Saturday, 24 December 2011

Bad Santa.



Before I start I just want to say to all of you who kindly wished me luck and offered me support for the job interview that I didn’t get the job in the end.
So thanks for nothing.

On with the show.

As I am writing this on Christmas Eve I thought I’d give you a nice festive tale of my youth.
I left school at the age of sixteen and got a job in an old cinema that had been converted into a shop. It was run by a big Irish guy called Mulligan and his wife and I did a bit of everything there, unloading the delivery lorries, working the tills, stocktaking and security.
Many of the textile mill towns in the north of England have large Indian and Pakistani populations as migrant workers came over in the ‘50s and ‘60s and settled over here.
Jim’s shop was in the Pakistani area of Halifax and around 80% of his customers were Asian. In October time lots of the kids would come in wearing their best sarees and kurtars and waving around money that they had been given as gifts as they were celebrating their version of Christmas. Mulligan capitalised on this and always made sure there was plenty of toys and sweets in at this time of year.

When Christian Christmas came around Mulligan decided to dress up the office as Santa’s grotto by covering the filing cabinets in white sheets and installing one of his mates from the Irish club in there in a Santa outfit with a jar of lollipops.
Mulligan would let the kids in one door, they would tell Santa what they wanted then Santa would give them a lolly and show them through the door that lead out of the office and into the store so they could spend their money on the useless tat he sold there.

This worked fine for one day until Santa spent all the money he earned on Guiness and Bushmills at the Irish club that night and didn’t show up for work the next day.
This is how I found myself sitting in an office covered in white sheets wearing an ill-fitting Santa suit while Bing Crosby’s White Christmas played on an endless loop and a big Irish bloke let Pakistani kids through the door one at a time.

Now I was as skinny as a rail with long dark hair and a black eye I had gotten in a fight a few days before so I hoped the dim lighting in the room would hide the black hair sticking out of the hood. No such luck.

The first little girl that came in said, ‘You’re Van Helsing not Santa. I can see your hair and black eye. You chased me out of the shop last week for stealing sweets’.
I gave an unconvincing and high pitched Ho Ho Ho and told her I was indeed Santa and had been kicked in the eye by a Reindeer.
‘Where’s your big belly then’?
I explained that I had to diet as chimneys were narrower these days.
‘Why are in here on your own then, where are your elves’?
I leaned forward and tugged my beard down so she could see my face.

‘Listen Sameena, we both know who I am but just for today let’s pretend I’m Father Christmas. To be honest I thought you guys had your Christmas two months ago’.
She then informed me that December 25th was a public holiday in Pakistan in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
She agreed to play along for the price of two lollipops.

So I spent the rest of the day trying to convince the local kids that I was Santa and not the skinny bloke they saw every day, occasionally chasing out the ones who would sneak out the back door and come around the front, bamboozling poor Mulligan into letting them back in the ‘Grotto’.

I also developed an aversion to Bing Crosby’s voice, he sounded like he was drunk when he sang which with hindsight he probably was.
On that note I’d like to wish all of you a brilliant Christmas and New Year and I look forward to reading all about your exploits in 2012

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Announcement.



I might have to drop off the blogosphere for a week. I'm currently working nights while trying to organise the annual hellfest that is Christmas.



But the main reason is that I sent off an application form for the job of Coroner's Officer three weeks ago and last night at work I got an e-mail informing me that I have been short listed for an interview next week.


So my spare time will be taken up with preparation for this and pacing up and down while chewing my fingernails. Don't wait up.


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Uncle Van Helsing.












Babies, they lie around all day leaking fluids from both ends like some kind of toxic spill. They can't feed themselves, talk or perform basic motor functions. I never know how to deal with something that is so dependent on outside assistance.



A girl on maternity leave visited my workplace the other day and brought in her new baby to show to us all.


Of course this meant that all the women immediately stopped working so they could cluster around the overpriced luggage that babies have to be carted around in making noises like Teletubbies while the baby lay there goggling at them in bewilderment.


I never know quite how to react when a baby is introduced into the workplace, I've tried offering them coffee but they aren't interested and they never have much to say. They just stare at me in that spooky way that babies do, as though they are reading my mind or something.


My female colleagues always insist I pick visiting babies up so I invariably end up standing there, holding a baby at arms lengths as though expecting it to explode like a shitbomb.


As you have probably guessed I don't have kids so don't interact with them on a daily basis. If I have to talk to anyone below the age of twenty I sound like Prince Philip, asking them things like "And what do you do", while being concious of the huge generation gap yawning between us.

The best thing about babies is that they don't fuck about. If they want something they bellow their little heads off until they get it, but all they care about are the basic things in life. They haven't yet grown up and learned to want needless things like iPhones or Call of Duty games.
All they are interested in is eating, pooing, sleeping and being loved.


Which when you think about it are the important things in life.




Maybe I can learn a thing or two from babies.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

An Apology.



I've been going about this blog all wrong recently. I've been treating you like kids and mollycoddling you, telling you nice little tales of trips I've been on like some kindly, boring uncle.



Bollocks to that, I was sat in traffic lights today behind some dithering, middle-aged bag of fear when the lights turned green. By the time the driver in front of me had put the car back in gear, released the handbrake and gently pressed the accelarator there was only time to get his stupid, bastard Volvo through before the lights went red again.

Thanks for that, mate, next time keep your car in gear, your pedals on biting point and your eyes on the traffic lights so you can go as soon as they change and give the drivers behind you a chance.

I didn't beep my horn, gesticulate or swear, I was involved in a road rage incident a few years ago which showed me the futility and foolishness of acting this way and I was going to recount this story to you.


But that would make me a sanctimonious, preaching know-all, you are adults and don't need me teling you how to drive.



I've got a blog where I can say all the things that I don't say to people's faces as I don't want to cause them offence or end up trading blows at the side of the road over my perception of someone else's driving ability.


This is why Tony Van Helsing exists, he says the things that I don't say to people because I am a sensitive softy and he is one of those people who says what he thinks. Which makes him an fog horning, sociopathic clod who doesn't care how he will be perceived by others.

All hail Van Helsing.



Thursday, 10 November 2011

Day of the Glowing Heads.




There is a seven mile walk around the grounds of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park so we thought we’d go and have a wander around earlier this year.

However, on the day we arrived the entire North Sea had evaporated into one enormous cloud, trundled over to the Sculpture Park and then proceeded to unload all over the place. This put the blocks on our walk so we decided to look at the galleries inside the buildings.

Now I’m not university educated and never know quite what I should be looking at or saying when I visit art galleries so what I usually end up saying is stuff like ‘I like/don’t like that’ or ‘What the hell is it’?
One of the exhibitions pandered to my knee-jerk, reactionary attitude to modern art by basically looking like a rubbish dump.

Bits of torn up cardboard glued to a wall and an old mattress shoved through a window frame don’t say anything to me other than ‘Shit, I’d better get something ready for that art exhibition tomorrow. I know, I’ll drag some old crap out of the bin and give it a name that makes it sound meaningful.

However the next gallery was excellent, a room full of giant heads in a white room, bedded in white stones and lit from the inside so the entire thing glowed.

It was like being in an old 1970’s science fiction film. One where people in the future all walk around in floaty clothes looking all serious and communicating by touching each others palms while listening to synthesiser music.

I don’t know what this installation was called and to be honest I don’t really care. All I know is that I got to run around pretending I was in Logan’s Run for awhile and hiding from the Sandmen.

Simple pleasures.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Alec Guiness in a Dressing Gown



This was going to be a post about humanity hitting the 7 billion mark however after
reading through what I had just written I have realised that you must never see this.

It is so relentlessly grim, self-righteous and judgemental that you would never look at me in the same way again. It would damage this fragile, beautiful thing that has grown between us and I can’t bear the thought of losing you.

So I locked this post away in the darkest recesses of my laptop and instead decided to re-post of the very first things I ever put on this blog, back when I had 0 followers.

And let’s never speak of this again.

When I was ten years old my parents took me to see Star Wars when it was first released. They made a special occasion of it and we got the train to Bradford and went to the Odeon, this was an impressive structure back then but like so many city centre cinemas it is now it is boarded up and has trees growing out of it’s roof.

Just before the film started the cinema went dark and a spotlight shone on a glitterball hanging from the ceiling, filling the auditorium with rectangles of light. Then the deep, mahogany voice of James Earl Jones boomed out ‘May the Force be With You’.
This was going to be special.

And it was. I spent the next couple of hours with my jaw hanging open, watching something I had never seen the like of before.

Jump forward 20 years and I am in another cinema with my girlfriend watching the digitally re-mastered version of Star Wars with new added lizards and shiny bits.
About half way through I realised that I was mentally compiling the weeks shopping list and yawning. Star Wars was boring.

When it was first released back in the 70’s the special effects were ground breaking and blew everyone away and George Lucas said he wanted to recreate the Saturday morning kids shows like Flash Gordon.

I enjoyed those shows as well when I was kid and that’s my point, I was a kid.
After the wow factor of seeing planet-sized spaceships the faults start to show, like the one dimensional characters and the massive coincidences such as half the main characters being related to each other like a bunch of space rednecks.

Or the teeth grindingly annoying ‘comedy’ characters like See Threepio or that frog thing with the ears, who talk in amusing foreign accents, bicker with each other then fall over then sit up looking dazed with something stuck on their heads at a funny angle.

As for Darth Vader, apart from looking fairly cool he isn’t much of a villain. He swishes about in his cape, wheezing like an asthmatic and making mild threats. At one point he stabs Alec Guniness’s dressing gown so I suppose that’s criminal damage. Other than that he is just a big bloke in a helmet.

Getting annoyed about Star Wars is as pointless as sitting here writing about it. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that will steam roller on. Millions will go to watch the films even though most of them seem to come away feeling disappointed as though they thought they might re-capture their youth but instead watched a two hour commercial for Star Wars merchandise.

I won’t be joining them.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Terrible Nova.






I know it has been on the TV for a few weeks but I watched the first episode of Terra Nova the other night.




In the first few minutes I was told that in the future the Earth is an overcrowded, pollution filled hell hole where everyone wears smog masks and families are allowed to have two kids only. Then I was introduced to the heroes of this series which was a family including dad who is a policeman and mum who is a doctor, they have two teenage kids but have also had a third illegal kid who is about five or six.



So the heroes are two people in positions of authority who have decided that two kids aren't enough for them and have squeezed out a third for no reason other than their own selfishness.


Suddenly there is a knock at the door and grim faced men in black uniforms burst in and search their apartment. They quickly find the youngest child who has been hidden away in a crawl space behind a wall. Despite the child being around five years old she is too stupid to remain quiet and starts whimpering 'Mummy' until the grim-faced men can't help but find her.



Dad then kicks off and punches a couple of the grim faced men before being stabbed with space cattle prods.


We then jump forward a couple of months where dad is in prison and being visited by his doctor wife where they discuss his overreaction and the fact that if he hadn't immediately resorted to violence and attacked the grim-faced men then he would have only been fined and not been locked up for a few years. So the whole 'Anne Frank' scenario falls apart and the grim faced men are suddenly more like police men doing their jobs rather than evil SS figures.



I may sound judgemental but so far I'm not warming to these characters.


His wife then slips him some kind of break-out of jail kit.


To cut this sorry tale short a wormhole in time has been discovered that links up to 85 million years in the past and a colony of humans has gone through it to set up a colony and re-engineer the past.

As our heroic wife is a doctor she is allowed to go through the wormhole and take two other people with her so she joins the queue to the wormhole with her two teenage kids. As they go through the husband who has broken out of jail pushes his way past everyone else in the queue carrying the illegal daughter in a rucksack. He then jumps through the wormhole into the past.



When they arrive in the prehistoric colony the authorities point guns at them for a few seconds then decide to do nothing other than give them a nice big house to live in. The leader of the colony frowns at the policeman every now and then but also asks him to participate in all the dangerous missions thereby allowing mutual respect to grow and the policeman to run around with a gun.


If anyone is still reading this post then I apologise for the rambling nature of it but I wanted to justify my opinion of how shit I think this programme is. It is a perfect example of special effects being no substitute for good storytelling. What exactly is is trying to say?


Basically two people whose jobs put them in a position to see how much damage overcrowding is causing have decided to ignore this and have as many children as they want, despite the future not looking great for their kids. They have broken one member of the family out of prison and then shoved other people aside so they can set themselves up in a better world.


After being told to root for a bunch of selfish, irresponsible arseholes like this there is little point in discussing the formulaic nature of the writing or the characters that are so shallow that they might as well have saved money on actors and used paper plates nailed to broom handles with the character traits written on them instead, such as 'Moody Teenage Son' and 'Gruff Authority Figure'.


If you want to watch a drama about a group of people trying to survive in a hostile enviroment then you are better off watching 'The Walking Dead'. The first series of this was gripping and I just watched epidsode one of series two last night and was literally on the edge of my seat at one point. This too has movie production values but the difference is they spent some of the budget on good writers and it makes all the difference. You care about the characters and when they are in danger it is genuinely nerve-wracking.

As for Terra Nova it manages to make Dinosaurs boring, which I suppose some sort of accomplishment.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Machno Witch: Part 2.




The next day saw us invent a whole new sport. There was a lawn at the front of the cottage surrounded by a wall, two players would stand facing each other and try to hit the opposite wall with a football while defending their own wall against the other players attempts.




Only feet could be used to attack the other wall and to try and tackle the other player but hands could be used to defend against strikes. We gave this the imaginative title of 'Wall Ball' and it proved so popular that by the end of the week there was barley any grass left on the lawn.


So we spent most of the day kicking a football and shouting while a chicken slowly roasted in the coal burning stove and the sun climbed to it's zenith then began to sink towards the horizon.


So far so Waltons Mountain.





In the late afternoon two of my mates said they were going to drive up the mountain to the disused slate quarry. They had heard there was a small deserted village called Machno near the quarry and wanted to have a look. About an hour after they had left the rest of us were sat in the garden supping a bottle of wine when we saw a cloud of dust approaching along the dirt track at some speed.


The cause of the cloud was my mate's Renault 5 which was bouncing along far too fast to be doing it's suspension any good. It slewed to a halt outside the cottage and they both got out looking a bit wild eyed.


'You aren't going to believe what we've just seen', they said.





They had driven up the narrow road that wound up the mountain and ended in the village of Machno. The condition of the road got worse the further they went until they it wasn't much more than a track.


They arrived in the ghost village which a was a huddle of abandoned slate cottages surrounded by dense forest. Getting out of the car, the trees seeming to muffle all sound in the empty village.



Then they noticed smoke risng from a garden of one of the cottages and walked towards it. The cottage looked in better condition than the rest of the village, there was still glass in the windows. As they got to the wall they saw a small bonfire smouldering in the overgrown garden.





Suddenly a bizzare figure leapt up from behind the wall. It was an ancient looking woman with white hair sticking wildly in all directions from her head and her hands stretched out on either side of her. My shocked friends then realised that smoke was rising from her hands and in each palm she was holding a fistful of glowing coals.





Then she opened her mouth and let out a shriek like a boiling kettle, waving her handfuls of smouldering coals as she did so.


My friends did the only sensible thing and screamed like girls and ran to the car. They tried to do a 3 point turn on the narrow lane which turned into an 8 point turn in their panicky state then didn't take the foot off the accelerator until they got back.





It was after they had breathlessly told us this tale that we realised that we had run out of ten pence pieces for the electricity meter and would have to spend the night in utter darkness apart from the glow of the fire. The village shop was closed for the night so we went to The Eagles for some change to be told that they didn't have any ten pences, which made us think that they were in on it and setting us up for a Straw Dogs scenario.


However we were resourceful and drove the ten miles to the next village and got some change from a pub there.


And so we sat up that night waiting to see if a crowd of locals would come to try and sacrifice us to the Witch of the Mountain, which of course they didn't and in the morning we felt like a right bunch of pillocks.


Nearly 20 years later I was hiking in Wales and took a detour out of curiousity and revisited Penmachno. It still looks the same but the customers in The Eagles were no longer quarrymen but tourists and hikers.


The slate barman was long gone and replaced by an attractive girl from Poland.


No-one knew anything about Machno or an old lady who lived up there and I didn't go looking for her.


I'd like to say that we found out who she was and explain her story but I can't. With hindsight she was probably a some poor lost soul living alone in a dead village who had gone mad with the isolation. It's a theory, I suppose.





Still, it was a great holiday and I would recommend it to anyone.



Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Machno Witch.





Before I tell this story I just want to say that no matter how outlandish or ridiculous some of the things I put in these posts are, I am not a creative writer and lying to you would be of no benefit to me.
Everything I tell you is true.

Here we go.

In the early ‘90s my friends and I rented a cottage in the small Welsh village of Penmachno in the Snowdonia Mountains. The cottage was on the outskirts of the village and had a coal burning stove, a coal fire in the living room, there was no TV and the electricity ran on a coin operated meter.

The village was at the foot of a mountain that contained a disused slate quarry. There were two pubs and four or five churches, all made from slate, in fact the whole place was slate.

On our first night there we walked down the unlit dirt track leading from the cottage and went to the nearest pub, called The Eagles.
We walked through the door into the heat from an open fireplace and din of voices, all speaking the Welsh language. The place was full of huge quarrymen, all of whom turned to look at us.

The pub fell silent as me and my four mates stood in the doorway being stared at. Now anyone who has seen American Werewolf in London will know this to be a Slaughtered Lamb moment. If you haven’t seen that film then you must do so immediately as it is a classic.

I looked around the pub and over at the roaring log fire place, made from slate of course. Above the fire was a large stone lintel with the words ‘Fear Knocked at the Door, Faith answered and No-one Was There’ carved into it.

Great, we’re going to end up in a fucking Wicker Man, I thought.
There was no going back now so we walked to the bar through the heavy silence.

‘What can I get you’? said the barman, who also looked like he was made of slate. As I looked at the row of hand pumps along the bar a huge bloke standing next to me held out his pint and said “Here, try a bit of that”. It was a deep, dark brown, almost black and I took a sip. It tasted as strong and dark as it looked

“Blimey, that’ll put hairs on my chest. What is it”? I asked, grimacing.

This was apparently hilarious as the big feller burst out laughing.

“John Smith’s Bitter and Beamish Stout mixed”, said the man.

“Looks like we’ll be having four pints of that then” I said.

“You lads sound English, whereabouts are you from”? asked the barman.

When we told them we were from Yorkshire the atmosphere suddenly relaxed and conversation started up again.
The Welsh are like the Scots and Irish in that they hate the English because of the nasty habit we had of invading them all the time. Fortunately for my friends and I Yorkshire shares a mining heritage with Wales so our presence in the pub was tolerated.
If we had been from Liverpool or London things wouldn’t have ended as amicably.

So we sat at a table and necked our bitter/stout pints while outside the mountains became enveloped in a night so black it was like outer space..

To be concluded in next weeks post: The Witch!!!!




Sunday, 2 October 2011

Trollywood.




I was at the cinema recently and saw a trailer for Troll Hunter, a Norwegian film about the government employing someone to hunt the above mentioned mythical creatures.



Now this film hasn’t even been released yet and already American studios are negotiating for the rights to remake it.



Why?

If people want to see a film about hunting trolls then this desire has already been catered for by the Norwegians. Hollywood has a habit of buying the rights to perfectly good films made in other countries and turning them into American versions.

Troll Hunter will be interesting BECAUSE it is Norwegian, it won’t look or sound like an American film but that isn’t something to be afraid of.

I watched an English dubbed version of John Woo’s Hard Boiled where the dialogue seemed to be mainly people shouting at each other between gunfights. Then I saw a sub titled version of the same film and it was entirely different. There was good dialogue and character development and the film was greatly improved.

So instead of making a remake of Troll Hunter, probably set in Oregon or some such why not just watch the original?

Watching films from other countries can be an entertaining insight into their cultures. Mind you, those French films where people mope around smoking Gauloises and bursting into tears or laughter for no apparent reason are shit.

And by the way, I am having a problem commenting on some people’s sites, when I click Post Comment my text disappears. Any ideas?

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Becks a Man Can Get.



I've just finished a seven day shift and feel like a bag of smashed crabs. I need an uplifting story to cheer me up so how about this one.


I was talking to a friend of mine recently and he recounted this tale told to him by a work colleague (who I'll call Trevor as I can't remember his real name).

A few years ago Trevor went to the Trafford Shopping Centre in Manchester with his wife and son (who I'll call Daniel for the above reason).


It was Daniel's 9th birthday and he wanted a Manchester United home kit and had been given enough gift vouchers to buy one. Now parking at the Trafford Centre is abysmal and after trolling around looking for a spot with an increasingly bored kid kicking the back of his seat Trevor told his wife and kid to get out and go shopping without him. He would continue looking for a space and meet them outside Woolworths in an hour.

This would give Trev time to park the car, get a cup of coffee and a quick read of the paper beofere the ensuing boredon of shopping for somebody else's benefit.

Eventually Trev got parked and was making his way through the car park when he noticed some men geting out of a black SUV.

Two of them were big lads who looked like personal security but there was no mistaking the third man. David Beckham, at the time still a midfielder for Manchester United.

Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity, Trevor walked over and introduced himself and explained that his son was a huge Manchester United fan and asked for an autograph.

Beckham obliged and even supplied the pen and paper while Trevor, being a bit starstruck, babbled away that he was meeting his wife and son in 40 minutes outside Woolworths.

Trev thanked Becks profusely and went for his coffee, thrilled about being able to give his son Beckham's autograph.



He met them outside Woolworths and was just about to tell them what had happened when they heard a voice behind them say, "Excuse me, is your name Daniel"?

They all turned around and there stood Beckham with a carrier bag in his hand. All the blood ran out of Daniel's face and he just stared.

"I've heard it's your birthday and I'd like to give you these. Happy Birthday".

And so for his ninth birthday young Daniel got a Manchester United strip, a football and a card all signed by David Beckham along with a memory that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

Well, I don't know about you but that cheers me right up.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Stating the Stupid.



Sod it, I'm going to have a rant.



Here is a list of things that people say that annoy me to the extent that I grind my teeth so hard they shatter and my face collapses in on itself. And when I say people I include my intolerant, arrogant and judgemental self.

1. 'Why should I'?


This is usually a response given by someone who has been asked to pick up a piece of litter they have dropped or help someone with something that wouldn't necessarily benefit the person posing this fatuous, childish question.



People who adopt this philosophy tend to be pebble brained, cold-blooded shit bags with less sense of social responsibilty than a Box jellyfish.

Why should you indeed? Well how about just for the sake of helping your fellow man and making the world a fractionally more pleasant place to live in? Groups of monkeys help each other out as they are aware that they in turn may need a hand moving a particurlary heavy pile of bananas one day and if they help their fellow monkeys today then can expect the favour to be reciprocated in the future.


If monkeys can grasp this concept then so can you.

2. 'I'm not a racist, but...'.

When somebody starts a sentence with this then you know that the next thing to come out of there mouth will be so racist that the very words themselves may as well be wearing jackboots. Judging by the number of times I have hard people utter this sentence then it would appear that no-one in the world is racist.

However I believe that everybody in the world is racist. We may not all show it on the surface but somewhere in the dark, reptilian parts of our brains there lurks a tribal impulse that automatically makes us root for our own racial type.

I'm not condoning it, it's how we deal with this and each other that makes us the people that we are but we need to accept this and not hide behind this thin veneer of pretending not to notice other people's cultural differences.

So instead why not say 'I am a racist, but....' and then follow this with something constructive.

3. 'I know my rights'.

The battlecry of tracksuit wearing, benefit claiming, scrounging layabouts everywhere. They know that their rights are to sit around all day watching daytime TV on huge, plasma screen tellys, smoking cheap fags and drinking shit lager while you work in order to provide taxes so they can maintain the directionless, twilight existence they live in.

What about knowing your responsibilties instead?

Ok, that's enough of that. I'm in danger of drowning myself in bile and disillusionment if I aren't careful. The world is already a seething bauble of rage and doesn't need my input.

After you have read this promise me you will go and look at pictures of kittens to balance out your chakras or whatever.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Night We Blinded Lemmy.



It’s 1981 and a bunch of 15 year old lads from Halifax are excited to be out in in the big city. We'd travelled the 10 miles from our hometown by train and are here to see the world’s loudest, dirtiest, drunkest and wartiest band of the 80’s, Motorhead.

Dressed in the NWOBHM uniform of denim jackets with the sleeves torn off with band patches sewn all over them. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was at it’s height and there were more bands than there was time in the day to listen to them all.

I had a large patch sewn on the back of my jacket from the Fly By Night album cover by Rush. I didn’t even like Rush but they were metal so that as reason enough.

We got inside the venue an watched the first two support acts. First up were Lightning Raiders, who quite frankly weren’t going to get anywhere with that name, they sounded like a brand of confectionery.

Then came the forgettable Tank, I can’t comment on these as I don’t remember a thing about them.

The third act were Trust and these were much more interesting. These were a French metal band, the drummer Nicko McBrain joined Iron Maiden when they became massive. Their signature song Anti-social was covered by Anthrax a few years ago.

While these were on we were standing by the sound desk in the middle of the audience when my mate suddenly started pointing excitedly.


Look behind the sound desk, it’s Lemmy he said.

Sure enough there stood the Lemster himself, talking with the sound engineer and watching Trust while swigging a can of Carlsberg Special Brew and chain smoking Marlboros.

We couldn’t concentrate on Trust at this point, Lemmy would have to walk through the crowd to get out of the sound booth so this would give us a chance to get his autograph. The fact that none of us had pen or paper didn't occur to us.

Sure enough near the end of Trust's set Lemmy stepped out into the crowd . No-one else seemed to notice although I don’t know how, to me he looked about nine feet tall. He made his way through the crowd away from us and we made our move. The biggest and oldest of us decided to get Lemmy’s attention by reaching out to tap him on the shoulder.

As he did so, Lemmy, for reasons known only to himself, turned around and my mate's finger poked him in the eye.

Lemmy let out a roar and flailed his arms around, spraying special Brew all over us. We did the only sensible thing and panicked, scattering into the crowd with visions of the concert being cancelled due to Lemmy being blinded and ourselves being lynched by enraged Motorheadbangers.

None of us washed our jackets after that, although to be honest we had never washed them before it and had no plans to wash them in the future, not with Lemmy's Special Brew all over them.

So we can say that we poked Lemmy in the eye and got away with it.

Unless he reads this blog.


Friday, 26 August 2011

The Talking Dead



In March this year I put up a post called Bring Out Your Dead in which I worked myself up into a lather over psychics and mediums.


I became so enraged that I ended up standing in the garden with no shirt on, bellowing incoherently into the sky until I was tasered by the police.



Ok, not that last bit.


Now I wouldn't normally revisit a subject that I have already posted about but I recently had a conversation with a work colleague who had visited one of those medium shows.




She said that the medium had 'known things she couldn't possibly know'.

These turned out to be how her grandmother had died, what her name was what had happened to her grandad.

However my friend said that the medium askd a lot of questions before coming out with these facts.

This technique is called cold reading, where the medium throws out vague questions into the crowd like bait until someone bites and says they know someone called Trevor or something.

The medium will then ask questions, eliminatng any dead ends or questions that aren't leading anywhere by saying that another stronger message is coming through or something, until the person he is asking has unwittingly given the medium all the information they need. People tend to forget about all the leading questions and focus on the ones that hit home.

So other than stuff that my friend already knew, what did granny have to say? Basically nothing other than don't worry about me now, I'm alright.

Now as far as I'm concerned, being dead is as far away from being alright as anyone can get, so what was the point of this excercise other than the medium trying to prove that they can talk to the dead?



My friend defended the medium by saying that she brought comfort to the grieving.

Grieving people want to believe that their lost loved ones still somehow exist somewhere and that we will meet them again. I lost my mother and the aching hole that is left inside takes a long time to heal and never truly goes away.

Now imagine that you discovered that you could talk to the dead, you have proof that there is an afterlife.

What would you do?

I bet most of you would not take your gift out on the road, charging grieving and vulnerable people £20 for a theatre seat where you would tantalise them with vague statements and platitudes. It may bring comfort but it isn't right.

Like I said before, if mediums are so confident of their power then why aren't they aproaching the scientific community and saying, 'I can talk to the dead, hook me up to whichever machines you think can help and together we can prove there is actually an afterlife. That way I can really provide comfort to the grieving'.

But they never do. When confronted with a sceptic who puts them on the spot on a talk show or something and asks them to talk to the dead their usual line of defence is that they cannot turn their power on and off like a tap.



Unless they are in a theatre full of paying customers, then the power flows just fine.

It says something about how strong the need for comfort is within us all when we tolerate this level of opportunistic bullshit and is a worrying sign of our increasing tendency to disregard rational thought in favour of unthinking, emotional response.



Anyway, next week I promise I will post something a bit more light hearted, about when I got run over by a car perhaps or when my mate shot himself in the bollocks with a crossbow.




Friday, 19 August 2011

Master of Puppets



The other night I had a nightmare in which ventriloquist dummies Cuddles the Monkey and Orville the Duck were in a room illuminated dimly by a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling.


Orville lay motionless on a table beneath the bulb while Cuddles lay on the floor, slumped against the wall.


Without a ventriloquist to operate and give them a character and a voice they looked like the corpses of murder victims. Then, without moving, they began to speak.



At this point I woke up sweating, glad that I had done so before hearing what they had to say.


So spare a thought for the ventriloquist, in this instance Keith Harris who operates them. He sees them in this state all the time.

What must this do to his brain? Look at his face next time he does his act, I know that he is operating all sorts of facial muscles to get the voice out without moving his lips but the fixed grin and staring eyes make him look as though he might one day secrete a gun inside Orville and halfway through his act begin firing wildly into the crowd through the doll's squeaky little beak.

Sooty and his gang were even worse. Although hand puppets rather than ventriloquist dolls they still had a human handler, poor old Matthew Corbett who had to try and keep this mob of anti-social, fabric bastards in check.


He would try and organise something nice, like a birthday party only to see it all smashed up by Sweep who would flail around squeaking like a rusty door hinge in a hurricane.

The silent Sooty was invariably the manipulative ringleader but would only communicate by whispering into Corbett's ear, who would deliver Sooty's message to the audience and turn back to Sooty just in time to receive a faceful of water pistol from the ungrateful, silent little sneak.



Puppets and dolls are not funny, they freak people out and their operators have the look of people who have realised that they have gone down a showbiz deadend and will be forever associated with the inanimate object they give life to.

If puppets are such good entertainment for kids then why are there so many films about dolls coming to life and stabbing people or ventriloquist dolls taking over their operators?


People used to use dolls to cast spells on each other and they are grotesque caricatures of ourselves.


So think about that the next time you plonk your kids in front of Sesame Street.

And don't get me started on clowns.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Blame Lindsay.



The lovely Lindsay N Currie has recently been given an award where she has to write about five movies/books/ TV shows that she has recently enjoyed.

Now I have to plead ignorance as to how the award system works in the blogging world and am too lazy to find out. However she has kindly asked myself and several others to compile a similar list and as I like Lindsay it would be churlish of me to refuse.



1. BOOK. The Circuit by Bob Shepherd. A factual account by Shepherd who is a retired SAS soldier now working in the private security business, protecting CNN journalists in Afghanistan. Not as gung-ho as it sounds, he shows that training and meticulous planning are the key to keeping his charges as safe as possible and there isn't a firefight in the entire book. He makes an effort to get to know the locals and this gives him local knowledge and a lot of insight.



Reading military histories and sporting biographies must be a middle aged bloke thing, I never used to read them when I was younger but I read loads of them now. I'm turning into Alan Partridge.


2. TV SHOW. Sirens. This is a comedy drama involving a paramedic team in the city of Leeds. As I live in Leeds I spent most of the series pointing at the screen and saying ‘I’ve been in that pub/street/restaurant’.

Also a friend of mine was an extra on it and he told me it was originally going to be called ‘Naked Apes’ which is what ambulance crews call the mass of drunken pillocks lurching around Leeds city centre at night.

3. MOVIE. Blue Valentine. A great film about a blue collar romance that jumps from the beginning of the relationship when they are both fresh faced and eager to six years down the line when they both look knackered. With two outstanding central performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. One of those films that you think about for days afterwards and a nice change from wizards, robots and exploding helicopters.


Sadder than watching a dying horse.

4. ALBUM. Kaos Legion by Arch Enemy. A European thrash metal band I have seen a couple of times, most recently at Graspop Festival in Belgium where they were gathering a lot of interest despite not been on the main stage.


You either love or hate this stuff as it is very fast, very heavy and the lass who sings sounds like a cat being thrown off a cliff.

I love it.

5. TV SHOW AGAIN. The Wire. Ok, I'm cheating here as I haven't watched this recently but as it is the best TV show ever made I think it deserves a mention.

It's set in Baltimore and charts the drug dealers, their bosses, the cops that chase them, the cop's bosses, the journalists chasing everybody and the politicians running the show.

Every character is totally believable it it really is the best drama I have seen. I could go on about it all day but instead I urge you to try it.

Be warned though, it sets the benchmark so high that everything you watch afterwards will be found wanting.

Full of Wirey goodness.

So there you go, that's some of the stuff that has recently been distracting me from doing more useful stuff like learning to play the bagpipes or picking the cat shit out of my flowerbeds. Enjoy.



Monday, 1 August 2011

Ypres.





The letter I was reading was nearly 100 years old and was from a wife to her husband, an English soldier in the First World War. It was behind a glass case containing many other letters between soldiers and their famililes.

All the panels containing letters and personal effects were lit from within and provided the only light in the darkened room. Through a speaker a young girls voice quietly listed the names and ages of the dead soldiers, relentlessly and endlessly.

The letter ended with the wife saying how much she loved him and missed him and hoped he would come home safely. I counted eight kisses at the bottom of the letter.

He never got back to England, he was buried just outside among the rows and rows of pristine white headstones on Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. The cemetery is filled with British and New Zealand soldiers who had died during the unimaginable slaughter of the Battle of Passchendale in 1917, there was a small museum annexing the graveyard and the rear wall of the cemetery was carved with the names of the 35,000 Commonwealth troops that had died during that battle.


They were buried on the low hill overlooking flat farmland that they had died for, a lump of ground considered strategic enough to send them all to their deaths.

The countryside in this area of Belgium is filled with graveyards containing the dead of the two World Wars. They are kept in immaculate condition by the Commonwealth War Graves Commision. My own grandfather, Gordon Porch lies in a small graveyard in Tunisia, he was killed in North Africa in World War 2, inside the museum you can bring up his details and pictures of his grave on a computer.

In the nearby town of Ypres there is an enormous stone arch stretching across the road into the town square called the Menin Gate. The Gate is inscribed with the names of the 57,000 men whose bodies were never identified.

It was through this town that Commonwealth soldiers passed on their way to the frontlines and now, every night at 20:00 the town stops and a crowd gathers beneath the Gate.


The Last Post is played by four buglers, a wreath is laid, a poem is spoken and the buglers then play Reveille. Then town resumes it's business as usual. This has happened every night since 1928 apart from during the Second World War for obvious reasons.

When I witnessed this there was a large crowd, coach loads of European school children arrived and stood watching in silence as the ceremony was played out.


The UK was never invaded during the World Wars and I know some people in my country that have never even heard of these wars. But Europe suffered terribly during both and they have not forgotten.



I once visited a town in Northern France called Oradour. During the Second World War a high ranking German officer was killed near there by the French Resistance and the Germans suspected they had assistance from the people of Oradour.


They sent a squad of SS soldiers, fresh from the brutal conflict of the Russian Eastern Front to make an example.

They wiped out everyone in the town they came across and set fire to the whole place.

The French have left the town as it was after the carnage, bodies removed obviously. There are rusting hulks of cars and trucks in the cobbled streets, the remains of sewing machines and cooking pans in the kitchens. the personal effects of the townspeople are in a small museum nearby.

The Europeans have not forgotten what happened and they are right to do so , the cost of these conflicts is brought sharply into focus when you are faced with the physical reality of the aftermath. The lessons of history are there to be learned and have not being bulldozed to make way for profit.



Seeing these things was a humbling and emotional experience that I will never forget and also unexpected as I had only gone to Belgium to watch the Graspop Heavy Metal Festival.




Friday, 22 July 2011

Captain Haddock's Beard






If you were to try and name a good song that Sting has done as a solo artist I bet most of you would struggle. Police songs don't count as they were a lighting-in-a-bottle collaboration of Copeland and Summers and Sting.


No, I mean the stuff he has done since then. Englishman in New York sounds like elevator music, Fields of Gold is the sort of dirge that people play at funerals and The Russians contains the line 'Believe me when I say to you' which is the sort of line an amateur songwriter would cram in to make it rhyme .



Yet he is still around, knocking out laclkustre songs that bimble in one ear and out the other, leaving no discernible trace of their passing, sung in an annoying nasal whine with no range.


A couple of years ago he managed to climb new heights of pretension when he released an album of folk music and to show his commitment he had a suitably folksy image update by growing a beard of Captain Haddock proportions that looked like a Welcome mat wrapped around his neck.


But this is not enough for The Stingster, he accompanies the album with an hour long concert filmed in Durham Cathedral and shown on the BBC over Christmas called 'Stings Winter Songbook'.


Not happy with a full orchestra he also surrounds himself with choirs, Morrocan percussionists, throat singers and people playing instruments so bizarre they look like something from a Dr Seuss book.


Despite all of this back up it still manages to sound like a load of meandering, tuneless cack


Interspersed with the concert footage we get to see His Stingness wandering around a street market in his hometown of Newcastle, looking all 'back to his roots' in his big coat and scarf and regaling the viewer with tales of how his dad took him to the same market when he was a kid.



He then engages in some awkward banter with a market trader and buys a book on Newcastle United which he doesn't even pay for, having to borrow ten quid off the cameraman.



I suppose if he is this skint it might explain his desire to push his new album so much.

I'm sure Mr Sting has a good reason for calling himself Sting but I don't care and can't be bothered finding out, such is the lack of passion the man arouses. I don't know anybody who goes to his concerts or buys his albums, I know the Police reunion was popular but the attraction for people there was the band as a whole, not Sting himself.

However Sting is a rich man and will carry on doing what he likes, churning out songs that are tolerated rather than enjoyed, much like Paul McCartney.

And before anybody says it I am fully aware that Sting is a highly successful musician who is so rich that he didn't even notice when his accountant syphoned five million quid out of Sting's account and I have just done four night shifts in a row and feel like I ahve been punched in the brain.

So yes, I am bloody jealous of him.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Enormous Bollocks.






I visited The Great Yorkshire Show this week for the first time, this is an annual agricultural show where the regions farmers gather to compete their livestock and drink lots of Black Sheep Bitter. The place was also crawling with landed gentry who walked around wearing Bertie Wooster style tweed clothes and posh hair.


A walk around the livestock pens was an eye opener, I've seen plenty of cows and sheep in my time but these have all been average, run of the mill animals. The ones in the pens were the super models of the livestock world, enormous sheep with gold coloured fleeces, bulls as big as vans and and a huge variety of pigs. Everywhere I looked there were stud animals, bulls, rams and boars and all of them with gigantic testicles.

Young farmhands sat between the stalls talking and drinking beer, every so often getting up to wipe a cows backside and squirt it with water after it had a crap to keep it's anus in show-standard condition.

We watched a falconry display where the falconer flew an enormous African Griffin Vulture with a seven and a half foot wingspan. Before it took off he warned that if it should land in the crowd then no-one should attempt to stroke it as it would have their fingers off.


Off it flew, flapping it's massive wings to gain height. It reached a decent altitude then banked with the turning circle of an aircraft carrier and headed straight at me.


Now I've never seen a vulture up close before, let alone have come hurtling towards me and this one looked as big as a small family car with wings. I ducked my head a little too late and got a slap in the face from the end of it's wing. It landed right behind me.

It was the height of a small child and was looking balefully at me in the eye and nobody in their right mind would try and stroke something that looked as hard as that.

A little later we saw a large crowd gathered near the sheep-shearing competition pens and lots of coppers helmets poking above the crowds heads.


Prince Charles and Camilla had turned up to have a nosey around. Now as well as never seeing a vulture in the flesh I've never seen a real live royal before and I tend to think that people who wait for hours to get a glimpse of a royal are a bit mental.

It turns out that I am in fact one of these people and ran over to get a look at them as they examined some fleeces, talked to some men wearing bowler hats, had a bit of a chat with some of the crowd then got in some well armoured 4x4's and left.

So there we are, The Great Yorkshire Show. I saw my first Royal, lots and lots of of animal bollocks and got a slap off a vulture. Not bad for twenty quid.



Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Unbearable Shiteness of Beans





One thing that can make fully grown and seemingly rational adults suddenly metamorphose into squealing toddlers is food.



I have seen intelligent people with well paid, responsible jobs pull ludicrous faces and make 'Eurrgh' noises when presented with a plate of broccolli.



I once bought some Wild Boar sausages from a farmers market and when I told a couple of people about it they instantly wrinkled their noises, made 'Eurrgh' noises and said that it sounded disgusting.


Why are they disgusting? They are only pretentious pork sausages.

I was once eating a potato salad that contained broccolli that I had made myself when a work colleague asked why I wasn't eating 'normal' food.

Now people have been eating vegetables for thousands of years so surely this is normal. What my colleague was eating was a pasty he had bought from a petrol station with so many flavour enhancers and stabilizers in it that the list of ingredients took up half the packet. How is this considered normal food?

Parents across the world each day face a mealtime battle with sulky kids half-heartedly pushing decent food around their plates and whining because it isn't beige-coloured, lathered in saturated fat and endorsed by a talking cartoon animal. For many of these children this attitude towards food continues into adulthood.

In our culture we are bombarded by companies enticng us to buy mass produced food, so industrially processed that the flavour and smell have to be added chemically. This level of advertising saturation makes it seem that junk food is inevitable but this is not the case.

It's only been in the past 50 years or so that the inustrialisation of food has taken place but it has been so aggressive that many of us think that it has always been this way and are distrustful and wary of food that doesn't come with advertising and colourful packaging.



I think this is one of the reasons why many people build up a preconcieved notion of healthy food and dismiss it out of hand without ever even trying it.

What picky eaters need to do when confronted with a food they have not tried before is to not immediately regress to infanthood but to put it in their mouth, chew and then swallow.

That way if they don't like it they are qualified to say so and don't ever need to eat it again.











Easy, Easy.







When I was younger I was a member of a wrestling club for a while. I had no particular love for the sport but the club used to get free, unsupervised access to a local school swimming pool on Monday evenings and that was the attraction for me.





We used to turn the heating up full until the pool was so warm it steamed and had water fights with the firehoses.


Back then American wrestling was unheard of in England and we had our own wrestling stars.



Arguably the most famous was Big Daddy who came from my home town of Halifax in Yorkshire. He used to wear a top hat and his battle cry was 'Easy, Easy' and his signature move was the Big Daddy Splash' which entailed a very fat man belly flopping on your head.



In fact most British wrestlers back then tended to be on the chubby side, Giant Haystacks was six foot eleven inches tall and looked like a huge cannonball with a beard.



The audience seemed to consist mainly of old ladies, some of whom would become so crazed with blood lust they would hit the wrestlers with their handbags if they were thrown from the ring.



The big, fat lads are pretty much gone now, replaced by the pumped-up, shouty, mulleted egomaniacs of American wrestling with their over-the-top threats and fireworks.



I've never really got wrestling, it seems to be a violent sport for people who don't like violence. Everything is choreographed and staged and everyone knows that no-one will really be hurt, unlike boxing or cage fighting where the violence is very much real.



It is pure entertainment and spectacle and seems a long way from what I learned at wrestling school which was grapples, holds and throws. We never learned how to hit someone over the head with a folding chair or clatter someone with a step ladder.






So wrestling is a fairly harmless pantomime with no real injuries. Unless you count all the wrestlers who have died from heart failure due to steroid abuse, that is.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Ada's Last Journey.



Yesterday I went for a walk with my Dad and my wife onto Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire. My Dad is 75 years old and not too good on his feet these days so he was struggling and had to keep stopping for breaks.

We pushed on through the ferns and heather, climbing a secluded gully with a stream running down it in the midday sun. I walked closely behind Dad so I could grab him if he fell but didn't make it too obvious as he is still a proud man, he served in the Royal Navy and the police until back injury forced him out.

Ordinarily he wouldn't be walking terrain like this but we were on a mission of duty. I was carrying a rucksack on my back.

It wasn't very heavy as all it contained was the ashes of my grandmother Ada Porch.

She died on April 22nd last year, eight months shy of her 100th birthday and my dad felt it was time to make the pilgrimage and scatter her remains on the moors above the small town of Burley-in-Wharfedale where she was born and raised.

We finally stopped halfway up the gully next to a water fall. This was the same spot where my dad had scattered the ashes of my mother 16 years ago. My grandma's husband had been killed in North Africa during World War 2 and my mother was her only child, she had never remarried.
She moved in with my parents before I was born and lived with us for many years, to me and my brothers it was like having three parents so we were close to her.

We stood by the waterfall as my dad took the ashes from the rucksack.

"Here we are Ada", he said, "back with your daughter again after all these years".

"You were always telling us you were a nuisance and in the way but we were glad you were always there for us", I said as my dad cast the ashes into the waterfall and we watched them swirl in the pool below and settle on the surrounding rocks.

When I was a kid my grandma would buy me a Pink Panther chocolate bar every Saturday when she came back from town. She walked me to infant school every day when I was young.

She baked the best Butterfly buns in the world.

She smoked Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes and liked to put whisky in her tea. She was always there for us and we all loved her.

Ada Porch, December 5th 1910 - April 22nd 2010.

Night night Grandma.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Time Off.



I've not been able to blog as much as I like for the past few weeks. Big changes at work and doing shifts have taken up for more time than they should. The good news is that I have just got tomorrow to get through then I'm off walking in the Welsh mountains for a week.



Where I am going is fairly isolated so no Wi-fi therefore no blogging for a week. Before I sign off I just want to bring a couple of blogs to your attention. Firstly the bigfathurt.blogspot.com is a brilliantly written, open and honest blog where Amy charts her weight loss and exercise regime, well worth a look.



Secondly is http://semi-coherentthoughts.blogspot.com/ where Core posts short, sharp and always funny observations that I dare you not to laugh at.



So, wish me luck as I scramble up Mount Snowdon and don't wait up.



Friday, 3 June 2011

Mopey Cole





The most tragic person in the world is Cheryl Cole. She must be because the British tabloid press have given acres of coverage to the fact that she has been sacked from the American version of X Factor.



This is not the only time that the British media have obssessed over Cole's trials and tribulations.



She blubbed her way through an hour long interview over her failed marriage to Premiership footballer and alleged cockateer Ashley Cole on Piers Morgans Life Stories, a bland-a-thon celebrity jabber show where the eponymous, toffee-faced posho 'interviews' a collection of his celebrity mates in front of an audience of silent and star-struck peasants.


From the way she dabbed her tear filled, mascara'd eyes you'd have thought this was the end of the greatest romance the world had ever known instead of just another showbiz marriage where one of the parties had succumbed to temptation.


I'm not saying that she shouldn't be upset over the marriage failure or when things go wrong with her career but this Queen of Tragedy label is a bit melodramatic.


Her hunger for fame has helped her win a talent competition and she has allowed herself to be moulded into an effective money producing unit by Simon Cowell. This elevation by the media into 'The Nation's Sweetheart' is all part of the money machine.

Being portrayed as a tragic victim that we should feel sorry for is laughable. Her life is not a mess. She has pursued what she wanted and achieved it. She will live comfortably for the rest of her life and need never work again.

Now THIS is tragedy: I was at work recently when a call was received from an elderly lady saying that her neighbour had come into her bedroom through her wardrobe.

She told me her husband had died ten years ago and she had lost touch with her family and had lived alone for years. She had no-one left in her life and was becoming convinced that the man who lived next door was 'up to no good' and was trying to get into her house. It soon became apparent that she was suffering with dementia and was seeing things that were not there.

She asked me to sit down and she would make me a cup of tea. Sadly I could not accept this as we were talking on the phone and had never met. Her dementia was making her believe I was in the room with her.


So here is a question, who do you feel the most sympathy for: a pampered, multi-millionaire musician who has spent the last couple of years as judge over the hopes of deluded karaoke singers: or a sad, lonely old lady sliding inexorably into dementia with no-one left in her life to witness this apart from an over-stretched care system? Just one tiny soul in a sea of other lost souls.


Tune in next week for more laughs.










Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mud Rasul







A couple of weekends ago my wife and me spent the night in a posh hotel at the south end of Lake Windermere. We got it half price as part of a coupon deal on the internet.



Part of the deal was use of the gym and health spa next door and they threw in a free 30 minute Indian head massage. We spent the afternoon in the gym which was moderately well kitted out but as it was directly over the pool it was a hot as a boiler room.



The river running from the south end of Lake Windermere went right past the window so it was a decent view while running the treadmill.


I had a splash about in the pool while my wife read her book then we went for our head massage. However the girl who did the massaging had called in sick, her hands were probably cramped up with all the customers using their coupons.


We were offered a Mud Rasul instead.


I had never heard of one of these but it entailed putting on a pair of paper underpants and entering our own 'personal temple' which was basically a shower cubicle with two plastic chairs set into the wall with shower heads attached and a thing that looked like an ornamental bird bath in the middle.


We were given a bowl of different coloured muds, each one for different parts of the body and after smearing oursleves head to foot we looked like members of a long lost tribe. This was great, one of the things I loved about playing Rugby at school was diving into the mud and getting as filthy as a Warthog .


Scented steam then came out of the bird bath and we sat sweating in there for 30 minutes. For some reason I was finding this a turn on but I won't go into that right now, this is a blog for all the family.



After the steam came a 'gentle monsoon' which meant they switched the showers on.


After cleaning off the mud we were wrapped in fluffy robes and sat in comfy chairs with a cup of herbal tea and a copy of Mens Health and a nice view of the mountains around Lake Windermere.



To be honest this was a great experience and I could quite happily visit a spa hotel again. Sounds like I am embracing my feminine side as I get older.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The End of the World



According to several bloggers the world is going to end this Saturday. To celebrate here is a repost looking at the ways Hollywood thinks we will cark it.

Moonraker.

James Bond jumps onto the Star Wars bandwagon when tubby Frenchman with evil beard Hugo Drax plans to flood the Earth with nerve gas while he floats about in a space station talking in a montone voice.
His plan to repopulate the Earth in his own image ends in tears when Roger Moore and some space Marines arrive in a shuttle and smash everything up. I didn't even know America had a space army.

Mad Max

Petrol runs out and everybody goes to war, leaving the survivors to eat dog food in the Australian desert.
Everyone drives about in stock cars looking for petrol and nobody seems to have considered alternative forms of transport. The baddies dress in leather bondage gear while the goodies dress in cricket pads.
All apart from Tina Turner who wears a dress made out of pan scrubs and is town mayor.

I Am Legend

Wander around an empty New York City in the company of Will Smith and his doggy. Play golf on an aircraft carrier and talk to a shop dummy while picking up a film at a deserted Blockbuster. You'd be better off reading the book for a better ending (the mutants are now normal society and he is the monster). Best bit of the film is Will singing to his dog.

Zombies

A band of people trying to survive an apocalypse of zombies. To be honest I don't know why they bother.
The first thing I'll do when the zombies turn up is to get bitten so I can become one.
Then I can shuffle about all day looking like a drunk, not worrying about going to work or personal hygiene and moaning. A bit like living in South Leeds.

The Road

Father and son wander across a burned Earth where nothing grows and all animal life has died. The few survivors stumble through the wasteland looking for whatever they can eat, including each other. The book is brilliant but as bleak as a rain-swept Yorkshire moor in winter and more depressing than a boxful of dying puppies.

So there we are, lots to look forward to on Saturday. See you at the end of the world.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Famous Blast Words


FAME, I want to live forever! Well, you can't because in 3 billion years our galaxy will collide with the Andromeda galaxy causing entire solar systems to smash into each other and be torn apart. So nothing lasts forever.

This theory has not deterrred the neverending supply of deluded people who want to appear on shows like X Factor, American Idol and Britain's Got Talent from queuing outside TV studios. Desperate for a chance to peform in a stadium full of lasers and howling people waving signs saying things like 'WE LUV U DEREK' while a panel of sneering multi-millionaires make them dance like monkeys for our entertainment.

These people don't seem to know what they want, they chase after fame but don't consider the potential downside of achieving it.

Let's say you have achieved your ambition to be famous, you've got money and access to drugs and lots of people want to have sex with you. Now you have to worry about remaining famous, if you slip out of the limelight for a millisecond there are an army of younger, better looking people with an eye on your spot at the top.

If you go to a club you could remain stone cold sober all night but when you emerge the paparazzi will take a million phtographs of you and the one where your eyes are half closed and your jaw is hanging open like a village idiot's will make the cover of the checkout scandal rags.

Is this sort of fame really worth it? Surely the fame achieved by people like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King or Marie Curie is a more healthy kind. These people had a goal and strived to reach it, fame was a byproduct of this and not their intention.

Contestants on these talent shows often say how music is their life and all they have ever wanted is a career in music. Well why aren't forming bands, writing their own songs and doing the club circuit.

Instead they have a few drunken karaoke sessions down the pub and think they are ready. They aren't interested in achieving anything other than fame. If Simon Cowell told them he would make them a star if they shoved a pineapple up their arse spiky end first on live television, most of them would bend over.

We are so obsessed with the entertainment industry that we lose sight of the fact that if we al tried to achieve fame then our society would collapse as no-one was doing the real, unsung work.

So my advice to all those starry-eyed dreamers out there is to get a real job and contribute something worthwhile to society instead of just another bland, factory produced crooner.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Modern Art.



A while ago I was out in the centre of Leeds with my wife. We had finished shopping and were booked into a restaurant but we had a couple of hours to kill.
So we decided to spend these in the City Art Gallery.

It was free of charge and open to all so we thought an injection of culture would do us some good.

As we entered the gallery we walked past the reception desk and into a white room. I knew that there had been some building work done on the gallery recently and at first I thought that the room must have been unfinished as the builders had left some stuff behind.

Then I noticed that these items had little cards on the wall next to them with the names of pieces and the artist written on. This was in fact the exhibition.

Amongst the masterpieces on display was a load of scrunched up sellotape hanging from the ceiling called 'Cloud', a broom handle wrapped in tinfoil and leant against the wall, some twigs in a tripod shape with water filled balloons hanging off them and a bolt sticking out of the wall wrapped in coloured ribons.

Oh, and a Lidl catalogue with the middle cut out leaving only the binding and a one centimetre border.

In every room of the gallery there stood a member of staff with a walkie talkie making sure that we obeyed the signs that warned us against touching the exhibits. I didn't see how touching any of these would make the slightest bit of difference.

Now I'm not going to start saying that I think all modern art is rubbish. Art is being created all of the time and much of it is beautiful, but when I see something that looks like it took ten minutes to knock together then I don't see the point.

There seems to be an argument that says art is in the eye of the beholder and reading meaning into something that may not be apparent to others justifies the title of art.

By this rationale I could go to my local builders yard, pick up a breeze block and state that it represents 'The Despair of the Penal System'. Hey presto, instant art.

Art should be something that takes effort to create and provokes an emotional response in those who experience it and not just feelings of puzzlement and annoyance.

Calling something art might make it art but not necessarily good art.

But then I never went to university so what do I know.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Great Britain


My greatest memories of the marriage of Charles and Diana in 1981 was me and my mates racing our pedal bikes along streets that were completely free of traffic as everyone was inside watching it on the telly.

Then we went to one of my mates houses and were surprised to find his mum watching it and crying. The surprise was that she was a Socialist and member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and didn't like the Royal Family.

When we asked her why she was crying she pointed at Diana and said "She looks so beautiful".

I can't by any stretch of the imagination be called a Royalist. Not that I dislike them or think the monarchy should be abolished, just that I am indifferent as the Royal Family don't have much impact on life.

I spent the last two days with my wife camping and hiking in the Lake District, so far to the north of England that southern Scotland could be seen from the summit of Scafell.

As we set off on the long drive home today we put on the car radio, tuned into BBC Radio 4 and listened to the Royal Wedding live.

As we drove south from the Scottish border we drove through the incredible mountains of the Lake District, the sky was clear blue and the sun shone. We drove through rural villages with bunting strung out across the streets and village greens.

Driving through this beauty and listening to something that a third of the world's population was listening to gave me a real sense of pride in being British, somethng that I cannot remember feeling in a long time.

The media build up has been so saturated with it that it had become an annoyance but on the day the excitement was catching and I was glued to the radio.

We even tried to get home in time to see the balcony kiss.

What I am trying to say is that today I felt genuinely proud to be British. I know it rains a lot here but the rain makes the land green and pleasant.

We are not perfect and get a lot of things wrong but when I look at the disastrous governments in some of the Third World countries then I know that this is a great country to live in.

So let me blow a trumpet for Great Britain, no-one can put on an overblown, pompous wedding like we can and as for our countryside I give the last word to my mates mum, "She looks so beautiful".

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Mystery of the Profile Picture.


I've been a busy lad this past week and haven't had much of a chance to blog so here is a quickie.

I'm thinking of changing my profile picture but before I do let me tell you the story behind it.

In 2009 I was travelling through the Scottish Highlands on the way to the Isle of Skye, I was driving along the A87 and climbing the hill just past Loch Garry.

As I came over the brow of the hill and was coming down the other side I noticed something just off the side of the road.

I pulled over and my wife and I got out and had a look. We were standing on a patch of moorland overlooking Loch Loyne and in front of us were hundred of stones, all arranged into piles.

Not like cairns but all precariously balanced, one on top of another. There were no signs advertising it, no towns or buildings of any kind for miles around and no logical explanation for these.

They weren't glued together ot anything and I tried to do the same, balancing one rock on top of another but couldn't manage anymore than three before they fell off. some of these piles were six or seven stones high.

Now this was a failry high, exposed area and the weather in Scotland is notoriously violent so these things must blow over.

Which means someone must go up there regularly to re-stack these things. Is someone getting paid for this, if they are they need to advertise this as a tourist attraction.

World of Stone or Rockland perhaps.

If anyone else has seen anything like this please let me know.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

This is the Future.


A bloke in a shop was trying to sell me an Xbox Kinect the other day. He explained that it was similar to a Wii but instead of the control wands you used your own body as the controller.

Now I might be getting the wrong end of the stick here but as far as I'm concerned I'd be dancing round my living room like a puppet following the commands of my Xbox master.

This is the stuff that science fiction authors were writing about years ago.

The vision of life in the 21st century back then saw everyone wearing skintight silver jumpsuits and having purple hair. We would travel around in flying cars and hover shoes.

Big, clanky robots would do all the work for us and bring us our dinner while we sat in our jet-powered armchairs in front of the Smell-o-Vision.

Food would be a pill that tasted of bacon and eggs or apple pie, and we could catch a space bus if we wanted to visit Uncle Vernon who lived on the Moon.

Weirdly enough, some of these things have come to pass but have arrived gradually and in so mundane a form that I didn't realise until I was already treating them as everyday.

We deal with robots on a daily basis, from automated answer services on phone networks to the unmanned checkout in the local supermarket where a posh, faceless female voice tells us there is an 'UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA'.

If you want food pills then look at most burger outlets or ready meals. Food that has gone through such an intense industrialised process that the taste and smell have to be chemically added.

Ok, so we aren't all wearing tinfoil clothes, but at least some people have got purple hair.

Automatic doors are now so commonplace that if they don't open themselves as we approach we stand in front of them looking puzzled, as though we have momentarily forgotten how to use them.

So here we are, it's the 21st century so as far as I can see we are officially living in the future. There are people floating around in space as we speak and doors open themselves.

If science fiction is to be believed then one day we can expect the automated checkout to start blaring out 'DESTROY THE FLESHY ONES' when we try to scan our groceries.

You have been warned. Watch the skies.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

New York Conversation


Here's a quick post I thought I'd stick up after chatting with someone at work today.

The first time I went to America I landed at JFK airport and caught a bus into New York city to the Port Authority Bus Station.

After walking out of the station and standing open-mouthed, gazing at the enormous buildings like a rubber necking simpleton I went to the Interclub Hostel on the top floors of the Carter Hotel on 43rd Street.

For $15 I could get a bunk in a dorm for the night and I was planning to travel the country, so I had to keep an eye on my spending.

After chucking my bag onto the bunk bed in the dorm I was sharing with two Germans and a Japanese guy, I went outside looking for food and cigarettes.

So there I was, walking along a New York City street just off Times Square at 22:30 at night, people everywhere and car horns beeping incessantly, I kept expecting Spiderman to swing past or Woody Allen to go by.

I walked into the first likely looking shop and went up to the counter. There was a fat guy in an apron standing there who said "What can I get ya"?

"Coffee, two of them donuts and twenty Winstons, please", I asked feeling like Popeye Doyle.
This was fucking great, it was like being in a film.

"You want twenty packs? You wanna die young or sumpin'" said the bloke.

I then found myself explaining to the New York shop guy that in England we buy cigarettes in packs or ten or twenty so when I ask for twenty Winstons I just want the one pack of twenty fags.

I then found out that fag means something different in America.

The point of this is that the colleague I was talking to at work had gone to New York but had only eaten in McDonalds or drunk coffee at Starbucks because they knew exactly what to expect.

I suppose I could have done the same and that is the appeal of these chains, wherever you go in the world the quality and taste remains the same.

But what's the point in travelling somewhere to get something I can get at home?

Instead I went into a New York deli just off Times Square and it was brilliant.