Saturday, 29 December 2012

Ramble.



I've finally got some days off work to enjoy the Christmas and New Year holiday.
A friend of mine bought me a cook book for Christmas so I'm following a recipe and boiling a big pan of turnips and spuds like some Romanian peasant.

I have just finished four night shifts in a row and after sleeping for nearly twelve hours I feel almost normal again. Normally when I write a post on my blog I stick to a theme but right now I just feel like rambling.

The weather in the UK is absolutely foul and has been for weeks.  Constant rain has flooded many of the flatter areas.  I am lucky to live in the Pennine Hills and don't have to worry too much about flood water but many people do and have had a miserable Christmas.

My cat has a swollen bottom lip for some reason. I got him from a brother in law who couldn't afford to look after him and had to give him away.  He had bought it from a pet shop and when I took the cat to my vet to check him over he said he had a low immune system and was prone to mouth infections and would probably lose all his teeth eventually.

The vet said this was common in cats that had been born on a kitten farm where cats are force bred for profit. People can be such wankers at times.
Anyway, I'll get him to the vets if he shows any discomfort with it or it gets any bigger.

That's it for now, I'm going downtown for some drinks with my wife soon so I'll be back later.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Obligatory Christmas Post.



I am still getting over the hangover I received from going out around the city on Mad Friday with some of the lads from work.  As our works Christmas drinking session coincided with the End of the World we started early, at noon.  It was legendary but it is taking me two days to recover and the world did not end so that is a bonus.

I am currently sitting in my house which is devoid of Christmas decorations.  I don't have kids but usually stick up a bit of holly and a tree but this year I haven't really been bitten by the festive bug.

I suppose it is because I am working night shifts from Christmas Eve right through the the 28th so will spend the whole Christmas holiday working or sleeping.
So today my wife and I are going to drink a bottle of champagne this afternoon and watch some cheesy Christmas TV then walk to the local pub for a meal.  This will be our Christmas time  together.

So while you are enjoying your holiday please spare a thought for the people who work for the emergency services and those people that keep the power and water running and those that are fighting to preserve our way of life.

Enough of my bleating, my friends.  You enjoy your holiday and I will be back soon.


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Pretention, from TVH.



Christmas is on the way and we all know what that means.  Yes, it's the season for incomprehensible TV adverts trying to sell us perfume.

Look, there's a black and white Brad Pitt still in his surfer dude phase and looking bit Jesusy. What is he talking about? Some sort of New Age blather about journeys and dreams that doesn't make any sense.  Then we see a bottle of Chanel and we realise he is flogging perfume to us stinking proles.

Next here comes Alexander Skaarsgard driving his car (also in black and white) up a cliff in a rainstorm to visit a skinny lass who lives in what looks like a grain silo. Is he advertising tyres that give good grip in bad weather?  No. this is for Calvin Klein's latest bottle of chemicals to mask your fetid odour.

Jean Paul Gaultier gives us a (black and white) dinner party being held by a load of fetishistic, gothy looking people who I can't quite tell which are male and female.  They are shrieking like opera singers and laughing like lunatics and to be honest the whole party looks so uncomfortable and alarming that instead of wanting to buy his perfume I am having nightmares about Jean Paul Gaultier inviting me over for dinner.

So perfume ads are generally filmed in black and white and try to be enigmatic French mini-movies.  No doubt this is because they are designed by people in the fashion industry and as everyone knows, people in the fashion industry are pillocks.

Perfume exists to hide body odour and I am lucky enough to have hot and cold running water therefore I shower everyday, stick a bit of deodorant around my sweaty bits and am good to go.  I don't need to spend sixty quid on a bottle of obscure ingredients sold to me by a black and white Ryan Reynolds with his shirt unbuttoned.

So now you know what NOT to get me for Christmas.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Right Hand Man.




Back in the 80's I worked as a labourer in a sawmill. It was an old building filled with dust and rats and ancient machines with minimal safety guards that had somehow slipped under the radar of Health and Safety officers.

It was a small company owned by a Victorian style mill owner who looked like Baron Greenback from Dangermouse.
Underneath the mill there were a maze of dark dungeon like cellars filled with old rusting machinery and heaps of sawdust that fell from the band saws and industrial planers on the shop floor.  Whenever I went down there rats would scurry off into the darkness.

What we laughingly called a canteen was also down in the cellar, a small room with an old fashioned, free standing, wood burning stove which was the only heat source in the building. During our breaks we would sit around this on boxes or a couple of old car seats that had been ripped out of an old Morris Marina, drinking strong loose leaf tea made by Tommy.

He was a Glaswegian who had come down to Yorkshire 20 years ago although instead of his accent mellowing it had become so Scottish that none of us knew what the hell he was saying half the time, it sounded like grunting in a Scottish accent.

In the middle of winter in 1985 we were gathered around the stove, chatting, smoking and occasionally spitting a mouthful of tea on the stove just to hear it sizzle when the metal sliding door clanged open and Mark came stomping back from the toilet with a copy of The Sun in his hand.
"Shut the door" everyone shouted at once as the icy air followed him in.
"Alright, simmer down", he said as he pulled the door closed behind him.

"Bloody hell, that's taken the edge off, you can't beat Linda Lusardi on page three".
One of the machine operators called Rob looked at him and shook his head.
"Every bloody morning breaktime you go to the bogs to draw one off, it's embarassing".
"Yeah", I added, "can't you wait to get home before you start dragging yourself around the room"?

Mark just laughed and tossed the newspaper towards us.

"Fuck off, I don't want to read it now, it's probably got spunk all over it" I said

"The sports pages should still be safe but better read it quick before it soaks through".

We finished our break and made our way back to the shop floor.
Rob turned to Mark and said:
"Boss wants that stack of 2 x 6 nearest the gates loading up and bringng down to The Pig".

Mark gave a thumbs up and walked out to the timber yard where he climbed up into the cab of the huge side loading fork lift truck he drove, starting the diesel engine.

Rob started to prepare The Pig. This was the oldest machine in the mill, a planer 15ft long, 5ft high and so old that it still ran on leather belts. Inside it were two large steel drums that rotated at high speed which Rob now fitted razor sharp cutting blades to and calibrated them to the desired length.

A large metal hood fitted over the drums with a fan inside that would draw the majority of the wood shavings up and out of the machine and along a steel pipe to a container outside. Often when someone was walking past they would throw a handful of loose wood chippings into the machine just to hear the sound of them rattle away up the pipe.

While Rob was prepping the machine I guided Mark's side loader down the concrete ramp that led from the timber yard into the saw mill until he was able to lift the stack of two hundred 20ft rough cut planks down next to The Pig.

Rob didn't hang around and started up the machine, beginning to feed the planks through the planer.
I waited on the other side to grab the newly planed planks, now as smooth as glass and heaved them onto wooden battens that I had placed on the floor, making sure they were placed neatly so the stack wouldn't become unstable as it grew.

Mark stood back and leaned against the side loader, rolling a cigarette. Conversation was impossible due to the noise of machinery and both Rob and I wore ear protectors.

Mark finished rolling his cig and stuck it unlit between his lips then pulled his gloves on.

We were all given yellow safety gloves to wear, yellow wool reinforced with plastic webbing but most of us didn't wear them, taking pride in how hard and calloused our hands became. They couldn't save your hands from splinters as these would pierce right through the gloves.

With Mark being outside in the yard in winter most of the time he needed them. Just as he was about to climb back on the loader he tossed a handful of sawdust that had collected near his loader pedals at The Pig. There was a loud THWACK and his right arm shot up into the air so he looked like a school kid trying to get the teachers attention.

He looked at me and I could see him mouth the words "Fucking Hell. That was close".

He looked over at Rob who had become very still and was looking up at Mark's hand.
I could see there was a line of red dots across Rob's face and realised it was blood.

I followed his gaze and could see that Marks glove was no longer yellow but bright red, the fabric shredded and hanging down his wrist. I tried to speak but nothing would come out.

Rob calmly hit the emergency stop button on the Pig and walked towads Mark, "Best keep your hand in the air and I wouldn't look at it if I were you" he said.

Mark immediately lowered his hand and looked at the mess. There were a series of deep slashes across all of his fingers except the middle one. This was gone from the second  knuckle and blood pumped from the stump in little squirts.

Rob ran for the first aid box and yelled for someone to call an ambulance. I didn't know what to do so reached over to try and staunch the flow of blood by clamping my hand over it.

"Don't fucking squeeze it you stupid twat" he screamed then sat down hard on the ground, holding his wrist and staring mesmerised at the wreck of his hand as the colour drained from his face.

"What am I going to do" he began to whisper over and over as shock began to take hold.

Rob who had returned with the first aid box knelt down next to him and said gently:

"You're going to be wanking with your left hand for a while".


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Vampires. Woohahaha! (Again)




I must apologise as I have not been anywhere near Blogger, Twitter or Facebook for about two weeks as I have been doing other shit.
I won't go into what it is other than it is work related and therefore annoying.
Just to fill the time until next week when I get a decent chance to sit down and write properly, here is a cheaty re-post.

May God forgive me.

Whatever happened to vampires? When I was a kid they were always middle aged men dressed like they were off to the opera, or attractive women in flimsy nighties with big cleavages.

They lived in dark castles in Transylvania and scared the shit out of the locals.
You knew where you were with vampires back then, they were the baddies.

These days I don't know whether I'm supposed to ram a stake through them or offer them counselling for their hemoglobin addiction and daylight phobia. If Twilight is anything to go by then vampires are all mopey Emo kids with Garnier Fructis hair.

Speaking of their appearance, if vampires can't see their reflection then why are they always the most fashion concious of the monsters?
Werewolves buy cheap clothes because they know they'll just get ripped when they change, Frankenstein's Monster has been wearing the same matching black jacket, polo neck and enormous boot combination for years and zombies stumble around like drunks and have given up on personal hygiene.

If vampires can't see their reflection then why aren't their shirts buttoned up wonky and why don't they have messy, just-got-out-of-coffin hair?

Anyway, if True Blood and Twilight are anything to go by vampires are no longer the baddies, they are multi-layered, misunderstood individuals who will soon no doubt be classed as disabled and given parking spaces near to building entrances so they don't have to worry about been exposed to daylight for too long in car parks.

As long as they show remorse after ripping our throats out then we will probably forgive them.

And don't get me started on them being a sexual metaphor invented by repressed Victorians.

My name is Van Helsing so I may be a bit biased.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Here is the News.




What shall I write about? There is plenty of stuff going on but I can't seem to settle on any topic and give it any serious thought.  I'll stick the news on the telly and see if that gives me any inspiration.

Well that worked.  It's election day in America and the 24 hour news channels are full of American people waving little flags and talking about the economy and abortion.
I know that the outcome of this election will in some respect affect everybody in the world but most people over here have superficial views on the candidates at best and most of us couldn't give a toss who wins.

Obama seems nice enough, if he tried to sell me insurance I would probably listen politely for a reasonable length of time before telling him I wasn't interested.
Romney looks a bit like that bloke who played cop/biker/rapist Zed in Pulp Fiction.
On these grounds I would vote for Obama.
Hey, I never said I was politically savvy.

In England we've gone child abuse crazy.  Hmm, let me rephrase that, the news over here is full of the late Jimmy Savile's alleged abuse of possibly 300  under age girls and boys over a period covering the 60's, 70's and 80's.  This is appalling in the extreme, Savile was a popular TV presenter and DJ and I myself was one of the thousands of kids who wrote to his show Jim'll Fix It back in the 70's.
I wanted to visit the big plastic dinosaurs at some park in London but I never got a reply.

When he died last year his funeral procession brought the city of Leeds to a standstill as thousands paid their respects. Streets and wings of hospitals were named after him for all the charity work he had done.  Now there is an active attempt to erase him from the national memory.  His grave no longer has a marker, the plaques and street signs are gone, the hospital wings renamed and his knighthood has been revoked.

Now I am not belittling or making light of what may have occurred but this is still in the investigation stage and the alleged perpetrator has been dead for a year.
What annoys me is the way the press is staring to froth at the mouth over this.
There are reporters scouring the thousands of hours of TV footage of Savile to see if there are is anything suspicious. Headlines accusing the BBC and the NHS of knowing about and covering up Savile's alleged predilections, it is starting to sound like a witch hunt when the witch is already dead.

Oh and apparently a disease has entered the UK that is going to kill off all the Ash trees.
I wish I'd never turned the bloody news on.




Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Piss Goblin.



As it is the Halloween, the time of year when people hollow out vegetables to look scary and kids walk the  streets dressed as Spiderman begging for sweets,  I have decided to share this spooky but true story with you.

Back when I was 16 years old I had a friend who lived on the other side of the valley to myself.  To get to his house involved a three mile walk dropping down into the valley floor then climbing the steep hill on the other side. It was worth the effort because he had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and his dad had a full sized snooker table.

The bottom of the valley was a landfill site, a rubbish dump that had been buried and a football pitch placed on top.  As the rotting, buried rubbish broke down it released gas and steam which would drift spectrally from any holes it could find in the valley side.

One evening my friends and I were leaving his house and walking down the cobbled path that led under a disused railway viaduct and down the wooded side of the valley. I had drunk a couple of cups of tea while there and suddenly had the urge to pee.  It was dark and the only street light was on the other side of the viaduct so I was in the gloom.  I announced my intention to pee to my friends and stood to the side of the path and started urinating into the thick ferns that lined the side of the hill.

As I was spraying away the ferns in front of me suddenly started thrashing and then parted and a dark, stunted figure came out of them.  It made a weird grunting noise and I could hear what sounded like two feet thumping on the ground.

In the orange glow of the distant sodium street light all I could make out was a black, stocky figure with a broad, flattened, hairless head that my urine was bouncing off.

Needless to say I shrieked like a big girl and legged it down the path towards my friends, still spraying urine everywhere as I ran.  One of my friends saw something small and stunted going back into the ferns so we pretty much ran the rest of the way to our houses.

I had no idea what this was and my friends and I would occasionally mention it but I wouldn't usually tell anybody else.  I tend not to believe in ghosts and otherworldly crap, it's all mumbo jumbo to me but I couldn't explain what I saw that night.

Years later and I'm sitting at work at three in the morning.  It's a quiet night and a bunch of us are drinking tea and someone asks if anyone has ever seen a ghost.  So I decide to tell them this tale.
After I finish the room is silent and all eyes are on me. No-one speaks for a few seconds until the boss says:
"It was probably some dirty old bloke hanging about in the ferns trying to get a look at your 16 year old cock".
Maybe it was, I know it was dark but the shape of it didn't look like any person I've met before.
Happy Halloween.

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Time I Met Tom Waits.




OK, I haven't actually met Tom Waits but I'm hoping the title grabs your attention so you read the rest of this.

I was first introduced to Tom Waits's music in what must have been the perfect scenario.  A friend and I were visiting the US for the first time and we were in Boston but wanted to make our way across country to Huntington Beach, California were my friend had a relative he wanted to visit.

We enquired about a drive-away car, wherein a car that needs delivering to a customer is driven  by someone with adequate credentials and in need of a car on a short term basis.  
We were given 10 days to deliver our vehicle to Los Angeles docks where we would leave it to continue it's journey to it's new owner in Hawaii.

I was hoping for some enormous muscle car but instead we got a little Suzuki Samurai 4x4, not exactly the American Dream car but at least we got good fuel mileage.

My friend had a compilation tape of blues music (it was 1990, we still used tapes back then) which we listened to as we drove across the country.  there were two tracks that really got my attention, Singapore and Big Black Mariah by a guy called Tom Waits who I had never heard of before.

It sounded like some sort of mutant blues/country/jazz music and his voice was like he was gargling with gravel down the bottom of a well.
The lyrics were seedy but poetic and I would give my right arm to be able to write words as evocative and colourful as he can.

We listened to that tape as we drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains, through torrential rainstorms on the Kansas plains and past weird, moonlit rock formations in Arizona that made it look like we were on another planet.

It was perfect road trip music and for a couple of Brit lads on their big American adventure it was like an introduction to the side of America that doesn't get advertised.

I've listened to a lot of Tom Waits over the years since then, much of it brilliant, some of it weird and some of it annoying.  He is one of the most unique musical voices around as has been going for years.  America should treat him like a National Treasure.

But I never met him. Sorry.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Angela Lee - 30th November 1946 - 1st October 2012





'They lived life to the fullest' is a cliche that gets used far too often when referring to the deceased at funerals.  However in the case of my half cousin Angela Lee this was a stone cold fact.
Born in the small but beautiful village of Burley-in-Wharfedale she grew up alongside her cousin Pauline, my mother.

Fearless and mischievous, tales from her childhood included removing the sherbert from lemon bon-bons in her grandfathers shop and replacing it with salt and a visit to a chimp's tea party at the zoo ended with her climbing into the enclosure, pulling up a chair and joining the chimps for tea.

As she grew up she enrolled in secretarial college and worked for the local health authority where she met her lifelong friend Anne.  They both shared a taste for adventure and started travelling to foreign countries. This was in the days when most people in the UK spent their holidays at the nearest seaside resort and foreign travel was for James Bond only.

They visited Benidorm when it was still a fishing village and not the mega resort full of pissed-up English that it is today.  During her lifetime she has been all over the world, Thailand, Brazil China, Turkey to name but a few of the places she has seen. 

She married Bob Lee in 1971 and they had two beautiful daughters, Cherie and Collette who shared their mothers love for life and their fathers easy going charm and are raising their own wonderful families. 

When she was 50 she enrolled in a degree course in Tourism Management which took her to Massachusetts and Carolina in the US.  She was the oldest person on the course but her energy and ability to drink most people under the table earned her the positions of both mother figure and party animal.

Tragically Bob was struck with dementia in his fifties and his health deteriorated over the years but Angela cared for him until the very end.  Then, in her sixties and only three years before her own death she packed up her rucksack and headed off on her own to Vietnam and Cambodia, just for the hell of it.

She used to take her grandson Jack to concerts including Dizzee Rascal and 
Tinchy Stryder and at one point even managed to accidentally get involved in a Gay Pride Parade. She once took him to New York where they fought through a blizzard so Jack could see the New York Mets play.  Most people would do this sort of thing to try and look young or cool but Angela didn't think like that.

She was a strong willed, independent woman without all the feminist posturing, she was brilliantly funny, she never boasted about her achievements.  She just got on and did things that most of us never pluck up the courage to do and she did it all with an effortless cool and an open, laid back personality that put everyone who met her at ease.

I am proud that she was my Godmother and even though I am not religious I still have the Bible she bought me for my first birthday.  I feel privileged for knowing her as she made the most of life and never took herself too seriously.  She was truly remarkable and would have clouted me around the head for calling her that.

Goodbye Angela, we all love you.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Cough Cough.



Most of the time I don't think about my throat. It gets on with it's business with little or no concious    interference from myself and I am happy with this arrangement.

However for the past two weeks I have had a chest infection that has giving me a hacking, booming cough that makes me sound like a Sea Lion barking for a bucket of fish. This has made my throat very sore.

Now instead of ignoring my throat I am thinking about it all the time.  I never realised how often I  swallow saliva but now I dread it, it seems to be every ten seconds I am swallowing the stuff.  Why am I generating this much? It feels as though I am forcing a splintery wooden chair down my windpipe.

Being at work doesn't help as I am talking all the time while there, in between coughing my lungs inside out.  I don't get ill often but when I do I turn into a quiet, shambling sorry-for-himself wreck who eats far too much comfort food thus adding worries about weight gain into the mix.

My body doesn't feel right and I yearn for the glorious, sun-filled days when I will feel normal again and can run around without wheezing and coughing until green phlegm detaches itself from my lungs and lands on my tongue like a nasty green oyster.

Yeah yeah, I know I am whining soft bastard and some of you reading this are facing truly frightening illness with a courage and fortitude that is admirable, while I have a minor infection that a course of antibiotics is already fixing.

Feel free to pour your scorn upon me, I can take it. Even though I'm poorly. Cough.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Finest Wine available to Humanity.




I'll get straight to the point and say that I am going to write about my favourite film, this gives the people who don't want to hear my opinion the chance to go read another blog and not waste any more time reading this one.

Have they gone? Good, I never liked them anyway.

So my favourite film of all time is Withnail and I.  Released in 1987 it was a box office failure (a bit like the new Dredd movie out at the moment which is a shame because it is great).  Despite the lack of interest shown on it's theatrical release it gained a strong cult following on video via word of mouth and has since been hailed as a classic British film.

Set in 1969 it tells the story of two out of work actors sharing a crappy London flat who spend most of the time trying to get out drunk or stoned and complaining about their lack of work or being cold.
They decide to get out of the city and persuade Withnail's gay Uncle Monty to let them use his cottage up in the Lake District.

I won't give away anymore of the story as I would urge you to see this film.  Withnail is played brilliantly by Richard E Grant in his first film role, all the more surprising is that Grant does not drink yet manages to convince he is almost constantly inebriated with a wild-eyed furious performance.

Paul McGann plays the everyman character of I (you never hear his name mentioned although in the credits he is called Marwood) and is the foil of Withnail's manipulative scheming.  The rest of the characters are excellent, Danny the Dealer, Jake the Poacher and the unforgettable Uncle Monty, played by Richard Griffiths in probably his best ever role, and they all look as though they are enjoying themselves immensely.

There are hardly any women in the film I'm afraid, this is blokey film about blokes doing blokey stuff but don't let that put you off, the dialogue is legendary and almost every line in the film is quotable, here is a small sample:

Withnail: I've some extremely distressing news. 
Marwood: I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear anything. Oh God, it's a nightmare, I tell you, it's a nightmare. 
Withnail: We just ran out of wine. What are we gonna do about it? 
Marwood: I don't know, I don't know. Oh God, I don't feel good. My thumbs have gone weird! I'm in the middle of a bloody overdose! Oh God. My heart's beating like a fucked clock! I feel dreadful, I feel really dreadful! 
Withnail: So do I, so does everybody. Look at my tongue, it's wearing a yellow sock. Sit down for Christ's sake, what's the matter with you? Eat some sugar. 

Even if you don't watch the film you can google 'Withnail and I quotes' and see just how the script crackles with energy and humour.
The film has gained such a cult following now that many students play the 'Withnail Drinking Game' in which they have to watch the film and match Withnail drink for drink.  This is impossible to do as fairly early in the film he drinks lighter fluid and throws up, the game usually ends at this point.

And to top everything off the ending has the saddest break-up of a bromance I've ever seen on screen, with Withnail staring sadly at the wolves in London Zoo while quoting from Hamlet.

This is one of those films that every now and then I will settle down with a nice bottle of red and stick it on the telly.  It never gets boring even though I know it word for word and it reminds me of when I shared a flat in London with a mate.

So do yourself a favour and watch this movie, you don't need to thank me.






Friday, 14 September 2012

Angry Planet



Blimey, it's getting hot in here. September appears to be the season of seething rage with people getting themselves into a lather for various reasons.

Thousands of Muslims are enraged over a film that the media daren't mention the title of for fear of  upsetting them even more. Although with diplomats being murdered and embassies being stormed and set on fire I don't think that is possible.

A French gossip rag has published pictures of Kate Middleton topless on holiday and the British media are all madder than a a box of arseholes and invoking the ghost of Diana.

The families of the 96 football fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster 23 years ago are up in arms with my boss after an inquiry revealed that the police may have altered statements.

And here I am being all flippant and glib and wishing that people wouldn't take themselves so seriously.  We are on a tiny planet in a universe so vast we can't imagine it, the law of averages states there must be other live out there.  There are too many stars and planets for us to be the only life in the universe. Yet we think we are so important and serious.

It's easy for me to sit here in my nice house with my nice life and tell people to calm down but if we keep going down this route we aren't going to make it.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Mrs Van Helsing



Quite a few years ago, a beautiful girl left her home in England aged 18 and went on a big adventure.  She went to work in Germany, all by herself because she was very brave.

A year later she returned to England and found work with a company in a big city. She moved into a scruffy house that was shared by other people who all worked for the same company.These people all shared the kitchen and living room and would sit on the worn out sofa bickering over what to watch on the TV or whose turn it was to clean the kitchen.  Despite this they all got on well with each other.

One of these people was a man who had returned from his own big adventure in America and London.  He had messy hair, wore Slayer t-shirts, smoked and drank too much and lacked direction.  He was smitten by the beautiful girl but lacked the confidence to tell her.

For some reason, the beautiful girl found this shambles of a man attractive and on a works night out she asked him to dance in a night club and kissed him on the dance floor.  They started to go out together and as they got to know each other realised they had fallen in love.  When she told the man she loved him they were standing on the roof of the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, she certainly knew how to pick a good venue.

Today Mr and Mrs Van Helsing are celebrating their 10th Wedding Anniversary.  She is the greatest person that he has ever met, grows more beautiful each year and he is so in love with her that it overflows his heart.

I just wanted you to know how much she means to me.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Last Man on Earth Part Two.



16:55

After exploring the cool-looking waterfall and pretending to be Indiana Jones for a bit, I began to climb the western slope of the Valley of Desolation that led up through a pine tree forest then out onto open moorland.

Suddenly I saw a movement on the ground a few yards ahead of me and I froze. Out of the long grass slithered a Slow worm. I had only ever seen one of these before, this when I was a kid on holiday in south Wales.  Although it looked like a foot long snake a Slow Worm is actually a legless lizard, you can tell by the shape of the head.  I was able to get good and close to it and watched it for a while before it slid off into the undergrowth.

Filled with that happy feeling you get when you've just seen some unexpected wildlife I hit the open fells and climbed up to Simon's Seat.  This is a jumble of crags and boulders that sits at the top of the fell and at 1,590 feet is the highest point in the area.  Reaching the foot of the boulders I climbed them until I reached the summit then sat and ate my sandwiches while taking in the view.

I realised that I had not seen another human being in over four hours, something of an achievement on this overcrowded island.  This was the solitude I had been looking for after the stress of my home city and I leant back against the crag and felt like the last man on Earth.

19:30

I descended from the fells and walked back along the river until I reached the camp site.  After a quick wash and brush up I walked up the road to the village pub and sat at an outside table with a pint of pale ale.  The pub was busy with families and couples and I felt a bit out of place sitting on my own. I wanted my wife or friends to be with me so we could talk about our day but instead I was the lone guy sat nursing a pint and gawping at the hills.

Getting bored of this I went back to my tent to cook my dinner.  I realised that I had forgotten my camp chair so had to sit on the grass while I ate my half-cooked Savoury Rice and burnt can of Stagg Chilli.
After being eaten alive myself by the swarms of Midges that lived by the river I doused myself in insect repellant then sat back against the wheel of my car, drinking a bottle of red wine and smelling like a chemical factory while watching the stars come out in the darkening sky.
I was in my sleeping bag and snoring by 22:30.

05:35

I was awoken by a gentle quacking sound outside my tent and stuck my head out to see what was occurring.  It was just growing light and a low lying mist blanketed the valley. I found myself face to face with a small brown duck.  The rest of the camp site was still asleep so I brewed up a black coffee and sat on the misty ground sharing a couple of cold pancakes with my new duck friend.

The girl who ran the camp site was walking her dog and came over, asking me how I had enjoyed my solitude.
I told her it had been good but also said that I couldn't help feeling that solitude is better when you've got someone to share it with.  She laughed and wandered off into the mist.
I broke camp and drove back towards the city.  I was ready for people again.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Last Man on Earth.



I'd just worked seven straight shifts filled with stress, aggression and urban squalor and decided that for the next twenty four hours I would have as little contact with people as I possibly could.  So I retreated to the same place I have always gone to find peace since I was a teenager, the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales.

13:00
I threw my camping equipment into the car and drove north out of the city and into the countryside, arriving 40 minutes later at a farmhouse in a beautiful part of the Dales that allows campers to pitch up in one of their fields.  As I paid the girl who runs the farm she asked me were my mates were as I usually came with them, I told her that today I was seeking solitude and had come alone.

14:17
I set up camp, shouldered my rucksack and set off hiking along the banks of the river Wharfe.  It was summer so there were plenty of people along the river bank, walking dogs or swimming in the quieter stretches of water.  I nodded amiably at the people who said hello and enjoyed the woodlands that followed the course of the river.  After a few miles of this I checked my compass and Ordnance Survey map then left the path and struck out across a cow meadow before reaching open fells.  There were no people here, just me and a couple of curious cows and a buzzard circling overhead.
I had walked all over this area in the years that I had been coming here but there was one place I had never seen and that was my goal this day.

The Valley of Desolation.

16:12

I stood at the foot of the valley, deep and lushly forested and in stark contrast to the bleak fells that rose up steeply on each side of it.  The difference between the green of the forested valley and the moors with nothing but heather and rocky crags on them was striking.
It was called the Valley of Desolation because in 1836 the stream called Posforth Gill which runs along the bottom of they valley flooded and ripped out everything, leaving a wasteland behind that had taken years to grow back.

 I descended into the valley, it was humid and felt almost semi-tropical, trees towered over me and purple foxgloves grew everywhere.  Dragonflies whirred past and birds sang and there were no people.  I pushed through thick ferns and suddenly found myself in front of a beautiful waterfall that had been hidden by trees.
I climbed the rocks at the side of it until I could stand at the top of the falls, all these years coming here and I never knew about this place. It was my new secret place, there was barely a path leading to it and I felt like an explorer. It was like being a kid again.

Join me again for part two next week and find out about the Slow Worm and half-cooked Savoury Rice.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

It's Over.




It's the last day of the Olympics and I've just watched the final sporting event, the women's Pentathlon (Britain got silver, wahey!).  I'm really sorry it is coming to an end, it's been an incredible two weeks, I've jumped up and down screaming with excitement and even cried and I haven't even been to any of the events and live 200 miles north of London. 

But it ends this weekend and the aftermath will be interesting.  Like many countries we have an increasing number of overweight people and the government are talking about the Olympic success boosting sport in this country and children becoming more active.

There is a double standard at work here.  Most children are already pretty active despite all the scaremongering stories about them sitting on their back sides on the Xbox all day.  It is not just a case of getting more exercise but getting diets right is a big part of the problem.

There are far more overweight people in this age of industrialised food production than there has ever been in the past yet the food industry attempt to downplay this and put the majority of the blame on people's inertia.

The food industry generates a huge amount of money and they are currently adopting similar tactics that the tobacco industry employed a few years ago.  They claim there is not enough scientific evidence to support that food laden with fat,sugar and chemicals is the main cause of weight gain and say that people's lack of activity is the main problem.
But processed food makes people listless and inactive. This has been scientifically proven but pushed into the background by food industry lobbyists.

Meanwhile producers of processed foods try to gain credibility by sponsoring sports events like the Olympics, athletes are offered millions to endorse products like energy drinks which are basically flavoured water filled with sugar.

A few years ago the British government introduced the Five-a-Day plan to encourage people to try and the eat the recommended bare minimum of five pieces of fruit and veg a day.  One portion equates to 80 milligrams so the food industry then hijacked this idea and placed claims on the packaging of processed foods saying that these products counted as one of the five-a-day. However these products are also full of the usual fat and sugar and any health benefit is eclipsed by this.

To be fair, the governments hands are tied, the food industry is worth billions and they don't want to cause further economic problems by going after them too hard. It isn't as though people working in the food industry wake up each morning thinking about the different ways they can make people fat.  They are simply providing a product and will go to great lengths to sell them to us.  Just remember this next time the commercials are on.

Blimey, I was only going to write about having watched too much sport over the last two weeks. I knew it was time to stop when I found myself watching Men's Water Polo between Spain and Hungary.
Instead it has turned into a poorly put together rant about the food industry.
Looks like things are going back to normal now the Olympics are winding down.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Super Saturday.



Apologies but I can't be long writing this, I have far too much sport to watch.  I'm still feeling the love after Saturday night's gold medals at the Olympics for Great Britain.  Jessica Ennis (heptathlon). Greg Rutherford (long jump) and Mohammed Farah (10,000 metre race), all won gold last night and it felt like the country was jumping up and down.

I'll be the first to admit that during the build up to these game I had been sceptical that we could pull it off and I was not alone in my doubt.  It goes to show how much self confidence has plummeted in this country when we only worry about failure and would rather save the money and not even try.

But I was wrong.  The strength and dedication of the athletes involved, the fact that it is all happening only 200 miles away from my house and the feeling that we can do it if we are prepared to put the work in is a massive rush.

After watching Britain's achievements in athletics on Saturday night I was up and down the gym at 08:30 on Sunday morning.  I wasn't the only one, normally at that time on Sunday it would be fairly quiet but today it was full of people I've never even seen there before.

I even want Andy Murray to beat Federer and normally I can't stand Murray.  He never smiles, is dull to listen to and I saw him signing autographs for some children with a look on his face like he had trodden in dog shit.

We are currently third in the medal table and I can't see us rising above the U.S. or China but it doesn't matter.  The U.S. have dedication and self belief by the bucket load while China are so focused and united it is scary.  But the look of joy on Jessica Ennis's face when she stepped out to collect her medal and the huge roar of love from the crowd made my eyes fill up, something that sport has never made me do before.

We can do it if we try, we just have to believe in ourselves.

We are GREAT Britain and the rest of the world is now finding that out.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Fever Dream



"Are you watching the Olympic opening ceremony tonight"? I asked the pale, overweight shop assistant in the computer store last Friday.
"No" he said to no great surprise.  He didn't look like he enjoyed sports other than ones that involved looking at a screen and manipulating his thumbs.

He isn't the only one not looking forward to it. There has been some bad feeling in the UK in the build up to the Olympics with the recession and people losing their jobs and being told that money is scarce.  Spending billions on a sporting event is bound to upset some people.

Nevertheless it is hard not to get swept up in the excitement and I was in front of the telly with a bag of crisps and a bottle of champagne at 21:00 to watch the opening ceremony.
At first I wasn't sure it would work but thankfully they pulled off something unique.

Men in top hats body popping, hundreds of kids jumping up and down on glowing beds while women dressed at nurses from the 1940's danced around them and pogoing punks with papier mache heads.
It reminded me of those dreams that one has when ill and running a fever, all weird and unreal.

It wasn't the only surreal thing on British telly that week.  I was baffled at seeing Michelle Obama on a football pitch kicking a ball into a goalmouth.  The goalkeeper was Spongebob Squarepants.
Not something I was expecting to see, ever.

Now that the actual Olympics have started the surrealism should finish and we can get on with the sport.
Hang on, I'm watching womens beach volleyball being played on a patch of sand in the middle of Horseguards Parade in London while the Benny Hill theme plays in the background.

Welcome to Great Britain.


Monday, 23 July 2012

Fifty Shags of Grey.



I've tried to avoid commenting on the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey but so many women I know have read it that I can't resist spouting off about it.  In my local supermarket there is a stand full of the trilogy, right next to the Get Well Soon cards.  Buses and trains are full of commuting women reading them and getting funny feelings in their lady parts. Suddenly erotic literature is mainstream and not something to be furtive about.

Perhaps this is partly to do with it being an almost exclusively female phenomenon, women are asking each other if they have read it yet and if the answer is no they lend their friends their own copy and refuse to say anything about it as though there is anyone left that hasn't heard that it is full of sexy bits.
It is as though women have only just discovered porn.  Men tend not to read these books as we have all been reading and looking at porn since we were teenagers so forgive us if we seem puzzled at the commotion.

I've just been on holiday and Mrs Van Helsing borrowed all three books from a friend who, like I said, wouldn't tell her what they were about.  We were only on holiday for a week but she read all three and managed to re-read the first one again before we came home. If we weren't hiking, driving or messing about on boats she had her head in the books.

I'm ashamed to say I started feeling a bit jealous and unwanted. Is this how women feel when they know their men read and look at porn?  I put down my Tom Clancy and tried reading one but found it to be much like a Mills & Boon with better sex scenes.

I'm not complaining about these books at all, I think what is happening is a good thing.  Suddenly women are talking about erotic literature and no-one seems embarrassed or ashamed to say they enjoy it.  The fact that it is prose and not pornographic pictures or films means nobody is being exploited in real life.  The characters may be exploited in the stories but we all fantasise about each other in different scenarios. It will be interesting to see if this fizzles out or more books from other authors are given the same mainstream status.

I'm off to convert the spare bedroom into a Red Room, I wonder if you can buy suspension racks at B&Q?
Laters.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

What Shall We Talk About?



I'm back after a hiatus and as I sit here typing I realise that I don't know what to say.  Usually my posts follow a single theme that I try not to stray too far from but today I'm sat looking blankly at the wall like a cow staring at an Xbox, no comprehension at all.

I could talk about the holiday in Devon I just returned from. How I saw Dolphins leaping alongside the boat from Lundy Island or the hikes along coastal cliffs and through mist-covered forests.

I could talk about my temporary new job as a police dispatcher, I have been seconded from my department to fill in at the Divisional Control Room due to a lack of manpower and it is one of the most stressful things I have ever done. I have just completed my first seven day set of early and late shifts in this role and I think this maybe why I feel as beat up as I do.

Maybe I could tell you about how one of my cats has suddenly started eating my toenail clippings for some reason. Or how the build up to the Olympics in this country is being ruined by the huge amount of hype the corporate sponsors like McDonald's and Coca Cola are throwing around.  I'm pretty sure Olympic athletes don't use any of these products.

Maybe I'll go on about how excited I am regarding the Judge Dredd film due out in September.  I've read the comic since I was a kid and the new film looks a lot more promising than the awful Stallone nightmare.

Unfortunately I can't go into great detail about any of these things, I just don't have the mental wherewithal to engage with you in the manner you deserve.  Even as I type this I'm thinking about a chair in the kitchen that I have been putting off repairing.  Some manual work would be more suited to my mind set right now.

I just wanted you to know that I'm back and business will resume as before.  Now I'm off to fix a chair.  Where the hell are my tools?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Yoko Bloody Ono!



Yoko Ono has just opened a new exhibition of her art in London for the first time in over a decade.
Called 'To the Light' it contains such images as three piles of dirt  under a poster saying War is Over, some World War2 German army helmets hanging upside down from the ceiling with jigsaw pieces in them and a close up picture of somebodies arse.

Over the years Yoko Ono has worked as a performance artist, film maker, poet, musician, writer and peace activist. Unfortunately she has been completely shit at all of these things.
I'll be the first to say that I am not the most qualified person to make a statement such as that.  I'm old fashioned and believe that art should be something that takes inspiration and effort, the key word here being effort. Throwing a load of old junk together and claiming it has meaning is just lazy.

Let me give you an example.  Years ago when I was a teenager I had been drinking with some friends and we had the idea of tipping a friends dad's car over onto it's side and placing a pillow on the floor under the front wing so it looked like it was resting it's head.  Then we would throw a blanket over the car so that when his dad came out to go to work in the morning it would look like the car was asleep.
We didn't do this of course, we were drunken idiots just having a laugh.

But in the wrong hands this could be turned into a serious artistic installation by someone pretentious enough to think that anybody gave a shit about their take on the world. They would call it 'Sleeping Ford Escort' or even 'The Decline of Manufacturing Output in the West'.

I'm going over old ground here, I've given my opinion on lazy art before and the Emperor's New Clothes attitude that people better educated than myself seem to adopt towards it. I assume that people will go to her exhibitions and tell each other what the pieces mean to them.  They don't want to be seen as the thickos who say 'But it's just helmets with jigsaw bits in them'.

People like Ono don't appear to have any artistic talent but desperately want us to believe they have.  They come up with daft ideas that any half intelligent person could come up with while drunk or stoned.  The difference with her is she wants it to be taken seriously, and she wants paying for it.  Do you honestly believe she would be getting the attention that she does if she hadn't married a Beatle?

And as for being a peace activist, does the world look like a peaceful place right now?

Anyway, that's me done ranting for a couple of weeks.  I'm dropping off the internet while I undertake a top secret mission for Queen and country. Or I go on holiday.  Take your pick.  Either way I'm not going to be able to look at your blogs for a while but I will be back soon to impose my unqualified opinions on you all.
So until I return, remain strong and always ask questions.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Little Van Helsing and the Scientologists.



Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a young man called Van Helsing who one day flew across the sea to the magical land of America.  He landed in the fabulous city of New York and after a time rode a silver Greyhound to the cold city of Boston. From there he found a car and drove all the way to the western coast, meeting many fascinating people and having many adventures along the way.

One day he was walking through the streets of the legendary city of San Francisco when a beautiful girl came up to him and asked him his name and where he was from. They talked for a while in the street when the girl asked Van Helsing if he had heard of L. Ron Hubbard. Now Van Helsing read a great many books and one of these had been a novel called Battlefield Earth that had been written by this Hubbard person.

As the beautiful girl seemed to be a fan of Hubbard, Van Helsing didn't mention that he thought the book had been a badly-written load of shit. She asked him if he wanted to come with her and learn about something called Dianetics and he agreed and found himself in what at first he thought to be a shop but was in fact a recruitment centre for something called Scientology.

There a nice young man in a suit asked if he wanted to fill out a psychometric test and from this they would learn what made Van Helsing tick.
Now our hero had heard of the Church of Scientology and figured that cults tended to have some interesting sexual practices and as he was quite taken with the beautiful girl he decided to play along. He was after all young and did much of his thinking with his penis.

After asking Van Helsing over two hundred questions for what seemed a very long time, the nice man in the suit fed the answers into a computer.  The computer made a few beeping noises and eventually spat out a spiky graph. The suited man and beautiful girl then explained that the graph represented the emotional make up of Van Helsing, with the downward spikes showing when he was feeling low and depressed.  They told him that if he were to embark on a course in Dianetics then his graph would show a continuous upward trend as he would no longer feel low or depressed.

Van Helsing very much doubted the scientific veracity of this and pointed out that happiness would be meaningless without sadness to contrast it with.  This did not deter the Scientologists and they spent the next hour trying to persuade him to part with a substantial amount of money to take part in various courses.  They tried telling him it was predestination that had led him to them, he argued that they were using an attractive girl as bait to ensnare horny young blokes and it had nothing to do with predestination

Silly Van Helsing had allowed himself to be taken in by a pretty face and had to spend over two hours in an office while various Scientologists tried to get him to part with his money and give himself over to their organisation.  Eventually he stood up and said that he had no interest in their bloody mumbo-jumbo and walked towards the door, half expecting them to grapple him to the floor, put him in a sack and drag him off to be brainwashed.

They did no such thing and he walked out of the door and into the sunlight, having learned a valuable lesson. Organisations such as Scientology spout a lot of mystical bollocks but are only interested in money and power and not in expanding people spiritually.
Whereas Van Helsing was interested in shallow, physical gratification and had allowed himself to be taken in.
Foolish Van Helsing. Greedy Scientologists.


Friday, 1 June 2012

Queenie's Big Day.



This weekend is the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen of England.  That's why I was standing on a chair hanging Union Jack bunting in the front desk of a police station at 01:30 this morning while a colleague stood around drinking tea and saying it looked uneven.

There will be street parties throughout the UK and a huge ceremony in London full of marching soldiers, big gold coaches and all sorts of shiny stuff.

I have to admit to being conflicted over the Royal family. The total campiness of the whole thing is one reason, people associated with Royals wear ridiculously ostentatious military uniforms, hats with so many feathers it looks like a chicken has landed on their head, bright coloured sashes, enormous epaulettes and yards of gold braid. The sort of clothing insane, Third World dictators are quite partial to.

As for the Queen, her full state robes are so blinged up that P Diddy would probably say that she was going too far.  The Imperial State Crown contains 3,000 diamonds, 277 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 4 rubies, and this is just her hat!  Chuck in all the other jewellery, the ermine cloak and gold sceptre and you have a display of wealth that is frankly taking the piss.

As writer Charlie Brooker once said, if Donald Trump walked down Wall Street wearing a top hat made out of dollar bills he'd be criticised for being a crass, tasteless idiot, yet we all wave flags and clap when the Queen does the equivalent of this.
It would be nice if she were to celebrate her 60 years on the throne by selling some of this useless tat and using the money to buy hospitals or schools for her subjects, just a thought your Majesty, if you are reading this.

Another reason is that we are in the 21st Century, what are we still doing with Queens and Princesses, Dukes and Baronesses and Lords?  It's like being in bloody Dungeons & Dragons, we might as well have wizards and goblins as well.

Yet I have grown up with this stuff, it is part of my country and my character and although I may criticise and complain I still have this feeling of pride, how many other countries cling onto tradition the way us Brits do?  It may be archaic and weird but it's one of the things that defines us as a nation and for all my sneering I'd miss it if it was gone.

So Happy Diamond Jubilee to you all, no matter what country you are in or your belief systems are.  I hope you have a good one.






Monday, 21 May 2012

Sex Shop Etiquette.



WARNING! The following contains material of an adult nature so any kids, people of an immature mindset or the easily offended had better stop reading right now.

Have they gone? Okay, let's get started.  Shopping is easy to understand, I am either shopping for something I really want and therefore thoroughly engaged or I am shopping for basics like food and cleaning products and will bimble along on autopilot.
Shopping in adult stores present a problem as people are never quite sure how to behave. We point at vibrators and giggle like school kids or affect a disapproving attitude while looking at handcuffs and tell our partners that we would never be interested in such filth, even as we are imagining them cuffed naked and spread eagled on the bed.

A few years ago myself and my girlfriend were in the Soho area of London and went into a sex shop. It was one of the old fashioned, sleazy ones full of furtive men trying to look nonchalant while trying to decide whether to buy Anal Outrage 2 or Big Tit Swingers. We had a look at some of the video covers but British porn is frankly fucking awful and everybody in them looks ill so we decided to buy a bottle of strawberry flavoured lubricant.

After buying this we went to a nearby pub and had a look at our purchase. I squeezed a bit onto my finger and had a taste. It was absolutely vile and so we decided that we were going to get out money back as it had clearly gone off.  There was no sell by date on it but it had probably been brewed up in a Chinese sweatshop by someone trying to earn a pittance while under the yoke of Communism, so the last thing they would be worried about was a Capitalist running dog like myself getting bad guts.

We went back into the shop and I strode confidently up to the bored looking guy behind the counter
and asked if we could have out money back as the lubricant appeared to have gone bad.
"What do you mean, gone bad"? he asked so I explained what had happened.
"You tried to eat it"? he said looking incredulous.
I didn't feel on such solid ground now and could sense the furtive customer's ears pricking up behind the bongo mags they were reading.

"When you say 'tried to eat it', I didn't put it in a sandwich or anything like that. I just tried a bit on my finger", I said.
By now a big, Maltese-looking bloke had come out of a back room and was standing behind the counter.
He explained that it was a water-based lubricant and was not to be ingested orally.  I tried to counter with the fact that if it was not to be ingested orally then why was it strawberry flavoured?

At this point he told me that I couldn't have my money back and to fuck off. So we did.

These days sex shops are on our high streets and are far more professional and respectable with pleasant and helpful staff. My last encounter was in an Anne Summers shop when I went on my own to buy a blindfold.  The girl behind the counter showed me a black leather blindfold but I said it looked a bit sinister, I was trying to arouse my wife and not scare the shit out of her. She then showed me a quilted, floral pattern one with frilly edges and I commented this was more like something an old lady would wear, if you can imagine such a thing. I finally settled on a plain black fabric one and said that I was like the Goldilocks of blindfolds.

The assistant and I both had a laugh and I realised that at no point had I felt uncomfortable or embarrassed and had discussed my purchase with a helpful member of staff as though I was buying a shirt.
I was an adult in an adult store and I was treated like an adult and not like some sort of sexual deviant.

So if you want to go into a sex shop, go in with your partner and have fun while you are doing it. I don't mean that awkward, self concious sort of behaviour that usually involves putting a dildo to your forehead and  waggling it about. Trust me, this just annoys the staff.  I mean discuss what you both want from each other and what excites you then have a look at what's on offer.

And always remember that sex between consenting adults, no matter what gender, is their own business and NOBODY else has a right to interfere, no matter how offended they claim to be.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Ben Nevis Part 2.



At the foot of Ben Nevis mountain stands the Ben Nevis Inn. It's a simple stone-built structure with wooden floors and a high ceiling with wooden beams. Long trestle tables with benches and deer antlers on the walls make it look like a Viking long hall. On the far wall is a large picture window that gives a view right up the length of Glen Nevis and the mountains that surround it. A plaque underneath the window shows the names of the mountains in view and it was our intention to climb all the ones we could see from this window.

Every evening we stepped out of the croft we were staying in right next to the inn and would have a couple of pints while we spread out an Ordnance Survey map on the wooden table and mapped out the next days walk.

On one such evening I was waiting to get served at the bar amongst the crowd of climbers and hikers that came from all of the world to test themselves on the mountains when I heard someone with a London accent say my name "Fraser"! I turned around and found myself looking into the bearded face of Rory McGrath. This bloke has been on British television for years as a comedian, panel show guest and presenter and now here he was addressing me.

(Flashback time, the picture goes all wobbly).

The first time I met somebody famous I was 15 years old and hanging about near the stage door of St. Georges Hall in Bradford waiting to see Twisted Sister. Myself and some other metal heads were hoping to get the band's autographs. Just then a tiny Austin Metro that appeared to be full of hair pulled up and out stepped Dee Snyder and Jay Jay French.

Now as I had not met anybody famous before I adopted a Beatlemania attitude and ran screaming towards the two American rock dudes, who viewed my reaction with some alarm. As I reached them I realised that all the other autograph hunters were casually strolling over and politely asking for autograph instead of screaming and running about like a bloody idiot.
I consequently felt like a twat and ever since that day I have affected an air of studied nonchalance whenever I meet anyone famous.

(Flash forward to Scotland. Wibbly wobbly).

So there I am face to face with TV star Rory McGrath who for some reason knows who I am. I was just about to speak when a Scottish guy next to me at the bar said "What do you want Rory"? Then I remembered I was in the heart of Clan Cameron country in the Scottish highlands and about 30% of the male population around here are called Fraser.

I went back to our table and gave them the news. "What's he doing here"? asked my wife. "I don't know. I'm going to pretend to go to the toilet and see if I can eavesdrop as I go past", I said.
I sauntered past the group at the bar as casually as I could and reached the door of the gents. I was too busy looking at the crowd and not the toilet door when I reached out my hand and hadn't realised that someone inside the toilet had already opened it and I stumbled into this person.
"Whoa, sorry mate", I said and looked at who I had bumped into.

It was Paddy McGuiness, yet another comedian and popular TV presenter. What the fuck?
"Alright mate, no harm done", he said patting me on the shoulder.
"......." I said, once again blind sided by a celebrity and left speechless.

It turned out they were taking part in the Glen Nevis River Race the next day and were filming it for a documentary where they took part in bizarre and ancient sporting events in the UK. No-one made any great fuss about their presence, in fact the atmosphere and the banter in the pub was so good they filmed some stuff inside of them having a few pints and a laugh.
We were sitting close by but not in shot so I occasionally did a stupid laugh to see if this would end up in the show but they never aired the pub bit.

So the moral of the story is that in the last bit of civilization before the Scottish wilderness you can still find TV stars, and they were really decent blokes.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Ben Nevis Part One.



OK, so Ben Nevis isn't the highest mountain in the world but it's the highest we've got in the UK so it will have to do.  A mile and a half outside the town of Fort William there is a single track road that ends by the Ben Nevis Inn at the foot of the mountain.  There is a small hostel and a croft directly opposite the pub and I have stayed in this croft a few times while hiking in the Scottish mountains.

The first time I climbed Ben Nevis I was surprised to see snow near the summit even though it was the middle of July. I was even more surprised by the clothing that some people were wearing as they climbed the mountain.  Sandals, crocs, flip-flops and wellies were just some of the blister inducing footwear on show.

Now I've been hiking for several years now and whenever I walk I have proper boots, maps, compass, headlight and glow sticks in case I get stranded in the dark. First Aid kit, spare bootlaces and socks, enough water and food to last me, waterproof clothing, woolly hat and gloves and a 65 litre capacity rucksack with a maximum size dry bag to carry all this shit in.  In short, I have become a walking snob and look down my nose at people less well prepared than myself.  Forgetting that only a few years ago I was the one trying to climb a mountain in trainers and jeans with only a flask of tomato soup and a ham sandwich in a carrier bag.

The first time I went up Ben Nevis it was sunny at the foot of the mountain but I could see rain on the peaks to the west and knew the wind would blow it my way and started putting my waterproofs on before it arrived.  I was getting  funny looks from other people walking past and tried to warn them of the oncoming rain, a bit like that bloke in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers warning of the coming invasion but nobody listens.  They just thought I was mad and carried on climbing in their shorts and t-shirts to their soggy fate.
 Sure enough by the time I was at the summit I was surrounded by thick cloud and it was raining so heavily we may as well have been underwater.

When I eventually sloshed my way back down and got to the croft we got the log fire going and sat there drinking tea while clouds of steam rolled off us. Bliss.

Tune in next week to find out what happened when I went to the pub that night.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Fields of Metal.





There's blossoms in the trees and the land is waking up from it's winter slumber.  Which means the rock festivals will soon be here.  I don't go to as many as I did when I was younger, I prefer smaller venues and the festivals in mainland Europe have a much better vibe than ones in the UK.  Not as many beer monsters, I suppose.

However, when myself and my mates were younger the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington was one of the highlights of the year. These days it is called the Download festival. It didn't really matter who was on, we would hire a Transit van and pile as many people and as much beer as we could and usually be lathered before we even got there.

Here are some of the things I remember from my festival days:

Standing waiting to get into the arena and passing an empty plastic cider bottle around to piss in. When a bottle fight started in the crowd my mate pulling his arm back to throw and showering us all in our own urine.

Dressing as vicars and havng a custard pie fight in the car park using shaving foam and paper plates.

Cadging a bin liner off a bloke in a burger van during a downpour, punching head and armholes in it and using it as a coat then watching Iron Maiden.

Nine of us trying to sleep on the floor in the back of a van.

Trying to put an unconcious drunk bloke in the recovery position and not remembering how to do it. He ended up looking ike the Isle of Man coat of arms.

Pouring a load of beer into a binliner so we could take our own booze into the arena to beat the bottle embargo and drinking it by shoving our heads into the bag.

Arguing with the security outside the arena because they wouldn't let us take our own food inside. We had to eat as much as we could then give the rest away. One bloke thought we were a Christian aid charity.

Going to a pub outside the Reading arena that would let festival goers buy beer as long as they stood outside in the road to drink it. Then realising that we were standing next to Faith No More.

Not washing and being covered in mud for days.

Having some of the biggest laughs of my life with some of the best mates I could have wished for.

Oh yeah, we saw loads of great bands as well, too many to list here.
So get yourselves off to at least one festival if you can and enjoy it.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Nightlife.




It's 03:23am and my eyeballs feel like there's a cheese and onion crisp behind each eyelid.  My legs are aching and fidgety and are trying to tell me they should be horizontal at this ungodly hour, not dangling off the edge of a swivel chair.  I've got that weird feeling that I always get around this time when I'm working a night shift, it's as though I'm no longer real but a pale, insubstantial phantom with fuzzy thought processes.
This is the fourth night shift in a row and I'm feeling the pain.

Everybody is out on jobs so I'm alone in the police station, sitting in the back office behind the front desk.  Their is a CCTV monitor screen on the wall above me showing a downward angle view of the front counter so I can see if anyone comes in and go to see what they want.  The image on the screen may as well be a photograph as nothing has moved on the picture for the last two hours.

The last person to disturb the screens image was a small young woman with messy hair who came in looking frantic and clutching an audio tape.
Who the hell listens to audio tapes these days?
She told me she had been listening to a talk show on a local radio station when the DJ had addressed her directly and told her that he was going to open up her head and get inside. She had taped the last 30 minutes of the show and begged me to listen to it and prove that she was not mad.

I listened to the tape while sending an email to Social Services giving her details and obviously fragile state of mind although I'm fairly sure they would know about this lost soul already.  Then I went back out to the desk where she sat waiting on the uncomfortable metal bench that is bolted to the floor.  I tell her that there has been no mention of her name n the tape and ask her if she is on medication and if so has she been taking the prescribed doses. She starts to cry and accuses me of being part of the conspiracy that she imagines is surrounding her and leaves the station.
I have notified the relevant people regarding her welfare and they will check on her but I still feel impotent, as though I could have done more but she is just one of the many people like this that I have encountered in this job.

Later on a couple of officers hand over several brown paper evidence bags containing clothes taken from the body of a dead man.  His neighbour had rung complaining about a smell coming from his flat and the officers found him dead on his kitchen floor. The attending doctor was happy that it was natural causes, nothing suspicious so the system took over and everything was bagged and tagged.
The poor old lad probably had no idea that he would wind up in the mortuary tonight and the clothes on his back would end up on the floor next to me as I reduce the drama of his death to a few keystrokes while drinking black coffee out of a Judge Dredd mug.
Then his clothes would end up amongst the piles of property in the stores, placed between several seized cannabis bushes and a confiscated crossbow.

I've heard that working night shifts is bad for the heart and a lot of shift workers die before their time, their bodies pushed too far by being forced to function all night fuelled by junk food.
Never mind, my relief comes on duty at 07:00, maybe I'll eat a Snickers to keep me going.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Man who Should be King.




If Sir David Attenborough was to call me a loathsome shitehawk with less common sense than a mollusc I would have to agree with him.  Not only because it was true but because his voice is so authoritative that it would be impossible to argue with him.

Everyone alive at this moment in the UK who has functioning hearing will have heard his voice at some point in their lives. He has narrated wildlife documentaries on the BBC since 1952 and his calm and soothing delivery is one of the most recognised sounds on British TV.

But he isn't only the world's top wildlife documentary narrator, he was also controller of BBC2 from 1965 to 1969.  During this four year period he oversaw the replacement of colour television form black and white and thanks to him classic shows such as Mastermind, Match of the Day and televised snooker were introduced to our screens. These shows are all still running on the BBC, such is their popularity.  The bloke's a genius.

My favourite Attenborough moment is from a really old black and white programme from the 1950's where he is looking for an isolated tribe in New Guinea that have never seen a white man before. He is standing on a dirt track in the middle of the jungle talking to camera when in the distance behind him a number of the tribe appear over the brow of a hill and come marching towards him, shouting and waving spears.

Attenborough turns around and calmly walks towards them, sticks his hand out and says 'How do you do'?
The tribe all stop dead apart from one guy at the front who walks up to Attenborough with a big grin and shakes his hand.
No doubt Attenborough would have done his research beforehand and probably knew that they would not be hostile but nevertheless he looked effortlessly cool.

His brother Richard is a successful actor and director but comes across as a luvvie darling type whereas David seems to be a top bloke who could tell some great tales down the pub.

I didn't join the crowds lining the streets when Princess Diana died but when David Attenborough eventually passes on I would probably want to pay my respects.  The man is a national treasure and when he is gone we will realise that we really miss the sound of his voice.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Lets..Play..DAAAARTS!




It feels as though somebody has scooped my brain out of my head with a rusty spoon, replaced it with a big iron bell then then started hammering on it while dressed in a suit of armour and bouncing around inside my skull.  Yes, I have a hangover.
The reason for this delicate condition is that I went to Sheffield yesterday with a bunch of lads from work to watch Premier League Darts at the Motorpoint Arena.

I've always had a soft spot for darts, a sport which involves overweight men standing still and used to involve a lot of drinking and smoking while they were playing.  It's cleaned its image up a bit since the old days and there is a lot more money involved however it is still struggling to be recognised as a genuine sport rather than just a pub game.
If archery and target shooting can be Olympic sports then there is no reason darts can't be recognised as one as well other than it's disreputable, working class image.

Anyway enough class warfare, we had a brilliant day.  We went around a few bars in Sheffield city centre during the afternoon then caught a tram to the arena. The matches were being televised live on Sky Sports and I'd never been to one of their events before and I have to say it was noisy and over the top with booming music and lasers everywhere.

The crowd were in good form, singing, shouting and wearing daft costumes.  We were wearing the loudest shirts we could get our hands on and were sitting near Spiderman, The Mask and a group of lads dressed as U.S sailors.. Every time an ad break came on everybody jumped up and pumped their arms in the air and sang along with the theme music until our throats were hoarse.

The biggest game of the night was Phil 'The Power' Taylor vs Raymond Van Barneveld, both darting giants. The huge screens showed the intro for Taylor with dazzling fast cuts and close ups of his eyes and booming music, it was like a trailer for a big budget action movie. Then a stunning blonde model with more leg length than was feasible led him onto the stage.

Now Taylor is a dumpy little middle-aged bloke who looks as though he has just come to read the gas meter but his formidable reputation and the big build up had the crowd jumping.
And he didn't disappoint. Van Barneveld is the second best darts player in the world but was bulldozed by Taylor, eventually losing eight legs to three.

He is awesome to watch, there is no doubt in his eyes when he stands at the oche and he has remained consistently brilliant for years, winning the world Championship fourteen times. Achievement on this scale should be recognised more in the sporting world but never mind, we loved it.

Afterwards we met up with a few other people from work that had come down for the event and went back into Sheffield city centre for more drinking and dancing before ending up in a fast food shop on West Street at 01:30 am eating greasy pizza then crashing out at the hotel.

Great night but I'm paying for it now.  My eyeballs are throbbing and even my hair hurts.