28 November 2009

Exposing The Wizard

SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know how I create these magnificent blog posts, then stop reading. Don't spoil the magic. I'm pulling back the curtain to expose the wizard. No, that's not a euphemism for something filthy. Grow up.

Normally when I start writing a blog post, I have a hazy notion of where it's going and just let myself get carried there on a wave of preposterously over-worked similes, scatological comparisons and unnecessary swearing.

There's also something vaguely approaching a template that I tend to follow. It goes like this:

1) Start with a hook line to draw people in. This might be something like "I nearly had to call the police because I got trapped in a piece of plastic" or "This morning I was almost bitten by a dog". To you, these probably seem like amusing occurrences. For me, they're the ONLY occurrences. My life is, in general, so utterly bleak and uninteresting that I'm amazed my heart hasn't stopped beating out of sheer disgust just to put me out of my misery. Occasionally, when laying in bed at night, trying to envelop myself in the sweet release of unconsciousness, I suddenly realise that I've stopped breathing and have to take a panicked breath. I'm convinced that my body is conspiring against me - desperate to release itself from this hellish tragedy that I laughingly call a life.

Anyway, these hook lines are designed to pique the reader's interest, compelling them to wade through the rest of my hastily written, poorly conceived words. Sometimes I don't bother with the hook line at all, so I think you can safely assume that the next few points I make will be equally meaningless and open to interpretation. It's important to set out your stall early.

2) Waffle on for a while to give a little background into what it is you're going to be ranting about. This lets the reader settle down into the main thrust of the piece which, in fairness, is usually me being angry about something of no importance whatsoever.

3) Go off on a tangent, moaning about how dreary everything is, calling people made-up terms like 'fuck-knuckle' or 'rage-pig'. Using these sorts of words means you can avoid having to widen your vocabulary. You may wish to write single words on pieces of paper and then draw them, two at a time, to create exciting new combinations. For example, "fuck", "cock", "twat", "monkey", "bag" and "tard" are all excellent starting points. (note to self: use 'cock-tard' at some point, that appears to be a new one...)

4) Create some bizarre mental images usually involving bulging, tumescent genitalia, faeces, mindless violence and angry, simian shouting. These are all tried and tested techniques. The act of zoomorphism (the opposite of anthropomorphism) is particularly effective. You will notice that I often refer to myself as "hooting like an ape" or "bellowing like an enraged gorilla". This sort of animalisation works very well. Particularly when, like me, you actually do resemble a disgruntled orangutan.

5) Finish the whole thing with either a cyclical reference to an earlier part of the post, neatly tying the two ends together, or just let it fizzle out pathetically. The latter tends to happen a lot when I've grown tired of the sound of my own written voice.

So that's the template. It's not something that I actually stick to, it seems to just happen. Now that you know about it, you can create your own blog! Unfortunately, I will have to sue you for copyright infringement. Sorry about that.

Anyway, this particular post has fallen at the first hurdle as it's being written with absolutely no direction whatsoever. It's 2.30 a.m. and, due to me falling asleep in the armchair while watching The Ballad of Cable Hogue on TCM, I'm wide awake and a bit bored. I had a cup of coffee earlier which was a truly awful idea in retrospect, made some toast with marmite which was utterly delicious as one would expect, and am now desperately trawling around the Internet for something to look at that isn't pornographic in nature.

Twitter is pretty much dead at the moment because most of the UK folks are asleep and most of the Americans are out either enjoying their Friday night post-work celebrations or invading oil-rich countries (I went a bit Ben Elton there. Sorry about that.)

Frankly, I'm bored. Really bored. I've smoked far too many cigarettes in the last few hours and if I had something alcoholic to drink I would have guzzled it with gusto within minutes.

Philip Glass is flowing out of the speakers, the gentle repetition ebbing and flowing like the waves of a mighty yet gentle ocean. Normally, I love Glass' stuff but tonight his music seems to be mocking me - the endless re-occurrence of the same notes mirroring the pointless cycle of my own life. At least with Glass' music it builds and transforms, becoming something new and exciting. For me, this shit goes on and on every day without hope or mercy. It really is interminable.

I haven't even got anything to rant about. The last couple of days have been predictably uneventful to the stage that I've had to consider whether I should put myself into positions of mortal danger just to have something to write about.

The Stupidity of Me Part 2

"Today, I nearly got savaged by a lion when I accidentally fell into the enclosure at Colchester Zoo dressed as a springbok. LOL!"

See? Wouldn't work.

So here I sit, awake, bored, listless, unable to think of anything to write about. And yet, despite these seemingly insurmountable hurdles, I've still managed to produce a thousand words about precisely fuck all.

Frankly, I'm either a genius or a cock-tard (wink).

You be the judge.

26 November 2009

Time Makes Fools Of Us All

Whether it's biological coding, learned behaviour, or just simply fate, they say we are destined to become our parents. Yes, those irritating gits that wouldn't let us do what we wanted when we were teenagers, who always had a negative opinion of what we wore, said, watched or did - we will become them.

As youngsters, we said, "I'm never going to behave like my parents. I'm going to learn from their mistakes and be a better person for it."

Sadly, time makes fools of us all.

Something happened last week that made me realise my metamorphosis into my father has nearly concluded.

When I was in my teens, my father would sometimes be a little embarrassing when out in public. If he was in a shop waiting to be served and the assistant behind the till was chatting to their friend rather than doing their job, he'd say "Are you going to serve me or talk to your bloody mate?" If they dared to back-chat him, he'd slam the item on the counter and bellow, "Stuff it up your arse!", before walking out empty-handed. I like to think I've inherited his charm.

Often, he would then be forced to return home without the item that he wanted. To him, however, this was a victory. I believe the phrase is 'cutting off your nose to spite your face' and my father is an expert at it.

Back then, I was terribly embarrassed by his behaviour, completely failing to understand why he had to be such a grumpy old sod to everyone.

However, when I reached my twenties I suddenly found that when encountering poor service at a shop, restaurant or pub, my father's words would drift, unbidden, into my mind. Of course, I wouldn't actually say them out loud because that would be terribly rude, but they were there echoing around inside my cranium, straining to get out like hot, urgent flatulence during an important business meeting.

I'm now in my mid-thirties and have pretty much become my father, without the nose-cutting-off part of the equation.

Last week, I went into a pub to meet a friend. The pub (The Slug and Lettuce in Southend, if you're interested) is big and expensive-looking. It is also, on the whole, pretty empty for much of the week. This particular day, I wandered in and there were only about 8 people in the entire place, gazing listlessly at their pint glasses, or squinting at the tarnished coins in their hands wondering if they could afford another half of Fosters, desperately trying to delay the inevitable walk home to their depressing, nicotine-stained bedsit, full of scratched furniture, scuffed skirting-boards and stained bed linen.

Walking up to the bar, I perused the impressive selection of fine ales. Well, I say 'selection', a more accurate description would be "2". They had Bombardier or their special ale of the week, the name of which escapes me. This special ale apparently had a subtle flavour of chocolate and orange, making it a rather Christmassy affair. Intrigued, I smiled and engaged the stony-faced barman in pleasant conversation:

Me: Good afternoon.
Him: (silence)
Me: This chocolate orange beer, is it a bitter or a stout?
Him: Stout.
Manager: (from further down the bar) No, it's a bitter.
Me: Oh, a bitter. Good. What's it like?
Him: Dunno.
Me: It looks intriguing. Can I have a little taste of it?
Him: No, we don't do that.

Now, at this juncture I should point out that British pub etiquette suggest, nay demands, that if a customer asks about an unusual beer, the barkeep will (normally without being asked) pour half an inch of it into a glass for you so that you can sample it. It's a given. It occurs in every pub I've ever been to.

But no, not the Slug and Lettuce. In this pub, if you ask to try a beer, they'll look at you like you've just burst into their home on Christmas day, genitals extruding grotesquely from your trouser fly, and belched loudly into the face of their grandmother, all whilst tracking fresh dog shit across their cream carpets.

The barman was clearly an utter cock and completely failed to understand that I'm the customer and, as such, am always right.

As an aside, I should point out that I worked in a pub myself at one time. My philosophical approach to this was as follows: I'm being paid to provide a service. If the customer is slurring, can't make their mind up or is generally being a dick, then that's their right - I will not roll my eyes or sigh deeply. If the customer wants to talk to me about something or tell me a long-winded, deeply unfunny joke then as long as nobody's waiting to be served, I'll stand there while they do so. Most importantly of all, even if I was in a really bad mood, I would always smile when they approached the bar, always call them Sir or Madam, always say 'please' and 'thank you'.

The thing I was not there to do was read the newspaper disinterestedly at the end of the bar, sighing gloomily each time a customer wanted a drink, aggravated that they'd disturbed this special 'me time'.

They are the rules of the game. If you think you'll be unable to treat your customers in an appropriate manner, then I suggest you fuck off and let somebody else do the job.

This particular barman clearly viewed my presence there as an inconvenience to him. I started to lose my cool somewhat.

Me: You "don't do that?"
Him: No.
Me: Seriously? Every other pub does it.
Him: (Silence)
Me: Forget it then. Pint of Bombardier.
Him: (Silence whilst pouring the pint)
Me: I'm quite surprised actually. Every other pub in the known world will give you a taster of a beer if you ask for it.
Him: (Silence)
Me: It makes sense really. The customer may take a shine to that particular beer and decide to come back again later that week whereas, ordinarily, he might not have bothered.
Him: (Silence)
Me: Speculate to accumulate, and all that.
Him: Two pounds ten.

I handed him my money and flounced off to a table to occupy the moral high-ground of righteous indignation.

A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of behaving like that. I would have just looked puzzled and ordered something else, averting my gaze and inwardly shaking my head sadly. But now, as middle age approaches, I'm changing. This is most obvious in the way I hold doors...

Now, I always hold doors for people. It's not a sexist thing, I don't think that women need to have the big heavy door wrenched open and held so that they can totter their fragile bodies through without fear of breaking a bone or dropping their shiny handbag - I'll hold a door for anyone, young, old, male, female, you name it. It's called manners.

However, when I'm standing there in the rain, arm outstretched so you can walk through without 8 feet of plate glass slamming into your skull, I do expect something in return - recognition. You don't have to suddenly drop to your knees and take me eagerly in your wet mouth, just a simple "thanks" or nod of the head will suffice. Even a smile, for fucks sake, would be something. But the sheer number of people who will breeze straight through without even a glance is utterly bewildering to me.

I've even had some people look at me with suspicion as they've walked through! This, of course, causes me to instantly fill with an incandescent rage so powerful that I worry a vein in my temple will burst, showering innocent passersby with jets of blood.

Why in the name of Jesus suffering Christ would you look at me suspiciously for holding a door open? I'm not expecting you to lend me one of your children for a romantic evening of The Little Mermaid and 'special hugs'. It's called common courtesy, you steaming bag of shit.

Now, in the manner of my father, I've taken to saying "You're welcome!" in an overly jolly manner to any scum-fuck that won't engage in civility. Even better, I sometimes say "Don't mention it!" in a jaunty bellow. This pleases me enormously because, you know, it's like ironic and shit?

How the hell has the world changed so much in just a few short years? Customer service, politeness, manners - they've all gone to hell and it irritates me enormously.

And do you know what the worst part is? I'm actually looking forward to the final leg of my journey, when my transformation into Rablenkov Senior is complete; when I can tell people to stick things up their arses in shops; when I can swear at complete strangers because they've had the audacity to ignore my courteous behaviour. I long for these things.

One day I will, obviously, say something to the wrong person and end up being beaten to death by a man with arms like ham hocks and thick, muscular hands adorned with sovereign rings, but by God it'll be worth it. As the blows rain down upon my cowering head, brain-pan rattling like a charity collector's tin, I will at least know I was absolutely justified in calling his wife a cum-whore for failing to say thank you.

I'd be happy to go like that.

20 November 2009

Blog Tagging - Winner Announced

If the last few days have taught me anything, it's that there are an awful lot of people out there on the Internet with precisely nothing to say and, generally, they're saying it far too often for my liking.

I'm reminded of that scene in The Matrix where we see fields of glowing pods being harvested by machines before getting linked up to the matrix where they can then interact with their chums. Replace the glowing pods with perfectly cylindrical logs of faeces and you've got a pretty close approximation of how I regard the blogosphere - an almost infinite collection of winking brown-eyes popping out globs of steaming excrement with the same frightening regularity of a 20-something, chain-smoking single mother introducing her latest 'little miracles' into a world of Stella Artois, Sunny Delight and chicken nuggets.

(Note: That was misanthropy, not misogyny. Grow up.)

To say that I really didn't fancy having to wade through another batch of pointless blogs in a fruitless quest for something approaching 'interesting' would be an astounding understatement. The very thought of it was horrendous and made me want to crawl inside a bottle of vodka forever.

Funnily enough though, I was spared that awful task when, quite by accident, I realised that the person I wanted to blog-tag had been right in front of my eyes all along.

This person is someone I follow on Twitter and who, for reasons that can only be guessed at, follows me too. He (for it is a man) is always popping up and making the occasional comment, whether it be about the latest Doctor Who episode, a homemade Tauntaun costume he's seen on the net, or something truly wonderful like bacon-flavoured envelopes.

What he's really passionate about, however, is music. That passion, that absolute love for the art form, is extremely clear from the writings on his blog. He plays live gigs at venues, he also plays live gigs via the net on Ustream. A few months back I tuned in to one of his Ustream gigs and I was extremely impressed with the guys music. I haven't watched another one yet and will have to remedy that very soon indeed.

He is, currently, conducting a Radiohead-style experiment by selling his album in a 'pay whatever you think it's worth' manner. And, so far, it seems to be working, slowly but surely. His approach to the music industry can, perhaps, be best summed up in the following quote from his blog:

"Give some of your music away - if they like it they will most likely buy something later - win hearts and minds first and make friends. If they are interested in your music they are probably people you have loads in common with. Build a community and worry about making money later on."

I really like that approach. Here's someone who's all about the music first. To him, that's the most important thing - writing, performing, recording and above all, ENJOYING music.

For me, this whole blog-tagging thing is about taking someone who you admire and giving them a shout out to the people who already follow you. This guy is the perfect - the ONLY - candidate for that.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, Matt Stevens.

And so, finally, after much heart-break and pointless web-clickery, I can tag a blog.

1) Post a song that makes you happy.

Burning Bandstands - Matt Stevens

2) Tag another blogger.

Matt Stevens Guitar

3) Say at least one thing about the blog that will make the author smile.

Hopefully, I've covered this third part above with my effusive rambling. Go and see what Matt's up to. I think you'll like what he's doing.

EDIT: What I failed to do, and am correcting now, is mention the tagging stream so far. Here goes.

L'armadio del delitto tagged Lisa who tagged Suzie who tagged Chocolate Girl who tagged Mondo who tagged Piley who tagged me. There. Done.

18 November 2009

Blog Tagging Update

I still haven't found a blog to tag yet, but I'm working on it. According to this website, the number of blogs on the Internet in February 2008 was something in the region of 185.62 million. Factoring in an annual increase of 34% (based on figures that I've just invented, like, in my head) that brings the current number of blogs to...fuck it, I don't know. About 300 million.

Accordingly, this could take some time.

On the plus side, after considerable thought I've decided on my 'happy song'. It's a tune that always pleases me whenever I hear it. A gentle piece of music which examines the relationship between working class men, their hopes, struggles and fears, I think it's possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever heard in my life.

It is entitled, simply, Drink Motherfucker Drink.

*To gain the optimum enjoyment from this song, it is best listened to after at least 12 tankards of ale and whilst wearing a pirate costume.*

Ahh, sweet sweet music.

The artists are The Poxy Boggards, the album is Anchor Management. If you like, you buy, capisce?

Blog Tagging Failure

I've been made aware of something called 'blog tagging' that's occurring at the moment.

The rules are very simple indeed.

1) You have to post a song that makes you happy.
2) You tag another blogger - as many as you want, but it has to be at least one.
3) You say at least one thing about each tagged blog that will make the author smile.

Despite my obvious dislike of the human race and its many inadequacies, I think this is rather a nice idea.

I was made aware of it by Piley, whose blog is excellent and was actually responsible for me jumping back into the blogosphere myself - I saw his success and I coveted it! So far, I have been spectacularly unsuccessful in drumming up the large readership and critical plaudits that I desire, but at least it's given me something to do that isn't a) smoking, b) playing the xbox, or c) other (that's wanking, obviously)

I've managed to identify a song that makes me smile, although I should point out that it's more of a nihilistic sneer than actual mirth or 'happiness', but I'm hitting a brick wall as regards finding a blog to champion.

There are only a handful of blogs that I regularly read and most of them already have a popular following. These blogs are linked on the right hand side of this page - have a look at them, they're good. But the trouble is, they're already doing very well and I see little point in providing advertising to bloggers who have book deals, celebrity endorsements or anything of that nature. The only one that really sprang to mind was Piley's blog - but, of course, he's already done the blog tag thing and I can't really just link back to him in some almighty, Internet-based, self-congratulatory circle jerk.

What I really want to do is celebrate a little-known blogger; someone who has a small but loyal following and deserves greater exposure. Trouble is, I don't know anyone like that.

I decided, therefore, to use the 'next blog' function on Blogger and search through random blogs until I found one that I felt would benefit from some advertising.

This proved to be a soul-destroying activity that drained me of any last vestiges of good-humour and humanity that were residing within the dessicated shell of my heart. I trawled through approximately 300 blogs last night and I almost choked on my own bile while doing so.

I've identified several blog types in my travels which I would like to tell you about.

Teen-angst wankery

This genus is comprised of barely pubescent teens who are either whinging incessantly about their current partner, effusively babbling about the Twilight books (I almost called them 'novels' ha ha ha ha! Growl...) or just generally indulging in self-obsessed naval-gazing. Yes, I realise the irony of me complaining about self-obsessed naval-gazing. Shut up.

The worst thing about some of these irritating little shitbags is that they lay a trap on their blog page. After it loads, there are five seconds of blessed silence and then your speakers start blasting out some schmaltzy, vomit-inducing piece of homogenous arse-gravy by Lucie Silvas, Nora Jones or Evanescence. How dare you make Evanescence come out of my laptop! I consider this to be on a par with installing a trojan on my hard drive. Don't infect my ears with your turgid, twee pop-cockery or I shall don an Edward mask, come round to your house and curl out a steaming biscuit on your living room carpet whilst gibbering and high-fiving myself.

Travel Blogs

A number of blogs detail, day by day, a trip, expedition or general mooch around some part of the world. These aren't too bad in that they actually have a logical end to look forward to. Most blogs continue forever no matter how lifelessly dull and insipid they are. Like watching a lame dog haul itself slowly across an infinite expanse of burning, sun-beaten tarmac, all you want to do is raise your heel above its head and put the poor thing out of its misery, but you just keep watching as it inches further and further towards obscurity for eternity.

The travel blogs describe, in laborious detail, every single moment of this person's journey around already well-trodden tourist areas. You are not Phileas fucking Fogg, you are simply the latest in a long line of overfed, over-enthusiastic globe trotters who somehow thinks your travels will by some strange form of osmosis, imbue you with the character and charm that you so sorely lack.

One in particular was from a gentleman who traversed 200 locks in his canal boat. Clearly, his gentle jaunt around the waterways of the UK is of no interest to anyone with a semblance of sanity, but I'm sure your friends, who are doubtless few in number, will be grateful for the opportunity to say, "No, that's OK Roger, we don't need to sit through another seven reels of slides, we've already seen all your photos on the blog. Gosh, is that the time? We really need to head off. Oh, by the way, we're moving but we don't know where. No, we don't have a telephone number to give you. Look, just leave us alone."

Wannabe Photographers

There are a large number of people out there who have had the unique idea of taking 'a photo a day!' and uploading it for the delight of everyone who visits their blog, i.e. nobody at all.

365 photos a year, eh? So you took a photograph every day. Well done you. Sadly, the horrible, deeply unpalatable truth that you're trying so hard to avoid is that nobody cares about your photographs. You will never be famous. The only reason you have a blog with your photos on it is because you no longer have any friends to show them to. They have all been driven away by your sad, tragic obsession. Stop now while you still can. Oh, and just because it's in black and white, that doesn't make it artistically relevant. I could take a birds-eye photo of my latest bowel movement, remove the colour using photoshop and then post it on my blog and it would appear to be 'cool and arty'. That doesn't necessarily mean it is so.

Do us all a favour and convince yourself that your talent is so great you can become a wedding photographer. Then we can all sit back and wait for you to fuck up someone's big day and get beaten to death in a pub car park by a baying mob of angry, drunken neanderthals in cheap suits and thick gold jewellery.


Christ above, there are so many of these utter shite-hawks on Blogger that I was genuinely close to angry tears.

This collection of pointless cunts includes NLP Practitioners, Economists, Neuropsychologists and Self-help gurus. They fill the Internet with their over-hyped nonsense until it's bursting at the seams.

I'm reminded of the 'B' Ark in Douglas Adams excellent Hitchhikers trilogy. For those of you unfamiliar with the books, one part of the story involves an alien civilisation, their planet apparently on the brink of destruction, which builds several 'arks': spaceships designed to carry the population away to another planet somewhere so they can start a new life. The 'B' Ark is sent away first, with the others promising to follow. Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, the 'heroes', soon realise, however, that this ark is filled with telephone sanitation technicians, hair dressers and management consultants. There is no planet-wide disaster, the alien race were simply trying to get rid of the most useless third of their population.

Many of these 'Professional' bloggers would be given first class seats on the 'B' Ark.

Let's face it, if you're really a professional in your chosen field, why the suffering fuck haven't you got a website instead of a cheap-arsed, free blog? The obvious answer is that you actually aren't a professional at all, you're simply a pretender.

One person in particular caught my attention when they described themself thus (and this is a direct quote):
"Speaker, Coach, Mentor, Workshop Leader, Purveyor of Possibilities. I've taught hundreds of self-improvement workshops on marriage, parenting, happiness, & limiting beliefs as a Transformational Coach in the US and abroad, for the past 20 years."

Purveyor of possibilities. I don't think I've ever wanted to hunt down and slay someone as much as I do this person. Pray that we never meet, coachy, because I've got a few 'possibilities' of my own that I'd like to work out with you, you insufferable fuck-knuckle.

Thus, my traversing of the blogosphere was something of a disappointment. I've completely failed to find anyone to whom I can give a little free publicity.

Most worryingly of all, the whole episode has caused me to question my own existence. I have a horrible feeling that this blog itself is nothing more than a faux-misanthropic, thirty-something-angst-ridden, Charlie Brooker-lite barrage of rambling rants which are, effectively, nothing more than me saying "Look at me! Look at me! Please laugh at my antics!".

If that's the case, then good.

So, as a favour, can anyone recommend a good blog that I can champion because otherwise I'm simply going to have to tag myself and that would be awfully self-indulgent which, as you all know, is something that I find distasteful. Ahem.

16 November 2009

In Memory of Edward Woodward

As a small tribute to the wonderful Edward Woodward who, sadly, passed away today, I'm throwing a few bits of music on the blog.

These tracks are all taken from Paul Giovanni's incredible soundtrack to The Wicker Man.

If you're already familiar with The Wicker Man, you won't want to read me banging on about it. If you're not familiar with it, go and buy it immediately - you won't be disappointed.

Additionally, this post may, potentially, help out a Twitter chum on her radio show. It's the Every Other Monday show and it's on tonight at 9. Listen to it. That's an order.

Here's the music.

Willow's Song.

Corn Riggs

The Landlord's Daughter.

The Maypole Song

Note: Tracks removed to avoid potential copyright claims. Blame the Digital Economy Act.

14 November 2009

The Misanthropist's Curse

There has been no update for the last week because, as my Twitter followers will already know from my painfully self-pitying tweets, I've been ill with the flu.

I developed a sore throat on Sunday evening and by Monday morning it felt like I'd eaten a light bulb and washed it down with a tube of facial scrub. It also felt like a nihilistic woodpecker had set up shop in my head and was taking lethargic, disinterested pecks at the inside of my skull.

Because I was awake at 4am, I arrived at work for 7 and dealt with a couple of things that really couldn't wait. By 9.30am, I was feeling absolutely terrible so left via Sainsbury's for some essential supplies.

This involved preparing a shopping list that an Alaskan survivalist would consider appropriate for an apocalyptic event: tins of soup, paracetamol, long-life milk, fruit juice, etc. Browsing the pharmacy section, I decided to treat myself to a bottle of Night Nurse.

Now I should point out that I've never had Night Nurse before. In fact, all I know about it is that, apparently, it can make you drowsy and you should refrain from operating heavy machinery. I've never operated heavy machinery before and, if everything goes according to plan career-wise, I hopefully never will. Additionally, at that particular point, 'drowsy' was proving to be a real selling point for me - the thought of guzzling several large mouthfuls of the stuff and then falling into bed for 12 hours was extraordinarily tempting. Night Nurse had, in my fevered imagination, become some sort of magical oblivion-bestowing elixir, a cross between Absinthe and Morphine. I had to have it.

It turns out, surprisingly, that you can't buy Night Nurse straight off the shelf. Instead, you have to speak to one of the Sainsbury's Pharmacy staff and ask them for it whereupon they engage you in a worrying round of questions and answers to determine whether or not you're allowed to have it.

"Are you currently taking any medication?"
"Nothing at all?"
"No blood-pressure medication?"
"Not yet. Continue asking me pointless questions and it may be a distinct possibility that some form of blood-pressure reduction will be required in the not too distant future but, right now, no."
"Nothing paracetamol-based?"
"No. Nothing. Nothing at all. Can I please have the medicine or would you like me to stand in the baked goods aisle and piss into a milk bottle first?" (I didn't say that, obviously)

Eventually, after a short lecture in which I was told that Night Nurse contains paracetamol and, accordingly, shouldn't be taken with any other paracetamol-based medication, for instance blood-pressure tablets which contain paracetamol, or Lemsip which also contains paracetamol or, obviously, paracetamol tablets, I had 1) one of those strange moments where a word completely loses its meaning and it's like you're hearing it for the first time (pa-ra-see-ta-molll - wow man, that's like, amazing) and 2) a bottle of Night Nurse.

Clutching the bottle of green potion to my chest, I shuffled away from the pharmacy, paid for my other goods and got a taxi home.

It is with enormous regret that I must tell you that was the most interesting thing to happen to me all week. I've spent the rest of my time sleeping badly at night, sleeping badly during the day, rubbing the skin around my nostrils raw with a campaign of sustained mucus-expelling and generally moaning grumpily at the walls of my empty flat.

This, you see, is one of the few downsides to being single. Most of the time it's absolutely wonderful. I can come home early from work, change immediately into my pajamas, eat cold macaroni cheese straight from the tin with a dirty spoon whilst watching a movie on the laptop, and I don't have anyone berating me for being a slovenly lummox.

If I so choose, I can wake up on a Saturday morning, completely forgo showering, and spend the entire day padding barefoot from room to room, alternating between the Internet, the xbox and the fridge.

I often hear single men bemoaning their situation and wishing they had a person to share their life. Usually they're pining for someone to snuggle up with on the sofa while watching TV; a person to chat to about their problems or their day at work; someone they can go for long autumnal, leaf-kicking walks with; or a companion to share the good times and the bad. Occasionally, they'll tell the truth and just admit that they're gagging for a blowjob, but usually they try to dress it up with romance and candles and ice cream and hugs.

Now, personally I find all of that more than a little bewildering. If I'm curled up on the sofa watching TV, the last thing I want is someone wittering away next to me asking stupid questions and making stultifyingly banal observations:

"Who's that man? Is he the one that ran the woman over?"
"I'm only asking a question. Is he the man that ran her over earlier?"
"Yes, just watch it."
"I am watching it! I just wanted to know if that's the same man."
"Yes. Yes it is."
"So why did he do that then?"
"How the bloody hell should I know? You know as much as I do, for the love of Christ! I don't have some incredible mediumistic ability that allows me to prophesy the ending of the film! I haven't got a well-thumbed copy of the screenplay folded up in my back pocket! The only reason I know as much as I do is because I've been concentrating on the movie rather than blathering on about what happened to Cheryl in the office this week and whether or not we should buy those new towels you saw because they're 50% off in the sale and would really contrast well with the fucking carpet!"
"Well there's no need to get angry."
"Get out and never come back."

As for autumnal walks, I have never ever understood people who peer out of the window, observe a miserable overcast sky heavy with storm-clouds, litter skittering around the pavement like an excitable yorkshire terrier, and chirpily suggest getting dressed in thick clothing so that they can go for a stroll around a leaf-strewn, muddy park.

Why in the name of Jesus suffering Christ would you want to do that? What possible benefit will you gain from shuffling around in foliage-camouflaged dogshit, a penetrating Siberian gale blasting at your exposed cheeks, ears and nose until your face feels like it's been pressed into a bag of frozen peas for half an hour? It's a stupid thing to do and anyone who takes part in it should be lambasted and ridiculed for their idiotic behaviour.

We, as a species, do not need to aimlessly wander around outside in the bitter cold. Why do you think we invented houses, central heating and steaming mugs of tea?

So the usual trappings and enticements that one would expect from a relationship hold no interest for me whatsoever. What I do miss, however, is having someone to look after me when I'm ill.

Laying in bed, nose streaming, head pounding, voice like a hung-over Dalek, is not a pleasant experience at the best of times. Doing it alone is even worse.

When I'm ill, I want to be in a position where I can demand things!

"Ohhhhhhh...(cough).....ohhhhhhhh.......can I have a Lemsip? My throat (hack) is really sore. And I need (snuffle) some more tissues. And can you (hawk) change the DVD please? I can't move (snivel)."

One of the few pleasures to be derived from a period of illness is a brief glimpse into the world of the Edwardian gentleman - a world of finger-snapping and brusque orders; whisker-stroking and demands for attention. For an all too fleeting spell, one is waited on hand and foot and it's bloody wonderful.

But, alas, as a single man, there is nobody to plump my pillow, carefully dab my glistening brow, or refill my glass of fruit juice.

Such tasks must I carry out myself, sniffling and whining, body racked with pain, pitiful groans echoing emptily around the sparse, cold flat. A tragic, hunched figure shuffling through the kitchen like a sad, doe-eyed spectre.

This, my friends, is the misanthropists curse - to suffer alone, unloved, disregarded and ignored.

On the bright side, I don't have to share any of my ice cream so, you know, swings and roundabouts.

8 November 2009

The Stupidity of Me

I had an interesting day of manly pursuits yesterday, the events of which ultimately led me to seriously consider calling the police so that I could be rescued from a piece of plastic.

After a long, stressful week, I decided to achieve something in my non-work life, so formulated a plan of attack. This would involve 1) a haircut, 2) applying fresh sealant to the edge of the bath, 3) buying a bicycle, and 4) going for a ride on said bicycle. I was partially successful.

1) The Haircut
I went to my local barbershop at 7:45, wanting to get there before it opened at 8 and, thus, avoid the inevitable queue of hairy-eared old men in three-piece suits who seemingly get up at 4 am just so they can their day out of the way as quickly as possible. As a side note, this seems like a good plan and I might follow their lead. At that rate, I could be back in bed, smothered by the somnolent folds of my duvet by six in the evening, basking in a miasma of warm flatulence.

Unfortunately, there were already two early birds standing outside the shop and as there are only two barbers, I knew I'd have to wait. In a way this didn't overly bother me as I do gain a strange pleasure from allowing my eyes to wander around the barbershop and drink in the curious detail: the black and white pictures of elaborate, ridiculously crafted hairstyles which always seem to be far outside the reach of the barbers abilities; the bulbous bottles of multi-coloured hair tonics, aftershaves and potions; and, of course, the unique sight of a cardboard sheet of styptic pencils. Such are the delights of a barbershop - a strange, arcane collection of ephemera that you won't see in modern, faux-chic hairstylists. It's like wandering into a shop from a Harry Potter book.

After flicking through a 'Stuff' magazine and coveting many, many items, I was called to the chair and went through the usual routine of discussing 'topical items of interest'. This consisted of moaning about the amount of fireworks that people are letting off, grumbling about the fact that "it should be one day only, fireworks night, but it's been going on for two bloody weeks", and muttering about where people are finding the money considering we're in a recession/economic slump/depression. I came out twice as grumpy as when I went in. It was brilliant.

Indeed, I feel very much at home in the barbers. It's a place where grumpy men can sit in the total absence of females and moan ineffectively about what's wrong with the world. Sadly, there are one or two people who take this in an unpleasant direction and start ranting about "asylum seekers", which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's entirely possible to be a curmudgeonly git without resorting to xenophobia and casual racism, but some don't realise it. Such people fail to recognise proper barbershop etiquette.

2) Applying fresh sealant to the bath
It has taken me several months to actually go to the shop and buy the necessary sealant. It will now sit in a drawer, probably until next summer, when I shall eventually apply it hurriedly and amateurishly. Then, a couple of days later, I will recognise what a poor job I made of it and decide to redo it at some point. Thus the whole terrible cycle of failure perpetuates itself.

3) Buying a bicycle
I've put on weight. I need to lose it. I rarely leave the house apart from when I'm at work.
Cogitating on these seemingly insoluble problems, I eventually decided that what I really needed to do was buy a bicycle. The walk to work only takes me 15-20 minutes, but I figured that if I did it by bicycle, it would save me 10 minutes in the morning and another ten in the evening, and would also lead to me being able to go out for cycle rides in the crisp winter air. As a happy by-product of this physical exertion, I would lose weight. It seemed like a capital idea, so I went to my local bike emporium.

I won't bother going into detail except to say that I bought 1 bicycle, 1 rear light, 1 front light, 1 bicycle lock, and 1 puncture repair kit. The owner told me to come back in half an hour during which time he would adjust the bike to my height, affix the pedals and do general bikey things. Frankly, I don't know what the hell he was doing, but I nodded sagely and agreed that there were clearly many tasks he needed to perform before I could leave with my item. I went for a walk, returned and left with my purchases.

It took me about 5 minutes to get home from the shop, during which several things occurred:

1) I realised that the handlebars were too low and I was hunched over my vehicle like a gorilla riding a tiny motorbike in some bleak Eastern European circus

2) The plastic pedals on my bike were so cheap and badly constructed, that one of them actually split when I was only halfway up the road. There's "wear and tear" and then there's "cheap, badly-made shit".

3) The saddle seemed to have been built by a sadistic, disaffected child in a Bangkok sweatshop who's sole purpose in life was to make everyone else in the world as uncomfortable and miserable as he was. Previously, I'd been led to believe that the hardest substance known to man was diamonds. At 36 years of age, I've discovered that it is, in fact, bicycle saddles.

4) The shop had forgotten to give me the bike lock I'd paid for

5) I am so horrendously unfit that it would be laughable if it wasn't so utterly pathetic. To see a grown man wheezing and swerving around on the road is never a nice thing. Unless, of course, it's someone else in which case it's hilarious.

I got home and, weary beyond the capacity for rational thought, pretty much flung the bicycle into the back garden, went upstairs, sat down and drank a glass of red wine with shaking hands.

Later, after I'd regrouped, I returned to the shop with the bike where the lovely chap there gave me the lock I'd paid for, installed metal pedals at no extra cost, and sold me a saddle that wasn't designed specifically to flatten my arse into a slab of cold, dead ham. He also informed me that some extension pole things were coming in next week that could be used to raise the handlebars further. I was hoping that I'd be able to ride this item that I'd bought, but clearly one can't expect fucking miracles.

Although the bicycle shop man was very pleasant indeed and didn't try to unnecessarily sell me things I clearly didn't need, I do hanker after the days when you could go to a shop, purchase something, take it home and be immediately happy with it. Why is that such a difficult thing to do? This is the second weekend in a row that I've gone out, bought something and then had to take it straight back to the shop. Do other people have these problems, or does the universe reserve them solely for me? Is this some sort of punishment for my hatred of people? Is it karma?

Sadly, the universe had one more trick up its sleeve as I found later that evening.

The bicycle lock came affixed to a sturdy piece of cardboard, and was held in place with a small black cable tie.

The cable tie somehow found its way onto my computer desk and thus I found myself watching a film on the laptop and absent-mindedly fiddling with the small piece of plastic.

As I watched the movie, the cable tie was toyed with, first between my fingers, then between my thumbs. The cable tie then made its way onto my thumb, where I slid it backwards and forwards, unthinking, like someone fidgeting with a gold ring.

Suddenly, I found that I'd pulled the loose end and the cable tie was fixed firmly around the width of my thumb and wouldn't come off. I proceeded to give it my full attention.

Taking a craft knife in my fingers, I slid the blade under the cable tie but the angle was slightly wrong so I adjusted the tie a little bit. Unfortunately, in a moment of quite stupendous idiocy, I did this by grasping the loose end and pulling. The cable tie tightened by at least 5 notches, cutting right into the flesh of my digit. I now couldn't even get the blade of the craft knife underneath it without cutting myself. At this point, I started to panic.

Obviously, it's never a good thing when you have a problem of this nature to resolve. The shame of having done something so stupid is enough to contend with. When you proceed to make the matter significantly worse by introducing injury-related urgency into the equation, you're not really helping anyone.

My thumb was turning blue and starting to feel very cold and numb. Suddenly, I remember seeing a video on the Internet in which you cold unlock a cable tie using a needle (I watch a lot of crap on the Internet, yes. However, in this case, I felt absolutely justified. Knowledge is power.)

I took a needle and inserted it into the cable tie so that I could pull it apart. It didn't work. I tried several more positions until, finally, I found 'the sweet spot' and, excited by my inevitable success, managed to jab the needle directly into the flesh of my thumb. Bellowing like an enraged moose, I removed the needle and reconsidered my position.

By this point, all manner of thoughts were cascading through my perspiring skull. Would I have to call the fire brigade? They have equipment for cutting open car wrecks, surely they could help me with this? Actually, what about the police? Do they still use handcuffs or have they, as witnessed on another Internet video somewhere, moved over into the realm of the cable tie? If they put them on people, they must have a method for getting them off. Alternatively, I could always call for an ambulance. Surely they have to deal with this sort of moronic activity every day, don't they?

In the end, I decided that the shame would just be too much. I'd rather lose my thumb than be escorted from my flat, in full view of the neighbours, to have a three inch piece of plastic removed from my swollen appendage.

I remember being vaguely pleased that at least I'd placed it on my thumb and not, in a moment of extraordinary boredom, my penis (men do strange things when they're alone and restless). If that had been the case then, basically, I would have had to kill myself, no questions. I would have remained there until at least Monday lunchtime when, due to my non-appearance at work, someone would have undoubtedly called the police to break in. Thus, in a moment worthy of David Carradine, I would be found, slumped in my chair, garroted penis exposed to the world, blood-slicked craft knife in hand, throat neatly sliced open. Observing my mutilated genitals, one policeman would shake his head and mutter "Jesus fucking Christ. What's wrong with people?" whilst another vomited noisily into his hand.

Fortunately, it was just my thumb, so that didn't happen.

Eventually, I managed to free the cable tie by snipping away at it with a pair of nail-clippers, and all was right with the world.

Still, I couldn't help feeling very foolish indeed, like a curious cat with its head stuck in an empty tin can, bumbling around and knocking into the walls. This is why I shouldn't be left to my own devices - boredom and a staggering lack of foresight always kick in and, within minutes, I can find myself in perilous situations of such startling complexity that Jigsaw from the 'Saw' movies would shake his head and say, "Bloody hell, mate, that's fucked up."

On the plus side, I did manage to send a couple of tweets about my ordeal which elicited several amused retweets, but not much in the way of actual help. This is how you know who your friends are...