Friday, 21 November 2008

Welcome to 2001, a musical oddity

I have an i-pod.

Not ony do I have an i-pod, but I resist calling it an ipod (short 'eye') like some sort of pseudo-greek heroic tale, despite the urge to appear like some sort of High Court Judge saying "The Beatles?".

Apparently, it's a '4 gig nano'. I know this, because:

(a) It said so on the very neat and beautifully formed plastic box. Why is it that Apple can make money, despite spending more on designing small plastic boxes for their gadgets than Microsoft spent on designing Vista?

Oh, of course. Doh.


(b) I have teenagers. They fill in the gaps on a number of aspects of technology for me. Not the technical aspects - oddly, I can manage those - but the more important things, such as that wearing your headphones outside your clothes is really not on and you need to thread them like some sort of FBI sting inside your clothing, making the act of replying when spoken to a circus act of contortion. They tell me which gadgets are cool (Fonzie must be thrilled to still hear kids saying 'cool'. Or would be, except like me, he's probably going deaf).

Probably explains why I can't seem to get my i-pod loud enough.

However, after years of picking up i-pods in shops, turning them lovingly over and over in my hands, musing, then replacing them. After hours spent reading reviews of alternatives and deciding that they offered far better value for money, could play alternative formats, probably had greater longevity, as money was spent on function rather than form, I finally have an i-pod.

It was, of course, a gift.

You didn't think I would have ever made an actual DECISION about it, did you?

One of the factors that made me hesitate was music. I listen to music mostly in the car, which is where I seem to spend an inordinate amount of my life. I have a CD player in there, together with a wonderful device that plays random music, often things I've never heard before by artists I hope to never hear again. I have no control over the playing order, which is oddly satisfying, as it removes one decision-making requirement from the life of the man who defines procrastination. So for me, this 'radio' thingy is great.

However, in truth, most of what I listen to on the radio is actually speech, rather than music. Drama, comedy, discussion, education, phone-in's (why do I feel the need for an apostrophe there I wonder?).

So one of the hesitations over the i-pod issue was simply "would I have enough music to FILL four 'gigs'?

Incidentally, when was the crossover age? What was the year of birth for people who think a 'gig' is a measure of storage rather than a performance by a rather dodgy band in the back room of a pub?

I digress.

I do that a lot. Sorry.

So, there I was with this beautifully formed little sliver of metal and plastic, design screaming from every millimeter of brushed aluminium and carefully calculated curve, wondering what to put on it and when I would use it? The obvious answers were of course, everything I could find and at the gym.

Yes, well. It seems I can't find half of what I thought I had musically and I cancelled my Gym membership when they sent me a 'most profitable member' award for the third year running.

Then I was introduced to i-tunes.

I've had this thing on my pc for ages, but have always switched back to other media players, partly from a stiff-necked resistence to being part of the Apple 'crowd'. A technological version of Groucho Marx's comment about being a member of any club that would have him as a member perhaps, or maybe just a desire to cultivate an air of pseudo-luddite.

I really should have been a High Court Judge.

But with an i-pod, you have no choice. It is the only way to load the little bugger with the tunes that you haven't listened to for years but which, oddly, suddenly make it onto your 'Desert Island' list.

And no, I haven't forgotten....

And herein lies the problem, or rather, one of them.

Because i-tunes allows you to sort your tunes into 'playlists'. Songs can be grouped by artist, genre, album, category, year, style, composer, drummer, recording studio and roadie's inside leg amongst others.

For some people, this would be heaven. People who file papers. People who have tabs in their ring binders. People who sort their clothes by colour in the wardrobe.

People who know where their car keys are.

You know who you are.

For people like that, i-tunes and it's organisational capabilities are wonderful, ensuring the right tune is always on hand for a given mood or moment.

For people like me, it's merely another stress. Another element of decision making. Another thing on the 'list'.

Or would be, if I was organised enough to make a list.

And then it starts asking me if I want to sign on to download an album cover. Why would I want to do that? Is it that some people are simply unable to remember a track without the visual cue of an album that they've probably never owned, having downloaded the track, either legally or illegally? And I have to PAY for it too? Thank you, but no thank you.

Which, brings me to the issue of downloads. I seem to remember the days when people would be excited by the promise of the internet. It was going to liberate us, provide equality of information and knowledge, provide us with the leisure time to live, rather than exist. Now, listening to most people, it seems to revolve around the best way to breach copyright and download tunes either free or for a fraction of a dollar (it seems the dollar has become the default currency of intellectual property theft).

Well, that and porn of course.


On top of all this, I have to learn not to cringe every time I write 'i-pod' or 'i-tunes' without capitalisation, as only then will I be a fully paid-up member of the modern age.

It's not going to happpen.

And then I discovered pod-casts. It seems I can download all sorts of content, free of charge. I can download speech, rather than music. Drama, comedy, discussion, education, phone-in's (why do I feel the need for an apostrophe there I wonder?).

So now, I can listen to the things I listen to in my car anywhere (well, anywhere except the Gym). My i-pod has liberated me from my car, in the sense that now, no matter where I am, I can feel as if I am driving somewhere. Now, truly, all my waking hours (and, thanks to the tiny earphones, many of my sleeping ones), can feel like my working life.

That's progress.

Sunday, 4 May 2008


Have you ever considered how our actions, or perhaps more accurately, our reactions, are inappropriate?

Sometimes, despite the situation, despite the logical response to set of circumstances, stimuli, our reactions are illogical and completely the opposite of what we would expect. An example that may be familiar to those of you with children, is the response to their safe escape from danger. The child who runs into the road, avoiding injury, or wanders off and is recovered safely, none the worse for their adventure. The logical response is relief, gratitude, perhaps a prayer to a normally-ignored deity. What often ensues of course, is a back-breaking hug, followed in quick succession with what my late Grandma would call a 'Chlop'.

I was 'Chlopped' more than once.

Oddly, this is not only something that moves downwards through the generations.

The distress of a parent struggling, their dependency, the helplessness we both feel, the solitude of responsibility created by being 'the one who's around', all conspire to create this dichotomy.

I should just feel compassion and my anger distresses me, engenders non-profitable guilt which in turn, amplifies the anger.

At least I know she won't remember my anger. I just hope she can remember me and what she means to me.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse

Humph is dead.

Humphrey Littleton died last week and with him, another voice, wit, humour was taken from my life. His sense of immpecable timing, his sarcasm, his ability to strike home with a razor-sharp barb, yet leave you rejoicing in the fact it left no scar.

If you don't know his work (his comedy work, rather than his gifted performance as a Jazz musician), then I encourage, indeed insist, that you find some. As host of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, he was confronted by four of the greatest comedy minds of a number of generations. When Willy Rushton was taken from us, the original panel was supplemented by a guest, yet the standard never diminished. Confronted by such consumate skill, it would have been easy to recede, to become merely the 'host' and butt of jokes.

Yet 'Humph' did not baulk and his dry dead-pan delivery and masterful use of complete silence, allowing the audience to complete the joke for him to devastating effect. Indeed, just when you thought you'd completed the line, he would show you how your own comedic skills were inadequate, his use of words, intonation and timing a masterclass in how it should be done.

To have such skills as the second string to your bow could be intimidating. I never met Humph in person, yet he was a man who you felt would never be anything other than courteous and welcoming to someone who shared his passions.

I would listed to ISIHAC in my car and have been known more than once to arrive at my destination, yet refuse to leave the car until it was over. Someone once said to Oscar Wilde "I wish I'd said that", to which he replied "You will dear Boy, you will"

Humph's closing lines and double-entendres fall squarly into that bracket, but I don't think I will ever try to repeat them.

I just don't have the skill.

That won't stop me enjoying them though and a selection can be found here:

Thank you Humph.

Mornington Crescent.

Thursday, 20 March 2008


This has not been a good week.

This week, four elements of my childhood have been taken from me, which is unpleasantly like growing up.

Firstly, Arthur C Clarke died. His predictions, his fiction, his desire to bring science to the masses and make it accessible made him seem a constant. Without him, I would not have shortened my middle name to HAL for a while. Without him, I wouldn't have known the joy of tunelessley blaring Also Sprach Zarathustra before jumping into a swimming pool. I've never really understood 2001, but thanks in part to Arthur, I understand science and, more importantly, I've learned to love the fact that there is so much I don't know, don't understand. Thank you Arthur, for my curiosity and the sense of awe.

Secondly, Paul Schofield. At 15, for English Literature, I studied 'A Man for all Seasons'. I enjoyed the play, the text and then, the film was run for us to watch. The story itself, the dramatisation, Robert Shaw as Henry, John Hurt playing a weak man on the downhill slope in the way only he can, all helped bring the text to life. But then I heard Paul Schofield speak. I heard him say the words that I had read on the one dimensional page, and my breath left my body. It may have been the most understated bravura performance I've ever seen, ever will see. Perhaps he understood the need for contrast against Shaw's Henry, knew he couldn't compete with that, but he conveyed a man's doubts, his anguish, his fear and his strength with nothing more than his eyes and his voice, both in the way he spoke the words and, importantly the way he didn't. His silence conveyed so much and only served to underline that wonderful, rich voice. Thank you Paul, for bringing a text to life and making the history live for me.

Thirdly, Brian Wilde. An unassuming actor, he was a key charecter in what to my mind is still one of the best situation comedies of it's time, indeed, of any time. Porridge. However, he is probably better known for the Last of the Summer Wine, in which he played the hapless 'Foggy', a man constantly trying to exceed his own reality and convince others he was more than the sum of his own parts. As the hapless Oliver Hardy to the Stan Laurels of Compo and Clegg, he would always be the butt of jokes and the scorn of his friends. Although not a great fan of the program itself however, three things remain with me from this - the wonderful scenery of that Yorkshire village, the gentle fun that three old men could have, wandering through it and the fact that, no matter what they had been through, at the end of each episode, they would be togther, friends. Thank you Brian, for making me less afraid of being old.

Finally, John Hewer. Most people will not know who he was. Although he'd been an actor for many many years, not many will know him. At least, not by that name. Yet millions of people would know him immediately by the name of his character - Captain Birdseye. For over 30 years, he was the figure who advertised Birdseye Fish Fingers. I have early memories of sitting in my friend Stephen's house, eating fish fingers, knowing they were good because the Cap'n said they were. I don't really have much to thank him for, but he's probab;y a larger part of my childhood than all of the others combined and, as such, I find myself saddened by his loss out of all proportion to his contribution.

Increasingly, my life feels like a game of cosmic Kerplunk. I sit at the top as, below me, the sticks of my past are pulled away, one by one.

One day, hopefully not too soon, the final stick will be pulled out and I will tumble down and each stick withdrawn makes me more aware of how tenuous my position is.

I can only hope that, when I do, someone will post the words "thank you" on their blog when they hear the news.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Next Course

Some years ago, we had our last family holiday.

My Father had his heart set on having an apartment in the South of Spain and was having a place built there. His dream was to sell his business, trade down on their house and spend the winters there, taking his grandchildren and playing with them in the warm sun. But, in the meantime, he rented a villa and persuaded my older brother to come with. One last family holiday.

Of course, he wasn't to know about the Cancer that, even then, was beginning to knaw at his flesh or that he would never live to see his apartment finished, so he wasn't aware this was the last holiday but, nonetheless, he was the sort of man who made each moment with him special, as if in some way, some biological level, he suspected.

We spent spent the days by the pool, or on the beach, enjoying the feeling of sun on our skins the way only the English or a Trogladyte can, eating out in the evenings, sampling different restaurants, different foods, glowing from Mediterranean cuisine.

One afternoon, for a change, I wandered into the local town. Whitewashed, thick-walled buildings, tiled floors, terracotta roof tiles, the town was almost a parody of itself and yet avoided the touristy cynicism so prevalent down the coast. As I wandered, window shopping, mindless in that way you can become when shopping for nothing, with no time constraints, I came across a shop with a cool interior beckoning me in.

What the shop sold has faded like so many memories - I have a vague recollection of wicker, or pottery, but one thing remains fixed in my memory, a buoy to fix those memories of the trip, of my Father to.

On the stereo was playing, softly, a piece of music. Suddenly, as I listened, all thoughts of everything, everyone else faded and I was entranced.

The music was Rodriego's Concierto de Aranjuez

I can't explain why, but as soon as I hear this music, I'm transported. Wherever I am, I close my eyes and can see the shadows the setting sun casts on the Sierra Nevada, the mountain range that sits behind the coast of Andalucia. I can hear the chirping of the insects, feel the warmth in my bones, the smells of cooking, olives, oranges, bourganvillia. My heart slows, my breathing deepens and once again, I'm with my family, my Father. Although an adult, for a moment, I'm absolved of adult responsibilities, duties, the weight of duty.

I can't listen to it in the car, as I would not be in the present and rarely do I have the time to sit, listen, drift.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I will put it on and, as a soft tear rolls down my face, I smile and know that, oddly, I'm home.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Just Deserts


I didn't mean desserts.

BBC Radio 4 has a program that has run for many years, called Desert Island Discs. A guest - celebrity, politician, musician, author, whatever - is invited to list the 8 records they would take with them if stranded on a desert island, and why, what they mean to them. At the end, they have to select just one to keep, along with a book (the island already has the Complete Works of Shakespeare and the Bible - don't they all?) and a single luxury.

As a format for an interview, it's unique, insightful and very entertaining. As a way of documenting your life and giving an insight into what makes you who you are, it's very powerful.

I often muse on my 8 desert island discs, which I find change with regularity, depending on mood, circumstances, bank balance. Yet for all this, there are certain constants, so I have decided to try to list them here, to give myself a touchstone of my changing inner self. I don't intend to post them all now, but will do them as they occur to me and it will be interesting to see if my opinion changes. However, I will leave them to stand and won't cheat.

1) Streetlife - The Crusaders with Randy Crawford

In 1981, I went to the Capital Radio Jazz Festival, an open air concert at Knebworth House, a stately home north of London. Some 20,000 people sat in a field, watching acts like Dizzy Gillespie, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Spyrogyra, Shakatak, A Trad New Orleans Jazz Band and others. It started at noon and finished at 10pm.

Top of the bill were the Crusaders.

It was one of those rare English Summer days, when the heat is comfortable, but not oppressive. A heat that warms your bones and your soul in equal measure. Warm enough to sleep, cool enough to not worry about burning. One of those days that erases thoughts of leaving. A picnic, friends, sunshine, music, nice people and the lack of pressure that comes from being young enough to be free of responsibility.

As the penultimate band finished, everyone prepared for the Crusaders. Roadies scuttled across the stage like manic crabs, and the crowd shuffled and moved like grains of sand on a dune, expectantly, positioning for a view.

Finally, to a roar of approbation, they came on.

Most of the set has faded into the cotton wool of my memory, a vague recollection of dancing, grinning, clapping, cheering and finally, all too soon, it was nearly 10pm and darkness begins to envelope the bowl, creeping up like a sea mist, a comfort blanket to settle the day to sleep.

The song ended, and Wilton Felder came up to the mike.

"We have to finish at 10pm" he said (Boos)
"Sorry, but we're not allowed to go on beyond 10" (Louder Boos)
A pause

"But we're not going to finish ONE SECOND before" (Huge Cheers)

With this, he steps back and, raising his sax to his mouth, begins to play. Gentle, emotional notes, so clear it's almost as if you feel rather than hear them. A soft improvisation, variation, unclear what it is. Yet.

Finally, the theme becomes clear and expectation builds. The vocals come in, soft, personal, directed to me alone.

If you know the song, the full version rather than the sugar-free one often played on the radio, you will know that this is the precursor to the opening bars, the four loud, vibrant, exciting chords rising up the scale, that herald the start of Street Life proper

As those four notes rang out, everyone cheered and, on the fifth, as the full band came in, EVERY light on the stage, which had been dark until then, came on.

Every time I hear the song, the hairs go up on my arms, the back of my neck.

Every time I hear it, I'm 19 again and happy.

Even as I write this, without even hearing it, my body reacts and my eyes fill with tears.

My life has had many happy moments - hopefully will have many more. Yet this sits in my soul as one of the best days, one of the best moments in my life, when everything was good and there was an air of innocence and simplicity that can't be recovered.

So when I listen to Street Life, when I hear the sax solo, my heart lifts and I remember that sometimes, life can be perfect.

It gives me hope. The link above is not the right version, does not have that gentle build, that sweet tension, but I hope you enjoy it and that it gives you hope too.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

When I'm calling youooo-oooooo-ooooh!

When, in 50,000 years, archeologists from Ulton-Minor visit the barren remains of Earth, they will discover many things, and marvel at the terrible ways we developed to inflict cruelty and pain on each other. Yet the worst excesses of the inquisition, the horrific practices of the Khmer Rouge or terrible interrogation methods of the KGB and, latterly, our defenders in the war against terror, all will pale into insignificance when the Ultro-Minorians discover the greatest horror and indignity that man can inflict on man.

The offshore Call-Centre.

Last week, I realised my Visa card was about to expire and had not received the replacement.

Terror clutched my soul, but, there was no choice, if I wanted to avoid identity theft, penury and a life in a carboard box, I would have to go where there be dragons.

Call the number.

Press 1
Press 4
Press 3
Press 1

Accept that calls may be recorded for security and training purposes.

Be thrilled that, despite 'unexpectedly high call volumes, my call is important to them'.

SO nice to be important to someone.

Finally, a human voice.

Hallo, my name is Sfhjhsfosjfhsohan, how may I help you today?

This is actually a good start - normally, you get a pronounced Asian accent, and the words "my name is Trevor". He knows it's not. You know it's not. He knows you know it's not, but you somehow just accept it. When else, when someone opens a conversation with an outright lie, do you just let it go.

This time, I barely understand his name, but hey, that doesn't matter, I want to discuss my credit card, not invite him to dinner.

I explain the situation and he assures me the card will be here by the end of the month. Yes, I reply, but normally they arrive weeks beforehand. It will be there by the end of the month sir.

Ok, but today is the 26th. "Yes, so that gives until Friday, it will be there. Is there anything else I can help you with today?" So I tell him I've moved and can update the address on my other card and send me a new Pin and the call ends.

This morning, I awake with a splitting headache (I thought Alcohol was meant to be good for you?) and realise it's the start of the month, and no card, despite Sfhjhsfosjfhsohan's promise, so here we go again (for the purposes of brevity, I will assume you remember the process).

"Good morning, my name is R_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _er (didn't even get close to catching this one), how may I help you today?"

I explain, and tap tap tappity tap.

"Ok, this card was sent out to you on 1st December."

So, why didn't Sfhjhsfosjfhsohan tell me that? Anyway, it hasn't arrived.

More security questions. Have I lost my pin. No, but I can't remember it. I asked for a new one. That's not arrived either. Have I lost my Driving license? Have I lost my passport? No, just my patience.

Finally, he confirms he has "Blocked my account and will send me out a new card, but oh, he can't send it to me because they have changed my address"

Changed my address? No, that was on my Mastercard, it's my VIS.... oh.


I have two cards with the same company. I have just blocked the Mastercard, the one I received and activated safely. The one I changed the address on. My Visa, which is alone out there in the big bad world, is a different number.

Through the same process. Same security questions (did they think I may have changed my postcode, telephone number or date of birth mid-call?) and block that card.

However, they will have to write to me and I will have to send back proof of address before they will send me the new card, because I've changed it.

So, now I have two defunct cards -one expired, one blocked (they can't unblock it), it will probably be weeks before it's all sorted out and I don't even have the satisfaction of getting angry with them as, despite Sfhjhsfosjfhsohan's original incompetence, this is mostly my own fault.

Lord knows how these criminals manage identity theft, I can't even manage my real one.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Here we go again

Off to Scotland obscenely early tomorrow morning, and staying in a hotel.

Who would like to give me odds on having a disabled room?

Watch this space......

Monday, 25 February 2008


How you can write something and be pleased with it.

Then a little later, you read it back and hate it.

Pretentious, badly constructed and vacuous.

This is made even worse by not being able to work out how you delete one, so now I feel both inadequate and incompetent.

And (he said, beginning a sentence with a preposition) today looked like it was starting SO well...

Sunday, 24 February 2008

That lovely warm feeling

Last weekend the sun was shining, there was a speedway event on at my local bike meet, a bike club I'd joined were going and I didn't have the kids.

No excuses.

Nothing to prevent me from going. Even the racing didn't start until this weekend.

Saturday passed in a bit of a fuzz of intended jobs not happening, but by the afternoon, even I'd run out of procrastinations and went over to where Witty (my bike is called Witty, as the last three numbers of the plate are WTT. Seemed apt.) lives and thought I'd start her up, just to get her ready for the ride-out the next day.

Click. WHIRRRrrrrrr......silence.

Dead battery.

Removed the seat to find the battery was dry as a bone. Odd, but happens I guess. Not wanting to risk getting stranded, off I took myself to get a new one, but the local shop closes at 5. I got there at 4 minutes past.


Off to a dealer where, £47 pounds later, I have a new battery which has to charge overnight so the following morning, after much swearing and a small amount of blood, it sits proudly in Witty's underseat cubbyhole. I'm ready. I'm going on a ride-out. Really.

Except by now, it's too late to ride over to North London to meet them. However, they are riding to my local meeting place, so I can meet them there.

I get there, but no sign of them. Hang around for around an hour, then give up and ride to the local tea-hut, which is mobbed, only to get a call saying they are there now. Ride back, no sign. Call and it turns out they are at the tea hut and I'd ridden (ok, paddled) within two feet of them. So ride back. Again.

Finally met up and after standing around for a while, the decision is made to ride to the Ace Cafe, so off we go in convoy.

Riding round a major arterial route in heavy traffic has never been my favourite type of riding, but at least I was with my new 'friends', so I was having fu.... sniff sniff.... n or I'm su...snifff... re I would hav...sniff what IS that.. e.... it smells like smoke... e.

A glance down, a deep inhale, and I realise with delight that I am on fire.

Now, I do not have the sort of bum that makes girls giggle and sigh. Agents do not approach me in the street and ask if I've ever considered underwear modelling. I am, however, deeply attached to it and we have an understanding, a partnership. It's a bit like a marriage. We sometimes have our problems and issues, but we're both better off together and I most certainly do not want it cooked.

I made it to the Ace (the alterntive being stopping on the carriageway and being called names to make a Docker blush), but couldn't work out what was wrong. No sign of burning, other than the white acrid smoke that had been pouring from beneath my friend. In the end, I had to risk it, so left the others and rode home, opting to take the motorway so that I wouldn't be stuck in traffic.

I made it home and, some £150 later, have a new Regulator, replacing the "spectatcularly fried and melted one. Although you may need a new Generator too sir, we can't tell yet." Great.

And my new found friends? How many of them have dropped me an email, to see if I'd made it home safely?


So, my effort to have a ride-out has left me some £200 out of pocket, for which I could have had a week's holiday, has reminded me that people are, well, people and made me wonder whether Witty should be renamed Piss-Taker?

Most of all, it makes me think that I should change the bit of my profile that says my hobby is biking.

It will now read: "Hobbies - Procrastination"

Anyone wanna buy a bike? comes with a new battery, new regulator and pseudo-friends?

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


I went to the gym tonight.

I haven't been for a long time and decided to cancel, but with a three month cancellation period, I still have to pay until the end of May.

So, what the heck, not as if I have a social life and I REALLY need to lose weight and get fit.

Ok, so "fit" is a relative term.

So, there I was, climbing the stairs to the gym and wondering when they retained Esher as their stairway architect. I swear that the last time I went, it was a simple staircase. Not even a Fiddler-on-the-roof jobbie, with one long staircase just for going up and another even longer going down. Nope, just a simple climb up open the door enter the gym common or garden staircase. I now know how those figures in his staircase picture feel.

Knackered. That's how they feel.

A few years ago, I was using the gym regularly and had an entire schedule worked out. I'd put together a playlist on my original MP3 player to take me through the whole thing so, in a rare display of organisation, I found said player where I'd left it and took it with.

I swear, by the end of song one, I was wondering whether the imagined extra stairs were real and I'd climbed to around 14,000 feet.

By the end of song two, I was thinking that maybe the MP3 player had gone wrong and was playing at 10% of normal speed.

By the end of song three, I was in pain. Not aches, not twinges, but the sort of pain no man should have to feel. The sort of pain that defines why women have the babies.

I have to drive about 500 miles tomorrow, and am severely worried that I may not make it to the car, let alone the meeting.

I hurt.

Friday, 8 February 2008


I have always worked in sales, which may either may or may not explain why I hate the utter bullshit that seems to surround sales as a 'profession'.

I think a lot of this comes from the other side of the Atlantic, where sales and selling have been escalated to a science, an artform and a profession. Entire sections of bookshops are devoted to the techniques, skills and science of selling, including shelves full of books on self-visualisation, Positive mental attitude (the above-mentioned 'PMA') and NLP. Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

I am ashamed to say I have bought two books on NLP.

I am proud to say I have read neither. Answers on a postcard.

To me, NLP remains a terrorist organisation focussed on the Liberation of Newts.

I don't know what the P stands for either.

But two things seem recently to have become even more popular and, as a consequence, are irritating me the way a spot just where your clothes rub irritates.

One of these is the "Inspirational Poster". Some arty photograph, of sea birds in flight, or a sunset, a small child offering friend a sweet, waves crashing on a beach (you get the idea) is accompanied by some pseudo-profound statement, such as

"Teamwork - when getting there together makes everyone whole"

The bucket is under the sink.

I know I'm not alone in my feelings on this, as increasingly, you can find DEmotivational posters on the net. Trust me, search and ye shall find.

Geez, now I sound like one.

Anyway, the OTHER thing that irritates me is the verbal equivalant of these. I had one thrown at me the other day. Upon remarking that I'd assumed something, I was told:

"Never assume, as you make an ass of you and me".

I refrained, on that occasions from thanking him for the insight into Bottom's transformation in A Midsummer's Nights Dream, and contented myself with musing that I may make myself an ass, but he was a self-made arse.

However, today, I was in a less tolerant mood.

So when told "There is no I in T. E. A. M." I could not resist.

So I pointed out "No, but there is a ME in it".

I love it when they can't think of what to say.....

Thursday, 7 February 2008

That's what friends are for

I got a phone call tonight.

A mutual friend, a friend for whom I acted as Toastmaster at his wedding, called.

He'd heard, telling me he'd had a call this afternoon.

I was really touched. Touched that at least one of our mutual friends cared enough to call and make sure I was ok.

"I got a call this afternoon" he said, and I was touched, "I've been asked if we can arrange a time to meet up so I can give you the things you left at her house. And if you have any bits there, plus her keys, we can, well, meet up to hand them over."

Odd, in a single sentence, I went from touched to disgusted and hurt.

I didn't shoot the messenger, but I DID tell him how I felt. That I was rather annoyed that after all that time together, she wasn't able to be civilised enough to meet me in person and hand stuff back. I explained that I have my kids this weekend, so I won't be doing anything. I explained that I would call him next week.

"Is it alright if I call you next week then?"

No it bloody well isn't. I will call YOU.

So, that's what friends are for. To do the dirty work you don't have the courage to do yourself. And this from someone who accused ME of avoiding confrontation. That's what friends are for. Just seems he's not one of mine.

There's a surprise.

So that is that

It seems that sometimes, love is not enough.

But then, you knew that.

Personally, I blame the Guild of Screenwriters. They fill our minds with ideas that love can conquer all, that love will find a way, that money can't buy you love.... no, hang on, that was the Beatles. Anyway, whatever they say, it's not enough.

I have bought (but not read) a number of those 'Idiots' or 'Dummies' guide to whatever, but have checked, and there doesn't seem to be one which is a "Idiots Guide to Relationships" or a "Dummies Guide to Women".


I could do with one.

But then, so I suspect could most men.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Funny old life


We all want one and when we get one, it causes nothing but pain.

At least, that's how it feels at this moment.

Why we believe, time after time, that this time it will be different and that two people, with different backgrounds, upbringing, values, attitudes, beliefs and desires can be together as one single being always amazes me.

Problem is, it only ever amazes me when it falls apart. Why can't I just accept and believe this BEFORE I start the process of getting hurt and, if I'm honest, of hurting?

Yet each time, I blunder on in the belief that the "whole will be greater than the sum of the parts".

I've never got round to a divorce, not least because of the likely cost of a highly contested argument about money and property. I've simply not had the money and, if I'm honest again, the mental resources for the confrontation and conflict. It's a failing of mine that I bury my head in the sand, avoiding confronting issues. I know it's a fault. I know I need to do something about it. But it's not that easy.

And before anyone reading this bridles at that, it's no different from someone with an intense phobia or addiction. It's always easy for someone to tell you that you just have to make your mind up to do it, less easy to actually do it.

So now, in the immortal words of Gilbert O'Sullivan (no, not Gilbert AND Sullivan), "Alone again, naturally".

And what's odd is that I spoke to my ex about a divorce and she's amenable to a discussion, a mediated settlement and keeping it civilised. She doesn't have the money (or will?) for a fight either. Not yet at least.

And then she asked me if my relationship had anything to do with this decision? And when I explained what had happened, she told me that she wasn't a stranger and that she was there if I needed to talk to someone.


The one person who I thought of as my opponent. The one person I felt would be judgemental turns out to be the one person who is there for me.

Funny old life innit?