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Sunday, April 29, 2012


i have enjoyed the last week or so of rain. i love the rain - even though it means i have to play dodge the umbrella (i mean heaven forbid that anyone in charge of a bumbershoot that that is three times the size of a small garden would ever think that they should have to move it out of someone's way), even though all my trainers have holes in them so i end up with damp and soggy socks and even though it has meant that i have had to sit around in damp clothes for a large chunk of each day. i love the rain. i also love the fact that because it has rained a bit people start to wonder why we have drought warnings and hose pipe bans. it does make me wonder if people grasp some of the issues of climate change or even think about questions of dwindling resources. i doubt it. but then given london, alone, is talking about the need for over 360,000 houses over the next ten yeas - perhaps it would be safe to assume that the powers that be haven't really grasped the issues themselves. odd how in this time of growing bills none of the london candidates have turned their attention to the utility providers - such as thames water - and said that they would ensure that the provider works smarter and more efficiently in order to improve their profitability while reducing the costs to the consumer - the original selling point of privatisation. instead what we get is the utility providers upping the price in order that they can maintain their profit while also carrying out the maintenance that they be doing. must be great when you are virtually a private monopoly and can just hike those prices up. in the case of thames water - they shouldn't be allowed to increase their prices until such time as they had repaired all the leaks that allows water to gush out of their pipes. thames water has a leakage rate of over 25%, which is somewhat more than the 5% of water that will be saved by the hosepipe ban. on the one hand an environmental commentator has described their leakages as obscene, on the other hand a thames water spokesman is praising the efforts of the company by saying that their current leakages are lower than their 2004 high point, even though they are wasting more water than any other water provider in the country. their website has had to remove the claim that they repair leakages within 5-days. it does, however, tell us that the current drought has been two years in the making, so a few days of rain isn't going to save the day. i wonder how much better off we would have been if they had done better with their pipe repairs? not that they care that much as they have recently just put their prices up - so expect a nice profit announcement from them next time they give a financial report.


i didn't want to vote for ken. i really didn't. i wasn't going to vote for him because he had shown he wasn't interested in the democratic process. that was last week. this week it looks as if the polls are very, very close. so principles be hanged. i am voting for ken, i know it will be a mistake. i also know letting boris win will also be a mistake. so ken is getting my vote. again. (sorry siobhan - i am sure you'll get a post in the london assembly - no matter who wins).

Friday, April 27, 2012


i have just started a course to train to become a security guard (no sniggering at the back). it isn't that i want to become a security guard, it is that i want a job and security guards seem to be the one growth area there is out there. most of you are lucky and probably don't have much to do with your local jobcentre or jobcentre plus. trust me, you don't want to have dealings with them. now hats off to my jobcentre adviser (as they are called)for getting me on the course, even if i had to push and cajole him. he even suggested that it wasn't the job for me, telling me that i had plenty of work experience and a degree. to which all i could say was i was 50 and out of work and that trumps everything. getting on the course didn't require much. that i could read and count to five seems to have cracked it for me. on the course. yay, me. i inform the jobcentre of this. it only seems right and proper that i tell them that for four weeks i will be on the course that they have arranged for me. now remember that: they arranged it for me. for those of you who haven't had to sign on let me tell you the process is pretty soul destroying, even though it can be over very quickly. once every fortnight you go in, show evidence of your job search, answer a few questions, sign and leave. easy. why is it soul destroying then? because you are dealing with people who really don't care about helping you, they just care about ticking their boxes and completing their checklists. for instance i asked about a list of current job sites on then internet - oh i don't think we do one of those. i asked about other organisations that can help me with my job search - wasn't sure if there are any they have a contract with - which is surprising as there is one that is affiliated to the local council. oh well. even the request for my cv turns out to be a pointless piece of paper shuffling - they don't actually do anything with it except fold it up and put it in my little file. it is really useful there. there comes a point in your signing on when you go from being every two weeks to possibly every week. i started the course the same week they decided to move me on to a weekly signing schedule. after a bit of 'well that seems a bit stupid' from me it looks as if for the time of the course i won't have to do the additional signing on. score one for common sense. still there are problems with the signing on time and the course times. 'oh you can come in earlier or you can come in later - but we can't change the start time.' as if it were set in stone and unable to change. i try to get in there early. i end up being seen twenty mintues late. oh well, it is not like i can take the high ground over punctuality (as shep and ems can attest). that wouldn't have been so bad if it were not for the 'you have to sign on a 9.10, yeah thanks i knew that shame you couldn't sign me on when i was supposed to be signed on. now i wouldn't mind if i could say they were busy and they had a rush of people who were difficult - they didn't, just me an a couple of other blokes there waiting patiently. i wouldn't mind if they actually took the time to look at the job search you have to do, they don't. i wouldn't mind if they actually gave a little eye contact, but they don't. not that i am complaining. i am on the course. i could become a security guard at the end of it. the funny thing is most of the course is about customer service. judging by the quality of the staff at my local jobcentre - pretty much everyone in my group on the course would be able to do the job better than the advisers i have had. perhaps it is time that the department of work and pensions started to look at their training methods and started to employed 'secret unemployed' to see just how good their staff are, because from where i am sitting they are not that good. time for some of them to get some training in dealing with customers.


have i told you i like books? have i told you that i am not buying any books this year? the problem with not buying any new books is that i can't stop myself from reading reviews of books, nor can i stop myself from going into places where books are sold to look at what has come out. so i have already produced quite a chunky wants list of books from 2012. sainsbury's have quite an interesting book section. it is mostly the top 20 paperbacks. a few new fiction hardcovers, a few odd non-fiction hardcovers and then the topical hardcovers (at the moment it seems to be cooking). almost hidden in the run of hardcovers is the new stephen king hardcover. it is a bit of a shock. firstly because it is yet another book in his gunslinger series, that ended a few years back (and i have yet to finish reading). i am not surprised that there is a new stephen king book out, the chap is quite prolific. what did surprise me was the page count - it comes in at 352 pages of largish type. for mr. king that is just a long short story. i am not longer surprised by the collection of dull covers that i see in bookshops. where once book covers were works of art, now they are just thrown together with little thought of the story inside. what does continue to surprise me is the continued success of james patterson. sainsbury's has three paperbacks in the top 20, one hardcover in the top 10. all i can do is scratch my head and wonder how and why? he has to be one of the worst authors i have ever read, and i don't say that lightly. yet people buy him in droves. there is no explaining it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


i have said it before: i don't like bob crow, general secretary of the rail, maritime and transport workers union (rmt), but if i were to be a position to choose to be in a union then it would be the combative rmt as lead by bob crow. hey, no one said life was simple. bob comes across as a hard man of politics, a fighter for the international overthrow of capitalism and staunch defender of workers rights (so what if he gets paid a whopping great big salary and lives in a large subsidised house - these are just the contradictions that are part of capitalism and will disappear in the socialist paradise. maybe). bob doesn't look the sort of bloke you'd want to go out with for a drink and a laugh, unless it was a quip or two about the falling rate of profit and asking why the socialist chicken crossed the road? (progress). if there is a saving grace to bob crow it is that it appears he is no fan of boris johnson. some of boris' supporters in the 'back boris 2012' campaign have put up a website called 'not ken again' and have released a poster of the same name. bob crow is not happy. if bob's not happy then the rmt move into action and have started a legal case to sue boris johnson for defamation. why? because, the rmt claims, the poster portrays bob crow as 'as being part of a culture of political immorality and as having caused serious harm to the interests of people in london.' i have no idea if bob crow is any more or any less politically immoral than boris, ken or brian. the sad truth of the matter seems to be that once you are in power (of any kind) some shit will stick to you. as for the second claim i am guessing that if you asked any of the commuters who are adversely affected by the strikes that bob crow calls they might be happy to use the phrase 'serious harm'. the offending poster is below. me? i found it quite funny.
according to the bbc ken livingstone had initially declined to comment on it, but is now saying that the boris's scare tactics are blowing up in his face. boris and co have said of the action by the rmt; that they were not aware that bob crow was such a delicate flower. the irony is that no matter who wins - bob crow will still be there and will still be the man to deal with, that alone makes ken a better man for the job than boris.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


you won't often hear me praise rupert murdoch - but i have to tip my hat to the dirty digger. why? i just love the way he has turned on david cameron and his pals. it wasn't so long ago that mr. murdoch and his papers were stocking the boot into the labour party and gordon brown. the financial crisis was the result of labour's profligacy. once labour were ousted and the cod/dems in the financial crisis was a global crisis. odd that. the sun, news of the world and the times were supportive of the austerity programme of the con/dems. then: ooooops one of the organs of news international is implicated in the phone hacking scandal - but it is only celebrities; who cares? then the milly dowler revelation and the shit hit the fan. the news of the world is closed down and everyone hates the murdochs and news international. david cameron sets up the leveson inquiry and news international is dragged over the coals. it is hard to have sympathy for rupert murdoch and co. after all it isn't like they were innocent of wrongdoing. not that it seems that rupert would agree with that, not does it seem as if he sees any reason for something like the leveson inquiry. while he can't escape or ignore the inquiry what he can do is turn his news empire against david cameron and friends. and that is exactly what he has done. as if that wasn't enough it seems that the sun and the times have been helped by a few weeks of sloppy shoddy government from the con/dems: a bad budget, the worry of a potential fuel strike are a couple of examples that spring to mind. it is not enough. in last week's sun on sunday - they carried a piece about how george osborne's dad had committed a gaffe. sir peter osborne, who is a very wealthy man and the owner of a successful posh business, had said in an interview that he loved saville row suits and how he has wanted to buy a desk for £19,000 but has decided against it because he couldn't afford it. this is shown to be an example of how we are not 'in it together' (because the sun has only noticed this). so sir peter's spending habits (the rich spending money being something that the sun quite often likes to feature regularly). on the one hand it is a pathetic attack on con/dems - after all sir peter isn't an elected politician and what he spends his money on is up to him. using his wealth as a means to attack george osborne for his reducing the top rate of tax, as if the only reason he did it was so his dad could buy a few more suits, is a bit shallow. (it is also an odd line of attack for the sun to take as it is the sort of policy they had been saying had been necessary - i imagine that those rather high earners who are the movers and shakers at the sun - will be instructing their accountants to make sure that they keep paying the old rate of tax. yeah right). on the other hand the attack is a work of genius. the sun gets to show the tories in a very bad light and without having to do much work. it seems from a distance that rupert murdoch is just as petty as i am. the difference being is that mr. murdoch gets to act on his petty emotions in such a way that a country gets to read his attacks. for the moment i am prepared to ignore the fact that mr. murdoch is far too powerful. i am just sitting back and enjoying his attacks on david cameron and his pals. now i am just hoping they will start on boris as well.

Friday, April 20, 2012


the london mayoral elections are fast approaching. i haven't managed to get to any of the hustings events - not that it really makes much difference as there is only one place my vote is going. yes i will be voting for ken livingstone, albeit reluctantly. i am not fully behind ken simply because i think he has had his time, that there will be 'problems' in his administration and ken now believes his own hype. all that said he isn't boris; and that is enough. what would have been interesting would have been to hear from the other candidates,as we all pretty much know what we are going to get from ken and boris. the other candidates have remained pretty much spear carriers in the parade. the candidates are siobhan benita independent (she is the darling of the campaign. has backed the third runway at heathrow and wants the tube o run later on friday and saturday nights.) carlos cortiglia british national party (abolition of the congestion charge, no water cannon against public disorder and wants migrants who want to settle here to have an acceptable standard of english.) boris johnson conservative (cut waste in city hall and invest more in transport.) jenny jones green party (increase congestion charge and eventually replace it with a pay as you drive scheme, reduce speeds to 20 miles per hour throughout much of london.) ken livingstone labour (lower fares, more housing.) brian paddick liberal democrats (more police on the street and a push towards all public transport to be run by electricity by 2020.) lawrence webb ukip (worried ice cream vans might disappear from the streets and vat on beer down to 5%.) in the various polls that have been taken over the run up to the elections the boris, ken and brian have received between 91-97% of votes, the other candidates are living on that 3-9% that is left. now part of that is down to the fact that people are going to just vote for the big parties (and in the case of boris and ken - big personalities), it is also a result of the limited exposure that the other candidates get - they have to scrabble around to get acknowledged and get their message out there. bbc london have had some debates that just featured the main parties, but now as the election gets very close they want to hold one that features all the candidates including mr. cortiglia from the bnp. oh the horror. oh dear. ken can't be on the same stage as the bnp - it is a matter of principle. he says "the far right want to destroy our democracy and stand for the elimination of our basic rights. They cannot be treated as a legitimate part of politics." (which is all a bit rich when you consider his links to press tv and his support of some who have used less than democratic means to get their points across. boris and brian are also not going to be appearing on the same stage - boris saying he hadn't agreed to be there anyway, but he wouldn't share a platform with the bnp. brian ins't going to be there because ken and boris won't be there, but brian adds he wouldn't share a platform with the bnp. in case we forget the british national party is a legitimate political party. they may be very odious, but they are a legal party. people can vote for them and some people vote for them because they believe that the bnp represents their beliefs and others vote for them because they believe that the other parties don't give a toss about them. on the basis of ken's hissy fit i can't say they are wrong. to give ken some credit - at least he is making a stand and a political point. boris and brian are just being a bit wishywashy about it. yet none of them will call for the bnp to be banned, and if you won't do that then you have to debate with them and you have to share a platform with them. otherwise democracy is a sham. democracy can't be about the whims of one or two people who decide that they can't have a debate or conversation with someone they don't like. (though that probably explains why boris has never really sat down with the transport unions). every election we have this scaremondering about how the far right are going to take over and break democracy. how many seats have they won? how many have they kept? it is a bogus fear and it us, i believe, used by 'respectable' politicians in order that they can duck the real questions and concerns of a group of their constituents. you are almost left with the feeling that ken and boris are scared to debate with the bnp in case they lose, it isn't about principle, it is about face. after all if the bnp win a few seats on the london assembly does that mean that the mayor will not be in the chamber with them when it comes time to debate and decide on london issues? it is no way to become a leader. it is no way to protect democracy, rather it is a means to begin to erode democracy. the bnp have described it as an act that scuppers debate - hard to argue with that. ukip say "we are going to take every opportunity to talk to londoners, particularly as we are fourth in the polls but are being treated as an also-ran." siobhan benita said: "for me it's just really disappointing because this was the only platform the bbc had given me alongside boris and ken. "my feeling is all seven candidates have been selected, all seven should have a voice." i started by saying that ken was getting my vote because he wasn't boris. over this they have shown themselves to be pretty much alike. shame on them both for not having the courage to do what a democracy demands of its politicians. so siobhan benita it looks like you have my vote.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


the democratic process is fraught with difficulties.
sometimes you are confronted with a choice not of who you want, but of who you don't want. that is pretty much the case for me with the forthcoming london mayoral elections. it isn't that i think ken livingstone is bad - i just think that we should have had another choice, i would have preferred that oona king had gotten the labour nomination. i am sure ken means well, he talks a good game. but, and there is always a but, he hasn't always been the 'great man' he sometimes portrays himself as. the recent hoohah about the rate of tax he was paying being a case in point. yet none of that matters because ken has one major thing in his favour, well two really, he isn't a conservative and he isn't boris. so ken gets my vote because i don't want a tory in charge of london and i don't want boris in charge either. ken gets the nod by default. though he isn't making it easy for me as i read of how he broke down in tears at his recently launched party political broadcast - in which a number of londoners encourage ken to win it for london. mr. livingstone describes it as a 'tearjecker', given how many times he must have seen the film before it was released you have to wonder at how much he blubbed at his first viewing. i blame the x-factor for all this crying lark. at least he hasn't been reported as describing it as being a journey. personally when i read of ken's tears i was torn between a belly laugh and a quick vomit. on one fact ken is right, amd it applies to whoever gets the nod to be the london mayor “it’s a huge responsibility to make people’s lives better over the next four years and that’s why i want
to win.”

Monday, April 09, 2012


i have come to the understanding that perhaps i am not a people person. this hit home recently as i was dashing between exhibitions while there was a mild rain drizzling down. having described children as being annoying i must now turn my attention to adults. i shall preface this by saying that it is highly possible that, as someone once told me, that being unemployed leads to long periods where you are not mingling with the daily crush of people and so when you do the worst of their actions just irk you even more. it may also be that i am very petty. i leave it to you to judge. one of the exhibitions i was going to was a mass of heaving bodies all straining to get into the gallery and then to see the art on display. from the get go there were people there who seemed hellbent on being annoying and awkward. to get to the gallery proper you have to climb a wide staircase - that has ample space for people to walk up on the right hand side and to walk down on the left hand side. or it would do if people stuck to the convention of walking up on the right. or if people didn't sit down on the stairs to wait for their friends. or if people didn't stop to have a conversation about whether to go to the shop before or after seeing the exhibition. i knew the show was going to be busy, so i was prepared for all the slow shuffling that would have to be done in order to see the work, or the mad dash across the space to get to see a painting that was, for the moment, without viewers. all of this is slow and tiring work. it is not made easier by: people who decide to get close to the painting and then have a conversation about jenny at the office, while i am sure the gossip is scintillating - don't stand in front of the paintings the rest of us want to see. people who find it necessary to send text messages while standing in front of paintings the rest of us want to see. why on earth pay £15 to into a gallery to spend your time in there not looking at art, but stopping other people from doing so. staying with texting, almost as heinous is the texter who has decided to start texting and stop walking in the middle of the galleries connecting doors. add to that the couple who have decided that the archway between galleries is the perfect spot to discuss what to have for supper and you have bottleneck annoyance. then there are the people who don't know how to say 'excuse me' and then just barge through. or their mirror image those that don't understand 'excuse me' and remain in place even after you have asked several times, but they can get shirty when you end up having to push by. as i mentioned there was light rain that day, so even outside the confines of the gallery you still have the problems of mass humanity just being annoying. light rain means big umbrellas. big umbrellas does not mean people in complete control of their brollies. nope. no siree. not that they care as anyone who might bang into their umbrella is at fault. same with the walking texters - blackberrys and iphones (i am sure there are other smartphones available) must come with the instructions 'when out walking it is the responsibility of other pedestrians to get out of your way.' when brolly and smartphone are in use together - you may as well walk in the road as it is safer. so there gentle readers is a few of the reasons why i am not overly keen on the world at large. my walking here and there to see various exhibitions left me feeling a bit peckish. could i find a tesco metro anywhere? no. yet near me there seems to be one on every corner. it might have been because i wanted one - they had all decided to hide. several times during the day i was confronted with the 'i know it is coming but i won't have my travelcard/ wallet ready until i really really need it' syndrome. just have it ready, it is not hard and it is not like it is a surprise. why do parents forget what it is like to splash about in puddles? a couple of times i saw parents drag their kids away from having fun jumping up and down in a puddle (they were wearing wellies). i tell you let kids enjoy the simple pleasures of life a little longer and perhaps they won't grow up being obese and just happy to spend all day at the computer. why can't cyclists use the road? why do they expect pedestrians on the pavement to get out of their way? i am putting my misanthropic mood down to a chest cold i just can't shake. though it could be to do with me being a miserable git.


charity begins at home, or so they say. perhaps they should be saying that charity begins in the tax accountants office. recent times haven't been good to the con/dem government: pastygate,jerrycangate,kitchen dinnergate. now we can chuck in the growing clamour from charities that the new rules on tax exemption on charitable donations has the potential to stop the very wealthy from donating as much to charity. hold the fucking phone. i have been aware that charitable donations can receive tax exemptions because i keep getting letters from the tate and the royal academy telling me that my donations are tax deductible. it has never concerned me because i have never had enough money to give an amount to charity that would allow me to worry about my tax. secondly the only concern i would have about my donation is that the charity gets as much of the money i give as possible. i always thought that the point of giving to charity was the satisfaction of knowing that you had done something worthwhile. isn't that the reason why people jog up mountains or spend days in a bath of cold baked beans? it might be the reason why those of us on average incomes do it. however for the very wealthy it seems that the point of giving to charity is just to save on tax. i shouldn't be surprised, but there you go: i am. perhaps when we are next told how such and such millionaire has given so much to charity there can also be a qualifying statement letting us know how that has helped them with their tax. don't get me wrong i admire them for giving anything at all, but i don't want to be hearing about how generous they are if it is all driven by how it helps them financially. at least declaring their tax benefits from all their giving might at least remove that smug 'arn't-i-the-most-wonderful-rich-person-you-have-met look from their faces.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


you just have to love the business community. they are currently urging the government to do more to encourage job creation. a lofty goal. on the face of it the same ambition that is held by the majority of those who are unemployed and the trade unions. but only on the face of it. you may remember the furore over the way certain companies used the workfare programme, the programme that allowed them to employ the long-term unemployed for little or no cost, with the vague promise of a job at the end of it. the 'worker' would get their regular job seekers allowance with maybe some expenses for travel. if they didn't stick with the work placement they could lose their benefits. it was this compulsion bit that the various companies who were involved in the scheme got all righteous about: pretending they didn't know. as if. if they didn't then their human resources departments are less than useless. now there is a sensible point to the workfare idea - to get the long-term unemployed back into the rhythm of working life again, not to mention to give them a sense of contributing, it is an important factor in many people's lives. so in principle there is nothing wrong in trying to get the long-term unemployed weaned away from watching daytime tv and get them doing something useful. the companies who were involved with workfare 'sold' the idea of it as a route into work - learning useful skills, as long as you consider stacking shelves to be a useful skill. the benefits to the company are obvious - a (very) cheap source of labour and a guaranteed supply of labour, little need to train them up fully because you can replace them with new ones once the workfare period was up. it wasn't so much creating new permanent jobs, it was about generating churn in the labour market: getting people off the long-term lists. why do i say this? if it has been about proper job creation the companies would have taken advantage of the apprenticeship scheme the government has been pushing - except then you would have to pay the worker a wage (not much, but more than getting them as a state paid skivvy). several companies responded to the public outcry by withdrawing their support from the workfare scheme - no doubt the jobs that were being filled by those who were participating have been filled with full-time full-paid members of staff? probably not. you would have thought that the business community would have learnt from that. obviously not. their latest wheeze to help job creation is effectively (and i may be doing them a disservice here) to ask the government to remove some of the protections that the employee has in the workplace amd to make it easier for the employer to sack staff. that is pretty much it. i am struggling to see how that actually creates jobs. i can see how it might make a workforce compliant. i can see how it might allow an employer to place undue pressure on their staff to put up with harsher work conditions. what i can't see is how it will create jobs. it will create job churn. that isn't the same thing. perhaps if industry spent less time trying to get something for nothing from the government )remember they want to pay less tax but they also want to have the government subsidise their employees either by workfare or working tax credit - hey why pay people a living wage when they can get money from the state?) and spent more time working out how to do what they are supposed to do best they would actually be in a position to create real jobs.

Friday, April 06, 2012


the victorians were on to something when they said children should be seen and not heard. it’s not that i dislike kids – it is just that they can be pests of the highest order and my annoyance at them is heightened when their parents are around and do nothing, as if the disruption that their little angel is causing is somehow entertaining for the rest of us. it is bad enough when they are scampering and shouting in places like supermarkets where they seem to have no control over their excitement and see the aisles as a mix of adventure playground and treasure trove: running, squawking and demanding – and when things don’t go their way crying. imagine then how i feel when the little tykes are let less in places that are there for contemplation and not as playgrounds. there i was enjoying a period of quiet contemplation when my peace was broken by the squeals of a couple of kids who can’t stay quiet or stay still. their slapping footsteps echoing all about the place. try as i might there was no blocking them out; the more i tried the more i became aware of their little squeals of playground fun. all the while their parents just managing the occasional ‘shush’. yeah thanks that ‘shush’ worked a treat, if by worked you mean the kids just ignored their parents. all i am asking is that parents control their kids – it isn’t too much to ask. is it? of course i can’t condemn all parents and all children because there is always the moment when you have cursed, under my breath, and it has turned out that there is a reason why the child is acting that way. many years ago one of my old bosses, spin, found himself on a tube platform after an evening out. there were times when spin operated on a very short fuse. he is there with a colleague from work. there is a kid on the platform who is giving spin the eye. giving him the eye and giggling. spin is not pleased with this. he has made some stern faces and mouthed some words at the kid. the kid goes on eyeing him and giggling. spin mentions it to the colleague, who is a laid back chap and who just shrugs it off. spin decides to go and give the kid and his parents a piece of his mind. he goes to them and asks loudly ‘if there isn’t anything wrong with their son.’ ‘yes’, they inform him, ‘he is severely autistic.’ spin slinks off. i remember this every time i am prepared to explode over the exploits of a bratty child whose parents seem incapable or just not bothered to control the behaviour of their children. i don’t blame the children – it is the parents. to parent everywhere – please remember: most of the rest of us do not find the antics of your precious precocious princes and princess entertaining, try teaching them some restraint.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


david cameron and nick clegg look like they are about to have a falling out over the use of the security services to monitor the population of britain. while david is crying out 'full steam ahead', nick is busy shouting 'hold your horses' (see what i did there?) the papers and civil rights campaigners are up in arms over it all. i should be worried about it, i should be concerned, but if truth be told i have always assumed that the secret services have been listening in and monitoring us anyway. many many years ago when i was at college i knew a chap who worked for a small political party and he always joked about how his calls were being tapped. i laughed along with him until one day when i was calling him to discuss an essay and a night out when i heard a series of clicks. he later told me that was the line being tapped. quite why anyone cared about my thoughts on talcott parsons is anyone's guess. so i am paranoid. plus most people seem to be happy to put the most intimate details of their life on facebook or shout them out while on their mobile in public spaces that the idea of privacy almost seems to be old fashioned. but mr. cameron doesn't look like he is going to let it lie (even though he was very opposed to similar measures when they were being brought in by blair and then by brown - see that is the problem with being in power, just not so easy as being the opposition - he says the measures are necessary because he needs to, and it is his duty to, plug the gamps in britain's security. he might be right. however i would feel a whole lot more confident in his ability to do that if he could stop the leaks in his own government when it came the recent budget. no point talking about plugging the national gaps when you can't even manage it on a party level.

Monday, April 02, 2012


when you look like me you get used to people passing comments. look like me and carry a camera and you get used to questions. every now and then you get hit with something so left-field it just leaves you flummoxed. years ago i was leaving work with my pal paul. we made our way to the tube station; we may have been going to the gym or the cinema, we were glad to be out of the warehouse. waiting for the tube we were probably chatting some shit as to who was strongest thor or superman (look to some of us this is important stuff). as we continued to debate a bloke plonked himself on the end of the bench. he interrupted our fanboy flow to ask paul if he had ever considered becoming a bouncer because he had the right thighs for the job. there was an awkward silence after that. we were very pleased when the tube arrived. i was reminded of that incident today when i was questioned. i was standing by tottenham court tube station, chatting to a mate (hi rich) we were about to go our separate ways after having enjoyed some grub. my bag was slung over my shoulder in a jack baur or kwai chang caine style, depending on your cultural reference points. i was wearing jeans and a white suit shirt from marks and spencer’s, naturally it was worn outside of the jeans (tuck in? behave). as ever my arms were in a folded position, just resting on my rotund tum. i was blathering on about something or another. a hand tapped me and a voice said ‘excuse me’. i turned to look and was greeted by a very tall and built like a brick shithouse black guy. he was dressed in trendy sporting gear, unlike so many other, he and his equally large friend looked like they spent a fair amount of time in the gym. he continued: ‘can i ask? do you teach the martial arts?’ i really didn’t want to disappoint him but i had to be honest and said, pointing at my stomach, ‘i wish, but not with this.’ they both laughed and said something about senseis with large guts. we all laughed. we shook hands and he moved off. neither richard nor i could work out what had made him think i might be a master of the martial arts. i am now wishing i had asked the simple question: ‘what makes you think i am?’ i didn’t. no doubt my martial art teacher doppelganger could have taken both of them, me i was just chuffed that someone might have thought that i could impart the wisdom of the warrior to them – east london’s very own steven seagal (well we are both overweight). such is the stuff of legends, and ealing comedies, made of.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


this has probably been the longest period of time in which i haven't bought a book. i am quite proud of myself. it isn't that i need any more books. it is just that i love books. i love buying books. l love buying books even when i know i will probably not even read the books. it is not the reading that matters it is the having. i know i know i need help. having no cash is helping. the only problem is i keep going into places where books are sold just to have a look at the books. sometimes there are new ones that i want. sometimes i am just shocked that there is yet another james patterson book out, or that there is yet another da vinci code knock-off, they seem to be as virulent as chic-lit books. the most depressing part of wanting to buy books is how bad and dull modern bookcovers have become. gone are the glory days of my youth. instead of glorious art that sparked the imagination now there is just a series of stock photos that form a bland collection of 'me too' forgettable covers. not that the less than inspiring modern book packaging stops me from wanting to buy more books. i am sure there is a self help group i can go to.