Friday, February 28, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On neck muscles

It's not until you pull a muscle in your neck until you realise how heavy the human head is.
Also, it's not until you pull a muscle in your neck that you notice quite how much it hurts, just to do everyday things. Like breathing, for example. Or moving.

It's best just to lie on your back on the floor, moving only to exchange microwaved beanbags.

It's not until you pull a muscle in your neck until you realise how evil Deep Heat is.

Just one tiny little dab and AaaaAAaaargh AAARGH It burns IT BURNS it's the DEVIL'S WORK oh god it burns and ….relax.

Also, bit of local difficulty: My first actual kiss was with a girl called Michelle round the back of the old Deep Heat factory in Twyford. Brings it all back, and that's probably not a great experience when the back of your head is on fire.

That smell of the school cross country. Phwooar.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

WIN: Super Popoid Groove

I've almost certainly linked to this video before from one of Scotland's most obscure and most joyous late-80s bands. But - hell - it makes me happy, and isn't it about time they re-released the album so I don't have to pay over £100 for it?

Thursday, February 20, 2014


WARNING: Contains traces of self-pity

Before 1998, I never used to get these panic attacks.

Before then, I never had the sudden rush of fear over something I had done, something I had not done, something I had said, something I had left unsaid.

Before 1998, I never experienced that sudden rush of fear turning into an all-encompassing paralysis of indecision, not knowing which way to turn, screaming out loud for help that would never come, decisions I could never make.

It didn't help that the majority of these panic attacks were in the car, on the way to or from work, because behind the wheel is about the worst place to have one.

It is all one can do to pull the car to the side of the road, take the key from the ignition and have wait for the crisis to pass. Then drive on, feeling faintly embarrassed.

That was before I went to the Republic of the Congo in 1998, got trapped there for a week, and was detained and robbed by AK47-wielding thugs at the airport.

I might have told you a slightly jazzed-up-stroke-sanitized version of events that make a good read. But while the facts of my week in Brazzaville remain the same, I glossed over the mind-wrenching fear I felt every waking minute of the day, every sweat-soaked night.

Because in Brazzaville, I learned the value of my life: 600 US dollars. Also, a leather jacket and my favourite camera.

The panic attacks don't come all the time, they only arrive if I fall out of my comfort zone, or - more likely - if I fear I'm about to fall out of my comfort zone. I love my comfort zone, which means I'm getting a long-service bonus for being in the same job for 25 years.

So, what's brought it back this time around? I wish I could tell. But birthdays come and go, and you feel increasingly mortal, increasingly out of control, more than a mere "pull yourself together" can deal with, and the memories of that week in Brazzaville come flooding back. The full unexpurgated version, rather than the sanitised cut that lets me sleep at night.

But that alone was no reason for wallowing in my nightmares, for I felt the slide coming whole days before that.

I shiver at those memories, the endless guns, the wreckage, the smile on the face of the uniformed goon who beat that money out of me with the butt of a pistol. The muzzle of his comrade's assault rifle, prodding at me, not knowing if it was loaded, not knowing if the safety was off, not knowing if the finger on the trigger would curl another inch. The treacle-like hyper-reality of the situation, every last detail imprinted on my mind, filed away for instant recall.

The feeling of never being so alone and so abandoned in my life. No wonder I spent sixteen years forgetting.

No wonder it comes back without warning, it only takes the most unlikely of (no pun intended) triggers, and I'm at the side of a road, shouting at the steering wheel, not knowing whether to stay, go, turn around, get out and run away.

Most days I'm happy. I've found happiness, a confidence to get on with my life that doesn't just come from being told to stop moping and pull yourself together, are you a man or a mouse? Eek, eek, I think you'll find.

But some days, I'm back there, that white-painted room at Maya-Maya Airport, finding out how much my life is worth. Not much, it turns out. But still being able to breathe, to love, to live, is priceless.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eating my own words

So, one thing led to another, and I won the competition to find the UK's funniest blogger for the second time in three years.

This time it was for my labour of love that is Angry People in Local Newspapers, and I am now the proud owner of a Google Nexus 7 tablet.

Now, I am well aware that I made a deal with the Devil to secure this victory, and the deal was that I would have to find some way to legitimately appear in my own blog, pointing angrily at something. And here's the rub - nothing nasty ever happens in Fleet, and there's precious little fury to be had in the Fleet News and Mail. Even the Phantom Hedge Crapper's given up and gone home, and I have nothing to be angry about.

This means that I am a pointer for hire. If anybody has something that vexes them in their local area (easy traveling distance from NE Hampshire) and needs somebody to point at the reason for their fury, THEN I AM YOUR MAN.

Help me out here, people. The Prince of Darkness want payback.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Ceremony Of The Keys

That's sickening click when you shut the front door behind you and you realised you've locked yourself out.

Oh yes, I am that man.

The day started badly enough – my commute to work was nothing short of a disaster, with the heavens opening for the 357th day in a row, the floods shutting off just about every road into town.

After an hour sitting behind a scaffolding lorry, their slogan ("Call us and see our erection!") no longer funny, I gave up the crawl five miles away from my destination and headed for home.

In fact, my day working from home was extraordinarily productive. With nothing else to distract me, I probably got more done in one morning than I have in several years.

So, I decided to reward myself with a good, long lunchtime walk through the Bummy Woods with the dog, and perhaps a cheese and bacon thing from Greggs. Mmm... Greggs. It was that moment of reverie that I blame for what happened next.




It's at that point that you find your hands are either too fat or the letter box is too small to reach through to pull down the handle. Well done, door designers, well done indeed.

Still, look on the bright side. It had stopped raining, and a round yellow thing had appeared in the sky that had ne'er been seen for many a month.

That's when you turn up at your partner's office completely unannounced and threaten the security guard with non-stop singing of "I'm Henry the Eighth I am" (The one thing I took away from the film 'Ghost') until he lets you in so you can ask Jane for her keys.

People came and pointed at me, and I only have myself to blame.

I suppose you're asking how long I was stuck outdoors, and whether my flight to Hartley Wintney to get the spare keys was successful. But then, I'm writing this in the shed at three in the morning, so I can't tell you.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


A few years ago, part of my job entailed reading through a monthly newsletter from France's broadcasting regulator looking for traces of news. I've got a basic grasp of French (slightly better than my English, some might argue), and without the benefit of Google Translate, it took me bloody ages.

It didn't help that it was page after page of turgid broadcasting policy that sapped your will to live. But all that was forgotten when you got to the last couple of pages, which were given over to the body in charge of safeguarding the French language.

Here, with full po-faced descriptions, were lists of neologisms that had broken into the French language one way or another, and why these pesky foreign words were now INTERDIT should be  replaced with French equivalents they had just thought up. Not written with the greatest style, I might point out. I dare say it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.

Oh yes, the French are very protective about their language, especially when it comes to English and (more to the point) American invaders. That's why there's a language quota on French music radio, and that's also why French music radio is largely awful. Notable exception: Radio Bleu, which is terrific.

Now, after several years without this guilty pleasure, I've found it again online, part of the Academie Francaise website.

You too can enjoy their regular "Dire, ne pas dire" column, in which the French people are told off for talking foreign and could you - MAINTENANT - use these clunky alternatives.

Out goes - for example - ASAP, and instead on dit "Répondre dès que possible"

OUT: digital - IN: "Télévision numérique"

OUT: Body bashing - IN: "Dénigrement de son corps"

OUT: Child friendly -  IN: "Qui accueille volontiers les enfants"

OUT: Battle of Trafalgar - IN: "Un draw honourable"

One of these might be made up. But the point is that when you're trying to kill off catchy neologisms, at least show some bloody imagination. I bet the equivalent of "twerking" is "danser avec la grande derriere" or something.

Of course, English is a language that's at ease with accepting foreign words, but it's mostly as a result of a history of invading places and wrecking their cultures.Also, we don't appear to give a crap and will accept any word, no matter what the origin.

However, that means very little when you hear some old chap bawling "TALK ENGLISH!" at people daring to speak another tongue on our shores, before muttering - sotto voce - "Where's the khazi?"

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Bamboos - The Wilhelm Scream (featuring Megan Washington)

Because we need something to counteract that One Direction nonsense, for which I am truly sorry.

There, that's better.

And here's the original version. And here's the song (by his dad) that inspired it in the first place. Music, eh?

Thursday, February 06, 2014


Hey everybody - it's this blog's 12th birthday! Let's see what the postie's brought us.


Tuesday, February 04, 2014


An email!

"Sir! We represent a company called Bistro Tea, and we enjoy reading your fine website. How would you like some free TeaPods from us?"

Why yes, I would very much like some free TeaPods from you, thank you very much please thank you sir or madam.

"And you you like to offer your readers the chance to win an absolute shedload of free TeaPods tea into the bargain?"

Why yes, that too.

Tea, as you know, is the drink of the gods, particularly (ONLY) if drunk in the English style - for eg, brewed in a cup and drowned in milk. Any other way is tantamount to BLASPHEMY, but it's a free world and even blasphemers are allowed to drink tea how they like, even if they are wrong.

So, those very kind people at TeaPods sent a selection from their range, and very fine they were too. I luxuriated in perhaps the finest Earl Grey I have ever tasted, and I am assured by others that the others - a mint-flavoured Green Tea and a fruit berry tea - are also very fine, despite them being against my religion (black tea, white, milk).

Now, here's the thing about TeaPods. They're fresh tea in a high-tech diffuser that's part tea-bag, part spoon. Absolute genius, and perfect for the lazy high-class tea drinker who can never find a spoon.

They're simple, beautiful, and - proof that you CAN get a decent cup of tea outside the UK - the height of German design. Read that and weep, Tetley Tea Folk.

So, you want to win ALL the TeaPods tea in the world? Trust me, you do.

Navigate HERE, answer the simple question, and you're in with a chance of entering tea heaven.

So, in summary: TeaPods tea from our new pals at Bistro Tea. Excellent. Get some at a spiffy 15% discount.

Here endeth the plug.

Monday, February 03, 2014

On Thinking The Worst Of People And Then Feeling Bad About It

"So," I said, barely able to hear myself think, "Should I get a broom and bang on the ceiling, or something?"

We were, at that point on that Saturday afternoon, so upset that we were on the verge of almost nearly doing something, for our upstairs neighbour was playing the same song for the third time in a row, and apparently dancing to it while wearing diver's boots.

We decided to give it five minutes, and then - perhaps - we might do something passive-aggressive, such as putting on some music of our own, only nothing too loud.

Like anybody who lives in flats, you can't choose your neighbours and you have to put up with their habits and elephant feet.

Directly upstairs is a single mum, with a toddler who rises before dawn and has Sunny Delight-driven stomps throughout the day. You can also set your watch to her smoke alarm, which is the signal that their dinner is ready and smoking in the kitchen. She sometimes blocks our front path with her baby buggy, and as a result, we sometimes think badly of them.

Upstairs diagonally, you have probably heard of Sky Meat Woman, with her habit of throwing meat products (cooked and uncooked) out of her kitchen window, which invariably land in our front garden. It is - as you might imagine - a major pain in the backside, because you never know what's waiting for the dog to choke on when you take him for a walk on any given night. Just a couple of weeks ago it was an entire chicken carcass. She also leaves her bins out all the time (not sexy slang), and as a result, we sometimes think badly of them.

It took some time to realise that the sky meat was thrown to attract one of the local foxes (we have at least five living on our street), and I got some glorious photographs of my new vulpine pal that we realised that sky meat is not - all told - a bad thing.

I felt bad about feeling bad about Sky Meat Lady.

 So, the music went on again, and I almost nearly went to the closet to get the broom, but was interrupted by the doorbell.

It was Upstairs Lady.

"I'm sorry," she said, "but is my music too loud?"

"Err.. just a bit."

"Sorry," she said.

"Sorry," I said, because I'm English and therefore feel I must also apologise for something, even if I don't know what it is.

"I'll ...err... go and turn it down then."


And then I felt bad about feeling bad about her.