Thursday, June 30, 2011

Smiling Pink Elephants

It seems that one of my dogs has taken it upon herself to get me used to getting up early again; perhaps she knows something about my future that I don't? Every morning this week Lexy has decided to bark her weird yodelling-styled noise between 7.15 and 7.30am and trust me, once you've been awoken from slumber by her alien sound it's difficult to get back to sleep - normally because it sets at least one other dog off and I don't know about you, but after bellowing at something at the top of my voice, I find it difficult to get back to sleep.

I'm not a particularly late sleeper anyhow; but, it seems, she's decided that I need to get up at least an hour earlier than normal. The double irony for me is that I've been running out of things to occupy my time. You can only write so many blogs before they get even more dull and boring; I don't play games on the PC, so I can't even waste my time doing that. My chores take me about an hour a day - if I do them at a leisurely pace; so essentially she's giving me an extra hour to potentially get bored. She's a thoughtful dog...

I do, however, have a garden project to undertake today. Re-turfing parts that never recovered from last December. It's all fucking rock n roll in my life at the moment!

***

The fourth series of True Blood started in the USA on Sunday and naturally I downloaded it to watch on Monday night. I tend to forget during the 39 weeks that the series isn't on just how ambivalent I am about it now. The first series was quite remarkable and I couldn't quite believe such a brazen, violent and bizarre programme could prove to be so popular. The second series, quite remarkably, could have been 6 episodes shorter and it still would have been a load of twaddle. It seemed to try and do too much all superficially.

Season three started excellently and I really felt it was back on form; the problem was it was still all over the place and something had crept into the series, it sort of didn't know whether to take itself seriously or not. For every dramatic moment there was a comedy vampire moment and that, sadly, appears to be how season 4 kicks off.

I won't give any spoilers, but everything is so different they're either trying to reboot it, have jumped the shark or series writer Alan Ball has lost it big time. I think it should forthwith be called Carry On True Blood and will be accompanied by a Sid James snigger...

***

Big summer spectacular TV series, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, aliens, destruction, special effects and ER heart throb Noah Wyley. What's not to like?

How about the script? The overall story? Or the hammy acting?

Falling Skies is V without the gloss, but more than enough cheese. It is essentially The Walking Dead with aliens instead of zombies. Now that should be a good thing. No TV show in the last year conveyed the feeling of dread that The Walking Egg did and that is exactly what Falling Skies lacks from the moment it starts.

Let's start at the beginning and yes there probably will be spoilers here so don't read it if you want to be disappointed.

It's six months after aliens have decimated Earth, killed off millions of people and enslaved the world's teenagers to collect scrap metal. This story focuses on an army controlled group of conscripts and civilians, about 300 in total, who are fighting for survival amidst a world full of 'skitters' - big six-legged insectoid creatures and 'Mechs' two-legged robot things, a little like updated versions of that armoured robot in the first Robocop film. Both creations look like they've been grafted onto the screen - the special effects, what there are of them, are pretty crappy.

A military historian, now part of the army, played by the aforementioned Wylie is the rugged go get 'em scholar turned Arnie clone out to rescue his middle son, who has been enslaved by the aliens (to collect scrap metal). This is essentially his story and a pretty dull one it appears to be. His wife died and he has three boys to bring up and he's lost one of them already.

The series is full of grieving humans, growling soldiers, tension between both in the face of a threat that actually doesn't seem to be aware there are 300+ people wandering across Massachusetts. It gave you the impression that the aliens only came out at night - which begged the question why were they going on a food recon when it was dark, when all through the pilot they wandered around during the day like there was nothing to be concerned about?

The start is pretty unimpressive with a burst of cheap special effects that were barely seen again throughout the entire episode. The entire thing feels like an amateur dramatics version of Rambo vs Aliens. Yet it does have a couple of interesting things that have meant I'll give it a few more weeks before I dump it. The main one is if you like to analyse things like this you will be thinking a number of things don't make a lot of sense, especially about the aliens; but instead of you asking the questions, cast members do. At least three times in the first three episodes, a character will make ask a question about the aliens - why have Skitters got six legs and the Mechs two? Why do they need adolescents as slaves? Why are they using them to collect scrap metal? How come they overran the planet so easily when a well placed bullet or some dynamite deals with them effectively? It's like the cast are picking holes in the scriptwriters ideas, on screen! Which leads me to think that this could either be something post modern or there's something else going on that is considerably cleverer than it first appears. Or it might just be that Spielberg has lent his name to another SF stinker?

***

I'm going to do something I've never done before over the next few weeks. I've only ever watched two television series twice - Buffy the Vampire Slayer and having just downloaded the entire series, with films and extras, I'm about to embark on Babylon 5 for a third time - all 46gigabytes of it!


I can't get the wife interested. Roger can't get his missus interested. My brother-in-law can't get his girlfriend interested. None of them seem to be able to understand that for at least three seasons it was the best told story on television - EVER. Yes it has some cheesy acting, sets, special effects and dialogue - but the story!!! The STORY!!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Strike a Light

To some, Thursday's strike is an inconvenience, a hindrance and is being perpetrated by a bunch of greedy public sector bastards who should be grateful for whatever they receive in these austere times. Not working at the moment, I find that it's largely passing me by, but that's not to say I haven't got an opinion and the opinion I have is worth looking at, in my humble opinion.

It's not the fault of public sector workers, the teachers or other people on strike. They didn't demand to be offered the pensions they received when they started working for the companies they do now. They didn't ask for these special provisos when they were offered the job they do by the people who set these figures.

Nor is it particularly far that you, me and most everybody else is made to pay for the mistakes of others. We are paying for the bankers' cock up over and over again and this, 'we're all in it together' bullshit has got to stop. we are not all in it together, some are in it more than others.

Just remember that on Thursday when you have a moan about unions, or complain about teachers - whom incidentally have to teach today's kids - or complain about being put out by these selfish striking bastards. They didn't ask for this; they didn't cause this mess and now they, like us, are expected to pay for it; like we've paid for previous cock-ups by Labour, Tories and local councils.

It doesn't matter who the politicians are, you pay and pay again for their desire to look after the super rich, so they keep their money in this country, which they barely pay any tax on at all.

If you're put out by the strikes; just remember, if it was you who was facing more contributions for less pension at a retirement age of 68 and, more importantly, no guarantee that your job is going to be safe in the next few years, anyhow. Would you just sit around and let the government royally butt fuck you? Or, do you think like that stupid woman on the TV last night, that its your prerogative to work like a cunt for your entire life to serve a greater master who will lord over all of us with their ill-gained riches. the woman who feels we all have to suffer to bail out subsequent idiotic governments who leave the economy in the hands of corrupt arseholes!

Don't be annoyed on Thursday; the people who are striking are already feeling the pinch and they won't get paid. If you feel some righteous indignation, you should write to David Cameron asking him what these people have done to be made to pay for the bankers' mistakes; what heinous crimes public sector workers have committed to make them pay for something they had no control over? Don't get pissed off at pickets, get pissed off with your local MP, whatever persuasion he or she is, because it's theirs and their predecessors' faults we're in this mess, and they need to be reminded.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

We Are Not Worthy Farm

Watching U2 for a while, last night, on the HD channel, I was struck by the madness of people to stand in the rain and watch a band who might have rocked the place but seemed strangely muted. But Glastonbury has that affect on people. For some it doesn't matter that you're risking your health by staying out of doors for 3 whole days at a time of year notoriously poor for summer time sun. It's the experience.

It seems that this year might be a carbon copy of my first ever Glasto, in 1982. I was reminiscing about that just yesterday and coming to the conclusion that it wasn't memorable, because i couldn't remember much about it. However, what I can remember about it was quite vivid.

I mentioned Glasto 82 a few weeks back, but I don't think I went into any detail. I was living in Shenley in Herts, living with my folks (again), while they ran the Shenley Mental Hospital Social Club. I worked there for pennies and had fallen in with a good bunch of hospital workers and spent a lot of time getting drunk, stoned and having sex. My best mate at the time, Gertie, a man mountain of a Welsh guy whose real name was Geraint Wyn Owen, suggested that we go to this new Glastonbury CND Festival as we were all into that ban the bomb bollocks and it seemed like a good excuse to take loads of drugs, which I was into big time.

Gert was already coming on holiday with me and the folks to Westward Ho! in Devon and the festival tied in nicely with that. We'd go to the festy, then get to Devon by hitching or a bus and hook up with my folks on the Monday. it gave them the weekend to themselves and I got to go to real life music festival and they were rare things in those days. Reading was a fixture, but not much else.

He was seconded to Central Middlesex Hospital in Acton, London and was getting a lift to Pilton with some of them; I, on the other hand, was going to hitch down the M4 and find my way to Glasto in the time honoured tradition. My dad was even less sure than my mum, but I was 20 years old; I was a man!

I went prepared. I had my best Falmer jeans, a tee-shirt and a denim jacket. I had a toothbrush, £50 a change of pants and socks. I had everything I needed. I was sharing a tent with Gert and my clothes and everything would be waiting for me in a chalet in a childhood holiday destination. And to be fair, everything went swimmingly. I got a lift within ten minutes from an old hippy in an even older Volkswagen saloon and he took me as far as Warminster in Wiltshire. He would have taken me all the way but he was visiting his sick mother. It's about 20 miles from there to where I needed to be and it was early, about 11:00am. I was going to be laughing!

I walked for a while; headed to Frome, which would give me a direct road to Shepton Mallet. I finally got to Longleat and found a bus stop and figured the best thing I could do was wait for the next rural bus, but within five minutes a big old farm vehicle appeared round the corner, pulling a trailer which contained half a dozen people going to the festival. And, so was the bloke pulling the trailer - result. "Jump in," he says. So I did and my prized Falmers disintegrated!

They literally self-destructed. They split at the crotch, left, right, up and down and I didn't have anything to change into. It was leave them on with my underwear showing or take them off. This was 1982; I wasn't about to do that!

I sat, rather embarrassed in the wagon and eventually at a little after 3 - we were travelling at about 10mph - we got to the gates. I paid my £15 entry fee and got my wrist band and I found Gertie and his London contingency within 10 minutes of getting there; but they only expected 15,000 people...

All Gertie had for his holiday was his theatre greens; a baggy pair of things he wore when he attended any surgeries. They were all that was on offer and I had to accept them. I don't think I had much style at the time to cramp, so I was pretty oblivious to them after a while. I looked no different than all the other strange beasts attending this show.

The day down had been bright and warm, but by the time we got the tents up it had started chucking it down and it rained all evening and all through the night and until about 10 in the morning. It turned the site into a mud bath - the first, I believe of many - and I can't remember what we did for those first 20 odd hours. I think I got mashed and fell asleep. I remember waking up at some point and hearing the rain on the tent and some music being played loudly not far from me, but it didn't tempt me from my sleeping bag - which Gertie had brought with him from London.

By the time we grabbed some breakfast and had a look around, the sun had come out and by the middle of the afternoon, the mud had turned into a thick gloopy chocolate coloured ooze. I remember seeing two naked hippies walking through the turmoil; he was an old goat, but she looked like a goddess. The other thing we found weird and almost unsettling was the amount of drugs being sold openly and the way people were just walking around with big spliffs in their gobs flaunting the laws of the land. It was awesome!

I remember watching Randy California from the top of the hill in front of the old pyramid stage and thinking that the spectacle was amazing. Watching it on the TV last night, I thought it looked like a small town. Gone is the cottage almost Tolkeinesque feel of a village powered by love and small gas canisters. We went back to the tent about midnight, smoked some spliffs and crashed out.

The Sunday was roasting. It was in the high 70s and the mud had turned to crusts. We wandered around the site, saw a few things which I remember little about and then we hooked up with another bunch of nurses that Gertie's mates knew. Among them was this girl called Christine and she took a shine to my soiled theatre trousers and I spent the rest of the day with her, doing... stuff. We congregated at the main stage about 7pm and watched a succession of people I hadn't heard of and didn't really enjoy, until Judy Tzuke came on as the final act of the gig. That was pretty amazing for its time.

With the festival over, the Monday was targeting Devon. I also needed to find a pub to get a bite to eat and have a dump, having gone three days without success. We found getting a lift a lot tougher than we thought and ended up walking to Glastonbury and eventually a place called Street, where we got a bus to Bridgewater, which allowed us to get a bus to Westward Ho! It took us all day and we didn't get to my folks until 7pm. But we did have a little adventure along the way...

Just outside Glastonbury, we stopped at this pub. It was only early, but we decided to have a couple of pints of the local scrumpy. The bar man had told us that 3 pints and it pole axed you, but after I'd had two I wasn't fazed at all; but I was sitting on the bar stool. Halfway through the third pint and I needed to deposit some of the cider I'd borrowed and promptly fell over. My legs had turned to mush! By the time we got to Bridgewater, after dozing on the bus, I needed the loo again, badly. we used some public conveniences and they had no toilet paper. Gert tried the wom
en's and they too were void of anything. I won't tell you how I managed to solve the crisis, but I had no other option...

The holiday was poor. The weather peaked on the Sunday and it rained a lot. But we had a good time and a year later was the last time I saw Gertie in the flesh. I came back to Northampton and he eventually went back to Wales. I always think about that weekend whenever Glastonbury is on. I don't think of 1982 as being that long ago, but it's nearly 30 years and that's a lot of rain.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Utter Stumpage

If Hitler was alive and well and living in England, he'd be thinking up ways of exterminating great swathes of the population.

In the space of 3 minutes, I saw two examples of why Britain is such a lovely place...

I walked down to the shops to find out why we hadn't received the paper and as I got to the end I saw two slack jawed yokels with two shaggy German Shepherds. One of the yokels as half-heartedly apologising to Fatmir, the owner of the shop. "I didn't know she was going to take a shit. I haven't got any doggy bags." I reached the men and saw at least four dollops of sticky dog crap; one of them had been stepped in and smeared across the pavement. The spokesperson of the two men then went off into a rant to his cohort about how could he be so stupid as to let the dog take a shit there, he should have taken it round the corner and then proceeded to shout at the dog.

Fatmir had reappeared and I was walking past. He had a couple of carrier bags and some kitchen towel and he was handing it to lummox #1 who was reacting like he had a big snake thrust at him. "Give it to him," he said pointing at his even more dimwitted friend. Lummox #1 then continues to shout at the dog, but Fatmir stops him and says that it is not the dog's fault, so lummox #1 starts shouting at his mate, who by this time was on his hands and knees scraping up dogshit from the path.

I turned and head to my destination.

In front of me were two young mothers, probably in their mid 20s. They had the obligatory tracksuits and bling and were both wielding pushchairs. Behind them was a child about 5; he had a face like thunder and had obviously been told off. Outside of my newsagent is one of those metal National Lottery standees; the kind with the heavy concrete bases. These things are difficult to move, but the kid tries to walk up the face of the advert, bending in further and further. Both women look at the boy, say nothing and continue to walk towards the dimwits and their dogshit. The boy succeeds in almost crumpling the sign and the owner of the shop comes out and says something. Suddenly both women have swivelled on their heals and are shouting at the newsagent; calling him a 'Paki bastard' and what's he complaining about, as the sign stood there at at 45 degree angle.

My newsagent pointed at the sign, but receives nothing back but blank looks, both women then burst into a fit of giggles and the little brat pretends he's superman in front of the newsagent and runs off. He looks at me and I shook my head. What do you do? What can you do?

I got my paper and walks back home. As I got to the shit-stained shop front, I saw Fatmir deep in discussion with lummox #1, but there was no sign of his dimwit accomplice. I rounded the corner and there he was, strapping the female dog with the handle of the lead. Now, I'm essentially a coward, but I do not accept anyone being cruel to a dog and I suddenly get more courage than is worth. I said very calmly, "Oi mate. Stop hitting the dog, okay?" He turned and looked at me and was about to say something, but I smiled, not a pleasant smile. "She was a bad dog. She should-un shit there." I looked at him, bent down and stroked the two dogs who both looked scared stiff. Stood up and said, "They shit where you let them. Remember that. Don't hit the dogs again." And I walked off and I didn't even get that adrenaline rush you get from confrontations.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hit Me With That Funky Bass

I think it would be fair to say that the last few weeks have been not good. Having never actually been made redundant before, I think the experience had a more far-reaching effect on me than I ever could have imagined; this hasn't been helped by my apparent inability to get a job.

Agencies don't do much to fill you with confidence. The two I have contacted have not got back to me, despite constant reminders. My argument is, if they haven't got anything then let me know, don't fuck with my confidence any more by just ignoring me. Ignoring people is churlish and even a cursory acknowledgement helps me think that I'm not just wasting my time.

I've been pretty much worried out of my head (it's not been helped by my former employer being as good with money as Gideon Osborne has compassion) for the future. I've tried to get myself motivated and just occasionally I've managed it; but there really isn't anything worse than losing your job, while all the others around you, also at risk, don't. That is what happened at my place; everyone at risk are still there except me and two of my colleagues - the third leaves at the end of next month.

Essentially, my former employer uses an organisation to do some of its work. They pay them a fee and the people who work for this organisation do exactly the same job as I once did. I struggled to see why my union didn't campaign for the cuts to be put in the direction of this organisation rather than at us. We could have undertaken all of the work done by this other organisation; because we do it anyhow. So as a result, they were all put at risk in February and by the end of April none of them was going to lose their jobs. In fact, one of the girls who worked for that organisation was convinced that none of them would lose their jobs. Her conviction was based on no substance and I kept thinking that she was in for a rude awakening. Guess what? She was right. It sort of got me thinking that she'd been told by someone, higher up, that her job was safe and she'd neglected to be tight-lipped about it. I may theorise more when I've got all that they owe me; providing I do and I don't have to go to the press and tell them how I've been treated like a prize c*nt by my former-employer (again).

Of course, I'm my own worst enemy in some respects. Having gone 8 months without smoking, I went and bought myself some hashish - at a time when I have no money and starting an expensive habit again is a bit like walking up to the biggest, baddest monster, kicking him in the nuts and calling him a big girly c*nt. It's stupid, unnecessary and will probably kill me!

Fortunately, the temptation to buy tobacco has been held at bay. I was given some baccy by a friend last Wednesday, so that I could have a few spliffs for the Amplifier gig, mainly because smoking a pipe stuffed with illegalities tends to be a little more obvious. But, I woke up on Thursday feeling like shit; I don't know if that was the late night, lack of food or the fact that I put a lot of nicotine in my body for the first time since September 2010. Probably, it was all three.

The cannabis has been the 'secret drug' I mentioned back in April. The 'analgesic' that seems to work a damned sight better than most of the faux opiates and painkillers I've been flooding my body with for 8 months. The results have been surprising - when I have it I function at a much higher rate than when I don't. I'm not completely convinced that it might just be my mind saying, 'hey I can deal with this better', but even if it is, it works, so what's to complain about? But the difference between having the odd puff on a pipe and not is being able to get out of bed in the morning without needing to grab hold of the wardrobe handle to pull myself up; it's being able to put my socks on without wanting to invent some contraption to make it easier; it's feeling a little better about my general aches and pains, which in turn makes me feel a little more confident. Sadly, during the last 2 months, it hasn't helped me lose weight; but it was always the tobacco that did that and the occasional tobacco slip up isn't really a slimming plan.

The biggest downsize is that my lungs aren't happy and I'm wheezing again; couple this with finding exercise more difficult because of putting on three stone in 8 months and you have one fucking unhealthy bastard, who doesn't ache as much as he did... Where is the balance? That's what I want to know!

A couple of friends have suggested eating it - that doesn't appeal really. I think the biggest problem is I like an immediate hit - forget the analgesic properties, I just want to be transported back to when I was 17.

The biggest and most obvious thing about this change in 'medication' is that since April my consumption of tramadol, co-codamol and general medication for my crumbling bones has all but stopped. Where I was taking painkillers all week, just to take the edge off the pain, I'm taking a tenth of the amount and where six months ago the thought of running out of meds was terrifying, I currently need to refill my co-codamol prescription, but ibuprofen will suffice... That has to be viewed as an achievement, if nothing else.

In fact, I appear to be in roughly the same physical condition I was last September, just before I had that prolapsed disc. The biggest difference is that I can no longer afford the pot, but the thought of the pain is probably a little more scary than not having any money. This is the Catch-22 situation polarised: I can't live with it, but I can't live without it. I mean, yeah, I can live without it, but the debilitating effects make me more depressed. I've started stopping thinking of it as a recreational drug and more of a pain management success.

Yet again, my life can't be simple...

***

Moving on...

The TV reviewer in this weekend's Observer needs to do his homework. He claims that Camelot is filmed in Wales, yet it states in the credits quite clearly that it's filmed in Ireland.

I urge anyone watching or thinking of watching this TV series to give up now. It is as good as having sex with a dead fish that has been buried in the ground for a month before the act. It's a load of old shite. Nothing happens for the entire series and the lack of budget gets more and more obvious the further we get into the story that will go nowhere. It is so naive, you'd think it was written by a 14 year old who wants swords, very little sorcery and a wealth of nudity... The nudity dries up pretty quickly, so be warned.

***

I've been pleasantly surprised by The Pierces - You and I, which reminds me of the Sixties and as much as I want to dislike it, I can't, even if there's a hint of C&W masquerading as pop music in there somewhere. It's worth spending 40 minutes of your free 10 hours of Spotify to see why I like it! Rock music fans should avoid like the plague unless they have soft spots for The Byrds and the Beach Boys.

***

Danny Alexander - now, there's a face you'd just love to slap! we can all hate Nick Clegg, but his little wanky sidekick in the Treasury is just as loathsome as Gideon Osborne. The fact he's supposed to be a Liberal is distressing; the look of joy on his face during PMQs makes me wonder if he parades around his bedroom at night dressed as Hitler and getting his wife (or boyfriend) to sieg heil him.

People with ginger hair should disown the little bollocked fuckwit!

***

I'd just like to remind people that Tuesday is both the best and worst day of the year. It's the best because there is nearly 18 hours of daylight and the worst because the year is already half over and the nights will be drawing in. Before you know it I'll be shitting and stamping in it about the autumn, winter and lack of sun, warmth, optimism... Just thought I'd remind you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The City is Silent

My mate Martin loves London, if you read my report of the march on the 26th March, I explain why. Considering I spent so many years working there, travelling there and treating the place like a second home, I always find going to The Smoke or The Village as some call it, a bit daunting. It's the pace and with my back, I always feel as though I can't go at my own pace - which is a lot slower than it used to be. I used to charge around everywhere, now I stroll. I took to it amazingly easy.

Driving is another matter. I have a heavy right foot and whenever I have to travel to venues via a motorway I feel the urge to achieve my personal best time at covering a specific distance. Last year, when Roger and I accompanied our friend Phil Walker to two gigs - he drove to Leicester and the following day I drove to Wolverhampton. We got home from the Black Country in less time than it took us to get home from Leicester, despite being almost twice the distance away. Driving in a car with Phil Walker is like all your driving nightmares rolled into one. If I ever got stuck behind a driver like him, I'd risk my life to overtake.

I'm broke. A pauper. Thanks to my former employer's inability to pay me the right amount of money and get my redundancy to me in a humane time scale, I am struggling and on Tuesday, the third party of our trip to see Amplifier cried off with apparently self-inflicted food poisoning. The designated driver wasn't driving and that meant I had to. My car, a diesel, has been something of a guzzler, but a lot of that is how I drive. It would be considerably more economical if I drove it sensibly, but ask anyone who knows me, I've always driven sensibly, I just drive to fast. Not in restricted areas - had too many speeding fines for that - but if I know there's no cameras and the road is open... well, I just like speed! Subsequently, I put lots of fuel in my car.

I'd been chatting to a mate of mine about driving recently and he said that I have to drive my car with lower revs and I'd see the difference pretty quickly. So for the last week I've been keeping the Sedici below 2,000 revs and having my consumption monitor on the dashboard switched on. I said to roger that we were driving to London in a Phil Walker style and he gave me a look similar to that of Mr Spock in Star Trek, a raised eyebrow and a slight smile that suggested I was blowing smoke out of my arse.

I fucking did it! We never exceeded 65mph on the way down and the revs never went higher than 2,000. Roger rightly suggested that I am quite a restrained driver on the way to places, but the journey home at 1:00am with an empty motorway would be the ultimate decider. It was, I got off the motorway and came home via the A5. I put 10 miles on the journey, but avoided 25 miles of restrictions, which trust me is as boring as reading comics.

I probably saved about £7 in diesel and if you see an old duffer chugging along in a bright orange car it's probably me.

We got to London in 80 minutes, despite the traffic calming devices and parked up at East Finchley tube station, using this as our base as we needed the Northern Line and our destination was on the same network. East Finchley delivered nothing but expensive beer, so we decided to go down the tube and get off at Camden Town. A vibrant place but devoid of much in the way of decent beer or reasonable takeaways, we were getting hungry.

We decided as it was gone 7pm that perhaps we should go to Old Street and find a pub near the venue. We did, sort of, but they offered no bar snacks, poor beer and a dull game of football on the myriad screens dotted throughout the place. We decided that this being London, we'd grab something after the gig.

After the gig, it was 11.30 and there was nothing in that corner of Shoreditch, so we figured East Finchley would have something and I wanted some fuel from the garage there as it was cheaper than anywhere else we'd seen. We got back to the car at 12.10 and drove up the main drag and saw one convenience store open; even the garage was shut. We drove to Finchley, hoping to find something, but other than a Domino's Pizza and another convenience store everything was shut. Roger commented that all the houses we were driving past were dark; there were no lights on; everyone was asleep!

Deciding we needed fuel and maybe some snacks, we headed for Scratchwood or London Gateway as it has been known by some for years. It was shut. The garage was open charging 6p a litre more than anywhere else in the entire world and the attendant was as humourless as a housebrick. I considered pissing in their coffee, but opted to buy a bag of peanuts instead.

London on a Wednesday night is as dull and boring as Dunstable, but at least we saw a pub open at 1:00am there, which was one more than we saw in London. I'm sure there were parts of London where we could have bought anything for hours more, but this visit was decidedly underwhelming.

Good job the gig was so good, really.

***

There were a stack of (well, four) jobs in the paper this week and I shall be spending the weekend filling out application forms and building up my hopes and expectations yet again. Let's hope they're not cruelly dashed, yet again...

***

I was chatting with a friend and ex-colleague of mine called Helen recently; we occasionally exchange emails and her partner is a laugh, who also supports Spurs. She was telling me about a case she had to deal with recently; she's working out Wisbech way and is teaching at a junior school. She's part of a pre-school group, where kids who are going to be going to school can go, three mornings a week, to get them used to going to school. Her school starts this after Easter for an entire term.

Anyhow; the new kids are brought in by their parents, all are introduced to each other and eventually the folks leave and this continues for the first week or so. There were no kids who stood out and Helen thought it would be relatively easy. There was one young girl, very small and sweet looking who was playing with some crayons when another kid interrupted and tried to take one of the crayons. The sweet little kid pushed the kid away, turned on her and said, "Fuck off, or I'll kick your c**t in!" Helen and the two classroom assistants were stunned.

Later in the morning when the parents came to pick up the children, Helen took the little girl's mother to one side. She was a well spoken women, in her late 20s and Helen wondered how her little girl could have discovered such language and to be able to use it the way she did. Helen took a deep breath and told the mother what had happened. The woman shrugged her shoulders and said, "I told her father that talking to me that way would make an impression, but he doesn't listen." Horrified, Helen asked, rather tentatively if she was being abused. "Isn't everybody?" The mother took her daughter out of pre-school the next day and reported Helen to the school governors.

She didn't lose her job.

Turns out the parents were wealthy locals, possibly related to each other, distantly one would hope, who come from backgrounds where physical, sexual and mental abuse within the family has been common in the past. Helen thinks they escaped detection from Social Services because they lived in a posh house on a selective estate. Just because the father was good at his job, didn't mean he could be trusted not to abuse his family.

Several years ago, when the wife was working in IT, one of her colleagues based out in King's Lynn always said to her that Wisbech was possibly the strangest place he'd ever been to. Seems like he was right.

***

What is it with dogs and their ability to find the stinkiest pile of shit in the world and then roll in it? As much as I love them, this new bunch of dogs have got some truly disgusting habits which my old two dogs would have been appalled by.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gig Guide 8: Amplifier at XOYO, Shoreditch, London; 15th June, 2011

Had Amplifier been around in the 1970s they would have been so massive that Led Zeppelin might have supported them. Okay, perhaps not, but had this band's music happened at a different time then we might have been seeing them playing in venue befitting their chaotic cosmic rock brilliance, rather than a basement arena hosting 500 people. The thing was, the band seemed made up to be playing London to so many people, they even wanted to know what 500 people sounded like.

But this modern day Cavern wasn't about to quash a set that was raw, undiminished and remarkably audible - it's amazing the sound you can get in a coal bunker now days.

Amplifier's 2010 double CD concept album - The Octopus - is a true modern classic, mixing prog, space and hard rock in equal measure and weaving a sprawling tale of a Dystopian world and 8 legged monsters (I wonder what the band thought of Gareth Edwards' Monsters?). It is, quite simply, the best concept album to have been released in the 21st century and last night they played half of it - the half that transfers best to grubby little venues with minions of sweaty, bouncing fans.

I remember seeing the band for the first time at the 2000Trees underwater rock festival in 2009; having discovered the hard cosmic rock eccentricity of the band after listening to Last FM. I remember thinking that a day that dragged on in the torrential rain suddenly sped up as the hour long set by the Manchester trio (augmented by an extra Oceansized guitarist last night) disappeared in a flash. The sun came out, the band cemented themselves into my personal musical database.

I'd expected the place to be packed with kids moshing and generally cavorting around like whirling dervishes - there had been a number of young people at 2000 Trees who seemed to think that Amplifier were Slayer in disguise; so I was a mixture of pleasantly surprised and slightly disappointed that the core of the audience were all between 30 and 50. I was, however, very impressed with the amount of young nubile things who go crazy for Amplifier's oeuvre. At times I was hard pressed for where to be looking! It did get hot and heaving, but because of my bad back and fear of looking like a psychotic hippo, I hung at the back, with a handy wall to lean on and a reasonable view of the stage, although I only saw Matt, the drummer, when he walked on and off the stage.

Sel Balamir, the head of AmpCorps, was a commanding presence, even if Neil Mahoney handled the majority of the MC duties. Balamir looks like the kind of frontman a rock band needs, chiselled looks, a degree of charm and a voice that belittles the metal tag this band occasionally gets labelled with - he is a master lyricist, with a deep melodic pitch that enhances the riffs and pedal wizardry he seems to fiddle with every time I see him.

It astounds me that this band are not bigger; but perhaps the world isn't ready for them. I like a lot of bands that should be getting the recognition that other, less talented, individuals get, yet Amplifier are possibly this good because, after 11 years together, they seem more concerned with their fans having a good time than living in mansions drinking champagne from the bra cups of nymphs. I'm sure they wouldn't turn down the offer if it was forthcoming, but I believe they've realised the worth of the people who buy their records, follow them to gigs and become unofficial AmpCorps members; doing the necessary to imprint their masters into the conscious of the rest of the ignorant world. I was over a mile from the venue and found Octopus stickers in the men's room!

Anyhow, after a raucous 75 minute Octopus set, the band had a short break before coming back out for what was essentially the encore. Here they resurrected four classics from their back catalogue, much to the delight of the young girls squealing around me: Continuum, UFOs, Motorhead and Airborne brought the resounding success to a close. The punters left happy and one wonders where to now for this fiercely independent band.

I should mention that Pineapple Thief supported and this is the third time in just over a year I've seen the band and while they rock the boat of my good friend Roger, I find them a little too whiny for my liking; but they are accomplished musicians, their songs are always pleasant (which, I'm not sure is the desired reaction) and they are perfect to support bands such as Amplifier, especially as there seems to be a direct correlation between both sets of fans. I saw one Amp fan buy 3000 Days, the best of compilation PT released when they changed labels.

I saw Bruce Soord, the driving force behind the poor man's PT, watching the closing moments of Amplifier's set and you could see he was impressed.

I also saw good old Charlie Barnes. (pictured left in a dayglo pink glow) He appeared to be acting as a roadie kind of person for the band - he's just been touring Europe with them, so I figured he stopped around for the London show. Sporting a beard that belies his tender years, it would have been good to see him support the band - I would have paid more attention - but maybe his rather un-rock set wouldn't have set the right tone. I did manage to say hi and shake his hand and promise to get out and see him live again soon.

All in all a great gig, a ridiculously cheap price (£12 plus a 30p booking fee!) and the knowledge that I'm one of 500 people who have again witnessed the future of rock music! 8.5 out of 10

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Adventures of Unemployed Man (Part 16: Mowing the Lawn)


I find it quite amazing that for someone who used to put magazines together for a living can't make this poxy blog editor do more for my $0.00 a year fee!

Today saw (or heard, depending on where you were) both of my neighbours in fine fettle. Fishwife woke me up at 7.30 by getting his bins out. steady on, girls, it's not as exciting as it sounds! This set not one but two of the dogs off and subsequently I didn't get back to sleep so I was answering emails at 7.40 and wondering what the hell I was going to do with my day. The main reason for my not getting back to sleep wasn't the clattering of his bin or the piercing dog barks, but his conversation with someone on the opposite side of the house from where I was trying to get the pillow to drown out the noise. The man's voice carries like malaria and all I could hear was wah fucking wah wah waaah!

By 11:00am, he'd gone off to fight fires or be a good Samaritan somewhere else, so I decided it was a good time to hit the deck chair, top up the tan and prepare to mow the lawn. I had a cup of strong coffee, a lack of sleep headache and the main section of The Guardian. I was sorted.

Fuckwit and Oaf Woman were in the garden and they weren't alone.

Various bits of snatched conversation passed me by and then, "Nice day. My mate reckons it's here for the week."
"What is?"
"The weather. It's going to be like this for the rest of the week."
"Who said that?"
"My mate. I said."
"Yeah, which one?"
"Tony."
"Yeah, Tony's usually right about that kind of thing. He picked the Britain's Got Talent winner weeks before the final."
"I told him he should of had a few quid on that."

There you have it. The Met Office reckon it'll be raining by tomorrow lunchtime, but Tony can pick the winner of a talent show. We are all sorted.

I went and mowed the lawn.

Next time: Unemployed man wrestles the hoover, cleans up stinky dog poo and contemplates dinner on a budget. Stay tuned for the next crazy adventure!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Geriatric Sex Games

God. I'm. Bored!

I need to get a job, but I also need to find something to occupy my time during these 'summer' months. I know how sad this is going to sound, but I seem to be slightly lost without football to fall back on. That's some achievement as I'd virtually given up on the game by the mid 1990s. It was Euro 96 that rekindled my interest and I've been suffering for 15 years...

I could go dancing naked on the lawn, but the temperature on the patio is 11 degrees which is fucking ridiculous as we're 9 days away from midsummer. But if I did that I'd slip over, do my back in and probably impale my large stomach on some rose bushes, catch septicaemia (if you can catch it) and end up on a hospital ward full of eccentric old bastards who do nothing but complain about the food and having to piss in jars. The alternative to this would be to go for a bike ride, but I gave the bike away last week. I could have sex, but there are laws against dragging people off the street and forcing yourself on them and I'm sure 73 year old Ernie wouldn't be happy, as he's the most attractive person I've seen walk past the house in the last hour... So, what better than to be sitting in my office listening to cheesy early '00s electro pop and contemplating my navel - which appears to have got bigger since my girth has expanded.

Obviously, having had a week with lots of oddities in it, a day of rain and boredom was always going to be an anticlimax. After all, my life can't be one long surreal moment all the time. Can it?

Considering I've spent a large percentage of my life under the influence of drugs, you would have thought that talking surreal bollocks would come easy. But no, it's something that comes along normally when I least expect or want it and like last night in the pub, a great one-liner or statement will be lost to the slow drift of adult memories. I sometimes wonder what people would have made of conversations I've had with various friends over the years; the ones that have started quite harmlessly and have descended into a world that only exists in between my ears...

Have any of you ever been to Wollaston? It was once in Birmingham, but the locals thought it was really boring so they banished the entire district to Northamptonshire, where it has thrived and has a cul-de-sac called Bell End. Doc Martens used to be made there; it has a water tower, another street called The Gap and another called Hookham's Path. I once couldn't find it, but that was back in the 1980s, and it was where I received the most startlingly stupid driving offence ever. I was driving home after another 30 hour plus deadline in London. It had been a long one and we didn't get a lot of sleep and we didn't get much chance to kick back and have a spliff; so as I was leaving at around 3:00am, my then boss gave me a big bag of grass; some of the stash which he'd been given to pay for comic mart advertising. I say 'gave me', but I had to pay for it, but I also weighed it out, so I made bloody sure I got a bonus.

I could do the trip from Finchley to Wellingborough in about 55 minutes - average - at that time in the morning and it was only because of places like Wollaston that stopped me from doing the 64 mile trip in less than 50 minutes (I did it once in 47 minutes, door to door, but I'd averaged 130 on the M1 and 90 on the A roads. I should have known better). This particular morning, it was clear, dry and mild; it was the middle of October and I'd seen about a dozen vehicles, all told, since junction 10 of the M1. I wasn't caning it, because I was coming into Wollaston, which is actually by-passed but I'd been stopped and warned by a solitary policeman a year earlier about driving like a bastard in the fog, so I was aware that the Old Bill had a presence there at ridiculous times of the day. I got to the roundabout and there was a milk float in front of me. There was also a 300 yard stretch of road leading up to the hill going out of the town. It's a blind summit, but at 4.10:am and pitch dark you can see oncoming headlights across country for miles.

I didn't see the red Mondeo parked on the road to the municipal tip, but it saw me. I overtook the milk float as it was going up the hill. It was going less than 20mph and I overtook it in about 3 seconds - nothing was coming from the other direction and I didn't pass one oncoming vehicle between there and Wellingborough until the red Mondeo reappeared with its hidden lights flashing. I really had no idea why he'd pulled me; you see I'd seen it follow me up the hill in Wollaston and had that 'feeling' it was a plain clothed police car, so I'd stuck rigidly to the speed limit. I'd not been drinking; I hadn't even had a smoke and I was still young and full of spunk.

I was really pissed off. It was 4.30 in the morning; I was knackered; I wanted my bed and 20 hours sleep and there were two coppers in the Mondeo and as I threw my car door open to ask what the hell I'd been pulled over for I remembered I had about an ounce of grass in my top pocket and my shoulders' slumped. Whatever I had or hadn't done, I was fucked.

The memory that sticks in my mind the most was being asked if 'I was known to them' and the degree of disbelief both coppers expressed at the concept that I was coming home from work. I couldn't resist asking why they'd pulled me - did I have a light out? I certainly wasn't speeding. I was asked to get into the back of their car and I sank even lower. I really wanted to have a go, especially when I discovered they'd pulled me for 'dangerous driving' and 'overtaking on a solid white line.' I had done neither; I'd started to overtake the milk float with 200 yards of broken lines left and there was nothing dangerous about the manoeuvre. But I couldn't really argue this with them. It was 4.30am and they were bored and there was two of them which meant that they could charge me and I had no legs to stand on. Argue with them and risk being arrested or searched and then a stupid driving offence would become a possession or even intent to supply charge. Also, they weren't lying; it was 4.30, I had been up for 36 hours. Wanting to get home and not be stuck behind a milk float for the four miles from Wollaston to Wellingborough was no an excuse, even if overtaking opportunities disappeared at the brow of that particular hill.

I sat there and listened to these two jumped up little Hitlers justifying why they'd pulled me; give me a lecture on the dangers of overtaking on hills and generally have them be condescending to me. I got 6 points on my license and a £150 fine - which, it has to be said, was paid for by my boss at the time because he felt I wouldn't have been going home at that time of the morning if it hadn't of been for him - so fair play to him. I considered going back to the scene and taking photos, mounting a case of my own and taking it to court and fighting it all the way. I knew, even then, that this kind of tenacious defence often resulted in the CPS just walking away; if someone has a case they'd rather walk away than be beaten and look like they're pandering to stupid policemen. But, it happened at a time (1996 - see the link?) when I was having massive agoraphobic episodes and I wasn't actually that bothered about the penalty points, just the fine and that had been handled for me.

Even now, whenever I'm out that way and especially over the last few years when I've actively worked with Wellingborough police, I've wanted to see the two traffic cops and (half) jovially call them a couple of cunts. I can't remember their names, but I'll never forget what they looked like. They probably got moved on to another force, or perhaps someone with more balls than me decided to fight one of their ludicrous allegations and they got shafted out of the force and into something more suited to their talents - sheep shagging or some MP's arse wiper...

I find it scary that 1996 seems so much like yesterday and is nearly a third of my life away. But it also amazes me that some of the teenagers who came into my shop in 1989 are now in their 40s...

Friday, June 10, 2011

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Every so often, I look at the letters OMG and think, 'Yep, I can understand why they said that even if I think it's a slightly daft way of expressing surprise or amazement."

Thursday 9th June was day where had I been 30 years younger I would have been uttering OMGs all over the shop!

Back in the late 80s, before my shop, when I flitted in and out of work, I used to hang around with some dodgy geezas. They weren't Premier league villains, but could probably give League Two villains a run for their money. One of the chief protagonists was a wiry little hard man called Cliff, who liked Dobermans, drugs and shagging, when he wasn't kneecapping people or other nefarious stuff. I actually found him quite funny in a sinister and scary kind of way and he liked me - thank the stars - which meant I could be myself around him. I haven't seen Cliff in probably 21 years. The last I heard of him was that he was doing time for a big LSD bust.

I was in the Weston Favell Centre on my back from some errands, when someone called my name. I looked around, saw no one I recognised and put my head down again. Then my name rang out again and I thought, 'I recognise that voice', but I could see no one I even vaguely knew. So I shrugged and turned again to go when my name was called for a third time. This time I turned and all I saw was a woman, probably in her fifties, standing looking at me with her hands on her hips. She was thin and exceedingly ugly, but there was something familiar about her. Then she started laughing. "You should see the look on your face!" She cried, and I'm standing there thinking, 'I know you, I'm sure of it'. But I could not for the life of me place her.

To cut an excruciating story short. I was looking at Cliff, who is now Joanne!

30 minutes and an awkward coffee later I had the full SP as Cliff (as was) used to say. Cliff had entered prison, spent a year keeping out of trouble, started doing some courses, met a man who was a hash dealing self-proclaimed new age guru and the two hit it off in a totally platonic way. Cliff's backside was never defiled, he was quick to emphasise as if he saw questions appearing as real words at the front of my forehead. Cliff got heavily into the kind of New Age bollocks that is both slightly crackpot, but equally enticing to the right kind of susceptible hippy or ex-addict. Tonnes of crystals, I-chings, chakras, incense and faux Buddhist banalities. Cliff's guru claimed he could read and interpret auras and one afternoon he told my old friend that he was living a lie.

Cliff/Joanne explained to me that the guru said he was actually a woman in a man's body; that his unhappiness was all tied to his failure to accept his inner woman. He said Cliff needed to build a life around the things he should be rather than pretend to be something he wasn't. I was always convinced he made a good nutter, but, hey, what do I know about auras? Shortly after Cliff came out of prison, he swapped his wardrobe for that of a woman, and began living life as Joanne. There's me sitting there thinking, 'Okay, he's barking mad, he's living life as a man in drag, who just happens to look like a man in drag, but he seems happy enough', when he starts to tell me about the £25k he's spent on corrective surgery - he specifically called it 'corrective' not a gender realignment. She even offered to show me what a good job her surgeon had made of her brand new vagina, but thought Costa Coffee was probably not a good place to go flashing your fanny in...

My face must have been a picture, because, no offence to Joanne, but I was feeling extremely weird - it was like I'd walked into another world. She just didn't look particularly feminine. but she's living with another woman on one of the council estates, trains and works as a peripatetic nurse and was about as threatening as Les Dawson in drag. She was quick to point out to me that at no point has she ever been attracted to men; has never been with a man and that I could rest easy (gosh, how relieved was I?).

When I got home I felt slightly strange; like I'd been on Candid Camera or maybe had just woken from a really bizarre dream. Come to think of it, I had more lucid dreams when I stopped smoking than yesterday morning was like.

By the time I dosed off on the sofa during the One Show I'd just about forgotten my day. I slept too long, woke up at 7.55 and was supposed to meet Roger at 8 so we could go for a pint. I won't go into the details of it, but during the two hours we were at the pub we learnt far too much for fragile middle-aged men.

Are you aware there's a sex act operating in Benidorm where a woman in her fifties pulls all manner of items, ranging from fairy lights to rubber chickens out of her... um... er... vaginal passage? She's a millionaire, apparently. This woman has so much control over her labia that she can open beer bottles in her front bottom... As if this wasn't enough bizarre imagery for one evening, we then discovered that most girls under the age of 25 consider pubic hair to be a) a hindrance, b) unhygienic, c) unsightly and d) unnecessary. These facts and several others that frankly I'm just too old and embarrassed to mention made me realise that growing up when I did might have been a relatively promiscuous time, but only relatively. The sex lives of the young and trendy is very much the same but ultimately much different from when I was their age.

When you factor in all the other things I've discovered about the yoof of today from the jobs I've done for the last 10 years, you have to wonder about the long term future for mankind, if on one side you have the puritans and on the other the hedonism - I'm wondering if the latter is actually winning, despite all we hear about oppression and fundamentalism.

I'm a bit Victorian, I think.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Random Bollocks

The fishwife showed his fuckwittedness today; well not directly, but through his stupidity.

The wife was stopped again by him; I disappeared as quickly as possible as soon as I heard his dulcet tones. He wondered if the wife had heard anything about an emergency black bin collection - I stood in the kitchen wondering if he was obsessed with bins and why he was so eager for the black bin to be collected...

Come to think of it, I haven't seen his wife for days, so perhaps he's killed her, chopped her into pieces and put her in the black bin and is hoping that the collectors are so stupid they won't notice body parts and 6 litres of blood being thrown in the back of a crusher. She'd just about fit in a black bin now; a couple of years ago you would have needed two...

Fishwife's father-in-law has access to cut down trees and every six weeks or so he delivers a trailer full of logs for Fishwife's wood burner. He has more wood than fucking Sherwood Forest and I've mentioned a few times that we would be happy to buy some of the wood off of his father-in-law or even him. He's always either avoided the question or said, "No, we'll sort you some out," and never has. We had a neighbour like him in Wellingborough who we called Ubiquitous Dave, because he was always there, knew everybody and could get you anything you wanted until you actually asked him for it and then he'd disappear until he figured you'd forgotten about asking him. Anyhow, a few months ago he says, "I've got a brown wheelie bin full of small logs; I'm going to put it out for the bin man unless you want it." I bit his hand off, but we never saw the wheelie bin until Monday when he stuck it outside the back of our gate and then hung over the fence and explained that we might not want all of it.

Now, the wood has been in this bin for two years and it has been gathering dust and climbing weeds at the bottom of his garden, but suddenly it's imperative that we empty the bin ASAP because. So today we started to do it. The first thing we were amazed at was the quality of the wood - it was as good as all the other stuff, nice and dry and we couldn't quite work out why he was going to dump it. But then again, we couldn't understand his obsession with the new bin collections. We got about two thirds of the way down the bin when I discovered something altogether really unpleasant... But first a story I told waaaay back when this blog didn't have a 2 suffix.

I remember him about 5 years ago putting disposable nappies into the brown composting bin. You might be aware that disposable nappies take about 200 years to decompose and have a half life not dissimilar to plutonium. I pulled him up on it and he was all apologetic, claiming it was a complete accident and he wasn't thinking. He promptly took the nappies out of the bin and back into his house. The following day when the bins were out and he had gone to work, I lifted the lid and saw that he'd put the nappies back in the bin and covered then up - badly - with some grass clippings. I took them out and put them in his black bin. It took me 12 seconds.

Fast forward back to today and his brown bin had at least half a dozen plastic bags full of dog shit - he owns a dog and I'm afraid I sort of lost it. The wife shushed me because he was at home and I said, "I don't give a fuck. I call him a fuckwit," thumbing in the direction of the Fuckwit, "But this guy is a prize wanker. He has two kids; what are they going to learn if their respected fishwife of a father puts non-compostable shit in brown bins. The man is a fucking imbecile." Then I found two empty Coke cans and a glass bottle as well, right at the bottom of the bin - which also had about 8 inches of soil in it.

I was not happy and my mood didn't get any better when one of the dogs ate half of my freshly made coconut cake and then proceeded to roll in some very unhealthy looking shit while out for a walk. She doesn't do things by half, our Marley.

Marley has been well out of my good books during the last week. I've been like a bear with a excruciatingly sore head - the wife was contemplating going into work rather than spending five days with Mr Angry. Fortunately, I've been more than useful around the house and without much prompting.

***

We're already picking strawberries and raspberries and it's barely June. To be fair, the strawberries are small and tasteless, but that's probably to do with the lack of rain we've had. What I am disappointed in is my French beans, which have been piss poor and I only have 2 out of 30 up. Two feet away from them are a dozen runner bean plants going apeshit. I don't understand beans.

My spinach has been awesome! Had over 3lbs in the last week and the seeds were 10 years old! My beetroots are doing well; my spuds look healthier than ever before and my peppers are doing better than I expected (one of them got Marley-ised, but I managed to save its life, despite almost being snapped in half).

Me and my vegetable adventures, eh? Rock and fucking roll!

***

I need a job...

***

I also still need a new fucking keyboard. Yes, I know I've not gone on about my keyboard for some time lulling you all into a false sense of believing that I'm used to it now, but I'm not. It's a nightmare.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Onan the Fishwife

Back in 1982, when I attended my first ever Glastonbury festival (headlined by Judy Tzuke no less) I came across a number of things - it was that kind of festival - however, one of the running jokes was a poem called Conan the Fishwife, which particularly tickled me as I was a fan of comics at the time and the idea of Conan the Barbarian as a mithering old woman constantly moaning and groaning about stuff was particularly funny. I have spent years trying to track the poem down, but I believe it is lost to the ether of time.

To the right is a picture of the crowd at Glasto that year; I might be in the picture!

Obviously, nearly 30 years later, I have my own personal fishwife, oft mentioned in these pages. This morning at 6.55am, the wife finally got to see why I call him that.

The wife is off work for a few days; we've got some stuff to do, but essentially it's a good excuse for her to get a few well deserved lay-ins. At 6.55 this morning, Fishwife decided to take all of his wheelie bins down the alley between houses. This set Lexy off, who yodels rather than barks and subsequently, we got woken up. The wife, huffing and puffing decides to let the ducks and rabbit out and trudging downstairs and into the garden in her dressing gown and slippers, bellowing at Lexy to 'shut the fuck up' - she's got a lovely way with words when she's angry - she inadvertently walked straight into the clutches of early morning fishwife; who is the same as any other time of the day fishwife, but far more annoying.

"Wah Wah Wah Wah Waaaah?" He says.
"I dunno, #####," she says.
"Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah Waaaah Wah Wah Waaaah?"
"I. Don't. Know. #####!"
"Wah Wah Wah Wah Waaaah. Wah Wah Wah Wah, Wah Wah Waaaah?" No response from the wife. "Wah wah?" Back door slams. She comes trudging upstairs, kicks her slipper off and it goes flying into the bedroom knocking the contents of the dressing table everywhere.
"Fuck! Mutter grumble fuck mutter grumble, arsehole..."
"The fishwife?" I asks from my cosy warm side of the bed.
"Jesus! Is the man an imbecile or what?"
"I've told you what he's like."
"God, I didn't know he was that bad. He's just full of banalities and stupid fucking pointless questions."
"He only has the kids to talk to, that's why if he sees one of us he's at the fence."
"He was just asking me questions about the bin collections. I told him I didn't know, so he just went on about it anyhow, 'if they're not collecting the black bin that'll be another two weeks before it's collected' - at fucking 7 o'clock in the morning I really don't give a shit. The man is a twat. It's like living next to Flo again!" Flo was one of our neighbours in Wellingborough who was old and lonely and subsequently whenever she saw you in the garden would come and talk at you. She was so bad we stopped going into the garden until my Dad erected a big fence between the gardens, which in turn made her hate us - but that's a different story.

As it turned out, it was a good job he did mither at the wife the way he did because we discovered that our bin collection day was Tuesday rather than Wednesday. The new collection details are clearly put on the washable plastic fridge sticky thing that the new collection agency sent us last week - brown bins this week and every two weeks after, black bins next week and every two weeks after that. He's put his black bin out as well. The wife is right, of course, the man is indeed a twat. but I'd rather have him than Fuckwit (who, incidentally now only has one car and still manages to park it everywhere but in front of his own house!).

Actually, I'd rather live in the middle of nowhere with just a field of sheep for company. The bleating would be better than the constant Wah Wah Wah Wah Waaaah you get from next door, or the high-pitched Wah Wah Wah Wah Waaaah you get from his son.

One last thing - anyone coming to our 25th anniversary bash in September seen referring to the fishwife as 'the fishwife' will be forced to spend a weekend in a room with him naked with no earplugs.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Space Bong Baby

35 years ago today I went to my first comic mart. For the majority of you, a comic mart is like a record fair; it's a bunch of dodgy dealers in a room selling their wares to a bunch of unsuspecting idiots with money to burn.

35 years ago it was June 6, 1976 and it was hot. Very, very hot. While farting about on the 'net, I discovered just how awesome 1976 was. Are you aware that there were 36 consecutive days where the temperature exceeded 25 degrees centigrade? From the 23rd June through until the first week of July there were 15 consecutive days when the temperature exceeded 32C somewhere in the country and on five consecutive days it exceeded 35C. Or the fact that the temperature in London didn't drop below 20 degrees between May 4 and September 30 (except at night, obviously). Rainfall levels for June, July and August up to the 30th were what is now called 'trace'. In other words, it didn't rain and if it did we didn't notice it. But, here's a weird one for you; August Bank Holiday Monday in 1976 saw violent thunderstorms and torrential rain; so much rain that we had the entire summer average in 12 hours, making that summer no drier or wetter than any other year!

One little known fact is that on a day in June 1975, the 3rd to be precise, it snowed in England. I was at school watching the skies grow dark and then the heavens opened. There was so much snow that it even settled for a while. It is a memory I think will stay with me until I lose my marbles. Another little known fact about the summer of 1975 is that it was comparable to 1976 in temperatures, but much shorter. While 1976 had the first days where 35C was passed during the 20th century, 1975 briefly held the record for the hottest day, with 34.9C recorded near Gravesend in August.

Another dull weather fact, is that the warmest day of the year in 1985 was October 1st. It reached 30.5C and this was after the equinox. 1985 was a dreadful summer, even worse than 2006, 2008 and 2009, which were all pretty grim. On October 1st, 1985, me, the wife and our friends Graham and Clare (who now live in Queensland, which is very hot) went to Woburn Abbey and photos from that day show that the sun was sitting in an autumnal position.

In 1991, the country sizzled again. I remember sitting on my stool out the front of my shop as the temperatures got very close, but never reached 100 degrees. The warmest day, in July, was 99.7 degrees; the air was like soup and if you moved you started sweating. We were in the throes of a deep southerly air stream and it was so humid it played havoc with asthma sufferers.

June 6, 2011 and the temperature according to the thermometer in my car is 14C; it is overcast, it feels as though there's rain in the air and as I mentioned elsewhere, the forecast doesn't look as though it's going to improve before Wimbledon. Global warming has meant that the UK doesn't have summers any more; it has glorious springs and autumns; May and September are the best times to go on holiday.

***

Yes, I'm fully aware that the above is dull and boring; but I'm unemployed; what do you expect?

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The TV and DVD Dump Thing

I talk about TV and film enough, so I thought I'd talk about it some more... In a brand new stylee. I'm going to translate this entire column into Albanian, then when you translate it back into English it will read like an idiot with six toes has written it on an Etch-a-Sketch.

Or not.

While we wait around for another (possibly tedious) season of True Blood and what surely can't be another brilliant season of Dexter, there are some strange things on telly at the moment (or not as the case may be).

The much talked about Game of Thrones has grown on me, but only like Athlete's Foot. I watch it with the feeling that perhaps I'm not treating it with the same gravitas I would something else (hence why I tend to refer to it as Game of Thongs) and while it finally seems to be getting somewhere, I tend to agree with my friend Kelvin who seems to think that this series has been about setting scenes for future series rather than actually getting on with it.

Sean Bean has also grown on me, probably because his Eddard Stark is not Boromir. The dwarf played by Peter Dinklage is probably the best thing about the series, yet didn't appear in the best episode so far (last week's). It seems to have an abundance of nudity, homosexuality, sword play, incest and intrigue to appeal to most fantasy fans, plus it hints at future storylines where we might actually get to meet proper fantasy creatures. All in a HBO series - quite extraordinary.

Over on the rival PPV station Starz, their attempt at out-Gaming GoT is drawing to a close. Camelot is due on Channel 4 in a few weeks and if you like naked girlies and Joe Ffiennes growling his way through the role of Merlin then you will love this (in fact, Ffiennes is the best thing in this series by a country mile, but he is an actor, unlike the rest of the cast...)

Camelot is a load of shite and I'm only sticking with it because next week is the finale. It has been thoroughly 90125 in its approach and to be honest you wouldn't take King Arthur that seriously if you lived there, especially with the dodgy ponytail. People wearing dodgy ponytails should have their ability to procreate severed. This is a series that is pure soap opera. Eva Green is quite fit in a real women kind of way. Avoid unless you're on your own and fancy a wank (but only for the first few episodes, the nudity dries up like the story after episode 4).

I've been banging on about how poor Doctor Who has been and I feel I should quantify this. I really like Matt Smith and I really like his Doctor. I feel Steven Moffat has attempted to bite off more than he can chew and if, as several of my friends are true, and this is a two series story arc, then he should know better because it's a kids' programme and if you're going to do this then it needs to be able to be followed and shouldn't rely on the viewer to have to fill in gaps in the narrative. I like it, but I actually find more problems with it than I ever did RTD's run on the show. Yes, Davies and Tennant were responsible for some crap episodes, but put it all in context. it isn't Sylvester McCoy; the sets aren't wobbling and some of the aliens actually look alien. If I was giving it a mid-term exam, I'd say B- 'can do better'.

Something the wife has been enjoying, but I'm struggling with is AMC's US version of the Danish series (translated) The Killing. I have several problems with this and they are: it is literally chock-a-block full of SyFy alumni. So far I've counted no fewer than 10 people who have been series regulars in cancelled SF shows - it makes it difficult to believe when you have characters from The 4400, Battlestar Galactica, various Stargates, Star Trek and a bunch of other shows. Nothing seems to be happening in the show apart from it rains almost every minute of the day. If I lived in Seattle, I would be complaining about the bad image this series gives the city. Not only do the policemen seem inept, but so do the politicians. I desperately want to like this series, but it's just hard going (and that's what I expected if I'd watched the Danish version first).

This seems to be endemic of AMC, who are responsible for The Walking Dead and a few other shows I've been recommended. It seems to promise much and deliver bugger all.

Someone commented recently when I was badmouthing some TV show that I couldn't talk as I'd sat through 10 seasons of Smallville. Fair point, but I can't remember publicly stating that I ever enjoyed the series. I watched it because it killed 45 minutes after the wife went to bed and was there when I was off work recuperating from a shoulder op. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless I really didn't like them and even then it wouldn't work because they'd have to be imbecilic to stick with it like I did. Oh...

I have witnessed a lot of extremely dodgy films in recent weeks, to the point where the wife views anything I put into the DVD player with the utmost suspicion. There have been few films I can honestly say that have impressed me.

We both thought that Voyage of the Dawn Treader felt like an easy way to end the Narnia films. it left it open at the end, but would anyone really be that bothered, especially as the next three books have little or no connection to the kids who have featured prominently in the first three films?

Speaking of films that looked like they were designed specifically for future sequels; we watched Priest last night - based on a manga comic and starring Paul Bettany (who seems to have reinvented himself as an action hero) as the eponymous vampire hunting hero, Karl Urban and a few familiar faces like Madchen Amick, Christopher Plummer and Steven Moyer. Visually it was excellent, but it never seemed to reach a climax and sort of petered out at the end. It ended with a set up for a follow up, but my guess is that it probably won't be successful enough for that to happen.

One film that did impress us also featured vampires. Stake Land is possibly one of the top 5 films I've seen this year and the only person in it you would have heard of was Kelly McGillis and she was so aged and dowdy you had to look hard to see the fit bird that starred opposite Tom Cruise in Top Gun. What a stunningly good film? It was made for about $500, but conveyed a real feeling of menace and the sets were remarkable. It reminded me of Monsters and that isn't a bad thing. The vampires in the film were also pretty good; a cross between zombies and characters from the Evil Dead; the only thing that spoiled it was the contrived villain at the end. A villain, it should be noted, who was very similar to Karl Urban's character in Priest.

Sitting on the pile of 'to be watched' are the two David Essex films from the early 70s - That'll Be the Day and Stardust; Tideland, A Cock & Bull Story, True Grit, six series of Ideal and in the same vein Smiley Face by the man who subjected us to Mysterious Skin. That's then; now it's time for something else...

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mutter Grumble Mutter Grumble

I'm not in a good mood.

"Think positive; at least they sent you a letter saying you had been unsuccessful, that doesn't happen nowadays."

A comment made by a friend yesterday after I'd received a letter telling me that my application had been unsuccessful. To be fair, it is rare that an employer will bother to waste postage to tell applicants they have been out of luck. you normally only get one if you've been to an interview and they don't want to phone you and tell you after. There was also the caveat on the letter that said that my skills would be useful to the organisation, so keep looking at their web page for future positions.

You have to look at the positives, otherwise despair is all that's left.

I confidently said, when I filled in the application, that I'd made probably the best job of an application form I've ever done. I followed the job and person specification to the letter; edited, re-edited and made everything just right. I said to the wife after sending it off that I met every single one of the Essential person specifications and all but one of the desired specifications - that was that I am not a qualified teacher. All I can think is that the job was applied to by a horde of unemployed teachers...

It, of course, could be my age. I'll be 50 next year and I'm wondering if prospective employers are scared that I might be a curmudgeonly old bastard who has no connection with young people (the job I went for was to help 14-18 year olds into education, employment or training courses) any longer. I just don't know. All I do know is that when I received the letter, my first thought was, 'Well, they don't send letters out telling you how unsuccessful you've been - I wonder when the interview is!?' That might have been the crushing blow I felt when I read the letter.

I have the opportunity to go and work with adults with learning difficulties. the job is about 12 miles away and pays £6.81 per hour (no shift or weekend enhancements) and depending on whether or not I'd actually like doing it. "You'll either love it or hate it," said my mate who has connections with the establishment. The problem is, I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. I need to be earning something in the region of what I've just lost; anything less and we're in trouble. We've already cut back on stuff over the last year, not for fear of impending redundancy, but because the cost of living has gone up. Fuel costs on average 26p a litre more now than it did last summer; food bills have risen despite us cutting back on non-essentials. When David Cameron says we're all in this together; it's actually a case of some of us are in it far deeper than others.

***

With half-hearted apologies to my friends that Twitter, but nothing I've seen this week or in the last two years makes me even the slightest bit interested in it. One mate said that seeing as My Monthly Curse is going down well then I had no excuses not to be tweeting; I could publicise it even further. Another friend was really impressed with the way he was picking up 'followers' and after the Ryan Giggs fiasco, I saw several people's tweets on the BBC suggesting that it was nigh on impossible to sue or put embargoes on the people who tweet, because...

I struggle to put Status Updates on Facebook nowadays; the last thing I want to do or read is 100 characters of horse shit posted by someone else. I can see the benefits of the service where news dissemination is concerned; but not if I have to read what people had for breakfast, how solid their last shit was or any pointless or stupid bit of gossip about someone I don't know, will never know and am unlikely to want to know.

I don't care about followers. Really. Once you start getting people taking a lot of notice, you start to censor yourself - well, I do with my blog. Plus, if others lives are as exciting as mine then I don't want to read about it, encapsulated into a maximum number of characters. If television killed the art of conversation, then Twitter is killing detail.

I also really have a problem with Twitter people and their 'holier than thou' fucking attitude, where they think they're so much better than everybody else because they tweet.

Not interested.

***

Make the most of the weather today because if the three long range weather forecasts I've read in the last few days are anything to go by then Wimbledon will be a washout; Glastonbury will be returning to the Dark Ages again with mudslides and cholera and we'll all be wondering whether or not Britain is ever going to have a normal summer again.

Even the Met Office don't have a lot of confidence about the coming months. A generally westerly air stream is going to keep temperatures below average, with rain for the north and west and no change in the pattern. The BBC's monthly outlook is singing a different tune, suggesting that high pressure is going to dominate for June and it will be dry and sunny and warm; I expect that will change on Monday when the updated forecast is put in place.

Accuweather were the people who forecast the December cold snap to end, long before everyone else, and they have the rest of June looking poor. They've been pretty much spot on with their forecasts since I pooh-poohed their mild weather just after Christmas forecast.

Told you.

***

Obviously my state of mind hasn't been helped by my former employer's fuckwittedness regarding my salary, mileage and redundancy pay - none of which has arrived correctly or at all. It seems that I'm being penalised twice by the county council. Can't wait until I finally get all that's owed to me, that'll be the day I tell the world all the things I'm not going to at the moment.

***

Linking nicely into the last line of the above: I'm trying to download a couple of old films: That'll Be the Day and Stardust and it's proving to be more difficult than I imagined. I would have thought that two classic 1970s British films would be easier to find than most things, but this is not the case. It has been well over 30 years since I've seen either and I have fond memories. In fact, the final line of Stardust, uttered by Adam Faith, is one I've never forgotten and feel it is one of the best final lines in a film ever.

If you haven't seen the film or don't want to know what the line is, look away now:





Don't you fucking die on me!

Marvellous.

Now, if you're reading this, fuck off and do something practical; don't spend the rest of the last day of summer whittling it away on a poxy computer (or Twitter).