Tuesday, 12 December 2006

The year of regret

As the end of the year draws near, thoughts inevitably take a reflective turn as the world and his wife look back on the last twelve months. And what a year it has been, undoubtedly, for some. Not me though. Suffice to say that 2006 has been Mister P's year of regret.

Actually, that's not entirely true. January was okay. This feeling even crept in February, for the first week or so... but since then it has been an unbroken chain of regret. Regret that I did not seize a chance of some happiness, when it was dangling right there in front of me. Regret that, despite missing the chance of happiness, I still haven't bitten the bullet and put and end to the cause of unhappiness, because I don't have the guts to hurt someone's feelings. Regret that my personal life, though never a giddy social whirl, has changed from generally happy and fulfilling to something you might find embedded in the ice at the back of an old freezer. Regret that I live so far (not actually that far but far enough, if you know what I mean) from friends and family. Regret that things have gotten so bad that the highlight of my week, by an enormous margin, is a weekly game of casual five-a-side football with some work colleagues. Regret...

Life is hard.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Genuine Klass... so why this?

The gorgeous and multi-talented Myleene Klass
Myleene Klass shot to fame as a result of Pop Stars, one of the first reality TV shows in the UK to be really popular, and was a member of the "end product" group, the unfortunately monickered Hear'Say (don't forget the all-important apostrophe). After their demise, she took some time out to do a degree in Astronomy, before returning to the limelight with an album of classical music (she is a classically trained pianist) and an increasing amount of television presenting work. She's clearly intelligent, multi-talented and, dare I say it, beautiful too... so what on earth is she doing on the current series of reality TV dross, I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! Is it some sort of vicious televisual circle? Come on Myleene (insert your own Dexy's Midnight Runners joke here), you can do better than this!

Of course, she is very fit (and not just in the cardio-vascular sense) and viewers have already seen Miss Klass showering under a waterfall in a tiny white bikini, so maybe I should just stop complaining...

Thursday, 5 October 2006

The World Wide Web. Good, isn't it?

I haven't felt too inspired to write much of late, undoubtedly to the relief of anyone who has ever read this blog before. I have spent a lot of time on the Internet though, and have stumbled across some sites that I would like to refer you to. These are they:
  • ChromeWaves.net - Frank lives near Toronto and works as a web developer. So far, so un-noteworthy. However, he is also passionate about music and writes this site to demonstrate that passion, reviewing new releases and gigs, and sharing his thoughts on all things guitar-based indie-shaped. Best of all is his "MP3 of the Week" page, which features an artist covering another artist. As an example of Frank's fine taste, just the other week he was offering Billy Bragg covering Bob Dylan in downloadable form. I'm not sure of the legality of this page, but Frank cheerily offers to take down any MP3 that offends the copyright holder, which is nice. Anyway, Frank has good musical taste, in my view, and his site can only enrich your musical life. Go and visit it.... now! Well, after you've finished reading this, at least...
  • AskOxford.com's FAQ - Oxford are world-renowned for their dictionaries, many of which are very expensive... so it's nice of them to publish these FAQ free to all and sundry. Uncertain on the use of apostrophe-S? Not sure when to use "fewer" or "less"? Want to know what comes after once, twice, thrice? All these questions and more are answered in clear, yet detailed, fashion. Seeing how the English language is increasingly distorted and misused all around us, this linguistic reference makes salient and informative reading. As the Reader's Digest says, "it pays to enrich your word power."
  • PeopleSketch - poor old Talk Talk. Their recent "free broadband for ever" promo has backfired spectacularly, as they simply cannot meet the demand. Forget that then, and remember instead their TV advertisements that showed aerial shots of people making shapes by standing in patterns. You know, phones, smiley faces, that kind of thing. Well now you can do it for yourself, courtesy of PeopleSketch - you simply doodle a line drawing of whatever you like (try to keep it clean, people) and then watch as scurrying people fly on to your screen and map out your artwork in human form. I can't explain it any better than that, so just take a look for yourself if you want to know more. No, it's not going to change the world. But it is a clever site... and an excellent way of killing time during your lunch-break.
  • The Telegraph PM - fancy a free daily newspaper? And a quality one at that? Every day at 4pm (UK time), the Daily Telegraph makes a ten page version of itself available for download as a PDF file, for reading on-screen or printing off and reading on the way home from work. News, sport, business, TV listings, puzzles... all you need is PDF-reading software like Adobe Acrobat Reader or Foxit. Highly recommended.

Monday, 2 October 2006

As seen on TV the street!

The Mystery Machine, apparently
Childhood memories of watching Scooby Doo came flooding back to me recently when I stumbled upon The Mystery Machine, parked, would you believe, outside my local Volkswagen dealership. After a quick check to make sure Old Man Withers wasn't loitering amongst the used Golfs and Passats, ready to mistake me for a meddling kid at the drop of a hat, I had a closer look and secured photographic evidence (left). Sadly, there was no sign of Daphne either though... maybe she was off exploring an abandoned funfair or haunted mine somewhere...

But really, who would have thought that Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Velma and Fred did all their crime-fighting, ghost-busting and scooby-snack consumption in a VW Transporter Trendline? Yikes indeed.

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

News of the world

I live in a quiet cul-de-sac, in a small village, in an isolated county that is basically on the road to nowhere. In fact, it's so insular around here that a local MP even suggested the locals are in-bred (I should add that I'm an interloper, not a local). There aren't many advantages to being so far off the beaten track... but one of them is the idiosyncrasies of the local media. I wrote last month about the, ahem, unique stories you find in the local press, so this time around I'll just mention regional television. Specifically, I'd like to draw attention to the all-round brilliance of the little honey that is Julie Reinger, weather girl on my evening regional news programme. I knew there must be some compensation for living in such a barren outpost; turns out to be that the rest of the nation doesn't get to see her every day.

Whilst we're on the subject of news, this was reported by the BBC today. Man marries goat? Really, you couldn't make it up...

Friday, 8 September 2006


Today is the last day that Southwold-based brewers Adnams will deliver any beer by dray. Until this morning's news I was unaware that any beer was still delivered this way but, now I know, I find that I am sad to learn that this has come to an end. I am sure health & safety, throughput and other harsh economic truths will be cited as reasons. At least the last two horses, Percherons called Sam and Monarch, get to retire, I guess. Progress? Erosion? I'll leave it to you to decide.

Thursday, 7 September 2006


I took a beach-based holiday last month. Obviously this leant itself well to that traditional male pastime of evaluating ladies in biknis and other skimpy summer-wear. Tremendous fun, obviously... so if you don't want to read something that could ruin this game for you forever, look away now!

You see, I took to rating every woman I saw against the woman I was with... subconsciously at first but then, when I realised what I was doing, I added some structure. I ended up concluding "more" or "less" for every girl I saw, depending how much I fancied them in comparison to my companion. I know, how shallow am I? But try it for yourself (and women can play too): evaluate how much you are attracted to any person you see in your age range (I leave that parameter up to your personal taste) and compare it to how much you fancy your current beau/belle. The law of averages suggests a 50/50 split. Since you won't know most people you see, you'll inevitably end up judging them on looks alone, but that's okay - again, I'll leave it up to you to judge attraction on whatever criteria you would normally use. If you're lucky, everyone else comes out as a "less"... but if the majority come out as "more", well, I hope that's not so depressing as to ruin the very act of lechery for you... forever...!

Friday, 1 September 2006

Derailing my train of thought

Whilst driving to the garage yesterday, where my ailing bucket of rust had an MOT-shaped date with destiny, I had to stop to let a line of ducks cross the road. The four web-footed friends waddled slowly across the street, for all the world like a feathered version of the Abbey Road album sleeve. But I digress - what I really want to get down on paper is the sequence of thoughts this sight triggered in me, so here goes.

First of all, I was reminded of a woman I used to work with in a previous job. She was fond of saying "you've got your ducks all in a row" to indicate that something was correct or going well. She also had amazing blue eyes, but that's not really relevant here. Anyway, she then led me to think of another woman I worked with in the same job who I had a bit of a thing for. One evening after a night out to celebrate her birthday we stumbled out of a club and, standing next to a long line of expectant taxis, she said that I could come back to her place to call a cab. Somehow - don't ask me how - I missed this sign that maybe she was interested in me too, and simply replied that I'd get one of the cabs that we were standing right next to. How could I be so dense?

By now the Thought Express was gathering steam, as I recalled another missed opportunity. Years previously, whilst still at university in fact, I became close friends with a girl on the same hall as me who was just so amazing... we really clicked on every level, shared thoughts and feelings, sat up all night talking and listening to music... you get the idea. One night out on the town (again celebrating someone's birthday, coincidentally), I noticed that she seemed very attracted to another partygoer, yet seemed to lack the confidence to do anything about it. On my way back to my room I left a note under her door quoting lyrics from Ask by The Smiths (you know, "shyness is nice and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life that you want to", that kind of thing) in an attempt to bolster her confidence, even though subconsciously the last thing I wanted her to do was to make progress with this other guy. Anyway, I got up very early the next morning and went home for the weekend. Within minutes of my arriving back late on Sunday night, she was at my door, clutching the note. Turns out that despite my truncating the line "if there's something you want to try, ask me, I won't say no, how could I?" to just "if there's something you want to try, ask" she thought the note was my way of saying that I wanted us to become a couple. Which it wasn't, even though the thought had crossed my mind. Thinking back to the look on her face as all this came out, when it seemed I could actually hear her racing heart thumping, I think that maybe it had crossed her mind too... so why did I get flustered and laugh it off? Why did I explain the perceived attraction to this other guy, and the real reason for the note? A few months later she went home to the US and, although we're still in touch by letter and email, I've only actually seen her once since, and that was ten years ago this month. If I'm honest with myself, I compare how I feel about any woman I meet with how I felt about her, and so far no-one measures up... so again, how could I be so dense?

By now my train of thought was thundering down the track, crashing through leaves on the line as if they weren't there, as I cast my mind back still further, to primary school in fact. In my last year (making me about 11) there was one girl in class who was so pretty that she made us boys think that maybe there was more to girls than met the eye. To my pre-pubescent self her long honey-coloured hair and chestnut-brown eyes were distracting in a way I didn't quite understand at the time. She even had a cool Irish name that I liked to say aloud, just to hear the unusual sound of it. As Valentine's Day rolled around I made a card for her, the verse of which culminated in my asking her if she'd like to be my girlfriend (I was much bolder then than I am these days, it seems). Cunningly, or so I thought, I signed the card in very flowery, upside-down and back-to-front calligraphy, safe in the knowledge that she wouldn't be able to decipher the name, But of course she did. Walking home from school that night I dragged my feet, so that I wouldn't see her, but as I passed her road I looked down and saw her, maybe 50 yards away. "Yes!" she shouted, over and over. So why didn't I run down the road to talk to her, maybe hold her hand, or do any of the other stuff that primary school sweethearts do? Why, precisely, did I deny sending the card the next day, and say that Simon had forged it as a joke? She was the prettiest girl in school, I really liked her and she, it seemed, liked me. Again, how could I be so dense?

At this point my train of thought derailed completely, as I arrived at the garage and deposited my depressing Italian hatchback. 28 hours later, I still haven't got the car back, as the mechanics find untold and undoubtedly costly repairs to be made. But when I go to pick the car up later today, I hope I don't see those damned ducks - I can do without reminding myself of all this again.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

The joy of the local press

Leafing through a local paper yesterday, I came across the sort of story that you just don't get in the national press, regardless of whether you read The Sun or The Telegraph. The story in question concerned an elderly man complaining that he had been injured when a bag of plums was thrown at him from a speeding car. Now we shouldn't laugh... the poor gent was knocked over and suffered a bruised knee which, if you live in Thetford as this old chough does, is probably enough to warrant recalling bLiar from his hol's...
What gets me though is that this story made the paper! This drive-by plumming made the pages of "the country's top-selling regional morning newspaper", the Eastern Daily Press. How the provincial hack resisted the temptation to contort plumbago into the headline somehow ("plum-and-go" anyone?) is frankly beyond me.

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

A couple of websites to recommend to you

Sometimes it feels like there isn't a lot of point recommending a website these days; if you're looking for something specific, you'll just Google it and get 24,368 options that might give you what you want, right? But I must just take a minute to recommend a couple of tremendous time-wasting sites. Prepare to kiss your lunch-hours goodbye.

The first is StickScene.com, where you can pointlessly fritter away your time trying to guess the film based on the stick-man representation of a scene from the film, or its poster. Take a look - start at puzzle 1 (easy - "Back to the Future") and follow them through... but be warned, they do get harder.

The other site is less flashy or exciting, but is still worth a mention. It's Listology.com, on which people can submit totally random lists of anything. I ended up there after searching for a particular quote from the film "Wayne's World" (ahem - excellent!) and found a great list of quotable moments from that film at Listology. Anyway, have a search around for subjects that interest you, you might be surprised (and amused) by what you find.

Whilst we're sort of on that subject (digression alert!), halfway through Wayne's World Garth says, "We're looking down on Wayne's basement, only that's not Wayne's basement. Isn't that weird?" To which Wayne replies, "Garth, that was a haiku." But it isn't! Shouldn't a haiku have seventeen syllables, in a 5-7-5 pattern? So that was a haiku....? Not!

Monday, 24 July 2006

Greatest living Englishmen

Also known as national treasures... but who would you nominate for such a list? Stephen Fry is a name much bandied about in such discussions, though I have good friends with valued opinions who cannot abide Mr Fry. The perma-quiffed genius that is Morrissey is another for the shortlist and, whilst we're perusing the musical world, let's also include Jarvis Cocker.

I'd like to throw another name into the ring at this point... Danny Wallace. Who, you may say? Well, in his comparatively short life (he's younger than me, so I can say that), he has:
  • started a cult of people performing random acts of kindness, with the simple phrase "join me";
  • spent a year saying yes to any question and every opportunity, as an exercise in positive thinking;
  • been to the centre of the universe (wouldn't you just know it - it's in the American Mid-West);
  • started his own country, complete with national anthem, passport, flag, constitution, the works.
Speaking as someone who agonises over every decision in life, scrutinising everything to the n-th degree, I find Danny's "I can make this happen" approach to be inspirational. He should be a national hero, instead of just being recognised as the host of the recent BBC1 quiz show School's Out... Danny, I salute you. And not just because you're the country of Lovely's head of state.

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Feast your mince pies on this

Just a quick note to advertise an interesting website - having recently spent a lot of time listening to the Italian Job soundtrack I wanted to discover the meaning of a few Cockney rhyming slang phrases with which I was unfamiliar. Imagine my delight, then, to discover cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk which has a searchable lexicon of such terms, plus English to Cockney and Cockney to English dictionaries. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to know quite why "James Blunt" has been the most popular new submission to this website for the last five months though...

Friday, 23 June 2006

The six most annoying words you can hear

"Cheer up, it might never happen." F**k you, you mindless buffoon, who's to say it, or something worse than whatever the it is you're imagining, hasn't already happened? Who's to say that my sweet little old granny wasn't mown down last night by a gang of joyriders in a stolen Impreza, whacked out of their gourds on amphetamines and crack cocaine, and that I arrived back from the hospital after identifying Gran's body to find my wife and best mate banging away like a sh*thouse door in a Force 10 gale?

"Cheer up, it might never happen." The expected response to this is a smile but I can't be doing with that at all. I usually just keep my head down and go right on looking miserable, but what I really want to say is "You don't know me or anything about my life, so please will you take yourself and your mindless platitudes out of my face. C*nt."

Footnote: in case you think I'm so angry about this (hence the swearing, sorry) because my gran did get killed last night and my wife was cheating on me with my best mate, I should probably point out that both my grandmothers died when I was still in single figures, I'm not married, and my best mate is a person I would trust my life, let alone a wife, with. I'm just down about other things, and am fed up with hearing these six words, okay?

Monday, 19 June 2006

Advice - easier to give than receive

I've always been someone people come to for advice. This can, at times, be a pain; equally, it can be very rewarding to be able to help someone out of a dilemma. I've learnt that it can be difficult to give advice sometimes, particularly if the recipient isn't going to like it, so I tend to start with "what I'd do is" rather than "what you should do is" and, generally, all is well.

Occasionally, very occasionally, I'll even offer advice when it hasn't been asked for. This is often a very dangerous thing to do but sometimes there really is no alternative. Let me illustrate by example, and turn the clock back to my then employer's Christmas "do" back in, I'm guessing now, 2002. After an evening of bad food and Bacchanalian consumption of various alcoholic beverages, a hard-core few were still gamely partying on in what could loosely be described as a "fun" club - you know the type of place: it has a dance floor but it's never going to play anything beyond the mainest of mainstream. I seem to recall asking the DJ for something (anything!) by The Prodigy. To his credit, he looked genuinely sorry when he replied that he wasn't allowed to play anything like that.

So I'm upstairs in this club, wandering aimlessly around, drink in hand, doing slow laps of the balcony overlooking the dancers on the floor below. And that's where I happened upon a colleague from work - for the sake of anonymity (his and mine) and to avoid getting sued, let's change the names throughout this piece and call him Ed. Ed was leaning on the balcony rail, overpriced drink in hand, forlornly staring over the side. After exchanging the sort of pleasantries that only ever exist between people that would normally never socialise yet somehow find themselves working together five days a week, I asked him what was up. Nothing, he replied, and continued to stare over the balcony.

Aside from my concern that the bouncers were going to give him a hard time (his near-full pint glass was dangling over the balcony, over the heads of the dancers below), I was more than a little worried about his demeanour - he seemed terribly, achingly sad. So I followed his gaze to the floor below and saw that he was staring at (let's call her) Jenny, another colleague. There was absolutely no doubt about it - as she moved around the dance floor in some form of novelty-record-inspired jig, his doleful eyes traced her every move. Now Ed and Jenny were, it was widely known, best friends and had been ever since they started primary school together. Yet here was Ed, displaying all the signs of heart ache and distress that I associate with unrequited love. So, partly to break his fixed gaze on the floor below, I asked Ed why he wasn't down there dancing with Jenny and the others. He answered that he would find that difficult. Now Ed was known for his ability to wax the dance floor, so I took it that the difficulty would arise from his feelings for Jenny... so I just asked him straight. "Why don't you ask her out?" He looked at me for a long time without saying anything, so long in fact that I started to wonder if I'd misjudged what I'd seen. Finally, he took a sip of his beer and replied, "If she says no, I've ruined the best friendship I've ever had." A fair point, I had to admit... but I soldiered on regardless, doubtless emboldened by a few beers of my own to stick my nose in where it probably wasn't wanted. My line of reasoning was basically this: if you never ask her, you'll never know, and if you never know you're going to wake up one day five, ten, fifteen years later and wonder "what if?" I added to this by asking what would be worse, damaging a friendship but knowing where you stood, or carrying on as you were but never knowing what might have been? He seemed to mull this over for a while, and then bought me a drink - I seem to recall we spent the rest of the evening buying each other increasing potent concoctions, and I revealed that in the past I had, not once but twice, not taken the plunge of asking someone, not at least found out, and I had regretted both missed opportunities ever since. As we got more wasted, I resorted to the "what I would do is" line... and shortly after that last orders were called at the bar, the house lights came up and we all trooped off home.

He didn't do anything about it that night. He didn't do anything about it in the last few working days leading up to Christmas either. But somewhere in our ten day break over the holiday period, Ed asked Jenny out. And she said yes. And, to the best of my knowledge, they are still together now. Whether my drunken advice to Ed played any part in this, I don't know. I hope so, but you'd have to ask him.

Anyway, what's my point in all this? I'm sure it's all very interesting to read a story with a happy ending but regular readers of this 'blog (there might be one of you out there somewhere) will sense that I'm leading to something else, so here it is. Why is it so much easier to give advice to someone else than to yourself? As I mentioned before, twice before I'd shied away from the situation Ed found himself in, and twice I'd regretted it. Yet as an outsider looking in, it's easy to see what should have been done. All of which is especially hard to swallow now that it's happened a third time. I've found myself in a position of unrequited feelings, and the longer I let them go on the less chance there is of them ever being realised. I've even had other people, friends and family, giving me the "what I would do is" line. One particularly good friend even put it firmer than that: "you have to...". But still I haven't done it. Why? Partly because, like Ed, I'd be risking a friendship and partly because, bounder that I am, it would break someone else's heart. So I do nothing, and instead the only feelings that get hurt, repeatedly, day after day, are mine.

Like I said before, I've always been someone people come to for advice. Why is it then that I can't take my own?

Monday, 15 May 2006

South Park-ify yourself...

South Park is crass, rude, offensive and appeals to the basest of humours... all of which makes it very hard not to like, in my view. Ever wondered what a South Park version of yourself would look like? Then check out this Shockwave offering at southparkstudios.co.uk/avatar and find out. Just hope you don't end up looking like Kenny, as we all know what always happens to him...

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

I am a bag man...

Is it just me, or does anyone else notice that whenever you buy something in a shop here in the UK it's bundled into a plastic bag almost by default? Without so much as a ""Would you like a bag sir?" Unless you're in one of those less-than-convenient convenience stores that charges for bags, that it... But do you really need a bag? The answer to that is "probably not". But even if you do, can't you put your purchases from subsequent shops in the same bag you were given in the first store? The answer to that is "yes", by the way...

If you buy things in ten shops on a trip into town, you don't need ten bags, I promise you. One will do. And when you get home and have unpacked your offerings to the gods of consumerism, you don't need to throw the bag in the bin. Why not tuck it away somewhere and use it again next time you go shopping? And if you can't bring yourself to do that, have you ever noticed that plastic carrier bags make excellent (and free) bin liners? At least that way you're still putting them to some good purpose.

We produce, use and discard plastic bags and other packaging materials in vast and ludicrous quantities. UK shoppers alone get through 8 thousand million bags per year - to make it clear just how big a number that actually is, it's 8,000,000,000 bags a year, or 134 per person, just in the UK! In case you still don't understand just what a phenomenal number that is, if you were to count one year's bags at a rate of one bag per second, it would take you over 250 years of non-stop counting to get through a year's consumption of bags. By which time you'd have a back-log of 249 years' worth of bags to count...

And what happens to all those bags? The vast majority are used once, then go in the bin (and not as a bin liner either). Bury a plastic carrier bag in a landfill site and, chances are, it will still be there in 100 years. Makes you think doesn't it.... there has to be a better way. There used to be (and might still be, for all I know) a campaign called SNUB - Say No to Unwanted Bags - there's no good reason for getting through so much pointless packaging. You can choose to make a difference... like everything else, "reduce, re-use, recycle" applies to plastic bags too.

Monday, 10 April 2006

Easter bunny? Not funny...

Now I'm not what you would call a religious person, by any stretch of the imagination. Apart from weddings, christenings and a funeral, the last time I went to church was probably nearly twenty years ago. Although I see no scientific or rational basis for believing in an all-powerful, omnipotent being I'm not going to rule the existence of one out, so I guess that makes me agnostic. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I have no religious axe to grind.

I do have a slight problem with the modern Western take on Easter though (didn't you just know I would?). Whatever your religious beliefs, the accepted (and celebrated) raison d'être for Easter concerns the son of God giving his life for mankind, and being resurrected. New life, new beginnings, new faith.... all of the above. So I can see the symbolism of flowering daffodils, even of eggs... but where does the Easter bunny fit into this picture? Likewise Easter bonnets? And yes, eggs might well symbolise new beginnings, but nothing ever hatched from a chocolate egg, so I'm guessing the only symbol Cadbury's, Nestlé, Mars and the rest are interested in is the "£" sign...

As an aside, I wrote last month about how song lyrics from your youth stick in the mind better and longer than any others. Curiously, Alex James of Blur writes about exactly the same thing in his column in Uncut magazine this month... perhaps I should sue him for plagiarism...?

Thursday, 9 March 2006

A life in lyrics

I guess we're all familiar with the last song we hear in the morning sticking in our heads all day. Sometimes that can be quite annoying, depending on the song. But what's less obvious, I think, but equally true is how easily lyrics pervade our consciousness... is it just me or do we find ourselves unintentionally dropping lyrics into every day conversation? Well I certainly do, and all the sodding time too. This can be a good thing, or equally can make you look like a complete loon, depending on the quality of the lyrics in question. The other potential problem with this is the risk that someone might spot your lyrical name-dropping, in which case you inadvertantly run the risk of looking like a pretentious fool. And I say inadvertantly because the whole "life through lyrics" thing is unintentional - the words have just worked their cunning way into my subconscious and come out whenever they feel like it, with no conscious effort on my part. To make matters worse, I find the songs I learnt in my youth are those that stick with me the best, and consequently are those that spring, unbidden, into my daily conversation. I've found myself "quoting" XTC, The Jam and The Smiths this week, which tells you all you need to know about how old I am.

It'll also tell you all you need to know about my state of mind at the moment to learn that lately I've been mulling over the lyrics to "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time" by The Smiths and "The Blower's Daughter" by Damien Rice... happy, uplifting stuff then...

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Hobson's choice...

...is defined as a choice without an alternative, i.e. option 1 or nothing. The term is possibly derived from the name of Thomas Hobson (1544-1631), who kept a livery stable in Cambridge and required every customer to take either the horse nearest the stable door or none at all. All very interesting, I'm sure you'll agree.

So what has prompted me to write about such a choice? Unsurprisingly, facing one of my own. Which is best, I wonder: to stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy (but at least have some companionship) or to separate and be totally alone? Okay, strictly this isn't Hobson's choice as there are two options, but since neither is desirable... what's a boy to do? And no, before you reach for the email, I'm not actually looking to you for an answer, okay, I just ask the question here rhetorically and to provoke a little thought. But really though, miserable alone or miserable together? Maybe it could be argued that separation is the best choice, since it leaves the door open for meeting someone else that perhaps will make you happy... but it's a brave man who dives into the icy waters of loneliness with no concerns about meeting someone new. Brave or arrogant, perhaps. Add into the equation the fact that once, like me, you get to a certain age all the best alternatives are taken, or have baggage, or are on their second or third time round the track... like I say, it's a brave man...

And to close the loop on the earlier Valentine's day post... well, I'm not going to go into what I did and didn't do myself, other than to say it involved ordering flowers, cancelling flowers and then making a last minute dash to the florist, all to offer affection to someone who, suffice to say, doesn't actually want it. Beyond that, let's just say I didn't get any cards at all...

Friday, 10 February 2006

The other Valentine's Day massacre...

It's almost that time of the year again - you know, the day when whatever you buy for your other half is, in some way, not right, or not thoughtful enough, or not as romantic as whatever her friend's other half bought her for Valentine's Day. This is also known traditionally as the day on which people can declare strong feelings for someone, perhaps accompanied with a week's salary worth of flowers, only to discover that the other person just likes them as a friend. Coincidentally, it's also the day on which some people eagerly check their mailbox (the one in the front door or the email variety, these days) in the hope of receiving an unexpected message of love only to find none there, as the rest of the western world swoons in a point-making carpet of hearts and flowers...

As you can see I am the tiniest bit cynical about Valentine's Day. Sure, I'd like an card from a secret admirer as much as the next man, and I may well have sent one or two in my time. I've even been known to do the whole flowers/chocolates/jewellery/lingerie thing. It just seems a bit much sometimes. Maybe I've just been listening to too much Morrissey lately, but it seems to me that, inevitably, the person who likes you is often someone whose feelings you just can't return, and equally that the person you like doesn't return your feelings... of course, you don't find this out until after you shell out on flowers and choc's, until after you've spent all day writing an awful, mawkish piece of cod-poetry in a tacky card that comes in a lurid red envelope, until after you've laid your heart on the line...

What will this Valentine's bring? I don't know, to be honest, other than a hatful of our consumerist cash for the companies that churn out the aforementioned cards, inflatable message balloons, chocolates, flowers, and all the rest. Why I get a card? Will I send one? It's only four days away and I don't even know the answer to that myself just yet. Maybe I'll feel moved to write more here next week on the subject... and if I'm waxing lyrical about romance and the joys of Cupid's arrow you know I'm a happy bunny... but if I'm further slagging the whole exploitative, commercial nature of the event you know that there were no envelopes on my door-mat that morning...

Sunday, 15 January 2006

What is love?

A nice easy question there then, and not one that is likely to be answered in a couple of trite paragraphs on some no-mark's 'blog. But here's the thing that's been troubling me... you think you know what love is, and you think you're trundling along in love and knowing that life isn't all hearts and flowers, but that's okay because this is real life, not some Brit-flick rom-com. But then something happens... and all of a sudden you start to wonder if what you have is just extreme care and friendship, and a lot of shared history. Does that make it love though? Does any of that make the pulse quicken? Does any of that cause adrenalin to surge through the body? Do you yearn for any of that when it is not there? And does the loss of that leave a gaping hole in the very centre of you, a chasm where your insides used to be?

I thought I was in love with someone.... but what do you know, it turns out I'm not. What triggered this realisation? Well, you don't actually expect me to commit that to writing, do you?

Funny old world, isn't it?

Friday, 6 January 2006

Nice guys finish last

I know it's a cliché but it's true isn't it? Nice guys finish last. It doesn't matter how hard you try to do everything right, or how much you hope that this approach will pay dividends, it sometimes seems very hard to avoid the conclusion that the nicer you try to be, the more life f**ks you over. Why doesn't the nice guy get the girl? Outside of Hollywood, that is... Why doesn't the nice guy get the top job? Why doesn't the nice guy get to be happy?

Yes, I am moaning. Yes, I used the f-word in the last paragraph. Yes, I am angry at the world, and yes, I drove to work this morning with The Smiths cranked up to 11 to further my maudlin angst. And finally yes, none of the above matters because no f**ker reads this 'blog anyway. Here endeth the lesson.