Thursday, September 22, 2011

Seven Sent

Memes are something you start off doing religiously when you start blogging, as they’re a fun way of learning a bit about yourself as well as informing others of your proclivities.They usually involve answering a series of questions and then passing the task on, like a sort of benign chain letter. 

After a while though you get a little jaded and become more selective, even eschewing them altogether because you’re pretty sure you know exactly how you would answer them and how constraining they can be. The last couple I did I enjoyed, but only because I broke the rules a bit and didn’t pass them on which is the memetic equivalent of a fatal mutation. Richard Dawkins would be spinning in his grave.

Were he dead.

And possessed of an ironic post-death consciousness.

This one, however, was different for two reasons.

First, it came to me from the hallowed and talent-bedecked halls of Mr London Street’s blog. If you haven’t been over there, which I doubt because he’s all popular and that, then it’s worth going to see what a blog is supposed to be like. Just reading his interpretation of this meme gives you a damn good account of his blog, and hints at depths and writing ability that are a joy to peruse.

Second, it allows me to have free reign to choose some of my own posts without worrying that I’ll be seen as some sort of egomaniac. I can do that perfectly well any old time, I can tell you. Here though, it’s not asking what my best posts are (like choosing my favourite rotting carcass), but which I think fit each of the seven categories. I can do that.

This meme is straightforward. You select seven of your previous posts that you think fit one of the given subjects and perhaps deserve a re-airing. Then you honour 5 bloggers to continue the meme. Honour them good and hard.

Here’s mine:

1. Your most beautiful post

In order to demonstrate beauty’s optical subjectivity I’m going to go for this one, where I paid tribute to TV’s Tony Hart after his death in 2009, not because the post is especially beautiful but because it was for a genuine reason, and I think that’s a sort of beauty in itself. This is a good get-out clause for those of us who aren’t really sure what beautiful writing is, and are definitely not sure if we’re capable of it. In addition, there is a sweet and utterly beautiful drawing I did at the end, which will make you gasp in wonder. Gasp like a bastard.

2. Your most popular post
Not many comments, but I get a lot of people say they like Present and Correct where I discuss gift giving between men, after I gave my dad a birthday prezzie. In the real world, it sparked off quite a few conversations and, it would seem, turned out to be a bit more accurate than I actually envisaged when I wrote it.

3. Your most controversial post

I think it was the one where I called for a secular jihad. Oh wait, no, I haven’t written that one yet. I am not the most controversial of writers, as I’m not here to annoy people. I don’t particularly mind if I do, but it’s not my primary intention. I’m going to go with a different take on controversy, and that’s the one in my head when I ummed and ahhed about posting a picture of my new daughter because she was a hairy, hairy beast. As it turns out, I’m glad I did because people thought she was cute: Bang Goes The baby's Head.

4. Your most helpful post

It's a blog. Often read by bloggers or those who are interested in blogs. I'm not going to give helpful hints in pleasing your woman, although I totally could (treat the top half like a lady and the bottom half like a well maintained Ford Cortina). So I would go for this post: It's a discussion about how one feels when starting blogging for the first time compared with achieving that first heady year. I think it could be helpful and encouraging to someone just popping their blog cherry all over the screen.

5. A post whose success surprised you

Probably my twitter post, Tactical Re-Tweet. I have since become more of a fan of Twitter, although I don’t tweet enough what with, you know, not having that much to say. Actually, it’s the other way round, in that I have huge amounts to say but don’t want to bore people with it, and am continually amazed by other Twitterererers when they post 50 good, readable tweets a day.

6. A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

This one, because it’s got boobs in it. Boobs don’t get enough attention, in my opinion. They’re almost ignored by all of society, and I think that’s wrong!

7. The post that you are most proud of

Blowing my own trumpet is something that I’m absolutely brilliant at, so you might think I’d find this easy. In fact, I didn’t. After I’ve bashed out a post and then go back to it a few weeks (or even months) later, I usually find something I want to change, just a quick little edit here, or a spot of literary  Who Models The Modeller, mainly because my son asked me to print out the picture of him being a giant and firing lasers out of his eyes and setting fire to Tom Cruise’s hair, and who wouldn’t be proud of a four year-old’s approval?

Now I must find 5 suckers to pass this meme on to, and thus the curse will be lifted. Casting the bones, I see the mists clear and the screaming visages of potential victims come floating through the ether. Come to me, my pretties. Come:

SkylersDad – Because I’ve always admired intelligence when it’s mixed with humility.
Madame DeFarge – Because she has so many beautifully written posts that she could just randomly lob links to any of the above categories really.
Vic – Again, a superlative writer with a gentle wit that I never cease to admire, although she has been a tad quiet recently. Vic is a blogger whom, if she doesn’t do this meme, you would be well to just flick through and read anyway.
Tempo – I’ve only recently started following Tempo for some reason, and I haven’t examined as much of his back catalogue as I'd like. If he does this meme, it might save me some time!
Vegetable Assassin – Because she hasn't got anything better to do until her toe heals. Also, she like ukuleles, and so is a good, good person. No one bad ever liked ukuleles.

That’s me memed up. I feel I can relax a bit now and see if any other monkeys dance.

Monday, September 12, 2011

All Fired Up.

Whilst at a country fair recently, drinking beer from a floppy plastic glass with the structural integrity of a cloud and desperately hoping the children didn’t win a corn dolly or a goldfish or something else irritatingly folksy in the Guess the Weight of the Duck’s Tumour stall, I noticed a fire engine pull up and the crew begin showing people round it.

Happy for the distraction, I took my 4 year-old son over and watched from the side as he sat in the front seat, pressed random buttons, tried on the terrifying helmets and attempted to get the huge bolt croppers out of their holder, that sort of thing.

Unbidden, a fire-fighter and his female colleague approached me, interrupting a daydream I was having about using the Jaws of Life on a chastity belt. I was immediately wary because they had big enthusiastic grins a bit like you see on religious people when they want to convert you to giving them money.

“Hello” They said, luckily not in unison because that would have freaked me out a bit.

“All right.” I replied, then nodded at the fire truck. “Nice turn out.” I said, hoping they realised I wasn’t referring to their toilet habits.

“Yep. Always good to get people familiar with the appliance.” The lady answered. “Also gives us a chance to offer a free fire-safety check at home, if you’re interested?” She proffered a pamphlet.

I breathed that sigh of relief you do when you realise friendly strangers aren’t after your money or your soul and took the literature, which explained the fire service’s admirable philosophy of prevention rather than cure.

Admirable but, not to put to fine a point on it, a bit boring. I doubt that many people join the fire service with the ultimate aim of handing out leaflets. They join so they can see really big fires. And pornography.

 “I’m not sure I need it.” I said, and explained that I was quite up-to-date when it came to fire awareness, having been to the after effects of fires a few times in my career as a paramedic.

“You’d be surprised what you might have missed.” The man suggested amiably, and seemed so eager to visit that I agreed.

A week or so later, the fire appliance (I still want to call them engines) rolled up outside my house and, whilst my boy went out to press more buttons and annoy the crew, the two inspectors came inside, bringing in a big box of smoke detectors, screwdrivers, notepads and safety pamphlets.

“First, let’s have a look at your doors!” The man said chirpily. I showed him that every door in our house is a fire door, with insulated interior and fastenings for self-closing hinges.

"Oh,” he looked crestfallen. “Yes. Very good doors those. Keep a fire at bay for an hour, will those.” He sighed heavily, then brightened. “Smoke alarms?” he said, picking up his box of free ones and his screwdriver.

I showed him my mains-connected integrated fire and smoke detectors, and the extra one in the lounge. He looked at them disconsolately, and prodded one as if it was a fish of unknown vintage.

“Really good. Really, really good.” He sounded like he was telling me I’d got cancer. Suddenly, I oozed pity for him.

"Look at this!” I said suddenly, and led him into the kitchen to show him a gaping alarm socket in the ceiling.

See that? It's not there.

“I’ve taken this one out because it just used to go off when we cooked food, even if it wasn’t burning.” I suggested, thinking he might be pleased to tell me I shouldn’t have done such a dangerous thing, and I was putting myself and my family in abject danger of a fiery demise.

“That’s fine.” He muttered. “It’s not a good idea to have them in the kitchen anyway.” He put his box down and looked around. “Do you test them, because you should test . . .”

“Once a month?” I informed him, which is about true. “Is that enough?” He grabbed on to it.

“Well, we suggest testing on a weekly basis nowadays, in case you forget a couple of times but you’ll still be checking them quite often, you know . . .”

I nodded, thinking there was probably no way Earth I would remember to check the buggers once a week, as I frequently forgot the monthly checks. He puffed his cheeks out a bit, and we nodded amiably at one another for a moment, whilst I tried to think of humorous anecdotes involving awkward silences. Luckily, his colleague then arrived having been outside explaining to my wife that it was a good idea to have a meeting up place in the house in case of a fire. We decided that upstairs in our bathroom would be best as it had a window with a shallow, sloping roof leading to the garage nearby. A possible escape route.

I was heartened by the fact that, due to the number of fire doors we had, a fire in our living room would take about three hours to reach us in the bathroom, which meant in the event of a fire we could go out for a meal or catch a film at the pictures, have a cheeky drink, return home and then call the fire service to come and rescue us. Sounded like a distinctly civilised disaster scenario.

“Anyway, how are we getting on inside?” His colleague asked, and he looked acutely depressed.

I felt terrible. Here was a man who simply wanted to show me how I and those I love might be irretrievably killed to death in a raging inferno and how was I repaying him? By thwarting his intentions with some unfairly installed effective safety measures, that’s how.

I desperately looked for something to fail on, something for him to be able to tut professionally at. Maybe I ought to ask his advice about the best way to smoke in bed, or how many plugs per socket is really safe? There must be something, I reasoned.

The loft conversion! It’s like a death trap up there, I thought, with black out blinds for day sleeping when I’m on nights, a light and a phone charger that I leave permanently plugged in at the socket that could spew out hot sparks at any given moment and a bed so comfortable that I would have difficulty getting myself up and out of it if I were actually ablaze! I don’t stand a chance I thought, happily. I told him I wanted his opinion and we trotted up the stairs. He passed the extra integrated smoke alarm on the top level and gave it a sneering nod, and then had a look in the conversion.

“Fire doors, smoke alarms and big Velux skylights for easy escape.”  He almost cried. “I think you’ll be okay.”

“Sorry.” I said, as we trudged back downstairs. I tried to cheer him up by making an hilarious fire-related joke about an arsonists favourite website being He agreed that, yes, it did indeed appear to be some sort of joke, but his heart wasn’t in it.

His colleague, obviously a more imaginative soul than him, was explaining that the dishwasher was a potential fire source, as they were usually put on when people were out or at night when the owners were sleeping, so if the motor heated up and decided to erupt in flame, as they were apparently wont to do, there was often no one awake or about to tackle it.

“Try and use it in the day when you’re in.” She instructed us. We empty-promised that we would.
They thanked us for our time, and we reciprocated before going outside to winkle the child out of the fire appliance, where they trundled off to find a more worthy recipient for their advice.

I’d learnt a valuable lesson from their visit. From now on, I thought, I would take more risks, and went inside to deep-fry some fireworks.

I'm sure the fire service would approve.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Last month, a combination of unfortunate occurrences resulted in me having to stay away from home for a couple of nights without packing. This resulted in my discovery of a complex new emotion the very existence of which I was previously unaware of. It's a feeling that combines insecurity and vulnerability, maybe with a dash of trepidation and a soup├žon of anxiety, and involves a disconcerting self-awareness that arises from discovering yourself in a new, unfamiliar place.

With no clean pants.

Stay with me. This will be used as a focus for an emotional blockbuster next summer, believe me.

The hospital my daughter was in had very kindly provided an en suite parents' room near to the ward so, come night time, one of us could be with her whilst the other was just a few minutes away and easily available for helping with night time drug administration. This is where the father immobilises the wailing child's head as if holding a shot putt over a carton of eggs, while the mother and a nurse squirt syringes of anti-hot-baby medicine into her gullet. It was very welcome to be able to return to a private room to freshen up, removing the vomit, spittle, tears, claw marks, spilt medicine and feelings of being the cruelest  parent in the world, just after that  hamster you remember from middle school that ate it's own litter.

Following a shower, it is arguably acceptable to put on an already worn pair of trousers and shirt without feeling too gross. But socks and undercrackers are a different kettle of . . . er . . . fish.

My choices were limited. I could go commando, get some paper ones from maternity or buy some new pants. The latter seemed the most reasonable, although I did for a moment wish I was wearing a kilt and so might have knocked this problem on the head at the start. I don't wear a kilt because my family tartan is a type of purple polkerdot affair with a green fur trim. Quite  intimidating in battle, apparently.

Not too far from the hospital is a giant budget supermarket which, for those uninitiated in the ways of urban Britain, specialises in selling everything. It's quite a specific specialisation, is selling everything, and they have adopted the pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap marketing ploy. This includes food, many plastic things and, crucially, booze.

So, necessity being the embarrassing uncle of attendance, I  parked up outside the imaginatively designed cube and made my way cautiously through the automatic doors, like Indiana Jones entering a lost temple in search of clean grollies. I kept a wary distance from the pit-bulls tethered to the security desk with fraying clothes line, red eyes reflecting the flamelight from fiery braziers, and began looking for a local denizen to guide me through the tangled maze of toy golf clubs, pies and garden furniture. 

People milled about, oozing almost without conscious effort in a vague directional flow through the aisles, like an amorphous parasite threading it's slow way through a host animal's well stocked and reasonably priced intestines. After a moment, I made my choice; a short, roundish chap in a faded shirt that came half-way down his front, belly separating it from his tracksuit bottoms like a referee between two reluctant duellists. He walked with a very determined gait so, like a stalker with the lowest standards in the world, I  following him.

Sure enough, he soon led me past the clothing aisles, where I searched fervently for an acceptable packet of boxers. Eventually I found some which didn't have logos or hilarious groinal comments indicating I might be a porn star and swiped them before making my way to the checkouts via the mattress and onion-ring aisle.

My guide had also come back out from the shop with his groceries; eight tins of own-brand 3% lager. We paid for our our goods, and the checkout girl gave me the old "Why do you only need underpants?" look we're all so familiar.

Almost as soon as we exited, he cracked one of the lagers open and took a big, gulpy swig. He had to stop momentarily as simultaneous walking and drinking obviously didn't come easy to him, before making his way to his car.

To. His. Car.

The thought occurred to me that I should perhaps take his number and report him, but I don't think there's anything technically illegal about actually drinking a beer while driving, as long as you're still under the limit, and he looked in full control as he made his way through the fence and onto the dual carriageway. I also had other priorities at that point, so shook my head and made my way back to my own vehicle. Also, I thought, he's probably just pre-loading so it saves time getting absolutely rat-arsed when he gets home. Efficient really.

It also occurred to me that he might be Australian and therefore perfectly entitled, both culturally and genetically, to find a suitable driving beer. And anyway, who am I to judge? I'm not even a judge.

Clutching my brand new pack of emergency pants, I noticed a dented and battered ford Mondeo with a disconcertingly battered front end had parked up very close to the rear of my own Ford Parentmobile:

At least my drink-driving guide seemed to know roughly how long his car was. The driver of this one, apart from seeing white lines as something to be conquered rather than a handy spacing guide, also appeared to have thought that entering a parking space nose first had resulted in too many dents and scrapes, and so was trying reversing in as a new tactic.

It almost worked.

I considered hanging around to see if the owner knew how close they'd got to bending my precious tow-bar, but in the end concluded that a shower, clean pants and an ill child were all that mattered to me at that point, so I left.

I do wish I'd left a note suggesting they have a couple of beers before they drove home though. Might improve their driving a bit.