Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dinner do that

I chuffing love dinner.

Surprising, I know.

Food's great isn't it? I'm a big fan of curries, but pretty much anything bad for you is high on my list of favourite comestibles. Batter is particularly irritating for being bad for you because it's so nice. Look at the Scottish. They really know how to batter stuff. In a gastronomic way, not a violent wa . . . well, actually in every sense of the word. Fish, bananas, mars bars, creme eggs - there's no foodstuff that can't be battered to make it desirable as a tasty treat.

"Monkey giblets?"
"Ew! Gross! Are you insane? Monkey giblets! Ew!"
"They're battered."
"Maybe just the one then."

Someone once did a survey at my work asking, if you could only have one type of dinner every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Most people at my workplace opted for the Sunday Roast, which is a respectable choice. Some went for burgers and others for something called a bucket of chicken, which sounds about as appetising as a sack of tuna melt.

I like tuna melt.

Just not in a sack.

When I was asked what single meal I'd be willing to have everyday for the rest of my life, I opted for a banquet, which apparently went against the spirit of the survey, if not the rules. This didn't stop me wanting it, and a few others then said they wanted to change to the 'banquet-a-day' plan as well, so I felt vindicated.

Of course, when it comes to stuffing your face with lovely food, one must show a modicum of restraint, or you will end up in an early, wide grave.

This is a pity, because our whole species has become efficient at obtaining food. We're the top predator on the planet, which is pretty good going for an omnivore with rubbish claws, little teeth and sweet, sweet flesh (apparently). We're also one of the few critters that can farm, thus giving us the ability (along with some ants and termites) of producing high quantities of rich food in a relatively small, local space. Were also opportunists, so it's built into our very genome to gorge ourselves when food is plentiful, because tomorrow it might not be. That's why humans are getting chunkier, as those scarce times become fewer and fewer.

Until our population outstrips these resources, most of us aren't going to have to do too much work to get hold of our dinner. And that won't happen for at least a couple of years. Yay!

Sadly, we can't (or at least shouldn't) have six huge meals a day, lest we become one of those people who must wash themselves using a hose and a pallet truck.

Imagine if you could though? I'd go for full fat fry up breakfast, then a pastry rich brunch followed by cake and doughnuts for elevenses. Lunch would be the aforementioned roast dinner, maybe beef. Mid-afternoon repast would by a standard barbecue, maybe a spit-roasted chicken for evening dinner and a late-evening curry to round off the day.

And an apple, for balance. One of my 5-a-week.

Nothing particularly fancy there. I could totally do that.

Oh, that's right. The dying early thing. Best not then.

I try and have a decent breakfast, a small lunch and a fairly sizable evening dinner. I slip (regularly), but the intent is there, and that's the main thing. Well, actually, achieving is the main thing, but that's just so hard and makes me feel sad when I don't achieve, so Ill pretend that intent is the main thing. Ooh, I'm full of intent me.

I suppose it's like saying "It's the thought that counts" which is utter crap, because people get upset when you tell them you thought about visiting them for their eighty-fifth birthday, but in the end decided it was too much effort to drive all the way to the hospital, and anyway, surely it'll be crowded around the bed with all that traction they use in fractured hips, but it's the thought that counts, eh Nan? I said it's the thought that . . . ooh, your pips are going . . . thanks for ringing . . . yes, maybe next year . . .

Occasionally, I purchase a sandwich when I can't be arsed to make my own lunch, and deliberately choose something with a ham, cheese and salad motif, as these are less likely than sausage and bacon rolls to give me that funny little popping sensation in my chest that I so dislike.

It's boring, but this is a picture of my sandwich, purchased and eaten at work just yesterday:

Don't forget to tell all your friends you read a blog with a picture of a sandwich on it. I can imagine their rush to check if it's true.

The point is, the above sandwich is a perfectly acceptable mid-day snack, and should be fairly healthy as it's got ham, cheese and, importantly, salad in it. It's one of the few times I eat salad, so I'm proud of myself for choosing it.

Swam the channel? Pfft. I had a salad sandwich.

Unfortunately, when I opened it, it became obvious that this sandwich had been made by a bloke on the sandwich assembly line, rather than a woman. See:

If a female had made it, there would be a large salad to cheese and ham ratio, and the salad would consist of a few varieties of plants, because that's what women want when they have a salad. They want a salad.

However, to a bloke, a salad is a bit of garden that they have to eat because they're grown-ups, and that's what grown-ups do. They eat salad. However, deep down, we all know that no-one really wants to eat salad, as it's not meat or cheese.

Other than raise my eyes at the lack of greenery, this didn't particularly bother me. I'd made the effort to eat the salad, and if the salad wasn't there to be intented on, then that was hardly my fault was it? Unfortunately, there was a far more sinister problem that became apparent as I ate it. The male sandwichsmith had neglected to do the other obvious thing when nominalising the salad constituent of my butty; he had failed to increase the meat and cheese component.

Now that was just unforgivable, and I ate it with a scowl that I thought would transfer bad karma into the atmosphere which would lead to the person responsible finding only a vegetable lasagne in his fridge when he got home that night. Either that or be struck by meningitis, which is a bit extreme considering the nature of his offence but karma can be a bitch like that.

Actually, the scowl just made me look like I'd got indigestion.

Right, I'm off to batter a pie.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A fine night out

I was visiting in-laws in the metropolis of Uttoxeter a couple of days ago, and as we had an evening free for the second time in less than a month (!), we thought we'd sample the entertainment delights on offer in this ancient market town.

Now, having grown up in Uttoxeter, I presumed it shouldn't be too much trouble to find an evening of diversion for us. Okay, I left when I was 18 and have only been back sporadically, but still, places to go should be imprinted on my psyche like frogs returning to the very pond they were jellied in to do some good hard jellying themselves.

Unfortunately, the last time I went out in Uttoxeter, it had a nightclub called Fozzies and they'd accept pound notes. You'd need five of them for a really good night out.*

I'm past the clubbing stage in my life now. It was fun while it lasted, but you soon realise that you can replace staring at a lady's cleavage whilst being embarrassingly drunk in an uncomfortably loud club with staring at a lady's cleavage whilst being embarrassingly drunk in a quiet restaurant instead. It's all about maturity, you see.

Okay, entertainment. Pubs and food is always a good start.

I recalled that there were a few good old-fashioned pubs that used to serve proper black and tan, where cyclopian landlords would look at you suspiciously if you ordered anything other than a pint for yourself and a small glass of white wine for the occasional female who happened to wander in, blinking like a lamb in a kebab shop. I liked (and still like) these sorts of places as they have character. Character is measured in terms of density of fruit fly swarms around the optics, the presence of those strange brown, four-watt light bulbs which have the illuminating properties of a lugworm, and handled glasses.

I love handled beer glasses.

These pubs had so much character you could practically smell it. Actually, you really could smell some of the characters in there, like a cross between wet socks and clinical depression, so that sort of pub is probably best left to idle reverie rather than somewhere to take your lady. It's a moot point anyway, because now they've all gone and have been replaced with charity shops and takeaways.

Uttoxeter seems to have about one takeaway for every other person in the town. If you look up the population for the place, it's approximately 12,000, which makes my initial estimation of 6,000 takeaways seem about right. The Missus wasn't too keen on dressing up so we could eat a takeaway outside Kwiksave, though, no matter that the bench is made from recycled tyres, so that was out.

Well, there's Weatherspoons, which is good for booze and cheap food, but didn't really fit the mood.

What else?

I remember glue-sniffing in the public bogs near Somerfields was quite de rigueur when I was a kid, but apparently that's not so popular now due to a national shortage of brown paper bags.

Tramp-baiting has been outlawed by liberal country-dwelling do-gooders who don't live in the towns and don't understand the vital part it played in the community, so that traditional, noble pass-time was unavailable. It's the tramp-hounds I feel sorry for, now having to wile away their days chasing a man on a moped dragging a bottle of White Lightning behind. It's just not the same.

In the end, we settled for a meal and a visit to the pictures. Back in the day (bad-safe, I am so down with the kids on the street in the hood, me), the local cinema was called The Elite which had one screen and showed stuff you could probably get in Blockbusters. In a move determined to upset every kid in town, The Elite was bought out by a church and then maliciously converted into a place of worship, presumably complete with popcorn, chewing gum on the seats and fingering on the back row.

Anyway, there is now a multiscreen cinema where, for just the price of a couple of DVDs, you and your partner can watch a film, eat a sack of Revels and drink a kidney-splitting amount of carbonated beverage.

I point blank refuse to watch chick-flicks. My good lady missus knows this and, other than occasionally subjecting me to Tess of the D'Aubervilles (because Hans Matheson is in it) or Nero (because Hans Matheson is in it), she generally lets me watch what I want, for which I am eternally grateful.

In order to show her how grateful I was, I looked for a film that we could both enjoy, and chose Star Trek.

What? It's got dilithium crystals in it. Girls like crystals.

I bought a couple of tickets for a later showing.

Outside, in the retail park that appears to have sprung up, we saw a Frankie and Benny's restaurant, which is quite posh for the likes of Uttoxeter, and so decided that would be a nice start to the evening.

Whilst waiting for a table, I ordered a couple of drinks, including a Wifebeater for myself. Now, I like Stella, because it's rich in ethanolly goodness and tastes pretty good. It also has aspirations of style, so when it's served it comes in a pleasant, stemmed glass, like so:

Excuse the fact that it's already half empty. I was thirsting.

Now, the strange thing was, the serving wench asked if I was all right to have my drink served in this glass, because lots of men there complained that it was too feminine.

I said whit?

She explained that this was such a common occurrence in Uttoxeter that, before serving Stella Artois, they now asked if you wanted it in a normal glass. I replied that the proffered vitreous receptacle would be fine, thank you very much serving wench.

It would appear that some blokes have such a tenuous grasp on their sexuality that one sip from a stemmed glass with a nice curve to it will make them ache to engage in homoerotic love-fests with their mates. This might present a problem if none of your mates are drinking from the same sort of glass, because you'd look like a right Charlie if you were the only one in your peer group who suggested a daisy chain.

No offence Charlie.

We then went to watch the film. There were spaceships, green ladies and lasers called phasers which went "Peeezzzzzzzzzzzzeeeeeeeewwwwwww", which are pretty much at the top of my list of 'good things' to be included in a film. Especially rom-coms.

The only thing I don't like in science fiction films is when they use time travel, unless it's a film specifically about time travel, cos then you might as well say "It was all a dream" or "It was done by magic" or "Baby Jesus made it better". And, without wanting to spoil it for you, this had a lot of that sort of thing in it, leaving plot holes you could fly a shuttle through. This was a shame because it made the whole fillum a bit . . . you know . . . meh.

Yeah, that describes it. Meh.

Not worth over 12 quid though.

* And it was all fields then you know? And we never had bananas, and people showed respect, and buses ran on time, and you could leave your door unlocked, and we never had any of that nostalgia neither.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ins and Outs

Yesterday, with the opening of a new entrepreneurial retail centre in the nearby cityette of Gloucester, we thought we'd go and take a ganzy. It's called the Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet apparently, cost £400 million quid and was opened by a hermaphrodite chap called Gok Wan (?) so it comes with a high pedigree.

We turned up all relaxed like, and immediately had to enter a cavernous concrete maze of pay and display parking that looked like it'd been designed by MC Escher during his oft-forgotten "daft" phase. £3 if you're going to be more than an hour. I was immediately irked, and I hadn't even exited the car yet. I could feel my irk-gland throbbing. "No more irking", it seemed to beg.

I used the time-honoured display of righteous anger used by generations of Englishmen when confronted by monosyllabic hordes out to get what they can from you, be it blood, land or money, and I tutted. Quite loudly as well. That'll teach the blighters. I then followed tiny, tiny signs through labyrinthine lanes, eventually finding the exit and parking the dependant-mobile in a nearby alleyway instead. I can't stand the idea of paying for the privilege of spending my own money. It makes me want to harrumph.



After paying a local urchin £3 to watch the vehicle, we wandered over to what was essentially a giant shopping mall, past fluorescent vested parking Nazis intent on you not parking anywhere for free (Ha! Suck on my free space, motor-fascists), past the strangely popular brass band welcoming people on this, the second day of it's opening, and avoiding eye-contact with shiny-suited employees determined to persuade you, by grimacing example, that you will have fun, damn you!

It was like entering Hell itself.

I checked to see if there were any triple-headed hounds hiding behind the oompah band, or maybe a diverted canal called the Styx, but no. I think the ferryman had been reallocated a position at the parking barriers, his long, bony, fleshless hands quite useful for getting gum out of the ticket slots.

"A coin to cross the barrier, oh lost and doom-ed soul of Gloucester. We also take Visa."

It was filled with shiny-faced crowds, sweating with the effort of spending money and scrabbling to get to bargains that would only be on sale for the next three or four years. There were quite a few empty shops, which made me wonder as to the wisdom of expecting a new retail outlet to do well in the middle of a global recession.

Still, we thought we would enter the fray, join in, make the most of it, pretend that we wanted to be there. We'd driven ten miles so we owed it to ourselves to make the effort. I took a breath, forced a little smile at my family, and strode forth into the breach.

After ten minutes I was so close to taking all my clothes off and screaming "KNIVES!" outside Marks and Spencer's that the Missus suggest we cut our losses and fight our way back out, like spawning salmon having second thoughts about all that 'dying for a shag' business after all, and nipping back downstream to the beach, thank you very much.

Now, I don't have any phobias, but if anything comes close, it's jabbering crowds of shoppers combined with limited escape routes. They make the vein in the side of my head throb like when you accidentally slam your penis in the fridge door a few times.
You know . . .

What? I said accidentally . . .

Moving on . . .

So I needed somewhere to recuperate, and the good lady missus, noticing the cracks in my clenched teeth, suggested we make our way to the wetlands trust at Slimbridge.

What better way than a quick walk around the local bird sanctuary that I love, occasionally lobbing birdseed just out of reach of unappreciative overweight ducks. I love doing that. Nothing waddles more amusingly than a fat duck. Even the fit, healthy ones waddle, so you can imagine what the obese ones are like.

I could feel the stress hormones in my brain return to their normal levels. I took a quick picture of those mad Crested Screamers I like, but mainly because they looked like they only had one matching pair of legs between them:

I exhaled for the first time in four hours and all was suddenly well.

I could enjoy the day without other living things invading my personal space, or poking me for reasons known only to themselves.

Then I had a close encounter with a psychotic moorhen, who seemed to take exception to my epidermis, and so tried to remove as much of it as possible with it's beak. We took a spot of video, partly because that sort of attack doesn't happen every day, but mainly to show the sympathy I got from my loving offspring as I was mauled by a wild creature. He's off camera, but I think you'll get the gist:

The whole day was like two polar opposites of torment and enjoyment. I was thinking that many people might concur with this, only suggesting the good and bad parts are in fact the other way round. For some, the idea of spending an hour or two in the cold, looking at birds and getting all excited because you saw a Kingfisher for half a second might be anathema to their sensibilities.

I can respect that, in the same way I respect people who eat grapefruit. I don't understand it, but I respect it.

At least you don't get pecked very often in a shopping mall.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FavoUrite blogs

The inimitably conscientious blogger Argentum Vulgaris rather kindly included me in his list of favoured bloggers, and nominated me the above award which, even though it's missing a 'U' is greatly appreciated.

The catch (there's always a bleedin' catch ain't there?) is that I have to nominate eight blogs that I follow for a similar honour, and include the following text in my acceptance post:

“These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.”

I'm not interested in self-aggrandizement me. In fact, I wouldn't wear one if it was hand-stitched by Queen Boudicca herself, with "I hate Romans" graffitoed with gilt into the hem, and yes I do so know what self-aggrandizement means actually. It was a very popular style of corset worn a couple of thousand years ago.

As AV points out, it's not hard to choose blogs that fit this award. The hard part is choosing the ones not to include. As a subjective cut off point, I'll only go for ones that have quite a lot of posts, because they've toiled more for my entertainment, bless their little dancing monkey hearts:

1. Girl Interupted

2. Madame DeFarge

3. Douglas

4. Jimmy

5. Miss Alaineus

6. Mo "Mad Dog" Stoneskin

7. Vic

8. Pearl

There you go. That's practically a random selection of the blogs I follow, and I can heartily recommend having a look at both them and my entire 'followy' list because it would appear I have really good taste in blogs.

I urge you to check them out and comment, preferably favourably, but as some of them are complete comment-whores they won't mind what you write.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Humans are strange critters. Always seeking "happiness", whatever that is, and being depressed when they can't find it.

Er . . .

Anyway, my point is that most other animals don't seem to actively search out happiness. They just live, and their emotional state (whatever that might be) is secondary to their existence. I doubt a hippopotamous would decide to commit suicide because it was depressed. Firstly, that would take more brainpower than is available to a water-based herbivore and secondly, if you were a suicidal hippo and so lacking the manual dexterity to shoot yourself (leaving aside the possible difficulties of obtaining a gun in the first place), how would you do it? Drown yourself? Possibly not, with your instinctive floaty ability. Impale yourself on a sharp stick? Not when your skin covers cubic inches of blubber. Get hunted to death? By what, exactly? Choke yourself? You'd need one hell of a boiled sweet.

I don't think that it's the lack of ability to kill themselves that stops most animals doing it, as much as their disinclination to even consider it. Otherwise, there might be a lot of self-bitten cobras, hunger-stricken pigs and hanging monkeys around, disappointed with their lot.

Animals don't consider themselves to have any rights, including those of happiness and not being eaten. This is not something they appear to be particulalry upset about, or if they are they're keeping it close to their chests and just offloading onto their therapists.

"Tell me your probelms, Mr Rabbit."
"It's this whole 'bottom-of-the-food-chain' thing really. Gets me down a bit, you know."

Despite all that, it seems obvious to pet owners that animals do indeed demonstrate feelings, including happiness, jealousy and . . . er . . .

Actually, that seems to be it. Hunger and horniness are different.

So what construes happiness for animals whose brains haven't evolved to strange, often self-destructively introspective sizes?

I took these photos last year, which sort of show relatively happy creatures. The first is this French kangaroo (?), chilling in the afternoon sun. As with all French kangaroos, he was probably fairly squiffy on some local vin rouge and didn't want to risk being done for drink-bounding, so just spent the day in the parc animal relaxing and having his picture taken by excitable English tourists:

"Look! A kangaroo! Did you know, in Australian, kangaroo means 'Go home, whitey'."

You have to give it to roos though, they really know how to put their feet up.

This all got me wondering. Is happiness simply the absence of sadness, or is it an achievable thing in itself? As long as nothing negative is happening and you're not being eaten, rained on, frozen, starved, molested by lonely farmers or generally over-pressured, is that enough to class you as happy? Do you have to have something nice happening to you, or is it possible to be happy even though bad things are happening to you?

I'm going to need a little lie down in a moment.

Animals are probably not that good an example to follow, because we don't know if we share the same concepts of emotion that they do. On the other hand, no-one can tell me this lamb isn't happy:

Happiness is a tree-bole, it would appear.

That's definitely an arguement in favour of "happines is a result of nothing bad happening" but I also took the following photo (also in France, you can tell by the copious quantities of baguettage) which I think is an example of "Happiness when something good happens":


That's a trailer full of stale bread that is. Can you see the positively ecstatic critter who has discovered it, all to itself? Let me do a close up:

There you go. One sparrow, who was so pleased with that find he actually fell over, before diving into it and tweeting "MINE! ALL MINE!" in a strange voice that was unerringly like my own.

I'm like Johnny Morris, me. Only not as dead.

The difference between humans and other species is that they don't seem to look for the perfect, ideal and almost certainly unobtainable utopia they believe they deserve, and so can't be disappointed when they don't find it. This means that when a good bit of fortune does come along, they can exploit it fully and be as happy as they can be while it lasts, not worrying about it ending.

On the other hand, this constant striving for happiness means we humans are generally trying to improve our lot, although with mixed results. Positives include medicine (longer healthier lives), technology (warm houses) and defence (safety). Negatives include medicine (increasing population), technology (environmental problems) and defence (fightin').

So should we take the view that animals have the right idea, and simply live day-to-day, emotional considerations buried beneath the constant fight for survival, or should we be pleased that we have come to a point in our evolution where we can afford the arguably self-indulgent luxury of emotional turmoil?

My view is that, for humans, there is a gradation of happiness, from ecstasy to contentment, and also a whole spectrum of sadness, from melancholy to pure grief. Living succesfully is all about that old cliché; balance.

Mind you, I defy you to stay sad when watching this:

Slow Loris Tickling

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ingrate Expectations

Being a parent gives you all sorts of concerns. From worrying that the sniffle and tiny red spot on their chest is actually some sort of necrotizing cancerous meningitis, to apprehension over what career your child will take up when he/she/it grows up all contribute to a sustained high level of stress hormone that, without a doubt, must take years off your life and makes Gordon Brown's current position seem about as stressful as that of Jennifer Lopez's nipple tweaker.

A job that comes with it's own place to put your hat can't be bad.

We want to do the best by our sprogs, and will take action to protect our little genetic investments because they're the closest thing we get to immortality, other than blogging.

This action may not always be particularly rational. I'm sure our GP is fed up of telling me and the Missus that the tiny bit of eczema on The Boy's eyelid probably won't infiltrate his brain, and that a child needing less sleep than you is not an indication that said child is unwell, it's just natures way of being a complete git, now stop moaning, you overanxious parents, and go order more coffee and ProPlus tablets.

For the long term, the action we take is in trying to ensure our little bundles of joy reach their full potential. Lots of books, interaction, educational toys, singing, music and cheesestrings will, we hope, let them flourish into complete, well-rounded (although not obese) confident people, able to make the world their bivalve and snatch the pearls within.

But without putting too much pressure on them, of course. There's nothing worse than pushy, over-expectant parents, although I do hope he mentions us in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Complete Bodacious Awesomeness in the Fields of Science, Art, Music and Parkour. We'll put it on the mantlepiece next to the World Cup and Wimbledon Trophy.

When I was a kid I wanted to be David Attenborough, especially if dinosaurs were still alive somewhere, which I hoped for with the reality-avoiding desperation that 7-year-olds hope Santa exists and Scientologists hope they don't look really, really silly.

All hail Xenu (just in case).

Of course, this was an achievable goal, had I just a bit more brains, ability and competence, and was also willing to put the work in, which I wasn't, so I didn't. I did eventually become a biologist, and had an enjoyable decade in the pest control industry before embarking on a second career of ferrying mildly-injured drunk people around in a blue-light taxi.

I take heart that my brother, when asked, told us he wanted to be "a moo-cow".

Ahahahaha! What an idiot! A moo-cow! At least I never said moo-cow! Who's laughing now eh? EH?

Actually, he is. He's now a respected PhD in the biochemical sciences, with all publications in journals that have swirly DNA helices on their white covers, and cut-away diagrams of cell membranes and words like "hydrophilic", "phospholipid bilayer" and "moo".

Wish I'd said moo-cow.

Anyway, with the coffin of childhood dreams buried forever 'neath the clay-like topsoil of harsh reality, I can at least live vicariously through my own son.

So what shall he be?

A scientist? A medical doctor? A musician? A sportsman? A famous artist? A non-corrupt, non-cheating, non-rule bending or at least non-getting-caught politician? Maybe he will combine many talents and become a modern renaissance man, furthering the whole technical, psychological and ethical frontiers of the human race, blowing apart our currently entrenched mindsets and forming new paradigms with which we can operate a fairer, brighter future! He might not even have to Google the word "renaissance" to see if he's spelt it right.

The possibilities are endless!

His mother, however, pointed out the following photo, which reveals he might be a builder:

Actually, as long as he's happy and I get a garage out of it, I'm good with that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dishonest Jules - At Least I'm Honest

I've been nominated for an award by the often out-of-context Miss Alaineus, over at her almenac. I like her blog because it's generally pleasant observations of her life, but occasionally she vents her spleen like a non-flossing girl volcano, and that's always fun to watch.

It's an honest bloggers award, although I'm not sure what proof she's got that I'm purer than the driven snow what hasn't been trod in yet. Just cos I don't blog about my kleptomania doesn't mean I don't do it. Actually, I don't practice kleptomania because some dishonest git nicked my big beige trench coat with the deep pockets. This has also seriously hampered my hobbies of poaching, spying and indecent exposure.

I miss my trench coat.

Still, it's nice to be recognised, and this subject seems quite apt after my recent posting about the limits of self-exposure. She hasn't told me where I have to go to pick up my award, or which hotel I'll be staying in, but I'm sure that info is on its way as I type.

In order to meet the criteria for this award (which is a bit like those circulars you get telling you how you might have won a grand prize, so send £10 to this address to register for the grand prize you might have won!), I have to share ten honest things about myself with you lot.

So, I have to have a think.

Ten honest things about me? Ten things? Just the Ten. 10. X. 1010. 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1.


1) I can't stand touching velvet. This is not a euphemism. I just don't like the feel of the stuff. I even have to grit my teeth when picking up moles.

2) I have been known to pick up moles. With my hands, not on street corners.

3) I can juggle with 4 balls, although not for very long.

4) I hate throwing books out, as they are special, lovely things. The missus and I argue about this as she packs boxes up ready for charitable donation. I argue that they are repositories of information, always at our fingertips like tiny, tiny internets, and any one of them could come in useful at some point. As a devastating counter-arguement, she points out William Shatner's Tekwar next to Darwin's On the Origins of Species. I then help pack the box.

5) I work well both independently and as part of a well-motivated team.

6) I've killed the three baby cabbage plants my friend Jon gave me a couple of weeks ago, and I haven't told him yet.

7) I'm a paramedic.

8) I'm quite good at sharpening knives.

9) I just answered the door to the postman who was delivering a package, and instead of saying "Cheers bud" as I intended, I said "Chasbroth!" in a strangely high pitched voice. This concerned both of us, I think.

10) I was that daft kid who spent most of the day on his own (sometimes out of choice) with a net and jam jar, wondering why he's only got a single big fat dragonfly larva now, when he'd actually collected quite a few other critters out of the stream. This was my introduction to the swirling violence of imminent death and messy consumption that is the mystical circle of life that lions sometimes sing about.

So there you go. A post sans images, and also possibly sans intérêt, for those who aren't really that bothered by what makes me tick.

Now, although I'm strictly supposed to pass on this award to 7 other suckers bloggers, I hope Miss Alaineus doesn't mind if I renege on this part of the deal. I've meme-ified a few people recently and always feel like I burden them enough just from my posts, let alone making them work extra.

However, I can heartily recommend taking Miss A's advice and writing down 10 honest things about yourself.

It's cathartic.

You can make them up if you like.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Handy beers

There was a brief respite for me and the missus from the unending hassle of joys of parenthood, when the inlaws looked after The Boy for a few hours and we got to go for a walk into town.

A walk! On our own! As adults!

It was a bit strange. We don't often use a push chair so, usually, at some point, I have a child sitting on my shoulders and firking away at my ear canals like a Madagascan Aye-aye after grubs in rotting wood. But this time I was free, free I tells ya, and I felt like Atlas after he'd been told he can take the afternoon off and let Jeebus carry the world for a bit.

We went into shops and things remained roughly as they were before we went in. Doors were not pushed open, cupboards remained closed, tills unmolested and stock not scattered hither and, in some cases thither, across the aisles. No-one in Millets was loudly informed that "Daddy has got a willy-beard", which is the price one pays for using the family changing room at the swimming pool.

It was all rather marvellous.

And to top it off, we went for a pint. In a pub. Together like a real couple, and had beers which were suitably segregated into gender-specific types; a pint of standard driving bitter (3.7 % ABV) for me, and some strange, expensive European strawberry-enhanced beer for the good lady.

It was such an unusual event that I even took a pic:

We were like teenagers again, trying each others beers, making faces at the others lack of taste. I manfully got the round in and then winced because the strawberry beer was two quid for half a pint. This might not seem a lot if you're reading this in the future - actually, that's fairly certain, but I mean the more distant future - but right now, in 2009, it's the price of an expensive drink, so you can take that smug oh-weren't-they-cute-in-the-old-days grin off your technologically advanced fizzog and go back to your space credits, titanium trousers and pong.

It was all very civilised.

The whole situation was as unusual an occurrence as a very forced simile. In fact, it was almost as unusual as seeing a tapir, dressed in a World War Two Luftwaffe outfit, trying to mount a unicorn whilst reading Tennyson in Braille near the urinals.

That's how unusual it was.

After a thoroughly enjoyable libation in the aforementioned hostelry, we meandered back through the town towards our waiting parentmobile, ready to wade back into the strife take back the pleasant mantle of loving providers.

On the way back there was even an odd bit of art work for us to look at. Someone had made some cellophane hands and stuck them to a post in the street, for reasons that were unknown (and, frankly, probably uninteresting) to us, but it was an interesting distraction and you know what I'm like when it comes to interesting distractions *waves excitedly and shouts 'blog pic'!*:

So it was with refreshed minds and lubricated oesophagi that we made our way home, and thus hopeful for a repeat event at some point in the not too distant future.

The whole episode made us greatly appreciate something that, just a few years ago, we would probably been fairly blasé about.

Not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing really. I'm going with . . . good!


Sunday, May 3, 2009

The limits of self-expression and nipple exposure

I sometimes worry that, by wittering on in a blog about anything and everything, I could be prone to revealing too much about myself. Not through any concerns about the papers discovering my true identity and resulting in hordes of paparazzi infesting my bushes (which is less likely than one might at first think), but mainly because this blog isn't a diary, so what's the point? There's also the highly probable fact that I might embarrass myself. There are enough folk who read this blog and know me in real life, and some of them might take advantage.

You know who you are.

So, where to draw the line?

The internets are a bastion of self-expression and relative freedom of speech so that, while one must wade through millions of pages of "alternative" world views and pseudoscience, we can at least have our own small corners (or burrows perhaps) where we can say what we like.

This does mean that there is no-one to edit my spewings. I could reveal things that I like or practice, things I perhaps assume are perfectly normal, but in actual fact no-one else does. For example, I could write an entire dissertation on the beauty of the love to be found twixt man and monkey and there's no-one available to say "Whoa, The Jules, that's a bit . . . you know . . . insane." *makes swirly finger motions on either side of head*

What? Don't look at me like that. Monkeys share 98% of our DNA don't they? Sometimes a bit more, if you're not careful.

It occurs to me that a student in psychological sciences might find a rich seam of research to be had perusing regularly updated blogs, especially when the author has become used to blogging, and therefore lets rip with whatever mental effluent might be cluttering their cerebral cortex at that particular moment.

In fact, what if someone's doing that right now, to me via this blog?

Well, that doesn't bother me. Read away, Mr/Mrs/Ms Pschyologist, Nothing to get excited about. I'm happy here, thinking about green butterflies (definitely not red or purple butterflies), and not about trains going into tunnels, or shiny shiny axes.

Mmm . . . axes.

As a blogger, how do I know how far I should go? It's fine if you have a subject specific blog, like DIY or sex, because then you know you can just write about G-clamps and, well, G-clamps also, because it's common knowledge that everyone uses them in those specific fields. But if you have a general blog, where do you define your limits?

I still don't know but, in the interests of testing the water, stretching the bungee, pulling at the seatbelt, I'm going to go with my nipple:

I took a whack on the moob the other day, when I simultaneously tried to close the boot-lid of my boringly practical parentmobile whilst preventing a two year old boy with the road sense of a bipolar hedgehog from leaping into traffic. Forgetting to get out of the way was a stark reminder that I really should have got out of the way. Being an Englishman of Northern European human descent who has just come out of the long, dark of a British winter/spring, my pasty blueness has two effects. The first is reflecting back enough sunlight to have a direct impact on the earth's albedo effect, and the second is to show up bruises rather well.

Which brings on to why I started this post. I was thinking about sympathy, particulary when people have experienced a minor injury.

A contused man-tit is hardly disabling, and apparently not a good enough excuse to stay at home from work. Bloody 'untenable reason' policy. First it's a hangover, and now this.

It definitely isn't in the same league as a lad I met once who had two broken arms, fully encased in plaster. This was an interesting injury, objectively speaking, and he waxed lyrical about the car accident in which it had occurred. Although he was fairly enthusiastic about describing the details of the crash, I'm sure the novelty must have worn off after the twentieth person asked him how he wiped his bum.

But it's small injuries that I'm thinking about. The splinter under the nail, the scratched cornea or the ant bite on the scrotum.

All of these are not enough to stop you operating on a day to day basis, but they are enough to ruin that day for you. And if you mention it more than thirty or forty times, you're seen as 'a whinger' and lose any sympathy you might have got if you were more of a man and didn't try to show everyone the ant bite.

I would imagine.

And if you show certain people the above picture on your phone, the first thing they do, rather than ask how it happened, or if it's painful, the FIRST thing they do, is poke it.

I wonder if there is a sliding scale of sympathy-level to injury-severity, where you get a sad shake of the head for a splinter, a wince for a bee-sting or nettle rash, and a good old-fashioned "Ooh . . . mate!" when you take a clock to the nuts from a kid wielding a golf-club. Or a fit of giggles from women who just do not understand.

Or maybe it's a contextual thing. If you've only got a broken ankle after falling off a cliff, people are more likely to do that half exhalation/half-whislte thing they do to show they think you were lucky, even though you're now hobbling around in pedal agony, with a foot that looks like it was transplanted from a smurf.

Or maybe it depends on the observers perspective. Nobody's going to care about your wasp-thumb interaction if they've just seen someone with an adder still attached to their lip.

From the view of the onlooker though, the best thing about someone revealing an injury is when you've previously experienced the same thing, because then you can announce "That happened to me once" and immediately lay silent claim to originality whilst adopting a world-weary look of sad experience, also stealing a bit of the sympathy that was otherwise directed at your unfortunate peer.

"Brick fell on your head? Yeah, that happened to me once. Tcha. Yeah, thanks, I'm fine now. Was a couple of years ago. Still get the odd headache. Lovely, two sugars ta."

"Hoover nozzle up the arse? Yeah, that happened . . . to a mate once. Hardly knew him"

So, if you've got a minor injury, there are certain things to take into account before you reveal it to the masses.

Are they any more serious injuries or illnesses in the room? Make sure you're not interuptng a discussion about someones liver cancer to tell them you've got a mouth ulcer, even if it's really, really big.

Are there any mates nearby who might use this as an opportunity to get you back for the time you punched them playfully on their holiday immunisation spot?

Is this the third minor injury this week that you've brought to everyones attention, because it might just possibly be sort of wearing thin?

Otherwise, whinge away!