Wednesday, 14 November 2007

I heard that, pardon?

I bought a hearing aid yesterday.

I've been finding it more difficult to hear, to make out conversation, particularly in crowded social environments, largely due to a mis-spent youth as a DJ and, despite the pleasure this gives me in annoying my children by having the TV too loud, it has been irritating me more and more.

Yesterday, I was in Dublin and, having left a meeting, was walking down the street, soaking up the different sameness that is the Republic of Ireland. They drive on the left, but speeds are in Kilometers. The some of the shops are identical (McDonalds and Burger King vie for space in the litter bins and gutters) but then you encounter stores that look familiar but someone has changed the names when you weren't looking. Prices are in Euros, but people still talk about "30 bob". Signs are in Gaelic first, with English subtitles, but the language you hear on the street is English.

Or so I thought.

I'd left the meeting and, having cut my arm, needed some tape, so when I saw what I thought was a pharmacy, I darted in. However, what I found was in fact a medical supplies shop with prices that were, well, keen to say the least. Having found myself walking down the street and really struggling to understand what was being said around me, I made an impulse buy and am now the proud owner of a hearing aid.

Ok, it's not medical standard and is more an in-ear amplifier. Well, partially in-ear. Ok, it sticks out the side of my head like a badly-parked Volkswagen Beetle, but I thought it may make a difference.

Out in the street, I parked it in my ear and, once I'd got past the stage where it whistled like a building site spotting a blond in a mini-skirt, prepared myself for a whole new era of clarity and understanding.

Which is when I discovered that Dublin is full of Poles and, as a consequence, my confusion was due less to auditory atrophy and more to the fact that they were speaking Polish.

Anyone want to buy a Volkswagen?


Nature versus Common Sense

There are lots of useless things.

Wasps, men's nipples, people who call you up from India and try to sell you things whilst maintaining that their names are Jeremy, Nigel or Tracy. I don't know whether they are the work of a deity, of nature, or a mere random chance that has persisted, but either way, there are lots of things that just defy a rational explanation of their existence.

However, there is one thing that seems to exceed all others in it's sheer lack of justification. One thing that serves no useful purpose whatsoever, yet is more manifest than all of the others.

I speak, of course, of hair.

Not ordinary hair. Not the tumbling locks of teenage girls, straightened when naturally curly, curled when naturally straight. Not the full, glistening repositories of the output of half the world's chemical industry, cloaked in names like jasmine, coconut and Jojoba. What the hell IS jojoba anyway? Not the tweaked outrageous quiffs of 'yoofs'; coloured, lacquered, spiked as a vehement protest against..........well.............. jojoba I guess. Not even the hair that adorns men's (and some women's) faces which, for some reason, I'm told is a sign of untrustworthyness. How can it be untrustworthy, when so many priests and royalty have had bear...

Oh. Ok. I'll give you that one.

I'm not even referring to the hair that curls out from the armpits of the women of some European countries (and the odd absent/bloody-minded film star).

No, the hair I refer to is the most bizarre, pointless and curious thing.

Ear hair.

When I was young, I had hair on my head.

As I got older, I developed it on my arms, chest and the ability (resisted) to sprout it on my chin. My ears, thank you very much, were smooth, unadorned and didn't even stick out unduly.

Then, one day, something happens.

You wake up and everything has changed.

Along with things like the noise that you make standing or sitting; the sudden interest in unsuitable fashion; the urge to buy a sports-car or motorcycle; the delusion that nobody notices you surreptitiously looking at the bottoms of young girls; something goes wrong with your DNA.

Clever little helixes that, for years have told your fingernails not to grow on your teeth, your stomach to produce acid strong enough to digest your food but weak enough not to digest itself, suddenly have a bad day. You can imagine the conversation.

"Hi, how's it going?"

"Not so bad, just making some enzymes and stuff. How's things with you?"

"Honestly? I'm a bit cheesed off. He's really irritating me."

"Why? Are you still pissed off about the reduced demand for sperm? I did explain that that's not really his fault."

"I don't know, I think I'm just jaded. Been doing this for too long. Same things, day in day out. I just need to get out of this rut and be free to EXPRESS myself."

"Well, what do you want to do? I mean, it's not as if you can break the rules and make his fingernails grow on his teeth is it? You've already messed with his digestion with all that strong acid, so he can't eat those hot curries any more. We're making his hair fall out, so short of making it grow back somewhere else...... hey..... why have you gone all thoughtful and quiet????"

So, there you have it. One day we wake up and, when absentmindedly stroking your ear, you suddenly feel it. For a moment, you have visions of your kids super-glueing a hamster to the side of your head when you were asleep but no, it's there, it's all yours and from now on, you have a choice. Accept it graciously and with dignity...

...Or buy a pair of tweezers and pluck the little buggers out.

However, it's only then that you realise the genius that is nature.

All of a sudden, you understand what earwax is for.


Tuesday, 13 November 2007


There are lots of useless things.

Including me, when it comes to technology.

I just posted the same blog twice and can't work out how to delete one of them.

Hey ho, not as if I work for a technology company or anything...

Where is a small child when you really need one?

(And I mean to help with your computer, before I get a knock on the door from someone thinking I mean something else!)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Neighbours, everybody loves good neighbours..

I have new neighbours

They owned the flat next to mine which they rented out, but sold their house and moved back in.

I met them a few months ago, doing their garden, which seems to be about all they do. I think the state of mine offended them at some fundamental, almost religeous level and, if I'm honest, even the wildlife was avoiding it now it was so untidy. You have to understand that the garden's are open plan, with each ground floor flat having it's own bit. Seemed nice enough people, although building a patio close to my boundry wall without mentioning it did seem a bit offhand.

I tidied it up and then got a gardener to finish off, but was left with a large pile of cuttings etc, which I was letting mulch down.

I walked into my kitchen a moment ago, just in time to see him throw a match onto my now petrol-sodden compost heap, which effectively exploded, taking both of us rather by surprise. The rather beautiful Buddlia bush behind it is also now basically charcoal. I am now faced with having to go in an explain that, whilst I appreciate his kindness in garden maintainence, I would rather he KEEPS THE F*CK OFF MY PLOT.

Where do these people get off? I am fuming and that is the only reason I'm not out there right now, but following closely on from the previous post, I am just NOT going to be 'English' about this. Sod etiquette (odd how a French word is used for something the French don't do), if this were America I'd have shot his lawnmower by now.

And Breatheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee............

Enough is enough

I just took a call from my Aunt. She was berating me for the fact that I can't make a family event, which coincides with my birthday. Claims she told my mother the date ages ago and can't I cancel the plans (I have tickets to see Les Mis).

I am 45.

Not 14

She knows it's my birthday around then, she stated as much, which is why she claims she told my Mother.

I am 45.

If you want to tell me something, tell me.

Not my Mother.


Unfortunately, my Mother can remember what happened to her at 16, but struggles sometimes to complete her sentences, losing the thread halfway through, so that she will complete her sentence with words completely disconnected from it's start. It's like seeing someone with the jacket from a blue suit and the trousers from a brown one and is both distressing and irritating, which in turn makes you feel terrible for feeling irritated.

I have a splitting headache, and was laying down with my eyes closed when my Aunt rang and it begins again.

And you know, for once, instead of "yes Auntie, I'll see what I can do Auntie", I actually said "well, instead of telling Mum you should have told ME." She then suggested that I don't eat before the show (going to the matinee) and go to the function first? I declined.

I am 45.

Perhaps I'm finally beginning to act it?

Oh, I DO hope not.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Why is it

Someone has tried to blow up the seat of democracy, the Houses of Parliament. In the name of their religion, they tried to plant a bomb that would have killed dozens, perhaps hundreds of people. I'm sure they believed they had right, had G-d on their side, but how does that give them the right?

And the response from the population at large?

To celebrate the anniversary each year with fireworks and bonfires, burning the lead conspirator in effigy. To me this seems odd - someone tried to blow up politicians, so we burn him alive. This shows a strange dichotomy in attitude towards politicians to my mind.

It's odd what people do in the name of their religion though (wow, profound tonight, for my next trick I may remember my name) but I heard on the news today about a Jehovah's Witness who, at 22, gave birth to twins. She hugged them, but there were complications and she lost a lot of blood. This could have been handled with a transfusion, but she, her husband, her parents all refused to let them.

She died, leaving her husband "distraught" to bring up the two babies who will never know their Mother.

There was a phone-in on the radio, with lots of people saying how 'ridiculous' it was and how it 'shouldn't have been allowed'.

Personally, I don't understand her choice and it goes against my personal credo, but who am I to decide what her faith does and doesn't allow? But I have two questions:

  • What would be the decision of her church in the situation when she was in danger BEFORE the babies were born? Would they have let both her and the twins die? She can make a decision, but the babies?
  • No matter how good their door-to-door sales pitch is, how the hell are they going to get around THIS one when they come selling Watchtower?

Maybe I will ask them, next time they come.

Then again, maybe not.

Her G-d may be able to forgive her - I just hope her kids can too one day.

How to save seven years

Went back to the Dr this week, to get the results of my blood tests.




Don't get me wrong, this is good, as far as it goes, but still doesn't take my Dr any closer to why I am gaining weight and have stomach problems. Which is stress.

She sent me to see the Phlebotomist and what I want to know is; why does everyone have to have an impressive latin title these days? Is someone who is flips burgers a victualia-vexologist? What does that make me? A Boviscatologist?

The answer is yes, but I still don't know what to do for stress.

Answers on a postcard

Thursday, 1 November 2007

How many crises can you fit into one mid-life?

I ride a motorcycle.

Ok, that's a lie.

I have a motorcycle, but for the most part, it sits in my mother's garage, unridden. I sometimes have a vision of it sitting there, surrounded by toys outgrown by disinterested children, who despite this won't let them be thrown away. Surrounded by blunt garden tools and garden furniture that has that strange smell nature reserves to keep other smelly things of it. Surrounded by boxes of books that we promise ourselves we will read again, atlases full of countries that no longer exist, of borders long dishonoured, encyclopedias full of discredited opinions (what price a 1970 explanation of DNA anyone?).

I have this vision of it sitting there, like some automotive puppy, starting at the door with big round headlampeyes, willing the door to lift and it's master to stomp in, red and black kit making him look like a cross between spiderman and well, a walrus, to undo the chains cruelly holding it down and for those wide open spaces to beckon. To run free, the joy in the running, not the destination.

Yet, day after day, week after week, it sits there and both our joints become stiffer, the weather becomes colder, wetter and the odds of me riding anywhere become longer as the days become shorter. The closest I come is having a picture of the poor wee beastie as wallpaper on my PC.

Today, I was with a client. A few years older than me perhaps, divorced, in a new house, all sounding rather familiar.

I have found that when people see the bike, they often comment, creating a good icebreaker and it's amazing how many people comment along the lines of I had/have/would love to have a(nother) bike, if I could justify/use/get away with it with the wife.

This latter does tend to be the men, but I live in hope.

If they ask what it is, I explain that it's "a Honda Mid-Life Crisis".

Today however, the client took one look and before I could trot out my rehearsed line, commented "my mid life crisis is better" . In his garage, was a Harley Davidson, a bike that I've always wanted to ride down Route 1, but which is frankly silly down English country lanes. However, biker fraternalality (good word - wish it existed) didn't allow me to comment and we chatted biker chat for a while.

Turns out that his bike sits in it's respective garage just like mine, having done a little over 2000 miles in 2 years. Is this different from my bosses, buying themselves Porsches when they sold the business? In a way it is, as they at least use their cars as transport, although this could be seen as a type of arrogance - "I can not only afford a Porsche, I can afford to use it as a car".

But it gets me thinking. Why do we, as our joints begin to creak and our feet become dimly remembered friends, still out there somewhere but not seen in a long time, why do we feel the need to try to wrest back some sense of youth by committing ourselves to toys that, in our minds at least, roll back the clock. Do we REALLY believe that, in some esoteric way, our possession of these youthful accoutrement's sends us back through some kind of Stephen Hawking wormhole, to a time when we were young and fit, even if such a time never existed?

Earlier this week, I was at an exhibition with some of the Directors. One company had hired an attractive young blond model to wander round, dressed as Little Bo Peep, all fluff and fake-tan, handing out leaflets.

The exhibition was dead and so most of the talking was between exhibitors. At one point, one of the wealthier Directors was standing with a group of us, including Bo Peep, chatting. A nice chap, his svelte days are long past, but he is now a very wealthy man.

Somewhat brazenly, he asked Bo Peep if she'd "go out with a fat man?".

She was polite, she was trying to avoid offense, but she was innately honest, so "no".

Now, you have to understand that I am a salesman. I sell. It's what I do, so that's what I did.

"But" I asked, "would you go out with a fat man with a Lamborghini?"

Brief hesitation "Yes" she said, then did a double take "Do YOU have a Lamborghini?" (this asked of him, not me you understand).

One of my colleagues then chips in "Yes, he has a Lamborghini, plus he owns a Napoleonic Fort in the Solent, with a luxury flat on the top".

Bo Peep was clearly moved and I've applied for the group marketing role.

But to come back to the question of why do we buy them, I think I've answered my own question....

.... but I'm still not going for a ride. My joints are telling me it's going to rain.