Whether I like it or not, the festive season is behind me and so I must gird my loins and return to the quest for gainful employment. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only claimant actually looking for work. The day before the programme centre closed for christmas I was the only one there. Apart from two of the ladies, who apparently volunteered to man the desks while I was busy jobsearching. Luckily I'd forgotten my aftershave - I was outnumbered. But as it happens they made it known they were closing early. I'm sure there was a good reason.
Now it's the new year and off to the job club I go. Other than myself, only one claimant made a new years resolution to look for work. She was probably doing better than me. Tired and bleary eyed after the festive season, I found it hard to concentrate. So badly was I doing that my cries of frustration were answered by "You only need to ask if you want help" from the guy running the clubs computers.
What cheek! I'm a capable computer peripheral I'll have you know - though in fairness, I think the other claimant, a novice computer user more used to dragging her kids away from these infernal calculating machines, was having an easier time of it. I have a sneaking suspicion she had a better christmas than me too.
It may not have been quite the savage weather that brought Scotland to a standstill just before christmas, but yesterday the rain was out to get me. Luckily I made it to the library before it went from threatening drops to full deluge.
I've also made the interesting discovery that my home isn't as waterproof as I imagined. Is that why my toes feel cold and wet? Yup. Free standing water. That can mean only one thing. It was time to plug the leak before my house sank. No need to panic. I knew I was in no real danger. You see, there was no threat of divine wrath or advice on building boats delivered by shafts of golden light.
Things We Cannot Know
By chance I happened to pick up a book on philosophy while waiting at the library for the youngster to stop downloading free music. Now I wouldn't ordinarily bother reading up on philosophy, but who could resist a book entitled "Things We Cannot Know"? It turns out that there's no logical reason to believe the brain exists. After years of living in Swindon I'm tempted to agree, though I think there's one or two books on human anatomy that mention the mythical grey matter.
Ahh well. Time to pop down to the supermarket.... Oh.... Still raining.... Heavy rain and really strong winds too.... I wonder if I can make it to the supermarket without getting wet? Right, here we go.
It's 2012, people!
Come to think of it, it doesn't feel like a very special year yet. The rain is falling, the wind is howling, and I've been sticking draught excluders in every crevice of the house. I suspect most people are starting to realise that 2012 might be as dull and boring as 2011. Now that they've acquired the obligatory hangover and a few traffic cones to decorate the home with, it's Back To Work Day.
Bet you're feeling better already.
Not So Bad
Not everyone found the last year quite so dull. There's been plenty of natural disasters and one or two documentaries to remind us of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsumanis, and the occaisional strong wind. Despite many attempts to galvanise the world into protecting the enviroment, ice caps are still melting, temperatures are still rising, the Euro is still wobbling, and last year saw a record amount of illegal ivory siezed by african authorities. never mind. Britain's going to be okay. The Prime Minister says so. After all, what could possibly go wrong with the country hosting the olympics this year?
Don't Mention The Olympics
Now that I've thought about it, there's a lot of crosses to bear in the months ahead. For one thing those stupid olympics are happening in London this summer. Oh.. You already know that?... Sorry, but I hate bandwagons and no amount of televisoon adverts, newspaper slogans, and interviews with politicians are going to raise my enthusiasm for the endless coverage of athletes stretching their legs.
You what? I should be patriotic? Don't get me wrong, I'll be as pleased as anyone else if we win a medal or two, but be honest - If we needed a major sporting event to make Britain great, it wasn't all great to begin with. Winning the hundred metres sprint or gyrating madly off a diving board isn't going to make the world a better place, is it?
That's if the world is still here next year. We have that calculation from the ancient Maya to contend with. In december the world ends, so we're told, though we've had so many false alarms it's hard to believe that a bunch of guys wearing skirts, feathers, and unfashionable earrings were any more accurate in determining the fate of the planet. Not once did they mention global warming in their temple carvings. Or the London Olympics. Or Kim Il Jong. Absolutely nowhere on the sides of those jungle encrusted ruins will you find the horse that wins the 2:30 at Goodwood on saturday.
Well okay, they are more or less right that the world will end, it's just that they were out by a matter of a few billion years. Rather like government spending plans I guess.
And Looking Ahead?
We can still hope there's something in this coming year to be thankful for. Maybe there's a chance of finding a television channel that won't show any coverage of the olympics? Maybe the world won't end in december? Maybe the sun will come out? Maybe an enployer will realise I'm perfect for that role I've applied for three times already?
I have forgotten to check out my stars for the year ahead, so I have no idea what to expect. Hopefully that'll make 2012 a little more interesting.
This birthday really started last night...an awesome dinner with my brothers and sister-in-law at our family's favorite Italian restaurant in the City, a bunch of great chatter and tons of good food. I went to bed last night in a good place...and woke up to a beautiful sunrise. Clearly, this is an omen from the Heavens that the forecast for the day, and perhaps the year, will be a good one.
At least, that's what Optimistic Me says. And since I don't allow any other Me to express itself on my birthday, as it were, I'm going with that sentiment.
Even the horoscope this morning was quite positive:
I'm going with either career or romance as the areas to be affected...at least, that's the hope. Who wouldn't?
A different star-reading had the line of the day, at least for me:
Wait...I'm a Capricorn...I naturally think about every offer before I take it...how is that a prediction?
Meh, whatevs. I'm gonna celebrate life and enjoy...hope all of you do, too. Happy New Year, all...Buon anno, tutti. A festeggiare!
A long time ago, I was asked a simple but searching question. Robin Harrison was the aspiring guitar hero of Red Jasper who tried to seek enlightment having listened to my own angry hard rock riffs. Not because he thought he might learn something meaningful from my own interpretation on what constituted music, but rather because he couldn't understand why I was so utterly entrenched in one particular style. Especially since I was a drummer and therefore had no legal reason to be playing a musical instrument at all.
Who am I trying to kid? He was seeking an opportunity to appraise and hopefully criticise. He couldn't compete in that narrow genre I'd adopted. Ever the competitive type, he wanted a different battlefield. His need for status demanded he found some form of elevated niche.
"So..." He interrupted me in between chords, "What do you play when you're feeling mellow?"
My reply was that I never felt mellow. I wonder if he ever really understood that? We both had stars in our eyes in those days in one way or another. He wanted to be the acknowledged artiste whereas I wanted to demolish the brick wall that had caused me so many headaches over the years. No, more than that, I wanted to express anger. To as many people as I could sell records to.
Funnily enough I was in a mellow sort of mood just the other day. It's taken a few decades but I guess that's just another part of growing old. By strange coincidence I also happened to be playing guitar. So the answer to Robin's question is that I finally played something mellow. That's what music is. A form of expression. It was a shame I only had one thing to say back then.
Not Cold Enough?
So far this winter I haven't needed to wear gloves. That's quite stunning really. Where's the sharp frosty mornings, the freezing fogs, the sight of my own breath? Currently my home's central heating is switched off - that's how mild it is right now - though in fairness I am wrapped up warm.
Seeing as I look like a down-and-out, a sort of Scott-Of-The-Living-Room, I also notice the absence of reminders on television on the plight of the homeless this year. Obviously things aren't cold enough for the average person to show any concern. DW, our intrepid online journalist, dutifully spent a night sleeping rough to raise awareness in a publicity stunt. It must be said he didn't suffer unduly. Not only was the weather relatively mild, he was provided with warm bedding and a rather attractive young lady to warm him further. It isn't often I'm envious of anyone sleeping rough.
My Year Ahead
Of course the risk that I might end up homeless myself is something I won't ignore. Therefore my job search continues. Even over the festive season too, please note. I see on the newspaper headlines that there are on average twenty three applicants for every vacancy here in Britain. More than forty for customer service roles. Looking ahead then it's entirely possible that I'll be unemployed for a while yet.
That doesn't mean I intend to surrender. Anyone who thinks I'm just going to give up and return to being boring old Mister Caldrail will be disappointed. I haven't been Lord Caldrail for the last two years for nothing. As my psychometric tests reveal, I'm an individualist (What? I needed an expert to tell me that?). So much of my self-expression has been vandalised or stolen that I really don't have anything left.
As for those youths who keep telling me that I've gotten my just deserts, I have to say I haven't the slightest idea what they're talking about. Kids... Pfah! ... What do they know? Go away and discover girls.
As for those who shouted that they get their food for free, well good for you. I'm not concerned with the details of your life in any way at all. After all, you had to shout to bring it to my attention which means it wasn't remotely interesting in the first place. However, if you turn out to be the ones dipping their fingers into my larder, I'll make sure to send you the bill. Only a matter of time.
Christmas Eve. This day has a ton of personal memories. Growing up, it was always the day of a ton of food, then church, followed by a light supper and tons of Mom's awesome Christmas cookies. And a very fitful night of sleep, as I really couldn't wait until the morning to open packages.
My bedroom was right next to the living room, where our tree was. My parents had to walk by my room to get there, and had to do so silently as I always have been a light sleeper. When they woke up in the morning, they'd quietly walk with the hidden gems of presents to the tree, put them down, and then go to the garage or other hiding places to get the rest. My brothers and I would wake up--in my case I'd have been woken up by the rustling in the next room, and who knows about my brothers--and we'd try to open our doors ever so quietly. Maybe we could sneak a peek, just to see what we'd be getting?
My mom would then yell at us to close the doors. Of course, we did that, lest she take away our presents. But I could always hear her and my dad giggling afterwards. They tried every year to get us to stay in our rooms longer and longer--at the very least so that they could put the pot of coffee on, get my grandmother, great-aunt and great-uncle upstairs, and get everything set before the three tornados came in and made a mess. But it never quite worked that way.
Then I'd hear something be placed outside of my bedroom door...ooh, the stocking! Since we didn't have a fireplace, it wasn't very logical to assume that's how Santa got in...and trust me, I asked constantly. So my parents came up with a different explanation: Santa landed on the deck outside of the living room, and used his magic to open the door so quietly that even I didn't hear him. And yet when I looked out on the deck, I didn't see any sleigh marks on the frost...but, of course, that was magic. (Wow, I was seriously too cynical as a kid!)
And, yes, the secret of Santa got spoiled for me, and very early...but my mom asked me to play along, for the sake of my younger brothers. And despite never being an early riser, Christmas morning was always the exception. The anticipation of the stocking, and of the generosity of others, well, it always got me out of bed early. Even this morning, Christmas Eve morning, when I fully expected to sleep well past 8am, I was tossing and turning at 7:15. Seems like I'm eager to get to Mom and Dad's house, and get this show on the road. I mean, you never know what Santa will bring :-)
Yes, it's that time of year again.For those who haven't noticed, we're fast approaching christmas, the traditional time of year for falling drunk off railway station platforms, smiling at people you've never met before, and finding out that someone is using your home as a convenience store. It's also the traditional time for pretending we believe that some old fat guy is going slip down the chimney and leave those perfects gifts for all the family that the television adverts have assiduously persisted in showing us.
All I get in my chimney is nesting pigeons. As for dreaming of a white christmas, it's raining out there. A lot. The car park behind the min shopping street is one shallow river at the moment.
If I sound like a party pooper I apologise, but then, if you want to enjoy yourself, why do you need an excuse? Why should we need a tradition dating long before Britain was invented? It's not as if Christmas is all that traditional anyway. So therefore to make life bearable and fun, I present my production of....
Caldrail's Inevitable Nativity
Joseph - Good evening barkeep. A room for the night please for me and my pregnant wife.
Barkeep - Sorry. All booked solid.
Joseph - Look, I've tried every other inn in town. Couldn't you squeeze us in somewhere? Please?
Barkeep - Sorry mate, but you should have booked ahead. We've been advertising on our website for months.
Mary - Aaaah!
Barkeep - You all right miss?
Mary - No I'm not all right you idiot! I've going to have a baby.
Customer - Hey! This a barroom. No babies allowed. She shouldn't be in here either.
Joseph - Do you mind? My wife is going to give birth to the son of God!
Barkeep - Son of.. God? Wow... We've never had a visit from a divine presence before. I have to admit mate, you're not exactly impressive.
Joseph - No not me you fool, it's... Well... It's a long story. Isn't there a barn or a stable where we can sleep overnight?
Mary - .It's going to look a bit ridiculous if the son of God is born on a barroom floor.
Barkeep - Yeah, okay, out back. Mind the animals and don't make a mess of the straw. I'll send for a midwife. No extra charge.
Joseph - Yes yes yes, thank you. Come dearest. Let's find ourselves a comfy spot in the stable.... Ahh! Here we are. Set yourself down.
Mary - What? Here? There's dung all over the floor, it smells like a cows ass, and you know I'm allergic to pollen.
Joseph - Can we not argue about it now? It's very scenic and this stable will make a wonderful picture in our family album. Oh look, here comes the midwife.
Midwife - You the husband? Out! Get out! Men aren't supposed to be present at childbirth.
Joseph - What? The donkey can stay and I can't?
Midwife - The donkey's more use if we need to pull the baby out.
Joseph - I just want be of some use.
Midwife - Then get a shovel and clear up this dung. Look at this stable. What a mess. Typical bloke. Can't keep a stable tidy.
Joseph - Hang on, this isn't my property.
Midwife - From what I'm told it isn't your child either. Out!
Joseph - (Sigh) Guess I'll just have to wait outside then. Wait.. What's that shaft of light? Why do I hear a heavenly choir?
Angel of the Lord - Just me mate. Sorry to bother you, this being a private family matter and all, but his nibs decided that if that baby is going to be important, he needs to start at an early age. So I got roped in as the celebrity host.
Joseph - So my child really is the son of God?
Angel of the Lord - Yeah. Sneaky so and so, isn't he? Worse than a milkman. Hallo, who are these three suspicious characters?
First King - We are three kings of orient far. We have followed the guiding star to be here, tonight, in the presence of this most solemn and majestic occaision.
Second King - What a journey. No end of hassle. I swear that's the last time I go chasing astronomical phenomena.
Third King - Yeah, and if we wait here too long, our people will rebel and install new transitional governments.
Mary - Hoo hoo hooo hooo unnnnngh AAAAAARGH!
Midwife - Keep pushing...
Joseph - You all right in there?
Donkey - EEEEEEH-AWWWWWW
Jesus - (slap) Waaaaaaaaaaagh! Waaaaaaagh! Waaaagh! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!
Joseph - Huh?
Midwife - It's a boy.
Angel of the Lord - Congratulations Joseph. Here, have a cigar.. Wait a minute... Midwife, did you just slap the son of God?
Midwife - Don't tell me how to do my job Angel. Your wife's fine, Joseph. Baby's healthy, except for a strange inexplicable glow, but I'm sure that will wear off in a few hours. Right, now about my fee....
Festive season or not, I am still unemployed, and therefore my jobsearch continues. It's continued for so long now that it seems almost like a job in itself. As long as I achieve my targets and objectives on a regular basis I get regular pay. In fact, the only real difference is that instead of one all important boss, I attend an office full of them. Or at least it would be if I could get through the door.
The programme centre has a push-button intercom through which you must attract someone's attention and persuade them to unlock the front door remotely. As if my life long struggle with doors was not enough, now I seem to be stuck with a lifelong struggle with doorkeepers.
The six options on the device always change between visits. I suspect it's some fiendish plot to make claimants use their brain once in a while. One of them opens the door, after a brief verbal contest, so it's just a matter of getting used to apologising, successfully deducing the correct choice from the tiny handwritten clue next to each button, or simply getting lucky.
As it happens the economic downturn has made this quest somewhat simpler, as the various agencies employed by the government fall by the wayside. Once there were six options. Now there are twp. Which one? This? Or that? Help, this is too difficult for a claimant. We're not used to making decisions in our regulated 'do as we tell you' world!
Out of nowhere appeared a Man-In-Grey. You must have come across one or two of those bog standard office types in your time. I think they're factory made in China. Anyway he ambled up to the door and appraised my efforts in attempting to gain entry. Clearly I didn't impress him with my negotiation skills. And since the door refused to budge even after persuading the tinny disembodied voice that I was supposed to be in there. I don't think he was impressed by my futile rage.
"You just need to wait a second" He advised me helpfully. Mate, seriously, shut up. This door and I are arch-enemies. I know it better than you do.
Nonetheless he took no notice and pushed a button with that quiet calm confidence guaranteed to irritate lesser members of the human species. He too answered the voice and asked for access. Then he waited for a second. Then a few more. Then pressed the button again. Eventually he leaned forward and spoke into the grill "I'm not able to access the building".
Is anyone else having a frustrating festive season? As soon as was allowed into the programme centre I was informed that I should go home and wait for a phone call, because with the economic downturn there's only one eigth as many staff there as there was originally. That was nothing compared to yesterday. I foolishly made the mistake of choosing the same time as everyone else to go shopping. The queues at the supermarket - not a building known for generous space to begin with - looped around the shelves.
Excuse me?... No, I just want some chicken nuggets on special offer... What?... You want to get by?.... Erm....
Homelessness has gone up by 13%. 70,000 children in Britain are sleeping rough at Christmas this year. Up to thirty years can be knocked off your life expectantcy by homelessness. We do tend to step over people who fall by the wayside - I'm no different - and according to the shelter representative interviewed on the news just now, it can happen to anyone.
So I guess I'll have to be thankful for the roof over my head, even if it isn't as warm as I would prefer it to be.
With all the spare time I seem to be afflicted with as an unemployed person it's inevitable that watch a bit more television than usual. So far I've avoided the mind numbing tedium of Countdown (never the same after Carol Voorderman left) and apart from Shaun The Sheep, childrens tv doesn't fill my spiritual emptiness.
However, lately there's been a series of japanese animation films. They're all pretty similar in style. Slightly surreal, always western in cultural depiction despite the oriental language, and strangely absorbing. Most are actually pretty dire as stories. There was one about sky pirates that ought to be used for prisoner interrogation. Fifteen minutes of that and you'd reveal every top secret you 've ever heard of.
There was one that caught my attention - Kiki's Delivery Sercvvice. Not because of the story, which was pure sugar and very cringweworthy, but the background. It was a sort of 1930's France in feel. It felt oddly familiar. Those of you who've read the Tintin Comics will know what I mean - the direct influence of real world places and objects makes the cartoon so much more reali no matter how simplistic the drawing is.
The rendition of the town was very appealing. I wanted to take that tram ride along the wide cobbled boulevard where the wealthy people lived, or stroll down that narrow winding road between the shops. Shame it's only imaginary really. Maybe that's because I'm getting a little bored of red brick Swindon.
Apologies To Monty Python
A tourist enters North Korea.
Tourist:: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
(The official does not respond.)
Official: What do you mean "miss"?
T:I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
O: We're closin' for lunch.
T:Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about your leader who I tried to visit not half an hour ago from this very office.
O: Oh yes, the, uh, Kim Jong Il...What's,uh...What's wrong with him?
T:I'll tell you what's wrong with him, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with him!
O: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
T:Look, matey, I know a dead politician when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
O: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable fella, the Kim Jong Il, isn'he, ay? Beautiful clothing!
T:The clothing don't enter into it. He's stone dead.
O: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!
T:All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up!
(shouting at the cage)
'Ello, Kim! I've got a lovelyweapons of mass destruction for you if you show...(owner hits the cage)
O: There, he moved!
T:No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!
O: I never!!
T:Yes, you did!
O: I never, never did anything...
T:(yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO KIM!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!
(Takes Kim Jong Il out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws him up in the air and watches him plummet to the floor.)
T:Now that's what I call a dead politician.
O: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!
O: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Korean politicians stun easily, major.
T:Um...now look...now look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That person is definitely deceased, and when I visited him not 'alf an hour ago, you assured me that his total lack of movement was due to bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged speech.
O: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the rice paddies.
T:PININ' for the RICE PADDIES?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?
O: Kim Jong Il prefers kippin' on his back! Remarkable leader, isn't he, squire? Lovely uniform!
T:Look, I took the liberty of examining that person when I got him home, and I discovered the only reason that he'd been sitting on his throne in the first place was that he'd been NAILED there.
O: Well, o'course he was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed him down, it would have nuzzled up to those bars, bent 'em apart withhis bare hands, and VOOM! Feeweeweewee!
T:"VOOM"?!? Mate, this bloke wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through him! 'E's bleedin' demised!
O: No no! 'E's pining!
T:'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the throne! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-POLITICIAN!!
O: Well, I'd better replace him, then.
By chance I bumped into the boss of the museum in town and we had a chat. Normally he's buzzing around here and there sorting things out, so it was great to discover I've been working for a human being.
The conversation eventually got around to things christmas. I'm a spiritualist, he's an aetheist, and funnily enough neither of us has any problem with that, unlike the christian who works there. She goes into a strop every time Jesus isn't treated with absolute reverence by everyone.
Lo and behold what do we find? Our glorious leader, David Cameron, announces that Britain is a christian country and the world would be a better place if we all queued up on sundays. Of course he added that other faiths should be respected too, and that if christians feel secure about their faith, then others won't be interefered with.
I fall off my seat in hysterics at the idea that Cameron is emulating the Roman emperor Constantine in using a religion to do his dirty work for him. But what makes me far less amused is the assumption that christianity is automatically a more moral culture. It just isn't, and never was. Despite all the 'messages' and ideas about being nice to others, christianity was constructed to order for political reasons in the 4th century. Far from adopting the moral high ground it claims to own, anyone who encounters the adherents of Jesus' personality cult from outside soon learns how often Christianity forms a protective umbrella beneath which all sorts of dubious activity goes on.
Hardly a religion with sincere roots, therefore, and both my boss and I agreed on that. Christians are often the worst people though in fairness they don't have exclusive rights to bigotry and spitefulness. There will be some people reading this who think that I should be... What's the phrase?... More tolerant given this is the festive season, but then, since when was Christmas a christian festival anyway? Birthday of Jesus? Check your history book. The rituals and customs of the festive season are descended from pagan beliefs.
More Xmas Woes
Those of you born some time around 1992 don't know how lucky they are. Partly because that's when I gave up being a drummer, but also because theuy're too young to remember the seventies. Now why, you might ask, are the seventies the cause of grief?
Yes, it's those christmas songs from Slade and Wizard. Every year I have to listen to those two songs repeated endlessly. I'm old enough to remember when those singles first came out, and for nearly thirty years, I've been a victim of music abuse.
It isn't just that the rest of the world seems utterly immune to the trauma-inducing effects of seventies christmas singles, but rather that despite my best efforts, I finally succumbed to bad luck over the weekend and heard both songs. I might need some time to convalesce.
So is anything else happening in Caldworld? Erm... Noooo.... Not really. Even the lady behind the desk at the Job Centre was politie and pleasant on my last visit. It's Swindon, Jim, but not as we know it.
It has been an interesting and busy week:
The previous Thurday night � I went to a friend�s house and watched the recent Green Lantern film on DVD. Now, I�m far from a superhero/comic book geek, and most of these type of films interest me only in as much as any mildly entertaining action adventure film might. However, I found Green Lantern to be a wonderful film, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Don�t be put off if these sort of things aren�t your usual cup of tea.
Dee � Eye � Ess � See � Oh
A disappointing evening on the following Friday. The Residents Association of the sleepy little village of Aquis-Of-The-Romans had put on a disco for all residents, complete with buffet. Only about twenty folk turned up, and they were the �usual suspects�. What a miserable lot the rest of the parishioners are!
That weekend saw me packing my bags and heading off to one of the hallowed Cambridge Colleges . Am I to be the token comprehensive school student in the otherwise Public School intake, ready for the cr�me de la cr�me of an education? No. Periodically, HikingHolidays-R-Us use the college as a facility for a conference of all their guides/leaders. So, along with 208 of my 300 colleagues, we got a glimpse of how the elite get educated, and whilst we were served duck, rather than swan, in the great dining hall, I still felt the weight of history and tradition pressing down upon me.
And what did I take away from this wonderful conference. Firstly, it�s a great opportunity to meet with your fellows. We�re quite an isolated bunch, and working almost exclusively in the field as we do, we rarely get the opportunity to meet up, exchange stories and advice, share experiences and tips, and shake hands with people you haven�t met since last time. You know, all that sort of thing. It�s also the time we get issued with new gear. This year�s fleece is bright red, which doesn�t suit me one iota, and the T-Shirt shows my paunch! There was also a strange object consisting of a small strap connecting a carabiner at one end (always useful) to a soft rubber object at the other. The soft rubber object resembled a toilet seat for an Action Man. No one knew what it was for. It turns out you force the neck of a bottle up through the toilet seat, and attach it to your belt/rucksack with the carabiner. QED.
Step aside Clooney and Laurie
I returned home on Monday night, and found that there really is no rest for the wicked. Tuesday found me on my annual First Aid refresher. It taught me what I pretty much knew anyway:
1 � People who have a cardiac arrest this year are more likely to be saved by using fast, deep chest compressions during CPR, and no breaths. They differ from last year�s cardiac arrest victims, who needed a different combination of thrusts/breaths, and they (in turn) differ from the cardiac arrests of the year before. They change it every year to make it simpler to remember! They have no sense of irony.
2 � No matter how many compressions/breaths you do, your patient is likely to stay dead anyway, unless they get a defibrillator to them in less than two minutes. The whole dog and pony show of bouncing on their chests and blowing into their mouths seems to exist principally to keep you occupied while you wait for the paramedics to remove the cadaver. Does that worry you at all? Eat more fruit and veg!
The Wild Boys (of which I am one) are calling on their way back from the fire
At last, the time arrived. Some months ago (4th of June, in fact), my much anticipated attendance at a Duran Duran gig was foiled by Simon LeBon�s throat infection. Come December, his larynx is now good as new, and that night he belted out the classics at Sheffield Arena with aplomb. What a night!
LeBon was on fine voice. I sang myself hoarse. I even managed to sway slightly in the tiny space allotted to me by Sheffield Arena. The only downside was that, having been ushered to some very nice seats by arena staff, we were turfed out by the real owners of those seats at the end of the support act�s bit. Close examination of our tickets revealed that the usher needed glasses. Our real seats were so high, the air was quite thin once we'd roped up and climbed to them.
Let�s go Dutch
I think I mentioned before that 2012 will see a departure for me. HikingHolidays-R-Us, ever the innovators, are launching a gaggle of Cycling holidays this year. One of these will be based in Holland, and I (showing the rash and impulsive side to my nature) agreed to give it a go. I did used to cycle in Holland, so on the face of it, not so rash. The downside is that, not only is it nearly 20 years since I cycled there, it must be over 10 years since I did any serious cycling. I predict the first 7 months of 2012 will see me quite saddle-sore while I get back into the swing of it!
Another admission is that this will be the first time I�ve lead in a country where I don�t speak the lingo. Not a problem in Holland, everyone keeps telling me. The Dutch all speak excellent English. This is without doubt true. However, one of the things our clients state quite categorically is that they want their guides and leaders to be speak the local patois. So, I need to learn at least enough Dutch to be seen by them to use it occasionally. I�ve just started, and I can report that it�s a tough one. Daag!
Now we know the security arrangements for the forthcoming 2012 London Olympics. The armed forces will keep the invasion of foreign athletes from conquering Britain. We certainly are going for gold.
Seriously though, 13,000 troops? Attack helicopters? Jet fighters on scramble alert? A battleship on the Thames? I'm struggling to get my head around this. I agree there's bound to be a risk of terrorists making some explosive statement of their anti-whatever views, but this stuff is protection on the scale of a Hollywood thriller.
Just what sort of threat are these forces expecting? Chances are any actual threat would be a small number of hostiles. I suppose picking out the terrorist from tourist isn't so easy but is it any easier from helicopter a thousand feet overhead? And if we do get suspicious characters wandering around London with backpacks, I sort of got the idea the police were already well capable of targetting them.
Now that the US has packed its bags and booked tickets home after nine years of operations in Iraq it's time to reflect on what they achieved. I imagine many of my countrymen are making some scornful comments. It was saddening to see ordinary Iraqis interviewed by journalists doing exactly that.
There is a plus side to it all besides the demise of Saddam Hussein. Apparently the terrorists are experiencng problems in finding volunteers for suicide bombing. Why would that suprise anyone? Almost everyone who was angry enough to blow themselves up has already done so. And what, exactly, has suicide bombing achieved except give a few fundamentalists the chance to make a home video?.
Now I hear that an Iranian has been caught red handed at Moscow airport with loads of radioactive material. The Iranians have always maintained that their nuclear power program has no military purpose. If they carry on like this, they'll be inviting the americans to drop by for the regime celebrations. I mean, it's not like they haven't been warned.
A few times recently I've watched the hot debates on Prime Ministers Question Time. For those that don't know, that's not a current affairs program, but televised government proceedings that occaisionally get aired when terorists aren't blowing things up or the Eurozone manages to keep its balance.
I've had some dismissive things to say about David Cameron, our glorious leader (who I note isn't appearing alongside coalition partner Nick Clegg much anymore), but I was struck by the somewhat amateurish performance of the arch-enemy, opposition leader Ed Milliband. It's understandable that he tries to diminish government performance and criticise the Prime Ministers decisions and policiies - that's democracy - but having made his accusations he sits there fuming that his opponent is ripping him apart, making scornful comments while the microphones are elsewhere. Eddy baby, chill out man. Your crowd won the Feltham & Heston by-election. What more do you need? A good turn out?
Last night the weather report was full of dire warnings of snow and strong winds. No sign of it this morning. The ground is wet mind you, but what a nice sunny day. Elsewhere in Britain it's a different matter. A short while ago I saw interviews of various people in Wales. Not in the usual urban setting, but on a path toward the peak of Pen-Y-Fan.
I've been up to the summit of the highest mountain in South Wales myself in my younger days, although in fairness that wasn't during winter. Two lads with skis and snowboard enthused about the possibility of getting some fun and promptly headed for the slopes. Then we met a chap from the local mountain rescue team. "A lot of other people may want to visit wild places too," The interviewer suggested, "What would you recommend on days like this to keep yourself safe?"
Immediately the mountain rescue man almost smiled at the chance to ram some commonsense down the throat of the british public. "Warm clothes, stout boots, goggles, map, compass, thermos flask, food, whistle, torch, crampons..."
And so on. Needless to say I had almost none of those things the day I went up there. I doubt any of todays visitors will either. Mostly because the vehicles necessary to transport all their expedition gear to base camp won't be able to cope with snow.
This morning's local paper starts with the headline about our dearly beloved ruin, the Old College site. Yes, it's still there. The issue is apparently no longer the number of rare and protected species of roosting bats, but whether the developer can be bothered to actually do anything. I mean, despite all the presentations anf fine words, there seems to be a distinct lack of progress in getting anyone to sign up to fill the new shopping mall to be built in its place.
Now they're saying it won't come down until next spring. Is that the coming spring or the spring afterward? I just wondered. Wouldn't want to miss the big occaision.
What I Want
My stars this morning are short and to the point. Success can be mine if I admit what it is I actually want. Okay, that'll be one Ferrari please. Oh yes. Please remember to pull that Old College ruin down. That's my little good turn for the community.
Talking of Ferarri's, I saw one of the newer ones parked down the hill just lately. I don't know the model name or number, but it's one of those 'science & maths' models as Jeremy Clarkson describes them. Who am I to argue?
It did look impressive, I have to say, painted ivory with a black roof, basking in the adoration of pedestrians stunned that anyone would actually dare to park an expensive sports car in that part of town. If I parked something like in the yard behind my home, I'd be the owner of the worlds most expensive carbon fibre skip by the following morning. And that would get nicked three months later.So to add to my wishlist of things I wish for - please find those idiots who demolished my car and have them dragged by a Ferrari through a heap of razorwire.
They say you should be careful what you wish for. Why? Because I might just get it? Fine with me.
Where were you when Berlin Wall came down? Where you when Princess Di had a bit of an accident? Events like those can be so important sometimes, even when you least expect it. At least they are to some people. I honestly can't say those particular events ever stirred me to remember the day but I'm sure you can think of those that do it for you.
You might ask why I'm writing about them. Well it's because the news has broken that the CERN hadron collider at Geneva might have spotted the elusive Higgs Boson particle. Break out the beer chaps. This will be the day you talk to your grandchildren about. That should get them to sleep.
Been There, Seen It
I caught the second half of some strange film last night. No idea what it was. Not really sure what it was supposed to be about, although I've eliminated the Higgs Boson particle from my enquiries. It isn't often I see films from New Zealand. I think maybe I've been spoiled by the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Mind you, I have to say I enjoyed the sex scene. I had no idea New Zealand had any lesbians. Good grief, I might drop by there again one day.
Also last night I saw one of David Attenborough's Frozen Planet series. This was quite late at night and I was stunned to see that people with hearing difficulties have to stay up that late to see the lady on the right translate it by sign language.
There has been controversy about the series. Not for keeping deaf people awake in the small hours, but filming the birth sequence of a polar bear at a zoo in Holland. I do hear that David Attenborough is about to present his latest series, First Life, about the most ancient and primitive of life forms that began evolution, beginning the rocky path toward the arrival of Global Warming Conferences three billion years later. If he wants to save money, why didn't he film scenes in my kitchen sink? That's pretty primeval.
Do we really need a Global Warming Conference? I saw a russian journalist stunned the other day when a scientist dismissed the entire proceedings as a gravy train and an unnecessary impediement to human prosperity. Yeah - that's what I said ten years ago. I wonder if the Canadians happened to see one of my posts on the subject? No matter. Congratulations to them for realising what a colossal sham it all is.
Just as I was about to leave the house today I spotted snow. Yes, snow. The dreaded white stuff is cascading upon poor old innicent Swindon as I write this. We don't normally get any snow this side of the new year. Oh... Hang on.... It seems to have stopped. Was it something I said?
We punch above our weight down here at the bottom of the world. We are the rugby champions of the world; the rugby league champions of the world; we make it to the World Cup of Association Football with a pool of 22 players to choose from (and then draw against the current world champs) to name but a few of our many sporting accomplishments.
A couple of days ago the New Zealand cricket team (The Black Caps) beat the Australian cricket team. In the bigger scheme of things, this is not earth shattering news. But in the context of the peculiarly cut throat, competitive relationship that we Kiwis have with our Kangaroo cousins across the ditch, THIS IS MASSIVE.
Why, I hear you ask with baited breath?
I'll tell you. Us (NZ) beating them (AUS) in cricket is like a penguin beating a killer whale in a fight to the death, and then flipping it around the ocean playfully for a bit before devouring it piecemeal. IT JUST SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.
But it DID. We ripped them a new bum, and they weren't (aren't) happy.
I won't bore you with the details of the game; I'm a cricket fan and even I concede that watching your cat defecate is more exciting than reading about the nitty gritty of a cricket match.
Suffice to say that New Zealand should NEVER beat Australia. We are the equivalent of a cricketing amoeba, they are a cricketing red giant sun. It's their national game and the only one of the many sports in which they excel that unites the whole Australian sporting public behind it. Like Rugby in New Zealand, cricket is an integral part of the Australian national identity. They go into mourning whenever they lose. They go into absolute writhing apoplexy whenever they lose to US!!
The last time that we had a victory over them in their own country was around 1984. That was 27 years ago - a very long time between drinks. I was still wearing short shorts and sandals to primary school, and my mum was making my lunches. In the time that has elapsed since then, they have whipped us like curs with depressing regularity. Until now.
Kiwi cricket fans, like myself, have to crow loud and long whenever we experience the giddy heights of a win against the Ockers on their own turf because it could very well be 27 more years before we get another. You have to be ungracious and rub it in as much as you can, much like an Australian would.
So here I am, doing just that. Haha Australia, you suck.
If there are any Australians reading this, feel free to make excuses or abuse me roundly. It can't change the fact that you lost....to US!!!!
It's misery month in Britain right now. never mind all tjhose predictions of economic woes and european isolation, it's raining. That might suprise a few people given that Britain has a repuation for damp weather, but you see, most of our dampness is down to showers which do have a habit of catching people out. Today however is wet. It will probably be wet all day. That means I probably will be too.
Yes, It's Happened Again
No I don't mean rain showers, but meteorite showers. The Gemenids are about to fall to Earth in a spectacular display over the next two nights and guess what - The skies are cloudy and grey. That always happens. Every time.
I've realised that Britain will survive the next major meteorite strike on Earth by the simple expedient of hiding beneath rainclouds.
Also Wet Today
Unlike a famous dance sequence by Gene Kelley, I won't be singin' in the rain on the way home. partly because I wouldn't be seen dead with an umbrella, partly because I don't enjoy getting wet, but mostly because the police will probably arrest me for possession of a voice with intent to cause breach of the peace. Plus I'm not that good a dancer. More likely I'll be shouted at by irate motorists. And splashed with water from the gutter.
Oooh look. The sun has come out. Yeah, okay, I've been caught like that before.
Some would describe me as a eurosceptic. They're quite wrong of course, I'm a eurocritic. The shameless ambiton and manipulaton of some politicians intending to create a new european empire have been all too obvious.
Paranoia? Conspiracy theory? It isn't just me who waggles a finger and warns about the actual intentions of the political initiatives to gain advantage from the current difficulties. Only yesterday I was watching a journalist voicing his opinion how France and Germany are trying to ignore the restrictions of previous treaties and dictate how the european economy will be run.
The urge to unify Europe has always been hiding under the surface since Roman times, and in any case, where the potential exists for greater power, there will always be those who want to grab it for themselves, even if they have to create it first. It's no coincidence that France and Germany are both countries in the vanguard of these initiatives, as both had for a while at least, european empires of their own.
Britains belligerent independent spirit tends to emerge whenever european empires make themselves known. That too is an inheritance of the past Naturally then I'm pleased that our glorious leader has stood firm and said no to pressure to bring our national finances under european control. Fight them on the beaches, Mr Cameron. After all, we once had an empire far larger than Hitler's or Napoleon's.
Death Of An Empire
While the clumsy struggles to create a european empire unfold around us, I saw a documentary on television that reminded me how fragile such empires can be. How such empires are often only possible by the sheer will of those that lead them. Not to mention the military force they can apply.
The inner workings of russian politics is a rare subject to learn about in the west If it comes to that, I find it difficult to imagine Russia as anything other than the monolithic communist state that pointed nuclear missiles at me for most of my life. I am after all a product of my age.
So I learned about the events in December 1991 when over a matter of days the Soviet Union passed into history, replaced by the confederation of independent states we see today, a tale of political manoevering, public demonstration, military deployment, and more than anything else a battle of wills between leading politicians on holiday at a country residence. The only way an ambitious Yeltsin could take power from Gorbachev was to remove the Soviet Union entirely.
Wow. That's like getting a well paid job by blowing up your home town. And that guy had the keys to one of the worlds largest arsenals of nuclear warheads? No wonder they kept him drunk all the time.
Where Is Russia, Exactly?
As if the Russians hadn't enough to complain about regarding the dodgy goings on in their recent elections, now they're complaining that footage of demonstrations used by a certain american news program actually showed violence from Greece. Why were the Russians so worried about an American first strike scenario, or that cute missile shield they want installed in eastern europe? I mean, it's not like the US knows where any of the targets are.
By the way. Avoid a greek package holiday if US-Russian relations hit an all time low. Just a little tip.
Weather Of The Week
Watching a global weather survey proved interesting. Temperatures in Britain have dipped close to those found in Moscow over the last few days. Not sure if that made me feel any better, but I had to laugh at a recent vacancy that was pushed under my nose recently. A sort of supply expert working for the territorials. I could learn lots of new skills like survival.
I hate to break it to the army, but at my age the prospect of learning survival skills really doesn't count for a lot. I'm past fifty years of age, still here, still kicking, and able to cope with poverty and cold weather. My survival hazards have more to do with supermarket con tricks or over zealous claims advisors than cooking lizards in some arid wasteland.
Talking about survival, not so long ago I made a comment about Scotland being used to snow and better able to cope than us southern softies. Well, I wasn't expecting nature to test scottish resolve with some furious weather like the scenes we witnessed on television over the weekend. I do sympathise, I really do. Back in 1987 I was driving a van while that hurricane struck. You don't forget that sort of thing very easily.
There was something different about the supermarket yesterday. The building was in the same place, still the same pastel yellow walls and off white polystyrene roof tiles. Still the same range of products more or less where they were the last time I was here. Even a few seasonal products in highly visible red packaging didn't explain my sense of foreboding.
Got it. Music. Hard to miss it really since it was being played somewhat loudly. Mind you, calling that cacophony 'music' is stretching things a bit. Each song was identical, upbeat tempo's, plentiful tambourines, and happy go lucky melodies. Now that I think about it, the problem isn't really the supermarket at all.
At the till I had a quiet word with the shop assistant. Could you tell the manager that we already know it's christmas? She blinked a couple of times, then realised what I meant. No, please, it wasn't that funny...Look, can I just pay for this stuff and go?....Please?
NASA have been charting all the asteroids orbiting nearby and it seems there are thousands of big rocks hurtling around up there. That would be plausible of course, since Earth is lots of these rocks impacted together in the early days of the solar system, and any asteroids with stable orbits would still be orbiting instead of colliding. Still, it is worrying that we have so many Rocks of Damocles hanging above our heads.
No-one seems to know quite what to do if any of these asteroids are discovered to be on a collision course. Most would be extremely damaging, to say the least, many potemtially with enough energy to wipe out our endangered species in spite of all those television campaigns to raise awareness. Come to think of it, humanity isn't exactly assurtred of survival in that situation either.
By coincidence I was watching a documentary about a disturbing event in the stone ages. Neolithic farming communities had progressed toward prosperity using their new farming methods, and the older hunter/gatherer lifestyles had waned significantly. Settlements showed evidence of complex social structures, communal living, and sophisticated living. Yet all of a sudden, in a two to ten year span, they became cannibals.
As a global society human beings do tend to be somewhat proud of their control over the planets surface, their vast networks of infrastructure and nests, and indeed, it seems to be a facet of succesful societies throughout history that we regard oursleves as masters of the Earth. Bow down and serve us, animals, lest we punish you for being so tasty to eat. But in what way are we actually in charge? As far as I can see from news of catastrophes around the war, humanity seems incredibly ill equipped to deal with the vagaries of weather, climate, and the occaisional geothermal disturbance.
I've often said that civilisation is not an automatic quality of the human species. It's something that must be taught and encouraged, and even when we adopt 'civilised' living, we discover that the primeval barbarian is lurking under the skin. After all, our cats and dogs are loveablle family pets for the most part, yet their behaviour can turn feral very easily indeed.
So what can we do to preserve our confortable lives in the event that an orbital rocks wobbles dangerously? Sadly, not much, although I suspect the survivalists will be very proud of themselves having invested in concrete bunkers and stocks of weaponry. At least, that is, until they realise no-one's making ammunition any more. I suppose we really do need to understand that humanity is not guaranteed survival, neither by divine decree, macho heroism, or superiorty complex. Civilisation is fragile, and in the natural quest for superiority in the enviroment, easily overturned by aggression and disaster.
Okay, go ahead. Play that darn christmas music. Anything that preserves life as we know it. I must admit, those happy tunes do seem to be keeping the asteroids away.
The other night I was finished with my bad mood and instead became sort of reflective, thinking about things I'd done in the past, things I should have done in the past, and basically having a sort of middle aged moment. Not suprisingly I thought of my time as the drummer in Red Jasper.
It's funny how unique we were as a band in those days. First there was me. Never had a drummer been so reliable and still scary when I drove the van. Then there was Carlos Santana wannabe Robin Harrison. Never had a man achieved so much by doing absolutely nothing. His compatriot, Tony Heath, who played anything we needed him to. Never before has a band member risked getting sacked for pretending to be in the band. Singer Dave Dodds, who became a success by avoiding the truth religiously, and the dastardly Pat D'Arcy, who remains the only person ever to be completely unsuccesful by trying to be the only band member who did anything.
Where are they now I wonder? As for me the truth is out. You only need to read this blog. Robin and a few others we knew from those days are still performing. Pass straight to Go. Do not collect
Boy oh boy am I in a bitchin' mood. I guess you too sometimes feel that when the world reveals itself as being layered in pooh, which if you think about it, happens to be pretty much the case. But I'm not interested in your woes right now. This is my blog you know.
Among the many comments and appraaisals I've received of late is the opinion that I'm not funny. Oh. Sorry about that. It depends on your sense of humour of course, but it hasn't escaped my notice that the very same people who accuse me of 'not being funny' are the very same ones who fall over laughing when I pass by. Go figure.
The other opinion offered last night was some young fella who reckoned he was getting sick of me. Why? I have no idea who that youngster was or where I've encountered him. Now either I'm suffering from alzheimers or he's so insignificant I didn't notice when I passed him by. Guess he should have laughed louder. The thing is, as I always say, if people talk about you, you're famous. So last night was my five minute fix for the night. Sorry, no autographs.
Second Class Service
It came as no suprise to watch the news last and find that the big four supermarket chains in Britain are getting up to shabby tricks to increase profits. Sorry, but that's what it is. Only the other week I spotted bottles of black pepper for 69p each. Bargain! Or so I thought. When the lady on the till announced how much I'd spent in total I was a bit suprised. Well... Perhaps I miscalculated....
As it turns out my mental arithmetic was a bit better than that. The problem with shabby tricks is that they're always played when you're lulled into a false sense of security. As for the black pepper, it turned out the actual price was
Right. Chores completed, job clubs attended, shopping done. Time for me to head home and do the usual 'feet up' routine. I might be unemployed, but I need to stay in practice for when someone figures out how to get Britain out of the recession. Whichever one it is we're currently suffering from.
As usual there were crowds of unemployed immigrants standing on street corners just about everywhere. At least I think they were unemployed. No matter. I have seat to fill at home. So with a quick glance over my shoulder I stride across the road junction and pay the crowds no further attention.
As I did so a young manager type in his spotlessly white and chrome base model executive car decided to turn into the side street. I was about halfway across when it was obvious I was about to be run over. Luckily the driver in this case was a moderate sort who didn't believe in mowing down innocent pedestrians. Unfortunately, he was one of those who likes to challenge pedestrians for ownership of the ashpalt.
So without further ado he drove right up to me, and I mean, within inches. I made my displeasure known to him. Well clearly that young man either hasn't read the Highway Code or considers himself exempt by virtue of his base model executive transport. I suspect my angry response didn't teach him anything either. A part of me hopes he'll learn an important lesson about patience and respect for other road users, but it does appear that eventually it's going to be a magistrate who instructs him.
Snow? What the...? The warning symbols as the weather report got underway were something of a suprise. I mean, it might have gotten colder of late, but in real terms it really isn't that bad for this time of year. Oh, I see, it's just Scotland that's going to get it. Oh that's all right. They're used to it. Let's face it, there some drivers who can't handle snow south of the border. Can you imagine? Snow on a monday morning? What a disaster that would be.
News Of The Week
"Hey!" Cried an breathless Young L as he rode his bicycle through the door of the museum. "Have you seen the news about Jeremy Clarkson?"
Funnily enough we had. I'd even mentioned it on my blog a day or two before. Sadly Young L regards football as more important than my literary efforts so once again he launched into a series of anecdotes about his favourite Top Gear moments. I think it was a series. Bit difficult to tell because he didn't pause for breath. Either that or the lads from Dunsfold made one heck of an episode.
Finally I could take no more. Interrupting Young L in full flow, I turned to Young S and asked him how many episodes of Top Gear had ever been made. That many? Really? Okay, carry on...
Well, most of the presents have been figured out and either purchased or made...just that one person left.
You know how it is...there's always that one person that you have no idea what would be a good gift. In this case, it's my middle brother. And since I already found a good gift for my sister-in-law, I have to think of something equally good for him. So a gift for the couple is out...I think...hmmmmmmmm....
Ok, I'll let you in on the secret: I got my sister-in-law a gift certificate for an hour long massage at a day spa...maybe I could give my brother a certificate for something to do while his wife is getting the massage? Or some other thing that would be equally 'pampering' to him? If my brother and I got along better, this probably would be easier. But the fact is that we don't, for a number of reasons that I don't really wish to go into here. Suffice it to say that we haven't ever really gotten along, not even as kids. I thought about doing a 'lunch and day together' thing, but I don't think he'd like that very much. Sigh and alas, I think it'll take me a while to figure this gift out. Thankfully I have until the 30th, when we siblings meet up, so I have a chance at getting him a good gift.
And, no, I don't fret much over gifts, but just enough to make sure they aren't the cheesy gifts that no one wants. As I watch the commercials--note I said watch, because I mute the TV when the ads come on--there are all of these commercials for *that special gift* for *that certain someone* in your life. Surely the man whose gift you are searching for will want a new electric razor...or perhaps this cologne? Of course there's always power tools and big-screen TVs, because what male can resist the allure of a cordless drill or a 3D plasma screen.
And the 'gifts' for women are just as comical...if the ads are to be believed, every heterosexual man knows that we ladies want jewelry, and that if we don't get any there will be hell to pay. At least, it seems that way from the ads; how many are of men desperately searching for the diamond that sparkles the brightest? Or the tennis bracelet that has the most precious stones? Really?
I mean, sure, if you'd like to give me jewelry, so be it--I'm definitely not going to refuse it. But there were other things on my list that I was hoping Santa would bring.
Tis the season of dreary grey weather. All the neon signs have been attached to lamposts in anticipation of that supposedly magical commercial festival at the end of the month, not to mention a small village of wooden sheds for a temporary market in the town centre.
Come to think of it, for some reason the public have decided that filling the streets was a good idea. If that was because they had time to spare while they were on strike against government cuts, then it's something of an eye-opener. I mean, what do all these public-sector workers do when they're not shopping?
It was just my luck to try and pick up a few snacks at the supermarket right in the middle of Walk Slowly Day. Oh curse my rapid gait! No. Forget that. Curse you pedestrian! I dunno, filling up the pavement with idle memvbers of the public? What is the world coming to?
Oooh no wait. As I type this tirade against mindless meandering a council bird handler is walking outside. He's got some bird of prey with him to tackle the menace of pidgeons, and what a lovely animal it is. Don't know the breed. Sort of black with brown and white trim. Yes, the pidgeons have realised the threat. There they go. Well done that bird.
That's it! That's the solution to all those pedestrians blocking my progress. I need a bird of prey. Darn. If only giant pterodactyls hadn't gone extinct.
Don't Worry mate
Jeremy Clarkson is in a spot of bother right now. The BBC have issued an apology for his comments about yesterdays strike action, which oddly enough was more or less the same as my comments except I used a few less firing squads. Can't see any news item about the BBC issuing an apology for what I said though. That sort of discrimation is typical of the public sector television company and gosh darn it I've had to fork out another hundred and fifty quid for a license to watch them issuing apologies.
You have my sympathies Mr Clarkson. As for Jon Trickett, Labour's shadow minister for the cabinet office, please do shut up. It's over. It achieved nothing. And I'm no better off.
Six More Years Of Pain.
Falling standards of living, lower pay, fewer jobs, and all the other doom and gloom of austerity predictions. Makes you feel good to be British, doesn't it? I was only a child during the Winter of Discontent. The financial wobbles that ended the yuppie era barely affected me. Well, I'm certainly affected now.
Funny isn't it? Today there's a public service strike across Britain. Signs have been posted to invite the public to attend the rallies, and almost everywhere in town there are canvassers attempting to gain our support. I can understand the concerns these people have for their pensions, but I really don't think they understand that we pay for them as well as our own. I suspect their schemes are probably more likely to fund their old age too. Sorry, but no, I'm not interested.
As for me, well, I don't seem to be too popular right now. Last night I had two phone calls out of the blue from people who wanted to respond to my efforts to find work. In one case, a training organisation offered me a course on warehousing. Oh brilliant. So I get a piece of paper after a couple of weeks telling me I know how to do the stuff I've been doing for nearly twenty years? I felt like calling him an idiot, but no, these things are sent to try us.
The second call was from an agency. "You applied for bar work?" He asked me. Bar work? I don't think so. Mind you, I did apply to your agency earlier today for....
"Oh yes" He suddenly remembered, "That admin job. I'll pass the application on to the right desk. The emails must have gone astray."
Seems to be a lot of things going astray right now. It isn't the first time I've gotten the bums rush from a job agency. One had phoned me a few weeks ago, the boss herself, and whilst she's never so much as recognised I existed, now she took the trouble to fob me off personally. A few years ago, the boss of another invited me to the office for a personal put down. Funnily enough she advised me to look for bar work. Bit of a coincidence there.
Actually some of my woes are spiteful mischief makers attempting to goad me into using my title as an excuse. Sorry, but that's not what my title is for, so I'm afraid that as much as these idiots are enjoying the human talent for crapping on others, it isn't going to happen. Since getting a job from agencies doesn't look like it's going to happen either, I do feel sort of excused from any shame in being unemployed. But don't worry, I'll carry on applying for jobs. That's what the government pay me for after all.
It isn't just Britain suffering. I see on CBS that Texas is undergoing a harsh drought right now. So bad in fact that one farmer is unable to profit from sales of christmas trees. She grows christmas trees? In Texas? But it's okay. With a mind to offsetting the worst of any further climatic wobbles, she's investing in christmas trees sourced in Arizona.