Thursday, 31 July 2014

#ShoutAboutItThursday - Martin Freeman

Well, folks, it's #ShoutAboutItThursday and today I have decided to shout about the one and only Martin Freeman.
Mr Freeman's star is certainly on the rise - recent successes in Sherlock, The Hobbit and Fargo certainly push from everyone's mind his participation in the disappointing Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy movie that most of us would prefer to forget.

However, whilst Martin's big-screen/TV series performances are certainly worthy of praise, I'd like to focus on his fantastic performances in two short films, for both of which I understand he provided his services free-of-charge (Martin, if you're reading this, please confirm).

HIV The Musical
A hidden gem, directed by Joe Patrick and Tim Woodall - click on the image below and it will take you to the short on YouTube. Just sit back and enjoy!

The Voorman Problem
This is a simply brilliant short film by Mark Gill, with Martin acting opposite a suitably loony Tom Hollander - watch the trailer (the link is below) - you'll need to pay to download the entire film, but I suggest it is worth the couple of English pounds you'll need to pay (other currencies can, of course, be used). It was nominated for an Oscar for best short film this year, and should have won!

Click here to access The Voorman Problem website and trailer

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

It's time we all got tough on drivers with mobiles

It was refreshing to see the headline of the Daily Mail on Saturday, stating that police will automatically  seize mobile phones at the scene of accidents in order to determine whether texting or talking on the phone was a contributory factor.
Daily Mail headline

It comes on top of a recent announcement by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin that those caught texting whilst driving should be given six points on their license rather than three.

But I believe that this doesn't go far enough, and that until using a phone whilst driving is regarded in the same vein as driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and those who choose to flaunt the law are dealt with severely (and I'm talking long jail terms and life-time driving bans), then people will continue to do it.
It's about changing attitudes through education and, where that doesn't work, changing them through punishment.

So why am I getting hot under the collar about this particular issue?
Well, I think it's because every time I got out on the roads, and particularly when I'm driving up and down the M6 (which I tend to do most weeks), I see people texting and I see people talking animatedly on the phone.
You can tell them from a distance.
There are those who think that texting or talking is fine so long as you pull into the 'slow lane' and drive along at 45 mph…of course, these people are blissfully unaware of how much frustration they cause to the line of HGV drivers who, doing 56 mph, have to pull out to overtake them.
Then there are those who think it's best to plop themselves in the middle lane and maintain a distance of about ten feet behind the vehicle in front of them, irrespective of how fast they are actually travelling.
Of course, there are those who think it's safest (and this is especially the case for drivers of Audis, VWs, BMWs and Mercedes) to power along at 100+ mph in the fast lane whilst gesticulating wildly or pointing a finger aggressively at the invisible person on the other end of the phone.
And finally, there's the guys in the vans, texting their mates - you can spot them by the tell-tale shifts in direction that they make every time they glance up from their phone - these over-corrections are always a little exaggerated, as if the van is bouncing off invisible barriers on each side of the lane they're in.

All of these people are fucking idiots!
They're also all potential killers!

I've only ever once answered the phone whilst driving (a few years ago now), and that was via handsfree - fortunately, the friend who was calling me immediately asked if I was driving (they could hear the background noise) and, when I said I was, they told me I was a muppet (or words to that effect) and then told me to ring them back when I'd pulled into a service station.
That was a proper friend!
It's something we all should get into the habit of doing - if your phoning someone and you hear the distant roar, ask whether they're driving and, if they are, tell them they're being bloody stupid answering the phone, and hang up!
If you're in a text conversation with someone and you suspect they may be on the road…stop texting!!

And if you still need any convincing that these are the right things to do, watch this video!

Monday, 28 July 2014

#MakeMeSmileMonday - Upupa Epops

Sometimes it seems like some things exist just to make us smile…which is a nice thought to have.
#MakeMeSmileMonday is about finding such things and sharing them with the world.

Take this fabulous creature.
This is a hoopoe. A great name for a bird.
According to wikipedia (font of all knowledge…allegedly), it is 
a colourful bird found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive "crown" of feathers. 
It's scientific name, though, is the fantastic 'upupa epos' - which is (as the guys at Visual Thesaurus who flagged this up correctly stated) so lovely that just saying it brings a smile to your lips.
Say it with me:
upupa epops…upupa epops…upupa epops...

Listen (thanks to Magnus!)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Why so much f**king talking???

Just a couple of days in to the 2014 Commonwealth Games from Glasgow and I'm already frustrated.
So   much   fucking   talking!!!!
Take yesterday evening, for example, at the swimming. We have a minute or two of athletes battling for gold, silver and bronze…and then we have to endure something like ten minutes of Claire 'I'm Everywhere' Balding, along with Mark Foster and Rebecca Adlington, prattling on inanely, trying (and failing) to offer insightful  and thoughtful comment...
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for useful and informative explanations which enlighten me about why one individual has succeeded whilst another has failed; something in their technique, perhaps, or in their mental or physical preparation. The problem is, with the BBC and all its countless commentators and summarisers (and there must be hundreds of them), is that that sort of perceptive analysis is virtually non-existent.
Instead, all we get is the grinning, gurneying experts spouting a seemingly endless torrent of tired old cliches about such-and-such having 'run her own race' or such-and-such having 'been unlucky' or 'not been their day'. Christ, it's only a matter of time before one of them says 'the boy done good'.
So, come on, BBC - if you're going to spend tens of thousands of pounds of license-fee-payers money on this never-ending procession of past champions and medallists, then at least let's give them the opportunity to 'thrill us with their acumen'. Otherwise, cut the pointless chit-chat and show us more of the sport that's going on.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Why Dave secretly wants the Scots to vote YES

I've made a point of staying pretty quiet on the thorny issue of Scottish independence…
...and I'm going to continue to do so, at least from the perspective of whether I think it is a good idea or not (too many vested interests, and relatives, north of the border, I guess!)

Instead, I'm going to enter into the debate from a totally non-personal perspective and suggest something just a little bit controversial; that is that although good old David 'hug a hoodie' Cameron is openly supporting the 'Better Together' campaign (fronted by Alistair 'my eyebrows down match' Darling because he has a Scottish accent and isn't Gordon Brown), the Prime Minister is, in fact, secretly praying that the Scots vote YES on the 18th September.
Well, just have a look at this graphic, which I've copied from the following BBC website:
Scottish independence: How would the UK fare without Scotland?

Now do you see what I'm getting at?
From David Cameron's perspective, it boils down to a couple of simple equations:
   UK + Scotland = most of the power
   UK - Scotland = ALL of the power (and no need to listen to Nick Clegg anymore!)

So would a downsized UK with a Tory majority be better or worse than what we have now?
Who knows?
But one thing I am sure of - if Scotland do decide to go it alone on the 18th September, the rest of us in the UK are sure as hell going to find out!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Israel and Hamas - as bad as each other

I did think about writing a long post about how I couldn't decide which side was worse, the side which hides its weapons inside UN-sponsored schools packed with refugees and alongside overflowing hospitals filled with the injured and dying, or the side which decides the best thing to do is to fire missiles at all the places it suspects its enemies and their weaponry to be, irrespective of what sort of collateral damage the countless explosions across Gaza may cause.
I was then going to go on and say that, in fact, they are both as bad as each other.
Then I was thinking about having a rant about the inhumanity of both sides, about how, in conflicts such as this, it is always the innocents who seem to bear the brunt of the suffering...
Then I decided to stop.
Words, any words, however heartfelt, however eloquent, are, I have come to realise, pointless.

Instead, I suggest you look at the face of the young boy in the photo above.
He probably knows little, if anything, of the origins of the decades of enmity, its basis in religion and politics, and the bigoted hatred it has spawned. All he knows is pain…and fear…and loss.

If this single image is not enough to convince the leaders of Israel and the leaders of Hamas that what they are doing is simply wrong, then…
God help them!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Who 'Cares' about your medical data?

It's time to get serious about a subject brought to my attention by David 'Boro Lad' Raby (top bloke!)
It is something that should be of concern to each and everyone of us living in the UK, and maybe also to all you fabulous people who follow this blog but live on shores further afield.

It concerns something called the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and what they are going to do with the medical information about YOU that is currently held by your doctor's practice.

Here are a couple of extracts from this form which summarise what it is we should be worrying about:
Care Data Form

Details from your medical record will be extracted from the practice in a form that can identify you, and will include your NHS number, date of birth, postcode, gender and ethnicity, together with your medical diagnoses (including cancer and mental health), their complications, referrals to specialists, your prescriptions, your family history, details of your vaccinations and screening tests, your blood test results, your body mass index, and your smoking/alcohol habits. 

Medical staff treating you in GP surgeries, hospitals, A&E and out-of-hours centres will not use, or be able to use, this database. However, the uploaded data is likely to be made available to organisations outside of the NHS, such as universities and commercial organisations. 

So, because other medical staff outside your own doctor's practice will NOT be able to use the data about you that is in the HSCIC, it is pretty safe to conclude that the purpose of extracting data and compiling it in the HSCIC is NOT to improve the medical care that you may receive in the future from other parts of the National Health Service.
Instead, it is evidently a process whereby critical medical data about individuals is being compiled so that that same data can then be sold for 'secondary purposes' outside those relating to medical care.
So what might those 'secondary purposes' be?
Well, the non-cynical may be able to convince themselves that the data, in an anonymised form, will be used by research establishments such as universities to help look for cures to common diseases and ailments…but do the rest of us really believe that?
No, of course we don't.
We all know that medical information such as this will be of immense value to insurance companies (who can use it to create a risk profile of our susceptibility to illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, dementia, etc. and accordingly decide whether to insure us and, if so, what to charge); it will also be useful to those marketing companies who will be able identify patients who are having, say, hip problems and then pass that info onto manufacturers of stairlifts and zimmer frames; or those who are suffering hearing difficulties so that hearing aid companies can give them a ring…you get the drift.

So what can you do about it?
Normally, the answer you'd expect to hear at this stage would be 'not a jot'; however, on this occasion, there is something you can do.
On the form that you can open and download by following this link:
Care Data Form
there is a section you can fill in which tells your doctor that you REFUSE CONSENT for your information to be transferred out of the practice for anything other than medical purposes.
I'm going to fill in my form and drop it off at my doctor's surgery this week.
Can I suggest, unless you actually want telephone calls about pacemakers and junk mail about incontinence pants, you do the same!

Monday, 21 July 2014

It's time to stop hating Mondays

None of us like Mondays - when it arrives, the working week stretches out ahead of us like a long straight highway across an arid, joyless desert of mundaneness, whilst the fun and frolicking of the weekend just gone is already fading into memory.
Mondays are the low-point, when our yin is at its zenith and our yang is languishing at the bottom of a mine-shaft (or is it the other way around?). We have about as much enthusiasm for the days ahead as a curry-house lavatory at opening time, and we really just want Monday to pass without anything really shitty happening.
But, my friends, it doesn't have to be this way!

Now I'm not for a moment suggesting that we can learn to love Mondays - that's just silly. Unless you're on holiday, Mondays are, and always will be, the crappiest day of the week.
But perhaps we can, with a little bit of effort, begin to not 'hate' Mondays, and instead start to grudgingly accept that Mondays are a necessity that we just have to deal with and, because we just have to deal with it, it's worth making the effort to make Mondays as tolerable as they can be.
That's why, in addition to the phenomenally successful #ShoutAboutItThursday, I'm going to introduce

So how will #MakeMeSmileMonday work?
Well, it's simple - I'm going to share something which made me smile and which, I hope, will make you smile as well…and in doing so, bring a little soupçon of light into what is too often a dark and miserable day.
So here goes - watch the video below (brought to my attention by Kayleigh and Joe - ta very muchly) and let the grin begin...

And if this didn't bring a smile to your face, then I'm afraid you're already beyond help!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Really, Vladimir, at least try to act like you're sorry!

For all you budding actors out there, here's how NOT to look when talking about how you are indirectly responsible for the atrocious murder of 298 innocent people…unless, of course, you're deliberately going for completely disinterested/utterly insincere/I don't give a shit about the people who are dead and my involvement in it all.

 Click to listen to Vladimir
Click on the image to listen to Vladimir
For all those studying psychology and international politics, it is also a good example of the application of 'Putin's Law No.818' viz: if it happens in your country, then it must be your fault (and, of course, it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the fact that I've been trying to de-stabilise that country for months by annexing part of it and then supplying Separatists with all manner of ridiculously dangerous
weapons, such as anti-aircraft missiles that are capable of blowing up airliners!)

Truly, just when you think this world of ours can't get any more fucked-up than it already is, something happens to remind you that, no matter how depraved certain members of humanity appear to be, there's always someone, such as good old Vladimir, prepared to plumb new depths.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

#ShoutAboutItThursday - Farley's Rusks

Yes, folks, it's that time of the week again when I choose something to SHOUT ABOUT because I want to and because I can.
And this week it's...Farley's Rusks!!

Recent research suggests that there are over 10 million adults in the UK who secretly eat Farley's Rusks on a regular basis (and not just as a means of encouraging babies to eat them, either); that same research also claimed there were another 15 million adults who secretly crave Farley's Rusks but do not have the guts to indulge themselves for fear of ridicule from the prejudiced Kellogg/Nestle influenced masses who do not regard it as a 'real' breakfast (yeah, like Krave or Chocolate Caramel Shreddies are 'real' breakfasts!)
The final, and perhaps most shocking statistic of this research is, however, that there are only 34 adults in the UK who have 'come out' and proudly proclaimed their love for what Wikipedia describes somewhat disappointingly as 'a dry biscuit', but which I would describe as 'a sweet and gooey taste sensation.'

I 'came out' about my love of the food that dare not speak its name on the 25th May after years of merciless ridicule from my family:

and I would now encourage everyone else who loves Farley's to do the same - it is a truly liberating experience. It means I can now walk down the baby-food aisle at Sainsburys and take a couple of boxes of Farley's off the shelf without any sense of shame or embarrassment. In fact, I now give them pride of place at the front of the trolley as I walk down the tinned goods and the cereal aisles and if I get any disapproving looks from any other shoppers (who are probably envious of my freedom of expression and are themselves secretly craving a rusk or two but are too brow-beaten by convention to do anything about it), I just strut my stuff with an attitude which says: 'Yeah, bitch, I eat rusk - so what?'
And one more thing - look at the box - it says 'All Ages'.

So, come on - who out there has got the balls to shout to their love of Farley's to the world?
That's what the comment boxes below are for!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Dronestagram - taking to the skies

I came across this whilst reading an article on the BBC about the winning photograph in a competition for images taken from drones. Now these aren't the drones that the US military use in Afghanistan, Iraq and northern Pakistan to spot bad people so they can drop a load of high explosives on them; no, these are much smaller versions which are, in essence, a camera slung underneath a cross with a small rotor blade at the end of each arm. They are flown by remote control, though on some of the more expensive models the camera can be moved independently, which is cool.

This winning image was taken by Capungaero at the Bali Barat National Park in Indonesia - it is awesome!

I then had a look around the Dronestagram website and came across this great little video.
The reason I like it?
My wife and I visited nearly all the places featured when we went to Iceland for a couple of weeks in 2010.

We also went up the national cathedral in Reykjavik:

It's just a great place to go!!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

If Google was a guy

I was going to call this post 'If Google was a guy and not a giant, omniscient, omnipotent entity that will eventually take over the world and condemn humanity to an eternity of slavery', and then go on a rant about how insidiously dangerous it is to have one organisation knowing everything about everyone...but then I decided against it because that title would be too long to re-tweet and share and shit.
So I've decided to take a different tack (nautical term) and present you with three genuinely funny videos from those cool dudes at CollegeHumor (who, alas, have wasted their money on a poor college education which has left them unable to spell the word 'humour' correctly).
Oh - apologies for the annoying advert at the start of each clip - I got one for Polygrip.
(Remember, you'll never see me selling my soul to advertisers just to gain an extra few shekels…no-sir-ree-bob!)

I guess now, due to the recent decision by the European Court of Justice on the 'right to be forgotten', they'll need to do a fourth video in which someone comes in and says:
'Hey, Google, you've got something about me which I don't like.'
at which point they'll have to tell the Google Guy to close his eyes whilst they hide it somewhere in his office so he can never find it again.
The person who comes in could be, say, a paedo, a rapist, a cowboy builder, or maybe a bent politician...

Monday, 14 July 2014

Steve Birkinshaw - Fell God or Nutter?

For those of you who've never heard of Steve Birkinshaw, he's just completed all 214 Wainwrights (those are all the Lake District Fells that appear in the great man's seven Pictorial Guides) in the mind-boggling time of 6 days and 13 hours, covering 518 km in the process.
You can read about his adventures at his blog:
Steve's Wainwright Challenge blog

I'm going to avoid the debate about why anyone would want to put themselves through such a physical ordeal and instead just marvel at the achievement by making a humbling comparison to my own efforts to conquer all the Wainwrights.

Current status of my Wainwright bagging - blue means climbed

As of a few Saturdays ago (when I climbed five fells over in the west), I have been able to tick off 179 - this leaves me only 35 left to conquer. I have, however, been climbing these hills since 1998 (when big bro Alex took me over Striding Edge to the top of Helvellyn…in May…in a snowstorm!) and I have, it must be said, climbed several mountains a number of times because they are just so damn fine, the views are just so beautiful…of course, good old Steve, when undertaking his mammoth challenge, wouldn't have had the opportunity to just stand at the summit of, say, Fairfield and count the number of mountains he could see; nor would he have had the time to sit with a sandwich watching a couple of young Peregrines swooping and diving off the cliffs above Whiteside…which, I guess, is my way of saying that although I have nothing but admiration for what Steve has achieved, and for the physical and mental toughness that he must possess to have done what he has done, I myself am more than content with just being able to amble up the fells at little more than a snail's pace, and to sit at the top, munching on a cheese and pickle sarnie, watching the clouds drift gently by…or bemoaning the swirling mist that doesn't want to leave!
And though Steve would probably be able to pick off the remaining 35 Wainwrights that I have left to bag in little more than a day or two, I'm more than happy to wait another year or so before I stand on top of St Sunday Crag and toast my own success.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Barbecues - it's time to take action!

I love Sundays in the summer.
Long, warm days where you can sit in your garden, amidst the flowers and the foliage, listening to the insects busy at work, sipping on a glass of Merlot - you feel that it really can't get much better…and then what happens? The ignorant git next door, like so many ignorant gits right across the country (and probably across the world) decides that because the sun is out and he is a 'modern man', custom dictates that he must have a barbecue.

So what exactly does that mean?
Well, it means that, because he doesn't have a proper barbecue at home, he has to nip to the local garage to buy one of those hideous disposable barbecues that suddenly appear en-masse on the forecourt when the sun comes out, in place of the screen wash and anti-freeze. He then spends God-knows-how-long trying to light the fucking thing when he gets back home, which results in their garden, and those of their helpless neighbours (and the washing they hung out a couple of hours ago), being smothered in a stinking, malodorous fog that sticks at the back of the throat and has all the seasonal aroma of a third-world chemical factory. They then place some sausages and some chicken legs and some steaks into the midst of the towering flames just long enough for the outer surface to be thoroughly incinerated and reduced to an unpleasant black mass, whilst the E.coli and salmonella within the raw meat that is now encased inside the charred exterior remains completely unaffected by the raging inferno around it.
In turn, those blackened lumps of what was once meat are placed onto a variety of buns, smothered in ketchup, and then eagerly consumed, only to explosively re-emerge a couple of hours later as either the raging shits or a particularly spectacular case of projectile vomiting. There may be a visit to A&E; there may be a couple of days off work or off school - but one thing's for certain; if the sun's out the following Sunday, then he'll be back down to the garage to buy a disposable barbecue so he can do it all again!

But what can we do about it? Anything?

Well, I'm not for one moment advocating a ban on barbecues. That would be a very curmudgeonly thing to do. And nor am I one for over-regulation and being all 'nanny-state' about such things. But for this I'm going to make an exception.
So here's what would happen in Andy's Universe:
1. Disposable barbecues would be banned. Full stop (or 'period' for readers across The Pond). End of discussion.
2. Anyone wanting to have a barbecue would need to be licensed - to be licensed, the individual would need to have attended a 'Barbecue Awareness' course in which they would have learned the following:
  • how to properly light a barbecue without creating smog or using petrol
  • how to cook food so it doesn't result in people puking all night or having the diarrhoea 
  • how to be considerate of your neighbours (like telling them when you're going to have a barbecue so they can close their windows!)
  • what sort of music is acceptable accompaniment to a barbecue (gay 80s - fine; techno/garage - not fine), and until what time it should be played, and at what volume.
  • how to instruct guests who may stay late that it is just not cool to sit out until four in the morning with a patio heater, getting pissed and laughing raucously about what a shame it is that some people have to get up for work the next day!
Licensed barbecuists could, at any time, have their license revoked if they are found to be ignoring good barbecue etiquette. Those who have a barbecue when unlicensed, or those who do so when disqualified will have their testicles removed with a rusty blade, cooked on a proper barbie (by a licensed barbecuist), smothered in ketchup and served to them on a white sesame bun.
A similar punishment for women is not required because, as we all know, barbecuing is a purely male preserve. However, just for completeness, the same sentence would be handed out to any unlicensed female barbecuist, only this would be applied to her breasts (cue puns about needing different sized bread rolls)!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Facing my Demons

I think I need to start this post with a warning.
Those of you out there in Readerland who have been kind enough to become regular followers of this blog will know that my posts are, on the whole, works of playful satire; opinionated, yes, occasionally controversial, that's true, but almost without exception, humorous (or at least they try to be!)
What they seldom are are introspective, reflective and maybe even just a little morose…probably because I myself am seldom any of those things.
Today, though, things are different.
Today's post is exactly that - introspective, reflective and just a little morose.
Well, maybe it's because I'm writing today's post for a different purpose - you see, this post is not for you, it's for me…and if, after reading up to this point, you think to yourself that you don't want to be burdened with someone else's concerns, or that you've had more than enough to people 'sharing' their feelings with others through the interweb, then I will completely understand it if you choose to click onto something more uplifting…
…so long as you come back tomorrow, when I guarantee I'll be writing something funny again!
After all, as someone once said: 'A problem shared is a problem halved, so is the problem really yours or just half of someone else's?'

Okay, still with me?
Then let us begin.

I've always found writing when I'm feeling down to be cathartic.
Well, I guess because, in trying to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and eventually come up with something that makes some semblance of sense either to myself or to someone else, writing forces me to follow a process, and that process forces me to think about all those things that are bothering me, to work out what (or who)'s behind them and to maybe understand why they're happening - okay, it doesn't automatically lead to neat solutions; far from it, in fact. But at least it allows me to get into a position where I 'know my demons'…

I have a lot of demons at the moment, that's for sure.
In fact, I think I can safely say that I've never had, at any time in my entire life, so many of demons - and nor can I recall a time when demons seem so fucking huge!!
I reckon I have four main demons at the moment.
The first is to do with work (we'll call it Pythius)
The second is to do with my health (we'll call it Merihem)
The third is to do with the health of a loved one (we'll call it Abaddon)
And the fourth one, which we'll call Asmodeus, is to do with something so trivial it really shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as the others…

…and yet, today, it is Asmodeus, with nothing more than a passing comment and a sneering look, that has caused me an inordinate amount of angst - and more annoyingly, it is angst born out of frustration because I know, deep down inside me, that Asmodeus is nothing more than an odious little gob-shite that has nothing better to do with its pathetic little existence than to enliven its own pointless life by trying to make itself feel bigger and better than others. I know that the easiest and simplest thing for me to do is to just look at Asmodeus with a pitying shake of the head, not say a word, then simply turn away from it and cast it from my thoughts, telling myself as I do so that it is just not even worth considering taking the time to think about worrying about what it says or thinks or does.
It really should be that simple.
So why is that so difficult to do…especially when I know that there are bigger and more difficult demons to tackle?
I guess any psychologists out there in Readerland will be able to describe far more capably and through the use of some really technical words my inability to ignore something which is trivial and focus instead on the more important things.
For me, though, the reason for my fixation on something so small is perhaps best described through an analogy:
My capacity to deal with my current adversities is a glass. It's quite a big glass, though it's nowhere near as big as I would like it to be, or as it was in the past. And, at the moment, it's a pretty fragile glass to boot. Already inside it, and filling it almost to the brim, is the liquid essence of Pythius, Merihem and Abaddon. These are huge things, swirling and eddying in the glass, looking out from within it with cold, baleful eyes, trying desperately to escape. But I'm finding the strength to keep them in the glass…and then, all of a sudden, I see that there's a little bit of Asmodeus dribbling into that glass…and the glass finally begins to overflow…and although its a mixture of all the demons that's spilling out all over the table top and making a mess, all I can see is that it's Asmodeus that is causing it and that means that I think only about how I can stop Asmodeus adding to my glass, when what I really need to do is deal with Pythius, Merihem and Abaddon, because once they're gone, or at least once they're reduced to something manageable, then there'll be more than enough room in my glass for anything that the nasty little fucker Asmodeus wants to put in there!
Does that make any sense at all?
Not quite sure that it will to you, but if it's any consolation, it does to me!

So what's the message to myself?
Ignore Asmodeus completely? Perhaps.
Or better, recognise Asmodeus for what it truly is (a short, sad, petty little fuckwit), decide to deal with it, yes, but decide to deal with it in my own way, at my own pace, and make the situation mine to control…and in so doing stop the git from dribbling into my glass!
As for Pythius, Merihem and Abaddon - it's time to take a deep, deep breath, look these nasty demons straight in their many eyes and tell them that they've picked the wrong dude to fuck with!

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Meaning of LiFIFA - England World Cup 2014 Edition

It's the World Cup Final this weekend (preceded by the utterly pointless 3rd-4th Place play-off), and my money's on Germany (which undoubtedly means Argentina will be raising the trophy come Sunday evening!)
In honour of what I hope will be rip-roaring 8-7 victory to Germany on penalties (after the match finishes 3-3 in normal time and 5-5 after extra time, with 3 players sent off!), I have decided to resurrect the hugely popular  Meaning of LiFIFA, this time with an England Edition.
I could pretend that I had two versions of this England World Cup 2014 Edition drafted - one for when England won the tournament (or at least got the knock-out stages), and one for the real world. Needless to say, it's the real world version that takes pride of place on the blog.
So, here goes:

To continue to doggedly follow a plan even though all the indications are that it simply isn't working.

Example of usage - extract from a copy of Winston Churchill's unpublished manuscript 'How I Would Have Fought The Great War': At Ypres, Sir John French hodgsoned, wasting the lives of thousands of his troops.

GERRARD (adj.)
Understatedly excited - derived from the many news conferences where Stephen Gerrard explained how 'excited' he was to be at the World Cup in a monotone Scouse drawl which suggested he'd rather be spending his time (and his money) on a beach somewhere.

Example of usage - 'The boy was cock-a-hoop at winning the prize, but decided to act all Gerrard.'

ROONEY (vb.)
To criticise your dejected fans for your own shit performance (applicable to all Wayne Rooney world cup appearances)

Example of usage - words aren't needed here - just have a look at this video and then tell me this isn't an arrogant twat!

HART (adj.)
To be distracted - derived from spending too much time making adverts for shampoo instead of working on the critical goalkeeping skill of preventing the ball from going into your goal.

Example of usage - 'Sorry, what were you saying? I went all Hart there for a moment.'

Something to be proud of; a fine example of something
Majestic, honorable, resolute, determined

Example of usage - 'That new wall I've just built, well it's just Bobby Moore, innit.'

If you have any further suggestions, feel free to comment.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


Well, everyone seems to be doing it.
#pushTuesday, #chooseday, #ManicureMonday
Choose a day of the week and then decide that, on that day, you're going to do something special…or different.
So I've come up with #ShoutAboutItThursday, a day on which I will choose something that is interesting or important to me (don't worry, I'll not be banging on about my books - I'll be doing that on #OhForFucksSakeFriday!)…and today I've decided that, even though I run the risk of accusations of nepotism (it is about my youngest daughter after all), I'm going to shamelessly plug a small video production company called 'Spelt with a T Productions'.
Why 'Spelt with a T'?
When Emily got her first credit for a film she was involved in, her name was written as:
The rest, as they say, is history!

On her YouTube Channel I'd strongly recommend taking a bit of time to look at the following videos:

'Better Life' - a video Emily made for the group 'Tactical Dance Maneuver'

'Dark Digital Space' - a disturbing experimental film on the subject of self-harm

I'd also recommend checking out:

 Life In Hand - a documentary
Life in Hand - a documentary
And, to demonstrate her versatility, have a look at this award-winning stop-motion movie:

 Cleaning the Campus with Sally the Slug
Transforming the Campus with Sally the Slug
And last, and certainly from my perspective, very much not least, Emily helped me put together the fabulous videoblurb from my book…yes, I know, I said I wasn't going to bang on about them, but I just can't help it because this video is really, really good - listen out for the subtle change in music about halfway through!!

So if you're somewhere in the Lancashire area (and even if you're not) and you're looking for someone to make a film or a video or a book trailer, drop Emily a note on either her Facebook page or Twitter feed; and don;t forget to follow and share and do all that other social media malarky!

ps - If you'd like me to feature you, your business, someone you know, something interesting (because if it's boring I'll just ignore it!), etc, etc, on #ShoutAboutItThursday, just drop me a comment - but please don't be offended if I refuse.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Why were Brazil so bad? I have the answer!

Well, I watched it and I have to admit, I'm gob-smacked.
Whichever way you look at it, 7-1, at home, is a monumental thumping…and the 1 only came in the 90th minute…and only after Germany had missed a glorious chance to make it 8…

Anyway, whilst countless TV and newspaper pundits have all gone into frenzied analyses, blaming the absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva, bemoaning Brazil's 'lack of shape' (whatever that means) and shaking their heads solemnly at their inability to 'function as a unit' (whatever that means as well), I'd like to put forward an alternative theory as to why Brazil were so utterly, utterly shit:
It's all about the names.

I mean, just look at some of the fantastic names that won the World Cup for Brazil in 1970:
Pele, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino, Jairzinho

Then there's that awesome team that should have won the 1982 World Cup (but got their pockets picked by Italy's Paulo Rossi):
Socrates, Zico, Falcao, Batista, Edevaldo

And what about the 1994 World Cup winning team:
Ronaldo, Bebeto, Romario, Zinho, Leonardo

And in 2002, when they won it again, we had the likes of:
Rivaldo (though he's a bit of a knob! refer to my post on 16th June for details), Ronaldinho, Gilberto Silva, Roberto Carlos and the excellently named Vampeta

Now, compare those fabulous, evocative names with those we saw at the Belo Horizonte last night:
FRED, OSCAR, BERNARD, JO and, perhaps the most ridiculous of all, HULK

They are just crap names, aren't they? They certainly don't strike fear into the hearts of the opposition; I mean, Fred and Oscar are characters on Sesame Street, for fuck's sake!! And no-one but no-one should be allowed to use the name Hulk unless they are eight feet tall, green, angry and generally beating the shit out of an oil tanker.

So, my advice to the Brazilian footballing authorities is simple. Get to grips with the names which players adopt and apply these three simple rules:
1. All names must end in a vowel (and no, Jo doesn't count based on rule number 2) - let's face it, it's a millions times better when a commentator screams 'Rivelinooooooooooooo' as the ball hits the back of the net than it is when they try to do it with 'Bernardddddddddd' - go on, try it for yourself.
2. All names must have at least two syllables, but no more than four. Never just one.
3. The only exception to rules 1 & 2 - when the guy actually looks like he could be a Greek Philosopher!


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Lets talk sperm!

It's obvious when you think about it…only I doubt few people have actually thought about it.
There's high-quality sperm and then there's low quality sperm. It's inevitable.

And just as inevitable is the fact that all the men who read this blog are now secretly assuring themselves that, naturally, their sperm would fall (or, more hopefully, be shot lustily) into the 'high-quality' bracket…just as all the men would naturally sit in the 'better-than-average' bracket when it comes to driving ability.
Interestingly, though, the quality of sperm is important, because only high-quality sperm is suitable for artificial insemination, whilst low-quality sperm is only good for the more invasive procedure of intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection where the sperm is injected into the egg, but the egg has to be removed in order for this to happen.
So it is perhaps a worry that here in the UK we have such a shortage of sperm that we are having to import it, and not only that, but we are having to do so from places where the quality of screening of the sperm is not as rigorous as it is here.

My thoughts on this?
Well, I can just imagine the expression of outrage on the faces of the level-headed intellectuals at the BNP when they realise that not only (in their eyes at least) is the UK being over-run by low-cost, low-quality labour from foreign shores, but it's breeding stock is also being impregnated by low-cost, low-quality sperm from foreign shores as well. The worry, of course, is that on realising this, we'll get a sudden rush of 'donations' from them…not necessarily the sort of enhancement we'd want of the gene pool...

BBC Article

Monday, 7 July 2014

Okay, So It's Shameless Self-Promotion!

The extremely diverse nature of the subjects on which I comment (politics, sport, religion, topical news, neighbours who are pillocks) has inevitably resulted in a very diverse group of simply stunning people who do me the honour of taking time out of their own, equally crazy existences to read my inane ramblings. Just remember, you are the best!
However, having such a diverse following presents its own problems - take today for example. I wanted to post an image along with this particular blog entry that would instantly catch people's attention…and yes, I have to admit, I was going to post Image 2 below…okay, I know it's sexist and could be construed as cheap titillation and debasing to women, but I just liked it because it was an example of utter ridiculousness, like a mankini…but without the man…
Anyway, I decided (somewhat against my nature, I must admit) that I needed to take more cognisance of the potential offence that images like two scantily-clad females in utterly bizarre almost-clothing could cause. That's why I decided to front this particular post (the actual content of which, I might add, has nothing at all to do with either image) with a cute kitten…because everyone likes a cute kitten (apparently!)
Image 1

Image 2
Okay, so now that either the cute little kitten or the truly disturbing female attire (which one of my friends suggested was 'just asking for an infection') has engaged you in this post, I can reveal the true purpose of today's ramblings - it's a shallow, some may think almost desperate attempt to remind you fabulous people that on the right hand side of the screen are links to what some readers genuinely believe are four pretty decent books written by my own fair hand…okay, not the one at the top, admittedly, because it doesn't look like anyone has actually read 'God, Aliens, Death & Teapots', even though it contains a story about a dog apocalypse, and one about how the Earth will ultimately deal with the threat of climate change…yeah, I know,  topical eh? There's some pretty deep philosophical shit in there which, if it'd been written by someone like Margaret Atwood, would undoubtedly have won a bucketload of awards by now…not that I'm bitter…
Moving on...
The other three books that can be accessed by just clicking on the colourful covers - Parts 1, 2 & 3 of The Book That THEY Do Nt Want You To Read - well, almost without exception on and and they've had very positive reviews (I say almost - it would have been nice to know what it was about Book 1 that Simon didn't like on Goodreads (he only gave it 2 stars), but as there was no written review, I guess I'll never know. By the way, rumours that I've had him 'whacked' are simply untrue!).
The most recent review of one of my books was from a fabulous individual in Oxnard, California:

Unprompted positivity - it really is the best!

So, dear blog readers, if you're stuck for something to read on your Kindle (other e-readers are available) this summer and want to be amused, amazed and disturbed all at the same time, then can I suggest you give The Book That THEY Do Not Want You To Read a look…I reckon that if everyone who followed this blog in the US bought a copy TODAY, NOW, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, I'd be able to make it into the top 100, which would be a real boost for my ego…!

However, if you prefer your literary enjoyment to come in small, bite-size morsels, check out 'God, Aliens, Death & Teapots' which, from my publishers (Autharium) website is FREE, but is also available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of $3.49, £1.99, 199 Yen, CDN$2.99 or €2,68. Please note that has already made it to No.8 in the Sci-fi bestseller list…in Spain…because my friend Javier bought a copy...

There, shameless plug for my books all done - thanks for sticking with it :)
Tomorrow, I'll be back to taking the piss out of something or someone!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Eighteen months simply isn't enough!

Eighteen months.

It'd be ironic if someone was hacking his phone...
That's the paltry sentence that was handed down to Andy 'Happy Hacker' Coulson after he was found guilty of phone hacking (or 'conspiracy to intercept communications', to give the crime it's proper title).
That means (under the UK's monumentally perverse penal system) that he'll serve no more than nine months, whereupon he'll be free to walk straight into the nearest publishing house and negotiate himself a big fat advance for 'his story', in which he will avail us of the 'nightmare' he and his family has had to endure (which hopefully will include revelations about happened when he accidentally dropped the soap in the communal showers at HMP Softly Softly and became suddenly intimate with a large inmate called Giles).
And then, when his autobiography hits the bookshops and he sits in front of the cameras on the sofa of This Morning to be 'rigorously interviewed' by Phillip Schofield, will he be all contrite about the misery resulting from his actions and those of the people in his employ? Of course he will - he'll be ever so sorry! But behind closed doors? Somehow I doubt he'll be as penitent.
You see, in order to feel genuine contrition, you need to have something that I suspect Andy Coulson and all those involved in the phone hacking scandal don't have:
A conscience.
If they had possessed a conscience then the moment they became aware that their interference with poor Milly Dowler's mobile phone had placed false hope in the minds of her parents, they should have come forward and admitted to the authorities what they had done…but the chose not to. Instead, they simply carried on with what they were doing, no doubt regarding the renewed anguish they had caused Sally and Bob Dowler as nothing more than collateral damage in pursuit of a 'good story'.
That makes what they did all the more reprehensible and that is why I believe that Andy Coulson and his grubby partners in crime will regard their time in whatever HMP Holiday Camp they are sent to, not only as little more than a mild inconvenience, but actually as an opportunity to cash in on 'what they've been through' with a book and some TV appearances and probably a serialisation in, somewhat ironically, one of the tabloids. No doubt they'll be able to use their time inside to practice their expressions of regret, to get the downward glances just right, to get the wringing of the hands spot on…Christ, they'll probably be entitled to counselling whilst serving their pathetically short sentences, or they may even be entitled to acting classes paid for by the taxpayer as part of their rehabilitation and reintegration back into society.
That's why eighteen months simply isn't long enough for these bastards - in fact, I'd prefer it if we didn't see Andy Coulson's face on our TV screens and in our newspapers for at least eighteen years!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Who should we really be celebrating?

I bet most of you know this man:

Yes, it's the odious Russell Brand, best known for being a dick, for having been married for a while to Katy Perry, for making insulting phone calls (with the equally odious Jonathan Ross) to Andrew Sachs, and for having about as much talent as a three-day old turd that's been stepped on by a size ten boot…oh, and he's 'helped' raise some money for Amnesty International by taking part in their 'Secret Policeman's Ball' in 2012 (hence the photo). He also (apparently), supports the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Mines Advisory Group, the Noreen Fraser Foundation and the Small Steps Project.
A lot of people will recognise the face, know about the man and have a good idea about what he has 'achieved'.

Now, do you know this man?

What if I told you that this is Sir Nicholas Winton MBE.
Still nothing?
Well, Sir Nicholas was responsible for the rescue of 669 mostly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War and for finding them homes and safe passage to Britain.
Rather than shouting from the rooftops and seeking out the plaudits of his fellow men (which are richly deserved, by the way), Sir Nicholas kept quiet about what he'd done until his wife, Grete, found in their attic some fifty years later a scrapbook that contained a list of the names of the children, their parents' names, and the names and addresses of the families that took them in here in the UK. By sending letters to these addresses, it was possible to trace eighty of 'Winton's Children'. What happened next is quite extraordinary and almost impossible not to cry at! Click the link to the That's Life programme below:
'That's Life' programme aired in 1988

So, how is it that some vacuous, obnoxious git like Russell Brand can be so well known and so 'admired' by the general population, and yet such a quiet, unassuming and yet utterly heroic individual like Sir Nicholas Winton can be virtually unknown? What does that say about who and what we, the great public, choose to 'celebrate'?
I guess it's just the fact that those whose achievements are truly worth celebrating are precisely the kind of people who wouldn't want them to be celebrated…and vice versa.
Sir Nicholas Winton MBE - as far as I am concerned, you are just a top, top bloke!

Friday, 4 July 2014

From Golden Gate to Pearly Gate…Not Any More!

I don't know why I found this both amusing and disturbing, but I did.

Article on Golden Gate Bridge suicides from the BBC

It seems that the authorities in San Francisco have approved a $76 million to put a safety net underneath the Golden Gate Bridge to deter people from using it to commit suicide. Apparently, 1400 people have used the bridge as their chosen means of shuffling off this mortal coil, with last year holding the dubious 'record' of 46 suicides.

Does anyone else see two problems in this plan.
Firstly, what is the real aim here? Is it to prevent people committing suicide...or is it (as I suspect) to prevent people using the bridge to commit suicide? It's a subtle but important difference because, if it's the latter, then you could cynically argue that this is really just about protecting the bridge's iconic image. And besides, all that's probably going to happen is that there are going to be more people throwing themselves off skyscrapers or in front of trains…unless, of course, the authorities let it be known that they'd prefer people to commit suicide at home and not cause such a fuss.
Secondly, if there's a big net to catch you, how many people visiting San Francisco are going to pass up the adrenaline rush of throwing yourself off a suspension bridge? I can just see all those videos on YouTube...

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Forget the niqab. Embrace the F-BOG!

The French have just succeeded in defeating at the European Court an attempt to have their ban on the wearing of a 'full veil' in public overturned.

As some of you may recall, our Gallic cousins had previously banned the wearing of a full veil (that's a Niqab or a Burka, but not a Hijab, an Al-Amira, a Shayla, a Khimar or a Chador), not on religious grounds (though they did also introduce a ban on the wearing of headscarves (now that is an Al-Amira, a Shayla, a Khimar or a Chador) in schools because it conflicted with France's secular values), but because it posed a potential security risk in that it concealed a person's identity.
The court ruled that the ban on the full veil 'was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face'.

Inevitably, there are those over here in the UK who are now suggesting that if the French can get away with arguing that a Niqab or a Burka should be banned because it is a security risk, then so should we.
I, however, beg to differ.
I'm going to be particularly controversial today and argue that a piece of attire similar to the Niqab/Burka which I am going to call the F-BOG (short for Full Body Over Garment) should actually become an item of everyday clothing for individuals of all denominations…and even , in some cases, made mandatory…okay, okay, let's get the argument for mandatory out of the way first. It's simple. All those really, really ugly people that we have in this country (and there are a disturbing number of them) should be made to wear the F-BOG all the time. It saves us the awkwardness of realising we're staring at them in horrified fascination and then looking away too hurriedly in embarrassment, and it spares them the discomfort of being gawked at whenever they go out - controversial, I admit, but what's life without a bit of controversy; and it is what politicians like to call a 'win-win'.
And now to the bigger concept of the F-BOG as an everyday, secular fashion garment. How will that work, I hear you ask?
Well, first of all, unlike the Burka or Niqab or Yashmak, which seem to follow the Henry Ford (urban myth) approach when it comes to a choice of colour, the F-BOG could be available in wide variety of colours and shades - vivid yellows, subtle lilacs, strong blues, anything in fact that catches the mood of the day. It can also be livened up with stripes, polkadots, swirly patterns or those ever popular pseudo-Japanese symbols that people think look cool on wallpaper but actually translate as 'You're a git!'
Secondly, the F-BOG could come in a variety of materials, from a light cotton version for hot sunny days, all the through to a heavy-duty Goretex version for rainy winter nights.
But thirdly, and perhaps its most useful and appealing feature, an F-BOG worn in the office would afford the wearer the opportunity to mouth the words 'Oh you are such a fucking knob' to their boss without the 'knob' being the least bit aware of it. The F-BOG would also enable the wearer to gesture with their hand that said boss is a wanker, again with the 'wanker' being completely oblivious of the abuse they are receiving. Yes, folks, the F-BOG, soon to be available at a Primark store near you (after being manufactured in a small sweatshop just outside Karachi that has no fire escapes), is the ideal garment for the office environment, encouraging freedom of expression whilst protecting the wearer's right to privacy. It's a sure-fire winner!
Just heard about it here first.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A missing portrait and the true cost of Rolf and Jimmy

Just a quick update regarding the question I asked yesterday about what would happen to Rolf Harris' portrait of the Queen.
Well, it looks as though someone at the BBC (who no doubt read my blog) has asked the same question:

The BBC article

The BBC doesn't have it.
The Palace doesn't have it.
Apparently, it was last seen in Liverpool in 2012, but then of course an awful lot of things were 'last seen in Liverpool' by their owners…

There is a wider question here though.
There will, in the aftermath of the Harris conviction, be the inevitable clamour for compensation (and the equally inevitable emergence of a mix of genuine victims and those grubby and morally vacant freaks looking to make a quick buck) - and to pay for that compensation, most , if not all, of the Harris estate will need to be sold.
All of which is fine and is something I agree with. People have to pay for their crimes.
What I don't agree with, however, is the worrying precedent set recently with regards to potential compensation for the victims of Jimmy Savile. A High Court ruling has said that victims can make claims of up to £60,000 from either Savile's estate, the BBC or the NHS. Health Secretary Jeremy (rhymes with) Hunt has said that all claims made against the NHS will be paid out of the public purse (and as the BBC is funded by the public through the licence fee, then we'll be paying for any claims against that organisation as well). Savile's estate of £3.3m has already been all but swallowed up by legal leeches, so it's almost certain that claims that would have been made against his estate will be altered so that either the Beeb or the Health Service is seen as culpable. All of which means that Savile, and probably Harris, and maybe countless other paedos who have yet to be unearthed, could add to their list of victims the names of patients denied life-saving medicines or made to wait an extra couple of months for treatment because the NHS has had to fork out millions in compensation for what they've done.

ps I was also going to add a glib remark about the rest of us being victims as well because the BBC will have even less money with which to make half-decent TV programmes; but as they've only been able to produce reality TV shite for the last few years (e.g. The Voice), and would probably have spent that money on pay-offs for top executives, I'm not sure that's anything to get worked up about.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Rolf's a perv. Where's my humble pie?

On the 20th April, 2013, I wrote a post entitled: 'Rolf a perv? I just don't buy it.'
Well, following yesterday's guilty verdict on twelve counts of indecent assault, it looks like I'll have to buy it after all. Hence a large helping of humble pie for supper tonight.

I will not deny that I am shocked by this verdict. I really did believe (or, perhaps, more accurately, really wanted to believe) that the claims against the Aussie kangaroo-tier-down were spurious and, perhaps because this world makes cynics of us all, probably motivated by the prospect of compensation and media-money for the victim's 'story' - but that no longer seem to be the case. Old Rolf's been found guilty and, possibly, may spend the rest of his life behind bars.

So where does this leave us?
Well, from a personal perspective, it leaves me wondering whether Rolf and Stuart Hall and Jimmy Savile (whose names must only now be whispered in sombre tones accompanied by a disapproving shake of the head) should all now face a new charge:
1. Wilful destruction of memories of happier, more innocent days.
On this count I suggest all of these 'gentlemen' are guilty because I, like millions of others who grew up with Jim'll Fix It, Rolf's Cartoon Time and It's a Knockout, will no longer be able to look back on the television of their childhood without those fond memories being tainted by the realisation that behind the smiles and the laughter of the programmes' stars and presenters, there was a dark unpleasantness and a growing catalogue of victims.

It also leaves me wondering if there are actually any TV personalities from the seventies and eighties who weren't going around kiddy-fiddling or grooming young girls to be sexual playthings - how many others still have such skeletons in their proverbial cupboards? I know they weren't all pervs, but the growing list of guilty verdicts does make you wonder - how many more?

ps - Remember that portrait that Rolf did of the Queen recently?

Here's one for the caption contest...