Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Value of Exercise

Today I am dressed like this: Chav.

While I was officially mentally unwell my therapist referred me onto the local "stop shouting at inanimate objects by getting fit" programme. By the time they phoned me I was no longer officially a mental (because you can only officially be NHS rated depressed for 5 visits to the therapist or thereabouts. This is, I think, because Grace, my therapist was, as the youngsters put it - well fit - and knows a timewaster when she sees one. Me? No, I double bluffed and kept looking down) but they said I'd been referred so it didn't matter and it was a pretty damned good way of getting ten weeks of swimming and use of the fitness suites for free so they as much as insisted. I agreed and signed up, then had a panic. I had no clothes suitable for trying to be fit in as exercise and me gave up being firm friends in 1996 when I started working shifts. I used to play golf to a reasonably atrocious level (I did actually win the company Stableford once) and I was a more than enthusiastic cricketer, only ending up in hospital three times. Blimey.

I had a sort out: I still have the Adidas tennis shoes I bought in 1994 -they are comfy and don't smell too much. I have some old t-shirts. "Just wear some tracky bottoms and a top" they said. I don't have tracky bottoms. I abhor tracky bottoms. There are more tracky bottoms in Crewe than any other item of clothing. I would just be another fat bloke attempting to look as though he's active, like women whose pink velour coated legs touch all the way down to the calf, drink Diet Coke thinking it makes them look as though they have a strict fitness regime. Either that or I would look like a West End dealer who's left his Staffordshire bull terrier at home (although at 48, my acne has at last cleared up). Oh well, in for a penny. I went to Matalan in Stoke and bought some swimming trunks and into Crewe's answer to Browns of South Molton St, the sport shop over Grand Junction retail park, and got a pair of Umbro shorts and, ahem, a pair of tracky bottoms in blue polyester with the Everlast logo on them. All, I hasten to add, in the sales. Still spent the best part of £20 just trying to look serious.

Anyway, I turned up this morning for my induction session and had got the time wrong. I was three hours late. On the way back I got a call from my bank - Matey, your latest direct debit took you £11 over your limit. You owe us £25. Again. I am poor but at least I look the part. Bye, I'm off to drink cider down the bus station.

Friday, March 27, 2009

End the Week

I am writing this in my friend Christopher's back bedroom. No, I haven't changed my guard, I am still resolutely two legs please, umpire. This is his office and is where I do most of my timewasting until I can afford to get my laptop fixed and some form of electrical communication piped into my own little house.

One of the most delightful things about this room is that it overlooks an infant school and its playground. That statement is, I am certain, enough to have MI5 dripping buckets of anticipatory sweat and I suspect that this particular internet connection will soon become even slower than it already is as every outgoing packet is Cravendaled (filtered for purity). I also suspect that anyone reading this will suffer guilt by association. My apologies, I have nothing to hide.

No, there is a school playground and it is full of laughing, singing and playing children and it is heartening as well as joyous to behold. Sadly, this is where I come over all Michael Douglas as William Foster-y again. Again. I live in a world where it is all but illegal to look at children. There are few sounds as evocative and sentimental as the sound of children playing; doubly so if you've been a parent and your children are, as mine, either absent and/or grown up. And as I pull back the lace curtain to catch a better glimpse I am aware that maybe I've been seen and sadly let the curtain fall back. Had I been seen I am sure that pound to a penny, I would have been immediately judged and judged totally incorrectly. However, what struck me in the brief seconds I watched them was that these children, running around in the fresh air with the few props available to them were inventive, clever and intuitive. They laughed and played, as generations of kids have done before them, with their wits and imagination completely unfettered. Pure unadulterated creativity. It was reassuring to see this as we have been led to believe that the last few generations of children we've produced have the imagination of paving slabs and capable of only marginally more mobility. If only they would stay full of this joy and wonder before we adults spoil them with our own fears. We coop up them up, supposedly - and in the face of overwhelming odds against them being harmed in any way - afraid for their liberty and safety yet it's that action that eventually ruins them and turns them into the sad, scary, moping adults we ask them to eventually avoid. Playgrounds and playing fields, fresh air and freedom. Get it while you still can.

With regard to the previous post and the general knobheadery prevailing in society, I was listening to the very funny comedian Miles Jupp the other evening on the digital wireless BBC No 7. His skit involved the story of how he once missed an EasyJet flight to Edinburgh from London even though he'd arrived on time. His booking confirmation letter said he had to arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. He arrived with a little over 30 minutes to spare only to find the check-in closed. When he complained he was told that latest check-in was now 45 minutes before departure at which point he showed the customer services idiot the letter. He was still within the alloted time. "That must have been written on old paper".

I am wondering whether the cocksock he spoke to was related to Carole (real name. Sue me) in the Crewe Jobcentre Plus, from whose desk I managed to walk away from at 4.25pm yesterday with my temper and upper limbs barely under control. Carole, you condescending and patronising arse-bitch from Hades, the people you deal with are at the end of their tethers; they have neither job nor money; they want to be treated with understanding, empathy and with a good deal of humility. In the normal run of things they wouldn't be anywhere near this end of Delamere Road. Moreover, they are jealous of you because you have a job. Do your job as though you value it and treat us as human beings, not as another notch towards your next target. The people you are processing used to pay taxes. Those taxes enabled you to have a job. Your job relies on the continued misfortune of others, be thankful.

Yes, I am angry.

This morning I went over to Sharon's at sparrowfart to see in the man who was fitting a dog flap in the back door. I don't do these jobs anymore. While I am fairly useful with my hands, I am a shit magnet and have a knack of turning a small job into an epic (I know, Carol, you got your house redecorated on the insurance). Anyway, it was not before time for while quite cheerful, poor Poppy currently has raging diarrhoea and has embarrassed herself several times over the last couple of days. There was another pool to wipe up this morning when I arrived and I was naturally, quite upset. More poo. Until, that is, I got home and found a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions telling me they were sending me a nice little cheque as they had forgotten to pay my Carer's Allowance bonus at Christmas. Considering Sharon and I parted company a few days after Christmas and I stopped officially "caring", this was something of a welcome and totally unexpected surprise. I think I'll blow it all on the lottery.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spanish Practices

I have been listening to the wireless again. People are up in arms and getting annoyed with some of the nation's fine airports for introducing "fast tracking".

I can fully understand this. You turn up a few minutes late because even though you left early enough, some idiot jumped in front of the tube/had an accident on the motorway etc, see the security check queue is very long and start to get tetchy. There is a sign - "£2 to jump the queue" (or up to £6 depending where you are). You wave your money and get ushered through a door into the fast track lane. You give a sigh of relief only to find that the fast track queue, until now hidden from view behind a door, is three times as long as the one you've just left because everybody else has had the same idea. You miss the plane. Why not, your common sense asks, did they not just have two queues in the first place? This is the legacy of Thatcherism at it's most beautiful. Every single thing has a price, even ignorant queue jumping. Can we create a market? Yes. Is it moral, ethical or subscribe to accepted manners and common etiquette? No. Doesn't matter. Pay money to a greedy corporation for a "service" and get a service managed by incompetent twats in return even if there was no need for the service in the first place. Like the educational service company who sent the parents of a Macclesfield schoolgirl a letter saying their child's school attendence was poor and that she was jeopardising her chance to attend the end of year prom. The girl had died two months previously. The service company have no connection with school or its pupils. This was work previously done by the secretary.

Why are we surrounded by such crassness?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Strike me down.

At the risk of invoking the wrath of those who find difficulty in eating off china with cutlery, can somebody please explain the Jade thing to me because I am having a great deal of trouble understanding it.

Death is sad. I went to a funeral this week and it was sad. Even though I never really knew Sharon's dad that well and despite him being far from perfect as a person, I fought hard to stop my chin wobbling when they played "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" as his coffin disappeared. Jade's death is sad, she was young and had small children. But that is the end of it. I do not understand the nature of her singular fame; how somebody can in turn be demonised for her ignorant racism and then lauded as if she were a saint by doing nothing other than acting heroically stupidly. I don't understand how Max Clifford can refer to her as being dignified when there is nothing remotely dignified in having the nation's media slavering and drooling over your last few weeks on earth, supposedly being sympathetic when all they are really doing is making money out of her. I don't understand the bishop who blessed her wedding calling her a saint and a princess. I don't get how she was "doing it for the kids" when the kids are now going to have a hard job growing up realising exactly why their mother was famous (for acting like a slapper on a "reality" programme. Lest we forget, she had no discernible talent) alongside the pressure of the redtops wanting to know how they're spending their inheritence. If she really valued their future wellbeing she would have gone quietly without fuss. She'd made enough already. I really cannot understand a world where absolutely everything has a price, even extreme suffering. To invoke the dire old cliché, what a terrible indictment of the society we live in etc...etc...If you want to see celebrity dignity, look at the odd few pictures available of Liam Neeson and his family's totally uncontrived grief following the tragic accidental death of his beautiful and genuinely talented wife this week. Better still, don't. You are the kind of perv who slows down driving past accidents.

Moreover, I just don't understand how it's taken the sad plight of this completely worthless nonentity to raise the public awareness of one the most pernicious diseases known. If the value to yourself of your own health and wellbeing is so minimal that it has taken the death of a Bermondsey gobshite for you to get your act together then please do not ever again accuse the government of nannying the populace or the health service of being incompetent. If you've not been bothered, why should they? Granted cervical cancer screening should be made available to younger women and people have been lobbying for this years - I can remember a friend of my ex-wife's coming to our wedding in '85 and being dead within a year when she was only 22, from the same disease - but sit in any doctor's surgery and there are plenty of advertisements for screening programmes and well-women clinics. Well, there always have been in the surgery waiting rooms I've been in.

If you have been offended by any of the views expressed in this piece you can wreak your revenge by clicking on the the advertisements on the right. Every time you do this a powerful electric shock is delivered to my underpants causing me unimginable pain. Do it, you know it makes cents.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I have just been to this site. If you scroll down it you will see a ticker denoting the number of new mobiles supposedly being bought in the UK during your visit to the site. There is something wrong with it. Watch it closely. 34 sales per second. Have you ever been past a mobile phone shop in your local high street? You must have done, they are the only shops still open, which is quite surprising. Next time you do walk past, look in. There are never any customers. There's usually a bored Saturday girl ready to pounce as soon as you look in through the door and a fat bloke talking about video games but certainly no customers. So how does that ticker manage to register 34 sales per second? Do the maths. At that rate everyone in the country will have bought a new mobile within 22 days. Including children who can't even speak yet. In fact, by the time the average baby has learned to walk it will be on its 15th new phone. I'm on my 5th in the decade since I got my first which means somebody somewhere has got through an extra 145 or so in that time to make up the average. In fact, only the other day as I drove past I was wondering why the Phones4U warehouse along Weston Rd in Crewe is so huge. It looks to be the same size as the BargainBooze one next door. Maybe that's the connection.

In other news: a check on my stats reveals that a visitor has appeared via Wikio, a name new to me and a splendid site, doubtless worth a visit or two as they display a certain degree of taste and discernment. A visit to their listings reveals that you are reading what they currently rate as the 685th (and climbing!) most influential blog in the country. My dear friend Scurra, on the other hand - and despite his recent puff in the New Statesman - is currently languishing at 888.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cheers - Coda

Having had further time to reflect on Liam Donaldson's ridiculous idea I've realised that I'm completely and utterly bemused by the logic of it. Here's some anecdotal evidence as to why it will not work. Anecdotal evidence gathered with my own eyes over the last day or so.

Being exquisitely broke I tend to walk everywhere. Walking everywhere is an eye opener, you really ought to try it. Only yesterday I watched someone walk down Market St here in Crewe who was so paralytic he didn't realise he was carrying his open can of Tennants upside down. Once pissed, money no object.

I try and save money everywhere. Their attitude to farmers may need a kick but in some respects Tesco are more than canny. Those giant "recycling machines" outside some of their stores can earn you money. I was initially sceptical as they are powered so the electricity has to come from somewhere. Our local Tesco has a wind turbine in the car park so there's a balance there that while it's not perfect, is on the right track. The machines also have a loyalty card swipe facility. Before you tip your cans and bottles down the chute, swipe your loyalty card - at the moment for every 2 aluminium cans you recycle, you receive a point. It's not much but it means that there are very few cans laying on the route I walk every day and I can afford the odd organic parsnip. As this is a two mile trek, I feel I am doing my "bit". Every little helps as they say. What I have noticed though is that a large proportion of the beer cans I pick up are half full. If you can afford to throw away beer you won't care about the price of it.

Legislators, or those who like to think they are, live in a different world. It's a perfect world where everything runs smoothly. Utopia. People who drink to oblivion do it in order to also inhabit a different world, one where they have no cares or worries. The last thing they are going to think about is how much it costs to get there. Unfortunately it's not the same Utopia as the one the movers and shakers are on and it never will be.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Now, let's get this straight.

I like the odd drink now and again. The last time I got anywhere near inebriated was about 3 years ago. The last time I completely lost motor function was getting on for 3 decades ago. I am a responsible drinker. Very. If the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, gets his way, my occasional treat (and at the moment, being dole scum, it is very occasional) will become quite expensive. Prohibitively so. That, apparently, is the idea. This is just the kind of knee-jerk reaction I imagine will go down very well in some of the leafier and more affluent boroughs of this great nation.

I will bear this in mind next time I go for a walk in one of these affluent and leafy boroughs and tread in a pile of steaming mongrel cack and decide I want to press for a levy on all dog owners (there used to be one - what happened to it?) and see what the so-called "responsible" dog owners think of such a capital idea.

Putting a quid on the price of bottles of industrial strength apple flavoured cleaning fluid bearing the word "white" will not deter anyone, surrounded as we are by the kind of moron who will go to any length for a drink.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Girl on a train

I have a dear, dear friend of long standing and occasionally featured on these pages, AJ. Every now and again she takes to calling me and whingeing about how old she is and how bits of her are falling off, sagging and/or not working properly anymore. She has always been given to over-exaggeration about the ravages of time upon her person and these sleights against herself I take with a bucket of salt, notwithstanding the fact that a) I haven't seen her for the best part of a decade and b) a decade most of which she spent flogging bits of Dubai to Premiership footballers. In Dubai. She likes the sun.

Earlier this afternoon she called me while waiting for a train and mentioned her new hair cut and once again to moan about the acres of spare flesh she's having to deal with. I cut her short. I don't believe you, I said and in interweb parlance, no good without pictures. Rather surprisingly she said she would send me a picture there and then. This was a genuine development; I've been asking the same thing of her for months. A minute later I opened the message and yes indeed, there was a picture:

AJ can, bless her, be spectacularly blonde. I think the thing at the bottom right is probably her knee. When she called back, I asked her to next time turn the phone round and stare into the little round thing. We did several LOLs at which point she admitted that she'd just got off the train while it was waiting and shouted a request of the driver as to whether it was the Amersham one and the reason she didn't get a reply was that she realised she'd been speaking to his reflection. No, I can't work that one out either. I still haven't received a picture.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Do you really care?

On Friday it is that bi-annual glad-fest that is Red-Nose day. Thankfully, and as is well known among you, my dear readers, I do not have a television so have been spared whatever has passed for publicity. I suspect it probably featured Dawn French being fat and Jonathon Ross being faintly rude. There hasn't been much on the wireless about it, which is good.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not against giving money to charidee. I would if I could. However as I am at the moment totally funded by the government it seems rather stupid that I should pass on the money they've given me to charities when it is meant to be for my benefit and my benefit only. I have to declare any money I earn or am given otherwise I incur the wrath of civil servants (that they are an incompetent bunch of tossers is neither here nor there - they only managed to pay me the pittance deemed sufficient to live on a week late this week. A fact I only realised when I came to pay a bill and found I didn't have enough money) and I have been down that road and received an official caution for it. It stands to reason that I really therefore ought to declare what money I don't intend to spend on my own welfare. This wouldn't really be a problem for me as I tend not to waste it on Special Brew and recreational narcotics as I'm sure some claimants do. Although if the government was really that interested in providing efficient overseas aid, as it has indicated it is, a small hand-out to every man-jack in the country to spend on hungry childrens with the Aids in the third world would be the most efficient way of doing it. Government to government Overseas Aid doubtless goes straight into the bank accounts of wannabe Mugabes and other shits and bullies with guns. Very little is eventually spent on the deserving. Money via the aid agencies is spent more wisely. It's a no brainer, really it is.

That isn't my point though. What I find faintly galling about telethons and such is that I suspect many in this country use them to assuage their own guilt about how crap they are at really caring. Look at me I'm great, I give to poor kids in Africa (but I'm going to put Mum in a home because I have to go out to work because who else is going to pay for the Sky box and the kids want a Wii and some new trainers and then there's the holiday in the Dominican Republic to pay for and...). Care by proxy. This country loves to think it's a caring one and glories in the glitz and showbiz back slappery that apparently proves it. Bollocks. Before you phone in your credit card number on Friday, think when the last time you looked in on your elderly neighbour was. Do you even know your neighbour's name? Would you really be up to caring for a relative or are you going to leave it for someone else to do? I have done it, as you all know. I don't think I was that good at it particularly as I did it largely because I loved the person I cared for and I am in awe of those who can selflessly care for strangers. However, I won't have piercings or tattoos because it would prevent me from being a blood donor for a year. I am now on the platelets panel so can donate every fortnight if need be (as soon as they can sort out the problem with my blood pressure*). Unfortunately I will be unavailable for work while I'm stuck on a machine for two hours - does anyone mind if I don't tell?

*If they prescribe me drugs to lower my blood pressure, I won't be able to afford them so the poor sods on the operating table will have to go without. Because I am on contributions based Job Seeker's Allowance, I still have to pay £7.20 for each prescription item. Out of £60 a week. Is this a dastardly plot to kill off the unemployed?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Day Out in The Smoke.

The best bit about London - The way out.

I have been conspicuous by my absence these last few days and I suspect you've all been absolutely gasping for news as to my exploits.
Sharon's dad died on Saturday morning. It wasn't wholly unexpected, he'd been very ill for three years or so and had had no life to speak of for the past two so in a way it was a relief all round, not least for him. It's still a shock when somebody goes though and arrangements have to be made. Sharon decided she needed to be in that London with her Mum, and Paul, her son, who has been helping his Nanny out with Grandad for a while now.
Followers of our two blogs will doubtless know that our recent histories are somewhat intertwined and although we are now no-longer what is termed in the popular parlance "an item" we have, despite these recent difficulties, managed to stay friends. It is probably for the best, injuries are best avoided. I'm crap at most things but unlike some I'm incredibly tempted to mention but won't, fairly reliable in a crisis and, getting Sharon down to London at short notice, with all her attendant medical needs could be classed a bit of an operation. I was only too happy to help her in any way I could.
As she's just coming out of a long illness herself and not up to the 200 mile drive it was decided on Saturday morning that I would drive her to London on Monday in her mobility car - I'm still her listed second driver after all - and catch a train back to Crewe in the evening. As I was actually beneath one of the stands at Aintree racecourse on Saturday helping friend Christopher out at a Mind Body and Spirit fair, Sharon set to and tried to book a ticket. She found a cheap single from London to Crewe, leaving Euston at 22.00 on Monday and costing only £8 and attempted to book it via one of the sub-continentally based call-centres. No joy. Card holder had to pick it up. They couldn't get their heads round Sharon's requirements and physical limitations and had no concept of customer service whatsoever and couldn't see that all Sharon needed to do was pay for it on her card, give me the card and allow me to collect it from the pre-pay machine. Poor Sharon didn't have a clue how to buy a ticket and these morons weren't going to make it easy for her and explain it. For the ignorant, all you need to do is insert the card you used to buy the ticket with into any pre-payment machine in any one of the country's railway stations and out pops your ticket in about 5 seconds. That part of the system is brilliant, in direct contrast to the staff paid slave wages to work it. So she called me and asked me to phone them myself. Luckily I have bought train tickets this way fairly recently but it still didn't excuse the fact that I had to tell the same details to two separate people who were almost inaudible and were obviously not English over a dodgy mobile line. How to win customer loyalty. No, I do not want to go on your poxy mailing list, either. Please do not ask me if I am in anyway happy with your service. Anyway, did you get that? £8 one way London to Crewe with two days' notice. Rail travel in this country can be incredibly cheap. If you ask, you get. However, there was a slight catch:

The Slight Catch*

She arranged some accomodation and for her medical supplies to be delivered there and I got her packed on Saturday and Sunday, made her a couple of decent meals, took her to the hairdressers and went shopping with her on Monday morning and drove her down to the capital of this great nation. It went pretty well but we were both fairly knackered come the evening.
After saying my hellos, a taxi was ordered for the short hop to Stratford station where I'd get the tube to Euston Square. £6. The tube cost £4. Now, let me see. Stratford to Euston...Mmm...no more than about 8 miles at best, if that. total cost £10. OK, I didn't really need to get a taxi but they insisted. Euston to Crewe, about 180 miles. £8. Londoners, you are being conned. Crewe - cup of tea about 60p. London - £1.45 and it tastes like piss. No, you are being robbed blind. And it's made you the rudest most arrogant and ignorant bunch of people it's ever been my displeasure to encounter. The only person who spoke to me politely was the beggar on Euston Road. Up here shop assistants smile and laugh with you. People will stop and talk to you in the street, call you "love" without sounding patronising or threatening and like to be on the receiving end of similar endearments themselves. OK, there are arrogant self-regarding idiots up here like anywhere but it's not aspirational like it is down there. Grim oop north? Yeravinalarffincha? By the way, I'm a born Londoner and after growing up in the oasis of calm, cricket and common sense that was East Kent, lived and worked in the capital for over 20 years. Nothing on earth would drag me back there. I hope your oyster cards give you food posoning. Thank goodness the bloody place is sinking.
*The slight catch. I got to Stafford on time, somewhere around 11.45. There was no bus. There were only three of us wanting to get to Crewe and two were train crew. A taxi eventually drew up. It was from Crewe. She was dropping off a railman. She recognised the other two and asked permission to take them back with her. She apologised to me and said unfortunately she couldn't etc... I understood. It was nearly 1am in Stafford. It was raining. It was cold. I was thirsty and hungry and tired. The station manager had been on the phone for ages trying to find where the bus was. Nobody knew. He eventually sought authorisation to order a taxi for me. Now, that took ages. Why? Because he works for Railtrack or whatever and my contract was with Virgin. So he couldn't just hail one of the dozen or so taxis that had been outside earlier and ask the driver to bill BR. Oh no. Because of deregulation and the commercial hell that the railways now are thanks to the one true bitch (burn in painful hell for ever) and her cronies, one had to be summoned with a warrant. At 1.20 am he arrived. He'd driven from Stoke, the same distance north from Stafford as Crewe. He'd been asleep in bed. He wasn't best pleased but he was a decent bloke. I got in at 1.50. Sir Beardy, for whom I usually have a great deal of time as he does at least try and aim to please, will be getting a letter. As will the incompetent in charge of the railways.