that even mean? 'Balances your face' ... Was it lopsided? Did it just wander off on it's own like a dazed and confused old man? Did I look, I dunno, a bit like a late Picasso?

I tell you what it actually means. It means, 'I like it, don't shave it off.' I hate her sometimes...

So I think I'm going mad in some kind of bizarre computer simulation and to add to the hell I have a beard during the hottest days of the year so far. I'm not mad, I'm simply stupid.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

First Impressions

I wrote in some notes for another, unrelated, blog entry, Marmite Man. It wasn't a new brown sludge-like superhero, it was a self-effacing comment about the effect I have on people. It's always pretty much been the case that people either like me or really dislike me. It is something I have grown to live with over the years and is only ever a problem when I meet someone I like and they think I'm a wanker.

Probably the most 'famous' incident of this was in the late 1980s. One of the groups of friends the wife and I hung around with were very divided about me. It got to the stage around 1987 when several people would literally turn on their heels and go somewhere else if they saw my car parked outside the usual house we gathered in. One of my best friends at the time was a guy called Derrick, he had a really good friend called Roger and the latter hated me with a passion. He thought I was a gobshite (my words, not his) and he really couldn't stand to be in the same room as me. It looked grim and Roger admits being one of those people who would rather go home and do bugger all than share his evening with that loud and opinionated fool (me).

The fact that I generated so much (almost) hostility with a certain faction of Derrick's friends didn't appear to cause any lasting problems; we were, at the time, all pot-smoking pseudo-hippies, but it was obvious that my presence, at times, was probably about as desired as pants full of poo.

As this was the '80s and most of us were still in our 20s, there was a lot of parties and at one such party, one group of my friends kind of collided with another... It wasn't at all confrontational, they just didn't really talk with each other, so at this party there were groups of people in the lounge, in the kitchen and in the garden. Roger was with his side of 'our' friends, I was sitting in the lounge and our paths hadn't crossed. His little party gravitated to the lounge, split up and Roger was left looking like some people do at parties, I had a spliff on the go and thinking it should at least make an effort I offered it to him.

At roughly the same time as this was happening, one of my other friends, Vince, had quite quickly realised he was extremely pissed and started roaming round the party looking, for some strange reason, for me. I wasn't a big drinker even then, preferring to do irreparable damage to my lungs instead, therefore I tended to be the designated driver, although this particular night that wasn't on the cards. Vince, however, knowing he was headed down that alcohol hole of whirling ceilings and huge quantities of projectile vomiting, wanted to me to drop everything and take him home. This wasn't happening for a number of reasons, so as I was handing the spliff to Roger, I said, "We'd better get out of here, this is going to get ugly, messy and sick." And it did, in a most unpleasant way...

Being as adverse to drunks puking everywhere Roger joined me in the garden and that was where we stayed for best part of the rest of the evening. It appeared that Roger's first impression of me was slightly tinged with the 'Phil Stereotype' rather than me as a rational adult human being. We bonded over a hate of Thatcher, similar politics, football and a surprisingly similar musical taste and to cut a long story short, the following Friday while we were round Derrick's, Roger didn't turn on his heels and go home, he turned up and we spent most of the evening engrossed in friendly conversation. A friendship was born.

In 1991, Roger came on holiday with us - a bunch of people went to the Lake District and he came along and it was there, I think, we started to become very good friends. Over the following 15 years, we went on holiday with Roger and his new partner Barbara six times. One of those holidays is quite important in the grand scheme of things, because like Roger's first impression of me, our first impression of the south-west of Scotland was 'we'll never go there again!'.

It was September 1998 and my mum had died six months earlier; my life had been in a massive turmoil because of that and work [just to remind people Dez Skinn sacked me because I had to go to my mum's funeral rather than deadline day at the magazine] and we all thought a nice week in Scotland would be just what the doctor ordered. We booked a cottage in Ballantrae, thinking it would be as picturesque and romantic as Robert Louis Stevenson's book.

It was a shit hole.

The cottage was damp, cold and cramped. The 'village' of Ballantrae was dull, uninspiring and got christened Corby-by-the-Sea - which, thinking about it was an insult to Corby - and the pub was like the Slaughtered Lamb transposed to Scotland and with no werewolves. To add insult to injury, we often went on holiday in late September as the weather usually proved to be excellent and true to form we had over a half a week of lovely warm days coupled with everywhere being shut.

With hindsight, which is an odd thing at times, we discovered that we pretty much went to all the places you should avoid and the few bright spots were overwhelmed by the general crappiness of the holiday. However, one of the 'wrong' places we went to would come back and haunt us...

Ballantrae is in south Ayrshire and that is, even today, a relatively deprived area, so as four of our days out were in and around there it was always going to be difficult to find something better than run down. One of the other days took us to Stranraer - an awful place in '98 with 'no hope' slung round its neck and it was on the Rinns (the peninsular Stranraer sits at the top of) we found the first lovely places - Port Patrick and Port Logan - this was more like what we expected. On the recommendation of the landlord of the pub in Port Patrick, we spent the next day driving around Wigtownshire.

After a nice morning at the botanical gardens in Castle Kennedy, we took a drive round the coast road. First we hit Port William, which was another quiet coastal village, which also seemed shut, we travelled further along and amazingly drove past beaches we would eventually fall in love with. We found ourselves in the Isle of Whithorn, which really did tick all the boxes - picturesque, pub with real ale and, as xenophobic as this might seem, some English people who made us feel more at home than at any point in the week. The plan after we'd had lunch was to drive back up the coast, visit Whithorn with its theological history and then head to Newton Stewart.

Whithorn was shut. It was also a strangely ethereal place that was more akin to a ghost town than a village almost classed as a small town. It was like the village of the damned... The girls now needed the loo and according to the OS map there was one in a place called Wigtown, which would be a short detour off the main route. We found the public loos easy enough and while the girls' did what they needed Roger and I decided to check out the main drag.

All I can say for sure is I wasn't the only person in our group of two who felt like we were being watched. The uneasy feeling spread all over all four of us; this place seemed dead and inhospitable. In fact, it could have been twinned with Whithorn! The entire place felt decidedly creepy and we spent less than half an hour there and high tailed it out. We got our shopping in the lovely town of Newton Stewart, stopped for a pint in a local hotel and discovered that Wigtown had been decimated by the closure of its principle two business in the previous year - the distillery and the dairy - and that a lot of that part of the country was extremely sectarian, with many links to Northern Ireland (no peace agreement at this time). We reasoned that our unsettling experience might have been down to that and the fact it didn't look like a tourist village, so we must have looked like happy black people in 1950s Alabama with beach balls and swimming cossies.

On the way home we all agreed that that 'experiment' was not something we planned to repeat again, ever. South-west Scotland became the last place we'd place on our list of potential holidays.

Fast forward 14 years and the UK is celebrating having both the Olympics and the Queen's 500th birthday, or something like that. I was working at a school and out of the blue, the wife's brother's then girlfriend (now wife) asked us if we fancied a week's free holiday staying at her dad's place... in Wigtown...

It was free. We hadn't had a holiday for two years and if nothing else we could use the place as a base and head inland and look for places we missed 14 years earlier. When we arrived there we found a completely different 'town' than we remembered. It was full of book shops, small antique places, a newspaper museum and the place was buzzing with anticipation at the forthcoming book festival the following month. We were made to feel extremely welcome and by the end of the week, having discovered loads of fantastic places, beautiful beaches, wondrous woods and at least three pubs that sold good real ale, we had changed our opinion of it.

So, when the offer came again two years later, when both of us were at a low ebb, it seemed like a godsend. It was very much a repeat of the previous holiday, but we discovered more places and the first tentative noises were made about the possibility of us retiring there.

In 2016, we received a bad prognosis for the mother-in-law; she didn't have long to live and this was seen as a blessing by all her children because she had been suffering enough. The distasteful part was that the wife ended up with more inheritance than she expected and suddenly, after some figures and numbers were crunched, we realised that we could move there - now.

So, in February, we headed off to Newton Stewart to see half a dozen potential homes. The one that I felt was least likely was also the only realistic purchase available in Wigtown and as you can guess, it was like a home and we fell for it immediately.

Now, we're on the cusp of May and the move is likely to happen in the next six weeks; after some setbacks we're back on course.

In 1999, after over a decade of living in Wellingborough, we'd decided to become slumlords and rented our house out and bought a dump in one of the worst parts of Northampton, despite vehemently discounting the purchase as a 'fucking stupid idea'. I had 13 months of unequalled hell there, but we sold the place to a young family from South Ayrshire (!), who gifted us £23,000 profit. This enabled us to buy the house we've now sold. Our first impressions of that 13 month holiday in purgatory was bad and it still is bad, but we made money from it, so really it ended up being good, although I'll always look back on that year as a means to an end and nothing more.

We might have made a bad mistake. Camelot tells lottery winners not to move away from family and friends, but we ain't won the lottery and we do know people up there - none of them are 'friends' as yet and the Marmite factor might kick in - but I've been reliably informed I'm nowhere near as 'salty' as I once was.

I'm hoping that Wigtown proves to be as good a friend as Roger turned out to be and that first impressions prove bugger all in the grand scheme of things, or maybe it's because, sometimes, you have to give something another go before you commit to anything long term.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Something Very New & Very Bold


On the following link is my latest 'blog'

It is called Procrastinate Now! and is in three parts. You have to LISTEN to part 1, then 2 and finally 3.

Even if you don't like it please consider the amazing amount of bullshit I had to suffer to be able to get the poxy thing to you in the first place, even if it is in 3 parts because Tumblr is the only thing I can find that allows me to upload audio files and I simply can't be arsed to learn how to podcast when there's obviously far more complicated ways out there.

Anyhow. I talk for about 29 minutes about a load of fuck all. Next time there might be a subject.

I hope it wasn't/isn't a waste of your time, but if it is, whose fault is it? Really?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Insert Title Here

Let me get this straight; from having to pay to have a wee to being taxed because you happened to die. we all know that life costs money, constantly and persistently. There is no escaping commerce or cash or surcharges or added extras or tax... No wonder when Gene Roddenberry had the idea for Star Trek it would be set in a universe where there was no need for money and there were no cultural differences because (arguably) there was no culture.

I always thought the idea of developing ST styled transporters - not for humans but for food and materials - would probably be the end of famine (at least), but can you imagine the amount something like that would be exploited? How much would you sell a concept like this for? The reason I ask is because in the current age nothing will ever be for free.

This sudden interest in general economics has been brought to you by someone who is moving and for the first time has taken an actual interest in it. Fuck me; why on earth would anyone want to do it? It's not the actual moving that's stressful, it's opening a letter from someone you will owe money to and realising that not only are they asking for money, but also your anal virginity...

There's this TV show called Rip-Off Britain, it shows how criminals and chancers to 'legitimate' thieves can rip us off. The thing is, instead of that Matt bloke presenting it, we should just see an infinite cycle of every CCTV camera in the country - 2 seconds and move to the next, ad infinitum... It is after all just showing us snapshots of rip off Britain.


Yesterday I said to the wife, "I'm surprised [given what the neighbours are like] that no one has commented on the SOLD sign or the fact that [after over 17 years] we're moving." This morning (and bearing in mind it was only 9.55am as I typed this) while throwing some stuff into the bin, the soon-to-be-relegated-to-history Mr 24-Carat Fuckwit, next door, says, "Moving then?" As a stater of the bleeding obvious for a number of years this was pretty much par for the course. I nodded, made that half-smile half-oh-well face and hoped he would just slope off back into his grotto to be fuckwitted on his own time. He didn't...

Now, as some people are aware, I have three default settings when dealing with people I really have zero time for: nice, aggressive and mischievous; I've been in a reasonably excellent mood for the last couple of weeks, so see if you can guess which of the three I opted for?

"Moving anywhere nice?" I nodded and made uh-huh noises and followed it up with, "But it's all still early days, it could all go tits up and we'll be stuck here." I watched my sentence sail above his head and hit the stratosphere. I could also see he was itching to ask me more questions, probably because of prompting from his porcine assistant. "We've bought a house in Scotland," says I, suddenly deciding which way I'm going to lead this conversation.
"Scotland?!" He says, feigning interest.
"Yeah, I'm fed up with this country. Fed up with all the doom and gloom about Brexit and immigrants."
"I couldn't agree more," he says, "I'm getting fed up with never hearing a bloody English person on my own street. I thought this Brexit business means we're stopping all these foreigners coming here, no one seems to have told this street." I raised my eyebrows in what could have been construed as either agreeing or disagreeing. He continued without any prompting, suddenly after nearly two decades thinking he actually had something in common with me other than us both being mammals, turning the conversation into the longest continuous use of words between the two of us - ever. "He's [pointing at the Romanian family house often spoken about here] selling his house." Very observant as he has a great big For Sale sign on his house. "Apparently he's bought a fookin great big house in Weston Favell." He hasn't; he's moving his family back to Romania, despite both his kids having been born here, because he's fed up with the abuse.

I also secretly suspect he's moving because of my new next door neighbour, Nic...

We'll return to Fuckwit in a moment; first a word from our resident conspiracy theorist...

The Romanian family are, it has to be said, quite gregarious and friendly, the teenage daughter has turned into a stroppy mare, but the rest of the them are lovely and fit in with the very multi-cultural street. They have lots of visitors, some Romanian, some British or maybe of other European persuasions.
Nic, our new neighbour, who replaced the Irresponsible Children who lived there briefly before him, is also Romanian. Me being the kind of person who, if I went on holiday to Spain, would spend 50% of the holiday avoiding fellow British people, knows it's not completely unreasonable to presume that just because they're two Eastern Europeans from the same country, in a foreign land, they might not become instant friends, but the tension between the two is palpable. The established guy treats the new guy like he was a (former) member of the Romanian Secret Police and while you see both men bantering with neighbours and their own clique of Romanian friends, you NEVER see them fraternise with each other. Plus, my more-established neighbour has literally only been talking about selling up since my new neighbour moved in. Perhaps he knows where the bodies are buried, or he simply likes being top Romanian in the street, but my money's on something nefarious...

So anyhow, Fuckwit goes off on a UKIP styled rant that belied my belief he was a complete and utter wankstain on society - he's worse! Telling me how our hospitals are clogged up with disease-ridden foreigners and the country is being stopped from being where it deserves to be by liberal do-gooders wanting to extend the hand of friendship to anybody, whether they're Muslim or just plain foreign.

Seriously, if I needed a solid, determining factor, to make my mind up about moving it would have been this ten minute conversation with the epitome of ignorance and hate... But, you need to remember, this was the man who said we were going to have a prolonged heatwave in 2012 because his mate Pete said so. His mate Pete probably also dictates Fuckwit's foreign policy. The man, sadly, is indicative of a large percentage of people in this country, informed by ignorance and turning that ignorance into a wild and crazy game of Psychopathic Chinese Whispers, by adding their own little twists or beliefs. No one in our street who speaks to him now will hear anything other than there was a Romanian family who have done so well out of this country in less than 5 years, are now living in a better house than any of us ever will.

I'd hope he - the Romanian over the road - makes more than enough money to buy a big fuck off mansion in Cluj or by the Black Sea just so he never has to hear a vile English accent spewing hate ever again.

Anyhow, once Fuckwit had finished his rant, he looked at me and said, "What are you going to do up there?" Without so much as a pause or a skipped beat, I said...
"I'm joining the independence movement, despite being a migrant of sorts, and pushing for full EU membership for an independent tolerant Scotland."



Honestly, I could have said, "Unë jam duke u bashkuar me lëvizjen për pavarësi, pavarësisht se një emigrant në terezi, dhe shtyn për anëtarësim të plotë në BE për një Skoci e pavarur." [That's Albanian, you know] for the reaction it got. The problem with fuckwits is they have no sense of irony and are also as thick as pig shit (although that is rather harsh on pig shit).

I suppose I could have been considerably more confrontational, but I really didn't see the point.


This will piss Fuckwit off. There's a chance that my house and the one owned by the Romanian family could both be the targets of a local Asian slumlord. The real shame for me is I won't be here to see his face if that's the case.


A recommendation of the televisual variety to all my friends with discerning tastes. Watch the series called Patriot. Just do it; don't argue with me. Honestly, you will not see anything quite as strange - a deadly serious 'spy' thriller, made like a sitcom and acted like no one knows what the hell is happening. It's the most off-kilter thing I can remember ever seeing and while it is very very serious, it is also intentionally unintentionally brilliantly hilarious...


It has now been well over 6 months since I disengaged every Google service from my mobile phone, apart from the ones that I couldn't switch off.

Do you what difference this has made to my mobile telephoning pleasure?

I now get a yellow triangle appearing telling me that I have the Google Play Store switched off so I won't be able to automatically update [EVERY FUCKING THING IN THE WORLD ALL THE FUCKING TIME AND ALLOW US TO KNOW EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOU]. Shame that, eh? I can still make phone calls, send text messages, take crap photos and occasionally check the BBC sports page for the latest football scores. Despite Google telling me at every opportunity that my enjoyment will be spoiled and I won't be able to keep up to date with all the fantastic things happening, it seems that my enjoyment is enhanced and nothing is spoiled, so they can go and enjoy everything I'm missing out on with a giant spindle up their arses...

It would be win-win if only Google would believe me when I tell them I don't want them in my life because it feels like I have an automated stalker looking over my shoulder, all the time.

All I have to do now is find a browser for this PC that isn't Chrome, but is as easy to use and that I feel comfortable with using. I just don't 'get' Firefox any more; its quirks outweigh Chrome's.


Moving, by use of a removal firm, from Northampton to Wigtown could well be the single biggest cost I have ever incurred for a service. It's one of the few times I have put a ballpark figure on what I thought the cost would be and been way under what it actually could be. The cheapest quote we've had so far has been £300 more than our own top end guesstimate. It appears that removal firms work on the basis of £1000 a day, plus extras or VAT.


If the current population of Wigtown (pronounced, we have been told, Wigton) is really 1002 and if the family we're buying the house off of move out of the 'town' and are replaced by us, the maths tell us there will be 1000 people living there.

There's approx 225,000 people living in Shoesville. If the ratios are true then there should be just a 225th chance of me encountering arseholes on the road, fuckwits as neighbours or racist xenophobes while out walking the dogs. You can just tell one of those things is going to be worse than it is here...


I stood and looked at my garden yesterday; the nectarine tree is blossoming, there's evidence of spring everywhere and it is one of the few things I will miss about moving. I have a blog in my head for a later date about the pros and cons of this change of life experience and the things I want to do before it happens, but my garden has been one of the few things that has consistently given me pleasure over the last 17 years - fruit, veg, duck eggs, peace and tranquillity, sunburn, bonfires and a real feeling that you could be in the middle of the countryside.

Yet as I typed that last sentence I realised that the new house has a very similar garden, which faces the same direction and is in the middle of the countryside - it'll be an interesting comparison.


While decluttering this last week, I wondered what kind of nonsense I threw away last time I decluttered because I had so much shit I couldn't even remember why some of it was saved. I also did found a box of 'floppy' discs with content from my first ever PC - 1992 to when I swapped over to CDs - 2000. I must have got a new CD-burning computer in the January of 2000 because I had no later date than the 8th Jan 2000. I know my current PC is about five years old and is the second one without a floppy drive.

Anyhow, I have transferred a huge number of discs onto an area of my hard drive. I expect upwards of 50% will be in programmes that won't be transferable and many things (such as old Pagemaker files from Comics International days) are simply taking up space until I delete them and get rid of their existence once and for all.

I did find something from the late 90s that might possibly embarrass one of my friends...

Monday, February 13, 2017

Escape to (and from) the Country

Day One:
Saturday 6.00am: got up.
7:03am: Left NN3 for DG8
8:20am: M6 Toll Road - snow (after bloody miles of 50mph zones)
9:30am: North Staffordshire - blizzard
10:30am: Tebay Services - temperature up to 4 degrees - coffee and break
11:20am: Scotland
12:35pm: Newton Stewart - a little over 5½ hours and 330 miles.
2:00pm: First viewing - Kevan Terrace, Newton Stewart. Lovely house, extremely nice setting, museum over the road, excellent condition, cheap and with shared access which proved to be the major stumbling block. Decided later that the house was too small as well.
3:00pm: Second viewing - Arthur Street, Newton Stewart. My house. My favourite for all the practical reasons to do with location, plus it appeared to have a kitchen to die for. It was massive - a four bedroom, dormer bungalow with lots of garden, a view of the river Cree and three minutes walk from the town centre. It simply failed to grab me by the balls and as much as it was a huge and lovely spacious house, it just didn't feel right. I left feeling slightly dejected.
4:00pm: Decide to drive down to Whithorn (18 miles south) to see what it's like on a Saturday afternoon.
4:30pm: Whithorn is dead. It's like a ghost town; no shops are open of the ones that remain trading. The first person we saw was in the doorway of the dodgiest looking pub you will ever have seen looking like he was smoking a crack pipe. We stopped and had a little look around; it was cold both physically and existentially. I began dreading Sunday.
5:00pm: Wigtown - heading back to Newton - we decided to check out the 'afterthought' - so called because the wife got me to add it to the list to boost our viewings and give us comparisons; I thought it looked grubby and not very hospitable on the estate agent's details, so we were both pleasantly surprised to see it had had a nice white and bright green paint job. It didn't make me think any positive things; I was convinced Wigtown would be a bust.
6:30pm: House O' The Hill, Bargrennon (West Galloway Forest Park) and dinner in our favourite pub in that part of Scotland. Newton proved to be a bit of a bust food wise, especially for fussy vegetarians, so we went where I knew the beer was good and the food excellent. Without dwelling on it - 5/10. It was more disappointing than anything else.
9:15pm: The wife went to bed; I farted about on the laptop, while drinking a pint of Bellhaven Best (keg - ugh) bitter. Avoided Match of the Day and went to bed at 11.30pm feeling like Scotland had stopped being the dream. The last person I saw before I went to bed was a slightly overweight man with cropped hair and a short-sleeved Scotland shirt staggering down Queen Street, where our hotel was, not looking in the slightest bit cold; he looked like he could eat heavy metal, with ease.

Day Two:
07:30am: I got up and started drinking coffee.
09:00am: the wife got up and we went and had a very nice breakfast and a chat with Nicole, the maitre de, and she told us some 'interesting' facts about where we were going and confirmed that the man in the pub doorway may well have been smoking crack. That feeling that if we went then we'd be home before it got dark crossed my mind, but the wife was reinvigorated...
10:15am: Sainsbury's for some food on the way home and some beer for my fridge.
11:00am: Third viewing - Wigtown Road, Sorbie. This house could have been a royal palace for a fiver and we wouldn't have bought it. Sorbie is essentially somewhere between two other places and is about as isolated a community as you can imagine. The house was fabulous and had it been on the outskirts of Newton we would have bitten their hands off; as it was location proved decisive.
12:00noon: George Street, Whithorn, or High Noon in Whithorn and the house that I've been talking about since June. What an utterly stunning house. Head and shoulders above everything else we'd seen and a place that would cost - no lie - in excess of £300,000 in dodgy parts of England. A massive sprawling Regency house in a wide road that has so much character and so many empty shells of former businesses. Whithorn is freaky. Very freaky and it was clear the people selling were doing it because the wife hated it there. We couldn't find fault in the place and it's a steal. If I had to spend the rest of my life in Whithorn it wouldn't be for long. We were gutted, because even my wife was realising that it was a wonderful house in the village of the damned.
2:00pm: Botany Street, Wigtown. BOOM! You know when you really aren't looking forward to a party but you go along intending to stay for as little time as possible and it turns out to be the best party you've been to in yonks? That was this. Ticked all the boxes from location to quirky architecture and we've decided we're going to buy it. Well... we hope to buy it. I'm putting an offer in tomorrow, subject to whatever subjects we need to meet.
3:00pm: Ferville, Station Road, Wigtown. Large, expansive bungalow overlooking Wigtown Bay and by far the best living room view so far, but the place has been empty for two years, it was cold, unloved and is showing signs of damp. The garden was too small but the sheds and outbuildings were useful - it's a modern place and had potential, but we'd already made up our minds.
3:30pm: Stopped to photograph the stunning views from Wigtown.
3:35pm: Onto the A75 - 330 miles and we would be home.
9:00pm: home, knackered but with our hopes and spirits lifted stratospherically.

38 hours, 700+ miles and I couldn't sleep when I finally went to bed. The excitement is almost visceral. Updates will follow.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Emotional and Practical Maths Thing

Much to the wife's bemusement and pessimism, I set a six month time limit to move away from Northampton and start afresh in the south west of Scotland. This is me being far more optimistic than I have been for a long time and it's because the way time goes now if we don't set a target, realistic or not, we'll never get around to it.

Therefore if all goes according to plan I'd like to be in the vicinity of Wigtownshire by the end of the forthcoming summer. This would be the most ambitious of all of my potential life-changing ventures and one that pretty much has a dead end attached...

We both view this as our final move. The house we go to has to be the house we want to spend the rest of our life in and one that the wife will feel happy about staying in when I, logically, shuffle off to Hades long before she does. I joke about having a list of reasons why I want to get away from Northampton and England, but there is a mental list which seems to be forever being added to. The reasons for staying here are becoming limited, but there are some strong reasons that will take a lot more emotional toll than I'm probably expecting.

The practical mathematics behind this potential move into the unknown is pretty simple: if we get what our house is worth on the current market and other personal issues are settled quickly, we will buy a house outright (no mortgage) not far from the sea and have a substantial nest egg to sit on until I reach retirement age or the wife can access her own work's pension - which should negate the need for her working after 65. A little over 10 years of working whatever part time jobs I can do, while the wife pursues and develops her own interests and we can have however long our retirement together lasts where we want (or hope) to be.

The maths downside is property doesn't move up there and profit isn't often in the sales equation; location plays a big part and if it did go tits up and we hated it, moving 'home' would mean downsizing considerably and only if we were lucky enough to find a buyer - the main house we're looking at has been on the market for 12 months with little interest, the others we have shown an interest in are not newcomers either.

Also in the mathematically column is the access to free prescriptions, good local and regional services, excellent air quality and a slower, less stressful, way of life (hopefully, because nothing is ever guaranteed). A house big enough to entertain visitors, with access to a cheap holiday base in a sumptuous and relatively uncommercial corner of the kingdom. Yes, if we take the isolated option, we would be 20 miles from the nearest supermarket; nearly 30 miles from the nearest train station and as distance is probably more of a worry as you get older than anything else, the things such as ambulance times might sound like scary things we shouldn't have to factor in, but I have an incurable disease and even if I look after it well and do all the right things, it will gradually beat me (hence why the air quality is pretty much a deciding factor for me), so the last thing I want to be doing is dying while an ambulance is 40 miles away...

If both or one of us can get even just seasonal work, as long as we're bringing in £12k a year, we won't really have to worry about the nest egg and one thing we've not just learnt but sadistically enjoyed at times this year has been how frugal we can be on ridiculously small budgets - but being a forager has always helped in some areas - from July to November, there are apples, blackberries, sloes and plums (although not this year), chestnuts, hazelnuts, mushrooms and an assortment of other things that save money and in a place that's just south of the Galloway Forest Park, I know that mushroom season will bring untold delights and new specimens and I've always fancied trying seaweed so living by the sea will also help. I also decided that I might start eating locally caught sustainable fish again - I might not, but it is something I'll consider exploring especially if the local fishermen of the Isle of Whithorn and Port William sell off their boats.

Plus, and a key fact, I forage because I love it not out of necessity, so it's a win-win situation.

But what of the emotional impact? When someone wins the lottery the usual advice to them from Camelot is 'don't move away from your family and friends', and this is because some people want to buy a castle or a house overlooking the sea 300 miles from everyone they know and then discover life is a wee bit lonely or not as idyllic as they expected. The same applies when you do something like this at an age when it's probably not as sensible in reality as the intention feels it is.

The obvious biggest wrench is going to be friends and family. The way my family is, it pretty much doesn't matter where I live I'll probably see them as often as I do currently and the wife knows that her only relative that she wants contact with spends a couple of months a year, maybe longer, in Wigtown, where his wife has a studio, so there's a good chance we'll probably see more of them. My brother-in-law did ask the most pertinent question so far: "Are you going to fall out with all your neighbours like you usually do?" I can only say that I won't go out of my way to napalm any new bridges; but, you see, this is what some of it is about - de-stressing to the point where my intolerance of fuckwits is back down to 'ambivalently uninterested' and I feel the only way of truly doing that in the 21st century is to go to a place where the likely concentration of fuckwits is going to be considerably less per square kilometre than it is in Northampton.

Of course, the problem there is: what if all that peace, tranquillity and semi-retirement is so fucking boring I go even madder than I already am?

I have no idea, but I can guess what would happen down here, if we had no mortgage but still had to adhere to the excesses of the modern economy and with the knowledge that the Tories are going to be in power until I'm a distant memory and that we're all going to die, probably in our own filth being tormented by a YTS twat forced to work in social care by the UKIP coalition...

We're also talking about a place that is 350 miles away from where most of my people live; it isn't even well positioned for airports and it's easier to get to Belfast than it is to get to Glasgow. It's less than 20 miles from England - as the crow flies, but almost 100 miles by road or rail and to add insult to injury, geographically you drive 250 miles straight north and then turn left and drive 100 miles west - the Irish Sea prevents you from travelling northwest and cutting time and distance from your travels.

Friends, however, is a different kettle of fish. I might have 400+ Facebook friends but in reality our close friends are the ones we still see, socialise with and exchange gifts on special occasions. We know that some of them will not hesitate to visit us and we know, sadly, that it could be the last time we see some of them, in person. And we're blessed with having a lot of friends, even if we don't see them all as often as we'd like (so you could argue never seeing them again won't be that difficult, but even if that is true I don't ever think I'm not going to see people again).

It would mean the end of the quiz team and while that sounds like a trivial (heh) loss, it has played a big part in our social life since the turn of the century - we're good at it, we have a laugh and we're probably still in profit over 15 years. If we can't find a quiz (or two) when there, are as far as I know, only NINE open pubs on the entire Wigtown 'peninsula' and over half of them look as rough as a haggis' arse, it curtails our nights' out, unless we want to travel 25+ miles.

Whatever happens, it will be a massive change to what we've grown accustomed to. Can we do it? Will we do it? We can, whether we will depends on the next six months. If we can sort out the Doug-destroyed interior of the house, scrub it up a bit and get a top price valuation - which I think is very achievable - then yes. I pretty much have to stay in reasonable health throughout the coming year and start earning again, even if it's just a part time job. My biggest worry is that the wife is condemning herself to the rest of my life without any feasible exit plan; I mean what if I end up worse than Victor Meldrew? Murder is still illegal in Scotland...

Then there's this EU thing. I see Scotland as a way back into something I never wanted out of. I see Scotland going for independence again and winning it and I see myself as being part of it. I see Scotland as being vehemently anti-Tory and, frankly, I'm not going to find that anywhere else in the countries with the same degree of autonomy. The majority of Scots hate Tories; I feel something unifyingly spiritual about that...

I want to do it. I'm fed up with my life at the moment and want a new challenge. I've lived in Northamptonshire for all but 2½ years since I was 7; that 44 years I've been within a 15 mile radius of Northampton's Market Square and, if I want to be brutally honest, I really don't like the place any more. Local scribe Alan Moore can wax lyrically about the town, but it's become a metaphor for the general feeling in the country - a lack of tolerance, selfish, self-centred people spreading their discontent into even the most easy-going people. I've seen a lot of the town and its inhabitants over the years and the decent people are becoming few and far between. Oh and it's a fucking shit hole.

Plus, while I can harp on about the health benefits enough, the 'social' problem is simple - I won't be able to go out for a beer with Roger or the other Phil - even if it doesn't happen as often as it should now. I won't be visiting Tony in Duston to set the world right and won't meet up with the Dog Crowd to watch madness on four legs run around like headless chickens and cheer us up.

Popping round a mate's will have to be a new potential discovery and having friends over for dinner or to watch a shit film will have to be with a new bunch because the old bunch might only get up once a year. I won't have my blood close by, but my chosen family, however disparate they are to each other, will be the wrench in the works for me.

I have to make the decision, alone, but with the wife as well. We have to be sure it's what we want together and individually. It is scary, but in a really exciting way as well as the frightening bits. If I really did sit down and write a two column list of the pros and cons, there is no competition, the pros would win easily.

There is one other silly thing... When I moved back to England in 1969, I had already adopted Tottenham Hotspur as my football team, but felt I should adopt a Scottish football team (I adopted cricket and rugby teams as well). So, since 1970 I have supported Stenhousemuir. I know they play at the Ochilview and they're situated midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh and they average 500 attendance. They have been in the bottom two tiers of the Scottish league ever since I followed them. They have won one thing, some obscure lower division cup and have been relegated more times than promoted. I've never seen them play and I kind of would like to. They are in the same division as Stranraer and have been in the same league as Queen of the South (Dumfries), so I could finally go and see what lower Scottish League football is really like. I mean, how good is that?

And now shit begins to get real... At around 7am on Saturday morning, as the sun only begins to rise and with the chance of some snow on the ground, we're off to see SIX houses, 357 miles away. And we'll be back by late Sunday night... This blog entry was originally started in October. Time marches on relentlessly and without any pause; we need to grab hold and let it shake things up, one last time.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Public Information Coupled with Prophecy

I'm betting you all hear someone at some point, every year, say, 'This bloody cold has been bugging me for weeks now' or something very similar.

Here's the thing - a cold virus lasts between 24 and a little less than 72 hours. Plus, unlike flu viruses, the number of which can be counted in the tens, cold viruses can be counted in their thousands and this is fundamentally the main reason why scientists will not come up with a cure for the common cold anytime soon. That doesn't really address the opening sentence though.

When you get a cold, your natural immune system does what it is designed to do, it fights the cold virus and it kicks its arse. Cold viruses are nasty little buggers, but they aren't usually killers. However, depending on your current state of health when you get a cold, you could be open to a number of other things, which aren't colds but we associate them with colds and therefore believe them to be either the same cold or another - a misnomer that a well known newspaper debunked recently. The fact is when we get a cold and we kick its arse, it depletes our immune system to the level of allowing other, related, ailments to gain a foothold. You know all that green snot you get about four or five days after you have a cold. That isn't the cold, it's sinusitis - an inflammation of your sinuses caused by some other bug that has managed to inveigle its way into your head. What about that cough? That must be the cold? No, it's probably inflammation of your airways because of the cold. What about the headaches and the aches that stick around? Well, the headache could be caused by a number of things, probably the coughing or the sinusitis. The aches are simple; we all get them, but being run down from having had a cold makes you feel achy.

But... what about when the cold actually comes back. You know, almost the same symptoms but about two weeks after? Yep, that's a cold. Only it's not the cold, its another one, because your immune system has fucked up one virus, but not another similar one which now uses your immune-deficient system to piggyback into another bout of you feeling crap, having a runny nose and general shitty-ness, known in some circles as 'man-flu'. But it isn't the same cold and you're unlikely to suffer from that one ever again (because there's thousands of cold viruses, you could catch a different one every week for 1000 weeks and there'd still be thousands left to bugger you up).

So when someone says, 'this bloody cold will never go away' you just know that they're suffering from related ailments connected to them having had a cold, which have then rolled onto another cold.



Now, as many people who know me will be aware I have COPD or in my case Chronic Bronchitis and it is incurable and it will rob me of years of potential life. It is what my mum died of and in 2012 I discovered I would follow suit. Being diagnosed with it at 50 was scary and as my mum was 64 when she died it is even scarier, considering I moan incessantly about how fast time flies.

I addressed the problem immediately and stopped smoking on August 10, 2012. I have fallen off the wagon a few times, the worst being last summer when positives turned to negatives and instead of falling into another bout of depression (another problem with COPD is you tend to get chronic illness depression) I started smoking again, specifically my old friend cannabis.

It was done almost as a celebratory thing. Look that sounds twisted but bear with me. I was initially diagnosed as 'severe' which is also scary seeing as there are only four stages of COPD and the final one has the word 'palliative' associated to it and if you don't know what that means, Google it. When, last spring, I was told I was now 'moderate' it appeared that 3½ years of cessation had been extremely beneficial; my COPD nurse was really surprised and over the moon and my lung capacity charts were incredibly heartening. So when I lost my new job in May, I went round a friend's house, got stoned. I mean, my lungs were better now so why not let my hair down?

It didn't take me long to realise that I was probably now doing far more damage than ever before, because I was now looking to socialise with people I know who smoke. Hell, I even got a job in a taxi firm with NO no smoking policy in their offices. I've now fallen back onto the wagon, which considering what happened is probably a good thing, but for a couple of months I was stupid.

Now, here's the irony. If I get bronchitis (and I'm prone to about two bouts a year, which is really surprisingly good considering the word 'chronic' and what it means), it has this rather bizarre effect on me. For about three days, until the shit [read: phlegm] really hits the fan, I can breathe better than I have for about seven or eight years. I've often joked that if I could have the bronchitis without the infection I'd be happy because I don't seem to suffer from the 'obstructive' part anywhere near as badly as I do when I'm 'healthy'. I also joke with people that the thing that scares me the most isn't a chest infection, but a simple, common or garden ... COLD.

My specialist nurse practitioner said to me during my first appointment after diagnosis that colds were not good for COPD sufferers and they were as serious as the flu was for the elderly (now I have regular flu shots every year and I've had the pneumonia shot which keeps me free from that for a few more years). I said to the wife two weeks ago when she had two days off of work with a really horrid cold bug that I couldn't remember the last time I had an actual cold virus. Tempting fate or what?

On Thursday, I woke up at about 8am with that slightly 'electric' feeling coursing through my veins; that 'uh-oh, something aint right' feeling and when I hacked up a load of unpleasant coloured mucous (it's something I've grown accustomed to, not the unpleasant colour, just the mucous) and my throat felt like it had been caressed with razor-blades, my first thought was bronchitis. It wasn't.

I'd started to feel vaguely human again by Thursday night I figured I'd maybe picked up one of those 24 hour bugs, but Friday morning arrived and I again felt like shit - but worse. I still did my stuff, the chores around the house, the cooking, dog walks, but by Friday afternoon I felt bloody awful, like I shouldn't have done any of the things I usually do. By the evening I was proper ill.

We'll skip Saturday for a second and fast forward to today. I got up at 9am and by mid afternoon I was feeling pretty good. By 11pm - while writing this - I was pretty much back to normal, with only the residual effects giving me grief. I have a sore chest from all the tickly coughing and I'm a wee bit snotty still, but honestly, I feel considerably better. (although in the two hours since writing this all and then taking a break from it I have had two almighty sneezing and coughing fits...)

On Saturday morning, I really thought I was going to die and when I didn't I realised that I now knew how I was eventually going to die. From the common cold. I am a Martian. I must be....

One of the worst things about getting old is the need to have to get up in the night, sometimes more than once, to have a pee. Despite the cold weather, it's never really been that much of a problem, even if I sometimes would forget to breathe while peeing because I was so cold and had something akin to an asthma attack as a result. It sounds stupid but apparently I'm far from unique on this front, except most people who do it (or don't as the case may be) don't have chronic respiratory problems...

I take something called a carbocisteine, which, without going into fine detail, helps me shift unwanted junk off my chest, especially in the morning, because at night my airways produce lots of stuff to protect them from the fact they are permanently damaged - this isn't anywhere as positive as it sounds. However, at 8.15am, it had been over 8 hours since my last dose and after walking downstairs to get the paper and take my morning tablets, I realised that I could barely breathe. In fact, I couldn't catch my breath at all and anyone who is asthmatic without an inhaler will tell you, when you can't breathe you panic and if you panic you forget about breathing and a normally vicious circle turns into a psychopathic nutcase of a circle. I've managed to train myself to calm down and override the panic, so imagine what was going through my mind when I discovered that not only was I panicking, but I couldn't calm myself down and I started to realise I was suffocating.

Oh boy... think you've been scared? Try imagining you're suffocating...

Also, just to add insult to injury, it was cold on Saturday morning, very cold, and one of my triggers to calming myself down is to wrap myself in something warm to focus on. I was standing in the kitchen, freezing my arse off and I couldn't breathe. I had visions of the wife finding me dead on the kitchen floor. I kept having blasts on my Ventolin, but as any COPD expert will tell you, it's better for asthma sufferers and not a lot of good for anything else, and it wasn't working. I couldn't even hyper-ventilate, which is also a trick to combat it, because I couldn't get enough breath to do it fast enough.

Eventually, I managed to get myself under control, but not before scaring the living crap out of myself. I did it by literally remembering something from the Dr Strange film we'd watched the night before, about having to learn to do something or you'd die. I focused the cold out and slowly, but surely began to breathe deeper and more evenly. The rest of Saturday was awful, truly awful and I then had another, less severe, attack at 3.45am Sunday morning. Fortunately that took a couple of minutes to get over - as I was in a warm bad - the one on Saturday morning took a lot longer to get under control (or it might not have been, it just felt like an eternity).

Some time in the future I am going to get a cold at a point where I am not as strong as I am currently and it will kill me. I no longer have any doubt about it. I think that it might have been exacerbated by my bit of falling off the wagon in the summer, but the reality is colds are up there with cancer, heart attacks and being shot by an American as potentially deadly things.

As a result I've decided to be pro-active. Up until last summer I'd got myself to a pretty fit level, probably fitter than I had been for a long time. I strengthened all the core muscles, I walked 2 miles a day with the dogs and I pushed myself to the point where my recovery levels even impressed me, but I potentially ruined it, so I have to do it all again, even though I'm older and have probably done some more irreparable damage.

I've enquired about Tai Chi, as this has been recommended by a number of organisations and I've been encouraged to join a COPD choir - which presently scares me more than dying. Once the residue of the cold is gone and I've avoided every living being for three weeks so I don't catch another, I am going to start pushing myself again, even if it kills me...

I kind of feel that I'd rather die of a heart attack doing something, than in a wheelchair, with an oxygen mask on gasping for breath that never reaches my shrivelled lungs. I'm never going to do anything really strenuous again, but I'm 55 in April, I probably won't want to. I'd really like 15 more years, anything over 70 would be a bonus and a half. To be able to do that I need to look after myself and avoid cold viruses. The problem is there's 1000s of the buggers and there's only one, quite damaged, me. I've always liked crappy odds...